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    UK politics news – live: Legal fight launched over care home rules as polls say it’s ‘all over’ for Alba Party

    Alex Salmond claims Sturgeon will ‘work’ with Alba PartyThe government is facing a legal fight from campaigners over its guidance banning people in residential care over the age of 65 from taking trips outside their homes. John’s Campaign, an initiative advocating for relatives to have better access to their loved ones in residential care, has accused the government of acting unlawfully by imposing a “discriminatory” blanket ban. The advocacy group has said the Equality Act 2010 blocks the kind of “discriminatory approach” it said the government is taking on home care rules.The campaign is also fighting to see rules requiring anyone who leaves a care home to self-isolate for 14 days overturned. Meanwhile, Alex Salmond’s pro-independence Alba Party could be “over” before it has even begun, with new polling suggesting the party is on course to claim zero seats in next month’s Holyrood election.A Survation survey marking the first test of support for the new party found that only 3 per cent of Scottish voters would back Alba on the ballot.Inside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayInside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayShow latest update

    1617360589Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live blog tracking the latest in UK politics as the government faces a legal challenge to its care home rules. Chantal Da Silva2 April 2021 11:491617361378Government faces legal battle over home care rules The government is facing a legal battle from campaigners over its guidance blocking residential care residents over the age of 65 from taking trips outside their homes. John’s Campaign, which advocates for relatives to have better access to their loved ones in residential care, has accused the government of acting unlawfully by imposing a “discriminatory” blanket ban.The advocacy group has said that the Equality Act 2010 is meant to protect against the “discriminatory approach” it said the government is taking with home care rules enforced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.John’s Campaign is also fighting to see rules requiring anyone who leaves a care home to self-isolate for 14 days overturned.Currently, the government’s guidance, which was updated on 8 March, states that trips to see family or friends should only be considered by those who are under 65.Chantal Da Silva2 April 2021 12:021617361702Polling suggests it is ‘all over’ for Alex Salmond’s Alba Party New polling suggests it is “all over” for Alex Salmond’s pro-independence Alba Party, with one survey putting his party on course to take zero seats in next month’s Holyrood election. The Survation survey, which is the first to weigh support for the Alba Party, found that only 3 per cent of Scottish voters would support the new party. Adam Forrest reports: Chantal Da Silva2 April 2021 12:081617363020Most pubs in England may not reopen under April plans, trade body warns Only around 40 per cent of pubs are likely to have the outdoor space and capabilities to reopen as coronavirus restrictions ease in April, a hospitality industry leader has warned. Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), said the outdoor dining requirement will present a “huge restriction on capacity”. She further warned that pubs that do open under the restrictions will likely be “loss making”, with a ban on indoor payments further complicating “how we will serve people in venues”. The hospitality chief also warned that the potential introduction of vaccine passports could complicate things for the hospitality industry, creating further hurdles for bars and restaurants.Chantal Da Silva2 April 2021 12:301617363273More than 70 MPs join cross-party call urging against vaccine passports More than 70 MPs have joined a cross-party call urging against the introduction of vaccine passports to help open up England’s economy.Politicians including Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey and Tory 1922 committee chair Graham Brady have said they believe the use of such certificates would be “divisive and discriminatory”. Policy correspondent Jon Stone explains: Chantal Da Silva2 April 2021 12:341617364561Windrush campaigners disturbed by omissions in race report Campaigners advocating for those affected by the Windrush scandal have expressed alarm over the fact that the issue came up just twice in a controversial government-commissioned report on racial disparities in the UK.The report, which concluded that the UK is no longer a country where “the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities” sparked widespread backlash, with many accusing the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which authored the report, of downplaying the impacts of slavery and seeking to shut down calls to address structural racism. Speaking to The Guardian, Patrick Vernon, a high profile campaigner in the Windrush scandal said he believed that had the report’s authors focused on the scandal in their report, they would have been forced to “admit there was a systematic, structural failure” in how the Home Office “targeted the Windrush generation”. “I can see why they haven’t included it,” he said.Meanwhile, Anthony Brown, who heads the Windrush Defenders Legal group in Manchester and who was personally affected by the Windrush scandal, said he felt frustrated that it appeared the government had not “fundamentally taken on board what the Windrush scandal means”. “A whole cohort of people were marginalised,” he said. Chantal Da Silva2 April 2021 12:561617365399Chantal Da Silva2 April 2021 13:09 More

