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George Osborne tells Tories to stop blaming civil servants when ‘we don’t get things right’ – UK politics live | Politics

George Osborne tells Tories to stop blaming civil servants when ‘we don’t get things right’ – UK politics live | Politics

George Osborne tells Tories to stop blaming civil servants ‘if we don’t get things right’

The former chancellor George Osborne has told his party to stop blaming “the blob” and to be “much more ambitious on devolution”.

Speaking at the Northern Research Group conference in Doncaster, he said:

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Whitehall is very against devolution, as an orthodoxy. There are some Conservatives who blame ‘the blob’ and the civil servants and the establishment. We’ve been in office since 2010, we’re in charge of our country’s destiny, and we should stop blaming others if we don’t get things right.

He acknowledged worry about whether central government will have to step in to bail out devolved authorities in case of problems.

But if you take that attitude, you won’t also let parts of the country take responsibility for their own future.
And I think the Conservatives can afford to approach this by being much more ambitious on devolution. We should now be looking, as we fire up Northern Powerhouse 2.0, to give more power to local elected bodies, including metro mayors.

Key events

Unite announces new wave of NHS strikes

Unite has announced a fresh wave of strikes by health workers in the ongoing dispute over NHS pay.

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The union said members at the West Midlands ambulance service will strike on Monday 2 June. On Wednesday 4 June members at Christie hospital in Manchester and City hospital in Birmingham will also strike, to coincide with the British Medical Association junior doctors’ strike.

Members at the Yorkshire ambulance service will strike on Friday 23 June and Monday 26 June.

Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, said:

Unite will continue to escalate its industrial action until the government returns to the negotiating table and makes NHS workers a fair pay offer.
Our members are clear that a decade of real-terms pay cuts and under-investment is undermining the future of the NHS.
The pay offer put forward by the government does nothing to address the recruitment and retention crisis of staff which is promoting the current staff exodus. Ministers must know that.

Dale Vince, a Labour donor and climate activist, has said the party’s delay to its green borrowing plan – announced this morning (see also 9.24am) – “made good sense” and “didn’t trouble me at all”.

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“We’re talking about a delay of two or three years before spending hits the £28bn level. I don’t think that’s such a big deal,” he added.

“I think that the context is really important. The Conservatives did cause incredible harm to our economy in just one month last year under Liz Truss.”

Louise Casey, the cross-bench peer who led a review into the Metropolitan police, has said she would work as a Labour minister under Keir Starmer if there was a role where she “could get something done”.

She told the BBC’s Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast she supported his five “missions” for the country – which cover growth, clean energy, the NHS, justice system and education – but said she doubted he would make her a minister.

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She said:

Whether you employ people like me to be a sort of tsar figure or whether you get a minister to do the job they’re doing, what we need is high quality people.
And, you know, there are plenty of people younger than me that could do it as well.

Lady Casey, who is a former deputy director of the homelessness charity Shelter, has worked in several high profile roles advising Labour- and Conservative-led governments, the latest of which was the Met report after the murder of Sarah Everard by a serving police officer.

John McDonnell, the Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington and former shadow chancellor under Jeremy Corbyn, said on Twitter it was “pretty clear that some in the Labour party are trying to sabotage the Green Prosperity Plan.”

Writing in the Guardian, McDonnell said the “argument being put forward is that the bond markets will react to Labour’s borrowing in the same way they responded to Liz Truss’s fantasy budget. This would make the necessary borrowing too expensive to deal with, and anyway, it’s impractical to spend on that scale in the early years of a government.

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“Both of these arguments need exposing for what they really are: attempts to sabotage the central plank of the next Labour government.”

Nick Fletcher MP, the education secretary, Gillian Keegan, and Miriam Cates MP on stage during the Northern Research Group conference. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA Media

Wes Streeting, the shadow health and social care secretary, has said the shadow chancellor, Rachel Reeves, was “absolutely right” to delay Labour’s plans to borrow £28bn a year for a green prosperity fund owing to a poor economic outlook.

The party initially said it would spend £28bn a year on green investment until 2030 from its first year of coming to power, but Reeves said this morning it would “ramp up” to this figure by the halfway point of its first term in government.

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Streeting, considered to be on the right of the Labour party, said on Twitter: “Rachel is absolutely right to put the public finances first. The Tories showed what happens if you ignore economic reality.”

Rachel is absolutely right to put the public finances first. The Tories showed what happens if you ignore economic reality.

