Syria 1) Johnson’s demands for Russia sanctions “rebuffed” by G7 allies

Boris Johnson 30-01-17“Boris Johnson was left embarrassed last night after his demands for fresh sanctions against Russia over its backing for President Assad of Syria were publicly rebuffed by European allies. The final communiqué after a two-day meeting of G7 nations in Lucca, Italy, made no mention of the foreign secretary’s proposal to isolate Vladimir Putin and impose sanctions on Russian military figures. Italy and France rejected Mr Johnson’s position, and one senior Tory described the outcome as a humiliation for Britain.” – The Times (£)



  • Johnson was “humiliated” – John Stevens, Daily Mail
  • Is he missing Tim Barrow? – Sam Coates, The Times (£)
  • He ended up a “clown” – Katie Hopkins, Daily Mail
  • He’s “toothless” – Martin Kettle, Guardian
  • But why is Putin still with Assad? Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph
  • How your views on Johnson prove your eliteness – John Rentoul, Independent

>Today: ToryDiary: May has Johnson exactly where she wants him

Syria 2) May speaks with Trump and agrees on “window of opportunity” to get Russia on side…

“Theresa May and Donald Trump have agreed that “a window of opportunity” now exists to persuade Russia to break ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The US president and British Prime Minister spoke on Monday evening, with Mr Trump thanking Mrs May for her support following the air strikes he launched against the Assad regime last week. A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister and the president agreed that a window of opportunity now exists in which to persuade Russia that its alliance with Assad is no longer in its strategic interest.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Trump says no ground troops – Daily Mail
  • May being constantly updated during walking holiday – Independent


  • Europe needs to work together to counter US instability – Guardian


  • It’s Trump’s fault G7 can’t agree – Jeremy Shapiro, Daily Telegraph
  • Sometimes the “job of a friend is to provide restraint” – Michael Burleigh, Daily Mail
  • It’s all about the generals – Nick Allen, Daily Telegraph
  • Trump is “playing chicken with Russia” – David Klion, Guardian
  • Wasn’t Trump’s only bonus his friendship with Russia? Matthew Norman, Independent
  • Trumps has “done the right thing at last” – Anne-Marie Slaughter, FT

Syria 3) …But she doesn’t commit to supporting more air strikes

MAY Theresa March 2017“Theresa May has stopped short of saying she would back fresh US strikes on Syria – despite America today making clear it will respond if chemical weapons are used by the regime. Downing Street said Theresa May fully supported last week’s reprisals in the wake of the Sarin atrocity but was focused on finding a political solution to the crisis. The PM’s spokesman has refused to be drawn on ‘hypothetical’ questions of whether the UK would support a decision by Donald Trump to launch more strikes.” – Daily Mail

Syria 4) Corbyn refuses to answer “awkward questions” from the press

“Jeremy Corbyn refused to talk about the Syrian conflict at one point yesterday and chastised a reporter for not asking “helpful” questions. The Labour leader said that he would only talk about his party’s business policies at a press conference after announcing proposals to tackle the culture of making late payments to small firms. After Mark Lobel, a BBC reporter, began to ask a question on Syria, Mr Corbyn interrupted, saying: “I’m doing interviews afterwards OK . . . Can we deal with business and then we’ll come back to that please.” – The Times (£)

  • He “blocked attempts” to discuss the conflict – The Sun
  • Watch it happen – Daily Express
  • He finally publishes list of media meetings – Independent


  • Corbyn doesn’t get freedom of the press – Kate McCann, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 1) Did a foreign cyber strike crash the EU referendu voter resignation site?

EU Exit brexit“The Brexit referendum could have been hit by a cyber attack from one of the UK’s enemies, MPs warned last night. The Commons public administration committee declared the crash of the official voter registration website just days before the vote may have been organised by foreign agents. It said it was deeply concerned about the allegations of overseas interference in last year’s Brexit vote. While the MPs did not identify who may have been responsible, it noted that both Russia and China use an approach to cyber attacks based on an understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals.” – Daily Mail

  • Cabinet Office site went down just before deadline – FT
  • MPs worried about potential Russian and Chinese involvement – Guardian
  • Committee says it “can’t dismiss the idea” – Independent
  • And publishes “astonishing report” – The Sun

Brexit 2) Umunna: “The right-wingers think they can get away with it”

“There is no doubt about it: this Conservative Government is hurtling like a runaway train towards a hard, ideological Brexit, with a weak Prime Minister lacking the guts to stand up to the reckless right-wingers sitting in the driving seat. From the moment Theresa May gave her Lancaster House speech in January setting out her approach, there could be no doubt about it and we should not be afraid of saying so… Aided and abetted by their cheerleaders in the print media, the right-wingers think they can get away with it. The Labour Party – as the principal Opposition – must make sure they don’t.” – Independent

