Nurses Join Other Striking UK Staff In 2nd December Walkouts

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM – NOVEMBER 22: Health Minister Steve Barclay arrives in Downing Street to attend the weekly cabinet meeting in London, United Kingdom on November 22, 2022. Rasid Necati Aslim / Anadolu Agency (Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim / ANADOLU AGENCY / Anadolu Agency via AFP)

 

Nurses across most of Britain will next month hold the first strikes in their union’s 106-year history, joining a host of other UK workers taking industrial action over pay.

Staff in England, Wales and Northern Ireland — but not Scotland — will walk out on December 15 and 20, after the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) union said the government had turned down an offer of negotiations.

It will be the latest industrial action in Britain, where decades-high inflation and a cost-of-living crisis has prompted staff in various sectors to demand pay rises to keep up with spiralling prices.

The nurses’ strike will be sandwiched between the first of a series of two-day walkouts by national railway workers, while postal service employees will stage fresh stoppages in the run-up to Christmas.


READ ALSO: UK Clamps Down On Chinese Surveillance Cameras


Numerous other public and private sector staff, from lawyers to airport ground personnel, have also held strikes this year.

“Nursing staff have had enough of being taken for granted, enough of low pay and unsafe staffing levels, enough of not being able to give our patients the care they deserve,” said RCN head Pat Cullen.

The union, which wants a pay rise significantly above inflation, announced earlier this month that a ballot of its more than 300,000 members had found a majority in favour of strikes.

“Ministers have had more than two weeks since we confirmed that our members felt such injustice that they would strike for the first time,” Cullen said, adding that an offer of formal negotiations was declined.

“They have the power and the means to stop this by opening serious talks that address our dispute.”

The RCN will next week announce which particular arms of Britain’s sprawling state-funded National Health Service (NHS) will be affected by the walkouts.

‘Challenging times ‘

Amid the waves of industrial action, British inflation has continued its recent surge, reaching a 41-year high of 11.1 percent in October on soaring energy and food bills.

Bosses in the NHS said in September that nurses were skipping meals to feed and clothe their children and struggling to afford rising transport costs.

One in four hospitals had set up foodbanks to support staff, according to NHS Providers, which represents hospital groups in England.

The government says it has accepted independent pay recommendations, and given over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 ($1,590) this year.

That follows on from a three-percent increase last year when public sector pay was frozen.

But the RCN says this leaves experienced nurses worse off by 20 percent in real terms due to successive below-inflation awards since 2010.

In Scotland, the union has paused announcing strike action after the devolved government in Edinburgh, which has responsibility for health policy, reopened pay talks.

UK health minister Steve Barclay said he was “hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication” of nurses and regretted the strikes.

The NHS has “tried and tested plans” to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate, he added.

“These are challenging times for everyone and the economic circumstances mean the RCN’s demands, which on current figures are a 19.2 percent pay rise, costing £10 billion a year, are not affordable,” he said.

The RCN has questioned the UK government’s economic rationale, noting it spends billions of pounds on agency staff to plug workforce gaps.

It points to independent research it commissioned indicating that the finance ministry would recoup 81 percent of the initial outlay of a significant pay rise through higher tax receipts and savings on future recruitment and retention costs.

In the last year, 25,000 nursing staff left the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) register, it said.

Other UK health unions are also balloting workers for industrial action, while ambulance staff in Scotland are due to walk out on Monday.

Meanwhile, across the wider economy, numerous sectors look set to continue their strikes into the new year.

UK Top Court Rejects Scottish Independence Vote Plans

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon holds a press conference in Edinburgh on November 23, 2022 after the Supreme Court blocked a new vote on independence. The UK Supreme Court rejected a bid by the devolved Scottish government in Edinburgh to hold a new referendum on independence without the consent of London. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

 

Britain’s highest court on Wednesday rejected a bid by the devolved Scottish government in Edinburgh to hold a new referendum on independence without London’s consent.

The unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court torpedoed the Scottish nationalist government’s push to hold a second plebiscite next year.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party (SNP), said she respected the ruling, but accused Westminster of showing “contempt” for Scotland’s democratic will.

Scotland’s government will instead treat the next UK general election due by early 2025 as a “de facto referendum” on separation, she told a news conference.

“We must and we will find another democratic, lawful and constitutional means by which the Scottish people can express their will. In my view, that can only be an election,” she added.

Outside the court, David Simpson, 70, who first voted for the SNP in 1970, said he was still hopeful of achieving independence in the future.

“This is not the end of the road,” he told AFP. “There is nothing impossible.”

Alister Jack, the UK government’s secretary of state for Scotland, welcomed the ruling.

“People in Scotland want both their governments to be concentrating all attention and resources on the issues that matter most to them,” he said.

‘Mandate’

The Supreme Court’s Scottish president, Robert Reed, said the power to call a referendum was “reserved” to the UK parliament under Scotland’s devolution settlement.

Therefore “the Scottish parliament does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on Scottish independence”, Reed said.

Sturgeon’s SNP-led government in Edinburgh wanted to hold a vote next October on the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The UK government, which oversees constitutional affairs for the whole country, has repeatedly refused to give Edinburgh the power to hold a referendum.

It considers that the last one — in 2014, when 55 percent of Scots rejected independence — settled the question for a generation.

But Sturgeon and her party say there is now an “indisputable mandate” for another independence referendum, particularly in light of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Most voters in Scotland opposed Brexit.

Scotland’s last parliamentary election returned a majority of pro-independence lawmakers for the first time.

Opinion polls, however, indicate only a slight lead for those in favour of a split.

At the UK Supreme Court last month, lawyers for the government in London argued that the Scottish government could not decide to hold a referendum on its own.

Permission had to be granted because the constitutional make-up of the four nations of the United Kingdom was a reserved matter for the government in London.

Scotland not Kosovo

Lawyers for the Scottish government wanted a ruling on the rights of the devolved parliament in Edinburgh if London continued to block an independence referendum.

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, Scotland’s top law officer, said Scottish independence was a “live and significant” issue in Scottish politics.

The Scottish government was seeking to create its own legal framework for another referendum, arguing that the “right to self-determination is a fundamental and inalienable right”.

But the Supreme Court rejected international comparisons raised by the SNP, which had likened Scotland to Quebec or Kosovo.

Reed said that international law on self-determination only applied to former colonies, or where a people is oppressed by military occupation, or when a defined group is denied its political and civil rights.

None of that applied to Scotland, the Supreme Court president said.

He also rejected the SNP’s argument that a referendum would only be “advisory” and not legally binding.

Any such vote would carry “important political consequences” regardless of its legal status, the judge said.

Sturgeon’s SNP ran in the 2021 Scottish parliamentary elections on a promise to hold a legally valid referendum after the Covid crisis subsided.

Man Utd’s Greenwood Faces Attempted Rape Trial Next Year

Manchester United footballer Mason Greenwood will face trial next year on charges of attempted rape, controlling and coercive behaviour, and assault, a judge said on Monday.

Greenwood, 21, arrived at court in Manchester, northwest England, wearing a hoodie bearing the slogan “Fumer tue” (Smoking kills in French) with a dark suit.

At a short hearing at the city’s Minshull Street Crown Court, the player spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth.

Judge Maurice Greene set a start date of November 27, 2023, for the trial, which is expected to last 10 days.

The footballer had his bail extended on condition that he does not contact witnesses or the complainant.

Greenwood spent two days remanded in custody in October after an alleged breach of bail conditions.

He was first arrested in January over allegations relating to a young woman after images and videos were posted online.

Within hours of the allegations surfacing online in January, Greenwood was suspended from playing or training with United and has not played for the club since.

The attempted rape is alleged to have taken place in October 2021.

The controlling and coercive behaviour relates to a period beginning in November 2018.

He is alleged to have made threatening and derogatory comments towards the complainant, as well as accessing and monitoring her social media accounts.

The charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm is dated December 2021.

