Keir Starmer's Big Devolution Plans, Jeremy Corbyn Unlikely To Rejoin Labour, Met Office Strikes Coming
Labour would abolish the House of Lords if they win power (Alamy)
Keir Starmer has promised "the biggest ever transfer of power from Westminster to the British people" if his party wins the next election, at a speech in Leeds unveiling Gordon Brown’s Commission on the UK’s Future.
Brown’s commission makes recommendations on House of Lords reform, devolution of power and the future of the union, including a mass transfer of power from Westminster to the people and their local area.
The report, titled 'A New Britain', puts forward 40 recommendations, including proposals for handing new economic powers to English mayors, local authorities and devolved governments.
“People up and down this country are crying out for a new approach,” Starmer said, arguing the case for pushing power out of Westminster and back to the British people.
He said although he supported Remain the Brexit referendum, he understands that many Brexit voters wanted “democratic control over their lives”.
Noting that many of those who supported Scottish independence in the 2014 referendum voted for similar reasons, he said there is “frustration at a Westminster system that seems remote”.
“People know Britain needs change,” he said. “But they are never going to get it from the Tories. I am determined that, with Labour, people will get the change they deserve.”
Starmer was joined by former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown who put forward the case for "a new Westminster and a new Whitehall”.
“We need a clean-up but also a clear-out,” he said, proposing that thousands of civil servants be moved out of Whitehall and dispersed across the country.
Brown called the current political system out of touch and out of control, accusing the government of “losing” all its recent ethics advisers.
Starmer told BBC Breakfast on Monday morning that the unelected upper chamber was “indefensible”, adding that a Labour government would abolish it and replace it with an elected body "with a strong mission”, but he would not give a timeframe for when it would be scrapped.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that discussions are pending on when "exactly" it would happen, and would not commit to putting it in their manifesto.
"Obviously after today we're going to have a consultation about implementing the recommendations in the report,” Starmer said.
"I want the discussion about implementation to take place before the election so that we can get on at the election and put into place the recommendations.
"Exactly what happens when is part of the discussion about implementation.”
Starmer is however determined that he would aim to abolish the current Lords system in his first term of government.
"Because what I ask when I ask Gordon Brown to set up the commission to do this, I said what I want is recommendations that are capable of being implemented in the first term,” he told Sky News.
No way back for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour Party
Starmer has appeared to confirm the door will remain closed to his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn to become a Labour MP again.
Corbyn had the Labour whip removed over his response to the equalities' watchdog's report into anti-Semitism, and has been sitting as an independent in the Commons ever since.
"We're going through various constituencies at the moment. The ones we've selected for first are the ones that are the most marginal," Starmer told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme when asked whether Corbyn would be selected as the Labour candidate for his Islington North seat.
"I don't see the circumstances in which Jeremy Corbyn will stand at the next election as a Labour MP."
Starmer was unable to confirm whether Corbyn may stand against Labour as an independent candidate in the seat, which he has held since 1983. "I can only speak for the Labour Party," he added. "I can't speak for Jeremy on this."
Hancock says he received “threatening” PPE message in diary extract
The latest extract from Matt Hancock’s serialised diaries in the Daily Mail accuses the under-fire Conservative peer Michelle Mone of sending him a “threatening” message about securing a deal to supply PPE from a company she was connected to.
Baroness Mone is currently under investigation by the House of Lords Commissioners for Standards for allegedly failing to declare an interest in the firm PPE Medpro, which won a £200m contract to supply safety equipment at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Hancock says in his book: “Baroness Michelle Mone has sent me an extraordinarily aggressive email complaining that a company she's helping isn't getting the multi-million-pound contracts it deserves.
“She claims the firm, which makes lateral flow test kits, 'has had a dreadful time' trying to cut through red tape and demanded my 'urgent help' before it all comes out in the media.”
The former health secretary says the peer threatened "to blow this all wide open”.
“I smell a rat here," he says she wrote. "It is more than the usual red tape, incompetence and bureaucracy. That's expected! I believe there is corruption here at the highest levels.”
Rail union RMT turn down pay offer
Rail unions have rejected an 8 per cent pay offer for workers which they say did “not meet any of our criteria” for a deal, and will press on with plans for Christmas walkouts.
Strikes are currently planned for 13, 14, 16 and 17 December. Last night the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) made the offer to the RMT in an attempt to resolve a long-running dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.
But the union’s general secretary, Mick Lynch, said although it guaranteed no compulsory redundancies it did not offer the “long-term job security, a decent pay rise and protecting working conditions” they are holding out for.
“The RDG and DfT [Department for Transport], who sets their mandate, both knew this offer would not be acceptable to RMT members,” he said.
“If this plan was implemented, it would not only mean the loss of thousands of jobs, but the use of unsafe practices such as DOO [driver-only operation, where drivers operate the doors on all carriages] and would leave our railways chronically understaffed.”
Lynch is demanding an urgent meeting this morning “with a view to securing a negotiated settlement on job security, working conditions and pay”.
But the RDG said the current offer was “fair and affordable”, and the transport secretary, Mark Harper, said the RMT’s announcement was “incredibly disappointing”.
“Our railways need to modernise. There’s no place for outdated working practices that rely on voluntary overtime to run a reliable seven-day service,” Harper added.
Met Office plans strike action
The Met Office is the latest organisation to announce walkouts after the government argued that £28bn of inflation-matching pay rises across the public sector are unaffordable.
The Times reports forecasters are among the latest public bodies set to announce backing for industrial action this week, along with health and safety inspectors, chemical weapons scientists at Porton Down and experts tackling bird flu and Covid.
The Prospect union is to announce results of an indicative ballot of 30,000 scientists, engineers, managers and technical experts across the public sector backing strikes in principle, with a formal ballot expected to lead to walkouts early next year.
Mike Clancy, its general secretary, said: “What we are seeing from our members in the public sector is a huge outpouring of anger at a proposed pay rise that is so far below inflation people simply cannot see how they are going to get by.”
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe