UK Election Rivals Face Off For Final Time Ahead Of Poll

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn (L) participate in the BBC Prime Ministerial leaders debate presented by BBC’s Nick Robinson, at the studio in Maidstone, Kent.  JEFF OVERS / BBC / AFP

 

The two men vying to be British prime minister in next week’s election exchanged trademark blows Friday over the familiar faultlines of Brexit and healthcare in the final head-to-head TV debate of the month-old campaign.

In a lacklustre hour-long battle largely devoid of standout moments, Prime Minister Boris Johnson repeatedly criticised Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to say if he supports Britain leaving the EU while talking up his agenda.

“We have a fantastic plan to get Brexit done,” Johnson said, referring to a divorce deal he finalised with EU leaders in October.

“How can you get… a new deal from Brussels for Brexit, if you don’t actually believe in it?” he added, referring to Corbyn’s vow to remain neutral in a second EU referendum he wants to hold within six months.

The Labour leader is proposing to negotiate a softer form of Brexit to put up against remaining in the bloc in the vote.

He said Johnson’s vow to strike trade deals with both the European Union and the United States next year were unrealistic, and that Britain’s cherished national health service (NHS) was under threat.

“What he will do is walk out of a relationship with the EU into a relationship with nobody,” Corbyn said.

Corbyn has spent the campaign lagging in the polls and was in need of a breakthrough moment, but often found himself on the defensive on Brexit and other issues.

A snap poll by YouGov found the debate, the second head-to-head between the pair, was a draw, but that those questioned found Corbyn more trustworthy.

“Given the Conservatives went into this debate in the lead, they will hope the lack of a knockout blow means they can maintain this until voting day,” said Chris Curtis, YouGov’s Political Research Manager.

Unprecedented interventions 

Johnson called the snap election — the third in Britain in nearly five years — last month to try to get a parliamentary majority which would enable him to secure backing for his divorce deal.

Voting takes place next Thursday. The Britain Elects poll aggregator puts the Conservatives on 42 percent, Labour on 33 percent and the Liberal Democrats on 13 percent.

The Greens and the arch-eurosceptic Brexit Party were both on three percent.

Ahead of Friday evening’s debate former prime ministers Tony Blair and John Major launched unprecedented interventions, calling for people to vote tactically to help ensure a second referendum on Brexit.

Major, a Conservative who was in power from 1990 to 1997, and Labour’s Blair, who ousted him and was in Downing Street until 2007, addressed a rally for another poll in London

Both want Britain to remain in the EU.

Major gave his backing to several candidates thrown out of the Conservative ranks for rebelling over Brexit.

“Let me make one thing crystal clear, none of them left the Conservative Party, the Conservative Party left them,” he said via video-link.

“Were I resident in their constituency I would vote for them.”

Asked about the comments, Johnson insisted his party retained “a very broad spectrum of views” and noted that all Tory candidates had taken a vow to back his deal.

But in a blow to Johnson, a senior British diplomat in the US quit on Friday, criticising the government over Brexit.

‘Bermuda Triangle stuff’ 

Alexandra Hall Hall said she could no longer “peddle half-truths” on behalf of political leaders she did not “trust”, according to CNN, which obtained a copy of her resignation letter.

Earlier Friday, Johnson came under fire for avoiding a set-piece television interview that all other major party leaders have already subjected themselves to.

The prime minister has so far declined to undergo an uncomfortable grilling from Andrew Neil, who is one of the BBC’s top political interviewers, with less than a week to go until the election.

Former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil said Johnson faced questions of trust, and it was his job to “scrutinise and hold to account those who would govern us”.

Corbyn meanwhile used Friday to unveil leaked documents he said proved Johnson was “deliberately misleading the people” about his Brexit deal.

He said the finance ministry papers suggested there would be customs declarations and security checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland, contrary to what he had said.

Corbyn returned to the subject during the debate, while reiterating his claims US President Donald Trump was eyeing the NHS for America’s pharmaceutical firms.

But Johnson strongly denied the claims.

