The Brexit Party

Following the party’s decision to pull hundreds of its candidates, the Express reports that its leader has shelved his plans for this evening.

NIGEL FARAGE has pulled out of an election rally in Willenhall, Staffordshire tonight at the last minute to attend an emergency meeting.
The Brexit Party leader had been due to address the crowd yesterday evening, however the audience was told Mr Farage had to travel to London “to sort out key strategic elements”. Political correspondent Michael Crick wrote on Twitter: “Nigel Farage and Richard Tice pull out of Brexit Party election rally in Willenhall, Staffordshire tonight ‘to go back to London to sort out key strategic elements’, disappointed audience is told.”

The Telegraph claims that Farage’s decision has left the field open for the Tories.

Boris Johnson’s hopes of winning a Parliamentary majority have received a significant boost after the Brexit Party fielded just 274 candidates, giving the Tories a clear run in several key marginals.
Nigel Farage had promised the Brexit Party would contest every Labour seat and field 300 candidates in total, but he fell 26 shy of that pledge, and failed to register candidates in 16 Labour-held seats.

The question of candidates being offered incentives to step down is examined in the Guardian.

Nigel Farage has stepped up his attacks on the Conservative party as it was claimed that senior Brexit party figures – including Ann Widdecombe – had been offered post-election roles or peerages as part of an attempt to get him to stand down more candidates at the general election.
Widdecombe, the party’s candidate in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, was told she would be part of the government’s post-election Brexit negotiating team if she stood down, according to senior Brexit party officials.

And more seats have been abandoned by the party, reports the Sun.

BORIS Johnson’s election hopes got a boost yesterday as it emerged that the Brexit Party has not put up candidates in a further 38 non-Tory-held seats.
It gives the Conservatives a clear run at Labour in three marginals and opened the way for them to run opposition parties close in another six.
The Brexit Party will not contest Dudley North, where Labour has a majority of just 22, or Canterbury where the Tories trail by only 187.
And it is not standing in Lanark and Hamilton East, where the SNP has a 226 majority over the Tories and 550 people voted for Ukip in 2017.

Conservative Party

Tory policies have been emerging.  The Mail reports on immigration.

Boris Johnson insisted the Tories would reduce unskilled immigration into Britain today as he said current rates were ‘very high’.
The Prime Minister said he was ‘a pro-immigration politician’ but said that changes would be made if he won the election and went through with Brexit.
His comments in a BBC interview came after hardline Home Secretary Priti Patel yesterday vowed to reduce numbers but declined to commit to ‘arbitrary targets’.

Breitbart says Boris is pro-immigration.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has once again promoted himself as a “pro-immigration politician” and refused to commit to reducing it below its current near-record highs.
“I’m a pro-immigration politician,” the Tory leader declared on the BBC on Friday morning, shaking two clenched fists and adding: “I think immigration can be a wonderful thing.”

Free childcare is reported in the Times.

The Conservatives are preparing to offer free childcare to all two-year-olds in their election manifesto, Boris Johnson has hinted, although he is expected to shelve social care reforms.
The party is considering plans to give parents of younger children 15 hours of free childcare a week in one of its biggest election giveaways at an estimated cost of £700 million.

The Sun reports the potential effect of the minimum wage rise on small businesses.

BRITAIN’S army of small businesses last night warned Boris Johnson his pledge to raise the minimum wage to £10.50 will cripple them.
They warn that the rise from £8.21 an hour for over-25s risks thousands of them going under.
In a set of manifesto demands sent to both main parties, the Federation of Small Businesses has called for a minimum £1,000 increase in the Employment Allowance.

Both the main parties say they will plant more trees.  The Mail quotes the PM’s target of 30 million.

Boris Johnson today promises to treble the rate of tree-planting in the UK, with up to 30million more planted every year.
In a major victory for the Daily Mail’s Christmas campaign to plant more trees, the plans would mean an area the size of the Norfolk Broads being covered with trees every year.
Mr Johnson will announce a £640million ‘Nature for Climate’ fund which would form part of Government efforts to hit the target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2050.

