Cabinet ministers to be hauled before the Huawei leak inquiry

“Cabinet ministers will be hauled before a leak inquiry this weekend after Theresa May’s hunt for the source of information on the Huawei affair gathered pace. Mrs May’s chief of staff Gavin Barwell issued a stern warning that if a leaker is discovered they will be sacked, regardless of their rank. The formal stage of the investigation began on Friday as ministers and their staff were issued with questionnaires. Mr Barwell gathered ministerial aides in Downing Street and told them that anyone found to be responsible for the leak “will not be a member of the Government for much longer”. The questionnaires demanded to know where the recipients were in the hours following a National Security Council meeting on Tuesday night. They were also asked to provide details of all mobile phones in their possession and whether they spoke to The Daily Telegraph before it broke the Huawei story on Wednesday.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Williamson “tried to blame Lidington” – Daily Mail
  • US puts UK under pressure – The Guardian
  • Why Cabinet moles MUST be charged under the Official Secrets Act – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail
  • Public don’t care who in Westminster leaked the Government’s Huawei 5G decision – Leader, The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: How far should Sedwill go over the Huawei leak?

Northern Ireland talks held, with aim of restoring devolution

“Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach (Irish PM) Leo Varadkar have issued a joint statement setting up a new talks process aimed at restoring devolution in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley confirmed fresh talks would begin on 7 May. Earlier this week, the two premiers attended the funeral of Lyra McKee. At the funeral, priest Fr Martin Magill asked why it had taken her killing to unite politicians in Northern Ireland. This was followed by a series of calls for a fresh round of talks, aimed at reviving the power-sharing government at Stormont.” – BBC

>Yesterday: Eddie Hughes on Comment: A better way forward on abortion law for Northern Ireland

May “could be forced out in June”

“Theresa May could be axed as Prime Minister by the end of June if she fails to secure a Brexit deal, sources claim. Tory insiders say a new vote of no confidence is inevitable if talks break down.Sources said the PM will be given marching orders by the “men in grey suits” unless it’s clear by the end of next month that her plan has a chance of succeeding. The revelation comes just days after the powerful 1922 Tory backbench committee voted 9 to 7 against ripping up party rules to allow a new no confidence challenge against the PM this summer.” – The Sun

  • Brexit will provide an economic boost for the North, declares Houchen – Daily Express

Euro Elections 1) 90 Labour MPs and MEPs demand Labour back a second referendum

“Labour’s ruling body is being urged to ensure a “clear commitment” to a public vote on any Brexit deal is included in its European elections manifesto. More than 90 MPs and MEPs are writing to members of the National Executive Committee, which will decide on the manifesto on Tuesday. Labour must campaign “without caveats” as “the only viable alternative to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party”, they say. But some Labour MPs are opposed to holding another EU referendum. And nine shadow cabinet members thought to be sceptical. Labour agreed a policy at its last conference that if Parliament voted down the government’s deal or talks end in no deal, there should be a general election.” – BBC

  • Voters are split over the different options – The Times
  • Labour denies having to rewrite leaflet – The Guardian

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Adonis encouraged his fans to hate Brexiteers. And now they hate him.

Euro Elections 2) Tories plan to spend as little as possible

“The Conservatives are planning to spend as little as possible on the European elections amid a mounting grassroots backlash over Brexit. Brandon Lewis, the chairman of the Conservative Party, is considering slashing costs by not printing any leaflets or making any political broadcasts. Downing Street has suggested that the party may not even host a formal campaign launch as polls suggest the party will face a heavy defeat.  While Theresa May has said she wants to secure a deal before May 23, avoiding the need for European elections, privately Downing Street believes it will be impossible to do so.” – Daily Telegraph

Euro Elections 3) Lib Dems launch their campaign, with a simple “Stop Brexit” message

“The Liberal Democrats have launched their European election campaign with an “unambiguous” pledge to stop Brexit. Leader Sir Vince Cable accused the Conservatives and Labour of a “stitch-up” and said a “people’s vote” was the only way to end the Brexit “paralysis”. He added it was “a pity” that fellow Remain-backing party Change UK had not agreed to running a combined campaign. The UK is due to leave the EU on 31 October, after Brexit was delayed, amid continuing parliamentary deadlock.” – BBC

