Almost half Tory members want merger with Reform UK, poll suggests, as leadership infighting escalates – UK politics live

John Swinney should resign because SNP needs ‘fresh start’ after election defeat, ex-MP Douglas Chapman says

John Swinney must step aside as SNP leader to make way for a “fresh start” under Kate Forbes and Stephen Flynn, one of the party’s former MPs has said.

At the election the SNP lost 39 of the 48 seats it won in 2019. Douglas Chapman, who stood down as Dunfermline and West Fife MP at the recent election, told the Herald newspaper:

I believe we really do need that fresh start, that fresh impetus, and we need to look to our members to provide that and to be brutally honest with the leadership of the party about what they think has gone wrong and what they think the solutions might be.

We are all well aware of the shortcomings that we’ve had in recent years and that’s everything from the quality of delivery of services, the Scottish government, and making sure that is reset and focused on, making sure we can get back to a situation where the people of Scotland actually trust us as their government.

Asked if Swinney, who only became party leader and first minister after Humza Yousaf resigned in May, should remain in post, Chapman replied:

I know he has not been in the post very long, but I think it’s time to really clear the decks and use the next 700 days to make sure there is a pro-independence government in Holyrood come 2026.

My own feeling is we need a completely fresh start and that points to a new leadership team with the attitude of putting independence at the forefront.

The two frontrunners would be Kate Forbes and Stephen Flynn. They proved themselves over the campaign that they are articulate communicators. I think it would be a good combination with their presence both at Holyrood and Westminster.

Defence review will be ‘Nato-first’, minister says

Luke Pollard, the new defence minister, was doing a media round this morning. He said that the defence review being launched by the government should be completed within a year. Keir Starmer has suggested that he won’t set a timetable for increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP until that has been completed.

Pollard also said the review would be “Nato-first”. He told Times Radio:

This will be a Nato-first strategic defence review, a focus on our unshakeable commitment to the North Atlantic, to the Europe area, to make sure that we’re keeping not only the UK safe but keeping our allies safe.

Because if we don’t support Ukraine and if they don’t win, Russia won’t stop there.

If we’re not supporting our allies in the Baltic states there will be continuing threats to the United Kingdom, as well as to the rest of Nato.

Here are two more charts from the survey of Conservative party members by the Party Members Project.

Here are the figures on likely candidates, with none of the above and don’t knows included.

Polling figures on next leader Photograph: Party Members Project

And here are the figures with Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage’s names included. Johnson remains the leader the members want most.

Polling figures on next leader Photograph: Party Members Project

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Almost half Tory members want merger with Reform UK, poll suggests, as leadership infighting escalates

Good morning. Keir Starmer is in Washington where he will make his debut as prime minister on the world stage attending the Nato summit. It is a big diplomatic moment, but also a big policy challenge. My colleague Pippa Crerar is with the press pack travelling with him and, as she reports in the Guardian splash, Starmer is saying Nato must spend more on defence, while also not yet putting a timetable on when the new government will reach its goal of getting defence spending up to 2.5% of UK GDP.

Nato will be the story of the day. But we will be covering the summit on a separate live blog, and it is the middle of the night in Washington, and so I will start this morning with the Conservative party, where the post-defeat inquest, and the leadership infighting, is just getting underway in earnest.

James Cleverly, the shadow home secretary, has written an article for the Times urging the party to avoid civil war. Referring to the need for a “sensible post-mortem on what went wrong”, he goes on:

It cannot descend into bitter infighting and finger pointing. That is exactly how we ended up here.

There is strength in unity, and the Conservative Party has always been at its best when it embraces being a broad church. We lost voters to the left and the right, and we won’t win them all back if we narrow our offer.

