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By-election news - live: Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton polls close, as PM ‘optimistic’

·64-min read
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Votes are being counted in two by-elections triggered by the resignations of disgraced Tory MPs.

At 10pm on Thursday, the polls closed for by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton.

In the constituency Wakefield, Imran Ahmad Khan stepped down as MP last month after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy at a party in 2008.

Also in May, Neil Parish quit as MP for Tiverton & Honiton after admitting to watching pornography on his phone in the House of Commons on two separate occasions.

PM Boris Johnson said he is “full of optimism and buoyancy” ahead of the results of the by-elections.

Speaking to broadcasters in Rwandan capital Kigali, he said: “I’m going to be watching the results with interest but always full of optimism and buoyancy but most seasoned political observers know that by-elections in mid-term are never necessarily easy for any government.”

Key Points

  • PM criticises critics of Rwanda plan as ‘condescending'

  • ‘Crazy’ to resign in event of double by-election defeat, Johnson insists

  • Impossible to know if Brexit was bad for economy, Frost says

  • By-election ‘neck and neck’ in Tory stronghold

‘You are unfit to lead’: Foord slams Johnson after by-election results

04:17 , Namita Singh

Former army major Richard Foord, speaking after the sweeping victory for Liberal Democrats in Tiverton and Honiton by-election, says that the “historic result has sent a shockwave through British politics”.

The people of Tiverton and Honiton have sent a loud and clear message... It’s time for Boris Johnson to go.

Richard Foord

“Our country is crying out for leadership, I served as an officer in the British army for ten years, Mr Johnson, and I can tell you that acting in leadership means acting with integrity.

“Your behaviour Mr Johnson, makes a mockery of leadership. By any measure, you are unfit to lead.”

BREAKING

04:11 , Katy Clifton

The Liberal Democrats have swept to victory in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election in a crushing defeat for Boris Johnson’s Conservative party.

Former army major Richard Foord managed to overturn a gargantuan margin of 24,239 votes to become the Liberal Democrats fourteenth MP. His historic victory is the first time since the seat was created in 1997 that Tiverton and Honiton has not been blue.

Read more below:

Lib Dem victory in Tiverton and Honiton by-election deals blow to Boris Johnson

BREAKING

03:59 , Katy Clifton

Labour has won the Wakefield by-election, taking back the red wall seat won by the Tories in 2019.

Read more here:

Labour wins back red wall seat in crunch Wakefield by-election

Helen Hurford arrives in Crediton

03:49 , Katy Clifton

Helen Hurford, the Tory candidate for Tiverton and Honiton, arrived at the election count in Crediton at around 3.30am, where she is projected to lose the previously safe Conservative seat.

According to the Press Association, Ms Hurford has locked herself in the room previously reserved for media interviews at the constituency’s election count in a sports centre in Crediton.

Ms Hurford declined to answer questions from the waiting press, instead opting for a closed-door interview with Devon Live.

03:40 , Holly Bancroft

We’re inching closer to getting the results in both by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton.

Excitement is building here at the Tiverton count with the Lib Dem team expected to make an entrance in the next fifteen minutes. The Wakefield result is expected any minute and the Tiverton result is expected around 4:30am or perhaps even earlier.

The Tiverton results will be read out in alphabetical order meaning the Lib Dem candidate Richard Foord’s vote count will be announced first. This will be followed by the Tory candidate Helen Hurford’s results and then Labour’s Liz Pole.

 (The Independent)
(The Independent)

Tories braced for trouble as votes counted in crunch by-elections

03:31 , Holly Bancroft

Boris Johnson faces the potential loss of two Tory seats as votes are counted in by-elections which could lead to further questions about his leadership.

Ballots were cast in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton after contests triggered by Conservative MPs resigning in disgrace.

With Labour challenging in the red wall seat in West Yorkshire and the Liberal Democrats hoping to overturn a huge Conservative majority in Devon, defeat for the Tories will heap pressure on Mr Johnson just weeks after 41% of his own MPs said they did not have confidence in him.

Mr Johnson has suggested it would be “crazy” for him to quit if the party lost the two seats, and claimed he was “very hopeful” about the results.

Read the full piece here:

Tories braced for trouble as votes counted in crunch by-elections

Does the PM really use his bizarre comments to manipulate search engine findings?

03:15 , Holly Bancroft

We all know Boris Johnson says odd things from time to time. It’s part of a carefully crafted political persona that seems to go down well with a lot of voters – at least until he starts chuntering about Peppa Pig to the Confederation of British Industry.

But this week I came across an intriguing theory that has made me completely rethink the way I look at the PM’s peculiar use of anecdotes and allusions. It comes from Gareth Morgan of Liberty Marketing Group, who used an article for Open Democracy to analyse some of Mr Johnson’s comments from a digital marketing perspective.

Read more below:

Editor’s Letter: Does the PM make odd comments to manipulate search engine findings?

‘Voters are sick of Boris Johnson’

03:14 , Katy Clifton

Labour MP Darren Jones said likely wins for his party in Wakefield and the Liberal Democrats in Tiverton & Honiton was a sign that voters were “sick” of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives.

Speaking from the election count in Devon, Mr Jones said: “There is a similar story between Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield.

“Voters in the rural south west and in the north of England are sick of Boris Johnson and the Tories.

“In both by-elections the voters are sending a message to the Conservatives that enough is enough.”

Tory MP: ‘It’s very normal not to win by-elections'

03:00 , Holly Bancroft

Andrea Jenkyns, the Conservative MP for Morley and Outwood, has said that it is normal to see big swings against the government in by-elections.

Speaking from the count in Wakefield, Ms Jenkyns said: “We have been in government for 12 years and it’s very normal not to win by-elections.”

She denied that Boris Johnson was turning voters away and said that sending migrants to Rwanda was a bigger issue on the doorstep than Partygate.

Lib Dems say Tiverton by-election looking like a ‘clear win’ for them

02:55 , Holly Bancroft

The Liberal Democrats have come out fighting with a statement saying that they are expecting a “clear win” in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election.

A spokesperson has said: “This is looking like a clear win. The people of Tiverton and Honiton have spoken up for the country. This is an historic victory for the Liberal Democrats and a devastating blow for those Conservative MPs who continue to prop up Boris Johnson."

Lib Dem leader hints at a historic by-election win

02:34 , Holly Bancroft

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey has hinted that his party could be set for a historic by-election win in Tiverton and Honiton.

He cryptically tweeted: “Looks like I’m going to need a bigger hammer.”

Pictured: Votes are counted in the Wakefield by-election

02:30 , Holly Bancroft

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Here’s a run down of what would be a good or bad result for the Tories

02:15 , Holly Bancroft

Political adviser and pollster James Johnson has put together his take on what would be a good and bad result for the Conservatives tonight.

Counting now underway at the Tiverton and Honiton by-election

02:06 , Holly Bancroft

Counting of votes is now underway at the Tiverton and Honiton by-election, officials have confirmed.

Counters have spent the past three hours verifying the ballots and now move on to counting them.

Over in Wakefield, the media room has been told that a result is expected at around 4am.

Case says he had talks about roles for Carrie Johnson

02:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Simon Case has admitted that he had “an informal conversation” with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s charity about potential “opportunities” for Boris Johnson’s wife Carrie.

The Cabinet secretary revealed that in 2020 he was prompted by a now-former member of the team at No 10 to ask the Royal Foundation about a position at the Earthshot prize for Mr Johnson’s then-fiance.

But Mr Case – who has close links to the Duke of Cambridge, being his former private secretary – insisted that he had not endorsed her for any paid work.

Read the full story here

Simon Case admits he had ‘informal’ talks with charity about roles for Carrie Johnson

Voter turnout at Tiverton and Honiton by-election is 52.3 percent

01:59 , Holly Bancroft

Turnout in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election was 52.3 percent - a total of 42,707 votes, council officials have said.

Labour in Wakefield: ‘Early signs very positive'

01:51 , Katy Clifton

A Labour source on the ground in Wakefield said: “The early signs are very positive and suggest that lifelong Tory voters and those we lost in 2019 are voting Labour – showing the progress we’ve made.”

