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The many headaches of Rishi Sunak

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This is Rosa Prince — I’ll be with you Tuesday too.


IT’S NOT EASY BEING PM: Rishi Sunak hasn’t had the best few days, what with predictions of by-election wipeout, his NHS plan overshadowed by Sue Gray’s ACOBA ruling and Daniel Korski’s self-defenestration plus last week’s Rwanda scheme court blow. Today a group of red wall Tory MPs helpfully publishes an “alternative manifesto” to cut immigration — a move the Sun writes up as a “fresh blow to the prime minister’s authority.” 

With friends like these: Most of the papers agree that the plan drawn up by the New Conservatives Group, made up of Tory MPs elected in 2017 and 2019, poses a direct challenge to the PM. The group is demanding the government deliver the manifesto pledge to cut net migration by 440,000 to below 226,000 by the next election in order to “save face” and maintain voters’ trust. Party Vice Chairman Lee Anderson is among the MPs backing their 12-point action plan to do so.

The plan: Proposals include increasing salary thresholds for immigrants, limiting care worker visas, stopping foreign students from staying on after they graduate and stiffening language requirements. On BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, one of the plan’s authors, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, explained the group’s motivation: “When I knock on doors, when I talk to constituents, immigration is a key issue that comes up time and time again.”

Suella boost: The demands are said by the Times to have the effect of bolstering Home Secretary Suella Braverman in her internal arguments with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan over fears that restricting immigration will harm the economy and the lucrative university sector. 

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Baker vs. Braverman Less happily for the home sec, the Mail and Guardian have both been briefed that former backer turned Northern Ireland Minister Steve Baker has turned against Braverman over her suggestion that there is a “predominance” of British-Pakistani men involved with sexually abusive grooming gangs. Baker’s Wycombe constituency has a high proportion of Asian voters, and he will defend a majority of just over 4,000 at the next election.

(No) stopping the boats: The New Conservative Group manifesto is less good news for Sunak, as it highlights how badly he’s struggling to deliver on his much-repeated promise to “stop the boats,” which is, of course, one of the five pledges he made six months ago as his lodestar for his time in office.

5 alive: The Times has a damning assessment of progress on Sunak’s five pledges, with marks ranging from 1 out of 5 for reducing the national debt to a hardly heady 3 out of 5 for the prospects for growing the economy. 

ICYMI: If he hadn’t had enough of helpful advice, at the weekend it was reported that ex-PM Liz Truss will be launching a new “Growth Commission” later this month. Chaired by economist Douglas McWilliams, the group will investigate the causes of sluggish growth and analyze government policy for its impact on GDP.

POLLTASTIC: More bad news for Sunak in a slew of polls out overnight. A survey by BMG for the i finds two-thirds of the public blame the government for high inflation — the paper splashes the news. The same poll finds that 45 percent now believe Britain should rejoin the EU, compared to 40 percent who want to stay out and 14 percent who don’t know. 

Polls Part 2: Meanwhile, a separate poll by Ipsos for the Health Foundation finds two-thirds of voters believe the NHS will abandon the principle of free care at the point of the delivery — that’s the Guardian’s splash.

On that note: Aneira Thomas, the retired nurse who was the first baby born under the NHS, has given an interview to the Mirror to mark the service’s 75th anniversary this week, accusing the government of dragging health care back to the “dark days.” She says: “The NHS was there when I took my first breath and please God, it will be there when I take my last.”

Polls Part 3: The Mail splashes on a poll backing its campaign to delay the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel car sales, with only one in four voters backing the move. Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch is said to have raised concerns with Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Transport Secretary Mark Harper that the deadline could hit U.K. car manufacturing.

Now read this: Badenoch is ramping up pressure on the EU to save electric vehicle manufacturers on both sides of the Channel from being hit by new Brexit trade rules in 2024, my POLITICO colleagues Graham Lanktree and Stefan Boscia report.

Things must be bad: Nick Timothy has declared that capitalism ain’t working.

We can help you out with that: Altruism remains alive and kicking, however; the Times has a report on members of the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of Richie Riches who call for the wealthy to pay more taxes.

