As it happenedended1688145521

Rishi Sunak – latest: Tory civil war deepens as Goldsmith hits back over claim he refused to apologise

Tory peer hits out at Sunak government’s ‘apathy’ – day after Downing Street faced down calls to fire him

Andy Gregory
Friday 30 June 2023 18:18 BST

Moment MPs vote in favour of Partygate report finding Johnson misled parliament

The Tory civil war has grown more fractious as Zac Goldsmith hit out at “misleading” No 10 briefing over his scathing resignation, insisting that Rishi Sunak was “wrong” to claim he had refused to apologise over his Partygate comments.

The outgoing environment minister claimed he was “happy to apologise” for remarks labelled “disturbing” by the privileges committee in their report alleging “interference” from 10 Tories during their investigation which found that Boris Johnson repeatedly lied to parliament.

As he sought to get back on the front foot at a No 10 briefing outlining his plans for NHS reforms, Mr Sunak insisted the Tory peer had resigned after taking a “different course” when asked to apologise for his “incompatible” remarks – despite No 10 insisting just hours earlier that he had the PM’s confidence.

But Lord Goldsmith opened up a new front of criticism for Mr Sunak as he countered the PM’s claims of his refusal to apologise on Friday, insisting the Sunak government’s “lethargy” on climate meant his resignation had been a “long time coming”.


We’re going to pause updates on the blog for this afternoon, thanks for following here.

For those looking to catch up on today’s events, my lobby colleagues have this extensive report detailing the privileges committee’s accusations against Boris Johnson’s allies.

To explore the rest of The Independent’s political output, click here.

Or else you can keep scrolling to catch up on the day’s developments, as we reported them:

Andy Gregory29 June 2023 15:52

Zac Goldsmith resigns – hours after Rishi Sunak rejects calls to sack him

We’re picking up the blog again this morning to provide live updates as Rishi Sunak prepares to face the media with his new NHS plan, while reeling from the resignation of Lord Goldsmith and his criticism of the prime minister.

In a scathing letter sent just hours after No 10 said Mr Sunak had confidence in him – despite calls to sack him over his inclusion in a report alleging “disturbing” interference with MPs’ Partygate probe into Boris Johnson – the Tory peer hit out at the PM’s approach to climate change.

In the two-page letter, Lord Goldsmith took aim directly at Mr Sunak as he wrote: “Having been able to get so much done previously, I have struggled even to hold the line in recent months.

“The problem is not that the government is hostile to the environment, it is that you, our Prime Minister, are simply uninterested. That signal, or lack of it, has trickled down through Whitehall and caused a kind of paralysis."

He concluded the letter: "It has been a privilege to be able to work with so many talented people in government, in particular my Private Office, and to have been able to make a difference to a cause I have been committed to for as long as I remember.

“But this government's apathy in the face of the greatest challenge we have faced makes continuing in my current role untenable. With great reluctance I am therefore stepping down as a Minister in order to focus my energy where it can be more useful.”

Andy Gregory30 June 2023 10:45

Sunak’s weakness ‘laid bare’, says Labour

Our political correspondent Archie Mitchell reports:

Labour said Rishi Sunak’s “weakness” has been laid bare in the last 24 hours and his government is “in disarray”.

Shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon called for the Conservatives to step aside and “make way” for a Labour government.

He said: “Rishi Sunak’s weakness is laid bare as 24 hours after he refused to condemn Zac Goldsmith, Goldsmith scathingly condemns him. This ‘simply uninterested’ Prime Minister can’t lead his own team, never mind lead the country.

“The Conservatives are in disarray – with mortgages soaring, NHS waiting lists rocketing, and in their own words: ‘apathy in the face of the greatest challenge we face’.

“It’s time for this chaotic Tory government to make way for a Labour government which will provide the leadership this country needs – making it a clean energy superpower for lower bills, good jobs, energy security, and the urgency the climate and environment emergency demands.”

Andy Gregory30 June 2023 10:47

Analysis | Sunak faces battle to get back on front foot

Our Whitehall and politics editor Kate Devlin writes:

Rishi Sunak has been hoping that today’s press conference could help him get back on the front foot after a difficult few weeks.

The prime minister is hoping to win the next general election by projecting an aura of capability and competence.

But he is now battling on a series of fronts.

Yesterday he was told his flagship Rwanda policy was unlawful.

He is facing a series of potentially damaging by-elections, following rows within his own party over the Partygate findings and Boris Johnson’s resignation honours list.

And the failure to get inflation under control is causing misery for millions.

So Mr Sunak would have been forgiven for hoping he could draw a line and today concentrate on this ambitious plans to reform the NHS.

But just three hours before his rare appearance live in front of the cameras, a minister resigned with a full frontal attack on his record and ability to win crucial votes at the next election.

