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General election 2019: Labour facing long haul, warns McDonnell


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Media captionJohn McDonnell says it’s time for him to step aside as shadow chancellor

Labour faces a “long haul” as it attempts to gain power following its fourth election defeat in a row, shadow chancellor John McDonnell has warned.

He rejected claims that leader Jeremy Corbyn had been responsible for the result, instead blaming “the overwhelming issue” of Brexit.

But some current and ex-MPs have said Mr Corbyn’s unpopularity contributed to Labour losing dozens of seats.

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives won on Thursday with a Commons majority of 80.

The outcome, far more positive for the Tories than most opinion polls had predicted, has prompted much soul-searching within Labour, which last won a general election under Tony Blair in 2005.

Mr Corbyn has announced he will stand down in the near future and Mr McDonnell, one of his closest allies, said he had been “the right leader” for the party.

But Labour MP Phil Wilson, who lost the seat of Sedgefield which he had held for 12 years, said “so many people said to me on the doorstep, Phil, if you had a different leader, I’d vote for you, there wouldn’t be a problem”.

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Media captionFormer Labour MP: Corbyn lost me my seat

Asked whether Mr Corbyn lost him his seat, Mr Wilson replied: “Yes.”

For many of his constituents, he said: “The one thing that was holding them back from voting Labour was the current leadership of the Labour Party.”

He added: “For every one person who raised Brexit with me on the doorstep, there would be five people who raised Jeremy Corbyn.”

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Phil Wilson had been the MP for Sedgefield since 2007

Meanwhile, Labour’s Helen Goodman, who lost her Bishop Auckland seat to the Conservatives on Thursday, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that “the biggest factor was obviously the unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn as the leader”.

And Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP for Barking, east London, said she felt “anger because this is an election we should have won”.

She added that, under Mr Corbyn’s leadership – during which Labour has faced criticism for its handling of anti-Semitism allegations among its membership – voters had come to see it “as a nasty party”.

Asked whether M Former Labour MP Phil Wilson, who lost the seat of Sedgefield which he had held for 12 years, said “so many people said to me on the doorstep, Phil, if you had a different leader, I’d vote for you, there wouldn’t be a problem”.

Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, said the party’s “far-left” manifesto had alienated much of the electorate.

However, Labour’s ex-Welsh secretary, Lord Hain, insisted the party must not embrace a “wishy-washy centrism” in the wake of its defeat.

Lord Hain, a cabinet minister under both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said the “Corbyn project” had some “very searching self-examination” to do, but it was important to offer “a clear alternative to the Tory project”.

Mr McDonnell disagreed with personal criticism of his leader, saying: “The overwhelming issue was Brexit and the Labour Party was caught on the horns of a dilemma.

“We had a party which was largely supportive of Remain, but many of us represented Leave constituencies.”

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Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are longstanding allies

In the election, Labour’s number of Commons seats fell to 203, its lowest since 1935.

Mr Corbyn, leader since 2015, ran for prime minister on a promise to hold a second referendum on Brexit, saying that during any campaign he would remain neutral – in contrast to Mr Johnson’s promise to take the UK out of the EU by 31 January.

Mr McDonnell said: “If we went one way, to Leave, we would have alienated a lot of our Remain support. If we went for Remain, we’d alienate a lot of our Leave support.

“We tried to bring the country together. It failed. We have to accept that, take it on the chin. We have to own that and then move on.”

Mr McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington in west London, said Labour now needed to have “a constructive debate” about its future, discussing “what went right and what went wrong” during the election campaign.

He argued that Mr Corbyn, who has received criticism from some Labour figures for not standing down immediately, was right to stay on “for a couple of months”.

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Media captionJeremy Corbyn: “There is no such thing as Corbynism”

It was necessary because of the “expertise” required to deal with issues such as Brexit and the forthcoming Budget, he said.

Discussing Mr Johnson’s government, Mr McDonnell said: “My fear is that we’re in for a long haul now, possibly five years.

“The two issues that we face are still there – huge, grotesque levels of inequality and, the issue that never really emerged in the campaign, which was climate change, this existential threat that must be our priority.

“Brexit, well, we’ll see what the government brings back in terms of its negotiations. The people have decided we need to implement that, but we’ve got to get the best deal to protect jobs and the economy.”

He added: “My fear is five years of a fossil fuel-backed government under Boris Johnson means we’ll miss this five-years opportunity of saving our planet.”

At the 2017 general election, Mr Corbyn’s first as Labour leader, the party won 40% of votes and gained 30 MPs, denying Theresa May’s Conservatives a majority.

But on Thursday it received 32% of the vote and lost 59 seats, including several of its traditional strongholds in the north of England.

Mr Corbyn said that, during the election campaign, he had done “everything I could” and that he had “pride” in the party’s manifesto.

