Published:

Johnson could ‘rip up’ Javid’s fiscal rules

“Boris Johnson is considering ripping up Sajid Javid’s fiscal rules to allow for more spending and tax cuts to boost the economy after Brexit. No 10 signalled on Friday that the spending rules set out in the Conservatives’ general election manifesto could be loosened as the Prime Minister attempts to lift the economy. It came amid speculation that Rishi Sunak, the new Chancellor, will back Mr Johnson on VAT reform and investing in free ports. The Government this week began a consultation on the economic zones, which runs until April. The Budget may include stamp duty cuts for main homes, which Mr Johnson supports, and cuts to high street business rates. The Tory manifesto committed the party to fund day-to-day spending without borrowing, although it did not set a time frame for the pledge.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Plan would allow him to ‘splurge billions on new infrastructure projects’ – Daily Mail
  • Downing Street ‘stirred up trouble’ with budget leaks, say ex-Chancellor’s allies – The Times
  • Prime Minister shows his hand with Treasury power grab – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Sunak hopes to be seen as more than  just a supplicant – FT
  • New Chancellor challenged over hedge fund past – The Guardian

>Yesterday:

Cummings choose housing specialist to head new joint adviser unit

“Boris Johnson’s chief adviser has chosen a policy specialist in housing and left-behind towns to head up the new “joint economic unit” between Downing Street and the Treasury that will shape the upcoming Budget. Dominic Cummings has selected Liam Booth-Smith to lead the team of advisers co-ordinating economic policy between Number 10 and Number 11 after Sajid Javid abruptly resigned as chancellor on Thursday. He quit after refusing the prime minister’s ultimatum to replace his aides with a joint team and was replaced by Rishi Sunak. The new unit, which is expected to be physically based in No11, is seen by some Whitehall insiders as a power grab by the prime minister to tighten his grip over fiscal policy.” – FT

  • Chief of Staff challenged over unkindness to spads – The Times

Comment:

  • He could cause serious damage to Boris Johnson’s administration – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

>Yesterday:

Charles Moore: A bit of tension between the Downing Street neighbours is no bad thing

“Since special advisers (Spads) are the only people in their departments whom ministers can appoint, if Mr Sunak cannot choose even them he cannot guarantee a single person at his side who puts his interests first. As it happens, Dominic Cummings has handed him a couple of excellent Spads; but the fact remains that if your boss, not you, has appointed the people closest to you, they are not really your servants. Mr Sunak will be an exceptional man indeed if he can turn his relationship with the Prime Minister into a partnership of anything like equals. Yet that is what it is when it works best. The answer to the natural conflict between the Treasury, which tries to save money, and No 10, which seeks to spend it, is not to abolish any clash, but to make the disagreements as grown-up as possible.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Javid’s bungled exit undermines the case for restraining the Treasury – Camilla Cavendish, FT
  • Thanks to Johnson’s powerful new central machine, this will be our finest hour – James Forsyth, The Sun
  • This reshuffle was the start of a Whitehall revolution – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph

>Today: David Gauke’s column: Javid, Smith, Cox. Three fine Ministers fired – so that Number Ten could take back even more control.

Downing Street backs judge over transgender tweet ruling

“Police have been urged to rewrite the rules on hate crime after a judge likened a force to the Gestapo over its handling of a businessman who tweeted about transgender people. Mr Justice Knowles warned yesterday that Britain was in danger of slipping into an Orwellian society after Harry Miller, 55, was visited by officers at work and told that his tweets would be recorded as a “non-crime hate incident”… Last night Downing Street expressed concern over the operation of the college’s guidelines and indicated that it was prepared to press for a review of the situation. A No 10 source said: “The UK is an open and diverse country and freedom of speech is one of the values that defines us as a society. It is important we distinguish between strongly felt debate and unacceptable acts of abuse, hatred, intimidation and violence.”” – The Times

  • The trans rights charter is another way for Labour to put women in their place – Suzanne Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Labour’s trans pledge turns into a witch-hunt – Janice Turner, The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: A victory for free speech. But clear legal safeguards are still needed.

