Labour has jumped to a five-point lead over the Conservatives, according to a poll published on Friday.The Ipsos MORI survey put Labour on 42% with the Conservatives on 37%. The Lib Dems trail in third with 8% while the Green Party was fourth on 5%.It is the first time Labour has been ahead of the Tories in poll conducted by the firm since Boris Johnson became prime minister in July 2019.Johnson also scored the worst rating as PM he has received, with 33% satisfied, 59% dissatisfied, a net satisfaction rating of -26%.Keir Starmer meanwhile has held onto a net positive satisfaction rating of +15, with 45% satisfied and 30% dissatisfied.According to Ipsos MORI, of opposition leaders going back to Michael Foot, who led Labour between 1980 and 1983, only Tony Blair had better net satisfaction ratings at this stage of his leadership (+26).The poll, for the Evening Standard, was conducted between October 22 and October 28 as Boris Johnson faced a huge backlash over his refusal to fund more free school meals for hungry children.It also comes as the death toll from the coronavirus second wave started to mount, with experts warning the UK is now at a “critical stage” with infections doubling every nine days. This week, the daily death figures topped 350, meaning the UK has shot past an earlier warning by chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance that the country could see 200 coronavirus deaths a day by mid-November.Almost a fifth of England’s population will soon be living under the country’s toughest Covid-19 rules.Starmer’s political director, Jenny Chapman, said the poll was “encouraging” for Labour.But the results were gathered before the Labour was plunged into a new civil war following the publication of an Equality and Human Rights Commission report into anti-Semitism in the party.It found Labour has been responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.Jeremy Corbyn was dramatically suspended from Labour on Thursday, after he rejected some of the equality watchdog’s findings and claimed the issue had been “dramatically overstated for political reasons” by his critics.This put him at odds with Starmer, who had warned that any suggestion allegations of anti-Semitism in Labour while Corbyn had been leader were exaggerated would not be tolerated. And speaking to BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Friday, Starmer said it was possible Corbyn’s suspension from the party could be escalated to an expulsion.“I’m deeply disappointed in that response from Jeremy Corbyn yesterday” the Labour leader said. “I don’t want a civil war in the Labour Party, I don’t think there is any need for one.”Allies of Corbyn have rallied to his defence. Unite union boss Len McCluskey called the suspension an “act of grave injustice” which could “create chaos within the party” and put any chance of election success in jeopardy.Ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell described the suspension as “profoundly wrong”.Ipsos MORI conducted 1,007 interviews by telephone October 22 and October 28.Related... How Labour's Day Of Reckoning On Anti-Semitism Unfolded Keir Starmer Says He Does Not Want A Labour 'Civil War' The Key Reactions To The Labour Anti-Semitism Report Jeremy Corbyn Suspended From Labour Party Over Anti-Semitism Comments
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For five years, anti-Semitism has become ever more interwoven with Labour’s factional struggles. In the Labour Party, attitudes to anti-Semitism are now almost a symbol of political allegiance, a stand-in for someone’s views on economic policy or foreign affairs. I’ve seen this first-hand. When I interviewed for a job with Labour in 2016, I assumed, perhaps naively, that while I did not agree with Jeremy Corbyn on things like foreign policy, and was uncomfortable with some of his past associations, different views would be welcomed because the point of political parties is work together to win power.It quickly became apparent that judgement was wrong. As I worked with Corbyn and his team, I became acutely aware that some saw me not just in terms of my political or policy beliefs, but in terms of my Jewishness. This was clear in both what they did and did not do. It was clear when, after discovering I was Jewish, an aide spent a two-hour train-ride quizzing me about my views on Israel, not as an equal participant in a conversation about foreign policy, but as an employee being tested to see if my views on Israel were the predicable views of a Jew. It was clear when despite repeatedly pushing for swift, clear and heartfelt condemnations of anti-Semitism, I found the few condemnations that were issued were never swift, clear, or it seemed to me, heartfelt.Like many forms of prejudice, anti-Semitism does not always involve discernible and conscious hatred. Nobody except Jeremy Corbyn will ever know what was in his mind while he led the Labour Party. But that was never the point. The point was that time and again, he failed to grasp attempts to build bridges with the Jewish community, and stood by as his supporters dismissed and derided Jewish people who were clearly under attack, hurting ... heck, even afraid. Under his leadership, Labour failed to apply the basic principle that those who experience prejudice are generally best placed to identify and describe it.The upshot was this. I came to realise that Jeremy Corbyn and some of his aides felt their identities as anti-racist campaigners made them immune to Europe’s most enduring and persistent form of hatred, and viewed those who raised concerns about anti-Semitism as insulting, dishonest, even pathetic. I felt something all too familiar to those who are used to being stereotyped – self-conscious and defensive about who I am, as if I had to work doubly hard to defend what I believe because I am Jewish.Even though being Jewish was not my primary identity, I had to listen to Corbyn and his team as a Jew, to read his words and watch his inaction through this new lens of anti-Semitism. It was strange, disorienting, and sometimes painful, but it was also instructive, and perhaps strangely, made me more proud than ever to live in a democracy that protects basic rights and freedoms, and more determined than ever to change the Labour Party.Progressive parties should be a place where complex questions of identity and experience can be discussed, openly, with a sense of common purpose. We should be able to talk about the similarities and differences between anti-Black and anti-Jewish racism, and explore what it means to be white, Black, South Asian, or Jewish, in modern Britain.Our country’s diversity is among its greatest strengths. Whether Labour members who prefer Keir Starmer or Jeremy Corbyn, or voters who chose Labour or Conservative, Remain or Leave, as citizens of a diverse and plural democracy, we all have a vested interest in working out how to live as free citizens who forge our common future together. Labour’s failure to address anti-Semitism didn’t just put off Jewish voters, it made citizens across the UK doubt Labour’s moral compass.Labour now has an opportunity to make anti-Semitism a cross-factional issue. The release of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report is a moment not just for Keir Starmer to continue to demonstrate he is serious about anti-Semitism, it is a chance for all of us to explore together what anti-Semitism means, and how it does and does not relate to other forms of racism. These issues matter not just for the Labour Party, but for the country.In Labour, we have to start by listening to each other, making space not only for what others believe but for how they feel. When there has been so much hurt and distrust, we must all find the courage and respect to ensure we don’t slide into tired factional debates, and the energy and patience to share experiences and develop a common language. Those who refuse to talk and listen and engage should have no place in the Labour Party. Making Labour a home for Jewish people again will be a long and often uncomfortable road, but I believe it can and must be done. It will require Jews and non-Jews who have left Labour to engage with energy and determination, to do the hard civic work of repairing the damage that has been done – to attend meetings, to vote, and to run. Achieving that goal is not just a political imperative, but a moral one. Josh Simons is a former Labour Party staffer who worked in Jeremy Corbyn’s leader’s office, and quit over anti-Semitism. He then worked in Labour HQ.Welcome to HuffPost Opinion, a new dedicated space for reliable, expert commentary and analysis on the day’s biggest talking points. Got a unique angle or viewpoint on a news story that will help cut through the noise? We want to hear from you. Read more here Related... The Key Reactions To The Labour Anti-Semitism Report Jeremy Corbyn Suspended From Labour Party Over Anti-Semitism Comments Jeremy Corbyn Says Labour Anti-Semitism Allegations Were Overstated
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The investigation into anti-Semitism by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found Labour responsible for unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination.In its report, published on Thursday, the human rights watchdog said the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership was guilty of three breaches of the Equality Act.The EHRC said Labour had allowed political interference in anti-Semitism complaints (resulting in pressure to treat some cases less harshly and others more harshly); had failed to provide adequate training to those handling anti-Semitism complaints; and had permitted harassment of Jewish members by two agents. There were also 18 “borderline” cases of “local councillors, local election candidates and Constituency Labour Party office holders” whose conduct could not be definitively shown to be the responsibility of the party; and “many more” where there was evidence of anti-Semitic conduct by ordinary members.Here’s how the key players reacted to the findings.Keir Starmer Labour’s new leader said the report’s findings marked a “day of shame” for the party and said he was “truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused”.“We have failed Jewish people, our members, our supporters and the British public,” he said. “And so, on behalf of the Labour Party: I am truly sorry for all the pain and grief that has been caused.” Jeremy CorbynJeremy Corbyn has been suspended from the Labour Party over his response to the EHRC report after he claimed the problem had been “dramatically overstated” by his political opponents.A spokesperson for Labour said: “In light of his comments made today and his failure to retract them subsequently, the Labour Party has suspended Jeremy Corbyn pending investigation”. In a statement about the report, Corbyn had written: “Anyone claiming there is no anti-Semitism in the Labour Party is wrong. “Of course there is, as there is throughout society, and sometimes it is voiced by people who think of themselves as on the left. “Jewish members of our party and the wider community were right to expect us to deal with it, and I regret that it took longer to deliver that change than it should.