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Good Monday morning. This is Rosa Prince with Eleni Courea traveling back from the G20 and Dan Bloom at the TUC in Liverpool.
DRIVING THE DAY
WESTMINSTER IN SHOCK: MPs return to Westminster after the weekend in a state of shock at news of an alleged spy in their midst. A ministerial statement or urgent question is all but certain following the Sunday Times’ revelation that a parliamentary researcher with links to senior Conservatives had been arrested on suspicion of spying for China. The news overshadowed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s return from India, where he attended the G20 — the PM will make a statement on the outcome of the summit this afternoon.
First read this: The Times is today the first paper to publish an actual name linked to the alleged spy scandal. No comment as yet from the person named. Several papers report that some MPs had threatened to use parliamentary privilege to out the suspect.
Then hear this: Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch is on the morning broadcast round and is bound to be quizzed about what ministers knew and when.
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What you need to know: The 20-something researcher was arrested in March under the Official Secrets Act alongside another man in his 30s. Both were released on police bail until October. The alleged spy has links to hawkish Conservative MPs who are privy to classified information including Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Alicia Kearns and Security Minister Tom Tugendhat.
Narrow escape: The Times team led by Senior Investigations Reporter Billy Kenber say of the researcher: “He became active on Westminster’s social scene and used a dating website, making several attempts last year to arrange a date with a political journalist.” The Sun’s Noa Hoffman claims to have had a narrow escape.
Only the start: Could there be more to come? The Telegraph reckons intelligence services will “unmask” more Chinese spies in coming months, raising the prospect that a “network” of spooks is operating out of Westminster.
What the PM has said: Sunak raised the case with Chinese Premier Li Qiang at a brush-by meeting at the G20 on Sunday morning. Just before embarking on the return flight to London, the PM told broadcasters that he relayed “very strong concerns” about Beijing’s potential interference in parliament. Playbook’s Eleni Courea was on the trip and has been sending in the latest.
This also raises questions for: Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, whose decision to travel to China in late August will come into question.
Cabinet splits: The Times’ Steven Swinford reports that Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Tugendhat are keen to see China designated as an official threat to Britain’s “safety and interests” under new national security laws. They are said to be opposed by the Foreign Office and Treasury, over fears for the impact on trade of requirements under the plans for anyone working “at the direction” of China or state-linked Chinese companies to register with the U.K. government.
Ban them: China should be barred from attending Sunak’s November AI summit, China hawk Iain Duncan Smith tells the Mail.
MORE FROM THE G20: Speaking to journalists traveling with him in India, Sunak refused to commit to retaining the pensions triple lock in the next Tory manifesto. The Express’ Steph Spyro has a write-up. The Sun points out that Justice Secretary Alex Chalk didn’t quite seem on board with this on the Sunday shows.
AS FOR THE SUMMIT ITSELF: Read this piece by the POLITICO team on the ground on how the G20 stripped out accusations against Russia from the communiqué in order to arrive at a consensus. The leaders settled on language drafted by officials from India, Brazil and South Africa — G20 hosts present and future — calling on member states to “refrain from action against the territorial integrity and sovereignty or political independence of any state.”
But but but: Sunak will face questions during his Commons update about why the U.K. was not part of a new India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor agreed at the G20. Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy said: “It is extraordinary that U.K. has been left out.”
FROM SUMMIT TO SUMMIT: In her wrap of Sunak’s G20 trip, Eleni has written about how the PM used the opportunity to drum up international interest in the landmark AI safety summit which the U.K. is hosting in November. “He sees it as one of his long-term legacy pieces,” a government adviser tells her. “Shaping the world’s response to a paradigm-shifting technology would be a big deal — and it would be recognised as a big deal.” A second government official said that Sunak “never misses a chance” to bring up AI.
Fun fact: At one point when Sunak was recording a pool clip in the summit venue his team had to position him to make sure the Russian flag wasn’t in the background.
HIS TURN: It’s over to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who is now in Delhi for an “economic and financial dialogue” with his counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman, the first between the U.K. and India since 2017.
Ruh roh: The Sun’s highly esteemed Trevor Kavanagh has a new nickname for Sunak: “Dr Dolittle.” “Rishi is rolled up in a defensive ball while Labour piles in with hobnail boots,” he complains in his column today. That’s gonna hurt inside No. 10.