The Express claims he’s trying to turn the party green.

BORIS JOHNSON last night promised a massive surge in tree planting in a £1billion green revolution. In a bid to turn the Tories into the party of the environment, the Prime Minister promised to expand existing woodlands and create new forests towards an ultimate goal of planting 30 million more trees across the country.
He also promised to step up the Government’s effort to clean up the world’s oceans. Setting out his latest general election policy proposals, he declared that going green will be at the heart of “21st Century Conservativism.”

Boris

Following his interview on Breakfast television yesterday, the PM is under fire, quotes the Independent.

Boris Johnson has incorrectly claimed both EU and non-EU net migration are equal in proportion, as he insisted a Conservative government would reduce immigration after Brexit.
The prime minister also made clear he had no intention to replicate the numerical targets for immigration set by his predecessors at Number 10 when quizzed on his election promises.

He wasn’t happy with the interview, says the Telegraph.

Boris Johnson has accused BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty of asking him the “most difficult psychological question ever” by quizzing him about his personal life and why he is “relatable” to British voters.
The Prime Minister appeared flustered when asked about his life as a “family man” and his children and girlfriend, Carrie Symonds.
Ms Munchetty said she wanted people to know “who you are”, and asked him about the way he makes tea.

The Independent points to his inaccuracies.

Boris Johnson has made a series of claims about immigration and knife crime picked apart by fact checkers, and said there was “no evidence” of Russian interference in the UK. He also shut down questions about his family in testy BBC interviews.
He has also earmarked £50m for the rejuvenation of railways closed under the Beeching cuts of the 1960s – however figures in the rail sector are unconvinced by the amount pledged.

Labour Party

The Express reveals that activists are being advised on how to deal with difficult questions on the stump.

LABOUR activists are being offered advice on how to tackle “difficult conversations” with voters about Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on terror, a document revealed last night. Momentum, the hard-Left campaign organisation that backs the Labour leader, has published a guide including scripts for addressing hostile questions when canvassing.
The guide, entitled: “Having Difficult Conversations on the Doorstep”, has been posted on Momentum’s website. Labour canvassers are advised to attack Boris Johnson for his privileged background.

The party’s manifesto is being discussed today with Sky News reporting a potential disagreement over immigration.

Jeremy Corbyn is facing a bust-up over immigration policy as senior MPs, party officials and union leaders meet to agree Labour’s election manifesto.
Some of Mr Corbyn’s closest allies, including the shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, want Labour to back freedom of movement after the UK leaves the EU.
But the Labour leader’s chief trade union cheerleader, Len McCluskey of Unite, is demanding curbs on free movement to protect jobs and maintain levels of pay for UK workers.

The Mail claims the party could scrap its plans.

Jeremy Corbyn will back away from plans to extend free movement to non-EU countries and let foreign nationals vote in all UK elections, it has been claimed.
Senior Labour figures are reportedly expected to substantially dilute or completely scrap both policies while drawing up their election manifesto in central London today.

Even the front bench is split, says the Telegraph.

Jeremy Corbyn was on Friday facing a frontbench split on immigration, amid claims that a draft version of Labour’s manifesto contains a commitment to freedom of movement.
Shadow cabinet ministers and trade union leaders are on Saturday expected to clash over the wording of the document, which will be finalised at a ‘Clause V’ meeting of senior Labour grandees and officials.

We could even get free broadband says ITV News.

Jeremy Corbyn has told ITV News Labour’s new free broadband pledge “is affordable” after BT questioned the cost of the party’s plan to re-nationalise parts of the company.
BT claimed the cost of the project to deliver free full-fibre internet across the UK by making broadband a public service could double from Labour’s estimated £20billion.
When questioned about the cost of the scheme by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener after Mr Corbyn launched the policy at Lancaster University, the Labour leader insisted: “It is affordable, and it’s got to be affordable because our country needs it.”

