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Lack of Energy | Cheap Pints | Peaked Interest?

Love Island is over, the Ashes are headed back to Australia and interest rates have just shot up again. Happy recess everyone.

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 🚨

Sunak and Shapps kicked off Energy Week, setting out how the Government will deliver on its energy security plans to grow the economy and create jobs across the UK. On Monday, the Prime Minister visited Scotland to stress that it will continue to be at the forefront of plans to strengthen the UK’s long-term energy security; confirmed that hundreds of new oil and gas licences will be granted in the UK (much to the dismay of Greenpeace activists who protested on the roof of Sunak’s North Yorkshire home); and confirmed that projects Acorn in North East Scotland and Viking in the Humber have been chosen as the third and fourth carbon capture usage and storage clusters in the UK, supporting up to 50,000 jobs by 2030. At an industry roundtable led by Energy Security Secretary Grant Shapps on Wednesday, energy firms across renewables, oil and gas and nuclear outlined projects worth up to £100bn that are due to be built across the UK over the next decade, to further boost home-grown clean energy. This was followed by Shapps announcing a £22m increase in Government backing for renewables through the Contracts for Difference Scheme, the main system for supporting low-carbon electricity generation. Shapps has also welcomed a report by Electricity Networks Commissioner Nick Winser on how to accelerate the deployment of electricity transmission infrastructure, and will consider the recommendations before presenting an action plan later this year.

The Bank of England raised the base interest rate for the 14th time in a row to 5.25%. The Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee voted by six to three on Thursday to take interest rates to a 15-year high, with two members preferring an increase of 0.5 percentage points and one voting to maintain the rate at 5%. BoE Governor Andrew Bailey underlined that interest rates will not fall until there is “solid evidence” that rapid price rises are slowing, with the Bank adding that rates would need to be ‘sufficiently restrictive for sufficiently long to return inflation to the 2% target sustainably in the medium term’. In response, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt acknowledged that a rise would be a “worry for families with mortgages and for businesses with loans”, but reiterated the Government’s aim to cut inflation and said the plan was working. Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves argued that ‘responsibility for the crisis lies with the Tories’ and said that a Labour Government would ‘boost growth and get bills down’.

The Week in Stats 📉

5.25% – how high the Bank of England raised the baseline interest rate to on Thursday.

98% – the percentage decrease in plastic bag use after the introduction of charges in 2014.

122,000 – the rise in victims of violence in the UK aged 10 to 15 from March 2020 to last year’s figure of 227,000 as suggested by recent Labour analysis.

11p – how much cheaper tax paid on pints and other drinks on tap is now compared to their supermarket’s equivalents.

100 – the number of Britons thought to be still in Niger after a group of British citizens were evacuated from the country now under military control following the coup last week.

56 days – The number of days since Nadine Dorries announced she would “immediately” quit as an MP… 7 days more than Liz Truss’ total tenure as Prime Minister.

Other Political News 📰

An overhaul of the alcohol duty system came into force this week, with the duty on drinks on tap in 38,000 UK pubs now up to 11p lower than at the supermarket. The changes are designed to level the playing field between pubs and supermarkets as part of the Government’s ‘Brexit Pubs Guarantee’ launched in the Spring Budget. The changes will also now see drinks taxed by strength, lowering duty on drinks such as certain types of pale ale, pre-mixed gin and tonics and English sparkling wine in shops and supermarkets; but increasing duty on wine by up to £1 per bottle.

Former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier has lost her Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat after a recall petition successfully passed the threshold of 10% of constituents. The petition was automatically triggered in June after MPs voted to accept the recommendations of a report by the Standards Committee to suspend Ferrier for 30 days, after she broke the MPs Code of Conduct by contravening covid rules in 2020. A by-election will take place in due course, on 5th October at the earliest. The seat has alternated between Labour and the SNP over the past decade and Keir Starmer will be fighting to add a second by-election victory to his belt this year ahead of the looming General Election.

A £40m ‘5G Innovation Regions’ fund for local and regional authorities was launched this week by the Department for Science Innovation and Technology. The fund has been designed to accelerate innovation in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, transport, agriculture and public services, and help to improve connectivity across the UK. The Government announced the UK Telecoms Innovation Network will also launch a nationwide campaign to bring together businesses who want to adopt 5G services with telecoms providers and vendors.

The latest National Risk Register, outlining 89 threats to the UK’s ‘safety, security or critical systems’ has been published. Unveiled by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (and acting-PM whilst Rishi Sunak is on holiday) Oliver Dowden MP, the updated NRR is reportedly 'more transparent than ever before' and 'publicly shares previously classified information about a number of potential risk'. Key highlights include disruption to energy supplies following Russia’s full scale invasion of Ukraine; malicious uses of drones to disrupt transport and other critical operations; and threats to undersea cables.

