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Moderate McGrath wins Kentucky Democratic Senate primary, media reports say

(Reuters) – Former fighter pilot Amy McGrath, an establishment-backed Kentucky Democrat, on Tuesday won the nomination to take on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November, NBC News and Politico projected on Tuesday, citing preliminary results.

McGrath, 45, looked to have held off a late surge from fellow Democrat Charles Booker, an African-American state legislator, who won backing from progressive leaders and gained on McGrath late in the campaign, as protests spread across the United States over police violence against Black people.

According to Kentucky state officials, McGrath was leading Booker with 44% to 43.5% of the vote with 107 of 120 counties reporting results.

Later on Tuesday, Kentucky officials were expected to declare the winner in this closely watched race, in which McConnell, the most powerful Republican in Congress, is seeking a seventh six-year term.

Early in her campaign, McGrath won the backing of the Democratic Party’s establishment, having been endorsed by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and raised a massive $41 million in campaign funds.

Emphasizing her military experience, McGrath stressed in campaign ads that she was the “only candidate who can win” against McConnell, who has represented Kentucky in the Senate for over three decades.

McGrath follows in the mold of a handful of freshmen Democratic women with experience in national security fields who helped flip Republican U.S. House of Representatives seats in 2018, from former military pilots to CIA and Pentagon analysts.

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Biden to attack Trump's handling of COVID-19 as U.S. cases rise

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday will launch a fresh attack on President Donald Trump’s “historic mismanagement” of the coronavirus pandemic as the number of confirmed cases in many states rises.

Speaking at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT) in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, the former vice president will argue that earlier action by Trump would have reduced the number who fell ill and the economic impact of the virus, said an aide who previewed his speech and who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Biden will accuse Trump of “outright ignoring the crisis” as cases rise again, the aide said.

“Biden will walk through the timeline of Trump’s inaction and failures, and highlight the common-sense actions that Trump refused to take to get the virus under control,” the aide said.

At least 2.6 million cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the United States and more than 126,000 deaths, more cases and fatalities than any other country, according to a Reuters tally.

Trump and his allies say the toll of the virus could have been larger without travel bans he put in place for visitors from China, and later from Europe.

They have argued the increasing confirmed cases in recent weeks are largely attributable to more testing, although the rate of positive tests has also been rising.

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Trump campaign spokeswoman Courtney Parella said Biden was “fearmongering and rooting against America’s success” while Trump led a public and private-sector mobilization that had slowed the spread of the virus.

The Republican president is trailing Biden in polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election amid the pandemic’s health and economic crises, and nationwide protests against police brutality.

A June 22-23 Reuters/Ipsos poll found that only 37% of Americans approved of the way Trump has responded to the pandemic, the lowest since the pandemic began.

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Singapore GE2020: MBS and JW Marriott South Beach to be special polling stations for voters serving stay-home notice at the hotels

SINGAPORE – Marina Bay Sands and JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach have been designated as special polling stations for voters serving their stay-home notice in those hotels.

According to a government e-gazette notice on Tuesday (June 30), these stations will be established for the July 10 polls under the Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Act.

The act, meant to allow Singapore to safely hold an election amid the coronavirus pandemic, lets voters serving their 14-day stay-home notice at designated facilities like hotels vote outside their electoral divisions, since they are unable to leave the premises at which they are staying.

There will be four stations at Marina Bay Sands, spanning two different towers with each station covering more than 20 levels, and one at JW Marriott. They will be open from 8am to 8pm on polling day.

The Elections Department (ELD) announced earlier this month that voters across the island will be allotted recommended time bands to visit polling stations in order to reduce crowding in the upcoming election.

For those serving the stay-home notice at home, it will make arrangements for them to vote “while minimising exposure to other voters, candidates and election officials”.

The ELD said more details would be available Wednesday.

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Singapore GE2020: Key election battles in East and West Coast, Aljunied and Sengkang GRCs

SINGAPORE – There were no horns, party umbrellas or whistles on Nomination Day owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the battle for Singapore’s 17 group representation constituencies (GRCs) served up some twists and 11th-hour surprises on June 30 as candidates from the 11 political parties headed into the nine centres around the island.

