Good morning. In Batley and Spen voters have started going to the polls in a byelection that has become a crucial test for Sir Keir Starmer. It is not certain the party will lose, but many Labour figures think that this is highly likely, and if that does happen, it will trigger an intense debate about the extent to which Starmerâ€™s leadership is responsible (or accelerate it – because that debate has already begun.) A Survation poll in June had the Conservatives on course to come first in Batley and Spen by six points; if they do win, it would mean the governing party has gained a seat from the opposition twice in byelections within two months – a feat which would be unprecedented in modern times.
The prospect of a Labour defeat has already prompted a lot of chatter about a possible leadership challenge, and today the Times (paywall) has a story saying Angela Raynerâ€™s supporters are on manoeuvres. It says:
Supporters of Angela Rayner are preparing for her to challenge Sir Keir Starmerâ€™s leadership of Labour if the party loses the by-election in Batley & Spen today.
MPs close to the deputy leader have been canvassing support among parliamentary colleagues and trade unions, The Times has learnt. Allies of Starmer are braced for an unprecedented leadership contest from his deputy.
Senior figures at Unite, Labourâ€™s biggest union backer, are willing to support a challenge but they have not discussed the idea with her directly and she has not told them she wants the job.
Last night Rayner, the partyâ€™s deputy leader, put out a tweet denying that she was involved.
Here is my colleague Maya Wolfe-Robinsonâ€™s latest report from the constituency.
And here is a story with an overview of whatâ€™s happening there today.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.20am: Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, delivers a speech at the Mansion House.
9.30am: The ONS publishes new figures on Covid in schools, on long Covid, and on the economic impact of the pandemic.
12pm: Downing Street is due to hold its daily lobby briefing.
12.30pm: Leading child health experts speak at a Royal Society of Medicine online seminar on vaccinating children.
2pm: Public Health England publishes its weekly Covid surveillance report.
Also, at some point today the Northern Ireland executive is due to meet to consider further easing of Covid restrictions.
Politics Live has been a mix of Covid and non-Covid news recently and that is likely to be the case today. For more coronavirus developments, do follow our global Covid live blog.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include â€œAndrewâ€ in it somewhere and Iâ€™m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I canâ€™t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. Iâ€™m on @AndrewSparrow.
Alternatively, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org