Shanker Singham: is he the brains of Brexit?

The former trade lawyer’s thinking is behind many policies proposed by the most enthusiastic Brexiters

Shanker Singham is known at Westminster as the “Brexiteers’ brain”. To his acolytes in the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party, the former Washington lobbyist and lawyer is one of the most brilliant trade experts of his generation.

In the two years since the EU referendum, he has become one of the most influential policy specialists in the UK, courted by Eurosceptic Tory MPs and ministers who have adopted much of his thinking as their own.

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Labour members in open revolt at union-backed party ruke changes

Anger on conference floor about watered-down proposals for reforming MP selections and leadership contests

Labour members were in open revolt against trade union-backed reforms to the party on Sunday, with many expressing anger on the conference floor about watered-down proposals for reforming MP selections and leadership contests.

The controversial rule changes, proposed by Labour’s ruling national executive committee (NEC), would make it considerably easier for local members to deselect their sitting MP by reforming the so-called trigger ballot system.

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Brexit: Corbyn under pressure from all sides over ‘people’s vote’

Grassroots groups are pushing the Labour leader to back a second referendum at the party’s conference

Senior allies of Jeremy Corbyn questioned the rationale for a fresh Brexit referendum on Sunday, as grassroots Labour campaigners ramped up the pressure on the party to shift its position towards a “people’s vote”.

Corbyn raised hopes for a new referendum when he told the Sunday Mirror he would support the idea if members vote for it when Brexit is debated at Labour’s conference in Liverpool on Tuesday.

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If Labour backs a second Brexit vote, stand by – all bets could be off | Matthew d’Ancona

Theresa May will never endorse a people’s vote. But enough Tory MPs might, if the alternative looks unpatriotic

Labour, the movement that prizes members’ democracy above all else, is now strongly in favour of a people’s vote on Brexit: that is the collective decision hovering over the party’s annual conference in Liverpool, and it speaks well of the wisdom of the Labour crowd.

According to a new YouGov poll, 86% of party members want a say on Britain’s future relationship with the EU, and 90% of them would vote remain in such a referendum. Though Labour undoubtedly captured many formerly Ukip votes in last year’s general election by promising to implement the result of the original 2016 vote, its rank and file now supports a second vote on Brexit. That is a margin of 24 percentage points greater than they gave Jeremy Corbyn in his contest against Owen Smith two years ago.

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The Guardian view on Labour: Brexit and the economy are the key tests | Editorial

Labour is emphatically Jeremy Corbyn’s party, but shadow chancellor John McDonnell may make the most important speech of the week

As the old political adage puts it: “Oppositions don’t win elections; governments lose them.” Many of the dynamics of British politics in 2018 would seem to bear this out. The Conservatives are bungling Brexit big time. The prime minister’s authority is shot. And the Tory conference next week could be a bloodbath. If the adage is right, therefore, then the Labour party may be tempted to spend the next three days in Liverpool avoiding needless mistakes and basking in the advent of a Jeremy Corbyn government.

That would be a complacent mistake. For one thing, Commons arithmetic and the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act make an early election difficult to trigger, even with a Brexit breakdown. For another, in spite of their multiple inadequacies, the Tories remain head-to-head with Labour in the polls, and in some cases ahead, suggesting that the case for Labour has not yet been won. For a third, a grindingly self-absorbed summer for Labour over antisemitism raised questions about Mr Corbyn’s judgment, which he often struggled to answer.

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The moment has come for Labour to support a people’s vote | Mike Buckley

It’s the only way to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the people the party stands for, and delegates in Liverpool should back it

Labour’s Brexit policy so far could be described as giving the Tories enough rope to hang themselves. Keir Starmer’s six tests – demanding from any deal the exact same benefits that Britain has under EU membership – have bound Labour into opposing any endgame that damages what the Labour movement stands for: secure jobs, decent wages, world-class public services, migrant rights, national security and international solidarity.

The tests have been sensible policy during the negotiations, but their usefulness is quickly running out. The day approaches when Labour will be obliged to vote down the EU withdrawal deal in parliament, both for the country’s interests and for its own electoral prospects.

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Welfare spending for UK’s poorest shrinks by £37bn

Figures compiled after decade of austerity and obtained by Frank Field show most striking cuts are in disability benefits

Spending on welfare benefits for the UK’s poorest families will have shrunk by nearly a quarter after a decade of austerity, according to new figures highlighting the plunge in living standards experienced by the worst-off.

By 2021 £37bn less will be spent on working-age social security compared with 2010, despite rising prices and living costs, according to estimates produced by the House of Commons library.

