Did teachers wipe out Theresa May’s majority?

Teachers are emerging as one of the most powerful political lobbies in the UK thanks to clever use of data and social media – but some politicians are crying foul.

Kevin Courtney insists it was never his aim to wipe out Theresa May’s Commons majority.

The leader of Britain’s biggest teaching union this week told his members they had succeeded in making school funding the biggest issue at the 2017 general election.

And he made “no apology” for spending £326,306 of their money – more than UKIP or the Green Party – on campaigning in the year before the snap election.

Critics say the main beneficiary of this was the Labour Party, which was promising a £6bn annual boost to school budgets.

  • School funding ‘becoming a catastrophe’

    But Mr Courtney stressed the National Education Union’s “proud political independence” in his speech to its annual conference.

    Speaking to the BBC a few days before the conference, he said: “We were trying to create pressure in every political party to say you have to fund education properly.

    “We do think it was money well spent. And it did have a significant impact on the election.

    “(But) it only had impact because the issue was real – it was real outside our campaign.”

    The late surge in support for the Labour Party in the run up to the general election has never been fully explained, and probably never will be. No one can read the minds of thousands of voters.

    Most analysis points to a rise in Labour’s youth vote – although others have suggested this might have been exaggerated.

    The case for saying it was parents angry about school funding cuts rests largely on research by pollsters Survation.

    They found 10.4% of voters changed their mind about who to vote for due to school funding policy, the equivalent of 795,000 people switching their vote.

    Education also rose rapidly up the league table of issues voters cared about as the campaign progressed, according to pollsters Ipsos Mori.

    Small Axe, the ad agency hired by the NEU for a final push in the three weeks leading up to polling day, says its Facebook ads were viewed more than four million times.

    “Seats previously considered safe Conservative holds turned up as close marginals or even swung to progressive parties,” the company says on its website.

    But Mr Courtney downplays such claims, insisting it was never part of the plan to target the Conservatives or boost “progressive parties”.

    What set the NUE campaign apart from the hundreds of others jostling for voters’ attention last June – according to the Sheila McKechnie Foundation which gave it an award – was its school cuts website, also funded by the GMB and NAHT unions.

    This is an interactive map that allows parents in England and Wales to look-up their children’s school and find estimates of how it will be affected by government spending plans. During the election campaign, users could also compare the impact of the different parties’ spending plans.

    The site has amassed eight million page views since it was launched about six months before the election.

    It uses government data on future funding for schools, which is then augmented by inflation estimates from the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, to show “real-terms” funding cuts per school and per pupil.

    It is the sort of “big data” exercise beloved by successive governments, but turned against the government itself, using official figures to make large, abstract numbers relevant and real to parents.

    It might also bring a smile to the faces of teachers battered by decades of government initiatives, league tables and “accountability” drives.

    “For teachers, for whom ‘accountability’ has long signified a punitive and damaging experience of political bullying, it would be a sweet riposte”, said Kevin Courtney in a Times Educational Supplement article a few days before the election.

    “I don’t think it’s about payback,” said Mr Courtney of his “sweet riposte” comment.

    “I think the tools that we used made political parties more accountable for what they were saying about education funding than they had ever been before in any other election.

    “Because we were able to break down what their manifesto said and turn it into real numbers for schools.”

    During the election the site kept a running tally of how many MPs from the three main parties had agreed to vote against cuts, which, inevitably given the party’s manifesto commitments, meant good news for Labour.

    Mr Courtney says the union’s campaign was a “big part of the reason” why then Education Secretary Justine Greening announced an extra £1.3bn for schools in England, over two years, immediately after the election.

    “We can say that we spent £326,000 but we got £1.3bn for schools and we are very pleased with that,” says Mr Courtney.

    The NEU, which was formed last year by a merger of the NUT and Association of Teachers and Lecturers, were not the only educators trying to use their power at the school gates to influence parents.

    Jules White, a head teacher at West Sussex secondary school, was one of the driving forces behind a large scale letter-writing campaign warning of cash shortages.

    Parents are more likely to take notice of a letter from a head teacher – a figure that still commands a “modicum of respect” in the community – than a flyer from a politician angling for votes, argues Mr White.

    “Personally, I think it was a genuine game changer. It moved education up towards the NHS in terms of profile,” he says.

    But, like Kevin Courtney, he insists it was a non-partisan effort and it would not have worked if there had not been a serious problem with cash shortages.

    “You can not get two head teachers to agree about anything. We are all competitive. The fact that you can get us all to send the same letter shows you how bad things are.”

    He said the cuts campaign made school funding the top issue for voters in his area and led to Conservative MPs having their majorities dramatically reduced.

    One of those MPs, Tim Loughton, who saw his majority cut by 20% in Worthing – agrees that school funding was the biggest concern for voters in his constituency come polling day.

