Johnson 1) He vows to cut NHS waiting times

“Boris Johnson made his most explicit promise to reduce NHS waiting times yesterday, as doctors warned him not to change hospital targets to hide worsening problems. The prime minister acknowledged that patients faced “unacceptable” delays but said his government would “get those waiting lists down”. Health chiefs have warned that it will be a struggle to cut waiting times significantly, given staffing and funding that experts say may not be enough to keep up with the demands of an ageing population. However, Mr Johnson did not promise to meet present targets after Matt Hancock, the health secretary, earlier hinted that the government would back NHS England in abolishing the four-hour maximum wait in A&E.” – The Times

  • Hancock signals that A&E targets could be scrapped – The Guardian
  • Tax relief planned to help retain NHS high-earners – The Times
  • Premier will ‘get on’ with solving the social care crisis – The Sun

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Corbyn challenges the Prime Minister’s plan for social care

Johnson 2) Clash with Trump over Huawei

“The PM clashed with Donald Trump on Iran and Huawei yesterday. Boris Johnson first took the US president to task for walking away from the Iran nuclear deal without offering an alternative. He insisted: “If we’re going to get rid of it, let’s replace it with a Trump deal. President Trump is a great dealmaker, by his own account and many others”. Boris then chided the US for its attack on No10’s plan to ban Huawei only from core elements of the country’s 5G network. Senior US officials called any cooperation with the Chinese giant “nothing short of madness” on Monday as they handed over to ministers new intelligence on the potential of hacking and cyber attacks by the Chinese state.” – The Sun

  • US warns that trade deal could be at risk over UK’s Iran stance – The Guardian
  • President backs Premier’s call to rip up nuclear deal – The Sun

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: The shooting down of a civilian flight does Iran’s rulers more harm than the assassination of Soleimani

>Yesterday: Ben Roback’s column: Can Johnson pull off a triumph – and bridge the gap between Trump and the EU on Iran?

Johnson 3) Change the record, Prime Minister tells the SNP

“Boris Johnson has urged the SNP to “change the record” on demanding another independence referendum as a Tory minister argued there should not be another vote for up to 50 years. Challenged over his rejection of Nicola Sturgeon’s request for referendum powers, the Prime Minister told the Commons the SNP was the real “denier of democracy” by refusing to respect the result of the 2014 vote. He said that Alex Salmond “and his protegee” Ms Sturgeon had pledged it was a “once-in-a-generation” event and accused the SNP of being “obsessed” with breaking up the UK, at the expense of Scotland’s schoolchildren. His intervention at Prime Minister’s Questions came the day after he wrote to her refusing her demand she be handed the power to call further independence referendums until she won one.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He’ll have to back massive investment to hold back the tartan tide – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

Johnson 4) Apprenticeship rules to be ‘ripped up’

“Boris Johnson has vowed to rip up apprenticeship rules to help poor white kids “climb the ladder of opportunity”. The Prime Minister pledged to do more to help children from poorer backgrounds, and to kick start a revolution in the way people are trained. His comments come after he was urged to reform the apprenticeship levy by Tory MP Robert Halfon. The Levy is is a UK tax on employers which is then used to fund apprenticeship training. It requires companies paying more than £3million a year set aside 0.5 per cent of their payroll for training. However, critics say employers aren’t doing enough with the cash, with less than 10 per cent of it being spent in the first year of the levy.” – The Sun

>Yesterday: Rob Halfon MP’s column: Only the paranoid survive – especially in the world of Conservative politics

Johnson 5) Courts are ‘not for politics by other means’

“Boris Johnson is to accelerate moves to limit the powers of campaign groups and individuals to challenge ministers in the courts. The prime minister claimed yesterday that judicial reviews – legal challenges to government decisions – were being used to “conduct politics by another means”. The decision to speed up the change puts him on a collision course with the judiciary, which insists that judicial reviews are a vital check on executive abuse. It was as a result of a judicial review that Mr Johnson’s prorogation of parliament was ruled to have been illegal in September last year. The Conservative election manifesto served notice that judicial reviews would be included in a wider constitutional reform.” – The Times

  • ‘Clampdown’ on judicial review – Daily Mail
  • He signals that Northern Ireland veterans will be protected – The Sun


  • Johnson must rescue us from technocratic tyrants – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

