After months of speculation, Dominic Raab has finally resigned as Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister after an inquiry upheld two complaints of bullying against him. After all eyes have been on the chaos at the heart of the Scottish Government the past week, the SNP will be (ironically for the pro-independence party) breathing a sigh of relief that the focus is back on events in Westminster, albeit for now…
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 mystery of Schrödinger's Justice Secretary was finally solved this morning with the (unrequested by the Prime Minister) resignation of Dominic Raab following a lengthy investigation into a series of bullying accusations that were made against him. The inquiry findings, which had been handed to the Prime Minister on Thursday morning, upheld two claims made against Raab, with the now-ex Deputy PM and Justice Secretary writing in his resignation letter that he had promised to resign if the investigation ‘made any finding of bullying whatsoever’. Despite resigning, the Karate black belted Raab came out aggressively fighting against the findings, arguing that they ‘are flawed and set a dangerous precedent for the conduct of good government’ as well as warning that the precedent set will have a ‘chilling effect on those driving change on behalf of [Sunak’s] government – and ultimately the British people’. Striking a more conciliatory tone, Raab did also apologise for the ‘unintended stress’ that he may have caused. The Liberal Democrats have, predictably, called on Raab to resign as an MP and for there to be a by-election in his constituency of Esher and Walton (a key Lib Dem target seat).
One door closing means another door opening… for Oliver Dowden MP and Alex Chalk MP. Dowden, currently Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in the Cabinet Office, gets the extra title of Deputy Prime Minister, whilst Chalk has been promoted to Justice Secretary to replace Raab at the MoJ. Chalk in turn is replaced by James Cartlidge as Minister for Defence Procurement, who is in turn replaced by 2019 intake Gareth Davies MP, as Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury. In a host of other appointments, Michelle Donelan MP is due to go on a short maternity leave in the very near future, when her role will be covered by Chloe Smith MP. Julia Lopez MP, who is also due to go on maternity leave, will be covered by John Whittingdale MP as Culture, Media and Sport Minister.
Humza Yousaf was given the chance to stamp his authority on the SNP this week as he set out his policy priorities in a speech to the Scottish Parliament. The speech was accompanied by the publication of a Policy Prospectus, entitled ‘New Leadership – A Fresh Start’, with three main missions announced, centred on the themes of equality, opportunity and community. The new First Minister outlined his desire to seek a ‘New Deal for Scottish Business’; announced a delay in the introduction of the controversial Deposit Return Scheme to March 2024; confirmed that proposals on alcohol advertising will go “back to the drawing board”; revealed a six-month pilot removing peak-time fares from ScotRail services from October; and announced £1.3bn investment for the Scottish Child Payment and £25m to convert suitable properties into affordable homes for key workers and others. This didn’t stop the chaos from continuing with Scotland’s governing party however, as Colin Beattie MSP resigned as SNP Treasurer following his arrest as part of the police investigation into the SNP’s finances. As happened with former SNP Chief Executive Peter Murrell, Beattie was released without charge.
The 25th Anniversary of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement was marked this week, with politicians past and present from around the world descending on Queen’s University in Belfast for the ‘Agreement Twenty-Five’ Conference. Those closely involved at the time, including Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Bertie Ahern and George Mitchell were in attendance, together with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, European Council President Charles Michel and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Sunak used his speech at the Conference to call the Agreement “one of the most extraordinary political achievements of our lifetimes”, praise the “courageous service” of those involved in the process, and emphasised his desire to see the Northern Ireland Assembly “back up and running” after the power-sharing agreement collapsed in May 2022 following the Assembly Election.
The Week in Stats 📉
47,000 – The fall in job vacancies over the last quarter.
£1.17 million – The amount of ‘Short Money’ (funds provided to opposition parties for Parliamentary business and associated expenses) the SNP received this financial year. The Government is threatening to suspend these payments if it does not file audited accounts by 31 May.
