Autos

Sunak refuses to rule out cabinet reshuffle on Friday amid Tory fears over byelection defeats – as it happened | Politics


Sunak refuses to rule out reshuffle on Friday amid speculation shake-up could follow byelection defeats

Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out holding a reshuffle later this week.

With speculation growing that a long-planned reshuffle will take place on Friday, immediately after the three byelections the Tories are expected to lose, instead of in September, Sunak was asked this afternoon on a visit in Warwickshire if he would rule out such a move. He replied:

You would never expect me to comment on things like that. What I’m determined to do is just deliver on the priorities that I set out for the country – halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats – today what we saw with the inflation figures is that our plan is working.

In fact, prime ministers are happy to rule out imminent reshuffles when it suits them.

Aubrey Allegretti has a good account of why a reshuffle seems increasingly likely. He quotes a government source saying No 10 has been asking for resources “only used during reshuffles”. That sounds like a reference to the whiteboard Downing Street uses to show who might go where.

Key events

Afternoon summary

  • Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out having a government reshuffle on Friday. The Conservatives fear they will lose three byelections tomorrow, including in two seats where they had majorities of around 20,000 in 2019, and there is considerable speculation that Sunak may respond by bringing forward a reshuffle originally scheduled for September. (See 3.26pm.)

Rishi Sunak (right) and Tata chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran inspecting a battery cell during a visit to Jaguar Land Rover for an announcement about a new electric car battery factory this afternoon.
Rishi Sunak (right) and Tata chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran inspecting a battery cell during a visit to Jaguar Land Rover for an announcement about a new electric car battery factory this afternoon. Photograph: Reuters

Nick Macpherson, the former permanent secretary at the Treasury, has joined those criticising Coutts for the way it has treated Nigel Farage. In an interview with LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr, Macpherson said:

I think this is a worrying development. I also am worried that the bank had commented on Mr Farage’s income and wealth in public, at least it appeared to brief newspapers last week or the week before. And I think the government is responding to wider unease amongst all of us.

Getting a good service out of your bank is difficult enough at the best of times, but if they’re just going to make, on the face of it, fairly arbitrary decisions about your beliefs or politics, I think that is quite a dangerous development.

Rishi Sunak is addressing Tory MPs at a private meeting of the Conservative 1922 Committee. The Mirror’s Lizzy Buchan says the traditional table banging that greeted his arrival was rather over the top.

Rishi Sunak turned up a bit early for the 1922 Committee so had to hang about outside before entering to an absurd amount of performative banging on the tables from Tory MPs

— Lizzy Buchan (@LizzyBuchan) July 19, 2023

Without being in the room, it is hard to judge what this means. Maybe it was a sign that Tory MPs think he is doing brilliantly. Or maybe it was because they think it’s all going pear-shaped, but they feel under a duty to cheer him up.

Sunak condemns Coutts for closing down Nigel Farage’s bank account on account of his views

At PMQs Rishi Sunak was twice asked about Nigel Farage having his bank account closed by Coutts. (See 10.22am and 10.44am.) In response, he said people should not lose access to banking services because of what they said, but he did not sound overly-outraged about what had happened. (See 12.28pm and 12.37pm.)

Subsequently, in a post on Twitter, Sunak firmed up his criticism. “Not right” became “wrong”. Sunak said:

This is wrong.

No one should be barred from using basic services for their political views.

Free speech is the cornerstone of our democracy.

This is wrong.

No one should be barred from using basic services for their political views.

Free speech is the cornerstone of our democracy. https://t.co/8S8Rzyh9Si

— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) July 19, 2023

Tories complain to Evening Standard about its mocking front page coverage of their mayoral candidate

The Conservatives have complained to the Evening Standard about its “contemptible” front page coverage of the selection of Susan Hall as the Tory candidate to be the capital’s mayor, PA Media reports.

Nickie Aiken, the Conservative party’s deputy chair, said the selection of the full-page picture of the London assembly member was “clear mockery”, suggesting there was a “whiff of misogyny”.

The accompanying headline asked “And the winner is?”, with further text suggesting that Labour incumbent Sadiq Khan is “odds-on to seal third victory”.

Tory party chairman Greg Hands backed Aiken’s complaint to Standard editor Dylan Jones, saying the coverage was “extremely disappointing”.

In her letter shared on Twitter, Aiken said:

I am writing to you to express my sincere disappointment in your front page today.

Your choice of photo of Susan Hall is a clear mockery, and it is contemptible, especially as the first female candidate for London mayor from either of the two main parties.

