John Yates to be suspended, say reports

The assistant commissioner to be suspended pending an investigation into phone hacking and ties to N

One top figure at the Metropolitan police has already been sacrificed to the phone hacking scandal, with commisioner Sir Paul Stephenson's resignation. Now, it looks like the future of assistant commissioner John Yates is hanging in the balance, too.

The Metropolitan Police Authority's (MPA) professional standards is currently meeting to discuss Yates's handling of the phone hacking crisis. Also under discussion will be his links with Neil Wallis, the former News of the World executive whose employment with the Metropolitan Police ledStephenson to resign yesterday.

The committee does not have the power to dismiss Yates, but it can call for further investigation.

Boris Johnson has called an emergency press conference for 2pm. According to the Daily Telegraph, the mayor will announce that Yates is to be suspended, pending an investigation over his role in phone hacking and his relationship with Wallis. The newspaper quotes a source as saying: "If an investigation is ongoing he cannot stay in his job."

This follows increasing pressure on Yates to step down. Several people have now called for his resignation, including John Prescott, an independent member of the MPA, and a London Assembly member. However, the signs are that Yates, who twice decided not to reopen the inquiry into telephone hacking, will not resign of his own accord. Last week, when Keith Vaz asked if he was considering his position, he said:

No, I haven't. And if you're suggesting that I should resign for what News of the World has done and my very small part in it, I think that's probably unfair.

The last week has not shaken this, clearly, as he told Sky News this morning: "I've done nothing wrong". Sources say that he does not plan to step down unless the judge-led inquiry finds him guilty of wrong-doing.

It remains to be seen whether he will review this standpoint as the pressure increases.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.