Former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng to stand down as MP at next election – UK politics live | Politics


Kwasi Kwarteng to stand down as MP at next election

Kwasi Kwarteng, whose careers as chancellor under Liz Truss was even shorter than hers as prime minister, because she sacked him after his mini-budget triggered the economic turmoil that brought down her government, has announced he is standing down as an MP at the next election.

He has posted this on X.

Yesterday I informed my Association Chair of my decision not to stand at the next General Election. It has been an honour to serve the residents of Spelthorne since 2010, and I shall continue to do so for the remainder of my time in parliament.

Yesterday I informed my Association Chair of my decision not to stand at the next General Election. It has been an honour to serve the residents of Spelthorne since 2010, and I shall continue to do so for the remainder of my time in Parliament.

— Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) February 6, 2024

Kwarteng was elected MP for Spelthorne in Surrey in 2010. At the last election he had a majority of 18,393.

Key events

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is up speaking in the House of Commons at the moment for oral questions for the Treasury.

Cross-party tributes paid in Northern Ireland assembly after former Irish taoiseach John Bruton dies aged 76

Just a quick note that former taoiseach John Bruton has died aged 76 after a long illness, his family has confirmed.

A statement from the Bruton family, released by Fine Gael on Tuesday, said: “It is with deep sadness we wish to announce the death of former taoiseach John Bruton. He died peacefully in the Mater private hospital in Dublin, surrounded by his loving family, early this morning following a long illness. He was a good husband, a good father and a true patriot. We will miss him greatly.”

DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson is among those who have already paid tribute, posting on social media to say “So sorry to hear of the passing of former taoiseach John Bruton. John was a gentleman who as prime minister reached out to unionists to try and gain a better understanding of our position and to encourage practical cooperation. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”

Northern Ireland first minister Michelle O’Neill (Sinn Féin) expressed her condolences to the Bruton family, speaking in the recently reconvened Assembly, saying: “I want to pass on my condolences to the family of former taoiseach John Bruton, who we’ve just been notified has sadly passed away. To his family and friends, we send them our condolences at this very sad time.”

Deputy first minister Emma Little-Pengelly (DUP) also expressed her condolences, while speaker of the Northern Ireland assembly Edwin Poots (DUP) said he will write to the Bruton family to express his condolences.

Bruton was leader of Fine Gael from 1990 to 2001 and taoiseach from 1994 until 1997

Starmer says he will ‘fight fire with fire’ in election campaign

In his interview with Times Radio earlier today, Labour’s leader Keir Starmer has said he expects the Conservative party to “go low” during the forthcoming election campaign, because they aren’t in a position to defend their record in government, but said he would “fight fire with fire”.

He told Kate McCann:

I’m going to be up against an opponent, a Conservative party, that the prime minister can’t go to the country on their record, they can’t say, look, we’ve delivered all these brilliant things over 14 years. Vote us back in to keep delivering. They couldn’t do that with a straight face.

They can’t go to the country saying, we’ve got great leadership because they burned through five prime ministers. And the chop and change is a laughing stock across the world.

So they inevitably will go to, you know, culture wars and go low. I don’t want to have the argument there, but what I will say is I’ll fight fire with fire, because this election is too important for me to back off.

So I’m very happy to have a positive argument. But I will absolutely be fighting fire with fire because I have done everything I can to change this Labour party in four short years, and I’ve shown a ruthlessness and a determination to do so.

That will be the same mindset to changing our country for the better, so that I hope we can have an interview in four or five years’ time. And I can say to you … most of the change that you and others challenged me couldn’t be done, we’ve actually done.

The PopCon gathering, a new grouping of Conservative MPs and supporters, is taking place in London. Nigel Farage is also there, and perhaps unsurprisingly, is speaking to all and sundry of the media in attendance – I’ve already seen clips of him speaking to LBC and GBNews on social media. He also had some words for PA. He told them:

I’m motivated and interested by ideas. That’s why I was in Ukip and not the Conservative party. I suspect I would agree with a lot of what is said on the platform this morning, but none of it is going to be Conservative manifesto policy.

And that’s really the point here. Whilst there were some big names like Liz Truss, Jacob Rees-Mogg – I saw Priti Patel coming into the audience earlier – they are a very small minority within the parliamentary Conservative party.

He went on to say the party is now “so far away from the centre of gravity of most Conservative voters, it is almost untrue”.

Former home secretary Priti Patel is among the attendees at the launch of the “Popular Conservatism movement” at the Emmanuel Centre in central London. Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

In one of its tweets/Xs ahead of the event, the organisers said of today “on Tuesday the fight back begins”. The Conservatives have been in power for 14 years, and during that time Liz Truss, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel all held multiple roles in government.

Severin Carrell

Severin Carrell is the Guardian’s Scotland editor

Health and social care spending will fall in Scotland in real terms this year, breaking a significant political promise from the Scottish National party, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

MSPs at Holyrood are currently examining next year’s Scottish budget before a final vote on the full package later this month, with Humza Yousaf’s government again putting substantial stress on protecting NHS spending in the next financial year.

