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Local elections 1) The Conservatives perform badly in the South…

“With hundreds of seats left to count later today it is unclear if the Tories will suffer the scale of the drubbing some of the party’s own MPs had predicted. At 7am this morning, with 106 of 248 councils declared the Conservatives had lost 397 seats, Labour 78 while the Liberal Democrats had gained 271 and the Greens 36. Ukip, which is standing fewer councillors than in previous years, had lost 49. The Conservatives have lost councils in Peterborough, Basildon, Southend, Worcester, St Albans, Welwyn Hatfield, Folkestone and Hythe, and Tandridge to no overall control, with no party holding a majority, while Winchester and Cotswold fell to the Liberal Democrats.” – The Times

  • Brexit takes its toll in Southend – FT
  • Furious voters spoil ballots – The Sun

Comment:

  • Stuck with a leader with no authority, the Tories are imploding – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • Backlash could be biggest blow yet to May’s leadership – Kate Devlin, The Times

Local elections 2) …and Labour perform badly in the North

“But Labour, which is holding cross-party talks with Mrs May intended to deliver Brexit, also suffered early losses of 45 seats. Polling expert John Curtice said it was a case of “a plague on both your houses”. While heavy losses were predicted for the Tories, the failure of Labour to make early advances will send shockwaves through the party’s high command. Many of the losses were suffered in northern areas of England that voted Leave. The results may put pressure on leader Jeremy Corbyn to intensify efforts to help Mrs May finally end the Brexit deadlock, although Remain voters in the south would then punish Labour for helping Mrs May take the country out of the EU.” – FT

  • The breakthrough they crave remains elusive – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The local election results so far. Voters turn on the two big parties over Brexit, and say: a plague on both your houses.

Local elections 3) The Lib Dems are the big winners so far

“Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats bounced back from a poor set of results in 2015 as the party emerged as the early winner of the 2019 elections. The Lib Dems have gained more than 280 seats, winning control of nine councils, including the Tory stronghold Cotswold District Council… Professor Sir John Curtice told the BBC: “Although the Lib Dems may be heading for a healthy total of net gains, this will likely be more of a reflection of the party’s poor performance in 2015 and the weakness of both the Conservatives and Labour this time – rather than any dramatic improvement in the Lib Dem performance. “The party is still not performing at the level at which it was regularly running in local elections before the 2010 General Election.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • UKIP support melts away in Kent – FT

Comment:

  • Elecorate appears to be abandoning the main parties – Jonathan Carr-West, Times Red Box

May braced for Williamson’s ‘revenge’…

“Theresa May is braced for Gavin Williamson to exact his revenge in the wake of local election results that are set to weaken her grip on Downing Street. Furious Tory MPs last night demanded to know why the prime minister had sacked the defence secretary over a leak from a top-secret body just as voters were about to go to the polls. Mr Williamson, who denies leaking the information, is understood to be considering making a personal statement in the Commons next week amid cross-party unease at his summary dismissal. An ally of Mr Williamson said that Mrs May had been “extremely foolish” to humiliate her former chief whip, who helped her to build support for her campaign to succeed David Cameron.” – The Times

  • Ex-Defence Secretary accuses Prime Minister of ‘summary execution’ – FT
  • He’s planning a ‘bombshell speech’ – Daily Express
  • Submarine ride turned out to be his final duty – The Times

More:

  • Scandal turns to farce as US Secretary of State issues warning – Daily Telegraph
  • Sedwill cuts divisive figure in Whitehall… – FT
  • …but he earned May’s goodwill – The Times

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: The Williamson I got to know

