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NHS strikes: ‘All options on table’ for ‘unprecedented’ coordinated junior doctors and nurses strikes | UK News

“All options are on the table” regarding possible coordinated strikes by junior doctors and nurses, a union representative has warned.

Dr Arjan Singh, chair of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) junior doctors committee, refused to rule out the possibility of coordinating industrial action with Royal College of Nursing (RCN), saying: “We have a very close relationship with the RCN and every option is to be considered.”

He told Sky News the BMA is “in full solidarity with nursing colleagues”, after the RCN voted for a fresh 48-hour walkout from 8pm on 30 April to 8pm on 2 May.

Dr Singh called the government’s pay offer to the nurses “derisory” and “not reflective of years of pay erosion that they have endured or the sacrifices they’ve made”.

Member of the junior doctor's committee for the British Medical Association, Dr Arjan Singh, says Health Secretary Steve Barclay refuses to negotiate and says the strikes will stop if the pay is raised to £19 an hour.
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Dr Arjan Singh from the junior doctors committee for the British Medical Association

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said a coordinated strike would be “completely unprecedented”.

“We would be in uncharted territory,” he told Sky News. “It would be even more challenging to plan for, manage and mitigate all the enormous challenges it would present the service with.

“Doctors and nurses are fundamental to the delivery of care across the service. It really is deeply concerning if that’s the scenario we’re facing.”

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‘Desperate need’ to end strikes

Sir Julian said the NHS was in “desperate need” of an end to strike action.

“We need both the government and unions to come together quickly to try and find a way through this,” he added.

The RCN strike comes after a 54% vote to reject an offer of a 5% pay rise this year and a cash payment for last year.

Staff in emergency departments, intensive care units and cancer care are expected to take action for the first time.

But members of a second union, Unison, voted to accept the same offer by 74% on a turnout of 53%.

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RCN votes for fresh strike

The health unions are lodged in their own dangerous game of divide and rule

It’s not a good news, bad news type of situation – it’s a mess. By rejecting the government’s pay offer, nurses from the RCN are now in conflict with their health worker colleagues from Unison, who have overwhelmingly decided to accept it.

At the start of the process, the unions warned that the government was playing a dangerous game of divide and rule. Now they have managed to do it to themselves.

Other health unions including the GMB, Unite and those representing physios and dieticians are consulting their members. They have until 28 April.

Until then, we are in limbo. In early May, all the unions will go back to the government with their decision. Unison has said it will ask the government to impose its pay deal on their members.

But the RCN has already announced further strike dates and will ballot its members for more action over the last six months of the year.

It raises the prospect of nurses and junior doctors standing together on picket lines for the first time. That is a situation that will fill NHS Trust leaders with dread.

The outcome will not be known until at least May. It means more uncertainty for long-suffering patients.

Junior doctors await ‘credible offer’

Around 47,000 junior doctors finished their four-day strike in a separate dispute over pay at 7am on Saturday.

The BMA has urged the government to hold talks over junior doctors’ demands for “pay restoration” to 2008 levels, but ministers have claimed that would amount to a 35% pay rise.

Dr Singh accused Health Secretary Steve Barclay of “hiding” behind pre-recorded media interviews.

“We said, ‘give us a credible offer, and we would call off the strikes’,” he said.

“But radio silence is what we’re hearing from our health secretary at the moment, and it’s very concerning.”

A “mass haemorrhaging and exodus of doctors” would continue if a “credible offer” was not made, he added.

Tony Blair wanted Vladimir Putin at ‘top table’ while he was PM despite officials’ fears | Politics News

Tony Blair wanted Vladimir Putin to have a seat at the international “top table” during his time as prime minister, according to newly released official files.

The Labour PM from 1997 to 2007 believed the Russian president was at heart a “Russian patriot” and it was important to encourage him to adopt Western values, the papers released to the National Archives show.

However, officials voiced their fears he represented a return to Cold War attitudes and questioned whether he could be trusted.

