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Twitter could flag lies by politicians with ‘bright orange’ labels



Twitter could add bright orange and red labels to tweets that include lies and misinformation.

The plan is just one of a range of plans being considered by Twitter to cut down on the spread of false stories, according to a leak.

A design mock-up obtained by NBC News shows how verified fact-checkers and journalists can highlight incorrect tweets directly below the original post.

There also appears to be a way for others to add their feedback, with a Participate button.

Misinformation was under the spotlight during the 2019 general election and continues to be a concern as the US prepares for the presidential election later this year.


Offending material is described as harmfully misleading in a tab underneath, which reads: “Twitter community reports have identified this tweet as violating the community policy on harmfully misleading information.

“This tweet’s visibility will be reduced.”

The mock-up examples include a tweet by US presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders about gun background checks and another by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy regarding whistleblowers.

Twitter confirmed it is currently in the very early stages of considering the feature, so early that the project is not even staffed yet, the tech giant claims.

“We’re exploring a number of ways to address misinformation and provide more context for tweets on Twitter,” a spokeswoman said.

“This is a design mock-up for one option that would involve community feedback.

“Misinformation is a critical issue and we will be testing many different ways to address it.”

Additional reporting by agencies



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Politics

Brexit: Leave voters mark EU exit with raucous celebrations and boos for pro-Europe politicians



Thousands of Brexit supporters descended on Parliament Square to mark Britain’s official departure from the European Union on Friday night, even though it had felt for weeks as though the moment might pass without notice.

After years of bitter debate and infighting, the Withdrawal Agreement passed with little fanfare last week and, in a fit of restraint, Boris Johnson and his government settled for a muted celebration of the UK’s exit. In an address shortly before the appointed hour, the prime minister acknowledged many would have “a sense of anxiety and loss”.

There were to be no fireworks, no bongs and no smug chest-beating. Brexit Day would be an opportunity for reconciliation in a country that is still divided; in Scotland, candlelit vigils were held in several cities and one SNP MP urged Brussels to “leave a light on” for the nation, which voted overwhelmingly to remain.


However, sympathy did not reign in a sodden Parliament Square on Friday night, where celebrations more closely resembled the aftermath of a football match.

Across the square, middle-aged men dressed in Union flag attire, many carrying beer cans, could be heard spontaneously breaking into hearty cries of “Independence Day!” or, more simply, “Brexit!”

In place of Big Ben, which remained silent, a homemade “Little Ben” – a combination of a bell and a bass drum – was rung incessantly.

More extreme pro-Brexit factions were represented most notably by a man carrying an antisemitic sign decrying “fake” media companies “funded” by billionaire George Soros. Another held a placard reading: “Lock up the traitors”.

At a stall near Little Ben, a group called the Sovereign Citizens Alliance called for a 2020 Restoration Bill to bring back Britons’ “God-given rights”, with demands including a ban on EU flags on official buildings, an end to “the cultural Marxist agenda” and the right to carry firearms in the UK.

Figureheads, supposed or real, of the Remain camp – like Tony Blair, the BBC and John Major – were booed in pantomime fashion when mentioned, while an all-star cast of Brexiteer celebrities, including Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin, MP Peter Bone and writer Julia Hartley-Brewer, were each given a hero’s welcome when they addressed the crowd.

Yet as the night went on and the square filled, it became clear that this would be a largely good-natured celebration.

The main feeling was a sense of relief, if not disbelief, that Brexit was finally happening. “I voted to leave in 1975 so I’ve been at this for a long time,” Louise, a 73-year-old Brexit supporter, told The Independent. “It’s quite emotional really – it’s getting our country back.”

“I’m not thinking it’s going to be the answer to everything, but at least we’ll be making our own minds up rather than being told what to do by someone else.”

Her husband Gordon, 77, who came to Britain from Ireland in 1988 and said he had supported Brexit for decades, agreed. “There’ll be hard times, but there would be hard times if we were still in the EU and the point is we make our own decisions and make our own mistakes,” he said.

Kevin O’Neil, a 68-year-old from Wallington, south London, said he came to Parliament Square to be part of history. “It’s such a historic evening, we’ve got our independence back or at least we’re on the way,” he told The Independent. As for what he wanted to see now, he added: “Ideally, Nigel [Farage] for PM, but that isn’t going to happen, I guess. But then again, people said this wouldn’t happen.”

