Sinn Féin tops first preference poll in Irish General Election

“Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has described the Irish general election as “something of a revolution in the ballot box”. Counting is continuing and the first results have come in, with Sinn Féin winning the most first preference votes. With all first preferences counted, it has 24.5% compared to 22.2% for Fianna Fáil and 20.9% for Fine Gael. No one party will win enough seats for an outright majority. Ballot boxes from across the 39 constituencies were opened at 09:00 on Sunday. Many counts have finished for the night and will resume at 10:00 on Monday, but some are continuing. Sinn Féin ran 42 candidates across the 39 multi-seat constituencies, about half that of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, which will have a knock-on effect on the number of seats it can secure in the 160-seat Dáil (Irish parliament) where 80 seats are needed for a majority.” – BBC

  • Deadlock in coalition talks could lead to another election – The Guardian
  • This could make EU/UK relations more difficult – The Times
  • Northern Ireland protocol a backdoor to continued Brussels influence, say lawyers – Financial Times

Reshuffle rumours 1) Symonds and Cummings “at war”

“Explosive claims of a falling-out between Boris Johnson’s partner Carrie Symonds and his chief adviser Dominic Cummings over the Cabinet reshuffle emerged last night. Well-placed Treasury sources say Miss Symonds is backing ministers who say Mr Cummings’ aggressive approach towards ministers, officials and journalists is damaging the Prime Minister. The rift has been fuelled by reports that Mr Cummings urged Mr Johnson to fire two ministers with close links to Miss Symonds: Chancellor Sajid Javid and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace. It is understood Mr Johnson has refused to sack Mr Javid in the reshuffle expected this week, but the fate of Mr Wallace is less clear.In addition, Mr Cummings is believed to be planning to fire several Conservative ministerial special advisers, including some with connections to Miss Symonds.” – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Johnson’s reshuffle. If he isn’t Thinking Big it should be Kept Small.

Reshuffle rumours 2) Gove tipped to be given greater role

“Michael Gove is being tipped to emerge with a beefed up role in Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle. The PM was in his countryside retreat of Chequers at the weekend putting the finishing touches to his government overhaul, expected later this week…The PM’s one time frenemy Mr Gove is being tipped to be the big winner of the shake-up by expanding his empire at the Cabinet Office by overseeing Brexit trade talks…Meanwhile, Government insiders also tipped him to take over as boss of the UN’s Cop26 climate change summit hosted in Glasgow later this year.” – The Sun

Reshuffle rumours 3) Barclay “could be put in charge of trade talks”

“Steve Barclay could be put in charge of negotiating Britain’s trade deals as part of Boris Johnson’s reshuffle. The former Brexit secretary lost his job when his department was closed after Britain’s departure from the European Union last month. However, he is expected to return as part of the prime minister’s shake-up of his top team that was being finalised with aides at Chequers over the weekend…Baroness Morgan of Cotes, the culture secretary, is to stand down and Geoffrey Cox, the attorney-general, is also likely to leave. Thérèse Coffey, the work and pensions secretary, and Esther McVey, the minister of state for housing who attends cabinet, are also in danger, along with Ben Wallace, the defence secretary.” – The Times

Javid’s alleged plans for tax increases “risk causing huge losses for savers”…

“Plans for a mansion tax are “half-baked” and reform of tax relief could lead to “huge losses” for savers, experts have said of proposed Budget changes revealed by The Telegraph. Sajid Javid, the Chancellor, is reportedly weighing up limiting tax relief on pension contributions to 20pc and introducing a “recurring” wealth tax on the owners of expensive homes. However, both proposals have come under fire from commentators. George Bull of RSM, the accountancy firm, said: “If the Tories introduce a mansion tax they will need to work out how it fits with council tax. Would it replace council tax, which means some of the money raised would have to go to local authorities? Or would you have both, which would be really complicated? “The real problem is local authority funding and the answer is not clear. These are really big issues and they need proper consultation. A mansion tax in isolation would be half-baked.” Paul Johnson, the director of the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank, said a mansion tax would be very unpopular.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He should be levelling up not levelling down – Christian May, City AM

