Syria 1) Strikes justified to alleviate “overwhelming humanitarian suffering; legal advice published

‘Theresa May approved deployment of British forces in the missile strike against Syria after government lawyers told her it was lawful on humanitarian grounds. Downing Street yesterday published the government’s legal position, which said the attacks were permitted under international law after the deaths of 400,000 people in the conflict. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, described the military action as “legally questionable” and said it should have been authorised by parliament. The government’s legal position, drawn up with the advice of the attorney-general, Jeremy Wright, and presented to cabinet ministers last Wednesday, said force was justified to alleviate “overwhelming humanitarian suffering”. It said the use of force was permitted providing three conditions were met: evidence of widespread humanitarian distress; no practicable alternative to the use of force; and a proportionate use of force. Ministers consider all three conditions were met.’ – Sunday Times


>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. Tory members support military action against Assad – up to a point

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: May’s gambit. To blame Assad not for one attack, but for “a persistent pattern of behaviour”.

Syria 2) Williamson: Chemical weapons can never be tolerated

‘Military action is always a last resort and not something we take lightly. Our preference undoubtedly would be for the Kremlin — Assad’s principal backer — to use its influence to pressure the Syrian regime into ending its illegal use of chemical weapons for good. Ultimately, a political solution will be the only way to resolve a seven-year conflict that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Britain, with the United States, has been at the forefront of diplomatic efforts. We continue pressing for a peaceful settlement and calling on the Kremlin to be part of the solution, not the problem. But Moscow vetoed a United Nations security council resolution to establish an independent investigation into the Douma attack. This perilous pattern of behaviour must stop. We cannot stand idly by while Assad treats innocent civilians with contempt. Nor is it in our national interests to allow the use of these wicked weapons to become the norm or deployed in ways recently seen in Salisbury.’ – Gavin Williamson, Sunday Times


Syria 3) McColm: It is not enough for opponents of action to simply point to Iraq again and again

‘A parliamentary debate in which Corbyn gave a greater insight into precisely when it is, in his opinion, morally correct to intervene militarily would have been instructive, I’m sure. If we accept – and some conspiracists, egged on by Russian propagandists, don’t – that footage of suffering children and dead families in Douma is genuine then pointing to Iraq as a reason not to act is surely not an adequate response. Corbyn’s reluctance to support military action in Syria is entirely in keeping with his track record on intervention by the West. He was, after all, chairman of the Stop the War coalition from 2011 until his election as Labour leader in 2015. That organisation, established by – among others – members of the far left Socialist Workers Party, exists to condemn any and all interventions by western governments. You will not, however, find many Stop the War campaigners outside the Russian embassy this weekend, protesting about Vladimir Putin’s support for Assad.’ – Euan McColm, Scotland on Sunday

Davidson and Gove team up on new think-tank seeking to restore Tory ‘doorstep appeal’

‘Michael Gove and Ruth Davidson have joined forces to help draw up Tory policy for the next general election in a significant move that brings together two of the leading lights of the Brexit and “remain” campaigns. The environment secretary and the Conservative leader in Scotland have agreed to front the launch of a think tank called Onward, which will create “retail policies” to appeal to the under-45s who abandoned the Tories at the last election. The group, which has been given the blessing of Downing Street chief of staff Gavin Barwell, will draw up policies to boost Theresa May’s government and contribute to the Tory manifesto in 2022. Will Tanner, a former aide to the prime minister, has been recruited as director. The think tank will launch on May 21, after what are expected to be poor local election results for the Conservatives.’ – Sunday Times

>Today: Richard Salt on Comment: If Conservatives want to win the next election, we must Think North

Soubry to attend rally for another referendum

‘Nine anti-Brexit groups will join together today to launch a campaign for a new referendum to give the public the final say on Theresa May’s eventual deal with Brussels. MPs from all the main parties, including the high-profile “remainers” Chuka Umunna and Anna Soubry, will escalate their attempt to derail the prime minister’s plans under the banner of “the people’s vote”. They are due to attend a rally in London alongside Caroline Lucas of the Green Party and celebrities such as the Star Trek actor Sir Patrick Stewart and the comedian Andy Parsons…their polling suggests references to another “referendum” is off-putting to some voters, hence the focus on a “people’s vote”.’ – Sunday Times

  • They say it’s not about stopping Brexit, but Umunna says it’s a chance to ‘withdraw’ from the process – Mail on Sunday
  • Labour council candidates pledge to ‘stop Brexit’ – Sunday Telegraph
  • Sorrell quits WPP – Sunday Telegraph
  • Cambridge Analytica invoiced UKIP (which says it did not pay) – The Observer

The Prime Minister will urge Commonwealth leaders to join fight against plastic pollution

‘Theresa May will spearhead a global drive to rid the world’s oceans of the scourge of plastic pollution. The PM will urge 52 countries to join a new alliance committed to cleaning up and protecting our seas. She will provide a £61.4 million package to fund research into recycling and improve waste management in poor countries. Mrs May will unveil her Clean Oceans Alliance at a meeting of Commonwealth leaders in London this week. She hopes to harness the “passion and energy” shown by the British public in fighting plastic pollution to the rest of the world. Spread over six continents and rich in island states, the Commonwealth is “uniquely placed” to make an impact.’ – The Sun on Sunday

