The internet was in raptures last night when Olivia Colman bagged her Oscar for ‘Best Actress’ – and it’s not just because she’s a phenomenal actor.
Many were quick to reminisce about chance encounters with Colman over the years and described how she’s just a really lovely person to be around. Well, she did describe her Oscars win as “hilarious” and tear up while kissing her award – so we don’t dispute that at all.
Nearly two weeks ago, Theresa May told her MPs “we now all need to hold our nerve” on Brexit. Within two days, her Eurosceptic backbenchers inflicted another Commons defeat to remind her just who was boss, and whose nerves were more steely. Yet despite all that, tomorrow the PM will be back in Parliament to make yet another holding statement, essentially repeating her message that the Tory party just needs to hang on for a bit longer before she gets the improved Brussels deal they all want. It feels like not so much a deliberate policy of strategic patience as a desperate, daily struggle for survival. The question this week is whether her Remainer ministers really will act to ‘stop the clock’ on the countdown to a possible no-deal exit.
On her trip to the EU-Arab summit in Egypt yesterday, May finally confirmed she was going long. March 12 is now pencilled in as the date for the second ‘meaningful vote’ on her Brexit plan. Yes, just 17 days before we are due to leave the EU, MPs will vote on whether, when and how we will do so. Education Secretary Damian Hinds, on Radio 4’s Today programme, summoned up some masterful English understatement when he admitted: “Time is tight, there’s no doubt about that.”
March 12 is probably not a product of May’s random date generator. It’s the day before Yvette Cooper’s own deadline of March 13, when the PM will be forced to give MPs the chance to either delay Brexit or back a no-deal scenario. The Cooper plan, due to be voted on this Wednesday, is winning more support (the FT reports previous abstainers Gloria de Piero and Ruth Smeeth are now behind it). Fellow signatory Sir Oliver Letwin meets ministers privately tonight to chivvy support. Will Cabinet ministers David Gauke, Greg Clark and Amber Rudd really vote for Cooper? Well, collective responsibility seems an elastic concept of late, and even Michael Gove hinted yesterday they may not be forced to quit, saying ministers were in “a different realm” since the 2016 referendum result.
Will the PM herself make noises tomorrow about a possible Brexit delay? Defence minister Tobias Ellwood seemed to think she might, telling Today “the Prime Minister listening” and “You need to wait and hear what she has to say when she gets back [from Egypt]”. The ‘moderate’ Tories in the Brexit Delivery Group are set to table their own amendment requesting a delay until May 23, but without cross-party backing or lots of signatures it may not get selected by the Speaker. Its doomed anyway if it fails to win Labour’s frontbench support. The Guardian reports some in the EU want a long delay to 2021. Although May dislikes many aspects of Cooper’s bill, if it is passed you can bet she will use it to scare the European Research Group into backing her revised plan.
The Telegraph has a fine leak of a secret No.10 paper that includes the option of May avoiding Cooper by pressing the pause button herself. More plausible seemed the other option of a “conditional vote” on any new draft wording to solve the Irish backstop problem. As I said last week, some think Attorney General Geoffrey Cox would make a statement as early as tomorrow, then MPs could vote for the draft and give May something concrete to return to Brussels with. As ever though, the ERG could be the roadblock. Some Brexiteers are wary after Gove yesterday subtly shifted the government’s language from a ‘legally binding’ change to a mere ‘legally powerful’ addition to the withdrawal treaty. By Wednesday, we may find out whose patience snaps first, Brexiteer backbenchers or Remainer ministers.
This week, we will be getting away from Westminster to hear what northerners think about the latest state of play on Brexit. Read here about our HuffPost Listens event along the M62, taking in areas with staunch Leave and Remain votes, and a healthy mix of both.
