The Queen gives Royal Assent to the Article 50 Bill…

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 07.26.48“The Remain-voting Speaker continued, with apparent boredom: ‘Supply and Appropriation (Anticipation and Adjustments) Act 2017; European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017.’  He pronounced ‘notification’ with a Ted Heath-ish diphthong – ‘nee-eauh-tification’. There were cheers from the Conservative side of an ill-attended House.  Christopher Chope (Con, Christchurch) and Peter Bone (Con, Wellingborough) waved Order Papers. Mr Bercow offered no smile. He gazed sideways to some imagined object in the distance.” – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail

  • Migrant teachers and nurses will be forced to declare criminal past before being allowed into Britain – The Sun
  • Why May disagrees with Hammond, the Johnson brothers, Rudd and now Fox over taking students out of the migration figures – Financial Times
  • Remainers are spending more than leavers in the shops – The Times (£)
  • Latest Heseltine attack on the Prime Minister over her support for Brexit – The Times (£)
  • Fight Brexit or disappoint your children, says Farron – Independent
  • Britain’s most senior EU official warns Brexit means a dark age of cyber crime… – The Independent
  • …But Europe’s most powerful finance Minister says that the EU needs the City – Daily Express
  • Pascal Lamy says WTO would be “terribly bad” for Britain… – The Sun
  • …and claims that Johnson was a “nasty little kid” – The Times (£)
  • Now let’s get on with it – Sun Editorial
  • Brexit maps a path to Scottish independence – Philip Stephens, Financial Times

>Yesterday: Columnist Daniel Hannan – Brussels, not May, is being inflexible

…As the Prime Minister refuses a second Scottish independence referendum on Sturgeon’s terms

“Theresa May’s government has faced down Nicola Sturgeon over a new Scottish independence referendum, ruling out a second vote until well after the UK leaves the EU in 2019 at the earliest. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon immediately dubbed this “a democratic outrage”. The UK government’s rejection of the Scottish first minister’s call for a referendum before or shortly after Brexit raises the stakes of Scotland’s constitutional debate and risks turning moderate voters against the three century-old union with England.” – Financial Times

  • Will the First Minister simply hold her own independence vote anyway? – Scotsman
  • Salmond says Scotland could drop currency union – Financial Times

Theresa May: The First Minister’s proposal is unfair to the people of Scotland

MAY Britannia“So I do not agree with the SNP that now is the time to be talking about a second independence referendum. To do so now, while all our energies should be directed towards the negotiations with Europe, would make it more difficult to get the right deal for Scotland and the right deal for the UK as a whole. It is not something to which any responsible government could reasonably agree. The SNP is trying to force the UK government to agree to something that is fundamentally unfair to the Scottish people. It wants to ask them to make a crucial decision without the necessary information.” – The Times (£)

> Today:

Yesterday: John Rea on Comment – Scottish Leavers could hold the key to sinking Sturgeon’s dream of independence

Conservative election expenses claims, Day Two: Party Treasurer reported to the police, Conservative MPs refuse to take the rap

The Commission has also reported Simon Day, the Party Treasurer, to the Metropolitan Police over the spending allegations. If Mr Day is found to have “knowingly or recklessly” falsely declared that the party’s 2015 election spending return was complete and correct to his knowledge or belief, he will have committed a criminal offence under the Act…The Conservatives said they had complied fully with the Commission’s investigation and would pay the fine that has been imposed. A Conservative spokesman said that all parties have made reporting mistakes “from time to time.” ” – Daily Telegraph

  • Karl McCartney and Wragg confirm files about their election expenses have been sent to prosecutors – The Guardian
  • 27 Conservative MPs in the spotlight… – Financial Times
  • …As is Nick Timothy. Electoral Commission “throws out claim that Timothy worked on the national general election campaign in 2015 while in South Thanet”… – The Times (£)
  • …And so are senior Downing Street staffers Stephen Parkinson and Chris Brannigan – The Guardian
  • CCHQ claims Mark Clarke is Electoral Commission whistleblower – The Sun
  • Cameron says that he won the last election “fair and square” – The Sun
  • UKIP opens candidate nominations in South Thanet – Daily Express

Peter Oborne: I blame Cameron. And where’s Feldman?

