Theresa May Mark One buried UKIP. Theresa May Mark Two is digging it up. That is the only conclusion one can reasonably draw from today’s Opinium poll for the Observer, which shows Labour on 40 per cent, as last month, the Conservatives on 36 per cent, down six points, and UKIP on eight per cent, up five points. The movement from the second to the third could scarcely be clearer.
That rise in support for what many will still think of, wrongly, as Nigel Farage’s party isn’t because of rebooted support for him. Nor will voters be enamoured with the charms of Gerald Batten, of whom most of them will never have heard. The driver of this result is plainly the Government’s new Brexit policy.
25 per cent of those polled approve of the way that the Prime Minister is handling Brexit, down from 30 per cent last month, while 56 per cent disapprove, up from 45 per cent last month. Her net approval rating was minus eight per cent last month; it is 24 per cent this month. The percentage of those who believe that Brexit is one of the most important issues facing the country is at its highest ever recorded by Opinium – 51 per cent this month (it was 42 per cent last month). Overall, 32 per cent of those surveyed supported May’s Brexit plan and 31 per cent opposed it.
The EU referendum result killed UKIP. After all, what was the point of supporting a party which aimed to make Britain independent once the British people had voted for precisely that? The cause of Brexit was handed overnight to the governing party, which now had an instruction from the electorate to deliver it. During the period between the referendum and last summer’s general election, Theresa May presented herself as the woman who would fulfil that mandate for “citizens of somewhere”: “Brexit means Brexit”.
Theresa May has secured approval to negotiate a soft Brexit deal with the European Union, signing up her fractious cabinet at a Chequers awayday to a controversial plan to match EU standards on food and goods.
The prime minister released a statement following the critical afternoon session of the long-awaited summit that alarmed Tory hard Brexiters, in which she confirmed she had won over the cabinet to new customs arrangements ending political deadlock on the issue.
May said the cabinet had “agreed our collective position for the future of our negotiations with the EU”. That included a proposal to “create a UK-EU free trade area which establishes a common rule book for industrial goods and agricultural products” after Brexit.
Nearly half the people on Universal Credit are struggling to pay their bills, according to damning findings buried in a government survey, published on the quiet while MPs were away from Parliament yesterday (June 8).
The Conservatives still think they can release information when nobody will notice. They still don’t understand that somebody is always looking.
The survey itself was written in an attempt to hide the worst findings, which are buried deep in the 82-page document. But we find that:
44% of claimants were either “falling behind” with bills or “experiencing real financial difficulties” three months into their UC claim.
That figure reduced by just a fraction to 40% for people who were eight or nine months into their claim.
In one group, a third of claimants admitted they took money from friends and family, while 11% applied for a bank overdraft.
Others were forced to use charities, payday loan firms and doorstep lenders, the survey confirmed.
Meanwhile just over a third (35-36%) were in arrears on housing costs. And for almost half of those people (44%), the arrears had got bigger by the time they were eight or nine months into their claim.
Are we living through an epidemic of loneliness? Well, it depends who you ask. One Red Cross study found that more than 9 million people in the UK – almost a fifth of the adult population – are often or always lonely, and in January Tracey Crouch was appointed the so-called “minister for loneliness” to tackle the problem.
But the experts can’t decide if things are actually getting worse. At Cheltenham science festival last week Aparna Shankar, from St George’s, University of London, described levels of loneliness in the UK as having been “fairly consistent” since the 1940s.
However, in her book iGen, the US academic Jean M Twenge cited studies showing that 31% more American teenagers felt lonely in 2015 than in 2011, which she attributes to the rise of the smartphone.
But this is the least interesting question to be asking. Interviewing experts in neuroscience, genomics, evolutionary biology, psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis has helped me understand something about what loneliness does to our brains, bodies and minds. These conversations introduced me to the theory that loneliness evolved as a biological warning sign, like hunger, thirst or pain, to tell us that isolation is a threat to our health, and we need to find some social nourishment.
You cannot simply cure loneliness by shoving a load of lonely people randomly in a room together, because loneliness is not defined by being alone, but by feeling alone even when surrounded by others; it is about the quality of the connection, not the number of our social relationships. Feeling lonely makes your sleep worse, and transforms your immune response. Greater loneliness means poorer outcomes for people with mental health problems.
