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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that he’s looking forward to releasing the Tory party’s manifesto on Sunday, less than three weeks before the country goes to the polls.
Johnson said the manifesto will respect the Brexit referendum and allow the government to focus on delivering “real benefits” to the nation. The tweet followed an appearance by Johnson and the leaders of the three other biggest parties on BBC TV late Friday, during which he faced tough questions on issues including racism, the National Health Service and his trustworthiness.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told viewers that should Labour form the next government, he would stay neutral in a new referendum on any new Brexit deal he negotiates with the European Union. He also received a grilling on plans to increase taxes and on whether he might do a deal with the Scottish National Party after the Dec. 12 vote.
Boris Johnson distanced himself from nine years of Tory government, saying he was Mayor of London for part of the time.Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn questioned over antisemitism in his party.SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said her party would not enter a formal coalition with Labour.Corbyn, Sturgeon, Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson and Johnson answered questions from voters in a special edition of BBC TV’s Question Time show.
Johnson Says Manifesto to Come Sunday (9:48 a.m. on Saturday)
The Conservative Party will release its manifesto on Sunday, the prime minister said in a Tweet on Saturday.
“We have developed a clear plan that respects the referendum, gets it done, and allows us to move on and focus on delivering real benefits for you and your family,” Johnson wrote in the Tweet.
Johnson Says he Can Be Trusted (9 p.m.)
A recurring theme in the questions to Johnson was whether he can be trusted. Pressed by a member of the audience on whether he can deliver on his promises, Johnson pointed to his time as Mayor of London.
“I promised we’d cut crime, and we did,” he said. “We massively invested in transport, we cut delays on the tube by 30%, we out-built the Labour Party when it came to housing. I over-delivered on my promises.”
He also said his pledge at the start of his government to hire 20,000 more police officers was on course and his cash boost to the NHS is “happening.”
Earlier he was laughed at by the audience when he said trust in politics is “central to this election.” He didn’t directly answer a question about his Conservative Party misleading voters by changing the name of its Twitter account to imitate a neutral fact-checking site during Tuesday night’s head to head debate.
Johnson Pledges More NHS Cash (8:55 p.m.)
Boris Johnson faced repeated questions over his party’s record on the National Health Service, with one junior doctor asking “why should we trust” the pledges “when you’ve got years of cuts and people are dying.” It was one of a series of questions about trust during his half-hour on stage.
Johnson said he understands things have been tough in the NHS and the pressure it is under. He said he has spoken to hundreds of doctors and repeated his pledge to upgrade and build hospitals.
These promises have come under scrutiny, with Johnson saying 40 new hospitals are being built, but presenter Fiona Bruce corrected him, saying it is six. Johnson said there was “seed funding” for the others, suggesting they would be built.
Johnson Forced to Deny Racism (8:45 p.m.)
An audience member asked Johnson if he would apologize for his racist rhetoric in his years as a newspaper columnist. He responded that though he “genuinely never intended to cause hurt or pain to anybody” he defends his right to speak out.
Presenter Fiona Bruce pointed out he has made offensive comments several times in print about a variety of demographics, including black Africans, gay men and Muslim women.
“If you go through all my articles with a fine tooth comb and take out individual phrases there is no doubt you can find things that can be made to seem offensive,” he said. “What I was doing was mounting a strong liberal defense of the right of women in this country to wear what they want,” he said in reference to an article in which he compared Muslim women wearing the burka to mail boxes.
Johnson Distances Himself From Tory Record (8:45 p.m.)
Johnson said he has only been in power for a few months and should not be judged on the performance of his Conservative Party in government since 2010, even though in some of that time he was a minister.
He was answering a series of questions about education cuts and the increased use of food banks under the Conservatives.
“For most of that time I was running London,” he said as he distanced himself from the effects of Tory policies. “When I was running London, we reduced the gap between rich and poor.”
Johnson Opens With Attack on Corbyn (8:40 p.m.)
The Conservative leader Boris Johnson kicked off by responding to questions on interference in the Brexit referendum and his own mandate to pursue his Brexit deal.
“It seems to have mutated now,” he said of Corbyn’s plan, after the Labour leader revealed earlier he would remain neutral in a second referendum campaign. “I don’t see how he’s going to a deal when he’s neutral or indifferent about that deal.”
He then repeated his own pledge to get Brexit done, which led presenter Fiona Bruce to joke that it only took three minutes for him to say it.
