The Telegraph 2024-07-07 08:11:58

Starmer turns to key Blair ally to drive through NHS reform

Labour are set to bring back Sir Tony Blair’s health secretary Alan Milburn to help reform the NHS, in a sign that the private sector and consumer choice will be at the heart of their plans.

It comes after the Prime Minister said in his first press conference that the NHS was “broken”.

Mr Milburn’s exact role is yet to be decided, and talks are still ongoing, but it is understood that he has already been advising the Health Secretary Wes Streeting and his team in recent weeks to ensure they can “hit the ground running” upon entering government.

He was one of the major reforming figures of the Blair years and instigated far-reaching changes in the NHS. During his time as health secretary from 1999 to 2003, Mr Milburn, who was seen as an ally of Sir Tony against Gordon Brown, introduced greater consumer choice for patients and a more prominent role for the private sector within the health service.

On Saturday night Sir Keir Starmer made a series of new government appointments, including Douglas Alexander as a business minister and Jacqui Smith as an education minister.

Both were leading figures in the Blair and Brown years but have been out of politics for a number of years until now. 

Mr Alexander was an MP from 1997 until 2015, and was re-elected this week as the MP for Lothian East. Meanwhile Ms Smith, who lost her seat in 2010, has been made a peer. 

Other appointments include Ellie Reeves, the sister of Chancellor Rachel Reeves, as a Cabinet minister, Dan Jarvis as a home office minister, and Jim McMahon and Matthew Pennycook as housing ministers.

Mr Milburn’s appointment comes as Labour appears to be planning significant changes to the health service.

A Labour source said: “In opposition, he has been incredibly helpful to Wes and his team to make sure we are ready to hit the ground running. Particularly in the last six weeks, he has been working really closely with the team on a daily basis to make sure we have the plans in place to hit the ground running.

“Alan brings the insight and the knowledge of what made the biggest difference last time Labour was in office – the courage to make the really big reforms to the health service.

“It was the reforms on transparency, choice, and use of the private sector that delivered the goods on cutting waiting lists and making the NHS sustainable for the long term.

“The NHS can’t just keep demanding a heavier and higher price from the taxpayer without modernising the way it works.”

There has been speculation that Mr Milburn could be appointed as a new NHS chairman, to replace Tory appointee Richard Meddings, or made a peer and then appointed as a minister in the Department of Health but Labour has ruled out both these options.

It comes as on Saturday, Sir Keir used his first press conference as Prime Minister to declare that the NHS was “broken”.

He was echoing the words of Mr Streeting, who just hours after his appointment on Friday said that the policy of his department is that the NHS is “broken”.

The Prime Minister also said the same of the prison system and vowed to “deal with the problem” of overcrowding.

Elsewhere in the press conference, Sir Keir said the Rwanda scheme was “dead and buried”.

He said that the policy to send illegal immigrants to the East African nation had acted “almost the opposite” to a deterrent and repeated previous criticisms of the scheme as being a “gimmick”.

The new Prime Minister also revealed that he has told civil servants that they do not have to refer to him by his new title and that he would be “perfectly happy” to be called Keir.

He appeared to echo the words of Sir Tony in his first press conference following his election victory, adding that being called by his first name “felt most natural to me”.

During his first Cabinet meeting on Saturday, Sir Keir said his Government would focus on its key missions to boost economic growth, deliver clean energy, reform the NHS, crack down on crime and increase opportunities for young people.

Sir Keir is about to embark on a tour of the UK’s three devolved nations, visiting Scotland on Sunday followed by Northern Ireland and Wales on Monday.

On Tuesday he will meet with mayors from across the country, before jetting off to Washington DC for a summit marking the 75th anniversary of Nato.

Sir Keir revealed on Saturday that his family had not yet moved into Downing Street but would be moving in “soon”.

He said that he and his wife, Victoria, and his two children were “not quite unpacked yet” and that they would be moving in after his trip to the Nato summit.

At the start of the election campaign, Sir Keir insisted that he was not a Blair “copycat” at the launch of his New Labour-style pledge card designed to appeal to centrist voters.

At the event, Sir Keir said: “The first thing I would say about Tony Blair, which is more important than whether he took his tie off, is he won three elections in a row.

“And what Blair did in 1997 is what [Harold] Wilson did in 1964 and [Clement] Attlee did in 1945 which was to take the Labour Party from opposition into power. And the thing that unites them was the ability to glimpse the future and to persuade people to go on that journey to a changed future.”

Sir Keir joked about how people often try to compare him to Labour leaders of the past, saying that he did not have a secret tattoo of any of them and was his own man.

Clashes with Brown

During his time as health secretary, Mr Milburn clashed with the then chancellor Mr Brown in 2002 over plans to create Foundation Hospitals.

