It’s been a whirlwind week in Westminster. Suella got the boot, David Cameron made a dramatic return to Whitehall, the Supreme Court ruled against the Government’s Rwanda migrant plan, Labour frontbenchers resigned en masse to vote for a ceasefire in Gaza, Jeremy Hunt is gearing up for next week’s Autumn Statement… oh and Nigel Farage is heading into the jungle on I’m a Celeb this Sunday.
Welcome to the weekly roundup from Navigate Politics, bringing you all the top news, publications and movements from UK politics over the past seven days, ensuring you’re fully briefed on the top stories ahead of the weekend. If you know somebody who would find this briefing useful, please do forward it on so they can subscribe and get it direct to their inbox each Friday.
Driving the Week 🚨
The long-awaited reshuffle took place this week, with some predicted changes and one VERY unexpected appointment, as Suella Braverman was sacked/resigned as Home Secretary (more on this below) and former Prime Minister David Cameron left his shed to return to Government as Foreign Secretary…yes seriously. With James Cleverly shifting across from the Foreign Office to the Stop the Boats Department, the soon-to-be Lord/Baron Cameron of Aston Villa (or is it West Ham) has taken up one of the most important roles in Government at a time of great political instability, with opinions divided as to whether it is a great decision to have an experienced statesman in the role, or whether a Foreign Secretary unaccountable to elected MPs will be damaging to democracy. Other changes at Cabinet level (download our Organogram here) include Steve Barclay moving from Health to Environment, Victoria Atkins gaining her first Secretary of State role in Health, Laura Trott taking up the role of Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Esther McVey returning to Government as the so-called ‘Minister for Common Sense’. There were also a number of changes in the more junior Ministerial positions, with details of the new-look Government available here.
The second reign of Suella Braverman as Home Secretary has now ended, after the Prime Minister decided he actually didn’t want a Home Secretary who would undermine him in public, make up policy on the hoof, and say some rather controversial things (read last week’s Roundup) Braverman unsurprisingly didn’t mince her words upon leaving Government, publishing a scathing two-and-a-half-page letter where she basically attacked everything Sunak had done since taking up the mantle of PM. Revealing that Sunak had agreed to a ‘document with clear terms’ in order to get her support in the leadership election, which she noted was a ‘pivotal factor’ in why Sunak won the Conservative leadership, the letter adds that Sunak has ‘no personal mandate to be Prime Minister’. She accused Sunak of having ‘repeatedly failed’ on ‘key policy priorities’ such as reducing overall legal migration, stopping the boats, and in ‘issuing unequivocal guidance to schools that protects biological sex’, she added that Sunak had ‘sought to put off tough decisions in order to minimise political risk to [himself]’. Ouch. But this wouldn’t be the last we heard from Braverman this week…
… as the UK Supreme Court ruled that the plan to send asylum seekers arriving in small boats to Rwanda was unlawful, contending that there had not been a proper assessment of whether Rwanda was actually a ‘safe’ country. An emergency press conference was called, the Deputy Chair of the Conservative Party said the Government should ‘ignore the law’, and calls for the UK to leave the ECHR grew louder. The PM, saying he didn’t agree with the judgement but accepted it, announced that ‘emergency legislation’ would be introduced that would allow Parliament to ‘confirm Rwanda is safe’ and stated that he ‘will not allow a foreign court to block the flights’… But back to Braverman, who said the judgement was ‘no surprise’ and set out her ‘five tests’ that the legislation must meet, including to enable that flights leave before the next General Election; that those arriving illegally be removed in days rather than months; that Parliament should be recalled to debate it over the Christmas period; and that it ‘must block off ECHR, HRA, and other routes of legal challenge’.
Coming Up Next Week 📆
The Chancellor will deliver his Autumn Statement on Wednesday, commencing three days of debate on the statement, concluding the following Monday. Timely for the Chancellor, the Government fulfilled its pledge to halve inflation, with new ONS data revealing that inflation is now at 4.6%, down from 10.7% at the end of 2022. However, don’t expect this news to be accompanied by huge tax cuts; instead the Chancellor is expected to make more moderate reforms. News on the triple lock, plans for tougher benefit restrictions, reforms to the housing market including potentially expanding the mortgage guarantee scheme and a possible cut to inheritance tax, changes to ISA allowances and a potential end to the freeze on fuel duty are currently the top rumoured policies to be included in the Statement. On top of this, changes to the National Minimum Wage are likely to be formerly introduced, after the Chancellor announced plans to increase this to £11 an hour at the Conservative Party Conference, and incentives for businesses to invest in the green economy are likely to be announced.
