Gatwick: The drone “may not have been there in the first place”

“The Gatwick airport investigation descended into farce last night after police said it was possible that no drones had been there in the first place. The officer leading the inquiry caused confusion after nearly 70 public sightings of the devices led to flights being grounded for three days, with the travel plans of more than 140,000 people disrupted and the military deployed. Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Tingley said there was “always a possibility that there may not have been any genuine drone activity in the first place” because the police were relying on human sightings. His comments came as the airport offered a £50,000 reward through Crimestoppers for the arrest of the culprits and the police released a couple after 36 hours. Sources at the Department for Transport said they were bemused by Mr Tingley’s comments because the devices appeared to have been caught on video and police had reported that the drone user flashed lights at them.” – The Times

  • Innocent couple held for 36 hours – Daily Mail
  • Department for Transport accused of holding up military response over cost concerns – Daily Telegraph
  • Services at Birmingham Airport suspended – BBC
  • Police defend their investigation – Daily Telegraph
  • A mind-boggling mix of complacency and incompetence – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

The Queen is to urge the British people to overcome “deeply held differences”

“The Queen is to urge Britain to overcome “deeply held differences” by treating one another with “respect and as a fellow human being” in her Christmas message to the nation. Her Majesty will share a message of peace and goodwill she says is needed “as much as ever” in her annual festive broadcast. “Even with the most deeply held differences, treating the other person with respect and as a fellow human being is always a good first step towards greater understanding,” she will say. As head of state, the Queen remains publicly neutral on political matters.” – Daily Telegraph

  • My Christmas wish: the return of civility to British public life – Will Heaven, Daily Telegraph

PM uses Christmas message to praise the armed forces

“The Prime Minister hailed the work of the Armed Forces from Salisbury to Syria in her Christmas message. Theresa May highlighted the work done after the Russian Novichok attack last March.And she said UK Forces “continue to demonstrate why you are the finest. “From playing a vital role in cleaning up after a sickening nerve agent attack on the streets of Salisbury, protecting our waters and our skies from Russian intrusion and strengthening our allies in Eastern Europe, striking at terrorism as part of the Global Coalition against Daesh, and along with our US and French allies – sending a message to the Assad regime that we will not stand by while chemical weapons are used, as they were in April on families, including young children. Time and again, you have stood up to aggression and those who flout the rules-based international order. You should be incredibly proud of all that you do, just as the whole country is proud of you.” – The Sun

  • May’s flying high this Christmas as Corbyn remains a pathetic non-entity – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun

Williamson denies leadership plotting

“Gavin Williamson is “furious” at what friends regard as an attempt by senior Tories to smear him following “untrue” claims he was overheard discussing his chances of succeeding Theresa May. Allies of the Defence Secretary believe a senior party figure has “embellished” an eavesdroppers’ account of a conversation he had with a friend to make it sound as though he was plotting against Sajid Javid and Jeremy Hunt. The Daily Telegraph has established that the man he was dining with was former MP James Wharton, who described descriptions of their conversation as “utter rubbish”. However, the row reflects the bitter in-fighting between rival Cabinet ministers which has intensified since Mrs May announced she will not fight the next general election.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Leadsom “woos Tory MPs over cosy dinners” – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail

Brexit 1) “No deal” isn’t an option, declares Ellwood

“Leaving the European Union without a Brexit deal would damage Britain’s security and influence around the world for years to come, the defence minister Tobias Ellwood believes. Mr Ellwood, tipped as a future cabinet minister, writes in The Times that leaving without an agreement is “simply not an option”. He is the latest government minister whose firm opposition to a no-deal Brexit suggests that they would rather quit than remain in post should it become policy.” – The Times

Brexit 2) Corbyn faces backlash from Labour Remainers

“Jeremy Corbyn faced a backlash from pro-EU Labour supporters last night for saying the party would continue with Brexit if he won a snap election. A shadow minister questioned Mr Corbyn’s stance while some members threatened to resign from the party. One said she had voted for Mr Corbyn twice as leader and fought and campaigned for the party but would be “damned” if she’d campaign for a Labour election manifesto offering Brexit. Clive Lewis, a shadow Treasury minister, described the woman as a solid comrade adding: “She’s not the first member to say this to me and it’s becoming a genuine concern.” – The Times

  • JK Rowling’s festive swipe at the Labour leader – Daily Mail
  • Warning that seats could be lost – The Guardian
  • Pledge to Leave is “unfathomable” warns SNP – The Scotsman

Brexit 3) Redwood calls for the chance to be taken to cut VAT

“MPs are demanding the Government uses its Brexit freedoms to slash tax, as shock figures show the high street is on life support.It comes as a think tank said the taxman will take almost £6billion this Christmas – £5.2billion of that from VAT. Retail experts say the extortionate tax burden, along with bad weather and unfair online competition, has seen the number of high street shoppers drop by up to 10.3 per cent in the crucial week before Christmas. The TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) said each household would stump up £211 for the taxman this Christmas….former minister John Redwood says Britain is “over-taxed”. He said: “We should take off VAT from things that should not be taxed and let’s start by cancelling VAT on domestic fuel.” – Daily Express

Labour’s tax plans “would add £15 to the cost of Christmas dinner”