2. ELEMENTARY, WATSON
After a quiet 18 months, it feels like Tom Watson is firmly re-asserting the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is not the only party figure directly elected with a personal mandate from a large majority of Labour members. On Marr yesterday, Watson responded to the defection of 8 Labour MPs by announcing that if Corbyn fails to bring into his Shadow Cabinet more people from the ‘social democratic’ tradition of the party, then he will personally convene a group of such MPs to develop policy. It felt like a gauntlet being thrown down. Tonight, it might be picked up by the Labour leader himself. I’m told Corbyn is expected to address the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
Anti-semitism is one issue Corbyn has to grapple with (see below), but of course it’s Brexit that is worrying his party too. Watson followed up his Marr appearance with a blogpost yesterday in which he warned that if May doesn’t adopt Labour’s plans for close ties to the EU then Labour “should move towards a confirmatory ballot”. And if she doesn’t adopt that plan, “I am likely to be at the rally for a People’s Vote on March 23rd”. The confirmatory ballot is an idea that is set to be tested this Wednesday with the Peter Kyle-Phil Wilson amendment, which endorses May’s deal but only on condition it is put to a further referendum.
John McDonnell told BBC Radio 5 Live he was working with Kyle and Wilson “to see can we have a re-draft of that amendment which people could vote for. I think there’s a high possibility we could.” However, there is a possibility that the Labour front bench won’t back the plan until it appears alongside May’s second meaningful vote on March 12. There remains the problem of course that Kyle-Wilson is non-binding, at least at present. Meanwhile, Tom Watson may be pleased that a Twitter poll by Corbyn supporter ‘RachelSwindon’ found 58% prefer him as deputy leader (his nearest rivals were Becky Long-Bailey and Chris Williamson on 15%).
3. LANSMAN SPEAKS
Anti-semitism was a driver for Luciana Berger and some others to quit Labour last week. That’s why Tom Watson sent a dossier of 50 complaints of abuse directly to Jeremy Corbyn, saying he needed to “take a personal lead” and make new recommendations to the ruling National Executive Committee. Watson said general secretary Jennie Formby had “very patently” been unsuccessful in dealing with the issue. We could find out today whether Lord Falconer will take on a new role as an anti-semitism ‘surveillance commissioner’ for the party.
On the Today programme, Momentum founder Jon Lansman, who is Jewish, said that it would be ‘improper’ for a party leader to intervene in what could be quasi-judicial disciplinary cases, though he said. But he also sent a strong message to Corbyn supporters, saying Berger leaving the party was a source of “regret, sadness and some shame.” Contrary to the narrative put about by many on the Left, including some in the Shadow Cabinet, Lansman added that the issue was “a widespread problem, it’s now obvious that we have a much larger number of people with hardcore antisemitic opinions.”
He said among the hugely-expanded Labour members were “members attracted towards conspiracy theories” and “the role of social media in fomenting and spreading some of the poison is more of a problem in the Labour party” than for the Tories. Lansman said conspiracy theorists were “polluting” meetings and online. Speaking of which, several MPs think Louise Ellman could be the next to quit, not least because of fresh antagonism from her local party. For a really depressing read, see this Guardian piece on Berger’s Liverpool Wavertree. “She didn’t deserve to be treated that way,” one Labour supporter said, adding as an unthinking afterthought, “even though she is Jewish.”
The Independent Group (TIG) of 11 MPs meet today and they may work out who their leader (or at least their lead spokesperson) should be. Chuka Umunna is the favourite, telling SkyNews yesterday: “I’m clear I want to play the biggest role in this group”. He added diplomatically “one of the things about the way we operate is the recognition that we’re all leaders.” Ex-Tory MP Sarah Wollaston told Westminster Hour: “I think we would all be very happy to see Chuka in that role, but we don’t know over the coming days and weeks whether others will join us and somebody else may emerge.” Shadow cabinet minister Barry Gardiner wasn’t too impressed: “The reason he wanted to leave the Labour Party was that he knew he could never lead the Labour Party. This is about personality.” I note that Ken Clarke told Radio 4 yesterday that ‘at the moment’ he wouldn’t be joining TIG.
