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No 10 refuses to disclaim Sunak was given casual warning about Raab’s behaviour earlier than he made him deputy PM – because it occurred | Politics

February 1, 2023
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No 10 refuses to deny Sunak given informal warning about Raab's treatment of officials before he made him deputy PM

Downing Street has refused to deny that Rishi Sunak was informally warned about Dominic Raab’s treatment of officials before he appointed him as justice secretary and deputy prime minister. Asked about this at the post-PMQs lobby briefing, the PM’s press secretary said:

The PM was not aware of any formal complaints at the time of appointing Dominic Raab.

Pressed further, she said:

I don’t know what your definition of informal complaints is. The PET (propriety and ethics team) processes are very clear.

The appointments and usual processes were followed and we were not aware of any formal complaints.

Today the Times reports that Sunak was warned about Raab’s behaviour before he appointed him. (See 10.31am.)

Updated at 14.22 GMT

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  • Boris Johnson, the former Tory prime minister, has told the Atlantic Council thinktank in Washington that the process of admitting Ukraine to Nato and the EU should begin as soon as the war is over. The argument that this would provoke Russia was no longer relevant, he suggested. This is from the BBC’s Alex Partridge.

"Putin has demolished any objections" to Ukraine membership of NATO, says Boris Johnson, once war is "done" they should "begin the process of induction to NATO and the EU".

— Alex Partridge (@alexpartridge87) February 1, 2023
Rishi Sunak speaking at PMQs. Photograph: Jessica Taylor/PA

Updated at 17.05 GMT

According to new polling from YouGov, Keir Starmer is increasing his lead over Rishi Sunak on who would made the best prime minister.

Rob Ford, a politics professor, thinks this is ominous for Sunak.

This is ominous for Sunak and for anyone who was hoping for a quieter 2023 in terms of internal Con politics. Sunak's figures with several pollsters increasingly looking no better than Johnson's were a year ago, and Cons are if anything further behind Lab now than then

— Rob Ford (@robfordmancs) February 1, 2023

The problem for Sunak is twofold. The ardent Boris acolytes, clearly believe (on very limited evidence) that their man is the only one who can turn it around. And, even if he can't, many of them may prefer going down on a sinking ship with Captain Boris rather than Captain Rishi.

— Rob Ford (@robfordmancs) February 1, 2023

It still looks doubtful that the "Bring Back Boris" tribe is large enough to force a contest, even if Sunak's struggles get worse. But they *are* large enough to be a source of perpetual disruption and distraction. Even a couple of dozen Commons rebels is a headache for govt.

— Rob Ford (@robfordmancs) February 1, 2023

Tory MP Edward Timpson to stand down at next election

Edward Timpson, a former children’s minister, has announced he is standing down at the next election. By this Sky News count, he is the 17th Conservative who does not want to seek re-election.

Former DUP first minister of Northern Ireland says deal with EU on protocol must have unionist backing

Paul Givan, the DUP former first minister of Northern Ireland, has warned the UK government not to ignore unionists when reaching a deal with the EU on the Northern Ireland protocol. Referring to today’s report in the Times saying a customs deal has been agreed (see 10.09am), he said:

The government made a mistake whenever the UK signed up to the protocol and went over the heads of unionists. That led to the situation that we’re now in, they shouldn’t make the same mistake a second time.

They need to the focus on getting a deal which the DUP and broader unionism is able to buy in to.

That is the only basis on which these institutions can operate effectively. And if anybody believes that there’s a future for the Belfast agreement’s political institutions in the absence of the DUP buying in to it then they’re living in a fool’s paradise.

Paul Givan speaking to the media outside Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland today.Paul Givan speaking to the media outside Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland today. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

Tory HQ uses Twitter to highlight Labour MPs appearing on picket lines

A number of Labour MPs have joined picket lines to support striking workers, despite party leader Keir Starmer previously saying no MP should be on a picket line “if they want to be in government”, PA Media reports. PA says:

The official Conservative party press office account shared tweets from 13 Labour MPs such as Richard Burgon, Ian Lavery and Kate Osborne joining picket lines during Wednesday’s strikes.