There was at least one undercover Remainer in the crowd. The man, who gave his name as Nick, told The Independent: “I wanted to get a feel for what the opposition is like because nobody I know voted Leave.

“Walking through the crowd, I remember [Channel 4 newsreader] Jon Snow got in trouble for saying: ‘My god I haven’t seen so many white people.’ I think it’s true today.”

Speakers on stage hammered home their message about ordinary people taking down the establishment, and some called for unity across the country – though that sentiment jarred with the more extreme slogans spotted among the crowd.

When Nigel Farage finally emerged to thunderous applause, he summed up the mood in similarly broad-brush terms. “Remember this, what happens now marks the point of no return. We are never going back,” he told supporters. “The rest, in a sense, becomes detail.”

EU leaders issue Brexit warning as they lament UK’s imminent exit

Brexit is done – technically. But so much of Mr Johnson’s work is still ahead of him, and it remains to be seen whether the eventual outcome is what these jubilant Leave voters envisioned when they cast their ballots.

The prime minister must now negotiate trade deals with Brussels, Donald Trump’s Washington, and other capitals, balancing all their demands against the living standards Britons have become used to over half a century of EU membership.

As the clock struck 11, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, insisted that “we’re ambitious, confident and optimistic”. While he said he believed Brexit could be a “stunning success”, his boss felt compelled to warn that there would be “bumps in the road ahead”.



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Politics

Sorry Keir Starmer, the people don’t want more power, they just want better politicians



The lot in life of a would-be Labour leader in January 2020 is a difficult one.

All sounds emanating from within the party agree quite rightly that it must “reconnect” with the public as a matter of urgency.

But the public has made abundantly clear that it does not want to be reconnected with.

It shouldn’t be controversial, or a slight on the good name of Brexiteers, to say that the public knows more about Brexit – about the customs union, the single market, alignment, divergence and all the rest of it – than it did at the time it voted for it.

It also shouldn’t be controversial to suggest what all polling on the subject also suggests that the public, on balance, accepts there will be an economic cost to Brexit, but that it wants it done anyway.


It is not an unfair interpretation of the 2019 general election result, and the vindication of the promise to “Get Brexit done”, to say that it was the public literally paying the politicians to go away.

Here. Take my money. Just leave me alone. I can’t take any more. It was a vote to be put out of one’s misery. It was the mangled fox, limping and howling all the way to the polling station to cast its desperate vote for the Please Come Back And Reverse Over Me Party.

As far as the public is concerned, the torture is now over. Our fate is sealed.

It is, in short, a difficult time to be reaching again for the torturer’s instruments, as Keir Starmer, in particular, seems so desperate to do.

If the question is: How do we win back voters who have just voted to make themselves poorer and their lives harder as a willing price to pay for a moment’s peace from us?

It is fair to suggest that the answer, perhaps, is not the one Starmer has come up with and has launched today. Which is – deep breath now – “a new constitutional settlement…building a new long-term political and constitutional consensus… built on the principle of federalism.”

This, apparently, is “the only way to restore trust in politics.” Starmer wants more power for local and regional authorities, a proper federal structure of government for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and so on and so forth and stop me if you think that you have heard this one before.

Empowering him and her, devolving this and that, is a noble sentiment. In theory, everybody likes democracy. But in practice, there is no shortage of evidence that people frankly do not want more politics in their lives. This has been tried in recent years, with, for example, regions electing their own police and crime commissioners, and absolutely nobody voting for any of them. 

In 2002, the people of Hartlepool responded to the thrilling obligation of being able to directly elect their own mayor by returning to office a man dressed up in the official monkey costume of the local football club. When, in 2009, he was re-elected for a third consecutive term, the council responded – not entirely unfairly – by abolishing the position.

Of course, Starmer knows that Labour has no hope of governing again unless it wins back support in Scotland, and though you can’t blame a man for trying, it is hard to see that this is the answer. Way back in 1997, many Scottish unionists could be found warning that ultimately devolution would be the gateway to independence – that given more power, the SNP would only ever use its power to further its sole objective. Such warnings were not without merit.  

It is very hard to see how a federal UK would return centre left SNP-minded voters to the Labour fold. It is easier to see how it would assist the nationalist cause.