…as Hunt defends press reporting on the leak

“Jeremy Hunt said on Thursday that the British press had a “right” to report the leak from the National Security Council as he defended media freedom. Speaking during a visit to Ethiopia, the Foreign Secretary made an impassioned defence of the free press, saying it “helps us all to flourish”. Asked if newspapers should have the freedom to report NSC leaks, Mr Hunt told The Daily Telegraph: “Yes. That is what happens in a free press. That doesn’t mean government officials, or indeed Cabinet ministers, have the right to leak top secret information. But should you have the right to report it? Yes. In our country, we do have very strong protections for journalists and we recognise those are a part of our democratic values.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Police should ignore Watson’s demands – Robert Mendick, Daily Telegraph
  • She’s the real threat to national security – Leo McKinstry, The Sun
  • This shows May still stop at nothing to remain in office – Rob Wilson, Daily Telegraph
  • Let’s keep this affair in perspective – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • We can’t treat this as just another mistake – Kevan Jones, Times Red Box
  • Government is being deeply disingenuous – Iain Duncan Smith MP, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Affair exposes dysfunction of the Establishment – Daily Telegraph
  • Evidence needs to be made public – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Risking our security. Risking our alliances. Opening our infrastructure up to China is a risk too far.

Leadom accuses Europhile colleagues of living in a ‘parallel universe’

“Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom has accused Europhile Cabinet colleagues of living in a “parallel universe” to the Tory party over Brexit. She hit out after warnings from Tory chiefs that a deal with Labour is the only way of getting a deal through Parliament. Chief whip Julian Smith told Cabinet on Tuesday that Ministers may have to accept a customs fudge with Labour. Ms Leadsom questioned the idea at a meeting of the so-called ‘Pizza Club’ of Brexit-backing Ministers later that night… The revelation came as Rory Stewart, the new International Aid Secretary, toasted his appointment to Cabinet by saying the Government “has to reach out to Labour”.” – The Sun

  • Tory plotters drag their party into disrepute – Iain Martin, The Times

Davidson blocks Johnson from Scottish conference

Ruth Davidson has blocked Boris Johnson from appearing at the Scottish Tory conference, the Telegraph can disclose as she poured cold water on his chances of succeeding Theresa May. Mr Johnson approached Ms Davidson with an offer to “do something” at the two-day gathering in Aberdeen, which marks her return from maternity leave. Senior insiders said that he attempted to woo the Scottish Tory leader, one of his most persistent critics, by arguing that: “You and I are the future of this party.” But she rejected his approach and Mr Johnson will instead visit the city next week for a campaign fundraiser for Ross Thomson, the Aberdeen South MP and a hardline Brexiteer.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Donors back Raab’s leadership bid – The Times

Comment:

  • Scottish leader may be the one person who can save the Tories – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • SNP confusion over currency is an open goal for the Tories – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Andy Maciver in Comment: As Johnson’s leadership prospects improve, Scots Tories mull going it alone. Here’s why.

>Yesterday:

Hunt blames ‘political correctness’ for failure to confront persecution of Christians

“Christians are ‘by far the most persecuted’ religious group and are enduring what amounts to genocide in some parts of the world, a report concluded. They are being driven out of the Middle East in a modern-day exodus that means the religion could be wiped out in parts ‘where its roots go back furthest’, the study commissioned by the Foreign Office found. And the report by the Bishop of Truro, the Right Rev Philip Mounstephen, found ‘shocking’ evidence that the persecution is worse today than ever. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt last night blamed ‘political correctness’ for a failure to confront the oppression of Christians, which he called the ‘forgotten persecution’.” – Daily Mail

Hammond u-turns on scrapping the penny

“The chancellor is pledging to keep 1p and 2p coins in circulation, a year after calling them “obsolete” and suggesting that they should be scrapped. Philip Hammond will say in a speech today that there are “no plans to alter the make-up of coins or notes” and that cash denominations will continue in their present form when he announces the launch of a task force “to safeguard the future of cash and ensure its availability for years to come”. While acknowledging that technology has “transformed banking for millions of people”, Mr Hammond will emphasise that it is “also clear that many people still rely on cash”. He wants the “public to have choice over how they spend their money”.” – The Times

  • Hail the cashless society, but small change is going nowhere – Robert Jenrick MP, Times Red Box

