Carillion collapses, and the blame game begins

‘An inquiry into the firm’s collapse may also lead to sanctions against executives if it is found they mishandled the company’s pension fund. Ministers were left scrambling to shore up public services yesterday after the firm, which has 20,000 staff and 450 government contracts, went into liquidation…Amid a furious blame game, ministers came under fire after it emerged they had handed Carillion more than £1.5billion in new contracts since it issued the first of three profit warnings last July. They were also accused of taking their eye off the ball, after MPs were told the key official in charge of managing the Government’s relationship with the firm was put on other duties between August and November last year – just as the company was collapsing.’ – Daily Mail

  • It fell to Lidington to spread calm and reassurance – Quentin Letts, Daily Mail
  • Public contracts given priority – FT
  • Pledge to fund public sector services could cost hundreds of millions – The Times
  • Investigation launched into watering down of ‘clawback’ rules on executive pay – Daily Mail
  • Institute of Directors expresses concern over corporate governance – The Times
  • A Labour council was ready to hand the firm a contract last week – The Times
  • KPMG under fire for signing off accounts – The Times



>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Carillion’s collapse would be tough for any government – but for the Party of business it is twice as dangerous

Brexit 1) £350 million? Vote Leave’s figure was too low, says Johnson

‘Boris Johnson has ratcheted-up his defence of Vote Leave’s infamous assertion on the side of their bus that Britain sends £350m a week to the EU by saying the group could have used a much higher figure. The foreign secretary said the UK’s weekly gross contribution would rise to £438m by the end of a post-Brexit transition period and insisted leave campaigners were right to pledge extra cash to the NHS. “There was an error on the side of the bus. We grossly underestimated the sum over which we would be able to take back control,” said Johnson, in an exclusive interview with the Guardian. Though he conceded that the leave campaign had used a gross figure, he said about half the total could be ploughed into public services. “As and when the cash becomes available – and it won’t until we leave – the NHS should be at the very top of the list,” said Johnson.’ – The Guardian

  • Why are MPs sucking up to Barnier? – John Longworth, Daily Telegraph
  • Paris claims it has forced the UK to pay more for Calais border – The Sun
  • Cabinet divide on the starting position for the next round of talks – FT
  • Plans for No Deal are reviewed every week, says Heywood – The Sun

Brexit 2) Wallace: The British press, public and politicians need to wise up about the theatre of negotiations

‘Britain is inexperienced in international negotiations. That’s not surprising – for more than 40 years, the EU held the power to strike trade deals for the whole bloc. As a result, we lost the skills and expertise of doing so, a whole generation of politicians grew up without giving thought to trade policy, and British journalists and voters forgot what it was like to go through a negotiation…If we ditch our assumption that all rules are set in stone, and abandon our naive faith that everyone in a negotiation starts out by openly stating their final position, then the whole process will start to make more sense. Instead of predicting doom when one Eurocrat or another announces that a good deal is “impossible”, we must appreciate that this is simply another scene in the theatre of the talks.’ – Mark Wallace, the i paper

  • Luxembourg and Sweden join member states pressing for a good, bespoke, deal – The Sun
  • We need to get used to our new role – Rafael Behr, The Guardian
  • Norway asks for a rethink if the UK gets a better deal – The Guardian
  • The EU is now demanding a delay to the return of border control to the UK – Daily Mail
  • Barnier attempts to re-open question of citizens’ rights – The Times
  • Sturgeon follows Khan with a new Project Fear report – Daily Mail
  • The TUC opposes trade deals like CETA – Frances O’Grady, The Times

>Yesterday: Sunder Katwala on Comment: The immigration debate didn’t end with the referendum – it’s only just beginning in earnest

May seeks a meeting with Trump in Davos

‘Theresa May is seeking a meeting with President Trump in Davos next week to repair relations after he called off a trip to London. Mr Trump had been due to travel from the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to the UK for a working visit. His abrupt cancellation last Friday put Downing Street on the back foot. Senior Whitehall officials said no alternative proposals for a visit to London had been tabled by either side but Mrs May was seeking an informal meeting as soon as possible. Although No 10 said it was not aware of any efforts to arrange a meeting, a senior figure said that Davos had been identified as an opportunity to “engineer an encounter”. Mrs May’s team remain perplexed by Mr Trump’s decision to cancel his London visit.’ – The Times

  • The President needs to get smart about the South London property market – FT
  • May could do worse than look to France – Janan Ganesh, FT

