General demands more money to ‘keep up’ with Russia

‘Britain must take action now so that the Armed Forces can tackle the threat from Russia, the head of the Army warns today. General Sir Nick Carter will say Britain needs to ‘keep up’ with Vladimir Putin’s growing military strength or see our ability to take action ‘massively constrained’. His stark words will be seen as a plea for the Ministry of Defence to be given more money ahead of a security review’s findings in the coming weeks…At the Royal United Services Institute think-tank today, Sir Nick – the Chief of the General Staff – will say: ‘The time to address these threats is now, we cannot afford to sit back. Our ability to pre-empt or respond to threats will be eroded if we don’t keep up with our adversaries. We must take notice of what is going on around us or our ability to take action will be massively constrained. Speed of decision-making, speed of deployment and modern capability are essential if we wish to provide realistic deterrence.’ – Daily Mail

O’Neill: Upgraded growth will ‘dwarf’ costs of Brexit

‘He said Britain’s growth forecasts are likely to be upgraded as China, the US and Europe show increased activity. The gloomy predictions of the possible effects of Brexit are likely to be “dwarfed” by the more positive figures, Lord O’Neill added. But he argued that far from “changing his mind” on the economic effects of Brexit, the question now for the UK was how much better the country could be doing without the uncertainty over its relationship with the European Union. “I certainly wouldn’t have thought the UK economy would be as robust as it currently seems,” Lord O’Neill, who is on the board of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, told me. “That is because some parts of the country, led by the North West [of England], are actually doing way better than people seem to realise or appreciate. As well as this crucial fact, the rest of the world is also doing way better than many people would have thought a year ago, so it makes it easier for the UK.”‘ – BBC News

  • Brussels hopes to exploit Westminster’s divisions to derail May’s Brexit plan – The Times
  • Johnson dismisses CBI’s endless calls to stay in the Customs Union… – Daily Mail
  • …as does Davis – Daily Telegraph
  • The Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister are set to clash over extra money for the NHS – The Sun
  • Escaping the Customs Union offers the ‘freedom to succeed’, Patel argues – Belfast Telegraph
  • We must be confident in securing new trade deals – The Sun Says
  • May’s MPs back her goals, but have doubts about her planned route to achieve them – Anand Menon and Alan Wager, The Times

>Today: Ben Houchen on Comment: Brexit. We need Project Fearless – and it starts with freeports. Let’s kick off with one in Teesside.

France would ‘probably’ vote to Leave the EU, if given a vote, concedes Macron

‘Emmanuel Macron has admitted that France would probably have voted to leave the European Union if it had held a referendum. The French President said frustration at Brussels across the Channel could have boiled over to a Leave vote if they were offered a choice. He said he opposes offered the public an ‘in / out’ choice on their relationship with the bloc. Mr Macron also admitted that he is trying to use Brexit to lure businesses away from the City of London and to Paris. In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC Andrew’s Marr Show he was asked directly if his country would have backed ‘Frexit’ if offered the choice. He said: ‘Probably, in a similar context. But our context was very different. I definitely would have fought very hard to wind – but I think it is a mistake if you just ask ‘”yes or no”.’ – Daily Mail

  • Gripes about the EU are what we truly have in common with our neighbours – Chris Bickerton, Daily Telegraph
  • Mandelson offered to advise the EU Commission on the negotiations – Daily Mail
  • German Social Democrats vote to enter coalition with Merkel – Daily Mail
  • Twist or bust for the established order – Daily Telegraph Leader
  • ‘Remain’ ministers suggest Britain pay ‘over the odds’ for EU programmes – FT
  • Seeking yet another referendum makes no sense – Wolfgang Munchau, FT


Policy 1) Backbenchers support Boles’s critique that Downing Street is too timid

‘Ed Vaizey, the former culture minister, suggested yesterday that Mrs May needed to embrace “big, bold ideas”. Sarah Wollaston, Tory chairwoman of the health select committee, criticised the prime minister for rejecting the idea of a cross-party commission on the social care crisis. “The government response lacks ambition,” she said. “The prime minister should grasp the opportunity for cross-party working to address the funding shortfall for NHS and public health as well as social care.” In private several cabinet ministers are increasingly frustrated by what they see as a block in No 10 on any departmental policies that could be controversial. Some believe that Mrs May is listening too much to senior civil servants’ warnings that Whitehall does not have the capacity to embark on a big domestic policy reform agenda alongside Brexit. Mr Vaizey told Peston on Sunday on ITV1 that while the government was “hamstrung” by not having an outright majority there was “a safety first approach”. “I think big, bold and radical ideas do attract the public so I do think it won’t harm the prime minister if she comes out more boldly with what she wants to see,” he said. “That is, after all, the kind of tone she struck when she became prime minister.”’ – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Last June’s election has transformed the debate about capitalism. May needs a strategic response.