“The cost of Christmas dinner could soar by more than 15 per cent under Labour’s green tax proposals, analysis shows today. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s proposed tax on imported food according to how far it has travelled could add £15 to the Christmas dinner bill, the Tories claim. It would push up the cost of a traditional meal from £99.37 to £115.01. Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury blasted: “Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell’s reckless plans would put an extra squeeze on families over Christmas. Just like last time, Labour’s economic incompetence would hit hardworking people in the pocket.” Figures show at this time of year 50 per cent of food bought by UK families comes from abroad.” – The Sun

Google must stop promoting self harm, demands Doyle-Price

“Google should “grow up” and stop promoting material that is fuelling self-harm and deaths, Britain’s first minister for suicide prevention has declared. Jackie Doyle-Price accused internet giants of lacking social responsibility – as she urged them to block the spread of disturbing material telling the young and vulnerable how to end their lives. And she promised new targets for treatment of mental health problems in children, with a maximum four-week waiting time set to be unveiled in the NHS 10 year plan.” – Daily Telegraph

Universal Credit requirement to pay for childcare upfront is a “barrier to work”

“The Universal Credit system leaves too many UK claimants with children facing a stark choice between turning down jobs or getting into debt, MPs warn. The Work and Pensions Select Committee says the way parents have to pay for childcare up front, then claim it back afterwards is a “barrier to work”. Committee chairman Frank Field said it was “irresponsible” to put this burden on “struggling, striving parents”. The government said childcare support is more generous under the new system.” – BBC

US Government to stay shut after talks fail

“The US government will remain partially shut until at least Thursday after Donald Trump failed to resolve an impasse with Congress over his demand that spending bills to fund the government include $5bn towards building his US-Mexico border wall. Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate majority leader, said the chamber would remain in recess until Thursday, meaning there is almost no chance that Congress can vote on bills that are needed to enable hundreds of thousands of employees to return to work. Mr Trump cancelled plans to spend the holidays at his Palm Beach resort, and the White House said his wife Melania would return to Washington from Florida to spend Christmas with her husband. “I will not be going to Florida because of the Shutdown — Staying in the White House! #MAGA,” Mr Trump tweeted on Saturday evening.” – Financial Times

d’Ancona: Ashdown understood that compromise is a strength

“Increasingly, the word centrist has become a term of abuse, denoting complicity in the excesses of global capitalism, crypto-Blairism, membership of the metropolitan elite, a privileged background, insufficient doctrinal purity, or all of the above.Ashdown’s death should be a sharp reminder that true centrism is none of these things, and that robust social democracy – the belief that decency and economic competence march together – betrays needy people much less than the narcissism of ideological fixity does. Ashdown understood that compromise was a sign of strength, and usually a precondition of meaningful action.” – Matthew d’Ancona, The Guardian

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Ashdown laid the foundations for both the triumphs and trials of the Liberal Democrats

Johnson: 20 reasons to feel good about the world

“What is the single worst feature of Christmas? I think it is probably the constant exhortations to be jolly when you may be feeling far from jolly. How do you feel if someone spots you momentarily frowning and cries, “Cheer up, it’s Christmas!”? Do you beam at them or do you quietly grind your teeth? So if I tell you that the world is not as bad as all that – in fact, it’s rather wonderful – I am conscious that not everyone will automatically feel boosted or buoyed. There he goes again, my legions of detractors will say. More of this blasted optimism. Can’t he put a sock in it? To which the answer must be a respectful no, because I am genuinely mystified and appalled by the negativity that seems to have enveloped us all, and which seems in total defiance of the data.” – Boris Johnson, Daily Telegraph

Foges: The Church should be cherished, not mocked

“On every university campus and at every chin-stroking dinner party there are the acolytes of Richard Dawkins who think they are rendered interesting by the opinion that religion is the root of all evil. Well, come with me, Dawkins-ites, to the schools, hospices and care homes where thousands of Christians do good work every day. Seek out the grittiest, grimiest edges of British life and they are there. They are helping addicts limp to liberty from drugs with infinite patience. They are supporting families who are mired in debt. They are caring for those in prison cells whom no one else cares about any more. They are giving shelter and warm meals to the homeless. At one church I attended, a man who had slept rough for years was the clean-shaven collection plate bearer, his set of shiny new teeth bought for him by fellow members of the congregation. Beneath the dramatic saving of souls there are the thousands of small acts of kindness that stitch communities together (especially in the countryside). Those parish activities of flower arranging, fêtes and Bible groups may be easily lampooned but they punctuate the day for the elderly and isolated. If a dying person wishes a vicar to be there to hold their hand, the hand will be held. If the lonely desperately need a warm welcome, the welcome can be found in a church.” – Clare Foges, The Times

  • The Virgin, the Child and an image of loving kindness – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Faith offers hope and a sense of togetherness during a troubled phase in national life – Leader, The Times

News in brief

  • If only British politics had more people like Paddy Ashdown – Rod Liddle, The Spectator
  • Books of the year – John Ashmore, CapX
  • Ending rough sleeping – John Redwood
  • Why the Christmas story matters – Giles Fraser, Unherd
  • Could this be the beginning of a Liberal Democrat resurgence? – Matthew Norman, Independent