More generally, it’s not actually simply the case that voters want to be left alone.

The trust that has been lost in politics is simultaneously very easy to restore and nigh on impossible. You just need trustworthy politicians. You cannot give the voters a choice between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson and expect them to respond with anything other than revulsion. 

It is distinctly possible that politics is about to re-enter a more normal, more boring phase. A government with a majority, going about its business, and an opposition with a leader, capable of scrutinising it.

Should Starmer win the Labour leadership race, he will find he doesn’t have to think that hard about how to restore people’s faith in politics. Not being Corbyn will be transformative enough, as will running a functioning opposition.

That, really, is all that the people want: confidence in the people they vote for to do their job, not more of that responsibility devolved to them. It may just be that Starmer is the answer to his own problem.



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Culture

The Trial of Christine Keeler, review: A timely, scandalous story about sleazy politicians



At last, in a sea of festive remakes and reunions, an original drama, albeit on a subject that has been treated before. The Profumo affair, in which John Profumo, the minister for war, had an affair with a 19-year-old and lied about it, rocked 1960s Britain and ultimately helped bring down Harold Macmillan’s government. It popped up briefly in The Crown and before that there was Scandal, the 1989 film starring Ian McKellen and John Hurt, and an odd 2013 Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, Stephen Ward. If anything, it’s surprising it hasn’t already been given a proper TV adaptation. The story’s mix of attractive young women, celebrities, violence, aristocrats, country houses and sleazy politicians gives it a powerful grip on the British imagination. Julian Fellowes must feel he has been asleep at the wheel.

Where previous versions focused on the men, The Trial of Christine Keeler (BBC1) is told from her point of view. It’s written by Amanda Coe, who knows the terrain. In 2008, she wrote another film about a controversial woman in the Sixties, Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story. Sophie Cookson plays Keeler as a vampish but vulnerable 19-year-old, with few illusions about what she wants from London and what it wants from her. Whenever she runs out of money, which is often, or she gets a call from her hard-up mother, there is a man ready to lend her a tenner. It’s a charismatic performance, sympathetic enough to hold the viewer’s interest without pretending Keeler was an ingenue.

The chronology is jumbled up, seemingly in order to get the infamous Cliveden swimming pool scene in as near to the start as possible. The sex, spies and shooting are one thing, but the pool marked the Profumo affair as truly salacious. A pool? In Berkshire? Pass the smelling salts. We see the fateful meeting, as Profumo (Ben Miles) witnesses Keeler emerging naked from the water. She meets his gaze and the wheels are set in motion.


Then the action cuts back to how it came about. James Norton’s Ward is a charming, handsome osteopath, obsessed with the aristocracy and conscious of being a minor public schoolboy. He meets Keeler when she’s working as a topless dancer in Soho. The two form a friendship based on a similar hunger for the high life. “We’re twins,” he says, towards the end of the first episode. “No we’re not,” she replies. The script obliges Norton to call Keeler “Little darling” an irritating number of times, but other than that he strikes a plausible mix of protective and scheming, as he sashays between his mid-century bachelor pad and various grand homes.

With six hour-long episodes to play with, The Trial of Christine Keeler has space to develop its characters beyond the headlines, and for Coe to tease out subtexts about racism, sexism, and nuclear anxiety alongside the central theme of powerful men abusing their positions. Admonished by a lover for a suit so tight that it reveals his penis, Profumo muses that after the bloodless Macmillan, the British public might be ready for a prime minister with a “working todger”. It’s a horribly timely thought.



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‘Profound disconnect between people and politicians’: Major decisions deferred as marathon Madrid climate summit grinds to a close



International talks that aimed to progress action to tackle climate change have left vulnerable nations, environmental groups and young people across the world deeply disappointed.

COP25, which was held in Madrid after a last-minute move from Chile, was intended to iron out the final details of the 2015 Paris Agreement and encourage countries to submit more ambitious national carbon-cutting plans next year.

But a fraught negotiation process, which highlighted the disparities between poor and wealthy nations and between those willing and reticent to act, elicited growing anger as it went deep into extra time over the weekend.

Diplomats managed to agree on some issues in the final sleep-deprived 48 hours, including an updated gender action plan that recognises the impact of climate change on human rights, historic and current gender inequalities and the importance of intersectionality.

