Parliament security back strike action in row while MPs scheduled for pay rise

Staff who police the entrances and exits to Parliament will walk out for 1 day on the 20th March in a row over workload if no agreement between Parliament and the Public and Commercial Services Union is reached.

This comes 1 day after it was announced MPs will get a 2.7% pay rise from April, taking their salary to £79,468.

More than 240 guards were balloted with 86% voting for strike action with a turnout of 62%. Guards are unhappy with reduced breaks and greater work load being hoisted onto them without a pay rise.

The security guards now have the backing of Labour and Jeremy Corbyn who said the commons “must lead by example when it comes to workers’ rights”.

Union talks are still ongoing and an agreement could be reached that would end the need for industrial action.

Talking about the strike ballot, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said:

“The mandate for action from our members is strong and the House of Commons Commission need to recognise this strength of feeling amongst their security staff and settle this dispute. Hardworking staff are only asking for justice and fairness in the workplace. They are not prepared to put up with a culture of fear.

A spokeperson from Parliament stated:

“We have taken swift action to rectify the issues raised by the PCS Union regarding staff rest breaks and remain committed to finding a way forward that addresses outstanding concerns. Should the strike action proceed, business resilience plans will be put into place to ensure the security of the estate and the continued functioning of Parliament.”

The dispute with guards is another example of MPs pay being out of step with workers in the country, even workers closest to them.

In the recent announcement of future Parliamentary pay MPs got a pay rise of 2.7% while their Parliamentary staff got a rise of 1.5%.

MPs pay has now gone up 4 years in a row and this year’s rise was above the rate of inflation. This is in stark contrast to most public service workers who still face pay caps below that of inflation.

The general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union, Mark Serwotka said the rise was

“an outrage… while civil servants, who do some of the most vital jobs in society, are still subject to a cruel 1% de-facto pay cap.”

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has the power to increase MP pay without permission from Parliament so while lots of Labour MPs have spoken out against the rise they have no power to stop it.

Labour voters back move to support People’s Vote if Labour’s deal isn’t delivered

A recent poll has estimated Labour voters back Labour’s move to support a People’s Vote if they cannot get their own Brexit deal through Parliament. However, the majority of voters believe they were wrong to do so.

Labour voters backed the move 58/23 but when taking the whole electorate into consideration voters were 37/42 against. Voters below 50 also supported the move with 18-24s backing the move 47/31 and 24-49-year-olds backing it 43/28.

Only 64% of remainers endorse the move with leavers are against it 75/10. 12% of Conservative voters back the move and 63% of Liberal Democrats.

The worry for Labour is the regional balance of the support. Only voters living in Scotland and London support the move. With it being most unpopular in the Midlands and Wales, only 32% of voters backed the move from these regions.

Corbyn annouced on Monday that the Labour Party would back a second referendum Commons vote if the Party’s own alternative Brexit plan fails to get a majority vote on Wednesday, leaving the only other option for Brexit being a “damaging Tory Brexit”. However, the Party leader hasn’t included a possibility of a second referendum on the amendment to the Tory Brexit bill due to be released on Wednesday.

Corbyn has also confirmed that the party will support a cross-party amendment focused on ruling out the possibility of the United kingdom leaving the European Union under a no-deal scenario.

David Lammy, prolific supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said in response to the Party’s move that it is “welcome news” that the Party will now “accept the principle of giving the public the final say on Brexit”.

However, an estimated 70 Labour MPs have stated that they would vote to stop a second referendum, highlighting the deep divides in the Party on the issue currently, leading many to speculate that the Labour Leader doesn’t intend to follow through with the promise, and is instead hoping that the amended deal is accepted by Parliament on Wednesday.

Jeremy Corbyn today wrote to Conservative and DUP MPs to urge them to support Labour’s amendment to make its credible alternative plan the UK’s Brexit negotiating position.

Jeremy Corbyn: Independent Splitters Have ‘No Problems With Austerity’

Jeremy Corbyn attended a Labour rally in Anna Soubry’s East-Midlands constituency of Broxtowe this morning. The Labour-Leader made a campaign-esque speech in-front of thousands of Labour voters and members. The constituency of Broxtowe is a marginal one, with a fiery and passionate Labour party hoping to capitalise on Anna Soubry’s split from the Tory party.

