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UK politics - live: Michael Gove names Muslim and white supremacist groups as he outlines extremism definition

The government has identified groups that could face restrictions following the publication of the new “extremism” definition amid rising concerns about threats to social cohesion and British democracy.

A ban on white supremacist group British National Socialist Movement and Patriotic Alterntive engaging with the government will be considered, as well as anti-War on Terror group CAGE , Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) and Muslim Association with Britain, which he says “give rise to concern”.

The groups will be assessed for whether they met the definition of extremism, Levelling Up secretary Michael Gove said.

He told MPs the country’s values of inclusivity and tolerance were “under challenge from extremist groups which are radicalising our young people and driving greater polarisation within and between communities to further their own ends”.

Earlier, he said the new definition of extremism was not intended to stop people from protesting amid fears it could curtail free speech.

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the former Labour MP Diane Abbott needed “an arm around her” but the issue of restoring the whip was completely different and still subject to investigation.

Key Points

  • Gove names Muslim and white supremacist groups as he outlines extremism definition

  • Levelling up sec defends new extremism definition

  • Gove refuses to say if ‘racist’ donor comments are ‘extremism’

  • Sunak rejects call to give back Frank Hester’s £10mn donation amid race row

  • Diane Abbott reports Tory donor Frank Hester to police

  • Tory minister defends Hester’s donations and says he’s not racist

  • Hester’s comments were racist, Kemi Badenoch says

Cabinet ministers hold secret talks about replacing Sunak

15:30 , Matt Mathers

Cabinet ministers have in recent days held secret discussions about possibly needing to replace Rishi Sunak as Tory party leader before the general election.

But none of the would-be successors have enough support to mount a challenge against the prime minister, Bloomberg reports.

The outlet says Tory MPs are angry about the handling of donations to the party by Frank Hester and have compared it to Boris Johnson’s handling of the Chris Pincher affairs, which was widely seen as the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of the end of his premiership.

Mr Sunak has said that his “working assumption” was that he would call an election in the second half of the year but has declined to rule out a snap poll in May.

Labour lead narrows slightly to 24 points - poll

15:15 , Matt Mathers

Labour’s lead over the Conservatives has narrowed slightly but remains at a huge 24 points, according to a poll.

The opposition was down three points to 44 per cent versus. The Tories were unchanged on 20 per cent.

The Lib Dems were also unchanged on 9 per cent and Reform UK was up one to 14 per cent.

The survey was carried out on 12 and 13 March.

Tories sitting on a further £5m donation from ‘racist’ donor Frank Hester

15:00 , Matt Mathers

The Conservative Party is sitting on a further £5m donated by “racist” donor Frank Hester.

The money is yet to be declared, according to Tortoise Media, which quoted a Tory source as saying the party was “sitting on” the cash.

If confirmed it would take the total amount of money donated by Mr Hester in the past year to £15m.

Rishi Sunak said earlier this week the party would not be returning any of the money after Mr Hester apologised for being “rude”. He denied being racist.

Frank Hester is alleged to have said MP Diane Abbott made him ‘want to hate all black women’ (CHOGM Rwanda 2022/YouTube/PA) (PA Wire)
Frank Hester is alleged to have said MP Diane Abbott made him ‘want to hate all black women’ (CHOGM Rwanda 2022/YouTube/PA) (PA Wire)
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

MPs’ pay set to rise by 5.5% from April

14:45 , Matt Mathers

MPs are set to get a pay rise of 5.5 per cent from April – bringing the overall salary to £91,346, Parliament’s expenses watchdog has announced.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) said the decision had been taken in line with the award recently agreed for the senior civil service.

Full report:

MPs’ pay set to rise by 5.5% from April

Russia interfers with GPS sigal on RAF plane carrying defence secretary

14:35 , Matt Mathers

An RAF aircraft carrying the UK defence secretary had its satellite signal interfered with by Russia.

Grant Shapps was flying back from a Nato exercise in Poland when Russia is believed to have jammed the aircraft’s signal, The Times reports.

The paper said the GPS system was interfered with for about 30 minutes while the plane flew close to the Russian territory of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea.

The defence security was assured that there was no threat to the jet’s safety and that it used alternative means to determine its location.