And, despite numerous attempts to weaken it, the final agreement re-emphasised the “significant gap” between national promises to cut carbon and the amount that is actually needed to stave off dangerous warming, stressing “the urgency of enhanced ambition in order to ensure the highest possible mitigation and adaptation efforts by all parties”.

But several key issues were deferred to next year’s summit in Glasgow.

A decision on international carbon market rules proved intractable as countries argued over the issue of double counting and whether to allow overperformance in previous emission trading schemes to count towards future targets.

While business organisations were disappointed not to have a clearer idea of how carbon markets would work, some observers welcomed the postponement on the basis that no rules were better than bad ones.

Sébastien Duyck, senior attorney at the Centre for International Environmental Law, said the final proposals had threatened to undermine human rights and would have been too weak to be truly effective in cutting emissions.

Countries agreed to do more work on the thorny issue of loss and damage but did not approve any new source of finance to compensate vulnerable countries for climate change.

Instead, part of the existing Green Climate Fund was siphoned off to deal with loss and damage, while organisations and nations were “urged” to do more.

The US, which is due to leave the Paris Agreement next year, was singled out for obstructing progress on this issue.

Ian Fry, negotiator for the vulnerable island nation of Tuvalu, denounced the US’s attitude during the summit’s final meeting and said that “refusing to support those most impacted could constitute a crime against humanity”.

According to Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, which organised a string of NGO-led events during the two-week summit, the final outcome showed a “profound disconnect between people and politicians on the climate emergency”.

As the talks wore on, thousands of protesters marched in the streets of Madrid and scientists warned that much more had to be done to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C.

Some directed their criticism squarely at the summit’s Chilean presidency.

Greenpeace Chile’s national director Matias Asun said: “Chile lost a perfect opportunity to show climate leadership.

“The real progress was made by people moving forward for real changes while pushing those who passively watching our environment been destroyed.”

But Laurence Tubiana, CEO of the European Climate Foundation and a key architect of the Paris Agreement, said that while the results were “a far cry from what science tells us is needed”, it still achieved the “best possible outcome” thanks to a progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American countries.

The UK will host the next international summit in Glasgow in November 2020 and expectations will be high.

Mary Church, from Friends of the Earth Scotland, said the UN “must put pressure” on the new UK government to ensure the voices of those most affected by the climate crisis are not excluded.

“The COP in Glasgow will serve as a rallying cry for all who care about our planet and the fate of peoples all over the world,” said Church. “The eyes of the world will be on us.”



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My three-week hunger strike is a desperate last resort – this is the climate crisis election and politicians have to start listening



I have gone without food for nearly three weeks. I am putting my body on the line, outside in the cold every day. But in the eye of the climate and ecological catastrophe we are facing, this is nothing. Time is running out.

My hunger strike is an act of personal desperation, a last resort. As a lecturer, I am meant to prepare young people for the future, but what future can I prepare them for? 

Part of the global hunger strike with Extinction Rebellion, we are peacefully protesting outside UK political party headquarters in London demanding candidates and parties acknowledge the urgency of this crisis and commit to act now.  Without real action, billions of people risk starvation and death from climate and ecological collapse. This crisis will not wait.​

In the opening ceremony of this year’s climate summit in Madrid, the UN secretary general said current human behaviour is a “war against nature” and warned that we are near to the point of no return. We need to remember that we are nature.  

Scientists are warning that we have pushed our planet beyond several tipping points towards unstoppable destructive feedback loops. More than 11,000 scientists have declared a global climate emergency. Yet our government is still failing to react anywhere near fast enough. 

We have asked to meet leaders of political parties and for them to support to the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, known as The Three Demands Bill. The government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, act now to halt biodiversity loss and reach net-zero carbon by 2025, and establish and be led by a citizens’ assembly on climate and ecological justice.

Going on a hunger strike is a privilege. I choose not to eat, but 820 million people do not have this choice: they simply don’t have food. Temperature rises and extreme weather – already causing fires, droughts, floods and mass displacement – will cause global food shortages and instability. Some 45 million people in southern Africa face a food crisis in the next six months. It’s a reality we all face. Temperature rises and extreme weather – already causing fires, droughts, floods and mass displacement – will cause mass crop failure, rising food prices, global food shortages and instability. The risk of multi-breadbasket failure is increasing. Floods and heatwaves have already affected our ability to grow crops here. As a country that imports half of all its food, how will we survive?  

