Closed Election: Corbyn claims NHS ‘for sale’ under Tory plan for US trade pact — as it happened

Jeremy Corbyn Makes Campaign Announcement On NHS

Jeremy Corbyn unveiled 451 pages of leaked documents, which he claimed show details of trade talks between the UK and US. The Labour leader said the discussions included Washington’s demand for providing access to the NHS for American healthcare companies.

Corbyn in focus

Good morning, welcome to the FT’s live coverage of Wednesday’s election campaigning in the UK.

Jeremy Corbyn is in focus today following a tough BBC TV interview in which he declined to apologise to Britain’s Jewish community over allegations of anti-Semitism in his party, and was forced to admit Labour would breach its longstanding promise not to raise taxes on workers earning under £80,000.

We’ll have the latest developments as they happen through the day, and do let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Moment of truth looms large for Jeremy Corbyn

The FT’s chief political correspondent Jim Pickard has been tracking the Labour party throughout the election.

He has written a piece this morning on how Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership has become a central theme of this election campaign – driven by his ambivalence on Brexit, his hard left views and the party’s enduring anti-Semitism furore.

The key problem is Mr Corbyn’s dire personal ratings, while there are few signs that his party’s radical manifesto, which included sweeping nationalisation plans and a commitment to increase taxes by £83bn a year, can deliver a cut-through moment as it did in 2017.

You can read Jim’s full piece here.

Today’s papers

This morning’s front pages make grim reading for Jeremy Corbyn.

The Labour leader’s decision to decline to apologise over allegations of anti-Semitism has allowed the row to lead the the news for a second straight day.

The Mail, never friendly to Mr Corbyn even on a good day, says he was “torn apart” in a “TV skewering” by the BBC’s Andrew Neil.

The Telegraph, Guardian and Times all also lead with the story, while the Daily Express wonders whether Mr Corbyn has “gifted the keys” of 10 Downing Street to Boris Johnson.

Labour and Lib Dems dwarf Tories in online spending battle

Jemima Kelly and David Blood report:

Labour and the Liberal Democrats are pouring hundreds of thousands of pounds into Facebook and Instagram ads, dwarfing the Conservatives’ spending as the opposition parties fight to close the gap on the UK’s governing party ahead of next month’s general election.

• Labour spent more than £165,000 on advertising across the two social media platforms in the week up to November 23, according to data published by Facebook.

• The Conservatives spent little more than a tenth of what Labour has spent in the most recent week for which there is data, at just over £17,500.

• The Lib Dems are currently the biggest spenders, with the party splashing out over £190,000 to take out ads in the same period, while the Brexit Party spent just under £100,000.

Jeremy Corbyn features in very few of Labour’s recent Facebook ads, perhaps underlining concerns over his unpopularity with the public. Instead the party has focused on driving home key messages and policy proposals, such as free prescriptions and “giv(ing) people the final say on Brexit”.

By contrast, pictures and videos of Conservative leader Boris Johnson feature prominently in the vast majority of the party’s recent ads.

You can read more details of the parties’ online spending habits in this full report.

Conservatives have ‘no tolerance’ for racism

The Conservative party’s record on Islamophobia has been questioned this week, with the Muslim Council of Britain accusing the party of “denial, dismissal and deceit” over the issue.

Speaking on BBC Radio this morning, housing and communities secretary Robert Jenrick said his party takes “robust action” against individuals where necessary.

“We want to be a party that has no tolerance whatsoever of racism, prejudice or discrimination of any kind,” he said.

Mr Jenrick was unable to say how many incidents of Islamophobia the party knew of, but promised a “very thorough” investigation by the end of the year. The party has committed to an inquiry on all forms of discrimination.

Boris Johnson wrote in a newspaper column last year that Muslim women wearing burkas “look like letterboxes,” comments that have been under renewed scrutiny this week as race relations dominate the election campaign.

Stocks are expecting a Tory win

One area of the UK share market is sending a clear signal that the Conservative party will gain a majority at next month’s general election, the FT’s Mike Mackenzie writes.

