Iranian general had ‘blood of British troops on his hands’, Johnson says

“The Iranian general killed in a US drone strike last week had “the blood of British troops on his hands”, Boris Johnson has said. The prime minister said that Qasem Soleimani had played a “baleful role” in the Middle East and told how he had supplied “improvised explosive devices to terrorists, which I’m afraid killed and maimed British troops”. As head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds force, which specialises in unconventional warfare, Solemani was considered to be responsible for having masterminded a new type of roadside bomb that was deployed in Iraq from 2004 onwards… Mr Johnson reiterated his call yesterday for all parties to ease the crisis in the Middle East, but condemned the Iranian missile strikes on Iraqi bases hosting coalition forces in the early hours of this morning.” – The Times


  • NATO agrees to give Trump more support in the Middle East – The Times
  • President backs away from further military action – FT


  • Crisis revealed an awful truth: the West no longer exists – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • The killing of Soleimani made perfect sense – Gerard Baker, The Times

>Today: Richard Bingley in Comment: A cyber war is on the way


Government has second rail operator in its sights

“The prime minister criticised Britain’s underperforming rail network yesterday by suggesting that another private operator could lose its contract. Boris Johnson said that the “bell is tolling” for West Midlands Trains, which runs metro and intercity services. Andy Street, the Tory mayor of the West Midlands, said last week that he had lost all faith in the operator after delays, overcrowding and cancellations. West Midlands, which is run by the Dutch state-owned operator Abellio, has frozen fares this year to compensate passengers for poor performance. The government has already promised to terminate the contract held by Northern Rail, which is run by the German company Arriva, over timetabling problems and the late introduction of new trains. It will either be renationalised or the operator will be given a new short-term contract under new terms.” – The Times

  • Osborne tells Prime Minister that HS2 ‘must go ahead’ – Daily Mail


  • Railway mess won’t be sorted until pensions are reformed – John Ralfe, FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: “Trillion dollar bills lying on the street”

Johnson: SNP’s fixation on independence is to distract from its own ‘abundant failures’

“Boris Johnson has accused the SNP of using independence to try and distract Scots from their “their abundant failures in government” as he prepares to formally reject Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum request. The Prime Minister told the Commons that the separatists “keep going on” about breaking up the UK because their domestic record is so poor, citing them “mismanaging” the Scottish NHS. He said Scottish schools are “falling behind in educational standards” and sympathised with their pupils, saying it was not their “fault.” In a direct message to the SNP benches and Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Johnson said: “Concentrate on what you are doing and stop going on about breaking up the Union.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Phillips ‘opposed to another independence referendum’ – The Scotsman

>Yesterday: Damian Green MP in Comment: What does One Nation really mean in 2020?

Prime Minister attacks FA Cup deal with gambling giants

“Boris Johnson on Wednesday night led calls for football bosses to scrap a deal selling FA Cup rights to betting giants. Gambling firms can show matches on their websites and apps under a six-year contract with the Football Association. But ministers and health experts yesterday warned the ‘rotten’ deal was incentivising betting, fuelling mental illness and potentially ruining lives. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was ‘hugely disappointed’ with the FA and urged it to ‘reconsider this association’. Yesterday the Mail revealed that gambling firm Bet365 was able to broadcast almost all of last weekend’s FA Cup third-round ties… Yesterday the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘This is a matter for the FA but we believe it should reconsider its deal with Bet365.'” – Daily Mail

  • Anyone who thinks they understand Johnson could be in for a surprise – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Does Downing Street want Today to have no tomorrow?

Jenrick sets out plan for high streets

“High Streets can be saved by innovation, loyalty to local shops and cheaper parking, insists Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick. His department’s Towns Hub unit is coordinating a £3.6billion fund for 100 “overlooked and undervalued” towns. The Housing Secretary has said that reducing homelessness will help save Britain’s neglected high streets, making town centres safer and a more inviting place for people to visit. In an interview with The Sun, he also threw down the gauntlet to council bosses to reduce parking charges or offer free parking windows to boost accessibility to town centres. And he issued a rallying cry to the nation to do their bit to save the High Street by shopping and eating more locally rather than using online alternatives like Deliveroo or Amazon.” – The Sun

>Today: Rachel Wolf’s column: Where education reform has succeeded – and where it has failed

EU chief says Government’s Brexit deadline is ‘impossible’

“Britain will find it impossible to negotiate a comprehensive and close future relationship with the EU by Boris Johnson’s December deadline, the new head of the European Commission said yesterday. In a stark message to the prime minister, Ursula von der Leyen warned that the price of a clean-break Brexit would be a distant partnership with the EU and new barriers to trade. She added that even this would be difficult to achieve without an extension to the transition period, which has been ruled out by Mr Johnson. Instead she said that the issues to be resolved would have to be prioritised, setting the scene for an early confrontation between the two sides in deciding which areas of future co-operation to tackle first.” – The Times

  • Johnson ready to negotiate ‘Canada-style free trade agreement’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister ‘sets up clash over fishing’ – FT
  • He won’t budge on red lines or extend the transition – The Sun
  • MEPs to express ‘grave concern’ over EU citizens’ rights – The Guardian

Camilla Tominey: What next for the European Research Group?

