Local elections – latest
The Conservatives have seen off a Labour assault on their flagship councils in London, with both parties losing control of key areas elsewhere in England. The Tories appeared to benefit most from an implosion in the Ukip vote, making progress outside the capital in the largest test of public opinion since last year’s snap election. Labour gained seats in London but failed to take control of Wandsworth, where some Tories feared defeat. Kensington and Chelsea, the site of the Grenfell Tower fire and another area with a large number of Labour activists, was expected to remain in Conservative hands.
Labour has failed to seize its targeted councils in London as the Conservatives see better than expected results. Overall, early results in Thursday’s local elections have painted a mixed picture for Labour and the Conservatives, with both parties losing control of key councils.
The Tories won Barnet Council today to cap a local election performance that defied expectations and stunted Labour’s hopes of a surge. The Conservative gain in North London will fuel new questions about Jeremy Corbyn’s response to anti-Semitism in Labour. Labour needed just one seat to win Barnet – which had been under no overall control – for the first time ever but fell well short of the winning post. The results ended a disappointing night for Labour which also saw Mr Corbyn’s party fail in an audacious bid to seize Tory citadels in Wandsworth and Westminster.
Theresa May appears to have come through local election night undamaged despite rows over Brexit and Windrush – as UKIP collapsed across England. One significant result saw the Tories retain control of Kensington and Chelsea despite anger over the response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy. The Conservatives also gained Barnet, with Labour missing out on a key target council following its anti-Semitism row. The borough has a large Jewish community.
The Conservatives have won control of Barnet Council in north London despite it being a key target for Labour in the local elections. Barnet has one of the UK’s largest Jewish populations and was seen as an important test in the wake of the party’s antisemitism row. Labour was widely expected to win the borough for the first time since the local authority was created in 1964. London Mayor Sadiq Khan had predicted the party would “probably” claim victory but admitted fears about left-wing antisemitism could cost them votes.
Labour has made some gains in local elections across England, but after a mixed night of results the party fell short of its hopes to take hold of some key target councils. On a mixed night for the leading parties, early analysis suggested a 1% swing to the Conservatives outside London, but a swing to Labour in the capital. In the most cheering news for Jeremy Corbyn, Labour became the biggest party in Trafford – formerly the Conservatives’ only council in Greater Manchester – and gained control of Plymouth, also from the Tories.
Dawn has broken on a night of virtual standstill as not all that much changed in the local elections. Some 150 councils and 4,000 seats were up for grabs. But with almost two-thirds of councils counted, Labour and the Tories were within a couple of dozen seats of where they were four years ago. Labour gained seats overall, seized Plymouth off the Tories and knocked out the only blue Greater Manchester foothold of Trafford. But Labour didn’t take any of the “crown jewels” London councils like Wandsworth, Kensington and Westminster held by the Tories for decades, while Barnet went blue from no overall control.
Far-left activist group HOPE Not Hate (HNH) has been campaigning in Britain’s local elections in support of the Labour party, using sponsored social media posts and leaflet drops in actions that may beg questions about the interference of foreign money in British politics. The group – which has taken cash off billionaire banker and open-borders activist George Soros and had an income of nearly a million pounds in 2016 – has released leaflets promoting the policies of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and Green party nationally, whilst appearing to mock UKIP and even the Tories.
PEOPLE were denied their democratic right to vote today after failing to show proof of identity under a new rule being tried out to “combat electoral fraud.” Many were left fuming on being turned away from polling stations for not bringing a form of ID, while others refused to cast a ballot in protest. In a controversial pilot scheme, ID checks were carried out in Bromley, Gosport, Swindon, Watford and Woking, requiring people to prove their identity before voting.
Britain will be unable to leave the customs union before 2023, ministers have been told, leading to fears that the delay will be exploited by Remainers to thwart Brexit. In a briefing to the Cabinet’s Brexit sub-committee earlier this week, senior civil servants said highly complex new technology that will be needed to operate Britain’s borders after Brexit might not be ready for another five years. Theresa May has asked officials to carry out more work on the two options currently being considered by the Government to replace the customs union – a customs partnership and a so-called “maximum facilitation” plan.