All three charges relate to the same complainant. Greenwood did not enter any pleas and a further procedural hearing was set for February 10 next year.

Greenwood has played 129 times for United, scoring 35 goals.

A product of the club’s academy — and once considered one of English football’s brightest prospects — he signed a new contract in February 2021 that runs until at least 2025.

Greenwood made his England debut against Iceland in September 2020, but he and Manchester City midfielder Phil Foden were sent home after breaching the team’s coronavirus guidelines.

Nike suspended and later terminated its sponsorship deal with the player, while Electronic Arts confirmed his removal from active football squads.

UK’s New PM Heads To G20 With Veiled Attack On China

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (C) arrives at the Ngurah Rai International Airport ahead of the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia on November 14, 2022. (Photo by Firdia Lisnawati / POOL / AFP)

 

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak headed to his debut G20 summit Sunday urging world powers to unite against exploitation of the global economy by “malign actors”.

After becoming the UK’s third premier this year, Sunak is set to have his first bilateral meetings with US President Joe Biden and other world leaders at the summit in Bali, Indonesia.

Beyond supporting Western unity against Russia over Ukraine, Sunak wants allies to shore up the international financial system including the World Trade Organization, according to Downing Street.

Developing nations must have access to credit for economic growth without becoming reliant on “exploitative” lenders, Sunak is expected to tell the summit, echoing past G7 criticism of China.


READ ALSO: Thousands March In Mexico Against Proposed Electoral Reform


The WTO should be reformed to curb the “manipulation of global markets by malign actors”, he will also say in another coded critique of G20 member China.

Sunak’s pre-summit warnings against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime have been clearer.

“We will call out Putin’s regime, and lay bare their utter contempt for the kind of international cooperation and respect for sovereignty forums like the G20 represent,” he said in a statement Saturday.

While Putin is not attending the summit, Sunak’s spokesman said the prime minister would confront Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Bali.

Some pundits had queried whether Sunak might go soft on Russia in view of the economic crisis affecting Britain, on the back of surging energy prices.

But Sunak’s spokesman told reporters that Britain’s support for Ukraine “will not fade or alter”.

In Bali, Sunak “will speak with our allies in one voice on this”, the spokesman added.

Sunak is due to return to Britain early on Thursday and head straight into his finance minister’s presentation of an emergency budget statement.

The statement is expected to include painful tax hikes and spending cuts, after Sunak’s short-lived predecessor Liz Truss panicked markets with a spree of unfunded tax cuts.

Sunak said Thursday’s budget would “set out how we will get this country on the right path”.

“But addressing the biggest economic crisis in a decade will require a concerted effort by the world’s largest economies -– these are not problems we can solve alone,” he said before flying to Bali.

“At the G20, leaders need to step up to fix the weaknesses in the international economic system which Putin has exploited for years.”

Charles III Leads First Remembrance Sunday As King

Britain’s Catherine, Princess of Wales, (L) Britain’s Prince William, Prince of Wales (2L) and Britain’s King Charles III (R) attend the annual Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in London on November 12, 2022. (Photo by CHRIS RADBURN / POOL / AFP)

 

Charles III is to take part in his first Remembrance Sunday event as king, laying a wreath in tribute to UK and Commonwealth war dead, as Britain’s new prime minister also lauds Ukraine’s defenders.

The 73-year-old monarch had previously deputised for his mother Queen Elizabeth II, who died in September aged 96 after a year of failing health.

Since 2017, she had watched the annual service from a balcony of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) overlooking the Cenotaph.

Last year a back complaint forced her to miss the ceremony in central London, just weeks after an unscheduled overnight stay in hospital.

Charles, who served in the Royal Navy in the 1970s, laid a wreath on her behalf.


READ ALSO: Two WWII Planes Collide At Dallas Air Show


Now king and commander-in-chief of British forces, he will lay his first wreath at the war memorial as reigning monarch.

The ring of red artificial poppies — Britain’s symbol of remembrance — is mounted on black leaves, with a ribbon in the king’s scarlet, purple and gold horseracing colours.

