Today’s daily politics briefing
Boris Johnson’s government is seeking agree action from G7 partners on threats like those posed by China and Russia. Leading talks in London, foreign secretary Dominic Raab is keen to push a joint rebuttal unit to tackle Russian disinformation.
It comes as US secretary of state Antony Blinken said Washington remained adamant that the Good Friday Agreement protecting peace in Northern Ireland should not become a casualty of the UK’s exit from the EU.
Meanwhile, the EU has stolen a march on Britain over a trade deal with India. The EU pact could be forged as early as this weekend, while Mr Johnson’s government has announced only an enhanced partnership with India.
Elsewhere, the Tories have taken a 17-point lead over Labour in Hartlepool for the crucial by-election seat, according to a shock new poll. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party was still “climbing a mountain” after its 2019 general election defeat.
Khan wants Olympics back in London
Sadiq Khan has said he wants to bring the Olympics and Paralympics back to London if he is re-elected as mayor. Labour’s candidate promised to explore bidding to host the 2036 or 2040 games.
The incumbent said: “Not only would future London Olympics bring the world’s finest sportsmen and women to London, it would help fast track much needed green infrastructure projects such as Crossrail 2 and the Bakerloo Line extension, bringing with them long term jobs and investment.”
Local and mayoral elections will take place on Thursday.
Adam Forrest4 May 2021 09:07
Truss dodges questions on PM’s flat refurb
Liz Truss has claimed Boris Johnson’s explanation of the saga of refurbishing his Downing Street flat was “very clear” and pushed aside renewed questions about the sleaze scandal this morning.
Truss told Sky News: “I think these allegations and counter-rumours from what’s going on in No 10 are of very, very little interest to people across the country.
She added: “[Mr Johnson] spends every waking hour thinking about how we’re dealing with Covid, our vaccination programme and this is frankly a distraction from those really important issues that people care about.”
Pressed further about the renovation, Ms Truss said: “The prime minister is very clear that he’s covered the cost of these refurbishments, that he’s been working with officials, that he’s declared in line with the appropriate rules.”
Adam Forrest4 May 2021 08:59
G7 ministers to discuss action over Russia and China threats
The UK government will on Tuesday seek to agree decisive action from G7 partners to protect democracies against global threats like those posed by China and Russia.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab will lead talks in London designed to lay the groundwork for a leaders’ summit in June.
“The UK’s presidency of the G7 is an opportunity to bring together open, democratic societies and demonstrate unity at a time when it is much needed to tackle shared challenges and rising threats,” Raab said in a statement.
Their first face-to-face meeting in two years is seen as a chance to reinforce support for the rules-based international system at a time when it says China’s economic influence and Russian malign activity threaten to undermine it.
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said there was a need to try to forge a stronger global alliance, though stressed he did not want to hold China down, but make sure it played by the rules.
In the afternoon talks will turn to Russia, including how to respond to a troop manoeuvres on the border with Ukraine and the imprisonment of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny. Raab said on Sunday he wanted the G7 to consider a joint rebuttal unit to tackle Russian disinformation and propaganda.
Adam Forrest4 May 2021 08:53
‘We are climbing a mountain,’ says Keir Starmer
Keir Starmer has been asked if he would quit as Labour leader if his party does badly at this week’s local elections.
“I take full responsibility for the election results – I take full responsibility for everything the Labour party does under my leadership,” he told Sky News.
“My job as leader of the Labour party is to rebuild the Labour party from where we were in December 2019, with the worst result since 1935, into a position where we could win the next general election. That is a mountain to climb – we are climbing that mountain.”
Adam Forrest4 May 2021 08:43
Starmer tries to manage local election expectations
Keir Starmer has warned that “rebuilding Labour” following the 2019 general election defeat is still an ongoing process, as he attempts to manage expectations ahead of Thursday’s local and mayoral elections.
Sir Keir told Good Morning Britain today: “I never thought, and I don’t think anybody realistically thought, that the Labour Party could go from the devastating defeat in 2019 – the worst since 1935 – and mend all that in about a year or a year and a half.
“Of course it’s going to take longer than that, but we’re fighting for and we know we’ve got to earn every vote into that election.”
On the cash-for-curtains row and other “sleaze” claims, he said: “There’s a feeling at the top of government that the rules don’t really apply to them … People don’t like it.”
Adam Forrest4 May 2021 08:40
No free trade deal talks with India until autumn, says minister
Addressing the £1bn-worth of investment deals announced with India, international trade Secretary Liz Truss told Sky News: “This is about a win-win for both countries. It’s about helping India with the immediate Covid crisis, but also helping India build back better after the Covid crisis.
The investment deals fall short of a free trade agreement, but Truss said today’s announcement paved the way for more talks.
“We will start negotiations on a full free trade agreement this autumn … we want to get those negotiations completed as soon as possible, but of course we’ll be looking for early wins that we can gain.”
Adam Forrest4 May 2021 08:37
Poll gives Conservatives 17-point lead in crucial Hartlepool by-election
Boris Johnson’s Conservatives have a 17-point lead in a crucial by-election battle for a Labour stronghold later this week, according to a new poll.
The survey for ITV’s Good Morning Britain by pollsters Survation gives Jill Mortimer, the Tory candidate in the north-east constituency held by Labour since 1964, 50 per cent of the vote share in the area.
It is a considerable lead over Labour’s candidate, Paul Williams, in the area, with just 33 per cent of respondents saying they would cast a vote for Sir Keir Starmer’s party at the 6 May by-election.
Jon Sharman4 May 2021 08:18
Rewild oceans to meet UK’s net zero goals, campaigners say
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) and Rewilding Britain are calling on the government to treat the practice with the same urgency as reforestation in the battle against climate change.
In a new report, the campaign groups write that Britain’s coastal waters cover 500,000 km2 and store an estimated 205 million tons of carbon.
The total is 50 million tons more than the carbon locked up within the UK’s entire stock of standing forests, the report adds.
Jon Sharman4 May 2021 08:07
EU steals march in race for India trade deal
The EU is poised to steal a march on the UK in the hunt for a post-Brexit trade deal with India, as Boris Johnson announced only an “enhanced partnership” with Delhi.
Brussels hailed “clear momentum”, with talks on a free trade agreement to be confirmed as early as Saturday, threatening to put the UK in the slow lane in the race for negotiations.
The prime minister pledged that 6,500 jobs would be created in the UK through trade and investment deals with India, centred on health, technology and vaccine development.
The announcement comes ahead of a virtual meeting with Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, on Tuesday – after a dramatic Covid-19 surge forced the cancellation of Mr Johnson’s trade trip.
But the “enhanced partnership” seems certain to be trumped by talks on a fully fledged trade deal between the EU and India, to be confirmed within days.
Jon Sharman4 May 2021 07:41
UK must protect Northern Ireland peace deal, US says
The United States has “no closer ally, no closer partner” than Britain – but the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland must be protected post-Brexit, president Joe Biden’s top diplomat said in a visit to London on Monday.
“We’re connected. It’s often said but always important to reaffirm,” secretary of state Antony Blinken told a Downing Street news conference.
“We’re connected by ties of friendship, family, history, shared values, and shared sacrifice.”
But in between warm talk of a special relationship, there was a warning that the 1998 peace deal covering terms of the border between the UK and Ireland must be upheld despite the problems faced since Brexit.
Jon Sharman4 May 2021 07:16