“Pathetic” not to mount judicial review over Worboys release declares Boles

“Tory former minister Nick Boles tonight tore into Theresa May’s ‘pathetic’ decision not to order a judicial review into the release of ‘vile creature’ John Worboys. He said the Prime Minister should have hired the best lawyer in the country and mounted the legal challenge to show victims the Government is ‘appalled and ashamed’ at the decision to let him go. He said the announcement that ministers are ducking the issue and refusing to take up the challenge was the ‘final straw’ in his long-rumbling anger at Mrs May’s lack of leadership.” – Daily Mail


Macron says special EU trade deal for the UK

“French President Emmanuel Macron has suggested the UK could get a special trade deal with the EU after Brexit. But he warned that Britain would not have full access to the single market without accepting its rules. Speaking to Andrew Marr, he warned – as Brussels has already done – that the UK could not “cherry-pick” the elements it liked. A deal might fall somewhere between the single market and a trade agreement, he said. Mr Macron’s comments come after his first visit to the UK since becoming French president, where he held talks with Prime Minister Theresa May. In the interview, to be broadcast on Sunday, the leader said that the UK should not gain access to the single market without accepting its “preconditions”, which include freedom of movement across the EU, budget contributions and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.” – BBC

  • May refuses to say how she would vote in a second referendum – The Sun

Downing Street: “No specific plans” for Channel Bridge

“Downing Street has said there are “no specific plans” for a bridge between the UK and France after Boris Johnson floated the idea of a “fixed link”. The UK foreign secretary reportedly ran the idea past French President Emmanuel Macron at a summit on Thursday. But Downing Street said he had been referring to a panel looking at Anglo-French major projects. Experts said a bridge was technically possible but some critics ridiculed the concept.” – BBC

Britain might one day rejoin the EU suggests Lidington

“Britain could rejoin a reformed European Union within a generation, Theresa May’s de facto deputy prime minister has suggested, as he said it would be “something for future parliaments to consider”. David Lidington, the Cabinet Office Minister who replaced Damian Green at Mrs May’s side in this month’s reshuffle, said it was impossible to predict what the EU will look like in “10 or 20 years’ time”. Mr Lidington, who campaigned for Remain during the EU Referendum, said he had not changed his views on Brexit but as a democrat it was his job to implement the will of the people.” – Daily Telegraph

  • “It’s dangerous to say never in politics but I just think that having taken a decision by a referendum I don’t see that changing,” – Interview with David Liddington, Daily Telegraph

“Tensions” between the Tories and the DUP over when the billion pounds of spending will take place

“Relations between the DUP and the Tories are under increasing strain amid uncertainty over when the £1 billion promised as part of the confidence and supply deal to keep the Conservatives in power will be delivered. Next week will mark the first anniversary of the collapse of the Northern Ireland assembly. This has caused difficulties on both sides of the Irish Sea, with civil servants reluctant to take key decisions or spend money. Northern Ireland’s cancer strategy is ten years old but cannot be revised without an executive at Stormont. Campaigners say the impasse is at least partially at fault for declining standards. This week the DUP publicly demanded that Westminster politicians take over the running of the province if Sinn Fein and the Unionists cannot agree to restart power-sharing.” – The Times

Green causes allow Gove comeback

“Conservative colleagues of Mr Gove are watching his renewed momentum with intrigue and trepidation. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has traditionally been regarded as a political graveyard, but even his critics admit he has transformed it into the “only place that seems to be innovating”. Since he took charge, Defra has pledged to cut down on plastic waste in the oceans, extend the 5p plastic bag tax and end “unjust” subsidies for rich landowners. Policies prepared by Andrea Leadsom, his predecessor, that had sat gathering dust have been splashed across the national newspapers.” – Financial Times