Sunak says he does not want to rush producing trans guidance for schools because it’s ‘complex and sensitive issue’

In his pooled interview at the Jaguar Land Rover HQ, Rishi Sunak was also asked when the guidance for schools on how to deal with trans pupils would be issued. It was due this week, but has reportedly been delayed because No 10 and Kemi Badenoch, the equalities minister, are pushing for restrictive guidance that would not comply with the Equality Act. (See 11.49am.)

Sunak replied:

This is a really complex and sensitive issue because it affects the wellbeing of our children, and it’s important that we get it right given those complexities and sensitivities.

I am committed to bringing forward that guidance.

But I want to make sure that we’ve taken the time to go through it properly, and when we do bring it forward, it will be well thought through.

Tata did not choose UK for £4bn battery factory just because of government subsidy, says Sunak

Rishi Sunak has said it was not just taxpayer money that enticed Tata to announce a new £4bn battery factory in the UK which will create thousands of jobs.

Speaking at the Jaguar Land Rover HQ in Warwick, he said:

When I was chancellor, I set up the automotive transformation fund, which was always there to provide targeted investment in strategic industries where we thought it would make sense.

But what is crucial about an investment like this is it’s not just going to be about that, it’s going to be about the quality of the workforce that we have here, the quality of our infrastructure, the road and rail connections, the approach to regulation, the competitiveness of our tax regime, which we have changed to make it more attractive for businesses to invest.

Downing Street has confirmed that the government has offered subsidies to the Tata Group, the owner of Jaguar Land Rover, to secure the investment. But it has not yet said how much money is involved. (See 2.26pm.)

Rishi Sunak at the Jaguar Land Rover HQ in Warwick this afternoon.
Rishi Sunak at the Jaguar Land Rover HQ in Warwick this afternoon. Photograph: Reuters

Sunak refuses to rule out reshuffle on Friday amid speculation shake-up could follow byelection defeats

Rishi Sunak has refused to rule out holding a reshuffle later this week.

With speculation growing that a long-planned reshuffle will take place on Friday, immediately after the three byelections the Tories are expected to lose, instead of in September, Sunak was asked this afternoon on a visit in Warwickshire if he would rule out such a move. He replied:

You would never expect me to comment on things like that. What I’m determined to do is just deliver on the priorities that I set out for the country – halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists and stop the boats – today what we saw with the inflation figures is that our plan is working.

In fact, prime ministers are happy to rule out imminent reshuffles when it suits them.

Aubrey Allegretti has a good account of why a reshuffle seems increasingly likely. He quotes a government source saying No 10 has been asking for resources “only used during reshuffles”. That sounds like a reference to the whiteboard Downing Street uses to show who might go where.

No 10 rejects claim London mayoral candidate Susan Hall will be liability for Tories

Rishi Sunak has given his backing to Susan Hall, elected today as the Tory candidate for London mayor, while not endorsing some of her views.

Speaking at the post-PMQs lobby briefing, the PM’s press secretary said Hall had Sunak’s “full support”.

But, when asked if Sunak, like Hall, was a supporter of Liz Truss’s mini-budget last year, the press secretary said:

[Sunak] has made the point that unfunded tax cuts and increased borrowing would fuel inflation.

Since he has been prime minister, he has taken a different approach and has done the right thing, and you can see from the statistics today that the plan is working.

Asked whether Sunak thought Hall was right to compare Donald Trump supporters storming the Capitol to remainers refusing to accept the result of the Brexit referendum, the press secretary said: “I don’t think the prime minister would characterise it in that way.”

And asked if Sunak agreed with Hall that Boris Johnson was an “awesome” prime minister, the press secretary said:

The prime minister has spoken about the many successes of the previous prime minister, including the rollout of the vaccine, getting Brexit done and his staunch support for Ukraine.

Asked if Hall would be a liability to the Conservative party, the press secretary replied:

No. She has shown great commitment to bettering London with the Conservatives and highlighting the many failures of Sadiq Khan, including his desire to charge people £12.50 a day – as the prime minister said – just to visit their GP.

Susan Hall at the Battle of Britain Bunker in Uxbridge this morning, after being named as the Tory candidate for London mayor.
Susan Hall at the Battle of Britain Bunker in Uxbridge this morning, after being named as the Tory candidate for London mayor. Photograph: Getty Images

More work needed to counter threat posed by ‘incel’ culture, Braverman tells MPs

Ben Quinn

Ben Quinn

Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy needs to do more work on the “violent trend” emerging from so-called incel (involuntary celibate) culture, Suella Braverman, the home secretary, has said.

She was responding to Plymouth MP Luke Pollard, who linked the actions of the killer behind the 2021 Plymouth shootings to incel culture and violent misogyny and questioned why the trend currently fell out of the scope of Prevent, which aims to identify would-be terrorists.