Euro Elections 4) Candidate shambles is not our fault, insists Change UK

“Change UK has blamed a vetting company for the fiasco over two European election candidates who stood down soon after they were unveiled. As anger among the new party’s activists grows over a poor campaign launch, Heidi Allen, the party’s interim leader, said the vetting work had been outsourced. “We paid for a professional top-end vetting company to do that for us,” the former Conservative MP said. “They’ve missed a couple of things.” Ms Allen told The House magazine that the company’s failure had left her “angry, disappointed. It’s unprofessional. It’s not good enough.” – The Times

  • Social media puts insurgent parties into the fast lane – Financial Times
  • Extinction Rebellion protesters to stand in European elections – The Guardian

Euro Elections 5) Annunziata Rees-Mogg: ‘I’ve been described as Jacob in drag’

“Annunziata Rees-Mogg – sister of Jacob, running mate of Nigel Farage – has been talking politics for 45 minutes when she reveals something quite extraordinary: “I love EastEnders!” she exclaims….The internet, she declares, is “a vile world,” although she admits she found it “funny” to discover being described as both “Jacob in drag” and “quite fit” in the same Twitter thread. Striking, svelte and wearing a chic cream blazer, she expresses surprise that criticism of her appearance has come from other women, including a female columnist who accused her of wearing plaits (she wasn’t) when she gave her big Brexit Party defection speech in a Coventry factory earlier this month.”  Interview with Annunziata Rees-Mogg, Daily Telegraph

Euro Elections 6) Parris: Tories deserve a bloody nose

“A (probably) dreadful result in next Thursday’s local elections will be followed (assuming Mrs May cannot reach any EU withdrawal deal with Jeremy Corbyn that her own MPs could accept) by the Tories going through with a European parliamentary election they don’t want, to an institution they’re pledged to get us out of. This is grotesque, as the Electoral Commission pointed out yesterday. In such an election the Tories face, expect and deserve a massive bloody nose and they’ll get it. Many, perhaps most, Tory MPs know that the party has let the country down and are profoundly embarrassed, braced for the punch they know they’ve invited: third place at best, with Conservative MEPs down from 18 to single figures.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

  • We just need to get off our knees – Frederick Forsyth, Daily Express

Hancock to bring in NHS waiting times app for A&E

“Patients are to be given access through a phone app to live NHS accident & emergency waiting times information. The technology will enable people who need urgent treatment to choose the casualty department with the shortest queue. The app will also compare travel times to different hospitals. Health chiefs hope that the device will ease pressure on hospitals by sending people with minor injuries towards GP-led urgent treatment centres where they can be seen more quickly. Senior doctors believe that the WaitLess app, which is already operating in some regions, could be a “game-changer” by diverting those with cuts, fractures and sprains elsewhere and allowing A&E departments to focus on life-threatening illnesses. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, said that he wanted to harness modern technology to give people more control over NHS services.” – The Times

  • The scandal of cancelled hospital appointments has to end – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Scruton claims the “witch hunt” against Conservatives is getting worse

“Sir Roger Scruton has said that the ‘witch hunt’ of people on the political right is getting worse, following his dismissal over his comments on Islamophobia. The former government advisor has expressed his concerns around the silencing of a ‘conservative voice’, as he challenged remarks he made to the New Statesman publication last month. The 75-year-old had been dismissed as a housing tsar following the interview, with Downing Street then accusing him of making comments which were of a ‘deeply offensive and completely unacceptable’ nature….Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he said the Conservative Party had ‘disassociated itself’ from some members. “We get identified, caricatured and demonised and made to look as though we are some kind of sinister, fascist, racist kind of people. And as soon as the Conservative Party sees one of us being demonised in this way they rush to disassociate themselves from us.” – Daily Mail

  • The ill-considered condemnation of a conservative thinker diminishes public life – Leader, The Times
  • He’s not the victim – Zoe Williams, The Guardian
  • A new definition of Islamophobia unhelpfully conflates race and religion – Camilla Cavendish, Financial Times

Scottish voters “swinging towards independence”

“The future of the Union has again been thrown into doubt after a poll revealed that 49 per cent of people in Scotland back independence. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, this week announced fresh plans for a second referendum, which she wants to hold before the Holyrood elections in 2021. The last poll for this newspaper, carried out in June of last year, showed that Scotland was split exactly as it was in the 2014 referendum, with 55 per cent of people opposed to independence and 45 per cent in favour. However, the YouGov survey conducted for The Times this week indicates that support for secession is growing.” – The Times

