Williamson tells Russia to ‘go away and shut up’…

“The defence secretary told President Putin and his regime yesterday to “go away and shut up” as he signalled that international action would be taken against Russia after the Salisbury nerve agent attack. Gavin Williamson, one of the cabinet’s youngest members and said to be an aspiring prime minister, adopted a more casual tone on the Moscow crisis than his senior colleagues, saying: “Let’s face it, relations ain’t good are they?” Asked whether Britain and the West were in another Cold War, he said: “It is often described as a cool war that we are entering in. I would say it is feeling exceptionally, exceptionally chilly at the moment.” Mr Williamson, 41, used his first keynote speech since taking over from Sir Michael Fallon in November to set out his vision for a military that could fight in cyberspace and real space — an ambition that will require additional money as part of a review of the armed forces due to conclude in the summer.” – The Times

  • Russia’s ‘smug’ response shows guilt, argues Johnson – The Guardian


  • White House unveils new sanctions against Putin – Daily Mail
  • Forty US congressmen pledge May their full support – Daily Telegraph
  • West unites to confront Russia over poisonings – The Times
  • Police officer’s home searched for poison as May visits – Daily Mail
  • UK deploys nuclear submarine to the Arctic amidst tensions – Daily Telegraph


  • The Russian leader has the West exactly where he wants it – Edward Lucas, The Times
  • Global Britain might just have found its calling in leading the charge against Russia’s hybrid warfare – Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Daily Telegraph
  • Why Putin is taking the chance to show his electoral muscle – Pete Duncan, Times Red Box
  • France may flirt with ‘non-alignment’, but we always back Britain in the end – Anne-Elisabeth Moutet, Daily Telegraph


  • Putin cannot be allowed to split the alliance – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: As May squares up to a security challenge, Cameron reminds us of another: Islamist extremism – and its wider dimensions.


…as Corbyn sticks by his refusal to blame Russia

“Jeremy Corbyn has blasted the ‘McCarthyite intolerance of dissent’ on criticising Russia and claimed the country’s mafia could be behind the poisoning of a double agent and his daughter on British soil. The Labour leader is facing a mounting revolt from his own side over his failure to condemn Moscow following the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. But he has today defied his critics and once again refused to lay the blame for the attack at the door of Vladimir Putin, instead calling for calm. Writing in the Guardian, Mr Corbyn said: ‘To rush way ahead of the evidence being gathered by the police, in a fevered parliamentary atmosphere, serves neither justice nor our national security.'” – Daily Mail

  • Policeman’s family attack ‘mealy mouthed’ Corbyn – Daily Telegraph
  • Don’t rule out Mafia hit, Leader of the Opposition urges – The Times
  • Position is no surprise given Labour’s links to Russia – The Sun


  • Salmond uses RT show to claim more evidence is needed – Daily Telegraph
  • Sturgeon urged to take action over SNP NEC member’s role in show – The Scotsman


Fraser Nelson: For anti-Corbyn MPs the only option is to break from their party

“Over the last few months, there has been much talk among Labour MPs about “red lines” that they would not allow Mr Corbyn to cross. Various scenarios are offered up: Ken Livingstone being readmitted to the party, or the party’s disciplinary system being used to kick out moderate MPs. The Salisbury poisoning throws up a new conundrum: in a matter of national security, what to do if the leader refuses to show the “strength and resolve” that MPs demand? Would it be time to act? And what might “action” mean?… There is no third way, not any more. Labour MPs might stop Corbyn passing some laws, but they’ll have no control on how he governs – or who he appoints. It’s harder than ever for Labour MPs to say that they’ll stay and keep him on a leash. The tools of control are vanishing, one by one.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Corbyn’s line on Russia shows his true colours – Philip Collins, The Times
  • Defiance over this will be the last straw: deselections are coming – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • We must avoid a drift into conflict – Jeremy Corbyn, The Guardian
  • Talk of war only plays into Putin’s hands – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • Labour has no standing from which to criticise Tory donations – Norman Tebbit, Daily Telegraph


>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Corbyn’s weakness on security should cost Labour the next election. But will it?

