Keir Starmer says Palestinian state is an ‘undeniable right’ as part of Gaza peace process – UK politics live

Dan Sabbagh is the Guardian’s defence and security editor

New defence secretary John Healey announced a fresh British military aid package for Ukraine on Sunday as he visited the southern port city of Odesa and met with his counterpart Rustem Umerov (see earlier post at 17.02).

The move is designed to reassure Ukraine and demonstrate to Moscow that UK military backing remains unchanged after last week’s change of government and ahead of this week’s Nato summit, where additional military help for Kyiv will be discussed.

Healey said “the UK is united for Ukraine” and the Labour minister promised to “reinvigorate Britain’s support by stepping up supplies of vital military aid”as part of an effort to help resist Russian aggression “for as long as it takes’’.

Britain will supply a quarter of a million large, 50 calibre rounds of ammunition, 10 of its AS-90 artillery guns, which have a theoretical range of up to 25km, and 90 Brimstone ground-attack, anti-tank missiles from its own stocks.

The Ministry of Defence said that Healey had immediately asked for extra support to be provided to Ukraine which was “readily available” and meets their “needs for the battlefield” as the war continues its third year.

Umerov said, on his Telegram channel, that he “highly appreciated” Healey’s visit given it was his second working day in the job and his first trip abroad.

Keir Starmer travelled to Edinburgh as part of his first tour of the four UK nations since taking on the role as the UK’s prime minister on Friday. Speaking after his meeting with Scotland’s first minister, John Swinney, at Bute House, Starmer said he aimed to “make good” on his campaign commitment to “reset” the relationship between the Scottish and UK governments. He will travel to Wales and Northern Ireland next. In Scotland, Starmer met with the Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, and celebrated the election of 37 Scottish Labour MPs.

Labour is seeking an unprecedented joint declaration with the EU to usher in a wide-ranging security pact covering defence, energy, the climate crisis, pandemics and even illegal migration, the foreign secretary, David Lammy, said. As part of the new government’s plan to reset its relations with the EU and bring “an end to the Brexit era”, Lammy told the Guardian that a broadly defined security deal would not undermine Labour’s commitment to remain outside the EU’s single market and customs union.

Conservatives have suggested that the former home secretary Suella Braverman is losing support as a potential party leader, as some who lost votes across southern England privately urged colleagues to resist a lurch to the right. A number of MPs now see Robert Jenrick, Priti Patel and Kemi Badenoch, all of whom have ruled out a deal with Reform leader Nigel Farage, as more viable candidates. In an interview with GB News, Braverman claimed Reform UK posed an “existential threat” to the Conservatives. She has declined to say whether or not she will be a Tory leadership candidate.

New defence secretary John Healey announced a fresh British military aid package for Ukraine as he visited the southern port city of Odesa and met with his counterpart Rustem Umerov.

Recognition of the state of Palestine as part of a Middle East peace process is an “undeniable right”, Starmer told Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in a phone call this morning.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem leader, said that he remained committed to proportional representation, even though PR would have given Reform UK more seats that the Lib Dems at this election.

Jonathan Reynolds, the new business and trade secretary, ruled out Labour backing ID cards.

Thank you for reading and all your comments today. This blog is closing now but you can read all of our politics coverage here.

The health secretary, Wes Streeting, has announced he will meet junior doctors on Tuesday in an effort to end strike action and discuss reform.

Streeting will hold face-to-face talks with the British Medical Association (BMA) junior doctors committee for negotiations to end their long-running dispute over pay.

Medics in training across the NHS went on strike for five full days from 27 June. The walkout was the 11th by junior doctors in 20 months.

Junior doctors in England have said their pay has been cut by more than a quarter over the last 15 years and have called for a 35% increase.

Streeting has said previously he would not meet the 35%, saying that if he gave in to the demand then “any trade union worth their salt” would come back the following year with the same request.

In a statement issued on Sunday, he said:

When I said the NHS was broken, I was being honest with the public about the scale of the challenge. It will take time to fix it, so there’s no time to waste.

I am meeting with junior doctors early this week to discuss the end of strike action, and on Monday I will meet the British Dental Association to begin rescuing NHS dentistry.

I will also continue to meet with officials and NHS leaders to agree plans for providing an extra 40,000 operations, scans and appointments a week as soon as possible to cut waiting lists.

