Category Archives: United Kingdom

(Express) Boris handed MASSIVE boost as Tories nudge further ahead of Corbyn in latest election poll

(Express) BORIS JOHNSON was handed a huge boost on Monday afternoon after the latest general election poll placed him nudging further ahead of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was handed a boost after the latest poll results saw him push further ahead of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn as Brits prepare to vote in the December 12 General Election. The poll results come on the same day Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he would stand down MPs challenging seats in which the Tory party won in the 2017 election. In the ICM opinion poll for Reuters, Mr Johnson’s Conservatives rose a point to 39 percent, while the Labour Party held its current support at 31 percent.

The poll also showed the Liberal Democrats, vowing to “stop Brexit” were unchanged on 15 percent, while the Brexit Party dipped with its support, down a point to eight percent.

The survey took place online between November 8 and November 11, and quizzed 2,035 people.

It comes following a turbulent day, after Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage announced his party would not stand in the seats the Tories won in the 2017 General Election. Promoted Story

Speaking to supporters in Hartlepool Mr Farage explained he made the decision because he feared that if they had run it would have led to a hung Parliament with critical gains for the Liberal Democrats, who are trying to stop Brexit.

He said: “The Brexit Party will not contest the 317 seats the Conservatives won at the last election.

“But what we will do is concentrate our total effort into all of the seats that are held by the Labour Party, who have completely broken their manifesto in 2017.”

Mr Farage claimed “our action prevents a second referendum from happening”, before adding: “We will also take on the rest of the Remainer parties.

“We will stand up and we will fight them all.”

Mr Farage also said he wants to see Brexit Party MPs elected to hold Mr Johnson to account if he wins a majority.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded to the move by saying: “One week ago Donald Trump told Nigel Farage to make a pact with Boris Johnson.

“Today, Trump got his wish. This Trump alliance is Thatcherism on steroids and could send £500 million a week from our NHS to big drugs companies. It must be stopped.”

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson tweeted: “The Conservative Party are the Brexit Party now.”

While SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote: “Any form of Brexit that is acceptable to Nigel Farage will be deeply damaging for Scotland.

“Makes it all the more important to get rid of Boris Johnson’s Tories, escape Brexit and put Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands.

“The Tory party has now effectively become the Brexit party. The SNP is the main challenger in all of their Scottish seats.

Election news

(AP) Long festering charges of anti-Semitism hit Labour’s CorbynAntisemitism hit Labour’s Corbyn


LONDON (AP) — The long-festering issue of anti-Semitism in Labour Party ranks is coming back to haunt Jeremy Corbyn in the first days of his election campaign to unseat Prime Minister Boris Johnson and take up residence at 10 Downing Street.Full Coverage: Brexit

Corbyn’s bid for Britain’s top job was sidetracked Thursday by renewed claims that he is not fit to be prime minister because of his perceived tolerance of anti-Semitic attitudes, an allegation Corbyn strongly denied.

The criticism came from a former member of the Labour Party’s inner circle who took the extraordinary step of urging British voters to choose Johnson, and from an influential Jewish newspaper that urged Britons to shun Corbyn in the country’s Dec. 12 general election.

Ian Austin, a close aide to Gordon Brown, the Labour Party’s last prime minister, said the party has been poisoned by “anti-Jewish racism” under Corbyn. Austin was one of seven lawmakers who left the Labour Party in February because of allegations of anti-Semitism and its failure to take a clear stand on Brexit.

On Thursday, he urged “decent, traditional, patriotic Labour voters” to vote for Johnson and the Conservatives rather than let Corbyn take power. He said the “scandal of anti-Semitism” has poisoned Labour since Corbyn was elected party leader in 2015.

Those concerns were echoed by the Jewish Chronicle weekly newspaper, a fixture in Britain’s Jewish community since 1841, which said its polling indicated that nearly half of Britain’s Jews would “seriously consider” leaving the country if Corbyn becomes prime minister.

Over his long career, the 70-year-old Corbyn has stoked controversy by championing the grievances of groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and been accused of failing to expel party members who express anti-Semitic views. He has also been criticized for past statements, including a 2010 speech in which he compared Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip to Nazi Germany’s sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad during World War II.

Corbyn denied the allegations, saying Thursday that “anti-Semitism is a poison and an evil in our society” and that he was working to root it out of the Labour Party.

“Our party has confronted the issue, we have suspended or expelled members, we have an education program and all of that has been set up since I became the leader of this party, and we’ll carry on doing exactly that,” he said.

“There are many Jewish people in this country who are members of the Labour Party, supporters of the Labour Party, work with the Labour Party and they do not share the views that have been put forward on the front page of the Jewish Chronicle,” Corbyn said.

The controversy erupted as Corbyn has been trying to focus attention on his party’s economic plans, based on a broad call for social justice and the restoration of social services cut by the Conservatives since 2010.

Corbyn has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism since his spectacular rise from the obscurity of Labour’s back benches to the party’s top spot. He has moved Labour sharply to the left and away from the center ground staked out by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led the party to three straight election triumphs.

A year before he took the party’s helm, he was widely criticized for attending a 2014 wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial in Tunisia honoring Palestinians whom Israel has linked to the murders of 11 Israelis at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

On Thursday, the Jewish Chronicle took the unusual step of publishing a front-page editorial aimed at “non-Jews” who would not normally read the paper. It said fears were raised when Corbyn became party leader but that some had hoped he would become more tolerant.

“The opposite has happened. The near-total inaction of Mr. Corbyn and the rest of the Labour leadership in dealing with anti-Semites in the party has both emboldened them and encouraged others,” the newspaper said.

Senior Labour figures fought back against the allegations raised Thursday.

John McDonnell, Labour’s economy spokesman and a key Corbyn ally, said Labour was “saddened” by criticism in the Jewish media but added “we’re doing everything they asked of us to address this issue.”

He accused Johnson and the Conservatives of racism but did not provide specifics.

“Voting for Boris Johnson, if you are a Labour voter and you want to protect your community, is absolutely absurd and it makes no sense at all,” said Rebecca Long-Bailey, Labour’s business spokeswoman.

Labour’s fledgling campaign was also rocked by the resignation Wednesday of deputy leader Tom Watson.

Austin’s comments and Watson’s resignation underscore the unease many Labour lawmakers have with Corbyn’s left-wing views, his leadership style and his reluctance to take a clear stand on whether Britain should leave the European Union or remain in the 28-nation bloc.

Johnson pushed hard for the early election, which is coming more than two years ahead of schedule, after Parliament thwarted his plans to have Britain leave the EU on Oct. 31. Johnson hopes to win an outright majority in Parliament so he can pass a divorce bill in time for Britain to leave by the next Brexit deadline on Jan. 31.

Until now, Brexit has been the main campaign issue, but Labour is trying to shift the debate onto domestic issues such as health care, the environment and social welfare.

John Bercow, the former House of Commons speaker who oversaw Britain’s bruising parliamentary battles over Brexit, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that leaving the EU would be a historic mistake but added it’s not too late to reverse the decision.

Other parties competing in the Dec. 12 election include the Liberal Democrats, who want to cancel Brexit; the Scottish National Party, which opposes Brexit and wants Scotland to leave the U.K.; and the Brexit Party, which says Britain should leave the bloc without a deal.

Three parties that want to stay in the EU — the Liberal Democrats, the Green party and the Welsh party Plaid Cymru — announced an agreement Thursday not to run against each other in dozens of seats in order to make it more likely that pro-EU candidates will prevail.

The arrangement negotiated by the Unite to Remain group means there will be 60 election districts in which voters will have only one candidate who favors staying in the EU, which the group hopes will boost their chances.

