Ukip is an unexpected champion of scrapping the tampon tax. Image: The Period Blog at Wikimedia Commons.
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The campaign to end the "tampon tax" has found itself an unlikely ally in Ukip

"When we leave Europe, we'll be able to remove it, and rest assured we will."

Today, at 2pm, a petition with 198,000 signatories found its way to the Chancellor's desk at No 11, Downing Street. Its cause? To get rid of the luxury VAT tax applied to tampons and sanitary towels across Europe – or, in the words of the petition itself, "stop banning periods".

Support for the move has been widespread. Pieces calling for the tax to be axed have been shared hundreds of thousands of times, while others have unearthed the products that somehow don't fall into the HMRC's "luxury, non-essential" tax category, including flapjacks, exotic meats, bingo, and pitta bread. 

Previous calls for action from central government have fallen on deaf ears. In an interview with the Independent today,  the founder of the Change.org petition, Laura Coryton, suggested this may be because George Osborne is far more likely to eat exotic meats than use a tampon. But there's another reason too: under current EU rules, you cannot cut VAT to 0 per cent on any product which is currently taxed under it. 

This doesn't mean that rule couldn't change: Coryton's plan is to gain UK government support before taking the campaign to the other 27 EU member countries. But this furore around an EU-specific regulation hasn't escaped our favourite eurosceptics, Ukip. Last week, a briefing note was found in Nigel Farage's car that implied the party was in favour of banning the tampon tax, though he hasn't mentioned it in public yet. 

We spoke to the party's deputy chair of policy, Suzanne Evans, who told us:

I can safely say we are committed to getting rid of the tax. When we leave Europe, we'll be able to remove it, and rest assured we will." 

Other parties have been less decisive on the matter. When asked about the issue by a student earlier this month, David Cameron said it would be "very difficult to do but I'll have to go away and have a look and come back to you” (he hasn't). The Labour party hasn't made a statement on it. However, a campaign in 2000 to lower the tax rate on tampons and sanitary towels from 17.5 per cent to 5 per cent (the minimum under UK rules) was led by Labour MP Dawn Primarolo and passed by Gordon Brown, the chancellor at the time. 

Women may want to think twice before voting Ukip on this basis though – other policies include reducing or scrapping maternity pay, while one MEP said she would get rid of the Minister for Women and Equalities.

Barbara Speed is comment editor at the i, and was technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman, and a staff writer at CityMetric.

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Will Jeremy Corbyn stand down if Labour loses the general election?

Defeat at the polls might not be the end of Corbyn’s leadership.

The latest polls suggest that Labour is headed for heavy defeat in the June general election. Usually a general election loss would be the trigger for a leader to quit: Michael Foot, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband all stood down after their first defeat, although Neil Kinnock saw out two losses before resigning in 1992.

It’s possible, if unlikely, that Corbyn could become prime minister. If that prospect doesn’t materialise, however, the question is: will Corbyn follow the majority of his predecessors and resign, or will he hang on in office?

Will Corbyn stand down? The rules

There is no formal process for the parliamentary Labour party to oust its leader, as it discovered in the 2016 leadership challenge. Even after a majority of his MPs had voted no confidence in him, Corbyn stayed on, ultimately winning his second leadership contest after it was decided that the current leader should be automatically included on the ballot.

This year’s conference will vote on to reform the leadership selection process that would make it easier for a left-wing candidate to get on the ballot (nicknamed the “McDonnell amendment” by centrists): Corbyn could be waiting for this motion to pass before he resigns.

Will Corbyn stand down? The membership

Corbyn’s support in the membership is still strong. Without an equally compelling candidate to put before the party, Corbyn’s opponents in the PLP are unlikely to initiate another leadership battle they’re likely to lose.

That said, a general election loss could change that. Polling from March suggests that half of Labour members wanted Corbyn to stand down either immediately or before the general election.

Will Corbyn stand down? The rumours

Sources close to Corbyn have said that he might not stand down, even if he leads Labour to a crushing defeat this June. They mention Kinnock’s survival after the 1987 general election as a precedent (although at the 1987 election, Labour did gain seats).

Will Corbyn stand down? The verdict

Given his struggles to manage his own MPs and the example of other leaders, it would be remarkable if Corbyn did not stand down should Labour lose the general election. However, staying on after a vote of no-confidence in 2016 was also remarkable, and the mooted changes to the leadership election process give him a reason to hold on until September in order to secure a left-wing succession.

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