    But he argues that Conservative MPs in the area got a raw deal from the teachers’ campaign because they had also been calling for more money from the government for local schools and they should “all be on the same side”.

    “What was really annoying at the last election is that there was a big campaign to focus on education, which is fine, funded by the teacher union, with an awful lot of misinformation included in it.

    “So posters went up around the constituency and information was given to parents basically saying ‘your school is going to lose x number of teachers because of this shortfall’.”

    Mr Loughton, a former children’s minister, claims that by focusing on the “worst-case scenarios” the campaign – which was seized on by his political opponents – was “frankly irresponsible and untrue because the level of job losses, which they were trying to calculate, just hasn’t happened”.

    Kevin Courtney says the school cuts site had never said “this number of teachers will be going – we were saying this sum of money that will be cut from your child’s school is the equivalent of this many teachers’ salaries at your child’s school”.

    And he says the site could be improved in the future to more accurately reflect the impact on teacher numbers.

    “We don’t know whether they have cut teachers or cut support staff or found some other way of making a saving.

    “We don’t know when teachers do go, from the statistics that we have got. If we could find ways of crowd-sourcing that data and if it was reliable from crowd sourcing that would be another huge step to get to.”

    But the union is not about to give up such a “powerful campaigning tool” – perhaps the most powerful it has ever had.

    “We will do it again,” Mr Courtney told the NEU’s annual conference in Brighton this week.

    “And we now have thousands more parental supporters. Politicians of all parties should be beware. Parents will not forgive education cuts.”

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Labour urges rethink on mortgage benefits

Labour has warned that vulnerable people may struggle to pay their mortgages because of benefit changes.

About 90,000 people on certain benefits claim support for mortgage interest (SMI) but from Friday the benefit will be replaced by government loans.

Figures suggest 27,000 SMI recipients – 51% of those contacted – say they will not take up the loan.

Labour says there is a risk elderly people may cut back on essentials like heating rather than take the loan.

The new state-backed loan, secured against the mortgaged property with interest added each month, would not have to be repaid until the property is sold or transferred to someone else.

‘Halt this change’

The government says it is reasonable to ask someone who has received help towards their mortgage to repay it, as their home is likely to increase in value.

But shadow work and pensions secretary Margaret Greenwood said: “Even at this late stage, the government could and should think again and halt this change.”

She added: “It is worrying that the government seems determined to push ahead with this change despite the risk of it causing real hardship for people on low incomes.

“Many of the people who claim SMI are elderly or disabled, and it is extremely concerning that pensioners might try to cope without the loan by cutting back on essentials like heating.”

The government is set to spend about £161m on SMI in the year 2017-18. As of 21 March, they had successfully contacted 54,000 people by telephone and tried to contact a further 31,000, as a follow-up to a letter explaining the change.

Of those contacted, 51% – about 27,000 people – had said they intended to decline the offer of a loan, 13,000 said they would accept it and 14,000 said they were undecided.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “People who sign up to the loan will continue to get help with their mortgage interest and it is only repayable if there is available equity when the property is sold.

“If people decide to decline the loan now but change their mind in future the loan can be backdated so, in effect, there would be no break in payments.

“We have already contacted everyone currently in receipt of SMI to explain the change but we are making sure people have time to review the documents, obtain advice and consider their options.”

Made in Britain: What does it mean for trade after Brexit?

Rules of Origin sounds like it should be a cult video game.

But it is actually an important concept in international trade that will have a big impact on the Brexit negotiations, as they begin to focus on the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

It’s all about how you define where products really come from and what Made in Britain really means.

At issue is the kind of economic and trade agreement that will replace the UK’s current membership of the European Union.

What do we know so far about what that agreement could look like?

Well, we know Theresa May’s government is committed to leaving the single market and the customs union.

And we also know that, given the red lines the UK has established, the EU is saying that the best it can offer is a free trade agreement, along the lines of the EU-Canada deal (known as Ceta) which came into force last year.

  • BBC Business: global trade
  • Fox warning of customs union ‘sellout’

    The UK wants something more ambitious, but leaving the customs union has a big impact on rules of origin.

    The big advantage of being in the customs union is that there are no tariffs (taxes on imports or exports) charged on goods traded between its member states.

    The disadvantage, from a UK perspective, is that you lose the ability to negotiate your own trade deals with other countries around the world.

    Can’t you have the best of both worlds?

    Well, you can get rid of most tariffs in a free trade agreement, and still retain the ability to negotiate your own trade deals. But unfortunately it’s not that simple.

    This is where rules of origin complicate the picture.

    To comply with rules of origin requirements, companies that make things need to tell customs authorities where all the component parts come from.

    To put it another way, they need to prove the “economic nationality” of their products. That means working out the total value, and where that value was added along the way.

    Why do they need to do that?

