Plaid Cymru withdraws from Welsh Labour partnership

Vaughan Gething
The end of the agreement with Plaid Cymru is a blow to Vaughan Gething, the Welsh Labour First Minister - Francesca Jones/Reuters

The Labour-run government in Wales was thrown into crisis on Friday after Plaid Cymru pulled out of a cooperation agreement with the party.

The Welsh nationalists said they had decided to go following the campaign finance scandal of Vaughan Gething, the recently elected First Minister.

They said they were also angry about a string of policy reversals, as well as Mr Gething’s decision to sack a minister for leaking.

The agreement was established following the Welsh assembly elections in 2021 in which Labour gained 30 out of the 60 seats, one below a majority.

It ensured that Plaid would vote with Labour on a series of policy areas to ensure a majority in the Senedd, and was due to last until December.

Without Plaid Cymru to support it, Labour finds itself as a minority administration in Cardiff Bay, which may prove troublesome when it seeks to pass new laws.

Mr Gething has already been in office for eight weeks - a week longer than Liz Truss managed as prime minister in 2022.

Rhun ap Iorwerth, the leader of Plaid, said he remained “deeply concerned” over a donation made to the First Minister’s leadership campaign and was worried about Mr Gething’s decision to sack Hannah Blythyn, his minister for social partnership, following the leak of a phone message to the media which she insisted she was not behind.

“I am worried by the circumstances around the decision to sack a member of the Government this week relating to matters that should be in the public domain already,” he said.

Rhun ap Iorwerth, the Plaid Cymru leader, said he was worried about the First Minister's decision to sack a minister
Rhun ap Iorwerth, the Plaid Cymru leader, says he was worried about the First Minister's decision to sack a minister - Matthew Horwood/Getty Images Europe

Mr Gething said: “The cooperation agreement was about mature politics, working together on areas where we agree. While it was always a time-limited agreement, we are disappointed Plaid Cymru has decided to walk away from their opportunity to deliver for the people of Wales.”

The First Minister thanked Sian Gwenllian and Cefin Campbell, Plaid’s two designated members for the agreement.

“By working together we have achieved a great deal, including free school meals for all pupils in primary schools, providing more free childcare, introducing a radical package of measures to create thriving local communities, helping people to live locally and addressing high numbers of second homes in many areas of Wales,” he said.

“We will now look closely at how we can progress the outstanding co-operation agreement commitments, including the Welsh Language Education Bill and the White Paper on Right to Adequate Housing and Fair Rents.”

On Thursday, the First Minister said he had “no alternative” but to ask Ms Blythyn, Labour member for Delyn, to leave his government.

She insisted she was “clear and have been clear that I did not, nor have I ever leaked anything” and was “deeply shocked” at her dismissal.

It followed news reports which featured a message posted to a ministerial group chat in August 2020 by Mr Gething, stating that he was “deleting the messages in this group”.

Mr Gething previously told the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that lost WhatsApp messages were not deleted by him, but by the Welsh Parliament’s IT team during a security rebuild.

Sustained pressure

The Welsh Labour leader has come under sustained pressure in recent weeks, with repeated calls for an investigation into donations he received while running to be Welsh Labour leader.

Earlier this month, he survived a Senedd vote calling for an independent inquiry into a donation from a company run by a man twice convicted for environmental offences.

On Thursday, the BBC reported that more than £31,600 from Mr Gething’s leadership campaign would go to the Labour Party.

Andrew RT Davies, the Welsh Tory leader, told the broadcaster it is “odds on” there will be a no confidence vote in Mr Gething, following his turbulent time as First Minister since taking up the office on March 20.

Plaid Cymru’s withdrawal from the co-operation agreement could lead it to move against him in such a vote, but Tory leader Mr Davies was not forgiving of the Welsh nationalist party either.

“Together, Labour and Plaid have worked together to divert resources away from the people’s priorities and towards vanity projects like putting more Senedd Members in Cardiff Bay, and have been hand in glove on policies like the destructive sustainable farming scheme and 20mph.

“This move from Plaid means nothing and the Welsh public won’t be fooled,” he said.

04:05 PM BST

That’s all for this week...

Thanks for joining The Telegraph’s live coverage of another eventful week in Westminster.

My colleague Jack Maidment will be back next week to guide you through all the latest.

