You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.For obvious reasons, football and politics rarely mix. Even more than the average voter, most football fans are walking lie-detector machines and inherently distrustful of any attempt to co-opt their beloved game for party ends.That ability to sniff fakery at a 50-yards is why MPs often come unstuck when they dare dabble in chat about our national sport. David Cameron’s Aston Ham mix-up was excruciating, but I also remember that Ed Millband was never more terrified than when a real Leeds fan asked him a detailed question about the club he claimed to support (he was much more comfortable talking about the Boston Red Sox).Even being a genuine fan doesn’t make you immune. One of the defining moments of Andy Burnham’s political career came when he was culture secretary in 2009, and his speech at the Hillsborough anniversary at Liverpool’s Anfield ground was interrupted by a wave of anger. He was the face of government, of the establishment, and the “Justice for the 96” chant forced him to stop and acknowledge that action was needed more than words.Boris Johnson’s own affinity to football is undeniably pretty weak. Unlike his alleged love of pints of beer (why not just admit he prefers wine, and rather expensive wine at that?), at least he doesn’t pretend to support a club, let alone understand the game’s basic rules on tackling. But the PM could spot straightaway that he needed to tackle the proposed European Super League.The political imperatives of this become clearer when you realise that in the 2019 election, the Tory gains were in towns that happened to have both a strong Leave-voting record and a football club in the lower leagues. While Labour piled up votes in the big cities like London, Manchester and Newcastle, the Conservatives took seats that were home to Accrington, Bury, Blackpool, Burnley, Lincoln, Ipswich, Crewe and Port Vale.The widespread outrage among fans at the Super League idea centres on the fear that it is a step too far in the commercialisation of the sport. The very idea of creating a league for the richest clubs, where there is no possibility of relegation, removes the sense of jeopardy that gives sport its meaning.Football was given the extraordinary and rare privilege by the government of an exemption from Covid rules in this pandemic because it is an “elite sport”. Yet the Big Six clubs who want a breakaway now look more than ever like a financial elite than a sporting elite. And after more than a year of fans being locked out of their matches, they’re being locked out of their clubs’ future.It’s worth saying at this point that rich football club owners don’t have a monopoly on humbug and hypocrisy in this current row. UEFA and FIFA have overseen the money-grubbing commodification of football for years, and their record on corruption makes the International Olympics Committee look like paragons of virtue. Fans too have gone along for the ride as big money and debt has piled up.Even supporters of lower league clubs can recall the days when the Football League was itself a real closed shop until 1986, using a byzantine system of “re-election” for decades to keep out non-League clubs. My own club Rochdale benefitted from a wily chairman’s ability to schmooze other League bosses to avoid oblivion. Hartlepool United had to apply for re-election 11 times in 28 seasons after finishing in the bottom four of the Fourth Division, but were successful every time.It may well be that this Super League idea is a mere tactic to getting a better deal from the Champions’ League. Yet the backlash has been so strong that it feels like a tipping point not just against those clubs’ reputations but also in the role politicians and governments are prepared to take to intervene.In the Commons, culture secretary Oliver Dowden said that “as a Conservative” he felt his role was to defend institutions “under threat”. The government would back the football authorities’ severe sanctions but he also put “everything on the table”, from tighter legislation on competition to clawing back Covid funding. The new review by former sports minister Tracey Crouch (a genuine fan) will look at financing, governance and the creation of an independent regulator.  Dowden even claimed the government would “do whatever it takes” to protect football fans’ interests, a line that may prompt scepticism from the self-employed and others who feel let down by similar promises on Covid.Labour’s Jo Stevens (another proper sports fan) was withering about it having taken 11 years for the Tories to act, and that it had taken the Super League threat for Dowden to trigger the Tory 2019 manifesto pledge of a review. Yet again, the charge against Johnson is of dither and delay, or as Stevens put it “all punditry and no progress on the pitch”. She could have added that “greed” is so revered by the PM that he cited it as a reason for Big Pharma’s vaccine progress.Perhaps Stevens’ most potent line was that football is proving that “Tory trickle-down economics does not work”. The bigger picture is also just how much the Johnson government is prepared to use the state to intervene in broken markets. The idea that clubs are businesses that are “too big to fail” (or be relegated) and can create a new, (literally) anti-competitive cartel is something that alarms many in different parties.Most interesting of all is whether this whole row emboldens the Johnson government into a wider rethink of traditional economics, one where things like wellbeing and environmental degradation are baked into new measures of GDP, and where “stakeholders” matter as much as shareholders.That may be a stretch for many Tory MPs, but perhaps not in those Red Wall seats that are home to many of our lower league teams. The whole point of the Brexit vote was that some things (like national sovereignty) are worth more than money. “Take back control” could mean giving football fans a chance to do just that through new, fan-led football ownership rules. Indeed, Dowden explicitly invoked memories of the 2019 election by saying: “We are The People’s Government, unequivocally on the side of the fans”. Those are pretty bold words and they carry political risk. Having raised hopes of radical action, if Johnson fails to follow through, or fails to fully endorse the Crouch review, he could feel a backlash as big as the breakaway clubs themselves.Related...Government Pledges To Do ‘Whatever It Takes’ To Stop Football ‘Super League’Football Clubs Joining European Super League May Have To Repay Covid Cash, No. 10 SaysWhat Is The European Super League And Why Is Everyone So Angry About It?
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When Keir Starmer launched his campaign to be leader of the Labour Party at the start of 2020, his slogan was “Reform and Unite”. Along with a 10-point mini-manifesto of pledges that included Jeremy Corbyn’s tax hikes, his pitch proved so successful that he won the contest by a landslide.But both allies and critics felt at the time there was an inherent tension in that leadership slogan. Reform would inevitably mean junking key parts of the Corbyn era, and that could lead to less unity, not more. Many felt the order of the two words was crucial too: moving the party on had to be the first priority and only then could everyone come together.Others felt that his soundbite “Don’t trash the last Labour government and don’t trash the last four years” was always both contradictory and naive. For all the emphasis on joint working, it seemed implicit there would be friction on the way. Or, as he put it in that leadership launch: “Reconciliation does not mean shying away from the real political differences that exist.”Almost exactly 12 months since his April 4 victory, he still commands the support of the overwhelming majority of his MPs and activists. Yet jitters are growing among some, including those who support him, over the current Tory vaccine “bounce” in the polls. Amid briefings against his shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds and a rising discontent on the Left, many insiders are wondering just what their leader really means by party unity.For the first half of Starmer’s first year, the plan seemed to work smoothly. Internal party reform was a key task he set himself, reshaping Labour so that it reflected his huge mandate from that leadership election. Within weeks he had a brand new general secretary of his choice, and through the year he built a solid, unshakeable majority on the ruling National Executive Committee (NEC).While big name Corbynites were fired from the shadow cabinet, several were kept on in mid-ranking or junior frontbench posts. But having vowed to “tear out the poison” of anti-Semitism from his party, Starmer sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey from her education job after she failed to fully comply with his demands over a tweet that endorsed an anti-Jewish trope.Yet for some the incident over Long-Bailey, whom he had soundly beaten by a margin of two to one last year, laid bare not the smack of firm leadership but the panicky overreactions of his top team. She was advised by the leader’s office to issue a clarification alongside her original retweet, and did so, only to be then told that solution was unacceptable to Starmer himself. Ultimately, however, she was fired for refusing to comply with his wishes.In fact, discontent among MPs and insiders often doesn’t involve direct criticism of the leader himself, but of his office. Current chief of staff Morgan McSweeney and political director Jenny Chapman have big admirers among Starmer supporters, but they have attracted increasing concerns over recent months.One shadow minister says of the leader’s office: “I think we’ve got good people, they broadly know what their jobs are. It’s not perfect, it needs to settle down, but I can tell you from personal experience it’s miles better than anything under Ed M and Jeremy. One was chaotic, the other was toxic.” One shadow adviser adds: “Having genuinely been ashamed to work for the party in the last parliament, it’s hard to overstate this is a world away from that. It’s professional, collegiate and functional.”Chief of staff McSweeney, who ran Liz Kendall’s leadership campaign in 2015 and who is seen as the main driver for the appointment of his former boss David Evans as the new general secretary, has few enemies. One criticism is that he is seen as “distant”, a problem not helped by the fact that he is often literally distant in Scotland, where he has bought a new home in recent months.Others say a more serious problem is his constant emphasis on addressing the “values” of former Labour voters in Red Wall seats, and his use of focus groups to guide the party. “Miliband became a total prisoner of his focus groups, but Keir uses them more than any other leader I’ve known,” one insider says.“Yes, Tony used them, so did Gordon, although it was like a guilty secret getting Deborah Mattinson in, Ed Balls used them. But now there’s this sense that focus group results will dictate everything else. They will literally have someone stand in front of the shadow cabinet and say out loud ‘well, the latest focus groups are saying this’.“The problem with that is who are you focusing on? You’re taking a very, very narrow group of constituencies in the grand scheme of things, probably 40, 50 constituencies and within that group, you’re taking 40% of people, the former Labour voters in Red Wall seats, and guiding everything around it. But any really successful party leader speaks for the whole of the nation.”Another staffer says Starmer’s targeting of those who “lent” votes to the Tories in 2019 overstates their numbers, pointing out that many former Labour voters in Red Wall seats in fact switched to the Brexit party or stayed at home. But a senior ally of Starmer is unabashed about the focus group work: “Are we ashamed that we’ve been listening to the public? No.”One aide says that McSweeney’s talents are more cerebral than managerial. “He would be better used in a sort of strategy role than a chief of staff role. That for me is getting your sleeves rolled up and you’re there, day in, day out.”And a growing gripe among some is that the top team are just too “nice”. “They’re a cohesive group, but there’s no clear leader. It’s operating like a kind of quasi-Innocent Smoothies, a modern office where everyone gets along with each other and we come and have table tennis tea breaks and that kind of thing and we all get on and we’ve hit our targets for this year.“But if you look at a lot of effective opposition operations of the past, with the likes of Alastair Campbell for us and Coulson in the Cameron days, you need a hard-edged opposition mentality. Where’s the [Michael] Dugher? The person who all he thinks about is ‘which Tory are we gonna eat today?’ They’re short of vociferous anti-Tory attack machine people, that permeates every level that it can make this sort of whole thing feel a bit, well, too nice.“The whole business about being a constructive opposition is dangerous because it becomes a bit self reinforcing, and you sort of find things to agree with rather than sort of thinking, ‘right, how do we get our teeth into this’. We want to replace these people after all, we want us to be the government, not them. It’s far too easy to do the consensual thing. And apart from Angie Rayner, who in the shadow cabinet is taking the fight to them?”Another staffer adds: “I think we’ve just got a real shortage of bastards in there. People who are just ruthless but also quite honest and candid with shadow cabinet members or with staff, with the press teams, a relentlessness that you need to show you hate being in opposition every single day. People don’t mind someone being a bastard if they think there’s a strategy behind it and a very clear rationale and consistency with it.”Yet another criticism is that there is no clear command structure, no one figure “in charge” in the leader’s office. “There’s always this feeling that Morgan can agree something but then others can go straight to Keir and then it could be unraveled. It’s like a very informal sofa government style of decision making, based on whoever’s in the room, with everyone’s treading on each other’s toes. Morgan’s not like a chief exec, he’s like the most senior advisor.”Chapman, who worked closely with Starmer in his shadow Brexit team before losing her Darlington seat in 2019, is seen as a forceful figure in her role as political director. Yet while she is highly valued and trusted by the leader, her uncompromising stances on some issues have led to friction.With Starmer himself ungrounded in the party’s internal machine politics, some critics say Chapman is filling the vacuum but claim that she herself lacks experience of the nuances of NEC meetings and power structures. Her friends say that as an MP of 10 years’ standing she is much more politically experienced in that role than anyone in Corbyn or Miliband’s teams.One NEC member says: “She’s a really decent person. But I think there’s an assumption that all Labour MPs know a lot about how the Labour Party works, but they don’t. Yes, they know a lot about their constituency, they probably knew a lot about how to get selected in their constituency, they might know a lot about parliament. That’s not the same as understanding how power works in the Labour Party.