32% – The proportion of large business leaders who believe a Labour government would be better for them (compared to 26% for the Conservatives).
£67 – The annual price of a blue tick on Twitter, as of today.
17% – TransPennine Express’ cancellation rate in the four weeks to the end of March.
8 million – The number of adults in the UK with maths skills below those expected of a 9 year old.
19% – The increase in food prices over the last year.
3.5 million – The number of workers who don’t save into a pension.
Other Political News
The UK needs to change its “anti-maths mindset”, the Prime Minister argued in a speech this week on improving attainment in mathematics for 16–18-year olds. Emphasising the importance of maths to a range of industries such as the creative industries, he announced the creation of a new expert advisory group to identify the core maths content that 16-18-year-olds need and acknowledged the need to recruit and train maths teachers and to figure out how to use technology to support them.
It's been a week of foreign trips for Government ministers. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has been visiting Japan and the Commonwealth nations of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Samoa over the past week, although cut his trip short following news the US may be preparing to evacuate its Embassy in Sudan following an escalation in fighting. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has concluded his visit to Washington D.C., where he met with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin and conducted meetings with senior US defence and security leaders. Trade Minister Nigel Huddleston also jetted off to the US to sign the UK’s fourth state-level MoU in Oklahoma.
The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner opened an investigation into the Prime Minister regarding an apparent failure to properly declare an interest. The allegations relate to the Prime Minister’s wife Akshata Murty’s position as a minority shareholder in the firm Koru Kids, a childcare agency that could benefit from the raft of childcare policies announced in the Spring Budget. Sunak insisted that it had been ‘rightly declared to the Cabinet Office’; however Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner responded by arguing that the Government’s ‘failure to update the rules or publish a register of ministers' interests in nearly a year’ had resulted in a ‘transparency black hole’ and demanded he ‘commit to publishing the register before May's elections’. As if by magic, the latest list of Ministerial Interests was published on Wednesday, setting out ministers’ financial interests, directorships, shareholdings, investment property, public appointments, positions in charities and non-public organisations, and the interest of spouses, partners and other close family members where deemed relevant.
The controversial Illegal Migration Bill is due to return to the Commons for its report stage and third reading next week; in advance of which the Government have tabled an amendment to the Bill, to appease some backbenchers on the right of the Tory party. The amendment, if passed, expands the definition of the meaning of ‘serious harm suspensive claim’ and would force judges to rule that an immigrant to the UK would ‘face a real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm’, if they returned to their own country, to prevent them from being deported. Whilst the amendment is likely to pass in the House of Commons, despite a potential backbench rebellion from some of the party’s centrists, it will face a harder time getting through the Lords when it concludes its Commons stages next week.
Housing Secretary Michael Gove committed to ensuring an effective testing regime for construction products, as he published the Independent Review of Construction Product Testing, leading on from the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. Alongside the review’s publication, he argued he will work to ensure that ‘those who manufacture and work with [construction products] are competent professionals’ and that ‘those who try to misrepresent or misuse their products or mislead their customers… will be found out and held to account’. He noted that he will ‘consider how our regulatory regime can ensure that only responsible businesses can make and sell construction products’, adding that ‘it is unacceptable that cladding and insulation manufacturers have neither acknowledged their part in the legacy of unsafe buildings in the United Kingdom, nor contributed to the cost of remediating buildings’.
Around the World
Waves of fighting broke out in Sudan’s Khartoum region between two factions of its military leadership, following growing tensions between the army and the Rapid Support Forces over the last few weeks. The two groups, who allied together for the coup in 2021, have been fighting over the potential integration of the RSF to the military, opening questions of leadership and power imbalances. The tensions between the two groups peaked last weekend as the RSF deployed members around the country, without expressed permission by the army, causing violence and fighting in heavily populated civilian areas to break out, and at least 400 deaths and up to 20,000 people fleeing the country. Calls for a temporary ceasefire over the coming weekend to allow citizens to celebrate Eid were issued from both the UN and USA, though seem to have failed, as bombing and shelling continues.
