Boris Johnson kicked off his conference speech by saying it “isn’t enough just to go back to normal”, but he went on to re-announce an awful lot of policy already promised pre-pandemic. The Prime Minister repeated his manifesto pledge to encourage a new market in long-term fixed-rate mortgages, reiterated his commitment to “levelling up” and again vowed to “fix” care home funding. Johnson also declared that every home in the country would be powered by offshore wind by 2030, but Labour was quick to point out that the 40 gigawatt target given by the PM is only half of what will be needed by then. Deputy leader Angela Rayner accused Johnson of delivering the “usual bluster and no plan”. And we can add the empty promises to a now long list of sweet little (or pretty massive) lies – including gems such as the ‘Moonshot’ project – to distract from the crushing catastrophe of the Tory response to the pandemic.
And there is plenty to distract from. Still reeling from the Excel blunder, which saw nearly 16,000 cases not passed on to contact tracers, Matt Hancock admitted yesterday that he does not know how many people could be unknowingly spreading the virus due to the error. Meanwhile, Johnson faces growing Tory rebellion over Covid restrictions. MPs voted last night to back the ‘rule of six’, but as the Commons considers other measures greater resistance is expected. In particular, on the 10pm curfew. But the rebellion will come to nothing without the backing of Keir Starmer, which puts the Labour leader in an interesting position. He has called for a review on the local lockdown measures, but this could be the first time Labour defies the government on a specific restriction. Labour has yet to say how it will vote on the curfew.
In an interesting development for Labour’s finances and its relationship with affiliated trade unions, Unite has cut its funding to the party by 10% following a narrow 25-to-23 vote by its executive. “Len couldn’t ignore the executive council voices,” one source told LabourList. Ahead of the meeting, the general secretary warned against the new leadership making a too drastic change of course. McCluskey said members were still angry about the Panorama settlement, saying they “thought it was an absolute mistake and wrong to pay out huge sums of money to individuals… when Labour’s own legal people were saying that they would lose that case if it went to court”. LabourList understands the ‘Ergon House project’ – reports that Labour HQ ran a “parallel” campaign to the leadership in the 2017 election – also came up in the debate ahead of the vote.
Labour today takes aim at Covid rule-breaking Scottish MP Margaret Ferrier. Starmer declared this morning that it “beggars belief that Margaret Ferrier thinks it is appropriate to continue as an MP” after it was revealed she breached Covid regulations several times. He will talk with residents in her constituency via Zoom this afternoon in the latest instalment of his ‘Call Keir‘ public meetings. And if you missed out on our event with UK in a Changing Europe yesterday, which saw Rachel Reeves set out Labour’s Brexit policy, you can catch up here.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.