The Food Security Summit takes place on Monday, as the UK hosts the Summit in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. Governments, international organisations, scientists, NGOs and the private sector will gather in the capital to discuss preventing deaths in children, building a climate resilient and sustainable food system, reducing the impact of humanitarian crises and using science and technology to boost food security.
The Commons has its first chance to scrutinize any of the new Bills announced in the King’s Speech on Tuesday, as the Media Bill has its Second Reading. The Bill will update the legislative framework for public service broadcasting.
Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey is to appear as a witness in front of the Treasury Committee on Tuesday, for its inquiry into the BoE Monetary Reports.
The Week in Stats 📉
4.6% – Rate of inflation (CPI) in the year to October, down from 6.7% in September.
6.1% – Private rental price increases in the year to October, up from 5.7% in September.
16 – Number of MPs who have held the role of Housing Minister since 2010.
7 – Number of Home Secretaries in the past 7 years.
5 – Number of former Prime Ministers to return to Government in the past 100 years (Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay McDonald, Neville Chamberlain, Alex Douglas-Home and David Cameron).
£140m – Money already paid by the UK Government to Rwanda as part of its deal to process illegal immigrants.
8 – Number of Labour MPs who resigned as shadow ministers from Keir Starmer’s frontbench this week, voting against the whip to call for a ceasefire in Gaza.
38 – Days until Christmas.
8 – Tickets booked this week by the Navigate Politics team for Christmas at Kew.
Other Political News 📰
Labour leader Keir Starmer was hit by a wave of resignations this week, as 10 frontbenchers voted to support an SNP Amendment to the King’s Speech that called for a ceasefire in Israel/Palestine, despite instructions from the Labour leadership to abstain. The most high profile resignation was that of Shadow Domestic Violence Minister Jess Phillips, who wrote that she had to ‘vote with my constituents, my head and my heart’, but added that she would ‘continue to do everything I can to deliver a Labour Government’. With a number of other Shadow Ministers having indicated their support for a ceasefire, these may not be the last resignations Starmer faces on the subject.
4.6 is the Magic Number for the Government, after the ONS revealed that CPI inflation had dropped to 4.6% in the 12 months to October 2023, a drop from 6.7% in September. This means the Government has achieved one of its five pledges for the year, as inflation has halved from the 10.1% it was in January 2023. Reasons attributed for the drop include a fall in the energy price cap, increased interest rates, and ‘hard decisions and fiscal discipline’ from the Government.
Football, an £11,000 in roaming charges, and a Scottish Health Secretary, the story that has dominated the Scottish Parliament this week, after more details of the debt racked up by Michael Matherson during a holiday to Morocco last year were confirmed. After initially not revealing the cause of the charge, Matheson admitted to MSPs that it was due to his sons watching football matches after he set the iPad up as a mobile hotspot. Matheson, who will pay the charges himself, had referred himself to Parliamentary authorities, while the Scottish Conservatives have threatened to table a vote of no confidence if the iPad is not handed over. First Minister Humza Yousaf said he has ‘full confidence’ in his colleague.
Department for Levelling Up not good at Levelling Up, according to the National Audit Office who found that as of March 2023, under £1bn of the £9.5bn allocated had been spent through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the Towns Fund and the Levelling Up Fund. The NAO said the Department for Levelling Up had a ‘poor understanding of what had worked in its previous local growth programmes and that it had been ‘slow to agree funding’ with delays meaning that ‘many projects needing to be adjusted or rescoped. Arguments are still open as to whether DLUHC is good at Housing or Communities either…
The Labour Party are “pro-trade [and] pro-business” was the message from Shadow Business and Trade Secretary Jonathan Reynolds in a speech he delivered in Canary Wharf earlier this week. He set out the party’s plans to boost trade and grow the economy, explaining that a Labour Government would: publish a Trade White Paper that will be shaped by businesses; improve guidance to make exporting easier; give the Board of Trade a “proper purpose”; and work with businesses of all sizes to ensure that policy “delivers for them”.
