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Gloucestershire Business News

General election 2024

With the general election taking place on July 4, campaigning is well under way in Gloucestershire and across the country.

The team at Punchline-Gloucester.com will keep you up to date with all the latest from all the political parties, locally and nationally.

Got something to share? Send your election news to news@moosemarketingandpr.co.uk.

Wednesday, June 12

General election #30 Win or lose, festival promises to be a morning-after thrill

Having found that it opens its doors on the morning after the night before, a popular family music festival in Gloucestershire says its final event could be musical therapy for election-frazzled visitors.

Back in March, Nibley Festival (at North Nibley, near Dursley, on July 5 to 7) announced a reluctant decision to make this summer's event its last  after the musical date began as a family-orientated fastival back in 2007.

But the timing of the event could now make it a popular escape for the election-weary.

Neil Casson, festival chairman, told Punchline-Gloucester.com: "We didn't know of course that the election would culminate the night before, but it's a happy coincidence as we will provide a musical arena for celebration, or healing - depending on voting intentions!"

Music is, of course, said to be a balm and a way of bringing people together. For that, the festival's prescription includes Forest of Dean legends EMF, Dodgy and UK-USA band Hoosiers, along with a long list of bands to meet a variety of playlist wishes. Previous headlines have included Scouting for Girls, The Christians, The Selecter, Cast, Sleeper and Newport legends Feeder.

Mr Hasson added: "Music events tend to be left-leaning, but we are happy to offer the backing track for everyone coming together and celebrating, whatever your choice was in the voting booth. We are planning to do everything we can to organise the best festival ever, have a great big family party and make more memories that will last a lifetime."

General Election #29 Tory drinks policies are no small beer, says CAMRA

As if the excitement of the election wasn't intoxicating enough, the Conservative Party yesterday included a manifesto reaffirmation of its commitment to taxation on policy for pubs and social clubs – and real-ale watchdogs at CAMRA today say they like the news.

Nik Antona, CAMRA Chairman, said: "It is encouraging to see the Conservative manifesto reconfirming the party's commitment to the new system of alcohol taxation and the lower rate of duty charged on draught beer and cider served in our pubs, social clubs and brewery taprooms - so tax on pints in pubs is always lower than that on supermarket alcohol."

He added: "CAMRA is calling on the next UK Government to commit to extend the discount on tax for draught beer and cider to turbocharge this new alcohol duty system and give consumers, local pubs and independent breweries the boost they need to survive and thrive.

Committing to extending the Community Ownership Fund is also a welcome pledge, CAMRA says, to ensure local groups can access funding they need to save their local as a community hub if it is under threat of closure, conversion or demolition.

CAMRA also likes a Conservative proposal to review the night-time economy in England with a view to reversing the decline in pub numbers, which "would provide an opportunity to show how transforming tax, regulation and planning laws could help save the nation's much-loved pubs being lost to the communities they serve".

However, this is hardly new news: we've been talking about this at Punchline-Gloucester.com for years .

Tuesday, June 11

General Election #28 Conservatives pledge to boost home ownership

Launching the Conservative election manifesto today, Rishi Sunak has promised policies to boost home ownership.

The prime minister said his party would bring back a version of the Help to Buy scheme, which ended in England last year, as reported by the BBC.

Under the new plans, landlords would not have to pay tax on profits when selling to tenants, which Mr Sunak said would incentivise them "to give tenants a chance to own the home they live in".

The Conservatives have also pledged to continue the £425,000 threshold before first-time buyers have to pay stamp duty.

General Election #27 Dr Simon Opher pays house calls with Dale Vince

Prospective MP for Stroud Dr Simon Opher and Ecotricity founder Dale Vince are at large in the town this afternoon, with media invited to attend as the Labour candidate goes out on the knock with Mr Vince at his side.

The owner of Forest Green Football Club and campaigner for green energy is reported to have donated more than £1 million to Labour on the day that Prime Minister Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun to the election on July 4.

The two are expected to talk to residents and businesses in and around the centre of Stroud.

