Politics

Read about the latest UK political news, views and analysis.

What will Labour do about women-only spaces?

As the dust settles on last week’s general election, voters are beginning to learn more about their new government’s plans for change. From growing the economy to curbing illegal immigration, Labour’s goals, as confirmed in recent speeches by Rachel Reeves and Keir Starmer, are becoming clear. Yet one policy issue remains conspicuously uncertain: the issue of women-only spaces. In an interview with the Times in the final week of campaigning, Starmer stated that biological males with Gender Recognition Certificates (GRCs) should not be allowed in women-only spaces. This contradicted comments previously made by the since-appointed education secretary Bridget Phillipson in an interview with LBC in which she refused to answer

James Heale

Sunak apologises to Tory MPs for election mess

Before the joy of last night’s football, came the sorrow of Rishi Sunak’s address to Tory MPs. The Conservative leader addressed the 1922 committee for the first time since calling the election which reduced his colleagues’ numbers by almost two-thirds. Instead of the usual oak-panelled confines of the committee’s favoured committee room 14, the night’s meeting was held in Portcullis House. Accompanied by interim party chairman Richard Fuller, the ex-premier appeared to pause and take a deep breath before heading in. Stony faces, muted cheers and the ritual banging of tables met him there, as Sunak prepared to take responsibility for his party’s worse election result in history. The former

Kate Andrews

The growing economy is good news for Labour

The economy is picking up pace. After a dreary April, which saw no growth, the UK economy grew by 0.4 per cent in May. It’s the strongest three-month growth rate since January 2022, with the UK economy expanding by 0.9 per cent leading up to May, compared to the three months leading up to February.  A GDP boost in May was expected, as April’s wet weather put a damper on growth. Still, today’s update from the Office for National Statistics was better than expected, as economists had forecast a 0.2 per cent uptick. While the 1.9 per cent increase in construction can be accounted for as making up for lost

Martin Vander Weyer

How safe do you feel boarding a Boeing?

‘They knocked down our old house in three hours,’ says a friend who has embarked on what he says is a conventional rebuild, nothing Grand Designs about it, on the south coast. ‘But it’s taking forever to get planning permission for the new one. They want reports on everything, from bats to highway impacts: you’d think we’re trying to build a whole huge housing estate.’ And if you do happen to be in the business of building whole huge housing estates, you’ll be eager to know whether Rachel Reeves’s reforms and ‘mandatory targets’ – aimed at delivering 1.5 million new homes in this parliament – will put rockets under the

Portrait of the Week: Starmer’s first steps, Biden’s wobble and Australia’s egg shortage

Home Sir Keir Starmer, the Prime Minister, appointed several ministers who are not MPs, but will be created life peers. Most cabinet posts went to MPs who had shadowed the portfolios, but as Attorney General he appointed Richard Hermer KC, a human rights lawyer, instead of Emily Thornberry, who said she was ‘very sorry and surprised’. James Timpson, the shoe-repair businessman and prison reformer, was made prisons minister. Sir Patrick Vallance was made science minister. The former home secretary Jacqui Smith became higher education minister; Ellie Reeves, the sister of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rachel Reeves, became minister without portfolio. The government dropped the phrase ‘levelling up’. The Chancellor

Charles Moore

What the Tories got wrong on housing

Sir Keir Starmer may be our first atheist prime minister, but his manner in parliament resembles that of what, in House of Lords terminology, is called a ‘Most Reverend prelate’. There is a lot of sonority about serving others, disagreeing well etc. These are good sentiments but, when trying to be good, ‘show, not tell’ is better. Adopting an archiepiscopal tone, a political leader is quickly tripped up. For example, Sir Keir wants to drive peers aged over 80 out of the Lords, thinking this conducive to the public good; and yet, as I write, he is having his first much-prized bilateral with Joe Biden, who is six years older

My future as a reality TV star

Magpies have long been thought to be birds of omen. I am not superstitious. Yet during the election campaign I could not help but notice single magpies all the time. Perhaps you only notice what you are looking for, as from the beginning of the campaign the polls were clear that I would lose North East Somerset and Hanham. I wrote to my boarding school children when the election was called to warn them of the impending defeat, but unfortunately they cannot read my handwriting. Throughout the campaign, the mood on the doorstep was excellent and the team full of beans. Many visitors came to help and I regularly had people

James Heale

Who will lead the Tories next?

Rishi Sunak performed a mea culpa when his shadow cabinet convened on Monday, taking full responsibility for the election loss. There were, he said, lots of lessons to be learned. He tried rallying his team, reminding them it was time to knuckle down and prepare for the King’s Speech. When those around the table began agreeing, with some saluting Sunak’s performance during the campaign, Kemi Badenoch decided she couldn’t take it any longer. Isn’t it necessary, she asked, to say that the snap election had been a calamity, the Tory campaign had been even worse – and that it was about time to examine why? She argued that Sunak went

Katy Balls

Starmer must move fast without losing his head

When Keir Starmer’s Labour party gathered on Monday to celebrate their election victory, the difficulty was finding a big enough venue. There were so many MPs that aides had to abandon Labour’s usual meeting room on parliament’s committee corridor, and instead head for Church House, where Tony Blair met his party after the 1997 landslide. Cabinet ministers joked that their biggest problem in government would be learning their colleagues’ names. Later in Strangers’ Bar, the queue for a drink went six rows back. ‘It’s freshers’ week,’ said one newbie. Yet some in the party still felt a sense of unease. ‘This majority is a mile wide and an inch deep,’

Steerpike

Listen: Patrick Vallance slams Brexit

Another day, another drama. This time Sir Patrick Vallance is in the limelight, after attacking Brexit on the BBC. The new science minister – and former scientific adviser to the government – has given a rather curious interview this afternoon in which he has slammed the decision to leave the EU and refuses to rule out free movement. Golly. Speaking to the Beeb today, the new peer started by telling his interviewer he was ‘surprised’ but ‘honoured’ to be asked to be the science minister by Sir Keir Starmer. The conversation then took a rather, um, bizarre turn. Turning to the ‘problem’ of Brexit, Vallance said that visa rules should

Does Starmer’s ‘cast-iron’ defence spending pledge mean anything?

