Boris Johnson has been criticised for a rambling speech in Northern Ireland during which he claimed there would be no checks on goods coming into Great Britain under his Brexit deal – contradicting previous claims his government made about the deal.

On the campaign trail in Nottingham, Mr Johnson told a group of school children the sculptor Sir Antony Gormley was “an interesting chap” but his work had been too expensive to commission for the 2012 Olympics.

It comes as veteran Labour candidate Dame Margaret Hodge has declined to say whether she would prefer Jeremy Corbyn or Mr Johnson as PM, while Nicola Sturgeon launched the SNP’s election campaign by promising a bill to protect the NHS in Scotland from privatisation.

Labour candidate faces calls to quit over abusive posts

A Labour parliamentary candidate is facing calls to resign after it emerged that he shared a social media post calling a female Tory peer a “c***”.

Ian Byrne, the party’s candidate in the safe Labour seat of Liverpool West Derby, shared a Facebook post about Baroness Michelle Mone, the founder of the Ultimo underwear brand, calling on people to “hit this c*** where it hurts”.

He also described Tory minister Esther McVey as a “bastard”, adding that she was “soon to be gone”. 

Tories paying to push anti-Corbyn interview with ex-Labour MP Ian Austin to voters

Footage and quotes of the MP criticising Jeremy Corbyn on the Today programme has been pushed into the feeds of as many as 100,000 Facebook users in 24 hours, the party’s advertising return shows.

The Tories have bought six different versions of the advert, on which they have spent over £1,000 in a single day, excluding production costs.

Lib Dem fury over BBC leaders debate


The announcement of the BBC’s new TV debates has triggered a furious response from the Liberal Democrats, who believe Jo Swinson should be included in all leaders debates.

Labour candidates sign remain pledge

More than 50 Labour candidates have signed a pledge to back remain in a new referendum after Jeremy Corbyn said voters would be left in the dark on how the party would campaign until spring.

Prominent pro-EU MPs seeking re-election such as David Lammy and Margaret Beckett underlined their commitment to fighting to stay in the EU, with more signatures expected ahead of the election on 12 December.

If elected, Labour will seek to negotiate a new Brexit deal with greater protections for workers, before putting that deal to the public in a Final Say referendum.

BBC announces plans for head to head TV debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn


Nick Robinson will host two debate programmes on BBC One – including one between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn on 6 December and another on 29 November featuring seven party representatives.

PM tells school children Anthony Gormley ‘an interesting chap’


Boris Johnson has been talking to school pupils about the sculptor Sir Antony Gormley – complaining that he was too expensive to commission for the 2012 Olympics.


The PM was given a tour of a school and tried to make a clay figure inspired by Sir Antony Gormley, the artist whose works include the Angel of the North.


Speaking at the George Spencer Academy, near Nottingham, Johnson remarked he had “gunk” on him before declaring the task would be “a piece of cake”.


But seconds later he paused before joking “it’s all going horribly wrong” as he had not followed the guide and noted he was creating a figure similar to “Terminator”.


He also told pupils: “He’s an interesting chap Antony Gormley – all his sculptures are modelled on himself and then he persuades people to pay colossal sums for his own image around the world. It’s amazing success he’s had.


“We had a plan in the Olympic Games in 2012 to make a huge human being like this with steps sort of all the way up so you could walk up him.


“Gormley was going to do it but it was going to cost a huge amount.”


Boris Johnson visits George Spencer Academy (AFP)


Are politicians finding it too easy to say ‘sorry’?


We’ve had a daily slew of apologies from both experienced politicians and candidates so far during the election campaign.


Sam Hancock says genuine contrition is fine – but if an apology just provides cover for the next transgression, it just lets repeat offenders off the hook.


Paid maternity leave to be increased to 12 months under Labour plans 


New mothers would be entitled to a full year of paid maternity leave and companies would have to offer flexible working by default under new plans announced by Labour.


Dawn Butler, the shadow women and equalities secretary, is in Stevenage speaking with business people about the reforms this lunchtime.


More details here from our correspondent Benjamin Kentish.


Sturgeon want ‘progressive alliance’ to keep Tories out


Nicola Sturgeon has said that the Conservative Party has “ridden roughshod” over the Scottish parliament, and claimed: “Scotland’s vote to remain in the EU has been ignored.”


She claimed said that a vote for the SNP is a vote to put Scotland’s future “firmly in Scotland’s hands.”


