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Labour byelection victory ‘a clear message to Sunak’, says Starmer – as it happened | Politics


Labour byelection win ‘a clear message to Sunak’

Keir Starmer has said that his party’s victory at the Chester byelection is a “very, very good result” for Labour.

Speaking on a visit to Glasgow, he said:

Let’s be clear this was a very, very good result for the Labour Party. The Labour Party has been putting forward a positive plan for the future, how we stabilise and grow our economy.

So we were putting a positive choice to the electorate in Chester.

The government is worn out, tired, has crashed the economy. And the verdict was very, very clearly given. I think that’s a clear message to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that people are fed up and they want to change.

There’s this strong sense now that the government has run out of road, run out of ideas, hasn’t got a mandate, and it’s time for change.

Key events

Summary of the day

Rachel Hall

Rachel Hall

It’s been a quiet afternoon in Westminster despite things getting off to a busy start this morning, with Labour clinching a key victory at the Chester byelection. Leader Keir Starmer hailed the move as sending “a clear message to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that people are fed up and they want to change”.

Here are the other main events of the day:

  • The former health secretary Sajid Javid tweeted to say he will not be standing again at the next general election, which is expected to be held in 2024. He said his decision-making had been accelerated by a request from the Conservative party for MPs to confirm their intentions at an early stage in order to enable early preparation for the election. He is the latest in a steady stream of Tory MPs who have revealed that they will step back at the next election.

  • Matt Hancock made a triumphant return to Parliament after a surprisingly successful appearance on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity. He appeared as an independent member after having the Tory whip suspended to contribute to the second reading of his private members’ bill on dyslexia screening and teacher training, and provided ample fodder for jokes among his parliamentary colleagues.

  • Boris Johnson gave a speech to a conference on blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency, as part of his lucrative post-No 10 lecture circuit, despite controversy around the industry following the multibillion-dollar collapse of the FTX exchange.

Thanks for following today. I’m closing the blog for the evening but we’ll be back on Monday.

Rowena Mason

Rowena Mason

Boris Johnson has given a speech to a conference on blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrency, as part of his lucrative post-No 10 lecture circuit, despite controversy around the industry following the multibillion-dollar collapse of the FTX exchange, writes the Guardian’s Rowena Mason.

In his speech, the former prime minister suggested the advent of blockchain was full of possibilities and appeared to compare it to major technological innovations such as the invention of fire, the railways, and the internet.

But Johnson also said he supported the idea of more regulation of cryptocurrencies and argued its advocates “have to convince people that their use cases are real and work for them in their lives, opposed to this being about speculation and a new type of financial market or instrument”.

There’s more from Matt Hancock’s appearance in the Commons. MPs ran out of time to finish debating his bill, meaning it will need to return to the Commons at a later date to have a chance of passing its second reading.

Prior to time elapsing, he said the current system of identifying dyslexia is “broken”.

He said:

It’s not that you’re bad at languages, or stupid in some way, and there are still thousands of children that label themselves that because they do not get the identification that they need. This has got to change.

And it is wrong to say that labelling children is a mistake. On the contrary, ensuring children know what the problem is gets them support and helps improve their self-esteem.

The current system is broken because identification as dyslexic requires expensive tests that only a few children do and there is a very strong correlation between being able to access those tests and the means of one’s parents.

And the result of that is there is a much higher rate of identification in the private school system.

It isn’t just that we have a problem of accessing the extra time that might be appropriate, but we have an essentially unfair system of allocating that extra time, because if you can afford to get the identification you get the extra time. That is a social outrage.

Fresh from the I’m a Celebrity jungle, the MP Matt Hancock has told colleagues on his return to work in the the chamber of the House of Commons that “it is a pleasure to be here, and to be clean and well-fed”.

Hancock – who had the Tory whip suspended after it emerged he was entering the jungle for I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! – has been speaking during contributions for the second reading of his private members’ bill on dyslexia screening and teacher training.

Nigel Evans, the deputy speaker, introduced Hancock’s contribution by saying it was the third bill of the day. To laughter, and in a reference to the former health secretary’s performance in the ITV show, he said Hancock was “making a habit of coming third”.

