UK will end up like Russia if it ignores European court of human rights obligations, Sunak told – as it happened

Last modified: 05: 07 PM GMT+0

President of Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly says UK faces exclusion if it choses to ignore its obligations. This live blog is now closed

Early evening summary

  • Rishi Sunak has claimed that the UK is in a good position to persuade the European court of human rights to amend its procedures to make it easier for the UK government to implement its Rwanda policy for refugees. (See 5.21pm.) He was speaking in Iceland, as he arrived for a Council of Europe summit where he will push for changes, particularly to the ECHR’s rule 39 injunction process. But the Icelandic government, which is hosting the summit, has played down the prospect of Sunak getting the agreement he wants at the meeting. (See 3.39pm.) And the president of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly has said the UK could end up like Russia if it just ignores court rulings, as the government wants to give itself the ability to do. (See 5.36pm.)

Rishi Sunak speaks with the media at the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík, where a Council of Europe summit is taking place.
Rishi Sunak speaks with the media at the Harpa concert hall in Reykjavík, where a Council of Europe summit is taking place. Photograph: Alastair Grant/PA


UK will end up like Russia if it ignores ECHR obligations, Council of Europe parliamentary leader tells Sunak

Rishi Sunak’s hopes of using this week’s summit in Iceland to pave the way for change to the European court of human rights’ power to block migrant deportation flights from Britain to Rwanda will get a cold reception, a European politician who will meet him there has warned.

Tiny Kox, the Dutch senator who is president of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, told the Guardian that Britain could end up like Russia and face exclusion if it chose to ignore obligations to abide by the Strasbourg-based court.

Sunak, who is in Iceland for the first Council of Europe summit in 15 years, is to call for a reform of the ECHR’s rule 39, which was used to issue last-minute injunctions to ground the flights of migrants to Rwanda last year.

The government has said it is amending the illegal migration bill, which is currently going through parliament, to include a provision allowing the home secretary to ignore rule 39 injunctions.

But Kox told the Guardian:

I think the British government knows there is no opt-out of your European court of human rights, which has been signed and ratified decades ago and which has brought a lot of good things to Britain’s judicial system and the protection of its citizens.

We are not a cafeteria, where you can ask for the verdict of the court that suits you.

Suella Braverman, the home secretary, told a selected group of government-friendly papers during a visit to Rwanda earlier this year that she was “encouraged” by what she said were the UK government’s “constructive” talks with Strasbourg to overhaul court injunctions.

But, echoing the views of legal experts in Britain who have cast doubt on the UK’s claims of “possible reforms”, Kox suggested any move by Britain to back away from the treaty that established the court would “harm” British citizens. He said:

If London decided to leave the convention, it would be in the same situation as the Russian federation, which we had to exclude from our obligation because of its violations of international law.


Sunak insists UK well placed to achieve reform of European court of human rights to help 'stop the boats' mission

Rishi Sunak is in Iceland, where he has given an interview to broadcasters before the Council of Europe summit. The Icelandic government, which is hosting the summit, has played down the prospect of the UK achieving the change to the European court of human rights that it wants at the meeting. (See 3.39pm.) But when Sunak was asked if he was really likely to achieve change, which he says the UK needs so that it can implement its Rwanda policy for asylum seekers, the PM insisted it had persuaded the ECHR to make changes in the past.

He said the court itself is reviewing its rule 39 process – the mechanism that was used to halt a flight to Rwanda last year. UK ministers have been talking to the court about this, he said. He went on:

When it comes to the European court in particular, it was the UK that led reforms previously, something called the Brighton declaration, which meant that the process was changed previously. We’ll be building on that going forward. So, yes, we have a track record of seeing change happen …

One of my priorities for the country is to stop the boats. We’re going to do absolutely everything we can to do that. That’s about working with other countries. That’s why I’m here in Iceland.

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak. Photograph: Sky News


'Not for EU' labels to start appearing on British food products from autumn, Cleverly tells peers

“Not for EU” labelling on British food products sold across the UK will be phased in gradually from this autumn, James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, has told peers.

As PA Media reports, Cleverly told a Lords committee that during negotiations with retailers before the signing of the Windsor framework, UK-wide labelling was identified as the preferred option. The labelling requirement is part of the government’s deal with the EU to reduce checks on British products entering Northern Ireland.

Cleverly said that while autumn was the starting point for the plan, it would be phased in over a couple of years. He explained:

We have been talking about this for quite some time, including in the command paper in 2021, so this shouldn’t really be a surprise to the retail sector.