“Westminster’s priorities can be summed up in just three words – Brexit, Brexit, Brexit,” said Sturgeon.


“A vote for the SNP in contrast is a vote to escape Brexit. A vote for the SNP is a vote to take Scotlands future out of the hands of Boris Johnson and a broken Westminster system. A vote for the SNP is a vote to put Scotland’s future firmly in Scotland’s hands.”


She vowed: “If there is a hung Parliament after this election… SNP MPs would seek to form a progressive alliance to lock the Tories out of government.”


She also claimed that a SNP wins in Scotland, it would be a clear mandate for another independence referendum, says Sturgeon.


“There can be no Westminster veto over Scotland’s right to choose,” she said.


Nicola Sturgeon at launch in Edinburgh (PA)


Labour candidate drops out over alleged antisemitic remark


Our political editor has more on Labour’s Clacton candidate standing down after his “Shylock” remarks.


Gideon Bull has insisted he was not referring directly to a Jewish councillor Zena Brabazon when he referred to the Shakespeare character – and is also claiming he “did not know Shylock was Jewish … this was a genuine accident.”


Nicola Sturgeon: ‘Our NHS is not for sale’


The SNP has announced a bill to protect the NHS from trade deals with foreign nations.


At the party’s election campaign launch in Edinburgh today, leader Nicola Sturgeon said the bill will be introduced at Westminster in the next parliament and will feature in the SNP manifesto.


The NHS Protection Bill, according to the party, will ensure the health service is not used as a “bargaining chip” in trade deals.


Sturgeon claims that despite health policy being devolved to the Scottish parliament, the UK Government could still “sell off” the NHS in trade negotiations.


Opposition parties have expressed concern about the possibility of the NHS being opened up to US healthcare companies in a trade deal, after US Donald Trump said “everything was on the table” during a joint press conference with then-PM Theresa May.


Sturgeon said: “The NHS in Scotland run in Scotland, for Scotland and under the SNP it will always be in public hands. Our NHS is not for sale at any price.”


Nicola Sturgeon at SNP campaign launch


Boris Johnson insists ‘no checks’ in NI-GB customs territory


The prime minister has been asked about those off-the-cuff comments he made about his Brexit deal in Northern Ireland last night.


Boris Johnson told broadcasters this morning that checks required for tariff purposes under his Brexit deal will be on goods which “might be coming via Northern Ireland from GB into Ireland”.


He also said: “Northern Ireland and the rest of GB are part of the UK customs territory and there can be no checks between goods operating in one customs territory.


“We’re the UK. We will not be instituting such checks.”


Asked if Northern Ireland would get a better deal than the rest of the UK as it would have single market access and keep free movement, the PM replied: “I’m not going to hide it from you that Northern Ireland has a good deal but so does the whole of the UK.


“And the crucial thing we had to square away was the idea that there could be no checks at the border between Northern Ireland and the south.”


Asked if there were different customs arrangements for Northern Ireland into Great Britain and he was saying he would not enforce that, the PM said: “That’s right. We’re one UK territory.”

Lib Dems condemn Johnson for ‘contradicting’ his own government


The Liberal Democrats have now criticised Boris Johnson over his speech in Northern Ireland.


Johnson appeared to contradict evidence given by Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay by telling supporters that goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain would not face checks as a result of his Brexit agreement.


Barclay had told MPs that “minimal targeted interventions” would be required on some goods.


Tom Brake, the Lib Dems’ Brexit spokesman, tweeted: “Are you planning on contradicting every government document on Brexit, or just the more problematic pieces?”


Brake also said: “The single market and freedom of movement are a great deal – even Boris Johnson recognises this.


“So why isn’t he keeping them for the whole of the UK as part of the many benefits of EU membership? It is clear that the best deal for the UK is the one we have now – in the EU.”


Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer earlier claimed the prime minister “either doesn’t understand the deal he has negotiated or he isn’t telling the truth. Probably both”.


PM claims to have given up drinking ‘until we get Brexit done’


Boris Johnson has claimed he has given up drinking until after Brexit is sorted.


The prime minister, who was photographed sipping whisky during a distillery visit in Scotland only yesterday, made the remark while chatting with nurses at the King’s Mill Hospital in Nottinghamshire.


He asked them to tell him more about Ashfield, noting: “Someone said there’s a lot of first-time mums who are smoking or something like that. Is that right?”


