The end of the Government’s £70 billion furlough programme today is a “milestone in our journey out of Covid”, a minister has said.
Economists have warned that although many may find work in recovering sectors such as hospitality and travel, there is also likely to be a rise in unemployment due to new redundancies. Charities argue that, combined with the cut to the Universal Credit uplift and cost of living crisis, this risks pushing further people into poverty this winter.
But Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, said today represented a sea-change.
“It’s a really big day, but also a moment where we can start to renormalise the economy,” he told Sky News. “It is time to recognise that we are now out of the pandemic and there is normal opportunity back out there for people to embrace.”
But he added: “We have to be totally honest about this, the pandemic has taken a toll on the economy, it has changed some things… There will be some job losses, but there are also a million vacancies for people to move towards, and a huge range of support to help them do that.”
Mr Clarke also highlighted the creation of a “more targeted” £500 million scheme to help vulnerable households over winter. He insisted it was not an extension of the uplift by another name, saying: “It’s a different mechanism… to avoid the situation of putting up everyone’s taxes.”
Follow the latest updates below.
Labour MPs back Harriet Harman’s demand for Cressida Dick to resign
Diane Abbott and Dawn Butler have backed Harriet Harman in her call for Cressida Dick to resign as the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
Police are facing questions over how the killer of Sarah Everard “slipped through the net” as a number of warning signs before her murder were missed.
Wayne Couzens, who was a serving police officer at the time he carried out the attack, was also nicknamed “The Rapist” by his colleagues as he made women feel uncomfortable, The Sun reports.
Ms Abbott, a former shadow home secretary, said: “Harriet Harman is right. Women should be able to trust the police. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick must resign.”
Ms Butler added: “We have been calling for police reform for years and we have been met with tin ears from those at the very top. This is an institutional problem.
“I also know that officers further down the chain are frustrated, they want change too.”
Ending Universal Credit still a mistake, says Tory MP
A Conservative MP has said ending the Universal Credit uplift is still a “mistake”, despite welcoming the new household support fund announced this morning.
Nigel Mills, the MP for Amber Valley, said that while the new £500m benefit would “help the most vulnerable families meet essential costs this winter”, it did not go far enough.
“I am glad the Government has listened and recognised that while many families are now back on their feet, we have not yet fully emerged from the pandemic and that there are still many households needing further support this winter,” he added.
Former justice secretary: Judge’s remarks show ‘exceptional gravity of horrific abduction’
The former justice secretary and Lord Chancellor has said he is thinking of Sarah Everard’s family and friends.
Robert Buckland, who lost his Cabinet role in the reshuffle earlier this month, highlighted the “exceptional gravity of the horrific abduction”.
Angela Rayner: Women are sick and tired of being scared
More Westminster figures are starting to respond to the sentencing of Wayne Couzens moments ago.
Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, refuses to name the murderer but expresses solidarity with Sarah Everard, her family “and all women today”.
Marsha de Cordova, a Labour MP, echoed that sentiment, adding: “The details of Sarah Everard’s murder are devastating. How many women have to die at the hands of violent men before we see real action to end violence against women & girls?”
Dawn Butler, MP for Brent Central, tweeted: “I’m also thinking of Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry and their family and friends. The police acted appallingly and that still hasn’t been dealt with properly.”
Harriet Harman: Cressida Dick must resign
Harriet Harman, the veteran Labour MP, has called for Cressida Dick to resign in the wake of the Sarah Everard case, saying “women’s confidence in police will have been shattered”.
The former minister and chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights has written to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, urging her to take “urgent action”.
Wayne Couzens, who used his Metropolitan Police-issue warrant card and handcuffs to snatch Miss Everard, has just been sentenced to a whole-life term.
Allister Heath: The Brexit-hating global elite is watching Britain’s chaos with glee
What’s wrong with this Government? Why is it so passive, veering from crisis to crisis without a strategy, devoid of any meaningful plan, writes Allister Heath.
