That’s all from us for this evening. Here’s a wrap-up of tonight’s hustings from my colleague, Heather Stewart:

And here’s a comprehensive summary of the day’s earlier events.

Here’s a little reaction from Labour figures to this evening’s hustings:

Important to see that the Newsnight Debate is addressing international affairs.

Despite our party doing so much good in government, the invasion of Iraq - for many - defines the Blair government.

We must ensure it never happens again.

— Richard Burgon MP (@RichardBurgon) February 12, 2020

Wish the @BBCNewsnight Labour leadership debate had been longer, but I thought @Keir_Starmer really showed why he’s so far ahead on CLP nominations, and @lisanandy had interesting things to say - I’m feeling hopeful for our party 🌹

— Steve Reed (@SteveReedMP) February 12, 2020

Labour won’t win again with business as usual.

So proud to be supporting @LisaNandy for Labour leader.

It’s time to make the bold, not the easy choice.#WeWinTogether #Newsnight

— Stephen Kinnock (@SKinnock) February 12, 2020

Absolutely love what @Keir_Starmer said about building a strong and united team to lead Labour.

Our movement is about more than one person. It’s about every worker, every member and every voter.

When we stand together to fight injustice, we’re unstoppable. #Newsnight

— Miriam Mirwitch (@mrwtch) February 12, 2020

Wish it had been a longer debate, but #Newsnight showed why @Keir_Starmer is the front-runner, why @lisanandy impresses and why @EmilyThornberry deserves to be on the ballot paper. There has to be a bigger vision for how we’ll change following the four defeats we’ve suffered.

— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) February 12, 2020

Closing, Thornberry says the fight is going to be long and the next Labour leader needs to be campaigner with stamina. And she says the party needs to offer hope if it’s going to form the next government

Long Bailey says she was devastated by the defeat because she knew what it would do to Labour communities and says the party should focus on the green new deal and its industrial strategy in order to help those communities.

Starmer says he came into politics to change lives and that it’s impossible to do so in opposition. He says he will bring the party together because if it continues to direct its fire inward, it will enver win.

Nandy says the election result was a long time coming and that Labour must stop facing “both ways on the biggest issues of the day”, adding: “No more promises we know we can’t keep.”

On the issue of transphobia, Long Bailey says she is a firm believer in self-identification. But she steadfastly refuses to say whether or not someone who was unwilling to say a person can identify their own gender.

Thornberry believes that hate needs to be removed from the debate and that trans men are men and trans women are women. Nandy says people who go out of their way to abuse other people should not be in the Labour party and cites the example of one of her own constituents she says she wants to protect. Starmer adds that trans rights are human rights, saying they should be protected.

Starmer and Nandy agree that the in-out Brexit debate is over and Labour’s best chance is to work on the basis that the UK will remain outside the European Union, but cooperate closely with the bloc.

It seems Lisa Nandy’s performance is going down well. Or badly, depending on your point of view.

Talking to a bunch of Tory MPs who won their seats from Labour today, all were most worried about Lisa Nandy. Watching these Newsnight hustings you can see why

— James Forsyth (@JGForsyth) February 12, 2020

On immigration, each of the candidates commits to welcoming inward immigration, saying the country benefits as a whole.

“Free movement is a good thing, but it has to be coupled with investment in our young people.”

Leadership contender Lisa Nandy says the immigration debate is “daft” as the UK is a “net beneficiary from immigration”#Newsnight

— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) February 12, 2020

“All my life I’ve been able to go and work in Europe, or to live in Europe or to study in Europe and I want the next generation to be able to have those opportunities.”

- Shadow Brexit Sec @Keir_Starmer says he doesn't "think there's any question of rejoining the EU"


— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) February 12, 2020


It’s suggested to the candidates that Boris Johnson has taken their territory with infrastructure investment promises. Which of his policies would Nandy steal? She says she’s glad to see the investment but believes he’s making the decisions in Westminster, whereas she would allow people to make decisions for their own areas.

Is Johnson not doing a good job? Starmer says the prime minister cannot be trusted because he has regularly broken promises in the past.

Long Bailey says there are major regional inequalities within the UK and she would focus on the country’s industrial policy to address the problems they cause.

Thornberry says the promises sound good but that they will prove to be “hot air”, which is when Labour will need to make their case.

All four contenders indicated they remained committed to scrapping university tuition fees and renationalising the water and electricity industries – pledges that were in the 2019 Labour manifesto.

But they jointly rowed back on scrapping private schools and introducing a four day week, two other controversial policies put forward during Corbyn’s leadership.

Thornberry has claimed Long Bailey failed to push for tougher action on antisemitism in the Labour party.

Katie Razzall: Are you saying Rebecca didn't [ask for reports on anti-Semitism in the Labour Party]?

🗣️@EmilyThornberry: "No I don't think Rebecca did, but Keir and I did regularly."

🗣️@RLong_Bailey: "Rebecca did, I think you'll find."#Newsnight | @katierazz

— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) February 12, 2020

During a tense moment in a Labour leadership debate, Thonrberry said she and Starmer had called for the shadow cabinet to be more involved in tackling the party’s antisemitism problem.

But Thornberry claimed she did not remember Long-Bailey doing the same. Thornberry said:

I think it would be right to say that the record shows that I have regularly called out antisemitism in my party. It also should be said that Keir and I were both in the shadow cabinet and would regularly, the two of us, call for regular reports to the shadow cabinet.