Cabinet ‘agrees immigration restrictions’

“UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s newly formed cabinet has agreed to restrict the flow of low-skilled workers into Britain from January 2021 and introduce what it called a “points-based” system meant to prioritise higher-paid, more valuable workers. The ministers on Friday approved the plans at their first meeting since Thursday’s reshuffle. A Downing Street spokesman said the new system would “end reliance on importing cheap, low-skilled labour” and bring down immigration numbers “overall”. However, details of how ministers envisage the scheme working will not be laid out until an immigration paper, planned for next week. The spokesman said Mr Johnson had been very clear that he wanted to see low-skilled migration fall.” – FT

  • Exception to job requirement for ‘global talent’ – Daily Telegraph
  • EU migrants will ‘need to earn £23,000’ – The Sun

Eurosceptic ‘concern’ as Johnson drops US visit

“Boris Johnson has cancelled plans to visit America as concern grows among Eurosceptic Tories that he will prioritise an EU deal. The prime minister had planned to visit Washington last month to meet President Trump after the election, but moved the date to February. The trip has now been shelved entirely and the two will not meet face to face before the G7 summit at Camp David in Maryland in June. A government source said the visit had been cancelled out of worry about criticism from Mr Trump over Britain’s decision to allow Huawei to help build Britain’s 5G mobile network… There is mounting fear, however, that the deals will be negotiated by two separate teams. David Frost, who is leading the trade talks with Brussels, is understood to have made clear that he does not want any involvement with the US negotiations.” – The Times

  • US delegation to fly to London to urge government to change position on Huawei – Daily Telegraph
  • Trump ‘has u-turned on punishing Britain’ – Daily Express

More:

  • China ‘offers to build HS2 in five years’ – FT

Gove ‘to oversee constitutional review’

“Michael Gove is set to take the political lead in Boris Johnson’s upcoming constitutional review that will examine the role of British judges and the use of judicial review. Government officials said that the constitutional review would be overseen by the Cabinet Office, which is headed by Mr Gove, who will work alongside justice secretary Robert Buckland and Suella Braverman, the new attorney-general… An independent individual will formally lead the commission with Lord Sumption, a former Supreme Court judge, tipped by officials to head up the review. Mr Gove, who is also overseeing preparations for the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the year, is expected to pay particular attention to alleged political interference by judges and may include whether judicial review needs to be reassessed.” – FT

  • Britain could quit European Convention on Human Rights to curb courts – The Sun

FCO and DfID ‘to merge in the autumn’

“A full merger of the Department for International Development (DFID) into the Foreign Office (FCO) will be carried out in the autumn, the Daily Telegraph can reveal. Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, wants to time the changes to go with the completion of a cross-government review by Professor John Bew in Number 10’s policy unit. On Thursday, the day of the Cabinet reshuffle, senior government sources privately reassured those calling for a full merger to “just wait until October”. The Bew Review is examining how to administer the UK’s £14 billion aid budget as part of a wider look at foreign policy and how the UK interacts with the world. It is expected to conclude that the current system is disjointed.” – Daily Telegraph

Knight says licence fee dodgers should pay bigger fines rather than go to jail

“People who refuse to pay the licence fee should pay bigger fines rather than go to jail, the head of the Commons’ body which scrutinises the media says today. Julian Knight, the chairman-elect of the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport committee, said maximum fines could be decriminalised and doubled from £1,000 to £2,000. Mr Knight also said that the BBC should sack middle managers on six figure salaries to save money, rather than cut numbers of journalists. Currently, anyone who watches or records live TV or uses iPlayer without a TV licence – which costs £154.50 a year – is guilty of a criminal offence and could go to prison. Last month the then-Culture secretary Baroness Morgan of Cotes said it was time to think about keeping the fee “relevant” in a “changing media landscape” as she announced a review of the penalties.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He wants to ‘ensure the corporation’s income was not excessively affected’ – The Guardian