The Labour leader’s sons, Tommy, Seb and Benjamin, tweeted a tribute to their father, calling him an “honest, humble and good-natured” figure in the “poisonous world” of politics.



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Scheer facing an internal audit over use of Conservative Party funds


OTTAWA–Outgoing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is facing an internal audit over the use of party funds to cover his children’s private school tuition.

Two sources told the Star Friday night that the Conservative Fund board, which manages the party’s finances and counts former prime minister Stephen Harper as a member, has ordered a forensic audit into the party’s expenditures.

The decision comes after revelations that Conservative Party Executive Director Dustin van Vugt approved using party funds to partly cover tuition for Scheer’s five children at Ottawa private schools.

Harper is said to be furious over the expenses, according to one source with direct knowledge of the former prime minister’s thinking. Members of the Conservative Fund, who hold tremendous sway on the party’s operations, feel that the tuition expenses were deliberately withheld from the board.

Another Conservative source disputes that characterization, and suggested the tuition expenses were included in financial materials sent to the board for approval.

Whichever side is right, the issue has reignited public infighting within the conservative movement just a day after Scheer announced he would step aside as leader.

Van Vugt may be a casualty of that infighting. One report Friday evening suggested he had been fired, while another news outlet suggested that was false. As of deadline, it was not clear what van Vugt’s employment status was.

What was clear is that the Conservative “civil war” did not end with Scheer’s decision to step down after his successor was chosen.

“Why are we exercising this as a public exchange of insults and firings and unfirings and so on, instead of people sitting down, going through a due process, and announcing to the world what the results are?” said one longtime Conservative hand.

Van Vugt, who was appointed on the recommendation of Harper himself, was responsible for quarterbacking the Conservatives’ last leadership race in 2017. With the party now facing a surprise leadership race, his departure would mean a considerable loss of institutional memory at a crucial juncture.

The Canadian Press reported Friday evening that the Conservative Fund directors held a conference call Friday, and circulated an email saying van Vugt was no longer employed with the party. But the Conservative Fund does not have the power to fire the party’s employees, and it’s not clear who has the authority to fire him. One Conservative source suggested the Fund was trying to find a scapegoat.

But the issue has members of the Conservative Fund’s board looking at “new safeguards” to protect the party’s coffers, a source with knowledge of the board’s discussion said Friday.

After the Conservatives’ disappointing election loss and months of open criticism and infighting, Scheer told Conservative MPs Thursday that he would step aside after his successor was chosen. At the conclusion of two emergency caucus meetings Thursday, Conservative MPs voted unanimously to allow Scheer to hang on to the top job until a new leader is chosen.

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While Scheer was informing Conservative MPs of his decision, Global News first reported that the Conservative Party was partly covering private school tuition costs for Scheer’s five children. The revelations rankled some within the Conservative family, suggesting that donors’ money should not be spent on private school tuition.

Van Vugt released a statement shortly afterwards confirming that the party paid the “differential” cost between private school tuition in Regina, where Scheer represents, and Ottawa, where he has lived for most of his life. Van Vugt said that the funds were properly approved.

With files from Canadian Press





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California man held in Army veteran’s death also facing kidnap charge after police find hostage in his home: reports


A Southern California man arrested Monday in the alleged murder of a 34-year-old U.S. Army veteran also faces a kidnapping charge because police found a hostage in the suspect’s home, authorities said Wednesday, according to reports.

Antonio Silva, 27, of Santa Ana, is suspected of killing Adrian Darren Bonar, 34, whose body was found wrapped in a tarp in the trunk of a Lexus found abandoned in Anaheim last month.

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Silva’s hostage had been at the house for at least two days and was released from a hospital Tuesday after treatment for unspecificed reasons, The Orange County Register reported. Also found in the home were two grams of fentanyl and firearms including two handguns and two rifles, KTLA of Los Angeles reported.

Antonio Silva is seen in an undated booking photo. (Anaheim Police Department via AP)

Antonio Silva is seen in an undated booking photo. (Anaheim Police Department via AP)

Bonar grew up in North County San Diego and was honorably discharged from the Army after serving during the Iraq War. His body was found in an abandoned car on a dirt road near a freeway in Anaheim Hills on Oct. 17. The vehicle may have been there as long as four days, KTLA reported.

Police didn’t give any more information about the manner of Bonar’s death nor about the circumstances under which Silva’s hostage was taken captive.

Adrian Darren Bonar, who served in the U.S. Army, was found dead Oct. 17 inside an abandoned vehicle, authorities say. (Anaheim Police Department)

Adrian Darren Bonar, who served in the U.S. Army, was found dead Oct. 17 inside an abandoned vehicle, authorities say. (Anaheim Police Department)

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“Regardless of what Adrian may have been involved in, he’s the victim of this crime,” Anaheim Police Chief Jorge Cisneros said, according to The Register. “No one deserves to die in this fashion.”

The investigation is ongoing.



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