Around the World 🌍

West African leaders threatened military action against Niger’s junta following last week’s coup, though stated that this would be a ‘last resort’. The regional bloc Ecowas (the Economic Community of West African States), made up of 15 West African states including Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, issued an ultimatum to the junta, giving them 7 days (until Sunday) to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum, who is currently being held captive, before taking ‘all measures necessary to restore constitutional order’. The statement is the first time the bloc has threatened military action since 2017, when Senegalese troops were deployed to The Gambia to force the former leader to leave after refusing to accept election defeat. The alliance has also announced an immediate no fly zone over Niger for commercial flights, a closure of land borders and financial sanctions against the junta. Writing an open piece in the Washington Post, President Bazoum stated he was being held hostage, calling for the US and wider international community to help restore the constitutional order.

Donald Trump was charged for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election defeat in his latest arraignment, his third criminal case in six weeks. The former President appeared in court on Thursday afternoon, pleading not guilty to the charges, including: conspiracy to defraud the US; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of an official proceeding; and conspiracy against the rights of citizens. The next hearing on the case is expected to take place on 28 August, where the judge may set a trial date. Trump now faces 5 upcoming trials, relating to mishandling of documents; hush-payments; business practices and a sexual assault case.

Myanmar’s military officially postponed the promised August elections, by extending a state of emergency it imposed after the 2021 coup. In a televised statement on Monday, the military suggested that there will not be sufficient security arrangements for people to vote freely if an election went ahead. Later in the week, the regime offered a partial pardon to former democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi, reducing her 33-year sentence by 6 years. Seemingly contradictory to the implicit power struggle as suggested by the postponed elections, the partial pardoning of the democratic figure has been suggested to be a political trick, to send a message to the growing concerns of the international community surrounding the democratic rights of the country, without actioning anything substantial.

Lebanon’s Central Bank Chief stepped down after 30 years in the position as planned. Riad Salameh, who was appointed in 1993 in a bid to bring stability to the economy, is commonly blamed for the soaring inflationary figures in the country, causing the Lebanese pound to lose 98% of its worth; and has been accused of mass financial mismanagement. Salameh is also being investigated in seven counties for embezzlement and illicit enrichment, including having an arrest warrant out for him in France and Germany. In the absence of the appointment of a successor, his deputy, Wassim Mansouri, has taken over as an interim Chief.

Canada’s President Justin Trudeau has separated from his wife Sophie after 18 years of marriage. Trudeau becomes the second Canadian Prime Minister to announce a separation whilst in Office, the first being his father, Pierre Trudeau, who announced a separation from his mother, Margaret, in 1977. Sophie will no longer take part in official duties and will receive no help from the Government in arranging her own appearances.

Committee Corridor 📜

The Government’s current goals for nuclear power are a ‘wish list’ that do not provide the ‘comprehensive detailed and specific strategy that is required’ declares a Science, Innovation and Technology Committee report. While it states the Government is right to pursue nuclear power to ‘meet our future electricity needs’, it calls on it to ‘develop and publish a Nuclear Strategic Plan to turn high level aspirations into concrete steps to deliver new nuclear’. The ‘ambitious’ target of 24 GW of nuclear generating capacity by 2050 is ‘almost double the highest installed nuclear capacity the UK has ever achieved and would require a ‘substantial programme of nuclear new build’.

Key Movements 🔁

Technology Minister Paul Scully and former Chief Executive of Dialog Semiconductor Dr Jalal Bagherli have been appointed co-chairs of the Semiconductor Advisory Panel. There are 9 other members of the Panel.

Richard Moriarty has been named as the new CEO of the Financial Reporting Council, replacing Sir Jon Thompson.

Professor David Gann has been appointed the inaugural Chair of UK Industrial Fusion Solutions.

Fiona Dunsire has been appointed the new Government Actuary.

Sarah Breeden will succeed Sir Jon Cunliffe as the next Deputy Governor for Financial Stability at the Bank of England in November 2023.

Sir Simon Bollom is the new Chair of the new Nuclear Skills Taskforce, which is aimed at ‘turbo charging skills activity in the nuclear sector.

Sarah Goom has been appointed Director General of the Commercial with Trade and International Directorate.

Nigel Casey has been named as the UK’s new Ambassador to Russia, succeeding Dame Deborah Bronnert in November 2023. Casey has been the Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and FCDO Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Oliver Christian has been appointed Trade Commissioner to the Middle East and Pakistan, as well as Consul General to Dubai.