“This is pure Bermuda Triangle stuff,” he said.

“We’ll be hearing about ‘little green men’ next.

“Under no circumstances will we sell it off to anybody in any kind of trade deal.”

AFP

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

Theresa May Seeks New Brexit Delay, Offers To Work With Labour’s Corbyn

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May gives a statement inside 10 Downing Street in London on April 2, 2019, after chairing a day-long meeting of the cabinet.
Jack Taylor / POOL / AFP

 

Prime Minister Theresa May said Tuesday she would ask the EU to delay Brexit again to avoid Britain crashing out of the bloc next week, signalling she could accept a closer relationship with Europe to break months of political deadlock.

After more than seven hours of talks with her ministers, May said she would request a delay that was “as short as possible and which ends when we pass a deal” through the British parliament.

In a move which enraged the Brexit-supporting wing of her Conservative Party, she also offered to work with the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, who favours closer ties with the European Union.

“This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands. And it requires national unity to deliver the national interest,” May said in a televised address.

Corbyn responded saying he was “very happy” to meet.

READ ALSO: Theresa May To Make Statement After Brexit Cabinet Talks

Brussels has set Britain an April 12 deadline to pass the divorce deal it agreed with May four months ago, settle on an alternative, or leave the EU without an agreement.

In reality, the deadline is even closer as the EU has called an emergency leaders’ summit for April 10.

EU president Donald Tusk responded cautiously to May’s statement, saying: “Even if, after today, we don’t know what the end result will be, let us be patient.”

Break The Logjam

Britain voted by 52 to 48 per cent to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum. However, the exit process has only exacerbated divisions among the public and politicians, including May’s cabinet.

Her statement follows weeks of turmoil.

MPs have rejected May’s divorce deal three times, but after seizing control of the process, were unable to come up with their own plan.

May said she was “taking action to break the logjam”.

She noted calls in her own party for Britain simply to end its 46-year-old membership of the bloc without any agreement with the EU, but she said that “leaving with a deal is the best solution”.

May said she believed her existing deal was still necessary for an orderly Brexit, but offered to talk to Labour about a new plan for future trade ties.

Corbyn has called for a new customs union with the EU and close alignment to the bloc’s single market, two things that until now, May has strongly opposed.

“I recognise my responsibility,” Corbyn said, stressing that the most important issue was “to make sure we don’t crash out of the EU next week with no deal”.

Corbyn said any new proposals could be voted on by parliament “early next week”.

If May and Corbyn could agree on a plan that MPs supported, the prime minister said she hoped to take it to the April 10 Brussels summit.

If not, she promised to allow MPs to direct what she does, expressing hope that Britain could still leave with a deal before May 22, so it did not have to take part in European Parliament elections.

The political chaos has already forced May to ask the EU to postpone the original Brexit date of March 29, but European leaders have warned they will not delay Brexit indefinitely.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday that while he was “open” to a lengthy delay on certain conditions, it was “neither certainty nor automatic”.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned that the other 27 EU nations were prepared for a “no deal” situation, and “it becomes day after day more likely”.

Future Relationship

The EU has repeatedly refused to renegotiate the Brexit divorce deal it agreed with May last November after almost two years of negotiations but has said it could revise the accompanying political declaration on future relations.

“What we need to focus on is our future relationship with the EU,” May said of her talks with Corbyn.

Key Conservative Brexit-backers slammed May’s move.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said it was “very disappointing” that Corbyn was being given a key role in the Brexit process.

Jacob Rees-Mogg MP suggested the Labour leader could undermine the referendum.

“Getting the support of a known Marxist is not likely to instil confidence in Conservatives,” he said.

AFP

 

British Lawmaker Suspended Over Anti-Semitism Comments

Opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn reacts as Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks after making a statement to the House of Commons in London on February 26, 2019. 
HO / PRU / AFP

 

Britain’s main opposition Labour on Wednesday suspended one of its MPs, a close ally of leader Jeremy Corbyn after he claimed the party had been “too apologetic” over a tide of anti-Semitism allegations against it.

