Blow for Sunak as poll shows Tory voters 'turning to Reform UK'

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is pictured in Downing Street last night - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is pictured in Downing Street last night - Wiktor Szymanowicz/Anadolu Agency

Rishi Sunak has suffered a setback after a new poll showed a dip in support for the Tories but a spike in backing for Reform UK.

A YouGov survey conducted on November 29-30 puts the Conservative Party on 22 per cent, some 25 points behind Labour on 47 per cent.

The Tories were down three points when compared to a poll conducted on November 22-23 while Labour was down by one point.

Reform UK appears to have benefited from the fall in support for the Tories and Labour, increasing its share of the vote to nine per cent - up by four points.

The numbers represent a blow to Mr Sunak as he tries to rebuild support for the Conservative Party.

The Prime Minister will want to secure the backing of all right-of-centre voters as he tries to reel in Labour, and a surging Reform UK will make turning Tory fortunes around significantly more challenging.

The YouGov poll was published on the same day that Mr Sunak faces his first test at the ballot box in the form of the City of Chester by-election, with Labour looking to hold onto the seat.

You can follow the latest updates below. 

04:00 PM

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03:27 PM

EU Brexit chief: 'Clear window of opportunity' to make progress in talks

Maros Sefcovic, the vice president of the European Commission, said he wants to "make the most of this clear window of opportunity" after Brexit talks with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

Mr Cleverly said the UK remains "committed to finding a durable solution for the benefit of all" on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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03:19 PM

Dublin hoping to resolve Brexit-related differences with UK now Rishi Sunak is PM

Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he hopes that with a new British Prime Minister in place Brexit-related differences can now be resolved.

He told the Irish parliament this afternoon: "The United Kingdom is our neighbour. It’s our friend and a country that we and the rest of the EU want a deep partnership with as they travel a new journey outside of the European Union.

"I hope that with a new UK Prime Minister, and indeed in new context internationally, we can now grasp the opportunity to resolve our Brexit-related differences in the coming weeks through dialogue and compromise."

03:06 PM

Nicola Sturgeon rejects claims Ian Blackford victim of a 'coup'

Nicola Sturgeon has rejected claims that Ian Blackford is the victim of a "coup" to oust him after he announced he is standing down as the SNP's leader in Westminster.

Speaking to STV News after First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood today, Ms Sturgeon said: "No, it’s not a coup. Ian has been Westminster group leader for five years now and he represents one of the furthest flung constituencies in the country.

"He’s making the decision given all that lies ahead for the SNP, given all the exciting work that lies ahead for the SNP, that this is the right decision for him to pass on the baton.

"It’s up to the group now of course to consider who that is, but for now I want to pay tribute to the incredible, outstanding contribution that Ian Blackford has made."

02:27 PM

Ursula von der Leyen: Deal on Northern Ireland Protocol 'within reach'

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said she believes a solution to the long running row between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol is "within reach".

Addressing the Irish parliament during a visit to Dublin, she said: "By applying common sense and focusing on the issues that really matter in Northern Ireland, I believe we can make progress in resolving the pratctical issues surrounding the protocol.

"We are listening closely to the business and civil society stakeholders in Northern Ireland but the consequences of Brexit and the kind of Brexit chosen by the UK cannot be removed entirely.

"The solutions we find must ensure that the single market continues to function in Ireland elsewhere in the European Union and I think if both sides are sensitive to this careful balance a workable solution is within reach."

Mrs von der Leyen said her conversations with Rishi Sunak have been "encouraging".

02:17 PM

China accuses MPs of 'gross interference' over Taiwan trip

Beijing has accused UK MPs of "gross interference in China's internal affairs" after they conducted a formal visit to Taiwan.

Members of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee visited Taiwan this week and the Chinese Embassy in the UK has now condemned the trip.

An embassy spokesman said: "In disregard of China's firm opposition, the relevant UK MPs went ahead with their visit to the Taiwan region of China.