A defence source said: “While the RAF are well prepared to deal with this, it still puts an unnecessary risk on civilian aircraft and could potentially endanger people’s lives. There is no excuse for this and it’s wildly irresponsible on Russia’s part.”

Plan ‘will label gender-critical feminists extremists', warns MP

14:25 , Jane Dalton

Gender-critical feminists will be labelled extremists under the government’s new definition, a Conservative MP told the Commons.

Miriam Cates also questioned the impartiality of civil servants whose job it will be to advise the minister on whether organisations meet the extremism definition.

The MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge said: “In separating the definition of extremism from actual violence and harm and using terms like fundamental rise which don’t actually have a definition in law, we do risk criminalising or at the very least chilling speech of people who have perfectly legitimate, harmless views.”

She added: “Gender-critical feminists might be intolerant of the rights of people to change their sex on their birth certificates, they might be seeking to undermine that right by seeking to appeal the Gender Recognition Act, for example.

“They will be labelled extremists under these regulations as I can see it, and as to impartial civil servants deciding these things, I’m afraid I just don’t think that’s always the case, and certainly I have seen civil servants wearing very impartial lanyards on this particular issue.”

Miriam Cates (PA Archive)
Miriam Cates (PA Archive)

Scottish Tory leader says party must look at returning Hester donations

14:10 , Jane Dalton

The return of donations by Frank Hester to the Conservative Party should be “looked at”, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has said.

Mr Ross said the Scottish Conservatives had not received donations from Mr Hester.

The Moray MP said the alleged comments by Mr Hester about Ms Abbot were “racist, unacceptable and wrong”, adding: “There can be no dubiety around that.

“I think it was unacceptable and wrong, and the party at a UK level needs to look at that donation.”

Mr Ross and Rishi Sunak (Getty Images)
Mr Ross and Rishi Sunak (Getty Images)

Jenrick slates ‘no-man’s land’ plan

13:56 , Jane Dalton

Former minister Robert Jenrick criticised the plan, saying the new definition of extremism “lands in no man’s land”, being neither strong enough to tackle true extremists nor protect contrarian views.

He told the Commons: “I fear that the definition, though well intentioned, lands in no-man’s land: Not going far enough to tackle the real extremists, not doing enough to protect the non-extremists, those people who are simply expressing contrarian views who might find this definition used against them, not perhaps now, but possibly in the future.

“What reassurance can he give me and others who are concerned about that?”

Michael Gove replied: “I think it is much less likely that this definition could be misused than the preceding definition, which was looser, baggier and capable of many more interpretations than this much tighter definition.”

Leak inquiry to be launched

13:40 , Jane Dalton

An inquiry will be launched into the leaking of details of the government’s new extremism definition before its official release, Michael Gove said.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner raised concerns over how the policy had been trailed in recent weeks, telling the Commons: “It’s not right that we have spent the last few days poring over a possible new definition in the papers.

“And it’s not right that the department has leaked the names of groups that may or may not be covered by this definition when he rightly says this work should be based on due diligence.”

Communities Secretary Mr Gove replied: “The shadow secretary of state mentioned the leaking of some information relating to our work on this.

“I deprecate that leaking. It is fundamentally a challenge to the effective operation of government and a leak inquiry has been commissioned in order to see how some of the information about our statement today was shared.”

A defining moment as ministers update what counts as extremism

Diane Abbott needs an arm around her, says Keir Starmer

13:23 , Jane Dalton

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said the former Labour MP Diane Abbott needs “an arm around her” but the issue of restoring the whip was completely different and subject to a continuing investigation.

Sir Keir would not be drawn into whether Ms Abbott could expect to have the whip restored, saying the investigation into her conduct was not resolved.

The Labour leader told BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine the longest-serving black MP was a trailblazer, and called the language allegedly used by Frank Hester abhorrent.

But he said the issue of allowing the Hackney MP back into the party was an entirely different issue.

He added: “That was about allegations of antisemitism in relation to a letter… which is subject to an ongoing investigation, which is separate from me. That’s not something which I conduct.”

 (PA)
(PA)

Rayner: Whole house should work together to tackle extremism

13:04 , Matt Mathers

MPs from across the Commons must work together to tackle extremism, Angela Rayner has said.