Policy 2) Working group backs Gove’s plastic bottle deposit scheme

‘A deposit scheme for plastic bottles and other drinks containers has moved a step closer after a working group appointed by the government concluded that it would significantly increase recycling levels. The group, which includes Tesco and Coca-Cola European Partners, will send a report to ministers next month saying that a deposit return scheme (DRS) would result in far higher recovery of used bottles and cans as well as reducing litter and improving the quality of material sent for recycling. Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has expressed support for a DRS and the report will give him the evidence he needs to argue for it in cabinet. Sir John Randall, Theresa May’s special adviser on the environment, is also keen on the idea and has discussed it with green groups. Under the proposals retailers would be required to charge a refundable deposit for drinks containers covered by the scheme.’ – The Times

Northern Ireland cash from the DUP deal is already being spent, ahead of Parliamentary approval

‘Amid confusion even in the Cabinet as to how the money which bought the DUP’s votes can be spent, the News Letter has established that the first £20 million tranche of the cash is already being spent by Stormont departments despite the possibility that Parliament could vote not to approve the spending. Rather than authorising expenditure of the money prior to it being spent, the Government is planning to ask Parliament to approve the expenditure after some of it has already left the Government account. The Treasury told the News Letter that the “funding committed in the Confidence and Supply Agreement is subject to the full authorisation of the UK Parliament through supply estimates which will take place soon”.’ – Belfast News Letter

Ridley: The UK is leading a medical diagnostics revolution – but the NHS fails to harness the benefits for patients

‘There is a problem for Britain in this diagnostic revolution. For mainly historical reasons, the National Health Service can sometimes be profligate in the way it treats diseases, giving in too readily to the blandishments of drug companies with very slightly better, but much more expensive, versions of a treatment. However, it is the opposite with diagnostics. The NHS is notoriously resistant to ordering “tests”, and is exceedingly parsimonious when it comes to buying new blood-diagnostic tools. The statistics bear this out. The size of the in-vitro diagnostics market in Britain per head of population (not counting infrastructure) is less than half that of Germany and Italy, and about the same as Slovakia and Croatia. This, says the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association, is partly because “the benefits of diagnostics are often either misunderstood, or worse, not considered at all” and “the NHS is too inflexible when it comes to adopting new IVD tests.’ – Matt Ridley, The Times

  • The holy grail of cancer tests is still some years away – Anjana Ahuja, FT
  • A third of young women don’t attend smear tests due to embarrassment – Daily Telegraph
  • NHS Confederation considers asking doctors to repay training costs if they move abroad – The Times
  • The health service is the main worry for Conservative voters – The Guardian

Carillion boss is still an advisor to the Scotland Office

‘The Scottish Secretary David Mundell is under pressure to drop Carillion’s millionaire boss who is still working as a Government business advisor. The £750,000-a-year CEO Keith Cochrane is still part of a network of elite business leaders who charge £300 a meeting for the part-time role. Anger over his continued employment in the role comes as ministers admit they don’t know how much the outsource giant’s collapse will cost the taxpayer… Mr Cochrane, who became interim chief executive of Carillion last July, was appointed to the Scotland Office role in December 2015 when he was the boss of engineering firm Weir Group. A Government spokesperson said: ‘The Scotland Office has no contracts with Carillion and has had no role in any decision-making in relation to other public sector contracts. Mr Cochrane continues in his role with the Scotland Office.”’ – The Sun

  • When did Osborne switch from Carillion fanboy to reborn critic of contractors? – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
  • Some former fans of privatisation are reconsidering their position – FT
  • PFI, privatised services…the whole myth is collapsing – Polly Toynbee, The Guardian
  • The risks of capitalism without capital – Jonathan Ford, FT
  • MPs urge action to rouse the ‘sleeping’ energy regulator – The Sun
  • Treasury Select Committee argues that RPI should be ditched to cut costs for commuters and students – Daily Mai