Buckingham Palace said a similar wreath would be laid on behalf of his wife, Queen Consort Camilla, for the first time.

Camilla, 75, will watch the event from the FCDO balcony.

Two minutes’ silence marks the start of the sombre tribute. It begins on the stroke of 1100 GMT with the distinctive chime of Big Ben, which returns to regular service after a five-year renovation.

New Conservative leader Rishi Sunak will attend his first Remembrance Sunday as prime minister.

“This year more than ever, we are reminded of the huge debt of gratitude we owe those who lay down their lives to protect their country,” Sunak said in a statement.

“As we fall silent together on Remembrance Sunday, we will honour the memories of the men and women we have lost, and pay tribute to the brave soldiers of Ukraine as they continue their fight for freedom.”

Remembrance Sunday is the culmination of days of events to pay tribute to all those who lost their lives in conflict.

On Thursday Camilla laid a cross at the Field of Remembrance outside London’s Westminster Abbey, alongside 70,000 other symbols left by military associations, and a space dedicated to the late queen.

On Friday — Armistice Day, marking the end of hostilities in World War I — a service was held at the National Memorial Arboretum in central England.

The king, queen and senior family members on Saturday attended an annual concert organised by the Royal British Legion veterans’ charity.

On Sunday, around 10,000 veterans will march past the Cenotaph including 400 who fought in the Falklands War, 40 years ago.

Other royals expected on Sunday include Charles’s eldest son and heir, Prince William, and William’s wife Kate.

King Charles Narrowly Avoids Being Hit By Eggs

Britain’s King Charles III and Britain’s Camilla, Queen Consort are welcomed to the City of York during a ceremony at Micklegate Bar during their visit to York, northern England on November 9, 2022 as part of a two-day tour of Yorkshire. (Photo by James Glossop / POOL / AFP)

 

King Charles III and his wife Queen Consort Camilla narrowly avoided being hit with eggs thrown at them during a visit to northern England on Wednesday, British media footage showed.

The 73-year-old monarch and Camilla, 75, appeared to be targeted with three eggs which landed near them during a walkabout in York, before they were ushered away by minders.

A man was heard shouting “this country was built on the blood of slaves” and “not my king” before he was detained by several police officers as the incident occurred, the footage showed.

The protester also booed the royal couple before he appeared to lob the eggs at them, according to reporters at the scene.

Other people in the crowds that had gathered at the historic Micklegate Bar location for the visit started chanting “God save the King” and “shame on you” at the protester.

Charles and Camilla continued with a traditional ceremony to officially welcome the sovereign to the city of York by the lord mayor as police were pictured taking the suspected perpetrator into custody.

UK media named him as a former Green Party candidate and activist with the Extinction Rebellion environmental protest group.

The royals were in the historic city to attend the unveiling of a statue of Charles’s mother Queen Elizabeth II, the first to be installed since her death on September 8.

On Tuesday, Charles met artists in nearby Leeds who had taken part in a project exploring Britain’s role in slavery — and revealed he was open to discussions on the topic.

‘Be open’

“He is ready to have these conversations and see what work can be done,” Fiona Compton, a St Lucian artist and historian who knows the monarch and was involved in the project, told reporters afterwards.

“He agrees, this is British history, it should not be hidden.

“In the same way we are speaking about the Holocaust, we should be open to speaking about Britain’s involvement in the slave trade,” added Compton, whose father was prime minister of St Lucia.

The issue has increasingly confronted the royal family, as growing republican movements in Commonwealth countries with the British monarch as head of state call on the Crown to apologise for the slave trade and atone for colonisation.

During a tour of the Caribbean by the king’s eldest son Prince William earlier this year, he faced protests about past royal links to slavery, demands for reparations and growing republican sentiment.

Charles’s youngest brother, Prince Edward, experienced similar protests and cancelled a leg to Grenada after pro-republican protests there.

Domestically, Charles is less popular than his late mother, who maintained highly favourable ratings throughout her record-breaking seven-decade reign.

