General election latest: Sunak vows to bring back national service as Streeting aims to turn around the NHS

General election latest Sunak vows to bring back national service as Streeting aims to turn around the NHS
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Labour Party ‘leaks Rishi Sunak’s campaign diary’ in new ad attacking gaffes

Rishi Sunak has vowed to bring back national service for 18-year-olds to create a “renewed sense of pride in our country” if he wins the general election.

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Under the mandatory scheme, teenagers would be given a choice between a full-time placement in the armed forces for 12 months or spending one weekend a month for a year volunteering in their community.

Labour branded the announcement “another desperate unfunded commitment”, which would cost an estimated £2.5bn each year, while armed forces veteran Justin Crump warned the “ill-thought through” plans would place an “enormous potential burden” on Britain’s military.

It comes as Wes Streeting warned striking doctors he would not meet their huge pay demands, and has vowed he would be “a shop steward for patients” as health secretary.

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In an exclusive interview with The Independent, the shadow health secretary spoke of his plan to tackle of record waiting lists and the ongoing pay disputes, stating: “The NHS is not the envy of the world.”

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Sunak’s national service scheme would be ‘enormous burden’ on military, veteran warns

Rishi Sunak’s national service plans are “ill-thought through” and would be an “enormous potential burden” on Britain’s military, a military veteran of 25 years has warned.

“From the military point of view, this is an enormous potential burden,” Justin Crump told Sky News. “It’s certainly not the solution to the military’s problems and I think everyone I’ve spoken to this morning still has their head in their hands slightly in the same way.

“I think the aspiration is meritous around the fragmentation of society and the role of service within that and duty, which of course everyone in the armed forces ardently supports.

“I think though the scheme, the idea of putting people towards the military for just a year, and the way it’s been described, is very ill-thought through. It would provide a huge distraction of what the military needs to do at the moment and doesn’t address its core funding needs – in fact it makes it worse.

“So it’s very close to the sort of thing people might like to see, but I just think the military component of it feels very ill-thought through by comparison. And particularly, the very stark difference between spending a year in the military or spending two weekends a month closer to home.

“Those are the big areas that have us scratching our heads a little bit at this point.”

Andy Gregory26 May 2024 12:35

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National service plans condemned as ‘ageist’

The head of the Best for Britain campaign group has condemned Rishi Sunkak’s plans for national service, warning that “any serious party” who “genuinely cared” would be seeking to address the litany of impacts of severe generational inequality afflicting young Britons.

“It is ageist,” Naomi Smith told LBC. “What are we asking older people to do? What are we asking the over-65s to do? Are we asking them – many of them owning their own home outright without a mortgage – to be taxed at a far higher asset class taxation rate in order to fund the new building of homes for young people?

“Are we offering these young people anything in return if they were to complete this mandatory – yet somehow voluntary – [scheme]? Mandatory volunteering if they don’t take the military route? That seems odd. Are we offering them subsidised rents in good quality homes?

“Would they get an exemption on tuition fees if they completed their national service? It’s not offering them anything. If anything, it’s asking them to do something that perhaps they don’t want to do,” she added, questioning whether we “want the military to be stuffed full of people who don’t want to be there”.

Andy Gregory26 May 2024 12:21

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Labour would ‘make it less likely that young people will smoke than vote Tory’, shadow minister says

Labour would revive Rishi Sunak’s plans to ban young people from ever being able to legally smoke after they failed to become law ahead of the General Election, a shadow minister has said.

The Tobacco and Vapes Bill was not included in the legislation that was rushed through by MPs ahead of Parliament being prorogued on Friday, during a period known as “wash-up.”

Asked if Labour would reintroduce it, shadow work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall said: “If we’re elected we will make that happen and make it less likely that young people will smoke than vote Tory.”

Andy Gregory26 May 2024 12:09

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Labour vows no rise in income tax or national insurance

A Labour government would not increase income tax or national insurance, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has insisted.

“There’s nothing that will be in our manifesto that we haven’t said where the money is going to come from,” Ms Reeves told the BBC.

“We’ve made those commitments so VAT and business rates on private schools, private equity bosses being taxed properly on their bonuses, an extension of the windfall tax so the energy profits are properly taxed, ensuring non-doms pay their fair share of tax in the country they live in, and also cracking down on tax avoidance – which is costing our economy billions of pounds every year.”

She added: “Beyond that, we have to grow the economy”, before being pressed further on taxes.

Ms Reeves said: “What I want and Keir (Starmer) wants is taxes on working people to be lower and we certainly won’t be increasing income tax or national insurance if we win at the election.”

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She added: “We opposed the increases to national insurance when Rishi Sunak put those forward as chancellor. We would like taxes on working people to be lower but unlike the Conservatives, who have already racked up £64 billion of unfunded tax cuts in just three days of this campaign, I will never play fast and loose with the public finances, I will never put forward unfunded proposals.”

Andy Gregory26 May 2024 11:52

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National service plans would threaten funding for Scotland, warns SNP

The Tories’ plan to introduce national service would threaten funding for Scotland, the SNP has warned, claiming the proposals are “completely out of touch with families and young people”.