01:48 , Holly Bancroft

The turnout figures at the Tiverton and Honiton by-election are expected soon and verification of the votes is due to end shortly.

Turnout is predicted to be higher than 52 percent, according to Mid Devon council.

Things are looking positive for the Liberal Democrats, with their treasury spokesperson Christine Jardine MP saying that there are “some good signs” in Tiverton.

Pictured: Votes are verified at the Tiverton and Honiton by-election count

01:44 , Holly Bancroft

 (PA)
(PA)
 (PA)
(PA)
 (PA)
(PA)

Wakefield turnout down 25% on 2019 general election

01:15 , Katy Clifton

Turnout in the Wakefield by-election was 39.09 per cent, Wakefield Council said.

Some 27,205 verified ballots were cast out of a total electorate of 69,601.

The turnout in the 2019 general election was 64.15 per cent.

Party officials observe the count at Thornes Park Stadium in Wakefield (PA)
Party officials observe the count at Thornes Park Stadium in Wakefield (PA)

Conservative MP: ‘We are fighting these elections in really challenging circumstances'

01:02 , Holly Bancroft

Luke Hall, Conservative MP for Thornbury and Yale, speaking from the count has admitted that his party is “fighting these elections in really challenging circumstances.”

He said that the Conservatives have run a “really positive campaign in Tiverton and Honiton”.

Referring to the Tories’ candidate Helen Hurford, he added: “She has been on the doorstep for the past few months, talking to people about the issues that actually matter on the doorstep.

“The issues that are really cutting through on the doorstep, like the steps we’re taking on the cost of living, like the important steps we’re taking to help farmers in the rural economy, like the important steps we’re taking to put more police officers on the streets.”

‘Every Conservative MP in the South should be looking over their shoulder'

00:47 , Holly Bancroft

Christine Jardine, the Lib Dem’s treasury spokesperon and MP for Edinburgh, said that Tory MPs in the South of England should be “looking over their shoulder” at the mounting political threat from the Lib Dems.

She added: “They’ve lost two by-elections to us, we’ve yet to see what will happen here.

“The farmers are unhappy, they feel abandoned by the government. The ambulance waiting times in Devon are horrendous - people are unhappy about those issues. What they want is an MP who will stand up for them and Richard has been running a fantastic campaign.

“People are also downright fed up with this Conservative government - they are not dealing with the cost of living crisis, it’s not dealing with energy prices. It had to be dragged kicking and screaming to a windfall tax.”

Ms Jardine said voters were talking about the economy as well as Partygate on the doorstep. “People are unhappy specifically with Boris Johnson. It’s now up to the Conservative MPs to decide. Regardless of what happens tonight they see their support ebbing away.”

Christine Jardine MP at the count in Tiverton (PA)
Christine Jardine MP at the count in Tiverton (PA)

“The Conservatives have thrown the kitchen sink at this place,” she added. “Towards the end you couldn’t walk down Tiverton high street without bumping into a cabinet minister.”

“You could argue that North Shrophshire and Cheshire and Amersham caught them a bit by surprise, this time they knew that we would campaign hard.”

Ms Jardine said that the Lib Dems only need a swing of ten percent “to put us within touching distance of 30 Conservative seats”.

“Every Conservative MP in the south of England should be looking over their shoulder, because a ten percent swing would knock a lot of them out.”

‘Swing toward Lib Dems in Devon by-election', says MP

00:30 , Holly Bancroft

Christine Jardine said that there has been a “significant swing” to the Liberal Democrats in the Tiverton and Honiton by-election.

The Lib Dem MP for Edinburgh West was at the vote count on Thursday night, where she spoke to The Independent about the party’s expectations.

But she said it was yet to be seen whether it had been significant enough to overturn the Conservatives' 24,000-strong majority.

Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine (Aaron Chown/PA)
Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine (Aaron Chown/PA)

Ms Jardine said: “The Conservatives only have 40 safer seats than Tiverton and Honiton. We are asking for the biggest swing in by-election history.”

Yet Ms Jardine insisted: “We have run a fantastic campaign and that significant swing tells us that voters are coming to us from the Conservative Party.

“People are unhappy with the Conservative Party so whatever happens at the end of the day there’s a message to Boris Johnson in this – they are losing votes, they are haemorrhaging votes to us.”

Ballot boxes arrive at Tiverton & Honiton count

00:01 , Lamiat Sabin

 (Holly Bancroft)
(Holly Bancroft)

PM pledges £372m amid Ukraine war food shortages

23:30 , PA

Boris Johnson is pledging £372 million in aid to alleviate food shortages as he accused Vladimir Putin of pushing the world’s poorest “closer to starvation”.

The Prime Minister has been working to break the Russian president’s blockade of grain exports from Ukraine, which threatens to push world hunger up further.

Mr Johnson announced the allocation from the overseas development aid budget as he visits Rwanda for a meeting of leaders of the Commonwealth, which he fears could be badly struck by rising food costs and fertiliser shortages.

The package includes £130 million funding for the World Food Programme this year, and £133 million for research partnerships with agricultural and scientific groups.

Reporting by PA

What time are by-election results going to be revealed?

23:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Results are expected between 2am and 4am on Friday, according to the BBC.

In Wakefield, West Yorkshire, and Tiverton & Honiton, Devon, the Conservatives are attempting to hold off challenges from Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

Labour are hoping to overturn a Conservative majority in Wakefield of just over 3,000, and the Lib Dems would need to overturn a Tory majority of more than 24,000 in Tiverton & Honiton.

Lib Dem win in Devon would be ‘historic majority overturn’

22:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said that the party beating the Tories in the Tiverton & Honiton by-election would result in “the biggest majority ever overturned in British political history.”

The Lib Dems would need to overturn a Tory majority of more than 24,000.

The seat was vacated by the forced resignation of Tory MP Neil Parish, who quit after admitting to watching pornography on his phone in the House of Commons on two separate occasions.

Polls close in two English by-elections

22:07 , Lamiat Sabin

At 10pm on Thursday, the polls closed for by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton.

Both by-elections are being held to elect a successor to two Tory MPs who had been forced to resign in disgrace.

In Wakefield, Imran Ahmad Khan stepped down after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy at a party in 2008.

In Tiverton & Honiton, Neil Parish quit after admitting to watching pornography on his phone in the House of Commons on two separate occasions.

Shapps dismisses Khan’s claim over bus cuts

21:37 , Lamiat Sabin

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has dismissed claims by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan in a dispute about the axing of bus routes.

He tweeted a letter that he wrote to Mr Khan over the latter’s claim that the government has “forced” City Hall into having to cut 21 routes.

Mr Shapps claimed that was untrue as the government has provided Transport for London “with close to £5bn of funding”.

He accused Mr Khan of using a “campaign of scaremongering and threats’ to “repeatedly [play] politics”.

Energy sector warns Rishi Sunak against windfall tax

20:45 , Lamiat Sabin

Energy industry chiefs warned chancellor Rishi Sunak that his planned windfall tax on the companies could damage investment in the North Sea oil projects,

Last month, Mr Sunak unveiled the measure under pressure from Labour to impose the 25 per cent one-off surcharge on energy firms.

It is hoped the policy will raise as much as £5 billion, but energy firms have warned it could be detrimental to the sector.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak (Reuters)
Chancellor Rishi Sunak (Reuters)

In Aberdeen, Offshore Energy UK chief executive Deirdre Michie said she pressed Mr Sunak on the issue during what she called a “candid and constructive” roundtable meeting.

She said: “Both sides have committed to further discussions.

“We will work constructively with the UK Government and do our best to mitigate the damage this tax will cause, but if energy companies reduce investment in UK waters, then they will produce less oil and gas.

“That means they will eventually be paying less taxes and have less money to invest in low carbon energy.”

A consultation on the policy is due to close on Tuesday.

According to the Treasury, Mr Sunak stressed the importance of the sector to the UK’s transition away from fossil fuels, adding that the levy will provide tax relief on investments within the sector.

‘More powerful vacuum cleaners could rid Lords of mice'

20:08 , Lamiat Sabin

Fewer mice would be running around the House of Lords if post-Brexit UK law allowed for more powerful vacuum cleaners to clean the carpets properly, according to a minister.