(GUA) ‘Alarming’ Chinese meddling at UK universities exposed in report

(GUA) Chinese embassy appears to be coordinating efforts to curb academic freedom, say MPs

 ‘There is clear evidence that autocracies are seeking to shape the research agenda or curricula of UK universities,’ says parliamentary report. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Universities are not adequately responding to the growing risk of China and other “autocracies” influencing academic freedom in the UK, the foreign affairs select committee has said.

The report, rushed out before parliament is suspended pending the election, finds “alarming evidence” of Chinese interference on UK campuses, adding some of the activity seeking to restrict academic freedom appears to be coordinated by the Chinese embassy in London.

The report says: “There is clear evidence that autocracies are seeking to shape the research agenda or curricula of UK universities, as well as limit the activities of researchers on university campuses. Not enough is being done to protect academic freedom from financial, political and diplomatic pressure.”

The committee highlighted the role of China-funded Confucius Institutes officials in confiscating papers that mentioned Taiwan at an academic conference, the use of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association as an instrument of political interference and evidence that dissidents active while studying in the UK, such as Ayeshagul Nur Ibrahim, an Uighur Muslim, were being monitoring and her family in China being harassed.Advertisement

The committee accuses some academic organisations, such as Million Plus, which represents 20 modern universities, of complacency.

Bill Rammell, the chair of Million Plus, told the committee he had “not heard one piece of evidence” that substantiated claims of foreign influence in universities.

The committee said the government’s focus was on protecting universities from intellectual property theft and risks arising from joint research projects. “This is not enough to protect academic freedom from other types of interference such as financial, political or diplomatic pressure,” the MPs said.

The Foreign Office’s evidence to the committee highlighted the lack of government advice to universities, the report says, adding ministers have not coordinated approaches to the issue, either within Whitehall or with foreign governments such as Australia and the US.

The report points out that a 2019 international education strategy white paper mentions China more than 20 times in the context of boosting education expertise to the Chinese market, but with no mention of security or interference.

The committee concluded: “The battle for university students or trade deals should not outweigh the international standards which have brought freedom and prosperity to the UK and the wider world. The government should provide any strategic advice to universities and not used its key sanction tools such as ‘Magnitsky powers’ to curb interference on human rights grounds.”

Ministers can curb interference through the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act passed 17 months ago, the report said.

However, ministers previously told the committee they could not use the so-called Magnitsky amendment, contained in the act, until the UK had left the EU. In June the FCO finally admitted this interpretation was legally incorrect, and the powers could be used independently of the EU while still an EU member.

Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the foreign affairs select committee.
 Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the foreign affairs select committee, says academic freedoms are under threat in the UK. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

The FCO has still to lay the necessary statutory instrument to introduce the power, 17 months after the act became law. The foreign affairs select committee pointed out that the power, touted by the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, in pre-Conservative party conference interviews, will be delayed still further by the general election.

The committee, chaired by the Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, also asked the FCO to explain its failure to use sanctions in response to repression by state authorities in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.

On the question of Hong Kong, where violent protests continue and local elections are due to be held later this month, the committee has urged the government to assess the reputational damage to the UK of British judges continuing to sit on the Hong Kong court of final appeal. The committee warns there is a danger of the UK appearing to be complicit in supporting and participating in a system that is undermining the rule of law.

In a bid to support the protesters, the UK should grant residency to Hong Kong citizens who are British national (overseas) passport holders, the report said.

Tugendhat said hard-won freedoms were under threat in the UK. The FCO had been “found wanting in three policy areas: autocracies’ influence on academic freedom; the use of sanctions against autocratic states and their supporters, and the UK’s cooperation with other democracies in responding to autocracies”.

An FCO spokesperson said: “The UK is a passionate defender of democracy and the rules-based international system, showing leadership on issues from climate change to media freedom. When we leave the EU, we will set our own sanctions regime and hold to account those who commit serious abuses of human rights.

“We will look at this report closely as we continue to bolster our efforts to promote and uphold our democratic values.”

(BBC) Commons Speaker: Who is Sir Lindsay Hoyle?


Sir Lindsay Hoyle
Image captionLabour MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle was regarded as the frontrunner for the role

“A kind of embodiment of the British constitution,” one Westminster savant told me, the sort of politician who has been marinated in parliamentary practice so long they have an instinctive feel for its unwritten rules and unspoken conventions.

To him, Lindsay Hoyle is a classic example of the political operator turned constitutional fixture.

His father was an MP (and is now a Labour Peer) and he served as a councillor in his home seat of Chorley in Lancashire, becoming deputy leader, before moving to Parliament in 1997.

This is a man steeped in politics.

And that shows through in other ways.

He is seen in the tea room as a strategic streetwise campaigner, who set his eyes on the prize he won today perhaps a decade ago, when he was one of the first three MPs to be elected as deputy Speaker.

“The by-ways of Lancashire are littered with the bodies of those who’ve underestimated Lindsay,” one former parliamentary neighbour told me.

There is steel under the cheerful surface.

The succession to John Bercow had been a Westminster talking point for at least 18 months, and it was striking how cautious potential competitors were about showing their hand too soon, with Lindsay already spoken of as the commanding frontrunner in that race.

When the election finally came, much later than many expected, he played a cautious hand – emphasising his record in the chair, for example during the terror attack on Westminster.

He has also been the point of contact for MPs concerned about security issues, for themselves, their staff and their families – a vital role in the current political climate.

His list of nominators was a careful cross-section of serious backbenchers – balanced on Brexit and on party factions, and on political generations.

Heading the list of nominators was Sir Charles Walker, vice chairman of the Conservative 1922 Committee, and one of those who dragged John Bercow to the chair (I’m told he won’t be doing any dragging this time, though).

Sir Charles was talked of as a potential candidate himself, so it was quite a coup to have him front and centre, signalling seriousness of purpose and a dash of reform-mindedness to MPs.

As chairman of the Commons Procedure Committee, Mr Walker has a shopping list of changes he wants to implement, but he has also shown his disquiet at some of Speaker Bercow’s recent rulings, so his support sends a nuanced message.

‘Traditional route’

What kind of Speaker will he be?

Sir Lindsay has taken the traditional route – serving since 2010 as a deputy, so MPs have had plenty of opportunities to observe his avuncular style, and, on occasion to contrast it favourably with Speaker Bercow’s.

And as the senior deputy, the Chairman of Ways and Means, he has a guaranteed spot in the limelight every year, chairing the Budget debates (this is a tradition going back to the Stuart kings, when the Speaker was seen as an agent of the Crown, while the deputy was chosen by MPs and therefore seen as more suited to chairing debates on taxation).

He also selects amendments to be considered when MPs sit as a Committee of the Whole House, as they did over the Early Election Bill, last week.

Lindsay Hoyle

His decision to rule out amendments not strictly within the compass of the Bill bolstered his reputation as a straight shooter who was not keen on Bercow-esque stretching of the rules.

If there is to be change, the likelihood is that it will be by consensus, and probably with the stamp of approval of Sir Charles’s committee.

But Mr Speaker Hoyle could find himself having to decide, in the heat of controversy, whether to allow some of his predecessor’s innovations to continue; extra amendments to the address of thanks for the Queen’s Speech (Speaker Bercow’s 2013 decision to allow an extra amendment ratcheted up the Commons pressure for an EU referendum), amendments to Business of the House Motions and substantive emergency motions.

These all sound like technical in-house issues, but their impact on the politics of the last few years has been enormous.

Some of these questions may not arise if there is a stable government majority to vote them down – but, especially if there is a hung Parliament, the new Speaker may have to decide whether to accept or reject some of the precedents that have been set in the last few years. And the consequences could be huge.