03:37 PM BST

The fully independent council setting alarm bells ringing for the Tories

In an upstairs window, a half-obscured sign pleads: “Vote Conservative”. Cobwebs hang around the doorbell, while another Tory election placard sits behind a recycling bin, presumably waiting to be carted off with the rubbish.

Welcome to Castle Point Conservative Association, housed on a residential street in Benfleet. Given the party’s recent electoral wipeout in this part of Essex, it’s hard to ignore all the symbolism.

Until 2022, the Conservatives had dominated locally for almost two decades. At the last general election in 2019, they retained not only their parliamentary seat but all 17 other seats in the county. And with a current majority of 26,634, Castle Point’s Tory MP Rebecca Harris is expected to hold on even in the event of a Labour landslide later this year.

In 2016, the Brexit vote was also exceptionally high locally, nudging 73 per cent. But the bad news, and not just for local Conservatives, but every mainstream party, is that the desire to “take back control” now seems so pervasive that it has turned convention entirely on its head.

Rosa Silverman has the full story here

03:12 PM BST

Tory Senedd leader: End of coalition ‘an attempt to save face’

The end of Labour and Plaid Cymru’s coalition is simply an attempt to save face.

Together, Labour and Plaid have worked together to divert resources away from the people’s priorities and towards vanity projects like putting more Senedd Members in Cardiff Bay, and have been hand in glove on policies like the destructive sustainable farming scheme and 20mph.

This move from Plaid means nothing and the Welsh public won’t be fooled.

03:09 PM BST

No-confidence motion in Vaughan Gething is ‘odds-on’

The Conservative Senedd leader has said it is “odds on” that a no-confidence motion will be brought forward to force the resignation of Vaughan Gething.

Speaking before Plaid Cymru withdrew from the cooperation deal, Andrew RT Davies said his party would speak to other opposition parties to gauge support for such a motion.

He told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast: “I would say that it’s odds on that motion of no-confidence would come forward, and then members will have the ability to express their confidence, or not, in Vaughan Gething.”

Mr Davies said Mr Gething must clarify the circumstances around the sacking of Hannah Blythyn, before “restoring confidence back in the government and get on with the job of delivering for the people of Wales”.

“If he can’t answer those questions, and deliver that, then clearly he needs to go.”

02:41 PM BST

Breaking: Plaid Cymru pulls out of co-operation agreement

Announcing the early end of the co-operation agreement with Welsh Labour, Plaid Cymru Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said: “Plaid Cymru has ended its co-operation agreement with the Welsh Government with immediate effect.

“I am proud of the way in which the agreement demonstrated a new way of doing politics which focused on areas of policy which impact people’s everyday lives.

“These include rolling out free school meals for all primary school pupils, expanding the free childcare offer for thousands more families, taking radical action to address the housing crisis, steps to safeguard the Welsh language, the creation of a national energy company Ynni Cymru and more.

“Working collaboratively was a constructive response to the chaos and uncertainty of Brexit and the Covid pandemic and the harm caused by the UK Conservative Government. We will continue to try to secure the delivery of policies agreed as part of the co-operation agreement.

“At the same time, since becoming leader, I’ve been determined to hold the Labour Welsh Government firmly to account. I remain deeply concerned that the First Minister has failed to pay back the £200,000 donation to his leadership campaign from a company convicted of environmental offences, and believe it demonstrates a significant lack of judgment. Money left over has now been passed on to Keir Starmer’s Labour Party.

“I am worried by the circumstances around the decision to sack a member of the Government this week relating to matters that should be in the public domain already.”

02:22 PM BST

Karol Sikora: The NHS cares more about PR than patients

The Mafia-like NHS management style continues to endanger countless patients, writes Karol Sikora.

Organisational and personal reputations are far too often placed far ahead of good practice and safe patient care by the use of skilled but expensive PR.

As has been reported this week, whistleblowers – those who highlight errors and problems – are treated like criminals.

They are hounded and bullied out of jobs, with their financial and professional futures ruined by bureaucrats who rarely have any actual medical experience.

Karol Sikora: This monstrous bureaucracy is putting itself first

02:00 PM BST

Hunt: Labour’s plan will lead to £38bn black hole

Labour’s spending plans will lead to a £38 billion black hole, Jeremy Hunt has warned as he said taxes would inevitably rise if Sir Keir Starmer wins the next election.

