James Heale

James Heale

James Heale is The Spectator’s political correspondent.

The whips’ office and their woes

18 min listen

There have been two recent defections from the Conservatives to Labour. There’s lots of chatter in parliament about a potential third defector. In this Saturday edition of Coffee House Shots, Katy Balls and James Heale hear from Gyles Brandreth, former MP and broadcaster. He takes us back to what it was like working in the

Welsh government in crisis after Plaid pull the plug

Throughout the last 25 years of devolution in the UK, one thing has remained consistent: Welsh Labour’s stranglehold on Cardiff Bay. But in recent weeks, the party’s grip on the Senedd has been shaken by a series of controversies, culminating in today’s news that Plaid Cymru is pulling out of their power-sharing agreement. The two

James Heale

Can Hunt answer the Reagan question?

11 min listen

Ronald Reagan famously asked voters: ‘are you better off than you were four years ago?’ At the next election, the Tories face a public thinking over the last fourteen years. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt gave a speech today defending the UK’s record tax levels and attacking Labour’s economic plans. But who should we trust more on

Has Starmer scaled down his pledges?

13 min listen

Keir Starmer has unveiled his six election pledges. In a nod to Tony Blair’s 1997 election card, the Labour leader has announced key promises to the public should they win the election. How are the commitments being received, and what will the impact of his speech be?  James Heale speaks to Katy Balls and Stephen

James Heale

Will Labour fall into the migration trap?

Brexit was the issue that won the last general election for the Tories but botching it may well lose them the next. The Red Wall was attracted by the promise that after sovereignty was wrested back from Brussels, the UK would be able to control its immigration policy and employers would have to pay their

Starmer fluffs his lines at PMQs

11 min listen

There were no defections today at Prime Minister’s Questions, which probably put Keir Starmer in a slightly stronger position, ironically, given the fuss about Natalie Elphicke crossing the floor last week. The focus was on justice and both the PM and Starmer came up with some new attack lines, but the delivery was – in

Can John Swinney turn it around for the SNP?

John Swinney, newly inaugurated First Minister of Scotland and Leader of the SNP, has been in the job for a week. What have we learnt since he took up the job, and can he turn things around for the party in time for a general election?  James Heale speaks to Lucy Dunn and Fergus Mutch,

Starmer is copying the Tory small boats strategy

Today is one of those rare occasions in British politics – a day when Rishi Sunak’s government has a bit of good news. Figures released this morning show the UK economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the first three months of the year, thanks to stronger than expected growth in March. So it is

James Heale

The UK leaves recession – but is it too late for the Tories?

10 min listen

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) confirmed this morning that the UK confined its technical recession to 2023. The economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the first three months of the year, thanks in large part to stronger-than-expected growth in March, which reached 0.4 per cent. But is the plan really working?  Also on

Can Lammy charm Trump?

14 min listen

This week, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy is stateside, meeting with senior advisors to Donald Trump and hoping to charm them. Meanwhile, David Cameron gives his first set-piece policy speech. Who is the more credible statesman? Cindy Yu talks to James Heale and Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform. Produced by Cindy

Sunak’s ex-ministers demand Home Office overhaul

Eight months ago, Robert Jenrick and Neil O’Brien were serving ministers under Rishi Sunak. But both are now out of government and keen to show where their former colleagues are going wrong. The two backbenchers today published a big paper on migration with the Centre for Policy Studies. It calls for the Home Office to

James Heale

Tory MP Natalie Elphicke defects to Labour

Shortly before Prime Minister’s Questions today, Labour dropped a bombshell. Natalie Elphicke, one of the most hawkish Tory MPs on migration, has defected to Sir Keir Starmer’s party. Elphicke, who has sat for Dover and Deal since 2019, said in a statement that she was switching parties because of how much the political landscape had

Will there really be a hung parliament?

14 min listen

It’s the first day back after the local elections. Following Thursday’s results, some polling suggests that if the votes were replicated in a general election, there might be a hung parliament. Could this be a reality?  The Spectator’s James Heale and Katy Balls are joined by Chris Hopkins, Political Research Director at Savanta.  Produced by

What does Andy Street’s defeat mean for Rishi Sunak?

The local elections results are in, and the Conservatives have lost more than 450 council seats. After a full recount, Labour’s Richard Parker beat Andy Street to become West Midlands mayor, with only around 1500 votes in it. What does his loss mean for Rishi Sunak, and where do the overall results leave him? Katy

Andy Street’s narrow defeat caps Tory misery

Andy Street has been defeated as mayor of West Midlands by Labour’s Richard Parker in a knife-edge contest. The result was due at 3 p.m this afternoon but was delayed by almost six hours following a recount of all the ballots cast in Coventry. Parker ended up with 225,590 or 37.8 per cent of votes

James Heale

The Lib Dems are ready for a general election

‘Consolidation’ is the word on Lib Dem lips today, as the party mulls its solid, if not spectacular, progress in Thursday’s local elections. Ed Davey’s troops gained more than 100 council seats and added two more authorities to their existing tally of ten. Sir John Curtice, the elections expert, suggests they ‘had only a modest

Have the Tories avoided a local election catastrophe?

10 min listen

Rishi Sunak can breathe a (small) sigh of relief. Ben Houchen, the so-called ‘patron saint of the red wall’, has won a third term as Tees Valley mayor. Houchen secured 53.6 per cent of the vote with Labour in second place with 41.3 per cent, despite some polls in advance suggesting it was neck-and-neck between

James Heale

How big is Labour’s Gaza backlash?

From Hartlepool in the red wall to true blue Rushmoor, Labour has made gains across the country. But as Keir Stramer chalks up the wins, he also confronts some setbacks. Oldham council has fallen to no overall control due to the election of seven new independents – and the conflict in the Middle East is

James Heale

Harlow offers a rare bright spot for the Tories

It is a thankless morning for Tories on the media round. Faced with the loss of half of their council seats, ministers are resorting to the time-honoured tactic of talking up favourable results as offering useful national lessons. This trick was pioneered by Kenneth Baker, who as Mrs Thatcher’s party chair successfully sold the post-Poll

Can Ben Houchen save Rishi Sunak?

12 min listen

Tomorrow, voters go to the polls for the last set of local elections in this parliament, alongside 11 mayoral elections in England, 37 police and crime commissioner elections in England and Wales plus the London Assembly elections. Could Ben Houchen, Tees Valley Mayor, help turn Rishi Sunak’s fortunes around? You can read James Heale’s assessment