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PMQs: Starmer misses Johnson’s gaping-open goal, allowing the Tory to make a fool of him

Johnson and Starmer: we have a PM for whom the initials more appropriately refer to him as a Performing Monkey, but the ‘forensic’ former Attorney General is incapable of beating him, despite his incompetence.

Keir Starmer’s protestations of support for Tory government anti-Covid policies came back to bite him on the arse in Prime Minister’s Questions.

Two weeks after supporting the government in its decision to close pubs at 10pm, Starmer u-turned, demanding an explanation of the science behind it. He gave Johnson a perfect opportunity to land a knockout blow – and launch a new anti-Labour soundbite:

I was dismayed:

Sadly, that was the way of it for the whole of this week’s PMQs – as I had feared at the outset:

Look at the rest of my commentary on the confrontation:

He didn’t. But Johnson picked up on that failure and it led to the knockout later on.

As I write this, Jo Coburn on the BBC’s Politics Live is suggesting to Labour’s Stephen Doughty that Starmer wrote Johnson “a blank cheque” by offering his support “whatever restrictions are in place”.

That failure – that lack of closure – seems to have given Johnson the confidence to launch his own attack.

I could have done better:

Starmer is under attack at the moment, for his failures to lead an effective Opposition against the Johnson government.

On Twitter, the general public are at each other’s throats with many attacking him under the #StarmerOut hashtag, while others have tried to subvert that with an opposing line, #StarmerOutstanding.

In the real world, the union Unite has withdrawn 10 per cent of its funding because Starmer “isn’t listening” on matters of major importance (I’ll make more of this in a separate article).

If he can’t respond to these criticisms – as he failed to protect himself from Johnson soundbiting him into shreds – then he must seriously reconsider his position.

He is leading Labour into irrelevance.

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#ANewSlogan for #Labour and #KeirStarmer – but it’s the same old #NewLabour underneath

Empty: Keir Starmer’s slogans are as empty as the promises in the 10 pledges he made when he was trying to be elected Labour leader (he has broken nine of them already).

Keir Starmer isn’t fooling anyone with his new empty slogan.

On the eve of Labour Connected – the party’s virtual conference, he’s replacing the previous empty slogan, “Under New Management” with one making the unlikely claim that he and his party are “A New Leadership”.

The problem is, neither Keir Starmer nor Labour under him have provided any leadership at all.

What are his achievements to date? Hmm…

Approving Boris Johnson’s disastrous Covid-19 strategy.

Agreeing with Boris Johnson that schools should open in September.

Paying off a gang of media-savvy ex-Labour apparatchiks before they could take the party into a court case that Labour was expected to win.

If that is leadership then Boris Johnson is the world’s greatest statesman (ha ha)!

Iain Watson of the BBC reckons the slogan has a lot of work to do:

First, it is designed to contrast favourably with Boris Johnson’s leadership – and build on Sir Keir’s sustained attempt to portray the current government as lacking competence.

Second, it dovetails with Labour’s plan to “introduce” Sir Keir to the country.

Third, it will be deployed to try to eliminate a negative.

While he may not have been fully introduced to the electorate, the good news for Sir Keir Starmer is that his personal ratings are positive.

The bad news for Starmer is that while he has made a relatively positive impression since becoming Labour leader in March, the party has been lagging behind the Conservatives in most polls.

The aim now is to bring the party’s standing closer to Starmer’s.

That’s a lot of work for a three-word falsehood to do.

If you visit the BBC story, you’ll see that among the illustrations is one of Tony Blair unveiling his slogan, “New Labour, New Britain” back in 1994.

They were empty words. New Labour, we soon discovered, was just a continuation of old Tory neoliberalism. Margaret Thatcher later described it as her greatest achievement.

I mention this because there seems to be a clear progression in Starmer’s slogans.

Could it be that he is marching with ponderous predictability, from “Under New Management”, through “A New Leadership”…

… back to “New Labour”?

Source: Labour Party: Starmer aims to build trust with ‘new leadership’ slogan – BBC News

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The Scottish Tories have a new leader – but he seems to be both confused … and prejudiced

New Scottish Conservatives’ leader Douglas Ross – in what seems to be the role he prefers.

