Published:

Voters head to polls in Batley and Spen ‘after bitter campaign battle’

“Voters in the West Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen go to the polls today in a byelection touted as a fundamental test of Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership of the Labour party. Labour is defending a majority of more than 3,000 in the seat but the bookies have the Conservatives as odds-on favourites to follow up their victory in Hartlepool in May and heap further pressure on Starmer. Starmer’s spokesman has said he will not resign if Labour loses but new polling this week suggested that as many as four in 10 party members would want him to stand down and make way for new leadership in the wake of a loss. The byelection was originally seen as a straight contest between Labour’s Kim Leadbeater – the sister of former Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox, who was murdered in the constituency in 2016 – and the Tories’ Ryan Stephenson.” – The Guardian

  • Galloway legal threat over posters – BBC

Editorial:

  • It is grotesque of Labour to stoke sectarian tensions in Batley and Spen – Daily Telegraph

Rayner supporters ready for her to challenge Starmer

“Supporters of Angela Rayner are ready for her to challenge Sir Keir Starmer for the Labour leadership should the party lose the by-election in Batley & Spen today. Allies of the deputy leader are reportedly backing a leadership challenge after months of dismal poll results. MPs close to Rayner have already been canvassing support among parliamentary colleagues and trade unions, according to The Times. A loss in Batley & Spen could spark an extraordinary power struggle within the party, with Rayner reportedly confident she can land the top job. To do so she would need the support of 40 Labour MPs to trigger a leadership contest with Sir Keir – around 20 per cent of the party.” – The Sun

  • Javid mocks her for confusing him with Khan – Daily Mail
  • Senior figures at Unite, Labour’s biggest union backer, are willing to support a challenge – The Times
  • Labour leader ‘will refuse to quit’ – The Sun
  • Rayner denies knowledge of reported leadership challenge – Daily Express

More:

  • ‘I’m prepared to go back but as something different’ – Interview with Andy Burnham, New Statesman

School coronavirus bubbles could be axed on July 19

“School bubbles could be scrapped on July 19, Gavin Williamson has said as he told MPs that officials were considering a “new model” for dealing with Covid-19 breakouts among pupils. The education secretary said he believed pupils would not be facing bubble arrangements in September, adding that he wants to end regular Covid testing for schoolchildren “at the earliest and most realistic possible stage”. There have been concerns about the number of pupils being sent home for ten days if another student tests positive for the virus. Labour said data suggested 375,000 children were out of school last week as a result of coronavirus. Williamson’s comments came, however, after a government adviser warned that restrictions could have to be reimposed because the country is “repeating the mistakes of last summer”.” – The Times

  • Unions demand clarity over dropping isolation policy in England’s schools – FT

Travel:

  • Ministers plan quarantine-free travel for the double-vaccinated – The Times
  • Johnson insists two Covid jabs is key to allow Britons to ‘start flying again’ – Daily Express

>Yesterday:

Health minister ‘held undeclared meetings’ with firms that won Covid-19 contracts

“The Department for Health & Social Care (DHSC) failed to declare 27 meetings held by a health minister for more than a year, including with firms that went on to win lucrative Covid-19 contracts, it has emerged. Lord Bethell, who is already under pressure over his use of a personal email, was found on Wednesday to have held meetings with firms that obtained millions of pounds in public sector contracts. The meetings have now been declared, with the Department updating its records to reveal a number of meetings between Lord Bethell and organisations between April 1-6 last year. Officials claimed that the omission had been accidental and due to an administrative error.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Half of UK to get Covid booster with flu jab to avoid further lockdowns – The Times

Comment:

  • Javid sounds like a lockdown sceptic, but he won’t want to alienate the NHS – Tim Bale, The Guardian
  • Hancock’s fall will have lasting consequences – Robert Shrimsley, FT

Sunak to announce £15bn green finance plan

“Rishi Sunak will announce plans to transform the City of London into a hub for green finance on Thursday as the government pushes to boost its competitiveness on the global stage after Brexit. The chancellor is expected to use his first speech to City financiers at the annual Mansion House address to announce details of a £15bn UK programme of government bond issuance, with the proceeds being spent on environmentally friendly projects. Aiming to turn Britain into a world leader for low-carbon financial services, Sunak will also launch a separate green savings bond for UK consumers, which he will say is to be used to help fund infrastructure schemes and create more green jobs across the UK.” – The Guardian

  • Financial services sector set for carve-out from new global tax rules – FT
  • Nearly two thirds of bounce-back Covid loans will never be paid, MPs fear – The Sun

Comment:

  • Post-pandemic businesses must be empowered to thrive – Graham Stuart MP, Times Red Box

>Yesterday: Jonathan Djanogly MP in Comment: Employee share ownership schemes can help reverse the UK’s slow rates of productivity growth

UK is not a ‘closed shop’ to migrants, says Patel

“The UK is not a “closed shop” to migrants, said Priti Patel, as she launched a new route for foreign graduates to remain in Britain. Writing below for The Telegraph, the Home Secretary announces that 250,000 students on visas in UK higher education can apply to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, at any skill level for at least two years after graduation. Unlike nearly all other migrants, they will not require a job offer, nor will they have to earn a minimum salary. There will be no caps on numbers, with graduates able to switch jobs and develop their career. The move is designed to encourage international talent to live and work in the UK and sits alongside other “open” routes for top overseas scientists, researchers, engineers and winners of international awards in science, arts, film and theatre.” – Daily Telegraph

