Politics

Read about the latest UK political news, views and analysis.

Lisa Haseldine

Is Georgia’s future with Europe, or Russia?

On Wednesday, Georgia’s government came one step closer to realising its desire to embed the country deeper within Russia’s sphere of influence. A year after mass protests forced them to pull the plug on a controversial ‘foreign agents’ law, the Kremlin-sympathetic ruling Georgian Dream (GD) party is once again trying to force this ‘Russian-style’ legislation through parliament.  While the bill was undergoing its first reading in parliament, 20,000 Georgians turned out onto the streets to demonstrate. Several thousands protested in Tbilisi alone. Shouts of ‘No to the Russian law’ rang out alongside renditions of the Georgian national anthem and ‘Ode to Joy’, the EU’s official song. Once again, like last

Steerpike

Watch: Sturgeon reacts after husband charged in police probe

Might this be the worst week of 2024 for the Nats so far? Hapless Humza Yousaf demonstrated extraordinary indecision over the Cass review, Patrick Harvie’s barmy army helped ditch a Scottish government green pledge and, to top it all off, Nicola Sturgeon’s husband has been charged with embezzlement. You couldn’t make it up. The long-running police probe into the SNP’s finances reared its head again yesterday, when the party’s former chief executive was rearrested and charged. And, not long after the announcement went out, it emerged that Sturgeon’s husband had hung up his yellow coat and resigned his membership of the Scottish National party. An eventful few hours, to say

We’re better off with Hamas in Qatar, than out

The news that Qatar is ‘re-evaluating’ its role as mediator in the ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas, amid claims by the Qatari Prime Minister that its efforts are being ‘misused for narrow political interests’, will have been met with consternation in many western and Middle Eastern capitals. Qatar’s potential withdrawal comes at a time when talks to secure a truce and the release of the hostages still being held in Gaza have stalled. A ground assault into the final Hamas stronghold of Rafah looks likely to be the next chapter in a gruelling war.  The threat is most likely a negotiating ploy to force progress in the talks Should Qatar cease its

Will Israel continue its strikes on Iran?

The reported Israeli strike on an Iranian air installation near the city of Isfahan in central Iran appears to have been the most significant of a series of attacks carried out by Israel in the course of last night. While the full picture is still emerging, there are indications that an additional strike of some kind took place south of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. A third strike took place on a position of the Syrian army in Sweida, a majority Druze province close to the Syria-Israel border, according to a number of Syrian opposition sources. The strike on Sweida is business as usual in terms of Israel’s ongoing campaign against

Sunak declares a crackdown on Britain’s ‘sick note culture’

10 min listen

Rishi Sunak has returned to one of his pet bugbears: getting the unemployed back into work. His speech to the Centre for Social Justice this morning was peppered with his favourite facts about the post-pandemic welfare crisis embroiling Britain. Lucy Dunn speaks to James Heale and Michael Simmons.  Produced by Oscar Edmondson. 

It’s not over yet between Israel and Iran

Is that it? This is the immediate and understandable reaction in some quarters to the news that Israel has carried out a series of limited air strikes against Iran. Explosions were reported in the sky over the cities of Isfahan and Tabriz. Details are still sketchy but US officials were quick to brief that Israel was behind the attacks. The Israelis have made no public comment: it is official policy never to confirm or deny such military action. The Iranian government, which had promised a ‘massive and harsh response’ to ‘even the tiniest invasion’ was quick to play down the scale of the attack, indicating there was no ‘immediate’ plan

Why do Lib Dems want to crack down on smoking but legalise cannabis?

