FRIDAY CHEAT SHEET
— Rishi Sunak is preparing for a crunch one-on-one with Narendra Modi tomorrow after a colorful first few hours in Delhi.
— Labour is attacking the government over its failure to auction a single offshore wind contract.
— The government insisted market chaos over energy and supplies were to blame, while bigging up progress on other renewable fuels.
— Boris Johnson said the Horizon deal with the EU proves he was right all along.
— Jacob Rees-Mogg put in a bid to become the next James Bond.
**A message from Google: Google’s Be Internet Legends programme helps children learn five key skills needed to be safer online through interactive materials that make learning fun. Teachers and students are invited to join a Back to School assembly, in partnership with Parent Zone, on 14th September. Find out more.**
TOP OF THE NEWSLIST
IN THE MODI FOR DANCING: Rishi Sunak is winding down on his first evening in Delhi ahead of a crunch meeting with Indian PM Narendra Modi tomorrow.
… romancing: It’s been a long 24 hours for the PM after taking off from London last night, and it ended with a quiet dinner between Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy, my POLITICO colleague Eleni Courea, who is traveling with the PM, reports back. The pair were meant to attend a glitzy reception with business leaders at the High Commission, but it was called off after an effective shutdown of the city for the G20 made it difficult for guests to get into central Delhi.
Passage to India: British journos were hit with a furnace-like blast of hot air as they filed off the plane at lunchtime in the capital — before being shuffled into assembled media vans. The convoy drove past half a dozen women dutifully performing a traditional dance for Sunak’s arrival, even though the PM and Murthy had been whisked off the tarmac towards their hotel.
Delhi on the down-low: The convoy sped through deserted Delhi streets past an Indian military parade ground, through the tree-lined colonial heart of the city and swanky houses reserved for senior government officials and MPs, including India’s president. Streets normally heaving with people and vehicles were totally empty ahead of the summit, with one journo likening it to shutting down the entirety of zones 1 and 2 in London. Check it out here.
Oops: The shutdown was meant to make things easier for those attending the G20 summit, but has in fact ended up in a logistical nightmare, with delegates unable to reach the center or finding their booked hotels shut.
Modi is watching: Via large banners and posters plastered across New Delhi, Modi’s face looks down on the few car passengers and pedestrians weaving through the streets.
Like big brother? Meanwhile, India has massively restricted journalists’ access to the summit itself — so much so that the U.S. delegation is now hosting a series of press conferences at its hotel.
Spotted: A lone monkey sliding down a tree on one of Delhi’s central avenues. As part of a huge effort to beautify the city (which also involved clearing away slums) authorities have put up life-sized cut-outs of scary-looking langurs and laced the forests with food to keep the primates away.
Spotlight on Sunak: Sunak’s comments on arrival — in which he said returning to India after a while was “special” and that he’d seen himself referred to as “India’s son-in-law” — have got prominent pick-up in local media including India Today and NDTV. One broadcaster was even counting down to his arrival, he’s so revered. “India is a country that is near and dear to me,” he told the BBC’s Chris Mason.
On the agenda: In the same clip, Sunak said he wanted to use the G20 to “highlight the impact of Russia’s war on millions of vulnerable people around the world.” On the long-coveted trade deal with India, he said progress has been made but: “We can’t rush it and I won’t rush it … I don’t put arbitrary deadlines on these things because I want to make sure they work for the British people and they work for the U.K.”
Good news to kick things off: An afternoon visit to the British Council to meet school children went well, largely thanks to Murthy, who stole the show. The PM’s wife chatted to the children and got stuck into a game of football, impressing British officials in Delhi.
Time for a breather: The G20 summit kicks off tomorrow and Sunak doesn’t have any bilats scheduled before then. He’s due to meet Modi at lunchtime tomorrow and speak in the G20 session on climate.
Now hear this: Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy is on the News Agents podcast, which just dropped.
WHEN THE WIND BLOWS
BLOW NOWT: Labour is going all out on the failure of the government to auction off a single offshore wind project under its latest “contracts for difference” scheme aimed at boosting renewable development, the results of which were revealed this morning. It turns out the max price on offer from government for offshore schemes was too low for firms to feel secure of making a profit — so the companies didn’t bother to bid.
