The final parliamentary session before the next general election has begun, with King Charles having made his way to the Palace of Westminster to take part in, if the polls are to be believed, the final State Opening of Parliament under this Conservative Government. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s biggest headache is coming from within his own camp, as he enters a potentially difficult weekend with a Home Secretary who, at the time of writing, is still ensconced in Marsham Street…
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 🚨
Crime will be taking centre stage in what will likely be the last Parliamentary session before the next General Election, as King Charles III set out the Government’s legislative agenda for the who knows how long…but anyway the first King’s Speech since 1950 took place on Tuesday, with 15 new Bills due to be introduced to Parliament, with a further 6 having been carried over from the last session. Rumours abounded within Labour that the relative lack of legislation may point to a General Election being called in May 2024, especially as the 21 Bills announced is only a little over half as many as were contained in the Queen’s Speech in May 2022. Perhaps with an Election in mind, the central theme of the Speech was crime and justice, with the Criminal Justice Bill, the Victims and Prisoners Bill, and the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Bill all forming part of the legislative agenda. These Bills will mean that: ‘reasonable force’ can be used to make offenders attend court when they’re sentenced; place the key principles of the Victims’ Code into law; and require venues to take steps to mitigate the impact of a terrorist attack on their premises.
But that’s not quite all, with transport, housing and football all also due to be legislated on… On transport, the Automated Vehicles Bill will set a ‘rigorous’ framework for self-driving vehicles; the Pedicabs (London) Bill will give Transport for London powers to finally bring forward a licensing regime for Pedicabs; and the Draft Rail Reform Bill will establish Great British Railways. For housing, the Leasehold and Freehold Bill will ban the creation of new leasehold houses, with a consultation already launched on capping ground rents; and the Renters (Reform) Bill, carried over from the last session, will create a digital Private Rented Property Portal and eventually abolish no-fault evictions, but only after strengthening powers for landlords to evict poor tenants. As for the rest, the Government will also use its remaining time in office to: establish an Independent Football Regulator; prevent those born after 1 January 2009 from ever legally buying cigarettes; enable the UK to meet its obligations under the CPTPP when the UK accedes; modernise the mission statement for public service TV; and give the Competition and Markets Authority new powers to enable it to tackle anti-competitive activity more effectively. There was also a range of legislation not included that had been touted, including reforms to nutrient neutrality rules, any significant proposals on AI, and a ban on conversion therapy.
But now to what everybody is talking about, the Home Secretary Suella Braverman, after she created (what’s new) controversy, uproar and tension with comments on both the homeless, the marches calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, and the Irish (yes, really). It began last weekend, when Braverman posted on X to confirm reports that she wanted to restrict the use of tents by homeless people, in which she boldly argued that, for some, it was a ‘lifestyle choice’. Legislation to this end wasn’t forthcoming in the King’s Speech, but that didn’t mark the end of a publicity-filled week. A piece from Braverman was published in The Times on Thursday, in which she criticised the ‘pro-Palestinian mobs’ that were marching in London, calling it ‘disturbingly reminiscent’ to what had previously been seen in Northern Ireland. She also accused the Met Police of a ‘double standard’ in its handling of different types of protest. It would later emerge that No.10 had not signed off the article (as is standard procedure), but that it had requested changes be made to the article that then were not, with the PM’s spokesperson confirming they were ‘looking into what happened’. Despite the PM having ‘full confidence’ in his Home Secretary, a reshuffle, which has been tipped to be taking place since before the Summer Recess, is beginning to look increasingly likely. With Labour accusing the PM of being ‘weak’, it is yet to be seen whether the Prime Minister will do as his predecessor (the 49 day one) did and remove Braverman as Home Secretary.
Coming Up Next Week 📆
The High Court will rule on the Government’s Rwanda plan on Wednesday, a potential make-or-break moment for the Prime Minister considering the centrality of the scheme to the Government’s wider effort to ‘stop the boats’. Should the Court rule against the plan, expect the calls from the right of the Conservative Party for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights to increase dramatically (the Home Secretary will likely join such a chorus, if she’s still in post by then).
Watch out for a potential showdown over Gaza on Wednesday as well, as rumours swirl that the SNP might work with left-leaning Labour backbenchers to force a vote calling for an immediate ceasefire. Should it go ahead, it is expected Keir Starmer may have to allow a ‘free vote’, or risk facing further resignations.
