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Sir Keir was yesterday confirmed as Jeremy Corbyn’s replacement after seeing off the twin challenges of Lisa Nandy and Rebecca Long-Bailey, taking 56.2 percent of the vote. Angela Rayner was elected as his deputy. Analysts have suggested he will need to strike a balance between backing efforts to minimise the impact of the pandemic and holding the Government to account. The 57-year-old, writing in the Sunday Times, struck a conciliatory tone in keeping with his previous remarks, suggesting a possible accommodation could be reached.

Coronavirus is a national emergency. It is also a global emergency

Sir Keir Starmer

He said: “There will be many times when, and there are many issues upon which, I will fundamentally disagree with the Prime Minister.

“However, there will also be times when Labour can – and must – engage constructively with the Government.

“Now is such a time. Coronavirus is a national emergency. It is also a global emergency.

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“Everyone is anxious about what the next few months will bring, but we know we must be resolute in our determination to see this virus defeated, as it will be.

“I want to see the Government succeed in this: to save lives and protect livelihoods.

“This is a national effort and all of us should be asking what more we can do.”

Sir Keir said Labour would “do our bit to offer solutions” but also vowed to “speak for those who have been ignored”, and expose mistakes “to ensure that they are rectified as soon as possible”.

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He added: “And let’s be honest, serious mistakes have been made.

“The public is placing an enormous trust in the Government at the moment: it is vital that that trust is met with openness and transparency about those mistakes and the decisions that have been made.”

Repeating calls for more widespread testing and more readily available PPE, Sir Keir urged the Government to build vaccination centres in towns and cities across the UK to ensure “the minute a vaccine becomes available, we can begin to protect the entire population”.

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He also called for the Government to publish an exit strategy from the measures to defeat coronavirus.

He stressed: “There will be many more difficult days ahead. Great sacrifices must be made because of a crisis that was unimaginable only a few months ago. But Britain is a great country and we will get through this.”

Speaking before the result was announced, Professor Tony Travers, director of LSE London, told it was hard to envisage Sir Keir not being involved on some level.

He explained: “You know that the Government is going to find it very hard not to involve him, as William Hague is suggested today, in at least explain to him what they’re doing candidly.

“And he’s the kind of person who I think, given he was DPP and held the high public office, the Government and security officials would trust to do that – which I suspect they probably wouldn’t have done with Jeremy Corbyn.”

“Most Conservatives don’t want a national unity government, I don’t think, but there might be a sort of halfway house option whereby they invite the new leader of the opposition in to see what’s going on.”

Ladbrokes rates Mr Starmer’s chances of joining Mr Johnson in an unlikely alliance by the end of 2020 at just 3-1, with spokesman Jessica O’Reilly saying: “Starmer’s been appointed to bring the Labour Party back together.

“However, it’s not out of the realms of possibility he joins a National Unity Government this year and causes even more friction within the party.”

National Governments are unusual in an UK context, but not unheard of.

As Prime Ministers, Herbert Asquith and David Lloyd George in World War 1 and Winston Churchill in World War 2 led all-party coalitions which were sometimes referred to as such, although more usually as coalition Governments.

In addition Ramsay MacDonald, the first Labour Prime Minister, led a national Government comprising members of his own party plus the Conservative Party, Liberals, Liberal Nationals and National Labour, between 1931 and 1935.

Stanley Baldwin (1935-37) and Neville Chamberlain (1937-39) presided over similar coalitions.

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All Out Politics podcast: Virus Pandemic – the past, present and future

Two weeks in to the UK lockdown, Adam Boulton and guests examine the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis so far as delays to the testing of frontline NHS workers result in some uncomfortable headlines for the prime minister.

They assess the lessons learned from previous pandemics like the Spanish Flu, the current response from ministers and the government’s exit strategy as comparisons are made with China and South Korea.

And reflections on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership as the party prepares to announce his successor.

Joining Adam this week are the historian Peter Frankopan and Sky’s political correspondent Kate McCann.

