Follow all the day’s campaign action, as Greens and Lib Dems get tactical in Brighton, and Johnson calls Labour leader ‘mutton-headed mugwump’
- Jeremy Corbyn to renew attack on Tories’ housebuilding record
- The Snap: sign up for our daily election briefing email and read today’s
- Boris Johnson says UK willing to join US in air strike against Syria
- Blair refuses to endorse Corbyn for prime minister
- Boris Johnson’s morning interviews – Summary
Alex Salmond, the SNP’s international affairs spokesman and the former Scottish first minister, has criticised Boris Johnson for floating the idea of the UK backing an American air strike against the Assad regime in Syria. Parliament has not approved this, Salmond said. He told Sky News:
Boris Johnson says it would be difficult to say no to the Trump administration. Well, he never tries to say no to President Trump. He’s a mini-me of President Trump. He does not make the attempt to say no.
They have no parliamentary sanction whatsoever to engage in the sort of conflict that the foreign secretary was so unwisely speculating on.
Jeremy Corbyn has been talking to reporters this morning. Here are some of the key points he has been making.
We are eight days into the election campaign and the Tories are reduced to personal name calling. I’ve never been involved in that. I never will be.
We’re in this election because we have a serious debate to be held on what the issues facing this country, such as housing, schools, health – what we’re talking about today – but also how we deal with the major issues around the world. We approach this in a responsible, serious way. I leave that kind of language to others.
Corbyn says ‘I don’t do personal attacks’ but says disappointing the tories are doing negative campaigning
Corbyn tells me ‘I don’t see how more bombing would help’ but ‘all parties would have to be consulted’ if there was US request for a strike
Corbyn says he’s picking up v different mood on doorstep than polls suggest
Buckingham Palace has told journalists in a statement that this year’s state opening of parliament will take place with “reduced ceremonial elements” because it is taking place at relatively short notice. On Monday 19 June, when it is taking place, the Queen had been due to attend the annual service for Knights of the Garter at St George’s Chapel in Windsor but that has now had to be cancelled.
The last ministerial questions in the Commons, which took place this morning, involved the Brexit department. David Jones, the Brexit minister, told MPs that the government was willing to leave the EU with no deal if necessary. He said:
The ambition and intention of the government is to achieve the best possible free trade agreement with our EU partners. However, our position also is this – we expect to negotiate toughly and, unlike the opposition, our position will be made clear to the European Union that we are prepared to walk away from the negotiating table if it is not possible to achieve a deal that suits us.
Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, has accused Boris Johnson and the Tories of pandering to Donald Trump. Responding to Johnson’s comments this morning about the UK being willing to join the US in air strikes against Assad (see 8.48am), he said:
Johnson’s claims that Theresa May would back further intervention against Assad in Syria by the USA raise serious concerns about the Conservatives’ willingness to pander to Donald Trump.
Assad is a brutal dictator, and the use of chemical weapons is indefensible.
The action taken by Donald Trump earlier this month was a necessary and proportionate response to the horrific use of chemical weapons. However, we were absolutely clear that we disagreed with the way in which he conducted it- unilaterally, without allies, outside of a wider strategy.
Some post-election administration: we’ve been told at the morning lobby briefing that parliament will reconvene after the election on Tuesday 13 June, when the speaker is elected (or re-elected).
There then follows four days of the MPs taking their oath before the pomp of the state opening of parliament on 19 June, the following Monday.
Here is my colleague Heather Stewart’s analysis of Boris Johnson “mugwump” attack on Boris Johnson.
Instead of mugwumps, today could have all been about Corbyn “shooting blanks”. Boris’s innuendo gag in his article for us cut by CCHQ.
Corbyn invites people to come with him to create a more decent, fairer society for everyone.
We are for the many, not just for the few, he says.
Jeremy Corbyn is giving a campaign speech in Harlow.
He repeats the line he used at PMQs about the Tories: they are strong against the weak, and weak against the strong, he says.