Cabinet Office minister Lord True joked the mouse infestation could be eradicated by scrapping EU regulations on the appliances.

Lord True, responding to questions from Liberal Democrat peer Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said: “Perhaps, my Lords, if we had more powerful vacuum cleaners in this place we wouldn’t have mice running around the place gorging themselves on all the bits and pieces of crumbs that are left.”

The Houses of Parliament are infested with mice (PA Archive)
The Houses of Parliament are infested with mice (PA Archive)

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Cabinet Office minister responsible for Brexit opportunities, has launched a dashboard to show how many changes have been made to the 2,400 pieces of EU legislation retained following Brexit.

Announcing the initiative to MPs, Mr Rees-Mogg said it highlights “unnecessary and disproportionate” EU regulations on consumer goods, including those “regulating the power of vacuum cleaners”.

Watch: PM could call early general election, Cable says

19:30 , Lamiat Sabin

Sir Vince Cable has predicted that Boris Johnson will take the “high risk” move of calling an early general election.

The former leader of the Lib Dems said the prime minister is a “gambler” mindset and could call an election for the autumn to “to avoid an even worse situation” for his government.

Sir Vince said a number of factors are working against the Conservative government, such as the “dreadful” economic outlook getting “worse and worse”.

European MPs say Rwanda plan ‘unethical’ and ‘racist’

19:00 , Lamiat Sabin

Parliamentarians from across Europe have denounced Boris Johnson’s plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda as “unethical” and “racist”.

The comments were made in a debate at the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe.

The delegates expressed their concern over the Conservative-led government’s apparent willingness to breach international law, and to pass a British Bill of Rights which would allow UK judges to override European Court of Human Rights rulings.

Read the full story here by Andrew Woodcock and Ashley Cowburn

Parliamentarians from across Europe hit out at Boris Johnson’s Rwanda plan

‘Labour can get better Protocol deal from EU’ – Lammy

18:30 , PA

Labour’s experience negotiating the Good Friday Agreement means it will be able to secure a better solution to the Northern Ireland Protocol row, David Lammy has said.

The shadow foreign secretary told an event hosted by the UK In A Changing Europe think tank on Wednesday that a Labour government would be better received in Brussels.

Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy (Aaron Chown/PA)
Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy (Aaron Chown/PA)

He said: “The EU must be less rigid. But I’ve been told frankly by EU partners that if there was a partner they could trust they could show more flexibility.

“Instead they have Boris Johnson who lies, breaks the law, and never keeps his promises.

“With a change of Prime Minister and a change of government, the UK could build a stable and mutually beneficial relationship with the EU over the long term.”

Speaking on the sixth anniversary of the Brexit referendum, Mr Lammy reiterated Labour’s position that it would not seek to rejoin the EU or re-enter the Customs Union or the Single Market.

But, he said, the party would look to secure “practical solutions to reduce any checks to their absolute minimum” by pursuing an agreement on food and agricultural standards, sharing trade data and using a “risk based approach” for goods entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain.

Reporting by PA

PM criticises critics of Rwanda plan as ‘condescending'

18:01 , Lamiat Sabin

Boris Johnson said critics of the Home Office’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda are “condescending”.

The Prime Minister, speaking from the Rwandan capital Kigali, said he was prepared to stress the “obvious merits” of the asylum policy to the Prince of Wales when they hold talks soon.

Prince Charles had reportedly called the Rwanda plan “appalling” in remarks he made privately.

Prince Charles and Boris Johnson at the opening of a police memorial last year (AP)
Prince Charles and Boris Johnson at the opening of a police memorial last year (AP)

But No 10 later said that it was unlikely that Mr Johnson would bring up the subject with the royal when they meet at the centre for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) leaders summit in Kigali.

It will follow Mr Johnson’s talks with Rwandan president Paul Kagame, during which he failed to bring up human rights concerns about his regime.

The government in Kigali said they had already received payments under the £120 million economic and migration deal signed with the UK’s Home Office two months ago, and have already spent some of the money.

Starmer to miss Big Meeting at Durham Miners’ Gala

17:32 , Lamiat Sabin

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is set to miss a trip next month to the Durham Miners’ Gala – which is a key event in the socialist calendar.

The traditional trade union-backed event, known as the Big Meeting, attracts some 200,000 people to the historic city centre, where crowds watch processions of brass bands and banners.

The gala was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid, and its return is dedicated to the key workers who kept society going during the pandemic – a decision organisers announced last year.

Bands and banners in the traditional Durham Miners’ Gala (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Bands and banners in the traditional Durham Miners’ Gala (Owen Humphreys/PA)

Sir Keir, who faces the so-called “beergate” police inquiry over his trip to Durham in April 2021, is not listed among the speakers at the gala.

A decision over whether he should be given a fixed penalty notice for drinking a bottle of beer at the offices of Mary Foy MP is due in the coming weeks.

Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband both attended the Durham Miners’ Gala when they were party leaders, watching the processions from a hotel balcony before speaking to large crowds gathered on the Racecourse Ground.

Before Mr Miliband went to the Gala in 2012, the last Labour leader to attend was Neil Kinnock in the 1980s.

It has previously been described as the largest remaining working-class demonstration in the country.

Collapse in Tory support threatens ‘Conservative Celtic Fringe’ in South-West, poll finds

17:10 , Eleanor Sly

A collapse in Conservative support across the South-West of England could see the party lose 11 seats in a general election – and come within a hair’s breadth of losing the constituency of Jacob Rees-Mogg.

YouGov found that Tory vote share in the seats which they dubbed the “Conservative Celtic Fringe” has dropped a remarkable 19 points since the 2019 general election, leaving Boris Johnson’s party on 38 per cent in the region.

The figures were released on the day of a by-election in the Devon seat of Tiverton & Honiton, where Liberal Democrats are hopeful of overturning a massive Conservative majority in an area which has been “true blue” since 1923.

Andrew Woodcock reports:

Collapse in Tory support threatens ‘Celtic Fringe’ in South-West, poll finds

ICYMI: How much longer can Boris Johnson ignore the Brexit-shaped elephant in the room?

16:40 , Matt Mathers

The latest study from the Resolution Foundation over wages looks to the future –but it is clear the prime minister’s high-wage, high-skilled economy has so far failed to materialise, writes Ben Chapman

Read Ben’s full piece below:

Analysis: How much longer can Johnson ignore the Brexit-shaped elephant in the room?

Windfall tax could damage investment in North Sea

16:07 , Eleanor Sly

The windfall tax may damage investment in the North Sea, chancellor Rishi Sunak has been told.

The chancellor unveiled the measure in May to put a 25 per cent surcharge on profits of oil and gas giants.

Energy firms have warned it could be detrimental to the sector despite hopes that the policy will raise as much as £5 billion.

During a meeting in Aberdeen on Thursday, Offshore Energy UK chief executive Deirdre Michie said that she had pressed Mr Sunak on the issue.

“The energy profits levy is an unexpected new tax that changes the basis for investments,” she said.

“We had a candid and constructive meeting with the chancellor to discuss these issues and our industry leaders were clear about their concerns, especially the impact on investor confidence. Both sides have committed to further discussions.

“We will work constructively with the UK government and do our best to mitigate the damage this tax will cause, but if energy companies reduce investment in UK waters, then they will produce less oil and gas.

“That means they will eventually be paying less taxes and have less money to invest in low carbon energy.”

ICYMI: The Tories are at risk of losing more than both by-elections

15:40 , Matt Mathers

For the Conservative Party to lose one by-election would be unfortunate – to lose two would be a sign it is at risk of foregoing its electoral footing, writes Professor John Curtice.

Read his full analysis here:

The Tories are at risk of losing more than both by-elections | John Curtice

Collapse in Tory support threatens ‘Conservative Celtic Fringe’ in South-West, poll finds

15:22 , Matt Mathers

A collapse in Conservative support across the South-West of England could see the party lose 11 seats in a general election – and come within a hair’s breadth of losing the constituency of Jacob Rees-Mogg.

YouGov found that Tory vote share in the seats which they dubbed the “Conservative Celtic Fringe” has dropped a remarkable 19 points since the 2019 general election, leaving Boris Johnson’s party on 38 per cent in the region.