Punchline will update on this story tomorrow.

General Election #26 Gloucester Cathedral to host hustings

Gloucester Cathedral will host a hustings for the upcoming general election later this month.

The event will take place on Monday, June 24 at 7:30pm.

All parties and independent candidates standing in the Gloucester constituency have been invited to participate.

The hustings will be co-chaired by the Very Reverend Andrew Zihni, Dean of Gloucester, and Reverend Canon Nikki Arthy, the City Rector.

Everyone from the local community is invited to go along and share in this opportunity to help decide the future of the constituency of Gloucester.

Anyone who would like to submit a question should arrive at the cathedral by 6:45pm.

General Election #25 Lib Dems promise more free school meals

The Liberal Democrats have announced their ambition to extend free school meals to all primary school children, beginning with all children in poverty across both primary and secondary schools.

This would mean an extra 9,989 primary school children in Gloucestershire receiving free school meals.

The party will fund their manifesto policy by introducing a new share buyback tax.

The government currently only provides meals for all children in reception, year 1 and year 2. In year 3 and above, the government has set stringent conditions on family income for children receiving free school meals.

Currently in Gloucestershire, just 6,138 (17.5%) of primary school children in year 3 and above receive free school meals. The Liberal Democrat plan would ensure 100% of primary school children receive free school meals.

Max Wilkinson, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Candidate for Cheltenham, said: "Across Cheltenham, there are too many children expected to learn on empty stomachs, with no guarantee of a hot meal when they get home.

"It is time for change and a fair deal for hungry school children. I am proud the Liberal Democrats have the most ambitious plan for free school meals of any party, which would save parents money and transform the future for millions of children."

Monday, June 10

General Election #24 Labour pledges 100,000 new childcare places

The Labour Party has pledged to create 100,000 additional childcare places and more than 3,000 new nurseries as part of its childcare plan.

Labour has said it will turn classrooms in existing primary schools into "school-based nurseries", for an estimated cost of around £40,000 per classroom, reports the BBC.

The money would come from VAT levied on private schools - a move which has been previously criticised in the sector and by other parties.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said, if elected, his party will "create the childcare places needed to turn the page, and rebuild Britain".

The number of nursery and primary schoolchildren in England is predicted to fall in the next four years.

Labour says it will use the space freed up in primary school buildings for the 3,334 new "high quality" nurseries, which would be set up in high-need areas which lack enough childcare places.

They could be run by the primary schools themselves, or by local private and voluntary sector nursery providers.

General Election #23 Lib Dems to launch manifesto today

The Liberal Democrats are launching their manifesto today (Monday) with a £9bn pledge to fix the health and care system.

The policy, which is set to be revealed by party leader Sir Ed Davey, includes plans to recruit 8,000 more GPs, boost cancer survival rates and introduce free personal care for the elderly and the disabled, Sky News reports.

The total cost would be an extra £9.4bn a year, to be funded in part by reforming capital gains tax, which is paid on profits from the sale of assets such as shares or property and is set lower than the rate of income tax.

It is often argued this disparity means wealthy people, who often earn more from assets than from income, are able to pay less tax.

The Lib Dem manifesto will also promise not to increase income tax, VAT or national insurance.

Sir Ed Davey described it as 'the healthcare election' for the Liberal Democrats.

General Election #22 GMB boss issues challenge to Labour

GMB Union boss Gary Smith has issued a challenge to Labour ahead of the general election.

The union's General Secretary told delegates at the GMB's annual congress in Bournemouth yesterday (Sunday) "my challenge to Labour is to recognise that 'change' can't be just a snappy election slogan."

Gary Smith said: "The last 14 years have been a terrible time for working people. The Tories have imposed austerity, hollowed out our public services and left our economy in tatters. They are agents of chaos and their time is up.

"My challenge to Labour is to recognise that 'change' can't be just a snappy election slogan. It must be brought to life in the reality of government.

"People have had enough of the way their country is being run. They want a better future."