    The idea is to prevent abuse of the system, by making sure that products can’t enjoy preferential or zero tariffs as part of a free trade deal after being manufactured mostly on the cheap elsewhere.

    At the moment, because the UK is in the EU customs union, any value added to a UK product anywhere in Europe is considered local, and vice versa. Once the UK leaves, that will no longer be the case automatically.

    And that makes supply chains important. Some products have much more complex supply chains than others, so rules of origin requirements will affect some industries more than others.

    So which sectors are likely to have a problem?

    For some sectors it’s not an issue at all because they are exempt.

    But chemicals, various kinds of machines, and cars are all potentially vulnerable.

    For example, rules of origin in trade deals usually require around 55% of the components of cars to be considered local.

    But – according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – the average car manufactured in the UK currently has only about 44% UK content at best, because so many parts cross borders several times before the finished product emerges.

    And once you take account of the fact that many of the sub-contractors down the supply chain also source many of their parts from abroad, the SMMT estimates that that figure for cars made in the UK could be as low as 25%. A huge challenge.

    Are there any solutions?

    Yes, there are ways to reduce the risk to business. Free trade deals often include measures that allow both parties to consider value added in the other jurisdiction as local – and it seems safe to assume that a future EU-UK trade deal would do just that.

    But a report published this month by the Food and Drink Federation said everyday food products manufactured in the UK, such as chocolate bars and frozen pizza, could fail to meet some rules of origin requirements anyway if a free trade deal similar to Ceta was negotiated between the EU and the UK.

    That’s because the food industry relies on ingredients that are sourced from across the globe.

    So this is not just about the EU market?

    No, it’s not. Many supply chains are global.

    And it’s also worth bearing in mind that rules of origin will have an impact on the UK’s efforts to replicate its current EU trade agreements with other countries around the world, or to sign new ones.

    UK manufacturers with products that are made in both the UK and the EU may well find it difficult to meet rules of origin requirements with these other countries.

    Again, deals can be done to broaden the definition of what “local” origin means. But if the UK wants a broader definition, other countries could demand the same in return.

    Either way, there could well be an extra burden on businesses.

    So what are the costs?

    There are significant costs, administrative and legal, for businesses that have to prove the origin of goods.

    In some cases, that could even mean that it’s cheaper just to pay a low tariff than to go through the bureaucracy involved in getting an exemption.

    “There are steps that can be taken to mitigate the costs,” says Sam Lowe of the Centre for European Reform. “But outside the customs union you cannot eliminate those extra costs entirely.”

    It sounds complicated…

    Yes, and there are other layers of complexity that we haven’t got into here. But you could well begin to hear a lot more about rules of origin once talks on the future relationship between the UK and the EU get under way.

    The task for EU and UK negotiators is to come up with a new agreement that limits the disruption to supply chains as much as possible. But it will not be frictionless trade.

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How the Labour anti-Semitism saga unfolded

A row about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party has been prompted by Jeremy Corbyn’s comments on an allegedly anti-Semitic mural in 2012.

But this is not the first time the Labour leader has faced calls to deal with anti-Semitism in recent years.

Shah allegations

The current row can be traced back to two allegations in 2016 – a year after Mr Corbyn became leader.

The first was against the MP for Bradford West, Naz Shah.

It was revealed that the year before she became the MP, she shared a graphic showing an image of Israel’s outline superimposed on a map of the US under the headline “Solution for Israel-Palestine conflict – relocate Israel into United States”, with the comment “problem solved”.

A number of other posts emerged, with her comparing Israel to the Nazis and saying “the Jews are rallying”.

She apologised and resigned from her post as John McDonnell’s parliamentary private secretary.

Mr Corbyn said Ms Shah’s remarks were “offensive and unacceptable”, and she was suspended from the party.

She was reinstated in July and blamed her “ignorance” for the posts, admitting they were anti-Semitic.

Labour’s National Executive Committee gave her a formal warning, told her to apologise for bringing the party into disrepute and warned that if there was another incident she would be expelled.

Livingstone comments

It was during the row over Ms Shah that the former London Mayor Ken Livingstone made his own comments that were alleged to have been anti-Semitic.

Mr Livingstone appeared on BBC Radio London defending the MP and said he had never heard anyone in the Labour Party say anything anti-Semitic.

He added: “When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews.”

This led to widespread criticism of Mr Livingstone, with Labour MP John Mann accusing him of being a “Nazi apologist” in front of a media scrum.

Mr Livingstone said he was not suggesting Hitler was a Zionist, adding that the Nazi leader was “a monster from start to finish”.

But he said he had simply been quoting historical “facts”.

The long-time ally of Mr Corbyn was suspended by the party for a year, but he refused to apologise and continued to repeat his comments.

