General election: Tony Blair says Tories and Labor both 'peddling fantasies' – live news – The Guardian, Google News

Rowena Mason

Q: Where will the 50, 000 nurses come from? Robert Footman, Hong Kong

Boris Johnson’s nurse numbers are as follows: 12, 500 from abroad, 14, 000 from the undergraduate route and 5, 000 nurse apprentices. That leaves 18, 500 who are not new nurses but nurses would otherwise have left and have been retained in the profession by various incentives. The Tories argue improving retention rates is a way of boosting nurse numbers butLaborsay the headline 50, 000 figure is fake.

Q: Much has been made of increases to public spending to the tune of £ 2.9 billion including 50, 000 Nurses. With no increases in taxes or national insurance who will this be paid for? Gareth Jenkins, Pwllhel, North Wales

The biggest tranche of cash for this comes from a decision to postpone a cut in corporation tax which Johnson claims will raise £ 6bn. Tories have in the past argued corporation tax cuts don’t cost any money but Johnson has acknowledged this is not really the case.

Q: Can you really trust them to deliver any of this – even the ones that appear to be socially responsible like extra nurses? Brian Robinson, 65, Bristol

That is something voters are going to have to grapple with. But Johnson’s record on keeping pledges has not been great even in his short time as prime minister (leaving the EU “do or die” by 31 October, tax cuts for higher earners).

Ask our experts

Rowena Mason

I’m Rowena Mason, deputy political editor of the Guardian, and will be answering your questions about the Tory manifesto today. I have written about Westminster politics for eight years, covering three elections and two referendums. During this election, I have been tracking the Tories since Boris Johnson’s first stump speech in Birmingham and was at the party’s manifesto launch in Telford on Sunday.

If you have a question you can send it to us by filling in the formhere.

Boris Johnson’s record of lying and prejudice makes him unfit to be PM, says Umunna

TheChuka UmunnaQ&A is now over. This is what Umunna said in response to the question from my colleaguePeter Walkerabout whether he thoughtBoris Johnsonwas fit to be prime minister. Umunna replied:

I am worried that you can say and do the things that Boris Johnson has done and for people to simply dismiss it as a factor that is priced in in this general election. I am alarmed that somebody can spew out the range of prejudice that has flowed from his mouth during his time in public office, and lie again and again and again, and it should not be an issue in a general election. It should be an issue in a general election when you are talking about giving somebody the keys to No 10 for another five years.

And so, clearly, I do not believe he is fit to be prime minister. And if you look at the things he has said and done in his behavior, which follows the Donald Trump playbook, that should disqualify him from being able to be in office in my view. And it is a perfectly legitimate point for us to be making in this general election campaign.

Umunna did not give examples of Johnson lying in his examples, butthere is at least one websitedevoted to false and misleading things Johnson has said. For examples of Johnson’s displaying prejudice, the BBC’s Fiona Bruce came out with a liston Question Time on Friday.

Q: Do you believe your friend Tony Blair when he says he will not be voting for you personally ? (See11. 27 am.)Do you think he is telling the truth?

Umunna says he did not see the Blair speech. He says he accepts Blair’s point about how Blair is in a special position personally. But Umunna says he thinks Blair was saying other people in the Cities of London and Westminster would be voting for him.

Q: Have you been surprised by the extent to which the Lib Dem vote is being squeezed?

No, says Umunna. He says this is his first election as a Lib Dem. But older hands in the party tell him they are not surprised.

Umunna says he thinks there will be more tactical voting during this election than in any election since 1997.

Q: You did not mention revoking article 50. Have the Lib Dems abandoned this as a plan?

No, says Umunna. He says it is still the case that, if they won a majority of MPs, they would revoke article 50. But the party is also campaigning for a people’s vote. And, unlikeLabor, all Lib Dem MPs would be campaigning for remain.


Umunna’s Q&A

Chuka Umunnais now taking questions at the end of his speech.

Q: Was it a mistake for the Lib Dems to start the campaign by saying that Jo Swinson could end up being PM?

