Rishi Sunak announces U-turn over Cop27 attendance and says he will go to climate summit in Egypt

Rishi Sunak has confirmed that he will attend the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt next week.

This is not unexpected – there have been hints from No 10 over recent days that he would attend – but it still counts as U-turn. Last week Downing Street said that he would not be going because he had “other pressing domestic commitments”.

There is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change.

There is no energy security without investing in renewables.

That is why I will attend @COP27P next week: to deliver on Glasgow’s legacy of building a secure and sustainable future.

— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) November 2, 2022

Key events

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Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper has called for Matt Hancock to quit as an MP and trigger a by-election following his decision to appear on I’m A Celebrity….

She said:

He is abandoning his constituents by going to the jungle and is shirking from his responsibilities. In any normal workplace he’d be sacked.

PA has some interesting lines from a briefing for journalists this morning by polling expert Prof John Curtice, president of the British Polling Council.

The Conservatives will find it “extremely difficult” to win the next general election despite some signs of a recovery under Rishi Sunak, Curtice said.

He added that while the new Prime Minister is significantly more popular than his party, voters were unlikely to forgive the Tories for the financial crisis unleashed by his predecessor Liz Truss.

At the height of Truss’s unpopularity, the Conservatives had been trailing Labour by more than 30 points in the polls suggesting they could have been left with fewer than 60 seats if that pattern had been repeated at a general election.

He added that support for rejoining the EU has been growing steadily over the past year with the latest polling suggesting 57% would favour rejoining with 43% against.

He said:

No government that has presided over a financial crisis has ever survived at the ballot box. Voters don’t forget governments being forced to do a U-turn by financial markets.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper was grilled by broadcasters about the problems with dangerous overcrowding at the Manston migrant processing centre in Kent this morning.

He said the French and British authorities both need to step up work to prevent migrants risking the dangerous English Channel crossing in small boats, and that the partnership with the French needed to improve.

Harper told Sky News:

I think both countries, Britain and France, could do more. What we need to do is work with the French, they do a lot already.

We provide resources to help them and, of course, people will know our border controls in France are actually physically located in France, and we’ve always worked in close partnership with French authorities.

Do we think they could do more? Yes. We could do more as well. It’s about improving that partnership.

He said work was ongoing to get migrants from Manston quicker but said “it is reasonable to say it is not going to happen overnight”.

This is from my colleague Jonathan Watts, the Guardian’s global environment editor, on the (possible) significance of Rishi Sunak’s Cop27 U-turn.

Another UK U-Turn. Very welcome.
I may be too optimistic but perhaps we are approaching a political tipping point where those in favour of energy transition are more powerful than those opposed. Can’t come too soon. https://t.co/sPW4g7k2y2

— jonathanwatts (@jonathanwatts) November 2, 2022

Ed Miliband, the shadow secretary for climate change and net zero, has now released a fuller version of his Twitter response to Rishi Sunak’s Cop27 U-turn. (See 10.38am.) Miliband said:

The prime minister has been shamed into going to Cop27 by the torrent of disbelief that he would fail to turn up.

Rishi Sunak is going to avoid embarrassment not to provide leadership.

His initial instinct tells us about all about him: he just doesn’t get it when it comes to the energy bills and climate crisis.

Yet again we see a prime minister who only makes decisions for reasons of political management not the national interest.

If the prime minister was really serious he would commit to Labour’s plans for a zero carbon power system by 2030, a national wealth fund to invest in green jobs and GB Energy – a publicly owned energy generation company to create jobs and wealth in Britain.

Ed Miliband.
Ed Miliband. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

This is from Bloomberg’s Alex Wickham, who has been engaging in the time-honoured lobby practice of U-turn counting.

COP is the 3rd Sunak u-turn in 8 days

He reversed his summer campaign position on fracking (previously said ‘yes with local consent’, then reinstated the ban)

And on EU retained law (previously he vowed a review in first 100 days, now canned per @GeorgeWParker)

— Alex Wickham (@alexwickham) November 2, 2022

Helena Horton

Alok Sharma, the Cop26 president, said he was “delighted” Rishi Sunak will now be attending the Cop27 summit in Egypt. And he said he completely agreed with Sunak’s comment that “there is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change”.

Sharma, who lost the right to attend cabinet in Sunak’s reshuffle last week, previously criticised the prime minister for his decision not to attend. He told the Sunday Times he was “pretty disappointed” at news Sunak was not going, saying his attendance would signal the UK’s “renewed commitment on this issue”.

