Lib Dem conference sailed by without much fuss this week, whilst lobbyists, ministers and a number of hardcore activists prepare to head up to the cash-cow that is Tory Party Conference this Sunday. The poorly-timed revelation the Government are reconsidering building the northern sections of HS2 should make the four-day shindig in Manchester all the more fun. And just in time, YouGov’s latest poll has the extraordinary revelation that just 1% of 18-24 year olds are planning on voting Tory…
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 🚨
High Speed (probs not going to happen) Rail made headlines this week, with reports that the Prime Minister is becoming increasingly alarmed with how much the HS2 project is costing spiralling rumours that the Birmingham to Manchester line may not go ahead and that the line will end in Old Oak Common in West London, rather than proposed Euston. The talk of delays and abandonment spurred 5 Labour Mayors including Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to meet on Wednesday morning, releasing a statement suggesting that failure to deliver on HS2 would “leave swathes of the North with Victorian transport infrastructure unfit for purpose” and warning of the huge economic damage in London and the South, where construction has already begun. The rumours were inevitably a hot topic of conversation in Sunak’s first traditional pre-conference regional radio media round, where he was pressed about HS2 scrappages on BBC Radio Manchester, providing a pretty awkward conversation which ended in the Prime Minister suggesting that the Government are at least taking care of potholes… An announcement on HS2 is expected to come by the Autumn Statement in November.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman got everyone talking again this week, following her speech to right wing US think tank, The American Enterprise Institute, in Washington. In her speech Braverman called for an immigration system that is “fit for the modern age” questioning whether the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention fits that brief; suggested that migration to the UK has become “too much, too quick” making it harder for society to adapt and accommodate new customs; argued that multiculturalism is a “misguided dogma” allowing people to “live parallel lives”; suggested that simply being “fearful of discrimination” is not a reason to seek asylum, exampling that the UK cannot offer individuals asylum just for “being gay, or a woman”; suggested the global refugee framework allows people to “shop around” for where they would like to live rather than seeking refuge in the first safe country; and argued that calling for reform to the UN’s Convention does not make people racist, illiberal or anti-refugee. After the speech was made, Number 10 assured that it was signed off by the Prime Minister (dismissing any claims that this not-so-new hard right stance from the Home Sec may be the first of her attempts to secure a leadership bid), though the speech also proved a difficult topic for the Prime Minister in the regional radio appearances, after Sunak refused to say whether he agreed that multiculturalism has failed in an interview with BBC East Midlands, with one of his main lines of argument seemingly being “my mum is from Leicester”. Unsurprisingly the speech has received a large amount of backlash from a number of Tory MPs, alongside vocal criticism from the UN (and National Treasure territory: Sir Elton John and Sir Ian McKellen).
The Rosebank oilfield was given the go ahead by regulators the North Sea Transition Authority. The decision comes after Sunak’s Net Zero speech last week, in which he repeated that the Government will prioritise using domestic sources for oil and gas until 2050, whilst the capacity for renewable energy increases. The field is expected to be operational by 2026 and produce 8% of the UK’s oil production between 2026 and 2030. Labour have confirmed that they will not revoke the licence if they win the next General Election, though the likes of First Minister Humza Yousaf, Green MP Caroline Lucas and Net Zero guru Chris Skidmore MP have heavily condemned the decision.
Coming Up Next Week 📆
Conservative Party Conference kicks off this Sunday in a rainy Manchester, with speeches from leaders in the nations and regions, followed by Defence and Foreign Affairs. Monday morning it’s the turn of Energy, Transport and Culture. Monday afternoon sees the Chancellor take to the stage followed by Business, Work & Pensions, Environment and Education. Tuesday morning it’s Health, Science and Housing; Tuesday afternoon is Justice and Home Affairs; and on Wednesday afternoon the PM closes the whole thing. Check out the full agenda here.
A new ban on business selling single-use plastic cutlery, balloon sticks, polystyrene cups and food containers comes into force in England this Sunday 1st October.
Junior doctors go on strike from 7am on Monday 2nd October, through to 7am on Thursday 5th October.
Train strikes take place on a whole series of rail lines by members of the ASLEF Union both this Saturday 30th September and Wednesday 4th October. Check the link for the full list.
The Week in Stats 📉
7.8 – average number of sick days taken by UK workers in the past year, up from 5.8 before the pandemic.
27 – the number of times Ed Davey mentioned the Conservatives in his party conference speech.
1.5% – decrease in the number of VAT and/or PAYE businesses in the UK compared to last year.
69,000 – the estimated number of barrels of oil that could be produced a day at Rosebank.
0 – the number of times the Prime Minister has guaranteed that the HS2 rail line will run to Manchester.
£45,000 – the amount of money Matt Hancock was paid for going on SAS Who Dares Wins.