Johnson asserted that there is no evidence of Russian interference in British democracy and defended his refusal to publish a Parliamentary report into the issue.
Lib Dems ‘Not Splitting Remain Vote’ (8:30 p.m.)
Jo Swinson said a vote for her party would not split the Remain vote, even if it meant taking away support from Labour, who have promised a second referendum on Brexit. Her party has come under pressure to stand down in Labour-Conservative marginal seats.
“If you vote for Jeremy Corbyn, he will use that vote to negotiate a Labour Brexit deal,” she said. “It’s the Liberal Democrats who can win seats from Boris Johnson and the Tories,” she added, arguing there are many seats where her party are best placed to beat the Conservatives.
Swinson Targets Corbyn Over Antisemitism (8:20 p.m.)
Jo Swinson responded to an audience member telling her she had “some brass neck” in calling out the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s record on antisemitism by turning again to the party’s record on the issue.
“When I speak to Jewish people across the country they do not feel Jeremy Corbyn is fighting antisemitism in the Labour party,” she said. “They know what that feels like and I’m going to listen to them and trust them on this issue.”
Swinson Defends Anti-Brexit Stance (8:15 p.m.)
Jo Swinson defended the Liberal Democrat’s policy to stay in the EU, saying the party has been very straightforward and is offering voters a choice. She said she would have been happy with a second referendum but, after putting down amendments in Parliament to get one and failing, is now seeking to revoke Brexit.
“In terms of our policy, we are being very straightforward as a party that we want to stop Brexit,” she said. “You might agree, you might disagree with us, but we have been crystal clear.”
She added that if the party isn’t elected it will campaign for a second referendum in the next Parliament.
Swinson Admits Mistakes in Coalition (8:05 p.m.)
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson defended her party’s record in government in coalition with the Conservative Party between 2010 and 2015.
“We got stuff wrong and we in the future, going forward, are determined to get it right,” she said. “We had plenty of fights with the Conservatives and we won some of those fights and lost some of those fights, and I am sorry we did not win more of those fights.”
She was questioned over her backing for austerity, cuts to welfare and support for student tuition fees during her time as a minister in the government led by David Cameron.
Sturgeon Doesn’t See Formal Coalition (7:55 p.m.)
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said she doesn’t see her party entering into a formal coalition arrangement with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party after the election.
“I don’t envisage being in a coalition government with Labour,” she said. “I think it would be a less formal arrangement than that if we’re in that situation.”
She added that her party would seek to be a voice supporting further devolution, not just for Scotland, but across the U.K.
Sturgeon Decries ‘Mess’ of Brexit (7:45 p.m.)
Nicola Sturgeon said Brexit didn’t need to be as hard as it has been made by Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party.
“I think Brexit is a big mistake, but what I don’t think is the mess that Brexit has become was inevitable,” she said. “That was down to the Brexiteers who told a lot of lies, one of them on the side of a bus.”
She said she wouldn’t need to hold a confirmatory referendum on any deal for Scottish independence because there would not be the same lack of planning as there has been with Brexit.
Sturgeon: Couldn’t Make Johnson PM (7:40 p.m.)
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said she could “not in good conscience ever put Boris Johnson into Number 10” and set out the conditions she would seek to support Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister in a minority government.
She said the Labour leader was not who she would have chosen but “I don’t get to choose.” She said she would ask for Corbyn’s government to respect Scotland’s decision to hold a referendum, would want to see an end to austerity and universal credit, an NHS protection bill and better pensions.
Sturgeon also suggested the SNP would put pressure on Corbyn to deliver on his manifesto promises.
Corbyn Insists 95% Untouched by Tax Hikes (7:25 p.m.)
After the Institute for Fiscal Studies cast doubt on the plausibility of the Labour Party’s tax plans, Corbyn repeated his pledge that only the top 5% of taxpayers will have to pay more.
“What we’re planning is 95% of the population will pay no more tax,” he said, adding that corporations would pay a “bit more” tax up to a maximum of 26%.
Corbyn Would be Neutral in Brexit Referendum (7:20 p.m.)
Jeremy Corbyn was asked whether he would campaign for Leave or Remain under his plan to negotiate another a new deal with the EU then put it to a second referendum.
He gave a more detailed answer than he has previously, saying he would adopt a neutral stance in that second vote. “My role as Prime Minister will be to adopt a neutral stance so I can credibly carry out the result,” he said.
Corbyn has pledged to agree a new deal with the EU in his first three months in office and then put it to a referendum, with remaining in the bloc as the option on the ballot paper.