The SNP highlighted that funding for the plan appears to come from the UK shared prospertiy fund – a replacement for EU structural funds.

Amy Callaghan, candidate for Mid Dunbartonshire, said: “The SNP will stand firm against Tory plans to slash Scotland’s funding and impose mandatory national service on young people – showing why it’s essential to vote SNP to get rid of the Tory government and put Scotland first.

“It’s shameful Keir Starmer also claims mandatory national service is ‘needed’ and won’t rule out imposing it on Scottish families – these plans from a bygone era are completely out of touch with families and young people in Scotland – and deeply damaging to Scotland’s communities.

“Only the SNP can be trusted to fight Scotland’s corner and protect Scotland’s interests. It’s bad enough the Tories and Labour Party are wedded to imposing Brexit but to slash Scotland’s EU replacement funding by millions of pounds is a national scandal.”

Andy Gregory26 May 2024 11:34

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Refusal to mention EU makes this election most dishonest in modern times, warns Heseltine

Lord Heseltine has warned that the 2024 general election campaign “will be the most dishonest in modern times” because of the refusal of the main parties to debate the consequences of Brexit.

The former deputy prime minister who fell out with the Conservatives over leaving the European Union, has written exclusively for The Independent explaining how the big issues in this general election – the economy, immigration and defence – all need to be debated in the context of the UK’s relationship with the EU.

But he claimed that Labour and the Tories are too scared to discuss Brexit because of the potential impact on their voter bases.

He wrote: “Both major parties are afraid of losing votes to the hard right. Labour needs to rebuild its Red Wall while the Conservatives run scared of Reform.”

David Maddox, Political Editor26 May 2024 11:20

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Nigel Farage condemned for ‘race baiting’ after claim Muslims are ‘hostile to British values’

Nigel Farage signalled a return to rightwing shock tactics for his Reform UK party as he used his first election interview to attacking Muslims in the UK for “not sharing British values”.

His words on Muslims and immigration to Sir Trevor Phillips on Sky News shocked the studio guests including Labour peer Baroness Ayesha Hazarika who said: “This reveals his true colours as a nasty race baiting character.”

Commentator Lord Daniel Finkelstein said the remarks had made him pleased that Farage was not running for parliament, and questioned why Mr Farage claims to “speak for real people as if those who disagree with him are somehow not real”.

Our political editor David Maddox has the full report:

Andy Gregory26 May 2024 10:35

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Labour ‘not going to put a timetable’ on defence spending increase

Asked when Labour would increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has told the BBC: “We’re not going to put a timetable on that”.

“We’ve committed to do in government a strategic defence review to make sure that we’re getting value for money for all of our spending, including on defence where some of the procurement costs of purchasing new equipment have, frankly, got out of control under this Government,” Ms Reeves said.

And asked whether Labour would scrap the two-child benefit cap, Ms Reeves said: “We’re not going to be able to put everything right that the Conservatives have done straight away, and our priority is reducing those NHS waiting lists.”

Andy Gregory26 May 2024 10:31

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Rachel Reeves defends workers rights package after union criticism

Rachel Reeves has insisted Labour “will end fire and rehire” – after a union criticised the party for excluding an outright ban on the practice in the final version of its workers’ rights package.

The shadow chancellor said she is “sorry that Sharon feels like that” – after Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said the plans now have “more holes than Swiss cheese” – but defended the pledges.

“We will end fire and rehire which has seen companies … sack all their staff and then try and bring them back on worse contracts. That is deplorable and we will not allow that to happen,” Ms Reeves told the BBC.

When it was put to her that Ms Graham did not back the package, Ms Reeves said: “I’m sorry that Sharon feels like that but we do have the support of our trade union colleagues and I believe that this is the biggest-ever extension of workplace rights that’s ever been introduced if we have that opportunity to do so.”

Andy Gregory26 May 2024 10:15

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Labour will not bring return to austerity, Rachel Reeves insists

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has insisted there is “not going to be a return to austerity” as she was pressed to rule out public sector cuts under a Labour government.

Ms Reeves told the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg: “There’s not going to be a return to austerity under a Labour government. We had austerity for five years and that is part of the reason why our economy and our public services are in a mess today.

“There is no spending review, the government hasn’t done a spending review, so there’s no allocations for departments. I would have to do that if I became chancellor in a few weeks’ time and I’ll set out those plans.”

Pressed on whether she would rule out cuts in some areas of public spending, Ms Reeves repeated: “We’re not going to be bringing back austerity but we have got that immediate injection of cash into our frontline public services – that’s a down payment on the changes that we want to make.

“But in the end we have to grow the economy, we have to turnaround this dire economic performance … I don’t want to make any cuts to public spending which is why we’ve announced the immediate injection of cash into public services.

“So that money for our NHS, the additional police – 13,000 additional police and community officers – and the 6,500 additional teachers in our schools, they are all fully costed and fully funded promises because unless things are fully costed and fully funded, frankly, you can’t believe they’re going to happen.”

Andy Gregory26 May 2024 10:13



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