He was then suspended for a further 12 months in April 2017 after a Labour disciplinary panel upheld three charges of breaching party rules, prompting Mr Corbyn to order a fresh internal inquiry into his conduct.

His suspension has now been extended again pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Chakrabarti inquiry

It was after Ms Shah’s comments and Mr Livingstone’s defence that Mr Corbyn announced an inquiry into allegations of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism in the party at the end of April 2016.

It was led by Shami Chakrabarti, the former director of human rights campaign group Liberty. She announced she had joined the Labour Party after her appointment as chair on the inquiry.

The inquiry lasted for two months and at the end of June 2016, Ms Chakrabarti concluded that while the Labour Party was not overrun by anti-Semitism, there was an “occasionally toxic atmosphere”.

Ms Chakrabarti made 20 recommendations, including:

  • Abusive references to any particular person or group based on actual or perceived physical characteristics and racial or religious tropes and stereotypes should have no place in Labour Party discourse.
  • Labour members should resist the use of Hitler, Nazi and Holocaust metaphors, distortions and comparisons in debates about Israel-Palestine in particular.
  • There should be procedural rule changes to improve the party’s disciplinary process and the adoption and publication of a complaints procedure.
  • The appointment of a general counsel to the Labour Party to give advice on issues including disciplinary matters and to take responsibility for instructing external lawyers.
  • The party should increase the ethnic diversity of its staff.

    However, she said she did not approve of lifetime bans for party membership.

    Two months later, she became a Labour peer – the only appointment to the House of Lords Mr Corbyn has so far made.

    Student allegations

    Around the same time, allegations of anti-Semitism arose from the Oxford University Labour Club.

    They claimed that members of the club had discussed Zionists rigging British elections, frequently used the term “Zio” and said that European attacks on Jews were justified because of Gaza.

    The allegations led to the Labour Party’s national student organisation conducting their own inquiry, and its report was leaked to the press in the summer of 2016.

    In it, Baroness Royall concluded there had been “some incidents” of anti-Semitic behaviour and “behaviour and language that would once have been intolerable is now tolerated” in the club.

    However, she said there was “no evidence the club is itself institutionally anti-Semitic”.

    Just under a year later, two students were cleared by the NEC’s disputes committee of being anti-Semitic.

    Despite the inquiries, promises to adopt tough new rules to tackle anti-Semitism at its conference and pledges from Mr Corbyn that racism would be “rooted out”, a number of other allegations have come to light during his tenure.

    These included:

    • Labour activist Jackie Walker being suspended from the party in 2016 for claiming Jewish people were “financiers of the sugar and slave trade”
    • Author Miko Peled allegedly saying during a speech at a fringe conference event that party members should be able to debate whether or not the Holocaust happened – he is not a member of the party
    • Brighton and Hove Labour housing campaigner Daniel Harris being suspended after posting a video on Facebook featuring the faces of three Labour councillors superimposed on the heads of dancing Jewish figures
    • A member from Barnet, London, being suspended for writing anti-Semitic posts on social media, leading to a councillor receiving abuse for reporting it

      Now, Mr Corbyn himself is facing criticism after sending an apparently supportive message to the creator of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural.

      In October 2012, Mear One posted a picture of his mural in east London called “Freedom of Humanity” on Facebook, with the words: “Tomorrow they want to buff my mural. Freedom of expression. London calling. Public Art.”

      Mr Corbyn replied: “Why? You are in good company. Rockefeller destroyed Diego [Rivera’s] mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”

      The Labour leader has since called the mural “deeply disturbing” and said he is “sincerely sorry” for the pain caused by anti-Semitism in the party.

      Mr Corbyn has admitted there are “pockets” of anti-Semitism in the party and vowed to take action to “stamp it out”.

      After a letter from Jewish groups that held Mr Corbyn personally responsible for the “hostile” environment Jews in the Labour Party face, he is facing calls from some of his own MPs to take tougher action.

      But members of the Jewish Voice for Labour group claim the two organisations behind the letter do not represent the views of the “great majority of Jews in the party who share Jeremy Corbyn’s vision for social justice and fairness” and that there is “massively more anti-Semitism on the right of politics than on the left”.

      A Labour Party spokeswoman said: “The Labour Party is committed to challenging and campaigning against anti-Semitism in all its forms.

      “Any complaints of anti-Semitism are taken extremely seriously. These are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate disciplinary action taken.”

Full text: Jewish leaders’ letter

Here is the full text of the open letter to the Labour Party by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council.

Today, leaders of British Jewry tell Jeremy Corbyn that enough is enough. We have had enough of hearing that Jeremy Corbyn “opposes anti-Semitism”, whilst the mainstream majority of British Jews, and their concerns, are ignored by him and those he leads.

There is a repeated institutional failure to properly address Jewish concerns and to tackle anti-Semitism, with the Chakrabarti Report being the most glaring example of this.

