Good fights, bad fights – POLITICO

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Labour is fighting with Liz Truss (good) and about its stance on Europe (bad.)

Senior names in economics backed the latest fiscal caution promise from the opposition.

A minister accused Keir Starmer of “flip-flopping” on Brexit.

Rupert Murdoch could leave a media vaccum in Westminster.

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GOOD FIGHTS, BAD FIGHTS: Labour is pleased to be fighting with Liz Truss — and less pleased to be fighting with the government about Europe.

It’s almost as if they wanted to provoke her: The former prime minister breaking cover to criticize Rachel Reeves’ new promise to beef up Britain’s fiscal watchdog is a gift to an opposition keen to remind the world of the disastrous mini-Budget, which took place a year ago this weekend.

Triggered: “It beggars belief that Labour think Britain’s problems will be solved by bigger government and even more powers for quangos,” Truss said in a statement in response to Labour’s vow of no significant spending plans without an Office for Budget Responsibility assessment. That’s precisely the thing Truss refused to commission for her budget, spooking the markets. Truss took more swipes at old pals the “economic consensus,” “overbearing regulation” and “bureaucrats in London” too.

Yes please: During a visit to the London Stock Exchange, Keir Starmer was stoked to go toe to toe with Truss. He told reporters the plan was needed “because a year ago the OBR offered to do an assessment of Liz Truss’s mini-budget and she turned it down. We can’t let that happen again.”

Yep, we can talk about this for hours: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves told the Newscast podcast, which went up in the last hour, that “a combination of the unfunded spending commitments and also the undermining of economic institutions crushed the economy. And never again can that be allowed to happen.”

No problem, we can keep going: Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Darren Jones chimed in on the Truss response that “one year on from crashing the economy, Liz Truss still has no humility and no shame. She is the last person who should be lecturing the country about economic stability.”

Yes please again: Labour was also gloating that OBR architect and Conservative former chancellor (now centrist dad podcaster) George Osborne endorsed its plans — as did former Treasury boss Nick Macpherson, ex-Osborne adviser (and Conservative candidate) Rupert Harrison and former civil service boss Gus O’Donnell.

No thanks: But Labour is struggling to keep the focus on its OBR news and off the endless debate about its Europe position, which the Tories want to hone in on.

Reminder: The world went a bit bonkers about Starmer’s comments he and his team “don’t want to diverge [from the EU], we don’t want to lower standards, we don’t want to rip up environmental standards, working standards for people at work, food standards and all the rest of it.”

Stirring the pot: “We don’t really know what he’s saying; he’s flip-flopping about,” Farming Minister Mark Spencher told GB News this morning. “One minute he’s saying he wants to have free movement, then the next minute is saying he wants to control our borders. He doesn’t seem to have a clear policy and he seems to make it up on the hoof on occasion.”

Gimme a break: But Starmer insisted during his visit this morning that his position had been “consistent Labour party policy for years” as well as government policy … because the opposition doesn’t want to “lower standards on food or lower the rights that people have at work.”

Reeves added on BBC Radio 4: “It shouldn’t come as a surprise to people that an incoming Labour government doesn’t want to dilute workers’ rights, environmental protections or food standards. That’s not what Labour are about.” She insisted Labour has no interest in undoing Brexit but does want “a better relationship with our nearest neighbors and trading partners”.

Both at the same time: Starmer insisted in a joint Channel 4 News interview with Reeves there is “no case” for rejoining the single market. The clip of the pair wondering how to respond to comparisons between Blair and Brown or Cameron and Osborne is a good illustration of how joint interviews aren’t the best for looking surefooted.

Keep repeating it: Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting told GB News Labour had “got the message” on Brexit, while London Mayor Sadiq Khan defended Starmer on Times Radio — although he added that the current Brexit deal is “a hindrance at the moment” to businesses trading with Europe.


YOU RUPE WHAT YOU SOW: Your Playbook PM author and AM’s Dan Bloom have penned a deep dive into what Rupert Murdoch did to Westminster and what his departure means for the bubble and the U.K. as a whole. “If Murdoch was starting out again now, I just don’t think he would rise to the influence he was able to build then,” said New Labour co-architect Peter Mandelson.

Making the weather: David Cameron’s former press chief Craig Oliver said Murdoch and those who worked for him “managed to get a real grip of British journalism and changed it profoundly, so it became a much more binary, aggressive campaigning thing,” said Oliver. “It was certainly made clear that they understood their power and were prepared to utilize it if they felt there was something that was needed or necessary to change.”

