Downing Street focuses its frustrations on NHS chief

NHS‘Theresa May’s senior aides have privately criticised the head of the NHS as Downing Street seeks to shift the blame for mounting chaos in hospitals. Key members of the prime minister’s team accused Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, of being insufficiently enthusiastic and responsive. They expressed their views in internal meetings, The Times was told. No 10 was also understood to have been irritated by “political” interventions from Mr Stevens, including the suggestion that ministers should pay for social care by abandoning free bus passes and other pensioner perks.’ – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Don’t expect big solutions for the NHS – they aren’t coming any time soon

Attorney General sets out legal changes to make it easier to kill terrorists abroad

‘Jeremy Wright QC will say technology has made it easier for terrorists to mount attacks on UK streets, and laws which once applied have become outdated. The country’s top law officer will also suggest that civilians may die as part of pre-emptive strikes in a bid to save lives in Britain. In a landmark speech setting out a re-defined legal basis for wiping out UK enemies in pre-emptive attacks, he will say the ‘frontline has irretrievably altered’, and the ‘law has to keep up with the changing times’.’ – Daily Mail

  • Jihadis inciting attacks over social media will be targeted – The Sun
  • US Special Forces try but fail to take ISIS commander alive – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: Cameron Penny on Comment: Ministers should announce that they plan to use anti-terror laws to proscribe Aslef and the RMT

Llewellyn: Our policy is not to engage with Le Pen

CAMERON and LLEWELLYN‘The UK’s ambassador to France has said his embassy will not be forging links with far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen because the UK government has a policy of not engaging with her party, the Front National (FN). Ed Llewellyn, who was formerly David Cameron’s chief of staff in Downing Street, told MPs that although his staff were making contacts with other French presidential candidates, they did not have relations with the FN leader. “With respect to the Front National, we have a policy of not engaging, there is a longstanding policy,” Llewellyn told the foreign affairs select committee. “That is the policy, which has been the policy for many years.”’ – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: The Brexit negotiation. If May wants a good deal, she must be prepared to walk away – and mean it

Javid defends Morris Men wrongly accused of racism

‘Morris dancers who blacked up to celebrate an old English tradition are not racist, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said yesterday. The Alvechurch Morris group was ‘forced to abandon’ a performance in Birmingham city centre at the weekend after being heckled by passers-by who accused them of racism for blackening their faces. Video footage shows passers-by accusing the group of ‘mocking black people’ with their performance…In a message on Twitter, Mr Javid said: ‘Proud of traditional Morris dancers from Alvechurch (in my constituency). They are as racist as I am. #PloughMonday.’’ – Daily Mail

Morgan concedes her trouser attack was ‘too personal’

MORGAN Nicky officiall version‘Former education secretary Nicky Morgan has admitted her comments about Theresa May’s leather trousers made in December were “too personal”. The Tory MP criticised the Prime Minister for choosing to appear in the designer legwear in a newspaper photo-shoot…Mrs Morgan told BBC Two’s Newsnight: “Let me just say on the issue that arose before Christmas, look, sometimes in politics feelings run high and things get too personal. I just think that sometimes you say things and it doesn’t really actually get to the heart of the issues that people want you to discuss.That was not a good place for any of us, me, to be, and the Conservative Party, before Christmas.”‘ – Daily Telegraph

Corbyn’s pitch to UKIP waverers ends in him saying immigration is not too high…

‘Jeremy Corbyn’s attempt to redefine his party’s immigration policy unravelled in spectacular fashion yesterday. The Labour leader rowed back on a suggestion he would seek to reform EU free movement rules, insisting that the numbers coming into Britain were not too high. Extracts of his ‘relaunch’ speech released on Monday night had revealed he was going to say the party was no longer ‘wedded to the principle’ of free movement for EU workers. But by the time he actually delivered the address yesterday afternoon, it had been modified to say that he ‘did not rule out’ the continuation of free movement after Brexit.’ – Daily Mail

>Today: Alex Morton’s column: May needs an election soon and a big win, which pledging an English Parliament can deliver her

…and he ditches his pay cap idea only hours after coming up with it

LABOUR dead rose‘Trying to remodel himself as a Donald Trump-style populist from the left, Mr Corbyn suggested an assault on high salaries and tax rises for those earning more than £70,000 a year. During a morning radio interview, he backed capping the maximum salary for executives, suggesting that the limit should be somewhere between his own salary of £138,000 and £50 million. However, in a speech on Brexit in Peterborough during the afternoon, he said it was “probably better” to ensure bosses of companies with government contracts could not earn more than 20 times the pay of their junior staff.’ – The Times (£)

