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Ministers push Johnson for a Manchester World Cup final

“Boris Johnson is being urged to promise a football World Cup final in the north of England as a symbol of his commitment to working-class Conservatives. With the government under pressure to deliver for the former Labour voters who handed Mr Johnson an 80-seat majority, senior ministers have suggested a “London Olympics-style” emblem of Britain’s changed centre of political gravity. However, a dispute has already broken out over the idea of holding a World Cup final in Manchester, with some pressing the claims of other northern cities such as Liverpool, home to the current European and world club champions. The Conservative manifesto pledged to back a potential UK and Ireland bid for the 2030 Fifa World Cup and Mr Johnson has vowed to put his “heart and soul” into bringing the competition to Britain. In last month’s Queen’s Speech, he set out his vision for a decade of Conservative government that would “level up” left-behind regions. He is drawing up plans to borrow billions of pounds to boost northern infrastructure. New Tory MPs from the north have already been told to submit proposals for new projects in their constituencies.” – The Times

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Wolf: Whitehall is woefully unprepared for Cummings’ plan

“Public sector reform will be a major focus of the new Government, and so far commentary has focused on shifting around departments. This, former senior civil servants argue, would be a costly moving of the deckchairs – one that too many new administrations try. They are right that moving around departments won’t change much. But their analysis is also catastrophically wrong, because this is only a tiny fraction of the Government’s plan. I cannot decide if Downing Street has deliberately sent people down the wrong path, or if officials are so used to meaningless “machinery of government” changes that they cannot believe the PM and his chief aide, Dominic Cummings, mean business. As a result, they seem woefully unprepared for what is coming. Dominic has been reading and thinking about how to transform the public sector for two decades. He does not think it is a distraction, but a prerequisite to delivering even the simplest promises.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Civil servants woefully unprepared for ‘seismic’ changes under Tories – Daily Mail
  • And civil servants ‘could be forced to sit exams’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson orders hunt for Labour mole in Whitehall – Daily Mail
Comment

Why the ‘Boris bounce’ is likely to be shortlived

“The UK economy grew at its slowest pace since the financial crisis in the closing months of 2019, ending a year in which Brexit uncertainty hobbled business investment even as a strong labour market underpinned consumer spending. The coming year holds little prospect of a lasting improvement, according to more than 85 leading economists who responded to the Financial Times’ annual survey of UK economic growth. The majority predicted that any pick-up in growth following Boris Johnson’s decisive election win in December may be shortlived because businesses still have little idea of the UK’s eventual trading relationship with the EU, and the UK’s chronic productivity problem is unlikely to ease. The ‘Boris bounce’, household income, the EU negotiations and the in-tray for the new Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey are under consideration.” – FT

  • Economists predict little change for UK growth in 2020 – FT

Glover: Johnson will never be forgiven if he doesn’t tackle foreign aid budget

“Does Boris Johnson really care about the millions of mostly working class, sometimes poor, former Labour voters who ‘lent’ him their support in the General Election? Over the coming months we will discover whether the Treasury is prepared to divert resources from London and the South-East to infrastructure projects in the Midlands and the North. But whatever happens we may be certain that hard-headed people won’t be impressed by stories of vast amounts of taxpayers’ money being spent on unnecessary or worthless causes in countries perfectly capable of looking after themselves. On Tuesday, the Mail reported that the Government gave £151 million to China and India last year. China is the world’s second largest economy. India is in the throes of overtaking Britain to become the fifth largest. Both have space programmes and massive defence expenditure. What is so dismaying is that ministers have previously undertaken to stop giving aid to these wealthy, fast-growing countries. Yet the amount doled out to them last year represented an increase of 12 per cent on 2017.” – Daily Mail

