Tories accused of wasting police time after Starmer and Rayner cleared over ‘beergate’ as race to replace Boris Johnson begins – live | Politics

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Starmer avoids fine as Durham police say ‘no case to answer’ and no fines being issued

Durham police are not fining anyone over Beergate, they have announced.

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That means Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner are not being fined – and won’t have to resign (which they promised they would do if they were fined).

Here is the statement.

Following the emergence of significant new information, an investigation was launched by Durham constabulary into a gathering at the Miners’ Hall, in Redhills, Durham on 30 April 2021. That investigation has now concluded.

A substantial amount of documentary and witness evidence was obtained which identified the 17 participants and their activities during that gathering. Following the application of the evidential full code test, it has been concluded that there is no case to answer for a contravention of the regulations, due to the application of an exception, namely reasonably necessary work.

Accordingly, Durham constabulary will not be issuing any fixed penalty notices in respect of the gathering and no further action will be taken. The investigation has been thorough, detailed and proportionate.

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The final evidence supplied by participants from the local constituency was returned to Durham police on 5 July and analysed by investigators against all the evidence before the investigation was concluded on 8 July 2022.

In line with established national policing guidelines, we will not name or otherwise identify any of those present at the gathering, all of whom have been informed of the investigation outcome by their legal representatives.

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Key events:

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Cabinet secretary Simon Case has been ‘bystander at car crash’, says former permanent secretary

Senior civil servants, even when they retire, tend to be quite reticent in public, but on the Today programme this morning Sir David Normington, a former permanent secretary at the Home Office, was remarkably critical of Simon Case, the cabinet secretary.

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Normington was asked what could be done to stop Boris Johnson making any rogue decisions in his final weeks in office, and he replied that it would be up to the cabinet and Case to constrain him.

Asked if he thought Case was strong enough to perform this role, Normington replied:

Well, I’m a little doubtful about it. He has presided over a decline in standards. He’s had a very difficult prime minister to deal with. But he’s sometimes seemed like a bystander at the car crash. This is the moment for him to step up. I think.

Sir David Normington.
Sir David Normington. Photograph: PA

Maybe retired civil servants are becoming more assertive. Last night Simon McDonald posted this on Twitter, celebrating the downfall of the PM that he helped to precipitate.

McDonald’s letter on Tuesday morning saying No 10 was not telling the truth about Chris Pincher was the final straw for many MPs, prompting a further collapse in support for Johnson among the parliamentary party, and the resignation of two cabinet ministers that night.

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Vincent Ni

Vincent Ni

The political turmoil in Britain has made headlines in China. Chinese audiences have been fascinated by the drama unfolding in Downing Street. On Friday the Chinese foreign ministry, when asked about Boris Johnson’s resignation, said it would not comment on British domestic politics, but it had a message to the incoming occupant of No 10.

“No matter how British politics changes, we hope that the UK side will take the long-term and overall situation into consideration, work with the Chinese side halfway, and promote the sustainable and stable development of bilateral relations,” said the ministry’s spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

In Beijing there is no expectation of a potential return to “golden era” British-Chinese relations. Like the mainstream analysis in the UK, Chinese analysts also seem to have come to terms with a fundamentally contentious bilateral relationship in the foreseeable future.

“The world has changed substantially after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and it’s unfathomable that the deterioration of bilateral ties between China and UK can be improved significantly or even turned around any time soon,” Prof Shi Yinhong, of Renmin University, told Chinese media on Friday.

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Labour MP accuses Tories who called for Beergate investigation of wasting police time

The Labour MP Mary Kelly Foy was at the Beergate event, with Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner and party staff and activists, that was investigated by the police as a possible breach of lockdown rules. She has welcomed the news that police have decided that no rules were broken. (See 12.33pm.)

In a statement responding to the decision, she accused the Tory MPs who did call for an inquiry of wasting police time at a time when the force was already under “significant pressure”.

Foy did not name any of them in her statement, but the most prominent of them was Richard Holden, the MP for North West Durham. He has tweeted the Durham police statement, saying that after significant new information emerged, officers concluded the event was reasonably necessary for work.

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Keir Starmer is going to hold a press conference later to respond to the Durham police announcement, Labour is saying.

