Newslinks for Thursday 31st March 2022

31 Mar

Johnson refuses to say No 10 parties were illegal, despite fines

“Boris Johnson has refused to acknowledge that Covid laws were broken over “partygate”, despite 20 fines being issued this week, putting him at odds with his own Justice Secretary. Both the Prime Minister and his most senior spokesman on Wednesday declined to accept that fines issued by the Metropolitan Police meant government figures broke the law. Hours earlier, Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, who has the justice brief in the Cabinet, had said that was the case during radio interviews. Mr Raab, a former lawyer, said it was “clear there were breaches of the law” as he spoke to broadcasters on Wednesday morning. “Clearly there were breaches of the regulations,” Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “That is the only thing that can warrant the 20 fixed penalty notices. That must follow.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Deputy prime minister says those fined over affair have broken lockdown law – FT
  • Met Police will start handing out 20 £200 fines – The Sun

More:

  • Johnson cracked gags about Partygate letters as he buries hatchet with rebellious MPs – Daily Mail
  • He says he’s ‘getting on with the job’ in fiery clash with Starmer – The Sun
  • Tory MPs and voters back Boris to stay on even if PM is fined over ‘partygate’ – Daily Express

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: PMQs sketch: Johnson discredits Blackford by embracing him as a friend

We may send armoured vehicles to Ukraine, says Prime Minister…

“Britain is considering sending armoured vehicles to Ukraine to help stop the “humanitarian catastrophe” in Mariupol, the prime minister has said. Boris Johnson said the UK was “going up a gear” in military aid for Ukraine, including potentially supplying armoured personnel carriers. He also said sanctions should remain in place until every Russian soldier has left Ukraine, including Crimea, and questioned the value of talks between President Macron of France and President Putin, saying the Russian leader was “not to be trusted”. Questions have been raised about whether the UK could act as a “guarantor” to any peace deal agreed between Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine has specifically asked if the UK could take on the role.” – The Times

  • Britain could send Land Rovers to help Mariupol humanitarian relief effort – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Ukrainian refugees use Irish escape route to travel to UK – The Times
  • Only ten per cent of Ukrainian refugee visa applications to live with Britons approved – FT

…as Truss’s India visit made awkward by presence of Russian counterpart

“Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, is due to land in India on Thursday to urge Narendra Modi’s government to reduce its strategic dependency on Russia. But her arrival in New Delhi coincides with that of her sparring partner Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, who also arrives in India for his first visit since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. India has been criticised by western powers for not taking a tough enough line against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the UK hopes for clear signals from Modi’s government about its opposition to the invasion and support for the UN charter. Joe Biden, the US president, described the Indian position recently as “shaky”. Truss will sign a joint strategic cyber partnership with India and sees this as a sign of the two countries’ willingness to increase security cooperation.” – The Guardian

  • Foreign Secretary to urge Modi to call out Putin over Ukraine invasion – Daily Express

More:

  • Two senior British judges resign from Hong Kong’s top court – FT

>Today:

>Yesterday:

Liz Truss: China’s repression of Hong Kong makes position untenable

“Since the imposition of the national security law, authorities have cracked down on free speech, the free press and freedom of assembly. Time and again, China has breached legally binding commitments it freely gave under the Sino-British Joint Declaration to uphold Hong Kong’s autonomy. Beijing’s promises — ostensibly designed to protect human rights and freedoms — are utterly hollow. The consequences are clear to see in the courts, where pro-democracy activists have been sentenced to jail. As national security law cases proceed through the courts, judges will be required to enforce Beijing’s laws and the autocratic values they represent. This puts sitting British judges in an increasingly uncomfortable position.” – The Times

Johnson blows cold on onshore wind revolution

“Boris Johnson has hinted he is cautious over plans for an onshore wind revolution amid Cabinet fears that it would mean thousands of turbines are built in Tory heartlands. At a hearing of Parliament’s Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister stressed his support for offshore wind in a sign that he is less convinced about the need for a major increase in projects on land. It comes amid Cabinet disagreements over a proposal to rip up 2015 planning reforms that made it almost impossible for new onshore turbines to be built. The change, which is being debated as part of a wider overhaul of energy policy, would pave the way for new wind farms across swathes of rural England. Mr Johnson told MPs that he was keen to take action that will help wean the West off Russian gas.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tory opposition to land-based turbines expected to influence government’s new energy strategy – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: Tory wars over climate change. The Conservative Environmental Network v the Net Zero Scrutiny Group.

Ministers will be able to block the release of violent criminals from jail, Raab to announce

“Ministers will be able to block the release of violent criminals from jail, Dominic Raab will announce today. The landmark reform comes after public outcry over the decision to release Black Cab rapist John Worboys and double child murderer Colin Pitchfork. It means the deputy PM could veto the release of up to 600 rapists, murders, terrorists and child torturers every year… The radical shake-up will beef up safeguards against letting dangerous convicts back on the streets, and increase the rights of victims. It will include a new legal requirement for the Parole Board to take a “precautionary approach” and only release prisoners if they are safe to walk free. The current test is whether the Parole Board is satisfied that imprisoning an offender is no longer necessary for the protection of the public.” – The Sun

  • Justice Secretary to appeal against release of Baby P’s mother from prison – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Releasing Baby P’s monster mum in 2013 was the wrong call then and still is now – Dominic Raab MP, The Sun

Shapps vows new law to ban P&O Ferries from British ports if crew are not paid minimum wage

“Grant Shapps today vowed a new law to ban P&O Ferries from British ports if crew are not paid minimum wage. The Transport Secretary told the Commons he wanted to impose the tough rules ‘as quickly as possible’ amid the bitter row over the firm’s mass sackings. But Mr Shapps conceded that the measure cannot be brought in immediately, saying he was urging ports to act before it is formally on the statute books. He also said the UK is looking at doing deals with other countries to guarantee enforcement of minimum wages across jurisdictions. These include plans to create ‘minimum wage corridors’ on ferry routes between the UK and other countries. And he repeated his call for P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite to quit, revealing he has written to the Insolvency Service complaining he is ‘unfit to lead a British company’.” – Daily Mail

  • Industry dismisses plans to block ferries that employ underpaid crews – The Guardian
  • Sackings prompt push to plug UK employment law loopholes – FT

More ministers:

  • BBC to employ more working-class staff after Dorries ‘snob’ jibe – The Times
  • Sunak ‘viscerally hates’ Office for Budget Responsibility, sources claim – The Times

>Yesterday:

‘Unimaginable trauma’ caused, says Javid of maternity scandal

“The health secretary has said failures at an NHS hospital trust led to “unimaginable trauma for so many people” as a new inquiry shed light on the worst maternity scandal in the history of the British health service. Sajid Javid also apologised after the report found 295 baby deaths or brain damage cases could have been avoided with better care. More than a dozen women also died. The inquiry – led by maternity expert Donna Ockenden – looked into more than 1,000 incidents at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust over two decades. It found the trust presided over catastrophic failings during this time, which resulted in babies dying, suffering fractured skulls and other injuries, as well as causing harm to mothers.” – The Independent

  • Two midwives struck off… and bosses walked into lucrative new posts – Daily Mail
  • Abortions at home to stay as MPs save pills-by-post policy – The Times

Comment:

  • Why are female voters moving to the left? – Stephen Bush, FT

Wallis is first transgender MP…

“A Conservative MP has announced that he is transgender and has been the victim of rape and blackmail. Jamie Wallis, the MP for Bridgend, said he was transgender, “or to be more accurate, I want to be”, and had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Wallis, 37, said he had “felt this way since I was a very young child” but “imagined I would leave politics well before I ever said this out loud”. Wallis, who won his seat at the 2019 general election, would be Britain’s first openly transgender MP. He said there had been a “close call” in 2020 “when someone blackmailed me, outed me to my father and sent photographs to other family members. He wanted £50,000 to keep quiet. The police were so supportive, so understanding and on this occasion the system worked. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.”” – The Times

  • Johnson: ‘The House stands with you, and we will give you the support you need to live freely as yourself’ – Daily Telegraph
  • He describes ‘horror ordeal’ – The Sun
  • Tory transgender MP has been dogged by controversies – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: The first trans MP is a Conservative

…as Duffield ‘fuels speculation’ she could defect over the issue

“Rosie Duffield yesterday fuelled speculation she may be considering defecting to the Tories after she appeared at an event with Nadine Dorries and hit out at Labour trolls. The Canterbury MP said the ‘horrible’ abuse she has received made her ashamed of the Labour Party. Miss Duffield arrived at an event to launch the Government’s Online Safety Bill in the Culture Secretary’s car and said she was happy to ‘work together’ with ministers. She said she has been labelled transphobic – which she denies – for raising concerns about ‘male-bodied biological men’ being allowed to self-identify as female in order to access women-only spaces such as prisons and domestic violence refuges. Labour frontbenchers have recently struggled to define what a woman is.” – Daily Mail

  • She says “I think the Prime Minister nailed it” – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Emily Carver’s column: It’s ridiculous that so many politicians can’t answer the question ‘What is a woman?’

Labour to launch ‘on your side’ local elections battle

“Labour will launch its local elections battle with the slogan “On your side”, urging voters to send the Conservatives a message about the pain of the cost of living crisis and No 10 lockdown breaches. Keir Starmer will launch the party’s campaign in Bury, a symbolic location where one local MP, Christian Wakeford, defected from the Tories to Labour over Boris Johnson’s behaviour during the Partygate investigation. Though the launch will focus entirely on the high prices of bills and the tax burden, Labour sources said the slogan was also intended to evoke the feeling of “one rule for them” that the public had expressed during the exposés of lockdown breaches. The party will launch its campaign with new analysis claiming families will be £2,620 worse off, even despite the additional measures in Rishi Sunak’s spring statement to cut fuel duty and raise the threshold for paying national insurance.” – The Guardian

  • Labour leader turns to ex England and Man Utd star to revive his fortunes – The Sun

Sturgeon delays scrapping Scotland’s face mask law for second time

“Nicola Sturgeon has postponed scrapping the legal requirement to wear face masks in Scotland for a second time, blaming the UK’s highest Covid rates for the delay. The First Minister told MSPs that, from next Monday, Scots will no longer have to wear a face covering in places of worship or while attending a marriage ceremony, civil partnership, funeral or commemorative event. But the legal requirement to wear one in other indoor public places such as shops and public transport will only be converted to guidance on Easter Monday, April 18. Ms Sturgeon admitted wearing masks was an “inconvenience” but argued that the delay took account of the “very high level of infection” in Scotland and pressures on the NHS.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Future legislation will make clear that controversial IRA ‘comfort letters’ have no basis in law

News in Brief:

  • No, Ukraine does not justify further shrinking the Army – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • The NHS failing mothers is nothing new – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • DUP gains ground, but overall support drops for divided unionism – Sam McBride, Belfast Telegraph
  • The Union won’t be brought down by a Sinn Fein First Minister – Ian Acheson, CapX
  • Who actually got Brexit done? – David Scullion, The Critic

Newslinks for Wednesday 30th March 2022

30 Mar

The Prime Minister tells the Cabinet he wants to provide “more lethal” miliary aid to Ukraine

“Boris Johnson told the cabinet yesterday he wants to provide Ukraine with “more lethal” military aid as he warned that Vladimir Putin would try to “twist the knife”. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, chief of defence staff, gave a briefing to ministers in which he said that the conflict has evolved into “more traditional warfare” as Ukraine has moved from attempting to repel the Russian forces to holding ground and retaking territory. He said the UK was moving to a “new phase” in its support for Ukraine and the government was looking at what military equipment it can provide. “The Ukrainian army is not only holding big cities, it is forcing the Russians to retreat. Our support needs to change with that,” a cabinet source said.” – The Times

  • The West remains doubtful of Putin’s intentions – The Times
  • The US insists sanctions are working, as the push for more fails – The Irish Times
  • World watches on as peace talks continue in Turkey – The Guardian
  • Defence cooperation will help make us “good Europeans” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
>Today:

Wallace warns against trusting Putin’s withdrawal from Kiev

“Vladimir Putin “must think we were born yesterday” if he thinks Britain believes his troops are pulling out of Kyiv, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace declared last night. The despot’s henchmen suggested he would “fundamentally cut back” military movements around the Ukrainian capital to “build trust” in peace talks. But experts think the discussions in Turkey are just an attempt to save face after his war machine was forced into a humiliating retreat… But defence sources last night warned lying Putin’s offer to pull back from the north of Ukraine might be a ploy to buy time for his battered forces. Analysts said there were no early signs of movement — and Russian forces that had retreated appeared to be digging into new defensive positions.” – The Sun