“One anti-Semite is one too many, but the scale of the problem was also dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media.”Corbyn added: “That combination hurt Jewish people and must never be repeated.”The former Labour leader has also had the whip removed from the Parliamentary Labour Party.Starmer said he was “disappointed” in Corbyn’s statement in response to the report and he “fully supports” the decision to suspend him from the party.He said: “We cannot say ‘zero tolerance’ and then turn a blind eye.”On the day we should all be moving forward & taking all steps to fight antisemitism, the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn is profoundly wrong. In interests of party unity let’s find a way of undoing & resolving this.— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) October 29, 2020John McDonnell, who was shadow chancellor under Corbyn’s leadership, called the decision to suspend Corbyn “profoundly wrong”. He wrote on Twitter: “On the day we should all be moving forward & taking all steps to fight antisemitism, the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn is profoundly wrong. In interests of party unity let’s find a way of undoing & resolving this.” McDonnell added: “I urge all party members to stay calm as that is the best way to support Jeremy and each other. Let’s all call upon the leadership to lift this suspension.” Jennie FormbyThe former general secretary of the Labour Party said that under her and Corbyn’s leadership, Labour’s processes for tackling anti-Semitism were transformed but “mistakes were made along the way”.“But the record shows that as a result of the changes we made, Labour’s previously unfit processes were transformed, becoming more rapid, robust and more independent than any other political party,” she said on Twitter.“Under Jeremy Corbyn’s initiative, we brought reforms to conference which were passed by Labour members and affiliates that enabled rapid expulsions.Jewish Labour MovementThe Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) said the report provided Jewish Labour members “with the relief that they have been seeking from the Labour Party, but which it failed, over five years, to offer”.“Since 2015, we have consistently warned the Labour Party about a deepening casual culture of anti-Jewish racism, that saw Jewish Labour members and activists harassed and discriminated against,” the group said in a statement.“Instead of listening to our growing concerns over the scale of the challenge, we were told that this racism was imagined, fabricated for factional advantage or intended to silence debate. Today’s report confirms that our voices were marginalised and our members victimised.”Ephraim MirvisThe chief Rabbi said the report was a “historic nadir for the Labour Party”.“The impact of this report reaches well beyond the issue of anti-Semitism or the Jewish community, by sending a powerful message that the politics of scapegoating and hatred will never succeed,” Mirvis said in a statement. He said he was “encouraged” by Starmer’s commitment to change and his “recognition today that the Labour Party has failed Jewish people, its members, its supporters and the British public”.He added: “Once again, I salute all those who came forward to share their concerns about the way that complaints about anti-Semitism were being handled in the party to which they had dedicated their lives, not least the whistleblowers, whose fortitude has been so profoundly vindicated.” Hope Not HateThe anti-racism campaign group said the EHRC report was “unequivocal and damning”.“Those who led, ran and administered the Labour Party over this period have serious questions to answer, and the entire party from members to MPs and Peers should reflect on this period and ask themselves how this was allowed to happen for so long,” it said.Sadiq KhanLabour’s London mayor said the EHRC report marked “a dark day” for the party.“It’s utterly shameful that, rather than being an ally and defending the Jewish community, the Labour Party not only failed to address anti-Semitism within the party, but oversaw unlawful acts of harassment and discrimination,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter.“I welcome Keir Starmer’s swift and strong response to the EHRC report, as well as the action he’s already taken as leader to root out anti-Semitism.“I will do everything I can to work with the new leadership of the Labour Party to stamp out anti-Semitism and to bring an end to this appalling chapter in Labour’s history.”Luciana BergerThe Jewish former MP who quit Labour over anti-Semitism said the findings were “damning”.“It’s a very emotional day. This comes after an incredible and very, very challenging journey. A very, very, very tumultuous time,” she told the BBC.“I had to take the decision ultimately to leave the Labour Party 18 months ago, a decision I never anticipated I would ever have to make, and at that moment people accused me and others of making it up, of it being a fabrication, and as we’ve seen in the report today, very, very clearly, it wasn’t.”Margaret HodgeThe veteran Labour MP said Corbyn had “shamed” the party and accused him of being “in permanent denial about the extent of the problems that emerged during his leadership”.“Even when the evidence is placed in front of him he fails really to understand the importance and severity of it,” she told a press conference.“It happened on his watch. He shamed the Labour Party. He sat at the centre of a party that enabled anti-Semitism to spread from the fringes to the mainstream.” She added: “He is yesterday’s man. He is absolutely irrelevant.”APPG Against Anti-SemitismLabour MP Catherine McKinnell, the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) against anti-Semitism, said it was a “shameful day” for the Labour Party. “It is profoundly distressing that an organisation established by a Labour government to uphold the equality laws we fought to bring about, has found that in recent years our party has been responsible for discrimination and harassment of Jewish members,” she said in a statement. Welcoming action from Starmer to implement recommendations made in the EHRC report, McKinnell added: “There is a long road ahead in rebuilding trust, but first we must reflect on the enormity of what has happened and collectively renew our steadfast resolve to ensure it can never ever happen again.” Antisemitism Policy Trust The Antisemitism Policy Trust – a charity “focused on educating and empowering decision makers to effectively combat anti-Semitism” – said the EHRC’s find was “profound and shameful”. “It should send a shockwave through the Labour Party and serve as a wakeup call for change,” the charity said in a statement.“Today, everyone’s thoughts should be with the victims of anti-Jewish racism, MPs bullied from or within their party, Jewish Labour members discriminated against, families that lived in fear, young people deterred from aspirations for public life, Jewish women who repeatedly bore the brunt of online and other abuse and so many Jewish people told they were liars.“The ugly truth has now been laid bare for all to see. Reflection, education and leadership are now required.” Unions Unison is one of 12 unions affiliated with the Labour Party. Its general secretary Dave Prentis said the EHRC report was “incredibly serious and damaging”. “It will now be up to the whole Labour Party – led by Keir Starmer – to learn the vital lessons outlined in this shameful, distressing report, and repair ​its damaged relationship with the Jewish community,” he said. “Unison has always ​fought racism in all ​its forms, ​including anti-Semitism. ​The union urged Labour ​to tackle anti-Semitism in its ranks long before the EHRC investigation​.“Unison will continue to work with everyone who wants to banish the scourge of anti-Semitism from the Party​ once and for all.”Prentis added: “There must never again be any place for discrimination of any kind within Labour.”Dave Ward, general secretary of the Communications Workers’ Union, said the report was a “serious and detailed document everyone in the Party should read and understand” – but criticised the decision to suspend Corbyn.″@Keir_Starmer’s political decision to suspend @jeremycorbyn – a lifelong anti-racist campaigner – flies in the face of the report It’s fundamentally wrong and needs to change,” he tweeted.Corbyn’s suspension was made through the “proper channels”, Labour sources said, which is likely to mean the Governance and Legal Unit if true. One of the criticisms of the party in the ECHR report was that there had been interference from the leader’s office in taking action against members over anti-Semitism.Related... Jeremy Corbyn Suspended From Labour Party Over Anti-Semitism Comments Equality Watchdog Finds Labour Harassed Jewish Members Keir Starmer Says EHRC Anti-Semitism Verdict Marks 'Day Of Shame' For Labour
