A lot of news happened last night. First, Theresa May decided not to whip Tory MPs against Labour’s motion to declare an environment and climate emergency. You can question their tactics and analysis of structural oppression, but the impact that Extinction Rebellion has had – along with student strikers and Greta Thunberg – in a very short space of time is truly remarkable. A couple of weeks ago, LabourList columnist Sabrina Huck argued that Jeremy Corbyn’s party should be at the forefront of extra-parliamentary movements such as this one, and it has been fantastic to see Labour seize the opportunity since then. Shadow minister Alan Whitehead has written a piece on the success of yesterday’s debate.
Then the big story broke, when it was revealed that the Prime Minister had sacked Gavin Williamson over the Huawei leak. The ambitious former Defence Secretary strongly denies leaking the information from a National Security Council meeting, but May said: “No other, credible version of events to explain this leak has been identified”. There are now arguments over whether civil servants who personally dislike Williamson are calling the shots and even whether he was right to air what is an important policy debate. One thing is certain – as Labour has pointed out, “Conservative infighting has undermined the basic functioning of government”. Tom Watson and Nia Griffiths have called for a police investigation (so far not being considered by Scotland Yard). An urgent question has been granted at 10.30am to Labour’s deputy leader, who will ask the PM for a statement on the findings of the leak inquiry.
Our final interesting story: we learned that Peterborough will soon hold a parliamentary by-election, as the petition to recall Fiona Onasanya easily reached the (10%) threshold for success with over 19,000 eligible constituents (27.6%) signing it. The ex-Labour MP, who has been participating in key Commons votes as an Independent since her suspension from the party, is now no longer an MP. She could stand again, however. In an early June contest, Labour’s Lisa Forbes will go up against Tory candidate Paul Bristow – but the Brexit Party is also getting involved, as is George Galloway (possibly one and the same). Although some are hopeful Nigel Farage’s party could split the Tory vote, there’s a risk it could snatch Labour votes too or simply win outright. Labour will need all the campaigning help it can get there over the next few weeks.
Speaking of which, it is of course polling day for local elections. This will be tough for Labour, with nearly all rural and small town councils up and none (excluding by-elections) in London, Wales or Scotland. The campaign has been run on the message ‘austerity isn’t over’, which is a strong one but difficult to communicate amid widespread voter apathy and a ‘plague on both your houses’ attitude directed at the main parties thanks to the Brexit mess. Our chief concern should be turnout, particularly as it will be lower than when these seats were mostly last fought (general election day 2015) and that doesn’t lend itself well to comparisons. Having said all that, polling has been positive.
While you browse #dogsatpollingstations on Twitter, I am going to rest and swot up on the details ahead of our 24-hour liveblog, kicking off when polls close at 10pm. If you’ve got any tips, email or DM me. Please make my sleep deprivation worth it by visiting labourlist.org for result updates and analysis throughout the night and tomorrow. Good luck to all Labour candidates today. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.