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For Labour’s economic policy to be radical, it has to be credible

Amid speculation about a snap election, the party should get prepared for pushback from City and business interests

Downing Street is war gaming a snap general election. The Sunday papers are alive with stories that Theresa May is weighing up the possibility of seeking public support for her Brexit strategy. Voters could soon be trooping off to polling stations to elect a government for the third time in little more than three years.

Given the disastrous result the last time the prime minister went down this route, it seems likely that May would only call a general election as a last resort. That said, the events of the past week mean that anything could happen.

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Corbyn would back Labour membership call for second referendum

Labour leader says he would bow to a party conference vote for change of Brexit policy

Jeremy Corbyn has said he would support a second referendum on Brexit if activists at his party conference voted for a change in Labour policy.

The Labour leader said that the policy was not his first choice because he believed a general election would be a better way to resolve the political crisis over the nature of the UK’s departure from the EU.

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Instead of immigration myths we now have facts. But will we act upon them? | David Olusoga

Last week, the most extensive report into migration and British life finally gave us solid detail to counter anecdote and lies

It was some time in the 1990s that the phrase “evidence-based policy” first lumbered on to the UK political landscape. In the Blair years, every report or policy paper seemed to promise a future in which all policy would be firmly “evidence based”; inspired by research rather than ideology or political strategy. The aspiration might remain but when it comes to immigration, an issue that poll after poll shows many in the UK regard as among the most important, there has never been much actual evidence on which policy might be based.

Here’s the bit everyone agrees on. From 2004 onwards, when several eastern and central European nations joined the EU, and the UK, unlike Germany, elected not to exercise its right to impose a seven-year block on people from these new member states coming here to live, net immigration increased considerably.

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As Vince says, if you can’t beat ’em, spresm | David Mitchell

The Lib Dem leader’s fluffed zinger in his conference speech only demonstrates how irrelevant the party has become

Last Tuesday, on one of the thousands of occasions I glanced needlessly at my phone, it made me notice a news story. Vince Cable, it appeared, had described the hardcore Leavers’ delight in Brexit as an “erotic spasm”.

I liked that. It’s a nicely rude way of describing their irrational excitement at continental division and national isolation, and their inappropriately visceral feelings about the technical details of international trade deals. The whole country is going through a disaster, it is saying, just so a few extremists get to judder with sexual delight.

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The Salzburg debacle makes the choices starker for Mrs May – and for Mr Corbyn | Andrew Rawnsley

Hopes of a compromise have become bleaker. The chances of a no-deal Brexit or no Brexit have both gone up

When Theresa May woke up on Friday morning to headlines speaking of her humiliation in Salzburg, it was not an entirely novel experience for a prime minister who has become synonymous with calamity. She has had many Catastrophic Fridays. And Miserable Mondays, Terrible Tuesdays, Wicked Wednesdays, Torrid Thursdays, Savage Saturdays and Searing Sundays.

One of the notable features of her premiership has been the extraordinary capacity of the human sponge at Number 10 to soak up pitiless batterings that would have crushed other politicians. One of Mrs May’s female colleagues in the cabinet recently offered me the opinion that any man in her tortured position would have long since thrown in the blood-soaked towel.

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Labour’s road to a people’s vote starts in Liverpool | William Keegan

As it prepares for its annual conference, it is time for the party to abandon its lame acceptance of the EU referendum result

Is this year’s Labour conference in Liverpool going to rise to the occasion and put the party firmly on the road to stopping Brexit?

With mounting support among trade unionists for a “people’s vote”, it would be a welcome outcome if what my old friend and Observer colleague Alan Watkins called “the people’s party” finally got its act together in the interests of the country and all working people.

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The Observer view on Labour’s economic policies | Observer editorial

The party’s plans are fine as far as they go, but could be bolder still

Ten years on from the financial crisis, it is astonishing how little has changed. It should have been a moment of reckoning for the British economy, a chance to address structural weaknesses so painfully exposed by global crisis: a financial sector too big to fail; a corporate sector blighted by short-termism; unsustainable, debt-fuelled growth; gaping wealth and regional inequalities.

The Observer is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper, founded in 1791. It is published by Guardian News & Media and is editorially independent.

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UK faces darker hours before Brexit agreement is reached

After the EU’s rejection of the Chequers deal, negotiations on trade and the Irish border are set to get messier

The Salzburg summit looked messy on Thursday, and Theresa May looked thunderous on Friday as she spoke from Downing Street of an impasse in the Brexit talks and the need for mutual respect. But this isn’t the “darkest hour” of which EU diplomats talk when they plan how a deal might be struck by Brexit day on 29 March.

