Westminster diary: Will Rishi Sunak prove to be a friendly neighbour to the region?

Sunak struck a friendly tone on a visit to Croydon this week, but received a telling off from one patient. Credit: PA

Rishi Sunak is just settling into life at Number 10 Downing Street - but he's also a neighbour to our region.

The new Prime Minister's constituency - Richmond, in North Yorkshire - borders Cumbria, close to Sedbergh and Kirkby Stephen.

Penrith & The Border Conservative MP Neil Hudson is a parliamentary neighbour.

He told me this week: "as a rural MP as well, Rishi I think very much understands the key issues facing us", mentioning farming and tourism.

He particularly wants more help with energy bills for people who are not connected to mains gas, and for example using heating oil.

Westmorland & Lonsdale Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron hopes the change at the top of government may help with his long-term campaigning to tackle what he sees as excessive numbers of second homes and holiday lets locally.

He told me it is "an issue that his [Rishi Sunak's] constituency and my constituency have in common."

"I hope the fact that he is not just a neighbouring MP, but an MP from a community rather like ours in the Lakes and the Dales, might mean there's some affinity for these issues."

The relationship between the UK Prime Minister and Scottish First Minister is of course much more complicated than just being neighbours, but it seems it may now become more cordial.

Liz Truss did not have a formal conversation with Nicola Sturgeon during her seven weeks in power, but Rishi Sunak did so on his first evening in Downing Street.

He wrote: "I emphasised our duty to work closely together to respond to the shared challenges we face."

The Scottish Government said she also wants a "constructive relationship", though made clear to him her aim to hold another independence referendum.

On that fundamental constitutional question, the change of Prime Minister is no more likely to produce agreement.

The Scottish Secretary of course plays a significant role in defending the union on behalf of the UK government, and the new PM has kept the Dumfries & Galloway MP Alister Jack in that post.

It's a role he's held since July 2019, making him currently the joint-longest-serving cabinet minister in the same job.

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP John Lamont has joined him as a minister in the Scotland Office after this week's reshuffle.

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison stays on in the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

Workington MP Mark Jenkinson, a strong supporter of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, said he has left his role as an assistant government whip.

Michael Gove has been brought back as the Levelling Up, Housing & Communities Secretary, replacing Simon Clarke.

That means he will be responsible for deciding whether to approve plans for a new deep coal mine in Whitehaven, and his department says the deadline of 8 November remains in place.

Mr Gove was due to make a decision in July, but that was pushed back amid the upheaval around Boris Johnson's departure from Downing Street.

Depending on who you believe, he was either about to approve the mine, or was refusing to do so.

Mr Gove revealed in interviews on Sunday that he is "reviewing" the plans for low-tax Investment Zones that were announced by Liz Truss' government.

He said that was due to concerns the policy could "undermine environmental protections."

Councils had submitted expressions of interests for a number of possible locations in Cumbria, but may soon find their hopes disappointed.

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