Syria 1) May to ask for emergency debate. Corbyn to ask for a vote

“Theresa May will argue today that she struck against the Assad regime “in the national interest” as she awaits the verdict of the Commons on her handling of the military action in Syria. After coming under intensifying pressure during the weekend for refusing to give parliament a vote before launching the strikes, the prime minister will ask for an emergency debate to give MPs the ability to discuss the military action at length. Labour will demand that the Commons is also given a vote at the end of the debate. The decision on whether to offer a vote will be taken by the Speaker, John Bercow. In a statement to MPs this afternoon Mrs May will explicitly tie the action the UK took in the early hours of Saturday morning to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal with a weapons-grade nerve agent in Salisbury last month.” – The Times

  • May will talk of “broad-based international support” – Guardian
  • She will give MPs an “ultimatum” – The Sun
  • Conservative ministers recalled ahead of potential vote, as three-line whip is imposed – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson speaks of “standing up for civilised values” – The Sun
  • Labour “backlash” builds – FT
  • Umunna criticises Corbyn – Daily Mail 
  • Meanwhile, Macron claims he “swayed” Trump to stay in Syria – The Times 


>Today: ToryDiary: Syria. MPs to argue about the stable door after the horse has bolted – or, rather, is back inside


Syria 2) May to make statement to MPs this afternoon saying strikes were “in UK interest”

“Theresa May will hit back at critics of military action in Syria by insisting the decision to launch airstrikes was aimed at preventing human suffering, and was in Britain’s national interest, as she is questioned by MPs about the attacks for the first time. With the government braced for highly charged exchanges in the Commons as MPs return from their Easter recess, the prime minister will emphasise the international support for the bombing raids. May will tell MPs: “Let me be absolutely clear: we have acted because it is in our national interest to do so. It is in our national interest to prevent the further use of chemical weapons in Syria and to uphold and defend the global consensus that these weapons should not be used.”” – Guardian


Syria 3) May: “I did not take the decision lightly. But I was certain it was the right and legal thing to do”

“In the early hours of ­Saturday, Britain — together with our US and French allies — took firm and ­decisive action in response to the persistent use of chemical weapons by Assad. In a coordinated and ­carefully targeted military response, our Armed Forces launched successful missile strikes against three chemical weapons sites in Syria — seriously degrading and deterring the regime’s ­ability to carry out further attacks with these banned and abhorrent weapons. It was the first time as Prime Minister I have sent our brave Armed Forces into combat, and I did not take the decision lightly. But I was absolutely certain that it was the right and legal thing to do — and at the right time. For, by moving with speed, and in coordination with our close allies, we were able to protect the vital operational security of the mission.” – The Sun 

  • May did the right thing, but the Syrian situation is worsening – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • The strikes “won’t prevent future gas attacks” – Richard Spencer, The Times
  • Here’s what needs to happen – Tom Tugendhat, Daily Telegraph
  • May has tied us to Trump’s “fickle whims” – Polly Toynbee, Guardian

Syria 4) Corbyn: Saturday’s attack was “wrong”. It was “either symbolic or the precursor to wider action”

“Saturday’s attack on sites thought to be linked to Syria’s chemical weapons capability was both wrong and misconceived. It was either purely symbolic – a demolition of what appear to be empty buildings, already shown to be entirely ineffective as a deterrent – or it was the precursor to wider military action. That would risk a reckless escalation of the war and death toll, and the danger of direct confrontation between the US and Russia. Neither possibility offers an end to the war and suffering, or any prospect of saving lives – rather the opposite. The intensification of military action will simply lead to more deaths and more refugees.” – Guardian

  • Here are some urgent questions – Nick Ferrari, Daily Express
  • I feel uneasy about all this – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun

Syria 5) Johnson warns of Russian retaliation risk as “dirty-tricks disinformation” spreads online

