Tory members think Sunak one of worst-performing members of cabinet, survey suggests

There is more bad news for Rishi Sunak at the ConservativeHome website this morning. It carries out a regular survey of Conservative party members, asking how they think cabinet ministers are performing, and it shows that Sunak is now rated as one of the worst-performing ministers in his cabinet. He has gone from fifth in the table, on a net approval rating of 49.9, to sixth from bottom, on a net approval rating of 9.

Three of the ministers who are doing worse are not even full members of the cabinet, and so the only proper cabinet ministers doing worse are Grant Shapps, the business secretary, and Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor.

Survey of Tory members
Survey of Tory members. Photograph: ConHome

Hunt’s performance must be linked to a related finding from the survey, published yesterday: a plurality of Conservative party members do not support the government’s economic policy.

Sunak, of course, was chosen by MPs. He lost to Liz Truss when Conservative party members chose a leader in the summer, and he became leader in October because he ended up as the only candidate with enough nominations from MPs who wanted to stand.

As Paul Goodman explains in his write-up for the website, the survey also shows the average performance score for the cabinet is at a record low. “The panel has clearly felt that the government, in its various manifestations, has not been performing well for some time,” he says.

Key events

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Rishi Sunak starts by congratulating England on their victory last night, and commends Wales “for inspiring millions”. And he wishes people a happy St Andrew’s Day.

Rishi Sunak leaving No 10 ahead of PMQs.
Rishi Sunak leaving No 10 ahead of PMQs. Photograph: James Manning/PA

PMQs

PMQs is about to start.

Here is the list of MPs down to ask a question.

PMQs
PMQs Photograph: HoC

One problem that Rishi Sunak faces is that the parliamentary Conservative party has become increasingly fragmented. In the Financial Times today, Sebastian Payne identifies four rebellious Tory tribes: the “heartland defenders” (blue wall Tories, many of whom are backing the amendment to end mandatory house building targets, like Damian Green); the “Trussites” (self-explanatory, typified by Simon Clarke, who wants more housebuilding and onshore wind); the “Johnsonites” (again self-explanatory – Sir Jake Berry is cited as the most prominent example, because he has made various interventions unhelpful to Sunak); and the “dont’ cares” (Tories who have decided to stand down).

Payne suggests the final group could be the most dangerous. He says:

The challenge for Sunak is that the MPs in this tribe risk being unbiddable: some have no reason to back his government. One Tory MP who is retiring said: “We don’t care anymore and can do what we like.”

Ambulance response times will be “incredibly stretched” when thousands of 999 call handlers, paramedics and other staff go on strike, an NHS leader has said.

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents hospitals and other NHS trusts, said trust leaders would be plans in place to deal with the impact of the Unison ambulance strike. (See 9.37am.) She told the Today programme:

In terms of the ambulance strike, we know the challenges already of not having enough paramedics, call handlers available, because we’ve seen the challenges to ambulance handover times that we have at the moment, in terms of not being able to transfer patients from ambulances into A&E departments and the challenges that brings when they can’t get back out on the road.

Additional challenges on top of that, I think, will make response times incredibly stretched. But ambulance trust leaders will be putting in place as many measures as possible to mitigate the risks of those actions.

There will be two urgent questions after PMQs. At 12.30pm Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, will ask why Rishi Sunak has not got round to appointing a new ethics adviser at No 10. (As my colleague Jessica Elgot reports, the answer is because he can’t find anyone to take the job, because he is not willing to offer the adviser enhanced powers). And after that, at around 1.15pm, the DUP’s Carla Lockhart will ask about the energy support scheme for Northern Ireland.

Poorer students more than £1,000 worse off this year, warns IFS

England’s poorest students will be more than £1,000 worse off this academic year than the last, according to a new analysis that warns of “significant hardship for many this winter”. My colleague Sally Weale has the story here.

Thérèse Coffey, the environment secretary, has said she expects the government’s delayed nature and pollution targets to be published before Christmas.

Giving evidence to the Lords environment and climate change committee, she said:

My main focus frankly in the next three months is getting the environmental targets out and the environmental improvement plan, as well as the preparation for the most important conference of the year which is actually the CBD [Convention on Biological Diversity] in Montreal next month.

The nature and pollution targets were meant to be published by 31 October. Asked whether they will be released by the end of December, she replied:

I really hope so, that’s my intention. I’ll be very disappointed if they aren’t.