Around the World 🌍
The USA and China have agreed to resume direct military communications, following a meeting between presidents Biden and Xi. The communications were cut by China after former Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last year. The meeting between the two leaders was generally regarded as positive and cordial, although was overshadowed later when Biden insisted that Xi was still a “dictator”.
Pedro Sanchez has secured another term as Prime Minister of Spain after sealing a deal with two Catalan pro-independence parties to secure a majority. Sanchez’s Spanish Socialist Workers' Party will lead a government with a four-seat majority in Parliament. The fact that the opposition Popular Party won the most seats in the July election, and the nature of the deal with the Catalan parties (which provides an amnesty for leaders involved in the failed referendum on Catalan independence in 2017), has infuriated Spain’s right-wing.
Liberian opposition leader Joseph Boakai holds a slight lead in the country’s presidential election, with counting ongoing. He looks set to topple President George Weah, who he lost to in 2017. Both men emerged neck-and-neck in the first round of voting, pushing the election to a run-off.
Madagascar held its presidential election after it was delayed by a week due to protests. President Andry Rajoelina first came to power with the backing of the army in 2009 but stepped down in 2014 and installed a crony in his place, before returning to the presidency in 2018. The contest has been overshadowed by protests and violence, with 10 opposition candidates calling on voters to boycott the election, alleging it is neither free nor fair. The result has not yet been confirmed.
Republican Senator Tim Scott suspended his presidential nomination campaign, making him the second contender to pull out following former Vice-President Mike Pence’s announcement in October. Scott was polling at 4%, putting him in fifth place for the nomination (which in reality is all but confirmed to be in the bag for Donald Trump).
Highlights from Parliament 🏛
OPQs were back in full swing this week, with Work and Pensions, Treasury, Science, Innovation and Technology and Culture, Media and Sport Questions in the Commons. MPs inevitably used Treasury Questions to quiz the Chancellor on what might be included in next week’s Autumn Statement, with Harriet Baldwin and Nadhim Zahawi pressing the Chancellor to make full expensing permanent; Priti Patel calling on him to lower the rates of personal and business taxation; David Mundell urging him to freeze alcohol duty; and David Linden asking him to introduce mortgage interest tax relief. But with the Chancellor keeping his cards close to his chest, the 5 day countdown begins…
Debates on the King’s Speech wrapped up in both Houses, covering areas such as the NHS, economic growth, transport, energy and foreign affairs and defence. During the debate on economic growth, Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves attacked the Government’s proposals, arguing that they will not “quicken the pulse, get the economy roaring or lift people’s living standards” and described the speech as a “lost opportunity” for the country. She stressed that Labour is the “only party of economic responsibility and with the ability to provide the change of direction and confidence that our country needs”, with repeated calls for a General Election.
The Private Members’ Bill ballot was also held in the Commons, while the Lords enjoyed a mini-recess (of two days) before they return on Monday. Chairman of Ways and Means, Dame Eleanor Laing, drew 20 numbered ballot balls and read out the names of the successful MPs, with Julie Elliott drawn in first place. She will have the first choice of a Private Members' Bill Friday to debate her Bill, with the top seven all guaranteed a full day of debate on their Bill. The next six MPs drawn were Chris Elmore, Laurence Robertson, Wayne David, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Selaine Saxby, and John Spellar. The ballot Bills will have their first reading in the Commons on 6 December, and will then be debated over 13 sitting Fridays.
Committee Corridor 📜
Cost of living support payments are not meeting the needs of the low-income households during the cost of living crisis, argues the Work and Pensions committee in their latest report. The Committee found that payments do have an ‘important impact’ but that they ‘have not reached all low-income households’, while also expressing concern that additional support offered to those with disabilities was only £150 per year, an amount which Committee Chair Stephen Timms said “barely touches the sides” of what was needed. A key recommendation made was that housing benefit should be added as a qualifying benefit for future payments.
Public sector investments beyond 2025 are needed in order to achieve the Government’s net zero targets, according to a new report from the Committee of Public Accounts. The Government has failed to provide public sector funding commitments, which the Committee argues ‘provides little comfort for investors in the medium to long-term’, especially as the Government backtracked on its phase out of fossil fuel vehicles and heating systems. Committee Chair Meg Hillier stated that the Government needs to ‘provide transparency on progress’ or investment ‘will not be forthcoming’.