While the line-ups went largely to plan, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) chose to beef up its teams with two big moves in hotly-contested constituencies in the east and west.

All 17 GRCs will be contested this time, with all but one seeing straight fights on Polling Day. Many of the constituencies have retained their anchor ministers from the PAP, but three of the hottest battlegrounds in East Coast, West Coast and Sengkang will see new ministers at the helm.

DPM HENG MOVES TO EAST COAST

The biggest surprise came in the East Coast GRC, as Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who has been Tampines GRC MP since 2011, moved there to lead the team in what has been tipped to be the toughest fight in this election.

The PAP team comprising Mr Maliki Osman, Mr Tan Kiat How, Ms Cheryl Chan and Ms Jessica Tan had arrived earlier in the day at St Anthony’s Canossian Primary School nomination centre without a fifth member, as veteran Lim Swee Say has retired from politics, leaving the constituency without an anchor minister.

Mr Heng was spotted at the centre only at around 11.30am, half an hour before nominations closed, before his candidature was confirmed.

In his speech to voters on Tuesday (June 30), he said: “Covid-19 has plunged the world into a period of profound uncertainty with a major crisis on many fronts – healthcare, economic, social, and geopolitical. The People’s Action Party has a plan to enable us to overcome this crisis, has a plan to emerge stronger from this.”

He added in a Facebook post: “We cannot afford a gap in East Coast in these uncertain times. We need a full team that can take care of the residents and position them to come out of this crisis stronger than before.”

They will face the Workers’ Party (WP) team comprising Mr Kenneth Foo Seck Guan, 42; Mr Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, 54; Mr Terence Tan, 48; Mr Dylan Ng, 44; and Ms Nicole Seah, 33.

WP has contested in East Coast in the last three elections and chief Pritam Singh, who is standing in Aljunied, said that Mr Heng’s move was “an important signal that they (PAP) take our challenge in East Coast very seriously”.

“I would say we take their challenge equally seriously and that’s why we’ve put together a strong slate of candidates in the East Coast team,” he added.

PAP’s Tampines GRC line-up was confirmed without Mr Heng, and Dr Koh Poh Koon, the incumbent MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, will be joining the team consisting of Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Baey Yam Keng, and Ms Cheng Li Hui.

LEE JOURNEYS TO THE WEST

Another minister who made a big move on Tuesday was Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, the incumbent MP for Jurong GRC, who has joined the West Coast GRC team comprising Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, Ms Foo Mee Har, Mr Ang Wei Neng – who also moved from Jurong GRC – and new face Rachel Ong.

The hotly-contested West Coast will see the two ministers and their colleagues going up against the Progressive Singapore Party’s (PSP) “A team” headed by its 80-year-old chief Tan Cheng Bock. The team includes PSP assistant secretary-general Leong Mun Wai, 60, and vice-chairman Hazel Poa, 50, a former secretary-general of the National Solidarity Party.

The other members are Mr Jeffrey Khoo Poh Tiong, 51, Asia-Pacific chief marketing officer of global insurance and reinsurance broker Ed; and Mr Nadarajah Loganathan, 57, a retired senior Singapore Armed Forces officer and co-founder of a skills training firm.

The contest in West Coast will also see former parliamentary colleagues Mr Iswaran and Dr Tan facing off in a constituency that the former has served in since 1997. The latter is back on familiar stomping ground as he was the PAP’s MP for Ayer Rajah from 1980 to 2006 before it was merged with West Coast.

Mr Iswaran said in his speech: “We, as the team, have worked through the years to look after your needs, and care for you. Vote for us, your PAP team, so that we can continue to work together to protect our lives, our jobs, and our future.”

Dr Tan said he would not question why the PAP had moved Mr Lee to West Coast, adding: “In politics, it’s that way… But if they say I must be somebody quite good, quite strong, so they are trying to put all their heavyweights come to West Coast, well, that’s good.”

