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Rishi Sunak grilled by Andrew Neil but Liz Truss declines invitation – as it happened

The Guardian
The Guardian
 2022-07-29

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A couple of highlights from the interview.

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Former MP Lynn Featherstone’s take on the Channel 4 interview

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From the i’s Jane Merrick

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Some Twitter reaction to Liz Truss declining to be interviewed by Neil.

8.16pm BST

Political journalist Rachel Wearmouth gives her reaction to Sunak’s handling of questions about his wife’s tax arrangements.

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Neil says Liz Truss declined an invitation to be interviewed but the invitation remains open. And that concludes the programme.

8.13pm BST

Sunak concludes by saying “people have seen me lead this country’s economy through an incredibly challenging time throughout the past two years” and he plans to use this experience if elected as PM.

8.11pm BST

On his wife’s non dom tax status he replies “I am the one running for office, not my wife.

“My wife is from abroad. Several months ago we addressed this situation and I support her decision.”

8.09pm BST

On his now infamous comment when he was a student that he had no working class friends, Sunak admits “we all say silly things when we’re students.”

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On his background as the son of successful migrants potentially at odds with his asylum proposals, Sunak says “there is nothing wrong about that. My family and millions like them were welcomed legally.”

8.07pm BST

On his asylum cap proposal, Sunak says he believes it does not breach international law.

8.06pm BST

Sunak is now defending his support for the policy of sending illegal migrants to Rwanda, none of whom have been deported so far.
Neil points out that Rwanda officials have admitted they only have capacity for 200 migrants and questions whether the programme is value for money at £120 million. Sunak says the “strong deterrent effect” of the programme will prevent thousands of migrants from crossing the Channel and £5 million is being spent on hotels to house them.

8.03pm BST

On NHS waiting lists increasing and breaking a manifesto pledge on not raising taxes to raise cash for the health service,
Sunak talks about other pledges of having debt lower in Parliament and “we got hit by a pandemic, a once in a century event”. He adds his plan to lower waiting lists includes a taskforce which is scoffed at by Neil and creating over 100 surgical hubs.

7.57pm BST

On his previous opposition to a windfall tax before implementing one, Sunak replies “the situation changed”.

He added he did not know how high and how long the oil prices would stay at those levels for.

7.56pm BST

Sunak says the option of suspending VAT will be the only option available, albeit “far from perfect”. if he becomes prime minister in September with energy bills forecast to increase again in October.

7.53pm BST

Sunak is then grilled on his statement in February of proposing cutting VAT on energy bills and now proposing to suspending VAT.

Sunak talks about his support for families to pay their energy bills.

He says what’s changed is bills are forecast to be a few hundred pounds higher than estimated so its reasonable to provide more support.

7.48pm BST

Sunak insists he wants to cut taxes for people in work and pledges to “deliver the first income tax cut in 16 years in this Parliament”.

7.47pm BST

On the accusation that those tax rises penalise workers, the former chancellor says “he tried to fix the problems in the fairest way possible”.

He added freezing the income tax threshold was praised by commentators and experts at the time as “progressive”.

7.45pm BST

Neil moves onto the cost of living crisis and the raising of National Insurance and income tax threshold when Sunak was chancellor.

Sunak replies “he also chose to raises taxes on the largest companies” which comes into effect next year.

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Sunak, seeking to move on from getting the question wrong, says his plan for growth is reforming business taxation so companies invest more, deregulate and create freeports.

Neil says his plan is long-term when the UK needs help now, with the chancellor then reverting back to his analogy of wanting to avoid a “sugar rush boom”.

7.39pm BST

Neil poses a question, which of the G7 countries has a lower national debt than the UK.

Sunak says the UK “is in the middle of the pack” which Neil says is incorrect and everyone has more debt bar Germany.

The former chancellor, looking a little flustered, then questions the figures.

7.38pm BST

Neil questions him about the speed of Sunak’s plan, saying “you’re doing this so quickly you are going to make things worse”.

7.35pm BST

Sunak says he did not want to “put fuel on the fire of the inflation problem we already have” and says most independent forecasts say the UK is not heading for a recession.

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Sunak argues that inflation is slowing economies down and rising interest rates that are putting a brake on economic activity.

7.33pm BST

The interview starts with Neil asking Sunak why he persisted with multiple tax rises when it was clear the UK was heading for a major slowdown?
Sunak says it comes down to how do we tackle problems we racked up with Covid and the extra borrowing. He adds that the question that confronted him is do we pay the bills ourselves or expect our children and grandchildren to “pick up the tab”.

