Plot to kill the PM foiled by MI5

“The security services have foiled an alleged plot to assassinate the Prime Minister in Downing Street, it has emerged. An Islamic extremist planned to use an improvised explosive device to blow up the gates of Downing Street before entering No 10 and making an attempt on Theresa May’s life. Two men have been charged with terror offences and are due to appear in Westminster magistrates’ court. Details of the alleged terror plot were set out to Cabinet members on Tuesday during a briefing by Andrew Parker, the head of MI5. Mr Parker revealed that British intelligence had foiled nine terror plots in the past 12 months.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Two men charged – The Sun
  • Manchester attack “could have been stopped” – BBC
  • MI5 in the spotlight – Leader, The Times

Breakthrough in reading results

“English primary schoolchildren have achieved the highest reading standards for a generation because of improvements by boys, according to a test that placed them joint eighth in the world. Nick Gibb, the schools minister, used the results of tests taken by nine and ten-year-old children to claim success for the use of phonics in the classroom and to attack teaching unions and ideological opponents of his reforms. He now wants to see primary school pupils reading at a speed of 100 words a minute to improve their comprehension. Mr Gibb attributed progress in England to the introduction of phonics, which uses individual sounds and blends them together to make words. He said that “dogmatic romanticism” had prevented teaching using such evidence-based methods before his tenure, which started in 2010.” – The Times

Hammond banned from using MOD planes

“The chancellor has been banned from using a fleet of RAF jets and helicopters until the Treasury settles a bill with the Ministry of Defence, The Times has learnt, amid a growing spat between two cabinet ministers. Philip Hammond’s department is said to owe a six-figure sum for past flights with No 32 (The Royal) Squadron. An order has been issued to officials who take VIP bookings for the aircraft not to accept any more requests from the chancellor until he pays up, according to a defence source. Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, is preparing to fight the Treasury for as much as £2 billion a year extra for the armed forces to prevent a series of cuts as part of a defence review.” – The Times

Brexit 1) “Unease” from senior cabinet ministers at May’s tactics

“Theresa May is facing mounting pressure to secure a breakthrough in EU negotiations after the Democratic Unionist party expressed shock at the handling of the Irish border question and Brexit-supporting Conservatives said the time had come to walk away. Senior cabinet members also voiced unease at May’s tactics, and complained they were not informed in advance about Downing Street’s plan to promise the EU some form of “regulatory alignment” to help move the divorce talks on to the next stage. Sources warned that key Brexit supporters in May’s top team would object if they believed that anything was agreed that could limit the UK’s ability to diverge from the EU in the future.” – The Guardian

  • Davis answers yet another Urgent Question – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • Don’t expect a bonfire of red tape says Barclay – Daily Telegraph
  • Alignment is not Customs Union says Davis – Daily Express



Brexit 2) Progress will delayed for “as long as necessary”

“The DUP dealt Theresa May a fresh Brexit blow last night by threatening to delay a divorce deal with Brussels for “as long as necessary”. The clock is ticking down fast to the hard deadline for a deal by Friday, or it will slip into next year and send business into panic. But the Ulster unionists’ boss Arlene Foster ripped up a plan to meet Theresa May for talks in No10, and even refused to speak to her on the phone, insisting they were too far apart to “talk woman to woman”.” – The Sun

  • What’s the truth about trade across the Irish border? Analysis by Jack Doyle, Daily Mail

Brexit 3) Failure to communicate with the DUP but the process is not doomed says Wallace

“We all saw the result of that failure in communication. The unionists, whom May relies on for a majority, were outraged about what they view as an unacceptable proposal. Arlene Foster put her foot down, stopping short the hoped-for agreement in principle. The Prime Minister is now in talks with Foster as well as with the EU – and unionists are accomplished at playing hard-ball with Westminster. There’s no hiding that almost everyone involved would prefer that this hadn’t happened. But it would be a mistake to think that the whole process is now doomed to fail. If anything, the experience has sharpened the awareness of how much people want to find a satisfactory deal – in Dublin, in Belfast, in London and, yes, in Brussels.”- Mark Wallace, the i paper

