May dismisses Assad’s denial of responsibility for sarin attack…

ASSAD sunglasses‘Theresa May dismissed Bashar Assad’s denial over the Syrian chemical weapons attack today – insisting only his forces had the ability to carry out the atrocity. The Prime Minister set out an uncompromising line after the dictator denied responsibility, and even suggested footage of the horrors could have been faked. ‘It is only the (Assad) regime who has the capability to make such an attack,’ she told journalists on a visit to the Sandhurst military academy this afternoon.’ – Daily Mail

  • The dictator smirked as he asked if the child victims were really dead – Piers Morgan, Daily Mail
  • I buried my twins with my own hands, says father – Daily Mail
  • The Prime Minister hails the first woman officer to graduate from Sandhurst for combat duties – Daily Mail
  • And she warned troops that their job is ‘more complex than ever’ – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Douglas Hansen-Luke on Comment: Here’s how we can help Syria – by feeding, educating and treating its refugees.

…and praises Johnson’s ‘excellent’ work on Syria

‘Theresa May has defended Boris Johnson’s handling of the Syria crisis, saying he had done an “excellent job” despite criticism of his failure to win backing for further sanctions on Russia. The prime minister said Johnson had taken a very clear message to the G7 and managed to forge an international consensus on the need for Syria to have a future without President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by the Russian regime. Johnson has been accused of humiliating failure by Labour and the Liberal Democrats for misjudging the international mood when he tried to get backing from Italy, France and Germany for a tougher approach towards Russia.’ – The Guardian

>Today: Iain Dale’s Friday Diary: Ignore the conventional wisdom. So far, Johnson has hardly put a foot wrong.

>Yesterday: James Frayne’s column: Can one tell in advance if a Minister will be culled in a reshuffle?

Trump extends war on ISIS by dropping the biggest non-nuke ever in Afghanistan

TRUMP Donald thumbs up‘With an 11-ton warhead, the GBU-43 bomb — one of the biggest in America’s arsenal — had to be dropped from a pallet pushed out of the back of a huge military transport plane. The bomb, the largest non-nuclear weapon used in combat, blasted the jihadist base and tunnels in the Isis badlands of eastern Afghanistan, destroying everything within a 500ft (150-metre) radius, penetrating 200ft under ground. Witnesses heard it 30 miles away. The objective was to deny Isis the use of a large tunnel and cave complex in Nangarhar province, close to the Pakistan border, where jihadists are believed to have vast hoards of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and to kill the militants hiding there. Hamdullah Mohib, the Afghan ambassador to the US, said that an operation had been under way for six weeks, but was stalled by Isis IEDs that prevented ground progress.’ – The Times (£)

  • The President says things will ‘work out fine’ with Russia – Daily Mail
  • Washington and Moscow must talk – Daily Express Leader
  • Former MI6 head suggests Trump was ‘bailed out’ by Russian financiers – The Times (£)
  • North Korea threatens conflict again – Daily Mail
  • CIA regards Wikileaks as a ‘hostile intelligence service’ – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Daniel Hannan’s column: Spicer didn’t deny the Holocaust – but the Twitter mob simply doesn’t care

Greening considers quotas to open new grammar schools to the less well-off

‘Quotas could be introduced for new grammar schools to prioritise pupils from families earning around £33,000 or less. Education Secretary Justine Greening said these ‘ordinary working families’ had previously ‘fallen under the radar’ and deserved access to better schools. Outlining her target group for priority entry to grammars for the first time, she focused on families on the median household income or below. Yesterday, a No 10 source said imposing a quota for these families in new selective schools was ‘on the table’ among other options.’ – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Greening sets sail into the choppy waters of new grammar schools