"This is a flagrant violation of the one-China principle and a gross interference in China's internal affairs, and it sends a seriously wrong signal to the separatist forces for 'Taiwan independence'.

"The Chinese side condemns this and has made solemn representations with the UK side."

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01:58 PM

EU chief 'very confident' of deal on Northern Ireland Protocol

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said she is "very confident" a solution can be agreed on the Northern Ireland Protocol - if there is the political will in the UK Government.

Arriving in Dublin for a two-day visit, she said: "We, the European Union has been listening very carefully to the concerns of people and businesses in Northern Ireland… we have always shown flexibility, we will always have a constructive approach to these issues.

"If there is the political will in the UK, I am very confident that we can reach a positive conclusion."

Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, is pictured in Dublin today - Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, is pictured in Dublin today - Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

01:53 PM

No10 expresses concern over impact of multiple strikes

Downing Street has urged public sector unions heading for a series of strikes this winter to call off their "unnecessary" industrial action and return to the negotiating table.

No10 expressed concern at the impact multiple strikes would have on the public as Christmas approaches.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "We are concerned about the impact strikes by multiple unions will have on the people of this country as we head into the Christmas period.

"We recognise that these are challenging economic times but public sector pay awards must be affordable for the taxpayer.

"We want them to keep engaging with employers, to keep talking so that we can come up with a resolution and put an end to some of this unnecessary strike action."

01:25 PM

Boris Johnson tells local Tories he will stand again at next general election

Boris Johnson has told his local Conservative Party he will stand again as an MP at the next general election, the Telegraph can reveal.

The former prime minister indicated his decision ahead of Monday’s deadline for Tory candidates to inform the party whether they wish to contest the poll, which is expected to be held in 2024.

Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, is pictured in the Palace of Westminster on November 22 - Tony Melville/PA
Boris Johnson, the former prime minister, is pictured in the Palace of Westminster on November 22 - Tony Melville/PA

It signals Mr Johnson is committed to a long-term political future representing Uxbridge and South Ruislip despite remaining on the backbenches.

Another run would also leave the door open to a future leadership campaign if a vacancy were to emerge.

You can read the full story here.

12:54 PM

Britain to suffer strike chaos every day until Christmas

Britain is to be disrupted by strikes every day until Christmas as trade unions seek to bring the country to a halt in a new winter of discontent.

Rail workers, including staff at Eurostar, nurses, teachers, security guards handling cash, driving examiners and rural payments officers are planning industrial action that will affect every day over advent.

The true scale of the disruption is set to be significantly worse, as the union representing civil servants, including Border Force officers, Passport Office staff and National Highways employees, has backed strike action but is yet to confirm dates.

You can read the full story here.

12:30 PM

No10 does not deny plan to crackdown on holiday homes

Downing Street has not denied reports it is planning to make it harder to turn new properties in coastal towns into holiday homes (you can read the full story here).

Asked about the mooted move, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "I have seen the reporting certainly on the amendments. We are still, as is normally the case with Bills as they progress, having discussions with MPs.

"You will know that we are already taking action to combat the adverse impact second homes can have on local communities. We are closing tax loopholes, we are introducing higher rates of stamp duty and giving councils the power to apply for a tax premium of up to 100 per cent on second homes."

12:06 PM

Nicola Sturgeon pays tribute to Ian Blackford

Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon paid tribute to Ian Blackford, who has led the party group at Westminster for five years, after he announced he is standing down from the role (see the post below at 11.40).

Ms Sturgeon said: "He led the group at a time of huge electoral success for the SNP, particularly at the 2019 general election, and has done an outstanding job in holding the Tory government to account and in promoting the case for independence.

"I would like to place on record my thanks for Ian’s diligence, tenacity, friendship and loyalty in his time as group leader. He will continue to play an important role as constituency MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and I have also asked him to take on a role as part of the wider SNP team preparing the case for independence."