I am aware that I am fortunate: right now I have access to food, I can choose to eat or not, I have a healthy and, usually strong, body, and a wide network of friends and family.

We all have a choice of how we use our privilege, whether for our own private benefit or to fight for change now to protect our precious world today and for future generations. 

I now start the careful refeeding process, slowly eating again, with continued medical advice and check-ups. I am slower and feel weak, but strong in my head and heart. It has laid my emotions bare as I can’t swallow them down with food, or comfort myself to not feel emotions of fear and grief, but I also receive gifts of love and connection. I find comfort in friends and rich conversations with passers-by. We need to understand how vulnerable we are and how much we need each other in the web of life we are part of.

This crisis is not something in far away countries or in the distant future: the crisis is here, and it is affecting us now. The only practical way forward is to come together in humility, with all our differences, and build resilience. That goes for politicians too.

Some 60 election candidates support the Three Demands Bill, with numbers growing daily. Deputy leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats have spoken with us, and we had a one-hour meeting with the deputy leader and other senior members of the Green Party, but we are waiting to meet the party leaders. Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price is the first leader to have met with us to seriously discuss supporting the bill.


Climate change protesters glue themselves to Lib Dem electric bus

The Conservatives have not engaged at all during the 21 days we’ve been outside their headquarters. Grandfathers Peter, 76, and Marko, 67, are continuing their hunger strike into the fourth week and until the election outside Tory party headquarters and continue to invite Boris Johnson to come and speak  to them.

Urgent action is needed now. 

We are voting this week and we desperately need politicians to use the power they hold to mitigate against the worst crisis humanity has ever faced, right now. This is not just another election. It is THE climate election.

Petra Metzger is an Extinction Rebellion activist and a lecturer in art and design at Central Saint Martins​



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Brexit: Modern politicians show ‘unprecedented readiness to lie’, says Tusk



Modern politicians have shown an “unprecedented readiness to lie”, Donald Tusk has claimed while reflecting on the Brexit campaign.

Speaking for the first time since stepping down as president of the European Council, Mr Tusk said Brexit has been “one of the most spectacular mistakes” in the history of the European Union.

In an interview with The Guardian and six other European newspapers, he said Brexit was the “most painful and saddest experience” of his time in office.

Referring to the 2016 US presidential race and the Brexit campaign, Mr Tusk said a new element in politics was “the unprecedented readiness to lie on almost everything…to treat a lie as a justifiable tool to win”.

He said this “shameless” behaviour would have disqualified politicians 10 years ago.

Asked by The Guardian to specify who he had in mind, Mr Tusk said: “I don’t want to be too spectacular in my first interview…I have enough problems in my own country with professional and pathological liars.”

Just last month, Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay said he was “dismayed” by comments made about the UK by Mr Tusk.

He was referring to a speech in which Mr Tusk appeared to back Boris Johnson’s opponents ahead of the general election by advising campaigners not to give up on stopping Brexit.

Mr Tusk said the UK would become “an outsider, a second-rate player” after it left the EU, and said a friend who suggested it was “the real end of the British Empire” was probably right.

Mr Barclay said the speech showed there was a “total disregard for democracy from some of those at the top of the EU machine”.

Speaking on the second day of his job as president of the European People’s party, Mr Tusk told Spanish newspaper El Pais on Thursday that he felt Brexit “has been a lesson”.

“That is why no one in Europe is thinking seriously about an exit,” he claimed.

In October 2016, Mr Tusk said: “The brutal truth is that Brexit will be a loss for all of us. There will be no cakes on the table for anyone. There will be only salt and vinegar.”

While in February this year, he said: “By the way, I have been wondering what that special place in hell looks like for those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan to carry it (out) safely.”

Additional reporting by Press Association.



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Business Your Money

General election: What the politicians want from your money



The countdown is on, the polling cards are out and the bizarre round of televised debates are well under way, complete with the controversy and ridicule we’ve come to expect from a modern election circus.

But behind all the bluster and point-scoring are the policies that could make a massive difference to your money in 2020 and for years to come. So now that the key manifestos are in, here are the plans you need to know about before you put your mark in a box on 12 December.

