Politics latest: Starmer has 'very clear' message for Putin - but PM accused of 'playing with fire' over defence spending (2024)

Key points
  • Starmer has 'very clear' message for Putin
  • PM will ask allies for extra defence spending - but accused of 'playing with fire' for delaying UK's decision
  • Live reporting by Ben Bloch


Mark Stone analysis: Lucky Starmer looks a lot stronger than other leaders at NATO summit

The UK is in a relatively unusual position as Sir Keir Starmer jets off for his first NATO summit as prime minister.

Given the struggles of Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron, and some other Western leaders, ourUS correspondentMark Stonesays the prime minister comes to Washington DC looking relatively strong given his enormous election win.

"Politically he is in a much stronger position than many colleagues he will meet," says Stone, who'll be at the summit.

Sir Keir will be among the leaders of the 31 other NATO members for a summit being described "as the biggest event of its kind for three decades" given the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Stone says that sometimes in politics "timing is luck" - "and it's certainly luck for Starmer that so soon after he took office, he is in Washington".

He'll also meet Joe Biden at the White House while he's in town.


PM to ask allies for extra defence spending - but accused of 'playing with fire' on UK's decision

Sir Keir Starmer will tell NATO allies that the UK has a "cast iron commitment" to lifting the UK's defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, but is refusing to honour that commitment in his first term in government.

On a flight over to Washington, where NATO allies are gathering for thealliance's 75th anniversary, the prime minister insisted that hitting the 2.5% was "subject to our fiscal rules".

He refused repeatedly to commit to delivering on the commitment in his first term or offer a timeline for delivery ahead of the strategic defence review, which could take up to a year to conclude.

Sir Keir told Sky News: "We are committed to the 2.5% as I have said before the election and I say again after the election. That is subject to our fiscal rules but the commitment is there.

"The strategic review will take place - that will happen next week and we will set out the details of that. The manifesto commitment was that it would take place within a year.

"I would like it to happen quicker than that if I'm honest and we'll set out details about how we are going to do it."

However, Sir Keir was accused by a former colonel in British military intelligence of "playing with fire" for delaying the decision on defence spending until after the review.

Philip Ingram said "it will take years to fix the army, our ammunition stocks, get the RAF and navy ready".

Lord West of Spithead, a former head of the navy who was a security minister under a previous Labour government, said Labour should outline a timeline during the summit to "set an example to all European countries".

Read Beth's full report here:


Starmer has 'very clear' message for Putin

Prime Minister Keir Starmer arrived in the early hours of the morning (UK time), where he will attend his first NATO summit just days after taking over the top job.

On the flight over, he was asked about a Russian strike on a children's hospital in Ukraine - and what his message is to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sir Keir said this attack was "appalling", adding that his message is "very, very clear".

"This NATO summit is an opportunity for allies to stand together to strengthen their resolve, particularly in light of that appalling attack against Russian aggression," he added.

When will UK boost defence spending?

Sir Keir was also asked about a comment from General Sir Patrick Sanders, who has warned the world is facing "as dangerous a moment as any time that we've had since 1945".

With this in mind, can Sir Keir put a timeline on spending 2.5% of GDP on defence?

"I'm committed to that 2.5% within our fiscal rule," he said.

Sir Keir said, for now, it's about "discussing practically how we provide further support for Ukraine and send a very, very clear message to Putin that we will stand against Russian aggression wherever it is in the world".


Good morning!

Welcome back to the Politics Hub on this Wednesday, 10 July.

Here's what's happening in politics today:

  • Sir Keir Starmer arrived at the NATO summit in Washington DC in the early hours of the morning (UK time);
  • Just days after being elected prime minister, he will meet with the leaders of the UK's closest allies and push them to spend 2.5% of GDP on defence;
  • He said on the flight over that the UK has a "cast-iron commitment" to raising defence spending to that level - but refused to say when that would happen when asked by journalists, including Sky's Beth Rigby;
  • He is announcing that the planned strategic defence review will start next week to understand the UK's defensive and military status, and said he hopes it will take less than a year;
  • The PM will meet with a series of world leaders today, and also attend a meeting of the North Atlantic Council - before he plans to keep half an eye on England's crucial Euros game against the Netherlands this evening;
  • Back in Westminster, MPs will continue to be sworn in by the Speaker as they start the new parliamentary term;
  • And rumblings around the Tory leadership race will continue after the (somewhat chaotic) election of Bob Blackman as chair of the powerful 1922 committee, which decides how and when such contests are conducted.

We'll discuss all of that and more with:

  • Maria Eagle, defence minister, at 7.15am;
  • James Cartlidge, shadow defence secretary, at 8.15am.

Follow along for the latest political news.


That's all for the Politics Hub tonight

Thanks for joining us for a very busy day for the new Labour government - and there's plenty more to come this week.

You can scroll through the page for today's updates, or check our 10pm post for a round-up of Tuesday's most significant news.

We'll be back at 6am with all the latest from Westminster.