“Russia has launched a “dirty tricks” campaign against Britain and the US in the wake of the Syria airstrikes as Boris Johnson warned of the need to be prepared for retaliatory attacks. Whitehall sources on Sunday night confirmed a Pentagon analysis that showed a 20-fold increase in Russian-sourced “disinformation” being spread online since the cruise missile attacks on Syria in the early hours of Saturday. There are fears that it could be a precursor to a campaign of cyber attacks by the Kremlin, and the Foreign Secretary said Britain must take “every possible precaution” to guard against it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • NHS on high alert, as vital networks might be hacked – Daily Express
  • There could also be retaliation in form of “online release of compromising information on MPs’ – Daily Mail 

Syria 6) Corbyn calls for “war powers act” to force prime ministers to ask parliament before authorising military action

“Jeremy Corbyn has called for a new “War Powers Act” banning Theresa May from taking any military action without a vote by MPs. The Labour leader repeated his suggestion for a “robust” law which would bind any Prime Minister to getting Parliament’s approval to get involved around the globe. It comes after he criticised Mrs May for taking part in strikes against Syria this weekend without the Commons having its say. Mr Corbyn has said her decision was “legally questionable”, despite Mrs May phoning him late on Friday night to give him an updated security briefing. And he wrote a letter to the PM saying: “I believe that Parliament should have been consulted and voted on the matter.  The UK Prime Minister is accountable to Parliament, not to the whims of a US President.”” – The Sun

More foreign affairs

  • Lavrov claims Skripal poison was produced in UK and US – The Times

Video: WATCH: “I want to see incontrovertible evidence” – Corbyn still won’t say Russia was responsible for the Salisbury attack

More Corbyn

  • He says Prince Charles “shouldn’t automatically” replace Queen as head of Commonwealth – Daily Express

Brexit 1) Government expected to “lodge Supreme Court challenge” to try to stop Scottish and Welsh governments’ Brexit bills

“UK Government lawyers are expected to lodge an unprecedented legal challenge at the UK Supreme Court in the next 48 hours to stop the Scottish and Welsh Governments’ own Brexit bills from becoming law. The legislation seeks to protect the devolved settlement in the event there is no agreement between London, Edinburgh and Cardiff on the UK Government’s flagship EU Withdrawal Bill, which is currently going through the House of Lords. The First Minister and her Welsh counterpart, Carwyn Jones, believe this legislation is a “naked power-grab” by Whitehall.” – Herald

Brexit 2) May to “intensify” trade talks with Commonwealth countries as she opens summit

“Theresa May will pledge to put Britain’s fellow 52 Commonwealth nations at the heart of our post-Brexit free trade bonanza as the summit opens in London. The PM will intensify trade talks with major nations such as India, Canada and Australia when she opens the three-day Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit. But she will also urge her fellow Commonwealth leaders to take advantage of their common standards and common language to boost the value of intra-Commonwealth trade from £400billion to half a trillion pounds within two years. The huge block of Anglo-friendly nations account for 2.4billion of the world’s population. Mrs May is keen for this week’s CHOGM to put particular focus on boosting the role of woman and young people in trade.” – The Sun



  • The Commonwealth will benefit from our trade – Liam Fox and Penny Mordaunt, Daily Telegraph
  • Get an electronic visa and come visit Oz – Alexander Downer, Daily Express

More Brexit

  • Stewart speaks at Camden rally for Brexit-deal referendum – Belfast Telegraph
  • He’s joined by MPs from four parties, including Soubry – Guardian
  • Why we should add a “do no harm” health amendment to the Withdrawal Bill – Lord Warner The Times

Downing Street “rejects” diplomatic request to discuss “Windrush-generation” immigration troubles

“Downing Street has rejected a formal diplomatic request to discuss the immigration problems being experienced by some Windrush-generation British residents at this week’s meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government, rebuffing a request from representatives of 12 Caribbean countries for a meeting with the prime minister. “We did make a request to the CHOGM summit team for a meeting to be held between the prime minister and the Commonwealth Caribbean heads of government who will be here for the CHOGM and regrettably they have advised us that that is not possible,” said Guy Hewitt, the Barbados high commissioner. The refusal has given Caribbean diplomats the impression that the UK government is not taking a sufficiently serious approach to the problem that is affecting large numbers of long-term UK residents who came to Britain as children.” – Guardian

May to launch “SheTrades” programme with £7m fund for female Commonwealth entrepreneurs