Other comment

  • Theresa May must urgently clarify what sort of Brexit she is now seeking to achieve – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour must make up its mind – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
  • If Ireland gets a bad Brexit trade deal, Leo, you’ll have yourself to blame – The Sun Says

Brexit 4) Time to walk away says IDS

“The former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has suggested the UK should walk away from the Brexit negotiations if the European Union does not change its position. Speaking to the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Duncan Smith said the EU needed to “back off” or the UK will “get on with other arrangements which are not going to be beneficial to you”. – BBC

Brexit 5) Voters blame EU for poor progress

“Voters’ faith in Britain getting a good Brexit deal has collapsed, according to fresh research. At the halfway stage of the 18 month long negotiations, a majority for the first time think we’ll get a bad deal when we leave in March 2019 – 52%, up from 37% per cent in February.  A study by polling expert John Curtice for the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) found…57 per cent blame the EU for how negotiations are going – up from 47 per cent in February…But despite the pessimistic outlook, the research found public opinion on what kind of Brexit the UK should be seeking has not changed markedly during the course of the year.” – The Sun

Brexit 6) Johnson and Gove lead cabinet revolt

“Theresa May is facing a Cabinet revolt after Brexiteers led by Boris Johnson and Michael Gove expressed “genuine fear” the Prime Minister is trying to force through a soft Brexit. Mrs May was accused of trying to “bounce” the Cabinet into agreeing to “regulatory alignment” between Ulster and Ireland after it emerged she did not brief senior ministers before talks in Brussels on Monday that stalled over the controversial issue.” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 7) Any deal must apply to the whole of the UK says Davidson

“Ruth Davidson and her Scottish Tory MPs have helped Theresa May push back against the Tories’ hard Brexit wing by arguing that any special deal for Northern Ireland would have to apply to the rest of the UK. The Scottish Conservative leader telephoned the Prime Minister on Tuesday morning to say that any special arrangements to maintain a frictionless border between the north and south of Ireland should be copied on the British mainland.” – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 8) Science in the UK will thrive whatever the outcome says Hunt

“Whatever the outcome of our Brexit negotiations, we have promised a competitive regulatory system that serves the best interests of patients and allows the UK life sciences sector to thrive, including fast processing of approvals and licences. Eighteen months ago, the clinching argument in the decision to leave the EU was that it gave us back the power to shape our own destiny.  Today, we are starting to see what this future might look like: forward-looking, highly skilled and built on a very British tradition of creativity and entrepreneurship.” – Jeremy Hunt, Daily Telegraph

Democracy is under threat warns Electoral Commission

“Britain’s electoral system is facing a “perfect storm” that risks putting “our democratic process in peril”, the head of the elections watchdog has said. Sir John Holmes, chairman of the Electoral Commission, called for sweeping reforms to voting laws in response to the scandal over Russian interference in the Brexit referendum…Sir John’s proposed changes to UK election law include: New rules to require political campaigners to identify themselves on all online advertising to combat external interference in elections.” – The Times

  • Electoral Dysfunction – Leader, The Times

Health Secretary rebukes Facebook for children’s app…

“Jeremy Hunt has told Facebook to “stay away from my kids” after it launched a new messaging app aimed at children. The social network announced on Tuesday it was testing Messenger Kids in the US for those under 13 who cannot sign up for its full service. The health secretary took to Twitter to condemn the new tool, saying the firm had promised to prevent under-age use of its product. “Instead they are actively targeting younger children,” he wrote. “Stay away from my kids please Facebook and act responsibly!” – BBC

  • The danger of being sucked in – Damian Thompson, The Sun

…while Bradley says her 12-year-old son watched axe murder on YouTube

“The Culture Secretary has revealed she found her 12-year-old son watching an axe murder video on YouTube. Karen Bradley, who is responsible for the Government’s internet safety strategy, said when she came home earlier this week her child was up past his bedtime because he was so upset by what he had seen. Speaking at a media conference in Manchester, the mother of two admitted she regularly let her son watch YouTube. She assumed the videos he chose were suitable because they usually showed other youngsters playing the block-building game Minecraft.” – Daily Mail