Friday, June 7

General Election #21 - Max Wilkinson welcomes Lib Dem Burglary Response Guarantee

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has announced plans to include a Burglary Response Guarantee in his party's manifesto.

The proposals would ensure all domestic burglaries are attended by the police and properly investigated.

New burglary data was compiled from a series of Freedom of Information requests by the Lib Dems. This shows the percentage of unsolved burglaries in Cheltenham in 2023 was 72%. Of the 615 cases, 444 had their investigation completed with no suspect identified.

Nationally, official government figures show that nearly 76% of burglaries went unsolved in 2023.

Max Wilkinson, Liberal Democrat candidate for Cheltenham, said: "Too many families in Cheltenham now feel unsafe in their own homes.

"Victims are being denied justice because Conservative ministers can't even get the basics right on solving crime. That is why the Liberal Democrats would deliver a Burglary Response Guarantee, to ensure all home burglaries are attended by the police and properly investigated."

General Election #20 Tough Question Time for Forest MP

Forest of Dean MP and Transport Secretary, Mark Harper, was in for a grilling on the BBC's Question Time last night.

An NHS nurse told him social care had been 'decimated' under the Conservatives and accused him of talking 'absolute rubbish'.

And presenter Fiona Bruce and Shabana Mahmood, Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, challenged Harper on references to Rishi Sunak's £2,000 Labour tax claim.

Mark Harper said: "If you think Labour's going to win, you'd better start saving because they're absolutely going to hit you with higher taxes."

Fiona Bruce reminded him the Treasury civil servants said they weren't involved in the calculation of the figure being used by the prime minister.

And Shabana Mahmood said: "All you've done is compound a straight-up lie told by the prime minister."

Thursday, June 6

General election #19 Painful issues for Starmer, awkward questions for Sunak

Today is relatively quiet north of Normany, but an election campaign ultimately has little respect for remembrance of past wars.

Stroud-based industrialist Dale Vince has entered the headlines over concerns for war on Europe's fringe, the owner of Stroud-based Ecotricity and Forest Green Rovers football club, having urged Labour leader Keir Starmer to ban British arms sales to Israel.

Despite Labour's decision to tone down its £28bn pledge on green investment, Mr Vince has stood by the party, but the appalling death toll among civilians in Palestine by Israel has prompted him to speak out and call for a UK arms ban.

Controversy connected to political funding has also come to light today in connection with another significant political donor who is also an OBE, but with quite distinct views.

Tory donor Frank Hester, who is founder and CEO of IT Healthcare giant the Phoenix Partnership (TPP), was recently at the centre of a row about comments aimed at Labour MP Diane Abbott which were condemned as racist and misogynistic. 

It has now emerged that Mr Hester gave the Conservative party a further £5m in January, according to data from the Electoral Commission.

The donation, made by TPP, made Mr Hester the Conservatives' single biggest donor, with a total of £15m now handed over - but the timing of the latest donation, just three days after his comments about Ms Abbott were exposed, is the focus of today's attention.

Mr Hester apologised for saying Ms Abbott made you "want to hate all black women" and that she "should be shot". Accepting the cheque for £5m after such comments was an insult to her and to all black women, Ms Abbott said.

General election #20 It's murder on the election trail

Homicide is also in Rishi Sunak's sights today (and not after that ITV debate). If elected again, the Conservatives say they will shake up the 1957 Homicide Act through a review which would aim to loopholes and anomalies in sentencing.

Under proposals which are understood to have been pushed by Cheltenham MP and Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, first-degree murder would apply only to those who kill intentionally and would result in an automatic life sentence, in effect similar to current laws.

A definition of second-degree murder would also be created where an offender showed intent to do serious injury or where there is some defence to what may otherwise be determined as first-degree murder. Sentencing would include an option of a life sentence.

General election #21 Green prescription for NHS? Tax the rich

And finally, on the subject of keeping people alive, the Green Party's co-leader Adrian Ramsay has launched a plan to deliver an extra £30bn per year for the NHS in England. The health service is in a "desperate situation", Mr Ramsay told BBC News.

