Strikes

Telegraph
Strikes that spell misery for hundreds of thousands of people this week are set to worsen as Royal Mail staff threaten new wildcat stoppages which could delay millions of Christmas cards and presents. A further 1,000 Royal Mail delivery staff could take unofficial industrial action as a separate five-day strike by 3,000 Crown post office workers starts on Monday, The Telegraph can reveal, at a time when the service is creaking under the weight of festive demand. It comes at the start of a week of strike chaos with conductors on rail network Southern set to stop trains south of London on Monday and Tuesday.

Mail
Up to 1,000 Royal Mail workers could take unauthorised industrial action in a show of solidarity with striking Post Office staff, it has been reported. Post Office staff at branches across Britain will today walk out in a dispute over pensions and job security. Royal Mail employees could refuse to cross picket lines at strike-stricken branches to collect parcels, the Daily Telegraph reported. The wildcat action would put even more pressure on a postal system already under strain – less than a week before Christmas. It comes as baggage handlers, check-in staff and airline crew all plan to strike this week – potentially causing travel chaos for hundreds of thousands of travellers.

Guardian
Downing Street has distanced itself from calls by the transport minister, Chris Grayling, and Tory backbenchers for new anti-strike laws as unions plan a wave of industrial action this week and over the festive period. A spokesman for No 10 said the laws governing industrial action cannot be changed to halt current disputes, which are a matter for unions and employers. Grayling angered many union leaders last week by saying he would “not rule anything out” when asked if he might change the law to prevent future rail strikes. Former cabinet ministers Lord Heseltine and Lord Tebbit are among the Tory figures who have called on Theresa May to take a tough line on trade unions.

Sun
THERESA MAY was last night under growing pressure from Tories to take on militant union bosses plotting Xmas carnage. As commuters braced themselves for yet more chaos on Southern Railways, MPs called on the PM to draw up new powers to protect “essential services” such as the railways. Chris Philp MP said the Government had to make it harder for unions to pull out staff in areas such as rail, the NHS and airports. A Cabinet Minister separately told the Sun: “We have to fight them.” Separately Lord Heseltine said: “You cannot have small groups of people holding society to ransom, regardless of personal inconvenience or cost.”

Sky News
Post Office staff are the latest to join those taking part in a wave of strikes that will hit several industries in the run-up to Christmas. The Communication Workers Union said around 3,500 workers would take part in its industrial action, hitting hundreds of Crown Post Offices. They will join rail and air workers in disputes about issues such as jobs, pay, pensions and safety. The five-day CWU strike is in protest at job losses, the closure of a final salary pension scheme and the franchising of Crown Post Offices. The strike is due to get under way today with a demonstration outside the headquarters of the Government’s Business Department.

BBC News
Thousands of workers will launch a wave of strikes this week, hitting postal services, rail companies and airlines in the run-up to Christmas. About 3,000 staff at hundreds of Crown post offices are expected to walk out on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday. But the Post Office said fewer than 300 branches would be affected, with “business as usual” in most places. Meanwhile the rail strike at Southern continues with conductors beginning two days of action. Talks aimed at averting a strike by British Airways cabin crew over Christmas are also to be held on Monday. Workers at Crown post offices, the larger branches usually found on the High Street, are protesting against pension changes, job security and closures. On Wednesday and Thursday, workers who supply many sub-post offices with cash will join the action.

Mirror
Labour has urged Theresa May to resist a fresh clampdown on the right to strike as a “disastrous” wave of Christmas walkouts begins tomorrow morning. Southern Railway conductors will stage a fresh two-day action while 4,000 Post Office workers also walk out over five days. Around 4,500 British Airways cabin crew and 1,500 Swissport check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew plan further walkouts from December 23-26. Dozens of Tory MPs are now said to want new anti-strike laws – just months after harsh restrictions were passed in the Trade Union Act. One, Chris Philp, demanded an emergency ban on strikes in ‘critical public infrastructure’ like trains, buses and the NHS unless the High Court deems them “reasonable and proportionate”. He and other Tory MPs met Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, who has not ruled out future changes to the law, last week.

