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Dangerous Liaison | Mission: Education | Boris' Diary

As the Navigators crawl to summer recess, this week saw the Prime Minister being grilled by the Liaison Committee, Starmer being heckled by climate protestors as he outlined plans to reform education and the High Court ruling that the Government must hand over all WhatsApp messages sent and received by Boris Johnson to the COVID-19 inquiry. 13 days to go…

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 🚨

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared before the Liaison Committee, who questioned him on areas including the cost of living, public services, the war in Ukraine and COP28. Despite economists warning that the Bank of England could be forced to push interest rates as high as 7% to curb inflation, Sunak refused to be drawn on the likelihood of inflation being halved this year, but insisted the Government and BoE were pursuing the right policies to bring it down. He acknowledged that it was a “worrying time” for mortgage holders but said the charter agreed with banks would “ease” the impact. On the Rwanda scheme, he confirmed the Government would be “vigorously” appealing the Court of Appeal’s ruling that it was unlawful and denied that his plan to stop small boat crossings was “on hold” as the appeal proceeded. When questioned on the war in Ukraine, he said it would be beneficial for there to be a multilateral declaration of long-term support for Ukraine agreed at the upcoming NATO summit next week. He also emphasised the role for private capital in supporting the transition for climate and nature, stating it was an area where he believes the UK can show continued leadership at the next COP summit.

Labour leader Keir Starmer unveiled his fifth and final mission for a Better Britain, announcing measures to ‘break down barriers to opportunity at every stage’ by reforming the education system. Starmer made a number of pledges including to introduce a curriculum “fit for the digital age” and to “fight for vocational training to be respected as much as a university education.” Before setting out further steps to “shatter the class ceiling”, Starmer was heckled by Green New Deal Rising protestors stood behind him on stage, who accused him of U-turning on his climate ambitions. He responded by stating that he would talk to them after the speech and went on to announce that a Labour Government will: give every primary school new funding to invest in early language intervention; update the curriculum so that pupils study a creative arts subject or sport until the age of 16; launch a review of the national curriculum, highlighting digital skills as an area which needs to be strengthened; create a new body called Skills England to develop a national skills plan; introduce a growth and skills levy to deliver high-quality apprenticeships; and reform Ofsted. Further details about the mission can be viewed here.

The Week in Stats 📉

52% – Increase in the number of foreign-owned businesses operating in the UK non-financial business economy since 2015 (now 1.4% of all businesses in the UK)

3.1% – Increase in the number of care home residents in 2022.

2 hours and 16 mins – The average time UK adults spend watching television each day (just read our Love Island roundup below if you’d like to reduce this by an hour…)

6.01% - Average mortgage rate for a five-year fixed deal (as of Tuesday)

75 – How old the NHS is this week.

0 – Number of times England has come back from 2-0 down in the Ashes to win the series (to date…)

1 – Year since Boris Johnson resigned as Prime Minister.

28 – Days since Boris Johnson announced he was resigning as an MP.

Other Political News 📰

The UK Government will be required to provide WhatsApps, diaries and notebooks from former Prime Minister Boris Johnson to the COVID-19 Inquiry, after the High Court ruled against the Cabinet Office. The Government had argued that some of the content requested was ‘unambiguously irrelevant’, but the Court ruled that while ‘some irrelevant documents’ could be included in the material requested by the Inquiry, this ‘does not invalidate’ the request. It also said that the Inquiry would return documents that it found ‘obviously irrelevant’. The Government confirmed it would ‘fully comply’ with the judgement, and it is expected to hand over the material by 4pm on Monday.