Tax, pay and income

Elections can be won and lost on the tax giveaways dangled over the voting public, regardless of quite how they will be paid for.

This time around, unsurprisingly, it’s all about income, says Laura Suter, personal finance analyst for AJ Bell.  

“National insurance rates have rarely been so discussed as the past week and the Tory manifesto makes clear that they would raise the threshold at which you pay the tax from the current £8,632 to £9,500 in 2020-21. Despite Boris Johnson previously pledging the £2.5bn plan would save taxpayers £500 a year, this initial move will save between £85 and £100, depending on whose estimates you believe.”

That’s quite a shift from Boris’s previous pledge to move the rate at which people pay the 40 per cent rate of income tax from £50,000 to £80,000, which would only benefit those earning £50,000 or more. By shifting national insurance rates rather than income tax thresholds Johnson extends the giveaway to the lowest earners, in particular those earning less than the current £12,500 personal allowance.

“Unlike Labour, the Conservatives have committed to not raising national insurance, income tax and VAT, echoing the same pledge made in their 2015 manifesto.”

Labour plans to cut the 45 per cent income tax threshold from £150,000 to just £80,000. They also want to introduce a new 50 per cent rate for those earning more than £125,000 in a move that would cost taxpayers £5.4bn.

“[Labour’s] pledge to bring capital gains and dividends into the income tax regime will raise £14bn for the government,” notes Suter. “The move to crack down on dividends will hit business owners who pay themselves through dividends rather than income, but also investors, with the capital gains tax allowance being slashed from £12,000 to £1,000 – which will cost up to £4,400 a year for those earning £50,000 or more.”

They’re not the only ones aiming to level the playing field between income from investments and employment. The Liberal Democrats would also scrap the capital gains tax (CGT) allowance and instead tax gains in the same way as income.

The move could see higher earners pay tax on their investments gains rise from 20 per cent to 40 per cent or even 45 per cent. Income tax would also increase by 1p in a bid to secure much needed funding for social care and the NHS.

The Green Party too, would simplify the tax system by going a step further to merge national insurance, CGT, inheritance tax, dividend and income tax so that everything we earned was taxed at the same rate, regardless of where we got the money from.

Their biggest play, though, is the universal basic income. Set at £89 a week and paid to everyone regardless of age, employment status or income level, it would be a £86bn giveaway benefiting women and unpaid carers in particular.

Despite serious failings in the roll out of universal credit, there is also little from the Tories on changes to benefits. While protecting retirees, no change to benefits affecting families would mean a staggering 34 per cent of children would be living in poverty by the end of the next parliament under a Conservative government, think-tank Resolution Foundation warned this week. Slightly more generous changes by the Lib Dems and Labour would only see the current numbers stabilise.

Labour has also pledged to scrap universal credit altogether, though isn’t clear about what would replace it.

Pensions

Seeing as the state pension hasn’t been mentioned at all in the Tory manifesto document, it’s clear they have no plans to alter current policies or battle Labour’s headline bid to compensate the “1950s women” who have suffered from rapid state pension age rises.

Labour would offer them a restitution package worth £58bn and freeze the state pension age at 66. That’s despite the latest studies suggesting the state retirement age will have to increase to age 70 in light of the ageing population. Within the next 20 years, the number of people over the state pension age is set to grow by 4 million.

All three of the main parties promise to maintain the controversial triple lock however, which links the state pension to the highest of average earnings, inflation and 2.5 per cent. In other words, the rise in the real value of the state pension will continue to increase randomly.

“Looking through the Lib Dem manifesto it is good to see they are proposing an overhaul of bereavement benefits,” adds Helen Morrissey, pension specialist at Royal London.

“However, comparing this manifesto to the one issued in 2017 it is telling that their proposals to overhaul the pension tax relief system are no longer included.”

The Lib Dems also mention the 1950s women, saying they should be compensated “in line with the parliamentary ombudsman’s recommendations.”

Finally, given its cross-party support, the pension dashboard – which aims to give UK residents information about all their retirement savings and income forecasts in one place – still looks set to become reality. Labour wants it to be state-run while the Tories would allow private sector providers to offer their own versions.

Property

Property is always a touchy subject for the British, especially to voters who don’t have a suitable home – either rented or owned.