“I’m not quite sure what to make of that, but I’m honoured to be third … today … and let’s see how that goes,” said Hancock.

He said his bill represented a next step in acting on Rishi Sunak’s desire to spread opportunity and provide everyone with a world-class education.

Hancock, who has claimed he went on the ITV programme because he is dyslexic and wanted to raise awareness of the common learning difficulty, has put forward a bill which would enable for every child in primary school to be screened for dyslexia and for teachers to be properly trained.

There is a gap in the government’s own literacy drive, Hancock told MPs, adding that just one in five dyslexic children in schools were identified as such.

“Without early identification we will never reach full literacy because the success in driving up literacy requires us to support those who have the most difficulty,” he said.

“If we don’t know who is dyslexic at school how can we possibly help them and equip them to be successful?”

Getting support to children would dramatically improve their self esteem, said Hancock, who now sits as an independent MP. He told the house that people all over the UK were wrongly labelled as lazy.

The lives of people with dyslexia could go two ways, he said, referring to figures which he said showed that a high percentage of prisoners were dyslexic, while more than half of entrepreneurs had the condition. Such people had particular skills and the ability to engage in lateral thinking.

The only consolation for Rishi Sunak from last night’s dismal Tory performance in the Chester byelection is that the Reform UK challenger on his right flank once again failed to connect with voters, according to Patrick O’Flynn, a former MEP who was on the “red” wing of Ukip and who is now with the Social Democratic party.

Reform, which emerged out of the Brexit party, chalked up a vote share of less than 3%, O’Flynn notes in a piece for the Spectator.

He asks why “so many people now hate the Conservatives?”

One answer is because we live in polarised times, but he adds:

The other main reason is surely that the Conservative high command has been trying to court people who will never vote for it at the expense of those who did at the last general election. Emphasising carbon net zero when the Tory-leaning electorate craves immigration net zero is the kernel of the problem.

Increasing numbers of Rishi Sunak’s MPs are starting to worry that his trademark brand of sober managerialism might end up making his party barely distinguishable from Labour’s offering.

This is particularly pertinent in relation to the economy, the Guardian’s Westminster team reports. While the Liz Truss brand of steroid-enhanced Thatcherism provided very obvious ideological distance from Labour, it had the drawback of being unpopular with voters and financial markets.

The arrival of Sunak at No 10, and Jeremy Hunt to the chancellory, has steadied the markets and is predicted to bring down inflation, but it has left many Conservative MPs asking themselves how, or even if, the direction of travel would be that different under Keir Starmer.

One Conservative former cabinet minister said:

At the moment, everybody thinks we’re all offering the same thing, especially on the economy. I think Rishi and Jeremy get that, but I’m not sure what their answer is.

People in my constituency who are longstanding Conservative voters think we’ve turned into a bunch of socialists. We need to give the red wall a reason to vote for us.

Rishi Sunak (L) congratulating Jeremy Hunt (C) after he delivered his autumn statement to MPs in the House of Commons in November.
Rishi Sunak (L) congratulating Jeremy Hunt (C) after he delivered his autumn statement to MPs in the House of Commons in November. Photograph: House of Commons/PA

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory backbencher and former minister, has said he does not anticipate a greater risk of rebellion from Tory MPs opting to step down at the next general election.

Asked if he is concerned that having a swathe of MPs with nothing to lose might mean trouble ahead for the Tories, he told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme:

I wouldn’t have thought so. Because by and large, it seems to me the people who rebel at this stage in a parliament think it will help them in their re-election chances. I happen to think this is a mistake. I think that people are more likely to vote for united rather than divided parties.

He added that if someone has had a successful career in parliament, it would be their natural default position “to be loyal and not to cause trouble”.

Rees-Mogg said he hopes to run again at the next election in one of the seats set to emerge out of North East Somerset.

A Conservative MP leading a cross party delegation to Taiwan in the face of Chinese anger has said she and her colleagues are on the island “to listen and learn” and called on China to withdraw sanctions directed against named British parliamentarians who have criticised Beijing.

China’s embassy in London on Thursday denounced the delegation’s trip as an interference in China’s internal affairs. Britain, like most countries, has no formal diplomatic ties with democratically governed Taiwan but has stepped up its support for the island in the face of a rising military threat from China, as have other Western nations.

