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Saturday, November 30, 2019

The mystery of the phantom swastikas

The Independent reports on the mystery of how two swastikas came to be daubed on a Tory campaign placard, despite the fact that the sign has been in the possession of the local MP for two years.

The paper says that Simon Hart, the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, has been asked to explain the addition of two swastikas to campaign placards which were apparently defaced in 2017, and were photographed at the time but did not feature any such Nazi insignia, after Mr Hart uploaded a new photograph of the placard to Facebook on 3rd November:

It appeared to have been vandalised so that after the words “Simon Hart” a scrawled message in black marker pen added: “WILL STARVE YOUR NAN AND STEAL HER HOUSE!”

The image generated some sympathy for Mr Hart, and was used in a subsequent article published by WalesOnline, about the abuse MPs including Mr Hart suffered during the election.

Local press claim Mr Hart has used the incident as a campaigning platform since 2017.

But Mr Hart is now under pressure to explain why a new picture of the exact same campaign placard, uploaded on 3 November to Facebook, now shows the sign with two blue hand-drawn swastikas which were not previously there.

The shadow secretary of state for Wales, Christina Rees, has put out a statement describing the situation as being “as sinister as it is baffling”.

“It is clear that the images posted by Simon Hart have been further defaced since 2017, with Nazi insignia added,” she said in a statement posted to Twitter.

“It raises a multitude of questions for the Tory high command and for the relevant authorities. “But I have one simple question for Simon Hart, one that requires answering immediately – did you deface your own signs with swastikas for personal electoral gain?

“If not, explain how they came to be there. Because right now there appears to be no other rational explanation.”

The Pembrokeshire Herald, which has today published a double-page spread on the circumstances of the mysterious materialisation of the Nazi symbols, notes the Tory candidate has “flatly refused to publicly respond to speculation over who daubed swastikas on his campaign material”.

The paper also states the placard in question has been in Mr Hart’s possession since the last election.

The paper reports that Mr Hart has not been available to comment on the discrepancy.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Is veganism damaging our environment?

To be frank, I have heard so many lectures on what is and is not damaging to our environment, that nowadays I tend to switch off. I try to do my bit, choosing environmentally-friendly products when I can and recycling as much of my waste as is possible, but I know it is not enough. I just have to do what I can.

One of the more common lectures is that the over-production of meat is especially bad and maybe driving climate change. I was amused therefore to read this article in the Times, where agricultural experts from Edinburgh University and Scotland’s Rural College are arguing that the spread of veganism will not solve climate problems linked to the farming sector and could even harm the environment.

They believe that if the planet went meat-free, it would lose the biodiversity essential to sustaining a healthy ecosystem. They add that veganism would not improve land use and millions of farmers who depended on their livestock would suffer:

Geoff Simm, director of the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security at the university, said: “Animals are eating by-products and grazing grassland, so if everyone went vegan those natural resources would essentially be wasted.”

Who is right? I really don't know. However, I am a confirmed meat eater - though I only eat beef, lamb and pork on an infrequent basis - so in my case the whole argument is rather academic.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Neither Tories nor Labour have credible spending plans

Hot on the heels of research by the Resolution Foundation, who compared manifestos and found that Liberal Democrats policies would mean 600,000 fewer children in poverty (see diagram below), we now have the Institute for Fiscal Studies hitting out at the spending plans of both Labour and the Tories.

As the Guardian reports the Institute for Fiscal Studies believes that neither of the two major party's election manifesto “is a properly credible prospectus”:

Paul Johnson, the director of the respected thinktank, noted that the Conservatives’ election manifesto in 2017 pledged more austerity and spending cuts, but in reality public service spending has gone up, and is due to be around £27bn higher next year than implied by the manifesto. In fact, he said, it is closer to the 2017 Labour pledge than the Tories’ own manifesto.

This time, the Conservatives are not promising any more spending cuts but are not predicting any spending increases beyond those set out in September either. Their plans would leave public service spending excluding health still 14% lower in 2023-24 than it was in 2010-11. “No more austerity perhaps, but an awful lot of it baked in,” Johnson said.

The Conservatives have pencilled in few tax changes beyond a small cut in national insurance contributions.

“If you think things are pretty much OK as they are, then you will like the Conservatives proposals for tax and spend. If you want big increases in taxation and spending then Labour and the Liberal Democrats have plenty to offer,” Johnson said.

Turning to the Labour manifesto, he said Jeremy Corbyn’s party had doubled down on its current spending plans, raising them to £80bn from £50bn in 2017. On top of that, there is a £58bn promise to Waspi women (Women Against State Pension Inequality), which he described as “extraordinary”.

Johnson said this spending pledge, to a group who are relatively well off on average, would far outstrip the additional sums earmarked for the “much bigger group of much poorer working age benefit recipients”. Under Labour, investment spending would rise by £55bn a year, up from £25bn in 2017, and taxes by £80bn, up from £50bn. Both taxes and spending would rise to peacetime highs, and the national debt would increase by around 3% of national income.

With the Conservatives, the risk is that their promise to exit the Brexit transition period by the end of 2020 could mean something rather like a “no deal” outcome. “That would harm the economy and of course increase the debt and deficit.”

As ever with these manifestos, people take from them what they wish. It is always useful to have this sort of analysis however.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

No apologies on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia

With Jeremy Corbyn being skewered by Andrew Neil on the BBC for failing to apologise over his party's abysmal record on anti-Semitism, attention naturally turned to the Conservative Party and their difficulties with Islamophobia. Unfortunately, senior Tory politicians are as much in denial on this issue as Corbyn is on his.

The Guardian reports that the Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid has refused seven times to condemn Boris Johnson’s use of the terms “bank robber” and “letterbox” to describe Muslim women who wear a burqa.

Johnson has refused to apologise for writing in a Telegraph column last year that Muslim women wearing burqas “look like letter boxes” and that it was “absolutely ridiculous” that anyone should choose to wear one.

As I have recorded a number of times on this blog, the Tory problem with Islam goes beyond the offensive example set by the Prime Minister. Earlier this month it was revealed that twenty-five sitting and former Conservative councillors have been exposed for posting Islamophobic and racist material on social media.

