Posts Tagged ‘austerity’

Austerity, racism, the NHS and Brexit: Corbyn and Johnson clash in BBC debate – video highlights

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn clashed over whether the future of Britain should be capitalist or socialist as they presented two wildly different visions for the country in the final leaders' debate. From austerity and the NHS to Brexit and racism, these are the highlights of the night

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5 things to know about the final UK election TV debate

LONDON — Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn clashed in their final head-to-head debate of the U.K. general election campaign on Friday.

Less than a week before polling day on December 12, the Labour and Conservative leaders faced off in Maidstone, Kent for an hour. A snap YouGov poll after the debate found 52 percent of viewers thought Johnson won while 48 percent thought Corbyn did. But the close result is within the margin of error, meaning a score draw.

Here are the five things you need to know.

1. A diplomat quit with a blast at Boris Johnson and he didn’t notice

The prime minister claimed to know nothing about the senior U.K. diplomat who quit her job saying she no longer wanted to “peddle half-truths” about Brexit for the British government. Alexandra Hall Hall, the lead envoy for Brexit at the U.K. Embassy in Washington, handed in her resignation on December 3. She said the British civil service was being asked to deliver messages on Brexit which were not “fully honest” and her position had become “unbearable personally” and “untenable professionally.”

The story broke several hours before but asked about it during the debate, Johnson said: “I don’t know who you are referring to but what it shows to me is that we need to move on as a country.”

2. Both leaders were on message (a little too on message)

Johnson managed to shoehorn his core campaign message about the need “get Brexit done” into just about every question he answered. He said his opponent’s record on dealing with anti-Semitism in Labour ranks showed a “failure of leadership,” and likened it to Corbyn choosing to stay neutral in a future Brexit referendum.

Meanwhile, Corbyn insisted on pulling the conversation back onto the past decade of Conservative austerity and remind viewers about his plans to pump cash into public services.

3. Corbyn mooted an independent election lies monitor

One member of the audience asked what punishment party leaders should face if they are found to have lied during an election campaign.

Johnson did not miss the opportunity to make a quip. “They should be made to go on their knees down through the chamber of the House of Commons, scourging themselves with copies of their offending documents which claim to prove one thing and actually prove something quite different,” he said.

But taking aim at the Vote Leave campaign’s widely disputed claim about increased funding for the NHS after Brexit, Corbyn said: “When people paint slogans on the side of a bus that are totally unsustainable perhaps it is time that we do have an independent monitoring of what goes on in elections.”

4. Corbyn promised not to disband MI5

Johnson repeated the charge that Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott once called for “the abolition of conspiratorial groups like MI5 and Special Branch.” But Corbyn insisted: “There are no plans whatsoever to disband MI5 or any other part of the security services.”

The Labour leader was also forced to clear up confusion about whether Labour would impose a 4-day week on NHS staff.

The party has promised to reduce the number of hours worked from 37.1 hours in the average working week down to 32 hours by 2030, with no loss of pay. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said earlier in the campaign that the policy would apply to “everybody” including NHS staff, though Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said the opposite.

But Corbyn said during the debate: “There is no plan to bring in a four-day week in the NHS.”

5. Nobody agrees about Brexit (still)

The two leaders clashed repeatedly over Brexit. Corbyn brought up the leaked U.K. Treasury assessment he revealed earlier on Friday which outlined the possibility that businesses exporting from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would be subject to customs checks, contrary to claims by Johnson. But the prime minister insisted: “It says unfettered access, I think is what it says.”

Corbyn also repeated his claim that Johnson wants to include the NHS in a trade deal with the U.S. Johnson said the assertion was “Bermuda triangle stuff,” adding: “We’ll be hearing about little green men next.”

And when Corbyn said a trade deal with the U.S. would take seven years to negotiate, while the U.K. still risked leaving the EU with no deal at all, Johnson accused him of  showing a “slight ignorance in the reality.”

Brexit? This election is about something much bigger than that | Ash Sarkar

This is about whether we have a future. After nine years of biting austerity, there has to be an alternative

I was five years old in 1997 when my mum took me with her to the polling station and let me scratch a wobbly X on the ballot paper. My main impression of the general election was it meant that I didn’t have to go to school that day, and that voting Labour had something to do with Mum buying the biggest watermelon I’d ever seen from the Turkish shop on the way home. More opaque was why she cried the next morning, or phoned her sister just to repeat “This is amazing … it’s just amazing” over and over.

I think I understand her a bit better now. For a struggling single parent with two young kids, the end of 18 years of continuous Tory rule felt like being let out of a dark room.