Updated at 7.36pm BST

7.13pm BST

Sunak faces grilling by Andrew Neil on Channel 4

Andrew Neil’s one-to-one interview with Rishi Sunak is being broadcast by Channel 4 at 7.30pm. We will be liveblogging it.

Updated at 7.24pm BST

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Boris and Carrie Johnson are expected to hold a wedding party on Saturday at the Cotswolds estate of a major Tory donor.

The outgoing prime minister, 58, and his wife, 34, will host family and friends at 18th-century mansion Daylesford House in Gloucestershire, owned by Lord Bamford, chairman of construction equipment manufacturer JCB.

Johnson abandoned plans to hold the celebration at his official country residence Chequers in Buckinghamshire after allegations that he was using the event to delay his departure from office.

A huge white marquee topped with bunting has been erected in the property’s landscaped grounds to celebrate the couple’s nuptials in a low-key private ceremony at Westminster Cathedral in May 2021.

Guests will be able to relax on hay bales placed outside the tent and eat and drink at casks and small tables as they enjoy views across vast meadows and orchards, according to reports.

Related: Boris and Carrie Johnson to hold wedding party at Tory donor’s estate

Updated at 7.25pm BST

6.22pm BST

Following the government’s admission that it “regrets” the time taken to establish the decision-making process behind the effort to evacuate animal welfare charity staff from Afghanistan last year, David Lammy, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, said: “The Conservative government degraded the UK’s international reputation and made the world less safe with its disastrous handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer.

The Government’s evasiveness over the Nowzad evacuation typifies its shambolic approach, and they are still failing to come clean about who in Government was making critical national security decisions.”

Lammy also accused the government of ignoring “the humanitarian catastrophe of millions on the brink of starvation in Afghanistan”.

“Ministers must urgently set out a comprehensive strategy for engaging with Afghanistan to support the millions of civilians who are starving, restore the 0.7% commitment to international aid, and lead the world by convening an emergency global food summit with the UN,” he said.

5.46pm BST

Conservative party members appear divided over whether Boris Johnson should be given a cabinet role after he leaves office, according to a YouGov poll which suggests half believe he should not be given a top job while 40% said he should be in the cabinet.

And 84% believe Kemi Badenoch, who made it to the final four of the leadership race, should be given a Cabinet position.

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Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen visit the Teesside Freeport in Redcar. Photograph: Lee Smith/Reuters

5.06pm BST

Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak’s campaigns have committed to report any leaking of government documents to the Cabinet secretary.

A spokesperson for Truss said: “We condemn the leaking of government documents and papers. Neither campaign condones leaks of material and will not use documents it receives.

“Furthermore, both campaigns will report any such leaks to the Cabinet secretary who may take action directly, or via the police, against the individuals involved in perpetrating such leaks or receiving and not reporting material.

“We understand leak investigations will be carried out without fear or favour.”

A spokesperson for the Sunak campaign said: “The Rishi campaign condemns the continued and deliberate leaking of government documents.

“We will continue to report all such leaks to the Cabinet secretary who we expect to carry out full and proper investigations.”

Updated at 5.24pm BST

4.39pm BST

Keir Starmer urged not to abandon pledge to abolish House of Lords

Keir Starmer has been urged not to abandon a key leadership pledge of abolishing the House of Lords, with Gordon Brown warning that plans to “gerrymander” parliament’s upper chamber by flooding it with dozens of Tory peers proved the need for drastic reform.

Alarm was raised by the former Labour prime minister over a proposal drawn up by a political lobbying group for Boris Johnson to appoint up to 50 new Conservatives to ram contentious legislation through given a series of embarrassing defeats by peers.

Brown said the leaked document he had seen from CT Group – run by Lynton Crosby, a key adviser to Johnson – “legitimises straightforward bribery” by recommending those who vote loyally be rewarded with special envoy positions, honours and lunches at Chequers.

Nicknamed “Operation Homer”, the plan also said new peers would have to give a written undertaking to support the government in key votes on controversial legislation, likely to include the Northern Ireland protocol bill that would unilaterally override the Brexit deal.

Under the cover of levelling up the Lords by picking peers from under-represented parts of the UK, the paper admitted it was the “perfect excuse” to ensure a swathe of loyalist law-makers are ennobled.

Writing in the Guardian, Brown said the proposal “makes no bones about the defenestrated prime minister’s aim to pack the House of Lords” that would see him “ride roughshod over every convention and standard of propriety in an effort to secure political nominees who will vote for the Tory government”.

He added that the paper’s claim the media could be easily blindsided by the appointment of a few controversial figures or celebrities to avoid criticism of the sheer number of “cronies” appointed would amount to “gerrymandering”.