“They’ve never had to get their head around the detail, particularly the relationship with the unions, the institutional power and the different cultures of the different unions, and how you persuade them to do things, or how the NEC really works.”A party insider says that Chapman’s handling of internal matters, from the shortlist of one for the Hartlepool by-election to the recent suggestion of former home secretary Jacqui Smith to head a review team to oversee Labour in Liverpool, has caused needless problems. “Jenny often tries to bounce people into things, through the year she just burned a lot of Keir’s goodwill with a lot of people, particularly on the Left. Not the irreconcilable Left but the Left that wants him to do well.“Karie Murphy (executive director of the leader’s office under Corbyn) would run around claiming every mad thing she was doing was endorsed by Jeremy, even if it wasn’t. But it took her three or four years to do that, Jenny’s done it in just 12 months.”The Liverpool review, which ended up with former minister David Hanson being chosen rather than Smith, was a rare example where the NEC refused to follow the leader’s office, largely because chair Margaret Beckett reacted badly to being effectively ordered what to do. “You just don’t cross Margaret or treat her with a lack of respect,” one NEC member said.Others strongly defend Chapman. “Hartlepool is a good example of, where we just made a fucking decision and got on with it. And we’ve put ourselves in a much much better position because of that.”And on Liverpool, one senior figure said there were lots of balancing considerations. “A lot of people were trying to say to us you have to have somebody ‘on the Left’ or ‘someone to be acceptable to Liverpool’. And we were like ‘well, you can just do one, because that is exactly what got us to where we are’. We want somebody to go in there and break people’s legs and deal with it. We want a report that means that we can make the decisions that need to be taken to really clean things up.”In NEC meetings themselves, Starmer has also faced implacable opposition from the hard Left members, notably from Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett, who has fought against everything from changes to the voting structure to Corbyn’s treatment by the party. Starmer has so far resisted the temptation to gently point out that he won a majority of Unite members in the leadership election, and so can possibly better speak for them than Beckett.”Keir is very professional and doesn’t rise to the bait, even though they come at him the whole time,” one NEC member says. “He says he wants the NEC to be a showcase not a showdown. I mean, there’s a long way off getting that, but he’s just incredibly polite. They will run some attack line and he will just calmly explain the facts.” There is however frustration that Starmer has made little effort to build personal links with those on the NEC who have battled hard for him.What’s often missed in assessments of Starmer’s first year is just how crucial were the by-elections to the NEC that took place at the same time as the leadership election. At a stroke, he had freedom to maneouvre thanks to a working majority. That was embedded further by a switch to single transferable votes for the constituency section, ensuring neither left nor right could win a “clean sweep” of all nine seats.“What has been incredibly important in terms of Keir’s grip on the Labour Party, and his ability to move the party to face the voters rather than to face in on itself, is getting the STV for electing some members of National Executive Committee. That was a stroke of genius, that meant that no one faction will ever be able to dominate the party ever again. And when it comes to selecting the next PLP and dealing with issues like Liverpool, it is his party.”Yet even on this, some say the leader’s office nearly overreached itself. At one point, some believed that a “moderate” clean sweep of the constituency section was the best outcome and that the STV option would needlessly keep the Corbyn Left alive. One insider says: “The very day beforehand, some in the leader’s office decided they were going to give up on it. And then basically Howard Beckett gave them no choice by threatening a legal action against it. Yet another of his shrewd revolutionary tactics that ended in defeat.”Another key party decision of the past year has been on Scotland too. When Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard stepped aside in January, triggering a super-fast replacement election, Starmer praised him for doing “the honourable thing, the right thing”. Yet while Starmer said “the decision to step down was his decision”, it was clear they had had a conversation beforehand.With Anas Sarwar rejuvenating the party north of the border, there’s a feeling that the rot may finally be stopped in an area that has hamstrung Labour leaders since Ed Miliband. One senior ally says that the significance of the move has yet to be appreciated, or what it says about Starmer’s growing confidence to be more “political”. “I think the most important thing is the change of leader in Scotland that Keir brought about,” they say. “Because of the way that was handled, it’s not well understood that Keir was active in bringing that about.“And it’s incredibly significant for the future of the entire country. Keeping the UK together may come down to that one decision, to not just let nature take its course under Richard Leonard but to intervene, and prevent hopefully an SNP majority or majority for an indyref. I think when we all look back, if Keir never achieves anything else in his entire life, that will be the one thing he can be proud of.”Joe Biden’s victory in the US has also offered a glimpse of how to defeat a populist opponent. While the differences between the two countries don’t make for an easy read-across, when Starmer spoke on the phone to Barack Obama last summer his main lesson was “you need to know your coalition” of voters.Some former Corbyn staffers believe that’s sound advice as Labour tries to keep all the middle class metropolitan liberal supporters while reconnecting with working classes it lost to either the Tories, the Brexit party or abstention. Recent drops in the polls stem from a bleeding of support to Lib Dems and Greens that Starmer attracted when he first took over, some claim.“There’s a sense that if you’ve not got your own base securely tied down, then when you’re hit by changing and more unfavourable circumstances, you’ve potentially got quite a lot of problems on your hands. That dovetails into the fact that insufficient energy has gone into the kind of unity message that we had in the leadership election,” one says.“The leadership does have to take the initiative in terms of uniting the party. It’s about reaching out to people on the Left who supported Keir in that leadership election, yes. But also to those who didn’t and who are never going to go away. You’ve got to give people a sense that they’ve got enough of a stake in this, that it is their party too. Right now, they are not close to thinking about that.” Another staffer adds: “They need to realise ‘Under New Leadership’, that’s a slogan not a strategy.”But Luke Akehurst, member of the NEC and secretary of the centrist Labour First group, says there has been a grassroots shift that Starmer has to reflect. “This Labour Party is not the same Labour Party that it was in December 2019 because approximately 100,000 new members have joined or returned, enthused by Keir and approximately 100,000 of the people most dogmatically supportive of Corbyn have left.“The net result is a Labour Party with a membership it can be prouder of, who are more representative of the voters we need to win, and will be better ambassadors to those voters.” If that sounds provocative, it’s meant to be. Across the country, Akehurst’s grassroots organisers are slowly taking back control of local constituency Labour parties (CLPs), with a view to dominating the delegates who will be sent to the annual conference for crunch votes.The conference, the first in two years, could see further disunity play out. Some activists are so unhappy with the way general secretary David Evans has cracked down on support for Corbyn that they are quietly plotting to protest at his formal appointment by conference on its first day. The vote will be defeated but even the act of calling for one would underline Left discontent.Still, some close to the leader are more than happy to ignore leftwing Twitter, and its demand for Starmer to prove he’s sticking to that radical, 10-pledge manifesto that got him elected. That manifesto included tax hikes on the richest, corporation tax rises that have since been paused as policy, and renationalisations.“They’re saying ‘oh, but what about the pledges you made to us in your leadership campaign’,” a key insider says. “And I would say, yeah but what about the people that we promised we would try and form a Labour government, the people who really need it, not you? My one wish is that every MP just gives their Twitter account to Ben [Nunn, Starmer’s communications chief]. Honest to God, the energy we waste on all of that is untrue.“The first job that he has to do and it’s not done yet, is to rebuild trust. We’re a million miles from that. And so the idea that he can sort of parade around through these 10 pledges and say ‘listen, Britain, this is how it’s going to be’, and get a fair hearing, you know, forget it. You’ve got to take it slowly when you’ve been massively dumped by the country.”Starmer allies do accept that there is a legitimate frustration in the party over a lack of policy to sell, but point to his plans to go out and meet the public regularly in coming months once lockdown is relaxed. “The next manifesto has got to be grown from the conversations that we have this summer,” one aide says. “The last manifesto just fell out of the sky as far as most people are concerned. ‘Why are you offering us free broadband? We never asked for that’. This will be different.”“It’s got to be like, we’ve done the work, we’ve talked to you, we’ve listened to you. This is what you’ve told us, this is what we believe, this is what we’re going to do about it and this is the manifesto that’s got your fingerprints on it. We’ve got to give the Labour Party back to the people of Britain, and stop wittering on among ourselves. Or Twittering on.”Yet the frustrations are growing among some. And for the first time, some MPs who have been supportive of Starmer now believe he just can’t win the next election. “This is a numbers game now, what you need to do is get back within striking distance so we can win the election after the next one,” says one former minister. “It’s depressing, but I don’t think he can do it, the best is he can narrow the gap, that he’ll be our Kinnock,” says another senior backbencher.One loyal shadow cabinet minister admits that perception will be the biggest problem this summer. “The big issue is do the people at the top of the Labour Party, and in the PLP, begin to think the key thing for them is not the current leader but who might be the next leader. Because the moment that starts to be perceived wisdom, then Keir will find it very difficult to command the PLP.“Jeremy could tell the PLP to go away because he had the complete support of the membership. Keir doesn’t have that, and his membership will be much more influenced by the PLP and the shadow cabinet. He’s got to inspire the parliamentarians.”That’s why the looming May 6 elections matter so much to many in the party. A massive test of real public opinion, there are elections in shires, in cities, for mayoralties and in Scotland and Wales. There’s the added grit in the oyster of the first parliamentary by-election since the election, in Hartlepool.One senior MP, not from the Left, says: “The local elections are going to provide the external pressure which might make Keir up his game, make him acknowledge that he’s got some fundamentals that he now needs to spend his personal time on. There’ll be more criticism come May, because maybe they’ll get a short sharp shock.”MPs to the left and right of Starmer are already making ominous noises about life after the May elections. One former cabinet minister says that a disciplinary crackdown will be needed to tackle MPs like Nadia Whittome, who refused on TV to condemn protestors’ attacks on police in Bristol. “There will be a moment to deal with the Nadia Whittomes. That’s not now, not in an election period.”“Soft left” MPs are seen as burnishing future leadership credentials, and the risk is the party looks over Starmer’s shoulder and eyes up his replacement after 2024. There’s no shortage of post-election leadership names being discussed by MPs, from Angela Rayner to Lisa Nandy, from Andy Burnham to Sadiq Khan, from Yvette Cooper (again) to Rachel Reeves. Allies think such chatter is ridiculously overblown and he can only get stronger in the year ahead.One former Corbyn aide says: “I’ve got to say I really like Keir and I think that he could be an absolutely brilliant leader. He’s got to have confidence in himself, and he’s got to have confidence in his instincts, and what he thinks is right. And he’s got to set out a clear direction, and call the shots, not have other people call them for him. I don’t think it’s too late for him to turn that around.”Another adds: “Being leader of the Opposition is truly the worst job in the world. It’s like being the England manager, where everyone with a passing interest in football thinks ‘I could do a better job’, when actually the reason we might not be winning the World Cup is that the other teams are just playing better. So I have a lot of sympathy for him. But we definitely need to rediscover a bit of the ‘why’ and the ‘who’ of Keir, rather than just what he’s not: Jeremy Corbyn.”However, one backbencher sums up perhaps a more unnerving worry about the May elections: “Actually, I think one of the worst things that could happen to us is if the results aren’t so bad, as everyone’s talked them down so much. There might be enough positivity that these really quite deep-seated problems just become something not to worry about in the short term. You know, like Ed M’s locals, you did just well enough to survive, to fight another day, but you’re inexorably going towards bigger defeat next time.”And a shadow cabinet ally echoes the “Kinnock” concern. “I fear the biggest danger for Keir is a sense that he’s not going to make it. If people start thinking that, then he’s in very big trouble. There’s already quite a few people ‘on maneouvres’.“That’s why these elections are incredibly important. Because if they’re a total disaster then the thought will come aboad that he is not going to make it. If he does incredibly well, then you will find most of the problems go away. The overwhelming likelihood is it’s going to be something in between.”Year of Keir, Part 1: Can Starmer Inject More Passionate Politics Into His Leadership?Related...Boris Johnson Facing Tory Rebellion Over Covid PassportsNorthern Independence Party Manifesto Includes Referendum On Ditching The QueenFormer New Labour Minister To Lead Party Probe Into Liverpool City Council
