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Sir Keir Starmer insists he is ‘trustworthy’ – as new voter offer compared with abandoned leadership pledges | Politics News

Sir Keir Starmer has insisted he can be trusted to deliver his six pledges to voters – despite abandoning many of the promises that saw him elected Labour leader.

In an interview with Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby, Sir Keir repeatedly defended his decision to “adjust” some of the 10 pledges he made to party members when seeking to succeed Jeremy Corbyn following Labour’s disastrous 2019 general election result.

The Labour leader said: “When the facts change, the circumstances change. Good leaders know you have to adapt and change with it.”

The Labour leader was speaking following a major pre-election event in Essex, where he set out the “first steps” of a Labour government before the public heads to the polls.

Politics latest: Sunak hit with blunt question – as Starmer outlines pledges

The six targets, which have been compared to the pledge card Sir Tony Blair put to voters before the 1997 general election, are to deliver economic stability, cut NHS waiting lists, crack down on anti-social behaviour, recruit 6,500 new teachers, launch a new border security command and set up publicly-owned Great British Energy.

Sir Keir said the programme was “going to be hard” to achieve, adding that the public could expect to see the promises materialise within two terms of a Labour government.

The promises have also been compared to the 10 pledges Sir Keir made when he was seeking to become leader – many of which have now been diluted or abandoned.

Among the promises he made in the 2020 leadership election that have since been scaled back are bringing back free tuition and nationalising key public utilities.

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What are Labour’s six pledges?

‘Junked pretty much every pledge’

Asked whether he was “trustworthy” given he had “junked pretty much every pledge you were elected Labour leader on”, Sir Keir replied: “You’ll know that for each of the 10 pledges, there’s about two or three sitting under them.

“That’s about 30 commitments, of which a few have been adjusted. The vast majority are in place, but I accept that some of them have been adjusted.”

Read more:
Keeping lid on promises now may serve Labour well in future
What are Labour’s pledges for government?

He drew comparisons with Liz Truss – who survived just 44 days as prime minister after her economic strategy unravelled – saying: “I think the public might be less trusting than you suggest of someone who says, ‘well, I said I’d do this, the economy has now been damaged, but I’m going to do it anyway, even though we can’t afford it’.

“I honestly don’t think that builds trust and confidence because the public know the circumstances have changed.”

‘No clear, measurable targets’

While the pledges have been seen as an expansion of the five “missions” Sir Keir laid out last year, he nevertheless faced questions that his new set of promises lacked the specificity of those promised by Sir Tony nearly three decades ago.

Rigby highlighted to Sir Keir how the former Labour prime minister promised to cut class sizes to 30 or under and cut NHS waiting lists by 100,000.

“When I look at yours, it’s economic stability, new border security, set up GB Energy,” she said.

“There’s no clear, measurable targets. Only one number on it, only one with the teachers. It’s vague enough so that you can’t be seen to break promises.

“It’s shifty isn’t it?”

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‘Not going to make a promise I don’t think I can deliver’

The Labour leader pointed to the fact he was promising 40,000 new appointments and to recruit 6,500 teachers and denied he was “under-promising”.

“I’m not going to make a promise before an election, which I don’t think I can deliver after the election,” he said.

“I think the public in the last 14 years had far too much of people who say before an election they’ll deliver everything, and afterwards they don’t. We have to break that pattern.

“So that means I have to be clear now and say there are some things I can do, there are some things I can’t do. I want to say that before the election so that I can level with the public.”

Grant Shapps abandoned Ukraine port visit over Russian missile threat | World News

Grant Shapps was forced to abandon a visit to a port city in Ukraine after British intelligence warned of a credible missile threat from Russia.

Officials told the defence secretary Russia had become aware of his travel plans to Odesa, where a convoy carrying Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Greece’s prime minister had narrowly avoided an airstrike.

That news raised the threat level to Mr Shapps’s safety from substantial to critical, according to The Sunday Times, which had access to the delegation and was the first to report the abandoned plans.

Mr Shapps, travelling with chief of the defence staff Admiral Sir Tony Radakin and a small team of British officials, took an overnight train from Poland, arriving in Kyiv on 7 March.

But the planned onward journey to Odesa was called off after an intelligence update revealed the Kremlin’s knowledge of it.

“Putin has shown himself to be reckless, ruthless and careless,” Mr Shapps, who instead travelled back to the UK via Poland, told the Sunday Times.

“The fact that he came perilously close to essentially assassinating two Western leaders, it doesn’t matter whether that is deliberate or accidental.

