Tories must seek new leader now, says donor Alexander Temerko

Alexander Temerko

The Conservatives must start the process of selecting a new leader now, says a major party donor.

Alexander Temerko says Theresa May must be allowed to remain in post until Brexit has been delivered.

But he warns bad results for the party in next year's local elections would trigger fresh leadership speculation.

And rather than being forced into a hasty decision or a "coronation" it made sense to start the search as soon as possible, he argues.

Mr Temerko, a Ukrainian-born British businessman who has donated more than a million pounds to the Conservative Party and its candidates in recent years, is calling for a "radical" shake-up of the party to give ordinary members a bigger say over policy.

'Good caretaker'

"Regrettably, today the Conservative Party is going through a deep crisis," Mr Temerko told BBC News, citing falling membership and a "lack of democracy".

"We can no longer hide the fact that we have problems with the party leadership."

He described Mrs May as a "good caretaker" but said she could not lead the party into the next general election.

"Therefore we must start the process of finding a new leader now and it is important to elect this leader by way of democratic vote with no coronation or other tricky methods," he added.

He said the crunch could come next May, with English local elections.

"If we lose these elections, which is a possibility, then a change of leadership will be of critical importance again but this time it will be requested not only by backbenchers but by the majority of the party," he said.

"And this time again we will either have to find a new leader in a hurry or continue to support a lame duck slowly approaching the edge."

Fresh talent

He called for a new party chairman, to replace Sir Patrick McLoughlin, and co-chairmen to be elected by party members, a process which he said would allow potential leadership contenders to set out their credentials.

Mr Temerko, a former senior executive of Russian oil giant Yukos, is now a director of Aquind, a Newcastle-based firm behind a planned £1.1bn underwater electricity line linking the UK with France.

He has previously backed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson as the next Conservative leader, but he now believes the party has to give fresh talent the opportunity to make their case.

Last month's Conservative Party conference in Manchester was overshadowed by leadership speculation, with senior figures and activists expressing concern about the state of the party[1] in the wake of its disappointing general election result.

In a post-mortem of the campaign[2], former minister Sir Eric Pickles said the party urgently needed to increase its number of activists, to combat a resurgent Labour Party.

The party has promised to give members more of an input into policy, something that is currently decided by the leadership....

References

  1. ^ concern about the state of the party (www.bbc.co.uk)
  2. ^ a post-mortem of the campaign (www.conservatives.com)

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'Cured' epilepsy MP James Frith joins calls for valproate inquiry

James FrithImage copyright UK Parliament Image caption James Frith developed epilepsy after suffering from meningitis

An MP who claims to have been cured of epilepsy by a medication which causes birth defects in children has joined calls for an inquiry into the drug.

About 20,000 children in the UK have been left with disabilities[1] caused by sodium valproate since the 1970s.

James Frith, MP for Bury North, said he took the drug for many years but was "stunned" to learn that health warnings to pregnant women had been withheld.

The medicines regulator said warnings of any health risks had been updated.

Sodium valproate, known as Epilim, carries a 10% risk of physical abnormalities in unborn babies.

Image caption A warning has been on the outside of valproate pill packets since 2016 in the UK

Babies exposed to the drug in the womb also have a 40% risk of developing autism, low IQ and learning disabilities.

The drug has been prescribed since the 1970s but it was only in 2016 that warnings were put on packets.

Mr Frith told a parliamentary debate on Thursday he developed epilepsy as a side effect of meningitis at the age of seven, when he was in a coma for two days.

The Labour MP said he wanted to "give a voice to" epilepsy sufferers after having taken sodium valproate for several years, which was "widely thought to have been the greatest contributing factor in curing me".

"I stand here as record of its effectiveness, but I do not stand up without remembering the unborn children, the women and the expectant parents for whom the risks are not widely enough known."

'National scandal'

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, who was a health minister between 2012 and 2015, told the Commons that information had been withheld in the 1970s about the drug's impact despite knowledge of the risks.