Jeremy Hunt is highly likely to announce his bid to become the next Conservative leader in the coming days, PA Media reports. PA says:

A source close to the senior Tory MP, who ran for the leadership in 2019, said that he was “virtually certain” to enter the contest to replace Boris Johnson.

“For months he has been pressed by colleagues on all wings of the party,” the source said.

The source also claimed that Hunt was receiving “mounting support” from within the party.

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Labour welcomes Durham police announcement saying Starmer and Rayner cleared of breaking lockdown rules

Responding to the announcement from Durham police (see 12.33pm), a Labour spokesperson said:

Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner have always been clear that no rules were broken in Durham.

The police have completed their investigation and have agreed saying that there is no case to answer.

Starmer avoids fine as Durham police say ‘no case to answer’ and no fines being issued

Durham police are not fining anyone over Beergate, they have announced.

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That means Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner are not being fined – and won’t have to resign (which they promised they would do if they were fined).

Here is the statement.

Following the emergence of significant new information, an investigation was launched by Durham constabulary into a gathering at the Miners’ Hall, in Redhills, Durham on 30 April 2021. That investigation has now concluded.

A substantial amount of documentary and witness evidence was obtained which identified the 17 participants and their activities during that gathering. Following the application of the evidential full code test, it has been concluded that there is no case to answer for a contravention of the regulations, due to the application of an exception, namely reasonably necessary work.

Accordingly, Durham constabulary will not be issuing any fixed penalty notices in respect of the gathering and no further action will be taken. The investigation has been thorough, detailed and proportionate.

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The final evidence supplied by participants from the local constituency was returned to Durham police on 5 July and analysed by investigators against all the evidence before the investigation was concluded on 8 July 2022.

In line with established national policing guidelines, we will not name or otherwise identify any of those present at the gathering, all of whom have been informed of the investigation outcome by their legal representatives.

Durham police to announce decision about Beergate inquiry

We are about to get a Beergate announcement, my colleague Heather Stewart reports.

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Beergate: we’re expecting a statement from Durham Police at 12.30, in case you thought you hadn’t had enough NEWS this week – Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner’s future at stake.

— Heather Stewart (@GuardianHeather) July 8, 2022

Johnson won’t make big tax or spending changes before he steps down, No 10 says

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson also confirmed that Boris Johnson does not intend to make any big changes on tax or spending before he steps down. Here are the main points.

  • The spokesperson said Johnson would not make any big changes on tax or spending before he left office. He said:

The prime minister set out to cabinet yesterday … that essentially the government will focus on delivering pre-agreed policy, delivering on the manifesto commitments.

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It won’t seek to make any large fiscal changes, nor will it seek to unpick previously-agreed policy.

Asked whether the government would react to situations such as supply shocks and rising energy prices, the spokeperson said:

The government would not seek to do anything on the fiscal side, particularly those that would have significant impact for a future prime ministers.

Now, a responsible government does need to react to emerging issues, but I would point out that we do have significant support already in place for the global cost of living pressures that we are seeing, including measures which have not yet been introduced.

  • The spokesperson confirmed that Johnson will remain as PM until a new Tory leader has been elected. He will not make way for a caretaker PM.
  • The spokesperson said more ministerial appointments would be announced today and that most ministerial vacancies would be filled. He said:

We are in the process of making parliamentary undersecretary of state appointments so they will be coming out shortly.

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Asked whether the number of ministers would again reach pre-Tuesday levels, the spokesperson said: “I don’t know if exactly the same but broadly.”

James Cleverly, the new education secretary, suggested this morning that Sir John Major’s call for Boris Johnson to be forced out of office quickly, perhaps with a caretaker PM standing in for him, is motivated by malice. Asked about the Major proposal, Cleverly told PA Media:

John Major, a grandee of the party but he has never liked or supported the prime minister, of course, he is completely entitled to his view, I fundamentally disagree with him.

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The prime minister has said he is standing down, the timescale for that departure will be defined by the process that the 1922 Committee and the Conservative party put in place.

Everyone recognised that needs to be done professionally but quickly and I think that the prime minister has been able to form a Government to discharge our duty to the British people until that process is concluded.

