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Boris Johnson has warned Donald Trump against any attempt to target Iranian cultural sites – with the PM’s official spokesperson citing “international conventions” that prevent destruction of heritage.

It comes as Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) decided the rules for electing Jeremy Corbyn’s successor, and confirmed a new leader will be announced after a three-month long contest on 4 April.

Meanwhile Labour MP Angela Rayner, launching her own bid for the party’s deputy leadership, has said she is backing Rebecca Long Bailey for the leadership if her “friend” decides to join the contest.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of events at Westminster, as Boris Johnson assembles ministers to discuss the Iran crisis and top Labour figures meet to decide the rules of the leadership contest.
PM says ‘we will not lament’ Soleimani death
 
Boris Johnson broke his silence on the US killing of Iran’s top military general, calling for Tehran to end threats of “retaliation or reprisals”.
 
Following growing criticism of his failure to comment – as he continued his holiday on the private island of Mustique – the PM spoke to Donald Trump and EU leaders on his return to London.
 
In a brief statement, Johnson said the UK “will not lament” the death of Qasem Soleimani, blaming him for “the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians and western personnel”.
 
He added: “It is clear, however, that all calls for retaliation or reprisals will simply lead to more violence in the region, and they are in no one’s interest.”
 

Boris Johnson finally breaks silence on Iran crisis after returning from holiday

PM demands Tehran end its threats of 'retaliation or reprisals'
UK soldiers at risk from reprisal attacks on US
 
British troops could “possibly” be killed in retaliation attacks on US soldiers, according to retired army officer Sir Simon Vincent Mayall.
 
The lieutenant general told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the allies were “joined at the hip” in Iraq and that casualties could be shared if Iran strikes back following the US decision to kill Qasem Soleimani.
 
The Ministry of Defence adviser said: “I don’t think the British are any more vulnerable than the Americans in this case – we are joined at the hip in this.
 
“But the Iranians are quite right. Because we’re so closely joined in this, any attack on American assets will inevitably, possibly lead to British casualties as well.”
 
Sir Simon said he expected British diplomats would be talking to their American counterparts on an “hourly basis” to discuss attempts to de-escalate tensions.
 
In a swipe at Donald Trump’s approach to the crisis, he said: “I think they will be encouraging officials to remind the President all the time that the best way to go forward is with allies and friends and to try and stop this escalatory talk over the Twittersphere.”
 
It comes as a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s international wing Quds Force told The Times UK soldiers could be “collateral damage” in reprisal attacks on US targets.
 
Funeral procession for Qasem Soleimani in Tehran (Reuters)
 
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PM to discuss Iran crisis with ministers – and allies
 
Boris Johnson is to assemble key ministers to discuss the spiralling Iran crisis after the US’s assassination of Iran’s top military leader.
 
The PM is also likely to continue high-stakes diplomatic discussions with world leaders on Monday over the Donald Trump-ordered drone strike on Qasem Soleimani.
 
Johnson said he will be speaking to Iraq “to support peace and stability” after its parliament called for the expulsion of foreign troops, including British soldiers working against Isis.
 
The PM spoke to French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel after arriving back in the UK on Sunday morning from his Caribbean holiday amid criticism he was “sunning himself” while the crisis unfolded.
 
The three leaders released a statement late on Sunday night saying while Iran must stand condemned for the negative role it has played in the region, “there is now an urgent need for de-escalation”.
 
“We call on all parties to exercise utmost restraint and responsibility. The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped,” the joint statement said.
 
Boris Johnson with British troops in Estonia (EPA)
 
Husband of Iran-detainee asks for meeting with PM
 
Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of Iran-detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has confirmed he has requested a meeting with Boris Johnson following the escalation of tension between Iran and the West.
 
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that his wife’s situation has become “desperate” and that the family was “really worried” for her.
 
Ratcliffe said: “Part of our campaigning has always been to call on Iran to uphold international law and to respect UN rulings in Nazanin’s case and that gets a bit harder when international law is played fast and loose with by other parties.
 
“We have always been a chess piece in this game and this chess game has just changed radically.
 
“This is not a case where you can stand on the sidelines and just wait quietly. I think there needs to be a real clear clarity of priorities and I think we are asking to meet with Boris Johnson, with us and the other families (of British Iranian prisoners), as soon as possible to give that reassurance.”
 
