By-elections

Telegraph
Labour MPs have warned the party is heading towards a “historic and catastrophic defeat” in a future general election after Jeremy Corbyn suffered a humiliating by-election defeat last night and lost Copeland to the Conservatives. Trudy Harrison snatched the seat by 2,147 votes,  making the Conservatives the first governing party to gain a seat in a by-election since 1982. The Labour leader admitted the party had failed to get its message through in Cumbria. But the party held Stoke-on-Trent Central after Ukip leader Paul Nuttall failed in his bid to win the seat. Labour’s Gareth Snell secured a win of 7,853 to his challenger’s 5,233 to be elected as the city’s new MP.

Mail
Jeremy Corbyn was humiliated today as Labour lost Copeland to the Tories in the worst by-election defeat for an Opposition since 1945. MPs accused the veteran left winger of ‘insulting’ the public’s intelligence after his allies bizarrely hailed the disastrous showing – which saw mother-of-four Trudy Harrison romp home with a 2,000 majority – as an ‘incredible achievement’. There was a small grain of comfort for Labour as it fought off the challenge from UKIP leader Paul Nuttall in much safer Stoke-on-Trent Central.  Mr Nuttall insisted he would not be quitting despite being solidly defeated after a campaign blighted by questions over his Hillsborough claims. In a statement issued within minutes of the results overnight, Mr Corbyn welcomed Labour holding Stoke as a ‘decisive rejection of UKIP’s politics of division’.  ‘But our message was not enough to win through in Copeland,’ he admitted. ‘Both constituencies, like so many, have been let down by the political establishment.

Independent
Labour has suffered a historic defeat at a crucial by-election in one of its northern heartlands, raising fresh doubts over Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the party. The Conservative victory in Copeland marks the first time an opposition party has been defeated by the Government at a British by-election in 35 years. The scenic Cumbrian seat – and its predecessor Whitehaven – has been represented by Labour since 1935. Trudy Harrison, the Conservative candidate, defeated Labour’s Gillian Troughton, a volunteer for St John Ambulance, by 2,147 votes. Labour secured a 5,179 majority at the general election in 2015. But Mr Corbyn’s party did manage to see of a threat from Ukip, securing an emphatic victory over the party in a second by-election on Thursday in the Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency.

Guardian
Jeremy Corbyn will come out swinging on Friday morning and deliver a punchy speech about Theresa May’s plans for a “bargain basement” Brexit, if the extracts released overnight are anything to go by. But Thursday night’s byelection result in Copeland, Cumbria, where Labour lost to the Conservatives despite focusing on NHS cuts in an area where the future of the local hospital is under threat, was catastrophic and the Labour leader could be forced to react to the historic loss. Putting up a stronger fight against Tory cuts has been the centrepiece of Corbyn’s remaking of Labour; yet that approach does not appear to have resonated in the Cumbrian seat, which has not been Conservative since 1935. But as Corbyn himself said, “our message was not enough to win through”.

Brexit

Guardian
Labour is increasingly optimistic it can force concessions from the government over the status of EU nationals in post-Brexit Britain, after securing cross-party backing for an amendment to the article 50 bill. Angela Smith, Labour’s leader in the Lords, said: “My sense is there’s real momentum behind this one, and my sense talking to peers across the house and listening to the debate is this is something that the House of Lords would support, cross-party.” Lady Smith added that strong public disquiet about the future of EU citizens, and lingering concerns among Conservatives in the House of Commons about the issue, would help Labour’s cause. Conservative peer Lord Bowness has added his signature to a clause tabled by Labour, calling for the government to guarantee the rights of EU citizens to remain in Britain.

Westmonster
Gina Miller is back, seemingly with a new plan to derail Brexit. The woman behind the original legal case which forced the government into a pointless vote on triggering Article 50, is hoping to build a movement to demand politicians have a “full vote on Brexit negotiations.” Her website calls for a vote in Parliament “to allow the country the option of an alternative relationship with the EU, including the possibility of membership.” Miller told the Evening Standard: “Currently MPs are too weak to do that — so we must do it for them. If it doesn’t work, then we will try again with the Great Repeal Bill or try and get emergency legislation.” Given that 64% of people now want the government to get on and deliver Brexit, combined with the fact of over 400+ constituencies voting Leave, it would be utter madness for MPs to try and overturn the will of the people. 
We are leaving the European Union. Time for everyone to get used to it.