The FTSE 250 has extended its rise over its blue-chip rival, the FTSE 100. The more domestically flavoured 250 index had gained 19.2 per cent for the year as of yesterday’s close – versus the FTSE 100’s pedestrian 10 per cent – and sits at its best level for 15 months.

Longview notes the forces that should merit foreign flows lifting UK equities:

Economic activity should reaccelerate next year, aided by fiscal stimulus, rising house prices and robust growth in household cash flow. In addition, political uncertainty should ease and release pent up demand for business investment spending.

One notable challenge for equities is what kind of Brexit ultimately ensues, should the Conservatives form a government after the general election and pull the UK out of the EU at the end of January.

You can sign up to Mike’s daily analysis of what’s moving global markets here.

Labour responds to Corbyn’s ‘difficult interview’

Labour is reeling from Jeremy Corbyn’s disastrous interview with the BBC’s Andrew Neil on Tuesday night, Sebastian Payne writes.

Even the most passionate supporters of the opposition leader have acknowledged it did not go well and he performed poorly – particularly on the questions regarding anti-Semitism.

Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary and a close ally of Mr Corbyn, was sent out to the TV studios this morning to mop up some of the damage. In an interview with Sky News, he acknowledged it was a “difficult interview” but argued “Jeremy’s sincerity came across”.

Anybody watching that interview would come away with the conclusion that Jeremy is what he is – Jeremy is a firm opponent of racism, a firm opponent of anti-Semitism, a firm opponent of Islamophobia.

Mr Corbyn failed to apologise four times last night for the rise in anti-Semitism in the Labour party under his watch. Mr Burgon took a different approach, stating “we’re sorry for the hurt and pain that has been caused”.

He’s apologised on a number of occasions for the sorrow that’s been caused to the Jewish community…he’s always been clear that the situation in the Labour party hasn’t been right.

Despite Labour’s standing in the polls, Mr Burgon was confident about his party’s prospects.

“I think we can win and will win.”

Credit Suisse on the outlook for UK assets: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It all depends on the election.

That is the conclusion from analysts at Swiss bank Credit Suisse, which has just published its outlook for next year.

Credit Suisse said on Wednesday its “base line” expectation is for the Tories to win a majority in next month’s election. The bank expects that would lead to “fiscal stimulus, a rebound in growth and investment due to a Brexit deal being passed and potential central bank rate hikes”.

Other electoral outcomes would “cause more uncertainty to continue into next year [and] could lead to the UK economy weakening further”, the bank noted.

Overall, Credit Suisse forecasts UK equities will perform in line with other major markets. That would mark an improvement on this year: the broad MSCI UK index has returned 15 per cent including dividends in dollar terms compared with returns of 25 per cent for the index provider’s basket of developed market equities.

Credit Suisse added that it expects the pound to appreciate next year, something that “should limit upside potential for larger export-oriented companies in the UK.”

The bank’s outlook contrasts New York-based rival Goldman Sachs, which earlier this week advised clients to bet on domestic-focused UK stocks amid expectations economic growth will rev up significantly in the second half of 2020.

SNP to outline health demands in manifesto

The Scottish National party will launch its general election manifesto in Glasgow at around 11am, Mure Dickie writes.

While the SNP’s central call is for another referendum on Scottish independence, it will also try to emphasise its relevance in wider policy debates by saying that a demand for greater health funding by Westminster will be part of its bargaining strategy in the event of a hung parliament.

Decisions on health policy are devolved to the Scottish parliament, but Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader, said ahead of the manifesto launch that the UK government should increase spending per head to match the level in Scotland.

The SNP says that would mean £35bn more in resource funding in 2023/24 for England, and under the “Barnett formula” system of calculating the block grant that the UK government passes to Scotland this would bring an extra £4bn in spending to Scotland.

The call may please those in both Scotland and elsewhere in the UK would like higher health spending, but it could also raise some hackles in England. Relatively higher health funding north of the border is possible in part because the Barnett system allows Scotland to sustain more generous per-capita government spending than the UK as a whole while collecting a similar level of taxes per person.

