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After this surprise double by-election defeat, it’s hard to predict what will happen next for Rishi Sunak | Politics News

A surprise double by-election win for Labour that overturns records, sees two of the safest Tory seats in the country turn red and cut the Tory vote cut in half. Whatever Conservative ministers say, this matters. 

The Tamworth by-election defeat is the second biggest Tory to Labour swing since 1945, and setting a record by overturning the 66% Tory majority at the last election. To put it another way, no governing party has lost a seat as safe as Tamworth.

Mid Bedfordshire, which some Tories hoped would remain in their hands at the start of the evening, went red because of – rather than in spite of – the Liberal Democrats.

Follow live: Terrible night for Tories as Starmer says Labour is ‘redrawing the political map’

What could have been a low point for tactical voting ended with Lib Dems claiming partial credit for Labour taking control of Nadine Dorries’s seat, to the gnashing of Labour teeth.

While true that by-elections are no automatic proxy for general elections, hearing a parade of Tory frontbenchers hiding behind this epithet still does mean the Conservative Party has many places to hide.

If the 20 percentage point swings to Labour seen in four recent by-elections were repeated in a national poll next year – admittedly imperfect but nevertheless useful proxy – that would mean a comfortable Labour majority for Sir Keir Starmer.

Tory MPs with 10,000 and 15,000 majorities – which would usually be considered safe – now will be worrying whether they have a sufficient buffer to withstand any Labour tidal wave. Jitters divide parties at a time when they need to be united.

Yet the message from the government is that the response to this by-election to carry on with the existing plan.

Maria Caufield, a Tory frontbencher, suggested that Rishi Sunak should be credited having previously already showed an appetite for change – albeit that was revealed at a chaotic Tory conference and appears to have fail to move the dial with voters in this byelection. She also played down the big Tory to Labour swings as “statistical”.

It is true the number of Labour votes received in Mid Beds was down a fraction on the 2019 general election – a point clung on to by a succession of – this argument ignores that the Conservative vote was a quarter of what it was. There is no easy way for the Tories to spin their way out of this beyond the opening bluster.

Meanwhile Andrew Bowie, a Scottish minister, said that while it’s important to listen “what is clear is that they do agree with our priorities” and “supporting what we are doing” but “they are not prepared to vote for us at the moment”.

When I asked if he thought the Tories were doing everything right, he replied: “Obviously there’s always room for improvement but we are absolutely determined we are on the right course.”

This suggests a government that speaks the language of listening without any intention of action.

Perhaps it is too difficult for the Tories to upend the plan at this point.

Mr Sunak has already done one reset this autumn – changing policies, cabinet members and the team in Number 10 and so far there is little sign it is paying off.

There are enough things already in the agenda to have to cope with: the plan is coming together for next month’s King’s Speech with legislation which has little parliamentary time to pass, followed by an autumn statement which may unveil a mega fiscal black hole.

The final roll of the dice is a possible reshuffle later in the year if Sunak thinks he is stronger than he was at the start of September.

This is enough change on the cards; inside Number 10 they likely do not think there is much need for any further revolution.

The question is how the wider Conservative movement now responds to the dreadful response.

The party conference in September suggested a membership already looking around for alternatives, and some MPs wanting to show they’re listening.

Will this mean restless Tory MPs, pushing for yet more bolder, more distinctive policies – often ideas that appease factions on the right of the party.

Or will it mean a rush for the exit in the new year – more Tory MPs sniffing the wind and deciding not to stand again.

Mr Sunak will try and shrug off wider discontent, but the question is whether he’s strong enough to do this successfully.

The unwelcome message the results send will be heard far and wide across the Conservative movement, meaning it is hard to predict what will happen next.

Rachel Reeves is repeating Boris Johnson’s economic policy – but her guest endorsement was the real surprise | Business News

Get Britain building again. Get the country growing again. Clamping down on waste. Making Britons better off…

The funny thing about the messages coming from Rachel Reeves in her party conference speech today is that she is standing four-square in territory dominated by the Conservative Party only a few years ago.

She wants to unblock the planning system, making it easier for energy companies to build wind turbines, solar panels and gigafactories.

She also wants to try to encourage more housebuilding.

Even as she does so, she’s promising to keep an “iron grip” on the public finances and to introduce measures to prevent big projects from overrunning their budgets.

Back when Boris Johnson was the prime minister, this was, almost letter for letter, Conservative policy.

Today’s conference speech underlines how much the Labour Party has shifted since the era of Jeremy Corbyn.

There were some bits and pieces of policy there: the undertaking to reform the planning system, the creation of a kind of “star chamber” to scrutinise spending on big infrastructure projects, not to mention an attempt to recoup some of the spending on consultants and corruption during COVID-19.

Tramlines of next election coming into focus

But as is invariably the case with conference speeches, this was more about messaging than policy.

And the message the Labour Party wanted to get across was that people should be able to trust Rachel Reeves with their money.

However, just as interesting as what the speech told you about the Labour Party is what it told you about the Conservatives.