Speak to the Prime Minister’s core supporters, and you soon detect that an earlier sense of disappointment is mutating into a slow, mounting fury at the chaos and incompetence that this Government increasingly exudes.
Such people voted Brexit in 2016 and Tory in 2019 because they thought the country was on the wrong track and that it was time for a radical shake-up. They are starting to fear that they wasted their time, that this Government will let them down just as badly as previous ones did, on crime, on the economy and on cultural issues.
Most toxic of all for the Government, the Tory base, who are patriotic and proud of being British above all else, are increasingly worried that the rest of the world is mocking us.
New benefit is ‘sticking plaster for gaping wound’, claims debt campaign group
A debt campaign group has attacked the Government’s new housing support scheme as a “mere sticking plaster for the gaping wound” caused by cutting Universal Credit.
Joe Cox, senior policy officer at Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: ““Borrowing for essentials has risen sharply over the pandemic and millions of struggling households are facing a cliff edge as the government winds up Covid support measures, including the furlough scheme which ends today.
“If the Government really wants to ‘build back better’ it should not be cutting Universal Credit.
“It should instead write off the unpayable household debts that have been built up during the pandemic – a move that has public support and gives everyone a chance to reset their finances and rebuild their lives.”
Planet Normal: Robert Peston on ‘depressing’ identity politics
For Robert Peston, ruffling feathers must not come at the cost of respectful disagreement.
“The hate that you see amongst people with these entrenched identify views, I personally find incredibly depressing,” the ITV journalist tells this week’s episode of Planet Normal.
Hosts Liam Halligan and Claire Fox also dissect the Labour Party conference after Sir Keir Starmer’s eagerly-awaited “make or break” speech: Liam tells listeners why the party failed to score an open goal, while Claire accuses the leader of merely “ticking boxes”.
Listen to the podcast in full above.
Sketch: Goofy Sir Keir Starmer de-claws the Corbynista cat lady
There was necromancy afoot in Brighton yesterday. Sir Keir Starmer summoned the spirit of the once unmentionable Tony Blair, writes Madeline Grant.
In true Cool Britannia style, Sir Keir even walked out to a tune by his old schoolmate Fatboy Slim, with whom he’d taken violin lessons. Unaccountably absent from his speech was the grammar school in Reigate where the magic happened.
The Labour leader also seemed to offer a swisher version of Angela Rayner’s more uncouth trashing of the PM earlier in the week. “My Dad was a toolmaker”, he quipped, “although, in a way, so was Boris Johnson’s”. A step up from the Corbynistas’ Sainsbury’s Basics war cry: “scum-scum” – this was an M&S insult.
Within the hall, however, rag-tag far-Lefties reminded us of Labour’s continuing woes – and Starmer’s own baggage.
New home builds in England fall five per cent
The number of new home builds started in England between April and June was down by five per cent compared with the previous quarter.
Some 42,900 new homes were started between April to June 2021 according to building control figures, the newly rebranded Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said.
While this was a five per cent decrease compared with the previous quarter, it was more than double the level between April and June 2020 – a period during which a lockdown was in place to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
Some 43,660 home completions were recorded between April and June, which was a 10 per cent decrease on the previous quarter.
The figures are published as Michael Gove reviews the Government’s planning reform, in a bid to boost the number of new builds while averting a potential Tory rebellion.
Government trying to ‘save face’ by introducing new benefit while cutting UC, claims charity
A charity has accused the Government of trying to “save face” by launching a new benefit, while cutting the uplift to Universal Credit.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation urged the Prime Minister and Chancellor to reverse the plans, rather than introducing the household support fund at the “11th hour”.
Helen Barnard, the deputy director, said: “The support available through this fund is provided on a discretionary basis to families facing emergency situations.
“It does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge facing millions families on low incomes as a cost-of-living crisis looms and our social security system is cut down to inadequate levels.
“By admitting today that families will need to apply for emergency grants to meet the cost of basics like food and heating through winter, it’s clear the Chancellor knows the damage the cut to Universal Credit will cause.”