Ms Sturgeon has already said she would demand approval for a second Scottish independence referendum as the price of backing a minority Labour UK government, but her promise not to support the Conservatives may limit her bargaining power in the event of a hung parliament.

Surge in young voters offers hope for Labour

659,666 people registered to vote yesterday – the highest number on record for a single day, according to the Electoral Reform Society, a campaign group.

Just over two thirds of the 3.85m applications to register have been submitted by people aged under 34, figures which are likely to boost the Labour party.

One adviser to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the FT the party was delighted by data released yesterday which pointed towards a wave of new registrations with a heavy emphasis on young people.

“There’s been a real spike, much bigger than 2017, which ought to be really good for us,” he said.


Corbyn says leaked documents show NHS ‘up for sale’ in US talks

The FT’s Jim Pickard reports from Westminster:

I’m at an event in Westminster where Jeremy Corbyn is brandishing 451 pages of leaked documents showing talks between the US and UK over a potential trade deal – with access to the NHS for US healthcare companies as one of Washington’s demands.

The Labour leader is calling this “a plot against our country”.

The documents and information – from July 2017 through to today – are called UK-US Trade Working Group.

Mr Corbyn claims the bunch of documents “leaves Boris Johnson’s denials in tatters” when the Tory leader says that he would resist any greater access to the NHS for the US private sector.

One of the specific areas of discussion is the extension of patents for particular drugs – which would benefit pharmaceutical companies.

“Labour will not let this rest,” says Mr Corbyn. “We would never sell out our national health service.” And now some health workers in scrubs are handing out the documents.

Labour’s briefing on the ‘secret plot’ against the NHS

Here is part of the Labour briefing handed out to journalists as part of the leaked 451-page document on the NHS and US big pharma.

Jim Pickard reports from the briefing that Mr Corbyn has been asked the killer question by the BBC: does Labour have any actual proof that UK ministers privately suggested to Washington that healthcare could form part of trade deal? No.

All Mr Corbyn can say is that ministers “sanctioned” and were aware of the talks by officials.

An early look at the document

Jim Pickard reports:

Out of the 451 pages there only seem to be a few relevant paragraphs.

• On page 41 it says that the US is not keen on warning labels on food.

• On page 43 it repeats the US desire to improve the “media narrative” on chlorine-washed chicken.

• On page 119 there are some words hinting at the US desire for longer drug patents.

That’s pretty much it….quite thin material when you boil it down to the essentials.

Document: ‘All to play for’ in a no-deal Brexit

The document has this insight into how the Trump administration viewed the post-Brexit trade talks, in a section from July 2019.

Continued membership of the Single Market and Customs Union would make a free trade agreement a “non-starter” but there would be “all to play for” in a no-deal situation.

“US Trade Representative were also clear that the UK-EU situation would be determinative: there would be all to play for in a No Deal situation but UK commitment to the Customs Union and Single Market would make a UK-US FTA a non-starter.”

Sturgeon launches SNP manifesto

Nicola Sturgeon has taken the stage in Glasgow to launch the Scottish National party’s election manifesto.

Stopping Brexit is at the heart of the party’s policy platform — as the backdrop looks to make clear — and Ms Sturgeon was not pulling punches on this front with her opening comments, taking aim at both Labour and the Conservatives:

Scotland will pay a heavy price for the Tories’ Brexit obsession and for Labour’s neutrality – or to give it its proper description, Labour’s woeful lack of leadership. So this election really matters. The future of Scotland is on the line.

More details to follow…

Sturgeon reiterates demand for independence vote as price for support

In a wide ranging speech Nicola Sturgeon has cycled through the SNP’s pledges on austerity, the NHS, defence and climate change.

But in the end it all came back to the party’s raison d’être — Scottish independence:

As long as we are governed by Westminster our future can be imposed on us. It is time to take Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands.

Ms Sturgeon reiterated the party’s position that SNP support for any party after the election — except the Conservatives for whom she categorically ruled out backing — would be contingent on allowing a fresh independence vote.