Strikes, Strikes and more Strikes, as this week saw two days of industrial action from the National Education Union and a ban on overtime working from ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, impacting on education and transport up and down the country. The RMT Union has announced a ‘week of action’ across the London Underground from 23-28 July as part of its long-running dispute with Transport for London, and a five-day strike from junior doctors is due to begin next Thursday, as there is little sign of a resolution to either dispute. It’s not just in England where strikes are causing havoc, as there are warnings that there could be significant disruption with European flights over the Summer Holiday period, after Eurocontrol said that one of its unions could take industrial action. Negotiations are ongoing, though if strikes were to take place, it could impact 1/3rd of all European flights.

Another by-election is on the cards, after the Standards Committee found Chris Pincher did ‘grope’ two individuals. In its report on the matter, the Committee found that his drunken behavior at a Conservative private members’ club had caused ‘significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House’, as well as to ‘the reputation of the Government and to the Prime Minister who appointed him’, and ‘had a significant impact on the individuals involved’. It recommended he be suspended for eight weeks, the third-longest suspension it has ever recommended, with this to trigger a recall petition in his constituency of Tamworth, potentially leading to a fourth (Nadine Dorries remains an MP…) by-election. If anyone’s earnt a well-deserved break during recess, it’s the members of the Standards Committee.

Hundreds of ticket offices at rail stations across England could close over the next three years, in proposals put forward in a consultation by train operators. The 21-day consultation is aimed at collecting passengers’ views, after the Rail Delivery Group revealed that just 12% of tickets were sold at ticket offices last year. The proposals have been met with concern from both unions and disability groups, with Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh saying it had caused “huge anxiety to vulnerable and disabled passengers and rail staff up and down the country”. Rail Minister Huw Merriman defended the plans, stating that it would “create a better passenger experience and it guarantees our future in rail.”

The Prime Minister’s Anti-Social Behaviour Action Plan took a step forward, after it was announced that 16 police force areas would be launching either ‘hotspot’ policing initiatives or ‘immediate justice’ schemes. The ‘hotspot’ initiatives will see an increase in the number of police patrols in areas with the highest rates of antisocial behaviour, while the ‘immediate justice’ programmes aim for offenders to start work ‘as little as 48 hours’ after a crime has been committed. The work will be based on reparation, with the force or local council to decide on the exact activity, but it should be ‘visible to the public’ in order to ‘help restore public confidence that people will be held accountable for their crimes’.

Around the World 🌍

Conflict intensified in the West Bank region, as the Israeli Army launched a ‘counter-terrorism operation’ on Palestinian occupied Jenin on Monday morning, in what has been described as one of the largest escalations to the conflict in years. Hundreds of members of the Israel Defense Forces entered the refugee camp, backed by drone strikes, leading to gun battles with Palestinians militants. The IDF began to withdraw its troops on Tuesday evening, after the conflict saw the death of 12 Palestinian people and 1 Israeli soldier, with hundreds more Palestinians being injured. Jenin has long been a site of confrontation for the region, as a hotspot for a new generation of Palestinian militants frustrated with the Palestinian Authority. The latest round of attacks by Israeli forces has been condemned by the UN, for its excessive use of violence.

The US Supreme Court had a busy week, passing a series of rulings on student debt, affirmative action and LGBTQ discrimination. The first ruling was against President Biden’s plan to offer around 40 million borrowers up to $20,000 of relief to their federal student debts, which would have cost the country around £430bn. Speaking of the ruling, Biden stated that the “fight was not over” and vowed to work with the Department for Education to provide debt relief by other means. Secondly, the court ruled that the affirmative action in Harvard University and the University of North Carolina’s admission process was unlawful. By specifically considering race in applications, through positive discrimination policies that have been in place in America since 1960s, the Court suggested that the institutions were violating the Constitution’s equal protection clause. Whilst the ruling will not have a direct effect on employers, the decision that considering race is unlawful now means that the groundwork has been laid for future challenges surrounding equality, diversity and inclusion. Biden also “strongly” disagreed with the decision. Finally, the Court ruled that Colorado civil rights law compelling businesses to treat same sex couples equally is in violation of the right to freedom of speech, siding with a web design business owner, who refused to design wedding websites for gay couples. Once again, Biden condemned the decision calling it “disappointing”. All three decisions were passed in the Supreme Court at 6 votes to 3, as the six conservative members of the Court held the majority in each vote.

