Thinktank adds to pressure on PM from opposition to extend £20-a-week universal credit uplift
Boris Johnson cannot claim to be “levelling up” the UK if he persists with a planned cut in universal credit for 6 million families, an influential thinktank has said, as pressure mounts on the prime minister over the issue from within his own party.
The Resolution Foundation joined opposition parties, anti-poverty campaigners and many Conservative MPs in urging the government to extend the £20-a-week uplift introduced during the first wave of the pandemic.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Scrap benefits cut to stop millions falling into poverty, Boris Johnson told
Hospitals and staff ‘under extreme pressure’, says Simon Stevens, as vaccination rate reaches 140 jabs a minute
Dealing with the deadly second wave of Covid has left the NHS in the most precarious position in its 72-year history, chief executive Sir Simon Stevens has warned, as ministers said they were aiming to get all adults in the UK vaccinated by September.
Stevens said the NHS was now giving 140 jabs a minute, as the race to vaccinate the public picks up, but warned of the stress the service was under.
Source: The Guardian Politics, NHS in most precarious position in its history, says chief executive
Campaigners seek inquiry into whether skills gained in UK used to commit abuses in countries such as Bahrain, China and Saudi Arabia
The UK government has trained the armies of two-thirds of the world’s countries, including 13 it has rebuked for human rights violations.
An anti-arms trade organisation has called for an investigation into the use of UK military training by other countries to determine whether it has been used to perpetrate human rights abuses.
Source: The Guardian Politics, UK trained military of 13 countries with poor human rights records
David Perry is giving China a PR coup by acting against pro-democracy activists, foreign secretary says
David Perry QC, the barrister acting for the Hong Kong government in its efforts to jail pro-democracy activists, is behaving in “a pretty mercenary way” and providing the Chinese government with a PR coup, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Sunday.
Perry has agreed to represent the Hong Kong government in prosecuting nine activists, including the media proprietor Jimmy Lai, arising from demonstrations in August 2019. The trial is due to begin next month.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Dominic Raab calls QC acting for Hong Kong government ‘mercenary’
Labour’s Angela Rayner among those angered by past and recent remarks about poor or homeless people
The Conservatives’ London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has been accused of an “attack on working class families”, after comments emerged in which he appeared to suggest that poor people cannot be trusted with money.
Bailey is running against the Labour incumbent, Sadiq Khan, in May’s election, which was delayed for a year by the Covid pandemic. A YouGov poll in November suggested Khan has a 21-point lead over his rival.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Tories’ London mayoral candidate criticised for comments that ‘attack working class families’
As Johnson finds it in him to condemn Trump, Britain should remember its own mobs, culture wars and far-right threat
The writer Alistair Cooke once observed: “As always, the British especially shudder at the latest American vulgarity, and then they embrace it with enthusiasm two years later.” That is a kind way of saying that the British are always a few years behind the Americans, emulating them and then pretending that we came up with whatever it is we are mimicking ourselves, or with a uniquely British version of it.
For example, Britain’s allegedly evidence-based involvement in the Iraq war was largely – as President George W Bush wrote in an internal memo months before military action – a matter of it following the US’s lead. So much of the special relationship between the two countries hinges on this keeping up of appearances, where the British political classes – who like to maintain their nation the superior of the two, the original superpower – can admire and obey while holding on to the fiction that the UK is a more restrained country, less prone to the excesses of the other.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Trump may be leaving the White House, but his values live on in the UK | Nesrine Malik
Former Labour leader calls for ‘free and accountable’ media at launch of his Peace and Justice Project
Jeremy Corbyn has pledged to campaign against the arrival of Rupert Murdoch’s News UK television channel as he launched his Peace and Justice Project at an online rally.
A more “just, free and accountable” media is one of four causes Corbyn is encouraging his supporters to back. He also urged them to help with organising direct support in communities, such as food banks; campaign for a green new deal; and press the government to speed up the delivery of Covid vaccines in developing countries.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Corbyn to campaign against Murdoch’s News UK TV channel
Robert Jenrick accused of distracting from Tories’ handling of pandemic as he plans legal changes to protect monuments
The government has been accused of stoking a contrived culture war in order to distract from its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as it announces plans to change the law to protect statues from what Robert Jenrick called “baying mobs”.