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn attended a Christmas party where his jubilant supporters celebrated the ‘seething tide’ of strikes bringing misery to Britain. Ahead of a week of Christmas discontent, left-wing activists toasted ‘so many strikes coming up right now’ while drinking from beer bottles decorated with Mr Corbyn’s face. A wave of strikes will be launched this week by thousands of workers hitting railways, the post and flights in the run-up to Christmas. Post Office workers will this morning begin walkouts that will leave some branches closed or under-staffed. Railway staff, airline cabin crew and airport baggage handlers are also planning disruption for the coming days – wreaking havoc with people’s festive travel plans. At the event, an organiser for Mr Corbyn’s campaign group Momentum, Hattie Craig, proclaimed the strikes affecting rail commuters, air passengers and those wanting to send Christmas parcels were part of a ‘whole seething tide of working class power’.

Energy

Sun
ELECTRICY bills will rise by £30 a year to avoid blackouts as Britain teeters on the brink of an energy crisis, MPs claim. A damning report last night claimed National Grid will this winter be forced to pay “exorbitant” sums to keep the lights on. Some £122 million will be handed out to power giants to ensure they keep all their generators in “stand-by mode”. And Grant Shapps, the former Tory Party chairman, said this could rise to more than £1 billion by the end of the decade. The costs are eventually picked by consumer through domestic bills. Mr Shapps said official estimates of a £10 to £15 increase in electricity bills was an “underestimate” – and that the true total was closer to £30 a year by 2020.

ITV News
Britons could face widespread blackouts next year unless radical changes are made to the UK’s electricity network. MPs have warned that Government targets for closing coal power stations and replacing them with renewable energy sources have reduced the UK’s generating output. A report called “Electric Shock: Will The Christmas Lights Go Out Next Winter?”, published by the British Infrastructure Group of MPs, looked at the problems Britain faces by trying to meet climate change goals. These include electricity bill surges and slashed capacity margins, which are “so tight that National Grid’s emergency power deals have become the norm”.

EU

Telegraph
European demands for a £50 billion divorce settlement are part of a plot by anti-British hardliners in the European Commission to “blow up” the forthcoming Brexit negotiations before they even get started, British officials have told
The Telegraph. Senior officials in three separate Whitehall departments said they now feared that the “absurd” figures being bandied around at this week’s European Council summit in Brussels were part of a plan to back Britain into an impossible corner on the politically combustible issue of EU budgets payments. “If the European Commission persists with these ridiculous numbers when the talks begin, then there is a real risk that our side just says ‘forget it, we’ll see you in court’ and the entire process blows up at the outset,” said a senior UK official with detailed knowledge of the British negotiating plans.

Express
ANGELA Merkel’s recently acquired reputation as Europe’s last hope for a “saviour” of liberal politics is misplaced because it is her policies which are ripping apart the bloc, a US commentator said. People fawning over the German leader as a bastion of the ‘progressive’ elite have failed to realise that her stance on austerity and migration is what has caused the populist uprising sweeping the continent. That is according to political expert Darrell Delamaide, who predicted that the demise of the European Union will unfold at an “accelerated pace” because of the blunders of the Berlin chief. The US-based commentator said the EU has reached its “tipping point” because its leaders are “failing spectacularly” to get a grip with the migrant crisis, adding that the fall of Aleppo is likely to spark a fresh surge of people to Europe’s shores.

Star
THE rise of a migrant-hating right wing party in Germany has sparked fears of a Nazi comeback across crisis-riddled Europe. Ahead of this year’s local elections in Berlin – the former heartland of Adolf Hitler’s evil regime, the city’s mayor issued a stark warning. Social Democrat Michael Mueller warned that any electoral success for a Far Right party in Germany would be viewed globally as a “return of the Nazis in Germany.” But ultimately his terrifying warning was futile. Far Right populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) secured 13% of the vote – unleashing a political earthquake.