NO ‘SUICIDE SQUAD’ IN ALJUNIED

The site of a historic opposition victory by the WP in 2011, Aljunied is set to be the scene for another fierce battle as WP has fielded its strongest slate of chief Pritam Singh, party chairman Sylvia Lim, incumbent MP Faisal Manap, Non-Constituency MP Leon Perera and Gerald Giam. They will face rival PAP candidates Victor Lye, Chua Eng Leong, Shamsul Kamar, Alex Yeo and Chan Hui Yuh.

After a near-loss in 2015, where WP captured 50.95 per cent of the votes, the party is missing stalwart Low Thia Khiang and Chen Show Mao as both are stepping down.

It remains to be seen if WP’s popularity will be hit by its legal troubles, as the High Court last October found that Mr Singh, Ms Lim and Mr Low had breached their duties to Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, which was said to have made millions in improper payments under their watch. The trio have appealed against the ruling.

Mr Singh said: “It’s going to be a difficult election. There have been some commentaries in the media about the real risk of a wipeout.

“It took us 16 years (after independence) before one seat fell to opposition in 1981, and it took 23 years after the enactment of the GRC system for an opposition to break through in one GRC.

“It’s an uphill battle and it’s going to be a difficult fight. But we have to put people who are committed who can do the whole stretch.”

While some commentators have called the PAP team a “suicide squad”, Mr Lim Boon Heng, a former MP who is now an adviser for the GRC, disagreed. He said: “If it was a suicide squad, how did (the PAP team) pull off a marginal loss (in 2015)? It is about whether you have the heart to serve people.”

NEW GROUND, NEW BATTLE

The newly-formed Sengkang GRC is the scene for the fight between a PAP team led by labour chief Ng Chee Meng and WP’s He Ting Ru. The constituency combines Sengkang Central ward from Pasir Ris-Punggol with Punggol East SMC and part of Sengkang West SMC, and covers the Anchorvale, Compassvale and Rivervale neighbourhoods.

The PAP team consists of former Pasir Ris-Punggol MP Ng, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and Health Amrin Amin, and new face Raymond Lye, who is a lawyer.

They will come up against rival WP candidates He, economist Jamus Lim, 44, equity research analyst Louis Chua, 33, and social activist Raeesah Khan, 26. Aside from Ms He, the other three are newcomers taking part in their first election.

In his thank you speech to supporters, Mr Ng said: “We humbly ask for your support so that we, the PAP, can lead the country out of this crisis. Not just for ourselves, but for our children, our grandchildren. We want to ensure that every Singaporean has a good job, and can look forward to better jobs for the future.”

“We want to walk with you, we want to engage you, so we can hear you and build a Sengkang town that is the most liveable place for all of us.”

Mr Amrin added that “this time of crisis is not a time for experiment(ing)” as he noted that the PAP “have a good track record, and we have been on the ground”.

Dr Lim, an associate professor of economics, said the WP would be sharing with residents the party’s aspirations and vision for a “thriving, happy and inclusive society in Sengkang”. He said: “We have listened as you shared with us your stories, your fears and concerns, and your dreams and hopes. This in turn has informed our ideas, plans and policies.”

Both Punggol East and Sengkang West were contested by the opposition in previous elections, with the PAP’s Charles Chong winning the former by a slim margin of 51.76 per cent in 2015 against WP’s Lee Li Lian.

OTHERS TO WATCH

The Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC will be the stage for the first multi-cornered election fight in a GRC since 1992, with the PAP, Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and Peoples Voice to contest the five-member ward.

Some pundits had expected a head-to-head tussle between PAP and the SD, but Peoples Voice threw its hat into the ring with candidates Jireh Lim Kay Cheow, Prabu Ramachandran, Mohamed Nassir Ismail, Gilbert Goh Keow Wah and Vigneswari V. Ramachandran.

The PAP team will comprise Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, 65; Senior Minister of State for Transport and Communications and Information Janil Puthucheary, 47; and newcomers Mohamed Sharael Taha, 39; Yeo Wan Ling, 44; and Desmond Tan Kok Ming, 50.

The SDA team features Mr Desmond Lim Bak Chuan, 53; Mr Harminder Pal Singh, 48; Mr Abu Mohamed, 69; operations manager Kelvin Ong, 34; and electrical engineer Kuswadi Atnawi, 57.