The following year, Mr Milburn abruptly left the Cabinet saying he wanted to spend more time with his family. However, he returned amid much controversy 15 months later when Sir Tony put him in charge of Labour’s general strategy in place of Mr Brown, to the fury of the then chancellor.

Mr Milburn left the Cabinet a second time after the general election in 2005 and since then has been seen as a Blairite “outrider” pushing for policies offering consumers more freedom of choice, particularly in education, health and transport.

‘Streeting a first-class health secretary’

Speaking at a count in Northumberland earlier this week Mr Milburn praised Mr Streeting as a “first-class” health secretary.

He said that the “starting point” for the NHS was to “acknowledge how bad it is”, adding: “I have been around health policy for 30 years, and it has never been as bad as it is now.

“The state of the system, not just hospitals, is awful. There are 7.5 million people on waiting lists, massive staff shortages – you name it.

“It will be about how we reform the system. When we made progress in the early 2000s, we had very high waiting lists and it was the reforms that made the difference.”

Sir Keir was also asked during the press conference if he would be willing to raise taxes to fund public services. He said: “In relation to the tough decisions, we’re going to have to take them and take them early. And we will do that with a raw honesty.

“But that is not a sort of prelude to saying there’s some tax decision that we didn’t speak about before that we’re going to announce now.

“It’s about the tough decisions to fix the problem and being honest about what they are.”

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Judy Murray ‘astonished’ by Raducanu’s withdrawal from mixed doubles with Andy

Andy Murray is understood to be extremely disappointed by Emma Raducanu’s decision to bring his Wimbledon career to an early close by withdrawing from their mixed-doubles match. His mother Judy said Raducanu’s decision was “astonishing”.

The affair appears to have driven a wedge between the two most successful and high-profile British players of the 21st Century.

Murray and Raducanu had been scheduled to face Marcelo Arevalo and Shuai Zhang in Saturday’s final slot on No1 Court. But then, soon after 2pm, Raducanu’s management team announced that she had woken up with “stiffness in my right wrist”.

Through her withdrawal, Raducanu put a sudden and controversial end to Murray’s storied Wimbledon career.

When the experienced commentator Marcus Buckland described the withdrawal as “astonishing news” on social media, Judy Murray replied “Yes, astonishing”. It seems likely that the comment triggered an avalanche of replies, because she locked her posts on X – the network formerly known as Twitter – soon afterwards.

On Instagram, meanwhile, Murray’s mother posted a photograph of Serena Williams and Andy Murray sharing a high-five at Wimbledon in 2019. The image also showed a quote from Williams that said “Playing mixed doubles by your side was one of the highlights of my life.”

Unable to play singles because of a recent operation on a spinal cyst, Murray had already lost a first-round doubles match alongside brother Jamie on Thursday. He was then interviewed by former BBC anchor Sue Barker as part of an emotional farewell ceremony on Centre Court. Yet his intention was always to come back for at least one last match in the mixed doubles.

The Prince and Princess of Wales congratulated Murray on his career on social media, writing: “An incredible Wimbledon career comes to an end. You should be so very proud. On behalf of all of us, thank you! C”.

Raducanu: ‘I’ve got to take care’

In explaining her decision to withdraw, Raducanu said “Unfortunately I woke up with some stiffness in my right wrist this morning, so therefore I have decided to make the very tough decision to withdraw from the mixed doubles tonight. I’m disappointed as I was really looking forward to playing with Andy but got to take care.”

The explanation makes a certain amount of sense, as Raducanu missed seven months of the 2023 season after surgery on both wrists. Yet few believed that she was in any real physical difficulty, and the BBC cameras found her smiling as she walked to her training session at Aorangi Park – the location of Wimbledon’s practice courts – soon after her announcement.

Raducanu wore what looked like strapping around her right wrist while hitting. Even so, there was no suggestion that her fourth-round singles match against Lulu Sun, a qualifier ranked No123 in the world, was in any danger.

Instead, the impression was that Raducanu had prioritised her singles campaign, fearing the possibility of a late-night finish, and the knock-on effects on Sunday’s singles meeting with Sun. Such pragmatic withdrawals from doubles events are extremely common in tennis, yet Murray’s involvement gave this one a very different complexion.

In an ideal world, the All England Club would have placed Murray and Raducanu earlier on Saturday’s schedule, but the delays caused by the showery weather of the past week have created a backlog of tennis.

Friday’s rain meant that their first-round opponent Arevalo was due to finish his own second-round men’s doubles match on Saturday morning. As it proved, Arevalo finished things off quickly and was done by soon after 1pm. But with singles matches stacking up because of the ongoing wet weather, the AELTC were in no position to fast-track a mixed-doubles match – not even one featuring their two biggest homegrown stars – onto a roofed court.