Johnson 6) ‘Sweeping review’ of Police and Crime Commissioners planned

“Boris Johnson plans a sweeping review of elected police and crime commissioners as he tackles the scourge of violent crime. The PM is to lead a taskforce to “cut the head off the snake” of gangs and win back the Tories’ reputation on law and order, it has emerged. And Sun columnist James Forsyth reveals details of Mr Johnson’s briefing to cabinet colleagues. After telling them he would chair the Cobra-style committee — with Home Secretary Priti Patel as his deputy — the PM added he would “be on the look-out for any policies which might have been influenced by lefty criminologists”. And he warned all 41 commissioners he would review their role — just four months before they were due to face elections.” – The Sun

>Today: Greg Hands MP in Local Government: Crime will be the central issue in this year’s election for Mayor of London

>Yesterday: Neil Shastri-Hurst in Comment: How Johnson can defeat the knife crime epidemic

Francois pledges £1,000 to Big Ben fundraiser

“Earlier this week, Boris Johnson made a plea for public donations to fund the cost of temporarily re-activating the bell for Brexit night, inviting volunteers to “bung a bob for a Big Ben bong.” Tory MP Mark Francois, who tabled a Commons Early Day Motion calling for Big Ben to chime on Brexit night, yesterday predicted the cash would be raised within days. Mr Francois, who has personally pledged £1,000 to the fund, said: “I think we will get it within 48 hours.” Mr Francois told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “It seems to me and many of my colleagues in the House of Commons patently daft that we have got the most iconic clock in the world – literally, it’s a world heritage site – that that should stay silent on this occasion.”” – Daily Express

  • Farage barred from setting off fireworks on Brexit day – Daily Telegraph
  • …but he wins bid for a ‘singalong’ – The Times
  • Liberal Democrat peer compares Brexit Britain to Nazi Germany – The Sun


  • The miserabilists must not get their way – Leo McKinstry, The Sun

>Today: Profiles: Mark Spencer – the power behind the reshuffle and the man who disciplined the Brexit rebels

Cummings: he’s ‘done Brexit’, now he wants to transform politics

“On January 31, Britain will formally leave the EU — although the challenge of agreeing a trade deal with the bloc will be just beginning. Cummings, who gave Britain Brexit, is leaving the tricky details of delivering it to others. The 48-year-old is moving on to a new agenda, in which he hopes to remake the civil service, put money into Britain’s “left-behind” regions and turn the country into a leading centre for science, putting it at the cutting edge of artificial intelligence, robotics and climate change. This month, he published a blog post that went viral, inviting “weirdos and misfits” to join him at the heart of government. Those who see him in Number 10 meetings with Johnson detect no deference towards the prime minister.” – FT

  • Merkel warns EU that UK exit is a ‘wake-up call’ – FT
  • Robbins, May’s chief negotiator, is knighted – The Sun
  • £30m no-deal Brexit scheme dismantled on roads to Dover – The Guardian

The Telegraph picks up ConHome’s story about CCHQ moving out of London

The Conservative party’s headquarters could move to a new location in the north or the Midlands following Boris Johnson’s electoral win in Labour’s former heartlands. One senior Tory source told the Daily Telegraph the party has to recognise its centre of gravity is now about 200 miles north from its London office. The source said currently campaign managers had to make an eight hour round trip from northern seats in order to be able to attend meetings in CCHQ. The idea would be to set up a strong regional operation in the north but keep a base that was still in reach of MPs and the Houses of Parliament… Yesterday a Downing Street source asked ConservativeHome, the website, to canvas activists’ views on a possible new location.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tories ‘deny plans to quit London’ – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Exclusive. No 10 says CCHQ will move out of Matthew Parker Street – and into the Midlands or North. It wants your ideas about a venue.

HS2 supporters fear Johnson might scrap part of the project

“Supporters of HS2 are growing increasingly anxious that Boris Johnson is prepared to scrap part of the high-speed railway project or overhaul it in a bid to redirect the money towards other transport in the north of England. Local government leaders from the north and Midlands are privately concerned there has been a change of tone from No 10 since Christmas, causing nervousness that the government could scale back the scheme. One pro-HS2 source with knowledge of Downing Street’s thinking said the future of the project, first announced in 2009, was “hanging in the balance” since the election campaign. Johnson’s transport adviser, Andrew Gilligan, is known to be against HS2, and Dominic Cummings, his chief adviser, is also not keen, having described it last year as a “white elephant”.” – The Guardian

  • Flybe bailout shows the Prime Minister’s resolve on the regions – FT


  • Even on the Government’s own logic, there is little justification for it – Ross Clark, Daily Telegraph


