Syria 1) UK joins France and America with airstrikes on chemical weapons sites

“The US, UK and France have bombed multiple government targets in Syria in an early morning operation targeting alleged chemical weapons sites. The strikes are in response to a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma last week. Explosions hit the capital, Damascus, as well as two locations near the city of Homs, the Pentagon said… “A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway,” President Trump said in an address to the nation from the White House at about 21:00 local time (02:00 BST). The wave of strikes is the most significant attack against President Bashar al-Assad’s government by western powers in seven years of Syria’s civil war.” – BBC

  • Syrians claim their air defences shot down 13 of the missiles – Daily Mail
  • Precision attacks succeeded says MOD – Daily Telegraph
  • Apologists for Assad working in British universities – The Times

Syria 2) Russia warns of “consequences”

“Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to the US, has responded to the airstrikes in Damascus and Homs. He says Moscow’s warnings have been left unheard and that Russia is being threatened. “We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences,” he says. He says “insulting the president of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible” and that the US, as a holder of chemical weapons, has no moral right to blame other countries.” – The Guardian

Syria 3) “No practical alternative to the use of force,” declares May

“The UK has deployed four RAF Tornados in a “limited and targeted strike” against Syria. The US and France have also launched co-ordinated strikes in response to an alleged chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma last week. Prime Minister Theresa May said there was “no practicable alternative to the use of force” to deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. Syrian state media called the strikes a “violation of international law”. Several large explosions have been heard in the Syrian capital Damascus.” – BBC

  • Toughest decision for a PM – Oliver Wright, The Times
  • Full text of Trump’s and May’s statements – Daily Telegraph

>Today: WATCH: May – “We sought to use every possible diplomatic channel. But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted.”

Syria 4) PM will be under pressure over the lack of a Commons vote

“Mrs May is under huge pressure to justify the military intervention having decided to carry out the strikes without a Commons vote. Although none of her cabinet directly challenged the policy at Thursday’s emergency meeting, some raised doubts about Mrs May’s determination to authorise strikes without even a parliamentary debate. David Davis, the Brexit secretary, who voted against David Cameron’s motion to punish a previous gas attack by Assad in 2013, queried parliament’s lack of involvement. Esther McVey, only recently appointed to the cabinet as work and pensions secretary, was also among those to voice worries about the political consequences of acting without a vote.” – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. Party members back war without a Commons vote by three to one

>Yesterday: Left Watch: If there is a Commons vote on Syria, the willingness of Labour rebels to support action could make all the difference

Syria 5) The red line has been crossed says Macron

“French President Emmanuel Macron said his ‘red line’ had been crossed by the Syrian regime as he launched airstrikes on the country alongside the US and UK today.  The president said he ordered his forces to target ‘the capacities of the Syrian regime to produce and use chemical weapons’. In a statement issued shortly after huge explosions were heard in Damascus, he said: ‘We cannot tolerate the normalisation of the use of chemical weapons.’ ” – Daily Mail

Syria 6) The Cold War is back warns the UN Secretary General

“The UN’s secretary general has said the Cold War is “back with a vengeance”. Antonio Guterres also warned about the dangers of escalation over Syria. The US and its allies are considering launching missile strikes against Syria after a suspected chemical attack, an action which Russia – whose forces are there supporting the government- has said would risk starting a war. Russia has accused the UK of faking an attack, an allegation Britain dismissed as a “grotesque, blatant lie”….Mr Guterres delivered his warnings at the opening of a bad-tempered UN Security Council meeting.” – BBC

  • Interview with Karen Pierce, Britain’s ambassador to the UN – The Times

Syria 7) The Second World War was the only justified military intervention says Abbott

“Diane Abbott named only the Second World War yesterday when repeatedly asked to set out the circumstances in which Labour would back overseas intervention. The shadow home secretary went further than Jeremy Corbyn in appearing to rule out party backing for Britain’s participation in military action in Syria. “The Labour Party believes that there is no military solution to the situation in Syria . . . There has to be a political negotiation,” she said.” – The Times

Syria 8) Barrons: A new age of warfare has begun

“The strikes mark a profound change to the way that the West approaches conflict in the 21st century. In Iraq and Afghanistan there was no real challenge for control of the air. In Syria the strikes must overcome the serious threat posed by comprehensive Russian-backed air defences. Western forces are used to flying drones freely and unlimited access to space-based communications and GPS. This does not apply here.” – General Sir Richard Barrons, The Times

Syria 9) Parris: It’s only likely to be gesture bombing

“A serious military response is unlikely. Hypocrisy is the likely winner. Donald Trump will want to crow about “taking out” this or that runway, and we might discreetly warn the Russians not to be there at the time. We would then have “given butcher Assad a bloody nose” and everything, including his slow advance, would continue as before. In this sanctimonious posturing, sadly, Britain must collude. We don’t call the tune and it’s not worth infuriating the US president or undermining President Macron simply to keep our hands clean of hypocrisy. So pin back your ears, prepare for the canting headlines as we Brits lend an airfield, a bomber, a radar, or two . . . and sigh.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Other comment