Labour’s deputy leader said her party would “scrutinise” the new definition and questioned why the government’s anti-terror strategy hadn’t been updated for nine years.

She told the Commons: “Hateful extremism threatens the safety of our communities and the unity of our country. Everyone across this house can agree that this is a serious problem which demands a serious response.

“So, I want to begin by saying from the outset when it comes to our national security, when it comes to the threat of radicalisation, when it comes to the toxic scourge of Islamophobia, neo-Nazism, antisemitism or any other corrosive hatred, the whole house can and should work together.

“The way the government does this work matters and the language we all use is important. And I want to welcome the secretary of state’s opening words that it is our diversity and our values which make our country stronger.”

Ms Rayner said elected representatives “must be free to represent the views of our constituents”, adding: “We all have a responsibility to work to extinguish the flames of division and never to fan them.

“We will scrutinise this new definition and it will be crucial to see the way it is applied in practice.”

Ms Rayner sought clarity on which groups the definition will affect before criticising the “appalling surge” in antisemitism and Islamophobia in recent months, asking for an updated hate crime action plan.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

No 10: Government will publish list of groups under review in coming weeks

12:50 , Matt Mathers

A list of organisations covered by the UK government’s new definition of extremism is to be published “in the coming weeks”, Downing Street said.

Asked about the publication timeline, the prime minister’s official spokesman told reporters: “There is going to be a robust process led by subject-matter experts within the department, advised by other experts, with ultimate sign-off from the communities secretary and the home secretary.

“I’m not going to put a timeframe on this now, other than saying that it will be in the coming weeks.”

The No 10 spokesman said the definition had a “very narrow and precise focus” and there would be a “very high threshold” for its application.

He added: “It is not about those who challenge the government through democratic means, nor those who protest peacefully — we will always protect free speech.”

He continued: “I would also just point out that the approach we are taking is very similar to those that are taken by other European nations like France, Germany and the Netherlands.”

Gove: Activities of extreme-right are ‘growing worry’

12:47 , Matt Mathers

The activities of the extreme-right wing are a growing worry, sommunities secretary Michael Gove said.

Mr Gove said neo-Nazi groups such as the British National Socialist Movement and Patriotic Alternative will be assessed under the government’s new definition of extremism.

He told the Commons: “We are in no way intending to restrict freedom of expression, religion or belief, but the government cannot be in a position where unwittingly or not we sponsor, subsidise or support in any way organisations (or) individuals opposed to the freedoms we hold dear.

“I’m sure that we would agree that organisations such as the British National Socialist Movement and Patriotic Alternative who promote neo-Nazi ideology, argue for forced repatriation, a white ethno-state and the targeting of minority groups for intimidation, are precisely the type of groups about which we should be concerned and whose activities we will assess against the new definition.

“The activities of the extreme-right wing are a growing worry, the targeting of Muslim and Jewish communities and individuals by these groups is of profound concern requiring assertive action.”

Government is ‘clear-eyed' about threat of extremism - Gove

12:43 , Matt Mathers

The government is being clear-eyed about the threat of extremism to “beat this poison”, the Communities Secretary told the Commons.

Michael Gove said: “The time has come for us all to stand together to combat the forces of division and to beat this poison.

“The liberties we hold dear, and indeed the democratic principles we’re all sent here to uphold, require us to counter and challenge the extremists who seek to intimidate, to coerce and to divide.

“We have to be clear-eyed about the threat we face, precise about where that threat comes from, and rigorous in defending our democracy.

“That means upholding freedom of expression, religion and belief when they are threatened, facing down harassment and hate, supporting the communities facing the greatest challenge from extremist activity and ensuring this House and this country are safe, free and united.”

 (Parliament.TV)
(Parliament.TV)

Critical we don’t fund extremist groups - Gove

12:31 , Matt Mathers

Gove says that, in working with civic society groups, it was critical that the government did not inadvertently fund or support extremist groups.

He adds that, in the past, some of these groups have sought to present themselves as “moderate voices” but were found to have extremist views.

Michael Gove names groups under consideration for ‘extremism’ ban

12:27 , Matt Mathers

The government have named a number of groups that will be under consideration for restrictions following the publication of the new “extremism” definition.

