Labour challenged over “crazed” scheme to nationalise broadband

“The prime minister attacked Labour’s ambitious plan to nationalise part of BT and provide free broadband across the UK as a “crazed communist scheme” on Friday, amid a furious backlash from business. Labour believes the plan, part-funded by a tax on internet giants such as Facebook and Google, is a vote winner, combining a consumer-friendly pledge to cut bills with a commitment to taking on powerful corporations. But the Conservatives have seized on it as a signal of Labour’s intent to renationalise swathes of the economy. Speaking at a campaign event in Oldham, where he was launching his red, white and blue battlebus, Boris Johnson called the policy a “crazed communist scheme”. Outlining the proposal in Lancaster, however, Corbyn said it would guarantee what was now a basic utility, encourage social cohesion, bolster the economy and help the environment.” – The Guardian

  • Experts say ‘wheels would come off’ the competitive telecoms market – Financial Times
  • Labour’s plan is just economic illiteracy – Ruth Sunderland, Daily Mail
  • Policy could cost £100bn, says BT chief Philip Jansen – The Times
  • Online errors – Leader, The Times

Conservatives promise to plant 30 million trees a year by 2025….

“The Conservative Party has said it will plant 30 million trees a year by 2025 if it wins the general election – as the Liberal Democrats pledged to plant twice as many trees in the same period. The Tories’ £640m fund would be used to plant trees and restore peatland. Labour dismissed the scheme and said the prime minister had an “atrocious environmental record”. The Lib Dems would plant 60 million trees a year by 2025, leader Jo Swinson said. Under the Conservatives’ scheme, branded the Nature for Climate fund, the party said it would treble the tree-planting rate to 30,000 hectares – approximately 30 million trees, it says – every year by the end of the next Parliament in 2025.” – BBC

…plus free childcare to all two-year-olds

“The Conservatives are preparing to offer free childcare to all two-year-olds in their election manifesto, Boris Johnson has hinted, although he is expected to shelve social care reforms. The party is considering plans to give parents of younger children 15 hours of free childcare a week in one of its biggest election giveaways at an estimated cost of £700 million. Mr Johnson said yesterday that affordable childcare was the “holy grail” and the manifesto would look at the “ages at which it should be funded”. Senior Tories said there was a discussion about the best approach, with ministers also considering cheaper plans to extend the present 30 hours of free care a week for children aged three and four from 38 weeks a year to 48.” – The Times

>Today: Columnist Nick Hargrave: Wanted. A Too Difficult Department to help tackle intractable post-election problems.

Johnson quizzed on Radio 5 Live phone-in

“Boris Johnson has been quizzed on Russia, flooding and his children by members of the public during a BBC Radio 5 Live and News Channel phone-in. During the programme, the PM said there was “no evidence” of Russian interference in UK politics, amid calls for the government to release a report on the subject before the election. He also said there were “big plans” for investing in flood defences. And he said claims none of his children went to state school were “wrong”. He also denied reports that Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage had been offered a peerage in return for standing down his parliamentary candidates in Conservative-won seats.” – BBC

Brexit Party fields just 274 candidates

“Boris Johnson’s hopes of winning a Parliamentary majority have received a significant boost after the Brexit Party fielded just 274 candidates, giving the Tories a clear run in several key marginals. Nigel Farage had promised the Brexit Party would contest every Labour seat and field 300 candidates in total, but he fell 26 shy of that pledge, and failed to register candidates in 16 Labour-held seats. Other seats where the Tories will be the only Leave-supporting party include SNP and Liberal Democrat constituencies where the Conservatives were narrowly beaten in 2017. It came as the Brexit Party claimed it was compiling a “dossier” of evidence to back up its allegations that Conservative Party officials offered peerages and jobs to its candidates if they agreed not to stand.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Farage pulls out of Brexit Party rally at last minute for emergency meeting – Daily Express
  • Record number of women candidates – The Times
  • Number of Northern Ireland women candidates “an appalling representation” – Belfast Telegraph
  • Hartlepool Leavers poised to back Conservatives for the first time – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Selections. How activists find themselves crushed by the attritional, grinding juggernaut of the Party machine.

