North Korea threatens Trump with war

timeskorea“US military forces were massing around North Korea last night as China warned that war could break out “at any minute” and satellite imagery suggested that Pyongyang was preparing to test a nuclear weapon. President Trump was said to be assessing “a full range of options” as US warships with Tomahawk cruise missiles were reported to be 300 miles from North Korea’s main nuclear testing site. US officials said that they anticipated either a nuclear or ballistic missile test to mark the 105th anniversary today of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea.” – The Times(£)

  • China urges US and North Korea to step back – The Guardian
  • “We’re ready to use nuclear weapons” – The Times(£)
  • Diplomatic failures have left dynasty isolated – The Times(£)
  • Arrival of aircraft carriers off North Korean coast pumps up the pressure – The Times(£)


  • Kim Jong-un knows he can’t win – but he can’t back down either – Mark Almond Daily Mail
  • Kim is the Sun King without a crown – Ben Macintyre The Times(£)
  • I’ve rarely felt more fearful – Peter Oborne Daily Mail
  • Pyongyang Paranoia – Leader The Times(£)

Syria still has hundreds of tons of chemical weapons stockpiled

“President Bashar al-Assad continues to retain hundreds of tonnes of his country’s chemical stockpile after deceiving United Nations inspectors sent in to dismantle it, according to Syria’s former chemical weapons research chief and other experts. Brigadier-General Zaher al-Sakat – who served as head of chemical warfare in the powerful 5th Division of the military until he defected in 2013 – told the Telegraph Assad’s regime failed to declare large amounts of sarin precursor chemicals and other toxic materials.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Winning the ideological battle is the only way to defeat radical Islam – Interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali The Times(£)
  • swift military action may be the best strategy – The Sun Says

Forsyth says Boris is right to back sanctions on Russia…

boris-johnson“His critics scream that he’s a national embarrassment, a court jester playing at diplomacy. Boris Johnson, they say, has been humiliated by his failure to persuade the G7 to back further sanctions on Russia. The real story isn’t Boris’s failure, but the weakness of those members of the G7 who wouldn’t back sanctions against Russia. In private, even some of his  Cabinet colleagues echo these views. But this judgment is a   misreading of the situation. To be sure, Boris got too far forward on his skis this week. He was overly confident that the G7 would be prepared to act after Russia’s client regime in Syria used chemical  weapons on its own people. But the real story isn’t Boris’s failure, but the weakness of those members of the G7 who wouldn’t back sanctions —  principally, Italy and Germany.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

…as he joins with French Foreign Minister to refute Assad’s denials

“Regime denials should impress no one. Assad said it was the terrorists. But then Assad claims not to have barrel bombs, not to bomb civilians, not to torture, “because it would be illogical”. No barrel bombs? Their images are everywhere. No attacks on civilians? Refugee camps in Turkey are replete with their victims. No torture? Amnesty International found that in the Saydnaya prison alone, 13,000 were slaughtered. So yes, it is illogical, Mr Assad, but it is your murderous syllogism. You claim your stockpiles were fully destroyed under OPCW supervision, so where do the recently used chemicals weapons come from? OPCW clearly demonstrated that there remain serious gaps and inconsistencies in Syria’s declaration of chemical stocks. We need to investigate this further.”Jean-Marc Ayrault and Boris Johnson, The Guardian

Greening faces legal challenge over allowing academies to include “grammar streams”

Greening“Education Secretary Justine Greening is facing a High Court battle with Left-wing activists over allowing academies to select pupils for ‘grammar streams’. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) wants to stop the schools from using a test to siphon off the very brightest pupils so they can be given more advanced work. Supporters of the streams say they boost social mobility by allowing children from lower-income families to have an academically rigorous education.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday:ToryDiary:The supporters of grammar schools could well be Greening’s biggest problem

Javid proposes ban on councils charging for fun runs

“Councils will be prevented from charging runners to take part in popular park events. New laws are planned to protect the events, which are overseen by volunteers and inspire 120,000 runners to complete a five-kilometre course every weekend. Dame Kelly Holmes, the double Olympic gold medal-winner, was among those to condemn a parish council for imposing a charge last year. A parkrun in Little Stoke, near Bristol, was forced to close after the decision to ask its organisers to pay £1 per runner…..Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, said: “These sporting events offer a fantastic opportunity to bring people together and improve their fitness, too. These new rules will make sure this continues and prevent any council from charging for the everyday use of public parks.” – The Times(£)

