28 May 2024

Labour’s Angela Rayner will face no further police action

Political Editor

Diane Abbott’s future with Labour

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: It’s being reported that Diane Abbott, the first Black woman elected to parliament, will not be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate in the general election. She had been under investigation for alleged anti-Semitic comments. But another prominent Labour MP found out on Tuesday that she is in the clear. Greater Manchester Police said they would take no further action against the party’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, over the sale of her council house in Stockport nine years ago.

Our political editor Gary Gibbon joins us from Westminster.

Gary Gibbon: Strong reports that Diane Abbott’s commons career could be coming to an end. Obviously, a celebrated figure on the left as the first Black woman MP, and celebrated across political parties. But her crime in the eyes of the leadership of the party last year was to write a letter to The Observer likening the discrimination that Jewish people feel to that of people with ginger hair. She apologised, but she has not as yet been allowed to stand. And strong story suggestions that the party leadership will not let her stand as a candidate.

There was always a suggestion this is where this would end up, and behind the scenes the leadership has been saying to Diane Abbott, ‘look, go quietly, stand down, we’ll restore you to the Labour whip. You will restore your Labour membership, your dignity, as it were. But just go quietly and the Labour leadership will then have the opportunity to put their own candidate in her seat.’

I should say that as of this moment, Labour figures are not confirming this story. It seems as though it might have a couple more twists to go, but the direction of travel, it must be pretty likely that it ends up where those suggestions are in The Times newspaper.

Angela Rayner investigation

Krishnan Guru-Murthy: But good news for Angela Rayner.

Gary Gibbon: She was under investigation by Greater Manchester Police, over this whole business of whether she had avoided capital gains tax on the sale of a second home, it’s not quite clear why Manchester Police think they’ve got any remit to look into tax matters. And whether she registered at the right home under electoral law, that law had long since passed the statute of limitations, given when this alleged incident might have happened. So there was bafflement, really, as to what Greater Manchester Police was up to. They said they felt there was a public interest in looking into this, but they’ve said they can find no evidence of criminal acts. They then said at the end of their statement, ‘but we passed on the files or relevant information to HMRC and Stockport Council.’ But both of them have come back immediately and said they don’t think there’s anything to investigate. So this whole saga, which had put a bit of a cloud over Angela Rayner, seems to have come to an end.

And here was Keir Starmer’s reaction on the campaign trail.

Keir Starmer: I’m obviously pleased that they’ve come to a conclusion. I never doubted that Angela hadn’t done anything wrong. And now she’s been completely cleared by the police. And that means that Angela can be campaigning with us. This is an important moment for the country.

Conservative pension promise

Gary Gibbon: But the day was really dominated on the campaign trail by Rachel Reeves’ speech, shadow chancellor in waiting routine. But also by the Tories publishing another policy from their manifesto, this time a promise to pensioners.

The prime minister campaigning in Leicestershire, was pushing his commitment to raise the pensioners tax-free allowance to make sure the basic state pension doesn’t get taxed.

Rishi Sunak: Today what we’ve announced is the triple-lock plus. We’re going to increase the personal allowance for pensioners, delivering a tax cut worth around £100 to millions of pensioners, demonstrating our commitment to them.

Gary Gibbon: The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies said the Tories were effectively reversing some of their own earlier tax grabs.

Paul Johnson, Director, Institute for Fiscal Studies: This government, its policy until today was to freeze that allowance in cash terms, therefore dragging more and more people into tax. So a lot of what they announced is just undoing a tax rise they had previously announced. And secondly, of course, we used to have a higher personal allowance for pensioners than for people of working age. And it was this Conservative government that got rid of that additional allowance. And that’s one reason why actually already a lot more pensioners are paying tax.

Gary Gibbon: Labour’s top team, campaigning in Derby, said they couldn’t match the promise and the Tories were being reckless.

Rachel Reeves: Rishi Sunak is singing from the same songbook as Liz Truss, with making unfunded commitments around tax. That is the road to economic ruin.

Gary Gibbon: The Tories insist they can afford to raise pensioners tax allowances, by tackling waste in government and re-allocating some levelling up funding.

Some pensioners in Bolton seemed underwhelmed by the Tories pension offer:

“Well, of course they think the pensioners are the ones who go and vote. They can rely on the pensioners to get out there. But I don’t think it’s the right thing. You know, there are other things, like education.”

“It’s a last ditch attempt at trying to get some votes. It’s respectable, but I don’t think it’s going to work.”

Lib Dems on the campaign trail

Gary Gibbon: Lib Dem’s Ed Davey was campaigning on water quality issues on Lake Windermere. His party had recently been highlighting the prospect of pensioners being dragged into paying income tax.

Ed Davey, Leader, Liberal Democrats: I don’t think pensioners or anyone else is going to be fooled by the Conservatives having broken their promise, having raised taxes. Now, suddenly just before the election, saying they’re going to do something different.

Gary Gibbon: Ed Davey said voters must wait for his party manifesto to hear their full tax promises. The Tories look like they’re continuing to publish chunks of their manifesto each day.

Labour endorsements

Gary Gibbon: Labour instead was showing off an endorsement from 120 business leaders, including bosses from retail, car manufacturing and one childcare company with a connection to the Sunaks.

Rachel Carrell, Chief Executive, Koru Kids: I think it would be good if Labour was clearer on what they want for child care. I’m very clear about what we need for childcare. We need much more support for flexible childcare, for parents. We need better special educational needs provisions, I’d love it if they would bring Sure Start. They haven’t been specific on any of that stuff.

Gary Gibbon: A while ago, Rishi Sunak was told he should have declared a family interest in your company. His wife was a seed investor.

Rachel Carrell: She owned about 1% and she’s now donated her shares. And it was her thought, but I tend to agree, that it just became a massive distraction.

Gary Gibbon: There might be some hard feelings in 10 Downing Street if they saw your name in that list. She was a seed investor.

Rachel Carrell: I mean, we do what we think is right for the country.

Gary Gibbon: Rachel Reeves said she would not be announcing more tax rises in this campaign, beyond those we already published and would not be holding an emergency summer budget if elected.