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Labour says wave of Tory MPs stepping down shows lack of confidence in Rishi Sunak as Theresa May announces exit – as it happened


Labour says wave of Tory MPs stepping down shows lack of confidence in Sunak as Theresa May announces exit

Labour has said that the wave of Conservative MPs stepping down at the next election shows a lack of confidence in Rishi Sunak’s government, as former prime minister Theresa May announced she was joining the more than 60 Tory MPs exiting parliament.

May will step down as an MP at the next general election after 27 years in parliament. In a statement to the Maidenhead Advertiser, the Maidenhead MP said she wanted to focus on causes close to her heart, including her work on the Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.

May joins 64 Conservatives and former Conservatives who will not fight their seats at the next election – the highest number of Tories to retire from parliament since May entered the Commons in 1997.

Theresa May pictured in November last year.
Theresa May pictured in November last year. Photograph: Hannah McKay/PA

The Labour party chair, Anneliese Dodds, said the number of Tories standing down showed there was “no confidence” in Rishi Sunak and the Conservative party’s prospects.

“This is obviously a very significant decision from Theresa May to stand down at the next election,” she said. “It is a surprise, but of course we’ve heard this from a large number of Conservative sitting MPs. They’ve decided not to stand for the next election, and I think that does reveal that frankly there’s no confidence in Rishi Sunak, nor indeed in the Conservative party to be a party of government for the future.”

Treasury minister Gareth Davies denied it showed a lack of confidence, saying “This is what happens when you approach a new election, and completely reasonable for people to decide that it’s time to go.”

In her statement, May said it had been “an honour and a privilege” to serve as Maidenhead’s MP and vowed to continue working for her constituents until the general election.

She was first elected as MP for Maidenhead in 1997, and served as home secretary under David Cameron between 2010 and 2016 before succeeding him as prime minister. She coined the term “hostile environment”, which became a catch-all term for controversial policies on illegal migration.

She presided over the Home Office when it sent out the notorious “go home” vans, later saying they were “too much of a blunt instrument”. Her three years in Downing Street were marked by sharp parliamentary disagreements about how to implement Brexit – mostly from within her own party – which ultimately led to her resigning and being replaced by Boris Johnson.

Key events

Here is a summary of today’s UK politics developments:

  • The former prime minister Theresa May will step down as an MP at the next general election after 27 years in parliament. In a statement to the Maidenhead Advertiser, the Maidenhead MP said she wanted to focus on causes close to her heart, including her work on the Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.

  • Labour has said that the wave of Conservative MPs stepping down at the next election shows a lack of confidence in Rishi Sunak’s government, as former prime minister Theresa May announced she was joining the more than 60 Tory MPs exiting parliament.

  • A 22-year-old who could become Labour’s youngest ever MP and just the second openly trans member of the House of Commons has described the opportunity to reach Westminster as “mind boggling”.

  • Education secretary Gillian Keegan has raised eyebrows by telling a conference this morning that she would have probably “punched” an Ofsted inspector she heard about.

Charlotte Owen, a former aide to Boris Johnson who became the youngest ever life peer in the House of Lords, has said Deepfake abuse is the “new frontier” of violence against women and creating such content should be outlawed.

Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge warned existing legislation only bans the non-consensual sharing of deepfake material and does not tackle the non-consensual creation of the content.

Peers heard there has been an increase in so-called nudify apps, which allow users to create fake nude images or videos of other people through generative artificial intelligence – widely known as deepfakes.

Lady Owen said the ability to create such content on the apps in a matter of seconds “represents a very real threat to all women”.

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Labour candidate, 22, could become party’s youngest ever MP

A 22-year-old who could become Labour’s youngest ever MP and just the second openly trans member of the House of Commons has described the opportunity to reach Westminster as “mind boggling”.

Georgia Meadows, 22, found out she was Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) for Witney, which lies on the edge of the Cotswolds and is roughly 15 miles west of Oxford, on 29 February – Leap Day – and officially announced her candidacy on social media on Thursday.

Meadows will be the youngest ever Labour MP if elected, unless that mantle goes to 21-year-old Luke Charters-Reid, who will run for Labour in the York Outer constituency in the next general election.

Despite the Conservatives securing a majority of 15,177 in the 2019 general election, Meadows told the PA news agency she believes her party has a “real chance of winning” the seat from the Conservatives.

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Nearly 50 organisations have joined forces to condemn what they call a “crackdown” on the right to protest by the UK government.

In response to Rishi Sunak’s recent remarks on extremism and “mob rule” linked to protesters, Amnesty International UK and 45 others have sent a letter to the prime minister calling for “leadership, not censorship”.

Read more here:

The next UK general election is looming, with most analysts expecting it to be called late this year.

Find out who’s up and who’s down in the latest polls – and how many seats each party is likely to win in the next general election:

Mike Short, head of education at Unison has criticised Gillian Keegan’s earlier comments that she might have “punched” an Ofsted inspector who was “rude” when visiting a school.