Housing is a devolved matter, so one of Labour’s biggest promises for this election – to the English at least – is to build 100,000 council homes and 50,000 housing association properties every year. That would mean a huge hike in production at a time when high levels of employment and plans to restrict movement of workers thanks to Brexit poses some fundamental questions about who would build them.

If the party came to power, the plan would see the biggest property building boom since the post-war period.

Meanwhile, through a new Department for Housing, Labour would introduce rent controls, linking rental costs to inflation and improve other rights and conditions for private renters. Landlords argue added costs would force up rents.

The Greens would also introduce rent controls, while also making landlords pay council tax and scrapping Help to Buy in favour of spending the £1bn annual cost on building council homes.

The Lib Dems propose a radical policy linking stamp duty to energy usage in a bid to help tackle climate change through tax incentives.

But the Tories are steering well clear of stamp duty and the previous pledge to cut the tax for all buyers of property worth less than £500,000. Instead, the party plans to target first-time buyers by coming up with improved terms for renters and an alternative to the Help to Buy scheme.


Labour Party election pledges: Corbyn says ‘rich and powerful don’t own the Labour party’

Care

The Conservatives are also very vague about how they would solve the social care crisis, kicking this massive issue into the long grass with emergency funding of £1bn a year until a cross-party agreement is pinned down. The party has previously made clear that no-one should have to sell their home to pay for care.

Labour has come up with a bolder National Care Service, focused on free care for those who need every day help, though how affordable that would be remains unclear. Healthcare is devolved, so once again this would only apply in England. Scotland already operates this system, but was dismissed for England by 20 years ago by a Labour government that decided it was too expensive. 

The Lib Dems have only really mentioned a cap on care costs. 

But this election is about three things – Brexit, climate change and family care. And alongside the social care giveaways, all three major parties have come out fighting on the issue of childcare costs.

The Lib Dems would extend our current free childcare to include infants from nine months old in a £14bn commitment. Labour would boost childcare funding by “extending” childcare provision from the age of one year as well as extending maternity and paternity pay. The Tories would provide an additional £1bn, largely for after-school and holiday care.

The Greens would raise child benefit to a blanket £70 a week for each of the first two children worth around £5,500 a year, and offer 35 hours of free childcare for those aged nine months and older, which could be worth up to £32,500 a year.

Suter notes: “Other Green party manifesto pledges will affect people’s finances at the edges, including a frequent flier tax, for those who take more than one flight a year; higher costs for petrol and diesel; reduced costs for staycations; and more levies on plastic products at the supermarket.”



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Asia Pacific World

Meet 5 of Hong Kong’s Newest Politicians


HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s district council election saw the pro-establishment camp have one of its biggest defeats since the territory returned to Chinese control 22 years ago, as dozens of seasoned politicians were replaced with a crop of newcomers, many of whom were inspired to run by the antigovernment protests.

The district councils are local advisory bodies that do not hold any lawmaking power, but the lopsided results were seen as a strong public endorsement of the continuing protest movement. Several newly elected district council members seized on the demands of the demonstrators as part of their campaign platforms, and seem eager to push their roles beyond the usual remit of neighborhood noise complaints and sanitation problems.

Here’s a look at five of the most interesting new district councilors and what they have to say:

Mr. Siu, 40, embraced the image of a protester in his campaign. A campaign photo features him in a yellow hard hat, goggles and a gas mask with his fingers extended to represent the demands of the protest movement, including calling for an investigation into use of force by the police, amnesty for arrested protesters and expanded democracy.

Mr. Siu said he ran for the sake of his 2-year-old daughter, but had not expected to win. “I am no super man, not a social worker, not someone who speaks out for the people,” he wrote on Facebook. “But I hope that others can stand up for themselves, and I want to create a platform to give others the platform to speak up.”

Ms. Chau, 23, who works as a relationship manager at a bank in North Point, was arrested in August while live-streaming a protest, but she was never charged. She subsequently received harassing phone calls and was shoved and punched in the head while campaigning in October, one of several candidates on both sides who was assaulted during the campaign.

She condemned the authorities for failing to respond adequately to the violence surrounding the campaign. “We are innocent people who’ve been attacked,” she said.

Ms. Chau defeated Hui Ching On, 53, a financial consultant who had held the seat since 1999. HK01, a Hong Kong news outlet, reported that during the previous four years, Mr. Hui had only spoken for 80 seconds during district council meetings.