But the Times says it’ll be expensive.

Labour’s plan to nationalise the country’s broadband network could cost as much as £100 billion, according to the chief executive of BT.
Philip Jansen questioned John McDonnell’s costing of Labour’s pledge to create a full-fibre network nationwide within a decade and provide free broadband to every home and business. He also claimed he had been given a personal assurance from the shadow chancellor that BT “was not on the list” of companies which were being targeted for nationalisation.

The Telegraph says the proposals could hit small investors.

Small investors have expressed dismay over Labour proposals to nationalise the broadband business of telecoms giant BT.
Leader Jeremy Corbyn has announced plans to bring the firm’s broadband network into public ownership at a cost of £15bn. He promised all households would receive a free state-owned internet connection after the part-nationalisation, should the party win the upcoming General Election.
Shareholders have expressed their concern at the plans.

And the BT boss doesn’t like the plans either, says the Times.

The chief executive of BT led an industry fightback yesterday to Labour’s plans to nationalise large parts of his business to deliver free broadband to all consumers and businesses by 2030.
Philip Jansen warned that the party had significantly underestimated the cost and risk of taking over Openreach, its broadband infrastructure division, and extending the full-fibre network.

Boris calls the plan a ‘crazed communist scheme’ in the Guardian.

The prime minister attacked Labour’s ambitious plan to nationalise part of BT and provide free broadband across the UK as a “crazed communist scheme” on Friday, amid a furious backlash from business.
Labour believes the plan, part-funded by a tax on internet giants such as Facebook and Google, is a vote winner, combining a consumer-friendly pledge to cut bills with a commitment to taking on powerful corporations.

‘Crackpot’?  ‘Gaga’?  The Sun doesn’t hold back.

LABOUR’S “crackpot” broadband plans sparked market chaos yesterday as £500million was wiped off BT, a major TalkTalk deal stalled and 100,000 pensions were put at risk.
The proposal to nationalise Britain’s broadband network was blasted as a “fantasy” which could eventually cost more than £160billion.
At the launch yesterday of his ga-ga plans, Jeremy Corbyn was greeted by a baby called Colin, who looked far from impressed.

The Mirror reports an official complaint about bias.

Labour has complained to Ofcom about Sky News – claiming there is Tory bias in the way it has branded the election.
Sky is calling December’s poll “The Brexit Election”.
But Labour believes this description “gives undue and unfair weight to the Conservative Party’s political agenda”.

Huffington Post says Sky News’ reporting has been slanted.

Labour has complained to the broadcasting watchdog over Sky News’s “unfair” and “slanted” decision to brand December’s snap poll “the Brexit election”.
The party told Ofcom that the branding gives undue weight to the Tories’ political agenda because it frames the election “in terms chosen by Boris Johnson and the Conservative party”.

EU

Post-Brexit migrants might have to wait for benefits, reports the Times.

EU migrants who come to the UK after Brexit will be barred from claiming benefits for five years under plans to end free movement expected to be announced in the Tory manifesto.
Boris Johnson yesterday suggested that he will set new limits on jobless migrants arriving in the UK as he pledged for the first time to lower immigration totals.

The Evening Standard claims a post-Brexit deal is on the cards.

Charles Michel, the incoming president of the European Council, has said the EU stands ready to negotiate a trade deal once Brexit happens.
Mr Michel would not be drawn on whether it was realistic to anticipate an agreement being struck in the 11 months between the current exit date in January and the end of the transition period in December 2020.

Prince Andrew

Most of the papers cover the BBC interview with the prince.  The Telegraph says:

The Duke of York has admitted that he “let the side down” over his friendship with the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein in an unprecedented television interview.
Following years of scrutiny over his links to the billionaire financier, Prince Andrew conceded for the first time that his behaviour had “not been something that was becoming of a member of the royal family”.

He has made a frank admission says the Mail.

Prince Andrew has admitted he let the Queen and the Royal Family down by becoming involved with a paedophile billionaire.
In a ‘make or break’ TV interview about the scandal, he said he regretted going to stay with Jeffrey Epstein in New York after the financier’s release from prison on child sex offences.

