Question Time 1) Corbyn declares he would be “neutral” in a second EU referendum

“Jeremy Corbyn has revealed that he would remain “neutral” on whether Britain should stay in or leave the European Union in a second Brexit referendum. The Labour leader, who until last night had refused to say how he would campaign, told a BBC Question Time special: “I will adopt a neutral stance so I can credibly carry out the result.” The move risks alienating both sides of a deeply divided Labour Party. Senior members of the shadow cabinet have publicly called for Labour to campaign for Remain, but others fear that such a move risks losing the support of Leave voters in the party’s heartlands…The Tories will put Mr Corbyn’s refusal to set out his Brexit position at the heart of their campaign as they seek to win a swathe of Leave-voting constituencies in the Midlands and the north.” – The Times

  • Audience groans over Labour’s Brexit ambiguity – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson responds: “I don’t see how he can do a deal when he is going to be neutral or indifferent.” – BBC
  • Knockabout drama left audience punch drunk – Quentin Letts, The Times
  • Highlights from the programme – BBC

Question Time 2) Johnson defends his right to “speak out”

“Boris Johnson has defended his right to “speak out” and refused to apologise for past comments made in his newspaper columns. Appearing on the BBC’s Question Time Leaders Special, Mr Johnson said: “I genuinely never intended to cause hurt or pain to anybody.” Asked if he would apologise for past “racist rhetoric” in former newspaper articles, including comparing Muslim women who wear a veil to letterboxes in the Telegraph,  Mr Johnson said: “If you go through all my articles with a fine-toothed comb, there is no doubt that you can find things that can be made to seem offensive.” He added: “I defend my right to speak out” and said the article in question presented “strong and liberal defence for the right of women in this country to wear what they choose.” Mr Johnson also praised his party’s record at supporting female MP candidates and bringing two female Prime Ministers to Downing Street.” – Daily Telegraph

  • PM faces audience barbs over ‘telling the truth’ – Daily Mail
  • BBC challenged over audience bias – Daily Express
  • Fiona Bruce cuts off heckling audience member – Daily Mail
  • Raab and McDonald in racism row backstage after leaders’ debate – The Guardian

Question Time 3) Swinson attacked for policy to revoke Article 50

“Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson was savaged by both Leave and Remain voters for her decision to fight the election on a policy of cancelling Brexit and revoking Article 50. Members of the Question Time audience lined up to criticise her for fighting the election on a flagship policy of stopping Brexit. One Leave voter asked Ms Swinson whether trying to revoke Article 50 confirmed “to 17.4million people that you think we are stupid and didn’t know what we were voting for”. A Remain supporter then told her that the party’s policy had “cost you my vote, the Liberal Democrat title is a misnomer, how can you defend that decision?” – Daily Telegraph

  • Rebel in tweed battles to defend his seat against former party, campaigning with Dominic Grieve – Financial Times

Question Time 4) Sturgeon insists second Scottish independence referendum is needed

“Nicola Sturgeon has said she does not think she would be asking for another Scottish independence referendum now if the UK had not voted for Brexit. Speaking on the BBC Question Time leaders’ special, the SNP leader said Scotland faced being taken out of the EU against its will. She said things had “dramatically” changed with the Brexit vote and voters should be able to change their minds….Asked about what she would do in the event of another hung Parliament after 12 December, she said she would not work with the Tories but was prepared to deal with Labour if Jeremy Corbyn committed to end austerity and agreed to hold another Scottish independence referendum.” – BBC

  • Labour needs Red Clydeside but it’s looking very SNP yellow – Hugo Rifkind, The Times

Dossier for Tory candidates anticipates attacks

“The Tories have sent candidates a dossier that details their manifesto pledges and anticipates attacks on issues such as the NHS, Brexit and immigration. The 68-page briefing, obtained by The Times, includes details of 32 policies that have been announced before the publication of the Conservative manifesto. Candidates are provided with answers to questions that may be posed by voters or journalists. They include whether stop and search will damage trust in the police, why the Tories are not doing more on business rates and why has the party has declined to accept that climate change is an emergency. The document claims to account for 90 per cent of the Tory manifesto, barring pledges such as increasing the national insurance threshold and an offer of more free childcare. Each policy is given a rationale, the party’s record on the issue and “political points to make”, targeting senior Labour figures such as Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott and John McDonnell.” – The Times