At a speech on the Conservative Party’s economic plans, the Chancellor handed out a 19-page dossier of Treasury analysis that singled out 15 different Labour policies – and said their plans to raise money to pay for them are not nearly enough.

The analysis has calculated that there would be a “black hole” of over £10 billion per year by 2028-29, which would amount to nearly £38.5 billion over the next four years.

However, despite pledging that taxes would fall under a Tory government, the Chancellor refused to categorically commit to doing so in the next Parliament.

My colleague Genevieve Holl-Allen has the story

01:45 PM BST

Focus on ‘real priorities’ and not the culture wars, says former minister

The Conservatives should focus on “real priorities” instead of fighting the culture wars, a former minister has said.

Robert Halfon, who stepped down from the Department for Education in March, was asked on Chopper’s Political Podcast on GB News about a row involving Esther McVey, the common sense minister, and rainbow lanyards in the Civil Service.

Mr Halfon said: “If you go down an alley, which is a kind of minority pursuit, you’re not focusing on real priorities that affect people’s everyday lives. Like, ‘will I get a GP appointment in the next few days, rather than two or three or four weeks down the line’?

“I have always, always tried to focus on the key things that matter, because those are the things that voters are going to make their decisions.... Some of it is really important. Lanyards - I just don’t care.

“I’ve worn a Ukraine lanyard and am very proud to do so, although I don’t wear them very much. We’ve got to be very careful what ‘blue collar’ Conservatism is all about. And what it’s about is our absolute priorities on the cost of living.”

01:24 PM BST

Netflix boss misled parliament over truth of Baby Reindeer story, MP claims

A Netflix boss misled parliament over the truth about the series Baby Reindeer, an MP has claimed.

John Nicolson, a Scottish National Party MP, will ask Netflix to substantiate its claims that a stalker who inspired the fictional character was convicted.

Baby Reindeer is a dramatisation of the apparent true story of comedian Richard Gadd, who stars in the series as himself alongside Jessica Gunning.

Ms Gunning plays the character of Martha, based on his stalker, who is believed to be a woman called Fiona Harvey.

Giving evidence before the Culture Media and Sport Committee last week, Benjamin King, a Netflix executive, said the show was “obviously a true story of the horrific abuse that the writer and protagonist Richard Gadd suffered at the hands of a convicted stalker”.

Alex Barton has the full story here

01:07 PM BST

Palestinian student ‘full of joy’ after Oct 7 attack upset her visa has been revoked

A Palestinian student who said she was “full of pride” after Hamas launched its attack on Israel faces deportation.

Dana Abuqamar, 19, a law student at Manchester University, had her visa to stay in the UK revoked in December after she was filmed just a day after the Hamas terrorist attack saying she was “really full of joy” and “proud that Palestinian resistance has come to this point.

Suella Braverman, the then home secretary, and Robert Jenrick, at the time the immigration minister, ruled that her presence in the UK was “not conducive to the public good” and revoked her visa, meaning she has no right to remain.

Ms Abuqamar is, however, understood to be fighting the decision on the basis that rescinding her student visa has “violated her human rights” on the “baseless” accusation that she is a “risk to public safety”.

Charles Hymas, our Home Affairs Editor, has the full story here

12:52 PM BST

No 10: Judge Sunak on his record, not his wealth

Rishi Sunak should be judged on his record and not his wealth, Downing Street said after the personal fortune of the Prime Minister and his wife Akshata Murty surged by more than £120 million over the past year.

Mr Sunak and Mrs Murty came in at 245th on the annual Sunday Times Rich List list with a collective worth of £651m, an increase from £529m in 2023.

The rise means their wealth has surpassed that of King Charles, whose grew by £10m to £610m.

When asked about the figures, the Prime Minister’s deputy spokesman told reporters: “He’s been asked about this before and we’d always point people to the actions that he takes to support people.

“When he’s been asked this question before, he’s responded that people should judge him by his actions, such as providing support during the pandemic. That’s his focus and his priority and he should be judged on that.”

12:25 PM BST

Madeline Grant: Who’s afraid of a mini-Labour conference?

What’s worse than the Labour conference? asks Madeline Grant.

Mini-Labour conference – or rather, a campaign launch that looked a lot like one. At least in the annual display of mass embarrassment you can have a drink and it’s usually somewhere fun, like Brighton or Liverpool. At 10am in Purfleet no one can hear you scream.

