Iran: Prime Minister calls for de-escalation of crisis…

“Boris Johnson has warned the Iranians not to attempt “retaliation or reprisals” against America following the assassination of Qassim Soleimani. In his first intervention in the crisis, the Prime Minister said he will be speaking to “all sides” to urge calm and de-escalation, setting Britain up as a mediator between the United States and a more cautious Europe. It came as three rockets landed near the US embassy in Baghdad. Donald Trump said the United States would “quickly and fully strike back”, possibly in a “disproportionate” manner if any US person or target was hit. “If they do anything there will be major retaliation,” Mr Trump told reporters later on board Air Force One, doubling down on a threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson consults with Merkel and Macron – FT
  • He adds that he does not ‘lament’ death of general – The Sun
  • Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband seeks urgent meeting – The Guardian


  • Iran says the nuclear deal is dead – The Times
  • Trump threatens Iraq with sanctions – Daily Mail


  • McDonnell demands that Johnson condemn drone strike – The Sun
  • London protesters say Trump is the terrorist – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: We need strategic clarity. What poses the greater danger to Britain – Iranian aggression abroad or Sunni extremism here?

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Trump and Iran. What’s the plan?

…as Raab warns US that strike could make terrorism worse

“Dominic Raab today defended America’s decision to kill Iranian military chief General Qasem Soleimani and warned that a war will only make terrorism worse. The Foreign Secretary called for calm in the region after a series of frantic phone-calls with Iraq, the US and other European allies in the wake of the crisis. But he said he was “sympathetic” with President Trump ordering a drone attack on him in Baghdad on Friday, and described him as a “regional menace”… The Foreign Secretary said he was working to try and stabilise tensions in the Middle East, and stressed that a “war is in no one’s interest”. “The only people who would gain would be Da’esh”, he said. “No one wants, I don’t think anyone benefit from a war in the Middle East.”” – The Sun

  • But adds that UK is ‘on the same page’ over killing – The Guardian
  • Ministers summoned to crisis meeting – Daily Mail



  • Iran is on the back foot – David Patrikarakos, Daily Telegraph
  • Regime fears onslaught but must respond – Catherine Philp, The Times

>Today: Ruth Edwards MP in Comment: The Iran crisis should spur us to upgrade our cyber defences


Ex-mandarin tells Cummings to shift stance on civil servants

“Dominic Cummings should stop denigrating senior civil servants by lumping them together as part of the same Oxbridge-educated, dinner party elite if he wants to build the necessary support in Whitehall for ambitious reforms to the government machine, one of the country’s most respected former mandarins has warned. Sir David Normington served as permanent secretary at the Department for Education and then the Home Office between 2001 and 2010; from 2011 to 2016 he was first civil service commissioner, in charge of ensuring the effective working and neutrality of Whitehall. He told the Observer success for the prime minister’s chief adviser would depend on building support across government, not alienating key players within it.” – The Guardian

  • If Cummings picks fights he’ll misfire badly – Clare Foges, The Times
  • Work for Cummings at your peril, but his take on the state’s flaws is not without merit – John Naughton, The Guardian

Johnson to press Von der Leyen for ‘swift trade talks’

“Boris Johnson will urge the president of the European Commission this week to push on with trade talks as he seeks to secure a deal with the EU by the end of the year. The prime minister will host Ursula von der Leyen in No 10 for opening talks on Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU on Wednesday. Mr Johnson is being urged by some ministers, including Liz Truss, the trade secretary, and Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, to hold trade talks with the EU and the US in parallel. They argue that doing so will give Britain more leverage in negotiations with the EU. Other ministers, however, feel that doing so could jeopardise chances of getting a deal by December.” – The Times

  • Senior Tories urge him to pursue ‘parallel talks’ with the US – Daily Mail

Percy says decision on HS2 must be made ‘as soon as possible’

“Boris Johnson must make a decision on HS2 “as soon as possible” in the wake of a report that suggested the whole project should be scrapped, a former Northern Powerhouse minister has said. Andrew Percy, who served in Theresa May’s Government, yesterday urged a decision on the rail link to provide “certainty” for people in the North of England. A review into HS2 was postponed before the election but a leaked draft of its report suggests it will recommend the project is continued. Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, Lord Berkeley revealed he had conducted his own review into the project and concluded that it will make the taxpayer a £40bn loss. Mr Percy said HS2 should not be scrapped in favour of other investment in northern rail, as Lord Berkeley suggests, but Mr Johnson must make the decision quickly.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Official who quit warns it will top £100 billion – The Times
  • Figure rejected by other officials – FT
  • Ministers warned that taxpayers could lose £40 billion – The Sun
  • Parliament misled over cost, says Labour peer – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Lord Berkeley claims that HS2 is out of control financially – and that figures have been fiddled