Umunna says he does not accept that. It is the Lib Dems ’job to fight every seat with the intention of trying to win. It would be strange if they said anything else, he says. He says it will be for the voters to decide how many MPs the Lib Dems get.

Q: Do you thinkBoris Johnsonis fit to be PM?

Umunna says he is worried that Johnson can do what he does, and it is treated as if it is “priced in”. He says he is worried that Johnson can “lie again and again and again”, and spew out racist language in his career, and that this is not a general election issue.


Britain could become ‘vassal state of US’ under Johnson’s Brexit plan, says Umunna

Here are some of the main lines fromChuka Umunna‘s speech, from the text released by the Lib Dems in advance.

  • Umunna, the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, said Britain could become a “vassal state” of the US under Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan. He said:

From my own contacts with the US government, it is clear a high price will be demanded and close alignment with US rules and regulation demanded – we risk becoming a vassal state of the US ifBoris Johnsongets a majority. Leave the EU and the UK under Johnson will become President Trump’s poodle. That is what is at stake at this election.

  • Umunna said Johnson was as populist and rightwing as Donald Trump.He said:

In his words and deeds [Trump] has been unafraid to engage in bigoted, racist, sexist, and Islamophobic behavior, lie and break the law. All the same criticisms apply to the UK’s prime minister who is following the Trump playbook and has become part of this global network of populist, right-wing, authoritarian nationalists. Giving Johnson a majority is to give carte blanche to this type of politics in the UK – something which should worry us all.

  • Umunna confirmed the Liberal Democrats were committed to spending 2% of GDP on defense.

Updated (at 7.) ********************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************* (am EST)

Updated (at 6.) am EST

Chuka Umunna’s speech on Lib Dem foreign policy

Chuka Umunna, the Lib Dem foreign affairs spokesman, is giving a speech on foreign policy. There is a live feed here.

Chuka Umunna’s foreign policy speech.

Tony Blair’s speech and Q&A – Summary and analysis

Tony Blairwas critical of both main parties in his speech and Q&A this morning. That probably won’t worry the respective party leaderships very much; Tory Brexiters andLaborCorbynites are both united in their scorn for Blair and much of what he represents, and they tend to believe that any criticism from the former PM ends up being counterproductive. Maybe with some audiences it is, but Blair can still present a political argument with a clarity that very few others can match.

At one point quite recently it was assumed that Blair was hoping a new centrist party might emerge to challenge Labor. But the demise of Change UK may have killed that off as an aspiration for the foreseeable future, and one of the interesting features of the Q&A was Blair’s confirmation that he wants to stay in the Labor party to contribute to the debate he expects it to be having about its post-Corbyn future after the election.

Here are the main points from the speech and Q&A.

  • Blair accused both the Conservatives and Labor of peddling “fantasies” to voters in the election campaign.(See (9.) am.) He also said as a result he did not think it would be good for the country for either main party to win a majority.

I don’t think a majority government of either side is a good thing.

Tony Blair says Conservatives and Labor are ‘peddling fantasies’ – video
  • He said there was no chance of Boris Johnson being able to negotiate a Canada-style trade deal with the EU before the end of next year.Johnson claims that this will be possible, and he says he will not extend the Brexit transition period. But Blair said a trade deal within this timeframe would only be acceptable if the UK agreed to stay aligned to the single market – an option Johnson has ruled out. (See (9.) am.) Blair said trade talks with the EU could in fact go on for years under the Tories. (See9. 22 am.) This is an argument that Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon have also been making forcefully.
  • He said a no-deal Brexit was now a “probable outcome” if Johnson was telling the truth about not being willing to extend the Brexit transition.(See 8. 57 am.) In the Q&A he also said he did not think Tory Brexiters understood how damaging a no-deal Brexit would be. He said:

Within the Conservative cabinet there are people who are ardent Brexiters. They are perfectly content if Britain goes out without a deal and trades on WTO terms. Now, I think a lot of them have no idea what WTO terms really mean. And, by the way, when you talk to people in the WTO about what it means, you can see – it’s a risk no serious person would take with the country economy.