Even if the next House of Commons has a majority, the chances are that it will not default back to its 2005 factory settings – and MPs will still expect plenty of urgent questions, emergency debates and chances to put their questions at PMQs, and a Speaker who seeks to erase the practice of the last decade may get some pushback.

And MPs will also expect their Speaker to stand up to ministers where appropriate – which is a lot more difficult to do where the government has a majority.

In conducting debates, his put-downs and shuttings-up will be gentler, and the advice of the clerks – those priests of parliamentary practice – is more likely to be implemented.

With a demand for a kinder, gentler politics, this could help the Commons lead the way.

P.O. (EN) Boris Johnson rejects election pact with Brexit Party’s Nigel Farage

By now , even my Dog knows that Mr Farage is a force of nature and should never be underestimated.
Not to enter a pact with Mr Farage seems suicidal for the Tories and for the UK as a whole.
It would probably put Mr Corbyn in Downing Street which would be even worse than Harold  Wilson.
On the other hand some people say that to enter a pact with Mr Farage could loose the vote of some moderate Tories.
But to put Mr Corbyn in Downing Street and exodus of most Jewish families would be an unimaginal tragedy for the UK. 

Francisco ( Abouaf) de Curiel Marques Pereira

(EN) Nigel Farage has offered to build an electoral alliance with Boris Johnson if he drops his exit deal with the EU and allows the UK to crash out without an agreement.

Launching his Brexit Party’s general election campaign, the former UKIP leader told the UK’s prime minister he must “drop the deal, because it is not Brexit,” warning him his party would stand candidates in every seat in the country if he didn’t do so.

Boris Johnson responded in a series of interviews that he had ruled out an alliance with any other party.

“I ruled out a pact with everybody because I didn’t that it’s sensible to do that. We are proud of our beliefs, we’re proud of our one nation conservatism,” Johnson told Sky News.

The Conservative Party is aiming to win the December 12 election by campaigning for Boris Johnson’s new deal with the EU.

Farage said that currently the Brexit Party is the only party advocating for Brexit and warned Johnson not to underestimate the determination or organisation of his party.

Calling on Johnson to drop the deal and instead go for a “genuine free trade agreement” along the lines of Canada’s agreement with the EU, Farage said: “I believe the only way to solve this is to build a leave alliance across this country. If it was done BJ would win a very big majority, and we really could get Brexit done.”

The MEP for South East England, who has tried and failed to win a seat in Parliament seven times, was a key figure in securing a referendum and a public vote to leave the European Union.

The Brexit Party wants the UK to leave the EU without a deal in place, and currently has no seats in parliament, although it does have 29 MEPs.

On Thursday, Farage conducted an interview with Donald Trump on his show on a British radio station, in which the US president urged the Brexit Party to get behind Boris Johnson.

Farage responded by saying he would be “right behind” Johnson, if the prime minister dropped the Brexit divorce deal he struck with the European Union two weeks ago and instead went for a “clean break” Brexit without a deal.

Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly said a vote for Farage would give Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Downing Street and could end the chance for Brexit to even happen.

“A vote for Farage risks letting Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street via the back door – and the country spending 2020 having two referendums on Brexit and Scottish independence,” he said.

“It will not get Brexit done – and it will create another gridlocked parliament that doesn’t work.”

(Politico) Déjà vu in the UK: As a Turkish exile, I’ve seen this story before

(Politico) Turkey’s democratic backsliding began with the kind of toxic rhetoric tearing Britain apart.

Pro-Brexit supporters jostle with police during a march in central London | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

LONDON — I moved to London from Istanbul over a decade ago. As a novelist put on trial in Turkey for writing fiction, I longed for freedom of speech, and wanted to live in a place with a strong liberal democracy and stable democratic institutions. Back then, Britons were calm when they talked politics. Even when they disagreed, they seemed to remain controlled, and norms prevailed. In the post-Brexit era, that distinctive British calmness and sense of continuity is no more. Politics has become divisive, aggressive, emotionally charged. The dominant motto is to disrupt, dismantle and defeat. As my adopted country becomes increasingly polarized and drifts further away from Europe, I find myself seized by a strange sense of déjà vu: Some of what I see in the U.K. today reminds me of what I’ve seen happen in Turkey.

Democracy is far more fragile than generally assumed. It is a delicate ecosystem of checks and balances. Referendums and elections, however vital, are not enough to maintain a democracy. Let us not forget that Russia has elections. Turkey has elections. They are not democracies. In addition to the ballot box, democracy is about the rule of law, separation of powers, media freedoms, academic independence, human rights, women’s rights and minority rights.

The political trajectory of Turkey holds important lessons for progressive-minded citizens across the world. The country has gone backward — at first gradually, and then with astonishing speed. Its fledgling democracy fell to pieces under tides of populist nationalism and populist authoritarianism. The government, guided by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, came to power with promises of reform, freedoms and pluralism, but delivered the exact opposite. Media diversity was crushed, academics and journalists were arrested, civil society was stifled from above. Turkey, once a resolute candidate for European Union membership, catapulted itself onto the periphery of Europe.

It all began with words: a toxic language of divisiveness, us and them, the “people” versus “the establishment.” Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party portrayed itself as the sole representative of the people. “We are the people,” said Erdoğan. “Who are you?” Criticizing the government became tantamount to criticizing the people. All opposition was stymied in the name of the people.

A similarly toxic rhetoric is taking hold in countries where populism is on the rise. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán depicts any criticism directed at his government as an attack against the people, an attack against Hungary. The right-wing populist Freedom Party in Austria claims to be the voice of the people, accusing opponents of being the voice of high society. In Poland, the leader of the conservative ruling party, Jarosław Kaczyński has called opposition members “traitors.”

Once, political scientists assumed that some European countries were historically inoculated against populism. Today, we have seen that’s not the case.

Such inflammatory language is neither coincidental nor accidental. It lies at the heart of the populist strategy for electoral gain. Today in the U.K., hardcore Brexiteers call people who disagree with them “traitors” and warn of “betrayal.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been repeatedly criticized for naming a bill that would stop a no-deal Brexit as the “surrender bill” or “capitulation.”

This kind of rhetoric has a damaging effect that goes beyond pure politics. When nationalism escalates, so does sexism and misogyny. Female opposition MPs have become easy targets. They receive death threats and constant abuse, and last month Labour MP Paula Sherriff asked the prime minister to tone down his language, telling the parliament that trolls, clearly emboldened by the new political climate, were echoing his words. Johnson’s reply was that he had never heard such “humbug” in his life, though he later said it was a “misunderstanding.”

Suddenly, politics has become a war zone and people’s lives are in danger. Martial metaphors of destruction and death are used abundantly. Johnson says, “I’d rather be dead in a ditch than agree to a Brexit extension.” Meanwhile, benefiting from the chaos, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage tells centrist parties, “Get Brexit done or die!

There is no doubt that the U.K. is undergoing tough and extraordinary times. European capitals are watching with concern. But it would be a historic mistake on the part of European intellectuals to forget that the U.K. is not alone in this. In truth, no country is immune to the rise of populist nationalism and tribalism. Once, political scientists assumed that some European countries were historically inoculated against such disruption. Today, from Germany to Sweden, Austria and Spain, we have seen that’s not the case.

The waves of nativism that are shaking the U.K. today are also waves that are ready to disrupt different parts of Europe tomorrow. It’s important that we remember, as world citizens, that we are all in this mess together. What happens in one country has a direct impact on what happens elsewhere, and the solutions to today’s problems — whether climate change or terrorism or the dark side of technology — can only be achieved by working together. Democracies wither away when countries feel isolated.

