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Unions: May under pressure to take tougher stance on strikers…

On strike“Theresa May was under mounting pressure last night to take a stand against union barons who are planning a Christmas of discontent. Senior Tory figures including party grandees and two Cabinet ministers said it was clear the unions were waging a ‘politically motivated’ attack on the public and the Government. One claimed Mrs May was ‘infirm of purpose’ in the face of union provocation. Amid continuing Southern Railway strikes which leave up to 300,000 passengers a day stranded, there were demands for emergency laws to enforce ‘proportionate’ industrial action that does not bring key services to a standstill.” – Daily Mail

  • Downing Street distances itself from Grayling’s call for anti-strike laws – The Guardian
  • Furious Tories want plans to make it harder for essential services to strike – The Sun
  • Transport Secretary in combative mood to deal with rail union bosses – The Guardian
  • Prime Minister is ‘no Thatcher’, says Mellor – Daily Telegraph
  • Employers plan talks as transport chaos looms – FT

…as McDonnell heaps praise on union ‘blighting Christmas’

“John McDonnell vowed to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with union militants in their plot to wreck Christmas with coordinated strikes, the Daily Mail can reveal. In a text message to strike leaders, the shadow chancellor wrote: ‘Whether it is in Parliament or on the picket line, Jeremy Corbyn and I will be there with you. Solidarity.’ Calling the firebrands ‘brothers and sisters’, he added: ‘I send solidarity greetings to all those workers engaged in struggle. From the rail workers, to the teaching assistants to the junior doctors.” – Daily Mail

  • Corbyn celebrates ‘tide’ of strikes at party – Daily Mail
  • Abbott defends Christmas strikes – The Guardian
  • Union boss is Labour leader’s ‘puppet master’ – The Independent
  • Christmas strikes will turn public against you, Labour MP warns unions – The Times (£)
  • Now postmen threaten wildcat walkout – Daily Mail

More Labour:

  • Momentum push for rule change which would make pro-Corbyn First Minister more likely – Wales Online
  • Abbott refuses to say if she’ll take oath to the Queen – Daily Mail
  • Miliband and Cable want Murdoch’s bid for Sky blocked – The Independent

Charles Moore: Corbyn wants to turn the unions into the spearhead of the left

Jeremy Corbyn (Tory Poster)“The trade union movement used to have a supposedly unbeatable combination known as the Triple Alliance. Thanks to the incompetence of Mr Corbyn’s old friend Arthur Scargill, Mrs Thatcher defeated the miners’ union in 1985. That left only a Double Alliance. But those two – the unreformed railway unions and the mighty Unite – are doing their worst to make Mr Corbyn prime minister. Sean Hoyle, president of the RMT rail union, has explicitly declared that the purpose is to “bring down this bloody working-class-hating Tory government”. This is useful for the rest of us to know.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Labour MPs’ humiliation of Corbyn suggests a fury born of despair

Public Finances 1) Ministers pressed over questionable quango spending

“Ministers have been left with ‘serious questions to answer’ after the Mail exposed how fat cat officials responsible for billions of pounds of public money were handing cash to their colleagues’ firms, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said last night. The Mail revealed earlier this month how more than £3.7billion of public money handed to bodies called Local Enterprise Partnerships had not been accounted for, in responses to the Mail’s Freedom of Information requests. The Mail also found 276 occasions when the money – intended to kick-start economic growth – was used to make payments to board officials themselves, their firms or projects they stood to benefit from.” – Daily Mail

  • Treasury eyes sale of final taxpayer stake in Lloyds – FT
  • Announcement expected on Assembly’s first-ever tax powers – Wales Online

Public Finances 2) Patel may sack civil servants over cosy relations with ‘profiteering’ aid consultants

aidgraphic“Top mandarins at the Department for International Development have been told they face the sack over “profiteering” consultants. Sources claimed International Development Secretary Priti Patel is livid at the “cosy” relationships between civil servants and agencies pocketing millions of taxpayers’ aid cash. She believes there haven’t been enough checks on the consultancies to ensure value for money – and that the aid money is going where it needs to go. The source said: “They are spending money and not taking accountability for it. The revelation came as it emerged bosses at aid agencies pocketing some of Britain’s £12 billion overseas aid budget draw huge salaries.” – The Sun

Editorial:

  • Arbitrary target means aid spending is neither transparent nor value for money – The Times (£)

Ministers using ‘middle men and mobiles’ to circumvent ban on talking to Farage

“Ministers are using middle men and mobile phones to circumvent an alleged ban by Theresa May on contacting Nigel Farage to try build relations with US president-elect Donald Trump. The news came after Mr Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party claimed Cabinet ministers had been banned from talking to him by the Prime Minister. There is speculation that Mr Farage will be made a trade adviser to Mr Trump, forcing ministers to deal with the Ukip MEP over UK/US trade talks.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ex-UKIP leader says Cabinet ministers have been forbidden from contacting him – The Sun

