Politics latest: Starmer holds first meeting with world leader since becoming PM (2024)

Key points
  • The prime minister is in Washington DC for his first NATO summit, where he'll meet world leaders including Joe Biden and call for the alliance's members to spend more on defence
  • PM meets German chancellor|Has 'very clear' message for Putin
  • Beth Rigby:PM accused of 'playing with fire' on defence spending
  • Mark Stone:Lucky Starmer will look stronger than other leaders
  • Deborah Haynes:PM's 'contradictory' pledge looks weak to allies and foes
  • Tory leadership contest:Who has the members' support?|How could the contest unfold?|Shadow minister says party 'should take time'
  • Listen to Politics At Jack And Sam'sabove as you scroll - andtap hereto follow
  • Live reporting by Ben Bloch


It's time for your lunchtime bulletin in the Politics Hub.

Given the prime minister is in the US, it's been a relatively calm morning, but things should pick up shortly…

  • Sir Keir Starmer has arrived in Washington DC for a NATO summit, where he'll meet world leaders including Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy to discuss continued aid for Ukraine;
  • But the prime minister is under pressure to set a timeline for when the UK will hit the defence spending target of 2.5% of GDP given he wants allies to spend more too;
  • Our political editor Beth Rigby, who is in Washington, says the prime minister has been accused of "playing with fire" by calling for more defence spending without outlining a clear plan for it himself.
  • The next Tory leadership contest isn't expected to take place for months, but polling among members suggests there's an early favourite;
  • Kemi Badenoch is the top pick, according to a YouGov poll of Tory loyalists, comfortable ahead of Suella Braverman and Tom Tugendhat;
  • It comes after the party's 1922 Committee elected a new chair last night, who will handle the contest once it gets under way.
  • And finally, politics has intersected with two of the other big stories today - with the home secretary, Yvette Cooper, being "kept updated" on a police manhunt for a murder suspect in Hertfordshire;
  • The prime minister has also sent his best wishes to the England football squad ahead of their Euros semi-final against the Netherlands later.

That's all for now - we'll have plenty of updates and analysis from the NATO summit through the afternoon and evening.

Politics At Jack And Sam's has looked ahead to Sir Keir's first meeting with the US president:


Government will unveil 'clear pathway' to 2.5% of GDP on defence alongside strategic review

Defence Secretary John Healey has been speaking to broadcasters at the NATO summit in Washington DC, where Sir Keir Starmer is pushing allies to raise defence spending.

The new PM has given a "cast iron guarantee" that the UK will raise defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, but ministers simultaneously cannot give a date as to when that will happen.

So, asked whether it is a guarantee or something they will do if and when they can, the defence secretary said: "It's a total commitment to increase spending on defence to 2.5%. It's a unique commitment that was in our manifesto that we put to the people last week."

Mr Healey was challenged on the fact that the Tories had committed to that level of defence spending, and with a specific timescale.

But he didn't really address the point, saying: "The Conservatives have been saying it for some time.

"We had in our manifesto a unique commitment as a new government that we will increase spending to 2.5% of GDP on defence.

"And the last time Britain spent 2.5, of course, was in 2010 with Labour."

Mr Healey went on to say"We will do that as part of the getting to grips with the challenges that we face.

"So we will launch, next week, the prime minister will launch a strategic defence review. It's the way we get to grips with the threats we face, the capabilities we need for the future, the state of our armed forces and also the state of the public finances when we open the books.

"And we will set alongside that, a clear pathway to meeting that commitment of 2.5% on defence."

The PM told journalists yesterday that the strategic review will take a year, but "hopefully" less.


Starmer appoints government whips

Downing Street has just announced a raft of new government appointments.

These are not ministers, but rather whips that will work in parliament to ensure Labour MPs are fully informed - and also stay in line…

Sir Keir Starmer has appointed 13 MPs to serve as Commons whips.