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This article was originally published by Christopher Carey on Cities Today, the leading news platform on urban mobility and innovation, reaching an international audience of city leaders. For the latest updates follow Cities Today on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube, or sign up for Cities Today News. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced plans to invest £3 billion (US$4.18 billion) in bus services across England, including the roll-out of 4,000 new British-built electric or hydrogen buses. As part of the investment, the government has pledged to introduce hundreds of miles of new bus lanes, provide more weekend and evening services and… This story continues at The Next Web
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Misogyny is set to be recorded by police as a “hate crime” after the government bowed to pressure in the House of Lords to toughen the law on protecting women.In a bid to avoid a government defeat, Home office minister Baroness Williams announced that all police forces in England and Wales would be asked from this autumn to record crimes motivated by “hatred of sex or gender”.Campaigners hope the move is a key step towards wider change that would give judges the power to impose tougher sentences for incidents of abuse and harassment, including street harassment.The independent Law Commission watchdog has already recommended including the characteristic of sex or gender to existing hate crime laws. It has said the “vast majority of evidence” suggested several crimes are linked to misogyny.Some seven police forces currently record misogyny as a hate crime but campaigners have called for a nationwide approach to help crack down on abuse and harassment of women and girls.Baroness Williams said: “We do agree that data can be helpful. And we know that some police forces are already collecting it like Nottingham.“So I will advise the House that, on an experimental basis, we will ask police forces to record and identify any crimes of violence against the person, including stalking and harassment and sexual offences, where the victim perceives it to have been motivated by a hostility based on their sex, which, as I have said, can then inform longer-term decisions.“Once we have considered the Law Commission’s recommendations, we will shortly begin the consultation with the National Police Chiefs Council and forces on this, with a view to commencing the experimental collection of data from this autumn.”Labour MP Stella Creasy, who has led calls for a change in the law and secured the commission’s review in 2018, welcomed the government’s move.“I’m delighted that the government has listened to this cross-party and grassroots campaign to make misogyny a hate crime and is now taking the first steps towards making it happen.“Recording where crimes are motivated by hatred of women will help us better understand the scale of the problem and so be better able to prevent these crimes – it should give all women confidence that if they come forward to report crimes they will be taken seriously, too.“Now we want the government to implement the outcome of the law commission review in the sentencing bill so that our courts start to take misogyny and the crimes it drives seriously, too.”The latest policy shift came amid widespread shock and anger at the death of Sarah Everard and the heavily criticised policing of a vigil in her memory last weekend.Boris Johnson told MPs in prime minister’s questions that the country had to “address the fundamental issue of the casual, everyday sexism and apathy that fails to address the concerns of women”.Crimes such as assault, harassment or criminal damage are already considered hate crime in cases where a person’s race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity is involved, and are treated more seriously by the courts.But campaigners have criticised the complex nature of the existing laws, and called for sex and gender to be added to the list.Following the government concession, non-aligned peer Baroness Kennedy opted not to push to a vote her cross-party amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill.Kennedy had urged the government to “take a decision that will help ensure that all women everywhere can enjoy the same freedoms as men, when it comes to being able to go where we want and do what we want, without fear”.“Since Sarah’s tragic murder came to the public attention, women everywhere have shared their stories of harassment, abuse, and violence at home and on the streets, and their frustration that all too frequently these crimes are not treated with the seriousness they deserve.”Among backers of the amendment were Tory former ministers Baroness Altman and Lord Young.The campaign has also been backed by metro mayors Andy Burnham, Steve Rotherham, Sadiq Khan and Dan Jarvis.Earlier, peers inflicted a further defeat on the government in demanding that all domestic abuse victims receive protection and support regardless of immigration status and eligibility for public .The Lords backed a cross-party change to the Domestic Abuse Bill, aimed at providing a blanket safeguard for women, by 310 votes to 232, majority 78.Related...Boris Johnson Defeated As Lords Vote To Tighten Law On StalkingCan Sarah Everard’s Killing Spark A Newly Urgent Consensus On Women’s Safety?Boris Johnson Under Pressure To Back New Move To Tighten Law On Stalking
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Scotland will move out of lockdown and back into a level system from the end of April, Nicola Sturgeon has announced. The stay at home order will also be lifted by April 5 “if all goes according to plan”, the first minister confirmed.  It means that non-essential shops, pubs and restaurants, hairdressers and gyms will start to open from April 26 as the region-by-region level system returns north of the border. Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Sturgeon told MSPs the vaccination rollout was going well, adding: “It is therefore from the last week of April that we would expect to see phased but significant reopening of the economy, including non-essential retail, hospitality and services like gyms and hairdressers.“And, of course, the more of us who are vaccinated and the more we all stick by the rules now, the faster that safe pace is likely to be – if we all stay in this together, our progress will be greater.”It stands in contrast to the plan to end all Covid lockdown restrictions in England by June 21, announced by Boris Johnson on Monday.The prime minister has so far ruled out a return to England’s tier system, which led to bitter clashes with regional leaders such as Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham. However, many of Johnson’s Conservative backbenchers have demanded that restrictions be eased sooner in areas where infection levels are low.  Restrictions on education have already been eased in Scotland. Some children returned to school on Monday and childcare and early years settings have reopened. The FM said her route-map out of lockdown should also see more year groups return to school in April. Sturgeon said she hoped to give “as much clarity as possible” but wanted to avoid “giving false assurance” by picking a date for the end of all curbs. She said: “I am as confident as I can be that the indicative, staged timetable that I have set out today – from now until late April when the economy will start to substantially reopen – is a reasonable one.“And in mid-March – when we have made further progress on vaccines and have greater understanding of the impact of the initial phase of school return – I hope we can set out then more detail of the further reopening that will take place over April and May and into a summer when we hope to be living with much greater freedoms than we are today.”Travel restrictions will remain for “some time yet”, she added. The FM said it was important that cases of the virus, particularly of new variants of the virus, were not imported. Johnson announced on Monday that a review of travel curbs in England would report on May 17, raising hopes that foreign holidays will be possible this summer. Sturgeon said: “We saw over the summer how new cases were imported into Scotland, after the virus had almost been eliminated. We do not want that to happen again.“In particular we do not want to import new variants of the virus, which could be more resistant to the vaccines that we are currently using.“And so the strategic framework rightly emphasises the importance of both travel restrictions and test and protect. They will help us to ease restrictions safely.”Sturgeon said that everyone on the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation priority list, including the over-50s, would have their jab by mid-April. This would be followed by the entire adult population in Scotland by the end of July. Related...Relaxing Lockdown As Planned Could Trigger Worst Hospital Peak Yet, Sage WarnsHow Boris Johnson Will Lift The Coronavirus Lockdown
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Bristol Council has unveiled new measures to control the local rise in Covid-19 cases – and created a whole new sub-tier of lockdown for itself in the process.England is currently under a three-tier system, with alert levels set at medium, high and very high – translating to tier 1, 2 and 3 of restrictions. But that wasn’t enough for Bristol, where there are currently 340.7 new cases per 100,000. Home to around half a million people, the city declared it is now under “tier 1+”, an entirely new sub-tier altogether. "We regard ourselves now as being in Tier 1+" Ms Gray said— Amanda Cameron LDR (@AmandaSCameron) October 28, 2020The government’s tiered system, announced on October 12, was intended to improve the functioning of test and trace (which isn’t exactly going brilliantly) and clear up some of the confusing public health messaging.But with Bristol City Council going rogue by putting itself in a new tier all of its own, we’re not sure things are getting any simpler. So let me get this right: Tier 0 (Scotland only)Tier 1 (UK)Tier 1+ (Bristol only)Tier 2 (UK)Tier 3 (UK)Tier 4 (Scotland only)Tears (Me)— Conrad Quilty-Harper (@Coneee) October 28, 2020Inventing a whole new subtier for Bristol is very Bristol. https://t.co/GkTd5unhRu— Rachael Krishna (@RachaelKrishna) October 28, 2020Tier 1 plus you know. Business class Covid. https://t.co/VRHa5TBCmy— TransJamaican (@Whitb_xx) October 28, 2020explaining how Tier 1 Plus fits into the system pic.twitter.com/OcfAB9M6Gk— Toby Earle (@TobyonTV) October 28, 2020What does tier 1+ actually mean? It’s important to note that tier 1+ isn’t a national strategy – it was created locally by leaders in the South West but implemented first by Bristol City Council, explained the city’s director of public health Christina Gray. Ms Gray said the Tier1+ concept was a local one, and not a national one. She said it had been discussed by local authorities throughout the South West but Bristol was the first one to try it— Amanda Cameron LDR (@AmandaSCameron) October 28, 2020She added: “The tier 1+ is because we recognise the importance of maintaining people’s livelihoods, and the hospitality sector is the most difficult to manage safely.“In order to keep open, we need to drive down infections.” Tier 1+ doesn’t actually mean there will be any new restrictions for members of the public to follow – up to six members of different households will still be able to meet indoors, unlike in tier 2 where this is forbidden. What it does mean, however, is that the council will enforce the current rules more effectively, with eight Covid marshals targeting busy areas of the city especially in the evenings and at weekends. Bristol Live reported that tier 1+ boiled down to three main components – “using data to provide messages on how to safely use public spaces, taking on parts of Test and Trace, and ensuring compliance.” Bristol City Council is also using £3 million in funding from government to boost local resources for test and trace, which Rees said was “failing” on a national scale, as well as concentrating on more targeted approaches to reducing transmission – particularly amongst 30- to 60-year-olds, where case numbers are on the rise.The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has clarified that it is not introducing a plus system.“There are three local Covid alert levels which are enshrined in law and we are not considering the introduction of a ‘plus’ system,” a spokesperson said. “Bristol is currently at medium and local leaders have the authority to bring in some additional measures for their area, and we welcome local efforts to break chains of transmission.”So... what happened to the three-tier system? When Boris Johnson announced the three-tier system it was billed as a way of simplifying the local lockdowns and boosting the effectiveness of test and trace. Millions of people across some of England’s biggest cities are now living under heightened restrictions under tier 2 and 3, with the government already facing significant backlash from Manchester’s leaders over “disgraceful” financial support.Inconsistencies between different cities have also been pointed out, with Liverpool told gyms had to shut under tier 3 while they stayed open in Lancashire under exactly the same tier – a move Liverpool’s mayor Joe Anderson described as an “inconsistent mess”.But with cases and deaths rising, there is some concern that even tier 3 doesn’t go far enough – with calls reportedly being made for tier 4, or tier 3+. Leicestershire Live reported on Tuesday that Whitehall officials were discussing a fourth tier of restrictions, and local circuit breaker lockdowns, in regions where tier 3 restrictions hadn’t brought the virus under control. Under tier 4, or tier 3+, restaurants and non-essential retail such as clothes shops could also be forced to close – similar to the current “firebreaker” lockdown across the whole of Wales. The three-tier system only applies in England, but Nicola Sturgeon was met with some accusations of complication Westminster’s public health messaging after introducing a five-tier system in Scotland earlier in October. The Scottish first minister said the additional two steps, 0 and 4, “sensibly add” to the English system – with 0 being the “closest to normality we think we can safely get to”. Tier 4 is stricter than the English tier 3, and is closer to a full lockdown involving the closure of non-essential shops. Schools would remain open under all tiers, even under the toughest restrictions.Related... Boris Johnson Urged To Impose Stricter Lockdown After Worst Death Toll Since May Opinion: Paying For A Boots Covid Test Is Morally Indefensible Victoria Derbyshire Apologises After Saying She Would Break Rule Of Six At Christmas