But Alicia Kearns, the Tory MP who is leading a chair of the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme from Taiwan:

We cannot cut off relations with China. We need to cooperate with China and to coordinate with them but we also have to challenge them and make sure that they know what our red lines are when it comes to protecting our people.

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (R) and British MP Alicia Kearns (L) meet in Taipei, Taiwan, on December 2.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen (R) and British MP Alicia Kearns (L) meet in Taipei, Taiwan, on December 2. Photograph: Makoto Lin/TAIWAN PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE/EPA

Covid-19 infections across the UK have risen above 1m again, with levels increasing in England for the first time since mid-October, new figures show.

The new Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures come alongside early signs that Covid-19 patient levels in England are also starting to rise once more.

The total number of people in private households in the UK testing positive for coronavirus rose to 1m in the week to 21 November, up 6% from 972,400 the previous week, according to the ONS.

This is Ben Quinn picking up the blog now from Rachel.

Labour byelection win ‘a clear message to Sunak’

Keir Starmer has said that his party’s victory at the Chester byelection is a “very, very good result” for Labour.

Speaking on a visit to Glasgow, he said:

Let’s be clear this was a very, very good result for the Labour Party. The Labour Party has been putting forward a positive plan for the future, how we stabilise and grow our economy.

So we were putting a positive choice to the electorate in Chester.

The government is worn out, tired, has crashed the economy. And the verdict was very, very clearly given. I think that’s a clear message to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that people are fed up and they want to change.

There’s this strong sense now that the government has run out of road, run out of ideas, hasn’t got a mandate, and it’s time for change.

Rishi Sunak has said he is “sad” his “good friend” Sajid Javid is planning to step down as an MP.

The prime minister tweeted:

Sad to see my good friend Sajid Javid stepping back from politics.

He’s been a proud champion of enterprise and opportunity during his time in government and on the backbenches – particularly for the people of Bromsgrove.

Sad to see my good friend @sajidjavid stepping back from politics.

He’s been a proud champion of enterprise and opportunity during his time in Government and on the backbenches – particularly for the people of Bromsgrove.

May the Force be with you, Saj.

— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) December 2, 2022

Sajid Javid will not stand in next election

The former health secretary Sajid Javid has tweeted to say he will not be standing again at the next general election, which is expected to be held in 2024.

He wrote:

Serving as the member of parliament for Bromsgrove remains an incredible privilege, and I will continue to support the government and the causes I believe in.

He posted a copy of the letter he sent to the chairman of Bromsgrove Conservative Association, noting that his decision-making had been accelerated by a request from the Conservative party for MPs to confirm their intentions at an early stage in order to enable early preparation for the election.

Javid is the latest in a steady stream of Tory MPs who have revealed that they will step back at the next election, which will be no later than January 2025, amid fears that the party, which is flagging in the polls, will lose.

Senior Conservatives including Chloe Smith and William Wragg have already announced they will not be running again.

After much reflection I have decided that I will not be standing again at the next General Election.

Serving as the Member of Parliament for Bromsgrove remains an incredible privilege, and I will continue to support the Government and the causes I believe in. pic.twitter.com/qskUo5jjOR

— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) December 2, 2022

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, has said she does not think she is more popular than Keir Starmer.

Asked if it is true Labour is struggling with the popularity of its leader, and pressed on whether she garners more favour with voters than Starmer, she told broadcasters in Chester:

I don’t think that’s the case.

Obviously when Keir took over, and myself, it was during the pandemic, and Keir was governing in the national interest at that time.

And then as we’ve come out of that, and as people have seen more of Keir actually, they’re seeing that actually we don’t want a class clown. We don’t want someone who’s going to crash the economy.

We want someone who’s sensible, that is going to do the right thing for the British people, do the right thing for our British businesses and make sure that Britain grows again.

The archbishop of Canterbury has been on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning discussing his recent visit to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. He said there must be “no way we force peace” in Ukraine as he warned the west has not “taken onboard” that the conflict could drag on for years.

He said that Ukraine was the “victim” and urged the west to show “real resilience” and resist anything similar to the carving up of Czechoslovakia to appease Hitler in 1938.

