Senior Tories criticise concessions to Brussels on issues ranging from immigration to fisheries
Theresa May faced a storm of protest over a transition deal struck with Brussels after conceding a series of her high-profile Brexit demands and agreeing to the “back stop” plan of keeping Northern Ireland under EU law to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
Downing Street backs information commissioner inquiry into data-mining affecting millions of people
Downing Street has expressed its concern about the Facebook data breach involving the analytics company that worked with Donald Trump’s campaign team and that affected tens of millions of people.
No 10 weighed in on the row as almost $20bn (?14bn) was wiped off the social network company’s market cap in the first few minutes of trading on the Nasdaq stock exchange, where Facebook opened down more than 3%. By midday, the company’s share price losses had multiplied to more than $40bn, making the day its worst in more than five years.
The Brazilian political activist – a black, gay single mother – was a fearless fighter in a country mired in racism and inequality. Her murder should reverberate around the world
‘Being a black woman is to resist and survive all the time.” So said Marielle Franco, the Rio de Janeiro city councillor shot dead in a targeted assassination last week, just 18 months after she was elected. Franco was 38 years old. She was a black, gay, single mother from the Mar? favela who stood up for poor people, LGBT people, black people and women. When her car was hit by nine bullets – four of which entered her skull, killing her instantly – she was on her way home from an event titled Young Black Women Who Are Changing Power Structures. This is what can and does befall such extraordinary women.
And Franco was extraordinary. She was a fearless, charismatic and popular politician with integrity, operating in a country, characterised by president Michel Temer’s all-male, almost exclusively white cabinet, in which more than half the population is black, mixed race or female. No wonder she had to resist all the time. No wonder she did not survive.
EU Brexit negotiator tries not to gloat over UK concessions as British Brexit secretary tries not to cry
“Je suis tr?s heureux,” Michel Barnier began. It soon became clear why he was so heureux as the text of the draft transitional agreement appeared on a screen behind him during his Brussels press conference with David Davis. Large chunks of it were highlighted in green. These were Theresa May’s red lines. Green was now the new red.
The British prime minister had been right in insisting that large sections of the Brexit deal would be non-negotiable. She just hadn’t made it clear that it would be the EU that was refusing to negotiate. So on almost every point that Britain had said it wouldn’t be giving in, it had given in.
Britain is justified in asking for international solidarity over the Skripal case. But Brexit is weakening Britain’s credibility as a reliable partner in the rules-based order it seeks to uphold
There were two highly significant meetings for Britain in Brussels on Monday. Britain’s role in the first meeting was sensible and constructive. But its role in the second was the reverse – foolish and destructive. Taken together, the meetings illustrate the international wound that modern Britain is inflicting on itself – and on Europe – as a result of the Brexit vote.
In the first meeting, EU foreign ministers including the British foreign secretary tried to put the final touches to a statement on Russia in the wake of the Skripal poisoning and the re-election of Vladimir Putin. There were disagreements and differences of emphasis, but the outcome was successful, building another brick into the wall. The meeting was the latest in a series of international efforts since the crimes in Salisbury to rally allies behind an agreed response to the Skripal case. Those efforts have included the joint statement by the UK, France, Germany and the US last week, the lobbying in Washington for clearer Trump administration backing, and a Nato resolution of support for Britain.
When privacy becomes a commodity to be traded, the integrity of democratic politics is at risk
The outrage surrounding the activities of Cambridge Analytica coincides with the passage through parliament of the data protection bill. Taken together, these two developments frame the debate about privacy. Until now, the big data harvesting companies have approached their obligations to the people who supply their personal data much in the spirit of the Vogon demolition fleet in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, when Arthur Dent protests that the annihilation of the Earth has come without any warning: “But the plans were on display … on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”
The new bill, modelled very closely on the EU’s corresponding regulation, promises to change all this. The idea is to establish very clearly that personal data can only be used for purposes for which informed consent has been given by the owners. The question – in the spirit of another Leopard – is whether everything will change so that everything can stay the same. How far can privacy be maintained in an economy that depends on the exploitation of personal data? By engaging with Facebook or Google at all, we give up far more information than we realise, in part because of the way in which data becomes more valuable the more of it is collected. Facebook, for example, can make a very good guess at a user’s sexual orientation on the basis of only four “likes”. This is possible only because it has billions of profiles to comb through for significant patterns which could not be discovered by examining them one by one. The user who gives up this information does not know they are doing so; it’s even possible that the company didn’t know it was collecting it at the time if the algorithms to extract it had not then been developed.
