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Planning Ahead | What a Banker | ULEZ OK

Resignations, new planning policies and a major High Court ruling. The era of the calm, quiet, eventless first week of recess is officially over. Maybe we’ll all get a break in August…?

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 kicked off recess with a focus on housebuilding and planning, with Housing Secretary Michael Gove MP delivering a major speech in which he set out a long-term plan for regeneration, inner-city densification and housing delivery across England. He unveiled plans to supply 'beautiful, safe, decent homes' in places with high-growth potential in partnership with local communities. This includes the regeneration of a further three English cities (on top of the 20 announced in the Levelling Up White Paper), committing to transformational change in Cambridge, central London and central Leeds; allocating £800m from the £1.5bn Brownfield, Infrastructure and Land fund to unlock up to 56,000 new homes on brownfield sites; providing an additional £550m funding for Homes England and a new fund of £24m to scale up local planning capacity; and creating a new 'super-squad' of experts to support large scale development projects. The Prime Minister also claimed that the Government would meet its manifesto commitment to build one million homes over this Parliament, despite missing its annual target of building 300,000 homes per year last year.

Nigel Farage claimed scalps at NatWest and Coutts with the resignations of NatWest CEO Alison Rose and Coutts CEO Peter Flavel. Rose was the first woman to lead a major UK bank, and NatWest shares fell more than 2.5% after the announcement. She also subsequently stood down from her position as co-chair of the Energy Efficiency Council; had to leave the Business Council; and has had her 2019 review of female entrepreneurship renamed. The Treasury announced it had contacted the UK’s biggest banks to reiterate that banking was a ‘fundamental right’ and that the Government would ‘not hesitate to take the action necessary to protect it’. Smelling blood, Farage has since called for the *entire* board of NatWest to resign over the affair.

The second Investment Zone was announced, this time based across the wider Liverpool area with a focus on life sciences. US pharmaceutical manufacturer TriRx pledged an initial £10m investment, which was backed by £80m of Government funding, with the intention of building on the region’s pre-existing leadership in bioprocessing. The Government hopes the Zone will ultimately unlock ‘£320m of private investment and deliver 4,000 jobs’ in the long term. Six more Investment Zones are set to be announced in England, with each offering an ‘imaginative partnership between local government and a university or research institute in a way that catalyses emerging innovation clusters’. The first, announced two weeks ago, is to be based in South Yorkshire and focus on advanced manufacturing.

The Week in Stats 📉

£29.4 million – The amount the Barbenheimer duo made at the UK box office during their opening weekend, with Gerwig’s Barbie totaling £18.5m and Nolan’s Oppenheimer taking a very respectable £10.8m in the first three days of their release.

20 – The average number of viewing requests for every rental property in the UK according to BBC data.

£7.7 million – The amount Just Stop Oil has cost the police since April in a 13-week long campaign, spanning 515 protests and an estimated 23,500 police officer shifts.

82% - The percentage of burglaries that were left unresolved in London last year, according to new Home Office figures.

20 – The number of days of planned strike action in August as junior doctors announced a further 4 day strike this week. If planned action goes ahead, they will strike alongside rail workers and airport staff across the month.

40% - The drop in the number of cygnets found in the River Thames compared to this time last year, thought to be due to the increase in avian flu.

Other Political News 📰

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) expansion across London will be able to go ahead as planned next month, after the High Court concluded the expansion is lawful, following a legal challenge from five Tory-led councils. Three cases on the expansion were examined, including whether Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has the necessary powers to implement the scheme; the lawfulness of the consultation on the expansion; and concerns over a scrappage scheme, all of which were dismissed. On Twitter (sorry, X), Khan acknowledged the difficulty in making the decision to expand ULEZ but emphasised the air benefits to the city, calling the ruling a ‘landmark decision.’ The planned expansion to the borders of Buckinghamshire, Essex, Herefordshire, Kent and Surrey is due to be implemented on 29 August, although Labour leader Keir Starmer MP urged the Mayor to ‘reflect’ on the decision, after it is thought that Labour’s narrow loss in the Uxbridge by-election was caused, in part, by the unpopularity of the policy.

Labour's National Policy Forum met in Nottingham last weekend, to approve leader Keir Starmer MP's policy document, which passed without any formal votes of amendments held. According to the Forum, the document is ‘credible and ambitious’ and lays groundwork for ‘an election-winning manifesto’ that will ‘build a better Britain.’ However, Trade Union Unite were less complementary of the document, accusing it of 'weakening' language around a stance on zero hours contracts and arguing that the process was 'chaotic with an attempt to push through changes to the policy document without first sharing them with Conference participants’.