It is also the case that an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative party, promised by Boris Johnson if he won the leadership race, was downgraded to a “general investigation” into all types of prejudice. Even that appears to have been buried.

It is little wonder that people find it difficult to believe either Corbyn or Johnson when they claim that they are doing all they can to counter these issues within their respective parties.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

'The poison of anti-semitism has taken root within Labour'

The chief rabbi has delivered the strongest attack yet on anti-Semitism within the Labour party, when he accused Jeremy Corbyn of allowing a “poison sanctioned from the top” to take root in the party, saying Jews are justifiably anxious about the prospect of the party forming the next government.

The Guardian reports that Ephraim Mirvis, the spiritual leader of the UK’s 62 orthodox synagogues, made a rare intervention in politics to argue that the “soul of the nation is at stake” as the country goes to the polls in just over two weeks’ time:

Writing for The Times, he said it was not his place to tell people how to vote but argued that the way in which the Labour leadership had dealt with anti-Jewish racism was “incompatible with the British values of which we are so proud – of dignity and respect for all people”.

Labour has always strongly denied any suggestion that Corbyn has failed to get to grips with allegations of antisemitism in Labour, pointing to his record as an anti-racist campaigner and moves to overhaul the party’s complaints process.

The rabbi wrote: “The party leadership have never understood that their failure is not just one of procedure, which can be remedied with additional staff or new processes. It is a failure to see this as a human problem rather than a political one. It is a failure of culture. It is a failure of leadership. A new poison – sanctioned from the top – has taken root in the Labour party.”

Mirvis said British Jews were gripped by a justified anxiety about the prospect of a Corbyn government. He wrote: “How complicit in prejudice would a leader of Her Majesty’s opposition have to be to be considered unfit for office? Would associations with those who have incited hatred against Jews be enough? Would describing as ‘friends’ those who endorse the murder of Jews be enough? It seems not.

“It is not my place to tell any person how they should vote. I regret being in this situation at all. I simply pose the question: What will the result of this election say about the moral compass of our country? When 12 December arrives, I ask every person to vote with their conscience. Be in no doubt, the very soul of our nation is at stake.”

The rabbi also claimed that there were 130 cases of antisemitism that were outstanding against Labour members, an allegation the party disputes.

“The Jewish community has watched with incredulity as supporters of the Labour leadership have hounded parliamentarians, members and even staff out of the party for challenging anti-Jewish racism,” Mirvis wrote.

“Even as they received threats, the response of the Labour leadership was utterly inadequate. We have endured quibbling and prevarication over whether the party should adopt the most widely accepted definition of antisemitism.

“Now we await the outcome of a formal investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into whether discrimination by the party against Jews has become an institutional problem. And all of this while in opposition. What should we expect of them in government?”

This is an ongoing scandal that Labour seems to be incapable of dealing with. Just how damaging it is to the party will be seen on 12th December.

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Tory threat to human rights

The Tories have never been a great fan of human rights, so it is no surprise to read in the Independent that they are being accused of attempting to water down the Human Rights Act after announcing vague plans to "update" the legislation in their election manifesto.

The paper says that the 59-page blueprint, launched by Boris Johnson on Sunday, contains a promise to "update the Human Rights Act and administrative law to ensure that there is a proper balance between the rights of individuals, our vital national security and effective government:

The pledge comes after the prime minister vowed to end prosecutions of ex-soldiers accused of murder during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, which would involve amending the act to exclude deaths before the legislation came into force in October 2000.

Tory MPs and members of Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have long called for an end to prosecutions of veterans over killings during the Troubles, in an attempt to protect the armed forces from vexatious prosecutions.

But such a change to domestic legislation could put the UK at odds with the European Convention on Human Rights, according to legal experts.

It is not just this issue that has irked Tories in the past. Their commitment to, and understanding of human rights legislation has always been suspect, and there is no doubt in my mind that if we were to get a majority Tory Government on 13th December, there will be attempts to change the balance of rights in favour of the state.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

UK voters: please take note

Turnout in the forthcoming General Election looks like it can be low. A combination of factors - poor weather, dark wintery nights, disillusionment with the political class, uninspiring leaders - in my view will cause many people to stay at home.

Contrast that with Hong Kong, where the democratic process is effectively a sham, and whose citizens are currently involved in elections for powerless district councils. According to the Independent, record numbers of people have voted, with the total surpassing the 2015 turnout by lunchtime.

The lesson here is obvious. In the UK we take our democracy for granted and abuse it. Where people's rights are under threat, then they cherish them and use them as a weapon against the establishment.

The same was true in the first elections in South Africa after apartheid, when thousands of people queued in punishing conditions to exercise freedoms they had been denied for over a century.

Our democracy is one of the oldest in the World. It is far from perfect, and needs reform. But if we don't use it, we could lose it. Isn't it about time we all woke up to that fact.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Labour still falling short on EU commitments

Those arguing that Labour's commitment to hold a people's vote on a deal that they have negotiated with the EU puts them in the remain camp, may wish to reflect on the precise position the party's leader is taking.

As the Guardian reports, Jeremy Corbyn plans to take a “neutral stance” in a future Brexit referendum. That is in no way a 'remain position':

Labour’s Brexit policy is to negotiate a new deal within three months of coming to power – and then put it to a referendum, alongside an option to remain in the EU, within six months.

Despite the vast majority of Labour members being pro-remain, Corbyn has always declined to say how he would campaign. He had previously suggested Labour’s position would be determined at a special conference once a new Brexit deal had been agreed.

He was pressed repeatedly about it by Johnson when the two men met for a head to head debate earlier this week – and the Tories had seized on his refusal to give an answer.

When he was asked about it once again on Friday, the Labour leader revealed that his plan was to take a “neutral stance”.

An article he wrote for the Guardian in September was seen as the strongest sign yet he would stay neutral, but he has until now refused to confirm his stance.

The Labour leader later tweeted that his approach would be to act as an “honest broker” in a referendum, and “not campaign on either side”.

This leaves us with the possible scenario that Corbyn will manage to negotiate a deal that has eluded many others for over three years, crossing several EU red lines in the process, and then stand back while people vote to leave the EU. If anything that is a quasi-Brexit position.