Asked whether she was saying Long Bailey didn’t demand such a role for leader Corbyn’s top team, Thornberry added: “No, I don’t think Rebecca did, but Keir and I did.” In a terse exchange, Long-Bailey responded: “I did, I think you’ll find.” But Thorberry added: “Sorry, I don’t remember.”

Long Bailey said she would sign up to the 10 pledges on tackling antisemitism that had been set by the Board of Deputies of British Jews if she becomes leader.

As leader I will be signing up to the 10 pledges. I would expect my shadow cabinet and all those within it, all our members and MPs within Parliament to follow my lead on that.

Starmer added:

If you’re not prepared to fight anti-Semitism, you shouldn’t be in the shadow cabinet.

Nandy, the only backbencher left in the race, said there should be “no one in the Labour Party that doesn’t defend the right of Israel to exist”.


Thornberry says she believes those members of the UK’s Jewish community who felt they would be unsafe under a Labour government were wrong but says the fact they did feel that way was an indictment of everyone in the party.

.@EmilyThornberry: “we may be throwing anti-Semites out of the party now- why weren’t we doing it 2.5 years ago?” #newsnight

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) February 12, 2020


Nandy says the party made promises the public did not believe it would keep at the last election, saying voters are more savvy than Labour has given them credit for.

One of the things we did in the last election was we made promises we simply couldn’t keep.

We cannot go round as a party making promises to nationalise everything, to slash or get rid of tuition fees but we hadn’t got a clue how we would do it and how we would pay for it.

People are smarter than that. We have to be honest with them.

Starmer says the party leadership came up on doorsteps prior to the election, as did the issue of Labour antisemitism. He says there were numerous causes and Jeremy Corbyn cannot be held responsible for four consecutive election defeats.

Long Bailey acknowledges Labour has not tackled antisemitism adequately and cannot stop apologising for it. She also blames Brexit for causing trust issues and says other problems, such as infighting, contributed.

“We can never stop apologising for not attacking this issue as robustly in the way that we should have done,” says Rebecca Long-Bailey on the Labour Party’s response to anti-Semitism issues adding “we have not tackled this issue adequately”@RLong_Bailey | #Newsnight

— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) February 12, 2020


Kicking off the debate, the presenter asks which of the contenders saw the election defeat coming. Emily Thornberry and Lisa Nandy say they did. The former says she warned the outgoing leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the Tories had a carefully crafted plan and would win.

Rebecca Long Bailey says voters were preoccupied by Brexit and Labour was not listening to those who thought the party was betraying the Brexit referendum. Keir Starmer says no one saw the scale of the defeat coming.

Lisa Nandy claims MPs people in seats such as hers saw their base crumbling in successive elections and that the party’s response has been to narrow its debate to issues such as how to go into or not go into hypothetical wars in future, rather than on matters that have more direct day-to-day effects on people in the UK.

.@lisanandy says the leadership contest and debate has been “so very small.” Says the party won’t reconnect with voters by having “debates about reselection or grandstanding about illegal wars” #newsnight

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) February 12, 2020


We’ll be covering the Labour leadership hustings when they start in about five minutes. Keir Starmer, Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long Bailey and Emily Thornberry debate each other on BBC Newsnight at 10.30pm.

Afternoon summary

  • Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, has floated the idea of letting a parliamentary committee interview candidates for the supreme court. (See 11am.)
  • The European parliament has called on Michel Barnier to keep Britain permanently tied to its employment, environment and competition laws as the price for maintaining free trade with the EU. As Daniel Boffey reports, in a resolution adopted by 543 votes to 39, with 69 abstentions, MEPs said there needed to be “dynamic alignment” with EU standards across a range of issues. As MEPs gave their seal of approval for the maximalist position, the European commission for the first time wielded its powers under the withdrawal agreement to order the British government to change its domestic law, despite the country having left the EU two weeks ago. Under the terms of the transition period, during which the UK stays in the single market and customs union but none of Brussels’s decision-making institutions, EU law continues to be superior to UK national law. The government was given two months by the commission to amend a levy on heavy trucks on which UK-registered drivers can get a discount. The EU’s executive branch said the levy discriminated against those based in member states.
  • MPs have given the terrorist offenders (restriction of early release bill) an unopposed second reading. They are debating its committee stage now, and it is due to clear the Commons by the end of the day. The emergency bill, drawn up after the Streatham attack, stops the automatic early release of terrorist offenders. Opening the debate, Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, dismissed a suggestion that it would lead to a court challenge at the European court of human rights because article 7 of the European convention on human rights forbids “a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed”. Buckland said:

I’m not going to anticipate litigation in domestic courts or indeed in Strasbourg.

But I will say this now and I will repeat it for the benefit of the record that it is my firm view that this bill does not engage the provisions of article 7 of the European convention because it relates to the way in which the sentence is administered not a change in the nature of penalty itself.

  • John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has accused Boris Johnson of “putting the existence of the United Kingdom under threat”. Speaking ahead of a seminar in Westminster tonight on the topic of democratising society, he said:

The antipathy in Scotland to Boris Johnson’s regime, alongside the Irish election results are putting the existence of the United Kingdom under threat.

Brexit also illustrated the depth of feeling many have at the lack of control over their lives.

Radical constitutional reform is needed to redistribute power in our country.

That’s all from me for today.

Thanks for the comments.