Parliament will continue to debate the King’s Speech. The Commons will discuss healthcare on Monday, economic growth on Tuesday, and the police and criminal justice system on Wednesday; while the Lords consider the economy, transport, energy and the environment on Monday, science, technology, media and culture on Tuesday, and foreign affairs and defence on Wednesday. Parliament will then return to normal business on Thursday.
McDonald’s UK CEO Alistair Macrow will face the Business and Trade Committee on Tuesday to be grilled over allegations of a ‘toxic workplace culture’ and ‘claims of sexual harassment’ at the company’s franchises.
The Week in Stats 📉
21 – Number of Bills included in the King’s Speech, the fewest in a monarch’s speech since 2014.
0 – Growth in the UK economy between July and September, with the Bank of England saying the UK is likely to see zero growth until 2025, although it is expected to avoid a recession.
£7.6m – Amount ex-boss of NatWest, Dame Alison Rose, will lose out on after she admitted to discussing the closure of Nigel Farage’s bank account.
£2.9bn – Decrease in the value of goods imports in September, with falls in imports from both EU and non-EU countries.
£11k – Scottish Government Minister Michael Matheson’s data roaming bill on his Parliament-issued iPad, which he racked up while on holiday in Morocco last Christmas.
Other Political News 📰
Figures have shown that the UK economy failed to grow between July and September, following a series of interest rate rises. The Bank of England have said that the UK is likely to see zero growth until 2025, although they are not predicting a recession. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has said that business tax cuts would take priority over personal taxes, stating “my priority is growth, so cutting business taxes is the most important thing at this stage.” However, while growth stagnates, inflation rates are at least falling, forecast to have decreased from 6.7% to 4.8% in October.
England’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty has warned that the UK is facing an ageing crisis in his annual report. He said that people are living longer, but that many spend their later years in bad health, and called for action in two areas to turn things around: (1) policies to reduce disease and disability and help people to exercise, eat well and stay fit and (2) making housing, transport and other parts of the environment more elderly friendly, so that people can live out their lives as independently as possible. The report is aimed at improving quality of life rather than longevity, arguing that this can sometimes mean less medicine, not more.
In the latest update of the NatWest-Farage saga, it has been revealed that ex-NatWest boss Dame Alison Rose will lose out on £7.6 million, having resigned in July after admitting to discussing the closure of Nigel Farage’s bank account with Coutts (owned by NatWest). Although the NatWest Group confirmed that no findings of misconduct were made against her, Dame Alison was not granted “good leaver” status, meaning that she will lose out on share awards (worth an eye-watering £4.7m) and bonuses (worth £2.9m) she had previously been entitled to. But don’t get too upset… she will still receive her £2.4m pay package for 2023. And I’m sure we will hearing more about this from Farage himself, as he prepares to enter the I’m a Celeb Jungle later this month!
Around the World 🌍
Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa resigned following investigations into alleged corruption. The resignation came after officials raided his residence on Tuesday, for an investigation regarding influence peddling in lithium mining concessions, and a green-hydrogen project. Costa has said that he has nothing to do with illicit or reprehensible activity but the gravity of charges are “incompatible with the dignity of the office of prime minister.” In response to the PM’s resignation, the President has dissolved Parliament and called for an early election.
Polish Prime Miniter Mateusz Morawiecki was given the first chance to form a government three weeks after elections, following the call from President Andrzej Duda. Morawiecki’s party, the Law and Justice Party, came victorious in the most recent elections but fell short of the 231 majority (with just 194 seats), therefore pressure now lies on Morawiecki to find allies to form a Government with. The move from Duda to ask the current PM means he ignored calls from three pro-opposition parties, together holding 248 seats, led by former PM Donald Tusk, to form a Government. Morawiecki has two weeks from Monday to form a cabinet, and a further two weeks to present his parliamentary programme, following which there will be a vote of confidence.
Trump’s trial continued in New York, as he refuted claims that his family business deceived banks and aired grievances, despite the judge already ruling that the Trump Organisation committed fraud, with the case focusing on determining the penalties. Attorney General Lelita James accused Trump of ‘rambling’ and ‘hurling insults’ in the hearing, though suggested this wasn’t unexpected. Ivanka Trump also testified this week, despite distancing herself from her father after he left office and fighting to avoid testifying. Her testification also demonstrated a distance between herself and her father’s business, as she claimed she had no part in the financial statements of the business.