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft on Comment: My next three focus groups in Labour-held, Leave voting constituencies

Moore: Farage has served his purpose

“Mr Farage played a notable role. Radicalised away from the Tories by the political assassination of Mrs Thatcher and by John Major’s Maastricht Treaty, he gradually emerged as the main political cartel-buster of our times. Yet this week, he stood down around half his workforce. The structure of his party as a company of which he is boss makes him free to do this in a way that no mainstream leader could attempt. All his prospective parliamentary candidates expecting to stand in Tory seats have suddenly found themselves victims of the political gig economy, on zero-hours contracts. This is shocking for them, but it follows the logic of the situation. The Brexit Party, as its name suggests, wishes to achieve Brexit. If it does well in this general election, it will make Brexit less likely, which is not clever. If it does badly, as Mr Farage was conscious when making his decision, it will go bust as a political force. Actually, Mr Farage’s approach is really only half-logical. He would have done better not to put up candidates at all.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Forsyth: TV debate in a big risk for Johnson – but he must take it

“It will be the biggest moment of the election so far. On Tuesday night, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn will go head to head in an ITV debate. It will be the first time in British electoral history that the two contenders for No10 have debated on TV in this way. In a campaign that’s so far lacked an electrifying moment, it could provide the spark. This debate is the biggest risk that Boris has taken in this election. There is a reason why none of his predecessors as PM agreed to such an encounter. But Boris’s team calculated that it was worth it. Why? Because it enables them to frame this election as a choice as to who do yuo want to be Prime Minister: Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn….The danger for Boris is that Corbyn uses Tuesday night to establish himself as the only person who can stop Boris from spending Christmas at Chequers.Right now, the Tories are benefitting from a split opposition. If Corbyn can use Tuesday night to squeeze down the Lib Dem vote then that will make it that much harder for the Tories to win a majority.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

>Yesterday: ConHome’s election panel. “The decision to exclude Jo Swinson from the Johnson/Corbyn debate could backfire.”

Shadow Cabinet split over free movement…

“Jeremy Corbyn was on Friday facing a frontbench split on immigration, amid claims that a draft version of Labour’s manifesto contains a commitment to freedom of movement. Shadow cabinet ministers and trade union leaders are on Saturday expected to clash over the wording of the document, which will be finalised at a ‘Clause V’ meeting of senior Labour grandees and officials. Whilst Mr Corbyn has repeatedly refused to say whether Labour will pursue an open border policy with the European Union, multiple sources have told this newspaper that the proposal will be put to the meeting. It comes less than 24 hours after Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, claimed that Labour was “committed to maintaining and extending freedom of movement rights”. On Friday evening a shadow cabinet source claimed that accepting freedom of movement with the EU was the only way to guarantee close alignment with the single market after Brexit.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour figures set for crunch Mainfesto meeting – BBC

…as Conservatives to propose EU migrants who come to the UK after Brexit will be barred from claiming benefits for five years

“EU migrants who come to the UK after Brexit will be barred from claiming benefits for five years under plans to end free movement expected to be announced in the Tory manifesto. Boris Johnson yesterday suggested that he will set new limits on jobless migrants arriving in the UK as he pledged for the first time to lower immigration totals. The prime minister, who is expected to announce details of a post- Brexit immigration policy next week, refused to set a figure, however. Mr Johnson has pledged to introduce an Australian-style points based system which will prioritise those with higher skills. Low-skilled migrants are expected to be required to have a job offer to come to the UK.” – The Times