12:02 PM

'More must be done'

Downing Street said "more must be done" to stop disruptive protests by the Just Stop Oil campaign group ahead of a meeting between Suella Braverman and police chiefs this afternoon.

The Prime Minister's Official Spokesman said: "We will be clear and I think the police have said this themselves that these protests are disrupting people’s daily lives, they are hindering the work of the emergency services and more must be done to put a stop to them.

"Fundamentally the right to protest will always be something we protect in this country but that should not stray into trying to disrupt people’s lives…"

11:52 AM

No10 open to giving police more powers to stop Just Stop Oil protests

The Government is open to giving the police more powers to stop disruptive Just Stop Oil protests, No10 has suggested.

Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, is due to hold a meeting with police chiefs on the subject this afternoon, with Rishi Sunak also expected to attend.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: "While I won’t preempt the meeting, we do want to discuss with police leaders if they require more powers or more guidance about how to further address some of these guerilla tactics we have seen."

The spokesman added: "We are very conscious that the public want us to deal with this and so it is right that we speak to those in charge of our police forces about how they plan to address [that]."

11:40 AM

Ian Blackford to stand down as SNP Westminster leader

Ian Blackford has announced he is standing down as the leader of the SNP in Westminster. He has issued the following statement:

"I have today informed SNP MPs that I will not be restanding as leader of the Westminster parliamentary group at our AGM next week.

"After more than five years in the role, now is the right time for fresh leadership at Westminster as we head towards a general election and the next steps in winning Scotland’s independence.

"During my time as leader, the SNP won a landslide victory in the 2019 general election, with an increased share of the vote and MPs, and support for independence has continued to grow with polling this week showing a majority in favour.

"While I am stepping down as Westminster leader, I will continue in my role as the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and I have also accepted a new role at the centre of the SNP’s independence campaign, leading on business engagement.

"I would like to thank our MPs and staff for all their support over the past five years. Whoever replaces me as Westminster leader will have my full support as, together, we stand up for Scotland's interests and democratic right to choose our future in an independence referendum."

11:39 AM

Michael Gove plans curbs on holiday homes to counter Tory rebellion

The Government will make it harder for new properties to be turned into holiday homes as part of an attempt to see off a Tory rebellion over planning rules, it has been claimed.

Michael Gove, the Housing Secretary, is currently in talks with a group of around 60 Conservative MPs who are opposed to plans for mandatory centrally set targets to build 300,000 homes a year.

One of the measures being considered would see restrictions placed on properties built in popular tourist locations.

You can read the full story here.

11:17 AM

Rail minister: 'Current performance is not acceptable'

Huw Merriman, the rail minister, told MPs that services in parts of the north of England are "not acceptable".

Responding to an urgent question from Labour on rail cancellations and delays, Mr Merriman told the House of Commons: "We recognise that current performance is not acceptable, it is having a significant effect on passengers and the Northern economy."

He added: "We need train services which are reliable and resilient to modern day life. While the companies have taken positive steps to get more trains moving, they must do more to deliver certainty of service to their passengers."

11:10 AM

Labour claims poor rail services in north of England would not be allowed in south

Delays to train services in Northern England would not be allowed to happen in the South, Labour has suggested.

Asking an urgent question about the issue in the House of Commons, shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: "Rail services across the North are once again in meltdown. Today almost 40 services have been cancelled on TransPennine Express alone and those are just the published figures because they were cancelled overnight.

"People cut off from jobs and opportunities, investors who I spoke to this morning in Manchester thinking twice about investing in the North, businesses unable to recruit because their potential employees simply cannot rely on the train to get to work."

She added: "I don’t say this lightly, but if this were happening elsewhere in the country, the Government would have taken far greater action by now. Instead, not just for weeks but for months and for years they have forced the North to settle for a substandard service, forced to accept delays, cancellations and overcrowding."