Ohio voted to enshrine abortion rights into its constitution on Tuesday, as 57% of voters backed the pro-choice movement in the Conservative leaning state. It becomes the 7th state to protect abortion access following the overturning of Roe v Wade, and is said to bolster Democrats’ hopes that abortion will remain a winning issue in next year’s presidential election. The amendment also includes provisions for reproductive medical treatment, including access to contraception and miscarriage care. Elsewhere in the States, Democrats won both chambers in Virginia, and Democratic Governor Andy Beshar won another four-year term in Kentucky, both of which have openly criticised rival Republican anti-abortion stances. Arizona and Missouri are also considering similar ballot measures to the one in Ohio next year.
South Africa recalled all diplomats from Tel Aviv in protest of the “killing of children and innocent civilians in the Palestinian Territory”, in a response from Israel that “has become one of collective punishment”. South Africa join countries such as Chad, Chile and Colombia who have also removed all diplomats from Israel.
Highlights from Parliament 🏛
Usual business in the Commons was taken over with a week of debates on the new Bills announced in the King’s Speech, due to a quirk of parliamentary procedure which saw the usual oral question times scrapped for one week only. In a debate entitled ‘Making the UK a clean energy superpower’, Labour MPs criticised the Government’s goals for renewable energy, with the Government responding that new legislation will unlock billions of pounds of investment towards green energy. New football regulations were also debated as a welcome move from the Government, with many MPs arguing the proposed changes would solve the ownership problems the industry has seen (Editor’s note: ownership problems in Navigate’s fantasy football league are beyond help…). In further debates – to continue next week – many Labour MPs voiced their disappointment that the Government had failed to introduce measures to end employment practices such as zero-hour contacts and fire-and-rehire: a debate likely to continue right up until the forthcoming General Election.
King’s Speech debates also took place in the Lord’s, focusing on home affairs, devolution, health and crime and justice. Lords voiced their disappointment that further plans for devolution were not proposed, arguing that England remains too ‘centralised’. Many welcomed the proposed legislation on strengthening criminal justice however, with Peers calling for reform as levels of crime have increased across the country. The Government’s health initiatives saw a mix of responses, with many in the Lords calling for the Government to focus on bridging health inequalities.
And they’re off!... Four Bills have already been introduced in the Lords, kickstarting the new session’s legislative programme. The Automated Vehicles Bill, the Investigatory Powers (Amendment) Bill, the Trade (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership) Bill and the Pedicabs (London) Bill will all begin their passage through Parliament in the Upper House, having already had their first reading in the House of Lords this week.
Committee Corridor 📜
Public trust and confidence in the police is needed to reduce crime, argues the Home Affairs Committee in a report it published this week on policing. The Committee recommended that specific measures be implemented by police forces to restore trust with communities and to transform workplace culture. It also urged the police to ‘do more to address the fact that some people are likely to be attracted to the role precisely because of the power it wields’.
Vulnerable people are not being given the housing they need, found the Public Accounts Committee in its report into supported housing. The report warns that exempt accommodation is ‘open to unscrupulous providers’ due to a lack of oversight, while demand is also outstripping supply. The Committee also found that issues are being exacerbated as the Government ‘has no reliable data about the sector’.
High-level, consistent diplomatic engagement with central Asian countries is needed to combat corruption and sanctions evasion, says the Foreign Affairs Committee report into the region. It criticised the UK Government’s current engagement as ‘persistently inadequate’, with it interpreted by nations in the region as ‘demonstrating a lack of seriousness’. With the UK a ‘leading enabler’ for ‘corrupt Central Asian elites’, the Committee recommends the National Crime Agency send agents to liaise with Central Asian governments on developing cooperation on Unexplained Wealth Orders.
There is a ‘bleak’ future for the horticulture sector unless it is given attention by Government, concludes the Lords Horticultural Sector Committee’s report. The Committee recommended that the Government publish a Horticulture Strategy for England to give the sector confidence; publish a workforce strategy and its review of the seasonal worker visa route; and review the R&D landscape to support innovation.
Key Movements 🔁
Imran Hussain MP quit as Shadow Minister for the New Deal for Working People. The Labour MP posted a copy of his resignation letter on X, stating he wanted to be able to advocate for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Alun Francis has been appointed the permanent Chair of the Social Mobility Commission, with Resham Kotecha and former MP Rob Wilson serving as his deputies.
Brigadier Philip McNee has been appointed the next Surgeon General, in the rank of Major General. He will take up the post in May 2024.