The move followed video footage emerging of lawmaker Chris Williamson telling a meeting of the left-wing Momentum activist group: “We have backed off far too much, we have given too much ground, we have been too apologetic.”

Williamson was speaking in Sheffield, northern England, in the wake of the resignations of nine Labour MPs last week, with many alleging a growing culture of anti-Jewish racism within the party under veteran socialist Corbyn’s watch.

He told the audience he had sung Kool and the Gang’s 1980 hit “Celebration” in response to their decisions to quit the party.

READ ALSO: Other Illegal Acts Involving Trump Being Probed, Says Cohen

Labour said it has suspended Williamson pending an investigation and that his pattern of behaviour would be reviewed by staff.

“Chris Williamson is suspended from the party, and therefore the whip, pending investigation,” a Labour spokesman said.

Labour had already branded Williamson’s actions “completely unacceptable” after he booked a room in parliament for the screening of a film about an activist suspended over anti-Semitism complaints.

In a statement, Williamson said: “I deeply regret, and apologise for, my recent choice of words.

“I was trying to stress how much the party has done to tackle anti-Semitism.”

He told the BBC: “I am going to clear my name within the party procedures. I think I’ve got a very strong case. There is no evidence against me in reality.”

Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: “This is a man who has baited Jews and befriended Labour activists suspended or expelled over anti-Semitism for years.

“It is outrageous that he is only being investigated now, and that it is only happening in response to a public outcry.”

Labour won 262 seats in parliament at the 2017 general election but is now down to 245 after a series of suspensions and resignations.

AFP

UK Opposition Leader Calls For No-Confidence Vote In May’s Govt

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn giving his response and tabling a motion of no confidence in the Government in the House of Commons in London on January 15, 2019, after MPs rejected the government’s Brexit deal. HO / AFP / PRU

 

The confidence vote in Prime Minister Theresa May’s government taking place on Wednesday, which she is expected to win, is the first in nearly 26 years.

The vote was called by main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn following the government’s historic defeat over May’s Brexit deal with the European Union.

It will be held at around 1900 GMT.

Under the 2011 Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, losing a confidence motion begins a two-week process that could end in fresh elections.

If the vote is lost, the government has 14 days to regain the confidence of parliament’s lower House of Commons — majority support — confirmed by the passing of a motion to that effect.

If it cannot, then theoretically, Corbyn himself could seek to build a coalition with other opposition parties to take office.

In the event that no alternative government can be formed from the current composition of the house, parliament is automatically dissolved and elections called.

May runs a minority government which relies on the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) for a slim majority.

– Past precedence –

Since 1900 there have been only three occasions when a government has lost a vote of confidence: twice in 1924 and once in 1979.

In the last such vote, the Labour government of prime minister Jim Callaghan lost the opposition motion by just one vote: 311-310.

Callaghan immediately called a general election, which brought the Conservatives to power under prime minister Margaret Thatcher. They remained in office for 18 years.

The last time a confidence motion was formally tabled in the Commons was in 1993 — then, as now, in stormy times over Britain’s relationship with Europe.

Conservative prime minister John Major’s government tabled the motion of confidence following its defeat in a vote on the Maastricht Treaty which turned the European Economic Community into simply the European Community, extending its competences.

Major’s government won the motion by 339 to 299, shoring up his position.

– Strength of May’s support –

May, who took over from David Cameron in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, called a snap general election in June 2017, seeking to strengthen her hand in negotiations with Brussels.

But the gamble backfired and she lost her majority.

The Conservatives now have 316 votes in the chamber, with 320 needed for a majority. The DUP, with whom they have a confidence-and-supply agreement, have 10 votes.

The pro-Brexit DUP have indicated that they are against the EU divorce deal but want to give the Conservative government the chance to secure a better agreement.

Hardcore Brexiteer Conservative MPs triggered an internal no-confidence motion in December, which May won by 200 to 117.

