Trump gets charged, Sunak gets grilled – POLITICO

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING: U.S. federal prosecutors charged former President Donald Trump with conspiring to seize a second term after losing the 2020 election, including by attempting to exploit the violent assault on Congress on January 6, 2021 — my POLITICO colleagues have the news here and analysis here. While Trump was being served his third set of criminal charges this year, President Joe Biden was watching Oppenheimer.

Good Wednesday morning (it certainly is one for Biden). This is Eleni Courea, writing Playbook for the rest of the week.


PRE-HOLIDAY GRILLING: As this email lands your inbox, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is about to take 30 minutes of callers’ questions live on LBC Breakfast. The PM is on air with Nick Ferrari from 7 a.m.

That will have taken … some very early morning prep in Downing Street. This is Sunak’s last planned public appearance before he jets off (think we can safely assume that is his chosen mode of transport) for his first proper holiday in four years.

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No. 10 hasn’t said where he’s going: But the Times reported last weekend that it’s somewhere in Europe with a beach.

Holiday prep: Sunak has packed in a flurry of media interviews, visits and photo ops in the run-up to going away. He was out five out of seven days last week and every day so far this week. His answers to LBC callers this morning are likely to drive the day’s news agenda.

What no member of the public will ask: Why Sunak’s suit trousers are so short, a popular question which, as Playbook noted on Tuesday, has been given a new lease of life by that menswear guy on X (whose wild claim that this could cost Sunak votes actually gets a Telegraph write-up).

BY-ELECTION KLAXON: Deputy Scottish Labour leader Jackie Baillie has landed the 8.10 a.m. Today program slot after voters in Rutherglen and Hamilton West triggered a by-election in their area. Campaigning in the SNP-Labour marginal — currently held by lockdown-breaking MP Margaret Ferrier — was already in full swing, but the result of the recall petition has fired the official starting gun.

WHAT WE’LL BE TALKING ABOUT FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK: The Bank of England’s interest rates decision at lunchtime on Thursday. The i splashes on expectations the base rate will be hiked to 5.25 percent this week and 6 percent by the end of the year. The TUC says there should be no more rate hikes and that job losses have left the U.K. “teetering on the brink of recession” — the Guardian has a write-up.


SHAPPS IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Energy Secretary Grant Shapps is touring broadcast studios before chairing a meeting of energy bosses in Downing Street this morning. Senior execs from EDF, SSE, Shell and BP are due to attend.

On the agenda: Energy giants’ planned £100 billion investment in the U.K. under plans announced in the spring.

Also on the agenda: Shapps’ pet project of cracking down on anti-fossil fuel protesters — in this case ones who threaten to disrupt oil rigs. Shapps said in a press release that he wants to “hear from the energy companies the vital work they are doing in this area.”

To be fair: It gets him a decent amount of press. A Shapps quote accusing Just Stop Oil of “criminal tactics” makes the front of today’s Mail.

Perhaps not quite so high on the agenda: Energy companies’ huge profits — Shapps’ office did not respond when asked if he would raise this at the meeting. On Tuesday BP posted $2.6 billion in profits in the latest quarter. The Times reports Shapps will urge companies to invest more of their profits into new projects including in the North Sea.

With good timing: A major Bloomberg investigation reveals that Drax, one of the country’s biggest energy producers, managed to avoid returning hundreds of millions to households. Bloomberg analyzed thousands of power market records to uncover this practice, which didn’t break any rules.

Never mind all that: Labour’s stance on oil and gas drilling in the North Sea is unclear and this could affect investment in the U.K. by companies such as BP, its head Bernard Looney has told the Times’ Emily Gosden and Oliver Wright. They point out that Labour hasn’t specified whether it would stop companies that have discovered oil and gas with existing licenses from gaining the permits they need to develop the fields.

For their part: The Tories have sought to exploit Labour’s stance on North Sea oil and gas. Shapps has a Telegraph op-ed today claiming it could lead to blackouts. The Mail splashes on a Harriet Line scoop reporting that at a secretly taped meeting in Birmingham, a Just Stop Oil protester claimed the group’s tactics had influenced Labour policy on this issue.

Quick refresh: Labour has said it won’t grant new licenses for oil and gas drilling in the North Sea, but that it would not overturn licenses issued by the Tories (who have said this week they are granting more than 100 in the run-up to the next election.) It’s been pointed out that this amounts to a Labour endorsement of whatever licenses the government issues while it’s in power.


DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE: My colleagues Esther Webber, Charlie Cooper and Annabelle Dickson have dug into Sunak’s apparent retreat from net zero — and found that for the most part, the change in direction seems to be a presentational one. Tory insiders say Sunak is not seeking to roll back the green agenda wholesale, but to court votes and open a dividing line with Labour where the issue intersects with the cost of living. Robert Goodwill, chair of the Commons environment committee, said that “it’s not abandoning our climate change promises” to recognize that “the burden of addressing climate change seems to be falling on those least able to pay.”

Foot on the gas: No. 10 is acutely aware of the strong feelings on net zero among backbenchers on both sides, represented by the Conservative Environment Network and the Net Zero Scrutiny Group. Annabelle hears Sunak’s Deputy Chief of Staff Rupert Yorke and his Political Secretary James Forsyth are working with the whips’ office alongside James Nation and Nick Park in the No. 10 Policy Unit to hammer out an approach that appeals to all sides.

That said: Even if Sunak’s plan is to walk a tightrope of paying lip service to motorists while sticking to big pledges on emissions, this carries its own pitfalls. Onward’s Jack Richardson warns that making anti-green noise is not devoid of consequences — and says that “conflicting reports we’ve seen in the papers on this are really bad for investment.”

CASE IN POINT: Industry group ChargeUK — which is spending £6 billion until 2030 to roll out electric charging points — has written to Sunak today warning that the uncertainty is harming investment and green jobs.

On the upside: Ministers are preparing to endorse proposals this week by industry veteran Nick Winser on speeding up the construction of electricity networks in the U.K. The FT’s George Parker has the scoop. Shapps may well bring this up at his meeting with energy bosses today.

Food for thought: The Guardian’s Peter Walker argues that Sunak is pandering too much to right-wing editors on climate policy. He reports that Tory MPs in Lib Dem-facing seats have taken to WhatsApp groups to question the strategy.  

NOT SO FAST: POLITICO’s report that Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch has been pushing for electric car targets to be softened over investment concerns gets front-page pick-up in the Times and the Telegraph, and a page lead in the Mail.


THE OTHER BIG TOPIC TODAY: Prisons — how to get more people into them and how to keep more people out of them, both of which the government has been promising to do this week.

Getting more people into them: Tory MP and Commons Justice Committee Chair Bob Neill has criticized plans revealed by the Times to hand prison sentences to repeat low- and mid-level offenders. Neill told the Guardian that “you cannot keep pumping low-level offenders into the prison system without consequences.” Revolving Doors Chief Executive Pavan Dhaliwal has written a Times thunderer arguing that these sorts of short prison sentences are demonstrably a waste of time and public money.

Keeping more people out of them: Under a new code of conduct published by the Ministry of Justice today, police will be empowered to deal with first-time low-level offenders outside court by issuing cautions. The idea is to take pressure off prisons running out of space. It splashes the Telegraph (which warns of “fears of soft justice.”)

The government line: The MoJ said this new two-tier system will ensure low-level, first-time offenders are addressed proportionately while persistent and serious offenders face the full force of the law.

The only issue is: Charlie Taylor, chief inspector of prisons, has told the Times’ Matt Dathan the U.K. will run out of prison space within three years and that ministers were already “scraping the barrel” in terms of places before they pledged to hand more jail sentences to repeat offenders.

Making hay: Labour — always on the hunt for creative ways to nab headlines without making spending commitments — is pledging to build more prison spaces with the money already earmarked by ministers (only £1.3 billion of the £4 billion has apparently been spent.) The party has crunched official stats on the shortage of prison spaces which get widely picked up including by Sky, ITV and in the Telegraph splash.

More grim stats: Nearly a quarter of a million children were victims of violence in the past year, with Labour analysis suggesting the numbers of victims aged between 10 and 15 rose from 105,000 in March 2020 to 227,000 in the last year — the Mirror’s Ben Glaze has the story.

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AID BUDGET CUTS: The FT, Independent and BBC report on a Foreign Office analysis that outlines the human toll as a result of the U.K.’s overseas aid cuts. For example, a 38 percent cut to aid allocated to South Sudan this year could result in as many as 3,000 deaths, the analysis suggests. Labour’s Sarah Champion, chair of the International Development Committee, says the analysis makes for “grim reading.”