Raducanu’s late withdrawal also left Murray with no time to find an alternative partner. With Rajeev Ram and Katie Volynets being drafted in to fill the vacant slot in the mixed doubles draw, Murray’s 19-year Wimbledon career thus reached a deeply unsatisfying conclusion.

Until this moment, relations between the Murray camp and Raducanu had been warm and mutually supportive. Raducanu had even turned to Andy Murray’s father-in-law, the experienced coach Nigel Sears, to help oversee her training sessions when her regular coach Nick Cavaday fell ill for a fortnight in May.

On Wednesday, Raducanu had spoken about her decision to accept Murray’s invitation to join him in the mixed-doubles draw, simultaneously stressing her own excitement and admitting that her advisors were less keen.

“In my team,” Raducanu explained, “they were asking me, ‘Emma, are you sure you want to play? Just in case … You’re still in the tournament. I was like ‘No-brainer’.”

She added: “I think that it [Murray’s invitation] gave me so much energy, and just knowing that I’d be able to have that opportunity and experience, it made me so happy and I slept very peacefully and woke up very happy as well.”

Yet Raducanu’s mood had shifted by the time she came off court after her superb 6-2, 6-3 victory over ninth seed Maria Sakkari on Friday night. Asked about the order of play, she replied “The scheduling of that was not ideal. I just came off court and found out myself.”

If nothing else, her decision to maximise her singles prospects showed a ruthlessness that the young Murray might have admired. There are two narratives at work here. One relates to the ultra-competitive world of singles tennis, the other to the pageantry and emotion of Murray’s last Wimbledon.

As two of Great Britain’s finest players now find themselves at odds, these contrasting imperatives have clashed in the most unfortunate way.

Difficulty of combining doubles and singles success

There are precious few examples of players experiencing success in both singles and mixed doubles in Wimbledon history. The peerless Martina Navratilova was the last to win both simultaneously, climbing the mountain in 1985, having paired with Paul McNamee. She took the singles title again the following year but lost in the final of the mixed doubles with Heinz Günthardt.

The only other women in history to pull off that particular double was Ann Jones in 1969 (doubles with Fred Stolle) and Billie Jean King in 1973 (doubles with Owen Davidson).

Several have tried and failed since. If we dial down our expectations to deep runs in both events, we could point to singles quarter-finalist Mary Pierce winning the mixed doubles with Mahesh Bhupathi in 2005, or Yaroslava Shvedova in 2016 reaching the quarter-finals in singles and a semi-final in the mixed in 2016. This particular double has proved too tall an order even for Serena Williams, who won the mixed in 1998, four years before she won her first Wimbledon.

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Braverman: Tories treated voters like ‘mugs’

Suella Braverman has said that the Conservatives “deserved” their historic election defeat, in an intervention that will be seen as laying the groundwork for her leadership bid.

Writing in The Telegraph, the former home secretary accuses Rishi Sunak of pursuing an “idiotic strategy” and suggests that some of her colleagues treated voters like “mugs”.

It comes as Tom Tugendhat is preparing to launch his own leadership campaign, with allies saying he will be able to appeal to the full spectrum of ex-Tory supporters, from Reform UK voters to those who backed the Liberal Democrats.

Kemi Badenoch, Robert Jenrick and Dame Priti Patel are also mulling leadership bids.

In her article, Mrs Braverman says that the Tories “failed in office and deserved this result”.

In scathing criticism of Mr Sunak, she questions whether he ever really wanted to deliver the Rwanda deportation scheme, which Labour has now scrapped.

“Rishi might not have meant Rwanda and did not do it, but I meant it and wanted it done,” she writes. “The promise he’d do it is why I’m the guilty woman who helped make him PM.”

Attacking parliamentary colleagues who backed Mr Sunak, she claims: “So many of the so few colleagues who survived letting Rishi be Rishi still don’t get it.”

“Many saw the result coming months ago and advised a way out. We were vilified as ‘divisive’ and ‘self-indulgent’. One colleague told me to ‘STFU’ [shut the f— up].”

She says the party’s vote collapsed because of an “idiotic strategy of intermittently and inconsistently making ‘Tory Right’ noises – which disintegrated when set against our liberal Conservative record”.

Criticising the approach to tax, immigration and trans issues under Mr Sunak, she says: “Whatever some of my colleagues think, the voters aren’t mugs: they saw what we did in office and ignored what we insincerely said while campaigning.

“High taxes, high immigration, and – and I can hardly bear to say this – children literally, physically, mutilated by insane political correctness on our watch.

“The problem wasn’t people like me and [Tory peer] David Frost warning about the mistakes being made, it was the mistakes!”

In words which will be read as a leadership pitch, she says the Conservatives need to “overhaul our party organisation so that MPs listen to members”, warning against any attempt to bypass the membership when choosing the next leader.

