‘Blatant political meddling’: IMF branded ‘EU stooge’ after UK income tax intervention

Attempts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to persuade Prime Minister Liz Truss to rethink the decision to scrap the top rate of income tax amount to “blatant political meddling“, a prominent Brexiteer has claimed. Former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib also accused the IMF of being an “a stooge for the EU” hellbent on undermining Ms Truss after its extremely rare intervention – which he admitted left him “gobsmacked”.

In a statement issued yesterday after Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s min-budget, the Washington DC-based organisation said it was “closely monitoring recent economic developments in the UK and are engaged with the authorities”.

It said Mr Kwarteng’s scheduled announcement in November, when he will offer his new “fiscal plan”, would “present an early opportunity for the UK Government to consider ways to provide support that is more targeted and reevaluate the tax measures, especially those that benefit high-income earners”.

Mr Kwarteng’s controversial decision to scrap the 45 percent rate of income tax paid by people earning more than £150,000 a year has prompted significant criticism – but Mr Habib, also chief executive of property investment company First Property Group, suggested the financial hit to the UK economy amounted to a “rounding error”.

Mr Habib told Express.co.uk: “It is blatant political meddling. The IMF is a stooge for the EU – it fears Truss and is seeking to undermine her premiership.

“The cut to the top rate of income tax from 45 percent to 40 percent may have been politically naive but was neither here nor there in the overall scheme of things.

“Its cost will be some £2billion a year. That is dwarfed by the potential cost of £150billion to cap fuel bills.

“So I was gobsmacked to see the IMF take our government to task over that cut.

“It did not challenge the government’s overall economic approach; it focused in only on the higher rate of tax.

“Their intervention was entirely political, not economic.”

So established has the orthodoxy of state borrowing and spending become that “putting power back into the pockets of the people offends them”, Mr Habib said.

He added: “The biggest government spending commitment in history, capping fuel bills, went by without comment. They homed in on one of the smaller costs of the mini-budget.

A “cornerstone of democracy” was allowing people to decide how they spent their own money, Mr Habib emphasised.

He said: “The IMF, like the EU and so many other supranational institutions, holds that principle in contempt. They do not trust people to make the right decisions. They think they know better.

“They are wrong. If we are to break from 12 years of economic malaise we must cut taxes; we must deregulate. We must strip power away from institutions and put self-determination back in the hands of the people.

“In 2016, the IMF warned of catastrophe if we voted for Brexit. They were wrong. They are wrong again.”

The Bank of England today launched an emergency UK Government bond-buying programme in a bid to prevent borrowing costs from spiralling out of control and stave off a “material risk to UK financial stability”.

The Bank announced it was stepping in to buy government bonds – known as gilts – at an “urgent pace” after concerns about the Government’s economic policies sent the pound tumbling and sparked a sell-off in the gilts market.

The move, in direct response to the Government’s tax-cutting strategy, will pile further pressure on Ms Truss and Mr Kwarteng to defend a vision for the economy which has spooked markets and shocked many mainstream economists.

While the pound hit an all-time record low of 1.03 against the US dollar on Monday, the yield on 10-year gilts – a proxy for the effective interest rate on public borrowing – has also soared by the most in a five-day period since 1976, according to experts.

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  • 9 минут назад 08.12.2022Politics
    News The Buckshee

    As Republicans come to terms with their lackluster midterm performance, top GOP officials and conservative luminaries are acknowledging voters were led astray with calls to reject early and absentee voting.

    They’re just not naming the leading figure who helped get them there.

    “Our voters need to vote early. There were many in 2020 saying, don’t vote by mail, don’t vote early, and we have to stop that, and understand that if Democrats are getting ballots in for a month, we can’t expect to get it all done in one day,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel warned on Fox News.

    McDaniel did not mention former president Donald Trump, who has railed against early, absentee, and mail-in voting for years and falsely claimed the methods led to widespread voter fraud that cost him the election. And a spokesperson said her comments were not targeted at the former president.

