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BIG SPEECH TIME: Boris Johnson will seek to reset his wounded premiership this afternoon with a big speech about what the Conservatives can do to help ease the cost of living crisis and help more Brits onto the housing ladder. The PM will deliver an address in Blackpool, Lancashire in the early afternoon before taking questions from traveling journalists and doing a few TV clips. It’s day three in the Downing Street fightback after the damaging confidence vote from his backbenchers, and the rebellion is already starting to look like a long time ago.
The definition of wide-ranging: According to a briefing from No. 10, Johnson will touch on soaring prices, uniting the nation and his pet soundbite of leveling up in the address. He will promise measures in the coming weeks to boost productivity, increase growth and help the NHS, among other boosterish pledges. After months of chaos, the PM will be hoping his speech sends a signal to the nation and his MPs that he’s getting back in the game.
Nicked soundbite: The briefing note said the PM will tell the public he is “firmly on their side” — a phrase that got Labour wags all aflutter. “Not that I’m saying the Tories are out of ideas, but that’s literally Labour’s local election winning slogan of, errr, a month ago,” one opposition official quipped to Playbook.
In his own words: “The global headwinds are strong. But our engines are stronger,” the PM will declare in his address. “And, while it’s not going to be quick or easy, you can be confident that things will get better, that we will emerge from this a strong country with a healthy economy.”
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Speaking of the economy: The speech won’t include a plan to cut income tax, which will disappoint backbench MPs willing to give the PM the benefit of the doubt for a short period after he beat them this week. The Times team reckons there won’t be income tax cuts in the fall budget, but there might be some as soon as … 2024.
And on that note: The planned PM speech next week alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak might now end up delayed due to packed diaries, according to officials.
Big housing push: The centerpiece of the speech this afternoon will be a promise to reverse declining home ownership rates and help people free themselves from eye-watering rents. The Sun/Times/Mail and Independent expect the PM to allow benefit claimants to use welfare cash to obtain and sustain mortgages in a bid to get more people on the housing ladder. It’s an eye-catcher for sure, although it of course means increasing demand for a housing stock in short supply.
Quite the take: “One day many years hence HMG will accept that the way to make housing affordable is to ensure supply outstrips demand: that would be leadership,” former Treasury boss Nick Macpherson wrote on Twitter last night. “Until then, expect numerous initiatives to pump up demand to support those who own property at the expense of those who don’t.” Miaow.
What else to expect: Other trailed housing plans over recent weeks include a boost in prefabricated housing and a right to buy for housing association tenants (which, as others have pointed out, was a pledge from the 2015 Conservative manifesto). The Center for Policy Studies has a big report about the housing issue out this morning.
Now hear this: Housing Secretary Michael Gove is on the broadcast round to discuss the pledges. He previewed some of his thinking in an interview with ITV last night and will lead the debate on social housing and building safety in the Commons later to mark the coming anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Not good enough: Labour is this morning calling on the government for faster action to give renters and leaseholders more housing peace of mind. The opposition wants a second leasehold reform bill to, among other things, put an end to the insane leasehold regime that exists in England and Wales but nowhere else in the world, and which allows rich landowners to fleece those who purchase flats or houses on their land.
Come on, lads: “We’ve known for years that the system is broken, but the reforms that people have been crying out for have not happened,” Shadow Housing Secretary Lisa Nandy said in comments released overnight. “People shouldn’t have to wait any longer for basic rights over their own homes.”
GOVERNMENT OF ALL THE RESETS: Playbook’s top reporter Andrew McDonald took a look back at all of the definitely-very-successful resets Boris Johnson has been forced to instigate when things got a bit tough over the last two years …
June 30, 2020: Johnson promised a “new deal” for the British people in an big infrastructure speech in the Midlands billed as an effort to reset the agenda following criticism of his pandemic handling.
November 13, 2020: The acrimonious exits of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain from No. 10 formed part of a major shake-up of the Downing Street team. Johnson completed the reset by bringing in Dan Rosenfield as his chief of staff.
September 6, 2021: After a summer recess of scandals and a difficult Afghanistan crisis, Johnson emerged with a plan to reset his premiership via a series of policy announcements, including the manifesto-breaking rise in National Insurance. It was followed up with a reshuffle a week later.
November 22, 2021: The Owen Paterson debacle saw Johnson deliver what was billed as a reset speech at the CBI conference — although it didn’t quite go to plan after the PM got his papers mixed up and found himself distracted by Peppa Pig.
February 4, 2022: After Peppa failed to turn things around, Johnson responded to another tough couple of months with a Downing Street clearout including Rosenfeld. It went a bit off the rails when top aide Munira Mirza quit as well, taking Johnson allies by surprise.