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    Campaigners launch legal challenge against ban on care home residents taking trips

    Campaigners have launched a legal challenge against a blanket ban on elderly residents making trips away from their care homes, saying the government’s guidance strips people of their basic rights and effectively turns sheltered accomodation into a “prison”.Under the rules, which were updated last month, people in residential care over the age of 65 are prevented from leaving home apart from in exceptional cases.This, campaigners say, prevents residents from enjoying simple activities such as walking in a local park.Those who are permitted to leave the care home, for example to visit a friend or relative at the end of their life, must self-isolate for 14 days on their return.John’s Campaign, which has campaigned for the rights of families and care homes residents throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, has launched a legal challenge against the ban and the quarantine rule.Read more:The group said the imposition of a blanket ban, and the failure to communicate and ensure individualised risk assessments are taken for every resident who wishes to make a visit out, is unlawful.They argue that an individual who is 64 but may suffer from conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to infection could have an individualised risk assessment that would allow them to take a trip out of the home, but an individual aged 66 who may be less vulnerable to infection is not afforded the same right.In a letter sent to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), the group also questions the requirement to self-isolate, arguing that as care homes now have rapid testing, designated visitors are permitted and residents are vaccinated, the requirement is unnecessary.Julia Jones, co-founder of John’s Campaign, said: “I am at a loss to understand how the basic right of a person living in a care home to make their own simple choices over a walk in the park, for instance, has been so comprehensively ignored – and denied – over the past 12 months. “The 440,000 people living in care homes include some who moved in through their own volition, with full mental capacity, never guessing that this simple freedom, enjoyed by everyone else in the population – apart from prisoners – could so easily be denied them.”Nicci Gerrard, also co-founder of the group, called the rules “discriminatory, harmful and wrong”.She said: “Care homes are not prisons, and people living in them should have the same rights as everyone else in society.“What’s more, to make them self-isolate for 14 days if they do leave the care home is to cruelly continue to enforce separation from those they love that has blighted too many lives in the past year.”Tessa Gregory, a partner at law firm Leigh Day, which is supporting the challenge, said: “Care home residents and their families have suffered disproportionately through the pandemic both from the virus itself but also from enforced isolation.“It is vital that as the rules are relaxed for the general population, care homes residents are not left behind. “There is no reason, if appropriate precautions are taken, to prevent residents over working age from having much needed visits out and it also cannot be right that if residents do leave their homes they always have to always isolate for 14 days on their return.”A DHSC spokesperson said: “We know just how crucial visits are in supporting the health and wellbeing of residents. Our current guidance provides a range of opportunities for visitors to meet and spend time with their loved ones in a care home under carefully designed conditions to keep everyone safe.“Residents over 65 can make visits outside of care homes in exceptional circumstances and all decisions in relation to visiting should be made on the basis of a risk assessment centred around the individual. This is made clear in our guidance.“As we move along the roadmap, we are looking to open up more opportunities for visiting both into and outside of care homes – wherever this can be done safely and is supported by data.” More

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    Alba Party: ‘All over’ for Alex Salmond, polling suggests

    Alex Salmond’s pro-independent Alba Party has been hit by shock new polling, which puts his party on course to take zero seats in next month’s Holyrood election.The Survation survey, the first to gauge support for the new party, finds only 3 per cent of Scottish voters will back Alba at the ballot box.Leading polling experts believe Mr Salmond’s party needs at least 5 per cent of the votes to be in range of winning seats under Scotland’s regional list system.“The headline is that it looks as though it’s all over for Salmond,” said polling guru Professor John Curtice – who has warned the former SNP leader could finish up “empty handed” on 6 May.Prof Curtice said it was still possible that Mr Salmond “might just get a seat” in the north-east, where he heads up his party’s regional list. “But this [poll] is not what he needs if he is going to get his campaign to take off.”Read more: Mr Salmond’s team remained defiant, despite the poor poll numbers. “These early indications put Alba within touching distance of representation across Scotland,” said a party spokesperson.The spokesperson added: “With five weeks still to go Alba’s support can only grow as we approach polling day. It is worth noting that Alba has already achieved, in three days, approaching half the level of support of the Liberal Democrats, a party which has existed for over a century.”Inside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayInside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayMr Salmond is writing to regulator Ofcom and TV broadcasters, claiming there is an “unanswerable” case to include his party in election debates alongside the five established parties with seats at Holyrood.Nicola Sturgeon, meanwhile, has said she has “no intentions” of working with Mr Salmond, even if his party does get seats in the Holyrood parliament, after the Alba Party leader suggested she would have to work with others in the cause of Scottish independence.The SNP leader told Channel 4 News that she does not believe the Alba Party would “help the independence cause”, adding: “I’m not even sure from his perspective it’s intended to do that.” More

