Plane crash 1) Ukrainian rebels blamed for shooting down Malaysia Airlines plane…

timesukraine“Malaysia’s leader has called the Malaysia Airlines plane crash in eastern Ukraine “deeply shocking”. Describing the disaster as a “tragic day” in a “tragic year” for Malaysia, Najib Razak said the investigation “must not be hindered in any way”. The plane, now known to have been carrying 298 people, crashed in rebel-held territory near the Russian border. Both sides in Ukraine’s civil conflict have accused the other of shooting it down with a missile.” – BBC

  • “The Ukrainian government accused “terrorists” of shooting down Flight MH17 with a heavy Soviet-era ground-to-air missile. The militants have claimed that they have been supplied with advanced weaponry and armour by Russia. The tragedy threatened to turn the border conflict in Ukraine into a global crisis. “This is a grave situation,” Mr Biden said.” – The Times(£)
  • “Without the weaponry and manpower that continues to enter Ukraine from the east, the elected government in Kiev might have embarked by now on the urgent rebuilding of a country left weak and divided by a generation of misrule. Instead it is fighting a civil war with rebels led by hardline Russian nationalists with close links to the Kremlin. And 295 innocents are dead.” – Leader The Times(£)
  • Black box may already be in Moscow – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Mark Field MP on Comment: We must not ignore the ongoing conflict in Ukraine

Plane crash 2) Putin also accused of culpability

“Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, said the jet was hit by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “anti-aircraft missile” as it cruised about six miles up at 33,000ft. Armed man examines crash site. And he claimed the separatists — who he called “Putin’s terrorists” — were the only group there capable of shooting it down at that height. Mr Gerashchenko wrote on his Facebook page: “Cynicism of Putin and his terrorists have no limit!” – The Sun(£)

  • “Hillary Clinton, the former US secretary of state, was more potent in her statements, saying in a television interview that indications pointed at the Russian-backed side and action was needed to “put [Vladimir] Putin on notice that he has gone too far and we are not going to stand idly by”.” – The Guardian

Plane crash 3) Nine Britons among the 298 dead

HAMMOND Philip facing left“Nine Britons were among those on board with more than 150 Dutch and scores of Australians and Malaysians, according to officials in Amsterdam. The victims included 80 children and three infants. Glenn Thomas, 49, from Blackpool, a former BBC journalist, was named by friends as one of the dead Britons. Mr Thomas, who worked as a media relations officer for the World Health Organisation, was on his way to an international HIV conference in Australia.” – The Times(£)

  • “Newly appointed Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond called for an UN-led international investigation to establish what caused the flight to crash, with a meeting of the Government’s emergency committee – Cobra – expected to meet on Friday. “I’m deeply shocked by this appalling incident and I send my heartfelt condolences to all those who may have lost family and friends. We’re determined to get to the bottom of understanding what has happened here,” he said.” – The Independent
  • “South Korea’s two main airlines, Korean Air and Asiana, as well as Australia’s Qantas and Taiwan’s China Airlines said they had all re-routed flights from as early as the beginning of March when Russian troops moved into Crimea.” – Daily Telegraph
  • Why was a passenger plane flying over a conflict zone? – The Independent

Conservatives outline manifesto pledge on strikes

Maude Francis V Neck“The Conservative Party has outlined plans to tighten the law on strike ballots if it wins the 2015 election. Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said the Tory manifesto would include the requirement for at least half of eligible union members to vote in order for a strike to be lawful. There would also be a three-month time limit after the ballot for the action to take place. Unions said the measures would make legal strikes “close to impossible”.” – BBC

  • “Picketing laws introduced by Margaret Thatcher will be modernised to ensure text messages, emails or other forms of electronic communication are not used to intimidate staff who do not take part in industrial action.” – Daily Mail

Cameron to give Parliament veto on European human rights rulings…

“David Cameron is set to announce a human rights revolution that will give Parliament the ‘final say’ ahead of European judges. The Cabinet reshuffle – which saw Europhiles Dominic Grieve and Kenneth Clarke dumped from Government – has cleared the way for radical changes in the next Tory manifesto.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: With Grieve gone, what next for the ECHR and the British Bill of Rights?

