Can Starmer and Reeves add some fizz to the economy?

If the 0.6 per cent first-quarter GDP uplift reported by the Office for National Statistics is sustained for the rest of this year, Rishi Sunak will be able to claim – as he waves goodbye – that he and Jeremy Hunt have succeeded against their naysayers in dragging the UK economy from pandemic depths back to the level of ‘trend growth’, around 2.5 per cent per annum, that used to be thought of as normal. That’s spookily in line (as is the path of inflation) with Ken Clarke’s achievement as Tory chancellor in 1996 ahead of the election that swept Blair and Brown to power the following May. How lucky

How violent are prisons?

Name calling Springwatch presenter Gillian Burke says she finds it ‘jarring’ to call animals by their English names, preferring Swahili. Some popular Swahili translations: – Elephant: tembo/ndovu – Giraffe: twiga – Lion: simba – Hyena: fisi – Hippopotamus: hippopotamus – I’m fed up of paying for a TV licence: Nimechoka kulipa leseni ya TV Full Marx A Labour politician named Karl Peter Marx Wardlow was elected as a councillor in Stockport. The fondness for left-wing parents to name their children after their political heroes is most obvious in Keir Starmer – his first name is also shared with Keir Mather, who won the Selby and Ainsty by-election for Labour last

Can Ben Houchen save Rishi Sunak?

12 min listen

Tomorrow, voters go to the polls for the last set of local elections in this parliament, alongside 11 mayoral elections in England, 37 police and crime commissioner elections in England and Wales plus the London Assembly elections. Could Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, help turn Rishi Sunak’s fortunes around? You can read James Heale’s assessment of the key battlegrounds here.  Also on the podcast, a look at rumours that Labour are in talks to water down their employment policies.  Lucy Dunn speaks to James Heale and John McTernan, former adviser to Tony Blair. 

Has Angela Rayner redeemed herself?

10 min listen

With Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer away, Oliver Dowden and Angela Rayner stepped in for PMQs today. Questions quickly turned to the long running row about Rayner’s tax affairs. Did she redeem herself?    Also, the prime minister has announced further UK military spending, confirming it will rise to 2.5% of national income by 2030. Does the move cause problems for Keir Starmer?  Katy Balls speaks to James Heale and Isabel Hardman.  Produced by Megan McElroy.

Why do MPs send nude pictures of themselves?

Adam Dyster has gone to work for the shadow Defra secretary Steve Reed. I admit this is not an appointment which would normally trouble the political scorers, but it is a straw in the wind. Mr Dyster was, until recently, the adviser to both the chairman and the director-general of the National Trust. As Zewditu Gebreyohanes points out in her new pamphlet, ‘National Distrust: the end of democracy in the National Trust’, it was against the interest of the Trust that Mr Dyster advised both, since it blurred the necessary governance difference between the trustees and the management. Mr Dyster was previously, in the Jeremy Corbyn era, the national organiser

How much trouble is Angela Rayner in?

10 min listen

Angela Rayner has faced fresh allegations related to her taxes. Keir Starmer and other MPs in the shadow cabinet have come to her defence. Could these accusations jeopardise her position as shadow deputy Prime Minister? Also on the podcast, what are Richard Tice’s plans for Reform? Natasha Feroze speaks to Katy Balls and James Heale. 

Inside Sue Gray’s Labour party

At 8.30 a.m. each morning, Keir Starmer holds a meeting with his inner circle to go over the business of the day. Once, these meetings were mainly filled with unelected aides, but now they are attended by senior shadow ministers, such as Labour’s campaign co-ordinator and Blairite old-timer Pat McFadden or the shadow cabinet office minister and Brown-ite Jonathan Ashworth. Starmer’s deputy, Angela Rayner, may drop in too. If Rachel Reeves can’t make it, one of her shadow treasury aides goes in her place. The new setup is one of the many measures Sue Gray has brought in since she was appointed Starmer’s chief of staff a year ago. Her

Think flute-playing Sir Keir will rescue opera? Look at Labour-run Wales

A tale of two opera companies from the Land of Song. After its distinctly gamey new Cosi fan tutte, Welsh National Opera has sprung dazzlingly back to form with a new production of Benajmin Britten’s final opera, Death in Venice. It’s directed by Olivia Fuchs, in collaboration with the circus artists of NoFit State, and in a word, it’s masterful. Fuchs’s Serenissima is a city of shadow, its landmarks glimpsed distantly in smudged, restless scraps of black and white film. The tourists and locals wear monochrome period dress; only Aschenbach (Mark Le Brocq) is in a noncommittal grey. The colour has drained from his world and from the peripheries of

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