Friday 21 April 2017 – Jeremy Corbyn will abolish zero-hour contracts and raise the minimum wage. – Plus other General Election news

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Labour leader, speaking in Swindon this morning, said he would be publishing his party’s manifesto soon but wanted to highlighted some of their policies. One of those policies is the abolition of zero-hour contracts and the increase of the minimum wage to £10 per hour. Currently set at £7.50 an hour, the minimum wage was rebranded by the Conservatives as a so-called “living wage” although the Living Wage Foundation sets a realistic living wage at £8.45 an hour and £9.75 within London. Mr Corbyn pointed out that around 1m people are on zero-hour contracts and some 6m living on inadequate wages. Those on zero-hour contracts have few workers’ rights and don’t know from one week to the next how much they will earn. The Conservatives always claim that zero-hour contracts suit many people, especially students, who choose to work under the contracts to give them flexibility. No doubt some do appreciate the flexibility of zero—hour contracts but the overwhelming majority have little choice in accepting these exploitative contracts. Mr Corbyn said of them:

 

“Why do we allow this form of employment in this county. A Labour government would end zero-hour contracts.”

 

Under Labour these contracts would be abolished and the minimum wage raised to  £10 per hour. Mr Corbyn accepted that many small firms would have a problem paying the new minimum wage so proposed a compensation scheme for such companies. While this last point is perhaps a political necessity to counter Conservative attacks and to reassure small businesses, I feel that this compromise is wrong – at least in the long-term – as it will be exploited by companies to ensure that the taxpayer subsidises their wage bills. Nevertheless, the abolition of zero-hour contracts and a truly realistic minimum wage above the current living wage levels suggested by the Living Wage Foundation are welcome.


Labour criticise the Tories on their schools policy

 

Speaking in Cardiff later today, the Labour leader will speak of the Government’s policies towards Britain’s schools and how they “have left our schools in a terrible state.” He will claim that children are “crammed into classrooms like sardines,” and  that “seven years of Tory failure and broken promises have left our schools in a terrible state” and that “hundreds of thousands of our children are paying the price”. The Labour party’s own figures say that 40,000 primary-age pupils are being taught in classrooms with more than 36 pupils and 16,000 are in classes of more than 40, a complete failure – they say – of the 2010 Conservative party manifesto pledge to deliver “small schools and smaller class sizes.” in response to this situation, Mr Corbyn will say:

 

“Labour will stand up for all children by building a schools system for everyone, keeping class sizes down and making sure schools and teachers have the resources they need to ensure that every child, whatever their background, has access to a world-class education.”

 

Backing up Mr Corbyn’s planned promise, the shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, said:

 

“This situation is becoming unsustainable; too many children are being taught in classes which are simply too big.

 

“The system for school place planning is broken. The Tories need to let go of their unjustified fixation with free schools, but instead they have relaxed the rules so even more can be built in areas where there is no demand for places. Free schools are clearly not addressing the growing pressures on schools.”

 

Labour clearly wants to draw the Government into a debate on schools and education. It is also planning a pledge on free school meals and will oppose the creation of new grammar schools, which it says only benefit better-off children and has a negative effect on non-grammar schools. We will have to wait for the publication of the manifesto to see how their pledges will be funded. The Government have attacked Mr Corbyn’s plans, particularly in Wales where the Welsh Assembly control schools. The Assembly is controlled by Labour and the Lib Dems. A Tory spokesperson said it was a “massive own goal in Wales,” claiming “the number of infants in large classes has risen by 18% in just three years.” Despite the Conservatives’ counter-attack, many backbench Conservative MPs are expressing concern the effect budget cuts are having on schools and the cuts are also causing disquiet among parents – neither of which the Government want this campaign to focus on.

 

UPDATE: Jeremy Corbyn’s figures were fact-checked by the BBC, who concluded they were inaccurate.


Labour’s Yvette Cooper challenges the Prime Minister on Brexit and is bookies favourite to succeed Jeremy Corbyn

yvette-cooper

According to Ladbrokes, the bookmakers, bets are “pouring in” on Yvette Cooper becoming the next Labour leader, presumably by people who think that Jeremy Corbyn cannot survive as leader a defeat on 8 June. Ladbrokes itself doesn’t seem confident in a Corbyn victory. They say that they have “taken a few small bets” on Corbyn being Prime Minister after the election but that “nothing that has left our trading department quaking in their boots just yet”.

 

On Wednesday, at Prime Minister’s Questions,  Ms Cooper took the Prime Minister to task over her claim that the election was to stop Parliament scuppering Brexit:

 

“The Prime Minister yesterday said she was calling a general election because Parliament was blocking Brexit.

 

“But three quarters of MPs and two thirds of the Lords voted for Article 50 – so that’s not true, is it? A month ago she told her official spokesman to rule out an early general election, and that wasn’t true either, was it?`

 

“She wants us to believe she is a woman of her word. Isn’t the truth that we cannot believe a single word she says?”

 

Some are citing this attack on Theresa May in the Commons  a “leadership pitch.”  Ms Cooper is married to the former shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer Ed Balls. He lost his Parliamentary seat at the 2015 General Election and has already announced that he will not be attempting to return to Parliament at this election.


Theresa May pledges to preserve the 0.7% of GDP spending commitment on foreign aid

 

After speculation that the Prime Minister was considering scrapping the commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on foreign aid, today she has announced that the commitment “will remain,” but also said that it must be spent “in the most effective way.” The commitment was begun by David Cameron in 2010 and later enshrined in law. It has been a long-standing suggestion by the United Nations, dating back to the 1970s. Britain has met the 0.7% spending pledge every year since 2013, spending some £12 billion on foreign aid in 2015 alone.

 

George Osborne, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer who is standing down as MP for Tatton at this election, tweeted that it was “morally right,” emphasising that it would maintain Britain’s global influence. Aid organisations, including Unicef and Save the Children welcome the decision, but the Taxpayers Alliance said that it was an “arbitrary and meaningless” target and that it should be scrapped. Theresa May added: “What we need to do though is look at how that money is spent and make sure that we are able to spend that money in the most effective way.”


Further reading:

 

  • Leaked documents suggest the EU wants Britain kept under European Courts… read more (guardian.com)

 

  • May’s election still only offers cynicism… read more (guardian.com)

 

  • The election campaign that just cannot escape Brexit… read more (guardian.com)
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