This is what we promised in opposition, so it is what we are doing in government. It will be the mission of this government to build an NHS fit for the future. I’m delighted that the prime minister will chair the mission delivery board to drive through that change, renew the NHS and build a healthier Britain.

Patrick Wintour is diplomatic editor for the Guardian

Labour is seeking an unprecedented joint declaration with the EU to usher in a wide-ranging security pact covering defence, energy, the climate crisis, pandemics and even illegal migration, the foreign secretary, David Lammy, has said.

As part of the new government’s plan to reset its relations with the EU and bring “an end to the Brexit era”, Lammy told the Guardian that a broadly defined security deal would not undermine Labour’s commitment to remain outside the EU’s single market and customs union.

Under Labour plans, the pact would see the UK work more closely with the bloc on a slew of areas related to security, ideally without the need for a legally binding deal, which could take years to agree.

Lammy has also accepted an invitation from the EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, to attend the September meeting of the EU foreign affairs council – something that was rejected by the previous Conservative government.

It is rare for non-EU states to attend the foreign affairs council, and Labour thinks it may be possible to go on an irregular basis if the planned security pact develops.

In an interview during his first trip to Europe as foreign secretary, Lammy said: “We said in our manifesto we wanted an ambitious security pact, and that’s because we have been speaking to Europe about this for the last few years, and I think there is an appetite, particularly following the war in Ukraine and the challenges that EU faces in relation to energy and climate, to go broader than just defence.

“So you have to obviously get into discussions with Europe and find those issues of mutual interest. My hope is that once, of course, the new European leadership is in place, we can progress this with a joint declaration of some kind. Obviously, underneath that would be buckets of work streams.”

You can read the full story here:

Scottish first minister John Swinney has been asked if he still has a democratic mandate for a referendum on independence after his party’s disastrous general election performance.

“The people of Scotland elected a Scottish parliament that exists today that’s got majority support for a referendum on independence,” he said, according to BBC News.

“I think the democratic will of the people of Scotland from that election should be respected.”

Swinney said “we made clear that we (as in himself and Keir Starmer) have different views on the constitution”.

Swinney has said Labour’s “emphatic victory” showed that Scottish voters were no longer prioritising independence, which in turn meant the party needed to reassess how it achieved constitutional change. The SNP party leader had repeatedly said an SNP victory in Scotland – which was always highly unlikely – would trigger talks on a fresh independence referendum. During the campaign, Keir Starmer, the Labour party leader, said categorically he would refuse to participate in negotiations for another independence referendum even if the SNP won a majority of seats.

Conservatives have suggested that the former home secretary Suella Braverman is losing support as a potential party leader, as some who lost votes across southern England privately urged colleagues to resist a lurch to the right.

A number of MPs now see Robert Jenrick, Priti Patel and Kemi Badenoch, all of whom have ruled out a deal with the hard-right Reform leader Nigel Farage, as more viable candidates.

The Conservative party board is expected to meet on Monday to begin to draw up plans for a leadership contest to replace Rishi Sunak after the Tories’ devastating general election defeat.

Some party grandees have been pushing for a longer leadership contest, but no decision will be made on the timeline until a meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee of remaining Tory MPs.

Those who have spoken to Sunak describe him as shellshocked by the election result, the Guardian has been told. He has been calling all former Conservative MPs who lost their seats over the weekend, engaging in personal conversations of sometimes more than 10 minutes.

Three potential leadership candidates appeared to discuss the postmortem in the Sunday papers and TV shows: Braverman, Jenrick, the former immigration minister, and Victoria Atkins, the former health secretary.

Strategists for a number of candidates are analysing the records of the 121 remaining MPs. “It’s not a Faragist party,” said one. “Anyone who pursues that will lose.”

You can read the full story by the Guardian’s deputy political editor, Jessica Elgot, here:

The Scottish government has released a summary of what Scottish first minister John Swinney and the UK’s prime minister, Keir Starmer, talked about at Bute House, the first minister’s official residence, in Edinburgh.

The government release said:

Following an introductory telephone call on Friday, the two leaders met in Edinburgh to emphasise their joint commitment to working collaboratively on areas of shared interest.

They discussed a range of issues and areas where both the governments can work together, including advancing the Scottish government’s core priorities of eradicating child poverty, growing the economy, prioritising net zero, and ensuring the delivery of effective public services.

