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Labour ‘scrapes a win’ in Batley and Spen by-election

“Labour has just clung onto the constituency of Batley and Spen in a closely-fought by-election seen as critical to shoring up Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership. The party has seen off a strong challenge from the Conservatives, whose candidate Ryan Stephenson took 12,973 votes, but fell shy of a majority. Kim Leadbeater, a community activist whose sister Jo Cox served as the constituency MP for a year before she was murdered by a neo-Nazi terrorist, was elected the Labour MP with 13,296 votes, a majority of only 323. George Galloway, the former Labour agitator, came third with 8,264 votes. Turnout was confirmed at 47.6%, lower than predicted, and down from 66.5% at the 2019 General Election.” – The Times

  • Hancock affair hurt Tories, co-chairman admits – Daily Telegraph
  • Galloway demands recount and threatens court – Daily Express
  • Starmer’s leadership just staved clear of crisis today – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Result highlights complacency spreading through Conservative ranks – Patrick O’Flynn, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The Batley and Spen by-election. A grim legacy. An alarming campaign. A gnomic result.

Javid and Sunak insist tax rises needed to fix social care crisis…

“New health secretary Sajid Javid is to form a powerful alliance with chancellor Rishi Sunak to insist that major reform of England’s creaking social care system must be funded through higher taxes. Javid is sympathetic to a Japanese-style levy on the over-40s to fund social care, according to colleagues, while the Treasury is looking at whether a dedicated tax could be introduced. Boris Johnson has promised to fix the social care funding crisis — with annual costs estimated at up to £10bn — but his reluctance to raise taxes has caused tensions with Sunak, who wants to tackle the £300bn deficit accumulated during the coronavirus pandemic. “Rishi has made it clear that if the public purse is to pay for social care reform, it has to be funded,” said one ally of the chancellor.” – FT

  • Tell us how much we can spend, urge NHS bosses – The Times

…as Johnson orders NHS overhaul

“Boris Johnson has overruled Sajid Javid and insisted that he press ahead with a “huge” NHS reorganisation despite the new health secretary fearing it will be too controversial. Three days after being appointed on Saturday, Javid urged the prime minister to delay reforms planned by his predecessor, Matt Hancock, because “significant areas of contention” had yet to be resolved. Downing Street rejected his plea, insisting that he introduce the Health and Care Bill to parliament on Tuesday. It will undo many of the contentious market-based reforms introduced by Andrew Lansley in 2012. The changes will make it easier for health bodies to work together and Sir Simon Stevens, the outgoing head of NHS England, has championed them.” – The Times

  • Javid is a fighter, now it’s time he fights for the NHS – Sonia Khan, Times Red Box

Prime Minister resists calls to scrap school bubbles now and tells frustrated parents to be ‘patient’

“Boris Johnson has faced down demands to bin classroom bubbles immediately – and asked exasperated parents to stay “patient”. The PM is under mounting pressure to axe the hated isolation policy without delay after ministers confirmed it would be swapped with testing. Nearly 50 Tory MPs have signed a letter branding the current system – where entire classes are forced to isolate if one pupil tests positive – “unsustainable” and “disproportionate”. On a trip to the Nissan plant in Sunderland, Mr Johnson acknowledged their “frustration” but urged them to wait for the ongoing Public Health England review into favouring testing for isolation… Bubbles are proving a nightmare for parents forced to scramble childcare at short notice.” – The Sun

  • Williamson suggested bubbles would end as classes return in September – Daily Mail

More:

  • Johnson says ‘extra precautions’ may be needed after Covid restrictions are lifted… – The Times
  • …but that vaccine rollout has ‘broken the link’ between infections and deaths – Daily Mail

 Comment:

  • How long must we put our children through a pointless Covid charade? – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

