Politics latest news: Boris Johnson can’t keep ‘indulging in populist nonsense’ without funding plan, warns former chancellor

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Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson are said to be at odds over spending on matters such as the royal yacht - Getty
Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson are said to be at odds over spending on matters such as the royal yacht – Getty
  • Robert Jenrick: We have a duty to build more homes

  • Heir or rival? What does Boris really think of Rishi?

  • Lord Chief Justice urges smaller juries to clear backlog

  • Boris Johnson warns of a ‘difficult year for travel’

  • Coronavirus latest news: UK ‘on track’ to reopen on July 19

Ken Clarke has taken aim at Boris Johnson for indulging in “silly populist nonsense”, as he called for the Government to rein in its spending amid inflation fears.

The former chancellor told Radio 4’s Today programme the Royal Yacht was “a complete waste of time ” and a symptom of the fact that “there are people in Number 10 who think there is free money”.

Money should be spent more wisely on retraining and getting people back into work, the Tory grandee added.

Lord Clarke, who was one of the 21 Conservative MPs to be stripped of the whip in 2019, attacked Mr Johnson’s “short-term populist view” on spending, adding: “The best Conservative governments… were above all respected for their competence and their competence in running the economy.”

His comments come amid growing tensions between Number 10 and Number 11 over the Prime Minister’s unrestrained desire to keep spending, putting him at odds with the Chancellor as he attempts to balance the books.

He also raised the spectre of inflation as the country moves out of the furlough scheme, saying: “Unless we actually take care, inflation is now the big risk over the next few years.”

​​Follow the latest updates below.

09:24 AM

Children and young people ‘incredibly resilient’ during lockdown, says Nadine Dorries

Children and young people did report poor mental health at the start of the pandemic, but have been “incredibly resilient”, the mental health minister has said.

Nadine Dorries told the Commons’ health and social care committee: “It’s been a difficult year for everybody and it’s particularly been a difficult year for children and… we did see, particularly early on in lockdown, children and young people reporting low mood, anxiety, poor mental health and I want to talk about that terminology.

“Actually, those young people have been incredibly resilient… so, rather than labelling a generation as a generation experiencing and suffering from mental health issues, I think we really need to acknowledge that we have a very strong, resilient generation, that we should be incredibly proud of,” she said.

The main problem more recently has been the “readjustment” to returning to school after a sustained period at home, she added.

09:11 AM

Lockdown provoked ‘crisis point’ in eating disorders, says Nadine Dorries

There been a significant rise in demand for eating disorder services during the pandemic, the mental health minister has said.

Nadine Dorries told MPs that eating disorders had been “the biggest issue” recently, adding: “We’ve seen a 22 per cent increase in demand, just over the past 11 months in eating disorder referrals and demand for services.

“Eating disorders were on the increase, we saw the uptick, before the pandemic began.

“It’s a very complex issue. It surrounds lots of things such as body image, social media, but lockdown brought a particular pressure and a particular strain on those young women who had been concealing, managing, living with eating disorders, and it kind of came to a crisis point during lockdown.

“So, dealing with that, the impact that’s had on other services has been a priority, it’s been a huge demand.”

08:55 AM

Iain Dale: I can no longer support this irrational lockdown

When the facts change, you change your mind. At least that’s what happens in normal times, and that’s what reasonable people do, writes Iain Dale.

I’ve strongly supported the Government’s various decisions on lockdown. People have accused me of being a lockdown hawk, and up to now they would have been right. However, we are now in a very different situation.

Hospitals are in no danger of being overrun. The Delta variant may be leading to a rise in the number of cases, but given most adults have now had at least one dose of the vaccine, and half the population has had both, the danger of hospitalisation and/or death is a fraction of what it was before. Intensive care units are not heaving with new patients. The average number of Covid deaths per day is 11, and shows no sign of increasing.

The public, which has been very understanding up to now, can be forgiven for being not just confused, but uncomprehending. A government can only govern by consent and, in my judgment, that consent is about to be withdrawn.

Read the rest of Iain’s column here.

08:51 AM

Have your say: Is Boris Johnson spending public money wisely?

Ken Clarke, the former chancellor, has launched an astonishing broadside against Boris Johnson’s approach to spending, calling it “populist”, “nonsense” and “crazy”.