Of course they will want to have details about size and prominence and I will get details about exactly how and when.

It is not just a sudden start, we have been talking about this for a couple of years and it won’t be fully implemented for another couple of years.

I am not a retailer, I don’t want to imply simplicity when there might be complexity, but this is something we discussed extensively with the retail sector, including those who said that labelling would be a good way of ensuring their products would be available in GB, not just in Northern Ireland.

James Cleverly giving evidence to the Lords protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland sub-committee.
James Cleverly (2nd L) giving evidence to the Lords protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland sub-committee. Photograph: House of Lords/Annabel Moeller


Suella Braverman 'deeply unpopular with British public', says polling firm

Suella Braverman’s speech at the NatCon conference yesterday got a positive write-up in some of the rightwing papers this morning. But the home secretary remains “deeply unpopular with the British public”, according to the polling firm, YouGov. It has sent out this summary of its latest findings.

New polling by YouGov reveals that home secretary, Suella Braverman, remains deeply unpopular with the British public as her net favourability score falls to -38, down from -35 at the start of last week.

Just 14% of Britons have a favourable view of Braverman, while half (52%) have an unfavourable view, giving her a net score of -38. Among those who voted Conservative in the 2019 general election, her net score is -14.

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, also has a negative net favourability score among the general public. Three in 10 Brits (31%) have a favourable view of Sunak, while six in ten (59%) have an unfavourable view of him. This gives the prime minister a net score of -28, virtually unchanged from the -29 he scored last week (5-9 May).

The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has a net favourability score of -16 among the public. This is up three points from 5-9 May when he scored -19.

Latest politician favourability figures (14-15 May)

Keir Starmer: 35% (+2 from 5-9 May)
Rishi Sunak: 31% (=)
Jeremy Hunt: 18% (+1)
Suella Braverman: 14% (-3)

— YouGov (@YouGov) May 16, 2023


Gambling addiction affects children of addicts too, MPs told

Children are likely to be among those needing support through some of the most extreme effects of gambling addiction, a leading charity has told MPs looking into the government’s recently released gambling white paper.

Matthew Hickey, the chief executive of the Gordon Moody Association, which runs residential treatment programmes for adults with the most severe cases of gambling disorder, said his organisation would need to start looking into how it will also start to treat children.

He said they are among the “affected-others” harmed by their parents’ and guardians’ gambling addictions, telling the Commons culture committee:

That will never be a residential treatment pathway, it will be something during holidays, something during weekends.

What’s more important here though, is children as affected-others. A number of our clients will say that they have become an addict because they saw their parent as a gambling addict. It was learned behaviour because dad did it, dad went into the bookies. Or we went into the pub and, from the age of seven, I was allowed to go on the fruit machines in the pub.

He added:

Yes, we will see a lot of children affected by gaming and younger people gambling, but we’ll see even more as affected-others because of the effects that parents have had on them.

He spoke as NHS England published a survey suggesting nearly one in five people gambling online either have a problem or are at risk.

The first public survey carried out since start of the Covid pandemic shed light on the proportion of people aged 16 and over who are problem gamblers or engaging in risky gambling behaviour.

While a smaller proportion of people in the 16-34 age group had gambled in the past year (excluding lotteries) than people in older age brackets, the young were the most likely to bet online.


Liz Truss, the former Tory PM, has arrived in Taiwan, where she will be giving a speech tomorrow morning local time (or middle of the night UK time) showing support for the country in the face of the threat it faces from China. This is from the Taiwanese foreign affairs ministry.

Minister Wu warmly welcomed @trussliz following the former #UK🇬🇧 PM’s arrival in #Taiwan🇹🇼! Her continued support of our democracy & #TaiwanStrait stability is highly appreciated by the government & people. We look forward to stimulating dialogues with the MP over her 5-day stay.

— 外交部 Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ROC (Taiwan) 🇹🇼 (@MOFA_Taiwan) May 16, 2023

NFU president welcomes outcome of Sunak's food security summit

Perhaps surprisingly, considering the tough line the National Farmers’ Union has been taking on this government over labour and trade deal, Rishi Sunak’s food summit appears to have been somewhat of a success.

He faced a rather hostile room, amid post-Brexit agricultural worker shortages, sky-high input costs, profiteering supermarkets and trade deals undercutting British farmers.

However, Minette Batters, the president of the NFU, told the Guardian that she was quite pleased with how the day went, suggesting Sunak had U-turned on his previous policy agenda of prioritising trade deals. She said:

I think the prime minister set out a very different agenda on taking domestic food security seriously. We had some very constructive and focused breakout sessions, and on trade he’s happy to take a very tough line with Canada and Mexico.