Kwarteng defends phasing out of furlough programme

“Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng on Thursday strongly defended the government’s move to start reducing state funding of the furlough scheme ahead of the full lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England. From Thursday, companies have to shoulder more of the costs of the programme, even though restrictions affecting several industries including hospitality are not due to be lifted until July 19. Statistics published by HM Revenue & Customs showed more than 1m workers came off the government’s job retention scheme during May following the reopening of indoor hospitality in England. Some business groups have urged the government not to begin cutting state funding of the furlough scheme until all the restrictions affecting companies have been lifted.” – FT

  • Nearly 2.5million Brits still on furlough as bill reaches £66billion – The Sun

Post-Brexit talks on City access to EU have stalled, Sunak reveals

“Talks to secure City of London access to the EU have stalled, Rishi Sunak has confirmed in his first Mansion House speech to financiers, as he set out sweeping reforms designed to help Britain’s finance industry embrace global opportunities after Brexit. Addressing a hand-picked gathering of 40 young financial workers at a slimmed-down version of what was, in the days before the pandemic, a landmark annual gathering, the chancellor said a deal on a comprehensive post-Brexit financial services settlement with the EU had not happened. “Now, we are moving forward, continuing to cooperate on questions of global finance, but each as a sovereign jurisdiction with our own priorities,” he said. Sunak said Britain would diverge from Brussels’ rules on financial services as he set out a vision for the City.” – The Guardian

  • Sunak unveils post-Brexit City reforms… – FT
  • …and says City is well placed to serve Beijing’s financial services – FT

>Yesterday: Benedict Rogers in Comment: What the Government should do next to help Hong Kongers

Post-Brexit trade policy faces first High Court test

“The UK government is facing the first significant legal challenge to its post-Brexit independent trade policy after the High Court agreed that a decision to cut tariffs on some UK sugar imports could be subject to a judicial review. The case, which has been brought by British Sugar plc against the international trade secretary Liz Truss, is also the first test of how far contentious “state aid” clauses in the Northern Ireland protocol will impinge on the UK government’s ability to issue subsidies. Legal experts said the case would be keenly watched by ministers and industry for precedence in UK trade and subsidy policy. The legal challenge was brought by British Sugar in response to a decision by Truss last December to unilaterally allow 260,000 tonnes of “raw cane sugar” to enter the UK tariff-free for 12 months from January 1…” – FT

  • Johnson hails jobs bonanza after Nissan’s £1billion electric car deal – The Sun
  • Donaldson to seek removal of Northern Ireland protocol ‘within weeks’ – FT

>Yesterday:

Alister Jack: Free and fair trade is the mutually beneficial path to prosperity

“The UK government is using this new freedom to strike trade deals with like-minded allies and dynamic economies such as Australia, Japan and Canada, while ensuring that our businesses do not face unfair competition and our high environmental, labour, animal welfare and food safety standards are maintained. Our 21st-century trade deals reflect the way modern businesses operate today. Take the digital economy agreement we are negotiating with Singapore. The first of its kind for a European country, it will allow innovative British firms to expand into new digital markets, encourage collaboration across the tech industries, tackle cyberthreats and aid personal data protection. A commitment to free and fair trade is a central plank of our economic policy to help industries and businesses in Scotland and throughout the UK overcome the unprecedented economic challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.” – Times Red Box

  • Nissan hasn’t put UK ahead in electric race, it’s just off the starting grid – Nils Pratley, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • The UK carves a risky new path on state aid – FT

Johnson ‘prepares for showdown talks at Chequers’ with Merkel over travel rules

“Boris Johnson is under pressure to challenge Angela Merkel over Germany’s travel rules after Tony Blair said making fully-vaccinated Brits quarantine ‘makes no sense’. The Prime Minister will welcome the German Chancellor to Chequers for talks tomorrow and Downing Street has confirmed that travel restrictions will be discussed. Germany has designated the UK as an area of concern due to the spread of the ‘Delta’ coronavirus variant and it has effectively banned British travellers from visiting. Any Brits arriving in Germany must spend 14 days in quarantine with no exemptions, including for the fully vaccinated. Mrs Merkel has urged the EU to adopt her approach across all member states but countries like Spain have resisted a blanket border policy because of the damage it would do its crucial tourism sector.” – Daily Mail