Corbyn hit out at the newly formed Independent Group and openly criticised Soubry and his ex-colleagues. He said he was sad some of his MP’s had left the party, but he wouldn’t be changing policy to suit them. Restating his current policies many times.

“I’m disappointed that a small number of Labour MPs have decided to leave our party and join forces with disaffected Tories, who say they have no problem with austerity that has plunged thousands into desperate poverty and insecurity,” he said.

“Our programme for change won huge support in the general election because we offered hope, instead of the same old establishment demand for cuts, privatisation and austerity. That’s why we now back public ownership of the utilities and railways, why we now oppose tuition fees and corporate giveaways, and why we’re no longer afraid to ask the rich to pay their fair share of tax.”

He then went on to discuss the nationwide youth climate strikes,

“They were condemned by Tory ministers because they said they should have been studying … they should be working, they shouldn’t be doing all that,” he said. “All I simply say to them is ‘thank you for educating all of us that day.”

Corbyn was joined at the rally by John McDonnel and Emily Thornberry, among others.

When talking about the antisemitism issues within the party, Corbyn said: “I’m proud to lead a party that was the first ever to introduce race relations legislation and also to pass the equality act and the human rights act into the statute book. Antisemitism is unacceptable in any form and in any way whatsoever, and anywhere in our society.”

He went on to heavily criticise the voting records of Anna Soubry and Chris Leslie, the later defecting from Labour to form The Independent Group. Labour’s candidate for the Broxtowe, Greg Marshall, called for a by-election, claiming Corbyn was in Broxtowe more often than Soubry, she holds a slim majority of 863 votes.

Labour to expand democratic right to recall of MPs

Labour has announced it will  consult on extending the right of constituents to petition to recall their MPs if they change parties.

Labour say this will be part of a radical program to reform British democracy that will culminate in a Constitutional Convention to radically democratise politics and power in our country.

Jon Trickett MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

“Power comes from the people but for too long the overwhelming majority have been shut out. That’s why trust in politics and in elites is rightly falling. “Communities should not have to wait for up to five years to act if they feel their MP is not properly representing their interests, especially with the restrictions of the Fixed Term Parliament Act. “This proposed reform has the dramatic potential to empower citizens and will be one of many measures the Labour Party is planning to consult on and announce that will change the way politics in this country is done”.

The issue has come to light as 8 Labour MPs and 3 Tory MPs defected to the centrist Independent group. Many constituents are unhappy that MPs elected on party tickets no longer represent them. These MPs refuse to call by-elections.

Gavin Shuker, who represents Luton, is one of the defectors and the leader of Luton Borough Council has called for a by-election stating:

“As a CLP, we’re very disappointed that a lot of us put aside political differences with Gavin in 2017 to knock on doors and work towards his increased majority – which he only got because of Labour’s 2017 manifesto.”

Cllr Sian Timoney said that by not calling by-elections Shuker was “disrespecting and ignoring the electorate who put you there.”

Many of the defectors, including Leslie, Shuker and Ryan, had lost votes of no confidence in them put forward by their local parties.

3 Tories defect to Independent Group over “shift to the right”

Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen have left the Conservative party to join the newly formed Indpendent group.

The group in a letter to Theresa May confirming they were leaving. They said the party was “in the grip” of the DUP and ERG Brexiteers and there had been a “dismal failure” to stand up to them.

The defectors said the Conservative Party had abandoned some of its core principles and values with a “shift to the right”.

They also voiced their fears about No Deal and felt the Tory Party was failling the people on Brexit stating:

“We find it unconscionable that a party, once trusted on the economy, more than any other, is now recklessly marching the country to the cliff edge of no deal.”

All 3 defectors support a People’s Vote on Brexit and the Tory handling of Brexit was the “final straw” that caused their departure.

Theresa May said she was sadden by their departure.

The Independent Group was formed when 7 Labour MPs left the party on Monday citing problems with Labour’s stance on Brexit, its shift left and its handling of antisemitism. The group now has 11 MPs, 8 Labour and 3 Tory.

The group have claimed that the current system of politics is “broken” by “tribal groups” and the aim of the newly formed Party, called the Independent Group, will aim to divert political emphasis away from the left and right stances of the Labour and Conservative Party respectively.