There must be no Westminster veto over the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future. The SNP’s message to any Westminster party seeking our support is this: If you cannot support this most fundamental of democratic principles then the SNP cannot and will not support you.

The Labour position on this issue has been slightly garbled throughout the campaign. But Jeremy Corbyn has so far insisted his party would not offer a new vote on Scottish independence in the first two years of a Labour government.

Sturgeon Q&A highlights

Here are a few snippets from Nicola Sturgeon’s back and forth with journalists following her manifesto launch:

On Jeremy Corbyn:

“I deplore Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of leadership on the issue of anti-Semitism.”

“If Labour ever want to give me the chance to choose who leads them it would not be Jeremy Corbyn. I am not a fan of Jeremy Corbyn.”

On Boris Johnson:

“On the question, ‘Can you spell out why Boris Johnson is unfit for office?’ I’m quite happy to do that. I’m just conscious though we don’t have the let on this venue for the entirety of the day.”

On a new independence referendum in 2020:

“There is increasing support for Scottish independence. There is increasing support for an independence referendum in the timescale the SNP has been proposing.”

On Labour’s plans for a windfall tax on oil and gas:

“That proposal would cost jobs in the north east of Scotland in particular. I am absolutely committed to the transition away from fossil fuels … but we’ve got to make sure that is done fairly … I don’t think this proposal, from what I’ve seen so far, does that.”

SNP would insist Labour tackle anti-Semitism in return for support

Mure Dickie, the FT’s Scotland correspondent, reports from Glasgow:

The Scottish National party would expect a “zero tolerance approach” to anti-Semitism as a condition of any cooperation with Labour, Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader, has declared.

Launching the SNP’s general election manifesto in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon waved aside criticism over her willingness to offer support to a minority Labour government if the December 12 election results in a hung parliament.

Britain’s chief rabbi Ephraim Mirvis on Tuesday called into question UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s suitability to be prime minister, saying “a new poison” of anti-Semitism had taken hold in the party, that was “sanctioned from the very top”.

The SNP would stand for zero tolerance of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia or any form or racism from any party it worked with, Ms Sturgeon said, adding this should give a “degree of reassurance” to those worried about Mr Corbyn’s record on the issue.

The SNP manifesto makes Westminster approval for a second independence referendum its central demand for any post-election bargaining, but also demands an end to austerity including higher health spending in England.

“There must be no Westminster veto over the right of the people of Scotland to decide their own future,” Ms Sturgeon said. “If you cannot support this most fundamental of democratic principles, then the SNP cannot and will not support you.”

The manifesto also demands the devolution of more powers over immigration, drug policy and employment law.

Emoticon Johnson: NHS not for sale

Boris Johnson has responded to Labour’s claim that leaked documents show the NHS would be “up for sale” in a trade deal with the US.

The Conservative leader said:

We are absolutely resolved that there will be no sale of the NHS, no privatisation. The NHS is not on the table in any way.

Speaking in a clip broadcast on Sky News, Mr Johnson said the Labour party’s focus on NHS issue was a “diversionary tactic” to move attention away from Brexit and issues around anti-Semitism.

Longer patents would dent NHS ability to use generics

Sarah Neville, the FT’s global pharmaceuticals editor, writes:

The suggestion in the leaked trade documents that drugs could be protected by longer patents – if it happened – would significantly eat into the NHS’s ability to use generic and biosimilar drugs, which currently saves the NHS millions* of pounds.

Biosimilars – copycat versions of biologic drugs – have a higher penetration in the UK than elsewhere in Europe, and massively higher than in the US where the thicket of patent protections is very high, making it harder to launch generic or biosimilar versions of drugs.

Humira, the world’s best-selling prescription drug, is a great example: the NHS was one of the first health systems to seize on the advent of a biosimilar version of the medicine and it has really driven its uptake through the health service.

*This post has been amended to correct the units to millions from billions.

Poll tracker update – Labour begins to close the gap

Labour has closed some of the gap with the Conservative party in recent days, according to the FT’s poll of polls.