A key member of President Lula’s administration resigned from the Brazilian Government, following the emergence of footage showing him inside the presidential palace during the far-right riots on 8 January. General Marcos Gonçalves Dias has denied that he facilitated rioters entry, despite images from CNN Brasil depicting him pointing towards an emergency exit, which he claims he was doing to remove people from the third and fourth floor of the building so that they could be arrested on a lower floor. Dias handed in his resignation to ensure that the investigation into the matter could be undertaken with transparency.
A Russian fighter jet accidently bombed one of its own cities, just 40km away from the Ukrainian border. The Sukhoi-34 fighter-jet caused a 20m crater in the city, injuring three people. A brief statement has been released by the Russian defence ministry, stating the bombers had “accidentally discharged aircraft ordnance” at 10pm local time.
The pension dispute in France continued as Macron signed the controversial legislation into law, raising the state pension age to 64. Unions have promised to continue the strike action in the country, encouraging workers to join them on 01 May. Strikes also made headlines across the pond, as 155,000 federal workers in Canada have gone on strike, following disputes over pay and the ability to work-from-home.
Residents in Florida got an unexpected wake-up call at 4:45am, as a test emergency alert to devices in the State was activated, due to a mistake made when officials were testing the system. The alert was supposed to be set off on televisions, where they would not have been detected by the majority of people at that time, but was accidently sent to mobile phones, waking sleepers up across the whole state. NB: as a Navigate reminder, a test emergency alert is due to happen in the UK this Sunday at 3pm.
The Data Protection and Digital Information (No.2) Bill passed its second reading in the Commons. The Bill aims to regulate the processing of individuals’ information and access to customer data and business data alongside making provisions about privacy and electronic communications.
The Energy Bill completed its report stage in the House of Lords, and will move on to its third reading next week. The Bill in its current form seeks to further regulate the energy market including the licensing of carbon dioxide transport and storage and commercial arrangements for industrial carbon capture and storage and for hydrogen production.
The Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill continued in its Lords’ committee stage for the ninth and tenth days. The Bill places a duty on the Government to set Levelling Up missions and produce an annual Levelling Up report, creates a new County Deal model of combined authority, gives local authorities powers to bring empty premises back into use, and digitises neighbourhood planning to make it easier to engage with and limit speculative development.
The Finance (No.2) Bill started its committee stage in the Commons which will resume on 18 May.
The Online Safety Bill began its committee stage in the House of Lords which will resume next week. In collaboration with Ofcom, the Bill introduces further regulation to online activity, such as banning anonymous online hate on social media, alongside enabling limited access to legal but harmful content for children.
Black women are almost four times more likely to die from childbirth than white women and maternal death rates in deprived areas are on the rise, with women in the most deprived areas 2.5 times more likely to die than those in the least deprived areas, a report from the Women and Equalities Committee concluded this week. The report called on the Government to set a definitive target to eliminate “appalling” disparities in maternal deaths as current measures are "insufficient".
Economic growth is being held back by a lack of workers, poor enforcement of workers’ rights and "disorganised" political leadership, so argues the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee in its latest report out. Committee Chair Darren Jones MP recommended the Government "get a move on and create the single enforcement body promised back in 2019. A one stop shop for workers and businesses would provide the clarity, security and effective oversight that is needed.”
“Optimism bias” is affecting the Ministry of Defence budget planning leading to huge financial risks being “ignored” as military equipment faces problems and delays leaving UK land forces needing to “catch up” to fulfil NATO commitments, the Committee of Public Accounts concluded in a report this week. The Committee has argued these findings came as the MOD didn't include external cost pressures, such as inflation and foreign exchange movements, in its central assessment of the Plan’s affordability.
