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May sacks Williamson over Huawei leak…

“Gavin Williamson blamed a vendetta by Britain’s most senior civil servant for his dismissal as defence secretary yesterday. Mr Williamson became the first cabinet minister to be sacked for leaking in more than 30 years after he was accused of disclosing secret discussions about the Chinese telecoms company Huawei. Theresa May said a formal leak inquiry had found “compelling evidence” pointing to his responsibility and that he had failed to co-operate fully with the investigation. The prime minister said that others in attendance at the National Security Council, from where the leak originated, had co-operated. She said that Mr Williamson’s conduct “has not been of the same standard”.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister said she had ‘lost confidence’ in her Defence Secretary – Politico
  • Police demand probe into leak – Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • Hasty dismissal is yet another misstep – The Sun

>Today:

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: Williamson fired over Huawei leak. May has “lost confidence” in him. Downing Street’s statement.

…as he insists he’s been ‘completely screwed’…

Gavin Williamson said he had been “screwed” by Theresa May as he protested his innocence over the Huawei leak and said a police investigation would clear his name. Mr Williamson was sacked as defence secretary during an extraordinary confrontation with the Prime Minister in her office in Parliament, at which she accused him of being the source of the leak. Mrs May had asked the minister to resign, but he refused, telling her he would “not resign over something I haven’t done”. He later claimed he was the victim of a “stitch-up”. Mr Williamson claimed he was the victim of a vendetta by Sir Mark Sedwill, the Cabinet Secretary, who conducted the inquiry into the leak from a National Security Council meeting regarding the Chinese company’s involvement in building Britain’s 5G mobile network.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Williamson says it’s a shame May didn’t ‘recognise’ how often he’d helped her – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Swaggering minister’s boast helped usher in downfall – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
  • Always out of his depth – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail
  • He overstepped the usual licence to leak – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph
  • Nobody will be sorry to see him go – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • Buffoon must be put in the dock – Peter Oborne, Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Williamson. He’s gone away – but he won’t shut up.

…as a result of long-running feud with Cabinet Secretary

“Mr Williamson and Sir Mark, who is also the national security adviser to Theresa May and a former ambassador and Nato representative to Afghanistan, were in broad agreement over some key issues including, ironically, China. However, “there was a clash of approaches on the National Security Council,” one source said. Mr Williamson “screwed” him, they added. “Some 70 per cent of their relationship was fine but 30 per cent was really frosty. Sedwill saw Gavin as an obstacle to be negotiated around rather than a colleague,” one ally said. One early clash over Sir Mark’s National Security Capability Review set the tone. Sir Mark is a longstanding proponent of boosting cyber-capabilities and the role of intelligence in protecting Britain.” – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: The former Defence Secretary’s side of the story. Sedwill “was out of get him”.

Ministers 1) Mordaunt takes over at Defence

“Penny Mordaunt has become Britain’s first female defence secretary only months after speculation that she could resign from the government over Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The staunch Eurosceptic and Leave campaigner stayed in her post and has now been rewarded with a promotion to a job that friends say she has long wanted. Ms Mordaunt, 46, the MP for Portsmouth North and a navy reservist, has lifelong links to the forces. The daughter of a paratrooper, she was named after HMS Penelope… She was promoted to the cabinet in 2017 as international development secretary, where she was in charge of an annual budget of £13 billion. She is understood to have been liked by her civil servants.” – The Times

>Today: MPs Etc.: Mordaunt becomes the first ever woman Defence Secretary

Ministers 2) Stewart joins the Cabinet at International Development

“The choice of Rory Stewart to be Britain’s new international development secretary was seemingly an obvious one. The 46-year-old’s promotion to the cabinet has long been expected thanks to his experience, communication skills and loyalty to the prime minister. As justice minister, Mr Stewart won praise from Downing Street for his fevered campaigning for Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Soon after she returned from Brussels with her withdrawal agreement last year, he took to the radio and TV studios to sell it to MPs and the nation, albeit with limited success. He also took part in several notable public debates on Brexit. His Conservative party colleagues welcomed the appointment.” – FT

  • Film star owns rights to his life story – The Sun

>Today: MPs Etc.: Stewart is appointed DFID Secretary

>Yesterday: Alice Wilcock in Think Tanks: Prisons are a national scandal, and need a national response

Ministers 3) Gove launches investigation into shooting licences

Michael Gove will be launching an investigation into the shooting licence system which caused chaos for farmers, he has revealed, after meeting with environmentalist Chris Packham in Westminster. MPs and countryside organisations earlier this week urged the environment secretary to launch an inquiry into the behaviour of Natural England, the government body which abruptly revoked permission to shoot ‘pest’ birds after a legal challenge from Mr Packham’s animal rights group. A Defra source said that Mr Gove is “actively investigating”, adding that “Michael is seeking answers on what happened, and when and why with the licensing”. The change, which meant farmers were left helpless to stop pigeons from destroying their spring crops or crows from pecking out the eyes of their lambs, took farming and shooting organisations completely by surprise.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Landowners urge Government to let them shoot crows – The Times

More:

  • MPs endorse Corbyn’s call to declare ‘climate emergency’ – The Guardian
  • Johnson vows to keep fighting Heathrow expansion – The Sun
  • Sturgeon urged to ditch plan to cut aviation tax – The Guardian

Comment:

  • It’s when, not if, we end our contribution to global warming – Claire Perry MP, Times Red Box
  • There is no ‘cost’ to zero emissions – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Rory Stewart MP in Comment: Of course there’s a climate emergency. Here’s a wide-ranging Conservative programme to tackle it.