    But, privately, Republican operatives concede that Trump has put their party in an electoral pinch and that the problems extend beyond voting methods.

    “We can sit here and talk about mail-in voting and use that as an excuse but that’s like an alcoholic saying they’re not going to drink gin anymore, just beer,” said one top GOP campaign official. “We have 99 problems and mail-in voting is one.”

    There is a growing sense of alarm among the GOP ranks that the conspiracy theories Trump pushed about early voting and mail ballots not only hurt them dearly in the just completed midterms, but could take multiple cycles to remedy. Republican committees and groups have been working to educate voters on laws regarding early voting and are planning to ramp up those efforts. But they are up against not only Trump and his outsized megaphone but also a sizable swath of conservative leaders who now falsely state early voting and mail ballots are tainted.

    “[P]eople are awakening to it, even the Trumpistas,” longtime GOP strategist Karl Rove, who runs RITE, a new voter integrity project, said in an interview. “It’s a sad commentary that we have to do that and there is resistance. He’s creating a class of people who may for a long time believe the elections are stolen as long as there’s a presence of mail-in ballots, and that causes people to say my vote doesn’t count, I don’t need to bother to vote.”

    Republicans hoping to change their voters’ perceptions of mail voting have witnessed some positive developments in recent days, as some major skeptics have come around, noting that Democrats have emphasized early voting to bank big advantages heading into Election Day.

    After the Georgia runoff elections showed Republican Herschel Walker likely to lose, Fox News host Sean Hannity questioned the “reluctance some Republicans in many states have about voting early and voting by mail,” and said it was time the party changed its ways. “You’re exactly right,” agreed House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy. Another Fox host, Laura Ingraham, grew visibly agitated as she discussed the issue with former counselor to Trump Kellyanne Conway, who said Republicans need to bank ballots early.

    “How come we didn’t? We didn’t do it in 2020, because people said, ‘Don’t vote early, because that’s corrupt,’” Ingraham said. “A lot of people did [say that], at the very top of the Republican Party.”

    Two top potential contenders for 2024, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, have also said Republicans need to be savvier about early and absentee voting. And conservative commentator Charlie Kirk tweeted after the election that “one of the first lessons we have to take from the midterms is the power of early voting.”

    But those in the trenches believe a true embrace of voting outside of Election Day will take some time. That’s because Republicans have historically been skeptical of election administration. And over the course of decades, many have also assumed that efforts to expand voting access mean opening up avenues for fraud.

    “Republican states are rightly taking steps to ensure elections are safe and secure. Our problem now is a messaging and operational one. We start by throwing out the Trump B.S. lies and telling people the truth about their votes and the power of their vote,” said a Republican strategist who worked on the Georgia midterm election. “Who would have imagined telling people, ‘the election is rigged’ and then asking them to vote wouldn’t work?”

    As Republicans begin laying the groundwork for the party to embrace early and mail-in voting, they are confronting one major obstacle: Trump has exhibited no eagerness to embrace the cause.

    Trump has also added confusion by conflating absentee ballots, which can be requested ahead of Election Day, and mail-in ballots, which are sent to all registered voters and are only used in eight states, including California and Colorado. No-excuse absentee ballots are available in twenty-seven states, including Arizona, Georgia, and Florida. The former president has suggested, without evidence, that sending millions of ballots out in the mail allows someone to grab someone else’s ballot, fill it out and send it in.

    Top operatives point to Georgia as a prime example of the problems Trump-like skepticism can create. The former president railed against mail voting during the 2020 cycle and GOP officials believe that, in doing so, he cost himself and Senate Republicans wins in the state. His campaign against the voting method only accelerated during the Senate runoffs in Georgia that followed his election loss, during which both GOP candidates lost. And it’s persisted through the 2022 cycle.

    During Tuesday’s runoff election, Sen. Raphael Warnock got 64 percent of the absentee mail vote and nearly 58 percent of the early vote, according to figures released by the secretary of state’s office.

