Protecting against the defense: A POLITICO analysis


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THURSDAY CHEAT SHEET

— Rishi Sunak could fast track aid to Gaza amid concerns about the Israeli response to the Hamas attack.

— Both the PM and Labour Leader Keir Starmer are facing pressure over their (so far) unequivocal support for Israeli actions.

— Britain began airlifting Brits stranded in Israel.

— SNP MP Lisa Cameron defected to the Conservatives.

— Independent government advisers issued a damning verdict on Sunak slowing down some climate goals.

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TOP OF THE NEWSLIST

DEFENDING AGAINST THE DEFENSE: Rishi Sunak could fast-track aid to Palestinians under siege in Gaza as pressure mounts over the Israeli response to last weekend’s brutal attack by Hamas. 

Indeed: Development Minister Andrew Mitchell told the BBC Britain is considering moving supplies nearer the region to respond faster if the situation deteriorates further. “We are absolutely on the case and we will do whatever is necessary to play our part in meeting humanitarian needs,” he said in comments broadcast in the last hour.

Notable marker: It’s a big indication of British concerns about the consequence of the Israeli response to the attack. Ministers have so far been keen to insist Israel has the right to defend itself while dodging questions about whether a siege that targets civilians in a bid to root out Hamas militants and secure the release of hostages would adhere to international law.

Out in front: Even Washington is warning the Israelis to be cautious in their response to the attack, with millions of Palestinians under siege and a sustained aerial bombing campaign while Hamas refuses to give up hostages. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, ahead of a visit to Israel, told reporters there were discussions about a safe passage into Egypt for innocent civilians, and spoke about “respect for international law.” He made similar noises in a presser with Netanyahu.

To be fair … when Sunak spoke to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi this morning, he said the U.K. was willing to support keeping the border crossing with Gaza open “for humanitarian and consular reasons,” according to a readout from Downing Street. He also talked about de-escalation of the situation — amid fears a hardline response from Israel could drag other actors into the conflict.

The thinking in government: From the conversations Playbook PM has been having, it seems concern about a possible humanitarian crisis is Gaza is top of mind alongside the need to support Israel after the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust. Officials point out that the U.K. did not echo the EU in its consideration of cutting aid to Gaza, and behind the scenes Britain is highlighting the need for caution and pushing for humanitarian access.

But but but: Part of the challenge is that Hamas hides among the civilian population, and Israel is determined to hunt the militants down following the trauma of the attack. Israel and its allies will continue to make the case that the ultimate target is Hamas, the instigator of this current crisis, and the need to retrieve hostages. But as the siege develops, retaining that focus in the minds of the public could become more difficult.

The official line: “Israel has to be able to defend itself from these terrorist atrocities and we also need to recognise that there are hostages currently in Gaza that have been taken from Israel and Israel needs to be able to respond to that,” Health Secretary Steve Barclay told GB News this morning. “It’s Hamas that is putting the civilian population at risk. It’s Hamas that is co-locating its military operations in civilian areas. It’s Hamas that has launched the terrorist attacks on Israel and it’s Hamas that has taken hostages back into Gaza.”

It’s also all a little uncomfortable for … Labour Leader Keir Starmer, who like the government has stuck to the line that Israel has a right to defend itself while avoiding questions about restraint when it comes to the siege and civilians in Gaza. Swerving the issue hasn’t gone down well with all Labour backbenchers, some of whom are calling for more. These comments from left winger John McDonnell and this tweet from MP Tony Lloyd are examples, alongside left wing ex-MP Lynne Jones quitting Labour over the issue.

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Oh, and … Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan has written to the government insisting on the need for humanitarian access and expressing concern at the Israeli response so far. One Conservative aide said it showed the true Labour position. “Starmer is having to try and overcompensate for sitting passively by under friend of Hamas Jeremy Corbyn because it suited his career,” they said.

The problem is … some fear further politicization of the issue in Westminster will make things worse. One Labour MP who railed against the entrenched positions on the Israel and Palestine debate said of Starmer’s positioning: “I can see the human rights lawyer in there being pushed into a small box by Ambition Starmer.” The same person added that the politics means leaders “will find it difficult to call Israel out” even if its response towards Gaza is deemed out of proportion.

Indeed: In his latest centrist melt podcast with George Osborne, former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said that “in private, in Downing Street, and I think probably in Keir Starmer’s office, too, there will be great worry and great concern, things that they can’t express at the moment without seeming to not support Israel in its time of need.”

LATEST IN ISRAEL: Soldiers are being sent to reinforce the northern border with Lebanon, amid fears of a threat from Hezbollah. The Israeli death toll has risen to 1,300, according to reports. IDF military chief Herzi Halevi admitted being caught off guard by the attack, noting “we did not handle it.”

