US Order Killing of Senior Iranian Military Leader

The United States has admitted that it launched a military attack which killed Qasem Soleimani, a senior Iranian general. The attack made at Baghdad airport was authorised by Donald Trump, the President of the United States, in response to an attack on a US embassy.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, warned of “severe revenge” in response to the attacks. Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, urged restraint and said in a statement:

“We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Soleimani. Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”

Keir Starmer Takes Lead in Poll of Labour Members

Sir Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, has taken a lead in a poll of Labour members of who should become the next party leader. The survey, undertaken by YouGov, reported that Starmer was the first choice in all regions of the country amongst party members.

The polling suggested that Starmer had the support of 61% of party members, compared to the 39% who supported Rebecca Long-Bailey if the two candidates were running against each other.

Amongst party members, the following were the first choice of those interviewed:

Keir Starmer – 31%

Rebecca Long-Bailey – 20%

Jess Phillips – 11%

Clive Lewis – 7%

Yvette Cooper – 7%

Emily Thornberry – 6%

Lisa Nandy – 5%

Diane Abbott’s Son Charged With Assault and Racially Aggravated Criminal Damage

James Abbott-Thompson, the 28-year son of the Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, has been charged with the assault of nine individuals, indecent exposure and racially aggravated assault. Abbot-Thompson has denied the charges, which are alleged to have taken place over recent months.

Abbott-Thompson had been employed by the Foreign Office in 2014 as part of the fast-track diplomatic programme, but left his role in the summer of 2019. Diane Abbott did not accompany her son when he appeared in court to deny the charges.

Norfolk Hospital Forced to Close Beds Due to Staffing Shortage

The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital has said that it is unable to fully staff a critical care ward due to staffing shortages, despite winter health pressures. The hospital’s Gissing Ward will close four beds for a temporary period whilst it re-evaluates the staffing situation.

The managers wrote in an e-mail to staff:

“A decision has been made to temporarily close our GHDU beds and reduce to 20 bed capacity on our critical care complex from today as the nursing staffing is insufficient to keep Gissing open.”

The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital said in a statement:

“We have temporarily reduced the number of high dependency beds at NNUH from 24 to 20 in order to maintain national intensive care staffing standards. During this time the HDU area on Gissing ward will be repurposed for general surgical patients. We are actively recruiting specialist staff to reopen those four beds for HDU as soon as possible.”

Great Yarmouth Labour Councillor Returns MBE in Protest Over Iain Duncan Smith Knighthood

Councillor Mike Smith-Clare, a Labour councillor in Great Yarmouth, has said that he is returning his MBE award in protest at the announcement that Iain Duncan Smith is being knighted.

Smith-Clare posted on Twitter:

“For all of those whose lives have been devastated by Universal Credit; its ensuing poverty and abject misery – I’m sure you’ll share my incredulity at the instigator of such cruelty being so richly rewarded. #KnightmareIDS”

Speaking to the Great Yarmouth Mercury, Smith-Clare said:

“I have made this difficult decision following the recent announcement that Iain Duncan Smith has been awarded a Knighthood. Having seen at first hand the shocking poverty brought about by the introduction of Universal Credit to my town I am incredulous that the architect of such appalling social and personal misery should be so richly rewarded.”

Nearly 250,000 people have signed an on-line petition against the award to the former Conservative Party leader and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Richard Burgon to Stand for Labour Deputy Leadership

Richard Burgon, the Labour MP for Leeds East, has confirmed that he will be standing for the deputy leadership of the Labour Party.

Burgon posted on Twitter:

“After a break and discussions with MPs and party members, I’m announcing that I’m standing to be Labour’s Deputy Leader🌹

Here’s my recent Tribune article with some thoughts on why we lost badly and how we rebuild: https://tribunemag.co.uk/2019/12/learning-the-right-lessons

I’ll be outlining more in the New Year.”

He added shortly after:

“In rebuilding, Labour must be the champion of the whole working-class: whether in towns and cities, whether remain or leave, and ensure we are a party that reflects the diversity of the working-class in 21st century multicultural Britain.”

Jeremy Corbyn Criticised Over New Year’s Message

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has been criticised for a New Year’s message which some felt didn’t mention the poor performance of the Labour Party at the 2019 General Election. Corbyn did though use the speech to call on members to form a resistance to help protect the NHS and public services.

Corbyn said:

“2019 has been quite the year for our country and for our Labour movement. And now we are not just entering a new year, but a new decade. And the period ahead could not be more important. It will be crucial if we are to stop irreversible damage being caused by the climate crisis and the particular effects it has on people in the global south. If we are to stop the pain plaguing our country, food banks, poverty and people struggling to get by. If we are to protect our precious NHS.”

Phil Wilson, the Labour MP who lost his seat at the General Election, posted on Twitter:

“No @jeremycorbyn, you are not part of the resistance to Boris Johnson you are one of enablers of Boris Johnson.”

Neil Coyle, the Labour MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, posted on Twitter:

“Labour isn’t a rent-a-mob protest party, or a ‘resistance’ but a potential Party of Government when led well. Corbyn’s team/message sank us to pre-war levels of representation. More poverty, homelessness & higher foodbank use will be the result. Join Labour to help us move on!”

Cabinet Office Reports Itself to ICO After Addresses Blunder

The Cabinet Office, led by the Permanent Secretary John Manzoni, has reported itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) following its publication of private addresses relating to the New Year’s Honours List.

The Cabinet Office posted on their web-site the addresses and private details of 1,097 people who were given honours, before the department was alerted to the mistake.

The Cabinet Office said in a statement:

“The information was removed as soon as possible. We apologise to all those affected and are looking into how this happened. We have reported the matter to the ICO and are contacting all those affected directly.”

Tom Watson Admits to Voting Against Corbyn in 2016 Leadership Election

Tom Watson, the former Deputy Leader of the Labour Party who resigned before the General Election, has spoken to the Guardian newspaper about his decision. Watson said that he voted for Owen Smith during the 2016 Labour leadership and he also said that “brutality and hostility is real” in the party.

Watson criticised the move at the 2019 Labour party conference to abolish his position:

“I don’t think you could pre-empt such political idiocy and collective self-harm.”

Watson said for the first time that he voted for Owen Smith and not Jeremy Corbyn during the 2016 Labour leadership contest, adding:

“I thought, as soon as the leader loses the confidence of the parliamentary party it’s almost impossible to see how you can form a government. I thought Jeremy should have resigned, and he nearly did.”

Prime Minister Speaks to President Erdogan of Turkey

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has spoken to President Erdogan of Turkey during a phone call. The Turkish President congratulated Johnson on his election victory and matters of interest between the two nations were discussed.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said:

“They committed to continue to work together as NATO allies to build on the important relationship between the UK and Turkey, in areas such as trade and investment, security and defence and counter-terrorism.

The leaders also discussed regional issues. On Libya, they agreed on the need for a Libyan-owned political process, facilitated by the UN and supported by the Berlin Format.

On Syria, the Prime Minister underlined the importance of a UN needs assessment as the basis for getting aid to those who need it – as agreed in London earlier this month.”