The white supremacist group British National Socialist Movement and Patriotic Alterntive will be considered as part of a ban on engaging with the government, as well as anti-War on Terror group CAGE , Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) and Muslim Association with Britain, which he says “give rise to concern”.

Full report:

Michael Gove names organisations under consideration for ‘extremism’ ban

Islamists and right-wing extremists working together to increase their reach - Gove

12:25 , Matt Mathers

Levelling up secretary notes that there has been a “terrible” rise in both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic hate crime in recent months amid the war in Gaza.

He says that, “troublingly”, there is evidence that some Islamists, right-wing extremists - and others - “who seek to tear our country apart are working together” to maximise the reach of their message.

He says that is why the work of civil society groups in both the Jewish and Muslim communities are so important.

‘Chilling effect on our democracy'

12:15 , Matt Mathers

He says these talks have revealed widespread “unease” over the safety and security of community organisations, politicians and candidates.

Gove notes that councillors and council meetings have been threatened with violence and disrupted, noting that the war in Gaza is further driving polarisation in society.

He adds that the people carrying out these acts are having a “chilling effect on our democracy”.

Most extremist materials ‘are not illegal’ - Gove

12:11 , Matt Mathers

He says most extremist materials and activities “are not illegal” and do not meet the national security or terrorism threshold.

Gove uses the example of Islamist and neo-Nazi groups, who he says are able to operate lawfully in the UK.

He adds that his department has been working with groups to come up with the new definition of extremism, “especially those where social cohesion is most under strain”.

Gove: Extremists are radicalising our young people

12:07 , Matt Mathers

He says the UK is under threat from extremists who are “radicalising our young people”.

The levelling up secretary adds these actors are stoking tensions in and between communities to further their “own ends”.

Therefore, he says, the government has had to update its definition of extremism to protect the UK’s “democratic” values.

Gove delivering statement to Commons

12:04 , Matt Mathers

Michael Gove is now delivering his statement to MPs in the House of Commons.

He starts by saying that the UK is a “success story” - a multi-ethnic democracy that is stronger because of its diversity.

But, he says, “our values are under challenge”.

ICYMI: The Tory party is starting to fall apart before our eyes – no wonder Starmer’s starting to believe in himself

11:48 , Matt Mathers

Labour MPs could feel the warm tide of power flowing in their direction at Prime Minister’s Questions, writes John Rentoul – as Sunak experienced the most uncomfortable half-hour of his 17 months as prime minister.

Read John’s piece in full here:

The Tory party is starting to fall apart before our eyes

Michael Gove says he is exercising ‘Christian forgiveness’ toward Tory donor Frank Hester

11:38 , Matt Mathers

Communities secretary Michael Gove has declined to say whether the business tycoon who allegedly said that Diane Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” would be considered “extremist” under a new definition, and that he is exercising “Christian forgiveness” toward the Tory donor.

Full report:

Michael Gove says he is exercising ‘Christian forgiveness’ toward Tory donor

Michael Gove to deliver Commons statement on new extremism definiton

11:26 , Matt Mathers

Michael Gove will deliver a Commons statement on the government’s new definition of extremism shortly.

We’ll bring you updates when the levelling up secretary appears at the dispatch box after 11.30.

You can also watch the statement live on our YouTube channel (see below).

Watch: Gove gives update on new extremism definition

11:10 , Matt Mathers

Live: Michael Gove gives statement on new extremism definition

Tories won’t pressure Labour to return Dale Vince cash - report

11:07 , Matt Mathers

Labour have been branded “total hypocrites” for demanding the Conservative Party returns the £10m donated by Frank Hester.

An official made the comment to Playbook after pointing out that Dale Vince, one of Labour’s top donors, said “one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist”.

Mr Vince added that “I don’t support what they [Hamas] did”.

“Labour will not come under a lot of pressure from our side to pay that money back. They shouldn’t be total hypocrites.”

Some Tory MPs called for Labour to return money donated to the party by Mr Vince after it emerged he had also donated large sums to the Just Stop Oil climate group.

Labour said Mr Vince’s comments were not as presented by CCHQ, and not comparable to those of made by Mr Hester.