Jo Johnson advises against cutting tuition fees

“The prime minister’s brother, Jo Johnson, has warned against a proposal to cut university tuition fees. The younger, remain-supporting Johnson – who was universities minister until September when he resigned from government citing an “unresolvable tension” between his family loyalty and the national interest – argued that lowering student fees would do “grave damage” to higher education finances. The former Tory MP, who stepped down at the election and is now chairman of the group that owns the Times Educational Supplement, said cutting fees would also be “very bad politics”. The Conservative manifesto pledged to consider a review by former financier Philip Augar last year that recommended reducing fees from £9,250 to £7,500. ” – The Guardian

Carlaw readies Scottish Tories for policy pivot as leadership race begins

“Jackson Carlaw has warned the Scottish Tories they will have to ditch some of their keystone policies to seize the political centre ground as nominations for the party leadership open on Monday. Mr Carlaw, the party’s interim leader, said that “some even well established” positions will have to be abandoned as he set out a leadership platform based on “blue-collar Conservatism.” He also warned the Tories that attacking the “tired, uninspiring and vainglorious” SNP government is not enough, and his party must “raise our game”, with less than 18 months to the next Holyrood election. In a reference to the upcoming Alex Salmond trial for alleged sexual offences, which he denies, Mr Carlaw warned the party cannot rely on “sensational events which we all know are coming” and it must “craft an alternative offer for Scotland.”” – Daily Telegraph

Dr Dan Poulter: Johnson must satisfy new Tory voters by unifying NHS and social care systems

“More than that, to build trust with its new voters, the government will need to show a sceptical public that it has a genuine and enduring commitment to our public services and to valuing those who work for them. It will need to show voters that it is on their side and understands their daily concerns, many of which centre around public services such as the NHS. All this is not to say that the Conservative government should not seek value for money, efficiency savings and productivity gains where they can be found. But holding on to its new voters requires a fundamental recognition that the free market is sometimes the problem, not the answer, and that voters want and need a government to deliver for them through the arm of the benevolent state and properly funded public services.” – The Guardian

Starmer splits with Phillips over another EU referendum…

“Sir Keir Starmer declared that the election result “blew away” the chance of a second EU referendum as he launched his campaign for leadership of the Labour Party yesterday. Sir Keir, the frontrunner in the race, brought the party’s Brexit divisions to the fore, as his rival Jess Phillips said that she would be willing to “fight” for Britain to rejoin the European Union. “I have a Leave seat but I campaigned for Remain because I thought it was the best thing for the people I represent and the best thing for the country. I’m not going to change my mind on that,” Ms Phillips said… In contrast, Sir Keir insisted that Labour must “move on” from Brexit and on to the discussion about Britain’s future relationship with the EU. Sir Keir said Labour “should have taken a stronger position one way or the other” on Brexit and that people wanted “clarity” on the issue.” – The Times


  • Every candidate for Labour leader must play to the hard left – Denis MacShane, The Times
  • Candidates’ problems are their values, not their accents – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph


…as hard left warned not to ‘skew’ leadership playing field

“Jeremy Corbyn’s allies have been warned not to “skew” Labour leadership rules to block supporters of moderate candidates from having a say in the party’s succession. Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) will meet on Monday to set the timetable for the race to replace Mr Corbyn, which is expected to formally start the following day. MPs last night voiced fears the hard-Left of the party will launch a bid to rig the leadership contest by changing the rules for new members and preventing moderate entryism. It came amid reports moderates within the party were urging tens of thousands of people to join – or to return to the party after quitting since Mr Corbyn came in. Some of their techniques echo the campaign group Momentum’s efforts in the run up to  Mr Corbyn’s victory in 2015.” – Daily Telegraph


  • Khan blames Corbyn for election defeat – Daily Express
  • Nandy says Labour ‘patronised’ voters – The Sun

>Today: Richard Holden MP’s column: The Red Wall. My part in its downfall. How I won North West Durham – Labour since its creation.


News in Brief:

  • What will Trump’s America learn from Boris? – Oliver Wiseman, The Critic
  • A clean break for BrexitCentral at the end of January – Jonathan Isaby and Matthew Elliott, Brexit Central
  • Assassinating Soleimani was a prudent step – Simon Waldman, CapX
  • Has trans orthodoxy conquered the world? – Madeleine Kearns, UnHerd
  • Javid: it’s time to tear up the old investment rules – Fraser Nelson, The Spectator