Deputy first minister Kate Forbes and the new secretary of state for Scotland Ian Murray joined the first minister and prime minister for talks.

Swinney said:

I was pleased to welcome Sir Keir to Bute House so soon after his appointment as UK prime minister.

We continued our conversation about areas of shared interest. I believe there is an opportunity for collaborative working that can make a difference to people’s lives and I hope to work with Sir Keir’s new government to deliver progress for the benefit of people in Scotland.

Following our talks, I am confident we have established the foundation for a productive relationship between our two governments based on renewed respect for the devolution settlement.

Starmer has said the 37 Labour MPs elected in the general election in Scotland would “bring about the change” that people wanted. The Labour landslide there is remarkable given the fact that the party had just one MP in Scotland in 2019, Ian Murray. In contrast, the SNP’s tally fell from 48 to 9 MPs in the general election. There are 57 MPs in total in Scotland.

Starmer’s visit to Edinburgh did not go entirely as planned as pro-Palestinian protesters lined the streets outside Bute House in anticipation of his arrival.

Dan Sabbagh is the Guardian’s defence and security editor

New defence secretary John Healey announced a fresh British military aid package for Ukraine on Sunday as he visited the southern port city of Odesa and met with his counterpart Rustem Umerov (see earlier post at 17.02).

The move is designed to reassure Ukraine and demonstrate to Moscow that UK military backing remains unchanged after last week’s change of government and ahead of this week’s Nato summit, where additional military help for Kyiv will be discussed.

Healey said “the UK is united for Ukraine” and the Labour minister promised to “reinvigorate Britain’s support by stepping up supplies of vital military aid”as part of an effort to help resist Russian aggression “for as long as it takes’’.

Britain will supply a quarter of a million large, 50 calibre rounds of ammunition, 10 of its AS-90 artillery guns, which have a theoretical range of up to 25km, and 90 Brimstone ground-attack, anti-tank missiles from its own stocks.

The Ministry of Defence said that Healey had immediately asked for extra support to be provided to Ukraine which was “readily available” and meets their “needs for the battlefield” as the war continues its third year.

Umerov said, on his Telegram channel, that he “highly appreciated” Healey’s visit given it was his second working day in the job and his first trip abroad.

Home secretary Yvette Cooper has taken the first steps in establishing a new UK border security command to combat the people-smuggling gangs bringing migrants across the Channel in small boats, the PA news agency is reporting.

The home office said that recruitment of a border security commander, who will report directly to Cooper, will begin tomorrow and the new recruit – a “leader used to working in complex and challenging environments, for example at senior levels of policing, intelligence or the military” – will take up their post in the coming weeks, providing strategic direction to work across agencies.

Under the home secretary’s instruction, a team is also establishing the remit, governance and strategic direction of the new command, and legislation is being prepared to introduce new counter terror-style powers and measures to tackle organised immigration crime. Cooper has also commissioned an investigation from the department and the national crime agency into the latest routes, methods and tactics used by people smuggling gangs across Europe.

“Criminal smuggling gangs are making millions out of small boat crossings, undermining our border security and putting lives at risk,” Cooper said.

“We can’t carry on like this. We need to tackle the root of the problem, going after these dangerous criminals and bringing them to justice.

“The border security command will be a major step change in UK enforcement efforts to tackle organised immigration crime, drawing on substantial resource to work across Europe and beyond to disrupt trafficking networks and to co-ordinate with prosecutors in Europe to deliver justice.

“Work is under way to bring in a border security commander to lead this work – and we will begin recruitment on additional capacity in the National Crime Agency immediately.”

When asked on Sunday if she was making the same promise as the previous government to “stop the boats”, Cooper replied: “No one should be making these dangerous boat crossings.

“This is undermining our border security as well as having lives being put at risk. But that’s why we have to have a major upgrade in law enforcement and I have immediately started the work on that in the home office.”

Asked on Sunday if she was making the same promise as the previous Government to “stop the boats” and if so, when would it happen, Ms Cooper said: “No one should be making these dangerous boat crossings.

When pushed on when the numbers of small boats will start to come down, Cooper spoke about how the first half of the year has seen an increase of boast crossings. “I am very concerned about the increase that we’ve seen and the way that criminal gangs are being allowed to get away with this, are undermining our border security and also putting lives at risk.