    Republicans have pointed to Florida as a state where they have successfully adopted early voting. And in California, Republicans prioritized early voting and ballot harvesting, which is legal in the state, and were able to keep multiple tightly contested incumbent House seats and win an open seat in the Central Valley during this cycle.

    “The RNC plays by the rules set out by each state and will leave no stone unturned to win as many races as possible up and down the ballot. The RNC invested millions of dollars earlier than ever to get Republicans to the polls during early voting periods and successfully engaged in states with election laws that allow ballot harvesting,” said RNC spokesperson Nathan Brand.

    The RNC is widely expected to focus on fixing perceptions about absentee, mail-in and early voting as part of its upcoming review of the party’s performance post-midterms. Blake Masters, the losing Republican Senate candidate from Arizona who is on the review team, said the party needs to “modernize” to compete with “Democrats’ GOTV early voting machine.”

    Republicans have also filed lawsuits to more strictly enforce or tighten state laws around absentee and mail-in voting, which critics argue could disenfranchise voters.

    It’s a posture that the RNC has adopted for many cycles now. But in the wake of the midterms, even some party insiders say too much time is being spent on litigation and not enough on voter education, outreach and mobilization.

    “Republicans spent an inordinate amount of time complaining about and suing over election rules,” said Kevin McLaughlin, the former Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2020 election cycle and director of GOP-aligned nonprofit the Common Sense Leadership Fund. “Imagine how effective we would be if we spent even half that time developing a strategy, and, call me crazy, turning out voters.”

  • 10 минут назад 08.12.2022Politics
    News The Buckshee

    A vocal group of Midwestern Democrats is telling it straight: Their party has a flyover country problem.

    And Democrats are going to have to do a lot more than move up Michigan in their presidential primary calendar to solve it.

    Rep. Debbie Dingell summed up the warning while recently pitching herself for a caucus leadership position. The Michigander presented fellow House Democrats with a map showing the home states of their top leaders — a constellation of dots up and down the nation’s two coasts, with virtually nothing in between.

    The sight stunned many lawmakers. Within hours, her map was in front of President Joe Biden. Dingell lost her leadership race, to a Californian no less, but she’s breaking through with her call for the party to home in on the middle of the country or risk losing ground in 2024.

    “Debbie’s message was a really important one,” said Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), a fellow Midwesterner. “That map, essentially, is the evidence that our adversaries have been using against us for some time now, which is: We’re the coastal party.”

    Dingell is launching what she’s dubbed the Heartland Caucus, a group of Democrats who plan to advocate on manufacturing, trade and other economic issues that they see as critical to repairing their party’s tarnished brand back home. Midwestern Democrats are banding together at a critical time, with their region hosting several must-win Senate races next year as the party prepares to elevate Michigan in its White House primary ballot — but at the expense of Iowa, another heartland state.

    “You can’t live in the bubble here,” said Dingell, who famously predicted that Donald Trump would win in 2016 as Democrats lost ground with voters in her home state. After losing her bid for caucus vice chair last week, Dingell said: “I went to bed on Wednesday night and said Thursday morning: We’re starting this.”

    One big motivator behind her new group: The number of Democrats outside the coasts who will lead the party on a House committee next year can be counted on one hand. The party’s top five incoming leaders hail from New York, Massachusetts, California and South Carolina. It’s part of a huge, party-wide shift over the last two decades, when Missouri’s Richard Gephardt and Michigan’s David Bonior once helped steer House Democrats.

    “California always has a seat, in fact, quite a few seats, and so does New York. And then we have Boston,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who’s been involved in forming the caucus. “And it’s like, what about us?”

    The Ohio Democrat cited a recent tiff she had with fellow Democrats on the caucus’ special committee on economic fairness. Kaptur said she had to “fight and fight and fight” to get her region’s economic plight represented in the group’s final report this week. But in the panel’s 30-minute documentary, she said she couldn’t get the Midwest mentioned at all.

    “I’m angry about that. Ask Jim Himes, the chairman of the committee from Greenwich, Connecticut,” Kaptur said. She said when she described the struggles of working class people in Lorain, Ohio, or Flint, Michigan, or Kenosha, Wis., “The attitude of some on the committee was, ‘Oh well, let them move.’”