We’d had literature to prepare us for this nightmare – like Jehovah’s Witnesses brandishing copies of the Watchtower, grinning Labour flunkies waved copies of Sir Keir’s “My First Steps” leaflet at all and sundry.

The title, of course, makes it sound like a potty-training scheme from Mothercare, and the stern black and white photo of Sir Keir made him look like a disgraced deputy headmaster in a local paper. None of this stopped Labour from going big on it; they’d even manufactured some credit-card sized versions to take away.

Before we reached the speeches, the shadow cabinet assembled behind the main stage like some sort of dystopian school photo. It was faintly reminiscent of the Soviet politburo lining up beside Lenin’s tomb, except this time it was David Lammy and Emily Thornberry perched on a piece of crudely adapted scaffolding.

Madeline Grant: This campaign launch was the stuff of nightmares

12:18 PM BST

Starmer’s shadow minister ‘mispoke’ when he suggested green energy spend could hit £82bn

A Labour shadow cabinet minister suggested Sir Keir Starmer’s core green energy pledge could cost almost 10 times more than the party has promised to spend.

Labour has said it will invest £8.3 billion in Great British Energy, a publicly owned company to generate green electricity and bring down bills, funded by an expanded windfall tax on oil and gas companies.

But presented with claims that between £61 billion and £82 billion would need to be spent on the firm between 2025 and 2035, Steve Reed, the shadow environment secretary, said: “It may well be.”

Mr Reed has since insisted he “misspoke”.

Read the full story here

12:00 PM BST

Labour returns Tory fire over tax rises

This from the official opposition’s X account:

11:48 AM BST

Minister broke expenses rules by using taxpayer cash to promote Tories

The pensions minister broke expenses rules by using taxpayer cash to promote the Conservatives and campaign for his re-election, a watchdog has ruled.

Paul Maynard has paid back more than £1,300 after Ipsa, the parliamentary expenses authority, found that he used public money to produce “overtly political” content.

Mr Maynard admitted using taxpayer-funded office equipment over the course of seven years to print party political materials, including leaflets urging his constituents in Blackpool North and Cleveleys to back the Conservatives.

He also failed to report the full scale of campaigning activity for which his constituency office was used between December 2022 and January last year.

Read the full story here

11:28 AM BST

Starmer is just ‘Blair without the flair’, says Farage

Sir Keir Starmer is “Blair without the flair”, Nigel Farage has said as he accused the Labour leader of “aping” the former prime minister “in absolutely every way”.

Comparisons have been drawn between Sir Keir and Sir Tony Blair after Thursday’s launch of a New Labour-style pledge card, designed to appeal to centrist voters.

Challenged on claims he was trying to emulate the former premier, Sir Keir insisted he was not a Sir Tony “copycat”.

But Mr Farage, the honorary life president of Reform, said the likeness was obvious, down to the “identical” styling, albeit it without the “charisma” integral to Sir Tony’s brand.

Amy Gibbons has the full story here

11:17 AM BST

Labour’s private school VAT raid has already cost taxpayers £22m

Labour’s proposed VAT raid on private schools may have already cost the taxpayer approximately £22m, new figures suggest.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) on Friday revealed that nearly 3,000 fewer pupils started at private schools this academic year compared to 12 months earlier.

The vast majority will have gone to state schools instead, where the average price of educating one pupil for a year is, according to government data, £7,460 - meaning a total cost of £21,924,940.

The ISC said the drop in the number of new pupils indicated that “the spectre of VAT is looming large in parents’ minds”.

Mattie Brignal and Henry Bodkin have the full story

10:38 AM BST

Tory peer to be banned from bars for a year

A Conservative peer is set to be banned from the House of Lords bars for a year after he was found to have bullied and harassed two people while drunk.

The House of Lords Conduct Committee also recommended that Lord Kulveer Ranger be suspended from the House for three weeks following an investigation into an incident in Parliament’s Strangers’ Bar in January.

Lord Ranger has apologised to the complainants in the case, saying he was “deeply mortified at the descriptions of my behaviour” and “saddened to hear that I caused you any distress”.

10:20 AM BST

Starmer’s plan for government is vanishing before the voters’ eyes

The strange thing about Keir Starmer’s policy ideas is that they tend to evaporate as the years go on, writes Fraser Nelson.