But he claims he can’t remember the young lady involved, says the Times.

The Duke of York has admitted that he “let the side down” and damaged the royal family by maintaining his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein even after the billionaire paedophile had been convicted.
Prince Andrew, 59, broke his silence on the Epstein scandal last night to insist that he had no memory of meeting the woman who alleges she was “trafficked” to have sex with him aged 17.

NHS

The crisis in the NHS is highlighted in the Independent.

NHS staff are working 1 million hours of unpaid overtime every week to help the system cope with under-staffing, Labour has claimed.
Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth published new analysis of official NHS staff survey data which showed that nearly 270,000 personnel said they worked an average of 2.3 extra hours a week without pay.

The Guardian reports the same claim.

NHS staff are working over a million hours a week of unpaid overtime to help the health service deal with an unprecedented demand for care, according to research by the Labour party.
Its estimate is based on an analysis of data in the NHS Staff Survey of the views and experiences of 497,000 health service personnel in England.

And there’s a knock-on effect to social care says the Mail.

Britain’s broken social care system is severely hampering the way the NHS can treat its patients, hospital bosses warn.
A snap poll found that 97 per cent of hospital chief executives and local health bosses believe the crisis in social care is damaging for the NHS and its patients.
Thousands of patients are left stuck in hospitals because there is nowhere for them to go – a scandal that is being driven by a lack of suitable care.

Education

The salary of head teachers is examined in the Times.

An academy boss who earns more than half a million pounds has called for greater scrutiny of the pay of head teachers who run only a handful of schools.
Sir Dan Moynihan, who has a salary and benefits package of £550,000, is chief executive of the Harris Federation, which runs almost 50 schools. His pay has been savaged by critics of the academies system.

The Mail reports that state schools are more successful than private schools in some respects.

State-run academies get a higher proportion of pupils into university than private schools, figures show.
A total of 87.81 per cent of the 91,485 pupils applying from academies in 2018 were successful, according to admissions service UCAS.

Flooding

Could the devastation have been mitigated?  The Times reports:

The Environment Agency ignored repeated warnings for more than a decade that a lack of maintenance along the River Don in South Yorkshire would worsen the impact of flooding.
As flooding spread across the country yesterday, the Association of Drainage Authorities said that warnings had been issued each year since 2007 at its annual conference, attended by Environment Agency staff.

The Sun reports ‘more rain’.

PARTS of the UK were submerged yesterday as floods engulfed villages – with more rain and Christmas misery on the way.
There are currently 89 flood warnings in place covering much of England and parts of Wales after torrential downpours over the past two days.
The wet weather created travel disruption yesterday morning, with some rail services in Yorkshire and the Midlands delayed or cancelled.

GOSH

The country’s leading children’s hospital has come under scrutiny in the Telegraph.

Great Ormond Street has been accused of a “cover up” in a scandal over controversial treatments that may have been used on hundreds of children.
The world famous children’s hospital may have subjected up to 463 children with a rare gut disease to unnecessary and potentially risky treatment.
Under the “aggressive” treatment, some children were needlessly banned from eating for years – instead getting food via a tube through their stomachs.

Fire

Student flats are on fire in Manchester, says the Telegraph.

Fire crews are tackling a large blaze “crawling up the cladding” of a student accommodation building in Bolton, Greater Manchester.
Images posted on social media showed firefighters tackling the blaze on the top floors of a six-storey building known as The Cube on Bradshawgate.
Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said more than 40 fire engines were fighting pockets of fire on the top two floors of the building, which had been evacuated.

The Mail also reports.

A block of luxury student flats was devastated by fire last night after flames rapidly spread ‘up the cladding’.
Students were evacuated at around 8.50pm, shortly before flames were seen bursting from the top floor of the building and by 1.30am more than 40 engines were at the scene ‘and working hard to tackle pockets of fire’, the fire service said.

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