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Unions Could Coordinate Strikes, MPs Respond To Royal Racism Row, Polls Open In Chester By-Election

Ambulance staff have voted for strike action

7 min read

The head of the GMB union has reiterated threats to coordinate industrial action across the NHS this winter to cause "maximum impact".

When asked by Sky News whether GMB would coordinate strikes with other unions, GMB General Secretary Andy Prendergast said: "We will be talking to the other unions.

"We know that the nurses have got their first ballot in over 100 years. We know that our colleagues in Unite, in Unison are currently delivering ballots.

"So we'll be looking to make sure this has the maximum impact."

Representatives from a number of unions spoke to Sky News on Thursday morning to reiterate their demands and put further pressure on the government to increase pay for workers. 

Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers union (RMT) assistant general secretary Eddie Dempsey said the rail strikes would only end with a pay settlement, and Communication Workers Union general secretary Dave Ward also said the Royal Mail strikes have "got to end with agreements, where our members get job security".

Business Secretary Grant Shapps suggested that if workers were granted a higher pay settlement, high rates of inflation would cause a "spiral that never ends".

But Dempsey disputed this claim and said: "This idea that there's going to be a wage spiral is nonsense because wages have been falling as a share of wealth in this country - what goes to wages and what goes to profits."

Dempsey argued there is public support for the strikes, saying "everyone in the economy right now is feeling the pinch".

"Everybody is seeing their pay go backwards, everyone is seeing prices going up," he said. "We get strong support from the public, I think that's going to carry on."

Ambulance drivers to go on strike

Ten thousand ambulance drivers are set to walkout after members represented by the GMB union voted for strike action on Wednesday.

The Royal College of Nursing have already announced strikes on 15 and 20 December, while other staff, including cleaners and porters, are set to be balloted in the coming days.

Health Secretary Steve Barclay has already said the government would not shift on pay negotiations, saying increasing the salaries of NHS staff was "not affordable".

Barclay said there were "tried and tested plans" to ensure emergency services continue to function, but said his door "remains open" for talks about making the NHS a "better place to work".

But speaking to Sky News, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said his party had previously warned the government over problems in the ambulance service.

"Where is the government?" he said, as he pointed to the government's refusal to put a minister forward to discuss the strikes.

"We've been warning the government about this for well over a year."

MPs respond to Buckingham Palace racism 

A government minister said there is "a lot of casual racism" in the UK, in response to the resignation of a prominent member of the royal household following racism allegations. 

The late Queen's lady-in-waiting Lady Susan Hussey has resigned after she repeatedly asked a black British charity founder where she was "really" from at an event in Buckingham Palace on Tuesday. 

The charity boss, Ngozi Fulani, said she was "totally stunned" by the comments.

Technology Minister Paul Scully told Sky News: "I think there’s a lot of casual racism.

"I say that as someone who’s half-Burmese, that there’s often this kind of idea that people say: 'Yeah, but where are you really from?'"

He said there can be a "casual approach" to racism and added: "I’m all for free speech, but why on earth would you want to offend someone?"

Shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth echoed Scully's comments, saying the incident was a "sad reminder that there is still casual racism out there".

Mandu Reid, leader of the Women's Equality Party, was there when the comments were made, and has given Fulani her "infinite solidarity".

She said: "I didn’t want to see Lady Susan Hussey step down and I wanted to her step up.

"I wanted to see the whole Royal Household step up to acknowledge and respond to the institutional racism baked into its culture."

Reid also claimed that the event backed up Meghan Markle's claims that she has encountered racism from royal family members. 

Diane Abbott, another Labour MP, tweeted: "Ridiculous for Buckingham Palace aide to be so rude to my friend & constituent Ngozi Fulani. Next thing they will be asking me “Where do you REALLY come from?”"

The palace described Hussy's remarks as "unacceptable and deeply regrettable".

MPs handle Bill to decide who can deputise for King Charles 

King Charles
The King initiated the new bill to allow the addition of his siblings as Counsellors of State (Alamy)

MPs will deal with the legislation for a bill on Thursday which could add Princess Anne and Prince Edward to the list of royals who can temporary fulfil the King's duties in his absence. 

The Sovereign initiated the new bill to allow the addition of his siblings as Counsellors of State to deputise for him. 

Buckingham Palace told the government that non-working members of the Royal Family will not be called upon to fulfil royal duties, meaning Prince Andrew and Prince Harry will no longer be able to stand in for King Charles. 

Only working members of the Royal family will be expected to act as Counsellors of State.

Polls open in crucial Chester by-election

Chester city
The Chester by-election result is expected to be announced on Friday morning (Alamy)

Rishi Sunak is facing his first electoral test since taking over as Prime Minister as polls open in the City of Chester by-election.

The contest was triggered following the resignation of Labour MP Chris Matheson after allegations of sexual misconduct.

The seat, which Labour held in 2019 by 6,164 votes, will likely remain in Labour control, but Keir Starmer will be hoping to significantly increase his majority after a year of Conservative chaos.

Senior Labour figures, including deputy leader Angela Rayner and shadow climate minister Ed Miliband, have made trips to the constituency in recent weeks in a bid to shore up Labour support.

The final result is expected to be announced at around 3am on Friday morning.

Ian Blackford standing down as SNP leader in Westminster

Ian Blackford SNP
Ian Blackford has been the leader of the SNP in Westminster since 2017 (Alamy)

Ian Blackford is standing down as the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the House of Commons, saying it is the "right time for fresh leadership".

Blackford has been the leader of the SNP in Westminster since 2017, and has had a weekly slot at PMQs which he has used to challenge Prime Ministers.

“After more than five years in the role, now is the right time for fresh leadership at Westminster as we head towards a general election and the next steps in winning Scotland’s independence," he said.

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