The communities secretary said Britain should not try to edit or censor its past amid proposed amendments to laws to protect statues, monuments and other memorials.
Source: The Guardian Politics, UK government should focus on Covid not statues, campaigners say
A view of people as rule-breaking chancers is being used as a distraction from the Conservatives’ failures. They mustn’t get away with it
This is what a true crisis feels like. The UK has now recorded more than 100,000 deaths from coronavirus and, according to the government’s chief scientific adviser, the daily toll will continue to be awful “for some weeks”. Our capital city is so overrun that Covid patients are being moved to intensive care units hundreds of miles away, and across England nearly 4.5 million people are now waiting for operations.
A test-and-trace system that was meant to be “world-beating” is almost irrelevant; we now learn that the £78m plan for daily mass testing in English schools has not been approved by the agency that oversees medicines and health products. Vaccinations will eventually ease the situation, but everywhere else you look, there are government blunders, delays and failures which – in a more predictable world – would already have had huge political consequences.
Source: The Guardian Politics, The British public are careful and calm – the problem is that the government isn’t | John Harris
Dominic Raab sets timescale and says ministers hope to ease lockdown restrictions in March
All adults in the UK should have been offered the Covid vaccination by September, foreign secretary Dominic Raab has said, setting a clear timescale for the first time.
The vaccination programme is focusing on the four priority groups at the moment, including the over-80s and care home residents, and ministers are increasingly confident that the mid-February deadline for completing that first phase will be met.
Source: The Guardian Politics, All adults in UK will be offered coronavirus vaccine by September
A Cabinet Office document has warned that millions could be put off voting by safety fears
Labour has urged ministers to make May’s elections in England more Covid-secure, after the emergence of a Cabinet Office document which warned the pandemic could severely hamper the process and put millions off voting.
The paper raises the possibility that even if coronavirus infection levels are relatively low, it could be difficult to attract enough election staff, and that safety fears may “disenfranchise large proportions of [the] community”.
Source: The Guardian Politics, May elections in England must be more Covid-safe, says Labour
Foreign secretary says all options being considered including measure inspired by New Zealand’s ‘directed isolation’ policy
People arriving in the UK could be asked to stay in quarantine hotels under plans being considered by ministers to try to deal with the spread of the pandemic, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab has said.
Raab said the government had “considered all of the possibilities” when asked about reports in the Sunday Times that ministers have ordered plans to be drawn up for the creation of quarantine hotels for those arriving in Britain.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Arrivals in UK could be asked to stay in quarantine hotels, Raab says
No 10 might be cutting the cord with the US president, but memories of this sycophantic liaison will stain the record book
In 2019, Jeremy Hunt, who once hid behind a tree to avoid the press on the way to a party, said politicians boycotting Donald Trump’s state visit were exhibiting “virtue signalling of the worst kind”. Was Hunt also virtue signalling last week, then, when he conceded that Trump “shames American democracy”? Or have the goalposts, already too narrow for even the slender Hunt to hide behind convincingly, moved?
Trump himself once called our prime minister, Boris Turds Johnson, “Britain Trump”, with characteristically unpunctuated precision. In the light of Trump’s inevitable immolation of American democracy, Turds’s handlers now seek to distance our prime minister from his admirer, every white supremacist’s favourite reality TV host. Last week, the Times ran an article, headlined “Johnson is not Trump’s transatlantic twin”, by the Spectator’s James Forsyth, whose wife, Allegra Stratton, is Downing Street’s press secretary and whose principles are above question. Once the journal of record, it seems the Times is now the journal of whatever Downing Street’s press secretary wants the record to say. And there are efforts afoot to rewrite that record.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Oh see how the Tories now run from Donald Trump | Stewart Lee
Benefits reduction plan set to have most impact on poorest English towns, says thinktank
A plan to slash universal credit will have the biggest impact in the poorest towns in England, the government has been warned, after it emerged that claims for the payment have increased far more in the most deprived areas during the Covid pandemic.