A fully-costed proposal for the "very richest" to pay more tax would see a 1% claim on assets over £10m and 2% on anything over £1bn. The subsequent funds would raise several billions in the next term – for whoever wins the election.

Wednesday, June 5

General Election #18 Sunak and Starmer squabble in first election debate

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer clashed in the first TV debate of the general election last night.

The Conservative and Labour leaders were involved in heated exchanges over tax, the NHS and immigration.

At times the debate got scrappy, forcing Julie Etchingham, the chair of the ITV event, to intervene and urge the pair to "lower your voices".

Mr Sunak said Labour wanted to increase tax by £2,000 - a claim Mr Starmer dismissed as "absolute garbage".

Both leaders used the opportunity to set out their personal stories to voters, talking about how their childhood experiences had shaped their political views.

A snap poll after the bad-tempered debate suggested the PM narrowly edged the head-to-head.

But, as the Daily Mail pointed out, Nigel Farage was the ghost at the feast after he announced a run to become a Reform MP. Mr Sunak stressed that only he and Sir Keir can end up in No10 and a vote for 'other' parties will only guarantee Labour in power.

Tuesday, June 4

General Election #17 Davey: Reform UK won't win seats

Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, doesn't see Reform UK as a threat.

He believes the Lib Dems are the main choice for those looking for an option which isn't Conservatives or Labour, as reported by the BBC.

Leader of Reform UK, Nigel Farage, has just confirmed he will be standing in the general election.

But Davey said he doesn't think the party is going to win very many seats at all, while he believes his own party will win "quite a large number of seats".

Meanwhile, the Lib Dem leader is pledging free personal care for elderly and disabled adults. He also wans to introduce a higher minimum wage for care workers, which is £2 above the national living wage.

He believes investing in care will help the NHS.

General Election #16 Starmer wants to bring immigration down

Sir Keir Starmer said Labour wants to bring immigration down, but won't put a figure on it.

He told the media Conservative immigration policies are 'utter chaos', as reported by the BBC.

Starmer said he wants to tackle the issue of skills shortages and "bad bosses" undercutting labour standards.

Meanwhile, James Cleverly, Home Secretary, said the Conservatives are committed to reducing immigration numbers.

He added that the Rwanda scheme is important as a deterrent.

General Election #15 - Live TV debate tonight

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer will have their first live head-to-head clash of this election campaign tonight (June 4).

The hour-long debate will take place at 9pm on ITV, hosted by Julie Etchingham and in front of a live audience.

It will be a chance to hear more about the leaders' pledges, as well as hear them debate with each other and take live questions from the audience.

The BBC will host another debate between the two leaders at the end of the month.

Monday, June 3

General Election #14 Will it be TikTok what won it?

Cheltenham voters browsing social media could be bombarded by more political ads than any other county voters in this election, if latest analysis is right.

Heavy communications to support Alex Chalk could be on the cards, according to spending trends analysis by the Guardian. The newspaper has monitored political adverts since the start of the year and concluded that the Conservative party is prioritising an "ostrich" strategy to home in on marginal seats.

Tracking Facebook ads, more than £100,000 has been spent by the party so far in 2024, indicating a policy which aims to secure sufficient votes in 80 of the UK's seats determined in the last election to have been only narrowly won, as well as 20 seats that were narrowly lost.

The ostrich strategy has seen almost all of the party's budget thus spent so far in the #GE2024, but no specific indication of marginal seat ad spending here in Gloucestershire, where Justice Minister Alex Chalk won Cheltenham in 2019 by a majority of 981, is as yet known.

However, the newspaper is predicting that if this is a TikTok election, then "Labour is walking it".

The paper said: "Digital campaigning comes down to a few fundamentals: a clear message, the ability to create content that carries the message in a way that delivers the desired response, and the money and methods to get that content in front of the right people."

