Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn Face Off In First Election Debate

A combination of pictures shows Britain’s Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson (R) and Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (L) giving speeches during their general election campaigns. Britain will go to the polls on December 12, 2019 to vote in a pre-Christmas general election. PHOTO: Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Britain’s Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn go head-to-head on Tuesday in their first TV debate of the election campaign, facing scrutiny over their plans for Brexit and more public spending.

Johnson, who took over as the leader of the governing Conservatives in July, has held a double-digit lead over Labour in opinion polls for weeks, making the December 12 election his to lose.

Corbyn meanwhile is seeking to repeat the success of the last election in 2017, when his promise to end austerity and deliver change “for the many, not the few” fired up voters and denied the Tories an outright win.

The two men have sparred only a handful of times in parliament, making the prime-time debate, broadcast on ITV television at 8:00 pm (2000 GMT), a rare opportunity to see how they engage up close.

Brexit vs inequality

Johnson fired the starting gun with a letter to Corbyn overnight questioning his plans for Britain’s looming departure from the European Union.

The Conservatives are campaigning on a pledge to “get Brexit done”, promising to end years of political disagreements and several delays by leaving the EU on January 31.

Corbyn says he will renegotiate Johnson’s exit deal and hold another referendum, appealing to around half of Britons who still oppose the result of the 2016 Brexit vote.

But the Labour leader has yet to say how he would campaign in that referendum, and Johnson warned in his letter that he offered only more “dither and delay”.

On a visit to a boxing gym near the northwestern city of Manchester on Tuesday, the premier sparred in the ring wearing gloves emblazoned with the words “Get Brexit Done” and said he was “excited” about the fight with Corbyn.

“Parliament is blocking Brexit, we need to get Brexit done so we can take forward our agenda for the whole country,” he told ITV television.

Labour meanwhile has sought to shift attention to inequality and the impact of a decade of Conservative spending cuts, promising a swathe of nationalisations and huge investment in public services.

Finance spokesman John McDonnell on Tuesday attacked the “obscene” disparities in workers’ pay and unveiled plans for a new ratio of 20:1 between the top and lowest earners in public sector firms.

He also announced proposals to transfer shares from large companies into an employee fund, and to break the hold of the “Big Four” major accountancy firms.

“We know whose side Boris Johnson is on — the billionaires, the bankers and big business,” he said.

Johnson warns that Labour would cripple the economy, although he has also promised more money for hospitals, schools and police, as well as infrastructure including broadband.

Small parties excluded

Johnson and Corbyn will answer questions submitted by viewers in front of a live audience, a format that had been challenged by smaller parties.

The Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats went to court to protest their exclusion from the debate, but High Court judges rejected their case on Monday.

Although the next prime minister is almost certainly going to be either Johnson or Corbyn, the role of smaller parties could be crucial.

The Conservatives failed to win a majority of MPs in 2017, forcing them to agree an alliance with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Their arrangement collapsed over rows over Brexit, leaving Johnson without the support he needed to get his EU exit deal ratified by parliament.

This time, he has faced a challenge from Nigel Farage’s hardline Brexit Party, although it has agreed not to field candidates in Tory-held seats.

Labour is languishing so far behind the Conservatives that polling expert John Curtice, from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, has suggested it has almost zero chance of winning a majority.

But he noted Corbyn could still take power at the head of a loose coalition involving the SNP and Lib Dems, both of whom strongly oppose Brexit.

AFP

Canada Slows Down Syrian Refugee Intake

Refugee--canadaThe Canadian Government says it will resettle only 10,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2015, less than half the number it promised earlier.

But it says it is still committed to bringing in another 15,000 refugees from Syria by the end of February.

Canada had previously promised to take in 25,000 by the year’s end.

Those who will be considered refugees include families, women at risk, and gay men and women.

Earlier reports suggest that the Federal Government would limit the resettlement to women, children and families only.

The newly elected Liberal government had, during the election campaign, committed itself to bringing refugees in.

Kaduna: Yero Releases N800 Million Pensioners’ Entitlements

Kaduna governorState government has paid the retirement benefits worth over N840 Million Naira to 309 retired civil servants; who have served the state meritoriously.

While speaking during the presentation of cheques to the pensioners, Governor Yero noted that, despite the dwindling revenue accruing to Kaduna, the state government has expended over N2 billion for the payment of gratuities of civil servants who retired between January to July, 2014.

The governor also disclosed that his administration has paid a total of N4.7 billion as backlog of retirement benefits for the state civil servants dating back to seven years, and also cleared the backlog of gratuities and death benefits of retirees and deceased staff in the service.

It was a moment of joy for this senior citizens as they filed out to receive their cheques from the governor, most of whom just retired from service last year.

The beneficiaries are batches 5, 6 and 7 of pensioners who were captured in the months of May, June and July, 2014. They filed out to receive the cheques from the state governor in the admiration of their relations and colleagues.

While pledging the commitment of the State government towards ensuring prompt payment of pensions and other retirement benefits, Governor Yero said his administration remained committed to settling all pension liabilities as part of efforts to raise the production capacity of the civil service.

Some of the beneficiaries expressed appreciation to the state government for the payment of their pension and gratuities, and also promised to reciprocate the gesture by voting massively for the governor, who is seeking a re-election for another four year term.

It is expected that the wealth of experience that this pensioners have acquired over the years in service will be an added advantage in terms of initiating viable ventures with the money.

Obiano Takes Campaign To Onitsha Markets

The All Progressives Grand Alliance governorship candidate, Willie Obiano advanced his campaign by visiting 5 major markets in Onitsha, Anambra state, beginning with the Ajasa market.

Obiano, who was accompanied by his running mate, Nkem Okeke, the National Chairman of the party, Victor Umeh and the state governor, Peter Obi, reminded the people that the forthcoming election is critical as it will determine as well as redefine the political base of the Igbos.

His visit to his childhood home at Ajasa community was greeted by traders to whom he pledged total commitment and promised to deliver the dividends of democracy if voted into power.

At the Ose Okwodu market, traders received the campaign train with a rousing welcome after-which Umeh, and the state governor, Mr. Peter Obi, charged up the arena with speeches urging the people to identify with APGA and be assured of continued development.

Obiano and his entourage moved to Bright Street where the leadership of the market endorsed him on the basis that Governor Obi supported street trading in the Main Market and ensured it was not scraped.

A crowd also gathered at the White House, the administrative block of the Onitsha Main Market, to catch a glimpse of the APGA campaign train.

At the Marine market, the traders were promised a security patrol vehicle which will be delivered to them immediately.

The APGA candidate danced his way into Bida/Okwey Street where a five-kilometer road which cost one billion Niara (about 6.3 million dollars) was flagged off.

The Timber market as well as the Bridge market were also visited. Traders received the campaign train with joy and promises of better days ahead were made to them.

Onitsha South stadium was the terminal point of the day’s campaign and the governorship candidate made promises of free education, free adult medical treatment and free prenatal treatment.

“I will establish an enabling environment for business to thrive if you support and vote for me,” Obiano promised.