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Nigel Farage said his Brexit Party will not contest the 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017, to avoid damaging Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s efforts to secure a parliamentary majority to end the impasse over leaving the European Union. The pound extended gains.
Farage says he wants to prevent a second referendum on Brexit; pledges to “take the fight” to LabourPound rises 0.8%Tories say ‘eye-watering’ Labour spending plans to cost 1.2 trillion pounds; Labour calls the analysis ‘fake news’Three weekend polls give Tories double-digit lead over LabourGDP figures show U.K. returned to growth in third quarter, but figures were weaker than expected
Analysts Cautious on Farage Impact (12:40 p.m.)
The pound surged on the back of Nigel Farage’s announcement (see 12:25 p.m.) and bookmakers quickly shortened their odds on the Dec. 12 general election yielding a parliamentary majority for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
But not everyone is convinced it will have a deciding impact.
“It is good news for the Conservatives, but not great news,” Tim Bale, deputy director of The U.K. In a Changing Europe think tank, said in an interview. “Farage is still standing Brexit candidates in seats the Tories hoped to take from the Labour Party, and all the research shows that the Brexit candidate is more likely to take votes from the Tories than from Labour.”
Meanwhile Conservative Party Chairman James Cleverly told the BBC that Farage’s decision was the “pragmatic thing to do,” but added he still sees a risk in the Brexit Party standing in Labour- or Liberal Democrat-held seats that “might actually prevent the chances of a majority Conservative government.”
Farage Hands Johnson Boost (12:25 p.m.)
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he will not contest the 317 seats won by the Conservatives in 2017, a move that potentially alters the course of the election in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s favor. At a rally in Hartlepool, northern England, Farage said his party will instead concentrate efforts in “taking the fight” to the Labour Party.
Farage said he made the decision on Sunday night because he didn’t want to risk a majority of Remain-supporting MPs in the House of Commons who could then hold a second referendum on Brexit and put the whole project in jeopardy.
“If we do field 600 candidates, there will be a hung Parliament,” Farage said. “This announcement today prevents a second referendum from happening, and that to me is — right now — the most important thing in this country.”
Farage said private polling showed significant Liberal Democrat gains, including in southwest London and southwest England, if the Brexit Party stood against the Tories in those areas.
Javid Attacks Labour’s Economic Plans (12:10 p.m.)
Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid defended his party’s analysis of the Labour Party’s spending plans after Javid’s opposite number, John McDonnell, earlier dismissed the Tory estimate as “fake news.”
In a series of broadcast interviews, Javid described Labour’s plans as “economic vandalism” and challenged Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to provide an alternative figure if it disagreed with the Conservatives’ 1.2 trillion-pound estimate. “If it isn’t 1.2 trillion, then what is it?”
But pressed on how much a Conservative government would borrow if they win the election, Javid refused to give a figure. “If we win the election, then we will have within weeks our first budget as a new government,” Javid told Bloomberg TV. “In that budget you would expect to see the detail and the independent research from the Office of Budget Responsibility about the impact of our spending and tax decisions.”
Javid also said his Conservative Party sees no need to extend Mark Carney’s term as Bank of England governor, and that a new central bank chief would be appointed “very, very, quickly” if it wins the election.
Bookmakers Say Johnson Headed for Win (11:15 a.m.)
Boris Johnson is the overwhelming favorite to remain as prime minister after the Dec. 12 general, according to bookmaker Paddy Power. At odds of 3/1 on to lead the next government, the betting firm effectively gives Johnson a 75% chance of keeping his job.
But the odds suggest he’s not guaranteed an overall majority in Parliament — which he has repeatedly said he needs to end the impasse over Brexit. Most betting firms rate his chances of winning an overall majority in the House of Commons at about 50:50, though with sentiment toward a Conservative majority. On Monday, Ladbrokes placed a 60% chance on a Johnson majority.
Gove Attacks Labour on Immigration (9:45 a.m.)
Cabinet minister Michael Gove accused Labour of reneging on its 2017 pledge to end freedom of movement after Brexit. “Labour is now explicitly in favour of unlimited and uncontrolled immigration,” Gove wrote in the Times newspaper.
