Crisis, what crisis? insists defiant PM

“Boris Johnson today denied supply chain chaos is a ‘crisis’ as he said the economy is ‘creaking’ back into life after Covid and moving to ‘higher wages’. In a round of interviews at the Tory conference in Manchester, the PM insisted the country is at a ‘turning point’ as businesses are weaned off cheap labour after Brexit. He compared the disruption to a ‘giant waking up’, saying it was what you would expect of the global economy recovering and ‘sucking in demand’. Asked directly if he thought the situation was a ‘crisis’, he replied: ‘No.’ But he admitted that Christmas might only be better from a ‘low base’ amid fears of ongoing shortages – after it was effectively cancelled during the pandemic last year. And he conceded that the government’s efforts to bring in more lorry drivers from abroad are having limited success, with just 127 having applied for emergency visas.” – Daily Mail

  • ‘Go back to the office’, Johnson will say in key speech – Daily Telegraph
  • PM to urge workers back into office – The Sun
  • Can Johnson turn the supply crisis to his advantage? – The Times
  • Just 27 fuel tanker drivers from EU apply for emergency visas – The Times
  • Businesses have become ‘drunk on cheap labour’, say Tories – Daily Telegraph

Conservative conference 1) Sunak warns excessive public borrowing is ‘immoral’ and hints at future tax cuts

“Rishi Sunak, UK chancellor, has paved the way for a tough Budget this month by declaring that excessive public borrowing is “immoral” and hinting that future tax cuts could be possible if spending is brought under control. Sunak’s first in-person speech to the Conservative party annual conference as chancellor on Monday barely mentioned the supply crisis that has hit energy, fuel and food. He admitted there was no “magic wand” to deal with it. Instead, Sunak presented a future for Britain based on sound public finances after the explosion of coronavirus-related public spending, building on the “flexibility” provided by Brexit to embrace new technology.” – FT


Conservative conference 2) Patel to pledge middle-class drug users will be named and shamed

“Priti Patel is to introduce drug testing on arrest across all 43 police forces in England and Wales under a crackdown on recreational use and to prevent offenders’ habit spiralling into violent crime. Setting out the £15 million plan in an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, the Home Secretary said it would better identify those breaking the law through drug use, but also those who were dependent and need help to kick their addiction. Anyone testing positive after arrest for “trigger” crimes such as theft, fraud or drug possession would be required to be assessed for treatment. Those who refuse face prosecution with a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail or a £2,500 fine. “Drugs devastate lives,” she said. “Testing offenders for drugs will help increase our understanding of drug-fuelled crimes, ensure addicts get the help they need, and ultimately cut crime.” – Daily Telegraph

  • And Patel launches crackdown on eco-activists with new Asbo-style travel ban – Daily Telegraph

Conservative conference 3) NHS bosses face sack for failing to cut waits

“Hospital managers who fail to clear mounting NHS backlogs will be sacked under government plans for reform, The Times understands. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, is said to be preparing new powers to seize control of poorly performing hospitals with the insistence that ministers cannot just “throw cash” at the NHS. Business people and other outsiders will be encouraged to take jobs running hospitals as Javid argues that good leadership is key to improving care. He is under pressure from Downing Street and the Treasury to produce results by cutting waiting times for routine treatments following last month’s £36 billion spending plan for health and social care.” – The Times

  • Javid: patients on waiting lists need not go private as ‘NHS can manage’ – The Guardian
  • I’m entitled not to listen to Sage, says Javid – Daily Telegraph

Conservative conference 4) Gove says the north needs more homes

“Michael Gove has suggested that the government will move away from concentrating housebuilding in the southeast of England to encourage more development in the north and midlands. The new housing secretary promised to invest in the regeneration of inner city areas, and said that he wanted to build more homes on “neglected brownfield sites”. He attempted at the Conservative Party conference yesterday to define the levelling-up agenda only weeks after being put in charge of the prime minister’s flagship policy. He said that levelling up meant devolving more power to local leaders, raising living standards, improving services and restoring a sense of pride in communities.” – The Times

  • Case for more elected mayors in England endorsed by Gove – FT

Labour calls on Tories to return donations from businessman linked to scandal

“The Labour party has called on Boris Johnson’s Conservatives to hand back gifts received from one of its most generous donors after fresh allegations linking him to a corruption scandal. Anneliese Dodds, Labour party chair, said it was “really concerning” that the Tory party had accepted hundreds of thousands of pounds from businessman Mohamed Amersi. On Monday, the BBC and The Guardian reported that Amersi had been involved in a scandal involving bribes paid to the daughter of the late dictator of Uzbekistan. Amersi in a statement rejected “any suggestions of wrongdoing”. The Kenyan-born businessman and his partner have given Johnson’s party more than £750,000 since 2018. He also attends the party’s Leader’s Group of major donors and has been seeking to influence its foreign strategy by setting up a new group to handle the Conservatives’ relations with the Middle East.” – FT

  • Pandora papers unmask owners of offshore-held UK property worth £4bn – The Guardian
  • And Pandora Papers leak puts spotlight on finances of Tory donors – The Times
  • Tories facing calls to return cash from donors named in Pandora papers – The Guardian

IDS ‘struck with traffic cone’

“Five people were arrested after Sir Iain Duncan Smith said that he had been hit on the head by a traffic cone. Duncan Smith, who led the Conservative Party between 2001 and 2003, said that he was pursued by a group of people on his way to a talk about Brexit on the fringes of the Tory conference in Manchester yesterday. Greater Manchester police said that three men and two women were arrested after reports of an assault at about 4pm on Portland Street in the city. “ – The Times

William Hague: Localism is the key to levelling up Britain

“You must go and telephone your mother.” These were among the first words Margaret Thatcher spoke to me when I, at 16 years old in 1977, won a standing ovation for a three-minute speech at the Conservative conference. It is impossible to describe how irritating it was, as a teenager, to be told in front of the world’s media to telephone my mother. But, realising that the party leader was a very powerful person, I decided tactfully — and not for the last time — to bite my lip and obey her command. More than three decades later I found myself explaining to the Liberal Democrat leadership, as we negotiated the terms of a coalition government, just how much power the Conservative leader possesses.” – The Times

News in Brief