“They did not give us the leader who lost two-thirds of my colleagues their seats. We MPs did that,” she writes. “The feedback loop where a court of chums, and a claque of cheerleaders, tells you how brilliantly you’re doing needs to end.”

Outlining policies which the Tories need to “adopt in opposition and do in office”, she says that the UK has to “leave the European Convention on Human Rights, scrap the Human Rights Act and fix Labour’s Equality Act”.

“All the other things we ought to argue for – and which we failed to do in office for 14 years – require that legal bedrock.”

The article fires the starting pistol in a leadership race which is likely to highlight deep divisions in the Tory party after last week’s crushing election result.

Mr Tugendhat, the former security minister, is expected to run in the contest, with allies saying that to make a comeback the Conservatives will have to appeal to Lib Dem and Labour voters, as well as those who voted Reform.

With Penny Mordaunt no longer in the race after losing her seat, they believe he will get to the final two candidates and make the membership round. However, supporters of Mr Tugendhat are resisting the notion that he is the candidate of the Tory Left or the “moderates”.

On Monday, he will host MPs and journalists in Westminster for “belated birthday” drinks. Allies played down the idea that the event would be a soft launch for his campaign.

Other contenders are yet to show their hand, with an ally of the former business secretary Mrs Badenoch saying she was “reflecting on the result” and “speaking lots to colleagues who’ve won and lost”.

“She thinks the post-mortem shouldn’t be rushed, it needs proper consideration,” they added.

Mr Jenrick is also widely expected to make a bid. Allies of the former Cabinet minister argue that his decision to resign from Mr Sunak’s government over concerns about immigration policy have been vindicated.

Dame Priti is another possible contender, but the former chancellor Jeremy Hunt has ruled himself out of the race.

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Only ‘Lord Almighty’ can tell me to stand down, says Biden

Joe Biden has said only the “Lord Almighty” can tell him to stand down, as more Democrats broke ranks and urged him to make way for a younger successor.

The US president, 81, gave an interview to ABC News on Friday evening that was billed as an opportunity for him to recover support after a torrid week of criticism about his mental state.

Nevertheless, in the hours following the broadcast, a fifth Democrat in the House of Representatives warned the president could not beat Donald Trump in November’s election, and said he should stand aside for the “next generation”.

In the interview, with the broadcaster George Stephanopoulos, Mr Biden refused five times to say how he would react to being told by allies he should leave the presidential race.

“If the Lord Almighty said, ‘Joe get out of the race’, then I would get out of the race. But the Lord Almighty’s not coming down,” he said.

He denied claims that some of his closest allies, including Hakeem Jeffries, the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, believed he should consider bowing out.

“I’ve met with them. I’ve met a lot of these people,” he said.

“I’ve talked with them regularly. I had an hour conversation with Hakeem. I had more time than that with Jim Clyburn. I spent time with, many hours off and on the last little bit, with Chuck Schumer.”

Asked finally what he would do if those people asked him to stand back for a younger candidate, he replied: “I’m not going to answer that question. It’s not going to happen.”

The polls are a ‘toss-up’, says Biden

Mr Jeffries is expected to meet with senior House Democrats on Sunday, where they will discuss Mr Biden’s candidacy and the aftermath of his dire performance in last week’s presidential debate.

Mr Biden said he had not watched his debate against Trump, which has sparked fresh calls for him to give up his re-election campaign.

The president was defensive about his health, his campaign and his poll ratings ─ implying several times that reports of his mental infirmity had been exaggerated by the media.

He denied that his position in the opinion polls had worsened since the debate, telling the broadcaster: “All the pollsters I talk to tell me it’s a toss-up.”

A polling aggregation by FiveThirtyEight shows Mr Biden, who was tied with Trump last week, has lost ground to the Republican every day since the debate and is now more than two points behind him nationally.

President is ‘out of touch’

The interview did not appear to have placated Mr Biden’s critics, who have been calling for him to stand down since last Thursday.

Angie Craig, a Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, publicly called on the US president to stand aside on Saturday morning, telling him: “This future of our country is bigger than any one of us.”

Citing Mr Biden’s debate performance and his inability to mount a “forceful response” to critics, she said he could not “effectively campaign and win” against Trump in November.

It means five House Democrats have broken ranks in a growing revolt against the president, while others are said to be mulling a similar move.

Several were infuriated when Mr Biden signalled that he would be content to lose to Trump as long as he did the “goodest job” he could, the New York Times reports.

David Axelrod, a former adviser to Barack Obama who served at the same time Mr Biden was vice president, said after the interview: “The president is rightfully proud of his record.

“But he is dangerously out of touch with the concerns people have about his capacities moving forward and his standing in this race.”

Mr Biden blamed the disastrous debate, in which he stuttered and froze, on a cold he had contracted and his decision to work too hard in the days before it.