So the Tories will take us out on disastrous terms while Labour will indulge in fantasy politics at the country's expense. The only way to vote across the UK to stay in the EU is for the Liberal Democrats.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Tories playing fast and loose on social media

If this is to be the election when social media finally comes into its own then it is possible that the Tories have blown it. Their antics on Twitter and elsewhere have thrown up a storm of protest, as they have used their online engagement for dirty tricks and alternative facts.

As if to compound their misdemeanours, when confronted by journalists over the party's misuse of the medium, senior Tories have dismissed concerns out of hand, claiming that nobody really takes notice of what happens on Twitter etc, outside the Westminster bubble.

I am not sure that is true. More and more people are engaging with social media, and expect political parties to use it honourably, albeit that everybody expects a level of hyperbole from politicians anyway. Just as importantly, the media coverage of dirty tricks does have an impact.

So what exactly have the Tories been up to. Well, they started off by doctoring a video which appeared to show Labour Brexit Spokesperson, Keir Starmer struggling to answer a question while being interviewed on Good Morning Britain. It was chopped to make it look like the Shadow Brexit Secretary froze when asked by Piers Morgan about the EU's willingness to negotiate a new withdrawal agreement with Labour.

As Politics Home explains, Tory chairman James Cleverly initially tried to defend the video, which was viewed more than a million times, by claiming it had to be "shortened" for social media. But appearing on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak admitted the Conservatives had gone "too far".

Then there was the "misleading" video of Labour MP, Jess Phillips, shared online by an official Conservative account, supposedly showing her discussing election manifestos and the fact that parties can find it difficult to deliver on all of their promises, as part of a book tour last month. However, the video was edited to suggest that the comments were new and that the Labour candidate had specifically been referring to the Labour Party manifesto.

She was in fact, talking about Brexit policy during the interview, and her wide-ranging comments were in response to a general question about how well parties had delivered on their manifesto promises.

The big reaction came when Twitter accused the Conservatives of misleading the public after they rebranded one of their official party accounts to make it look like a factchecking service during the ITV leaders’ debate.

As the Guardian records, the party was widely criticised on Tuesday night when it temporarily changed the name of its Conservative campaign headquarters press office Twitter account, which is followed by nearly 76,000 users, to factcheckUK from its usual CCHQPress.

The account’s avatar was switched during the debate from the party’s logo to a white tick against a purple background, and the account was used to promote pro-Tory statements prefixed with the word “FACT”. Shortly after the debate finished, the Twitter account name was changed back to CCHQ Press.

It was at this stage that the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, defended the move and told BBC Breakfast that “no one gives a toss about the social media cut and thrust”. A claim that was disproved almost immediately by the reaction it generated.

And now we have the Tories setting up a website that purports to contain Labour’s manifesto, in a bid to trick voters looking for the document. The party paid Google to promote the website labourmanifesto.co.uk towards the top of its results for people searching for the opposition plan.

The website features a picture of Jeremy Corbyn at the top and the headline “Labour’s 2019 manifesto”. Once users are on the page, it notes in smaller writing further down that it is “a website by the Conservative party”. The page then launches into Tory talking points and PR messages instead of the party’s actual manifesto, which was released yesterday.

It is little wonder that these underhand tactics being employed by the Tories are leading them to be accused of running an authoritarian-style disinformation campaign to confuse voters about opposition plans.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Are the Tories hiding from hostile media?

All political campaigns seek to control their media coverage, but few go so far as to exclude specific journalists from their campaign bus in order to avoid criticism.

It is a surprise therefore to find that the Conservative Party have banned the Daily Mirror from travelling on the party’s battle bus. As the paper says, senior Tory aides told the Mirror as early as last week they could have access to the trip - the Tory leader’s first with the bus - but pulled the offer at the last minute.

The Mirror, which reaches almost 500,000 households and more than eleven million people online every day, was the only major national newspaper excluded from the trip. They say that they have been invited onto election ‘battle buses’ under every Tory leader since they were invented in the 1970s, including Mr Johnson’s immediate predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron.

Are the Conservatives that worried about the Prime Minister's propensity to make gaffes that they are seeking to reduce the risk by suppressing reporting opportunities for hostile newspapers?

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Brexit Party under investigation

The Guardian reports that Nigel Farage’s Brexit party is being investigated for allegedly failing to answer requests for data it holds on some voters. They say that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is looking into complaints that the party did not hand over information through the subject access request system:

The subject access requests were sent to the Brexit party earlier this year and typically take a month to respond to. Anyone can ask an organisation that holds data what personal details they might have relating to them.

A Brexit party spokesperson told Sky News: “During the European elections, there was a coordinated attempt by campaigners to flood the Brexit party with subject access requests.” A source added: “It was a deliberate attempt to make it impossible to campaign.”

An ICO spokesperson said: “Our regulatory work continues as usual but we will not be commenting publicly on every issue raised during the general election. We will, however, be closely monitoring how personal data is being used during political campaigning and making sure that all parties and campaigns are aware of their responsibilities under data protection and direct marketing laws.”

Irrespective of the volume of the requests, all political parties should be geared up to respond to these requests expeditiously. The fact that the Brexit Party does not appear to be able to respond in good time does not engender much confidence in their data management.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Latest Plaid Cymru pledge underlines their irrelevance in a UK election

A lot of promises are being made in this election, some of them so wild that one wonders if anybody could possibly give them credence. The biggest obstacle faced by all parties however, is how they can operate within an asymmetric constitutional settlement, when the biggest concerns of voters, namely education and health, are no longer the responsibility of MPs in three of the countries that make up the UK.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats, even the Conservatives are having to produce different manifestos for Wales and Scotland, in which they set out how, if they are given the chance, they will spend the Barnett consequential of their UK-wide promises. In reality, only Labour in Wales (and of course the SNP in Scotland) are able to guarantee that these pledges will be met. Nevertheless. the others can at least deliver more money for the devolved governments if they win on 12th December.

But what about the remaining nationalist party, Plaid Cymru. They are only fielding candidates in Wales, so they do not even have the fall back argument that they will be able to secure extra resources for the Welsh Government by implementing new spending priorities in England. The odds of them forming part of any government is remote, and getting remoter by the day. Their only real chance of doing anything is to use this election as a dry run for the Assembly polls in 2021.

