Boris Johnson’s former special adviser, Dominic Cummings, was called to give evidence on the government’s handling of the pandemic by the science and health joint committee. In his evidence, he claimed Health Secretary Matt Hancock should have been fired for ’15 or 20 things’, including for lying to the PM and then Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill. When asked if the Prime Minister was fit for office, Cummings simply replied: No. As expected, both Mr. Johnson and Mr. Hancock have refuted the claims, calling the allegations ‘baseless’. The Health Secretary, in particular, denied the claims in Parliament on Thursday. He refused, however, to answer whether or not he told the PM that patients leaving hospital and returning to care homes would be tested, as claimed by Mr. Cummings.
Whilst the appearance has caused a stir in Westminster, it remains to be seen whether the public view the testimony as simply settling old scores. Opinion polls released after the appearance have not shown any tangible difference to the current Conservative lead. However, should an official inquiry, scheduled to begin in Spring 2022, corroborate some of Cummings’ testimony, then there are likely to be serious questions asked about the inner workings of government and the competence of senior ministers.
Crisis over Belarus
The diversion of a Ryanair flight to Minsk has prompted international condemnation. The flight, scheduled to be travelling from Athens to Vilnius, was diverted by Belarusian authorities. Onboard was journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner, Sofia Sapega, both of whom were arrested as the passengers disembarked. In response, the UK government revoked Belavia’s (Belarus’ national airline) operating permit as well as requesting British airlines not to fly over Belarusian airspace. The EU has condemned the move and promised economic sanctions that will target key Belarusian sectors and leading officials.
Batley and Spen by-election
The date of Batley and Spen by-election, called after incumbent MP Tracy Brabin was elected as Mayor of West Yorkshire, has been set for Thursday 01 July. Kim Leadbeater, the sister of the former MP Jo Cox, murdered in the run-up to the Brexit referendum in tragic circumstances, has been chosen to stand for Labour. Harewood Councillor Ryan Stpehenson will stand for the Conservative Party, whilst former Labour MP George Galloway will contest the election on behalf of the Workers Party.
The by-election had been rumoured for the 22 July, but it was revealed last night that Labour ‘simply do not have the funds for a longer campaign’. This is indicative of the split that is beginning to publicly emerge within Labour; the left of the Party led by the Union movement are unhappy with Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership, and will only become more discontent should another seat in Labour’s traditional Red Wall be lost to the Tories.
Charlie Souster Account Executive
Benedict Croft Researcher