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Post-Election Spin Week | Red Cliffs of Dover

The party spin machines went into overdrive this week trying to put unique, positive and in some cases highly wishful twists on last week’s election results. With two MPs crossing the floor in as many weeks, the pre-general election silly season has well and truly begun.

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 Conservative Party’s fortunes look even dimmer following the full results of the local elections. Despite overexcited reports that the Conservative’s Susan Hall had exceeded expectations in London, Sadiq Khan became the first Mayor of London to win a third term, with a 3.8% swing. Disaster struck in the West Midlands, where a nail-bitingly close race ultimately resulted in Labour’s Richard Parker toppling the talismanic Andy Street by just 1,500 votes, who delivered a heart-warmingly gracious concession speech. Labour ultimately won 10 of the 11 mayoral races, leaving Teesside’s Ben Houchen the last remaining Tory (insert joke about turning off the lights here), who later blamed Sunak for the poor results anyway. Labour also took 10 police and crime commissioner seats from the Conservatives, giving them 14 to the Conservative’s 19. At the council level, Labour increased their number of seats by 186, the Lib Dem’s by 104 and the Greens by 74, while the Conservatives lost 474. The Prime Minister seized on the smallest of silver linings, which was that Labour’s vote share, if replicated at a general election, would not give it an outright majority.

To put the cherry on the cake of Rishi’s rather grim week, the Conservatives lost yet another MP via Natalie Elphicke’s unexpected defection to Labour on Wednesday, as she criticised the Tories for becoming “a byword for incompetence and division.” In a statement released just as PMQs was starting, the MP for Dover said the key factors in her decision were housing and border security, and accused the Prime Minister of “broken promises” and abandoning key pledges. The BBC reported that she will be given an unpaid role advising Labour on housing policy. This comes as somewhat more of a shock than Dan Poulter’s defection less than two weeks ago, with Elphicke regarded as being on the right of the Conservative Party – a member of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs who has been consistently vocal in calling for more hardline immigration policies since her election in 2019. So, her defection has left many Tory and Labour MPs baffled, and some even angry, pointing to her comments in 2020 in support of her ex-husband after he was convicted of sexual assault. She had said that he was “an easy target” for false allegations because he was “attractive”, but on Thursday issued an apology for her remarks. Despite the controversy, Keir Starmer seems happy enough to have gained yet another MP, bringing her out in Dover on Friday as he unveiled new details of his plan to tackle illegal immigration, including pledging to scrap the Government’s Rwanda scheme “straight away”.

John Swinney is officially Scotland’s First Minister following a coronation that would make the King blush. Kate Forbes, who had been tipped as his only serious opponent, received a generous reward for her support in the form of Deputy First Minister, while also being reappointed to the role of Economy Secretary that she held under Nicola Sturgeon. Despite the fact that he scrapped the role of Minister for Independence, Swinney reiterated his utter commitment to the goal, insisting that an SNP majority at the upcoming general election would provide the mandate. He now faces the less than enviable task of trying to lead Scotland with a minority government.

Coming Up Next Week 📆

In the Commons the Criminal Justice Bill will begin its remaining stages before going on to the House of Lords, and MPs will debate a motion on the exclusion of MPs from the parliamentary estate and a Backbench Business debate on the Government’s response to the WASPI report. On Friday, various Private Members’ Bills will have their remaining stages.

In the Lords Peers will be considering many pieces of legislation throughout the week, with the Renters (Reform) Bill and the Post Office (Horizon System) Offences Bill both being read for a second time, while the Animal Welfare (Livestock Exports) Bill will have its third reading. There will also be debates on the contribution of sports to society and on the challenges faced by disabled people.

On Committee Corridor Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt will stop by the Procedure Committee on Monday to discuss procedures of the House. Foreign Minister Lord Ahmad will give evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee on the UK’s engagement with the Middle East (expect tense exchanges regarding arms sales to Israel), while Nuclear and Renewables Minister Andrew Bowie will be questioned by the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee. The Lords Constitution Committee will be packed as Scotland Secretary Alister Jack MP, Wales Secretary David TV Davies MP, and Northern Ireland Office Minister Lord Caine all give evidence to its inquiry into consultation, co-operation and legislative consent.