Yet in a quite striking finding, the IFS has asserted that in real terms, the overall budget for the NHS will fall by 0.7% when additional spending on health and social care since last year’s budget was passed are included. Official budget documents say health spending will grow by 1.3% year on year, including the effects of inflation.

The IFS also argues the Scottish government’s presentation of the situation for councils is “seriously misleading.”

The budget papers say council funding will increase by 6.2% in real terms compared to last year’s budget, after years of cumulative cuts. But counting in-year increases last year, and the fact councils will have additional spending “burdens” from April onwards, the IFS argues the actual real terms increase is closer to 1.8%.

David Phillips, an associate director at the IFS who specialises in devolved government spending, said that overall the budget papers give a “misleading impression” of actual funding next year. He said:

“The Scottish government has argued that comparing its latest spending plans for one year with its initial budgets for the next year is problematic. It says this ignores the fact that plans in the next year can change too. And yes, they often do. But plans are plans, and at present the latest stated plan is to spend less on health next year than was spent this year.”

The government insists that comparing budget figures is valid, but agreed actual spending would change. “As this IFS report acknowledges, additional in-year funding is crucial to maintaining that real-terms growth, requiring the UK government to prioritise additional funding for health over the course of the year,” a spokesman said.

You can find the IFS report here.

The first preliminary hearing for module 5 of the UK Covid-19 inquiry is under way. There is a live stream that you can watch on YouTube here.

This module will ultimately be of considerable interest, one would imagine, as it “will consider and make recommendations regarding the procurement and distribution to end-users across the four nations of the UK of key healthcare related equipment and supplies, including PPE, ventilators and oxygen.”

It will also “assess the robustness and effectiveness of procurement processes, the adequacy of the items obtained (including their specification, quality and volume) and the effectiveness of their distribution to the end-user. It will also consider the UK-wide procurement of lateral flow tests and PCR tests.”

The live stream does contain the warning “occasional strong language may form part of evidence”, although we aren’t expecting any of that today from Lady Heather Hallett who will make opening remarks.

Ben Quinn

Here is a little bit more from political correspondent Ben Quinn on the news that former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng is to stand down as an MP:

The MP’s announcement came as a reminder of the debacle of the ill-fated “mini-budget” under the short-lived government of Liz Truss, hours before Truss was to launch a rightwing Conservative movement called PopCon joined by other senior figures from the party.

His has been a generally safe Conservative seat, returning a Labour MP only once in more than 100 years, and Kwarteng secured a majority of 18,393 at the last election.

Truss and Kwarteng had once been close but the MP, who was sacked in 2022 by her after only 38 days as chancellor, has since made critical comments, such as that she was “not wired” to be prime minister.

As chancellor, Kwarteng was accused of delivering a reckless mini-budget for the rich after his £45bn tax-cutting package sent the pound crashing to its lowest level against the dollar in 37 years.

He has since declared thousands of pounds from media appearances and was due to start advising the Australian iron ore miner Fortescue on its clean energy ambitions from last year October – one year after his disastrous mini-budget crashed the pound.

Read more here: Kwasi Kwarteng to stand down as MP at next election

Popular Conservatism’s director Mark Littlewood says his new group wants to influence what’s in Tory manifesto

Andrew Sparrow

The new Popular Conservatism group being launched later this morning wants to influence what is in the Tory manifesto at the next election, Mark Littlewood, its director, said this morning.

The group is associated with Liz Truss, the former PM, who is speaking at the launch. In an interview with Times Radio, Littlewood insisted that Truss was not the group’s leader. But he went on:

I think the lessons we can draw from her very short time in office are important lessons for Conservatives who want to change Britain, want to see taxes come down.

He also said the group was interested in ideas, and “what might go into party manifestos at the next election”.

Littlewood, a former head of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a libertarian thinktank, set out more about the aims of the Popular Conservatism movement in an article in the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend. He said:

We need to break the business model of the anti-free-speech warriors who want to cancel everyone for everything. I do not want to live in a country where people are scared to voice their opinions or politicians cannot legislate to stop young children being socially transitioned at schools because of the Equality Act.

This agenda has gone too far. It is time we repealed the Equality Act and rooted out all the taxpayers’ money that is being poured into diversity and inclusivity projects.

We need to dismantle the tools being used by the detached elites to tell us how to think and speak. At present, debate is stifled, voices are silenced and division is sowed …

Conservatives want power transferred to families, communities, businesses and individuals, instead – but the institutional infrastructure that has grown up in the past two or three decades mitigates against that. If we don’t have a plan to tackle these impediments to freedom, achieving Conservative outcomes will forever feel like pushing water uphill.

This is why I am launching a new grassroots movement of Popular Conservatism this week, alongside senior Conservative MPs and some newly selected candidates. PopCon’s mission is twofold: first, to inform and educate candidates and MPs about the need to reform Britain’s bureaucratic structures to allow Conservatives values to flourish. And second, to advance these policies across the country, whilst demonstrating their popularity.

I’m handing over to Martin Belam now. I will be back this afternoon.

Starmer says he’s ‘unwavering’ in determination to deliver green energy, which will need borrowing to invest

Keir Starmer has insisted that he is “unwavering” in his determination to deliver green energy for Britain, and that this will in involve borrowing.