The Government’s responses on the ongoing UK trade negotiations with India have been “limited” and “unhelpful”, so argues the International Trade Committee in its latest report this week, which argued it has found itself gleaning more detail from reports in the Indian media than from the UK Government and thus urged the Government to give Parliament more information on live trade negotiations. This week was also the committees last ever session after being established in 2016.
Alex Chalk MP has been appointed Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Oliver Dowden MP adds Deputy Prime Minister to his title, James Cartlidge MP has been appointed Minister for Defence Procurement, and Gareth Davies MP has been appointed Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.
Chloe Smith MP has been named as maternity cover for Michelle Donelan MP as Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology; whilst Sir John Whittingdale MP has been named as maternity cover for Julia Lopez MP as Data and Digital Infrastructure Minister
Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Julian Knight MP announced he would be standing down at the next general election, stating that the ‘false and malicious accusation’ against him has done ‘untold damage to my physical and mental well being as well as causing pain and distress to my loved ones’. He also stated he would be standing down from his chairmanship due to his refusal to request the return of the Conservative Party whip.
John Lehal has been appointed the Chief Operating Officer of the Labour Party, the first to take up the newly created role.
Paul Lincoln has been appointed the new Second Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence.
Andy Haldane, Dr Anna Valero and Sir Jonathan Symonds have been appointed to join the Chancellor’s Economic Advisory Council (EAC).
Caroline Croft has been appointed Director General of the Government Legal Department.
Cindy Rampersaud has been appointed a non-executive member and Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee of the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Pauline McCabe and Jake Hard have been appointed members of the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody.
Sir Richard Broadbent has been appointed the new chair of the HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) Board.
Danny Kinahan has been reappointed the Veterans Commissioner for Northern Ireland.
This Week’s Polls
The public supports UK special forces non-combat involvement in Ukraine, according to a poll published by YouGov following leaks from the Pentagon last week that alleged 50 UK special forces soldiers were operating in Ukraine. 52% of those surveyed supported non-combat roles for UK special forces in Ukraine, but this support dropped to just 32% who supported the elite soldiers undertaking combat roles.
59% of ethnic minority Londoners think the Metropolitan Police is institutionally racist, in a poll undertaken by YouGov, 30 years after the murder of Stephan Lawrence. In a survey of all Britons that number is still as high as 48%, with 24% believing it is not and 27% answering ‘don’t know’.
Labour have a 16% lead over the Conservatives in Red Wall seats, according to the latest Redfield & Wilton poll – the lowest since Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget six months ago, following which Labour’s lead shot up.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies published a report comparing the level of school spending per pupil across the four nations of the UK, and a report calling for a new review of the pension system in the UK.
The Resolution Foundation published a report on improving low-paid work through higher minimum standards and a report looking at how people living in poor quality housing have fared during the cost of living crisis.
The Institute for Government published a report on tackling obesity and improving policy making on food and health.
The Henry Jackson Society published a report looking at anti-Hundi hate in schools.
Demos published a report on the costs of atopic dermatitis, the most common form of eczema in the UK.
The IPPR published a report entitled ‘The end of greenwashing’, on driving decarbonisation in the real economy.
You’ve Got to Laugh
ChatGPT critics? Move on out; because this thing called AI just gets better and better. If it’s not writing a political drama about Michael Gove, it’s proving its worth through this brilliant re-write of Dominic Raab’s resignation letter… in rap form. We’re into it, right from the first line of “Yo, I’m resignin’, gotta bounce, it’s true, from your government, after the report came through”… Kanye, your lyrics have nothing on this.
For those MPs looking to the heights of a media career after the next General Election, you’re too late – as it turns out the pinnacle of achievement has already been reached by none other than… Schools Minister Nick Gibb MP, who we discovered this week once appeared in an episode of The Simpsons (albeit in a cameo non-speaking role). It turns out Gibb is close friends with two of the writers. You can see him getting the classic yellow Simpsons treatment sat behind the right shoulder of The Prime Minister in this clip.