“I was sick. I was feeling terrible,” he said. “As a matter of fact, the doc’s with me, I asked if they did a Covid test.

“We were trying to figure out what’s wrong. He did a test to see whether or not I had some infection or virus. I didn’t. I just had a really bad cold.”

He also suggested the reason for his unease on the debate stage was Trump interrupting him.

“Even when I was answering the question, and when they turned [Trump’s] mic off, he was still shouting and I let it distract me,” he said. “I’m not blaming, but I realised that I just wasn’t in control.”

Biden insists he is well enough to run

However, Mr Biden repeatedly denied that he was not mentally or physically fit enough to run for office again.

He said: “Can I run the 110 flat? No, but I’m still in good shape.”

Asked several times whether he would agree to a cognitive test, Mr Biden said he showed his mental abilities “every day” through his work and had not been asked by doctors to complete one.

“No one said I had to,” he said. “No one said…they said I’m good.”

The interview came after a week of intense criticism of Mr Biden, including from two sitting Democratic congressmen who said publicly that he should stand down.

The interview came after a week of intense criticism of Mr Biden. On Friday night, Maura Healey, the governor of Massachusetts, became the most high-profile sitting Democrat to publicly call for him to consider his position.

“The best way forward right now is a decision for the president to make,” she said.

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Brexiteer Tory MP who increased majority to run as Chairman of 1922 Committee

A Conservative MP who increased his majority in the general election is to run to be chairman of the 1922 Committee, The Telegraph can reveal.

Bob Blackman, who was re-elected for Harrow East, has thrown his hat into the ring to lead the powerful committee of backbench Tory MPs, which plays a crucial role in organising the process to choose the next party leader.

Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, a veteran MP and longstanding member of the committee’s executive, has also told The Telegraph that he intends to run for the chairmanship.

Mr Blackman has been the MP for his north London constituency since 2010.

In Thursday’s election, he pulled off the rare feat of increasing his majority, even as the Conservatives lost 251 seats across the rest of the country. His majority increased from 8,170 in 2019 to 11,680.

‘It was sheer hard work’

Speaking to The Telegraph on Saturday, Mr Blackman said: “It was sheer hard work, slogging nine hours a day for six weeks during the election campaign, knocking on doors, talking to people, running a very local campaign, I have to say.

“That’s what I do every weekend, out on the doors talking to people, Saturdays and Sundays, meeting people, and loads of people said to me on the doorstep, ‘I’m voting for you but I wouldn’t vote for anyone else if they were standing for your party’.”

Mr Blackman said that he had benefited from the Tories achieving a “wipeout” of Labour in council elections two years ago, which “gave us the building blocks”.

He also acknowledged that he had been aided by other factors. 

“Personal vote is important, but I got more or less the same vote as I got in 2019,” he said. 

“What did happen, of course, was that there was a remarkable drop in the Labour vote [from 18,765 in 2019 to 13,786].

“Obviously, we had all the parties standing, whereas in 2019 we didn’t, so you get a fragmentation of the vote.”

In terms of where the Conservatives go next, Mr Blackman said that because he is planning to stand as chairman of the 1922, “I’m not going to make comments about who should be our leader or the direction of travel.”

However, he said that the party’s national campaign had been “disastrous”.

“The national campaign went off the rails from the word go,” he said.

 “Whatever anyone’s view of Rishi [Sunak], the fact that he was announcing the election in the pouring rain, it just set a scene unfortunately. And then there were mistakes made along the way which we know.

“The issues over leaving D-Day early, that was bad news on our doorsteps, I know. The betting scandal was really upsetting to people, and quite rightly.”

He also said that the party had not done enough to “emphasise how well we’ve recovered in terms of the economy”.

The chairman of the 1922 Committee plays a pivotal role in the Conservative Party.

With Sir Graham Brady, the long-standing chairman of the committee, having left the Commons, the vacancy has arisen.

The committee helps organise leadership elections, and the chairman is famously the recipient of letters of no confidence which Tory MPs can use to try to change their leader.

Sir Geoffrey, who was first elected in 1992 and won the newly drawn up seat of North Cotswold on Thursday, is also standing to be chairman.

Chairman with authority

He said the Conservatives needed a “chairman with the authority to be able to get the party together to be able to hear every view and then take everything forward”.

“I’ve been around since 1992, I’ve seen the debacle in 1997, I was there in 2010 when Cameron tried to get rid of the 22, I’ve been through all the seminal events with Theresa May, with Boris, with Liz Truss and the election of Rishi… I’ve been there at all the crucial moments for a long time” he said.

A timeline has not yet been set for electing a new chairman and executive, but Mr Blackman said he thought it would make sense to do it on Tuesday, when all MPs will be in Westminster to elect the Speaker and be sworn in.

