Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has confirmed in a speech made today at Coventry University that the Labour Party will back the UK’s membership of a customs union. The decision means that the Conservative Party may now struggle to get their legislation through the House of Commons due to a number of MPs who support remaining in the union.
“During the transition period, Labour would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market. That means we would abide by the existing rules of both. That is so the government, businesses and workers only have to make one adjustment, from the current situation to the final terms”.
“Labour would seek a final deal that gives full access to European markets and maintains the benefits of the single market and the customs union as the Brexit Secretary, David Davis promised in the House of Commons, with no new impediments to trade and no reduction in rights, standards and protections.
We have long argued that a customs union is a viable option for the final deal. So Labour would seek to negotiate a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union to ensure that there are no tariffs with Europe and to help avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland”.
Carolyn Fairbairn, the Director General of the CBI, welcomed the decision and said that it “put jobs and living standards first by remaining in a close economic relationship with the EU”. Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for International Trade, criticised the Labour leader and said “Labour’s confused policy would be bad for jobs and wages, it would leave us unable to sign up to comprehensive free trade deals, and it doesn’t respect the result of the referendum”.
Tristram Hunt, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central has stood down and thereby triggered a by-election. Hunt confirmed that he is to become the new Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, becoming the second Labour MP to quit Parliament in recent weeks, following Jamie Reed.
Hunt had represented the Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency since the 2010 General Election, succeeding Labour’s Mark Fisher who had stood down. At the 2015 General Election Hunt won with a majority of 5,179 over the second-placed UKIP, with only 49.9% of the voters turning out.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour Party, said:
“I would like to thank Tristram Hunt for his service to the people of Stoke on Trent Central and to the Labour party. I wish him well in his future role at the Victoria and Albert.”
Hunt has been critical of Corbyn’s leadership, but said in his resignation letter:
“I have no desire to rock the boat now and anyone who interprets my decision to leave in that way is just plain wrong”.
Peter Mandelson, the former Labour Cabinet Minister, said in an interview with the BBC:
“The prospects of us winning a national general election will remain distant the longer Jeremy Corbyn and his ramshackle outfit remain in charge of the party’s fortunes”.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, and John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, have unveiled Labour’s new economic strategy at an event held in London.
In two substantial speeches the pair out-lined Labour’s new focus on tackling inequality, building more homes and increasing opportunity.
In his speech Corbyn said:
“We need a Labour government that will put investment, productivity and sustainable growth first, alongside a 21st century industrial policy. That is how we will provide the economic security that the Tories are failing to deliver. Security and investment in jobs and skills. Security and investment in housing. Security and investment in our NHS and our schools. And, yes, security and investment in our public finances too”.
In the speech made by McDonnell, he said:
“From the ground up, we can start to transform how capitalism in Britain works. Previous Labour governments were content to only think about how to redistribute income. Today, technological change means we have to think more closely about ownership. I’ve spoken before of moving beyond the Tory Right to Buy and creating a Labour Right to Own. This can be at the centre of our offer to Britain. A radical decentralization of economic power and authority back to working people and local communities”.
The Labour Party has confirmed that it has suspended Jackie Walker, a vice-chair of Momentum, over alleged anti-semitic comments. Walker’s suspension comes as the party has also suspended several of their councillors this week for other alleged anti-semitic comments.
A Facebook post for February suggests that Walker wrote the Jews “were the chief financiers of the sugar and slave trade”.
Walker criticised the suspension and said:
“I have been suspended from the Labour Party for alleged anti-Semitic comments. I have been an active anti-racist trainer and campaigner for years, often in all white communities and in the most vulnerable situations”.
The Labour Party has confirmed that it has suspended Ken Livingstone following his earlier comments about anti-semitism.
Over twenty Labour MPs called for his resignation including Chris Byrant, the Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, who said:
“I’m sick and tired of people trying to explain it away and, yes, I’m talking to you Ken Livingstone”.
A Labour party spokesman said that there would be an investigation following allegations that Ken Livingstone had “brought the party into disrepute”.
The Labour Party has confirmed it has suspended Aysegul Gurbuz, one of their councillors on Luton Borough Council after claims that she supported Adolf Hitler in Twitter posts. The councillor has also resigned from the council and a by-election is expected to be held in due course.
Gurbuz denied making the postings and said:
“It was a joint account I had with my sister so I don’t know if she’s gone out and tweeted that, but I’m absolutely appalled right now”.
Luton Borough Council said in a statement:
“This matter will be referred as a matter of urgency to the council’s independent standards committee to allow a full investigation to take place”.
Damian McBride, the controversial adviser sacked by Gordon Brown, has denied allegations that he has leaked details of how loyal MPs are to Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition.
The Guardian newspaper said:
“Some backbenchers suspect the hand of Damian McBride, the combative spin doctor to Gordon Brown who recently joined the team of the shadow defence secretary, Emily Thornberry, may be behind the release of the list, which they believe is aimed at demonstrating that Corbyn would have the support of enough MPs to make it on to the ballot paper if a leadership challenge emerged”.
McBride has denied the allegations. The former advisor to Gordon Brown admitted previously that he had deliberately made up allegations about Conservative backbenchers as part of a smear campaign.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has said that the Government’s EU renegotiations are “a wasted opportunity”. Corbyn confirmed that Labour would back the UK’s membership of the EU regardless of the result of the negotiations.
Speaking to a meeting of European Socialists in Brussels, Belgium, Corbyn said:
“David Cameron’s negotiations are a missed opportunity to make the case for the real reforms the EU needs: democratisation, stronger workers’ rights, an end to austerity, and a halt to the enforced privatisation of public services”.
“The Labour Party will campaign to keep Britain in Europe in the forthcoming referendum, regardless of the outcome of the talks being held in Brussels today. That is because it brings investment, jobs and protection for British workers and consumers”.
The Prime Minister’s negotiations are continuing this week with a referendum possible as early as June 2016.
Hilary Benn, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, has ruled out standing as leader of the Labour Party. He survived in his post after rumours of a reshuffle over the new year period and had been talked of as a possible replacement for Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition.
Talking to the Guardian newspaper, Benn said:
“I can look you in the eye and say, no no no! I have absolutely no interest in leading the Labour party. And that is the truth. It’s a very difficult and challenging job. And I don’t want to do it”.
Senior Labour figures have called on Ken Livingstone to resign after he blamed the 7/7 bombings in London on Tony Blair. 52 people died in the terrorist attacks which took place in July 2005.
Livingstone was defending the controversial comments he made on last week’s BBC Question Time. Livingstone is currently the joint chairman of Labour’s defence review, a position to which he was appointed two weeks ago by Jeremy Corbyn.
Ian Murray, the Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, said:
“Ken Livingstone should do the right thing and remove himself from front-line Labour Party politics and apologise to the British people for what is a deplorable way to conduct himself”.
Angela Smith, the Labour MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, said that Livingstone “should resign”.
Ken Livingstone defended his position saying:
“I merely told the truth – that Tony Blair was warned that if you go into Iraq you increase the risk of a terrorist attack in this country”.