“The solution is to reform the Lords, not reinforce its unrepresentativeness,” Brown said, calling for Starmer to pick up the mantel of trying to abolish the un-elected upper chamber in parliament.

Read the full story here:

Related: Keir Starmer urged not to abandon pledge to abolish House of Lords

4.38pm BST

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss speaks at a campaign event on Friday in Dereham, Norfolk. Photograph: Getty Images

4.37pm BST

Liz Truss has said she is not “complacent” about her prospects in the race for No 10 after winning Ben Wallace’s backing.

The Tory leadership hopeful’s campaign was boosted by a major endorsement from the defence secretary on Thursday.

It came after she and her rival, Rishi Sunak, faced a grilling from voters in the first official hustings with Conservative party members in Leeds.

Asked during a visit to Norfolk on Friday if she was confident she was now set to win the leadership contest, she said:

I’m not at all complacent. I’m fighting for every vote across the country.

I’m delighted to have the support of Ben Wallace. We’ve worked very closely together. He’s been a fantastic defence secretary for our country.

Meanwhile, in a thinly veiled swipe at the former chancellor’s record, she warned it would be “risky” for the country to continue along the current economic path, PA News reports.

Truss insisted the way to get growth is to “help people and businesses keep more of their own money”, saying the “number one priority should be avoiding recession”.

She said:

What is risky is carrying on on the same economic path, which is currently forecast to lead us to recession. That is the risk.

What I’m talking about is unleashing opportunity, unleashing growth, keeping taxes low. That will see the economy grow, and it will see us being able to pay back our debt quicker.

Updated at 5.26pm BST

4.34pm BST

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Conservative leadership candidate Rishi Sunak attends a Conservative Party leadership campaign event in Tunbridge Wells on Friday. Photograph: Getty Images

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Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have clashed vehemently over tax and spending, immigration and the UK’s stance on China in their acrimonious battle to become prime minister – but have had little to say about many other pressing issues. Here are some largely overlooked key issues of the contest so far.

Standards in public life

Boris Johnson was swept out of office when his own MPs could no longer defend or explain the repeated untruths emanating from No 10. He had breached Covid regulations, allowed an alleged serial sexual harasser to be appointed to the whips’ office and seen two ethics advisers resign in disgust.

Yet cleaning up politics has barely featured in the debate – and indeed, Sunak and Truss have felt the need to defend Johnson, with Sunak saying at his launch event that the outgoing prime minister has “a good heart”.

There have been some hints at change – Truss said at Thursday’s hustings that she would move the Tory whips’ office back into No 12 Downing Street, to allow MPs’ conduct to be more closely monitored, and Sunak has said he would appoint a new ethics adviser. But neither has fully addressed the need to rebuild public trust in politics after the Johnson era.

Read the full story from my colleague Heather Stewart here :

Related: Brexit realism? The NHS? Some of the key issues ignored by Sunak and Truss

3.16pm BST

The number one priority should be avoiding recession, said Tory leadership contender Liz Truss.

Speaking to reporters in Norfolk, Truss said carrying on the current economic path forecast to lead to a recession was “risky”, PA news reports.

Truss said:

The way to get growth is to do the reforms we need in our economy, to unleash those post-Brexit opportunities, and I have done a lot of that as trade secretary and as foreign secretary, but also to help people and businesses keep more of their own money so they can invest in the future.

She added: “What I’m talking about is unleashing opportunity, unleashing growth, keeping taxes low. That will see the economy grow, and it will see us being able to pay back our debt quicker.”

Updated at 3.50pm BST

2.52pm BST

Boris Johnson “probably wants to take a break”, said Conservative party leader hopeful Liz Truss when asked if the outgoing prime minister would have a seat in her Cabinet.

According to PA news, Truss said:

I think Boris has been very effective in what he’s done delivering Brexit, delivering the Covid vaccine, inspiring the country in our 2019 manifesto. I’m sure he probably wants to take a break after some difficult years. It’s been very, very challenging times.

Truss added that she has “always been loyal” to Johnson and thinks he’s done “a great job”.

Updated at 3.50pm BST

1.42pm BST

The Evening Standard owner, Evgeny Lebedev , sought to organise a private weekend trip in Russia in June 2014 for Boris Johnson when he was London mayor, according to emails newly disclosed under freedom of information laws.

The unusual excursion, at one point discussed over dinner in Moscow by Johnson’s then chief of staff, Edward Lister, and Evgeny’s father, Alexander, would have been tacked on to the end of an official visit to Moscow and St Petersburg.