Jeremy Corbyn did not invent this form of politics, but he has had a lifetime within it, and now personifies its problems and dangers. He issues empty statements about opposing anti-Semitism, but does nothing to understand or address it. We conclude that he cannot seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far left worldview that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.

When Jews complain about an obviously anti-Semitic mural in Tower Hamlets, Corbyn of course supports the artist. Hizbollah commits terrorist atrocities against Jews, but Corbyn calls them his friends and attends pro-Hizbollah rallies in London. Exactly the same goes for Hamas. Raed Salah says Jews kill Christian children to drink their blood. Corbyn opposes his extradition and invites him for tea at the House of Commons. These are not the only cases. He is repeatedly found alongside people with blatantly anti-Semitic views, but claims never to hear or read them.

Again and again, Jeremy Corbyn has sided with anti-Semites rather than Jews. At best, this derives from the far left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism, Zionists and Israel. At worst, it suggests a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy.

When Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, Jews expressed sincere and profound fears as to how such politics would impact upon their wellbeing. Our concerns were never taken seriously. Three years on, the party and British Jews are reaping the consequences.

Routine statements against anti-Semitism “and all forms of racism” get nowhere near dealing with the problem, because what distinguishes anti-Semitism from other forms of racism is the power that Jews are alleged to hold, and how they are charged with conspiring together against what is good.

This is not only historic, or about what Jeremy Corbyn did before being party leader. It is also utterly contemporary. There is literally not a single day in which Labour Party spaces, either online or in meetings, do not repeat the same fundamental anti-Semitic slanders against Jews. We are told that our concerns are faked, and done at the command of Israel and/or Zionism (whatever that means); that anti-Semitism is merely “criticism of Israel”; that we call any and all criticism of Israel “anti-Semitic”; that the Rothschilds run the world; that Isis terrorism is a fake front for Israel; that Zionists are the new Nazis; and that Zionists collaborate with Nazis.

Rightly or wrongly, Jeremy Corbyn is now the figurehead for an anti-Semitic political culture, based on obsessive hatred of Israel, conspiracy theories and fake news that is doing dreadful harm to British Jews and to the British Labour Party.

Jeremy Corbyn is the only person with the power to demand that it stops. Enough is enough.

Jewish groups attack Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism

“Enough is enough,” Jewish groups have said in a letter accusing Jeremy Corbyn of failing to tackle anti-Semitism.

The Labour leader has said he is “sincerely sorry” for the pain caused by “pockets of anti-Semitism” in the Labour Party.

Mr Corbyn said he would be meeting representatives of the Jewish community to “rebuild” confidence in his party.

However, the organisations behind the open letter are planning a protest outside Parliament later.

The letter – drawn up by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council – said there has been a “repeated institutional failure” to properly address anti-Semitism.

  • Full text: Jewish leaders’ letter
  • How the Labour anti-Semitism saga unfolded
  • What’s the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism?
  • Corbyn sorry over Labour anti-Semitism

    It accuses Mr Corbyn of being unable to “seriously contemplate anti-Semitism, because he is so ideologically fixed within a far-left world view that is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities”.

    The organisations refer to Mr Corbyn’s apparently supportive message to the creator of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural in 2012 and his attendance at “pro-Hezbollah rallies”.

    They say the Labour leader has “sided with anti-Semites” either because of “the far left’s obsessive hatred of Zionism” or “a conspiratorial worldview in which mainstream Jewish communities are believed to be a hostile entity, a class enemy”.

    The letter says those who push anti-Semitic material view Mr Corbyn as “their figurehead” and that he is “the only person with the standing to demand that all of this stops.”

    Analysis by BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith

    What is extraordinary about this letter is not just the raw anger – but the fact that they directly blame Jeremy Corbyn and his brand of politics for allowing anti-Semitism to get a hold in the Labour Party.

    They accuse him of a far-left world view which they say is instinctively hostile to mainstream Jewish communities.

    What they mean by that is a view of Israel as a sort of neo-colonialist, Imperialist power, associated with the US, oppressing Palestinians, and it is that sort of politics that has allowed anti-Semitic views to gain a hold.

    But Mr Corbyn’s supporters believe claims of anti-Semitism are ridiculous and absurd, given the leader’s anti-racism record – they say those making the accusations are using it to attack him.

    The letter will be delivered to a meeting of Labour MPs and peers, although the Labour leader is not expected to attend.

    A protest will then be held outside the Houses of Parliament, which will see a number of Labour MPs – including Liz Kendall, John Woodcock and Ian Austin – join members of the Jewish community.

    At the same time, a counter-demonstration by pro-Corbyn Jewish Labour members is due to be staged nearby.

    In a statement, the Jewish Voice for Labour group said it was “appalled” by the Board of Deputies’ letter.