Our plan will be built on solid economic foundations and deliver lower bills, energy security, and the jobs of the future.https://t.co/3OeMahW4nj

— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) June 9, 2023

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Rishi Sunak is also due to speak at the Northern Research Group conference in Doncaster (see also 12.4pm) this afternoon, back in Britain from his US trip.

As well as the prime minister and George Osborne, senior Conservatives former party chair Jake Berry and education secretary Gillian Keegan will also attend the event to discuss devolution, healthcare and energy.

Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen, was met with cheers when he spoke about tax cuts.

He said:

As Jeremy Hunt said at the dinner last night, I think he’s said it publicly before… the state is growing at over 2%, growth is at 1.6%, that is not fiscally responsible. So we need to grow the economy and make sure the economy is growing faster than the size of the state.
I think we will be rewarded… I think we will reap the benefits of that very sensible fiscal position.

Levelling up minister, Dehenna Davison, said backing tax cuts was a “no brainer” for any Conservative.

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John Stevenson, president of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, and George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the conference at Doncaster Racecourse.
John Stevenson, president of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, and George Osborne, former Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the conference at Doncaster Racecourse. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA
Dehenna Davison, parliamentary under secretary of state for Levelling Up and Ben Houchen, mayor of the Tees Valley, at the Northern Research Group conference at Doncaster Racecourse.
Dehenna Davison, parliamentary under secretary of state for Levelling Up and Ben Houchen, mayor of the Tees Valley, at the Northern Research Group conference at Doncaster Racecourse. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Labour and the Lib Dems have criticised the government’s plan to drop windfall tax if oil and gas prices fall (see also 12.07pm), with Ed Davey claiming it is one of Rishi Sunak’s “biggest personal failures”.

The Lib Dem leader said:

The families and businesses still suffering so much from high energy bills will not forget the failure of the Conservatives to tax the windfall profits of the oil and gas companies properly.
This out of touch government has shown yet again that it doesn’t care about people struggling just to get by, or the small business clinging on. This energy tax failure ranks as one of Rishi Sunak’s biggest personal failures as chancellor and prime minister.

A Labour spokesperson said:

It’s right that as oil and gas producers are making historically high profits that they are asked to contribute more. We need a proper windfall tax on the enormous profits of oil and gas giants to help ease the cost of living crisis.
We will look at the detail of this change. Of course if the windfalls of war disappear then we’ll look at what the right long-term tax position should be for the North Sea.

The Green party, meanwhile, said it was “beyond comprehension”.

The government seems happy to allow these huge corporations to not only wreck the climate but to profit off the back of the cost of living crisis which they themselves have contributed to.

Meanwhile, Sky News reports that the advisory firm where George Osborne is a partner has been enlisted to work on the $75bn takeover by Microsoft of Activision Blizzard, the maker of Call of Duty.

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Robey Warshaw, which the former chancellor joined as a partner in 2021, has reportedly been privately involved in the takeover for some time.

Environmental and business experts at the University of Oxford have criticised Labour’s announcement to delay green investment plans (see also 9.24am).

Anupama Sen, head of policy at the university’s Smith school of enterprise and the environment, said:

Policymakers shouldn’t be hesitant about or delay investing in technologies that speed up the transition to clean energy. Renewable energy technologies are inherently capital intensive, and require significant amounts of upfront capital investment, but have very low running costs once they are up and running.
The savings from this could go towards lowering energy bills and improving our energy security in the medium to longer-term. Research at Oxford [Joule] shows that the faster we decarbonise, the faster the costs of clean energy will fall, and the sooner savings can be realised for UK consumers.
We also have a good idea of what the policy challenges are required, and what needs to happen for us to get to a completely decarbonised energy system. Delaying the transition will not necessarily change things and in fact may increase costs as uncertainties increase.

George Osborne tells Tories to stop blaming civil servants ‘if we don’t get things right’

The former chancellor George Osborne has told his party to stop blaming “the blob” and to be “much more ambitious on devolution”.

Advertisement

Speaking at the Northern Research Group conference in Doncaster, he said:

Whitehall is very against devolution, as an orthodoxy. There are some Conservatives who blame ‘the blob’ and the civil servants and the establishment. We’ve been in office since 2010, we’re in charge of our country’s destiny, and we should stop blaming others if we don’t get things right.

He acknowledged worry about whether central government will have to step in to bail out devolved authorities in case of problems.