He ran for Labour leader with clear, radical pledges: to abolish the House of Lords, waive all university tuition fees and more. Over time, such promises were downgraded then, dropped altogether. On Thursday, it seemed his policy vanishing act was complete. Amid great fanfare in an Essex film studio, the Shadow Cabinet gathered to reveal the latest strategy: to promise, in effect, almost nothing at all.

It’s deliberately minimalist, said Angela Rayner. Labour won’t be promising the earth – or promising anything, as it turned out. The pledge to stick to “tough spending rules” leaves Starmer with the option of defining the word “tough” any way he wants.

“Cutting NHS waiting times” will happen anyway, given that the post-lockdown patient pileup has peaked. Setting up a “border security command” overlooks the small fact that such coordination happens already. This is rebadging, not revolution.

Fraser Nelson: Labour is likely to only promise bromides

09:54 AM BST

Labour hits out at Tories’ ‘dodgy dossiers’

A Labour spokesman said: “This is another desperate attempt by the Tories to deflect from their £46bn unfunded tax plan that could lead to higher borrowing, higher taxes on pensioners or the end of the state pension as we know it.

“All of Labour’s policies are fully costed and fully funded. Unlike the Conservatives who crashed the economy, Labour will never play fast and loose with the public finances.

“Jeremy Hunt would be better spent getting Rishi Sunak to confirm the date of the election, rather than putting out any more of these dodgy dossiers.”

09:49 AM BST

Hunt’s Eccentric use of capital letters

The lectern Jeremy Hunt gave his speech from today capitalised “Labour’s” and “Tax” - but not “rises”, to slightly eccentric effect:

Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt

09:47 AM BST

Hunt: International students should not use our universities as a vehicle for migration

We have no limit on the number of international students that universities are allowed to recruit and we have outside the United States the most respected students in the world. International students bring in very important funding for that.

But we have rightly introduced some changes that ensure that people are coming to this country because they want to study as some of the brightest and best from around the world, not as a vehicle that is primarily to bring their families over and settle in the UK, which is not the purpose of the exercise.

09:44 AM BST

Hunt weighs in on Royal Mail sale

Jeremy Hunt was asked about the Royal Mail being on the brink of a takeover by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky after the board said it was minded to accept a £3.5bn bid.

“As a rule we welcome international investment in British companies. We think one of the reasons we’ve attracted more greenfield foreign direct investment is because of our openness to companies from overseas, not just the capital they bring in but also the expertise and funding. So we will continue with that approach.

“But we do always look at national security considerations and make sure in terms of our core infrastructure there are no risks to those going forward and any bid for Royal Mail would go through that core process.”

He added he was “very transparent” about taking decisions to increase taxes “in order to pay for £400bn of support during the pandemic and the energy crisis, and that was the right thing to do”.

“That isn’t the debate in British politics, because no other party is planning to remove those tax increases. In fact they were supported right across the political spectrum.”

09:40 AM BST

The alternative is a £38bn black hole under Labour, warns Hunt

Challenged on whether he would end stealth taxes and start increasing income tax thresholds again, Jeremy Hunt said: “I can’t today tell you what will be in the Conservative manifesto for the next parliament.

“But what I can do is make a very clear argument that we will bring down taxes and I can do so with credibility because that is already what we have been doing.

“And employees’ National Insurance is the most economically damaging tax, and by cutting it we are helping to grow the economy the most.”

Mr Hunt said the alternative was “a Labour Party that has got £38bn of unfunded spending - that can only mean they will increase taxes”.

09:39 AM BST

Jeremy Hunt: I can’t predict fuel duty decisions

Asked if he could keep fuel duty frozen for the next five years, Jeremy Hunt replied: “Obviously I can’t predict decisions that I will make for future fiscal events now.

“But if you look at our record we are very clear that we understand that the cost of petrol really matters to families. And that’s why the decision I took in the Budget will save the average family about 50 quid in their fuel bill.

“We recognise those pressures and we also recognise that understanding the needs of motorists is also very important for economic growth and indeed tackling inflation.”

09:36 AM BST

Jeremy Hunt: It’s been very, very tough but we’ve taken necessary decisions

Jeremy Hunt acknowledged living standards had fallen because of “two massive global shocks”, the pandemic and an energy crisis.