ANOTHER TORY HEADACHE: There is significant unhappiness among Tory back benchers — and some on the front bench — over the anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) bill, Playbook’s Eleni Courea hears ahead of its second reading tonight. Around 10 Tory MPs met Chief Whip Simon Hart last week to relay their concerns (but the actual number of rebels is “many more than that,” one MP said).

The point of the bill … was to ban local councils from boycotting Israel — fulfilling a manifesto commitment. To no one’s surprise, however, this proved to be a political hot potato as well as being tricky to codify. Eleni has spoken to multiple Tory MPs who are concerned over the bill’s singling out of Israel, the prospect it could stifle criticism and action against other countries including China, and the threat to freedom of speech. Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Alicia Kearns is among those expected to intervene in the debate. 

Trouble both ways: The FT reports that Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell will vote against the bill, while the paper says Labour MPs have been ordered to abstain. 

On the other hand: Former Chancellor Sajid Javid has an op-ed in the Telegraph backing the bill, which is being led by Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove with his local government hat on. Javid says the legislation will stop local councils “‘freelancing’ in foreign policy.”


HAIL TO THE CHIEF: Something to cheer the PM up: U.S. President Joe Biden will be dropping by London on his way to the NATO summit in Vilnius next week, the White House announced. He’ll call on both Rishi Sunak and King Charles, in a visit designed to “strengthen the close relationship between our nations,” Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement. Kudos to the i’s Hugo Gyre for getting the scoop a couple of weeks ago.

WINDSOR AGREEMENT: Buckingham Palace confirmed that Biden will meet the king at Windsor Castle on the evening of July 10. The PM will no doubt be looking forward to seeing the president, having forged a warm relationship in recent months.

You’re very welcome: A No. 10 spokesperson said last night: “The prime minister looks forward to welcoming the U.S. President Biden in the U.K. later this month. This reflects the strong relationship between the U.K. and U.S., building on a series of bilateral visits and meetings earlier this year.”

CLEVERLY IN EUROPE: Talking of NATO, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is in Brussels today, where he will promise “close and friendly U.K.-EU cooperation” in his first speech to the EU Parliament, and co-chair the 11th Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee meeting alongside European Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič. Cleverly will set out the U.K.’s priorities for cooperating on trade and Ukraine, before meeting European Parliament President Roberta Metsola and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. They will discuss support for Ukraine and how the alliance can adapt to future threats, including by increasing defense spending. Cleverly will stress U.K. backing for Sweden becoming an official NATO member. 

So mature: Speaking ahead of the visit, Cleverly said: This is a new chapter in the U.K.-EU relationship. We stand together in our support of Ukraine, and we want to maximize the opportunities of our trade deal. But we don’t have to agree on everything — a mature relationship can deal with differences.”  


BRIDGET’S BIG DAY: It’s a mega day for Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson. Fresh from her Sunday broadcast round, she splashes the Mirror on her plans to send squads of “super teachers” into struggling schools in underprivileged areas, and also has a prominent piece in the Sun promising to deliver “the next generation of brickies” with construction apprenticeships. Plus she’s on James O’Brien’s LBC show at 12.30 p.m. And she’ll help Labour leader Keir Starmer launch his opportunities “mission” later in the week. Phew.

Give a little respect: Labour will today also pledge to reestablish teaching as a respected trade, with more money and greater status for new recruits, to address the dearth of talent going into the profession. In pre-briefed words, Phillipson said: “Only Labour has the vision to re-establish teaching as a profession that is respected and valued as a skilled job which delivers for our country.” 

Private pledge: Phillipson’s promise to give teachers who make it through two years in the classroom a £2,400 reward as a means of improving retention would be funded by ending tax breaks for private schools. Phillipson told Times Radio: “It’s just over £56 million that would cost and that will come through ending the tax breaks that private schools enjoy.”

Teachable moment: Phillipson is also releasing figures showing state schools have spent £8 billion recruiting replacement teachers since 2010. 

Sorcerer’s apprentice: The Sun’s story says the number of completed apprenticeships dropped by 40 percent in the past five years. Keir Starmer will outline his plans for education in his latest “mission” speech later in the week; it will address how to overcome barriers to opportunity.