    “They do not represent us or the great majority of Jews in the party who share Jeremy Corbyn’s vision for social justice and fairness. Jeremy’s consistent commitment to anti-racism is all the more needed now.”

    In a statement released on Sunday evening, Mr Corbyn said: “I want to be clear that I will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism that exists in and around our movement.

    “We must stamp this out from our party and movement.

    “We recognise that anti-Semitism has occurred in pockets within the Labour Party, causing pain and hurt to our Jewish community in the Labour Party and the rest of the country.

    “I am sincerely sorry for the pain which has been caused.”

    Mr Corbyn said he and the party – which has “deep roots in the Jewish community” – were now campaigning to “increase support and confidence in Labour” among Jewish people in Britain and he would meet members of the community in the coming days to “rebuild confidence”.

    What caused the row?

    In October 2012, street artist Mear One posted a picture of his mural in east London called “Freedom of Humanity” on Facebook – which depicted businessmen, some of them the artist says are Jewish, counting money on a board game that is balanced on the backs of hunched-over men.

    The artist wrote: “Tomorrow they want to buff my mural. Freedom of expression. London calling. Public Art.”

    Mr Corbyn replied: “Why? You are in good company. Rockefeller destroyed Diego [Rivera’s] mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”

    More recently, Labour MP Luciana Berger sought clarification from the leader’s office on the 2012 comments.

    Mr Corbyn said he regretted not looking more closely at the image, which he called “deeply disturbing”.

    He added: “I am opposed to the production of anti-Semitic material of any kind, and the defence of free speech cannot be used as a justification for the promotion of anti-Semitism in any form.”

    Mear One – whose real name is Kalen Ockerman – has denied being anti-Semitic, saying the mural was about “class and privilege”.

    Jonathan Goldstein, chairman of the Jewish Leadership Council, said the community had had enough of being ignored by Mr Corbyn.

    He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is the first time in my lifetime the Jewish community has felt the need to take to the streets to campaign against the leader of a major political party.

    “Rightly or wrongly, Jeremy Corbyn is now the figurehead for an anti-Semitic political culture based upon obsessive hatred of Israel, conspiracy theories and fake news, and that is doing great harm, not just to the Labour Party, but to Britain in a wider sense.”

    Labour MP Louise Ellman, former chairwoman of the Labour Jewish movement, said: “It’s taken Jeremy far too long to admit how wrong he has been in failing to deal with anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.”

    She told BBC Breakfast the Labour leader now had “to act and he’s got to root out the anti-Semitism that is within the Labour Party”.

    “It’s just heartbreaking to see it but he has got to do something about it now. Words won’t be enough,” she added.

    In 2016 an inquiry into anti-Semitism in the Labour party, led by Shami Chakrabarti, said the party was not overrun by racism but there was “too much clear evidence… of ignorant attitudes”.

    It followed the suspension of MP Naz Shah and ex-London mayor Ken Livingstone amid anti-Semitism claims.

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David Davis has sick bucket on hand during BBC interview

When David Davis was being grilled on the Andrew Marr Show about negotiations with the EU, something else was spotted by sharp-eyed Sunday morning viewers.

On the floor beside the under-the-weather Brexit secretary was a strategically-placed bin, acting as a makeshift sick bucket.

Thankfully he managed to navigate the interview without resorting to it.

Introducing him, Marr said Mr Davis had “struggled here despite feeling most unwell this morning”.

“If the camera suddenly switches to you, the audience will know what’s happened,” Mr Davis replied.

The Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn, who was due to appear on the BBC’s Sunday Politics, offered more details, saying the Brexit secretary was suffering from “extreme food poisoning”.

Skip Twitter post by @tnewtondunn

Tales of extreme heroics from the #Marr and #bbcsp green room about @DavidDavisMP. Suffering from severe food poisoning, threw up before and after his interview, hence the sick bucket on set.

— Tom Newton Dunn (@tnewtondunn) March 25, 2018

Report

End of Twitter post by @tnewtondunn

And it certainly didn’t escape the attention of eagle-eyed viewers.

Skip Twitter post by @KateEMcCann

Is that … has someone placed a strategic sick bin behind DD on #Marr?! I know they just said he’d been unwell this morning but he looks green!

— Kate McCann (@KateEMcCann) March 25, 2018

Report

End of Twitter post by @KateEMcCann

Skip Twitter post by @PaulBrandITV

There is a large bucket and some tissues next to David Davis on Marr 🤔🤢 pic.twitter.com/bgG4mQpUXg

— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) March 25, 2018

Report

End of Twitter post by @PaulBrandITV

Skip Twitter post by @Millar2Becky

Has David Davis' sick bucket got it's own Twitter account yet? #sickmanofeurope

— Becky Millar (@Millar2Becky) March 25, 2018

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Good of the BBC to provide David Davis with a sick bin and tissue with him on #marr today

— David (@davidcdavies2) March 25, 2018

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During the interview, Mr Davis said it was “incredibly probable” that the UK would reach a deal with the EU and compared contingency planning for a stalemate to having home insurance in case your house burns down.