The party which once occupied this very same territory under Boris Johnson has now dramatically changed its economic messaging.

Last week at the Conservative conference in Manchester, most of the emphasis from Jeremy Hunt was about retrenching government spending.

It wasn’t just the cancellation of HS2’s northern leg; the biggest new announcement in the chancellor’s speech was a freeze in civil service recruitment.

It was austerity all over again.

So the broad tramlines of the next election seem to be coming into focus: the Conservatives pledging a smaller state (and, one presumes, lower taxes). And Labour promising more borrowing to invest in infrastructure.

In a sense, politics is reverting to pre-Brexit norms.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves makes her keynote speech during the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool. Picture date: Monday October 9, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Labour. Photo credit should read: Peter Byrne/PA Wire
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Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves making her speech

Special guest was more surprising than speech itself

But many questions remain.

For all the energy of the Reeves speech today, no one is entirely sure how her proposals will work.

How will she succeed in reforming the planning system when every previous chancellor has failed?

How will Great British Energy, her new scheme to revamp the National Grid, actually work?

What’s her plan to deal with the cost of living, save for endorsing the Bank of England?

Read more
Hunt v Truss: Tories divided on how economies work
The three main points from Hunt’s conference speech

Speaking of which, arguably the biggest surprise of the speech actually happened after it was over.

On the big screen here at Liverpool, a video message was played from a “special guest”.

That guest was none other than the former Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, who gave an endorsement.

“Rachel Reeves is a serious economist. She began her career at the Bank of England and she understands the big picture,” he said in the video.

He added: “But crucially she also understands the economics of work, of place and family. It’s beyond time to put her ideas and energy into action.”

Mark Carney. File pic: AP
Image:
Mark Carney. File pic: AP

Much of the chatter before this conference has been about the increasing enthusiasm of those in the business and professional communities about the prospect of a Labour government.

The halls are thick with lobbyists who believe Reeves will indeed soon be the chancellor – the first female to take up the post in history.

Carney’s endorsement double-underlined that sense.

Prince and Princess of Wales surprise guests at Jordan royal wedding | UK News

The Prince and Princess of Wales have made a surprise visit to Jordan to attend the wedding of the country’s Crown Prince and his Saudi Arabian bride.

Prince William and Kate were among a host of foreign royalty attending the nuptials of the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Hussein, 28, and 29-year-old architect Rajwa Alseif.

Watch live: Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein marries Saudi architect Rajwa Alseif

The ceremony got under way on Thursday at Amman’s Zahran Palace, the same venue chosen by the Crown Prince’s father, King Abdullah II, and his grandfather, the late King Hussein, for their weddings.

 King Abdullah II, and Jordan's Queen Rania greet  Prince William and Princess Catherine, on the day of the royal wedding ceremony of Crown Prince Hussein and Rajwa Al Saif, in Amman, Jordan
 King Abdullah II, and Jordan's Queen Rania greet  Prince William and Princess Catherine, on the day of the royal wedding ceremony of Crown Prince Hussein and Rajwa Al Saif, in Amman, Jordan
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King Abdullah II and Jordan’s Queen Rania greet the Prince and Princess of Wales

The British royals’ trip to Jordan was not announced in advance, with their arrival confirmed by Jordanian state media a few hours before the start of the palace ceremony.

Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein and Rajwa Al Saif exchange rings at their royal wedding ceremon
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Jordan’s Crown Prince Hussein and Rajwa Al Saif exchange rings at their royal wedding ceremony
Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein and Rajwa Al Saif are seen together at their royal wedding ceremony, in Amman, Jordan

After the ceremony, Prince William and Kate lined up along other guests to congratulate the royal couple, Kate wearing a floor length, long-sleeved baby pink dress.

Prince William hugged the Crown Prince before kissing Ms Alseif on either cheek, the Princess of Wales followed suit.

Prince William and Princess Catherine meet Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein and Rajwa Al Saif at their royal wedding ceremony, in Amman, Jordan
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Prince William and Kate congratulating the Jordan royal couple

The King and Queen of the Netherlands as well as US First Lady Jill Biden also said they would attend.

The ceremony started with some of the same features as previous ceremonies, including a motorcade of red Land Rovers escorting the couple through the streets of the capital to the ceremony.

Royal guards in a convoy head towards the Zahran Palace on the day of the royal wedding of Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein and Rajwa Al Saif, in Amman, Jordan
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Royal guards in a convoy head towards the Zahran Palace
Members of a band play musical instruments during celebrations on the day of the royal wedding of Jordan's Crown Prince Hussein and Rajwa Al Saif, in Amman, Jordan

Crowds gathered at sites with huge screens set to livestream the wedding across the nation, with many people waving flags and decked out in the white-and-red checkered scarves worn by Jordan’s ruling family, the Hashemites.