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Yesterday evening saw the single biggest loss of life in the English Channel in recent years – the death of two children – aged five and eight, along with two adults, after a migrant boat sank off the coast of northern France.Sadly, this story and the subsequent response from our government has become all too routine. Asylum-seekers desperately seeking safety in England are deprived of safe and legal routes to safety, are treated without humanity, and without any other plausible options on offer from the callous British government, are driven in desperation to such drastic measures. Related... Two Young Children And Two Adults Die After Refugee Boat Sinks Off French Coast Following the reports of these deaths, politicians offer up their sympathies. Indeed, both Priti Patel and Boris Johnson have expressed their condolences, making sure that both of their apologies refer to the “ruthless criminals” or “callous criminals” who they attribute to be at the helm of these tragic losses. In both cases, they abdicate culpability from a situation that the British government bears responsibility for. Their apologies have become as rehearsed as the faux compassion that they show. These words ring incredibly hollow given the government’s barbaric stance on asylum seekers and those seeking refugee. Words mean nothing without actions to back them up. Rather than pinning the blame on traffickers or migrants themselves, Patel should accept responsibility for the actions of her government, or rather lack thereof. Speaking to the Conservative Party conference earlier this year Patel said: “Those defending the broken [asylum] system – the traffickers, the do-gooders, the lefty lawyers, the Labour Party – they are defending the indefensible”. Is it indefensible to want a system that doesn’t force children to row in a boat across the Channel and die in the process? Related... Exclusive: Child Refugee Resettlement Plummeted After Boris Johnson Became PM Priti Patel Slams 'Do Gooders And Leftie Lawyers' Amid Criticism Of Asylum Plans Rather than implement punitive deterrents, the government should allow for safe legal access to prevent what are such preventable tragedies, at a time when the world does not need any more needless death. Last week, Lord Dubs, a former child refugee himself,  proposed for the fourth time an amendment to an immigration bill that would ensure that lone child refugees had the legal right to family reunion after the UK leaves the EU on 31 December. But, as the government, with a majority of 80, has thrown out the amendment three times before, it is likely they will do so again, leaving no safe alternates in its place.The one successful bid that Lord Dubs had previously secured – that the Home Office were obliged to accept at least 3,000 child refugees for resettlement – was compromised by ministers who placed a cap on the numbers. Last week, it was reported that those children – some as young as 12 – who have been able to make the journey across the Channel on small boats are being sent to adult detention centres where their safety and conditions are questionable.Time and time again this government has thwarted measures which offer basic humanity to some of the most vulnerable people which has lead to the death and endangerment of children. Rather than proposing draconian measures such as transferring asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea or Ascension Island, the government need to take responsibility for those who are attempting to travel to Britain with substantial measures rather than letting innocent children die. Related... Opinion: Marcus Rashford’s Campaign Isn’t An Inspiration – It’s A Tragedy In 2019, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which Patel was on, warned that “a policy that focuses exclusively on closing borders will drive migrants to take more dangerous routes, and push them into the hands of criminal groups”.   She was warned this would be the outcome, yet Patel only thinks of the cost of asylum. She told the Conservative Party conference that asylum seekers costs the UK £1bn a year – is that a humane way of thinking about the value of someone seeking safety’s life?Surely it is a waste of more time and money to order Parliamentary inquiries and reports if advice that does not fit the government agenda is so brazenly disregarded.Charities have said these deaths should serve as a “wake-up call” to those in power to realise that rigid borders and the current approach is not working for anyone.  We do not need more of the same – we need secure routes for those seeking asylum. The facts are that in the past decade more than 10,000 unaccompanied children have risked their lives to enter Britain, with more than 4,900 people entering the UK via small boats. We continue to hear of more cruel and tragic unnecessary deaths, and we repeatedly see the government voting against protections for child refugees.  The government needs to wake up and recognise that there is no safety in empty condolences – but there is reassurance in safe legal routes. Maighna Nanu is a freelance journalist. More in Opinion... Opinion: Paying For A Boots Covid Test Is Morally Indefensible Opinion: I'm An NHS Doctor. What I've Seen In The Second Wave Would Shock You Opinion: I’m Sick To Death Of Your Middle Class Stupidity About Food Poverty Opinion: Black History Doesn't Have To Be About Black Trauma
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It’s a horrendous reality that millions of children are going hungry in the UK.These children are having to eat less and make food last longer, because their families don’t have enough money to buy more. The issue isn’t just impacting children – parents, or older siblings, will often go without food in order to cushion the youngest members, giving them what little they have to eat.The cracks were already showing before the pandemic, following years of austerity, but Covid-19 has thrown more families into destitution. People are losing their jobs, homes – it’s impacting every aspect of their lives. “This is an important and growing problem,” says Dr Ingrid Wolfe, a children’s doctor and director of the Institute for Women and Children’s Health. “The pandemic has worsened things for families who were already vulnerable. Parents have lost jobs, money is even tighter. Children are increasingly going without food, eating cheap unhealthy food, and skipping meals.”Related... More Than 10,000 Free Meals Given To Hungry Children On First Day Of Half-Term The Food Foundation reported that more than 200,000 children had to skip meals because their families couldn’t access sufficient food during lockdown.Footballer Marcus Rashford, 22, has worked hard campaigning to expand the free school meals programme over the school holidays. A petition he launched to end food poverty has so far garnered over 940,000 signatures (and counting).While the UK government has refused to provide free meals for children in England over the holidays – which has led to a growing backlash from the public, Labour party and even members of the Conservative party – Rashford’s campaign has seen businesses, local authorities and community groups join forces to provide tens of thousands of free meals to kids who need them.Of course, some argue that we shouldn’t have to rely on the kindness of strangers to feed children. Rather, we need support systems put in place by the government that bring people out of poverty.Finding a solution to an issue that affects so many – and will affect future generations too – has never been more important.Related... How Marcus Rashford Exposed The Fault Lines In Boris Johnson’s Government The impact of hunger on children‘Food insecurity’ is where someone doesn’t have adequate physical, social or economic access to food for an active and healthy life. Tiredness and lethargy are some of the immediate effects of this. A paper published in the journal Sustainability suggests food insecure children also have a higher prevalence of dental decay, anaemia and asthma. They’re prone to more frequent headaches and stomach aches; and are more likely to suffer from chronic illnesses.Some studies suggest hungry children are more susceptible to weight gain due to having limited access to healthy foods. Being overweight or obese then comes with its own list of health problems later on in life – issues like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and cancer. “Food poverty affects children in complex ways,” says Dr Wolfe, who is also co-chair of the British Association for Child and Adolescent Health. “There can be co-existence of nutritional deficiencies and obesity. This is known as the double burden of malnutrition. In the UK, a high-income country, food insecurity caused by poverty means families with low incomes tend to eat inexpensive food that is high in energy – fat, sugar, and salt. “Excessive intake leads to overweight and obesity and to diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart problems, joint problems and more.”There can be co-existence of nutritional deficiencies and obesity.Dr WolfeSuch diets tend to be low in essential micronutrients, she adds, such as iron, calcium, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin C and D – all of which are crucial for growth and good health.With physical and mental health being intrinsically linked, it’s no surprise, then, there is also a huge mental burden. Food insecurity has been associated with increased anxiety, depression, and other forms of psychiatric distress.Lack of food, calories and inadequate nutrients can affect brain development of young children and impede older children’s ability to concentrate and learn – studies have found hungry children can end up falling behind academically.There are social implications, too. Food insecurity in childhood has been linked to problems such as a decline in social skills, irritability, aggression, and oppositional behaviours.Related... Opinion: I’m Sick To Death Of Your Middle Class Stupidity About Food Poverty A cycle of povertyFor young girls who grow up to have families of their own, studies have also found long-lasting impacts of food insecurity on their children’s health, too. If the issue isn’t tackled, it becomes a vicious cycle.Research from the University of Southampton shows that environmental factors can affect the development of the next generation even before conception, and can continue throughout pregnancy and into early childhood.“What is really serious is when young women from puberty onwards are poorly nourished, this sets up the way they then become pregnant and how their foetus grows,” says Professor Barrie Margetts, emeritus professor in public health nutrition at the University of Southampton. ″[It] makes that foetus far more susceptible to adverse health outcomes in their own life – almost irrespective of what they do.”The effects can be seen in ultrasound scans, he says. The foetuses have shorter bone length and smaller head circumference – “they’re not just smaller, they’re actually functionally not growing to their optimal.”