President Macron said he believes the peak of rioting has passed in France, over a week after the outbreaks began following the shooting of 17 year old Nahel M on 27th June. Violence peaked between Thursday-Saturday last week, as over 45,000 police officers were deployed over the country, in efforts to slow the millions of euros worth of damage being done to buildings, public transport and cars by protestors, as they torched vehicles, started fires and destroyed public property. It is estimated that in total over 3,400 people have been arrested in connection to the protests, sparked due to conversations surrounding systemic racism in the French police system, though by Sunday these numbers were decreasing rapidly, with only 150 arrests, compared to over 700 the previous night.

Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court ruled that former President Bolsonaro cannot run for the Presidential office for the next 8 years, after he was found guilty of abusing his power ahead of the presidential polls last year, by falsely claiming that ballots used were open to fraud. The ban will be backdated to October 2022, when the election took place, meaning that if the verdict stands, Bolsonaro will not be able to take part in the next election, due to take place in 2026, but can run again in the following one, due to take place in 2030. However, Bolsonaro’s legal team are expected to appeal the decision.

Speaking of Bolsonaro, Amazon deforestation has fallen by 33.6% in the first six months of President Lula’s term compared to the same period in 2022, the Brazilian Government has confirmed. New figures released show that deforestation of the so-called lungs of the planet has shrunk by 2,649 sq km since January, though these results have not been independently verified. In his election campaign, Lula condemned the practices of his predecessor Bolsonaro, who promoted the mining of indigenous lands in the rainforest, and pledged to end deforestation by 2030.

In Parliament 🏛

The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill passed its second reading in the Commons. The controversial bill would stop public bodies such as councils from boycotting, campaigning against or sanctioning foreign states, with these powers being reserved for the UK Government. The Bill specifically names Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the Occupied Golan Heights, for which it has been opposed by Labour, the SNP and a number of backbench Conservative MPs.

The Illegal Migration Bill passed its report stage in the Lords after three days of debate and (we count) 19 non-Government amendments passing. These included an amendment led by the Archbishop of Canterbury calling for a ten-year strategy for tackling refugee crises affecting migration by irregular routes, and for tackling human trafficking to the UK.

Universal Credit and the HM Prison and Probation Service were the subjects of two Estimates Day debates on Tuesday in which MPs scrutinised the budgets of the Department for Work and Pensions and the Ministry of Justice.

Energy Infrastructure and Adult and Further Education were the subjects of two Estimates Day debates on Wednesday in which MPs scrutinised the budgets of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and the Department for Education.

The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill passed its third reading in the Lords and returns to the Commons with amendments. The Bill seeks to prevent organised criminals, fraudsters, kleptocrats and terrorists from using companies to abuse the UK’s open economy; strengthen the UK’s broader response to economic crime; and support enterprise by enabling Companies House to deliver a better service.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill also passed its third reading in the Lords and awaits Royal Assent. The Bill seeks to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland through the creation of a new independent commission for reconciliation and information recovery (ICRIR).

The Finance (No.2) Bill passed all its stages in the Lords and moves for Royal Assent. The Bill enacts measures announced in the Budget in March.

Building Safety and Iran were the subjects of Government-led debates on Thursday, with a shorter than usual backbench business debate taking place on the work of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

The Online Safety Bill began its report stage in the Lords with peers raising a large number of questions about the controversial bill, including suggesting that, under the current terms of the Bill, Wikipedia may no longer be able to operate in the UK.