Elif Shafak is a novelist, public speaker and political scientist. She is the author of 17 books, 11 of them novels, including “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World” (Penguin, 2019), which was shortlisted for the 2019 Booker Prize.

(Irish Times) Polls point to Boris Johnson at risk of May’s electoral debacle

(Irish Times) Despite big lead, Tories have ground to make up in highly unpredictable circumstances

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson: “If the Tories don’t get an overall majority, the opposition will gang up against him to kick him out,” says polling expert John Curtice.  Photograph:   Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson: “If the Tories don’t get an overall majority, the opposition will gang up against him to kick him out,” says polling expert John Curtice. Photograph: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty ImagesShare to FacebookShare to TwitterShare to Email App

Two-and-a-half years after Theresa May’s risky decision to call a snap election that lost the Conservatives their majority, her successor Boris Johnson finds himself in a strikingly similar position.

An analysis by the Financial Times of the opinion polls suggests Johnson’s party is facing an electoral landscape hardly changed since the 2017 election was called. Labour was polling on 25 per cent on Tuesday, exactly the same level as when May called her snap vote.

Worryingly for Johnson, however, the Conservatives are significantly further behind than at the start of the last campaign. Whereas the Tories were polling 44 per cent on the day the previous election was called, they are currently projected to garner 36 per cent share of the vote.

The political circumstances mirror those of May, who was seeking to win a majority to secure a Brexit deal; Johnson is doing so to achieve the same goal.

Johnson’s push for a vote before Christmas was in part motivated by his party’s healthy lead in polls, which has grown steadily since he became prime minister in July. Last week, one pollster had the Tories as much as 16 points ahead of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

But polling experts have warned that the December 12th election will be even more unpredictable and difficult to anticipate than the last. The British Election Survey noted earlier this month that there was an “unprecedented” level of voter churn between the parties and allegiances were shifting as the electorate orientates down Remain/Leave lines.

Brexit party

John Curtice, the UK’s leading pollster, said that Johnson’s hopes of victory would depend on how well the Brexit party does. The better Nigel Farage’s party polls, the more votes they will take off the Tories and risk letting in Labour.

“This election is not about Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, it’s about Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. Labour’s hopes rest heavily on the Brexit party doing well – that’s the paradox of this campaign,” he said.

“Back in 2017, Theresa May expanded her lead by squeezing the Ukip vote. Boris Johnson has managed to do the same for the Brexit party, but the question is whether he can sustain that during the campaign.”

Curtice agreed that the election was a gamble for Johnson, because the Labour party would not have to make much progress in the campaign to take seats from the Tories and keep Johnson out of Downing Street.

“The Conservative party lead doesn’t have to go down much at all to put us into hung parliament territory. Boris Johnson either wins, or he doesn’t. That’s all that matters. If the Tories don’t get an overall majority, the opposition will gang up against him to kick him out. He can’t afford to just win 318 seats again,” he said.

Much like the 2017 election, how each party performs during the campaign may be more crucial than the polling fundamentals in deciding who triumphs. Labour gained 11 points during the last election campaign and, if the same feat were to be repeated in 2019, the Tories would be out of office.

‘Normal times’

Joe Twyman, director of pollster Deltapoll, said that in “normal times” the Tories should be on course to win a comfortable majority based on their current vote share and lead over Labour.

“But the shadow of Brexit is long. The Tories have to perform well in individual target seats, not just nationally. The Conservatives are hoping to convince their Remain-leaning supporters that Jeremy Corbyn is a greater threat than Brexit, while also convincing Leave voters that a Remain parliament is the bigger threat.”

“Essentially, this election will come down to what triumphs: party loyalty or Brexit loyalty. ‘It seems to me that the Conservatives are going to try and conduct a national campaign on both fronts. At the last election, voters snapped back to party loyalties on polling day. Whether they do so again will decide whether Boris Johnson can win.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019

(BBC) December election: What difference does winter make?


polling station rain

MPs have voted for a general election on 12 December. UK elections usually take place in May or June – the last December election was in 1923 – so what difference might a winter election make?

Are all the polling stations booked up?

Elections are huge organisational feats. Millions of polling cards have to be distributed. Postal votes need to be sent. And thousands of school halls, churches and community centres have to be booked to be used as polling stations.

The worry is that lots of these locations will already be booked up in mid-December for Christmas events.

Laura Lock, of the Association of Electoral Administrators, says her members have been making calls, and finding many of the usual venues already have bookings.

“We will find polling stations,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – but they might not be where people expect. Voters could find themselves casting their ballots in garages or under caravan awnings.

And the counting of votes, which lasts many hours and relies on temporary staff, may also have to take place in similarly makeshift locations.

Will bad weather stop people voting?

This is an enduring idea which instinctively feels right. In the cold and damp December weather, surely people will be less inclined to turn out and vote.

However, experts say there is no evidence from the UK to suggest that bad weather stops people from voting.

Research from the University of Oxford found virtually no correlation between the weather and turnout – instead people are more likely to vote if the election race is close and there is a strong difference between the leading parties.

They are far less likely to vote if it feels like a foregone conclusion, or the main candidates seem relatively close in their political outlook.

What about shorter days?

As in the case of polling stations, the shorter winter days provide a logistical challenge for election organisers.

Some are already planning to buy in temporary lighting for polling station entrances, according to Ms Lock.

They may also need to consider gritting polling station car parks and pathways in case of bad weather.

As for whether shorter days might put people off voting, we don’t have evidence for that.

Prof Sir John Curtice at Strathclyde University told the BBC that in the post-war period there have been two winter elections in February, and both had high turnouts.

Both shorter days and poor weather might make life more difficult for people knocking on doors during the campaign.

Could it stop students voting?

It has been suggested that an election in mid-December, close to the end of term, could affect the student vote. Students may be registered to vote at home but still be at university or college on polling day, or vice versa.

According to higher education policy website WonkHE, 16 December is the most common end of term date for universities in the UK – but many finish after that. Only a handful finish before 16 December and before the expected election date.

The last election in 2017 was similarly close to the end of summer term with some institutions finished with teaching and others still going. YouGov polling suggests 70% of student votes were cast in their home constituency, rather than their term-time address.

Students can register to vote at both their home and term-time addresses, provided they are in different constituencies. They can only vote once though – casting more than one vote at a general election is a criminal offence.

When an election date is known, students should then have time to register to vote in the appropriate location.

What about the last December election?

It has been almost a century since the last time Britain went to the polls in December.

Electors on 6 December 1923 had a choice of main parties including Stanley Baldwin’s Conservatives, Ramsay MacDonald’s Labour and H. H. Asquith’s Liberal party.

The result perhaps acts as a warning to prime ministers tempted to call an early election. Mr Baldwin had replaced Tory PM Bonar Law after he fell ill and resigned earlier that year.

Under Mr Law, the Tories had won an election in 1922 and sat in the Commons with a healthy majority. But Mr Baldwin wanted his own mandate.

And while he did win the most seats, the election produced a hung parliament. Within weeks, Labour, under Mr MacDonald, would form the party’s first-ever government in agreement with the Liberals.

It would last just 10 months before another election was held in October 1924, which the Conservatives won by a landslide.

(CNBC) UK set for a December election as opposition Labour party backs calls


  • Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement Tuesday morning that he was satisfied that conditions had been met to go to the polls before Christmas.
  • “I have consistently said that we are ready for an election and our support is subject to a no-deal Brexit being off the table,” Corbyn told his senior colleagues.

WATCH NOWVIDEO02:50British PM set to push for another early general election

The British government looks set to get its pre-Christmas wish for a December general election in a vote on Tuesday, after gaining the crucial support of the main opposition Labour party.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement Tuesday morning that he was satisfied that conditions had been met to go to the polls before Christmas.