It’s also good to see it in black and white that is not now, or ever, with hormone-treated beef or chlorine-washed chicken.

Martin Lines, chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, was at the summit. He said afterwards that although some of what was said about the future was positive, the government still needed to do more to address labour shortages now. He said:

They have committed to the same level of seasonal workers for next year, with a possible uplift looking forward, and also investment in automated picking technologies.

A lot of what we heard today …. [was] welcome, but there is little actual sorting out the issues within the supply chain and the problems we have with labour today.

We need a lot of [workers] to stay for nine months, not six months, and we would like repeat visits by the same people who we train up to be skilled. This is a good first step but we do need to focus on the short-term issues.

Minette Batters, the NFU president, talking to journalists in Downing Street today.
Minette Batters, the NFU president, talking to journalists in Downing Street today. Photograph: James Manning/PA

Gove says Tories will not win next election with culture wars

Conservatives need to recognise that elections are won on economics and public services rather than culture wars, Michael Gove has warned. Peter Walker has the story here.


Iceland's foreign minister plays down prospect of Sunak getting ECHR reform agreed at Council of Europe summit

Downing Street has said that Rishi Sunak will use the Council of Europe meeting in Iceland this evening to push for action to end “the humanitarian disaster caused by illegal migration”. In particular, Sunak will argue for reform to the European court of human rights’ rule 39 (see 10.08am), where No 10 says the court is “open” to change (see 1.43pm).

But Thordis Gylfadóttir, the Icelandic foreign minister, told Radio 4’s the World at One that the summit, which her government is hosting, would not be focusing much on immigration. She said:

This summit has not a big focus on that. The biggest focus is, of course, Ukraine, and then other issues such as AI and environment and other things. So this summit doesn’t have a big focus on migration in general.

She also said reform of rule 39 would not be agreed at the summit. She said:

The leaders are reconfirming their commitment to the common human rights protection system and in particular, the court is a cornerstone of our protection system.

But the next two days, the time we have we are not using to reform certain articles in the court.

Pressed on whether there would be discussions on Sunak’s call for changes to rule 39, she said:

I believe that there will be a discussion on it, but there will not be I think a real concrete outcome on reforming certain articles.

Thordis Gylfadottir.
Thordis Gylfadóttir. Photograph: Oleksandr Gimanov/AFP/Getty Images


The i’s Paul Waugh has more from Michael Gove’s appearance at the NatCon conference.

Asked to list the key Conservative achievements of the past 13 years, @michaelgove says: Universal Credit, his school reform, vocational education, a creative economy, more diverse Parliament, science policy, Ukraine, levelling up...

Strangely no mention of Brexit?

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) May 16, 2023

But here's an admission from @michaelgove
"It is increasingly difficult to get on the properly ladder".

Narrator: Michael Gove is the Secretary of State for Housing.

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) May 16, 2023

Gove added that the PM had asked him "explicitly" to "look at" the problems faced by first time buyers

— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) May 16, 2023

The government will not be renegotiating any parts of the Windsor framework despite the continuing protests by unionist groups, James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, has told a Lords committee.

In answer to a question by from the Ulster Unionist peer Lord Empey about the prospects of more talks, Cleverly replied said: “It’s a very simple answer [to] that one overall, which is ‘no’.”

Lord Dodds, the former DUP leader in the Commons, expressed anger that the government still had not published the list of EU laws that would apply in Northern Ireland even though they had relied on claims of a vast reduction to “whip up” support for the framework. He asked:

Why won’t you give us the list? Is is because you are afraid of the criticism that might be coming forth?

Cleverly replied there were “thousands of laws” that disapplied and he was very “proud” of the fact that they got the EU to recognise the starting point was “zero pages” of laws applying in NI. “Far from saying we are embarrassed, the opposite is true,” he said

Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, has told the NatCon conference that he does not think figures out later this month will show net immigration reached 1 million last year.

A report last week quoted a thinktank forecast saying the figure could be between 650,000 and 997,000.

Asked about the 1 million figure, Gove said:

I don’t think it will reach those figures.

But you are right, if we are looking at pressure on housing, you need to look at it in the round. So, Britain has always been a country that has benefited from people of talent arriving here and people fleeing persecution.

The numbers recently have been at a level where there is an inevitable pressure on housing and on public services.

Gove also said a “critical part of Brexit” was being able to “say this is the level of migration we as a country believe is right” and establishing that “there is a limit”.