There is no doubt that Marcus Rashford is a hero. A 22-year-old playing professional football for his country, after growing up in child poverty is an incredible story.And, despite the ad hominem attacks by Tory MPs in Parliament – accusing Rashford of being a celebrity merely “virtue-signalling” – he has kept his head held high, expertly highlighting the humanity deficit in British politics by rising above their attempts to politicise poor children.Indeed, I myself grew up in child poverty on a council estate in Birmingham, and relied on free school meals at various points during my childhood to get by, so I know, first-hand, how vital they are. Related... Marcus Rashford Is Tweeting Out Every Place Offering Kids Free Meals No.10 Keeps Refusing To Praise Businesses For Offering Free Meals To Children That’s why the necessity of Rashford’s campaign horrifies me. That a footballer has to lead a campaign to feed hungry children because his government refuses to, that struggling businesses are stepping in to give what little they have to help our nation’s kids, is not and must not be seen as a victory for humanity – it’s a tragedy. We are currently facing the biggest global recession in history. Businesses up and down the country are struggling to weather the storm, and millions find themselves completely left out by the government’s economic support.And it is now these businesses that are having to step in to provide food for starving children with what little they have left. We’re also seeing underfunded local councils and authorities stepping forward such as Manchester and Birmingham – Rashford and I’s cities respectively – to try and help.These are areas that have publicly, and, at times, explosively, stated that they need more financial support than the government is offering to prevent a spike in poverty during the pandemic. Because, like Covid-19, child poverty in the UK is a national crisis.Related... Five Baffling Reasons Tories Have Given For Voting Against Free School Meals At present, 4.2 million children live in relative poverty in the UK – with 2.4 million in absolute poverty. It is becoming such an issue that the UN described it as “systemic and tragic” in 2019 – and that was before the economic crisis we’re in now.The government was failing our nation’s children even before the pandemic hit. But now they have compounded their moral bankruptcy by choosing to continue to ignore them.These children cannot vote, do not have a platform, and cannot speak for themselves. Indeed, it is this that led Rashford to say: “For as long as they don’t have a voice, they will have mine.”So, when I see Rashford tweeting constantly over the course of the last 24 hours with various places across the country that are offering to feed children, I can’t help but feel despair that this is happening in the sixth wealthiest nation in the world.So, while I support Rashford’s campaign, and all those sacrificing what little they have to help children, I also despair at its necessity.How is it that a 22-year-old footballer has more humanity than the House of Commons? And my despair is deepened by the rhetoric coming out of the government during this bleak and desperate time. Conservatives presented arguments against feeding children in the run up to the vote on free school meals, saying they can’t “nationalise children”, “create dependencies”, “wreck” the economy, or “take responsibility from parents”.Not only are these statements disingenuous, barefaced lies, they completely overlook the fact that 72% of children living in poverty are in working households. And have they forgotten that the state has a responsibility to ensure there is food for children, as outlined under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. But things don’t have to be this way – despite what the government says.Scotland this year announced its intention to enshrine the convention in Scots law, which would make it illegal for the government to stand idly by in the face of child food poverty.Nicola Sturgeon has announced that children will continue to be fed over the holidays, as well as the policy of parents being provided with £10 food vouchers per child. Let’s be clear: Rashford’s campaign is an emergency measure to prevent a catastrophe of the government’s making.Unlike the Conservative government, the Scottish Parliament show how the rights of children should not be an ideological game or political football; these are children’s lives, and futures.Statistics show that children in food poverty have worse outcomes; from malnutrition, to the ability to concentrate in the classroom, food insecurity has serious long-term social, economic, and health consequences. And, as Rashford says, child food poverty “is never the child’s fault”. So, while I support Rashford’s campaign, and all those sacrificing what little they have to help children, I also despair at its necessity.We must make sure the government do not see the kindness of the British public as an opportunity to continue their shameless and wanton negligence of their responsibilities to the nation’s children.Because, let’s be clear: Rashford’s campaign is an emergency measure to prevent a catastrophe of the government’s making. The enduring, structural change we need can only come from the top – from a government that puts the lives of children before their ideologically toxic and morally bankrupt approach to child food poverty.  Nadine Batchelor Hunt is a freelance journalist.Got a unique opinion on a news story that will help cut through the noise? We want to hear from you. Find out what we’re looking for here and pitch us on [email protected] in Opinion... Opinion: Angela Rayner Was Right To Give Scummy Behaviour The Name It Deserves Opinion: The Tier System Is Doomed To Fail – But There Is A Way Out Opinion: Boris Johnson Knew Test And Trace Wasn't World Beating – And Ignored it Opinion: Andy Burnham Was Right To Demand Better. And He Speaks For The Rest Of The Country Too
This was the week when things fell apart. Rumblings of discontent about the government’s handling of the pandemic turned into open revolt as the Northern mayors – particularly Andy Burnham of Manchester – stood up and refused to accept proposals to place them at the highest level of the new three-tier system of Covid restrictions.Why? At first glance it seems eminently sensible that different areas of the country with different levels of infection should be subject to different measures. Why close the pubs in Lowestoft (where the case rate per 100,000 is under 50) because of the problems in Liverpool (where the rate is pushing 600)?Indeed, the general idea of local tiers is not in itself a bad one. However, we are not dealing with generalities.Somehow the tier system has managed to be even more unclear and generated a greater sense of inequity (and hence resistance) than before.Rather, we are faced with an acute crisis and we must consider whether the specific tier system devised by the UK government makes sense and whether it makes sense to impose it at this specific time. The answer to both questions is a resounding no.Let’s start by looking at the details of the present system. It has three core problems. First, a central justification for replacing the present hodge-podge of restrictions across the country with three tiers was to create clarity and a sense of equity. No-one – not even the prime minister – could remember who was allowed to do what and where, and there was a growing suspicion that some areas (the South) were being treated better than others (the North). In principle, a tier system would overcome that by creating a simple and transparent system where it was clear that the same rules applied to everyone. But that is dependent upon there being clear, health-based criteria for moving from one tier to the next, along with consistent restrictions within each tier. But in the event, the basis for deciding which tier you were in was far from clear and seemed dependent on political horse trading. Equally, the restrictions in a given tier were far from consistent, varied from area to area, and again seemed more a matter of politics than public health. Somehow the tier system managed to be even more unclear and generated a greater sense of inequity (and hence resistance) than before.Even if an effective local system might have been sufficient at some point, that point is now well past.Second, the notion of tiers is framed in an entirely negative way. It is all about the restrictions imposed on people – what they can’t do. This is encapsulated in the language of lockdown – a term we associated with prisons, with misbehaviour and with punishment. But infections are a function of exposure to the virus, and exposure is greater among those who are poorer and more vulnerable: they are more likely to have to go to work, more likely to use public transport, more likely to live in crowded housing. That is why the poorest areas of the country are four times more likely to be in “lockdown”. The reality is that infection reflects deprivation and the response should be greater support: support in terms of information, of testing facilities and, of course, financial compensation to workers and local businesses who are affected by the measurers necessary to combat the virus. That was the core of Andy Burnham’s concerns. On October 20, he tweeted: “I have fought for the ability to support low-paid people and businesses who will be most harmed by Tier 3 closures”. Had the government framed the tier system in terms of support and provided adequate funding, the disputes with the localities would not have happened.Related... How Long Coronavirus Tiers 1, 2 and 3 Will Last In England Why England Might Get A Circuit Breaker Anyway, Despite What Boris Says Third, the measures in the tiers – even at the highest level of alert – were simply inadequate. On September 21, the government scientific advisory group SAGE met to consider the measures necessary to halt the start of a rise in infections. What they proposed went far further than anything the government is introducing: ensuring all but essential workers stay at home, closing all bars and restaurants, stopping contact between households in the home, moving all university teaching online where possible. On that day, new infections were at about 4,500 per day. Now they are about 20,000, some five times higher. If anything, even more would need to be done to bring things back under control. The government is doing far less.One might fairly retort that this is all very well, but would people actually accept such severe measures when many are already objecting to milder measures? But the objections are less to the imposition of restrictions than cynicism about measures, which people don’t believe will work and hence are not worth the sacrifice. This is backed up by recent research showing that perceived effectiveness is critical to adherence. What we have at the moment is the worst of all worlds: a fudge which has resulted in measures that do enough harm to damage livelihoods but are not effective enough to control the virus and save lives. People showed clearly in spring that they will make major sacrifices if they can see the point. What they won’t do is to make sacrifices just for the sake of it.So, the local tier system we have ruins a good idea through botched and half-hearted implementation. It would not be fit for purpose at any time. But it is especially inadequate right now.You don’t wait until your house is burning down before you call the Fire Brigade.The SAGE recommendations of September 21 weren’t just about what measures should be applied, but where they should be applied. They called for a national circuit breaker not just local action. And they called for it as the only way of bringing infections down to manageable levels across the country. The rationale for this position has only become clearer over time. It may be true that areas like Liverpool have far higher infection rates than places like Lowestoft. But infections are rising in every region of England, as are hospitalisations and deaths. It may be true that some areas have broken out into a blaze while others are just smouldering. But you don’t wait until your house is burning down before you call the Fire Brigade. Indeed, it makes far more sense to act early before the damage is too great. The longer you leave things, the more effort is needed to get things back under control, and the more is lost along the way. Even if an effective local system might have been sufficient at some point, that point is now well past. Each day now, indecision and fudge is costing lives. Remember the fateful week of 16-23 March when the government delayed going into a lockdown – a delay which probably inflated the deaths by many thousands. We must not repeat that mistake. Moreover, when the circuit breaker has done its job, when infections are brought down and restrictions are lifted, we must not repeat the mistakes of June when we failed to put in place measures that would suppress the virus and stop yet another set of restrictions being needed. Above all, we must demonstrate that the sacrifices we are asking for will not be wasted. Stephen Reicher is Wardlaw Professor of Psychology at the University of St. Andrews and member of Independent SAGE.More in Opinion... 