“We need to make rapid progress in upgrading the law enforcement against these gangs to go after the problem at source.

“And that is why I have immediately started work on this and why I am setting out the process now to get the border security command in place.”

When asked if she has had any contact with Rwanda about winding the plan down and getting any money back, Cooper said she would be auditing the details around “the money and legislation and the processes” in order to set out more details to Parliament.

Here’s video of the prime minister’s remarks in Edinburgh, where Keir Starmer arrived today on the first leg of his two-day trip to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Speaking alongside Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, the UK prime minister said he and his Labour government would ‘deliver for Scotland’.

Keir Starmer has revealed the UK government is working on a rescue plan for the Grangemouth oil refinery near Edinburgh, as he arrived in the city for talks with Scotland’s first minister, John Swinney.

The prime minister told reporters in Edinburgh the Labour government had already started conversations on how to save thousands of jobs at Grangemouth, after its owner Ineos said it was phasing out operations in its refinery business at the site.

Starmer said Grangemouth was high up his agenda for Scotland, and would be proof of his government’s pledge to champion Scotland’s interests. “It is obviously a source of great concern to me, [in] terms of what steps we can now take to preserve jobs and ensure the future,” he said.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said he had discussed a Grangemouth rescue plan with Ed Miliband, the energy security and net zero secretary, earlier on Sunday.

Scottish Labour was alerted to the significance of the Grangemouth crisis after it repeatedly came up on the doorstep during the election campaign.

Labour unexpectedly won three seats surrounding Grangemouth, including Falkirk, a seat long regarded as an ultra-safe seat for the Scottish National party, in its landslide election victory on Thursday.

Speaking after a short victory rally with some of Scottish Labour’s MPs and party activists, Starmer hinted Grangemouth would be on the agenda for his meeting with Swinney, the SNP leader and first minister, at Bute House on Sunday evening.

He denied that the UK government’s relations with Swinney and the Scottish government would be coloured by Labour’s determination to defeat the SNP in the 2026 Holyrood elections.

“I’m not focused on party politics,” he said. “I’m focused on one question, which is how can I bring about the change that so many people in Scotland want? That’s what they voted for. They voted for Labour.

“[We] have 37 [Scottish Labour] MPs, they will be sitting on the government benches delivering that change, but I’m focused on the people of Scotland who want change. I’m not focused on party politics. And that’s the way I intend to govern.”

Swinney, as first minister, had a right to be involved, Starmer added. He was “totally committed” to involving the UK’s devolved governments and regional mayors in his economic renewal agenda, and would soon be setting up a council of nations and regions – one of the main recommendations from a constitutional reform commission chaired by Gordon Brown.

“I’m totally committed to the principle that those with skin in the game know best, what works for their communities, and that what you shouldn’t do is have individuals in Westminster and Whitehall making decisions affecting communities when they’ve got their own representatives.

“They’ve got people who do understand those communities and work better but what I want is to make sure that whether it’s mayors, whether it’s elected representatives here in Scotland, that you have a Labour government coming up alongside them sharing the ambition and that’s what this is about.”

SNP party leader John Swinney must show voters he can be trusted as first minister after a “very clear message” was sent to the SNP in the general election results, Ian Blackford, who led the SNP in the Commons between 2017 and 2022, has said.

He appeared to back Swinney’s leadership, but added there “isn’t really anybody else” who could take on the job.

In an interview with the Sunday Mail, Blackford said the results showed the electorate had delivered a “very clear message”, adding: “They’re pissed off.”

He said:

You can’t sugar coat any of this. It’s up to John what the party does but the electorate have delivered a very clear message to us – primarily they’re pissed off. I don’t think anyone is pointing the finger at John and saying he has to go.

He’s inherited this and he has to own it in terms of fixing it. It’s not long until 2026. You’ve got some time and it can be turned around but you need to demonstrate that you can be trusted.

The SNP was reduced to nine MPs in last week’s election, from 48 MPs in 2019. Blackford was asked if Swinney – who took over as SNP leader eight weeks ago – would be able to turn the party’s fortunes around. Blackford said: “Time will tell but there isn’t really anybody else, so he’s the man for it.”

