Sunak’s diplomatic coup could lead him to be bold with his party

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Good morning. In today’s note, some reflections on the ongoing fallout from Rishi Sunak’s diplomatic coup and the ongoing SNP leadership election.

Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Follow Stephen on Twitter @stephenkb and send gossip, thoughts and comments to

With or without DUP

“We’d like to do it with you, but we’re happy to do it without you.” That is essentially the message that Rishi Sunak is sending to the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland. Sunak put it more politely than that because he’s nicer than me.

But the most important signal is the one he is sending to Westminster as a whole: namely, the Windsor structure is a major diplomatic achievement on his part, even as the DUP continues to boycott the devolved government in Stormont.

Jeffrey Donaldson, the leader of the party and a moderate (relatively speaking), hasn’t shut the door on the cadre, it’s true. But one of his MPs, Iain Paisley Jr, has repeatedly insisted that the framework “doesn’t cut the mustard”. In addition, the Voz Sindicalista Tradicionalista, which competes with the DUP for hardline unionist votes, announced its opposition to the structure, further limiting Donaldson’s freedom of manoeuvre.

Both the DUP and the European Research Group have yet to reach an “official” decision, but the important difference between the two is that the DUP will not split on the matter once it reaches a decision. Sunak, on the other hand, achieved something significant, as none of the ERG members in the government resigned or even felt the need to signal their disapproval in a coded way.

None of this is to dismiss the very real problems Sunak still faces. But prime ministers are often shaped by their first big success, and this is Sunak’s. The win – which, as our reporters point out, involved a markedly less confrontational approach than Boris Johnson’s – served to respond to those in his inner circle who argued that he needed to be bold and broaden his party rather than bow to it. This argument may find a more receptive audience for the Prime Minister in the future.

I wrote yesterday that an important consequence of the structure is that it changes the mood of the music around the prime minister. Another consequence could be that it also changes how Sunak approaches the question of how he runs his party.

Lights, camera. . . wait, no camera

The SNP’s governing national executive committee has changed its mind the initial proposal to ban cameras and the media broadcasting live his leadership speeches, which he said were “designed as a safe space for members to ask questions.” The party will now allow for a broadcast journalist and pool camera and a print reporter to cover the events, reports Sky News.

The SNP is a far more secretive party than the Conservatives or the Labor Party, not to mention the Liberal Democrats (who, as David Laws once quipped in response to William Hague’s remark that the Conservative Party is “an absolute monarchy moderated by the regicide”, are basically an “absolute democracy moderated by nothing”).

Party members had to nominate leadership candidates to put them on the ballot: we know Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes and Ash Regan crossed that threshold. But we don’t know who did better, which would give us the first reliable sign of which candidate is currently leading among the membership.

But one sign – without wanting to be overly cynical – about who is doing better is which candidate has not joined the calls for these debates to be televised: Humza Yousaf. Ultimately, if you’re ahead in the race, you want your party’s internal debates to be as low-key as possible. The fact that Forbes and Regan asked for these debates to be televised is a good indication of which candidates feel they need to find a way to change the direction of this leadership campaign — and which of them is just trying to turn back the clock.

now try this

I’ve mostly been listening to Chvrches’ new single “Over”: it’s really good. (It’s also an excellent follow-up when writing: I don’t care what Emma Jacobs says.)

Today’s main news

  • State aid requests for battery factory | Tata Motors, owner of Jaguar Land Rover, is asking the government for more than £500m in aid for a new battery factory in Britain, in a decision that will be “key” to the future of the UK car industry.

  • Hunt reviewing end of energy price guarantee | The chancellor is examining plans to protect millions of British families from an imminent rise in their monthly energy bills by reversing a planned cut in subsidies.

  • salad days | Spain’s fruit and vegetable exports to the UK have suffered “no fundamental disruption” from Brexit, despite shortages of salads in British supermarkets and additional costs for exporters, the country’s agriculture minister said.

  • lock files | The Telegraph captured over 100,000 WhatsApp messages sent between Matt Hancock and other ministers and officials at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their investigation comes ahead of a public inquiry into the response to the virus outbreak.

  • UK at risk of missing environmental target | The government risks missing its target to decarbonize the UK’s energy sector by 2035 because it lacks a clear and comprehensive delivery plan, the public spending regulator warned today.

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