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No deal preferable to no Brexit, insists Hunt…

“Jeremy Hunt has vowed to back a no-deal Brexit if the alternative is to remain in the European Union, as he set out his stall to succeed Theresa May. The foreign secretary insisted that he wanted the UK “to leave, leave quickly and leave cleanly” and also moved to rule out holding a snap general election if he entered No 10 after a Tory leadership contest. He said that his previous support for Remain and fleeting backing for a second referendum should not rule him out of consideration but told reporters they would have to “wait and see” whether he would run.” – The Times

More:

  • Foreign Secretary says Trump should address Parliament during state visit – The Guardian

…as Brady urges May to back fresh anti-backstop bid…

“The Tories’ most powerful backbencher has called on Theresa May to support a fresh Commons bid by Brexiteers to strip the Irish backstop from her EU deal. The Sun can reveal that senior Tory Eurosceptics are planning to table an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to remove the controversial insurance plan that keeps Britain tied to the EU indefinitely. The explosive move – when the law to enforce the deal comes in front of Parliament soon – would spark a massive row with Brussels if it passes. The EU’s 27 leaders are adamant that the PM’s exit deal with them is dependent on the backstop remaining. But Brexiteers insist it would lay down the gauntlet to Brussels to renegotiate the deal or force Britain out without one – a sanction EU chiefs have proved desperate to avoid.” – The Sun

  • May drops plan for new vote before local elections… – FT
  • …but is reportedly willing ‘nuclear option’ of the Withdrawal Bill – Daily Express
  • Ministers pile on pressure to bring deal back – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Greg Hands MP in Comment: The Party Leader must be far more accountable to Conservative MPs

…amidst claims her leadership was spared in order to block Johnson

“Theresa May was spared a new no confidence vote by Tory backbenchers only to bloc the election of Boris Johnson as next leader of the Conservative Party, it has been claimed. The Prime Minister was given the chance to quit in a few weeks rather than being abruptly cast out by a vote called by the powerful 1922 Committee in an attempt by the former Foreign Secretary’s enemies to quash Mr Johnson’s rise to power, according to a source. An un-named MP said Mr Johnson, a hardline Brexiteer, would likely push for a no deal Brexit at this stage rather than take place in the European elections next month.” – Daily Express

  • Boost for Johnson as he rakes in over £160,000 for two speeches – The Times

>Today: Greig Baker in Comment: Why the Canterbury Association has lost faith in May

Hunt and Williamson deny being sources of Huawei leak

Two Cabinet ministers have publicly denied leaking details of the Huawei controversy as Theresa May launched a formal inquiry into the affair. Jeremy Hunt and Gavin Williamson both took the unusual step of insisting they had not been the source of information about Huawei’s future role in the UK’s 5G mobile network, putting pressure on other ministers to follow suit. The row threatened to become a proxy battleground for Tory leadership rivals as Conservative MPs clamoured for the source of the leak to be rooted out and sacked, prompting accusations that they were motivated by a desire to kill off the leadership hopes of ministers they do not support.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Defence Secretary accuses civil servants – The Sun
  • UK to launch high-level probe into unprecedented leak – FT
  • Ex-civil service head demands ‘deep dive’ into phones – Daily Mail
  • Fallon says those responsible should face police – The Sun

Comment:

>Yesterday: Adam Holloway MP in Comment: Huawei exercises state influence through private means. It is the East India Company of the modern age.

Ministers: Hammond secures Chinese visit to sign deals worth billions…

“China’s  deputy PM yesterday agreed to send a top level delegation to London this June to sign off billions of pounds of business deals – just 48 hours after the Huawei leak. Chancellor Philip Hammond sealed the visit from Hu Chunhua as he risked controversy by championing Beijing’s controversial Belt and Road programme. Trade officials from the economic superpower will jet into the capital this summer for the tenth Economic and Financial Dialogue (EFD) conference between the two countries. China is expected to lift its bans on British poultry and cosmetics which have not been tested on animals, at the talks. If they are signed off this summer, they will open up access to markets worth an estimated £10.2billion over five years.” – The Sun

…as Fox ‘forced to clarify’ climate comments

“The international trade secretary, Liam Fox, has been forced to clarify comments suggesting individuals could question the scientific consensus on climate change. Speaking in the Commons after protesters from Extinction Rebellion heldprotests across the City of London, Fox suggested even those who did not accept that climate change was man-made should still seek to manage the planet’s resources. “It’s important that we take climate issues seriously,” Fox said. “Whether or not individuals accept the current scientific consensus on the causes of climate change, it is sensible for everyone to use finite resources in a responsible way.”” – The Guardian

Schools 1) Hancock hints at school ban for un-vaccinated children

Children who have not been given the MMR vaccine could be excluded from school to prevent the spread of disease, the Health Secretary has suggested. Matt Hancock said he could not “rule out” the possibility that unvaccinated children would be sent home if immunisation rates fail to improve. Teaching unions described the idea as a “non-starter”, saying it would be wrong to punish children for their parents’ decision not to vaccinate them, as well as being “unworkable”. Mr Hancock’s comments also prompted a row with the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, whose department issued a statement saying children should never be excluded on the grounds of immunisation.” – Daily Telegraph