For only the second time in Singapore’s election history, Tanjong Pagar GRC will see a contest as the PAP team led by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing goes up against the PSP slate helmed by its organising secretary Michael Chua.

Mr Chan will be joined by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Indranee Rajah, 57; Ms Joan Pereira, 53; and two first-timers – Mr Alvin Tan, 40, LinkedIn’s Asia-Pacific head of public policy and economics; and former public servant Eric Chua, 41.

The PSP team is led by Mr Chua, 55, who runs a private firm in the environmental sector, and includes lawyer Wendy Low, 43; technologist Harish Pillay, 60; senior trainer Abas Kasmani, 67; and new face Terence Soon, 29, a Singapore Airlines pilot.

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Singapore GE2020: 'Significant opposition presence' in Parliament regardless of election outcome, says PM Lee

SINGAPORE – A “significant opposition presence” is guaranteed in Parliament, regardless of what happens in the general election, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday (June 30).

In a virtual press conference, he noted that the expanded Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) scheme now guarantees there will be 12 opposition members in Parliament, even in the event that the PAP wins all the seats.

“NCMPs do have full voting rights, exactly the same as elected MPs. They can vote on budgets, they can vote on constitutional amendments, they can even vote on motions of confidence,” he said.

“So whatever happens, a significant opposition presence is guaranteed. There is no possibility of the opposition being shut out from Parliament.”

Given this, said Mr Lee, Singaporeans should not vote for “compromise candidates” that would weaken the national team.

They should scrutinise the candidates and parties carefully, vote for the candidate or GRC team whom they think can do the best job for them in their constituency, and whose party will serve Singapore best if elected, he added.

In response to a question, he acknowledged that opposition parties would nonetheless want to try “very hard” to win elected seats and not just have “high, good, losing results” in all the constituencies. 

“But as far as the Constitution is concerned, as far as Parliament’s operations are concerned, there is no difference between NCMPs and elected MPs in terms of their rights and privileges,” he said.

“They are the same, and we expect the (NCMPs) to participate as actively as elected MPs,” he said, adding  that the Workers’ Party NCMPs have been especially active in Parliament, even at the risk of overshadowing the elected MPs at times. 

In his opening remarks at the press conference, Mr Lee stressed the high stakes of this election, pointing out that Singapore needs to have the best team to see the country through the Covid-19 crisis.

“Vote for the party with the experience and the commitment, and the ideas to take us home,” he said, reiterating the key theme of the PAPs manifesto – lives, jobs, and the future.

“Everything depends on which government you choose and the mandate that you give it.”


PHOTO: PEOPLE’S ACTION PARTY

The PAP, he said, expects a tough fight because of the pain and uncertainty felt by people due to the pandemic.

Mr Lee added that the opposition party deployments – including to hot seats such as the East Coast and West Coast GRCs – did not come as a surprise.

“(The opposition parties) have been active for the last few months, and we have seen which constituencies they have been interested in, where they have been campaigning harder. And what they have done is generally in line with what the tea leaves have shown,” he said.

“We try to make an assessment of where our most important contests may be, and where we can best re-deploy our chess pieces – so that in every constituency, we have a team which fits the needs of that constituency, and would be able to give good service to its residents and put up a good fight in the campaign. That is the reason for all of our deployments.”

He added: “The opposition are well organised and prepared, and will not roll over… The PAP will have to fight for every vote and win every heart.”

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Singapore GE2020: Single seats to watch include Bukit Panjang and Marymount

SINGAPORE – The 14 single-member constituencies (SMCs) in the coming general election will see a mix of fresh faces and experienced hands fighting for votes.

At Marymount SMC, which was carved out of the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, People’s Action Party (PAP) new face Gan Siow Huang was a surprise choice as earlier talk had been that incumbent Bishan-Toa Payoh MP Chong Kee Hiong might stand there.

But Ms Gan, 46, Singapore’s first female brigadier-general, submitted papers on Tuesday (June 30), Nomination Day, instead. She will face Progress Singapore Party’s (PSP) Dr Ang Yong Guan, a retired army colonel.

