“Pet projects” from Cameron and May years face axe

“Boris Johnson has warned his cabinet that it is “time for the slaughtering of sacred cows” as he vowed to cull the pet projects of his predecessors Theresa May and David Cameron. Ministers were ordered yesterday to go through their spending line by line and send the Treasury suggestions for projects that could be cut or abandoned entirely. The prime minister said that they should push ahead with the cuts even though some officials would “squeal” and others would behave “like a tiger protecting its cubs”. The time had come for “tough decisions”, he said. It is understood that hundreds of legacy projects, some dating back to the coalition government under Mr Cameron, could come under review. No specific projects were discussed at the cabinet meeting but defence spending and the HS2 high-speed rail project are likely to be studied carefully.” – The Times

  • Savings must be found for new infrastructure projects – Daily Telegraph

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

Brexit 1) PM to stress deadline for trade deal in EU meeting

“Boris Johnson will stress the importance of the UK and EU reaching a trade deal by the end of the year in his first meeting with the new president of the European Commission. The PM will hold talks with Ursula von der Leyen in Downing Street. Once the UK leaves the EU on 31 January, the two sides will begin talks on their future economic relationship. Mr Johnson has insisted a deal is possible by the end of 2020 and the process will not be extended.” – BBC

  • Brexit Bill to sail through the Commons – The Sun
  • Johnson ready to leave EU without trade deal – The Times
  • Wilson warns against any extension – Daily Express
  • Farage ruled out as next UK Ambassador to the US – Daily Mail
  • There are already signs of trouble ahead – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 2) Carney optimistic and says it’s time to diverge

“In a wide-ranging interview with the Financial Times, the outgoing governor warned that central banks were running out of the ammunition needed to combat a downturn…Despite concerns about a potential downturn, Mark Carney was optimistic about the City’s prospects after Brexit. He made clear there was no point in London, as a world financial centre, being a rule taker from Brussels. He urged the UK government to avoid aligning its financial regulations with those in the EU in the hope of better trade terms after Brexit. ‘It is not desirable at all to align our approaches, to tie our hands and to outsource regulation and effectively supervision of the world’s leading complex financial system to another jurisdiction,’ he said.” – Interview with Mark Carney, Financial Times

Brexit 3) EU gives “warning shot” of citizen’s rights

“The European Union has warned Boris Johnson not to water down protections for EU citizens living in the UK after Brexit, ahead of the first face-to-face meeting between the Prime Minister and Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, raised “issues of concern” in a letter to the Brexit Secretary Steven Barclay before Christmas, The Telegraph can disclose. The concerns included the need for a fully independent watchdog to enable EU citizens to make complaints against the Government. The warnings, which have been echoed by the European Parliament, emerged on Tuesday evening as Ms von der Leyen and Mr Barnier prepared to travel to London.” – Daily Telegraph

Wallace warns that a UK strike on Iran can’t be ruled out

“The defence secretary refused yesterday to rule out a British military strike on Iran as he said that helicopters and warships had been placed on standby in the Middle East. Ben Wallace told the Commons that the UK had evacuated non-essential personnel from Baghdad amid growing tensions after a US drone strike killed the senior Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani. He called for de-escalation but told MPs that he was “not going to rule out anything” when questioned on the prospect of offensive British military action. ‘The UK will do what it has to do to defend its persons, its citizens and wherever it needs to do that. That is our duty,” he said. “We cannot say what is in the minds of Iran or anybody else in the future and that’s why we will always reserve our right to take that decision.’ ” – The Times

  • Ukrainian passenger plane crashes in Iran – BBC
  • More than 60 die in funeral stampede – Daily Telegraph
  • US troops targeted with ballistic missiles – BBC
  • Steady at the helm – Quentin Letts, The Times
  • Militias draw up 13 plans for revenge on US bases – The Times
  • All is well – Donald Trump, Twitter

>Today: Columnist Daniel Hannan: Revolutionary Iran is a threat to our national security – not just regional stability. It must be confronted and defeated.


Almond: Increased risk that Iran will go nuclear

“One nightmare scenario would be a blizzard of drones launched from western Iraq, now increasingly under Iranian control, over the Israeli border . . . with one carrying a plutonium bomb. Facing such a threat, Israel might feel it has no choice but to strike first, hitting all Iran’s military facilities in airstrikes. But unless accompanied by a ground invasion of the scale that only the U.S. could launch, any airstrikes will only serve to redouble Iran’s intention to build atomic weapons and take revenge a generation later. After all, say the hardliners, Trump would never have dared kill Soleimani if Tehran possessed the nuclear bomb. Kim Jong-un has carried on, protected by his nuclear arsenal. The Iranians will not be satisfied until they have it, too.” – Mark Almond, Daily Mail

Raab could be given a second Ministry

“Dominic Raab could be put in charge of both the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development (DfID) under plans being considered as part of a post-Brexit reshuffle. Whitehall insiders said that Boris Johnson was considering preserving DfID but scrapping its secretary of state and handing ministerial responsibility to the foreign secretary…..The move would be in line with the long-held ambition of Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s most senior adviser, to reduce the size of the cabinet but would avoid a big redistribution of personnel and resources.” – The Times

  • Foreign Secretary condemns missile strikes – BBC

200,000 children are trapped in ‘dumping ground’ schools

“More than 200,000 children are trapped in “dumping ground” schools, a report says. Many have never had the chance to learn in one graded “good” by Ofsted. The watchdog said 415 “stuck” schools in England are in “a cycle of poor performance” and have not made the rating for 13 years or more…Some are held back by “antagonistic” union leaders resistant to change, the report said…Derby, Darlington and Southend-on-Sea, Essex, had the highest proportion of struggling schools while Surrey, Devon and Manchester had the lowest.” – The Sun