The latest polling by YouGov found 44 percent of adults had a positive opinion of him, compared to nearly three-quarters for Queen Elizabeth II.

Despite promoting environmental causes for decades, climate activists last month smeared chocolate cake over a waxwork model Charles at London’s Madame Tussauds museum.

During the national period of mourning for the queen in September, republican movements said anti-monarchist views were drowned out.

There was criticism of police handling of protesters who publicly questioned the hereditary principle of Charles’s accession.

Firebomb Attack On UK Immigration Centre ‘motivated By Terrorist Ideology’

British immigration minister Robert Jenrick on Tuesday vowed “more radical” policies to counter illegal migration as record numbers make the treacherous crossing of the Channel in small boats. Jenrick accepted that conditions at the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent, southeast England, were “poor”, and that people had been sleeping on the floor on mats. “The problem is that thousands of people are crossing the Channel illegally every day,” he added. (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

 

 

The firebombing of a UK migrant processing centre last week was “motivated by a terrorist ideology”, counter-terrorism police said on Saturday.

“Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE)… have recovered evidence that indicates the attack at an immigration centre in Dover on Sunday, 30 October 2022, was motivated by a terrorist ideology,” the body said in a statement.

The evidence recovered — including from devices — suggested “there was an extreme right-wing motivation behind the attack,” it added.

Tim Jacques, senior national coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, added that while there were “strong indications that mental health was likely a factor”, he had concluded that the “suspect’s actions were primarily driven by an extremist ideology”.

These met the “threshold for a terrorist incident”, he said.

Homemade incendiary devices were thrown at the Western Jet Foil Border Force centre in Dover on Sunday, leaving two staff with minor injuries.

The facility in the busy port town in southeast England processes migrants who have crossed the Channel from northern Europe in small boats.

The attack was carried was out by a 66-year-old man who was later found dead.

“There is currently nothing to suggest the offender was working alongside anyone else and there is not believed to be any wider threat to the public,” the statement said.

The British government is currently grappling with how to deal with a record number of migrants crossing the Channel from northern Europe in small boats.

Since the beginning of the year, an unprecedented 38,000 people have made the perilous journey, the government’s home affairs select committee was told on October 26.

Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman earlier this week caused outrage — and earned a rebuke from the new UN rights chief — for describing the arrivals as an “invasion”.

Rishi Sunak, Set To Be The UK’s First Hindu PM

New Conservative Party leader and incoming prime minister Rishi Sunak waves as he arrives at Conservative Party Headquarters in central London having been announced as the winner of the Conservative Party leadership contest, on October 24, 2022. AFP

 

 

Rishi Sunak, the Conservatives’ new leader, has capped a stunning political comeback that marks a dramatic rise to power for the son of immigrants from Britain’s old empire.

Liz Truss’s political implosion after just 44 days in office allowed the former finance minister to become the first prime minister of colour.

“Indian son rises over the empire,” read a headline on the Indian news channel NDTV, adding: “History comes full circle in Britain.”

At 42, Sunak will also become the youngest prime minister of modern times once he is confirmed in office by King Charles III.

The former hedge fund investor, an observant Hindu, failed in the summer to persuade the Tory grassroots that he was a better option than Truss.

But having correctly predicted her economic agenda would spark turmoil, he was able to throw his hat into the ring for a second time.

After securing the public support of more than half of Conservative MPs, his only remaining challenger Penny Mordaunt was forced to withdraw — following the failure of former leader Boris Johnson’s own bid.

Fabulously rich from his previous career in finance, Sunak faces daunting challenges in power, from an economic crisis to uniting his fractious party.

Some within it remain highly critical of Sunak, viewing him as disloyal for triggering the downfall of Johnson in July.

He has also been mocked as out of touch with Britons struggling with decades-high inflation — perhaps best symbolised by wearing expensive Prada loafers to a construction site visit on the summer campaign trail.

Video footage also emerged of a 21-year-old Sunak — educated at Winchester College, an exclusive private school, and the University of Oxford — talking about his friends.