Here is the Guardian’s latest Politics Weekly podcast. Heather Stewart is joined by Anand Menon, Ailbhe Rea and Paul Harrison to discuss what to expect from tomorrow’s cabinet reshuffle. Plus, Rory Carroll tells us what’s next for Irish politics after Sinn Féin’s shock domination, and Gwyn Topham gives us the latest on HS2.

Sturgeon hits out at 'silly' No 10 after it refuses to rule out switching venue of COP 26 from Glasgow

This morning Jim Pickard at the Financial Times reported that the government was keeping open the option of holding the COP 26 climate change conference at the ExCel centre in London, instead of in Glasgow as planned.

In the @ft today

The government has opened talks with the ExCeL London venue about moving #cop26 climate change summit from Glasgow, amid claims over spiralling costs and chaotic preparations - although officials insist its only a “contingency” measure

— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) February 12, 2020

the reason this is striking is because when Claire O'Neill suggested the event could move from Glasgow to England it was denied very strongly.......

now I'm given a less definitive answer: "We are pretty committed to Scotland."

— Jim Pickard (@PickardJE) February 12, 2020

As Pickard’s FT colleague Sebastian Payne reports, at the afternoon Downing Street briefing the prime minister’s spokesman did not deny the story.

Will COP26 move to London? Prime minister’s spokesperson says “we are committed to holding to COP26 in Glasgow. But the Scottish government needs to work with us to ensure it’s a successful summit.”

Committed doesn’t mean it will happen...piling the pressure on @NicolaSturgeon

— Sebastian Payne (@SebastianEPayne) February 12, 2020

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, has reacted angrily, saying the Scottish government is fully committed to the summit and accusing Boris Johnson of “playing politics” over the venue.

This is just silly (& contradicts Gove y’day saying 2 govts working well on this). I’ve made crystal clear @scotgov commitment to making #COP26 a success and offered PM additional input from us - he hasn’t yet responded. If he insists on playing politics it will be on him, not me

— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) February 12, 2020

There are two long articles out today about the favourites in the Labour leadership contest. Both are worth reading.

  • Rebecca Long-Bailey tells HuffPost’s Paul Waugh, among other things in a wide-ranging interview, how she came to join the Labour party.

Although she was political in her youth, Long-Bailey didn’t join Labour until 2010 when she was in her 30s. Labour’s defeat prompted her to join, as it is prompting many following the 2019 defeat.

But she reveals that the real spur was more close to home. “My mum had retired, and she was driving my dad around the bend at home because she didn’t have any hobbies and because she’s only ever been into politics and watching the news, she didn’t do like knitting or like crafts and things like that.

“So I said to her, ‘We’ve got to get you a hobby. Why don’t we both join the Labour party and I’ll come to some meetings with you?’ I was living near my mum and dad at the time. And I said, ‘I’ll go and then when you’ve made friends I’ll leave you to it.’

“And we went to that first meeting, and I remember there was one member there, who said how he thought it was a really good idea to means-test hospital meals. And a few other people in the meeting went, ‘Yeah, that’s really good, if you can afford to pay you should afford to pay.’ And I could feel the anger building up inside [me].

“This is how far we’ve come in five years you see. I remember driving back from the meeting and saying to my mum, ‘I know I said I was gonna leave you to it, but unless I get involved and sort this out then we’re all doomed.’”

  • Emily Ashton has profiled Sir Keir Starmer in a long and detail-rich article for BuzzFeed that features contributions from people who have known him for years. One theme that emerges is his work ethic. Ashton says:

[Charlie] Falconer, then a commercial barrister, said Starmer was a “very intense, committed, slightly isolated figure” when they first met. “He’s not a particularly clubbable figure; he is a man alone,” he said. “He is the real deal — every time you would speak to Keir, he would be engaged in a particular cause. He was completely motivated in all he did in the law by politics.”

That work ethic comes up repeatedly in interviews with those who know Starmer well. Georgia Gould, Labour leader of Camden council where Starmer is now the local MP, told BuzzFeed News: “I say to him, ‘It’s alright. I can do this one. You can have a day off.’ I don’t know when he sleeps. He hates being late — he’ll say to me, ‘Georgia, we’re gonna be late. We can’t be late.’”

Some MPs think Starmer’s dedication to his work will make him a dangerous opponent for laidback Johnson, while others dismiss him as lacking in personality and charm. (His team points out that his complicated, detail-heavy Brexit brief has made it difficult for him to show much personality.) He gets mixed reviews from Tory MPs.

One cabinet minister told us: “He is by miles the best candidate. A Trot, yes, but a professional, and he’ll be good in parliament.” Another minister described him as the “Michael Howard of the Labour party – a good stopgap”. A new Tory MP in northern England said Starmer wouldn’t connect with his constituents: “He’s almost embarrassed of everything he has achieved – own it, man!” Another Tory MP said bluntly: “Ed Miliband with a knighthood.”


The vote today in the European parliament for its resolution on the UK-EU trade talks (see 11.47am) means there will be no special treatment for the City of London, an MEP has claimed. In a statement after the vote Sven Giegold, economic policy spokesman for the Greens/European Free Alliance group in the parliament, said:

The time for special treatment of the UK is over. The British government’s attempt to give its London financial centre permanent and comprehensive access to the European financial system for decades is audacious. The EU will not let the decision as to which British financial market rules are compatible with European rules be taken out of its hands. Equivalence is not a permanent subscription, but a revocable privilege. What already applies to all countries outside the single market will also apply to Britain. If the United Kingdom deviates from the European rules, it must expect to lose access to the European financial market.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner and Dawn Butler have backed a new trans rights charter that calls on Labour to expel “transphobic” members and describes campaigns including Woman’s Place UK as “trans-exclusionist hate groups”, my colleague Rowena Mason reports.