DAVID Davis has promised that the chances of ending Brussels rule in the UK and leaving its controversial customs union are 100 per cent. The triumphant Brexit Secretary, who this week played a leading role in ensuring that Theresa May ditched a plan for a customs partnership, told MPs that Britain will take back full control of its trade policy. During Brexit departmental questions in the Commons, Tory former minister Sir Desmond Swayne asked: “With what level of confidence does he estimate the probability of our leaving the customs union on December 31 2020?” Mr Davis responded: “Will 100 per cent do?
Theresa May’s plan to keep the UK tied to the European Union (EU) with a “customs partnership” is faltering, as the bloc rejects it and the majority of her Brexit cabinet is now opposed. The promotion of Sajid Javid to Home Secretary and into the Brexit “war cabinet” is said to have tipped the balance, as he opposes the plans unlike his predecessor Amber Rudd, The Times reports. David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and foreign secretary Boris Johnson join Mr. Javid in his opposition, meaning six of the 11 Brexit cabinet minister were leaning towards a clean Brexit at a meeting Wednesday.
Pro-Brexit ministers fear Downing Street will try to pick off the defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, in the coming days – to break the cabinet deadlock and secure a majority for Theresa May’s favoured customs plan. A two-and-a-half-hour meeting of the prime minister’s Brexit subcommittee ended without agreement on Wednesday, after the home secretary, Sajid Javid, sided with hardline Brexiters to reject a new customs partnership. Williamson, who was rapidly promoted from chief whip to defence secretary, was the least vocal of those expressing doubts about the customs partnership on Wednesday.
THERESA MAY will delay holding votes on key Brexit bills until the Autumn in a bid to avoid a humiliating defeat in the House of Commons over the customs union, after the Prime Minister was informed she does not have the numbers to defeat rebel Tory MPs. The Chief Whip Julian Smith told the Prime Minster she is likely to lose key votes on the customs union, threatening chaos in the Cabinet after ministers, including Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, refused to back Mrs May’s proposal of a customs partnership.
BRITAIN will remain a “very important pillar” of the United Nations after Brexit, the organisation’s chief predicted today. Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ assurance contradicts anti-Brexit campaigners’ claims the UK will sacrifice world influence and could lose its seat as one of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members after it leaves the European Union. The former Portuguese Prime Minister, who held talks with Theresa May at Downing Street on Wednesday, declined to comment on the merits of Brexit, saying it was not for him to “interfere” in the debate.
House of Lords
DAVID Davis vowed to “deal” with Lords as Tories warned peers they were pushing through amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill “at their peril”. Brexit Secretary David Davis was answering questions in the House of Commons this morning to update Parliament on progress made. Yesterday, the House of Lords defeated the Government for the tenth time on its key Brexit legislation with an amendment introduced by Lord Patten. This called for no border checks in Northern Ireland – potentially forcing the UK to remain in the Customs Union.
Ireland has the backing of European leaders to collapse Brexit trade talks next month if Theresa May fails to force through a customs pact that avoids a hard border in Northern Ireland. Senior EU officials have told Downing Street that next month’s European summit will suspend negotiations on a future partnership entirely until the customs issue is resolved. The prime minister told cabinet colleagues on Thursday that the government had only weeks to present a unified plan after they rejected her proposal for a customs partnership with the bloc.
IRELAND has warned Brexit talks could completely collapse if more progress is not made on the Irish border, with Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar boasting of the country’s “position of strength” in negotiations. Ireland has watched-on in growing frustration as Theresa May and her Brexit negotiators have failed to grasp the magnitude of the Irish border issue – with the future of an exit deal on the line as the clock ticks. Various proposals made by the British Government have been outright rejected by Dublin, Brussels and Stormont, with Mrs May now wrestling over a new customs partnership which has already been panned by hardline Brexiteers.
