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Ian Blackford stepping down as SNP’s leader at Westminster – UK politics live


Ian Blackford steps down from role as SNP leader in Westminster

Ian Blackford is stepping down from his role as SNP leader at Westminster but will remain MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, he has announced.

In a statement, he said:

I have today informed SNP MPs that I will not be restanding as leader of the Westminster parliamentary group at our AGM next week.

After more than five years in the role, now is the right time for fresh leadership at Westminster as we head towards a general election and the next steps in winning Scotland’s independence.

During my time as leader, the SNP won a landslide victory in the 2019 general election, with an increased share of the vote and MPs, and support for independence has continued to grow with polling this week showing a majority in favour.

While I am stepping down as Westminster leader, I will continue in my role as the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and I have also accepted a new role at the centre of the SNP’s independence campaign, leading on business engagement.

I would like to thank our MPs and staff for all their support over the past five years. Whoever replaces me as Westminster leader will have my full support as, together, we stand up for Scotland’s interests and democratic right to choose our future in an independence referendum.

Downing Street has urged public sector unions planning strikes in the run-up to Christmas to call off their “unnecessary” industrial action and return to the negotiating table.

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As the Fire Brigades Union became the latest union to begin balloting its members, No 10 expressed concern at the impact multiple strikes would have on the public.

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Earlier this week ambulance workers in three unions voted to strike over pay and concerns about staffing levels. The Royal College of Nursing is also staging two strikes this month while industrial action is continuing on the railways and among postal workers.

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GMB national secretary Andy Prendergast – whose union represents some of the ambulance staff concerned – refused to rule out coordinated action with other unions.

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He told Sky News:

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n

We will be talking to other unions … we will be looking to make sure that this has the maximum impact. We will be making sure that emergencies are covered, but ultimately, the government needs to listen.

n

The public of Britain deserve better, the NHS members deserve better, we need to see something happen very fast.

n

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Downing Street urged the unions to consider the impact on the public before pressing ahead with further strike action.

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The prime minister’s official spokesperson said:

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n

We are concerned about the impact strikes by multiple unions will have on the people of this country as we head into the Christmas period.

n

We recognise that these are challenging economic times but public sector pay awards must be affordable for the taxpayer.

n

We want them to keep engaging with employers, to keep talking so that we can come up with a resolution and put an end to some of this unnecessary strike action.

n

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Boris Johnson will stand again as an MP at the next general election, a source close to the former prime minister has told the PA Media news agency.

Johnson, who has been on the backbenches since departing No 10, will run for re-election in his Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency at the next poll, expected to be held in 2024.

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The Daily Telegraph are reporting that Boris Johnson has told his local Conservative Party he will stand again as an MP at the next general election.

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The former prime minister indicated his decision ahead of Monday’s deadline for Tory candidates to inform the party whether they wish to contest the poll, which is expected to be held in 2024.

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The report comes as the government braces itself for an exodus of MPs who would rather step down than campaign in seats that they believe they are certain to lose in the face of grim polling for the Conservative party.

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Reaction to Blackford’s resignation is starting to filter in.

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Here are the comments from Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray, who says it is a sign of SNP in-fighting:

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n

The SNP is in total disarray – the nats are deserting the sinking ship.

Nationalist MPs know Nicola Sturgeon’s plan for a de facto referendum is finished before its even started and are worried about Labour gaining seats.

Across Scotland, Labour is growing in strength every single day.

n

At the next election, Scots can do more than just oppose the Tories, we can replace them altogether with a Labour government that grows the economy and creates a fairer, greener future.

n

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The Guardian’s Scotland correspondent Libby Brooks has the response from Scotland on Ian Blackford’s resignation.

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Commenting on Blackford’s announcement that he will not be standing again for leader of the SNP’s Westminster parliamentary group, SNP Leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

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n

I would like to pay tribute to Ian Blackford for his five years as leader of the SNP’s Westminster group.

n

He led the group at a time of huge electoral success for the SNP, particularly at the 2019 general election, and has done an outstanding job in holding the Tory government to account and in promoting the case for Independence.

I would like to place on record my thanks for Ian’s diligence, tenacity, friendship and loyalty in his time as group Leader. He will continue to play an important role as constituency MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and I have also asked him to take on a role as part of the wider SNP team preparing the case for Independence.

n

I look forward to working with Ian’s successor as group leader at Westminster, as we continue to make the case for the people of Scotland to have a democratic choice on the country’s future.

n

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Ian Blackford is stepping down from his role as SNP leader at Westminster but will remain MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, he has announced.