“I have friends who are aristocrats, I have friends who are upper-class, I have friends who are, you know, working-class,” he says, before adding: “Well, not working-class.”

‘Dishy Rishi’

Rishi Sunak, Britain’s former chancellor of the exchequer and candidate to become the next prime minister, delivers a speech at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London on July 12, 2022. Conservative party said, with 11 hopefuls currently vying for the job. (Photo by Niklas HALLE’N / AFP)

A details-oriented policy wonk with a background in economics, Sunak has sought to present himself as a stable choice at a time of crisis.

An early backer of Brexit, he took over as chancellor of the exchequer in February 2020 — a baptism of fire for the Tory rising star as the Covid pandemic erupted.

He was forced to craft an enormous economic support package at breakneck speed, which he now insists must be paid off with sound fiscal plans.

In India, Sunak is better known through his wife, Akshata Murty. She is the daughter of Indian tycoon Narayana Murthy, the billionaire co-founder of information technology group Infosys.

The Sunaks met while studying in California and they have two young daughters, along with a photogenic dog.

The ex-minister’s Instagram-friendly profile earned him the media nickname of “Dishy Rishi”.

Until last year, he held a US Green Card — which critics said suggested a lack of long-term loyalty to Britain.

And he has been dogged by difficult questions over Murty’s failure until recently to pay UK taxes on her Infosys returns, which opinion polls suggest was viewed with deep disfavour by voters.

Sunak has also been damaged by the scandals of Johnson’s tumultuous premiership.

He ended up with a police fine for breaching Covid rules after joining a birthday gathering for the then-prime minister at Downing Street.

Johnson was also fined following an investigation into the “Partygate” affair.

Along with the controversy over his family fortune, the scandal sullied the reputation of the teetotal Sunak, who admits only to a fondness for Coca-Cola and sugary confectioneries.

Waiter to wealth

Britain’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Conservative MP, Rishi Sunak leaves from an office in central London on October 23, 2022. British Conservative Rishi Sunak on Sunday announced he is standing to be prime minister, just weeks after failing in a first attempt and setting up a potentially bruising battle with his former boss Boris Johnson. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP)

Sunak represents the constituency of Richmond in Yorkshire, northern England — a safe and overwhelmingly white Conservative seat he took over in 2015 from former party leader and foreign secretary William Hague, who described him as “exceptional”.

Theresa May gave Sunak his first job in government in January 2018, making him a junior minister for local government, parks and troubled families.

Sunak’s grandparents were from Punjab in northern India and emigrated to Britain from eastern Africa in the 1960s.

They arrived with “very little”, Sunak told MPs in his maiden speech.

His father was a family doctor in Southampton on England’s south coast, and his mother ran a local pharmacy.

Sunak waited tables in a local Indian restaurant, before progressing to Oxford and then Stanford University in California.

He swears his oath of allegiance as an MP on the Hindu Bhagavad Gita.

He insists his own family’s experience, and that of his mega-rich wife’s, are a “very Conservative” story of hard work and aspiration.

Who Is Likely To Replace Truss As UK’s PM?

Liz Truss (Photo by Daniel LEAL / POOL / AFP)

 

Here are the main contenders who could run to succeed UK Prime Minister Liz Truss, after she announced her resignation on Thursday:

Rishi Sunak

Sunak, the former chancellor of the exchequer, lost convincingly to Truss in this summer’s Tory leadership vote among party members after she promised to slash taxes and regulations without curbing government spending.

This came after Sunak, 42, had garnered greater initial support among Tory MPs.

At hustings, he warned Truss’s plans were reckless and could worsen decades-high inflation and hurt market confidence in the UK.

Proved correct, Sunak has now emerged as the bookmakers’ early favourite.

A YouGov poll on Tuesday found he has the best approval ratings of the touted alternatives to Truss.

Yet he is viewed by some as divisive and out-of-touch: privately educated, wearing Prada loafers and married to an Indian billionaire’s daughter who avoided UK taxes.