5. OUR WAY OR THE HUAWEI?
GCHQ director Jeremy Fleming is giving a rare speech in Singapore, setting out the ‘opportunities and threats’ of firms like Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. He’ll say governments will need help to decide “which parts of this expansion can be embraced, which need risk management, and which will always need a sovereign or allied solution”. MI6 chief Alex Younger raised questions about Huawei in December, but GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre last week suggested the risk could be managed. The challenge is a strategic one about Chinese global reach and power. Will America’s allies listen to Trump, or take another approach?
Our latest CommonsPeople podcast features former Labour MP Gavin Shuker. The key ‘fixer’ for the new Independent Group of MPs (he registered the legal vehicle for it in January), he reveals how he cooked chicken and chicory dinners at a secret getaway where the potential defectors first met to discuss their plans. (Stephen Bush and Caroline Wheeler’s excellent Sunday Times spread underlined just how crucial Shuker’s church pastor manner was in getting the project off the ground). See how Gavin fares in this week’s quiz too. Click HERE to listen on Audioboom. And below for iTunes.
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Significantly more people are dying in England’s major urban areas than across the rest of England and Wales, new figures on homeless deaths have revealed.
Urban hotspots included Manchester, which saw 21 deaths in 2017, and Birmingham, where 18 people died.
There were 17 deaths each in Bristol, Liverpool and the London Borough of Lambeth.
Deaths among homeless people in England’s most deprived areas were nine times higher than in the county’s least disadvantaged places, the figures from the Office for National Statistics show.
The latest data has collated deaths according to local authority between 2013 and 2017.
It follows the first ever set of figures on deaths among homeless people published in December.
Some 597 deaths were recorded in England and Wales in 2017, a rise of 24% over five years, the ONS found.
Men made up 84% of the deaths, more than half of which were caused by drug poisoning, liver disease or suicide.
The mean age at death of homeless people in England and Wales was 44 years for men, 42 years for women between 2013 and 2017, compared with 76 years for men and 81 years for women among the general population.
In Westminster, the coming week could well be a momentous one for Brexit. There will be fresh votes by MPs that could delay the whole project, buy Theresa May a few more days or simply underscore the fact that no one in Parliament can agree on anything.
Beyond SW1, much of the public won’t be interested in the minutiae of who voted for which amendment or who defied their party whip. They may look at events in the Commons with a mix of bemusement, exasperation or even contempt.
But even though Brexit often seems like a dialogue of the deaf, exactly how and when the UK leaves the European Union will be the biggest political event to shape our country for a generation.
And as the clock ticks down to Exit Day on 29 March, we at HuffPost UK want to take the temperature of our body politic by listening to what the public really think, away from the bubble-wrapped claustrophobia of the House of Commons and its famous green benches.
We will be travelling across the north of England, with the M62 motorway our rough guide, as our reporters and video team take the time to hear voices that don’t make easy soundbites or headlines.
Stretching from the Irish Sea in the west to the North Sea in the east, the M62 corridor has a population of 13million people living in small towns, regenerated Victorian cities and beautiful moorland.
A northerner myself, I know the region is often caricatured as the beating heart of the Leave vote, but in fact it is as varied, argumentative and vibrant as Britain itself.
Former mill towns and rural areas undeniably tilted towards Brexit, but big cities like Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds largely wanted to Remain. And within all of them, there were different views splitting streets, families and communities.
We want to capture the often direct, sometimes messy, always brutally honest views of Scousers, Lancastrians and proud Yorkshiremen and women as the HuffPost Listens series hits the road once more.
Our two reporters, Aasma Day and Arj Singh, were born and bred on different sides of the Pennines and will be recording life in their respective home counties over the next seven days. Aasma, HuffPost UK’s north of England correspondent, is based in Preston and Arj is our deputy political editor, but both are perfectly placed to get under the skin of the Brexit debate inside and outside Westminster.
