Letters: policing pro-Palestinian rallies isn’t an exact science

Call for common justice Sir: Rod Liddle’s piece on the true desires of Palestinians was rare in its acceptance of the complexity of aspiration (‘What Hamas promised its electorate’, 28 October). People cleave to those who stand for their best hopes. They voted for Hamas. Rod ends saying only Israeli Arabs in his experience did not loathe Jews. Why would they? Presumably being the right side of the ‘peace’ wall, they had no fear of losing their birthright to illegal settlers acting in defiance of UN resolutions with official acquiescence. If the Israeli rule of law could have extended to the occupied West Bank Arabs, then there would be no

How much does Britain still ‘love’ the NHS?

‘Of course I support the NHS. Everybody supports the NHS, or says they do,’ poked the comedian Frankie Boyle in one of the many campaigns promoting the health service. To admit you don’t believe in this national institution is as taboo as not caring about Britishness, about goodness, about people. The public is keen to find evidence for this collective belief. Nigel Lawson famously said that ‘the NHS is the closest thing the English have to a national religion’ – words which tend to be heard as praise. But his comment was laced with criticism. He continued, ‘with those who practise in it regarding themselves as a priesthood. This made

Socrates meets Keir Mather, the new Labour MP for Selby

SOCRATES: I was walking back from the gymnasium when I saw Keir Mather, the new MP for Selby, on his way there. I had been told he was young and good-looking and went to a world-famous Oxford College, so I have been very keen to meet to him. Hello, O Keir. MATHER: And you too, Socrates. But what, therefore? SOCRATES: Now that you are an MP, you must tell me what justice is. For that surely is a lawmaker’s main concern. MATHER: Enough verbal games. Justice is defined by the laws. My job is to solve problems in the real world. SOCRATES: Are Tory laws, then, just? MATHER: Of course

Ann Clwyd was a humanitarian unlike any today

Ann Clwyd, who has died aged 86, never held ministerial office or high office of any kind. Unless, of course, you count a stint as chair of the parliamentary Labour party, though that is more of a penance than a power trip. She did a few tours on the opposition front bench under Neil Kinnock, John Smith and, briefly, Tony Blair, but she was too independent-minded and probably not metro enough for a New Labour red box. That she was rebelling against the government a few months into its first term only confirmed that. Voting against an early Harriet Harman benefit cut, designed to force single parents into the labour

Listen: Emily Thornberry’s car crash interview on Sunak smear

What do you do when you’re in a hole? Stop digging. Apparently Emily Thornberry didn’t get the memo. The Shadow Attorney General was wheeled out on the Easter Monday media round to defend Labour’s attack advert which claims that Rishi Sunak isn’t tough enough on criminals convicted of child sexual abuse. Thornberry did her best to sound authoritative and lawyerly but came unstuck multiple times during her seven-minute grilling on Radio 4’s Today programme. After allowing Thornberry to sound off on the importance of overhauling the sentencing guidelines on child sexual abuse, host Justin Webb asked her about Sir Keir Starmer’s own role in drawing them up. As Director of Public Prosecutions,

Labour surge to 33-point lead over Tories

Today Kwasi Kwarteng attempted to calm concerns in his party over the fallout from the not-so-mini Budget – telling MPs: ‘We are one team and need to remain focused’.  That message is likely to face some resistance after the latest polling. Tonight the Times has published a new YouGov poll which gives Labour a 33-point lead. Yes, you read that right. It is thought to be the largest poll lead enjoyed by a political party since the late 1990s. It comes after a poll earlier this week gave Labour a 17-point lead. According to the survey, just 37 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters would stick with the party were an election

Streeting and Phillipson shine on the last day

Wednesday morning at Labour conference is back to being the graveyard shift, with the delegates who are still there nursing hangovers and sharing videos of the speakers on the stage doing karaoke the night before. But this morning’s session covered two of the most important public services from two of the party’s rising stars – Wes Streeting and Bridget Phillipson. Streeting was in the gravest of the graveyard slots this morning Streeting is everywhere (including in the karaoke videos), and some of his colleagues are a bit irritated that he seems to have been anointed as the next Labour leader. Phillipson, though, is the one to watch because she unnerves

Isabel Hardman

What Starmer still lacks

Keir Starmer has spent the hours since his successful conference speech lapping up the praise from party members, frontbench colleagues and business. He had the air of a man who had hit his stride when he appeared in the broadcast studios this morning, ridiculing questions about whether he was a bit boring by saying ‘if I came on and said I’ve done a bungee jump, you wouldn’t say “oh great, now we’ve got the prime minister we need”.’ You could hear his eye-roll as he said ‘bungee jump’ into the Today programme microphone. Starmer’s success this week has been to cement Labour as a party worth listening to But his

The problem with nationalising energy

Is nationalisation the vote-winner which Keir Starmer believes it to be? We will find out in due course, but my hunch is that the British public as a whole care a lot less about who owns the train carriages they ride in and the power stations which generate their electricity than Labour MPs do.  No one who remembers British Rail will be under any illusions that public ownership is a panacea What they care about rather more, surely, is whether their trains arrive on time and whether their lights stay on. No one who remembers British Rail will be under any illusions that public ownership is a panacea for a

Read: Keir Starmer’s full speech to 2022 Labour conference

Thank you, conference. It’s great to be here in Liverpool. After all the changes we’ve made, all the hard work we’ve put in, finally we are seeing the results we want. Yes, conference, we can say it at last: Arsenal are top of the league. But before I begin, I want to address something important. This is our first conference in Liverpool since 2018. And that means it’s our first conference since this city’s call for Justice for the 96 became Justice for the 97. For too long this city has been let down. So, when Labour wins the next election, one of my first acts as Prime Minister will