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You’re reading The Waugh Zone, our daily politics briefing. Sign up now to get it by email in the evening.Just say no. From Nancy Reagan’s famous war-on-drugs slogan (I’m old enough to remember the Grange Hill single) to Margaret Thatcher’s refusal to bail out manufacturing industry, saying ‘no’ was all the rage in the 1980s.By contrast, Boris Johnson has often seemed like the man who likes to say ‘Yes’. His love of being loved (politically and personally) is well documented, and his modus operandi is to give the impression that he hates disappointing anyone. Allies say his reluctance to sack people stems in part from him being uncomfortable with difficult conversations (though that doesn’t seem to be the explanation for Dominic Cummings and Gavin Williamson being retained).And early in the Covid pandemic, Johnson said ‘yes’ to plenty of demands that came his way. On the TUC’s furlough plan to pay 80% of the wages of workers, Sage’s advice on swift lockdowns, campaigners’ calls to ditch an NHS staff visa charge, parents’ demands to ditch A-level algorithms, the PM was acquiescent. He let borrowing rip to fund the billions needed to keep the country going.When Marcus Rashford caught the public’s imagination in the summer to demand the extension of free school meals to cover the summer holidays, Johnson again (after some pushing) said ‘Yes’. The financial cost was relatively tiny, the political cost relatively big and the PM made a calculation that taking action was worth it.Today, he said ‘No’. Despite all the arguments used by him and ministers today about alternative means of support for poor children, the fact is that the decision to extend meals through the summer holidays is not materially different from the decision to extend them through the winter holidays. He felt emergency help for deprived families was needed then, but he clearly thinks it’s not needed now.Part of this may be what hard-nosed charity staff used to call “compassion fatigue”. But it feels more like it’s spending fatigue, egged on by a Treasury which is rediscovering its own historic reputation of being the one part of government that likes to say ‘No’. The decision to end furlough arbitrarily at the end of this month was the early evidence of that change of heart.More broadly, No.10 appears of late to be simply trying to reassert its authority to call the shots whenever demands are sent its way. That sense of wanting to draw a line in the sand is part of the reason for Johnson’s patience snapping with Andy Burnham this week. “There comes a point when enough is enough,” said one ally of the PM.On both free school meals and on Greater Manchester’s business support, the sums involved are tiny compared to the billions already spent in tackling the virus. Yet it seems as if on both issues the PM just wanted to, to coin a phrase, take back control of the narrative.And most Tory MPs welcome the switch from ad hoc bailouts to what they see as a more sustainable approach. Saying no is seen by many of them as the same thing as their core political belief in personal reliance and responsibility. The real difficulty is the resurgent spread of the virus. A new emphasis on fiscal efficiency may well be appropriate once the pandemic is past its worst, but as we head into a worrying second wave this winter (today’s huge jump in Covid cases was dramatic) it seems too soon to shift away from emergency measures.On Thursday, Rishi Sunak is set to make yet another amendment to his Winter Economic Plan, with some expecting him to finally give more support to firms forced into Tier 2 restrictions. At present they are in the limbo of not being ordered to close but not being able to make much money either. With the furlough scheme’s end now looking premature, any new help will be desperately needed.The problem, as ever with this prime minister, is one of consistency. On Brexit, having sounded a Thatcherite ‘no, no, no’ to Brussels last week, today the talks are back on and we could see a ‘yes, yes, yes’ trade deal that smuggles UK concessions under the bravado of brinkmanship.On spending on the pandemic, the PM may yet prove similarly unpredictable. While the PM says ‘No’ to cash for more free school meals, he simultaneously says ‘Yes’ to cash for continued private sector roles in test-and-trace.“Winging it” has served Johnson well throughout his political career and he may not yet be ready to give it up. The fact is that he may now be more ready to say ‘No’ than ever before - but he’s still capable of saying ‘Yes’.The PM joked yesterday to businesses about spinning the roulette wheel and taking bets. Whether you’re a child on free school meals or a pub worker in Manchester or a lorry firm worried about a no-deal Brexit, it’s not clear from day to day whether you’ll end up in the red or the black.Related... Tory MPs Vote Down Marcus Rashford's Free School Meals Plan Angela Rayner Apologises For Calling Tory MP 'Scum' In Commons Government Suffers Fourth Defeat On Post-Brexit Child Refugees' Rights – But Still Won't Budge
Boris Johnson is facing anger in the north of England on a scale last seen by Margaret Thatcher’s government in the 1980s, a shadow cabinet minister has warned.Wigan MP Lisa Nandy said people in the north feel like the government is “actively working against us” and stressed she had not “felt anger like this” since the 1980s.The senior Labour figure led calls for the government to boost financial support for areas to be placed under tougher coronavirus restrictions under the three-tier local lockdown plan the prime minister is expected to reveal on Monday.Nandy was backed by the Tory leader of Bolton council, David Greenhalgh, who called on Rishi Sunak to “at the very least” restore support to the levels of  the original furlough scheme, which saw the government cover 80% of workers’ wages.The chancellor last week announced plans for a 67% wage subsidy but northern leaders have warned this does not go far enough and will lead to businesses “going under” and job losses.But communities secretary Robert Jenrick suggested on Sunday that the government would not go further, insisting: “We can’t do everything.”Johnson is also facing anger for failing to involve local leaders enough in decision-making, and because plans for local lockdowns, including pub and restaurant closures, leaked to the media days before they were due to be formally announced.People feel the government is actively working against parts of northern England says Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy#Marr#Covid_19https://t.co/JYYPxtoIYkpic.twitter.com/0h5zeldyAW— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 11, 2020Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: “It’s really hard to explain how angry people are in the north of England about what has happened not just over the last few months but over the last few days.“I haven’t felt anger like this towards the government since I was growing up here in the 1980s.“People feel that they haven’t just been abandoned by the government, they now feel that the government is actively working against us.”Nandy said many northern areas were into the third month of restrictions but Covid cases were still going up and businesses fear “death by a thousand cuts”.She said: “If they carry on like this, briefing out new lockdown restrictions on a Thursday night and then going missing over the weekend... if they don’t do something quickly they are not just going to lose control of the virus but they are going to lose trust in what people are being told, and that is really, really serious.”Greenhalgh said many businesses in Bolton have already been closed for three months with the lockdown on hospitality, with many jobs lost already and firms “on the brink”.He told Marr that Johnson’s “build back better” agenda will be left in tatters unless more financial support is provided."Why should the north of England be treated any differently?"Conservative Cllr David Greenhalgh tells #Marr the government can’t continue restricting northern England without an exit package #Covid_19https://t.co/JYYPxtoIYkpic.twitter.com/mDGEnZ8ARn— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 11, 2020On the wage subsidy scheme Sunak set out last week, he said: “The idea that this money is only payable from the beginning of November and it could come to us as late as late November, early December, is just not good enough.”Greenhalgh went on: “It has to at the very least be a package that returns to the furlough of the March lockdown and anything less is quite frankly unacceptable.“Many of these businesses will simply go under and we can’t ‘build back better’ if we’ve lost some of these businesses.”Nandy meanwhile confirmed Labour would attempt to force a vote on the local lockdown restrictions expected to be applied to the north and the financial package.But she stressed the party would not seek to vote down government measures but instead “try and frame the terms of a debate and vote in the House of Commons so that there is an opportunity to put forwards an alternative support package”.Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said Johnson would be breaking his election promise to “level up” the country unless he provides more economic help.“If they continue with this, jobs will be lost, businesses will collapse, the fragile economies of the North will be shattered,” the Labour mayor told Times Radio.“The government has a real choice here, if it proceeds on the path it is on, in my view, the central so-called mission of this government to level-up will be over.”Liverpool mayor Joe Anderson revealed the city is “likely” to be placed in tier three – the toughest local lockdown likely to include pub and restaurant closures.“That is going to have huge economic damage and damage that will take us back to the position this city was in in the 80s with large levels of unemployment, of people unemployed and it will set us back a long time,” he told Times Radio.“Let’s make it absolutely clear here, if this was down in the south east in London, it wouldn’t be happening, it simply wouldn’t be tolerated.”Jenrick defended the government’s financial support package, telling Marr: “They need to be seen in the context of everything else we’ve done.“This country has put in place measures which compare extremely favourably to other countries.“We can’t do everything, there is a limit to what the state can do here. But we are trying to support these communities.”Related... Local Leaders To Get More Control Of Failing Covid Test And Trace System UK At 'Tipping Point' As Millions Face Ban On Mixing Under New Coronavirus Rules Northern Leaders Slam Rishi Sunak's 'Insufficient' Local Furlough Plan
The UK is at a “tipping point” in the fight against coronavirus, a top scientist has warned, as millions in the north of England face a possible ban on mixing indoors and outdoors from Monday.Prime minister Boris Johnson is set to outline a new three-tiered system of restrictions with measures expected to force pubs and restaurants shut across the north of the country.Reports suggest under the top tier no household mixing will be allowed either, which could affect millions of people living in areas with high Covid-19 rates across England.It comes as England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said the country is at a tipping point similar to the first wave of coronavirus, but can prevent history repeating itself, PA Media reports.He said the best way to keep transmission low and stop the NHS being overwhelmed was for people to follow self-isolation guidance, wash their hands, wear face coverings and social distance.He added: “Earlier in the year, we were fighting a semi-invisible disease, about which we had little knowledge, and it seeded in the community at great speed.“Now we know where it is and how to tackle it – let’s grasp this opportunity and prevent history from repeating itself.”But leaders across Northern England have criticised the plans, accusing the government of treating the region as “second-class” and did not rule out possible legal action.The Sunday Times reported ministers were drawing up proposals to give town halls more powers over the test and trace system to try to secure their support.Meanwhile, people could be seen socialising in city centres across the UK – including Liverpool, Newcastle and London – on Saturday evening before pubs in their areas were potentially closed.It comes as the number of people in hospital with coronavirus increased across every part of England on Saturday – rising to 1,167 in the north west from 725 previous week.A further 15,166 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were reported on Saturday, and 81 more deaths were confirmed of people who died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19.Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 58,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.Under the proposed three-tier system, different parts of the country would be placed in different categories, with areas in the highest level expected to face the toughest restrictions.The Conservative Mayor of the Tees Valley Ben Houchen said the third tier restrictions are expected to run in four-week blocks, with pubs and bars being required to close and no household mixing will be allowed for socialising either indoors or outdoors.Real estate adviser Altus Group has said there are 7,171 pubs in areas with restrictions across the north of England at risk of temporary closure.Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Friday workers in businesses which are forced to close under the new restrictions will have two-thirds of their wages paid by the government.But Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said that accepting Sunak’s financial package would be to “surrender” people to hardship in the run up to Christmas.Speaking at a press conference with political leaders from Liverpool, Sheffield and Tyneside on Saturday, Burnham said the measures risked “severe redundancies” and business closures.Burnham said the government was treating the North as second-class and did not rule out legal action.He added: “It will level down the north of England and widen the north-south divide.”The leaders of West Yorkshire councils also warned on Friday that “significantly” more financial support was needed to prevent an even deeper economic catastrophe.Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was also critical of the business aid package and said the government had “lost sight of the guiding principle” that restrictions are always accompanied by appropriate economic support.But the Sunday Times reported plans are being drawn up to give local leaders powers to deploy an army of volunteer contact tracers as well as giving local authorities more control over mobile testing units and walk-in centres.A government spokeswoman said all financial support will be kept under review, to support businesses and protect jobs over the coming weeks and months.In North Wales, new coronavirus restrictions were introduced in Bangor at 6pm on Saturday, meaning people will not be allowed to enter or leave the area without a “reasonable excuse” and can only meet people they do not live with outdoors, it said.Related... I'm More Afraid Of A Second Trump Term Than My Cancer Coming Back. Here's Why Borat Just Joined Twitter And Is Already Trolling The Wawaweewa Out Of Trump 5 Fibs You Were Told This Week