You can watch Mr Vince’s interview with Times Radio here:

Sunak under increasing pressure over Hester donations

10:56 , Matt Mathers

Rishi Sunak is under increasing pressure to return the £10m donated to the Conservative Party by Frank Hester.

Tory peers Chris Patten and Stuart Rose have joined West Midlands mayor Andy Street in calling for the prime minister to give the cash back.

“It doesn’t smell right, it doesn’t look right, it doesn’t feel right,” Lord Rose told ITV’s Peston programme last night.

Record number of far-right activists convicted of terror offences in 2023

10:46 , Matt Mathers

A record number of far-right activists and sympathisers were convicted of terror-related offences in 2023, according to a campaign group.

Hope Not Hate said 23 people were convicted, up from 20 in 2022.

“There is a growing mood of pessimism and declinism amongst the population and this is leading to deteriorating attitudes to democracy and the political system ,” the group said in its report.

Watch: Diane Abbott ignored 46 times in Commons debate on Tory donor comments

10:31 , Matt Mathers

Watch: Diane Abbott ignored 46 times in Commons debate on Tory donor comments

Michael Gove to create list of ‘extremist’ groups blacklisted from funding and meeting ministers

10:21 , Matt Mathers

The government is set to create a list of “extremist” groups that will be blacklisted from funding and prevented from meeting ministers and civil servants under new plans drawn up by Michael Gove.

Mr Gove, the levelling up secretary, said he will use a new definition of extremism to try and crack down on the “pervasiveness of extremist ideologies” that have “become increasingly clear” in the aftermath of the 7 October attack by Hamas on Israel.

Full report:

Michael Gove’s department to create public list of blacklisted ‘extremist’ groups

Tory MP warns of ‘slippery slope towards authoritarianism’ as new extremism definition published

10:05 , Matt Mathers

The government’s new extremism definition could end up harming free speech, a Conservative MP has said.

Miriam Cates, who heads up the New Conservatives Group, said the plans could inadvertently affect gender-critical feminists or anti-abortion campaigners.

“In a free and democratic society it is foolish to detach the legal definition of ‘extremism’ from violence and terrorism,” she writes in The Critic.

“If ‘extremist’ opinions become illegal without manifesting as actual harm, then those who hold the pen on the legal definition of extremism acquire extraordinary powers to curtail free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of religion.

“History teaches us that this is the slippery slope towards authoritarianism.”

What is the government’s new definition of extremism?

09:52 , Matt Mathers

Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, will later today set out the government’s new definition of extremism.

Ahead of his statement to the Commons, which comes some two weeks after Rishi Sunak claimed that the UK was descending into “mob rule”, what do we already know about the plan?

The government says it is updating the definition of extremism to respond to the increased extremist threat since Hamas’s 7 October terror attacks in Israel.

The Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government said the definition will be used to ensure government departments and officials are not inadvertently “providing a platform, funding or legitimacy to groups or individuals who attempt to advance extremist ideologies that negate our fundamental rights and freedoms and overturn the UK’s system of liberal parliamentary democracy.”

Michael Gove with officials
Michael Gove with officials

Diane Abbott snubbed more than 40 times by speaker as she tries to address race row during PMQs

09:35 , Matt Mathers

The Commons speaker has come under fire after he failed to call upon Diane Abbott to speak as Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer discussed ‘racist’ comments made about her by a Tory donor.

Ms Abbott has found herself at the centre of the unfolding racism row in the Conservative party after it was reported a major party donor had made alleged comments about the former Labour MP.

Full report:

Diane Abbott snubbed more than 40 times by speaker as she tries to address race row

Gove declines to say if his party has a racism problem

09:23 , Matt Mathers

Michael Gove has declined to say whether his party has a racism problem following comments by a top Conservative donor and one of its former MPs.

“I think there are individuals who’ve certainly said things that are unacceptable and racist and that needs to be called out,” he told Times Radio when asked if his party had a problem.

“But again, I also think that if individuals repent, apologise, show contrition, then the right thing to do is to accept that,” he added.

