Blog: No 10 claims delays at Dover not caused by Brexit as Tory leadership rivals prepare for televised debate – UK politics live – The Guardian

Former Tory chair cautions Truss & Sunak not to ‘trash brand’ during leadership debate

Former Conservative Party chair Francis Maude has warned Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss not to trash the Conservative party brand during tonight’s televised leadership debate, which is schedule to start at 9pm.

Lord Maude, who was also formerly minister for the cabinet office, told the BBC’s PM programme this evening “One is obviously going to win the leadership, but if the behaviour of the teams and their language has been uncontrolled, and it has damaged the party’s standing or the way people see the party, then it could end up being a Pyrrhic victory.”

He said that the increasingly fractious tone of interventions from the campaign teams over the weekend had begun to appear like “a race over who can sound more right-wing, as if that’s the only game in town.”

Urging them to “remember it is generally an error to trash the brand”, he said that “people’s impressions will be formed by how they behave in this leadership election” and Sunak and Truss should “reflect and concentrate more on showing why they are the best person to be the prime minister of this country.”

Key events

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The Transport Salaried Staffs Association union (TSSA) has called on transport secretary Grant Shapps to intervene in the summer’s rail pay and job security disputes, as it announced it will strike on two days during August. Union members will walk out on 18 August and 20 August.

The TSSA said thousands of its members – including station staff, operational, maintenance, supervisory and management staff – will take part in industrial action. Strike action will be taken in Avanti West Coast, c2c, East Midlands Railway, CrossCountry, Great Western Railway, LNER, and Southeastern.

PA Media quotes Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, saying:

Most of our members are going into a third or fourth year of pay freezes, seeing their real take home pay decrease. For many rail workers in our union this is the first time they have been directly involved in an industrial dispute.

We do not take strike action lightly, but enough is enough. The Conservative government is the clear block to a deal for rail workers.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps must either personally come to the table or empower train operators to reach a deal on pay, job security and conditions.

Instead of wanting to resolve this dispute, we now see proposals for hundreds of ticket office closures and widespread job cuts across our railways.

The proposed strike days are the same dates that the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) is striking against Network Rail and 14 train operators.

  • This is Martin Belam in London taking over the live blog for the rest of the evening. I’ll be covering the live debate between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss which is set for 9pm. You can reach me at or message me on Twitter – @MartinBelam.

Bloomberg has published an economic analysis saying that Liz Truss’s plans for tax cuts could add 0.6% to GDP in 2023. But “that boost may be short-lived because it would likely prompt the Bank of England to raise interest rates”, the analysis says. It suggests that under Truss’s plans interest rates would have to rise more than expected, reaching 3.25% by the middle of next year.

The same analysis says that economic outlook for the UK would change little from what it is already under Rishi Sunak because, in economic terms, he is the continuity candidate.

That is all from me for tonight. My colleague Martin Belam is now taking over.

Rishi Sunak has had endorsements from two ministers who served in Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet (Peter Lilley and Michael Howard), as well as former Tory leader first elected to parliament when Thatcher was prime minister (William Hague), Greg Hands, a Sunak supporter, points out.

Yesterday a report by Michael Savage in the Observer quoted three other ministers who served in Thatcher’s cabinet – Malcolm Rifkind, Chris Patten and Norman Lamont – also siding with Rishi Sunak, and describing Liz Truss’s proposed tax cuts as irresponsible.

In the Thatcher era, and afterwards, Lilley and Howard were seen as very much on the right of the Conservative party. It says something about how much the party has changed that Sunak, the person they are now supporting, is seen as the candidate of the party’s “left” – or at least not the candidate of the party’s right.

(Only in a Tory leadership contest could Sunak be described as being on the left, and even then the label is a bit of a stretch.)

The Green party has criticised Labour for abandoning its commitment to renationalising utilities as set out in the 2019 manifesto. (See 12.50pm.) Commenting on what Rachel Reeves and Keir Starmer said this morning, Adrian Ramsay, the Green party’s co-leader, said:

It is depressing to see Labour abandoning their traditional support for public ownership of essential services at a time when this is so popular amongst voters. Their attempt to compete with the Tories will see ordinary people and the planet pay the cost as a result.

It’s clear for all to see that the privatisation of essential services like energy, transport and water has served only to line the pockets of shareholders, rather than ensure that these services we all depend on are reliable and affordable.

The Green party believes it is essential that public services are publicly owned, both in order to guarantee the level of service required to meet society’s needs and help tackle the climate crisis, and to ensure good pay and conditions of those working within them.

Make UK, which represents British manufacturers, has welcomed Keir Starmer’s decision to promise a renewed focus on industrial strategy if he wins the next election. (See 10.57am.) Its chief executive, Stephen Phipson, said:

Industry will welcome the focus on industrial strategy which is a concept that companies understand and have long campaigned for. Most developed economies have such a strategy which joins up wide strands of economic policy on innovation, skills, infrastructure and energy at both national and regional level. Time after time this has been shown to feed through into wider gains on productivity.

Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves inspecting a robot dog during a visit to the Manufacturing Technology Centre at the Liverpool Science Park today. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

In his speech this morning Keir Starmer said that because of the UK’s recent record of low growth in recent years “the average British family is £8,800 poorer than their equivalents in other advanced countries”. The post originally said £1,800, because I misheard the figure, but I’ve now corrected it. (See 10.41am.)

Starmer was quoting a figure implied by this report from the Resolution Foundation thinktank. In its press release summarising the report, the RF said:

Britain’s toxic combination of low growth and high inequality has left it trailing behind the comparable economies of Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands, with disastrous consequences for low- and middle-income households …

Comparing the UK, not to the world’s most productive or equal countries, but to a group of five comparable nations – Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the Netherlands – the report illustrates the scale of Britain’s challenges, but also catch-up potential. If the UK had the average income and inequality levels of these countries, typical household incomes in Britain would be a third higher – equivalent to £8,800 per household – and those of the poorest households 40 per cent greater.

Renationalising services like energy and rail would be pragmatic, says Corbyn’s former policy chief

Andrew Fisher, head of policy for Jeremy Corbyn when he was Labour leader, told Radio 4’s World at One that it was “very silly” for the party’s leadership to rule out renationalistation of utilities on cost grounds. Referring to Rachel Reeves’ comments in an interview this morning (see 11.33am), he said:

The reason why private companies want water and rail and energy in private ownership is because they make money out of it. They’re revenue generating assets. So if you take them into public ownership, then you gain that revenue generating asset. So it actually brings in money.

That seems to me a very silly thing for Rachel Reeves to have said. The energy companies are making huge profits.

Fisher said that Keir Starmer said he would take a pragmatic, rather than an ideological, approach to renationalisation. (See 12.50pm.) Fisher went on:

Well, there’s a very strong pragmatic case for public ownership of energy, of water, of the railways, which is why all three of those things are in public ownership throughout most of Europe.

Fisher also said that Starmer’s focus on growth in the speech was potentially problematic for Labour. He explained:

Clearly we’re in a point where we could dip into recession at the moment … But by the time of the next election the economy will probably be growing again, because economies pick up after recessions, they tend to be fairly short, and then the economy revives. And the worry is that, if the Tories are delivering growth at that point, what else is Labour saying?

Earlier Fisher posted this on Twitter to show the polls suggest the public is in favour of renationalising utilities.

Andrew Fisher (right) with Jeremy Corbyn in 2019.
Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

This is from Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor and Tory leadership candidate, who has been campaigning in Staffordshire.

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