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Will the bank stick or twist?

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING: A group of British citizens was evacuated from Niger on a French flight to Paris, according to the FCDO. The BBC reports a “very small number” of Britons — thought to be fewer than 100 — remain in the country, which is under military control following a coup last week. U.K. Ambassador Catherine Inglehearn has stationed herself at the airport in Niamey to assist U.K. citizens who want to fly out (Labour is calling for them to be evacuated.) The U.S. ordered a partial evacuation of its embassy overnight.

Good Thursday morning. This is Eleni Courea. I’ll be back again on Friday.


WILL THEY, WON’T THEY: The Bank of England will announce whether it is hiking interest rates for the 14th time in a row — further driving up the cost of borrowing — at noon today.

Before that happens: Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden — who is running the show while Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in California — is doing a round of interviews from Able Seaton Port near Hartlepool. He’ll be on the Today program at 8.10 a.m. and is recording a broadcast clip mid-morning.

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The economic context: We’ve seen the fastest rise in interest rates in modern history as the Bank of England tries to bring down inflation, which is running at 7.9 percent, to its 2 percent target. But because prices rose less than expected last month, some — including the Trades Union Congress and the Institute of Economic Affairs, which don’t often sing from the same hymn sheet — have been urging the bank to keep the base rate at 5 percent.

The concern is: Increasing rates too much could plunge the U.K. into recession just as inflation is about to fall.

Nonetheless: Analysts are betting on a 0.25 or a 0.5 point rise on the basis that the economy is still running too hot. Alongside its decision at noon, the bank will publish new GDP and inflation forecasts.

Not long to wait: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will respond to the rates decision before sitting down for a series of interviews with the BBC, Sky, GB News, Channel 4 and ITV in the afternoon.

Another Brexit delay: The FT splash reveals that ministers have again delayed post-Brexit border controls on animal and plant products in order to ease inflation pressures. “The driving force behind this is the need to bear down on inflation, that’s why there will be a delay,” a government insider told the paper. “There will be additional costs at the border.” Bloomberg heard a month ago that a delay was on the cards.

What Labour wants to talk about: Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves will also respond to the bank’s decision at lunchtime. Based on figures it dug out from the OBR’s fiscal risks report, Labour is arguing that Sunak’s actions as chancellor left the U.K. paying more to service its national debt. The cost of doing so has risen by £56 billion more than other G7 countries — amounting to around £2,000 per household.

How to deal with more expensive debt … if you’re young: You’re far likelier to take out a prolonged 36-year mortgage, according to figures published from top housebuilder Taylor Wimpey, which get prominent coverage in the Times, Telegraph and the BBC. Standard mortgages are for 25 years.

And if you’re older: Consider riding for Deliveroo to make the extra cash you need to maintain your current standard of living, DWP Secretary Mel Stride told the Times’ Geri Scott in an interview (outside Deliveroo’s London HQ). It splashes the paper.

If you’re working in Downing Street over August: Watching the economic stats and assessing how they affect Sunak’s political position is going to be one of your top priorities in the run-up to Tory conference, where the PM will be under pressure to “reset” his government and strategy after two heavy by-election losses.

TODAY’S MUST-READ PIECE: The Mail’s Jason Groves takes stock of Tory fortunes and reports that Sunak is in better spirits than he has been for most of his premiership. The PM thinks his luck is starting to turn after better-than-expected inflation stats and the unexpected Tory victory in Uxbridge and South Ruislip, which has had “a galvanising effect.” Groves writes that ministers believe next week’s growth figures will be better than forecast.

Most eye-catchingly: Groves says senior Downing Street aides are discussing whether to replace Jeremy Hunt as chancellor (Playbook touched on those rumors last month) … and that senior Tory figures are convinced tensions have emerged between Reeves and Labour leader Keir Starmer, which “could develop into a wider rift.”

THE OTHER THING NO. 10 IS PREPARING FOR: The G20 summit in India, now less than six weeks away — we have a piece previewing the PM’s trip online today. Officials in the U.K. and India are talking up the prospect of closer defense cooperation but the biggest prize would be clinching the long-coveted trade deal.

