May says investors must force tech giants to take action on content…

“Theresa May will tell the world’s biggest investment companies today to put pressure on social media providers to remove terrorist and extremist content. In a speech to be given to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the prime minister says that shareholders in companies such as Facebook and Twitter can make a “big difference” in ensuring that the services are trustworthy and safe. She also increases the pressure on technology giants. “No one wants to be known as the terrorists’ platform or the first-choice app for paedophiles,” she says… Mrs May points out that investors have begun policing the conduct of social media companies, telling business leaders: “Investors can play a vital role by considering the social impact of the companies they are investing in. They can use their influence to ensure these issues are taken seriously.”” – The Times

  • Sara Khan hired as anti-extremism czar – The Times


  • Treasury accused of taking a soft line on Amazon – FT

…as new claims emerge about her souring relationship with Trump

“Dramatic new claims emerged tonight about the souring relationship between Donald Trump and Theresa May, as government insiders revealed the president had insisted on being guaranteed a ‘warm welcome’ before he visited the UK. Downing Street hoped that Britain’s controversial invitation to Mr Trump a year ago to come on a state visit would strengthen the post-Brexit ‘special relationship’, but officials there admit it has instead proved a ‘nightmare’, insiders have claimed. The two leaders are due to meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos tomorrow at which Mr Trump is expected to formally invite French leader Emmanuel Macron on a US state visit, rubbing salt into the wound for Britain.” – Daily Mail

  • President told May she could be a ‘new Churchill’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Trump to face Mueller’s questions on Russia – The Times

>Yesterday: Ben Roback’s column: The US government shutdown left both sides in Washington playing the blame game, but neither has won

Brady ‘begs’ MPs not to call for leadership challenge

“Tory backbench boss Sir Graham Brady has begged angry MPs for no more formal demands for a leadership contest — sparking suspicion a challenge on Theresa May is imminent. A no confidence vote in the Conservative leader is automatically triggered if Sir Graham receives 48 letters, which is 15% of the parliamentary party. One senior backbencher told The Sun the top Tory was “ashen faced” at the prospect of getting one more letter recently – which he has intimated could spark a bitter leadership election and plunge Brexit talks into chaos. The party grandee’s terrified reaction suggests the number of letters he has already received may now have reached the mid 40s, as anger with “dull, dull, dull” Theresa May spirals on the Tory benches.” – The Sun

  • Will someone rid us of this appalling Prime Minister? – Iain Martin, The Times
  • If May’s critics won’t call for her resignation, they should shut up – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

Ministers 1) Stewart aims to be more closely involved in running prisons

“A new justice minister has pledged to go ‘back to basics’ to ensure jails are clean, safe and decent after a watchdog condemned conditions at one prison as the worst they could recall. Rory Stewart said he ‘disagreed’ with his predecessors who had not felt it was their job to get involved in the day-to-day details of running prisons. He spoke out after inspectors said they were appalled by ‘squalid’ living standards at HMP Liverpool, which was rife with rats, cockroaches, dirt, drugs and violence… Prisons Minister Mr Stewart spoke out while giving evidence to the Justice Select Committee inquiring into conditions at Category B HMP Liverpool, which was holding 1,115 men at the time of an inspection last September.” – Daily Mail

  • Crime is changing and we must change with it – Amber Rudd, Times Red Box

Ministers 2) Davis ‘u-turns’ on customs union

“David Davis, Brexit secretary, has told MPs he has changed his mind after previously advocating Britain should stay in the EU customs union in the long term. Mr Davis said in 2012 that the customs union was vital for trade, especially for companies with complex supply chains. “New facts, new opinions,” Mr Davis told the Commons Brexit committee. He said visiting the smooth border operation between the US and Canada near Detroit had helped to change his mind. Mr Davis also confirmed the government had no “specific plans to publish a financial services paper” on Brexit. Mr Davis added that he never said that it was a “red line” for Britain to be outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the long run.” – FT

  • Fox ‘risking future of UK business’ by falling behind on duties – The Sun
  • May faces risk of Eurosceptic rebellion over Brexit – FT


  • Labour peers should not defy the will of the people on Brexit – Lord Strathclyde, Times Red Box
  • May’s new plan: jump first, argue later – Philip Stephens, FT
  • Political churn hampers Brexit, even with extra Whitehall staff – Alice Lilly, The Guardian
  • The Tories have forgotten how to be conservatives – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph


  • Davis leaves Rees-Mogg with little to chew on – Patrick Kidd, The Times

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

Ministers 3) Zahawi told to ‘explain himself’ over attendance at controversial fundraiser

“Theresa May’s families and children minister was ordered to explain his attendance at a men-only fundraising event at which female “hostesses” were allegedly groped and propositioned. Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for children and families, was summoned to Downing Street to explain to the Chief Whip his version of events surrounding the Presidents Club gala. The Prime Minister said she was “appalled” after reading reports of the event where 130 “tall, thin and pretty” women played host to some of the wealthiest businessmen in the UK. Mrs May initially said that she was “uncomfortable” with the event, but hardened her stance on Wednesday. A Downing Street source said: “The Prime Minister is appalled by what has been reported.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Presidents Club to close after harassment scandal – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: What Zahawi does in the daytime