“What British families know is that Conservative governments faced with those shocks don’t duck the difficult decisions necessary, as Gordon Brown did in the run up to the 2010 election when he left the government with no money and a Conservative government to pick up the pieces.

“We take those difficult decisions and I would challenge your suggestion I’m painting a rosy picture. I’m painting a brutally realistic picture.

“It has been very, very tough, but that is why people choose Conservative governments because we take the difficult decisions that are necessary.”

09:33 AM BST

Labour’s ‘fake news’ is a disgrace to scare pensioners, says Jeremy Hunt

Asked if he was accusing Labour of lying over his ambition to abolish National Insurance, Jeremy Hunt said: “Calling them a ‘myth’ is about as rude as I can get, but frankly it is a lie.

“I don’t make any bones about it. It is fake news and it is an absolute disgrace to try to win this election by scaring pensioners about a policy that is not true.

“And when it comes to taxes on pensioners, I would just say to every pensioner in the country - which is the party in British politics that wants to bring down the taxes that you and everyone else pays, and which is the party that we know will increase them?”

09:27 AM BST

Jeremy Hunt: Tax is the big choice in British politics

“If we are worried about tax, I would just say one very simple thing - there is a choice.

“A future Labour government does not want to cut the tax burden. A future Conservative government will. That is the big choice in British politics. And our argument is this isn’t just about family budgets, we understand how important those are when it comes to cost of living pressures.

“Our argument is this is about the future growth of our economy... More lightly-taxed economies have more dynamic private sectors, they grow faster and in the end that means more money for precious public services like the NHS.”

09:22 AM BST

Jeremy Hunt: Starmer will help himself to your family’s wallets

Jeremy Hunt said every single Labour government since the 1970s had increased the tax burden.

“Conservative governments never do so by choice, and we’ve never accepted such decisions need to be permanent. That is why since that Autumn Statement [in 2022], decisions in my events has reduced the tax burden by one per cent of GDP compared to what it would have been.

“Labour makes a different choice. For them higher tax is a means to a progressive end and today we produce the evidence that taxes would go up under a future Labour government.

“We are publishing 50 new costings of announced Labour policies that show their commitments cost a total of £59bn over the next four years. That’s not even an exhaustive list of their commitments, just the ones they’ve talked about most visibly.

“Given their fiscal rules, the only way to pay for such huge spending commitments is to raise taxes by considerably more than the £20bn of tax increases they have already outlined. In fact the gap between what they will spend and what they will raise, according to these independent official costings, is £38bn, or £2,100 per working household.

“Keir Starmer’s first step will not be the motherhood and apple pie we heard yesterday, but to help himself to you and your family’s wallets.”

09:19 AM BST

Jeremy Hunt accuses Labour of ‘playground politics’

Jeremy Hunt went on to take aim about Labour over welfare and tax.

“Conservatives know that if businesses are going to find the workers they need without depending on unlimited migration we need to move people off welfare into work.”

Mr Hunt said Mel Stride’s welfare reforms would move one million people from benefits and into employment to the tune of £2.5bn.

“The quiet revolution of ‘those who can work, do work’, and we give help where it’s needed. Labour doesn’t want to talk about these decisions because they will duck them. But Conservatives know it is simply not possible to grow the economy without a plan for where additional workers will come from and we have that plan.”

The Chancellor added: “In her Mais Lecture, the shadow chancellor spoke for an hour, 8,500 words. Not once did she mention reducing the tax burden. But Conservatives look around the world. We notice that the lower-taxed economies of North America and Asia generally grow faster than the higher-taxed economies of Europe.

“Labour like to criticise recent tax rises, thinking people don’t know what caused them, the furlough scheme, the energy price guarantee and cost of living support. But Labour supported those politics, which is why it is playground politics to distract debate from the biggest divide in British politics today, what happens to the tax burden next... Conservatives realise while those tax rises may have been necessary, they should not be permanent. Labour do not.”

09:15 AM BST

Hunt warns of unemployment ‘tragedy’ under Labour

Jeremy Hunt warned Angela Rayner’s workers’ rights reforms could prove an “unmitigated tragedy”.

“Naturally faced with that economic record it suits Labour to say they won’t be making any big changes to Conservative economic policy, but it’s also a myth - indeed, the second big myth in British politics today.

“Because when it comes to Labour policies on jobs, welfare reform and tax, the difference if they are elected will be profound and damaging for every family in the country.”