Our politics editor Andrew Woodcock reports:

Collapse in Tory support threatens ‘Celtic Fringe’ in South-West, poll finds

Shocking to see genocide memorials in Rwanda

15:08 , Matt Mathers

Boris Johnson found it "utterly shocking" to witness the images and physical memorials of the genocide in Rwanda as he was led around a museum by survivors.

The prime minister bowed his head during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where the remains of an estimated 250,000 people are interred.

Mr Johnson wrote a lengthy message in the visitors book before pausing at the flame of remembrance marking 28 years since the 100 days that saw Hutu extremists claim the lives of around 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus.

"It has been utterly shocking to see these images, and so many physical memorials, of the appalling and inexplicable genocide against the Tutsis," it read.

"We must do everything we can to ensure that human hearts never again are allowed to breed such hatred."

Rail workers to ‘pause’ and ‘consider’ state of play next week

14:39 , Matt Mathers

Rail workers will "pause" and “consider” their position next week following three days of walkouts, a union boss has said.

Mick Lynch, secretary general of the RMT, spoke to Sky News earlier.

Watch some of his interview below:

Momentum to keep list of Labour MPs who fail to back rail strike

14:21 , Matt Mathers

Left-wingers in the Labour Party are upping the ante on the party’s MPs to support this week’s rail strike, after Keir Starmer banned frontbenchers from picket lines.

Our policy correspondent Jon Stone reports:

Momentum to keep list of Labour MPs who fail to back rail strike

Johnson too busy to visit Rwanda asylum seeker accommodation

14:05 , Matt Mathers

Boris Johnson is too busy to visit some of the accommodation sites in Rwanda earmarked for hosting asylum seekers deported from the UK, Downing Street has suggested.

Mr Johnson is in the African country for the first time since becoming prime minister.

But a No 10 spokesman suggested it would not be a good use of the PM's time to visit the hotels, which are being paid for by UK taxpayers.

Johnson poses as he attends the Commonwealth Business Forum Exhibition in Kigali, Rwanda June 23, 2022 (REUTERS)
Johnson poses as he attends the Commonwealth Business Forum Exhibition in Kigali, Rwanda June 23, 2022 (REUTERS)

The spokesman said: "You will know that the prime minister's time is always limited and to make time to do that he would therefore have to leave elements of the programme whereby he's working with a unique set of world leaders on quite crucial issues.

"We think that the best use of his time for this short period he's in Rwanda is to dedicate himself to some of the issues that will be raised at the summit and to work with other world leaders on some of those issues we've talked about, not least Ukraine and global security."

Stop using wet wipes and don’t flush them down the loo, minister urges public

15:26 , Matt Mathers

A minister has called on people to avoid using wet wipes amid pressure to ban those containing plastic.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow asked that if members of the public do need to use wet wipes, they do not flush them down the toilet.

Labour MP Fleur Anderson has said a ban on wet wipes containing plastic is "very achievable" and has tabled legislation to bring it about.

But the Putney MP's Plastics (Wet Wipes) Bill is unlikely to become law without Government support.

Speaking during a session of questions on the environment, food and rural affairs in the Commons, Ms Anderson told MPs: "Billions of wet wipes containing plastic are still being used across the country, causing environmental damage, blocking our sewers."

She asked the minister to meet her to discuss a potential ban on those containing plastic following the end of a Government consultation on commonly littered single-use plastic items, which included wet wipes, in February.

Ms Pow responded: "Obviously we got a huge response to this call for evidence.

"We are working our way through the details and, of course, we have to make sure that, if a ban is brought in, it doesn't have knock-on effects that will cause similar problems because, even though other wet wipes might be deemed suitable to flush, they still get stuck in sewers, so we have to be mindful of all of that.

"What I would say to everybody is if you don't need to use a wet wipe don't, but also don't chuck them down the loo."

By-elections: When will the results from Wakefield and Tiverton & Honiton be announced?

13:48 , Matt Mathers

As we’ve been reporting, voters are heading to the polls in two crucial by-elections in Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton.

Boris Johnson is likely to come under pressure if the Tories lose both seats, while Keir Starmer will face tough questions if his party fails to get a victory in the ‘red wall’ seat of Wakefield in Yorkshire.

My colleague Joe Sommerlad looks at what time to expect the results from both:

When will the results from Thursday’s by-elections be announced?

Johnson says he will point out ‘obvious merits’ of Rwanda scheme to Prince Charles

13:15 , Andy Gregory

Boris Johnson said he will stress the “obvious merits” of his Rwanda asylum policy to Prince Charles when they hold talks in Kigali, after they royal was reported to have called the stalled scheme “appalling”.

The prime minister struck out at “condescending” opponents of plans to forcibly remove migrants to the East African nation, as he prepared to defend the faltering policy on Friday when Charles hosts him for talks over cups of tea in the Rwandan capital, where they are attending a Commonwealth summit.

During an interview with broadcasters at a school in Kigali, Mr Johnson said: “People need to keep an open mind about the policy, the critics need to keep an open mind about the policy. A lot of people can see its obvious merits. So yeah, of course, if I am seeing the prince tomorrow, I am going to be making that point.”

No 10 non-committal over Lord Frost Brexit claims

13:14 , Andy Gregory

Downing Street has given a non-committal response when asked if the true economic impact of Brexit will ever be known.

Asked if former Brexit minister Lord Frost was right to say the consequences may never be clear, a No 10 spokesman pointed to trade deals struck with countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

“Again, we’ve seen recently global pressures on things like energy prices and others that have caused instability in financial markets and in other sectors as well, and it’s had an impact on economies across the world,” he added.

“But as I say we’re committed to making sure that we realise all the benefits of Brexit as the prime minister said, and as Jacob Rees-Mogg set out in the House yesterday.”

Pressed on whether the extent of any benefits may never be know, economically speaking, he said: “As I say, we will see the benefits as we continue to reach more trade deals with countries across the globe and similarly the ability to control things like import tariffs and other economic levers that we now have full control over.”

Boris Johnson ‘wrongly claims weather hotter in London than Kigali'

13:01 , Andy Gregory

As Lord Frost gave a sceptical assessment of the ability of forecasters and analysts to properly assess the economic impact of Brexit, Boris Johnson appears to have opened his speech in Rwanda with a questionable forecast of a different kind.

MP ‘reassured’ by report clearing her of sexual harassing SNP staffer

12:39 , Andy Gregory

Scottish MP Patricia Gibson has said she has been “reassured” by a report (see post at 11:47am) clearing her of sexually harassing a member of SNP staff in a bar in parliament.

“I am grateful to the Independent Expert Panel for its work and comprehensive assessment of this case. I am reassured that the Independent Expert Panel has exonerated me, and has found that I am not guilty and that the investigation into this case was materially flawed,” she said in a statement.

“I have always maintained my innocence. It has been a very difficult 16 months during which my reputation has been wrongly and repeatedly traduced in the press and on social media, which has also jeopardised my personal safety with threats, abuse and harassment.

“I have found this period extremely traumatic but I am pleased that my reputation has been restored and now wish to draw a line under this matter and look to the future.”

Johnson and Kagame ‘praise’ stalled Rwanda asylum policy as ‘success’, No 10 claims

12:22 , Andy Gregory

Boris Johnson and Rwandan president Paul Kagame have together hailed the government’s stalled asylum policy as “successful”, according to Downing Street.

After their meeting in Kigali, a No 10 spokesman said: “The leaders also praised the successful UK-Rwanda migration and economic development partnership, which is tackling dangerous smuggling gangs while offering people a chance to build a new life in a safe country.”

The pair shake hands during a bilateral meeting in Kigali (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
The pair shake hands during a bilateral meeting in Kigali (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

It would be ‘crazy’ for me to resign over by-election defeats, PM says

12:10 , Matt Mathers

Boris Johnson has suggested it would be "crazy" for him to resign if the Conservatives are dealt a double blow by losing two key by-elections this week.

The prime minister played down the Tories' chances as they seek to defend the seats of Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton in two scandal-triggered votes on Thursday.

"Are you crazy?" he told reporters travelling with him to Kigali when prospects of his departure was raised.

