Syria 1) Mercer: Level Assad’s bases, target all those involved with his chemical weapons programme

‘“All that is necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to stand aside and do nothing” we repeat, ad nauseam. Whilst doing nothing…We have reached such a fetid low post-Iraq that there is now an expectation that any foreign action will go through a vote in Parliament. This is a uniquely useless way of conducting foreign policy, and in almost one action emasculates us on the world stage. It is a cop-out to go to Parliament on issues of national security, as if our leaders haven’t the courage to take the decisions themselves. It’s not actually their fault either – I know them personally, and they do. But the nation’s politics has become so nauseatingly pious since Iraq, that agenda-driven politicians calling the score about warfighting and the character of conflict – something that is changing faster than we are able to keep up – has become the accepted normal…Every individual inside Syria involved in the chemical weapons decision-making cycle should be targeted (not always with violence). The bases they launch from should be levelled. Assad (who should have been dead long ago) doesn’t read our newspapers; so statements decrying him are largely irrelevant. If warfare is changing, then we damn well change with it.’ – Johnny Mercer, Daily Telegraph


>Today: ToryDiary: The Syrian horror. No easy answers.

Syria 2) Trump says ‘animal’ dictator will ‘pay’, and holds Putin personally responsible

‘Donald Trump told the Assad regime and its allies yesterday that there would be a “big price to pay” after as many as 70 people were feared to have died in a suspected chemical attack in Syria. Britain was locked in urgent talks with allies in Washington, Paris and at the United Nations last night. Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, declared that the “international community must respond” to the attack on a rebel-held area near the capital, Damascus. Residents said that the gas, thought to be chlorine, was dropped on Douma in eastern Ghouta on Saturday evening, with the United States and European Union openly blaming the Syrian regime for the attack. Footage from local hospitals and houses showed victims, many of them young children, foaming at the mouth. Hours later Syria announced that the rebels had agreed to give up Douma, their last pocket of territory near the capital, and be evacuated to the north of the country.’ – The Times

Leaked Home Office report claims police cuts ‘allowed the rise’ in violence ‘to continue’

‘Government cuts to the police “may have encouraged” violent offenders and have “likely contributed” to a rise in serious violent crime, leaked Home Office documents have revealed…Rudd will on Monday launch a strategy aimed at tackling serious violent crime, which officials and ministers have been working on for months. The launch comes after a week of shooting and stabbing deaths pushed the homicide rate in London to more than 50 lives lost this year…The document is entitled Serious violence; latest evidence on the drivers. A section on police resources says: “Since 2012/3, weighted crime demand on the police has risen, largely due to growth in recorded sex offences. At the same time officers’ numbers have fallen by 5% since 2014. So resources dedicated to serious violence have come under pressure and charge rates have dropped. This may have encouraged offenders. “[It is] unlikely to be the factor that triggered the shift in serious violence, but may be an underlying driver that has allowed the rise to continue.”’ – The Guardian


Samuel: Is Britain as free-trading in practice as it is in rhetoric?

‘The UK is the home of free trade, the only nation to keep its market unilaterally and fully open for nearly 100 years after 1846, the place where tariffs were denounced in 1905 posters shouting “Stop, thief!” and “Tariff reform means more food taxes”. The Brexit project was in part sold on a promise of once again pursuing a liberalising role on the world stage. There are certainly challenges, such as our attachment to animal welfare standards and the desire for reciprocal access to semi-closed markets like China or India, but on the whole, Britain shuns tariffs and has a positive attitude to foreign trade…Trade wars…can spring from misguided attempts to control violent market movements. They can result from a loss of faith in openness and a growing suspicion of international capital. Look at Britain and you can see exactly these sorts of trends…Whether it’s anxiety over our new passports being made abroad, concern over foreign companies owning utilities or bidding for rail franchises, denouncement of corporate “vultures” taking over companies (even if, as in the case of GKN and Melrose, both are British), hysteria over incidents such as the Panama papers, or hatred of bankers, Britain looks increasingly uncomfortable with the underpinnings of global free trade.’ – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: WATCH: Adonis defends his claim that the BBC ‘created Farage’

Businesses’ hiring intentions hit a record high

‘Signs of positivity are emerging in the UK economy, according to new data which today revealed domestic firms are more keen to hire than at any point on record. The Employment Index compiled by accountancy firm BDO has risen to new heights in April, driven by businesses’ investment in people over capital at a time of low wage growth. Meanwhile the Output Index, which measures how much businesses are producing, rose above the long-term average to its highest since August 2017. This was boosted by both the manufacturing and services sector. “The performance of both the manufacturing and services sectors is encouraging for the health of the UK economy, and the data suggest that there will be an improvement in GDP growth over the next few months,” said BDO partner Peter Hemington.’ – City AM