Small firms call for tax cut to offset the cost of a higher minimum wage

“Britain’s army of small businesses last night warned Boris Johnson his pledge to raise the minimum wage to £10.50 will cripple them. They warn that the rise from £8.21 an hour for over-25s risks thousands of them going under. In a set of manifesto demands sent to both main parties, the Federation of Small Businesses has called for a minimum £1,000 increase in the Employment Allowance. Currently, companies do not have to pay employer National Insurance Contributions — known as the jobs tax — on the first £3,000 of their bill. That rate was set in 2016 when the National Living Wage was introduced. But the FSB says increasing the buffer by £1,000 would help with the cost of employing people and offset the increased wages companies will have to pay.” – The Sun

Rudd stands down from People’s Vote campaign

“Roland Rudd has quit the People’s Vote campaign after weeks of rows over its strategy, The Times has learnt. The multimillionaire PR executive has resigned as chairman of both People’s Vote and Open Britain, one of the pro-EU groups that is campaigning for a second referendum. He has been replaced as chairman of Open Britain by Anne Weyman, a former chief executive of the Family Planning Association. People’s Vote will not have a new chairman until after the general election, and the campaign’s warring factions are set for talks in the coming days to establish a new leadership structure. Last month Mr Rudd launched a boardroom coup, ousting the campaign’s leader James McGrory and Tom Baldwin, its communications chief.” – The Times

Prince Andrew: I let the side down

“The Duke of York has admitted that he “let the side down” and damaged the royal family by maintaining his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein even after the billionaire paedophile had been convicted. Prince Andrew, 59, broke his silence on the Epstein scandal last night to insist that he had no memory of meeting the woman who alleges she was “trafficked” to have sex with him aged 17. However, the duke admitted that he was wrong to maintain a friendship with the US financier after he was jailed for procuring an under-age girl for prostitution. “I kick myself on a daily basis,” he said.” – The Times

Sandbrook: Johnson is the poshest working class hero since Churchill

“In Johnson, many working-class voters do see a man of the people, to an extent unmatched by any Tory leader in living memory. The very fact that so many people automatically refer to him as ‘Boris’ is very telling. Even that campaign video begins with the interviewer, in a strong Estuary accent, greeting him with the words: ‘Hi Boris, all right?’….the comparison with Johnson’s hero, Churchill, is spot on. Nobody loved waving the flag more than Winston. And he certainly enjoyed a drink, though it is admittedly difficult to imagine him ordering a takeaway curry. Like Johnson, he refined his image, endlessly practising his supposedly spontaneous quips. He, too, had conspicuous flaws, drank too much, told tall tales, made off-colour remarks and played to the gallery. We often forget that despite Churchill’s aristocratic background, he entered Parliament in 1900 as the Conservative MP for the Lancastrian working-class mill town of Oldham.” – Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail

  • Class war lives on for Sophie Wilson, Labour candidate in Rother Valley – The Times

Parris: Big-spending politicians treat us like fools

“People are not idiots. If for a decade they are lectured about what the country can and cannot afford, and noticed even Ed Miliband’s Labour Party treading carefully on matters of public debt, and then all at once they hear that for some undisclosed reason money isn’t a problem any more, they smell a rat. They see Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party making spending promises that, when Mr Miliband’s 2015 manifesto gingerly proposed something similar, Tories called a road to ruin. They wonder what’s up. I will not add to this weekend’s presumed mauling of Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to spend £20 billion on part-nationalising BT (I can remember when there was a three-month waiting list to get a telephone line) but only point out that Mr Johnson’s spraying of spending promises on schools and hospitals, which on post-election scrutiny will come apart in our hands like wet tissue paper, only gives Labour cover to promise wonders that are even more fantastical.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

News in brief

  • The unseemly race to increase the size of the state- Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • Corbyn and the Venezuela model – John Redwood
  • The dilemma for all who want a clean-break Brexit – Melanie Phillips. Conservative Woman
  • By standing candidates in Labour seats, Farage could yet be throwing a big spanner in the works – Matthew Goodwin, Brexit Central
  • Brexit Party’s candidate for Tynemouth lives in Australia – Independent