One long-ass game of ping pong – POLITICO

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Good afternoon from inside the House of Commons, where MPs just began some serious voting action.


MPs started a mammoth voting session on the small boats bill.

Rishi Sunak has been patting the Turkish president on the back and meeting other world leaders at the NATO summit.

— The BBC presenter row deepens with a second claim, as the PM weighs in.

Ministers are braced for further House of Lords defeats tonight, this time on the Leveling Up Bill.

There was a big leak in the Palace of Westminster … the kind that includes water pouring from the ceiling.

**A message from Lloyds Banking Group: Since 2018 we’ve supported more than 200 housing associations across the UK and provided nearly £15bn in financing to the social housing sector to help people find a place to call home. Find out more about why we’re the biggest supporter of social housing in the UK.**


ENDURANCE PING PONG: MPs have just embarked on a marathon voting session in the House of Commons as they mull Lords amendments to the small boats bill.

Wait, what? That means a super slipping operation must be going on behind the scenes to ensure parliamentarians can make it to the POLITICO summer drinks reception. The bash goes on until 10 p.m. so those MPs who do get stuck in the lobbies can at least pop in for a nightcap…

But in the meantime: The 15 Lords amendments (plus the government concessions revealed last night) will face a vote if MPs demand them when each measure is read out in the Commons. One government insider told Playbook PM we could be looking at 18 votes — which could take a whopping four and a half hours. Others predicted 16 votes.

Context corner: There aren’t expected to be government defeats, but do keep watch for Conservative rebels.

And all that comes after … MPs spent three hours debating the amendments in the Commons this afternoon. Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said the bill is “riddled with exceptions and get-out clauses as currently placed in by the other place.”

Soz Justin: Jenrick also took at pop at the “well-meaning” but not necessary amendment from the Archbishop of Canterbury on a long-term plan to tackle the small boats issue.

Oh, and: Asked about the Mickey Mouse murals painted over at an immigration center in Kent, Jenrick said the government “didn’t think the setup in that particular unit was age appropriate” because most of those passing through it were teenagers.

Back to those Conservative rebellions: Former Prime Minister Theresa May warned that the legislation in its current form would fuel the trafficking of slaves. “It would allow more slave drivers to operate and make more money out of human misery,” she told the House. She also got into a row with Jenrick about government use of statistics in modern slavery, which the Guardian summarizes.

And there’s more: Backbencher Tim Loughton said “assurances we were promised have not materialized” on the age verification of arrivals — and slammed the “complicated” drafting of the legislation.

Nevertheless: The government is pressing ahead with the bill as time runs short to get it through before the summer recess — although Downing Street insisted this morning there is no desired timetable. The PM’s spokesman also argued the new power to postpone the implementation of the central deportation measure isn’t designed to be used. [Thinking emoji.]

It’s working … ? On his flight to the NATO summit in Lithuania, PM Rishi Sunak insisted his plan to stop the boats is “working” or at least “starting to work,” despite some worrying numbers for the government.


HEROES AND VILNIUS: Rishi Sunak has been rubbing shoulders with fellow power-punters at the NATO summit in Vilnius. One of those was Turkish hardman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Good chat, good chat: The PM welcomed Erdoğan’s last minute support for Sweden’s accession to NATO and commended him on his efforts, according to a Downing Street readout. The pair also agreed to work together more on migration and tackling organized crime. 

Less enthusiastic: During the flight over, the PM shied away from promising to station British troops in Estonia on a permanent basis — despite pressure to do so from the U.K.’s Baltic partners. My POLITICO colleague Cristina Gallardo, who is traveling with the PM, has a writeup here. 

Top of the shots: Sunak got front-row billing in a NATO pic right next to Joe Biden. It goes to show the power of Global Britain / being short (delete as appropriate.)

The real NATO news: Volodymyr Zelenskyy is furious at negotiators for refusing to offer Kyiv a concrete path to membership. The latest draft summit communiqué suggests allies plan to state they “will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine when allies agree and conditions are met,” according to those familiar who spoke with POLITICO’s Lili Bayer and Alex Ward in Vilnius.

Kyiv’s view: Zelenskyy didn’t hold back as he tweeted his feelings on that compromise here. 

Making friends again: The PM also had a stop-and-chat with his Aussie counterpart Anthony Albanese after that recent (mild) war of words over the Ashes. Sunak gave Albanese a gift picture of two English batsmen Playbook PM has never heard of, while Albanese handed over a picture of something called “Bairstow getting stumped.” Sounds like Bairstow should have done its homework!


BEEB IN CRISIS: Things have gotten worse for the BBC presenter at the center of a misconduct storm since Sunak told journalists on his plane to Lithuania that claims the public broadcaster did nothing after the first allegations came in were “shocking.”

Indeed: The Beeb itself reported in the last hour on a second young person who claims the presenter contacted them on a dating app and pressured them to meet — although the meeting never happened. The presenter sent abusive, expletive-filled messages when the young person hinted at naming them online, the person claimed. “BBC News has contacted the presenter directly and via his lawyer but has received no response to the latest allegations,” the news outlet said.

