Politics latest: Rishi Sunak asked if he's 'out of touch' after heated swimming pool story; minister defends trade deal amid criticism (2023)

Key points
  • Rishi Sunak pushed on whether he's 'out of touch' over heated swimming pool
  • 'You have to make trade-offs': Trade secretary defends lowering tariffs on palm oil as part of UK joining Indo-Pacific trade bloc
  • Rob Powell: A post-Brexit triumph or a miserly replacement for what we had with the EU?
  • Who else is in the CPTPP - and what are the benefits for the UK?
  • Sir Keir Starmer says Labour's council tax freeze pledge not 'hypothetical'
  • Listen:Life after Labour for Jeremy Corbyn
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker


DUP to consider Brexit deal assessment

The DUP is considering an assessment of Rishi Sunak's Brexit deal after asking a panel to examine the plan.

The Windsor Frameworkwas agreed by the PM last month and got the approval of the Commonsafter a vote last week.

But the Northern Irish party has not given the framework its backing, saying the factsome EU laws will still impact the regionthreatens its place in the UK's internal market.

And, as a result, it is still refusing to return to Stormont to set up a power sharing executive with Sinn Fein.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson set up the panel after the Brexit deal was announced, and confirmed on Friday their work was now complete.

"Earlier this month, I commissioned an eight-person panel to consult widely as to the impact of Windsor Framework arrangements upon Northern Ireland and its ability to trade with the rest of the United Kingdom," he said in a statement.

"I am delighted that a significant number of businesses, individuals and organisations participated fully and shared their perspectives.

"Having taken receipt of the report, I thank the panel for their dedicated efforts and will now take time to discuss the report with my party officer team."


Why Sir Keir Starmer needs to win big in the local elections

Politicians are often criticised for empty rhetoric, writes political editor Beth Rigby.

But Sir Keir was right when he told activists in Swindon on Thursday "these [local] elections matter".

That's because the May poll will be both the first big ballot box test for Rishi Sunak, and give a sense of whether the momentum Sir Keir is showing in national polls translates into actual votes.

So there's a lot at stake for both sides.

As Sir Keir told me on a walkabout in Swindon: "I'm measuring this on the road to the next general election and I want to see the Labour Party making real progress."

You can read more from Beth here:


Tory MPs accuse colleagues of 'gaming the system' with attempts to move to safe seats

Conservative MPs defending slim majorities have accused colleagues of "gaming the system" to try and move to safer seats and maximise their chances of keeping their jobs.

There is "fury" at the "ultra-confidential" process which will allow some Tories to switch constituencies ahead of the next election.

Around 15 parliamentarians have applied to be declared "displaced" due to upcoming changes to constituency boundaries.

But some Tory MPs have argued that a number of colleagues are abusing the system to move to safer seats and maximise the chance of remaining in parliament.

"There is a sense of deep unfairness and fury," said one Tory MP.

"Why am I slogging my guts out in a marginal seat with the polls heavily against us while others bugger off to safer constituencies. Which one's the mug?"

"They’re pretending to be local champions, but they're not. It's all for show," said the MP.

"This is creating bloody mayhem."

Sky News understands Blackpool's Scott Benton is on the list.

"I'm not saying I have or haven't applied," he told us.

"But I am actively considering standing in Blackpool South at the next election."

Eddie Hughes, whose Walsall North seat is being merged into Walsall and Bloxwich, is also said to have applied.

Colleagues claim he is interested in the safer Tamworth constituency, likely to be vacated by disgraced former deputy chief whip Chris Pincher.

Mr Hughes has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Other MPs in the West Midlands are eyeing up the Bromsgrove constituency of Sajid Javid, who is standing down from parliament.

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew, whose Pudsey seat is being split up, has confirmed his application to be considered "displaced" has been successful.

"I need to consider what my next steps will be," he said.

In recent weeks, MPs applying to be declared "displaced" made a presentation and answered questions from a five-person panel, including two members of the Conservative Party board and a representative of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers.

"It's f***ing disgraceful," said a Conservative MP.

"The kangaroo court of [1922 officials] Graham Brady and William Wragg nodded all these people through."

Another MP countered: "I don't see it as a chicken run. Some constituencies are disappearing, and it's fair they’re given the option to stand elsewhere."

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: "Displacement rights are given to MPs whose constituencies are materially and adversely changed by the boundary review.

"It is not a guarantee of getting another seat."


Beth Rigby Interviews: Labour's David Lammy, new Scottish first minister and migration crisis

On this week's podcast, political editor Beth Rigby is joined by shadow foreign secretary David Lammy with other topics including MPs' second jobs, Ukraine, and migration among those discussed.

Plus, Beth is joined by her producer Mollie Malone as they talk about some of the week's other big talking points, including the election of Humza Yousaf as SNP leader and Scottish first minister.

Email bethrigbypodcast@sky.uk


ICYMI: Sir Keir Starmer 'prepared to be ruthless' for Labour to win - including when it comes to Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour leader has sat down with political editor Beth Rigby as he launched his party's campaign for the local elections in Swindon.

Earlier this week, Sir Keir put forward a motion to Labour's ruling body, the National Executive Committee (NEC), to block Mr Corbyn from running for the party at the next general election - which was passed by a majority of its members.

Mr Corbyn branded the movea "shameful attack on party democracy" and vowed to "not be intimidated into silence".

Bur Sir Keir told Sky News: "There is one person who is responsible for the fact that Jeremy Corbyn will not be a Labour candidate at the next election and that is Jeremy Corbyn."

Mr Corbyn - who ran Labour between 2015 and 2019 - was suspended over his response to a report on antisemitism within the membership, which said the party had broken the law in its handling of complaints.

He said the issue had been "dramatically overstated for political reasons by our opponents inside and outside the party, as well as by much of the media".

Sir Keir said those who considered the problem to be exaggerated were also "part of the problem... and should be nowhere near the Labour Party".

Asked by Beth if he felt bad about blocking his successor from being a Labour candidate, having once described him as "a friend", Sir Keir said: "The first words I said as Labour leader is I would root out antisemitism in my party and I have been absolutely ruthless in that.

"There is always more work to do but I set out to change the Labour Party and to change it in relation to antisemitism. I said I'd root it out and I am delivering on that pledge."

Read more from Beth's interview with Sir Keir in this piece by political reporter Jennifer Scott:


Jeremy Corbyn: Life after Labour

Labour's governing body has voted to block Jeremy Corbyn from standing as a Labour candidate at the next general election.

Mr Corbyn is already suspended as a Labour MP and sits as an independent following a row over antisemitism.

In a statement, he said the decision to block him showed "contempt" for the voters who had supported the party at the 2017 and 2019 elections while he was party leader.

On the Sky News Daily, politics correspondent Liz Bates speaks to Jon Lansman, the co-founder of Momentum who ran Mr Corbyn's successful leadership campaign in 2015, and to Luke Akehurst, a member of the National Executive Committee which voted Mr Corbyn out.

Click to subscribe to the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts


Sir Keir Starmer says Labour's council tax freeze 'not hypothetical' as 'Tories could steal it'

One of Labour's key pledges for the local elections in May is that they would freeze council tax if they were in power, using a windfall tax on energy companies they proposed around a year ago.

Sir Keir Starmer was neither prime minister last year, nor is he now, so these policies are not going to happen - at least in the way Labour claims.

Labour has not committed to keeping the policy if it does win the next general election, and councils controlled by the party are still raising council tax like other local authorities.

The party claims the government is effectively forcing councils to increase their charges by reducing central funding while giving them additional "flexibilities" to raise taxes locally.

Labour says this has resulted in an average council tax rise of 5.1%, topping £2,000 for the first time.

But the Conservatives have hit back, saying the promise is "not worth the paper it's written on".

However, Sir Keir has defended the policy.

"It's not hypothetical, because the money we would use is the profits from oil and gas company, we would tax that, there's £10 billion there," he said.

"The government could - just as they stole the idea of an energy price freeze from us - they could steal this, and we could move all this in the next few weeks.

"Because if the government said we'll match Labour and have a freeze on council tax for the next year, we would obviously vote for it. The money is available.

"And if the government was serious about dealing with the cost of living, they would take this Labour idea and run with it."

Greg Hands, the Conservative Party chairman, said: "They have no plan to introduce this if elected. They're taking the British people for fools.

"If Labour were serious about cutting council tax, Labour councils would be doing it now.

"Instead, across the country it's Labour-run councils with higher council tax, Labour-run Wales where bills have quadrupled, and Labour-run London where council tax has gone up 9.7%."


Rishi Sunak pushed on whether he's 'out of touch' over heated swimming pool

The prime minister was on a visit to Darlington today as he campaigns ahead of next month's local elections.

Mr Sunak wanted to focus on funding to fix potholes, but during the visit he was asked if he is "out of touch" following a report in The Guardian earlier this month that a 40ft heated pool built in the grounds of his constituency home in North Yorkshire uses so much power the local grid needed to be upgraded.

The PM initially replied by pointing out the government was helping people with energy bills.

Pushed again on whether he is out of touch, Mr Sunak replied: "People can make up their own minds if that support is sufficient enough".

He went on to describe the support the government provided as "enormous".

According to the report, MrSunakhas also had a gym and tennis court built in the grounds of his grade II listed manor house in his Richmond constituency.

The Guardian said the PM will pay for the electricity upgrade work - estimated to be tens of thousands of pounds - out of his own pocket, along with the sizable heating bills.

Last week, Mr Sunak released a summary of his tax return, showing he earned around £4.8m over the last three years.

The PM was also asked about the recent report which found bullying, harassment and discrimination allegations reported in every fire service in England.

Mr Sunak responded by instead talking about police, and law and order.


Starmer calls for closer trading relationship with EU

As we've been reporting today, the UK has agreed entry to the CPTPP - a trading bloc featuring 11 Indo-Pacific countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, Mexico and Peru.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was asked about the agreement as he campaigned for the local elections in Plymouth.

He said: "I welcome any trade deal, but I have to say we need to bear in mind that the net contribution to our economy will be something in the order of 0.08%.

"What we need alongside that is a closer trading relationship with the EU.

"Businesses across the country are crying out for a better deal than the one that the government has put in front of them.

"So, yes, good to have a new trade deal, but better to have a closer relationship with the EU to go alongside it and to help our businesses grow our economy and take us through and out of this cost of living crisis."

He continued: "I do think it's an important trade deal, but the yield is very small. Hopefully that will grow over time.

"But the rule in trade is that you're more likely to trade with your nearer neighbours more and more often, so we do need that improved, that better trading relationship with the EU alongside any other trade deals that we sign."


Beth Rigby Interviews: Labour's David Lammy, new Scottish first minister and migration crisis

On this week's podcast, political editor Beth Rigby is joined by shadow foreign secretary David Lammy with other topics including MPs' second jobs, Ukraine, and migration among those discussed.

Plus, Beth is joined by her producer Mollie Malone as they talk about some of the week's other big talking points, including the election of Humza Yousaf as SNP leader and Scottish first minister.

Email bethrigbypodcast@sky.uk

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