“They were the so-called Spartans who thrice defeated Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement and helped to herald the dawn of a new Conservative era under Boris Johnson. But having swung full throttle behind the Prime Minister’s re-negotiated Brexit deal, the influential European Research Group of Tories is now facing a new dilemma: the next battle plan. The group of around 80 MPs will discuss its future at the ERG’s annual general meeting at the end of this month, but rumours abound that some members think it should be wound up, might the Spartans be about to lay down their spears? … The ERG met for the first time this year in Parliament on Tuesday night, when they agreed the future of the group would be thrashed out at the AGM in a few weeks time.” – Daily Telegraph

  • My fellow MEPs and I are joining the Tories to help Boris deliver – John Longworth, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: Four former Brexit Party MEPs – including Rees-Mogg – join the Conservative Party

Hague campaign against warzone rape ‘may have harmed victims’ – aid watchdog

“William Hague and Angelina Jolie’s campaign to stop rapes in war zones failed and could have harmed victims, a watchdog’s report says. Thousands of activists came to Britain in 2014 for the star-studded launch of the first global conference against sexual violence in war but the government’s interest quickly waned and victims were abandoned. A victim-led global network was used by Britain at the conference to encourage 113 nations to sign pledges of support. After the conference, however, those victims received no support. The report is one of the harshest produced by the government’s own aid watchdog and highlights a stark contrast between Britain’s fanfare about being a global leader against rape in war and its swift loss of commitment.”- The Times

  • War-crime subjects let down by our bloated aid system – Ian Birrell, The Times

Starmer wins Unison backing in blow to Long-Bailey…

“Sir Keir Starmer has won the endorsement for the Labour leadership from Britain’s biggest trade union in a significant blow to Rebecca Long Bailey, his main rival on the left of the party. Unison, which has 1.3 million members, said that Sir Keir, 57, could bring Labour “back to the winning ways of the past”. Unite, the second-biggest union, is expected to endorse Ms Long Bailey, 40, posing a split over who should lead the party. The announcement came hours after Sir Keir, with the support of 23 MPs, became the first candidate to enter the next round of the leadership election. Candidates require the backing of 22 MPs or MEPs by Monday to make it to the second phase… Unison’s executive voted overwhelmingly for Sir Keir, the shadow Brexit secretary. Fourteen members backed him, five backed Ms Long Bailey and one endorsed Emily Thornberry.” – The Times

  • Gardiner ‘shocks party’ with hint that he could run – The Guardian

…as McDonnell backs Burgon for deputy

“John McDonnell has been accused of using “Machiavellian” tactics to secure influence over the future of the Labour party after he rejected Rebecca Long Bailey’s preferred choice for deputy leader. McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, announced his decision on Wednesday to back Richard Burgon over Long Bailey’s ally Angela Rayner, despite being said to be Long Bailey’s mentor. Long Bailey, a contender for leadership of Labour, and Rayner, are flatmates and running on an unofficial joint ticket; both formed part of Corbyn’s inner circle and describe themselves as socialists. While McDonnell had said he would nominate Long Bailey for leader, his decision to back Burgon, the shadow justice secretary – who, like Long Bailey, is on the left of the party – has been described by one Labour source as a “slap in the face” for the latter.” – The Guardian

  • MPs savage ‘boring’ Long-Bailey… – Daily Mail
  • …and Abbott is ‘told to stay away’ from her campaign – Daily Express

Royal Family ‘hurt’ by Sussex’s shock announcement

“The Royal Family was said to be “hurt” and “deeply disappointed” on Wednesday night after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex “stepped back” as senior members without consulting the Queen, the Prince of Wales or the Duke of Cambridge. In an extraordinary statement released on Wednesday night, the couple announced plans to “step back” from their current roles and split their time between the UK and North America. The move left the 93-year-old monarch and royal aides blindsided as they had only “very recently” been made aware of the Sussex’s intentions. Aides stressed the announcement was “personal” and had not been approved by the palace. In a statement released almost two hours later, Buckingham Palace said the couple’s “desire to take a different approach” created “complicated issues” that would take time to resolve.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Harry and Meghan ‘step back as senior royals’ – The Times
  • ‘Civil war’ in the Palace – The Sun
  • Couple will still get ‘huge cash injection’ from Duchy of Cornwall – Daily Mail


  • A petulant and ill-judged move – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Spain swaps the frying pan for the fire – Luis Pablo de la Horra, CapX
  • Will the SNP take part in building a federal UK? – Lord Salisbury, Reaction
  • Trump has just blown up his goal of isolating Iran – John R Bradley, The Spectator
  • Why the smoking ban should be overturned – Charles Amos, 1828
  • Nandy can’t have her cake and eat it – David Goodhart, UnHerd