May and Hammond ‘locked in Green Belt standoff’

“Theresa May and Philip Hammond were locked in a stand-off over housing last night after the Prime Minister publicly vetoed the idea of more building on the Green Belt. Just a week ahead of the Budget, Mrs May told MPs yesterday that she was ‘very clear’ about the need to protect Green Belt land. But last night, Mr Hammond warned there was no ‘silver bullet’ to fix the housing crisis and signalled there was a limit to what he was willing to do next week to tackle the ‘very complex challenge’. Today. the Prime Minister will pledge to take ‘personal charge’ of tackling the housing crisis, which many believe is essential to reconnecting the Tories with the under-40s.” – Daily Mail

  • Chancellor wipes £60 billion housing association debt to boost housebuilding – Daily Telegraph
  • May says building ‘more homes, more quickly’ is her personal mission – The Sun
  • Housing associations to be reclassified as private – FT
  • Think big to solve the housing crisis, says Javid – The Times


  • Hammond seeks four-year delay on tax reform vote – The Times
  • DUP demand freeze in fuel duty – The Sun
  • McDonnell to call for ’emergency’ Budget – FT


  • This is Hammond’s last chance to avoid being a do-nothing Chancellor – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • Scotland needs a good deal within Britain, not just the EU – John Lamont MP, Times Red Box
  • How to solve the SME credit dilemma and rekindle faith in capitalism – Rishi Sunak MP, City AM

>Today: ToryDiary: Spreadsheet Phil must become Storyteller Phil – if his Budget is to succeed where the Tory conference failed


Gove accused of using Cabinet to ‘audition for Chancellor’

“Michael Gove faces a backlash from senior Tories who have accused him of using cabinet meetings to “audition” to be the next chancellor. The environment secretary has angered cabinet colleagues by straying beyond his brief in what is regarded as an attempt to persuade the prime minister to give him Philip Hammond’s job. He is understood to have made a lengthy contribution on the economy two weeks ago, including references to the obscure Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, which governs companies who provide services relating to shares, bonds and investments. At the most recent meeting, on Tuesday, Mr Gove again made a point of using “lots of long, economicky words”, according to two people present.” – The Times

Brexit 1) ‘Mutineers’ face grassroots backlash

“Tory ‘mutineers’ faced a grassroots backlash last night after threatening to frustrate Brexit in Parliament. Fifteen rebels have told party whips they may vote against a bid to enshrine in law the date for leaving the EU. Sources believe the number could top 20 – enough to overturn Theresa May’s slender Commons majority when the issue comes to a vote next month. Tory councillors and voters in the rebels’ constituencies – many of which voted to leave the EU last year – warned this could usher in a Labour government. The rebels yesterday claimed they were being bullied because of their stance. But David Campbell Bannerman, a Eurosceptic Tory MEP, said they were in ‘contempt of democracy’ and should be kicked out of the party.” – Daily Mail

  • Rebels warn that enshrining Brexit date harms UK interests – Daily Telegraph
  • Revolt swells after Downing Street ‘outs EU rebels – The Times
  • Hancock attacks opponents of setting exit date in law – Daily Express
  • Labour revolt as 19 MPs try to block Brexit – Daily Telegraph
  • MPs fear gridlock if hard Brexit sparks customs chaos – FT
  • May defeats raft of amendments to the Withdrawal Bill – Daily Express


  • May and Davis have more room to manoeuvre than many realise – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph
  • The Prime Minister has failed to master the new politics – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian


  • Is no deal still better than a bad deal? – Daily Telegraph
  • Populism targets the democratic process – FT

>Yesterday: Chris Grayling MP’s column: Labour should stop betraying its own voters

Brexit 2) Brussels expects May to up ‘divorce bill’ offer

“Senior figures in Brussels believe that Theresa May is preparing to make a big financial offer to the EU to unblock Brexit negotiations in time for next month’s meeting of European leaders. EU sources said that they had detected a change in tone from the government that made them optimistic that progress would be made. They added that the willingness to make further concessions on the divorce bill had yet to be translated into a concrete offer in negotiations between David Davis and Michel Barnier. Yesterday Mrs May held talks with Manfred Weber, an ally of Angela Merkel in the European parliament, who said that the EU was unlikely to be able to recommend moving talks on to trade and transition next month.” – The Times

  • Merkel ally sparks hope of progress – FT


  • Record number of EU workers despite Brexit vote – Sky News
  • Bulgarians and Romanians starting to leave – The Sun


  • After we leave it should be local communities who set their immigration level – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • Brexit heartlands want someone else to pay – Jenni Russell, The Times
  • We should all be optimistic about Brexit, here’s why – Patrick Minford, Daily Telegraph


  • May must limit what she is willing to spend – The Sun

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Ici Londres – Britain has nothing to fear from trading with the EU on WTO terms

Johnson may repay Iran £450 million to help free Briton

“Britain is preparing to pay Iran a £450million debt to help free a British mother jailed there for alleged espionage, it was reported last night. Boris Johnson wants to improve relations with Iran as he battles to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe who is locked in a Tehran jail. He has ordered officials to find a way to get around UN sanctions which have stopped the UK paying Iran a debt over a 1970s arms deal. The Shah of Iran paid Britain £650million for 1,750 Chieftain tanks but only 185 had been delivered when he was toppled in 1979 and the new government cancelled the order. Britain was told to pay back £450million by the International Chamber of Commerce in a 2009 ruling but sanctions on military equipment prevent payment.” – Daily Mail

  • Foreign Secretary tells husband of Zaghari-Ratcliffe that he is doing all he can – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Which was stronger? Cameron’s first Cabinet? Or the current one? Views, please.

