West Wing or Rest Wing for Joe Biden? ....The Standard podcast

A week's a long time in Westminster (Matt Writtle)
A week's a long time in Westminster (Matt Writtle)

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From Westminster, join the Evening Standard's Parliament team - Nicholas Cecil, Jitendra Joshi, and Rachael Burford - for a special series in the run-up to, and post, the general election.

Produced by the Standard podcast team, check back here every week to find a brand new episode of A Week's a Long Time in Westminster.

Episode six: West Wing or Rest Wing for Joe Biden?

As our new PM Sir Keir Starmer tries to unite Britain, Europe and the wider world, there’s plenty of political drama in the US. Nicholas Cecil, Jitendra Joshi and Rachael Burford discuss the key moments of the week in the world of politics, including:

  • IT “pandemic” hits Britain and the world

  • Long-range missile talks between Keir Starmer and Volodymyr Zelensky into No10

  • Donald Trump tries (for half an hour) to unite America before new attacks on Democrats

  • Grandfather clock is ticking against Joe Biden

Episode five: Keir meets Joe hit by woes

Listen here on your chosen podcast platform.

All eyes on the president, Labour’s great reset, and is football coming home?

In this episode:

  • Labour gets off to a flying start

  • Is Biden heading for the Rest Wing?

  • Battle for the heart and soul of the Tory Party

  • Newbie MPs at Westminster

  • And….it’s coming home..how London’s preparing for England vs Spain Euro 2024 final

Episode four: Labour landslide and London's new political landscape

Labour's historic victory, broken down by our politics team.

In this episode:

Episode three: Time’s running out for Rishi Sunak as July 4 looms

Angry debates on both sides of the Atlantic, exclusive interviews with Rishi Sunak and Sir Ed Davey, a calamitous poll for the Tories, and the battle for Jewish votes in Finchley. Nicholas Cecil, Jitendra Joshi and Rachael Burford discuss the latest drama in the run-up to the general election. In this episode:

  • Did the PM do enough in his final debate with the Labour leader?

  • Just how bad was Joe Biden’s own debate with Donald Trump?

  • Ipsos polling finds 72% of voters dislike the Tories.

  • Sir Keir Starmer admits remarks about Bangladesh were ‘clumsy’

Episode two: Bets off on next drama hitting Rishi Sunak

A betting scandal, Starmer struggles to shake off Corbyn’s legacy, Boris returns and Ed Davey’s latest antics. Nicholas Cecil, Jitendra Joshi and Rachael Burford discuss the latest drama in the run-up to the general election. In this episode:

  • Conservatives forced to delete ‘gambling’ post on X

  • Suella Braverman’s embarrassing TikTok posts

  • The latest Ipsos survey sheds light on London’s intentions

  • Why a local Labour leader was found hiding in a hedge

Episode one: Three weeks to go until July 4 polling day...

  • Ahead of Euro 2024 kicking off, it's a game of two halves on the campaign trail

  • Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems and Greens publish their manifestos

  • Has Rishi Sunak recovered from his D-Day blunder?

  • Sir Keir Starmer’s party still on the back foot over tax plans

  • Or is it really potholes and NHS waiting lists voters are most concerned about?

  • With Evening Standard political editor Nicholas Cecil, deputy political editor Jitendra Joshi and chief political correspondent Rachael Burford.

Search for The Standard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you stream.

Here’s an automated transcript for episode one:

From London, I'm political editor, Nicholas Cecil.

I'm chief political correspondent, Rachael Burford.

And I'm deputy political editor, Jitendra Joshi.

And this is The Standard podcast’s, A Week's a Long Time in Westminster.

“We are the party of Margaret Thatcher and Nigel Lawson, a party unlike Labour that believes in sound money.

So we will ensure that we have lower welfare so that we can deliver lower taxes.” SUNAK

Recorded from our newsroom at Westminster, this is a series of special episodes every Friday in the run up to the election.

We'll cut through the noise and help you get to grips with what's really going on in politics, both here in London and across the country.

Taking you through the week's political news, policy gossip and scandal.

And we'll be with you on results day to unpack everything.

“I don't believe it's fair to raise taxes on working people when they're already paying this much, particularly in a cost of living crisis.

So let me spell it out.

We will not raise income tax.

We will not raise national insurance.

We will not raise VAT.

That is a manifesto commitment.” STARMER

So this week was a game of two halves in the election campaign, ahead of England's first game at Euro 2024 on Sunday.

At the start of the week, it was the Tories with that manifesto, but they're doing so badly in the polls.

It was like they were starting the game five nil down.

The second half of the week was Labour's manifesto.

