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General election news: Boris Johnson admits truth about ‘new’ NHS nurses and Brexit border checks, as Labour narrows Tory poll lead

Follow here for all the latest developments

Andy Gregory,Peter Stubley
Monday 09 December 2019 00:26 GMT
General Election 2019: Opinion polls over the last seven days

Boris Johnson has admitted that under his revised Brexit withdrawal agreement there would be checks on goods passing between Northern Ireland and Britain, and conceded that the Conservatives’ pledge to employ 50,000 “new” nurses includes the retention of 19,000 existing nurses.

The prime minister appeared on Sky News on the final Sunday ahead of the general election, and refused to say if he would stand down if he fails to win a majority, potentially becoming one of the shortest-serving PMs in history.

While the Conservatives retained a lead as high as 15 points over Labour in an Opinium poll, Jeremy Corbyn‘s party enjoyed a four-point boost in a survey by ComRes, cutting the Tory lead to six points, which would put Britain in hung parliament territory.

Meanwhile both the Conservatives and the Brexit Party again refused to take part in an election debate on Channel 4. They were represented by empty podiums as Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson was accused by an audience member of being a “Tory in disguise”.


Good morning and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the general election campaign, with just five days to go until the country goes to the polls.

Andy Gregory8 December 2019 09:05

PM contradicts himself over Brexit deal checks and claims Labour's leaked Treasury analysis 'wrong'

Boris Johnson has admitted there will be checks on some goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland as a result of his Brexit deal.

But, in an interview with Sky News' Sophy Ridge, he said the checks would not be on goods travelling into Britain from the six counties.

Asked if there will be checks, the PM said: "No, absolutely not.

"The deal we've done with the EU is a brilliant deal and it allows us to do all the things that Brexit was about so it's about taking back control of our borders, money, laws - but unlike the previous arrangements it allows the whole of the UK to come out of the EU including Northern Ireland and the only checks that there would be, would be if something was coming from GB via Northern Ireland and was going on to the Republic, then there might be checks at the border into Northern Ireland in order to ..."

He said the leaked Treasury analysis document that Labour revealed on Friday was "wrong" to suggest there could be checks and even tariffs on goods travelling between the two parts of the UK.

"Yes [that's wrong]", said the Tory leader. "Because there's no question of there being checks on goods going NI/GB or GB/NI because they are part of - if you look at what the deal is, we're part of the same customs territory and it's very clear that there should be unfettered access between Northern Ireland and the rest of GB.

"The only reason - this is another of these things that has been produced by the Labour Party as a kind of distraction."

Andy Gregory8 December 2019 09:15

Boris Johnson admits only 31,000 of Tories' 50,000 'more' nurses are actually new

Boris Johnson has admitted that only 31,000 of Tories’ pledge to deliver 50,000 “more” nurses for the NHS will actually be new, Ashley Cowburn reports.

Questioned on the Conservative manifesto pledge to deliver “50,000 more nurses” - and how many would actually be new recruits to the health service – he said: “Yes, 31,000 is the answer to that.”

Pressed again by Sky News, he added: "I have explained this many times so far. It is very important, the problem we have in the NHS is there are 19,000 nurses who would leave the system unless we put the investment in now and that’s what we’re going to do. 

Read more detail here:

Andy Gregory8 December 2019 09:19

Polls vary drastically, predicting both 15-point Tory lead and Labour surge

The Conservatives enjoyed a 15-point lead in a poll by Opinium, which would hand them a large majority.

But things varied drastically between other polls.

Yougov and DeltapollUK gave the Tories a lead of 10 and 11 points respectively, while Savanta ComRes' poll handed Labour a four-point boost, slashing the Tory lead by six points and putting the country in hung parliament territory.

Andy Gregory8 December 2019 09:30

PM nervous and 'fighting for every vote' but refuses to say if he would resign if he fails to win majority.

Boris Johnson's high-stakes decision to call the snap vote could hand Jeremy Corbyn the keys to Number 10 - leaving him one of the shortest-serving PMs in British history.

But, in an interview with Sophy Ridge, he would not be drawn on his political future when asked three times if he would stand down if he fails to secure a majority.

Mr Johnson admitted he was nervous and "fighting for every vote" ahead of the poll, but when asked if he would resign if it did not go his way, he replied: "The choice on Thursday is unbelievably stark, it's between going forward with a one nation Conservative government that can get Brexit done...

"Or spending the whole of next year in complete paralysis with two referendums, one on Scotland, one on the EU when Jeremy Corbyn cannot even tell us what his position is on Brexit and who is going to campaign for the deal that he proposes to do."

Pressed again, Mr Johnson said: "If you don't mind, Sophy, what I'm going to do is concentrate on the five days before us because that is what I think the people of this country would expect.

