Trump makes ‘last ditch’ effort to persuade Johnson on Huawei…

“Donald Trump will make one final bid to persuade Boris Johnson to ban Huawei from Britain’s 5G network this weekend when he sends one of his most senior ministers to London. With a decision on Huawei expected early next week, Steven Mnuchin, the US Treasury Secretary, will lay out President Trump’s concerns in a meeting with his counterpart Sajid Javid. It comes after senior civil servants recommended that the Chinese telecoms giant be allowed to bid for “non-core” elements of the mobile phone network. President Trump is concerned that Huawei equipment could be used for espionage, as the Chinese government can require private companies to spy on its behalf.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ditch Chinese firm if you want a trade deal, US warns – The Times
  • Washington green-lights ‘priority’ trade talks – Daily Express

More trade:

  • UK aims to secure four trade deals after leaving the EU – Daily Express
  • First post-Brexit trade deal to be struck with Japan – The Sun
  • Spain to use Brexit to make a bid for Gibraltar – Daily Express

>Today: Margot James in Comment: The evidence available does not support a total ban on Huawei

…as Prime Minister ‘weighs up Russian visit’

“Boris Johnson is weighing up whether to attend Vladimir Putin’s second world war commemoration parade in Moscow this May in a diplomatic test of his new government’s attitude towards Russia. During the event, which was first staged by Joseph Stalin, Russian soldiers will march through Red Square accompanied by tanks and missile launchers to mark the 75th anniversary of the conflict’s end. Mr Johnson is considering the Russian president’s invitation to attend the parade, according to four people with knowledge of the talks. The deliberations inside Downing Street are part of a wider discussion over how to handle relations with Moscow, which were tarnished by Russia’s attempted assassination in 2018 of former double agent Sergei Skripal with a nerve agent in Salisbury.” – FT

  • Russia poses a critical threat to Britain – Andrew Foxall & Ben Emmerson, Daily Telegraph

Ministers 1) Javid ‘seeks to placate business’ over post-Brexit rules

“Chancellor Sajid Javid on Thursday softened his tone on the landscape for corporate Britain after Brexit, telling business leaders in Davos that he would not seek to move UK regulations away from those in the EU “for the sake of divergence”. Mr Javid said the government would only change the rules under which UK companies operate if it “was in the interests of British business”, adding ministers would “weigh up the pros and cons” and consult with affected industries. The conciliatory message from Mr Javid came after he used a Financial Times interview last week to issue a stern warning to business leaders to end their push for Britain to stay in lock step with Brussels’ rules after Brexit.” – FT

  • Chancellor softens his stance before trade talks – The Times
  • Dutch premier puts odds of a deal at ’50:50′ – The Sun


  • Javid launches hunt for next OBR head – FT
  • The Withdrawal Agreement Act becomes law – The Guardian


Ministers 2) Patel maintains tough stance on new immigration controls

“Social care workers and other low-skilled migrants in key sectors will not be exempt from tough post-Brexit immigration rules even if there are shortages, Priti Patel reportedly told Cabinet. The Home Secretary apparently set out on Tuesday that there will be no so-called ‘carve outs’ under Boris Johnson’s Australian-style points-based immigration system as the government tries to simplify British border control. Migrants who want to work in occupations in which the UK has a shortage could be awarded more points under the new regime to boost their chances of being allowed in. But with no ‘carve outs’ there would effectively be no guarantees that such workers would be able to come and work in the UK in a development likely to spark business concern.” – Daily Mail

  • No 10 rebukes business leaders who seek unlimited EU immigration – The Times

>Today: Local Government: Building the Blue Wall: Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland

Ministers 3) Hancock warns that coronavirus will likely reach Britain

“More than a dozen people in Britain have been tested for a deadly virus sweeping out of China, with the NHS under orders to question everyone with flu-like symptoms in an attempt to stop its spread. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, has warned it is likely that cases of coronavirus will be seen in Britain as part of a “rapidly developing” global outbreak in which more than 20 million people have been quarantined. In China there have already been more than 630 confirmed cases and 18 deaths linked to the new virus, which is thought to have originated in snakes. There have been reports of cases in Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the US.” – The Times

  • China locks down ten cities in bid to halt spread – Daily Telegraph
  • Tests on 14 amidst ‘desperate hunt’ for Chinese arrivals – The Sun
  • Death toll leaps to 25 – Daily Mail


  • Beijing has quarantined 20 million, but it could be too late – Tom Solomon, Daily Telegraph

Ministers 4) Skidmore criticises universities over lack of black academics

“Universities have been criticised after the number of black academics in leadership positions fell to zero in official figures. The most recent numbers, covering 2018 to 2019, published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reveal that the number of black academics in leadership positions officially stands at zero. The year before, 2017 to 2018, the agency’s data recorded five black academics in the most senior roles. Due to the way the statistics are rounded, there could still be up to two in 2018/19, but the official count stands at zero. Universities Minister Chris Skidmore said: ‘It is unacceptable that the number of black academic staff in senior positions has fallen, as this does not represent our British society.’” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Anna Firth in Comment: We need a plan to regain the university seats, and win over the students who flocked to Corbyn

Downing Street ‘won’t meddle’ in BBC leadership change

“No 10 has insisted that it will not seek to interfere in the BBC’s choice for director general, after an anonymous Downing Street source threatened that if a leftwinger were selected then a government-appointed board chairman would fire them next year. Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said the choice of a director general was a “matter for the BBC”, after Tony Hall unexpectedly announced on Monday that he would step down this summer. But two briefings from Downing Street sources were given to the Daily Mail and ITV suggesting the government would look very unfavourably on the corporation choosing James Purnell, the former Labour cabinet minister and current director of radio at the BBC.” – The Guardian

  • Corporation must face a full investigation into its flagrant abuse of public money – The Sun

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: The next BBC Chairman. Andrew Neil, anyone? Robbie Gibb? Michael Portillo?

