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By ELENI COUREA
Good Thursday morning. This is Eleni Courea. Emilio Casalichhio will tee up the mini-budget for you tomorrow.
DRIVING THE DAY
BUMPY LANDING: Liz Truss arrives in London this morning after her first foray onto the international stage, and will rapidly find herself being sucked back into domestic politics as her deputy prepares to unveil the government’s NHS plan and the chancellor puts the finishing touches on his mini-budget.
Tune in at noon: The Bank of England will make an announcement on interest rates, with some predicting it could be the biggest rise in 30 years.
And there are even bigger problems: As this email was sent out, the PM was mid-air on her way back from a whirlwind visit to New York for the U.N. General Assembly and her first bilateral with U.S. President Joe Biden. The world is still reeling after Vladimir Putin’s bellicose speech in which he threatened to deploy nuclear weapons in the war against Ukraine and stressed: “This is not a bluff.”
Last night in Moscow: A crowd had gathered on Arbat Street chanting “send Putin to the trenches,” according to Francis Scarr of the BBC monitoring unit. More than 1,000 people were reported to have been arrested after protesting the Kremlin’s decision to call up thousands of extra troops. Playbook’s editor Zoya Sheftalovich has an essential analysis of Putin’s address.
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In Truss we trust: In a speech at UNGA at 9 p.m. Eastern time — 2 a.m. in the U.K. — Truss said Putin was “desperately trying to justify his catastrophic failures” with “more bogus claims and saber-rattling threats.” Her words make the Times, Telegraph, Daily Mail, Guardian and Indy splashes.
NOW READ THIS: POLITICO’s Esther Webber has written about Truss’ first international trip and her “hyperactive” engagement with foreign policy after tailing the PM in New York. Perhaps her most successful bilat was with the Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Esther hears, with the two meeting over bento boxes in a Midtown restaurant where Truss impressed with her skilful use of chopsticks.
On the other hand: There was little buzz around Truss’ debut on the international stage, according to two U.S. and European attendees who spoke to Esther. One of them suggested charitably that this was inevitable, with all eyes on Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy — but another faulted her decision not to do any foreign media on the trip. The hall was half empty for Truss’ address last night, which was perhaps inevitable given she was in the graveyard slot after a long day in which both Biden and Zelenskyy had made speeches.
THE DOCTOR WILL SEE YOU NOW: As Truss makes her way back to Westminster, the deputy prime minister and health sec, Thérèse Coffey, will unveil an NHS plan focused on freeing up more GP appointments, with a promise that people are seen within two weeks and a new cloud-based phone system to reduce the need for the “8 a.m. scramble.” The Times has a write-up.
Streeting ahead: Shadow health sec Wes Streeting has an interview in this morning’s Guardian saying that the “gaping hole” in the plan is that it doesn’t address health care staff shortages. “NHS staff working flat out will have been hoping for something more advanced than the telephone,” he said.
TORY GRUMBLES: It’s not just Labour taking swipes at the government this week, however. Playbook hears that MPs returning to the Commons tea room have been airing complaints that Truss has the squandered goodwill of colleagues who didn’t back her but were willing to row in behind her government. One Tory source noted “the sheer gratuitousness of some of her appointments and the way sackings have been carried out” and said: “There are some really raw wounds.”
Case in point: Sky’s Sam Coates has detail of the revealing conversation Truss had with Grant Shapps when she fired him from the Cabinet. She told the former transport sec that he was “one of the most competent secretaries of state” and “probably the best communicator in government” — but that, because he didn’t back her, there was “no room at the inn.” Truss critics feel that sums up her style of governing.
STAT OF THE DAY: Every minute that Kwasi Kwarteng speaks at the despatch box on Friday is expected to cost the U.K. taxpayer £2 billion, Sky’s Sam Coates reckons in his essential read on five things to watch out for in Friday’s budget. He notes that 24 hours after the Bank of England inflicts misery on mortgage-holders by raising interest rates, the chancellor will stimulate the housing market with a stamp duty cut. “I have no way of explaining this or squaring these things off,” one Whitehall official involved in the discussions tells him.
Fiscal fire: The mini-budget hasn’t happened yet — though we do seem to know a remarkable amount of what’s in it — and the chancellor is already facing the heat. The Institute of Fiscal Studies and Citi Bank have warned jointly that Kwasi Kwarteng is going to put the public finances on an “unsustainable path” by combining £30 billion of tax cuts with more borrowing just as it becomes more expensive. The FT has a write-up.
