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Rebels blast May for ‘backtracking’ on Grieve’s amendment

“Remain rebels tonight rejected Theresa May’s ‘sneaky’ attempt at a compromise over a meaningful vote on the final Brexit deal. The Government tabled a new draft moments before the 5pm deadline but failed to secure the support of ringleaders Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry. Rebel Sarah Wollaston branded Mrs May’s draft ‘sneaky’ because a last minute change meant the proposed ‘meaningful vote’ would not be amendable by MPs. Ms Soubry branded the turnaround ‘unforgivable’ and said the group of rebels – thought to number around 15 – feel ‘badly let down’ by Mrs May following her personal assurances on Tuesday night. But tonight Tory minister Robert Buckland, the solicitor general, insisted the Government ‘has not lied’ about the compromise being offered. He said rebel demands ‘dancing on the head of a pin’ and said the priority should be getting Britain the best deal.” – Daily Mail

  • Government faces dramatic clash with rebels over ‘No Deal’ – FT
  • Grieve denies anti-Brexit plot – Daily Express
  • Two thirds of voters think May is making a mess of Brexit – The Times
  • Philp argues that Parliament can’t negotiate with Europe – Daily Express

More:

  • Merkel coalition at risk as talks on refugee policy falter – The Guardian
  • EU fights to avoid post-Brexit security talks split – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • May’s crunch moment was just the first of many – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • Meet the City spinner orchestrating the plot to reverse Brexit – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
  • Even as a Remainer, the politically-compromised Brexit we’re heading for is intolerable – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph
  • How are the Tories polling so well, given what voters think of their negotiations? – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

Editorial:

  • Grieve and Soubry are holding the UK to ransom – The Sun

>Yesterday:

‘Blow to Hammond’ as Prime Minister prepares to boost NHS spending

“Theresa May has agreed a bumper £20billion windfall for the NHS after overruling the Chancellor. Hospital chiefs will be handed up to an extra £5billion a year for the next four years in a 70th birthday present for the health service. The first details of the package are expected to be announced on Sunday. Insiders told The Sun that the £20billion will be paid for by a mixture of borrowing and higher taxes. In 2020 the Treasury intends to freeze the tax thresholds on basic and higher tax rates – which means Brits pay more. But the Government has ruled out introducing a new ‘hypothecated’ tax such as an extra 2p on National Insurance.” – The Sun

  • £4 billion boost to be funded by Brexit, borrowing, and income tax – Daily Telegraph
  • Hunt sets out ‘bold ambitions’ – The Times
  • Four in ten GPs quit, after five years of training – Daily Mail
  • Outcry over overstretched Health Service has forced a rethink – The Times

Comment:

  • Foreign doctors won’t solve the NHS’ shortages – J Meirion Thomas, Daily Telegraph

May ‘woos bankers’ with visa changes…

“Theresa May on Thursday told an audience of European financial bosses that government plans to remove doctors and nurses from Britain’s restrictive visa regime would clear the way for banks to hire more professionals from outside the European Economic Area. However, business groups were lukewarm about the change, which they described as a welcome first step towards reform of the “Tier 2” visa system for skilled professionals but short of the comprehensive changes needed. Demand to bring in skilled workers from outside the EEA has meant that every month since December applications for Tier 2 visas, which allow in only 20,700 applicants a year, have been oversubscribed. This has prevented thousands of medical staff from taking up positions in the UK, but also caused difficulties for other industries, including information technology and finance.” – FT

  • Davidson increases pressure for migration target review – The Scotsman

…as insiders describe how she held on to her post after Grenfell

“Her new chief of staff, Gavin Barwell, had been in post for just five days when the fire broke out. And, as a former housing minister with responsibility for fire regulations, he seemed instantly hamstrung by his past. Paul Goodman, the former Tory MP who edits the ConservativeHome website, says the lack of a support network exposed May as never before. “Downing Street was effectively rudderless at the time,” he says. “Nick Timothy and Fiona Hill had resigned only a few days previously.  Without a new team in place to advise her, Theresa May seems to have fallen back on her instincts, which were: play safe.” One insider goes further. “People talk about ‘peak Corbyn’. But this was the moment of ‘Peak Fear of Corbyn’ in No 10. We’d just had the election debacle and here was this unpopular Conservative council and this awful disaster. They were in a major panic.”” – Huffington Post