Among them are MPs who were first elected via by-elections during the previous parliament, like Keir Mather and Gen Kitchen - the latter only became an MP back in February.

The PM has also appointed three whips in the House of Lords.


Pictured: Starmer meets German chancellor at NATO summit

Sir Keir Starmer is in Washington DC for the NATO summit - his first foreign trip since he entered Downing Street less than a week ago.

After landing late last night, he is up and about early this morning (US time) for a breakfast meeting with the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz - the first foreign leader he is meeting face-to-face as PM.

The pair shared a handshake and a few moments of warm conversation before walking inside.

Mr Scholz tweeted it was "great" to see the new PM, adding: "Friends. Partners. Allies."

Here are a few images of their meeting...


Analysis: PM's 'contradictory' defence pledge will look weak to both allies and foes

By Deborah Haynes, security and defence editor

Initial noises by the new government on defence have stirred fears among experts that repairing the UK’s war-fighting prowess is not a burning priority despite mounting threats.

Keir Starmer used a trip to Washington for a major NATO summit this week to declare a "cast iron" commitment to increased spending on the armed forces to 2.5% of national income, from just over 2%.

But that came without setting a clear timeframe, which immediately makes the promise look weak to allies and foes.

Confusion around UK's stance on defence

The government also revealed a "strategic defence review" will be launched next week – but ministers could not say when that would be concluded either other than "within the next year".

It means any certainty on the size, shape, and budget of the armed forces, hollowed out by decades of cuts under previous Conservative and Labour administrations, will not materialise until next summer.

At the same time, Sir Keir will pressure other European allies to spend more as NATO countries in Europe adapt to be less reliant on the US – a shift that will become more urgent if Donald Trump is re-elected.

"It's contradictory," a defence source said.

"The government will ask NATO members to spend 2.5% but will claim it won't do that itself until fiscal rules allow. To be honest, I'm confused."

Immediate challenge for new defence secretary

John Healey, the new defence secretary, has spent the past four years preparing for the job and is very well-informed about the challenges and complexities involved in rebuilding the armed forces, and also securing much better value for money from the defence budget.

It means he will surely have ideas already about what the outcome of the review will be.

He will also know without swift, significant investment, difficult decisions will have to be made to cut programmes that currently are not funded.


419 migrants crossed Channel yesterday

The Home Office has published the latest data on small boat crossings, and it reveals 419 migrants made the journey yesterday in six boats.

The cumulative number of arrivals by small boats in 2024 now stands at a provisional total of 14,058.

That figure is 10% higher than at the same point last year, and is 6% higher than at this stage in 2022.

There were 29,437 arrivals across the whole of 2023, down 36% on a record 45,774 in 2022.

The new government has scrapped the Rwanda deportation scheme in the days since it entered office, and is working to recruit a new border commander to stop small boat crossings.


Home secretary being kept 'fully updated' after 'truly shocking' deaths

As we've been reporting on Sky News, police have launched a manhunt after the deaths of three women in Hertfordshire.

Officers say they are urgently trying to find 26-year-old Kyle Clifford, from Enfield, north London, who is wanted in connection with the incident.

The new home secretary has said she is being kept "fully updated" on the situation.

Yvette Cooper said in a post on X: "The loss of three women's lives in Bushey last night is truly shocking.

"My thoughts are with the family & friends of those who have been killed & with the community.

"I am being kept fully updated. I urge people to support (Hertfordshire Police) with any information about this case."

You can follow live updates on the manhunt here:


PM hoping to be 'passed notes' with England score during NATO summit

Sir Keir Starmer will shortly wake up in Washington DC to begin crucial talks with NATO allies about the collective defence, and in particular, providing Ukraine with the means to defeat Russia.

But between meetings with world leaders, the PM will find a couple of hours to watch England face the Netherlands in the semi-final of the Euros, alongside his Dutch counterpart.

The game is due to start half an hour before the conclusion of a meeting of the North Atlantic Council (NATO'sprincipal decision-making body).