Mr. Sham, 32, was another candidate who was assaulted during the campaign. He was attacked by a group of men with hammers last month and continues to use crutches to walk.

As a leader of the Civil Human Rights Front, an umbrella group of pro-democracy organizations, Mr. Sham helped organize several large, peaceful marches this summer. He was attacked previously, in August, on a day when the police announced they were banning plans for another march.

Ray Chan, a pro-democracy lawmaker who is gay, celebrated the victory of Mr. Sham, who is also gay, on a day that several establishment politicians who had opposed same-sex marriage and made homophobic comments had lost their district council races.

Mr. Sham said that his own victory in the district race reflected a broader yearning for civic freedoms. “We are trying to listen to the demands of the people and to fight for their rights,” he said.

Public criticism of the police and the officers’ use of force have been animating issues of the protest movement. Few embodied the issue more than Ms. Yau, 36, who formerly served as a police officer but quit this year after more than a decade on the force.

“This year, I have decided to take off my uniform and gear, and stand together with Hong Kongers,” she said in announcing her campaign.

Ms. Yau defeated Yolanda Ng, who had held the seat since 2007 and ran uncontested four years ago.

“The Hong Kong police force has become a political tool,” Ms. Yau wrote last week, adding that “police brutality and indiscriminate arrests have clearly illustrated the inseparable relationship between politics and society.”

With his handwritten candidate introduction, Mr. Chan, a 27-year-old student, showed he was a political novice with no powerful backing. But despite his inexperience, he defeated Chris Ip, 39, a prominent figure in the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, the largest pro-Beijing party.

Mr. Ip, who was the chairman of the Yau Tsim Mong district council, became a target of protesters in July after he blocked debate on the extradition bill that incited the protests this summer.

Reporting was contributed by Tiffany May, Katherine Li and Elaine Yu.



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Play criticising Tory politicians for role in ‘Trojan Horse’ inquiry to be performed in parliament



A play that criticises Conservative politicians for their heavy-handed role in the “Trojan Horse” inquiry into alleged Islamist extremism in Birmingham schools is going to parliament

Former education secretary Michael Gove, who was in charge when the allegations of a hardline Islamist takeover of schools emerged, is among the MPs being invited to the show.

The co-writers of the documentary drama want politicians and policy makers to hear the stories of members of the Muslim community who were left “broken” by the events in 2014.

Several schools in the Birmingham were investigated after an unsigned and undated letter claimed that extreme Islamists were plotting to take control of them. 

But teachers alleged to be behind the so-called “Trojan Horse” scandal were cleared of professional misconduct in 2017 after the government’s lawyers made errors in the case.

The play, which uses direct quotes from teachers, students, parents and governors affected by the allegations, will head to the houses of parliament in January.

Helen Monks, co-writer of the play, said: “People who have been so sidelined by Trojan Horse to literally be occupying parliament is going to feel like a real political act.”

If Mr Gove, who appointed a former Met Police head of counterterrorism to lead the independent investigation into the allegations, does not attend the play the creators say they will “empty chair him”.

Ms Monks added: “Taking the play to parliament is an opportunity to say the reason this happened is because of something much wider. Particularly taking it to the halls of where that problem stems. 

“Racism is always seen as a white working-class problem but actually what we found when researching the show is the main culprits are in the halls of Whitehall.”

On Saturday, the show will be performed to the residents of Alum Rock in Birmingham – the community which was damaged by the allegations – for the first time.

Ms Monks said: “The fact that Trojan Horse has just been laid to rest as an assumed truth is a scandal. 

“We wanted people to recognise the establishment is to blame for this. There are some individuals in Birmingham who should be held to account but for the majority they have been left broken by this.”

Razwan Faraz, was one of the school leaders who was sacked in 2014 after he was accused of extremist intentions. But the case against him was dropped in 2017 after lawyers representing the Department for Education failed to disclose any evidence.

Speaking to The Independent, Mr Faraz said: “This play has created a space to enable the community to feel that their vulnerability is being listened to. It was a legitimate wrongdoing that happened towards teachers, parents, the community and children. 

He added: “I think a real in-depth report needs to be done to look at who were the key players that pushed this against a particular community.”

The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.



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