Leaders in the north of England have slammed the chancellor’s plans for a local furlough scheme as ‘insufficient’, claiming it would disproportionately harm low-paid workers. Backtracking from plans to cut off the furlough scheme completely, Rishi Sunak announced on Friday that the government will pay two-thirds of the wages of workers whose firms shut over autumn and winter due to local or national coronavirus lockdowns. But with thousands of workers living under local lockdowns in the north of England – many of whom working in hospitality potentially face a total shutdown of their industry under tougher restrictions – leaders in affected areas have said they “cannot accept” the government’s stance, which they claim falls far short.At a press conference on Saturday Greater Manchester’s Labour mayor Andy Burnham, speaking alongside leaders from Liverpool, Sheffield and Tyneside, said: “We were told yesterday the financial package that would accompany any new system of restrictions, as announced by the chancellor yesterday afternoon, was final and non-negotiable. And I have to say, we cannot accept that.”“This package only appeared late in the day, and at the start of the week there was not going to be any financial package at all. Following pressure from mayors and other leaders that changed.“But the analysis we have done of that package, and we’ve took time to digest what the chancellor had said, the conclusion we have reached is this package is insufficient to protect our communities as we go into the rest of the autumn and the winter.”From November 1, when the furlough scheme ends, the government will cover 67% of any worker’s salary up to a maximum of £2,100 a month at companies required to close, and they do not have to work any hours to be eligible. The previous scheme covered 80% of a worker’s salary, up to £2,500 a month. Burnham said the new scheme would hit those on the lowest salaries the hardest, adding: “These people can’t choose to pay two-thirds of their rent or two-thirds of their bills.”He also suggested the timing of the proposals could leave people without any financial support for several weeks, with some first payments only due in December.“That would leave people with no money for a period of six weeks and could push them into debt and severe hardship.”Labour’s Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool city region, said the city was “in the same boat” as others in the north of England.He said: “We are actually talking about lives and livelihoods.“Imposing new restrictions without also providing adequate funding and support is simply not acceptable.”Rotheram said the government should be offering to return to the 80% scheme,He said: “If 80% was the right benchmark in March, nothing has changed. If it’s right then, it’s right now, adding government “can’t do lockdown on the cheap”.A further 13,864 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK were reported on Friday, and 87 more deaths were confirmed of people who died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus.Nottingham has the highest rate in England, with 760.6 cases per 100,000 people – a huge jump from 158.3 per 100,000 in the seven days to September 29.Knowsley has the second highest rate, which has leapt from 391.1 to 657.6 per 100,000, while Liverpool is in third place, where the rate has also increased sharply, from 419.0 to 599.9.Separate figures suggested coronavirus cases are doubling about twice as fast in the North West, Yorkshire and the West Midlands as for the whole of England.Related... Will Rishi’s Rushed Return To Furlough Be Enough To Stop Mass Unemployment? Workers At Locked Down Firms Will Get Two-Thirds Of Wages Paid, Rishi Sunak Announces Exclusive: Use Sugar Tax Cash To Expand Free School Meals, Ministers Urged
Keir Starmer has demanded Boris Johnson publish the scientific evidence behind the 10pm curfew ahead of a crunch Commons vote next week on the law.Speaking during PMQs on Wednesday, the Labour leader gave a strong indication he may withhold his support.If Labour joins Tory rebels, there is a chance the government could be defeated in any bid to keep the curfew in place.“One question is now screaming out: is there a scientific basis for the 10pm rule?” Starmer said.“If there is, why doesn’t the government do itself a favour and publish it? If not, why doesn’t the government review the rule?”He added: “Will the prime minister commit to publishing the scientific basis for the rule before this House votes on it?”Johnson sidestepped the call for any science behind the curfew to be published and told MPs the point of the law was “to reduce the spread of the virus”.The government has been under increasing pressure to scrap the curfew from Tory MPs and the hospitality industry.Steve Baker, the leading backbench rebel, told HuffPost UK: “It is not clear what the evidence is to support the 10pm curfew or that it is effective.”Kate Nicholls, the CEO of UK Hospitality, said the curfew and other restrictions had a “severe and devastating” impact on pubs, restaurants and other venues.Pub giant Greene King said on Wednesday it plans to cut around 800 jobs and shut dozens of pubs and restaurantsLocal Labour leaders have also warned the curfew is counter-productive as it has led to people all leaving bars at the same time, gathering together outside, holding more house parties and cramming on to public transport.Read more: Pub Bosses Explain Why 10pm Curfew Isn’t WorkingHuffPost UK revealed today ministers are considering shifting the curfew back an hour, with supermarkets being ordered to stop selling alcohol after 11pm.The plan would transplant the rules operating in Northern Ireland to England, which see last orders being called at 10.30pm.During PMQs, Starmer also said Labour analysis showed 19 out of 20 areas in England that have been under restrictions over the last two months have seen an increase in infection rates anyway.Bolton, which has been under restrictions since July 30, has seen its infection rate increase almost 13 times from 20 to 255 per 100,000.Burnley, which has been under restrictions since July 31, has seen its infection rate increase over 20 times from 21 to 434 per 100,000.Bury, which has also been under restrictions since July 31, has seen its infection rate increase over 13 times from 20 to 266 per 100,000.An analysis of government data by HuffPost UK also showed there are now only seven areas of the UK with levels of Covid-19 under the government’s own threshold for foreign countries that require travel restrictions.People visiting countries with more than 20 cases per 100,000 people over a seven-day average are required to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to the UK.Related... Northern Leaders Rage At 'Disastrous' Covid Measures That Will Deepen North-South Divide 11pm Pub Closing Time In England Could Return, Ministers Believe Greene King To Shut 79 Pubs And Restaurants Due To Slump Caused By 10pm Curfew
A creeping feeling of déjà vu has been haunting Westminster with the arrival of autumn as bulletin after bulletin carries more bad news about the dreaded resurgence of Covid-19. Case numbers, hospitalisations and, of course, deaths are rising and the R value has stayed stubbornly above 1.0, meaning that the pandemic continues to grow across the country. The UK map is a patchwork quilt of varying social distancing restrictions, reflecting how Boris Johnson wants to stick to his “whack-a-mole” strategy of stamping out outbreaks and avoiding blanket bans. But with around a third of the entire UK population now living under some form of local lockdown, the question many are asking is: why doesn’t the prime minister “go the whole hog” and back a full second national lockdown? Chief medical officer Chris Whitty, who with the PM and chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance, led a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, has warned the country faces a “six-month problem”. There are “significant rates of transmission” in “great majority” of areas where the virus is spiking, he said. Pointing to alarming graphs showing that hospital admissions were rising sharply among the over-65s, Vallance warned it would be “wrong” to think that the problem was only in areas under local lockdowns.“It is worst in certain areas but there is evidence of spread everywhere,” he saidSo what is stopping the PM from a full lockdown – and could a two-week “circuit-breaker” compromise be on the cards? The devastating impact on the economy Covid-19 has already ravaged the UK economy and the Bank of England warned last month that the resurgence of the virus will hit the country hard. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is thought to oppose a second lockdown “for any long period of time” amid fears job losses could soar and unemployment in 2021 could spiral out of control. “It’s a constant balancing act, trying to keep the country moving forward without the hospitals filling up with critically ill patients with Covid so that other services can continue to run, but achieving that is the key point,” said one MP. “And if that isn’t happening [to the NHS], then keeping people running their businesses and employing people is equally important.” Data released by the Office for National Statistics revealed that the number of redundancies in the UK has risen at its fastest pace since the financial crisis. Many economists think Sunak’s new wage subsidy scheme is unlikely to stem further job losses this winter.“The economic challenges are huge,” said the MP. “If the economy slows down too much – well, we use it to pay all of our public sector, it’s not for the fun of it. It pays for the wages for all of the services we want for our constituents.” Libertarian ‘Brady bunch’ Tory backbenchers One thorn in Johnson’s side should he move for a second shutdown is a grouping of backbench Tory MPs known informally as “the Brady brunch”. Notionally led by the chair of the powerful 1922 committee, Graham Brady, they oppose new restrictions by the state, both due to the limits on individual freedoms and the strain on business. Or, as Brady recently put it, they feel the government has “got into the habit of ruling by decree” during Covid-19, with many measures, including hefty fines, announced without parliamentary scrutiny. One moderate Tory MP, who doesn’t back the would-be rebels, told HuffPost UK other MPs were more trenchant in their view: “The Hitchenite wing, or lockdown-sceptic wing of the party, is growing stronger and stronger. “They are very hardline and there are more and more of them. They have increasing influence via people like Toby Young and Laurence Fox and then Nigel Farage on the fringe.” They added: “Some of it is for libertarian reasons – they don’t want people to be bossed around by the state – but for others it is genuine worry. “I don’t care about the libertarian arguments but I really do worry about businesses in my constituency and job losses.” The group, which is thought to be around 50 strong, won a concession from the government last month after threatening a rebellion over the continuation of emergency measures.  Now, any second national lockdown must be put to a vote in the Commons. While backbench voices may chip away at Johnson’s authority, they have little chance of sinking a second lockdown, given the Tories’ 80-seat majority. But the PM may also look to swerve a face-off with his detractors by brokering a compromise. How to save Christmas“There is a fundamental belief in central government that the British public will not stand for a fully locked-down Christmas or even the rule of six, frankly,” one source close to the government told HuffPost UK. Instead of “cancelling Christmas”, a two-week “circuit breaker” national lockdown, starting October 23, is on the table and may allow the country to avoid tighter restrictions later, it is said.A government source told HuffPost UK a range of data is used to make decisions, and that there is no “specific point” at which a second shutdown would be triggered.Setting an end date on a “full fat” lockdown would solve more than one problem for the PM. October 23 is the start of half term, meaning schoolchildren – who have missed out since March, with those from poorer backgrounds hit hardest – could avoid having a great deal more of their classroom education interrupted. So the move may satisfy working parents and teachers who fear youngsters are falling behind with lessons. This “third way” plan is said to have been briefed to hostile MPs already as a “light at the end of the tunnel” this winter. “I think with backbenchers you can sell drastic measures in the short term, that are time limited, by saying: if all goes well, we will open up at Christmas,” the source added. Retail and hospitality businesses, struggling to keep their head above water, would similarly be more inclined to swallow measures if they had an end in sight.Brady, meanwhile, told BBC Radio 4′s Westminster Hour on Sunday that “people were told that it was a finite thing” when lockdown was first imposed. He added piecemeal regional lockdowns were now being questioned by the public. Brady said: “People were remarkably tolerant in being prepared to go along with that, I think for that reason. And when you then start to get to speculation about a second lockdown or all of these regional things, I think patience really does start to wear thin and I can understand that.”The government on Sunday revealed that as many as 16,000 cases from last week were not added to government figures, with the UK recording a huge 22,921 lab-confirmed cases in the 24 hours up to 9am on Sunday. The news flatly contradicts suggestions that the second wave may have been “levelling off”, as it is now known the country reached 10,000 new daily cases on September 30.Ministers are being shown more drastic figures by chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific office Patrick Vallance, one source said. “The numbers that [the cabinet] are seeing are very, very bad and the thing that is always repeated to them by Whitty and Vallance in the meetings they have, is this [data] is two weeks’ old, so what is happening now is worse than what I’m showing you,” they said. “So they show ministers a lot of numbers that are bad but say that ‘before I do, know this, it is worse’.” Rumblings of disquiet in the Red Wall  With vast swathes of the north under local lockdown already and widespread confusion, not least by Johnson himself, over what measures are in place where, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham sounded the alarm on Sunday.Telling the government it is “in danger of losing the public in the north of England”, he said: “We need a bit of a reset.” The Labour mayor’s view is shared by several Tory MPs representing his party’s former heartlands, HuffPost UK understands.Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, the former health minister – who has previously claimed Covid-19 could do more damage to the north than Margaret Thatcher – added: “Actually if [the government] carry on imposing restrictions on the north without proper support for the businesses and the employees affected in the north, we will see a winter of ‘levelling down’ and the north-south divide getting bigger.”Meanwhile, Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth has pointed out that – by contrast – few Tory ministers have seen local lockdowns in their constituencies, suggesting there even may be “political interference”.It is feared the economic long-term impact could disproportionately leave the Red Wall – across the midlands, north and Wales – much worse off, with many jobs lost in retail and hospitality. “They expect this to hit the Red Wall worse than anywhere,” said one insider. “There are MPs who think the government worries too much about the Red Wall, and say there are other areas of the country and other people who voted Tory, but it’s definitely true that the first test of any policy outside of Covid is the Red Wall test.” One northern Tory simply added: “It’s a constantly moving challenge of keeping the economy moving and ensuring the NHS is not overwhelmed. “I think we all need to accept that we will be living a quiet life for the next year.” Related... 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Labour says a “suspicion of political interference” hangs over local lockdown decisions as many Tory ministers’ constituencies have been spared restrictions. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged the government to publish more Covid-19 infection data as it was “not clear why” places were chosen. He said while huge swathes of the north were under lockdown, some areas with higher case rates – such as communities secretary Robert Jenrick’s Newark and chief whip Mark Spencer’s Sherwood – do not have restrictions. The government has said lockdown measures are being imposed to drive down infections.“Because there is no clear guidelines as to why an area goes into restrictions and how an area comes out of restrictions then there is a suspicion that there is political interference – I hope there isn’t,” Ashworth said, speaking on the BBC Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. “But until the government publish clear guidelines, that suspicion will always linger.”The North East, Merseyside, and huge swathes of Lancashire and Leicestershire are under lockdown. Saying there appeared to be a “red wall lockdown” emerging, Ashworth said: “What we need to see is local authority leaders properly involved, we need to see local councillors properly involved, we need to see the local health service involved as well.”Prime Minister Boris Johnson on local restrictions: "I know people are furious with me and they’re furious with the government but… it's going to continue to be bumpy through to Christmas. It may even be bumpy beyond"#Marr#Covid_19https://t.co/iUFQLFuY4Jpic.twitter.com/YVAKc3CzuW— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 4, 2020In an interview on Sunday, also with Marr, prime minister Boris Johnson warned it would be “bumpy” until Christmas. Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, meanwhile, has said the government is “in danger of losing the public in the north of England”.Speaking to the Sophy Ridge On Sunday show on Sky News, the former Labour minister said: “We need a bit of a reset here so that people can clearly understand what’s being asked.”He added: “I certainly feel this week that we’ve reached a bit of a turning point with all of this.“The government are really in danger of losing the public in the north of England.“And actually if they carry on imposing restrictions on the north without proper support for the businesses and the employees affected in the North, we will see a winter of levelling down and the North-South divide getting bigger.”On Saturday, fresh fears were mounting about the virus’ spread after almost 13,000 new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the UK in the 24 hours up to 9am Saturday - a jump of nearly 6,000 from the day before.The official dashboard that records cases said the surge was due to a technical glitch and includes some additional cases from the period between September 24 and October 1.It did not specify exactly which days the extra cases were from or which areas, however. Related... Ban On Households In North-East Mixing Indoors As Covid Cases Spike Labour Voices Alarm Over 'Failing' US Firm Subcontracted For NHS Test And Trace Boris Johnson Attempts To Defend Test And Trace... By Completely Undermining It
Keir Starmer has called for council chiefs and mayors in England to be urgently given new powers over both local lockdowns and NHS Test and Trace.Amid a growing revolt among local leaders at fresh restrictions imposed by the Tory government, the Labour leader told HuffPost UK that it was now time for them to be “put in the driver’s seat” in the battle against coronavirus.Starmer said that health secretary Matt Hancock should share decision making with council leaders and metro Mayors, offer cash packages for businesses locked down and end the confusing public health messages.In an exclusive interview, he also demanded a radical overhaul of NHS Test and Trace to prevent it from damaging the reputation of the NHS itself, with local public health teams leading the service rather than Tory peer Dido Harding or private firms like Serco and Deloitte.On Thursday, Hancock unveiled a new ban on different households mixing in pubs or homes in Liverpool City region, Warrington, Teesside and Hartlepool from Saturday.Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston said he would “defy the government and we do not accept these measures”, and he was backed up by Hartlepool council leader Shane Moore.Some 57 different areas of the UK, making up a third of the population, are now under tougher restrictions than the rest of the country.Starmer said: “The message to the government is: involve local local leaders, whether it’s council leaders or mayors, much more intensely, and much earlier. Because what’s going on is sometimes consultation, sometimes not.“There’s a massive frustration if you talk to the mayors in Manchester or Liverpool, they’ve not been properly brought into the process and listened to. The same in the northeast with the leader of Newcastle Council, a sense that the decision is being made centrally in London, when they should be in the room as part of the process.“And this isn’t just about another layer of bureaucracy, bringing someone else in. These are people who know their communities. And not only do they know their communities, they’re in very regular contact with the police, with the hospitals and their community groups, and they can put messages across their communities. So they need to be in the driver’s seat, much more central to the process.”He added: “The other part of this is that there’s a huge mismatch now between local restrictions and economic support. So instead of saying, here’s the package of restrictions, here’s the support that goes with it, the second bit isn’t there. Local leaders are a mess of tearing their hair out about what’s going to happen to jobs and businesses on their own patch.“It should be shared decision making. I don’t think local mayors and leaders should have a veto. I don’t think they should make decisions on their own. But they should be a proper part of the process.”On Thursday, NHS Test and Trace again posted worsening contact rates for those who have been close to people who tested positive for Covid.Just 64.3% of contacts were reached in cases handled either online or by private sector outsourced call centres. But the figure was 97.6% for cases handled by council-run local health protection teams.In one of his biggest breaks with government policy since he became leader, Starmer called for the first time for a complete overhaul of the system and that he agreed with Manchester metro Mayor Andy Burnham that it had to now be “locally led”.Labour wants the English system to resemble that in Wales, where the Welsh government meets with council chiefs, shares evidence on cases and positivity rates and where test and trace is not run as a “privatised enterprise”.“I completely understand the concerns that the NHS brand is being associated with test and trace when in fact, it’s been parcelled out, often with contracts to Serco and other companies,” Starmer said.“What the government should have done is to put it locally, months and months ago. Local authority leaders were saying to the government ’they should let us lead on test, trace and isolate.“‘We can do it, we can do it locally, we know our communities, and we’re up for the responsibility’. The government nearly went down that track and did start bringing them in a bit, but still insists on putting the big contracts elsewhere. Big mistake. Compare that with Germany, where they have done it from the local up and you’ve got a much better system.”Asked if that meant the end of a role for firms like Serco and Deloitte, Starmer said: “It should be locally led. I’m not going to say that you should be no involvement of others, but nobody could look at the test, trace and isolate arrangements and think that they’re working, let alone effective, let alone world class.“In a Zoom summit with Labour council chiefs, Starmer was later told by Burnham that the government had just a couple of weeks to give local leaders to put “contact tracing in hands of local authorities” or face a winter of rising ill-health and joblessness.Burnham said “local restrictions must have local support”, adding that “local control of test and trace” was essential. “This is a tough time for any government but to have made mistakes and keep on making them, that is arrogant,” he said.He pointed out that northern areas had been ignored when the “London-centric” decision was made to lift the national lockdown this summer.“We were in a different position and yet they lifted it. From our point of view we’ve never been in a position to keep cases low, they were too high and then we were already in a difficult position, then people were being encouraged to eat out to help out and god knows what.”Newcastle council leader Nick Forbes added that NHS Test and Trace, which this week announced it was replacing an NHS official with a former head of Sainsbury’s, was “privatised and centralised”.Shadow communities secretary Steve Reed agreed that the system now needed “to be local by default” because “the centralised Serco system hasn’t worked”.Welsh government health minister Vaughan Gething said that because its test and trace service was focused on the public sector, it was achieving a high level of contacts, with 91% of cases reached and 83% of their close contacts.Related... 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Phones ringing off the hook, councillors scrambling for details and anxious families worrying about how their jobs and children will be affected – these are the scenes local leaders have described in the wake of strict local lockdown restrictions being announced by the government. A series of Labour councillors and politicians have told HuffPost UK how, by unveiling sweeping new restrictions late at night on social media, without details of the rules and without giving councils times to prepare, the government is undermining public confidence and sparking widespread anxiety. “They need to think more about the real world – real families in their homes hearing that kind of announcement,” Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham told HuffPost UK. “I don’t think they think enough about those things.” In Newcastle – where a sharp uptick in Covid-19 infections has seen the coronavirus rate reach 108 cases per 100,000 people in recent days – local leaders asked the government for a series of additional restrictions to help curb the spread of the potentially deadly virus. But when health secretary Matt Hancock announced in the Commons on Thursday that large swathes of the north-east would be under new, stricter coronavirus directives, local politicians – including Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes – were in the dark about the exact regulations. Yes, there would be a 10pm curfew for bars and restaurants and a ban on people socialising outside of their households – but what did the announcement mean for public transport? For weddings? For organised sports? “The secretary of state made an announcement in the Commons at 11.30am, but we didn’t actually get the final version of the regulations until 6pm,” Forbes said.  “So we had maybe seven hours of people speculating wildly about what was going to be announced and we didn’t know because we hadn’t seen the final list of restrictions.” The council knew what it had asked for, “but we didn’t know exactly what we were going to be given”. The delay led to some people “frankly making rubbish up”, Forbes said. “That did nothing to ensure we had clarity and consistency in messaging. In fact, it undermined what we were trying to achieve.” The hold-up followed leaks and speculation in the local press about what would be announced by ministers, Forbes said. “It caused a great deal of anxiety – for about a 48 hour period, the phone rang more or less non-stop, with worried people – and in some cases very angry people – either demanding answers or shouting.”  The Government announced restrictions for the North East at 11.30am this morning, effective from Midnight, but the regulations have still not been published. The longer this goes on the greater the info vaccuum and the more alarmed people are getting. We need clarity, now.