“My role and the role of our government will be to ensure that that referendum will be held in a fair atmosphere and we will abide by the result of it,” Corbyn said. He would be neutral so “I can credibly carry out the result, to bring our country together rather than carrying on a debate about Brexit”
Corbyn Grilled Over Antisemitism (7:10 p.m.)
Jeremy Corbyn faced his first tough line of questioning on the harassment, and antisemitic abuse, faced by Labour MPs. A voter in the audience said he doesn’t buy “this whole nice old grandpa” act and asked Corbyn why he was seen chatting to a heckler after an event where one of his party’s MPs, Ruth Smeeth, had suffered verbal abuse.
“Nobody should suffer any abuse in public life or privately,” he said. “‘Bad behavior, misogynism and racism in any form is absolutely not acceptable in any form whatsoever in my party or my society.”
Corbyn: Business Has Nothing to Fear (7:05 p.m.)
Jeremy Corbyn, the first leader to face questions from the live studio audience in Sheffield, was asked whether businesses should be scared of an incoming Labour government. He replied that Labour will help support small and medium sized businesses, which he described as “the motor” of the British economy.
“The biggest businesses will be asked to pay a little bit more in corporation tax, but it’ll be lower than it was in 2010 and indeed lower than the average for most industrial economies,” he said.
He also said Labour will promote apprenticeships and increase infrastructure investment.
Tonight’s Leaders Debate: The Format (6:35 p.m.)
This evening’s two-hour special episode of BBC TV’s Question Time will feature the leaders of the four largest parliamentary parties: Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, from the main opposition Labour Party, the Scottish National Party’s Nicola Sturgeon and Liberal Democrat Jo Swinson.
The leaders will not face each other directly. Instead, each will be asked questions for 30 minutes by a live studio audience, selected to represent the political make-up of the country.
Corbyn will appear first, followed by Sturgeon, Swinson and finally, Johnson.
Johnson: Brexit Enables House Tax on Foreigners (5:15 p.m.)
Boris Johnson said leaving the EU allows the government to introduce a new land surcharge (see Earlier) for all foreign buyers of homes in England.
“One of the advantages of getting Brexit done is you can now do it in a non-discriminatory way between all international buyers, because previously you couldn’t do it with people from the 27 other EU countries,” he said in a pooled broadcast interview. “It is only reasonable, when international buyers come in and buy property, they should make a contribution to life in this country.”
The Conservatives said they want to apply the new levy to damp housing demand, keep a lid on house prices and make it easier for first-time buyers to get a foot on the housing ladder. The proceeds will go toward measures to tackle homelessness, Johnson said.
Could Johnson Lose His Own Seat? (12:30 p.m.)
It seems far-fetched, but the bookmakers are taking bets on it: Boris Johnson losing his own seat in the west London suburb of Uxbridge.
The prime minister has about a one-in-five chance of losing it in the Dec. 12 general election, odds from betting firm Ladbrokes indicate. Johnson had a majority of about 5,000 votes in the 2017 election, a margin the Labour Party is seeking to overturn.
If Johnson lost his seat, it wouldn’t mean he couldn’t be prime minister: Alec Douglas-Home was briefly premier without being in Parliament in 1963. If the Tories won a majority while losing Uxbridge, the likeliest outcome would be that a Tory in a safe seat would resign, allowing Johnson to replace them in a special election.
Read more: Boris Johnson Has 22% Chance of Losing Seat, Ladbrokes Says
Farage: Trump NATO Visit Is Time to Talk Defense (12 p.m.)
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he deliberately left defense policy out of his announcements to keep his power dry for the NATO summit in the U.K. in December, which U.S. President Donald Trump will be attending.
He said his concern is that Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal would keep the U.K. tied to a future European Defense Union. “When President Trump arrives on Dec. 2, we’re going to have three days where we are talking about NATO, we are talking about defense and I will say a lot lot more on that subject then.”
It’s not only on defense that Trump’s visit has the potential to influence politics ahead of the election. The state-run National Health Service and its inclusion -- or not -- in any future U.S.-U.K. free-trade deal is already a key talking point in the campaign, while Labour has described Johnson’s Brexit deal as driving the U.K. into the arms of Trump.
Taking questions from reporters after his speech, Farage also refused to say if he’ll stay on as leader if the Brexit Party fails to win any seats in the election. “I’m going to campaign for years to come in whatever role it’s in,” he said.