NEC meeting to decide on Labour leadership contest rules
 
Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meets today to decide on the timetable for electing Jeremy Corbyn’s successor, who can have a vote and how much they should pay to do so.
 
Some fear the Corbyn backers who still dominate the committee will try to prevent a deluge of “moderates” from signing up to vote. Current rules would give potential new recruits two more weeks to join – but the deadline could be made much shorter.
 
Little is certain. A narrow window of time could benefit Sir Keir Starmer, since polling suggests he has most support from the current pro-EU membership.
 
One Labour figure told The Telegraph those keen to pass the flame of Corbynism are divided over whether to back Rebecca Long Bailey or Ian Lavery, the party’s chairman.
 
“If they go for Ian they may well need a longer leadership contest so people get to know who he is. They are all over the place.”
 
Long Bailey, who has yet to say whether she’s standing, has been fairly quiet since the party’s election defeat. It might be in her interests to keep quiet a little bit longer.
 
She is entitled to attend today’s NEC meeting, but one Labour figure said Long Bailey would be “daft” to turn up and viewed as helping “fix” the contest.
 

Corbyn ally Long Bailey yet to enter leadership race as party set to clash over rules

NEC will decide timetable for electing Jeremy Corbyn’s successor, and who can have a vote
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Watson ‘worries’ about Long Bailey as continuity figure
 
Labour’s former deputy leader Tom Watson said he worries about shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey replacing Jeremy Corbyn as party leader, describing her as the “continuity candidate”.
 
Asked to name his least favourite candidate in the race, the ex-MP told Sky News: “The one that I worry about – but I don’t know what she stands for – I mean, when I look at Rebecca Long Bailey, she’s really the continuity candidate.
 
“She sort of stands for Corbynism in its purest sense and that’s perfectly legitimate but we have lost two elections with that play.
 
“But she hasn’t said anything yet; as far as I know she has not formally announced and it might be that she chimes a different note in her opening bid and that she wants to take the party in a different direction and she’s very candid about what went wrong.”
 
HS2 ‘has to be delivered’, says Midlands transport chief
 
The controversial trail project HS2 should be built in its “entirety”, according to the director of Midland Connect, a body that lobbies for improvements in transport on behalf of Midlands councils and businesses.
 
Maria Machancoses told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the benefits of the high-speed rail link had been “hugely under-estimated” by critics who want to see the project scrapped.
 
She said Birmingham had seen a “huge transformation on the back of the announcement that HS2 is coming to the city”.
 
“HS2 needs to be delivered in its entirety," said the transport expert. “HS2 is not just about connecting the Midlands to London. It is about connecting the Midlands to the North and it will, actually - most importantly - deliver the released capacity we so desperately need in our local railway networks. It is a national priority, it has to be delivered.”
 
But Lord Tony Berkeley, HS2 critic and former deputy chairman of the review into the high-speed route, said local improvements should be prioritised above HS2.
 
The Labour peer has released a report saying MPs were “misled” over the £55 billion infrastructure price tag, claiming that costs are set to rise to almost double that figure.
 
Speaking to the BBC, Lord Berkeley said: “All the benefits we have heard about I believe could be achieved by a massive improvement to the existing lines in the travel-to-work areas around Birmingham and Stafford.
 
“The problem is, if you spend £107 billion on HS2, you probably need to spend another £50 billion to improve all the commuter lines into and around Birmingham so that you can get the full economic benefit.”
Tory minister tells all involved in crisis to ‘cool it’
 
The minister for the Middle East Andrew Murrison has called on all the players involved in the Iran crisis to “cool it” before it “gets worse”.
 
He told Sky News: “I think the Americans are trying to make sure this doesn’t escalate in the sense of Iran taking measures which are disproportionate and which may cause, inevitably, this thing to go on and on and get worse.
 
“The problem with this is there is a risk of miscalculation and reaching a point which is very difficult to reverse.
 
“So I would urge all concerned to cool it and that has been the consistent refrain of the UK government trying to dial down the temperature on this and urge de-escalation."
 
He also dismissed suggestions that Britain’s response had been “sluggish”, saying: “We’ve been very clear in our approach to the situation in the Gulf and consistent in that.
 
“We have been supportive of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) and have with others – particularly France and Germany - been doing everything in our power to get this process back on track.”
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Jess Phillips rows back comments on rejoining EU
 
Labour leadership candidate Jess Phillips has backtracked on her suggestion the party could campaign to rejoin the EU if she succeeded Jeremy Corbyn.
 