  • As anti-vaccine misinformation spreads, we must eradicate polio – Andrew Mitchell and Stephen Twigg, Times Red Box

Schools 2) Private schools hit back against pressure from both parties

“Private schools are saving taxpayers billions of pounds a year, their head teachers have said in a forceful defence of the sector. The heads used their annual report yesterday to assert the financial benefits of fee-charging schools and the good they are doing for society… Private schools have come under pressure from both main parties, with questions raised over their social contribution and whether they should continue to enjoy charitable status. Labour has vowed to add VAT to private school fees to pay for free school meals for state primary pupils. Theresa May also threatened to change their charitable status in the last Tory manifesto, although this idea has since been abandoned.” – The Times

  • A strong case for their charitable status – The Times

Government row over investigations into hundreds of ex-servicemen

“Up to 200 ex-soldiers and police are being probed for alleged criminal actions during the Troubles, it has emerged. The investigations come as two government departments fight over whether Army veterans should be granted amnesty. The Ministry of Defence estimated the number of cases. It wants to impose a statute of limitations on offences allegedly committed more than ten years ago — unless there are exceptional circumstances or new evidence. Meanwhile, the Northern Ireland Office has told relatives of those killed in the Troubles that the proposals will not apply there, in letters seen by the Guardian… Some Tory backbenchers have backed protests by past and present service personnel against the court cases.” – The Sun

  • London and Dublin seek fresh round of Northern Irish talks – FT

Leigh takes swipe at Bercow in bid for role

“Commons Speaker John Bercow suffered a fresh blow to his authority last night after a respected Conservative took a swipe at his biased handling of Brexit and made a pitch for the job. Veteran MP Sir Edward Leigh offered himself up as a candidate for the most powerful role in Parliament by promising to be “rigidly impartial” if he was selected. The Brexiteer signalled he will restore the traditional wig and court dress as part of his plan to “submerge” his personality while in post. Mr Bercow, who has scrapped many Commons traditions during his decade in the job, has already stayed in post a year longer than promised and MPs are piling on pressure for him to quit.” – Daily Express

  • Speaker snubs invitation to royal banquet – The Sun
  • Boothroyd tells Bercow he’s ‘out of order’ on Trump ban – Daily Mail

Police investigate assault on Tory candidate

Police are investigating a “politically motivated assault” against a Tory council candidate who had been canvassing, as she warned that social media was whipping up anger. Carla Hales, a music teacher due to stand in Colchester next month, was punched three times in the side by an assailant who yelled “Tory b—-” as he rushed her from behind. The first-time candidate initially feared that she had been stabbed. She had been taking a selfie at the Bourne Mill nature reserve. Her attacker fled, leaving Mrs Hales alone and in pain. She then went to hospital for treatment. She was given an X-ray by medics and confirmed that there was “nothing broken but some sore ribs and a slightly bruised ego”.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Vote Conservative in next week’s local elections

Fraser Nelson: An inter-generational phony war will not secure the Conservatives’ future

“For most of the last 15 years, the Tories have been anxiously trying to look slick, modern and vigorous – only to see a pensioner, Jeremy Corbyn, waltz off with the youth vote. The over-60s are four times more likely to vote Conservative than the under-25s. Nothing the Tories do seems to work. Whether it’s posing as eco-crusaders or promising to review tuition fees, attempts to lure the young have left Conservatives looking panicked and insincere. Every attempted remedy for the party’s youth problem serves to make it worse. The latest idea is to portray the young as victims of the old: the so-called “intergenerational fairness” agenda. This usually means repeating the (untrue) line that this young generation are the first to be worse-paid than their parents were at the same age. So the solution is to bring about some “intergenerational fairness” by taxing the bejesus out of the oldies.” – Daily Telegraph

MPs urge that overseas students should be allowed to work

“Overseas students would be able to work for two years after graduation under a proposed amendment to the immigration bill. The amendment will be tabled today by Jo Johnson, the former universities minister, and Paul Blomfield, a Labour MP and co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on international students. Students were allowed to work for two years after graduation until 2012 and the restoration of the post-study work period would align the UK more closely with competitor countries such as Australia and the US. In a second change it would also ensure that the number of overseas students cannot be capped in future to comply with the net migration target.” – The Times

  • Britain needs more overseas students – Jo Johnson and Paul Blomfield, The Times

Probation system ‘in meltdown’

“Failures such as this tell the story of a probation service in meltdown. Just two weeks ago Glenys Stacey, the outgoing chief inspector of probation, warned that the current system was “irredeemably flawed”. The National Audit Office said last month that the malfunctioning service was causing “significant risks” for both offenders and the wider public. Earlier this year Working Links, one of the private companies that provides probation supervision, collapsed after four years of poor service and failing efforts to maintain a lossmaking contract. Ministers, who are under increasing pressure to rescue the service from crisis, are expected to announce plans for a new probation system as early as next month.” – FT

