Matt Hancock says he will not stand as a Conservative MP at the next election – UK politics live


Matt Hancock says he standing down as MP at next election, saying it could take Tory party decade to recover

Matt Hancock has announced that he is standing down at the next election.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak that he has posted on Twitter, Hancock said that he was recently told that he would have the whip restored (it was removed because he went on I’m a Celebrity without permission), which would have allowed him to stand again at the next election. But he said he was quitting anyway, because he had realised he did not need to be in parliament “to influence the public debate”.

He also implied the Conservative party was on a path to defeat, saying that it had to “reconnect with the public we serve” and that:

The revival of modern conservatism over the next decade will I suspect take place as much outside parliament as much as in it.

My letter to the Prime Minister 👇

I look forward to exploring new ways to communicate with people of all ages and from all backgrounds pic.twitter.com/PPvWB6McyM

— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) December 7, 2022

Key events

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Labour says bill requiring minimum rail services on strike days would be ‘unworkable’

At its own post-PMQs briefing, Labour said it thought legislation requiring unions to maintain minimum service levels during transport strikes would be “unworkable”. A spokesperson said the party would oppose any such legislation.

But she would not commit the party to repealing it if it were passed.

However, she did say some trade union legislation would be repealed. She said:

We would repeal the 2016 Trade Union Act. There are unnecessary elements in trade union legislation that we would look at … One example would not allowing online balloting. We don’t think that’s practical, we think it’s costly and we think that’s unnecessary.

Sunak says he is working on ‘tough’ new law to protect people from rail strike disruption

At PMQs Rishi Sunak said he was working on “tough” laws to protect people from strikes.

In a reference to the Tory proposal to legislate so that unions have to maintain minimum service levels during transport strikes (which was promised in the 2019 manifesto), he said:

The government has been reasonable. It’s accepted the recommendations of an independent pay review body, giving pay rises in many cases higher than the private sector.

But if the union leaders continue to be unreasonable, then it is my duty to take action to protect the lives and livelihoods of the British public.

That’s why, since I became prime minister I have been working for new tough laws to protect people from this disruption.

But at the post-PMQs lobby briefing the PM’s spokesman would not give further details of what the new legislation would say, or when it might be introduced.

At the transport committee this morning Mark Harper, the transport secretary, said a bill of this kind was “not a solution” to the current dispute. (See 10.12am.)

No 10 says Michelle Mone lost Tory whip ‘by default’ when she took leave of absence from Lords

At the post-PMQs lobby briefing the PM’s press secretary said Lady Mone lost the Tory whip “by default” when she took a voluntary leave of absence from the Lords. The press secretary said:

She’s taken a leave of absence therefore, by default, she has not got the Conservative whip any more.

Asked why Rishi Sunak waited for Mone to in effect strip herself of the whip if he was “shocked” by allegations about her, the press secretary claimed that was matter for the whips’ office.

When it was put to her that Sunak cut Mone adrift, the press secretary replied: “I wouldn’t characterise it as that. She’s taken a leave of absence from the House of Lords.”

She said she was not aware of “any conversations” between Sunak and Mone about her taking a leave of absence, adding: “As I understand it, it was her voluntary decision.”

The Conservative party has confirmed Alex Wickham’s report that its membership fee is going up. (See 11.17am.) A party spokesperson said:

An increase to the membership fee, which has been frozen for 16 years, has been agreed. Existing members will see their membership fee frozen in 2023 and the new membership fee remains substantially cheaper than Labour’s.

The fee for new members will from £25 to £39. Most Labour members pay about £50 a year, PA Media says.

The Tory MP Justin Tomlinson has criticised the increase.

Absolutely stupid idea. If the Party needs to balance the books stop wasting £millions on polling / research telling us the blinding obvious. Money should be spent on campaigning and membership organisation – not a difficult concept. https://t.co/dsrKbWcmuU

— Justin Tomlinson MP (@JustinTomlinson) December 7, 2022

The i’s Kate Maltby says Matt Hancock has not told the full story about why he is leaving parliament. She says she will reveal more later.

Matt Hancock’s letter today to the Prime Minister suggests that his decision to leave Parliament is entirely his own, not least because he has found that “new ways to reach people” in service of a healthy democracy.

That is not quite true. Story coming up later.

— Kate Maltby (@KateMaltby) December 7, 2022

Matt Hancock’s decision not to fight the next general election is not really shock news at Westminster. After his toe-curling adventures in the reality TV jungle, it was assumed he had no route back to the top of politics.