Mr Johnson added: "Come on, it was only a year ago that we won the Hartlepool by-election, that everybody thought was... you know, we hadn't won Hartlepool for, I can't remember when the Tory party last won Hartlepool - a long time. I don't think it ever had.

"Governing parties generally do not win by-elections particularly not in mid-term. You know, I'm very hopeful, but you know, there you go. That's just the reality."

SNP MP cleared of sexual harassment

11:47 , Matt Mathers

Scottish MP Patricia Gibson has been cleared of sexually harassing a member of SNP staff in a bar in parliament.

Ms Gibson, MP for North Ayrshire and Arran and SNP spokesperson for housing and communities, had appealed against a ruling by the parliamentary standards commissioner that her behaviour in parliament's Strangers Bar had amounted to sexual misconduct.

An independent appeals panel found the investigation into the allegations against Ms Gibson had been "materially flawed", but did not find that the complaint had been vexatious or made in bad faith.

Frost on Johnson: I wish he would stop saying things that are ‘factually incorrect

11:28 , Matt Mathers

Lord Frost has said he wished the prime minister would stop saying things that were "factually incorrect", but it was for Conservative MPs to decide his fate.

Asked about Boris Johnson's claims that there were more people in work now than before the pandemic, which has been criticised by the Office for National Statistics, the former Brexit minister said: "I wish he would not say things like that which are obviously not true, making factually incorrect statements.

"But in the end it's for the prime minister's own party and MPs to decide is that how they want to do things or is it not."

Lord Frost also denied that Brexit had caused a breakdown in trust in British politics.

Impossible to know if Brexit was bad for economy, Frost says

10:51 , Matt Mathers

We might never get evidence to show “one way or the other” if Brexit has been bad for the economy, Lord David Forst has claimed.

The former Brexit minister said it would probably never be clear whether leaving the EU had succeeded or failed on economic grounds because there was too much else going on.

Speaking at an event hosted by a Changing Europe, he said: “One piece of evidence of failure would be if we are still debating this in five or six years’ time in the same way.”

“If it’s to succeed it needs to settle in the British polity and there needs to be broad consensus that this is how we are going forward. I don’t think we’re quite there at the moment.”

He added: “I am not sure we will ever get economic evidence one way or the other that is going to prove this. The tests are broader, the tests are about democracy as well as economics.”

US raises concerns about protocol bill at 'multiple levels'

10:33 , Matt Mathers

The US has raised concerns at "multiple levels" with the UK over its plan to override parts of Brexit's Northern Ireland protocol, it has been reported.

A senior Biden administration official told The Irish Times that its overarching view was that any changes to the protocol “must be the product of a negotiated agreement with Brussels that are adopted into UK law”.

London recently published draft legislation to scrap the post-Brexit trading arrangements, which critics say would break international law.

Julian Assange strip searched and moved to bare cell on day extradition announced, wife says

10:18 , Matt Mathers

Julian Assange was strip searched and moved to a bare cell on the day his extradition was announced, his wife has said.

Stella Assange said the WikiLeaks founder was told he was being moved to a bare cell “for his own protection”.

Full report:

Julian Assange strip searched on day extradition announced, says wife

‘What an exciting time to be here in Rwanda'

09:45 , Matt Mathers

Boris Johnson has been exchanging pleasantries with Rwanda president Paul Kagame.

As we reported earlier, the prime minister is attending a Commonwealth leaders’ summit in Kigali.

Mr Johnson arrived at Mr Kagame's Office by car then walked up red-carpeted stairs to meet the Rwandan leader.

At the top, the two men met with a relaxed handshake.

Boris Johnson (L) and his wife Carrie Johnson get off a plane before travelling to president’s office (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson (L) and his wife Carrie Johnson get off a plane before travelling to president’s office (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

They then went next door to the president's meeting room where they sat in white armchairs in front of a Union flag and a Rwandan flag.

Mr Johnson said: "How are you? Very good to see you. What an exciting time to be here in Rwanda. Congratulations on taking over as chair of office. This will be absolutely superb."

Mr Kagame said: "It is a pleasure. Thank you."

The media was then asked to leave the room.

Truss - Putin is weaponising hunger

09:06 , Matt Mathers

Vladimir Putin is “weaponising hunger”, the foreign secretary said as the criticised Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain.

Liz Truss was speaking at a press conference alongside her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara.

She said the UK and Turkey are working "closely together", in particular to get the "grain out of Ukraine".

"(Vladimir) Putin is weaponising hunger. He is using food security as a callous tool of war. He has blocked Ukrainian ports, and is stopping 20 million tonnes of grain being exported across the globe, holding the world to ransom," she said.

"I'm here in Turkey to discuss the plan to get the grain out, supported by the United Nations. We're clear that commercial vessels need to have safe passage to be able to leave Ukrainian ports, and that Ukrainian ports should be protected from Russian attacks.

"We support the UN talks, but Russia cannot be allowed to delay and prevaricate. It's urgent that action is taken within the next month ahead of the new harvest. And we're determined to work with our allies to deliver this."

Our politics correspondent Ashley Cowburn has the full report:

Liz Truss accuses Vladimir Putin of ‘weaponising hunger’ over Ukraine grain crisis

Rwanda prepared to take ‘thousands’ of asylum seekers

08:50 , Matt Mathers

Rwanda is “prepared to take in thousands” of asylum seekers deported from the UK, a Kigali government spokeswoman has said.

Yolande Makolo made the comments last night on ITV’s Peston show.

Asked how much per asylum seeker the UK government is going to pay Rwanda, she added: “These figures are still being worked out”.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has within the past few hours touched down in Kigali, which he is visiting for a Commonwealth leaders summit alongside Prince Charles.

Martin Lewis says he was rejected from House of Lords because he was ‘honest’ in interview

08:22 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Consumer expert Martin Lewis has revealed he was turned down after applying to become a member of the House of Lords.

Mr Lewis, founder and chair of MoneySavingExpert.com, said that he believes his bid for a cross-bench peerage was rejected because he was “honest” about the limited time he could commit to the role.

In an interview with the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, Mr Lewis expressed his desire for “more consensual, co-operative politics”.

Mr Lewis has become increasingly vocal in recent months on behalf of consumers and financially stretched households, amid surging inflation and a cost-of-living crisis, writes Dominic McGrath.

Martin Lewis says House of Lords rejected peerage bid

Government borrowing hit record in May as inflation soars

08:07 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Government borrowing stood at a higher-than-expected £14 billion last month as soaring inflation sent interest on the debt racing to a May record, according to official figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said government borrowing was £4 billion less than in May last year, but was still the third-highest May borrowing since monthly records began in 1993 and £8.5 billion more than in May 2019, before the pandemic struck.

The data revealed that surging levels of inflation sent interest payments on government debt to a record-breaking £7.6 billion - £3.1 billion higher than a year earlier.

The ONS said the jump in UK debt interest payments is down to the recent surge in the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure of inflation, which determines payouts on index-linked gilts.

So far this financial year, debt interest payments have totalled £14.1 billion, up £4.7 billion year-on-year, the ONS said.

June figures are expected to show the worst of the impact of inflation on government debt interest payments, with the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasting £19.7 billion - the biggest on record by far.

Six Brexit problems six years after the EU referendum

07:51 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

It is six years after the 2016 EU referendum, and Brexit has been delivered. But all is not necessary well.

Polling conducted by Savanta ComRes in October found that just 36 per cent think the project has been a success, with 52 per cent considering it a failure, Jon Stone writes.

Here are six of the biggest enduring problems Brexit has caused to mark six years since the big vote.

Six Brexit problems six years after the EU referendum

Voting opens in by-elections

07:28 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Voting has opened in Tiverton, Honiton and Wakefield for the crucial by-elections which could see Conservative uprooted from the towns.

The competition in Tiverton and Honiton is “neck and neck”, according to the Liberal Democrats, who are aiming for a major political upset in the Devon seat.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer is hoping to reclaim Wakefield for Labour after it fell to the Tories in 2019 for the first time since 1932.

Brexit has left ‘enduring scars’ on EU nationals living in UK, research finds

07:17 , Maryam Zakir-Hussain

Six years on from the EU referendum, Brexit has left “enduring scars” on European nationals living in the UK, according to a new study.