  • Misguided rescue sets a damaging precedent – FT

Police chiefs blame May’s legacy for missing alerts

“Theresa May has been blamed by chief constables for botched police reforms that led to tens of thousands of alerts on foreign criminals being kept from their home countries. She is accused of “starving” the crucial police national computer (PNC) of money against advice from forces when she was home secretary, and instead pushing ahead with an ambitious and costly super-database to replace it that is now years behind schedule and millions of pounds over budget. Her decision is said to have led to serious problems developing with the “creaking” PNC – including its failure to send details of 75,000 foreign nationals convicted in the UK to their home countries, in a scandal revealed by the Guardian this week.” – The Guardian

Helen Whately: Why we’re cracking down on credit cards in online gambling

“Separate research by the Gambling Commission shows that 22% of those using credit cards to gamble are problem gamblers, with a further 45% at some risk of experiencing harm. The risk from credit cards can also be increased by high credit limits and people chasing losses to cover credit card fees. That is why we were resolute in our election manifesto that the government will play our part in tackling problem gambling and helping protect the most vulnerable. And it is why we are acting decisively this week, with the announcement of a ban on gambling using credit cards across Britain from April. The ban will apply to all online and offline gambling products, apart from lotteries where payments are made face to face, and often as part of a wider shop in supermarkets and newsagents.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour Leadership: Poll suggests Long-Bailey is narrowly ahead…

“The pro-Corbyn candidate Rebecca Long-Bailey looks set to become the next Labour leader, according to a major new poll published on Wednesday evening. Despite Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, emerging from the first stage of the contest with a commanding lead among MPs, Ms Long-Bailey has come out on top in a survey of 3,835 party members. The poll, conducted by Survation on behalf of the LabourList website, found that the shadow business secretary received 42 percent of votes, compared with 37 percent for Sir Keir. Based on Labour’s leadership rules, which is based on an alternative vote system, Ms Long-Bailey still remains ahead on second preference votes with 51 percent, two points ahead of her closest rival.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Hard-left protege takes shock lead – Daily Mail
  • Outrage at Momentum’s leading ballot urging members to endorse her – Daily Express
  • Corbyn allies urge Northern working class voters to join party – Daily Telegraph

…as Nandy impresses commentators with Neil interview…

“Here she was, telling the Labour Party that they’ve been “getting it wrong for 15 years”. That huge changes are required. And that, she must know, is not what Labour Party members want. They categorically do not want a bright, articulate, honest and tenacious young woman. They do not want someone who can listen to tough questions from the toughest interviewer around and calmly reply with tough answers. What they want, even now, is Jeremy Corbyn. It’s absolutely no use having a leader that can go on TV and give a good account of themselves, defend their position and set out a complex argument.” – Tom Peck, The Independent

  • She ‘takes aim at the Remain campaign’… – The Times
  • …and says referendum debate became ‘false culture war’ – The Guardian


  • Vaz returns weeks after standing down in drug shame – The Times
  • Police investigate claims that activist was assaulted at event – Daily Mail

…and Starmer sets out ‘socialist vision’

“Keir Starmer has set out his vision for what he describes as a “moral socialism” focused on combating inequality and injustice, promising also to put the climate emergency at the centre of all policies if he becomes Labour leader. Writing in the Guardian, Starmer, currently seen as the favourite to succeed Jeremy Corbyn, said Labour should focus on becoming electable, but also use parliament to oppose Boris Johnson, calling him “a prime minister with no conviction or principles”. Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, is among five candidates through to the second stage of the contest after gaining nominations from 88 Labour MPs or MEPs, close to three times the number of the next most-popular candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey.” – The Guardian

  • Labour can win again if we make the moral case for socialism – Sir Keir Starmer MP, The Guardian

Northern Irish parties reject Johnson’s ‘inadequate’ cash offer

“Northern Ireland’s newly restored government has rejected as “woefully inadequate” a £2bn funding pledge from Britain, saying it was an act of bad faith that makes the revival of power-sharing at Stormont “much more difficult”. The blunt response from the devolved executive came after Boris Johnson’s government said it had set aside an additional £1bn for the region on top of the £1bn it would already expect to receive under the Barnett spending formula, which allocates UK funding between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. “I cannot and will not accept this and will be taking this up with the British government,” said Conor Murphy of Sinn Féin, the region’s new finance minister.” – FT

News in Brief:

  • The so-called ‘Festival of Brexit’ is nothing of the sort – Sunder Katwala, CapX
  • How to deal with the SNP: just say no! – Philip Patrick, Reaction
  • Labour won’t win until it puts country first – James Bloodworth, UnHerd
  • The delusion of the born-again Brexiteers – Toby Young, The Spectator
  • Conspiracies against the left – Gerald Frost, The Critic