Boris Johnson’s party now holds a 12-point lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s, the tracker shows. While the polls have started shifting in the right direction for Labour, the gap is still wider than at the start of the campaign.

The poll tracker combines all voting intention surveys published by major British pollsters. The trend line uses only the most recent poll from each pollster and weights them according to when they were conducted.

You can read more on the methodology and see the latest polls here.

The NHS leaks digested

The FT’s chief political correspondent Jim Pickard has the key points from the leaked documents which Labour says confirm the NHS is at risk from a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

• The documents suggest that US drug companies want greater access to UK markets, although that is already known.

• They say there was a “substantial discussion on drug patents and the NHS”, adding: “The US were testing our system and eager to push their positions.”

• The acronym “NHS” was only mentioned four times in the documents, however.

• The leaked papers are clear about the desire of Washington to remove as
many regulatory barriers
as possible on goods, particularly agricultural products.

• They say that the US is opposed to greater food safety labelling and is keen for the UK to bring back pathogen reduction treatments — the technical name for the process of chlorine-washing chicken in American factories.

• The papers also refer to US pushback on labelling food with high sugar content as “not particularly useful in changing consumer behaviour”.

The Conservatives have accused Jeremy Corbyn of “conspiracy theory-fuelled nonsense” about the contents of the documents and repeated that the NHS will not be on the table in any trade deal.

Environment in focus ahead of climate debate

As the campaign rumbles on, the environment has become a key battleground for politicians across the spectrum, writes Camilla Hodgson, FT environment reporter.

Tomorrow, all the major party leaders — with the notable absence of prime minister Boris Johnson — will take part in a televised climate debate on Channel 4.

“In the 2017 general election, you felt like nobody was paying attention [to environmental issues],” said Paul McNamee, head of politics at think-tank Green Alliance. “That seems to have completely flipped.”

Here is a look at how the major parties’ environmental pledges compare:

Labour under Jeremy Corbyn has taken the strongest position, promising a full-on “Green Industrial Revolution” that it said would create 1m jobs in sustainable industries to help workers transition away from fossil-fuel employers. It said it would retrofit nearly all of the UK’s 27m homes to the “highest energy-efficiency standards” and ensure that 90 per cent of electricity comes from renewable and low-carbon sources by 2030.

The Tories have focused on nature and biodiversity, laying out plans for a £640m “nature for climate fund” and promising to plant 30m trees every year by 2025 — despite being unlikely to meet an existing goal to plant 11m over five years. The party also called a halt to fracking at the start of the campaigning season, something environmental activists have long called for. However, the Tories shied away from any “carbon taxes”, while Labour said it would impose a windfall tax on oil and gas companies and the Lib Dems promised a frequent-flyers levy.

The Lib Dems also said they would make £2bn available for ultra-low or zero emissions buses, and plant 60m trees a year to absorb carbon and improve biodiversity. The party promised to end fossil-fuel subsidies by 2025 and provide £5bn of initial capital for a new Green Investment Bank.

Britain’s major parties agree on little at the moment, but the fact that the environment — and business’s role in it — is breaking through the Brexit logjam suggests it is one priority on which many voters can agree.

Politicians regain mantle as least trusted profession

The integrity of the political class has been very much in focus during this campaign.

And while trust in politicians has traditionally been poor, the latest data from Ipsos MORI will make for particularly grim reading for those hoping to gain voters’ approval ahead of December 12.

Politicians have returned to being the least trusted profession, displacing advertising executives from the bottom spot.

Just 14 per cent of the public said they trust politicians in general to tell the truth, down 5 points since 2018. Government ministers also did poorly, with just 17 per cent saying they trusted them.

Mike Clemence, research manager at Ipsos MORI, said:

Trust politicians is now at levels comparable to those recorded during previous periods of ‘bad news’ such as the aftermath of the Brexit referendum in 2016, and the 2009 expenses crisis.

Healthcare professions are the best perceived, the survey found, with nurses, doctors and dentists all scoring above 90 per cent.

