London: Just under one-third of the UK’s local council seats were contested on Thursday. The conservatives did not get the drubbing forecast but neither was it a gratifying result. The Tories lost 450 seats and the gainers were the left and almost left parties, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. Labour are trumpeting this as a turning point after advances in their relations with the Jewish community in the borough of Barnet, and the consistently conservative boroughs of Wandsworth and Westminster. It shows urban voters have lost some faith in the Conservative leadership, but despite predictions, the Tories have held on to the Red Wall region, the area most concerning for them is now the south-west. However this is no bellwether for a general election which is not until 2024, this is nowhere near a victory for Keir Starmer, Labour are not about to trump Johnson’s majority, and there is no clear replacement for Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party.
The minor gainers in these local elections are the Liberal Democrats and the Greens with their “be kind” and anti-brexit message, which has been amplified by the BBC and others in the left-leaning media. The ideologically driven BBC seems to have a vendetta against Nadine Dorries, Secretary for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, who plans to remove the BBC licence fee from 2027 and introduce a new funding model. Similar to the situation in India an endless stream of an anti-democracy narrative persists in the UK, epitomised by Lord Andrew Adoni’s tweet of 17 February “If Boris goes, Brexit goes”.
Some are predicting a reshuffle in the cabinet before the summer recess, this has already in part begun with the appointment of a Vice Chair for Faith Mohamed Y Ali, former Chairman of the Somali Conservatives. The Home Office have not quite lived up to efficacy expectations and it is probable that Boris Johnson’s alter ego Michael Gove will replace Priti Patel at the Home Office. Currently, Gove is serving as Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations, this department shares a headquarters with the Home Office. Gove is one of Westminster’s most cerebral, skilled and experienced politicians, since 2014 he has been Minister for the Cabinet Office, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Secretary of State for Environment, Justice, Education, and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury.
In other news the Bank of England (BoE) expect inflation to rise to 10% this year and have raised interest rates to 1%, to help inflation return to their target of 2% in two years. Post-Covid goods and energy prices rose and since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine oil, gas and food prices have risen even more. The BoE also expect a dramatic contraction of the economy which will no doubt effect imports. More challenges for Chancellor Rishi Sunak on top of the ruinous costs of Covid and war.
This week HM Revenue and Customs revoked the Moscow Stock Exchange’s recognised status and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced a ban on services exports to Russia, including management consulting, accounting and public relations, services which account for 10% of Russian imports in these sectors.
PM Johnson met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, they agreed security in the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific regions was indivisible, and said democracies around the world needed to stand in unity against authoritarian regimes.
The leaders agreed in principle on a Reciprocal Access Agreement, allowing Japanese and British forces to work, exercise and operate together, boosting the UK’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific and further safeguarding global peace and security. The UK is the first European country to have such an agreement with Japan. Greg Clark MP has been appointed the new Trade Envoy to Japan as Japanese companies invest billions of pounds into the UK economy through major infrastructure projects, including windfarms and high speed rail. The announcement comes as the UK negotiates accession to CPTPP, an Indo-Pacific trade block worth $11trn. Japan is chair of the UK accession working group to CPTPP.
PM Kishida gave a much-admired speech at the Guildhall in London where he condemned Russia’s “egregious aggression against Ukraine” and he recalled the horrors of Hiroshima, where he is from. Before moving on to his economic credentials and his “new form of capitalism” linking public and private sectors, Kishida said, “The invasion of Ukraine is a challenge that is not confined to Europe — it is a matter for the whole world, including Asia.”