Politics latest: Sunak warns 'world closer to nuclear escalation than at any point since Cuban missile crisis' (2024)

Key points
  • Sunak warns of 'flash points ahead' with European court
  • World 'closest to nuclear escalation than since Cuban missile crisis'
  • Tamara Cohen:A soft election campaign launch with a key message
  • Law allowing asylum seekers to be detained and sent to Rwanda disapplied by court in Northern Ireland
  • SNP finance probe heading to prosecutors 'within weeks'
  • Politics At Jack And Sam's:Tap hereto follow wherever you get your podcasts
  • Live reporting by Tim Baker


Elphicke 'speaks for many Tory voters', insists Starmer

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has also faced more questions about him welcoming former Tory MP Natalie Elphicke last week.

He says the Dover MP "speaks for very many Tory voters who can see the division and chaos under this government cannot continue".

He also addresses accusations Ms Elphicke lobbied the justice secretary in 2020 to interfere in her then-husband's sex offences, which her spokesperson has described as "nonsense".

Sir Keir simply says: "Natalie Elphicke has denied the allegations."

He adds: "If the Tories put as much time and energy into running the country properly as they do into attacking Natalie Elphicke, we wouldn't be in the mess that we're in."


Law allowing asylum seekers to be detained and sent to Rwanda disapplied by court in Northern Ireland

A judge in Northern Ireland has ruled that parts of the Illegal Migration Act - passed by MPs last year - should not be enforced in the nation.

This is because they undermine human rights protections guaranteed in Northern Ireland by the framework dictating its post-Brexit relationship with the EU and rest of the UK.

Mr Justice Humphreys said parts of the act are also not compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

What is the Illegal Migration Act?

The act created new powers that allow the government to send asylum seekers to Rwanda if they arrive in the UK illegally.

What has happened now?

The law, introduced under Rishi Sunak, has been disapplied partially via the Windsor Framework - an agreement signed off by the prime minister to much fanfare.

The framework was agreed in February 2023, and sought to address concerns about the way the UK, Northern Ireland and the EU interact following Brexit.

What's the Windsor Framework got to do with the Rwanda plan?

Part of the framework was that no rights contained within the 1998 Good Friday Agreement could be impinged.

But the Illegal Migration Act - first introduced to parliament in March 2023 and passed into law in July of that year - was found to by Mr Justice Humphreys to cause "significant" diminution of asylum seekers' rights while residing in Northern Ireland under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

He also declared aspects of the act incompatible with the ECHR.

His move today would stop asylum seekers in Northern Ireland from being removed to Rwanda.


Starmer accuses Tories of 'hollowing out armed forces'

We've just heard from Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who wasn't too happy with the prime minister's assertion earlier that the UK would be less safe should he end up in 10 Downing Street.

Sir Keir says national security "will be my first priority".

"We would not be less safe under a Labour government," he adds.

He points to his previous role as director of public prosecutions, when he worked on cases relating to national security.

Sir Keir also accuses the government's rhetoric of not matching its record, accusing the Tories of having "hollowed out our armed forces" over the past 14 years.


Beth Rigby: PM sets election battle lines - but public may have already tuned out

Sky political editor Beth Rigby was in the room while Rishi Sunak was soft-launching his election campaign.

She says the speech showed the prime minister is "setting the battle lines" between himself and Sir Keir Starmer for the upcoming general election.

Beth says the speech was essentially saying "don't risk it on Labour - stick with me".

He did this by talking about defence spending, technology and AI, Beth says, as well as launching political attacks on the Labour leader for his previous support of Jeremy Corbyn.

Beth points out the difficulty in Rishi Sunak having predicted earlier this month that the next parliament will have no clear majority, but also ruling out doing any coalition deals.

"You're effectively saying to your audience: 'I can't win a general election'.

"And it seemed to me a curious thing for a prime minister to do when he clearly so passionately does want to win the next general election."

Mr Sunak sought to play down the recent defections from his party, but there is a "mismatch" between the PM's rhetoric and his desire to "convince the public that to stick with him means the country is safer".

Beth concludes by saying the public has "tuned out and isn't listening" to the prime minister - and whatever he argues about recent defections, "it sends a signal to the public that Conservative MPs themselves are running out of faith with Rishi Sunak".


The main points from PM's speech

As outlined by ourpolitical correspondentTamara Cohenin the 12.02 post (or see key points), the prime minister made security the focus of a major speech this morning.