Many party members, who could make the final decision, are also unwilling to forgive him for his role in ousting ex-prime minister Boris Johnson, his erstwhile close ally.

Boris Johnson

The former premier left office early last month after a revolt among his cabinet and Tory MPs, sparked by the resignation of Sunak and others, following months of controversies.

Encouraged by several strong hints from Johnson himself, speculation has swirled ever since that he would attempt a comeback — though few expected it to happen this quickly.

The Times and The Daily Telegraph wrote Friday that the 58-year-old was privately asking MPs to back him in the race.

The ever-ebullient Brexit figurehead remains popular with a section of Conservative MPs and the party. But his brand among the wider electorate was severely damaged by his scandal-tainted three-year tenure.

A recent YouGov poll showed that around two-thirds of respondents had an unfavourable opinion of him.

Johnson has kept a low profile since resigning, giving a paid speech in the United States last week and now holidaying in the Caribbean.

He was thought to favour Truss in the summer leadership contest — although his former top aide-turned-arch-critic Dominic Cummings argued that this was because he expected her tenure to be disastrous and short-lived, paving the way for his return.

Penny Mordaunt

The current cabinet member, 49, was an early grassroots favourite to succeed Johnson, and came close to beating Truss to make the final run-off against Sunak.

The former defence and trade junior minister was a strong Brexit supporter and a key figure in the 2016 “Leave” campaign.

But she faced criticism during the recent leadership race, with some MPs dismissing her as ineffective in government roles.

Mordaunt’s profile rose this week after she was sent out Monday in place of Truss to answer an urgent question in parliament from the Labour opposition about the recent economic turmoil.

Mordaunt was seen as coping well with the febrile House of Commons session, where she was forced to confirm the absent prime minister was “not (hiding) under a desk”.

Among other potential runners, new finance minister Jeremy Hunt and former cabinet heavyweight Michael Gove were both said to have ruled themselves out, while Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has remained silent.

UK Opposition MP Resigns Over Sexual Misconduct Case

Labour Member of Parliament Chris Matheson.

 

 

An MP from Britain’s main opposition Labour Party resigned Friday after an independent panel found he had made unwanted sexual advances towards a woman on his staff.

The resignation of Chris Matheson, who admitted a “minor breach” in conduct, will trigger a by-election in the city of Chester in northwest England to replace him.

Matheson’s stepping down comes against a backdrop of political turmoil after the resignation of Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss.

Matheson resigned after an independent expert panel set up by the House of Commons upheld a complaint about him to a parliamentary watchdog.

In its report, the panel said Matheson made “unwanted and unwelcome sexual advances” towards a young woman who was his junior member of staff.

These included inviting her on a “sexually motivated” private trip to Gibraltar and trying to kiss her after a work-related dinner.

It said that Matheson had committed a “serious breach” of the MPs’ Behaviour Code and should be suspended from the House of Commons for four weeks.

Matheson, said in a statement on his website that he had resigned.

“I believe that the honourable and right thing to do now is to resign my seat and seek to build my life elsewhere,” he said, while saying he did not accept all the accusations and “had no sexual motivation in this matter”.

Johnson Eyes Comeback As UK Tories Race To Replace Truss

 

Contenders to succeed British Prime Minister Liz Truss canvassed for support Friday, with her predecessor Boris Johnson reportedly considering a sensational comeback as he picks up dozens of early nominations from Conservative MPs.

Truss’s announcement Thursday that she will resign after less than seven weeks in office has also prompted renewed calls from opposition parties for an early general election to end months of political chaos.

After her tax-slashing mini-budget last month sparked economic turmoil, two departures from her new cabinet and an eventual revolt by Tory lawmakers, Truss admitted she “cannot deliver the mandate” party members had handed her in the prior leadership contest.

British newspapers featured sombre images of Truss’s last speech outside the door of No. 10 Downing Street, with leftwing broadsheet The Guardian headlining its front page: “The bitter end”.

Truss only succeeded Johnson on September 6 after a weeks-long campaign against Tory rival Rishi Sunak, vowing a radical overhaul as Britons struggle with a cost-of-living crisis.

