Conservative party

The whips’ office and their woes

18 min listen

There have been two recent defections from the Conservatives to Labour. There’s lots of chatter in parliament about a potential third defector. In this Saturday edition of Coffee House Shots, Katy Balls and James Heale hear from Gyles Brandreth, former MP and broadcaster. He takes us back to what it was like working in the whips’ office in the 1990s, and ask if he thinks there are more defections to come.  You can read Gyles’ diary here. Produced by Megan McElroy.

Can Hunt answer the Reagan question?

11 min listen

Ronald Reagan famously asked voters: ‘are you better off than you were four years ago?’ At the next election, the Tories face a public thinking over the last fourteen years. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gave a speech today defending the UK’s record tax levels and attacking Labour’s economic plans. But who should we trust more on tax? Fraser Nelson and James Heale join Katy Balls to discuss. Produced by Megan McElroy and Patrick Gibbons.

Will Sunak’s fighting talk work?

12 min listen

Rishi Sunak delivered a pre-election speech this morning setting out the dividing lines at the next election: security with the Tories or risk with Labour. Will it be enough to shift the dial? And is the Natalie Elphicke defection still haunting Keir Starmer? Natasha Feroze speaks to Katy Balls and Fraser Nelson. 

Can Lammy charm Trump?

14 min listen

This week, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy is stateside, meeting with senior advisors to Donald Trump and hoping to charm them. Meanwhile, David Cameron gives his first set-piece policy speech. Who is the more credible statesman? Cindy Yu talks to James Heale and Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform. Produced by Cindy Yu.

Why does Labour want Natalie Elphicke?

12 min listen

The MP for Dover, Natalie Elphicke, has shocked MPs and pundits across the political spectrum by defecting to the Labour party today. In her resignation letter, she accused the Conservative party for having ‘abandoned’ the ‘centre ground’. But for someone who has vocally criticised Labour in the past, how helpful is Elphicke’s defection? Oscar Edmondson talks to Katy Balls and Isabel Hardman. Produced by Oscar Edmondson and Cindy Yu.

What does Andy Street’s defeat mean for Rishi Sunak?

The local elections results are in, and the Conservatives have lost more than 450 council seats. After a full recount, Labour’s Richard Parker beat Andy Street to become West Midlands mayor, with only around 1500 votes in it. What does his loss mean for Rishi Sunak, and where do the overall results leave him? Katy Balls and James Heale speak to Megan McElroy. Produced by Megan McElroy. 

Will there be a summer election?

It’s less than a fortnight till the local elections where Rishi Sunak will face his last major electoral test before going to the polls for a general election later this year. Tory MPs are braced for it to be a difficult night. The loss of Tory councillors en masse seems inevitable. If Sunak is really unlucky, he could lose one or both of the two Tory metro mayors. The West Midlands mayor Andy Street is viewed to be the most vulnerable – one poll last week suggested he is on course to lose, another said he could hold on by two votes. If the Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen goes

Sunak’s Truss problem

11 min listen

The day after her book was published, Rishi Sunak faced down questions from Keir Starmer and Labour members at PMQs about Liz Truss. While he had his replies at the ready, the questions underscored the main issue for Sunak: how should he deal with his predecessor?  Also on the podcast, there is more inflation news for the Government, and how will Starmer deal with internal party discipline? James Heale speaks to Katy Balls and Isabel Hardman. Produced by Oscar Edmondson.

English civil law has become a luxury good beyond the reach of most of us

In March 2020, Charlotte Leslie, a former Conservative MP, and widely regarded as a thoughtful, friendly woman, had her life turned upside down. The threat of professional and financial ruin hit her, and stayed with her until a few months ago, solely because she had offended a wealthy man. Leslie was the director of the Conservative Middle East Council. Mohamed Amersi, a businessman worth hundreds of millions of pounds, appeared from nowhere and announced that he wanted to become the council’s chairman. Leslie politely showed him the door. The next thing she knew, Amersi had set up a rival Middle East organisation to liaise between the Conservative party and the

Katy Balls

Is Cameron upstaging Sunak?

