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Boris Johnson appeared not to know the details of the coronavirus restrictions placed on North East England (PA)


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The government has been accused of “making it up as they go along” by the mayor of Newcastle after Boris Johnson was forced to apologise for getting the rules wrong about the tighter coronavirus restrictions he is about to implement in the north east.

The prime minister was asked whether the ‘rule of six’ around meeting people applied to outdoor settings, after confusion arose around the exact guidelines.

It comes after additional measures come into place for Durham, Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Northumberland and Sunderland from midnight tonight, making it illegal to meet people from other households in any “indoor setting”.

However, it has remained unclear if settings such as pub beer gardens or restaurant terraces would count, with minister Gillian Keegan unable to clear up matters on Tuesday morning.

And speaking at a press conference in Exeter, Mr Johnson seemed to wrongly suggest the rule only applied indoors.

Asked about the issue, he replied: “On the rule of six, outside the areas such as the north east where extra measures have been brought in, it’s six inside, six outside.

“And in the north east or other areas, where extra tight measures have been brought in, you should follow the guidance of the local authorities.

“But it is six in a home, six in hospitality, but as I understand it, not six outside. That is the situation there.”

The position was later clarified by the Department of Health and Social Care, who said while it would not be illegal to meet people from other households in outdoor hospitality areas in the north east, it would go against guidance on social distancing.

And Mr Johnson later tweeted: “Apologies, I misspoke today. In the north east, new rules mean you cannot meet people from different households in social settings indoors, including in pubs, restaurants and your home. 

“You should also avoid socialising with other households outside. This is vital to control the spread of coronavirus and keep everyone safe. 

“If you are in a high risk area, please continue to follow the guidelines from local authorities.”

But in response Nick Forbes, Newcastle’s mayor, said it was “another Domnishambles” – a reference to the PM’s chief aide Dominic Cummings,  who was accused of breaking lockdown rules in May.

He said of Mr Johnson’s answer: “This is the kind of entirely avoidable confusion that undermines basic public health messaging and gives a strong impression that the government are making it up as they go along.”

He added: “You can’t just bluster your way through situations like this – making it up as you go has massive consequences, confuses people and undermines the very public health goals both local and central government are trying to achieve.”

And Catherine McKinnell, the Labour MP for Newcastle North, called the confusion over the rules “deadly”.

She said of the PM: “If he has no idea of his own government’s rules, how can he know or understand their impact on households & local communities? 

“Or blame ordinary members of the public for not understanding his rules (most don’t). This chaos and confusion is nothing short of deadly.”

Her party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, added: “For the prime minister to not understand his own rules is grossly incompetent.

“These new restrictions are due to come into force across huge parts of the country tonight. The government needs to get a grip.”

It came after Ms Keegan was asked about the same issue when appearing on the BBC on Tuesday.

She said: “I’m sorry I can’t clarify that. I don’t know the answer to that question but I’m sure they can find out the answer to that question.”

Pressed on how people are meant to keep up if ministers cannot, she said: “I’m sorry I can’t answer that question. I’m sure there are many people who could. 

“I don’t represent the north east.”

And in a briefing with reporters, Downing Street was unable to clarify if households could mix in beer gardens in north east England.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “It is the case that events are moving at speed and it’s right that we can move quickly in relation to localised outbreaks working with local leaders to ensure that we have steps in place to help to slow the spread of the virus.”

In response to Ms Keegan’s comments Kate Osborne, the Labour MP for Jarrow, tweeted: “If a government minister doesn’t know the latest guidelines, why do they expect people in the north east to know them? 

“The catastrophic communications from central government has been incredibly incoherent and just a whole load of mixed messaging.”

And Martin Gannon, leader of Gateshead council, blamed central government for the spike in cases by not allowing local authorities to tackle the spread of the virus.

He told the BBC: “We have the pathology labs and the technology. We have the resources, we have the people there able to do the work.

“All we needed was the reagents and the kits supplied to us, rather than being sent away to national contractors. God only knows what they are doing with them.

“So it’s been the government’s failure, in terms of test, trace and trace, which is getting us to this place, which means we’re now back in a situation where the virus is out of control. 

