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The Staggers

The latest comment and analysis from our writers

17 January

PMQs review: The Rwanda plan has become a gift for Keir Starmer

As the Labour leader mercilessly exploited Tory divisions, Rishi Sunak was left politically helpless.

By Rachel Cunliffe

There were no prizes for guessing the theme of today’s PMQs. After last night’s dangerously large Tory rebellion over amendments to the Rwanda bill, Keir Starmer had a brilliant opportunity to highlight the Conservatives’ fractures and Rishi Sunak’s rapidly depleting authority. And that is exactly what the Labour leader did. Starmer was clearly enjoying himself, starting by noting that the government had “lost contact with 85 per cent of the 5,000 people” due for deportation to Rwanda. “Has he found them yet?” he mockingly asked Sunak. Unsurprisingly, the answer was not yes. And the rest of Starmer’s questions followed the same pattern. Today was all about highlighting the government’s dysfunction and the stunning incompetencies surrounding the Rwanda scheme: the £400m already paid ...

10 January

The SNP has resorted to scattergun policy

Scottish ministers are disturbingly willing to announce schemes that have been shared with no one.

By Chris Deerin

In politics, as in life, you’re sometimes better off begging forgiveness than asking permission. Sometimes you simply need to do a thing and deal with the fall out afterwards. It’s not a form of behaviour to be pursued regularly, though. A habit of doing what you want, when you want, without any consultation, can quickly, and rightly, come to be seen as simple contempt for others. This is a habit the SNP seems to be slipping into. The Scottish government has in the past made much of its generous approach to consultation – the disastrous gender reform bill was, we were regularly told, the most consulted upon piece of legislation in Holyrood’s history. When it suits them, though, ministers are perfectly, and disturbingly, ...

9 January

David Cameron is cornered by MPs over Gaza

The Foreign Secretary admitted that he was “worried” Israel had broken international law.

By Freddie Hayward

“He’s a class act,” one grinning Tory MP effused when I asked for their two cents on David Cameron ahead of his first interrogation by MPs since being appointed Foreign Secretary. Rishi Sunak’s decision to appoint a predecessor to the role led to grumbles from those on the party’s right while delighting the party’s liberals. “[Barack] Obama got John Kerry in as secretary of state in a similar fashion,” one admiring MP wistfully remembered at the time. Cameron’s return from the wilderness (also known as the Cotswolds) was made possible by a prompt ennoblement to the House of Lords. He was handed some ermine and told to deal with the unfolding war between Israel and Hamas to allow, some speculate, Sunak ...

9 January

Who will win the Wellingborough by-election?

Though it’s tougher to win than Tamworth, winning it would put Labour on course for 420 seats.

By Ben Walker

If you want to get romantic, Wellingborough is an Old Labour locale sitting in the south. It was a bellwether seat in the postwar years but turned Tory after Harold Wilson’s premiership. It was won by New Labour in 1997 and lost by New Labour eight years later. And since then, the town and its surrounding villages have voted little other than Conservative.  Welcome to what is the first (but not the last) parliamentary by-election of this general election year. Wellingborough, which the Tories have held since 2005, has been left vacant by a successful recall petition against Peter Bone after a report found he had “committed many varied acts of bullying and one act of sexual misconduct” against a member ...

5 January

Keir Starmer must remember that chaos won’t end with the Tories

Labour would inherit a fractious domestic and international environment. Does it have answers?

By Lewis Goodall

January is an underrated month in life, if not in politics. It’s a time of new resolve, of fresh intent, but where politics can feel tired – a time, especially with an election looming, where political leaders feel compelled to relaunch, to set out their stall anew, despite having little new to say. Westminster has been much preoccupied by the question of the timing of the general election. Rishi Sunak has now stated that his “working assumption” is that he will go to the country in the second half of 2024. This upended the (always wrong-headed) expectation from some that he would hold a contest in May. But while this parlour game is diverting, it is not fundamentally important. The date of ...

5 January

Is Anas Sarwar ready?

To justify the hype, Scottish Labour must win around half of the SNP’s seats at the general election.

By Chris Deerin

This is it, then. For Anas Sarwar, the general election of 2024 is not a prelim or any kind of trial run for the big exam that is Holyrood 2026. This is the year in which he must show that the hype and the polls are real. The Scottish Labour leader knows this. If he is to have any chance of becoming first minister, he must first deliver at Westminster. Here, he is a hostage to his own success – Labour is widely predicted to win around half of the SNP’s seats. Anything significantly below that will be viewed as a disappointment and have uncertain consequences for Labour’s apparent momentum.  He is expected to deliver a result that will threaten Humza Yousaf’s ...

4 January

To win, the Tories need to defy electoral history

No governing party has ever won from a starting position as weak as the Conservatives’ currently is.

By Ben Walker

Ahead of what Rishi Sunak has confirmed will be a general election year (the Prime Minister ruled out a contest in January 2025), Labour is in a better situation than any opposition in recent history to replace the government. Keir Starmer’s party stands 19 points clear of the Conservatives. This lead is unlikely to be overturned, but that isn’t to say it won’t shrink in advance of election day. History tells us that they tend to narrow. In 1979, for instance, the Tories’ lead over the then Labour government fell from 20 points 90 days before to seven points on election eve. In 1970, Ted Heath’s Conservatives led by 15 points 100 days before, but ended up winning by just three. In ...

4 January

Has Labour dropped its £28bn green pledge?

Keir Starmer’s suggestion that the party may “borrow less” conceals the real choice he faces on public spending.

By Freddie Hayward

Keir Starmer is the master of dropping pledges without suffering political consequences. Labour’s U-turn over gender self-identification last year was quietly slipped into a Guardian article. The “ten pledges” that Starmer made to the Labour membership to win the leadership contest were mostly jettisoned without fuss. The promise to increase taxes on the top 5 per cent of earners disappeared with a mutter about the tax burden. Scrapping Universal Credit became a promise to “fundamentally reform” it. But what about Labour’s promise to invest £28bn a year into the green economy? This one is different. All signs suggest that Labour does intend to boost green investment. The policy has not been quietly dropped. Ed Miliband’s position as shadow net zero minister ...

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