“The studies clearly show if a mother was poorly nourished, or a young woman was poorly nourished before she became pregnant, this carries on through to lead to poor outcomes for her infant, which then leads to higher risk of things like diabetes and heart disease in later life. The consequences are profound.”Related... This Is What It's Like Taking A Pregnancy Test When You're Blind “There is a golden window for child development where the most rapid growth in skills and abilities happens, up to around a year,” adds Dr Wolfe. After that, the window gradually closes. Learning becomes harder and skills are acquired more slowly. “So, to ensure good brain development it’s vital that pregnant women and young children have good nutrition and adequate food,” she says. Professor Valerie Tarasuk, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto, points out that studies have shown food insecure mothers are more likely to stop breastfeeding earlier, and are more likely to experience postpartum mental disorders than those deemed ‘food secure’.What’s the solution? Rashford’s call for free meals has been met with government push-back. Boris Johnson said the “best way of tackling holiday hunger” is to increase the funds available for Universal Credit and give local councils extra money.But experts believe more can – and should – be done. The Food Foundation is part of a Child Food Poverty Task Force and, along with 20 charities and key names in the food industry, is calling on the government to urgently allocate sufficient budget for three National Food Strategy recommendations.In addition to calling for free school meals to be extended to vulnerable kids in the school holidays, it’s asking that eligibility for free school meals is expanded to include every child (up to 16 years old) from a household where the parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefits.The third recommendation is for an increase to the value of Healthy Start vouchers and also an expansion of the scheme to every pregnant woman and to all households with children under four, where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefits.Prof Margetts, who is also a Labour councillor for Southampton City Council, would like to see the UK adopt a more “Swedish or French model where every child gets a really good nutritious lunch”. Under this plan, he’d want to see the school day modified so there’s enough time to ensure every child has a hearty lunch. “That means if they don’t eat so well at home, we know they’re getting pretty much everything they need to be healthy and well,” he explains.It’s not the responsibility of schools to do this – rather, the responsibility of society to ensure it happens, he adds. When children aren’t at school, there “needs to be government-led initiatives to ensure children on school meals or who are vulnerable are catered for in a systematic, organised way and that it’s not dependent on charity and handouts and restaurants having to step up”.Dr Wolfe wants to see social safety nets including cash and food transfers, subsidies and vouchers (linked to healthy food retailers); an improved food environment to promote healthy food choices; and a focus on making the right food choices affordable and easy. School food programmes should also comprise healthy food, freely available, year round, she adds.Perhaps the most important factor is tackling the issue of poverty directly by boosting family income. “This is effective at improving children’s outcomes including cognitive development and school achievement. It’s an impressively effective thing to do. If it were a pill, it would be called a miracle cure,” she says.It’s something Professor Tarasuk wants to see change. In her view, the only solution to tackling food insecurity is income.“In Canada we’ve got several studies that show if we improve benefits for families with children, we can see decreases in the severity of food insecurity amongst those families – it’s unbelievable how quickly the change happens,” she says. The increase in food insecurity during Covid is further evidence this is an income problem, she adds. “This problem has spikes because of job loss, cuts to people’s hours and the inability to compensate for that because the people who are most vulnerable have no savings, they were barely managing before and they have no family support,” she says.“In some ways the Covid story, for me, is just more evidence of the fact that this thing is rooted in household economics.”Help and supportIf you cannot afford food, please contact your local food bank – you can find your nearest here.If you are in financial crisis and live in England or Wales, call 0808 2082138 for free (open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm) to talk confidentially to a trained Citizens Advice adviser.Use the benefits calculator on the Turn2Us website to calculate what support you can get.Council Tax Help has a postcode search function to help families identify the support available to help them pay Council Tax in their local area.If you’re experiencing housing issues, Shelter operates a free housing advice helpline on 0808 800 4444 (open 365 days of the year from 8am-8pm on weekdays and 8am-5pm on weekends).Turn2Us has a directory that lets you search for monetary grants you might be entitled to.Get free debt advice and support via the National Debtline: 0808 808 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am-8pm and Saturday, 9.30am-1pm). Or the Money Advice Service: call free on 0800 138 7777 (or typetalk: 18001 0800 915 4622) open Monday to Friday, 8am-6pm.Related... How Marcus Rashford Exposed The Fault Lines In Boris Johnson’s Government Exclusive: School Laptop Cuts 'Will Hit Northern Children Hardest' Government's Own Social Mobility Office Tells Boris Johnson To Extend Free School Meals
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Coronavirus local infection rates should be reported on news and weather bulletins like pollen rates or UV rays, a cross-party group of MPs has said.Alongside the reinstating of daily No.10 briefings, this would help make the public more aware of progress in controlling the virus, according to a new proposal for a “national coronavirus exit strategy”.The New Zealand-inspired plan would see Covid-19 infection rates brought to very low levels for a sustained period, with transmission then minimised by controlling the UK’s borders, and the virus finally eliminated with a nationwide vaccine rollout, it is claimed.The group argues that the three-step Covid secure UK plan offers “an alternative to living with the virus” and will avoid repeated lockdowns and economic damage before a vaccine is available.The plan is backed by senior MPs including Liberal Democrat Layla Moran, Tory Dan Poulter, Labour’s Clive Lewis and the SNP’s Philippa Whitford, as well as leading medical and science experts Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at Edinburgh University, and Martin McKee of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.The proposals come after four months of evidence sessions held by the all party parliamentary group (APPG) on coronavirus with health professionals, bereaved families and science and medical organisations. It is backed by the campaign group March for Change.The first stage would focus on getting the reproduction R rate of the virus below 1 for a “sustained period”.This would be achieved by introducing a locally-led test and trace system with the response to outbreaks also led at a local level, and financial support available for people who need to self isolate.Infection screening of people in frontline roles should be boosted while travellers should be Covid tested on arrival in the country.The group also calls for “clear, unambiguous and simple messaging” from the government, criticising rules such as “one metre plus” which it argues are “open to misrepresentation”.National broadcasters should also be asked “to report on the local level of infection present as part of each news and weather bulletin, as with the pollen and UV rays” across TV, radio and the internet, while the group also says daily coronavirus briefings should be reinstated. Once the virus is brought under control, the group argues that most new cases would be brought to the UK from people traveling from abroad.Stage two of the plan would keep cases in England at lower than 10 cases per million population per day over a seven day rolling average by ensuring there is testing and screening at all UK entry points, alongside quarantine for travellers at regulated locations.Screening should also be introduced at public transport hubs while test and trace would continue to keep rates low.Eventually, the government should embark on a mass vaccination programme – the third stage of the plan – to eliminate the virus.But the group stressed: “It is vital that any government exit strategy does not depend solely on the development of an effective vaccine in the short term.”Moran, who chairs the APPG, said: “The Covid secure UK plan is based on the principle that by focusing on saving as many lives as possible in the immediate term, you will also save jobs and be able to open up the economy sustainably.“The UK government’s current plan stops at ‘getting R below 1’ but says nothing about what should happen next, as we saw in the first wave. “The Covid secure UK plan builds on this and gives a clear path to the next phase of the response and rebuilding the economy, by concentrating our response at the UK’s entry points.”Poulter said: “The closest equivalent to the plan is New Zealand.  “By bringing their numbers right down and pushing the focus of their response to their borders, they have been able to reopen stadiums to fans and go back to some form of normality.“Like New Zealand, we are an island or group of islands and we can leverage our geography to our benefit in battling the pandemic.”McKee added: “The UK government’s approach is based on a false choice or ‘balance’ between saving lives and protecting jobs and the economy. This has given us the worst of all worlds, with some of the highest death rates and greatest decline in GDP anywhere.“We are doing too little to break the chain of disease transmission while hitting people’s jobs and incomes.“We now have examples from several countries, in Asia but also elsewhere in Europe, that the countries that have controlled infections most successfully have experienced the smallest hits to their economies.“The Covid secure UK plan provides an achievable alternative for the UK, where we save lives, restore confidence, secure jobs, and allow us to open up the economy sustainably.”Related... BAME People Hit Harder By Covid Due To Decades Of 'Injustice, Inequality And Discrimination' Our Antibody Response To Coronavirus Could Decline Over Time, Study Warns Why We Need To Stop Saying 'When Things Get Back To Normal'
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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
