Budget 1) Nurses threaten strike over one per cent NHS pay rise

“Nursing unions have threatened to go on strike after the government offered NHS staff a below-inflation pay increase of 1 per cent. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has set up a £35 million fund to support industrial action. The union, which represents nurses, midwives and nursing students, has 450,000 members. Dame Donna Kinnair, head of the Royal College of Nursing, said that the 1 per cent pay increase was “pitiful” and that she was “bitterly disappointed”. Ministers say the economic damage inflicted by Covid-19 means lavish pay rises are unaffordable, insisting that NHS staff will get a rise denied to other public sector workers. RCN members will have to be balloted before any industrial action is called, although it is understood that the union believes a strike is a realistic possibility given the strain NHS staff have been under during the pandemic.” – The Times

  • Staff need bigger pay rise after Covid heroics, Tory MPs warn – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson faces backlash over ‘pitiful’ NHS pay offer – FT
  • Hancock defends one per cent pay rise – The Sun
  • Public urged to join slow handclap protest – Daily Mail


  • NHS pay backlash threatens to overshadow the PR triumph of Sunak’s Budget – Daily Telegraph
  • Health Service workers could be forced to have Covid vaccine – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. A majority of respondents back Sunak’s Budget. Under one in ten say it was bad.

>Yesterday: Left Watch: A looming battle between the Government and the health unions? Welcome back, old normal.

Budget 2) Ulster looks to its own corporation tax in wake of Budget

“Northern Ireland is setting up a fiscal commission that could lead to businesses there escaping a rise in the rate of corporation tax which would be twice that in the Republic of Ireland. The province won devolved powers to set its own corporation tax rate through the Fresh Start Agreement in 2015. This prompted promises from the main political parties to lower its rate to 12.5 per cent, in line with the Republic. However, those efforts tapered off when the UK reduced its own corporate tax rate to 19 per cent… Northern Ireland business groups, who campaigned heavily for the province to chart a path closer to the Republic’s corporate tax rate, expressed dismay at the increase announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak in Wednesday’s Budget.” – FT

  • ‘Landmark review’ says Brexit Britain must look to new frontiers for growth – The Sun
  • How Sunak made the budget work for Brand Rishi – The Times
  • Budget blow for middle classes as one in four families will lose child benefit – Daily Mail
  • Levelling up Fund bias in favour of Tory seats ‘pretty blatant’ – FT
  • Kwarteng: Town centres will evolve – The Times


  • Sunak’s un-Tory Budget confounds assumptions once again – Camilla Cavendish, FT


Johnson to tout Britain’s vaccine success on India visit

“Boris Johnson is planning a springtime trip to India to tout Britain’s vaccine success and push for progress on deepening trade relations after Brexit. The visit will be the Prime Minister’s first official overseas trip in a year after the Covid-19 pandemic has kept him at home. Mr Johnson had initially planned his Indian tour in January but that was cancelled as the emergence of Covid variants sent the country into lockdown again before Christmas. The visit will happen before the G7 meeting of world leaders in Cornwall in June, with Mr Johnson possibly flying out as early as next month. While specifics of the visit are still being confirmed, Mr Johnson is expected to visit Delhi and possibly Pune, a sprawling city in the west of India.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Covid variants will not hold UK back, insists top scientist – The Times
  • Hancock reveals 40 per cent of Brits now have been vaccinated – The Sun
  • Oxford vaccine team use same tech to revolutionise cancer treatment – The Times


  • Blocking exports harms global fight against virus, says Prime Minister – The Times
  • All who have to go into work now able to get access to rapid-result tests – The Sun
  • Government ‘unlawfully failed to publish’ details of more than 500 Covid-related contracts – Daily Mail

