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Keir Starmer Criticises PM’s ‘Whack-A-Mole’ Approach To Staff Shortages

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Keir Starmer

Keir Starmer criticises PM’s ‘whack-a-mole’ approach to staff shortages

Keir Starmer has blamed the fuel crisis on Boris Johnson’s “whack-a-mole” approach to running the country, urging him to plan ahead or risk staff shortages in a string of other industries in the coming months.

Ministers have suspended competition law in the energy sector and called in the army in recent days as they scramble to alleviate the shortages on forecourts caused by a lack of HGV drivers.

Other sectors including social care, hospitality and food production have also highlighted difficulties in finding staff as a result of Brexit and the Covid pandemic, and the CBI said this month the problems could persist for up to two years.

Starmer said: “The government at the moment is playing whack-a-mole: it’s trying to whack down one problem and another one pops up somewhere else. And that is a pathetic, lamentable lack of planning.”

He said a Labour government would “plan across the board with the different sectors”.

Starmer’s party voted for Johnson’s Brexit deal last Christmas, saying it did not want to risk a no-deal exit, but the Labour leader has accused the prime minister of failing to “make Brexit work”.

Labour believes the spectacle of empty shelves and shuttered petrol stations sends voters a powerful message about the government’s incompetence, though some of Starmer’s colleagues felt he failed to intervene forcefully enough last weekend when the crisis was raging.

Back in London after delivering a party conference speech that ridiculed Johnson as “a trivial man”, Starmer said he believed the prime minister’s appeal was “wearing a bit thin” with voters.

“People know the difference between a slogan and actually getting things done, and what they’re not seeing is him getting things done,” he said. “They see a government that simply can’t govern and can’t plan, and of course that’s going to wear thin.

“You’ve got that collection of failures, whether it’s energy, fuel, empty shelves, people can’t get to work because they haven’t got the petrol, people aren’t doing the journeys that they need to do.”

Starmer said he believed his 90-minute conference speech, which pressed home the themes of “work, care, inequality, security”, had helped to address critics’ claims that he lacks political pizzazz.

“People did say the delivery was pretty good, so let me cast off some of the characteristics that are always piled on me,” he said.

Asked if he was deliberately unshowy, in contrast to Johnson whom he called “a showman with nothing left to show,” Starmer said: “I’d like to think I put on a pretty good show yesterday.”

However, he conceded that he hoped his serious approach contrasted with Johnson’s. “In the end, I think people want a degree of seriousness about the problems that we confront,” he said.

Labour’s internal divisions were on display this week, not least during Starmer’s speech when he was heckled repeatedly by a small number of party members.

Despite accusations of abandoning the radical prospectus on which he won the leadership, Starmer insisted Labour was setting out radical policies that should give activists from across the party “something to get behind”.

He cited plans to put first-time buyers at the front of the queue for new-build homes; to ensure workers are granted full employment rights from day one; and the shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves’s £28bn-a-year climate fund.

“If people who want to change our country for the better want something to get behind, we have put a bold set of policy proposals on the table on housing, employment, education and climate,” he said. “I would invite everybody to say ‘there is now something we could do’.”

Starmer has pushed through a series of changes to Labour’s governance rules that he and his team hope will allow Labour MPs to focus more on the concerns of voters and less on disgruntled grassroots members. But it sparked a backlash, including from the Corbynite campaign group Momentum.

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

A motion seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives in the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court, over issues bordering on welfare and working conditions suffered a setback on Thursday.

While the House called for a general review of salaries and allowances of all political office holders and public servants, the members were divided over which committees should handle the task.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, had moved a motion to seek the intervention of the chamber in the crisis rocking the apex court and better welfare package for judicial officers across the courts.

Luke, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need to Address the Deteriorating Working Conditions of Judicial Officers,’ prayed the House to urge the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers in line with present economic realities.

The lawmaker prayed the House to urge the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation of the judiciary for the upcoming fiscal year and provide special intervention funds for the development of the arm

He further prayed the House to mandate the Committee on Judiciary to ensure compliance and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

While the lawmakers were making amendments to the prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, called for an upward review of the welfare package of all public office holders.

Wase, who stated that he appreciated the memo from the Justices to the CJN, noted that only the RMAFC had the responsibility to review remuneration of government officials.

The Deputy Speaker made reference to a part of the motion that read, ‘The remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the RMAFC when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1, whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.’

Wase partly said, “I think this particular element does not affect just judicial officers, maybe because they cried out now. I don’t think it is right that we have to wait every time until people write letters of complaints and there is protest before we begin to do the right thing.”

Rephrasing Wase’s proposed amendment, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “The DSP’s amendment is that we should not isolate the Judiciary and all those enumerated constitutional bodies and public office holders. They should be reviewed; a comprehensive review based on all the things that Hon Luke said – the exchange rates and this and that.”

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