Reshuffle Rumours 1) Is Smith for the chop?

“The Northern Ireland secretary Julian Smith was fighting for his future last night as he looked poised to be one of the biggest casualties of Boris Johnson’s cabinet reshuffle. He had been considered safe after securing a power-sharing deal at Stormont. However, Mr Johnson was said to have felt “blindsided” by the deal, which includes an investigation into alleged crimes by British soldiers in the Troubles. “There is concern about the way he’s been operating,” a senior government source said. The Times understands that the cabinet was fully briefed on the deal before it was agreed, including on aspects concerning historic investigations.” – The Times

  • Wallace ‘fights for survival’ amid concern over a PM ‘in thrall to Cummings’ – Daily Telegraph


  • Troubles veteran accuses ministers of backtracking on legal protection – The Times
  • Powerful band of Tory MPs has vowed to ‘stop the witch-hunt’ – Daily Express


  • Johnson must ensure ex-RUC officers are protected – The Sun

Reshuffle Rumours 2) Trevelyan amongst women tipped for promotion

“Mr Johnson’s allies said he will not change his top team: Sajid Javid, chancellor, Dominic Raab, foreign secretary, and Priti Patel, home secretary, are all predicted to remain in their jobs. Instead Mr Johnson will focus on bringing into the lower and middle reaches of his government talented MPs – particularly women – whom he hopes will be in the cabinet by the time of the next election. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, armed forces minister, Suella Braverman, a leading Brexiter and former minister, and backbench MP Gillian Keegan, who started work in a Liverpool car factory at the age of 16 and went on to forge a successful business career, are among those set to be promoted.” – FT

  • Could she replace her current boss at Defence? – Daily Mail


  • Sharma and Dowden also expected to receive bigger jobs – Daily Express
  • Prime Minister ‘rejects revolution’ in favour of modest cabinet reshuffle – The Guardian


  • I’ve been on the inside of enough reshuffles to know this one won’t be easy – Paul Harrison, The Guardian


Johnson brands UK-US extradition treaty ‘unbalanced’…

“Boris Johnson was forced to admit today that Britain’s extradition treaty with the US was “imbalanced” as Jeremy Corbyn pressed him on the case of Harry Dunn. The Labour leader also questioned whether the prime minister, who was born in New York and was previously a dual UK-US citizen, could be deported to America because he had “dabbled in Class A drugs” and “conspired” to beat up a journalist. Mr Corbyn landed a series of blows on Mr Johnson on one of their last exchanges across the dispatch box at prime minister’s questions as he linked the row over deportations to the Caribbean to the Dunn case… Mr Johnson has let it be known he is “furious” at the delay but campaigners say that some of the criminals have been in Britain since childhood and served short sentences for relatively minor offences.” – The Times

  • Fresh American warnings about Huawei ‘back door’ – The Sun


…issues warning to Sturgeon over climate summit…

“The government has warned that staging the COP 26 climate summit must represent “value for taxpayers’ money”, amid friction with the Scottish government over the policing costs of holding the event in Glasgow. It emerged on Wednesday that government officials have been scoping out the ExCeL Centre in London’s Docklands for the high-profile international summit, which the UK is due to host in November. The Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, responded by accusing Boris Johnson of “playing politics with the biggest issue of our time”, with the build-up to the conference already hampered by the sacking of the former Tory minister Claire O’Neill as its chair.” – The Guardian

  • Government ‘opens talks’ to move COP26 to London amidst mounting row – FT


  • Scotland to hold drug summit a day before UK’s at same venue – The Guardian

…and reportedly plans to ‘water down’ curbs on tech giants

“The prime minister is preparing to soften plans for sanctions on social media companies amid concerns about a backlash from tech giants. Yesterday ministers shelved a decision on whether social media companies should face fines, criminal prosecution or be blocked from operating in the UK for failing to protect users. Instead they published an interim response to a consultation and said that a final decision would not be taken until later in the year. They said they were “minded” to appoint Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, to oversee social media companies. “There is a very pro-tech lobby in No 10,” a well-placed source said. “They got spooked by some of the coverage around online harms and raised concerns about the reaction of the technology companies. There is a real nervousness about it.”” – The Times

  • Patel promises Ofcom ‘will have teeth’ to enforce duty of care – Daily Telegraph
  • Regulator to take big-picture approach to policing internet – FT

Priti Patel: I will not accept a wild west internet

“The era of self-regulation of the internet is coming to an end. Social media companies, tech firms and businesses who operate online have a responsibility – a duty of care – to ensure that users, specifically the most vulnerable, are protected on their platforms. Time and again they have been given the chance to do all they can to safeguard users. In some cases, they have failed. In other cases they implement end-to-end encryption that precludes access to content in all circumstances. This places the tools necessary to protect their users beyond their own reach so that, rather than protecting the vulnerable, they create havens for criminals and predators.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Social media bosses must be held criminally responsible – The Sun

Prime Minister faces questions over holiday ‘donor’

