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FirstFT: Labour weighs big shake-up to civil service


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Good morning. We end the working week with updates on several elections, including disinformation in the White House race, political turmoil in Europe and what Narendra Modi’s third term means for corporate India.

But we start in the UK, where Labour is planning a major Whitehall shake-up that centres on breaking down departmental silos to pursue its core missions for government, according to party officials.

Sir Keir Starmer is examining proposals to create new “mission boards” — a set-up partly inspired by former prime minister Theresa May — to aid cross-department work if he enters Downing Street on July 5.

The new entities, which are set to be headed by Starmer himself, would draw on private sector expertise and may even be granted powers to help deliver policy, under proposals being overseen by former Whitehall veteran-turned-Labour chief of staff Sue Gray. Read the full story.

  • Labour’s manifesto: The opposition party’s policies have combined sweeping aspirations for “national renewal” with unanswered questions about how to fund them.

  • Pollsters’ conundrum: Everyone agrees Starmer’s party is on course for victory on July 4, but there is huge disagreement about how big that win could be.

  • Reversing Brexit?: Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has said that her party would never press for the UK to rejoin the EU or the bloc’s single market.

And here’s what I’m watching today and over the weekend.

  • Ukraine peace summit: About 80 world leaders are expected to gather at the Swiss resort of Bürgenstock this weekend, where Kyiv will aim to broaden support among developing nations.

  • Euro 2024: The football tournament kicks off in Munich today with a match between host country Germany and Scotland.

  • King Charles III: The King’s Birthday Honours List will be published in full today, ahead of Trooping the Colour in London tomorrow, celebrating the British monarch’s official birthday.

  • Companies: Tesco releases a trading statement today, while Superdry shareholders will vote on its proposed capital and restructuring measures.

How well did you keep up with the news this week? Take our quiz.

Five more top stories

1. German ministers are hurtling towards a showdown over how to plug a massive financing gap in next year’s budget in one of the toughest tests of coalition unity since Olaf Scholz became chancellor. The deadline for adopting a draft budget for next year in the Eurozone’s largest economy is July 3 — a task not helped by increasing frictions between the three coalition parties in the wake of the European elections. Here’s what’s at stake.

  • French election: New projections suggest President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance could face a wipeout in snap parliamentary elections after the country’s leftwing parties struck a unity pact.

  • Europe Express: The premium newsletter will be free for all subscribers on weekends leading up to France’s snap polls, with an additional edition in French. Don’t miss it.

2. Tesla investors have reapproved Elon Musk’s $56bn pay package and agreed to move the company to Texas. The preliminary results of the vote will strengthen the company’s hand against the Delaware court that struck down the package and will give Musk more control over the carmaker. More on his significant victory yesterday.

3. Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party has overtaken the Tories in a national opinion poll for the first time, climbing two percentage points to 19 per cent. The Conservatives remained at 18 per cent, according to a YouGov poll conducted after the prime minister launched his party’s manifesto on Tuesday. Here’s more on the latest setback for Rishi Sunak.

4. G7 leaders reached a deal yesterday to provide Ukraine with “approximately $50bn” backed by future proceeds of frozen Russian sovereign assets. The financing would be disbursed “through multiple channels” and used for Kyiv’s “military, budget and reconstruction needs”, said a statement seen by the Financial Times and due to be published today. Henry Foy and James Politi have more details.

  • Related: On the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy, President Joe Biden pledged that the US would support Ukraine “until they prevail” in the war.

5. Wells Fargo has fired several staff for allegedly trying to fool their bosses into thinking they were working when they were not. According to filings with US regulators, the bank said the workers were discharged last month after it determined they had sought to “create the impression of active work” through “simulation of keyboard activity”.

The Big Read

Montage image of congressman Jim Jordan, Donald Trump and Elon Musk
From left: US congressman Jim Jordan, Donald Trump and Elon Musk © FT montage/Getty Images

As the US presidential election approaches, dozens of academics, non-profit workers, volunteers and researchers who participate in initiatives tracking and countering online misinformation have been aggressively targeted by a loose coalition of free speech activists, Republican lawmakers and allies of Donald Trump, sometimes with their lives upturned as a result. The FT spoke to more than a dozen experts about the chilling effect on the field of disinformation research.

Sign up for our US Election Countdown newsletter for the latest updates on the race to the White House.

We’re also reading . . . 

  • Recession vs inflation: Which is worse? Mixed responses from recent surveys suggest people aren’t keen to accept policy trade-offs, writes Soumaya Keynes.

  • The City: Undemocratic, anachronistic and fantastic, the City of London has survived plagues, war and crashes by balancing tradition with modernisation, writes Patrick Jenkins.

  • Paramount flop: A deal to sell the century-old Hollywood studio to David Ellison failed after Shari Redstone, the heiress who controls the group, killed it at the last minute.

  • Modi’s tycoons: Powerful billionaires remain central to the prime minister’s vision for India, but the election has shown voters’ disquiet at inequality.

Chart of the day

Marine Le Pen’s big-spending, populist plans may have been easy to tout when she was in opposition, but her Rassemblement National is waking up to the reality that these economic pledges may be difficult to enact if it takes power in France. Analysts and rivals warn that the far-right party’s policies could blow up public debt and result in a “Liz Truss-style” crisis.

Bar chart of General government budget balance as a % of GDP for select European countries according to an IMF forecast for 2024

Take a break from the news

High-end jeweller Albert Boghossian first visited the Taj Mahal at the age of 18 and remembers being mesmerised by the beauty and scale of the landmark. Explore his latest 70-piece collection, Palace Voyages, which draws inspiration from some of the world’s most breathtaking residences.

The rose gate in Jaipur’s City Palace
The rose gate in Jaipur’s City Palace

Additional contributions from Gordon Smith, Emily Goldberg and Sophie Spiegelberger

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