“I have consistently said that we are ready for an election and our support is subject to a no-deal Brexit being off the table,” Corbyn told his senior colleagues.

“We have now heard from the EU that the extension of Article 50 to 31st January has been confirmed, so for the next three months, our condition of taking no deal off the table has now been met. We will now launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change our country has ever seen,” the Labour leader added.

In reaction, sterling rose about three-tenths of a percent against the dollar and was sitting at $1.2856 at 11:15 a.m. London time. The FTSE 100, which often moves inversely to sterling, showed an average fall in bigger U.K.-listed stocks.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to put a bill through Parliament on Tuesday that calls for a Dec. 12 election that would only need a simple majority. He needs lawmakers to agree to his plan and his push for a snap poll has already been rejected three times.

The exact date remains contentious, with Labour, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats all suggesting a slightly earlier date would be preferable.

Other amendments to the bill may be proposed, although the U.K. government is reportedly attempting to restrict the number that could be placed before lawmakers in the House of Commons.

On Monday evening, lawmakers in the U.K. rejected the government’s request to hold a general election on the same date. Under the rules, two-thirds of Parliament, or 434 MPs, needed to approve the motion for it to pass, but it got only 299 as opposition lawmakers declined the opportunity to take on Boris Johnson at the ballot box.

But Johnson’s defeat meant a change in strategy from the government. The U.K. leader will now seek a different route to an election — by passing a law with a simple majority that bypasses the 2011 Fixed-term Parliaments Act. He would still need the support of opposition parties but Labour’s announcement means it’s likely to now pass.

RT: Brexit - Britain's Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party's Shadow Secretary of State for Departing the European Union Keir Starmer l

Britain’s Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn and Labour Party’s Shadow Secretary of State for Departing the European Union Keir Starmer leave a meeting with European Union Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier (not pictured) at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 21, 2019.Francois Lenoir | Reuters

Corbyn had previously said Labour would not back an election unless the possibility of a no-deal Brexit is removed.

Going to the polls is viewed by the Conservative-led government as the best way to secure a strong-enough hold over Parliament that can, in turn, smooth the passage of its Brexit plan. Since 2017, the Conservative Party has needed the votes of Northern Ireland’s DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) to hold a slender House of Commons majority.

A consensus of polls suggests that the Conservatives would likely improve its position if a general election was held in the current political atmosphere. It would be the first U.K. general election to be held in the winter months since 1974.

Naturally, opposition lawmakers are split as to whether an election is a good idea. Some claim the U.K. government will use a fresh mandate to force through a no deal, while others questioned the granting of a pre-Christmas election that Johnson looks well-placed to win.WATCH NOWVIDEO05:28UK lawmakers will vote on Boris Johnson’s election offer Monday


Early Monday, the European Union granted an extension to the U.K.’s membership of the trading bloc. Britain and Northern Ireland had been aiming to leave on Oct. 31 but with Parliament unable to agree on the terms of the departure, Johnson was legally forced to ask for another extension.

The EU has now given the U.K. until Jan. 31 to leave the bloc with the possibility of an earlier exit if MPs can ratify the divorce deal. European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed the “flextension” on Twitter.

Donald Tusk@eucopresident

The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK’s request for a #Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020. The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure.25.1K9:23 AM – Oct 28, 2019

(BBC) Brexit: European leaders agree extension to 31 January


Media captionEU negotiator ‘happy’ Brexit extension has been granted

EU leaders have agreed in principle to extend Brexit until 31 January 2020 – meaning the UK will not leave as planned on Thursday.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said it was a “flextension” – meaning the UK could leave before the deadline if a deal was approved by Parliament.

It comes as MPs prepare to vote on proposals by Boris Johnson for an early general election on 12 December.

The SNP and Lib Dems have also proposed an election on 9 December.

A No 10 source said the government would introduce a bill “almost identical” to the Lib Dem/SNP option on Tuesday if Labour voted their plan down later, and “we will have a pre-Christmas election anyway”.

The UK was due to leave the EU on Thursday, but Mr Johnson was required to request an extension after Parliament failed to agree a Brexit deal.

The prime minister had repeatedly said the UK would leave on 31 October deadline with or without a deal, but the law – known as the Benn Act – requires him to accept the EU’s extension offer.

The prime minister is trying to persuade MPs to agree to a new timetable for his Brexit deal legislation and an election on 12 December.

The Lib Dem/SNP plan does not include a new timetable for his legislation – the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

The BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, said it was not clear whether the government would stick to a 9 December election date, but the move implied ministers would “give up [an] attempt to get the bill through”.

It was also not clear whether the government’s “almost identical” bill would amendable, allowing MPs to vote on issues like a customs union or another referendum.

Labour’s shadow cabinet are meeting to decide on their position, ahead of the Commons vote.

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by Norman Smith, assistant political editor

Boris Johnson’s “do or die” pledge to leave by 31 October is no more – it is dead.

Many will see this as a no-deal Brexit being taken off the table, at least until 31 January.

So it will increase the arguments in the Commons that with no-deal parked, Parliament now has to make a decision on an election.

And that is what Mr Johnson will be trying to argue over the next few days.

For the PM, there is a risk of calling an election without Brexit being resolved, as he may be punished for it at the ballot box.

So, while it buys more time, it also creates an element of uncertainty for the prime minister.

He will now campaign for an election in the knowledge that he has failed in his signature policy which he campaigned for in the Conservative leadership election.

Presentational grey line

The president of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, said the extension was “positive”, and “gives time for the UK to make clear what it wants”.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson had not yet seen the EU’s response to his request for a Brexit delay.

“The PM will respond once he has seen the detail,” his official spokesman said. “His view has not changed. Parliament should not have put the UK in this position and we should be leaving on 31 October.

“The PM secured a great new deal despite being told this impossible but Parliament has chosen more dither and delay.”

Mr Tusk will now seek the UK’s formal agreement to the decision, before formalising the extension through a written procedure among the 27 other EU nations.

An EU official said they hoped for the process to be concluded by Tuesday or Wednesday.Skip Twitter post by @eucopresident

Donald Tusk@eucopresident

The EU27 has agreed that it will accept the UK’s request for a #Brexit flextension until 31 January 2020. The decision is expected to be formalised through a written procedure.16.5K9:23 AM – Oct 28, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacy9,899 people are talking about thisReport

End of Twitter post by @eucopresident

MPs are due to vote on the prime minister’s election call after 18:00 GMT.

Labour has repeatedly said it will not back an early general election until a no-deal Brexit is taken off the table.

The SNP also said it would block the government’s election attempt.

But it has broken with the Labour position and joined forces with the Liberal Democrats to push for an election on 9 December.

Their bill that would tweak the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 – the law which sets the time-frame for elections.

If passed, it would enable an election to take place with only a majority of one, rather than two-thirds of MPs.

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, said they would then fight an election “on the basis” of stopping Brexit.

He welcomed the extension from the EU, telling the BBC: “There is a responsibility on all of us to make sure we use that time to get out of the Brexit mess we are in and to get out of the impasse everybody is fed up of being in.”

Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna claimed the plan would also prevent the prime minister “ramming through” his Brexit bill, which the Lib Dems oppose, and changing the date of an election until after the UK had left the EU.

“The only way you can stop Brexit is through a democratic mandate of the people,” Mr Umunna told BBC News.

“We have tried to secure a People’s Vote [or further referendum] 17 times in Parliament… but we have simply not had the support. So, our best bet… is getting a new Parliament with a different arithmetic.”

