Rishi Sunak confronted by mother who can’t afford to heat her home
Independent

They say a week is a long time in politics.

We believe it. Turn away for a second and you risk missing politicians compare war to referendums, bang on about "woke stuff" and stick their fingers into a huge bursting dam as way of 'fixing' the cost of living crisis.

No, these are not imagined scenarios but real things that have happened in the last seven days.

Do you have the stomach to find out more about them?

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If so, here are eight governmental c*ck-ups that you may have missed this week.

1. Tories defend Johnson's Ukraine and Brexit comments

Over the weekend, Boris Johnson attended the Conservative Party Spring Conference where he jogged on the beach and addressed members of his party. So far, so uncontroversial, until the PM decided to put his foot so far in "it", it was never seen again.

How? By comparing the plight of those in war-torn Ukraine with those who wanted Brexit in the UK. Really.

He said: "I know that it's the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time. I can give you a couple of famous recent examples.

"When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don't believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners.

"It's because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself."

He was immediately criticised by a number of figures including Ukraine's former leader and even Brexiteers, and a Times source reportedly said he regretted saying it.

Nevertheless, Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak both tried their best to defend him and act like what he said really wasn't that bad at all.

Embarrassing.

2. Jacob Rees-Mogg dismisses Partygate as "fluff"

With Johnson screwing things up at the Spring Conference so spectacularly, Jacob Rees-Mogg clearly felt left out and decided to cause a little controversy of his own.

So, like someone playing Tory buzzword bingo, he dismissed "woke stuff" and Partygate in one fell swoop and claimed that in the aftermath of Putin’s invasion, “nobody cares” about rows over words which may offend people.

“All that nonsense is shown up for the trivial nature of it, and that we are now looking at serious difficult decisions that have to be made,” he said.

"I'd say the same of Partygate that all that is shown up for the disproportionate fluff of politics that it was, rather than something of fundamental serious about the safety of the world and about the established global order."

"When we look back in 36 years at Partygate, people will think `What were they on about? They were moving from Covid to Russia and Ukraine, yet they were distracted by whether or not the PM spent five minutes in his own garden. It’s fundamentally trivial.”

People weren't thrilled.

Jacob Rees-Mogg says Partygate is 'disproportionate fluff' Independent

3. Homes for Ukraine scheme appears not to progress

"Open your homes for Ukrainian refugees", the government cheered after weeks of criticism that it was not doing enough to support those fleeing the war-torn country.

It sounded a decent idea. While the EU has temporarily waived visas to allow displaced Ukrainians to enter their respective countries, the UK previously had only committed to allowing those with familiar links to enter the country but this allowed people without family ties to come to the UK.

So how's it doing? Well, the government is refusing to publish figures on the number of Ukrainian refugees who have so far applied to the UK sponsorship scheme, amid concerns that there haven't been many applications because the process is difficult, the Independent reports.

As for the government's other schemes, only 12,400 Ukrainian refugees have been given permission to come to the UK, according to the latest figures from the BBC.

4. Ministers tricked by hoax calls

Speaking of Ukraine, defence minister Ben Wallace betrayed an inability to defend himself from prank calls this week, after he admitted a hoax caller pretending to be the prime minister of Ukraine kept him on the phone which BBC sources said lasted around ten minutes.

He said he was "posed several misleading questions" by someone pretending to be PM Denys Shmyhal, leading him to become "suspicious" and hang up.

It was later revealed that Priti Patel and Nadine Dorries were also targeted by hoax callers and that they originated from Russia.

Not concerning at all.

5. Matt Hancock fails to disclose Owen Paterson messages

Lobbying, Owen Paterson, Matt Hancock, sleaze... it all feels very 2021, doesn't it? That's because what we are about to discuss next did happen in the last two years but only came to light this week.

What? The National Audit Office (NAO) has concluded that Hancock and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) failed to disclose messages Hancock exchanged with Paterson, when Paterson was lobbying for Randox.

Randox went on to receive £500m of contracts and NAO said DHSC did not record properly why, declare all meetings, and keep thorough minutes

In a report, NAO ruled that the gaps in this record-keeping meant it could not certify positively that the contracts had been awarded. However, it added that it had “not seen any evidence that the government’s contracts with Randox were awarded improperly”.

In case you have forgotten, a standards committee found said Paterson should take a break from parliament last year due to his lobbying. The government overruled it, people were annoyed, and Paterson ended up resigning.

As for the political career of one Matt Hancock and why he also resigned last year... we don't want to go there.

6. Fresh Afghan animal evacuation claims come to light

Remember when the Taliban seized Afghanistan again last year and there were rumours Johnson helped British citizen Pen Farthing get his animals out of the country ahead of, you know, humans?

Well, this week a second whistleblower in the Foreign Office backed up claims Johnson personally intervened to help get a plane full of 100 cats and dogs cared for by Farthing's charity Nowzad, evacuated from Afghanistan during the UK’s military withdrawal from the country last year.

Senior official Josie Stewart gave evidence to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee claiming Johnson's alleged intervention, which he has always denied, was "widespread knowledge".

Yikes.

7. Plan to send asylum seekers abroad for processing progresses

Moving on. MPs failed to halt Priti Patel’s plan to send asylum seekers abroad for processing as part of the nationality and borders bill.

A small group of Conservative rebels joined Opposition parties in trying to defeat the controversial move via an amendment to the bill – but the government won the vote easily, with a majority of 70.

Peers removed this section from the bill last month, but today MPs voted by 302 votes to 232, majority 70, to disagree with the Lords and put it back in.

In the Commons, Labour called the idea “unhinged” and “economically illiterate because it costs an eye-watering amount of taxpayers’ money”.

MPs also rejected a Lords amendment to cut the time asylum seekers have to wait before they can work from 12 to six months and another amendment which sought to guarantee the UK takes in at least 10,000 refugees a year.

8. Spring Statement

With all those ill thoughts out comments and ministerial gaffes ringing in the ears of the frustrated electorate, the government sat down, put their heads together, and thrashed out some policy.

What did they have in store? The spring statement- which is like a mini-budget. The Tories promised this mini-budget would deal with the cost of living crisis as inflation and energy prices soar but did they?

Not exactly, according to experts and pundits. They cut fuel duty by 5p despite it spiralling far beyond mere pennies, issued vague promises about tax decreases in the future - slapping Brits in the face, then giving them a kiss - increased national insurance then reduced the threshold at which it is paid for those on the lowest incomes.

People told the chancellor he wasn't doing enough, even sympathetic newspapers were critical but at least Sunak got a few good photos.


Rishi Sunak struggles to use contactless payment in awkward clip Sky News

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.

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