Latest Political News: Layoffs and Zahawi Strikes Will Dominate as Sunak Faces PMQs; Number 10 responds to reports of Brexit progress | politics lately (2023)

key points
  • Nadhim Zahawi serves and punches to dominate as Rishi Sunak takes on Sir Keir Starmer in PMQ
  • #10 admits a 'very difficult' day with hundreds of thousands of workers leaving
  • Who is on strike today?
  • Podcast: How to stop strikes?
  • Look: What does the anti-strike bill mean for workers?
  • UK and EU continue 'intensive' Brexit talks amid reports on progress of Northern Ireland Protocol
  • Labor calls for Dominic Raab to be suspended 'in the interest of staff safety' amid allegations of intimidation
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker


Boris Johnson joins calls to send fighter jets to Ukraine

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged Western leaders to send fighter jets to Ukraine.

Johnson is currently in the United States rallying support for Ukraine in the face of the Russian invasion.

He was speaking after the United Kingdom and the United States ruled out sending aircraft such as the Typhoon, F-35 or F-16 to the conflict.

US President Joe Biden has explicitly ruled out sending F-16s to Volodymyr Zelenskyy's forces.

Speaking to Fox News, Johnson said: "Every time we said it would be wrong to give this or that item of weapons, we ended up doing it and it turned out to be the right thing to do for Ukraine."

He said this was the case with Himars and MLRS anti-tank missiles, rocket launchers and tanks.

“All I'm saying is save time, save money, save lives. Give the Ukrainians what they need as soon as possible,” Johnson said.

When asked about the possibility of Vladimir Putin going nuclear, Johnson said the Russian president "won't do that" as the West would put its economy into "cryogenic paralysis" from which it would take decades to recover.

Downing Street said training pilots for Typhoons and F-35s would take too long, but was not opposed to other allies selling fighter jets to the Ukrainians.


Conservative lawmakers challenge chancellor over tax cuts and fuel tax

Jeremy Hunt faced a double attack at a 1922 House Tory Committee meeting before his budget six weeks.

On the same day, a gloomy economic forecast put the chancellor under more pressure to cut taxes.

Chief Political Correspondent Jon Craigspoke to Conservative MPs before and after the meeting in the House of Commons


UK and EU continue 'intensive' Brexit talks amid reports of Northern Ireland Protocol deal

Reports surfaced overnight about a possible breakthrough in talks between London and Brussels on post-Brexit trade deals.

All parties are trying to reach an agreement that will restore power-sharing management at Stormont.

An executive could not be formed because of union opposition to the post-Brexit trade deal with Europe, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, which requires customs checks on goods traveling between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The Times reported last night that the EU and the UK have reached an agreement that would avoid routine checks on goods bound for Northern Ireland.

However, the government said that negotiations are still ongoing.

A spokesman said: "Our priority is to protect the Belfast Agreement (Good Friday) and preserve political stability in Northern Ireland and the UK internal market.

"Any protocol solution must address the range of issues on the ground in Northern Ireland.

"We are currently engaged in intensive scoping negotiations with the EU to find solutions to these issues."

In addition to restoring power sharing, both sides want to reach an agreement before April and the 25th anniversary of the peace agreement signed in Northern Ireland.


Reform UK has Conservative voters in its sights, but the party may struggle to make an impact

The United Kingdom officially left the European Union three years ago, but just when it seemed that Brexit was no longer dominating the British political landscape, it could end up impacting another general election.

The target of disgruntled Brexit voters with a new plan to make it work is Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party, now with Richard Tice instead of Nigel Farage at its helm.

Mr. Tice is running for MP in the North East Hartlepool constituency for the second time.

It is a city that falls behind, that votes out, typical of areas where the party has performed well.

And it has 2019 conservative voters in its sights.

Political correspondent Liz Bateswent to meet him:


Labor calls for Raab's suspension 'in the interests of the team's safety' amid allegations of bullying

Labor have called for Dominic Raab to be suspended "in the interests of the safety" of those who work with him.

The deputy prime minister and the justice secretary are under investigation over allegations of intimidation.

It was reported that 24 civil servants were questioned about Mr. Raab in three departments.

There are also reports that Mr Sunak was tipped off about Mr Raab before naming him: Downing Street says he was not aware of any "official" claims.

Shadow Employment Justice Secretary Steve Reed said: "The normal thing to do would be to suspend someone while it is fully investigated.