But the announcement may come as a surprise to anyone who made the mistake of believing Matt Hancock’s own spokesperson. Only last week, in response to a Sun story, the spokesperson told Sky News:

Matt has no intention of standing down or stepping away from politics and there has been no conversation with Mayah Riaz or any other PR.

Matt Hancock says he standing down as MP at next election, saying it could take Tory party decade to recover

Matt Hancock has announced that he is standing down at the next election.

In a letter to Rishi Sunak that he has posted on Twitter, Hancock said that he was recently told that he would have the whip restored (it was removed because he went on I’m a Celebrity without permission), which would have allowed him to stand again at the next election. But he said he was quitting anyway, because he had realised he did not need to be in parliament “to influence the public debate”.

He also implied the Conservative party was on a path to defeat, saying that it had to “reconnect with the public we serve” and that:

The revival of modern conservatism over the next decade will I suspect take place as much outside parliament as much as in it.

My letter to the Prime Minister 👇

I look forward to exploring new ways to communicate with people of all ages and from all backgrounds pic.twitter.com/PPvWB6McyM

— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) December 7, 2022

PMQs – snap verdict

When William Hague became Tory leader, for a while he regularly trounced Tony Blair at PMQs by making MPs laugh at him. Hague can deliver jokes brilliantly, and Blair did not know how to respond. Eventually he hit back by saying, as often as he could, that while Hague was good at jokes, he could not do serious politics. As Hague himself admitted in a recent interview for Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart’s podcast, The Rest is Politics, he was spooked by the criticism and toned down the jokes a bit. In retrospect, that is a mistake.

Keir Starmer, and the whole Labour machine, are trying to ensure that when the public see Rishi Sunak, they think “weak”. But Sunak, Blair-style, is trying to shame him off this line of attack. In his first response to Starmer he complained that the opposition leader was just “focused on the process and the politics”. In his second response, he said Starmer was “engaging in the petty personality politics, not focused on the substance”. It is a defensive ploy, and not altogether convincing (not least because Sunak himself accused Starmer of not being “strong” enough to stand up for workers affected by rail strikes), but it went some way to blunting the attacks he was receiving from the Labour leader.

Sunak also had a good retort to Starmer’s questions about the housing targets U-turn, and why the government was allowing councils to have the final say over housebuilding targets.

Just this week, on Monday, [Starmer] said the government should be giving people more power and control. Now he seems to be opposing that policy.

It is a fair criticism of the policy announced by Starmer with Gordon Brown on Monday. Governments can champion decentralisation, or they can champion housebuilding, but it is hard for them to do both.

In most of their PMQs encounters so far Starmer has won quite easily. Today it was more even, although he still had the upper hand. His mockery over the policy U-turns was effective. His jibe about the “blancmange prime minister” who “wobbled” was good (at least, for those of us old enough to remember the pink pudding monstrosity). And Starmer can do withering scorn as well as anyone now, as showed with this line.

Does [Sunak] really expect us to believe that the member for Chipping Barnet [Theresa Villiers] and the member for the Isle of Wight [Bob Seely] are cheering him on because he’s going to build more homes? Pull the other one.

Starmer also scored a direct hit with his Michelle Mone question. Although Sunak said in response that he was “absolutely shocked” by the revelations, it was a response that didn’t explain why she was allowed to retain the Tory whip. The question was more powerful than the answer – although Kevin Brennan’s version of the same question was even better. (See 12.32pm.)

At PMQs the PM normally saves his best soundbites for his final answer. But Starmer scuppered that today but devoting his final question to strep A. In the past, when the opposition leader has wanted to raise a question on something sombre and cross-party, they’ve almost always done it at the start. Saving the grim topic of an illness that has led to the deaths of children to the end meant Sunak was obliged to ditch whatever party-political crowdpleasers he had in his file, and instead address the question.

It was a novel and surprise tactic, and it helped give Starmer the edge. But it was also the sort of move you deploy when you don’t want to take your opponent for granted.

Poll suggests support for independence in Scotland has reached 56%, with 44% opposed

Severin Carrell

Severin Carrell

Support for independence has jumped sharply after the UK supreme court ruled last month that Holyrood was unable to hold a fresh referendum without Westminster consent, according to a new poll from Ipsos.

Their poll for the broadcaster STV found support for independence was now 56%, up six points from its poll in May, versus 44% against. The Scottish National party said that showed the yes vote was “rocketing” after the court’s judgment, which has now barred Nicola Sturgeon from pursuing a legal referendum.