Mr Gove said Mr Hester had “shown contrition” after it was alleged he had said Diane Abbott, Britain’s first black female MP, made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Last month Lee Anderson, the MP for Ashfield, said London mayor Sadiq Khan, a Muslim, was being controlled by Islamists. He has since defected to Reform UK, the latest reincarnation of Nigel Farage’s UKIP.

Ministers condemned the comments as unacceptable but declined to say whether they were racist or Islamophobic.

Michael Gove leaving a TV studio this morning
Michael Gove leaving a TV studio this morning

If calling for Diane Abbott ‘to be shot’ isn’t racism, then what is?

09:14 , Matt Mathers

For the past 24 hours, Chante Joseph has heard people say that a comment about wanting a Black woman shot isn’t racist.

For years, she has been told racism doesn’t exist in the UK. Enough. This is gaslighting on an institutional scale, she says.

"Imagine now you are a Black woman in your kitchen and how this could make you feel. Then imagine how it feels to be told this has ‘nothing’ to do with the colour of your skin or gender," she writes.

Read Chante’s piece in full here:

If calling for Diane Abbott ‘to be shot’ isn’t racism, then what is?

Have your say: Should £10m Tory donation be returned?

09:12 , Matt Mathers

As Britain’s political parties try to build up funds for election campaigns later this year, we want to know if you think the Tories return the £10 million donated by Hester.

Business minister Kevin Hollinrake told broadcasters on Wednesday that the party would not give back the money, telling Sky News that “clearly” the comments were racist, but that it was right to keep the donation because Hester “is not a racist, and he has apologized for what he said.”

But Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of England’s West Midlands region, told BBC radio that if it were up to him, “I would think about the company I kept and I would give that money back.”

Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, appeared to rule out giving the cash back during Prime Minister’s Question yesterday.

But should he give the cash back and will the party’s line on the scandal hold? Have your say here:

Tell us if the £10m Tory donation should be returned amid Diane Abbott racism row

Gove refuses to say if ‘racist’ donor comments are ‘extremism’

08:59 , Matt Mathers

Michael Gove suggested Tory backer Frank Hester’s alleged call for an MP to be shot would not be referred to the government’s new extremism task force.

The Communities Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We have to be clear, we’re looking at organisations with a particular ideology.

“The individual concerned said something that was horrific. And as someone who was themselves targeted by an extremist who wanted to kill me and then went on to kill a friend of mine, I take these issues incredibly seriously.

“And so again, I wouldn’t want to conflate those motivated by extremist ideology with an individual comment, however horrific, which has quite rightly been called out and which has quite rightly led to an apology.”

Full report below.

Michael Gove has announced a new definition of extremism (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)
Michael Gove has announced a new definition of extremism (Lucy North/PA) (PA Wire)

Michael Gove refuses to say if Tory donor ‘s Diane Abbott comments are ‘extremist’

07:09 , Sam Rkaina

We’re pausing our live politics coverage for now but keep checking independent.co.uk for the latest updates.

Diane Abbott | Yes, the Tories are outrageously racist and sexist – but Labour is guilty too

06:59 , Andy Gregory

Diane Abbott has accused both the Conservatives and Labour of failing to deal with racism.

Writing exclusively for The Independent, the former Labour MP said: “The Tory reluctance to call our racism and sexism is shocking, but hardly surprising.

“But the position of the current leadership of the Labour Party is disappointing – it seemed equally reluctant at the outset to call out either racism or sexism. In fact, a number of Labour statements were issued, and interviews given where neither word was mentioned.

“Instead, the entire focus was on the demand that the Tories give Hester back his money, which is surely not the primary point in this case.”

Diane Abbott criticises claims UK now ‘post-racial society'

05:57 , Andy Gregory

Diane Abbott has criticised claims that the UK is now a “post-racial” society.

Writing in The Independent, she said: “In effect, it is the outlandish assertion that the various iterations of this government have abolished racism.

“The same government that gave us austerity that deepened inequality, the hostile environment, poster vans telling immigrants to ‘Go Home!’, a Brexit that was said to control immigration – and now the Rwanda policy.

“The propaganda claim to have moved on from racism becomes ever more shrill in the face of the evidence all around us. And then, every once in a while a minor character like Lee Anderson or Frank Hester wanders in from stage right to remind us about the real character of the Tory party.

