PM takes charge of fight against gangs

“Boris Johnson aims to “cut the head off the snake” of criminal gangs and restore the Conservatives’ reputation as the party of law and order by setting up a cross-Whitehall taskforce, The Times can reveal. The prime minister will take personal charge of a new cabinet committee to tackle surging levels of knife crime and violence, with a particular focus on “county lines” gangs that are abusing and exploiting children. Mr Johnson told cabinet ministers yesterday that he wanted to restore the party’s reputation on crime, which had been damaged in recent years. “He said that we have historically been strong on law and order but in recent years been less clear on it,” a cabinet source said. “He said that he wanted a return to clarity on it and addressing the concerns of the British public.” The new committee on criminal justice will be led by Mr Johnson and include Priti Patel, the home secretary, Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, and Sajid Javid, the chancellor. There will also be a “rolling cast list” of ministers from other departments who will attend. It will be modelled on the Brexit “XO” committee, which led preparations for no-deal and is now regarded as a template for decision-making.” – The Times


Flybe saved as ministers agree £106m rescue deal

“The government is believed to have deferred Flybe’s outstanding £106 million air passenger duty bill until the spring to allow Europe’s biggest regional airline to get through a winter cash-flow crisis. The company’s shareholders are understood to have promised investment of more than £20 million. Ministers risked a backlash from environmental groups after announcing that taxes on domestic flights would be reviewed as part of the rescue deal. A Treasury review before the March budget will assess the impact of air passenger duty (APD), which adds £26 to every short-haul return flight. The review will focus on domestic flights while ensuring it does not undermine the commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the Treasury said. Environmental groups warned that any cut to APD, which is charged on tickets by airlines and passed on to the government, would be “reckless” in the face of the climate crisis. The rescue deal also prompted criticism from Labour that Flybe — part-owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group — was being given a state bailout. In September Thomas Cook was allowed to collapse despite appealing to ministers for a state rescue deal.” – The Times


Johnson: Give me one year to find social care solution…

“The Conservatives’ general election manifesto committed it to cross-party talks on how to fund care for the elderly but stopped far short of offering a solution. Theresa May had proposed making people pay more towards their social care in her 2017 manifesto but quickly reversed the policy amid her disastrous election campaign. Mr Johnson said his election victory last month would enable him to publish a plan within the next 12 months and implement it by 2025. “This has been shirked by governments for about 30 years,” he told BBC Breakfast. “Now we have the majority we need, we are going to get on with this so people can get the care they need in their old age but don’t have to sell their home.” He said that changes would be put before MPs this year and enacted “within this parliament”. This would be by mid-2024. “This is a big, big thing,” he said. “This is a potentially massive change in the way we fund social care, and we’ve got to get it right. – The Times

  • PM vows to tackle nursing care crisis in months – Daily Mail

…And he puts faith in Brexit supporter Frost

“For the past three and a half years, hardline Brexiters have claimed that the UK’s civil service was working to thwart Britain’s bid to break free from Brussels. But in appointing David Frost to head the upcoming trade talks with the EU, Boris Johnson has placed his faith in one of the few senior diplomats who thinks Brexit is a good idea. “They’ve been on the same intellectual journey over the EU,” a Downing Street adviser said. “There is a joint conviction in what they’re doing. David believes this is going to be a better country when we’ve left and we have a relationship of equals with the EU.” Mr Frost will lead “Taskforce Europe”, a 30-40 strong unit based in Downing Street charged with overseeing the sprawling negotiation and bringing it to a successful conclusion by the end of 2020, a timetable seen in Brussels as wholly unrealistic. Some diplomats in Brussels welcome the ideological clarity that Mr Frost has brought to the table, but they believe he and his boss will be in for a rude awakening if they think a comprehensive trade deal and future relationship can be agreed by December 31.” – FT

No party politics, promises Hunt in health select committee bid

“Jeremy Hunt is campaigning to be elected chairman of the Commons health and social care select committee as he gives up on a return to government under Boris Johnson. The former foreign secretary turned down his rival’s offer to become defence secretary after he was defeated in last summer’s race to succeed Theresa May. A vote is expected to take place next month. All MPs are entitled to vote in the elections but the chairmanships of the committees are allocated to parties according to their Commons presence. The health committee is among a larger number now reserved for Tory chairmanship after Mr Johnson’s landslide election win last month. Mr Hunt, 53, became the longest-serving health secretary last year shortly before Mrs May promoted him to the Foreign Office. Confirming his interest in the committee role, Mr Hunt promised opposition MPs that he would put party interest to one side. “The joy of being a select committee chair is that there is no party line to toe and you can say everything that needs to be said. In my case [that’s] around my total determination to turn the NHS into the best healthcare service in the world,” Mr Hunt said.” – The Times