Here are the main points from Boris Johnson’s various interviews this morning.
The situation in North Korea has changed very substantially over the last few years. What people thought was an almost comical question – the North Korean nuclear threat – has become very real and very dangerous indeed.
We need to address it. I think the White House are entirely right in escalating the seriousness of this question. All North Korea’s neighbours feel this threat very intensely.
All the evidence I have seen suggests to me that the military options are very far from good. Don’t forget that Seoul – the capital of South Korea – is only about 40 minutes from the border with North Korea.
The risk of huge, hideous reprisals against South Korea as a result of any kind of attack on North Korea has got to be very, very severe …
Everybody, from the White House down, has been telling us in the last few months they regard the opportunities provided by a free trade deal with the UK as extremely exciting.
If you’re saying that they want the money before they get any substantive talks then that is obviously not going to happen.
As Theresa May has said, this is a priority for us, we want to guarantee their rights, to give them the maximum possible stability and security. Alas, we made an offer by the way before Christmas that we would do a deal in advance of the negotiations, that was turned down you may recall by Germany, we’re left in a position where we have to do a reciprocal deal, and we’re fine with that.
I do think there is a slight risk that people won’t detect the threat that is hidden behind this sort of Islingtonian herbivorous.
Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister, has given an interview to Sky’s Adam Boulton. He said that he was not advising people not to vote Labour, but he refused to endorse Jeremy Corbyn and he said that Theresa May would win.
Asked if he could put his hand on his heart and say that Jeremy Corbyn was the best person to run the country, Blair replied:
If the polls are right. We know who is going to be prime minister on June 9. That’s not the issue.
It’ll be Theresa May. If the polls are right.
I don’t think [who becomes prime minister is] the real issue in this campaign. I think the real issue is blank cheque. It’s what mandate does she claim, both on Brexit and on the health service, education and all the other things. And I think the most powerful argument for Labour in this election, because of the way the polls are and the way the opinion polls are on the leadership issue, the most powerful argument for Labour is to say it is important for our democracy that the government is held properly to account and that she needs a strong opposition.
I think the big missing question that has got to be there is a question that might sound extraordinarily technical but is absolutely fundamental to the future prosperity of this country, which is in the Brexit negotiation, are we taking membership of the single market and the customs union off the table, which I think we probably are.
If we are and we’re going for a free trade agreement, rather than membership of the single market, that’s a massive for the prosperity of the British economy. That’s why our currency is down 15% …
The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg points out that Boris Johnson has said before that, if the US were to ask the UK to join air strikes against the Assad regime in Syria, it would be hard for the UK to say no. But he said it in the Commons on the the general election was called, which meant that we all missed it.
Johnson told Commons earlier this month ‘it would be v difficult to say no’ to US with air strikes if asked but impt in election context
Johnson told MPs it’d be ‘v difficult’ to say no on April 18th – day election was called, so fair to say not many people paid much attention
Johnson defends the Vote Leave claim that leaving the EU would save £350m a week. He still supports the figure. “Of course it’s right,” he says.
Q: Of all the people you have met as foreign secretary, who has impressed you most.
Q: Who decided that you would cancel your trip to Moscow?
Johnson said it was his decision.
Johnson says we are “virtually certain” the Assad regime was to blame for the chemical weapon attack in Syria.
Q: How certain?
Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, is now being interviewed on LBC.
Asked about his comments about Jeremy Corbyn, he says he wants to apologise to mugwumps everywhere for what he said.
It was not entirely clear from what Boris Johnson was saying (see 8.48am) whether he was seriously floating the idea of the government joining a US air strike against Assad in Syria without consulting parliament, or whether he was just caught by surprise by the question. It is also the case that, if the government wants to bomb Syria during the election campaign, there won’t be a parliament to consult anyway.