Remainers need to make the case for staying in the EU after all. Because leaving is not worth the economic harm it will cause
Imagine a British government deciding to apply all its resources to solving one problem. We’re not talking about some run-of-the mill dilemma here. This would be a proper, A-list, head-scratcher of a conundrum: how to meet the cost of social care in an ageing society; how to provide secure, rewarding work in the era of intelligent robots; inequality; climate change. There are plenty to choose from.
Imagine, too, the government giving itself just two years to find an answer. A special Whitehall department is organised for the purpose. The opposition agrees that the mission is the right one, quibbling only over points of emphasis. The full capacity of the state is bent in service to the mission.
Tory psephologist predicts Conservatives will be hit by big rise in Labour support
Conservative party support in London looks set to slump to a record low at the local elections on 3 May as the young, ethnically diverse electorate turns to Labour in increasing numbers.
Projections from the Tory peer and psephologist Robert Hayward indicate the Conservatives will lose about 100 council seats. If they lose more than 93 – less than three seats in each of London’s boroughs – the Tories would fall below their previous low of 511 councillors in the capital. That came in 1994, just after the pound had fallen out of the exchange rate mechanism and Labour had begun the recovery that led to its 1997 general election landslide.
It’s been apparent for a long time that the obtaining of data, the use that can be made of it, for commercial or political purposes, is a goldmine for those who wish to breach the law and the sanctions that can be visited on those that do this are entirely inadequate. I’m perfectly aware that the government is amending the legislation, but I have to say I don’t think the laws that we are enacting in terms of the penalties on those who behave in this fashion are anything like draconian enough. The financial incentives are far too great to break the law, the penalties proportionally insufficient, and ultimately we are going to have to be much tougher if we are going to stop this sort of behaviour.
Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, says Theresa May should resign in the light of today’s Brexit transition deal.
Former chancellor and current Evening Standard editor says his ‘tough’ stance towards Tory party has surprised old colleagues
Millions of British people are unhappy with the political choices being offered to them by the two main parties over Brexit, the former chancellor, George Osborne, has said.
Osborne, who now edits London’s Evening Standard, said some of his former Conservative colleagues had expressed their surprise that his newspaper, which has repeatedly criticised Theresa May, took such a tough stance.
Independent-minded Lincolnshire MP who was an uncompromising eurosceptic
Sir Richard Body, the former Conservative MP for the broad acres of south Lincolnshire, claimed descent from the 18th-century agricultural innovator Jethro Tull and stood himself in a traditional parliamentary lineage that is all but extinct: that of the independent-minded country squire.
He would have fitted right in with the backwoodsmen who brought down Robert Peel over the Corn Laws in 1846. But by the time he retired from the House of Commons in 2001 his sort of backbencher, with deep and sometimes eccentric passions, many embedded in his agrarian roots, was on the way out. “I wasn’t ambitious,” he said. “I have a horror of creeps.”
A series of once unimaginable concessions are now baked into the withdrawal agreement, with more likely to come
The prize sought by British negotiators during their latest Brexit showdown was certainty. UK businesses desperately need to know how long they have to prepare for departure and threatened to panic without promise of a transition phase.
We’re used to foreign powers manufacturing chaos and disguising mendacity with lies – but our own foreign secretary has also thrived despite his propensity for piffle
In the swirl of disinformation that infects global politics, it is good to hold on to the truth, to ground ourselves slightly. This is a story we tell ourselves. There are places where no one bothers to differentiate between truth and lies; other places. Such as Russia, where there is the facade of a democratic election, but what matters is simply control of the narrative. We watch as various Russian diplomats deny any Russian connection to the poisoning of the Sergei Skripal and his daughter. We look at the US, where they have lost count of Donald Trump’s untruths. He lies as he breathes; the effect is numbing. He has told so many lies that the latest ones float by.
This incessant lying wears the public down. Some Russians claim the lies that are told require a person to split into different realities, so each thing is true at the time. There is no objective truth, only versions of it. The manufacture of chaos is implicit in this deliberate destabilisation. We can locate lying within the pathology of individuals, but it requires ongoing turmoil to sustain it. Trump knows this.