Short said:

Clearly there’s much that can and should be improved in the way Ofsted inspections are carried out. But to suggest punching people is an appropriate reaction is not becoming of a Government minister.

Making light of violence in schools when staff are increasingly likely to face assaults while doing their job is in very poor taste. Ofsted inspectors are already dealing with a great deal of hostility while they work. So much for showing respect.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has used the occasion of International Women’s Day to write for the Independent today about how she intends to “speak, and act, in the interests of women” over the economy, promising “an economic policy centred on equality for women” which would “also be an economic policy centred on growth.

She writes:

One of the things that successive Conservative governments have got wrong is to think we can build a strong economy based on the success of a few people, a few places, and a few industries. We have seen where that leads: stuttering growth, stagnant productivity, and deep regional divides.

Labour’s alternative is about the recognition that if we want to build a strong economy, that must be based on the contribution of the many. And that must mean a growth plan centred around women.

She goes on to cite the fact that Labour have commissioned a review into how they can go further and faster in closing the gender pay gap, and says that a future Labour industrial strategy will not be “top-down, narrow-focused” like the past, but focus on what she describes as “the everyday economy” which, she says, includes “childcare, social care and retail”.

Describing the Conservative “flagship commitment” of more childcare hours as “little more than hot air” she writes the “the UK’s broken childcare system won’t be fixed with gimmicks – which is why Labour has commissioned an expert-led early years review, headed by the former chief inspector of Ofsted, David Bell.”

You can read it all here.

First minister of Scotland, Humza Yousaf, has said Conservative MPs in the north-east of Scotland who back the windfall tax extension will be punished at the general election.

PA Media reports Yousaf told it the Conservatives have “sold out” the north-east, accusing West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie of doing it so “he can keep his ministerial car and ministerial salary. He will need to explain that to the electorate come the general election.”

Yousaf added “We don’t oppose windfall tax. We actually support a windfall tax, one of the first parties to be calling for a windfall tax. But we don’t agree with raiding the north east for a tax cut of £1,500, or Labour’s position of raiding the north-east so they can spend money on new nuclear power plants in England – simply not acceptable.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced in his budget the levy on oil and gas profits will be extended by a further 12 months to 2029.

Theresa May has been out on a constituency visit today, having announced via her local newspaper earlier that she would be stepping down as an MP after 27 years.

The former prime minister was visiting an International Women’s Day football event at St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Maidenhead.

Former prime minister Theresa May claps, as she watches girls play football with pupils from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Maidenhead. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA

Education secretary Gillian Keegan says she would have ‘punched’ rude Ofsted inspectors

Education secretary Gillian Keegan has raised eyebrows by telling a conference this morning that she would have probably “punched” an Ofsted inspector she heard about.

Schools Week reports that speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders annual conference, Keegan said:

I heard recently actually from a fantastic school I went into. They told me how their Ofsted experience had gone. I was shocked, I was actually shocked. I thought, ‘God, if I’d met these people, I’d have actually punched them.’ They were really rude. You expect people to be rude to you when you’re a politician. But when you’re trying to run a school and change lives you don’t expect somebody to come in and not be respectful.

Keegan said the key thing to develop good schools was “getting good people, retaining good people, continuing the professional development of good people, listening and respecting to good people.”

Secretary of state for education Gillian Keegan earlier this week. Photograph: Tayfun Salcı/ZUMA Press Wire/REX/Shutterstock

Ofsted chief inspector Martyn Oliver, asked about the comments, said he was more interested in “a fresh start and calming down tensions”, but added “people should act with professionalism, courtesy, empathy and respect on both sides.”

Ofsted has faced intense scrutiny after the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, and has today launched in England what it calls the “big listen”, a 12 week consultation which is asking school staff, education organisations and parents for their views across topics including schools, safeguarding, teacher training, and social care.

Keegan is the tenth secretary for state for education during the last 14 years of Conservative-led governments.

Foreign secretary and former prime minister David Cameron has praised his successor Theresa May after she announced she was stepping down from parliament five years and one general election after she resigned as prime minister.

Cameron, who stood down as an MP two months after leaving Downing Street, saying he did not want to be a “distraction”, posted to social media to say:

I wish Theresa May well as she stands down. As well as serving as my home secretary and then as PM, she did much to help modernise the Conservative party and promote women in public life. She has been the most dedicated of public servants. The House of Commons will miss her.

I wish @theresa_may well as she stands down.

As well as serving as my Home Secretary and then as PM, she did much to help modernise the Conservative Party and promote women in public life.

She has been the most dedicated of public servants. The House of Commons will miss her. pic.twitter.com/fhrBYds9LC

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) March 8, 2024

Cameron returned to frontline politics in November when Rishi Sunak unexpectedly appointed him to foreign secretary to replace James Cleverly as part of the reshuffle after the second departure within 13 months of Suella Braverman as home secretary.