Meanwhile … the Met earlier asked the BBC to pause its own probe into the matter while police “scope possible future work,” and BBC boss Tim Davie said the allegations were deemed “serious” but not criminal when the allegations were first raised in May.

To name or not to name: Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride told LBC it would be wrong to name the presenter in question in the House of Commons.

LORDS ON THE WARPATH: Ministers are bracing for more defeats in the House of Lords on the Leveling Up Bill, with votes expected on a number of amendment clusters from peers between now and around 7.30 p.m.

What’s on the cards: Ministers won a division in the past hour on a set of Labour proposals on reforms to and timings of the controversial “leveling up fund.” But votes could still come on Lib Dem proposals about the geographic spread of leveling up efforts, backbench tweaks on reducing child poverty and addressing health disparities, and more. 

More to come: There will be more of this tomorrow, and into the coming weeks, as the Lords report stage is expected to go on until after the summer recess, with ping-pong with the Commons expected after the conferences.

CHINESE FIRM FEARS: The government intervened in eight attempted takeovers of U.K. firms from Chinese businesses in 2022 over national security fears, a new Cabinet Office report revealed. Ministers have the power to block, unwind or impose conditions on proposed deals deemed a risk under the National Security and Investment Act, and did so on 15 occasions, the report said, including eight bids from Chinese firms, four in the U.K. and three in the U.S.

GOING ROUND THE HOUSES: Figures this morning confirmed a 24-month mortgage deal hit 6.66 percent — higher than the peak during the Liz Truss mini-budget saga. It’s the highest rate for a decade and a half.

Ouch: Nationwide mortgages boss Henry Jordan told the Treasury committee this morning that people re-mortgaging are facing an increase of £235 per month on average compared to their previous deals.

IN OTHER DATA NEWS: Wages rose 7.3 percent in the three months to June compared with the same period in 2022 — but are still lagging behind inflation. Meanwhile, the out-of-work rate rose 0.2 percentage points compared to the previous three months to 4 percent, although job vacancies fell 85,000 over the same period to 1,034,000.

Reaction: Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jon Ashworth said it was “dismal” that the U.K. has a lower employment rate than before the pandemic as well as falling wages in real terms. But Chancellor Jeremy Hunt said the numbers showed the U.K. jobs market is “strong with unemployment low by historical standards. But we still have around one million job vacancies, pushing up inflation even further.”

Speaking of inflation: Sunak told reporters on the way to the NATO summit that inflation is proving “more persistent” than expected, but insisted “that doesn’t mean the course of action is wrong.”

CLASSIC CONTENT: Labour leader Keir Starmer winds down to the delicate second movement of Beethoven’s fifth piano concerto and loved blasting Mozart on the flute when he used to practise the instrument. He divulged his love for classical music in an interview with radio station Classic FM in a bid to promote the opportunities “mission” he announced last week. He said “the curriculum at the moment is designed in a way which actually downgrades deprioritizes arts and music, and I want to turn that around.”

Lots of wind: Starmer learned the flute and the recorder when he attended the Guildhall School of Music as a junior scholar, as well as the violin and piano. He said he got into the school after practicing hard, but was blown out the water when he came across other students who were “gifted” and “just in a different league to me.” Nevertheless, he said Britain had “lost sight of the value of music in learning, and I’m determined to put that back in.” Full writeup and clip here.


BREAKING THE GLASS CEILING: The leak in Portcullis House was catnip for social media. Here‘s the action shot and here‘s an aftermath vid. Cue endless jokes about leaks (to journalists) occurring on the estate, as well as questions over whether a leak inquiry will be launched.

Intrepid on-the-ground-reporting: Playbook PM missed the initial incident, when a pane of glass in the roof broke, but saw the resulting cordon closing off most of the atrium, and the puddles on the ground. My colleagues Esther Webber and Aggie Chambre have a full writeup here.

Bear in mind: It will surprise absolutely nobody to read that PCH has been plagued by structural problems since its completion in 2001, including persistent cracks in the ceiling over the last decade, which have previously been blamed on the metal frames in the roof expanding in the heat.

As if that weren’t bad enough: Shattering glass isn’t the only hazard for people working on the parliamentary estate. A freedom of information request lodged by my colleague Aggie Chambre reveals there have been ten fires and six instances of falling masonry in the last three years alone. 

In related news: The Commons and Lords could end up sitting without clerks, catering and cleaning staff if MPs and peers insist on remaining in the Palace of Westminster during restoration works, according to the minutes of a meeting on the issue last month. H/t Alexandra Meakin, who tweeted a couple of other details in this thread.

More important Westminster woes: Someone turned an ice cream freezer off in the cafe on the journalists’ corridor and the entire contents melted. Cue the meltdown puns.

PROUD MOMENT: Former Cabinet minister Alok Sharma posted a snap after picking up his knighthood. Check it out here.


EYES EMOJI: A former Russian submarine captain has been found dead in Krasnodar, Russia, after he was shot dead while jogging. Russian state media said the naval officer was shot by an unidentified gunman. More here from the BBC.

