Friday evening UK news briefing: Tory MP quits Government job over ‘toxic culture’

Perhaps it is little surprise that Sir Tony Blair has chosen this moment to bring together the political and business elite for a summer summit organised alongside a new centrist group inspired by Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche. 

The former Labour prime minister will hold a “Future of Britain” conference on June 30 that will promote his solutions to help fill a “gaping hole” in British politics. 

Organisers reportedly want the French president and former Labour foreign secretary David Miliband to speak at the event and already have Obama administration economist Larry Summers and ex Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson on board. 

Read why it is sparking speculation about a new political party.

Benefits increase

The politics of the Conservative Party has rarely seemed so blurred. Benefits and the state pension will see their largest increase in 32 years, new analysis has found, as Rishi Sunak declined to rule out more cost of living spending in the future. 

The Chancellor’s promise to increase both state handouts by whatever inflation is this September will cost around £15 billion, according to the Resolution Foundation. 

The think tank also found that the richest households will be close to £2,000 worse off as a result of Treasury changes this year, while the poorest will be more than £1,000 better off. 

This chart shows how the Treasury’s measures will see the richest lose out. 

Andrew Lilico explains why this is the most economically Left-wing government we’ve had since the 1970s, despite the Chancellor being set to rake in a record £12bn from North Sea oil and gas producers this year, even before his energy windfall tax kicks in.

Scotland’s overspend

Perhaps one of the reasons Mr Sunak has declined to rule out more spending is the prospect of the Scottish government coming to him cap in hand. 

Nicola Sturgeon will be forced to beg Whitehall for further funding after the SNP pledged to overspend in Scotland by £640 per person, economists have said. 

The Scottish Government’s spending review on Tuesday is likely to show a £3.5bn black hole in its budget by 2026–27, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. 

David Phillips, the think tank’s associate director, said the SNP is facing some “very tough decisions” unless the UK Government rides to its rescue with extra funding. This chart illustrates Scotland’s dramatic deficit.

Comment and analysis

Around the world: Ukraine ‘needs long-range weapons’

It is “vital” to provide Ukraine with long-range rocket launchers as Russian forces slowly “chew through ground” in the east, Boris Johnson has said. The Prime Minister stressed that Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invading army is making “palpable progress” in the Donbas region after abandoning the attempt to encircle Kyiv. It comes as units from the Royal Tank Regiment and Royal Welsh Battlegroup take part in Nato’s Exercise Hedgehog in the Baltic regions, which you can view in this gallery. Meanwhile, the EU has caved into pressure from Hungary over fresh sanctions, which could mean a key Russian pipeline is kept open.

Friday big-read

Snake Island: Why Ukraine just won’t let it go

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