The local elections across England on May 3 were the first major test of public opinion since prime minister Theresa May lost the Conservatives’ parliamentary majority in 2017’s snap election and returned at the head of a minority government. As then, multiple localised contests defy any single national narrative. As then, the emerging picture is a virtual stalemate between the Conservatives and Labour.
Voters across large swaths of England cast their ballots this year. All the seats in London’s 32 boroughs were up for grabs, as were all the seats in four metropolitan boroughs, seven non-metropolitan districts and one unitary authority. A proportion of seats in 106 other local authorities were also being contested, not to mention five local mayoralities and the new metro mayor for the Sheffield City Region combined authority. If it sounds confusing, it is. Local democracy in England is a kaleidoscopic mess.
Britain has become used to hyper-dramatic elections in recent years. The 2018 contest, by contrast, was much more low key. It was also a mixed night for both the Conservatives and Labour. Overall the Tories have trod water, with no significant changes in their total number of council seats and, at the time of writing, no change in the total number of councils they control. Labour has increased slightly its tally of councillors, but without translating these gains into control of additional councils.
I am only 23, but I stand with the Windrush generation because I know what it’s like to suddenly feel unwelcome and unwanted in the country where you’ve lived most of your life, and which you thought was your home.
I was born in Jamaica but arrived in the UK aged eight to join my mum. I loved school, and in my final year was made head girl at Clapton Girls’ academy. I was so excited when I won a place at LSE to study law in 2013.
It was only then that I realised that my immigration status meant I would not be able to take up my place. I contacted the charity Just for Kids Law with a few questions about the Ucas process, but it became clear that my situation was far more complicated than I first imagined.
I spent the next few weeks in complete shock. I discovered that, rather than having “unsettled” status in the country I call my home, I had no “lawful” status at all. I made numerous phone calls to the Home Office, and was initially told that my family had a valid application and that our documents would be with us in a few weeks.
But this didn’t turn out to be the case. I was in the Just for Kids Law offices, desperate to take up my place at university, when I made the final call. I remember listening to the woman on the other end of the phone tell me that, despite what I had previously been informed, I had no status nor an active application at all. I went numb.
Plenty of people may not have heard of the retail firm Shop Direct. Its roots go back to the distant heyday of catalogue shopping, and two giants of that era, Littlewoods and Great Universal Stores. Now it is the parent company behind the online fashion brand Very and the reinvented Littlewoods.com. All this may sound innocuous enough. But in two areas of Greater Manchester, Shop Direct is newly notorious.
Until now, what the modern corporate vernacular calls “fulfilment” – in other words, packing up people’s orders and seeing to returns – has been dealt with at three Shop Direct sites, in Chadderton and Shaw, near Oldham, and in Little Hulton, three miles south of Bolton. But the company now has plans to transfer all such tasks to a “fully automated”, 500,000 sq ft “distribution and returns centre” located in a logistics park in the east Midlands. The compulsory consultation period begins tomorrow, and the shopworkers’ union Usdaw and local politicians are up in arms: if it happens in full, the move will entail the loss of 1,177 full-time posts, and 815 roles currently performed by agency workers; on the new site there will only be jobs for about 500 people. At a time when apparently low unemployment figures blind people to the fragility and insecurity of so much work, the story is a compelling straw in the wind: probably the starkest example I have yet seen of this era of automation, and the disruption and pain it threatens.
Mike in his articles attacking May and her truly foul decision to destroy the evidence needed for the Windrush migrants to show their right to live in our wonderful country also mentioned that poem by Martin Niemoller. Niemoller was one of the scandalously few Christians in Nazi Germany to oppose the regime. You know the poem. It’s become something of a cliché – It opens with the various groups the Nazis came for, with the refrain ‘I did not speak out, because I was not’ whichever group was being attacked. It ends with the line that when they finally came for him, there was no-one to stand up for him. This was the reality in Nazi Germany. The Nazis attacked group after group, not just Jews, but also Gypsies, Socialists, Communists, trade unionists, the disabled, and other political and religious dissidents. And it had an effect. The Catholic Centre Party…
Trump is also a brazen liar who has created his own reality organized around narcissism, egotism and self-aggrandizement. He is an overt racist who traffics in violent language and imagery, and who brags about sexually assaulting women. His willful embrace of ignorance amplify those other profound character defects.