Sunak says “no deal” planning will resume after the election

“No-deal Brexit planning will resume after the general election if the Conservatives win, a senior Treasury minister has said. Rishi Sunak, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told the Telegraph the Cabinet would continue its work to prepare for a hard Brexit because “there are all sorts of scenarios that might happen”. This comes despite Boris Johnson saying no deal will be off the table, and that the chances of Britain not having a trade deal in place by the end of 2020 are “absolutely zero”. Mr Sunak, who attends Cabinet, took part in nearly all the government’s daily no deal planning meetings, codenamed “XO” and chaired by Michael Gove. Asked if the no deal planning meetings could resume before Jan 31 – the date the UK is set to leave the EU – Mr Sunak said: “Yep.” – Daily Telegraph

Hancock announces doubling in funding for Dementia research

“Britain will spearhead the hunt for a dementia cure by doubling the funding for cutting edge research. Health Secretary Matt Hancock reveals the £1.6billion spending pledge in an exclusive interview with the Daily Express today.He promises an extra £83million a year for scientists who are working around the clock to solve the greatest health crisis of our time. It means the UK will spend a total of £1.6billion over the next 10 years. The extra funding comes after the Daily Express highlighted the huge disparity between the amount set aside for cancer research compared to that dedicated to scientific investigation into brain wasting diseases like Alzheimer’s.” – Daily Express

  • Alzheimer’s Society welcomes any “serious plan” – BBC
  • GPs vote to scrap home visits – Daily Mail
  • The end of GP house calls would be the death knell of medicine as a true vocation – Martin Scurr, Daily Mail

Shapps to promise the railways will keep running even during strikes

“The Conservatives have pledged to end all-out rail strikes by passing a law ensuring that some services operate in the event of industrial action. Rail companies and unions would be required to sign “minimum service agreements” that would set out in advance the numbers and the nature of staff who would remain at work in the event of a strike. If they refused to sign, the action would be declared unlawful and rail companies could obtain an injunction to stop the strikes…Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said: “Rail strikes have a real impact on people’s lives. They seriously inconvenience businesses and the public, damage the economy and force people to use less sustainable means of transport. Corbyn’s union backers are causing misery for commuters across the country but this is just a taste of things to come if he gets into Downing Street. He would scrap trade union legislation and make it easier for unions to go on strike, which would cause chaos.” – The Times

Conservative Manifesto will include a tech tax and nurses bursaries

“Boris Johnson will vow to bring back nurses’ bursaries and slap a “Google tax” on internet giants as he unveils his manifesto tomorrow. He will also review entrepreneurs’ relief amid warnings the tax break is not fuelling investment, The Sun’s James Forsyth exclusively reveals. The PM will use his big policy launch in the key battleground of the Midlands to sell the Tories as the party of the NHS. He will pledge to bring back a maintenance grant for nurses in training. The cash comes on top of the £34billion already promised to the health service over five years. George Osborne’s decision to axe the bursary in 2015 is blamed for the fall in numbers of trainee nurses. Mr Johnson will draw a line in the sand between previous Tory austerity and his decision to turn on the spending taps.” – The Sun

  • Johnson’s manifesto is designed to win Tories a majority – James Forsyth, The Sun
  • How to write a Tory manifesto – Jo Johnson, The Times

Farage hints he will stand down if Brexit Party wins no seats

“Nigel Farage has hinted that he could stand down as leader of the Brexit Party if it wins no seats at the election. As he unveiled manifesto pledges designed to reverse a recent slump in the polls Mr Farage said that he would continue to campaign for Brexit in “whatever role” he had. Asked if he would stay on as leader if the party failed to return any MPs to Westminster, he said that he was “absolutely committed to the complete reform of our political system . . . and whatever role it is in I’m going to go on campaigning for years to come for many of the things that are in that document [the manifesto].” – The Times

  • Policies include scrapping the TV Licence Fee and the abolition of the House of Lords – Daily Mail
  • Brexit Party’s election pledges, key points – The Guardian
  • Free public transport for all to pledged by Scottish Greens – The Scotsman

Plaid leader claims an independent Wales could be cradle of global green revolution

“The Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, struck a defiant note at the launch of his party’s manifesto, claiming that an independent Wales could become the cradle of a global green revolution. Price announced a range of ambitious policies including three power-generating tidal lagoons, a barrage and an offshore wind farm as well as new rail lines and metro networks. Comparing his dreams to those of John F Kennedy at the time of the space race, Price said the plans were audacious but achievable if the people of Wales pulled together and freed themselves from the control of the Westminster government. “We’re little over a month away from the beginning of a new decade,” he told supporters at the launch at a college in south Wales. “Let’s inject some hope back into our politics. Let’s set ourselves an audacious goal, as the Kennedy administration did with the Apollo programme.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft on Comment: My latest focus groups from three Leave-voting, Labour-held Tory targets in Wales

