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Candidates complain about ‘unfair’ leadership race

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unfairleadershipTHE ONGOING entertainment saga that is the Labour leadership contest took a new turn last week, when three of the candidates complained to the party that the election was unfair.

Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham’s campaign managers were co-signatories on an email sent to the party, complaining that they would not receive a list of who was eligible to vote until ten days into the election.

Their claim was that Jeremy Corbyn, who has the support of major Unions, will know which union members have voted before this, and will be able to target them accordingly.

These claims have been denounced by members of ‘Team Corbyn,’ who say that everyone will receive the data at the same time.

This was the latest in a series of attacks from the two ‘centrish’ candidates, and Liz Kendall. In the early days of the campaign, there was an almost gentlemanly feel to proceedings. The candidates publicly disagreed, mostly with Mr Corbyn, while failing to say or do anything to differentiate themselves from the Labour party which lost the last General Election by a margin that even took YouGov by surprise, other than to subtly blame Ed Milliband’s bacon sandwich malfunction.

Mr Burnham said at an early stage that the unexpected show of support for Mr Corbyn was a sign that the Labour party had misread the mood of its members and would-be supporters. He was also the only candidate who, when asked whether he would serve in a Corbyn-led cabinet, said that he would, if it was the will of the party.

However, of late, he has started to question the frontrunner’s policies, claiming that the figures don’t add up. This has not stopped Yvette Cooper issuing a statement to the effect that he should leave the leadership race for not providing an ‘effective alternative’ to Mr Corbyn – a move described as ‘panicked, desperate, and straight out of the Ed Balls handbook,’ by one of Mr Burnham’s staff.

Yvette Cooper has also taken many a swipe at Mr Corbyn’s policies over the last week, describing them as ‘subversive.’ She also claimed that her policies were more radical than those of Mr Corbyn:

“So tell me what you think is more radical. Bringing back clause IV, spending billions of pounds we haven’t got switching control of some power stations from a group of white middle-aged men in an energy company to a group of white middle-aged men in Whitehall, as Jeremy wants? Or extending SureStart, giving mothers the power and confidence to transform their own lives and transform their children’s lives for years to come?” she asked at a speech in Manchester last week.

Liz Kendall, meanwhile, has been in a class of her own. For some ‘unknown’ reason, in spite of consistently finishing fourth in polls, which initially may or may not have been a ploy, the unrepentant Blairite is gaining at least as many if not more column inches than Ms Cooper and Mr Burnham. Her sentiments appear consistent, and can be summed up thus – ‘something something if Corbyn wins, warns Liz Kendall.’ Ms Kendall has also described the prospect of a Corbyn victory as ‘a resignation letter for Labour.’ She has advised her supporters to omit Mr Corbyn’s name from their other choices on the ballot, and cast a block vote for a second choice candidate in an attempt to stop Mr Corbyn should he fail to get 50 percent of the vote on the first count. Such democratic transparency is exactly what the Labour party needs to avoid alienating the new members and associates who have joined since the last General Election.

The most common issue raised by ex-Labour grandees is that Labour should be a party of government, not a party of opposition. This is, on the face of it, confusing when one considers that a party of opposition is exactly what it is going to be for the next five years. Ed Milliband was accused of taking the party too far to the left and, in the words of Chuka Umunna, not being business friendly enough.

This raises two points. Firstly, whether or not anyone actually read the manifesto for the 2015 election bid. The only reasons that Mr Milliband, and especially his Osborne-lite shadow Chancellor Ed Balls could be described as left-wing were:

  • In comparison to David Cameron and George Osborne
  • As a result of Unions backing him in the last leadership campaign
  • Because red rhymes with Ed

The ‘pro-business’ idea is also, on the face of it, rather concerning. It evidently means more than the obvious definition, ie, in favour of businesses. It appears that the return to the Mandelson era of people being encouraged to get ‘filthy rich’ as long as they pay tax is being encouraged.

However, what many commentators seem to be wilfully failing to acknowledge is that the political landscape has changed. Basing policies on the infamous picking up of votes in Nuneaton worked very well when Labour could still hold all their heartlands unchallenged. No one appears to have asked why Labour got wiped out in Scotland, and whether or not those seats were lost due to not being pro-business enough, or possibly as a result of a popular Nationalist movement with a definite Socialist flavour.

As we have pointed out before, voter apathy and UKIP could well be far more important to the future of the Labour party than aforementioned businesses and Nuneaton. Mr Corbyn has been acknowledged as injecting some life into the Labour leadership contest, largely because based on the performance of the other main candidates the party faithful would be torn between an Everton-supporting ‘man of the people’, a ‘feminist’ and a Blairite who missed the glory years. These would have campaigned on a platform of how much better they were than their two opponents. It is hard to imagine a less edifying spectacle. Thankfully, they have been able to unite in the face of a common foe – the Labour left who persist in ‘voting with their hearts.’