The thread was prompted by the quote from Starmer in an interview with Sky News in August last year.

Leftwinger Sam Tarry, the former frontbencher who represents Ilford South, was previously sacked as a shadow transport minister after giving interviews from a picket line in July last year.

He defended his decision to join striking teachers in his constituency, and responded to the Tory party press office’s twitter thread by saying: “Much rather you focused on fairer pay for front line workers than me standing on picket lines … as Labour MPs have done so for over a 100 years.”

Former shadow chancellor John McDonnell told PA he believed Labour MPs should be on the picket lines, as he joined striking workers outside the Treasury and various locations in his constituency of Hayes and Harlington.

Former party leader Jeremy Corbyn also declared his support for the strikes, tweeting: “They are striking for decent pay. They are striving for social justice. They are fighting for us all.”

Updated at 15.56 GMT

No 10 says there is 'still lots of work to do' before UK and EU reach agreement on NI protocol

Downing Street has said there is “still lots of work to do” before the UK and the EU can agree a deal to resolve the dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol. Commenting on reports that the customs part of the deal has been agreed (see 10.09am), the PM’s spokesperson told reporters:

No deal has been agreed, there is still lots of work to do on all areas, with significant gaps remaining between the UK and EU positions.

Talks are ongoing on potential solutions including on goods.

South Wales police has said it is investigating “the origins of abusive and grossly offensive social media messages” sent to the Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones. The MP, who represents Pontypridd, told MPs yesterday that she had received rape and death threats after speaking out against the “toxic” influence Andrew Tate had over schoolboys.

Theresa May criticises Home Office for delaying government response to Hillsborough families report

The government will publish its response to the 2017 Hillsborough families report “in the course of this spring”, Chris Philp, a Home Office minister, told MPs this afternoon.

Responding to a Labour urgent question about yesterday’s national police response to the report, Philp said:

The government is fully committed to engaging with the Hillsborough families prior to the publication of the government’s formal response.

And I can also say that in particular since arriving in the Home Office two or three months ago, I have asked for this work to be sped up and we are expecting it to come out in the course of this spring.

But Theresa May, the Conservative former PM who commissioned the report published in 2017 when she was home secretary, said promising publication by the spring was not good enough. She told MPs:

The apology from the police is of course welcome, but frankly it would have been far better for them to have done their job properly on that fateful April day 34 years ago.

Can I say first to (Philp), saying vaguely that the government’s response will be available this spring, I do not think is good enough.

Five years on, the government must publish its response.

But will he agree with me that one of the elements that can be put in place to help families who, if sadly such an event or tragedy of this sort happens in the future, is the introduction of what was promised in the Conservative party manifesto in 2017 of an independent public advocate?

And will he commit now that the Home Office will not put any barriers in the way of the work of the Ministry of Justice to introduce such a body?

Philp replied:

A public consultation has taken place on that and the response is being worked through in the usual way but it’s happening at pace.

Updated at 15.34 GMT

Striking teachers on a march in central London today.Striking teachers on a march in central London today. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Momentum, the Labour group set up when Jeremy Corbyn was leader, to support his agenda, has criticised Keir Starmer for not supporting what Kim Johnson said about Israel. (See 1.50pm and 2.40pm.)

Another outrageous abuse of power by Starmer, this time to silence wholly legitimate criticism of the Israeli government.

Israel has been termed an apartheid state by Amnesty International & Human Rights Watch. Its new far-right government has been widely condemned. Facts.

— Momentum 🌹 (@PeoplesMomentum) February 1, 2023

Updated at 14.52 GMT

Labour MP Kim Johnson apologises for describing Israel as 'apartheid state' and its government as 'fascist'

The Labour MP Kim Johnson has made a Commons apology after she described the Israeli government as “fascist” during PMQs. (See 1.50pm.)

