The Guardian view on the DUP: back to the pastNorthern Ireland has a new executive. But unionism’s main party seems to be reverting to protest, not power The DUP leader, Edwin Poots, with the new first minister of Northern Ireland, Paul Givan, at a special sitting of the StormontRead More »
Prime minister says new measures will focus on rail links and pub closures. Boris Johnson has announced another election package costing hundreds of millions of pounds for neglected towns, some of which will be spent in marginal constituencies. Concentrating on rundown high streets, the closures of pubs and post offices and the restoration of rail links, the prime minister has claimed that the measures will build upon the £3.6bn towns fund first announced in July. Towns that have been singled out in the new measures include Cleveleys, near Blackpool, where the Conservatives are defending a majority of 2,023, and Willenhall in Walsall North, where they hope to improve on a 2,601 majority. Labour said last night the Conservatives were responsible for the destruction of the high streets they are now claiming they will help. Andrew Gwynne, the shadow communities secretary, said: “The Tories are destroying our high streets and towns. A decade of vicious cuts to the services that people in our communities rely on has taken 60p in every £1 from council budgets.” Johnson said a future Conservative government would extend the retail discount on business rates to 50% next year. For businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000, this will mean an increase on the current retail discount of 33% in 2020-21. This would amount to “an effective £280m tax cut” for small businesses, the party claimed. A new £1,000 business rates relief for pubs would also be introduced under a Johnson majority government – an £18m tax cut for next year, it is claimed. The Conservatives said they would also introduce a £150m fund that will help groups trying to take over and run pubs and post offices threatened with closure. Following on from previous pledges to reverse rail cuts recommended by Dr Richard Beeching in the 1960s, Johnson has also pledged to set up a £500m Beeching Reversal fund. Towns such as Ashington, Seaton Delaval and Blyth, with a combined population of 100,000, will receive cash following a request from Northumberland council for £99m to reinstate stations, the Tories claimed. Willenhall and Darlaston in the West Midlands will receive £18m to reopen stations – a further £10m has already been provided by the government, the party said. Investment will also be provided to connect Skelmersdale to Liverpool and Manchester. A disused railway line will be funded to improve transport connections for Thornton-Cleveleys and Fleetwood. In a statement last night, Johnson said: “For too long, too many towns and villages across Britain have been overlooked and left behind. When the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, many communities felt their voices had been heard for the first time in decades and that their lives would improve. “We will invest in these communities and help people put the heart back into the places they call home.” One organisation representing retailers said Johnson’s plans did not go far enough to revive the UK’s troubled shopping districts. Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said the majority of the UK’s 3 million retail workers were employed in businesses that would not benefit from today’s announcement. “It is essential that the next government scraps ‘downwards transition’, which costs retailers £1.3bn, freezes next year’s rates increase, and introduces an improvement relief to encourage investment in our high streets. “To ensure the long-term vitality of our town and city centres, the next government should follow the recommendations of the treasury select committee and commit to wholesale reform of our broken business rates system,” he said. The Conservatives have been accused of using public money to boost their election prospects after it emerged that funding from the towns fund was going to wealthier Tory marginals. An analysis by the Times found this week that a third of the 100 towns due to receive some of the £3.6bn pot were not among the 300 most deprived towns. These included Loughborough, which was won by Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, at the last election, with a majority of around 4,000. Kirby was not on the list.
Boris Johnson under fire over meeting with Bahrain’s crown prince. Human rights groups accuse UK prime minister of ‘putting trade over torture’ in seeking deal with Gulf state
DUP leader Edwin Poots has formally nominated Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan as Northern Ireland's new first minister at a special sitting of the Stormont Assembly. The nomination comes after the DUP and Sinn Fein agreed that the British government will legislate on the contentious issues around Irish language use. Arguments over the promised legislation had threatened to prevent attempts to resume business at Stormont.
Wind turbine clash adds to UK-EU post-Brexit tensionsExclusive: Brussels is concerned that British government is favouring domestic firms, in breach of trade deal The issue joins a long list of points of tension, including disputes over the arrangements for Northern Ireland and the issue of licences in fishing waters. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters
A minister has been forced to say Boris Johnson had not lost confidence in Matt Hancock after text messages were released in which he allegedly described the Health Secretary as “hopeless”. Dominic Cummings on Wednesday published explosive WhatsApp messages, from early in the pandemic, in which the Prime Minister apparently considered giving some of Mr Hancock’s responsibilities to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove. The messages, released by the PM’s former top aide, allegedly show Mr Johnson twice describing Mr Hancock or his work as “hopeless”.
