The bank holiday weekend rain couldn’t put a damper on the glorious scenes from the coronation on Saturday. However it turns out a Government u-turn and an Archbishop on the attack can bring down the mood in Whitehall for the remaining four days of the week. Advisers will be hoping tomorrow’s annual dose of Eurovision eccentricity will take the heat off again…
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 Government announced that it will no longer go ahead with its plans to get rid of thousands of EU laws with a u-turn on the controversial Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch released a written statement on Wednesday to confirm the Government will be tabling an amendment for report stage in the Lords, regarding the sunset clause in the Bill, which would originally would have seen all remaining inherited legislation from the EU ditched by the end of the year. The amendment however, means that only around 600 pieces of legislation, specifically identified by the Government, will be revoked, to give businesses more clarity over regulation and allow more time for further assessment. The Bill has historically been subject to large controversy, with critics suggesting that too many provisions for workers’ rights, environmental protection and food standards would have been lost in the original clause, making the u-turn from the Secretary of State not completely unsurprising. However, ever-controversial, the announcement did spark yet further debate this week, most predictably from pro-Brexit ERG members, including Jacob Rees-Mogg who has criticised the Prime Minister for breaking the pledge given in his campaign video from the first of the two leadership elections last year, pledging to review all retained law in his first 100 days in office. More prominently, Badenoch received a pretty severe telling off by Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, who heavily criticised the Secretary of State for not making the announcement in the House (but by written statement). Seemingly unphased by the controversy, Badenoch shook off criticisms by claiming that by upsetting the Labour frontbenches and the right wing ERG alike, she is “probably taking the pragmatic middle ground and is pleased to be doing so”.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed that the UK is supplying Ukraine with long-range missiles. The new missiles, the Storm Shadow Cruise Missile has a range over 250km and will drop to low altitude once launched to avoid detection by enemy radar before latching onto its target. Wallace described the move as “calibrated and proportionate to Russia’s escalations”. Ukraine has confirmed the missiles will not be used to attack targets in Russia itself.
The Archbishop of Canterbury attacked the Illegal Migration Bill as it went through its second reading in the House of Lords. Speaking in the Lords Chamber, Welby called the Bill “isolationist”, “morally unacceptable” and “politically impractical” adding that there are “too many problems in the Bill for one speech”. He sighted issues such as a long-term strategy, the battle with climate change, conflict, and working with criminal gangs directly as issues that the Bill does not address, accusing it of risking the UK’s reputation, failing to stop the boats and ignoring the interests of those in need of protection. In response to comments, Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick called the Archbishop “wrong”, adding that the Bill is the only way to stop “the pernicious trade of people smugglers” in absence of any viable alternative from opposition benches and critics.
The Week in Stats 📉
13 years - how long the Conservative Party have been in Government as of today.
0.25 – the amount the Bank of England raised interest rates by this week, up to 4.5%.
69.3% – the percentage of adults who agreed or strongly agreed that they do not have any say in what the government does.
48 – the number of MPs who have announced they are going to stand down at the next election, following Connor McGinn’s own announcement this week.
43 – how old Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is after celebrating his birthday today – coincidentally the age both Tony Blair and David Cameron were upon entering 10 Downing Street.
3.8 million – the number of families in England and Wales with adult children living with their parents according to 2021 census data.
64% – the percentage of adults in Great Britain who said they had worried about the impact of climate change in the past 12 months.
0.1% – how much UK GDP grew by in the first quarter of 2023.
68 – the state pension age by 2040 according to Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride MP.
Other Political News 📰
GPs are to be given £240m to help end the 8am rush for appointments, as part of the Government’s Primary Care Recovery Plan. This will mean that when patients contact their practice online or over the phone they will know on the day they make contact how their query will be managed, rather than being told to call back later. If their need is urgent, they will be assessed and given appointments on the same day, and if it is not urgent, appointments should be offered within two weeks. In addition, patients who need prescription medication will be able to get it directly from a pharmacy, without a GP appointment; and within the next year 90% of people will be able to access their GP records, including test results, via the NHS app.