‘East End Eton’ Free School secures Oxbridge offers for ten per cent of pupils

‘They haven’t had the advantages of many public school pupils, but these teenagers in one of the poorest parts of the country could give them a run for their money academically. The 22 state-school pupils at the London Academy of Excellence have all been offered places at Oxford and Cambridge. It means one in ten of the upper sixth at the selective free school in Stratford, east London, will be heading to Oxbridge if they achieve the required grades in the summer. The results rival the success rate of many of Britain’s most famous public schools, some of which charge more than £30,000 a year in fees. Such results have earned the school the nickname of the East End Eton.’ – Daily Mail

  • Schools target social mobility – FT

Bolton loses confidence vote, but fights to stay on as UKIP leader

‘The party’s national executive voted 14 votes to nil to get rid of Mr Bolton, a former Army officer, as leader. Ukip will hold an emergency meeting within the next 28 days where members will decide whether to back the motion to oust Mr Bolton or throw him a life line. Mr Farage ruled out making another return to lead the party out of its latest crisis – telling Mail Online that he would ‘not for a moment’ think about returning. The crisis-hit party now faces the likely prospect of holding a fifth leadership contest in just 18 months amid warnings the party is now effectively dead. Mr Bolton earlier today had warned that party will be ‘over’ if he was toppled from the top job, but he has not immediately responded to the vote against him – slipping out of the meeting in central London today without addressing reporters. Senior figures in Ukip mobilised to get rid of Mr Bolton after his glamour model mistress Jo Marney, 25, was exposed for sending racist messages.’ – Daily Mail

  • His deputy becomes the latest to quit – The Sun
  • Banks hints at new party…yet again – The Times

McDonnell refuses to apologise for ‘joke’ about lynching McVey

‘John McDonnell today refused to apologise to for repeating a joke that Tory minister Esther McVey should be ‘lynched’. The remark was branded ‘truly evil’ by Commons leader Andrea Leadsom and Mr McDonnell has faced repeated calls to say sorry for it. But the firebrand shadow chancellor stubbornly refused – insisting that he was only repeating a comment made by others and condemns all abuse of politician. The row comes as left-wing activists are plotting a fresh campaign of intimidation against Ms McVey after she was promoted to become Work and Pension Secretary in last week’s Cabinet reshuffle.’ – Daily Mail

>Today: Guy Senior on Local Government: Labour councillors in Wandsworth vote against new libraries, new houses and a health centre

Moore: Yet another ‘lobbying scandal’ is anything but

‘A few months ago, the programme Dispatches decided to pretend to be a Chinese “boutique strategic communications company”, Tianfen. It enticed ex-Ministers to accept offers of money to advise its clients on post-Brexit investment in Britain. The three it fastened on were Lord Lansley, Peter Lilley (who left Parliament in 2017) and Andrew Mitchell MP. Unhappily for the would-be deceivers, the ploy didn’t work. Mr Lilley, for example, specifically explained to the bogus outfit that he could not convey any confidential material to a client. Mr Mitchell said that he could undertake no work without clearing it with the Commons authorities. Being a wily old chief whip, he also smelt a rat, and therefore looked into the company’s purported office in Hong Kong. He wondered if a political game was being played by the Chinese government and duly reported his concerns. MI5 kept watch, until it eventually decided (correctly) that Tianfen was merely a media game.’ – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • Channel 4 postpones ‘tawdry entrapment’ documentary – Daily Mail

Turkey moves to destroy Kurdish fighters backed by the United States

‘Turkish troops and tanks advanced into Syria yesterday as President Erdogan vowed to crush a pocket of Kurdish fighters supported by the United States. Ankara’s forces were joined by thousands of fighters from the former brigades of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the original anti-Assad rebels, and pushed three miles inside Syria, Turkish state media said. It showed columns of tanks on the move. The offensive, named “Operation Olive Branch”, is an attempt by Turkey to force the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) from territory they control in the Afrin border region in northwest Syria. The Turkish government considers the YPG to be a terrorist organisation allied to the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and fears the de-facto establishment of an autonomous state along the border. The incursion takes the six-year Syrian conflict into new territory. Although none of the 2,000 US forces with YPG units in northeast Syria is in Afrin, the Syrian Kurds are America’s main ally in the country and Turkey’s assault risks bringing two Nato allies into conflict.’ – The Times

  • King Abdullah of Jordan urges Pence to restore trust in the US – Daily Mail
  • Mordaunt visits Kenya – Daily Mail
  • Republicans and Democrats blame one another for the shutdown – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Johnson’s Trump initiative. Repulsive – but Right.

News in Brief