And for Sir Keir Starmer, it's the opposite.

He's a huge football fan, and he knows he'll be in number 10 in just three weeks time, unless his party scores a string of spectacular own goals.

So to start the show, let's kick off with the Tories.

So on Tuesday, we had the Tory manifesto, and that was very much tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts.

They proposed to cut a further 2p off the main rate of National Insurance by 2027.

And they are also proposing ditching the main rate of National Insurance for the self-employed.

There were quite a few other pledges in their manifesto, for example, building 1.6 million more homes in the next five years, stamp duty for first time buyers being abolished on homes up to a value of £425,000.

They repeated their pledge to get Rwanda flights, deportation flights off the ground, though so far they very clearly failed to achieve that.

They pledged to boost spending on defense at 2.5% of GDP by 2030.

They say they can make £12 billion of savings from welfare cuts.

And they also claim that they can find £5 billion through closing the tax gap, which is cracking down on tax avoidance and so on.

However, the issue they're facing there, as we've seen today, Nick, is with regard to those tax cuts, is they're open to attack from Labour, who are accusing them of not having the funding to fill the hole that these cuts would leave.

We're hearing today from Wes Streeting, for example, who's saying that this manifesto amounts to what he calls Liz Truss on steroids.

And that's a wound that Labour are particularly keen to keep punching at, reminding voters of the recent chaos, as they call it under Tory rule.

But it's hard to say that the manifesto itself, with all the details and all the cut and thrust and the facts and the figures, to what extent that really cuts through with voters.

I think what we've seen over the week, what really does affect them are self-inflicted goals.

For instance, a week ago, last Friday, we woke up to Rishi Sunak having to issue a pretty devastating apology coming hours after he'd left the D-Day ceremonies in Normandy early to record an ITV interview.

There was nothing particularly pressing about that interview, but there was a feeling that conservatives felt they were on the back foot against Labour and they wanted to regain the initiative.

That's backfired horribly after Rishi Sunak came under pretty withering fire, including from some elderly veterans themselves who felt they'd been abandoned on their day on what realistically is gonna be the last significant anniversary given the age of those heroes.

And then it turned out in that self-same ITV interview, we now learn Rishi Sunak was again reinforcing this sense that he's not entirely in touch perhaps with people out there.

He was asked, words to the effect, what was the biggest hardship you faced growing up?

And he said, well, we didn't have Sky TV.

And I think for people like the woman who kicked off the first ITV debate between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, she explained in pretty upsetting detail how badly the cost of living crisis has affected her and lots and lots of families up and down the country are gonna relate to stories like that.

So to hear a multimillionaire who's already being accused of being out of touch and just failing to understand what people are going through, to hear that that's the worst he can come up with, well, that doesn't really help, does it?

Yeah, the Tories are definitely obsessed with tax cuts.

And really that's because it's kind of the only thing they've got that they can sort of latch onto in this campaign because they've been in power for 14 years, immigration is at record highs, NHS waiting lists at record highs.

It's very hard for them to come out and say, well, we'll sort this out when they've been in charge of sorting it out for over a decade.

So they're going in on tax cuts and this sort of reputation that they previously have being the party of fiscal responsibility, but they're really sort of losing that.

I mean, after the disaster that was Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak's complete inability to sort of pull that back, I think all they've got now is him to go out and say, well, we'll cut your tax.

We'll give you a few extra pennies in your pay packet.

But there are people facing obviously massive mortgage hikes, huge food bills, huge energy bills.

So it's a big, big problem for them.

And I don't think there's anything that Rishi Sunak can actually do now to convince people that, yes, I want to vote Tory at this election because I think they are the ones that are gonna be able to sort the country out.

The Conservatives always had a sort of base of general voters, people that go out and vote for the party every time because they do like low taxes.

They do think they are the party of fiscal responsibility.

But now you've got, I think, moderate Tory voters who think there's a lot of two right wing.

You've got right wing Tory voters who think there's a lot of two left wing.

And you've got the practical Tories who just think they're useless.

So it's hard to see who's actually gonna come out and vote for them at this election.

Just sticking on tax for a bit longer because that was the first blow struck by either the leaders in the first TV debate that we had between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer.

So the Prime Minister came out with this line that if you elect a Labour government, you'll get hit with a £2,000 tax bill.

So that's a £2,000 per household.

Keir Starmer, quite surprisingly, failed to have a proper answer to that.

And that was seen as really quite a Tory success to have landed an early blow on the Labour leader who on the core issue of tax seemed to be stumped.

Well, this is where it gets really fascinating because this £2,000 figure started to unravel quite quickly.