Lord Feldman“Lord Feldman – as I repeatedly warned at the time – had zero credentials for the job. He was a businessman whose only qualification for the party chairmanship was the fact that he had been a friend of David Cameron since they played tennis together as undergraduates at Brasenose College, Oxford. Though Feldman was skilled at wooing party donors (always a notoriously worrying sign in a politician, as history has shown), he lacked any of the usual skills and background required for chairing the Tory Party. He had no experience in politics. He’d never served as an MP. He had no rapport with party members – he was even suspected of once describing party activists as ‘swivel-eyed loons’, an accusation he denied.” – Daily Mail

> Today: Iain Dale’s Friday Diary – The election expenses allegations – and the mystery of the absence of Feldman

> Yesterday:

Now Hammond is under fire over claims of another broken manifesto pledge – this time on childcare…

“Details buried in official papers showed the supply of places was predicted to “rise more slowly than originally assumed”. The admission stoked more fears over the launch of the troubled flagship 30 hours free childcare policy due to be launched in September. More than half of councils are unsure they’ll have enough places for three and four year olds. The childcare pledge – listed in the Tories 2015 manifesto – would save parents around £5,000 a year. But it has been plagued with claims it’s underfunded with only a third of local authorities confident they have enough places.” – The Sun

  • City fears that the former Remainer Chancellor is being targeted by Leavers – Financial Times
  • …Which are shared by Alistair Burt and other pro-EU MPs – The Guardian
  • Hammond’s poll ratings fall… – The Times (£)
  • …But his allies say that he’s unsackable – Daily Mail
  • Cabinet Minister claims that both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are exhausted – The Sun
  • Osborne’s plan for four tax returns a year from small businessmen is delayed – Daily Mail
  • May needs a reshuffle – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • She is not a safe pair of hands – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

…While Greening feels the heat from Tory MPs over school funding

GREENING Flickr“The shake-up aimed to address the long-standing bias of funding towards inner city schools.  But many Tory MPs representing other areas have been angered to learn that their constituencies – already receiving the lowest allocations – were to have their funding slashed further. Theresa May will be holding talks with concerned MPs after already meeting groups of backbenchers this week. Last night a Government source insisted a new formula was needed but conceded the plans would have to be at least ‘tweaked’.” – Daily Mail

  • Schools can pretend they are failing to gain funds – The Times (£)
  • LibDems call for 1p income tax rise to fund NHS and social care – The Guardian
  • Schools need to show that the spending on them is fair and efficient – The Times (£)

Penrose and Norman flay the Big Six

“Former Tory Cabinet Minister John Penrose yesterday renewed calls for a price cap – limiting the difference between a supplier’s most expensive and cheapest rates. Leading a debate on the Big Six he said no other sector treated customers as badly. “Who treats their longest-serving customers as chumps to be quietly and secretively switched onto expensive and unfair deals when aren’t looking and then milked, ripped off mercilessly for as long as possible. The Big Six, that’s who?” – The Sun

> Yesterday: John Penrose on comment – Energy bills. We need a relative price cap – to boost choice, cut prices and stick it to the Big Six.

Sebastian Payne: Labour backbenchers are fighting back. Someone has to.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 07.50.49“Thanks to social media, backbenchers are able to ask tricky questions in the Commons and get people to notice. Chris Leslie, the MP for Nottingham East who was briefly shadow chancellor, has taken it upon himself to interrogate the government on the economy. During the NI debacle, he delivered greater scrutiny than all of the shadow Treasury team combined. The same goes for Yvette Cooper, a former Labour leadership contender. There are also the select committees. Hilary Benn, briefly shadow foreign secretary, has produced thorough reports as chair of the non-partisan Brexit committee.” – Financial Times

  • Call for Labour Birmingham candidate to stand down after she shared Jewish conspiracy theories on social media – Birmingham Post
  • I want to lead a Tory urban revival with John Lewis conservatism – Andy Street, Daily Telegraph

Sophie Gaston: Wilders isn’t in government, but his grip on power remains and will only grow

“In a continent shaken to its core by resurgent populism, Trump’s geopolitical nonchalance and Putin’s pernicious presence, and facing at least three major national elections this year, the failure of the charismatic Wilders to win the popular vote was seen to represent a turning point. This jubilation is both premature and potentially dangerous. First, it underestimates the extent to which Wilders’s ideas have already shaped Dutch politics. More important, it suggests that the issues he has championed to such effect can now be safely sidelined ahead of a return to the status quo.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Clegg: Liberals are fighting back – The Independent
  • GCHQ denies White House claim that it bugged Trump… – The Guardian
  • …Who tells Enda Kenny he will visit Ireland during his presidency, as America prepares for St Patrick’s Day – Belfast Telegraph

News in Brief

  • Global emissions stable despite economic growth – Financial Times
  • Shiner goes bankrupt – Daily Mail
  • Ukip canvasser caught urinating on elderly woman’s fence will not face court action after sending letter of apology – The Sun
  • Taxpayers fund hate videos and rape apologists via YouTube – The Times (£)
  • Tax credit rape clause becomes law without Parliamentary vote – The Guardian
  • Tensions escalate over the Falklands – Daily Express
  • Number of women being arrested leaps 50 per cent in a year after police told to crack down on petty crime – Daily Telegraph