As it happenedended1574973393

Climate election debate: ‘Coward’ Boris Johnson replaced by melting ice sculpture as he avoids TV clash amid outrage over NHS remarks

The day's developments in Westminster as they happened

Jon Stone,Adam Forrest
Thursday 28 November 2019 19:35 GMT
Introductory Climate Debate statements from leaders of Labour, SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and Greens

An ice sculpture is standing in for Boris Johnson during a Channel 4 debate on climate change after he refused to turn up.

The prime minister joined Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage in declining attend, even though Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson, Nicola Sturgeon and Sian Berry will all take part.

The Tories reacted angrily to the broadcaster’s move, complaining to Ofcom and accusing C4 of “conspiring with Jeremy Corbyn”, while Labour frontbencher Clive Lewis dubbed Mr Johnson “a coward and a bully”.

It came after Labour attacked the PM’s “dark ages” attitudes after highlighting remarks he made in a Spectator column on single mothers. Other unearthed articles show the PM dismissing people’s passion for the NHS being free, and claiming young people had “an almost Nigerian interest in money”.


Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of the general election, with only 14 days until we go to the polls.

Adam Forrest28 November 2019 08:36

Johnson on course for big majority, according to YouGov

The Conservative Party is poised for a comfortable win with 359 seats in parliament, according to new polling research.

The YouGov data, which uses the responses of tens of thousands of people, suggests the Tories could win a 68-seat majority if the election were held tomorrow.

Labour is on track for 211 seats, it suggested, losing 44 constituencies to the Tories including those of departing deputy leader Tom Watson and veteran backbencher Dennis Skinner.

All the details here:

Adam Forrest28 November 2019 08:39

Tory and Labour manifesto plans both breach their own spending rules, study finds

Labour and the Tories would both break their own fiscal rules as a result of the spending plans contained in their manifestos, according to new research by the Resolution Foundation.

The think tank said unfunded spending promises announced by both parties mean they are likely to have to raise taxes further or cut spending if they are to meet their targets.

More here:

Adam Forrest28 November 2019 08:40

Johnson is ‘running scared’ of Andrew Neil, says Labour

Boris Johnson has been accused of “running scared” of an interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil, after it emerged that he is the only major party leader not to agree a date for a grilling.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the PM was seeking to delay his inquisition until after the period when the bulk of postal votes are expected to be cast in the coming week.

McDonnell responded: “Johnson’s running scared after his disastrous debate performances. But he’s playing the BBC. He’s delaying the interview past the main postal vote period … the BBC is hardly covering itself in glory in this election. It should’ve fixed all dates in advance.”

All the details here:

Adam Forrest28 November 2019 08:44

Swinson accuses Johnson of dragging No 10 ‘through the mud’

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson is intensifying her assault on Boris Johnson in a speech in which she will accuse him of repeatedly lying and dragging the office of prime minister “through the mud”.

A day after launching a poster campaign accusing the PM of “lying to the Queen”, Swinson will return to the attack with a warning that voters cannot trust anything he says.

All the details here:

Adam Forrest28 November 2019 08:48

Health secretary insists drug prices ‘not on the table’ with US

Health secretary Matt Hancock has said drug prices will not be on the table in trade talks between the UK and the US.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “In terms of drug pricing, we’ve said in our manifesto the price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table.”

On the wider health service, he added: “The NHS, in 451 pages, is only mentioned four times and the first time it's mentioned the documents say ‘We do not currently believe the US has a major offensive interest in this space’.

“That means that the Americans don’t think that it is something they’re going to ask for and very sensibly because we are crystal clear it isn’t an area on which we're prepared to give ground.”

Asked why the leaked dossier does not mention that the NHS and drugs prices would be exempt from trade talks, as the US indicated was the case relating to climate change, Hancock said there was “no need” to mention it.

He replied: “There was no need to say that because our position is absolutely crystal clear.”

On animal welfare, Hancock said the UK will have stronger animal welfare standards than the EU after Brexit. He added: “Some of the animal welfare standards around the rest of the world need strengthening as well.”

Adam Forrest28 November 2019 08:51

Labour hits reset button with two weeks to go

The Labour party has hit the reset button amid the latest polling saying the Tories are on course to win the election. The party is understood to be changing tack in its campaign, particularly in Leave-voting areas, where it is in danger of losing seats to the Conservatives.

Labour insiders say a key mistake up until now was overestimating the electoral threat from the Lib Dems, and underestimating the likelihood of Leave voters switching from Labour to the Conservatives, the BBC has reported.

Labour’s strategy so far had been - in part - to emphasise that the election is about more than Brexit and to get voters to focus on issues which would unite Labour voters in Leave and Remain areas.

The new plan is designed to appeal to those who voted for Brexit, and to try to convince them that Labour is not attempting to stop Brexit by offering another referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn and party chairman Ian Lavery, who favours leaving the EU with a deal, is expected to tour Leave areas to try to explain the deal Labour wants to negotiate and emphasise that they will protect workers’ rights.

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said he has had “no discussions” about a change of tack in the campaign to focus more on Leave areas.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the party would shift its focus, he said: “This is news to me this morning. I have not had any discussions on that.

“Obviously what we want to do is to make sure that we keep on, as we have been doing over the past few weeks, narrowing that margin in the polls.”

Adam Forrest28 November 2019 08:57

‘The government lied’ about NHS, says Labour

Labour’s shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said “politicians are implicated” in discussions over talks on the future of trade between the US and UK.

Following the leak of a dossier on Wednesday which outlines UK and US officials discussions on trade - before Boris Johnson became Tory leader - Labour claimed it was a sign that the Conservatives were preparing to put the NHS on the table in trade talks, something the party has denied.

Gardiner said: “Of course there’s ministerial oversight and, actually, in the documents themselves they refer to the views of the secretary of state on these matters, so it's not as though this is divorced from the politicians.

“The politicians are implicated on every single page of this.”

On the idea of the NHS being on the table, he told BBC News: “It is happening, the government lied about it”.

Adam Forrest28 November 2019 09:04

Hancock denies ‘baffling’ voters with 50,000 nurses promise

Health secretary Matt Hancock has been challenged again about the Tories’ pledge to deliver “50,000 more nurses” – despite the fact the party had acknowledged around 19,000 are existing nurses they want to persuade to stay in the NHS.

“We’re going to increase the number of nurses in the NHS by 50,000,” he told BBC News.

Told that voters were going to be “absolutely baffled by your maths,” Hancock again claimed: “We’re not saying 50,000 new nurses. We’re saying 50,000 more nurses.”

Adam Forrest28 November 2019 09:16

Labour suspends candidate in Scotland over alleged antisemitic posts

The Labour party has reportedly suspended its election candidate for Falkirk in relation to alleged antisemitic posts on social media.

According to the Falkirk Herald, Safia Ali was removed after remarks on Facebook came to light.

A Scottish Labour spokesperson said: “Safia Ali is no longer the Labour Party’s candidate for Falkirk. We have taken immediate action on this matter. We deeply regret Safia Ali was selected.”

It’s too late to replace her, meaning there won’t be a Labour candidate in the area – once a stronghold for the party.

Scottish Labour’s general secretary Michael Sharpe added: “I deeply regret the people of the Falkirk constituency will no longer have a Labour candidate to campaign and vote for on December 12.”

Adam Forrest28 November 2019 09:25

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