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Boris Johnson is facing fresh calls to slash taxpayer aid for fossil fuels after a poll found that two in three Britons want Boris Johnson to shift subsidies away from oil and gas firms to support renewable energy instead.Labour stepped up its demands for an overhaul of government tax breaks for the North Sea as the newly released YouGov/Global Witness poll, shared exclusively with HuffPost UK, underlined public concern that not enough is being done to tackle the climate emergency.Nearly two thirds (65%) of the UK population want to see the government shifting the subsidies it currently provides to domestic oil and gas firms to instead support the expansion of renewable energy and increasing the energy efficiency of people’s homes. Less than in one in 10 (7%) opposed such a shift.More broadly, 67% want to see the UK as world leader on climate change, with majorities across all age groups, regions, genders, political parties and both sides of the Brexit vote (remain 83% and leave 56%).With the UK set to hold the next round of global climate change talks in Glasgow next year, the poll results match growing campaigns for the UK to radically change its subsidies for fossil fuels, with domestic gas in particular receiving VAT cuts that electricity – which can be renewable – lacks.The Johnson government launched a review last month of its oil and gas licensing regime, which could herald a big shift in policy since the Cameron government opted to get as much fossil fuel out of the ground as economically possible.Since 2016, the UK has operated a legally binding policy called “Maximising Economic Recovery” (MER) that compels the Oil and Gas Authority to “take all steps necessary” to ensure that the maximum value of oil is recovered from under UK waters.Climate change campaigners argue that the policy, plus a system of tax perks for the gas and petroleum industries, is incompatible with the Johnson government’s wider commitments to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.Critics say that the Oil and Gas Authority regulator is only now considering the net zero target and the government’s industrial strategy does not mention the need to retrain and redeploy oil and gas workers.A consultation into the strategy ended in July and revised version is expected to be presented to business secretary Alok Sharma this autumn.Scotland’s economy has long relied on fossil fuels, but the YouGov poll also found that three quarters of the Scottish public were unaware of UK government’s “Maximising Economic Recovery” policy, to extract as much oil and gas as is economically viable.Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of the Scottish population would like to see the Scottish government training and skills spending go towards the renewable energy sector, whilst amongst 16-24-year-old voters, the environment and the climate was the most important issue.Ken Penton, UK climate campaigner at Global Witness, said: “Off the back of a period of great political upheaval in the UK, with sharp divides, it’s welcome news that protecting the climate is one issues that unites everyone.“The simple fact is you can’t be a global climate leader if you plan to carry on maximising the amount of oil and gas you produce, rather than support the growth of the renewable energy and energy efficiency industries.”Penton said that as the host of the UN Conference of Parties (COP) conference in 2021, the UK would be judged not on its rhetoric but on action on curbing the oil and gas industry.“This starts with scrapping the Maximising Economic Recovery policy that dictates the UK explore for and extract as much oil and gas as is economically viable. If the UK is to meet its own climate obligations, it cannot dig for any further fossil fuels beyond what is already in existing operational fields,” he said.Boris Johnson pledged to boost offshore wind energy in his Tory conference speech this week, though critics said he failed to commit the billions needed for a serious investment in the sector.Shadow energy minister Alan Whitehead also made clear that the polling underlined that the public agreed the current strategy needed to change.“Labour has made clear the government’s Maximising Economic Recovery strategy for oil and gas is untenable as it stands, and inconsistent with the ambition to meet net zero emissions,” he said.“We must focus instead on a just transition to a decarbonised energy sector, which recognises the different role oil and gas will play in future industry, and that creates high-skilled, green jobs.”The department of business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) refuses to describe the current tax breaks for fossil fuels as “subsidies”, even though an EU report last year found that £10bn was effectively spent shoring up the industry, compared to £9bn for renewable energy.A BEIS spokesperson said: “We want to ensure the UK has the most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth and we have already cut emissions by 43% since 1990 and were the first major economy to commit to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.“We will continue our global leadership on tackling climate change by hosting the next UN climate conference COP26 in 2021.“The UK does not have any fossil fuel subsidies, and we are exploring how to make the gas network cleaner through the Green Gas Levy and have just announced plans for even more of our electricity will be provided by clean, green wind power.”The UK has signed up to a G20 summit commitment to rationalise and phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies across the globe that encourage wasteful consumption.It says that the independent Committee on Climate Change has recognised the ongoing demand for oil and natural gas, including it in all scenarios it proposed for how the UK meets its target for achieving net zero emissions by 2050.The oil and gas sector supports 270,000 jobs across the UK, but the green economy has the potential to support 2 million jobs by 2030, even on government estimates.* Total sample size was 1,704 adults, fieldwork was undertaken between 18 - 19th August 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 16+).Related... Boris Johnson To Embrace Wind Power After Years Of Saying How Rubbish It Is Petrol Car Ban And Flight Tax: How The Public Think We Should Tackle Climate Change The UK's CO2 Emissions Dropped To A Hundred-Year Low During Lockdown
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John McDonnell has called for a “severe” national lockdown to allow the government to sort out the deep problems in its NHS Test and Trace service.The Labour former shadow chancellor told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast that he “can’t see any other route” through the recent spike in coronavirus infections.“I know it’s unpopular,” the first senior Labour MP to call for a lockdown said.“Someone put it to me the other day about the economic effects, and people will lose their jobs and the companies being hit, that will have health effects.“But you can revive the economy over time, you can’t resurrect the dead.”It came as MPs were shown unpublished official data by chief medical officer Chris Whitty – leaked to HuffPost UK – suggesting more than 32% of Covid-19 “exposure” was in pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants.In a briefing with northern and Midlands MPs, health minister Edward Argar however insisted the government had still not made a decision on whether hospitality venues in locally locked down areas should be ordered to close to curb infections.The approach to local lockdowns has sparked anger among northern leaders, who feel they have not been consulted and are concerned that economically devastating restrictions are not even bringing down the number of infections.McDonnell said people are “totally confused” about the patchwork of rules, which are “very difficult to enforce”, and called for “absolute simplicity” via a national lockdown, including stay at home orders, a ban on households mixing and the closure of pubsThe Hayes and Harlington MP said he had daughters in Pendle and Burnley and a cousin in Liverpool and pointed out that London infection rates are worse than they were in many northern areas when they were placed into lockdown.“I can’t see any other route through – to have some form of quite severe lockdown for a limited period while we get test and trace up and running effectively, and in that way I think we’ll preserve lives,” he said.“I just think there’s a clarity, an absolute clarity about what the rules are wherever you are, that’s quite important.”Acknowledging his views were “hardline”, McDonnell added: “I’m really worried that we face the nightmare situation that we were worried about four months ago, that we now go into the normal flu pandemic situation and that the coronavirus spike happens at the same time.”But he acknowledged that the idea of a two-week circuit break could work.“The government were talking about that two-week contact break, I want to see a break based upon the ability to deliver an effective test and trace system,” McDonnell said.“Because unless we get that up and running, and if that takes a couple of weeks let’s do it, unless we get that up and running I don’t know how we can manage this situation.”The senior Labour MP also praised Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who this week banned the sale of alcohol indoors at pubs, restaurants  and cafes for more than two weeks.“I think the way that she’s approached it is the route that I would go down, I might be a bit more severe in some cases,” he said.It came as 149 MPs were called into a briefing with health minister Argar and chief medical officer Whitty.Slides leaked to HuffPost UK from the meeting illustrated the government’s concerns about Covid spreading in pubs and restaurants.The MPs were also shown slides outlining hospitalisations from coronavirus rising, particularly in Yorkshire, the north-east and the north-west.But Argar batted away questions about reports that hospitality venues across the north and Midlands could be ordered to close from Monday under a new three-tier local lockdown system, insisting ministers were still taking decisions.One MP suggested ministers have worked out what restrictions will apply in the lower two tiers but not what should form the basis of the harshest local lockdowns in “tier-3”.One told HuffPost UK: “(Argar) was asked about the possibility of a circuit break lockdown of two to three weeks and it wasn’t really answered.“He passed it over to Chris Whitty to answer without touching the policy, just going on the science.“I think we might be going into tier-3 lockdown but nobody knows what tier-3 is and I haven’t heard that officially.“They said it was a decision for ministers and they were working hard to get clarity.”Related... Test And Trace Hits New Low With Worst 'Contact Tracing' Rate Ever 10pm Curfew To Stay As Labour Says It Will NOT Vote Against It Next Week Northern Leaders Rage At 'Disastrous' Covid Measures That Will Deepen North-South Divide