Plaid's position as a purely Welsh party operating within a devolved settlement, means that their latest promise to recruit 1,600 new police officers for Welsh communities comes across as rather absurd.

Policing is not devolved to Wales, so the nationalists do not even have the cover of seeking to influence Welsh budgets to deliver on this pledge. The odds of them being able to secure devolution of policing when they are fielding just 37 candidates out of 650, with only a handful having a realistic chance of winning, are remote. They may as well promise to annex the moon for Wales, for all the good it will do.

This pledge above the many others I have seen Plaid Cymru make, just underlines their irrelevance in this election. At an Assembly level they have the opportunity to deliver on their promises, in this election they are just talking to the hand.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Anti-Semitism hits election again

There are two Anti-Semitism rows dominating the media this morning. In one case the party concerned has taken swift action and suspended the accused individual, in the other no action has been taken because apparently, no complaint has been received.

As the BBC report, Plaid Cymru has suspended a party member included in its party election broadcast over allegations of anti-Semitism. The party said it will conduct an investigation into historical social media comments made by Sahar Al-Faifi.

Meanwhile, Mail-online report that a Labour Election candidate organised and ran a secret Facebook group which advises party members, including alleged Holocaust deniers, how to beat charges of antisemitism.

They say that Maria Carroll, a Jeremy Corbyn ally who is standing in the marginal seat of Camarthen East in Wales, co-founded and administered the site which instructed Labour Party members accused of antisemitism on how to avoid expulsion.

Among those who joined the group are members who cast doubt on the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis and others who repeated the anti-Semitic trope that there is an international ‘Jewish conspiracy’ controlling politics, the economy and the media.

Despite the fact that Carroll says she had not seen the social media posts, the paper says that it has established that Carroll personally advised alleged Holocaust deniers. They claim that working with campaign group Labour Against Antisemitism and Gnasherjew, a group of investigators who left Labour over its antisemitism they have seen hundreds of posts, and a list of more than 400 members. It includes councillors, candidates and party officials.

Labour's failure to act against this site or to investigate their candidate and their apparent indifference to these latest allegations will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of campaigners such as Dame Margaret Hodge who have been opposing anti-Semitism in the party for some time.

It will also reinforce the perception amongst thousands of Jewish voters that they can no longer support Labour candidates.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Labour breaking promises already

The election has barely begun and already Labour are backtracking on some of their pledges and promise. The Independent reports that the party is for a major row over its immigration policy amid reports that Jeremy Corbyn will back away from a commitment to extend free movement to non-EU countries and give foreign nationals the right to vote in all UK elections.

The paper says both policies are expected to be significantly watered down or ditched entirely when senior figures meet on Saturday to thrash out Labour’s election manifesto. Such a move would lead to a backlash from grassroots activists, who successfully campaigned for Labour to adopt the policies at the party’s annual conference in September.

Senior figures fear that the pledges will be unpopular in Labour heartlands, where the party is facing a battle to avoid losing seats to the Tories. Apparently they accept that the party’s Brexit policy of seeking access to the EU’s single market will inevitably mean a continuation of free movement but may no longer support going further:

Ahead of the key meeting, Labour activists warned Mr Corbyn that failure to give immigrants the right to vote would fuel “xenophobia, scaremongering and hate crime”.

Representatives of foreign nationals in the UK said backing away from the conference policy would amount to “pandering to the negative portrayal of immigrants” and would be “incredibly upsetting and disappointing”.

The Liberal Democrats also called on Mr Corbyn to make a “cast-iron commitment” to maintaining free movement, claiming that failure to do so would be “a betrayal of future generations”.

How many more u-turns will Labour perform before the election is over?

Saturday, November 16, 2019

A Christmas Advert with a real message

Christmas advert of the year has to be from the World Wildlife Fund, if only because of its terrifying message that if we are to save the planet. We have to act now. It is a complete contrast to the consumerist messages of the likes of Marks and Spencer's and John Lewis.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Did desperate Tories try to buy off Farage's party?

The BBC carries the startling claim by Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, that the Conservatives offered his candidates jobs and peerages to try to get them to stand down.

Farage also says his candidates received "thousands of phone calls and emails" trying to get them to withdraw ahead of next month's election. The Tories deny offering Brexit Party candidates jobs or peerages:

In a video posted on Twitter, Mr Farage said that he, along with eight "senior figures" in his party, had been offered peerages to stand down.

He said the offer had been made by people "deep inside Number 10 Downing Street" - although he did not think Prime Minister Boris Johnson was involved.

"As you can imagine, I said I do not want, and I will never have, anything to do with this kind of behaviour," he said.

A Tory source has told the BBC the Brexit Party candidate in Peterborough was offered an unpaid role in education in the hope it would convince him to stand aside.

Mike Greene is standing for the party in the Cambridgeshire constituency, which Labour held narrowly at a by-election in June.

It is understood friends of Mr Greene had indicated that the role could be enough of an inducement. Mr Greene's team confirmed the offer of a role had been made to him, but said their candidate would definitely be running.

Mr Farage also later said his candidates had been "subjected to thousands of phone calls, and emails and threats all over the country" to get them to stand aside.

He said candidates had been offered jobs "in the negotiating team, jobs in government departments and hints at peerages too".

I suppose we will never know the truth, but even the fact that this claim is a credible one is bad enough, as is any attempt to use inducements to manipulate the political process.

The truth of course is that the Tory Party have moved so far to the right that in many cases they are indistinguishable from the Brexit Party. Now, if only we had an electoral system that allowed them to co-exist without undermining the other's support.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Flooding and climate change

For those of us who like to preserve our heritage, the recent flooding in Venice is both unsettling and ominous. As the Guardian reports flood levels in the lagoon city have reached the second-highest level since records began in 1923 as a result of the acqua alta, which hit 1.87 metres (74in) late on Tuesday night amid heavy rain, just short of the record 1.94 metres measured in 1966.