‘Secret plan’ to cut spending on war zone aid by two thirds

“Ministers have secretly drawn up plans to cut Britain’s humanitarian support in global conflict zones by up to two thirds this year, leaked Foreign Office documents reveal. In a highly controversial move, aid spending in Syria would be reduced by 67 per cent. Aid to Libya would be cut by 63 per cent, Somalia by 60 per cent and South Sudan by 59 per cent. The cuts have been made necessary by the government’s decision to reduce aid spending from 0.7 to 0.5 per cent of GDP from April on top of reductions triggered by the fall in the UK’s income as a result of Covid-19. As a result the Foreign Office faces having to reduce its annual aid budget from about £15 billion before the pandemic to £9 billion this year.” – The Times

  • Government is planning to slash hundreds of millions in foreign aid – Daily Mail
  • Hackers obtain sensitive data on UK aid projects overseas – The Guardian

Williamson hints school summer holidays could be shortened ‘permanently’

“Gavin Williamson today hinted that summer holidays could be shortened permanently as part of a move to a five-term year. The Education Secretary said the government is looking at doing things in a ‘different way’ as it scrambles to help children catch up after the coronavirus lockdowns. However, headteachers cautioned against a ‘knee jerk’ introduction of a five-term system, which could potentially mean children having just four weeks off in the summer rather than around six. The suggestion of a much deeper overhaul comes days before pupils are finally due to return to classrooms in England on Monday. There have been warnings that it could take a decade to heal the damage done to the prospects of youngsters – with the most vulnerable suffering the worst.” – Daily Mail

  • Johnson faces testing time as schools prepare to reopen – The Guardian
  • Postcode lottery over classroom return – Daily Mail

Channel ‘armada’ proposal blocked amid fears it would become ‘migrant magnet’

“Plans to deploy a Channel “armada” comprising a 400-capacity ship to support Border Force boats, dinghies and jetskis were blocked by Priti Patel amid fears that it would become a “migrant magnet”. Home Office officials drew up the plan to station the 2,000-tonne rescue ship in the middle of the Channel to take up to 400 migrants picked up from dinghies by Border Force cutters or boats. The 200ft Sentinel ships have been used in the Mediterranean as “safe havens” for migrants after deploying their own on-board rescue crafts and net-like structures that can scoop people out of the sea in rough weather. The scheme’s backers argued that it could be used to persuade France that migrants could be safely picked up at sea and taken back to Calais or Dunkirk if the country abandoned its opposition to accepting returned migrants.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Britain is home to ‘10,000 foreign criminals who could be deported’ – The Times

Downing Street ‘spent £2.6m refurbishing No 9 as media centre’

“Downing Street has spent more than £2.6m on renovations to hold White House-style press briefings – prompting a call for Boris Johnson to “hang his head in shame” given the 1% pay rise recommended for NHS staff. The cost of the refurbishments for televised question and answer sessions with journalists at No 9 Downing Street will add to pressure facing the prime minister over the funding of a separate revamp to his official residence. Labour questioned his priorities for shelling out millions on “vanity projects” while “picking the pockets” of NHS workers. An extensive overhaul within No 9 Downing Street began last year as the government announced plans to hold televised briefings. They will be fronted by Allegra Stratton, a former journalist who has also been head of strategic communications for the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and was credited with carefully crafting his image.” – The Guardian

  • Johnson ‘persuaded Tory chiefs to secretly pay for Carrie Symonds’ £200,000 makeover’ of No 10 flat – Daily Mail

Northern Ireland protocol ‘puts pressure on loyalists from radicals’

“The organisation representing former loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland has warned that they are coming under increasing pressure from “radical elements” within their own ranks to take direct action over the Northern Ireland protocol. David Campbell, a spokesman for the Loyalist Communities Council, said there were fears that more militant members were seeking to reactivate the former terrorist organisations. He added that there were “elements” within the groups which had never been reconciled to power-sharing in Northern Ireland and were using the dispute over Brexit border checks in the Irish Sea to strengthen their hands. “Young people are absolutely incensed by the protocol,” he told The Times.” – The Times