Whether or not Mr Corbyn becomes the next leader, this contest has exposed a deep divide between what a number of Labour voters want, and what they are being told by the party leaders that they need. This is something that will have to be addressed. It is commonly accepted that Mr Corbyn will be doomed by a Murdoch-led right-wing media; this ignores the fate of arch-Blairite Gordon Brown. It is safe to assume that whoever gets the nod will fail to get mainstream media backing, unless Mr Murdoch needs a new godfather and David Cameron’s mobile phone is turned off.

If whoever leads Labour can somehow connect with the 45 percent of the population who either voted for no one or UKIP, the gap between everyone digging out their D-Ream CDs in 2020 or Boris Johnson PM could be much closer than is currently suggested.

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We need to ‘mobilise for war’ says head of British Army – ‘this is our 1937 moment’

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THE NEW head of the British Army has said it must ‘mobilise’ in response to the threat posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, invoking memories the Allies’ struggle against Nazi Germany in the 1940’s.

Patrick Sanders, a general who became the army’s top officer this month, said Moscow’s attack on its neighbor represented “a clear and present danger” to Western “principles of sovereignty and democracy.”

In a wide-ranging speech to mark taking over the role, he argued Britain’s armed forces must react by accelerating modernization plans and immediately increasing battle readiness alongside NATO allies.

“This is our 1937 moment,” Sanders told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) military think-tank, referring to Western allies’’ struggle to subdue Nazi Germany’s aggression in the run-up to World War II.

“We’re not at war. We must act rapidly so that we aren’t drawn into one through a failure to contain territorial expansion.”

Adding it is “dangerous” to assume Russian aggression will end with Ukraine, he predicted Moscow will pose “an even greater threat to European security after Ukraine than it has before.”

“The Russian invasion has reminded us of that time-honored maxim that if you want to avert conflict, you better be prepared to fight,” Sanders said.

His comments come as NATO members begin to meet in Madrid Tuesday for a summit, and follow the military alliance announcing it will boost its high-readiness force from 40,000 to 300,000 troops.

Its chief Jens Stoltenberg has called the move “the biggest overhaul of our collective defense and deterrence since the Cold War.”

Sanders said the gathering in the Spanish capital was an opportunity for Britain to demonstrate its “enduring commitment to our allies” and “lead by example” in mobilizing the army.

He noted mobilisation would now be the army’s “main effort” over the coming years, “to help prevent war in Europe by being ready to fight and win alongside our NATO allies.”

“It will be hard work, a generational effort and I expect all ranks to get ready, train hard and engage,” he added.

The army head also backed the US and UK governments’ stance of aggressively arming Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

“This is the moment to defend the democratic values that define us,” Sanders said.

“This is the moment to help our brave Ukrainian allies in their gallant struggle. This is the moment we stand with our friends and partners to maintain peace throughout the rest of Europe.”

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The Welsh Government launches Basic Income pilot scheme

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FROM 1 July 2022, more than 500 people leaving care in Wales will be offered £1600 each month (before tax) for two years to support them as they make the transition to adult life.

Launched by First Minister Mark Drakeford, it is hoped the pilot will set care leavers on a path to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.

The radical approach has trust, autonomy and respect at its centre. It will provide independence and security to people who have faced immense challenges during their childhood, giving them greater control and empowering them to make decisions about their future.

The £20 million pilot, which will run for three years, will be evaluated to carefully examine its effect on the lives of those involved

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt said the scheme is a direct investment in the lives and futures of some of Wales’ most vulnerable young people.

Those taking part in the pilot will also receive individual advice and support to help them manage their finances and develop their financial and budgeting skills.

Local authorities will play a key role in supporting them throughout the pilot. Voices from Care Cymru will also work with the young people to give them advice on wellbeing, education, employment and help them plan their future after the pilot.

To launch the scheme, First Minister Mark Drakeford, Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt and Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan met with people taking part in the pilot, and young people who themselves have been in care, to talk about the impact this support will have on peoples’ lives.

They discussed how they hope the financial stability will give people the opportunity to make positive life choices as they leave care and provide a more solid foundation from which to build their adult lives.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“We want all our young people to have the best possible chance in life and fulfil their full potential. The state is the guardian of people leaving care and so has a real obligation to support them as they start their adult life.

“Our focus will be on opening up their world to all its possibilities and create an independence from services as their lives develop.

“Many of those involved in this pilot don’t have the support lots of people – myself included – have been lucky enough to enjoy as we started out on our path to adulthood.