“The 1922 executive will decide what the process will be to elect the new leader,” he said. 

“That will be agreed with the party board and then the starting gun will be fired in terms of the leadership contest.”

An important question will be how long the process should be, with some senior Tories calling for a longer contest so the party can conduct a full post-mortem on why it lost and properly test the leadership candidates.

Another matter to be resolved is how long Mr Sunak stays on as party leader. 

The State Opening of Parliament and King’s Speech will take place on July 17, with Parliament expected to go into recess at the end of the month.

Because Prime Minister’s Questions do not take place on the day of the King’s Speech, it is possible that if Parliament goes into recess on July 30, there may be only one PMQs before the summer break, on July 24.

If a relatively concise leadership process is opted for, Mr Sunak could face Sir Keir Starmer across the dispatch box on July 24 and remain leader until his replacement is chosen later in the summer.

However, if the party goes for a longer process concluding in the autumn, he may wish to hand over to an interim leader.

Mr Blackman said that Tory MPs owed it to Mr Sunak to “give him the opportunity to [resign] in an appropriate way”.

“If I’m elected as chairman of the 1922, then I will obviously be conducting the process for who is elected, and then helping whoever is elected as our leader to transform the party back into a fighting machine ready to take Labour on, not just in the next general election, but also in the local elections which will come next year and the year after in the build-up.

“The way that we win back power is through local government, and we’ve got to get fit and ready for that.”

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OMG, I just got elected! Meet Britain’s youngest MP

It had seemed that Sam Carling, 22, was never destined to become a member of parliament. In November he was Labour’s second selection, after its first-choice candidate was ousted, to fight for a seat that had never in its history been red. So when yesterday’s exit poll came in at 10pm it appeared to seal an obvious end: by pollster John Curtice’s measure, there was just a 26 per cent chance that North West Cambridgeshire would have Carling as its representative. 

Clearly fate had other plans. Today Carling has become both Britain’s new Baby of the House, as its youngest electee, and the joint-youngest Labour MP in modern history, almost tied to the day with title-holder Malcolm Macmillan, who triumphed in 1935.

Carling contested veteran Conservative Shailesh Vara, who was elected into North West Cambridgeshire in 2005 and held on to his seat right until this year, sticking around for long enough to be a minister in three separate governments. Staff whispers from early on in the night suggested that Vara would surely hang on, and that it was not only the seat’s voting record and the exit poll that seemed to stand in Carling’s way.

The new Baby of the House comes from, “a totally apolitical family, in quite a deprived part of the north east of England,” he says. Though Carling has lived in Cambridge since he was 18, studying natural sciences at the University of Cambridge before becoming a research fellow there (one of his two present jobs, alongside sitting on Cambridgeshire Council), his strong north eastern accent still means that he is an oddity in this pocket of the blue wall south. 

If Carling ever felt that he was bound to become a Labour MP one day, then, and in the south of England at that, this is a belief that he has deftly hidden. “I’m absolutely thrilled,” he said after making his winners’ speech. “I’m very grateful to all the residents who have put their trust in me, and I’m very cognisant of the responsibility that comes with that,” he adds, like any good new politician is wont to do. 

As we speak, on the floor of Peterborough’s enormous Kingsgate Conference Centre auditorium, the young man is constantly beset by photographers. It’s easy to see why. On this momentous night, when pictures speak much louder than words, Carling looks for all the world like a sixth former who has just been crowned head boy. 

Even after his victory Carling still displays a hint of the nerves that had plagued him throughout the night, and by 6am he was more exhausted than ecstatic. “All the predictions were all over the place,” he says. “The exit poll said I would lose, but by our own data, we thought I still might win.” There was a dramatic 5am recount after Carling was initially found to have won the seat by just 23 votes – in the end, as if by magic, they found him an extra 16. “It was very, very uncertain right until the last minute,” he admits. 

It’s asked of every new Baby of the House, and many a fresh MP in their 20s, how they can hope to represent their constituents in Parliament given their lack of life experience. Carling has better grounds for argument than most. He has been a city councillor since the age of 20 and now manages a budget worth £17 million, as well as hundreds of staff. 

Throughout the night, however, it seemed as if someone had forgotten to inform the councillor that to become an MP meant an entrance into public life. He arrived bang-on-the-dot at 10pm, hot on the heels of the exit poll and more than three hours before Vara appeared. The Labour lad immediately announced that he would not be making any comments to journalists until after the result was called, “and even then I might not”, he said, as he flitted between the rooms hosting the North West Cambridgeshire count.

When Vara made his landing at the count at just past 1am, he stopped to dispel some wisdom to his young rival. But Carling was clearly flustered by the sudden appearance of the photographers who had trailed Vara up the stairs towards the ballot boxes: he was distracted by the “flurry”, he pronounced. Soon afterwards the candidate was snapped on his phone while sitting on a chair in the corridor, something of a classic Gen Z pose, and much to his protests; afterwards he tried to steer clear of snappers all night, darting between rooms to avoid attention. 

