Williamson warns that Russian attack could cause ‘thousands of deaths’

“Russia could cause “thousands and thousands and thousands” of deaths in Britain with an attack which would cripple the UK’s infrastructure and energy supply, the Defence Secretary has warned. In an interview with the Telegraph, Gavin Williamson says Moscow has been researching the UK’s critical national infrastructure and how it connects to continental power supplies with a view to creating “panic” and “chaos”. Delivering his assessment of the threat from what he calls an increasingly assertive Kremlin, he said it was willing to take action “that any other nation would see as completely unacceptable”. Mr Williamson, who is tipped as a possible future Tory leadership contender, gave his warning at the start of a new five-month-long defence review in which the Ministry of Defence is attempting to secure more money to stave off cuts to the Armed Forces.” – Daily Telegraph

  • New review could win extra cash for the Armed Forces – FT
  • Williamson hints that May be about to approve additional spending – The Sun
  • Defence Secretary admits to affair – Daily Mail

May ‘threatened with leadership challenge’ by Eurosceptic MPs

“Theresa May faces the threat of a leadership challenge as a group of 60 Eurosceptic MPs warned her to make a clean break from Brussels or they would scupper her premiership. The Tories were plunged into war by Philip Hammond saying leaving the EU would result in only ‘very modest’ change. The Chancellor sparked uproar among Eurosceptic MPs after he said Britain would stay in a ‘customs arrangement’ with the EU – and suggested free movement might continue in all but name. The ferocious backlash led No 10 to disown the remarks and forced Mr Hammond to issue a partial ‘clarification’, insisting he stood by Tory pledges to make a clean break with the EU.” – Daily Mail

  • Three more MPs submit letters amidst fear of ‘meltdown’ after local elections – The Sun
  • Rees-Mogg’s Brexiteers feeling rebellious over customs union – The Times
  • Chancellor calls for soft Brexit to protect the economy – FT
  • Hammond maps ‘tech opportunity’ opened up by leaving the EU – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister ‘turns on Chancellor’ over soft Brexit speech – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Why May should make it clear that she will not lead the Conservatives into the next election

>Yesterday: John Stevens in Comment: Rees-Mogg and Johnson have a point – Brexit may indeed be pointless

Prime Minister says UK will seek ‘new trade partners’ post-Brexit

“Theresa May told world leaders at Davos today that Brexit was a golden chance for the UK to find “new” trade partners. Addressing the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort today, the Prime Minister promised to take full advantage of our new-found freedom and sign deals with countries outside the bloc. She said the UK had been at the “forefront of championing new trade deals” including with Japan and Canada – and we will get our own agreements with these countries when we leave the EU behind. An optimistic Mrs May told leaders in her address to the World Economic Forum: “As we leave the European Union, the UK will continue to be a global advocate of free trade.” – The Sun

  • Davis insists Britain will sign a ‘string’ of trade deals – Daily Express
  • Brussels hand May four-week deadline for trade proposals – The Sun
  • UK too slow to formulate demands, EU claims – The Guardian
  • Tory MEP insists EU is ‘businesslike’ behind the scenes – Daily Express
  • Business chiefs speed up plans for ‘no deal’ departure – FT
  • Irish leader ‘breaks ranks’ to propose trade solution – Daily Express


  • The ERG are the real Brexit watchdogs now – Michael Spicer, Daily Telegraph


  • The idea that leaving the customs union would be cost-free is fanciful – The Times
  • May must be clearer on the details of transition – Daily Telegraph
  • Hammond wants to betray the leave vote – The Sun

>Yesterday: Charlie Elphicke in Comment: How to ensure the UK is ready to become a powerhouse of global trade

Trump insists his relationship with the Prime Minister is as strong as ever

“Donald Trump vowed to ‘fight for’ Britain today as he and Theresa May put on a gushing show of unity in a bid to kill concerns about the state of the Special Relationship. The US president stressed the warmth of ties as he met the Prime Minister for talks at the World Economic Forum in Davos, saying they ‘respect each other a lot’ and were on the ‘same wavelength’. As Mrs May nodded, Mr Trump said he wanted to correct ‘false rumours’ that they did not get on. The leaders have also agreed that the president should make his much heralded trip to the UK later this year – although the full red-carpet state visit, where he would meet the Queen, is likely to be further away.” – Daily Mail

  • President ‘set to meet Queen’ as UK visit confirmed… – The Times
  • …and he’s ready to apologise for Britain First retweet – Daily Telegraph
  • Thornberry scraps US trip after Trump officials refused to meet her – The Sun


  • Trump ‘tried to fire Russia prosecutor’ – The Times
  • Momentum official ‘calls for President’s assassination’ – The Times


  • Johnson’s Trump act struggles on the UK stage – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • We self-righteous Britons should stop deluding ourselves about Trump – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Trump – UK and US “joined at the hip when it comes to the military”

Fraser Nelson: May has ignored the evidence on stop and search, with terrible consequences

few years ago, Theresa May set out to make a hard-hitting speech about how too many law-abiding black men were being stopped and searched by the police. Her officials got to work on it, but soon hit a problem: the only in-depth study showed that, if anything, white men were the ones being singled out. There was no evidence to suggest any kind of racial discrimination. It was all a bit embarrassing, so reference to this study was removed from the draft of the speech – and the then home secretary went ahead anyway with her spirited j’accuse. Black men, she said, are up to seven times more likely to be stopped and searched. It cannot continue. Politically, the speech was a great success. It was a potent charge, and it helped to establish Mrs May as a reformer with a social conscience. Her figure was technically correct: when compared with the general population, young black men are far more likely to be searched. It’s just that if you look at those on the streets of an evening (as the Home Office had done), the bias vanishes.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Violent crimes in England and Wales are up by 20 per cent – FT