Dr Ang, a 65-year-old psychiatrist, had contested as a member of the Singapore Democratic Party in the 2011 election. Three years later, he became a founding member and chairman of the Singaporeans First party, and was a candidate in the 2015 election.

He made his first appearance on the PSP Facebook page through a video released in April.

In a speech after nominations closed, Ms Gan, who is deputy chief executive of the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) Employment and Employability Institute, noted that Marymount may be a new SMC but many residents had lived there for a long time.

“We have built one of the best and most beautiful towns in Singapore. We have forged strong community bonds through the years. Vote for PAP, so that we can continue to serve you,” she said.

In his address, Dr Ang called on residents to vote for the PSP and to deny the PAP a two-third majority.

“Send 32 of us, PSP plus alternative parties, to get into Parliament. For country, for people, you deserve better,” he said.

When new electoral boundaries were announced earlier this year, Singapore saw an increase from 13 to 14 SMCs.

Four of them were new ones: Kebun Baru, Marymount, Punggol West and Yio Chu Kang.

At Yio Chu Kang SMC, which was part of Ang Mo Kio GRC, PAP’s Mr Yip Hong Weng is looking forward to a “good fight” against PSP’s Ms Kayla Low, a fellow 43-year-old newcomer.

Addressing the ward after nominations closed, Mr Yip, the former group chief of the Silver Generation Office at the Agency for Integrated Care, said: “I will listen to your cares, needs and concerns… I will work with you to build Yio Chu Kang into a place we can be proud, into a home we can happily raise our families.”

Ms Low, a chartered accountant, said she was committed to serving Singapore and Yio Chu Kang residents if elected, with the guidance of PSP founder and secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock.

All in, the PSP will be contesting five single seats, the SDP three, the Workers’ Party two and four other parties will be contesting one each.

The SDP slate includes chairman Paul Tambyah who, in a late tactical switch, was fielded in the Bukit Panjang single ward.

He will face the PAP’s Mr Liang Eng Hwa, who was from Holland-Bukit Timah GRC and replaces departing PAP MP Teo Ho Pin.

Professor Tambyah, 55, a professor of medicine at the National University of Singapore, had been widely expected to contest in the SDP’s team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC again.

After nominations closed, Dr Tambyah revealed that he had considered the move for “at least a few weeks”, and was ultimately convinced by the positive response he received on the ground during his walkabouts.

At the 2015 General Election, Mr Liang, a 56-year-old managing director at DBS bank, was part of the PAP team that defeated Dr Tambyah’s SDP side with a vote share of 66.6 per cent.

SDP’s secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, 57, is also gunning for an SMC, taking on PAP’s incumbent Murali Pillai in Bukit Batok in what looks set to be a fiery rematch of the 2016 by-election.

The two had contested for the ward after the departure of PAP’s Mr David Ong over allegations of an extramarital affair. Mr Pillai, a 52 year-old lawyer, won the seat with a share of 61.2 per cent.

Another SMC to watch is Punggol West, where Workers’ Party freshman Tan Chen Chen, 38, will face off against PAP’s Ms Sun Xueling, the incumbent at the ward hived off from Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC.

The 40-year-old Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs and National Development will be looking to win her second term.

Earlier, Peoples Voice (PV) leader Lim Tean had indicated its interest in taking on Punggol West, but the party did not field a candidate ultimately.

While three-cornered fights failed to materialise at Punggol West and Bukit Panjang, where perennial independent candidate Ooi Boon Ewe was spotted on Nomination Day, there will still be one multi-way SMC contest – at Pioneer.

PAP’s Mr Patrick Tay, 48, and PSP’s Mr Lim Cher Hong, 42, already had their names in the hat, while 65-year-old retired financial accountant Victor Ronnie Lai emerged as a possible independent candidate.

However, Mr Lai belatedly decided not to contest, and it was left to business consultant Cheang Peng Wah to become the sole independent candidate at this general election.

Mr Cheang, who declined to give his age, told reporters: “You see the fourth-generation ministers, I don’t think they are up to the mark yet. Why? Maybe because the opposition is not strong enough yet.

“They are not surrounded by wolves, lions or tigers. So with our help, we can help them get more steel within them to make Singapore better.”