  • Foster accuses EU of inflexibility over Ulster – The Guardian

More EU:

  • UK-EU trade falls sharply as Brexit disruption starts to bite – FT
  • Britain to lead world with freeports Brexit masterplan – Daily Express

More NI:

  • The inside story of the Fleet Street editor and the IRA – Daily Telegraph
  • Guardian apologises to Belfast woman over article written by Greenslade – Daily Mail


  • Frost’s fight with the EU is political thuggery – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • The EU is suffering from a Napoleon complex – Robert Tombs, Daily Telegraph
  • Did Greenslade turn my husband into a target? – Kathryn Johnston, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: The EU has no interest in Northern Ireland’s future prosperity. It just sees it as a mechanism to exert its power.

Scotland: Johnson’s unpopularity in Scotland ‘irrelevant’ to Holyrood election, says Ross…

“Douglas Ross has argued that Boris Johnson’s unpopularity in Scotland is irrelevant in the Holyrood election as the SNP raised the prospect of another independence referendum this year if Nicola Sturgeon gets a majority. The Scottish Tory leader accepted the Prime Minister would “play a role” in the campaign ahead of the planned May 6 ballot but insisted the party he leads is “distinct” from the UK Conservatives. Pressed whether Mr Johnson was a “help of hindrance” to him, with the Prime Minister having low approval ratings in Scotland, Mr Ross did not directly answer the question but noted that “he is not standing for election to Holyrood – I am.” The SNP is expected to argue that Scots need to choose at the ballot box between being ruled by Mr Johnson or having another vote on separating from the UK, with Ms Sturgeon at the helm.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Deal leaves UK fishermen with less quota than before Brexit – Daily Express

…and he accuses SNP of ‘cover up’ as it emerges no minutes were made for two meetings

“First Minister Nicola Sturgeon last night faced growing calls to resign after it emerged no minutes were made for two crucial meetings the Scottish Government held with its lawyers to discuss the legal challenge brought by Alex Salmond over the handling of harassment allegations against him. MSPs on the Holyrood committee set up to investigate the Government’s botched handling of the case against the former First Minister had asked to see the record of conversations held on November 2 and November 13, 2018. Both SNP leader Ms Sturgeon and Scotland’s most senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, were at that later meeting, the Scottish Conservatives have claimed.” – Daily Mail

  • Nationalists accused of spending thousands on Salmond court fight after lawyer’s defeat warning – Daily Telegraph
  • Scotland’s leader fights for her political future – FT
  • Three SNP members are ridiculed for ‘copy and pasting’ identical tributes – Daily Mail
  • Billboards appear in Scotland’s largest cities urging Sturgeon to resign – Daily Telegraph
  • Independence ‘polls drop’ ahead of election – Daily Express


  • The nasty, ignorant SNP has been unmasked – Douglas Murray, Daily Telegraph

Liverpool mayoral race in chaos as Rothery sues Labour

“A councillor is suing the Labour party after she was removed from the shortlist to become the party’s mayoral candidate in Liverpool, along with two other female councillors. The legal action – brought by Anna Rothery, who holds the ceremonial position of lord mayor of Liverpool – is the latest messy chapter in what one local MP described as the “shitshow” surrounding Labour’s handling of one of its most loyal cities, which has not elected a Tory MP since the 1970s. The party in Liverpool has been in turmoil since December, when Joe Anderson, Labour’s incumbent mayor, was arrested as part of a police investigation into corrupt property deals. He denies all wrongdoing but stepped down, prompting a rush to find a successor to contest May’s elections.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Drakeford’s unworkable and unworthy vision for the Union – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • Why is the SNP afraid of issuing its own government bonds? – John Ferry, The Spectator
  • The New Keynesian inflation experiment – Tim Congdon, The Critic
  • Why shrinking the Army would be a huge strategic blunder – Freddie Fitzjames, CapX