Nicholas Sarkozy handed one-year sentence for illegal financing of campaign
Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, has been handed a one-year sentence for illegal financing of his 2012 re-election bid, dealing a fresh blow to the right-winger six months after a conviction for corruption.
The 66-year-old former politician will not serve time behind bars under the terms of this verdict, however, with the court ruling that he would be able to serve the sentence outside of prison.
Sarkozy, who spent at least €42.8m – nearly twice the legal limit on his failed bid for a second term in office, was not in court for the verdict. He dismissed the allegations of wanton recklessness as “a fairy tale”, saying he had been too busy running the country to pay attention to the finer details of his campaign finances.
The case is known as the Bygmalion affair, after the name of the public relations firm which set up a system of fake invoices to mask the real cost of the events.
Double oh-no: Starmer backs female James Bond
Sir Keir Starmer is battling to reconnect with lost Labour voters as he looks to present a credible alternative to the Government.
But he might have scuppered his own chances by telling interviewers this morning he backs a female James Bond.
He told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “I don’t have a favourite Bond, but I do think it’s time for a female Bond.”
Unfortunately for the Labour leader, he appears to be out of step with the wider public, however…
Insulate Britain are at it again: Climate activists target M25 for day eight
Climate activists have blocked part of the M25 for an eighth day.
Insulate Britain supporters glued their hands to the ground at Junction 30 at Thurrock in Essex. Essex Police have arrested nine people on suspicion of obstructing a highway.
The force wrote on Twitter: “We are working to get the road reopened and traffic flowing again as soon as possible. We were called to reports of people blocking the road and officers responded within minutes.
“We are currently working to resolve the situation as quickly and safely as possible. We know this will be frustrating for people using the road but we appreciate your patience and understanding.”
Have your say: Has the Government done enough to ride out the cost of living crisis?
Fuel supplies are stabilising, we are told, despite queues at petrol stations remaining with many pumps out of action still.
The Government is hoping it has broken the logjam and can fast-track HGV driver applications, averting further shortages at Christmas.
And with the Universal Credit uplift due to end shortly, this morning saw the launch of a new household support fund for the most vulnerable over the winter.
But with fears about a more general cost of living crisis, and the threat of stagflation looming large, has the Government done enough? Have your say in the poll below.
Sir Keir Starmer finally names Tony Blair as his ambition
Tony Blair’s name was conspicuously absent from Sir Keir Starmer’s speech, who praised the former prime minister’s record on education, crime and “levelling up” without directly addressing the elephant in the room.
One of the heckles during his lengthy speech got straight to the point, saying :”Where is Peter Mandelson?”
But this morning, challenged to actually say the man’s name – who is anathema to many on the left of the party – the Labour leader finally did.
“Tony Blair was a three-times winner in the Labour Party and we need to get back to winners in the Labour Party,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He added: “It was exactly that heckle yesterday [and my response] – ‘shout slogans or change lives’.
“That is the choice for the Labour Party. We have changed, this is the platform. We have moved forward and we are going to change lives.”
DfT: E-scooters hit and injured 57 pedestrians last year
Some 57 pedestrians were injured after being hit by an e-scooter in Britain in 2020, the Department for Transport has said.
Thirteen of the casualties suffered injuries described as “serious”.
Other road users injured in e-scooter collisions include 22 vehicle occupants and 21 cyclists. One e-scooter rider was killed and a further 383 were injured in accidents last year.
The Government launched a year-long e-scooter trial in this summer, but the use of privately owned e-scooters on public roads remains illegal.
Keir Starmer: You don’t have to be a showman to win elections
Sir Keir Starmer has rejected “the idea that you have got to be a showman to win in politics”.
The Labour leader, who is struggling to shake off criticism that he lacks the charisma of Boris Johnson, said yesterday’s conference speech had enabled to set out his backstory in “quite personal terms” and how that has given him “values that relate to work and dignity of work… and care”.
He told Sky News: “We have got a showman as prime minster now. He campaigned in slogans, and now he is learning… yes, you can campaign on slogans but you absolutely can’t govern on slogans.”