Whether it is tuition fees or local development, the Lib Dems are generally not known for their consistency. Trust me, I campaigned for them during the coalition years. This week, things took an almost surreal turn. Party leader Sir Ed Davey, along with his deputy and health spokesperson Daisy Cooper and three other colleagues, voted in favour of Rishi Sunak’s age-dependent tobacco and vapes ban. Perhaps in these turbulent political times we should just be grateful that the party remains consistently inconsistent That might seem odd enough from supposed liberals – whatever happened to personal choice and adult informed consent? However, Davey, Cooper and co. are also MPs from a

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Rayner’s eldest child was registered at husband’s home

It’s been a busy time for police investigations across the country and Manchester is no exception. As the curious case of Angela Rayner’s tax affairs trundles on, another development has now come to light. It turns out that the Labour MP’s eldest son from a previous relationship was registered to live at a different address from the one at which Rayner herself insists she stayed. With more information comes more questions… Police are digging into whether or not the Labour MP has mispaid capital gains tax over the sale of her council house in 2015. Starmer’s second-in-command has been adamant that despite marrying then-husband Mark Rayner in 2010, the newlyweds

Isabel Hardman

MPs need a proper HR service

The most damning bit of the lurid Mark Menzies case is that the Conservatives had been aware of the allegations for three months before they story broke this week – but only stripped him of the whip yesterday. It’s not a particular surprise, though: for years it has been clear that the whips office holds conflicting responsibilities of persuading MPs to vote as well as disciplinary or pastoral work. Something needs to change. Some people are manifestly too vulnerable to cope with life even before they are selected Parliament does have a very small HR system, though many MPs don’t know about it, much as many MPs don’t know about

Peter Murrell’s re-arrest has plunged the SNP into crisis

There is what can only be described as a mood of despair in SNP circles following the news that the former party chief executive Peter Murrell, husband of Nicola Sturgeon, has been re-arrested and charged with ’embezzlement of funds from the Scottish National party’. It is the latest shocking twist in the long-running investigation into SNP fund-raising and finances called Operation Branchform. Mr Murrell has now resigned from the party. He was first arrested ‘as a suspect’ in April last year but was then released without charge. At the time, a £110,000 Niesmann and Bischoff campervan was seized by police from outside Mr Murrell’s mother’s Dunfermline home. SNP headquarters in

Kate Andrews

Will Sunak’s sick note crackdown get Brits back to work?

Alongside the Prime Minister’s speech on welfare today, the Department for Work and Pensions quietly released updated forecasts. The numbers are stark: DWP expects there to be 3.96 million working-age claimants by 2028-29, a rise from 2.8 million in 2023-24. Meanwhile the number of working-age people receiving disability benefits is forecast to rise to 1.16 million – that’s 160,000 more claimants than was expected just six months ago. These are the numbers Rishi Sunak must grapple with as he sets out his welfare reform agenda.  Back in 2020, then chancellor Rishi Sunak had days to design the furlough scheme. Once lockdown became mandatory in spring 2020, it was a race

Gavin Mortimer

Iran should be banned from the Paris Olympics

Few would disagree with Ben Wallace’s description of Iran as a ‘bully’. The former defence secretary made his comments earlier this week after Iran’s missile attack on Israel. ‘The only option when Iran and Russia hit, I have concluded, is to hit back twice as hard and not stop until they get the message,’ wrote Wallace in the Daily Telegraph. The UK, along with the US, have since extended sanctions against Iran, as has the EU. ‘We feel it’s very important to do everything to isolate Iran,’ said EU summit chairman Charles Michel. Even before the missile attack against Israel, there had been another call to ban Iran from the

Why did the Sandyford clinic delay pausing puberty blockers?

The decision by Glasgow’s Sandyford gender clinic to pause the prescription of puberty blockers to children is good news for the children of Scotland.  In due course, a public inquiry is needed into how doctors ever got involved in what may possibly be one of the greatest medical scandals of all time. For now, however, it’s important that no more children are harmed by an experimental treatment that in many cases did not improve children’s mental health and sometimes made the situation worse. That’s what the Cass Report told us when it was published on 10 April. NHS England – who commissioned the report – had seen enough to halt

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The SNP’s net zero hypocrisy

The Scottish nationalists are no stranger to hypocrisy, as their latest U-turn shows. For on Thursday afternoon the Yousaf regime — the only government in the UK which boasts Green politicians — announced that it was, er, ditching its flagship green commitments. Yes, that’s right, amid a litany of stories about SNP sleaze, the government confirmed it was throwing in the towel on its its 2030 carbon target. At least they’re consistent in their inconsistency… The ironically-named ‘wellbeing economy’ minister Màiri McAllan told Holyrood on Thursday that the Scottish government is abandoning its goal to cut carbon emissions by 75 per cent — but promised it will ‘pave the way

Why the smoking ban exposes the ‘right side of history’ delusion

As a conservative non-smoker who in his youth was a libertarian twenty-a-day man, I can see both sides of the argument over the government’s recent anti-smoking legislation. Sure, cigarettes can be delicious, and it’s entirely up to the adult individual, not the state, whether he or she decides to light up. But as I finally came to accept eleven years ago, smoking is also a profoundly stupid habit, and if government interference can prevent people ever taking it up, then so be it. I was fervently against the 2007 smoking ban in pubs, but came to acknowledge that it greatly helped in the process of de-normalising smoking. And de-normalised smoking

Katja Hoyer

A Russian spy scare won’t undermine German morale on Ukraine

The news that German police have arrested two alleged Russian spies in Bavaria has understandably raised some alarm bells in Berlin. The men stand accused of targeting military infrastructure, aiming to undermine German support for Ukraine; such acute security threats are always bad news. But the response so far has been more defiant than divided. This latest spade of planned Russian attacks in Germany may well backfire on all fronts. There is no doubt the incident is serious. The two men who were arrested in Bayreuth, northern Bavaria, on Wednesday stand accused of targeting German military facilities through arson and bombings. The main suspect, a 39-year-old man named by the

Freddy Gray

Is the criticism of Biden’s Middle East policy fair?

29 min listen

Freddy speaks to the diplomat and author Dennis B Ross, who worked under presidents George H W Bush and Bill Clinton. He was a special advisor on the Persian Gulf. They discuss the escalation of tensions in the Middle East and the flack that Joe Biden has come under for his response. Can the US still claim to be able to shape events in the Middle East? And what comes next? 

Lara Prendergast

The dangers of political prosecution

31 min listen

This week: the usual targets First: Trump is on trial again – and America is bored rather than scandalised. This is his 91st criminal charge and his supporters see this as politicised prosecution. As an American, Kate Andrews has seen how the law can be used as a political weapon – so why, she asks, is Britain importing the same system? In less than 18 months, the police have been sent to investigate Rishi Sunak for his seat-belt, Nicola Sturgeon for campaign funds, and Angela Rayner over her electoral registry: each time, the complainant is political and the process is the punishment. Kate joins the podcast alongside The Spectator’s editor Fraser Nelson

Steerpike

Nicola Sturgeon’s husband charged in SNP police probe

Peter Murrell, former chief executive of the SNP, has tonight been charged with embezzling money from his party. Murrell, the husband of former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, was taken into police custody earlier today for a second time in connection with Operation Branchform, the probe into SNP funds. Murrell was arrested at 9 a.m. today, just over a year after he was first held on 5 April 2023. On that day, the Sturgeon-Murrell household in Glasgow was searched by officers and the SNP’s HQ in Edinburgh was raided. Both Sturgeon and the party’s former treasurer Colin Beattie were arrested last year in connection with the probe, but were subsequently released

Why did Swedish conservatives relax gender-change laws?

In the 2010s the main political dynamic inside western societies could be boiled down to simple left and right. Figures such as Jordan Peterson, and others loosely grouped under the banner of the ‘intellectual dark web’, were only just rising to prominence and had begun to discuss the new-fangled idea of the ‘culture wars’.  These days conservatives are just phoning it in, going through the motions, and collecting their paychecks for as long as they can Today, the battle between progressives and conservatives has been replaced by something far more confusing and unsettling. The recent legislative debacle in Sweden, in which a right-wing government – a government that conservatives cheered