Fox hints that Britain may stay in parts of the customs union

EU countries and stars“Liam Fox hinted yesterday that Britain could stay in the European customs union after leaving the EU. The international trade secretary said that leaving the bloc was not a binary choice between a hard Brexit, which would entail quitting the single market and customs union, and a soft Brexit, which could involve access to both. Drawing attention to a precedent for partial membership, Dr Fox said that Turkey was an example of a nation that “is in part of the customs union, but not in other parts”. Ankara’s agreement with Brussels may look attractive because it does not entail freedom of movement, a condition the British government wants to avoid.” – The Times (£)

  • International Trade Secretary warns against transitional deals – Daily Express
  • Post-Brexit trade may hinge on non-tariff barriers – FT
  • Huge divorce bill is part of hardliners’ bid to ‘blow up’ Brexit negotiations – Daily Telegraph
  • Fear Brexit delays will spark bank exodus to Eurozone – FT
  • Labour MEP says criticism shows pro-Brexit press is ‘panicking’ – The Independent
  • Sturgeon lays out plan to stay in the single market – FT

Immigration:

  • Osborne urges May to exclude overseas students from migration figures – The Times (£)
  • Ex-Chancellor slams Prime Minister over immigration – The Sun
  • Javid demands integration revolution – Daily Express

More EU:

  • Dublin claims Brussels exceeded powers over ‘Apple Tax’ – FT

Comment:

  • Brexit policy should focus on damage limitation – David Martin, The Times (£)

>Today:

>Yesterday:

MPs 1) Mercer claims MoD officials are pressuring him over troop treatment inquiry

“A Conservative MP claimed yesterday that he had received texts in the middle of the night from Ministry of Defence officials demanding that he tone down a parliamentary inquiry into the treatment of British troops accused of war crimes in Iraq. Johnny Mercer is chairman of an inquiry into the treatment of former and serving British troops who have faced investigations into claims by Iraqis of mistreatment, which have provoked strong feelings within the armed forces. He said that he had been told that his activities were not helpful to the government, including via text messages in the early hours.” – The Times (£)

MPs 2) Shapps warns that over-dependence on green energy could lead to shortages

Lightbulb“Household energy bills could rise by £30 a year just to stop the lights going out in winter, MPs warn today. The influential British Infrastructure Group said the push towards green energy and chronic mismanagement of the system had left the energy sector in ‘crisis’. Its members, led by former Cabinet minister Grant Shapps, warned it was even possible that British industry could face a return to the three-day week because of a lack of electricity at peak times.” – Daily Mail

More MPs:

  • Wollaston wants to ban phrase ‘committed suicide’ – Daily Mail
  • Ministers urged to consider tax breaks for firms employing ex-convicts – Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • Helping ex-offenders is the only way to avert expensive recidivism – The Times (£)

Scotland has Westminster to thank for budget increase

“Scotland will have £800 million extra to spend next year thanks entirely to the generosity of the UK’s Barnett formula but the SNP has given schools and hospitals an “unflattering settlement”, according to an analysis of the Scottish Budget. Professor John McLaren, an eminent economist, said last week’s budget showed ministers will receive a “considerable rise” in spending money in 2017/18, despite their repeated complaints about Tory austerity. But he said the increase was driven entirely by a rise in Scotland’s block grant from Westminster, calculated using the Barnett formula, while the SNP’s exercise of their extensive new tax powers “added nothing” and was a “damp squib”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sturgeon seeks more powers for Scotland – The Guardian
  • Salmond claims Scots ‘ready to vote Yes’ – The Scotsman

First Minister of Northern Ireland faces no-confidence vote

Northern Ireland“A vote of no confidence will be held in the Northern Ireland assembly, which could force the region’s first minister to step down and trigger fresh elections to the devolved parliament in Belfast. The Social Democratic and Labour party (SDLP) has won cross-party support for its motion censuring Arlene Foster over allegations about a scandal that is estimated will cost taxpayers £400m. The main opposition parties – the Ulster Unionists, the Greens, Traditional Unionist Voice and the leftwing People Before Profit – are backing the SDLP’s move to exclude Foster from the highest office in the province.” – The Guardian

  • Sinn Fein to table motion calling for Foster to step aside – Belfast Telegraph
  • DUP suspend MLA as top civil servant undermines his claims – News Letter

News in Brief:

  • Social care needs force 50,000 pensioners to sell their homes – Daily Telegraph
  • Saudis may be using British-made cluster bombs in Yemen – FT
  • Armed marshals could travel on British ferries – Daily Mail
  • GPs to turn away patients too well for A&E – The Times (£)
  • Evacuation of Aleppo restarts after convoy attack – FT
  • Careless House of Lords peers and staff lose £10k worth of gadgets – The Sun
  • The Rhodes effect: Queen Mary University removes Leopold II plaque – Daily Telegraph
  • Police issued 17,000 ‘soft touch’ warnings since January – The Scotsman

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