Journalists, meanwhile, did badly, with just 26 per cent of the public saying they trusted them.

Johnson: Labour NHS claims aimed at distracting from Brexit policy ‘void’

Boris Johnson has hit back at his opposite number’s accusations that leaked government documents show the National Health Service is at risk from a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

Speaking at a press conference while campaigning in Cornwall, Mr Johnson said Jeremy Corbyn’s accusations were “a total nonsense” aimed at shifting focus away from Brexit.

Mr Johnson told reporters in Truro:

There’s only one reason why the Labour party continues to bring this up, which is a total invention. It is because they seek to distract from the great void at the heart of their principle policy at this election, which is about Brexit.

Mr Johnson dismissed the contention that the NHS “is somehow up for sale or going to be negotiated in a trade deal”.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “That will not happen under this government or indeed any other Conservative government.”

But his comments are unlikely to put the matter of NHS privatisation to bed, with the health service returning to the spotlight this morning after Mr Corbyn released documents showing officials from the US and UK had held discussions on drug pricing and access to NHS contracts.

What to look out for in tonight’s MRP poll

A reminder that the most significant indicator of the campaign so far is due out tonight, in the form of YouGov’s MRP poll, which will look at voting intentions on a constituency-by-constituency basis.

It is due out at 10pm and will be closely watched by candidates and pundits alike, after it came the closest of any poll to predicting the result of the 2017 election.

Sebastian Payne, the FT’s Whitehall correspondent, says two seats that are particularly worth keeping an eye on in the survey results are Redcar and Burnley.

Both seats form part of the “red wall”, a group of constituencies in the north and midlands of England that statistically should be Tory, but have a long and deep cultural aversion to the Conservative party. Boris Johnson is hoping his Brexit message will lead voters here to abandon Labour.

Both Redcar and Burnley currently have safe Labour majorities. Both are marginal and on the cusp of turning blue.

Both had Liberal Democrat MPs from 2010 – 2015. But the Lib Dem vote is likely to collapse this year, paving the way for potential Tory victories.

One pollster likens the situation to north east Scotland, where the Labour vote collapsed in 2017 and let in the Tories.

Tory in-house polling predicts 54 seat majority

Sebastian Payne reports:

Robert Hayward, the Conservative party’s in-house election guru, has crunched the betting markets for every constituency to see what the local odds suggest the election outcome could be.

Based on what the bookies say money has been put on, he estimates the current standing of the election to be:

Conservatives: 352 (+34)
Labour: 209 (-52)
Lib Dem: 22 (+10)
SNP: 44 (+9)
PC: 4 (-)

This would produce a rough Tory majority of 54.

While Boris Johnson would be delighted with such a result, it would put Labour on the same poor result as the 1983 election – its smallest number of MPs since 1931.

The Scottish Nationalists would be pleased with its gains, but the Liberal Democrats may be disappointed.

Former Tory deputy prime minister urges voters to back Lib Dems

Laura Hughes reports:

Michael Heseltine, the former Conservative deputy prime minister, has urged voters in London to back Liberal Democrat candidates Sam Gyimah and Chuka Umunna in the upcoming election.

The political grandee, who is still a Conservative party member, said voting for pro-European MPs could force whoever becomes prime minister to hold a second EU referendum.

Lord Heseltine, who served in the cabinets of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, said he was speaking as a “proud member of the Conservative Party”.

Speaking at a Lib Dem election event in central London, he said: “There are men and women whose loyalties to a particular party, in this election, have been stretched beyond breaking point.”

Earlier this week he said voters should back the Lib Dems except where former Conservative MPs were standing as independents, giving his endorsement to former Tory ministers David Gauke, Dominic Grieve and Anne Milton.

The peer was stripped of the Tory whip earlier this year for voting for the Lib Dems in European elections.

Is Labour’s move on women’s pensions justified?

Labour has come under attack on numerous fronts this week, most notably on Jeremy Corbyn’s record over anti-Semitism.