"And yet Dominic Raab remains in office.

"If he really is the type of perpetrator that these allegations claim, then he is still being admitted to the Ministry of Justice every day and he can still carry out these actions against junior members of his staff, senior members of his staff who give them it is difficult to treat.

"In the interest of security, Rishi Sunak must suspend Dominic Raab while the investigation progresses."

Raab denies the bullying allegations.

Yesterday Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said people should be less "fruitful" about allegations of bullying at the top of government.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan distanced herself from Rees-Mogg's comments this morning, telling Sky News: "Bullying is very serious.

"And actually, as education minister, one of the things that we're really concerned about in schools is bullying and also online, the kind of way that bullying can escalate online is horrendous."


Labor blames Conservative failures in the economy as main cause of strikes

Labor has blamed the current industrial unrest on the Tory government for failing to grow the economy.

Shadow Justice secretary Steve Reed told Sky News the only way to fund the pay rises the public is demanding is to grow the economy.

Reed said: "Now if you look at what is the root cause of what's going on here, the last decade has had the worst decade for wage growth since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

“Teacher salaries, like those of many other workers, have fallen in real terms.

"We now have inflation close to a 40-year high.

"It's just below the highest level in 40 years.

"And teachers are being offered a real pay cut."

Reed admitted that growing the economy "takes time" but said the Conservatives had 13 years to improve Britain's finances.


Bigger national strikes could take place next month, union leader says

Estimates put the number of people on strike today at around 500,000.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), said another national day of action could take place next month, with even more people out of work.

The PCS union represents civil servants who work in places like employment centers.

Asked if he expected another day with half a million people on strike, Serwotka said: "I think there will be more than that next time."

He said the government's position was untenable, but Rishi Sunak is known for executing "quite fast" changes.

"I think they will be forced to take a much more realistic attitude," Serwotka said.

"But if they refuse, we are planning for our campaign to continue through the summer with long-term, sustained and targeted strikes, but also with mass actions like today.

"And I think we'll see if there's another one, it'll be even bigger than today."

Asked when that might happen, Serwotka said that teachers are on strike on March 15 and 16 and that other unions could come together to act on those dates.

Jeremy Hunt's budget is set for March 15th.


Government 'plays fast and loose' with public: union leader

The government is "playing fast and loose" with the public, saying working conditions and wages are not subject to negotiation, according to a union leader.

Paul Nowak, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) General Secretary was speaking to Kay Burley as hundreds of thousands of workers are expected to go on strike today.

He said: "The reality is that you can't address workload, recruitment and retention issues and not talk about pay at the same time.

“And that's where I think the government is playing a little fast and loose with the British public to somehow say that these things are not connected.

"They are absolutely connected.

"And really the government needs to sit down, as I say, the prime minister and the chancellor sit down at the table, they find new money."

Nowak added that not paying workers was a "political choice" by the government, and that Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt were "missing in action."

Asked if another national day of action, like today, is in the cards, Nowak said he "wouldn't rule anything out."


Secretary of Education rules out double-digit salary increase for teachers next year

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has ruled out double-digit pay increases for teachers next year.

Speaking to Sky News, as tens of thousands of schools are expected to close today due to industrial action, Ms Keegan insisted that an offer of compensation or a reduction in inflation was out of the question.

Teachers want to discuss paying for the current term, but the government is determined to only consider next year's deal.

Asked by Kay Burley if there will be a double-digit pay increase for teachers, Ms. Keegan said, "No, I mean, let's see what's reasonable to make sure we always retain the best teachers and attract the best teachers."

Inflation is currently hovering around 10% and is believed to be at its peak.

Ms Keegan said most schools should be open today, but exact numbers won't be available until this afternoon.

The cabinet minister was also asked whether Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab should step aside during an investigation into the harassment allegations.

Ms Keegan said it was "fair" for the current investigation to run its course.

He also took issue with Jacob Rees-Mogg's comments to Sky News yesterday, when the former minister said some people were being too "fruitful" with claims of bullying at the top of government.

Ms Keegan said: "Bullying is very serious.

"And actually, as education minister, one of the things that we're really concerned about in schools is bullying and also online, the kind of way that bullying can escalate online is horrendous."


What does the anti-strike bill mean for workers?

The so-called anti-strike bill introduces new laws that could restrict the right to strike for some workers.

What is in the bill and why does the government want to introduce the law?

Political correspondent Mhari AuroraExplain:

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