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Singapore GE2020: PAP new face Yip Hon Weng takes on PSP newbie in Yio Chu Kang SMC

SINGAPORE – First-time candidates from the opposition Progress Singapore Party (PSP) and ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) will go head to head in Yio Chu Kang SMC.

A three-cornered fight was averted when the Reform Party (RP) did not field a candidate for the single seat, which has 26,005 voters.

The PAP candidate is Mr Yip Hon Weng, 43, the former group chief of the Silver Generation Office under the Agency for Integrated Care. The AIC serves seniors and their caregivers.

He is up against PSP’s Kayla Low, 43, a chartered accountant and former prisons officer. She also volunteers with low-income families and the elderly.

Speaking to reporters after nomination papers were filed on Tuesday (June 30) morning, Mr Yip said he will listen to residents’ cares, needs and concerns, and hopes to win their support.

He has been walking the ground in Yio Chu Kang ward for the past few months, he said, adding: “My next immediate priority is to meet up with everyone to see how best to improve the living environment in Yio Chu Kang, as well as to improve and build up the community spirit”

Ms Low’s priorities are to help the ward’s elderly residents, especially with their mental well-being, and to address issues of cleanliness.

Yio Chu Kang SMC was carved out of Ang Mo Kio GRC, which RP contested in the past two elections in 2011 and 2015.

The area has been in and out of the GRC. In 1991, it became part of Ang Mo Kio GRC, but was carved out in 2006. Then in 2011, it rejoined Ang Mo Kio GRC.

Since 2015, the PAP MP for the area has been Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon. He has now moved to join the PAP’s Tampines GRC team.

Mr Yip is not the first PAP new face to be fielded in an SMC. In 2015, then-PAP new face Cheryl Chan stood in Fengshan SMC and won the seat with 57.5 per cent of the votes, against Mr Dennis Tan of the Workers’ Party.

In this campaign, the PAP is fielding two first-timers in SMCs – Mr Yip and Ms Gan Siow Huang, 46, a former brigadier-general in the Republic of Singapore Air Force, who will stand in Marymount SMC.

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Brexit breakthrough: Farmers reassured by new protection in post-Brexit talks

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Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, said that free trade deals with nations such as the United States “must be fair and reciprocal”. Ms Truss, has repeatedly said that Britain will keep EU curbs on produce such as chlorinated chicken after leaving the EU.

She revealed the commission in an attempt to calm anxieties that national farms could be damaged by more affordable imports.

The advisory board will suggest policies to ensure that farmers “do not face unfair competition and that their high animal welfare and production standards are not undermined”, she said.

Farming, trade and food authorities are also expected to analyse consumer tendencies and how Britain can increase its agricultural exports.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has been asking for such a commission for 18 months.

The union celebrated the “concrete action” from the government “to address the challenges of safeguarding our high food and farming standards”.

The UK started official trade discussions with the US last month and with Japan three weeks ago, via video call meetings.

Negotiations with Australia and New Zealand are set to commence soon.

Senior Conservatives have voiced their concerns over the idea of agricultural import guidelines being relaxed under trade deals and more than a dozen backbenchers disputed in a parliamentary vote in May.

READ MORE: Coronavirus horror: Global cases surpass devastating new milestone

Theresa Villiers, the former environment secretary, said up to 50 Tory MPs were experiencing unease over the subject.

She said: “We have legislated to prevent the importation of chicken that has been washed in chlorine or other substances, and I very much hope that stays on statute book.

“But I would imagine there will be significant pressure from the US to lift that restriction because they have had a longstanding dispute with the EU as to justification of that as a restriction.”

Last week Waitrose said that any relapse from current guidelines would result in an “unacceptable backwards step”.

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It added that it would be “simply wrong” to import meat obtained under less strict guidelines than on British farms.

It referred to hormone-treated beef and the “extensive” use of antibiotics as consistent models of US farming standards “well below our own”.

Yesterday Ms Truss promised to “work constructively” with the British agricultural industry to create new export circumstances.