— Nick Forbes (@nick_forbes) September 17, 2020The three main things people were calling about? Visiting family members, the rules around going to pubs and restaurants and people’s upcoming nuptials. “I think we had about eight calls from people asking if their wedding was going to be cancelled,” Forbes said. “Of course, we hadn’t asked for any changes around weddings, but we didn’t know what the government was going to say, so we couldn’t give them a clear answer. That was deeply frustrating.” But it’s not just in the north-east where councillors have been left reeling by the government’s handling of local lockdown restrictions. Andrew Western, the Labour leader of Trafford Council, described how he and other leaders in Greater Manchester were given just hours to prepare for drastic changes to social distancing rules at the end of July following a spike in coronavirus cases. They only found out about the new restrictions after Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham received a call from Matt Hancock around 4.30pm on July 30  saying he was “minded to act and put in place some restrictions”. By “pure chance”, Burnham – who was himself health secretary between 2009 and 2010 – had a meeting scheduled with local Labour leaders that evening. “The difficult thing is, I only got engaged late on Thursday and the health secretary was about to go into a meeting,” the mayor told HuffPost UK. “I said to him that I would have to consult the leaders – I can’t say on their behalf that something is fine. “I’ve said throughout this, they have the primary and statutory responsibility for their borough with regard to public safety. So I have to coordinate their voice, but their voice really matters here.” If there hadn’t already been a meeting in the diary, most leaders would not have been able to attend a last-minute gathering, he said. “I think that isn’t understood enough in Whitehall. If there’s a big change coming that’s going to affect millions of people’s lives, you have to really get on board the people who are going to front up that change.” The government “haven’t thought enough about all that”, Burnham added. Just hours after Burnham, Western and other local leaders were first informed about the new restrictions, Hancock announced the new rules – which came into force at midnight – on Twitter. 3/4 The spread is largely due to households meeting and not abiding to social distancing. So from midnight tonight, people from different households will not be allowed to meet each other indoors in these areas. pic.twitter.com/Yy7wLbdh9V— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) July 30, 2020“It’s ridiculous,” Western – who has led Trafford Council since 2018 – said, branding it a “comms disaster”. “Who announces something late at night on Twitter that’s going to come in at midnight?” By the time the mayor was informed of the changes, it was already the end of the working day, Western said. “By that time, my staff had finished for the day. We’re responsible for enforcing this – we need to get relevant public health messages out and there’s a void basically, because nobody is around. “You can’t expect people to be scrambling at that time of night to get messages together.” It’s a thought that is echoed by Burnham. “Councils are used as a trusted source of information by residents,” he said. “They will turn to the council quite a lot.” When government changes are coming, councils need time to create a messaging campaign for local people to make sure the rules are clear and easy to understand. “But they’re not allowing time for all of that to take place,” Burnham said. “It isn’t working.” He continued: “We are the ones who have to deal with these messages on the ground and the consequences of them.“I don’t think the government is thinking enough of the reality of what we have to do – the inquiries we get, the public’s reaction etc. The government makes an announcement and goes on to something else and we’re left.“If they involved us, worked with us, consulted us, their messages may even land better for them. So it’s not like us asking for something from them – we could actually give them something by helping them land their messages better.” But Western has been blindsided more than once by new restrictions during the pandemic. At the start of September, the government ignored appeals from Trafford Council to keep local lockdown restrictions in place in the areas and lifted the rules – only to reimpose them hours later. “At 12.30pm in the afternoon– 12-and-a-half hours after the restrictions had been lifted, they reimposed them, having sent us a copy of the press release about 20 minutes before they did so,” Western said. “And that was the notification that we got.” Alyson Barnes, leader of Rossendale Borough Council, said it was clear that the government “likes big announcements”. “We’re all left trying to work out what that means,” she said. Rossendale, a borough in Lancashire, was among the areas where even stricter lockdown measures came into force on Tuesday, replacing previous rules. Under the new guidelines, residents are banned from mixing with anyone outside their household or bubble in a bid to halt the spread of Covid-19. “This latest announcement has not been any different,” Barnes said. “We have got hospitality venues contacting us about the 10pm curfew – ‘Is that 10pm sharp, doors shut? Or is it last orders at 10pm?’” She added: “You just get people contacting you all the time about different aspects of this… It just comes at you from all sorts of directions, because the announcement is made so quickly, you just don’t have time to get any of the detail in place. So we’re always playing catch up with it.” None of this can be easy for ministers, Barnes said. “It’s a new territory for UK government – they haven’t had to deal with a pandemic since the early 1900s. “So I’m quite sympathetic in a way to that fact, I get that. But I do think if they gave themselves just a little bit longer on some things, to think the detail through, that would help them in the long run. “They seem to be a bit of a hair trigger – they have got to be saying it now, not waiting till they have worked it through for a day or so. It’s got to be done now.” A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care told HuffPost UK that ministers and experts were “constantly” reviewing evidence about the spread of Covid-19. “The government, working alongside scientific and public health experts and local leaders constantly review the epidemiological evidence and we are prepared to take swift and decisive action to cut the transmission of the virus and protect communities,” they said. “Everyone has a part to play - you can protect yourself, loved ones and the public by washing your hands, wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces, practice social distancing and, if you may have come into contact with this virus, self-isolating.”More on coronavirus... No, 90% Of Coronavirus Tests Are Not 'False Positives' And This Is Why Labour Voices Alarm Over 'Failing' US Firm Subcontracted For NHS Test And Trace The Covid Contact-Tracing App Is About To Launch. But There Are Big Concerns
Misogyny is a step closer to being classified as a hate crime, the Law Commission has said. A new consultation by the body, which is responsible for reviewing laws, will look at whether those who abuse women due to their gender should face tougher sentences.As it stands, gender is not a protected characteristic or group under hate crime law and campaigners want that to change.  Currently protected by law in England and Wales are race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity. The commission has called for evidence from victims of hate crime, police officers, prosecutors and civil liberties groups so it can consider how a misogyny hate crime law might work in practice. Campaigning Labour MP Stella Creasy, one of the most high-profile campaigners on the issue, has urged women attacked “online or offline” because of their gender to “to come forward and be heard”.She said: “Misogyny drives crimes against women – recognising that within our criminal justice system will help us detect and prevent offences including sexual assault, rape and domestic abuse.” Seven police forces in the country have already begun treating misogyny as a hate crime offence, which Creasy said has “proven results” in tackling violence against women. She added: “I now urge every woman who has walked with keys in her hands at night, been abused or attacked online or offline to come forward and be heard in this consultation.“This is our moment for change - rather than asking women to pick a side of their identity to be protected, its time to send a message that women should be equally able to live free from fear of assault or harm targeted at them simply for who they are.”Among the areas for consideration is the level of online abuse and threats of violence directed at women in the public eye and the effect on their participation in debate and public life.It will look at whether amending offences in which the majority of victims are women, such as rape, sexual assault and female genital mutilation, is helpful considering their already gendered nature.A preliminary paper also raises the fact that domestic violence and coercive control by men against women may have a complex set of motivations beyond misogyny.The consultation will also consider whether protection should cover both men and women, or just women.The proposals on misogyny are part of a wider consultation into the patchwork of existing hate crime laws, which have been criticised for their complexity and the different levels of protection offered to different characteristics.Offences including assault, criminal damage and harassment attract longer sentences when the perpetrator is deemed to be motivated by prejudice or hatred towards a certain group.There is separate legislation for inciting hatred on the basis of race if behaviour is found to be “threatening, abusive or insulting”.But similar behaviour towards a particular religion or sexual orientation can only be prosecuted if the conduct is threatening, and not just abusive or insulting.Criminal law commissioner Professor Penney Lewis said: “Hate crime has no place in our society and we have seen the terrible impact that it can have on victims.”“Our proposals will ensure all protected characteristics are treated in the same way, and that women enjoy hate crime protection for the first time.”As well as misogyny, the consultation will look at whether other groups and characteristics should be offered protection, for example homeless people, sex workers and members of alternative subcultures such as goths or punks.The Law Commission is further reviewing whether age should be included, citing the physical vulnerability of the elderly and the fact they are often specifically targeted by fraudsters.It will also consider whether certain non-religious philosophical beliefs merit protection, such as humanism.The Law Commission’s call for evidence is open from September 23 until December 2.The campaign is backed by major campaign organisations on hate crime, women’s rights and community safety including Citizens UK, Refuge, Women’s Aid, Southall Black Sisters, the Fawcett Society and Plan UK and Hate Crime Campaigners including the Jo Cox Foundation, Hope not Hate and Tell Mama.It has also been supported by London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region Steve Rotherham, Mayor of Sheffield City Region Dan Jarvis and Shadow Mayor for the West Midlands Liam Byrne – who came together earlier this year to back a call for all police forces to record when existing crimes are motivated by misogyny when Stella Creasy tabled an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill on the issue.Related... Home Abortion Made Easier For Women Under Coronavirus Lockdown Keir Starmer Makes His Mark On Labour With Shadow Cabinet Appointments Anti-Abortion Party Launches Bid To Unseat Stella Creasy
People have been left “in tears” by the government’s U-turn on local lockdowns in Greater Manchester as they have been forced to cancel plans to see their families, a senior Tory has said.Sir Graham Brady, who chairs the powerful backbench Tory 1922 Committee, said he was “very disappointed” at health secretary Matt Hancock’s move to reverse last Friday’s decision to lift restrictions in Trafford in defiance of the council.It came after Labour mayor for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said easing the guidance restricting social gatherings in people’s homes in Trafford and Bolton would be “completely illogical” in the face of rising infections.The reversal in both boroughs also marked the government’s 12th policy U-turn since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and will only increase the pressure on Boris Johnson, who has been warned by his own MPs to “get a grip”.Brady, whose constituency is in Trafford, said he was “very disappointed” on behalf of residents who contacted him last week saying “how relieved they were to be able to see their families again”.The Altrincham and Sale West MP told HuffPost UK: “I’ve had people today saying to me that their mothers or sisters have been in tears because the grandchildren can’t see their grandparents.“They had arranged things for tonight, or tomorrow or the next weekend or whatever.“So the emotional hit of being told you can do things, and then you can’t has been really quite bad for a lot of people.”Brady added: “People are upset that it is illegal once again to meet their families.”The government had decided social gatherings between two homes can resume for the first time in weeks from Wednesday in the two boroughs as well as Stockport, Burnley, Hyndburn and parts of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.But a sharp increase in the local infection rate in Bolton and Trafford led to council leaders pleading with the government for a delay just hours before restrictions were lifted.The government decided to act in Trafford after the rate of new coronavirus cases jumped from 17.8 per 100,000 people in the seven days to August 20 to 36.8 in the seven days to August 31.A government source said earlier: “So there’s been a huge increase – when the data changes, we act decisively.”But Brady called for more data, including hospitalisations and death rates, to be used in judging whether to lock down certain areas.“If you are basing the decision entirely on that metric (infection rates per 100,000) and on which direction that metric is moving, then of course I can understand why the decision has been taken,” he said.“But other metrics have been more positive.“As yet, even though we had a spike in cases in Trafford in July, there appears to be no evidence of that translating into an increase in hospital admissions.“In July, when we were put into the extra restrictions we had falling cases.“Having had a month or so of the extra restrictions, we now have rising cases.“But the trends on the more important issues of hospital admissions and fatalities continue, thank heavens, to go in the right direction.”He said the government is concerned by evidence from other countries suggesting a spike in positive cases could lead to an increase in hospitalisations.“It could happen here but it hasn’t,” he said. ”And if it were, one might take a tougher approach.“But while it isn’t there is a very strong case for taking a wider view and including more metrics to make a judgment, given these restrictions are quite extreme and interfere with basic human rights.”Related... Boris Johnson Thinks The UK Is Suffering From An ‘Orgy Of National Embarrassment’ Government U-Turns Again By Reversing Plans To Ease Local Lockdowns In Manchester Rishi Sunak Promises Tax Rises Will Not Be A 'Horror Show'
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