PM Under Pressure Amid Cabinet Revolt
Theresa May is clinging on to power today amid a major party and cabinet revolt. May has faced fierce opposition from across the House of Commons over her 'new' Brexit deal, which unveiled last-minute offers guaranteeing MPs a vote on a second referendum and a temporary customs union. The backlash culminated yesterday in the resignation of the leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom. In her resignation letter, Leadsom said she no longer believed the PM's deal would deliver on the referendum result. At least 70 Conservative MPs have confirmed their plans to vote against May’s deal since she announced her “10-point offer” on Tuesday.
The level of opposition has prompted Tory Brexiter MPs to relaunch efforts to have May ousted from her position. With the PM due to meet with 1922 Committee chairman Graham Brady tomorrow morning, many believe her resignation could be imminent. The party revolt comes as the Conservatives prepare for dismal results in today’s European parliament elections. According to new polling, two thirds of Tory voters plan to switch to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party at the ballot box. A recent YouGov poll put the Brexit Party ahead with a strong lead of 37%. The Conservatives are forecast to finish in fifth place, with just 7% of the vote.
UN REPORT CONDEMNS TORY AUSTERITY
A scathing UN report has attacked Conservative welfare policies and accused government ministers of being in a state of denial about the impact of austerity. Authored by the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston, the report examines the impact of austerity on human rights in the UK. Following a fact-finding trip around the UK, Alston said welfare cuts had left some Brits facing lives that were “solitary, poor… and short”, citing a rise in homelessness, increased food bank dependency, and falling life expectancy in deprived areas as evidence of the impact of austerity.
Alston has slammed the government’s response to the level of poverty in the UK, describing an “absolute disconnect” between statements given by government ministers and the reality seen by the British public. Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd has condemned Alston’s findings as politically biased, yesterday announcing plans to lodge a formal complaint against the report with the UN. In a statement, the government described the report as a “barely believable documentation of Britain” and insisted it painted “a completely inaccurate picture” of the government’s approach to tackling poverty.
Prof Dame Theresa Marteau of Cambridge University speaks out after an audit of NHS health centres found on-site food outlets were overwhelmingly providing customers with unhealthy or junk products. Director of Cambridge’s Behaviour and Health Research Unit, Prof Marteau has backed the introduction of calorie, fat, sugar and salt content caps for products sold in hospitals.
The audit of hospital cafes and canteens found three-quarters of the outlets' best-selling items were unhealthy, despite NHS efforts to promote healthy eating. Studies have shown providing junk food in hospitals can have a “health halo” effect, leading people to perceive unhealthy products as more nutritious.
In other news...
BRITISH STEEL ENTERS INSOLVENCY
British Steel has entered insolvency after the company’s owners failed to secure additional funding from the government. The steelmaker had sought a £30m emergency funding injection from the government in an attempt to avoid collapse. However, business secretary Greg Clark said the government was forced to turn British Steel away after being advised that the request would have breached EU rules governing state aid. The company has now been placed into compulsory liquidation, risking the jobs of up to 25,000 people working for British Steel or in the firm’s supply line. The official receiver overseeing the company’s liquidation said staff had been paid and British Steel would continue to operate while its business options were considered.
INSTAGRAM LEAK EXPOSES DATA OF 49M USERS
Instagram has launched an investigation after private data belonging to 49m of its users was exposed to online hackers. Those affected include celebrities and influencers, with the breach amounting to the app’s biggest data leak on record. The leak occurred after Instagram users’ email addresses and phone numbers were left unsecured in a database run by an Indian marketing company. A security researcher who discovered the leak said the information was freely available and had been “growing every hour” before the breach was secured. The leak could see Facebook, which owns the Instagram platform, fined up to $2.2bn under European data laws. The company said it was taking the leak seriously and would examine whether a third party had improperly stored user data.
LONDON TOPS UK FOR DISPOSABLE INCOME
New figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have confirmed the continued existence of large regional inequalities in disposable income across the UK. ONS data showed those in London had on average £27,825 to spend or save after tax, around £8,000 more than the national average of £19,514. Wales was the region with the lowest disposable income at £15,754. Six of the top ten local areas found to have the highest levels of disposable income were located in the capital. London holds a 19% share of all UK gross disposable household income, despite being home to just 13% of the UK’s population.
PLASTICS BAN HITS STRAWS AND STIRRERS
The government has announced plans to ban plastic straws, drinks stirrers and cotton buds in England from April next year. The ban is aimed at reducing non-degradable waste and the impact of plastic pollution on the environment. An estimated 8.5bn plastic straws and 316m plastic stirrers are used in England each year. Environment secretary Michael Gove said the ban was to be introduced after an open consultation revealed “overwhelming” public support for the action. The legislation will include exemptions ensuring those who need to use plastic straws for medical reasons will be able to continue doing so. While Greenpeace welcomed the move, it warned the ban would “only scratch the surface” of plastic pollution.
JOKHA ALHARTHI WINS BOOKER PRIZE
Jokha Alharthi has won the Man Booker International prize for her novel Celestial Bodies. The first female Omani novelist to have her work translated into English, Alharti will share the £50,000 prize equally with her translator Marilyn Booth. It is the first time a book written in Arabic has won the prize, which is awarded annually to a work of translated fiction. The novel follows three sisters living in the Omani village of al-Awafi. Chair of the prize judges Bettany Hughes praised the book, saying: “Through the different tentacles of people’s lives and loves and losses we come to learn about this society… It starts in a room and ends in a world.”
UN agency Unesco has accused tech companies of fuelling harmful gender biases by assigning female voices to digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. The Unesco research argues that submissive responses provided by feminised assistants to user queries – including abusive ones – are helping to entrench the idea of women as subservient. The research referred a particular example where users told the Alexa assistant “You’re a slut” – to which the device replies: “Well, thanks for the feedback.”