Brokenshire to miss housebuilding target

“Huosing Secretary James Brokenshire will miss a 2020 housing target to free up land for 160,000 homes by at least five years, a watchdog has said. A National Audit Office (NAO) report has found the sale of public land is not expected to have released enough space for even half the target number of homes. Instead of 160,000 homes, the Government expects to be able to have space for just 65,000 – 41 per cent of the target – and does not expect to reach the 160,000 target until after 2025. Although the Government has so far failed to find enough land to build the promised homes, the report said, it will still meet a target to raise £5 billion through the sell-off of public land.” – The Sun

Stewart defends aid target and pledges to tackle climate ’emergency’…

“Rory Stewart, the new secretary of state for international development, has reiterated his support for the government’s commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid. Stewart, the former prisons minister, who was appointed to his new role on Wednesday night after Penny Mordaunt replaced the sacked Gavin Williamson as defence minister, also pledged to put climate change at the heart of his work. While Mordaunt was an aid budget sceptic who wanted to overhaul the way the Department for International Development (DfID) spends money, Stewart identified the foreign aid target as “hugely important”.” – The Guardian

  • We all agree on climate change, so let’s do something now – Sir Nicholas Soames MP, Times Red Box

…as Gove is forced to back down on bird shooting

“Michael Gove was forced into a U-turn last night as it emerged Natural England is to be stripped of its power over licences to shoot wild birds. Despite months of overtures to the green lobby, the Environment Secretary was yesterday made to appease furious Conservative MPs and ‘take back control’ of gun licensing powers from the nature watchdog, it was claimed. Mr Gove’s decision follows his recent appointment of Tony Juniper, a former head of Friends of The Earth and leading green campaigner, as head of Natural England. While the licensing fiasco happened before Mr Juniper was appointed, under interim chief Marian Spain, it was seen as a bid by Mr Gove to promote a member of the environmentalist lobby at the expense of traditional Tory rural interests.” – Daily Mail

Grayling’s probation reforms made things worse, MPs say

“The probation service has been left in a worse position than before reforms were introduced by Chris Grayling, MPs have said in a critical report. An overhaul introduced at “breakneck speed” by Mr Grayling when he was justice secretary left the service fragile with criminals unsupported, the Commons public accounts committee concluded. The semi-privatisation of probation failed to reduce reoffending by as much as expected and the average number of offences committed by each reoffender was rising, it added. Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation, said in March that the system was “irredeemably flawed” and that the public would be safer if supervision work were renationalised.” – The Times

  • Cancelling changes costs taxpayers £470 million – The Sun

Editorial:

Hinds to take ‘fresh look’ at special needs funding

“Damian Hinds is to call for a fresh look at educational funding for children with special needs in England, as concerns grow that schools and families are struggling to receive support. The education secretary will make the announcement at a conference of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) on Friday. It comes as the Department for Education prepares its case to the Treasury for improved funding for schools as part of the spending review in autumn… The DfE will launch a call for evidence on funding arrangements for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (Send) that will run until the end of July.” – The Guardian

Farage says he’s ‘too busy’ to stand for by-election

“Nigel Farage won’t run to become an MP next month – telling The Sun he’s too busy to take part in the Peterborough by-election. The Brexit Party boss ruled himself out as a candidate for the Commons as his party soared way ahead of the Tories in a fresh poll. Mr Farage’s party now has twice as much support as the Conservatives ahead of this month’s European elections. There will be a by-election in Peterborough on June 6 after criminal MP Fiona Onasanya was booted out by voters last night. The Brexit Party will challenge the Tories and Labour in the Cambridgeshire seat.” – The Sun

  • Galloway wants to be Brexit Party candidate – The Sun

News in Brief:

  • Williamson’s departure obscures a far more important issue – Tom Harris, CapX
  • There is now no hope of survival for the Conservative Party – Gerald Warner, Reaction
  • Will Labour’s disappointing result lead to a change in its Brexit stance? – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • How the woke inquisition broke Cambridge – Eric Kaufmann, UnHerd
  • Net zero emissions would be pointless, damaging and wrong – Felix Hathaway, 1828

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