“Commonwealth countries will be given access to a £7 million fund to help female entrepreneurs “overcome barriers” that stop them getting businesses off the ground, Theresa May will announce today. The SheTrades programme is aimed at helping women in poorer Commonwealth countries where being female still stands in the way of accessing funds. The heads of the 53 Commonwealth countries, which together account for one fifth of global trade, will discuss the issue when they gather in London this week for the bi-annual Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).” – Daily Telegraph

Personal NHS budgets to be “exponentially” expanded

“Hundreds of thousands of people will receive personal allowances of NHS cash to organise their own care as ministers seek to “put power back into the hands of patients”. Far more people with mental health problems, dementia and physical and learning disabilities will have the right to select and pay for treatments they want. The money will be paid directly to them and can be spent on whatever that they think best helps to manage their condition, as long as a doctor agrees. At present 23,000 people have personal budgets in the NHS through a little-known initiative called NHS Continuing Healthcare, designed for those who need both social care and nursing. Now ministers want an “exponential” expansion of the right to have personal health budgets, taking the number up to 350,000.” – The Times 

D’Ancona: Fifty years on, some more thoughts on “rivers of blood”

“I was the last person to interview Enoch Powell. In October 1996, only 16 months before his death, he was frail and softly spoken, though still formidably articulate. Our conversation ranged from John Major’s politics, to St John’s Gospel, to the poet AE Housman. But what most exercised him was Europe. “I have lived into an age in which my ideas are now part of common intuition, part of a common fashion,” he said. “It has been a great experience, having given up so much, to find that there is now this range of opinion in all classes, that an agreement with the EEC is totally incompatible with normal parliamentary government.” Why was this so? “The nation has returned to haunt us.” Twenty years later, in the Brexit referendum, his mystical claim was made all too real. In a later exchange, Powell insisted that he had never delivered a speech on “race”, only “immigration”. But this was a distinction without a difference – as was made admirably clear in Amol Rajan’s excellent Radio 4 programme on Saturday marking the 50th anniversary of Powell’s infamous “rivers of blood” speech.”” – Guardian

  • Some responses to the BBC programme – The Times

>Today: Sunder Katwala in comment: “Rivers of blood” and a striking reflection. Powell set the bar too low on integration

More Conservatives

  • Elphicke questioned by police, having been suspended by party in November – The Times

>Today: Ross Archer in Local Government: Why I am standing to be Mayor of Lewisham

Other parties

AI 1) Lords report warns of risks of robots

““Killer robots” which threaten to “hurt, destroy or deceive human beings” could become reality unless the Government improves regulation on artificial intelligence, a Parliamentary report has suggested. A Lords select committee has warned that while Terminator-style weapons may not yet exist, without checks and balances Britain could end up “stumbling through a semantic haze into dangerous territory.” In a paper published today, the peers state that Britain’s definition of military-grade AI differs significantly from other NATO members, with even the US taking a more cautious approach to the technology.” – Daily Telegraph

AI 2) Ridley: Consumers not producers will be key

“As a member of the House of Lords select committee on artificial intelligence, whose report is released today, I was struck by two things during the course of our inquiry: how well placed Britain could be to take advantage of the new technologies that go under the name of AI, should we choose to play our cards right; and how pervasive and invisible this technology will prove to be…What counts is how far AI seeps into everyday life and transforms the prosperity of humankind. The main gains to society from electricity, say, or the internal combustion engine, are not the profits of the electricity companies or carmakers, but the efficiencies we all experience in our normal lives as a consequence of having those technologies. It will be the same with AI: consumers, not producers, are key. So while a thriving British AI development industry would be great, it’s not the main prize.” – The Times 

>Today: Rebecca Lowe’s column: Gender pay, childcare, flexibility, robots – and the future of work

News in Brief

  • Pompeo’s role in Syria – Nicky Woolf, New Statesman
  • The obvious answers to Corbyn’s questions – Fraser Nelson, Spectator
  • Thoughts on Commonwealth trade – Shanker Singham, BrexitCentral
  • The everyday politics of military conscription – Michael Szonyi, Aeon
  • A true birds-eye view – Andrea Denhoed, New Yorker