  • The Defence Secretary announces the deployment of nine new “submarine hunter” aircraft during a visit to Norway – Daily Express
  • Labour calls for an increase in defence spending – The Guardian
  • Zelensky warns that Russia’s words must match her actions, as bombing continues despite talk of removing troops – The Daily Mail
  • Russia ‘has failed’ in its attempt to encircle Kyiv, according to UK officials – The I
  • Putin sees 7th colonel killed and ‘loses 17,000 troops’ – The Sun
  • Medal awarded to Snake Island hero – The Guardian
  • Ukraine must be allowed to decide its own future – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph
  • An end to the conflict is unlikely whilst the battle in Donbas continues – Editorial, The Times

Johnson “may not know for a week” whether he is to be fined over lockdown breaches…

“The Partygate probe descended further into farce last night as it emerged Boris Johnson may not know for a week whether he is among the first to be fined. The Met yesterday announced it was issuing 20 fixed penalty notices over breaches of Covid rules at gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall. But in a bizarre move, officers made the number of fines public before informing those involved – who may not learn their fate for up to a week. Police also said that further fines could be issued in the coming weeks and months as they plough their way through a ‘significant amount of investigative material’…No10 was yesterday unable to say whether the PM has been fined, with the police not even revealing whether the events which met the ‘evidential threshold’ included those which he attended.” – The Daily Mail

  • Downing Street insists the Prime Minister did not mislead MPs – The Scotsman
  • Vetting advice for Lebedev’s peerage to be published – The Financial Times
  • Gale calls on plotters not to remove the Prime Minister during the crisis in Ukraine – The Daily Mail
  • Cabinet ministers heckled as they arrive at a luxury hotel for a team-building dinner – The Huffington Post
  • Has some of the sting gone from Partygate? – Alistair Grant, The Scotsman
  • The probe is spinning out of control – Guy Adams, The Daily Mail
  • Partygate remains a perilous mess for the Prime Minister – Editorial, The Times
  • The Met’s probe is a shocking farce – Editorial, The Daily Mail
  • The secrecy surrounding the investigation is wrong – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph

…as Number 10 mulls another delay to imposing checks on EU imports

“Downing Street is exploring yet another delay to post-Brexit border checks on goods entering Britain from the EU to prevent what industry has warned would be a supply chain disaster. Ministers are considering whether to push back for the fourth time the introduction of full checks on imports from the EU, which were supposed to come into effect on July 1, as part of a drive to tackle trade friction and the crisis in the cost of living, officials briefed on discussions said. Jacob Rees-Mogg, Brexit opportunities minister, argued at a private meeting this week that one advantage of leaving the EU would be to allow Britain to apply only loose checks on imports. Goods arriving from the EU are not subject to safety and security declarations, while food and plant products are not physically checked.” – The Financial Times

The Home Secretary plans daily crisis meetings to fix the ‘stalling’ system for Ukrainian refugees

“Senior ministers are to hold daily crisis meetings to get Britain’s beleaguered schemes for Ukrainian refugees back on track. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary, will chair the sessions with senior officials running the widely criticised Homes for Ukraine programme. More than 200,000 kind-hearted British families have volunteered to open their homes to Ukrainians fleeing the war, but many have been left angered and frustrated by swathes of red tape. Although the number of completed applications is thought to have topped 30,000, just 2,000 visas have been handed out to Ukrainians by the Home Office, latest figures show.” – The Daily Mail

  • The Home Secretary also plans to unveil a register for domestic abusers – The Times

Ministers 1) Clarke announces the ‘Covid spending party is over’

“Public services will not get any more money before the next election, the chief secretary to the Treasury has insisted. Simon Clarke told his cabinet colleagues that pet projects and staff pay rises would have to be funded from cuts elsewhere, as he insisted that the government had reached the “high-water mark” of spending. Promising a renewed focus on Whitehall cost-cutting, Clarke said that the Covid “era of exceptionalism” is over and fiscal discipline must return. An increase in the size of the civil service is “impossible to justify long term” and numbers must return to pre-pandemic levels by the next election, he said.” – The Times

  • The Chief Secretary to the Treasury seeks to ‘reverse’ civil service expansion, with total staffing up a quarter since 2015 – The Daily Mail
>Today:

Ministers 2) Raab announces new powers to block the parole of particularly heinous criminals

“Ministers will be able to block the release of violent criminals from jail, Dominic Raab will announce today. The landmark reform comes after public outcry over the decision to release Black Cab rapist John Worboys and double child murderer Colin Pitchfork. It means the deputy PM could veto the release of up to 600 rapists, murders, terrorists and child torturers every year. Mr Raab MP said: “As Justice Secretary I have the responsibility to keep the public safe but to do this I need to be able to exercise authority when it comes to releasing dangerous criminals. “I’m not satisfied our current approach is as robust as it needs to be, which is why I am making changes to restore public confidence in the system.” – The Sun

Ministers 3) Kwarteng faces Cabinet resistance over plans to double onshore wind power

“Ministers are preparing for a backlash if the Government agrees on proposals to double onshore wind power by 2030. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is pushing to relax planning laws that have led to an effective moratorium on wind farms since 2015. But some Cabinet ministers have warned that Mr Kwarteng risks putting the Government on a collision course with backbenchers over the ‘unpopular’ plan. As well as increasing turbines, the minister has also proposed tripling the number of solar panels – but sources last night said no decisions had been made… Tory former energy minister Sir John Hayes said last night: ‘It would be deeply unpopular – and the Government would risk just such unpopularity – if it imposes onshore wind turbines.’” – The Daily Mail

  • The Chancellor remains reluctant to increase spending – The I
  • The Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy criticises the SNP for failing to back Westminster’s approach to energy security – Daily Express

Ministers 4) Coffey to continue with pension charges reform

“The UK is to push ahead with plans to dilute a cap on workplace pension charges that protect millions of savers in spite of a backlash against the proposals from consumer groups and leading asset managers. The Department for Work and Pensions unveiled plans in November to remove performance fees from a 0.75 per cent ceiling on annual administration and investment charges that can be levied on the defined contribution (DC) workplace retirement funds that most employees are enrolled in automatically. The move followed a call by Boris Johnson, prime minister, and Rishi Sunak, chancellor, last August for British pension funds to plough more retirement savers’ cash into UK assets to spark an “investment big bang” to support the economic recovery.” – The Financial Times

  • Three cheers for the return of the Triple Lock – Editorial, Daily Express

Ministers 5) Shapps to announce closure to employment law loopholes exposed by P&O sackings

“Grant Shapps, transport secretary, will on Wednesday set out plans to plug loopholes in UK employment law exposed by P&O Ferries’ decision to sack 800 workers without any formal consultation. Shapps will set out his plans in a House of Commons statement, including new laws to require any company operating out of British ports to pay the UK minimum wage, whose standard rate will rise to £9.50 on April 1. Meanwhile, the government has said it will produce a new statutory code on the practice of “fire and rehire”, with ministers admitting that the P&O scandal exposed the need for more clarity on the rules for worker consultations.” – The Financial Times

Public satisfaction with the NHS falls to a 25-year low

“Satisfaction with the NHS has fallen to its lowest level since 1997, just weeks before the British public’s willingness to pay more tax to fund the health service is set to be tested by a controversial rise in national insurance contributions. The findings from the respected British Social Attitudes survey, carried out in England, Scotland and Wales in October and September last year, found more people are dissatisfied with the NHS than satisfied. The research will alarm ministers aware they must demonstrate measurable improvements in the treatment people receive if they are to justify the imposition of the new health and social care levy at a time of rising inflation.” – The Financial Times

  • Javid axes free parking for NHS staff – The Daily Mail
  • Billions of taxpayers’ money still at risk from dodgy PPE contracts – The Financial Times
  • Goldsmith: Stop wearing masks due to their “catastrophic” environmental impact – The Daily Mail
  • GP Waiting times are disgraceful – Editorial, The Sun
  • NHS ‘obsession’ with asking men if they are pregnant puts patients at risk – Dr Max Pemberton, The Daily Mail
  • The Ockenden Review must urgently deliver real change in the NHS – Jeremy Hunt MP, The Daily Telegraph 

Philip Johnston: If Keir Starmer can’t define what a woman is, he isn’t fit to be Prime Minister

“Labour suffered at the polls in 2019 because it was led by someone who voters thought totally unsuitable to be prime minister. Traditional Labour seats fell like ninepins not necessarily because they had warmed to Boris but because Jeremy Corbyn was considered weak and unpatriotic. Sir Keir and his front-bench team are alienating voters once again with their absurd refusal to say what everyone knows to be true on the spurious grounds that it would be intolerant to do so. Yet the bigotry is coming from radical trans activists, not the other way round, by shutting down the very discussion that Sir Keir said he is so anxious to have but clearly isn’t. A politician who refuses to say whether a woman has a penis or a man a cervix is not fit to lead a government. If he carries on doing so he never will.” – The Daily Telegraph

  • Rayner says it is “unacceptable” to ask a trans woman if she has a penis – The Daily Mail
  • Drakeford refuses to distribute book marking the Platinum Jubilee to all Welsh schools – The Daily Mail
>Today:
>Yesterday:

News is Brief:

  • Israel is facing a new wave of terror – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator 
  • We are all Teletubbies now – Mary Harrington, UnHerd 
  • NIMBYs go nuclear – how selfish homeowners will scupper Net Zero – Henry Hill, Cap X
  • Use your words, Mr Smith – Julie Bindel, The Critic
  • The monarchy is the opposite of anachronistic – Madeline Grant, The Daily Telegraph
  • First Tory MP comes out as trans – Guido Fawkes

Newslinks for Tuesday 29th March 2022

29 Mar

Sunak dampens hope of more help with energy bills…

“Rishi Sunak has said he will offer people more support with their energy bills only “if necessary” and highlighted the “volatility” of energy prices. The energy price cap will rise from about £1,300 per year to nearly £2,000 on Friday, and forecasts have suggested that it will rise to £2,800 in October. Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, said yesterday that the “shock” from energy prices would be bigger than every year of the oil crisis in the 1970s. He told an event hosted by the Bruegel think tank in Brussels that the volatility of commodity prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a risk to financial stability and that the global economy faced a challenge bigger than the 2008 financial crisis.” – The Times

  • Chancellor defends raid on the public – Daily Telegraph
  • Sunak has seen his personal ratings plummet following his Spring Statement – Daily Mail

More:

  • State pension set for its largest increase on record – Daily Express
  • UK aerospace R&D receives fresh funding boost – FT

>Today: David Willetts’ column: The cost of living crisis. We need greater mobility to get higher growth, and higher growth to fund higher wages.

>Yesterday: David Gauke’s column: Last week, Sunak aimed to please the Conservative core vote. And a lot of good it did him.

…as Johnson’s energy strategy held up over nuclear funding row

“Boris Johnson’s flagship energy strategy has been held up over a row with Rishi Sunak about funding a new generation of up to eight nuclear power stations costing the public more than £13bn. The strategy, which has been delayed for a month, was due to be published this week but has now been pencilled for 5 April after disagreement about the multibillion-pound cost of new nuclear plants and amid ongoing tensions between the prime minister and his chancellor, as well as the wider cabinet. Johnson has told the nuclear industry that he wants 25% of electricity generation to come from nuclear power by 2050, up from 16% now. Whitehall sources told the Guardian this shift could require the building of about eight new nuclear power stations.” – The Guardian

  • Sunak believes cost of building stations will drive up bills – The Times
  • Kwarteng aims to triple solar power capacity by 2030 – FT
  • Fury as ‘envious’ EU takes UK to court for green energy subsidies – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Trudy Harrison MP in Comment: Why we aim to keep the UK a world leader in the self-driving vehicle revolution

Police expected to issue first fines over Downing Street parties

“Scotland Yard is poised to issue the first fixed penalty notices for a series of lockdown-breaching parties that were held in Downing Street. The Metropolitan Police has contacted the Cabinet Office to inform officials that it is set to issue the first tranche of fines to about 20 people. They are understood to be the most clear-cut cases where staff have not contested allegations they broke the rules. Boris Johnson, who attended six of the alleged parties under investigation, is not expected to be among them. The Metropolitan Police has sent 100 questionnaires to people including Johnson and his wife Carrie, Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Martin Reynolds, the prime minister’s former principal private secretary.” – The Times

  • Minister refuses to say if Johnson should quit if he is fined – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Dick to leave Met police earlier than planned, says Patel – The Guardian

Ukraine ‘justifies British Army cuts’, says Heappey…

“Britain’s decision to cut the size of the army is justified because the stout defence of Ukraine shows that “small bands of determined people” are more effective, a minister has said. James Heappey, the armed forces minister, said the faltering Russian invasion showed that small fighting units were more deadly in the modern battlefield. He said the Ukrainian infantry had successfully deployed guerrilla tactics of “hide to survive”. The size of the British infantry will be cut to 19,400 soldiers by 2024-25, down from 24,940 when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. The overall size of the army will be smaller than it was during Napoleonic times. In the Commons yesterday Conservative MPs piled pressure on the government to reverse the infantry cuts with some even calling for defence spending to be increased to three per cent of GDP to counter the threat from the Kremlin.” – The Times

  • Johnson is ‘on our side’ and helping Ukraine far more than ‘afraid’ Macron says Zelensky – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: It’s a thumbs-up for Johnson as a war leader. From Ukrainians themselves – and here at home so far.