Michael Gove at the NatCon conference.
Michael Gove at the NatCon conference. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images


Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, has been taking part in a Q&A at the NatCon conference. There is no live feed, but Peter Walker is there, and he has been tweeting.

It’s Gove time at NatCon. Rather than a speech, he’s being interviewed by the Telegraph’s Madeleine Grant, whose opening question - I précis slightly - is, ‘What’s a nice minister like you doing in a place like this?’ He waffles a touch in response.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) May 16, 2023

Michael Gove is, I think the phrase goes, talking around the subject in his answers. It’s his specialist talent of Political Just A Minute: talk for 45 mins with as much deviation and repetition as you want, but without creating any news at all.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) May 16, 2023

Gove effectively confirms that his department will not get rid of leaseholds. Asked if this is the plan, he says the idea is to reduce leaseholds “to a homeopathic element in the UK property market".

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) May 16, 2023

Madeleine Grant is trying to pin down Gove on the fact that, as she puts it, many younger people see Conservatism as a project dedicated to supporting older people. Gove goes into full Just A Minute obfuscation/deflection mode.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) May 16, 2023

In the Commons the Labour MP Dawn Butler suggested that it might be appropriate for the police to investigate claims that the government changed voting law for its own electoral advantage.

In a point of order, Butler said she was “deeply troubled” by what Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Tory former cabinet minister, said yesterday about the government law requiring voters to have photo ID amounting to gerrymandering. She said this implied that ministers misled the country when they described their motives in passing the Elections Act. She went on:

It is deeply concerning to see the blatant, could-be politicisation of policy and organisation intended to ensure the fairness and security of our democratic process …

The justification for the policy was to combat voter fraud. It seems to me there’s a real possibility that the only fraud could be this government.

Butler asked Dame Rosie Winterton, the deputy speaker who was in the chair, if she should report this matter to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, or to the police.

In response, Winterton said that if Butler did intend to report this to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, or to the police, she should not be raising it in the chamber. She also said Butler had put her concerns on the record, and that they would have been heard by the government.


Council of Europe 'open' to reforming European court of human rights' rule 39, says No 10

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson said that, when Rishi Sunak pushes for reforms of the European court of human rights’ rule 39 at the Council of Europe summit later (see 10.08am), he expects to get support. The spokesperson said:

On rule 39, we believe that the rule 39 system doesn’t currently meet a reasonable standard of natural justice. It’s why we’ve had discussions with Strasbourg and others about reforms to ensure proper transparency and rights to challenge and appeal. We know they are open to that. They’re carrying out their own review on rule 39. It’s a conversation the prime minister will be continuing today.


Pat Cullen tells RCN conference that, while Steve Barclay is not reopening pay negotiations, he has invited her for talks

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, has invited Pat Cullen, the leader of the Royal College of Nursing, to meet him – to talk, but not to negotiate about nurses’ pay.

Cullen surprised delegates at the nursing union’s annual conference in Brighton today by revealing that Barclay had contacted her to suggest they meet.

Government ministers “might even be watching [our] congress”, Cullen told the 3,000-strong audience. “I’ll tell you why. Who emailed me last night at nine o’clock?”

To cheers from delegates, she said: “The health secretary wants to see me.”

However, she qualified the terms of the meeting by adding:

Colleagues, this is not about negotiations, but it is important that I go and tell him again why many of you voted to reject the pay offer.

The RCN and Unite were among four health unions whose members in England rejected a pay deal covering 2022-23 and 2023-24 that eight other unions, and the NHS staff council, accepted. Nurses voted 54%/46% to reject it on a 61% turnout.

Barclay has ruled out reopening negotiations about the deal and plans to impose it on members of unions that rejected it.

The RCN will next week start balloting members in England for a second time over their willingness to strike, seeking a fresh mandate for a further six months of stoppages.

If they get the minimum 50% turnout and 50% approval required under trade union law then the next series of walkouts would affect every NHS trust in England, as opposed to roughly half that were hit by the first stoppages, the union has said.


My colleague Peter Walker has been at the NatCon conference again this morning. Here are some of his tweets.