From HuffPost’s Paul Waugh

New: interview with @RLong_Bailey in which she commits firmly to Labour's manifesto pledges on
- higher tax rates on the rich
- ending the gender pay gap by 2030
- net zero emissions by 2030
- immediate suspension of arms sales to Saudi/Israel

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) February 12, 2020

Tory chair of Commons culture committee says BBC 'didn't quite understand' reasons behind Brexit

Julian Knight, the Conservative MP recently elected as chair of the Commons culture committee, told the World at One that he thought the BBC’s coverage of Brexit had been flawed. There had been “quite widespread disquiet over certain parts of the BBC’s coverage, for example over the Brexit referendum”, he said. Asked if he thought it was biased against Brexit, Knight said:

Well, I think that many people would say that they felt that the BBC maybe perhaps lost sight of the argument for those who wanted to leave. I speak as someone who campaigned for remain. But there are many people probably who felt that the BBC in its coverage didn’t quite understand the cross-currents that were going on in society.

Asked if he was a supporter of the continuation of the licence fee as a means of funding the BBC, Knight would only say that he was a supporter of public service broadcasting. He said that he wanted the culture committee to help to map out the future for public sector broadcasting. But he also expressed reservations about turning the BBC into a subscription service, saying he was concerned about this leading to viewers being excluded.

Julian Knight.
Julian Knight. Photograph: Chris McAndrew/UK Parliament

Boris Johnson says extradition treaty with US 'imbalanced'

And this is what Boris Johnson said at PMQs about the extradition treaty with the US being unfair. He was responding to Jeremy Corbyn, who said: “This lopsided treaty means the US can request extradition in circumstances that Britain cannot.” Johnson replied:

To be frank, I think [Corbyn] has a point in his characterisation of our extradition arrangements with the United States and I do think there are elements of that relationship that are imbalanced. I certainly think it is worth looking at.

In the Commons on Monday the Labour MP Janet Daby also suggested that it was hypocritical for the government to be deporting people to Jamaica for drug offences when “we have a prime minister who has said that he took cocaine, which is a class A drug”. She went on: “Is it one rule for some and another for others?”

Kevin Foster, the Home Office minister who was responding to an urgent question on the deportations, said:

It is safe to say that possession would not meet the threshold for deportation set in 2007.

Corbyn suggests Johnson's cocaine-using past makes deporting drug offenders to Jamaica hypocritical

Here are the key exchanges between Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson in which Corbyn suggested Johnson’s own drug-using made the deportation to the Caribbean hypocritical.

In his first question Corbyn asked:

Does the prime minister think that someone who came to this country at the age of five and was the victim of county lines grooming and compelled to carry drugs released five years ago and never re-offended deserves to be deported?

Johnson replied:

I think the whole country would agree that, while I cannot comment on individual cases, it is entirely right that foreign national offenders should be deported from this country in accordance with the law.

Then Corbyn went on:

The government has learned absolutely nothing from the Windrush scandal. This cruel and callous government is trying to mislead the British people into thinking its solely deporting foreign nationals who are guilty of murder, rape and other very serious offences.

This is clearly not the case. Take the case of a young black boy who came to the country aged five and is now being deported after serving time for a drugs offence.

If there was a case of a young white boy with blond hair who later dabbled in class A drugs and conspired with a friend to beat up a journalist, would he deport that boy, or is it one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for white boys from the United States?

And Johnson replied:

I think quite frankly that Mr Corbyn demeans himself and by the way he besmirches the reputation of the Windrush generation who came to this country to work in our public services, to teach our children in this country, to make lives better for people in this country.

He has no right to conflate them with those foreign national offenders that we are deporting today.


PMQs - Snap verdict

Many politicians are fond of quoting the Michelle Obama slogan: “When they go low, we go high”, and it could have been tailor-made for Jeremy Corbyn, who throughout his leadership of the Labour party has mostly stuck to his principle of never engaging in personal attacks. As my colleague Heather Stewart reported in an article about Labour’s general election campaign, when Corbyn was asked if he had managed to land a blow on Boris Johnson, he appeared horrified by the very notion. “I’m not a boxer!” he replied.

Well, today Corbyn did go low – and it worked. In a question about the deportation of foreign offenders to Jamaica this week, including some who first came to the UK when they were children, he referred to Johnson’s admission that he had taken cocaine in his youth, as well as the fact that when Johnson was a journalist he also agreed to provide information to a friend that would help him to arrange to have a reporter beaten up. (The conversation was recorded, and subsequently broadcast, although Johnson says he never did supply the information requested, and the planned assault never happened.) Corbyn asked Johnson:

If there was a case of a young white boy with blond hair who later dabbled in class A drugs and conspired with a friend to beat up a journalist, would he deport that boy, or is it one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for white boys from the United States?

(Johnson was born in the United States, and he had joint citizenship until only a few years ago, when he gave it up reportedly so that he was no longer liable for US tax.)

It would be wrong to say that the Corbyn question felled Johnson in one go. He responded by accusing Corbyn of demeaning himself, and going on to defend the deportations. But Johnson did appear embarrassed and discomforted; in PMQs terms, he took a hit.

