Rishi’s LBC phone-in, inflation falls and Tories face London wipe-out - The Standard podcast


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Rishi Sunak has faced the public’s questions during a phone-in on LBC, where he was challenged on issues including the economy, NHS waiting lists, and foodbanks.

His appearance came on the same morning that it was announced that inflation dropped to the target 2% for the first time in nearly three years.

Announcing the news, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt called it a ‘soft landing’, and said the drop to 2% “shows that the difficult decisions we’ve taken have paid off”, and said it would not have happened under a Labour government.

It was a welcome boost for the Prime Minister, but in London the Tories have taken a hit, with figures from an Ipsos poll showing that they could be down to just four seats in the capital after July 4th.

Our Political Editor Nicholas Cecil discusses Rishi Sunak’s LBC appearance, the poll that shows a potential Tory wipe-out in London, and the latest drama over potential Labour taxes.

Plus, in part two of this episode our food and drink writer Josh Barrie shares his list of the best beer gardens in the capital, as the Euros tournament continues.

Listen above, find us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you stream your podcasts.

Here’s an automated transcript:

From London, I'm Jon Weeks, and this is The Standard.

Coming up on today's show, as the Euros tournament is in full swing, The Standard's food and drink writer, Josh Barrie, describes the best beer gardens in London.

But first, Rishi Sunak has been on the airwaves facing a public phone in on LBC, where he was challenged on the economy, NHS waiting lists and food banks by a caller called Sophie.

The practical measures to help people are to make sure that they have good jobs, that pay them well, and that their taxes are cut so they can keep more of their hard-earned money, and that is the best way to build financial security for people.

His appearance came on the same morning it was announced that inflation had dropped to the target 2 percent for the first time in nearly three years, as Chancellor Jeremy Hunt explained.

It was a welcome boost for the Prime Minister, but in London, the Tories have taken a hit, with figures from an Ipsos poll showing that they could be down to just four seats in the capital after July the 4th.

So, a mixed day for the Conservatives, and joining us now is our political editor Nicholas Cecil.

So Nick, let's kick off with these figures suggesting once again a Tory wipeout in London.

What does this latest poll say?

Well, we already knew that the Tories were under intense pressure in London from Labour.

What we've learned today from this big Ipsos poll is that now the Conservatives are being hit by a pincer movement.

So they're being hit from the left by Labour, and now they're also being hit from the right by Reform.

And this is very much partly, well, at least partly due to Nigel Farage taking over as Reform leader.

So what this poll showed, if you look at the 20 or so seats currently held by the Conservatives, in these seats, Labour is up 12 points.

So that's a big hit to the Tory vote.

And at the same time, the Reform party, it's on 10% of the vote.

So it's very, very hard for the Conservatives to fight a battle on two fronts.

And this poll suggests that a number of these seats, for example, in Southeast London, in Outer London there and in Outer West London, these seats look like they're going to stay Conservative.

Now there's big doubt over whether a number of them will or whether Reform biting into the Tory vote actually means that Labour can win these seats.

And obviously this poll suggests, Nick, that the Tories could be down to just four seats in the Capitol.

That leaves them with very little influence in the capital city of the UK, doesn't it?

Yes, this is really quite astonishing, because if you look at inner London, the Tories currently hold three seats there, which are the cities of London and Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Fulham.

Now this poll suggests they will lose all three of these areas, so they'd have zero MPs left in inner London, which has never happened before.

And there's been this gradual trend of London turning, increasingly labour, increasingly red, but the Conservatives really haven't helped themselves because as they pursued their levelling up agenda, some of them felt it was fair game to have a kick at London, because they see London as the very wealthy Capital.

Obviously, London does have huge pockets of wealth, but it also has large, deprived communities across the city.

And taking potshots at London when you're pursuing your levelling up agenda, eventually people decide, well, maybe the Conservatives don't like London as much as they should.

There has been a bit of a boost for Rishi Sunak in a way today that hasn't there.

Inflation going down to the target 2%.

Does this give him a boost or has it come a bit too late for his campaign?

Well, it's definitely a boost for the Prime Minister. He had five key goals and Harvey inflation was one of those.

He's definitely met this one.

So inflation was about 11% when he made his pledge to halve inflation.

It's now 2% in May.

And what this means is that many people will see their wages actually rising faster than inflation, which has been happening for a number of months, but this will happen even more.

So that means that your living standards might gradually start to go up.

But having said that, lots of people are seeing their bills rise.

For example, their mortgages and the rise in mortgages may offset any benefit from wages outstripping inflation.

As for whether it's come too late, so far, all the polls tend to, or certainly a lot of the polls, suggest the country has largely made up its mind that it believes it's time for a change of government.

So Rishi Sunak really needs a game changer.

And inflation dropping to 2%, while very welcome, I don't think it's going to make any dramatic shifts in the polls.

And the Prime Minister was on LBC this morning taking on questions from the public after Sakir Starmer did the same yesterday.

Was it sort of overall positive or negative for him?

I think it was probably overall mildly positive.

Again, there was no big moment, no moment where he thought, oh, he's actually getting on the front foot here.

So he took his questions, dealt with them very competently and professionally.

But the Tories need something to happen in this election.

They need to gain some momentum somehow, and that is proving very, very elusive for them at the moment.

So he highlighted inflation falling to 2%, which is a significant boost for the Tories because they can actually say they deliver something.

But then if you look at one of his other pledges, which was to stop the boats, and that was a very, very clear pledge.

And we've had a record number of asylum seekers and economic migrants coming across the channel this week, or for at least one day this week.