Meanwhile, according to the website Who Targets Me?, Labour spent £350,000 against the Conservatives' £50,000 on Google and YouTube in the first week of the campaign, while its spend on Facebook came to £500,000 – £300,000 more than the Conservatives allocated. Expectations generally are that parties are, however, likely to hold back for heavier outlay as July 4 draws closer.

In other elections news today: Keir Starmer has given a speech on the theme of national security, saying that it must go "hand in hand" with economic stability and that – in resonance with Rishi Sunak's warning last week – "the post-war era is over and a new age of insecurity has begun". Meanwhile, the Conservative party has outlined fresh proposals on gender recognition. The plan to amend the Equalities Act is being dismissed by Labour as a "distraction" from the campaign, given the government's 14-year opportunity to change the law. Shadow defence secretary John Healey told Times Radio: "We will not want to amend the Act, it's not needed. It already provides a definition of a woman, and sex and gender are different."

Friday, May 31

General Election #13 Labour vows to kick off clean energy projects within months

Labour is today announcing that it would make a start on creating green energy projects across the country within months, if it won the general election, the BBC reports.

The party plans to create a publicly-owned company, Great British Energy, headquartered in Scotland. should it win the July poll.

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer says the scheme would cut energy costs, by setting up a publicly-owned company to invest in domestic power sources.

But the SNP has said the project would "destroy Scottish jobs and investment", suggesting it could cost 100,000 Scottish jobs.

General Election #12 Fly-tippers to get points on driving licence, Tories pledge

The Conservatives have unveiled plans for fly-tippers to get points on their driving licences and evict disruptive tenants from social housing, the BBC has reported.

Repeat fly-tippers currently face up to five years in prison and an unlimited fine, but new plans could also see low-level offenders face driving penalties.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said his is the only party with "a clear plan to ensure safety, security and prosperity in your local community".

Currently only 20% of fly-tipping investigations end in fines. The Lib Dems accused the Tories of "legalising littering".

And Labour accused the Conservatives of "empty words", pointing to the government's own fly-tipping statistics, which showed there had been more than a million fly-tipping incidents "on the Conservatives' watch" in the last year.

Thursday, May 30

General Election #11 Main parties won't increase VAT

Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have all confirmed today that they won't increase VAT if they are elected.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have also pledged not to increase income tax or National Insurance.

Labour's shadow chief secretary to the treasury, Darren Jones, told the BBC today: "We've been consistent in saying we have no plans to increase taxes on working people because it's the highest it has been for 70 years".

General Election #10 Register to vote by June 18

Anyone who wants to vote in the general election must be registered to vote by June 18.

To take part in any election, anyone over the age of 18 must be registered in the area they live in. Some people eligible to vote may not be registered and therefore will not be able to cast a vote.

Residents can make an application to register to vote through the government website at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Residents who are away on July 4, or prefer to vote by post, must apply for a postal vote before the deadline of 5pm Wednesday, June 19.

Electors may also choose to vote by proxy, where they appoint someone to vote on their behalf. The deadline to appoint a proxy is 5pm Wednesday, June 26.

Wednesday May, 29

General Election #9 Business leaders back Cheltenham Lib-Dem candidate

Twelve local business leaders have thrown their weight behind Liberal Democrat candidate Max Wilkinson, who is standing in the Cheltenham constituency.

In a letter to Punchline, the local business people, who live in and operate in the Cheltenham area, say: "We have in the past supported political parties from across the political spectrum. In this General Election year, we share a common view: change is needed.

"The government's mismanagement of our country in recent years has had a profound impact on our businesses. From the mixed messages on tax policy and environmental matters to the chaos caused by the Liz Truss budget, we have been forced to overcome hurdles that the business community should not be expected to deal with in an advanced economy.

"In this scenario, our area needs a strong voice as our MP. We need somebody who will represent this town and put local interests first, ahead of party interests or the whip's office and who will listen without offering standard party 'lines to take' in response.

"Having met and worked with Max Wilkinson, the Liberal Democrat candidate, we have learned about his vision for our town as a place which respects local business interests while looking after vital public services, the environment and our town's most vulnerable people.