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Varadkar blow: Leo Varadkar suffers ANOTHER election disaster as plea ignored

The Seanad, consisting of 60 senators, is Ireland’s upper house, with the majority elected by outgoing members, plus TDs (equivalent to MPs in the UK), city and county councillors in what is a complex and much-criticised process. Voters for each party elect their own senators – but Fine Gael voters have failed to elect women to three of five vocational panels counted so far. In doing so, they ignored a letter sent by Mr Varadkar – already under pressure as he oversees Ireland’s fight with COVID-19 – to TDs, Senators and councillors prior to voting, in which he urged them to “consider gender balance” when casting their ballots.

If you are not giving at least four of your 10 first and second preferences to female candidates, there is something wrong

Leo Varadkar

He added: “If you are not giving at least four of your 10 first and second preferences to female candidates, there is something wrong.

“We need more women in our parliamentary party to better reflect real Ireland and we need more women in the Seanad to meet the 40 per cent gender quota for the next Dail election.

“If we don’t have more female candidates there will be even fewer slots for male candidates next time out.”

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His pleas were ignored, just months after he was humbled as his Fine Gael party dropped to third place in the Irish general election.

Talks aimed at forming a new Government have dragged on for weeks.

Rules stipulate that the Seanad – which a 2013 referendum narrowly opted against abolishing – is elected via three separate categories – 43 from panels of candidates representing specified vocational interests, six from university panels and the remaining 11 nominated by the Taoiseach.

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The university panels are elected by 160,000 graduates from Trinity College and the Natinal University of Ireland (NUI), with the other panel voted on by roughly 1,000 ex-Senators, TDs, and councillors.

So far, two of Fine Gael’s four outgoing Senators, Gabrielle McFadden from Westmeath and Maria Byrne from Limerick, have been defeated, with Senator Maura Hopkins standing down for family reasons.

Senator Catherine Noone is hoping to win a place on the Industrial and Commercial panel, votes for which have yet to be counted.

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In addition, TD Kate O’Connell was not selected as a candidate and her sister, Mary Newman Julian, despite being a candidate on the Cultural and Educational panel, did not get elected.

The rejection of female candidates makes it likely Mr Varadkar will nominate a large number of women himself if Fine Gael forms the next Irish Government – although with Ireland currently facing enormous disruption as a result of the coronavirus, the situation remains unclear.

More than half of the 43 Senators on the vocational panels have now been decided upon.

Among their number are at least eight former TDs, including Ministers of State Michael D’Arcy and Sean Kyne, as well as Fianna Fail’s Shane Cassells, Pat Casey, Eugene Murphy, Niall Blaney, Lisa Chambers and Malcolm Byrne.

Ex-Sinn Fein Dublin MEP Lynn Boylan also won a seat.

Meanwhile, speaking yesterday, Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael and Fianna Fail could agree a joint government policy document either this week or next.

He explained: “We believe what’s required is a government that is going to last four to five years, which can deal with this crisis, the recovery, and putting our society and economy back together when we’ve got past this health crisis.”

Such a Government would require the support of a third party, he stressed, a process which could take weeks, while emphasising slowing the spread of COVID-19 remained Ireland’s top priority.

Pressed as to whether he would remain Taoiseach in a new Government, Mr Varadkar said the question was being discussed with Fianna Fail and its leader Micheal Martin.

However, he pointed out Fianna Fail had “slightly more seats”, a fact he said he and his party recognised.

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UK lockdown could be relaxed within WEEKS if EVERYONE plays part

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said that if people stick to official government advice then numbers would fall – relieving pressure on the NHS. Offering a glimmer of hope to worried families he told the BBC: “If we all adhere to the measures then there is reason to believe they will begin to flatten the curve and we could see the evidence coming through that the NHS is being able to cope with the situation as best as possible. If that is the case then there may be the potential to relax measures in a sensible way in accordance with medical advice in the weeks and months that would follow that.”

