Clarke warns against ‘retrograde step’ of war without Commons vote

“Ken Clarke last night warned Theresa May she would be taking a ‘very retrograde step’ if she failed to consult MPs over military action in Syria. As opposition parties threatened to force a potentially explosive retrospective vote next week unless the Prime Minister backs down, the former Chancellor led Tory calls for Mrs May to seek consent from Parliament first. Amid signs of a growing revolt, the Father of the House, who has served in the Commons since 1970, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One of the dangers of ‘sidelining’ rank and file MPs…  Meanwhile, a senior member of the Democratic Unionist Party, the allies keeping the Prime Minister in power, joined criticism of her plan not to hold a Commons vote before retaliating against Bashar al-Assad.” – Daily Mail

  • Cabinet agrees to ‘take action’ on Assad – Daily Mail
  • Labour leader accuses May of waiting for ‘instructions from Trump’ – The Sun
  • Biggest task force since Iraq heads for Syria – The Times
  • Where key ministers and MPs stand – The Guardian


  • Macron weighing response to ‘red line’ violation – The Times
  • Trump softens stance on air strikes – Daily Mail
  • Chemical weapons agency banks UK on nerve agent – FT
  • GCHQ on ‘high alert’ for major Russian cyberattack – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Snap Syria Survey. Should Britain join military action against Assad?

Fraser Nelson: Trump doesn’t have the attention span to wage a Third World War

It has taken almost two years, but a pattern to Donald Trump’s behaviour is finally emerging. He has a powerful ability to shock, and dominate headlines. He’s quite easily provoked and likes to hit out. But his attention span is short and he is easily distracted. So even if he does launch an air strike on Syria, as he promised a few days ago, there is no real prospect of his starting a longer campaign. He can be expected to deplore the barbarity of last week’s chemical weapons attack, fire a few missiles and then walk away. This, anyway, is likely to have been Bashar al-Assad’s calculation last week in the attack on Douma in Eastern Ghouta, which looks to be the latest in his chemical weapons campaign. At the time, the atrocity was greeted with astonishment as well as horror. Trump had only recently decided to withdraw American troops from Syria, so why would Assad do anything to pull the US back in? Why not just keep hostilities to a minimum while America retreats?” – Daily Telegraph

  • As a former soldier, I think bombing Syria will make things worse – Bob Seely MP, The Guardian
  • Don’t panic, the US shows little sign of starting WW3 – Catherine Philp, The Times
  • We can punish Assad without repeating the mistakes of Iraq – Jane Merrick, Times Red Box
  • The Conservatives are as split as Labour on Syria, but hide it better – Katy Balls, The Guardian
  • It’s time to cut out the cancer of Russian money – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph


  • All evidence points to Assad and he must be punished – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Syria. May’s calculation and the dangers of a May miscalculation – to others and to her

Ministers 1) EU rebuffs Davis’ hopes of trade negotiations

The European Union has squashed David Davis’s hopes of nailing down a detailed outline of the future UK-EU trade agreement before the Brexit deadline expires. “There will be no negotiation strands, no ‘hundreds’ of British negotiators,” one EU diplomat told The Telegraph, referring to the Brexit Secretary’s plans for expansive pre-Brexit trade talks. “Trade negotiations will not start properly until after 29 March 2019. Before that we must get the fundamentals right,” the source said. The Telegraph revealed this week that Mr Davis and Olly Robbins, the UK’s leading Brexit official, were at loggerheads of the size of the trade declaration, with Mr Davis pushing an expansive vision. EU-27 diplomats met yesterday in Brussels for an update on the Brexit negotiations, which are deadlocked over how to avoid a hard border in Ireland.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tiny border firms could get tax-free status, says Brexit Secretary – Daily Telegraph
  • Davis says London should come through Brexit ‘largely unscathed’ – Daily Express


  • Vote Leave dodged spending limits, insider claims – The Times
  • Leaked EU files ‘show EU collusion’ on Gazprom abuses – Daily Telegraph
  • Goldman Sachs boss says Brexit is not as bad as he feared – The Sun


  • Could May get away with a Customs Union climbdown? – Asa Bennett, Daily Telegraph
  • Robots could do jobs done by EU migrants – Richard Brown, Times Red Box
  • There are major trophies awaiting global Britain – Damian Chalmers, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Trimble warns that Irish Brexit stance risks antagonising loyalist paramilitaries

Ministers 2) Hunt ‘broke law’ with flats purchase

“Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt breached anti-money laundering rules after setting up a company to buy seven luxury flats. The minister, who has a personal fortune of more than £14million, failed to declare his interest in the property firm to Companies House, it was revealed last night. The oversight is a criminal offence punishable by a fine or up to two years in prison. He also failed to disclose his 50 per cent stake in the firm on the Parliamentary Register of Members’ interests within the specified 28 days. He later corrected both errors and apologised to the parliamentary authorities. Mr Hunt has not breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct, according to Cabinet Office rules, and so retains the backing of Theresa May.” – Daily Mail

  • Health Secretary apologises for ‘honest mistake’ – The Guardian

Ministers 3) Mordaunt accused of ‘going native’ as she praises aid budget

“New foreign aid minister Penny Mordaunt stood accused of going native last night after using her first major speech to demand that the public ‘be proud’ of the billions ploughed into projects abroad. The International Development Secretary claimed she ‘wanted a return to the priorities of the people’ – then insisted on maintaining the status quo. She underlined her commitment to the target of spending 0.7 per cent of national income on foreign aid, currently £14billion a year. Many critics believe the cash is wasted, but Miss Mordaunt vowed to continue spending large amounts in overseas aid, even claiming her support for the huge budget came directly from her backing for Brexit. And she told an audience in central London that the aid budget could act as a ‘shield’ against pandemics, organised crime, poverty and terrorism.” – Daily Mail