If you missed it, here are the main points - and you can tap on each one to read the relevant post in full:

  • Rishi Sunak said the election will be a "choice between the future and the past", the former he claimed was represented by the Tories despite their 14 years in office;
  • He said security was a priority because the world was "closer to nuclear escalation than at any point since the Cuban missile crisis", pointing to threats like Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China;
  • The PM said harnessing technology would be vital to the UK keeping itself safe from such dangers, and laid out his vision for AI to bring about new jobs and enhance education;
  • He also addressed the challenge of illegal migration, and warned of "flash points ahead" with the European Court of Human Rights for relying on "outdated" ideas;
  • And while he attacked Labour's failure to commit to increasing defence spending to 2.5% of GDP, which the Tories have, he again declined to say when he would take on Keir Starmer at an election;
  • But despite using the event to repeatedly stress the UK's continued commitment to Ukraine, he skirted a question around reports the West could eventually be willing to deal a deal with Russia to end the war.

We'll have more reaction and analysis to the speech throughout the day here in the Politics Hub.


Analysis: PM launches soft election campaign with referendum on security

Rishi Sunak has finished taking questions from the media after what our political correspondent Tamara Cohen described as "the launch of a soft election campaign".

Tamara says the event this morning was an attempt to frame the debate for whenever the election comes, although the prime minister is still reluctant to tell us when that will finally be.

He wants to make it a "referendum on security", she says.

Rishi Sunak "hasn't concentrated that much on foreign affairs since he became PM", she notes, with the priorities he set out previously having been domestic issues.

So it's quite the pivot to now be talking quite so much about the overseas threats facing the country - the key message of this event.

His pitch is that "only his party can keep the country safe at a time of global threats", pointing to Sir Keir Starmer's previous support of Jeremy Corbyn and a commitment by the Tories to increase defence spending to 2.5% of GDP.

One journalist asked Rishi Sunak if his pitch around the UK's security was essentially "better the devil you know" - and his simple answer, as Tamara says, was yes.


Will the West do a deal with Russia to end the Ukraine war?

Turning to the Ukraine war, Rishi Sunak is asked if the West is willing to do a deal with Russia to end it.

The prime minister skirts the question, instead focusing on the UK's support for Ukraine, including its supply of tanks and long-range weapons.

"An investment is Ukraine's security is an investment in our security," he adds.

"Our NATO allies in Eastern Europe are already worried."

Taking a jab at Sir Keir Starmer, he says the Labour leader cannot say to the UK's American allies that his party will invest more in "our own security".

Get the latest on the Ukraine war in our dedicated live blog:


Why is Rishi Sunak saying he can't be prime minister?

Sky political editor Beth Rigby asks why Rishi Sunak says he cannot be prime minister.

She bases this assumption on Mr Sunak saying the polls are pointing to a hung parliament - where a coalition would be needed to be in power - while also ruling out doing an agreement with any other parties.

Mr Sunak says he does not understand the question - but that he was pointing to independent analysis.

He goes on to say the choice at the general election will be "clear" - it's the future versus the past.

The prime minister then claims the Conservatives - who have been in power for 14 years - are the future.

"It is only us, it is only me that have the bold ideas and the clear plan that will deliver a secure future for the country," Mr Sunak says.


Sunak invites Starmer to debate 'as many times as he likes'

Rishi Sunak is asked if he will rule out calling a general election in July - and he refuses to go into any detail, saying it's always been his "working assumption" that it will take place in the second half of the year.

When the time comes, he says, he'll be willing to debate Sir Keir Starmer "as many times as he would like".

"I'm being very clear, I think this is the most dangerous and transformational time that our country has experienced in generations," the prime minister adds.

"That's a choice for the election. That's a substance we should be debating."


Why should voters disregard Tory failures, and is it good riddance to Natalie Elphicke?

ITV asks the prime minister why he is asking voters to ignore past issues like the turnover of prime ministers, "trauma" in the health service and economic "chaos".

He is also asked if it's "good riddance" to Natalie Elphicke.

The prime minister admits that not everything has "been perfect" - and then also blames global shocks for some of the issues.

On Ms Elphicke, Mr Sunak turns it around to make it about Sir Keir Starmer.

"It just tells you that you can't trust what the guy says," Mr Sunak says.

"And if you're trying to be everything to everyone, fundamentally, you don't stand for anything.

"And I think that will be increasingly clear to people."

Politics latest: Sunak warns 'world closer to nuclear escalation than at any point since Cuban missile crisis' (2024)
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