One of the key planks of Jeremy Hunt’s budget on Wednesday was the decision to adopt Labour’s policy of abolising non-dom status for taxation purposes, albeit with the money going to a different destination.

Labour had said it would use the money secured to put into the NHS and breakfast clubs. Hunt opted to use it to fund a cut in national insurance.

That doesn’t appear to have polled well with the public. According to YouGov, having spoken to people about the budget, their polling suggests “the public favour the Labour policy by 52% to 21%”.

There is some more reaction to Theresa May’s departure as an MP from Conservative colleagues here, via PA:

Julian Smith, who served as her chief whip, said: “I am very sorry to see that Theresa May is standing down as an MP. Our second female prime minister is an exceptional public servant with the highest integrity, relentless work ethic and total commitment to all parts of the UK in addition to her passionate campaigning for vital causes around the world.”

Nus Ghani, who gained her first ministerial role under May, said: “Theresa will be missed, she has integrity, determination and made time to support and help so many of us MPs as we learned the snakes and ladders of parliament.”

Caroline Nokes, immigration minister under Mrs May, said that on International Women’s Day “I want to celebrate a colleague who showed us all the importance of hard work, commitment to your constituency and integrity. Parliament will be poorer (and I’m a bit sad – too many women standing down).”

While he has been in Keighley, Rishi Sunak has been visiting Byworth Boilers, where it appears he has been pressed into doing some wiring.

Rishi Sunak helps to wire up a boiler watched by an apprentice during a visit to Byworth Boilers at the Parkwood Boiler works in Keighley, West Yorkshire. Photograph: Darren Staples/PA

Sunak: May is ‘an extraordinary and inspiring example’ of ‘dedicated public service’

The prime minister is in Keighley, West Yorkshire today, where Rishi Sunak has spoken to the media about Theresa May, and her decision to step down as an MP after 27 years.

Obviously on International Women’s Day, it’s important to recognise that Theresa was our second female prime minister, which is an extraordinary achievement.

And actually beyond that, she just has the most amazing track record of dedicated public service over two decades. And that is an extraordinary and inspiring example to anyone.

Anyone who spent time with her knows how committed she is to public service, not just in her community, but the country. And everyone will miss her sorely.”

It will not have escaped your attention that a repeated attack line from Rishi Sunak and his frontbench is that Labour do not have a “plan” for being in government. Indeed one suspects that “plan” will be one of the words most typed on this live blog over the coming months.

Keir Starmer this morning has published a Labour campaign video which leans in to talking about their “plan” for apprenticeships, construction and housing. It opens with Starmer saying “We need a proper the plan for growth, and that’s what the Labour party has set out. We’ve been talking about that plan here on this construction site.”

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves then chips in with “what we need is decent wages so people can support a family, but that means helping businesses grow.”

Starmer goes on to say that the apprentices in the construction industry they are talking to will be busy for the next few years because Labour’s plan – that word again – is “one-and-a-half million houses in the first five years of a Labour government.”

He concludes:

It is about long term decision making. It is about making sure that public sector investment is matched by private sector investment. That will only happen if we have economic stability. But we only will have economic stability under a Labour government with tight fiscal rules.

Rishi Sunak has paid tribute to Theresa May on social media. May is stepping down at the next election after being an MP for 27 years. Sunak posted:

A relentless campaigner, a fiercely loyal MP to the people of Maidenhead, and Britain’s second female prime minister. Theresa May defines what it means to be a public servant. I have no doubt Theresa will continue to make a positive impact on public life.

Kiran Stacey

Kiran Stacey, our political correspondent, has written this profile of the departing Theresa May:

Some argue that Theresa May’s inability to persuade her party to back her Brexit agreement was a result of her awkward style of personal interaction. She disliked the backslapping nature of the Commons tea rooms, hated small talk and deliberately shunned parliamentary gossip. John Crace, the Guardian’s sketch writer, called her the “Maybot”.

Those close to her, however, insist that in private she could be warm and sensitive, but that she put up a barrier in public in part to counteract perceptions of weakness as one of Britain’s highest-profile female politicians.

As home secretary May championed a range of initiatives to correct what she saw as social injustices, including curtailing police powers to “stop and search”, spearheading efforts to tackle modern slavery and reversing much of Labour’s hard-line antisocial behaviour policies. Much of that, however, was overshadowed by her uncompromising approach to immigration.

After calling the election in 2017 she watched a commanding poll lead evaporate as she fluctuated between presenting herself as a continuity candidate and a headstrong reformer. The campaign unravelled when she was forced to abandon a controversial signature pledge to reform social care, only to insist as she did so that “nothing has changed”.

Read more of Kiran Stacey’s profile of Theresa May here: Theresa May – loyal constituency MP who lost Tory support over Brexit





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