Other Political News 📰
No we didn’t forget about it… as the Liberal Democrats kicked off Conference Season on the coast down in Bournemouth, with the Lib Dem leadership defeated by young Lib Dem members in its bid to remove their target of building 380,000 new homes a year, a target which former leader Tim Farron compared to “Thatcherism”. In his keynote speech, leader Ed Davey focused on the NHS, pledging to make cancer care a top priority, while also calling again for the introduction of proportional representation. He highlighted the need to fix the UK’s “broken relationship” with Europe, said that he had never seen the nation “so badly governed”, and lamented the “disgraceful” climate policy announcements made last week.
Will they, won’t they? Labour’s approach to private schools came under the spotlight once more this week, with the Party dropping its plans to end charitable status for private schools if they form the next Government. Labour say they can remove ‘unfair tax breaks’ from schools without changing the rules on charitable status, with the Party saying they would charge private schools 20% VAT and also end business rates relief, estimated to raise £1.7bn.
The long-awaited Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate has been unveiled, setting out the UK’s path for all new cars to be zero emission by 2035. Minimum annual targets have been set by the Mandate, with a requirement for 22% of new cars sold in 2024 to be zero emission, rising to 80% of new cars and 70% of new vans by 2030. 100% of new cars sold in the UK in 2035 will be zero emission, after that target was delayed by 5 years by the Prime Minister last week.
It’s 5pm somewhere in the world, so crack open a (no or low-) alcoholic beverage, to mark the launch of a consultation aimed at making no and low-alcohol drinks more popular and easier to buy. The proposal is that drinks containing 0.5% will be labelled alcohol-free, as is already the case in nations such as the USA, Germany and Australia. The threshold for alcohol-free in the UK is currently 0.05%, with it hoped that increasing this will lead to expanded product ranges and more consumer options.
The UK and Washington State have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to increase trade and investment, the UK’s sixth such agreement with a US State. With Washington State having a GDP equivalent to Poland, and home to companies such as Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft and Boeing, the combined GDP of those six States is now £2.2tn. Aerospace is a priority sector under the MoU, with clean energy, digital, life sciences, supply chain resilience, agriculture, and innovation also areas of focus.
Two new policies have been announced this week to reduce crime, firstly with the launch of the Prison Education Service. This will overhaul education in prisons, aiming to skill up offenders while also protecting the public. It includes a new Head of Education Skills and Work roles in every prison, and the first ever prisoner apprenticeships in catering and construction. A new Building Futures Programme has also been launched that will offer 14-to-16 year olds support when leaving schools, with coaching, careers and educational counselling.
Around the World 🌍
Dianne Feinstein, the longest serving female US senator, has died age 90. She had a trailblazing career as the first female Mayor of San Francisco before her election to the Senate in 1992, where she rose to became the first female Chair of the Intelligence Committee. However, pressure had been increasing on Feinstein to resign due to alleged issues with her memory and mental capacity. California Governor Gavin Newsom is now required to appoint a temporary successor in her place.
Joe Biden became the first US President to join a picket line when he met striking autoworkers in Michigan and said that they "deserve the significant raise” they were striking for. Never to be outdone, Donald Trump delivered a speech to striking workers in the state the following day, having claimed that Biden had ‘no intention of going to visit the United Autoworkers, until I announced that I would be headed to Michigan to be with them’.
Meanwhile, would-be contenders for the Republican presidential nomination battled it out in a second televised debate. The candidates upped their attacks on the absent Trump, with former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie labelling him “Donald Duck”. Highlights of the generally chaotic debate included former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley telling businessman Vivek Ramaswamy that she “felt a little bit dumber” every time she heard him talk, and Ramaswamy accidentally thanking his rivals for “speaking while I’m interrupting”…
The Speaker of Canada's House of Commons has resigned after inviting a Ukrainian Nazi to Parliament. Canada drew condemnation last week when it was revealed a 98-year-old Ukrainian man, who received a standing ovation in Parliament for fighting “for Ukrainian independence” during the Second World War, had actually served in a voluntary Nazi unit that is accused of killing Polish and Jewish civilians. Speaker Anthony Rota said he took responsibility for inviting the man to Parliament, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the incident had been “deeply embarrassing” for Canada.
Refugees have fled in droves from Azerbaijan to Armenia after Azerbaijan invaded and took back control of the ethnically Armenian province of Nagorno-Karabakh. The breakaway state, which sits within Azerbaijan’s borders but is populated by Armenians, has been functionally self-governing for three decades, although with extensive support from neighbouring Armenia. Over half of its population has now fled for Armenia following Azerbaijan’s military operation.
