Angela Rayner row more tricky for Labour than ‘beergate’


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Good morning. The police investigation into Angela Rayner is both good and bad news for the Labour party. It came after allegations she may have broken electoral law by failing to properly disclose her main residence when she was living between two homes in Stockport in the early 2010s, and about whether she owes capital gains tax on the 2015 sale of one of those homes.

The probe is good news because the only way Labour is going to get out from under the questions about her house sale and tax affairs is if she is given the all-clear by the Greater Manchester Police. It is bad news, because, well, she might not get the all-clear.

Inevitably, most people in the Westminster bubble are comparing the case of Rayner’s house sale to “beergate”, when CCHQ made a lot of noise about Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner potentially breaking lockdown regulations. The two were investigated by the Durham constabulary and they were both exonerated. In the interim the Conservative party lost 485 council seats.

There are important differences, though. It was obvious to any fair-minded observer that neither Starmer nor Rayner had broken lockdown rules, and that therefore they would get what they needed politically from a police investigation.

Rayner now has two problems. The first is that it is much easier to accidentally break electoral law or get your tax affairs in a mess than it is to confuse a meal during the course of your working day with a lockdown-breaking party. The second, closely connected to that, is that any breach of electoral law in 2015 is now outside the period when charges could be brought. Even situations caused by egregious carelessness would not now be investigated.

All of which means that there is a possibility that Labour won’t get the line drawn under this story that it badly wants. Some more thoughts on that below.

Inside Politics is edited by Georgina Quach. Read the previous edition of the newsletter here. Please send gossip, thoughts and feedback to insidepolitics@ft.com

Rayn and ruler

Angela Rayner has said she will resign if she is convicted of a criminal offence. Keir Starmer has much more to lose if she steps down as deputy leader than she does. She is only 44 and could easily rebuild her reputation on the backbenches and end up at the top of Labour politics again.

But because the deputy leader is an elected role, not one in the gift of the Labour leader, a vacancy has to be filled by an election. Any such contest will be full of promises and pledges about public spending, about how liberal to be on immigration, potentially about EU-UK relations and certainly about the conflict in the Middle East, all of which would be a headache that Starmer could do without.

As such, the Labour leadership will do everything it can to keep Rayner in place and I think it is highly unlikely that there will be a destabilising deputy leadership election. But it is not impossible — and that’s one way that the Greater Manchester Police bringing charges against the deputy leader could change British politics.

But the other way is if those charges end up to be much ado about nothing. As Rayner noted in her own statement about the charges, this is the second set of local elections during which Conservative complaints have led to police investigations into the Labour party leadership. That will inevitably shape how the two parties approach policing and democratic oversight of the police in the future.

Now try this

I saw Civil War at the weekend and I thought it was brilliant: a haunting movie about the horrors of war. In general I think it’s a bit of an ink blot test, in that you either think you’re watching a powerful film about war or a ropey but pretty film about politics. For someone who felt the latter, here’s Danny Leigh.

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Below is the Financial Times’ live-updating UK poll-of-polls, which combines voting intention surveys published by major British pollsters. Visit the FT poll-tracker page to discover our methodology and explore polling data by demographic including age, gender, region and more.

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