In 2001, about a year after KGB lieutenant officer Mr Putin became president, an internal No 10 briefing note entitled “Putin’s progress” raised the concerns, including a resurgence in Russian espionage activities.

“Despite the warmth of Putin’s rhetoric about the close links between Russia and the UK, the Russian intelligence effort against British targets remains at a high level,” it said.

“The Russian intelligence presence in the UK is at Cold War levels, and they continue to try to post active and hostile officers to work against British interests worldwide.”

The document gives a list of assurances from Mr Putin to Mr Blair during their meetings at international summits, which turned out to be false.

They included backing for the West’s tough line on dealing with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and pledges that Moscow would stop supplying Iran’s nuclear programme.

The papers said Mr Putin had thanked Mr Blair for offering assistance after the sinking of the Russian submarine Kursk, with all 118 crew lost, but said Russian officials obstructed the offer while spreading false rumours it sunk due to colliding with a British submarine.

In a memorandum that is very relevant now, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Mr Putin also told Mr Blair he did not want to be considered to be “anti-NATO” but his defence minister then warned NATO any further enlargement would be “a major political error” requiring Moscow to take “appropriate steps”.

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in the launch ceremony of the Titan-Polymer plant via videoconference in St. Petersburg, Russia, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin

The note is part of a series of briefing notes for Mr Blair’s foreign policy adviser John Sawers ahead of meeting senior officials in the new George Bush administration before the prime minister’s first meeting with the new US president.

Mr Blair compared Mr Putin to French wartime president Charles de Gaulle during talks with then-vice-president Dick Cheney at Camp David.

“The prime minister described him as a Russian patriot, acutely aware that Russia had lost its respect in the world. To describe him as a Russian de Gaulle would be misleading, but he had a similar mindset,” the note of the meeting said.

“He (Mr Blair) understood that Putin had a low approval rating in the US. But he thought it was better to allow Putin a position on the top table and encourage Putin to reach for Western attitudes as well as the Western economic model.”

And despite tensions with the Russian president, the files show how diplomacy ruled, with a No 10 official informing Mr Blair on his trip to Moscow in 2001 that he had to give the president a set of newly released silver No 10 cufflinks for his birthday.

Mandela intervention ‘not helpful’

Former South African President Nelson Mandela is applauded by Prime Minister Tony Blair and John Prescott (left) at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton.
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Nelson Mandela is applauded by Tony Blair and John Prescott (left) at a Labour Party Conference.

The files also reveal tensions between Mr Blair and Nelson Mandela, as well as with his cabinet, notably his chancellor Gordon Brown.

Files showed officials in No 10 feared former South African president Mr Mandela’s efforts to act as an intermediary between the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi over the Lockerbie bombing were “unlikely to be helpful”.

Mr Mandela, as president, helped broker the agreement that eventually led to two Libyan intelligence agents standing trial before a Scottish court for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish village of Lockerbie, killing 270.

But after his presidency ended and one of the accused was found guilty in 2001, Mr Mandela tried to intercede as Gaddafi pushed for international sanctions on Libya to be lifted.

Anna Wechsberg in the No 10 private office noted: “Mandela evidently sees himself acting as mediator between the prime minister and Gaddafi. This is unlikely to be helpful.”

Away days ‘pretty ghastly’

On friction with Mr Blair’s cabinet, notes reveal not one senior minister enjoyed the annual “away days” held at the PM’s country home of Chequers.

Gordon Brown and Tony Blair at the despatch box in 2007
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Gordon Brown and Tony Blair at the despatch box in 2007

David Milliband, then a No 10 special adviser, complained that no company would run them in such a haphazard fashion.

“The tradition of a TB/GB (Tony Blair/Gordon Brown) introduction and then one disjointed comment from each cabinet member is pretty ghastly – and not very useful,” he said in a memo.

The files show Mr Blair’s chief of staff suggested Mr Brown led the 1998 gathering on the economy, writing: “You said you did not like this, but I don’t see how you can avoid it.”