We certainly won’t ignore all the decisions in London that ultimately affect the whole country. Throughout this week we’ll be simultaneously listening to the ‘ayes’ and ‘noes’ that carry a distinctive northern accent, and not just the ‘aye’ and ‘noe’ lobbies of the House of Commons.
So, you know that feeling when you’ve literally just been recognised for being at the top of your game and doing better than everyone else in your field in the last 12 months, only to wind up falling over and immediately dragging yourself back down to earth?
A clip of Theresa May playing pool with the Italian prime minister has been posted on social media, which includes her chief advisor explaining to her how to play the game.
As the PM attended an EU-League of Arab States summit in Egypt, rumours started to emerge of a face-off on the green baize with her Italian counterpart, Giuseppe Conte. It’s all set against the backdrop of May’s struggles to get her Brexit deal through parliament.
I just witnessed something I never thought possible – which is @theresa_may playing pool against the Italian premier Giuseppe Conte. The PM has definitely shed inhibitions in pursuit of a backstop change, though I pray to god she didn’t wager our Brexit future on the game…
In the footage, the British Prime Minister admits she’ll be “hopeless” as she’s handed the cue. “You’ll have to show me how,” she adds, unsure of the mechanics of the game.
Conte lets May onto the table after failing to pocket. Clearly hoping to help his boss while she’s caught in a tricky situation, Gavin Barwell, her chief of staff, shows her how to use her hand as a bridge and how to hold the cue.
“Put your thumb and finger like that,” he suggests. Sadly, the video cuts out just after she hits the cue ball, so we’ll probably never know if she’s a natural.
Philip Hammond must deliver a “rescue package” in the Spring Statement for millions of low-income families left worse-off by a decade-long squeeze on benefits, welfare campaigner Frank Field has demanded.
The call from the independent MP – who launched an anti-austerity tour of the UK with Independent Group MP Heidi Allen earlier this year – comes after research from the House of Commons Library revealed that two-child families with one parent in work would be £132 worse off in real terms next year compared with 2010.
Meanwhile, families out of work face real terms cuts to their income ranging from £491 to £723.
“There is an overwhelming precariousness that has engulfed families in low-waged work, all too many of whom are vulnerable to hunger because their incomes will not stretch to the end of the month,” Field said.
The research found that six successive benefits caps and freezes had wiped out any gains associated with the introduction of the national living wage and increases to personal allowances.
In a letter to the Chancellor, Field – who resigned from the Labour Party last year – said that if benefits and tax credits had been “inflation-proofed”, single parents and single-earner couples with two children would have been more than £1,400 better off in real terms.
However, he said that while inflation next year was forecast to be around 20% higher than in 2010, child benefit and the basic 30-hour elements of working tax credit would be only 2% higher.
“I very much hope that, having considered these new data, the Chancellor will begin setting out, in the Spring Statement, a rescue package for the living standards of families with children whose incomes have been wrecked by successive waves of caps and freezes,” Field said.
The MP, who is the chair of parliament’s work and pensions committee, said he was compelled to call on Hammond after witnessing the “horror” of his Birkenhead constituents being forced to rely on food projects to survive.
“In the light of these trends, it is not difficult to see why so many families, reliant on low-waged jobs, now seek help from their local food bank,” he said.
A spokesperson for the government said that it’s priority was to support people to improve their lives.
“Last week’s figures show the unemployment rate is the joint lowest since 1975 and wages are growing at the fastest rate in over a decade, outpacing inflation for nearly a year,” they said.
“We know that some people need more support. That’s why we’re spending £90 billion to support families who need it, and by 2022 we will be spending £28 billion more on welfare than we do now.”
In extraordinary scenes, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga undermined his manager Maurizio Sarri by refusing to be substituted as Chelsea were beaten in the Carabao Cup final.
With the score tied at 0-0 in the game against Manchester City, Chelsea boss Sarri wanted to replace the apparently injured goalkeeper with Willy Caballero in the closing minutes of extra time at Wembley.