Committee Corridor 📜
Urgent action is needed from the Government, Ofgem and energy suppliers to help households facing an apparently inevitable new winter crisis, MPs on the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee concluded in the new Committee’s first report out last Saturday.
School absence figures have failed to return to pre-pandemic levels, a report by the Education Committee revealed this week, with MPs calling for better mental health and special educational needs support, a more consistent fines policy and the “long-awaited” register of children not in school.
Key Movements 🔁
Sir Alok Sharma MP announced he will be standing down at the next General Election.
Fergus Ewing MSP has been suspended from the SNP after he voted against Green Party MSP and Circular Economy Minister Lorna Slater in a confidence vote.
Martin Harris officially took over as the UK’s new Ambassador to Ukraine. His previous roles include serving as the Deputy Head of Mission to Russia.
Sports legends Jill Scott MBE (former England footballer) and Daley Thompson CBE (Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete), along with former 10 Downing Street Unit chief Sir Michael Barber, have been appointed to the Government’s National Physical Activity Taskforce.
Dr Jo Saxton has been appointed the new Chief Executive of UCAS, stepping down from her role as Chief Regulator at Ofqual in December.
Dame Sue Carr, the Lord Chief Justice Designate, has been appointed to the House of Lords.
Sir Robert Stheeman announced he will be retiring as CEO of the Debt Management Office. The recruitment process for his replacement will start shortly, and his successor will be in post in early 2024.
Vice Admiral Andy Kyte CB has been appointed Chief of Defence Logistics and Support.
Sue McAllister has been appointed HM Chief Inspector of Probation until March 2024 or when a substantive post holder is appointed, whichever is earliest.
Charlie Taylor has been reappointed HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for a second term of three years.
This Week’s Polls 📊
Rishi Sunak’s net favourability rating has fallen to a new low since becoming Prime Minister, according to new figures released by YouGov. Whilst higher than Sunak, Keir Starmer’s rating has also fallen to its lowest level since September 2022, from the peak reached in October last year at the time of Liz Truss’ short premiership.
Labour have the narrowest lead in the Red Wall seats since August 2022 according to Redfield & Wilton’s latest stats, whose regular surveys give Labour a 14% lead over the Tories, down from 25% just five weeks ago.
The majority of people polled support replacing the House of Lords with a second elected chamber, the results of a recent Ipsos poll for the Rest is Politics podcast revealed this week. (Editor’s note: from the perspective of a business that spends their waking hours watching both the Commons and Lords… this does not represent the view at Navigate Politics…)
Just 1% of 18-20 year olds are planning to vote for the Conservatives according to YouGov’s latest poll… down from 10% in their August polling. A whopping 69% of 18-24 year olds are however planning to vote for Labour… demonstrating in a nutshell why Labour are keen to lower the voting age to 16…
The IFS published a report on reforming inheritance tax, exploring options for reform and the impact that would come from amending or abolishing the tax. Recommendations were suggested that would make inheritance taxation fairer, clearer and harder to avoid.
The IFS also shared commentary on taxes in the UK heading for an all-time high, with this being the biggest tax-raising Parliament since records began.
The IPPR released a report on fairer taxes and smarter spending, noting that ‘record’ levels of tax are unremarkable on the international stage and demonstrate how rising tax levels can enable better standards of living.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies posted a research paper on how NATO states can boost their deterrence capabilities whilst pursuing avenues for reintroducing arms control, as Russia’s war against Ukraine marks a new era for Europe.
The Institute of Economic Affairs released a report on the high inflation rates sweeping across the UK, US and Europe, looking at how Western Central Banks got it wrong and what they should do about it.
Onward published research on shaping the next phase of the net zero reset. With voter support for fair and affordable climate action, the report suggests that practical policies to help people go green and build support for new infrastructure should be central policy announcements in the run up to the next general election.
You’ve Got to Laugh 😂
If you didn’t get enough of Matt Hancock being locked in an underwater tank full of Australian snappy things… the MP for West Suffolk (yes, he’s still a serving MP…) can now be seen getting yelled at in his latest reality TV appearance on Celebrity SAS Who Dares Wins. Viewers were delighted this week to see the former Health Secretary being called “cocky”, screamed at for “running like a ****ing ostrich”, told to “not get caught cheating” (like what they did there), and spend the whole episode speaking to the former special forces instructors like every home-counties dad of two in his mid-40s talks to the builders repaving his drive. Catch up on this week’s episode here.
The Doppelgänger of the Week Award goes to Security Minister Tom Tugendhat MP, who was quick to accept that he does indeed look like one of the stars of the latest series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK – the excellently named Kate Butch.
And finally… if you enjoy seeing your politicians thrown overboard… you’ll enjoy this footage of Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey frolicking around in the sea off Bournemouth, after one of his own candidates rocked the boat.