The Change UK/The Independent Group/TIG/#Change/The Remain Alliance launch ahead of the European elections dominated news and the politico twittersphere yesterday. The band of ex-Labour and Tory MPs had hinted that big names were on the list of selected candidates, but many were disappointed by the reveal, which consisted of Rachel Johnson (sister of Boris and Jo), former Newsnight presenter Gavin Esler and prolific tweeter Frances Weetman.
The real problem for this ‘#FBPErs Assemble’ project is that, while calling itself ‘the Remain alliance’, it is refusing to cooperate with other anti-Brexit parties. And today, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party – set to do very well in the Euro elections according to some polling – has snagged new candidate Ann Widdecombe, adored by Conservative members as someone who has opposed abortion and supported the death penalty. No wonder Tory MP demands for Theresa May to quit sharpish are getting louder.
The other, more positive development was headed by young climate change activist Greta Thunberg. “Is the microphone really on? Did you hear me? Is my English OK? Because I’m beginning to wonder,” she started her speech in parliament. Afterwards, she met Jeremy Corbyn in a round table discussion that the Prime Minister failed to attend. The Labour leader promised to “support and engage with youth climate actions” and kick start a “Green Industrial Revolution” in government. It seems like a good idea for Corbyn to go on environmental issues at PMQs this afternoon.
In more good policy news from Labour, housing spokesman John Healey is announcing an important move today. The party will scrap ‘permitted development rules’, which have allowed developers to turn office and industrial buildings into residential homes without proper planning permission. This has led to ‘rabbit hutch’ flats just a few feet wide – and, incredibly, none of them even have to be affordable. The government says the loophole helps people achieve home ownership, but as Healey rightly says: “To fix the housing crisis, we need more genuinely affordable, high-quality homes”. Not expensive slum housing.
Cross-party Brexit talks will continue today, featuring John McDonnell and Philip Hammond. The idea of holding another referendum could come up, as they are both thought to be more supportive of it than their leaders. But a focus on customs union membership and post-Brexit trade deals is more certain. In a piece for LabourList today, Global Justice Now’s Nick Dearden argues it isn’t the EU that presents the biggest threat to Labour’s public ownership plans, but post-Brexit trade deals. It’s an accessible and interesting read. Although Labour members are most vocal about freedom of movement in the current Brexit debate, discussion about the UK-EU future relationship will soon shift to controversial consequences of TTIP-style proposals. The Shadow Chancellor might find such concerns worth raising this afternoon. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.