Head-to-head in Leeds kickstarts 12 rounds of official hustings with Conservative members
Rishi Sunak says Margaret Thatcher best Tory leader in history
Facing a series of tough questions from Tory members during Thursday’s hustings, one of the party faithful confronted the former chancellor over having “stabbed Boris Johnson in the back”, telling him that “some people don’t want to see that in No 10” despite him being “a good salesman”.
Mr Sunak responded by saying that it had become clear that there was “a significant difference of opinion” between the pair on the economic direction of the country.
Meanwhile, the latest exclusive survey by Savanta for The Independent showed Labour soaring to a 13-point lead – coming close to the party’s best performance since Sir Keir Starmer became leader in 2019.
Opinion | Is anyone starting to miss Boris Johnson?
In his latest column, our associate editor Sean O’Grady writes:
“Erm, I know Boris Johnson is an appalling human being, a liar and cheat, a cad and a bounder, a disgrace to his party and those he purports to lead, that he has misled parliament and behaved with the morals of an alley cat.
“But is anyone else beginning to miss him. I mean on the most bizarre grounds of all – policy-making?
“I say this because in the brief period since his government collapsed, it seems to me that his successor has proven that they are clearly going to be an even more authoritarian, even more populist, even more reckless character than he is.”
It seems to me that his successor will be even more authoritarian, even more populist, and even more reckless than he is
Foreign Office insists ‘error’ left staff believing PM personally prioritised Nowzad evacuation
The Foreign Office (FCDO) has said it “regrets” the time taken to establish the decision-making process behind a controversial effort to evacuate animal welfare charity staff during the fraught Western exit from Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, MPs on the foreign affairs committee said in a scathing report that “multiple senior officials” believed Boris Johnson had made the decision to call Nowzad’s staff forward for evacuation – contrary to the claims of No 10 – and warned “we have yet to be offered a plausible alternative explanation”.
In its official response, the FCDO insisted ministers and officials had given evidence to the inquiry in “good faith”, and “at no stage” sought to be “deliberately” misleading – blaming an “error” in internal communication for some staff believing the prime minister had been the one to make the decision.
The department acknowledged that “more care should have been taken” within the department in how the decision was communicated to staff, adding: “The government regrets that it took as long as it did to establish what the decision-making process had been in this case, and how the decision was communicated internally to FCDO staff.”
Jeremy Corbyn gives speech at CWU strike in London
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has addressed striking workers outside the BT Tower.
“Our job is to unite everyone in this campaign for real social justice. It’s called socialism where you don’t leave anyone behind,” the independent MP said.
He was joined by his former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Sam Barry – who was sacked as a Labour shadow transport minister two days ago after telling broadcasters from the RMT’s picket line that all workers deserved pay rises in line with inflation.
Here are more details on the Labour MP’s appearance in central London today:
MP says it is ‘time to fight back’ and ‘reclaim our party’ following backlash among Labour members following his sacking
UK trade deal with India will hurt climate, environment and the poor, campaigners warn
The UK’s planned trade deal with India will hurt the climate, the environment and the poor and must be rethought from scratch, say campaigners in both countries – in the strongest challenge yet to the government’s post-Brexit agenda to strike as many free trade agreements as possible.
The negotiations – aiming for an agreement by October in a deadline set by Boris Johnson for his successor – are also “anti-democratic” because civil society groups and trade unions are largely shut out, warns a hard-hitting statement signed by 10 organisations, including the Trade Justice Movement and Traidcraft Exchange.
Our deputy political editor Rob Merrick has the full report:
Groups in both countries condemn ‘trade at any cost’ – neglecting ‘local businesses and public services’ – and ‘anti-democratic’ talks
Sunak ‘not in support’ of multi-year defence funding package
Rishi Sunak was not in support of the multi-year defence settlement, Ben Wallace has said.
The defence secretary, who last night threw his backing behind Liz Truss, was asked by LBC’s Nick Ferrari how obstructive the former chancellor was in granting more cash to the armed forces.
Mr Wallace replied: “I don’t think he was obstructive”, but pressed further, he continued: “I mean, the multi-year settlement that we got was not what the Treasury had wanted.
“They wanted a one-year settlement. This was back in 2019, I think. And it was vital that we got a multi-year settlement. And the prime minister effectively asserted his authority and made sure that’s what happened.”
Asked if the ex-chancellor had supported the move, he said: “Not that I remember.”
Sunak appears to claim he is ‘most northern Tory chancellor for 70 years’
At last night’s hustings event in Leeds, Rishi Sunak appeared to claim that he had been “the most northern chancellor that this party has had for something like 70-odd years”.
Boris Johnson likened me to ‘ugly old lamp’ as he fired me, former aide says
Writing in Tatler magazine, Boris Johnson’s former deputy chief-of-staff Cleo Watson has claimed that the prime minister likened her to “an ugly old lamp” as he fired her.
Describing her own sacking from No 10 in November 2020, Ms Watson claimed the prime minister told her in the Cabinet Room she reminded him of Mr Cummings, who had left the government two weeks previously.
“It’s like a marriage has ended, we’ve divided up our things and I’ve kept an ugly old lamp. But every time I look at that lamp, it reminds me of the person I was with. You’re that lamp”.
Ms Watson said the exchange in which the prime minister informed her of his desire to sack her was likely “familiar to many of his girlfriends”.
She also claimed she had to frequently scold the prime minister for “making gags such as ‘Kung-Flu’ and ‘Aye! Corona!’” during the pandemic.
John McDonnell says Labour MPs ‘should be on the picket lines’
Labour former shadow chancellor John McDonnell was also at the CWU picket line, and told the PA news agency: “These workers are being forced to take industrial action. I’m a Labour MP so I’m a member of the Labour trade union.
“When the call comes out from CWU for solidarity to join the picket lines, of course I respond positively.”
He added: “If you’re a Labour MP, whether on the frontbench or the backbench, you should be on the picket lines.”
Boris Johnson’s former aide describes her role in No 10 as being like PM’s ‘nanny’
Our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports:
Boris Johnson’s former deputy chief-of-staff Cleo Watson has compared her role in No 10 to being like the prime minister’s “nanny”.
In her first public comments since leaving Downing Street in 2020, the former aide also described how staff created a “puppy gate” barrier to prevent Mr Johnson leaving his office during his periods of self-isolation.
In an article for Tatler magazine, Ms Watson, who was brought into by Dominic Cummings after working on the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, said: “My role at No 10 sounds fancy, but a lot of the time I was much closer to being Boris’s nanny.”
Providing an unflattering depiction of her time in No 10, she said that when testing was limited at the onset of the pandemic in 2020 she “generally” took the PM’s temperature to check whether he had Covid symptoms.
“‘It’s that time again, prime minister!’ I’d say. Each time, never willing to miss a good slapstick opportunity, he dutifully feigned bending over,” she wrote.
Staff created ‘puppy gate’ barrier to prevent PM leaving office during periods of self-isolation, former deputy chief of staff claims
Ben Wallace says PM delivered increased defence budgets – rather than Rishi Sunak
It’s been a busy morning for the defence secretary after he endorsed Liz Truss in the leadership campaign. Ben Wallace has now said that it was Boris Johnson – rather than Rishi Sunak – who had secured a multi-year defence settlement.
Put to him that the Treasury has delivered increased defence budgets, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The prime minister did. It was the prime minister’s determination that we got a multi-year settlement, that we got one when we desperately needed one, and we got £24bn extra.
“And that investment I’m keen continues. I don’t want it to be a sort of boom or bust, which has often happened to defence, and that’s why it gets into big trouble.”