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Starmer’s decision over Diane Abbott is part of a wider strategy – but polling suggests trouble ahead | Politics News

Does Diane Abbott and the row over her future matter?

Keir Starmer clearly calculated not so much, although I’m told it blew up far more than the leader’s office expected, with the mess and delay a product of disagreements internally about what to do with her.

High-profile Labour politicians like Jess Phillips are now kicking off, and televised rallies in front of supporters in Hackney have undoubtedly obliterated the party’s attempts to get messages out on NHS waiting times.

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But does it move the dial politically – particularly when the party is 27 points ahead according to the latest Sky News/YouGov poll and Sir Keir is keen to do all he can to preserve relations with the Jewish community?

Possibly not in the first instance. But it may have secondary effects.

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Diane Abbott: ‘I’m banned from running for Labour’

Sir Keir is avowedly determined to present a “changed” Labour Party, away from the one that held Jeremy Corbyn in high esteem.

The decisions about Ms Abbott are part of that wider strategy. There are still parts of the party nostalgic for this era, however, and Sir Keir famously won the leadership trying to keep them onside.

But there’s a paradox in the polling that suggests trouble ahead. Yes, if the polls are to be believed (and many Tories don’t) Labour is on course for a decent majority and control of Number 10.

However, Sir Keir’s own ratings are – less than stellar.

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Poll: Labour surges to 27-point lead

The YouGov/Sky News poll asked this week whether voters thought he would be a good or bad prime minister. Almost half – 47% – said bad. The older the voter, the more pessimistic they are.

Sir Keir is starting from a low base – not as bad as Rishi Sunak, but still bad. By contrast, only 33% said they thought he’d be good.

That level of enthusiasm suggests Sir Keir may not enjoy much of a public opinion honeymoon, just at a point where he is likely to have to start by making difficult decisions, most notably on raising taxes.

One of the themes of this election has been the party’s clarity that while it will promise not to raise income tax, national insurance and corporation tax, no such bar exists on other taxes.

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With rules to restrain borrowing lifted from the Tories and unsustainably tight Whitehall spending plans, something has to give.

Judging by the first week of the campaign, that seems to be tax – a subject the Tories are likely to dwell on in the coming days.

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If he is suddenly unpopular, Sir Keir needs an army of supporters to insulate him.

But some of those are the supporters who are unhappy with his treatment of Ms Abbott.

This row might not matter that much now or in this campaign, but if the bonds between leader and party are easily frayed then there’s trouble ahead.

Rishi Sunak could tell him that.

Parked drivers struggling to get out of their vehicle as cars get wider, says survey | UK News

Drivers are having trouble getting in and out of their cars because vehicles have become wider but parking spaces haven’t grown, according to research.

Most spaces in car parks are still based on guidelines from the 1970s, but analysis of 10 popular family motors shows they’ve crept up in size.

Churchill Motor Insurance said their average width had increased from 168cm to 180cm.

The British Parking Association recommends a 240cm-wide space – in theory leaving just 30cm (1ft) on each side.

That could be especially tricky if the car next door isn’t in the centre of their own space.

A Ford Fiesta, for example, was 155cm when first launched in 1976 but has grown to 174cm wide.

Another UK favourite, the Vauxhall Corsa, has grown 24cm to 177cm.

Even more modern vehicles such as the Nissan Qashqai, released in 2007, have grown – from 178cm to 184cm.

Churchill estimates damage caused by struggling with parking bays and hitting a wall, another vehicle or a bollard costs UK drivers £424m every year.

The Corsa is one of the cars that's grown wider over the years. Pic: iStock
The Corsa is one of the cars that’s grown wider over the years. Pic: iStock

Two in five of the 2,000 people surveyed said they had struggled getting in or out their car when parked up at least once a month.

Some 22% had even been forced to clamber through the boot at least once, according to the survey.

A third (32%) said they owned a bigger car than five years ago.

Common reasons were wanting more comfort, needing space for work or leisure gear, or just because they liked the design of a larger vehicle.

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“Widening cars combined with parking bays that haven’t been redesigned to accommodate today’s models means motorists all over the country are at risk of damaging their cars, through no fault of their own,” said Churchill boss Nicholas Mantel.

The RAC said a common reason for cars becoming wider was the introduction of side impact protection technology.