“I wholeheartedly agree that any trade deal the UK strikes must be fair and reciprocal to our farmers, and must not compromise on our high standards of food safety and animal welfare,” she stated in a letter to the NFU.

“I have been very clear on both these points and will continue to fight for the interests of our farming industry in any and all trade agreements we negotiate.”

The Trade and Agriculture Commission would be “strictly time-limited” and its suggestions “should be advisory only,” she added.

Minette Batters, president of the NFU, branded the move as a “hugely important development,” adding that she will certify the board’s work will be “genuinely valuable”.

But critics said the move was “actually unacceptable” and argued it would hinder the opportunities for post-Brexit trade talks.

Matt Kilcoyne, deputy director of Adam Smith Institute, a free market think tank, said: “This commission is a kick in the teeth for consumers and it is a conspiracy by a powerful few against the public good.”

The Trump administration insisted last year that it would aim to overthrow trade differences that “unfairly” stop American farmers from exporting to Britain.

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Singapore GE2020: Heng Swee Keat to helm East Coast GRC

SINGAPORE – Heng Swee Keat will be leading a five-man People’s Action Party team into the battle for East Coast GRC, which is being contested for the fourth time in electoral history.

He and his team will be up against the Workers’ Party (WP) team comprising Mr Dylan Ng, Mr Kenneth Foo, Mr Terence Tan, Mr Shariff Kassim and Ms Nicole Seah.

The other members of Mr Heng’s team are Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, three-term backbencher Jessica Tan and one-term Fengshan MP Cheryl Chan, whose single-seat constituency is now part of the GRC. New face Tan Kiat How, the former IMDA chief executive, is also part of the team.

Former anchor minister Lim Swee Say and three-term MP Lee Yi Shyan, who was Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development until he returned to the backbench in 2015, will be retiring from politics.

The role of anchor minister for this GRC had been widely watched and Mr Heng’s arrival at St Anthony’s Canossian Primary School late Tuesday morning (June 30) had surprised political watchers. He had been the anchor minister for neighbouring Tampines GRC and had been expected to remain there.

The school is the nomination centre for East Coast GRC, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, Sengkang GRC and Punggol West single seat.

Mr Dylan Ng, 44, who works in the finance industry and was previously fielded in the party’s team for Marine Parade GRC in 2015

Mr Kenneth Foo Seck Guan, 43, ran in Nee Soon GRC in 2015 and his team lost to the incumbent PAP, with 33.2 per cent of the vote.

Mr Terence Tan, a lawyer and director at the firm Robertson Chambers, turns 49 on Tuesday (Nomination Day). He contested Marine Parade GRC in 2015 and his team garnered 35.9 per cent of the vote.

Mr Abdul Shariff Aboo Kassim, 54, a former researcher and first-time candidate.

Ms Nicole Seah, 33, an associate director in a multinational marketing firm who has been volunteering with the WP since 2015. She was a National Solidarity Party candidate in the 2011 election.

In his post-nomination speech, Mr Heng thanked Tampines residents for their support over the years and East Coast residents for supporting his predecessor, Mr Lim Swee Say.

“Covid-19 has plunged the world into a period of profound uncertainty with a major crisis on many fronts – healthcare, economic, social, and geopolitical. The People’s Action Party has a plan to enable us to overcome this crisis, has a plan to emerge stronger from this. So I look forward to the support of all Singaporeans for the People’s Action Party.”

Ms Seah said the Workers Party has been working very hard on the ground for the last five years. “We will stand firm. We will remain courageous and we will always offer all of you, a vote for fairness, and balance,” she added.

Mr Tan added that it was a privilege to meet Mr Heng and his team in this election.

“Whoever is the victor, I always pray that Members of Parliament will work tirelessly for their residents.”

East Coast saw its first electoral battle in 2006, when a WP team led by lawyer Chia Ti Lik – then deputy organising secretary of the party – entered the fray. The PAP team, helmed by then Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar, sent their opponents packing. The WP’s vote share then was 36.1 per cent.

In 2011 – the year in which the PAP’s overall vote share fell from 66.6 per cent to 60.1 per cent – the WP mounted a fresh challenge. This time, it was up against a team led by then labour chief, Mr Lim. The PAP team won with 54.8 per cent of the vote. East Coast was the worst-performing GRC won by the party that year.