So that pledge, he clearly hasn't met.

His pledge on cutting NHS waiting lists, they're still higher than when he made that pledge.

And elsewhere, I understand, there's more drama around potential labour taxes.

What's the latest on that?

Yes, well, there's increasing scrutiny today of labour's position on tax.

And this is very much due to an interview that Keir Starmer gave.

He was asked, what is his definition of working people?

Because Labour have said they will not raise taxes on working people, which obviously begs the question, who are these people?

And he came out and said that in his view, they are people who earn their living, rely on public services, and don't really have the ability to write a check when they get into trouble.

So that was his definition, but it immediately raised questions over whether pensioners could be taxed, whether savers could be taxed.

So, the more questions that labour are asked about tax, the more the spotlight is thrown on to what they're planning after July the 4th.

And if you look at the bigger picture, what the highly respected Institute for Fiscal Studies say is that neither labour or the Conservatives are being honest with the public about what's going to happen after the election.

Because, what the IFS says is that the public finances are in such dire straits that you're even going to have to have further tax rises or some quite painful cuts to public services.

So while there is a big row going on about tax, the reality is both parties are largely in the same position and will face some very difficult choices after the election.

Let's take a quick break in part two, The Best Beer Gardens in London with Josh Barrie.

Welcome back, we're now joined by The Standard's food and drink writer, Josh Barrie, who's compiled a list of the best beer gardens across London.

So, Josh, we've got the England game tomorrow night, Thursday, a lot of people will be looking for a beer garden to watch it in.

First of all, what makes a top beer garden in the capital?

Well, you want a lot of space, obviously, if there can be.

Some beer gardens are pretty small, others are kind of huge sweeping areas at the back of pubs and they're quite hard to come by, especially in the kind of central London, there are a few in the suburbs.

But whatever the size, a good beer garden just has kind of seating, you want clear view of a screen, access to beer, don't want to wait too long.

The ones without side bars are all the better.

That's not the case with all, but some do.

And if possible, it's nice to be able to have some food out there as well.

And also kind of, you know, if it's sunny, you want to be in the sun, well, some people do.

But then also, you know, being in the UK and London, probably going to rain at some stage as well.

So the ones with little areas to, covered areas are pretty good too.

And you've compiled this list, Josh, of the best beer gardens across London.

Obviously, I imagine quite hard to choose some of the best ones because there are so many, but what are your top picks and why?

Yeah, quite hard to pick.

And obviously, more are opening all the time and some are closing.

So it's an evolving list and it's one that I put together with others as well.

So some top picks, I think, there's one in Walthamstow called Big Penny Social.

And that's not a classic beer garden in that it's kind of more of a huge space occupying what kind of looks like a car park, which doesn't sound appealing, but bear with me.

It's next to a brewery with good beer, a space for 1,400 people, quite often live music.

So if there's no football on, you can listen to a band and just lots of pints and a really good atmosphere.

I think kind of places like that have cropped up in London.

They're kind of Berlin in form.

And it's kind of a modern addition to town.

And for something completely different, you could go to the White Swan in Twickenham, which is next to the river.

That's beautiful, very tranquil, kind of somewhere maybe for a quiet a pint or a date or just a catch up with friends rather than a big kind of party sort of thing.

Another one I really like is, well, I used to like, I should say, it's something for the younger crowd, perhaps, which is called the Devonshire in Ballum, not to be confused with the pub in Soho.

No doubt everyone's heard of that by now.

And that's got a beach club area, which is very lively, young people.

I used to live nearby, good food, good drink, always a party, lots of kind of leaves and gardening kind of things around, bit of a sun trap as well.

Another one's the Hope and Anchor in Brixton. That's a bit of a legendary spot.

Again, kind of fun and lively, somewhere to go, lot of Prosecco flowing.

And finally, in East London, there's a place called Pub on the Park.

That's always a really good place to go, always full, always busy, somewhere perhaps to kind of have a long day drink on a Saturday and then perhaps head out for dinner afterwards.

Lots of good restaurants nearby.

And obviously, you've mentioned all these venues in your article, Josh.

Looking at the pictures, there's a real variety, isn't there, of venues across the capital.

Do you think London does beer gardens the best?

It certainly does beer gardens well, and it's getting better.

But as I said earlier, kind of lots are opening all the time.

It's hard to find space in London.

It's quite a crowded city, it's built on a very old map.

So, pubs are kind of angled and spaces are hard to come by, but people make the best of it.

And they're always kind of engineering nooks and crannies to find.

People are inventive and creative with the space.

I think that certainly there are other cities that do beer gardens very well, especially in Germany on the continent.

But saying that, yeah, London does it.

I don't know whether it's the best, but certainly kind of there are good places.

You just need to know where to look sometimes, hence the list. And the article does go into some of those smaller spaces.

As you mentioned, the pubs that just put out a couple of chairs outside with an umbrella perhaps, and that draws people in. I mean, does having a beer garden actually bring more business to a pub? Certainly when tournaments like the Euros are on.

Oh, it must do.

I mean, you've got to have, if you've got the space for it, you've got a beer garden.

It adds covers.

The more people there are in a pub, whether inside or out, the more beer is bought, the more food is bought, the better the custom, the better the atmosphere, the more fun the experience is for everyone.

So absolutely, I think beer gardens are good for business.

And I would say kind of certainly publicans might say the more the merrier.

Pick up The Evening Standard newspaper for more news, interviews and analysis or head to standard.co.uk.

Thanks for listening.

We're back tomorrow afternoon at four o'clock.