    While many Midwesterners said their current crop of leaders supports their high-priority issues, they remain concerned by the shortage of regional voices in the party’s upper ranks. And those members warn that a lack of geographic diversity among top policymakers can have serious electoral consequences.

    “We end up with policy decisions that don’t reflect the Midwest. And so we end up losing elections very badly in the Midwest,” Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.) said of his area’s lack of representation among committee leaders. “I think it’s something that’s sort of become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

    The exact boundaries of the forthcoming Heartland Caucus aren’t entirely clear yet — fittingly, since the very definition of the Midwest itself is a famously contentious topic. Lawmakers involved with launching the caucus said they plan to initially rely on the dozen states included in the Census Bureau’s definition, a square chunk of map that stretches from the Dakotas and Kansas to Ohio.

    But organizers of the group said they’ve also fielded membership requests from Democrats in western Pennsylvania, northern New York and even rural parts of California, whose districts often behave more like the Midwest than their colleagues’ urban bases along either coast. (The group won’t formally launch until the next Congress.)

    Dingell and her fellow Michiganders did get one big win this week: Biden made a concerted push for the Mitten to become one of the party’s first five presidential primary states, boosting its prospects of formal elevation in the party’s schedule. It was the culmination of a 30-year quest by the state’s late congressman-turned-senator Carl Levin — and a sign to many Democrats that the president himself sees their path to keeping the White House running straight through the region.

    “Michigan is really a microcosm of the country in so many ways. You have to win it to win,” said Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Carl Levin’s nephew and a longtime witness to the fight.

    Still, other Midwestern Democrats noted that Michigan’s success came at the expense of Iowa — where the party badly lost a Senate race this fall in addition to its sole House seat.

    That Iowa seat, where Rep. Cindy Axne fell short last month, is one of several pro-Trump Midwest districts that House Democrats relinquished thanks to a combination of losses and retirements. Also on the list: rural seats held by retiring Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.).

    Bustos, who has sat at Pelosi’s leadership table for several terms now as the last Midwesterner in House Democrats’ upper ranks, encouraged her colleagues to keep prioritizing rural America after she, Axne and others leave the Hill.

    The region will gain some leadership representation, with Phillips and Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.) taking on lower-tier roles next Congress as co-chairs of the caucus messaging arm. But Bustos, among other Democrats, stressed the importance of pushing for more.

    “Having a seat at the leadership table really, really matters,” Bustos said. “I think it’s harmful overall to Congress and to our nation if we don’t have a loud enough voice representing rural America and the Midwest.”

    Ally Mutnick contributed.

  • 57 минут назад 08.12.2022Politics
    Rebel MPs back call to save free cash machines

    Former Cabinet ministers Iain Duncan Smith, Priti Patel and David Mundell were among 21 Tories demanding government action.

    They backed an amendment to the Financial Services and Markets Bill that would oblige the government to create a “minimum level” of access to machines that do not charge.

    The rebellion, although unsuccessful, is another warning shot for Rishi Sunak after he was forced into successive U-turns on planning and wind farms. It comes as the Daily Express battles to save Britain’s struggling high streets.

    A staggering 12,599 free-to-use ATMs have been lost in the UK since 2018 – a fall of nearly 24 percent – and the situation is getting worse.

    Many are being replaced by machines which charge a transaction fee. Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh, who tabled the amendment, called on the Government to ensure free access to cash machines, telling MPs: “Surely it cannot be right in 2022 that almost a quarter of our cash machines charge people to access their own money. The facts are stark but simple.”

    During the Commons debate, former minister David Mundell said: “We cannot just simply move in an unstructured way to a cashless society.

    “There are about eight million people – whether rural dwellers or those in deprived areas – who rely on cash and will continue to rely on it.”

    But Tory MP Kit Malthouse said cash payments had plunged between 2010 and 2020 and had fallen further during the pandemic.

    He added: “There are significant advantages to cashless transactions, not least in the elimination of crime.”