Leadership hopefuls court votes of ‘big five’ unions

“Labour leadership hopefuls and their supporters are wooing union executive members as they seek to make the final ballot which will decide who will lead the party. Representatives of the five remaining candidates – Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy, Sir Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry and Jess Phillips – have approached general secretaries as they seek to win 5% of the party’s affiliated membership. To reach this threshold, each candidate is seeking support from one of the UK’s ‘big five’ unions – Unison, Unite, GMB, the Communication Workers’ Union and Usdaw. Starmer became the firm favourite to win the leadership race last week when he won the backing of Unison, the UK’s largest union. Pressure is building on the remaining candidates to find a major union to ensure they make the shortlist from which party members, trade unionists, members of affiliated societies and registered supporters will choose a winner.” – The Guardian

  • Jess Phillips: My six-point plan to restore trust in politics – The Guardian
  • Momentum accused of leadership stitch-up – Daily Telegraph
  • Labour membership soars by 60,000 – The Sun
  • Peer refuses to drop fight to keep protections for child refugees – The Guardian
  • Labour peer ordered to undergo ‘behavioural coaching’ – Daily Telegraph

Harry and Meghan ‘renounce’ claim to security around globe

“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have dropped their public claim to be “internationally protected people” in a sign that security is proving one of the most difficult subjects in negotiations about their future. The couple, who want to split their time between Britain and Canada, said last Wednesday that they were stepping back as senior royals but insisted they were legally entitled to armed police protection funded by the taxpayer. Their new website stated: “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are classified as internationally protected people which mandates this level of security.” The Times has discovered, however, that the claim was deleted the next day after questions were raised about the level of government security Harry, 35, and Meghan, 38, could expect if they were not performing royal duties. The legal concept of internationally protected people dates from a 1973 United Nations convention intended to protect diplomats and political leaders. It was introduced into British law in the 1978 Internationally Protected Persons Act, which afforded “special protection” to heads of state, people representing the head of state, prime ministers, foreign ministers and diplomats.” – The Times

  • Father to give evidence against Meghan – The Times

Iran calls for expulsion of British ambassador

“Iran’s judiciary spokesman said Robert Macaire had played a “provocative role” when he attended a vigil at the weekend for passengers killed in the passenger jet crash last week, amid ever-worsening tensions between the UK and Iran. Mr Macaire said he left the vigil as soon as the protests began and was arrested on his way to the embassy, in violation of the Vienna Convention. He was detained for several hours, before Iran’s foreign ministry intervened and arranged for his release. An effigy of the ambassador, who took up the role two years ago, and a Union Jack flag were burned in Tehran. “It is not acceptable for us to see that the British ambassador went outside the embassy and took part in an illegal gathering, filmed it and had a provocative role in its continuation,” Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, the spokesman for Iran’s judiciary, told reporters. “This person is persona non grata … while people’s expectations and international regulations necessitate his expulsion.” Iran’s general prosecutor urged the government to expel the ambassador.” – Daily Telegraph


Church peace shattered by ding-dong on Brexit bongs

“It’s the issue that refuses to go quietly. Brexiteers’ calls for church bells to ring in celebration of Britain’s exit from the European Union have failed to unite the country’s congregations, it has emerged. The body that represents Britain’s bellringers yesterday refused to endorse the commemorations, saying that ringing should not take place for political reasons. Bishops and vicars supported its stance. Campaigners and MPs want bells to peal on February 1 to mark “the first morning of our independence”. They also want Big Ben to chime at 11pm on January 31 to mark the moment of Brexit. “Just as we did to mark the Allies’ victory in Europe in 1945, we’re calling on patriots to ring the bell of their local church at 9am on Saturday, February 1, to celebrate Britain’s new-found independence,” Leave.EU, the campaign group, said. It’s the issue that refuses to go quietly. Brexiteers’ calls for church bells to ring in celebration of Britain’s exit from the European Union have failed to unite the country’s congregations, it has emerged.” – The Times

  • Brits urged to back Johnson’s call to raise £500,000 so Big Ben can bong – The Sun
  • Johnson officially rejects Indyref2 in letter to Sturgeon – Daily Telegraph
  • And he resists US pressure to ban Huawei – The Times
  • Police ‘covered up’ grooming scandal – The Times
  • Warren snubs Sanders’ handshake as pair clash in Democratic debate – Daily Telegraph
  • Blair to help Indonesia move its capital – The Times
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