But he warned that the next two weeks will be “critical” as Britain surges towards the peak of the outbreak.

“It’s likely the numbers will get worse in the coming days before they get better,” Mr Jenrick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Some experts have indicated that the worst period of the COVID-19 epidemic could strike between April 6 and April 20.

This is when most deaths are likely to occur.

And Mr Jenrick said the deaths of a 13-year-old and a 19-year-old with coronavirus is a reminder that the disease affects everyone.


He told BBC Breakfast: “Every death is a tragedy, but two young people dying is even more sobering.

“It does remind us all that this is a virus that’s indiscriminate.

“It doesn’t just affect the elderly, or those who are extremely vulnerable because of their pre-existing conditions, although those people do need to take particular care.

“It can affect all of us and I think many young people have felt, or some young people have felt, almost invincible, and you saw that in some of the scenes a couple of weeks ago of young people out enjoying themselves when we first started to implement some of the social distancing measures.

“I think now everybody in the country understands and appreciates the seriousness of the situation, and is following the medical advice, which is to stay at home, by doing so protect the NHS and help to save lives.

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Israel's Gantz angers supporters with move toward unity government

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – Israel appeared headed on Friday for a unity government after opposition leader Benny Gantz moved toward an agreement with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, disappointing voters who had hoped to bring down the right-wing premier.

Gantz was elected parliamentary speaker on Thursday with support from Netanyahu’s Likud and allied parties, angering many of his own partners over the possibility he could form an alliance with a leader who is under criminal indictment.

Gantz cited the coronavirus epidemic as the reason for his decision. Israel, with 3,000 cases of the disease and 10 deaths, is under partial lockdown.

The shock move splintered Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party just 13 months after it came into existence as a coalition of Netanyahu opponents intent on bringing down Israel’s longest-serving prime minister.

It also drew an angry response from some among the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who turned out to support Gantz’s coalition in three elections in the past year. Some commentators accused the former general of caving in to Netanyahu.

“It makes me feel terrible. It’s exactly what I did not want to happen, to see Gantz actually partner with Netanyahu,” said Tami Golan, 46, who voted for Gantz in all three elections.

“I understand the coronavirus makes for a special situation, but I can’t help but feel disappointed – we might not be done with Netanyahu,” Golan said.

Many voters for Blue and White felt betrayed, commentator Nahum Barnea wrote in the Yedioth Ahronoth daily.

“The only reason that led them to vote for this half-baked party was the desire to see Netanyahu outside of Balfour Street,” he said, referring to the prime minister’s official Jerusalem residence.

Gantz, 60, expressed regret on Friday his decision had split his centrist alliance but said dragging the country toward a fourth election would distract from fighting the coronavirus and aiding the economy.

“(We) will make every effort to establish a national emergency government. We will take care of the health crisis. We will lift the country out of economic trauma,” Gantz wrote on his Facebook page.

During the campaign for the March 2 election, Gantz had ruled out serving with Netanyahu, citing the prime minister’s looming trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu denies the charges.

But Gantz has lacked enough support on the center and left to form a coalition after being asked by President Reuven Rivlin to try to form a government following the election.

Netanyahu, 70, had proposed a unity government to tackle the coronavirus, promising to step down as prime minister within an agreed period, with Gantz then taking over.

Gantz’s move Thursday opened up the possibility of such a “rotation” deal, but there has been no formal announcement that such an agreement had been reached.

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US Senate unanimously passes TRILLION dollar coronavirus package

The bill passed by a vote of 96 to 0, showing unanimous bipartisan support for the bill.

The vote ends days of deadlock and debate over provisions for American people and businesses

It’s now sent to the House Of Representatives for the next stage of debate.

The emergency legislation is the largest economic relief bill in US history.

The package is expected to provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year.

The payments extend to $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. 

The benefit is reduced by $5 for each $100 the taxpayer makes, assisting poorer workers.


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The legislation is the product of crisis compromise between a bitterly divided political system in America.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that the House of Representatives vote will be “a good debate on the floor.”

Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday about fears the bill doesn’t go far enough, she said: What is important is for us to recognize the good that is in the bill, appreciate it for what it does. Don’t judge it for what it doesn’t because we have more bills to come,

“At the start of all this we had two bills, which were about emergencies … and the emergency isn’t over, but the focus was on those two bills. Now we’re mitigating for the damage of it all to the health and to the livelihood of the American people,

She added: “That is in this bill. And then we will go forward for recovery. Emergency, mitigation, recovery.

”And again all along the way still addressing the emergency and mitigation needs by focusing on how we build the economy in a positive way as we meet the health needs of the American people.”

She has said she’s “very pleased (…) congressional Democrats were able to turn upside down the bill that was presented at the beginning of the weekend.

“It was a trickle-down, corporate bill. It is now a bubble-up, workers bill and we’re very proud of that.”

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The package is intended as relief for an economy falling fast into recession.

This comes along with America facing a devastating toll from an infection that’s killed nearly 20,000 people worldwide.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is reticent to allow the unprecedented aid to continue for too long, as the bill costs half the annual federal budget.

He said: “We’ve anticipated three months. Hopefully, we won’t need this for three months.”

The US currently has 64’180 cases of Coronavirus based on available testing.

As of Thursday, 897 have died after contracting the virus.

New York remains the most afflicted state, with its dense population leading to over 30’000 cases.

Michigan, California and Washington are all around the 2’500 mark, as the pandemic rages across the US.

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New York coronavirus Fears as ‘freight train’ virus to devastate US – shock chart

The state itself has recorded 210 deaths at the time of writing, a third of the US’ total. There have also been a confirmed 25,000 cases, with state officials warning of an impending crisis which will soon rapidly spread across the country. Although only recently hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, New York is on a trajectory worse than Madrid and the Italian region of Lombardy – the heart of the country’s outbreak – according to date from the Financial Times.

With cases in New York threatening to spread worldwide, the WHO also admitted the US could soon become the epicentre of the coronavirus.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday: “One of the forecasters said to me: ‘We were looking at a freight train coming across the country.’

“We’re now looking at a bullet train.

“The apex is higher than we thought and the apex is sooner than we thought.”

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Mr Cuomo also accused the government of not sending enough equipment needed to stop the crisis.

An estimated 400 ventilators were sent to New York from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency.

A further 2,000 more will be sent by Wednesday US Vice President Mike Pence confirmed, although Mr Cuomo stated that was still not enough.

However, the Governor criticised that small number and insisted many more will be needed if they are to contain the crisis.

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He said: “We need federal help and we need the federal help now.

“New York is the canary in the coal mine, New York is happening first, what is happening to New York will happen to California and Illinois, it is just a matter of time.”

Deborah Birx, the co-ordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force has also revealed an estimated one in every 1,000 New Yorkers have been exposed to the virus.

She also indicated those leaving the country’s most populated city could create new clusters of the virus.

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“To everyone who has left New York over the past few days, because of the rate of infection, you may have been exposed before you left.

“We are starting to see new cases across Long Island that suggests people have left the city.”

Due to the crisis in New York, other states have moved to block entry for those who have travelled from the state.

On Monday, the Governor of Florida, Ronald DeSantis signed an executive order requiring those from New York to self-isolate for two weeks.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said: “What we’re seeing now is that, understandably, people want to get out of New York.

“They’re going to Florida, they’re going to Long Island.

“We don’t want that to be another seeding point for the rest of the country, wherever they go.”

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Bangladesh ex-PM Khaleda freed on humanitarian grounds, her party says

DHAKA (Reuters) – Bangladesh’s ailing former prime minister Khaleda Zia was released from prison on Wednesday on humanitarian grounds, her party said.

Khaleda, 74, was jailed in 2018 following her conviction for graft. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had suspended her prison term for six months, her party general secretary Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir said.

Her health has been deteriorating for months and she was moved to a hospital in April last year.

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