Politics latest updates: 'Massive row' at Scottish Tory conference; BBC 'dragged through mud' by Tory sleaze scandal - as Gary Lineker weighs in (2023)

Key points
  • Richard Sharp quits as BBC chairman over Johnson £800,000 loan
  • Watch: His resignation statement in full
  • Joe Pike: Sharp jumped before he was pushed
  • Labour:Appointment caused 'untold damage' to the BBC
  • BBC 'dragged through mud' by another Tory sleaze scandal
  • Gary Lineker weighs in on chair's resignation
  • Ali Fortescue: Key details in Sharp report revealed
  • 'Massive row' at Scottish Tory conference after media barred
  • Two more MPs under investigation by standards commissioner
  • Live reporting by Ben Bloch


Suspended Tory MP hits out at 'smear campaign' after fresh complaints about behaviour

Julian Knight MP has released a statement hitting out at what he calls a "smear campaign" of "leaks, false innuendo and briefings".

The punchy statement comes in the wake of fresh allegations that surfaced yesterday about inappropriate comments and behaviour.

Mr Knight was suspended as a Tory MP in December after a police complaint was made alleging sexual misconduct, and that investigation was dropped by the Met Police last month.

However, he was not reinstated as a Tory MP after the whips' office said further complaints had been made against him.

Yesterday, the BBC reported that fresh complaints had been made against him to the parliamentary authorities alleging "inappropriate comments and behaviour".

In a statement today, Mr Knight said: "As I have repeatedly said, I am fully aware of the circumstances of the single complaint made against me to the Metropolitan Police and the motivations of those involved in making it.

"This baseless complaint was dismissed by the police without their even feeling the need to interview me, which they never did. I have not been made aware of any details of allegations supposedly made subsequently against me to any Parliamentary authorities.

"Nor am I the subject of any investigation by parliament’s Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme.Should I become the subject of any such investigation, I will fully and publicly defend myself against any allegations made against me.

"Meanwhile it is deplorable that, despite the police decision, I remain the subject of a what appears to be a smear campaign through leaks, false innuendo and briefings."


Teachers' union to re-ballot members on strike action due to minister's 'wilful lack of engagement'

The National Education Union has just announced that it will be re-balloting members to continue strike action after rejecting the government's pay offer.

The union said it was doing so "with a great sense of regret", but that the education secretary, Gillian Keegan, had "wilfully washed her hands of anything to do with the dispute".

Teachers were offered a £1,000 one-off cash payment for the current academic year and a 4.3% pay rise next year.

However, the union says that around half of schools would have to make cuts next year to be able to afford the rise.

Dr Mary Bousted, the union's joint general secretary, said: "This action should be entirely unnecessary. Despite both the governments in Wales and Scotland reaching a settlement, Gillian Keegan has wilfully washed her hands of anything to do with the dispute for a fully funded pay rise for teachers in England."

She said the "entire teaching profession" has rejected the pay offer, adding: "Such is the anger amongst members that she now faces the situation of all education unions taking a united stand against government with all considering or having announced they will ballot members."

Dr Bousted added that the education secretary is "by some distance, the biggest obstacle to getting a sensible resolution" to the dispute, and called on her to get around the table and negotiate.

The ballot will open on Monday 15 May and close on Friday 28 July 2023, the union confirmed.


Immigration minister welcomes Italian prime minister

It's not just Governor Ron DeSantis in town this week - the Italian prime minister has also made the trip over.

Yesterday, she met with Rishi Sunak in Downing Street, and today, she has met with Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick.

Mr Jenrick said it was a "pleasure" to meet with her, adding that they are "working closely together to tackle the shared challenge of illegal migration" - something Ms Meloni also discussed with Mr Sunak yesterday.


Children's hospital declares 'business continuity incident' over staffing concerns during nursing strikes

The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children has released a statement ahead of nursing strikes, due to take place from 8pm on Sunday to midnight on Monday.

In a tweet, it said that that it has declared a "business continuity incident" due to "serious concerns over safely staffing the hospital" during the nursing strike.

The hospital says that having reviewed staffing levels, it will be "unable to staff the hospital to our usual nursing ratios."

It added: "We have had to make some difficult decisions about the care we can provide over the coming days.

"We have been exploring lots of different options for delivering care, including increasing the numbers of doctors, physiotherapist, pharmacists, and other care staff on site.

"Please be reassured that we are doing everything we can to ensure your child will still receive safe care."

It said that clinical teams will be in touch with parents about any specific changes to their child's

"This is not a step we've taken lightly but safe care for patients is our priority," the hospital said.

The strikes come after RCN members narrowly voted to reject the government's pay offer earlier this month.

Read more:


Sharp caved to the inevitable by resigning - but damage to the BBC has already been done

By Joe Pike, political correspondent

After three months of refusing to leave, Richard Sharp succumbed to what was perhaps inevitable.

His carefully choreographed TV statement was recorded before the report was even published, and he avoided the need to do an interview.