  • He will thank German Chancellor for ‘years of service to global diplomacy’… – FT
  • …and does not rule out letting double-jabbed tourists skip quarantine – The Guardian

More EU:

  • Mad scramble to stay in UK as 50,000 EU citizens apply on final day – Daily Telegraph
  • Delays push asylum costs up to £220m – The Times

Comment:

  • Johnson and Merkel play the same wily game – James Forsyth, The Times

Hancock makes ‘grovelling apology’ to local party bosses as he fights to cling on as an MP

“Matt Hancock has made a grovelling apology to his constituency party as he battles to cling on as an MP. Tory bigwigs in his leafy West Suffolk seat last night tried to quash a brewing rebellion by throwing a protective arm around the embattled ex-Health Sec. Furious local politicians are plotting to turf cheating Mr Hancock out of Parliament in the wake of his lockdown-defying affair with close aide Gina Coladangelo. The Sun yesterday revealed a blistering letter sent by one enraged Tory councillor to West Suffolk Conservative Association demanding Mr Hancock is ditched as the candidate before the next election. But after “taking soundings” the party hierarchy – which has so far kept silent – rallied round their wounded MP. While quitting as Health Secretary after we revealed his bombshell affair with a close aide, Mr Hancock resolved to keep serving on the back benches.” – The Sun

Johnson’s food tsar ‘will recommend six per cent tax on salty foods’

“Boris Johnson’s food tsar will recommend a six per cent tax on salty foods that would add 20p to the cost of a Big Mac, sources claim. Restaurateur Henry Dimbleby is set to make the salt tax a central recommendation of his National Food Strategy, a government review aimed at getting Britons to eat healthier. The millionaire founder of lunch chain Leon has been tasked by the Prime Minister to come up with ways to get Britons to cut down on salt, red meat, saturated fats and sugar. The salt tax – which is modelled on the 18p per litre sugar tax introduced in 2018 – will force manufacturers to reduce the amount of the seasoning they put in products, it is hoped. Processed meats such as sausages and bacon would be hit the hardest. A Big Mac at McDonald’s would be 20p more expensive…” – Daily Mail

  • Gas and car bills to soar under green revolution – The Times

>Today: Paula Higgins in Local Government: British homeowners are vital to reaching net zero. But we must ensure climate targets are achievable for them.

>Yesterday: Jacob Young MP in Comment: Conservatives must ensure their climate change goals are affordable for the consumer

Big unions ready to back Angela Rayner against Sir Keir Starmer

“Angela Rayner has the backing of three big left-wing unions for a leadership challenge against Sir Keir Starmer, her allies have said. The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, the rail union Aslef and the Communication Workers Union have signalled they would back Rayner were she to launch a leadership campaign, according to her supporters. MPs allied with the deputy leader have been seeking support among parliamentary colleagues and trade unions. The three unions have raised concerns about the direction Starmer has taken the party over the past year. They all signed a letter to the Labour leader in October saying that Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension after his comments about antisemitism was “ill advised and unjust” and calling for unity.” – The Times

Speaker to run ‘refresher sessions’ on how to be an MP

“Politicians are to be given lessons on how to be MPs again after almost a year and a half of debating and voting remotely. Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, will run a series of “refresher” sessions on September 7 to remind newer members about the rules of behaviour and etiquette in the chamber. All MPs have been invited to attend the “back-to-school” classes, but they are predominantly aimed at the 140 members who were elected for the first time in 2019. They had only been MPs for less than three months before the first coronavirus lockdown forced proceedings to be run on Zoom, with only a handful allowed in the chamber at any one time. Some had not even made their maiden speech before Parliament was all but shut down.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • The Tories overplayed their hand in Batley and Spen – Nick Tyrone, The Spectator
  • Is the traditional Tory belief in free enterprise leaving the station? – John Penrose MP, CapX
  • The American nightmare – Noel Yaxley, The Critic
  • Macron’s humiliating dilemma – John Lichfield, UnHerd