The logic behind Rishi Sunak’s decision to make David Cameron foreign secretary was that he would be a ‘big beast’ on the world stage and wouldn’t need much instruction. Six months on, that plan is going reasonably well, insofar as Cameron appears to be setting his own agenda. It also means he’s making his own mistakes. In February, his foray into US politics misfired when, in an article for the website the Hill, he appeared to lecture Americans about support for Ukraine, telling them not to show the ‘weakness displayed against Hitler’. A key Donald Trump ally, Marjorie Taylor Greene, responded that ‘David Cameron can kiss my ass’. This week,

Dowden: UK position on arms sales to Israel ‘has not changed’

Dowden: UK position on arms sales to Israel ‘has not changed’ Israel and Hamas are expected to hold a new round of ceasefire negotiations in Cairo today, at a time when Israel is under more pressure than ever before to pause the conflict. An IDF strike on an aid convoy which killed seven aid workers, including three Britons, led to Foreign Secretary David Cameron telling Israel that British support was ‘not unconditional’. This week there have been calls for the UK to suspend arms exports to Israel. Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden said this morning on Sky News that the UK has ‘one of the toughest arms export systems’, based

The Tories are resigned to an almighty defeat

The herd of Conservative MPs is on the move again, this time obediently setting off towards the abattoir in which the careers of most will meet a grisly end. When historians come to write their accounts of the Conservative administrations of 2015-24, they will have a bewildering variety of ‘worst weeks’ to choose from, but the past seven days will have a strong claim to mark the moment when the fight went out of the parliamentary Conservative party and it became resigned to its fate. Rishi Sunak achieved one thing of note this week Two MRP polls with huge samples offering the possibility of constituency-level projections have offered a new

Should Britain end arms sales to Israel?

13 min listen

The row over arms sales to Israel continues today, as over 600 high profile figures in the legal profession, including former Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Sumption, sign a petition arguing they believe Israel has breached international law, and more Conservative politicians say, on the record, that they believe the UK must respond with an arms sale ban. Cindy Yu talks to James Heale and Isabel Hardman about where this row could go next. Produced by Megan McElroy and Cindy Yu.

James Heale

Could Sadiq Khan lose London?

With Labour 20 points ahead in the national polls, a lot of Tories have already written off next month’s mayoral contest in the capital. London, they maintain, is a Labour city that occasionally votes Conservative. But supporters of Sadiq Khan and his Tory challenger Susan Hall agree: it’s going to be closer than many think. The mayor’s image is as likely to be found on Conservativeleaflets as on Labour ones Three factors are held by both camps to be at play. The first is the incumbency factor versus ‘time for a change’. Khan’s re-election team has consulted other campaigns which won three in a row; all agreed this was the

Has Israel lost British support?

13 min listen

The killings of three British aid workers in Gaza has caused fury across the board in Westminster, with Rishi Sunak conducting a candid phone call with Benyamin Netanyahu last night. Today, the question is over whether the UK should ban arms sales to Israel in a bid to influence Jerusalem’s hardline approach to Gaza. Has Israel lost the support of the UK, and western countries more widely? James Heale talks to Isabel Hardman and Sophia Gaston, head of foreign policy at the think tank, Policy Exchange. Produced by Cindy Yu.

Could Jonathan Gullis be another Lee Anderson?

11 min listen

After the resignations of two ministers last night, No. 10 carried out a mini reshuffle, which included some controversial decisions. In particular, the appointment of the outspoken Red Wall MP Jonathan Gullis had some questioning whether Rishi Sunak was making another Lee Anderson-style mistake. James Heale talks to Katy Balls and former editor of Conservative Home, Paul Goodman. Produced by Cindy Yu and Patrick Gibbons.

Will Sunak renege on ‘foreign powers’ owning newspapers?

Last week, a rebellion in the Lords drew a government pledge to ban foreign governments and their proxies from owning British newspapers and magazines. It was a historic moment for the defence of press freedom in the era of acquisitive, well-connected autocracies. It will have global significance. But the devil was always going to lie in the detail, and that will come in the third reading of the Digital Markets Bill due Tuesday. The risk is that ministers may row back and allow the Emiratis to become part-owners of this magazine and the Telegraph by keeping a low stake of 5 per cent or even 1 per cent. This would still grant them

Hunt: Tories will keep the triple lock on pensions

Jeremy Hunt: Russian government creating a ‘smokescreen of propaganda’ On Friday night, a terrorist attack at a large concert in Moscow led to at least 133 deaths. Russian officials vowed revenge and suggested Ukrainian involvement, despite Islamic State claiming responsibility. On Sky News this morning, Trevor Phillips asked Jeremy Hunt how much Russia’s version of events could be believed. The Chancellor said it was always a tragedy when innocent people lost their lives, but that the UK had ‘very little confidence in anything the Russian government says’. He suggested they were creating a ‘smokescreen of propaganda’ to justify their invasion of Ukraine. Hunt guarantees Tories will keep triple lock on

What should Labour do about the Rwanda bill?

14 min listen

All ten of the amendments to the Rwanda bill, put in by the House of Lords, were rejected by the House of Commons last night. The bill will head back to the Lords tomorrow, where they will decide whether to continue the process of ‘ping pong’ (putting more amendments in and sending the bill back to the Commons). Should Labour peers worry about being portrayed as foiling the Rwanda asylum plan? Cindy Yu talks to Katy Balls and Spectator contributor Patrick O’Flynn. Produced by Cindy Yu.