Tom Watson apologises over ‘anti-Semitic’ mural row

Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson says Jeremy Corbyn was right to express regret for sending an apparently supportive message to the creator of an allegedly anti-Semitic mural.

Jeremy Corbyn faced criticism over his initial response to a Facebook post by street artist Mear One in 2012.

He later called the mural “deeply disturbing” and backed its removal.

Mr Watson also apologised personally for any hurt that had been caused by his leader’s comments.

  • Corbyn ‘regret’ over anti-Semitic mural row

    What caused the row?

    In October 2012, Mear One posted a picture of his mural in east London called “Freedom of Humanity” on Facebook, with the words: “Tomorrow they want to buff my mural. Freedom of expression. London calling. Public Art.”

    Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Watson was shown the mural and asked for his reaction to it.

    “My reaction is that is a horrible anti-Semitic mural that was rightly taken down,” he said.

    But he defended his leader – who said he regretted he “did not look more closely at the image” before commenting online – adding: “You are showing it to me on a 32-inch screen on national television and I have seen it about 100 times on social media.

    “It’s very different from seeing it on Facebook when you are on the move.”

    ‘Expressed regret’

    Mr Watson said Mr Corbyn had made his comment in regards to freedom of expression, but apologised for any offence caused.

    “I am very, very sorry that people feel hurt by this and that is why I think it is right that Jeremy has expressed regret for it,” said Mr Watson.

    The deputy leader added that it was time Labour said “enough is enough” and they would “work harder to stamp out anti-Semitism” in the party.

    Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said the mural was “grotesque and disgusting” but Mr Corbyn had given his explanation for his online comment.

    He told ITV’s Peston on Sunday: “The most important thing here is that the Labour Party keeps on saying that anti-semitism has no place in our party, in our communities, or in our society.

    “We’ve got to have zero tolerance, and zero tolerance has got to be more than two words. It’s got to dictate everything the Labour Party does in relation to anti-Semitism.”

    Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald told Sky News that Mr Corbyn “hasn’t got an anti-Semitic bone in his body” and that the row had “misinterpreted the intentions of a really good and decent man”.

    But Ms Berger called Mr Corbyn’s response “wholly inadequate”.

    She tweeted: “It fails to understand on any level the hurt and anguish felt about Anti-Semitism.

    “I will be raising this further.”

    Skip Twitter post by @LucyMPowell

    People have no idea the level and nature of the anti-Semitic abuse that @lucianaberger and others receive. We owe it to her and others to be really clear about how unacceptable it is.

    — Lucy Powell MP (@LucyMPowell) March 23, 2018

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    On Friday, Labour MP Angela Smith joined other members in supporting Ms Berger and sent a statement to the Leader’s Office, calling for Mr Corbyn to appear before MPs to explain himself.

    It read: “It is horrifying that anyone in our party – never mind the leader – should be able to condone anti-Semitism without facing consequences. And rather than facing up, Jeremy Corbyn has chosen to dissemble to defend himself.

    “It is simply not credible to suggest that a man with his knowledge of foreign affairs did not recognise those images for what they were.

    “Many of us would call for a formal disciplinary process, but the sad truth is that our party has been so badly undermined that no one would believe it would be meaningful.”

    Skip Twitter post by @YvetteCooperMP

    Strongly agree with @LucianaBerger – am really troubled by the mural, the comments & the way this was handled today. @lisanandy is right – fighting antisemitism is strong part of our tradition & values, and Labour must be better than this https://t.co/INmnUk0K0P

    — Yvette Cooper (@YvetteCooperMP) March 23, 2018

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David Davis says a deal with EU is ‘incredibly probable’

It is “incredibly probable” that the UK will reach a final deal with the EU, the Brexit secretary says.

David Davis defended planning for a stalemate, saying it was like having home insurance when “you don’t expect your house to burn down”.

He also hit back at Tory Eurosceptic concerns about what has been agreed so far.

Last week prominent backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg accused the government of giving away “almost everything”.

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    But speaking on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Davis said the UK had succeeded in getting a transition deal for the period after March 2019 and moving talks onto trade, adding: “So I don’t think Jacob’s got a point.”

    He insisted a solution could be found to avoid introducing physical border checks on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, saying a “whole lot of technology” was available to achieve this.

    And challenged on the EU’s controversial “backstop” proposal of Northern Ireland effectively remaining in the customs union, he said the “overwhelmingly likely option” was a free trade and customs agreement which would make finding a solution to the border question “much, much easier”.

    Mr Davis said the progress made in talks with Brussels meant it was now “incredibly probable, very, very highly probable” that there would be a final deal.