Recession in doubt as economy achieves surprise growth in November | Business News

The economy grew by 0.1% in November, partly aided by the football World Cup, according to official figures which call into question predictions the UK is already in recession.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed pressure on demand from the effects of high inflation but a boost from people packing pubs and bars to watch events unfold on the pitch in Qatar.

Economists had predicted a negative growth figure – of around 0.2%.

The figure for November came on the back of a positive growth reading the previous month, largely explained by activity getting back to normal after disruption to output from the late Queen’s death.

The additional bank holiday for the funeral in September saw most businesses close.

The Bank of England is among public bodies to have forecast that the UK fell into recession during the third quarter of 2022.

Should a reading by the ONS for the October to December period show a negative growth figure, then the economy will have met the criteria for recession: two consecutive quarters of contraction.

It seems the possibility will be tight.

The ONS said that gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 0.3% in the three months to November.

That incorporates the decline of 0.6% in output measured during September and the 0.5% recovery in October.

ONS director of economic statistics Darren Morgan said: “The economy grew a little in November, with increases in telecommunications and computer programming helping to push the economy forward.

“Pubs and bars also did well as people went out to watch World Cup games.

Read more
Bank of England’s bond market intervention achieves £3.8bn profit
What strong Christmas retail sales tell us about economy

“This was partially offset by further falls in some manufacturing industries, including the often-erratic pharmaceutical industry, as well as falls in transport and postal, partially due to the impact of strikes.

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Firms fret over energy-led costs

“Over the last three months, however, the economy still shrank – mainly due to the impact of the extra bank holiday for the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth in September.”

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the economy would need to shrink by 0.6% or more in December for the fourth quarter of 2022 to contract as a whole – triggering a technical recession.

The prospect of avoiding such a downturn is easing not only in the UK but across Europe and in the US too but it does not mean that all is rosy.

Business groups warned that many sectors were struggling – and needed the support of government to protect jobs as energy-led costs continue to stifle orders and investment.

Pressure on squeezed consumers too is set to intensify as the Bank of England is still forecast to maintain interest rate increases to help inflation ease over the first half of 2023, raising bills in the process as mortgage costs climb.

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Food inflation reaches record levels

In its reaction to the GDP data, the living standards-focused think-tank the Resolution Foundation said that while a 2022 recession was now likely to have been avoided, family incomes were still shrinking.

Jonathan Moyes, head of investment research at the Wealth Club investor service, said of the UK’s prospects: “We have seen retailers report stronger than expected earnings reports for Q4 over the past week, and it appears a stronger than expected consumer services and services more broadly have helped the UK economy defy gloomy expectations.

“It may be too soon to mark the beginning of a turn in sentiment for the UK, but a quiet consensus appears to be forming.

“Energy prices are falling sharply, China is reopening and interest rate expectations have eased significantly,” he wrote.

Ozzy Osbourne stuns crowd in surprise Commonwealth Games appearance | UK News

Rock legend Ozzy Osbourne made a surprise appearance onstage in his home city of Birmingham to close out the 2022 Commonwealth Games – just weeks after undergoing “life-altering” surgery.

The Aston-born musician, 73, was joined by members of his band Black Sabbath for the firework-fuelled performance of their hit song Paranoid.

“Come on, let’s go crazy,” Osbourne told crowd, as the band played the famous chords to Iron Man.

Wrapping up the short performance, he added: “Thank you, good night, you are the best, God bless you all – Birmingham forever.”

Osbourne was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2019.

And in June he was discharged from a Los Angeles hospital after undergoing what his wife Sharon called “a major operation” that would “determine the rest of his life”.

The rocker has also been dealing with the impact of a 2003 quad biking accident.

More on Commonwealth Games 2022

Earlier in the ceremony, notorious fictional crime gang the Peaky Blinders took centre stage as part of a celebration of the musical heritage of the West Midlands.

Ozzy Osbourne performs on stage during the Closing Ceremony for the 2022 Commonwealth Games at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham

The international competition came to an end on Monday night after 11 days of sporting action.

The ceremony, held at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, saw performances from artists including UB40, Beverley Knight, Dexys Midnight Runners, Goldie, The Selecter and Jorja Smith.

Mercury Prize-nominee Laura Mvula, 36, also gave a special performance of a newly commissioned track inspired by Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand, the theme song to Peaky Blinders.

2022 has seen the most successful Commonwealth Games ever for the home nations, with a combined total of 275 medals, including 85 golds.

England led the way with 57 golds, behind only Australia in the medal table, and 176 in total, while Northern Ireland set national records and Scotland and Wales also thrived.

Fireworks go off as Ozzy Osbourne performs on stage during the Closing Ceremony for the 2022 Commonwealth Games at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham

The Duke of Wessex officially closed the ceremony, saying: “Every four years, we endeavour to come together to celebrate our Commonwealth through sport.

“Thanks to the manner, style and enthusiasm with which you have competed, officiated, supported, organised and volunteered, you have, once again, brought the spirit and values of the Commonwealth to life.

“You have inspired us and hopefully future generations. You have also demonstrated what unites us. Thank you, Birmingham.”