As my colleague Lisa O’Carroll notes in this story, it has been a turbulent two years for the SNP, during which time it has had three leaders. Sturgeon quit her post in February 2023, saying she was burnt out, weeks before her husband, Peter Murrell, was questioned in connection with alleged embezzlement of party funds. He was charged earlier this year. Sturgeon was also arrested but was released without charge.

Humza Yousaf, Sturgeon’s apprentice, stepped down in May after ending his power-sharing deal with the Scottish Greens in Holyrood, with Swinney then taking the reins.

Keir Starmer said his Labour government would “deliver for Scotland” as he visited Edinburgh on the first leg of his two-day trip to the devolved administrations of the UK.

Appearing alongside Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, the prime minister said there were 37 Labour MPs from Scottish seats.

The prime minister said that during the campaign he wanted “Scotland to send a government to start delivering for Scotland”.

He added:

We have this team to be part of a government, sitting on the government benches, all working to deliver for Scotland. This team here, the whole of the Labour party in government and myself, delivering for Scotland.

Starmer told reporters yesterday that he wanted not to meet the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish first ministers to discuss the challenges they face and “to establish a way of working across the United Kingdom that will be different and better to the way of working that we’ve had in recent years”.

Labour’s defeated candidate in the constituency where Nigel Farage won his parliamentary seat has said he feared for the safety of those around him during what he characterised as a deeply ugly campaign.

Jovan Owusu-Nepaul, 27, who was installed to contest the seat weeks before Farage changed his mind and decided to stand, accused the Reform UK leader of waging a campaign “straight out of the Trump playbook”.

He said he faced vitriol from Reform supporters, including being asked repeatedly where he was “really from”.

During the election campaign, Labour was accused of not putting up a fight in the Essex seat after the Guardian revealed that Owusu-Nepaul had been instructed to leave the constituency and told he was distracting from Keir Starmer’s campaign.

He was seconded to the West Midlands, while the local campaign in Clacton said it was banned from printing leaflets and blocked from using campaigning software.

In his first interview since finishing third last week in the election, Owusu-Nepaul insisted he had fought hard, and said he understood the need for the national campaign to take priority. But he warned that Reform should be a cause for concern “because of the type of politics they represent”.

You can read the full story by my colleague, Ben Quinn, here:

Defence secretary John Healey is in Ukraine. He held a press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Rustem Umerov in the Black Sea city of Odesa earlier.

In May, Healey said Labour backed all the commitments made to Ukraine by Rishi Sunak’s government, including a recent pledge to provide Kyiv with £3bn of military aid a year (which the Labour government will continue).

The new foreign secretary, David Lammy, has written an article in the Local Europe, outlining the government’s foreign policy vision. He said Britain must be a “good neighbour” to the EU as it targets a “closer partnership” with the bloc. Labour has ruled out rejoining the EU, the single market or the customs union. Keir Starmer, the Labour party leader and newly elected prime minister, has said instead that his party could achieve better trading arrangements with the EU in certain industries, such as in research and development and on security.

Lammy used his first trip abroad as the UK’s top diplomat to make clear to his counterparts in Germany, Poland and Sweden about the chance to “seize the opportunity for a reset” and work “even more closely together to tackle shared challenges”. He identified support for Ukraine and climate change, along with holidays and student exchanges, as areas where this can take place.

Writing in the Local Europe, Lammy said:

As the new British foreign secretary, with our prime minister Keir Starmer, this government will reset relations with Europe as a reliable partner, a dependable ally and a good neighbour.

That is why I am travelling immediately to some of our key European partners. Sitting down with Annalena Baerbock, Radek Sikorski and Tobias Billström, my message will be simple: let us seize the opportunity for a reset, working even more closely together to tackle shared challenges.

The most immediate of these challenges, of course, is Ukraine. We will stand by the brave people of Ukraine, as they defend their freedom against Vladimir Putin’s new form of fascism. British military, economic, political and diplomatic support for Ukraine will remain ironclad.

But we are always stronger when we work with others. Germany, Poland and Sweden are all also staunch supporters of Ukraine. European security will be this government’s foreign and defence priority.

Russia’s barbaric invasion has made clear the need for us to do more to strengthen our own defences. Next week, the prime minister, the defence secretary and I will all travel to Washington for the Nato Summit.

 

Updated: Juli 7, 2024 — 3:41 pm

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