Boris Johnson allegedly branded Matt Hancock’s performance on testing “totally f***ing hopeless” and considered giving some of his responsibilities to Michael Gove, according to bombshell text messages. The Prime Minister’s former aide Dominic Cummings released another one of his incendiary blogs about the Government’s handling of the pandemic on Wednesday morning. Accompanying it was a series of screenshots, apparently showing correspondence between himself and Mr Johnson.
Focus on better jobs, the environment, safer communities and putting ‘families first’ will start with clean slate
Number of EU citizens seeking work in UK falls 36% since Brexit, study showsFigures from the jobs website Indeed expose the impact on employers as they struggle to recruit staff Searches for low-paid roles in hospitality were among those to record the steepest declines. Photograph: Rob Pinney/Getty Images
SNP ministers have been accused of "catastrophic failure" after a damning report found that Scotland's stockpile of PPE at the start of the pandemic was "very low", and a surge in prices cost the NHS tens of millions more than normal for the safety gear. The long-awaited independent report from Audit Scotland, which looked into how the Scottish Government and NHS managed PPE arrangements, reiterated its earlier finding that SNP ministers did not fully implement recommendations from pandemic prep
Global interest in Britain’s best-paid jobs has soared in the wake of Brexit, as the UK’s new immigration rules attract talent from around the world. Searches for UK-based jobs from beyond the EU have returned to pre-pandemic levels after jumping sharply since the start of the year, according to jobs site Indeed. Higher-paid roles are commanding particularly strong interest, driven by searches from Commonwealth countries and Hong Kong, after Britain threw open its doors to hundreds of thousands
Tory MPs on Wednesday night likened the Government’s decision to delay the final lockdown unlocking to the actions of a “communist party”, as 49 voted against the four-week extension. In what is believed to be the second largest Tory rebellion of the pandemic, Boris Johnson was accused in Parliament of “shifting the goalposts” and was warned the delay was a “moral threat” to the Conservative Party. Others urged the Prime Minister not to squander a two-week review of the restrictions, due to take
Boris Johnson condemned Matt Hancock as “totally f------ hopeless” in an expletive-laden text last year and considered handing some of his responsibilities for the pandemic to Michael Gove. The Prime Minister’s frustration with the Health Secretary during the early stages of the coronavirus crisis was laid bare in embarrassing personal text exchanges published by Dominic Cummings on Wednesday. Mr Johnson’s former chief aide revealed the messages as part of a 7,000-word blog post, in which he hea
Former adviser says PM trying to ‘rewrite history’ and ‘cannot now be trusted on Covid’
Cummings texts show Boris Johnson calling Matt Hancock ‘totally hopeless’Former aide publishes 7,000-word essay attacking Johnson’s ‘chronic dysfunction’ and revealing PM’s scathing verdict on health secretaryCoronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverage Asked by broadcasters if he was ‘hopeless’, Matt Hancock replied: ‘I don’t think so.’ Photograph: Barcroft Media/Getty Images
Coronavirus restrictions in England have been extended until 19 July as MPs voted in favour of a four-week delay to lockdown easing. Boris Johnson faced a rebellion from some Conservative MPs who disagreed with the measures being continued into next month, but the regulations passed by 461 votes to 60. Fifty-one Tory MPs rebelled by opposing the regulations, but Labour backed the plans.
The Guardian view on post-Brexit trade: counting the wrong things. The government’s obstinate refusal to treat the EU as a valued trading partner is making Britain poorer
Boris Johnson appears to have described Matt Hancock as "totally f------ hopeless" while the UK was scrambling to increase Covid testing capacity last year, according to messages released by Dominic Cummings today. Publishing what he described as "evidence" to back up his scathing attacks on the Health Secretary last month, former Number 10 adviser Mr Cummings has released a number of screenshots of what appear to be exchanges between him and the Prime Minister. They include messages in which Mr
Boris Johnson's former chief adviser has published a 7,000-word blogpost including a series of claims about the prime minister and Health Secretary Matt Hancock. The most eye-catching part of Mr Cummings's blogpost was his inclusion of screenshots of WhatsApp messages between himself and the prime minister. In one exchange, which Mr Cummings said was part of late-night messages on 26 March 2020, he and Mr Johnson are shown to be discussing actions from "MH" in boosting the UK's COVID testing capacity.
From Dua Lipa to Boris Johnson – why it’s a ‘cultural mistake’ to wear union jack clothingAfter Brexit, a legacy of far-right associations, and possible Scottish independence, the union flag still pushes buttons. What does patriotism mean in Britain today? Dua Lipa performing at the Brit awards last month. Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images