New standardised hospital design ‘Hospital 2.0’ may not be fit for purpose, according to a new report from the Committee of Public Accounts. The New Hospital Programme (NHP) designed ‘Hospital 2.0’ to bring down the costs and speed up construction on its delivery of new hospitals. The committee argued that the hospitals risk being ‘too small’ and are based off ‘unrealistic assumptions’. Committee Chair Meg Hillier criticised the Government’s action, saying that the ‘NHS is crumbling before our eyes’ and specifically made recommendations on how to support action to tackle RAAC found in hospitals in order to prevent a halt of services.
NHS homecare services have been labelled an ‘opportunity lost’, according to a new report from the Lords Public Services Committee. The Committee found that there were multiple errors from homecare providers that left patients receiving care later and caused patients ‘serious harm’. Committee Chair Baroness Morris of Yardley called the service a ‘key part’ in the future of the NHS, but stated that the system has no body to ensure performance across the sector, leading to a key recommendation being establishing a lead regulator. Since the inquiry, the NHS has begun a review of the system.
There has been a decline in prison resettlement support, accord to a Committee of Public Accounts report. The PAC’s inquiry found that no prisons were rated ‘good’ for their work on rehabilitation and release planning, leading Committee Chair Meg Hillier to state that this ‘undermines’ public safety and increases the risk that prison leavers will reoffend. This also comes at a time when prisons are not only reaching their maximum safety capacity, but the Ministry of Justice is driving to save 7.5% across its budget, with Hillier worried that it will lead to cuts in ‘discretionary programmes’. A key recommendation was for the Government to set out action to plan for improved support.
Key Movements 🔁
The Prime Minister conducted a Cabinet reshuffle at the beginning of the week:
Former Prime Minister David Cameron was appointed Foreign Secretary, in a turn of events no one saw coming! As he is no longer a serving MP (and hasn’t been for seven years), he has been granted a life peerage to enable him to carry out his role as the new Secretary of State.
James Cleverley MP has moved from Foreign Secretary to Home Secretary, following Suella Braverman MP’s dismissal from the Cabinet.
Steve Barclay MP has been appointed the new Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, following the resignation of Therese Coffey MP.
Victoria Atkins MP is taking on the role of Health Secretary, replacing Steve Barclay.
Laura Trott MP was appointed Chief Secretary to the Treasury, replacing John Glen MP who has been moved to Paymaster General.
Richard Holden MP was appointed the new Conservative Party Chair, replacing Greg Hands MP (now Trade Minister). Esther McVey MP was appointed as a Minister without Portfolio.
New Ministers: Greg Hands MP as Trade Minister; Lee Rowley MP moved to Housing Minister; Simon Hoare MP as Local Government Minister; Jo Churchill MP as Minister for Employment and Paul Maynard MP to DWP; Andrew Griffith MP as Minister for Science, Research and Innovation and Saqib Bhatti MP to DSIT; Damian Hinds MP in DfE; Nigel Huddleston MP as Financial Secretary to the Treasury; Bim Afolami MP as Economic Secretary to the Treasury; Andrew Stephenson MP and Andrea Leadsom MP to DHSC; Anthony Browne MP and Guy Opperman MP to DfT; Laura Farris MP to HO and MoJ; Gareth Bacon MP to MoJ; Fay Jones MP to Wales Office; and Robbie Moore MP to Defra.
Leaving their ministerial positions: Sarah Dines MP (Safeguarding); Steve Double MP (Whip); George Freeman MP (Science, Technology and Innovation); Nick Gibb MP (Schools); Rachel Maclean MP (Housing); Jesse Norman MP (Transport Decarbonisation); Neil O’Brien MP (Public Health); Will Quince MP (Health); and Paul Scully MP (London, Tech and the Digital Economy).
In the House of Lords: Lord Benyon was appointed a Minister jointly in the FCDO and Defra; The Earl of Minto is now a Defence Minister; Baroness Vere of Norbiton has become Parliamentary Secretary in HM Treasury; Baroness Penn has moved to DLUHC; and Lord Davies of Gower is in the DfT.
10 Labour frontbenchers, including 8 shadow ministers, have resigned from their roles after voting for an SNP Amendment to the King’s Speech calling for a ceasefire in Palestine: Paula Barker MP (Devolution and the English Regions); Rachel Hopkins MP (Veterans); Afzal Khan MP (Exports); Sarah Owen MP (Local Government and Faith), Jess Phillips MP (Domestic Violence and Safeguarding); Yasmin Qureshi MP (Women and Equalities); Naz Shah MP (Crime Reduction); and Andy Slaughter MP (Solicitor General) all resigned from their ministerial posts, alongside PPS' Dan Carden MP and Mary Foy MP.