Reminder: The latest NEU strikes are coming down the track like a locomotive heading straight for parents on Wednesday and Friday. School Standards Minister Jonathan Gullis said: “The Conservative government want to put pupils and parents first — the NEU should do the same.”

RISE UP: Meanwhile, former Labour Education Secretary David Blunkett tells the House’s Tali Fraser he would be “far less forgiving” than current students about the marking strike that has kiboshed graduation prospects after their university experience was already kind of rubbish thanks to COVID.

Cover star: The latest edition of the House also features a cover interview with Gillian Keegan, whose remarks on the government’s long-awaited guidance for schools on trans issues were picked up by the Telegraph over the weekend. She and Schools Minister Nick Gibb are due to meet Tory MPs to discuss the plans at around 5 p.m., amid anger on the backbenches about the “limbo” schools have been left in as a result of delays to the guidance.


OOH LA LAMMY: Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy is in Paris today as he heads for talks with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna at the Quai d’Orsay, followed by a meeting with Transport Minister Clément Beaune. They will chew over Labour plans to “rebuild U.K.-France ties as well as a proposed U.K.-EU security pact.”

Talks at the tank: Lammy will also visit the think tank Institut Montaigne during his stay. While in Paris he’ll set out proposals for a new immigration agreement on safe​ returns and family reunion, and pledge to crack down on smuggler gangs. According to a briefing issued ahead of the trip, Lammy will say he wants to “make Brexit work for the British people by fixing the holes in the Tories’ botched Brexit deal as part of the scheduled Trade and Cooperation Agreement Review in 2025.”

POUND SHOP BLAIRITES: Keir Starmer’s so-called purge of the left and last week’s disciplinary action against Compass chief Neil Lawson for tweeting about electoral pacts shows the Labour leadership is seeking to replace lefties with “pound shop Blairites,” the i’s Poppy Wood hears. 

Then they came for me: On the same theme, former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell tells the FT the leadership is looking for an excuse to suspend him. Gotta love the “Starmer ally” response to the idea the trigger could be tonight’s Israel boycott bill: “That’s not a fight anyone wants to have.”

ASIAN ASLANS: The race row Twitter spat between superhead Katharine Birbalsingh and Labour frontbencher Jess Phillips kind of makes Playbook’s head hurt; luckily the Guardian’s Rowena Mason had the stamina to write it up.

MIDDLE AGED MAYHEM: Women aged 45 to 65 could be key to both Labour and the Lib Dems’ fortunes at the general election, the Times says. For those who like your archetypes, the report adds “Surrey Shufflers,” “Take a Breakers,” “WI-ers” and “National Trusters” to the lexicon.


SEE YOU IN COURT, AGAIN: Day 2 of the Cabinet Office vs. the COVID inquiry High Court case over the release of Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApps during the pandemic kicks off in court 3 from 10.30 a.m. 

SHADES OF GRAY: The results of the government’s investigation into Partygate inquisitor Sue Gray’s contacts with Labour will be put before parliament today in the form of a WMS; Labour’s response basically amounts to: “whatever,” the Mail reports.

BROKEN BRITAIN: The BMA Annual Conference begins in Liverpool today, with the Mirror reporting that doctors are threatening to strike until the general election unless they get an improved pay deal. The union’s most senior doctor, Phil Banfield, will call for urgent talks, saying there is a loss of trust between medics and the government.

Pay up: The Times splashes on a hint from Health Secretary Steve Barclay that more dosh could be found if the union also moved from its 35 percent pay demand. The paper said he favors adopting the recommendations of the independent Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration, which is expected to suggest a rise of 6 percent.

The robot will see you now: Meanwhile, Barclay has also ordered NHS trusts to use the (somewhat mysteriously sourced) new funding for extra staff to recruit more doctors and nurses rather than bureaucrats, the Telegraph reports, with AI replacing some functions. 

NO TRUST: Half of women who experienced or witnessed a crime in the past year did not report it because they did not believe the police would treat their claims seriously, according to a report by the Tony Blair Institute published in the Times.

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: Young people living in anti-social behavior hotspots in England will have more access to sport, arts and other opportunities over the summer with £3 million funding from the Million Hours Fund.