  • International Development Secretary outlines ‘shift’ in aid strategy – The Times
  • ‘British values will come first’, says Mordaunt – Daily Express

Shadow ministers tells Corbyn to stop talking about foreign policy…

“A Labour shadow minister has told Jeremy Corbyn to stop talking about foreign policy after he sparked fury by refusing to blame Russia for the Salisbury attack. Kate Osamor said the Labour leader risks letting the Government get ‘off the hook’ by making remarks which are seized upon by the media and grab headlines. The shadow international development secretary said Mr Corbyn’s words are either ‘ too strong or not strong enough’. And she urged him to take a step back and let shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry speak about world events. Mr Corbyn was hammered by many of his own MPs after he refused to back Theresa May’s response to the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.” – Daily Mail

More Labour:

  • Manic Street Preachers says Corbyn doesn’t understand working class – The Sun
  • Vile rants of Momentum-backed candidate – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Daniel Hannan MEP’s column: Corbyn’s first instinct in a national crisis is to treat it as a way to attack the Tories – much to Putin’s satisfaction

…as Thornberry says May should apologise to the Commonwealth

“The Prime Minister should apologise to the Commonwealth for Britain’s ‘historic wrongs’, Emily Thornberry claimed last night. The shadow foreign secretary said that Theresa May should seize the opportunity when she meets heads of Commonwealth governments in London next week. Writing for The House magazine, Mrs Thornberry made reference to David Cameron’s apology to Nelson Mandela, when he met the South African president in 2006 for the Conservative government’s failure to impose sanctions on the country during apartheid, but claimed ‘that did not go far enough’. She also re-stated claims made last year by 33 Commonwealth states that Britain should be referred to the International Court of Justice over ‘historic wrongs’ committed towards Chagos islanders.” – Daily Mail

  • Prince Charles unfit to take over Commonwealth, says Osamor – The Times

Former Labour council leader could face perjury charges over sexual abuse

“A former Labour council leader was last night facing the threat of perjury charges after lying to an inquiry into depraved sexual abuse involving Cyril Smith. Richard Farnell was slammed for his ‘shameful’ attempt to evade responsibility for the failure to protect generations of youngsters. The 59-year-old councillor was branded ‘unfit to be in public life’ and yesterday suspended from the Labour Party. He is facing a police probe after an official report by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said his testimony that no one had told him about the abuse ‘defies belief’. He is one of a string of ex-MPs, councillors and senior officers named and shamed in the devastating report for failing to protect boys or turning a blind eye to reports of abuse.” – Daily Mail

  • Smith should be stripped of his knighthood, says victims’ lawyer – Daily Mail


  • Labour voters are likely to want more action on antisemitism – Matt Singh, Times Red Box

BBC criticised for plan to air full ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech

“The BBC has said listeners should ‘wait to hear the programme before they judge it’, after receiving a wave of criticism for their scheduled broadcast of Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech. Lord Andrew Adonis led the calls for the broadcaster not to transmit the ‘incendiary and racist’ speech, which is to be discussed by a panel to mark its 50th anniversary. The anti-immigration speech, which will be read out in segments by actor Ian McDiarmid, was first delivered to local Conservative party members in Birmingham, ahead of a second reading of the 1968 race relations bill. Powell attacked the government’s immigration policy, called for less immigration and urged those already in the UK to return to their country of origin. The speech referred to a white constituent who feared ‘the black man having the whip hand over the white man’ and ended by ominously predicting rivers of blood.” – Daily Mail

  • Richards sues Corporation for filming police raid – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Web regulation must not become a matter of stopping the ‘wrong people’ from winning

SNP 1) Sturgeon ‘facing questions’ over bid to woo Chinese investment

“Nicola Sturgeon is under renewed pressure over her visit to China after it emerged that her government took control of proposals for a Chinese-owned power station in Scotland the day before the First Minister met with its parent company in Beijing. Opposition parties have accused the First Minister of putting the interests of a Chinese firm before local people in East Lothian where the development is earmarked for the site of the former Cockenzie power station. The Scottish Government insisted there is no link between Ms Sturgeon’s meeting with China’s State Development and Investment Corporation (SDIC) on Tuesday and the move to relieve East Lothian Council of the final decision on whether the planned substation goes ahead.” – The Scotsman

SNP 2) Salmond ‘humiliated’ after losing complaint that his show spreads ‘fake news’

“Alex Salmond has been left humiliated after he lost a complaint against claims his Kremlin-backed TV show spread fake news. The ex-SNP boss asked the press regulator to take access against a newspaper which exposed him for reading out fake tweets from “viewers”. He insisted he was not guilty of fake news – but the watchdog found against him, ruling that it was fair to apply the term to the row over his show. When Mr Salmond’s chat show began on RT, Russia’s global propaganda channel, he read out several tweets which he said had been sent by members of the public. But two of the tweets did not appear to exist – while another was only sent after the show went out, and a fourth was from the programme’s director. The Herald covered the controversy with the headline “Salmond sparks ‘fake news’ row with new TV show”.” – The Sun

  • SNP discipline collapses in bitter referendum row – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Foreign aid can work. Free trade always works – Ben Ramanauskas, CapX
  • What are our war aims in Syria? – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • The rocky road ahead for the Franco-German reform drive – Leopold Traugott, Open Europe
  • What to expect from the next stage of the Withdrawal Bill – Jonathan Isaby, Brexit Central
  • Will Britain find a new role in the world after Brexit? – James Forsyth, The Spectator