Nearly 400 babies affected by valproate had been born since an awareness campaign was launched in February 2016, MPs heard.

Mr Frith called on the government to "make amends for this national scandal" and consider compensation for victims.

He also said it should "apologise to the women and children who are now men and women themselves" and ensure that no information concerning health and medical prescriptions are withheld again.

The European Medicines Agency is considering whether to take further regulatory action....

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Plaid Cymru 'cannot out-Corbyn Corbyn', says Simon Thomas

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Media captionLive:Plaid Cymru conference

Plaid Cymru cannot out-Corbyn Corbyn, senior party AM Simon Thomas has told his party's conference.

His comments will be seen as a call for Plaid, led by left-winger Leanne Wood, to reposition itself.

The end of Plaid Cymru's co-operation agreement with Labour was a chance for a "new start" for the party, Mr Thomas said.

Earlier Rhun ap Iorwerth said the party had felt "powerless" during the general election campaign.

At the conference, in Caernarfon, Mr Thomas said Plaid was right to strike a deal with Labour after last year's assembly election.The so-called Compact had brought stability to the Welsh Government, he said.

But now that the agreement had ceased, the AM for Mid and West Wales said:"This can be a new start for Plaid Cymru."

"Where do we go?There's no point out-Corbyning Corbyn.Our future is making Wales' future," Mr Thomas told conference.

Image caption The general election was "challenging", says Rhun ap Iorwerth

In an earlier speech, Mr ap Iorwerth told party delegates in Caernarfon:"The snap election this year was challenging.It was difficult seeing Wales following British, or to be more specific English, voting patterns.

"Two-party politics dominating, a feeling we were under siege, powerless sometimes," said Mr ap Iorwerth.

"But remember in the middle of that, a young man from Lampeter was elected, the youngest Plaid Cymru MP ever and the party again reaching its highest ever level or MPs.

He added:"A newly confident Wales needs a newly confident Plaid Cymru."

Image caption Leanne Wood visited a firm that makes rock climbing and mountaineering equipment in Llanberis on Friday

Meanwhile, Ms Wood said a total of £30m should be spent protecting firms from possible damage from Brexit over the next two years.

The party leader, who will address Plaid's annual conference in Caernarfon later, said the Brexit Preparedness Fund could help "mitigate any Brexit shock".

Mainly small to medium-sized firms (SMEs) should get specialised help and financial assistance, she said.

Plaid have already agreed a £5m scheme in a budget deal[3] with Labour ministers.

Ms Wood warned that if UK-EU trade talks failed, and Welsh ministers had "no plan" to deal with the consequences, "Welsh nationhood" was at risk.

"One such measure is a Brexit Preparedness Fund designed to help businesses evaluate their exposure to Brexit and then receive specialist advice and financial assistance," she said.

Brexit 'should be ratified'

In an interview with BBC Radio Wales, Ms Wood said the final outcome of the negotiations should be ratified by either a referendum or a vote of AMs.

She told the Good Morning Wales programme:"Whatever deal is finally agreed, whether it is a deal or it isn't a deal, I think it should be ratified either by people in a referendum or by people's representatives in the Welsh Parliament.

"If there is a deal that is going to be damaging and risky then people deserve to have a say and endorse or not that deal."

The Rhondda AM has insisted she will lead the party at the next assembly election[4] in 2021 and that she has the backing of the membership.

She said she was "quite pleased with the result" of the general election, which saw the party's number of MPs rise from three to four.

Her comments follows reports of disquiet among some Plaid Cymru AMs over whether she should lead the party for another four years.

Plaid lost 14 deposits and its vote share fell in June's general election, but it won an extra parliamentary seat meaning it now has four MPs at Westminster....

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Plaid felt powerless at general election, says Rhun ap Iorwerth

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Media captionLive:Plaid Cymru conference

Plaid Cymru felt "under siege" and "powerless" during a "challenging" general election campaign, Rhun ap Iorwerth has said.

The AM for Ynys Mon said Wales needed a "newly confident Plaid Cymru" in a speech to the party's conference in Caernarfon.