But the Spaniard stayed on the field despite his number being shown on the board. Under-pressure Sarri reacted with fury as as the game ended goalless after 120 minutes.
😳 – Have you EVER seen anything like it!?
Maurizio Sarri tries to substitute Kepa Arrizabalaga for Willy Caballero, but Kepa refuses to come off and Sarri is absolutely FURIOUS! 😡 pic.twitter.com/Q81v6ry3Kk
Arrizabalaga just walked across at full-time and shook Caballero’s hand. Mutinous act by the No 1 towards Sarri, refusing to come off when his coach demanded. You have to feel for Caballero. Plenty of pressure on Arrizabalaga in the shootout now.
A motorist has been charged with causing the deaths of two elderly people after a crash on Saturday involving a van being pursued by police.
Ben Ord, 41, was arrested in the early hours of Saturday after the crash between a rental van and a Citroen C3 on Footscray Road, Eltham, in south London.
A man and a woman in their 70s died at the scene, on the 30mph road, shortly after midnight.
Scotland Yard said officers had spotted the Ford Transit van being driven “erratically at speed” and the driver had failed to stop.
Ord, of Eltham, is charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving.
He was remanded in custody to appear by video link at Bromley Magistrates Court on Monday.
Ord was also arrested on suspicion of driving while over the alcohol limit, and driving while unfit through drugs, although a Scotland Yard spokeswoman said she was unable to provide any further details about this aspect of the case.
The Metropolitan police is no longer “institutionally racist”. Or so said its leaders this week, ahead of the 20th anniversary of the landmark Macpherson report, which found that it was racial prejudice in the force itself which helped allow the murderers of Stephen Lawrence to evade justice.
Lawrence, an 18-year-old student, was fatally attacked in south London in 1993. The 350-page report, often credited for changing the course of race relations in the UK, was published in 1999, and made a number of clear recommendations for how to repair relations with the black community.
In particular, it made targets for recruitment, focused on training and retaining black and Asian officers. It also led to the creation of the Police Complaints Commission.
Reflecting on the impact of the report, Cressida Dick, the Met commissioner, said this week it had “defined my generation of policing”. Controversially, she also claimed racism was no longer an institutional problem in the Met, but at the same time admitted that it could take another 100 years for the force to reflect the ethnic diversity of London, the city it serves.
Duwayne Brookes, Stephen Lawrence’s best friend, who was present on the night that he was murdered, said the commissioner had “no right to say the force is no longer institutionally racist”.
He told HuffPost UK changes have clearly been made, “in family liaison, reporting and recording of racist incidents, support for victims and witnesses of crime – we now have a victim’s charter; the training has improved – first aid, racism awareness and cultural diversity, community engagement, effective communication. It’s all there – the changes that have been made between then and now.”
But Brookes said what is needed now is “another listening exercise”, similar to a public inquiry, as an “effective way of measuring progress and understanding how people feel today.”
Lost trust is very, very hard to recoverPaul Lawrence
So how much has really changed? In speaking to two generations of black men in London, the answer seems to be: everything and nothing.
The majority said they felt the police were still, on the whole, prejudiced, in some cases, bluntly racist. But many of them also accepted that things had changed for the better since the 1990s.
Paul Lawrence, 54, a motivational speaker and founding member of 100 Black Men of London, told HuffPost UK he felt that until there is a “massive change in society in general”, the force would remain “institutionally racist”.
“Has it improved? Yes, I think it has. Officers are better trained and a lot has been done to improve community relations. However, lost trust is very, very hard to recover and it will take a long time of incident-free working together for things to be great.”
Samuel Brown, 37, a youth worker, was 12-years-old when news of the Eltham murder made headlines. The way it was handled by the Met left a lasting impression on him – but he feels more positively about relations with the force.
“I suppose there are more black and minority ethnic staff these days,” he said. “I believe the police do attempt to meet with black leaders in the community.”