“And, frankly, that makes me absolutely furious.”



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Judge tosses lawsuit challenging DeVos’ sexual misconduct rule for schools, colleges

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Background: The ruling comes as a major victory for DeVos, whose Title IX policies will be a key part of her legacy as secretary. She has said the rule officially codifies protections to hold schools accountable by ensuring survivors are not brushed aside and no student’s guilt is predetermined.

The ACLU had charged that DeVos’ Title IX rule, which took effect in August, violated the Administrative Procedure Act because the provisions “were arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion.” The lawsuit had sought to vacate the rule.

On behalf of four plaintiffs, the ACLU argued that the rule will reduce the number of sexual assault and harassment complaints requiring a response from schools.

The lawsuit took aim at the rule’s definition of sexual harassment, as well as provisions that allow institutions to use a “clear and convincing evidence standard.” The groups that brought the lawsuit also take issue with the fact that DeVos’ rule only holds institutions accountable under Title IX for “deliberate indifference” and only requires a school or school official to respond to sexual harassment if there is “actual knowledge.”

Other legal challenges: The lawsuit was one of four ongoing cases challenging the Title IX rule. The other three are still pending but have been largely unsuccessful. All argue that the Education Department violated the law with its new rule by acting beyond its authority, and that the rule is arbitrary and capricious.

A circuit court judge in the District of Columbia denied a request from attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia to stop the new rule and to block it as legal action continues. Another judge also denied a motion to block the rule from taking effect in New York while the litigation is ongoing. Southern District of New York Judge John G. Koeltl said state officials failed to show they are likely to win in their argument that the Trump administration acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” when it finalized its rule.

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Labour Will Force A Commons Vote Over A “Fair Deal” For Areas Facing The Harshest Lockdown Restrictions

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Talks between the government and mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham collapsed without a deal in place (PA)


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Labour are set to force a Commons vote on Wednesday demanding a “fair deal” for regions which are facing new lockdown restrictions.

The vote will ask MPs to agree that ministers should publish a “clear and fair national criteria for financial support for jobs and businesses” in those facing the highest level of restrictions.

It comes after Number 10 scrambled to reassure politicians in Greater Manchester that a £60m financial settlement is still on the table after Boris Johnson said the region was going into a Tier 3 lockdown with no deal in place.

The government has so far only agreed to hand over an extra £22million for helping with track and trace and enhanced enforcement of the restrictive rules, which will shut pubs, gyms, casinos and soft play centres.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick is understood to be set to approach each local council in Greater Manchester tomorrow to hammer out a package individually after talks with the metro mayor Andy Burnham collapsed today.

MPs had reacted with fury to the news their constituencies will face the toughest coronavirus restrictions for at least a month without extra economic support.

The news was set out on a call with the health secretary Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson’s senior adviser Sir Edward Lister, shortly after Mr Burnham gave a press conference saying Downing Street was unwilling to offer enough support for businesses and employees.

One of those MPs on the line, Labour’s Andrew Gwynne, told PoliticsHome: “Does the government really hate Greater Manchester that much, that they acknowledge that we have a need for support, then dangle what we would say is insufficient, though not an insubstantial amount of money in front of us, and then withdraw it completely?”

The Denton MP said Mr Hancock was repeatedly asked about any additional money to help businesses but obfuscated, however it was Sir Edward who came on the call at the end and delivered the “cup of cold sick” news that Greater Manchester was not getting anything more.

“The government agreed there was a case for support but don’t agree with what that amount should be. This is an atrocious way to treat businesses and people’s livelihoods,” said Gwynne.

Other Labour MPs, including shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy, also expressed their anger on social media.

But updating MPs on the plans, Mr Hancock said the £60m support package for the region remained “on the table”.

“Over the last 10 days we’ve sought to reach agreement with local leaders and unfortunately we were not able to reach an agreement,” he said.

“As well as the support we’ve outlined we’ve made a generous and extensive offer to support Manchester’s businesses.

“This offer was proportionate to the offer we’ve given Lancashire and the Liverpool city region but unfortunately the Mayor rejected it.

“That offer remains on the table. Our door is open to further discussions with local leaders in the coming days about business support.”