The research by Bright Blue, a liberal Conservative thinktank, will heap further pressure on Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, to extend a £20-a-week increase in universal credit introduced last March. It is set to be withdrawn in April and many Tory MPs are privately worried that the cut will undermine Boris Johnson’s pledge to “level up” the country, and are pushing for the increase to be made permanent.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Universal credit cut will hit ‘red wall’ seats hardest, Tories warned
We’ve had endless reviews of policy. Now those who live each day in real hardship should be put at the heart of reform
The photo of two blackening bananas, a tomato, two potatoes, three apples, a loaf of bread, about 200g of pasta, two carrots, slices of cheese, two mini-malt loaves, a can of baked beans and three Frubes is one of the defining images of our times. Posted on Twitter by @RoadsideMum – she has asked to remain anonymous and goes by the pseudonym “Lisa” – it has been viewed 28 million times and shared worldwide.
The stark illustration of life in poverty in the long shadow of the coronavirus pandemic sparked an online outcry that started on Tuesday and shows no sign of going away. Marcus Rashford, Jamie Oliver and Tom Kerridge signed a letter urging the prime minister to review the free school meals process. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said on Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday that there needed to be a “full root-and-branch review”. The Child Poverty Action Group, the Food Foundation and many other charities added their voices.
Source: The Guardian Politics, The government must listen to the voices of food poverty
From workers’ rights to hormones in beef, voters expect our politicians to regulate big business just as Brussels did
“Take back control” worked wonderfully well as a campaign slogan. It infuriated Remainers while Leavers struggled to specify any European Union rule that they would change should they be able to do so. However, Dominic Cummings knew all too well it was the idea of control, rather than the question of what to do with it, that mattered most to Leave voters. The latter was a problem for later.
Later has now arrived. The UK has indeed reclaimed its sovereignty. As a result, we will now have to come to decide what kind of country we aspire to be in terms of broader regulatory terms. The available evidence suggests that the government won’t find it as easy to keep on the right side of public opinion when exercising its new-found power as it did when it demanded control.
Source: The Guardian Politics, The government will find taking back control brings its own headaches | Anand Menon and Alan Wager
Being seen as a potential prime minister is essential, but not enough, to get Keir Starmer to No 10
Whenever Labour gets excited about the failings of the Tories, the party should remember a vital statistic. In the past 75 years, only three Labour leaders have ever won parliamentary majorities. This dismal history is constantly in the thoughts of Keir Starmer, as is the desire to make himself the fourth name on the brief list composed of Clement Attlee, Harold Wilson and Tony Blair. Though very different personalities operating in very different contexts, Labour’s victorious trio had key things in common. Each came to power after a long span of Conservative rule had stretched the elastic of the public’s tolerance of the Tories. Each of those successful leaders persuaded the country that they and their teams were sufficiently competent to govern. And each of Labour’s rare winners galvanised support by offering Britain a compelling story of national renewal.
How is Mr Starmer doing on that checklist for success? We can place a tentative tick on the first item. By the time of the next election, the Conservatives will have been in power for more than a decade. Without knowing what else might happen between now and then, we can already say that the Tories will have gone through three leaders and possibly more during that time, while imposing an austerity that even they now acknowledge was overdone, presiding over a chaotic exit from the EU with enduring economic consequences and being responsible for the serial bungling of the coronavirus crisis. None of that is a guarantee of Labour victory, but it should be some encouragement. A professionally led party ought to be able to get a hearing for the “time for a change” argument at the next election.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Why senior Labour figures think their party needs to start upping its game | Andrew Rawnsley
The Tory MP on the fantasies of those in the media, and beyond, who oppose lockdown
If you had opened certain newspapers over the past year, you would have read the following. In spring, you’d have been told the virus was fizzling out. You might have been treated to the views of epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta, who claimed: “The epidemic has largely come and is on its way out in this country.” This wasn’t due to the lockdown, she argued, but “the build-up of immunity”, which government advisers were apparently underestimating.
By the summer, you would have read that it was all over. In June, Toby Young, editor of the Lockdown Sceptics website predicted: “There will be no ‘second spike’ – not now, and not in the autumn either. The virus has melted into thin air. It’s time to get back to normal.” Telegraph columnist Allison Pearson wrote: “The terrible Coronabeast will be gone from these isles by September.”