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    Government’s race report ignores ‘brutal evidence’ of economic inequality, says charity

    A controversial report that concluded institutional racism does not occur in the UK failed to consider the “brutal evidence” of inequality highlighted by Covid-19, an anti-poverty charity has said.Turn2Us said its research painted a different picture to the one described in the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities’ report.The government-commissioned independent review into racism asserted that UK is no longer a country where systems are “deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities” and that very few inequalities are due to race.Data compiled by Turn2Us indicates that ethnic minorities have suffered significantly greater economic hardship during the pandemic.One in six people from Black Caribbean descent have had to borrow from friends or family since March 2020, compared to one in 11 (9.3 per cent) of white British people.Read more:People from minority groups were also more likely to have sold their belongings to get by.One in eight people of Indian descent have done so since the pandemic began, compared to one in 13 white British people.About 10 per cent of white British people reported going into their overdraft since March 2020 compared to 17.9 per cent of people of Black African descent.Inside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayInside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayOne in six of people of Pakistani descent have had to miss bills since March 2020, compared to one in 14 white British people (7.3 per cent).Thomas Lawson, chief executive at Turn2us, said the data demonstrated deep-rooted inequalities in society. “You are more likely to experience financial hardship if you are black. You are more likely to have lost your job in the coronavirus pandemic if you are Bangladeshi. “You are more likely to experience deep poverty if you are Pakistani. This is not a coincidence, this is clearly a long-term endemic structural and institutional problem.”He added: “We urge the government to not dismiss the reality of institutional racism and instead look at the evidence and produce a strategy to create meaningful change.” More

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    Like Brexit, Covid has turned both the EU and the UK into losers

    The new post-Covid geopolitical normal will feature a much weaker European Union than could ever have been foreseen before the crisis. Brexit, damaging to all concerned as it has undoubtedly proved, looks a mere distraction set against the impact of the coronavirus. The public health test-and-trace response, and death rates, in some EU member states, notably Germany, have been enviable, and many others have scored successes of their own, not least Belgium and the Netherlands, such important centres for vaccine production. Yet throughout the year of turmoil, the European Union’s efforts to coordinate national responses have been either ineffective or downright disastrous. From the get go, when individual countries rushed to close borders and ban exports of protective equipment, ventilators and treatments, the authorities in Brussels have been bystanders. When hard-pressed nations such as Italy sought financial assistance, they were scorned by Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. She was chosen to run the EU, it is rumoured, because Paris and Berlin favoured a weaker style of leadership in Brussels. They should be more careful what they wish for. Friends of the EU should take no pleasure in its travails, because Britain is no unconquerable island so far as the virus is concerned, but equally should send any illusions about the recent performance of the EU and its agencies. The answer may be “more Europe”, as President Macron used to say, or an end to integration, but the problem of EU competence (in both senses) over public health is plain.Right now, the European Union finds itself in the embarrassing position of watching the British speed way ahead in the vaccination race (by fair means or foul), and in the more humiliating position of having to turn to Russia, of all places, for help. A third Covid wave is hitting parts of Europe hard. France is the latest to fall back into lockdown, even if Macron has tried to rebadge it as a “third way”. Hence the urgent need for vaccines in what the president calls “a race against time” for his country. More

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    UK urges EU to stay in vaccine export talks: ‘No single country can face this health emergency alone’