The Scottish Conservatives have a new leader – Douglas Ross, who was elected unopposed by party members.

This seems a very odd thing for them to do.

Consider the evidence in the video below – which I know was created by a supporter of the SNP. Try to ignore the party political message and concentrate on what this says about the person:

The ‘dark money’ claim seems accurate, as the Scottish Unionist Association Trust did support Ross, and did not declare donations and contributions to political campaigns properly to the Electoral Commission. As a result, SUAT was fined £1,300.

His voting record speaks for itself and seems extremely, traditionally, Tory – supporting central government, hammering the NHS and minorities.

But he seems confused: his discussion of rural broadband, ATM closures and unfair postal charges challenged his own party directly, and his votes against equal marriage and equal gay rights ran against party policy.

Also, his claim that refereeing football matches would not interfere with his Parliamentary responsibilities – and his subsequent trip to Barcelona instead of voting on a Welfare Bill – is well-documented.

Let’s look a little closer at his attitude to travellers:

Tom London’s point is a good one. He doesn’t want tougher enforcement against a particular aspect of travellers’ behaviour that the public may find objectionable; he just wants enforcement against them because they are travellers.

So it is right to ask how people would have felt if Ross had been speaking about Jews, Blacks, Muslims, gay people or any other minority group.

And this is the Scottish Tory choice as leader of their party…

A man who opposes his party as much as he supports it, with a reputation for prejudice against a minority group for no reason other than that it exists, and who prefers to run off and referee football matches rather than representing his electorate.

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Yes, it is more ‘meal deal’ than ‘new deal’ – but Sunak’s summer statement isn’t ALL bad

Rishi Sunak: his job could be hanging on the result of this plan. Shame it has already been sabotaged by his boss Boris Johnson.

It didn’t matter what Rishi Sunak was going to say in his summer statement because Boris Johnson, Matt Hancock and the other Tories had already sabotaged it.

Sunak’s objective is to save jobs while the UK works through the post-Covid recession, but his problem is that his colleagues’ insistence on easing lockdown means the Coronavirus isn’t over yet – no matter what Johnson says.

In this nation of shopkeepers (as Napoleon had it), if we want to keep people in their jobs, we need to keep spending money into – and through – the economy. That means going out and paying for things.

But the number of new infections in the UK is high – and will remain so, while Johnson insists on helping the virus infect other people by opening pubs, schools, and whatever else he’s planning next.

That means people are going to be reluctant to resume normal patterns of social consumption.

It’s going to be difficult in the extreme to restore confidence after these Tory blunders. After schools and pubs, Johnson can claim it is our social duty to go back out and spend until he is redder in the face than the gammons he represents, but the public will only hear him telling us to go out, catch the virus and die.

That’s the second hurdle that Sunak faces; thanks to Johnson, public trust in the claims of politicians is at an all-time low, being worsened all the time by his insistence on lying whenever the mood takes him and refusing to apologise when his lies are exposed.

So the ending of the furlough scheme in October is directly counter-productive; watch the number of redundancies increase when that month comes round and try to tell me I’m wrong.

The offer of a £1,000 “jobs retention bonus” is likely to fall similarly flat. The conditions are that employees must be carrying out proper work, and be paid at least £520 per month – the lower limit of National Insurance payment – and it seems unlikely that many employers will be able to manage this.

Similarly, the VAT cut from 20 per cent to just five per cent to help out restaurants, pubs, cafes, B&Bs, hotels, theme parks and cinemas may only have limited success. Who’s going to go, if there’s a chance they’ll catch a fatal disease?

Sector-specific stimuli such as this are a good idea – don’t get me wrong – and this would work if the number of Covid infections was much lower than it is (in England, at least) – and if more people were interested in wearing face masks, perhaps (how would that work, when they’re eating food?) – but as I’ve already mentioned, Johnson has put a stop to that with his ridiculous blunderings.

And the already-infamous “meal deal” voucher, offering 50 per cent of the cost of meals for everybody eating out between Monday and Wednesday, throughout August, may go hungry for customers. Here’s the reason:

On the other hand, raising the threshold for stamp duty from £125,000 to £500,000 might conceivably be a good idea, if it stimulates construction work as people are encouraged to buy new homes.