TransPennine Express is to be brought under Government control, after Transport Secretary Mark Harper announced that he will not renew or extend its contract at the end of the month. The decision to bring the company into operator of last resort follows ‘months of significant disruption and regular cancellations across Transpennine Express’s network, which has resulted in a considerable decline in confidence for passengers who rely on the trains.’ However, the Department for Transport has said the decision is temporary and it is the Government’s ‘full intention’ that it will return to the private sector. Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh responded by arguing that ‘this endless cycle of shambolic private operators failing has to end’ and said a Labour Government would bring railways back into public ownership as contracts expire.
The UK’s free trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand will come into force on 31 May, and will ‘remove tariffs on 100% of UK goods exports, slash red tape, guarantee access for UK services and digital trade and will make it easier for UK professionals to live and work in Australia and New Zealand.’ In a written statement, Business Minister Nigel Huddleston stated that the agreements are ‘uncompromising in their maintenance of the UK’s high environmental, animal welfare and food safety standards’, with ‘robust protections’ for British farmers and the NHS.
The Government convened the first Net Zero Council, which was co-chaired by Energy Minister Graham Stuart and Co-op Group Chief Executive Shirine Khoury-Haq. The Council will support industry to help cut their emissions and develop greener practices, while also finding ways to ensure businesses can benefit from the UK’s position in renewable technologies. At the first meeting, the Council discussed the importance of ‘building one coherent voice across government, finance and business to support the UK’s key sectors in the net zero transition’ and identified construction, manufacturing, retail, water and waste as priority sectors.
Rishi Sunak held a No 10 reception ahead of the Eurovision Grand Final, less than a week after he was spotted singing his heart out to Take That’s Never Forget during the Coronation concert. At the event, guests were invited to wear sparkly clothing and gathered in a room adorned with the Ukrainian and Union Flags, with disco balls hanging on the Downing Street staircase. Sunak introduced Ruslana, Ukraine’s first Eurovision winner, who performed for attendees and stated that Liverpool is “doing Ukraine proud” by staging this year’s contest. Big Screens will be set up at over key locations throughout the UK for people to watch the shows live.
Around the World 🌍
The run-up to Turkey’s hotly anticipated election this Sunday took a twist when one of the opposition candidates pulled out. Muharrem Ince, the third candidate behind President Erdogan and main opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, pulled out after a police investigation was launched into his appearance in a sex tape which surfaced online (he insists the video is fake). Although he was only polling at 2%, it is believed much of Ince’s support may shift to Kilicdaroglu and could make all the difference in the tight race against Erdogan, who has ruled the country since 2003 and is accused of overseeing its turn towards authoritarianism.
Serious unrest erupted after Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested on corruption charges, which he argues are politically motivated. Seven other senior members of Khan’s party were also arrested, and at least 10 people died and over 2,000 were arrested when his supporters took to the streets across the country in protest. Pakistan’s Supreme Court has since ruled the arrest was illegal and ordered his immediate release. Khan was ousted from power after he lost his functioning majority in parliament in 2022, although it has been alleged his removal was actually brought about after disagreements with Pakistan’s powerful military.
Donald Trump was found guilty of sexually abusing a magazine columnist in the 1990s by a civil court, although he was not found liable for rape. He was ordered to pay $5m in damages and called the verdict a “disgrace” and “a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time”. He is set to appeal the ruling.
Slovakia’s prime minister resigned as the country grapples with political instability. Prime Minister Eduard Heger stepped down after a spate of ministerial resignations and was replaced by central bank deputy governor Ludovit Odor, who will lead a caretaker government. His resignation comes ahead of elections in September which are likely to be won by a Moscow-friendly party opposed to further military support for Ukraine. Odor is now Slovakia’s third prime minister since the 2020 general election.