Two-thirds of UK-resident EU and EEA citizens taking part in the survey said Brexit had “significantly – and mostly negatively – affected their feelings about Britain”, said researchers from the University of Birmingham and Lancaster University.

And many of the 364 people questioned said that Brexit had prompted them to reconsider their future in the UK and undermined their trust in British institutions and politicians.

Our political editor Andrew Woodcock reports:

Brexit has left ‘enduring scars’ on EU nationals living in UK, research finds

Labour MP signed off sick after ‘sustained campaign of misogynistic abuse’

06:24 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A Labour MP is taking time away from work after suffering from “a sustained campaign of misogynistic harassment and abuse”.

Apsana Begum, MP for Poplar and Limehouse, posted a statement on Twitter on Wednesday night that said she attended hospital on 12 June and was subsequently signed off work by her GP.

She said: “For the duration of my time as a Member of Parliament, I have been subjected to a sustained campaign of misogynistic abuse and harassment.

“As a survivor of domestic abuse, it has been particularly painful and difficult. This abusive campaign has had a significant effect on my mental and physical health.”

Ms Begum, who was part of the 2019 intake of MPs, added that her staff and office will still be open to help people in her east London constituency while she is off sick.

Joe Middleton has more.

Labour MP signed off sick after ‘sustained campaign of misogynistic abuse’

Suspended Tory MP faces fresh investigation into ‘paid advocacy’

06:10 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

David Warburton, who was suspended by the Conservatives over allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use is facing a fresh Commons inquiry.

Mr Warburton was disciplined by his party and is already being investigated by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), it is understood.

Now the MP for Somerton and Frome is also the subject of a probe by the parliamentary standards commissioner into whether he broke the MPs’ code of conduct on three counts.

They are “paid advocacy”, failure to declare an interest, and over rules concerning the declaration of “gifts, benefits and hospitality”.

Rob Merrick has more.

Suspended Tory MP faces fresh investigation into ‘paid advocacy’

Labour’s next leader should be a woman, says Harman

05:41 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Harriet Harman has said that it was “downright embarrassing” that the Labour party had never had a woman at its helm and that the next leader should be a woman.

“As and when we do in the far-distant future have a leadership election, it has got to be a woman the next time around, because it’s just downright embarrassing that the Conservatives have had two and we haven’t even had a woman leader in opposition, let alone a woman prime minister,” she told GB News.

Ms Harman added: “I think it’s partly because women in the Labour party are more subversive than the women in the Conservative party. The women in the Conservative party tend to work with men without challenging them in quite the way we do.”

Voices | Boris Johnson floundered as Keir Starmer won the rhetorical battle

05:35 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

We took our places for Leader of the Opposition’s Questions, expecting Boris Johnson to ask Keir Starmer six times to condemn the rail strikes.

But because everyone expected the prime minister to do it, he was robbed of the element of surprise.

That advantage lay with Starmer instead, who started by praising the “plucky” Conservative candidate in the Wakefield by-election.

The Labour leader had no solutions, but he looked in charge at this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions, writes John Rentoul.

Boris Johnson floundered at PMQs as Starmer won the rhetorical battle | John Rentoul

Tory MP calls striking rail workers ‘Putin’s friends’

04:56 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood has called striking rail workers Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “friends”.

He made the remarks as the nation prepares for two more days of industrial action by RMT members on Thursday and Saturday.

“The one government in Europe that is actually standing up to [Vladimir] Putin is completely distracted in this way,” Mr Ellwood said.

“I say to the unions, please don’t be Putin’s friend. Return to the talks today so we can get the country moving again.”

Bypoll in Tory stronghold of Tiverton and Honiton ‘neck and neck’

04:41 , Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

A crucial by-election in the Conservative stronghold of Tiverton and Honiton is “neck and neck”, according to the Liberal Democrats, who are aiming for a major political upset in the Devon seat.

As voters prepare to head to the polls on Thursday in two by-elections, Sir Ed Davey suggested his party “could be on the verge of a historic victory” in the southwest constituency overturning a 24,000 Tory majority.

The second ballot will be held in Wakefield, which is a “red wall” seat Sir Keir Starmer is hoping to seize back for Labour after it fell to the Tories at the 2019 election for the first time since the constituency was created in 1932.

Conservative MPs told The Independent that a double by-election defeat on Thursday would be a “disaster” for the embattled Boris Johnson, who narrowly survived a vote of no confidence a fortnight ago.

Ashley Cowburn and Rob Merrick report.

By-election in Tory stronghold ‘neck and neck’, as voters prepare to head to polls

RMT accuses Grant Shapps of ‘wrecking’ negotiations

Wednesday 22 June 2022 21:30 , Andy Gregory

Millions of rail passengers across Britain face fresh disruption on Thursday after the RMT union accused the government of “wrecking” negotiations, my colleague Tom Batchelor reports.

Rail services are being severely disrupted this week after around 40,000 members of the union, working for Network Rail and 13 train operators, voted to stage walkouts in a row over jobs, pay and conditions.

Talks were held on Wednesday between the union and industry bosses in a bid to break the deadlock, but they ended without agreement.

Mick Lynch, the RMT general secretary, said: “Grant Shapps has wrecked these negotiations by not allowing Network Rail to withdraw their letter threatening redundancy for 2,900 of our members.

“Until the government unshackle Network Rail and the train operating companies, it is not going to be possible for a negotiated settlement to be agreed.”

He added: “We will continue with our industrial campaign until we get a negotiated settlement that delivers job security and a pay rise for our members that deals with the escalating cost of living crisis.”

Next rail strike will go ahead as union accuses Tory of ‘wrecking’ negotiations

Boris Johnson to hold talks with Charles in Rwanda

Wednesday 22 June 2022 21:08 , Andy Gregory

Boris Johnson and the Prince of Wales will meet for talks over tea in Rwanda after the heir to the throne’s reported criticism of his government’s policy of sending asylum seekers to the country on a one-way ticket.

The prime minister will join Charles tomorrow in the country’s capital Kigali, where they are attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

It was understood that Mr Johnson will visit Charles for a cup of tea on Friday morning, but that the Prime Minister is not eager to raise the asylum policy.

“They are due to meet, obviously they will encounter each other during the summit but they are due to have a bilateral discussion as well,” Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said.

MPs set up new body to explore reforms to help rebuild parliament’s reputation

Wednesday 22 June 2022 20:27 , PA

Attempts to rebuild the reputation of the House of Commons have received a boost after MPs agreed to establish a new body to examine reforms.

The Speaker’s conference will take the form of a committee which will have the power to ask for witnesses, papers and records.

It will also make recommendations upon the contractual arrangements for staff of MPs and will produce its first report before the end of October.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle pushed for MPs to come together to discuss changes following a series of scandals, capped by then Tory MP Neil Parish admitting he twice watched pornography in the Commons.

Exclusive: New asylum seekers still being locked up for removal to Rwanda

Wednesday 22 June 2022 20:06 , Andy Gregory

New asylum seekers are being locked up in order to be deported to Rwanda even after court challenges raised questions about whether the controversial removal flights would ever be able to begin.

Campaigners accused ministers of being “untethered from any sense of morality or legality” after it emerged that people seeking refuge in Britain have been placed in detention centres following the grounding of last week’s planned flight.

The Rwanda policy will be subject to a judicial review hearing on 18 July, where a High Court judge will assess whether it is lawful.

Our social affairs correspondent May Bulman has the full exclusive report here:

New asylum seekers still being locked up for removal to Rwanda

‘Jury’s out’ on Raab’s new Bill of Rights Bill, senior Tory says

Wednesday 22 June 2022 19:48 , Andy Gregory

Asked if he would vote for the legislation on a British Bill of Rights introduced by Dominic Raab, the chairman of the Justice Select Committee said “the jury’s out”.

Conservative MP Sir Bob Neill told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme: “I want to read the thing properly.

“As I say, there is good in it, but I do have areas of concern and I certainly take the view that we have to be very careful about undermining the basic principles, which the Government says it doesn’t want to.

“So the devil is going to be in the detail on this one and that applies in a number of areas.

“So at the moment, the jury’s out”.