Members of the National Education Union (NEU) on a picket line at City & Islington College today during a national strike of sixth form teachers.
Members of the National Education Union (NEU) on a picket line at City and Islington college today during a national strike of sixth-form teachers. Photograph: Guy Smallman/Getty Images

More than 43,000 people have crossed the Channel to the UK in small boats so far this year, PA Media reports. PA says:

The Ministry of Defence said 884 people were detected in 17 boats on Tuesday. This suggests an average of around 52 per boat.

The latest crossings take the provisional total for 2022 to date to 43,500, according to PA Media analysis of government figures.

The numbers may explain why Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, is bottom of the table in the survey of cabinet ministers as rated by Conservative party members. (See 10.40am.) But Suella Braverman, the home secretary, is ultimately in charge of Home Office immigration policy and she is in the top half of the table.

Train problems mean northern mayor will Zoom in to talks on train problems

A mayor in north-east England who was due to attend a meeting with the transport secretary to discuss train cancellations in the region has said he will have to take part by Zoom – because he cannot be certain he will be able to get there by train. Jamie Driscoll, the north of Tyne mayor who is having to miss the meeting, told the Today programme this sort of problem was becoming routine. He said:

We’ve had a transport for the north meeting in Manchester and the mayors couldn’t get there because the trains were cancelled. The irony of it, it would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

My colleague Tobi Thomas has the story here.

Tory members think Sunak one of worst-performing members of cabinet, survey suggests

There is more bad news for Rishi Sunak at the ConservativeHome website this morning. It carries out a regular survey of Conservative party members, asking how they think cabinet ministers are performing, and it shows that Sunak is now rated as one of the worst-performing ministers in his cabinet. He has gone from fifth in the table, on a net approval rating of 49.9, to sixth from bottom, on a net approval rating of 9.

Three of the ministers who are doing worse are not even full members of the cabinet, and so the only proper cabinet ministers doing worse are Grant Shapps, the business secretary, and Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor.

Survey of Tory members
Survey of Tory members. Photograph: ConHome

Hunt’s performance must be linked to a related finding from the survey, published yesterday: a plurality of Conservative party members do not support the government’s economic policy.

Sunak, of course, was chosen by MPs. He lost to Liz Truss when Conservative party members chose a leader in the summer, and he became leader in October because he ended up as the only candidate with enough nominations from MPs who wanted to stand.

As Paul Goodman explains in his write-up for the website, the survey also shows the average performance score for the cabinet is at a record low. “The panel has clearly felt that the government, in its various manifestations, has not been performing well for some time,” he says.

Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader, has joined a National Education Union (NEU) picket line outside a sixth-form college in north London.

Speaking outside City and Islington college, Corbyn told PA Media he was there to “support the students because of my concerns about underfunding by the government to post-16 education”. He added:

But also to support the teachers in their perfectly reasonable demand for at least a cost-of-living pay increase.

They have dedicated themselves to our students, they have taught through all the difficulties of Covid and they should be rewarded with at least a cost-of-living pay increase.

Mark Dolan, London divisional rep for the Communication Workers Union (CWU), is among the postal workers on strike outside the Royal Mail Islington delivery office in north London today. He told PA Media:

This is our 11th day of strike action and the action we are taking today is about saving this great British institution, 500 years’ service that we give to the public, and also the destruction of our terms and conditions.

The company, following Covid, made over £700m and they made that money off the backs of our membership who during Covid put their own lives on the line connecting the country, delivering test kits and we were hailed as key workers during Covid.

And yet, 18 months’ later, the company have announced they have got no money, they gave most of the profits away to shareholders and the people who sit on the board of Royal Mail.

And they have now told the workforce they can only afford a 2% pay rise in a cost-of-living crisis with inflation in double figures – but more seriously than that they’ve announced tax on the service we deliver, they’ve announced 10,000 job cuts, they also yesterday announced the real threat of compulsory redundancies, attacks on our terms and conditions, it’s unacceptable.

We’re not prepared to stand by and watch this great public service tuned into another gig economy service where they want to get rid of the current workforce and replace them with workers on 20% less money and less terms and conditions than we currently have.

Royal Mail strikeMark Dolan, London divisional rep for the CWU, with striking postal workers outside the Royal Mail Islington delivery office in north London.
Mark Dolan with striking postal workers in north London. Photograph: Lucas Cumiskey/PA

Barclay tells Unison its call for above inflation pay rise for health staff ‘not affordable’

Steve Barclay, the health secretary, issued a statement this morning in response to the strike announcement from Unison. He said that its call for an above-inflation pay rise was “not affordable”. He said:

I’m hugely grateful for the hard work and dedication of NHS staff and deeply regret some will be taking industrial action – which is in nobody’s best interests as we approach a challenging winter.