“Boris Johnson faced serious questions last night over who paid for his New Year holiday in the Caribbean. The Prime Minister declared that his week-long stay in a villa on Mustique with his partner Carrie Symonds was a £15,000 gift from a wealthy businessman. On the latest Commons register of interests, published yesterday, he listed the island trip as a ‘benefit in kind’ with the name of the donor put as ‘Mr David Ross’… But last night Mr Ross – a Tory donor who co-founded the Carphone Warehouse chain – insisted he was not the owner of the villa and had not paid for Mr Johnson’s stay. Labour asked the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to launch an investigation to find out who was behind the donation.” – Daily Mail

Attorney General calls for British Bill of Rights

“Boris Johnson’s chief law officer has called for a British Bill of Rights to challenge the “unloved” European convention blamed for preventing the deportation of foreign criminals and terrorists. Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, said there needed to be a major public consultation on a British bill of rights because Britons did not feel “ownership” or “affection” towards the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR has been criticised for hampering the extradition of some of Britain’s most dangerous terrorists, such as al-Qaeda mastermind Abu Qatada, and criminals on the grounds of rights to life, liberty, privacy and family life.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He ‘backs calls to curb judges’ powers’ – FT


  • Ministers scramble as ‘more than 160 terrorists’ released early – Daily Express

Shapps says Northern portion of HS2 will be built ‘in full’

“The northern section of HS2 will be built in full, the transport secretary told sceptical political and business leaders at a private meeting on Wednesday, as the government prepared to outline a wider rail strategy for the region. Grant Shapps gave the assurance on a visit to Manchester. He explained the review of the northern part of the high-speed rail scheme announced by Boris Johnson on Tuesday as part of the approval of project was to ensure it was integrated with other rail lines and built as cheaply as possible.  One official added the transport secretary had “banned the word review because that implies [HS2] could be cancelled and it will not be”. The government is under pressure to cut the cost of the project after its price tag ballooned from £56bn to £106bn in a decade.” – FT

  • Johnson says Britain should have ‘courage to dream’ – The Sun


  • Funds for cycling and walking much higher than claimed in ‘car-crash announcement’ – The Guardian

Government could cut funding from thousands of ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses, hints Williamson

“Five thousand vocational courses could be axed as part of a Government crackdown on “Mickey Mouse” qualifications. Daft classes which get little or no take-up, including putting on a saddle and Thai massage, face being stripped of funding. The Government said 12,000 courses were available to over-16s, but 5,000 had fewer than 100 enrolled, with none at all in some… The Government last year ordered a review of vocational qualifications at level three and below. Unveiling its findings, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said kids were confused by so many courses, with many on the same subject. He said: “Removing funding for qualifications that  have no or low numbers of enrolments will help make sure students have a clearer choice.”” – The Sun

>Yesterday: Julian Brazier in Comment: Universities in the bottom half of the sector would howl. But here are the reforms we should make to the system.

Hunt writes to Hancock over dangers posed to women and babies in childbirth

“Jeremy Hunt has said he is “shocked and alarmed” by dangers currently posed to women and babies in childbirth, as a result of NHS failings, revealed in a leaked report. The former Health Secretary said he fears women are being put in danger by “an insidious blame culture” in the health service, and the failure of the authorities to act on immediate risks. Mr Hunt, now chairman of the Health Select Committee, is calling for action to protect patients, before an investigation into more than 1,000 cases of baby deaths, brain damage and harm reports. He has written to his successor, Matt Hancock, such is his concern, after being sent a leaked copy of an interim report on the scandal at Shrewsbury and Telford NHS trust.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Insidious blame culture in the NHS must be tackled – Jeremy Hunt MP, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Hunt is partly judging his own legacy. But the Government can still expect him to provide rigorous challenge.

Bradley says white working-class boys are a ‘taboo subject’

“The plight of white working class boys is a ‘taboo subject’ in Westminster, where their poor school results are ignored, says Tory MP Ben Bradley. Mr Bradley today told the Commons that modern society is ignoring the plight of white males from disadvantaged backgrounds. He questioned why there is not the same outcry about academic under-performance in those communities in the way the Mansfield MP says there would be for others… Citing Boris Johnson’s crushing of Labour’s traditional support base in the north and midlands at the general election, he said that now the Tories have broken the ‘Red Wall’, they must also defeat prejudices that have sent white working class boys to the bottom of the pile.” – Daily Mail


  • The Tories can’t help ‘blue wall’ voters unless they understand them – Torsten Bell, The Guardian

Major warns that rushed EU trade deal will be ‘flimsy’

“Former UK prime minister John Major has broken months of silence on Brexit to criticise the course taken by Boris Johnson’s government and warn that any trade deal negotiated with the EU, ahead of Number 10’s artificial end-of-the-year deadline, would inevitably be “flimsy”. “I think we will get a deal but I do think it will be a flimsy deal,” Sir John told the European Financial Forum, a Dublin conference co-hosted by the Financial Times. To have “restricted the timeframe” for talks was wholly unnecessary, he added, pointing to the seven years it had taken Canada to strike its EU deal, a framework the UK wants to use as the basic template for a more ambitious deal within 11 months.” – FT