Media captionChuka Umunna: “Our primary goal is stopping Brexit”

His party leader, Jo Swinson, added: “We will keep fighting for a People’s Vote, but unless Labour wholeheartedly back it then a general election is the only way we can use this extension to stop Brexit.”

But Labour Party Chairman Lavery said accused the Lib Dems of “getting into bed with the no-deal Brexit Conservatives and forgetting their chums” in the People’s Vote campaign.

He tweeted: “Moral of the story: Never trust a Tory and for heaven’s sake never trust the Lib Dems.”

MPs have already twice rejected a call from Boris Johnson to hold a general election.

(Reuters) UK PM Johnson’s Conservatives hold 16-point poll lead ahead of election decision

(Reuters) LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party holds a 16-point lead over the opposition Labour Party ahead of a parliamentary vote on Monday on whether to hold a snap general election, according to an Opinium poll.

According to the survey, support for the Conservative Party rose three points since a previous poll eight days ago to stand at 40%, while Labour was unchanged on 24%.

The pro-European Union Liberal Democrat Party slipped one point to 15% while Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which could challenge the Conservatives for the support of Brexit backers, was on 10%.

Johnson, elected by party members in July to break the deadlock over Brexit, has proposed holding an election on Dec. 12 after he failed to get a divorce deal through parliament in time for the country to leave the European Union on Oct. 31.

Lawmakers will vote on Monday on whether to hold the snap election but most opposition parties have indicated they will either abstain or vote against the move, meaning Johnson is unlikely to secure the support of two-thirds of lawmakers that he needs.

Britain is not due to hold a national election until 2022. The poll was conducted between the 23 and 25 of October.

(BBC) Brexit: Boris Johnson to try for 12 December election


Boris Johnson has said he will give MPs more time to debate his Brexit deal, but only if they agree to a 12 December general election.

The prime minister told the BBC he expected the EU to grant an extension to his 31 October deadline, even though he “really” did not want one.

He urged Labour to back an election in a vote he plans to hold next week.

EU leaders are expected to give their verdict on delaying Brexit for up to three months, on Friday.

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg told MPs the government would on Monday table a motion calling for a general election.

Shadow leader of the House Valerie Vaz said Labour would back an election “once no-deal is ruled out and if the extension allows”.

Labour would offer the PM its support for a “proper timetable” for the Brexit bill to allow MPs to scrutinise and amend it, she added.

In a letter to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Johnson says his “preferred option” is a short Brexit postponement “say to 15 or 30 November”.

In that case, he writes, he will try to get his deal through Parliament again, with Labour’s support.

The prime minister adds that he “assumes” Mr Corbyn “will cooperate with me to get our new Brexit deal ratified, so we leave with a new deal rather than no deal”.

If, as widely expected, the EU’s Brexit delay is to the end of January, Mr Johnson says he will hold a Commons vote next week on a 12 December election.

If Labour agrees to this, the government says it will try to get its deal through before Parliament is dissolved for the campaign on 6 November.

‘Excellent deal’

The prime minister told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: “I’m afraid it looks as though our EU friends are going to respond to Parliament’s request by having an extension, which I really don’t want at all.

“So, the way to get this done, the way to get Brexit done, is, I think, to be reasonable with Parliament and say if they genuinely want more time to study this excellent deal, they can have it but they have to agree to a general election on 12 December.”

Asked what he would do if Labour refused to vote for an election, he said: “We would campaign day after day for the people of this country to be released from subjection to a Parliament that has outlived its usefulness.”

The prime minister has repeatedly insisted the UK will leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal.

But he was forced to send a letter to the EU requesting an extension, under legislation passed by MPs last month.

MPs voted on Tuesday to back the first stage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, putting the deal the PM agreed with Brussels into law – but rejected Mr Johnson’s plan to push it through the Commons in three days.

The BBC’s Europe editor Katya Adler says EU leaders are set to decide on Friday whether to grant the UK a three-month Brexit extension.

Most EU nations back it but France “is digging its heels in”, she adds.

So there could be an emergency summit in Brussels on Monday to allow leaders to reach agreement face-to-face.

Presentational grey line
Analysis box by Katya Adler, Europe editor

President Macron favours a short, sharp Brexit delay, encouraging MPs and the UK government to concentrate on ratifying the newly negotiated Brexit deal.

Mr Macron is fed up with the more-than-three-year EU focus on Brexit and the ever-present threat of a no-deal scenario.

He would rather shift attention to reforming the EU itself, to the benefit (he believes) of the countries remaining in it.

( Reaction Engines precooler test hits Mach 5

( Reaction Engines has successfully tested its innovative precooler at airflow temperature conditions representing Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.Published 22 October 2019From:UK Space Agency and Chris Skidmore MP

Reaction Engines test facility, Colorado
Reaction Engines test facility, Colorado

This marks a significant milestone in the development of the UK-designed SABRE™ engine and paves the way for a revolution in hypersonic flight and space access.

The precooler heat exchanger is a vital component of Reaction Engines’ revolutionary SABRE air-breathing rocket engine and is an enabling technology for other pre-cooled propulsion systems and a range of commercial applications.

The UK government committed £60 million through the UK Space Agency and European Space Agency to aid preparations for the design, manufacture and testing of SABRE demonstrator engines. This has led to further private investment from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Boeing HorizonX.

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said:

The SABRE engine is one of the UK’s most exciting engineering projects which could change forever how we launch satellites into orbit and travel across the world.

It’s fantastic to see Reaction Engines passing this significant milestone, which demonstrates how its precooler technology can deal with the extreme temperatures associated with travelling at five times the speed of sound.

The government has invested £60 million in SABRE and is committed to taking a more strategic approach to space, developing our national capabilities to complement and expand on the UK’s leading role in the European Space Agency once we leave the EU.

This ground-based test achieved the highest temperature objective of the company’s HTX testing programme and took place at its specially constructed facility at the Colorado Air and Space Port, United States.

During the latest series of tests, Reaction Engines’ precooler successfully quenched airflow temperatures in excess of 1,000°C in less than 1/20th of a second. The tests demonstrated the precooler’s ability to successfully cool airflow at speeds significantly in excess of the operational limit of any jet-engine powered aircraft in history.

Mach 5 is more than twice as fast as the cruising speed of Concorde and over 50% faster than the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft – the world’s fastest jet-engine powered aircraft.

Reaction Engines’ patented precooler heat exchanger has the potential to be used in a wide range of commercial thermal management applications. These include the development of precooled systems that would significantly enhance the performance of existing jet engine technology, along with applications in automotive, aerospace, energy and industrial processes.

(DML) France wants Britain out of the EU ‘within 15 DAYS’ amid splits in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet over whether to call an early general election or try to pass a Brexit deal


  • Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain are said to back Mr Macron’s short extension
  • Germany and Ireland are among the countries backing a three month delay
  • Boris Johnson’s Cabinet is reportedly split over whether to call a snap election 

European leaders are juggling Britain’s immediate future today as they discuss how long to keep the country within the EU.

French president Emmanuel Macron is leading a group of rebels who want a Brexit extension of as little as 15 days after Boris Johnson was forced by MPs to hand control to Brussels.

Belgium, Luxembourg and Spain are said to back Mr Macron – with the Netherlands reportedly drifting towards this position.

Germany and Ireland however, are among the countries that are more relaxed about the idea of a three month delay proposed by European Council president Donald Tusk.

It came amid reported splits within Mr Johnson’s Cabinet over whether to use the Brextension for a general election or a second attempt to get his Withdrawal Agreement Bill (Wab) through Parliament.