Are there any wider lessons in this? Voters dislike gratuitous personal attacks on politicians, they appear to have close to zero interest in Johnson’s unconventional love life, and during the election repeated Lib Dem claims that Johnson was a “liar” bounced off without doing any harm. But Corbyn’s jibe today wasn’t gratuitous (he was making a reasonable point about double standards). Generally Corbyn, and other opposition MPs, have found it all-but-impossible to puncture Johnson’s iron-clad bonhomie, but perhaps this is how it can be done.

Otherwise the highlights from PMQs were probably Johnson’s surprise decision to agree with Corbyn’s point about the US extradition treaty being lopsided (at least, it seemed to come as a surprise to Corbyn - Tory libertarians have been going on about this for some years) and Johnson’s attack on the pay rise for peers. (See 12.22pm.)

Surprisingly, though, Johnson faced almost no questions about Brexit – even though only two days ago Michael Gove confirmed that there will be border checks on imports from the EU, contradicting repeated claims to the contrary made by Johnson and Gove when they were running Vote Leave. At just the point when Brexiters need to be held to account, MPs seem to be losing interest.


The DUP’s Ian Paisley asks the PM to end the witch hunt against police officers in Northern Ireland.

Johnson says he is well aware of this point. He says the government wants to end unjustified prosecutions.

Lee Anderson, a Conservative, asks if the PM agrees that Labour’s PFI schemes, like the ones that build a hospital in Ashfied, were a scandal.

Johnson does agree. He says these show how badly Labour runs the economy.

Seema Malhotra, the Labour MP, asks if the PM regrets cuts to Sure Start.

Johnson says record sums are now going into early years education. Under this government there is “robust, strong dynamic economy” that can fund these measures.

Martin Vickers, a Conservative, says HS2 will not help Cleethorpes. Will Johnson act to ensure Cleethorpes get a direct service to Kings Cross.

Johnson says the voice of Cleethorpes has been heard.

Jacob Young, a Conservative, asks about knife crime in Redcar.

Johnson says the government is putting police more on the streets to address this.

Sir Ed Davey, the Lib Dem acting leader, asks about bereavement support, and children who lost out because their parents were not married. The courts have ruled against this. When will the government respond, so that bereaved children do not lose out.

Johnson says Davey is right to draw attention to this injustice and “we will remedy it.”

Robert Courts, a Conservative, asks Johnson to pay tribute to the professionalism of Public Health England in dealing with coronavirus.

Johnson agrees. He says the NHS has done an outstanding job.

Asked about the Heathrow third runway, Johnson says he waits to see whether the various legal cases under way allow the promoters of the scheme to show that they can meet their obligations on air quality and noise pollution.


The SNP’s Richard Thomson asks about the intelligence and security committee report into Russia. Johnson says it will be published when the ISC is reconvened. But those of a suspicious frame of mind will be disappointed, he says.

Johnson criticises House of Lords over increased daily allowance for peers

The SNP’s Kirsten Oswald says the daily allowance for peers is due to rise to £323. Is that the levelling up that the PM talks about?

Johnson says he hates to agree with the SNP, but he does find this decision “odd”. But it is a decision for the House of Lords, he says.

  • Johnson criticises House of Lords over increased daily allowance for peers.


Asked about the flooding in the Calder Valley, Johnson pays tribute to the work of the emergency services and he agrees to visit the constituency.

Labour’s Gareth Thomas says his local hospital has not met its four-hour A&E target since 2014.

Johnson says the highest number of people ever attended A&E last month, 2 million. The demand is exceptional. The government is responding with a record investment, he says.


The SNP’s Deidre Block says a minister said last week that substandard food would be allowed into the UK from the US.

Johnson says the UK has and will continue to have the highest standards for food.

Labour’s Alex Norris asks about violence against shopworkers.

Johnson says he will agree to meet victims. We should not tolerate violence, he says. And so it is “paradoxical” that Corbyn opposes the deportation of serious offenders, he claims.

Ian Levy, a Conservative, asks if the PM will visit Blyth to see how suitable it would be for a freeport.

Johnson says Levy has made his point, but the allocation of freeports will be made in a fair way.

Labour’s Sharon Hodgson asks about plans to build a gasification plant in Sunderland. As a frequent visitor to Sunderland, Johnson must share her concerns, she jokes.

Johnson says he will look into this.

Labour’s Vicky Foxcroft says the youth violent commission will shortly publish a report saying short-term solutions do not work. Will the PM attend the launch?

Johnson says you need to do both (ie, address short-term and long-term solutions). He says he is putting 20.000 more police on the streets. Labour opposes giving the police extra powers, he says.

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, says in Syria refugee children are literally freezing to death.

Johnson says the UK leads the world in supporting humanitarian relief efforts in Syria. It has spent £3.2bn on this.

Blackford says he asked about children. He says the government has accepted President Assad’s rule in Syria. Is Johnson saying the UK government is washing its hands of the Syrian people.

Johnson says Blackford should consult his memory. The British government has continually called for Assad to stand down.

Paul Howell, a Conservative, asks about the government’s plans to put Ofcom in charge of regulating the internet.

Johnson says he wants to make the UK the safest place to be online.

Corbyn says the extradition relationship with the US is not balanced. Will Johnson make it so?

Johnson says Corbyn has a point. That is worth looking at. But he says this is not relevant to the Anne Sacoolas case.

Corbyn says the extradition treaty is relevant. He turns to Julian Assange, and says he is facing deportation to the US for exposing war crimes. Should this deportation be opposed?

