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It couldn’t have gone less to plan. On Sunday the prime minister was hoping to enjoy some reflected glory of England’s success.

Boris Johnson was looking forward to having drinks with the European champions in Downing Street. But rather than football coming home, it’s questions about him and his party over racism that have arrived on his doorstep.

Worse, his well-documented lukewarm response to the England team’s taking of the knee has been magnified by the racist abuse of black players that followed Sunday’s final.

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PM and Starmer clash over racism

Unflattering comparisons have been made between the leadership of the England football team and that of the country.

England players who knelt before games to protest against racism were booed by some England fans. At the time both the prime minister and home secretary refused to condemn the booing and Priti Patel dismissed taking the knee as “gesture politics”.

England player Tyrone Mings accused her of “stoking the fire” and Tory MPs such as Johnny Mercer and Steve Baker have warned their party they are on the wrong side of social change.

Albie Amankona, a co-founder of Conservatives Against Racism, For Equality, wrote to all Conservative MPs urging more understanding about what it means to take the knee.

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He told me: “It’s regrettable that the booing was not condemned from the beginning. It would have been excellent if more of our leaders had taken more of a stand in the way that we saw Gareth Southgate take a stand… And I’d like to see more leadership like Gareth’s, coming from all sides of politics.”

The Tory party has the most ethnically diverse cabinet in British history, and there’s no doubt that many of them including Priti Patel, have experienced racism – but ever since the Black Lives Matter movement erupted after the murder of George Floyd in America many in the party struggled with it.

England's Jack Grealish and Kalvin Phillips take a knee before the international friendly match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough on Sunday June 6, 2021
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England’s Jack Grealish and Kalvin Phillips take a knee before the international friendly match at Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough on Sunday June 6, 2021

Conservatives were opposed to some of the movement’s more left-wing messages such as defunding the police or taking down statues, such as the one of imperialist Cecil Rhodes at Oriel College in Oxford.

While people of all walks of life might take the knee for a host of reasons, what got lost is that fundamentally it is a symbol of anti-racism. As no politician in Westminster is pro-racism – there’s no argument over whether it’s right or not to boo the England team for trying to face it down.

It would have been the simplest thing to state that no one should boo the English team for sending out an anti-racist message. But that’s not what Boris Johnson nor Priti Patel chose to do.

That alongside an MP refusing to watch the matches because of the pre-match ritual, and another messaging colleagues that Marcus Rashford should have spent more time focusing on football rather than campaigning to feed poor children, all added to the series of missteps.

There’s an argument that the Tories, even now, know what they are doing – sending subliminal messages to their supporters that “gesture politics” and political correctness has gone too far, and they are fighting the war against woke.

But even “woke” is becoming a Westminster bubble issue. The red wall conservative-minded swing voters who put Johnson in power are more liberal than many think. And, with the England team taking the knee it’s helped dispel fears that it is all part of a socialist plot.

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Starmer questions PM’s stance on racism

As one man in a workman’s pub in Manchester put it. “Either taking the knee works or it doesn’t work – but either way it doesn’t do anyone any harm.”

During PMQs today the prime minister was ridiculed by the leader of the opposition as a man who wears his football top over his shirt and tie.

And attacked him with the line “Boris Johnson’s Conservatives would rather condemn Marcus Rashford for feeding hungry children than those who boo England players for taking the knee.”

Johnson said he was taking action to force social media platforms to get hate off their sites. He also said that the party had made it “absolutely clear that no-one should boo the England team.” This statement would have been absolutely clearer still if he’d added “for taking the knee.” But he didn’t.

It was bad enough when the government had to U-turn over Rashford’s free school meal campaign – even more careless to stumble into an argument that appears to pit them against the entire England football team over racism.

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Mayor of London has confidence in Met Police chief – after force apologises for officer’s ‘openly Jewish’ comments

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Mayor of London has confidence in Met Police chief - after force apologises for officer's 'openly Jewish' comments

Sadiq Khan has confidence in Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley despite him facing calls to quit over the force’s handling of a recent pro-Palestine protest, Sky News understands.

It comes after Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho told Sky News that the incident in London – in which an officer was captured on video calling a man “openly Jewish” and threatening him with arrest – was “completely wrong” and that “what happens next” with regard to Sir Mark was a “matter for the Labour London mayor”.

Sky News understands that Sir Mark does still retain the confidence of Mr Khan, who as mayor has the power to effectively sack the commissioner – but can only do so with the permission of the home secretary, who can also require the mayor to dismiss the head of the Met.