The former chancellor claimed there were some in Number 10 “who think there is free money” and warned that this “irresponsible” approach could add to inflationary pressures that already exist as the country emerges from the pandemic.

Lord Clarke’s intervention comes at a time of strained tensions with the new resident of Number 11, who is also keen to cut back on spending. But Matt Hancock has insisted that projects such as the Royal Yacht would be value for money at a time when Global Britain is establishing its foothold.

So is the Prime Minister spending money wisely – or it is time to cut him off? Have your say in the poll below.

08:49 AM

Lord Burnett: ‘Waiting years for trial, not knowing what’s going on, it’s deeply damaging’

The Lord Chief Justice fears delays in sex cases, like the one which over three years ruined the life of Lady Nourse, are “deeply damaging to people”.

Lord Burnett is visibly frustrated at such delays, which contributed to what Lady Nourse confessed to The Telegraph was her own sense of “massive injustice”.

Talking exclusively to The Telegraph, he says this is the bitter fruit of a criminal justice system in crisis – not just in the courts, but in the police and at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), too.

It is a crisis that has been brewing for a decade, as budget cuts hit staffing and courtrooms and police numbers, and which then exploded during the pandemic, as courts shut down and cases piled up.

Read our exclusive interview with Lord Burnett here.

08:35 AM

Harriet Harman attacks ‘worrying’ social care response from Matt Hancock

Matt Hancock’s reaction to being grilled over his plans for social care was “very worrying to see”, Harriet Harman has said.

The Health Secretary repeatedly dodged questions about when the crunch meeting between Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak and himself had been rescheduled for after it was scrapped at the last minute, only giving vague assurances that a plan would be readied this year (see 8:08am).

The veteran Labour MP told Sky News: “It is urgent that social care is sorted out… everybody wants to see them get this sorted out.

“The pandemic put social care right at the top, where it should have been before, so let’s hope he doesn’t stick with that position and gets down to working across parties to sort it out.”

08:29 AM

‘Who knows what will hit us’ this autumn, says Tory MP

A senior Tory MP has said he is afraid that restrictions will be reimposed this autumn, despite backbenchers being opposed to them.

Peter Bone said he was “pretty confident” about the July 19 unlocking going ahead, having been delayed by a month, but said “as for the autumn, who knows what will hit us then.

“There is a lot of talk that we will be hit by a flu wave because people haven’t been mixing and haven’t built up resistance, so I am not sure about the autumn,” he added.

“If we unlock completely and everything moves smoothly from there, perhaps the Prime Minister was right… but we have to be allowed to get on with our lives,” the Wellingborough MP told Talk Radio. “It’s time we put freedom first, the only reason to restrict the freedom of the British people is if there is a clear and real threat.”

He called on the Government to “take the vaccine dividend” by opening the country up.

08:16 AM

Labour MPs whipped to vote against white privilege report, claims Tory

Labour members of the Commons’ education committee were whipped to vote against a report calling for the term “white privilege” to be dropped, a Tory MP has claimed.

Fleur Anderson, Apsana Begum, Ian Mearns and Kim Johnson voted against the report, into how white working class pupils are being let down by the education system, being made public.

Here is Richard Holden’s explanation as to why:

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08:07 AM

Quarantine to be scrapped for double jabbed in traffic light overhaul

Quarantine rules could be waived for fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber list destinations as early as August, reports suggest.

This rule change could be revealed on Thursday when an update to the traffic light categories is due.

A “senior government source” told The Times that by August a sufficient number of people will have received both doses to allow the Government to implement the changes.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, confirmed to Sky News this morning that ministers were “working on” plans for quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated Britons.

Asked if these plans could be in place as soon as August, Mr Hancock replied: “We’ll get there when it’s safe to do so”.

Read more here.

07:56 AM

Rishi Sunak reiterates focus on public finances as ONS figures show drop in borrowing

Rishi Sunak has reiterated the need to get “public finances on a sustainable footing” as new figures show a drop in Government borrowing.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that despite the year-on-year fall to £23.4 billion – down from £43.8 billion at the height of the pandemic, it was still the second highest on record and £18.9 billion more than in May 2019.