Now we are having a fairly… robust speech from Kevin Roberts of US think tank the Heritage Foundation, who has already favourably compared Brexit and the Tories to Donald Trump and Viktor Orban, which might not 100% thrill all his UK audience.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) May 16, 2023

Roberts has repeatedly referred to left wing politicians as "globalists", a term which is associated with far right and antisemitic conspiracy theories.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) May 16, 2023

Roberts argues that the left detests the nation state, democracy, the famkly, dissent, "and even objective truth", all of which might be news to some Labour MPs.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) May 16, 2023

Roberts introduces a concept called the "woke industrial complex", which seems to be another way to refer to "globalists". He's used this term about a dozen times.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) May 16, 2023

To stress the point: a conference attended by two UK cabinet ministers and various other Tory MPs and large numbers of other UK figures from the right has heard a keynote speech filled with terms associated with the far right and antisemitic conspiracy theories.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) May 16, 2023

UPDATE: PA Media has filed some more quotes from the speech by Kevin Roberts, chair of the Heritage Foundation.

This is what he said about the left.

This new left is not in competition, it is at war with the West, with the moral, intellectual and social foundations on which our entire civilisation rests.

Which is why it reserves a singular hatred for the kind of conservatism represented by Donald Trump and [Florida governor] Ron DeSantis, by Brexit, by (Hungarian president) Viktor Orban, and yes by this conference.

And this is what he said about the EU.

Today the EU embodies the cultural chauvinism, spiritual decadence, strategic incompetence, and tyrannical ambition that have hurried the continent into chaos for millennia.

Its systematic assault on member nations’ sovereignty, to say nothing of their diverse cultures, identities and faith, is already tearing Europe apart and pushing it toward the brink.

They think because they rule by pen and microphone, they are kinder and gentler than their gauche martinet predecessors who led armies and navies. They’re not. They’re just as imperialistic, ambitious, megalomaniacal and authoritarian as any of the bullies they hope to succeed.

The only good news is that they’re weaker than those who failed before them.


Tories have allowed UK to become home for 'dirty money', SNP claims

Alison Thewliss, the SNP MP who tabled the urgent question about Javad Marandi (see 12.48pm), said the BBC legal victory allowing it to name Marandi was “a victory for transparency and freedom of the press, in a battle often weighted in favour of wealthy oligarchs”.

She said she was under a duty to say Marandi denied any wrongdoing. His lawyers emailed her just five minutes before the UQ, she said. But she said the National Crime Agency had found that “companies linked to Mr Mirandi played a crucial part in the money-laundering network known as the Azerbaijani Laundromat”.

She said it has been reported that $2.9bn has been stolen from the people of Azerbaijan. She went on:

The UK must not be a home for the world’s dirty money but has become so under the Tories.

Thewliss said she was raising the case because Marandi was linked to companies registered to a mailbox in her Glasgow Central constituency.

She said Marandi had donated £756,300 to the Conservative party while the laundromat investigation was going on. That secured access to the Conservative leadership group, she said. She claimed it was “part of a wider effort, no doubt, of reputation laundering”.

She asked when Chris Philp, the policing minister, became aware of this case, what action he had taken, and what influence Marandi had secured in return for his donations.

In response Philp said that he did not know anything about Marandi until earlier today, when he was briefed on the case.

But he confirmed that the government was committed to legislating against so-called Slapps – strategic lawsuits against public participation.

And in response to the questions about donations, Philp said he did not know anything about those. But he said it was dangerous for the SNP to raise issues relating to donations given their own funding difficulties at this point.


In the Commons Chris Philp, the policing minister, has just responded to the SNP urgent question asking for “a statement on the implications of the National Crime Agency’s investigation into Mr Javad Marandi”. The UQ was prompted by a BBC report claiming that Marandi, a major donor to the Conservative party, has companies that were part of a global money laundering investigation. Marandi strongly denies wrongdoing.

Philp said the government did not and could not comment on investigations undertaken by law enforcement operations.

But he said UK electoral law has “stringent” rules controlling who can donate to political parties. He said donations had to be transparent, and from permissible donors.

He said the government had taken “significant steps” to strengthen the integrity of elections in the Elections Act, including strengthening the law in relation to donations.

He also said the government was committed to fighting corruption.


No 10 rejects Nigel Farage's claim that Brexit has failed

At the Downing Street lobby briefing the PM’s spokesperson also said (unsurprisingly) that Rishi Sunak did not agree with Nigel Farage’s statement about Brexit having been a failure because of “useless” Tory politicians. (See 11.52pm.) The spokesperson went on:

The prime minister has talked about the benefits of Breixt on a number of occasion.

Just thinking about farming alone [a topic in the briefing, because of the No 10 food summit], we’re talking about some of the benefits that moving away from the bureaucratic cap, which skewed money towards the largest landowners, 50% going to the largest 10%, we now have a fairer system tailored to British farmers post Brexit.

