Today’s daily politics briefing
The government has insisted it would be “irresponsible” not to build relations with the far-right Hungarian leader Viktor Orban and his government, as Boris Johnson prepares to welcome him to Downing Street on Friday.
It comes as fresh questions were raised about claims that Mr Johnson was furious to find untested patients were sent from hospitals to care homes, after Dominic Cummings alleged that Matt Hancock had promised patients would be tested.
Mr Cummings has “documentary evidence” to back up his allegation that Mr Johnson felt “misled” and feared his health secretary was guilty of “negligence”, according to ITV News.
No 10 said the PM still has “full confidence” in the health secretary. Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng claimed Mr Hancock’s contribution during the Covid crisis had been “excellent”.
‘I’m standing against Starmer’: Galloway enters by-election
Former Respect party MP George Galloway has announced he is running in the forthcoming Batley and Spen by-election – with the explicit aim of ousting Keir Starmer as Labour leader.
The troublemaking leftist said he’s standing as a candidate for the Workers Party of Britain in the poll on 1 July.
In a video posted on his social media feeds, filmed at Batley bus station, Galloway said: “I’m standing against Keir Starmer … So, if for whatever reason you think that the current leader of the Labour Party needs to be replaced, I’m your man.”
Labour insiders fear he could split some of the vote needed for candidate Kim Leadbeater – the sister of Jo Cox – who was selected as Labour’s candidate earlier this week.
Adam Forrest28 May 2021 09:35
Protective ring? ‘Not the case,’ says care home chief
The chief executive of the UK’s largest charity care home provider has said “all support was taken away” from care homes in the first wave of the pandemic.
Sam Monaghan, head of MHA said it was “not the case” the government had thrown a “protective ring” around care homes, following the accusations made by Dominic Cummings against Matt Hancock.
He told Times Radio: “We were saying right from the get-go we need testing in order that we can best isolate residents who may have contracted the virus, and to ensure that staff who have got the virus aren’t in work.
“But we could not get the testing, and certainly we couldn’t get proper routine testing till late May, early June.”
He added: “Rather than actually having a protective ring it felt like all the supports that we needed were just being taken away.”
Adam Forrest28 May 2021 09:29
Most people think Hancock should quit, poll suggests
The latest YouGov poll suggests more people than not think Matt Hancock should resign.
Some 36 per cent said that he should quit, 31 per cent said he should stay – and another third said that they did not know.
Four in ten people said they had followed Dominic Cummings claims about Hancock, Boris Johnson and the government.
Adam Forrest28 May 2021 09:18
Minister defends ‘excellent’ Hancock over care homes
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng was asked whether it was wrong for Matt Hancock to say that a protective ring was thrown around care homes when testing capacity was not sufficient to do so.
He told Times Radio: “I think Matt was very clear that he would try and build the capacity, the testing capacity, and he was very successful in that.
“He was also a very key figure in the vaccine rollout, which has also been successful. So I think Matt’s contribution has been excellent.”
Kwarteng has stressed the “difficult situation” Hancock was in while tackling the pandemic.
“I know that he worked really hard and very few people – if anyone – worked as hard as he did and he was very committed to saving lives,” he told Sky News.
“Now, he said what he said, I fully believe him but we’ll have an inquiry and that will iron out all these facts.”
Adam Forrest28 May 2021 08:57
PM’s meeting with Orban ‘absolutely right,’ says minister
Cabinet minister Kwasi Kwarteng has insisted it would be “irresponsible” not to build relations with the far-right leader Viktor Orban and the Hungarian government.
Labour has highlighted Orban’s scapegoating of minorities, including decrying “Muslim invaders”, using antisemitic tropes in political campaigns, and undermining democracy.
“We have to speak to all sorts of people, all sorts of leaders across the world whose values we don’t necessarily share,” he told Sky News on Friday morning.
“I think Viktor Orban’s views on migrants are things that I would not endorse in any way. Having said that I think we have to engage with the EU, he’s an EU leader, Hungary is an EU country, we’re part of the EU”.
He added: “In this post-Brexit world I think it’s absolutely right for us to be building bilateral relations with countries in the former EU, I think it’s completely reasonable to do that.”
Adam Forrest28 May 2021 08:54
Cummings ‘has documentary evidence about Hancock’
Dominic Cummings has “documentary evidence” to back up his allegation that Boris Johnson felt “misled” and feared his health secretary was guilty of “negligence”, according to ITV News.
Robert Peston claims that the documents show that Hancock was summoned to a meeting at No 10 on 4 May last year over potentially infected Covid patients being sent from hospitals into care homes.
Citing sources, the ITV presenter says the documents show there was fear among top officials at No 10 about Hancock’s “negligence” (and the word “negligence” is said to be in the documents).
Adam Forrest28 May 2021 08:50
Johnson still has ‘full confidence’ in Hancock, says No 10
Boris Johnson still has “full confidence” in Matt Hancock, according to a statement put out by Downing Street last night.
The PM initially declined to respond when asked if he backed the health secretary to continue in the role, but Downing Street made clear Hancock still had full backing.
The health secretary has denied Dominic Cummings’ allegations he had repeatedly lied to colleagues as “unsubstantiated,” adding: “I’ve been straight with people in public and in private throughout.”
He also denied he had angered the PM by promising that hospital patients were tested for Covid before being discharged into care homes.
“My recollection of events is that I committed to delivering testing for people going into care homes, when we could do it.” Without huge capacity “it wasn’t possible” to test everyone, he said.
Adam Forrest28 May 2021 08:45