THOUGHTS ARE WITH: Grant Shapps, who will miss the first departmental questions since his appointment as defense secretary, due to take place at 2.30 p.m, as his father Tony is critically ill.
EVERYTHING IS AWESOME: New Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho will meet her Irish counterpart Eamon Ryan in Whitehall today to sign new agreements on energy cooperation. The deal will see an agreement on energy transition and security of supply.
Everything is Brexit: Britain had long operated these commitments as part of the European Union’s “solidarity rules” — the new agreements will confirm that the arrangement will continue now the U.K. has left the bloc.
Everything is climate: A second agreement will commit Britain and Ireland to work together to reach net zero.
BUT BUT BUT: A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce and published in the FT shows more than 80 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses are unprepared for the “avalanche” of new EU regulations and taxes bearing down on them in coming months and years as Brexit fully kicks in.
WAIT, WHAT? Laura Kuenssberg has a great scoop in the first episode of her new series, State of Chaos, about Brexit and the strains it put on our political system. Simon McDonald, former head civil servant at the Foreign Office, informed fellow officials and ministers on the morning after the referendum that he had voted to remain, in potential breach of civil service neutrality rules.
There’s more: The show also confirms rumors for the first time that conversations took place in government about Remainer David Lidington replacing Theresa May as PM with a pledge to hold a second referendum.
And more: Laura also speaks to ministers about their response to Boris Johnson’s and Dominic Cummings’ cunning ruse to prorogue parliament to stop the Commons blocking Brexit. The program airs at 9 p.m. tonight and is available now on BBC iPlayer.
TALKING THERAPY: Labour leader Keir Starmer and Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson are visiting a school in Dagenham this morning, where they’ll watch a pupil debate, as part of his policy of encouraging oracy in schools.
And talking of schools: Starmer has given an interview to the Jewish News in which he says Labour in power would be “even more supportive of faith schools” than the Tories. “I want to promote the idea of a family of schools where we are not pitting schools against each other, not faith schools versus other schools, and actually where schools are all supporting each other,” he said.
Thriving here: Starmer also backed Phillipson’s policy of ending private school tax breaks, but insisted he wanted independent schools to “thrive.” And he said work is needed to address the rise of antisemitism in schools, colleges and universities.
STARMER <3 THE UNIONS? After responding to Rishi Sunak’s G20 statement in the afternoon, Starmer heads to Liverpool to dine with more than 50 trade union bigwigs at a four-star hotel, my Playbook colleague Dan Bloom writes from day two of TUC Congress. One union official says the private “family dinner” will see general-secretaries and Starmer gently roast each other, before (says another) “they all shake hands.”
Which is a nifty metaphor … for their relationship ahead of Labour conference (at the same venue next month) and the election. The unions’ policies clearly push further than Labour — with motions on free school meals for all primary pupils, and “index-linked pay restoration” for the public sector already passing. But most unions are picking their battles carefully to avoid exposing splits. “Progressives are perennially disappointed with the Labour Party,” one general-secretary tells Dan. “But it’s better to be disappointed with the Labour Party in government.”
Standing out: Unite General-Secretary Sharon Graham, who took a swing at “Nineties tribute act” Labour on Sunday, has her speech this afternoon. Sky’s Jon Craig reports she will not attend tonight’s dinner, while Rail, Maritime and Transport Union General-Secretary Mick Lynch will.
COMING ATTRACTION: Labour’s National Policy Forum document, agreed in July, is being published very soon. TUC eyes will be on the wording around its “New Deal” for workers. Graham has already slammed reports (first in the FT) that it was watered down. Two officials tell Dan that Starmer wrote to union leaders to reassure them.
Another interesting point: A Unite motion today calls on Labour to “repeal all anti-trade union laws within 12 months of gaining office.” Playbook is told that includes those passed under Thatcher — which goes a fair whack further than Labour’s policy. It’s expected to pass, but a senior union official said they don’t expect it to actually happen.
I FOUGHT THE LAW: Today’s big event is a vote on “non-compliance” with Tory plans for minimum service levels for striking workers. Lynch — who will give a mid-afternoon speech — tells Dan: “We can’t comply with a law that may be regarded internationally as illegal.”
The government says … the minimum service levels law is to “protect the lives and livelihoods of the general public.”