The next general election in 2015 saw a massive national swing towards the incumbent, which secured 69.9 per cent of the popular vote. In East Coast, the men in blue nevertheless garnered a 39.3 per cent vote share.

That year, Fengshan SMC was also carved out of East Coast and subsequently became the subject of a heated electoral contest between long-time PAP grassroots volunteer Cheryl Chan and the WP’s Dennis Tan, a shipping lawyer. Ms Chan won with 57.5 per cent of the vote.

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Politics

Singapore GE2020: Eleven parties likely to contest all 93 seats

Parliamentary hopefuls from 11 political parties will head to nine nomination centres today to register for the general election.

The upcoming polls have already thrown up some surprises, and political watchers said more drama might unfold during the nomination process this morning.

While the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) is likely to face a contest in all 93 seats, and perhaps even see three-cornered fights in a number of single-member constituencies, uncertainty remains as many parties – including the PAP itself – are keeping their cards close to the chest.

Nomination procedures are expected to play out sedately, with party supporters and members of the public not allowed to gather near nomination centres.

But never before have so many political parties contested a general election in Singapore’s history, opening up possibilities for tactical switches during today’s hour-long nomination process.

Unlike in the 2015 General Election, the PAP has not unveiled its full slate for every group representation constituency and SMC in advance of Nomination Day.

For instance, it remains to be seen which minister will helm the PAP team in East Coast GRC, where former Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say and former Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan are likely to step down.

The PAP is likely to see a keen fight against the Workers’ Party (WP) there, where it won with just 54.8 per cent of the vote in 2011.

West Coast GRC is another constituency to watch, as former PAP stalwart and now Progress Singapore Party (PSP) secretary-general Tan Cheng Bock will face off against Minister for Communications and Information and Minister-in-charge of Cyber Security S. Iswaran’s team.

The former PAP MP for Ayer Rajah, whose old constituency is now part of West Coast GRC, also intends to field a team in Tanjong Pagar GRC. But he has not revealed if his party wild card Lee Hsien Yang, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s brother, will stand in this election.

“The fact that he (Lee Hsien Yang) is now a member of the PSP means there’s always the possibility he might well decide to throw his name into the ring today,” said Dr Mustafa Izzuddin, an analyst with management consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore.

Many eyes will also be on Aljunied, the only opposition-held GRC, where the WP will be entering battle without its veteran and former leader Low Thia Khiang, who is retiring from politics.

In explaining its choice of Make Your Vote Count as the party’s slogan for GE2020, WP secretary-general Pritam Singh said on Sunday that there is a “real risk of wipeout” of elected opposition MPs in the coming election. The WP is fielding 21 candidates in this election, compared with 28 in GE2015.

CALL TO FOCUS ON BIG ISSUES

It’s about Singapore’s future at a very grave moment in our history, when we are facing the most serious crisis we have seen since independence – health, jobs and the future – and I think we should focus our attention on those big issues.

PRIME MINISTER LEE HSIEN LOONG, on what the general election is about. 

But PM Lee said the WP’s suggestion that the PAP could win all 93 seats in the next Parliament is unrealistic and an election tactic. “There are real problems on the ground which cause people concern, and we can feel it,” said PM Lee yesterday.

Asked about his estranged brother joining an opposition party, PM Lee said: “This GE is not about me or any family disputes which may involve my brother and me. It’s about Singapore’s future at a very grave moment in our history.”

The PAP’s slogan for this election is Our Lives, Our Jobs, Our Future, and PM Lee has said its manifesto addresses the key issues at the top of people’s minds.

Polling Day is July 10.

Dr Mustafa noted that the WP has adopted a defensive posture with its messaging and smaller slate this election, because it is undergoing party renewal and does not want to overstretch itself.

Its slogan and “wipeout” message are aimed squarely at Aljunied, where the party hopes “to be able to swing back some of the middle-ground voters who voted for the PAP in 2015”, he added.

“For both sides, the political messaging is quite clear,” he said. “The question now is which one the electorate accepts and agrees with.”

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