10:53 AM

Ex-minister: 'Churlish' not to restore Tory whip to Matt Hancock

It would be "churlish" not to restore the Tory whip to Matt Hancock given the "sheer spunk" of his contribution to television, a Conservative former minister has said.

Sir Desmond Swayne told the Commons this morning: "Given the sheer spunk of my right honourable friend the member for West Suffolk’s contribution to television, it would be churlish not to restore the whip, wouldn’t it?"

Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan replied: "As my right honourable friend will know that is not a decision for me but we can always depend on the member for West Suffolk to attack a challenge with gusto. And I wasn’t surprised at all to see him taking on all sorts of parts of animals during the show."

She added: “It has become a little bit of a thing for my predecessors to join that show but I hope that I can provide reassurance that I have no intentions of ever doing so."

Laughing, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle told MPs: "Never say never."

10:00 AM

Poll: Support for Tories dips as backing for Reform UK spikes

Support for the Conservative Party has dipped, according to a new YouGov poll, with Labour currently holding a 25 point lead over the Tories.

The poll, conducted on November 29-30, put the Tories on 22 per cent and Labour on 47 per cent.

The Tories were down three points when compared to a poll conducted on November 22-23 while Labour was down by one point.

Reform UK was up by four points to nine per cent overall while the Lib Dems were unchanged on nine per cent. The Greens were still on five per cent and the SNP on four per cent.

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09:43 AM

Unions 'fed up of being talked down to' by 'public schoolboys' in Government

Unions representing NHS staff are "fed up of being talked down to" by "public schoolboys" in the Government who "simply don’t care" about workers’ rights, according to the national secretary of the GMB trade union.

Andy Prendergast told Sky News: "Even Winston Churchill talked about the right to strike being a fundamental one, and yet we have a load of public schoolboys who run the Government who quite frankly are not interested in listening. They have to start listening. This is an issue that affects every single person in Britain. So many of us rely on the NHS.

"When we call 999, speaking to call handlers who are often paid less than £10.50 – something has to change. Quite frankly, we’re getting fed up of being talked down to by the Government who seem completely in the dark about the problems.

"We’ve come to the view that they simply don’t care, and this isn’t good enough – it’s not good enough for patients, it’s not good enough for staff, it’s not good enough for anyone – we pay our taxes and we deserve better."

09:32 AM

Labour warns of 'misery' ahead because of strike action

Thangam Debbonaire, Labour's shadow Commons leader, suggested the Government is to blame for public sector strike action as she said the nation is facing "misery" this winter.

She told Sky News: "This is a Government failure. They need to take responsibility for it and I am afraid to say that we are going to see misery for working people whether they are involved in the strikes or affected by them over this winter because of Tory mismanagement of the economy and of relationships with the unions."

She added: "This is still a preventable situation and I hope that the Government takes responsibility for making sure that we don't have that coordinated wave of strikes that you were talking about just now."

09:28 AM

Sir Ed Davey urges Government to end ambulance 'chaos'

Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the "chaos has to end" in the ambulance service as he urged the Government to draw up an "action plan" to set how resources will be increased (see the post below at 08.37).

He told Sky News: "There are some communities, particularly some rural communities, where I really worry that people are dying because the Government haven't sorted out the ambulance service."

09:18 AM

Rishi Sunak 'creates new strikes unit in No10'

Rishi Sunak has created a new unit in Downing Street with the specific task of putting in place contingency plans to cope with public sector strikes this winter, it has been claimed.

The Financial Times reported that Oliver Dowden, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, has been put in charge of the unit which will look "across the board" at industrial action.

08:46 AM

Poll: Support for Scottish independence increases

The proportion of people who support Scottish independence has risen ahead of those who do not following a Supreme Court ruling on the issue, a new poll has suggested.

The research found that 49 per cent of Scottish respondents said they would vote 'Yes' and 45 per cent said they would vote 'No' if there were to be a referendum tomorrow on whether Scotland should be an independent country, with the remainder saying they do not know.