On the attack: Shadow Net Zero Secretary Ed Miliband told BBC Radio 4 this morning it was a “disaster for Britain” and “an absolute condemnation” of government policies. He’s been tweeting into the afternoon, arguing “the Conservatives have trashed the crown jewels of the British energy system.” And he recorded a clip arguing it will “undermine” British energy security.
What it means: Critics argue the failure to grant contracts will make it harder to meet a government pledge to deliver 50 gigawatts of offshore wind before 2030, up from 14 gigawatts now. The government points to successes on other renewables in the contracting scheme, with a record 95 contracts awarded overall, including the first ever contract on geothermal power, plus gains on solar, tidal and more. But critics argue other renewable forms of power can’t generate the same amount as offshore wind.
The thing is … the government faced starker warnings than usual from the sector in March that the prices offered were too low and that there was a risk of contracts not being taken up. Labour is running with the claim from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit that the failure could mean Brits missing out on £1 billion in energy bill savings — a stat the government said it does not recognize.
The official line: The government said the absence of offshore wind in the latest round was in line with other European countries, and pointed to a “global rise in inflation and the impact on supply chains.”
The chat in DESNZ: It’s agreed in the net zero department that the maximum price wasn’t right — although some are more inclined to admit the government got it wrong than others.
Back and forth: One person Playbook PM spoke to said ministers will learn lessons from the round, and will look at tweaking the model that spits out suggested prices and adapting the scheme to ensure bids in the next round. But others insist the government set the right prices in November based on the best intelligence at the time, suggest firms reneging on previous contracts messed up the pricing process, and argue setting the prices too high would be bad value for taxpayers too.
Hmmm: Tell all that to Conservative MP Alex Stafford, who is ragging on the lack of offshore contracts, via the FT’s Jim Pickard.
The saving grace is … the goverment moved to annual auctions, up from one every two years, so ministers and officials hope at least some contracts will be granted in the next round, which opens in March, with the prices due to be set in November. The department insists it remains committed to its 50 gigawatt by 2030 target.
WANT MORE GREEN? Don’t forget to read Charlie Cooper’s big feature about whether Labour leader Keir Starmer is a climate crusader or not.
I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG: The latest Boris Johnson column for the Mail, which dropped here in the past few minutes, is a triumphalist sermon on the Horizon deal proving Brexit was right and the doubters wrong. “I simply couldn’t understand why leaving the EU would mean leaving projects like Horizon, assuming we wanted to stay in,” Johnson writes about those who warned Brexit could harm Horizon membership — not mentioning that it was his withdrawal deal that held up U.K. association for so long. He adds on the announcement Britain is back in the fold: “It’s what we Brexiteers always said would happen, and should happen. We said that you could get the best of both worlds – leave the EU but continue with partnerships and collaboration of all kinds.”
REMEMBER THOSE SAFE AND LEGAL ROUTES? Almost 750 Afghans hiding from the Taliban due to their work with British forces have been waiting two years for a decision on whether they can come to the U.K., according to Archie Mitchell and Holly Bancroft in the Independent.
NON-IDEAL: Wandsworth Prison — from which terror suspect Daniel Khalife escaped this week — was more than three years overdue a CCTV upgrade, according to reporting from the i’s Jane Merrick. MPs have also raised concerns about staffing shortages at the jail. Rishi Sunak wouldn’t be clear that he has confidence in the Wandsworth prison governor. “We should establish the facts first,” he said. Watch the clip.
NO MONEY LATEST: The government could refuse to raise benefits in line with inflation, as per normal practice, according to Bloomberg’s Ellen Milligan, in a bid to save some cash.
VEGAN ATTACK PLAN: The Lib Dem comms team lapped up lunch this afternoon at (where else?) a vegan brasserie. The away day, organized to discuss plans “to smash the blue wall at the next election,” according to one aide, was dubbed: “Operation Firecracker Cauliflower.” Are the Lib Dems mocking the idiotic love we in Westminster have for naming our little cliques of plotters?