"We believe he is our best hope to achieve the positive change we need at the election."

The 12 signatories are as follows:

Pak-Wai Hung - Owner, 288 Bar and Wok

Duncan Mounsor - Cheltenham-based managing director

Richard Jones - Director, JEC Electrical

Catherine Mountain - Director, Evenlode Films and Productions

Pierre Lever - Investor

Martyn Gill - Co-founder and president, Orna

Polly Symondson - Director, Polly Symondson Recruitment

Paula Baldwin - Company director

David Baldwin - Company director

Pete Eggleston - Co-founder, charitable foundation

Arthur Snell - Consultant in geopolitics

Taj Uddin - Owner, Café Boho

General Election #8 Labour promises to hit 18-week NHS waiting target

A target to start treatment within 18 weeks for most NHS patients in England will be hit within five years, Labour has promised.

The party made the pledge as it set out details of how it would start making inroads into the backlog, the BBC reported.

This includes getting the NHS to do more out-of-hours, and making greater use of the private sector.

Currently the waiting list stands at 7.5 million treatments.

Figures are down from a peak of nearly 7.8 million in September and but still 3 million more than before the pandemic.

Since the end of March some 43% have waited longer than 18 weeks.

The NHS target, which calls for 92% of patients to start their treatment within 18 weeks, was last hit in February 2016.

General Election #7 Tories would swap 'rip-off' degrees for apprenticeships

The Conservatives have promised to scrap some university courses in England to help fund 100,000 apprenticeships per year if they win the July election.

The party says it would replace the "worst-performing" degrees that it considers a "rip-off" because of high drop-out rates and "poor" job prospects, reported the BBC.

Labour criticised the government over a decline in the number of new apprentices.

It said it would prioritise "gearing" apprenticeships towards young people.

The Liberal Democrats said the government had treated apprentices like "second-class workers".

The Conservatives said former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair's ambition to get half of young people going to university had "led to low-value degrees ballooning".

General Election #6 Tories 'cut gap with Labour to 12 points'

Labour's lead over the Tories has reportedly slipped to just 12 points, as Rishi Sunak makes a shock recovery from his gaffe-ridden opening week.

Sir Keir Starmer's party is on 40%, while the Tories are on 28% - up two points since the start of May, reports the Daily Mail.

Labour's lead has slipped from 18 points in April and 15 points in early May, according to the polling by J.L. Partners carried out on Friday and Saturday.

The pollster said the main reason behind the tightening of the polls was a shift among over-65s, with the Conservatives going from a 10-point lead over Labour to a 20-point lead in the age group.

Fewer Tory voters - 23% - also now say they would consider voting for Nigel Farage's Reform UK - down 10 points since early May.

However, a new YouGov poll this morning showed Labour's lead over the Tories had grown to 27%. The survey, published in the Sun newspaper, found 47% of Brits are backing Labour, while just 20% support the Tories and 12% are vying for Reform.

Tuesday, May 28

General Election #5 Wes Streeting hits Gloucester's doorsteps

Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Wes Streeting joined Labour's prospective MP for Gloucester, Alex McIntyre, in a visit to the city on Sunday.

With Gloucester being already earmarked as a bellwether seat and vulnerable to political change, Mr Streeting is the first opposition MP to arrive in what will inevitably be a long line.

Addressing a crowd of supporters at The Priory, Mr Streeting said the election date had been called because the Prime Minister is "weak" and had "no faith in his own plan".

He told supporters: "We need to see great working-class candidates like Alex elected in seats like Gloucester, and with your help, we can do it. We don't want to wake up the day after the election to another another five years of the Tories."

The campaign event, which saw Mr Streeting and Mr McIntyre knocking on doors in the Grange area of the city, sought to highlight Labour's promise to bring change and stability to Gloucester.

Alex McIntyre said: "I am delighted to welcome hopefully the next Health Secretary to Gloucester. I have spoken to thousands of residents and accessing the NHS treatment they need is one of the biggest concerns families in Gloucester have right now.