McVey agrees to higher rates of benefits for those with psychological distress

“Ministers have backed down in a row over paying higher disability benefits to 164,000 people by saying they will not contest a High Court decision. Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey said she would not appeal December’s judgement over payments to people with mental health conditions. Ministers had sought to limit those suffering psychological distress from claiming higher rates of benefits. Campaigners said this was “crude and unfair” and welcomed the U-turn.” – BBC

  • Fresh campaign of intimidation planned – Daily Mail

>Today: Clark Vasey on Comment: McDonnell’s infamous remark about lynching McVey is as offensive now as when first made

Challenge to student union leader photographed with Rees-Mogg is abandoned

“A campaign to force out a student union leader for being pictured with the Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has been withdrawn after its creator said he did not like the media attention. Frida Gustafsson, 22, president of the Sussex University Students’ Union, faced calls for a vote of no confidence over the photograph, which was taken on a visit to parliament where she was speaking about human rights. Arthur James Hutchinson, 19, started a petition to get her sacked from her £17,500-a-year role at the university. He said: “There are questions about Frida Gustafsson’s leadership in the SU. Fraternising with extremists who hold anti-choice, racist and homophobic ideologies is not something that Sussex should endorse.” Ms Gustafsson, from Sweden, said that she was disheartened by the move. “The Students’ Union is here to support and enable free and fair debate between students,” she said.” – The Times

US Federal Government begins shutdown after failure to agree budget…

“The US government has begun a federal shutdown after the Senate failed to agree on a new budget. Despite last minute bipartisan meetings, the bill to fund the government until 16 February did not receive the required 60 votes. It is the first shutdown ever to happen while the same party, the Republicans, controls Congress and the White House. In response, the White House accused Democrats of holding “lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands”. “They put politics above our national security, military families, vulnerable children, and our country’s ability to serve all Americans”, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.” – BBC

…Trump and May to meet in Davos

“Donald Trump and Theresa May will meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos next week after the White House appeared to cave under pressure from Downing Street. White House officials had initially indicated the US president would not meet Mrs May in the Swiss resort, despite agreeing to talks with Emmanuel Macron, the French president. With only days left before the summit the US administration said time had been found for the two leaders to have a meeting on the margins of the gathering after all.” – Daily Telegraph

MPs call for referendum campaign donations to be made tax free

“MPs from the three main parties are backing a law change to make donations to referendum campaigns tax-free after outrage over HM Revenue and Customs sent demands to major Brexit donors. An amendment to the Finance Bill would extend the current exemption from inheritance tax for gifts to political parties to gifts to referendum campaigns under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. The change would stop millions of pounds in tax bills being levied on private donors to campaigns at the 2016 European Union referendum, the 2014 Scottish independence referendum and the 2011 AV referendum.” – Daily Telegraph

Thatcher statue wins council leader’s backing

“A statue of Margaret Thatcher could still be erected opposite the House of Commons after the local council’s leader backed the idea despite the opposition of her planning officials. Nickie Aiken, head of Westminster City Council, said it was right that a monument to the ‘extraordinary’ former prime minister should be erected in the year marking 100 years since women got the vote. The Tory councillor added that Baroness Thatcher had shown women that ‘there were no no-go areas in politics’.” – Daily Mail

Corbyn backs purge of moderate Labour MPs

“Dozens of Labour moderates MPs face the axe from their constituencies after Jeremy Corbyn refused to rule out deselections yesterday. The Labour leader chose not to slap down suggestions from hard-left campaigners that Labour MPs should have the threat of deselection “hanging over them”. He confirmed the party would “look at democracy within the party and look at the process of selections”. He added that MPs “should all be accountable all the time.” It comes in a week where the founder of the left wing pro-Corbyn group Momentum was elected to Labour’s National Executive Committee alongside two other left wingers.” – The Sun

  • “We are in danger of being all sound and fury not action” – Interview with Stella Creasy, The Times