Sylvester: The growing popularity of an NHS tax

‘The NHS crisis is really a social care crisis, created by an ageing population and exacerbated by government cuts. Although health service budgets have been ring-fenced since 2010, there has been a £6 billion reduction in spending on social care and an entirely related 50 per cent rise in the numbers of elderly people stuck in hospital because there is nowhere for them to go in the community…Mr Hunt is among a growing number of Tories attracted to the idea of a hypothecated health and social care levy as a way of making tax rises more palatable to the public. Last week Nick Boles, the former planning minister, proposed turning national insurance into a ring-fenced health tax. Oliver Letwin is a fan of the plan and Lord Macpherson of Earl’s Court, the former permanent secretary to the Treasury, which traditionally opposes hypothecation, has been won round to the idea. Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chairwoman of the health select committee, believes national insurance should also be extended to those beyond retirement age, who are presently exempt, in order to increase the money raised for health and social care.’ – The Times

>Today: The Moggcast. Episode One. “Austerity in the NHS…will be very hard to continue with, however much there are limited resources.”

>Yesterday: Nicky Morgan’s column: The Prime Minister should set out her stall on health and social care – as well as Brexit

Embattled UKIP leader faces a confidence vote despite dumping his racist girlfriend

‘UKIP leader Henry Bolton faced a party mutiny last night despite dumping his mistress in a desperate bid to save his career. He split with topless model Jo Marney, 25, after it emerged that she made racist comments about Meghan Markle. Despite saying he would stick by his lover, 54-year-old Mr Bolton yesterday said the ‘romantic part’ of his relationship was over following comments in which she suggested black people were ‘ugly’. However, pressure continued to mount on Mr Bolton to quit as senior members of the party led a revolt against him. He faces a vote of no confidence at a summit attended by senior party figures on Sunday, said deputy leader Suzanne Evans. Asked if he should resign, she told the BBC’s Daily Politics: ‘Unfortunately I think he should. I say that with a very heavy heart, because the last thing we need is another leadership election.’’ – Daily Mail

  • Bolton is accused of ‘threatening’ her ex-boyfriend over the messages – Daily Mail
  • Unpaid leader has to sell his flat – FT
  • It’s time for the People’s Army to disband – William Hague, Daily Telegraph

Labour moderates threaten by-elections as Momentum storms to victory in NEC elections

‘Moderate Labour MPs are threatening to quit and sit as independents in the Commons if they are deselected as the left tightens its grip on the party. Three Momentum-backed candidates, including Jon Lansman, founder of the pro-Corbyn network, were elected to Labour’s influential governing body yesterday. The leftwingers won the national executive committee (NEC) seats by a landslide, beating moderate and independent candidates including the comedian Eddie Izzard, who came fourth…Centrist MPs told The Times that if they were deselected, they would quit and sit as independents in a bloc for the remainder of this parliament. One said: “There’s no reason to wait it out [in Labour] for years when we disagree with the direction of the party if we’re deselected. We would have no interest in toeing the line.” Another centrist Labour MP issued a warning to the left, saying: “Corbyn has a lot to lose from going down this route. If people start being deselected, what’s to stop them standing against him for the leadership? Or finding other jobs and causing by-elections that Labour might lose?”’ – The Times

Police and CPS face further questions over Poppi Worthington case

‘On Monday, at the second inquest into Poppi’s death, a coroner ruled she had been sexually assaulted in her father’s bed in the hours before she died from suffocation due to an ‘unsafe sleeping environment’. As the verdict was read out, Poppi’s mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, fled the courtroom in tears and now hopes the CPS will take another look at the case. Senior coroner David Roberts said Worthington’s account of the morning of his daughter’s death did not ‘stand up to scrutiny’ and only the father could provide an account of ‘what happened upstairs’ at the home in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.  Outside court yesterday, a lawyer for Poppi’s mother called on the Crown Prosecution Service to review the case – and criticised the way Worthington had used coroner’s rules to avoid answering questions at the inquest.’ – Daily Mail

  • This little girl deserves more than a shrug of officialdom’s shoulders – The Sun Says
  • The justice system failed her – Daily Telegraph Leader
  • Her father has a new identity at taxpayers’ expense – Daily Mail
  • Dennis Nilsen says sex offender treatment courses are ‘useless’ – The Times
  • Worboys case psychologist’s a 30-year history of backing soft sentencing – Daily Mail

News in Brief