But an issue that also deserves attention, writes the FT’s Whitehall editor James Blitz, is the party’s sudden commitment to spend £58bn compensating women left out of pocket by a rise in the state pension age.

To recap, a group called Women Against State Pension Inequality (or the Waspis) has long complained about what it says is the “financial injustice” faced by 3.8m women born in the 1950s.

The Waspis said they did not receive “fair notice” of changes to the female state pension age, raising it from 60 to 66, made by the Conservative-led coalition in 2011.

Labour announced on Sunday that it would introduce a universal scheme that would see the women affected given a maximum payment of £31,300 and which could cost £58bn over five years.

Labour clearly feels this move is morally justified. But the commitment can also be criticised on three fronts.

First, although the pledge to work with the Waspi women was made in the Labour manifesto, published last week, there was no provision for the policy in the costings “Grey book” that Labour published at the time. Labour is therefore open to the argument that it is fiscally irresponsible.

Second, even after making this commitment, Mr Corbyn doesn’t know where the money will come from. Labour says it will treat the cost as a “contingency”, suggesting the money will come from official contingencies. But the sums involved are much larger than anything paid from such reserves.

Third, it is not clear that Labour’s concession to the Waspis is justified at all. Nobody would doubt that many of the women affected feel that they have been placed in a difficult situation. But the acceleration to a higher state pension age was the right thing for the coalition to do, given rising longevity.

For more on this, read James’s full piece here

Lib Dems: ‘We are the People’s Vote party’

Chuka Umunna, the Liberal Democrats’ shadow foreign secretary, seemed to be tilting the party’s emphasis away from its hardline Brexit stance of blocking Brexit as he addressed journalists at an event in London this evening.

“We are the People’s Vote party,” he said, signalling a potential softening of the Lib Dems’ pledge to revoke Article 50 and scrap Brexit altogether.

This stance has left the party open to heavy criticism that it is anti-democratic as it would ignore the result of the 2016 referendum.

Speaking this evening, Mr Umunna, previously a Labour MP, said:

All we have said in relation to revoking Article 50 is that if this party goes from 20 MPs to 327 MPs I think people would think it rather odd in that scenario if we didn’t have revoke Article 50.

But it’s always been the case that if we do not have a majority that we would be seeking a People’s Vote.

Also speaking at the event, Michael Heseltine, the former Conservative deputy prime minister, said the Lib Dem policy of revoking Article 50 altogether was “naive”.

Labour NHS documents neither irrelevant nor proof government is lying

The National Health Service has been back in the spotlight today after Jeremy Corbyn released a batch of reports from meetings since 2017 between US and UK officials purporting to show that the Conservative government had already opened the bidding for it.

Alan Beattie gives his take on it in today’s Trade Secrets newsletter:

Tory ideologues such as the current trade secretary, Liz Truss, and her predecessor, Liam Fox, have left themselves open to this criticism with their breathless pursuit of a bilateral trade deal with the US.

This was obviously going to lead to a demand from the US pharmaceutical industry for higher drug prices and more patent protection in the UK.

But the confidential accounts of the meetings, prepared by British civil servants, show what the very early stages of trade negotiations always look like: highly technical engagement to scope out how the other side do things and what they might want.

The key passage is this: “We have reached a point (for patents in pharmaceuticals/health) where beyond specific policy details in niche areas, we are awaiting the clearance to negotiate and exchange text to really take significant further steps.”

Assuming ministers haven’t given negotiating instructions since then (highly reckless at this point), we’re still at that stage.

These documents, apart from revealing the mind-bending detail of trade talks to a lay audience, are neither irrelevant nor conclusive evidence the government is lying.

Are the meetings so far consistent with a Tory government putting the NHS up for negotiation? Yes. Have they already started? No. Will they do so if elected on December 12? That depends how much you trust Ms Truss and Mr Johnson.

For more on this, or to sign up to Trade Secrets – the FT’s must-read daily briefing on the changing face of international trade and globalisation – click here.