PHONES NOT4U: Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith warned the merger between Vodafone and Three is “dangerous” as it risked giving a company with roots in China a more prominent place in the U.K.’s mobile network. Duncan Smith told the Independent: “This is a dangerous deal, which it seems is yet another example of how the Communist Party is trying to create a Western dependency on China.”

DON’T BANK ON IT: The Telegraph splashes on banks being told by the Treasury they must protect freedom of speech after a growing furor over customers who hold controversial views being blacklisted. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is understood to be “deeply concerned” about lenders closing accounts because they disagree with customers’ opinions. He has asked City Minister Andrew Griffith to investigate.

FUELING THE FLAMES: The government plans to crackdown on service station profiteering by telling motorists where they can buy the cheapest petrol through a comparison website. The Telegraph has a write-up.

FACING THE MUSIC: Evidence Week kicks off in parliament. Created in 2018 in response to the public’s interest in policy evidence, the event will be livestreamed at 5 p.m. to allow constituents to put their MPs on the spot about policy decisions.

SW1 EVENTS: Former Chancellor Sajid Javid speaks about his time in office at the Institute for Government in conversation with its Director Hannah White from 9.45 a.m.

HOUSE OF COMMONS: Sits from 2.30 p.m. with Home Office questions … and then the main business is the second reading of the Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill. Labour’s Ruth Cadbury has the adjournment debate on crime and anti-social behavior in west London.

WESTMINSTER HALL: Debates from 4.30 p.m. an e-petition relating to the Approved Mileage Allowance Payment rate (led by Tory MP Elliot Colburn).

On committee corridor: Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill gives evidence to the Justice Committee (2.30 p.m.) … NHS England Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard and DHSC Permanent Secretary Chris Wormald are among those speaking to the Public Accounts Committee about access to urgent and emergency care (4 p.m.) … and Electoral Commission reps are questioned by the Leveling-Up, Housing and Communities Committee about electoral registration (4 p.m.).

HOUSE OF LORDS: Sits from 2.30 p.m. with oral questions on the Drax biomass power station, the U.K.’s production of nuclear submarines under the AUKUS agreement and recommendations on cybersecurity … and then the main business is the second day of the Illegal Migration Bill at report stage.


PILE-ON PYLONS: Environment Secretary Thérèse Coffey is campaigning against the section of a 112-mile line of pylons through Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex which is due to cross her Suffolk Coastal constituency. Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch, who represents Saffron Walden in Essex, has also called for a rethink. The Telegraph has a write-up — it follows the Sunday Telegraph’s splash saying hundreds of miles of pylons could be fast-tracked so the U.K. can meet its net-zero targets.

YET ANOTHER MAYOR: Tory MP Ben Bradley announced his candidacy to be the first mayor of the East Midlands, calling for the region to be given the power to cut taxes. In a Telegraph article, Bradley also pledged to not introduce ULEZ-style policies as seen in cities including London.

ORKNEY GOES NORDIC: Orkney council will discuss “alternative forms of governance” with their Nordic neighbors. Authority leader James Stockan believes Orkney does not get fair treatment in terms of funding or policy support and could be better off under the Norwegians. STV News has the story.

VICTORIA REMEMBERED: Ukrainian writer and war crimes researcher Victoria Amelina died aged 37 after being injured by a Russian missile in Kramatorsk. Journalist Olga Tokariuk said Amelina had “so many books unwritten, stories untold, days unlived.”

TRADE AWAY: Trade Minister Nigel Huddleston begins a three-day visit to Kolkata, India and Dhaka, Bangladesh to unveil initiatives helping U.K. businesses sell to both countries.

FRANCE RIOTS SHOW SIGNS OF DEESCALATION: After six nights of looting and violent clashes, French authorities appear to be deescalating riots that broke out across the country after a police officer killed Nahel, a 17-year-old of North African descent, during a traffic stop in Paris last week.

Over the weekend: Tens of thousands of additional police were sent out on patrol seeking to deter further rioting on Sunday night, and on Saturday President Emmanuel Macron postponed a state visit to Germany to stay at home and deal with the crisis. The riots have driven a “spiral of suspicion, misunderstanding, rejection and fear,” writes John Lichfield in commentary for POLITICO.