TRUSSED UP: The Kwasi Kwarteng interview in my colleague Aggie Chambre’s latest Westminster Insider podcast was so good Sky News wrote it up. Kwarteng admitting he felt “let down” when Liz Truss sacked him — and revealing the pair haven’t spoken about the sacking since — is just one of the news nuggets revealed in the pod. Another is that Kwarteng accused Truss of “total capitulation” for backing down on her gung-ho reform plans.
PLAYBOOK BACK PAGES: The government has scrapped a planned consultation which could have introduced bonkers new bus travel rules for Scottish football fans. The proposals — which included prohibiting busses full of fans from going to pubs unless they consumed a “substantial meal” (hello old friend) with their booze — had faced a big backlash from virtually every Scottish politician. Conservative leader in Scotland Douglas Ross welcomed the U-turn.
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THE NAME’S BOND, JAKE BOND: MP for the Victorian era Jacob Rees-Mogg appears to have thrown his hat in the ring to become the next James Bond.
SURPRISE SURPRISE … for Labour veteran Margaret Hodge, celebrating her 79th in Barking. Clip here.
AROUND THE WORLD
SPANISH FOOTBALL LATEST: A prosecutor has filed a complaint against Luis Rubiales — who is somehow still the president of Spanish football — over his grabbing and kissing of footballer Jenni Hermoso, meaning he could face criminal charges. The Guardian’s Ashifa Kassam has the story.
IN THE STARS: A new biography of billionaire Elon Musk accuses him of effectively sabotaging a Ukrainian drone attack on the Russian naval fleet in Sevastopol. The book — by historian Walter Isaacson — says Musk ordered his engineers to disable his Starlink satellite system over Crimea when he heard about the planned attack, out of fear it would escalate the conflict. Musk himself says the satellites in the region were never turned on in the first place. More here from POLITICO’s Claudia Chiappa and in the book extract published by the Washington Post here.
Meanwhile in Russian-occupied Ukraine: Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has slammed as a “sham” a series of elections which are currently being held in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, where voters have the choice of Russian or pro-Russian candidates. The elections are taking place in all areas of Ukraine currently under Russian control, even regions including Donetsk and Luhansk which aren’t fully controlled by the Kremlin. More from the BBC here.
**A message from Google: Kids today are growing up in a digital world, so giving them the knowledge to make good decisions online is essential. Aimed at 7-11 year olds, Google’s Be Internet Legends programme is designed to help children learn five key skills needed to be safer online. Recent research by IPSOS Mori found that kids are twice as likely to show a better understanding of internet safety after taking part in the programme. Our interactive materials make learning fun, including the adventure-filled Interland. In this free online game, children can explore four levels as they learn about thinking before they share, spotting signs of a scam, protecting passwords and respecting others online. Programme resources can all be found on the website and teachers and students are invited to join a special Back to School assembly, in partnership with Parent Zone, on Thursday 14th September. Find out more.**
TONIGHT’S MEDIA ROUND
LEADING THE NEWS BULLETINS: Channel 4 News (7 p.m.) are leading on Daniel Khalife. No news yet on the others.
Tom Swarbrick at Drive (LBC, until 6 p.m.): IFS research economist Heidi Karjalainen.
Drive with Cathy Newman (Times Radio, until 7 p.m.): Former Universities Minister Jo Johnson… Former Tory leader William Hague and Lib Dem peer Cathy Bakewell.
The News Agents (Podcast, drops at 5 p.m.): Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy.
Lee Anderson (GB News 7 p.m.): Tory MP Craig Mackinlay and former Labour adviser Scarlett McGwire.
Any Questions (Radio 4, 8 p.m.): Tory MP John Hayes, home affairs committee Chair Diana Johnson, UNISON’s Christina McAnea and POLITICO’s own Anne McElvoy.
REVIEWING THE PAPERS TONIGHT: Sky News (10.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.): The Mirror’s Susie Boniface and ConHome’s Henry Hill.
YOUR WEEKEND IN POLITICS
SATURDAY: Rishi Sunak continues to hold meetings at the G20 summit in India.
SATURDAY: The Tory Reform Group One Nation Day is happening in cool cool Shoreditch, with numerous Conservative MPs speaking including ministers Victoria Atkins, Tom Tugendhat and George Freeman. Tickets and more info here.