More:

  • Axe licence fee and marketing men will rule, warns BBC boss – The Times

Foster urges new Northern Ireland Secretary to limit scope of controversial Troubles probe

“Arlene Foster has urged the new Northern Ireland Secretary to limit the scope of the controversial Troubles probe. The DUP boss will pressure Brandon Lewis to “revisit” the Historical Investigations Unit, which was key to persuading Sinn Fein to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland last month. The HIU must be set up within 100 days of the Stormont Assembly agreement. But it could lead to a fresh witch-hunt against thousands of vets – and that would break the Tory election pledge to protect military veterans from new, spurious claims… On a visit to Belfast in his first full day in the job, Mr Lewis insisted he will continue to stick by the commitments made in The New Decade, New Approach deal.” – The Sun

  • Johnson should prepare for a united Ireland, says Sinn Fein leader – The Times

Victorious Carlaw announces Scottish Conservative policy review

“Jackson Carlaw on Friday promised a “comprehensive review” of the Scottish Conservative party’s policies after winning the emphatic backing of its members to become their new leader. Mr Carlaw, who had been interim leader of the Scottish Tories since the surprise resignation of his predecessor, Ruth Davidson last summer, easily defeated challenger Michelle Ballantyne by 4,917 votes to 1,581.­­ The Tory veteran said his goal was now to supplant a “morally and politically bankrupt” governing Scottish National party as the largest force in the Edinburgh parliament at elections scheduled for May next year. “This is no longer about asking the SNP to concentrate on the day job, this is now about changing the government,” Mr Carlaw said.” – FT

  • Sturgeon savaged as new Scottish Tory leader lashes out at IndyRef2 – Daily Express
  • Scottish Labour urges UK party to learn from fall of ‘tartan wall’ – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Our precious Union is dying through neglect – Emma Duncan, The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Carlaw elected new Leader of the Scottish Conservatives

Thornberry eliminated from the Labour leadership contest

“Emily Thornberry was eliminated from the Labour leadership race last night after narrowly failing to secure enough nominations to make it on to the final ballot paper. The shadow foreign secretary had secured 31 nominations from constituency Labour parties (CLP) at the midnight deadline, two short of the 33 required to go forward to the third round of voting – the ballot among Labour members. Ms Thornberry said it was a “shame” she had not made it through, but praised her “brilliant” campaign team for their efforts. “We had a standing start after the election, and operated on a shoe string, but we gave it everything,” she said. She also paid tribute to loyal Labour supporters in the wake of the heavy election defeat the party suffered in December.” – The Times

  • Hopefuls ramp up campaigns for final round – The Guardian
  • Long-Bailey rejected by the Jewish Labour Movement – Daily Express

#ComeKipWithMe: 2,000 Londoners take up Rory Stewart’s offer

“More than 2,000 people have signed up for a chance to have the former Conservative minister and London mayoral candidate Rory Stewart as a guest in their home, taking him up on his offer to “see things through their eyes”. Stewart launched his #ComeKipWithMe campaign earlier this week, proposing to stay on Londoners’ sofas in order to listen to their concerns about life in the capital. The former Tory leadership candidate, who announced in October he would stand as an independent for mayor in the capital after being kicked out of the parliamentary party for voting to block a no-deal Brexit, likened the scheme to a trip he took across Afghanistan where he stayed with locals.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Policing the courts – Ben Lewis, The Critic
  • The danger is that Boris will govern by half measures – Gerald Warner, Reaction
  • America’s conservatives are turning radical – Mary Harrington, UnHerd
  • Don’t expect the EU to learn any lessons from Brexit – Claire Fox, The Spectator
  • Labour’s original sin – Alan Lockey, CapX

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