This press conference could be an uncomfortable half hour for Mr Sunak …

Andy Gregory30 June 2023 10:49

Read Zac Goldsmith’s resignation letter in full

Zac Goldsmith has quit as an environment minister, blaming Rishi Sunak’s “apathy” toward climate change and warning lack of action will hurt Tory votes at the next general election.

You can read his resignation letter in full here:

Read Zac Goldsmith’s resignation letter in full as he attacks Tory election hopes

The former environment minister has quit the day after being criticised in a Partygate report

Andy Gregory30 June 2023 10:57

Sunak ‘should have had the guts’ to sack Goldsmith

The Liberal Democrats said Rishi Sunak should have “had the guts” to sack Lord Goldsmith after he was named and shamed in Thursday’s damning Partygate report.

The party added that Lord Goldsmith’s resignation confirms the prime minister “does not give a damn about the environment and animal rights”.

Lib Dem treasury spokesman Sarah Olney said: “”This Conservative chaos is never ending.

“Every day brings more resignations and scandals in this depressing Westminster soap opera. Sunak is clearly too weak to control his own party.

“Zac Goldsmith’s resignation has at least confirmed what we have known all along, that Rishi Sunak’s Government doesn’t give a damn about the environment and animal rights.

“They have scrapped plans to stop puppy smuggling, watered down climate change action and let water companies pump sewage in our rivers. What a sorry state of affairs this is.”

Archie Mitchell30 June 2023 10:58

Goldsmith accused of ‘throwing his toys out of the pram'

Former environment secretary Dame Andrea Leadsom accused Lord Goldsmith of “throwing his toys out of the pram”.

And the Tory MP added that his resignation was “inexplicable”.

Speaking to Times Radio, Ms Leadsom said: “It's much easier to protest than it is to govern ... It's much easier to throw your toys out the pram and become a protester than it is to actually be inside the tent finding solutions.

“It’s all very well to sort of throw stones at someone else. But actually somebody, and that does fall to the government, has to pick up the pieces and decide actually what to do. And it’s much better if people are constructively engaged rather than just, you know, having a tantrum.”

She disputed Lord Goldsmith’s claim that Rishi Sunak is “apathetic” toward climate issues, insisting that the prime minister is “passionate about the environment and net zero”.

And she added: “He was a good minister and it's a shame that he's decided to go.”

Andy Gregory30 June 2023 11:05

What has Sunak said about his government’s NHS plan?

Rishi Sunak has touted his NHS Long Term Workforce Plan as the “biggest workforce training expansion” in the history of the health service, in what he describes as a 15-year plan to “build the health workforce of the future”.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Sunak said: “This week, in conjunction with the NHS, we’ll announce a series of new policies to transform the way we deliver healthcare.

“The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan will be the biggest workforce training expansion in the NHS’s history. It will ensure we train, retain, reform and make the most of our talented and experienced staff.

“It will be a 15-year plan to give the NHS certainty, because we recognise it takes time to train these staff, who are among the most highly skilled in our society.

“We will be using the latest techniques and innovations to streamline the journey from classroom to clinic, to get more patients the care they need. And it will be backed by government funding and support, balanced against the wider pressures on the economy.”

Mr Sunak described the plan as the “cornerstone” of his government’s vision for “a better, more modern healthcare system”, adding: “I feel a great responsibility to ensure our NHS endures.”

Rishi Sunak outlines 15-year plan to ‘build the health workforce of the future’

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mr Sunak said he feels ‘a great responsibility to ensure our NHS endures’.

Andy Gregory30 June 2023 11:09

Watch: Rishi Sunak refuses to address Zac Goldsmith’s resignation

Rishi Sunak refuses to address Zac Goldsmith's resignation
Andy Gregory30 June 2023 11:11

NHS plan explained: More than 300,000 extra doctors, nurses and other workers expected

More than 300,000 extra nurses, doctors and other health workers are expected to be employed in the NHS in England over the coming years through radical plans to improve staffing in the health service, reports Ella Pickover.

The possibility of cutting the amount of time doctors spend in medical school, driving up the number of home-grown NHS staff and ramping up apprenticeship places are among the ideas to deal with severe staff shortages in the NHS.

The NHS’ first-ever long-term workforce plan has been hailed as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to put staffing in the service on sustainable footing over the next 15 years.

It comes as officials warned that, without action, there could be 360,000 vacancies in the health service by 2037. There are currently 112,000 vacancies across the NHS in England.

Officials say the plans set out, along with new retention measures, could mean the health service has at least an extra 60,000 doctors, 170,000 more nurses and 71,000 more allied health professionals in place by 2036/37.

Alongside the plan, officials have asked the doctors’ regulator, the General Medical Council (GMC), and medical schools to consult on the introduction of four-year medical degrees, which are five years at present, and medical internships, allowing students to start work six months earlier.

NHS plan explained: More than 300,000 extra workers expected

The proposal hailed as a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ to put staffing in the service on sustainable footing

Andy Gregory30 June 2023 11:27

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