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Easter 1) May’s message: “We should be confident about role Christianity has to play”

MAY Theresa Easter message 2017“Theresa May has launched a robust defence of the right of Christians to speak out about their faith following controversy about religion being airbrushed out of Easter celebrations. The prime minister used her Easter message to pledge that the government will stand up for people who openly profess their faith and will counter those who seek to drive religion from public life. In a personal video message, May said she had been shaped by “values that I learnt in my own childhood, growing up in a vicarage”.” – The Sunday Times (£)

  • She “urges Britons” to stand up for right to practise religion openly – The Sun on Sunday
  • And pushes “values of the vicarage” – Sunday Telegraph
  • Such as “compassion, community, and citizenship’ – Sunday Express
  • She talks of “uniting” after period of division – Independent on Sunday
  • Alastair Campbell criticises her for “doing God” over Brexit – Observer
  • Two big supermarkets refuse to sell eggs with Christian message – Mail on Sunday

Comment:

  • May’s message is “missing ancient Christian tradition of hospitality for the stranger” – Catherine Pepinster, Observer
  • Does she really want to fight the next election? Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday

>Today:

>Yesterday: Video: Music for Holy Saturday: Recessit Pastor Noster

Easter 2) Douglas Murray: Maybe it’s that we’re Christians, whether we like it or not

“During a particularly strident bout of atheism a few years ago I asked an impertinent question of a rabbi. Would he agree with me that a fair proportion of his congregation — some of whom I knew well — did not believe in God? Demonstrating a masterly ability at wrong-footing, he replied calmly, “Oh most of them, I expect.” As those of us from a Christian background arrive at one of the holiest days in our own tradition, that response returns to haunt me. All surveys show a sharp decline in traditional Christian religious belief in Britain.” – The Sunday Times (£)

Johnson: Russia has opportunity to do the right thing in Syria

Boris Johnson 30-01-17“It is in some ways bizarre that Bashar al-Assad should be so reckless. It seems mystifying that he should now raise the stakes by so blatantly murdering so many of his own people with chemical weapons. Indeed, there is a sense in which it would frankly be more convenient for the outside world to pretend that it did not happen… Above all, though, we need to show the Russians the horrific nature of the regime they are backing in terms they cannot fail to understand. This is, in fact, an opportunity for Russia. Moscow has reached the high point of its influence in Syria.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • He “offers Russians chance to end the crisis” – Sunday Telegraph
  • And says Putin is collaborating with an “arch terrorist” – The Sun on Sunday
  • Johnson joins with French counterpart to “demand action” – Mail on Sunday
  • Foreign Office and Treasury criticised for rise in private contracting – The Sun on Sunday
  • More Russian warships escorted through English Channel – Sunday Telegraph

Comment:

  • The Foreign Secretary is a “greatly diminished figure” – Adam Boulton, The Sunday Times (£)
  • We need a proper strategy to deal with Russia – Nick Ferrari, Sunday Express

Conservative ministers “plotting to ditch” aid target, Fixed Term Parliaments Act, and triple-lock pensions in 2020 manifesto

“Cabinet ministers are plotting to axe Britain’s pledge to spend 0.7% of national income on foreign aid so they can promise in the next Tory election manifesto to divert more cash to the armed forces. Under sweeping plans being mapped out for 2020, Downing Street also wants to scrap the Fixed Term Parliaments Act, which sets the time between general elections at five years and robs prime ministers of the freedom to call a vote at a time of their choosing. Senior Conservatives say a decision has also been taken “in principle” to scrap the pensions “triple lock” guarantee because it is too expensive.” – The Sunday Times (£)

Truss to “put prisons mission statement into law”

Truss“Prisons are now so ‘soft’ on offenders that career criminals no longer fear them, the Prison Officers Association has warned. The Government recently excluded any mention of punishment from the first legal definition of the purpose of prisons which has drawn criticism from the Prison Officers Association… But the Justice Ministry has said that depriving people of their liberty is punishment for crime so no further punishment is needed after incarceration. Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, is putting a prisons mission statement into law that will ‘make sure that it is crystal clear what the prison system exists to deliver’.” – Mail on Sunday

  • The deluge of violent crime. And how we should address it – Simon Heffer, Sunday Telegraph

Ministers considering “postcode”-based cash for diesel scrappage scheme

“A new diesel car scrappage scheme will be targeted at the most polluted areas under plans being considered by ministers, The Telegraph can disclose. Car owners will only be able to qualify for cash to scrap their diesel vehicles if they are old enough and registered at an address where air pollution is already at dangerous levels. Ministers are hoping that this “postcode” diesel scrappage scheme will be cheaper than a general scheme open to all owners of diesel cars.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Committee chairman suggests making offers to those in “polution hotspots” – Observer

David Laws: Greening “isn’t biggest supporter” of grammars. May should “ditch them”

GREENING Flickr“It is one of the worst kept secrets in Westminster that education secretary Justine Greening is not the biggest supporter of the policy that is now the social mobility “flagship” of Theresa May’s government – expanding the number of grammar schools. … First, that almost no children on free school meals get into grammar schools – a risible 4,000 out of more than eight million pupils in the whole of England. Second, that although there is a small benefit for pupils who are admitted to selective schools, this is offset by the worse results for other pupils in areas with a significant number of grammar places.” – Observer

  • NUT votes against grammars – Observer

Editorial:

  • This is not the way to fight social inequality – Observer

Comment:

  • The elites are getting in the way of the poor’s education – Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday

Head of Equality and Human Rights Commission tells newspapers to think carefully about “promoting social division”

“Pressure is growing on the Sun to sack its columnist and former editor Kelvin MacKenzie, as the chair of the equalities watchdog called on newspapers to think carefully before publishing comments that could promote social division. David Isaac, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, made the warning on Saturday after Everton football club banned the tabloid’s journalists from its ground following fury at a MacKenzie column in which he compared the club’s star midfielder, Ross Barkley, who has a Nigerian grandfather, to a gorilla, and made contemptuous remarks about the people of Liverpool.” – Observer

Trump advisers tell British security chiefs of power America could use against North Korea

Donald Trump Jan 2017“Donald Trump’s closest military advisers have told Britain that America has the firepower to neutralise North Korea’s nuclear programme — and may even launch a pre-emptive strike to do so. In what will be seen as an attempt to pile pressure on China to intervene to prevent Kim Jong-un from conducting a new nuclear test, senior sources said the United States could “utterly destroy” the key targets using conventional weapons. .. General HR McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser, told British security chiefs and military commanders that America was confident that it had the ­intelligence to target the right sites and the capability to destroy them.” – The Sunday Times (£)

Editorial:

Comment:

>Today: Nicholas Mazzei in Comment: The Korean crisis highlights a stark truth. Britain is completely unprepared for war.

French polling-card “blunder” could count against Le Pen

“Marine Le Pen’s general election hopes could be in peril after it was revealed 500,000 voters outside of France were sent duplicate polling cards – giving a traditionally non-right wing electorate the chance to vote twice. Because Le Pen’s Front National party appeals to a conservative, domestic community the computer error could potentially see the politicians first round vote overshadowed by pro-EU double-voters. French authorities confirmed they would not be investigating the potential electoral fraud until after the election, when retrospective prosecution may take place.” – Mail on Sunday

  • French election becomes “four-way contest” – Observer
  • Can Macron prove the centre left is still alive and well? – John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday

News in Brief

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