The ONS revised down borrowing for the financial year to the end of March by £1.1 billion to £299.2 billion, though this was still the highest since the end of the Second World War.

The Chancellor said: “As we emerge from the pandemic, we are continuing to support people and businesses to get back on their feet and our Plan for Jobs is working. It’s also important over the medium term to get the public finances on a sustainable footing.

“That’s why at the Budget in March I set out the difficult but necessary steps we are taking to keep debt under control in the years to come.”

07:49 AM

White privilege label is ‘wrong-headed’, says education committee chairman

The term white privilege is “wrong-headed” because it “says there is collective guilt when it should be individual responsibility for racists acts”, the chairman of the Commons’ education committee has said.

Conservative MP Robert Halfon denied he was trying to engage in culture wars by bringing up white privilege, but stressed it was “the wrong way to describe this and deal with racism, because it pits one group against another”.

The Harlow MP told Radio 4’s Today programme: “One of the reasons we found that white working-class boys and girls are struggling in education is because the families have disengaged from the education system and we believe this concept of white privilege perpetuates that idea.”

Mr Halfon added: “I have never engaged in culture wars, all I care about, as our committee does, is addressing the decades of neglect that have led to a situation where white working-class boys and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds are underperforming.”

07:45 AM

Royal Yacht will ‘pay for itself many times over’, insists Matt Hancock

Image issued by 10 Downing Street showing an artist's impression of a new national flagship,
Image issued by 10 Downing Street showing an artist’s impression of a new national flagship,

A new Royal Yacht will “pay for itself many, many times over” because it will bring in investment from the rest of the world, Matt Hancock has insisted.

The Health Secretary defended the plans, after Lord Clarke attacked it as a “complete waste of time”.

Mr Hancock told Radio 4’s Today programme: “The amount of investment that you can get in from the rest of the world by showing the best of Britain in harbours the world over is very, very significant, and I think we should be getting out there and trading with the world.

“And so I think that a Royal Yacht is a great idea and I’m very positive about it, because I think it will more than pay for itself many, many times over.”

07:37 AM

Matt Hancock: ‘It doesn’t matter’ that Boris Johnson called me hopeless

Matt Hancock has insisted he has “a very good, close working relationship” with Boris Johnson, after it emerged that that Prime Minister had said he was “totally f——- hopeless”.

The Health Secretary told Radio 4’s Today programme: “I work with the Prime Minister every single day. We have a very good close working relationship. That was, frankly, ancient history – of course there are pressures in the middle of a pandemic.”

But asked how he felt about being described as “hopeless”, he said: “It doesn’t matter – it was an expression in the middle of a challenging and frustrating period, where we managed to eventually deliver on the testing capacity we needed, which we didn’t have at the start.”

He added he was “very proud” of his work including the vaccination programme which was “just one example” of the strength of their relationship.

07:29 AM

‘Very significant’ flu programme being readied for the winter

There will be a “very significant” flu vaccination drive this winter aimed at protecting the NHS, Matt Hancock has said.

“We are worried about flu this winter because people’s natural immunity will be lower because we haven’t had any serious flu for 18 months now,” the Health Secretary told Times Radio Breakfast.

“We had a difficult winter in 2019, we didn’t have flu at all really this last winter because of the restrictions that were in place for Covid. So, it is something we are worried about.

“We are are going to have a very significant flu vaccination drive this autumn – potentially at the same time you might get your Covid booster jab and your flu jab at the same time, we are testing whether that can be done.

“We do need to make sure we protect the NHS this coming winter. We have got time to do the preparation for that now, though, and make sure we are as vaccinated as possible, because that is the way to keep people safe.”

07:22 AM

Boris Johnson’s attitude towards ‘free money’ is ‘completely crazy’, says Ken Clarke

Ken Clarke, the former chancellor, has called for “more restraint” in Government spending, warning this could see inflation spike further.

Taxes should be raised to bolster the public coffers, he adds, noting that VAT was a progressive tax that could be cut again.

“You can always tell Boris ‘if we are successful and the economy is growing in two or three years we can give you a pre-election tax cut, which will be frightfully popular’.