Clark urged to provide tax breaks for creative sector

Greg Clark“Creative companies are becoming increasingly important to the UK’s future economic success and should be at the heart of the government’s new industrial strategy, a trade body says. The Creative Industries Federation says film-making, music, advertising and video games are all big export earners but are often overlooked by ministers. It says enterprise zones, tax breaks and access to finance could help firms. The business secretary says he was committed to a “deal” with the sector. The role of the UK’s creative industries, which also includes theatre, architecture, broadcasting, fashion, museums, and galleries was recognised when the government unveiled its industrial strategy Green Paper in January for boosting the post-Brexit economy….Business Secretary Greg Clark said creative industries contributed nearly £90bn to the economy in 2015.” – BBC

May faces revolt over foreign students

“Theresa May is facing a damaging Commons revolt next week by Conservative MPs who are pressing her to remove foreign students from the immigration figures. Rebel Tories claim they have enough support to inflict a humiliating defeat on Ms May, who is also under pressure from several cabinet ministers to stop counting overseas students as long-term migrants. The issue will come to a head on Wednesday when MPs debate an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill passed by the House of Lords last month.” – Independent

Osborne earns £150,000 for four speeches

OSBORNE octopus“George Osborne has earned another £150,000 for making four speeches, it emerged last night. Last month, the former chancellor picked up £155,136 for just 11 hours’ work. It means he has registered payments of nearly £1million for 18 speeches since September….The latest declaration shows Mr Osborne will receive £51,842 for a speech to the New York University in Abu Dhabi on March 4. He will be paid £51,754 for two speeches to the Magyar Nemzeti Bank in Budapest on March 1 and 2.” – Daily Mail

  • How Dave’s chum are lining their porky pockets – Daily Mail

Commons memorial plaque to Jo Cox to be unveiled

“A memorial plaque for murdered MP Jo Cox is to be unveiled in the House of Commons. The plaque will feature a coat of arms that her children Cuillin, six and Lejla, four, helped create. The design features the motto “More in Common”, inspired by Mrs Cox’s maiden Commons speech in 2015. Mrs Cox, the Labour MP for Batley and Spen, was murdered outside her constituency office in Birstall, West Yorkshire, by Thomas Mair in June 2016.” – BBC

Lib Dems pour activists into Gorton for the by-election…

ballotbox“Labour’s majority in one of its safest seats may be slashed after evidence of a serious challenge by the Liberal Democrats. With the Manchester Gorton by-election less than three weeks away, party sources said that the Lib Dems were stronger than they had been in the Witney by-election, when Tim Farron’s party lost but achieved a 19.3 per cent swing from the Tories. Early canvass data is understood to show that they could secure an even bigger swing from Labour in the Manchester seat, which had a majority of 24,000 at the general election. Insiders believe that winning Labour’s 13th safest seat may prove too steep a challenge but are flooding the constituency with 1,000 activists over Easter.” – The Times(£)

…as Blenkinsop calls on Corbyn to go

“A Labour MP has called on Jeremy Corbyn to resign after the Tories took a council seat off the party in its heartland city of Middlesbrough. Local MP Tom Blenkinsop insisted the local election disaster that stunned activists meant it was “time for new leadership”. The Conservatives won the Coulby Newham by-election to Middlesbrough Council with a dramatic swing of 8%. The ward has elected only Labour or Independent councillors since 1999.” – The Sun

  • Neigh ouring MP disputes Blenkinsop’s claims – The Guardian

DUP expects “creeping direct rule”

DUP logo“The Democratic Unionists have said they do not expect fresh elections in Northern Ireland if negotiations aimed at restoring power-sharing government fail, as political parties prepare to enter a final round of post-Easter talks. A senior DUP negotiator said they believed the secretary of state James Brokenshire’s preferred option was the partial transfer of some devolved government departments back to London should the discussions “run out of road” next week. The Northern Ireland secretary has given the parties extra time to reach an agreement that would lead to the restoration of a cross-community coalition in Belfast.” – The Guardian

Chewing gum firms told to help pay for street cleaning

“Councils in England and Wales have once again told chewing gum manufacturers to pay towards prising gum from pavements. Councils spend £60m a year removing trodden-in gum from streets, said the Local Government Association (LGA). The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, has for years urged producers to help remove what it called a “plague” on pavements. Wrigley, Britain’s leading gum manufacturer, said it was investing in campaigns to discourage littering.” – BBC