Collins attacks Twitter over Russia probe

“The head of a UK government inquiry into Russian interference in the EU referendum has attacked Twitter for refusing to give “straight answers” to questions as part of its investigation. Damian Collins, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, said in a letter to Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey that his company “is simply increasing concerns about these issues, rather than reassuring people”. The letter was published in response to a response sent to the select committee last week. A study published by City University in December identified more than 13,000 Twitter accounts as suspected bots that were active in the run-up to the Brexit vote in 2016.” – FT

  • Terror czar warns that social media crackdown may breach human rights – Daily Mail
  • Prime Minister insists that social media giants should be held responsible for all content – The Sun
  • May’s salvo puts Big Tech on alert for crackdown – FT

Wallace helps block blanket ban on Hezbollah

“Ministers resisted parliamentary pressure to proscribe the political wing of Hezbollah yesterday as Labour advised its MPs not to back a ban on the group. Backbenchers on both sides of the House yesterday backed a motion that would have made it illegal for Britons to be members of or support the organisation. At present, only the military wing of the Islamist group is banned in the UK, a stance that was criticised by Conservative and Labour MPs alike. However, Ben Wallace, the security minister, and his shadow, Nick Thomas-Symonds, defended the government’s position, which classifies Hezbollah’s military and political wings as separate organisations.” – The Times

  • Muslim groups say that new anti-extremism czar has ‘no credibility’ – The Times


  • Hezbollah is clearly a terror organisation and Parliament should treat it as one – Ron Prosor, Daily Telegraph
  • Why the new anti-extremism czar is perfect to fight hatred – Nikita Malik, The Sun
  • Appointing Khan shows the Government is taking extremism seriously – Sir Barney White-Spunner, Daily Telegraph
  • Why we’re concerned about Sara Khan – Bushra Wasty and Sulekha Hassan, The Guardian

Crouch leads boycott of Today over pay

“A Tory minister has refused to be interviewed on the BBC’s flagship Today programme after John Humphrys’ controversial comments about equal pay, it was claimed last night. The new minister of loneliness, Tracey Crouch, is said to be angry that the presenter has failed to apologise for mocking the BBC’s former China editor, Carrie Gracie. Other women MPs are following suit, with Caroline Dineage, the Tory MP for Gosport tweeting her support for her fellow minister. She wrote that she ‘couldn’t be more proud of my pal @tracey_crouch.’ Humphrys was overheard joking about Miss Gracie’s warnings over the BBC’s gender pay gap. The veteran presenter told North America editor Jon Sopel: ‘Oh dear God. She’s actually suggested that you should lose money – you know that, don’t you?’” – Daily Mail

  • How the BBC kept leavers off air for a decade – Daily Mail

Corbyn issues hospital warning to Cabinet

“Jeremy Corbyn tonight warned Cabinet ministers their own local hospitals were strained to breaking point as he demanded an ’emergency budget’ to bail out the NHS. Labour research found the Hillingdon Hospitals Foundation Trust that serves Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s Uxbridge constituency was among those suffering worst. Average bed occupancy at the hospital this winter has been 99.3 per cent – and it has been completely full on 40 occasions. The Labour leader is holding a rally in London tonight to demand an immediate cash injection to the NHS, which is straining under the worst flu outbreak since 2010.” – Daily Mail

  • McDonnell wants accountants to swear an oath not to help dodge tax – Daily Mail
  • Labour MP booed by Question Time audience after praising Corbyn – Daily Mail
  • Opposition peer sacked over Presidents Club dinner – The Times

More NHS:

  • Sturgeon ‘lied’ over axed children’s ward – The Scotsman

SNP justice minister urged to resign over policing scandal

“Scotland’s Justice Minister has been urged to consider resigning after a Holyrood inquiry heard he pressured an independent watchdog to stop the country’s chief constable from returning to work. Andrew Flanagan, the former chairman of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA), told MSPs that Michael Matheson had argued that allowing Phil Gormley to return to the force while bullying allegations were investigated was a “bad decision”. He said he felt he had “no choice” but to “pause” a decision to allow Mr Gormley back, despite the SPA supposedly being independent of ministers. His testimony undermined Mr Matheson’s denial that he acted unlawfully, with the minister insisting that he had merely asked questions of Mr Flanagan to ensure “due process” had been followed.” – Daily Telegraph

  • MSPs vote in favour of repealing controversial football act – The Scotsman

Ulster Unionists pressure DUP as cuts loom in Northern Ireland

“The Ulster Unionists have said money from the DUP’s £1bn deal with the Tories looks “as far away as ever” as the consultation closes today on the Department of Finance’s budget briefing paper. The document, which was published last month, warns that ministers in any new Executive would have to make extensive cuts in some departments. Health and education budgets were protected under all three scenarios laid out as part of the exercise, but cuts of between 4% and 12% are on the cards for other departments. A 10% rise in rates, increasing university fees, and means-testing for domiciliary care were among the options considered for raising money.” – Belfast Telegraph

  • Leaders must find a way to work together in Stormont – Theresa Villiers, Times Red Box

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Talk of direct rule as top civil servant redeploys to Northern Ireland

News in Brief:

  • May is safe, at least for now – James Kirkup, The Spectator
  • Carillion’s collapse has nothing to do with ‘neoliberalism’ – Kristian Niemietz, CapX
  • Downing Street is unwise to bash Boris – Mark Fox, Reaction
  • The BBC has been marginalising pro-Brexit voices for years – David Keighley, Brexit Central