Politics latest news: Keir Starmer vows to 'strengthen role of trade unions' if elected PM

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to “strengthen the role of trade unions” if Labour wins the next general election. 

The Labour leader also repeated his pledge to repeal the Government’s new anti-strike laws. 

Addressing the GMB union’s conference in Brighton this morning, Sir Keir said: “The average British family is £8,800 poorer than in other advanced economies. 

“Economies like France, Germany and the Netherlands. Economies that have better collective bargaining, have stronger workers’ rights, and a fairer share of wealth across their country.

“So we will strengthen the role of trade unions in our society, and, like you, I want to see Amazon and businesses like it recognise trade unions.” 

The Government’s Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill returns to the House of Lords on Thursday this week for further scrutiny as it nears the finish line for becoming law. 

Sir Keir said the legislation will take away workers’ “hard-earned, democratic rights” and confirmed Labour would repeal it.

You can follow the latest updates below.


Sunak to pitch for London-based global AI watchdog during US visit

Rishi Sunak will put the threat of artificial intelligence at the top of his agenda as he flies out to Washington to meet Joe Biden, writes Daniel Martin. 

At his first White House talks with the US President, he is expected to plug London as the venue for a new international body to regulate AI.

The pair will hold a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, as they attempt to put relations back on an even keel after a rocky year.

You can read the full story here


Labour lead over Tories at 14 points in new poll

Labour lead the Tories by 14 points in a new survey published this afternoon by Deltapoll.

The poll, conducted between June 2-5, puts Labour on 43 per cent, down by four points when compared to a survey conducted between May 19-22. 

The Conservative Party was down by one point on 29 per cent. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats jumped up by four points to 13 per cent. 


Cleverly denounces dam destruction as ‘war crime’ as thousands flee flooding

James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary, has denounced the destruction of the Kakhovka dam as a “war crime” as thousands fled the region.

Suggesting Russia was behind the “abhorrent act”, he said: “Intentionally attacking exclusively civilian infrastructure is a war crime.

“The UK stands ready to support Ukraine and those affected by this catastrophe.”

You can follow the latest updates on the destruction of the dam over on The Telegraph’s Ukraine war live blog


UK Government not ‘complacent’ on AI regulation, says No10

Downing Street said that the Government was not “complacent” on AI ahead of Rishi Sunak’s meeting with Joe Biden in the coming days when he is expected to raise the issue of regulation.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said he did not want to “pre-empt” Mr Sunak’s conversation with Mr Biden in Washington DC but said that the UK could become a global leader in artificial intelligence on both the new technology and regulatory systems.

The spokesman said: “We are not complacent about the potential risks of AI. Equally, it does present significant opportunities for the people of the UK. The UK is looking to lead the way in this space.”

He added: “You cannot look to proceed with AI without having the right guardrails in place.”


Ex-SNP MP suspended from Commons for 30 days

A former SNP MP has been suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days in a move which could lead to a by-election. 

MPs voted by 185 to 40 in favour of suspending Margaret Ferrier. 

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP, who now sits as an independent, breached Covid rules in 2020 by travelling by train while positive for the virus. 

Ms Ferrier appealed against the 30-day punishment recommended by the Commons Standards Committee but the Independent Expert Panel rejected the challenge and it has now been rubber-stamped by MPs. 

Any MP who misses 10 sitting days due to suspension is at risk of a by-election. 

The suspension will trigger a recall petition in Ms Ferrier’s constituency and if 10 per cent of voters sign it then the seat will be declared vacant and there will be a by-election.


No10 won’t comment on Sue Gray job speculation

Downing Street declined to comment on a report that Whitehall’s appointments watchdog is recommending Sue Gray could start a job with Sir Keir Starmer six months after her civil service departure.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “I can’t comment on speculation. My understanding is that the Acoba process is ongoing.”