LATEST IN GAZA: The Gazan health ministry reported 1,417 have been killed by Israeli forces, including 447 children. Without power, hospitals are struggling to run, leading the Red Cross to warn about health centers “turning into morgues.” The UN raised the alarm about “food and water being in limited supply and quickly running out.”

ALSO ON THE GROUND: The Foreign Office is chartering flights for Brits stranded in Israel, after private airlines stopped flying into the crisis zone. The BBC has the full details.

SOMETHING TO (NOT) LOOK FORWARD TO: Pro-Palestine protests planned at the weekend, which risk becoming a massive and depressing bun fight. Rishi Sunak hosted a meeting with Home Secretary Suella Braverman and police chiefs this afternoon to point out what kinds of actions in the current context might be deemed harassment against Jews and ensure a proactive policing approach.

ALSO BLEAK: The decision from the FA for a remeberance moment for the innocent victims on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides is causing a kerfuffle. Conservative MP Neil O’Brien and Black Lives Matter have been rowing about it, with the Tories noting that the FA lit up Wembley for other recent terror attacks but aren’t planning to do so for Israel.

Protecting against the defense: A POLITICO analysis

DRIVETIME DEBRIEF

NEW LISA LIFE: The SNP continues to fall apart ahead of its annual conference this weekend, after MP Lisa Cameron defected to the Conservatives this morning with a blast at “toxic” colleagues in Westminster. POLITICO’s Andrew McDonald has a writeup here.

I’m loving it: PM Rishi Sunak said she was “brave.” What’s also brave is being the first Conservative MP to support Scottish independence, as she confirmed to Wings Over Scotland. No doubt Sunak won’t mind though, as he argued Cameron was “right that we should aim to do politics better, with more empathy and less division and a dedication to always doing what we think is right.”

Loving it less: Labour Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray said she had “shown her true colors.”

Hating it: SNP leader Humza Yousaf hasn’t responded so far (he has other things to worry about, to be fair) while SNP Westminster Leader Stephen Flynn said he didn’t recognize the claims about the group in parliament.

Now read this: Express hack David Maddox has a personal take on the SNP in the wake of the defection.

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SPEAKING OF HUMZA: Andrew McDonald has the latest on his loved ones trapped in Gaza. Andrew also has a writeup of the Scottish parliament’s decision not to raise the Israeli flag. The flag was also vetoed in Wales.

NET ZERO PETROL BOMB: Independent government advice panel the climate change committee has said Rishi Sunak’s recent decision to slow down a number of climate reforms, such as the ban on new petrol and diesel cars and gas boilers, will make his overall net zero target “considerably harder to achieve.” POLITICO’s Abby Wallace has a writeup. A government spokesperson told POLITICO: “The U.K. remains a global leader on climate — cutting emissions faster than any other G7 country — so we are confident that we will meet our future carbon commitments, including net zero, just as we have over delivered on every carbon target to date.”

CAUGHT UP IN THE CURVES: Labour said the British economy remained “trapped in low growth” after GDP saw a 0.2 percent uptick in August, according to the latest numbers from the Office for National Statistics. But Chancellor Jeremy Hunt sid the figures showed the economy was “more resilient than expected.” The low growth could see interest rates held again next month, experts have warned. The BBC has more details.

FLOG ‘EM AND … LET ‘EM BE? The justice department insisted “the most serious offenders should be sent to prison” and that those deemed a risk must remain behind bars while waiting for trial, after Chief Justice Andrew Edis asked judges to delay sentencing hearings in rape and burglary cases because prisons are full. Health Secretary Steve Barclay told Sky this morning that Justice Secretary Alex Chalk will make a statement to parliament on Monday.

OOPS! Labour Leader Keir Starmer was caught out on BBC Radio Lincolnshire claiming a Labour councilor negotiated a big investment sum. Presenter Scott Dalton pointed out that it was in fact the previous Conservative administration that did the work. “OK, well …” Starmer said as he moved on to his next point. Listen here.

Also in Labour land: Peter Kellner is getting more confident the opposition has a good chance of winning the next election outright. Here’s his latest blog.

WHAT GOVT WANTS TO TALK ABOUT: Ministers appointed Jonathan Fisher to lead an independent review of fraud aimed at bringing more criminals to court.

**In this brand-new U.K. politics podcast, two of Westminster’s best-connected journalists Jack Blanchard (POLITICO) and Sam Coates (Sky) bring you everything you need to know about the week ahead in British politics. Get notified of new episodes here**

SOCIAL AFFAIRS

PHOTO, BOMBED: Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom added a photo of the wrong school to a local Facebook post. She changed it after followers pointed it out. The comments are worth a read.