Cameron suggests Brexit it has proved less bad than feared

“David Cameron was caught yesterday finally admitting that his doom-laden predictions about the impact of Brexit had been proved wrong. The former prime minister appeared to disown Project Fear, saying that leaving the EU had not proved ‘a disaster’ and had ‘turned out less badly than we first thought’. His comments came at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, where his conversation with the billionaire steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal was caught on camera. Last night pro-Brexit MPs lined up to welcome Mr Cameron’s change of heart. During the referendum campaign in 2016 Mr Cameron and his Chancellor, George Osborne, issued a string of blood-curdling warnings about the consequences of a Leave vote.” – Daily Mail

  • UK wants ‘good faith’ clause in transition deal – FT
  • Vote has cost £200 million a week in lost growth, claims Carney – The Times
  • Pound rallies as employment bounces back to record high – The Times


  • Finland warns EU it won’t help fill £15 billion Brexit ‘black hole’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Commonwealth free movement petition passes 214,000 signatures – Daily Express


  • Brexiteers should do more for the NHS than just bung it more cash – Nicola Blackwood, Daily Telegraph


>Today: Profiles: Viktor Orban – migrant-hostile, anti-liberal…but pro-EU, and more pragmatic than he seems

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft in Comment: The Conservatives can’t rely on Brexit to win them the next election. They need to do much more – and soon.

Senior Tories back call for review of ‘joint enterprise’ laws

“Senior Conservative MPs are backing a cross-party motion calling on the government to conduct an urgent review of the controversial joint enterprise laws. Despite a supreme court ruling two years ago concluding that the legislation had been wrongly interpreted for decades, there have been no successful appeals against conviction. The legal principle of joint enterprise, also known as common purpose, dates back 300 years and regulates charges where the accused acts in conjunction with the killer but does not strike the blow that causes death… Prominent Tories calling for a more fundamental review of the law include the chair of the justice select committee, Bob Neill, former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, and Sir Peter Bottomley.” – The Guardian

Senior civil servant sparks direct rule rumours with move to Belfast

“One of the most influential civil servants in Whitehall is leaving to become permanent secretary of Northern Ireland’s finance department. As director-general of propriety and ethics in the Cabinet Office, Sue Gray, 60, has ended the careers of three cabinet ministers, vetted prime ministerial memoirs and been the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong in the corridors of power… Her unexpected departure to balance the books in Northern Ireland provoked speculation that the government could be poised to introduce direct rule. This was dismissed by Whitehall sources, however, who said that Ms Gray had longstanding links to the province and got the job through an open competition.” – The Times


  • Davies says Jones can’t write ‘blank cheque’ for relief road – Wales Online


  • Sturgeon won’t fly Union Jack on royal birthdays – The Sun
  • Queen was consulted on SNP’s controversial Union Flag decision, says Salmond – Daily Telegraph


  • Tory MPs set to revolt as membership falls behind SNP’s – Bill Jamieson, The Scotsman
  • Sturgeon is only flagging up her own failings – Ruth Dudley Edwards, Daily Telegraph

Michael Fallon: Britain needs to spend 2.5 per cent of GDP on defence

“Increased threats must mean a bigger budget. As I told our party conference in October, the Nato 2 per cent is only a minimum. In 1998-99, the Blair government was spending 2.7 per cent. That was before 9/11, before the attacks from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), before Russia started changing international borders by force, before Kim threw missiles over Japan. In the end this is about us. If post-Brexit we are to play our proper part in the world, defending our shores and supporting our allies, championing our values and helping fragile democracies, then we should be more ambitious. We should be leading in Nato, working with our friends in the Gulf, helping in Africa, and deploying further afield, too.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Our allies fear Britain is retreating from the world, we must put them right – William Hague, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: More money for the NHS? Don’t forget another big spending pressure point. More money for defence.

Momentum suffers string of defeats in selection battles

“Momentum has suffered a string of defeats in Labour party selections, Guardian analysis can reveal, winning just a handful of battles for marginal seats across England and Wales. Of the 29 seats where candidates have been selected, just seven selections were won by candidates with Momentum campaigns behind them. Overnight, Erica Lewis, a former staffer for MP Cat Smith, lost her bid for selection in Morecambe and Lunesdale, despite backing from Momentum. The selection highlighted tension between the local and national movements. North Lancashire’s Momentum chair protested against the national group endorsing a candidate for the seat apparently without consulting local members.” – The Guardian


MPs accused of pursuing ‘vendetta’ against expenses boss

“MPs have been accused of “pursuing a tawdry and squalid vendetta” after they vetoed the appointment to another role of the man who overhauled their expenses. Sir Ian Kennedy, the former chairman of the parliamentary watchdog set up after the claims scandal, had been set to be appointed to the board of the Electoral Commission. No objections had been raised by party leaders but MPs voted against appointing the outspoken QC, who has described his battle to overhaul expenses as “part constitutional reform, part mud wrestling”. John Spellar, the former Labour minister, said Sir Ian was an “arch quangocrat” who had deliberately sought to make life difficult for MPs. Sir Ian said some MPs still bore a grudge. He asked the Speaker, John Bercow, if such recommendations “be subject to the veto of MPs pursuing a tawdry and squalid vendetta?”” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • East vs West: the new battle for Europe – John O’Sullivan, The Spectator
  • A step in the wrong direction for human freedom – Marian L Tupy, CapX
  • No, Robert Chote, it is not clear that Brexit harmed the economy – Ruth Lea, Brexit Central
  • The cracks in the Republican Party are starting to open – William B Heller, Reaction
  • Who is still in the ‘Never Trump’ movement? – Michael Brendan Dougherty, UnHerd