Speaking of Labour Policy, this week saw the Party rule out introducing a self-identification system to allow people to legally change their gender without a medical diagnosis. In a letter published in the Guardian this week, Shadow Women and Equalities Minister Anneliese Dodds MP explained Labour’s stance on gender reform, acknowledging that whilst the ‘outdated and humiliating’ process of changing gender is in need of reform, requiring a medical diagnosis for gender recognition upholds ‘confidence in the system’, though she suggested that a diagnosis from a singular registrar, instead of the current system of a panel of doctors, would be sufficient. The ever controversial debate sparked more conflict as Dodds’ proposed stance has been criticised by Scottish Labour, who stated they wish to continue with the de-medicalisation process, after MSPs passed a bill to allow self-identification in December last year, and has been condemned by leading LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall.

Defra announced a year’s delay to its Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme, which would ensure that packaging producers pay for the recycling of its products, now due to be implemented in October 2025. The move came after ‘extensive engagement with industry’ and is in light of the cost pressures currently facing consumers and businesses. The new timeline for the scheme is hoped to help the Government drive down inflation, due to the likely increase in prices of food and drink associated with the scheme’s implementation.

The Government’s commitment to the Green Agenda was called into question this week, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak MP suggested on Monday that progress towards net zero will be done in a “proportionate and pragmatic way, that doesn’t necessarily give people more hassle and more cost”. The net zero row continued throughout the week with growing reports that senior Tory MPs were calling on the Prime Minister to dial down green policies due to their cost and unpopularity, forcing Housing Secretary Michael Gove MP to confirm that the Government did not intend to scrap policies on banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, despite The Times reporting that it is considering an exemption for smaller car makers. On Monday the APPG for Climate, spearheaded by Green MP Caroline Lucas, former Defra Secretary Hilary Benn MP and former International Environment Minister Lord Benyon, wrote to the PM, stating he is ‘asleep at the wheel’, and calling for him to attend COP28 in person; champion an urgent phase out of fossil fuels; reject the expansion of new fossil fuels, including Rosebank Oil Field; and reaffirm commitments on nature.

Around the World 🌍

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was re-elected last weekend after snap election polls suggested a conservative far-right coalition was on course to win an absolute majority in Parliament. His Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) achieved their best electoral result since 2008, receiving 31.7% of the vote. Meanwhile far-right party Vox lost 19 seats, leaving them and the Popular Party with 169 seats in total, just seven short of the 176 absolute majority required. Somewhat confusingly, Sanchez’s PSOE and the leftwing Sumar coalition picked up only 153 seats but the block of leftwing and regional parties backing Sánchez in parliament still has one more seat than those on the right, leaving them in pole position to cobble together a new Government.

Cambodia also held their first elections since 2018 after the Government banned the Candlelight party, the main opposition from standing in the election. Predictably, the virtually unopposed Cambodian People’s Party headed by Prime Minister Hun Sen (who has ruled for almost four decades) won with a reported landslide under a turnout of 84%. However, in an astonishing act of nepotism that would shock even hereditary peers, Hun Sen indicated his intention to stand down and appoint his son, Hun Manet, prime minister sometime next month. Mu Sochua, an exiled former minister, refused to call it an election: ‘we should call it a 'selection', for Hun Sen to make sure that his party will select his son as the next prime minister of Cambodia, to continue the dynasty of the Hun family’.

The Moldovan Government has moved to expel 45 Russian diplomats after what they called ‘ongoing tensions and unfriendly actions’. The reported ‘unfriendly actions’ include installing surveillance equipment on the Russian embassy roof and a neighbouring building and spying accusations dating back to February 2022. The unfriendly Russians will have to leave by 15 August, cutting the number of Russian diplomats to 25, a similar number to the of diplomats Moldova still has in Moscow. Moldovan Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu sealed the matter by saying that “for many years we have been the object of hostile Russian actions and policies. Many of them were made through the embassy”. Russia predictably responded that the action would ‘not go unanswered’.

Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum is being held captive by troops from the presidential guard as part of a coup that now also holds support from the army's chief of staff Abdou Sidikou Issa. General Abdourahmane Tchiani has since declared himself the country’s new leader, disrupting Niger's first democratic transition since independence in 1960. The group calling themselves the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country claimed that their priority was to avoid destabilising the country but paradoxically also established a curfew and shut all borders. The toppled government urged the population to reject the coup and in response, hundreds of citizens took to the streets in support for the president before being dispersed by multiple rounds of gunfire. Coup supporters also attacked the headquarters of the president's party. The French Foreign Minister has reported that Bazoum is still in still in good health and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promised him Washington's ‘unwavering support’.