But if you take that attitude, you won’t also let parts of the country take responsibility for their own future.
And I think the Conservatives can afford to approach this by being much more ambitious on devolution. We should now be looking, as we fire up Northern Powerhouse 2.0, to give more power to local elected bodies, including metro mayors.

Downing Street claims windfall tax suspension will ‘safeguard thousands of jobs’

The government has claimed that its plan to suspend the windfall tax on oil and gas companies if energy prices fall (see also 9.37am) will “safeguard thousands of jobs”.

A No 10 spokesperson said:

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You’ll remember that the energy profits levy was introduced last year to respond to exceptionally high prices that meant that oil and gas companies were benefiting from extraordinary profits.
To protect domestic energy supply and safeguard thousands of jobs reliant on that sector, we’ve introduced the energy security investment mechanism, and that means that if oil and gas prices consistently fall back to normal levels before March 2028, which is when it would end anyway, the energy profits levy would be switched off.

Asked whether the government’s concerns came from firms, the spokesperson said:

Obviously, we continue to have conversations with energy companies as we do with all business sectors.

Green party accuses Labour of rowing back on green promises at the ‘first sign of any difficulty’

Adrian Ramsay, the co-leader of the Greens, has accused Labour of rowing back at “the first sign of any difficulty” and claimed doubt over its £28bn green plan strengthened his party’s chances of winning more seats at the next election.

In response to Rachel Reeves’s comments this morning (see also 9.24am), he said:

This highlights more than ever why it is necessary to have more Green MPs elected at the next general election.
We are witnessing environmental breakdown at an increasingly alarming rate, so you would have thought the Labour party would understand that we need to see a transformational change if we are going to tackle the climate emergency along with the cost of living crisis that is causing so much harm in our society.
Yet once again we see them offer a policy that does not go far enough, and then row back at the first sign of any difficulty.

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The Conservative party chair, Greg Hands, has also weighed in on Rachel Reeves’s comments, claiming Labour’s “main economic policy is in tatters”.

He added:

It doesn’t matter if they try and pretend otherwise, Labour’s plan remains to stick £28bn of borrowing on the government credit card which will lead to higher inflation and higher interest rates.

Jess Ralston, the head of energy at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), claimed the UK is “stuck in the mud”:

Since the Inflation Reduction Act was passed nearly a year ago, spades have hit the ground in the US, but the UK’s been stuck in the mud.
Whichever party is in charge in the coming years will have to prove why organisations should invest here compared to the US or EU, and with the global race heating up, there’s really no time to lose.

Sue Ferns, tje deputy general secretary of Prospect, a trade union representing engineers and scientists, said:

It is not only just about the total investment, which of course is important, but also about giving investors, companies and the workforce long-term certainty. This is something which the current government have failed to do.
Any proper plan must put developing the skilled workforce that we need, and making sure that no communities are left behind as we transition to clean energy, front and centre.

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More reaction to Labour’s green prosperity announcement:

James Murray, editor of Business Green, said:

I suspect this is going to be one of those days on here, but this is really not a case of Labour ‘ditching’ or ‘scrapping’ its Green Prosperity Plan.

— James Murray (@James_BG) June 9, 2023

Fatima-Zahra Ibrahim, co-director of Green New Deal Rising campaign group, said:

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1) Anyone who spends a second thinking about it knows that 28bn will need to be ramped up.

2) But we’re losing the fiscal debate. To think we can win transformation, but not take on the economic orthodoxy will inevitably lead to failure, and make hard-won commitments precarious https://t.co/HISG2DmGqn

— Fatima-Zahra Ibrahim (@fortuashla) June 9, 2023

Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty said:

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“In a choice between planetary life and sone bullshit notion of fiscal credibility, we will always choose the latter.” pic.twitter.com/bqj9hkckTF

— Aditya Chakrabortty (@chakrabortty) June 9, 2023

Will McCallum, co-executive director of Greenpeace, said:

Two of the world’s biggest oil companies are headquartered in the UK, and yet today @UKLabour are dithering on confirming £28bn a year for what was, until hours ago, looking like a credible climate plan.

Still time to turn this back around @RachelReevesMP. https://t.co/EWIXAZnUVJ

— will mccallum (@WillGreenpeace) June 9, 2023

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Miranda Bryant (now) Sammy Gecsoyler (earlier)

Published: 2023-06-09 13:49:04

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