Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
This article is an on-site version of our Inside Politics newsletter. Sign up here to get the newsletter sent straight to your inbox every weekday
Good morning. Rishi Sunak’s King’s Speech hasn’t really changed the pattern of British politics. Labour’s rows over the Israel-Hamas war just might. Some thoughts on both topics below.
Not Sunak’s historic moment
One of Rishi Sunak’s strategic advantages is that he is already prime minister. He can implement things. He can announce new measures that take effect in days not at some hypothetical moment in the future. And he can use this ability to at least try to change the political narrative and turn voters around on him and his party.
The Speech he wrote for the King to deliver — a list of largely low-key measures — did not do this. Or, at least, that’s the consensus in his party. (Read our team’s report on the speech here for more on that.)
Part of the problem is that there is a gap not just between the state of the country and Sunak’s political strategy, but a gap between the Labour party he would like to face and the one that he is actually facing. This is most visible on law and order.
Whatever the policy merits of a “tough” approach on criminal justice or otherwise, the government isn’t going to be able to successfully position itself as such when pressures on prison spaces mean that ministers are already asking judges to jail fewer offenders. Politically, the Conservatives would probably be better off talking about how most governments are trying to shrink their prison populations and how they want to be able to send fewer people to prison for longer, because that would at least fit the policy constraints they operate under and would appeal to some liberal voters.
As it is, they risk ending up in a situation where voters who like the sound of their tough stance on criminal justice don’t believe it and voters who are opposed to it don’t like it.
There’s also no significant appetite or constituency within the Labour party to have a big row with the Conservative party over this area, and as such it badly needs a rethink.
Labour’s ceasefire problem
Speaking of rethinks . . . Imran Hussain, the Labour MP for Bradford East, has become the first Labour MP to quit the opposition front bench over Keir Starmer’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war.
Hussain — like the rest of Starmer’s front bench rebels — isn’t trying to bring down the Labour leader. His resignation letter talked of his desire to support a Labour government led by Starmer, and his exit, timed well after the evening news bulletins, couldn’t have been better scheduled to minimise the risks to Starmer’s own position.
The best way to understand the politics of Labour’s divisions over the Israel-Hamas war is that no one on the Labour front bench wants to be part of a process that brings Starmer’s leadership to an end. Therefore it would require some kind of miscalculation or self-destructive act for it happen.
But the history of miscalculations and self-destructive acts in the Labour party is quite long.
I set out last week why I thought that ultimately Labour’s on-paper policy was going to have to shift and nothing has really changed since to make me think differently.
Now try this
I saw Fingernails, an enjoyable low-key sci-fi romance set in a world in which a simple test that purports to show whether a couple is truly in love has taken society by storm, at the cinema. It’s a simple, but effective romance starring Jesse Buckley and Riz Ahmed in the lead. (Danny Leigh was less sold on Ahmed’s ability to fill the lead role than I was.)
That said, if you have Apple TV and can watch it for free, it’s a not a film that demands to be seen on the big screen, though the cinema experience is always worth it in my book.