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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Jacob Rees-Mogg denies that cutting 90,000 civil service jobs is a return to austerity – UK politics live | Politics

Heather Stewart

Heather Stewart

Earlier this morning the Tony Blair Institute published a report that analyses the impact of class on voting in the 2019 general election and beyond.

The Guardian’s political editor, Heather Stewart, reports:

Tony Blair urged Keir Starmer to reject “woke” politics and present a programme for government that is “radical without being dangerous”.

Based on analysis by the veteran pollster Peter Kellner, it points to particular problems for Labour with two groups: the 26% of voters who fit into the formal definition of middle class; and the 12% who would be defined as working class by pollsters but consider themselves middle class.

The first group voted 57% to remain in the EU, yet the Conservatives were 22% ahead with these voters in 2019, despite their central message being that they would “get Brexit done”. These voters, the former Labour leader suggests, are “worried about issues like tax and economic competence”.

The second group, whom Blair calls the “aspirational working class”, voted to leave the EU by a narrower 53% but backed the Conservatives over Labour by a 32% margin.

In a punchy foreword, Blair claims of this latter group: “A large number voted Conservative despite disagreeing with the party on Brexit. They thought Labour’s far-left economic policy was a bigger threat than Brexit.”

Without what he calls the “millstone” of Starmer’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, Blair claims Labour can win many of these voters back – and analysis of recent polling in the report shows a 12% swing to Labour among this “blue-collar aspirational” group.

More here:

And over on LBC, Jacob Rees-Mogg rebuked Sadiq Khan for going “swanning off around the world”, branding the move “tough on taxpayers”.

The Brexit opportunities minister questioned who was paying for the Mayor of London to travel to the US on a tour where he praised the “high standards” of legalised cannabis farms.

He said:

Who’s paying for his fare? Is that a good use of taxpayers’ money?”

“The precept for the GLA [Greater London Authority] goes up and up and he goes swanning off around the world. It’s all hunky dory for him but it’s a bit tough on taxpayers.”

Following his trip, Khan announced the creation of a London drugs commission to examine the effectiveness of the UK’s drug laws, with a particular focus on those governing cannabis. The commission was one of Khan’s manifesto pledges in his re-election bid last year.

London’s commission will aim to assess the best methods to prevent drug use, the most effective criminal justice responses, and the public health benefits of different approaches. The commission hopes its recommendations will inform future policy-making in central government.

More here:

On GB News this morning, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit opportunities minister, suggested the EU is trying to punish the UK for Brexit in its approach to ongoing talks between the two powers.

He said:

I think it [the EU] wants to make the UK feel bad about having left the European Union and that underpins its whole policy and it doesn’t really mind about the consequences of that

“And we just have to get on with life and recognise that we have left. We have to make our own way. We are an independent country, and what the EU wants and thinks is secondary

“The Paymaster General, Michael Ellis, has made a speech in Brussels today, making it very clear that we are, if not at the end of the road, very close to it.

“To cancel the TCA [EU-UK Trade and Co-operation Agreement], the European Union would need unanimity, and it seems to me that’s a pretty high bar to get.

“And you have to say to the European Union, does it really want to punish its consumers at a time of rising inflation? And inflation in a lot of the EU countries is higher than it is in the UK.”

There’s more from this morning’s broadcast rounds on PA.

Brexit opportunities minister Jacob Rees-Mogg
argued the Metropolitan Police issuing more than 100 fines over the partygate scandal is a “non-story”.

It was announced on Thursday that the force had made around 50 further fixed penalty notice referrals.

Rees-Mogg played down the importance of the development on Friday, questioning whether “the rules were right in the first place”.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said:

I’m afraid I think this is a non-story. I mean, the BBC has absolutely loved it but what is important is that we get on with the business of government.”

Pressed on whether he had seen that people including bereaved families were “devastated” they had observed the Government’s rules while those in power were breaking them, he said:

I think people were upset.

“I think this was an important story in February when it first became known and that there was great concern, and there was a feeling of people who were bereaved, particularly, about it.”

“We need to look at whether these rules were right in the first place in case we have a pandemic again because I think they were too restrictive.”

Jamie Grierson

Jamie Grierson

Guardian reporter Jamie Grierson has some reaction to the government’s plans to cut civil service numbers from the unions:

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the plans were “unrealistic”.

He said:

That’s what civil servants do. Part of their job is to think of how we do things more efficiently, and they have already committed to 5% cuts in their budgets as part of the spending review.

That kind of ongoing efficiency is what the civil service does all the time. But if you’re going to just simply pluck a figure out of the air and say it’s now 90,000 because there is a convenient point in time where we liked the number, that is not a serious way to look at what does a government want to do and how can it deliver that in the most effective and efficient way.

Minister denies that cutting 90,000 civil service jobs represents return of austerity

Good morning.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the minister for government efficiency, has rejected the idea that cutting around 90,000 civil service jobs represents a return to austerity.

It us understood that on Thursday the prime minister told ministers that the service should be slashed by a fifth in a bid to free up cash for measures to ease the cost-of-living crisis with possible tax cuts.

Rees-Mogg defended the plan on Friday, saying the job cuts would bring numbers back to 2016 levels after extra staff were brought in to help deal with the pandemic and the “aftermath of Brexit”.

He told Sky News:

I know it sounds eye-catching but it’s just getting back to the civil service we had in 2016 … since then, we’ve had to take on people for specific tasks.

So dealing with the aftermath of Brexit and dealing with Covid, so there’s been a reason for that increase, but we’re now trying to get back to normal.

Rees-Mogg, who is also Brexit opportunities minister, said he had seen “duplication” within government departments, and the axing would mean people were being used “as efficiently as possible”.

Boris Johnson made the demand during an away day with ministers in Stoke-on-Trent, with the government coming under intense pressure to ease the pain of soaring prices.

But the FDA civil servants’ union has warned the “ill-thought-out” proposal would not lead to a more cost-effective government and could have impacts on passport processing, borders and health.

Sources familiar with Johnson’s cabinet conversation told PA that he told ministers to return the civil service to its 2016 levels in the coming years. It was said its numbers had grown since then to 475,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

On Times Radio this morning, the former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that Johnson had a “big mountain to climb” if he was to lead the Tories to victory at the next election.

Hunt refused to rule out a leadership bid, and issued his starkest criticism of the government to date, warning that the Tories’ loss of nearly 500 seats in last week’s local elections was not just “mid-term blues” but reflected deep concerns of voters about the cost of living. He warned that the “very, very low growth” of the economy risked undermining the NHS as it faced “ever increasing bills” and a shortage of doctors.

The Times reported that Hunt’s supporters privately talk up his prospects of replacing Johnson if the prime minister is ousted by MPs.

They argue that he is the only “big beast” in the party capable of taking on Labour at the next election without being “sullied” with having been in government over the past three years.

Here’s the agenda for the day:

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is meeting G7 foreign ministers and Nato foreign ministers in Germany.

11.30: Boris Johnson to met Norway’s prime minister in Downing Street.

12.00: The new Northern Ireland assembly will meet later for the first time since the election. They are intended to elect a speaker, but the DUP is expected to block this, which will result in a major row.

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