Brexit 1): Lower energy bills likely after EU red tape is scrapped

Red Tape Britain“Britain is preparing to scrap EU green energy targets which will add more than £100 to the average energy bill as part of a bonfire of red tape after Brexit. The UK is currently committed to getting 15 per cent of all energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2020. Ministers have long been critical of the targets because they exclude nuclear power, carbon capture or gains from energy efficiency. The UK is currently on course to miss the target and incur millions of pounds in fines from the European Union. Government sources told The Daily Telegraph that the target, under the EU Renewable Energy Directive, is likely to be scrapped after Brexit.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Andrew Shuen on Comment: The secret gatherings of foreigners who support Brexit

Brexit 2) Could the European Parliament derail any deal?

“The Parliament is already flexing its muscles over Brexit and taking a harder line than the European Commission, the EU civil service, and the European Council, the 27 national leaders. A resolution backed by four political groups in the Parliament – the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), the largest; the Socialists and Democrats; the Liberals and the Greens – says the European Court of Justice (ECJ) must police any long-term UK-EU agreement. That is incompatible with Theresa May’s pledge to end the ECJ’s jurisdiction in Britain.” – Independent

Brexit 3): UK will play full trade role in EU until we leave says Fox

liam-fox-18-12-16“Liam Fox, the UK’s international trade secretary, has hit back at attempts by Brussels to exclude Britain from “sensitive” EU trade discussions, saying he expects the UK to play a “full role” until the point of Brexit in 2019.  Over the next two years, the UK will be party both to EU trade negotiations while simultaneously preparing its own bilateral trade deals for signing after Brexit. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, fears that Britain could use information gleaned in Brussels to outbid the EU in its negotiations with third countries, such as Australia.” – Financial Times(£)

Constant disruption for children in care

“Thousands of children in care have had their lives disrupted in the past year either by moving to a new family or school or by being given a new social worker, in a system described as like “living in a pinball machine”. Upheavals in children’s circumstances are linked to poor academic performance and can exacerbate emotional or behavioural difficulties. Being given a new social worker was the most common change, which was experienced by 31.5 per cent, but 25 per cent had two changes and 10 per cent had three or more in the year.” – The Times(£)

Moore: What does the Reformation mean?

MOORE Charles blue backgroundAs a (Protestant) boy, I noticed that the creeds spoken in the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church are virtually identical. Yet the history of the two was of conflict. It did not seem to make much sense. In the modern world, it makes less and less. The longer Christianity exists and the wider it spreads, the more it proves that it does indeed “extend throughout the world, and is not limited by time”. Its common factors become more apparent, its divisions more irrelevant. Nowadays our evangelical Archbishop of Canterbury has a Roman Catholic spiritual director; and the Vatican approves of the evangelical Alpha course. It proves perfectly possible for the same church – even the same individual Christian – to be Protestant, Catholic and Reformed all at once.” Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Labour lans business tax clampdown – The Guardian
  • Mackenzie suspended for “racist slur” – Daily Mail
  • Extra fees for disability assessments –BBC
  • Shadow Justice Secretary joins heavy metal band that uses Nazi symbols – The Sun
  • Review will call for premium wage for zero hours contracts – Financial Times(£)
  • Arkansas executions blocked – Daily Telegraph
  • Councils spend £350,00 on third runway legal challenge – BBC
  • Big business spends £25 million on lobbying – The Times(£)
  • Police fire tasers at 140 children in four years – The Sun
  • Welsh councils avoid fines despite missing recycling targets – BBC
  • NHS Trust bailed out by military charity – The Sun
  • Polls tighten in French election – Daily Telegraph

And finally…Theresa May is fun run marshal

maymarsh“For most people, marshalling a rhinoceros around a ten-mile running course would be an intimidating prospect. Yet having taken on the task of directing Brexit, a tiny majority and Boris Johnson, it was less of a challenge for Theresa May. The prime minister wore a luminous marshal’s bib to help direct runners in the annual Good Friday Maidenhead ten-mile race yesterday. It meant that the runner in a rhinoceros costume was not the most talked-about figure at the event. Mrs May stood with fellow volunteers as she directed runners to turn left, though some took a quick detour to grab a selfie with the prime minister, who has helped with the race before. Linda McQuaid, who took part with the Watford Joggers group, said: “It was a really nice thing, and I thought to myself, ‘You’re not likely to see Donald Trump do that, are you?’ ” – The Times(£)