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Corbyn’s message will enthuse his membership

Momentum ‘coup’ will see its members forced to join Labour or leave

‘Momentum, the grassroots pro-Jeremy Corbyn campaign group, has agreed a new constitution that will require its members to join the Labour party, in an attempt to resolve a bitter fight about its future. After Corbyn emailed Momentum’s 20,000 members in December to ask them to respond to a survey about how it should be organised and run, its founder Jon Lansman drew up a new structure and rules, which he then persuaded members of its steering committee to sign up to. In an email message to the committee, seen by the Guardian, Lansman said: “We must put behind us the paralysis that has for months bedevilled all our national structures.”‘ – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Corbyn will find it hard to cope in Copeland, and risks humiliation

Westminster battles to head off early Stormont election

Northern Ireland‘Politicians in three governments are scrambling to avert a snap election in Northern Ireland that could complicate the UK government’s timetable for Brexit. Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s outgoing first minister, said on Tuesday that she was willing to hold talks with her political rivals to try to head off the collapse of the power-sharing government. She also announced her readiness to set up an inquiry into a public spending scandal over a botched green energy initiative, the issue at the heart of the province’s crisis. But James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland secretary, admitted to MPs in Westminster that an early election in the province was now “highly likely”, though it would in all likelihood be divisive and difficult.’ – FT

  • Perry urges Brokenshire to seize the opportunity to end Army witch hunts – Daily Mail
  • Stability is at risk once again – The Times Leader (£)

>Today: Henry Hill’s Red, White and Blue column: Strange but true – Unionists may come to miss McGuinness

US intelligence officials allegedly presented Trump with claims he had been compromised by Russia

‘The saga over alleged Russian interference in the U.S. elections took another sinister turn Tuesday, as it was revealed that U.S. intelligence officials provided President-elect Donald Trump with a charge that the Russians had obtained dirt on him. U.S. officials allegedly included a two-page synopsis of ‘kompromat’ – Russian for compromising material – as part of their security briefing of Trump on Friday. The material was based on memos compiled by a British intelligence operative who was considered ‘credible’ by the U.S. intelligence community, CNN reported. What is believed to be the 35-page document itself was published by Buzzfeed, which pointed out that it contained errors. Little of its contents can be independently verified.’ – Daily Mail

  • The only serious opposition to him comes from his own party – Justin Webb, The Times (£)
  • Obama’s farewell address laments ‘naked partisanship’ – The Times (£)
  • Trump’s law chief gets a rough ride in the Senate – The Times (£)
  • Russia complains of ‘hysterics’ against the Kremlin – The Times (£)
  • Let’s grab a trade deal with the US – The Sun Says
  • Trade department appoints America expert – FT

The Guardian calls for Section 40 to be repealed

Guardian logo‘A free press is a constitutional necessity, not an ornamental timepiece. There is no other option but to repeal section 40. The Guardian believes that the independence of the press is best served by self- not state- regulation. Most others agree. Ipso, an “unapproved” regulator, remains a creature of much of Fleet Street. Impress and Ipso should be allowed to continue to administer their own forms of self-regulation. The Guardian, along with the Financial Times, has decided to pursue its own model of oversight, accountable to readers and the public. Peers in the upper house who threaten to reintroduce section 40 by the back door, in effect threatening the government with what Oliver Letwin described as “trench warfare”, are simply wrong.’ – The Guardian Leader

  • So does the FT
  • Every national newspaper is now opposed – The Guardian
  • ‘Draconian’ law could cost £100 million a year – The Times (£)
  • MPs vote against Leveson 2 – The Sun
  • Mosley says he isn’t a fascist any more, now he’s in the Labour Party – The Sun

News in Brief

  • Fifteen-year-old charged with seven-year-old’s murder in York – Daily Mail
  • Dylann Roof sentenced to death for church murders – The Guardian
  • Fleet Street mourns the woman who broke the news Germany had invaded Poland – Daily Telegraph
  • The BBC plans to take on Netflix – Daily Mail
  • MPs complain about May’s blind trust – The Times (£)
  • UK inequality narrows – The Guardian
  • Prisoners get Amazon orders delivered to their cells – Daily Mail