Labour storm ahead of Tories in latest poll

Tonight’s YouGov poll in the Times is brilliant news for Keir Starmer ahead of his conference speech tomorrow. It has Labour 17 points ahead, its biggest lead since the company started polling in 2001. These numbers, following the market reaction to the statement, are an awful start To be sure, the numbers reflect more voter disappointment with the government than a sudden bout of Starmer mania. Some 68 per cent of voters said the government was managing the economy badly. Only 12 per cent thought the ‘mini-Budget’ is affordable. Just 19 per cent said it was fair, against 57 per cent who thought it was not fair. And 69 per

Revealed: Labour’s tactics to deal with Truss

Keir Starmer tonight told the weekly parliamentary Labour party meeting that ‘we will never underestimate Liz Truss’. The Labour leader added that ‘she is a talented politician who has got to the top through hard work and determination’ and that ‘she will do whatever it takes to keep them in power’. He warned that ‘the polls might tighten and her plans might create some buzz’. It was a reminder to the party, which often struggles to accept female Tory leaders, not to fall into the trap of mocking Truss or feasting too much on the Tory civil war. How will Labour approach the new PM? Starmer will be asking her

Angela Rayner ally sacked by Starmer

Sam Tarry, who joined today’s picket line at Euston and gave various interviews from there, has been sacked from the Labour shadow transport team and the front bench. However, Tarry has not been sacked for being on the picket line, but for making unauthorised media appearances. Labour’s line is that this isn’t about appearing on a picket line. Members of the frontbench sign up to collective responsibility. That includes media appearances being approved and speaking to agreed frontbench positions.  This morning, Tarry implied that rail workers would not have gone on strike under a Labour government as they would have been offered a more generous pay deal. Given that Tarry

The Conservative party has ceased to be serious

I’m not sure that the Conservative party wants to win elections. Tom Tugendhat was knocked out of the leadership contest on Monday, and Liz Truss is now the bookies’ favourite to be the next Prime Minister. Any party that thinks the latter beats the former cannot say it is serious. There are several reasons for Conservatives to ignore me on this topic. First, I’m not a Conservative. Second, Tugendhat and I are friends. Third, I take a view of party politics that seems to be utterly out of fashion these days. That view is that politics works better when parties try to win the other side’s votes. When Conservatives pursue

Labour won the Tory leadership debate

That was quite a debate. I’ve never seen senior Tory ministers and MPs lay into each other so publicly.  Rishi Sunak accused Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt of being socialists – not a compliment in the Tory lexicon – for being reckless with the public finances. Truss attacked Sunak for raising taxes to record levels. Kemi Badenoch called for unity while attacking more or less everyone for everything. Mordaunt seethed at what she saw as the cheap personal attacks she’s faced in recent days, especially over the trans debate. Tom Tugendhat attacked everyone else for being current or recent members of Boris Johnson’s government. This debate – and this contest – is a disaster

James Kirkup

Is Labour changing its mind on trans issues?

Amid the noise of the Tory leadership fight, some significant comments in the papers could be missed today. Here’s the quote, from a Sunday Times interview with an intelligent, ambitious female politician in her forties: Biology is important. A woman is somebody with a biology that is different from a man’s biology. We’re seeing in sport sensible decisions being made about who cannot compete in certain cases. Could it reflect a new approach to trans issues from the Labour leadership? She says she would ‘have a problem’ with someone with male genitals identifying as a woman and using a female changing space, and isn’t entirely sold on the use of gender

Why the Tories are more diverse than Labour

‘The candidates fighting to replace Boris Johnson as Conservative party leader and Britain’s prime minister reflect the country’s rich diversity,’ the England-hating New York Times put it earlier this week, through gritted teeth, ‘with six having recent ancestors hailing from outside Europe.’  It might seem initially curious that it’s the Conservatives who are so ethnically diverse. In British politics the realignment over Brexit caused identity to replace economics as the crunch issue, so that the gap between Labour and Tory voters on the issues of immigration and diversity has significantly grown, even if immigration’s salience has declined and remains low. Yet despite this, the British right has become in some ways more diverse

Why Starmer shouldn’t relaunch

Yesterday’s Times carried a report that will only add to Sir Keir Starmer’s troubles. It quoted several members of the shadow ministerial team suggesting that Starmer is dull and unimpressive.That will only sharpen the perception, held by quite a few Westminster people, that the Labour leader isn’t doing as well as he should be, given the government’s weaknesses and failings. ‘Keir Starmer is not dragging his party down but he’s not transforming its fortunes either’. That was the conclusion of a New Statesman analysis a few weeks ago, and probably a fair one. The problem for Starmer is the fact that Labour needs that transformation. One of the most overlooked

Keir Starmer isn’t working

Silence. That is what we heard during Gloria de Piero’s recent focus group which she held for her GB News show in her old constituency of Ashfield, one of many Red Wall seats that fell to the Conservatives in 2019. Most participants had been Labour voters up to that election but felt the party had somehow let them down and ceased to represent the working class, especially with Jeremy Corbyn as leader. De Piero found them most talkative about how Boris Johnson had once appeared to be a different kind of politician, one whose promises they had believed but who they now felt had let them down, thanks to partygate.

Is Boris Johnson planning an emergency Budget?

Boris Johnson is running out of time to produce things the Tories can show the voters at the next election. The theme of his Queen’s Speech – if there was one – was an attempt to fix that. That next election campaign was countered by Keir Starmer in the chamber this afternoon. The main focus was on the cost-of-living crisis and how much worse things are going to get. Funnily enough, Starmer didn’t mention the members of the government who’d broken Covid rules The Labour leader repeatedly accused this government of not being ‘up to the challenge’, with the Tories producing only a ‘thin address bereft of ideas or purpose, without a guiding