May 6, 2022: Poor local election results saw talk of a reset — and reshuffle — briefed to the Mail and other papers. It eventually manifested itself as a Brexit bonanza of red tape-cutting bills announced at the queen’s speech in a bid to refocus Johnson’s premiership.
June 9, 2022: Here we are again. Let’s hope this is the reset to end all resets.
At the very least: The rebels appear to have been quelled for the moment, which should give Johnson a clear run assuming he doesn’t cock something up (like losing two by-elections?) in the immediate weeks. “We’re through the worst of it,” one government official told Playbook. “We’ve lost a chunk of the public as a result of the parties scandal but an election win is still possible. It will just be even more of an uphill struggle.”
Number cruncher politics: Of course, if Johnson gets himself into further ethics pickles there’s the 1922 rule change which might see him off sooner than he hopes. Late last night, Global Counsel’s Joe Armitage tweeted his assessment of who in the 1922 committee voted against Johnson in the confidence ballot. He reckons seven or eight of the 12 members named opted to oust the PM, which could make for interesting cross-checking if the rule change discussion comes up. James Forsyth has the latest musings on that in the new issue of the Spectator. His piece, which is well worth a read, should drop here at some point.
ICYMI: The Conservative psychodrama claimed another victim: Baroness Morrissey was let go as a Foreign Office adviser (lead non-exec) after telling LBC: “I’d rather Boris Johnson didn’t carry on.” The Sun’s Harry Cole has the details.
STARMER, HERE FOR THE BREXIT DRAMA: Labour leader Keir Starmer has decided he needs more Brexit in his life and has embarked on a trip to Dublin and Belfast to hear about the woes of the Northern Ireland protocol. He had dinner with business group the British-Irish Chamber in Dublin last night and will later meet Irish PM Micheál Martin, President Michael Higgins and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, among others.
Sticking to protocol: Tomorrow he heads to Belfast for meetings with political leaders at Stormont and will urge all sides to come to a compromise solution on the neverending Brexit stalemate. He will accuse the government of leaving businesses in Northern Ireland facing an uncertain future, and argue Boris Johnson cannot be trusted on the issue. The former Brexit spokesman will commit Labour to workable solutions on the protocol via negotiation — although no word on what those workable solutions look like.
The real action is still to come: His visit comes ahead of a showdown between London, Brussels, the DUP, Conservative MPs and … pretty much everyone with a stake in Brexit, when the government brings forward its controversial plan to override parts of the protocol — currently set for Monday.
Deep breath: Playbook has confirmed the contents of the bill that have been seeping out in reports this week.
It includes: A fast-track trade “green lane” for goods going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland (but not to the single market) backed up by commercial data and a trusted trader scheme … a dual regulation regime that allows firms in Northern Ireland to choose between sticking to either EU or U.K. standards for goods (with the U.K. allowing both for sale in Great Britain) meaning simpler trade on goods operating within the relevant rules.
And there’s more: U.K. VAT, excise and state aid rules will apply in Northern Ireland under the plans, instead of EU rules as is the case at the moment … no role for the European Court of Justice in international dispute arbitration … and safeguards for the EU single market, including fines for businesses that fail to stick to the rules.
How it happened: The plan was rubber-stamped at a Cabinet committee Wednesday, although there was some last-minute wrangling ahead of the meeting when Foreign Secretary Liz Truss argued the measures should be hardened despite Downing Street having signed them off. In the end, Playbook understands she didn’t get too far with her demands, but the bid won’t harm her standing among pro-Brexit colleagues ahead of the next Conservative leadership election.
ERG-onomics: The FT has heard similar, and notes that Truss was emboldened after talks with hard-line ERG members but was slapped down by Johnson, while the Times reports the PM was also in those ERG discussions.
The grand plan is … that the bill serves the dual purpose of 1. Fixing the issues with the protocol and 2. Showing the DUP the government is serious about fixing the protocol, in the hope the unionists agree to form an executive at Stormont and avoid a further escalation of tensions in Northern Ireland. Whether either will come to pass is for the future to decide.
But but but: Good luck getting the bill through parliament — especially with rebel Conservative MPs who have no qualms about sticking it to Johnson. “If it’s not defeated in the Commons it will be defeated in the Lords and we’ll just end up triggering Article 16, which we should have f*cking done in the first place,” said one government official.
Meanwhile … There’s also the ongoing (and rather one-sided) debate about whether the bill will break international law. “It’s not a breach of international law until a court says it is,” one pro-Brexit former minister told Playbook. “But we need to act now and have that argument later.” The FT notes that Cabinet ministers Sunak and Gove aren’t convinced.
