Monday briefing: Rayner rises despite Starmer clash

Watch: Keir Starmer asked about Labour Shadow Cabinet reshuffle

Top story: Labour licks its wounds

Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories this morning.

Angela Rayner has won a major promotion at the top of the Labour party after a turbulent weekend of power battles in the wake of last week’s disastrous Hartlepool byelection result and disappointing local elections. Despite a better showing in mayoral contests and a resounding win in Wales, the news agenda was dominated by her pushback against Keir Starmer’s plans to demote her as party chair. She emerged instead with an enhanced portfolio of jobs, including shadowing the cabinet office minister, Michael Gove, shadow secretary for the future of work and deputy leader. Anneliese Dodds was unable to resist being demoted from the role of shadow chancellor, however, and was replaced by Starmer ally Rachel Reeves, as the reshuffle strengthened the party’s centre. Tracy Brabin’s victory for Labour in the inaugural West Yorkshire mayoral election was some consolation. She will now stand down as MP for Batley and Spen, triggering another tricky byelection for Starmer. The Greens are aiming to replace the Lib Dems as Britain’s third party after a strong showing in Thursday’s elections, but the government wants to change the voting system in mayoral contests to first-past-the-post to boost Tory chances in future. Our political editor, Heather Stewart, looks at how the infighting that characterised the Corbyn years returned to Labour, damaging confidence in Starmer’s leadership.

After the SNP secured a fourth term at Holyrood in the Scottish elections, Nicola Sturgeon told Boris Johnson in a telephone call last night that a second independence referendum was “a matter of when, not if”. Scotland’s first minister said she was prepared to legislate for a vote, which could force the UK government to use the courts to prevent it going ahead.

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Hug a friend – Friends and family will be able to hug and mix indoors in England from next week in an easing of restrictions expected to be confirmed later today by Boris Johnson. The widely anticipated move, which will also see cinemas and museums reopen, comes despite growing concerns over the spread of the India coronavirus variant. Scientists have warned that cases are doubling where the variant has been detected and that outbreaks are worst in more deprived areas. As in the UK, cases in the US have plummeted but the Biden administration is under pressure to provide more help to countries, such as India, that are struggling to contain the pandemic. Australian politicians have criticised the media for naming the person known as “barbecue man” at the centre of a new outbreak in Sydney. You can find out more on this and other developments at our live blog here.

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Nursing a grievance – The Royal College of Nursing is mobilising an “army” of 25,000 members to take the fight to the government over its “pitiful” 1% pay rise. The nurses’ union has enlisted an American activist as it aims to win more than 50% support for strike action in the ballot it will call if ministers refuse to budge on the offer. The RCN has started courses to help members “engage, educate and empower” to be a force for change in their workplaces and communities.

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Jerusalem clashes – The city is braced for more violent clashes today as Israelis march through the streets to celebrate the anniversary of when troops captured the entire city in 1967. Tensions are already running high after hundreds of Palestinians were injured in a standoff with police during protests about the Israeli government’s decision to press ahead with the eviction of Arabs from their homes in the east of the city to make way for Jewish settlers. Israel’s supreme court has delayed a ruling on the settlements, while the UN rights body called the evictions a possible war crime.

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No ID, no vote – Plans to require voters to show a photo ID at polling booths will be included in the Queen’s speech as the government aims to crack down on voter fraud. Critics say it will result in large numbers of young people, and poorer and ethnic minority voters being disenfranchised. New legislation due to be announced tomorrow will also include laws requiring local councils in England to dedicate land for development or preservation in a bid to build more houses. But it will most likely not have any plans to shake up adult social care, a 2019 Tory manifesto promise.

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Rescuers work to save a small whale stranded in the Thames.
Rescuers work to save a small whale stranded in the Thames. Photograph: Richard Frank @richardfrank/Reuters

Whale rescue – A small whale – believed to be a minke – has been freed after becoming trapped in a lock in south-west London. A crowd gathered at Richmond lock and weir to watch rescuers try to help the whale after it became snared on the lock’s boat rollers. It was finally freed and moved to a safe location for vet checks.

Today in Focus podcast: The great Post Office scandal

When a computer system installed by the Post Office went haywire, it led to the convictions of scores of subpostmasters for theft and false accounting. Lives were wrecked. But after a devastating ruling by the court of appeal, the full truth can now be finally told about the extent of the great Post Office scandal.

Lunchtime read: David Hockney: ‘Spring is very exciting’

David Hockney is preparing for a major show at the Royal Academy entirely based on his paintings of spring. He tells our art critic, Jonathan Jones, about how his idyllic lockdown in Normandy inspired his work and offers an antidote to the ravages of the pandemic.


Two goals from Fran Kirby, favourite to be named player of the year, helped Chelsea retain their Women’s Super League title on the last day of the season with a 5-0 defeat of Reading. But coach Emma Hayes was quick to shift the focus of her back-to-back title winners on to next weekend’s Champions League final against Barcelona. Victory for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in the Spanish Grand Prix was a salutary reminder of what a formidable combination the world champion and his team make. Ole Gunnar Solskjær says he could be without Harry Maguire for a “few days or a few weeks”, after Manchester United’s captain picked up an injury in the win over Aston Villa that kept Manchester City waiting for the Premier League title. Sam Allardyce suffered his first relegation from the Premier League and Nicolas Pépé scored the best of Arsenal’s goals in their 3-1 win over West Brom. Marcus Smith’s last-gasp try secured a dramatic 48-46 win for Harlequins against Wasps despite a red card for Mike Brown for a stamp. Rory McIlroy ended an 18-month wait for a title with victory at the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow. And Tim Merlier handed Alpecin-Fenix victory on the first road stage of their Grand Tour debut as he took the honours on the second day of the Giro d’Italia.


The Biden administration has invoked emergency powers as part of an “all-hands-on-deck” effort to avoid fuel shortages after the worst-ever cyber-attack on US infrastructure shut down a crucial pipeline supplying the east coast. The value of Dogecoin has tumbled by a third after Elon Musk said on American television that the cryptocurrency was a “hustle”. The Tesla billionaire is a renowned cryptocurrency enthusiast but his comments about Dogecoin, which started as a joke, saw it fall to $0.47 (£0.34) against the dollar yesterday. The pound has risen to $1.402 and €1.153. The FTSE100 is tracking to lift 0.4% this morning.

The papers

The Guardian splash is “Starmer’s leadership in crisis over reshuffle move to demote Rayner”, and the Telegraph also rates the opposition’s troubles as the top story with “Starmer reshuffles team amid threats over leadership”. But there are also problems for Boris Johnson, according to the FT, where the lead is “Johnson to ease Covid rules as Sturgeon turns up the pressure”. The Scotsman reports “Brown’s new campaign to save Union after SNP win” and the Record says “Indyref a matter of when … not if”.

The Mirror likes the idea that people will be able to start hugging again – “Darling hugs of May” – as does the Mail with “A huge hug for Britain”. The Express also talks up the easing of curbs – “Boris: our new freedoms will be here to stay”. The Times leads on “Johnson to relax rules on building new homes”, while the Yorkshire Post goes to town on the election of West Yorkshire’s first mayor: “Brabin celebrates victory in race for metro mayor”.

Watch: Change at the top as Keir Starmer completes Labour shadow cabinet reshuffle

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