Ultimately, the proposed trip, with its two-day “personal leg”, did not go ahead. But emails sent the previous autumn show there was enthusiasm on both sides for a holiday that sheds fresh light on the relationship between Johnson, Evgeny Lebedev and his father, a former colonel in the KGB.

Evgeny Lebedev’s chief of staff wrote directly to Lister on 7 August 2013 to begin outlining a trip by Johnson to Russia in June the following year. The email makes clear the two had already discussed the idea.

“He is very happy to agree to a June date for the proposed visit to Russia,” the aide wrote. “In terms of the personal leg of the trip, he [Evgeny] was keen this happened at the tail end – ie the weekend following the ‘formal’ business.”

An email from Lister on 16 September indicated plans were developing: “Boris has it in his diary for the 23 June [2014] for a week and I have told him that the end of the week and weekend will be private with Evgeny (I hope that’s right) so we need to build a programme around the rest?”

It is not clear from the correspondence why the trip did not go ahead as discussed, but it appears to have become politically impossible after Russia’s invasion of the Ukrainian province of Crimea in spring 2014.

An article in the Evening Standard in March 2014 reported that Johnson had been invited by his mayoral counterpart in Moscow for a “short trade and cultural trip in early October” – but said it could be cancelled after “events in Ukraine”.

Johnson has known Evgeny Lebedev for well over a decade, a relationship marked by the politician’s regular attendance at parties hosted by the Evening Standard proprietor in London and Italy. When Johnson was foreign secretary, he visited the proprietor’s Italian palazzo without security for a weekend party in April 2018 – and while he was prime minister handed his friend a peerage.

But a trip to Russia, even before the Crimea crisis, would probably have been different.

Read more here:

Related: Evgeny Lebedev wanted private Russia trip for Johnson when mayor of London

Updated at 2.40pm BST

1.16pm BST

The UK Foreign Office has admitted a catalogue of errors over its handling of Britain’s exit from Afghanistan , but has shut the door on many Afghans who helped the UK prior to the Taliban takeover last August, saying it will not provide false hope that they will be given the chance to come to the UK.

Foreign Office officials say it is difficult to judge whether Afghans who worked on UK-funded civilian schemes, such as the British Council , are truly in danger from the Taliban, saying the evidence is that the threat primarily applies to those who provided security support to the UK.

Officials said the slow progress in processing cases this year had been caused by the high number of rejected applications, as well as legal cases challenging UK refusals to provide a right of abode. So far, only 5,000 Afghans have been given permission to come to the UK, in addition to the 15,000 evacuated at the time of the fall of Kabul last year.

The Guardian has been given details by individual Afghans who worked for UK-funded NGOs now in fear for their lives in underground shelters. They say members of their family have already been executed due to their connections with the UK, but have been unable to get a response from the Home Office.

But in its formal response, published on Friday, to a scathing foreign affairs select committee report released in May on the Afghan evacuation, the Foreign Office said: “If the government were obliged to offer in extremis resettlement to the UK to anyone working on programmes it funded in fragile states where there was a risk of an evacuation being needed, that could severely inhibit the provision of funding to NGOs delivering vital development programming.”

Read the full story here:

Related: Foreign Office admits multiple errors in UK’s exit from Afghanistan

Updated at 1.30pm BST

12.43pm BST

Labour has soared to a 13-point lead in the polls as Conservatives fight among themselves about the future of their party, according to a survey by Savanta for The Independent .

This lead represents Labour’s second best performance since Keir Starmer became leader in 2019.

Compared with a similar poll by Savanta a month ago, Tories shed five points, tumbling from 34% to 29%, while Labour gained a point to move up from 41% to 42%, the Independent says.

The previous poll was taken on the weekend of 25-26 June in the wake of the Partygate fines and just days ahead of the Christopher Pincher sexual harassment scandal.

Updated at 1.31pm BST

12.14pm BST

Sam Tarry says he was proud to be on the picket line with rail workers

The former shadow transport minister Sam Tarry has written a comment piece for the Guardian in which he says it would have been a dereliction of duty for him as a Labour MP to refuse to join a picket line.

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, sacked Tarry on Wednesday for giving a series of interviews from a rail union picket line outside Euston station in central London that were not in line with party policy.

He points out that that during the three lockdowns we had at the height of the pandemic, Rail employees “put their own safety and wellbeing in jeopardy” to ensure other key workers were able to get to work, and that medicines and other provisions could be transported.

He writes:

These Covid heroes had the right to expect Labour, the party of working people , to stand with them and speak out against the war that the Tories have declared on them.