So first the Treasury, which compiled some figures which went into the Tory calculations.

The Treasury, the most senior civil servant in the Treasury distanced himself from some of these figures.

Then we had independent fact checkers being really quite critical about it.

And then we had the UK Statistics Authority pointing out that this £2,000 figure is a figure over four years.

And ministers, Tory candidates and so on, they're really not making that clear.

So voters are being left with the impression that that's £2,000 a year.

Now you'd have thought maybe that the conservators would pull back a bit then because they thought, well, actually, maybe this is getting a bit of tricky territory for us.

But actually it's the opposite.

They've doubled down on this claim.

So they keep on repeating it.

Labour will tax you more.

It'll be £2,000 more tax, even though this figure is looking increasingly doubtful.

But it did lead, though, arguably to Rishi Sunak's D-Day blunder.

So the day after that debate, the day after the Prime Minister made that pretty questionable claim, Labour were hitting him from every quarter, saying, you're a liar.

Those were their words.

The Tories are lying.

You can't trust them.

All day long.

Where was Rishi?

He was in Portsmouth and then in Normandy, feeling like he couldn't punch back.

Eventually, when he did hit back, well, we saw what happened.

It really, really unraveled very quickly because he'd left D-Day early.

So there was a conspiracy theory doing the rounds that actually Labour, this was all a cunning ruse.

You know, Keir Starmer let him make that false attack as they saw it during the debate in order to pummel them the next day.

I think that's a bit of a stretch.

These things tend to be more cock up than conspiracy.

But in terms of who won the narrative over those days and since, because this week again, Rishi Sunak is forced to apologize in every TV appearance.

This D-Day thing just won't go away.

And that is really the sort of thing the voters do remember.

Well, these are very much like the headline battleground engagements.

But there's also a lot happening at the local level in London.

I think, Rachael, you've got some details of that, haven't you?

Yeah, so I've been out and about in a few seats in London this week and last week.

Obviously, with this being Manifesto Week, there haven't been as many visits.

But last week, there was certainly some ministers out, keen to get people out on the ground and be seen campaigning.

I went to Sutton and Cheam, which is a seat that the Tories currently hold, but is under threat from the Lib Dems, basically.

The Lib Dems have got it at the top of their target list pretty much.

The Tory candidate there, Tom Drummond, was pretty keen to talk about potholes and how Sutton Lib Dem Council is useless at filling in potholes.

We got all taken out to this sort of deepest, darkest Sutton, to this road.

And James Cleverley, the Home Secretary, came along as well to campaign the Tory candidate.

And unfortunately, though, Sutton Council, I'm sure they would deny they got wind of this visit, but the Council were filling in the potholes as we were there.

So all we had was sort of James Cleverley stood in front of some council diggers, and they were pretty unable to sort of go on about how terrible the Lib Dems are at filling in potholes and how you definitely shouldn't vote for them.

So it was quite amusing.

But obviously, James Cleverley was, you know, still did his bits to camera, and he would talk to us about crime in London and things like that.

And they were obviously using Sadiq Khan still as a bit of a punching bag.

Everything is his fault. It's Labour's fault. This is what the city is like under Labour.

This is what will happen.

So it was a sort of missed opportunity on the piles, but a thing where they could go on about crime a bit.

Right, let's go to a quick ad break.

Coming up in the second half, the Labour manifesto.

Plus, who made a splash?

Hit follow in the meantime.

Welcome back to A Week's A Long Time in Westminster.

So, Labour's manifesto, it was very much Sir Keir Starmer trying to win over Middle England.

He was saying, we will be pro-business, pro-workers, we will focus on getting economic growth.

That's the core of our strategy, he was saying, and that we're now a party of wealth creation, which was a million miles from the Jeremy Corbyn years.

The problem with Labour's new strategy is that it's very, very heavily dependent on getting healthy economic growth back in Britain.

And we've had the COVID pandemic, we've had the Putin's war in Ukraine, and then we've had the political turmoil, economic turmoil as well of recent years, particularly under the Liz Truss administration.

So if you're banking on getting healthy economic growth going and you don't get it, what do you do to pay for your public services for your 40,000 more appointments to get the NHS backlog down, to pay for your 6,500 more teachers?

So with that healthy economic growth, you've got two options.

So you either go for tax rises or you go for borrowing.

And when it comes to tax rises, so Keir was very keen to rule out a number of tax rises or potential tax rises.

So he said there'd be no income tax rise, no national insurance tax rise, and no VAT rise.

But he wasn't so clear about, for example, capital gains tax.

And there are a number of tax rises.