AROUND THE WORLD

IN CHINA: The Chinese military sent fighter jets to warn a U.S. Navy patrol aircraft that flew through the Taiwan Strait. Read the full story on Reuters

IN RUSSIA: The International Olympic Committee suspended the Russian Olympic Committee “with immediate effect until further notice” due to the invasion of Ukraine, saying it was “a breach of the Olympic Charter because it violates the territorial integrity of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine.” The BBC has more

IN KENYA: King Charles III is set to recognize the UK’s “painful” colonial past in an upcoming state visit to Kenya later this month. The Guardian has a write up.

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TONIGHT’S MEDIA ROUND

LEADING THE NEWS BULLETINS: Channel 5 News (5 p.m.) leads on Israel with a focus on Brits anxious about missing loves ones … BBC News at Six also leads on Israel with Clive Myrie live from Jerusalem … Channel 4 News (7 p.m.) … broadcasts from Israel and leads on the conflict. 

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Tom Swarbrick at Drive (LBC, until 6 p.m.):  Former Middle East Minister Alistair Burt …  Medical Aid for Palestinians‘ Melanie Ward … Freelance journalist Noga Tarnopolsky … Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation’s Moav Vardi … The Law Society’s Richard Miller.

Drive with John Pienaar (Times Radio, 5 p.m.):  Benjamin Netanyahu’s former adviser and former UK ambassador to Israel Mark Regev … Surveillance camera commissioner Professor Fraser Sampson … Conservative MP Dehanna Davison … Universities Minister Robert Halfon … the i’s Paul Waugh and The Times’ Rachel Sylvester.

Sky News Daily (Podcast, drops at 5 p.m.): Former Head of Security and Operations at HMP Wormwood Scrubs Vanessa Frake-Harris.

Tonight With Andrew Marr (LBC, 6 p.m.): Foreign affairs committee Chair Alicia Kearns … Crossbench per Ken MacDonald … Former SNP MP Stephen Gethins … Former Telegraph Editor Max Hastings … The FT’s Miranda Green.

Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge (Sky News, 7 p.m.): Conservative MP Liam Fox … Green Party candidate Sian Berry … Democratic Unionist Party Leader Jeffrey Donaldson

Question Time (BBC iPlayer 8 p.m. and BBC One, 10.40 p.m.): Financial Secretary to the Treasury Victoria Atkins … Shadow Foreign Secretary Yvette Cooper … Broadcaster Piers Morgan … Runnymede Trust’s Halima Begum … Jewish Chronicle Editor Jake Wallis Simons

The World Tonight (Radio 4, 10 p.m.): former UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock …  former Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick.

REVIEWING THE PAPERS TONIGHT: TalkTV (10 p.m.): Historian and broadcaster Tessa Dunlop, Telegraph columnist Madeline Grant … Times Radio (10.30 p.m.): The Telegraph’s Annabelle Denham and Huff Post’s Kevin Schofield.

TOMORROW’S WORLD

MONEY TALKS: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt continues meetings with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Marrakesh. Details here.

ACROSS THE IRISH SEA: DUP annual conference kicks off outside Belfast.

MORE MONEY TALKS: Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey submits to a Q&A at the Institute of International Finance annual membership meeting, also in Marrakesh, from 9 a.m.

STREETS OF RAGE: The Communities department publishes the latest homelessness stats for England at 9.30 a.m.

**U.K. plan for a net zero future invites China’s electric vehicles, meanwhile the Brexit aftermath lays a question mark to its future. Don’t miss out on amendments and updates on UK trade policies with POLITICO Pro Trade UK. Request a demo now.**

ANY OTHER BUSINESS

PACKED LUNCH OR PARL LUNCH: The lunch menu listing is taking a break while most of Westminster is shut down for conferences. Get some steps in and check the menus outside each cafeteria.

NEW GIG I: The long-awaited appointment of Martyn Oliver as Ofsted chief has been approved. He’ll take on the role, with a term of half a decade, at the start of 2024.

NEW GIG II: There’s a new sherriff in town in Northern Ireland. Jon Boutcher has been appointed PSNI interim chief constable.

NOW HIRING: The Onward think tank is looking for a new head of energy and environment, to lead on research about fuel security and the like. Details here.

WHAT I’VE BEEN READING: We almost never put a POLITICO piece in this spot, but Annabelle Dickson’s examination of the relationships between politicians and journalists is such a worthwhile read for those working in the bubble. Fun and important in equal measure.

ON THIS DAY IN POLITICS: On October 12 1984 IRA terrorists bombed the Grand Hotel in Brighton during the Conservative conference. Five people died.

WRITING PLAYBOOK TOMORROW MORNING: Dan Bloom.

THANKS TO: My editor Rosa Prince, Playbook reporter Noah Keate and the POLITICO production team for making it look nice.

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Emilio Casalicchio



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