And on the issue of being able to use gene-editing technology to mimic the natural breeding process, to help farmers grow more nutritious, more productive crops – those are just two examples in one sector of the benefits the public and UK businesses are enjoying.

Asked if Sunak thought Brexit had been a success, the spokesperson replied: “Yes.” He said he had highlighted some of the benefits. But he also said the global economic situation was creating challenges for the British economy.


No 10 rejects claim from Tory MP saying families with mothers and fathers staying together 'only basis for safe society'

Yesterday, at the NatCon conference, the Conservative MP Danny Kruger said that a conventional family, with the mother and father staying together for the sake of the children, was “the only basis for a safe and functioning society”.

The normative family, the mother and father sticking together for the sake of the children, is the only basis for a safe and functioning society.

Marriage is not only about you, it's a public act to live for the sake of someone else.

-MP @danny__kruger at #NatConUK

— National Conservatism (@NatConTalk) May 15, 2023

At the Downing Street lobby briefing this morning the PM’s spokesperson said that, just because some ministers were speaking at the NatCon event, that did not mean the government was endorsing all the views expressed there.

Asked specifically if the PM agreed with Kruger about a “normative family” being the only basis for a “safe and functioning society”, the spokesperson replied: “No.”

Asked if the PM was comfortable about one of his MPs saying something like this, the spokesperson said he had not spoken to Rishi Sunak about this. But he said the government was proud of its record on family policy. (He did not elaborate on what he meant by this, but he may have been referring to policies like equal marriage, which was introduced when the Conservatives were in coalition with the Liberal Democrats.)


'Brexit has failed', says Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage, the former Ukip and Brexit party leader, told Newsnight last night: “Brexit has failed.” This is significant because Farage is one of three people about whom it could reasonably be argued that, without them, Brexit would not have happened. (Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings would be the other two, but you might also include David Cameron, even though he opposed Brexit, on the grounds that he allowed the referendum to happen.)

In his interview, Farage said he did not accept that Britain would have been better off if it had remained in the EU. But he claimed that Brexit had been a failure because the government had failed to take advantage of the potential benefits, and said that policies like higher corporation tax were driving away business. He said:

What Brexit has proved, I’m afraid, is that our politicians are about as useless as the commissioners in Brussels. We’ve mismanaged this totally …

Brexit has failed … We’ve not delivered on borders, we’ve not delivered on Brexit and the Tories have let us down very, very badly.

‘Brexit has failed’ GB News presenter Nigel Farage admits after he is read a list of negative facts about the UK economy

— BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) May 15, 2023


Tory MP John Hayes tells NatCon conference west faces 'profound crisis' over ability of nation state to deliver for people

In her speech to the NatCon conference yesterday Suella Braverman claimed conservatives were natural optimists, while those on the left were prone to gloom and pessimism. She said:

[Conservatism is] a politics of optimism, pride, national unity, aspiration, and realism. The left’s is a politics of pessimism, guilt, national division, resentment, and utopianism.

But, judging by some of the other speeches given to the conference, it is the Tory right who are given to alarmism. In her speech to the conference yesterday the Conservative MP Miriam Cates, claimed that falling birth rates were a threat to “the whole of western society” and that “cultural Marxism … is systematically destroying our children’s souls”.

And this morning Sir John Hayes, who chairs the Common Sense group of Tory MPs and who is one of Braverman’s key ideological allies, delivered a speech with even more declinism. Here are some extracts.

  • Hayes claimed the western world faced a “profound crisis” over the ability of nation states to deliver for the people. He said:

The western world faces a profound crisis –

Although it is often understood as such, in truth this crisis is not just political, economic nor social or even simply a combination of them all.

It is a fundamental crisis of efficacy – the ability of the nation state to deliver for its people.

  • He claimed that a split “as chilling as anything envisioned by Marx” had come to pass. He said:

At times it is almost as if the reality itself has been bifurcated.

That what the establishment envisage and what people actually experience have become two very different things.

A dialectic as clear and as chilling as anything envisioned by Marx has come to pass.

(I am quoting from the text sent out to journalists. What this actually means is something of a mystery, although Hayes is clearly saying this is a Bad Thing.)

  • He said the Tories have failed to dismantle the constitutional legacy of Blairism.

That Conservatives have failed to dismantle the destructive machinery of Blair’s failed constitutional experiment is largely the result of timidity – a failure to do what is truly conservative.