EU

Express
MARINE Le Pen “is at the gates of power” and could win the French election, admits her main rival Emmanuel Macron. The independent candidate, who has never held public office, conceded “political times have changed” as he resorted to joining forces with veteran centrist Francois Bayrou in a bid to tackle Ms Le Pen. He said: “Political times have changed. We cannot continue as before. The National Front is at the gates of power. It plays on fear.” Ms Le Pen is set to win the first round of elections taking place on April 23, striking fear into the hearts of France’s liberal community. But polls also show the far-right politician could lose the second round of voting on May 7, with Mr Macron or conservative candidate Francois Fillon tipped to march into the Elysee. Two new opinion polls released as they met showed Mr Macron still neck-and-neck with Mr Fillon.

Express
FRANCE’S two leading liberal politicians have sealed a surprise electoral pact in a desperate attempt to keep Marine Le Pen out of power as the latest polls show the French presidential race tightening even further. Emmanuel Macron’s stuttering campaign was given a huge boost yesterday when his one-time rival Francois Bayrou shocked French politics by announcing he will not stand as a candidate so that he can concentrate on helping his fellow centrist get elected. Polls had indicated that Mr Bayrou, a three-time presidential hopeful, would have sucked left-wing support away from Mr Macron as a candidate, significantly weakening his chances in the first round of voting. That scenario would have potentially opened up the way for the Front National leader to take on the scandal-hit conservative Francois Fillon, against whom she polls much more strongly when it comes to the all important final ballot. 

Breitbart
Front National leader Marine Le Pen has extended her lead in polling for the French Presidential elections, and is now comfortably placed to win the first round of voting. The BVA-Salesforce poll published Thursday gave Le Pen on 27 per cent of the vote in the first round of the election, due to take place on 23 April, up 2.5 percentage points from the last time the poll was conducted in early February. A second poll by Harris International showed similar results placing Le Pen on 25 percent, four points clear of Francois Fillon (Les Republicains) and five ahead of Emmanuel Macron, an independent who split from the Socialist party last August. Both polls were conducted at the start of the week, before Wednesday evening’s announcement by veteran centrist Francois Bayrou that he would be dropping out of the race to lend support to Macron, a move which analysts say could give the independent candidate the edge over his rival Fillon.

Independent
One of Britain’s most senior former European Commission officials has warned that Brexit negotiations could lead to a “complete breakdown” of relations between the UK and the European Union. In an interview with Business Insider, David Wright, the former deputy director general for financial policy at the commission, said that the strident tone ahead of Britain’s divorce negotiations with the EU, and the “red lines” likely to dominate once Article 50 is triggered, could make an agreement between both parties impossible. “Brexit was a dagger in my heart,” Mr Wright, who spent more than 30 years working at the EU commission, told Business Insider. “It’s not a bit neutral, or a bit negative, but for the EU and the UK it’s potentially extremely disruptive. There’s a risk of a complete breakdown, certainly it’s looking more probable,” he added. T

Express
BRUSSELS boss Jean-Claude Juncker said other member states have now come to terms with Britain’s “tragic” decision to quit the EU as he insisted the crises facing the bloc are not as severe as portrayed. The EU Commission president described Brexit as a “tragedy for the young” who will grow up without European citizenship and talked up the project’s record of keeping peace on the continent.  He said achievements including bringing together the east and west of a once fractured region and the creation of the world’s largest internal market were “remarkable” and “deserve the recognition of the rest of the planet”.  Mr Juncker made the remarks in a speech to students at the Universite Catholique de Louvaine, in Belgium, as part of an ongoing Europe-wide discussion about the future of the EU project. 

Social care

Sun
CHANCELLOR Philip Hammond is drawing up plans for a Budget social care funding lifeline to help crisis-hit services for the elderly and disabled. It would be the second Government Budget U-turn in a week after Communities Secretary Sajid Javid bowed to pressure, promising extra cash for small businesses facing huge business rate hikes. Sources said the cash injection could be as much as £1billion. But the shortfall in adult social care funding is predicted to be as much as £2.6billion by 2020. According to the Health Service Journal, extra “stabilisation” money will be overseen by the regulator – the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The CQC, which has warned of the pressures social care and home care services are under, would monitor how the cash is spent. But the move is likely to anger local councils because the CQC is supposed to supervise quality – not spending.