There was only one mention of the incel threat in the government’s update to Contest, the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy, which was published yesterday and was the subject of an urgent question in the Commons after PMQs.

The Contest update said:

It is possible that violent adherents to movements and subcultures, such as Involuntary Celibacy (incels), could meet the threshold of terrorist intent or action, should the threat or use of serious violence be used to influence the government, or to intimidate the public.

Bravermen offered to meet with Pollard to discuss what further steps could be taken, telling him:

Incel culture is not strictly within the Contest apparatus if you like but it does need work.

I readily accept this a violent trend. It is a radicalising influence. It is promoting a culture that is totally at odds with a free and safe democratic society that we all love and want to cherish.

I am very happy to speak to him about what further steps we could do.

No 10 defends use of government subsidy to bring gigafactory to UK, but won’t yet reveal cost to taxpayer

At the post-PMQs lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson refused to say what the government was spending in subsidies to bring the Tata Group’s gigafactory to the UK.

Asked about claims taxpayer support for the project could amount to £500m, or even £1bn, the spokesperson said:

Some of this stuff is commercially sensitive, it’s not in the UK’s interests to get into all the detail when negotiating with companies, but what shouldn’t be lost is the massive investment into the UK – £4bn, 4,000 direct jobs, thousands more indirect jobs.

Details would eventually emerge “as part of the regular transparency data”, he said.

But he also pointed out that the government had committed £850m to an automotive transformation fund. He went on:

In general, we are acting in line with our approach. We have the automotive transformation fund to develop these sorts of supply chains and unlock private investment in gigafactories such as this one.

The spokesperson said the use of public money was “an efficient way to drive massive investment into the UK, not only to help with net zero but to create jobs”.

Victims of past ban on LGBT people serving in military should receive compensation, report says

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, is making a statement to MPs about the review, chaired by Lord Etherton, about the impact of the ban on LGBT people serving in the military before the year 2000.

The report says compensation should be paid to people affected, with the total being paid out capped at £50m. It says:

An appropriate financial award should be made to affected veterans notwithstanding the expiry of litigation time limits.

The government’s overall exposure should be capped at £50m.

In his statement Wallace repeated the apology issued by Sunak. He said:

I was struck by one particular quote in the report from a veteran who said: ‘I don’t feel like I’m a veteran, I’ve never asked for help, I don’t feel like my service was recognised.’

Today we want to say to all those ex-soldiers, sailors and aviators, many now in retirement: you are one of us, you belong in our community and in choosing to put yourself in harm’s way for the good of your colleagues, your community and country, you have proven yourselves the best of us.

I say again to the veterans’ community I’m deeply sorry for what happened to you. The very tolerance and values of western democracy that we expected you to fight for, we denied to you, it was profoundly wrong.

I am determined as defence secretary, and as a veteran, to do all I can do today to right those historic wrongs so that you can once again take pride in your service and inspire future generations to follow in your footsteps.

Wallace said that the government in principle accepted “the vast majority” of the recommendations in the report, although he said it was still considering them.

One of the recommendations was that the PM should deliver an apology in parliament. Earlier I said Sunak did not have to deliver the apology at PMQs, but, having now read the recommendation, I think it would have been embarrassing for him if he had ignored it.

PMQs – snap verdict

The last PMQs before the summer recess matters a bit more than usual because, in normal circumstances, if a leader does badly, they can make up for it a week later. But if you flop just before the summer adjournment, you cannot redeem yourself until September, and your MPs will spend the summer with a reminder of your uselessness fresh in the memory. With that in mind, Keir Starmer should be feeling very comfortable this afternoon. Even those former advisers involved in the unlikely, even bonkers, leadership challenge plot described by the i this week would probably have to concede that he did a good job.

There were plenty of reasons why Starmer won this comfortably. He started with a conventional, simple question-that-involves-having-to-admit-something-embarrassing, and this made a decent point about hospital waiting lists, and he needled Rishi Sunak with a question about non-dom status. Much more memorable, though, were two jibes about Sunak missing PMs twice in a row, at least one of which sounded spontaneous, and both of which were funny. Pointing out that Sunak had got his age wrong too was a clear hit, not least because it does make you wonder why they can’t add up in No 10. Starmer’s date of birth is not a secret; it’s on Wikipedia.

What was much more important, though, was Starmer’s decision to attack the NHS workforce plan on the grounds that the government has not explained how it will be funded. This is what he said when he raised the point for the second time.

When [Sunak] said the workforce plan was fully costed, I have never seen the chancellor more bewildered.

It’s less than a year since his party crashed the economy with their unfunded spending commitments and he hasn’t learnt a thing. So, let me ask it another way: is his uncosted spending coming from more tax rises, more cuts, or is it just the latest promise to fall from the Tories’ magic money tree?

