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The frustration and despair of Tory MPs felt towards Rishi Sunak’s top team is revealed in leaked WhatsApp messages obtained by Sky News.

One MP called the parliamentary operation a “shitshow” and “crazy”, while another said they were “at a loss” at the handling of a crunch Monday night vote on excluding MPs arrested on suspicion of serious sexual or violent offences.

They echo comments Tory MPs have made privately to Sky News.

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There is fury today among Tory MPs after most found themselves on the losing side of a vote on a Lib Dem and Labour motion to exclude any MP arrested for a serious offence from the parliamentary estate, which would bring Westminster into line with many other workplaces.

The bulk of Tory MPs backed a different plan – to exclude MPs at the point of charge, arguing that MPs could easily become the target of vexatious complaints.

It was a free vote, which meant MPs did not have to vote on party lines.

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However, in a move that baffled Conservative MPs, when the Commons came to vote to overturn the opposition motion, the Tory whips did not put up “tellers” – vote counters – and so it could not be held, meaning the opposition motion passed.

This often happens because of disorganisation or confusion about events in the chamber, and often marks a failing of either the Tory whips or the Commons leader’s office – figures appointed by Mr Sunak.

The WhatsApps show a government minister – Anne Marie Trevelyan – summoning Tories after initially losing the Lib Dem vote: “Anyone on estate who didn’t vote on amendment O please return asap! Lost amend by one vote. Otherwise the decision is arrest Not charge.”

Other Tories – Jill Mortimer and Jack Brereton – add weight to the appeal to vote down the Lib Dem motion, as does minister Greg Hands.

Brendan Clarke-Smith calls the Lib Dem plan to exclude MPs from parliament on arrest “an attack on basic civil liberties”.

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However, Cambridgeshire MP Anthony Browne suddenly announces three minutes later: “Division off!”

There is incredulity with Pauline Latham demanding to know what has happened, adding: “This is crazy.”

Conservative MP Angela Richardson. Pic: House of Commons
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Conservative MP Angela Richardson said the vote was a shitshow. Pic: House of Commons

Miriam Cates explains to colleagues there were no tellers, Angela Richardson says “what a shitshow!”, Andrea Leadsom says “A sad day”. Ms Cates says: “I am completely at a loss to understand why those of us who shouted ‘no’ were not told that there were no tellers” – indicating frustration with Mr Sunak’s parliamentary operation.

Mr Clarke-Smith says: “Angela better hope her interview goes well then. Unbelievable.” This is a reference to Angela Rayner, who is currently under police investigation and could be interviewed under caution in coming weeks. She denies all allegations and has not been arrested and Labour says this will not happen, but even if she were, she would not be excluded because the reason for arrest is unlikely to pass the serious offence test.

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The dialogue concludes with Mr Brereton saying: “We’re all going to be banned from the estate now…” and Ms Cates saying, “Watch the vexatious complaints roll in…”

One Tory said there was an “end of days vibe” in the Tory Party and the messages were evidence of a “meltdown” because the Tory whips can’t handle simple votes.

They too call it a “shitshow”.

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General Election 2024: Sunak ‘to double down on National Service plan’ as Tories and Labour focus on security

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General Election 2024: Sunak 'to double down on National Service plan' as Tories and Labour focus on security

Rishi Sunak is expected to continue championing his controversial plans to revive National Service by urging employers to prioritise job applicants who have served time in the military.

The prime minister said all 18-year-olds would be made to undertake a form of “mandatory” National Service if the Conservatives are re-elected on 4 July.

Despite growing criticism of the plans – which Tories estimate would cost £2.5bn a year by the end of the decade – the Financial Times reports the prime minister is set to double down.

Mr Sunak said one way to “get the most out of National Service” would be to encourage bosses to “consider those who complete the armed forces placement during job applications”, the paper reports.

Critics from across the political divide have dismissed the plan as unserious, while leading military figures are sceptical over how it would work.

But Mr Sunak will hope his pledge could boost his bid to narrow a yawning gap in the polls between the Tories and Labour as campaigning enters the first full week.

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Is National Service a good idea?

Security will also be the focus of the day for Labour, with Sir Keir Starmer expected to say in a keynote speech “economic security, border security, and national security” will form the “bedrock” of the party manifesto.

