PM plans spending spree in first Budget

“Boris Johnson’s Brexit Britain has paved the way for a massive spending spree that will herald a “decade of renewal”, it was announced on Monday night. Chancellor Sajid Javid said he will use the first Budget after the UK leaves the EU to pump a colossal £100billion into much-needed infrastructure projects across the UK. He promised the unprecedented investment would help “left behind” parts of the country and “unleash Britain’s potential”. The economic set piece will take place on March 11 – just six weeks after Brexit Day – Mr Javid’s first as Chancellor. The announcement comes as the UK economy continues to perform well amid renewed business optimism thanks to the so-called “Boris Bounce” following last month’s clear-cut Tory general election victory. Mr Javid had been due to deliver the economic set piece in November but it was postponed after parliament blocked Britain’s exit from the EU on October 31 and the Prime Minister subsequently called a general election.” – Daily Express

  • Budget delayed as Johnson focuses on Middle East crisis – Daily Telegraph
  • Javid to ‘level up’ UK regions – FT
  • And he is set to fly off to Davos despite ban for other ministers – FT
  • Johnson plans national celebration to commemorate EU departure – The Sun
  • Johnson adviser under fire for praise of Hungary’s Orban – FT

Iran crisis 1) National Grid on alert for possible revenge cyberattack

“Britain’s electricity network has been put on alert for cyberattacks by Iran in retaliation for the killing of its senior general by the United States. National Grid, the company responsible for keeping the lights on, emailed all employees on Sunday to urge them to watch out for suspicious emails or unusual behaviour. The email, which has been seen by The Times, read: “Iranian authorities and sympathisers are expected to retaliate, and government agencies are asking operators of critical national infrastructure and their employees to remain vigilant.” Iran has been blamed for a series of cyberattacks in the past, including on parliament in 2017 and the Post Office a year later. Although the US is likely to be the main target for any Iranian retaliation over the death of Qasem Soleimani, Britain — America’s main ally — is also regarded as a potential target. National Grid, a FTSE 100 company, is the “system operator” for the UK power and gas grids. It told its employees: “While there is no specific intelligence indicating a direct threat to National Grid, we are mindful there is a historical basis for correlating cyberattacks with political conflict, along with physical actions.” – The Times

  • Trump trades threats with Iran in chilling social media battle – The Times
  • Confusion over letter suggesting US withdrawal from Iraq – The Times
  • Allies distance themselves from Trump decision – The Guardian
  • Pompeo was driving force behind drone assassination – The Times
  • Pentagon sights trained on Iranian missile bases – The Times
  • New man has Kurdish blood on his hands – The Times

Iran crisis 2) MoD sends emergency evacuation team to Iraq

“Britain is stepping up contingency plans to evacuate military personnel and civilians from Iraq amid growing fears of reprisal attacks from Iran. The Ministry of Defence dispatched about 20 senior military planners and liaison officers to the embassy in Baghdad over the weekend, The Times understands. Defence sources believe that the risk of a retaliatory assault will rise today after three days of national mourning to mark the death of Qasem Soleimani, the senior Iranian commander who was killed in a US airstrike at Baghdad airport in the early hours of Friday. The British advisers are mapping out routes to withdraw soldiers swiftly. The strategies will also be used for diplomats and other civilians if needed. Ministers are also considering formally warning British ships against travelling through the Strait of Hormuz. Two Royal Navy ships, HMS Montrose and HMS Defender, have been deployed to protect British-flagged vessels through the strait. The Department for Transport issued similar advice in July after the Stena Impero tanker was seized by forces from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.” – The Times

Johnson ‘ditches plans to axe foreign aid department’