Majority of selections supported by leftwing group have been in top 20 marginal seats
Momentum-backed Labour candidates will dominate England and Wales’ tightest marginal seat battles even though the leftwing group has won only around a third of selections overall.
The leftwing grassroots group has recorded a string of victories in selection battles where Labour has the greatest chance of winning seats at the next general election, including those of the home secretary, Amber Rudd, (Hastings and Rye), the former minister Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) and the Conservative vice-chair Ben Bradley (Mansfield), which Labour lost at the last election for the first time since 1885.
It is a cold February night in Brighton and the Friends’ Meeting House is packed for a Momentum meeting. The room is filled with 100 people and the subject is how to encourage members of the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting group to stand for the local Brighton and Hove council. In doing so, the intention is to move forward from a bitter period of conflict in which the party in the city was suspended and reconstituted, and some high-profile Momentum supporters were suspended or expelled.
Ostensibly the keynote speaker is Chris Williamson, the Derby North MP, who acts as an outrider for the Labour leadership. But the most important speaker is Nancy Platts, just elected to the council’s East Brighton seat in a byelection and, remarkably, the only councillor present. Platts is loudly applauded when she argues there should be public ownership of rail and bus services in a city where the bus company Go Ahead Group “made a profit of ?91m in a year, and yet when they don’t want to run a route, we [the council] have to subsidise it”.
It’s early on a Saturday morning, but people can barely squeeze through the door of Mansfield Gas Sports & Social Club. Older Labour activists sit in groups and call out to each other. One, wearing his miner’s hat, makes small talk with a smattering of student first-timers.
It’s the first of Momentum’s “unseat days”, where the Labour grassroots movement trains local activists to campaign against high-profile Conservative MPs. The day’s target is Ben Bradley, Mansfield’s first Tory MP since the seat’s creation in 1885.
Any plant grown indoors is going to suffer to some extent from leaning; light issues, warm conditions and plenty of water mean you’ll get lush, but often weak growth. Still, we have got plenty of expertise in this country in growing houseplants; we have been growing huge specimens indoors since the Victorian era, and anyone who has ever been to Kew knows it is entirely possible to have towering tropical trees that stand upright.
Moscow demands proof as EU foreign ministers call for Russia to cooperate in novichok inquiry
The Kremlin has insisted the UK must prove Russia’s role in the poisoning of a former spy or apologise, as the EU called on Moscow to provide “full and complete disclosure of its novichok programme” to international experts.
The demands for proof came as a team of international experts began a visit to Porton Down in Wiltshire on Monday to assess the nerve agent used to poison Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. Experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) were invited by the UK to verify the nerve agent, but it will take at least two weeks before they have results.
Seven years of draconian Tory cuts mean a quarter of secondary schools in England are now in the red
As the “beast from the east” makes its second appearance this spring, I am reminded of a conversation with a colleague when it first struck. In order to quieten our staff room moans about the weather, they pointed out that students in a Liverpool school they once worked at had to sit in coats and hats for their mock exams because the school couldn’t afford its heating bill. This is England in 2018.
For too long this Conservative government (and the coalition before it) happily yammered that public spending was a rapacious beast that needed urgent taming. We had the patronising metaphor of maxing out our credit card, which suggested that all of us, the public sector in particular, were reckless spendthrifts. In the manner of a kindly android devoid of malice and humanity, they told us that our collective irresponsibility would be curbed by fair yet disciplined hands.
Musicians Rae Morris, the Magic Numbers and Jermain Jackman will perform at the London event
Labour has confirmed that it will host its first music festival this summer.
Labour Live 2018 will take place at Tottenham’s White Hart Lane recreation ground in London on 16 June. The party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, will appear alongside the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and the shadow secretary of state for international development, Kate Osamor.
As the disastrous impact of leaving the EU becomes clearer, UK citizens should be allowed another say
Monday, 1 January 1973 was one of the best days of my life. I was starting a seventh year of working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the roles I was being given were getting better and better. My wife and I owned our own tiny cottage, our son was in infant school, and we were expecting the birth of a daughter. I had a little secondhand Renault. And this was the day when the UK finally became a member of the European Economic Community.
I grew up in a working-class home in the industrial West Riding of Yorkshire. My father was a commissionaire at a large chemical plant, and my mother worked, as she had all her life, in a heavy-woollen weaving shed. I visited her at work only once, and the experience revolted me: the noise, the polluted air, the two monstrous looms she operated alone. But she loved the social atmosphere of friendship, fun, companionship, trust and hard work. Also she was a member of a community, and that meant everything to her.
