Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle was not the quiet affair that had been expected. In fact, it was about as dramatic as it could have been: confronted with the ultimatum of sacking his advisers or being shown the door, Sajid Javid chose to leave. He has been replaced as Chancellor by Rishi Sunak, who is regarded to be more pliable. You might remember him from the BBC election debate that saw he and Rebecca Long-Bailey go head-to-head on their economic plans. Reacting to Javid’s surprise departure, John McDonnell agreed with most pundits when he concluded: “Dominic Cummings has clearly won the battle to take absolute control of the Treasury and install his stooge as Chancellor.”
That is not the only appointment worth our attention. The new Environment Secretary is George Eustice, a former UKIP candidate. The Business Secretary is now Alok Sharma, also taking on the role of COP 26 president despite having mostly voted against climate change legislation and been on a journey from Heathrow expansion opposition to vocal support. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who basically hates foreign aid according to past tweets, is in charge of just that as the new International Development Secretary. Then there is Suella Braverman, now Attorney General, who was criticised last year for using the term “cultural Marxism”, which is associated with the alt-right. Oh, and she also thinks “our parliament must retrieve power ceded to the courts”.
The Labour leadership contest has not been quiet either. The candidates for the top job have been thoroughly tested since the Newsnight debate, which was followed by Victoria Derbyshire and Jewish Labour Movement hustings. Last night, Long-Bailey was critical of the outgoing leadership on antisemitism, saying: “There was a bunker that formed. That bunker remained for many years and created a further escalation of the crisis.” But she disappointed audience members with vague answers on the IHRA definition row. At the same time, she frustrated some of her base by telling the event: “I also agree with a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state… I suppose that makes me a Zionist because I agree with Israel’s right to exist and right to self determine.”
Keir Starmer was the only candidate not to self-describe as a Zionist, which surprised JLM members. There were ‘ooh’s in the room when the frontrunner gave that response. Emily Thornberry was typically straight-forward and witty. Lisa Nandy undoubtedly won the most rapturous applause and praise for her thoughtful answers on antisemitism, which showed a thorough understanding of the concerns raised, according to JLM members in attendance. My full write-up can be read here.
This is a crucial day for the leadership race. It will decide whether Thornberry, who needs three more local parties to nominate her, will secure a place on the ballot. Whether she misses out or gets through, it will be very narrow. The last trade union to declare, TSSA, will announce its nomination, as will JLM. Long-Bailey is delivering a speech this morning in Salford, previewed here, and another tonight in Glasgow. We’ll hear more from all of the contenders throughout the weekend. Reminder: we’re not even halfway through this election.
- Today: TSSA and JLM nominations announced; Rosena Allin-Khan rally in Putney (7pm); Rebecca Long-Bailey event in Glasgow (8pm); Deadline for declaring as a BAME member to vote in NEC election (11.59pm); CLP/affiliate nomination window closes (11.59pm)
- Saturday: Party hustings in Glasgow (11.30am & 2pm)
- Sunday: Keir Starmer and Richard Burgon on Sky’s Ridge (8.30am); Long-Bailey on Andrew Marr (9am); Party hustings in London (11.30am & 2pm); Lisa Nandy event in Wembley (3pm); Starmer event at the Roundhouse (5pm)