Most of the water had receded by the afternoon, but residents are bracing themselves for more to come as forecasts predicted high tides of 1.20 metres late on Wednesday night and 1.30 metres on Thursday morning. More than 85% of Venice was flooded, authorities said, including the historic St Mark’s basilica.

The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, says that this flooding is the result of climate change and in my view he is undoubtedly correct. Nor is Venice the only place to suffer. The Guardian also reports on flooding in South Yorkshire, whilst adverse weather conditions appear to have become a regular feature of our news.

This is not yet the apocalypse, as someone claimed to me this week, but it is a clear sign that climate change is accelerating and that things can only get worse. If we don't take drastic action to stop those man-made elements that are causing these changes, then adverse weather such as that being experienced this week will continue to dominate our news, until they become commonplace.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Why can't the Tories deal with their Islamophobia problem?

Labour may well be struggling to deal with the anti-Semitism within their ranks but the Tories have an equally toxic problem with Islamophobia.

The Guardian reports that a dossier obtained by them reveals that twenty-five sitting and former Conservative councillors have been exposed for posting Islamophobic and racist material on social media.

They add that the disclosure that 15 current and 10 former Tory councillors have posted, shared or endorsed Islamophobic or other racist content on Facebook or Twitter will increase pressure on Boris Johnson after he backtracked on a pledge to hold an independent inquiry into the issue:

Inflammatory posts recorded in the dossier, which has been sent to the party’s headquarters, include calls for mosques to be banned, claims the faith wants to “turn the world Muslim”, referring to its followers as “barbarians” and “the enemy within”.

In 2017, one councillor, who has been pictured with Johnson, endorsed a suggestion that all aid to Africa helping feed starving people should stop, allowing “mother nature take her course”. She replied: “It’s nature’s way of depopulation.”

The paper lists some examples:

• Beverley Dunlop, a councillor in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, who posted messages in two Facebook groups with more than 11,000 members between them. In one posted in 2016 she railed against the burqa, adding: “I hate to ban anything really but I’d suggest we start with Mosques!” In another post, she responded to a call for an inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative party by hitting back last year: “How about them calling for an inquiry into Islamist rape gangs grooming underage, underpriveleged white girls [sic]?”

• The Walsall councillor Vera Waters who endorsed a suggestion that impoverished Africans should be left to starve, saying that famine is “nature’s way of depopulation”.

• Trevor Hales, a parish councillor in Sandiacre, near Nottingham, who complained on Twitter about Muslims in a stream of tweets last year in which he referred to them as “the enemy within”, claimed “spineless” governments had sold “us to slavery of Muslims”, and warned Sajid Javid: “How long are you going to allow this Muslim takeover.”

• Malcolm Griffiths, a councillor in Redcar and Cleveland, North Yorkshire, who is also chairman of South Tees Conservative Association, and liked Facebook comments in 2017 urging migrants to “go back to where they came from” and to “get the fuck out and go home”. In a separate post, Griffiths suggested Muslims were inbred.

• A Conservative councillor in Kettering, Paul Marks, who referred to London’s Muslim mayor, Sadiq Khan, as a “vile creature” and liked a post ranting about the politician, which claimed he “will always lobby against anybody or anything which finds itself in direct conflict with Islam”.

The post added: “No doubt he will be voted in again by the exploding Muslim hordes that now dominate London and suppress any counter votes from the more white conservative outer London boroughs.” In reply, Marks wrote: “That this vile creature was a elected mayor of London tells me all I need to know about that anti-British city.”
Isn't it time the party sorted this out once and for all?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Does Tory-Brexit Party pact presage a hard no-deal exit from the EU?

In many ways it was inevitable that Nigel Farage would bow to all the pressure and make a deal with the Tory Party. After all Boris Johnson was his favoured candidate for Tory leader, while the dysfunctional deal the Prime Minister negotiated with the EU is much closer to the Brexit Party leader's position than that secured by Theresa May.

Nevertheless, the announcement that the Brexit Party would stand down in the 317 seats the Tories won in 2017 was a surprise, if only because of Farage's gung-ho insistence that this election was an all or nothing endeavour for his limited company.

As the Guardian reports, Farage has agreed to make way at the very last minute for incumbent Tories, but so far has been silent on those seats the ruling minority party want to take off others. Inevitably this makes a Tory majority more likely, but it also tells us a great deal about the nature of a new Conservative Government.

For all intents and purposes the Tory Party has become a shadow Brexit Party, committed to isolating the UK in subsequent post-Brexit negotiations with the EU. It is a pact that has the potential to wreck the UK economy, lead to the further persecution of EU citizens in the UK as well as other migrant workers, and undermine much of our industrial base.

There is no longer any room in the Conservative Party for moderates and pro-Europeans. They have tacked hard right, leaving many of their members and voters behind. The job of those parties committed to remaining in the EU now, is to convince Tory voters of that fact and deny Boris Johnson the majority he so craves.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Suppressed Intelligence report identifies nine Russian donors to Tories

The Sunday Times reports that Boris Johnson's Conservative Party has received a surge in cash from nine Russian donors, who have been named in a suppressed investigation into Russia's attempts to undermine democracy in the UK.

The paper says that oligarchs and other wealthy Tory donors were included in the report on illicit Russian activities in Britain by the cross-party intelligence and security select committee (ISC), whose publication was blocked by No 10:

Some Russian donors are personally close to the prime minister. Alexander Temerko, who has worked for the Kremlin’s defence ministry and has spoken warmly about his “friend” Boris Johnson, has gifted more than £1.2m to the Conservatives over the past seven years.

MPs on the ISC, which conducted an 18-month inquiry, were also briefed on Alexander Lebedev, the former KGB spy in London whom the last Labour government allowed to buy the London Evening Standard newspaper.

Lebedev’s son Evgeny invited Johnson when he was foreign secretary to parties at the family’s converted castle near Perugia, Italy. The future prime minister apparently travelled without the close-protection police officers that normally accompany senior ministers of state during the trip in April 2018.

The largest Russian Tory donor is Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of Vladimir Chernukhin, a former ally of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. She paid £160,000 in return for a tennis match with Johnson and has donated more than £450,000 in the last year alone.

Britain’s intelligence agencies are understood to be “furious” at the delay in releasing the report because measures to protect sensitive information have already been taken.