No doubt about this: “This is not a mini-budget — it’s massive,” a source tells the Mail’s Harriet Line.
Getting the green light: The Telegraph notes (following yesterday’s FT story) that as well as tax breaks, the government’s planned “investment zones” will have fewer environmental protections, allowing houses to be built on what is currently protected land.
Benefits crackdown: Some 120,000 part-time workers will be told they risk having their benefits cut from January onward unless they take steps to increase their earnings, Kwarteng announced last night. The Telegraph has a write-up.
Banking big bang: The chancellor is preparing a “Big Bang” package of measures to benefit the City of London later this autumn, including reforms to regulations governing pension funds and insurers and changes to stock market listings, according to the FT. Some of the policies will be announced in the mini-budget on Friday.
Davey despairs: In an interview with the Guardian, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said he believed Truss was leading “probably the most rightwing government in modern history” and “saying some of the most extraordinary ideological things.”
Public mood: The majority of Britons favor increasing taxes and welfare spending and nearly half approve of redistribution of wealth to those less well-off, according to the annual public attitudes survey by the National Centre for Social Research. The FT has written up the findings.
THE COST OF POWER: More in Common’s Luke Tryl has been sitting in his second focus group of the week in which participants didn’t understand the government’s energy bills freeze and therefore didn’t feel reassured about the winter. He says there is a case for repeating the announcement in tomorrow’s budget. In her analysis, the Guardian’s Jess Elgot points out how little scrutiny there has been of either Truss’ household energy bill freeze — unveiled hours before the queen died — or Jacob Rees-Mogg energy package for businesses this week.
Frack attack: Last night Jacob Rees-Mogg confirmed his intention to raise the 0.5 magnitude limit on tremors that are allowed to be triggered by fracking, telling BBC Newsnight the current level was “too low.” A Labour source texted Playbook to say JRM was “signing an earthquakes charter.”
NIP-PING OFF: There wasn’t much to glean from the official U.K. or U.S. readouts about Truss and Biden’s first bilateral, not least on the thorny matter of the Northern Ireland protocol. But a senior U.S. administration official was much more forthright with reporters — including POLITICO’s Suzanne Lynch — at a briefing on the margins of the U.N. General Assembly late last night. The official said that “it was a candid discussion” (eek) “in which the prime minister laid out her view and the president made very clear what he said publicly, which is that protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the gains of the Good Friday Agreement is a matter of bipartisan importance in the United States and a matter of personal importance to him as president. And he was very clear about that.”
It goes on: “The prime minister read out to him her conversations on the subject with both [European Commission President] Ursula von der Leyen and with the Taoiseach. And I think the two of them left understanding each other well, and now we’ll see how things develop with respect to potential discussions.” Asked whether this meant nothing had changed, the official said that “She [Truss] I think, sounded a constructive note about her arrangements with both the European Union and the Republic of Ireland. And now we have to see where they go. This was not a set-to. There was a suggestion that there should be able to be a way forward here and now we have to see whether that plays out. I don’t mean we the United States. I mean, we the U.S., the U.K., the EU. The Republic, the people of Northern Ireland. This now has to proceed.”
And finally … Asked whether Biden said that if the talks blew up there would be no free-trade agreement between the U.S. and U.K, the official said: “No. He did not say that.”
April deadline: Truss wants to settle the long-running post-Brexit row over the Northern Ireland protocol before the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday agreement in April, a senior U.K. official told the traveling Lobby pack in New York yesterday. To help speed things up, Tony Blair has been involved in “explaining” the U.K.’s position to skeptical foreign allies. POLITICO’s Esther Webber has the story.
UK gov view: Truss’ spokesman denied she was allowing the matter to drift, telling Esther: “The view is that this is an important issue that needs to be resolved.” He suggested they saw the meeting with VDL — which took place in private with no aides — as the most fruitful on this front.
BREXIT BATTLE: U.K. officials will lock horns with their EU counterparts today in an effort to persuade Brussels to sign-off on British participation in the bloc’s flagship Horizon Europe research program. As reported by POLITICO’s Leonie Kijewski and Cristina Gallardo in May, the EU has held off on allowing the U.K. to participate in the scheme in retaliation for the government’s moves on the Northern Ireland protocol — infuriating ministers who believe the issues should not be linked and that Brussels is breaching the EU-U.K. trade deal by blocking Britain’s access. During the heat of the leadership contest, Liz Truss triggered formal dispute proceedings against the EU, resulting in today’s meeting.