Whitehall ‘plotted to gag Dominic Cummings’ to stem revelations

“Civil servants have been plotting how to stop Dominic Cummings from publishing embarrassing revelations about life in Boris Johnson’s 10 Downing Street, it has emerged. Whitehall officials looked at what action could be taken against Mr Cummings, including whether he had potentially breached his employment contract as a special adviser, the civil service code or even the Official Secrets Act. Civil servants in the Cabinet Office went so far as drafting a letter to Mr Cummings urging him to stop publishing damaging stories about the Government on his social media and blogging feeds. However, the plans were then vetoed by 10 Downing Street. One senior source there said any bid to silence Mr Cummings was now “not going to happen”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson and others in cabinet are using the encrypted Signal app – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Buckland’s stealth raid on judicial power gathers pace

Minister says ‘smart motorways’ will be rolled out

“The Government will continue to roll out ‘smart’ motorways despite public safety concerns, a senior minister confirmed today. Baroness Vere admitted there is still a ‘gap’ between the position of the Department for Transport and Highways England – which claim the roads are at least as safe as conventional motorways – and public perception. There are concerns about the safety of all lane running (ALR) smart motorways – which involve the hard shoulder being converted into a running lane – due to several fatal accidents involving stationary vehicles being hit from behind… In April, Highways England described smart motorways as ‘the safest roads in the country’, stating the number of fatalities per distance driven was a third higher on conventional motorways than ALR motorways.” – Daily Mail

Brussels 1) EU citizens must get on with applying for settled status, says Johnson

“Boris Johnson has urged EU citizens eligible for settled status in the UK to “get on with” applying, amid warnings tens of thousands could miss the deadline. The Prime Minister said there had already been time extensions, that it was five years since the referendum result, and the Government had funded 72 organisations to help vulnerable EU citizens to apply. “Anybody applying within the deadline will have their case dealt with and I urge them to get on with it,” he told MPs. His appeal came amid concerns that at least 100,000 EU citizens eligible for settled status will effectively become illegal migrants after the deadline has passed at midnight on June 30. Some estimates suggest the number could be as high as 500,000. About 5.6 million EU citizens have so far applied for settled status, two million more than originally anticipated.” – Daily Telegraph

  • EU states raise threat of legal action over UK residency rights – FT

More:

  • UK and Germany sign post-Brexit defence and foreign policy declaration – The Guardian

Brussels 2) UK and EU agree a truce to avoid ‘sausage wars’ over chilled meat exports to Northern Ireland

“Britain and Brussels have agreed to a truce to avoid a ‘sausage war’ over exports of chilled meats to Northern Ireland – but it is only temporary. The UK and the EU announced this afternoon that a deal has been done to ensure sausages and other products can still be sent from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Lord Frost, the Cabinet Office minister who is responsible for Brexit matters, said a grace period on the exports will be extended to September 30 – a move which he described as a ‘sensible’ step. But the two sides remain deadlocked on how to permanently fix post-Brexit border problems in Northern Ireland. Lord Frost said the extension of the grace period is a ‘positive first step but we still need to agree a permanent solution’.” – Daily Mail

  • Commission approves 3-month extension to grace period on Northern Ireland meat shipments – FT

More:

  • Belfast court dismisses legal challenge to Protocol – The Guardian

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: The Northern Ireland Protocol. A crisis is averted. But for how long?

Donaldson ratified as DUP leader by party executive

“Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has been officially ratified as leader of the DUP after a meeting of the party’s ruling executive in Belfast. The party’s 130-strong executive met at La Mon Hotel to approve the appointment of the Lagan Valley MP as their new leader. Donaldson, the DUP’s 58-year-old Westminster leader, was the only candidate to put his name forward for the role after the dramatic resignation of Edwin Poots earlier this month. At the weekend, the MP secured the majority backing of the DUP’s electoral college of party MPs and MLAs, receiving support from 32 of the college’s 36 members. Internal divisions within the DUP have been laid bare after successive revolts deposed former leader Arlene Foster and her successor, Poots. His demise came only weeks after he narrowly defeated Donaldson in the leadership contest to succeed Foster.” – The Guardian

  • ‘You have to be violent to be heard’: why Northern Ireland’s teens take to the streets – FT

Comment:

  • Only a full devolution reset can stop the UK splintering apart – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • England is stuck and the Union will pay for it – David Aaronovitch, The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The threat of Scottish independence. Is it business as usual? First, pre-election panic. Then the vote. And finally…back to complacency.

News in Brief:

  • How the Sun got its Hancock scoop – Victoria Newton, New Statesman
  • Uncertain times in Labour’s rugby league heartlands – Anthony Broxton, The Critic
  • Schools need real reform, not headline-chasing gimmicks – Henry Hill, CapX
  • My shamefully silent Church – Giles Fraser, UnHerd
  • A handful of VIP events is no substitute for normality – Lloyd Evans, The Spectator