Source: The Guardian Politics, I’d love to ignore ‘covid sceptics’ and their tall tales. But they make a splash and have no shame | Neil O’Brien
Compassion is in short supply, but hypocrisy abounds against the hapless victims of Covid
The last time, in 2015, that the House of Commons debated the proposal that doctors be allowed to help people diagnosed as terminally ill to end their lives was one of those occasions when the place was being self-consciously at its finest. On death, at least, it could be trusted to behave, if not to reconsider.
There were courtly congratulations to the originator of the bill (Lord Falconer) and to its Commons proposer, Labour’s Rob Marris, who urged compassion for dying people and relations forced to choose – if they could afford it – between travelling to Dignitas, yet more suffering and the risk of prosecution for assisting a suicide. Polls suggested that the public would, as now, overwhelmingly support such a reform.
Source: The Guardian Politics, The same Tories who once held life sacrosanct now rush to assist the dying | Catherine Bennett
Nadine Dorries, James Cleverly and Michael Gove joined the platform favoured by Trump supporters
At least 14 Conservative MPs, including several ministers, cabinet minister Michael Gove and a number of prominent Tory commentators joined Parler, the social media platform favoured by the far right that was forced offline last week for hosting threats of violence and racist slurs.
Parler was taken offline after Amazon Web Services pulled the plug last Sunday, saying violent posts and racist threats connected to the recent attack on the US Capitol violated its terms.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Revealed: Tory MPs and commentators who joined banned app Parler
Levies to cover the increase in red tape, VAT and customs declarations are hitting trade to the European Union
Government ministers describe the post-Brexit headaches that British exporters have suffered since 1 January as mere “teething problems”. But Alex Paul, who jointly runs a successful family business that features in the Department for International Trade’s list of national “export champions”, disagrees. And he wants the real story to be told.
Two weeks into the supposed golden era of global Britain, Paul and many other British entrepreneurs, large and small, are running into very serious problems.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Shock Brexit charges are hurting us, say small British businesses
A smaller nation – post-imperial, post-EU, and possibly one day even post-UK – has begun to emerge. It’s time the left caught up
Towards the end of his 1930s masterpiece, English Journey, JB Priestley writes of “memories reaching from West Bromwich to Blackburn, Jarrow to Middlesbrough, darkly crowding in on me”. The suffering witnessed by the author during the Great Depression, he explains, turned him into a Little Englander: “That little sounds the right note of affection. It is little England I love. And I considered how much I disliked Big Englanders, whom I saw as red-faced, staring loud fellows, wanting to go and boss everybody about all over the world. Patriots to a man. I wish their patriotism would begin at home.”
The writer lived up to the spirit of his prose. The Common Wealth party, in which Priestley was a leading figure, was highly influential in the formation of the postwar welfare state. But it would be very unusual to hear such warm talk about England on today’s left. In Labour circles, the language of nationhood, when used by the English, engenders at best suspicion and more often outright hostility. Brexit, an overwhelmingly English project, only deepened a conviction that rising nationalism in the United Kingdom’s largest country is a much darker affair than its Scottish equivalent. Xenophobia, nostalgia for empire and cultural authoritarianism are judged to be its trademarks.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Proud to be English: How we can shape a progressive patriotism
The Conservative MP for Rochester and Strood is to step down from her ministerial role
Conservative MP Kelly Tolhurst has resigned as the minister for rough sleeping and housing following “devastating” family news.
In a letter to the prime minister, she said she was stepping down from the government role to spend “precious time” with her family.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Housing minister Kelly Tolhurst resigns after ‘devastating’ family news
Tiny resort to welcome incoming US president Joe Biden and other world leaders for three-day summit
The tiny seaside resort of Carbis Bay in Cornwall has been chosen to be the venue of the G7 summit in June, with the village now expecting an influx of foreign visitors.
The 125-acre Carbis Bay Estate – which encompasses a luxury hotel, an award-winning restaurant and a spa – will be the main location of the summit, but the seaside village will be supported by neighbouring St Ives a mile away, along with other towns across the region.
Source: The Guardian Politics, Carbis Bay in Cornwall to host G7 summit in June