Farage Says His Brexit Party Helps Johnson (11:30 a.m.)
Nigel Farage said that far from damaging Boris Johnson’s chances of securing a majority on Dec. 12, his Brexit Party is helping the Conservatives by splitting the Labour vote in some key areas. “We are picking up Labour votes,” he said.
In a speech in London, Farage repeated his demand for a “clean break” from the European Union and said he would be scrutinizing what the Tories say in their manifesto about the U.K.’s future ties to the bloc.
In a separate statement, the party announced its main policies, including:
Reform the U.K. voting system and abolish the House of LordsReduce annual immigration, introduce points-based visa systemNo corporation tax on the first 10,000 pounds of company profitsLeave the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy, invest in coastal communities
Farage Calls for Immigration Cut to 50,000 (10:30 a.m.)
Ahead of his Brexit Party’s policy launch this morning, leader Nigel Farage called for immigration to the U.K. to be restricted to 50,000 people per year in what he described as a return to typical postwar levels.
“What I think is very real is that we now have in many ways a population crisis in this country,” Farage told BBC Radio 4. “We had a 60-year postwar norm of about 30,000 to 50,000 people coming into the United Kingdom. That has completely gone out of the window.”
Farage called for an Australian-style points-based immigration system, and said any labor shortages -- including in the state-run National Health Service -- should be managed with temporary work permits.
Experts ‘Wrong’ on Labour Spending Plans: McDonnell (Earlier)
Labour’s economy spokesman John McDonnell defended the party’s plans to raise income and corporation taxes to fund a huge increase in spending if elected. He rejected a claim by the Institute for Fiscal Studies that the tax rises would eventually hit most people, even as Labour said they only target companies and the top 5% of earners.
“I have a great deal of respect for the IFS, of course I do,” he told the BBC. “I just think they’ve got it wrong on this one.” McDonnell said analysts are ignoring other aspects of Labour plans, including companies having employees as board members, and consumers sitting on supervisory boards.
“What we’re saying is with the structural changes we will make in the economy, we’ll make sure that actually the corporations themselves do not take that easy option of cutting wages or rising prices,” he said. “Because we’re democratizing the way these corporations work and are more accountable, they will actually invest in their companies.”
McDonnell said there was little evidence to show cuts to corporation tax under the Conservative Party had boosted investment. Rather, firms are “sitting” on their gains or using them to increase pay for top executives, he said.
Hammond: Size of Tory Majority Will Be Crucial (Earlier)
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said that if the Conservative Party wins the Dec. 12 general election as expected, the size of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s parliamentary majority could determine how Brexit plays out and the U.K.’s future relationship with the European Union.
“The bigger the majority, the more personal authority the prime minister will have, and that means the more he’ll be able to use flexibility to operate in the way that he thinks is in the best interests of the country,” Hammond said in an interview on the sidelines of Bloomberg’s New Economy Forum in Beijing. “If it’s a slim majority, the fear is that the hardliners within the party will always be able to hold the leadership to ransom.”
Hammond said he hopes Johnson will have the authority to deliver Brexit quickly, and then work toward the “best possible trade deal” with the EU. He said the Tory party’s plans to ramp up spending “can stack up -- provided there is a commitment to doing a comprehensive trade deal” with the bloc.
But Labour’s spending plans under Jeremy Corbyn are a different matter, he said, predicting they “would undermine confidence in the economy and would certainly undermine investment.”
Higher Tax for Foreign Buyers of U.K. Houses (Earlier)
The Conservative Party plans to introduce a land tax surcharge for foreign buyers of U.K. homes in an effort to damp demand, keep a lid on house prices and make it easier for first-time buyers to get a foot on the housing ladder.
The 3% surcharge -- on top of the existing land tax known as stamp duty -- will raise as much as 120 million pounds ($155 million) a year, which will be put toward programs to help tackle homelessness, the Tories said in an emailed statement.
Read more: Tories Plan Extra Land Tax for Foreign Buyers of U.K. Homes
Corbyn Has a Radical Labour Message. Can He Sell It to Britain?Tories Plan More Tax on Foreign Home-Buyers: U.K. Campaign TrailNever Mind Brexit, U.K. Vote Hinges on Future of the NHSWhy Elections Aren’t a Big Deal For U.K. Polling Stock Up 350%
--With assistance from Alex Morales, Flavia Krause-Jackson, Jessica Shankleman and Dara Doyle.
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