Possibly best of all the measures laid out in the statement was a scheme to create jobs for young people, subsidising six-month work placements for people aged 16-24.

If this is used to re-skill the workforce – actually preparing the UK for future opportunities – then it has enormous merit.

But I can see employers using it as a cheap alternative to the workers they already have. Why take just £1,000 over three months to keep on your current workforce when the Tories will give you a teenager for twice as long and pay all of their costs?

So my initial verdict is that this is final proof of the Conservative government’s economic illiteracy; they really couldn’t run a p***-up in a brewery.

But it would be wrong to pre-judge a plan that hasn’t gone into practice yet.

The sad part is that this may break Sunak but Johnson will laugh it off, no matter how disastrous the result.

Source: Coronavirus: Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils £30bn plan to save jobs – BBC News

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New deal? No deal! We can’t accept a plan for the future from the failed PM who deliberately wrecked it

Some have suggested that it was a campaign speech – and as such an indication that the Johnson government is rudderless.

Some have suggested that it was an admission of six months of failure and guilt.

Those are the more palatable options.

To This Writer, it seems far more likely that Boris Johnson has taken advantage of a Hell-sent opportunity to reduce the United Kingdom to helplessness – and is now working out how he can re-mould it for his own personal profit.

I don’t believe any of the promises he made. He mentioned the mythical 40 new hospitals he has been promising us for the last – what – nearly a year, now. Bear this in mind:

At a time when almost every industry other than construction was at a standstill, and the economy could have benefited from a large government investment, not a single stone was laid on any such new hospitals. Not one.

So we must ask: when Johnson says he will “build, build, build” with a £5 billion plan for homes and infrastructure… who will benefit?

Questions have already been asked about the cost. It seems £5 billion is unlikely to cover all the claims he made in his speech. But this is nothing new to those of us with any long-term experience of Johnson.

He talks big but delivers little.

When Johnson mentions an “opportunity guarantee” to ensure the chance of an apprenticeship or placement, I fear for the future of young people.

When he says he wants “to fix the problems that were most brutally illuminated in that covid lightning flash”, I question whether he means problems we faced, or problems for him? Where is the detail that could put our minds at ease? We find it – like Johnson – is sadly lacking.

Look at his promise to change planning laws.

Those laws are in place to safeguard the people and the environment – two things about which Johnson cares little.

How would his changes affect developments like the controversial Westferry plan, that has mired both Housing Minister Robert Jenrick and Johnson himself in a huge corruption scandal?

“Sometimes you have got to get on with things,” said Johnson. To hide Tory wrongdoing?

You can be sure that, whatever happens next, Johnson and his government will be cherry-picking who they help, and who they throw to the wall; which firms he helps, and which go out of businesses.

If I had the money, I’d make a hefty bet that the beneficiaries of Johnson’s “New Deal” will be those that make donations to the Conservative and Unionist Party – and that those who don’t currently make a contribution will be put under considerable pressure to start.

All as a matter of economic necessity, of course. Nobody will catch a whiff of impropriety – especially as this whirlwind of activity known as “Project Speed” is expected to happen so fast.

I’m not convinced – and I’m not alone. See:

Source: Coronavirus: Johnson sets out ‘ambitious’ economic recovery plan – BBC News

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New evidence fuels demand for inquest uncovering DWP role in the death of Jodey Whiting

Jodey Whiting, 42, took her own life after her benefits were stopped.

Remember Jodey Whiting?

She’s the woman who took her own life after the Department for Work and Pensions ignored its own policies for safeguarding benefit claimants no fewer than five times while dealing with her case.

The DWP scorned calls for an independent inquiry into deaths related to its decisions, prompted by Ms Whiting’s death – even after tens of thousands of people signed a petition demanding it.

Now her mother, Joy Dove, has launched a demand for a new inquest, saying the interests of justice demand it after new evidence emerged.

This includes the result of an investigation into the handling of Ms Whiting’s benefits by the DWP and a report from an independent consultant psychiatrist who concluded that the DWP’s failings would probably have had a substantial effect on her mental state.