But a Foreign Office source has given me some clarification. When David Cameron was prime minister he said the Commons should be consulted over decisions like this, except in cases where the government thinks it needs to order military action quickly, because of some sort of emergency. The government ruled out legislating to make this a firm rule, but it accepted this as a convention. According to the source, Johnson was not meant to be indicating that this policy has changed. Johnson was “simply saying that, if asked, the government would need to assess what was necessary or required [in terms of consulting parliament]”.
Here are the key quotes from Boris Johnson about the UK being willing to join the US in a fresh air strike against Syria. John Humphrys was interviewing him.
JH: Can you envisage the circumstances in which we might be involved in the sort of action that has already taken place by America?
BJ: You mean the strike on the Shayrat airport?
Q: Are there any circumstances in which the UK might get involved in an air strike against Syria similar to the one launched by President Trump?
Johnson says, if the US asked for help for a similar attack, it would be difficult to say no. And that is the view of the prime minister too, he says.
Q: Are you still pro-immigration?
Yes, says Johnson.
Q: You said the UK was first in line to do a trade deal with the US. But the US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross has said a deal with the UK is low priority.
Johnson says it would be fine if the US can do a trade deal with the EU by 2019. That is unlikely, he says.
Q: EU negotiators have said, unless the UK pays large sums over, there will not be a negotiation.
Johnson says EU countries want the best possible relationship, a free trade deal coupled with a large measure of cooperation.
Q: You says people are burying their heads in the sands over this. But they feel they were fed misleading information. The UK Statistics Authority said that figure was misleading and undermines trust in statistics. The Institute for Fiscal Studies said much the same.
Johnson says Today’s “remaining listeners” will have heard him explain that figure many times.
John Humphrys is interviewing Boris Johnson.
Humphrys says the election would not be happening if it were not for the vote for Brexit.
Good morning. I’m taking over from Claire.
Boris Johnson will be on the Today programme in a moment.
Time to hand the live blog to Andrew Sparrow, just as Boris Johnson is about to arrive on the Today programme to say “mugwump” again. With any luck, there might be some substance, too.
There was – amid the name-calling and rib-poking – something of a serious point in Boris Johnson’s Sun column on Jeremy Corbyn today. The foreign secretary argues that Labour’s position on global issues is still a mystery to many voters:
Look at the world today, and the problems Britain is grappling with.
We have a revanchist Russia, interfering blatantly with European democracies – countries that Moscow wants to pull back into its sphere of influence.
On Wednesday night, the Green party took the significant step of deciding not to run a candidate in Brighton Kemptown, held by Conservative Simon Kirby by a majority of just 690 against Labour.
The decision gives Labour a real possibility of making a gain, as the Greens received 3,167 votes in 2015, which would be enough to beat Kirby if all its voters switched to Labour.
In Brighton something amazing is happening. People are putting aside party allegiances and working together so we have the best possible chance of delivering a fairer voting system and beating the Tories at the next election.
We didn’t ask for a deal: we chose instead to step down unilaterally, to help the proudly progressive city of Brighton and Hove to return three progressive MPs.
We also wanted to send a powerful message to other parties that we are prepared to make the first move in order to get progressive alliance talks going.
Prior to today’s … splash, some had wondered if the Tories would risk letting Boris Johnson anywhere near a battle bus, given his close association with the discredited – and abandoned – “£350m-a-week to the NHS” Vote Leave bus slogan.
But talking this morning, Johnson said he stood by the claim. “Of course I do,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain, adding that the £350m figure was “not disputed”:
[It’s] £350m a week which we do not currently control which could be spent on our priorities, including the NHS.
As far as I remember, the gentleman in question belonged to another party and wasn’t on my bus.
The foreign secretary’s official entrance on the campaign stage came with a speech last night at the lord mayor’s banquet in London, where he confidently predicted a raft of trade deals coming the UK’s way post-Brexit, citing – and I am not making this up – a maker of Toblerone stands in his own constituency.