Who was he texting? Perhaps his friends, who he imagines now are “proud” – “obviously a lot of them have been out supporting me,” he says, “though I won’t be seeing them for a few hours, because priority number one will be going to sleep”. 

Or maybe he was congratulating another super-young candidate, such as the new Labour MP for Hertford and Stortford, 24-year-old Josh Dean, who with Carling will form Gen Z’s political debut. But Carling is careful. “I know some of them as friends and as colleagues,” he says. “I’m sure I will get to know more of them, but I don’t really know who’s been successful at this stage.” 

After this the candidate maintained his solitude until just past 3.30am, when the first hints of his seat’s new status were revealed. At 3.48am Carling was standing by the count table on the summons of the returning officer, looking gleeful for the first time in that long evening. It seemed he had won: but the margin was so small that the Conservatives had demanded a recount.

Just down the aisle were a friendly but tense-looking midlife couple with lanyards that designated them as “count agents”, peering down at Carling with concern. In a room full of plain-clothed people their northern accents gave them away. The candidate’s parents had followed him to the count. But “I won’t confirm or deny that,” Carling’s mum said. Clearly he had them well-trained too. 

Despite even this, Carling is keen not to be defined by his age. “At the end of the day I’m the Member of Parliament for North West Cambridgeshire, as weird as it sounds,” he says. “I want us as a society to get into a position where we’re not obsessing over people’s age when they’re elected to these positions, because realistically they are just as capable as anyone else.”

Yet he exudes a particular kind of frenetic energy that is most commonly found in A-level exam halls. After the recount was announced Carling paced the room, tugging at his mound of curly mouse-brown hair or dutifully adjusting his Labour rosette. His black jacket was slightly too big, the matching trousers slightly too short. The first to be delivered the news of the recount were his parents, and until the ballots were collected for a final time, it was only them that he wanted for company. 

Others in the room clearly see Carling in a different light. Alongside his parents at the count were many of his council colleagues. “We’ve seen him improve a lot in the last two years,” says one, who is old enough to be Carling’s grandfather. “We’ve had to slow him down a bit, because he used to talk so fast, and that’s helped with understanding his accent too,” he explains. “But he’s really learned how to interact with the public. He’s very well-liked. He’ll go a long way.” 

The council will be sad to lose Sam to Westminster as “he’s good, with his vibrance,” another colleague explains. “He’s got that sort of confidence you only have when you’re so young. North West Cambridgeshire will never be a safe seat, unless he does exceptionally well, but we are looking at someone who is going to be a big name in politics within the next few years.” 

While Vara detachedly observed the recount from his feet, slowly hovering by each table, Carling sat at the desk directly opposite counters with his back straight and hands together, as if he could will the ballots to change in his favour. It almost seemed that he was counting the papers himself, with a forensic precision he perhaps has honed in his work as a cancer research scientist at Cambridge University – he is precocious in more ways than one. 

Perhaps it’s this intensity that makes Carling cut something of a lonely figure. One colleague of his jokes that he fits his council work and research, formerly his Cambridge natural sciences degree, “around his paper round”. You have to wonder how he makes the time to be 22, and how he will adjust to life in Westminster and in London, one that could be more slow-paced and low-stakes than that which he currently leads.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” Carling says when asked how he feels about the prospect of leaving Cambridge University and the council behind. He had originally planned for a career in science, though all that changed during covid, when he realised that “actually, I want to work in politics” – around the time that his school’s sixth form was shut down. 

“I’m thrilled to be taking on the role, and that’s the main focus,” he says, “but there’s a little pang of sadness. But then I think I can bring a lot of the experience I have from working in science to Parliament and building up evidence-based policy and social circles,” Carling says, as if this is just any other LinkedIn-boosting graduate job. 

Shortly before 5.30 the room silently acknowledged Carling’s victory. There was a brief moment when a third count might have been called, it was thought, before Shailesh Vara conceded defeat. He gracefully shook Sam’s hand again and smiled at his parents, before hugging and kissing his own supporters. From some within that camp there seemed to be tears. 

In Sam’s camp too hugs abounded – his parents beamed – but there was a sense of finality to all this rather than that of a new beginning. As one councillor said, all had thought Carling would “walk it in”, despite what local officials and national polls may have claimed. 

The young new MP clearly has huge respect for 63-year-old Vara, too, despite his determination to right what he sees as the ruin done to North West Cambridgeshire by Tory rule. “The overriding thing for me is the manifesto I stood on,” Carling says. “It’s Labour’s mission, it’s those first steps of change. We’re going to get on with that straight away, in terms of rebuilding Britain’s public services and getting our country’s future back in essence,” he says. 