In her letter to the Attorney General, Ms Dove argued that the manner in which her daughter was treated by the DWP, and in particular the withdrawal of her ESA, caused or materially contributed to her death and, that had this not occurred, her daughter’s death might have been prevented.

Ms Whiting, of Stockton, died on 21 February 2017, aged 42. She was a vulnerable woman with multiple physical and mental health illnesses which left her house-bound, requiring 23 tablets per day and entirely reliant on welfare benefits.

In late 2016 the DWP began to reassess her entitlement to Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

She requested a home visit as she rarely left the house due to her health and she made clear that she had “suicidal thoughts a lot of the time and could not cope with work or looking for work”.

Despite this, the DWP decided that she should attend a work capability assessment. She failed to attend so the DWP stopped her fortnightly ESA payments.

With help from her family, Ms Whiting wrote to the DWP explaining the severity of her health conditions and asking for a reconsideration, but this did not happen until after her death.

She also received letters informing her that her housing benefit and council tax benefit would be stopped because they were linked to her ESA.

Just three days after her last ESA payment, Ms Whiting took her own life.

An inquest was held, lasting less than an hour, in which the coroner declined to consider the potential role of the DWP in the death. Ms Whiting’s family were unrepresented and were unaware that they may have been entitled to publicly-funded legal representation.

After the inquest a report by an Independent Case Examiner concluded that the DWP had made multiple significant errors in how it treated Ms Whiting. Some of the failings had not been known to her family, who were horrified to learn how many failings had occurred in the handling of her benefits.

This could be a hugely important case.

Who knows how many other people are now dead who might have lived if the DWP had handled their cases with an ounce of sensitivity?

We may soon find out – but only if the Attorney General grants permission for a new inquest to take place.

Source: Family Of Jodey Whiting Seek Fresh Inquest Into Her Death | Leigh Day

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Labour has a new Brexit policy – but will it survive media misrepresentation?

Labour has revised its policy on Brexit and – true to form – the UK’s right-wing media have got it wrong.

They’re saying Jeremy Corbyn’s party now supports remaining in the EU, and that isn’t right at all.

Labour will only support Brexit if it protects the economy, jobs, and UK citizens’ living standards – and will only campaign to remain in the EU if the Conservatives try to leave the bloc without those protections.

This is clearly the most sensible response to the 2016 referendum by any UK political party.

The Conservatives want Brexit on their terms – terms which would harm citizens’ human rights, working rights, environmental protections and more. If they don’t get their own way, they want to throw all their toys out of the pram and have a “no deal” Brexit.

The Brexit Party want a “no deal” Brexit under any circumstances – that would run down industry, open up the NHS and other public services to yet more privatisation, and shred environmental protections, rights at work and consumer standards.

The Liberal Democrats want to ignore the result of the referendum and force remaining in the EU on the UK’s population without giving anybody a say.

Labour wants a people’s vote (referendum) on whatever is proposed: A Tory deal, no deal or remaining. If the deal does not protect UK citizens and the economy, Labour will campaign for people to support remaining.

So Labour supports the best result for the people of the UK. No other party can say that.

Now: There is a by-election in Brecon and Radnorshire, where Brexit is certain to be one of the main issues.

Wouldn’t it be great if the people here were allowed to make up their own minds on the different parties’ policies, without the media trying to influence them?

The BBC was trying to do it on Politics Live today (June 9). I was tweeting in response to the nonsense, as you can see:

They didn’t get it right.

Well? How about it?

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MPs from both sides of the Commons in talks about new party. Jumping before they’re pushed?

Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry: Party on?

Don’t let the headline get your hopes up. Chuka Umunna was supposed to be quitting Labour last Thursday and didn’t have the guts.

Michael Rosen mocked him brilliantly on Twitter:

Still, Mr Umunna may well be thinking about announcing that it’s possible he could consider something along those lines again at some point in the future.

Also involved in discussions about forming a new party, we’re told, is Chris Leslie – who has been castigated in a letter by representatives of his Nottingham East Constituency Labour Party.

“We believe that the views expressed in your most recent email to constituents are likely to damage the reputation and electoral prospects of our party and give the impression that you are doubtful that a Labour government would be the best outcome for Britain,” they wrote. “This email crossed a line and we believe it is unacceptable for a sitting Labour MP to attack the party in this manner.”