Mr Hunt noted the president of the CBI described the UK as a “job-creating factory” on account of “one of the most flexible labour markets in Europe”.

“Angela Rayner wants 70 new burdens on employers, which would turn that job-creating factory into a French-style, inflexible labour market. Now it may sound good to offer full employment rights from day one, and certainly pleases the unions. But if the impact is fewer new jobs, then the impact on young people and families across the country will be an unmitigated tragedy... We must not turn the clock back.”

09:13 AM BST

Jeremy Hunt: We have rewarded Tory voters’ trust

Jeremy Hunt defended the Tories’ economic record and said his Conservative predecessors had taken “equally difficult decisions” in the past 14 years.

“Today we can see the results. Four million more jobs, more new jobs than nearly anywhere else in Europe. Indeed around 800 more jobs for every single day Conservative governments have been in office.

“More greenfield foreign direct investment than anywhere in the world except the United States and China. Faster growth than any large European economy, and indeed Japan, and the IMF predicting that we will continue to grow faster than any of those countries over the next six years.

“Has that growth been lower than more benign periods, when we haven’t had similar international shocks? Of course. But has that growth been higher than it would have been without Conservative governments prepared to take difficult decisions to put the economy back on its feet after those shocks? Of course again.

“That is why the record of the last 14 years - more jobs, more investment and more growth than our neighbours - demonstrates that we have rewarded the trust of people who vote Conservative because they trust us to do the right thing on the economy.”

09:09 AM BST

Hunt: Labour taking the public for fools

Jeremy Hunt insisted the Government had used the past 18 months to take “profoundly important decisions” on the economy.

“To point out as the Labour Party do that living standards have fallen this Parliament without mentioning the pandemic or the energy crisis is taking everyone for fools.

“In fact a Conservative Government protected living standards with an unprecedented £3,200 in cost of living support for the average family.

“As a result in the last year living standards grew by 1.3 per cent despite the OBR predicting they would fall by more than double that amount.”

Mr Hunt said real wage growth for the past 10 months was “giving families confidence that are winning the battle against inflation”.

09:07 AM BST

Hunt: I want to dispel biggest myths in British politics

Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to “dispel two of the biggest myths in biggest politics”.

“Firstly that our economy is doing worse than other similar countries, and secondly that there’s not much difference between the economic policies of the two main policies. Since 2010, the UK economy has faced not one but three massive external shocks, dealing with the consequences of the financial crisis, a once-in-a-century pandemic and a 1970s-style energy shock caused by the invasion of Ukraine.

“Each time Conservative governments have done what people elect Conservative governments to do, to take the tough and difficult decisions necessary to put the economy back on its feet. Indeed that is exactly what Rishi Sunak and I have done since taking office just over 18 months ago.

“Back then, inflation was over 11 per cent. The Bank of England said we faced the longest recession in a century, the OBR said we would see the biggest fall in living standards on record. Families were worried about their future.

“But what actually happened? Inflation has fallen to just 3.2 per cent and is expected to fall further next week. According to the ONS last week the UK economy has not just exited a technical recession, it is now growing faster than any European country, faster even than the United States. In other words, working with the Bank of England, we have delivered the soft landing many thought impossible.”

08:58 AM BST

‘Labour’s tax rises’

If you were wondering about the tone of the speech he is set to make in a couple of minutes, the lectern that is prepared for Jeremy Hunt reads ‘Labour’s tax rises’.

08:43 AM BST

Reeves: It’s rich of Hunt to say taxes will rise under Labour

It is “a bit rich” for Jeremy Hunt to claim taxes will rise under Labour, the shadow chancellor has said.

Mr Hunt will say in a speech at 9am that a Sir Keir Starmer government would raise taxes “as sure as night follows day” before going on to accuse him of “playground politics”.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor
Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, speaking during the launch of Labour's six pledges - Victoria Jones/PA

Asked about the remarks by BBC Radio Essex, Rachel Reeves said: “It’s a bit rich for Jeremy Hunt to say that. Taxes under the Tories are at 75-year high and under their plans they’re set to go up for each of the next five years. It’s under the Tories that taxes are going up.

“You can’t trust the Tories when it comes to mortgages, when it comes to tax, and indeed when it comes to our public services which are on their knees after 14 years of Conservative government.”