Andy Gregory8 December 2019 09:49

John Mcdonnell says marriage tax break 'unfair' and 'discriminatory

Speaking to Andrew Marr, the shadow chancellor defended accusations that under a Labour government voters other than those earning more than £80,000 would be hit by tax cuts - specifically by their plans to do away with the £250 tax break.

Mr McDonnell said some people may be up to £250 less well off, but they will get "a range of benefits" in return.

He went further, describing the tax itself as "unfair" and "discriminatory" against couples who live together and are not married.

Andy Gregory8 December 2019 09:59

Johnson reveals 'naughtiest thing he's ever done'

After Theresa May infamously answered that running through fields of wheat was the naughtiest thing she had ever done, Mr Johnson has been asked what is now becoming an election tradition.

Here's what PA had to say about it:

The PM said the naughtiest thing he had ever done and was "prepared to admit" was riding his bicycle on the pavement.

Boris Johnson had previously been asked the question by Sky News during the election campaign but said he needed more time to think about it.

Much has been made of Mr Johnson's past record, which has included being sacked as a Times journalist for making up a quote and lying to then-Tory leader Michael Howard about his affair with journalist Petronella Wyatt - another decision that saw him sacked, this time from his role as a shadow minister.

But when asked by Sophy Ridge whether he had given his naughtiest deed any more thought, he exclaimed: "Oh no, not this again", before asking his aides to provide him with suggestions of the naughtiest thing they had witnessed him do.

The Conservative Party leader said: "I think I may sometimes, how can I put this, I may sometimes when I was riding a bicycle every day - which I used to do - I may sometimes have not always obeyed the law about cycling on the pavement.

"But I want you to know how firmly and strongly I disapprove of people who cycle on the pavement and I think it's wrong and I feel bad about it but I might sometimes have scooted up onto the pavement rather than dismounting before."

Asked if that was actually the naughtiest thing he had ever done, he replied: "No, no, it was a very careful rubric. What you said was the naughtiest thing that I was prepared to admit..."

Andy Gregory8 December 2019 10:00

Shadow health secretary accuses PM of 'lying' on immigration and NHS

Jonathan Ashworth has insisted Boris Johnson is "lying" and "misleading the British people" over Tory plans for immigration and the NHS.

"He’s going to exacerbate the staffing crisis in the NHS with these proposals and he’s also misleading the British people because he’s trying to give the impression he’s going to bring immigration down, but when you look at the details of what he’s announced today, he’s saying he’s going to hand over decisions over who gets a visa to an independent committee," Mr Ashworth told Sophy Ridge. 

"So he’s actually misleading people when he says he’s bringing immigration down – there will be no democratic control, no accountability over any decision because it will be handed over to a statutory committee

"So again, Boris Johnson’s lying to the British people. It is a strong word, but you've caught him out on the fact he’s not delivering 50,000 extra nurses, he had to admit it’s only 31,000 new nurses – so again, that was a lie, and his 40 new hospitals are a lie. 

...After Mr Johnson guarantees immigration will go down and attacks Corbyn's 'complete free movement' plan

Andy Gregory8 December 2019 10:11

Sturgeon 'not asking for Corbyn to support IndyRef2, but respect the principle'

The SNP leader told Andrew Marr she is not asking Labour to support the idea of another independence referendum, but to "respect the principle".

She suggested that in order for Labour to be able to push aspects of their manifesto through parliament they would be heavily reliant on the SNP, and that she would exercise this "enormous leverage" in line with "Scotland's interests".

"I'm making the reasonable request that they respect the principle, which is that if there's a referendum, and the timing of the referendum, should not be matters for Westminster to determine," Ms Sturgeon said. "They should be matters for the Scottish people in parliament to determine."

...As new poll suggests majority of Scottish voters would back independence in event of Brexit

The Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times, which saw 1,020 voters in Scotland surveyed between Tuesday and Friday.

It found that a small majority of 51 per cent would back independence if Brexit goes ahead, with 49 per cent opposed.

However, if the UK were to remain within the EU, support for IndyRef2 dwindles to 42 per cent, with 58 per cent - a higher margin than during the 2014 referendum - wishing to remain part of the UK.

Andy Gregory8 December 2019 10:36

John McDonnell says Labour has done 'everything I think we can possibly do' in response to antisemitism crisis

The shadow chancellor gave what appeared to be an emotional response as Andrew Marr challenged him on antisemitism within the Labour Party, which he describes as a "horrible, horrible period".

“I apologise to the Jewish community for the suffering we’ve inflicted on them," he said. "I say to them we’re doing everything possible.

"We’re going to learn more lessons and we want to be the shining example of anti-racism the Labour Party should be and I hope I come out of this now, having gone through this horrible, horrible period, actually showing respect to the Jewish community and tackling this issue.” 

Andy Gregory8 December 2019 10:56

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