Johnson says he won’t comment on any individual case. But he does support upholding the rights of journalists and whisteblowers.

Corbyn asks if Anne Sacoolas is being protected because she worked for the CIA.

Johnson says the government wants Sacoolas to return to the UK.

Corbyn asks if Johnson will sack the foreign secretary for protecting her.

Johnson says the government was not notified about Sacooolas’ role.

Jeremy Corbyn also expresses his sympathy for flood victims.

And he expresses sympathy for coronavirus vicitims. He says Chinese people are suffering appalling levels of racism.

Does the PM think someone who came to the UK at the age of five, who was made to carry drugs, and who was released five years ago deserves to be deported.

Johnson says he will not comment on individual cases, but foreign offenders should be removed, he says.

Corbyn says Johnson has leant nothing from Windrush. He quotes a case of a black boy who came to this country at five and got involved in drugs. What would happen if it were a white boy, with blond hair, who later took drugs and conspired to have a journalist beaten up, would he feel the same way?

Johnson says Corbyn demeans himself. He says Corbyn has no right to compared those being deported to the Windrush victims.

Julian Lewis, a Conservative, says the last combined security and defence review was bound by fiscal neutrality. That meant every extra pound for cyber security took money from conventional defence. Will the PM ensure that does not happen again?

Johnson says the integrated review he is holding will be the deepest since the war. Defence and security will be amply provided for, he says.

Boris Johnson starts by expressing sympathy for those affected by the weekend flooding.


PMQs is about to start.

Here is the list of MPs down to ask a question.

PMQs Photograph: HoC

Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general, has criticised the idea floated by Geoffrey Cox for MPs and peers to interview candidates for the supreme court, the Mirror’s Dan Bloom reports.

Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti on Geoffrey Cox's 'Canada-style' judge appointment hearings: "A bucket full of maple syrup won’t sweeten the threat that his far-right Government poses to the Rule of Law."

— Dan Bloom (@danbloom1) February 12, 2020

A public inquiry is being launched into the death of Jermaine Baker, who was shot by a police marksman during an attempt to free a prisoner, the home secretary, Priti Patel, has announced in a written statement. As the Press Association reports, Baker, 28, from Tottenham, north London, died from a single gunshot wound as the Metropolitan Police foiled a break-out attempt near Wood Green Crown Court on December 11 2015.


Here is my colleague Alex Hern’s story about the government’s plan to put Ofcom in charge of regulating the internet.

Yesterday the European parliament debated a lengthy resolution about the UK-EU trade talks saying that, if the UK wants a free trade deal, it should sign up to robust level playing field commitments. Although the debate was yesterday, the vote took place this morning. As the BBC’s Adam Fleming reports, it passed.

Just approved by European Parliament.

— Adam Fleming (@adamfleming) February 12, 2020

The resolution, which runs to 103 paragraphs, is here. My colleague Jennifer Rankin summarised it in a story last week. Here is an extract from what the resolution says:

For an FTA to truly promote the EU’s interests, the following objectives should be included in the negotiating directives:

(i) a level playing field is to be guaranteed through robust commitments and enforceable provisions on competition and state aid, relevant tax matters (including the fight against tax evasion, avoidance and money laundering), full respect of the social and labour standards (including equivalent levels of protection and safeguards against social dumping), environmental protection and climate change related standards, promotion of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a high-level protection of consumers and sustainable development; the provisions should ensure that standards are not lowered, while empowering both parties to modify commitments over time to lay down higher standards or include additional areas; commitments and provisions should be enforceable by autonomous interim measures, a solid dispute settlement mechanism and remedies, with a view to dynamic alignment.

And here Fleming’s summary of the resolution.

Crunching the European Parliament motion on the UK.
Where it calls for ALIGNMENT:
- Environment, labour & social, relevant tax, state aid policies
- Market surveillance of products/product standards
- COP26 position
- Carbon pricing policy
- EIB climate policies (1)

— Adam Fleming (@adamfleming) February 12, 2020

Rules which EP resolution says UK goods should FOLLOW for access to single market:
food safety, Genetically Modified Organisms, pesticides, GI's, animal welfare, labelling and traceability, sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards, and human, animal and plant health. (2)

— Adam Fleming (@adamfleming) February 12, 2020

Where EP resolution calls on UK to MAINTAIN or ADHERE:
- medical products, devices
- food safety, labelling
- veterinary, phytosanitary, and environmental policy and standards
- EU social model
- evolving standards on taxation and money laundering
- fishing quota shares (3)

— Adam Fleming (@adamfleming) February 12, 2020

Where EP resolution calls for UK not to go WEAKER/BELOW or stay EQUIVALENT:
- Common Fisheries Policy policies
- standards for prevention of transmission of diseases between animals and humans
- LOADS of stuff on environment & climate (eg emissions, environmental assessments)

— Adam Fleming (@adamfleming) February 12, 2020

Geoffrey Cox floats plan to let MPs and peers interview candidates for supreme court

Here are the main points from the Geoffrey Cox interview and Q&A at the Institute for Government this morning.