Universal Credit may never pay off for the taxpayer, watchdog warns

“The centrepiece of the sweeping Tory reforms to the benefit system is bad value for money and may never pay off for the taxpayer, the Whitehall spending watchdog said yesterday. The introduction of Universal Credit has taken years longer than it should have done, it may cost more than the old system of handouts it is replacing, and it has caused hardship among claimants, said the scathing National Audit Office report. It follows years of criticism of the payment – developed by Iain Duncan Smith – which was designed to simplify the benefits system and ensure people will be better off if they get a job. It aims to get an extra 200,000 people into work. NAO head Sir Amyas Morse said the Department for Work and Pensions showed a ‘lack of regard’ for claimants and added: ‘The benefits it set out to achieve, such as increased employment and lower administration costs, are unlikely to be achieved.'” – Daily Mail

  • Flagship reform costs four times as much as system it replaced – The Sun

Comment:

  • The problems with Universal Credit are unacceptable – Gillian Guy, Times Red Box
  • Fix this cruel, expensive fiasco – The Guardian

Ministers 1) Johnson meets Empey to discuss victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA

“Ulster Unionist chairman Lord Empey has said he is hopeful that the Government will take a more positive approach in support of victims of Libyan-sponsored IRA attacks. Speaking after a meeting with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to discuss compensation for victims of weapons supplied by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime, the peer said he detected a change in London’s attitude. “The meeting with the Foreign Secretary on Wednesday was the most business-like and positive so far,” Lord Empey said. “I think the Foreign Office finally get that the Parliamentary Libyan Support Group isn’t going away. It has received strong support on the floor of the House of Commons and is intensifying its drive to right this great wrong.”” – Belfast Telegraph

  • Foreign Secretary meets Campbell in campaign to boost girls’ education – The Sun

Ministers 2) Perry announces energy discounts for poorest pensioners

“Thousands more of Britain’s poorest pensioners are to get £140 off their electricity bills in a huge victory for the Sun. Energy Minister Claire Perry will announce on Friday that the Government is lowering a threshold which exempts smaller suppliers from handing a crucial discount to vulnerable customers. Currently suppliers with fewer than 250,000 customers – such as Octopus Energy and Ecotricity – don’t have to pay the ‘Warm Home’ benefit to those who qualify for the payment. But the Government is lowering this threshold to 200,000 customers from next year and 150,000 in 2020-2021… Ms Perry added the threshold could be scrapped altogether in three years’ time.” – The Sun

Ministers 3) Hancock warns SNP they are on track to miss broadband targets

Matt Hancock has warned SNP ministers they are on course to miss their target of every Scottish home and business having superfast broadband by 2021 as he criticised an “abysmal” five-year delay to the roll-out. In a furious letter seen by the Telegraph, the UK Culture Secretary said an analysis by his officials showed that the deadline would be “very difficult” to achieve. He told Fergus Ewing, the SNP’s Rural Economy Minister, that households will have been left waiting “half a decade” for the Scottish Government to spend £21 million provided by the UK taxpayer. Mr Hancock said that the SNP’s “unacceptably slow” progress had prompted his department to start providing funding “directly to people in Scotland.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Nationalists’ phoney war is all about breaking up Britain – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
  • Tory ultras will fuel bid to break up the UK – Brian Wilson, The Scotsman
  • We should expect guerrilla tactics from the SNP henceforth – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: SNP’s PMQs stunt prevented the very debate they claimed to want

Ministers 4) Bradley scrutinised over failure to cut MLA pay

“Secretary of State Karen Bradley has declined to explain what has caused months of delay in cutting the pay of MLAs while Stormont lies empty. Every one of the 90 MLAs has been paid at least £49,000 for more than a year – despite spending just 46 minutes in the Assembly chamber since the last election 15 months ago – and some MLAs are being paid much more… Last December, a report commissioned by the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) recommended a series of cuts to MLAs’ pay if Stormont did not return… In an interview with the Press Association this week, Mrs Bradley said she is “still minded” to follow that advice – even though she had not followed what Mr Reaney proposed. She blamed unspecified hitches, saying that “I just need to make sure we have got all the technicalities and legalities sorted”.” – News Letter