Rishi-mania: Downing Street is looking at the prospect of extending Sunak’s trip to India beyond the summit. “There’s going to be enormous excitement about Rishi,” a senior member of the government who has been to the country for G20 meetings said. “They regard it as a sort of reverse takeover, having been the subject of colonial rule by Britain. Now someone of Indian origin is running Britain … He will get completely mobbed.” 


WHAT THE GOVERNMENT WANTS TO TALK ABOUT: PM stand-in Oliver Dowden is in Hartlepool, at the site where the biggest offshore wind farm in the world is being built.

Topping today’s grid: The Cabinet Office has published its national risk register detailing 89 threats to U.K. safety and security. Russia cutting off gas supplies to Europe and an attack on the U.K.’s energy network are identified as risks for the first time — hence Dowden’s visit to the mega wind farm site at Dogger Bank. The FT’s Lucy Fisher has a write-up.

Some of the other things we’ve got to worry about: Artificial intelligence … drone strikes on critical national infrastructure … attacks on under-sea water cables … climate change … antimicrobial resistance … another pandemic … terrorists … and serious organized crime.

With this register: Ministers are shifting toward more transparency on national security risks, including more openness about when cyberattacks take place, according to a Cabinet Office official who said the approach would bolster resilience.

Hunkering down in Darlington: Dowden will be based at the government’s Darlington campus for the rest of the week — which should convince everyone that leveling up is still a thing. (Wait till the heavily amended Levelling-Up Bill comes back from the Lords after the summer.)

MEANWHILE: The Tory climate wars continue. Energy Secretary Grant Shapps argued contra Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch that electric car targets had helped drive investment, and told energy bosses that the government was still absolutely committed to net zero by 2050. He said in an interview with the FT that net zero would be met in a “realistic and rational way.” The Guardian reports energy companies told Shapps the U.K.’s political and economic context was harming investor confidence.

On the other hand: Jacob Rees-Mogg backed the Sun’s pro-motorist campaign and urged Sunak to “let his inner Jaguar roar” (groan).

Road to nowhere? Robert Shrimsley has an interesting FT column arguing that Sunak pitching himself as the voice for suburban drivers is “a strategy to shore up the base rather than a plan for victory.”

On that note: ConHome has published stats on the attitudes of its Tory members panel toward climate policies and anti-pollution measures. It’s fair to say this group isn’t big on the green stuff — 66 percent said they were opposed to low-traffic neighborhoods … 83 percent were against the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars … and 40 percent were opposed to the net zero by 2050 target. Half the panel said they believed human activity was driving global warming but a third said they didn’t.

It’s a take: In his Telegraph column today Allister Heath argues the government could face a popular insurrection unless it tones down all this net zero stuff.

@secondmentions: Today’s Sun dubs Sunak the “private jet-loving premier.”



GOVE VS. GOD: Leveling-Up Secretary Michael Gove has made another powerful enemy — the Church of England — after blocking a key development of homes on church land in a marginal Tory-held seat. The bishop of Gloucester has written to Gove attacking the decision as “incomprehensible.” The Times’ Oli Wright has the story.

PINT PHOTO WARS: The Tories have pointed to an apparently doctored photo of Sunak being shared by Labour MP Karl Turner as an example of online disinformation. Turner tweeted the picture and mocked Sunak for pulling a terrible pint, but in the original photo published by No. 10 the pint looked fine (plus the woman behind the PM wasn’t giving him the side-eye.)

Ding dong: Science and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan accused Labour of “pretty desperate stuff” and of “misleading the public with fake images.” Business and Trade Committee Chair Darren Jones replied: “I wouldn’t criticise Karl Turner for sharing a photo that looks real to me. What is your department doing to tackle deep fake photos, especially in advance of the next election?” The Guardian has a write-up.