Cummings warns Leave supporters not to trust the polls

George Parker, the FT’s political editor, reports:

Dominic Cummings’ blog posts are intermittent, always enjoyable and usually impenetrable.

His previous post, on June 26, before he became Boris Johnson’s senior adviser, muses on “some ideas of physicist Michael Nielsen about cognitive technologies and of computer visionary Bret Victor about the creation of dynamic tools to help understand complex systems”.

His latest blog on November 27 is a much straightforward message to Vote Leave supporters and has a simple plea: don’t believe the polls. Or to paraphrase: “If you think Boris Johnson is going to walk into Downing St and you can risk taking your vote elsewhere, you’re making a big mistake.”

Mr Cummings urges people not to vote for the Brexit Party, claiming that it is “effectively a vote for Corbyn-Sturgeon”. He claims that Nigel Farage’s party can realistically win only one or two seats and “certainly less than five”.

Anticipating tonight’s mega YouGov poll, he said:

You will see many polls in the coming days. Some will say Boris will win. Trust me, as someone who has worked on lots of campaigns, things are MUCH tighter than they seem and there is a very real possibility of a hung parliament.

Mr Cummings also has a more direct inducement: “If we win and we get Brexit done by January 31, then you’re invited to the Vote Leave party in Number 10.” Let’s hope the catering staff have been told.

FT analysis: SNP sets out price for backing a Corbyn government

At the Scottish National party manifesto launch this morning, Nicola Sturgeon demanded an independence referendum, the removal of Trident nuclear missiles and billions in extra funding for Scotland as the price of her support for a minority Labour government at Westminster.

Mure Dickie takes a closer look at the significance of the SNP’s demands:

Ms Sturgeon said there was “every chance” that no party would win a House of Commons majority on December 12, as she made clear she would seek a series of big concessions to put Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street.

The SNP won 35 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster seats at the 2017 election and opinion polls suggest it could increase that number next month, in a move that would potentially give it significant influence in a hung parliament. 

Central to the manifesto and the SNP’s election campaign is the party’s demand that Westminster approve a rerun of Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum. But Ms Sturgeon also called for the removal of the Trident Royal Navy submarines that have their land base near Glasgow and stepped up the SNP’s criticism of UK austerity policies

However, it is unclear how much leverage at Westminster the SNP will enjoy if there is a hung parliament. Labour has insisted it will not enter any pact or deal with Ms Sturgeon, merely challenging her to back a minority government on key votes.

Ms Sturgeon’s freedom of action is also limited by her pledge not to work with Boris Johnson. 

Reflecting the impossibility of the SNP forming a UK government itself, the party’s manifesto is in large part a list of demands, including calls for the devolution of powers from Westminster to Edinburgh over immigration, drug policy and employment law. 

What happened today?

• The key event on the campaign trail today was the Labour party releasing documents that its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said showed the NHS is at risk from a post-Brexit Conservative trade deal with the US.

• Boris Johnson retorted that the claims were “nonsense” aimed at moving the campaign spotlight away from Brexit.

• In Glasgow, Nicola Sturgeon launched the SNP manifesto, setting out her party’s price for backing the Labour party in the event of a hung parliament. Central to her list of demands is a fresh Scottish independence referendum next year.

• Elsewhere, Labour was again on the defensive over anti-Semitism in the party after Mr Corbyn in an interview last night declined to apologise to the Jewish community over his handling of the issue.

• Michael Heseltine, the former Conservative deputy prime minister, threw his backing behind Liberal Democrat candidates Sam Gyimah and Chuka Umunna, arguing that voting for pro-European MPs could force the next prime minister to hold a second EU referendum.

We’ll leave it there

That’s all from us for now. Thank you for following along throughout the day.

We are expecting a key indicator of how the election will play out at 10pm tonight, in the form of YouGov’s MRP poll, which will look at voting intentions on a constituency-by-constituency basis.

This was the poll that came the closest to predicting the result of the 2017 election, so should offer some solid insight into how things might pan out on December 12.

We will have reaction to that and plenty more here on Election Central first thing tomorrow.

See you all then.