…as Truss warns that Kiev cannot be sold out in peace talks with Russia

“Ukraine must not be sold out in peace talks with Russia, Liz Truss said on Monday as Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, criticised France and Germany for being too soft on Vladimir Putin… Ms Truss, the Foreign Secretary, told MPs: “We need to ensure that any future talks don’t end up selling Ukraine out or repeating the mistakes of the past. “We know that Putin is not serious about talks. He is still wantonly bombing innocent citizens across Ukraine, and that is why we need to do more to ensure that he loses and we force him to think again. We cannot allow him to win from this appalling aggression.” She warned that the Russian president “just came back for more” after agreeing a peace deal with Ukraine in 2014.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Putin is like Saddam but UK won’t topple him, minister says – The Times

Comment:

  • The West must back Ukraine for a long war – William Hague, The Times

>Today: Emily Barley in Comment: The nimble alliance of states we need to counter Russia, China and Iran

UK ‘interested’ in creating joint first ministers in Northern Ireland

“The UK government is “interested” in creating joint first ministers in Northern Ireland as part of a long-term strategy to improve the functioning of the devolved administration, according to officials. Power-sharing between pro-UK unionist politicians and nationalists who want a united Ireland has been fraught for years and the May 5 elections to the Stormont assembly appear likely to strain them further. A Lucid Talk poll published on Sunday put nationalist Sinn Féin seven points ahead of the biggest unionist party, the Democratic Unionist party, and on course to deliver a historic first defeat for parties seeking to uphold the union with the UK in a region created a century ago for Protestants. This would almost certainly give Sinn Féin the right to nominate the first minister, a post always held by a unionist since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended three decades of conflict in the region.” – FT

  • Ex-soldier in dock at ‘final Troubles trial’ – The Times
  • Manchester and Liverpool mayors seek to ‘reset’ post-Brexit ties with Ireland – Daily Express

Scotland:

  • Creaking Scottish ferry network undermines SNP’s competence credentials – FT

Teach pupils the benefits of the British Empire, says Zahawi

“Pupils should be taught about the benefits of the British Empire, the education secretary has said. Nadhim Zahawi cited the pre-Saddam Hussein Iraqi civil service as “the sort of thing children should be learning about” as he insisted that teachers should leave their political views outside the classroom. Schools should “teach children how to think, but not what to think”, Zahawi told Times Radio as he became the most senior minister to wade into the increasingly polarised debate about portrayal of the empire. Ministers have taken an increasingly firm line on the teaching of Empire, which has come to be seen as enmeshed with political questions of whether Britain is a structurally racist society. ast week the equalities minister Kemi Badenoch argued as well as the “terrible things” that happened under Empire there had also been “good things” and “we need to tell both sides of the story”.” – The Times

  • Plans to give kids with special educational needs and disabilities better access to schooling will be unveiled today – The Sun

Hughes outlines plan to shame bad landlords

“Landlords with substandard social accommodation will be named and shamed across the Government’s social media channels. The plans – set out in a white paper on social housing – will mean landlords are highlighted for breaching the regulator’s consumer standards, which cover the quality of accommodation, repairs and maintenance. They will also see a residents panel, comprising around 250 tenants from across England, set up to advise the Government of problems and potential further reforms to tackle poor landlords. There will also be tougher sanctions – including prison sentences of up to two years – for landlords whose failings on maintenance, repairs or work could put tenants at serious risk.” – Daily Telegraph

UK likely to criminalise illicit refugee crossings after MPs’ rebellion averted

“The UK appears set to criminalise illicit refugee crossings and could ship asylum seekers for processing in other countries after ministers easily saw off a potential rebellion in the Commons over the controversial borders and nationality bill. Despite a number of Conservative backbenchers expressing concerns about aspects of the bill, the government convincingly won a string of votes to restore elements changed in the House of Lords, including the idea of Australian-style third country processing. Speaking in the debate, Tom Pursglove, the junior migration minister, confirmed that, as restored, the bill could see Ukrainian refugees who arrived without permission removed for processing. He added there was “absolutely no reason” for Ukrainian nationals to resort to illicit crossings.” – The Guardian

Starmer refuses to answer when asked whether a woman can have a penis

“Sir Keir Starmer refused to answer the question of whether a woman can have a penis in the latest Labour Party confusion over the transgender debate. The topic has been a point of division in the party for more than a year after Sir Keir said backbencher Rosie Duffield’s comment that “only women have a cervix” was “not right”. Yvette Cooper and Anneliese Dodds, two of Labour’s frontbench MPs, both declined to give a definition of a woman on International Women’s Day earlier this month. Speaking to LBC’s Nick Ferrari during a phone-in, Sir Keir, the Labour leader, was asked multiple times whether or not “a woman can have a penis”… Asked by a caller whether it was fair that transgender women were allowed to compete in women’s sports, Sir Keir said it was a matter “for the sporting bodies to decide for themselves”, acknowledging that there were “difficult questions”.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: “Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge”. Johnson’s Vince Vaughan advice to the Cabinet about how to tackle trans.

Newslinks for Monday 28th March 2022

28 Mar

Johnson’s UK energy strategy stalls as the Chancellor opposes greater spending commitments…

“Boris Johnson’s promised energy security strategy has been delayed again, as chancellor Rishi Sunak continues to hold out against big new spending commitments. Sunak, under fierce pressure to do more to help families through the cost of living crisis, has told colleagues he wants to turn off the spending taps and that every “marginal pound” should go towards tax cuts. His tough stance has put the brakes on the energy strategy, which was originally due for publication last week and then again at the start of this week. Officials close to the process said they did not expect an announcement this week and that April 4, during the Easter parliamentary recess, was now the earliest date.” – The Financial Times 

  • Fears of protests at the Prime Minister’s plans for “stadium-sized” nuclear power plants built near homes – The Sun 
  • Zahawi hints further help may be on its way for struggling families – The Guardian
  • Sunak continues to mull a council tax rebate – Daily Express
  • Can the Chancellor hold down spending until 2024? – Editorial, The Times
  • Sunak just cannot understand the nation’s pain – Editorial, Daily Express
  • The Chancellor is being very un-Conservative by putting up taxes for millions – Ruth Sunderland, The Daily Mail 
>Today:
>Yesterday:

…as he joins Zahawi in pledging help for pupils in an effort to improve GCSE grades

“Boris Johnson has promised parents that pupils falling behind at school will get help, as the education secretary said that driving up GCSE grades would boost the economy by £30 billion. Nadhim Zahawi will set his first schools white paper before parliament today but headteachers criticised the “parent pledge” and the plans to force schools to join strong academy trusts. All schools will be expected to teach a minimum 32.5-hour week by next year. Zahawi also wants to raise the average GCSE attainment by one grade. Any schools with persistent low standards that shun recommended measures such as tutoring to help to improve numeracy and literacy could face critical Ofsted reports.” – The Times

  • The Education Secretary urges teachers to ‘exercise restraint’ in the face of rising inflation – The Daily Mail
  • Ambition of all schools in England attaining academy status by 2030 – The Financial Times
  • Zahawi also justifies Sir Gavin Williamson’s knighthood – The Daily Mail
  • Universities and local government organisations raise fears for EU-funded UK training schemes post-Brexit – The Financial Times
>Today:
>Yesterday:

 Patel ‘could be sacked’ after a failure to end the Channel migrant crisis

“The PM is considering a summer reshuffle to freshen up his top team, with the embattled Home Sec at the top of his hit list according to insiders. Allies of Levelling Up Sec Michael Gove are touting him as a possible replacement, which could happen as early as June. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is also in line for the promotion after impressing during the Ukraine crisis. Red Wall MPs are increasingly frustrated at the crossings, which have already topped 4,000 this year, four times as many as 2021… An ally of the Home Secretary hit back at the rumours saying: “She’s in this bizarre predicament where Priti is taking all the blame for something happening and able to be stopped by another country. “Hopefully after the French elections we get somewhere with them.”” – The Sun

  • The Home Secretary to announce national register of domestic abusers – The Daily Mail
  • Will we ever end the illegal migrant invasion of our beaches? – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Refugee charity attacks UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme – The Guardian
  • It may be time to dismantle the ‘useless’ Home Office and start again – Editorial, The Sun
  • Refugee red tape is a farce – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph 

Ukraine 1) Biden denies having called for regime change in Russia following previous unscripted remark

“[Efforts] at peace came as Joe Biden tried to limit the fallout from his controversial statement at the weekend that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power”. When asked on Sunday if he wanted to see Putin removed from office in Russia he said simply “no”. The president’s original comments were swiftly walked back by both the White House and the secretary of state, Antony Blinken, who insisted the US did not have “a strategy of regime change in Russia – or anywhere else”. The UK, Germany and France also distanced themselves from Biden’s apparently unplanned remark.” – The Guardian

  • Macron warns against ‘verbal escalation’ – The Times
  • Boris Johnson is doing more to help than the French President – The Daily Telegraph 
  • This conflict will drive more countries to acquire nuclear weapons – Ian Birrell, The I
  • Russia’s war risks plunging us into a recession – Roger Bootle, The Daily Telegraph
  • The President’s ‘verbal blunders’ raise important questions about his leadership, fitness, and stamina – Editorial, The Times
  • The President’s loose talk is dangerous – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph 
  • It’s Biden losing his marbles, not Putin – Dominic Lawson, The Daily Mail
  • This should focus Western minds on what the real endgame looks like – Editorial, The Guardian
  • Putin’s fate is beyond our control – Tim Stanley, The Daily Telegraph 
>Yesterday:

Ukraine 2) Putin plans to partition Ukraine, warns top intelligence official

“Russia is seeking to split Ukraine in two, mirroring the partition of the Korean peninsula into North and South Korea, Kyiv’s top military intelligence officer said yesterday. Brigadier General Kyrylo Budanov warned that President Putin’s failure to capture the capital and overthrow the Zelensky government could mean he will try to cut his losses. “There are reasons to believe he may try to impose a separation line between the occupied and unoccupied regions The warning came as peace talks were set to resume in Turkey this week after Russia signalled a change of strategy, claiming to have switched its focus to “liberating” Ukraine’s south and east. Ukrainian troops have begun pushing back Russian forces from their stalled assault on the capital.” – The Times

  • Ukraine will discuss neutrality as part of a peace deal, but a referendum is required, says Zelensky – The Irish Times
  • Erdogan calls for a ceasefire – The Daily Mail
  • Zelensky ‘looking for peace without delay’ as talks resume… – The Guardian
  • …as he begs the West for more military hardware – The Daily Mail
  • Russian forces attempting to encircle Ukrainian forces in the east, says Ministry of Defence – The I
  • Ukraine ‘will not be silent’ about the ‘horror’ of rapes committed during Russia’s invasion, according to a politician in the country – The Scotsman
  • Defeat in Ukraine will be curtains for Russia – Edward Lucas, The Times
>Today:

Shapps warns P&O Ferries it will be banned from British ports unless the rehires staff and reforms pay policy