That’s why I stood on the picket line at Euston, with my friends and allies in the RMT and TSSA transport unions, and why I gave media interviews in support of these workers.

That was my duty, as a shadow transport minister for the Labour party. It was an extension of my role as the Labour MP for Ilford South, and the job I did for eight years before entering parliament as an official for the Transport and Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA).

It’s a crime that in the 21st century so many of Britain’s rail workers, are living in conditions of in-work poverty, where even after a full day’s hard and stressful work they are often unable to afford the basics of food, rent and fuel, among other essentials.

However, victory could soon be within the grasp of the rail workers, and Labour can and should play a critical role in inflicting a defeat on the Tories over this.

The overwhelming majority of Labour party members have been utterly resolute in their support of the rail workers. Only this week on the picket line, I spoke to Labour members from across London, who turned out to show their solidarity with the RMT and TSSA.

Banners from local Labour parties were photographed and posted online, from coast to coast, during the last day of strike action. That support and solidarity can assert itself in the Labour party in the weeks and months ahead.

Constituency Labour parties, and other affiliates, must pass emergency motions in support of the striking rail workers, to go to the Labour party conference in Liverpool in late September.

Labour party members taking part in the selections for parliamentary candidates must challenge would-be MPs to commit to supporting the rail strikers, and other industrial disputes in the seats that they seek to represent. Labour needs to show it is on the side of workers across Britain, that we have a plan for a pay rise, and to rebalance the economy in favour of the vast majority.

Read the full piece here:

Related: Rail workers are Covid heroes – I’m proud to be on the picket line with them | Sam Tarry

Updated at 1.33pm BST

11.43am BST

Full story: Sacked shadow minister accuses Keir Starmer of ‘complete car crash’

Keir Starmer’s ban on Labour MPs going on picket lines was a “fundamental mistake” that caused a “complete car crash” in a week when the party should have been talking about increasing workers’ wages, Sam Tarry has said after he was sacked from his role as a shadow minister following media appearances at an RMT picket line.

In a defiant riposte to the Labour leadership as he once again joined a picket line, the MP rejected Starmer’s statement that he had been sacked for making up policy “on the hoof” as he stood alongside striking workers during rail action. Trade unions were the ones “showing true leadership at the moment”, he added.

“At the end of the day I thought it was time we were really clear about who’s side we were on, and I am on the side of ordinary British workers,” said Tarry, giving fresh interviews after joining striking workers from the Communication Workers Union (CWU) on Friday morning in central London.

“I didn’t make up policy. All I said is that surely it should be right that we make an offer to workers in this country that matches inflation, because otherwise all they are getting offered is a real-terms pay cut,” he told Sky News.

Tarry’s comments came as thousands of BT and Openreach workers were striking across the UK on Friday in a dispute over pay. The CWU said it would be the first national telecoms strike since 1987 and the biggest ever among call centre workers.

Another strike will be held on Monday, after union members voted in favour of industrial action in protest at a £1,500 pay rise.

Strikes, ‘food banks’, takeover fears: the sea of troubles circling BTRead more

Starmer, who removed Tarry from the party’s frontbench earlier this week as shadow minister for buses and local transport, has previously warned shadow ministers not to join picket lines , although several did so during the last rail strikes in June and did not lose their jobs.

Read more here:

Related: Sacked shadow minister accuses Keir Starmer of ‘complete car crash’

Updated at 11.53am BST

11.41am BST

Forgive the small segue into sport but here’s a fun little video from the US embassy in London, who says “This is no time for diplomacy” ahead of the final for the women’s Euros on Sunday.

11.29am BST

Matthew Goodwin, a politics professor specialising in populism, Brexit and the nationalist right, has predicted that Liz Truss will be our next prime minister – and that those who wanted to get rid of Boris Johnson will end up with a prime minister who is “more Johnson than Johnson”.

In his substack entitled It’s going to be Liz , he writes:

Unless something remarkable happens, Liz Truss will be the next leader of the Conservative Party and Britain’s new Prime Minister.

Remarkably, though nobody saw it coming, the forty-seven-year-old former Foreign Secretary has established a twenty-four point lead over her rival, Rishi Sunak (who I argued last week would come unstuck). She is widely seen as having won a crunch television debate with Sunak. And she is more likely to be seen by key groups in the new Tory electorate —pensioners, Leavers, Boris Johnson’s 2019 voters— as being “in touch with ordinary people”, “holding similar views to my own”, and “trustworthy”. Given Tory members put a higher value on loyalty than Don Corleone this bodes well for Truss. The race, the country, is now hers to lose.