Sir Keir added: “If you want a showman, if you want a prime minister where it is priced in that he’s not really honest, then I think we have to sit back and ask ourselves what sort of politics are we really in.
“I think it is more important for a political leader to have honesty, integrity and trust.”
Universal Credit replacement support is ‘cold comfort’, says Lib Dem MP
The new household support scheme will be “cold comfort” to families braced for a cut to Universal Credit, the Liberal Democrats have warned.
Christine Jardine, the party’s Treasury spokesperson, said: “People need a generous package of support to help them cope with soaring gas bills this winter. Instead Rishi Sunak is offering then some crumbs off the table.
“He’s kidding himself if he thinks this will be enough to prevent the looming winter of discontent,” she added. “If the Chancellor really wanted to support vulnerable households, he would scrap his cruel cuts to Universal Credit and the planned tax hike that will kick people and businesses when they’re already down.”
Supply chain crisis derailing recovery, warns Andrew Bailey
The crisis choking Britain’s supply chains will delay the economic recovery until next year, Andrew Bailey has said, as the world’s most powerful central bank chiefs warned that disruption now posed a severe threat to global growth.
The Bank of England will keep a “close watch” on inflation expectations and the labour market for signs that temporary price pressures are becoming more persistent and dangerous.
But he added: “Monetary policy can’t solve supply side shocks. Monetary policy can’t produce computer chips, it can’t produce wind, it can’t produce truck drivers.
“What we have to do is focus on the potential second round effects from those shortages.”
New household support fund is ‘sticking plaster’, says Labour
The new household support fund is a “sticking plaster” that does not deal with the fundamental problems causing the cost of living crisis, Labour has said.
Jonathan Reynolds, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “Conservative choices have created a perfect storm this winter, leaving working people facing tax hikes, an energy crisis and cuts to Universal Credit.
“Temporary and inadequate sticking plasters are no substitute for a proper social security system that offers security to families in hard times. The Government must learn the lessons of the pandemic, cancel their cut to Universal Credit and use our recovery to better prepare this country for the challenges of the future.”
Furlough should be ‘crafted’ for sectors still hit by Covid, says Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer has said the furlough scheme “has to come to an end” but says he would “do it differently” to the Government’s approach.
Sectors such as aviation should continue to be supported while restrictions are in place “for understandable reasons,” he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
The Labour leader said: “I don’t argue with the fact it has got to comer to and end and probably come to an end now… but it needs to be a bit more crafted to fit the circumstances we are in.”
Sir Keir added that he “wouldn’t hammer people” by coinciding it with the end to the Universal Credit uplift.
Keir Starmer calls for new victims law over Sarah Everard’s murder
Sir Keir Starmer has said the law on violence against women and girls needs to be strengthened in the wake of the killing of Sarah Everard.
The Labour leader told Sky News: “We have got to change the law. We need a victims’ law. We have needed a victims’ law for years.
“We need better provision in relation to violence against women and girls in law. We have needed it for a very, very long time.
“If the Government were to put up legislation on violence against women and girls or on victims on the first Monday when we return after these party conferences, we will vote for it.”
Insisting Brexit is not affecting worker shortages is ‘ridiculous’, says former aide
Did Brexit exacerbate shortages of drivers and other workers or not? For some, it’s the debate at the heart of the current crisis.
Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, says it was a factor – made worse by a lack of planning.
Ministers including Simon Clarke insist otherwise.
But as Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s former chief of staff points out, there is an inconsistency in the Government’s line of argument.
Don’t call it an uplift: Government’s alternative to Universal Credit extension
With the uplift to Universal Credit coming to an end next week, just as the cost of living looks set to soar, it was clear the Government would have to act.
A last-minute U-turn would have been politically difficult, enabling opposition MPs to point out (yet again) that ministers are dragging their heels on inevitable decisions, leaving vulnerable people in uncertain situations. It would also have alarmed those who are keeping a close eye on the public coffers.