The 4D chess version: Hitting the Brexit button and sparking a big row with Brussels might be a gamble but could be what Johnson needs to help reset his leadership, my POLITICO colleague Cristina Gallardo writes in her preview of the legislative showdown. Indeed, No. 10 aide David Canzini has told Tory special advisers Brexit should be at the top of the government’s agenda to keep voters in Leave-supporting areas engaged, Cristina notes. Read her piece here.
STATE OF CONFUCIUS: Another major test for Conservative Party discipline could be just around the corner, Playbook’s Eleni Courea reports, over a proposed China-related amendment to the Higher Education Bill, which is due before the Commons next week.
The proposal: Tory China hawk Alicia Kearns last night submitted the amendment which seeks to ban controversial “Confucius Institutes” from operating in the U.K. It would create a duty for universities to report the creation of new institutes and give ministers the power to ban them over freedom of speech and academic freedom concerns.
OK, I’m Confuced: Funded by the Chinese government, Confucius Institutes are meant to be Chinese culture and language centers abroad. But several countries including the U.S. and Sweden are shutting them down over concerns they are used for spying and are censoring topics on political grounds. There is a network of 29 Confucius Institutes in the U.K.
Some of the backers so far: Foreign affairs committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat … One Nation caucus Chairman Damian Green… Tory MP Kevin Hollinrake… Labour MP Chris Bryant … and Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael are among those supporting the amendment. It could be a big headache for government whips next week if it gets selected and the opposition parties back it alongside enough Conservative China hawks.
The official line: A DfE official said ministers would look at the proposal but the department is seeking a weaker move that would increase oversight of overseas funding for higher education institutions.
HOUSE OF COMMONS: Sits from 9.30 a.m. with Cabinet Office questions, followed by any UQs at 10.30 a.m. … Commons Leader Mark Spencer has the weekly parliament business statement next, followed by any other ministerial statements … Michael Gove will then lead a debate on social housing and building safety … After that, Tory MPs — and rebels — Philip Dunne and Jesse Norman have secured a debate on the government’s priorities for Ofwat, the private water regulator.
HOUSE OF LORDS: Sits from 11 a.m. with questions on workload levels in the Probation Services, supporting male victims of crime and lessons learned from the Green Homes Grant … The main business will be debates on the implications of the Ukraine crisis on the Integrated Defense Review and on cost of living.
IN A PICKLE: Great sleaze set-piece action at PACAC (public admin committee) today, which will be quizzing ACOBA’s Eric Pickles on the Greensill affair.
YOU RWANDA MY LIFE: The Mail goes big on its front page this morning about the legal challenge to Priti Patel’s plan to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda. The first deportations were expected to happen this month, but the Mail is on the verge of tears because the move is set to ground the flight.
GREEN CREDENTIALS LATEST: The government overruled a Conservative local council to approve new drilling for gas. Net-zero here we come.
Missed the nuclear option: Ministers ignored calls to examine extending the lifetimes of nuclear reactors until it was too late, Richard Vaughan reports in the i newspaper.
And speaking of the climate: COP26 President Alok Sharma is weighing a run to be the next U.N. climate chief, according to the Guardian. POLITICO’s Karl Mathiesen writes in to note that Sharma will face competition and potential opposition from countries who would prefer to see someone from the developing world get the job.
HAPPENING TODAY: New Chair of the Social Mobility Commission Katharine Birbalsingh will give a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank at 11 a.m. She will argue poorer kids should aim for smaller steps up the social ladder rather than setting their sights on Oxbridge or bust, the Telegraph reports. Register here for an 11 a.m. start.
DRILLING IT HOME: With Ben Wallace, Tom Tugendhat and Penny Mordant among those in the running, it seems having military credentials on the CV could be crucial for those hoping to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister. Katy Balls investigates in the latest edition of the Spectator, out this morning.
OVERHEARD OUTSIDE DOWNING STREET: A child on a primary school trip asking their teacher: “Miss, is that where Boris Johnson has his parties?”
DONBAS DECIDER: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said fighting in the eastern city of Severodonetsk could decide the “fate of the Donbas.” He said Ukrainian forces were inflicting major losses on the Russians, but the top Ukrainian official in the region said troops had been pushed back to the outskirts of the city. The BBC has more.
Shock waves: U.N. boss Antonio Guterres said a massive 1.6 billion people around the world had been affected by the Russian invasion. “The war’s impact on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe and speeding up,” he told a press conference.
On the food issue: POLITICO’s top agriculture reporter Eddy Wax has written about the Russian propaganda war over the naval blockade in the Black Sea which is stoking the global food crisis. “For the Russians, this is an all-important battle for hearts and minds in Africa and the Middle East, regions of the world where the poorest are likely to be hit hardest by Ukraine’s inability to export its bumper shipments of grain,” Eddy writes.