But this night could not have been less about the nation. The seat’s recount was called fifty minutes before Rishi Sunak would concede defeat to Starmer, and when that national defeat was screened on the count room’s enormous TV no one batted an eyelid. Nor did they when an enormous cheer could be heard from the bottom floor as Peterborough constituency declared for Labour. 

In regards to his own victory and to his party’s, “I don’t think I have any plans to celebrate,” says the new MP, besides going to bed – by the end of the night he has a pounding headache. “I know there was a party over in Cambridge with a lot of my colleagues in the city council, though that will probably have wrapped up by the time I get there.”

Carling leaves the conference centre at 6am after local media and the BBC have had their fill of questions. Some wondered whether he is now Britain’s youngest MP, if not only Labour’s. Carling is so self-serious that his age can be easily forgotten, as can the fact that he has never before voted in a general election – until you see the Baby of the House with his parents in tow, on the way to the family car in the parking lot. 

He might appear more like a sixth form prefect than a future leader after an overnight count, but are we looking at a future science or education secretary, as his colleagues believe, or perhaps even a future Prime Minister? “I’ve only just been elected, so let’s just take things one step at a time,” Carling says before he departs. “I really haven’t had time to think about that in great detail, so let’s leave that for later. We’ll speculate on that one.” 

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England fans in Germany claim they will ‘drink more pints than Tories have seats’

England fans in Germany have been enjoying the escape from the general election by trying to drink more pints than the number of seats the Conservatives have remaining.

As 50,000 descended on Dusseldorf before the Three Lions’ quarter-final clash with Switzerland, fans on tour in Germany were glad to be missing the tedium of the election at home.

On Friday, on Dusseldorf’s Rheinuferpromenade of bars on the river, few were interested in the change of government back home, which left the Conservatives with fewer than 125 seats.

“It’s 100 per cent better here than watching the election,” said Elliot Fribbens, 28, a carpenter from Portsmouth, as he enjoyed another local beer with Matt Rees, 28.

“That’s as long as we win. We didn’t watch it last night, we do know the result.

“Hopefully [Gareth] Southgate won’t be following [Rishi] Sunak out the door, and we will somehow be bringing it home. I’m so glad I wasn’t in England yesterday, I couldn’t care less.

“People at home were watching the election at 3am and we were just getting in. I think between us we probably will get through more pints than the Tories have seats.”

In the next bar, fans were equally disinterested in Labour knocking the Conservatives out of power.

“What election?” asked Carl Stevenson, 45, an insurance broker from Blackpool. “Maybe it will be, if we don’t play [well] tomorrow it will be Sunak out, Southgate out.

“Tomorrow, we will win on penalties, so it might be a bit closer than yesterday. We got the ferry over and I don’t remember the rest of the day. We went for a couple and then it was 36 pints. That was an early night.”

In the city centre, where thousands of England fans were beginning to gather, George Rawkins, 22, from London, dressed in full England kit, said that he was glad to be in Germany as he and friends began a bar crawl around town.

“It’s a bit of a relief to be here, it’s a lot more fun here. There is a strong chance we will have more than 121 pints over the weekend.

“We’ll have a round that would beat the Reform done in the next 10 minutes. We were praying England would get here, we were nearly watching Slovakia against Switzerland.”

While most of the fans mingling with the English in Dusseldorf yesterday were Germans supporting their side against Spain, locals further afield have revealed that they “fell in love” with the England team while growing up under communism.

Reinhard Lisker, 66, who recently watched Southgate’s men train at a stadium in Jena, said he was supporting England.

“As a boy I supported teams which played against West Germany. So I became an England fan the day they won the World Cup in 1966 and have never looked back.”

He added:  “I’m proud to wear my England shirt today alongside my family who all support Gareth Southgate’s team, and it’s a thrill to see them in my hometown.”

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The Daily T: Labour in power and Iain Duncan Smith on Farage

It’s official: we have a new prime minister. When Sir Keir Starmer spoke on the steps of No 10 Downing Street he became just the seventh ever Labour politician to lead the country – but the challenges he is facing are vast. 

Kamal and Camilla take a look at the issues at the top of his in-tray, from a sluggish economy to immigration concerns. Plus with a low vote share and a historic number of seats won by the Lib Dems, Reform, the Greens and independent pro-Palestine candidates, they ask whether Labour can really be the “government of service” Starmer wants them to be?

Plus, Iain Duncan Smith joins Kamal and Camilla in the studio to discuss how he held on to his London seat and what next for the Tories as they reel from one of their worst electoral losses ever. 

Watch all episodes of the Daily T here or on YouTube.

Or if you would prefer to listen to the audio only, then use the player above. You can also listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts, and subscribe to The Daily T newsletter for updates. 

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