PM Reveals Plans For First 100 Days
The prime minister has set out plans for the first 100 days of the new government, should the Conservatives win next week’s general election. Boris Johnson said his first three months would primarily be focused on passing the withdrawal agreement to secure Britain’s exit from the EU by 31st January. However, the prime minister also unveiled seven other priorities including: a budget in February which will raise the national insurance threshold; a major review of defence, security and foreign policy; and the introduction of legislation ending the automatic release of serious violent and sexual offenders at the halfway point of their sentence. Johnson insisted the plans would all be achieved by 22nd March.
Hours after revealing the plans, the prime minister took part in an interview on ITV’s This Morning programme, where he was challenged on his remarks about Muslim women. Presenters Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby said Muslims had been hurt by Johnson’s article in the Telegraph last year, in which he described women wearing burqas as looking like “letterboxes” and “bank robbers”. Responding, the prime minister said his words had been taken out of context. “People dig out all sorts of articles … I’ve already said sorry for any offence caused and I say it again,” he added. Johnson has previously refused to apologise for the comments.
LABOUR STAFF GIVE TESTIMONY TO ANTISEMITISM PROBE
The testimony of 70 serving and former Labour officials has been given to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s inquiry into antisemitism in the party. According to testimony seen by the Times, one staff member was instructed to inform Jeremy Corbyn’s office about details of antisemitism complaints despite the party denying any interference in the inquiry. Lawyer James Libson, who is representing the Jewish Labour Movement, said such interference had become “institutional”. Corbyn apologised for the incidents of antisemitism during an interview on ITV’s This Morning programme on Tuesday. The party insists it has “toughened up” its approach to confronting antisemitism within its ranks.
Meanwhile, the shadow education secretary has announced plans to “poverty-proof” England’s schools if Labour wins next week’s general election. Angela Rayner said the party would boost educational standards through the recruitment of 20,000 more teachers and by capping class sizes at 30 pupils. Free breakfasts provision would also be expanded across primary schools in England in an attempt to tackle pupil hunger. The Association of School and College Leaders has welcomed the announcement. “Labour’s plans to recruit and train many more teachers are ambitious, but it is right to identify this as a key priority,” general secretary Geoff Barton said.
Jacob West, executive director of healthcare innovation at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), calls for air pollution to be treated as a major public health emergency. West said air pollution had “not been treated with the seriousness it deserves” after new analysis from the charity showed breathing dirty air in London had the equivalent health impact of smoking more than 150 cigarettes a year.
According to the BHF’s findings, people living in areas of Britain with the lowest air quality lose an average of seven months from their lifespan. Across the UK, people lose an average of five months of life as a result of exposure to PM2.5, a type of fine particulate pollution. The charity has called on the government to tackle the crisis with measures comparable to those introduced to address passive smoking over a decade ago. “Similarly decisive action must be taken to protect people from air pollution,” West said.
In other news...
NATIONAL STRIKE PARALYSES FRANCE
Schools, public transport and airports were severely disrupted in France yesterday as the country faced its biggest national strike in years. The nationwide action saw education and transport workers walk out alongside hospital staff, police, lawyers, and postal and refuse workers for a general strike. The walkout is in protest against Emmanuel Macron’s plans for a universal points-based pension system. Workers claim the president’s changes could see some people forced to retire later or face reduced pensions. Some union leaders have threatened to continue the industrial action until Macron abandons the changes, while interior minister Christophe Castaner warned that the protests may turn violent.
HSBC QUADRUPLES OVERDRAFT RATE
HSBC has announced plans to introduce a new single overdraft rate. The changes will see overdraft charges double for around 8m of its customers, and even quadruple in some cases as the rate is brought to 39.9%. The new single rate, which will be introduced in March next year, is a response to strict new rules on borrowing implemented by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The FCA ordered a clampdown on overdraft rules in June, banning banks from charging higher prices on unauthorised overdrafts than authorised ones, and ordering them to price overdrafts using a simple annual rate. Responding to HSBC’s single rate, MoneyComms website founder Andrew Hagger said: “Paying almost 40% for agreed overdrafts looks like becoming the norm … Surely this isn’t the outcome the regulator was expecting?”
THREE MEPS QUIT BREXIT PARTY
Three MEPs have quit the Brexit party and announced their support for the Conservatives. Lucy Harris, Lance Forman and Annunziata Rees-Mogg – the sister of cabinet minister Jacob Rees-Mogg – announced their decision yesterday. The MEPs have urged voters to back the Conservatives at next week’s general election, with Rees-Mogg arguing that the Tories “are the only option for Brexit supporters and democrats alike”. Brexit party leader Nigel Farage said he was “disappointed” at the news and claimed the decision would serve to split the ‘leave’ vote in Labour strongholds. A fourth MEP, John Longworth, was ejected from the Brexit party yesterday for “repeatedly undermining” its election strategy. Longworth had previously called on the party to stand down a number of its candidates.
SCIENTISTS DEVELOP MONTHLY CONTRACEPTIVE
A US research team has developed a contraceptive pill that only needs to be taken by women once a month. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the research has produced a gelatine capsule which can sit in the stomach for weeks. The pill slowly releases the hormones required to prevent pregnancy over the course of a month and could benefit women concerned about forgetting to take the contraceptive each day. The pill has only been tested on pigs so far, finding that animals given the long-term contraceptive had the same level of hormone in their bloodstream as those receiving a daily dose. The researchers hope human trials for the drug can begin within a few years.
TRAFALGAR SQUARE TREE RIDICULED
This year’s famous Christmas tree erected in Trafalgar Square has been ridiculed online for its “anaemic” appearance. A Norwegian spruce is installed in the London square over the festive period each year as a “generous gift from the people of Oslo to London”. This year’s tree, felled by the mayor of Oslo and the Lord Mayor of Westminster, stands at 69ft (21m), but has attracted criticism online for its “sparse” and “droopy” foliage. The British ambassador to Norway, Richard Wood, has defended the spruce, saying: “This is what 90-year-old, 25m trees in the wild look like.” The tradition began in 1947 when Norway’s King Haakon VII gave Britain a Christmas tree as a thank you for providing him with refuge during the Nazi occupation of his homeland.
The percentage of British households that will have a completely vegetarian dinner on Christmas day. According to research commissioned by Whole Foods Market, more than 40% of households plan to ditch the traditional turkey dinner. Twenty-three percent of those surveyed said concerns about the environment had impacted their cooking choices, while 22% cited health reasons.