Love Island 💘🏝

We’re almost at the end of week five in the villa and what a week it has been. Breakups and recouplings, mountains and moleholes, a visit from an A list celeb and the event of the year that is Casa Amor…

Returning to the heights of classic Love Island moments such as Craig David’s performance three years ago, this year saw the islanders live it up with an exclusive performance by R&B royalty Ne-Yo. After a night that saw Kady try to get closer to Zach, Whitney declare herself Miss Independent, and Mitch beg any girl within earshot to let me love you, Ne-Yo declared himself so sick of the boys hanging around, and in what must be the show’s most expensive ever cover, snuck the girls out the villa and off to Casa Amor. Cue complaints of “Ne-Yo stole our girls bro”, “my shorty’s gone to Ne-Yo’s afterparty” and the classic, “what a bantorious sort of evening this has been”.

In what felt like a month’s worth of activity, in just three days in Casa: newbie Elom scored with Catherine leaving goalkeeper Scott on the bench, Zach recoupled with returnee Molly in this year’s most predictable plot twist, Lochan left Whitney asking “Mehdi-who?”, and Mitchel finally, finally, found someone who wanted a ticket into the villa, is into him in the form of Hampshire flight attendant Abi. Sammy decided to make out with pretty much all the new girls, couple up with Amber and try to get back with Jess. Egged on by closed-off Tyrique, Montel just about got away with some non-PG antics in the villa with Tink whilst Leah was off in Casa, and in the show’s most dramatic turn of events so far, Ella recoupled with Ouzy, making for a fiery first night back in the villa with Ty. (And breathe).

Committee Corridor 📜

The sexual abuse and harassment of women in educational settings is a ‘serious problem’ stated a Women and Equalities Committee report. It declared it ‘saddening’ that Ofsted had not moved quickly enough to confront the issue, called for relationships, sex and health education (RSHE) be made compulsory in sixth forms and colleges and demanded the development of a ‘specific strategy for engaging with boys and young men in schools on topics of sexual harassment and gender-based violence’.

The UK Government ‘does not know what it is trying to achieve’ with Euston Station, argues the Public Accounts Committee in a report on HS2. After a pause on new construction work at Euston for the next two years was announced in March, the Committee said that the Department for Transport ‘does not yet know’ what the costs and impacts would be on the local community. It has also raised questions as to ‘how the Government will manage high levels of inflation on the HS2 programme’.

The future storage and disposal costs for unusable PPE will be approximately £319 million, concludes the Public Accounts Committee in its annual report on the accounts of the Department of Health and Social Care 2021-22. It also criticised the ‘significant issues’ in the establishment of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) which led to a ‘fundamental absence of governance arrangements and controls’; and demanded DHSC ‘strengthen its governance and financial controls and set out a clear plan to restore timely accountability’ across the Department.

The Financial Services Regulations Sub-Committee has achieved success in mandating banks and building societies to reimburse scam victims, finds the Treasury Committee’s report on the sub-committees work in the second quarter of 2023. The sub-committee also examined support for insurance customers in financial difficulty; the Strong and Simple capital framework reforms; and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Key Movements 🔁

SNP Deputy Westminster leader Mhairi Black MP announced she would not seek re-election, citing the ‘outdated, sexist and toxic’ working environment and the ‘health and safety’ of her loved ones.

Nick Joicey has been appointed the new second Permanent Secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Martin Harris has been appointed Ambassador to Ukraine; Barry Lowen has been appointed British High Commissioner to the Republic of Cameroon; and Colin Dick has been appointed Chargé d’Affaires in the British Embassy Venezuela.

Nick Ephgrave has been appointed the new Director of the Serious Fraud Office.

Janette Beinart, Marcus Boyle, Stephen Gordon-Dando and Jenni Myles have been appointed Non-Executive Board members for the Cabinet Office.

Anit Chandarana has been appointed the Department for Transport’s Rail Infrastructure Group interim Director General.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch has been appointed as the Labour Party Member on the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.

Professor Brian Bell has been reappointed as Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee.

Luke Corkill and Mary Carter have been appointed to the Prison Service Pay Review Body.