A report in The Times suggested Ms Gray will be allowed to take up her new role as Sir Keir’s new chief of staff from the autumn this year.


‘We are willing to agree another way forward’

The Government is “willing to agree another way forward”, Downing Street said when asked whether it was committed to going ahead with its legal challenge against the Covid inquiry.

Rishi Sunak’s official spokesman told journalists: “You heard from the minister that we remain hopeful and willing to agree together the best way forward.

“Obviously we have explored other possibilities for resolution previously. So obviously we continue to speak to the inquiry. And as I say, we are willing to agree another way forward.”


UK offers Ukraine additional support after dam destroyed

The UK is offering additional support to Ukraine after a huge dam in the south of the country was destroyed.

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: “We are ready to offer humanitarian and economic support. With regards to the dam itself, I think it’s too early to say specifically if we are providing support.

“We have provided things like generators and other equipment to Ukraine previously.”

Downing Street “wouldn’t rule out” raising the attack on the dam with Russia after Kyiv blamed Moscow for the damage.

You can read the full story on the dam here


Covid inquiry demands witness statements from Sunak, Raab and Gove

The Covid inquiry has demanded written evidence statements from Rishi Sunak, Dominic Raab and a number of other senior politicians as it scrutinises the Government’s pandemic decision-making. 

Hugo Keith KC, the counsel for the inquiry, told a preliminary hearing this morning that requests for statements had been sent to 12 current and former ministers. 

The statements are supposed to relate to the inquiry’s second module on core political and administrative decision-making by the Government during the pandemic. 

Mr Keith told the inquiry: “To give a sense of the breadth and width of your inquiry’s reach, the rule nine requests include 38 requests to government departments, government bodies, arms length bodies and a variety of associations. 

“11 to regional mayors. 12 to ministers including the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, former prime minister Boris Johnson MP, Dominic Raab MP, Penny Mordaunt MP, Matt Hancock MP, Liz Truss MP, Kemi Badenoch MP and Michael Gove MP.

“We have issued requests for witness statements from the former first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, former first ministers of Northern Ireland, Baroness Foster and Paul Givan, former deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, and the First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford.”


Labour will ‘always have skin in the game’ in fight for working people, says Starmer

Sir Keir Starmer said a Labour government will “work with unions and with industry” to create a “new business model for Britain”. 

Concluding his address to the GMB Congress in Brighton, Sir Keir said: “Holding back the future is no way to growth. But, equally, there is no way to growth that doesn’t involve bending and shaping that future. We can create a new business model for Britain. One which creates economic security and grows, not just our productivity, but our hope and our optimism.

“Labour in government will work with unions and with industry. We will always have a stake, will always have skin in the game, will always see the fight for working people as our driving purpose.

“Because for us, this is personal. Together, we will make Britain work better.”


Labour leader: Green economic transformation can deliver ‘good, union jobs’

Sir Keir Starmer quoted US President Joe Biden as he made the case for a green transformation in the UK economy. 

In a speech to the GMB Congress in Brighton, the Labour leader said: “The world around us is changing, and changing fast. President Biden once said: ‘When I hear climate change, I think jobs’. When Labour sets out our mission for Britain to become a clean energy super power, we are thinking jobs too.

“For too long, Britain has allowed the opportunities of the new energy technologies to pass us by. Without a plan, the energy industries that we rely on will wither and decline. The Tories think it’s the market doing its job when British industry falls behind.

“It’s not some glitch in their model – it is their model. Yet, our allies around the democratic world are waking up to the threat of energy insecurity and the opportunity of economic security. Change is coming and yes it can unsettle us.

“But mark my words, on my watch, good jobs – good, union jobs – will be fundamental to that change. Decent pay, respect, dignity and fairness, cleaner, safer work, new and better infrastructure for Britain.”


Starmer vows to strengthen role of trade unions

Sir Keir Starmer has vowed to “strengthen the role of trade unions” and urged Amazon to recognise them.

