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Russia Coup? | Stop the Bill | NHS Plan

With just three weeks to go until the summer recess, Westminster and the mystical world of lobbyists and hacks that revolves around it are dragging themselves towards the finishing line, lubricated only by warm glasses of sauvignon, as the annual summer party circuit begins. Meanwhile a Court of Appeal judgement, groping allegations and a Friday ministerial resignation mean it’s been another tricky week for the Government…

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 🚨

Events in Russia dominated the political agenda at the beginning of the week, after Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner group publicly criticised Russia’s military leaders, took control of the city of Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia and threatened to march on Moscow. Foreign Secretary James Cleverley chaired a COBR meeting on Sunday evening on the situation and delivered a statement to MPs on Monday. Whilst expressing a cautious response, he jumped on Prigozhin’s words criticising the Russian military leadership for throwing in “a few thousand more Russian men as cannon fodder” to Ukraine; but wouldn’t be drawn on the potential scenarios that might play out, although repeated his support for a truncated process for Ukrainian membership of NATO.

Stop the Boats became Stop the Bill this week with the Government’s plans to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda coming to another screeching halt after the Court of Appeal ruled the plans were unlawful. Overturning the High Court ruling from last December, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the case brought by Asylum Aid, arguing that Rwanda cannot be deemed a ‘safe third country’ due to the ‘real risk’, illegal migrants to the UK who are deported there whilst their cases are processed, could be returned to their home countries due to ‘deficiencies in the asylum system’. Notably however for the Government, the Lord Chief Justice argued the Government’s plans were lawful; but in a split decision he was outvoted. The ruling follows the revelation earlier in the week that the deportation of each individual to Rwanda would cost £169,000; something the Government were hoping would be more than made up for by the effect deportations would have in bringing the number of illegal migrants to the UK down. Following the judgement, Home Secretary Suella Braverman called it “disappointing” and told MPs the Government will seek to appeal it.

The long-awaited NHS Long Term Plan was finally published on Friday morning, announcing a raft of measures to radically transform the NHS, increase staff and save over £10bn in agency fees between 2030 and 2037. Headline announcements include an additional £2.4bn of funding to increase staff, a planned reduction in the number of NHS staff recruited from overseas from almost 25% to 10% by 2037, the expansion of training for NHS staff including through apprenticeships, and proposals to shorten medical degrees to four years to enable staff to “earn while they learn”. Labour have criticised the Government for only coming up with a plan to help fix the NHS after 13 years in power.

The Week in Stats 📉

22% - Annual increase in the price of baked beans between April 2022 and April 2023.

35.9 millionNumber of taxpayers in the UK, up 1.3 million on last year.

32.2C – Hottest day in June this year, with June 2023 likely to be the hottest June on record.

1 – ‘Qualification’ raised by the SNP’s new auditors, because of missing documents.

>$1bn – Amount members of the Wagner Group were paid by the Russian state from May 2022-23, according to Putin.

5 – Ministerial Resignations in 2023, after Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park stood down today. h/t to Dan Bloom in this morning’s Politico London Playbook

2 – London Tube lines that are fully underground, according to an FOI response from Transport for London… any guesses which are the two?

(3 – the number of times we managed to say ‘June’ in one bullet point above – Editor’s note)

Other Political News 📰

Zac Goldsmith resigned as Minister for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and Environment on Friday morning, arguing it has been a privilege to work on environmental policy but adding ‘this Government’s apathy in the face of the greatest challenge we face makes continuing in my role untenable’. In a two-page resignation letter published on Twitter he listed the Government’s achievements on the environment under Boris Johnson but lambasted Rishi Sunak, stating he has been ‘horrified as, bit by bit, we have abandoned these commitments’. In coverage Lord Goldsmith will be less than pleased with, many news outlets, including the BBC led with headlines stating he had resigned after being criticised in this week’s Privileges Committee report for trying to interfere in their inquiry that concluded Boris Johnson had deliberately misled Parliament. Downing Street came out swinging, stating in a feisty response: ‘You were asked to apologise for your comments about the Privileges Committee as we felt they were incompatible with your position as a Minister of the Crown. You have decided to take a different course.’

Dan Korski withdrew from the shortlist for the Conservative candidate for Mayor of London, after TV producer and novelist Daisy Goodwin published an article in The Times claiming Korski had groped her on a visit to Downing Street in 2013 when he was working there as a special adviser. Two days after the article in The Times was published (in the middle of a hustings which he immediately left h/t Guido Fawkes), Korski took to Twitter to ‘categorically deny’ the allegations, but stated ‘the pressure on my family because of this false and unproven allegation… makes it impossible for my campaign to carry on’. The two remaining candidates, Susan Hall AM and Mozammel Hossain KC will now fight it out for the candidacy, whilst the two leading candidates who were strangely not shortlisted – Paul Scully MP and Samuel Kasumu – have called for the competition to be reopened.