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The 10pm curfew for pubs and restaurants will remain in place after Keir Starmer said Labour would not vote against the coronavirus restriction next week.Scores of Tory rebels were threatening to defeat the government on the controversial policy – if they could secure Labour backing to oppose the measures on Tuesday.But Starmer said MPs were only getting a straight “take-it-or-leave-it” choice on the curfew and so Labour would not oppose the regulations because that would risk no restrictions being in place at all.He urged Boris Johnson to learn from Wales, where there is a 10pm deadline for selling alcohol but drinkers are given time to finish so they are not all kicked out of venues at the same time.In England there have been concerns that ordering venues to physically close at 10pm was leading to people all leaving at the same time and packing together on public transport, which could pose a higher risk of spreading Covid-19.The rule also means many pubs are forced to call last orders at 9.30pm, further reducing the time in which they can make money compared to establishments in Wales.There have also been concerns that the government has failed to provide scientific evidence for a 10pm curfew, which has not been discussed or modelled by its own Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).On Thursday, Starmer told broadcasters: “There’s growing concern about the 10pm curfew and lots of examples of everybody coming out of venues at the same time and causing a problem with the way people are exiting.“We need this reform, there’s a smarter way of doing this.”He went on: “The problem with the vote next week is it’s an up-down take-it-or-leave-it vote and therefore if you vote down the current  arrangements there won’t be any restrictions in place.“That’s not what we want so we won’t be down the  restrictions that are in place.“But we do say to the government – reform the 10pm rule, show us the evidence, do it in a much smarter way.”Related... Is Keir Starmer Ready To End His ‘Constructive Opposition’? 11pm Pub Closing Time In England Could Return, Ministers Believe MPs Will Not Get Chance To Scrap 10pm Curfew Until Next Week
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Keir Starmer has brushed off a decision by Unite to cut funding to Labour and is set instead to turn to other unions, party members, donors and the general public to plug the gap.The UK’s second biggest union voted to slash its party affiliation fees by just under 10% on Tuesday, a reduction that would mean a fall in income of around £150,000 on the £1.5m it donates in an average non-election year.Despite wilder speculation that the move would result in a £750,000 annual cut, the union’s executive committee voted to cut by 50,000 its number of affiliates, with each affiliate paying £3.Some 500,000 affiliates will now be helping fund Labour per year, rather than 550,000. The union gave a further £3m to the election campaign in 2019.Starmer’s spokesman refused to deny that Unite’s decision could even help his drive to make Labour more electable because it would put distance between the leadership and general secretary Len McCluskey.“Unite has taken their decision, we have seen Len’s remarks. We acknowledge that decision,” the spokesman said.“Labour will continue to take decisions in the best interest of the country, that means tackling coronavirus, protecting people’s jobs and restoring public trust in Labour so we can win in 2024.”Former cabinet minister Ben Bradshaw said that the move was welcome because McCluskey had kept the Tories in power for the last decade.“Few people have done more to keep the Tories in power for the last 10 years than Len McCluskey”Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said the Unite leader has “done our movement so much damage” as the union plans to reduce its donation to Labour by 10%#politicslivehttps://t.co/PcfOkpnII9pic.twitter.com/LDTSoQ2BFR— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) October 7, 2020Asked if the decision would benefit Labour because it was a visible break with leftwinger McCluskey, the spokesman replied: ”Len has taken this decision, it’s for others to speculate and analyse that decision.”“The party has a long history of raising money through its members, and through the trade unions and through individual supporters. We’ll continue doing that, we have a fundraising strategy in place.”On the suggestion of public crowdfunding to raise cash, he added: “We will look at everything. Even before the Unite decision we were looking at how we can raise the funds to win in 2024. We are looking at various different models.”Allies of Starmer pointed out that he had actually won a majority of Unite members’ votes in the leadership election earlier this year, when he easily beat its nominated candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey.Meanwhile, HuffPost UK has learned that senior Unite figures dismayed by the funding cut have vowed that Jeremy Corbyn-backing group Momentum will not be benefiting from the money diverted away from Labour.Sources said that the spare cash would go instead to groups like the Tribune magazine and “the energetic, intellectual left” rather than Momentum.One member of the union’s executive committee had raised the grassroots group as a possible recipient in a debate about the kind of organisation that would get Unite support.But it is unlikely that the committee would approve such a move because many Unite members were wary of Momentum not least because of its moves to cut trade union influence in Labour, insiders said.“There is definitely no proposal to affiliate or donate to Momentum. It’s certainly not going to happen,” said a source. “Many Unite members are active in CLPs [constituency Labour parties] and have seen the chaos caused by Momentum internally,” another added.Some within the United Left grouping of the union fear that the decision to cut affiliates weakens the union’s influence within the party and paves the way for other unions to edge it out.The split within the union over the move to slash funding to Starmer was laid bare at the committee meeting on Tuesday, when it was approved narrowly by 25 votes to 23.HuffPost UK understands that several weeks ago, there was pressure within the union to go even further and cut affiliate numbers by half – a move that would have led to the loss of £825,000 a year.McCluskey told the BBC’s Newsnight that the deeper cuts could occur if the party veered away from Jeremy Corbyn’s agenda. “My activists will ask me, ‘Why are we giving so much money’?”McCluskey, who is due to step down in 2022, expressed dismay that Unite funds had been spent by Labour paying damages to whistle-blowers who contributed to a Panorama programme about Labour’s handling of the anti-Semitism crisis.But some Unite members are understood to be much more worried about the large sums spent on defending a libel case won by ex-Labour MP Anna Turley last year against the union and a leftwing blog Skwawkbox.At a further meeting of the union executive on Wednesday, some members from its South East region asked who had authorised the spending on the legal case, which resulted in a £75,000 damages payout to Turley and in which the court costs have been speculated as being up to £2m. Costs have yet to be agreed.McCluskey is understood to have said that as general secretary he had authority on behalf of the committee. He also warned members not to believe “right wing media” reports of the alleged multi-million pound costs.Assistant general secretary Howard Beckett, a fierce critic of Starmer’s who backed the funding cut, told the meeting that the union had had several legal successes and justified defending the Turley case, sources said.Euan Philipps, spokesperson for Labour Against Antisemitism, said: “If Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, is threatening the further removal of financial support in order to dictate Labour Party policy then that should be welcomed by Labour leader Keir Starmer, not resisted.“The issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party was a significant contributory factor to the party’s record defeat in last December’s general election. For the Labour Party to move forward it has to be courageous and ignore these manoeuvres by Mr McCluskey.”Related... McCluskey Warns Starmer Unite Could Slash More Labour Cash Will New Trade Union Bosses Help Keir Starmer Or Hinder Him? Starmer Critic Beckett Loses Bid To Succeed Len McCluskey
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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
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Unite boss Len McCluskey has warned Keir Starmer his union could further cut its funding to Labour if he takes the party in a “different direction”. The left-wing general secretary, who remained a staunch ally to Jeremy Corbyn throughout his leadership, fired a shot across the bows after a high-level meeting saw the union slash some of its support to the party. Unite’s executive backed a move to reduce its affiliation to Labour by around 50,000 members, meaning financial contributions will fall by around 10% from the union, which gave some £7m in donations to the party last year. It comes after Starmer emerged victorious over Corbyn’s favoured successor Rebecca Long-Bailey in the Labour leadership contest in April. Fears have been growing on the left of the party that Starmer is steering the party away from Corbyn’s socialist agenda. The vote by the Unite executive was close-run - 25 to 23 - with Howard Beckett, one of the favourites to succeed McCluskey as general secretary, backing a larger cut. Unite General Secretary, Len McCluskey, explains to #Newsnight why there will be reductions in funding from Unite, Labour's biggest donor, to the Labour Party.More with @Lewis_Goodall at 22:45 on @[email protected] | @Lewis_Goodall | #Newsnightpic.twitter.com/LMnIks5CIU— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) October 6, 2020 Speaking to BBC Two’s Newsnight, McCluskey said: “We give significant amounts of money to the Labour Party. And I well remember when I first took over as general secretary of this union ten years ago, my members everywhere were saying ‘why are we giving the Labour Party so much money?’“Because they felt that New Labour was letting them down. And there will be that demand again. I have no doubt if things start to move in different directions and ordinary working people start saying, well, I’m not sure what Labour stand for. Then my activists will ask me, why are we giving so much money?” McCluskey went on to say that there was unlikely to be a “dramatic move to disaffiliate from the Labour Party” entirely by Unite.He said: “The Labour Party is our party. We created it at the beginning of the last century. It’s our party. And we hope that they will speak on behalf of not only organised labour, but speak on behalf of ordinary working people.” Starmer’s critics claim he is preparing to renege on key Corbyn policy pledges such as free tuition fees and the nationalisation, something denied by those close to the leader. Labour sources also said it was unlikely those backing further disaffiliation of Unite members had enough support to go further. Related... Starmer Tells Ex-Labour Voters Party Is 'Under New Leadership' Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds Accuses Tories Of Wasting 'Enormous Amounts Of Public Money' During Covid Will New Trade Union Bosses Help Keir Starmer Or Hinder Him?
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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
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This is a breaking news story and will be updated. Follow HuffPost UK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.“I am sorry. When you’ve made a mistake you should apologise. But most important of all, you’ve got to learn from your mistakes…” Sound familiar? Yes, Nick Clegg’s words on tuition fees (apologies but it’s hard to get autotune in print) hang in the air these days as ministers try to show some kind of remorse for the failures on coronavirus.Ahead of the Tory party “conference” and a possibly grim winter, Boris Johnson seemed to be getting his excuses in first in a series of regional TV interviews today. Given that he’s treating Covid as a series of separate local incidents rather than a national crisis, that PR tactic was at least consistent. A cynic would point out that “divide and rule” isn’t quite the “levelling up” narrative he was elected on.Anyway, it was in his interview with BBC London that the PM finally came up with his very first apology for the state of the NHS Test and Trace service. Three long weeks since the public first started complaining in large numbers about delays, Johnson said: “I apologise for the bad experiences that people have had with NHS Test and Trace..”There was of course the inevitable “but”. “..but it is a fact that we are conducting more tests than any other European countries, 20 million people have been tested.” He may or may not have still be suffering from Covid, but the PM certainly has the Gordon Brown Disease of rattling out big numbers that have zero relevance to individual complaints.In his interview with ITV Granada, Johnson finally also gave some clue as to what would free local areas from lockdown, though it was not totally helpful. He said the R number would have to fall below 1, though it’s not entirely clear how that would work, given that R so far seems to be measured for a whole region rather than individual council areas. There was another hint of contrition too: “I totally understand people feel things are inconsistent.” Hmmm.Johnson’s clear fear that the public will hammer him if Christmas is cancelled is also still preoccupying him. Despite having said the Rule of Six is in place for six months, he today even denied to ITV Anglia that families of five would be banned from having two grandparents round for Xmas lunch. “We are not saying that at all. We will do everything we can to make sure that Christmas for everybody is as normal as possible.” More confusion seems to beckon, all because the PM loves to be loved.Perhaps aware of his backbenchers’ growing love for Rishi Sunak’s own line on Covid, the PM also talked about “people learning to live without fear, as the chancellor says”. As it happens, Sunak has had his own attempt at regret in recent days, telling the Daily Express/Blue Collar Conservative conference that he has “apologised to those people” who have “fallen through the cracks” of his policies.“We haven’t been able to help everyone in exactly the way they would have liked,” he said. But there was a “but”, again. “Sometimes it’s just practically very difficult to do. We need to make sure we also protect the taxpayer...What I would say is, even if you haven’t been helped in exactly the way you want, there’ll almost certainly something that we’ve done that could benefit you.” That may not be quite the comfort the self-employed or those losing furlough were looking for.Labour knows it needs to target Sunak as much as Johnson these days (hence those attack ads, and today Bridget Phillipson ridiculing his ‘ego’), not least because if the PM really mucks up the pandemic, the chancellor may be the guy that Keir Starmer faces at the next election.As for the big question of what Labour’s economic policies will look like in 2024, we at least got a bit more clarity today after my interview with Starmer. The Labour leader is famously hard to pin down (as Goggleboxers made plain last week) and on his tax policies there has been more than a bit of fog of late.His characteristic refusal to give a yes or no answer to a question initially seemed to be in evidence. I asked him whether Lisa Nandy was right to suggest last week that his leadership pledge to increase income tax for the top 5% had now been dropped because of the party’s wider opposition to any tax rises during the pandemic.His first answer made me think Nandy was right. “We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” he said.”We don’t know the full impact on the economy. And the next general election is 2024, so I don’t think it’s prudent at this stage to set out tax arrangements for 2024..” Not exactly a denial of Nandy’s words. So far, so worrying for Labour leftwingers.I asked a second time, had that 5% pledge been overtaken by events? Again, he gave the impression it had. “I don’t think anybody could really say that the last six months hasn’t changed the nature of the challenge but if anything, it’s a bigger challenge now...so the nature and scale of the challenges we now face were not even contemplated in 2019.”It felt like nailing jelly to a wall. Now, I’m a fair journalist and naturally never want to misrepresent anyone (I know, old fashioned habit) so I asked a third time. “So just to be clear, those [Labour members] who voted for you because you pledged the top 5% would be taxed, that was your priority, you’re saying actually look, events change and my response to it needs to change too?” I said.His reply solidified the jelly. “No, they were important pledges, very important pledges in terms of the approach I would take and the priorities I would have as leader of the labour party, and they remain my priorities,” he said. “What I’m saying is, the work and the challenge now is so much more profound than we thought it was in 2019. Or even this year before the pandemic hit. It actually means we might have to be bolder than we might have imagined.”So, that income tax rise for the top 5% remains a priority and is “very important” “in terms of the approach I would take”. And his reference to being even “bolder” leaves open the door for possibly some kind of wealth tax that hits the super rich even harder.That whole policy direction may yet prove surprisingly popular or worryingly toxic. But on a day of half apologies and further obfuscation on Covid, I guess the public may welcome a bit more political clarity on tax.Related... Boris Johnson Finally Apologises For NHS Test And Trace Failings Starmer: Raising Taxes On Top 5% Earners Remains My 'Priority' UK Coronavirus R-Rate Jumps Again To Between 1.3 and 1.6
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Keir Starmer has insisted that his priority at the next election will be to hike taxes for the top 5% of Britons and signalled that he may go even further in squeezing the very richest.In an interview with HuffPost UK, the Labour leader moved to quash suggestions that he had abandoned his leadership pledge to jack up income tax on anyone earning over £80,000.Although the party has a current policy of opposing government tax rises during the pandemic, Starmer said that if he became prime minister in 2024 he may have to “be bolder than we imagined” to rebalance the UK’s economy and invest in public services.In the interview, he also: responds to Gogglebox viewers’ criticism of him, saying Boris Johnson is “governing by hindsight”;says that, unlike the PM, he “won’t be complaining” about his salary, housekeepers and nannies if he gets into No.10;defends the BBC and says shadow ministers were wrong to say it played any part in Labour’s 2019 defeat;reveals he ‘passed’ unconscious bias training;admits his wife does more of the housework but says during lockdown he’s been “hoovering the stairs”.During his leadership campaign earlier this year, the first of Starmer’s 10 “pledges” to Labour members was “to increase income tax for the top 5% of earners, reverse the Tories’ cuts in corporation tax and clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly of large corporations”.He was, however, careful to avoid committing himself to the last manifesto’s detailed promises, which were to create a 45p tax rate for earners over £80,000 and 50p for those over £150,000.Since the coronavirus crisis, Labour has developed a policy of opposing any tax rises, believing that they would harm any recovery and hit people on average incomes.Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy last week suggested Starmer’s first pledge had been scrapped as a result of the new opposition to any Tory tax hikes.But when asked directly by HuffPost UK if his leadership pledges had changed, Starmer replied: “No, they were important pledges – very important pledges – in terms of the approach I would take and the priorities I would have as leader of the Labour party, and they remain my priorities.“What I’m saying is, the work and the challenge now is so much more profound than we thought it was in 2019. Or even this year before the pandemic hit. It actually means we might have to be bolder than we might have imagined.”The reference to “bolder” solutions may spark fresh speculation that Labour is considering a “wealth tax” at the next election, which would target the assets rather than just the income of the very richest.A YouGov survey in May suggested that 61% of the public would approve of a wealth tax for those with assets of over £750,000.A new book by journalist Owen Jones revealed that the £80,000 salary target was set by John McDonnell in 2017 because internal polling showed that many people on lower incomes thought they might be earning £60,000 in five years’ time but no one thought they would hit the £80,000 limit.Starmer added: “The next general election is in 2024, so I don’t think it’s prudent at this stage to set out tax arrangements for 2024, when we don’t know the size of the debt, we don’t know the damage that has been done.“And we haven’t yet set out what the strategic priorities will be for the next Labour government. So that’s the kind of work that will necessarily have to be done closer to the election. We will then set it out in full detail and in a costed way.“We’re going to have to confront a completely different world, where the economy is going to take a massive hit. The fragility of our public services has been completely exposed.“One of the reasons I think that we have fared so badly in the UK is because of the effect of austerity and the fragility of our economy. We’ve got to face up to that. We’ve got to rebuild in a better way.”The Labour leader said that he didn’t have “any problem” with publishing his tax returns, as Jeremy Corbyn had done, and suggested that Boris Johnson should follow suit. The PM has failed to do so, despite having done so before he became a cabinet minister.Asked about reports in The Times recently that Johnson was “struggling” on his £150,000 salary and was worried about being able to afford a nanny and to live without a housekeeper, Starmer said he would not be “complaining” if he got into No.10.“I didn’t know whether any of that was true or whether it was spun by others. If it is true it doesn’t reflect well on the prime minister,” he said.“Look, my plan between now and 2024 is to make sure we are in No.10 and I won’t be complaining when I get there.”Gogglebox verdictGogglebox last night had Keir Starmer bang to rights. Watch every second of this. pic.twitter.com/bjfl0AiaLP— Ben (@BenJolly9) September 26, 2020Starmer also responded for the first time to Labour voters on Channel 4’s Gogglebox show, who last week ridiculed his position of supporting the government on coronavirus without having his own alternative plans. One family said he was “a lot of wind”, one that he had to stop being “Captain Hindsight”, while others were confused which party he stood for.Starmer said he had watched the show and insisted that he would not be changing his stance of supporting some government pandemic measures while challenging them where necessary.“You’ve got to take all this on the chin. Frankly if you can get through my household with my kids not taking anything I do seriously, then you can take Gogglebox. This is all part and parcel of being leader of a political party. It’s perfectly open to everybody to challenge, laugh, joke, cajole. All of my friends and family do it to me all of the time, so I’m pretty used to it.“Some people do think that if you’re the opposition you should oppose everything the government does. I don’t agree. I think in a crisis like this pandemic there are some issues where we need to support what the government is doing. That’s why we supported national lockdown, that’s why we supported restrictions. We also supported the furlough scheme.