Consequences: The analysis suggests aid cuts in Afghanistan will leave vulnerable women and girls without critical services, and half a million women and children in Yemen will not receive health care. Under ex-PM Boris Johnson, the government chose to cut overseas aid spending from 0.7 percent to 0.5 percent of Gross National Income.

POURING COLD WATER: The firefighters’ union has accused ministers of attempting to house asylum seekers on a “potential deathtrap,” after use of the Bibby Stockholm barge in Dorset was delayed again because of health and safety concerns. The Guardian has the story.

Meanwhile: A group of Teessiders who blocked plans to moor a barge for migrants in their area have claimed to OpenDemocracy’s Adam Bychawski that Home Office ministers are out of step with public opinion on this.

SCIENCE SHAKE-UP: A report by influential Tory think tank Onward says the science department should be given freedom from Treasury spending controls if the U.K. is going to become a science superpower. It’s been backed by 10 former science and digital ministers including David Willetts, Caroline Dinenage and James O’Shaughnessy.

SAFETY SENSE CHECK: Tuesday was a tricky day over at the Department for Business and Trade after it slipped out a U-turn on post-Brexit safety certification. The department said it would continue accepting the EU’s CE safety mark indefinitely — before industries and agencies that don’t fall under its purview scrambled to specify that this did not apply to them. It forced DBT to re-issue its release specifying what sectors it did apply to. The FT has a write-up.

On top of that: Brexiteers are now criticizing Badenoch for the climb-down. Iain Duncan-Smith has told the Telegraph’s Nick Gutteridge that the move is “a missed opportunity.”

CHINA CORNER: China hawks are kicking off in the Mail about a meeting between Foreign Office Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan and the head of China’s International Liaison Department Liu Jianchao in June. Liu’s visit to the U.K. was revealed by Playbook.

Wait till they hear this: Beijing to Britain points out that a fortnight ago in Jakarta, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly met Wang Yi — China’s newly reinstated foreign minister who became known during his previous stint as a “wolf warrior diplomat” for his combative rhetoric. A statement by the Chinese Embassy to Mauritius claims that Cleverly requested the meeting. This week Wang has been formally invited to Washington D.C. for talks with the U.S. government.

THE BLOB IN NUMBERS: Annual figures on the civil service workforce are out at 9.30 a.m.

OVER IN COURT: The trial of Geza Tarjanyi, a protestor charged with harassing former Health Secretary Matt Hancock back in January, continues at Westminster Magistrates’ Court from 10 a.m.


HUMZA’S PROBLEMS: My colleague Andrew McDonald has mapped the five tripwires for the SNP’s Humza Yousaf as he tries to turn around his party’s fortunes. Read here.

UK-EU DEFENSE: The time is right for London and Brussels to negotiate a new treaty on defense and foreign policy cooperation, Michel Barnier, the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator, told POLITICO’s Sebastian Whale. Speaking to the Ex Files newsletter for its 100th edition, Barnier said it was now in both sides’ interest to collaborate in the face of shared challenges like the war in Ukraine, climate change and terrorism.

UKRAINE DIPLO SPAT: Ukraine summoned the Polish ambassador over “unacceptable” comments made by a senior official in the Polish president’s office who said Ukraine was ungrateful for its help — my POLITICO colleague Claudia Chiappa has a write-up.

TENSIONS IN THE EAST: Poland will send more troops to protect its border with Belarus, after summoning the Belarusian ambassador to protest what it described as a violation of its airspace by two Belarusian helicopters. Bloomberg has more.

GHANI IN POLAND: Business Minister Nusrat Ghani happens to be in Poland to co-chair a meeting of the Ukraine Reconstruction Taskforce with Deputy Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov. Ghani told Playbook that she was “looking forward to … supporting Ukraine, in their words, ‘building back better.’ We have a role to play in helping Ukraine in the recovery of vital infrastructure.”

AIRLIFTS FROM NIGER: U.K. citizens in Niger have been told to sit tight at home and register their presence with the embassy after the military takeover in the country. France, the former colonial power in Niger, has begun evacuating its 600-odd citizens.

Keep calm and carry on: U.K. government officials feeling a sense of déjà vu from the botched evacuation from Afghanistan exactly two years ago will be relieved to read the number of British citizens in Niger is in the “low double digits,” per the Times (not online).

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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak: LBC phone-in (from 7 a.m.).

Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Grant Shapps broadcast round: GB News (6.45 a.m.) … Times Radio (7 a.m.) … Sky News (7.20 a.m.) … GMB (8.20 a.m.) … TalkTV (8.45 a.m.).

Labour Party Chair Anneliese Dodds broadcast round: Times Radio (7.40 a.m.) … Sky News (8.05 a.m.) … GB News (8.25 a.m.) … LBC News (8.50 a.m.).

Also on Sky News Breakfast: Fire Brigades Union Assistant General Secretary Ben Selby (8.20 a.m.) … International Development Committee Chair Sarah Champion (9.30 a.m.).

Also on Good Morning Britain: Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis (7.25 a.m.) … Iceland Foods Executive Chair Richard Walker (8.10 a.m.).

Also on LBC News: Former Commanding Officer of the U.K.’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Regiment Hamish de Bretton-Gordon (8.20 a.m.).

Also on TalkTV Breakfast: Migration Watch U.K. Executive Director Mike Jones (7.05 a.m.).

Today program: Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Jackie Baillie (8.10 a.m.).


POLITICO UK: Rishi Sunak’s trying to drive in both lanes on climate action.

Daily Express: Biggest house price fall in 14 years … but rise on way.

Daily Mail: We’re shaping Labour policy, boasts eco-mob.

Daily Mirror: Anton — my Dad stabbed me.

Daily Star: Voyager, we have a problem!

Financial Times: Business “breathes sigh of relief” after post-Brexit goods safety mark ditched.

i: Recession fears grow as interest rates set to rise until Christmas.

Metro: Cancer “holy grail.”

The Daily Telegraph: First-time criminals to avoid court.

The Guardian: Asylum seeker barge may be “deathtrap,” firefighters warn.

The Independent: Afghan pilot wife’s tearful plea to Rishi to save her family.

The Times: AI can help medics spot more breast cancer cases.


WESTMINSTER WEATHER: Thundery showers and highs of 19C. A yellow weather warning is in place for most of the day with the prospect of flooding, short-term power cuts, travel disruption and lightning strikes. Roll on August.

I’M A CELEBRITY … PAY ME MORE THAN £400K: Boris Johnson has been in discussions over going on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here! and has negotiated a deal that “dwarfs the £400,000 paid” to former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, according to the Mirror’s TV Editor Nicola Methven. A source tells her “he’s not looking likely. The truth is he doesn’t need the cash as much as he did before … and, of course, he still thinks he’s going to stage some sort of political comeback.” BoJo’s spokesperson told the Mirror he wouldn’t be going on the program and wasn’t in talks to do so.  

CONGRATS: Former Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and former Lib Dem MP Duncan Hames welcomed their baby boy Robin on Friday.

NOAH’S CULTURE FIX: The Edinburgh Fringe officially kicks off on Friday though numerous shows have previews from today — former Tory MP Gyles Brandreth’s show Gyles Brandreth Can’t Stop Talking! is at 4 p.m. in Assembly George Square … Comedian Rosie Holt’s That’s Politainment! is at 8 p.m. in the Pleasance Courtyard … and comedian Matt Forde’s Inside No. 10 is also at 8 p.m. in the Pleasance Courtyard.

If you’re not heading up there: A showcase of poets with connections to Hong Kong are discussing their work at the National Poetry Library in the Southbank Centre from 8 p.m.

And if you’re working from home: Listen to Ros Atkins discuss the power of advertising with John Hegarty, a founding partner of Saatchi and Saatchi — famous for designing the Labour Isn’t Working poster in 1978 — on Radio 4’s the Media Show at 4.30 p.m. … and for some mildly terrifying summer viewing, 1991 Oscar-winning film The Silence of the Lambs is on ITV1 at 10.45 p.m.

NOW READ: James Kanagasooriam in the Times on how “politically elastic” seats in southern areas such as Essex are more important to determining the Tories’ electoral fortunes than the red wall.

BIRTHDAYS: SNP education spokesperson at Westminster Carol Monaghan … Former North Devon MP Peter Heaton-Jones turns 60 … Tory peer Michael Brougham … Hanbury Strategy’s Rosie Bate-Williams … Welsh government Finance Minister Rebecca Evans … POLITICO’s Leyla Aksu.

PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editors Jack Lahart and Zoya Sheftalovich, reporter Noah Keate and producer Fiona Lally.

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