“Grant Shapps, UK transport secretary, is to tell P&O Ferries to rehire the 800 staff it sacked this month as its plan to replace them with very low-paid workers is doomed because a law will soon ban the practice. Shapps will tell Peter Hebblethwaite, the company’s chief executive, that the legislation, to be outlined this week, will require all ferry companies operating out of UK ports to pay the national minimum wage. An aide to the transport secretary said Shapps “will tell Hebblethwaite that if he doesn’t perform a U-turn, we will force him to do it anyway. We hope they will see reason and step back. We will make it impossible for ferry companies to operate from UK ports without paying the national minimum wage.” The company, which fired 800 workers this month without formal consultation, wants to halve its labour costs by replacing crews with international agency staff on an average hourly rate of £5.50.”  – The Financial Times

  • The Transport Secretary has ‘no plans’ for crisis talks – The I
  • We must play dirty with P&O – Huw Merriman MP, The Times

Leading Conservative councillors predict gains in May local elections, despite economic hardship

“Conservative leaders insist they are on track for strong results in local elections across England, predicting they will seize control of one of Labour’s longest-held councils, despite many admitting more should be done to ease the “nightmare” of soaring bills…However, Tory leaders outside London said they did not believe the party would be punished at the polls on 5 May, when local elections take place in England, Wales and Scotland. Elections for the Northern Ireland assembly will take place on the same day. Tory strategists have set their sights on taking control of Sunderland city council for the first time in its 48-year history, in what would represent a headline-grabbing victory for Boris Johnson and a serious blow for Keir Starmer.” – The Guardian

Hancock: We must change the way we treat dyslexics like me

“To be a politician is to have a thick skin. But even after nearly a decade in the public eye, Matt Hancock felt unable to reveal that he had dyslexia for fear that he would derail his career. “Shame is the right word, actually. I had a practical worry that I wouldn’t get on in my career and then I had an emotional barrier to talking about it which was shame,” he told The Telegraph. Not long after, however, following encouragement from a colleague, the former health and culture secretary came out publicly as dyslexic. Four years on from that decision, Mr Hancock is now on a campaign to change the way Britain sees those with dyslexia.” – The Daily Telegraph

Miller justifies Online Safety Bill by describing her experience of being ‘cyber-flashed’

“A Conservative MP who was cyber-flashed while on a busy train to London revealed she has become accustomed to a ‘regular bombardment of online verbal abuse, rape, and even death threats’. Basingstoke MP Maria Miller, 57, recalled the moment she received an unsolicited explicit image without consent of a man’s genitalia by someone she was sharing a packed train with to Waterloo station. The 57-year-old also hailed the Online Safety Bill, which was introduced in Parliament last week and called it ‘a ground-breaking piece of legislation’ that will ‘hold tech giants to account for the first time’.” – The Daily Mail

Khan’s City Hall ‘tried to gag Cressida Dick’, and to prevent her from receiving compensation

“City Hall wanted to stop Dame Cressida Dick from speaking out publicly about her leadership of the Metropolitan Police while the London mayor tried to prevent her from getting a penny in compensation, The Times has learnt. Negotiations between Dick and Sadiq Khan over her departure are understood to have become “extremely acrimonious” over the prospect of a gagging clause and the size of her payout. The parties have been trying to broker a deal for six weeks since Dick resigned when Khan withdrew his confidence in the wake of a series of officer scandals involving misogyny, racism and corruption.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Putin’s useful German idiots – Matthew Karnitschnig, Politico 
  • Schools white paper to include Maths and English targets – Brendan Jeffreys, BBC 
  • Volodymyr Zelensky in his own words – Zanny Minton Beddoes, Ollie Carroll, and Arkady Ostrovsky, The Economist 
  • Could Biden gaffe us into World War Three? – Freddy Gray, The Spectator 
  • The heroic failure of Cumbernauld – Daniel Kalder, UnHerd 

Newslinks for Sunday 27th March 2022

27 Mar

Ukraine 1) Biden says Putin must go. But demand “is not official US policy”

“Joe Biden appeared to call for regime change in Russia, as he said that Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” in a highly charged speech in Warsaw. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” the US president said, as he urged democracies around the world to unite against the Russian president in a speech in Poland’s capital littered with historical references to war in Europe. The Kremlin issued a furious response, as critics accused Mr Biden of playing into Putin’s hands. The White House immediately sought to clarify Mr Biden’s comments, insisting his statement should not be taken as official policy.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Farce as White House issues clarification – Sunday Times
  • Explosions hit western city of Lviv – BBC
  • Sadiq Khan won’t take in refugees – Sunday Express
  • Why are so many Russian troops being killed? – Sunday Times

Ukraine 2) Truss insists that sanctions can only lifted after Russia withdraws completely

“In an interview with The Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary set out a blueprint for the so-called “off ramp” that the Russian president could be offered to halt his assault on Ukraine. Ms Truss – who revealed that she has established a “negotiations unit” in the Foreign Office to aid future peace talks – said sanctions on Russian banks, firms and oligarchs could be lifted in the event of “a full ceasefire and withdrawal”. Putin would also have to agree to refrain from future military aggression, with the threat of “snapback sanctions” which could instantly be slapped back onto Russia.” – Sunday Telegraph

Ukraine 3) Lawson: We should not be saving Putin’s face

“The most sensible approach for the West, whether through financial sanctions or lethal aid, is to do everything short of becoming active combatants to bring about a Ukrainian victory. That is not just a morally clear policy. It also embodies the hard-headed “realism” that those advocating “face-saving” deals for Russia claim as their justification. For, if the Ukrainian people are themselves prepared to endure this terrible war for months longer, it will also continue the savage depletion of Putin’s military — to the great benefit of other nations threatened by Russia’s imperial aspirations. It is horrible, but necessary.” – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

  • The death of the peace dividend will turn the West upside down – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph

Braverman calls for Article16 to be triggered “without delay”

“The Attorney General has been among senior Tories privately pushing for the Government to trigger Article 16 without delay, The Telegraph can disclose, as a Conservative election expert said Sinn Fein was on course to win control of the Northern Ireland executive within weeks. Suella Braverman and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Brexit opportunities minister, are understood to have been privately pressing for Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, to trigger the mechanism that would allow ministers to override parts of the post-Brexit agreement with the EU. Mrs Braverman is said to have provided formal legal advice stating that Article 16 can and should be triggered by the UK.” – Sunday Telegraph

Sunak “plans further Council Tax rebate”

“The chancellor is considering proposals for a new council tax rebate after his spring statement failed to allay panic in No 10 over the spiralling cost-of-living crisis. Rishi Sunak is already weighing up another multibillion-pound package to help shield households from a further surge in fuel bills this autumn. The energy price cap will jump from about £1,300 to nearly £2,000 on Friday and could rise again to £3,000 in October. It is only days since Sunak announced a package of tax and duty cuts that was widely dismissed as too limited and underestimating the scale of the problem facing households. No 10 is becoming increasingly alarmed about the effects of inflation, particularly with the May local elections looming.” – Sunday Times

  • I know people are deeply ­anxious about making ends meet – Rishi Sunak, The Sun on Sunday
  • How the Chancellor lost his shine – Tim Shipman, Sunday Times
  • He has missed a chance to alleviate Britain’s energy crisis – Leader, Sunday Telegraph
  • Sunak is a fiscal magician. Shame it’s more Tommy Cooper than Houdini. – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday
  • This punitive money-grab is so very unTory – Jeff Prestridge, Mail on Sunday
  • Don’t whinge now. You should have stopped the Chancellor two years ago – Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday
  • Curtis concludes that Sunak’s leadership chances have taken a hit – Sunday Express

Government “to take 20 per cent stake in new nuclear power plant”

“The government plans to take a 20% stake in a £20bn large-scale nuclear plant at Sizewell, the BBC has learned. French developer EDF will also take a 20% stake in the Suffolk power station. Ministers hope the confirmation of two cornerstone investors will encourage infrastructure investors and pension funds to take up the remaining 60%. Sizewell C is a key part of the new UK energy strategy, anticipated this week. However, no decision is expected yet on the future of Wylfa, in north Wales.” – BBC

Zahawi will ensure schools deliver a minimum of 32.5 hours a week

“Schools in England will have to offer a minimum school week of 32.5 hours as part of a package of reforms aimed at raising standards, which Labour and unions have condemned as insufficient to support schools that have been left “battered and bruised” by the pandemic. Most schools already deliver a 32.5 hour school week, which is equivalent to 8.45am to 3.15pm from Monday to Friday. However, the government believes there are discrepancies across the country, since 20 minutes less teaching time a day equates to a loss of two weeks of schooling a year.” – The Observer

  • Schools in Wales still face chaos from Covid, teachers warn – BBC
  • All children, especially ones with special needs, deserve good education – Will Quince, Sunday Express
  • Closing the schools during the pandemic was a “mistake” – Interview with Nadhim Zahawi, Mail on Sunday

Labour wooing “high value” donors to ease cash crisis

“Sir Keir Starmer is attempting to secure new funds from the daughter of Tony Blair’s biggest donor as he seeks to turn around Labour’s finances before the next election. The Labour leader is in “tentative discussions” with Fran Perrin about a substantial donation that he hopes will build the party’s “war chest” and help it level the playing field with the Conservatives. Perrin, 43, is the daughter of Lord Sainsbury of Turville, a member of the supermarket chain dynasty who donated £10.6 million to Labour over a decade before cutting ties under Jeremy Corbyn.” – Sunday Times

  • Margaret Beckett will retire at next election after 40 years as MP for Derby South – The Observer

Hancock: We don’t need another lockdown

“While we’ve all been enjoying the start of spring without restrictions for the first time in three years, these last few weeks Covid-19 infections have started rising across the UK. People see this and ask me: are we going to need another lockdown? My answer is an emphatic ‘no’. As we look back on two years since the first lockdown, I’m confident we have done all we can to protect people.” – Matt Hancock, Mail on Sunday

  • New Omicron wave ‘has already peaked’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Goodbye, Coronavirus Act. We won’t miss you – Steve Baker, Sunday Express

Hannan: The Bank of England is to blame for inflation

“British ministers can do very little about higher food and fuel prices. Nor can they do anything about the Bank of England’s frenetic money printing. Monetary policy was taken out of the hands of politicians in 1997; and, in any case, the damage has already been done. The Bank of England has doubled the scope of quantitative easing since March 2020, buying £875 billion of government bonds while blandly assuring us that there would be no inflationary consequences. It is too late to complain about any of that now – though this column complained vocally at the time. Still, if politicians can do little about rising commodity prices or the quantity of money in circulation, they can at least mitigate the damage.” – Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph

News in brief

  • Why Russian tactics won’t win the war – Justin Brink, The Spectator
  • Imposing the ideals of the woke left on businesses is bad for Britain, and the world – Shanker Singham, CapX
  • I see no clause in the Protocol which says the UK Parliament cannot change taxes in Northern Ireland if it wishes – John Redwood
  • A bad week at BBC News – The Article
  • Sunak vs Truss: the leadership contest goes on despite the war – John Rentoul, Independent

Newslinks for Friday 25th March 2022

25 Mar

Johnson’s call for tanks a ‘red line’ that Nato won’t cross, says Macron

“Boris Johnson is trying to persuade Nato allies to supply tanks to Ukraine in a move that has put him at odds with President Macron. President Zelensky asked Nato yesterday for hundreds of tanks and jets during a video address to the Nato summit in Brussels, saying his country needed them to survive. He said he wanted only 1 per cent of Nato’s tanks and jets and said “we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who has sold us out and betrayed us”. Johnson said that while Britain wanted to help there were “logistical” problems. He wants allies nearer Ukraine to provide armoured vehicles. However, Macron ruled out supplying tanks and planes because of concerns that doing so could drag Nato into direct conflict with Russia.” – The Times

  • Chemical weapon use would be ‘catastrophic’ for Russia, says Prime Minister – The Guardian
  • Zelensky urges EU to do more against Russia as leaders debate energy curbs – FT

More:

  • Sturgeon uses Ukraine war to make ‘tasteless’ new case for Scottish independence – Daily Telegraph
  • She said that Vladimir Putin’s invasion ‘cast new light on the realities of Brexit’ – Daily Mail

Around 40,000 have applied to take in a Ukrainian refugee, according to Johnson

“Around 40,000 people have so far applied to take at least one Ukrainian refugee into their home under the Government’s sponsorship scheme. Boris Johnson revealed that 40,000 of the 150,000 people who registered an interest had applied, suggesting that just over a quarter may have been able to match with a Ukrainian refugee. Britons seeking to give refuge to Ukrainians with no family links to the UK have had to find a match under their own steam – through social media sites such as Facebook, newly-created websites connecting people with refugees, charitable organisations and other bodies… Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary, said last week that he expected the first refugees to arrive as early as last Sunday or Monday this week, and forecast potentially thousands coming through the scheme.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Transport Secretary will host Ukrainian refugee family of three and Max the dog – The Times