Halfon and Willetts join the Mail in voicing support for the Open University

‘Ministers are being urged to rethink the funding cuts crippling the Open University. The institution – which has provided a ‘ladder of opportunity’ for millions – is a victim of the changes to tuition fees. It has been hit by a dramatic fall in part-time students, and education experts say ministers have to give it a subsidy so it can lower its fees. Tory MP Robert Halfon said: ‘Far from cutting funds, we should be doing everything possible to support the OU financially.’ Conservative peer Lord Willetts, who as universities minister introduced the 2012 tuition fee changes that have caused the crisis, admitted there was a ‘problem’. He said ‘some level of public funding’ should return for mature students, such as those attending the OU. This issue should be a ‘priority’ for the Government’s current review of post-18 education and funding, he added.’ – Daily Mail

Council bosses’ pay packets grow as taxes rise

‘Almost three in four councils dished out more cash to their chief executives last year – as Brits now face skyrocketing council tax bills, The Sun can reveal. At least 190 chiefs in charge of councils are now paid more than Prime Minister Theresa May – who earns £150k a year. Top execs across the country have seen their pay and pensions hiked by thousands of pounds, while others have received huge payouts of nearly £200,000 just to leave their jobs. It comes as struggling families are facing a six per cent hike to council tax bills on average and huge cuts to frontline services. Council tax bills are set to increase by an average of £81 – the steepest rise in 14 years.’ – The Sun

  • NHS staff charged a fortune to park at work – The Sun
  • End this rip-off – The Sun Says
  • The health service spends £40 million a year on ‘useless’ back pain jabs – The Times
  • What a waste of money – The Times Leader

Security Minister challenges SNP objections to the term ‘British values’

‘Ben Wallace accused the SNP administration and its Education Scotland agency of “putting PC politics before children’s safety” over the guidance, which highlighted “problematic language” that should be avoided in the classroom. The advice criticised the wording of the UK Government’s anti-terror Prevent strategy, which defines extremism as “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values” such as democracy, the rule of law and tolerance. It argued that the concept of British values “can cause offence and could play into the hands of groups who seek to assert that there is an inherent conflict between being British and being Muslim.” But this claim was rejected by terrorism experts and Muslim leaders, who argued that British values such as freedom of expression and justice resonate with Islam’s teaching rather than contradict them.’ – Daily Telegraph

  • Sturgeon to visit China – FT
  • Think-tank says Brexit will require a rethink of the devolution settlement – The Times

McDonnell attacks new ‘centrist’ party as ‘of the rich, by the rich, for the rich’

‘Senior Labour figures took aim yesterday at a new centrist political movement set up by a former donor. The party, with access to up to £50 million, has been under development in secret for more than a year by a network of entrepreneurs, philanthropists and donors keen to “break the Westminster mould”…John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, dismissed the enterprise on Twitter: “That’s a novel idea. A party of the rich, by the rich, for the rich. A party for the few not the many,” he said. Jonathan Ashworth, shadow health and social care secretary, said: “For goodness sake, what a daft waste of time. Anyone putting money into this nonsense would be better off investing in our campaign to restore and rebuild our NHS.”’ – The Times

Hundreds protest against Labour anti-semitism

‘Actress Maureen Lipman branded Jeremy Corbyn an “anti-Semite at the head of the Labour Party” at a demo outside Labour HQ yesterday. Ms Lipman declared “Jeremy Corbyn has made me a Tory” as hundreds held up placards demanding the party hold their leader to account. At the protest, organised by the Campaign Against AntiSemitism, the actress described herself as a “disenfranchised socialist”. And she attacked the Labour leader for attending a feast organised by left-wing Jewish group Jewdas last week, calling it “appalling” and “the absolute cherry on top of Jeremy Corbyn’s behaviour”. She added: “He is standing with elements who are against everything we stand for — hardworking, decent Jewish people of whom I am incredibly proud. By doing nothing he is telling us the same thing he has been telling us for the last 30 years. He wants a Marxist party. Because it’s worked so well in the rest of the world.”’ – The Sun

  • More than half of voters think the Opposition has an anti-semitism problem – PoliticsHome
  • Rayner concedes her Party should move faster against racists – The Times
  • Anti-capitalist beetroot for sale for £32,000 – The Times

Orban’s anti-immigration campaign delivers victory in Hungary – and a far right party comes second

‘After running a campaign almost exclusively focused on the apparent threat posed by migration, Orbán’s Fidesz will have a majority in parliament and may even regain a two-thirds “supermajority” which allows constitutional changes. With around 93% of votes counted, Fidesz was projected to take 133 of the parliament’s 199 seats, the minimum required for the supermajority. Orbán appeared shortly before midnight to claim victory in front of a cheering crowd outside the Fidesz election headquarters on the Danube in Budapest. “We won,” Orbán said. “We gave ourselves a chance to protect Hungary.” Second place in the vote went to Jobbik, the far-right party that has attempted to rebrand itself as an anti-corruption centrist force. The party is set to win just 26 seats, and its leader, Gábor Vona, said he would resign…The result is a crushing defeat for the liberal opposition, who had been cautiously optimistic about dealing a blow to Fidesz.’ – The Guardian

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