Tories hopeful of losing ‘only’ 500-600 council seats

“Tory chiefs’ hopes are growing that they can duck a council elections wipe out today as voters go to the biggest local polls since 2015. Control of a total of 259 local authorities are up for grabs across England and Northern Ireland, with 8,804 councillors to be elected. Conservative MPs have feared a vicious drubbing as angry Leave as well as Remain voters take revenge on the Government for the Brexit shambles. Some Cabinet ministers have even predicted more than 1,000 council seat will be lost. But CCHQ insiders now say they can limit the losses to “around 500 to 600 on a good night”… In contrast, then-PM John Major’s Tories lost more than 2,000 councillors in 1995 in a massive midterm wipe out.” – The Sun

  • But others predict a ‘bloodbath’ – Daily Express
  • Schools watchdog reprimands Labour for claim it endorsed their policies – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: In Dudley, I watch local Tories trying to run on their record, not the Prime Minister’s

Marcus Jones MP: Don’t punish councillors for Westminster’s woes

Over the last years it feels as though politics has dominated the news agenda, following the debates, parliamentary votes, and elections that have taken place since Britain voted to leave the EU in 2016. Today, we have another set of elections. A lot has been said and written about what today’s poll might mean in the context of the wider debate about Brexit, but fundamentally these elections are about one simple thing: voting for who you want to run your local council. And no matter where you stand on the debate around Brexit, the simple truth is we need Conservatives in local government, because Conservative councillors run councils better. On the local services that matter to people, Conservative councillors deliver.” – Daily Telegraph

  • On doorstep after doorstep, fury at betrayal – Molly Giles, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Rachel Wolf’s column: Not much changes when councils change hands. And voters know it.

May ‘preparing to keep EU customs rules’ as rumour spreads of talks ‘breakthrough’

“Theresa May is preparing to accept that Britain will remain in lockstep with EU customs rules for years after Brexit in a deal with Labour. Under the terms of a tentative agreement Mrs May is close to signing up to a long-term customs union with the EU in all but name in return for Labour supporting her withdrawal agreement. Details of internal discussions began to leak as Mrs May gave her strongest hint yet that she was prepared to give ground. She told MPs that both sides now agreed on “some of the benefits of a customs union”. It is understood that under the proposal, which has yet to be agreed, the government would agree to enter a “customs arrangement” with the EU at the end of the transition period.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister faces Cabinet revolt over proposals – Daily Express

More:

  • Brexit drains £30 billion from UK funds – FT
  • Scrapped ferry contracts bring bill to £83 million – The Times

Comment:

  • Customs union compromise would be bad for Britain – Greg Hands MP, Daily Telegraph
  • Tories should be allying with Farage, not Corbyn – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Iain Mansfield in Comment: A second referendum would be far more unpredictable than Remainers or Leavers assume

>Yesterday:

Prescott sparks fresh antisemitism storm

“John Prescott has been embroiled in an anti-Semitism storm today after ranting that the party’s crisis was all about “racism” and “Israel”. The former Deputy Prime Minister was reported to have aggressively asked a Jewish journalist what she could do about Israel when she asked him about anti-Semitism in the party. Lord Prescott, who is a Labour Peer in the House of Lords after serving under Tony Blair, allegedly said that the whole thing was “about Israel… dead children… settlers on someone else’s land”, the Jewish Chronicle reported…The beha viour appears to have broken the international definition of anti-Semitism by holding Jews responsible for the actions of the state of Israel.” – The Sun

  • To Labour members, it’s all a conspiracy – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • Corbyn is blind to antisemitism, or just doesn’t care – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

Bercow indicates that he is preparing to quit

John Bercow has indicated for the first time that he is preparing to quit as Speaker of the House of Commons. In remarks reported by his local constituency paper The Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser Mr Bercow said that he would not stay on “much longer” in the Speaker’s chair. He added: “If Theresa May can take a few weeks to change her mind about holding an election I can be forgiven for taking a few years to change my mind about staying on.” The comments are the first time that he has ever remarkedon his future after failing to stand down as Speaker last June, nine years after he became Speaker, as he had previously said he would. There is speculation Mr Bercow will announce his retirement this summer, although he has not yet confirmed this.” – Daily Telegraph

  • ‘Almighty row’ over Parliament’s refurbishment predicted next week – Daily Express

Onasanya becomes first MP successfully recalled

“Fiona Onasanya, the former Labour MP jailed for perverting the course of justice, has become the first parliamentarian in British history to be stripped of her role after more than 25 per cent of her constituents called for a by-election. Onasanya, 35, was found guilty in December of colluding with her brother, Festus, to avoid driving penalty points. On January 29 she was sentenced at the Old Bailey to three months and spent four weeks in Bronzefield prison in Ashford, Surrey. A spokeswoman for Peterborough city council said last night that 19,261 people signed a recall petition, amounting to 27.64 per cent of those eligible to sign.” – The Times

  • Brexit Party will run in by-election – The Sun

News in Brief – Local Elections:

  • Your hour-by-hour guide to what’s coming – Steven Bush, New Statesman
  • What to look out for – Sir John Curtice, Prospect
  • Candidates and predictions – Dan Bloom, Daily Mirror
  • May’s damage-limitation exercise – Charlie Cooper, Politico

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