When the agenda for this week’s Nato summit in Washington DC was announced, one of the items on it was funding for the alliance. This was no surprise: the need to financially supporting Ukraine since the Russian invasion in 2022 and the possibility of a second Trump presidency leading to a lower US commitment have brought the issue of money into sharp focus. It transpires that the new Prime Minister, Sir Keir Starmer, is urging his fellow Nato leaders to increase their levels of defence spending, but he may find that his moral authority is shaky. The subject of defence spending is one which has bedevilled the alliance for years.

Biden’s leadership, not his health, is America’s biggest problem

Since Joe Biden’s now infamous debate performance, the Democratic party has been having palpitations about his candidacy. But all brouhaha about Biden’s decline has distracted the public from critically examining his administration’s more significant failures. Democrats now talk as if the only problem with Biden is his ability to convince the public that he’s fit to serve. But a fish rots from the head and, thanks to his inept leadership, Biden’s government has weakened America’s security, its economic stability, and its international standing. These shortcomings should not be ignored. The failing policies of the Democratic left have made America less safe and less prosperous. One of the most contentious issues of

Ross Clark

The trouble with Rachel Reeves’s ‘National Wealth Fund’

What country ever went wrong with a sovereign wealth fund? It is easy to envy Singapore and Norway – the latter of which now has £1.3 trillion squirrelled away, equivalent to £240,000 for every citizen. Britain would be in a much better situation now had it, like Norway, invested its windfall from the North Sea, rather than chucking it into the pot of general day-to-day expenditure. Paying state and public sector pensions liabilities out of tax revenue rather than from a long-term investment fund is going to become an ever more serious burden on the state. We shouldn’t, then, sniff at Rachel Reeves’ idea for a ‘national wealth fund’. It is just that what

Steerpike

Labour slammed over cost of scrapping Rwanda plan

Uh oh. It’s day five of Sir Keir’s new Labour government and already the reds are running into trouble. Politicians confirmed last week Sunak’s Rwanda plan was to be scrapped, with the Labour party instead planning to tackle immigration by ‘smashing the gangs’. But there is a cost to the change of tack – and a rather steep one at that. It turns out that the Rwandan government is a little reluctant to repay the money it received from the UK for the scheme, saying it is ‘under no obligation’ to return the £270 million sum. Dr Doris Uwicyeza Picard from the country’s ministry of justice told the BBC: We

What will the relationship between Starmer and King Charles be like?

When the King greeted Keir Starmer last Friday, his first words to him were: ‘You must be utterly exhausted and nearly on your knees’, to which the new Prime Minister replied: ‘Not much sleep.’ From the body language and easy rapport between the two men, most inferred that this was a relationship that was likely to be a productive and enjoyable one on both sides. This is quite the turnaround from Starmer having said in 2005, ‘I also got made a Queen’s Counsel, which is odd, since I often used to propose the abolition of the monarchy.’ Starmer has since rowed back from his republican views, without wholly disavowing them;

Steerpike

Spectator summer party 2024, in pictures

The election is over and with MPs now being sworn in, where better to take the temperature of Westminster then at The Spectator’s annual summer party? As New York Magazine recently wrote, it is “an unmissable event on the social and political calendar” and perhaps the only place in the world that you would find Jordan Peterson laughing at the Archbishop of Canterbury’s jokes. The party, always in early July, is typically a scene of political drama: Prime Ministerial resignations, leadership plots. “But tonight, while the Tories inside are licking their wounds,” said Sky News reporting outside the door, “it’s been a parade of Labour Cabinet members coming in and

Steerpike

Badenoch attacks Sunak over election decisions

The Tories faced a difficult election campaign and things aren’t much improving for the party. Now it transpires that Kemi Badenoch used the group’s first shadow cabinet meeting to hit out at ex-PM Rishi Sunak, describing his decision to call an early election as bordering on ‘unconstitutional’. Talk about trouble in paradise… The shadow housing secretary slammed Sunak for telling an inner circle of the snap election before he informed his cabinet of the plans, blasting his former aide Craig Williams as a ‘buffoon’. And Badenoch didn’t stop there. Going on, the shadow cabinet minister spoke of the former prime minister’s ‘disastrous’ decision to leave D-day commemorations early, blaming Sunak’s

Isabel Hardman

How will Starmer keep his backbenchers busy?

One of Keir Starmer’s very nice problems to have is that his majority is so big and many of his new MPs so experienced that he needs to work out how to keep them occupied. The Prime Minister gave a partial answer to that last night, appointing a number of figures who have only just entered parliament to the government. This would be remarkable were it not for the fact that those new MPs really have got a lot of experience in government from previous jobs. Kirsty McNeill was made a parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Scotland Office – the most junior ministerial job. She worked for Gordon Brown