Sunak not a tax-cutter, say Tories in Spring Statement backlash…

“Rishi Sunak “is not a tax-cutting chancellor”, Conservative MPs have said amid a backlash over his Spring Statement. MPs from across the party criticised Mr Sunak over the increasing tax burden, his failure to protect families from rising inflation and his decision to spend no extra money on defence after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Wednesday’s Spring Statement increased the repayment thresholds for National Insurance Contributions (NICs), but did not scrap the 1.25 percentage point rate rise announced at the October Budget to pay for spending on the NHS and social care. “I think he should have completely scrapped the NICs levy,” one former Cabinet minister told The Telegraph on Thursday night.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor dubbed ‘the illusionist’ claims to cut taxes as burden increases – The Times
  • Tax savings offset by changes to student loan repayments – FT
  • Sunak’s ‘tax cuts’ set to cost wealthy £3,000 a year – The Times

…as he faces Cabinet revolt over spending levels…

“Rishi Sunak has been hit by a huge Cabinet revolt over bloated Government spending levels. Senior figures demand action to curb inflation and warn the Chancellor he risks a return to the 1970s if the crisis is not addressed. Mr Sunak, at a heated Cabinet meeting on Wednesday to sign off his Spring Statement plans, was confronted with demands to ditch last October’s three-year Spending Review. The massive cash hike saw the NHS budget rocket to £180billion a year, with an additional £150billion of spending across Whitehall. Policing Minister Kit Malthouse led the charge this week, suggesting the Spending Review be “reopened” in light of the fallout from the Ukraine war and soaring inflation.” – The Sun

…and promises more cost of living support after backlash

“Rishi Sunak has suggested he will bring forward more measures to tackle the cost of living crisis after he faced accusations of not doing enough to help struggling families in his Spring Statement. The Chancellor said in the immediate aftermath of his fiscal address on Wednesday that he could not “solve every problem”. But speaking to Sky News late last night, Mr Sunak said he has “always been responsive to the situation” and “will continue to be responsive to the situation” amid fears the pressure on household finances will only grow in the coming months. Mr Sunak used his Spring Statement to raise the threshold at which people start paying National Insurance and to pledge a 1p cut on the basic rate of income tax by 2024.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Downing Street denies rumours of Treasury rift over help for families – Daily Mail
  • Sunak slammed over rising costs as over 1.3m to be forced into ‘absolute poverty’ – Daily Express

James Forsyth: Tories should be terrified of high inflation

“On Wednesday, ahead of the spring statement, cabinet discussed the cost of living squeeze. As this paper revealed, both Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, and Jacob Rees-Mogg… argued for tighter spending to avoid fuelling inflation further. The prime minister was uncomfortable with this analysis: he’s acutely aware of how many big spending initiatives he has committed to, with bills yet to arrive. After that meeting, one minister observed that it was all right for Rees-Mogg to argue for spending restraint: he has no department to run. It’s harder for health, education, levelling up and other departments facing huge cost crunches. They have been told that there will be no more money to cope with inflation: if they face rising costs (or wage demands) they’ll have to make savings elsewhere.” – The Times

  • Alas poor Rishi, in charge of fixing the unfixable – Merryn Somerset Webb, FT

Shapps calls for ‘brazen’ P&O Ferries boss to quit ‘right now’

“Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today demanded that the millionaire boss of P&O Ferries resign after his ‘brazen’, ‘arrogant’ and ‘breathtaking’ admission in Parliament yesterday that he broke the law by sacking 800 workers without notice. Peter Hebblethwaite, who is paid £325,000 to run the firm and lives in a plush £1.5million Cotswold farmhouse, told Members of Parliament during a dramatic joint evidence session that he ‘would do it again’ and called the new workers’ £5.50 hourly wage ‘competitive’. Outraged MPs branded the disgraced boss a ‘shameless criminal’ and called on him to quit, calling his position ‘untenable’, and fuelled calls for a criminal prosecution. Boris Johnson has repeatedly threatened to impose potentially unlimited fines ‘running into millions of pounds’ if the operator were found to have broken any British laws.” – Daily Mail

  • Boss admits firm broke law by sacking staff without consultation – The Guardian

Government preparing to override Northern Ireland on abortion services

“The UK government is taking legal steps to override the Northern Ireland executive and directly instruct the nation’s health trusts to provide abortion services, saying it will “take the necessary powers” to directly commission services if urgent progress is not made. The secretary for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, set out the UK government’s legislative options in strong language on Thursday, after it became “increasingly clear” that the Northern Ireland Department of Health (NI DoH) will miss the end of March deadline to fully commission abortion services in the country. Lewis said in a written ministerial statement that planned regulations would “remove the need for executive committee approval before services can be commissioned”, which has been a major obstacle to the provision of abortions.” – The Guardian

Grade appointed Ofcom chair after lengthy search

Shield“Boris Johnson has turned to broadcasting veteran Lord Michael Grade to chair UK media regulator Ofcom, capping a protracted appointments process marred by hold-ups and claims of political interference. Grade, who has run ITV and Channel 4 and also chaired the BBC, was announced as the government’s preferred choice for the £142,000-a-year job on Thursday. The announcement comes months after former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, the prime minister’s favoured candidate, pulled out of the running. Grade will now face a pre-appointment hearing with the House of Commons culture committee. The appointment, initially recommended by culture secretary Nadine Dorries, was approved by Johnson.” – FT

  • Charity Commission chair candidate says he will not be dragged into ‘culture wars’ – The Guardian

Newslinks for Wednesday 23rd March 2022

23 Mar

Ukraine 1) Russians forced to retreat from key areas as Biden warns they could use chemical weapons

“Russian forces have been beaten back in several areas as Ukrainian troops launched a valiant fightback to regain key slices of territory across their country. The Ukrainians deployed devastating hit-and-run tactics against enemy tanks, while some of the Kremlin’s ill-prepared forces suffered frostbite and could no longer fight, according to US officials. With Russian casualties mounting, Vladimir Putin has his “back against the wall”, according to Joe Biden, the US president, and could resort to using biological or chemical weapons.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Russian warships begin shelling Mariupol – The Times
  • Journalists resign from Kremlin state media – The Times
  • The Russian army has run out of time – Richard Kemp, Daily Telegraph
  • Thousands of children being deported – The i
  • Truth is a casualty of Putin’s war – Leader, The Guardian

>Today:

Ukraine 2) Germany and France have failed to send promised supplies

“Ukraine has said it is fast running out of the weapons it needs to destroy Russian aircraft and tanks and urged Germany and France to honour their pledges and send more arms. The defending forces are far surpassing western expectations by stalling the Russians’ advance and preventing them from taking key cities. Western officials said that Ukraine was “obviously expending a lot of ordnance”, and more than anticipated. They had expected to be supporting a more limited insurgency by this stage.” – The Times

  • Putin’s war threatens millions with hunger – Leader, Financial Times
  • Biden’s apathetic approach to Putin is alienating America’s allies – Nile Gardiner, Daily Telegraph
  • US President has yet to show true leadership – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Credible deterrence – Leader, The Times
  • Johnson urges India to abandon neutral stance – Daily Mail

Chancellor “to keep” most of the windfall from public finances to reduce borrowing

“Rishi Sunak is planning to set aside a large part of a windfall in UK public finances this year, risking a backlash from Tory MPs who want the chancellor to use all funds available to cushion the cost of living crisis hurting British families. The official forecasts in the Spring Statement will show the deficit is at least £20bn better than expected this year, but Sunak will use only some of the money to help households facing soaring gas, electricity, and fuel bills. Sunak will instead highlight the importance of “more resilient public finances” as he worries about a surge in the cost of servicing government debt instead of spending the entire windfall. He is set to say he will “stand by” families, with a cut in fuel tax expected to be part of new measures he will announce.” – Financial Times

  • Inflation hit 6.2 per cent, the highest for 30 years – BBC
  • Don’t roll the drums for big financial drama at lunchtime – Laura Kuenssberg, BBC
  • One of the biggest tax-raising chancellors in history – Daily Mail
  • Sunak to promise “security for working families” with a fuel duty cut – The Guardian
  • Here’s the budget speech he should give – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Sunak says he wants to cut taxes, but he keeps raising them – Patrick Minford, Daily Express
  • Triple whammy of tax rises set to cost every adult £1,000 a year extra – Daily Telegraph
  • Taxing jobs as we face a cost of living crisis is the economics of the madhouse – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • Abandon the National Insurance rise – Leader, Daily Mail
  • A Labour chancellor would reduce energy bills, not raise taxes – James Murray, The Times
  • Sunak should prize more the value of ideas – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
  • Levelling up chief warns inflation will make tackling inequalities harder – Financial Times

>Yesterday: Joe Shalam on Think Tanks: Sunak must mount a three-pronged attack to skewer the loan sharks

Cabinet “split” over proposal to ease planning restrictions on wind farms

“Boris Johnson’s cabinet is split over proposals to ease planning rules in England to enable more onshore wind farms, sources have told the BBC. Ministers are next week due to set out plans to produce more energy in the UK to tackle spiralling household bills. Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is in favour of loosening planning regulations to make it easier to approve plans for more onshore wind. But the BBC has been told other cabinet ministers strongly oppose the plans.” – BBC

Countries are “queuing up” to do trade deals, Trevelyan claims

“Countries are “queuing up” round the block to do a trade deal with Brexit Britain, the Trade Supremo Anne-Marie Trevelyan has declared. Her upbeat assessment comes as the UK kickstarts formal trade talks with Canada on Thursday.The Commonwealth giant is just one of eight countries and trading blocs she wants to ink an accord with over the next couple of years. The buoyant minister said Israel, India, Mexico, Greenland and the US are all also eager to do a deal.” – The Sun

  • US rolls back Trump-era tariffs on UK steel – BBC

Pursglove agrees to meet Tory rebels who want to asylum seekers to be allowed to work

“Tom Pursglove, the junior migration minister, said the powers to prosecute and jail people who arrive by unofficial means, such as on a small boat across the Channel, would only be used in “egregious cases”, such as someone entering the country in breach of a deportation order. Tory rebels did claim a slight victory after Pursglove agreed to meet them to discuss ideas to allow all asylum seekers to more easily access work, as is already the case for those from Ukraine and Afghanistan. This was welcomed by Robert Buckland, the former lord chancellor, who was among more than 60 Tory MPs and peers who signed a letter backing a change, saying he hoped to reach “a mutually agreeable solution” with the government over the issue.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: James Bethell on Comment: The Government should drop the ban on asylum seekers working

Truss orders “radical review” of development strategy

“A “radical” review of the Government’s international development strategy will see women and girls prioritised over global health and climate change, The Telegraph has been told. Liz Truss has ordered changes in the way the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) spends aid funding, prompting concerns from her own officials and more than 200 British NGOs. Sources familiar with the review say she is planning a “radical shift of strategy” in the department and fear spending on climate change, health and conflict prevention will be curtailed in favour of new priorities, while other staff are concerned they will lose their jobs.” – Daily Telegraph

Eustice warns of increase in price of chicken

“Chickens are set to skyrocket in price amid the war in Ukraine, the Environment Secretary has warned. George Eustice warned the price of chicken in the UK will spike as a result of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, as Russia’s invasion puts pressure on supply chains around the world. Speaking at the Food and Drink Federation’s annual conference on Tuesday, Mr Eustice said the price of wheat, which the poultry sector uses for its chicken feed, had already doubled as a result of Russia’s invasion.” – Daily Express

  • Government “considering delaying new regulation” to minimise increases in shopping bills – The Times

Housebulders hit back at Gove

“The housebuilding industry has written to Michael Gove after the housing secretary described leading developers as a “cartel” and criticised their approach to protecting the environment…Speaking to the Conservative Environment Network recently, Gove said he is “not particularly popular with developers” at the moment given that he is pushing them to spend billions fixing the nation’s dangerous cladding…Stewart Baseley, the chief executive of the Home Builders Federation, the industry body, wrote to Gove today expressing his “considerable concern” about the use of the word “cartel”, which he said was “entirely unfounded” and implies that housebuilders are engaging in uncompetitive and illegal practices.” – The Times

