Published:

Northern rail network fast-tracked as HS2 finally confirmed

“A new high-speed rail network across the north of England could be built five years earlier than planned after Boris Johnson criticised “intolerable” delays to upgrades. The prime minister said that an integrated network called “High Speed North” would be created by combining the proposed new express line across the Pennines with the northern phase of HS2. It is believed that ministers will aim to open the network partially by 2035. The existing forecast is up to 2040. Mr Johnson told the Commons that “condemning the north to get nothing for 20 years” would be intolerable. The pledge came as the prime minister ended almost a year of uncertainty by confirming that the HS2 line would be built in full. An official review led by Doug Oakervee, the former HS2 Ltd chairman, began last summer amid concerns over the cost and schedule of the 330-mile Y-shaped network, which is due to connect London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds.” – The Times

  • Business welcomes bold step forward – The Times
  • PM claims he can cut cost of HS2 by a third – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson sacks HS2 bosses over ‘poor management’ – Daily Mail
  • Line will never be carbon neutral in 120-year lifespan – The Times
  • ‘HS2 has stolen my children’s inheritance’ – The Times
  • Heathrow runway thrown into doubt but roads will be upgraded – The Times
  • UK third fastest growing economy in G7 – The Times
Comment
>Yesterday:

Dangerous criminals out in days, No 10 fears

“A judicial review halted the removal of 25 serious and dangerous offenders at the last minute after claims that they had been denied access to lawyers. The prime minister is planning to accelerate moves to limit the powers of campaign groups and individuals to use the process to challenge ministers. Dominic Cummings, his most senior adviser, said that the Court of Appeal decision was “a perfect symbol of the British state’s dysfunction”, and that there would be “urgent action on the farce that judicial review has become”. Some 50 people described by officials and ministers as foreign criminals who committed serious offences had been expected to be on the chartered flight that left Britain for Kingston at about 7.30am yesterday.”– The Times

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Reshuffle: Remainers back in favour

“Boris Johnson’s Cabinet reshuffle on Thursday will not be “a revolution” Government sources said as ministers prepared for a limited shake-up that will see several Remainers promoted at the expense of Leavers. Remain-supporting Chloe Smith, Oliver Dowden and Lucy Frazer are all tipped to be promoted to the Cabinet at the expense of Brexit supporting ministers like Geoffrey Cox, Andrea Leadsom and Theresa Villiers. Ms Smith is tipped for a wider Minister for the Union role based at the Cabinet Office while Mr Dowden is a straight swap for Baroness Morgan running the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport department.” – Daily Telegraph

Ofcom to be handed expanded role as internet watchdog

“Broadcasting regulator Ofcom is to become Britain’s first internet watchdog, given the role of holding online platforms to account for illegal and harmful content. Nicky Morgan, digital media and culture secretary, will announce the expanded role on Wednesday, according to government officials. The online harms legislation, which is still being drafted, intends to place a legal “duty of care” on companies such as Facebook and YouTube for ensuring their users are not exposed to illegal material. Ofcom will have to decide when and how those companies have breached that “duty of care”, and then choose whether punishment should extend to fines or legal prosecution. The new system aims to force tech giants to act on child exploitation, self-harming and terrorist content on the internet, but critics have pointed out that this could have knock-on effects.” – FT

Tories warned there is no quick fix for ‘Blue Wall’

“The ‘Blue Wall’ seats won by the Conservatives in December’s general election suffered over the past decade from weak economies and the unwillingness of residents to get on their bikes and move elsewhere, according to two new studies. A report from the Resolution Foundation think-tank, released on Wednesday, found the seats won by the Tories across northern England — known as the ‘Red Wall’ before the election — were neither particularly old nor poor, but their town’s economies had been left behind the rest of the country and their inhabitants tended to stay put rather than move to more dynamic areas. The foundation warned that there would be no quick fix for these areas because any help from central government would be offset by the rollout of universal credit reforms, which would hit harder in the ’Blue Wall’ than elsewhere.” – FT

  • ‘Red Wall’ Brits hit by falling wages, bad jobs and sluggish house prices, study finds – The Sun
>Today:

Hunt sceptical about building 40 hospitals

“The government’s plan to build 40 new hospitals was “highly ambitious” and its funding promises needed “a lot more thinking and ambition”, the former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said. Mr Hunt has taken over as chairman of the health select committee after returning to the backbenches rather than accept a demotion from foreign secretary when Mr Johnson defeated him last summer. However, he has generated questions over a possible conflict of interest as some have raised concerns that his job involves scrutinising the impact of decisions he made while health secretary. In an attempt to demonstrate his independence Mr Hunt has given an interview to the Health Service Journal in which he expresses scepticism about several of Mr Johnson’s main pledges.” – The Times

>Yesterday:

Odds on Thornberry victory lengthen

“Recent odds from betting company Ladbrokes have revealed that Ms Thornberry’s popularity has plummeted. The loyal Corbynite is currently at the bottom of the pile as her odds increased to 100/1 to replace Mr Corbyn. Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer will be the frontrunner in the contest after securing the backing of three vital unions: Unison, Usdaw and Community. The bookies have slashed his odds of becoming next Labour leader to just 1/7. Shadow Business Secretary Ms Long Bailey has seen her odds drift to 8/1. While Wigan MP Lisa Nandy has been given a 10/1 shot in the betting.” – Daily Express

  • Corbyn’s pick for deputy, wants a Labour tabloid – The Times

BBC in dire warning over scrapping licence fee

“The BBC has warned the Government that the UK will be “weakened” should it decide to scrap the licence fee, in a shock last ditch plea. In a speech likely to antagonise the Government as it considers whether to turn the corporation into a subscription service, the BBC’s chairman has said the outfit is one of the nation’s greatest assets. Sir David Clementi is set to say that “we need to remind ourselves what exactly is at stake” if the licence fee is scrapped. The timing of the comments will likely raise eyebrows in Downing Street as Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, readies himself to appoint a new Culture Secretary.” – Daily Express

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  • Sanders holds off surge from Buttigieg to win New Hampshire primary – Daily Telegraph
>Yesterday:
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