…he is also considering more subsidies to go green

“Home owners are to be given subsidies to reduce their carbon footprints under budget plans to help Britain to hit its 2050 net zero target. Under proposals being considered by Sajid Javid, the chancellor, the Treasury is looking at a scheme to “share the cost” of upgrading homes to reduce carbon emissions. It is part of a drive in Whitehall to “carbon-test” new policies to ensure that they contribute — or do not negatively affect — the government’s pledge to hit the 2050 target. Green proposals under consideration in the budget include extending and possibly increasing subsidies of £3,500 on new electric vehicles that are due to run out next month; paying to make social housing, schools and hospitals meet minimum targets on energy efficiency; and incentives for other households to improve energy efficiency, such as phasing out gas boilers and installing solar panels.” – The Times

>Today: Tony Lodge on Comment: Britain’s dirty emissions secret – carbon leakage. Here’s what it is and how to tackle it.

Migrant salary threshold to be cut to £25,600

“Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel are expected to set out their immigration reforms, including a drop in salary threshold for some migrants, at a cabinet meeting on Friday. Currently, skilled migrants from outside the EU need to have a job offer with a minimum salary of £30,000. The BBC understands ministers plan to lower this threshold to £25,600. Workers from the EU will face the same rules once the transition period for leaving the EU ends on 31 December. Workers earning less might be allowed to make up “points” elsewhere in order to be granted a visa if they work in a sector with a skills shortage. Points will also be awarded for speaking good English or for having an outstanding educational background.” – BBC

Johnson hopes to appease HS2 critics with regional infrastructure projects

“Boris Johnson hopes the glut of regional projects being announced over the next two days will appease the 63 Tory backbenchers who have so far gone on record with their opposition to HS2….Alongside the announcement on HS2, Mr Johnson is expected to confirm funding for so-called Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will incorporate a “crossrail of the north” from Liverpool to Hull and upgrade lines to Newcastle upon Tyne, as well as money for Crossrail 2, a north-south route through London. Additional funds for bus services, on top of the £170m already announced by the Government, will also be part of the package.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Boris must lead the Tories away from their free market comfort zone to rebalance the UK – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson’s high-speed route back to prosperous future – Leo McKinstry, Daily Express
  • London Overground offers model for UK rail overhaul – Financial Times

Duncan Smith: We will never make Huawei safe

“As one successful security software provider said to me, market access is not reciprocal. China doesn’t operate anything like the open market the West does. It is impossible to bid in China for the same access as Huawei gets from the UK. Furthermore, Huawei effectively receives support from the Chinese state, which means that it can undercut any commercial fair price offered by a western telco. That puts permanent pressure on Samsung, Fujitsu, Nokia and Ericsson and feeds dependence on Chinese services. I believe that the best course for the Government, given that it has inherited the existing involvement of Huawei, is to plan to clear the firm out of our systems as quickly as possible. Defence of the realm is the Government’s number one priority, and this includes cyberspace. There can be no room in our systems for companies such as Huawei.” – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph

  • UK 5G concerns ‘a witch-hunt’ says Chinese ambassador – BBC

Proposals published for ten freeports

“The government has launched a consultation on creating up to 10 freeports with special tariff and duty status – an idea ministers argue will fuel growth but critics say could encourage money laundering and other crimes. The government said it was firmly committed to announcing locations this year so that the first could open in 2021. The idea was first raised by Boris Johnson during his campaign to become Conservative leader. It is proposing zones – which do not necessarily have to be located in a port – where no duty is paid on goods until they enter the full UK market, meaning none at all is paid if they are re-exported from the port. Other extra freedoms include duties only being paid on final goods, not on any raw materials that are imported into the area and then processed. Businesses would be exempt from filling out full customs declarations on imported goods.” – The Guardian