The Week in Stats 📉

5.25% – The Bank of England interest rate, held for another month at the same rate by the Monetary Policy Committee.

0.6% – GDP growth in the three months to March 2024, confirming the UK economy is no longer in recession.

21.6% – Predicted average house price increases between 2024 and 2028 according to Savills.

8 days – How long former England cricketer Monty Panesar stood as a candidate for George Galloway’s The Workers’ Party, before deciding it wasn’t for him.

270,000 – Number of Armed Forces personnel whose details may have been accessed in a cyber attack revealed by the MOD this week.

70 days – How early prisoners may now be released after it was revealed the Government extended the early prisoner release scheme to ease overcrowding.

104 – Number of MPs who have confirmed they wont be contesting the next General Election – 64 of whom are Conservative.

Other Political News 📰

The mildest recession “by a long way”, said Governor of the Bank of England Andrew Bailey after the UK economy grew by 0.6% between January-March 2024 - the fastest growth in two years ensuring the UK emerged from recession. Before that news emerged, the Bank of England had confirmed that interest rates would be maintained at 5.25%, with mortgage rates for both 2 and 5-years still averaging above 5%.

Labour’s New Deal for Working People made the headlines, as reports emerged that another of the party’s flagship commitments was being watered down. Jim Pickard from the FT got his hands on a new version of the New Deal, revealing that measures related to workers getting basic rights from Day 1, a ‘single status’ for workers, making flexible working a ‘day one right’, and the ban on zero hours contracts were all being somewhat changed. The unions were, safe to say, not too happy with the new version, as Unite General Secretary Sharon Graham called it a “betrayal”, a “row back on a row back”, and a “charter for bad bosses”. While all this was developing, Deputy Leader Angela Rayner told an audience at the Chartered Management Institute that a Labour Government would introduce an ‘Intern’s Law’ that would require employers to ensure that existing requirements apply to contracted interns and volunteers who had signed work agreements. Let’s see if that one lasts until the manifesto.

First they took Elphicke, then they took the Small Boats policy, as Labour leader Keir Starmer undertook a trip to Dover (with Natalie Elphicke no less) to unveil his Party’s plans to create a new Border Security Command with specialist investigators and counter-terror powers to ‘smash criminal gangs and strengthen [the] borders’. Labour would scrap the Rwanda policy, and instead ‘end hotel use, clear the Tory asylum backlog, and speed up returns to safe countries’. Déjà vu anyone?

10 Downing Street held a meeting with University Vice Chancellors to discuss antisemitism on campuses, with the Prime Minister, Education Secretary and Security Minister all in attendance. The meeting comes following large protests in the USA and an increase in university-related antisemitic incidents. Discussions took place on the upcoming government guidance on the topic, and the need to ensure that free speech ‘can never tip over into hate speech, harassment or incitement of violence.’

More measures against Russia were announced by the Home Office this week, including the expulsion of the Russian Defence attaché, as part of efforts to ‘target and dismantle Russian intelligence gathering operations in the UK’. In addition, new restrictions have been imposed on Russian diplomatic visas, which cap the length of time they can spend in the UK, and diplomatic premises status has been removed from several Russian properties in the UK which are believed to have been used for intelligence purposes.

After trips to 33 countries and 6 continents, Foreign Secretary Lord David Cameron delivered his first major speech in the role, as he warned of a “more dangerous, volatile and confrontational world than most of us have ever known”, and set out his 6-point strategy for ensuring the UK, and the West, rises to the challenges it faces. He emphasised the importance of making security the “top priority”, of adopting a “harder edge for a tougher world”, to be realistic, to be “ruthlessly practical”, and to “demonstrate political will and strategic patience”. Across the pond, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy delivered a speech at a Republican think tank, arguing that Donald Trump (who he once called a neo-Nazi sympathiser) was “misunderstood” when it comes to NATO, while also confirming a Labour Government would work with a Trump Administration. I suppose this could be Lammy adopting the need to be ‘ruthlessly practical’…

Around the World 🌍

President Biden warned Israel that the US will stop supplying the State with arms if it launches a ground operation in Rafah, after White House officials confirmed one shipment of high payload munitions was paused over concerns about the planned offensive. Appearing on CNN, Biden assured that the US would not be ‘supplying the weapons that have been used historically to deal with Rafah’ if the IDF go into ‘population centres.’ However, he confirmed that the US administration would continue to make sure Israel ‘is secure in terms of its Iron Dome’ as well as having the ability to respond to attacks.