The Birmingham MP told The Andrew Marr Show that “if our country is safer, if it is more economically viable to be in the European Union, then I will fight for that regardless of how difficult that argument is to make.”
 
But writing exclusively for The Independent Phillips said: “People are asking me if I’ll lead the campaign to rejoin the EU. We haven’t even left yet!”
 
The hopeful also said she could not see “a campaign to rejoin winning support in the next Labour manifesto”.
 
All the details here:
 

Jess Phillips rows back on pledge to campaign to rejoin EU if she succeeds Jeremy Corbyn

'I can’t see a campaign to rejoin winning support in the next Labour manifesto,' says leadership hopeful
Brexiteers want to throw Parliament Square party on 31 January
 
Nigel Farage wants to throw a £100,000 Brexit “celebration” party with fireworks, bands and speakers to mark our expected exit from the EU on 31 January.
 
A comedian called Dominic Frisby (no, haven’t heard of him either) will perform alongside all those many other talented “Brexit artists” at the planned event in Parliament Square.
 
Farage told The Telegraph the whole shebang will be an “upbeat, optimistic, genuine celebration with no direct political edge whatsoever”. Not sure how the most divisive political issue in decades can have “no direct political edge”, but there you go.
 
Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice also promised it would be very, very nice and very, very cheap. “If there is a ticket price we want it to be extraordinarily affordable / almost zero,” he said.
 
Nigel Farage in Hartlepool (Reuters)
 
Labour’s general secretary now ‘cancer free’ following treatment
 
Jennie Formby, the general secretary of the Labour party, has shared the news she is “cancer free” on Twitter and thanked people for their support during her treatment.
 
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Alan Johnson dresses up in all-gold Pharaoh suit
 
In case you missed it, the former home secretary Alan Johnson dressed up as a snake-headed Pharaoh and sang a Bangles song on live television last night.
 
The ex-Labour MP Alan Johnson made an appearance on ITV’s 90-minute nightmare The Masked Singer.
 
When the former postie revealed his identity, it looked very much like Jonathan Ross had to shout “it’s Alan Johnson!” to confused fellow panellists Rita Ora and Ken Jeong.
 
Labour leadership: Who would benefit from changing contests ‘freeze date’?
 
As the NEC prepares to meet at midday today, here’s what we know about how the Labour leadership contest might work.
 
The party’s current rules would give potential new members at least two more weeks to sign up for the right to vote once the contest is officially launched this week.
 
The NEC could, however, decide to change the “freeze date” deadline for people to join, with some fearing a deliberate effort to stop too many new “moderates” from swaying the outcome.
 
Yet a narrow window could benefit Sir Keir Starmer, since polling suggests he has most support from the current pro-EU membership, and there has been speculation a longer timetable would allow staunch Corbyn backer Ian Lavery, the chairman, to build some momentum (no pun intended) if he decides to join the race.
 
The rules for “registered supporters” to take part will also be decided, allowing non-party members to sign up temporarily at a reduced cost to cast a vote.
 
In 2015, people were given two months to sign up for a small fee of £3 – but, a year later, the charge went up to £25 and they were given just two days by the Corbynites who dominated the NEC, who feared “moderate” entryism – only for Corbyn to win again.
 
Although she is entitled to attend, Rebecca Long Bailey is not expected to attend today’s meeting in case she is seen as influencing a contest she’s still expected to be standing in.
 
Who will replace current leader Jeremy Corbyn? (AFP)
 
Richard Ratcliffe demands meeting with Boris Johnson
 
More on the husband of Iran-detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe requesting an urgent meeting with Boris Johnson.
 
Richard Ratcliffe said he believes it is now an “appropriate time” for the prime minister to meet him to discuss his wife’s case. “This is not a case where you can stand on the sidelines and just wait quietly,” he said.
 
The PM’s handling of the case was widely criticised when he was the foreign secretary in 2017, after he mistakenly said she had been “teaching people journalism” in the country.
 
Although Johnson later apologised for his remark and said she had been there on holiday, his comment was cited as evidence against her in an Iranian court.
 

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband calls for meeting with Boris Johnson over ‘desperate’ situation in Iran

Husband of detainee says US airstrike has made campaign to release UK prisoners more difficult
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Angela Rayner: ‘I will be voting for my friend Rebecca Long-Bailey’
 
Labour MP Angela Rayner is launching her bid for the deputy leadership role in Stockport – and will confirm she’s backing Rebecca Long Bailey for the leadership if her “friend” and former flatmate runs.
 