James Cleverly giving an interview this morning.
James Cleverly giving an interview this morning. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

The scene in Downing Street this morning, where broadcasters are busy, even though there has been no sign of the PM.
The scene in Downing Street this morning, where broadcasters are busy, even though there has been no sign of the PM. Photograph: Henry Nicholls/Reuters

Tugendhat launches leadership bid with call for ‘clean start’ and national insurance increase to be abandoned

Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, has used an article in the Daily Telegraph to set out his pitch for the Conservative party leadership. He is the first candidate to produce an outline manifesto and, although Tugendhat is very much an outsider in the contest (YouGov published some useful polling yesterday) his article does provide some interesting clues as to how the contest may play out. Here are the main points.

  • Tugendhat says the Conservative party needs “a clean start”. He mentions this phrase four times in the article and, given that almost all the other candidates have served in cabinet under Boris Johnson – and defended him over Partygate and other scandals – this label has an obvious appeal. Tugendhat says:

We also need a change. This nation needs a clean start and a government that will make trust, service and an unrelenting focus on the cost of living crisis its guiding principles.

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That is what the British people deserve and it is what we will be judged on. It cannot be achieved without a clean start – unsullied by the events of the past, but also with proven experience and leadership.

Steve Baker, another potential contender, can also claim to be a clean start candidate. Jeremy Hunt, who will be competing with Tugendhat for the one nation vote, will argue too that he represents a fresh start, but he served in cabinet for nine years under David Cameron and Theresa May. Tugendhat has never been a minister, which gives him much more novelty value.

  • Tugendhat says that he wants taxes to be cut. He says:

Taxes, bluntly, are too high and there is an emerging consensus across the party that they must come down. We should immediately reverse the recent national insurance hike and let hard-working people, and employers, keep more of their money. Fuel tax must come down. And un-conservative tariffs, that push up prices for consumers, should be dropped.

What is interesting about this is that Tugendhat is perceived as about the most leftwing candidate in the contest. If he is arguing for immediate tax cuts, it is likely everyone else in the contest will be doing that too. Rishi Sunak will have difficulty if this does become the consensus position in the contest because he introduced these tax increases as chancellor.

  • Tugendhat also says the recent national insurance increase should be reversed immediately (see quote above). This is a particularly bold iteration of the low tax position because abandoning the increase is Labour party policy and 318 Tory MPs voted in favour of this tax rise when it was put to parliament in September. Tugendhat was not one of the five Tories who voted against. But he did not vote in the final division, and that will help him argue that his position has been consistent.
  • Tugendhat says he wants to “heal the Brexit divide”. Tugendhat voted remain in 2016, and this must be a problem for someone seeking to lead a party that is now – in parliament and amongst the membership as a whole – predominantly leave. Explaining his policy, Tugendhat says:

I am putting together a broad coalition of colleagues that will bring new energy and ideas to government and, finally, to bridge the Brexit divide that has dominated our recent history.

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Leave candidates are likely to focus not so much on healing the Brexit divide but as getting Brexit done (by which they mean deregulating to take advantage of any opportunities provided by the UK not having to comply with EU rules).

Tom Tugendhat.
Tom Tugendhat. Photograph: Tolga Akmen/AFP/Getty Images

It sounds as if the Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson is getting fed up of approaches from no-hope leadership candidates.

I have sought counsel from those I can trust to blow smoke up my arse 💨

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That, when weighed against my own inflated sense of self-importance, leads me to conclude that I should throw my hat 🎩into the ring and stand for election as Leader of the @Conservative and Unionist Party

— Mark Jenkinson MP (@markjenkinsonmp) July 8, 2022

Over the next six weeks I will be available to promise you the moon on a stick. Ask and it shall be yours.

Let me worry about how I deal with three chancellors and a cabinet of 160. It is having the answers to those questions that makes me the most suitable candidate.

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— Mark Jenkinson MP (@markjenkinsonmp) July 8, 2022

According to the latest YouGov polling for the Times, Labour has the highest lead over the Conservatives since January. This is from the Times’ Patrick Maguire.

Tories in freefall in this week’s Times poll – Labour *eleven* points ahead

CON 29 (-4)
LAB 40 (+1)
LIB DEM 15 (+2)
GREEN 6 (n/c)
REF UK 3 (-1)

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Highest Labour score since January… highest Lib Dem rating of this parliament pic.twitter.com/9fSD7zcfZO

— Patrick Maguire (@patrickkmaguire) July 8, 2022





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