    During Prime Minister’s Questions earlier yesterday Rishi Sunak promised to “safeguard access to cash”.

    He added: “This Government is indeed legislating to safeguard access to cash and that’s what the Financial Services and Markets Bill this afternoon will do through a very significant intervention.”

  • 57 минут назад 08.12.2022Politics
    Gillian Keegan admits ‘local’ antibiotic shortages as Strep A spreads through schools

    Gillian Keegan has admitted the UK is facing “local” antibiotics shortages, describing the spread of Strep A as “your worst nightmare”. She denied that there is a “national shortage of supply”, but admitted that there are “some spikes locally”. The Education Secretary said the NHS are “working their way through” the issue at the moment, admitting that it is “worrying for parents”.

    Ms Keegan told GB News: “It’s your worst nightmare. Our massive sympathies go out to the families who have been impacted by this. It’s really every parent’s worst nightmare.”

    She stressed that the illness is “extremely rare still” but urged parents to “keep vigilant” and “look for the symptoms”, which include fever, headache, sore throat and a rash on the skin.

    When pressed over shortages of antibiotics, with GB News presenter Isabel Webster saying that some parents were unable to get their hands on the drugs, Ms Keegan said: “I think that’s what the NHS is working through. You do sometimes get this surge in specific spots but there is no national shortage of supply, that’s what we’re being told.

    “There are also supply chains that are being set up. So we’d just urge people to let the NHS work this through.”

    She said the UKHSA is “monitoring very closely the situation”.

    So far, nine children have died after contracting Strep A.

    Typically, Strep A infections are mild and treated easily with the antibiotic amoxicillin, but an invasive form of the bacteria, known as iGAS, has increased this year, particularly in those under the age of 10.

    Pharmacists have reported UK-wide shortages of the antibiotics used to treat the illness, as demand for both penicillin and amoxicillin has increased in recent days.

    But Health Secretary Steve Barclay said in areas where there had been a sharp rise in demand, there are “well-established procedures in terms of moving stock around between our wholesale depots”.

    He added: “We have a dedicated team permanently in the department who do this day in, day out, and they have reassured me – I checked with them again last night, knowing that I was coming out on the media this morning – and they said they are not aware of any shortages, but sometimes obviously you get the peaks of demand in a particular area and stock has moved around accordingly.”

    Kieran Sharrock, the GP committee acting chair for the British Medical Association, said anxiety over the spread of Strep A and medicine shortages “can cause increased workload and disruption for GPs as they have to find alternative treatment options or prioritise those most in need”.

    He continued: “While the government insists there are sufficient supplies of antibiotics nationally, this will be little comfort to pharmacists, GPs and patients who are experiencing shortages locally, and therefore those responsible for supply chains must double down on efforts to ensure there are enough medicines to meet demand.”

    A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “There are antibiotics available to treat strep A and your GP will be able to prescribe the most appropriate treatment.

    “Strep A usually causes a mild infection producing sore throats or scarlet fever that can be easily treated with antibiotics.

    “However, it is important that parents are on the lookout for symptoms and see a doctor as quickly as possible so that their child can be treated.

    “Make sure you talk to a health professional if your child is showing signs of deteriorating after a bout of scarlet fever, a sore throat, or a respiratory infection.”

  • 57 минут назад 08.12.2022Politics
    Labour vows to make it easier for unions to strike as walk outs already set to cripple UK

    Labour has vowed to make it easier for workers to go on strike if Sir Keir Starmer wins the next general election.

    The party – which receives millions of pounds in funding from trade unions a year – said it would repeal the 2016 Trade Union Act if in power.

    The legislation included several stipulations aimed at ensuring strike action was more legitimate and to give employers more time to prepare for industrial action.

    Measures include requiring ballots on walkouts to have at least a 50 percent turnout in order for the result to be legally valid and for those working in public services to have an additional 40 percent support for striking among those eligible to vote.

    Yesterday, Labour described the legislation as “archaic” and pledged to axe it if in Government.

    They added other “unnecessary elements” of trade union legislation would be ripped.