So instead, the Treasury and DWP have today launched a new £500 household support fund, which will be distributed to the most vulnerable three or four million people in England via local councils “through small grants to meet daily needs such as food, clothing, and utilities”. The devolved administrations will receive up to £79m of the £500m to do likewise via the Barnett formula.
Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, said this “lifeline” would help ensure everyone can “afford the essentials” over the winter.
Just don’t call it an uplift.
Brexit and ‘total lack of planning’ behind HGV driver crunch, says Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer has said that Brexit is a “contributing factor” in the current fuel crisis gripping the UK – but that it could have been mitigated by better planning.
Contrasting what a minister had said earlier, (see below), the Labour leader told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “It is certainly a contributing factor.
“Whether you voted to leave or remain, it was obvious that if we were to leave the EU we would have less HGV drivers than we would otherwise have.
“I think the British public should be angry and frustrated. This is a total lack of planning. It was predicted and predictable.”
HGV shortage is ‘not a Brexit conversation’, says minister
A minister has denied that the driver shortage had been exacerbated by Brexit, amid suggestions that thousands of EU workers have returned home since the referendum.
Simon Clarke, chief secretary to the Treasury, told the BBC’s Today programme: “I really don’t accept that.
“We have a problem that we need to fix … but one that is shared by other European countries, too.
“The idea that this is about Brexit is to try and take us back into what is really quite a negative conversation about opportunities foregone when, if you look at the situation in… (Europe), they share these problems too.
“We need to work to make sure we have the right labour force to meet them, but it’s not a Brexit conversation, it’s about training and skills.”
Minister hails ‘huge amount of opportunity’ as furlough ends – including HGV drivers
A Treasury minister has suggested some people affected by the ending of furlough could become HGV drivers, as he resisted calls to open the door to European workers.
Simon Clarke told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “There’s a write out campaign, encouraging people who may want to return to being HGV drivers to do just that.”
He added: “We are clear that we left the European Union for a reason, to control immigration.
“We want to increase the number of HGV drivers being trained in Britain, we have a million vacancies in the labour market at the moment – there’s a huge amount of opportunity out there.”
Starmer: Speech wasn’t long – it was just very popular
Sir Keir Starmer has said the majority of the Labour Party backs his changes – despite some heckles from left wingers during his conference speech.
He told BBC Radio 5 Live: “When your party changes, when your party dusts itself down and faces the electorate, there are some people who don’t like that.
“But if you saw the hall yesterday, the vast majority of people were absolutely with me.”
He added: “I have been criticised that the speech went on too long. The speech was actually one hour – the extra half an hour was standing ovations and clapping.
“If you want a sense of where our movement is, they are absolutely behind me in this.”
Sir Keir Starmer: Review must consider why Wayne Couzens’ ‘tell-tale signs’ weren’t picked up
Sir Keir Starmer has said it is “hard to find words to describe” the murder of Sarah Everard, saying it is “sickening and goes right to heart of something the British feel deeply”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he had “reserved a bit of me” for her parents during yesterday’s conference speech, in which he talked about the victims of violent crime.
But he defended police officers, saying they are “absolutely gutted at this, the betrayal by one man of everything they stand for”.
Asked about red flags that were missed regarding Wayne Couzens’ behaviour, he added: “We have got to get to the bottom of how that happened, it looks as though there were some tell-tales signs that should have been looked into properly and they weren’t.”
Sir Keir Starmer defends track record in Corbyn team
Sir Keir Starmer has defended the role he played in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow government and the party’s loss in 2019.
The Labour leader told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was “a mischaracterisation of everything that happened in those years” to suggest the drubbing at the ballot box was because of his stance on Brexit.
“We were arguing for a deal, we put a deal forward and when that was obviously going to fail, we put forward the option we did in the election… we lost four elections in a row over 10 years… I don’t think it was a single factor, it was cumulative and people didn’t trust us”.
He backed Mr Corbyn because he was “our leader for better or worse”, but Labour put forward a “manifesto people didn’t believe”, he added.