  • Calling for war again, the Neo-cons who drowned the Middle East in blood – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail
  • If the West does not act against Assad and Putin now, their lies will have won – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Strikes may not end the civil war in Syria but if an attack makes a dictator think twice then they are worth it – James Forsyth, The Sun
  • If international law is to be upheld doing nothing is not an option – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Government backs up Raab’s claim that immigration pushes up house prices

“The government has published the data behind Housing Minister Dominic Raab’s claim that immigration has caused house prices to rise 20% over 25 years. His figures were based on a model detailed in reports published in 2007 and 2008 by the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit. The model suggested that from 1991-2016, rising immigration contributed to a 21% rise in house prices. Labour urged Mr Raab to stop blaming others for “unaffordable” housing.” – BBC

Javid to decide on allowing housing on a golf course in the green belt

“Sajid Javid is under pressure to stop a golf course and more than a thousand new houses being built on hundreds of acres of green belt. The communities secretary has promised to speed up the building of homes and pledged to take action against “nimby councils” that fail to supply land for new developments. However, he has also maintained a manifesto pledge to protect England’s 14 green belts, which are supposed to limit urban sprawl.” – The Times

Brexit 1) Australia and the UK seeking a £7 billion trade deal

“Britain and Australia will meet next week to intensify trade talks over a bumper £7 billion post-Brexit trade deal as UK officials fly Down Under to thrash out an agreement. Australia wants the wide-ranging deal to scrap all imports on food and wine – paving the way for cut-price Aussie wine and beer to hit UK supermarket shelves. The Aussie PM Malcolm Turnbull is flying to London for talks with Theresa May on the sidelines of the Commonwealth summit next week.” – The Sun

Brexit 2) Davis rebuffed over EU negotiating groups

“The EU is to rebuff David Davis’s plans to establish up to 50 Brexit negotiating groups to start work on a trade and security treaty with the bloc. The Brexit secretary claimed this week that there would be “about 40 to 50 negotiating strands starting shortly”. His remarks, at a conference in London, come after a letter was sent to Whitehall departments calling for officials across government to take part in the next phase of the negotiations.” – The Times

Brexit 3) Soubry to speak at Remain rally

“Bitter Remoaners are holding two anti-Brexit rallies this weekend as they continue with their plans to overturn the referendum result. Outspoken pro-EU MPs from each of the major parties, including Tory Anna Soubry and Labour’s Chuka Umunna, will speak at the launch of a new campaign group on Sunday called People’s Vote…Sunday’s launch follows a nationwide rally on Saturday led by Open Britain, the European Movement and Britain for Europe who have come together to organise their largest ever ‘National Day of Action’.” – The Sun

  • Advance Together campaigning running candidates in Kensington and Chelsea local elections – Financial Times
  • A second referendum will not happen – Daily Express

Brexit 4) Gove faces backlash over environmental plans

“Michael Gove is facing a Cabinet backlash over his plans for a “green Brexit” amid concerns that it will lead to increased red tape and damage the economy after Brexit. The Environment Secretary has committed to an independent “world-leading” statutory body to maintain environmental standards after Brexit and “embed” protections for land, water and air in law. However The Telegraph understands that Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, has raised concerns about the potential cost of new regulations while Mr Grayling, the Transport Secretary, has warned it could hinder the construction of new roads and railway lines. Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, is concerned that it could lead to more red tape after Brexit and conflict with the Committee on Climate Change, an independent body that advises the Government and is sponsored by his department.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour to refer Hunt to the standards commissioner

“Labour is set to refer Jeremy Hunt to the parliamentary commissioner for standards over an apparent delay in declaring his property interests. The health secretary has apologised after it was discovered he made errors over the purchase of luxury flats. Mr Hunt has a 50% interest in a firm – set up with his wife in October – but he did not declare it to Companies House until six months later. His spokesman said it was an “honest administrative mistake”. over an apparent delay in declaring his property interests.” – BBC

  • Nine cabinet ministers making more than £10,000 a year from renting our properties – Daily Mail

“Whistleblower” sends claims to the Electoral Commission about Vote Leave spending

“A former Vote Leave staffer has become the third whistleblower to publicly accuse the EU referendum campaign of exceeding spending limits “on an industrial scale”. In written evidence to the Electoral Commission seen by the Guardian, Mark Gettleson, a communications consultant, claims two of Theresa May’s political advisers were among the senior directors at Vote Leave involved in assisting the activities of a youth group, BeLeave, which was ostensibly a separate organisation. Vote Leave donated £625,000 to BeLeave which then spent the money on digital advertising in the last critical days before the vote.” – The Guardian

Gadhia and Tugendhat: India should back the Prince of Wales to be the new head of the Commonwealth

“India could take a lead on trade and investment and shift the centre of gravity of the Commonwealth away from London. As for future leadership, Indians understand families and the need for a “family arrangement” and “as such” might graciously repeat Nehru’s words of almost 70 years ago and accept Prince Charles as the next Head of the Commonwealth.” – Lord Gadhia and Tom Tugendhat, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Bombing Syria would be a grave mistake – Dominic Green, The Spectator
  • There’s a role for a new centrist party, but it’s not opposing Brexit – Alan Lockey, CapX
  • How to save the Labour Party – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • The lesson from Estonian independence? Don’t agree to a transition – David Scullion, BrexitCentral
  • The problem with airing Enoch Powell’s speech isn’t that it was racist – it’s that it was wrong – Stephen Bush, New Statesman