People overestimated Sunak and underestimated Truss. As a result, those who thought they Got Boris Done, by getting rid of the current Prime Minister, are about to be confronted with a Prime Minister who is more Johnson than Johnson and who —given her strong backing from committed Brexiteers— will assemble a cabinet that is more Brexit than Brexit.

While Truss is popular with party members, the problem for Team Truss is whether the voters who will decide their fate at the next election share their instincts on many other crunch issues other than Brexit, Goodwin says.

He continues:

Do voters in the Red Wall really want to slash taxes, the state, and spending on public services? My research suggests they do not . Do voters really think the Conservatives would be better than Labour at regenerating areas outside London and the South East? Only 17% say they would. Do voters think immigration is currently being managed well? Only 13% , and only 21% of Conservatives, think it is. Do voters expect the National Health Service to get better over the next few years? Only 15% think it will. Do working-class voters who flocked to Boris Johnson think the Tories are offering the best approach on taxation? Only 20% do. And do people think that the Conservatives are managing crime well? Only one in four of them do.

I could go on. On all the key issues that defined the Conservative Party’s incredibly successful campaign in 2019, bringing it the largest majority for more than thirty years, there is now a huge gulf between the party and much of the rest of the country.

This is not just about Brexit. It is about a party that is simply no longer seen by many people as having delivered on many of the core promises it made less than three years ago.

11.05am BST

Boris Johnson’s reluctance to leave Downing Street in the face of opposition from ministers and Tory MPs seemed a bit “let’s storm the Capitol, chaps”, according to a former senior No 10 aide, likening it to the January 6 insurrection in Washington DC.

The comparison was made by Cleo Watson, a former special adviser to Johnson’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings in an article for Tatler magazine.

Painting a picture of a shambling “hangdog” prime minister who was unable to undertake basic tasks and had to be “house-trained” when it came to observing Covid-19 protocols, Watson also described an incident in which political advisers came together around a table during a meeting at Chequers.

“We made our way upstairs to be greeted by an appalling smell and what I took to be a small fig under the table. ‘Oh dear,’ the PM said, looking at me expectantly: ‘Dilyn’s done a turd.’ I adopted the exasperated teapot pose. ‘Well, you’d better pick it up then,’ I said. And he did,” she recalled.

Watson, who has a novel coming out next year, told of how Johnson issued her own marching orders two weeks after Cummings’ departure from Downing Street in 2020, in the Cabinet Office room conversation which she believed “may have been familiar to many of his girlfriends”.

She wrote that Johnson had told her: “I can’t look at you any more because it reminds me of Dom. It’s like a marriage has ended, we’ve divided up our things and I’ve kept an ugly old lamp. But every time I look at that lamp, it reminds me of the person I was with. You’re that lamp.”

Read more here:

Related: Former aide likens Boris Johnson’s exit to storming of Capitol

Updated at 11.15am BST

10.46am BST

Labour former shadow chancellor John McDonnell was at the CWU picket line this morning, and told the PA news agency:

These workers are being forced to take industrial action. I’m a Labour MP so I’m a member of the Labour trade union. When the call comes out from CWU for solidarity to join the picket lines, of course I respond positively.

He added: “If you’re a Labour MP, whether on the frontbench or the backbench, you should be on the picket lines.”

The CWU general secretary, Dave Ward, criticised the Labour leadership for not supporting them and for sacking Sam Tarry, who was sacked from his role as a shadow transport minister earlier this week following media appearances at an RMT picket line.

Ward said:

The actions of the Labour leadership is disgraceful. We will have to deal with that. I think what will happen is that people will see through Labour unless they change their position because it seems to me that Labour want to win an election without any principles or any policies and people won’t accept that.

He added: “Clearly Labour are in a position now that I think they’ve set out their path. It’s not the same path that we’re going down.”

Updated at 11.16am BST

10.42am BST

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Sam Tarry, Labour MP, the former shadow transport minister who was sacked from the frontbench this week, being photographed as he joins Communication Workers Union (CWU) members on the picket line at BT Tower, London, as thousands of BT and Openreach workers are on strike in a dispute over pay. Photograph: Maighna Nanu/PA

10.40am BST

Full story: Ben Wallace attacks Rishi Sunak’s cabinet resignation after backing Truss

The British public would never have forgiven the Conservatives if the financial markets had crashed after Rishi Sunak quit as chancellor, Ben Wallace has said as he stepped up attacks on the Tory leadership candidate after endorsing his rival Liz Truss.