May admits that grandparents are being blocked from adopting

Grandparents are being denied the right to look after their grandchildren by adoption agencies despite being “willing to provide that home and support for them”, Theresa May has admitted. The Prime Minister said adoption agencies should work to ensure that grandchildren should “be brought up in their family whenever possible”… In the House of Commons, Mrs May said she had met grandparents “who have been concerned about decisions that have been taken in relation to their grandchildren when they themselves were willing to provide that home and support for them”. Mrs May was pressed on the issue by Oliver Dowden, a Tory MP and former Number 10 adviser to David Cameron, who said grandparents were not allowed to be part of adoption decisions about their own grandchildren in his Hertsmere constituency.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Opposition fail to capitalise on Government woes in the polls – Daily Mail


  • Keeping an unstable May is better than the alternative – Carole Walker, Times Red Box


  • Corbyn gives the Prime Minister a carefree outing at PMQs – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail


Universal Credit recipients face eviction threat over housing benefit reforms

“A property company has issued tenants with pre-emptive eviction notices before they are put on universal credit. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, told MPs at prime minister’s questions that Gap Property, in Grimsby, was threatening its tenants with eviction because they feared the change from housing benefit would mean an interruption in collecting rent. Housing benefit is paid directly to landlords but universal credit pays the money to the tenant. People going on to universal credit do not get any money for the first six weeks after registering. A copy of the Gap Property letter dated November 2017, said that the agency “cannot sustain arrears at the potential levels universal credit could create”. It says the eviction notices will be activated if they fall behind.” – The Times

  • Government cuts wait period for Universal Credit to four weeks – The Sun
  • DWP launches inquiry into whether benefit reform causes rent arrears – Evening Chronicle

Labour: Corbyn urges May not to confront Russia…

“Jeremy Corbyn faces a fresh backlash after Labour warned Theresa May against “ratcheting up tensions” with Russia. The Labour leader’s spokesman said “more evidence” was needed to justify the PM’s blistering attack on the Kremlin over cyber-espionage. And he said: “Jeremy has made clear on a number of occasions that we need to see an attempt through dialogue to ratchet down tensions with Russia.” The comments came as Theresa May played down suggestions that Russians had interfered in British votes.” – The Sun

  • Intelligence watchdog urged to look at Russian influence on Brexit vote – The Guardian


  • I see, Theresa, it’s Russia and not the Tories to blame for the crisis – Rod Liddle, The Sun

…as Foster warns any government he led would be a ‘disaster’ for Ulster…

“Any Jeremy Corbyn government would be disastrous for Northern Ireland because of his perceived bias towards the republican community, the DUP leader, Arlene Foster, has argued. Foster, who was Northern Ireland’s first minister until the power-sharing executive collapsed in January, said she could never work with the Labour leader, and she urged Theresa May – whom the DUP are propping up in Westminster – should “focus on the big issues”. In an interview with the House magazine, Foster said a Corbyn-led government would affect moves to restore devolution in Northern Ireland, as the Labour leader was “very clearly not neutral in relation to these issues”.” – The Guardian

…and third MP faces sexual harassment claim

“A Labour MP is being investigated by the party after being accused of sexual harassment. Ivan Lewis, 50, who was a minister under Gordon Brown, is the third Labour MP to be investigated over allegations of sexual misconduct after a formal complaint was made about him. The nature of the complaint was not disclosed yesterday but he acknowledged last week that his behaviour towards some female colleagues had made them uncomfortable. Mr Lewis made the admission after a woman told the Buzzfeed website that he had repeatedly touched her leg and invited her to his home at a Labour Party event in 2010, when she was a 19-year-old student.” – The Times

  • Interim leader of Scottish Labour suspended over harassment allegations – Daily Telegraph
  • Sargeant’s family ‘overwhelmed’ by public support – Daily Mail

Price of alcohol in Scotland set to soar as Supreme Court backs minimum pricing

“The price of beer, wine and spirits is set to soar in Scotland as it becomes the first country in the world to impose a minimum price for alcohol. The Supreme Court in Scotland today backed the controversial measure in what ministers in Edinburgh hailed as an ‘historic and far-reaching judgment’. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has mounted a legal challenge to try to halt the price hike, which it said is ‘disproportionate” and illegal under European law. But seven judges rejected their challenge and gave the green light for the minimum charge to be introduced.” – Daily Mail

  • Follow Edinburgh’s lead, charities urge – The Times
  • Battle against Scotland’s booze culture well worth winning for Sturgeon – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph


  • England and Wales should introduce minimum pricing – The Times

Leader of Zimbabwe coup ‘sought Beijing’s blessing’

“One of Zimbabwe’s coup leaders travelled to China days before President Mugabe was placed under house arrest in an apparent attempt to secure Beijing’s blessing. General Constantine Chiwenga, head of the Zimbabwean military, met Chang Wanquan, the defence minister, on Friday and thanked Beijing for its “selfless” support of Zimbabwe. China is the biggest foreign investor in the country. Last year President Xi pledged about £3 billion of investment, aid and loans over a three-year period, having earmarked £45 billion for Africa as a whole.” – The Times

  • Why I refuse to give up on a brighter future for Zimbabwe – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • This is Zimbabwe’s chance to shine again – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Hammond’s Budget must boost home-ownership – John Redwood, Comment Central
  • The EU army is taking shape, despite Remain claims that it was a ‘fantasy’ – James Holland, Brexit Central
  • ‘America First’ helps nobody – Charles Hankla, CapX
  • Three cheers for Gove, a brilliant Environment Secretary – Olivia Utley, Reaction
  • ‘Nothing to see here’, say Zimbabwe’s military – Foreign Policy