“The foreign aid department will escape the axe as Boris Johnson scales back his proposed Whitehall shake-up, the Mail can reveal. Plans for a radical overhaul that would have seen a raft of departments created, merged or scrapped have been curtailed. Instead the Prime Minister will largely concentrate on improving performance in the existing ministries. The Department for International Development is expected to be given a reprieve and will not now be merged with the Foreign Office. The suggested creation of a borders and immigration ministry separate from the Home Office is also unlikely to happen. A pared down re-organisation of departments will take place next month as Mr Johnson carries out his much-awaited Cabinet reshuffle. Ministers facing the threat of losing their jobs include Andrea Leadsom. The Business Secretary is a Brexit stalwart, but was largely kept away from the national campaign ahead of the general election.” – Daily Mail


Michelle Ballantyne: I’m up for the fight to become the next Scottish Tory leader

“A businesswoman and former nurse has said she has the “real world” background and ability to lead the Scottish Tories from opposition to government at Holyrood. Setting out her platform to succeed Ruth Davidson, Michelle Ballantyne said she is not a “career politician” and described an array of positions she has held in which she said she had seen “people at their best and at their worst.” Writing in the Telegraph, she said the Scottish Tories “need a leader with an ability to connect with voters” and this means “they need to see something of themselves in you.” Ms Ballantyne, the party’s Shadow Social Security Minister at Holyrood, concluded: “I’m up for the fight. Come and join me!” Her intervention comes the day after nominations for the leadership opened and Jackson Carlaw, the party’s interim leader, confirmed he is standing. His status as the overwhelming favourite to succeed Ruth Davidson in the role was underlined as a series of party big-hitters immediately announced their backing.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour leadership race 1) Long Bailey joins Labour contest as the heir to Corbyn

“Rebecca Long Bailey joined the contest for the Labour leadership last night, claiming to be the standard bearer of Corbynism and promising “to go to war with the political establishment”. The shadow business secretary became the sixth declared candidate to succeed Jeremy Corbyn and the strongest entrant from the party’s left wing. She wrote in the magazine Tribune: “We need a proud socialist to lead the Labour Party, driven by their principles and an unwavering determination to see democratic socialism in our lifetime. For all of these reasons and more, I have decided to stand for election to become the next leader of our party.” Earlier, Ms Long Bailey, 40, had been denounced by Tom Watson, Labour’s former deputy leader, as representing “Corbynism in its purest sense”, but she brushed this aside in her article, insisting: “I don’t just agree with the policies, I’ve spent the last four years writing them. It’s true that one reason we lost the election was that Labour’s campaign lacked a coherent narrative. But this was a failure of campaign strategy, not of our socialist programme.” Ms Long Bailey will vie with Clive Lewis, a shadow Treasury minister, for nominations from MPs on the left. Candidates need the support of 22 MPs or MEPs by next Monday afternoon to stay in the race. Ian Lavery, the party chairman who was thought a possible candidate, said last night that he would not stand and offered Ms Long Bailey his support. “ – The Times

  • Labour moderates fear Rebecca Long Bailey has ‘huge advantage’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Murray launches deputy leadership bid – Daily Mirror

Labour leadership race 2) Pay £25 and help choose next Labour leader before Easter

“Labour supporters will be able to vote for Jeremy Corbyn’s successor if they pay £25, the party has announced. Its ruling national executive committee (NEC) yesterday set the fee to become a registered supporter. Applications have to be made during two days next week. The party also announced a three-month timetable for the leadership election, with Mr Corbyn’s successor to be declared on April 4. It means that Mr Corbyn, who last month led Labour to its worst general election performance since 1935, will face Boris Johnson in about a dozen more sessions of prime minister’s questions and respond to Sajid Javid’s first budget. It will also leave his successor with only a month in which to mould Labour in their image before local elections across England. Some moderates fear that the short timespan for becoming a registered supporter — who are not full party members — could hamper efforts to sign up backers of anti-Corbyn candidates, although others believe that they can use the week before the contest opens to drum up interest.” – The Times

  • World’s worst rapist jailed – Daily Mail
  • British teen released on suspended sentence after accused of lying about Cyprus gang rape – Daily Express
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