Wallace, the defence secretary, also suggested he was throwing his weight behind Truss because she recognised that the “threats we face every day” needed to be “funded properly”.

Speaking after coming out for Truss overnight in an article for the Times, Wallace continued to go on the offensive against her opponent, telling Sky News that Sunak’s decision to cut entrepreneurs’ relief when he was chancellor was not a way to create “either wealth or indeed growth”.

Sunak was the second senior cabinet minister to resign from Boris Johnson’s government this month, after Sajid Javid, triggering Johnson’s downfall a few days later. Allies of Johnson blame Sunak more than anyone else for his departure.

Wallace contrasted his own decision and that of the home secretary, Priti Patel, to stay in their posts with Sunak and others’ resignations.

“What if the markets had crashed? What if the home secretary had done that and there had been a terrorist attack? The public would never forgive us,” Wallace told Sky News.

He appeared to echo criticism of Sunak’s record on defence spending. As chancellor, Sunak reportedly resisted pressure for a big increase in UK defence spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Wallace said: “I am the secretary of state for defence, I want to find a candidate that’s going to do right by the department and recognise that the threats we face every day are very real and are growing and that they need to be funded properly.”

In a thinly veiled swipe at Sunak, Wallace wrote in the Times that Truss was “a winner not because she’s a slick salesperson but because she is authentic”.

Read more here:

Related: Ben Wallace attacks Rishi Sunak’s cabinet resignation after backing Truss

Updated at 11.51am BST

10.16am BST

Rishi Sunak was not in support of the multi-year defence settlement, Ben Wallace has said.

The defence secretary, who is supporting Liz Truss in the Conservative Party leadership contest, was asked by LBC’s Nick Ferrari how obstructive the former chancellor was in granting more cash to the armed forces.

Wallace replied: “I don’t think he was obstructive … ”

When pressed further, the defence secretary said:

I mean, the multi-year settlement that we got was not what the Treasury had wanted. They wanted a one-year settlement. This was back in 2019, I think. And it was vital that we got a multi-year settlement. And the prime minister effectively asserted his authority and made sure that’s what happened.

Ferrari asked: “But Mr Sunak was not in support?” Wallace replied: “Not that I remember.”

He said it was Boris Johnson’s “determination” to secure the settlement.

Put to him that the Treasury has delivered increased defence budgets, the defence secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme:

The prime minister did. It was the prime minister’s determination that we got a multi-year settlement, that we got one when we desperately needed one, and we got 24 billion extra.

And that investment I’m keen continues. I don’t want it to be a sort of boom or bust, which has often happened to defence, and that’s why it gets into big trouble.

Updated at 11.19am BST

10.13am BST

Time to 'reclaim our party', says shadow minister sacked by Starmer

Labour MP Sam Tarry , who was sacked from his role as a shadow transport minister earlier this week following media appearances at an RMT picket line, joined a rally for striking BT workers on Friday morning.

Addressing the Communication Workers Union (CWU) rally as thousands of BT and Openreach workers strike in a dispute over pay, Tarry said “it’s good to be back”.

He said:

We need a Labour leadership that is prepared to stand up and does not look the other way when BT workers are going to foodbanks.

He said the Labour party needed to be clear they would defend workers right to the hilt and extend their rights in the workplace.

He added:

Let’s be absolutely clear – it is not good enough, it is not good enough for the Labour party to say that we probably won’t be able to give you a pay rise in line with inflation. Because that means the Labour party is committed to cut people’s wages in real terms and that is totally unacceptable.

He added:

If I’m sacked for having said that live on TV and not supposed to [have] been on that picket line then people need to have a really hard think about what the Labour party is for.

Because for me the clue is in the name: Labour. On the side of working people.

He added that “things were changing” and it was “time to fight back” and “reclaim our party”.

Updated at 11.24am BST

10.02am BST

The UK defence minister, Ben Wallace, has said that Russian forces in Ukraine are in “a very difficult spot”, and said that the Russian president Vladimir Putin’s strategy is akin to putting his forces through a meat-grinder.

He told listeners of the BBC’s Today programme in the UK that “by any benchmark, Russia is in a position where it hasn’t achieved its major objectives. It has taken huge numbers of losses and casualties”.

In his opinion, he said Russia was “certainly not able to occupy the country. They may be able to carry on killing indiscriminately and destroying as they go, but that is not a victory”.

“Putin hasn’t changed from his desire to occupy the whole of Ukraine, take Kyiv and Odesa,” he said, adding “but his army has been effectively crippled by huge amounts of losses. Over 25,000 dead. Maybe twice as many injured”.