  • Cox, the attorney general, sought to quash fears that No 10 is planning “impetuous” moves to curtail the judiciary. The Conservative election manifesto committed the government to setting up a constitution commission to consider, among other things, limiting the scope of judicial review and today’s Times (paywall) claims the government wants to move quickly in the light of the way judicial review halted the deportation of 25 offenders to Jamaica yesterday. Yesterday Dominic Cummings, the PM’s chief adviser, reportedly told colleagues that the decision was “a perfect symbol of the British state’s dysfunction” and the Times says Johnson himself was also “furious” with the ruling. But Cox, who is expected to be sacked in tomorrow’s reshuffle, urged his judicial colleagues to ignore some of the more provocative briefing coming out of No 10. He confirmed that the commission would consider the extent to which judges were now taking decisions that should more properly be taken by politicians. But it would proceed carefully, he said. He explained:

I think that will require careful examination, measured, calibrated examination. There will be no rush, headlong, into impetuous reform. It will have to be examined quite carefully to see what are the proper contours and the proper balance between those who are elected decision makers and those who are not.

So colourful comments reported from those inside the government, whether they are accurate or not, I don’t think are going to affect the calm and deliberative way that this government will embark on the process of this review ...

There is going to be no headlong rush to curtail either the independence of the judiciary, or the legitimate function of the judiciary in making certain that the rule of law is upheld by the government. The question of reform here will be one that we will need to go into with great care.

  • He floated that idea of letting a parliamentary committee interview candidates for the supreme court. The government was not in favour of having politically appointed judges, he said, describing that proposal as “completely off the table”. But he said the proposed constitution commission might need to look at a system that operates in Canada, where a parliamentary committee interviews candidates for the supreme court. In the UK a joint committee of the Commons and the Lords could perform that same role, he suggested. He said there would have to be rules about what questions might be asked. He stressed that he was not personally advocating this system, but he said the commission might have to consider it, and he said the chief justice of Canada had recently described the system as indispensable to public confidence. He explained:

We are not going to be talking about a party-politically appointed set out judges.

However, I think there is a case for looking at how supreme court judges are appointed ... I would oppose US-style hearings. But I have to say that one of the things that is worth looking at in my view is how it’s done in Canada. In Canada now, for appointments to the supreme court, there is a committee of the Canadian parliament that will carry out interviews. In our country it could be a joint committee of the House of Lords and the House of Commons under clear guidance. There would be rules as to the questions that could be asked.

But what it would lend, potentially, is transparency to a position which, people have seen, has enormous power.

Now I’m not saying that that is something that I would support. But it’s something, I think, that the commission may need to look at ... The chief justice of Canada has recently commented that he now thinks that it is indispensable to public confidence in the supreme court of Canada.

  • But he also said he would like to stay in post as attorney general. (See 9.36am.)
  • He said cuts to the criminal justice system now needed to stop. (See 9.49am.)
  • He said he was personally in favour of a British bill of rights. He would not say whether or not the constitution commission would consider the case for one, but he said he supported the idea because he felt the public did not feel it had ownership of the European convention on human rights, which forms the basis of the Human Rights Act.
  • He defended the terrorist offenders (restriction of early release) bill being debated by MP today, saying there was “no illegality” in its provisions.
Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general.
Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general. Photograph: Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media via Getty Images


The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed that it is minded to put Ofcom in charge of policing online platforms. Here is the news release it has just issued, and here is the full document (a response to the consultation on the online harms white paper).

And here is my colleague Kevin Rawlinson’s overnight preview story.

Cox says the government has no intention of subjecting judges to US-style confirmation hearings, or making them political appointments.

Shapps says ban on sale of new petrol and diesel cars could be introduced from 2032

Last week Boris Johnson said that the government’s proposed ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars would be brought forward from 2040 to 2035.

But this morning Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said the ban could be imposed from 2032 - just 12 years away. In an interview with Radio 5 Live he said a consultation on the plan - part of the government’s drive to tackle the climate crisis - would include 2032 as a possible cut-off date. Referring to the proposed ban on the sale of cars with internal combustion engines, he said:

The prime minister last week has said we would like to do that by 2035 at the latest. We have said 2035 or even 2032.

Shapps, who drives an electric car, said the government was investing around £1.5bn infrastructure for the shift away from petrol and diesel.

We have domestic car producers and we want to help them to transition so we are doing a lot of work - in fact tomorrow I’m meeting with the car manufacturers on this very subject.

As the Press Association reports, Shapps said there were “now more public charging locations than petrol stations in this country” and “electric cars are coming and we want to help the country transition”.

Q: Do you think you should have opposition figures on the proposed constitutional commission?

Cox says the last time something similar happened was when Tony Blair was PM. He does not remember much consultation on those changes.

But he says he does favour public consultation.

The commission will be looking at specific changes, he says. It will not range broadly.

The government has a mandate, he says. But he says it should consult.

Q: Are you worried that the terrorist offenders (restriction of early release) bill being debated today sets a worrying precedent, because it will retrospectively alter the way sentences apply?

Cox says he fully supports the bill. He says it is legal. He says it does not violate the Human Rights Act.

There is a “plain public interest” in this change being made, he says.

Q: Have cuts to the justice system gone to far?

Cox says he does not think he can say this. He says cuts to the justice system were part of an overall economic policy that he thought was necessary.

But he says the time has come now where the cuts have got to stop. He thinks that is happening. The largest ever settlement given to the Crown Prosecution Service was given to it last year.

Q: Would it concern you if you lost your job because of your refusal to do party politics?

Cox says it is up to the PM to choose his team. But if he were to lose his job, he does not think that that would be the reason.

Q: The Conservative manifesto says you want to curtail judicial review. But if someone wins a judicial review case, does that not show that it is justified?

Cox says there will be “no headlong rush” to curtail judicial review. But there is a concern that courts are increasingly taking decisions that should be taken by politicians.