    • SNP plans for a Scottish currency would hit the buying power of state pensions – Daily Telegraph
    • Scottish Transport Minister demands control over the railways – The Scotsman
    • Sturgeon wants another independence vote ‘come hell or high water’ – Daily Telegraph

Corbyn to boycott state banquet with Trump

“Jeremy Corbyn was accused of ‘staggering’ hypocrisy last night after snubbing the Queen’s invitation to a state banquet with Donald Trump. Despite his record of meeting terrorists and extremists, the Labour leader yesterday said he would refuse to attend the dinner with Mr Trump at Buckingham Palace in June. In an extraordinary statement, Mr Corbyn accused the US President of engaging in ‘racist and misogynistic rhetoric’ and of backing ‘climate change denial’. He criticised Theresa May for ‘kowtowing’ to Washington and ‘rolling out the red carpet’…Last night Mr Corbyn’s stance triggered a backlash from Tory MPs who said his ‘pathetic gesture’ made him ‘unfit to be Prime Minister’. Several pointed to the list of controversial figures he has sat down with in the past – including representatives of the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah, convicted IRA volunteers, Gerry Adams, President Assad of Syria, as well as President Maduro of Venezuela.” – Daily Mail

The needs of the countryside are being ignored, peers warn

“Rural communities have been “ignored” and had “inappropriate” policies forced upon them, a report says. A group of peers said a new agenda for the countryside was needed similar to the government’s industrial strategy. Priorities included improving mobile and broadband connections, replacing lost bank and bus services and tackling social isolation, the House of Lords Rural Economy Committee said. The government said it was committed to “rural proofing” policies. Ministers plan to spend £3.5bn on supporting economic development in the countryside by the end of 2020 through the Rural Development Programme. The cross-party committee of peers said policies suitable for urban and suburban areas had too often been foisted upon the countryside.” – BBC

  • New head of Natural England under fire over links to activist who brought legal challenge against pest bird shooting licenses – Daily Telegraph

US economy surging ahead

“The US economy defied fears of a first-quarter slowdown, overcoming a prolonged government shutdown, trade tensions and global economic uncertainty to deliver growth that trounced analysts’ expectations. Gross domestic product rose at an annualised pace of 3.2 per cent during the first three months of the year, an initial reading from the commerce department showed on Friday, handily topping Wall Street predictions for 2.3 per cent growth. It is also a leg up from the 2.2 per cent pace of expansion recorded during the fourth quarter. The robust reading is a boost for economies around the world after a growth scare earlier this year triggered a rally in the bond market. It was also quickly seized upon by Republicans who are anxiously watching the economy as they prepare for next year’s elections.” – Financial Times

Harris: What is the point of the Conservatives?

“Any great cause has to be pursued aggressively if it is to succeed. The Conservative Party does not like that one bit. For a group with so many soldiers traditionally in its ranks, it oddly prefers collaboration to the spirit of conquest – even, as now, collaboration with a Marxist menace like Jeremy Corbyn. Underlying the appeal of the Tories over the decades was the assumption that it was the patriotic party, which, however stupidly it might behave from time to time, could at least be relied upon to defend the national interest. The behaviour of many Conservative MPs has shown that it cannot be trusted to do that anymore.” – Robin Harris, Daily Telegraph

Forsyth: Tory leadership “beauty parade” in Scotland

“The Tory beauty parade moves north next week. On Friday, the Scottish Tory conference starts in Aberdeen. This will be the last gathering of the Scottish Tories before a leadership contest, and with Scots being twice as likely as English voters to be Tory members, it is an important occasion for those hoping to succeed Theresa May. Two of the likely contenders are speaking, Sajid Javid and Michael Gove. Javid urgently needs something to kickstart his campaign, which is stalled at the moment; other campaigns claim his support in Parliament is continuing to fall. Gove will be the hometown boy, he grew up in Aberdeen. I understand a growing group of MPs who want him to run for the leadership met again on Wednesday night.” – James Forsyth, The Sun

News in brief

  • How bad will the local elections be for the Tories? – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • The breaking of Adonis is a revealing moment in our politics – Alex Massie, Cap X
  • The protests against Trump’s state visit are crude and illogical – Harry Phibbs, The Article
  • The Tories need to pass on the big beasts and embrace a fresh start – Matt Gillow, 1828
  • Joe Biden is the best choice for Democrats in 2020 – Jay Carus, Independent