Fast, loud and agile unions working at the frontiers of precarious employment are setting the pace for the future
There is a group of organisations in this country whose most senior roles are almost exclusively the preserve of middle-aged white men. These people do not seem terribly interested in the future, even though it poses grave threats to them and what remains of their power. Indeed, as the economy is endlessly disrupted and transformed, it appears their instinctive response is to bury their heads in the sand.
Though it does not bring me any great joy to say so, these are among the basic facts of 21st-century British trade unionism. Serially weakened by deindustrialisation and kicked around for the best part of 40 years, it is perhaps a miracle that the unions still have 6.2 million members. The work of representation, education and occasional mobilisation that their members continue to do is vital. For all that even leftwing people now seem to be questioning unions’ role within the Labour party, it is entirely right that some of the biggest unions have an organised means of political representation as a counterbalance to the infinite clout of capital. But that is not the whole story, and it is time some glaring failures were talked about in the open.
Labour asks foreign secretary to explain decisions behind failed project, which cost taxpayers ?46m
Labour has written to Boris Johnson asking him to account for his role in the scrapped ?46m London garden bridge project, after the foreign secretary had said he could not recall the reasons for key decisions he made.
The letter, from the shadow communities secretary, Andrew Gwynne, challenges Johnson over his claim earlier this month that a prominent journalist who has criticised the project was motivated by a personal dislike of its designer.
Latest Brexit concession is blow to ambitions of environment secretary Michael Gove
Plans to take back control of UK fisheries the moment Britain leaves the EU appear to have been abandoned in the face of united EU opposition, dealing a significant blow to the ambitions of the environment secretary, Michael Gove.
Gove put repatriating control of fisheries at the heart of his post-Brexit strategy. But as the negotiations to secure the terms of a transition deal go to the wire in Brussels, the UK has backed down.
Labour leader tells PM patient could die because of difficulties in proving his immigration status
Jeremy Corbyn has written to Theresa May about Londoner Albert Thompson’s ?54,000 bill for cancer treatment, saying the government risks allowing a patient to die because of difficulties proving immigration status.
Thompson, 63, who has lived continuously in the UK for 44 years since arriving from Jamaica as a teenager in 1973, is not receiving the radiotherapy he needs for prostate cancer because the London hospital where he was due to start treatment last November told him he needed to provide proof of residency or pay upfront for his care.
Momentum is a powerful and increasingly independent political force that is radically transforming the Labour party, with local groups challenging party orthodoxies, flouting national membership rules and fighting to get their activists selected, a Guardian investigation has revealed.
A grassroots reporting project across four local parties demonstrates that Momentum, often described as a “party within a party”, has rapidly become the most powerful force on the ground with Labour members frequently defining themselves as for or against it.
Monthly publication will mock the EU protagonists with cartoons based on 1960s children’s TV show
The first Brexit comic, with characters including the Reverend May and her Brexit Gang, David Dealin’ Davis and Boris “Captain Brexit” Johnson, will go into circulation next month, loosely based on the classic 1960s children’s TV programme Trumpton.
The project is the idea of illustrator and author Mike Dicks, who raised ?4,400 via crowdfunding to pay for the first edition, which will be posted to donors and supporters by 1 April.
Tories on select committee examining departure from EU issue ‘minority report’ saying putting day of exit back would be a ‘betrayal’
Disagreement over Brexit has split the main parliamentary committee charged with scrutinising the UK’s departure from the EU after a majority of its members concluded that the day of exit may have to be delayed.
The findings of a report out on Sunday by the all-party Brexit select committee also recommends that provision be made to extend the post-Brexit transition period beyond the expected period of 21 months to allow more time for administrative changes and for businesses to adapt. But in a sign of rising tension and division in parliament, a group of Tory MPs on the committee on Sunday denounces these central findings in their own “minority report”, saying that such delays would amount to a betrayal of the will of the British people.
With links to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Nigel Farage, the rightwing US computer scientist is at the heart of a multimillion-dollar propaganda network
Just over a week ago, Donald Trump gathered members of the world’s press before him and told them they were liars. “The press, honestly, is out of control,” he said. “The public doesn’t believe you any more.” CNN was described as “very fake news… story after story is bad”. The BBC was “another beauty”.