UKIP hit by resignations

“UKIP has been rocked by two more resignations, including that of its former general secretary, Jonathan Arnott MEP, who quit saying the party’s leader, Henry Bolton, was “not up to the job”….Bolton’s position was further undermined on Friday by the resignation of his former campaign manager Susie Govett. Govett, a Ukip councillor in Shepway, has said she will quit the party and sit as an independent.” – The Guardian

Hastings: it’s no surprise cinema audiences are cheering Churchill

“At some cinemas where the new film Darkest Hour is being shown, it is reported that audiences have been standing and applauding Churchill’s great orations, as delivered by star Gary Oldman. This response is surely prompted by the perception of a chasm between the language of the Greatest Englishman, and the faltering, apologetic, banal and frequently craven pronouncements of the politicians of today. Churchill mobilised our language for war in an unprecedented fashion, assisted by the fact that his finest hour took place in the age of radio broadcasting and mass-circulation newspapers alas unavailable to Henry V, Elizabeth I or prime minister William Pitt.” – Max Hastings, Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary:Why are audiences breaking into applause after the new Churchill film?

Parris: Social mobility has increased the life expectancy gap

“Might an unintended consequence of the loss of manufacturing and mining coupled with the decline of the class system and increases in the mobility of labour — all those cultural changes we call “upward social mobility” — be a corresponding increase in downward social mobility? I’m hardly warning of an influx of Old Etonians into “sink” estates, but of the possibility that “ladders out” of deprivation, if climbed, have consequences for those who do not take them as well as those who do. I would never use a word like “residue” for an individual human being — every human being has the possibility of defying the odds — but I wonder whether we have accidentally created self-reinforcing pockets of deprivation that have something of the residual about them?” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Forsyth: The Tories need to talk about the NHS

“David Cameron used to say  you could sum up his priorities in three letters, N H S. But right now, the Tories aren’t talking about the health  service. Gavin Barwell, Theresa May’s chief of staff, is clear that when they aren’t focusing on the overarching themes of the economy and delivering a good Brexit deal, they should be emphasising housing, school standards and the environment. The thinking goes that the NHS is a Labour issue, so there is little benefit in the Tories highlighting it. This is a mistake. Voters regard the health service as the second biggest issue facing the country after Brexit. So the Tories need a robust plan for it. If they don’t, they will just get hammered by Labour.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

Oborne: The state should not just use giant private contractors

“Carillion was a monolithic giant that had absorbed some of Britain’s best-known post-war companies — George Wimpey, Mowlem, Tarmac, Alfred McAlpine, John Laing and others. Carillion was a faceless behemoth — the invention of clever PR men and unscrupulous financial whizzkids. To compound matters, its relationship with government was much, much too incestuous. Yes, the private sector should play a creative role in working with Whitehall departments, such as transport and health. But such arrangements must not impinge on what should be a competitive market place. They should not be dominated by one or two giants such as Carillion which have been allowed to get too powerful. Another example is Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin.” – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

Moore: Whose tapestry is it anyway?

“When President Emmanuel Macron of France this week announced that we would be lending us his Bayeux Tapestry (which, by the way, was probably made in England and should logically be displayed in Hastings), we can feel at the same time touched by this generous gesture of kinship and slightly needled by being reminded of an English defeat. This ambivalent reaction expresses the centuries-old relationship between our two countries, in which comity and competitiveness are inextricably mixed. I bet M Macron feels it himself. “We are making a new tapestry together,” he declared, as he sat next to Theresa May at their press conference on Thursday. She looked characteristically un-warm at the thought.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Nick Boles has said what a lot of Tory MPs are thinking – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • I’d like the Netherlands to follow the UK out of the EU – Rick van den Brink, Brexit Central
  • Boris Johnson’s English Channel bridge: an engineering expert’s view – Wanda Lewis, Reaction
  • Pressure on NHS intensive care at highest level since 2010 swine flu pandemic, senior doctors warn – Independent
  • Plots to remove Theresa May are building within the parliamentary Tory party – Simon Heffer, New Statesman