Put prisoners behind the wheel of fuel tankers, says Dominic Raab
Offenders who have been given community sentences could be used to drive lorries and resolve the shortages of fuel and food supplies, Dominic Raab has suggested.
The deputy prime minister, who was made Justice Secretary in this month’s reshuffle, has dismissed Labour’s call for 100,000 migrant visas to be issued to provide sufficient drivers.
“We’ve been getting prisoners and offenders to do volunteering and unpaid work,” Mr Raab told The Spectator.
“Why not if there are shortages encourage them to do paid work where there’s a benefit for the economy, benefit for society? If you give people skin in the game, give them something to lose, if you give them some hope, they’re much less likely to re-offend.”
‘Monstrous’ murder of Sarah Everard will ‘remain with us for generation’,
The murder of Sarah Everard is one that “will remain with us for a generation”, a minister has said.
Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, told Sky News: “It’s an appalling story and something that has genuinely shocked all of us. It is one of those ones that will remain with us for a generation.”
He added: “It is so important to emphasise that Wayne Couzens, who is a monster, does not represent the work of all those tens of thousands of police men and women who go about every day to keep us safe.
“The reality is that no system can guard against what Mr Couzens did … what he did was monstrous and beyond anyone’s ability to really have foreseen.
“In so far as there are lessons to be learnt, I know the Metropolitan Police will look at it very seriously.”
Market can resolve fuel crisis, says minister
The market can resolve the fuel crisis as long as people resume “more normal habits”, a minister has said.
Simon Clarke, the chief secretary to the Treasury, told Sky News that “more fuel is now being delivered than sold”, and that while army drivers were on standby, they have not yet been used and “the resilience of fuel supply chain is now improving”.
Instead, he was “confident the commercial market can resolve this”.
That would depend on people returning to “more normal habits”, he added.
Job losses ‘part of the process’ of returning to normal, says minister
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke has said that job losses due to the end to furlough was “part of the process” of ending the coronavirus crisis.
“Obviously there will be a variety of outcomes, I don’t have an estimate with me today. There will be some job losses,” he told Sky News.
“Furlough has protected 11.6 million jobs in total … at some point you have to end these emergency measures.
“People’s jobs will be created just as some have very sadly been lost, that is part of the process of ending this crisis and going back to normal.”
Heckling ‘made my case’, says Keir Starmer
Sir Keir Starmer has suggested the heckling he experienced at Labour Party conference yesterday “made my case for me”, as he looks to move away from its recent flirtation with Corbynism.
The leader told ITV’s GMB: “What we were doing this week in Brighton was taking the difficult decision to put our own house in order.
“We have closed the door on anti-Semitism, and I felt so pleased that Louise Ellman felt safe enough to rejoin the party.
“When you change your party is it inevitable that some people feel uncomfortable and we saw an element of that yesterday.. but the vast majority were with me, in a sense the hecklers almost made my case for me – contrasting them shouting slogans with my ambition, which is to win and change lives.”
Lady Starmer could be Sir Keir’s secret weapon
Denis Thatcher famously commented that the role of a politician’s consort was to be “always present, never there”, writes Camilla Tominey.
Yet by wowing the crowds in Brighton with her Labour Party Conference debut, Sir Keir Starmer’s glamorous wife Victoria added some much-needed colour to an event which, like her husband, had been criticised for being too “beige” and “boring”.
Dressed in a £269 navy blue eco-friendly polyester dress by French fashion house Claudie Pierlot, Lady Starmer enveloped her husband in a warm embrace following his keynote speech to fellow comrades.
For many Labour members – and indeed the wider public – it was a first chance to see the wife of the Leader of the Opposition in the flesh, and onlookers could not fail to be struck by her subtle blend of quiet confidence and North London working-mum chic.
Sir Keir Starmer drew Labour’s conference to a close with a lengthy speech yesterday afternoon – but to what extent did he achieve what he set out to?
And with the cost of living crisis not going anywhere, how challenging will the Conservative conference be when it starts this weekend?
There are plenty of topics to get stuck into today – here’s our front page.