Peers have voted for tough legal protections to guarantee no “checks and controls” at the Irish border after Brexit, in another defeat for Theresa May. The amendment gives teeth to the prime minister’s verbal promise of “no physical infrastructure” – which, it is feared, could become a magnet for terrorists – after some ministers cast doubt on it. Peers voted 309 to 242 in favour of the amendment – a majority of 67. The defeat, the tenth on the main Brexit legislation, creates another headache for Ms May, who must decide whether to whip Tory MPs to overturn it in the House of Commons.
The Speaker of the House of Commons has faced fresh allegations of bullying, with parliament’s former Black Rod saying John Bercow’s “intemperate behaviour” is “unworthy of someone in such public office”. David Leakey, who stepped down last year as Black Rod, a ceremonial post in parliament, said he had experienced the outbursts of temper described by other former members of Bercow’s staff. “On one occasion, he quite suddenly erupted in a rage, banging the table and being extremely and personally rude to me, including calling me an antisemite.
Commons Speaker John Bercow creates a climate of “fear and intimidation”, an ex-senior Parliament official has said. David Leakey, who was responsible for keeping order in the House of Lords, told BBC Newsnight he had seen “bullying and unreasonable” behaviour. He is the second official to accuse the Speaker of bullying. Earlier in the week Mr Bercow’s ex-private secretary accused him of “angry outbursts”. Mr Bercow’s official spokesman has rejected all of the claims.
John Bercow is facing mounting pressure over allegations of bullying after one of Parliament’s most senior former officials said his behaviour “terrified” staff and was “unworthy of someone in such public office”. David Leakey, who retired as Black Rod last year, said the Speaker had subjected him to “intolerable” rudeness while in office and accused him of “explosive and intemperate behaviour” towards his colleagues. Allegations that Mr Bercow bullied two former aides “risk bringing Parliament into disrepute”, Mr Leakey claimed, in a highly unusual intervention, which casts further doubt on Mr Bercow’s future as Speaker.
The EU plans to defy Tory Brexiters and retain its offices in London – the former Conservative central office at 32 Smith Square – as an outpost from which to communicate with British citizens after Brexit, leaked documents reveal. High-profile Brexiters had called last year for the EU to hand back the large red-brick building that was previously Margaret Thatcher’s headquarters and the scene of her general election victories. The European commission and the European parliament jointly purchased the Westminster building for £20m in 2010 after 50 years of Tory ownership, and renamed it Europe House.
NIGEL FARAGE delivered a brutal dig at arch-federalist MEP Guy Verhofstadt as he launched into a tirade dismissing calls for more European integration of member states. Nigel Farage brutally took down European Union parliamentarian Guy Verhofstadt after the Belgian politician urged for more cooperation among EU member states. Mr Farage pointed out to the MEP that recent electoral results across the bloc did not bode well for the bloc due to the surge in support for populist parties. He told colleagues in Brussels: “There are some like Mr Verhofstadt who think this flag represents a European identity. He clearly identifies as a European.
The EU is in disarray as member-states push back against its next long-term budget, which will require significantly higher payments once Britain leaves. Typically, the EU budget does not rise through above limits “equivalent to 1 per cent of the EU’s Gross National Income”, according to The Telegraph — but Brussels is attempting to appropriate funds equivalent to 1.08 per cent of GNI — a 9.3 per cent increase — despite the bloc losing its second-biggest net contributor. “The European Commission just presented an EU Budget the size of 28 member-states but we are only 27 member-states to finance it,” complained Lars Rasmussen, the Prime Minister of Denmark.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is set to be greeted with mass protests when he arrives on the island of Lesbos later tonight. Locals have rolled out banners, shut shops and held a general strike ahead of the visit over his government’s handling of the migrant crisis. more than one million migrants have landed on its shores since the start of the migrant crisis, with thousands still living in and around processing centres. The island’s Mayor, Spyros Galinos, said: “The people of Lesbos are exhausted. “The rhythm of our lives has been shattered by refugees and migrants who now number a third of our population…fear prevails.
Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday called for British Eurocrats to be handed Belgian citizenship to ensure they do not lose their jobs after Brexit. The European Commission president said Belgium should show ‘generosity’ to the EU’s UK employees. The plea comes amid ongoing uncertainty about the future of the 917 British officials working for the European Commission – as well as those working for other EU institutions – who are set to lose their jobs when Britain leaves next year.
The president of the European Commission has appealed to Belgium to offer citizenship to the hundreds of British EU officials who face an uncertain future after Brexit. Around 800 British nationals working for the European Commission in Brussels and an unknown number working for other institutions have not been given a definitive answer to what will happen to them when the UK leaves the EU and they lose their European citizenship. After a speech by Charles Michel, the Belgian prime minister, in the European parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker asked him to think of British officials, who he said deserved better than to be booted out.
Hospitals warned public health chiefs in charge of breast cancer screening last year that women were not being called to checks, but the problems were dismissed as a local issue. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, revealed on Wednesday that 450,000 women had not been asked for screenings, acknowledging that up to 270 may have died prematurely because they were not checked. The omissions were down to a computer glitch that was not spotted for nine years. It emerged yesterday, however, that Public Health England’s regional teams investigated concerns last year from hospitals in London and the West Midlands that women aged 70 were not being invited for checks.
The NHS breast cancer screening scandal last night became a growing fiasco, with victims calling for the resignation of the man in charge. Helplines were overwhelmed with calls within hours of opening, while warning letters to alert women they had missed checks were sent to the wrong patients. Public Health England (PHE) is attempting to contact around 300,000 women who were denied screening checks they should have been offered over the last decade. But as the first warning letters arrived on Thursday, recipients included cancer sufferers who had never been excluded from the programme – raising concerns about whether those who missed checks will be reached.
Health officials were warned of errors in the breast cancer screening programme more than a year ago but failed to act, it emerged last night. Public Health England conceded that it had been made aware of problems with the scheme as far back as March 2017. The body was alerted by two health trusts which reported that letters were not going out to some women aged 68-71. PHE instructed the private firm running the programme’s IT system to look into the matter – but the company said it was only a ‘local issue’. As a result, PHE decided not to pursue it.
Up to 270 women may have had their lives cut short after the NHS failed to invite them to breast screenings, the Health Secretary has said. Jeremy Hunt made the announcement as he said the Government will order an independent review into NHS breast cancer screening after 450,000 women in England failed to be invited for the screening. Some of the women have since developed cancer. Making a statement to the Commons, Mr Hunt said there could be 135 and 270 women who “had their lives shortened as a result”, adding it was “unlikely to be more than this range and may be considerably less”.
Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted on Thursday, releasing lava into a residential neighbourhood and prompting mandatory evacuation orders for nearby homes. Hawaii County said steam and lava poured out of a crack in Leilani Estates, which is near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island. Footage shown on local television showed lava spurting into the sky from a crack in a road. County, state and federal officials had been warning residents all week that they should be prepared to evacuate, as an eruption would give little warning.
TEN thousand residents have been ordered to evacuate as Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano released lava close to homes after days of earthquakes. Authorities are going door-to-door telling the residents of Leilani Estates in the Puna area of the island to get out after magma was spotted “seeping out of cracks in the road”, local media reports. Posts on social media show plumes of smoke rising into the sky while incredible drone footage showed the red liquid oozing from the ground. Resident Ikaika Marzo told Hawaii News Now he could see “fountains” of lava in the community after the first outbreak was reported around 4.30pm.
THE internet has erupted with claims the King of Rock is alive and doing what he did best – singing. Hardcore fans are convinced a pastor seen singing gospels in a deep baritone voice is Elvis Presley himself. Fans are now calling on pastor Robert Joyce from a small town in central Arkansas to identify himself and admit to being the rock icon. If some of the conspiracists are to believed, Elvis has chosen a life of worship and now preaches in a small town in central Arkansas. Tom Mennel, who has seen Pastor Bob singing on YouTube, is convinced he is the real deal, reports Express.co.uk.