..prompting Clegg to complain “Tory headbangers have won”…

CLEGG Bird“Nick Clegg has launched an attack on Conservative plans to limit the power of the European Court of Human Rights. He accused David Cameron of lining up “with Vladimir Putin and other tyrants around the world by tearing up our long tradition of human rights”. Tory “extremists” – or “head bangers” – had won out over moderates like Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve, sacked in this week’s reshuffle, he claimed. Ex-Attorney General Mr Grieve is said to have warned against the change.” – BBC

  • Clegg promises to “lift the lid” on gender pay gaps – The Independent
  • Rob Wilson rejected Ministerial offer – BBC
  • Who killed Michael Gove? Glenda Jackson did – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Tory Diary: “Fiasco”…”Lost the plot…”Hang his head in shame”…”Worst since 1989.”
The centre-right press’s reshuffle verdict.

Truss and Paterson avoid each other at Game Fair

“The first major public engagement of new Environment secretary Liz Truss at the Game Fair today could be overshadowed by her predecessor Owen Paterson. Mrs Truss is due to visit the show at Blenheim Palace for breakfast before heading to a meeting of the Cabinet at Chequers, the official home of the Prime Minister. But hours later, Mr Paterson, who was sacked by Mr Cameron in this week’s reshuffle, will visit the Countryside Alliance’s stand at the show, which is organised by the Country Landowners’ Association.” – Daily Telegraph

Dismay at Cameron/Juncker “high five”

Jean-Claude Juncker greets David Cameron“Jean-Claude Juncker gave David Cameron a high-five when they met in Brussels today, as the pair attempted to show they could work together on European reform. ..Journalists were not allowed to witness the event but a photo of the celebratory gesture was distributed by the commission shortly after the hour-long meeting, which Downing Street described as “substantive, constructive and amicable”. The prime minister’s spokesman said: “I think that’s how Mr Juncker greets quite a few people. They have known each other for quite a while.” – The Times(£)

  • “David Cameron today grimaced his way through his first formal talks with Jean-Claude Juncker after failing to block his appointment as European Commission President. The two men posed for a photograph where Mr Juncker did not even look at the camera, and the pair were later pictured trying – and failing – to high-five each other, which was quickly mocked online.” – Daily Mail
  • “JEAN-Claude Juncker’s high five with David Cameron sent the cringe-o-meter off the scale yesterday. Perhaps Juncker had enjoyed one too many cognacs over breakfast and didn’t realise he was greeting the man who fought hard to stop him becoming European Commission President.” – The Sun Says

Peers debate assisted dying

“The House of Lords is to debate former Labour Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer’s assisted dying bill later on Friday. The bill proposes to allow doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally-ill patients judged to have less than six months to live. It has won the backing of Lib Dem Care Minister Norman Lamb, but does not enjoy the support of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.” – BBC

Shadow Minister makes sexist attack

helengoodman“A LABOUR front bencher has been slammed as sexist after she said women promoted in David Cameron’s reshuffle are only interesting because of their looks. Helen Goodman, Labour’s Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Minister, took to Twitter to criticise new additions to the cabinet – including Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Environment Secretary Liz Truss – and described them as “puppets”.” – The Sun(£)

  • “Amazingly, Labour stood by Ms Goodman. A party spokesman said: ‘The Labour Party’s view is that David Cameron’s promises on increasing the representation of women are a sham.” – Daily Mail

MPs demand increased Government spending on cycling

“A five-fold increase in spending on cycling infrastructure is needed to increase both actual and perceived road safety for cyclists, MPs have said. Investment should rise from an estimated £2 per person to £10 per person in the next six years, according to the Transport Select Committee. A “cultural change” is also needed to improve relations between drivers and cyclists, the committee has concluded.” – BBC

Obama to grant Miliband a “brush-by”