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UK think tank: No EU trade deal after Brexit risks more austerity

LONDON — Failure to strike a U.K.-EU trade deal would force the British government to adopt an austerity program in the medium term, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

At a briefing on the U.K. parties’ policy manifestos on Thursday, IFS Director Paul Johnson said failure to strike such a trade deal “seems to be more of a risk” under the Conservatives than under Labour. Such a scenario “would harm the economy” and “increase the debt and deficit,” he said.

If they win the upcoming election, the Conservatives plan to pull the U.K. out of the European Union by January 31 and then push for a trade deal with the EU by the end of a Brexit transition period, planned to run until December 2020. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says a Conservative government will succeed in striking an agreement with the EU and has pledged not to extend this negotiation period.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, wants to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement Brussels struck with Johnson’s government within three months of winning power to keep the U.K more closely aligned to the rest of the EU. Such a deal would be subject to a referendum.

Soon after a collapse in U.K.-EU trade talks, there could be “big giveaways” by the British government, followed by spending cuts in the medium term, according to the IFS Deputy Director Carl Emmerson.

“A return to austerity would perhaps be the most likely outcome, not immediately, but in the medium term,” he said.

Both the Tories and Labour have pledged to end austerity in their policy manifestos ahead of the December 12 general election, but they have proposed very different levels of public spending.

The Conservative program promises just £2.9 billion extra a year by the end of the next parliament, whereas Labour pledges an extra £83 billion a year. This figure is likely to be higher after Corbyn announced that a Labour government would compensate some women who lost out as a result of changes to the pension age.

According to the IFS director, the chances of a Conservative government being able to hold spending down over the course of a five-year parliament in the way that they outlined in their party manifesto “look remote.” It is “highly likely” that a Tory government would be forced to either increase taxes or borrowing, he added.

The Conservatives “might come to regret” its promise not to increase rates of income tax, National Insurance Contributions or VAT, if Brexit delivers a blow to the British economy, he said.

This all might explain why the Conservatives have been “so immensely modest” in their proposals, the IFS’s Johnson said. “To do otherwise would either mean resiling from their pledge to balance the current budget or would mean being up front about the need for tax rises to avoid breaking that pledge.”

He also cast doubt over Labour’s plan to raise investment levels by £55 billion a year, saying the public sector does not have the capacity to “ramp up that much, that fast.”

Responding to the IFS analysis, Chancellor Sajid Javid said the Conservatives “have been very clear” with their spending commitments in this election.

“We have also clearly set out exactly how we are going to fund them,” he said in a statement. “We have a very detailed costings document — the most detailed I would say that any party has published in any British election — so I’m very confident about that.”

Scottish National Party’s manifesto explained

LONDON — The Scottish National Party launched its manifesto with a promise to end austerity and a list of conditions for Jeremy Corbyn should he need support from another party to become prime minister.

As Brexit looms, against the will of the majority of voters in Scotland, the SNP is hoping the U.K.’s December 12 election will have a similar outcome to the 2015 ballot, when the party won a landslide victory. Turnout will be crucial for Sturgeon’s success, as a fall in participation was blamed for the party losing more than a third of its seats in the 2017 election.

Sturgeon has put a second independence referendum in 2020 at the core of the SNP manifesto, saying she would be willing to form a “progressive alliance” with Labour in return for a fresh ballot and extra cash for Scotland.

Brexit

The SNP wants Scotland to become an independent country and stay in the European Union. In order to achieve that, the party will demand that the U.K. government transfers the necessary powers to allow the Scottish parliament to hold a second vote on independence, which Sturgeon’s party wants to hold in 2020.

If Scotland becomes independent, a SNP government would seek to be readmitted into the EU, the manifesto says.

UK NATIONAL PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

The SNP says it would support a second EU referendum with Remain on the ballot paper. The party would be in favor of cancelling Brexit if that is the only alternative to leaving the EU without a deal, it adds.

“Whatever Scotland’s constitutional status, it is important for the U.K. to remain as close to the EU as possible. SNP MPs will always vote to protect Scotland’s place in the single market and customs union,” the manifesto says.

Immigration

The SNP wants migration policy to be devolved to Edinburgh.

It says it will continue to press the U.K. government to guarantee EU nationals’ right to remain in Britain, and will back calls for EU nationals to be allowed to vote in U.K. general elections.

If the U.K. government introduces a seasonal migrant workers’ scheme to replace EU freedom of movement, the SNP says it will insist such a scheme meets the needs of workers and companies in Scotland.

The SNP will oppose Tory plans to require certain migrants to earn at least £30,000 in order to get a visa to work in the U.K., something the Johnson government has asked the independent Migration Advisory Committee to review. It will also campaign against the U.K. government’s Immigration Skills Charge, which forces employers to pay up to £5,000 per worker hired from outside the European Economic Area; and against indefinite immigration detention.