More follows

Joan Ryan becomes 8th Labour MP to defect to the Independent Group

Joan Marie Ryan, MP for Enfield North, has left Labour to join the Independent group.

Ryan is a notable critic of Jeremy Corbyn and in September 2018, her Constituency Labour Party passed a motion of no confidence in her. She is also Chair of Labour Friends of Israel.

Ryan cited antisemitism as her reason for leaving Labour and accussed Jeremy Corbyn of “presiding over a culture of antisemitism and hatred of Israel”.

Ryan, like Chris Leslie, has previously said Labour has been taken over by the far left calling members of her own constituency party ”
Trots, Stalinists, Communists” after defeat in the vote of no confidence.

Ryan has not made any statements on whether she wishes to hold a by-election. The 7 other defectors refuse to do so.

7 MPs, Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker, and Anne Coffey, defected to the newly formed Independent Group on Monday.

The Labour rebels have cited a shift in Labour Party leadership towards more left-leaning policies, including the nationalisation of services such as the provision of water. Chris Leslie has said that the Labour Party has been “hijacked” by far-left ideologues.

The group have claimed that the current system of politics is “broken” by “tribal groups” and the aim of the newly formed Party, called the Independent Group, will aim to divert political emphasis away from the left and right stances of the Labour and Conservative Party respectively.

This has led to commentators to refer to the party as a new “Centrist Party” that was speculated in the months prior to the announcement and it is currently unknown how the Party will be governed or organised.

In a statement released after a press conference with the 7 newly independent MPs, Jeremy Corbyn has condemned the split and has remarked that he is “disappointed” with the decisions of the 7 back-benchers in the face of a sitting Government that is “bungling Brexit”.

Joan Ryan had lost a vote of no confidence vote tabled by her local party. The no-confidence vote is similar to those faced by MPs Hoey and Field, seeking the removal of the whip from Ryan and an open selection process to select their Parliamentary candidate before the next election. It is unclear if this motion would bar her from standing in the open selection for North Enfield’s Parliamentary candidate.

Ryan drew criticism for her public attacks on Corbyn during Labour’s antisemitism scandal, falsely accusing another Labour member of antisemitism and for statements of support towards Theresa May prior to the 2017 General election. 

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Labour warned more MPs could quit over antisemitism abuse

Jeremy Corbyn has been warned that he could face a “mass walkout” of Jewish people from Labour as the party’s Jewish affiliate group called an emergency meeting on whether to quit.

The Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) called an emergency general meeting yesterday to discuss “where we go from here” after seven MPs resigned over Mr Corbyn’s handling of antisemitism and other issues.

The group’s parliamentary chair, Luciana Berger, was one of the MPs who quit on Monday. She said she had reached the “sickening” conclusion that Labour was “institutionally antisemitic”.

JLM sources said Berger’s decision to quit could trigger further departures of Jewish members.

One source said “A lot of people have taken the view that they’d stay as long as Luciana stays, given the amount of abuse she’s received over a sustained period of time. Yesterday was a really big moment. There has been an outpouring of people responding to Luciana’s resignation and there are a lot of people who need the space to have that conversation [about whether to quit].

“The party is at real risk of seeing a mass walkout of Jewish Labour members as a result of the failure to tackle antisemitism and the bullying of Luciana out of the party”.

The JLM national secretary Peter Mason said in an email to members that “far too little has been achieved for the party to be able to claim in all honesty that it upholds the ‘zero tolerance’ environment promised to us and the Jewish community those many months ago. Instead, we have seen the entrenching of a culture of antisemitism, obfuscation and denial”.

Labour chairman Ian Lavery faced an angry backlash at a “heated” behind-closed-doors meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) yesterday. Lavery reportedly stressed the leadership’s commitment to rooting out antisemitism during the meeting, but this was greeted with ridicule by some of those present. He faced accusations that he had failed to understand the “enormity” of antisemitism within the party.

Mr Lavery was said to have have expressed anger at the claim, saying that if the party was antisemitic then he would not be a member.

Jewish MP Ruth Smeeth said in an emotional intervention that she and Louise Ellman, another Jewish MP, had been told by a party member they did not have “human blood”. She reportedly broke down in tears mid-way through her statement.

They added that no action had been taken against the individual concerned.