Reeves launches national wealth fund to boost private investment

The chancellor has revealed plans for a new national wealth fund designed to attract billions in private sector investment.

The new Labour government said it has allocated £7.3bn in additional state funding to support the plan.

The proposals include reforms to the state-owned British Business Bank.

Rachel Reeves met with a nine-strong National Wealth Fund Taskforce at Number 11 Downing Street in order to launch the plans.

The taskforce includes former Bank of England governor Mark Carney, Barclays chief executive officer CS Venkatakrishnan and Aviva chief executive Amanda Blanc.

'Further, faster'

Ms Reeves said the funding will be used to target green and high-growth British industries, stressing there is "no time to waste".

The chancellor added: "We need to go further and faster if we are to fix the foundations of our economy to rebuild Britain and make every part of our country better off."


It's the end of the day - which means it's time for a round-up of the main things you need to know from the Politics Hub.

  • Sir Keir Starmer is en route to Washington DC as you read this for his first NATO summit, where he'll meet world leaders including Joe Biden;
  • Our US correspondent Mark Stoke says he goes on the trip in a "much stronger position" than many of his allies, given his massive election win - we'll have live updates and analysis from the trip starting tomorrow.
  • Back in the UK, parliament has returned and the Speaker re-elected, with the cabinet and shadow cabinet having been sworn in;
  • Sir Keir Starmerwelcomed the diversity of the new parliament in his first Commons speech as PM, whileRishi Sunakvowed the Tories would be an "effective and professional" opposition;
  • The return of parliament allowed the Tories to elect the chair of their backbench 1922 Committee, which runs the party's leadership contests;
  • But our political correspondent Darren McCaffrey is getting the sense from Conservatives that the contest may not happen for several months, as the battle for the soul of the party commences.
  • Elsewhere, Health Secretary Wes Streeting says he's "optimistic" after his first meeting with representatives of junior doctors, as he seeks an end to the pay dispute that has caused industrial action;
  • Our political correspondent Tamara Cohen said there may only be "a matter of weeks" to find an agreement before the BMA union holds a vote on holding more strikes.

That's it for our final bulletin of the day - stay with us for more news and analysis through the evening.


Ex-army chief issues WW3 warning and brands 'new axis powers' more dangerous than the Nazis

A former army chief has warned members of NATO the world is facing "as dangerous a moment as any time that we've had since 1945" as he called on members to invest more into their arms.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, who served as chief of the general staff until last month, told The Times that Russia, China and Iran were the "new axis powers", and a third world war could break out within the next five years if action was not taken.

Arguing the countries posed even more of a threat than the Nazis in 1939, he said: "They are more interdependent and more aligned than the original axis powers were."

But the military expert said the conflict was not a foregone conclusion if NATO members, including the UK, significantly improved their arms.

You can read more from Sky News:


'Like the first day at school': How parliament has prepared 300 rookie MPs for the job

The UK's newest MPs might have spent the last six weeks fighting for a place in parliament - but it can still be a shock to the system once they enter it, according to those familiar with the process.

That's why House of Commons staff have spent months preparing for their arrival, working on everything from buddy schemes to starter packs and photobooks to help them get to grips with the job.

This secret team of helpers is not messing about. In fact, the first contact parliament has with newly elected representatives is at the election count itself.

Read all about how new MPs are prepared for the job here:


How could the Tory leadership race unfold?

After the Conservative Party lost the general election, Rishi Sunak announced he would resign as leader "once the formal arrangements for selecting my successor are in place".

So how could the next leader be selected?

1922 committee

The body that governs Tory party leadership races is their backbench committee of MPs, the 1922 Committee.

Today, Tory MPs elected a new chair - Bob Blackman.

Decisions can now be taken about the timeframe and process of the leadership contest - although it is unclear when that will happen.

Rishi Sunak's role

As it stands, the former PM remains leader of the party and leader of the opposition. He has appointed a shadow cabinet and will fulfil the constitutional requirements of the role - for now.

Mr Sunak could agree to stay as party leader until a permanent successor is selected - in which case he will continue to carry out the opposition leader role, including facing Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.

But he could choose to step down before the contest is concluded, which he seemed to suggest in his resignation speech, which would mean an interim leader would have to be chosen (that would likely fall to Oliver Dowden, who is the interim deputy leader).

Will the party members have a say?

There appears to be broad consensus among Tory MPs that members should get a vote on who the new party leader should be.

Short vs long

Some Tories have proposed the contest should be short, so the new leader can be in place to challenge the Labour government as soon as possible - particularly when they present their first budget in the autumn.

However, a consensus appears to be emerging that a long leadership contest is the right thing to do to ensure there is full debate on which direction the party should take.

It could mean that nominations for the new leader don't even open for a number of weeks, and then MPs could whittle down the number of candidates - or not, and members could choose between multiple people.

There have been suggestions that the contest should not conclude until after the party's conference in early October, like when David Cameron won back in 2005.

Politics latest: Starmer has 'very clear' message for Putin - but PM accused of 'playing with fire' over defence spending (2024)
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