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A spokesperson for the London mayor said: “Everybody must feel safe going about in London wherever they please. The way the original incident was dealt with by the Met was concerning and the original response put out by them was insensitive and wrong.

“The Met have an extremely difficult job – particularly so when it comes to operational decisions taken while policing marches.

“But in the end the Met must have the confidence of the communities they serve and it is right that they have apologised for the way the incident was handled and their original public response.”

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Coutinho: Met has ‘got it wrong’

Mr Rowley, who replaced Cressida Dick as Met commissioner in 2022, is facing calls to quit following the officer’s interaction with Gideon Falter, the chief executive of the Campaign Against Antisemitism.

In the video, an officer appears to prevent Mr Falter from crossing the road and tells him: “You are quite openly Jewish. This is a pro-Palestinian march. I am not accusing you of anything, but I am worried about the reaction to your presence.”

Mr Falter, who was wearing a yarmulke and said he was simply walking past after attending synagogue, was then threatened with arrest if he did not leave the area.

He told Sky News that Londoners cannot have confidence in the Met under Sir Mark’s leadership and accused the commissioner of “victim blaming” following the incident, for which he has received two apologies.

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New video of ‘openly Jewish’ row

Mr Falter was joined in his call for Sir Mark to go by former home secretary Suella Braverman, who said there had been “failure after failure by the Met” over the last six months.

In an interview with Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips, Ms Coutinho repeatedly declined to say whether Sir Mark should quit following the incident, but said what happened was “completely wrong”.

“It’s not right that one group of people in society should be told they can’t go around their daily lives because it might be a provocation to someone else,” she said.

“That’s not how equality works in this country.

“So I do think they’ve got it wrong. I think it’s right that they’ve apologised, and ultimately, what happens next is a matter for the Labour London Mayor who has the responsibility to hold the Met to account.”

On Sunday morning, the Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a statement in which it called for an “urgent meeting” with Sir Mark following “a series of high-profile errors” regarding its policing of pro-Palestine marches.

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“The Metropolitan Police has made a series of high-profile errors in their responses to these demonstrations,” the statement read.

“The entirely avoidable mistakes have had a devastating effect on the previously high level of trust held by the UK’s Jewish community in the police.

“We have written to the commissioner to ask for an urgent meeting to reinforce the gravity of the situation and to begin to repair this grievous loss of confidence.”

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Met resignation is ‘not the way forward’

Labour’s shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood said the Met had “not covered themselves in glory” over the incident with Mr Falter but that she did not agree with calls for Sir Mark to resign.

“I can understand the strength of feeling and as I say that footage was very concerning, and I can understand where Mr Falter is coming from,” she told Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips.

“But I don’t think that the resignation of the Met’s commissioner is the way forward.”

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Liz Truss refuses to apologise for sparking mortgage rate rise – but admits one failing as PM

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Liz Truss refuses to apologise for sparking mortgage rate rise - but admits one failing as PM

Liz Truss has acknowledged she and her government lost the confidence of financial markets following the mini-budget of October 2022 – but has refused to apologise to homeowners for higher interest rates.

Talking to Sky News, the former prime minister blamed her downfall on the Bank of England, primarily governor Andrew Bailey. However, she said she did not meet Mr Bailey once during her time in office.

“I actually had a meeting set up – I wanted to meet him,” she said. “But I was advised that would be a bad idea. And perhaps I shouldn’t have taken that advice.

“But that advice came from the cabinet secretary and what I didn’t want to do is further exacerbate the [market] problems.

“In retrospect, yes, I probably should have spoken directly to the governor of the Bank of England at the time.”

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Asked about the aftermath of the mini-budget, at which her chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced a series of unfunded tax cuts, without presenting evidence of how he would pay for them, Ms Truss said: “It’s fair to say that the government did not have the confidence of the markets…

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“But if you have organisations within the state, like the Bank of England, like the Office of Budget Responsibility, who are pretty clear to people they don’t support the policies that are being pursued and are essentially undermining those policies, then it is difficult to command the confidence in the markets – because the markets look to the government for that leadership.”

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A look back: Truss’s time as PM

During Ms Truss’s short time in office, the expected path for the Bank’s interest rate a year ahead rose from below 4% to around 6%.

While those rates were increasing before the fiscal event, they shot up dramatically in the wake of the mini-budget, rising even further when, a few days later, Mr Kwarteng promised even more tax cuts.