Brexit 1) Navy’s ability to patrol UK fishing waters to be strengthened post-Brexit, says Baker

“The Royal Navy’s ability to monitor the nation’s coastal waters after the UK leaves the European Union will be strengthened in order to protect Britain’s returning fishing rights, a Brexit minister has signalled. Tory MPs urged the Government to ensure the Royal Navy has the resources it needs to end the days of the “armada” of European trawlers “plundering” Britain’s fishing grounds. Steve Baker, a senior minister at the Department for Exiting the European Union, has confirmed the UK “will strengthen our surveillance capability” to enforce Britain’s rights after withdrawal. He also said the Government will make sure the Royal Navy has the “appropriate capacity” that is required to “patrol our waters and enforce regulations as required”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Davis says he could live with a shorter transition period – The Guardian
  • Sturgeon says sunset clause can end ‘power grab’ row – The Scotsman
  • Business leaders sign gagging orders before talks on hard border – The Times
  • Trump pledges to visit Irish border – Belfast Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Meanwhile, here’s what’s been happening in the Brexit talks

Brexit 2) Hancock says leaving could let UK change social media laws

“Brexit could free up Britain to impose world-leading regulations on technology companies, the culture secretary has said. Matt Hancock argued that when Britain left the EU it would no longer be bound by regulations such as the e-commerce directive, allowing it to write new “forward-looking” legislation for social media platforms. He told the digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS) select committee: “Outside the EU, we could attempt, as this country is quite good at in lots of different areas, to write really forward-looking legislation that supports the innovation and the freedom that these social media platforms bring but also ensures they mitigate better against the harms.”” – The Guardian

  • Brexit feeds business inertia, claims productivity chief – FT
  • Eurocrats warned over ‘naive’ bid to shut out UK banks – The Sun
  • Brussels expect UK to pay for EU military post-Brexit – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Daniel Hannan MEP’s column: Brexit will be a success, but swivel-eyed Remainers make the process more costly than it needs to be

Ministers debate ‘NHS tax’ to boost health spending

“National Insurance could rise by a penny in the pound to fund a major boost in health spending. The radical plan is being examined by senior Tories looking for ways to prevent a repeat of this winter’s NHS crisis. While officially still saying there are ‘no plans’ for tax rises, Downing Street is thought to be ‘increasingly keen’ on the proposal, which would raise about £5billion a year. Tory sources say the Cabinet has accepted the need to ‘make an intervention’ on the NHS in the coming months, which will involve releasing billions in extra cash. Debate is now raging over how to raise the money.” – Daily Mail

  • MPs warn mothers that failure to register for child benefit could impact their state pension – Daily Mail


  • Here’s where to find a reliable NHS income – Norman Warner and John Oldham, The Guardian
  • Hammond has unwisely outsourced his spending plans – Chris Giles, FT

>Yesterday: Julian Jessop in Comment: Which taxes should Tories cut? 3) Reduce sin taxes and property taxes to give the economy a fillip

Report to Javid suggests shutting down bankrupt Tory council

“A Conservative council that has admitted running out of money should be shut down, independent inspectors have concluded. Northamptonshire county council (NCC) has “failed to comply with its duty” to deliver services and ought to be disbanded and replaced by two new authorities, a report ordered by Sajid Javid has found. The communities secretary commissioned the report in January when the council revealed that it needed to make cuts of more than £30 million. Last month the county council in effect declared that it was on the brink of bankruptcy by issuing a section 114 notice banning all but essential spending.” – The Times

  • Councils ‘frustrated’ as they await £2 billion housing fund – FT


  • Communities Secretary is latest MP to recieve ‘punish a Muslim’ letter – Daily Mail

Female membership of the Tories slumps

“The proportion of female members of the Conservative Party has nearly halved in the last two decades, new research has found, amid claims that joining political parties is no longer a “social thing” to do. The research, based on surveys of political party members conducted in the aftermath of the 2017 general election, highlighted the extent of gender imbalance in the Conservative Party. It revealed that 29 per cent of the Tory rank and file are women – down from 49 per cent in 1994. The research also suggested that the Conservatives are not well positioned to address the finding that fewer than one in three grassroots Tories is a woman.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Brandon Lewis in Comment: As we meet for our Spring Forum, far-left intimidation is on the rise. But we will not be silenced.

News in Brief:

  • Williamson’s schoolboy rhetoric shames this government – Ben Kelly, Reaction
  • The equity funding gap is more worrying than unequal pay – Sophie Jarvis, CapX
  • Brexit will set the British energy market free – Simon Clarke MP, Brexit Central
  • Jeremy Corbyn backs his spokesman on Russia – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator