Premium

Tom Watson faces calls to resign as Labour's frontbench descends into civil war 

Tom Watson is facing calls to resign as Labour’s deputy leader, as the shadow cabinet this morning descended into civil war over anti-Semitism. 

Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary, has shared a message calling on Mr Watson to “consider your position”, after he challenged Jennie Formby, Labour’s general secretary, over her role in the party’s racism row. 

It comes less than 24 hours after Mr Watson wrote to Ms Formby calling for the party to publish its submission to a watchdog investigating anti-Semitism claims, as well as raising allegations she had deleted emails relating to cases - a suggestion Ms Formby denies.

He ratcheted up pressure on Ms Formby, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, after a BBC Panorama documentary on Wednesday saw eight former members of staff accuse senior Labour figures of interfering in complaints procedures. 

In an extraordinary broadside, Ms Abbott hit back at Mr Watson over his request that he and other shadow cabinet ministers be given more of a say over Labour’s handling of anti-Semitism. 

Ms Abbott said Mr Watson knew “perfectly well that he cannot make demands of Jennie Formby”, before proceeding to share a series of messages attacking his actions.

They included a message sent by Claudia Webbe, the chair of Labour’s disputes processes, who claimed Mr Watson had attacked Ms Formby despite knowing “she is receiving chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

 “This is not behaviour befitting of the Office of Deputy Leader,” she continued. “You should consider your position?”

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, also tore into Mr Watson, writing on Twitter: “I just don’t understand why the deputy leader of the Labour Party uses the media to demand information from Labour’s General Secretary Jennie Formby, which has already been offered to him.

“It goes beyond my understanding that he does so when he knows she’s undergoing chemotherapy.”

Richard Burgon, the shadow justice secretary, added: “Jennie Formby deserves better than unfair attacks - she has made herself available to answer questions and provide information despite undergoing gruelling treatment for cancer.”

The open attacks on Mr Watson will heighten fears among moderate Labour MPs that he is being hounded out by Mr Corbyn’s allies in revenge for his public criticism of the leadership’s handling of Brexit and anti-Semitism. 

Responding last night, Ms Formby said she was "very disappointed" in his approach and accused him of abusing his position.

She said: "The party has at all levels consistently shown that it recognises the vital importance of combating anti-Semitism, yet you consistently abuse your considerable platform to denigrate any progress that has been made and any individual that is involved in that."

Ms Formby, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, added: "Traducing my reputation and publicly attacking me when you know I am undergoing chemotherapy and am unable to respond in the media is another example of the inappropriate way in which you choose to discuss this issue."

Trump wishes Sir Kim Darroch well...

Donald Trump has said he wishes Britain's US ambassador Sir Kim Darroch well following his dramatic resignation in the wake of the leak of his diplomatic cables.

Sir Kim announced on Wednesday that he was quitting, saying his position had become "impossible" following a furious tirade from the president denouncing him as a "pompous fool" and a "very stupid guy".

Mr Trump had been enraged by Sir Kim's leaked dispatches branding his administration as "inept" and "dysfunctional".

But speaking to reporters in Washington on Friday, Mr Trump said he had since learned that Sir Kim had also said "some very good things" about him.

"I wish the British ambassador well. Some people just told me - too bad - they said he actually said some very good things about me," he said.

"I guess I quoted (Republican Senator) Lindsey Graham today. He said some things that were pretty nice from the British ambassador.

"I wish the British ambassador well but they have got to stop their leaking problems there just like they have to stop them in our country."

Dominic Grieve says no-deal risks border poll in Northern Ireland 

Former UK attorney general Dominic Grieve said the chances of an Irish border poll will "go up" putting the status of Northern Ireland in "jeopardy" if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

Speaking in Dublin the Conservative MP said: "A crash-out Brexit makes a political crisis in respect of Northern Ireland's future status more likely... clearly the chances of a border poll go up for a whole variety of reasons.

"The status of Northern Ireland under the Good Friday Agreement remaining in the UK has worked because in truth there's been a clear majority of the population who have been very comfortable with the arrangements that the Good Friday Agreement has delivered and that includes sections of the nationalist community as much as the unionist and that will be thrown into jeopardy by a no-deal Brexit.

"Indeed Brexit itself is probably likely to put it under strain even if it is done in a controlled fashion."

Hunt calls for de-escalation of Gulf tensions

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Britain wants to "de-escalate the situation" amid growing tensions in the Gulf.

He told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme: "We have a responsibility to protect British shipping and with our allies to protect the waterways and seaways of the world so we have to react according to the threats that we face.

"But this is not an Iran-specific issue - notwithstanding the broader tensions in the region - this is about Syria and about a breach of the sanctions against Syria which of course is a country that Iran is active in."

He said sending HMS Duncan and having HMS Montrose in the region was "about our responsibility to do everything we can to protect British shipping".

UK deploys new warship to Gulf

The UK has brought forward plans to swap warships in the Gulf amid escalating tensions.

HMS Duncan, a Type 45 Destroyer, will relieve HMS Montrose in the region as Iran threatens to disrupt shipping.

The move is understood to have been long-planned but was brought forward by a number of days.

A Government spokeswoman said: "As part of our long-standing presence in the Gulf, HMS Duncan is deploying to the region to ensure we maintain a continuous maritime security presence while HMS Montrose comes off task for pre-planned maintenance and crew change over.

"This will ensure that the UK alongside international partners can continue to support freedom of navigation for vessels transiting through this vital shipping lane."

Lidington claims proroguing Parliament would be a 'constitutional outrage'

David Lidington has claimed it would be a "constitutional outrage" for any government to prorogue Parliament in order to avoid debating a topic it found uncomfortable. 

The Cabinet Office minister, speaking on the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday, was responding to suggestions that Tory leadership candidate Boris Johnson could attempt to suspend Parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit if he is elected prime minister.

Mr Lidington said: "I actually think the chances of that happening (Parliament being prorogued) are slim.

"I think it would be a constitutional outrage for any government to seek to prorogue Parliament, to shut down Parliament in effect, just to stop it debating a subject which the government of the day found uncomfortable.

"I think that the precedent that that would set, for perhaps a hard-left government of the future, would be very damaging indeed.

"So I suspect whichever candidate wins as prime minister will fight shy of that, I would certainly do whatever I could to avoid such an outcome."

Boris Johnson promises to end 'unfair' prosecutions of Northern Ireland veterans

​Boris Johnson has called for an end to the prosecution of Troubles veterans in Northern Ireland, as he today promises to appoint a minister in his Cabinet dedicated to ex-forces personnel. 

Amid growing anger at the pursuit of veterans who served in the province, Mr Johnson said that the Conservatives must "end unfair trials of people who served Queen and country". 

The frontrunner to become prime minister signed a pledge promising greater protections and support for former members of the armed forces. 

It commits him to introducing new legislation to address "end repeated and vexatious investigations" into legacy killings in the province, which would have to be passed before the next general election. 

He will also be required to create an Office of Veterans Affairs within the Cabinet Office, which will ensure that all Whitehall departments are delivering "world-class care and support" to former soldiers. 

Mr Johnson told The Sun he would appoint a minister dedicated to veterans  who would attend Cabinet, adding: “We need to end unfair trials of people who served their Queen and country when no new evidence has been produced, and when the accusations have already been exhaustively questioned in court.

"We must protect people against unfair prosecutions. And I will.

"I totally support the principle of cross-Government work to secure world-class care and support for veterans."

A number of Northern Ireland veterans are facing charges, including Soldier F, who has been charged in relation to the killings of two protesters on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972.

Business Secretary: no-deal will cost 'thousands of jobs' 

Greg Clark has claimed that leaving the European Union without an agreement would lead to "thousands of jobs" being lost across the country. 

Speaking to Sky News, he said: "I think that every person who considers the evidence that companies have given, whether it's in the automotive sector, whether it's in the food sector, whether it's in aerospace, whether it's in industries up and down the country.

"You know if you become less efficient and your ability to trade is impeded then of course losing your competitiveness means that there will be jobs that will be lost."

Mr Clark said the risks of no-deal meant it was "hugely important" to negotiate a deal rather than leaving without one, adding that the government had a "responsibility to protect people's livelihoods in this country".

Labour's anti-Semitism row gets personal

The bitter row  at the top of the Labour Party over anti-Semitism has escalated, with general secretary Jennie Formby accusing deputy leader Tom Watson of "traducing" her while she is undergoing cancer treatment.

Mr Watson wrote to her on Thursday evening calling for the party to publish its submission to a watchdog investigating anti-Semitism claims, as well as raising allegations she had deleted emails relating to cases - a suggestion Ms Formby denies.

In her reply, she said she was "very disappointed" in his approach and accused him of abusing his position.

She said: "The party has at all levels consistently shown that it recognises the vital importance of combating anti-Semitism, yet you consistently abuse your considerable platform to denigrate any progress that has been made and any individual that is involved in that."

Ms Formby, who is undergoing treatment for breast cancer, added: "Traducing my reputation and publicly attacking me when you know I am undergoing chemotherapy and am unable to respond in the media is another example of the inappropriate way in which you choose to discuss this issue."

Mr Watson's letter came as the fallout from a BBC Panorama documentary into Labour's handling of anti-Semitism continued.

The deputy leader said a document produced for the Equality and Human Rights Commission's investigation of the party should be made public because "only sunlight can disinfect Labour of anti-Semitism now".

Theresa May suggests that people who mocked her tears are sexist

Theresa May has suggested that people who mocked her tears on the steps of 10 Downing Street are sexist.

Discussing her emotional resignation speech in May, the Prime Minister told the Daily Mail that there was an apparent double standard in the way that female leaders are treated compared with their male counterparts. 

"If a male Prime Minister’s voice had broken up, it would have been said “what great patriotism, they really love their country”. But if a female Prime Minister does it, it is “why is she crying?”," she said.

In a swipe at Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt - who both insist that they can persuade Brussels to change the UK's exit deal - the Prime Minister said: "The EU have said they don’t want to and won’t reopen agreement."

Mrs May admitted in the interview that she had sleepless nights in No 10: "There are times you wake up in the middle of the night thinking about things that are going on."

She also made no attempt to conceal her anger with Tory Brexiteers who refused to back her deal.

She said: "I had assumed mistakenly that the tough bit of the negotiation was with the EU, that Parliament would accept the vote of the British people and just want to get it done, that people who’d spent their lives campaigning for Brexit would vote to get us out on March 29 and May 27. But they didn’t."

Read more here.