“Operators are faced with the dilemma of having to repaint spaces to accommodate these larger vehicles, which is especially difficult at some older multi-storey car parks where space is already restricted,” said RAC head of policy Simon Williams.

“Unfortunately, this would lead to an overall reduction in the total number of spaces available and an inevitable increase in charges to compensate for the loss of revenue.”

Mr Williams said the problem of tighter spaces was especially frustrating for wheelchair users or people with mobility issues.

Facial recognition technology labelled ‘Orwellian’ as government eyes wider use by police and security agencies | Politics News

The Home Office is eyeing an expansion of the use of facial recognition software – including potentially within police forces and the security agencies.

The department put out a call asking for companies to make suggestions of how they could improve the way in which facial recognition is used by the government.

And the market exploration states the government is after benefits that “could be deployed to benefit the Home Office and policing within the next 18 months”.

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All 43 police forces of England and Wales “are an example of potential customers” for such technologies, alongside “other security agencies”.

The government’s innovation department, Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA), is also part of the process, which will run until 12 October 2023.

Live facial recognition – where cameras scan an area and analyse every person that passes through – is one of the areas in which the government is interested in expanding its position.

They also want to improve their use of retrospective facial recognition, which allows authorities to use the technology “after an event to establish who a person is or whether their image matches other media held on a database”.

A third area is operator-initiated facial recognition – which is where an “operator” can decide they need to use facial recognition on a particular image to help find out who they are.

The use of facial recognition by police forces has raised concerns about privacy, especially when cameras are deployed in public areas.

There are also concerns about how data is stored, and the companies which supply the technology.

A scientific adviser to the police has emphasised the authorities’ desire to “strike the right balance between public safety and individual privacy rights”.

Campaigners liken the technology to that used in Russia and China.

Read more:
Police insist facial recognition tech ‘a force for good
Technology ‘will turn our streets into police line-ups’

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‘Police must investigate every theft’

South Wales Police was found to have used the technology unlawfully in 2020, as it had breached privacy rights, data protection laws and equality legislation.

The force has since adopted a code of practice to outline its obligations when scanning the public’s faces.

The Metropolitan Police has also used the technology, including at events like the coronation.

‘Totally unnecessary, un-Conservative and un-British’

Speaking about the latest development, Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch said: “It’s disturbing and deeply undemocratic that the government is planning to expand facial recognition surveillance in the UK. This is an Orwellian mass surveillance tool rarely seen outside of Russia and China and has absolutely no place in Britain.

“The government has no mandate at all to do this, and the fact that the rest of the democratic world is legislating to ban live facial recognition surveillance shows just how backwards the Home Office’s approach to this is.

“Live facial recognition has the potential to invade the privacy of millions of Brits and turn us into walking ID cards living in a surveillance state.

“It is totally unnecessary, un-Conservative and un-British, and the policing minister would do best to focus on fixing our broken law enforcement rather than spending taxpayers’ money on dystopian, experimental software.”

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Megan Goulding, a lawyer at Liberty, said: “We all have the right to go about our lives freely, without being scanned and monitored. It’s unacceptable that the government is now looking for new ways to invade our privacy and free expression using facial recognition technology.

“This dystopian technology subjects anyone existing in public to intrusive surveillance, and has a harsher impact on those communities who are already unfairly targeted by the police.

“A court has already ruled once that the use of facial recognition technology breached our fundamental rights. Instead of looking for ways to expand it, the government should be banning its use.”

‘Significantly enhance public safety’

Policing minister Chris Philp has endorsed the potential expansion of the use of technology.

Professor Paul Taylor, the national policing chief scientific adviser said: “Mr Philp and I strongly support the development and implementation of facial recognition technology within the law enforcement sector and are encouraged by its potential.

“We firmly believe that embracing this advanced technology can significantly enhance public safety while respecting individual rights and privacy. Industry is pivotal to realisation of that mission.

“It is essential to acknowledge the concerns surrounding facial recognition technology, particularly those relating to privacy and potential biases.

“However, responsible development and implementation of facial recognition systems can address these concerns effectively.

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“By establishing robust governance frameworks, implementing strict data protection protocols, and ensuring transparency and accountability, we can strike the right balance between public safety and individual privacy rights.

“To maximise the technological benefits and minimise the risks associated with facial recognition, it is crucial that we support and encourage industry to continue developing capabilities which can be deployed effectively and ethically.”