Closed Election: Tories promise new state aid system after Brexit — latest news

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The Conservatives vowed to bring in a new state aid system to protect British industry after Brexit, as the party finesses its message to Leave voters ahead of election day.


Welcome back

The spotlight is squarely on Boris Johnson today after a row erupted last night over the prime minister’s decision to skip the Channel 4 climate debate. The television station declined to accept Michael Gove, cabinet minister and former environment secretary, as a replacement and instead placed an ice sculpture on the stage to replace Mr Johnson.

Mr Johnson has also faced criticism for declining to say whether he will submit to a ‘forensic interview’ on the BBC after his rival, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, faced a gruelling interrogation earlier this week.

The prime minister is expected to hold a press conference later on Friday.


Highlights from your morning papers

The Daily Telegraph leads with Tories threatening “biased” Channel 4, warning the broadcaster that it faces a review after next month’s general election. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister and a former environment secretary, last night was refused entry to debate with opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. The broadcaster replaced Boris Johnson, who had refused to take part in the election debate on climate change, on live TV with an ice sculpture.

The Guardian asks who was to blame at Hillsborough as it and the Sun lead on the retired chief superintendent in charge of the police operation at the 1989 football disaster being cleared of the gross negligence manslaughter of 95 Liverpool fans.

City AM notes that Londoners will endure a “month of chaos” as South Western rail services plan a 27-day strike from Monday after talks break down.

The Financial Times says the former Nissan chief, in his final interview before a new head is installed on Monday, said the carmaker has been damaged by Japanese nationalists wanting to unwind its 20-year alliance with France’s Renault. Hiroto Saikawa served as chief executive of Nissan under Carlos Ghosn,


How Boris Johnson is defined by his ‘ruthless’ message discipline

Robert Shrimsley, in his analysis How Boris Johnson’s message discipline is boosting the Tories, outlines two moments that stand out in capturing the “essence” of the UK general election campaign.

The first was opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn rattling through Labour’s pledges in 60 seconds, like a contestant naming prizes in the BBC’s Generation Game. The second is during the first televised leaders debate, when Boris Johnson’s twisted a question to push another “Get Brexit done” prompted groans from the audience. This shows the organising difference between the Tories and Labour, Robert writes, with the prime minister being defined by ruthless message discipline.


NHS ‘not for sale’, Johnson says on LBC radio interview

The National Health Service is “not for sale”, Boris Johnson said in a Q&A phone-in on LBC radio, and should the US or any other country put that as a condition he would walk away from the talks.

“The NHS is not for sale and under no circumstances will this government or any Conservative government do anything to put the NHS up for negotiation in trade talks or privatisation,” the prime minister said. “Were the United States or any other country to insist on that as a condition of talks, we would simply walk out.”

It is perfectly obvious as leader of this country that if any government were so mad as to go down that route they would never be reelected.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed on Wednesday that leaked UK government documents prove the NHS will be “up for sale” if the prime minister does a trade deal with America.

Mr Johnson dismissed the idea of former trade ministers having talks with leading US pharmaceutical companies as “pure Bermuda triangle stuff from the Labour party, because there was no evidence at all that the UK government was wanting to sell the NHS or to parlay the NHS in trade talks. It was absolutely not substantiated by the evidence that Mr Corbyn produced,” he said.


Johnson would rather get out of the EU than stay as PM

Boris Johnson has been taking questions from callers on issues ranging from climate change to the NHS.

Asked whether he had to choose between being prime minister or Brexit happening, Mr Johnson offered one of his clearest answers: he would rather “get out of the EU.”

He added that the January 31 deadline is the “absolute latest” Britain would leave under a new Conservative government, leaving open the possibility of an earlier departure. 

On his refusal to take part in last night’s climate change debate, where he was ‘empty chaired’ by a melting ice sculpture by Channel 4, Mr Johnson said his team had made it clear to the broadcaster “ages ago” that he would not be turning up.

“I can’t do absolutely every debate,” Mr Johnson said. 

It is not quite a sit down with Andrew Neil, but Mr Johnson has been forced to confront some of the more awkward aspects of his record in this LBC phone in.  

Ruth, a single mother, called in to ask the prime minister about derogatory comments he made about some parts of society in a mid-1990s article for the Spectator magazine.

She told him:

I don’t appreciate what you said about single mothers and by implication my family.

Mr Johnson sighed when he was read back lines he had written about working class men and single mothers and their children by the presenter Nick Ferrari.

I want to say to you, I mean absolutely no disrespect to you or indeed anybody. There are 25-year-old quotations culled from articles written before I was in politics.

He added the quotations had been “almost invented” and misrepresented the tone of the wider articles. 


Johnson unable to specify how many ‘oven ready’ deals

Boris Johnson in the LBC radio interview was unable to come up with how many “oven ready deals” are in the works in the run-up to the UK leaving the EU, write Laura Hughes and Sarah Provan in London.