And there’s more: The piece contains numerous nice anecdotes and viewpoints on the Murdoch era — and thoughts on what comes next. Read it here.

NOT GOING WELL: Following his big net zero announcement this week, Rishi Sunak’s net approval rating has fallen to a new low of -45 percent, according to the latest YouGov poll.

GRAPPLING WITH THE BEAR: U.K. officials held diplomatic talks with representatives from the Kremlin over the past 18 months about international security amid the war in Ukraine, according to the i newspaper. The back-channel talks have covered the issues of grain shortages and nuclear threats, the paper adds.

MORE TIGHTROPE DIPLOMACY: Tony Blair is under pressure over his historic work lobbying on a major Azerbaijani energy deal after the country’s strongman leader launched a military offensive against an enclave populated by ethnic Armenians, my POLITICO colleague Eleni Courea reports.

MOOD: Rachel Reeves spoke for most of Westminster when she told the BBC Newscast podcast she has no holidays planned for 2024 while no-one knows when the next election will be. She’s broken the news to her kids.

ALL GOING WELL: The Tele reports that the Home Office has been forced to pause work to convert an RAF base into an asylum camp after the local council accused it of breaching planning permission. More here.

STILL TO COME: Energy Minister Graham Stuart is doing a Bloomberg interview in New York at 8 p.m. U.K. time, no doubt about the recent green target changes Rishi Sunak announced … and DPM Oliver Dowden is doing his UNGA speech in New York around the same time.

LIB DEM NEWS: On the eve of the Lib Dem conference, leader Ed Davey “100 percent” ruled out a pre-election pact with Labour, telling Channel 5 News “there will be no pacts, there will be no deals. And I don’t think voters want parties to stitch thing up.”

Not a great start to conference: The Lib Dems have also been clearing up their lines about Welsh speed limit changes. Here’s a BBC rundown.

WHAT THE GOVT WANTS TO TALK ABOUT: Offenders are helping to clean up coastlines under a scheme dubbed the “Great British Beach Clean.”

BOJO A-GO-GO: The ex-PM’s latest Mail column just landed. Check it out here.


WHATSAPP FAIL: Labour’s former General Secretary Iain McNichol asked BBC supremo Laura Kuenssberg to appear at the Wimbledon Book Festival he’s chairing. She said no, then he posted the chat as a WhatsApp status by accident. “We don’t have money but we have an amazing lineup,” was the pitch. Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, political chronicler Anthony Seldon, Labour frontbencher Chris Bryant, and Paterson Joseph, who plays Alan Johnson in Peep Show, are appearing, to be fair. Lineup here.

SHED FULL OF SPUDS: This insane clip of GB News asking potato farmer Mark Spencer if he eats Smash — among other things — is only improved by the fact the presenters seem to keep forgetting how bad their own tech is and forgetting the audio delay.

KEN YOU BELIEVE IT: HMT is going all out on the Barbie branding on social media to trumpet the new Warner Brothers investment in the U.K. The firm announced it will add 10 new sound stages to its Leavesden studios. But one Westminster wag quips: “Have we ever seen a palm tree in Leavesden?”

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IN FRANCE: The Paris prosecutor’s office called for French far-right leader Marine Le Pen and her party to stand trial for the alleged misuse of EU funds. My colleague Claudia Chippa has the full story.

IN UKRAINE: The Ukrainian government claimed responsibility for a missile attack on the Russian Black Sea fleet headquarters in Crimea. The BBC are running a live blog.

IN THE USA: A military judge has ruled one of the five defendants charged as part of the 9/11 attacks is not fit to stand trial. The New York Times has the story. 

ALSO IN THE USA: The United Auto Workers’ union escalated a week-long strike, meaning thousands more workers at parts distribution centers will be walking out. My U.S. colleague Nick Niedzwiadek has a write-up.


LEADING THE NEWS BULLETINS: Channel 5 News (5 p.m.) leads on a report that animal shelters have seen a rise in dogs since the prime minister’s crackdown on XL bullies … Channel 4 News (7 p.m.) focuses on systemic racism in boxing’s governing board.

Tom Swarbrick at Drive (LBC, until 6 p.m.): Chancellor Jeremy Hunt … Baroness Kate Hoey.

Drive with John Pienaar (Times Radio, 5 p.m.): London Mayor Sadiq Khan … Conservative MP Alun Cairns … Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti … Green MP Caroline Lucas.