Redfield & Wilton Strategies carried out the poll on November 26-27, after the UK Supreme Court ruled on November 23 that another independence referendum cannot be held without the backing of Westminster.

Support for independence was higher than a comparable poll on September 18 last year when 44 per cent of respondents said they would vote 'Yes' while 47 per cent said they would vote 'No'.

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08:37 AM

Lib Dems: Ambulance delays now the 'worst ever'

The Liberal Democrats published figures this morning - obtained through the Freedom of Information Act - on the state of the nation's ambulance services.

The figures apparently show patients whose lives are in immediate danger are waiting "three times longer in some rural areas than urban ones" while heart attack and stroke patients in the worst areas are now waiting an average of one hour and 40 minutes for paramedics to arrive.

Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Lib Dems, said: "Nobody wants strikes. I have spoken to ambulance crews and they don't want to go on strikes. What I think the concern is is that the Government hasn't been listening and the figures that we have published today as a result of lots of Freedom of Information requests, figures the Government didn't want you to know, show that the delays on ambulances are the worst ever.

"What they show is people with serious life-threatening conditions... the ambulances aren't arriving on time and even when they do pick up the patient they are having to wait for sometimes hours to get a bed in a hospital."

08:27 AM

Strikes will deliver 'short, sharp shock to the Government'

NHS strike action this winter will give the Government a "short, sharp shock", a union leader has said.

Andy Prendergast, the national secretary of the GMB union, was asked how patients could be safeguarded if there is coordinated strike action across the health service and he told Sky News: "Well, at the moment the question has to be asked is whether their protection is being safeguarded currently.

"We have got ambulance workers who are talking of 26 hour delays to get out to people who desperate;ly need that support. We have people literally dying on queues outside of hospitals.

"Ultimately we are watching a service be run into the ground and our members have bravely taken a stand that says this cannot go on.

"So we will be providing emergency cover… but this is about delivering a short, sharp shock to the Government. They have a choice. They can either fund the service or they can simply watch it wither away."

08:21 AM

NHS strikes are a 'cry for help'

Andy Prendergast, the national secretary of the GMB union, described NHS strikes this winter as a "cry for help".

He told Sky News: "This, frankly, is a cry for help and the Government need to listen. The public of Britain deserve better. The NHS members deserve better and we need to see something happen and something happen very fast."

08:18 AM

'This isn’t an action we take lightly'

The national secretary of the GMB union said "no on is listening" to the concerns of ambulance workers and "they need to see a change".

Asked what the GMB is hoping to achieve from its strike action this winter, Andy Prendergast told Sky News: "We are hoping that the Government will listen to this, that they will take it seriously. Our members have been suffering from pay cuts for effectively the last decade, they are seeing a service that has been downtrodden, they are demoralised and ultimately many of them are watching patients die needless deaths.

"Ultimately it has to change. This isn’t an action we take lightly. There hasn’t been a major ambulance dispute for over 30 years. But frankly no one is listening and they need to see a change."

08:13 AM

Unions could coordinate NHS strike action to cause 'maximum impact'

Andy Prendergast, the national secretary of the GMB union, said unions are looking at the potential for coordinated strike action in the NHS this winter in order to cause "maximum impact".

Asked during an interview on Sky News if he is considering coordinated action, he said: "Yeah, we will be talking to the other unions, we know that the nurses have got their first ballot in over 100 years, we know that our colleagues in Unite, in Unison are currently delivering ballots so we will be looking to make sure this has the maximum impact.

"We will be making sure that emergencies are covered but ultimately government need to listen, we need to see our members’ terms and conditions improved."

08:11 AM

Good morning

Good morning and welcome to today's politics live blog.

Growing fears of a potential "winter of discontent" continue to dominate things in Westminster as more unions announce strike action.

Meanwhile, there is also the City of Chester by-election today which represents Rishi Sunak's first test at the ballot box since becoming Tory leader.

I will guide you through the key developments.