OBAMA on Iran“It is known as a brush-by, far from the trappings reserved for an official visit and below the level of an Oval Office meeting reserved for national leaders. When Ed Miliband goes to Washington DC next week, however, he will at least get a brief meeting with President Obama as he tries to boost his image in time for the general election next year. The Labour leader, who has enlisted the help of Mr Obama’s former aide David Axelrod for his election campaign, is said to have been pushing hard for the White House meeting in the hope that it will give him the look of a prime-minister-in-waiting.” – The Times(£)

Labour propose compromise on rail renationalisation

“Unions and the Labour leadership are examining proposals that will require legislation giving state and not-for-profit firms the right to bid for rail franchises as they become vacant. The proposals, part of a wider deal on the future of railways, would see rival bids adjudged on the basis of a level playing field, the party said, and will be put to Labour’s national policy forum at the weekend. The plans are likely to be seen as sufficiently radical to beat off any call for total rail renationalisation.” – The Guardian

Lib Dems “should return fraudster money”

LibDemDead“The Liberal Democrats are facing fresh calls to pay back the £2.4 million in donations they received from a convicted fraudster after the parliamentary watchdog found significant misgivings about inquiries made into the payments by the Electoral Commission. The donations to the party, made in four instalments by Michael Brown through his company 5th Avenue Partners before the 2005 general election, were declared to have been accepted legally by the Electoral Commission, the elections and party finance watchdog. However, a report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman ruled that the commission “fell significantly short” of their monitoring responsibilities in two inquiries into the donations.” – The Times(£)

Birmingham Council condemned over Trojan Horse schools

“A damning report into extremist infiltration of Birmingham schools has uncovered evidence of “coordinated, deliberate and sustained action to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamist ethos into some schools in the city”. The conclusion emerges from a leaked draft of a report, commissioned by the former education secretary Michael Gove and written by Peter Clarke, the former head of the Metropolitan police’s counterterrorism command….Lambasting the council, Clarke says: “There was never a serious attempt to see if there was a pattern to what was happening in school governing bodies. The council’s approach has been variously described to me as appeasement and a failure in their duty of care towards their employees.” – The Guardian

  • “Mr Clarke unearthed a “sustained and co-ordinated agenda to impose upon children in a number of Birmingham schools the segregationist attitudes and practices of a hardline and politicised strain of Sunni Islam”.” – BBC

Blair lobbied for amnesty for IRA suspect

tony-blair“Tony Blair and his ministers lobbied the Government’s top law officer to grant immunity to a high profile IRA terror suspect by suggesting it would help the Northern Ireland peace process, it has emerged. The then Prime Minister was under pressure from Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams to grant an amnesty against prosecution to Rita O’Hare, who was suspected of the 1971 attempted murder of a British soldier. In 1999, the Attorney General was asked whether he would “reconsider” her case with the suggestion that a pledge not to prosecute could help the peace process.” – Daily Telegraph

Fraser Nelson on “phenomenal” jobs success

“One of Clegg’s aides confesses that, given the popularity of welfare reform, the Deputy Prime Minister considered boasting about it on his leaflets – but his team decided that they couldn’t, because their activists would refuse to post them. So the Coalition has split, appropriately, on one of the fundamental points of conservatism: that docking benefits and imposing sanctions may sound cruel, but doing nothing is by far the greater cruelty.” – Fraser Nelson Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Israel begins ground offensive in Gaza –Daily Telegraph
  • Australia repeals Carbon Tax – The Guardian
  • Parliament passes emergency data law – BBC
  • World Health Organisation calls for all drugs to be decriminalised – The Sun(£)
  • Labour poll lead increases to seven points – YouGov
  • Police fail to name a suspect in most investigations – The Times(£)

And finally…Gove “locked in Commons lavatory”

“Hapless Michael Gove got stuck in a toilet and almost voted with Labour MPs on his first day as new Chief Whip. The demoted ex-Education Secretary popped into the Commons’ Aye lobby to relieve himself. But minutes later, the Opposition called a surprise vote, forcing him to flee with just seconds to spare before the doors were locked on him.” – The Sun(£)