UPDATE: PA Media has filed more extracts from the speech that were not included in the text sent out in advance. Hayes said:

You know, as I do, that the solution is to be found in conservatism. But not in the desiccated, hollowed-out, sugar-free conservatism deemed to be just about acceptable by our liberal masters.

Too many conservatives opt out of conflict, instead seeking the approval of the very establishment which wants to grind them into the dust.

No, we must look to a genuine, authentic, time-honoured, true conservatism, free from the lonely individualism and selfish materialism of liberalism.

John Hayes speaking at the NatCon conference this morning.
John Hayes speaking at the NatCon conference this morning. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images


Today the BBC is reporting that Javad Marandi, a businessman whose foreign companies were part of a global money laundering investigation, is a major donor to the Conservative party. Marandi, who strongly denies wrongdoing and who is not subject to criminal sanctions, has been named after losing a legal battle with the BBC to protect his anonymity.

There will be an urgent question on the case at 12.30pm, tabled by the SNP MP Alison Thewliss. According to the Commons authorities, she has tabled a question asking a Home Office minister to make a statement “on the implications of the National Crime Agency’s investigation into Mr Javad Marandi”.


Labour dismisses Sunak's food security summit as 'little more than stunt'

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called on the government to halt rocketing food prices, as Rishi Sunak holds a summit with farmers and producers in Downing Street today.

Analysis by Labour of the government’s statistical dataset of the average price of wholesale home-grown vegetables shows that British-grown tomatoes now cost 67% more than they did at the same time in 2019. In the 19th week of 2019 the average wholesale price for a kilogram of cherry tomatoes cost £1.79; the latest price in May 2023 stands at £3.

The rocketing prices also include a 109% increase for the price of a head of cauliflower, a 95% increase on asparagus, an 82% increase on strawberries and 62% on leeks.

Analysis by the Liberal Democrats has also found that even though the wholesale prices on basic products such as bread-making wheat, fruit and veg have tumbled in recent months, prices for consumers in supermarkets have continued to soar. The party has called for the Competition and Markets Authority to investigate the big supermarket chains and multinational food manufacturers, to increase pressure for lower food prices. Analysis by the Lib Dems also revealed that the cost of a typical weekly shop has soared by £604 a year.

Jim McMahon, the shadow environment secretary, branded the summit a “stunt” and called for the government to provide an annual report on food security. He told the Guardian:

Rishi Sunak’s food summit is little more than a stunt to hide years of inaction from his government.

The Tories’ shambolic handling of food security has resulted in huge vegetable price increases across the country.

Labour is clear, food security is national security. That’s why we held an emergency food security summit in February and have set out that we will support farmers and domestic food production by ensuring that we buy, make and sell more great British food.

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey added:

No ifs, no buts, supermarkets must cut these basic prices now.

Rishi Sunak needs to grow a spine and stand up for struggling families and pensioners by demanding supermarkets slash prices. They have no excuses, wholesale prices are down, yet food prices are up, with their profits soaring.


No chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef in future trade deals, Sunak vows

Rishi Sunak has vowed to take chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef off British tables in future trade deals, promising to put UK farming at the heart of government trade policy, Lisa O’Carroll reports.

Suella Braverman, the home secretary, leaving No 10 after cabinet this morning.
Suella Braverman, the home secretary, leaving No 10 after cabinet this morning. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty Images

England’s nine- and 10-year-olds have taken fourth place in a major international literacy study comparing the reading ability of children of the same age in 43 different countries, up from joint eighth place last time assessments were carried out, Sally Weale and Richard Adams report.


RCN chief Pat Cullen says government rhetoric about migration 'sickens' her and more welcoming language needed

Pat Cullen, the Royal College of Nursing general secretary, will use her speech to the RCN conference later to launch a strong attack on the government’s policy on immigration. According to extracts released in advance, she will say:

Diversity is one of our many strengths as a profession. In this hall alone there will be colleagues who completed their education, and perhaps started their careers, in Africa, in Asia, in the Americas.

Whether somebody comes to this country ready to work as a highly skilled nurse; or they arrive as a political refugee from war or persecution; or they simply want a new and prosperous life in the UK, they are beyond welcome.

That should not need saying. But the way this government talks about migration sickens me. Our country deserves a better, more informed and celebratory national conversation. Especially, in this anniversary year of Windrush.


Kaleb Cooper, Jeremy Clarkson’s farm manager and a fellow star in the Clarkson’s Farm reality TV show, arriving at No 10 for the Farm to Fork food summit today.
Kaleb Cooper, Jeremy Clarkson’s farm manager and a fellow star in the Clarkson’s Farm reality TV show, arriving at No 10 for the Farm to Fork food summit today.