“It is an impossible task to pretend you are a party led by modern-day Abraham Lincolns, when most of your base agrees with Ukip, the Brexit Party or Reform UK.”

Yes, the Tories are racist and sexist – but Labour is guilty too | Diane Abbott

Exclusive: Pressure on Rishi Sunak as nearly half of voters want May election, poll reveals

03:58 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak is under mounting pressure to call a snap general election after a poll showed nearly half of the public want a May contest.

The prime minister has refused to say when the next election will take place, only suggesting that it will be in the second half of 2024.

But a poll by More in Common, seen by The Independent, showed four in ten voters want an election to take place within weeks. Fewer than 30 per cent of voters want the prime minister to wait until November, when many expect the vote to take place.

Our political correspondent Archie Mitchell has the exclusive report:

Pressure on Rishi Sunak as nearly half of voters want May election, poll reveals

Diane Abbott criticises Speaker for not calling her to speak during PMQs

02:59 , Andy Gregory

Diane Abbott has accused Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle of failing to act in the “interests of the Commons or democracy” after she was not called to speak at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Major Tory donor Frank Hester is alleged to have said Ms Abbott, Britain’s longest-serving black MP, made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”.

Independent MP Ms Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) stood repeatedly in a bid to catch Sir Lindsay’s eye and be called to ask a question, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer using the session to press Rishi Sunak about Mr Hester’s comments.

Ms Abbott, writing on X/Twitter, said: “I don’t know whose interests the Speaker thinks he is serving. But it is not the interests of the Commons or democracy.”

A spokeswoman for the Speaker’s Office said there was “not enough time” to call all MPs, adding: “During Prime Minister’s Questions, the Speaker must select MPs from either side of the House on an alternating basis for fairness.

“This takes place within a limited timeframe, with the chair prioritising Members who are already listed on the Order Paper. This week – as is often the case – there was not enough time to call all Members who wanted to ask a question.”

Jeremy Hunt disputes Martin Lewis claim he was told about Budget detail before parliament

01:50 , Andy Gregory

Exclusive: Angela Rayner and Anneliese Dodds condemn ‘toxic Islamophobia’ in Tory ranks

00:51 , Andy Gregory

Angela Rayner is piling pressure on Rishi Sunak to tackle “toxic Islamophobia“ in the Conservative Party after a series of damning revelations in recent weeks.

The Conservatives have been rocked by ex-deputy chairman Lee Anderson’s anti-Muslim rant about Sadiq Khan, as well as the chair of its own Anti-Muslim Hatred Working Group (AMHWG) revealing that it has not met in more than four years.

The Labour deputy leader and shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds have now written to ministers demanding to know what is being done to combat Islamophobia in the Tory ranks and why the AMHWG has been inactive for so long.

Our political correspondent Archie Mitchell reports:

Angela Rayner and Anneliese Dodds condemn ‘toxic Islamophobia’ in Tory ranks

Headstones placed outside of parliament to show stark reality of cold deaths

Wednesday 13 March 2024 23:59 , Andy Gregory

Activists have erected hundreds of cemetery “headstones” made from insulation boards outside parliament to warn a failure to tackle cold homes is costing thousands of lives, reports my colleague Oliver Browning.

Greenpeace estimates more than 70,000 excess winter deaths in the UK were linked to living in cold, damp housing conditions in the decade since the coalition government slashed support for home insulation measures.

In a protest at what it described as the “needless and shocking” deaths from living in cold homes, the green group installed headstones in Victoria Tower Gardens and an eight-metre-long funeral wreath reading “cold homes cost lives”.

Exclusive: Khan’s Tory rival for City Hall pressured over donor funding amid Diane Abbott race row

Wednesday 13 March 2024 23:14 , Andy Gregory

The Conservative candidate to become mayor of London is facing calls to reveal if any funding for her campaign comes from the donor at the centre of a racism row.

Frank Hester is alleged to have said Labour MP Diane Abbott made him “want to hate all black women” and that she “should be shot”. Rishi Sunak is resisting calls to hand back the money, despite calling the remarks “racist”, saying Mr Hester had shown “remorse”.