It is not known whether the Tory donors are named in the public section of the report, or whether they have been included in its confidential annex, which will remain classified indefinitely.

If this is accurate, then it is little wonder that government ministers have suppressed the report until after the election.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Another day, another investigation into a Tory shelved

And this time it is an inquiry into the Prime Minister himself. The Guardian reports that the scandal over Boris Johnson’s friendship with technology entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri has reignited when it emerged that the independent police watchdog has delayed its announcement on whether the PM should face an investigation into possible criminal misconduct until after the election.

The paper adds that the decision prompted fury from Westminster politicians and London assembly members who said it appeared that a ruling had been “suppressed” in order to protect Johnson from potentially damaging headlines at a crucial stage of the election campaign:

In a private meeting held before parliament was dissolved last week, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) officials agreed not to announce whether they were going to investigate “possible criminality” over allegations about a conflict of interest in Johnson’s dealings while mayor of London with US businesswoman Jennifer Arcuri until after the election.

Sources close to the IOPC investigation said the watchdog was on the verge of announcing its decision on whether it was proceeding with a criminal investigation.

The IOPC was tasked by the Greater London Authority with assessing whether criminal charges should be brought because of the then-mayor’s responsibility for London’s policing.

It is alleged Arcuri received favourable treatment due to her friendship with Johnson, including receiving large sums of public money for her technology firms.

The offence of misconduct in public office carries a maximum term of life imprisonment. Johnson has denied any impropriety.

We have already seen in the last few weeks, the scandal of the now-resigned Secretary of State for Wales backing a friend who collapsed a rape trial, being passed to a cabinet inquiry, enabling him to dodge answering questions on the matter prior to the election, the Office for Budget Responsibility being blocked from publishing damaging figures on the state deficit and debt, and Nunber 10 refusing to clear the publication of a potentially incendiary report examining Russian infiltration in British politics, including the Conservative party.

Can anybody see a pattern here?

Saturday, November 09, 2019

Are the Tories just another misogynistic boys club?

Yesterday's Wales on Line reports that journalists finally tracked down former Secretary of State for Wales, Alun Cairns while canvassing in his constituency. Now, those doorstep encounters are a series of conversations I would like to listen in on.

Are constituents challenging their Tory candidate on what he knew and when he knew it, regarding the role of his friend and employee in the collapse of a rape trial? Are they asking him if he lied when he said he didn't know anything about the circumstances of this collapse until last week, despite an e-mail suggesting otherwise? To what extent has this controversy impacted on the Conservative vote in the Vale of Glamorgan?

To date it seems that the Conservative Party, and Boris Johnson in particular, are going to brazen it out and back Cairns to remain a candidate in the General Election. They still have time to change their mind. The real question however, is what this issue says about the nature of the Conservative Party.

As far as I can see neither Cairns, any senior figure in the Welsh Conservative Party nor the Prime Minister appear to have apologised to the victim. Their main consideration is damage limitation. When challenged yesterday, Cairns gave a list of non-answers, did not apologise to the victim for what had happened and refused to account for his own actions.

I doubt if many voters will consider it an adequate answer to their queries if they are referred to a cabinet inquiry into whether Cairns has broken the ministerial code. Instead we have a series of white middle aged men focussing on their own careers and that of their party, apparently with no regard for the victim, her ordeal and whether their actions in backing Ross England were right or wrong.

It is little wonder that many people consider the Conservative Party in Wales to be nothing more than a misogynistic boys club. Isn't it time these senior figures grew some cojones and apologised to all concerned?

Friday, November 08, 2019

Tory fiscal mismanagement hidden by purdah rules

The Independent reports that Boris Johnson has been spared a potentially embarrassing spotlight on the state of the public finances after the official fiscal watchdog was blocked from releasing new figures on the state deficit and debt.

The paper says that Cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill barred the Office for Budget Responsibility from publishing its revised public finance forecast on Thursday, ruling it would breach civil service “purdah” rules in the election period.

Chancellor Sajid Javid has come under attack for refusing to release the normal autumn forecasts for the economy after cancelling the Budget announced for 6 November.

One think-tank has predicted the deficit target will be overshot by £16 billion this year, because of the slowdown and big spending pledges made by Mr Javid.

All the political parties are proposing massive public borrowing to invest in much-needed infrastructure improvements. However, if the deficit is greater than anticipated that could well stymie the next government's room for manoeuvre.

In the circumstances, it seems that the figure should be published so we can make our own judgement on what is and what is not affordable.

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Former Labour MP urges vote for Boris Johnson

The extent of disillusionment amongst many Labour MPs at Jeremy Corbyn's leadership crystallised itself last night with the resignation of the party's deputy leader and an astonishing volte-face by retiring MP, Ian Austin, who is now urging voters to back the Tories.

The Times reports that Austin, who worked as a special adviser for Gordon Brown and in Downing Street, said that Jeremy Corbyn was “completely unfit” to be prime minister that he would be voting for the Conservative Party on election day.

“Voting for anybody other than Boris Johnson risks Corbyn getting into No 10 and I think that would be a disaster for Britain,” he said.

Mr Austin, 54, who resigned from the Labour Party to sit as an independent in February, has told The Times that he decided not to stand again in his Dudley North constituency because he did not want to “muddy the waters” and risk the Labour candidate getting elected. Instead he will encourage voters in this key marginal seat to back the Conservatives, who came second in his constituency at the last general election.

“Jeremy Corbyn is an extremist,” he said. “He’s allowed the Labour Party to be poisoned by extremism and racism, he supported terrorism, he can’t be trusted with our defence and he always picks the wrong side. To lead our country you’ve got to be able to say you love Britain and I do not think he is a patriot. He has sided with our country’s enemies, whether that’s supporting the IRA or saying Hamas and Hezbollah are his friends.”

By contrast, he said that Boris Johnson was “a patriot”. Although he insisted that “I’m not a Tory, of course I disagree with things that Tory governments have done”, he added: “I wouldn’t say Boris Johnson is unfit to run the country. I don’t think he is.”