However, following Tuesday’s 432 to 202 Commons vote against the deal, May opened the door for Corbyn to try a no-confidence motion.

“We need to confirm whether this government still enjoys the confidence of the house. I believe that it does,” she said.

AFP

British Opposition Leader In Trouble Over Theresa May’s Comments

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) in the House of Commons in London on July 18, 2018. HO / PRU / AFP

 

British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn got himself into trouble on Wednesday for apparently muttering “stupid woman” at Prime Minister Theresa May during a heated exchange in parliament over her delaying tactics on Brexit.

The Labour Party leader could be seen appearing to mouth the words in response to May making a joke about his failure to demand a no-confidence vote against her government after he had accused her of leading the country “into a national crisis”.

Conservative MPs shouted “disgraceful” when the allegations were first raised after the angry exchanges, and May herself was asked what she thought of the supposed comment.

“I think that everybody in this House, particularly in this 100th year of women getting the vote, should be encouraging women to come into this chamber and to stand in this chamber and should therefore use appropriate language in this chamber when they are referring to female members,” she said.

Several Conservative MPs said the alleged comment was a reflection of abusive language faced by many female politicians and a culture of bullying in parliament that has become a focus for concern in recent months.

Parliament speaker John Bercow said he did not see the incident himself but, if true, the allegation meant that Corbyn would have to apologise in front of parliament.

“It is incumbent upon all members of this House to operate in accordance with its best conversion… If a member has failed to do so that member has a duty to apologise,” he said.

Bercow, who has himself been accusing of bullying and using abusive language, said he would also look at video evidence and seek professional advice on the alleged incident.

AFP

Brexit Deal Is ‘Act Of National Self-Harm’ – Labour Leader

A video grab from footage broadcast by the UK Parliament’s Parliamentary Recording Unit (PRU) shows Britain’s opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn (R) and Britain’s opposition Labour party Brexit secretary Keir Starmer (2R) listen as Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May stands and delivers a statement to the House of Commons in London on November 26, 2018, to update parliament on the newly-agreed Brexit deal.  HO / AFP / PRU

 

The Brexit deal agreed by EU leaders is an “act of national self-harm”, Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn told parliament on Monday as Prime Minister Theresa May sought to persuade MPs to back her.

“It’s an act of national self-harm… For the good of the nation, the House has very little choice but to reject this deal,” Corbyn said.

AFP

Corbyn Gets Rock Star Reception At Glastonbury

Corbyn

He’s not your normal headline act, but British politician Jeremy Corbyn got a rock star reception and pulled a huge crowd when he appeared on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury on Saturday afternoon.

The crowd chanted ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ and waved flags with the Labour leader’s name on as he came on stage, introduced by Glastonbury organiser Michael Eavis.

Addressing the crowd, Corbyn urged that there should be a more humane world, saying, “Build bridges, not walls.”

In a wide-ranging speech covering environmental issues as well as racism, Corbyn also spoke about the recent general election, saying he was proud of his party’s campaign, which he said brought “a lot of people back into politics”.

Corbyn, a 68-year-old leftist, has not only survived attempts by some members of his own party to oust him but has also now led Labour to unexpected electoral gains against the Conservatives.

Speaking a few minutes after Corbyn’s mid-afternoon speech, twenty-nine-year-old Lewis James from Kent said he was moved to tears by what he heard: “It’s very rare that your generation get a moment in time when you can start to change the tide and the tide will start to turn I was in tears watching him.”

In the lead up to the election, Corbyn offered voters a promise to build a fairer society through policies such as raising taxes for the richest 5 percent, scrapping university tuition fees and investing 250 billion pounds ($315 billion) in infrastructure – plans the Conservatives said were uncosted.

“I think it’s all about bringing Labour back to its roots, instead of this new Labour thing that Tony Blair found …Labour policies that Jeremy Corbyn has brought through are like scrap the table we’ve started over again,” 25-year-old Chloe Lawrence said.

Corbyn was on the main stage at Glastonbury for about ten minutes before American hip hop group Run the Jewels performed.