Ukrainians love Musk: The United States, European Union and other NATO countries have donated billions of dollars in military equipment to Ukraine since the war began in late February. But Elon Musk’s Starlink — based on a cluster of table-sized satellites flying as low as 130 miles above Ukraine and beaming down high-speed internet access — has become an unexpected lifeline to the country, both on the battlefield and in the war for public opinion. Christopher Miller, Mark Scott and Bryan Bender report on how the tech billionaire’s internet service has changed the war on the ground.
A jab in the teeth: Ukrainian former boxing champ Wladimir Klitschko said Emmanuel Macron doesn’t know what he’s talking about, after the French president argued Russia mustn’t be humiliated in the conflict. “I believe if President Macron would have been visiting, seeing the mass murder with his own eyes, I am sure he would have never said that,” Klitschko told ITV’s Peston show.
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Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove broadcast round: Sky News (7.05 a.m.) … LBC (7.35 a.m.) … Today program (8.10 a.m.) … ITV GMB (8.30 a.m.) … Times Radio.
Shadow Leveling Up Secretary Lisa Nandy: ITV GMB (6.45 a.m.) … Today program (7.12 a.m.) … Sky News (8.05 a.m.) … Times Radio.
BBC Breakfast: Children’s Commissioner Rachel De Souza (7.20 a.m.).
Also on Times Radio: Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union.
Also on Kay Burley (Sky News): Former Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen (7.30 a.m.).
Also on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast (LBC): KCL economics professor Jonathan Portes (7.05 a.m.) … Tax Research U.K. Director Richard Murphy (7.40 a.m.).
Politics Live (BBC Two 11.15 a.m.): Tory MP Peter Bone … SNP MP Stephen Flynn … Economist Miatta Fahnbulleh … The Sun’s Harry Cole.
The Briefing with Gloria De Piero (GB News noon): Tory MP David Davis and former Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
Tonight with Andrew Marr (LBC 6 p.m.): Former Tory leader Michael Howard.
Question Time (BBC One 10.40 p.m.): Tech Minister Chris Philp … Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting … Lib Dem MP Layla Moran … Former International Development Secretary Rory Stewart … GB News correspondent Tom Harwood.
Reviewing the papers tonight: Sky News (10.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.): Demos think tank Director Polly Mackenzie and the Mail’s John Stevens.
(Click on the publication’s name to see its front page.)
Daily Express: Now that is a promise! PM vows to slash bills.
Daily Mail: Lawyers set to ground first Rwanda flight.
Daily Mirror: £100 To Fill Family Car.
Daily Star: I want my mummy — Skeleton-bothering uni students are getting trigger warnings.
Financial Times: U.K. growth set to be worst in G20 apart from Russia, OECD warns.
Huffpost UK: The face of disgrace.
i: Rail strike passengers face six-day shutdown.
POLITICO UK: Boris Johnson’s new Brexit gamble.
PoliticsHome: Rebel Tories worry Brexit may have bounced wavering MPs into saving Boris Johnson.
The Daily Telegraph: Price of filling up average car hits £100.
The Guardian: Fuel cost surge and dire economic forecast shatter PM’s hopes of reset.
The Independent: Revealed — Ukraine forces outgunned up to 40 to 1.
The Sun: Kelly to wed.
The Times: Johnson to let benefit claimants buy homes.
POLITICO Europe: UkraineX — How Elon Musk’s space satellites changed the war on the ground.
The New Statesman: Marked man — Why many Tories are determined to finish Boris Johnson.
The Spectator: The next plot — James Forysth on how the rebels hope to finish Boris.
WESTMINSTER WEATHER: 🌤🌤🌤 Sunny in spells and breezy. Highs of 20C.
NEW GIG: The BBC’s Ros Atkins has been given a deserved promotion and will take on the role of analysis editor for the broadcaster. Tweet here — Atkins promises “more explainers to come.”
SPOTTED: In the Commons for James Starkie’s No Time to Wait campaign event on improving mental health provision last night: Communities Secretary Michael Gove… FCDO minister James Cleverly… Tory MPs Jonathan Gullis, Alun Cairns, Jacob Young, Saqib Bhatti, Duncan Baker, Damien Moore and Simon Fell… SpAds Josh Grimstone, Hannah Guerin and Samuel Coates… lobby hacks Harry Cole, Chris Hope, Gordon Rayner, Kate McCann and Harry Lambert… and CCHQ’s Alex Wild.
MEA CULPA: Yesterday Playbook described Ellie Reeves as a Conservative MP. She is, of course, the Labour MP for Lewisham West and Penge.
BIRTHDAYS: Independent peer Andrew Cooper … Crossbench peer Janric Craig … Former Defense Minister Peter Kilfoyle … No. 10 SpAd Steph Lis.
PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editor Sanya Khetani-Shah, reporter Andrew McDonald and producer Grace Stranger.
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