EU Innovation Commissioner Mariya Gabriel was nominated to become Bulgaria’s new prime minister as a means of breaking the country’s political deadlock after five consecutive elections failed to produce a majority winner. She was nominated as a compromise in an attempt to corral smaller parties into joining a coalition government. Were she to take up the offer, her influential role of Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth would need to be filled.
In Parliament 🏛
The Energy Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons. Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps MP said it was the “longest and most significant piece of energy legislation to ever come before the House”, calling it a “critical part of making Britain an energy-secure nation”.
The Northern Ireland (Interim Arrangements) Bill completed all stages in the House of Commons, with its second reading in the House of Lords to take place on 18th May. The Bill extends the period during which the functions of Northern Ireland Departments can be exercised in the absence of Ministers, due to the lack of an Executive.
The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill passed its third reading in the Lords and returns to the Commons with amendments, including limiting the scope of the Bill to England only.
The Illegal Migration Bill completed its second reading in the Lords, with Peers voting against Lord Paddick’s amendment to block the legislation. The Archbishop of Canterbury strongly criticised the Bill, and indicated he would table amendments at Committee Stage, which begins on 24th May.
The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill received Royal Assent, and is now an Act. It makes ‘provision in relation to freedom of speech and academic freedom in higher education institutions and in students’ unions’.
The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill completed its committee stage in the Lords, with no amendments added. The Bill would establish an Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery, limit criminal investigations, legal proceedings, inquests and police complaints, and extend the prisoner release scheme in the Northern Ireland (Sentences) Act 1998.
The Online Safety Bill continued its Committee Stage in the Lords, with discussion taking place on identity verification, news publisher content, and the treatment of content which represents harmful health misinformation and disinformation. It’s committee stage is due to continue from next Tuesday.
British Overseas Territories and No Recourse to Public Funds were the topics discussed during Thursday’s Backbench Business debates in the House of Commons.
Committee Corridor 📜
Why is the Government bringing forward proposals on public order, previously rejected in Parliament? That’s the question posed by the House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee this week, in a report critical of the Home Office’s Draft Public Order Act 1986 (Serious Disruption to the Life of the Community) Regulations 2023. As Chair of the Committee, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd noted: “As far as we can ascertain, this is the first time a Government has sought to make changes to the law by making those changes through secondary legislation even though those same changes had been rejected by Parliament when introduced a short while before in primary legislation”.
Reforms are needed in the research sector to address concerns with the reproducibility of science, the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee has argued in its latest report out this week. The report notes that despite the Government's increased focus on research and innovation and the largest-ever increase in public investment in research and development, the integrity of some scientific research has been called into question because of difficulties in reproducing claimed findings of experiments or analyses of data.
A complete and coordinated overhaul of systems at Defra is needed to ensure air quality, safe food and water supply, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee have argued in the first of two reports out this week. This report argues that not enough focus is being placed on the negative impact or cost to the economy of obsolete, disconnected systems, and Defra risks wasting money due to be spent on IT because it has not yet made key business transformation decisions.
The Cabinet Office has “failed to get a grip” since taking responsibility for national security vetting, the Public Accounts Committee has concluded in its second report of the week. The report notes that the committee is especially concerned with the Cabinet Office’s complacency over clearance renewals, and argues that the UK Security Vetting service has been understaffed since its inception in 2017, despite the essential role it plays in national security.
Key Movements 🔁
Conor McGinn MP has become the latest MP to announce he’s standing down at the next election. The MP, currently sitting as an independent having been suspended from the Labour Party in December due to an undisclosed allegation, becomes the 48th MP to announce his intention to stand down at the next election… with still likely a year to go…
Sam Beckett has been announced as the new Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury, joining from her current role as Second Permanent Secretary at the Office for National Statistics and the Deputy Chief Executive at the UK Statistics Authority.
Llyr Gruffydd MS has taken over as Acting Leader of Plaid Cymru, after Adam Price MS resigned on Wednesday night, after recent claims of a “toxic culture” in the party. Mr Gruffydd has said he won’t stand in the forthcoming leadership contest.