The ‘Grinches’ who stole Christmas? Schools could be asked to reschedule their NATIVITY plays to make way for polling stations

Schools could be asked to reschedule their nativity plays so that schools can be used as polling booths for a pre-Christmas general election, it emerged today.

Downing Street wants to go to the polls in December in the hope of getting a majority for a Brexit deal as soon as possible.

But Boris Johnson has been warned of the logistical problems a winter election could bring, including the need for external lighting at polling booths and contingency plans for bad weather, the Times reported

Tory Party chairman James Cleverly told the BBC‘s Today programme this morning:  ‘I don’t want to be the Grinch. 

‘But the point is democracy is incredibly important and we have been prevented on discharging the duty imposed upon us.’

It is thought the Prime Minister will lay down the gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn as soon as the EU grant another Brexit extension, a decision expected tomorrow.

Mr Johnson could put forward a motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act as early as tonight, according to The Times, leading to a potential election on December 5.

But Mr Johnson is facing mounting Tory resistance, with some believing his chief adviser Dominic Cummings is driving him towards the polls, whereas the PM might be more inclined to plough on with Brexit.

And Jeremy Corbyn is dithering over whether to back a pre-Christmas election last night – as Labour MPs warned him the party would get ‘smashed’ at the polls.

Mr Corbyn, who turned down the chance of an election three times last month, claimed this month he was ‘champing at the bit’ to go to the polls as soon as a fresh Brexit delay was in place.

But yesterday his spokesman refused to say if Labour would vote for an election next week, even if Brexit has been delayed until the end of January, which rules out the risk of an immediate No Deal.

And sources said more than half of Labour MPs had told the party’s whips they would not vote for an election now, even if Mr Corbyn ordered them to.

One shadow Cabinet minister told MailOnline: ‘It is awful. He could try, but he probably won’t have the numbers to get it over the line anyway. It just doesn’t stack up.’

French president Emmanuel Macron is leading a group of rebels who want a Brexit extension of as little as 15 days after Boris Johnson was forced by MPs to hand control to Brussels


French president Emmanuel Macron is leading a group of rebels who want a Brexit extension of as little as 15 days after Boris Johnson was forced by MPs to hand control to Brussels

It came amid reported splits within Mr Johnson's Cabinet over whether to use the Brextension for a general election or a second attempt to get his Withdrawal Agreement Bill (Wab) through Parliament.


It came amid reported splits within Mr Johnson’s Cabinet over whether to use the Brextension for a general election or a second attempt to get his Withdrawal Agreement Bill (Wab) through Parliament.

The shadow minister predicted that the leadership will wait till the last possible moment and hope events save them from having to make a decision.

PM blasted for pulling out of grilling by senior MPs for the third time

The Prime Minister’s decision to pull out of an appearance before senior MPs with less than 24 hours’ notice has been described as ‘extraordinary’.

Boris Johnson had been due to face questioning by the Commons Liaison Committee – made up of select committee chairmen – at Westminster on Thursday.

But in a handwritten note to the chairwoman, Sarah Wollaston, he asked for a new date to be arranged for ‘five or six months’ on from when he became Prime Minister.

Dr Wollaston said the public would have to ‘draw their own conclusions’ on whether he refused because he is running scared.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘This is the only select committee that can call the Prime Minister, and this is now the third time that he’s cancelled, despite having given a clear reassurance during the leadership campaign that he would come at an early opportunity.

‘So I think that’s the point here. He knows that he’s been Prime Minister for months now, he’s only had two appearances at Prime Minister’s Questions, and again not facing this kind of detailed scrutiny, I don’t think it’s good enough, really.’

‘In principle an Opposition should always be wanting to face the electorate. That is pretty much our only reason for being.

‘But a lot of people are scared of what will happen. Splitting the party that badly would be the nightmare.

‘What is our excuse for not wanting an election? Once we have the extension, what are we going to say?’

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey was asked this morning if Labour would vote for a general election as soon as the Prime Minister asks for one after the EU grants an extension.

She told the Today programme: ‘That’s our position. But we also want the Prime Minister to look at the compromise that’s been offered that a lot of MPs support, and that’s the ability to be able to properly scrutinise the Bill.’

Mr Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, is reportedly leading calls to abandon attempts to get the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal through Parliament and go for an election.

But Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith is said to be among ministers arguing it is still possible to pass a bill ratifying the agreement, despite Tuesday’s defeat for Mr Johnson’s attempt to fast-track it through the Commons.

There are fears among Conservatives that if there is an election before the UK has left the EU, it will play into the hands of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Even if Mr Johnson does decide to press for an early election there is no guarantee that he will succeed.

Under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act he would need a ‘super majority’ of two-thirds of all MPs to call an election which would require Labour support.

Tory Party chairman James Cleverly kept his options this morning, saying it was still possible to leave on October 31, without revealing how. 




Jeremy Corbyn is dithering over whether to back a pre-Christmas election last night – as Labour MPs warned him the party would get 'smashed' at the polls.


Jeremy Corbyn is dithering over whether to back a pre-Christmas election last night – as Labour MPs warned him the party would get ‘smashed’ at the polls.

Mr Cummings (pictured today) reportedly banging his fist in fury during a meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn when the PM suggested a compromise to the Brexit timetable


Mr Cummings (pictured today) reportedly banging his fist in fury during a meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn when the PM suggested a compromise to the Brexit timetable

He told the Today Programme: ‘We’ve been calling for a general election, me personally, the Prime Minister at the ballot box, my friends and colleagues all around the country, for months now.

‘The Labour Party are running scared and I can completely understand why, their Brexit message is confused at best.’

 He added that the Government has had to ‘ramp up’ its no-deal preparations because ‘the EU has not agreed an extension and therefore it is absolutely essential that we make sure that we are ready to leave’. 

Mr Cummings reportedly banging his fist in fury during a meeting between Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn when the PM suggested a compromise to the Brexit timetable.

After Labour blocked Mr Johnson’s fast-track Brexit timetable on Tuesday night, it was alleged that Mr Johnson had asked Mr Corbyn how long it might take to get the deal passed, at which point, according to The Telegraph, Mr Cummings furiously shouted, ‘No!’

No10 doused the claims as ‘utter nonsense’ and added that the meeting with the Opposition leader was ‘a total waste of time.’ 

‘They’ve kicked away the ladder of redemption’: Nine former Tory MPs who voted down Boris Johnson’s bid to leave on October 31 have little chance of rejoining party, says No10 source 

Nine former Tory MPs who blocked Boris Johnson‘s hopes of securing an October 31 Brexit have little chance of rejoining the party, it emerged last night.

A senior government source said the rebels – who include former chancellors Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke, former attorney general Dominic Grieve QC and former development secretary Rory Stewart had ‘kicked away’ the ‘ladder of redemption’.

They all voted for the deal on Tuesday night but against the timetable motion. 

One rebel, Antoinette Sandbach, offered to back Mr Johnson on both votes but only if she was given a guarantee she would be readmitted. The offer was refused

One rebel, Antoinette Sandbach, offered to back Mr Johnson on both votes but only if she was given a guarantee she would be readmitted. The offer was refused

After losing that vote Mr Johnson announced he would have to ‘pause’ his legislation and wait for EU leaders to impose a Brexit delay.

The vote had divided the 21 former Tory rebels into ‘two very separate camps’, the source said.

‘We have those who lost the whip but have supported the government since in trying to get a deal through, and we have another group who seem to be totally opposed to Conservative policy and bent on inflicting a vindictive political defeat on the PM.

‘There a ladder of redemption and it follows that the first group has started to climb it, while the other group has kicked it away.’ 

One rebel, Antoinette Sandbach, offered to back Mr Johnson on both votes but only if she was given a guarantee she would be readmitted and could fight the next election as a Conservative, a source told the Mail. 