Photograph: Victoria Jones/PA

Sunak says current international system for dealing with refugees 'not working' ahead of Council of Europe summit

Rishi Sunak has said the current international system for dealing with refugees is not working. In a statement issued before his attendance later today at the Council of Europe summit, he said:

Every single point on each route used by people traffickers to smuggle people across our continent represents another community struggling to deal with the human cost of this barbaric enterprise.

It is very clear that our current international system is not working, and our communities and the world’s most vulnerable people are paying the price.

We need to do more to cooperate across borders and across jurisdictions to end illegal migration and stop the boats.

I am clear that as an active European nation with a proud history helping those in need, the UK will be at the heart of this.

Sunak wants to use the summit to in effect internationalise his “stop the boats” campaigning, seeking agreement on legal changes that would help the government in what it is trying to achieve. In the overnight briefing No 10 does not give much detail as to what he wants to achieve, but it says he will focus on the European court of human rights’s rule 39, that allows it to issue injunctions like the one used last year to stop the first deportations to Rwanda. No 10 says:

We need to ensure we have an international legal system which allows sovereign countries to take the domestic steps necessary to help those most in need. That includes reform to the ECHR’s rule 39 process to ensure proper transparency, greater accountability and ensuring decisions can be reconsidered.

One potential difficulty is that a government amendment to the illegal migration bill would give ministers the right to ignore rule 39 orders anyway. Some Council of Europe partners may be less keen on changing the rules to help the UK if they think the UK has signalled it does not feel bound by those rules in the first place.


UK schools minister promises to review Sats paper that left pupils ‘in tears’

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, has promised to review a controversial Sats paper, which is said to have left some pupils “in tears”, after teachers and parents expressed widespread concern about the difficulty of the test, Sally Weale reports.

Michael Gove claims Labour's plan to extend voting rights would 'downgrade ultimate privilege of British citizenship'

Good morning. Rishi Sunak is off to Iceland later, where he will be attending a rare meeting of leaders from Council of Europe countries (only the fourth of its kind since the Council of Europe was set up after the second world war) and where he will seek to internationalise his government’s “stop the boats” campaign, pushing for changes to the international legal system that might help countries like the UK.

But while Sunak is out of the country, the National Conservatism (NatCon) conference will continue. It is championing a brand of flag, faith and family conservatism that is quite different from the liberal Cameroon conservatism that was dominant in the party at least until Brexit, and quite where Sunak stands on all this is not entirely all clear. (He is a proper social conservative, but he may have qualms about some of the more Trumpian elements of all this, and No 10 strategists do not believe that that oddball culture warmongering is an election winning strategy.)

MAIL: Gove’s blast at Starmer bid to ‘rig’ elections #TomorrowsPapersToday

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) May 15, 2023

Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, was once the leading idealogue for Cameroon conservatism, but he is shifted in recent years and this afternoon he is the star turn at the NatCon shindig. Overnight, he has delighted the Daily Mail by launching an attack on the plan being floated by Labour to extend the right to vote to EU nationals and 16- and 17-year-olds. In a letter to Keir Starmer seen by the paper, Gove says:

Why do you think it’s right to downgrade the ultimate privilege of British citizenship – the right to vote in a general election?

What do you say to those who say that your approach is designed to undermine Brexit – and ‘rig’ the voting system for national elections and referendums?

Is it still your view that the ‘age of adulthood in most cases’ is 18, or is this another area where you have changed your approach?

Of course, as levelling up secretary Gove played a major role in the introduction of the Elections Act, which arguably restricted “the ultimate privilege of British citizenship” because it said people could not vote without photo ID. Yesterday Jacob Rees-Mogg told the NatCon conference that this amounted to gerrymandering. With luck, Gove will be asked to respond today.

In an LBC interview yesterday Keir Starmer stressed that the party has not taken a final decision about extending the franchise, but he explained why he could see the case for extending it to EU nationals who have been living in the UK for a long time, and to 16- and 17-year-olds.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: Rishi Sunak chairs cabinet. He is also hosting a Farm to Fork summit on food security at No 10.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

11.30am: James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, gives evidence to the Lords protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland committee.

11.45am: Pat Cullen, the Royal College of Nursing general secretary, gives a speech to the RCN conference.

2pm: Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, speaks at the National Conservatism conference in London.

Afternoon: Sunak attends the Council of Europe summit in Iceland.

If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a PC or a laptop. (It is not available on the app yet.) This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line, privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate), or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.



Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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