“Our radical initiative will not only improve the lives of those taking part in the pilot, but will reap rewards for the rest of Welsh society. If we succeed in what we are attempting today this will be just the first step in what could be a journey that benefits generations to come.”

Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said:

“We’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis like no other and we therefore need new ways of supporting people who are most in need.

“Our Basic Income pilot is an incredibly exciting project giving financial stability to a generation of young people. Too many people leaving care face huge barriers to achieving their hopes and ambitions; such as problems with getting a safe and stable home, to securing a job and building a fulfilling career. This scheme will help people live a life free of such barriers and limitations.

“We will carefully evaluate the lessons learnt from the pilot. Listening to everyone who takes part will be crucial in determining the success of this globally ambitious project. We will examine whether Basic Income is an efficient way to support society’s most vulnerable and not only benefit the individual, but wider society too.”

Tiff Evans of Voices from Care Cymru, speaking on behalf of young people who have experienced care, said:

“This is a brilliant opportunity for care leavers in Wales. It is good to see that care leavers in Wales are being thought of and Welsh Government are providing this opportunity for them as young people to become responsible, control some parts of their lives and have a chance to thrive and be financially independent.

“We thank Welsh Government for investing in them and their future and we look forward to other changes and developments for care experienced young people in Wales in order for them to reach life aspirations.”

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WASPI women call on Simon Hart MP for help with compensation package

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PENSIONS Minister Guy Opperman, like Simon Hart, Secretary of State for Wales have said that they have no plans to meet with WASPI campaigners.

In the latest twist for these women, Labour MP Dr Rupa Huq questioned the Government on when the last meeting between a minister and the women of WASPI was held, and when the Government next intends to schedule one.

Guy Opperman, minister for pensions, stated there had been a meeting between a minister and representatives of WASPI.

However, he acknowledged this had occurred years ago on June 29, 2016.

Jackie Gilderdale said that “The Ombudsman has been clear that the Department could be pro-active on compensation”.

“All we are asking is that Ministers meet with us to discuss a fair, fast compensation package now before more women die waiting for justice. We have lost over 220,000 women during this campaign including members of the local 1950s WASPI Women of Wales.

“The MPs refusal is ignorant. They need to remember they’re paid from the public purse, to represent their constituents”.

Rupa Huq MP, who posed the original question in Parliament, has described the Government’s response as “shocking”.

She has called for the Government to take further action on the matter for women affected.

Ms Huq added: “The DWP has already been found guilty by the Ombudsman of maladministration”.

On Saturday some 1950s women joined over 115,000 people in London at the TUC rally, demanding justice now.

Simon Hart MP/Secretary of State responded recently to one of his 1950s WASPI Women of Wales constituents who asked for his help. His opening paragraph in his response was as follows:-

“Thank you for your recent email regarding pensions and the cost of living. I’m sorry to hear that you are struggling with the increase in heating and electricity bills; I appreciate the stress it is causing in households across the country”.

Local 1950s WASPI Women of Wales Organiser, Jackie Gilderdale said: “It’s all very well that Simon Hart responded, but what does he intend to do to help the 1950s women and others during an economic crises caused by his Party, and the fat cats who profit through Tory Policies? His responses continue to be cut, copy and pasted from websites, rather than from himself”.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies stated today that as a result of increasing the state pension age from 65 to 66 the income poverty rate of single people aged 65 rose by 22 percentage points, from 16% to 38%; the income poverty rate of 65-year-olds with at most GCSE-level education rose by 21 percentage points, from 14% to 35%; the income poverty rate of 65-year-old renters rose by 24 percentage points, from 22% to 46%.

The rise in the state pension age from 65 to 66 led to larger increases in income poverty rates among those affected than the increases in poverty rates seen following earlier rises in the female state pension age. This is due to a growing gap in state support over time for those just above and just below the state pension age, together with the fact that people are more reliant on state support at older ages as fewer people are in paid work.

With lower state benefits and higher tax revenues from employment, the increase in state pension age from 65 to 66 boosted the public finances by £4.9 billion per year, equivalent to around a quarter of 1% of national income, or 5% of annual government spending on state pensions. The benefit to the exchequer is the key counterpart to the reductions in household incomes caused by the reform.

Jackie said that “just to make it clear, the national insurance fund has a surplus of approximately £30 billion and that surplus has been generated by the women who have paid national insurance. All we ask is that the 1950s women are given what they are entitled too – after all they’ve paid into the system for decades. The state pension should be seen as a right, but the Government have changed the terms and conditions of that right without consulting the 3.6 million women affected! 12 months ago the Government and DWP were found guilty of maladministration and now we await the findings of stages 2 and 3, so these women can be rightfully compensated”.

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