The letter also stated: “You are happy to attack the party leadership, other Labour MPs and party members; giving the impression that our party is divided as we approach the local council elections in May and a possible general election.

“The support you give constituents and party members in Nottingham East is well below that of other local Labour MPs… Members and residents are much more likely to have seen you attacking the party and its leadership than representing the views of local residents.”

Draw your own conclusions. While the MPs already mentioned, together with Gavin Shuker who lost a vote of “no confidence” in his own CLP last year, and Angela Smith might say they are frustrated with pro-Brexit policies and issues over anti-Semitism, their real reasons for wanting to take their allegiances elsewhere seem clear.

So the right-wing newspapers are full of rumours that these people will help set up a new “centrist” (read: neoliberal) party alongside Conservatives (possibly Anna Soubry) and Liberal Democrats who may be desperate for public interest after their five-year dalliance with the Tories.

Intense discussions are taking place at Westminster that could lead to the emergence of a new centrist party consisting of six or more disaffected anti-Brexit Labour MPs along with the involvement of some Conservatives and the backing of the Liberal Democrats.

Apparently some of the ringleaders have lobbied backbench colleagues they thought were sympathetic, with an invitation to join in. It seems Clive Lewis was among them – and here’s his response:

The message – to the Labour MPs implicated, at least, is clear: If you want to go, push off.

Sadly it seems this is the very attitude that is keeping them where they aren’t wanted.

Right again, Vox Political! Tories admit This Site’s claim that Brexit may be delayed to allow needed legislation

What plan: This image was originally used to illustrate a story about Mr Hunt’s mismanagement of the NHS but it is appropriate here, as the Conservative government does not currently have a Brexit plan that will be accepted by both the UK and the remaining countries of the EU.

Once again, This Site has been proved correct as Jeremy Hunt admitted the EU may agree to extend the deadline for Brexit if a new deal is struck – to allow the UK to pass necessary laws.

According to The Guardian (other news sources are available), Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has admitted article 50 may have to be extended if an agreement with the EU is reached with only a short period of time left before the March 29 deadline.

Vox Political asserted this here.

Asked if a technical delay would be necessary, Mr Hunt said: “We might need some extra time to pass critical legislation.”

Vox Political said this was likely here.

It should be noted that Mr Hunt said if an agreement was reached earlier, a delay may not be necessary. I think that is building castles in the air. With nine major Parliamentary Bills and more than 600 pieces of secondary legislation to be passed, it seems highly unlikely the government would get through it all if it started today (January 31).

Mr Hunt’s words demonstrate not only that the Conservative government has been misleading the nation on the necessity for Brexit to be delayed because of the way Theresa May has run down the clock…

… but also that This Site is the best place to find informed commentary and opinion about political matters. While the mainstream media hysterically parrot their right-wing masters, Vox Political has the balanced view.

Forgive me for sharing my pleasure at that fact.


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New voters – since 2016 – are overwhelmingly pro-Remain. Why can’t their wishes be acknowledged?

“Today’s 18, 19 and 20-year-olds were not allowed to vote in 2016. 84 per cent of them want to remain in the EU,” tweeted Labour’s David Lammy.

“To ignore these young voices, who have the most to lose from Brexit, would be nothing less than a betrayal,” he added – and This Writer agrees.

Theresa May [has been] warned that Brexit will “betray an entire generation of young people” as a new poll showed teenagers who have now gained the vote back staying in the EU by more than five to one.

The YouGov survey found that 84 per cent of 18, 19 and 20-year-olds — too young to take part in the June 2016 referendum — support remaining in the European Union, with just 16 per cent opting for Leave.

People aged 20 to 24 who were able to take part in the Brexit referendum voted by three to one to Remain.

The analysis suggested the Leave majority of 2016 would be wiped out in January 2019, two months before the UK is due to quit the EU. The calculations were also based on elderly people, who mostly voted for Leave, dying.

Source: Brexit news latest: Theresa May warned as new poll shows teens who can now vote overwhelmingly back staying in EU | London Evening Standard

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