NHS workers deserve ‘fair’ pay, Sajid Javid says

Wednesday 22 June 2022 19:30 , Andy Gregory

NHS workers deserve “fair” pay in the face of soaring prices, Sajid Javid has said.

“Of course, part of showing the value we attach to whether it’s nurses or other health workers is, of course it is pay and so along with the thanks we’ve got to make sure that we are fair in pay,” the health secretary told BBC Radio 4.

“And that is why for example last year, whilst there was a freeze on all public sector pay, there was no freeze on NHS pay; it went up by 3 per cent despite the challenges at the time.

“Now this year’s pay rise, I can’t tell you right now what it’s going to be but what I can tell you is that we will listen carefully to the independent pay review body, which by the way, rightly also, as well as inflation, takes into account retention and many other sensible factors.

“And it will report back to me as secretary of state, we will take that into account and we will respond.”

Ian Blackford should ‘get some proper HR advice’, SNP MP says

Wednesday 22 June 2022 19:13 , Andy Gregory

Ian Blackford should “get some proper HR advice” to understand what went wrong in the handling of a complaint against Glasgow North MP Patrick Grady, one of his SNP colleagues has said.

Mr Grady was suspended from the Commons for two days and the SNP for a week after an independent investigation found he had acted inappropriately towards a member of party staff in 2016. He apologised in the Commons over the incident.

But a recording that surfaced on Friday of an SNP group meeting drew criticism for Mr Blackford, who could be heard saying Mr Grady deserved the group’s support upon his return, despite the complainer saying his life had been made a “living hell” and he had not been supported through the process.

The man who complained, who still works for the party, said he was considering legal action against the SNP.

In a response to the leaked recording, the SNP’s Westminster leader said he “deeply regrets that a member of staff was subject to inappropriate behaviour”, adding that he was initiating an external review of “support available to staff, to sit alongside the independent advice service and independent complaints process”.

Joanna Cherry, SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, today called for Mr Blackford to ensure he took “proper HR advice” on Thursday, and repeated claims that the party had issues in dealing with complaints.

Rees-Mogg triggers alarm with Brexit plan for sparkling wine in plastic bottles

Wednesday 22 June 2022 18:52 , Andy Gregory

The UK drinks industry has responded with alarm to a proposal from Jacob Rees-Mogg that post-Brexit deregulation could include allowing sparkling wine to be sold in plastic bottles, our political editor Andrew Woodcock reports.

The Brexit opportunities minister identified a rule requiring fizz to be sold in glass bottles as one of the Brussels regulations which could be expunged from UK law following EU withdrawal.

But the Wine and Spirits Trade Association warned that any change must not jettison health and safety requirements, with the high pressure created by bubbles during fermentation making plastic an improbable and expensive choice of container.

“The WSTA – and the world-leading UK wine industry – are very keen to make the most of any post-Brexit opportunities to help the industry recover and grow. This includes removing unnecessary and costly red tape,” chief executive Miles Beale told The Independent. “But not at the expense of basic health and safety.”

Rees-Mogg triggers alarm with Brexit plan for sparkling wine in plastic bottles

Consultation launched on bill to pardon thousands convicted of witchcraft

Wednesday 22 June 2022 18:34 , PA

Thousands of Scots convicted of witchcraft could be legally pardoned after almost 300 years as an MSP launched a consultation on a new bill.

Natalie Don, the SNP MSP for Renfrewshire North and West, has launched consultation on a Member’s Bill to “right the historic wrong of witchcraft convictions” and give legal pardons to those convicted.

It follows a posthumous apology from Nicola Sturgeon on International Women’s Day, in March, to those convicted, vilified or executed under the Witchcraft 1563 Act.

Estimates suggest around 4,000 Scots were accused of the crime, which was in law until 1736, with around 85% of those convicted being women. Campaigners have been trying to secure a legal pardon for around 200 years for the approximately 2,500 people who were convicted of breaking the law.

While the convictions occurred centuries ago, it is hoped the pardons would send a message to other countries who still criminalise those accused of witchcraft that the punishment is “deplorable”.

Boris Johnson and Prince Charles head to Rwanda for Commonwealth summit

Wednesday 22 June 2022 18:17 , Andy Gregory

Our political correspondent Adam Forrest reports:

Boris Johnson and Prince Charles are preparing for talks with Commonwealth leaders on trade, climate change and the future of the association at a crucial summit in Rwanda this week.

The prime minister is set to make the economic case for remaining part of the 54-member club, as leading Republican figures in both Australia and Jamaica discuss cutting ties with the monarchy.

The Prince of Wales will represent the Queen, head of the group made up of mostly former territories of the British Empire, when prime ministers and presidents gather for the first time since 2018.

But the visit of the prince and the PM has been overshadowed by a recent report in The Times which claims Charles branded Mr Johnson’s policy to send asylum seekers to Rwanda as “appalling”.

The newspaper said a source had heard Charles express opposition to the policy several times in private, and that he was “more than disappointed” by the deportation plan.

Boris Johnson and Prince Charles head to Rwanda for Commonwealth summit

Rees-Mogg plays down suggestion EU reforms could lead to fresh Brexit protocol headaches

Wednesday 22 June 2022 18:02 , Andy Gregory

Jacob Rees-Mogg has played down any suggestion that plans to reform retained EU law could lead to further clashes over the post-Brexit trading arrangements for Northern Ireland.

“It is very important the benefits of divergence feed through to Northern Ireland. It can’t just be left out in the cold. So this will fit in with the reforms of the protocol,” the Brexit opportunities minister said.

However, he stressed that the efforts to catalogue and target longstanding EU law were not “driving” unilateral UK efforts to make changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has provoked a major row with the EU.

Suspended Tory MP David Warburton faces fresh investigation into ‘paid advocacy’

Wednesday 22 June 2022 17:44 , Andy Gregory

An MP suspended by the Conservatives over allegations of sexual harassment and cocaine use is facing a fresh Commons inquiry, our deputy political editor Rob Merrick reports.

David Warburton was disciplined by his party and is already being investigated by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme (ICGS), it is understood.

Now the MP for Somerton and Frome is also the subject of a probe the parliamentary standards commissioner into whether he broke the MPs’ code of conduct on three counts.

They are “paid advocacy”, failure to declare an interest, and over rules concerning the declaration of “gifts, benefits and hospitality”.

Suspended Tory MP faces fresh investigation into ‘paid advocacy’

Rees-Mogg hits out at ‘hopeless’ government department over EU law reforms

Wednesday 22 June 2022 17:30 , Andy Gregory

Jacob Rees-Mogg has declined to specify a target for how much EU law currently on UK statute books he would like to remove or reform, after unveiling his dashboard in the Commons earlier showing on a quarterly basis how much retained European law has been reformed.

Speaking to reporters in Westminster, Mr Rees-Mogg hit out at one department that reported only 2 per cent of retained EU law it would like to reform, calling such a suggestion “hopeless”.

“We want to really try to make sure that every single one is looked at,” Mr Rees-Mogg said. “Do I have a particular target percentage? No. But it needs to be a thorough exercise.”

He also defended any suggestion that the government had delayed in tackling EU regulations, saying: “We only formally left two years ago, at which point Covid rather interfered. This is 50 years of accretions to the legal system of the UK.”

PMQs verdict: Boris Johnson floundered as Keir Starmer won the rhetorical battle

Wednesday 22 June 2022 17:16 , Andy Gregory

Giving his verdict on this week’s PMQs, The Independent’s chief political commentator John Rentoul argues that, because everyone expected Boris Johnson to ask Keir Starmer six times to condemn the rail strikes, the PM “was robbed of the element of surprise”.

“That advantage lay with Starmer instead...” he writes. You can read his analysis in full with Independent Premium:

Boris Johnson floundered at PMQs as Starmer won the rhetorical battle | John Rentoul

Raab says leaving ECHR would not be ‘magic wand’

Wednesday 22 June 2022 17:01 , Andy Gregory

As he introduced the governemnt’s new Bill of Rights to the Commons earlier, Dominic Raab said withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) would not be the “magic wand” some people – many of them in his own party – hoped for.

Tory former cabinet minister Damian Green thanked Mr Raab for “resisting the siren voices” telling him to withdraw from the ECHR altogether, adding: “I think his decision to stay in it is in the best traditions of pragmatic, sensible, one nation conservatism.”