Access to citizenship has become increasingly costly, the SNP says, adding it would support a review of the citizenship application process with a view to bringing down its cost and reducing its complexity.

A streamlined visa scheme should be created to allow artists and performers to continue to work in the country, the party says.

Economy

The SNP says it will not support any U.K. government that does not put an end to austerity.

Its manifesto puts forward a funding plan for Scotland covering three core demands. First, reversing £1.5 billion cuts to the Scottish budget and increasing the budget in real terms; second, a plan to compensate for the last decade of austerity; and third, a demand for the U.K. government to increase per-head NHS funding south of the border to levels seen in Scotland, which it says is currently £136 per person higher. This increase in health spending in England would result in additional money for the Scottish NHS under the Barnett formula, which pegs public expenditure in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to levels in England.

It says the Scottish National Investment Bank, which will be operational in 2020, will provide £2 billion of long-term capital to companies and infrastructure projects. A top priority for the bank would be supporting the transition to net-zero carbon emissions.

The party will demand the devolution of employment and further tax powers, and support a crackdown on tax avoidance and evasion.

SNP MPs will press for the statutory living wage and support a freeze on National Insurance contributions and Value Added Tax, as well as a reform of VAT to include exemptions on items such as children’s clothes.

To help businesses struggling to hire due to Brexit uncertainty, the SNP says it would support a rise in the National Insurance discount companies receive — the so-called Employment Allowance.

The party also wants to increase the transparency around tax paid by international companies “to ensure that they make a proportionate contribution to tax revenues.”

It will oppose any rise in the pension age and demand the end of the two-child benefit cap, the so-called rape clause, the bedroom tax and Universal Credit.

Mobility

The SNP pledge to make mobility across Scotland more environmentally friendly by spending more than £500 million on buses, and helping people afford ultra-low emission vehicles by providing an additional £17 million in loans.

The party said it wants to reduce emissions from Scotland’s railways to zero by 2035 and will press the U.K. government to improve journey times between Scotland and London.

The Highlands and Islands could become the world’s first net zero aviation region by 2040, the SNP said. To achieve that, the party wants to start trials of low- or zero-emission flights, including electric planes, in 2021.

Technology

The SNP will press the U.K. government to support the roll-out of fiber broadband and 5G technology, and ensure Scotland gets “its fair share” of the £5 billion of U.K. government funding to expand gigabit broadband to remote areas.

The SNP wants the internet to be reclassified as an essential service.

After Brexit, SNP MPs will assess the impact of voluntary free roaming arrangements for mobile phone use in the EU, the manifesto says.

Financial services

The manifesto says the biggest corporate failure in recent years was the “financial crash” and promises to work to make sure those responsible are held to account. It would do that by supporting the reinstatement of the reverse burden of proof, which required senior bank managers to show they had addressed any wrongdoing on their watch.

The party says it seems “unfair” that the taxpayer stepped in to bail out the banks while financial investors could reap a profit by selling shares in Royal Bank of Scotland “on the cheap.” To address that, the SNP would press for the public interest to be “fully protected” in any future disposal of RBS shares.

Health

An SNP government would increase frontline health spending by more than £15 billion by 2021-2022, the manifesto says. It would call on the U.K government to match Scottish per capita NHS funding in England.

SNP MPs will push for a National Health Service Protection Act “to guarantee that trade deals will not undermine the founding principles of the NHS, nor open it to profit-driven exploitation,” and any future trade deals would require the consent of the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Irish Assembly.

The SNP also wants the devolution of powers to tackle drug use and gambling.

New standards should be introduced to protect children from online harm, the party says. It floated plans to appoint an independent online regulator with the ability to impose heavy fines and block access to websites. The regulator would be funded through a levy on technology companies.

Agriculture and fishing

The SNP will fight for funding for agriculture and rural policy to be devolved to Scotland after Brexit, and to prevent post-Brexit tariffs on products such as seafood, fish and red meat, and for those sectors to be “fully compensated” if tariffs are introduced. They will also campaign for Scottish control of Scottish fisheries.

The party opposes the removal of import tariffs on products including cereals, horticulture, potatoes and eggs, saying doing so “could open up Scotland to sub-standard products.”

SNP MPs will promote reform of U.K. excise duty structures and tax for Scotch whisky. It also wants to ensure the continued use of Protected Geographical Indications, an EU scheme that designates a product originating in a specific place.

Climate and sustainability

The SNP pledged to make Scotland carbon-neutral by 2040.

The party will campaign for the U.K. to remain aligned with EU environmental regulations after Brexit, and for the British government to continue to invest in carbon-capture and storage technologies.

The manifesto includes plans for a Green Energy Deal to ensure renewable energy schemes get long-term funding certainty.