Having voted Labour all his life from the age of 18 and been a Labour councillor in his twenties, Mr Austin said: “I am proper, decent, traditional Labour.” He explained: “Until Jeremy Corbyn became the leader I would never have imagined voting for anybody else. It’s been a difficult decision but in politics you’ve got to tell the truth and you’ve got to do what’s right.”

Mt Austin continued: Britain would, he warned, be poorer and less safe if Labour got into power. “It’s not just Jeremy Corbyn, I think John McDonnell is an extremist as well who spent the 1980s supporting the IRA. It’s not true that they were campaigning for peace, they were backing one side in a brutal civil war which saw people murdered in shopping centres, pubs and hotels,” he said.

Having worked at the Treasury under Mr Brown he does not trust the shadow chancellor or the Labour leader with the nation’s finances. “I think they regard wealth as a problem and people who create it as the enemy,” he said.

National security would also be at risk, he said. “What would Jeremy Corbyn do if Putin sent people to murder people on the streets of Britain? When that happened before he questioned the evidence provided by the intelligence and security services and he parroted the Kremlin line. I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn can be trusted to stand up to terrorists and he’s never supported any form of military action in his life proposed by the British government.”

The Labour leader’s long-standing opposition to Britain’s nuclear deterrent also worried him. “Would he sign letters authorising military action? I don’t think he would.” He warned that Mr Corbyn was instinctively anti-America and said: “He has consistently, throughout his entire time in politics backed the wrong side. I don’t think he can be trusted. I think the decent patriotic Labour voters should vote for Boris Johnson.”

Mr Austin’s greatest concern is the rise of antisemitism in the Labour Party. “Most shamefully of all they have allowed a party with the proudest record of fighting racism and standing up for equality to be poisoned with racism against Jewish people and it is a complete and utter disgrace,” he said.

These criticisms go to the heart of why Labour are struggling in the polls this time around. We will have to wait and see how they play out at the ballot box.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Another Government advertising campaign bites the dust

The UK Government is not having a good time with its propaganda. As the Guardian reports a series of government ads extolling the virtues of universal credit and purporting to bust negative myths about the flagship Conservative welfare policy has been banned because it is “misleading”:

In an embarrassing indictment of the policy before next month’s general election, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that a claim that people moved into work faster on universal credit (UC) than under the old system could not be substantiated.

Two other claims – that jobcentres will pay an advance to people who need it and that rent can be paid directly to landlords under UC – were also found to be unsubstantiated.

The adverts, part of a £225,000 Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) campaign to detoxify UC, appeared in print in the Metro newspaper and on its website, as well as on the MailOnline, in May and June.

They attracted 44 complaints, including from the Motor Neurone Disease Association, the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) and the anti-poverty charity Zacchaeus 2000 Trust (Z2K), who have called for the DWP to apologise in light of the ASA ruling.

The Z2K chief executive, Raji Hunjan, also demanded an investigation into working practices at the department.

“If it has misled the public on UC, its flagship policy, what else is it misleading us on?” Hunjan said. “The next government must engage with the compelling evidence that points to the harm UC is causing, leaving many people reliant on food banks and others destitute. Enough is enough.”

The advertorial purported to bust negative ‘myths’ about universal credit.

Time to go back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

What are the Tories hiding over Russion infiltration?

The Guardian reports that Boris Johnson has been accused of presiding over a cover-up after it emerged that No 10 refused to clear the publication of a potentially incendiary report examining Russian infiltration in British politics, including the Conservative party.

The paper says that Downing Street has indicated that it will not allow a 50-page dossier from the intelligence and security committee to be published before the election, prompting a string of complaints over its suppression:

The committee’s chairman, Dominic Grieve, called the decision “jaw dropping”, saying no reason for the refusal had been given, while Labour and Scottish National party politicians accused No 10 of refusing to recognise the scale of Russian meddling.

Fresh evidence has also emerged of attempts by the Kremlin to infiltrate the Conservatives by a senior Russian diplomat suspected of espionage, who spent five years in London cultivating leading Tories including Johnson himself.

It can now be revealed that Sergey Nalobin – who once described the future prime minister as “our good friend” – lives in a Moscow apartment block known as the “FSB house” because it houses so many employees from the Kremlin’s main spy agency.

The committee’s report is based on analysis from Britain’s intelligence agencies, as well as third-party experts such as the former MI6 officer Christopher Steele, and is subject to a final clearance from Downing Street. That has to come before parliament is dissolved on Tuesday if it is to be released ahead of the election.

Downing Street sources stated that was not now expected to happen in time, claiming the sign-off process typically takes six weeks. A No 10 spokesman added: “There are processes reports such as this have to go through before publication, and the committee is well-informed of these.”

However, it is understood the dossier has already been approved by the intelligence agencies themselves as part of a long clearance process that began in late March. Downing Street was sent a final draft on 17 October and had been expected to sign off the report by the end of last week.

The failure of the Prime Minister to give a good reason to the committee why the report cannot be published inevitably leads to claims of a cover-up. The dossier specifically examines Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 EU referendum. While the committee also heard allegations that Moscow money has flowed into the Conservative party via emigres living in the UK making high-profile donations.

With a General Election imminent, surely it is in the public interest that this report is published, if only to ensure full transparency and to enable proper scrutiny of the process over the next month. The fact that the Government is refusing to do so begs the question: what have they got to hide?

Monday, November 04, 2019

The wasted taxpayers' cash in pursuit of elusive fracking dream

The UK Government's moratorium on fracking, announced on Friday, must rank as one of their biggest u-turns. The moratorium leaves the government with an option to restart fracking in future years. However, many critics believe the technology is not suitable for the UK:

“Fracking is utterly incompatible with our aims of ending the burning of fossil fuels in this country in a couple of decades,” said geologist Professor Stuart Haszeldine, of Edinburgh University. “Pursuing the technology of fracking while embracing the concept of having a carbon-free society is an example of national schizophrenia. It has wasted millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money. It has also wasted a decade when we should have been pursuing other goals.”

One such aim should have been the development of the technology of carbon capture and storage which would involve carbon dioxide being captured, liquefied and stored underground in old mines or depleted oil reservoirs, added Haszeldine. “We have lost significant leads in developing this technology over the past decade when we should have been pursuing them energetically. Instead we have wasted our time on fracking projects.”