On that note: Playbook PM hears One Nation veteran Damian Green will warn colleagues against a move towards Trumpian populism, and hail the Horizon science deal as the kind of pragmatic and moderate Conservatism that makes Britain better and helps win elections.
SATURDAY: The SNP is launching its by-election campaign in Rutherglen and Hamilton West.
SUNDAY: Rishi Sunak speaks at an AI session in Delhi and attends further G20 events before departing for Britain.
SUNDAY: The TUC congress kicks off in Liverpool. The full agenda is here, with Angela Rayner appearing on Tuesday. Discussion at the congress will surround the effect of Conservative rule on union rights, strike laws the government has passed and reducing inequalities via tax — a possible flashpoint with Labour, which has confirmed it wont introduce wealth taxes.
WEEKEND MEDIA ROUND
Week in Westminster (Radio 4, 11 a.m. on Saturday): Sonia Sodha presents with education committee Chair Robin Walker and public accounts committee Chair Meg Hillier … Economist Diane Coyle … Tory MP George Eustice and Green MP Caroline Lucas … Labour peer Hilary Armstrong and the Times’ Patrick Maguire.
Ayesha Hazarika with Times Radio drive (Times Radio, 4 p.m. on Saturday): GMB’s Gary Smith and Usdaw’s Paddy Lillis.
Trevor Phillips on Sunday (Sky News, 8.30 a.m. on Sunday): Justice Secretary Alex Chalk … Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds … Indian High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami … Podcaster/ex-MP Rory Stewart … Journalists Andrew Marr, Melanie Phillips and Fraser Nelson.
Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg (BBC One, 9 a.m. on Sunday): Alex Chalk… Jonathan Reynolds … U.S. and U.K. Army chiefs Mark Milley and Tony Radakin.
The Camilla Tominey Show (GB News, 9.30 a.m. on Sunday): Alex Chalk… Former anti-fraud minister Theodore Agnew … Express pol-ed Sam Lister and former GB News presenter Alastair Stewart.
Sunday Morning with Kate McCann and Adam Boulton (Times Radio, 10 a.m. on Sunday): Alex Chalk … Jonathan Reynolds … Clarion Housing Group’s Clare Miller … Broadcaster Roman Kemp … and the TUC’s Kate Bell.
Ayesha Hazarika with Times Radio drive (Times Radio, 4 p.m. on Sunday): Tory MP David Simmonds and Shadow Minister without Portfolio Nick Thomas-Symonds.
Gloria Meets (GB News, 6 p.m. on Sunday): Podcaster and ex-MP Rory Stewart.
Westminster Hour (Radio 4, 10 p.m. on Sunday): Tory MP Robert Buckland … Labour peer Jenny Chapman … Former Tory SpAd Mo Hussein and the i’s Hugo Gye.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
NEW GIG: Sky’s Mhari Aurora is taking on the political correspondent gig on the broadcaster’s breakfast show. The bonkers thing is it’s a later wake-up time compared with her old gig on the morning rundown. Here’s her tweet.
ON THIS DAY IN POLITICS: On September 8 2020, then-Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitted to the Commons the government planned to breach international law “in a very specific and limited way.”
WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: The Telegraph column from David Frost wailing about woke threats to the BBC Proms might be the most David Frost thing ever. The elite-hating Conservative lord laments that the world-renowned classical music season had something of a “down-market feel, with no truly world-class overseas orchestra” this time around. The ex-Remainer and ex-Labour member fears the famous “Last Night” — the big event at the end where all the done-to-death tunes come out — might get equalitied-and-diversitied out of recognition, arguing that when “the new cultural forces” scrap it or make it too inclusive, “then we will know we have lost the culture war.” Savor each word.
WRITING SUNDAY CRUNCH: John Johnston.
WRITING MORNING PLAYBOOK FOR MONDAY: Rosa Prince.
HAVE GREAT WEEKENDS: Guard against political burnout, swerve as much news as possible and get some rest. I’m sunning my bod and (another embarrasing one) seeing Harry Mack.
THANKS TO: My editor Matt Honeycombe-Foster, reporter Andrew McDonald and the POLITICO production team for making it look nice.
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