Brexit 3) Finkelstein: My new theory about Leave voters

FINKELSTEIN Danny“Something has been puzzling me for 20 years and I think that, just this week, I’ve worked it out. Allow me to take you through it. I think it helps with understanding the politics of Brexit and why the political hopes of many Remainers are likely to be disappointed. … These marginal leave voters are now much more likely to think that as they voted to get out, we should get out, and if that means leaving the single market, well, whatever. Wasn’t it always likely we’d have to do that? …People’s feelings about their vote change once they have voted. They are likely to remain as leavers even if their reasons for leaving have left.” – The Times (£)

More Brexit

  • What does it mean for space contracts? FT
  • Northern Irish company considering tactical move to Britain – Belfast Telegraph

>Yesterday: Richard Ritchie in Comment: Ten Lenten confessions about Brexit

Greening to announce 111 more free schools

“The government is pressing ahead with spending on its free-school-building programme in England, despite a reported funding crisis causing nearly two-thirds of secondary schools to cut staff. Justine Greening, the education secretary, is to announce a further 111 new free schools have been given the green light to open by the Department for Education, while 20 local authorities have been granted permission to open special educational needs schools using the free school framework. The rapid expansion, which the DfE says will create more than 69,000 places across primary, secondary and special needs, comes as the government prepares to publish its white paper approving new selective or grammar schools.” – Guardian

>Today: Ben Rochelle in Comment: How can Greening get out of the trap she’s in over the National Funding Formula for schools?

Rudd: We must focus on thousands being trafficked and enslaved in Britain

Amber Rudd 26-03-17“We might have previously thought that slavery and trafficking were consigned to history books. But we realised it wasn’t. In this country alone, there are thousands of poor souls being exploited and abused. They are in backstreet brothels, trapped in domestic servitude, forced into hours of back-breaking agriculture labour. They are on our high streets – in nail bars, restaurants and car washes. Many of them will have come here on the promise of a better life; those hopes will have been crushed.” – Daily Express

Hammond’s Government-backed savings bond has gone on sale

“Five months after it was first announced, a new “market-leading”, government-backed savings bond paying 2.2% interest has gone on sale. The new bond is likely to prove popular with savers desperate for a better return on their cash, but – in what appeared to be a slightly unfortunate bit of timing – the launch on Tuesday coincided with official confirmation that UK consumer price inflation is running at 2.3%. With inflation set to move even higher over the coming months, those putting money into the new bond may well struggle to achieve a real return. That said, 2.2% is still the best rate currently available for those willing and able to tie up their money for three years.” – Guardian

Judges angry with Truss over her preference for Lord Chief Justice role

Truss“Liz Truss has opened a new front in her battle with the judiciary by privately promoting a favoured candidate to become the next lord chief justice. Ms Truss, the lord chancellor, wants Sir Ernest Ryder, 59, a low-key moderniser, to be the next head of the judiciary, according to well-placed sources. Her support for him made some senior judges “livid”, a Whitehall figure said. The judiciary’s favoured candidate, Sir Brian Leveson, 67, has been ruled out by Ms Truss’s insistence of a four-year minimum term, which he could not serve because the mandatory retirement age is 70.” – The Times (£)

Corbyn “declares war” on M&S

“Jeremy Corbyn said that a Labour government would ‘declare war’ on corporations like M&S and BP if they fail to pay suppliers on time. The Labour leader branded it ‘a national scandal’ that big businesses were withholding more than £26 billion a year from small suppliers by paying their bills late. Corbyn’s attack on large businesses was based on data from Experian credit reports, which showed some big companies paying suppliers weeks, even months late.” – Daily Mail

  • He attacks companies over late payments – Guardian
  • Including EON, which paid to have Labour stall – Independent
  • He’s “wooing small businesses” – Independent
  • And is also committed to triple-lock pension policy – The Sun

Tension escalates around Korea as Trump responds with his “armada”

Donald Trump Jan 2017“United States Navy strike group described by Donald Trump as an “armada” steamed toward the western Pacific on Tuesday as North Korean state media warned of a nuclear attack on the US at any sign of American aggression…Tension has escalated sharply on the Korean peninsula amid concerns that reclusive North Korea may soon conduct a sixth nuclear test and after Washington said at the weekend it was diverting the aircraft carrier strike group Carl Vinson toward the Korean peninsula in a show of force.” – Daily Telegraph

More Trump

  • Spicer criticised for Hitler comments – Daily Mail
  • The “gaffe” follows a trend – Timothy Snyder, Guardian

News in Brief

  • German footballers’ bus bombed – Guardian
  • Britain is third largest spender on aid – The Times (£)
  • Marines cut by 200 – FT
  • Heywood questioned over Libor – Daily Mail
  • Carswell says Ukip should “disband” – Independent
  • Letters “reveal” Hughes beat Plath – Daily Mail
  • One more Scottish shop shuts every day – Herald
  • Greatest view is in Wales – WalesOnline
  • Monks’ “dangerous wine” could cost them charity status – Daily Telegraph