In an interview with Times Radio, he also restated Labour’s desire to get annual green investment up to £28bn a year – although he stressed that was dependent on the party’s fiscal rules.

Labour has now dropped £28bn a year as a cast-iron commitment, and the shadow Treasury team are reluctant to quote the figure at all. This has led to claims that the party is watering down its green energy pledge.

But Starmer insisted this morning he was still determined to deliver on his pledge to make electricity generation zero-carbon by 2030. Referring to the clean energy mission, he said:

We’re going to need investment, that’s where the £28bn comes in. That investment that is desperately needed for that mission.

You can only understand the investment argument by understanding that we want to have clean power by 2030 … We need to borrow to invest to do that.

That’s a principle I believe in and I’m absolutely happy to go out and defend. And of course, what we’ve said as we’ve got closer to the operationalisation of this, is it has to be ramped up, the money has to be ramped up… and everything is subject to our fiscal rules.

Starmer also said he had “been unwavering in relation to the mission – clean power by 2030”.

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Kwasi Kwarteng is the 54th Tory MP to say they are standing down at the next election, according to this House of Commons library briefing which contains a spreadsheet listing all MPs, from all parties, who have said they are leaving parliament.

Kwasi Kwarteng to stand down as MP at next election

Kwasi Kwarteng, whose careers as chancellor under Liz Truss was even shorter than hers as prime minister, because she sacked him after his mini-budget triggered the economic turmoil that brought down her government, has announced he is standing down as an MP at the next election.

He has posted this on X.

Yesterday I informed my Association Chair of my decision not to stand at the next General Election. It has been an honour to serve the residents of Spelthorne since 2010, and I shall continue to do so for the remainder of my time in parliament.

Yesterday I informed my Association Chair of my decision not to stand at the next General Election. It has been an honour to serve the residents of Spelthorne since 2010, and I shall continue to do so for the remainder of my time in Parliament.

— Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) February 6, 2024

Kwarteng was elected MP for Spelthorne in Surrey in 2010. At the last election he had a majority of 18,393.

Sunak tries to explain shaking hands on £1,000 Rwanda policy bet by saying he was ‘taken totally by surprise’ in interview

Good morning. Rishi Sunak gave an interview to Rachel Burden on Radio 5 Live this morning and he was asked about a £1,000 bet he appeared to accept from Piers Morgan about the success of his Rwanda policy. The move has been widely condemned as distasteful. Sunak did not argue that he did not accept the bet. (We saw him shake hands on it, although at the same time he was avoiding confirming verbally that he accepted Morgan’s challenge.) But this morning he did imply that he was bounced into it. He said that, twice, that he was taken “totally by surprise” and he insisted that betting wasn’t his thing. He said:

I’m not a betting person and I was taken totally by surprise in the middle of that interview.

Asked if it was a mistake, he said:

No, well the point I was trying to get across – as I was taken totally by surprise – the point I was trying to get across was actually about the Rwanda policy and about tackling illegal migration because it’s something I care deeply about.

Obviously people have strong views on this and I just was underlining my absolute commitment to this policy and my desire to get it through parliament, up and running, because I believe you need to have a deterrent.

Burden then put it to him that casually shaking hands of a £1,000 bet, when that sum is worth more than the combined cost of the three cost of living payments being given to low-income families (the final payments start going out today) suggested he did not really understand the pressures people were facing. Sunak said that he was being asked about the Rwanda policy, and that he wanted to stress that he was totally committed to it.

On cost of living, Sunak insisted that he did understand the pressures people were facing, and he claimed his record showed that.

When it comes to cost of living, when I first got this job I set out five priorities – the first of them was to halve inflation because I absolutely understood that the cost of living was the most pressing problem most families faced.

The Liberal Democrats were not impressed by Sunak’s explanation. Responding to this morning’s interview, Daisy Cooper, the Lib Dem deputy leader, said:

Rishi Sunak either does not care or does not get it. As the prime minister buries his head in the sand and pretends everything is fine, people across the country are suffering.

Most people when they are hit with a surprise £1,000 bill worry about how they are going to make their next mortgage payments or put food on the table for their children.

Instead, the prime minister does not even register the significance of that amount of money. Out of touch does not even begin to describe Sunak.

The prime minister’s cold soundbites that everything is working simply do not survive contact with reality.

I’m Andrew Sparrow and I will be here until 10am, when Martin Belam will be taking over the blog. I will be back to pick it up in the afternoon.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rishi Sunak chairs cabinet.

10.30am: Heather Hallett, chair of the Covid inquiry, makes an introductory statement at a procedural hearing about the module 5 stage of the inquiry, covering procurement.

11am: Liz Truss, the former PM, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary, and Lee Anderson, the former Tory deputy chair, speak at the launch of a new group called Popular Conservatism.

11.15am: Penny Mordaunt, leader of the Commons, gives evidence to the Commons standards committee on disciplinary processes in the Commons.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

11.30am: Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, takes questions in the Commons.

2.30pm: Edward Argar, the prisons minister, gives evidence to the Commons justice committee.

If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

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