“We have talks under way with many countries,” Mr Johnson said.

I can’t give the answer to how many deals are actually formalised.

There are a number that are virtually ready to go. I imagine we have about a dozen we’re currently working on.

We want to do lot of deals around the world.

Mr Johnson identified “ample opportunities to do deals with India, China, with Australia, with New Zealand”, but added: “I am not going to say they are ‘oven ready’”.

Questioned on how long it would take to secure a trade deal with the EU, he replied:

We’ve set a deadline of the end of next year and I see no reason to go beyond that deadline.

He added:

We have a great great opportunity, get [Brexit] done, and simultaneously begin the Rubik’s cube of negotiations with many other countries.


Johnson: Trump should not intervene in election campaign

Laura Hughes reports:

Boris Johnson said Donald Trump should not intervene in the general election when he visits the UK next week to attend a Nato summit.

“When you have close allies like the US and UK the best thing is for neither side to be involved in each other’s election campaigns”, he said.

Mr Johnson also refused to say if Jacob Rees-Mogg would return as Commons Leader in the next parliament if the Tories win the election.

Mr Rees-Mogg has been absent in the campaign after an ill-fated LBC interview, when he ventured his opinions on the “common sense” approach to evacuating Grenfell tower.

Mr Johnson also declined to disclose the number of children he has.

“I love my children very much, but they are not standing at this election, and I am not therefore going to comment”, he said. “I am not going to put them on to the pitch in this election.”

Asked if there was “another Johnson on the way”, he said: “I’m not going to get into discussions [on this]“.


Labour calls on Johnson to answer difficult questions

The Labour party has called on the prime minister to “tell the truth” on 60 potentially awkward questions, ranging from his record of controversial comments to the NHS.

Boris Johnson is taking questions in Westminster from journalists shortly, following an LBC phone-in earlier this morning.

His willingness to face tough questions has come into question this week, after he swerved a Channel 4 debate on climate change and refused to confirm whether he would submit to a grilling by the BBC’s formidable Andrew Neil.

The FT’s Sebastian Payne has some of the questions Labour is demanding the prime minister tackle.


Emoticon Tories promise new state aid system after Brexit

The Conservative party has announced it would bring in a new state aid system to protect British industry after Brexit, as it finesses its message to Leave voters ahead of election day.

In a three-way press conference in Westminster, former Vote Leave stalwarts Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and ex-Labour MP Gisela Stuart outlined how the party would “make sure people get the change they voted for three years ago.”

Most eye-catchingly, this includes a promise to bring in a new state aid regime to make it “faster and easier” for the government to step in and protect jobs in struggling industries. The European Commission has regulated state aid.

In its policy document, the party cites the example of the crisis in the steel industry four years ago, when it said EU law prevented a quick response.

The new system would align itself more closely with World Trade Organisation rules, and allow “extremely rapid responses to economic turbulence,” the party said.

The Conservatives also said they would change the UK’s public procurement policy to promote local businesses, scrap the ‘tampon tax’ and introduce a ‘buy British’ agriculture rule for public bodies.

“People voted for change but three and a half years on that vote has still not been delivered,” Mr Gove said.


A clear pitch for the Leave vote

This morning’s Conservative press conference is an unalloyed pitch to the 17.4m people who voted to leave the EU in 2016. The slogan ‘Get Brexit done’ is visible in seven places across the lecterns and stage.

Boris Johnson has outlined the potential benefits from the leaving the EU, which he said have been held up by politicians’ inability to deliver on the Brexit vote.

On state aid, he said “there are ways we would be able to do things differently and better” but that he is not in favour of “distorting competition”.

“Getting Brexit done will enable us to deliver change more widely across the country,” the prime minister said.


How to interpret the Brexit vote?

Is there a disparity between Boris Johnson’s policies on issues such as state aid and the world view of the party’s hardcore Brexiters?

The Brexit-backing group has been at the vanguard of the Eurosceptic movement for decades and holds a vision of deregulation outside of the EU, but Mr Johnson has proposed some policies that would increase the government’s role in the economy.

The FT’s Sebastian Payne asked Mr Johnson at today’s press conference what the hardcore Thatcherites make of his plans, and whether his vision is more for a “North Korea Brexit” than a deregulated Singapore-on-Thames?

The prime minister did not properly answer the question. He said that he believes in competition and a level playing field in business, but the EU has held up government intervention when it has been needed.

There are going to be cases where a pragmatic approach that backs British companies…will be the way forward.


Your guide to tactical voting in the UK election

Data and statistics journalists John Burn-Murdoch and Federica Cocco look at why tactical voting has become such a big issue this election and how people can best use their vote

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Tories lead with 42 per cent in the FT’s poll tracker

Labour is 11 points behind the Conservatives in the Financial Times’ poll of polls, while the Liberal Democrats trail with 14 per cent.

The poll tracker combines all voting intention surveys published by major British pollsters.