Chad’s military ruler Mahamat Déby was declared the official winner of the Presidential Elections, as he took 61.3% of the votes. His closest rival, Prime Minister Succes Masra, took to Facebook in a live broadcast claiming his victory on Thursday, accusing government officials of rigging the election, though it was later announced that Masra only took 18.5% of the total votes. The election allows Déby to consolidate his power over the country, now with a mandate, after he seized power following the death of his father, the late President Idriss Déby, who was killed in 2021. The legitimacy of the election has been questioned however, as other key opposition figures were barred from standing due to ‘irregularities’, and Déby’s cousin Yaya Dillo, who was planning to stand, was killed in a shootout at his party’s headquarters in February.

In Panama, former Security Minister José Raúl Mulino has been elected President, and is due to take his position on 1 July. Despite joining the presidential campaign late and not taking part in any of the televised debates, Mulino has had a convincing lead in the polls, with a 9% lead over second place candidate Ricardo Lombana, at 34% and 25% respectively in a preliminary count of over 90% of the vote, leading Lombana to concede defeat. Mulino has promised to ‘close’ the Darién Gap, an area of jungle used by migrants to cross the border, and claimed in his victory speech that he is ‘no-one’s puppet.’

North Macedonia’s nationalist opposition came out on top in the country’s election, opening a negotiating period for the party to form a coalition government. The party, VMRO-DPMNE, took 44% of the votes, whilst outgoing rulers, the Social Democrats, took just 15%. It is thought the swing of votes from left to right was caused by frustration and lack of progress in the country’s bid to joined the EU, a bid which begun in 2005. In the Presidential election, the VMRO-DPMNE’s candidate Gordana Siljanovska-Davkova took 65% of the votes, making her the first female president of the country.

The Australian Government announced plans to increase its extraction and use of gas until 2050 and beyond, despite environmental concerns. The plan is said to be necessary to secure Australia’s domestic energy supply and is based on the country’s commitment ‘to being a reliable trading partner’, as a large exporter of liquified natural gas.

Highlights from Parliament 🏛

The Commons had a short week, sitting for just three days, but still managed to squeeze in two urgent questions and a three ministerial statements in a return to the Bercow-esq days of their overwhelming regularity. In the time remaining, MPs held debates on defence, mining communities and the BBC mid-term charter review as well as the committee stage of the Finance (No.2) Bill. With just five government bills currently active in the Commons – all within their latter stages, very soon there will be very little official business left to debate…

The Lords have a far greater amount of work to get through before the summer/general election/further implosion of the Conservative Party (delete as appropriate). This week saw debates on Bills related to foreign influence on public bodies, automated vehicles, regulation of television services, and animal welfare, as well debates on skills and asylum seekers and a series of private members bills further progressed on Friday.

Committee Corridor 📜

The Government must invest in building new social homes to tackle the chronic housing shortage, MPs on the Levelling Up Committee argued in a report out this week. According to the report, the range of financial pressures facing social housing providers has resulted in the building of less social housing and exacerbated a chronic social housing shortage in England.

Small businesses are facing ‘needlessly tougher’ circumstances due to the actions of banks and regulators, the Treasury Committee concluded in its report published on Monday. MPs on the Committee condemned the unfair debanking of legitimate businesses and substandard processes for resolving disputes between SMEs and banks.

Key Movements 🔁

John Swinney took his place as First Minister of Scotland after being appointed leader of the SNP in place of Humza Yousaf. He appointed Kate Forbes as Deputy First Minister and dropped the role of Minister for Independence, previously held by Jamie Hepburn, who in turn has become Minister for Parliamentary Business.