But he said that for young people, there remains a fundamental distrust. “There are examples of injustices against black people across the board – from school exclusions, to the home office’s handling of deportations and the Windrush scandal. So, across the system of that which governs this society, has much changed?
The anniversary of the report comes at a challenging time for policing in the capital. Figures reveal London’s homicide rate surged to the highest in a decade last year, with 132 deaths recorded.
As the police battle to tackle the issue, measures such as increasing stop-and-search measures have reanimated conversations around racial profiling and prejudice.
The Met established the Gang Matrix database after the 2011 London riots, using intelligence including history of violent crime, entries on social media and information from authorities including local councils to identify gang members.
However, a review of the database for the mayor of London Sadiq Khan found that it featured a disproportionate amount of black people, amid concerns that it may be discriminatory.
Amnesty International also called the matrix a “racialised war on gangs” that has stigmatised black youngsters and left Britain in breach of its human rights obligations.
Paul Bruce, 52, from Peckham, said he has never had a negative experience with the Metropolitan Police because he was “taught” how to deal with them, and he thinks there is a problem with how “our young black men carry themselves”.
“So, for instance, if they stop you in your car – get out and go to them; talk to them normally without attitude and, generally, they’ll let you’ll unless they have real reason,” he said.
“I haven’t had a bad experience with the police. I’m not saying racism is not there – of course it’s there; MacPherson said there is, it’s institutionalised, it’s there. I can see how they treat a lot of the black guys they stop on the street but we have to try and weigh things up.
“If we’re having loads of reports about black-on-black killings, then they have an issue that they have to deal with. That’s one thing. What is it that the black community can do to stop ourselves being victimised in such a way?”
But for younger Londoners, who were just about born around the time of Lawrence’s murder, the view is different.
Shani Robinson, 28, believes firmly that the force is “racist”. Though he was just a child when Lawrence was murdered, he believes prejudice has ”gotten worse, but more covert”. He told HuffPost UK: “I’ve seen how racist officers operate and I’ve had encounters with the police before. They look at my attire and the colour of my skin and I know that I can expect them to approach me with aggro.”
I’ve never gotten into any form of trouble, but am automatically assumed to be the bad guyDarrell Irish
Aaron Cumberbatch, 25, said that he feels as if he “grew up hearing about the Stephen Lawrence case – every high and low in the pursuit of justice” – though very little has changed, in his opinion. “Now with the rising youth violence in particular among young black men, in London, it seems there is now a legacy of young black people being over policed and under protected.
“The Metropolitan Police is failing to combat and contain the everyday fears and of black Londoners.”
For Darrell Irish, 36, his concern is being racially profiled. He says this practice has “existed for years and will carry on doing so.” He said: “Their view or understanding of the law or acts that they enforce is lacking. I will always be seen and treated as the “angry black man” and depicted as so within society.
“I’ve never gotten into any form of trouble, but am automatically assumed to be the bad guy.”
In the end, it is perhaps the words of Doreen Lawrence, the mother of the slain teenager, which best capture the ambivalence and reticence still felt by many in the black community when it comes to treatment by the police.
Giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee to mark the anniversary, she said, simply: “If, after 20 years, we’re still talking about this – it shows that things have not moved on that much.”
Neil Basu, the Met’s most senior BAME police officer, reflected on the significance of the MacPherson report and how it has changed policing. While he acknowledged that huge improvements have been made, Basu added that he “must also agree with the Lawrence family that more – much more – still needs to be done.”
“20 years on I would like all of society to spend a little time reflecting on its own diversity and equality journey, and ask themselves how well they think they have done and what more they might need to do,” he said.
“I have been asking that question pretty much every day since MacPherson published his extraordinary report on the 24th February 1999. No matter what we sometimes think, being a person of BAME heritage today is better than when my dad emigrated here from India in 1961.
“It’s better than when I was at school, university or first in employment through the ’70s and ’80s. The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report is a significant reason why society today is better for people who look like me.”