This point was backed by Professor Jon Gluyas, director of the Durham Energy Institute at Durham University. “The government ban on fracking is a neat way of ignoring the now inescapable truth that the projected shale gas potential for the UK is tiny at best. We have, though, as a nation wasted a decade hoping for more gas to heat our homes rather than installing ultra-low carbon geothermal heating like that used in much of Europe.”

The Guardian reports that Ministers have been condemned for wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money in their failed attempt to introduce fracking to the UK. Scientists also say that the pursuit of fracking has cost the nation a decade of effort that should have been expended on other, more environmentally friendly energy projects.

Whether anybody will be held accountable for all this wasted money, effort and time is doubtful. I wouldn't be surprised if, once the election is over the Government does another U-turn and start licensing drilling again. The vested interests in this industry are well-entrenched.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

What did Boris Johnson know?

A Labour MP has claimed that Boris Johnson knew of Vote Leave’s overspend during the 2016 EU referendum, but appears to have failed to tell the authorities even though the payment was subsequently ruled to be illegal.

The Guardian reports says that Ian Lucas has revealed that he has seen correspondence obtained during the parliamentary inquiry into disinformation and democracy which showed that Johnson’s most senior aide, Dominic Cummings, told the Electoral Commission that the prime minister, and his cabinet colleague Michael Gove, knew of the overspend by the pro-Brexit organisation.

The Electoral Commission last year judged that Vote Leave had broken electoral law by overspending during the EU referendum, after the campaign funnelled £675,000 through another pro-Brexit group, BeLeave, to avoid spending limits:

Veteran Labour MP Lucas, who sat on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee inquiry into fake news, said the correspondence showing that the prime minister had apparently failed to report an offence raised serious questions over Johnson’s judgement.

Lucas told the Observer: “Johnson and Gove both knew about the illegal payments to BeLeave. I’ve seen it in writing. We finally forced the Electoral Commission to hand over its correspondence with Dominic Cummings; it’s there in black and white. It’s Cummings himself saying this.”

The Wrexham MP also revealed that the disclosure by Cummings was part of a strategy to protect the prime minister and Gove, with Johnson’s chief adviser insisting that both politicians only discovered the overspend after the EU referendum vote, though it’s unknown when exactly it is believed to be.

“The astonishing thing is, he actually said this in the context of defending them. He said they didn’t know at the time, they only knew after the referendum. That means he’s been sitting on this information the entire time,” said Lucas.

He added: “It is totally unacceptable that the prime minister had knowledge that this overspend had occurred and he hasn’t come forward with this evidence,” said Lucas, who recently announced he would stand down at the next general election.

“What’s quite clear is Cummings, Johnson and Gove are absolutely in this up to their necks. They must now come clean about everything they knew about these offences. Boris Johnson is simply not fit to be prime minister. He clearly has no respect for the law,” Lucas said.

Gavin Millar QC of Matrix Chambers is absolutely right when he says that: “You’ve got two very senior politicians in positions of great responsibility and they have never been required to give an account of what they knew." Surely it is time Johnson and Gove are scrutinised in detail as to what they knew and when.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Is this the correct use of taxpayers' money?

Having seen £100 million of our money poured down the drain in an advertising campaign designed to reinforce the government's message that we were leaving on 31st October, it is a bit galling to read this article in the Guardian.

The paper reports that Boris Johnson’s government has been accused of going on a spending spree using taxpayers’ money to woo voters in swing seats in the run up to the general election. They say that Ministers released details on Wednesday of plans to improve dilapidated town centres of key marginal seats mainly across the north of England and the Midlands. Public money is being spent to publicise the scheme using targeted Facebook advertisements sent to local people:

In an announcement on a government website, the department of housing, communities and local government claimed that part of a £3.6bn fund would be spent boosting rundown high streets across dozens of towns. 

Adverts inform the public that “the government is investing up to £25m” in their local area, featuring the name and image of the local town. In reality, the sum going to each settlement is likely to be much smaller.

The seats being targeted include Wakefield, Bolton, Northampton, Milton Keynes, Mansfield, Lincoln, and Newcastle-under-Lyme as well as some coastal towns such as Lowestoft.

It also appears that public funding may have been used to buy adverts promoting government investment in Workington – the home of “Workington Man”, which some Tory-backing groups have suggested is the stereotypical individual who needs to be won over to win the election.

According to the Huffington Post, ministers authorised the adverts to go live on Tuesday – the same day Johnson received parliamentary support for a snap general election. However, on Friday night, it was reported that Facebook had pulled some of the government adverts. A spokesperson told Huffington Post:

“The adverts run by the MyTown page were not correctly labelled as being about social issues. Ads about social issues, elections or politics that appear on our platforms should include a disclaimer provided by advertisers.

On the face of it this appears to be an abuse of public funds. The Government is able to skirt rules that restrict public advertising spending during elections however, as parliament has yet to be dissolved and the campaign has not formally begun. Parliament has not yet dissolved and the civil service has not officially entered the pre-election period when it must remain neutral.

Whatever the justification, it hardly seems to be a correct use of our cash.

Friday, November 01, 2019

Does Trump want Corbyn to win?

Sometimes, a politician is so insensible to public opinion that they take a course of action that proves disastrous to their cause. Yesterday, two politicians fell foul to that malaise when Donald Trump, unaware of how much he despised by the British electorate, phoned into Nigel Farage's radio programme.

Now Farage normally has his finger on the pulse, but on this occasion he appears to have been blinded by the glare of his friendship with the US President. Whatever the reasons, I suspect that the outcome of this interview will prove to be the opposite to that intended by the two men.

The Guardian reports that in the phone conversation, Donald Trump called on Boris Johnson to team up with Nigel Farage to form an “unstoppable force” and claimed Jeremy Corbyn would be “so bad for your country”. The US president also said Johnson’s Brexit deal could prevent the UK from agreeing a trade deal with the US.

It is possible that Trump's condemnation of Corbyn might be worth an additional five points on the Labour Leader's approval ratings. Is the US President putting pressure on the Prime Minister by deliberately bigging up Labour? Does he actually want Corbyn to win?

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