The SNP demands the ring-fencing of oil and gas receipts, creating a Net Zero Fund to drive investment in renewable energy, electric vehicles and carbon capture utilization and storage.

Fracking would not be supported, it says.

It proposes a reform of the energy market to help households with their home energy bills. SNP MPs would press for the introduction of a database of people who have not switched suppliers as well as a national free switching service, showing the energy tariffs available and average bills.

SNP MPs would campaign for tax incentives to help companies in their transition to zero emissions, and a reduction in VAT on energy efficiency improvements in homes.

The manifesto includes a target to plant 30 million trees annually in Scotland by 2025.

Education

The SNP wants to expand childcare into the school holidays for primary pupils from the poorest backgrounds.

It pledges to keep higher education free, and to continue to use its £750 million Scottish Attainment Fund to help students from poorer backgrounds go to university.

Defense

In exchange for SNP support for Labour, Sturgeon would demand the removal of the Trident nuclear deterrent from Scotland, and use the money currently spent on the program for the NHS and other public services.

The manifesto says SNP MPs would build a cross-party coalition to scrap Trident “as quickly and as safely as possible.”

The SNP will continue to press for U.K. investment in “conventional defense” and demand that the U.K. maintains its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of GDP on international aid.

Law and order

The party says it has recruited an additional 1,000 police officers since it took office, and will continue to demand the U.K. government refunds “the £175 million in VAT owed to Scotland’s emergency services.”

Other

Replacement of first-past-the-post voting system with the single transferable vote system; increase maternity leave to one year and increase paternity leave from 52 to 64 weeks.

Nicola Sturgeon sets SNP demands for post-election deal with Labour

LONDON — The Scottish National Party is prepared to form a “progressive alliance” that keeps the Conservatives out of office, its leader Nicola Sturgeon said today.

Launching the party’s manifesto in Glasgow, Sturgeon pitched the SNP as the only kingmaker party that would keep the Tories out of Downing Street following the U.K.’s December election.

If there is a hung parliament, the SNP is willing to support Labour in exchange for a referendum on Scottish independence next year. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said last week that a second ballot would not be a priority for at least the first two or three years of a Labour government.

Sturgeon would also push for a funding plan for Scotland covering three core demands. First, reversing £1.5 billion cuts to the Scottish budget and increasing the budget in real terms; second, a plan to compensate for the last decade of austerity; and third, a demand for the U.K. government to increase per-head NHS funding south of the border to levels seen in Scotland, which it says is currently £136 per person higher. This increase in health spending in England would result in additional money for the Scottish NHS under the Barnett formula, which pegs public expenditure in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to levels in England.

Nicola Sturgeon pitched the SNP as the only kingmaker party that would keep the Tories out of Downing Street following the U.K.’s December election.

In exchange for her party’s support, Sturgeon would also demand the removal of the Trident nuclear deterrent from Scotland, and use the money currently spent on the program for the NHS and other public services. Labour has promised to renew the Trident program in its manifesto.

“There is every chance that the SNP could hold the balance of power at Westminster. Unlike the Liberal Democrats, we will never, ever help the Tories into government. But we will be prepared to talk to other parties about forming a progressive alliance,” Sturgeon said.

The SNP won 35 of the 59 Scottish seats at the 2017 general election — 21 seats down from the 56 they won in 2015.

The 52-page document, titled “Stronger for Scotland,” also calls for the devolution of employment and drugs laws to the Scottish parliament, and proposes a NHS Protection Act to guarantee that future trade deals will not “undermine the founding principles of the NHS or open it up to profit-driven exploitation.”

The party said it would support a second EU referendum with the option to Remain in the European Union on the ballot paper. The party would be in favor of canceling Brexit altogether if that was the only alternative to a no-deal Brexit, it adds.

Nicola Sturgeon presents the SNP’s manifesto, entitled “Stronger for Scotland” | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The SNP leader attacked the Westminster parties, saying they “have delivered no stability, but constant chaos and three U.K. general elections.”

Conservative-led governments, Sturgeon said, have broken all their promises to Scotland, including staying in the EU and treating Scotland as an equal partner.

Sturgeon claimed that unless Boris Johnson is stopped from being re-elected prime minister, he would deliver “Tory cuts to the Scottish budget, the NHS under threat from a Tory-Trump trade deal, a power grab on the Scottish parliament, children being forced into poverty and a disastrous Brexit deal.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to stay neutral in a second Brexit referendum means the Labour leader “is neutral on job losses, cuts to living standards and the erosion of our rights,” Sturgeon said. “And of course he would be happy to sit back to see Scotland taken out of the EU even if there is a majority for Remain in Scotland but not in the U.K. as a whole.”

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