“The very foundation of any good government is economic security, border security, and national security,” the Labour leader is expected to say.

“This is the foundation, the bedrock that our manifesto and our first steps will be built upon.”

Read more:
Which countries have National Service and how does it work?
National Service pledge derided as ‘deeply cynical’ by defence insider

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Acknowledging some voters may be unsure of Labour’s credentials around national security, he is expected to say: “Whatever the polls say, I know there are countless people who haven’t decided how they’ll vote in this election.

“They’re fed up with the failure, chaos and division of the ­Tories but they still have questions about us.

“Has Labour changed enough? Do I trust them with my money, our borders and our security?

“My answer is yes you can – because I have changed this party. Permanently. This has been my driving mission since day one.”

Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Tapa Military Base in Estonia, where British armed forces are deployed as part of NATO commitments. Pic: PA
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Voters can trust Labour on security matters, Starmer says. Pic: PA

According to The Times, Labour would bring together MI5, police and Whitehall departments to carry out a 100-day review of all the threats that Britain faces, including from Russia and Iran, if it wins the election.

Campaigning for the election is expected to ramp up in the coming week.

Sir Ed Davey will be north of the border launching the Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign with Scottish leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

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Could Trump’s win nix SEC crypto suits? Critics say he’s ‘pandering’ for votes

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Could Trump’s win nix SEC crypto suits? Critics say he’s ‘pandering’ for votes

One crypto lawyer thinks a Donald Trump election win would revert some SEC crypto lawsuits, but others note he hasn’t always kept campaign promises.

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Sunak’s Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

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Sunak's Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

Suddenly, at election time, political predictions become so much harder and riskier. Everything changes in a campaign, not least the news cycle.

That’s my excuse, at any rate, for failing to foresee the announcement of a general election in last week’s Politics at Jack and Sam’s.

There were a few clues – and one magisterial tweet from Financial Times journalist Lucy Fisher – but we were deaf to the signals.

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Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak speaks to journalists on the plane on their way to Staffordshire, Britain May 24, 2024. HENRY NICHOLLS/Pool via REUTERS
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Pic: Reuters

In this week’s Politics At Jack and Sam’s podcast, we reflect how this Number 10 – in big contrast to the last two – is much better at keeping secrets.

But the moment an election is called, the way information gets out alters and everything becomes trickier.

Follow live – general election latest:
Tories attack Starmer’s ‘stamina’ as PM shuns team to campaign

Normally political news emerges in so many different ways. There’s parliament. Government announcements. Questions, written and oral. MPs themselves, including ministers, wandering the corridors of the Commons where journalists can go stopping for a gossip.

All of that disappears at election time. Keeping things secret from the other side matters a lot more, while decisions and information is held by a much tighter group of people.

That’s why it’s not really feasible to do a weekly look ahead political podcast – and we’re responding by going daily. More details to follow.

Rishi Sunak‘s allies are quite upfront that the timing of the general election was a finely balanced argument and you can make a case both ways.

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Sunak defends wet election announcement

One of the big things that motivated Sunak to go now was that he was doing – in his view – big things; welfare announcements, defence spending commitments, NHS workforce plan.

But they found people weren’t listening and the polls weren’t moving. They weren’t “getting a hearing”. Which they put down to people being switched off from politics and apathy being high – and so the decision to call an election was motivated by that.

The other big consideration was that from around March, early April they were getting internal economic indicators, suggesting the economic conditions – things like inflation, interest rates – might be favourable sufficiently such that they could base a campaign around.

Fascinatingly, they say there wasn’t a “decision” meeting two months ago or even three weeks ago – the move was more like the tide coming in slowly.

Although Labour were caught on the hop – some staff had booked leave, were privately confident there was nothing coming this summer and the Labour campaign bus is not yet ready – candidates claim to be pretty happy with what’s happened so far.

However, the biggest challenge of the next five weeks will be seeing whether they can respond to the pressure of a campaign, and the relentless desire for more of everything.

Currently the narrative is that Sunak had a miserable start – in a few weeks, pictures of the PM in the rain could be a plucky fighter battling against the odds.

This feels unlikely right now, but having been through the 2017 campaign, we know anything can happen.

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