The UK and EU signed a Memorandum of Understanding on financial services, in a step forward in relations following Brexit. The agreement, signed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt, and European Commissioner for financial services Mairead McGuinness on Tuesday, will establish an ongoing forum for the UK and the EU to discuss voluntary regulatory cooperation on financial services issues. Both sides will share information, work together towards meeting joint challenges and coordinate positions where appropriate on issues ahead of G7, G20 and other international meetings.

The Climate Change Committee published its 2023 Progress Report to Parliament on the Government's progress in reducing emissions, stating that its confidence in the UK meeting its goals from 2030 onwards was now 'markedly less' than it was in its previous assessment a year ago. The Committee warned that 'time is now very short to achieve this change of pace. Glimmers of the Net Zero transition can be seen in growing sales of new electric cars and the continued deployment of renewable capacity, but the scale up of action overall is worryingly slow.’

The Government has launched a national targeted lung cancer screening programme designed to detect cancer sooner and speed by diagnosis. People aged 55 to 74 with a GP record including a history of smoking will be assessed and invited for screenings and smoking cessation services. The rollout of the programme follows the success of the first phase of the targeted lung health check scheme by NHS England with 76% of lung cancers in those tested caught at an earlier stage.

Sue Gray will be free to take over as Keir Starmer’s Chief of Staff from 2nd September, after ACOBA (the Office of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments) recommended a six month break between her departure from the Cabinet Office and joining the Leader of the Official Opposition’s Office. The author of the partygate report which contributed to Boris Johnson’s eventual resignation, is seen with huge distain amongst Conservative MPs… however given she’ll be working for Labour as we approach a General Election, arguably this isn’t really an issue…

Around the World 🌍

The world watched in disbelief as Russia appeared to teeter on the edge of civil war as the mercenary Wager Group threatened to march on Moscow. However, the affair ended as suddenly as it began when it was announced that a truce had been agreed, partially through the mediation efforts of Belarusian President Lukashenko. Wagner Group leader Prigozhin agreed to surrender his leadership and take up residence in Belarus, while Wagner fighters were given the option to join him in Belarus; be folded into the Russia military; or disband. The armed rebellion was the first of its kind since 1993 and arguably the most significant direct challenge to Putin’s rule in 23 years.

Greece’s conservative New Democracy party (ND) won a thumping (and expected) general election victory. ND had become the largest party following May’s general election but pushed for a second election in a bid to form a majority government. The gamble was rewarded with ND winning over 40% of the vote, as well as a bonus of over 50 extra seats under Greece’s election rules. The main opposition party, Syriza, gained only 17.8% of the vote. Three far-right and one far-left party also entered parliament for the first time, with 43 seats between them.

A reformist progressive surprised Guatemala to take second place in the first round of its presidential election. Bernardo Arevalo, who happens to be the son of the Guatemala’s first democratic president, had campaigned on a platform of openness and anti-corruption, in a country which experiences widespread corruption and declining political freedom. Prior to the election he had been polling in eighth place and had been all but counted out of the race, but finished with 12% of the vote. His opponent will be the conservative former first lady Sandra Torres, who received 15% of the vote. The runoff will take place in August.

Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won its first district election when its candidate succeeded in the runoff to become district administrator in Sonneberg, in the eastern German state of Thuringia. While some sought to argue the result could not be extrapolated across Germany, one poll also appeared to show the AfD topping the Social Democrats in a national election for the first time, to become the second-most-popular political party.

Finland’s economy minister resigned after just 10 days in office after it emerged he had made repeated Nazi references at an event four years ago. Vilhelm Junnila, of the hard-right Finns Party, managed to survive a vote of no-confidence but announced his resignation soon after, stating it was “impossible” to continue as economy minister in a “satisfactory way”.

In Parliament 🏛

The Financial Services and Markets Bill returned to the Commons for consideration of Lords amendments, voting to accept a number of Government amendments passed in the Lords, but rejecting an amendment giving the FCA objectives with regards to financial inclusion.

The National Security Bill also returned to the Commons for consideration of Lords amendments related to donations from foreign powers to UK political parties, and to review the Prime Minister’s MOU with the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament. Both amendments were removed from the Bill which returns to the Lords for further consideration.

The Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill passed its report stage in the Lords. The Bill seeks to address the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland through the creation of a new independent commission for reconciliation and information recovery (ICRIR).

The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill also passed its report stage in the Lords. The Bill seeks to prevent organised criminals, fraudsters, kleptocrats and terrorists from using companies to abuse the UK’s open economy; strengthen the UK’s broader response to economic crime; and support enterprise by enabling Companies House to deliver a better service.

Mortgage and rental costs, and rebuilding Ukraine after Russia’s invasion were the subjects of Labour’s opposition day debates on Tuesday in the Commons.

The Holocaust Memorial Bill passed its second reading. The Bill legislates for the Government to build a national memorial and learning centre in Victoria Gardens next to Parliament.

The Illegal Migration Bill began its report stage in the Lords, with peers voting to pass an amendment to prevent the Government from backdating new powers in the Bill to allow deportations to March 2023. Following the Court of Appeal’s ruling this week, the Bill’s future is now further in doubt.

The fishing industry and artificial intelligence were the subjects of this Thursday’s traditional backbench business debates in the Commons.

Violence against women and girls, eating disorder services and the UK economy were all the subjects of motions for debate in the Lords on Thursday.

Love Island 💘🏝️

We simply have no words to describe the dramatic turn of events that took place in the villa last Friday night. In what has to be the most brutal dumping in Love Island’s ten UK series… new bombshell and Love Island returnee Kady McDermott’s decision to couple up with Zach after just 12 hours in the villa… left Molly unexpectedly and mind-blowingly, dumped from the island with immediate effect.

Riddled with guilt and upset, Zachariah was inconsolable, refused to leave his bed all week and has left producers concerned for the show’s future… only joking; the lad wasted no time in cracking on with Kady, even trying to kiss her just a few days later on the terrace #prayformolly

Another week and another fallout between Ella and Ty, as the footballer refused to confirm he was closed off in a villa full of bikini-clad women… only for him to change his mind and tell Ella what she wanted to hear two days later, when he left the villa on the couple’s first date and was briefly no longer surrounded by bikini-clad women.

The much-loved yearly highlight that is the heartrate challenge delivered tenfold this year, and saw Mehdi show his true French-side as he began lipsing with almost every girl there, much to Whitney’s annoyance. The performance didn’t do much for his public persona as he and Mal soon left the villa after the viewers’ vote. Keen to keep French representation in the villa, Jess’ foreign language skills saw her top the podium in the kissing competition, with a poor effort from Kady leaving fans convinced she has a secret boyfriend back home.

As the two newly single islanders, Whitney and Sammy were left to whip up a storm in the kitchen, or at least that’s what the spag bol they served up looked like it had been through by the time it reached their eager housemates’ tables. Inexplicably rewarded for their inedible efforts, Sammy and Whitney chose Jess and Zach to join them on date release from their Mediterranean high security prison. But with rumours Molly may soon be returning to Casa Amor, the drama may only just have started…

Committee Corridor 📜

The Home Office must rule out any plans to detain or remove children to Rwanda, the Women and Equalities Committee has concluded in a new report. Raising concerns about the “unnecessary risks” to vulnerable people presented by the Nationality and Borders Act, the UK/Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership and the Illegal Migration Bill, the Committee calls for an urgent review of safeguards for vulnerable people in all types of asylum accommodation.

Digital transformation in the NHS can only succeed if Ministers address mistakes of the past, so argues a report from the Health and Social Care Committee. The report cites evidence that parts of the health service still lack even the most basic, functioning IT equipment and highlights that previous attempts at digital transformation have been thwarted by out-of-date “legacy” systems and hardware unable to handle the demands of a modern service.

The Government lacks a “credible strategy” to tackle digital exclusion, according to a report from the Lords Communications and Digital Committee. The report warns that ‘the Government’s ambition to make the UK a technology superpower and boost economic growth is being undermined by high levels of digital exclusion’ and states that digital skills shortages cost the economy up to £63bn a year, calling for a new Digital Inclusion Strategy to be published.

Raise aspirations and counter negative stereotypes by teaching primary school children about careers, the Education Committee has said in a report. It follows the Committee’s inquiry into the quality of careers education, information, advice and guidance delivered in schools and colleges and calls on the Government to publish an updated Careers Strategy with clear measurable targets and actions. The report also recommends the Department for Education work with the Careers and Enterprise Company to develop a toolkit setting out what constitutes ‘meaningful work experience and create a national platform for work experience opportunities, including virtual placements’.