    The UK has urged Brussels to stay in talks about vaccine exports after one of the bloc’s top officials said there was “nothing to negotiate” and threatened to block shipments.Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, said there would be no exports of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine outside the EU until the company had met its vaccine commitment to them.But UK officials urged the bloc to show “solidarity and cooperation” in its approach amid concern that Brussels and London could be dragged into a vaccine war.Mr Breton’s comments reflect a growing concern across the EU that the bloc is not benefiting from being a vaccine production hub, with much of its output shipped abroad while its member states’ vaccination programmes lag behind the UK.“If [AstraZeneca] does more, we don’t have any issue. But as long as it doesn’t deliver its commitment to us, the doses stay in Europe — except for Covax,” Mr Breton had said. Covax is an international vaccine programme that is aimed at delivering vaccines mainly to poor countries.Read more:The commissioner said the bloc trying to make sure AstraZeneca’s contract with the EU “is delivered — and of course we are here to also help our British friends … But we have nothing to negotiate”, according to a report in the Financial Times.AstraZeneca had signed a contract with the EU in August for the supply of 300 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine with an option for a further 100 million doses. However, the supply has been slow. The company reportedly ended up slashing its commitment to 30 million against the initial pledge of 120 million to the EU in the first quarter.Inside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayInside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayMr Breton explained that coronavirus vaccine production from a troubled plant in Seneffe, Belgium, and the Halix factory in the Netherlands corresponded to a vaccine commitment made by AstraZeneca to the EU and thus must not be exported.The vaccine shortage has also led to pressure from within the EU as some member countries seek alternative vaccine supplies. For instance, Hungary started administering Russia’s Sputnik V jabs in February 2021 even as the EU has maintained that it does not need the Russian Covid-19 vaccine.The European Commission maintains that “vaccination is progressing steadily in the EU”“By the end of this week, 107 million vaccine doses will have reached EU countries,” the Commission said in a statement posted online on Wednesday.But last week the Commission said it would begin to use export controls on a case by case basis to restrict exports to countries whose vaccine programme was more advanced than the EU, or where there was plentiful domestic supply.A UK government official told The Independent: “We continue to discuss what more we can do to ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on COVID-19. “As the Prime Minister said in previous statements, including one co-signed by other world leaders, no single country can face this health emergency alone, and we need to address this challenge through solidarity and cooperation.”The EU has so far given the go-ahead to vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca-University of Oxford, and Johnson & Johnson. Until last week, it had delivered 88 million doses to its member countries and over 62 million doses were administered.The UK, meanwhile, has administered over 30.9 million first doses and 4.1 million second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine. More

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    Alex Salmond claims Sturgeon will ‘work’ with Alba Party after she stops being ‘upset’

    Alex Salmond has claimed Nicola Sturgeon has indicated she will work with his pro-Scottish independence Alba Party and others who back a second referendum on a breakaway.Mr Salmond suggested that the reality of creating a bigger majority for independence in the Scottish was beginning to dawn for the SNP leader, after a week of being “upset” over the creation of Alba.Repeatedly pressed on whether she would rule it out working with Mr Salmond’s party to help deliver indyref2, Ms Sturgeon told ITV on Wednesday: “It’s not for me to say what MSPs elected from other parties vote for in a Scottish parliament.”Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday, Mr Salmond said: “I think that actually after, admittedly, after a week of being quite upset, I think that it was probably indicated by Nicola Sturgeon in her ITV interview yesterday, where she did concede that you have to work with people in the Scottish parliament.”He added: “Frankly, the cause of independence is much, much bigger than personalities. It’s a noble cause, it’s a huge cause for Scotland, and everybody now has to put aside differences and work in that national difference.”Asked how the two parties could work together, given all the recent acrimony between the two leaders, Mr Salmond said: “You won’t find a word of negativity of coming off the lips of any Alba Party candidate.”Reminded that one of his candidates, Dr Jim Walker, had called Sturgeon a “cow” on Twitter this week, Mr Salmond said: “And [he has] has apologised for it. If I may say, it was a Twitter debate before he became a candidate.”Inside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayInside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayMs Sturgeon has challenged Mr Salmond – cleared of 13 sexual assault charges last year – to apologise to the women “that he behaved inappropriately towards”.Asked if he had reflected on his behaviour towards women, the Alba leader said: “The case we forward at a trial, which is now a year ago, was that the claims against me were part fabrication, part exaggeration.“The most significant is not what I said or what I reflected on, the most significant thing is the verdict of the jury. My behaviour has been tested as probably no behaviour has been tested before, in a trial of my peers … And most fair-minded people think that’s fair enough.”Mr Salmond has persuaded two sitting SNP MPs and four councillors from Ms Sturgeon’s part to jump ship and join Alba. On Thursday, the former SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh – who lost her seat in 2017 – was unveiled as an Alba candidate for the central Scotland region.Ms Sturgeon has denied her party is beset by divisions, claiming the SNP was Scotland’s most “united” force and support was “has never been higher”.Speaking on Good Morning Scotland on Thursday, she said: “I think if you look at the breakdown of opinion polls, that tests the views and attitudes of SNP voters, then you will find that, actually, the SNP is the most united of all the parties in Scotland.” More