“I believe this deputy leadership election is our chance to debate what went wrong, and that a core role of the next deputy leader will be to put it right,” she is set to tell party members and supporters. “It is why I want the leadership of our party to be a team effort.
 
“I will be quite straightforward: I will be voting for my friend Rebecca Long-Bailey if she stands for the leadership.
 
“But our collective leadership must go far wider than simply who is elected to these positions. It is why I want us to have an honest, but friendly, conversation with each other. And at the end of it, a united party that starts winning elections for us all.”
 
Angela Rayner, bidding to be Labour's deputy leader (Getty)
 
No 10 warns Trump against strikes on Iranian cultural targets
 
Boris Johnson is meeting foreign secretary Dominic Raab, defence secretary Ben Wallace and senior officials including the cabinet secretary at Downing Street to discuss the situation in Iran, writes our political editor Andrew Woodcock.
 
Johnson will also speak by phone today with his Iraqi counterpart Adil abd al-Mahdi, the prime minister’s official spokesman has confirmed.
 
Following the non-binding vote of the Iraqi parliament for the removal of US troops, Johnson is expected to press for coalition forces – including the UK – to be allowed to remain in the country to continue operations against the Islamic State terror group.
 
“We urge the Iraqi government to ensure that the coalition is able to continue its vital work countering this shared threat,” said the spokesman.
 
Asked whether Johnson backed Donald Trump’s threat to target cultural sites in Iran, the spokesman said: “There are international conventions in place that prevent the destruction of cultural heritage.”
 
The National Security Council is due to meet to discuss Iran on Tuesday, when the Commons will be updated on the situation in a ministerial statement.
 
Dominic Raab arrives at No 10 for talks with PM (Getty)
 
Ian Lavery says NEC meeting ‘will not be five-minute job’
 
Labour chairman Ian Lavery said he expected the party’s NEC to come up with the “right solution” during its discussion on the leadership contest.
 
The possible contender said “we’ll see what happens” when asked whether he would stand to succeed Jeremy Corbyn.
 
Speaking to the media on his way to the meeting, he said: “We’ll be having thorough discussions. Let me tell you that this NEC will not be a five-minute job, it never is.
 
“Every letter and every proposal will be discussed and we’ll come up with the right solution, believe me.”
 
Ian Lavery arrives for Labour's NEC meeting (PA)
 
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Shadow minister does not expect major rule changes by NEC
 
Jon Trickett, shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, said he did not expect the leadership rules to be changed by the NEC.
 
The NEC member admitted he had not seen any new proposals when asked by journalists before entering Labour headquarters.
 
He said: “I imagine they’ll stay as they were. I imagine.”
 
Chief opposition whip Nick Brown, who attends the NEC but does not vote, said “no” when asked whether he feared a “stitch-up”.
 
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott and former deputy leader Dame Margaret Beckett both arrived for the midday meeting without giving any comment.
 
Jon Trickett arrives for NEC meeting (PA)
 
No 10: Iran announcement on nuclear deal ‘concerning’
 
More from that No 10 briefing this lunchtime. Boris Johnson’s spokesman said Iran’s announcement that it will abandon the limits in the unravelling nuclear deal on fuel enrichment, its uranium stockpile and research activities was “extremely concerning”.
 
“It’s in everyone's interest that the deal remains in place,” the PM’s spokesman said. “It makes the world safer by taking the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran firmly off the table.
 
“We’ve always said the nuclear deal is a reciprocal deal and in light of Iran’s announcement we are urgently speaking to partners about next steps.”
 
He confirmed Downing Street has urged the Iraqi government to allow foreign troops to remain in the country to fight against the threat posed by IS.
 
“The coalition is in Iraq to protect Iraqis and others from the threat from Daesh at the request of the Iraqi government,” he said. “We urge the Iraqi government to ensure the coalition is able to continue our vital work countering this shared threat.
 
“The foreign secretary spoke to the Iraqi president and prime minister this weekend.
 
“The prime minister is speaking with his Iraqi counterpart today and our ambassador in Baghdad is in touch with political leaders in Iraq to emphasise these points and urge them to ensure we can keep fighting this threat together.”

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