‘Difficult’ Talks Needed With Saudis After London Attack – Corbyn

Corbyn

Britain needs to have “difficult conversations” with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states about the funding of Islamist extremism, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Sunday, resuming his election campaign after a deadly attack in London.

The Labour party leader, who is hoping to win Thursday’s (June 8) national election, said the vote should go ahead to show democracy would not be halted by the London Bridge attack that left seven dead and 48 injured.

“Our democratic values must be maintained. We must resist Islamophobia and division and turn out on the 8th of June united in our determination to show our democracy is strong, however, you decide to vote. And yes, we do need to have some difficult conversations, starting with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states who have funded and fuelled extremist ideology,” Corbyn said.

“It is no good Theresa May suppressing a report into the foreign funding of extremist groups, we have to get serious about cutting off their funding to these terror networks, including ISIS (Islamic State), here and in the Middle East.”

Earlier, Prime Minister Theresa May called for a stronger response to Islamist extremism after three knife-wielding assailants drove a hired van into pedestrians on London Bridge and stabbed others nearby.

Corbyn said Britain’s democratic values must be maintained.

He attacked May for cutting police numbers during her tenure as interior minister and repeated his pledge to recruit 10,000 new police officers, including armed officers.

Reuters

General Election: UK Parliament Approves Theresa May’s Snap Vote

General Election: UK Parliament Approves Theresa May's Snap VoteMembers of the British Parliament have approved Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to hold an early general election on June 8.

The early poll was expected to secure the two-third commons majority in order to go ahead, with labor leader, Jeremy Corbyn, welcoming the Prime Minister’s surprise announcement on Tuesday.

After debating the motion put forward by May in Parliament, 522 of the 650 sitting MPs voted in favor of the motion, while 13 voted against it.

Mrs May had said earlier, that she wants to secure the backing of the British people for her Brexit negotiations.

The next general election had been expected in 2020, but the fixed term parliament’s act allows for one to be held earlier.

Panama Papers: David Cameron Releases Tax Returns Information

David CameronPapers released by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, revealed that he paid almost £76,000 in tax on an income of more than £200,000 in 2014-15.

Mr Cameron also earned £46,899 in rent on the London family home.

The documents show that he inherited £300,000 when his father died, and the next year was given two payments of £100,000 by his mother to balance out the legacy.

Mr Cameron announced a new task force to investigate tax-dodging allegations.

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn said that the matter highlighted “a whole ethos” and how the very wealthy handled their tax affairs, adding he would publish his own tax return “very, very soon”.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister admitted he could have better handled the row over his financial affairs.

This followed a week of questions and successive statements over whether Mr Cameron had owned and sold units in an offshore fund run by his late father, Ian Cameron.

Details of the Blairmore Holdings fund had been contained in a leak of 11 million documents, known as the Panama Papers.

UK MPs To Vote On Syria Bombing

UK MPs To Vote On Syria BombingIn a fresh bid to completely defeat the Islamic State (ISIS), British Members of Parliament will meet later on Wednesday, whether to back UK air trikes in Syria.

A 10-hour house of commons debate will culminate in a vote on whether the UK should join the US, France, Russia and other bombing targets in Raqqa, the group’s stronghold, and other areas.

UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, said ISIS is a threat to Britain’s security.

But Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, opposed bombing the group in Syria though, he has given MPs a free vote amid divisions within his own ranks.

With up to 50 Labour MPs likely to back the government both the Democratic Unionist Party and the Liberal Democrats are also giving their backing, Mr Cameron is expected to win parliamentary approval for the UK to intervene militarily in the four-year conflict in Syria.

The government said that military action is “only one component of a broader strategy” to tackle ISIS and the UK government would not deploy troops on the ground.

The Prime Minister is likely to face tough questions about the scope of air strikes, their likely impact and how they fit into the strategy of helping to stabilise and rebuild Syria.

Mr Cameron has been asked to explain his claim that there are 70,000 “moderate” ground forces able to fight ISIS in Syria.