Flexi-fares to ease commuter pain

“Flexible commuter fares are to be introduced on some of the busiest rail lines as the average cost of an annual season ticket passes £3,000 for the first time. A trial of three and four-day season tickets will begin this year in a move designed to better suit the demands of the modern workforce. The new tickets will be offered initially on Govia Thameslink Railway as an alternative to rigid week-long passes, which have slumped in popularity in recent years as more people opt to work from home. In a separate move, the price of long-distance single tickets will be halved on some intercity routes. In the trial by the state-owned London North Eastern Railway (LNER) overpriced return fares will be abolished to allow passengers to find the best single tickets. The trials are designed to respond to growing anger among passengers over the price and poor performance of train travel. Fares are rising by an average of 2.7 per cent today despite about a third of trains failing to run on time last year. Research by Transport Focus, the passenger watchdog, shows that fewer than half of travellers believe that train travel represents good value for money. The TUC said the price rises meant that regular passengers between Chelmsford and London were spending the equivalent of 16 per cent of their salary on rail travel and between Manchester and Liverpool 8 per cent.” – The Times

Patel to examine ways of deporting illegal migrants more quickly

“Priti Patel is to examine ways of deporting illegal migrants more quickly and in greater numbers after those crossing the Channel by sea quadrupled in the space of a year. The Home Secretary wants to remove the incentive for economic migrants to attempt the dangerous crossing by making it clear that anyone arriving in the UK illegally without genuine claims for asylum will be promptly returned. A total of 2,358 people were rescued from the Channel and brought ashore either in France or Britain in 2019, compared with 586 in 2018. Ms Patel wants to follow the example of Australia, which drastically reduced the number of illegal entries by making it clear that people smuggled in by gangs would be sent straight home. She believes the current process of removing illegal migrants is too slow and complicated, and will study options for policy changes next week. Four people died trying to cross the Channel last year, with thousands of others being exploited by people-smuggling gangs. Last year’s worst people-smuggling tragedy came in October, when the bodies of 39 Vietnamese nationals were found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Grays, Essex. – Daily Telegraph

Crown courts stand idle as crime rises

“Up to 40 per cent of crown courts in England and Wales are sitting idle as criminal cases have plunged to record lows despite rising crime, The Telegraph can reveal. The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has cut the number of days on which it will fund judges to sit by more than 15 per cent this year because of a slump in cases coming before the courts. It has resulted in between 25 per cent and 40 per cent of courts sitting empty on any one day as police forces solve fewer cases and crown prosecutors bring fewer to trial, according to data seen by The Daily Telegraph. Jonathan Dunne, a criminal barrister who compiles data on idle courts, said it was a scandal that the MoJ needed to urgently address as it was denying victims justice through delays of up to two and half years in cases coming to court. Some have even collapsed as witnesses gave up waiting while in two recent cases judges spared a paedophile and three men convicted of a violent assault from jail because of delays of over two years in bringing their cases to court.” – Daily Telegraph

Starmer emerges as favourite for top Labour job

“Sir Keir Starmer is the early front-runner to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, according to the first major poll of the contest. The centrist shadow Brexit secretary would beat Rebecca Long Bailey by 61 per cent to 39 per cent in a run-off, according to the YouGov survey. The poll, reported by the Guardian, shows Mr Starmer in the lead in every UK region and age group. Mr Starmer has yet to say whether he will run, while Ms Long-Bailey – seen as the preferred choice of Mr Corbyn’s allies – has said she is considering it. The poll of 1,059 Labour party members put Mr Starmer on 31 per cent of first choice votes, with Ms Long-Bailey on 20 per cent. Jess Phillips, the outspoken MP for Birmingham Yardley who has yet to declare her intentions, is in third place in the poll with 11 per cent. Clive Lewis and Yvette Cooper are next on seven per cent, with Emily Thornberry on six and Lisa Nandy on five. With less popular candidates eliminated, a final run-off would see Mr Starmer beat Ms Long-Bailey in the last round, according to the survey.” – Daily Mail

  • Cooper set to abandon her leadership bid – Daily Mail
  • Thornberry brands PM a ‘vicious’ populist like Trump – The Sun
  • Lavery would be appalling choice say moderate Labour MPs – The Sun
  • Lewis calls for unity among Labour leadership hopefuls – The Guardian
  • Abbott’s son is charged over hospital assaults – The Times
Comment
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  • Primary schools suspend 40% more pupils for racist behaviour – The Times
  • BBC ‘in talks with women to settle equal pay disputes’ – The Times
  • Number of children taken out of school for term time holidays soars – Daily Telegraph
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