Truss criticised over absence of punishment in new Prisons Bill

Prison bars‘Prisons are no longer places for punishment, ministers have said after the phrase was excluded from the first legal definition of the purpose of jails. A new Prison and Courts Bill, proposed by Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, tells prison governors they must protect the public, reform and rehabilitate offenders, prepare prisoners for life outside and be safe and secure. The legislation does not place any obligation on prisons to punish offenders, reigniting the row over so-called “holiday camp” jails. Critics suggested Ms Truss had “gone soft on crime”, but the Ministry of Justice insisted that the courts punished offenders by sending them to prison, and that no further punishment was necessary once they were locked up…The Conservative MP Philip Davies said he would table an amendment to the Bill.’ – Daily Telegraph

Britain won’t be locked out of EU trade talks, says Fox

‘Britain will not be shut out of the room for current EU trade talks with Australia and other countries, Dr Liam Fox declared last night. Brussels is threatening to kick our officials out of meetings to avoid the UK gaining sensitive information for after Brexit. EU officials fear the UK could gain confidential information that would help us agree favourable terms with the same nations after we leave the EU in March 2019. But the defiant International Trade Secretary said: “We are a full partner in the EU until we leave and intend to play our full role.” He added that Britain will “exercise our full legal rights as one of the 28 members until such time as we stop being a member”.’ – The Sun

Gove: The Anglican communion is a still, small voice of calm

Church shield‘It is precisely the painstaking way in which leaders of the Anglican communion try to respect different views and honour the sincerity with which they’re held that makes me admire them. It’s the willingness to believe the best in others, and hope that through imagination and empathy an agreement can be reached to serve the greater good, which is the special joy and treasure of the Church of England. Despite the criticism directed at it — or perhaps worse, the indifference that so many show towards it — the church continues to attract men and women of outstanding talent and humanity. Both our present archbishops, Justin Welby and John Sentamu, are brave and thoughtful leaders. Any institution would be blessed to have them at the helm.’ – Michael Gove, The Times (£)

>Today: ToryDiary: The triumph of the Cross

Pharma execs discussed destroying life-saving drugs to hike prices

‘Staff at one of the world’s leading drug companies discussed destroying supplies of life-saving cancer medicines in a battle to impose massive price rises across Europe, The Times can reveal. The proposal was raised at Aspen Pharmacare during a dispute with the Spanish health service in 2014 over attempts to increase the price of the medicines by up to 4,000 per cent. The company, which runs its European operations from Dublin, began a continent-wide effort to drive up the price of five cancer medicines after buying the rights from the British company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).’ – The Times (£)

McDonnell launches pledge to prevent high street bank closures

Labour-Party-Red-Rose-logo‘Labour has pledged to tackle what it calls an epidemic of high street bank closures by only permitting branches to be shut after a local consultation and with the permission of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Under a policy to be outlined by the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, the party would replace the current guidance system over closures, called the access to banking protocol, which was agreed between high street banks, consumer groups and the government. Labour cited Consumers’ Association figures saying 1,046 bank branches around the UK closed between December 2015 and January 2017, with 486 more scheduled for closure this year.’ – The Guardian

  • Corbyn inspects a toilet – Daily Mail
  • Abbott says Labour would be on less than ten per cent without the leader – The Guardian
  • Burnham writes to woman who died in 2009, asking for her vote – The Sun
  • Labour councils want to ban smoking in pub gardens – Daily Express
  • SNP hopes to seize Glasgow – FT
  • Davidson blasts nationalists’ ‘gross hypocrisy’ – The Scotsman
  • Venezuela rocked by bloody protests – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Hammond and May must not allow Labour to scare them off unpicking the pension triple lock

News in Brief

  • Little progress in Stormont talks – Belfast Telegraph
  • Westminster attacker acted alone, police conclude – Daily Mail
  • One of Saturn’s moons has the right conditions for life – The Sun
  • Facebook under fire for ‘appalling’ content – The Times (£)
  • First look at the new Bake Off – Daily Telegraph
  • Not one company has received the maximum fine for nuisance calls – The Sun
  • Monkmania shows our enduring love of erudition and quizzes – Jeremy Paxman, FT
  • Drink-drive soldier jailed after killing two teenage athletes – The Times (£)
  • Russia to boycott Eurovision – Daily Telegraph