His comments came after party leader Leanne Wood said Plaid's election performance was "remarkable".

Plaid won an extra seat - in Ceredigion - in June but saw its vote share fall.

Image caption The general election was "challenging", says Rhun ap Iorwerth

The party's spokesman on health said:"The snap election this year was challenging.It was difficult seeing Wales following British, or to be more specific English, voting patterns.

"Two party politics dominating, a feeling we were under siege, powerless sometimes," said Mr ap Iorwerth.

"But remember in the middle of that, a young man from Lampeter was elected, the youngest Plaid Cymru MP ever and the party again reaching it's highest ever level or MPs.

He added:"A newly confident Wales needs a newly confident Plaid Cymru."

Image caption Leanne Wood visited a firm that makes rock climbing and mountaineering equipment in Llanberis on Friday

Meanwhile, Ms Wood said a total of £30m should be spent protecting firms from possible damage from Brexit over the next two years.

The party leader, who will address Plaid's annual conference in Caernarfon later, said the Brexit Preparedness Fund could help "mitigate any Brexit shock".

Mainly small to medium-sized firms (SMEs) should get specialised help and financial assistance, she said.

Plaid have already agreed a £5m scheme in a budget deal[3] with Labour ministers.

Ms Wood warned that if UK-EU trade talks failed, and Welsh ministers had "no plan" to deal with the consequences, "Welsh nationhood" was at risk.

"One such measure is a Brexit Preparedness Fund designed to help businesses evaluate their exposure to Brexit and then receive specialist advice and financial assistance," she said.

Brexit 'should be ratified'

In an interview with BBC Radio Wales, Ms Wood said the final outcome of the negotiations should be ratified by either a referendum or a vote of AMs.

She told the Good Morning Wales programme:"Whatever deal is finally agreed, whether it is a deal or it isn't a deal, I think it should be ratified either by people in a referendum or by people's representatives in the Welsh Parliament.

"If there is a deal that is going to be damaging and risky then people deserve to have a say and endorse or not that deal."

The Rhondda AM has insisted she will lead the party at the next assembly election[4] in 2021 and that she has the backing of the membership.

She said she was "quite pleased with the result" of the general election, which saw the party's number of MPs rise from three to four.

Her comments follows reports of disquiet among some Plaid Cymru AMs over whether she should lead the party for another four years.

Plaid lost 14 deposits and its vote share fell in June's general election, but it won an extra parliamentary seat meaning it now has four MPs at Westminster....

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Tougher measures for 999 staff attacks debated

AmbulanceImage copyright NI Ambulance service Image caption An oxygen cylinder from this ambulance was smashed into its windscreen in Northern Ireland

Tougher punishments for attacks on emergency workers are being debated in the House of Commons.

Rhondda MP Chris Bryant's bill would double the maximum sentence for common assault against an emergency worker from six months to a year.

"We've got to stand by them because they stand by us," he said.

Policing Minister Nick Hurd has said the government was "very supportive" of the principles of the bill[1], which will improve its chances of becoming law.

Mr Bryant had asked his constituents to choose their preferred new law[2] from a list of options after he won a ballot of MPs to introduce a private member's bill.

He said there were thousands of assaults on emergency workers every year and that the number had risen dramatically to about 275 a day.

'Attack on all of us'

The Rhondda MP said he had personally witnessed children throwing bricks at fire officers as they tried to put out a mountain blaze.

He called for a zero-tolerance attitude, saying:"An attack on an emergency worker is an attack on all of us."

The legislation would cover attacks on police, prison officers, custody officers, fire service personnel, search and rescue services and certain healthcare workers including ambulance staff.

Under the bill, the fact the victim is an emergency worker would be considered as an aggravating factor by judges in offences including common assault, actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm.

The legislation would also give the power to take blood samples, with consent, from people who have spat at or bitten emergency workers and exposed them to the risk of infection.

Failure to provide a blood sample without good cause would also become an offence....

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