SCOOP — CONFERENCE STRIKE? Lynch refused to rule out planning a rail strike during Conservative conference, like last year. “That is a possibility in the time frame,” he told Dan. “Our members look for the most effective prosecution of the strike. And whether the Tory conference is part of that factor, I haven’t spent too much time thinking about it, but that will be a part of it because it’s in two or three weeks’ time.” Lynch also could not rule out strikes continuing another 13 months to an October 2024 election if neither side backs down.
TODAY IN LIVERPOOL: TUC General-Secretary Paul Nowak speaks around 11 a.m., when he’ll claim “nothing works in this country” because “everyone sat on their arses.” Gillian Keegan’s check is in the post.
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TODAY IN WESTMINSTER
IN THE DOGHOUSE: Home Secretary Suella Braverman commissioned “urgent advice” on banning American XL Bully dogs, labeling the breed a “clear and lethal danger” as she shared a Mail article showing a dog mauling an 11-year-old girl in Birmingham over the weekend. In a rare moment of agreement, Braverman’s call splashes the Mirror (as part of its campaign calling for action on dangerous dogs,) and also leads the Sun. Defra however will decide whether to ban the breed.
JAIL BREAK LATEST: Jeremy Hunt raised concerns about “extremely worrying” conditions and low staff morale at Wandsworth Prison to the jail’s governor and Prisons Minister Damian Hinds after being contacted by a constituent who was serving time there, the Telegraph’s Charles Hymas reports. His letter came in August, weeks before now recaptured terror suspect Daniel Khalife snuck out by clinging to the underside of a food delivery truck.
DEAR CHANCELLOR: New Shadow Chief Secretary Darren Jones has written to Hunt demanding clarity over reports he had been urged to introduce an “inflation tax” of 100 percent on salary increases above 3 percent.
SUICIDE PREVENTION: The government launches its National Suicide Prevention Strategy containing more than 100 measures aimed at saving lives as it pledges to reduce England’s suicide rate within 2.5 years.
VOW OF JUSTICE: Justice Secretary Alex Chalk vowed to do everything to keep the family and friends of the late Joanna Simpson safe as Robert Brown, who was acquitted of murder having admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, is due to be released on license in November after 13 years in jail — the Sun has a writeup.
HACKS REJOICE: Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer attends the inaugural meeting of the task force dedicated to tackling Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation — which aim to financially exhaust those seeking to expose wrongdoing. The task force contains media organizations including the Society of Editors and the National Union of Journalists.
ONE HUNDRED DAYS OF WAITING: Over a third of crimes are taking more than 100 days to charge, analysis of Home Office figures found. Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said victims are being “badly let down” — the Mirror’s Lizzy Buchan has the exclusive.
POLICE SCANDAL: Three-quarters of police officers and staff accused of violence against women are not suspended by their force, according to a joint investigation by the Refuge charity and the Independent. Crossbench peer Louise Casey, who authored a damning review of the Met Police, said “Officers accused of violence against women should be immediately suspended pending investigation” — Maya Oppenheim has the story. In an Independent op-ed, Shadow Home Office Minister Jess Phillips said “Now is the time for the home secretary [Suella Braverman] to actually be tough, rather than just acting like she is.”
THEY’LL BE WATCHING YOU: Ten of Britain’s biggest retailers including John Lewis, the Co-op and Tesco agreed to fund a police operation cracking down on shoplifting by scanning shoplifters’ faces. The Times has a write-up, with the issue raised in the Observer and Mail on Sunday over the weekend.
SNP INDEPENDENCE: Expelled SNP MP Angus MacNeil has no path back to the party’s Commons group, Westminster leader Stephen Flynn appeared to hint. Speaking to the Scotsman, Flynn said he would be focusing on “making sure we return a Scottish National Party voice at the next election.”
SW1 EVENTS: Home Office Minister Chris Philp speaks to the Reform think tank about policing and public safety at 11 a.m. … Policy Exchange hosts Met Police Commissioner Mark Rowley in conversation with Sky’s Trevor Phillips on turning round the Met from midday … More in Common’s U.K. Director Luke Tryl holds a pre-conference media briefing on Zoom about polling data at 2 p.m … and Chatham House has a discussion on beating inflation with speakers including economist Bronwyn Curtis from 6 p.m.
HOUSE OF COMMONS: Sits from 2.30 p.m. with defense questions … and then the main business is a general debate on Ukraine and a motion on the Electoral Commission. Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross has the adjournment debate on 150 years of the Scottish Football Association.