Liz Boyles has been appointed HM Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania.
Professor Alison Young has been appointed the Law Commissioner for Public Law and the Law in Wales.
Nine new business leaders in Wales have been appointed Export Champions for Wales, as part of International Trade Week 2023.
Lee Owston has been appointed National Director, Education at Ofsted, from the start of next year.
Helen Campbell has been appointed Senior Director for Sector Performance at Ofwat.
This Week’s Polls 📊
Sadiq Khan’s second term as London Mayor looks all the more certain this week, if YouGov’s latest poll is to be believed, which puts him on 50% of the vote – double what Conservative Mayoral Candidate Susan Hall is polling. The poll puts the Green Party on 11%, the Lib Dems on 7% and Reform on 4%.
Labour lead over the Conservatives in every favourability question about the next government’s policies, according to Ipsos’ latest poll conducted at the end of October. Labour’s strongest leads – over 20 points each time – are in response to questions about which party would ‘improve public services ‘offer Britain a fresh start’, ‘act with integrity’, and ‘reduce regional inequalities’; however when it comes to more tangible policies such as who would ‘reduce taxes’, ‘have the right foreign policy’ and ‘grow the economy’, the public are far less clear cut, with just 4 to 6 points separating the two parties.
And finally… Last week, Navigate’s Weekly Roundup team failed to report on the most important poll this year, published by Deltapoll at the end of October on the nation’s favourite Beatles song. The poll, which was conducted to coincide with the release of the ‘final’ Beatles song, Now and Then, reveals Hey Jude is, unsurprisingly, the runaway favourite. (Editor’s note: the 64.7% of respondents who inexplicably stated that they ‘do not have a favourite song by the Beatles’ need to have a word with themselves)
The Resolution Foundation published a report proposing a new approach to English devolution, suggesting the next phase of devolution should take the form of a ‘triple deal’ negotiated between the government and the Mayors of Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and London, with fiscal devolution at its core to reconnect local resource to local growth.
The IPPR published a report on the urgent need to address air pollution, arguing that ‘preventing the premature deaths of up to 43,000 people per year in the UK and reducing cases of cancer, strokes, heart attacks, dementia and asthma would be reason alone’.
The IEA published research into whether Brexit has harmed UK trade, finding that trade data doesn’t support the Office for Budget Responsibility’s claims that Brexit has caused significant negative impacts on the UK economy.
The Social Market Foundation released a briefing outlining the contribution of scale-ups to the economy, pointing out that they make a combined turnover of nearly £500bn. It calls on the Government to implement a range of reforms to improve scale-up growth and spread clusters of high-growth companies more evenly around the country.
Police Exchange published a report on the Crown Prosecution Service’s approach to transgenderism, demonstrating how it is ‘heavily influenced by partisan and heavily ideological beliefs about gender identity’.
You’ve Got to Laugh 😂
This week saw the release of one of the most highly anticipated books of the year (according to the Daily Mail) in the form of Nadine Dorries’ long-delayed ‘The Plot’. Unsurprisingly however, for an author whose bibliography contains a large amount of what Tik Tok tells us is 'erotica', the content appears to range from bizarre to saucy. One only needs to take a glance at the contents to wonder what she was getting at with chapter titles such as ‘Boris: For Your Eyes Only’ and ‘Diver Girl’. A more serious Bond-reference is to the shady figure of ‘Dr No’, who Dorries alleges pulls all the strings in No. 10 and once attempted to set fire to a house when people were asleep inside…it’s probably for the best the book was delayed while the lawyers did their thing.
The Covid inquiry continued to produce gems this week, when it was revealed that former Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill had said that Matt Hancock (who else) was ‘so far up BJ’s a***’ that ‘his ankles are brown’. One is almost tempted to feel sorry for Simon Case too, who lamented that attempting to run Johnson’s Government was like ‘taming wild animals’ and that nothing in his ‘past experience’ had prepared him for such ‘madness’.
This Tuesday also saw the third anniversary of a deeply significant date…happy ‘Four Seasons Total Landscaping Day’ to all those who celebrate! In one of the most ridiculous scenes in modern political history, on 7th November 2021 Donald Trump’s slowly-collapsing campaign held a press conference at the Four Seasons Total Landscaping business in Pennsylvania (little more than a local garden centre) to present ‘evidence’ of vote-rigging in Philadelphia. It is believed (but has never been confirmed) that they had tried and failed to book the famous Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia, and decided the name was more important than the location.