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said people in Greater Manchester “will be watching the news in disbelief”.

“They will be asking why was it right to cover 80 per cent of wages in March and just two-thirds of their wages in October,” he said.

“What happened to that Chancellor who plastered across social media soft focus selfies of himself boasting he would do whatever it takes?

“That Chancellor is forcing people on the national minimum wage to live on just £5.76 an hour. From ‘whatever it takes’ to taking from the lowest paid.

“Where is the Chancellor? He should be here to defend the consequences of his decisions that will mean a winter of hardship across the North.”

And he insisted the civic leaders had been “willing to compromise” over the level of financial support.

“Rather than finding the £5 million extra, the Prime Minister pulled the plug on negotiations and then took £38 million off the table,” he said.

“What a petty, vindictive, cowardly response. The Prime Minister may think he’s punishing the politicians, in fact he’s punishing the people.”

He added: “This isn’t a game, it’s about people’s lives. People need proper financial support. This is a national crisis and we won’t defeat this virus on the cheap.”

Meanwhile, in a statement following the announcement, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said ministers had treated local communities with “contempt”.

“This is not just a matter of fairness for people in Greater Manchester, but for people across the country who could find themselves in Tier 3 in the weeks ahead,” he said.

“Families and businesses will be deeply anxious that they might not be able to make ends meet under the Government’s wholly inadequate proposals.

“The Prime Minister and the Chancellor need to make good on their commitment to the British people to do whatever it takes to help us through this pandemic…

“I would urge all Conservative MPs, particularly those in areas of the country that are most affected by this, to vote with us tomorrow and force the Government’s hand.”



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The Countdown: Tiffany Trump trends and two rivals show love

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  • US election 2020

With 14 days to go, Mr Trump heads to Pennsylvania for another rally, while his daughter’s slip-up at a Republican gay pride event is getting attention. In Utah, a Republican and a Democrat do something together that you would never expect.

  • Latest updates: Melania pulls out of rally with Covid cough

Two pictures, two tight races

Although the polls show Joe Biden ahead nationally, it’s how things turn out in a few crucial states that will really count.

1. Florida, a must-win state

Slightly more registered Republicans than Democrats turned out to vote early in Florida, according to state data just released. In other early voting states, we have seen the opposite trend.

image copyrightReuters

2. Pennsylvania, holding on to the working-class vote

Donald Trump heads to Pennsylvania for his third visit to Erie, where he will be trying to hold on to white working-class voters he won over last time – he will know that Joe Biden paid the city a visit just 10 days ago and has just released a statement saying the jobs promised by Mr Trump at the last election have not materialised.

image copyrightReuters

Tiffany is trending after an LGBT event

image copyrightReuters

Our reporter Holly Honderich explains why people are talking about her:

The president’s youngest and lesser-known daughter is being ridiculed online after a video of her speaking at a recent Trump campaign Pride event was posted online.

“I know what my father believes in,” Ms Trump says to a modest crowd. “Prior to politics he [President Trump], supported gays, lesbians, the LGBQI… IA+ community.”

Critics have pointed out that she forgot to include the “T” in the acronym – which stands for trans – and they have used that to point to the rollback of LGBT protections by her father’s administration.

image copyrightChip Somodevilla

For example, though President Trump rarely comments publicly on LGBTQ issues, he has banned trans people from serving in the military, and revoked an Obama-era measure protecting trans students in public schools.

Being in the spotlight is a change for Tiffany, the only child from Mr Trump’s second marriage to actress Marla Maples, and she is not usually thought to be close to her father.

Commentators noted that Tiffany’s speech at the Republican National Convention in August lacked personal anecdotes about her father, instead offering up a more formal endorsement of his policies.

Democrat and Republican rivals: ‘We don’t need to hate each other’

Two candidates in the elections are getting noticed for being friendly and united in what has generally been a very bitter election.

They are Democrat Chris Peterson and his Republican opponent, Lt Governor Spencer Cox, both running to be Utah’s governor, and they have released a series of ads to show that it is possible work well across the divide.

“There are some things we both agree on,” Mr Cox says. “We can disagree without hating each other.”

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