Having warned correctly of the disastrous consequences of her debt-fuelled tax promises, former finance minister Sunak has emerged as an early favourite to succeed Truss.

But the scandal-tarred Johnson may also be in the mix for a dramatic comeback bid, despite leaving Downing Street with dismal poll ratings.

“He couldn’t could he…” read the front page headline of the Tory-supporting Daily Express tabloid.

Conservative party managers announced a truncated election process, which requires candidates to garner 100 nominations from colleagues by Monday afternoon, ahead of another possible vote of members next Friday if two remain in the race.

‘Mandate’

So far there are no formal contenders, but the contest was widely expected to be a three-horse race between Sunak, Johnson and senior cabinet member Penny Mordaunt.

Political website Guido Fawkes, which is running a rolling spreadsheet of Tory MPs’ declared support, had Johnson on 52, Sunak on 47 and Mordaunt on 18 by early Friday.

Rightwing broadsheet The Daily Telegraph reported Johnson was set to fly back from a holiday in the Caribbean and was urging MPs to back him.

An ally told the paper that if the Tories want to avoid losing the next general election, “they need to revert” to Johnson as “the guy with a mandate who is a seasoned campaigner”.

There are precedents, The Telegraph wrote, with Harold Wilson and Winston Churchill both returning for a second stint after leaving office — albeit not mere weeks after being forced out.

Johnson in his final question time in parliament in July dropped a hint, saying: “hasta la vista baby”.

The Times reported some Tory MPs were threatening to quit the party if the divisive figure returned as leader, however.

Tory MP Crispin Blunt told the BBC that Johnson was a “fantastic communicator” but Sunak was “a much more serious personality” who could impart a “serious message” to the country.

Some senior figures including new finance minister Jeremy Hunt have already ruled themselves out, while others such as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace have remained silent.

Other candidates could include a representative of the party’s right such as Suella Braverman, whose resignation as interior minister Wednesday helped trigger Truss’s downfall.

– ‘Soap opera’ –
Contenders have until 2:00 pm (1300 GMT) on Monday to produce the minimum 100 nominations from their fellow Tory MPs.

That means a maximum of three candidates will emerge from among the 357 Conservatives in the House of Commons.

If necessary, they will vote to leave two candidates standing, and hold another “indicative” vote to tell the party membership their preferred option.

If no single candidates emerges, the rank-and-file will then have their say in an online ballot next week.

The Telegraph called the truncated process “sensible” in an editorial.

But for Labour and other opposition parties, the governing party is showing contempt towards the electorate.

Demanding an immediate general election, more than two years ahead of schedule, Labour leader Keir Starmer said Britain “cannot have another experiment”.

“This is not just a soap opera at the top of the Tory party — it’s doing huge damage to the reputation of our country,” he said as the Labour Party showed a runaway lead in the polls.

The Guardian backed an early general election, saying only this would “give the British people the fresh start that they need and deserve”.

But former Tory minister Nicky Morgan told Times Radio that a general election was “the last thing that the country needs”.

UK To Review Energy Price Support Beyond Winter

Britain’s new Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street in central London on October 14, 2022, after having a meeting with Britain’s Prime Minister Liz Truss. – Newly appointed UK finance minister Jeremy Hunt is a mild-mannered political survivor who will require all of his considerable experience to calm an economy and government beset by chaos. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP)

 

Britain’s newly-appointed finance minister Jeremy Hunt said on Monday his department would review retaining its energy support package for consumers beyond this winter, as the government retreats on much of its economic agenda amid a cost of living crisis.

“I’m announcing today a Treasury-led review into how we support energy bills beyond April next year,” Hunt said in a short televised address, ahead of a longer statement on the various U-turns in parliament later.

Hunt also reversed “almost all” tax-cutting measures unveiled in last month’s budget after they rocked markets.

“We will reverse almost all the tax measures announced… three weeks ago,” Hunt said in a televised statement, conceding last month’s budget from his predecessor had harmed public finances.

AFP