  • He described what Labor was proposing as “a revolution” and implied its promises were unrealistic.(See 9. 23 am.)
  • He implied that he backed tactical voting against Brexiter candidates.In his speech he said:

We should look at this election seat by seat. There is one general election but 650 mini-elections and each one matters.

There are good, solid mainstream, independent-minded MPs and candidates in both parties. Like many, I have been campaigning for great Labor candidates because we know parliament will be poorer without them. I am sure the same is true of the Conservative party and there are those who were expelled for their moderation also standing.

The Lib Dems can’t form a government; but they can play an important role in who does govern.

  • But he said he would be voting Labor himself – even though he understood why people in his constituency, the Cities of London and Westminster, would be voting for the Lib Dem candidate Chuka Umunna. Blair said as a former party leader he was in a special category, and he implied that he thought it was important to remain as a party member (he would get thrown out if he publicly backed a candidate from another party) because he wanted to have a say in the party’s post-Corbyn future. He said:

I’ve said why I’ve got to vote Labor – one thing, by the way, there will be an enormous debate I feel coming in the Labor party at a certain point and it’s important – I ‘m in a particular position, there’s one of me.

  • He said that he thought the chances of an outright Labor majority were “negligible”.
  • He said British politics was chaotic, crazy and “Utterly dysfunctional”.He said this could end up causing “ serious economic and social damage ”to the UK. (See 08 am.)
  • He said Britain needed to “up the qualityIn the Q&A he said:

One of the things, when this election is over, alongside everything is, is we’ve got to up the quality of political discourse because, if we don’t, we’re going to end up with these populist waves. And what does populism do in the end? Essentially, it rides the anger. And it’s actually born of pessimism. Because when you’re pessimistic, you look for people to blame.

Tony Blair speaking at the Reuters Newsmaker event this morning.
Tony Blair speaking at the Reuters Newsmaker event this morning. Photograph: Toby Melville / Reuters


Jeremy Corbyn speaking during a visit to the Renishaw miners welfare hall, in Sheffield this morning.
Jeremy Corbyn speaking during a visit to the Renishaw miners welfare hall, in Sheffield this morning. Photograph: Joe Giddens / PA

On a visit to Derbyshire this morning (J)eremy Corbynmet a group of Waspi (Women Against State Pension Inequality (campaigners to promote the (Labor) ************ (plan to spend £ 58 bn to compensate them. He told them:

I’m very proud that we’ve got that clearly in our manifesto and I’ll be very proud to go into government and say: ‘This is the policy on which we’ve been elected and this is the policy that will now be carried out to right the wrong and the injustice that ’S been done to all of you.’

I will do absolutely everything I can to make sure we win the election on December 12 and put that pledge into practice.

People understand the injustice that’s been done to you and the need for the country as a whole to accept the moral responsibility for putting it right.

Waspi campaigners arriving at the Labour event in Renishaw where Jeremy Corbyn was speaking.
Waspi campaigners arriving at the Labor event in Renishaw where Jeremy Corbyn was speaking. Photograph: Leon Neal / Getty Images


Blair says Britain needs to ‘up quality of political discourse’

Blair is wrapping up now.

He says, whatever happens, Britain is a great country.

He recalls a visit to an African country recently. The president told him he was sorry for what was happening in Britain.

Q: Is it getting harder and harder to stay optimistic. What are the chances this will go your way?

Blair says he is naturally optimistic. But he is not sure he still is. He is worried, he says. Some days he thinks this problem will blow itself out. Other days he thinks the problems are really deep.

I’m clinging to optimism.

But we need to think deeply as a country, he says. He says he does not think the country can go on like this for long without “severe damage”.

People are less deferential, which is good. And they want a say, which is good. But people have to share responsibility.

When this is over, “we’ve got to up the quality of political discourse”, he says.

He says what populism does is “ride the anger”.

He says he is passionate about technology because he thinks that is an essential part of what a modern political agenda looks like.

And that’s it. The Q&A is over.

I’ll post a summary soon.

Tony Blair speaking at the Reuters Newsmaker event.
Tony Blair speaking at the Reuters Newsmaker event. Photograph: Toby Melville / Reuters

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