On Committee corridor: DfE Permanent Secretary Susan Acland-Hood is before the Public Accounts Committee discussing the condition of school buildings (3.15 p.m.) … the Public Accounts Committee also probes witnesses including Defra Permanent Secretary Tamara Finkelstein and Defra Resources and Waste Director Emma Bourne on the government’s resources and waste reform (4.15 p.m.).
It’s not easy being green: An Evening Standard investigation found 2.9 million tons of good-to-eat farm produce was being dumped in landfill, incinerated or sent to waste treatment plans.
HOUSE OF LORDS: Sits from 2.30 p.m. with oral questions on sustainable clothing sales, sanctions against Russia and support for women in Afghanistan … and then the main business is consideration of Commons amendments to the Economic Crime Bill and Corporate Transparency Bill and the Procurement Bill.
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BEYOND THE M25
OUR FRIENDS IN THE NORTH: The Northern Powerhouse Partnership think tank sets out a five-point plan as part of its call for a “New Deal” for the North through pledges like powering the net-zero transition and unlocking training and apprenticeship opportunities — mayors including West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham endorsed the plan.
EU <3 NORTHERN IRELAND: The EU will unlock more than €1 billion in funding to boost reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and EU Vice President Maroš Šefčovič launch the plan in Belfast — via the FT.
AT LAST: Luis Rubiales resigned as president of the Royal Spanish Football Federation after kissing Spanish player Jenni Hermoso at the Women’s World Cup Final. Speaking to TalkTV’s Piers Morgan, Rubiales said he “cannot continue my work” — the interview airs on Morgan’s show this week and my colleague Aitor Hernández-Morales has a write-up.
MOROCCO EARTHQUAKE LATEST: The U.K. will deploy 60 search and rescue specialists, four rescue dogs and rescue equipment to Morocco following the 6.8 magnitude earthquake which killed more than 2,100 people. Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said he’d authorized the “rapid deployment of our unique airlift capabilities” to ensure aid reached Morocco.
JUSTICE FOR UKRAINE: Justice Secretary Alex Chalk attends the Council of Europe’s Justice Ministers Conference in the Latvian capital Riga to discuss rebuilding Ukraine’s justice system, saying the U.K. is “working with our international partners to hold those responsible to account.”
SECURITY FIRST: Foreign Secretary James Cleverly travels to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories to condemn Iran for enabling terrorism in the region and commit to strengthening security ties.
SOFT POWER: Culture Minister Stephen Parkinson is in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh attending the UNESCO World Heritage committee meeting — Parkinson will also meet Saudi Arabian and UAE tourism ministers to promote the U.K.’s creative industries.
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Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch broadcast round: Times Radio (7.15 a.m.) … Sky News (7.30 a.m.) … LBC (7.35 a.m.) … Today program (7.50 a.m.) … GMB (8.05 a.m.).
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper broadcast round: Today program (7.14 a.m.) … Times Radio (7.50 a.m.) … Sky News (8.10 a.m.) … LBC News (8.50 a.m.).
Also on Times Radio Breakfast: Dangerous dogs expert Stan Rawlinson (7.05 a.m.) … Tory MP Tim Loughton (8.05 a.m.) … former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland (8.15 a.m.).
Also on Sky News Breakfast: U.K. Health Security Agency Chief Medical Adviser Susan Hopkins (7.20 a.m.) … Public Accounts Committee Chair Meg Hillier (8.30 a.m.).
Also on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: Public and Commercial Services Union General-Secretary Mark Serwotka (7.50 a.m.).
Also on LBC News: TUC Assistant General-Secretary Kate Bell (7.20 a.m.).
TalkTV Breakfast: Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith (7.20 a.m.) … Labour peer Charlie Falconer (8 a.m.).
GB News Breakfast: Former Tory SpAd Claire Pearsall (7.30 a.m. and 8.30 a.m.) … former National Counter Terrorism Security Office Head Chris Phillips (7.05 a.m.) … Shadow Security Minister Dan Jarvis (9.05 a.m.) … Tory Northumberland Councillor David Lee Bawn (9.20 a.m.).
Politics Live (BBC Two 12.15 p.m.): Women and Equalities Committee Chair Caroline Nokes … Labour’s Barry Gardiner … the Observer’s Sonia Sodha … the Telegraph’s Camilla Tominey.
TODAY’S FRONT PAGES
POLITICO UK: Sunak wants AI to be his legacy.