HM Courts & Tribunals Service has consistently underestimated the scale and complexity of reforms, a Public Accounts Committee report has found. The report focuses on the long history of resets, revisions and delays to the Court Reform Programme, after HMCTS extended its timetable for the programme for a third time in March. The report also notes that despite having just £120m left of its total £1.3bn budget, HMCTS has only completed 24 of 44 reform projects.

The Premier League and EFL must urgently come to an agreement on sharing more revenue with clubs down the football pyramid, so warns a report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. The report underlines that if there is no solution to the deadlock between the Premier League and EFL on the redistribution of funds, more clubs will be put at risk of collapse in a similar way to Bury FC nearly three years ago.

Key Movements 🔁

Stewart Hosie became the latest MP to announce he will be standing down as the Member of Parliament for Dundee East at the next General Election.

Lord (Zac) Goldsmith resigned as Minister for Overseas Territories, Commonwealth, Energy, Climate and Environment.

Tony Poulter has been appointed to lead a review of Homes England as part of the Cabinet Office’s Public Bodies Review programme.

Alun Francis has been selected as the Government’s preferred candidate for Chair of the Social Mobility Commission. He has served as the interim chair since the start of the year.

Sir Patrick Vallance has been appointed a Non-Executive Director on the Board of the Advanced Research and Invention Agency. He previously served on the board whilst Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government.

Andrew Patrick has been appointed British High Commissioner to Sri Lanka, in succession to Sarah Hulton.

Justice (Peter) Fraser has been appointed the new Chairman of the Law Commission of England and Wales.

Lord Justice (Mark) Warby has been appointed a Judicial Commissioner of the Judicial Appointments Commission for 3 years.

Sir Adrian Fulford has been appointed Chair of the Security Vetting Appeals Panel.

Daniel Pruce has been appointed Governor of the British Virgin Islands, in succession to John Rankin.

This Week’s Polls 📊

51% of renters and mortgage holders have seen their payments increase in the last three months, up from 18% in January according to Ipsos’ latest poll. As a vital demographic to have onside at election-time, Downing Street will be focused on how to turn the situation around and bring housing costs down ASAP.

81% of people think the Government is handling the issue of health in the UK badly, according to YouGov’s latest tracker figures, almost as high as the 86% peak in January. Whether this week’s announcements of the Long Term Plan for the NHS will have got through remain to be seen – check back next week to see what immediate impact, if any it has had…

Views on the Met Police differ wildly across the country, polls from Redfield and Wilton reveal this week. Whilst 45% of Britons believe the Met isn’t fit for purpose, this figure drops to 29% in London, with a majority (56%) believing it is. Within London, 18-24 year olds are (unsurprisingly) the most sceptical, whilst Millennials are far more complementary.

Think-Tanking 💭

The Centre for Policy Studies published a report criticizing the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill for offering ‘a blank cheque, putting quasi-legislative powers in the hands of regulators rather than ministers’, and a report arguing that the growth of academies and multi-academy trusts has changed the face of English schools for the better.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report on housing quality and affordability for lower-income households, arguing that renters are considerably more likely than owner-occupiers to have low living standards on a variety of measures.

The Resolution Foundation published a report on tax planning, looking at what a good tax strategy would look like and how to get there.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies published a report on the future of NATO’s European land forces, examining the emerging plans and implementation challenges ahead.

The Institute of Economic Affairs published a report on economics and the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Policy Exchange published a report looking at what has happened to the ‘Eight Great Technologies’ set out by the Government 10 years ago, and a report on measures to improve the interface between primary and secondary care.

The IPPR published a report assessing the effectiveness of different rhetorical approaches to framing democratic reform, and a report arguing that restoring the bus network and ‘levelling up’ public transport would be transformative for people’s lives, communities, and local economies.

The Fabian Society published a report on building a better migration system that works for both the UK economy and migrants to the UK.

You’ve Got to Laugh 😂

Twitter can be a minefield, particularly in the fast moving world of politics. And so it didn’t go unnoticed on Wednesday when, following the allegation against then shortlisted Conservative Mayor of London candidate Dan Korski, CCHQ’s press office decided to tweet a mock up of a health and safety ‘0 days since last incident’ sign during PMQs to criticise Labour for reportedly scrapping a pledge to bring in rent controls… With Mr Korski withdrawing from the competition just a few hours later, the tweet took on a whole new meaning…

Well done to Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski for managing to get a photo with the Prime Minister in Parliament this week, posted on his Instagram account. Whilst this wouldn’t normally be news, or indeed anything to laugh about… the MP for Shrewsbury & Atcham stands at 6 foot 9 inches tall… which is quite the contrast to Rishi Sunak’s 5 foot 6 inches.

We hope you have a lovely weekend


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