Iain Martin: Johnson would to well to wean himself off his tendency towards gimmicks

“Under Johnson, power is centralised to an unusual extent in the prime minister’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, who wants to redesign the machinery of the entire British state. I have seen this reign of terror routine several times before and I know how the movie ends. In a democracy with a free press it never works… The Downing Street operation also seems addicted to gimmicks. It was briefed recently that the House of Lords is to be moved to York. Senior figures in the Conservative Party, former leaders among them, are angry. Again, there will come a time when the polls are poor and those grandees are needed to go out and bat for Boris. Alienating them is counterproductive.” – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Where CCHQ should move to

>Yesterday: John Penrose MP in Comment: Grassroots Tories, the Conservative Policy Forum needs you

Lords changes rules to allow fresh investigation of complaints against Bercow

“John Bercow could be investigated over past allegations of bullying after the House of Lords agreed to change its rules amid new complaints against the former Speaker. The Lords conduct committee met on Wednesday to discuss closing a “loophole” in its code of conduct to allow inquiries into allegations against former MPs who become peers, the Telegraph can reveal. The meeting took place on the day new revelations emerged about a complaint against the former Speaker. Lord Lisvane, who served as chief clerk of the House of Commons, has passed a dossier of allegations to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, the MPs’ watchdog. It is understood to detail incidents in which Mr Bercow was alleged to have bullied and humiliated staff.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ex-Speaker complains that denying him a peerage defies precedent – The Times
  • Downing Street points out his past enthusiasm for breaking convention – The Guardian
  • Leadsom says he must not be elevated if found to have bullied staff – Daily Express
  • Bercow categorically denies allegations – Daily Mail

Labour 1) Nandy and Long-Bailey clash over plan to replace MPs

“Lisa Nandy lashed out at Labour leadership rival Rebecca Long-Bailey last night after the Corbynista candidate backed plans for a purge of moderate party MPs. Wigan MP Ms Nandy said the beleaguered party should be focusing on getting rid of Tory MPs rather than their own following Jeremy Corbyn’s humiliating defeat to Boris Johnson in December’s election. Ms Long-Bailey this week declared war on moderate Labour MPs as she said she wanted to introduce open selections for election candidates in a move which would make it easier for hard left activists to oust incumbents. Centrist voices in the party fear this is an extension of previous efforts by Momentum – run by Ms Long-Bailey’s campaign chief Jon Lansman – and other hard Left groups to oust opponents.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Rachel Wolf’s column: My top tip for Labour leadership candidates – parties can’t win everywhere, and shouldn’t try

Labour 2) Khan under pressure to abandon fare freeze

“The mayor of London is facing increasing pressure to abandon his freeze of most public transport fares in the UK capital in the run-up to the mayoral election in May because of a squeeze on the city’s finances. Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor since 2016 and favourite to win re-election, has maintained his policy of freezing most fares on the Tube and buses since 2016, at an estimated total income shortfall of £640m. But Transport for London, the government agency responsible for most of the capital’s public transport, is deep in the red — in part because of delays and cost overruns at Crossrail, the new flagship infrastructure project. TfL’s most recent figures show it had a net deficit of £422m in 2018-19 and is heading for a net deficit of £307m for 2019-20.” – FT

  • Ministers ‘underestimated risks to taxpayers’ cash’ on HS2 – The Sun

Sturgeon’s civil servants press ahead with referendum preparations

“Nicola Sturgeon has ordered her civil servants to continue compiling “White Paper Two” on Scottish independence despite Boris Johnson refusing her request for another referendum. The Telegraph can disclose that Scottish Government officials have started preparing an updated prospectus for a separate Scotland, to dovetail with the referendum the First Minister wants to stage later this year. Some civil servants have nicknamed the project “White Paper Two”, referring to the 650-page White Paper on independence unveiled by Alex Salmond and Ms Sturgeon before the 2014 referendum. Sources close to the First Minister said the new blueprint would have a different “shape” and format from the first document, titled Scotland’s Future, which cost taxpayers £1.3 million to produce and distribute.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Johnson to spearhead pro-Union strategy with more visits to Scotland

News in Brief:

  • Labour’s Scottish play is a tragedy in the making – Alex Massie, CapX
  • The Opposition must change if it is to win – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • A citizens’ assembly won’t solve climate change – Richard Askwith, UnHerd
  • ‘Orthodox’ conservatism is the last thing the Tories need – Ben Ramanauskas, 1828
  • Varadkar’s Brexit election could backfire – Owen Polley, Reaction