That sharp increase in interest rates precipitated a short-lived crisis in UK financial markets, which triggered the near collapse of liability-driven investment (LDI) funds which underlie the pension market.

Asked whether she would apologise for the sharp rise in interest rates during her time in office, Ms Truss said: “I question the premise of what you’re asking me, because mortgage rates have gone up across the world.

“The issues that I faced in office, were issues of not being able to deliver the agenda because of a deep resistance within the establishment.”

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Liz Truss beside Kwasi Kwarteng at the mini-budget announcement in September 2022. Pic: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via Reuters
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Liz Truss beside Kwasi Kwarteng at the mini-budget announcement in September 2022. Pic: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via Reuters

She continued: “I think it’s wrong to suggest that I’m responsible for British people paying higher mortgages. That is something that has happened in every country in the free world.

“I’m not saying that I got everything absolutely perfect in the way the policy was communicated. But what I am saying is I faced real resistance and actions by the Bank of England that undermine my policy and created the problems in the market.”

Ms Truss was talking to Sky News in Washington DC on the US leg of her publicity tour for her new book, Ten Years To Save the West.

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Since publication it has emerged that one of the quotes she used in the book, attributed to Mayer Amschel Rothschild, is in fact a fake quote, often used in an antisemitic context.

Ms Truss said: “I’m very sorry about that. It was a complete mistake. It was something I found online and I’ve said I’m very sorry to the British Board of Deputies for that.

“It will be removed from all future editions of the book and removed from the Online Edition.”

Asked whether she feels more at home in the US than in the UK these days, she said: “Well, I do like aspects of American politics. I believe that on economics the US has got it more right than the UK has.

“My heart’s in Britain. But I think you’ve got to be prepared to learn from other countries that have that success.”

You can watch the full interview with the former prime minister on Sky News’s Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips programme from 8.30am this morning. Trevor is also joined by Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary Claire Coutinho, shadow justice secretary Shabana Mahmood and Reform UK leader Richard Tice.

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Rishi Sunak pledges to keep child benefit cap if Tories win next election

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Rishi Sunak pledges to keep child benefit cap if Tories win next election

Rishi Sunak has revealed he will keep the two-child benefit cap if the Conservatives win the next election.

The policy limits the benefits parents on Universal Credit can claim for their children.

Writing in The Sun on Sunday, the prime minister said: “Working families do not see their incomes rise when they have more children.

“Families on benefits should be asked to make the same financial decisions as those supporting themselves solely through work.”

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Mr Sunak confirmed the pledge to keep the cap, which was introduced in 2017, would be in the Tory election manifesto.

This is the second manifesto commitment the Conservatives have made public, with the first being to keep the triple lock on pensions.

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It would reportedly cost an estimated £1.5bn to lift the cap.

Over the years, some Labour Party MPs and charities have called for the cap to be scrapped, but Sir Keir Starmer has previously stated that the party would not overturn the cap under his leadership.

Child benefit is money paid to parents or guardians who are responsible for raising a child.

There are no specific age rules for the person making the claim, and it isn’t means-tested.

It is paid at two different rates: £24 a week for your eldest child and £15.90 a week for each other child.

But, you can be liable for a tax charge if you earn over a certain amount.

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High income child benefit charge threshold raised to £60,000

Under the current rules, if either you or your partner have an individual income of £50,000 or more and you receive child benefit, you are liable to pay the high-income child benefit tax charge.

The charge is equal to 1% of the total child benefit received for every £100 earned over £50,000.

Once you earn £60,000, the charge equals all the benefits you’d receive, so you get nothing.

However, Jeremy Hunt announced a rise in the threshold in the spring budget, increasing them to £60,000 (that’s when you start losing out) and £80,000 (when you get nothing) respectively.

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From 6 April, you’ll be charged 1% of your child benefit for every £200 of income that exceeds £60,000 – up until £80,000.

Earlier this week, the prime minister said that people who are fit to work but do not accept job offers will have their benefits taken away after 12 months.

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Outlining his plans to reform the welfare system if the Conservatives win the next general election, Mr Sunak said “unemployment support should be a safety net, never a choice” as he promised to “make sure that hard work is always rewarded”.

Mr Sunak said his government would be “more ambitious about helping people back to work and more honest about the risk of over-medicalising the everyday challenges and worries of life” by introducing a raft of measures in the next parliament.

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