22 people were arrested in some of the largest protests Israel has ever faced after parliament adopted a law to prevent the Supreme Court from overruling government actions it considers unreasonable. Police in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv also used water cannons to disperse protesters who are calling the new law a threat to democracy. Opposition leader Yair Lapid has indicated his intention to petition the Supreme Court to annul the new law and Israel's Histadrut trade union confederation has threatened a general strike. Thousands of military reservists have also refused to report for duty if the law is allowed to stand. In response, Prime Minister Netanyahu insisted the law was necessary for the Government to ‘carry out policy in line with the decision of the majority of the citizens of the country’ but stated he was also willing to continue talks with the opposition until November, to find an all-inclusive agreement.

In Parliament 🏛

No Business took place in the House of Commons, with MPs in Recess until 4th September.

Artificial Intelligence, Housing in Rural and Coastal Communities, and the use of Land in England were the subjects of debates in the House of Lords on Monday and Tuesday. Peers are now also in Recess until 4th September.

Love Island 💘🏝

Our last love island roundup of the series is dedicated to the downtrodden, disrespected and distrusted islander who, by saying what we’ve all been thinking, quite simply made the 50-odd hours of summer watching worthwhile this week. He may not have found love on the island, but he did tell messy, messy Mitchel what the nation of 9pm ITV 2 viewers has been thinking this summer, in 6 short words, that as a pre-watershed family-friendly roundup, we are unable to reproduce here. That person is of course, Welsh goalkeeper and modern Shakespeare, Scott.

The final week began with the traditional visit from the parents, which proved far less dramatic than previous years, with all the parents seeming to back their offspring’s questionable choices in love, often with some tender and well-meaning advice thrown in for good measure. Whilst Jess’ mum’s confession that her friends aren’t too sure about Sammy created some minor tension, little could be done to dampen spirits, with Ty, Ella and Whitney’s mums all heading off to the only wedding hat shop in Majorca.

The producers did their best to challenge the definition set out in the Oxford English Dictionary through their annual Talent Show, with some outright classic performances from Abi the balloon modelling clown, Scott the doomed X Factor joke entry and Sammy with what can only be described as a brief compendium of nonsense. In better performances, Zach’s basketball dunking, Lochan’s frisbee throwing and Molly’s hula hooping were actually all quite impressive. Nothing however could prepare us for the debut of Ty and Whitney’s hottest new hip hop single that the Twittersphere (Xsphere?) are demanding is released immediately.

A public vote and islander choice saw friendship couple Scott and Abi inevitably voted off. What should have finally ended the endless Mitch-Abi-Scott love-hate-triangle, instead saw Mitch take the red pill, pull the rip chord and throw himself into the abyss, first by airing his fears Ella B is faking her feelings, and then by asking her to be exclusive… 8 weeks, and the man hasn’t learned a thing.

After two days of final dates and a bunch of loved up couples, we finally, finally, approach the climax of this year’s series… and what a series it has been. For our Love Island watching readers, and for those who have simply wanted to know what on earth everyone else is banging on about… we hope you’ve enjoyed our roundups again this year. Here’s to Monday’s final.

Committee Corridor 📜

Poor availability of good quality food at reasonable prices is contributing to rising rates of obesity, argues a report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee published today. It states that ‘relatively low-cost food’ that is ‘high in calories but low in other nutrients’, including biscuits, burgers and high-processed items, has ‘led many poorer people in the UK to become obese’. It recommended that the affordability of and access to food be included in the definition of food security.

Bureaucracy relating to the setting up of clinical trials risks the UK’s position as a global leader on vaccination, concludes the Health and Social Care Committee’s latest report. Warning that there were declining rates of vaccination among children, the Committee has called for a ‘more flexible delivery model to deliver vaccinations to overcome practical challenges over times or locations.’

The Government’s response to the use of Private Military Companies by nations is ‘remarkably complacent’, accuses the Foreign Affairs Committee in a report that primarily focuses on the Wagner Network. Calling for the Government to ‘radically change its approach’, the Committee found that for almost 10 years the Government had ‘under-played and under-estimated the Wagner Network’s activities, as well as the security implications for Europe and its significant expansion in Africa.’

There are issues with the venture capital industry’s approach to investment, contends the Treasury Committee in the first of its reports released this week. Criticising the ‘failure to invest’ in areas outside of London and the South East, and in businesses led by women and ethnic minorities, the Committee has recommended that the Treasury ‘make collecting and publishing the diversity statistics of venture capital firms and their investments a requirement for eligibility.’

