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New polling shows more than half of the British public do not feel the government has justified its 10pm pub curfew rule and want MPs to have a greater say on coronavirus restrictions.

The polling for PoliticsHome, conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, revealed that 54 per cent of the public say the government has not provided sufficient scientific justification for the 10pm closing time compared to 29 percent who think that it has and 18 percent who said they did not know.

The survey of 3,000 people was conducted on October 6 and 7.

The curfew is one of the most contentious issues on the Tory backbenches and there have been growing threats from Conservative MPs that they would vote against the government, or abstain, if the rule is extended. 

Despite the Prime Minister’s 80 seat majority, the policy may have pushed some of the Tories’ own ranks too far as they contend with pub landlords and those in the hospitality sector in their constituencies describing the shorter hours as crippling their businesses. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also asked to see the evidence behind the restriction.

The government has said repeatedly that social distancing rules are harder to maintain when people have drunk more alcohol, and today Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the curfew was common sense. 

Scientists have also warned that noisy pubs and reastaurants risk spreading the disease while last month PoliticsHome reported how pubs, restaurants and hospitality venues accounted for around 20 percent of all Covid transmissions. The government’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam allegedly made the comment on a call to 90 MPs and peers.

However the poll also showed that although 24 percent of the public oppose the 10pm curfew in principle, 48 percent said they did support it overall. 24 percent of those surveyed neither supported nor opposed it.

Conservative MP Mark Harper, who has been critical of the government in its presentation of information to Parliament, said: “I am not surprised at these results. While polling is just a snapshot of opinion, these results certainly reflect the feeling of MPs across the House from all parties, including the government benches. 

“It is more crucial than ever that the government takes MPs with them, giving Parliament the scientific evidence and the opportunity to scrutinise new regulations and thereby making better law. 

“I want the government to suceed with evidence-based policies that actually work. The 10pm curfew does not appear to be supported by evidence that it’s effective. The government should think again.”

Sir Desmond Swayne, Tory MP for New Forest West, said: “The virus certainly can’t tell the time, and the impact on the industry is devestating. To comply with regulations premises have reduced their capacity and introduced expensive new staff-intensive procedures. 

“Consequently, sufficient opening hours are vital to secure sufficient revenues especially when restaruants need to secure a second dinner sitting. 

“This policy, applied across the country despite widely different infection rates, makes nonesense of the stated aim.

“It would have been better to devolve powers to the local levels where any curfew could have been applied to individual establishments, giving proprieters a powerful incentive to influence the social-distancing behaviour of their patrons.”

Angry scenes have also errupted in Parliament over MPs demanding being given more of a say on coronavirus restrictions before they are introduced. 

A furious Conservative MP, Charles Walker, said it was an “utter, utter disgrace” that MPs were given just 90 minutes to debate the Coronavirus Act 2020.

And the government had to head off a major revolt spearheaded by Tory chairman of the 1922 committee, Sir Graham Brady MP, by saying they would consult with members of Parliament in the future on restrictions.

PoliticsHome exclusive polling found that a majority of the public agrees with the disgruntled MPs with a significant 62 percent agreeing that parliament should be consulted first before new coronavirus restrictions are announced and implemented. Just 12 percent disagreed and 20 neither agreed nor disagreed.

Of those surveyed 41 percent were closer to the view that MPs having more of a say in restrictions would improve the Government’s decision-making, while 38 percent believed it would slow down decisions. 21 percent said they did not know.

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Murkowski to back Barrett for Supreme Court, despite opposing GOP process

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Sen. Lisa Murkowski will vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, despite her opposition to moving forward in an election year.

The Alaska Republican said Saturday she will split her votes on Barrett. She will vote against a procedural hurdle on Sunday to advance her nomination over a filibuster, due to her longstanding objection to confirming a justice so close to the Nov. 3 presidential election.

But based on the merits of Barrett’s credentials for the job, she’s a ‘yes.’

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Tension Has Escalated Between Tory MPs And Marcus Rashford Ahead Of A Vote On Free School Meals

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Tories must face up to their “conscience” today on a vote on extending free school meals over the holidays, Labour has claimed, as footballer and anti-poverty campaigner Marcus Rashford ramped up the pressure on politicians to back it.

The challenge from shadow children’s minister Tulip Siddiq came after another difficult morning for the government as Manchester United star Rashford said he was “paying close attention” to the vote and then got into a Twitter spat with Tory MP Steve Baker over who has the power to introduce the free meals.

Moments later Tory backbencher Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot in Devon, broke ranks to say she would be supporting Labour’s motion on extending the free school meals until next Easter. Education select committee chair Conservavtive Robert Halfon has urged the government to work with Rashford.

When asked at Prime Minister’s Questions to back the proposal by Labour, Boris Johnson said the government wanted to use the benefits system to support children in the hoildays.

“I want to make sure we continue to support families thoughout the crisis so they have the cash available to feed their kids as they need to do,” he said. 

Earlier this week government minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that struggling families can claim Universal Credit and that many parents do not like being labelled as being on ‘free school meals’ instead preferring to pay a modest sum of money to a holiday club to provide food.