Labour MP accused of “abandoning women’s rights”

“Olympic medallist Sharron Davies has accused a Labour MP of ‘abandoning’ women’s rights after she defended a transgender swimmer. Former women’s and equalities spokesman Charlotte Nichols said it was ‘lazy transphobia’ to criticise Lia Thomas who became the first transgender athlete to win a US college championship. Miss Thomas, 22, who competed as a man until three years ago, is now just one step away from the Olympics after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle last Thursday.” – Daily Mail

  • SNP costs taxpayers £150,000 after failed attempt to ‘redefine’ women to include transgender people – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Columnist Andy Street: The Commonwealth Games will leave a Levelling Up legacy for the West Midlands

Court to challenge to “government by WhatsApp”

“Boris Johnson gets details of vital government business sent to him via WhatsApp, court papers have revealed. The material, from the PM’s ministerial “red box”, is sent to his phone for “administrative ease”, officials say, and does not break the rules. But campaigners challenging “government by WhatsApp” in the High Court say it is a security risk. They claim the use of insecure apps and message deletion by ministers and officials is “rampant”. Campaigning law groups the Good Law Project and Foxglove are challenging the government’s use of such services in the High Court, saying that it breaks the law on keeping public records.” – BBC

News in brief

  • Will Sunak stick to his ‘golden rule’? – Kate Andrews, The Spectator
  • Wrong forecasts misdirect policy – John Redwood
  • Badenoch is forging a winning, conservative approach to tackling racial disparities – Frank Young, CapX
  • Why Israel won’t join anti-Russia sanctions – Harry Clynch, Unherd
  • Education in Scotland needs a focus on knowledge and discipline – Murdo Fraser, The Scotsman

Newslinks for 22nd March 2022

22 Mar

Johnson discusses the war in Ukraine with President Biden, Chancellor Scholz, and others…

“Moscow insists on a guarantee that Ukraine never be admitted to NATO, an organisation created to protect Europe from the threat of the Soviet Union at the start of the Cold War. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has expanded to include countries on Russia’s borders.  This comes as a number of international leaders have held a series of talks, but no substantive solution to the conflict has emerged from that dialogue. Yesterday Mr Zelensky spoke with Israeli legislators via video link, thanking Israel for its efforts to broker talks with Russia. US President Joe Biden, who travels to Europe this week to attend a summit with NATO leaders, discussed the war with politicians including Boris Johnson, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy today. Mr Biden and NATO have said repeatedly that while they will provide weapons and other defensive support to non-NATO member Ukraine, they are determined to avoid any escalation that risks a broader war with Russia.” – The Daily Mail

  • Dowden claims the Prime Minister is “desperate” to visit Ukraine – The Guardian
  • Johnson ‘snubbed’ by lack of invite to a European Council meeting – Daily Express
  • Holocaust survivor killed in shelling – The Daily Mail
  • Zelensky suggests a referendum for a future peace deal – Daily Express
  • Dowden claims the Prime Minister is “desperate” to visit Ukraine – The Guardian
  • Former Finnish PM accuses Johnson of being in ‘Brexit La La Land’ – Daily Express
  • Trump insists this would not have happened under his watch – The Daily Mail
  • Biden fears cyber-attacks – Daily Express
  • Putin’s superyacht faces seizure – The Daily Telegraph
  • Ukrainian protestors try to block Abramovich’s yacht – Daily Express
Comment:
  • Ukraine can be neutral but it cannot be defenceless – William Hague, The Times
  • Biden must stop insulting Britain – Arlene Foster, Daily Express
  • We must back Ukraine all the way – Editorial, The Sun
  • NATO must get tough to stop Putin – Norman Baker, The Daily Mail
  • Johnson must show Brexit hasn’t weakened the West – Hugo Rifkind, The Times
  • Wokery has sapped us of our power to fight evil – Sherelle Jacobs, The Daily Telegraph

>Today:

…as he is challenged by new Kabul animal evacuation evidence

“Boris Johnson personally authorised the airlift of staff from a former UK serviceman’s Kabul-based animal charity when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital city last year, according to a British government whistleblower. Josie Stewart, a senior official at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office who previously worked on the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, said there was “extensive evidence”, including internal emails, that showed the decision to prioritise the evacuation of Pen Farthing’s Nowzad charity came from the prime minister. Another whistleblower who used to work for the FCDO has claimed Johnson intervened to airlift Nowzad’s animals from Kabul, and that pleas for help from thousands of desperate Afghans seeking to flee the Taliban were ignored…In seven pages of written testimony to the committee, Stewart said it was “widespread knowledge” in the FCDO’s Afghanistan crisis centre that “the decision on Nowzad’s Afghan staff came from the prime minister”.” – The Financial Times

  • Donaldson claims the Prime Minister threw Northern Ireland ‘under the bus’ – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Nikki da Costa in Columnists: The proposed restructuring of Number Ten risks mistaking a personnel problem for a structural one

The Chancellor urged to focus his Spring Statement on rising living costs 

“Boris Johnson has told Rishi Sunak that his Spring Statement on Wednesday must prove that the government is on the side of people struggling with the crisis in the cost of living. The prime minister’s edict will reinforce expectations that Sunak will cut taxes on fuel, with speculation of either a temporary reduction in VAT or 5p coming off fuel duty to offset high prices at the pumps. The chancellor is also under pressure to soften his planned £12bn national insurance rise, intended to raise money to clear an NHS treatment backlog and to fund social care, or to cut other taxes. One ally of Johnson said: “The prime minister is acutely aware of the pressure on people’s household budgets. He has made it clear to the chancellor we should be on their side.”…Sunak’s team say the chancellor has been making those points himself ahead of the Spring Statement and that he has a record of helping people in difficulties, notably over Covid.” – The Financial Times

  • Cheap loans for heat pumps and other energy efficiency measures to be offered – The Times
  • Cost of servicing Britain’s national debt set to soar – The Daily Mail
  • Sunak forced to spend more on debt interest than on schools – The Sun
  • Toll roads could be introduced to balance fuel duty cuts – The Times
  • Shadow Business Secretary calls for Sunak to focus on energy bills – Daily Express
  • Hope that the worst off may escape the National Insurance increase – The Sun
Comment:

>Today: Gerard Lyons in Columnists: Sunak’s task tomorrow. The best way of reducing the deficit is to go for growth. 

>Yesterday:

Truss fears France and Germany will offer Putin too easy a way out

“Britain is concerned that France and Germany will offer President Putin an “easy off-ramp” as they push for further peace talks with Russia. Ministers have become increasingly concerned about bilateral discussions between President Macron and Putin. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, warned at the weekend that peace talks were a “smokescreen” for Putin while his forces commit further “appalling atrocities”. She is concerned that there will be a repeat of the Minsk agreement in 2014 after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, when Germany and France played a leading role in talks. A government source said: “Any negotiations with Russia should come from a position of utmost strength. The G7 needs to stay united. There should be no easy off-ramp for Putin. We shouldn’t be in the business of making early concessions. We need to be tough to get peace.” – The Times

  • Russia threatens to cut ties with the US after Biden calls Putin ‘a war criminal’ – The Guardian
  • German Chancellor urged to sanction one of his predecessors – The Times
  • Few signs Ukraine and Russia are nearing peace – The I
Comment:

Gove also targeted by ‘Islamist terrorist’ accused of Sir David Amess’ murder

A “committed terrorist” who “assassinated” Sir David Amess at an Essex church had also staked out Michael Gove’s home, a court heard today. Ali Harbi Ali, 26, is accused of knifing dad-of-five Sir David 21 times with a 12-inch blade as the MP hosted a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea on October 15 last year. The defendant denies murdering the veteran Tory backbencher, as well as a separate charge of preparing acts of terrorism. But prosecutors alleged he’d been planning an atrocity based on his “warped, twisted and violent ideology” for five years – and had also considered other high-profile targets, including Mr Gove and MP Mike Freer. He had even visited Mr Gove’s home address on five separate occasions, and had photos of him exercising and at his door, it was heard.” – The Sun

Coffey confirms that the ‘triple lock’ will remain in place until the next general election

“The state pension ‘triple lock’ will be honoured again until at least the next general election, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said yesterday. She pledged in the Commons last night that the Government would reinstate its commitment on retirement benefit increases from next year. The triple lock ensures that the state pension rises each year in line with whichever is highest out of inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), average earnings, or 2.5 per cent. The policy was suspended for 2022/23 after wage growth spiked as the country emerged from the pandemic. This means that the state pension will rise next month by only 3.1 per cent – far below the rate of inflation, currently running at 5.5 per cent and continuing to rise. But in a move welcomed by pensioner groups, Miss Coffey confirmed yesterday that the Conservative manifesto pledge would not be scrapped for a second year. It means the state pension could rise by more than 7 per cent next year if inflation predictions remain on course.” – The Daily Mail

The Met expands Partygate inquiry to cover more than 100 people

“Detectives have begun to interview “key witnesses” in the partygate affair and have sent questionnaires to more than 100 people about their attendance at events held while coronavirus restrictions were in place. Scotland Yard said it had not yet instigated steps to fine anyone who had attended any of more than 12 parties held in Downing Street and Whitehall during lockdown. However, the force said this afternoon that more than 100 questionnaires had been sent out asking recipients about their involvement. Forms were sent to about 50 people last month, but the Met said the number had been expanded after the initial responses identified more individuals involved in the gatherings. Both Boris Johnson, the prime minister, and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, received forms which asked them to justify their attendance at parties.” – The Times

  • There are ‘bigger fish to fry’, claims Duncan Smith – Daily Express
Comment:

The Health Secretary insists there is no reason to panic as Covid cases and hospital admissions spike

“Covid cases in the UK have soared by a third in a week and daily hospital admissions have hit a two-month high, with the country’s resurgence showing no signs of slowing. Another 226,524 cases were logged on the virus dashboard today, which includes positive swabs logged over the last three days. The figure is 33 per cent higher than that recorded last Monday. And the number of daily admissions among people infected with the virus exceeded 2,000 for the first time since mid-January (2,054). For comparison, daily hospitalisations peaked at around 2,600 during the Omicron wave in December. But just 44 per cent of ‘patients’ in hospital in England are unwell with the virus, with the majority primarily under NHS care for other reasons, such as a hip or knee operation. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the data provides ‘a lot of confidence that we are learning to live with Covid’ and that No10 wasn’t concerned about the uptick, which ministers warned was inevitable once restrictions were eased in England.” – The Daily Mail

  • Javid urges the public to treat the virus ‘like flu’ – The Sun
  • Covid fraud may have cost twice as much as Black Wednesday – The Daily Mail
Comment:

Zaghari-Ratcliffe questions why it took the government so long to get her home

“Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe said her freedom would “never be complete” while others remained unjustly detained in Iran as she questioned why it took six years and five foreign secretaries to free her. Zaghari-Ratcliffe praised her “amazing, wonderful” husband, Richard Ratcliffe, for his tirelessly campaigning at her first press conference since arriving back in Britain, along with her “very, very patient” daughter Gabriella, her families in Iran and Britain, her fellow prisoners, her lawyers and her doctors. But she broke with Ratcliffe over his praise for the role of Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, in securing her release, saying it should never have taken so many years of her life to resolve the outstanding debt that led to her freedom.” – The Times

  • Burt calls for an inquiry into unpaid Iran debt – The Guardian
Comment:
  • The former prison presented a ‘portrait of serenity’ – Quentin Letts, The Times

The Home Secretary’s opponents are accused of being “on the side of criminals”

“Supporters of Priti Patel have branded Tory MPs plotting to vote against her plan to stop small boats “on the side of criminals.” Furious allies of the underfire Home Sec lashed out as record numbers continued to cross the Channel over the weekend. And they took aim at 66 Tory MPs and Lords who wrote to Boris Johnson today to urge him to allow asylum seekers to work if still waiting for a decision. The letter was signed by 29 MPs including former justice minister Sir Robert Buckland…It’s thought around 20 Tory MPs will vote against the Nationality and Borders Bills which the Home Sec has pinned her hopes of tackling the small boat crisis – by blocking asylum claims for people coming from safe countries like France. It also gives her the power to process asylum applications ’off-shore.’” – The Sun

  • ‘Chaotic’ Homes for Ukraine scheme preventing arrivals in the UK – The I
  • Ellwood: Terrorists are using the Ukraine ‘distraction’ to prepare – The Daily Telegraph

Trevelyan claims America set to drop 25% tariffs on British steel

“Washington is poised to abandon punitive tariffs on British steel today as ministers pin their hopes on striking a trade deal before the next election. International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan declared last night that there had ‘definitely’ been a change of approach from Joe Biden, who put talks on the backburner when he entered the White House. In an interview with the Daily Mail, she said that after having no appetite for a deal in January 2021, his administration had ‘leaned in’ to the idea. Mrs Trevelyan, who is on a two-day visit to Baltimore, believes formal negotiations on an agreement may begin by the end of this year, with the expectation that they could be completed within 18 months. In a boost for trade between the two countries, the US is expected to agree to remove tariffs on British steel and aluminium exports that have been in place since 2018. In return, the UK will drop retaliatory tariffs on American brands such as Harley-Davidson.” – The Daily Mail

Downing Street claims the Kremlin were responsible for prank call to Wallace

“A video of defence secretary Ben Wallace being duped into speaking by phone to an impostor posing as the Ukrainian prime minister was published on Monday – hours after Downing Street said it believed Russian state actors were responsible for the hoax. In the short clip, Wallace replies with scepticism and apparent confusion when the caller asks him questions. Earlier, the UK government warned that the impostors were linked to the Kremlin and could release a doctored video of the call with the defence secretary. Wallace tweeted: “Things must be going so badly for the Kremlin that they are now resorting to pranks and video fakes. Not the actions of a confident Government, but then again after the Salisbury Cathedral sightseeing story, anything is possible …”” – The Guardian

Kwarteng wants a nuclear power taskforce to deliver new power stations at “warp speed”

“UK ministers want to replicate the country’s successful Covid-19 vaccine task force to deliver new nuclear power stations at “warp speed”, after Boris Johnson said he wanted atomic power to provide at least a quarter of UK electricity generation by 2050. The UK prime minister told industry leaders on Monday he was “insanely frustrated” with the slow pace at which Britain’s nuclear sector was being developed, according to people at the Downing Street meeting. As part of the plan Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary, is pushing for the creation of a new delivery organisation to end more than a decade of stalled efforts to build a fleet of nuclear power stations. Downing Street and the Treasury have yet to formally endorse the proposal, according to people familiar with the situation.” – The Financial Times

  • Planning controls may be eased to allow for more wind farms – The I

>Yesterday: Anthony Browne MP in Comment: Now is not the time to go slow on Net Zero

Government to unveil new LGBT strategy

“Ministers are working on a comprehensive new strategy to “advance” the rights of LGBT+ people in the country, i understands. The cross-government plan will cover issues like sex work, IVF, veterans and homelessness – as well as specific healthcare for LGBT+ communities – largely across England and Wales. It is due to be announced next month by Equalities Minister Mike Freer, and will be fully launched at the global LGBT conference being hosted in the UK later this year. But it is not clear whether the plan will include new Government funding or be supported through existing departmental budgets. “The big part of the portfolio that Liz [Truss] has asked me to do is […] to work across government,” Mr Freer told i. “Over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about a major domestic piece of work, which covers things like homelessness and sex work, HIV, sexual health IVF.” – The I

  • Freer also wishes to take the heat out of the “toxic” transgender debate – The I 

Conservative MPs write to Nottingham University over cancelled honourary degree for Tony Sewell

“More than 40 Tory MPs have written to the boss of a university to demand it rescinds a decision to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Tony Sewell…Now a group of parliamentarians has written to the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Shearer West, to demand a U-turn. They said the ‘extreme, hasty and regrettable’ decision was all the worse because Nottingham had given honorary degrees to Chinese diplomats who denied Uighur genocide. And they argued that giving Dr Sewell, who was appointed chairman of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities by Boris Johnson in 2020, the honour would help to ‘restore the good name’ of what was once a ‘well-regarded institution’. The letter was signed by 43 MPs – including Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Tory Common Sense group, and Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons education committee – and five lords.” – The Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Stewart Jackson in Comment: Badenoch and Sewell have found a conservative way of viewing ethnicity and culture – and acting on it

News in Brief:

  • Has Zelensky made his first mistake? – Nigel Jones, The Spectator 
  • The fictional world of trans activism – Kathleen Stock, UnHerd 
  • Moral panic over Ukraine risks nuclear war – Andrew Latham, The Critic
  • Gordon Brown has become the SNP’s biggest asset – Henry Hill, Cap X
  • Don’t they know there’s a war on? – Richard Littlejohn, The Daily Mail

Newslinks for Monday 21st March 2022

21 Mar

Prime Minister plans trip to Ukraine capital to show support in war…

“Boris Johnson is considering a lightning trip to Kyiv to show support for Ukraine’s battle against Vladimir Putin. The Prime Minister has asked officials to examine the practicality and value of the trip to the Ukrainian capital for talks with president Volodymyr Zelensky. Security officials are said to be ‘having kittens’ at the prospect of the PM travelling to a war zone; from which ten million have fled, UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi said on Sunday. But a Whitehall source said Mr Johnson ‘wants to go’ if it can be made to work… But the situation last night in Kyiv showed how difficult it would be to ensure the Prime Minister’s safety if he does visit. Mayor Vitali Klitschko shared pictures of what appeared to be an explosion in the distance in the city’s Podil district.” – Daily Mail

  • Johnson sorry for comparing Ukraine war to the Brexit vote – The Times

More:

  • Biden to visit Poland – The Guardian
  • Truss condemns Russian abduction of Mariupol citizens ‘forcibly taken’ across the border – Daily Telegraph
  • Ukraine rejects demands to surrender port – The Times

…and to chair roundtable on boosting UK’s nuclear power output

“Boris Johnson will chair a meeting on how to increase the UK’s nuclear power output on Monday, as he prepares to publish his energy security strategy this month amid soaring prices. The prime minister will discuss domestic nuclear projects with leaders from the nuclear industry at a roundtable meeting at Downing Street, No 10 said. Johnson is expected to publish the government’s energy security strategy later in March, against a backdrop of rocketing energy bills, which were already creating a cost of living crisis even before Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine led ministers to pledge to phase out Russian energy… Last November, the government agreed to invest in a new generation of mini-nuclear reactors, being developed by engineering firm Rolls-Royce.” – The Guardian

  • Saudi Aramco rakes in blockbuster profits amid soaring energy prices – Daily Mail

>Today: Anthony Browne MP in Comment: Now is not the time to go slow on Net Zero

Spring Statement 1) Johnson and Sunak ‘signal a fuel duty cut’ as they pledge to tackle cost of living crisis

“A cut in fuel duty has been signalled by Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, as they seek to ease the cost of living crisis facing families in the Spring Statement. Expectations that the levy could be reduced by 5p a litre were raised after the Chancellor pledged to “stand by” hard-pressed householders facing “prohibitively expensive” petrol prices and the Prime Minister was said to be “pushing” for a cut for motorists. Mr Sunak told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “We recognise the importance of people being able to fill their cars up, and that not being prohibitively expensive.” … One Tory MP who has called for a cut in fuel duty, which currently stands at 58p per litre, said: “The Boris people seem to be much more getting it and are pushing it quite a bit.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Reduction of at least 5p expected – The Times
  • Chancellor vows his ‘mission’ is to cut taxes for millions of Brits as soon as he can – The Sun
  • Economy working ‘really well’ despite cost-of-living crisis, insists Javid – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: We won’t stand in the way of the Chancellor if he cuts fuel duty – Reeves

Spring Statement 2) Chancellor refuses to back down on hated National Insurance tax hike

“Rishi Sunak refused to back down on the hated National Insurance tax rise last night — even with Brits facing double-digit inflation for the first time in 40 years. The Chancellor insisted the “decision is done”. Mr Sunak said hiking taxes was “the last thing I wanted to do” but claimed he had to try to balance the books so the burden of Covid did not fall on kids for years to come. However, last night there was growing speculation he could effectively cancel out April’s rise for millions by raising National Insurance thresholds to £11,300. The move would cost the Treasury £5billion, but that would be covered by higher tax receipts due to soaring inflation.” – The Sun

  • He could raise the thresholds at which people start to pay the tax – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: The Chancellor prepares voters for the Spring Statement by saying he’ll stand by them

Spring Statement 3) Sunak ‘poised to defy calls for increase in defence budget’

“Rishi Sunak is expected to defy calls from cabinet colleagues to increase Britain’s defence budget this week despite the war in Ukraine. The chancellor said that a £24 billion investment he announced last year had already elevated Britain to the second largest Nato spender as he appeared to rule out any extra spending in his spring statement on Wednesday. It took Britain’s defence spending to slightly over 2 per cent of GDP. However, any decision not to increase the budget further is likely to disappoint senior cabinet colleagues, who have been pushing privately for Britain to increase its defence spending following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has previously suggested that she would like to see Britain spending 5 per cent of its GDP on defence.” – The Times

  • He clashes with Rees-Mogg over Downing Street parties scandal – The Times

>Yesterday:

Larry Elliot: This is the Chancellor’s chance to stop a recession

“Consumer spending is going to be weak this year because wages will fail to keep pace with prices. Companies are going to mothball investment as the costs of doing business go up. The chances of an export-led boom are nil given that every other energy-importing country faces exactly the same pressures as the UK. That leaves the government, where policy is currently the opposite of what it needs to be. Sunak has frozen tax allowances for the rest of the parliament; he will raise employer and employee national insurance contributions by 1.25 percentage points from next month; and he has temporarily scrapped the pensions triple lock. Taken together, these measures will suck tens of billions of pounds out of the economy at precisely the wrong time.” – The Guardian

  • Tory pressure on Sunak to prioritise defence spending – Mhari Aurora, Times Red Box
  • He has short-term challenges, but he should also look further ahead – Martin Wolf, FT

>Today: ToryDiary: Sunak’s Budget which isn’t a Budget but will be a Budget – for a cost of living crisis unprecedented in recent times

Pupils ‘should learn benefits of Empire’, argues Badenoch

“The positives of the British Empire must be taught alongside the negatives, the equalities minister has said, after launching plans to overhaul the way history is taught in schools. Kemi Badenoch said that schools needed to tell “both sides of the story” as part of a more consistent and nuanced history curriculum. She said that the balanced way in which she was taught about the British Empire during her upbringing in Nigeria had helped to inform her views about how it should be taught in schools in the UK. Badenoch, who was born in London to Nigerian parents but spent some of her childhood in Lagos, said the “good things” that missionaries brought to the country during the era of colonialism had been balanced against the “terrible things” that had also happened.” – The Times

  • How to keep the Commonwealth away from tyrants – Trevor Phillips, The Times

>Today: Stewart Jackson’s column: Badenoch and Sewell have found a conservative way of viewing ethnicity and culture – and acting on it

Labour urges Kwarteng to launch legal action against P&O Ferries

“Labour has urged the business secretary to launch legal action against P&O Ferries over its “scandalous” decision to sack 800 workers without warning, which the party said is a criminal offence. Shadow transport secretary, Louise Haigh, deputy leader Angela Rayner and shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds have written to Kwasi Kwarteng, asking if he will begin proceedings for what they called the “scandalous action” of the ferry company. Under section 193 of the Trade Union Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, employers who want to make more than 100 people redundant have a duty to notify the business secretary of their plans, before giving notice to the workers. The employer is also required to do so at least 45 days before the dismissals.” – The Guardian

  • Sunak sparks union anger over treatment of firm’s owner – FT

Brown says Johnson should not fear second Scottish referendum

“Gordon Brown has said Boris Johnson should not be “afraid” of a second independence referendum, arguing that he had “no doubt” the Unionist side would win again. The former prime minister said the Tory Government thought they “can’t afford to have a referendum”, but he was “ready any time to put my arguments” for a rerun of the 2014 vote. His intervention came with Nicola Sturgeon expected shortly to unveil legislation for another separation vote, which she wants to stage by autumn next year. The Scottish Tories denied the UK Government was “scared” of another referendum, but argued “it’s the last thing Scotland needs right now”, as the country attempts to rebuild after the pandemic and with the focus on the “horrific events in Ukraine.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • SNP to publish indy ref bill despite failing support – Daily Express

News in Brief:

  • If the Government wants British tech to thrive, it must kill this bill – Sam Dumitriu, CapX
  • Why are there so few EU Rejoiners? – Tim Congdon, The Critic
  • The naïve idealism of Brown’s Nuremberg trial – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator
  • American education’s new dark age – William Deresiewicz, UnHerd