Hoey warns of “nasty, devious” McDonnell

“Hoey says she has a sneaking sympathy for Jeremy Corbyn. “Because I know Jeremy is genuinely anti-EU, always has been. We’ve walked through the same lobby for decades, voting against Maastricht etc, but he’s not been strong enough. He had a Parliamentary party that was stuffed with Remainers. They knew they couldn’t get rid of him as leader so they’ve used the EU issue to get at him. Jeremy’s allowed himself to be completely stitched up, particularly by John McDonnell.” The Shadow Chancellor, she says, “has become quite a nasty, devious figure behind the scenes”; McDonnell is the one pulling the strings now. “After a while, Jeremy realised that he was losing and he just seems to have given in.” Hang on, so the Labour leader doesn’t actually believe in the Brexit policy he’s currently out selling to voters? “Goodness me, no!” she laughs.” – Interview with Kate Hoey, Daily Telegraph

Northern heartlands “desert Labour”

“A revolt by Labour voters in the North and Midlands against Jeremy Corbyn’s bid to block Brexit could hand Boris Johnson victory in next month’s General Election. The Tories are on course to win about 30 seats in Labour’s English heartlands on December 12 thanks to a dramatic swing against Mr Corbyn’s party since the 2017 election, according to a Daily Mail poll. It means the Conservatives are poised to triumph in working-class seats they have rarely – if ever – held, such as Bishop Auckland, Great Grimsby, Rother Valley, Stoke-on-Trent North, Workington and Bassetlaw. All are in areas which voted to leave the EU.” – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Johnson’s campaign stops suggest CCHQ is not betting the House on a landslide yet

>Yesterday: MPsETC: Election Battlegrounds 7) South East

Iran arrests 100 leaders of petrol protests

“Iran has arrested about 100 leaders of the protests against a hike in petrol prices, the judiciary says. They were identified and detained in “various parts of the country” by Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards. The announcement came as the US placed sanctions on Iran’s communications minister for restricting internet access during the unrest. Amnesty International says more than 100 people were killed during the protests which hit several cities.” – BBC

Moore: The Tories should not have signed up to Corbyn’s alarmist climate ‘emergency’

“Climate change is indeed a serious matter, but not an emergency. Its dangers can be mitigated. If you think that, and that steady economic growth is not to be thrown away on undatable speculation about catastrophe, or out of crazy guilt about climate “genocide”, no mainstream party speaks for you at this election. Just now, politicians think there are lots of votes in green panic. They will learn too late that they are exaggerating. Mr Corbyn’s XR apocalypse is even more of a phantasm than Mr Foot’s fear of nuclear holocaust which had him so roundly beaten in 1983. Yet no one in power dare say so.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Ashcroft: Britain must ban trophy imports and help end the horrors of lion hunting

“The lion farming and trophy hunting businesses are opaque. The origins and destination of the money involved is murky. They rely on illegal activity, including enticing prime specimens from protected areas, taking more kills than are licensed, and issuing more licences than legally permitted. Criminality and corruption are rife. I support a total ban on trophy imports with the exception of a licensing regime for research purposes. I urge the Government to consider introducing penalties for breaching this ban that are of the same order as those that exist for the illegal importation of Class A drugs or weapons to Britain.” – Michael Ashcroft, Daily Telegraph

Parris: A Corbyn Government would fail to bring in its programme

“The idea that December 12 could be a crossroads for our country, a crossroads at which a Labour majority government could take Britain off down the long road to socialism, is scaremongering: scaremongering not because that isn’t what Corbynite Labour wish to do, but because even if elected they’d never succeed….In their manifesto Corbyn and McDonnell propose to renationalise in one great leap what it took 20th-century Labour more than 30 years to do. This is good news for anyone worried about the future of free-market economics: good news because, even if Labour got elected, they would fail and their failure would inoculate the next generation of voters against socialist economic remedies, as Labour’s failure in the last century inoculated my own.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

News in brief

  • Ian Austin endorses Philip Davies – Buzzfeed
  • Women are the losers in Labour’s trans equality fight – Julie Bindel, The Spectator
  • Corbyn would rip up the rulebook and make his second EU referendum a travesty of democracy – Bernard Jenkin, Brexit Central
  • Is Labour now an economics-free zone? – Julian Jessop, CapX
  • Tax, tax and tax again – John Redwood