Labour leadership 1) Starmer’s campaign accused of hacking Party’s database

“Labour’s most senior official was accused yesterday of trying to derail Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership bid by alleging that his staff had hacked into an internal party database. Jennie Formby, general secretary of Labour and an ally of Jeremy Corbyn, has reported Sir Keir’s campaign to Britain’s data watchdog over claims that it had gained unauthorised access to a list of party members. The move infuriated Labour MPs, who accused pro-Corbyn staff members of dragging the leadership race into “the gutter” in an attempt to damage Sir Keir, the frontrunner. His supporters described the allegations as “utter, utter nonsense” and said that the inquiry had begun only after they had raised concerns about the data use of Mr Corbyn’s preferred successor, Rebecca Long Bailey.” – The Times

  • Starmer’s mother-in-law dies two weeks after suffering accident – Daily Mail

Labour leadership 2) Nandy sets out plan to tackle anti-semitism

“Lisa Nandy has launched a detailed plan for how she would tackle antisemitism in Labour if she becomes party leader, saying it is approaching “make-or-break time” for many Jewish members as to whether they remain in the party…The plan calls for an immediate zero-tolerance policy under a new leader, with the party fully implementing, as a minimum, any recommendations from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which is formally investigating Labour over allegations of antisemitism. Another instant change would be to lower the threshold for suspending members where there are “credible accusations of antisemitism, Islamophobia or other forms of racism”. Nandy has also pledged to introduce a new and independent complaints process…Another promised element would be transparency.” – The Guardian

Bercow complains of conspiracy against him

“Former Commons Speaker John Bercow has said there is a “conspiracy” to keep him out of the House of Lords. He named no names, but said it was “blindingly obvious” that there was a “concerted campaign” to prevent him from being given a peerage. Previous Speakers have been ennobled when they retire, entitling them to sit in the House of Lords. The ex-Conservative MP has been accused of bullying by former Commons colleagues, but denies the claims. Cabinet minister Robert Jenrick said the claims must be looked into, but there was “no obligation” on the Prime Minister to give Mr Bercow a peerage.” – BBC


Bailey: Voters are tired of Left wing virtue-signalling

“Far from your average Tory, the married father-of-two spent months unemployed and years sofa-surfing before, on the encouragement of David Cameron, he went into politics. Boris Johnson’s stonking general election result in December may not reflect London politics, but Shaun Bailey is determined to capitalise on what he sees as “a vote for progress and a vote for the nation to move forward”. If the Tories can win the Midlands and the North, then is the capital now back in its sights? Bailey certainly thinks so, arguing that London “will benefit massively from this result because the prime minister can implement policies on issues that matter so much to us: on crime, on housing and on the environment”. Bailey insists that Brexit is the least of Londoners’ worries, with concerns about Khan’s “woeful” record on law and order and employment featuring heavily on the doorstep.” – Interview with Shaun Bailey, Daily Telegraph

Foges: A soft policy on illegal immigration is false compassion

“As long as it uses the elastic definition of an asylum seeker as anyone with “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” and as long as simply setting foot in a rich nation will earn you a good chance of staying, countless economic migrants will use the convention as a passport to the West. The government must campaign hard for reform. Last year we had the horror of 39 migrants found dead in the back of a lorry in Essex. Another tragedy in the Channel is perfectly conceivable — and our best way of averting it is an approach so tough and a message so clear that it dissuades those poor souls from making the journey at all.” – Clare Foges, The Times

Biden lashes out at Buttigieg

“Joe Biden has stepped up his personal attacks on Pete Buttigieg, the rising star of the Democrats, and other rivals in the party as he tries to rescue his hopes of becoming president of the US. Mr Biden, 77, has made an advert comparing his role as vice-president negotiating the Iran nuclear deal with Mr Buttigieg’s more mundane achievements as a city mayor — such as installing lights under bridges, pet chip scanners and new pavements. “We’re electing a president. What you’ve done matters,” Mr Biden’s advert concluded.” – The Times

  • Trump proposes cut in foreign aid – The Times

News in brief

  • The Sinn Fein surge has stunned Varadkar – and transformed Irish politics – Fraser Nelson, The Spectator
  • Johnson’s new housing adviser has his work cut out – John Myers, CapX
  • Where Are They Now? MPs who left Westminster – Huffington Post
  • Inside Number 10’s war against the media – Alex Wickham, Buzzfeed