Chris Skidmore, the former energy minister who is leading the government’s review into net zero, also welcomed Sunak’s decision to attend the summit. He said:

It’s extremely good news that Rishi Sunak will continue to champion the UK’s climate leadership and Cop26 legacy with Alok Sharma. I look forward to also attending Cop27 to highlight how the net zero review is an opportunity to better deliver greater prosperity and economic growth.

Miliband says Sunak has been ‘shamed’ into attending Cop27 and is failing to show leadership

Ed Miliband, the shadow climate and net zero secrtary, says Rishi Sunak has been “shamed” into going to Cop27 and that he has failed to show leadership on this issue.

The Prime Minister has been shamed into going to COP27 by the torrent of disbelief that he would fail to turn up.

He is going to avoid embarrassment not to provide leadership.

— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) November 2, 2022

Normally when a prime minister has news to unveil on a Wednesday, they save it up for PMQs. An announcement can wrong-foot the opposition, and secure a headline. But Rishi Sunak chose to announce that he would be attending two hours before PMQs, probably for two reasons.

First, this is not an announcement that reflects well on him, because it is a reversal of what he said he would do, and Sunak has ended up looking like someone bounced into attending an event that he originally wanted to avoid. As chancellor he was never seen as someone with a strong commitment to the net zero agenda, and this episode reinforces that. Yesterday Boris Johnson confirmed that he would be attending, and, as much colleague John Crace points out, Sunak is now open to the charge of dancing to Johnson’s tune.

Imagine being shamed into action by Boris

— John Crace (@JohnJCrace) November 2, 2022

If, instead of briefing last week that Sunak would not be attending, Downing Street had just told reporters that a final decision had not been taken, Sunak would have avoided this trap. A more experienced administration might have handled this differently.

And, second, if Sunak had waited until 12pm, Alok Sharma, the Cop26 president, would have had to criticise him for not going. Sharma is already on record as saying Sunak should be there, and he will be in the Commons at 11.30am taking questions. Now he will be able to praise his boss, instead of having a go at him.

Helena Horton

Sam Hall, director of the Conserative Environment Network, has welcomed Rishi Sunak’s decision to attend Cop27.

Economically prudent, environmentally ambitious climate action is one of the UK’s greatest policy successes & sources of diplomatic clout, and perhaps the best example of Global Britain. As the COP presidency transfers to Egypt, it is welcome the PM will lead the UK delegation. https://t.co/K7H1eSEnyL

— Sam Hall (@samuelhall0) November 2, 2022

Rishi Sunak announces U-turn over Cop27 attendance and says he will go to climate summit in Egypt

Rishi Sunak has confirmed that he will attend the Cop27 climate summit in Egypt next week.

This is not unexpected – there have been hints from No 10 over recent days that he would attend – but it still counts as U-turn. Last week Downing Street said that he would not be going because he had “other pressing domestic commitments”.

There is no long-term prosperity without action on climate change.

There is no energy security without investing in renewables.

That is why I will attend @COP27P next week: to deliver on Glasgow’s legacy of building a secure and sustainable future.

— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) November 2, 2022

Mark Harper, the new transport secretary, was the government voice on the airwaves this morning. He said the government remained committed to HS2, but he implied it was looking at the costs could be cut. He told Sky News:

We’re going back to our 2019 manifesto, looking at the commitments we made. We have got a commitment to make sure we can get high-speed trains to Leeds.

What we’re doing in my department, and what I’ve been briefed on, is we’re looking at all of the options that are available to do that.

I will be looking at all of the options to do that in light of the decisions we take in the autumn statement.

Harper also said his department was still reviewing whether or not to press ahead with the rollout of more smart motorways. He told LBC:

I’ve looked very carefully at the concerns that people have got, at the very comprehensive report the transport select committee did.

You will know my predecessor but one paused rolling out any new smart motorways until the department gather evidence over a significant period of time about their operation, about their safety record, so that we could then make some decisions in the light of all of that evidence, and that position remains the case.

That evidence will be gathered and then we’ll be able to make decisions in due course about whether or not we roll out any more of these motorways.

Ed Balls, the former secretary of state for children and former shadow chancellor, is the outstanding example of a politician who has used reality TV to enhance their popularity and reputation. But he was on Strictly, not I’m a Celebrity, and only after he stood down as an MP. He said Matt Hancock was making a mistake in participating in the jungle show. Balls explained:

Personally, I think good luck to him. But I think he is totally crackers to do this.