In response, Sunak said the autumn statement would show where the money was coming from, which half-confirmed Starmer’s point. As of now, it is not clear where the funding is coming from.

When opposition parties are weak or nervous, they stick to familiar territory. When they are on the ascendant, they attack on issues supposedly owned by their rivals. The Conservatives have in the past suggested they want to fight the election on economic responsibility, but Starmer and his colleagues have now in effect declared: “Bring it on”, with Rachel Reeves trying to outperform George Osborne on fiscal responsibility, Lucy Powell only yesterday appropriating “no money left” as an argument and now Starmer branding the Tories as the party of the magic money tree.

The economics of Labour’s positioning may be highly questionable. But the politics are clear; Starmer is hijacking electoral territory where the Tories thought they were impregnable.

Sunak had a difficult PMQs but it could have been a lot worse. He is probably about to lose three byelections, and his approval ratings have hit their lowest level, according to YouGov, since he became PM. In these circumstances, the fact that he could sort of hold his own, and the fact that his MPs did not turn on him, must count as a bonus.

Sunak’s main line of attack was to challenge Starmer to say whether or not he thinks that hospital consultants deserve a higher pay rise than they are getting. In the context of PMQs, this is a weak ploy, because is not Starmer’s job to answer questions, and at least twice the speaker reprimanded the PM for going “off topic”. But that does not mean these questions don’t have salience. Starmer can avoid them at PMQs, and not in an interview studio.

What was also interesting was Sunak’s unlikely emergence as a gay rights champion. He did not have to announce the apology to LGBT veterans at PMQs, and he condemned conversion practices unexpected strongly in response to a question from Alicia Kearns. (See 12.32pm.) Maybe this is just an attempt to quash claims that the government’s trans guidance for schools (see 11.49am) will mark the start of an ugly culture war campaign, but even if you doubt his sincerity, it is interesting that he felt the need to present his liberal credentials like this.

UPDATE: The final paragraph probably overstates the significance of Sunak’s decision to issue his apology to LGBT veterans at PMQs. He did not have to do it, but the Etherton review did recommend an apology by the PM in parliament, and it would have been embarrassing for Sunak to ignore this. However, the report did not specify how the apology should be worded. Sunak chose to describe the ban as “an appalling failure of the British state”. (See 12.03pm.)

Ben Quinn

Ben Quinn

Rishi Sunak has been forced to respond to questions about his expenses declaration over the funding of private jet travel to Tory events after Labour challenged him at prime minister’s questions about “why his story keeps changing”.

It comes after the Guardian reported that he was facing transparency questions over the travel and thousands of pounds in Conservative party donations after they were recorded as coming from a small company linked to a multimillionaire businessman.

Last week, he changed his expenses declaration over the funding. In the third change for the declaration, it now names the donor of £38,500 to pay for air travel by the prime minister and staff as Akhil Tripathi, a British-Indian medical tech entrepreneur who made a fortune from an anti-snoring device.

At PMQs the Labour MP Neil Coyle asked him:

Every single member of this house is required by law to confirm the true source of a donation before it is accepted or declared, so can the prime minister tell us if he followed all the rules all the time before he took thirty eight and a half thousand pounds of free air travel on 28 April and if so, why does his story keep changing about who paid?

Sunak replied:

All donations are declared in the normal way and as the honourable gentleman knows if there are administrative changes to that they are quickly corrected.

Rishi Sunak was forced at #PMQs to respond to questions about changes to his expenses declaration over the funding of private jet travel to Tory events

..Our original storyhttps://t.co/sxVDx5ysTj

— Ben Quinn (@BenQuinn75) July 19, 2023

Carla Lockhart (DUP) asks about support for children with cancer.

Sunak says he can imagine how difficult it is for families with a child with cancer. He will look at the issue Lockhart has raised, he says.

And that’s it. PMQs is over.

David Davis (Con) says NatWest’s customers should be worried about what happened to Nigel Farage. (NatWest owns Coutts). He says banks should be required to say how many accounts they have closed for similar reasons.

Sunak says the government is continuing to look at this issue.

UPDATE: Sunak said:

I know that [Davis] has spoken to the chancellor about this issue, and that he will continue to have those conversations. In the short term, having consulted on the payment service regulations, we intend to crack down on that practice by toughening the rules around account closures. In the meantime, the Financial Ombudsman Service is available for people to make complaints to.

Lee Anderson, the Tory deputy chair, asks about Keir Starmer’s stance on the two-child benefit cap.

Sunak says he does not think anyone believes Starmer supports the policy he is now backing.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the speaker, says Sunak has no responsibility for what Starmer does.





READ SOURCE

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.