Addressing the GMB union’s conference in Brighton, the Labour leader said: “The average British family is £8,800 poorer than in other advanced economies. 

“Economies like France, Germany and the Netherlands. Economies that have better collective bargaining, have stronger workers’ rights, and a fairer share of wealth across their country.

“So we will strengthen the role of trade unions in our society, and, like you, I want to see Amazon and businesses like it recognise trade unions.

“Nobody does their best work if they’re wracked with fear about the future, if their insecure contract gives them no protection to stand up for their rights at work, or a proper safety net that doesn’t support them properly. That’s what Labour’s New Deal for Working People is about.”


Baroness Hallett: Full statement on Government’s legal challenge

Baroness Hallett set out the state of play between the Government and the official Covid inquiry after ministers launched a judicial review over the inquiry chair’s request to hand over Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages. 

Speaking at the start of a preliminary hearing this morning, Lady Hallett said:

“As has been widely reported in the media, an issue has arisen between the inquiry and the Cabinet Office as to who decides what is relevant or potentially relevant.

“I issued a notice under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005 making it clear that, in my view, it is for the inquiry chair to decide what is relevant or potentially relevant.

“The Cabinet Office disagrees, claiming they are not obliged to disclose what they consider to be unambiguously irrelevant material. They invited me to withdraw the Section 21 notice. I declined.

“They are now challenging my decision to decline to withdraw the notice in the High Court by way of judicial review. With litigation pending and as the decision-maker, I can make no further comment.”


Covid inquiry chairwoman making ‘no further comment’ on WhatsApp row amid legal fight

UK Covid inquiry chairwoman Baroness Hallett said she would be making “no further comment” on the Government’s legal challenge to her request for Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages due to “pending” litigation.

Lady Hallett made the comment at the start of a preliminary hearing held by the inquiry this morning. 

It comes after ministers signalled yesterday that the Government was willing to enter into mediation with the inquiry in an attempt to resolve the row over evidence disclosure.


Suella Braverman warned of new wave of Albanian migrants crossing Channel this summer

Suella Braverman has been warned of a new wave of Albanian migrants crossing the Channel this summer despite the crackdown on small boats.

The Home Secretary has been handed an internal survey, commissioned by the UK embassy in Tirana, showing that half of young Albanians want to cross the Channel to Britain this summer.

The poll, based on 1,800 households in Kukes, the main area in northern Albania for migrants, showed half of young men aged between 17 and 22 wanted to quit their homeland and come to Britain despite the risks of crossing the Channel.

You can read the full story here


US in ‘driving seat’ on AI regulation, says Lord Hague ahead of Biden-Sunak talks

Rishi Sunak is due to fly to Washington DC this evening for a two day visit which will see him hold talks with Joe Biden, congressional figures and business leaders. 

Artificial intelligence regulation is expected to feature heavily in the talks between Mr Sunak and the US President amid growing fears about the potential threat posed by the technology.

Lord Hague, the former leader of the Conservative Party, said this morning that the US is in the “driving seat” on the issue but Mr Sunak and the UK could provide “good advice”. 

He told Times Radio: “You are right, it has to be… Britain needs America more than the other way around. But America does need good advice which it will get from Rishi Sunak and it does need a partner on these things and the EU is in danger of overregulating AI in the sense of being so prescriptive that AI won’t be based in the EU.

“So there are good reasons for Britain and America to work together. But basically you are right… this requires the United States, that is in the driving seat, to say ‘there are certain things we are really going to get behind, we are going to regulate it more effectively…’.”


Seven in 10 voters believe Rishi Sunak will not deliver on stop the boats pledge

Seven in 10 Britons believe it is unlikely that Rishi Sunak will deliver on his pledge to tackle the migrant Channel crossings crisis, according to a new YouGov survey. 