NEW from @IpsosScotland and @STVNews
✴️ SNP strengthens General Election support to 51%
✴️ No indication that a ‘de facto’ referendum strategy would harm the party’s electoral chances
✴️ 56% would vote Yes and 44% No in an immediate #indyref2 – Yes up 6 points since May (1/9) pic.twitter.com/dCMtlKupGz

— Emily Gray (@EmilyIpsosScot) December 7, 2022

Ipsos said those figures were based on responses from those “very likely” to vote and also knew how they would vote. Other polling organisations use a different method, and do not normally produce results based only on likely voters.

Ipsos also found SNP support was at 51%, up by seven points since May, and the Scottish Greens at 3%. Other recent polls have shown a fall in support for the SNP, to as low as 41%. If the Ipsos results were matched at a general election, it could vindicate Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to use the next general election as a “de facto referendum”.

She says winning a majority of Scottish votes would mandate her to start negotiations on independence – a position Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak have rejected.

Emily Gray, the managing director of Ipsos in Scotland, said:

This is a high-risk strategy for the party, who secured 45% of the vote in 2019. However, the indication from this poll is that, at this stage at least, this is not harming their electoral chances.

At the same time, there are some indications that wider public ratings of the SNP have slipped. While the SNP remains comparatively more trusted than other parties, trust in their ability to manage a range of crucial issues – including the NHS and the economy – has fallen significantly over the last 18 months.

Sunak says hotels are “incredibly expensive” for housing asylum seekers. The government will urgently bring forward plans to reduce the pressure on them, he says.

Kevin Brennan (Lab) says we all applauded nurses during Covid. But at the same time “Tory spivs” were helping themselves to public money. Why is the PM on the side of the spivs not the nurses?

Sunak said the government needed to get PPE quickly. The shadow chancellor suggested we should get PPE from a law firm, and ventilators from a football agent. He says ministers did not take the decisions. Labour should stop playing politics with this, he says.

Dame Diana Johnson (Lab) asks why the government cannot process asylum claims within six months.

Sunak says the number of staff dealing with claims is being doubled. But one problem is that people make false claims. He says he is looking at what can be done to fix that, and hopes to have Labour’s support.

Jackie Doyle-Price (Con) says Thurrock supports building new homes. But it cannot build all the homes it wants because of limits imposed by the highways authority.

Sunak says, if Doyle-Price writes to him, he will look at this.

Conor Burns (Con) starts by thanking the speaker, and other MPs, for their support in recent week. (Burns was sacked by Liz Truss as a minister over a groping allegation, but a subsequent Tory inquiry said he had not done anything wrong.) He asks Sunak to visit a school in his constituency.

Sunak says it is good to see Burns back. He says he will consider the invitation.

Siobhan McDonagh (Lab) asks about the removal of cash machines from high streets. A quarter of ATMs charge people to withdraw their own money. He asks if the government will back her amendment to the financial services and markets bill today that will ensure people can still use free ATMs.

Sunak says the government is taking steps to ensure that people can access free ATMs. But he does not commit to backing McDonagh’s amendment.

Eleni Courea has written about the amendment in today’s London Playbook briefing. She says:

An amendment to the Financial Services and Markets Bill drafted by Labour’s Siobhain McDonagh with consumer group Which? has amassed Tory backbench support ahead of a vote today. Playbook counted 21 Tory MPs on the paper after three additions late last night, with names from all wings of the party and including Priti Patel, Danny Kruger, Anne Marie Morris, David Mundell and Iain Duncan Smith.

Call to arms: One Tory rebel told Playbook: “HSBC have just announced they’re closing branches … Banks are taking the piss in rural areas and we have no option but to sign this and push the government to act.” Rocio Concha, the director of policy and advocacy at Which?, said the amendment aimed “to ensure those who want to use cash aren’t cut further adrift.”

Crunching the numbers: 21 Tories — assuming no more join, and also assuming those who signed the amendment actually back it — isn’t enough to overturn the government’s working majority of 69 but would send a clear message if it came to a vote. In a letter sent to MPs on Monday and seen by Playbook, Treasury minister Andrew Griffith effectively restated the government position on the bill, saying he recognized “the considerable interest of colleagues in the matter of free access to cash in relation to the government’s legislation” but the government believed it was a matter for the FCA and that “access to cash remains extensive in the U.K.” It suggests ministers are holding firm… at least for now.





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