Mr Sharp has, therefore, not been held to account about the damage his behaviour and this whole row has had on the BBC's reputation.

If there was one point Mr Sharp hoped to make in his statement, it was that his appointment was valid.

That, he suggested, was the key finding of the report by Adam Heppinstall KC.

Yes, there was a breach of the governance code, but not one that made his position untenable, Mr Sharp argued.

He claimed the breach was "inadvertent", but notably, the KC did not make a judgment on that point.

Mr Sharp's key message seemed to be that his departure from the corporation was of his own choosing.

But the detail of the report published by the commissioner for public appointments draws that framing into question.

Read Joe's full analysis here:


Foreign secretary welcomes Florida governor to London as US presidential race heats up

James Cleverly has tweeted his welcome to the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis.

The pair are meeting in the Foreign Office today as part of Mr DeSantis's short foreign tour to boost his foreign policy credentials.

The Foreign Office said they discussed "the close and important partnership between the UK and Florida".

"This meeting was an opportunity to strengthen ties with the fourth-largest US state, and support bilateral economic cooperation that is already worth more than £5bn a year," the spokesman added.

The likely presidential candidate will also meet with the business secretary, Kemi Badenoch, reportedly to discuss trade.

Florida is the third most populous US state - there are more than 600 British businesses operating in the state, and they employ more than 50,000 Floridians.

He also visited Japan and South Korea on the trip, as well as Israel.

Mr DeSantis's foreign tour comes as the 2024 US presidential race gets under way in earnest, with President Joe Biden announcing his intention to seek re-election earlier this week.

Although Mr DeSantis has not yet formally entered the race, he is seen as the strongest challenger for the Republican nomination to former president Donald Trump, who has already launched his campaign.


Two more MPs under investigation by standards commissioner

Two more Conservative MPs are under investigation by the parliamentary standards commissioner for alleged rule breaches.

The pair are being investigated under rules governing all party parliamentary groups.

Marcus Fysh, MP for Yeovil, is under investigation regarding "rules on income and expenditure statements and publication of mandatory information".

That probe was opened on 24 April.

Sir Roger Gale, veteran MP for North Thanet, is under investigation regarding "rules on income and expenditure statements, publication of mandatory information, and the use of the crowned portcullis".

The investigation into Sir Roger was launched on 25 April.

It is unclear exactly what is being investigated, other than the details above.


Unite boss: We have 'absolutely no choice' but to take strike action

Unite's national leader has told Sky News that this vote sends a "clear message" to ministers, despite the pay offer being rejected by 52% to 48%.

Onay Kasab said: "Our members have rejected it on a good turn out. This is sending a clear message to the government.

"The government's offer is inadequate. It doesn't deal with the pay crisis and it doesn't deal with the general crisis in the NHS at the moment."

Asked about the very slim margin, Mr Kasab said: "The government should take absolutely no comfort from this whatsoever. A rejection is a rejection."

He says the lump sum pay offer would make very little difference to the lives of his members, adding: "I think people voted for it by holding their noses, not because they thought it was a great deal."

But he emphasised "a rejection is a rejection," and called on the government to get round the negotiating table.

He said Unite will now prepare to step up its industrial action: "We are now preparing to escalate. We look after our members and we want to look after the NHS. We'll be preparing now to escalate the action."

He said his members will "absolutely" be striking over the summer, and will be looking to re-ballot members for a further mandate.

"None of our members want to take strike action, but we now have absolutely no choice."


Unite members reject government's NHS pay offer

Members of Unite have rejected the government's pay offer to health workers, the union has announced.

It comes after members of Unison voted to accept the offer earlier this month, but Royal College of Nursing members narrowly rejected it.

In all, 52% of Unite members voted to reject the offer and 48% voted to accept it.

Unite members working in healthcare are primarily ambulance workers and some junior staff.

This means that six health unions have voted to accept the government's pay offer, four have voted to reject, and all eyes are now on the GMB union ballot results, expected later this afternoon.


Sunak speaks on Sharp's resignation

Rishi Sunak has just spoken to broadcasters in Glasgow, and he said he has not spoken to Richard Sharp at all.

The prime minister said: "I haven't seen the report, but I understand that he tendered his resignation to the secretary of state and she's accepted it."

Asked why he didn't sack Mr Sharp himself, Mr Sunak said: "This is about doing things properly and professionally, and when concerns are raised, it's right there is a proper process, and independent process that we don't prejudge, we allow it to carry on, we establish the facts of what happened, reach a conclusion - that's happened."

Asked if he is sick of clearing up messes made by his predecessor Boris Johnson, Mr Sunak said: "What I'm doing is focused on delivering with the British people."

Asked if the next BBC chair should be a non-political appointment, Mr Sunak initially avoided the question, saying: "As I said, right now I'm focused on talking to people here in Scotland about what we're doing to deliver for them."

Pushed on that question, Mr Sunak said: "We're jumping ahead a bit. There's an established appointments process for all these things and it will be right that we turn to that when the time is right."


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