Mr Raab replied that the reforms are “principled and pragmatic” and that the UK will retain membership of the European Convention.

He added: “I've heard various arguments against that but when you look at what you'd gain from leaving the ECHR, because of the UN Convention Against Torture which we stay party to, and various other conventions, it wouldn't solve all the problems, it's not the magic wand some people suggest it is, and I say that with great respect.”

But Labour MP Andy Slaughter described the document as a “legal nonsense”, adding: “It sets up confusion and conflict between domestic and European courts.”

‘Impossible’ to say how many Rwanda flights needed to deter Channel crossings, top civil servant says

Wednesday 22 June 2022 16:44 , Andy Gregory

The top civil servant in the Home Office has said it is “impossible” to say how many people need to be sent to Rwanda to achieve the government’s aim of deterring desperate people from crossing the Channel in small boats.

Appearing before the Commons home affairs committee, Matthew Rycroft – the department’s permanent secretary – said the success of the scheme should be measured by the number of journeys deterred by flying those deemed to have arrived in Britain illegally thousands of miles away to the east African nation.

But he was unable to quantify exactly how many would need to be deported for this disincentive to kick in.

Majority of British voters think workers do not have enough power, poll suggests

Wednesday 22 June 2022 16:28 , Andy Gregory

Six in 10 people in Britain think workers do not have enough power, a poll has found.

The survey, carried out by Ipsos as strikes gripped the UK rail network, found 61 per cent of British adults aged 18 to 75 thought workers had “too little” power while just 9 per cent thought they had too much.

While the strikes have led some to criticise trade unions as too powerful, the poll found only 32 per cent of people thought that was the case, compared with 36 per cent who thought employers had too much power.

Ipsos also found that an overwhelming majority of people thought it was important to have trade unions in order to protect workers’ interests, with 85 per cent of people saying unions were very or fairly important – including 77 per cent of Conservative voters.

Keiran Pedley, director of politics at Ipsos, said the results suggest “that there may be more public sympathy for striking workers than many assume, although how long the public are prepared to put up with the strikes themselves – and the disruption caused – remains to be seen”.

Workers don’t have enough power in modern Britain – poll

Tory MP insists UK benefit system is ‘very generous'

Wednesday 22 June 2022 16:16 , Andy Gregory

The benefit system in the UK is “very generous”, with people getting £24,000 a year for working 16 hours a week, according to the Conservative MP who recently claimed there was no “massive use” for food banks in Britain and suggested people “can make a meal for about 30p a day”.

Lee Anderson told MPs: “The answer the Labour Party had when all these people were stuck on 16-hour jobs, and we couldn’t get them to work a full-time job, was simple, their answer was simple. Open the floodgates, you know, import cheap labour, import cheap foreign labour, which is what happened.

“Then all of a sudden, 20 years later, we have got a failed migration policy. We have got a failed benefit policy, which has led to millions of people being trapped in the poverty cycle, and we have spent the last 12 years trying to put this mess right. And it’s not easy when you’ve got people trapped in the poverty cycle.”

Mr Anderson insisted “our benefit system is very generous in the UK”, saying that a single parent in Ashfield, with two children, working 16 hours a week on the living wage, would get £18,000 a year in universal credit and another £6,000 or £7,000 in wages.

Challenged by SNP work and pensions spokeswoman Kirsty Blackman on how the system compares to “significantly more generous” systems across the EU, the Ashfield MP replied: “I’ll tell you what is generous ... is a single parent like I was, or my friend was all those years ago, getting £24,000 a year for working 16 hours a week.”

Labour brands Sunak’s cost of living help a ‘short-term sticking plaster’

Wednesday 22 June 2022 15:56 , Andy Gregory

Oepning the second reading debate on the government’s bill to provide £650 for people on certain benefits and £150 for those on certain disability benefits, work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said the bill would “boost the budgets of millions of stretched families” during the cost of living crisis.

But her opposite number Jonathan Ashworth branded the government’s measures a “short-term sticking plaster”.

Labour “do not intend to divide the House”, he said, but added: “The message I am hearing up and down the country couldn’t be clearer, these are the toughest times anyone can remember for many of our constituents.

“More than a decade of underwhelming economic growth has meant that today we have the cost of living sky rocketing. Pay packets failing to keep pace with inflation. By next April wages will be worth £2,000 less in real terms than 2020. Real pay in the UK falling at the fastest for 20 years, leaving household finances stretched to breaking point.

“Prices are up in the shops, petrol through the roof, energy bills sky high and the price cap lifting later this year means that energy bills will go up further. Families everywhere are saying enough is enough.”

Mr Ashworth added: “Pain today and pain tomorrow is therefore the policy of ministers to get inflation under control ... The legislation, as important though it is, is a short-term sticking plaster because of a series of long-term policy failures to grow our economy sufficiently and address the longer-term problems of hardship that have been growing over the last 10 years because of attacks on social security and unfair pay settlements.”

He went on: “We need a long-term plan to rebuild social security, grow the economy, raise living standards, to defeat child and pensioner poverty, so that victims of poverty can participate fully in society.”

Stanley Johnson calls for parliament ban on ‘agreeable’ Chinese ambassador to be lifted

Wednesday 22 June 2022 15:24 , Andy Gregory

Boris Johnson’s father has called on the UK parliament to lift a ban on the Chinese ambassador ahead of his own visit to China to retrace the steps of Marco Polo, our political correspondent Adam Forrest reports.

Stanley Johnson is planning a summer trip to Xinjiang province, home to the Uighur minority persecuted by Beijing, for a TV programme on the famous explorer.

China’s ambassador to Britain Zheng Zeguan was banned from the parliamentary estate last year – a move which sparked retaliatory sanctions on nine Britons, including senior Conservative MPs.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Mr Johnson Snr described Mr Zheng as a “very agreeable, capable and intelligent man” following talks with him about his travel plans for television.

The 81-year-old added: “I would very much hope that by the time parliament returns [after the summer break], these bans will no longer be in place.”

Stanley Johnson calls for ban on Chinese ambassador to be lifted

Government claims Rishi Sunak’s £1.9bn subsidy for fossil fuels is ‘not technically a subsidy’

Wednesday 22 June 2022 15:13 , Andy Gregory

The government has claimed Rishi Sunak’s new £1.9 billion tax break for fossil fuel companies is not technically a subsidy and so compatible with its climate plan, our policy correspondent Jon Stone reports.

Green groups lambasted ministers for playing “semantics” with the planet over the new incentives to invest and oil and gas production – announced just months after the UK’s own climate summit promised to put an end to them.

The chancellor’s doubled the rate of tax relief for oil and gas projects in his Budget, a measure that is expected to cost taxpayers nearly £2 billion and produce 899 million tons of extra CO2.

But responding to criticism of the measure from green groups, Treasury minister Helen Whately claimed that the policy was compatible with the UK’s international commitment, because of a technicality.

Government claims £1.9bn subsidy for fossil fuels is ‘not technically a subsidy’

Labour dismisses Rees Mogg’s Brexit dashboard ‘gimmick'

Wednesday 22 June 2022 14:58 , Andy Gregory

Responding to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new Brexit dashboard (see post below), Labour has warned that gimmicks do nothing to address the “real challenges” that the public face today.

Shadow foreign office minister Stephen Doughty told MPs the Brexit opportunities’ minister’s new quarterly list of reformed of EU laws “simply appears to be a vanity project”.

“It’s quite extraordinary that on the day that inflation tops 9 per cent, the cost of energy is soaring, families facing massive pressures wondering how they will put food on the table, prices rising at the fastest rate of increase for 40 years, the government’s offer today to the British people is a digital filing cabinet of existing legislation, which the gentleman describes, in his own words, as marginal,” he said.

“And while the government plans to cut 20 per cent of civil servants, the minister for so-called government efficiency is running his own make-work scheme in the Cabinet Office, creating tasks for them to satisfy his own obsessions.”

He added: “For all the government’s talk about changes we can make outside the EU, they still refuse to make the one concrete change that the Labour Party has been demanding for months with the overwhelming support of the British people as promised by the prime minister himself, which is the removal of VAT on home energy bills.”

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