The NHS is owed £139 million by ‘health tourists’

‘NHS hospitals are owed an astonishing £139 million from health tourists who have failed to pay for their treatment in England alone. And despite pledges to recoup more of the money, hospitals are getting worse at finding and forcing overseas patients to pay up. A Mail on Sunday investigation can reveal that since April 2013, hospitals across England have recovered just £86 million out of £225 million billed to health tourists…Collection rates vary hugely between NHS trusts – with some large urban sites serving big immigrant populations sending out millions in bills but getting little back. Together, two large London trusts, Barts Health and King’s College London, billed more than £50 million. King’s recovered £6.2 million of £22.2 million it billed, and Barts £9.4 million of £29.3 million owed. And University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust recovered just ten per cent of the £4.8 million it billed overseas patients between 2013 and 2017.’ – Mail on Sunday

A substantial minority of the British public believe multiculturalism has failed

‘Fifty years after Enoch Powell’s notorious “Rivers of Blood” speech, a large minority of Britons appears to believe that multiculturalism has failed and different communities generally live separate lives. A YouGov poll of 5,200 people to be released tomorrow and commissioned by anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate, found that 43% predicted relationships between different UK communities will deteriorate over the next few years compared to 14% who feel things will improve. More than two-thirds of Conservative Leave voters said they believed multiculturalism wasn’t working. Nick Lowles, chief executive of Hope Not Hate, said: “There is clearly much work to do. Powell’s speech led anti-racism campaigners to mobilise – the anniversary of the speech must do the same.” The YouGov poll does offer grounds for optimism, with almost half of respondents describing Britain as a successful multicultural society, although that sentiment is mostly shared among Remain voters and Liberal Democrat supporters.’ – The Observer

  • Attitudes have changed, so why is the Home Office still so harsh on immigrants? – The Observer Leader
  • Seeking the legacy of the ‘Rivers of blood’ speech – The Observer
  • Worry about today’s racism, not the words of 50 years ago – Kenan Malik, The Observer
  • Jewish groups urge Corbyn to protect MPs who protested against anti-semitism – The Observer
  • Anti-Muslim campaigners stopped at the border – The Observer

Hannan: Defend Neil from the Left’s attempts to purge the BBC

‘Neil is unusual in having been a newspaper editor and columnist, and so having left a paper trail. Unusual, but not exceptional. Ian Katz, who was until October the editor of Newsnight, was deputy editor of The Guardian before he joined the Corporation. Andrew Marr edited The Independent. Both produced large and entertaining corpuses of Leftist opinion. Both were meticulously neutral in their subsequent BBC jobs, as Neil has been. What seems to be bothering Owen Jones is that Andrew Neil has focused on Labour’s anti-Semitism. Jones has, to his credit, been sincerely horrified to discover the views of some of the people in his movement. We can hardly blame him for lashing out. But the idea that the BBC is conservative is too silly for words.’ – Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph

First details of allegations against Elphicke are leaked

‘A Conservative MP suspended by his party is under police investigation for alleged sexual offences involving two female members of his staff, The Sunday Times can reveal. In a disclosure that will reignite Westminster’s sex scandal, Charlie Elphicke, the MP for Dover and Deal, is accused of targeting two young female aides when he was alone with them. The alleged victims were interviewed by specialist detectives from Scotland Yard’s sexual offences command earlier this year. The married father-of-two was interviewed under caution about the alleged offences last month, which are said to have taken place between 2015 and 2017…Leaked documents reveal that senior Tory officials were first made aware of the allegations about Elphicke’s conduct in 2016. Sources say one of the alleged victims first approached the whips’ office, who registered the complaint and advised that she might wish to contact the police. A Conservative official told the complainant that the party would investigate…Once the Westminster sex scandal exploded nine months later, however, it is understood that the party received a similar complaint from a second alleged victim, and decided to refer Elphicke to Scotland Yard.’ – Sunday Times

Mumsnet reports trans activists are pressuring advertisers in an effort to close down debate

‘The founder of Mumsnet says transgender “thought police” are pressurising advertisers to withdraw from Britain’s most popular parenting website because it allows the discussion of trans topics. Justine Roberts said she had been approached by three significant advertisers who had been threatened by trans groups. “Transgender activists have contacted Mumsnet advertisers and said they will be organising a boycott of their products if they don’t remove their advertising from Mumsnet,” Roberts said. The website had told the advertisers that it “works hard to keep the discussions civil” and was determined to let them continue. “What’s worrying to me is the thought-police action around speech and the shutting down of the right to be able to disagree and immediately labelling it as transphobic,” Roberts said.’ – Sunday Times

  • Oxford considers giving back the collection of the Pitt-Rivers museum and responding to Rhodes with graffiti – Sunday Times