Scotland

Telegraph
Scotland will have £800 million extra to spend next year thanks entirely to the generosity of the UK’s Barnett formula but the SNP has given schools and hospitals an “unflattering settlement”, according to an analysis of the Scottish Budget. Professor John McLaren, an eminent economist, said last week’s budget showed ministers will receive a “considerable rise” in spending money in 2017/18, despite their repeated complaints about Tory austerity. But he said the increase was driven entirely by a rise in Scotland’s block grant from Westminster, calculated using the Barnett formula, while the SNP’s exercise of their extensive new tax powers “added nothing” and was a “damp squib”. Although Finance Minister Derek Mackay plans to generate an extra £79 million from having a lower salary threshold for higher rate income tax than in England, Prof McLaren said this had been offset by a reduction in the revenues from other devolved taxes.

Guardian
Nicola Sturgeon will call for a fundamental shift in the devolution settlement when she sets out the Scottish government’s proposals this week for keeping Scotland in the European single market. In what appears to be a return to her harder line on Scottish independence, when she described a second referendum as “highly likely” immediately after the UK’s vote to leave the EU, Sturgeon will warn Theresa May that if her proposals are “brushed aside”, she will push for another vote on independence. The SNP’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Alex Salmond, underlined this position in an interview on Sunday Politics Scotland, when he said that the options set out in the paper were: “One: keep the UK within the single marketplace; secondly, if that’s not possible, keep Scotland within the single marketplace; and if that doesn’t happen and the UK is unwilling to listen to Scotland’s representations, then it’s very likely there will be an independence referendum within the next two years.”

US elections

Telegraph
Republican electors due to cast the votes on Monday that will seal Donald Trump’s presidency, are facing death threats and organised campaigns in a ditch bid by desperate opponents to avert the outcome of the US election. Amid concerns that Russia intervened in the election, members of the Electoral College have been bombarded with calls to post-pone this final seal of approval – or choose a different candidate for the presidency. “This is absolutely unique,” Mary Barket, an elector and long time Republican politician in Pennsylvania, a crucial swing state which broke for Mr Trump, told The Telegraph.

Breitbart
Britain’s public broadcaster — the BBC — has called the election of Donald Trump an “American Tragedy” in a headline for an article featuring an interview with the editor of the
New Yorker magazine. David Remnick, editor of the stridently anti-Trump New Yorker was granted an interview with BBC News, part of the British media company which is funded to the tune of billions of pounds a year by a television tax forced on the UK public. Opening with his widely publicised comments from November when Mr. Remnick said of the Trump victory that it was “an American tragedy” and “a sickening event in the history of liberal democracy”, the BBC lauded the anti-Trump figure as a “hero to many in liberal America and beyond”.

Australia

Telegraph
Australia’s prime minister has outlined a roadmap for breaking away from Britain, renewing calls for a republic down under. In Malcolm Turnbull’s first speech on the topic since he took the leadership last year, the staunch republican called for a two-stage voting process, with a plebiscite to determine the election model before a referendum on whether or not Australia should become a republic. Mr Turnbull said questions about how an Australian head of state would be elected – in a US presidential style election or by parliamentary appointment – had weakened support for a republic during a failed 1999 referendum on the topic. He said his belief in the cause was based on “patriotism, pure and simple”. “Our head of state should be one of us,” he said. “Our president should be a resident… We have no other motive, no other reason than love of country.”

Foreign aid

Times
Britain is “dumping” billions of pounds in overseas aid money into obscure World Bank trust funds in an apparent attempt to meet the country’s controversial annual target, The Times can reveal. The government is the second largest contributor to the funds, which were set up to distribute finance to the developing world but have been repeatedly criticised for a lack of transparency and effectiveness. Over the past five years, Britain has channelled at least £9 billion into 219 different trusts, more than any country apart from the United States. The World Bank charged British taxpayers at least £241 million in administration fees over that period.

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