Jackie Doyle-Price MP has been elected Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

Zoe Garbett has been appointed as a Green Party member of the London Assembly, after Sian Berry stepped down from the Assembly just three days after being re-elected.

Nadhim Zahawi announced he will step down as MP for Stratford-on-Avon at the General Election, in a letter that bizarrely informed us he has to pinch himself every morning as he shaves his head in the mirror that he has been “able to do as much as I have”…

Natalie Elphicke, elected as the Conservative MP for Dover in 2019, crossed the floor of the House to sit as a Labour MP, raising more than a few eyebrows opposite and around her.

Former England cricketer Monty Panesar withdrew as a candidate for The Workers Party stating he needs to take the time to find a party ‘that aligns with my personal and political values’.

Paul Sheerin has been appointed Chair of the shipbuilding Skills Delivery Group.

Samantha Job has been appointed Ambassador to Sweden, Ramin Navai has been appointed Ambassador to El Salvador, Patrick Lynch has been appointed Ambassador to Madagascar, Danielle Dunne has been appointed Ambassador to Paraguay, Malcolm Green has been appointed Ambassador to Uruguay and Alison Blackburne has been appointed UK Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa and Red Sea.

Rebecca Hilsenrath has been appointed acting Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Kerry Smith has been appointed Assistant Chief Constable at the Civil Nuclear Constabulary.

This Week’s Polls 📊

59% of Brits think Israel shouldn’t be allowed to compete in Eurovision, according to YouGov’s poll ahead of Saturday night’s Swedish-hosted glitter-fest. Brits appear to be the most outspoken on this issue compared to the rest of Europe, although the number of those against Israel’s inclusion in the contest drops to 53% amongst those who actually intend to watch the show.

‘Most British voters think Rishi Sunak has accomplished nothing and has no plan’ – that was the brutal title of a Redfield and Wilton poll published this week that we imagine No. 10 aides did all they could to prevent from landing on Rishi Sunak’s desk. According to the poll just 24% of Brits think he has accomplished a ‘significant’ or ‘fair’ amount. Ouch.

Labour are riding high in the polls despite post-local election analysis suggesting they may not be on course for the thumping majority arm-chair analysts seems to assume they are. The latest polls place Labour anywhere between a 23 and 30 point lead which wildly differs with Thrasher and Rawlings analysis for Sky News last week that suggested Labour could be 32 seats short of a majority when the dust settles.

Think-Tanking 💭

Onward published a report arguing for the need to liberalise dentistry to improve access and cut costs.

The Institute for Government published a report looking at the background, appointment, management and pay of the civil service’s top perm secs and DGs, and a report calling on the next government to extend devolution to 85% of England ‘to deliver meaningful and balanced economic growth’.

The IPPR published a report on the impact of obesity and prosperity, calling for greater Government intervention to fix problems caused by ‘working conditions, changes in the built environment and our broken food system’.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report investigating the social costs imposed by poor implementation of public infrastructure – using Peru as its case study.

RUSI published a report identifying common mechanisms by which professional service providers facilitate sanctions evasion.

The Centre for Policy Studies published a report arguing that large-scale migration has not delivered significant growth in GDP per capita, and has put enormous pressure on housing, public services and infrastructure.

The Adam Smith Institute published a report on rent on 5th May, known as ‘Cost of Rent Day’, and a report on the adoption of AI in Britain’s defence sectors.

You’ve Got to Laugh 😂

Forget Sir John Curtis, ignore Thrasher & Rawlings and stop paying consultancies for public affairs advice… the only real expert we can trust gave a rare appearance providing top notch, FREE political advice we recommend all our clients take on board ASAP. Thanks to ITV’s This Morning for securing a major political scoop last week, we can now reveal that the election will be held in August and – shockingly – Keir Starmer will not lead the Labour Party into it. Those are the predictions of asparagus fortune teller (or “asparamancer” to use her official title) Jemima Packington who one could be forgiven for thinking is another of Joe Lycett’s pranks. You heard it here first though… and for the full laugh, you can watch it here too…


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