Siddiq told PoliticsHome: “A lot of the Tories, Don Valley, Bishop Aukland and places like that they’re all a little bit worried. It’s the kind of thing that can be used against them in their patches.

“Even if they don’t walk through the lobbies with us tonight that they put a lot of pressure on the prime minister. And that’s how it happened last time.

“I know it’s not easy to break the whip but some votes are a matter of conscience and this is one of them.

“We’re going to be facing the toughest winter of a generation, there’s coronavirus, the end of the furlough scheme – children are in for a tough ride. Why can’t we just do one last thing for parents so they don’t have to worry?”

She said some Tories she had spoken to directly in Parliament on Tuesday were sympathetic to the issue but they did not want to break the whip.

The vouchers were introduced for the poorest families in August after significant pressure from Rashford. The England striker said today that the situation for children is now worse than in the summer.

The vote at 7pm is on a Labour motion calling on the government to continue directly funding free school meals over the holidays until Easter 2021. They say it would prevent a million children going hungry.

Rashford tweeted that he was paying close attention to the Commons today and to those who are willing to “turn a blind eye” to the needs of our most vulnerable children.

He wrote: “2.2M of them who currently qualify for Free School Meals. 42% newly registered. Not to mention the 1.5M children who currently don’t qualify.”

He then got into an disagreement with MP Steve Baker who said Rashford was the one with all the power to make the change on free school meals because he has more Twitter followers that he does, despite Baker being a politician for the ruling Conservative party.

Baker said instead Universal Credit could be boosted to try and help families..

Morris, who was elected in 2010 said that she would vote against her own party tonight because of the economic fall out for people in her constituency.

She tweeted: “The ongoing pandemic has had a heavy impact on many across Teignbridge, bringing with it significant economic difficulties for many. This is why I am supporting the motion calling for the continuation of direct funding for FSM over school holidays until Easter 2021.

“This time-limited measure is a perfectly sensible response as we deal with the economic consequences of Covid-19. Longer-term I believe it is right that those eligible should be supported through the Holidays & Activities Food Programme and the Universal Credit system.”

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Trump comment on ‘blowing up’ Nile Dam angers Ethiopia

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image copyrightReuters

image captionThe dam will be the biggest hydro-electric project in Africa

Ethiopia’s prime minister has said his country “will not cave in to aggressions of any kind” after President Donald Trump suggested Egypt could destroy a controversial Nile dam.

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is at the centre of a long-running dispute involving Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan.

Mr Trump said Egypt would not be able to live with the dam and might “blow up” the construction.

Ethiopia sees the US as siding with Egypt in the dispute.

The US announced in September that it would cut some aid to Ethiopia after it began filling the reservoir behind the dam in July.

Why is the dam disputed?

Egypt relies for the bulk of its water needs on the Nile and is concerned supplies could be cut off and its economy undermined as Ethiopia takes control of the flow of Africa’s longest river.

Once complete, the $4bn (£3bn) structure on the Blue Nile in western Ethiopia will be Africa’s largest hydro-electric project.

The speed with which Ethiopia fills up the dam will govern how severely Egypt is affected – the slower the better as far as Cairo is concerned. That process is expected to take several years.

  • Who owns the River Nile – and why it matters

  • Egypt fumes as Ethiopia celebrates over Nile dam
  • How the Nile’s mega dam will be filled

Sudan, further upstream than Egypt, is also concerned about water shortages.

Ethiopia, which announced the start of construction in 2011, says it needs the dam for its economic development.

Negotiations between the three countries were being chaired by the US, but are now overseen by the African Union.

What did the Ethiopian PM say?

PM Abiy Ahmed did not address Mr Trump’s remarks directly, but there appears to be little doubt what prompted his robust comments.

Ethiopians would finish the dam, he vowed.

“Ethiopia will not cave in to aggression of any kind,” he said. “Ethiopians have never kneeled to obey their enemies, but to respect their friends. We won’t do it today and in the future.”

Threats of any kind over the issue were “misguided, unproductive and clear violations of international law”.

image copyrightReuters
image captionSudan is worried too – the Blue and White Niles meet in Khartoum

Why did Trump get involved?

The president was on the phone to Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Israel’s PM Benjamin Netanyahu in front of reporters at the White House on Friday.

The occasion was Israel and Sudan’s decision to agree diplomatic relations in a move choreographed by the US.

The subject of the dam came up and Mr Trump and Mr Hamdok expressed hopes for a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

But Mr Trump also said “it’s a very dangerous situation because Egypt is not going to be able to live that way”.

He continued: “And I said it and I say it loud and clear – they’ll blow up that dam. And they have to do something.”

image copyrightReuters
image captionThe dam came up in a phone call with Sudan’s prime minister

What is the state of the negotiations?

Mr Abiy maintains that the negotiations have made more progress since the African Union began mediation.

But there are fears that Ethiopia’s decision to start filling the reservoir could overshadow hopes of resolving key areas, such what happens during a drought and how to resolve future disputes.

Related Topics

  • Nile

  • Sudan
  • Donald Trump
  • Egypt
  • Ethiopia

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