Ed Miliband smashed it out of the park yesterday afternoon in the Commons. If you missed the resurgence of the Milifandom on Twitter, he enjoyed a session debating the internal market bill in Keir Starmer’s place; the Labour leader was forced to isolate yesterday after a member of his household displayed Covid symptoms. Boris Johnson squirmed in his seat as Miliband grilled him on the controversial legislation, which the government has admitted would break international law. But the performance by the former Labour leader did not stop the bill passing its first legislative hurdle. It was backed by 340 MPs to 263 against, a majority of 77. Some 30 Tories abstained however, indicating that we could see more rebellions as MPs try to amend the bill in the coming parliamentary stages.
The online TUC Congress 2020 got underway yesterday and general secretary Frances O’Grady had a message for the Chancellor. Today, Starmer will have another one for the PM. O’Grady told Rishi Sunak to “stand by working families” and warned of a “tsunami of job losses” as the furlough scheme ends. The latest job figures this morning showed that unemployment rose to 4.1% in the three months to July and the total number of people without a job rose by 62,000. At the same time, payroll data shows that 695,000 fewer people were employed in August 2020 compared to March. The Labour leader is expected to use his speech this morning to tell Johnson to stop trying to “reopen old wounds over Brexit” and “get on with defeating this virus”. He will reiterate his call for targeted support and urge the PM to replace the furlough scheme with new mechanisms to protect jobs and support hard-hit UK sectors. Watch out for that at 11am.
Meanwhile, we saw the latest Covid testing fiasco emerge yesterday. After the PM unveiled his ‘Moonshot’ plan last week to deliver ten million tests a day by next spring, reports have shown that there were none available in the UK’s ten worst coronavirus hotspots. According to LBC Radio, there were no walk-in, drive-through or home tests in Bolton, Salford, Bradford, Blackburn, Oldham, Preston, Pendle, Rochdale, Tameside and Manchester yesterday. The Times has reported that ministers are now putting together plans to restrict “frivolous demands” for tests – a marked change in tone since Matt Hancock told parliament several times in July that people should get a test “if in doubt”. Given this latest news, mass testing plans to save Christmas don’t look good. The Health Secretary will come to parliament to make a statement on coronavirus today.
Away from Westminster, new polling on the Welsh Senedd elections next May has suggested a three-way fight at the ballot box. According to the Welsh Political Barometer poll, voting intention is divided largely between Labour, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru with a poor showing for the Lib Dems and the Brexit Party. Labour saw no change in its predicted vote share on the last iteration of the survey in June at 34%, while the Tories have fallen two points to 29% and Plaid Cymru has seen a boost of +2 to 24%. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.