(Perhaps we shouldn’t mention the great Toblerone scandal of 2016.)
I was amazed, when walking the backstreets of Uxbridge, to find a little company that makes the wooden display counters that are used to sell the duty-free Toblerones in every Saudi Arabian airport.
If we can crack markets like that, think what we can do when we have free trade deals with America, where they still have a ban on British haggis. Think of our potential whisky sales to India if only we could negotiate a cut in their duty of 150% on Scotch.
John Healey says he, like many of us, had to look up the meaning of the word “mugwump”. He says its use reflects more on the writer than the target:
I think this is Boris Johnson feeling left out of the election campaign.
look-at-me name-calling that you’d see in the Eton playground.
Don’t attack the person, debate the policies … let the people see a leaders’ debate.
What you can say about Jeremy Corbyn: he’s a man of principle, he cares very deeply about this country … He will lead a Labour government that will make a real difference to this country.
John Healey, the shadow housing minister, is talking about Labour’s housebuilding pledge on the Today programme.
You’ll have to wait for the manifesto for all the details, he says, but “Labour in government will take big steps” to deal with the housing crisis.
You have to have councils building and commissioning new homes as part of a much bigger effort.
Although he’ll now spend the day dealing with mugwump fallout, Jeremy Corbyn is in fact making a policy announcement on housing today, my colleague Peter Walker reports:
The party has released research that it says shows Labour-run councils have built on average around 900 more new homes between 2010 and 2016 than their Conservative counterparts.
The statistics, commissioned by the party from the Commons library, show that Labour-led councils averaged 2,577 new homes each, against 1,679 for Conservative-run authorities and 1,660 for the Liberal Democrats.
Britain faces a housing crisis, with runaway rents and unaffordable housing. The system is rigged, with housing treated as an investment for the few, not homes for the many.
With levels of homebuilding at the lowest levels since the 1920s, the Conservatives “will never fix the housing crisis, which is holding so many people back”, he will say.
No, I didn’t think this is how I’d be spending my Thursday either. But here we go.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary doesn’t really help us, offering two ill-fitting definitions:
Mugwumps were rightwing similar in view to the British Tory party.
a person who remains aloof or independent, especially from party politics.
In case you were wondering if Boris Johnson was regretting his verbal onslaught on Jeremy Corbyn – I know you weren’t, but humour me for a moment – then the answer is no.
But speaking just now on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the foreign secretary did have an apology to dole out:
I apologise to mugwumps everywhere.
Good morning and welcome to another day on the stump. I’m Claire Phipps with your daily election rundown; sign up here to have it delivered piping hot to your inbox. Andrew Sparrow joins the live blog later.
They’d better be ready for a fight. People round here haven’t seen a Tory since 2015.
EXC: Times / YouGov poll: Tory lead down to 16 points pic.twitter.com/Bd2pl9btv8
Farron was elected leader and everyone forgot about his attitude towards sin. Then along came the election and back came the question and his first response was to dodge. I am not in the business, he said, of making ‘theological pronouncements’. In other words what he did or didn’t consider a sin belonged to a different and separate world to the world of politics. In effect he was arguing the theory of the Two Farrons …
People are messy and contradictory. Most of us are Two Farrons, or even more … But the essential question is not what this person might be thinking or feeling, but will they actually do harm or good? The more generous liberal impulse is the big tent versus the narrow path, the forum versus the flames. And we don’t need to burn St Tim.
While it’s good that the Westminster-obsessed press is finally talking about Wales, it is beyond infuriating that it needed Welsh voters turning to the Conservatives for it to happen. The fact is, many of the conditions for this perfect storm have been brewing for some time – but nobody was looking …
There is simply no logical reason why Welsh voters wouldn’t adopt the same voting patterns as Brexit voters in England. The myth that the Welsh electorate, which consumes basically the same media as the English, would somehow hold on to an inherent progressivism in the face of industrial decline was always absurd.