1. BEGINNING THE END
The Queen will be in Portsmouth today as guest of honour at the commissioning of the UK’s £3bn new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth. But Theresa May has 4. SPEAK YOUR WAIT MACHINE
The number of long A&E waits across the UK has more than doubled in the past four years, a new BBC analysis has revealed. More than three million patients who visited UK A&Es waited over four hours in the past 12 months – up by 120% since 2012-13. The Beeb has a handy tracker to let you search your local wait times. Winter ‘crises’ are one thing, but longer waiting times are the kind of slow-burn issue that really eats away at a Government’s popularity, something Tony Blair spotted when he first drafted the targets in Opposition.
One minster told me yesterday “I wet myself laughing when I saw the story that Jeremy Hunt wanted to be PM”, adding the Health Secretary had “no idea” how toxic he was to the party’s brand. What’s no laughing matter is children’s mental health. In a blog for HuffPost, Justine Greening has defended the Government’s green paper on the subject, but today Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth and Angela Rayner have posted their own blog, arguing that without “significant extra staffing and funding” it’s a missed opportunity.
5. WHIP LASHED
Here’s a bit of political trivia for you. Who is the longest continuously-serving member of Labour’s frontbench? The answer is Steve Bassam, who was made a junior Home Office minister by Tony Blair in 1999 and rose to become Shadow Chief Whip in the Lords. Well, that 18-year record is coming to an end after the Labour peer announced he will quit following controversy over his expenses.
Bassam said late last night that he would step down in the New Year after the Mail on Sunday exposed he had been wrongly claiming the £6,400 annual cost of travelling to and from his home in Brighton. He says he hasn’t breached the rules but admits it would have been “more appropriate” not to claim the money and has referred himself to the Standards Commissioner. Here’s a quirk though: Jeremy Corbyn has no direct say in who replaces him in his Shadow Cabinet. Under party rules, it’s up to fellow peers to pick his replacement, as his and the Shadow Lords leader role are both …