They're less controversial than the main ones, but still quite controversial that Labour are already proceeding with, including putting VAT on private school fees, ending the non-dom status.

That obviously benefits the very wealthy and closing loopholes in the windfall tax on oil and gas giants.

So they're saying we can get all the money from there for what we need to do and a few other things, but there's still a big question over that.

There's obviously been a lot of column inches dedicated to this VAT on private school fees, but probably more than it warrants, to be honest.

I don't think the general public care about the very small number of people that actually go to private school, obviously do.

Obviously Rishi Sunak did go to a private school and has been very anti it, saying it's anti-aspirational, but no, it's not working at all.

People are feeling, we've got no aspiration other than just paying the bills and getting through the week and the month.

And if you have a spare 30,000 pounds a year for private school fees, if you're trying to plead poverty in the current economic climate, I think the sympathy is limited from normal people.

That is a battle that Labour are very happy to have.

Where the Tories have been pushing back, they think more effectively perhaps is looking at exactly what you were saying there, Nick, about where's the money coming from.

If we don't turbocharge the economy with this elusive growth that every single government that's ever been wants growth, well, what happens if you don't get it?

The Tories today are alleging that Labour have got 18 tax rises in the works.

This is basically because every time they ask a Labour person, are you gonna do this?

Unless they say absolutely not, they'll say, ah, you're not ruling it out.

So they've totted up the number of times that's happened.

They've come to 18.

Some of those claims are pretty debatable.

When even last night, we saw Angela Rayner actually ruling out some of those things.

But they think there's mileage in suggesting that Labour are gonna go after things like capital gains tax on your primary residence.

So at the moment, when you sell your home, your main home, you don't pay tax on that.

If that were to change, you mentioned Middle England, which Keir Starmer is clearly targeting.

Well, that sort of thing is gonna go down like a bucket of coal six, to be honest, in those sort of Tory heartlands.

So that's possibly a preview of what's to come between now and election day in Labour's defence, or at least to put their point of view across.

Where is the growth coming from?

Well, they're saying they've got various ways of unlocking that growth that the Tories have actively been blocking, such as planning restrictions to unleash new home building, get people off waiting lists, bring down property prices and rentals in particular, which are just taking up so much more of everyone's income at the moment.

They're talking about bringing down NHS waiting lists, getting 3 million people off sick lists and back into work.

That in itself would be fairly transformative for tax receipts.

Well, actually one thing which we haven't mentioned yet actually is Nigel Farage.

This is really quite interesting.

So Nigel Farage, having said he was off to America basically to help Donald Trump, suddenly just turned to change his mind and became leader of Reform UK.

They surged in the polls.

They're causing all sorts of problems for the Tories.

But at the same time this week, we've had some research out showing trust in politics plummeting.

And the reason for this is quite interesting that it is leave voters who were basically promised the earth during the 2016 referendum, tighter border controls, economic prosperity.

And surprise, surprise, this miracle world that they were promised hasn't materialized.

But at the same time, the man who made all these promises, Nigel Farage, he saw in the polls.

So it's really very counterintuitive that the man who basically told a lot of people to say a pack of untruths for the 2016 referendum is suddenly now back as a popular politician.

Well, he can distance himself from all those promises which were really made by Boris Johnson because Nigel Farage was never in government.

He was never even an MP.

He failed seven times to become an MP.

This is his eighth attempt in Clackton.

So he can sort of distance himself from those promises that were made and sort of say, well, if I was in charge, it would have been perfect.

It would have been brilliant.

And that's, I think, what he's going on.

I think reform, we saw a poll yesterday, which was really devastating for the Tories that showed that reform has actually jumped them now into second place.

Whether that will play out with actually getting MPs at the election remains to be seen.

I think obviously Nigel Farage does have a very good chance in Clackton, it seems.

If we accept that Brexit was really driven about by discontent about high levels of immigration, this is Farage's case, is that, well, what's happened since?

It's only gone up and up and up ever since 2016.

Those promises were never delivered upon.

If we're mentioning Farage on Europe, we need to look on the other side and Ed Davey.

How do you think his tactics are working, Rachael?

Ed Davey's just having a wonderful time while everyone else is out fighting, water skiing, going on water slides.

I mean, he's getting column inches, isn't he, by coverage, by being a bit wacky and doing these sort of stunts essentially, which, you know, it's nice.

It's kind of refreshing when everyone's just talking about how much they hate each other really and how awful everything is.

You've just got Ed Davey having a whale of a time going down a water slide.

And that's episode one of A Week's A Long Time in Westminster.

Join us here every Friday.

For all the latest news head to standard.co.uk or pick up a newspaper.

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Have a great weekend.

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