Mr Blair replied: “No, we should start with a general political discussion which I should lead, then in (the) afternoon economy.”

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urges ministers to keep policy views ‘around the Cabinet table’ amid Conservative infighting | Politics News

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has urged his ministerial colleagues to keep their views on government policy “around the Cabinet table” as Liz Truss faces an open split within her top team over the 45p tax rate U-turn.

The senior Cabinet member warned his peers that it is “always better to feed straight into the boss” if there are any issues regarding “policy or the relationship with other ministers”.

On Tuesday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman accused Tory MPs of staging a “coup” against the PM over the 45p tax rate – a policy which was unveiled in Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s tax-cutting mini-budget last month and reversed last week.

Truss prepares to battle to save premiership in keynote speech – Politics latest

“She chose the words that she chose,” the foreign secretary told Sky News, responding to Ms Braverman’s comments.

“But when you’re in government, you have the opportunity to feed your ideas straight to the top machine. It’s always best done around the Cabinet table or in the Cabinet committee meetings.

“My view is anything to do with policy or the relationship with other ministers – always better to feed straight into the boss”.

Speaking at a Telegraph event at the Conservative Party conference, Ms Braverman said she had been “in favour” of scrapping the top rate of income tax and was “disappointed” by the government’s U-turn.

She also criticised those in her party who had “undermined the authority of our prime minister in an unprofessional way”.

Fellow Cabinet minister Simon Clarke also publicly disclosed his objection to the reversal of the policy.

The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities secretary posted on social media: “Suella speaks a lot of good sense, as usual.”

The tax cut for the wealthiest 1% was one of a raft announced by Mr Kwarteng in his mini-budget less than two weeks ago that led to market turmoil – with the pound plummeting, the Bank of England having to step in to rescue pension funds and mortgage products being withdrawn.

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Do the public and Cabinet still trust Truss?

Despite standing by the policy in the opening days of the conference, Mr Kwarteng confirmed on Monday it would no longer go ahead, saying the measure had become a “distraction” from his objective to grow the economy.

Yesterday, Ms Truss told Sky News’ political editor Beth Rigby she had “absolutely no shame” in performing the dramatic U-turn.

Mr Cleverly told Kay Burley that “a lot of discussions weren’t able to be had” over the chancellor’s mini-budget proposals because of the death of the Queen.

The foreign secretary also disputed that a U-turn took place, adding: “What you’re describing as a U-turn is the smallest element of a really big and significant support package to families, tax cut to families, stimulus package for the British economy.”

Ms Truss is also facing the threat of another major split within her top team over the level of benefits.

On Tuesday, Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt joined backbench rebels in calling for welfare payments to be raised in line with inflation, which has been at around 10%, rather than earnings at 5%.

The PM has refused to commit to raising benefits in line with inflation, saying she has “not made a decision” on whether to stick to the benefit uprate promised by her predecessor Boris Johnson.

Read more:
Liz Truss says she has ‘absolutely no shame’ over tax cut U-turn
Home secretary attacks Tory MPs who ‘staged coup’ over tax cut

In a few hours, Ms Truss will deliver her keynote speech at the Conservative Party’s conference in Birmingham as she battles to save her premiership just one month into the job.

The PM will wrap up the event by defending her approach and pledging a “new Britain for the new era” after a week of U-turns and infighting.

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PM: I am ‘not ashamed’ for listening

The prime minister will tell her audience: “Whenever there is change, there is disruption. Not everyone will be in favour.

“We need to grow the pie so that everyone gets a bigger slice.”

She is expected to say: “I am determined to take a new approach and break us out of this high-tax, low-growth cycle.”

Ms Truss will also put her government forward as having an “iron grip” on the UK’s finances that will help everyone.

The hall in Birmingham is not expected to be full as many MPs said they were leaving on Tuesday evening ahead of train strikes on Wednesday.

Liz Truss’s speech is due to take place at 11am on Wednesday. Follow live updates and analysis on the Sky News Politics Hub and on TV.