Our economic circumstances mean unions’ demands are not affordable. Each additional 1% pay rise for all staff on the Agenda for Change contract would cost around £700 million a year.

We’ve prioritised the NHS with record funding and accepted the independent pay review body recommendations in full to give over one million NHS workers a pay rise of at least £1,400 this year, with those on the lowest salaries receiving an increase of up to 9.3%.

This is on top of 3% last year when public sector pay was frozen and wider government support with the cost of living.

Our priority is keeping patients safe during any strikes and the NHS has tried and tested plans to minimise disruption and ensure emergency services continue to operate.

My door remains open to discuss with the unions ways we can make the NHS a better place to work.

Rishi Sunak to face PMQs as fresh strikes take place and more health workers vote for industrial action

Good morning. Rishi Sunak is preparing for PMQs this morning. It will be only his fifth exchange with Keir Starmer, and he may be wondering what happened to the notion about new prime ministers enjoying a honeymoon in their first few weeks in post. As he ponders what Starmer might ask about, he will realise that the outlook is dire. Here, in no particular order, are 10 of the problems he has to address.

1) Strikes are escalating. Today Royal Mail workers, university lecturers and sixth-form college staff are all taking industrial action. And last night Unison announced that health workers in England, including ambulance staff and 999 call handlers, have voted to go on strike, probably before Christmas. Christina McAnea, the Unison general secretary, said:

The decision to ​take action and lose a day’s pay is always a tough call. It’s especially challenging for those whose jobs involve caring and saving lives.

But thousands of ambulance staff and their NHS colleagues know delays won’t lessen, nor waiting times reduce, until the government acts on wages. That’s why they’ve taken the difficult decision to strike.

2) The Tory split over onshore windfarms is no closer to getting resolved. Today the Times reports that Sir John Hayes has now got 19 colleagues to back an anti-windfarm amendment to the levelling up bill, as a counter to the pro-windfarm one tabled by Simon Clarke.

3) Rail transport is still terrible in the north of England. Metro mayors in the north are meeting Mark Haper, the transport secretary, today and Tracy Brabin, the Labour West Yorkshire mayor, says: “This chaos is having a devastating impact on the northern economy.”

4) And drivers who have been held up by Just Stop Oil protests are still angry about the disruption. Today Suella Braverman, the home secretary, is meeting police chiefs to discuss the problem.

5) Labour is launching a new attack over the windfall tax. Sunak may have thought that the relatively wide windfall tax in the autumn statement would neutralise this as a campaign argument for Labour, but today the opposition that its own plans for a beefed up windfall tax could raise another £17bn.

6) Tory China hawks were not impressed by Sunak’s “robust pragmatism” rhetoric in his speech on Monday, and are pushing for a tougher response to the arrest and assault of a BBC journalist by police in Shanghai.

7) Michael Gove’s journalistic back catalogue is making it hard for Sunak to attack Labour over its plan to put VAT on private school fees. The shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, posted this on Twitter on Monday.

“Removing the tax advantages of private schools would boost standards in the state sector and raise vital extra funds.”

For once, I agree with Michael Gove. It’s just a shame the Prime Minister doesn’t. https://t.co/LZUXBzjpwR

— Bridget Phillipson (@bphillipsonMP) November 28, 2022

8) The government still has not got a credible plan for reducing the number of people crossing the Channel in small boats.

9) NHS waiting times are still at record highs, and winter has not even properly started yet.

10) Polling for the Conservative party remains abysmal. “The Conservative brand is in as bad a state as I have seen in all my years of polling,” said Lord Ashcroft, the former Tory deputy chairman and leading pollster in a report out at the weekend. In a report full of depressing charts for the Tories, the one below was probably the worst. It shows that, on the two issues that matter most to voters, Labour has a decisive lead over the Conservatives. (If it were not for the cost of living metric, the chart would show Labour having the biggest lead on the issue of most importance to voters, the NHS, which is polling nirvana for a political party).

Polling on issues
Polling on issues. Photograph: Lord Ashcroft Polling

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.15am: Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, gives evidence to the Commons work and pensions committee.

9.50am: Dame Jenny Harries, head of the UK Health Security Agency, gives evidence to the Commons science committee about lessons to be learnt from coronavirus pandemic. At 10.30am Neil O’Brien, the health minister, gives evidence, and at 11.15am Dame Kate Bingham, chair of the vaccine taskforce, gives evidence.

10am: Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, gives evidence to the Commons Welsh affairs committee.

12pm: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

1.30pm: Kemi Badenoch, the international trade secretary, gives evidence to the Commons international trade committee.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions and, if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

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