This offer was refused.

Last night Miss Sandbach claimed her negotiations were ‘primarily’ about giving the House of Commons a bigger say on the post-Brexit relationship with the EU, avoiding No Deal at the end of transition and greater Parliamentary scrutiny of prerogative powers. 

But she added: ‘Of course I wanted reassurance that longstanding issues in my association would be dealt with having raised these for over 12 months, as if they were not, returning the whip would be a purely symbolic act, I also wanted reassurance that there was still a place in the party for MPs like me on the one nation wing of the party.

‘As the policy issues weren’t dealt with I and others voted against the programme motion.’ 

Several local associations have already begun the process of selecting new candidates for the seats. 

With an election looming, that process is set to accelerate in the coming weeks, according to a senior Tory source.

Mr Hammond defended his vote, arguing it was wrong to push the deal through at ‘breakneck speed’.

‘I believe in delivering Brexit, but I also believe in Parliamentary scrutiny,’ he wrote on Twitter.

‘That’s why I voted for the Brexit bill to progress to the next stage, but against No10’s plan to rush it through at breakneck speed. Now’s the time for cool heads, to calmly consider the Bill.’

At Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, Mr Hammond stood alone behind the Speaker’s Chair, with Tory MPs appearing to avoid speaking to him during the one-hour session.

(BBC) Brexit: Boris Johnson in last push to get deal through


Boris Johnson speaking in the Commons

Boris Johnson will urge MPs to back his Brexit deal in a final bid to get the UK to leave the EU in nine days’ time.

MPs will vote on the PM’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill and if they back it they will be asked to approve a three-day timetable to consider the legislation.

But the decision to curtail the scrutiny of the bill to three days has sparked anger from opposition MPs.

The BBC’s Norman Smith said the PM looks set for a “deeply damaging” defeat over the timetable.

However, the prime minister seems on course to win an important symbolic victory with MPs poised to back his Brexit bill in principle, our assistant political editor added.

MPs will begin a number of votes on Mr Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which was published on Monday, at about 19:00 BST.

Elsewhere, European Council President Donald Tusk has told the European Parliament in Strasbourg he is consulting the 27 EU leaders on how to react to the UK’s request for a Brexit delay and “will decide in the coming days”.

“I have no doubt that we should treat the British request for extension in all seriousness,” he tweeted.

Ministers have insisted they are confident they have the numbers to get the Withdrawal Agreement Bill approved, despite losing a crunch Commons vote on Saturday aimed at ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

MPs believed by ministers to be ready to back the prime minister include pro-Leave Labour rebels and former Tory MPs now sitting as independents who would rather leave with Mr Johnson’s deal than no deal at all.

If MPs back the bill, they will then vote on the government’s “programme motion”, which sets out the timetable for the legislation’s passage through the Commons.

On Monday, Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “People who do not vote for the programme motion will not be voting for Brexit on October 31.”

Analysis box by Laura Kuenssberg, political editor

Here it is. And here we go. The government has now published the pages and pages of new laws that need to be passed to make our departure from the EU happen.

Forget the meaningful vote, to get Brexit done – as the prime minister never tires of saying – this whole bundle of legislation has to pass.

The European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is a document of 110 pages that details exactly how Parliament is expected to put the deal that the prime minister agreed with his counterparts around the continent into UK law.

For Brexit watchers it is a big moment.

Read more from the BBC’s political editor.

If the programme motion is approved, the bill will then move to the committee stage – which will continue on into Wednesday – when MPs will have the opportunity to put down amendments.

These are expected to include attempts to keep the UK more closely aligned with the EU through a customs union and to stage a second referendum.

Both are bitterly opposed by the government, raising the possibility that it could pull the bill altogether if either gets through.

Ahead of the debate, Mr Johnson said: “The public doesn’t want any more delays, neither do other European leaders and neither do I.

“Let’s get Brexit done on 31 October and move on.”

However, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, Sir Keir Starmer, accused ministers of trying to “bounce” MPs into approving a bill that could cause “huge damage” to the country.

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What is the proposed timetable for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?

Tuesday – second reading – MPs’ first chance to debate the bill and vote for its continued passage. If passed at second reading, committee stage begins the same day.

Wednesday and Thursday – committee stage – where detailed examination of the bill takes place and specific amendments – on a fresh referendum, for example – can be tabled and voted on. The bill then moves on to report stage, which offers further opportunities for amendments before it moves to third reading. This is MPs’ final chance to debate the bill before voting on whether to approve it.

If approved, it then moves to the Lords to begin a similar scrutiny process.

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Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said Labour was “outraged” by the government’s attempt to push the bill through in a short time.

“When I did the Health and Social Care Act, which was a major piece of legislation, it took three months,” the Labour MP told BBC Breakfast.

“In order for politicians to do their job properly, we do need to have time,” she added.

Emily Thornberry
Image captionShadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said her party was “outraged” by the government’s behaviour

The SNP’s Pete Wishart also condemned a lack of economic impact assessments of the deal ahead of the attempt to pass the legislation.

Ex-Tory MP Rory Stewart, who lost the party whip when he voted in support of the Benn Act, said he would back Mr Johnson’s bill in principle but wanted to ensure Parliament had a “normal” amount of time to debate it.

“We need to finish this in the proper way, and if we’re going to deliver Brexit, we need to deliver it in a way that Brexiteers and Remainers believe was taken through Parliament fairly,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

But Mr Rees-Mogg said other acts had been brought and passed with short notice.

“A king emperor left in 24 hours, and we are removing an imperial yoke in over a week,” he added.

And Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Breakfast that Parliament “can move pretty quickly” and has already had 500 hours of debate on Brexit.

“So most MPs, frankly, are very familiar with the vast majority of issues that are in this bill,” he said.

Jacob Rees-Mogg
Image captionJacob Rees-Mogg presenting the programme motion to the Commons on Monday

What is in the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?

The 110-page document will give legal effect to the withdrawal deal negotiated by Mr Johnson.

His plan ditches the backstop – the controversial measure designed to prevent a return to physical checks on the Irish border.

Instead it essentially draws a new customs border in the Irish Sea, as goods which could travel onwards to Ireland will have to pay a duty tax.

It also will see the whole of the UK leave the EU customs union, meaning it could strike trade deals with other countries in the future.

The WAB will also turn any agreed transition period into law, fulfil requirements on the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, and allow ministers to make “divorce payments” to the EU foreseen under the current deal.

But MPs will be able to vote on amendments – changes or add-ons – to the bill.

If the government cannot get the bill through Parliament, the default legal position is for the UK to leave without a deal on 31 October, but that will change if the EU grants an extension.

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Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal

Boris Johnson speaking as PM at the Conservative Party conference in 2019

KEY POINTS: What’s new in the deal?

PEOPLE’S VIEW: Do voters support the deal?

EXPLAINED: What is the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?

IN GRAPHICS: What happens now?

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Media captionBrexit: What actually happened on Saturday?

Tuesday’s votes come after Mr Johnson failed to get the agreement he reached with the EU last week signed off in the Commons on Saturday.

MPs instead backed an amendment withholding their approval until the bill has faced the scrutiny of both the Commons and the Lords and been passed into law.

The amendment worked alongside the so-called Benn Act, which required the prime minister to ask the EU for an extension to the 31 October deadline to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Following Saturday’s developments, Mr Johnson sent an unsigned letter asking for the delay, along with a signed letter saying why he did not agree with any further delays.

There has been no official word from the EU yet on whether the bloc will grant a delay or what length it would be.

Mr Tusk said the result of his consultation with EU leaders “will very much depend on what the British parliament decides or doesn’t decide”.