Jeffrey Glekin will become British High Commissioner to the Republic of Seychelles in October 2023.

This Week’s Polls 📊

Labour continue to lead in Blue wall area voting intentions according to a Redfield and Wilton poll which found that Labour has dropped one point to 35%. The Conservatives have also dropped a point to 31%, whilst the Liberal Democrats and Reform UK gained a point each at 24% and 6% respectively.

40 percent of UK adults were found to support ULEZ compared to 28 percent who opposed it as found by recent polling from DeltaPoll. This counters recent surveys from Conservative Home which found 66% of Conservative Party members opposed low traffic neighbourhoods.

Three in four think Britain is becoming a worse place to live so found the latest Ipsos poll, which discovered widespread dissatisfaction with life in Britain and how the Government is running the country, with just six percent of people saying the UK was improving.

Inheritance tax, council tax and fuel duty are seen as the most unfair taxes, further Ipsos polling has revealed, whilst income tax for high earners over £125,000, and taxes on tobacco/alcohol are those seen as most fair.

70% of Britons think Liz Truss changed Britain for the worse, while 60% say the same about Boris Johnson, Ipsos has found. In the same poll they found that the public are most likely to think Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair changed Britain for the better.

Think-Tanking 💭

Onward published a report on empowering the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and prioritising research and development across Government as a means to ‘boost the nation’s productivity, transform public services, and compete internationally’. Among these findings were eye-catching recommendations such as exempting the Department from Treasury spending controls and moving responsibility for universities from the Department for Education to DSIT. Let’s just say we can’t see Jeremy Hunt and Gillian Keegan endorsing this report any time soon.

The IFS published a report on how parents’ experiences in the labour market during the pandemic shaped their children’s social and emotional development, which finds that children whose families experienced at least one change in the labour market saw their socio-emotional development worsen by almost 10% more than those whose families remained consistently employed or unemployed throughout.

RUSI published a paper on the UK’s engagement in Kenya which finds that while it has delivered ‘significant results’, the ‘longstanding’ relationship is ‘complex’, with historical links ‘offering both benefit and burden’; and published a report on cyber insurance and ransomware, warning that it ‘remains one of the most persistent cyber threats facing the UK’.

The Henry Jackson Society published a report on how the UK should respond to Russia’s weaponization of energy this coming winter, suggesting it decrease demand by rewarding those who spend less and subsidise energy efficiency projects for households and businesses.

The Centre for European Reform published a report which argues that Spain ‘must rebuild its political centre’, warning that its ‘inconclusive electoral results will diminish Madrid’s influence in Europe’ and calling on conservatives and socialists to work together.

Reform published a report on ‘why Whitehall is so hard to reform’, identifying a range of barriers such as a ‘lack of clarity about who is responsible for instigating change‘; ministerial uninterest; departmental fiefdoms; and ‘a bias for policy and ministerial handling skills over corporate and organisational capabilities in promotion’.

You’ve Got to Laugh 😂

How does a Tweet become an X-tweet? Well, Labour MP Karl Turner quickly discovered that this week, when he was forced to apologise after tweeting a picture of the Prime Minister pulling a bad pint. Except it turned out the pic was fake. Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan weighed in on the action criticising the MP for “misleading the public”, leading Business and Trade Committee Chair Darren Jones MP to weigh in and criticise Michelle Donelan for not doing enough to tackle deep fake photos, and finally leading Karl Turner to spend the rest of the morning tweeting old anti-Tory headlines with ‘real or fake?’ above them. A storm in a pint glass it seems, but we’re are deep into recess I suppose…

Not really big political news or funny, but in August, you take what you can get, and so we were pleased to see the Government publish an updated list of ministerial responsibilities at the beginning of recess. The list, dropped on the Cabinet Office website every six months or so, compiles ministerial titles, responsibilities, email addresses and phone numbers… although if you’re hoping to give the Chancellor a quick call, you’ll be sadly disappointed. Unlike its early days back in 2011 when you could flick through the list, punch the given number into your Blackberry and get through to George Osborne’s Private Secretary, many departments now simply give their switchboard and generic enquiries email address. Better luck next time Joe Public.

We very much hope the overworked and often underappreciated press officers of the civil service are having a quiet recess, in a break from their regular round the clock duties fielding questions from journalists about whatever incident or revelation has come to light that week about their boss. But we couldn’t miss the opportunity to flag the unintentional double-meaning caused by the punctuation in the title of this FCDO press release this week – British High Commissioner-designate, Jane Marriott CMG OBE, “delighted” to arrive in Islamabad – which reminds us of this iconic Friends sketch…

We hope you have a lovely weekend


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