An alliance between Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon would put a “huge strain” on public services and make Briton’s “less safe” by allowing unfettered immigration, he wrote. “The Corbyn-Sturgeon policy is extreme, dangerous and out of touch with the British people.”
A motion passed at the Labour Party’s annual conference said it would extend free movement if elected to government, and Corbyn said last week he wants to “make sure that all those European Union nationals do remain here, can come here, will stay here.”
When asked Sunday in a BBC interview how that differed from the EU principle of free movement, Labour’s campaign chief Andrew Gwynne said there would be “bespoke” agreements with EU countries. He said he’d be able to answer “more clearly” whether the party’s 2019 manifesto would pledge to end free movement after it’s finalized on Saturday.
U.K. Avoids Recession, Economy on Weak Footing (9:30 a.m.)
Britain dodged a recession ahead of the now-postponed Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, providing an election boost for Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The economy grew 0.3% between July and September, avoiding a second straight quarter of contraction, the Office for National Statistics said on Monday. Still, the figures were weaker than expected and showed the economy had little momentum as it entered the fourth quarter.
Read more: U.K. Avoids Recession But Ends Third Quarter on Weak Footing
Corbyn’s Pacifism Under Spotlight (8:20 a.m.)
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pacifism is under the spotlight again — just as it was during the 2017 campaign. Asked in a BBC radio interview to name any occasion when the Labour leader had supported the use of British armed forces, the party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Emily Thornberry, said: “No, not off the top of my head.”
“In principle, Jeremy is not a pacifist; we are not pacifists,” Thornberry said. “There will be times when we need to use military force, but when we use it, we need to ensure that the use of that military force actually makes the situation better in the long term.”
While Corbyn has in the past said he wouldn’t be prepared to use Britain’s nuclear weapons, Thornberry said he “would do anything to protect our country,” adding, “it’s wrong for us to say in advance in what circumstances we would use nuclear weapons.”
Within minutes of the interview, the Conservatives released their attack lines in a statement from Defense Minister Johnny Mercer. “If Jeremy Corbyn is unable to make crucial decisions to keep our country safe, he is not fit to be Prime Minister,” he said.
Parties Announce Benefits for Armed Forces (Earlier)
As it’s Armistice Day, both the Tories and Labour are touting new policy proposals to boost the armed forces and veterans. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is pledging fair pay, decent housing and better schooling for the children of armed forces.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will be in the West Midlands, is offering childcare and incentives for employers to hire ex-soldiers. Johnson will also offer legal protection to veterans, the Telegraph says. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace did a morning broadcast round touting plans to end repeat prosecutions over historical allegations against forces who served in Northern Ireland.
“This isn’t an amnesty,” Wallace told the BBC. “This is about repeated and vexatious claims.”
Tories Attack Labour Spending Plans (Earlier)
The Conservatives attacked Labour spending plans, which Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid described as “eye-watering” and said could force the U.K. into an economic crisis within months of the opposition assuming power. The Tories said on Sunday the cost of all Labour’s policy announcements would total 1.2 trillion pounds over five years.
Their 36-page analysis was dismissed as “fake news” by Javid’s Labour counterpart, John McDonnell, who promised his party would produce a fully-costed manifesto — just as it did in 2017.
Polls Give Conservatives Double-Digit Lead (Earlier)
Three weekend polls gave Boris Johnson’s Conservatives a double-digit lead over Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, while a fourth put the margin at 8 percentage points.
U.K. Recent Election Polls Summary: Conservative 39%, Labour 27%
A YouGov poll in the Sunday Times puts the Tories on 39%, unchanged from its previous survey, with Labour down a point on 26%. The Liberal Democrats are up a point on 17% and the Brexit Party are up 3 points on 10%.
An Opinium poll and a Deltapoll survey both gave the same results for the Conservatives (41%), Labour (29%) and the Brexit Party (6%). Opinium has the Liberal Democrats on 15% compared to 16% for Deltapoll.
A BMG survey for the Independent on Sunday put the Tories on 37%, with Labour on 29%, the Liberal Democrats on 16% and the Brexit Party on 9%.
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–With assistance from David Goodman, Dara Doyle, Peter Flanagan, Robert Hutton and Alex Morales.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at [email protected], Stuart Biggs, Mark Williams
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