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    Experts named in government’s ‘flawed’ race report ‘shocked’ to see names in evidence contributor list

    Two authors named as “stakeholders” in a landmark report into race disparities in Britain have hit out at claims they provided evidence, with one protesting: “I was never consulted”.It comes as the government faces a backlash over the findings of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which concluded that the UK was no longer a country where the “system is deliberately rigged” against ethnic minorities.The appendix to the 258-page report — commissioned in response to the Black Lives Matter movement —  expressed thanks to stakeholders including professional bodies, charities, and academics for providing “evidence during the course of its work”.S.I Martin, an author who specialises in the field of black British history and literature, who is named in the report, told The Independent: “I was never consulted, I don’t know what record they have of contacting me.”“I just would not have agreed to have been consulted even if I had been asked, but I’ve not been asked. I have been invited to things in the past — not by this administration — I just don’t go, I just refuse. It’s just not something I do.”Pressed on his reaction to seeing his name in the report, the historian who founded the 500 Years of Black London walks, said it was a “growing shock”, asking: “How many other people have been roped unknowingly into this? Rubber-stamping this nonsense.“I am not naive enough either to expect either an explanation or an apology from anyone in government for this.”Inside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayInside Politics newsletterThe latest news on Brexit, politics and beyond direct to your inbox every weekdayDescribing the report as a “horrible, typical, right-wing fig leaf”, he went on: “I would ask them when did they consult? Who did they ask? Who are these stakeholders and participants? On which planet do they live that they can arrive at that conclusion?”A second academic, Stephen Bourne, a historian of black Britain, also told The Independent he felt “manipulated” at his name appearing in the report as being consulted by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities.Mr Bourne, who described the report as “flawed” and insisted institutional racism does exist, claimed to have been contacted by No 10 adviser Samuel Kasumu. After having a conversation with him in June, he was later invited to a Downing Street roundtable of historians of Black Britain in October 2020, he said.“Nothing was explained to me,” he went on. “I wrote down some of their names of the people there [at the roundtable], and when I googled them and the penny dropped that they were this commission.”Mr Bourne, whose best-known work is ‘Black Poppies — Britain’s Black Community and the Great War’, added he later contacted Downing Street and read the “riot act” to Mr Kasumu.“How dare you do that, I said that is so unprofessional so rude to invite me to what I thought was going to be what we discussed, a round table discussion of historians of black Britain. And it turns out to be this commission which I’ve never heard of. I said you should have explained all of this”.Publishing the long-awaited report on Wednesday, the commission said the term institutional racism was “too liberally used” and that factors such as socio-economic background, culture and religion have a “more significant impact on life chances”.However, the authors said that “outright racism still exists”, the UK was not a “post-racial society”, and stressed: “We take the reality of racism seriously and we do not deny that it is a real force in the UK”.Speaking on Thursday, Boris Johnson said the government would respond fully to the commission’s report “in due course”, adding that there were “serious issues that our society faces to do with racism”.“If you look at it, they have come forward with about 24 interesting ideas to promote equality and to promote equality of opportunity, to give people of all communities, all races, all backgrounds in this country, more opportunity,” the prime minister added.“But also to understand the true nature of the barriers and the discrimination that they unquestionably feel. There are some interesting things in it, I’m not going to say we agree with every word, but we’re going to be responding in due course.”No 10 has been contacted for comment. More