He likened the current tactics to the first world war, saying:

When I talk about meat grinder, which is what they’re doing, is that they are resorting to a sort of Soviet tactic of just a massive Russian meat grinder moving very slowly metres, not miles, a day, in some parts.

And in the top of the meat grinder they’re shoving in, and this is the cruelty of that system, they are recruiting from the poorest districts in Russia, and the ethnic minorities, and they are using mercenaries, shoving these people in with very little regard to the outcome, grinding forward.

He said that longer-range western weapons were “now having a material effect”, and the Russians “are operating their army at roughly about 40-to-50% combat effective”.

Wallace said the Ukrainian attack on bridges, which appears to have had an impact on the ability to resupply troops in Kherson north of the river Dnieper, has put them “in a very difficult spot” and left the Russians “in a defensive position” in the south.

You can follow our liveblog on the Russia-Ukraine war here:

Related: Russia-Ukraine war: Ukrainians step up counter-attacks in south; Russia facing ‘major shortage’ of infantry, says UK – live

Updated at 11.25am BST

9.48am BST

Liz Truss is the candidate that will do best by defence of this nation, Ben Wallace has said.

The defence secretary and Truss’ supporter told BBC Breakfast:

Rishi will be a fine member of anybody’s Cabinet. They would be lucky to have him, but for me, Liz is the one that I think will do best by defence of this nation, by investing in it and making sure that we get to a point where we can provide that resilience that does have a knock on effect of the cost-of-living.

Some of the challenges we have right now because of global insecurity and defence has a real role in helping stabilise countries from Africa, to Europe and even over the Pacific. And that’s important we can do that.

He added:

When I was in government, without any prompting or asking, Liz, I remember, wrote a letter to the prime minister saying that defence needs more money, it’s a more dangerous, risky world.

She did that off her own back. She’s been very consistent. And you know, I think also she has that experience. As I have said earlier, she hasn’t just been in the Treasury. She has done a whole range of other jobs across government over the years. I think she’s one of the longest serving cabinet ministers now or who has attended cabinet as well. And I think that is ultimately why I think she’s best for me.

Updated at 11.25am BST

9.36am BST

Good morning and welcome to our live political coverage.

The defence secretary has criticised the way his former colleagues resigned en masse which led to the demise of Boris Johnson.

Suggesting that Rishi Sunak was behind what happened, Ben Wallace told Sky News triggering cabinet ministers walking out at a time of a crisis was not “the right course of action” and said the former chancellor could have used other methods to oust the prime minister.

He said:

Some ministers don’t have the luxury of walking out. If you actually look at that article, I was asked why I didn’t resign. And I said some ministers don’t have the luxury of resigning because, fundamentally, we have duties and obligations.

Asked if he would have liked to resign, he said “no”, adding:

But I also made clear, and I made a tweet at the time for those colleagues who do want to express confidence in the government, there’s a very simple way of doing that.

There was going to be a 1922 committee on the Monday the next week, a couple of days after Rishi resigned, and they could have done it that way. They could have voted the Prime Minister through confidence in the party.

He added:

I just don’t think triggering cabinet ministers walking out at a time of a crisis is the right course of action.

There were other mechanisms to do what they wanted. If Rishi Sunak didn’t want the Prime Minister to be Prime Minister, there are other mechanisms to do that. And that goes for all the other ministers.

Updated at 10.37am BST

9.33am BST

Ben Wallace says he's backing Liz Truss because she understands 'threats' facing UK

The Defence Secretary has suggested he supports Liz Truss in the Tory leadership race because she recognises that the “threats we face every day” need to be “funded properly”.

Explaining why he had chosen to back Truss, Ben Wallace told Sky News he had decided at the beginning of the contest to “stand back” and look at their performances during hustings events.

I am the Secretary of State for Defence, I want to find a candidate that’s going to do right by the department and recognise that the threats we face every day are very real and are growing and that they need to be funded properly.

We can’t just sort of pretend they will go away by themselves.

So you know, I looked at their performances. I looked at them on the hustings, but I also know them both. I’ve been in Cabinet for two years with both the Chancellor and indeed Liz Truss. And so, you know, it was important for me to work out who was the right person to take us forward. So, you know, I know Liz, she’s very straight. She’s authentic, what you see is what you get, but also she has been very consistent in her support for defence and security. She reads the same intelligence reports I do.

I felt it was the right person to back.

Welcome to today’s Politics Liveblog. I’ll be covering for Andrew Sparrow today. Do drop me a line if you have any questions or think I’ve missed anything. My email is nicola.slawson@theguardian.com and I’m @Nicola_Slawson on Twitter.

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