A systematic review of tax reliefs needs to be carried out, suggests the Treasury Committee in its second report. The Committee says that of the over 1,180 tax reliefs in operation, only 365 of these have official costings. It argues that the tax system is ‘too complex’, while the scrutiny of existing reliefs is ‘inadequate’, which has led to the ‘abuse of some tax reliefs’ and ‘fraud.’

Maintenance of the road network should take priority over expansion projects, says the Transport Committee’s report on strategic road investment. Due to increasing costs, net zero commitments and ‘ageing strategic road assets’, the Committee said the evidence it had received showed that the ‘majority of road users want the Government to prioritise keeping the network in good, safe condition’.

More needs to be done on childcare reform to support struggling parents and providers, concludes the Education Committee’s final report before Parliament returns in September. Welcoming the measures announced in the Spring Budget, the Committee also emphasised the importance of high-quality childcare on development and urged the Government to ‘provide adequate funding for all the stages of early education.’

£1.7bn is waiting to be claimed by a million young adults, finds the Public Accounts Committee in its report looking at Child Trust Funds. Accusing HMRC of a ‘failure in long-term planning’, the Committee found that an estimated 42% of 18-to-20-year-olds have not claimed the savings from their matured accounts, with providers earning ‘up to £100m a year in profit’.

New anti-terror regulations ‘fail to address the real risk of terror attacks’, warns the Home Affairs Committee in its report on the Draft Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill. It argues that, if implemented in its current form, the legislation would ‘place a significant and disproportionate burden on smaller venues while failing to ensure adequate safety measures at all public events at risk of terror attacks’. More worryingly, it also finds that the Bill ‘would not have made a significant difference in recent terror attacks in the UK’.

Urgent action is needed to protect England’s nature, cautions the Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee’s report. Highlighting that 41% of species in the UK had decreased in abundance since 1970, it argues that there would be a ‘host of co-benefits’ from improving nature in England, including improvements to public health and wellbeing, as well as tackling climate change’

Key Movements 🔁

Environment Minister Trudy Harrison announced that she will not stand for re-election, with the MP’s Copeland constituency set to be abolished at the next general election due to boundary changes.

Charlotte Owen, former adviser to Boris Johnson, was introduced to the House of Lords as Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge. At 30 years old, she has become the youngest life peer in UK history.

Mayor of Tees Valley Ben Houchen was also introduced to the Lords as Lord Houchen of High Leven.

Mike McMahon has been confirmed as the new Independent Adjudicator for the Adjudicator’s Office, which investigates complaints about HMRC and the Valuation Office Agency.

UK Professor Jim Skea was elected Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the authoritative UN body on climate change science.

This Week’s Polls 📊

85% of the public think the Government is handling the issue of health badly in the UK according to YouGov’s latest tracker, having risen steadily higher since the start of the COVID pandemic began in March 2020. Just 11% of the public now believe the government is handling the issue well.

Housing has the second lowest approval rating for the Government amongst the public, a Redfield & Wilton poll has found, with the Government only scoring worse on the handling of the NHS. Just 23% of people approve of the Government’s handling of housing policy, compared to 49% who disapprove.

Labour have an 18% lead in the Red Wall according to Redfield & Wilton’s latest poll, which puts them on a whopping 48% of the vote, in what would extrapolate into a complete reversal of fortunes compared to the 2019 General Election, if an election was held today.

77% of Britons are concerned about climate change, Ipsos has reported in its latest poll on the issue, with 25% believing it to be ‘out of control’. In mixed news for the Government, just 26% believe the Government are doing a good job dealing with climate change, however only 28% believe Labour would do a better job.

Think-Tanking 💭

The Social Market Foundation published a report on public health regulation which suggests that ‘policies such as high taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and junk food, stricter licensing regulations to limit places to buy such products and regulations on marketing like banning ads before a 9pm TV watershed could all help save lives. By contrast, it argues that ‘softer’ approaches like educational and information campaigns are ‘likely to have less of an impact’.

Demos published a report concerning the rise in homeless as the number of households in temporary accommodation is now at 104,510, up 10% from March last year and double the number in 2010. It states that efforts to tackle homelessness have disproportionately focused on crisis interventions, neglecting upstream prevention measures, such as housing subsidies and employment interventions.

The IEA published a report on alcohol advertising which argues that ‘cross-sectional observational studies typically find a relationship between exposure to alcohol advertising and higher alcohol consumption, but neither variable is measured objectively.’

The IISS published a report on the future of NATO’s European land forces, identifying the strengths and shortfalls in the development of European land warfare capability and the implications for the NATO Response Force. It recognises that ‘any high-intensity conflict in Europe will likely be a multi-domain fight; this is the eventuality for which Europe’s future land forces need to prepare’.


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