The PM was told a lot of people smoke in Ashfield before he switched his attention to vaping, saying: “I’m not certain about it. It might just encourage them to get into nicotine.”


He then asked “what about alcohol?” before adding: “I’ve had to give it up until we get Brexit done.”


Johnson did not clarify whether he meant the first phase of Brexit by the end of January 2020 or the end of the transition period in December next year.


Boris Johnson visits King’s Mill Hospital (AP)


Labour candidate apologises for ‘offensive’ language


The Labour candidate for West Derby Ian Byrne has apologised for “inappropriate and offensive” comments he made on social media after they came to light.


According to LBC, Byrne referred to Conservative Esther McVey as a “b*****” and also made unflattering remarks about Tory peer Baroness Michelle Mone and Prince William.


Byrne said in a statement: “I am deeply sorry for the inappropriate and offensive language from the shop floor that I used several years ago on social media and would not use today.


“I’m a very different person now and I’m grateful that the labour and trade union movement has enabled me and so many other working class people to represent and fight for our communities.”


Labour candidate quits following ‘Shylock’ remark


The Labour candidate for Clacton Gideon Bull has announced he is standing down after comments he made referring to “Shylock” came to light.


Bull allegedly referred to Shylock – the well-known Jewish moneylender in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice – in relation to a controversial housing scheme involving a Jewish cabinet member of Haringey Council.


Bull has insisted he was not referring directly to the cabinet member Zena Brabazon – and is also claiming he “did not know Shylock was Jewish … this was a genuine accident.”


But he has decided that “right now is not the best time for me to stand”.


Sir Keir Starmer: PM either confused or lying about Brexit deal


Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer isn’t too impressed by Boris Johnson’s speech in Northern Ireland – claiming the prime minister “either doesn’t understand the deal he has negotiated or he isn’t telling the truth. Probably both”.


Johnson claimed there would no checks on goods coming into the British mainland, and Northern Ireland would retain freedom of movement and single market access.


Tories want ‘brightest and best’ as party promises NHS visa


Boris Johnson will try to shift the focus onto the NHS and immigration today – and is promising a fast track “NHS visa” to make it easier for overseas doctors and nurses to work in the UK. 


Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the Tory party “wants to get the brightest and best coming to our country”.


Asked if the Tories want immigration to be higher or lower than it is now, she said: “We want to have immigration that suits the needs of the country.


Pressed on whether she thinks constituents want immigration to be higher or lower and if she will promise them one or the other, Atkins said: “Given that we will now have control of immigration, we want to have a points-based system that focuses on bringing the brightest and the best into the UK, precisely so that we can attract doctors, nurses and so on into the NHS.”


It was put to Victoria Atkins that the Conservative Party had promised in three elections to bring down the number of people coming in to the UK and that it had a target.


Asked if she knew how many months in a row the target was missed, the Home Office minister told the Today programme: “I don’t have that figure to hand.”


Baroness Chakrabarti finds antisemitism poll ‘alarming’


Labour’s Baroness Chakrabarti was asked about an opinion poll in the Jewish Chronicle newspaper which found the vast majority of British Jews consider Jeremy Corbyn to be an anti-Semite.

“That obviously is incredibly alarming and disappointing,” she said.


Baroness Chakrabarti told the Today programme: “Because we dragged our feet on implementation for so long there is a trust gap.


“And so even though I believe that our procedures are way better now than they were a few years ago, it’s going to take time to rebuild trust, and it’s going to take more than procedures.”


Asked about Dame Margaret Hodge not being able to bring herself to endorse Jeremy Corbyn, Baroness Chakrabarti said: “I’m sorry to hear that from Margaret who I’ve worked with and debated with, with great mutual respect for many years.


“I’m very glad that she’s been endorsed (as a candidate) in her seat in Barking. And I believe that there is still the possibility of greater healing in this movement of ours.”

PM sparks anger by praising single market access for NI


Our correspondent Lizzy Buchan has more on that speech by Boris Johnson in Northern Ireland.


The PM was caught on camera extolling the virtues of key elements of EU membership to a group of Conservatives in Northern Ireland – irritating many who are frustrated the rest of the UK will be missing out on


Johnson said Northern Ireland had a “great” Brexit deal – as it retains access to the single market and freedom of movement – which Britain will lose under the terms of Johnson’s blueprint.


All the details here: