Mr Johnson faced criticism this week after it was revealed that he had referred to devolution as a “disaster” in a meeting with Tory MPs.
Meanwhile, Sir Keir has chosen to not restore the parliamentary party whip to his predecessor Jeremy Corbyn following the end of his suspension as a party member.
Mr Corbyn was allowed to return as a Labour member last night after he was cleared by the party’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, but his place as a Labour MP is decided by the party’s leadership.
“The disciplinary process does not have the confidence of the Jewish community. That became clear once again yesterday,” Sir Keir said, as he pledged for an independent complaints procedure to be set up.
Jenrick says Towns Fund accusations are ‘highly misleading’
Robert Jenrick has accused Labour’s shadow communities secretary of trying to “sow discord where there is none” with accusations of misconduct over the Towns Fund.
“We followed a very clear and robust procedure. The Permanent Secretary of my department has made that very clear,” Mr Jenrick said.
He added that Steve Reed, the Labour shadow minister, had been “highly misleading” with the criticism of funding going to his constituency, arguing that “Newark was the 16th most highly ranked town in the East Midlands to be a beneficiary of the fund and we supported 19 places in the East Midlands.”
“There’s absolutely no reason why a minister should disadvantage their constituency – we are all both ministers and constituency MPs, that’s one of the great virtues of our political system – but it is right that those decisions are not taken by that particular minister,” the Tory minister said.
Mr Jenrick also said a ministerial colleague had made the decision on Newark.
Conrad Duncan18 November 2020 15:18
Minister faces calls to publish documents linked to £3.6bn towns funding
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick has faced calls to publish minutes and correspondence linked to decisions for a £3.6bn funding pot to help struggling towns.
Labour has accused the government of using the Towns Fund to aid its general election campaign last year.
Speaking in the Commons, shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said: “The secretary of state is today accused of blocking funding from the £3.6bn Towns Fund going to the most deprived towns for which it was intended and instead funnelling it into Conservative Party marginal seats ahead of the general election, and to help his own re-election campaign.
“This is clearly not about levelling up so let’s see if the secretary of state will level with the British people about what really went on.”
The Labour MP asked if Mr Jenrick had discussed allocations with Downing Street or any Conservative Party employee, and asked for any correspondence to be published.
He added: “Was the secretary of state present when his junior minister made decisions about his constituency [Newark] and will he publish all minutes from that meeting in which they both chose 61 towns that would benefit from funding?”
Conrad Duncan18 November 2020 15:10
Our political editor, Andrew Woodcock, has more details below on the government’s new stance with the media:
Conrad Duncan18 November 2020 15:00
Olive branch to journalists marks new Downing Street press briefing
In an apparent sign that Downing Street’s hostile relationship with the media could be coming to an end, Boris Johnson’s new press secretary has offered thanks to journalists for their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Allegra Stratton took over the role on Wednesday following a number of tense exchanges between No 10 and journalists over the past year.
“The prime minister, a former journalist, I think has spoken publicly about the positive role the media has played during this pandemic, in spreading information about what we need people to do to observe social distancing and so on,” she told reporters.
Conrad Duncan18 November 2020 14:53
Opinion: ‘Boris Johnson is in a tough spot over his ‘levelling up’ agenda – he needs more than a slogan’
Boris Johnson will need more than his commitment to create thousands of green jobs to achieve his “levelling up” agenda, according to our political commentator Andrew Grice.
The government pledged on Wednesday to support or create as many as 250,000 jobs as part of a so-called “green industrial revolution” to tackle climate change but that alone may not achieve the prime minister’s vision.
“For months a debate has simmered inside government about whether it could still afford an ambitious ‘levelling up’ agenda after pumping more than £210bn into the economy in the coronavirus crisis. Cummings’s departure has now blown the lid off. In the vacuum his absence leaves, figures including Johnson’s new press secretary Allegra Stratton and his fiancée Carrie Symonds are trying to soften the harsh edges of Vote Leave’s approach. The green agenda symbolises Johnson’s return to being the liberal conservative who was London mayor.”
You can find his full piece below:
Conrad Duncan18 November 2020 14:41
Corbyn told of whip decision this morning, Starmer spokesperson says
Jeremy Corbyn was informed that he would have the Labour whip withdrawn from him over the phone by the party’s chief whip Nick Brown this morning, Sir Keir Starmer’s spokesperson has said.
“Jeremy was informed of the decision this morning before Keir issued his statement,” the Labour leader’s spokesperson told reporters.
“Jeremy was informed by the chief whip. As I understand it, he spoke to him over the phone.”
They added that the door was open for Mr Corbyn to rejoin the parliamentary party but would not detail any of the steps needed for him to rejoin.
“I’m not going to pre-empt any of that,” the spokesperson said, when asked if a clear retraction and an apology would be sufficient.
Conrad Duncan18 November 2020 14:27
PM fails to rule out suspending British foreign aid
Boris Johnson has fuelled further speculation of a temporary cut in the foreign aid budget after failing to rule out such a move at PMQs.
Labour’s Anna McMorrin urged the PM to “stop this retreat” from the global stage, amid reports that plans are being drawn up to pare back the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of national income on overseas aid to 0.5 per cent in next week’s spending review.
But Mr Johnson told the Commons: “I think everybody in this country can be immensely proud of the massive commitments this country has made and will continue to make in tackling poverty and deprivation around the world.
“I think they can be even prouder of the commitment that we’re now making, leading the world, to tackle the threat of climate change.”
Andy Gregory18 November 2020 14:01
UK could fail to strike trade deals if ‘preoccupied’ with environmental standards, adviser suggests
The former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, who now acts as an adviser to the UK Board of Trade, has urged Boris Johnson to focus on “climate initiatives” through mechanisms such as the UN climate summit, rather than in negotiating trade deals, our political correspondent Ashley Cowburn reports.
He also insisted there is an “eagerness” on both sides to secure a UK-Australia trade deal before Christmas with no tariffs or quotas, as he urged negotiators to hammer out an agreement in the coming months.
Mr Johnson and Liz Truss faced intense fire earlier this year over Mr Abbott’s appointment to the UK Board of Trade amid controversy over his past remarks about women, LGBT people and climate change.
Andy Gregory18 November 2020 13:53
‘Coronyism is a growing scandal’
The Mirror’s associate editor has employed the term “coronyism” to describe the revelations in a National Audit Office report revealing that firms were fast-tracked for lucrative contracts for PPE procurement following tips from ministers and MPs.
Andy Gregory18 November 2020 13:46
Shadow chancellor urges Rishi Sunak to increase support for those self-isolating
Performing a well-established move of this opposition in following up PMQs attack points with further immediate action, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds has written to Rishi Sunak urging him to provide those forced to self-isolate with the necessary means to do so.
Keir Starmer had attacked the government over figures suggesting just 11 per cent of those told to self-isolate do so, stating that this all came down to the financial hit many face by staying at home.
Boris Johnson then replied: “We continue to encourage people to do the right thing. It does break the chain of transmission of the disease … we’ve given £13.5 billion so far in support for self-employed people, uplifted Universal Credit.”
Andy Gregory18 November 2020 13:39