He says Lord Sumption, the former supreme court justice, has recently made this argument.

He says it will be difficult getting this balance right. That is what the constitutional commission being set up by the government will look at.

Geoffrey Cox says he would like to stay as attorney general

Cox is now taking questions.

Q: Your speech sounded valedictory. Are you on your way out? (There has been a lot of speculation about Cox facing the sack in tomorrow’s reshuffle.)

Cox says ever since he took the attorney general’s job he has expected to be out soon. For much of the time the government was in a minority.

But if asked if he had had enough of the job that answer is “absolutely not”, he says.

Geoffrey Cox speaks at Institute for Government

Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, is speaking at an Institute for Government event. There is a live feed here.

Catherine Haddon from the IfG has some highlights from what he has said so far.

Cox says it’s ‘fundamental’ the AG upholds rule of law.

That Ministerial Code says the AG must be consulted, that the AG has the final word.

That it’s vital the AG is
‘a clear and uncompromising defender’ of not only the letter or the law but also the spirit. #ifgAttorney

— Dr Catherine Haddon (@cath_haddon) February 12, 2020

Cox says the AG can therefore find himself in an uncomfortable clash with politics. But must not massage or improve their advice for party politics...#ifgattorney

— Dr Catherine Haddon (@cath_haddon) February 12, 2020

Cox not being drawn on details of his advice over prorogation or over complying with law over Benn Act.

Conceded that on prorogation it turned out that it was not lawful. But the govt had acted in good faith that it thought that it was.#IfGAttorney

— Dr Catherine Haddon (@cath_haddon) February 12, 2020

GC: In the last 19 months I have endeavored to advise on what I took to be the law, and that the government should obey the law - and as far as I am concerned that the government has obeyed the law.#IfGAttorney

— IfG events (@ifgevents) February 12, 2020

Cox says it was damaging to have his advice on May deal made public because he will ‘tailor’ or ‘frame’ advice to answer ‘the unfolding debate in Cabinet’. ‘That may mean I’ve expressed my advice in a particular way or particular language’#IfGAttorney

— Dr Catherine Haddon (@cath_haddon) February 12, 2020

On future Commission. Says it goes beyond just judicial review and questions whether the ‘judicialisation’ of politics has gone too far. ‘That will require careful examination, measured’, should be no headlong rush to make hasty changes.#IfGAttorney

— Dr Catherine Haddon (@cath_haddon) February 12, 2020

Voters in 'red wall' seats won by Tories to lose out disproportionately from universal credit, report finds

At the general election Boris Johnson dozens of so-called “red wall” seats that had previously been Labour for decades and he has made it clear that he believes that, as a result, the Conservative party he leads has been transformed. The Resolution Foundation, a thinktank specialising in policy affecting living standards and inequality, has today published a study of what is now the “blue wall” - the 50 seats that the Conservatives won from Labour in the North East and West, Yorkshire and the Humber, the East and West Midlands, and Wales.

And there is at least one finding that ought to cause some concern in No 10. According to the Resolution Foundation, people in those constituencies that “lent” Johnson their vote are likely to lose out disproportionately from the switch to universal credit. The report says:

Alongside other parts of the North, Midlands and Wales, the blue wall is more exposed to changes in welfare policy. Working-age benefit spending in the blue wall, at £2,300 per working-age person, is much higher than in other Conservative areas (£1,600) and only slightly lower than in Labour seats (£2,500). This is driven by disability spending and in-work benefit spending, which are similar to levels in Labour areas. As a result, the blue wall will have been more exposed to the impact of reduced working-age welfare generosity in recent years, compared to other Conservative areas.

Universal credit (UC) – the government’s flagship welfare reform – will also have different impacts on those living in different regions of the country. Across the North of England, the Midlands, and Wales, 48 per cent of eventual UC claimants will be made worse off by the switch from legacy benefits to UC. This compares to 41 per cent of claimants being made worse off across the East, the South East and London, and reflects factors including UC’s (well-intentioned) relative generosity towards working families with high rents having less impact in areas where rents are low.

Some specific examples of families based on rents and earnings levels in different political geographies bring this point home. An illustrative young single parent in the blue wall working 18 hours per week is likely to be £280 per year worse off under UC compared to legacy benefits, compared to £170 worse off in other Conservative areas and £180 worse off in Labour seats. A dual earning, working couple with children is likely to be £530 better off under UC in the Blue Wall, whereas a similar family is set to be £2,760 better off in other Conservative seats.

Overall, the blue wall’s relatively high exposure to benefit cuts, and higher likelihood of losing out from the switch to UC, mean it represents a very different welfare environment to that in other Conservative areas.

You can read the report in full here (pdf) and the Resolution Foundation’s summary here. And here is a write-up from my colleague Richard Partington.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9am: Geoffrey Cox, the attorney general, speaks at an event at the Institute for Government.

Morning: Nicky Morgan, the culture secretary, publishes a written statement on the government’s plans to give Ofcom a role in policing online platforms.

12pm: Boris Johnson faces Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs.

After 12.30pm: MPs begin debating the emergency terror bill, the terrorist offenders (restriction of early release) bill.

As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to post a summary when I wrap up.

You can read all the latest Guardian politics articles here. Here is the Politico Europe roundup of this morning’s political news. And here is the PoliticsHome list of today’s top 10 must-reads.

If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter.



Andrew Sparrow and Kevin Rawlinson

The GuardianTramp

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