This morning: Government officials are suggesting they will either reach resolution or break off the talks very soon. A government source emailed Playbook last night to say: “This meeting is an opportunity for the EU to finally put an end to the unnecessary delays harming both the U.K. and EU scientific communities. Despite encouraging the EU to fulfil their obligations for over 18 months, time is running out to give clarity to the U.K.’s R&D sector. If progress cannot be made shortly the U.K. will set out ambitious alternative domestic arrangements.”
CLUB EUROPE: Bloomberg’s Kitty Donaldson has a piece examining the potential for the U.K. to join French President Emmanuel Macron’s new European leaders’ club.
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TODAY IN WESTMINSTER
HOUSE OF COMMONS: Sits from 9.30 a.m. with any UQs or statements including the health secretary’s statement on the NHS … Followed by Commons leader Penny Mordaunt’s weekly business statement … The PM will then lead a general debate on Ukraine, before MPs will approve motions for new sanctions against Russia.
Lords: In recess until October 10.
EMBASSY MOVE: Truss told her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid at their bilat yesterday that she was considering moving the British Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to the contested holy city of Jerusalem. It would emulate the controversial U.S. Embassy move ordered by Donald Trump in 2017. The Telegraph has a write-up.
CHANNELING ANGER: Truss has been criticized for not discussing Channel migrant crossings with Emmanuel Macron at their bilat on Tuesday, the Times’ Matt Dathan and Henry Zeffman report. A Home Office source tells them it was “baffling” that the issue did not come up during the half-hour meeting.
SLEAZE PROBE: Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association, faces an independent investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and bullying, the Guardian’s Rajeev Syal reports. The investigation was ordered by the TUC and is being carried out by Labour peer Helena Kennedy. Cortes vehemently denied claims made against him in May.
TAKING A TOUGH LINE: Truss has told striking rail staff to “get back to work” and reiterated her pledge to bring in measures to curb industrial action this year. “I would encourage rail workers to get back to work. There’s no doubt we’re facing tough times as a country; I want to take a constructive approach with the unions, but I would tell them to get back to work,” the PM said. OK then. The Guardian has a write-up.
NWF: Playbook hears that business committee Chairman Darren Jones is in Washington DC this week in meetings with the White House on Britain’s new powers to intervene in takeovers, including that of Newport Wafer Fab. A decision by Jacob Rees-Mogg on whether to unwind its purchase by a Chinese-owned business is expected very soon.
RETURN OF GRAMMARS: The government is looking at allowing new grammar schools in areas which want them as well as the expansion of existing grammars, new Education Secretary Kit Malthouse told the Yorkshire Post in an interview. The new PM “definitely wants to address the strong desire in quite a lot of parents to reflect the benefits that many got from grammar schools,” Malthouse said. He also confirmed that Voxbridge — two new vocational colleges to rival Oxford and Cambridge — is set to be given the go-ahead. The story splashes the Yorkshire Post.
THAT MOMENT IN THE COMMONS: Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner’s has spoken about the moment she was handed a note in the Commons which said the queen’s health was failing, telling Global’s the News Agents podcast that her first thought was “oh God, this is going to change everything.” Rayner also told the podcast that a scaled-back coronation for King Charles III would be a “kind gesture” during the cost-of-living crisis, and spoke about her relationship with Keir Starmer.
SHE’S RUNNING: 2019er Tory Alicia Kearns has officially thrown her hat into the ring for the chairmanship of the foreign affairs committee. Kearns — who joins Tory grandees Liam Fox and Iain Duncan Smith in the race — told LBC’s Iain Dale last night that she is standing as she knows “how the Foreign Office works.” She has a piece in today’s Times Red Box making her case.
SQUARING UP TO PUTIN: U.S. President Joe Biden told the U.N. that Putin’s war in Ukraine is about “extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state … and Ukraine’s right to exist as a people,” as he didn’t mince his words in a direct response to the Russian President’s saber-rattling earlier in the day. A senior administration official told POLITICO’s U.S. team that Putin’s address prompted some last-minute tweaks to Biden’s big speech, resulting in a more pointed rebuke of the Kremlin. Here are the team’s five takeaways from that one. More from UNGA in U.N. Playbook.
In the EU: Brussels is drawing up plans to hit Russia with fresh sanctions as European leaders immediately condemned Putin’s threats. Four diplomats told Barbara Moens, Lili Bayer and Jacopo Barigazzi for POLITICO that the European Commission will be ready to share its sanctions blueprints with EU capitals from as soon as Friday, with a cap on the price of Russian oil among the measures being considered.