That should settle it … or not: Labour’s press office said the photo had not come from them and Turner apologized for sharing it (but he hadn’t deleted it before Playbook hit send). At 11 p.m. Turner sarcastically tweeted a grainy pic of Sunak standing next to the very tall Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski.

COVID UPDATE: The Cabinet Office has launched a fresh legal bid for the COVID inquiry to return evidence it deems irrelevant rather than publishing it, Ruby Lott-Lavigna reports for OpenDemocracy. The department is trying to use the same mechanism it did when it (unsuccessfully) sought to stop Boris Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages from being handed to the inquiry.

Separately: The Mail points out that the inquiry has signed a new £1.6 million contract with top advertising agency M&C Saatchi. The inquiry had previously described its links to the agency as “short-term.”

HOMES FOR UKRAINE: The Telegraph highlights the uncertainty facing 100,000 Ukrainians in the U.K. whose visas expire in 2025. Tory MPs Robert Buckland and Bob Seely tell Genevieve Holl-Allen that the government should give them clarity.

TICE TALKS: Reform U.K. leader Richard Tice and former MEP Ben Habib are holding a press conference on the economy at the Conrad Hilton at 11 a.m., which will touch on de-banking — which Tice’s team say he has personal experience of. The Telegraph reports that hunts have been banned from making card payments using SumUp which classifies them as “restricted businesses.”

WINNING HERE? The Lib Dems are stepping up campaigning in over a dozen seats, primarily in southern England, following recent by-election successes — the FT’s Anna Gross has more. Lib Dem Director of Field Campaigns Dave McCobb presented the plans to activists on Tuesday.

BLOB BREAKDOWN: The civil service has grown for the seventh year and is becoming more diverse — Civil Service World has the details.

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BACK TO BASICS: In this week’s Spectator, Katy Balls looks at how the Tories are taking inspiration from policing in Greater Manchester to craft a back-to-basics strategy on tackling crime. She reports that within weeks police across the country will be instructed to “investigate every crime” — which apparently needs saying — and that there are at least two bills planned for the King’s Speech in November on crime and tougher sentences.

TORY FLYER PROBE: Police are examining Welsh Secretary David TC Davies’ use of language in a campaign leaflet which raised concerns about proposed housing sites for Travellers. The flyer declared in block capitals: “Gypsy and Traveller site coming to your area soon!” It also invited residents to get in touch with the Tories and asked them three questions including: “Would you like to see a Traveller site next to your house?” WalesOnline had the scoop on Tuesday, which has since had pick-up in the Times, the BBC and splashes today’s Telegraph. Davies said his language was not intended to be a criticism of the Traveller community.

RUTHERGLEN CAMPAIGN: Labour’s candidate in the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election Michael Shanks pledged to vote against the two-child benefit cap if elected. He also backed the “general principles” of the SNP’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill which sought to introduce gender self-ID before it was vetoed by the U.K. government. The Telegraph has a write-up.

SOMETHING IN THE WATER: Ireland must better defend its waters from potential Russian sabotage, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the FT’s Jude Webber. Russian ships were spotted close to the country’s north-west and south-west coastline earlier this year. But Varadkar denied Ireland is freeloading off its strategic partners as a result of its long-held neutrality — a topic that has been the subject of debate since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

REBUILDING UKRAINE: The U.K.-Ukraine Reconstruction Taskforce agreed to collaborate on restoring critical infrastructure at its meeting in Poland, with U.K. firms part of the delegation. Business Minister Nusrat Ghani told Playbook: “We agreed that speed and transparency was key.”

SHOOTER ALARM: The U.S. Senate went into lockdown following reports of an active shooter on the Capitol campus after a “concerning 911 call,” according to Capitol Police. Capitol Police later confirmed no shooter was located — my POLITICO colleagues have more.

TRUMP WORLD: Former U.S. President Donald Trump is due to appear in a Washington, D.C. court today where he is expected to plead not guilty to four charges of trying to overturn the 2020 election — the Times has more.

HUNT-DOWN: U.S. President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden earned over $4 million from a Ukrainian energy company, a Chinese private equity firm and other sources during the period he descended deeper into substance abuse, according to his proposed plea agreement to federal tax charges. Bloomberg has the details.