Long-Bailey vows to expel ‘transphobic’ Labour members…

“Rebecca Long Bailey has angered feminists by calling on the Labour Party to expel members who express “transphobic” views. Ms Long Bailey, one of the frontrunners in the Labour leadership contest, endorsed a 12-point plan by a campaign group that also called on the party to “organise and fight” against feminist and LGBT organisations that they claimed were transphobic. The Labour Campaign for Trans Rights called for the party to acknowledge that “there is no material conflict” between trans rights and women’s rights. The groups singled out by the organisation denied claims that they were transphobic, describing the allegations as “scurrilous” and “defamatory”. Woman’s Place UK, which describes itself as a campaign “against all forms of discrimination”, said that it “absolutely refuted” claims of transphobia.” – The Times

  • Former MP blasts deputy leader hopefuls for ‘doing nothing’ on antisemitism… – The Sun
  • …as Thornberry brands Long-Bailey weak on the subject too – Daily Mail


  • Candidate pours petrol on flames of the trans debate – James Kirkup, The Times

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft in Comment: Labour are in a pickle, but the Tories must keep their heads down. Lessons from my new polling report.

…as Nandy hits out at left-wing manifesto

“Lisa Nandy hit out at the current Labour leadership team telling BBC Newsnight voters saw right through big-spending election promises. Labour leadership candidate Lisa Nandy said last night the party hasn’t learnt its lessons from the last general election and made promises to the public they simply couldn’t keep. The last general election saw Jeremy Corbyn suffer a huge defeat losing a number of seats to the Conservatives. Labour leadership hopeful Lisa Nandy tore into her own party, pulling apart Labour key election policies including nationalisation of public services and slashing tuition fees.” – Daily Express

  • Opposition faces a battle to retake its southern territory too – Sebastian Payne, FT
  • Labour’s councils are hurting the party, whether by neglect or greed – Owen Hatherley, The Guardian

>Today: Max Young in Local Government: Labour’s London Assembly candidates stress their Corbynista credentials

Westminster refit could be scaled back

“MPs’ grandiose plans for a £5.6billion overhaul of Parliament could be scaled back after the public spending watchdog launched an inquiry into the cost over-runs on the overhaul of the nineteenth century tower which houses Big Ben. Concerns were raised about refurbishment of Parliament – which is due to be emptied in 2025 for a complete overhaul – by the escalating costs of the work on the Elizabeth Tower. The findings could provide political cover for a radical rethink of the plans which are increasingly unnerving ministers. New Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle and Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg are sceptical about the scale of the refit which will see MPs move out of Parliament for years.” – Daily Telegraph

  • ‘Litany of blunders’ sees costs spiral for Elizabeth Tower overhaul – The Times

>Yesterday: Robert Halfon MP’s column: Beware, fellow MPs. Once we’ve left the Palace of Westminster, we may never return.

Varadkar ‘concedes defeat’ to Sinn Fein

“Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has conceded defeat following last week’s general election and called on Sinn Fein to step up and try to form a government. While coalition talks are still underway, the Taoiseach admitted Wednesday that ‘at the end of the process, I will [likely] be leader of the opposition.’ Speaking outside Dublin Castle, he said Sinn Fein had earned the right to lead the next parliament after winning the most first-preference votes at last week’s ballot. But he warned that they made ‘a lot of promises to a lot of people’ during the campaign, and now had to deliver. The Republican party, shunned in the past over its links to the IRA, missed out on becoming Ireland’s largest party by just one seat once back-up preferences were taken into account.” – Daily Mail

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: Sinn Fein say they want to reassure Unionists. Good luck with that.

News in Brief:

  • HS2 tests the limits of Johnson’s illusionist act – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Platitudinous ‘Ten Pledges’ define Starmer’s lack of boldness – Joseph Rachman, Reaction
  • The death of the centre in European politics – Fredrik Erixon, The Spectator
  • How capitalism can save the planet – Julian Jessop, 1828
  • Why Incels are the losers in the age of Tinder – James Bloodworth, UnHerd

And finally… sign up at #ComeKipWithMe for Stewart to spend the night with you

“The last thing most people want first thing in the morning is to be confronted by a stranger while still in their pyjamas. The London mayoral hopeful Rory Stewart, however, is banking on this approach to be a vote-winner. Londoners can invite the former Conservative MP to stay as part of his unorthodox campaign to unseat Sadiq Khan, the Labour incumbent, on May 7. Lorraine Tabone, 50, became one of the first participants of his #ComeKipWithMe scheme and said that he was a “perfect gentleman”. The charity worker from Canning Town, east London, invited Mr Stewart to stay the night last week. She said that he came to learn about homelessness, knife crime and prostitution in the borough of Newham.” – The Times