Dr Alastair McPhail, the former Ambassador to Ethiopia, has been appointed Envoy for the UK-African Investment Summit 2024.
Sir Declan Morgan, former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, has been appointed Chief Commissioner of the Independent Commission for Reconciliation and Information Recovery.
Julia Crouch has been appointed the Governor of Anguilla. For the last three years she has served in senior roles in the British Embassy in Moscow.
This Week’s Polls 📊
Three in ten believe police were too harsh with protestors at the coronation. However, Britons tended to think that the police had got the balance right when dealing with protestors at 41%. Conservatives were most likely to believe the police were too lenient on protesters (15%), whilst half of Labour voters felt that the police were too harsh (52%).
The Conservatives are down one point at 29%, according to the latest UK voting intention poll from techne, which also has Labour unchanged from last week on 44%. The Lib Dems are up two points to 11%, Reform is down one point to 5%, whilst there’s no change for the Greens (5%), or SNP (3%).
62% of Britons disapprove of the Government, while 20% approve and 21% just don’t know, according to YouGov polling from the start of this week.
Labour is leading the Conservatives by 4% in Blue Wall areas, according to polls from Redfield & Wilson.
76% of people in Britain say rising costs have ‘significantly’ or ‘fairly’ affected their lives, including more than 4-in-5 voters aged between 25 and 34, according to polling from Redfield & Wilson.
Support for the SNP has dropped by 5% since Nicola Sturgeon resigned, with Survation's recent Westminster voting intention poll showing the SNP are on 38% of the Scottish vote, just 7% ahead of Labour. More interestingly, the poll reveals that just 64% of 2014 Yes voters expressed the intention to vote for the SNP in the next general election, down from 75% in 2019.
The IPPR published a report on the role of apprenticeship intermediaries in England, arguing that the potential of apprenticeships to make a ‘transformative difference to the lives of learners and to the skills and productivity of businesses’ were not currently being realised.
The Institute for Government released a paper on devolution and regional growth, contending that the devolution of powers across England must be ‘coherent’ and deliver the ‘right responsibilities to the right institutions with flexible funding’.
The Henry Jackson Society released a report about why Britain and the West ‘must act now to help rebuild Ukraine’.
The Centre for European Reform posted a paper on Brexit that estimated the British economy was 5% smaller than it would be had the UK remained a member of the European Union.
You’ve Got to Laugh 😂
Let’s admit it, we all love a bit of political gossip – it’s why at least 67.4% of our readers swipe down to this section first (based on wholly unscientific guesswork), and it doesn’t get much better than insider political gossip right from the heart of Government. That’s why hacks in Westminster have been lapping up the latest political podcast launched this week – Unprecedented, from Guto Harri, Boris Johnson’s former Director of Communications. Episode 1 came out yesterday on Global Player, and has already revealed that Boris Johnson “squared up” to the then Prince Charles over a speech he was due to give on slavery, and that he wanted to send this musical ditty made by Australian comedian Tom Cardy during lockdown, to Rishi Sunak when he resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer. (Warning for anyone reading this at work, around children or not keen on hearing some pretty foul language for a Friday afternoon… this isn’t a clip for you)
It’s difficult to find a better place for a perfect Instagram selfie than the Royal Box at the Coronation Concert, at least that’s what the PM thought when he took this lovely picture with his wife Akshata Murthy, on Sunday evening. What we rarely get to see is the behind-the-scenes shot and so top marks to Stefan Rousseau, the Press Association’s Chief Political Photographer, for capturing the chaos behind the camera, in this brilliant photo showing Peter Phillips, the King’s nephew, and his daughter Savannah, the late Queen’s first great-grandchild, doing their best to keep out of the Prime Minister’s shot! (h/t to Politico London Playbook for spotting this).
We hope you have a lovely, 🤞 sunny 🤞 weekend.