Labour leadership 1) Long Bailey launches her campaign with defence of Corbyn

“Rebecca Long Bailey has said Jeremy Corbyn scored “10 out of 10” as leader of the Labour party as she kicked off her campaign to succeed him. The shadow business secretary defended Corbyn’s record and blamed the election defeat on the party’s failure to issue strong enough rebuttals when he was “savaged by the press”. Asked by ITV News how should would rate Corbyn as a leader out of 10, Long Bailey said: “I thought Corbyn was one of most honest kind principled politicians I’ve ever met … I’d give him 10 out of 10, because I respect him and I supported him all the way through.” – The Guardian

  • Labour needs another Corbynista leader “like a hole in the head” warns Straw – The Sun
  • Lewis call for Lords reform and Proportional Representation – The Guardian
  • A motley crew of sorry-looking losers – Leader, The Sun

Labour leadership 2) Nandy and Phillips tell Labour MPs: “We must change to survive”

“Labour leadership candidates Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips won applause from MPs at a hustings for warning that a serious change of course is needed for the party. The two hopefuls were praised by colleagues on Tuesday after the six candidates set out their pitches to the parliamentary Labour party, with MPs saying they had been the most honest about reasons for the party’s defeat at the hands of Boris Johnson. Nandy told the hustings that ‘if we do not change course we will die and we will deserve to’ and warned that ‘never again can we let factions and friends of the leader determine where resources go’.” – The Guardian

  • Starmer is the bookies favourite – Daily Express
  • Allin-Khan proposes a ‘Ministry of Fabulosity’ – Daily Mail
  • This contest will show if Labour is serious again – Leader, The Times
  • MPs have party’s next five years in their hands – The Times

Labour leadership 3) Corbyn won’t endorse anyone

“Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not be endorsing a candidate to replace him as Labour leader. When asked whether he had made up his mind, he said: “I won’t be saying who I’ll be voting for.” It comes as six leadership hopefuls set out their stall at a meeting of Labour MPs at Westminster…The MPs need to get the backing of at least 20 of their colleagues to get on to the ballot paper. The winner will be announced on 4 April. Sheffield City region mayor and MP Dan Jarvis has, meanwhile, ruled out a leadership bid.” – BBC

Call for “moral stance” on child refugees

“Labour is urging Conservative MPs to take “a moral stance” and support its proposal to amend the Brexit bill to give more protection to child refugees. The amendment calls on the government to guarantee the right of unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family living in the UK after Brexit. A previous version of the Brexit bill included such a pledge, but it was removed after the Tories’ election win. The government said it had “a proud record of helping vulnerable children.” MPs could vote on the Labour amendment on Wednesday when they return for a second day of scrutiny of the Brexit bill – or EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill as it is officially known.” – BBC

Crosbie: I’m still in shock at winning in Ynys Mon

“I’m still in shock. My first three weeks have been about listening. Listening to my constituents and how I can best serve them as their MP. I’ve been meeting farmers, local businesses and community leaders. The warm welcome my family and I have received has been overwhelming. I’m keen to set up my new MP office in Holyhead, so I’m looking for an office, staff and caseworkers. I’m also hunting for a family home and I’ve started learning Welsh…My priorities in parliament will be bringing jobs, skilled employment and investment to Ynys Môn.” – Virginia Crosbie, The Times

Nationalisation threat to South Western Railway

“The strike-ridden South Western Railway franchise is at risk of being nationalised within the next 12 months after its accounts warned of significant doubt over whether Britain’s second-biggest commuter network could continue operating. The train operator has been in discussions with the Department for Transport for months over the terms of its contract, blaming its losses partly on delayed infrastructure upgrades, timetabling delays and industrial action…Meanwhile, on Tuesday the government said it had called TransPennine Express, also operated by FirstGroup, for urgent talks over recent service cancellations.” – Financial Times

Finkelstein: Cummings may struggle but his ideas have great potential

“Smoking, learning in schools, law-abiding behaviour, productivity, community spirit, clean streets, charitable giving . . . there are so many ways that weapons of influence can help governments make progress. It’s 15 years since I became the first person to write about the political possibilities of Robert Cialdini. The coalition government created the behavioural insights unit to promote such ideas, but I have never felt they were fully exploited, that weapons of influence had become standard tools. That could mean that Dominic Cummings may find it harder going than he imagines. But it may also just mean there’s a lot of potential.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

Today: Columnist Ryan Bourne: The limits of weirdos and misfits

Kirby: Centralising the police forces would be a great mistake

“The 2013 merger of police forces across Scotland into one single force should be enough to dispel illusions about the benefits of centralisation. Promised budget savings have failed to materialise, millions being spent on management consultants’ fees while front line staff are cut; crime-fighting policies applicable to tough inner cities were rolled out across Scotland regardless of local policing needs, damaging public confidence and causing resentment amongst officers; both the inaugural Chief Constable and his successor lasted less than three years in the job, resigning amid allegations of management failure.” – Jill Kirby, Daily Telegraph

News in brief


  • Long Bailey struggles to convince MPs – Paul Waugh, Huffington Post
  • What will boundary changes mean for British politics? – Matt Singh, CapX
  • How will new Tory MPs deal with constituency problems? – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • Nandy can’t have her cake and eat it – David Goodhart, Unherd
  • Spreading prosperity around the country – John Redwood