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Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer broadcast round: Sky News (7.30 a.m.) … LBC (7.50 a.m.) … GMB (8.30 a.m.).

Shadow Schools Minister Stephen Morgan broadcast round: GB News (7.20 a.m.) … Times Radio (7.45 a.m.) … Sky News (8.05 a.m.) … LBC News (8.40 a.m.).

Also on GB News Breakfast: Former Tory adviser Claire Pearsall (6.30 a.m., 7.30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m.).

Also on Times Radio: Former Victims’ Commissioner Vera Baird (7.35 a.m.) … Ineos Founder and Chairman Jim Ratcliffe (8.05 a.m.) … Susan Hall, shortlisted Tory mayoral candidate for London (8.35 a.m.).

Also on Sky News Breakfast: ASLEF General Secretary Mick Whelan (7.20 a.m.) … Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza (7.45 a.m.) … BMA member of the junior doctors committee Arjun Singh (8.30 a.m.).

Also on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: Former Met Police Commander Roy Ramm (7.05 a.m.) … Former Met Police Superintendent Nusrit Mehtab (8.35 a.m.).

TalkTV Breakfast: Former Tory Health Secretary Stephen Dorrell (7.05 a.m.) … Crossbench peer Norman Warner (8.05 a.m.).

Politics Live (BBC Two 9.45 a.m.): Tory MP Bim Afolami  … Labour peer Frances O’Grady … Reform U.K.’s Alex Phillips … Observer columnist Sonia Sodha.

James O’Brien (LBC): Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson phone-in (12.30 p.m. to 1 p.m.).


POLITICO UK: Brexit cliff-edge has electric carmakers spooked as talks falter.

Daily Express: Doctors raise spectre of NHS strikes until 2025.

Daily Mail: Put brakes on “damaging” 2030 petrol car ban.

Daily Mirror: “Super teacher” hit squads for schools.

Daily Star: China’s cosmic moon nukes.

Financial Times: Bond fund giant Pimco prepares for “harder landing” in global economy.

i: Voters turn on Sunak over “poor” handling of inflation.

Metro: Just not cricket!

The Daily Telegraph: Banks must respect free speech of customers.

The Guardian: Fears mount that NHS will be forced to charge for care.

The Independent: Shameful.

The Sun: Out … of order.

The Times: Doctors win pay pledge if they call off strikes.


WESTMINSTER WEATHER: Light rain with a moderate breeze. Highs of 19C.

IN MEMORIAM: Crossbench peer and former head of the civil service Bob Kerslake has died aged 68 of cancer, his sister Ros Kerslake announced. Labour leader Keir Starmer said Kerslake was a “talented public servant, utmost professional, and a good man” while his daughter Eleanor said Kerslake had a few jobs in his time “but the most important to him was being a truly fantastic husband, dad, brother, son and granddad.”

NEW GIG: Donjeta Miftari, former chief communications adviser to Kosovo’s President Vjosa Osmani, starts as a political adviser to Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator Shabana Mahmood.

CONGRATS TO: Kate McCann becomes Times Radio’s political editor from September, having previously served as TalkTV’s political editor.

STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM PLEASE: Wimbledon starts with coverage on BBC Two from 10.30 a.m, bringing forward Politics Live’s broadcast time.

LISTEN TO: Kirsty Wark discusses the NHS at 75 with guests including the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman and GP Phil Whitaker on Radio 4’s Start the Week at 9 a.m.

ROLL OUT THE BARREL: Journalist Nadine White’s first film, about the Windrush generation and titled “Barrel Children,” is playing now at select Picturehouse cinemas. Dates here.

NOAH’S CULTURE FIX: Comedian Matt Forde interviews fellow comic Joe Lycett at the Duchess Theatre at 7.30 p.m., a 23-minute walk from Westminster — tickets are available here.

NOW READ: The New Statesman interviews Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, who expresses her concerns about the impact of Big Tech on the 2024 U.S. election.

BIRTHDAYS: Former Ealing North MP Stephen Pound … Scottish Labour MSP Katy Clark … Maitland’s Jay Turner … WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editors Jack Lahart and Zoya Sheftalovich, reporter Noah Keate and producer Dato Parulava.

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Rosa Prince

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