Morgan boycotting ‘unflattering’ BBC studios

“The former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan has said that she refuses to be interviewed in regional BBC studios because the bright lights are unflattering and she has been insulted by social-media trolls as a result. Ms Morgan, 45, instead requests that broadcasters send a film crew to her if they want to conduct an interview. The former education secretary and prominent Remain campaigner was speaking at a diversity event in London after figures showed that news programmes still featured many more male than female “talking heads”. She suggested that many women were too humble to put themselves forward.” – The Times

Opposition face fresh anti-Semitism scandal…

“Labour bosses have been blasted for hiring a leftie lawyer who is friends with members accused of anti-Semitism to advise them. Gordon Nardell QC was last week announced as the party’s new in-house legal counsel to help deal with the backlog of anti-Semitism cases – and will oversee the party’s disciplinary processes. But critics claim his links to grassroots members accused of anti-Semitic comments undermines his independence, and it could be a conflict of interest if he rules on their cases. It has been revealed that the former councillor and wannabe-MP has a long history of links to the hard left and is friends on Facebook with suspended members. Labour figures have demanded that the new General Secretary, Jennie Fornby, think again about her decision to hire him in the role.” – The Sun

…as they are accused of ‘covering up a string of sex claims’

“Labour has been accused of “hiding” an independent investigation into how the party has dealt with complaints of sexual assault and harassment. Karon Monaghan QC was brought in as an independent expert to assess its existing procedures. This followed allegations from a party activist that she was raped at a party event in 2011 and later advised by a party official not to make a formal complaint. The investigation has concluded, but the party’s ruling National Executive Committee has yet to be shown the QC’s conclusions… Bex Bailey, a former member of the NEC, revealed in November that her assailant had been someone more senior than her in the party. Recommended FT Magazine Abuse of power: the truth about sexual harassment in Westminster When she decided to report the attack two years later, the person she contacted discouraged her from taking action..” – FT

  • Ministers reveal plan to make ‘upskirting’ illegal – Daily Telegraph

Watson says McCluskey is ‘coming for him’

“Tom Watson has accused Len McCluskey, head of the Unite union, of preparing to oust him as deputy Labour leader. Mr Watson, 51, said Mr McCluskey, 67, was “coming for me”, adding that he would not be “bullied”. The pair were briefly flatmates but fell out in 2016 after Labour MPs rebelled against Jeremy Corbyn. At the time Mr Watson told Mr Corbyn, who then won his second leadership poll, that he had lost his authority. On the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, Mr Watson, who was elected deputy in 2015, said: “Sadly, we fell out over that week when Jeremy went into the second leadership election, and I’ve not spoken to him since. I felt very difficult there, because Unite funded my campaign, they didn’t nominate me, and I think he felt that I in some way was obligated to him personally. And my obligation was to the Labour Party.”” – The Times

Labour hold Lewisham East

“Labour has held Lewisham East after winning over 50 per cent of the vote in a by-election. Janet Daby said she was ‘humbled and delighted’ to be the London constituency’s new MP. In her acceptance speech, Ms Daby said her victory meant ‘we will not tolerate an extreme Brexit in Lewisham East’. ‘We refuse to stand by and let a Tory government devastate our schools, our health service and our housing,’ she added. The election was called after Heidi Alexander resigned so she could work for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan… Lucy Salek for the Liberal Democrats came second with 25 per cent of the vote, a 20 per cent improvement on the party’s performance in 2017. Tory Ross Archer came third with 14 per cent of the vote, doing eight per cent worse than the party did last year.” – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: A lesson from Lewisham East?

News in Brief:

  • The sorry state of the NHS debate – James Heywood, CapX
  • The LabourList political World Cup guide – Conor Pope, LabourList
  • Don’t take the SNP at its own estimation and why Scottish hacks love a row – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • Comey is a man obsessed with his own myth – James Heilbrunn, The Spectator
  • Britain’s generational apartheid – Will Brett, UnHerd

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