Osborne 1) Warning that Evening Standard appointment will be used to undermine Brexit

OSBORNE octopus“George Osborne has been accused by allies of Theresa May of plotting to undermine her plans for a clean Brexit by establishing a “new power base” as Editor of the London Evening Standard. In a direct warning to Mrs May he said that the newspaper would be “fearless” confronting the Government if it fails to represent the interests of Londoners. “If it isn’t, we’ll be quick to say so,” he said. His appointment prompted fury in Downing Street and accusations from Mrs May’s allies that the former Chancellor would use his position to undermine the Prime Minister.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Osborne triumphantly demonstrates a journalistic essential. A sense of mischief.

Osborne 2) Rules on outside jobs “flouted”

“George Osborne knowingly flouted anti-sleaze rules by accepting a job as Evening Standard editor without waiting for approval from the official watchdog. The former chancellor stunned Westminster and Fleet Street yesterday by taking the editor’s chair at London’s evening paper and insisting that he would stay on as MP for Tatton. Last week it was revealed that he was earning £650,000 for working one day a week at the US fund management firm Blackrock, a company that features regularly in the Standard’s business pages. It is thought that he will earn about £220,000 as editor, which would involve an “average of four days a week”.” – The Times(£)

Osborne 3) Balancing the books will be the first challenge

money“One of George Osborne’s first tasks as editor of the London Evening Standard will be horribly familiar: trying to cut a deficit. The former chancellor will not only have to deal with Evgeny Lebedev, the hands-on Russian billionaire owner, but will have to address the paper’s financial future. The Standard’s pre-tax profits trebled to £3.4 million in the year to September 2015, but print display advertising is slumping by around 20 per cent a year.” – The Times(£)

Osborne 4) An important launchpad for the fightback says Parris

“I think he’s right to worry what the hell’s going on with our country: worried for London as the biggest engine of our economy and of our cultural life too; worried for liberalism in the Conservative Party; worried for the endangered reputation of the free market in a metropolis that depends upon the capitalism it so often, and with reason, distrusts. He’s been sacked from the government, can’t say all he thinks in the chamber — and he’s got something serious to say. What’s he supposed to do?” Matthew Parris, The Times(£)

May promises a clampdown on energy bills

gas-energy“Ministers are poised to unveil a cap on energy prices after Theresa May yesterday promised a crackdown on rip-off gas and electricity bills. Firms will face limits on the difference in price between their cheapest and most expensive tariffs under plans that will be finalised within weeks. The Prime Minister said yesterday that relying on customers to switch energy suppliers to keep prices down was ‘clearly not working’.” – Daily Mail

Tory revolt on school funding

“Although schools in urban areas are expected to be hardest hit, some in rural Tory heartlands also face severe cuts….Steeled for a fight, a group of embittered Tory backbenchers (doubtless under pressure from angry parents in their constituencies) led by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown complained to Mrs May. It’s surprising to see the veteran Cotswolds MP, who has had a long but relatively undistinguished parliamentary career, involved in such a revolt…The fact is that although MPs such as Mr Clifton-Brown are the ones challenging ministers, behind the scenes, backbenchers are being encouraged to rebel by Mrs May’s Remainer enemies such as George Osborne, who she sacked from the Government.” – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

Cameron defends Overseas Aid budget

David Cameron 16-06-16“David Cameron says Brexit made it more important than ever that Britain keeps spending £12billion on foreign aid. He insisted Britain’s pledge to spend 0.7 per cent of its national income on overseas aid “maximises Britain’s ability to get things done in the world”. Asked if Britain’s vote to leave the EU would threaten the controversial target, which he enshrined in law two years ago, the former Prime Minister said it “continues to be the right policy – perhaps particularly because of Brexit, not in spite of Brexit”. Mr Cameron added: “On the Brexit point, I would argue that if you want to maximise Britain’s ability to get things done in the world, have strong relations in the world… then your aid budget – as well as being a moral budget and an effective national security budget – is also a massive influence budget.” – The Sun

Senior Tories call for UK to keep signed up to the ECHR

“Theresa May must pledge to keep Britain signed up to Europe’s human rights court as part of the next Conservative manifesto, senior Tories have demanded. Three former cabinet ministers are behind the call for the prime minister to promise to keep Britain signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights after Brexit and the next election…Dominic Grieve, a former attorney-general, Maria Miller, a former culture secretary, and Caroline Spelman, a former environment secretary, backed a new campaign to keep Britain inside the convention.” – The Times(£)

Hammond “needs a strong showing” in next Budget

Hammond Budget“Hammond now needs a strong, competent Autumn Budget to rebuild his reputation. But this won’t be easy. The Autumn Budget is expected to see a massive increase in capital spending in the NHS. Which, again, raises the question of how all this will be paid for. I understand that when Mrs May and Hammond met on Wednesday morning to agree the U-turn, she gave him no assurances on alternative ways she would let him raise money to plug the hole in this Budget.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

Scotland 1) Brown says Brexit is an opportunity for more devolved powers

“Gordon Brown is to set out a “third option” for Scotland’s future, based on more powers being transferred to Holyrood after Brexit. The former Labour prime minister will suggest the Scottish government be given the power to set VAT rates and sign international treaties. Control over agriculture, fisheries and environmental regulation could be transferred, he will argue in a speech. It comes as Nicola Sturgeon is pressing for a second independence referendum.” – BBC

  • He will also propose a Bank of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – The Scotsman
  • Labour’s English and Scottish wings must split says Clive Lewis – Independent

>Today:  ToryDiary: Gordon Brown is right – Brexit must mean more power devolved to Scotland