"That's why I have made it one of my top priorities if elected to cut NHS waiting lists at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital and ensure that everyone in Gloucester can see their GP and NHS dentist when they need to."

General Election #4 Tom Kerridge turns up the political heat

Gloucester-raised celebrity chef Tom Kerridge has added his name to a letter published by the Times newspaper today which is being seen as a major boost to Sir Keir Starmer's business vision.

The letter also landed with today's morning paper just as Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves prepared to make a speech mapping out how she would oversee the Treasury commence a new drive for growth.

In all, 120 leaders and investor in business and industry have endorsed Labour's plans in the letter, which calls for a "new outlook" so the UK can "break free" from a decade of economic stagnation.

Mr Kerridge was raised in Gloucester and went to Saintbridge Secondary School before attending Gloucestershire College before beginning his culinary career as a commis chef in the kitchens of Tetbury's Calcot Manor.

His first business venture with the opening of a pub, the Hand in Flowers, in Berkshire in 2005, saw the award of a Michelin Star with just one year.

Along with calls for more support for apprenticeships, Mr Kerridge has been a vocal advocate of social change, not least through his partnership with footballer Marcus Rashford in a campaign for free school meals to be extended outside term dates.

Mr Kerridge's support for giving Labour "a chance" sees him join the ranks of past and present executives from JD Sports, Iceland, JP Morgan, Heathrow, Aston Martin, advertising giant WPP and Sir Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia as joint signatories.

The letter said: "The UK has the potential to be one of the strongest economies in the world. A lack of political stability and the absence of consistent economic strategy have held it back. The country has been denied the skills and infrastructure it needs to flourish."

The only route back to sustained productivity and growth would be by partnering fiscal discipline with a long-term growth strategy, "working in partnership with the private sector to drive innovation and investment to build digital and physical capital and fix our skills system", the collective letter added.

Friday, May 24

General Election #3 - Stroud Greens welcome general election

The Green Party in Stroud has welcomed the announcement of the general election.

Adrian Oldman, co-coordinator of Stroud District Green Party, said: "The Green Party is confident of winning more seats in Parliament and is ready to fight for seats here in Stroud and North Cotswolds, where we have strong, committed candidates in Pete Kennedy and Chloe Turner."

Pete Kennedy, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Stroud, said: "There has been a huge political shift across Stroud in recent years, and I'm campaigning to be Stroud's Green voice in Parliament.

"Just three weeks ago, the Green Party won the most votes in the Stroud District Council election and became the largest party on the council. People have seen that they don't just have to choose between Labour or Conservative - and that voting Green will make a difference."

General Election #2 - Election is 'make or break' for the countryside

The CPRE is calling on all political parties to consider the countryside in their policies.

Elli Moody, CPRE director of policy, campaigns and communications, said: "We call on all political parties to recognise the value of the countryside and the role it can play in tackling the challenges that face our country and our planet.

"The next government will be faced with era-defining decisions on housing, environmental protections and energy supply. These will have big impacts on rural communities and our finite supply of land. We urge all political parties to think about the future while tackling the priorities of today.

"Decisive action is required to protect our green spaces, at the same time as delivering the genuinely affordable housing people are crying out for up and down the country.

"The climate emergency is the biggest threat to the countryside. We need a long-term, cross-departmental vision for how we manage and use land across England and a planning system with local communities at its heart."

General Election #1 - Lib Dem is challenger to Conservatives in Gloucester

Liberal Democrat councillor Rebecca Trimnell is the main challenger to the Conservatives in Gloucester at the general election.

With the Lib Dems now running Gloucester City Council, the party is best placed to beat the Conservative incumbent MP on July 4.

Cllr Trimnell, who represents Westgate on the city council, is the newly appointed cabinet member for community engagement.

Cllr Trimnell, who has lived in Gloucester for many years, will be campaigning for action to tackle the cost of living crisis, the NHS crisis and the sewage scandal.She said: "Every vote for the Liberal Democrats is a vote for a fair deal. It's a vote for a party that will stand up for our community and our health services."

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