    “One example would be online balloting, not allowing online balloting, we don’t think that’s practical, we think it’s costly and we think that’s unnecessary,” the spokesman said.

    Labour confirmed its plans as trade unions prepare to plunge Britain into chaos over the coming weeks.

    Rail workers, ambulance drivers, border force staff and others are all set to walk out later this month.

    They are demanding massive pay increases and improved working conditions.

    No10 has warned the industrial action is set to cause “misery” for ordinary Britons up and down the country in the build-up to Christmas.

    Reacting with fury last night to Labour’s plans to water down trade union laws, Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi said: “It beggars belief that Labour wants to relax laws to make it easier for their union paymasters to strike”.

    He told The Telegraph: “The 2016 Trade Union Act introduced minimum turnout thresholds for strike action and Starmer’s plan to scrap it would be a green light for Labour’s militant union backers to hold the country to ransom.

    “Once again Sir Keir reveals he thinks his bosses are the union barons and not the great British public.”

    Speaking this morning, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan added the Government was approaching unions’ pay demands in a “fair and balanced way”.

    She urged the country to “pull together” in the face of ongoing strikes.

    Asked if the country is on the verge of a general strike, Gillian Keegan told Sky News: “The reality is we have a number of people who are striking and it’s really disappointing.

    “We have to pull together as a country.

    “We’ve been through an awful lot.

    “All we can do is try to react to them in a fair and balanced way.”

  • 2 часа, 58 минут назад 08.12.2022Politics
    Brussels vows to ‘keep pressure high on Kremlin’ as Putin accused of ‘escalating’ war

    Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has seen Moscow take advantage of the cold weather by weaponizing energy supplies and attacking power systems to freeze out Ukrainians. Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of once again “escalating the war”.

    He said: “He has been weaponizing food and hunger and Putin now has decided to weaponize the winter, throwing Ukrainian people into the cold and darkness.

    “He sent rockets to destroy Ukrainian power plants, to disrupt electricity, heating and water supplies for millions of civilians across Ukraine.

    “He wants to freeze the Ukrainian people.”

    Mr Borrell called Putin’s actions in Ukraine “barbaric”, “inhuman” and “unacceptable” as he announced the ninth package of sanctions against Russia.

    He said: “We have been saying all along that we would respond to Putin’s escalation and his brutal war against Ukrainian people.

    “And this is why we are responding today, putting forward the ninth package of sanctions.”

    Von der Leyen supported the statements and reiterated the EU’s support of Ukraine as Russia hoped Western allies would begin to bore and falter in its aid.

    The President of the European Commission tweeted: “Russia’s economy is increasingly in shambles.

    “We will keep the pressure high on the Kremlin.

    “And we will stand by Ukraine – today, tomorrow and for as long as it takes.”

    Her comments come just days after Von der Leyen was criticised for likening Ukrainian freedom fighters to the IRA.

    The European Commission President spoke to Irish MPs as the UK and EU continue arguments over the Northern Ireland protocol.

    Ms Von der Leyen said: “This country knows what it means to struggle for the right to exist.

    “Today, another European nation is fighting for independence. Of course, Ireland is far away from the front line in Ukraine.

    “Ukraine is fighting for freedom itself; for self-rule; for the rules-based global order. And Ireland has gone above and beyond in its support to Ukrainians.”

    Baroness Hoey from Northern Ireland and former Labour Europe minister said: “She may not have directly mentioned the IRA but she did not condemn terrorist who killed so many innocent Protestant and Catholic people in Northern Ireland all in the name of Irish freedom.

    “How dare she equate their violence with the struggle of the Ukrainian people against Putin.”

    Meanwhile, the UK has continued its staunch support of Ukraine with a new £229million deal to replenish their stocks of Next Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapons.

    Ukrainian recruits are also set to participate in a five-week training programme led by the UK to ensure they continue to be prepared to defend their country and become a “lethal force”, the MoD said.

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Politics ‘Blatant political meddling’: IMF branded ‘EU stooge’ after UK income tax intervention