08:22 AM BST

Reeves defends Labour’s refusal to stand Corbyn in Islington North

Rachel Reeves has defended Labour’s refusal to allow Jeremy Corbyn to stand as its candidate in Islington North at the next general election.

Labour has opened applications to run its own candidate in the north London seat after its former leader was stripped of the party whip in 2020 following his refusal to apologise for institutional anti-Semitism during his time in office.

Mr Corbyn is yet to declare whether he will run as an independent, while the Islington North Constituency Labour Party has insisted it should be allowed to select him as its candidate if they so wish.

Jeremy Corbyn addressing a pro-Palestinian camp at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London
Jeremy Corbyn addressing a pro-Palestinian camp at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London last week - Benjamin Cremel/AFP

Ms Reeves, the shadow chancellor, told BBC Radio London: “When Jeremy Corbyn was leader of the Labour Party, I’m afraid that anti-Semitism was rife within the Labour Party and we were investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission over the treatment of Jewish people.

“And when that report was published, Jeremy Corbyn sadly refused to acknowledge what had happened in the Labour Party and his role in it.

“We’ve got an independent complaints process here in the Labour Party, he’s no longer a Labour MP and he will not be the Labour candidate at the next election.”

08:04 AM BST

Reeves refuses to commit to more money for the Met

Rachel Reeves declined to say whether there would be any new money for the Metropolitan Police under a Labour government.

She told BBC Radio London: “I totally understand the scale of the challenge and I’m under no illusions about the scale of the challenge that I would inherit if I become chancellor of the Exchequer later this year.

“We’re not going to be able to fix everything straight away and if I said that we could turn around everything that the Conservatives have done in 14 years in the first 100 days of a Labour government I think you’d rightly say ‘that’s not realistic’.

She added: “I’m not going to promise the world because it’s not possible to do everything straight away. But those 13,000 extra police and community support officers will start to make inroads into tackling the high levels of crime and antisocial behaviour that people in London and in other cities and towns across the UK are experiencing.”

07:54 AM BST

Hunt: Labour tax rises are as sure as night follows day

Labour would put up taxes “as sure as night follows day”, Jeremy Hunt will warn in a speech at 9am today.

The Chancellor is to set out the Conservatives’ economic pitch ahead of the election.

During the address in central London, Mr Hunt will accuse Sir Keir Starmer of using “playground politics” to disguise plans to hit families in the pocket so his big spending pledges can be funded.

He will point to taxes, jobs and welfare as three clear dividing lines between the Tories and Labour on the economy, and insist that he has a plan to boost growth by cutting taxes, creating jobs and cracking down on benefits.

It comes in a week where the Prime Minister fired the starting gun on the election campaign with a speech in which he warned that Labour presented a threat to the future security of the UK.

Nick Gutteridge, our Chief Political Correspondent, has more here

07:48 AM BST

Labour shadow minister insists he ‘misspoke’ to the tune of £73.7bn

A Labour shadow cabinet minister has insisted he “misspoke” after suggesting the party would need almost ten times more green investment than it has pledged.

Steve Reed, the shadow environment secretary, was asked by LBC about claims by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) that between £61bn and £82bn would need to be invested in Great British Energy between 2025 and 2035.

Mr Reed replied: “It may well be. This isn’t supposed to be a delivery plan for GB Energy. This is just a first step and a declaration that Labour will be setting up GB Energy to achieve that we were talking about then.”

Soon after, however, he wrote on X: “I clearly misspoke. The cost of GB Energy is £8.3bn, fully funded by our windfall tax on the oil and gas giants making record profits at the expense of the British people. Our plan will help cut bills for families and make Britain energy independent.”

07:36 AM BST

Good morning

Dominic Penna here, The Telegraph’s Political Correspondent, guiding you through to the end of the week.

Sir Keir Starmer is “Blair without the flair”, Nigel Farage has said following a major speech by the Labour leader.

Comparisons were drawn between Sir Keir and Sir Tony Blair after the launch of a New Labour-style pledge card designed to appeal to centrist voters.

Mr Farage, the honorary life president of Reform, told GB News: “Well, of course, he’s like Tony Blair. He’s aping Tony Blair in absolutely every way. It was Blair back in ‘97 that came up with the five point pledge card.

He added: “Now look, there is an argument that if you find a winning formula, you keep using it but I just put this to you folks. This is Blair without the flair. This is almost a charisma free zone.”