Lawrence Weiss has been appointed as Chair of Reclaim Fund Ltd, a not-for-profit public body owned by HM Treasury.

Chair of the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee Angus Brendan MacNeil has become an Independent MP, having had the SNP Whip suspended following a row with the SNP Chief Whip.

This Week’s Polls 📊

41% of British voters think that the Labour Party’s policy is to re-join the European Union, while another 43% state either that they are unsure or that Labour has no clear policy on this issue. Just 16% correctly state that the current policy of the Labour Party is to stay out of the EU according to recent polling from Redfield & Wilton Strategies.

Scottish people remain keen on further devolution, but sceptical about the economic benefits of independence according to recent polling from Survation. They found that support for independence held at 47% and in a hypothetical General Election, the SNP were still expected to be the largest party in Scotland, with a vote share of 37% with Labour a close second at 34%.

46% of Britons believe a fair society is one where everyone is given the same opportunities. Only 20% see it as ensuring everyone enjoys the same quality of life according to Ipsos polling.

Government approval dropped to 13% while disapproval sat at 67% according to YouGov polling this week.

One in three Britons who own their home with a mortgage say they currently find it difficult to afford their mortgage payments, including 9% who find it “very difficult”. YouGov polling also found that 47% think it will be hard to afford their mortgage payments in a year’s time.

The Labour party leads by 18% in the latest Westminster voting intention polling from Redfield & Wilton Strategies. The voting intention was found to be: Labour 46% (+2), Conservative 28% (+2), Liberal Democrat 11% (-2), Reform UK 5% (-1), Green 5% (–), Scottish National Party 3% (–).

Think-Tanking 💭

The IFS published a report on Living Standards and Inequality in which they examined the recent trends in households’ living standards, with a particular focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020–21 and 2021–22. Their findings included that individuals aged 50–70 who moved from employment into economic inactivity in 2020–21 were more likely to end up in poverty (in the year of exit) than those who became inactive in previous years.

The Resolution Foundation published a report titled 'Sharing the Benefits: Can Britain secure broadly shared prosperity?' that examined whether there is still a plausible path to steadily rising shared prosperity and argued that a return to productivity growth is the central precondition for a return to rising wages in the UK.

The Institute for Government released their report on ‘The art of the devolution deal: How England’s counties and cities can make a success of devolution’. The report asserted that 'too little attention has been paid to how devolution deals are negotiated and implemented and how Whitehall should support them.'

The Centre for European Reform published a briefing into what the focus of the NATO alliance may be after the Vilnius meeting on 11-12 July. It suggested NATO allies build up industrial capacity to effectively support Kyiv.

Policy Exchange published the 'More Help to Grow' report which offered an analysis of the Government’s ‘Help to Grow: Management Scheme'. The report called the scheme an 'enormous missed opportunity for the UK economy' as no more than 2% of eligible mid-size firms were taking part.

The Progressive Policy Think Tank published two pieces this week. One considering the economic implications of a £30 billion public investment boost in the UK and another reflecting on the state of British healthcare on the NHS's 75th birthday.

You’ve Got to Laugh 😂

Will we be seeing Mhairi Black at the Apollo sometime soon, after she caused much amusement in the House of Commons at the expense of Oliver Dowden, while he was standing in for the Prime Minister at PMQs. Shortly after Dowden had said that the two both joined Parliament at the same time in 2015, Black quipped “I am pretty sure we will be leaving at the same time too”.

If your week hasn’t had quite enough song puns yet (see the Love Island Roundup), then enjoy the scenes from Parliament yesterday after Rail Minister Huw Merriman inadvertently plugged The Beatles while discussing rail station ticket offices. Not quite getting the joke, and after Tim Loughton, Robert Buckland and Kevin Brennan chimed in, the Bexhill and Battle MP bemusedly apologised for starting it… we think the Minister probably should have just Let it Be

We hope you have a lovely weekend


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