Raising a point of order this afternoon, she said:

I would like to apologise unreservedly for the intemperate language I used during PMQs.

I was wrong to use the term ‘fascist’ in relation to the Israeli government and understand why this was particularly insensitive given the history of the state of Israel.

While there are far-right elements in the government, I recognise the use of the term in this context was wrong.

I would also like to apologise for the use of the term ‘apartheid state’.

While I was quoting accurately Amnesty’s description, I recognise this is insensitive and I would like to withdraw it.

Last year Amnesty International published a 280-page report headlined “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians”. It said:

Amnesty International has analysed Israel’s intent to create and maintain a system of oppression and domination over Palestinians and examined its key components: territorial fragmentation; segregation and control; dispossession of land and property; and denial of economic and social rights. It has concluded that this system amounts to apartheid.

Kim Johnson.Kim Johnson. Photograph: David Colbran/Alamy

Updated at 14.42 GMT

DUP dismisses reports of deal between UK and EU on NI protocol as 'kite flying'

According to a report by Arj Singh in the i, Tories in the European Research Group – the hardline, pro-Brexit caucus who were instrumental in bringing down Theresa May because they thought her proposed deal with Brussels involved too much compromise – would not back a deal on the Northern Ireland protocol as described in the briefing to the Times. (See 10.09am.) Singh writes:

i understands there is a belief in the UK that the briefing was designed to test the reaction of dozens of Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) and the DUP, which is boycotting power-sharing over the Protocol.

An ERG source agreed that the report appeared to be “kite flying” and said that “obviously” the DUP “won’t accept” the deal and “neither would we”.

They said the mooted deal means that none of the major problems for the two groups would be solved because “EU law stays, the Irish Sea Border stays, and the ECJ still stays in a fudge”.

The mooted deal also does not meet the DUP’s seven tests for any new arrangements governing post-Brexit trade in Northern Ireland, the source claimed.

In a statement issued by his party about the Times story, the DUP MP Ian Paisley said something similar. He said:

Kite flying, wishful thinking by commentators and background briefing will not make the substantive changes needed to satisfy our seven tests and restore devolution.

Over eighteen months ago we outlined the parameters for the way forward. We set our tests and those continue to be our yardstick for measuring any deal between the EU and UK.

The message has landed in Brussels and London that there will be no restoration of the NI Executive until the protocol is replaced with arrangements that unionists can support.

European commission president plays down reports UK and EU have reached deal on NI protocol

Jennifer RankinJennifer Rankin

EU sources have pushed back strongly against reports of a deal on customs in talks on the Northern Ireland protocol (see 10.09am), but at a press conference today the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, played down suggestions of an agreement in a milder way.

She said:

As always in negotiations, you know, the principle that everything is only negotiated at the very end, when you know what the result is and you give a final signature.

She could not reveal “partial elements” of the discussions, she added, “because you never know in the very end how the package looks like”.

Von der Leyen also described the talks with the UK as “very constructive” and said she had an “excellent” relationship with Rishi Sunak.

Labour says it was 'unacceptable' for its MP, Kim Johnson, to call Israeli government 'fascist'

Kiran Stacey

The Labour MP Kim Johnson has been summoned to see the party’s chief whip after referring to Israel as “fascist” and an “apartheid state” during prime minister’s questions.

Labour officials were quick to condemn Johnson’s words afterwards, with a spokesperson for Keir Starmer calling them “unacceptable”.

Johnson said:

Since the election of the fascist Israeli government last December there has been an increase in human rights violations against Palestinians including children.

Can the prime minister tell us how he is challenging what Amnesty and other human rights organisations refer to as an apartheid state?

Starmer’s spokesperson said afterwards:

We think the words that she used were completely unacceptable. The chief whip will be speaking to her later today.

As a first step, we would obviously want her to withdraw the remarks that she used.

Johnson won the seat in 2019 after her predecessor Dame Louise Ellman resigned as a Labour MP over what she saw as the party’s failure to tackle antisemitism.

Updated at 14.15 GMT

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