Labour candidates in fresh antisemitism storm…

“A Labour candidate for the European elections has become embroiled in a fresh anti-Semitism storm after it emerged he met with Hamas leaders and criticised the trial of a Nazi boss. Murad Qureshi, a former London Assembly Member, is number five on Labour’s London list for EU polls – if they take place in May. But he’s made a string of controversial comments in the past, including attacking the “powerful pro-Israel lobby” in the United States, and re-tweeting a message which said “you can get away with offending anyone so long as they’re not Jewish”. He later apologised for the tweet and deleted it.” – The Sun

  • Tories and Labour accused of discrimination in Portsmouth – The Guardian
  • Robinson to stand as an independent MEP candidate – The Sun

…as Adonis u-turns on anti-Brexiteer comments

“The Labour MEP candidate Lord Adonis has apologised for telling backers of Brexit not to vote for his party. Nigel Farage has seized on the comments from the former adviser to Tony Blair, vowing to repeat them “every day” as he targets Labour heartlands with his new Brexit Party. Lord Adonis, who is standing in South West, has recanted, saying that he was “deeply sorry for the off-the-cuff comments” made last September on LBC radio. He said on Wednesday: “I encourage all voters, whatever their position on Brexit, to vote Labour in the upcoming European parliament elections.”… Chuka Umunna, the Change UK MP, said that the former transport secretary had been “gagged” by the Labour leadership.” – The Times

  • Watchdog warns that holding Euros could undermine faith in politics – The Times

Comment:

  • Dear Leavers: Labour doesn’t want your support – Nigel Farage, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • The definitive example of the chancers rotting politics – The Sun

Labour makes staff (but not MPs) attend anti-harassment training

“Labour MPs’ staff have been ordered to attend training on how to identify bullying and sexual harassment after the “Pestminster” scandal, although the MPs themselves are exempt. The Valuing Everyone training is part of the new independent complaints and grievance scheme, introduced after a wave of bullying and harassment allegations in Westminster since 2017. It will not be compulsory for MPs… Last October an independent inquiry by Dame Laura Cox, a retired High Court judge, found that female staff in the House of Commons had been inappropriately touched, verbally abused and repeatedly propositioned as part of an “insidious and pervasive” culture of harassment. Dame Laura said there were “urgent and serious problems” in a workplace where MPs had “God-like status”.” – The Times

Leading activist quits Change UK

“A leading Change UK activist has quit the party, claiming that it is “riddled with distrust” and letting down those who believed it heralded “a new kind of politics”. Dan Heley, who helped to develop the grassroots movement that backed Change UK, said he had hoped the party was going to be “the fresh face of politics that society was crying out for”. Instead it had resorted to old-style political manoeuvring, power struggles and nepotism, leaving volunteers feeling “dejected and regretful”, he said… Writing for The Times Red Box, Mr Heley said that despite being “overwhelmed” by more than 3,500 applicants for just 70 positions, “the party largely chose to favour D-list public figures, former MPs and candidates, and those who had personal relationships with the MPs and staff”.” – The Times

  • TIG does not herald a new kind of politics – Dan Heley, Times Red Box
  • The ‘future’ is looking backwards – Henry Deedes, Daily Mail
  • By rejecting an anti-Brexit alliance, CUK’s leaders have failed their first test – Philip Collins, The Times
  • Every vote for the Lib Dems will be a vote to stop Brexit – Jo Swinson, Times Red Box

Farage says his group will stand in a general election

“Nigel Farage’s new Brexit Party will run candidates at the next general election to unseat MPs who have ‘not delivered Brexit’, the Leave campaigner has said. Mr Farage said he would use next month’s European Parliament elections as a ‘springboard’ to challenge for seats at Westminster. His newly founded party – established after his break with UKIP – has come first ahead of Labour and the Conservatives in some opinion polls. The next general election is not due until 2022 but the fragility of Theresa May’s government has led to ongoing speculation of an earlier poll.” – Daily Mail

>Today:

Only one in five Scots back Sturgeon’s independence push

Only one in five Scottish voters support Nicola Sturgeon’s demand this week for a second independence referendum within two years, according to an opinion poll showing declining support for separation. The poll, conducted by Survation, found 21 per cent backed the First Minister’s blueprint for another vote on leaving the UK being staged before the May 2021 Holyrood election. A majority of Scots said either they did not want a separation referendum for at least another decade (17 per cent) or that there should never be one (34 per cent). In another blow to Ms Sturgeon ahead of this weekend’s SNP conference in Edinburgh, support for independence has fallen by a point since last November to only 39 per cent.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Why the First Minister is hedging her bets – Mure Dickie, FT
  • Internal rows mean SNP conference won’t be the usual love-in – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Caught between her activists and the voters, Sturgeon plays for time on independence

News in Brief:

  • For now, May is the Stop Boris candidate – Andrew Gimson, CapX
  • Sturgeon is taking Scottish nationalists for a ride – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator
  • May using Huawei risks putting us at odds with our closest allies – Charlotte Henry, Reaction
  • Why zero-hours contracts are a force for good – Oliver Stanley, 1828
  • The West’s shameful indifference to Christian genocide – Giles Fraser, UnHerd

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