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In a statement, he said:

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n

I have today informed SNP MPs that I will not be restanding as leader of the Westminster parliamentary group at our AGM next week.

After more than five years in the role, now is the right time for fresh leadership at Westminster as we head towards a general election and the next steps in winning Scotland’s independence.

During my time as leader, the SNP won a landslide victory in the 2019 general election, with an increased share of the vote and MPs, and support for independence has continued to grow with polling this week showing a majority in favour.

While I am stepping down as Westminster leader, I will continue in my role as the MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, and I have also accepted a new role at the centre of the SNP’s independence campaign, leading on business engagement.

I would like to thank our MPs and staff for all their support over the past five years. Whoever replaces me as Westminster leader will have my full support as, together, we stand up for Scotland’s interests and democratic right to choose our future in an independence referendum.

n

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The Guardian’s political correspondent Peter Walker writes about how the government is blocking legislation that would prevent a repetition of the scandal over the preferential awarding of contracts during the pandemic.

Labour has condemned the government for voting down a cross-party opposition amendment in the Lords that would have sought to block the future use of so-called VIP lanes for suppliers with links to MPs or peers.

The amendment to the procurement bill, led by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven, follows revelations about the way some suppliers received apparently preferential treatment in access to contracts for protective equipment during the Covid pandemic, among a business recommended by the Tory peer Michelle Mone.

Scriven’s amendment sought to bar “any preferential treatment on suppliers connected to or recommended by members of the House of Commons or members of the House of Lords”. In a Lords vote on Wednesday evening it was defeated by 220 to 201, with 189 of the opposing votes coming from Conservative peers.

Speaking for the government in the debate, Cabinet Office minister Lucy Neville-Rolfe argued that the amendment was not needed given the procurement bill already included safeguards against such potential conflicts of interest.

But Florence Eshalomi, a Labour shadow Cabinet Office minister, said ministers “simply can’t be trusted at their word to say VIP lanes will not happen again on their watch”. She said: “They must explain why they’ve scrabbled to block cross-party attempts to close loopholes in legislation that are still open for others to exploit in the future.”

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Good morning and welcome to the politics blog today.

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The big politics story today is that the first Westminster byelection since the resignations of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss and the financial fallout from the mini-budget takes place in Chester today.

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In the first electoral test for Rishi Sunak, polls in the City of Chester constituency are open until 10pm tonight to replace Labour MP Chris Matheson, who resigned in October after allegations of sexual misconduct.

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Labour, which has a majority of 6,164 votes in the affluent constituency, is expected to retain the seat – but it’s not a done deal as the seat, which is one of the oldest in the UK, has been held by the Conservatives in the past, most recently in 2010.

Election expert Robert Hayward told Politico’s Playbook that the Conservatives will be pleased to win more than 20% of the vote, while Labour would expect to get above 65% – or at least 60%.

He said:

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n

It should be a very, very comfortable Labour victory.

n

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The Labour candidate is Samantha Dixon, previous leader of Cheshire West and Chester council, while the Conservatives put up Liz Wardlaw, also a local councillor, and the Lib Dems selected school teacher and parish councillor Rob Herd. You can see the full list of candidates here.

Here’s what else is happening today:

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9.30am: Department for Culture, Media and Sport questions in the House of Commons, followed by Commons leader Penny Mordaunt’s weekly business statement. Later in the day, MPs will discuss the legislation for a bill which adds Princess Anne and Prince Edward to the list of royals who can deputise for the king. There will also be a backbench-led debate to mark World Aids Day.

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10am: The DCMS committee will grill BBC execs including Director of England Jason Horton on the corporation’s deep local radio cuts. The Public accounts committee will ask Home Office officials on fraud against businesses and individuals.

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3pm: Tory MP Jackie Doyle-Price will lead a debate on the international day for the elimination of violence against women and girls.

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Home secretary Suella Braverman and policing minister Chris Philp will also meet police leaders in Downing Street today to discuss extreme protest tactics.

I’ll be keeping you updated with all the key happenings in Westminster for the rest of today, but if you think I’ve missed anything do drop me a line at



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