Newslinks for Sunday 20th March 2022

20 Mar

The Prime Minister compares the Ukraine Crisis to Brexit in his Spring Conference speech…

“Boris Johnson is facing backlash for comparing the struggle of Ukrainians fighting the Russian invasion to British people voting for Brexit. Mr Johnson said it is the “instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom”, with the Brexit vote a “famous recent example”, during his speech to the Tory spring conference in Blackpool. In his speech, Mr Johnson said: “I know that it’s the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time…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.” – The I

  • Don’t side with evil, Johnson warns Beijing – The Sunday Times
  • Senior EU diplomat admits that, outside of the EU, Britain’s response to Russia’s invasion was more ‘nimble’ – Sunday Express
  • A fourth Covid vaccine rollout is also in the pipeline – The I
  • The Prime Minister “channels his inner Rocky” whilst on a morning run – The Sunday Telegraph
Comment
  • Why can’t Johnson’s critics admit that he is having a good war? – Dan Hodges, The Mail on Sunday
  • A month of war must consign ‘woolly thinking’ to history – Editorial, The Sunday Times
  • We must be willing to say our values are better than Russia or China’s – Dr Liam Fox MP, The Mail on Sunday
  • Resurrecting the Iran nuclear deal would be a mistake – Dr Liam Fox MP, The Sunday Telegraph
  • How long will our resolution last? – Robert Colville, The Sunday Times
>Yesterday:

…whilst also highlighting the importance of weaning the West off the ‘barbarian’ Putin

“Delivering his keynote speech to the Tory conference in Blackpool, the PM said the dictator invaded Ukraine because he is terrified of a free, democratic country on his borders. He gave a stark message to the West that ‘bold steps’ have to be taken to wean off Moscow’s fuel supplies, warning that Putin ‘must fail’ or he will usher in a ‘new age of intimidation’. Mr Johnson’s speech was as usual littered with jokes and he was given a warn reception by the Tory faithful. It was the first time he has addressed them since the Partygate scandal erupted, and Cabinet ministers are increasingly confident he can survive after being seen to handle the Ukraine crisis well. But the PM’s focus was very much on the global standoff with Russia.Mr Johnson said: ‘With every day that Ukraine’s heroic resistance continues, it is clear that Putin has made a catastrophic mistake. ‘You have to ask yourself why he did it – why did he decide to invade this totally innocent country?’” – The Mail on Sunday

  • Putin keen to portray the conflict as a ‘people’s war’ – The Observer
  • Mariupol set to fall – The Sunday Telegraph
  • The Prime Minister was with a Tory donor with Russian links on the night of the invasion – The I
  • Germany fails to deliver promised weapons to Ukraine – The Sunday Telegraph
Comment
  • Those on the right who praised Putin have fallen silent – Nick Cohen, The Observer
  • The war with Ukraine does not erase Johnson’s fundamental unfitness for office – Euan McColm, The Scotsman
  • Zelensky has highlighted the flaws in Germany’s approach – Dominic Lawson, The Sunday Times
  • This war is a shameful moment in German history – Daniel Johnson, The Sunday Telegraph

Sunak considering cuts to fuel duty and other taxes to help the cost of living crisis

“The chancellor Rishi Sunak is preparing a giveaway this week to ease the cost-of-living crisis to convince voters that he is “on their side”. Whitehall officials expect he will use his spring statement on Wednesday to reduce fuel duty and introduce broader tax cuts to mitigate the impact of spiralling household bills. Further help for parents who pay for childcare is also under consideration after Boris Johnson raised the issue in cabinet last week and said the government should do more. Sunak’s allies insist the spring statement is not a “mini budget” and that it will be “policy light”. But the chancellor is under pressure to spend some of the £40 billion headroom he has accumulated from higher-than-expected tax receipts and a growing economy.” – The Sunday Times

Comment

Truss says it is ‘time to end’ culture wars over pronouns and Britain’s history

“Speaking at the party’s spring conference in Blackpool, Ms Truss defended Britain’s history and called for an end to the “culture of self-doubt”. She said: “We have to be proud of our country, and our long standing commitment to freedom and democracy. Now is the time to end the culture of self-doubt: The constant self-questioning and introspection; the ludicrous debates about [language], statues and pronouns. “Our history – warts and all – is what makes us what we are today. We live in a great country, a great democracy and we should be proud of it.” The prime minister also defended Britain’s tradition of personal freedom but said people did not have to embrace “woke” ideas. He said: “I’ll tell you something. It is the invincible strength of this country that we believe by and large and within the law that people should be able to do whatever they want provided they don’t do any harm to anybody else. And that’s called freedom [and] we don’t need to be woke, we just want to be free.” – Sunday Express

Comment
  • Identity politics is eroding what makes the West better than Putin – Daniel Hannan, The Sunday Telegraph

Matthew Syed: We should be scared of the number of nuclear weapons in the world

“Over the past seven decades, the foreign policy establishment has taken each passing year as evidence that the world’s nuclear arsenal has contributed to peace via the inviolable logic of mutually assured destruction. Game theorists tell us that no rational person would initiate nuclear war, given that it would lead to their own destruction. And this, I’d suggest, is why we took our eye off the ball of arms control. Today, according to some experts, there remain enough weapons to wipe out our species — the ultimate reversion of expectation. But perhaps the crucial insight when it comes to the risks of nuclear war is that psychopaths such as Vladimir Putin — while dangerous — are not the main problem…No, the more serious problem is accidental war: an ambiguous blip on a radar screen that leads to rapid counterattack — before anybody knew it, missiles would be crossing the planet like those satellite pictures of planes that light up the night sky.” – The Sunday Times

  • Britain’s nuclear weapons are reportedly on the move near Glasgow – Sunday Express

The Home Secretary: We have balanced helping refugees with keeping the country safe

“Throughout my time in Government, I’ve seen first-hand the plight faced by many people around the world displaced by conflict and the horrors of war. They include Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, Yemeni and Iraqi refugees across Europe, and people we have welcomed to the United Kingdom, including families from Afghanistan. Britain is a country that always does right by those in need. We have a long, proud history of offering sanctuary. The reaction here at home has again been immensely generous, with people up and down the country donating and fundraising to help the Ukrainian people through their darkest hour. Some have even offered a place in their home to Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, following the launch of the Government’s Homes for Ukraine scheme.” – Priti Patel, The Sunday Telegraph

  • The Home Secretary issues a warning about female Russian spies posing as Ukrainians to enter the UK – The Mail on Sunday
  • Nandy: Government scheme fundamentally ‘unworkable’ – The Observer 
>Today:

Kwarteng says that North Sea oil and gas (and Net Zero) will help reduce our reliance on Putin and create jobs

“For as long as we depend on oil and gas – wherever it is from – we are all vulnerable to Putin’s malign influence on global markets. And with gas prices at record highs, and the price of renewable energy plummeting, it is obvious we need to accelerate our transition away from expensive gas, surely? While our support for the people of Ukraine is unwavering, it is clearer than ever that we need to ensure Britain’s clean energy independence so we can weaken Putin’s grip on the West further by starving him of the cash his country’s natural resources provide. Put simply, switching to our own clean, cheap energy is a win-win for everyone – except Putin. This is no longer just about tackling climate change or hitting Net Zero targets. Moving to cheap, clean, home-grown energy is a matter of British national security to ensure we are no longer held hostage by prices set by global markets we can’t control.” – Kwasi Kwarteng, Sunday Express

  • Johnson ‘privately frustrated’ with the Chancellor’s resistance to new nuclear power stations – The Sunday Telegraph

The Education Secretary is planning a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees

“Nadhim Zahawi is planning a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees, the Mail on Sunday can reveal. Universities will be required to publish the drop-out rate and graduate job outcomes on every advert they put out for a degree, in the same way loans have to be upfront about APR, under plans being considered by the Education Secretary. This would apply to both physical and online adverts for courses and aim to ensure students are not ‘misled’ when applying, insiders said. A government source said the aim is to tackle universities cynically offering degrees as ‘silly’ as ‘David Beckham studies’ while knowing they are unlikely to lead to better career or earnings prospects for young people. They pointed out that some Management degrees have a drop out rate of more than 50 per cent.” – The Mail on Sunday

Trevelyan will hold talks with her US counterpart this week

“On Monday, Ms Trevelyan will attend the first of a new series of transatlantic dialogues aimed at deepening our already-thriving £200 billion relationship with the United States. She will be a guest at a two-day event in Baltimore, Maryland, with her American counterpart – US Trade Representative Katherine Tai as part of the Joint UK/US Dialogues on the Future of Atlantic Trade. The event brings together politicians, senior officials, trade unions, businesses and civil society figures from both sides to discuss how the UK and US can work together to deepen our trading relationship. Ahead of the event, Ms Trevelyan said: “The US is our closest and most important economic ally and this visit is a golden opportunity to turbocharge our thriving trade and investment relationship.” – Sunday Express

>Yesterday:

The Minister for Government Efficiency aims to cut the focus on ethical contracts

“Jacob Rees-Mogg is preparing to shake up government outsourcing so that it focuses more on taxpayer value-for-money and less on supposedly ethical principles. The minister for government efficiency wants to reduce the weighting given to “social value” when contracts are handed out. The measure currently encompasses a wide range of non-financial metrics including carbon emissions, jobs and the impact on local communities. Mr Rees-Mogg has held meetings with major outsourcers to underline the changes, which are also designed to reweight government contracts in favour of smaller providers who he fears are negatively impacted by social value criteria. A Whitehall source told the Telegraph that a key consideration was “how social value is defined”.” – The Sunday Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Mercer ‘secretly travelled’ to Kyiv to see the ‘carnage’ of war first-hand

“Former Tory cabinet minister Johnny Mercer secretly travelled to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv last week, where he visited maimed civilians in hospital and witnessed the ‘total carnage’ of Putin’s illegal war. Mercer, a former veterans minister and Royal Marine captain, said on Friday that he boarded a plane to Krakow, Poland ‘a week ago’ before heading into war-torn Ukraine ‘at the invitation of local MPs’. He then returned to the West on Wednesday, the Plymouth Moor View MP added. Tweeting photos of himself visiting the sick and injured in a Kyiv hospital, Mercer said: ‘Earlier this week at the invite of local MPs, I was in and around Irpin, Bucha and Kyiv visiting wounded Ukrainian veterans, local MPs fighting to save their country, and families decimated by Putin’s indiscriminate military. Total carnage; incredible human spirit’.” – The Mail on Sunday

  • ‘White van army’ mobilised to deliver aid to Ukraine – including David Cameron – The Sunday Times

Ministers knew about P&O sackings in advance

“Whitehall officials tried to justify P&O Ferries’ sacking of 800 workers by telling ministers it would “ensure that they remain a key player in the UK market for years to come through restructuring”, a leaked memo shows. The briefing document shows the Department for Transport failed to challenge the company’s decision to dismiss crew members with immediate effect, possibly in breach of employment law. Written by a senior official, it was shared across the government, including with the prime minister’s private office, before P&O told staff in a video recording on Thursday that it was their final day at the company. Cabinet ministers then condemned the redundancies as a public backlash ensued. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, gave P&O’s chief executive, Peter Hebblethwaite, a public dressing-down.” – The Sunday Times

Khan donated taxpayers’ money to an anti-racism group which ‘denied Uyghur genocide’

“Sadiq Khan has paid large sums of taxpayers’ money to an anti-racism group, two of whose directors waved Chinese communist flags and denied the Uyghur genocide. The Monitoring Group has received up to £55,000 a year from The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) via the Catch anti-hate partnership. A doyen of the London anti-racism scene since the 1990s, it has also benefited from hundreds of thousands in grants from philanthropic monoliths such as the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and Open Society, founded by the billionaire George Soros, as well as receiving significant Lottery funding. However, The Telegraph can reveal that some of the leading members of The Monitoring Group now stand accused of appearing to support one of the most racist regimes in the world.” – The Sunday Telegraph

  • Labour criticised for amendment to the government’s Elections Bill allowing all foreign nationals to vote – The Sunday Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Hurray! Bono has written a poem – Camilla Long, The Sunday Times 
  • How to fix Britain’s broken asylum system – David Goodhart, The Spectator 
  • Why Russia is a prisoner of geography – Tim Marshall, The New Statesman 
  • Why does Britain sell off all its companies? – Walter Ellis, Reaction 
  • Let us work towards a truly inclusive Britain – Sunder Katwala, Cap X