Scotland 2) Voters would still back Brexit even if it meant break up of the UK

Opinion Poll graphic“Brexit is more important to voters than keeping the United Kingdom together, an opinion poll for The Telegraph has indicated. Sixty per cent of respondents agreed that Britain’s EU departure mattered more than stopping the UK’s break-up, while just 27 per cent disagreed. Furthermore a majority of people said they would still vote for Brexit even if they knew it could trigger Scotland’s independence. The results suggest there is no “buyer’s remorse” over Brexit despite a dramatic week in which the UK’s future has been called into question.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Welsh First Minister warns of inner-UK trade war – BBC

Scotland 3) Sturgeon “blinks first” over referendum timing

“Nicola Sturgeon will today tell Theresa May she is willing to compromise over her preferred timing for an independence referendum after she came under pressure to rule out unilaterally holding an “illegitimate” vote if no deal is reached. The First Minister will use key keynote speech to the SNP conference in Aberdeen to claim she is “happy” to hold talks with Mrs May over her plan for a vote between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. She told the BBC yesterday that “we might only be a matter of weeks or months apart.” …Ms Sturgeon blinked first in the constitutional standoff over the referendum’s timing after the Prime Minister rejected her plan for an early vote, saying “now is not the time” as she is about to embark on highly complex Brexit negotiations.” – Daily Telegraph

Scotland 4) May denounces SNP “muddle on muddle”

Theresa May 10-03-17“Theresa May has dismissed Nicola Sturgeon’s plans for a new independence referendum as “muddle on muddle” as she rejected the “divisive, obsessive” nationalism of the SNP. The Prime Minister used her speech to the Conservative Spring Forum in Cardiff to suggest that Ms Sturgeon had been plotting since last year to use Brexit as a “pretext” for a new referendum. Pledging to defend the “precious, precious Union”, Mrs May said she wanted the country to become more, not less, united – “one that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home”.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: MPsETC: “A stronger economy.” “A fairer society.” (Heard that one before?) May’s speech to the Conservative Spring Forum: full text

Blair steps up challenge to Corbyn

“Tony Blair is launching a “new policy platform to refill the wide open space in the middle of politics” aimed at combating a “frightening authoritarian populism” that he says is undermining the west’s belief in democracy…Blair did not mention Jeremy Corbyn by name, but argued that the party needed to change. He said: “The position is retrievable, but only if we change. This is not about the personality of the leader. In my view, we are in fundamentally the wrong political position. If you stick to that position, even if you change the leader, you will not have a different result.” – Interview, The Guardian

Trump tells Merkel they were both wiretapped…

Angela Merkel“President Donald Trump has stood by claims he was wiretapped under Barack Obama, telling visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel: “At least we have something in common, perhaps.” US intelligence agencies under Mr Obama reportedly monitored Mrs Merkel’s phone, sparking an angry response. But both Republican and Democratic congressional leaders have said they do not believe Mr Trump was wiretapped. Mr Trump and Mrs Merkel have discussed key issues including Nato and trade.” – BBC

…as row with GCHQ deepens

“The diplomatic spat over unsubstantiated claims of GCHQ wiretapping escalated last night after President Trump backed away from an earlier apology by a senior US official. When asked about the Fox News allegations that GCHQ, the UK government’s listening agency, had helped President Obama to spy on him before the US election, Mr Trump said that his spokesman Sean Spicer had only been quoting “a very talented lawyer”. – The Times(£)

Tory MPs pushing for a snap election…

ballotbox“Conservatives are pressing the chief whip to change Theresa May’s mind on an early election as the party’s headquarters strengthens its resources just in case. The party is appointing event managers, political advisers and voter communication volunteers, with applications closing in three weeks. It has been replacing staff rather than winding down activity, as might be expected at this point in the electoral cycle. Prospective Tory MPs on the party’s candidates’ list have been asked to update details and confirm their intentions to apply for constituencies before March 24, adding to speculation about a snap election. Others on the candidates’ list claimed that this was routine.” – The Times(£)

…and Nigel Farage agrees

“We now face the very real prospect of a large number of by-elections being contested over the course of this year. This would do nothing other than drag the reputation of British politics into the mud. There is one simple solution to all of this. To draw a line under what has happened under the previous Conservative regime, and restore public confidence in our politics, Mrs May should get rid of all who were involved in the South Thanet campaign and call a General Election. She should do so with the absolute promise that time has come to clean the stables. As Trump attempted to drain the swamp in Washington, the same thing should now happen in Westminster.” – Nigel Farage, Daily Telegraph

Google still allowing anti semitic content on YouTube

youtube“Google is failing to remove virulent antisemitic content from its YouTube video platform in an apparent breach of its own guidelines and the law. Havas, one of the world’s biggest advertising agencies, pulled hundreds of UK clients out of Google’s advertising network yesterday after revelations in The Times that taxpayers and big brands were unwittingly funding extremists through adverts. Dozens of other brands have also withdrawn their business. The full scale of Google’s failure to tackle hate speech can be revealed today, with fresh analysis showing that more than 200 antisemitic videos are hosted on YouTube.” – The Times(£)

News in brief

  • Met pays £100,000 compensation to Lord Bramall – Daily Mail
  • First hit for Israel’s anti missile system – BBC
  • FTSE 100 closes at new record high – Daily Telegraph
  • A typical property costs 7.6 times annual earnings – BBC
  • Build on the Green Belt says the OECD – Daily Telegraph
  • British troops arrive in Estonia – BBC
  • Eton sponsored free school wants to become a grammar – The Times(£)