Ed Vaizey (Times Radio, 7 p.m.): Labour MP Chris Bryant … author Sasha Swire … GREAT campaign boss Ewen Venters.

Any Questions (BBC Radio 4 8 p.m.): Labour peer Ruth Smeeth … Director of the Centre for Policy Studies Robert Colvile … International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell … Lib Dem Foreign Affairs spokesperson Layla Moran.


REVIEWING THE PAPERS TONIGHT: Times Radio (10.30 p.m.): HuffPost’s Kevin Schofield and Professor of Journalism Ivor Gaber … Sky News (10.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.): Novara Media’s Moya Lothian-McLean and ConservativeHome’s Henry Hill.


ON SATURDAY: It’s one year since Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng presented their mini-budget.

ON SATURDAY: The Commons net zero committee publishes a report on preparation for winter.

ON SATURDAY: There’s a pro-EU march from Park Lane to Parliament Square, starting from noon. More details here.

ON SATURDAY: Labour frontbenchers Angela Rayner, Ed Miliband, Jonathan Reynolds and Anneliese Dodds are among those addressing the Cooperative Party online conference. More details here.

ACROSS THE WEEKEND: Lib Dem conference kicks off proper tomorrow from 9 a.m. There’s a “general election briefing” at 10.10 a.m. and a speech from education frontbencher Munira Wilson, then a rally at 6.30 p.m. for an hour. On Sunday, Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper speaks at 12.35 p.m. and there’s a Q&A with Ed Davey at 2.25 p.m. Davey’s closing speech is on Tuesday. Full agenda here.

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Ayesha Hazarika with Times Radio drive (Times Radio, 4 p.m. on Saturday): Lib Dem Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper … Former Lib Dem spad Sean Kemp … FT’s Miranda Green.

Westminster Hour (Radio 4, 10 p.m. on Sunday): Conservative MP Steve Brine … Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh … Daisy Cooper … the FT’s Lucy Fisher.

Ayesha Hazarika with Times Radio Drive (Times Radio, 4 p.m. on Sunday): Conservative MP Christopher Chope … Labour MP Rosie Duffield …  deputy leader of the Green Party Zack Polanski … POLITICO’s own Rosa Prince.

Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips (Sky News, 8:30 a.m.): Defense Secretary Grant Shapps … Lib Dem leader Ed Davey … Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham … author Lionel Shriver … and on the panel are journalists Lionel BarberMiranda Green, and Jeff Randall.

Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg (BBC One, 9 a.m.): Defense Secretary Grant Shapps … Lib Dem leader Ed Davey … Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Darren Jones. 

The Camilla Tominey Show (GB News, 9:30 a.m on Sunday): Express’ David Maddox … former Labour and Lib Dem MP Luciana Berger … Lib Dem MP Wendy Chamberlain .. Conservative MP Craig Macklinlay … former MI6 Chief Richard Dearlove.

Sunday Morning with Kate McCann and Adam Boulton (Times Radio, 10 a.m.):  Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey … Shadow Armed Forces Minister Luke Pollard … Co-lead of U.N. Global Crisis Response Group David Nabarro … Managing Director of Center for Countering Digital Hate Imran Ahmed … Democrat Mayor of Jacksonville Donna Deegan.


ON THIS DAY IN POLITICS: On September 22, 2009 Prime Minister Gordon Brown is honored as “World Statesman of the Year” after his management of the financial crash. He picked up the award at an event in New York at which Paul Hewson (who calls himself “Bono”) was present. Pic here from the Tides of History Twitter feed.

THAT’LL DO IT: If you were at all alarmed by my colleague Esther Webber’s earlier story on falling-down parliament, don’t worry — she hears a net is being put up in Portcullis House over conference recess to stop any more shards of glass falling from the ceiling.

NEW GIGS: It’s promotion time in the Telegraph politics team, with Dominic Penna now political correspondent and Nick Gutteridge rising to Whitehall correspondent. Here’s the tweet from Pol Ed Ben Riley-Smith.

WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: On ConservativeHome, Andrew Gimson argues the Conservatives could hold Mid Bedfordshire, despite Nadine Dorries making it as difficult as possible.

MEA CULPA: Sam Freedman was not a special adviser as Playbook described him this morning but a civil servant. He made it clear here.



HAVE GREAT WEEKENDS: Avoid the news and therefore burnout. I have no plans — best kind of weekend.

THANKS TO: My editor Matt Honeycombe-Foster, Playbook reporter Noah Keate and the POLITICO production team for making it look nice.

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Emilio Casalicchio

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