“Actually the government’s complaint against me is that we are doing too much challenging – they don’t like it. But we are challenging them in areas where they need to be challenged and where the challenge can actually bring around some change.”Asked about the advice from Gogglebox’s Sophie Sandiford that he should tell the prime minister: “Don’t call me Captain Hindsight, call me Bruce Foresight”, Starmer said: “Actually, if you look at what we’ve done over the past few months, we have flagged up in advance what the problem is going to be.“The prime minister has ignored it and walked into the problem, then when he’s realised where the problem is he’s blamed everyone else for hindsight. He’s governing by hindsight. He’s always looking back at the car crash and wondering how he got into the problem.”‘Structural inequalities’Starmer, who has been criticised by some Black members of the party for his handling of Black Lives Matter issues, said that he had learned more about himself after unconscious bias training this summer.Asked if he had “passed” the test, he said: “Yes that’s the way to describe it.” But he added: “On its own it’s obviously not enough because we have got structural inequalities baked into almost every part of the system and we need to be more understanding. Eradicating structural inequality has to be a defining cause of the next Labour government.”He also said that Labour would tackle the educational inequality that saw white working class boys rank lowest of any group in getting into university.“It’s not just university, it’s through schooling as well. Of course we have to address it. Wherever we see inequality we have to address it in terms,” he said.“Put your money into young people, put your money into zero-to-five SureStart, have adequate housing and facilities for people.“You can see it across the country. I have it in my constituency where inequality starts so young. If you don’t invest there, then trying to sort out the inequality 10, 20, 30 years down the line is so much more difficult.“You have to start at the very beginning. That’s why SureStart was such an important part of what the last Labour government did.”The BBCStarmer also defended the BBC, after Andrew Marr said this week that it was “in a dangerous place” given the speculation about the future of the licence fee. And he condemned Labour activists who booed Laura Kuenssberg during the election campaign.“I think the BBC is really important – has got incredible services and programmes on it, including the World Service. I don’t subscribe to this view, whether it’s the BBC or anyone else, of attacking journalists asking difficult questions. It’s a really important part of accountability.”Asked whether he agreed with shadow minister Andy McDonald who said that the BBC had “played a part” in Labour’s loss last December, Starmer replied: “No, I don’t. [...] You don’t turn around and start blaming the electorate or other people – you look in the mirror and ask yourself: ‘What did we do wrong?’ We need to learn that lesson as a party if we are going to get from where we are now to where we need to be in 2024.”Starmer also rejected suggestions that he was destined to become like Neil Kinnock, rebuilding the party after a shattering defeat but not managing to win an election. He said he would “own” the next four years, rather than referring to the past.“I don’t know how many times I have to say that I’m not a past Labour leader. People are forever trying to get me to hug a past Labour leader, or be that person. We can learn from all of them but I’m not any of them.“I’m deeply conscious, and this is really serious for me and for the party, that the next stage of the journey is for us. It’s for us in the circumstances as they confront us, the circumstances framed by the pandemic but obviously with the context of huge cuts to public services, austerity, baked-in injustice. That part of the journey is for us.“And this leadership team and this party has to own those next four years and therefore pointing back to what other people did is helpful where you can draw lessons from that – but actually this is for us. We have to accept that responsibility and what happens the next four years will reflect on us and not on anybody else.”Handling lockdownAsked about how he had handled lockdown this year, and whether he had done his fair share of household duties, Starmer replied: “I would say yes, but you need to double check that with my wife. She would say no.“But have I been the one hoovering the stairs? Yes, I have. And dealing with the bins and that sort of thing. But she does far more than I do.”Put to him that many men had failed to help their partners who had to cope with both extra childcare, housework and their own work, he said: “I think that varies from household to household. Everybody has their own set of arrangements but, as I say, I think I play my part, do my bit. But you’d have to check with my wife!”Related... Keir Starmer Calls For New Powers For Mayors To Decide Local Lockdowns A Wealth Tax 'Has To Happen', Says Senior Labour Peer And Ex-Gordon Brown Adviser Does Keir Starmer Really Want A ‘Wealth Tax’ To Fund A Covid Recovery?
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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... 'An Absolute Joke': Somerset Mum Told Only Covid-19 Test Was In Northern Ireland Or Aberdeen NHS Test And Trace Contact Tracing Rate Drops Again Scottish MP With Coronavirus Got Train To London And Back
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The Labour Party said sending asylum seekers to an island in the Atlantic Ocean was "inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive."
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Two in three Britons think that more government cash should be spent on helping men to take an equal share of childcare and care for elderly parents, a new poll has found.The figure rises to 76% in former “Red Wall” parliamentary seats that switched from Labour to the Tories at the last election, according to the survey by pollsters Survation.Both findings are contained in a new report by the Commission on a Gender-Equal Economy, which calls for sweeping changes to UK policy on welfare, tax and social policy, including a proposal to put paternity leave on the same legal footing as maternity leave.The study, “Creating a Caring Economy: A Call to Action”, recommends universal free childcare, a universal basic income for all pensioners, independent taxation of income for partners and a corporation tax of 24% to help fund the changes.In the UK paternity leave lasts for just two weeks, while maternity leave lasts up to a year. Although shared parental leave was introduced by the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, its pay rates are so low that just 2% of eligible couples used it last year.The policy allows couples to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of statutory shared parental pay between them, but at a maximum rate of £151.20 per week that many find impossible to live on.In its report, the Commission - set up by the Womens’ Budget Group in early 2019 - calls for “equal legal entitlements to paid caring leave for all employees and self-employed people”.Just 208,000 fathers claimed paternity pay last year, compared to 649,000 women who received maternity pay.Some companies such as insurance giant Zurich UK have been leading the way, offering 16 weeks full pay to both mothers and fathers, but campaigners say government needs to step in to equalise rights.Zurich revealed on Tuesday that almost three-quarters (70%) of its employees who have become new fathers take advantage of its new paternity benefit, with most taking at least three months of leave.The Survation poll found that nearly four in five of all respondents (79%) and three in four men (75%) agree that women and men should share care tasks for children or older and disabled relatives equally.A total of 61% of Conservative voters believe that men should be “encouraged and financially supported by the government” to do more care, with 72% for all men aged 18-34 agreeing.Mary-Ann Stephenson, director of the group, said that there were serious legal barriers on leave policy, as women were granted 12 months’ leave and men just two weeks paternity pay.Stephenson added that the 43% gender earnings gap meant it made economic sense for many women to take time off work rather than a male partner.“Then there are cultural barriers. There is an expectation among employers that women will take leave and that men won’t. In male dominated sectors that can mean that there is no culture of men taking leave and managers may be very unsympathetic,” she said.Marion Sharples, project manager of the Commission, and author of the report, said: “This report has launched as we are entering a second wave of coronavirus. For far too long the government has been tinkering with policies and expecting these tweaks to deliver wholly different outcomes.“What the polling and the Commission’s report show us is that in order to have an economy that works for everyone we need a bold vision of an economy that includes everyone.Both women and men want to change this and they are willing to pay for it through higher tax“Care is central to this vision. We will all require care at some point in our lives. At the moment care work isn’t shared fairly, with women doing the majority of care, both paid and unpaid. This means women have less time for paid work and other activities, so they earn less, own less and are more likely to be living in poverty.”Some 75% of respondents say they would pay more tax to support investment in free social care for all adults over the age of 65 and disabled people. A similar percentage (74%) would be willing to pay more tax to support a pay rise for all key workers.Caroline Nokes, Tory chair of the women and equalities select committee, urged ministers to consider the “bold and ambitious” proposals. “The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the inequalities in our society, especially gender inequality. It is now impossible to ignore,” she said.“Long term failure to adequately gender-check government policies has led to women faring worse than men in multiple ways – taking on the burden of care, being over represented in low paid and insecure jobs, and hit hard by decisions around sector shutdowns and re-opening.”Related... Opinion: Back-To School Hasn't Solved The Giant Women-Shaped Hole In Our Childcare System Is It Safe For Grandparents To Look After Their Grandkids Right Now? Grandparents Will Be Allowed To Look After Children In Local Lockdown Areas, Matt Hancock Says
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An overwhelming majority of business leaders are open to the introduction of a four day working week, a new poll suggests.A total of 79% of more than 500 business leaders said they were either “very open” (47%) or “quite open” (32%) to a four day week, the Survation poll shared with HuffPost UK showed.The survey, commissioned by the 4 Day Week Campaign and the think-tank Autonomy, also referenced concerns that firms could see their wage bills increase if a four day week was introduced without workers having their pay cut.But the positive response to the idea suggested that this is not a major issue for companies, the 4 Day Week Campaign said.Britons work longer hours than almost all other countries in western Europe but its productivity lags behind many EU rivals.Earlier this month, Labour’s shadow employment secretary Andy McDonald said a four day week should be “increasingly trialled with the introduction of more pilot schemes”. Treasury minister Kemi Badenoch met with Labour MP Clive Lewis to discuss the idea at the end of July and agreed to keep a dialogue going on the issue.Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also replaced the coronavirus furlough scheme with a scheme that will see the government support workers doing shorter hours in a bid to help them keep their jobs during the Covid recession.Joe Ryle, a campaigner with the 4 Day Week Campaign, said: “This is exactly the right moment to introduce a four day week with no reduction in pay across the country.“The four day week is no longer seen as a scary idea to business because they are realising that it would boost productivity and give workers a much better work-life balance.“It’s time for business, working with the trade unions and the government, to make it happen.”Will Stronge, director of research at Autonomy, said: “The four day week is popular with businesses, trade unions and even Conservative voters.“Some businesses have already begun getting on with it themselves post Covid-19 but this added support from business leaders should put the rocket boosters on.“The UK has a unique opportunity to be a pioneer for the four day week and it’s about time we get on with it.”:: Survation polled 515 business leaders on August 26, including owners, partners, CEOs, chairpersons, presidents, CFOs, CTOs, other chief-level executives, and directors.Related... Has Rishi Sunak Done Too Little Too Late To Prevent The Unemployment Tsunami? Rishi Sunak’s Furlough Replacement ‘Will Lead To Job Losses’, Experts Warn Workers Can Have Wages Topped Up If Hours Cut, Announces Rishi Sunak
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