Brussels is well acquainted with being cast as the baddy by grandstanding prime ministers and ministers. Ruling out one Brussels-led policy in bellicose terms lets governments accept quietly something else that may only be slightly less toxic to the voters and domestic political alliances that give them power.

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Corbyn promised Labour members power. Will he grant them a second Brexit vote? | Toby Helm

As the party gathers in Liverpool, is Corbyn’s promise to empower members coming back to haunt him?

Minutes after trouncing Owen Smith and winning his second Labour leadership contest in September 2016, Jeremy Corbyn promised to reward the mass membership that had backed him by giving them more power inside the party. “The participation is even higher, and my majority is bigger, and the mandate is very strong. So let’s use it to reach out,” he said. “With this huge membership, that has to be reflected much more in decision-making in the party.”

Two years on, as delegates gather in Liverpool for Labour’s conference, the same mass membership of more than 500,000 people is beginning to flex its muscles.

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Tories seek new avenues after Salzburg dead end

Norway? Canada? Chequers? Theresa May’s disastrous week will prompt further division – and perhaps a leadership challenge

On Friday morning, as Tory MPs discussed the humiliation that had befallen their prime minister hours earlier, the party’s febrile mood tipped over into outright panic. Rumours swirled that a cabinet minister was about to walk out. Others talked about seizing the moment to force Theresa May into a decisive break form the EU and a hard Brexit.

The news that the prime minister’s team was planning a hastily arranged statement in Downing Street was the final straw for some, who had palpitations about the prospect of another election. “The thought of another Theresa May manifesto is enough to make anyone reach for the bottle,” said a former minister.

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In today’s Britain, compromise is spurned in a bid for brutal victories | Nick Cohen

Zealots of left and right yearn for crushing wins and see no point in other perspectives

Politics before the crash was based on the understanding that you couldn’t have it all. The free-market right had won the economic war, ran the cliche of the time, while the left had won the culture war. Centre-left governments were “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”, said Peter Mandelson, “as long as they pay their taxes”. Not only leftish politicians, however, but many on the centre-right were not remotely relaxed about racism, sexism and homophobia. On these issues at least, cultural conservatives, as we so euphemistically call them, had to accept that the world had changed.

Now Britain is a country where political movements believe they need not accept any limits on their ambitions. They do not just want to beat their opponents – they want to crush them. They do not just want to win – they yearn for the religious ecstasy of victories achieved without compromise. It is barely noticed that centrists are just as likely as the extremists of the Brexit right and far left to turn into Cosmo girls and demand to have it all. The people’s vote movement believes, with ample reason, that the Leave campaign was a confederacy of charlatans that sold the public a pack of lies. Reasonably and patriotically, it is trying to protect the country by reversing the damage. It is not a criticism of an idea with which I have every sympathy to say that it has turned away from compromise.

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Dawn Butler sparks Militant controversy at Labour conference

Shadow equalities minister spoke approvingly of far-left Labour faction’s resistance to cuts in the 1980s

Dawn Butler has spoken approvingly about Labour’s controversial former Militant wing, saying that when it came to austerity it was “better to break the law than break the poor”.

In the early 1980s, some Labour councillors deliberately set council budgets in excess of the limits imposed by central government.

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‘Cities are now Labour heartland, with working-class turning away’

Fabian report finds party has lost support in traditional areas, made up for by swing in urban ones

Strongly working-class parliamentary seats are no longer the Labour party’s heartlands as its core support has shifted to big cities, according to new analysis of the changing face of the party’s base.

Support for Jeremy Corbyn’s party has been growing for years in large urban areas but falling in the most working-class seats, according to a study of constituencies in England and Wales by the Fabian Society thinktank, which is affiliated to the Labour party.

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‘Don’t mistake British politeness for weakness’, Jeremy Hunt tells EU

The foreign secretary said EU leaders should not ‘insult the British people on social media’

Jeremy Hunt has told leaders of the European Union to not “mistake British politeness for weakness” following the tense Salzburg summit that threatens to sink Theresa May’s Chequers proposal.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the foreign secretary followed May’s combative address on Friday with some sharp rhetoric of his own. He said: “What Theresa May is saying is: don’t mistake British politeness for weakness. If you put us in a difficult corner, we will stand our ground. That’s the kind of country we are.”

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John McDonnell: Labour wants to push ahead with Brexit

On eve of conference, shadow chancellor defies calls for party to promise second referendum

Labour would fight a snap general election vowing to press ahead with Brexit, but secure better terms, John McDonnell has said, defying demands among party members for a referendum pledge to form part of any manifesto.

The standoff between Theresa May and the EU27 leaders in Salzburg, and the apparent lack of a parliamentary majority for her Brexit plans, have raised the spectre of an early general election.

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