Good luck with that, as they say. Yesterday Tories were openly attacking Suella Braverman. And Conservative MPs and members who read the Times will probably be paying far more attention to another article in the paper, by the political editor Steven Swinford, in which he reveals that Kemi Badenoch, now the shadow housing secretary, used the first meeting of the shadow cabinet to launch a fierce attack on Rishi Sunak over his handling of the election. Swinford says:

The shadow housing secretary … said at Tuesday’s meeting that Sunak’s decision to call an early election without informing his cabinet was a mistake and bordered on “unconstitutional”.

She said that instead of telling cabinet ministers first, Sunak had opted to inform a small group of colleagues, including Craig Williams, his parliamentary private secretary, who subsequently admitted placing a bet on the election date. She described Williams as a “buffoon”.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Badenoch also said that Sunak’s decision to return early from D-Day commemorations was “disastrous” and had dominated the election campaign, adding that colleagues such as Penny Mordaunt would still be MPs today if he had stayed longer in France.

She said the Tories should not gloss over the scale of the election defeat, and that many colleagues were clearly still traumatised. She said Suella Braverman, the former home secretary who has made a series of trenchant interventions, appeared to be having a “very public” nervous breakdown.

Earlier this year it was reported that Badenoch, the bookies’ favourite in the contest to be next Tory leader, had told a colleague that Sunak would have to “own’” the election defeat. Swinford, of course, does not reveal who told him about Badenoch’s shadow cabinet intervention, but many in the party will assume that the briefing came from her camp and that the story is the opening of her leadership campaign.

The publication of the story coincides with the release of the first post-election poll of Tory members about who they want as new leader. It has been carried out by YouGov on behalf of the Party Members Project run out of Queen Mary University of London and Sussex University, a long-running academic study focusing on the views of members of political parties. Some 725 members were surveyed, with the results weighted to make them representative of the membership as a while, and they suggest Badenoch is clearly in the lead. In its write-up, the Party Members Project says:

Badenoch emerges as the clear frontrunner by some distance even if her support is not yet overwhelming. Once the 13% who said ‘none of these and the 6% who said ‘don’t know’ are removed from the figures (something done with all the leadership figures quoted below), Badenoch’s support currently stands at 31% – effectively twice that of Suella Braverman and Tom Tugendhat, who are on 16% and 15% respectively.

Perhaps surprisingly, Priti Patel, talked up recently as a possible alternative to Badenoch and Braverman, attracts only 6% support. Robert Jenrick, who has been on the manoeuvres for months now, only scores 7%, while Victoria Atkins (who, like Tugendhat, is seen as representing the self-styled One Nation strain in the Conservative Party) is on just 2%. James Cleverly, seen by some as a potential ‘unity candidate’ is on 10%.

This does not come as a huge surprise. But what is surprising is that the survey also suggests almost half of Tory members favour a merger with Reform UK. The Party Members Project says:

As for a potential merger between the Conservatives and Reform, the membership is split down the middle, with 47% in favour and 48% against, with the remainder unsure. Perhaps predictably Leavers are more than twice as likely to support a merger than Remainers (59 vs 25). Support for the idea also increases as one moves up the age ranges, with support for a merger stronger among the over-50s and opposition stronger among the under-50s. Support for a merger is also stronger among ‘working class’ Tories (the C2DEs) than their ‘middle class’ (ABC1) counterparts, as well as among those who backed Truss over Sunak in 2022 (59 vs 27).

Polling of Tory members Photograph: Party Members Project

This polling was carried out after the general election campaign during which Reform UK’s manifesto was described as twice as reckless as Liz Truss’s mini-budget and many of its candidates were exposed as racist or extremist.

Here is the agenda for the day.

11.30am: The Commons meets so MPs can resume swearing in.

From 1pm (UK time): Keir Starmer is due to hold bilateral meetings at the Nato summit with Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, and Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president. The Nato summit starts at 4.30pm, with the plenary starting at 6pm. At 10.30pm UK time (late afternooon in the US) Starmer is due to hold a meeting with President Biden at the White House.

5pm: Rishi Sunak is expected to address Tory MPs at the 1922 Committee.

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