The PM joked on the plane last night: "I have no doubt I will be passed lots of notes with really important information about the summit.

"But one or two of those notes, hopefully, will be an update on the score, because I'm not going to be able to get it otherwise."

PM's tribute to England star

The Arsenal-supporting PM also paid tribute to Bukayo Saka, the Gunners star whose stunning equaliser against Switzerland helped England book their place in the semi-finals.

"That was classic Bukayo," he said of the goal. "Cuts in from the right, and that shot is absolutely classic – inside the post. I've seen it so many times."

And he joked: "I’d remind you, England have not missed a penalty under a Labour government in 2024."


New environment secretary Reed summons water bosses for urgent talks

By Mark Kleinman, city editor

The new environment secretary has summoned the bosses of most of Britain’s water companies for urgent talks amid signs that Labour will take a tougher approach to regulating the industry.

Sky News has learnt that Steve Reed will hold talks with executives from all 16 of the suppliers in England and Wales, including Thames Water, Yorkshire Water and Severn Trent.

The meeting will take place on the same day that Ofwat, the water industry watchdog, will publish draft determinations on companies' investment plans for the next five years.

The rulings, which will be made final by the end of the year, will be closely watched by investors in the privatised industry because of their implications for the suppliers' balance sheets.

Thames Water, which said itcould run out of money next Maywhen it reported annual results on Tuesday, is in the most precarious position of the 16 companies.

Temporary nationalisation remains a possibility for Britain's biggest water company, although Sir Keir Starmer's administration has already said that it does not intend to pursue such an outcome.

In opposition, Mr Reed - now Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - pledged to push for criminal sanctions against water company executives who failed to prevent sewage contaminating Britain's waterways.

A source close to Mr Reed said: "The last Conservative government weakened regulation allowing the sewage system to crumble and illegal sewage dumping to hit record levels.

"The election of this Labour government is a reset moment for the water industry.

"In the coming weeks and months, this Government will outline its first steps to reform the water sector to attract the investment we need to upgrade our infrastructure and restore our rivers, lakes and seas to good health."


A new politics has begun - but rows and divisions will soon emerge among MPs

By Darren McCaffrey, political correspondent

If you wanted to gain a sense of how our politics has changed since last Thursday - yesterday was it.

As MPs gathered in the new House of Commons, the electorate got a first glimpse of the UK's new political landscape.

The government benches heaved with Labour MPs for the first time in more than 14 years.

When I say heaved, it was packed with the Commons - deliberately built post WWII to be too small - unable to accommodate the 412 Labour members of parliament.

They sat on the stairs, many stood at the back, others were forced upstairs to the gallery.

It was a different story on the Conservative benches, glum of face - at one stage MPs were told to bunch together to make it look busier.

And the Liberal Democrats, with their record-breaking 72 members (the most for a third party in more than 100 years) have supplanted the SNP, who have been consigned to seats towards the back.

This parliament does not just look different from a party point of view but, as Sir Keir Starmer pointed out in his first speech as prime minister, from the despatch box, the most diverse too.

Of the 650 elected last week, 335 have never been an MP before. Some 263 members are female - more than 40% for the first time.

Ninety MPs are from an ethnic minority background - 14% - up from 66 in the last parliament.

Then there are the new, if familiar faces too, an emotional Diane Abbott who is now mother of the House and of course, Sir Lindsay Hoyle was very happy to be dragged back to the Speaker's chair.

Jeremy Corbyn has been returned, and there are now four Green MPs.

But it will take a little getting used to watching Nigel Farage, on the floor of the House, exchanging words with the new prime minister, Sir Keir.

Yesterday was full of pleasantries, frankly excitement and, at times, bewilderment among the new members.

Our new politics, with such a large parliamentary Labour Party, will be different - but be in little doubt the rows and divisions which define this place won't take long to emerge.

Politics latest: Starmer holds first meeting with world leader since becoming PM (2024)


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