“What the hell is he doing, and why the heck would the West allow him to do that kind of thing?”

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Five people were killed in the airstrike that just missed Mr Zelenskyy’s convoy, according to Ukrainian authorities, which happened on 6 March, the day before Mr Shapps arrived in Kyiv.

It was the senior Tory’s second trip to Ukraine as Defence Secretary and his third since the outbreak of the war in February 2022.

It comes as Mr Zelenskyy faces waning enthusiasm in the West for supporting Kyiv.

European countries are struggling to find enough weapons and ammunition to send to Ukraine, and US help worth $60bn (£47bn) is stalled over political differences in Washington.

Read more:
What happened to Putin’s most vocal critics
Finland lays out plans to block asylum seekers from Russia

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “On a recent trip to Ukraine, the defence secretary did not make a planned visit to Odesa for security reasons.

“The UK continues to provide strong support for Ukraine and the defence secretary’s visit and engagements only underscored the importance of this support in the face of Putin’s aggression.”

Labour activists face ‘disciplinary action’ if they support abandoned Rochdale candidate Azhar Ali | Politics News

Labour has told its activists they face “disciplinary action” if they continue to campaign for the party’s abandoned Rochdale by-election candidate Azhar Ali.

The party’s branch in the North West has emailed activists in the region to warn they must no longer canvass for Mr Ali now that Labour has withdrawn its support for his candidacy over alleged antisemitic remarks he made last year.

The party’s rulebook states that support for any political organisation or candidate that is not Labour is prohibited.

Mr Ali first faced criticism when the Mail on Sunday reported that he had told a meeting of community activists last year that Israel deliberately allowed the Hamas atrocity to take place in order to give it the “green light” to invade Gaza.

A number of shadow ministers initially stood by Mr Ali and said he would remain the candidate in light of his “unreserved” apology for the “deeply offensive, ignorant and false” comments.

Follow live: ‘Problems mounting’ for Starmer

However, the party withdrew support for Mr Ali when further remarks were published by the Daily Mail in which he allegedly blamed “people in the media from certain Jewish quarters” for fuelling criticism of a pro-Palestinian Labour MP, as well as claiming Israel planned to “get rid of [Palestinians] from Gaza” and “grab” some of the land.

It also temporarily suspended him from the party pending investigation.

On Tuesday night, Labour suspended another of its prospective parliamentary candidates, Graham Jones, after he allegedly referred to “f***ing Israel” at the same meeting where Mr Ali is reported to have made his comments.

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How Labour’s latest row unfolded

In the email to Labour members, seen by Sky News, the party writes: “As you will be aware, the Labour Party has withdrawn its support for Azhar Ali as the Labour Party’s candidate and the Labour Party campaign in Rochdale has now ceased.

“In view of these developments, we must inform you that members are not permitted to campaign in the by-election on behalf of Azhar Ali.

“If members are found to do so, they will be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the Labour Party’s rules.”

It added: “We understand that this news may come as a disappointment to many of you.

“We would like to thank you for your hard work in challenging circumstances.”

Sir Keir Starmer insisted on Tuesday that he had taken “decisive action” to withdraw support for Mr Ali, saying: “It is virtually unprecedented to withdraw support for a candidate in the way that I withdrew support for this candidate yesterday.

“That’s what a changed Labour Party is all about.”

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Sir Keir calls the decision to withdraw support for Mr Ali a ‘necessary decision’.

However, the Labour leader has been criticised for not acting immediately after Mr Ali’s remarks came to light, with housing minister Lee Rowley telling Sky News the episode showed “the Labour Party is in a real mess”.

“It is just extraordinary to see some of the things that are coming out now, some of the conspiracy theories,” he told Breakfast With Kay Burley.

“It is showing that the Labour Party really hasn’t got a grip on this, that it is a party which has not changed [and] a party which will say anything to win government.”

Sir Keir’s decision to withdraw support for Mr Ali creates an unusual situation whereby he will still appear on the ballot paper as the Labour candidate – because it is too late for his name to be removed – although the party is not backing him.

Labour has also confirmed that in the event Mr Ali wins the contest on 29 February, he will sit as an independent MP on entering the Commons.

The incident with Mr Ali has also angered those on the left of the party, with campaign group Momentum accusing Sir Keir of “double standards” and ” trying to save one of their own”.