The poll, conducted yesterday, found that 40 per cent of people believe it is very unlikely that Mr Sunak will stop the boats and 31 per cent believe it is fairly unlikely – a total unlikely score of 71 per cent. 

Just 14 per cent believe the Prime Minister will deliver on his pledge – 10 per cent fairly likely and four per cent very likely.

Mr Sunak said yesterday that he believed his plan to stop the boats was starting to work, with crossings down 20 per cent compared to last year. 


Starmer to deliver speech to union amid row over Labour’s oil and gas policy

Sir Keir Starmer is due to deliver a speech at the GMB union’s conference in Brighton later this morning, focusing on Labour’s energy policies. 

The Labour leader will use the address to try to persuade unions to back his plan for a shift to green energy as part of a “new business model for Britain”.

It comes after the GMB general secretary, Gary Smith, criticised Labour’s plan to ban new oil and gas extraction licences in the North Sea. He said the party’s policy on North Sea licences would create a “cliff edge” that will hit jobs.

Sir Keir will pledge to work with unions to “seize the opportunities” of hydrogen power and carbon capture and storage projects.


Covid inquiry chairwoman expected to address Government’s legal challenge

The chairwoman of the official Covid inquiry is expected to respond for the first time this morning to the Government’s legal challenge over her request for the disclosure of Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages. 

Baroness Heather Hallett is due to hold a preliminary inquiry hearing starting at 10.30am in which she is set to address ministers’ decision to bring forward a judicial review.

Today’s hearing comes after ministers signalled yesterday that the Government was willing to enter into mediation with the inquiry in an attempt to resolve the row over evidence disclosure. You can read the full story here


Rishi Sunak willing to defy Lords over small boats Bill

Rishi Sunak has indicated that he is willing to defy the House of Lords and force his proposed law to tackle small boat crossings through Parliament, as peers threatened to delay the Bill.

Speaking to The Telegraph, the Prime Minister said the new measures to reduce migrant crossings were “very strongly” backed by MPs and “incredibly important”.

Mr Sunak twice indicated that he was open to using the Parliament Act to ram through the Illegal Migration Bill if needed. The Act allows the House of Commons to overrule the House of Lords if a piece of legislation is voted down by peers, but is rarely used.

You can read the full story here.


Tories more trusted than Labour to boost rural economy

The Tories are more trusted than Labour to stimulate economic growth in rural areas, a new poll by Survation has suggested. 

Some 33 per cent of respondents polled in the 100 most rural constituencies in England said they trusted the Conservative Party the most to boost the rural economy. 

Some 23 per cent picked Labour and 10 per cent picked the Liberal Democrats. The poll was conducted between April 13-24.


Two thirds of rural voters believe Government not doing enough on cost-of-living crisis

More than two thirds of voters in the 100 most rural constituencies in England believe the Government is not doing enough to address the cost-of-living crisis, according to a new poll. 

A survey conducted by Survation found 69 per cent of respondents in the seats believe the Government was not doing enough. 

Some 17 per cent said the Government was doing enough and 14 per cent said they did not know.


Seven in 10 2019 Tory voters in 100 most rural seats intend to vote Tory again

Seven in 10 Tory voters in the 100 most rural seats in England who backed the Conservatives at the 2019 general election intend to do the same at the next election. 

A Survation survey in the seats, conducted in April and published yesterday, found that 71 per cent of Tory voters in 2019 said they would vote Tory again. 

That is lower than the number for repeat Labour voters which stood at 85 per cent. 


Tory lead over Labour in 100 most rural seats in England drops from 39 points to just five

The Tory poll lead over Labour in the 100 most rural seats in England has dropped from 39 points at the 2019 general election to just five points in a setback for Rishi Sunak. 

The Conservative Party won 96 of the 100 seats at the last general election, securing 59 per cent of the vote to Labour’s 20 per cent. 

But a Survation survey, conducted in April and commissioned and led by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), put the Tories on 41 per cent of the vote and Labour on 36 per cent.