MEANWHILE IN THE U.S: Donald Trump’s lawyers want his trial — on charges of illegally stashing classified docs at his Mar-a-Lago estate, ICYMI — to be postponed until after the 2024 election. For Trump’s lawyers, the proposed December 11 trial date would deny them reasonable time to prepare — plus they point to challenges in finding an impartial jury thanks to the whole … massive-election-that-he-is-standing-in thing. Prosecutors reckon it’s in the public interest to proceed as quickly as possible. More on that from our stateside colleagues here.

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LEADING THE NEWS BULLETINS: Channel 5 News (5 p.m.) and the BBC News at Six are leading on the BBC presenter … Channel 4 News (7 p.m.) are leading on NATO.

Tom Swarbrick at Drive (LBC, until 6 p.m.): Former Defense Secretary Michael Fallon

Drive with John Pienaar (Times Radio, 5 p.m.): Journalism professor Ivor Gaber, former Channel 5 exec Michael Elstein and former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton.

Tonight With Andrew Marr (LBC, 6 p.m.): Former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton and Bloomberg’s Merryn Somerset-Webb.

Jeremy Kyle Live (TalkTV, 7 p.m.): Reform UK’s Alex Phillips, journalist Mike Buckley and immigration lawyer Ivon Sampson.

Iain Dale (LBC, 7 p.m.): Hustings with Mayor of London Tory hopefuls Susan Hall and Mozammel Hossain.

Cross Question with Iain Dale (LBC 8 p.m.): GMB General Secretary Gary Smith, former Tory adviser Kulveer Ranger, Green peer Jenny Jones and More in Common director Luke Tryl.

REVIEWING THE PAPERS TONIGHT: TalkTV (10 p.m.): Labour’s Jess Phillips and Tory MP Jake Berry … Sky News (10.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.): Broadcasters Jenny Kleeman and Ali Miraj.


YOUNG DRINKERS: The Adam Smith Institute hosts its latest “next generation” event, this time with Conservative peer Daniel Hannan, from 6 p.m.

OUR TURN: The POLITICO summer bash is happening in central London from 6.30 p.m. Invites needed.


CITY LIVING: The Bank of England publishes its biannual report on the stability of the U.K.’s financial sector, at 7 a.m.

HOPE IT’S NOT A WASH-OUT: Thames Water bosses and Ofwat Chief Executive David Black give evidence to the environment committee from 9.15 a.m.

PANDEMIC DIARIES: Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill gives evidence to the official COVID probe from 10 a.m.

CASE LAID OPEN: Cabinet Secretary Simon Case will be grilled by the public administration and constitutional affairs committee from 10 a.m.

GROWTH IN PRESSURE GROUPS: Former PM Liz Truss’ “growth commission” is launched, but Truss herself won’t be present, at 10 a.m. in central London.

IN THE COMMONS: Women and equalities questions kick things off at 11.30 a.m. before DPMQs and a Labour-led opposition debate.

CULTURE WARS: The under-fire chair of the equality and human rights commission Kishwer Falkner gives evidence to the women and equalities committee from 1.45 p.m.

LABOUR LAND: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves and Shadow Communities Secretary Lisa Nandy meet mortgage brokers in London at 2.30 p.m.

GOING LOCAL: Candidates fighting to become the next MP for Selby will duke it out in a hustings at the Drax Sports and Social Club, from 6.30 p.m.

OVER THE COALS: Rishi Sunak invites Conservative MPs to Downing Street for a hog roast barbeque in the evening.


PACKED LUNCH OR PARL LUNCH: Subject to change, here are the lunch menus on the estate tomorrow: Bellamy’s: Soup and sandwiches … The Debate: Smoked paprika bream with cannellini beans, basil tomatoes and couscous; tempeh, vegetable and almond korma with coriander rice; beef brisket burger with onions and blue cheese … Terrace Cafeteria: Vegan mozzarella, zucchini and lentil cake with tomato chutney; mussels and seaweed risotto with garlic baguette; pork goulash with tagliatelle … River Restaurant: Grilled hake fillet with butternut squash and cauliflower dhansak; roast pork and all the trimmings; lentil and chickpea crumble with new potato salad.

CONGRATS: Political commentator Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie announced the birth of their third child, Frank Alfred Odysseus Johnson, born July 5 at 9.15 a.m. No prizes for guessing which name BoJo picked, as Carrie noted herself in her announcement Insta post.

NEXT POLITICAL BIRTH? Two political aides retreated to the office of a Conservative MP for a “liaison” one night last month, according to Robbie Griffiths in the Evening Standard.

WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: On his Ideas Lab Substack, Eliot Wilson takes aim at the MPs hosting their own shows on new TV news channels.

ON THIS DAY IN POLITICS: On July 11 2016, Andrea Leadsom withdrew from the Conservative leadership contest, handing Theresa May victory.

THANKS TO: My editor Matt Honeycombe-Foster, reporters Andrew McDonald and Bethany Dawson and the POLITICO production team for making it look nice.

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Emilio Casalicchio

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