Mark Bourgeois has been appointed the interim CEO of the Government Property Agency, with Steven Boyd stepping down later this month.
Jonathan Hargreaves has been appointed to become His Majesty’s Ambassador to Kosovo in early 2024, in succession to Nicholas Abbot.
Dr Alexandra Harris and Adam Dant have been appointed to the Royal Mint Advisory Committee.
This Week’s Polls 📊
David Cameron’s return to politics has been a not-so-welcome surprise for many, as a YouGov poll revealed that only 24% of people think that Cameron’s appointment as the new Foreign Secretary is a good idea, compared to 38% who believe it is a bad idea. Meanwhile, only 17% of people surveyed said that Secretaries of State can do the job from the House of Lords.
70% of people think that removing Suella Braverman as the Home Secretary was the right decision, according to new polling from Ipsos. And it looks like everyone’s in agreement, with 60% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 also in favour of her dismissal.
The majority of Brits do not believe that UK diplomacy has influence over Israel, with 69% of people saying that the Government’s diplomacy has ‘not very much’ influence or ‘none at all’. According to a YouGov survey asking how the UK should respond to Israel’s military actions in Gaza, 33% opposed Israel’s actions and pushed for a ceasefire; 24% supported Israel’s actions but called for a temporary ceasefire to allow aid in; and 9% supported Israel’s actions without any calls for a ceasefire.
There remains support for the Government’s Rwanda plan, even though most Brits do not believe it would be effective. YouGov polls have shown that 48% of people either ‘strongly support’ or ‘tend to support’ the proposal, with the level of support increasing among higher age groups (14% of 18-24 year olds indicate strong support for the plan compared to 42% of those aged 65 and over). Yet, 52% of people do not think that the policy would be effective at stopping small boat crossings.
Savanta carried out a survey of UK Muslim voting intention, which revealed that only 16% of Muslims polled would vote Conservative, compared to 56% for Labour. However, 41% of Muslims said that Keir Starmer’s handling of the Israel-Palestine conflict has made them feel more negatively about the Labour Party.
RUSI published a paper exploring the environmental and human security risks associated with critical mineral extraction, how rising demand for critical minerals in the context of net zero will impact these risks, and what options exist for the UK to address such risks.
The Resolution Foundation published research on intergenerational progress, finding whilst millennials have made progress on employment in the labour market, pay progression remains low, with graduate pay underperforming since the financial crash.
The Centre for Policy Studies posted a collection of essays on closing the generation gap, setting out ‘the staggering extent of the challenge facing the country in paying for an ageing population while delivering a better life for today’s young people’, focusing on policy areas such as housing, education, taxation and childcare.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies posted a report examining the ‘way in which ‘hollowing out’ and other labour market trends have shaped the economic geography of the UK’, finding that ‘whilst low-paid service sector jobs have emerged everywhere, the new ‘high-end’ jobs are found mainly in London and other cities.’
Reform released a report on the role of the Government in emerging technology, writing up the session it held with (now former) Tech Minister Paul Scully MP.
You’ve Got to Laugh 😂
After what has been a crazy week in politics who better to brighten the post-reshuffle mood than the one and only Thérèse Coffey. Following her resignation as Environment Secretary on Monday, the karaoke queen fully embraced her new ‘backbench life’ by deleting her 5.30am alarm and shared a throwback clip of the moment she was interrupted by her 8am alarm during an LBC interview last year. Although her love for Dirty Dancing classic (I've Had) The Time of My Life is undeniable, Tiz prefers the sound of Dr Dre's 1999 hit Still D.R.E with Snoop Dogg to start her parliamentary day, confirming yesterday that its ‘Still Dre at 8’.
And if David Cameron’s shock return wasn’t enough drama for one week, over in the US a senator challenged a trade union leader to a fist fight in the middle of a Senate hearing. The heated exchange began after the senator paraphrased a post made about him by the trade union leader in June, warning ‘you know where to find me – any place, any time cowboy’. Luckily, Bernie Sanders played peacemaker as the senator stood up to fight, yelling “you are a United States senator!”. Hopefully Cameron has a more civilised experience when he’s introduced to the House of Lords on Monday…