During a three-day visit to Kyiv, Justin Welby had to take cover in a bomb shelter when air raid warnings were sounded after Russian bombers were reported to have taken off.

Asked what he learned, he told Today:

First of all, the need for solidarity and support for Ukraine.

And secondly, that there must be no way in which we force peace on Ukraine or they’re put under pressure. Third, that the need for support is going to be very long term.

Peace is always better than war. But there are times when justice demands that there is the defeat of what we call, the archbishop of York and I called when it started, an evil invasion. And I don’t regret saying that.

In this morning’s broadcast round, the shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, claimed there had not been a “single moment of negotiation” from the government to avert NHS strikes.

He said he understood why people had voted for industrial action as they felt “their backs are against the wall”.

He said he could not “in all honestly” pledge to deliver nurses’ pay demands if he was the health secretary, but stressed he would be “prepared to negotiate”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

There hasn’t been a single minute of negotiation from the government with the unions.

I don’t think there is any rational explanation as to why the government [wouldn’t] negotiate, except… perhaps that briefing to the newspapers that the government is quite happy to see industrial action taking place – they assume the public will turn against the unions and back the government. I assume that’s their strategy.

Matt Hancock has been spotted in the House of Commons chamber, in his first appearance since his controversial yet surprisingly successful stint on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!

The former health secretary is back in parliament for the second reading of his dyslexia screening and teacher training bill, which is third on Friday’s order paper and expected to be debated later.

Hancock now sits as the independent MP for West Suffolk, having been suspended from the Conservative parliamentary party for choosing to head to the Australian jungle at a time when the House was sitting. He has “no intention of standing down or stepping away from politics”, according to his team.

In a video posted to Instagram, Hancock said:

I’m back in the office in Westminster today after my day in the constituency yesterday.

I’ve got my bill in front of parliament today to have better screening for dyslexia.

He also invited social media users to “ask me anything” on the platform.

The MP is expected to tell parliament that the current approach to dyslexia “must change”.

He will say: “It is not only an issue of morality, but also of both social and economic justice.”

A serialisation of Hancock’s Pandemic Diaries is to be published by the Daily Mail later today, with a first glimpse revealing that a plan to release “thousands” of prisoners was considered during the Covid-19 lockdown to prevent the virus spreading within jails.

The former cabinet minister has also given a wide-ranging interview to the newspaper, in which he talks about “falling ‘deeply’ in love with former aide Gina Coladangelo”.

Rachel Hall

Rachel Hall

Good morning

The City of Chester has woken up to its new representative after re-electing Labour, with candidate Samantha Dixon winning by a majority of 10,974 in a brutal first electoral test for Rishi Sunak.

Just before 2am this morning it was announced that Labour received 17,309 votes with 61.22% of the vote share, its highest majority and share of the vote ever in the seat. Conversely, the Conservatives received just 6,335 votes and a 22.4% vote share, their worst result in the constituency since 1832. The Liberal Democrats came a distant third on 2,368 votes.

Dixon said the vote reflected the national mood: “I think that it’s time now for a general election and I think Labour will win as decisively as I have done today.”

Her comments were echoed by Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that the result indicated Labour would win a sizeable victory if a general election were held today after its best performance since 2010.

Overnight TalkTV and the Sun also revealed that a senior Tory backbencher has been reported by colleagues to police over allegations of rape and sexual assault. A group of Tory MPs submitted a report to police about the MP relating to allegations spanning two years, which have been investigated by a law firm. The MP has not been suspended from the Tory whip or from party membership, despite reports that senior party figures knew about the allegations for about two years.

Rail minister Huw Merriman is also due to hold talks with RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch to avert disruptive Christmas rail strikes, which have been estimated to present a hit to the economy of over £1.7bn.

Here’s what else is happening today:

9.30: A private members’ bills day starts in the House of Commons, including Matt Hancock’s dyslexia bill – which he claimed was the reason behind his appearance on I’m A Celebrity – third on the order paper.

10.15: Keir Starmer will be in Glasgow to meet Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar.

I’ll be keeping you updated with all the key events in Westminster from the day, but if there’s anything we’ve missed do get in touch at rachel.hall@theguardian.com.





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