Daily Express: Tearful TV legend reveals dementia diagnosis.
Daily Mail: A “hostile act” in the heart of parliament.
Daily Mirror: Terror on our streets.
Daily Star: Great British bunk off.
Financial Times: Sunak accuses China of interfering in Britain’s “parliamentary democracy.”
i: U.K. interest rate hikes set to end, experts predict.
Metro: PM’s China “spy” showdown.
The Daily Telegraph: Intelligence service set to haul in “China spies.”
The Guardian: 184,000 cancer cases in U.K. this year “were preventable.”
The Independent: Revealed — Britain’s new policing shame.
The Times: Revealed — spy suspect at the heart of power.
WESTMINSTER WEATHER: Sunny intervals with a gentle breeze. Highs of 27C.
NEW GIG: After 23 years in Westminster, Paul Twinn is moving to a new role editing the 6 and 10 o’clock BBC news bulletins after this year’s party conferences. He was the breakout star of the Lobby’s karaoke session in New Delhi on Saturday night with his excellent rendition of Take That’s “I Want You Back,” performed to an almost entirely empty hotel bar (if you discount the dozen or so members of U.S. President Joe Biden’s security detail).
ANGELS OF THE NORTH: Numerous politicos braved the Great North Run with weather ranging from “a risk of heat exhaustion” (according to FT Pol Ed George Parker) to a torrential downpour — Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson thanked “the organisers and everyone along the route” … Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham ran for A Bed Every Night through the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity … Shadow Police Minister Alex Norris ran for CureUsher UK … former Labour MP Anna Turley ran for Family Rights Group … former Lib Dem Leader Tim Farron ran for Carer Support South Lakes … GB News’ Michael Booker ran for the Motor Neurone Disease Association …
And down south: … the Richmond Runfest Half Marathon also took place, with PA’s Chris McKeon running for the Anthony Nolan charity … and the Sun’s Natasha Clark ran for the Stroke Association. A huge well done to all.
ROCK ON: Residents of north London were treated to an up-and-coming rock band at the weekend which included ITV Pol Ed Robert Peston and broadcaster John Wilson on vocals, journalist Christopher Tayler on guitar and one time Labour Cabinet minister and now broadcaster and cook Ed Balls on the drums. Could they usurp the legendary MP4?
WONKS DO BATTLE: Last Friday evening saw Bright Blue host an inter-think tank football game, with team two (Onward, the Institute for Fiscal Studies and UK in a Changing Europe) triumphing over team one (Bright Blue, the Institute for Government and Demos) 9-6. Organizer and Bright Blue captain Bartek Staniszewski said he was “looking forward to an easy fixture against the Lobby team in the future,” adding “I would love it if we beat them.”
Speaking of which: The Lobby cricket team, the Chatty Bats, had their last game of the season yesterday in Wimbledon against the Plastics, with a strong breeze rendering the 30C heat just about manageable. Newsweek’s Alex Hudson got the Bats’ innings going while Downing Street’s Director of Strategy, Jamie Njoku-Goodwin provided strong support to ensure the team was in a decent position around the halfway mark. Then the Plastics unearthed a pair of bowlers who proved too quick for the addled hacks and the team succumbed to a total of 135, all out after 29 of the allotted 35 overs. The three current Lobby journos in the XI — the Mail on Sunday’s Dan Hodges, the Sun’s Jack Elsom and the i’s Hugo Gye — mustered up just two runs between them. The target was hit with 10 overs and five wickets to spare.
LISTEN TO: Transport Minister Jesse Norman’s 2018 tome Adam Smith: What He Thought, and Why It Matters is Radio 4’s book of the week, marking 300 years since the economist’s birth — extracts run from today until Friday at 9.45 a.m.
NOAH’S CULTURE FIX: The Royal Opera House opens its fall season with Wagner’s Das Rheingold at 7.30 p.m., showing until September 29 — a 26-minute walk from Westminster.
BIRTHDAYS: Levelling-Up Minister Lee Rowley … Norwich South MP Clive Lewis … Broxbourne MP Charles Walker … SNP Levelling-Up spokesperson at Westminster Anum Qaisar … Tory peer and ex-SpAd Mark Schreiber … Tory peer James Sassoon … BBC News Editor Jess Brammar … Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editor Jack Lahart, reporter Noah Keate and producer Seb Starcevic.
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