Now Dawn Butler, the chair of Labour’s London MPs, has written to Susan Hall to ask if her campaign has received donations from Mr Hester and if she will pledge to return them. In a letter, Ms Butler also asks Ms Hall if she will “condemn Mr Hester’s alleged comments as racist.”

Our politics and Whitehall editor Kate Devlin has more details in this exclusive report:

Khan’s Tory rival for City Hall pressured over donor funding amid Abbott race row

New definition of extremism ‘could have chilling effect on free speech’

Wednesday 13 March 2024 22:34 , Andy Gregory

Broadening the definition of extremism could have “a chilling effect on free speech”, MPs have been warned.

Conservative MP Miriam Cates said moving the definition away from acts of violence could lead to a criminalisation of “legitimate views”.

Communities secretary Michael Gove is expected to produce a new official definition of extremism later this week.

New definition of extremism ‘could have chilling effect on free speech’

UK sends 150 tonnes of aid to Gaza, as government announces £10m in funding

Wednesday 13 March 2024 21:47 , Christopher McKeon, PA

Another 150 tonnes of UK aid entered Gaza on Wednesday, as the government announced an additional £10m in funding to support the stricken territory.

Wednesday’s aid delivery included 840 family-sized tents, 3,000 shelter kits, 6,000 sleeping mats and more than 13,000 blankets, along with more than 3,000 “dignity kits” to help women and girls.

This week is also expected to see the arrival of a full field hospital in Gaza, funded by UK Aid, that will be staffed by local and international medics and can treat more than 100 patients a day.

Lord David Cameron said: “Too many people in Gaza are suffering. No-one should be without basic amenities like shelter and bedding, and everyone deserves the dignity that basic hygiene kits provide. Our largest aid delivery, combined with a new UK field hospital, will save lives.

“But an immediate pause in the fighting is the only way to get aid into Gaza in the quantities desperately needed. This will also allow for the safe release of hostages. We could then work towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire, without a return to destruction, fighting or loss of life.”

The UK has also pledged an extra £10 million in aid funding, bringing its total contribution to more than £100m this financial year.

Lee Anderson hits out at Tory ‘inconsistencies’ over calls to hand back £10m to Frank Hester

Wednesday 13 March 2024 20:59 , Andy Gregory

Two former Conservative MPs have added their voices to calls for the party to hand back the £10m it received from Frank Hester.

Julian Knight, who now sits as an independent, tweeted: “The Conservative Party must return every penny of Mr Hester’s donation no ifs no buts.”

Lee Anderson, who defected to Reform UK on Monday after losing the Tory whip, told GB News that the public would want “consistency”.

He said: “I left the party, had the whip taken off me. I refused to apologise. I stood on a principle that I will not apologise and go back to the party – because we’ve seen inconsistencies again with this donor.

“Ten million quid is good for the party, fair enough, but you’ve got to be consistent, because if you’re not consistent, then people don’t trust you until you’ve been consistent.”

Hunt’s national insurance cut clears House of Commons

Wednesday 13 March 2024 20:17 , Andy Gregory

A national insurance cut from April has moved closer to becoming law after it cleared the House of Commons.

MPs voted 293 to 41 to support the bill at its third reading. An SNP amendment designed to block it – amid warnings that it would lead to spending cuts for public services – was defeated by 300 votes to 44.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt used his spring Budget last week to announce pre-election giveaways, including a 2p cut in national insurance for employees and the self-employed.

The bill, which will undergo further scrutiny in the Lords, seeks to implement the policy from 6 April.

UK set to ban foreign governments from owning British newspapers

Wednesday 13 March 2024 19:41 , Andy Gregory

Rishi Sunak’s government is set to change the law to ban foreign states from owning, influencing or controlling British newspapers – in a move threatening the Abu Dhabi-backed bid for the Telegraph and Spectator.

The government outlined its plans in a House of Lords debate on Wednesday evening, which would empower the culture secretary to block any deals found to pave the way for foreign ownership or influence.

The commitment to banning foreign state ownership of national newspapers and periodical news magazines will come in an amendment to the third reading of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, which is currently making its way through parliament.

Ministers are expected to bring forward an amendment to the legislation as soon as next Tuesday.

UK set to ban foreign governments from owning British newspapers