NHS

Times
A reform of personal injury payouts could increase the NHS compensation bill by £1 billion a year and add £85 to motor insurance, industry figures say. Liz Truss, the justice secretary, will announce changes to how the most serious personal injury cases are settled within days in a move that will have a significant impact on public services, employers and motorists. Lump sum payments to all personal injury victims — whether in the public or private sector — are at present calculated on the assumption that recipients will achieve a 2.5 per cent return if the cash is invested. The so-called discount rate was set in 2001 and was based partly on the return then available on index-linked government stock.

Energy prices

ITV News
Electricity bills are soaring because of constant interference by governments in the energy sector, according to a Parliamentary report. As a result, customers are getting a bad deal from a supply system that is complicated and uncompetitive, the House of Lords Economic Affairs says. This has resulted in consumer prices rocketing by 58% since 2003, with the UK industry paying the biggest bills in Europe. The study also raises concern about the spare capacity available and the deliverability of planned nuclear power. Peers used the report to call for de-carbonisation to be managed at the lowest cost to consumers as such green policies accounted for 10% of domestic bills in 2013. The report states that the required switch of emphasis may mean waiting for new technologies to be developed to reduce emissions and making targets more flexible.

HS2

Mail
High Speed 2 was given the green light yesterday, kicking off one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever seen in Britain. The Parliamentary Bill to build the rail line from London to Birmingham received royal assent, opening the way for construction work to begin in the spring. It had more than three years of scrutiny, including a failed eleventh-hour bid to block it in the House of Lords last month. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling described the process of getting the legislation through Parliament as ‘long and arduous’, and said getting the go-ahead to start construction is a ‘massive boost’ to the UK’s future economic prosperity. He added: ‘HS2 will be the world’s most advanced passenger railway and the backbone of our rail network.’

Commonwealth

Telegraph
The Royal Commonwealth Society is making plans to open a branch in the United States, with a view to one day bringing America into the fold as an “associate member”. The project, which is said to be backed by the Queen, has come about in part as a result of Donald Trump’s fondness for Britain and the Royal Family.  It comes amid efforts to develop the Commonwealth as a tool for building relationships on everything from foreign policy to trade, following Britain’s exit from the European Union. “The UK rather left this treasure in the attic, and forgot about it because people were so glued to Brussels,” said Michael Lake, the director of the Royal Commonwealth Society. 

Doomesday vault

Star
A DOOMSDAY vault built to save humanity should a nuclear war break out has received a massive upgrade. The underground concrete bunker, popularly known as the Doomsday Vault, is buried 130 metres inside a mountain in the Arctic Circle between Norway and the North Pole. It is equipped with five doors with coded locks, who combinations are only known by a selective few people. 
To further ensure security, the vault is only unlocked for deposits three or four times a year. An upgrade to building’s supplies comes as Russia, North Korea, the US and China enter into a nuke arms race – sparking fears of a “nuclear apocalypse”. A vital batch of 50,000 seeds, set to provide a food supply post-apocalyptic war, has been delivered to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, in one of the largest single deposits. The vault holds nearly a million different varieties of crop seeds including potato, beans, rice and wheat from almost every country around the world — including North Korea.

Tsunamis

Express
POWERFUL tsunami-causing tremors could strike Earth over the next fortnight from TODAY, because of the alignment of the planets, it has shockingly been claimed. A self-styled earthquake predictor is warning of a magnitude eight or higher quake hitting the planet in just nine days on March 4. ‘Quake mystic’ Frank Hoogerbeets has issued an online “major earthquake warning” amid fears a “big one” is on its way. Mr Hoogerbeets, who is based in the Netherlands, uses a non-scientifically recognised way of predicting earthquakes based on planetary alignments with Earth. He wrote on his website ditrianum.org: “In the last week of February and the first week of March there will likely be a significant increase in seismic activity with the highest probability of an eight plus magnitude earthquake around March 4.”

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