SOME GOOD NEWS: Russia released Shaun Pinner and Aiden Asplin along with three other British prisoners of war, after Saudi Arabia said it brokered an exchange between Russia and Ukraine of 10 foreign detainees in total. A real good news, Vlad news day, as the Sun’s splash puts it.
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Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey broadcast round: GB News (7.05 a.m.) … Times Radio (7.20 a.m.) … BBC Breakfast (7.30 a.m.) … LBC (7.50 a.m.) … ITV GMB (8.30 a.m.) … talkTV (9.20 a.m.).
Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting: Times Radio (7.45 a.m.) … Sky News (8.05 a.m.) … talkTV (8.20 a.m.) … BBC Breakfast (8.30 a.m.) … LBC (8.50 a.m.) … GB News (9.05 a.m.).
Also on Kay Burley: Lib Dem leader Ed Davey (7.45 a.m.) … SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford (8.45 a.m.).
Also on Times Radio breakfast: Andrew Sentance, former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee on interest rates (7.35 a.m.) … Richard Shirreff, former NATO Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (8.05 a.m.).
Also on Julia Hartley-Brewer breakfast (talkTV): Tory MP James Sunderland (8 a.m.).
Tonight with Andrew Marr (LBC 6 p.m.): Health Minister Robert Jenrick … Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen.
Question Time (BBC One 10.35 p.m.): Cabinet Office Minister Brendan Clarke-Smith … Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting … Former Johnson adviser Gerard Lyons … Unaffiliated peer Claire Fox … Lib Dem MP Layla Moran.
Reviewing the papers tonight: Sky News (10.30 and 11.30 p.m.): Columnist Carole Malone and editor of the Courier David Clegg.
TODAY’S FRONT PAGES
(Click on the publication’s name to see its front page.)
Daily Express: Your doctor must see you in two weeks.
Daily Mail: We won’t be cowed by Putin’s nuclear threats.
Daily Mirror: If you can’t find it in your heart to help catch Olivia’s killer … how about £200,000.
Daily Star: E.T. throne home.
Financial Times: Putin makes nuclear threat as he mobilises army reserves for war.
HuffPostUK: Putin’s nukes threat — Should we be worried?
i: Warning over Truss gamble on tax cuts.
Metro: Russians see red at Vlad.
POLITICO UK: Welcome to Trussworld.
PoliticsHome: Why a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. was never realistic.
The Daily Telegraph: ‘Desperate’ Putin will be defeated, says Truss.
The Guardian: Biden condemns Putin’s imperial aims as Moscow raises the stakes.
The Independent: Biden condemns Putin’s ‘reckless’ nuclear threat.
The Sun: Good news … Vlad news.
The Times: Biden condemns Putin’s nuclear threat to West.
TODAY’S NEWS MAGS
POLITICO Europe: Giorgia Meloni’s march on Brussels.
The New European: Europe’s water is running out.
The New Statesman: Going for broke — Liz Truss’ radical right counter-revolution. By Andrew Marr.
The Spectator: Cornered — What will Putin do now, asks Paul Wood.
WESTMINSTER WEATHER: ⛅️☁️☁️ Mostly cloudy but should be dry. Highs of 20C.
SPOTTED LAST NIGHT: At new Sunday Express Editor Dave Wooding’s party celebrating 25 years in the Lobby, hosted by inHouse Communications on Smith Square with drinks by Diageo … Justice Secretary Brandon Lewis… FCDO Minister Gillian Keegan … Tory MPs Graham Brady, David Davis, Mark Harper, Liam Fox, Iain Duncan Smith, Alun Cairns, Damian Green and Nigel Evans … pol-eds Steve Swinford, Caroline Wheeler, Hugo Gye, David Williamson and Nigel Nelson … newspaper hacks Harry Yorke, Ryan Sabey, Claire Ellicott, Kate Ferguson, Jonathan Walker, Matt Dathan, Chris Hope, Dan Hodges, Jack Elsom and Torcuil Crichton … broadcasters Sam Coates, Jon Craig and Nick Ferrari … former Sun pol-eds Trevor Kavanagh and George Pascoe-Watson … former Tory director of comms Nick Wood … Tory staffers Edgar Johnson, David Goss and Laura Emily Dunn … DCMS comms director Craig Woodhouse.
BIRTHDAYS: Welsh Secretary Robert Buckland … North Somerset MP Liam Fox … Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey … Former No. 10 aide turned-podcaster Jimmy McLoughlin.
PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: Editor Zoya Sheftalovich, reporter Andrew McDonald and producer Grace Stranger.
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