Because I think it’s the wrong place to do it from, the wrong time and the wrong programme. To do it as a sitting MP just brings all these questions.

He’s lost the whip, [Rishi] Sunak, the prime minister, is clearly furious, his constituents are going to be up in arms. He’s been paid to do this while he’s also going to the jungle.

I mean, look, to be fair, Boris Johnson was on a Caribbean beach two weeks ago and he’s a sitting MP. But you know, this is a different thing.

Secondly, this is the guy who was the health secretary during the pandemic, we have not had the inquiry yet.

And therefore, it just brings back for so many people so much pain and suffering and it’s not something that you can make light of, until we’ve gone through that inquiry process.

Hundreds moved from Manston migrant centre amid overcrowding

Hundreds of migrants have been moved out of an immigration centre in Kent amid concerns it had become dangerously overcrowded, PA Media reports. The full story is here.

Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, posted about the situation at Manston last night.

Manston Update:

Thanks to the hard work and professionalism of Home Office and Border Force staff, military personnel and our contractors we have made good progress.

Numbers of migrants have fallen substantially today and we expect them to do so again tomorrow.

— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) November 1, 2022

Unless we receive an unexpectedly high number of migrants in small boats in the coming days, numbers will fall significantly this week.

It’s imperative that the site returns a sustainable operating model and we are doing everything we can to ensure that happens swiftly.

— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) November 1, 2022

Hancock suggests all MPs should try reality TV and says he will use I’m a Celebrity to raise dyslexia awareness

Good morning. Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, has written an article for the Sun defending his decision to take part in I’m a Celebrity and one claim he makes is that his participation in the programme is justified because, under Rishi Sunak, the government is now “stable”, which means parliament and the nation can now manage for three weeks without the need to have Matt Hancock on hand.

When I was first approached to take part — while I was flattered and naturally curious — it didn’t take me too long to turn the opportunity down because of the instability government was facing at the time.

Now though, the government is stable. Rishi Sunak has made a great start and I know he has got what it takes to be a superb PM.

While this argument is obviously facile, Hancock has got a point of sorts; the very fact that his descent into reality TV was leading the news for most of yesterday does suggest that the Tory crisis/psychodrama is over (at least for now), and politics is becoming a bit more normal.

Yesterday Hancock had the Conservative whip removed after he announced that he was going to take unauthorised leave from parliament to take part in the programme in Australia, and one Tory colleague described him as “an absolute prat”. In his Sun article today Hancock defends his decision by saying that he is going to the jungle to increase dyslexia awareness and implying that more MPs should be doing the same. He says:

Some may think I’ve lost my marbles or had one too many drinks, swapping the comfortable surroundings of Westminster and West Suffolk for the extreme conditions of the Australian outback, going where there will be few creature comforts, not enough food, and a load of physical tasks involving snakes, spiders and plenty of other creepy-crawlies.

While there will undoubtedly be those who think I shouldn’t go, I think it’s a great opportunity to talk directly to people who aren’t always interested in politics, even if they care very much about how our country’s run.

It’s our job as politicians to go to where the people are — not to sit in ivory towers in Westminster …

It’s as clear as day that politicians like me must go to where the people are — particularly those who are politically disengaged. We must wake up and embrace popular culture.

And describing the message that he wants to convey, Hancock says:

While most people will know me for being the Health Secretary during the pandemic, what you probably won’t know is that I am dyslexic, and I’ve been campaigning for better identification and support for dyslexic children …

By talking about dyslexia on prime-time TV, I hope to not only increase support for my Dyslexia Screening and Teacher Training Bill (which receives its second reading in Parliament just days after I’m A Celebrity . . . finishes), but I aim to help the public better understand this very common condition, that affects around one in ten people.

Good luck with that, as they say. When George Galloway decided to take part in Big Brother, he said he would use the show to discuss issues like poverty and racism, but all that anyone remembers is him pretending to be a cat. It would be nice to think that he does find time for some dyslexia awareness raising amongst the animal penis munching, but the producers may have other ideas.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.35am: Amanda Pritchard, NHS England’s chief executive, speaks at a King’s Fund conference. Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, is speaking at the same event at 1.30pm.

12pm: Rishi Sunak faces Keir Starmer at PMQs.

2.30pm: Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, gives evidence to the Commons women and equalities committee on equality in the asylum process.

2.30pm: Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, gives evidence to the Commons defence committee on relations with the US and Nato.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at [email protected]

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