“But right now, we need to raise some revenues because otherwise you will suddenly have a financial crisis when you can’t borrow this money that you think is out there going free. The idea that foreign creditors are going to lend us money when interest rates are as low as they are at the moment is completely crazy.

“Once they think are you being irresponsible, the Bank of England will have to print even more money and that is inflationary – very inflationary.”

07:08 AM

Social care plan will be delivered ‘this year’, Matt Hancock pledges despite key meeting being axed

Matt Hancock has committed to addressing the “many injustices” in social care by bringing forward proposals “before the end of this year”, after a top-level meeting was cancelled at the last minute.

Mr Hancock this morning insisted that was no indication of the Government’s priorities.

“The Prime Minister has committed to delivering this plan before the end of this year and we are going to do that,” he told Sky News. “The question in terms of social care is how we can best make sure people get the care they need, in the setting they need, whether in their own home or care home, and how that is paid for and who pays for it.

“There are many injustices in the current system we want to tackle, that is one of the reasons why it is such a complex piece of work, but it is also why it’s such an important piece of work.”

Challenged over the meeting delay, he refused to answer questions on “diary management issues”.

07:05 AM

Ken Clarke takes aim at Boris Johnson for ‘short-term populist view’

Ken Clarke, the former chancellor, has taken aim at Boris Johnson for his “short-term populist view” on spending, calling for “health economic growth” to restore the country’s finances.

“What we need is a long period of sustainable growth with low inflation,” the peer told Radio 4’s Today programme. “We need to make sure that the necessary things we have done to minimise what I know has been hardship for many people doesn’t turn into a disaster when we go back to old boom and bust, which will do nothing for people who are striving.

“We can’t take a short term populist view, and say ‘good heavens it’s popular spending money on things,” he added.

“The best Conservative governments… were above all respected for their competence and their competence in running the economy.”

07:01 AM

Inflation is ‘the big risk’, warns Ken Clarke

Ken Clarke, the former chancellor, has said he is “quite worried” about the prospects of rising inflation, saying it is “the big risk” of coming out of pandemic support such as the furlough scheme.

“It was obvious the big risk when you get out of it was going to be inflation… unless we actually take care, inflation is now the big risk over the next few years,” Lord Clarke told Radio 4’s Today programme.

“These are such unusual circumstances, no one is quite sure how big the risk is or when the crunch will come… But is now time to start addressing the serious problem of the debts we run up,” he added.

“While we can tolerate a short little boomlet, with inflation going up the rest of this year, it is vital that we act very promptly to control it once it’s obviously settled in. You have also got to start addressing the serious question of how we pay for the fantastic amount of borrowing in a sensible and responsible way to in order to maintain fiscal discipline for the future.”

06:42 AM

Matt Hancock: We are on track for July 19 reopening

Matt Hancock has said the Government is “on track” for the July 19 easing of restrictions, but acknowledged that opening up travel abroad is “more difficult”.

“Thankfully, because of the vaccination programme, we have been able to free up a huge number of the restrictions here at home,” the Health Secretary told Sky News.

“We are on track to deliver the Step 4, the further openings, on July 19, which is good.

“We are also looking to see how we can replace the protections that are currently there with the restrictions with protections that come from the vaccine, with respect to international travel as well.

“But it is more difficult freeing up international travel.”

06:41 AM

We have a duty to build more homes, Robert Jenrick tells Tory heartlands

The Government has “a duty” to the next generation to build more homes, Robert Jenrick said on Monday as he faced down Conservative MPs who want him to water down controversial planning reforms.

The Housing Secretary insisted that it was only fair that ministers should reform the current system so that young people could “aspire to own the keys to their own home”.

The comments came after Tory MPs used a Commons debate to press the Government to water down planning reforms that were blamed for last week’s shock defeat in the Chesham and Amersham by-election.

Writing in The Telegraph, Mr Jenrick says: “The belief that home ownership should be achievable for all who dream of it and that young people should aspire to own the keys to their own home.”

Read the full story here.

06:40 AM

Good morning from Westminster…

Lots of news bubbling around today, including the social care meeting that was scrapped at the last minute, a report from the Commons’ education committee on white working class kids being left behind, planning reforms and whether or not the Euros final will be taking place in the UK…

Here is today’s front page.

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