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Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden broadcast round: Today program (8.10 a.m.) … Sky News (8.20 a.m.) … GMB (8.30 a.m.) … LBC (8.50 a.m.).

Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds broadcast round: GMB (6.45 a.m.) … Times Radio (7.45 a.m.) … Sky News (8.05 a.m.) … LBC News (8.50 a.m.) … GB News (9.05 a.m.).

Also on Times Radio Breakfast: Institute of Directors Chief Economist Kitty Ussher (8.15 a.m.) … Jasna Badzak, mother of murder victim Sven Badzak (8.35 a.m.).

Also on Sky News Breakfast: Labour MP Chris Bryant (9.20 a.m.).

Also on GB News Breakfast: Labour Councillor Peymana Assad and former Brexit Party MEP Rupert Lowe (both 7.20 a.m.).


POLITICO UK: Rishi Sunak could get mobbed (and bag a trade deal) when he heads to India.

Daily Express: Rishi’s blunt ultimatum to striking doctors.

Daily Mail: “Green” power firm taking us for fools.

Daily Mirror: Yeah, right.

Daily Star: The proof is out there.

Financial Times: Trump team seeks to derail “absurd” push for speedy trial before election.

i: The Trump conspiracy.

Metro: Election won’t be Soonak.

The Daily Telegraph: Minister faces police inquiry over “racist” leaflet.

The Guardian: Trump court date sets U.S. on course for election clash.

The Independent: “If Russia wins now, it will be the worst-case scenario for humanity.”

The Times: Get on your delivery bike minister tells the over-50s.


The Spectator: Supercops — Katy Balls on the return of tough policing.


WESTMINSTER WEATHER: Light cloud and 21C highs. An improvement on “Wild Wednesday.”

BEST READ OF THE DAY: The Times’ Matt Chorley has interviewed Graham Howarth, who has been head chef at the PM’s grace-and-favor retreat Chequers since 2010. Which means he has seen quite a few PMs. “I can’t really discuss individual tastes and likes and dislikes,” Howarth said, the spoilsport. “They all like my cooking. Or they do by the end of their time.”

Guessing game: Playbook reckons it has a pretty good idea of which PM threw a last-minute dinner which meant chefs were still “making dessert in a pastry frame” when the guests started arriving … and the PM who boasted of being a culinary pro and threatened repeatedly to come to the back and do some cooking. There’s more great stuff in there about the secrets of catering for a massive BBQ … the menu when David Cameron hosted the queen in 2014 … and ghost sightings at Chequers. Though the scariest thing for Playbook was Howarth’s admission that he doesn’t like fish.

The question is: Would his food be good enough for Keir Starmer?

CALL TO ARMS: Thought the uproar over the Conservative Party asking journalists to pay to attend their conference had been resolved? Think again. Members of the Lobby WhatsApp group were up in arms last night as it became clear the Conservatives had instituted a two-tiered system whereby reporters could attend for free — but only those who forked out a considerable amount of cash would get access to the conference media center. A Tory official insisted: “There is no arrangement we could put on which would not result in complaints.”

NEW GIGS: Nigel Casey has been appointed ambassador to Russia, succeeding Deborah Bronnert from November … while Tory peer and former ministerial Champion for Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls Sandip Verma has been made chair of gender equality campaign group Empower.

GOOD LUCK: Tory MP and Vice Chairman Saqib Bhatti is taking part in a skydive for the Lily Mae Foundation today. He may be aware casting directors are on the hunt for the next James Bond.

NOAH’S CULTURE FIX: Parliament may be out, but plenty of politics books are still being released for your recess reading — Waiting to Be Arrested at Night: A Uyghur Poet’s Memoir of China’s Genocide by Tahir Hamut Izgil and translated by Joshua L. Freeman is published by Jonathan Cape … The Story of Russia by Orlando Figes is published in paperback by Bloomsbury … and Chasing Shadows: A true…

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