    But he said “you can never stop making arrangements” for a potential no-deal scenario, “because that’s one of the things that guarantees the deal”.

    “You don’t expect your house to burn down, it’s less than a one in 100,000 chance, but you have house insurance anyway,” he said.

    ‘Under our control’

    Mr Davis predicted the deal would be nothing like the current arrangements between the EU and Norway. Theresa May has already ruled out this model, which gives Norway access to the single market while accepting EU laws and free movement and making annual financial commitments to Brussels.

    “This will not really look like any other deal as it stands at the moment,” Mr Davis said, predicting “the most comprehensive trade deal ever”.

    He also sought to reassure worries about fishing rights, saying that after the end of the transition period in 2021: “We will negotiate with our surrounding states so that we have access to their waters and theirs to ours, and markets and so on, but it will be under our control.”

    Mr Rees-Mogg, meanwhile, is urging the UK to be prepared to walk out on talks and warning that rowing back on Brexit would be “the most almighty smash to the national psyche” akin to the Suez crisis, when Britain and France attempted to regain control of the Suez Canal from Egypt in 1956.

    “It would be an admission of abject failure, a view of our politicians, of our leaders, of our establishment that we were not fit, that we were too craven, that we were too weak to be able to govern ourselves and that therefore we had to go crawling back to the mighty bastion of power that is Brussels,” he will say in a speech on Tuesday.

    “As with the disaster of Suez it would end up being a national humiliation based on lies.”

Vote Leave broke spending limits in Brexit referendum, activist claims

Vote Leave broke the law during the EU referendum by exceeding legal spending limits, a Brexit activist has claimed.

Shahmir Sanni told Channel 4 News that the official Brexit campaign used a different group, BeLeave, to overspend.

Vote Leave chief Dominic Cummings has already denied the claim and said he checked with the Electoral Commission before donating money to the group.

Mr Sanni has also criticised Vote Leave manager Stephen Parkinson, his ex-boyfriend, for outing him as gay.

“I know that, that Vote Leave cheated… I know that, that people have been lied to and that the referendum wasn’t legitimate,” Mr Sanni told Channel 4 News.

BeLeave was set up to give young pro-Brexit campaigners a voice during the referendum.

Separate campaign groups could spend up to £700,000 if they registered as permitted participants.

Skip Twitter post by @BorisJohnson

Observer/C4 story utterly ludicrous, #VoteLeave won fair & square – and legally. We are leaving the EU in a year and going global #TakeBackControl #GlobalBritain

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 24, 2018

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In a blog on Friday, Mr Cummings denied allegations of links between his campaign and Cambridge Analytica and said the claims were “factually wrong, hopelessly confused, or nonsensical”.

Lawyers for AIQ told Channel 4 News that it had “never entered into a contract with Cambridge Analytica” and it had “never knowingly been involved in any illegal activity”.

‘Misleading’

In a “personal statement” issued to Channel 4 News, Stephen Parkinson denied the allegations and said he was confident he had stayed within the law and spending rules “at all times”.

He said he was “saddened” by the “factually incorrect and misleading” statements from Mr Sanni, who now works for the Taxpayer’s Alliance.

Earlier, Mr Sanni said – in a statement issued through his lawyers – that Mr Parkinson had outed him as gay in his original response.

Mr Sanni, a British Pakistani, said he was forced to tell his family and that relatives in Pakistan could be in danger as a result.

Skip Twitter post 2 by @Channel4News

“The idea… that the campaign was legitimate is false.” A Brexit insider accuses Vote Leave of cheating – in response the PM’s political secretary denies the claims and “outs” the accuser as gay. #TheBrexitWhistleblower https://t.co/NWMQSmElof pic.twitter.com/uM8koUk7Ta

— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) March 24, 2018

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In his original statement, published on Mr Cummings’ blog on Friday, Mr Parkinson said he dated Mr Sanni for 18 months, before splitting up in September 2017.

“That is the capacity in which I gave Shahmir advice and encouragement, and I can understand if the lines became blurred for him, but I am clear that I did not direct the activities of any separate campaign groups,” he said.

Mr Grimes told Channel 4 News he denied the allegations.

A solicitor for Vote Leave told the programme the campaign had been cleared twice on this issue by the Electoral Commission.

The Electoral Commission said: “The commission has a number of investigations open in relation to campaigners at the EU referendum; it does not comment on live investigations.”

Green Party joint leader Caroline Lucas told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “This is a really complex network – but big, big questions need to be asked and it goes much wider than just the referendum.”

But Brexit campaigning Tory MP John Redwood told Sky News Vote Leave had twice been cleared of breaching the rules.

He added: “If it’s got to be investigated again, well then, so be it. But I think most people out there feel we had a perfectly fair referendum.”