Biggest rail fare increase for five years

“Train fares in Britain will go up by an average of 3.4% from 2 January. The increase, the biggest since 2013, covers regulated fares, which includes season tickets, and unregulated fares, such as off-peak leisure tickets. The Rail Delivery Group admitted it was a “significant” rise, but said that more than 97% of fare income went back into improving and running the railway. A passenger group said the rise was “a chill wind” and the RMT union called it a “kick in the teeth” for travellers.” – BBC

Johnson denounces advertising boycott

“Boris Johnson last night condemned attempts by hard-Left campaigners to bully advertisers into boycotting popular newspapers. Stop Funding Hate, which is run by a pro-Corbyn cabal, uses social media to pressure firms into pulling business from titles such as the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Express. The Foreign Secretary said he found it incredible that freedom of expression was under ‘vicious’ attack.” – Daily Mail

  • An attack on the basis of our democracy – Boris Johnson, The Sun

Teenage pregnancies have halved since 2008

“Teenage pregnancy more than halved in just eight years from the late 2000s, according to new official figures yesterday. They showed that the chances that a girl aged under 18 will get pregnant dived during years marked by the rise of social media, falling unemployment, and increasing numbers of girls going to university. The latest count from the ONS showed that only just over 4,000 girls under 18 became pregnant in England in the three months to the end of September 2016. The record low total amounts to only 43 per cent of the 9,286 teen pregnancies which were seen in the same three months of 2008.” – Daily Mail

Christine Keeler has died

“Christine Keeler, the model embroiled in the 1963 Profumo affair, has died aged 75, her son has said. Seymour Platt said Ms Keeler had been ill for several months with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He told the BBC: “She was always a fighter, but sadly lost the final fight against a terrible lung disease.” She became famous for her part in the scandal, which shook Harold Macmillan’s government, but her son said that fame came “at a huge personal price”. At the height of the Cold War, the-then teenager claimed she had an affair with Conservative cabinet minister John Profumo.” – BBC

Plans for 6,400 new homes in Haringey thrown into doubt

“The result is one of the most ambitious plans undertaken by a UK local authority — a 20-year project to build 6,400 homes worth a total of £4bn. If all the first-phase homes are sold, the council thinks it will make a profit of £275m. The council also estimates that the development will increase its council tax and business rate take by £13m a year. Northumberland Park and Broadwater Farm, which is one of Britain’s most notorious estates despite its bucolic name, are both slated to be demolished and rebuilt. But a failure to win over many local people, suspicions about the involvement of Lendlease, the property developer, and the rise of Momentum, the grassroots leftwing political movement that looks likely to have a majority on the council by May, have thrown the project into disarray.” – Financial Times

  • Momentum chief pushed for rerun for all Labour candidate selections in London – The Times

>Today: Rob Lee on Local Government: Momentum purges Hastings Labour Party

Call for Galloway to return to the Labour Party

“An influential ally of Jeremy Corbyn has called for George Galloway to be readmitted to the Labour Party. Andrew Murray, a former communist who played a key role in Labour’s general election campaign, said it was “long past time” for the “vicious, illegal and disgraceful” expulsion of the controversial politician to be reversed. Mr Galloway, 63, was expelled after 16 years as a Labour MP in 2003 after he called for British troops to “refuse to obey illegal orders” in the Iraq war but he remained closely involved with the Stop the War Coalition, of which Mr Corbyn was a founding member and chairman.” – The Times

US to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

“US President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, senior administration officials have said. But the officials said Mr Trump would not immediately move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The news comes ahead of an expected speech by Mr Trump on Wednesday. Arab leaders earlier warned against moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, with one saying this would be “a flagrant provocation to Muslims”.” – BBC

News in brief

  • FT says FO to balance – Tim Montgomerie, Unherd
  • Are the police cosying up to Corbyn? – Paul T Horgan, Conservative Woman
  • Britain needs to wake up to the Russian threat – Robert Seely, CapX
  • The Tories are playing a dangerous game with the Union – Alex Massie, Coffee House
  • The deal on the Irish border really could threaten the Good Friday Agreement (but not in the way you think) – Owen Polley – Reaction