MPs debate king’s speech after Charles warns UK facing ‘significant long-term challenges’ – politics live | Politics

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UK faces ‘significant long-term challenges’ because of Covid and Ukraine war, says king

King Charles is delivering the speech now.

He says:

My lords and members of the House of Commons

It is mindful of the legacy of service and devotion to this country set by My beloved Mother, The late Queen, that I deliver this, the first King’s Speech in over 70 years. The impact of Covid and the war in Ukraine have created significant long-term challenges for the United Kingdom. That is why my government’s priority is to make the difficult but necessary long-term decisions to change this country for the better.

Analysis: This is rather grim opening, highlighting the “signficant long-term challenges” for the UK created by Covid and the Ukraine war. (Most economists would add Brexit to the list, but the government still claims to believe it has been a success, with Rishi Sunak telling the Tory conference Brexit has been good for growth.) The focus on long-term decision making is undermined by the claims made by many commentators that the speech is overly focused on measures that might offer a short-term political advantage.

Key events

Turning to Gaza, Starmer says Israel has a right to defend itself. But he says that is not a blank cheque. It must comply with international law.

Starmer has now dispensed with the formalities, and he is onto the substance of the king’s speech.

Rather, he complains about the lack of substane. He says the measure in it are “sticking plasters”.

He accuses Rishi Sunak of putting up taxes 25 times.

He says Labour will support some measures, like the Martyn’s law plan, and the proposal for an independent football regulator.

And Labour will vote for the plan to stop younger generations every being able to buy cigarettes.

Starmer pays tribute to MPs who have died over the past year – Jack Dromey, Cheryl Gillan and James Brokenshire.

And he says he is expected to welcome new members at this point – although that could take time, he says. He says there are 11 new MPs who were not here at the start of the last session – one Conservative, two Lib Dems, and eight Labour MPs.

Keir Starmer is speaking. He starts by paying tribute to the two backbenchers who proposed and seconded the loyal address, and he is particularly positive about Siobhan Baillie, saying he can understand why Rishi Sunak turned to “a working class lawyer with a connection to Camden”. Baillie was a councillor in the borough, and Starmer says she is respected there across all parties.

Baillie refers to Rishi Sunak as the hardest-working PM she has known – “and I’ve known quite a few recently”.

That is the second joke about the Tories’ rapid prime ministerial turnover over the past 18 months. In his speech Sir Robert Goodwill referred to the Tories having had three female prime ministers – although he said he was not sure whether the last one counted (as a PM, he meant, because Liz Truss was out so quickly, not as a woman).

Baillie recalls a fellow MP telling her in the library “come and see my tortoise”. As he was a public school boy, she feared some innuendo. But he was referring to a real tortoise, belonging to the speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, she says. (Hoyle is an animal lover, with a menagerie of pets.)

Siobhan Baillie, MP for Stroud, is speaking now. She praises her constituency, saying it is “the quirky bit of the Cotswolds”.

Goodwill ends with a story about campaigning on an estate in his constituency that was very pro-Labour. He recalls meeting a woman who said she was very pro-Boris Johnson. She said he was “one of us”. Goodwill says he asked why she said that, given Johnson had been to Eton and Oxford. The woman replied:

You don’t understand. He had a row with his wife and the police came round.

Back in the Commons Goodwill is giving a potted history of his career, with some reasonably funny jokes.

He recalls one campaign where posters went up asking what the difference was between Goodwill and a supermarket trolley. The local paper provided the answer – a supermarket trolley has a mind of its own, it said.

Goodwill admits he has never voted against the party whip.

But he has another answer to the question.

The real answer to the question: ‘What is the difference between an MP and a supermarket trolley?’ is that, with a trolley, there is a physical limit to the amount of food and drink you can get into it.

According to Jon Craig on Sky News, Labour sources are suggesting that the king’s speech might be particularly thin this year because Rishi Sunak is planning a May election.

Senior Labour MP & close ally of Keir Starmer tells me Labour MPs are now speculating that Govt’s “light” programme of legislation, only 20 or so Bills including many carried over, suggests Rishi Sunak is plotting early general election in May next year. Oo er!

Senior Labour MP & close ally of Keir Starmer tells me Labour MPs are now speculating that Govt’s “light” programme of legislation, only 20 or so Bills including many carried over, suggests Rishi Sunak is plotting early general election in May next year. Oo er!

— Jon Craig (@joncraig) November 7, 2023

The convention wisdom at Westminster is that the election will be in the autumn or early winter next year. The assumption is that, faced with a choice of six more months as PM or 12 months, Sunak will opt for the latter.

UPDATE: This is from Cat Neilan from Tortoise.

Labour may well be prepping for a May general election – Tories are less convinced.

One MP says: “A risk taker goes in May. Rishi? Risk taker?? Less of one than Theresa.”

— Cat Neilan (@CatNeilan) November 7, 2023

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