Read more:
Why Labour can’t replace Azhar Ali – and what happens if he wins
This is Starmer’s biggest crisis as Labour leader – and there may be worse to come

Mr Ali led the Labour group on Lancashire County Council before being selected as a candidate for the Rochdale by-election, set for 29 February.

He was hoping to replace Labour stalwart Sir Tony Lloyd, who died in January, and had been the Labour MP since 2017.

See below the full list of candidates and the political parties they represent:

Azhar Ali, (listed as Labour Party, but now no longer endorsed as its candidate)
Mark Coleman, Independent
Simon Danczuk, Reform UK
Iain Donaldson, Liberal Democrats
Paul Ellison, The Conservative Party Candidate
George Galloway, Workers’ Party of Britain
Michael Howarth, Independent
William Howarth, Independent
Guy Otten, Green Party
Ravin Subortna, The Official Monster Raving Loony Party
David Tully, Independent

Match abandoned between Bournemouth and Luton Town after Tom Lockyer collapse to be replayed in full | UK News

The Premier League match between Bournemouth and Luton Town will be replayed in full after the collapse of a player during the second half of the game.

Luton Town’s skipper Tom Lockyer is undergoing tests in hospital after suffering an on-pitch cardiac arrest against Bournemouth.

The Premier League Board has decided to reschedule the fixture for later in the season, with a date yet to be confirmed.

The 29-year-old footballer collapsed during Saturday’s Premier League encounter at the Vitality Stadium.

Players and managers from both clubs, match officials and the Premier League collectively decided to abandon and cancel the match at 1-1.

The Premier League thanked the medical staff for responding to “an extremely upsetting situation for everyone”.

Paramedics and staff had rushed to resuscitate the centre-back while manager Rob Edwards ushered his players away from the field.

Luton Town said the “next steps for [Lockyer’s] recovery” will be determined after the results of his tests and scans.

“We all want the very best for Tom, his partner Taylor and the whole Lockyer family, and politely ask that his and their privacy is respected at this difficult time,” a spokesperson said.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.

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Gateshead football match abandoned after balaclava-wearing men drive hearse onto pitch | UK News

Chaos descended on a pre-season match in the northeast on Friday evening after a hearse was driven onto the pitch by men wearing balaclavas throwing leaflets.

Dunston were drawing 1-1 at half-time with Gateshead at its UTS Stadium when the hearse, along with a Subaru, were driven on to the pitch, at around 8.20pm.

The cars then drove in circles around the pitch, as well as skid around, while the people inside threw leaflets from the vehicles.

The men wearing balaclavas then left the hearse and got in the Subaru, before driving off out the stadium.

They left the hearse on the pitch.

Gateshead FC tweeted: “Due to an incident on the pitch occurring shortly after half-time, tonight’s match has been abandoned by the referee.”

Northumbria Police said no one has been injured or threatened, and an investigation has been launched.

A spokesman added: “Disorder will not be tolerated in the community and anyone found to be involved will be dealt with robustly.

“While inquiries are at an early stage, it is believed that those involved are known to each other and there was no wider risk to the public.

“We are also aware that images and videos of the disturbance are being circulated on social media.

“Members of the public are urged not to speculate and are encouraged to share any footage with police to assist the investigation.

“Police remain in the area to carry out inquiries and offer reassurance to the public and those with concerns are encouraged to speak with an officer on duty.

Six British children discovered in abandoned wine cellar in Austria | World News

Six British children have been taken into care in Austria after they were found to have been living in an abandoned wine cellar with their parents.

Police have said their father, a 54-year-old Austrian, is a member of the far-right Reichsburger movement and is a known Holocaust denier.

Social services were called to the property in Obritz, near the Czech border, when locals became concerned for the children’s welfare.

But when they tried to get in, the father attacked them with pepper spray.

Police were called and the man was arrested. He has since been released on bail as an investigation is carried out.

The children – aged between seven months and five years – were taken with their mother to be checked out in hospital.

Police spokesman Stefan Loidl said they were “in a good health condition and were not neglected”.

The children are currently being looked after by social services.

Local authorities said they believed the family were living in the illegal hideout for several months but there had been complaints about them over the last few weeks.

Erich Greil, Orbritz deputy mayor, said: “The surveillance cameras in front of the cellar were particularly annoying and residents sometimes heard children’s voices in the basement and as soon as they approached it was quiet.”

Police said there was no suggestion of any sexual abuse of the children found in the cellar.

Mr Loidl added that a “long gun, two crossbows and several compressed air weapons”, were found in the cellar.