Budget 1) Chancellor keeps Covid spending but charts course to post-pandemic policy

“The cameras were there to capture the transition of Sunak from the Covid-19 “handout” chancellor — a further £65bn of economic support was set out in the Budget — to the fiscally tough custodian of the nation’s finances, prepared to raises taxes on companies and individuals. They were also there to record Sunak’s attempt to move the political debate on from the pandemic to the terrain on which the Conservatives hope to fight the next election: “levelling up”, a new science-led economy, green investment and sound public finances. “An important moment is upon us,” the chancellor declared.” – FT

  • Cheaper coffee, meals out and holidays as Sunak extends VAT cut – Daily Mail
  • Brits back Rishi Sunak’s Budget with more than half approving – The Sun
  • Fuel duty freeze extends to a decade – Daily Mail
  • Stamp duty holiday extended for UK homebuyers… – FT
  • …and will spark modest rise in house prices – Daily Telegraph
  • Scheme to help local people to buy struggling ‘community assets’ – Daily Mail


  • Many UK self-employed still out in the cold even after Covid help extended – FT
  • Fears of lockdown four as furlough extended again – Daily Mail
  • What does the budget 2021 mean for me? – The Times
  • Contactless payment limit lifted to £100 – FT


  • Trust Honest Rishi to trouser your losses – Quentin Letts, The Times
  • Like a gentleman thief swiping a maiden’s jewels – Henry Deedes, Daily Mail
  • Telling the truth: the radical centrepiece of Sunak’s plan – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph


Budget 2) Sunak’s five-year tax raid after Covid crisis

“Rishi Sunak on Wednesday announced a five-year personal tax raid that will bring in more than £21 billion as the bill for vast Government spending during the Covid pandemic was laid bare. The Chancellor froze thresholds for income tax, inheritance tax, capital gains tax and the pensions lifetime allowance, meaning millions of people will pay more to the Treasury. Mr Sunak said corporation tax would jump from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in April 2023, although most smaller businesses will be spared the rise. Revealing his Budget in the House of Commons, he did not hide from the tax hikes, saying: “I recognise they might not be popular. But they are honest.” It means Britain now has a tax burden higher than at any time since the 1960s, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor goes big and bold in bid to repair UK public finances – FT
  • Additional £70bn in increases and freezes as businesses and families pay for Covid – The Times
  • Sunak defends income tax raid on low and middle earners as ‘the right thing to do’ – Daily Mail
  • Business leaders warn tax rise could undermine investment push – FT
  • Targeted freezes mean we won’t have had it so bad since the 1960s – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Stealth’ raid on income tax thresholds will affect more than 2m people – FT
  • Starmer ‘hammered by the New Statesman’ over his opposition to tax rises – Daily Mail



Budget 3) Freeports get green light to ‘turbocharge’ nationwide recovery

“Eight freeports have been given the go-ahead in an attempt to “turbocharge” Britain’s recovery post-Brexit and post-Covid and provide “an unprecedented economic boost across the United Kingdom”. The chancellor revealed yesterday that from 30 bids submitted from across the country last month, the government has approved freeports pledging to invest in offshore wind, electric vehicles and trade. The freeports include one on the east coast at Felixstowe and Harwich in East Anglia, another on Humberside, and another the Tees. These three are promising a green energy revolution that aims to attract investment for offshore wind construction and the zero-carbon production of hydrogen.” – The Times

  • Sunak chooses Darlington as Treasury’s northern hub – FT
  • £1bn of ‘town deals’ will nearly all go to Tory constituencies – The Guardian
  • Chancellor accused of playing politics over ‘levelling-up’ fund – FT
  • Starmer faces backlash after criticising plan – Daily Express


  • Capital investment measures boost BT – The Times
  • UK’s first infrastructure bank to boost climate goal investment – FT
  • Hoyle slams Budget PR drive – Daily Mail


  • Sunak has deftly played an exceptionally difficult hand – Daily Telegraph
  • The test of his strategy will be future growth – The Times
  • Billions in grants and tax breaks to shore up and revive ­crippled firms – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Are Johnson and Sunak preparing the way for a snap election in 2023?

Robert Shrimsley: Sunak’s Budget hammers home the Tory Covid narrative

“Success in politics often comes down to a talent for storytelling and the one that matters most right now is the story of the pandemic… It is furlough that made Sunak the government’s star player in this crisis. Critics may point out that it was he who wanted to kill the policy last autumn, but the chancellor is a quick study. Where once he cavilled at the cost, now he is taking no chances. This was a Budget to seal the narrative. His fiscal response was unimpeachable. He would be “going long” with an extra £59bn of economic support over the next year. The political power of furlough (and other support) was embraced and extended till September as part of a vast and sustained jobs-support package. But this is only one of Sunak’s stories and each of the others look shakier.” – FT

  • Giving now and taking later strikes the right balance for recovery – Rupert Harrison, The Times
  • ‘Super deduction’ is unlikely to be the most effective use of a £25bn tax break – Nils Pratley, The Guardian
  • Tories have trashed Thatcherism and embraced Europe’s politics of decline – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • There’s too much tax in Sunak’s budget – Iain Martin, The Times
  • ‘God help us if interest rates go up’ – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • The UK’s ‘new Tory’ economics are different but insufficient – Martin Wolf, FT
  • If furlough’s done its job, unemployment may not be that bad – Simon French, The Times
  • It’s right to make the poorest pay some tax – Matthew Lynn, Daily Telegraph

>Today: John Glen MP in Comment: A Budget that struck the right balance between doing whatever it takes now and securing the public finances later

Frost angers EU by delaying Brexit’s Northern Ireland protocol

“Boris Johnson’s new Brexit minister yesterday provoked a new confrontation with the European Union after he set out plans to unilaterally delay implementing parts of the Northern Ireland protocol. In his first act since being appointed Lord Frost told Brussels that the government would extend an exemption for checks on supermarkets sending goods from Britain to Northern Ireland for a further six months. Frost is also expected to announce a similar moratorium on customs declarations on parcels being sent to the province. Both exemptions were agreed with the EU back in December by Frost’s predecessor Michael Gove but were due to expire at the end of this month. The two sides had been involved in talks to agree an extension but these had stalled in recent weeks.” – The Times

  • Johnson sparks fresh row as UK acts unilaterally to protect Ulster – Daily Telegraph
  • Loyalist groups renounce Good Friday agreement – The Guardian
  • Brussels set to sue Britain for breaking EU rules – Daily Express


  • Europeans turn on EU leaders over bungled Covid vaccine rollout… – The Sun
  • …as UK regulator says vaccines tweaked for Covid variants will be fast-tracked safely – The Guardian


  • Johnson has double standards on the IRA – David Aaronovitch, The Times
  • Covid keeps giving cover to bad government – Max Hastings, The Times

Dowden warns UK museums must not allow themselves to be ‘pushed around by the zeitgeist of the day’

“Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden today warned UK museums they cannot allow themselves to be ‘pushed around by the zeitgeist of the day’. Mr Dowden said the ‘principal duty’ of the nation’s cultural institutions is to ‘preserve and conserve our heritage’. He said some institutions feel like they have been ‘bullied, particularly by left-wing campaigns’. His comments are likely to be viewed as a sign that the Government intends to continue its so-called ‘war on woke’. Speaking at the Policy Exchange UK think tank’s History Matters Conference, Mr Dowden said cultural organisations should act as ‘custodians’ of our cultural heritage and not seek to erase certain aspects of it.” – Daily Mail

Johnson risks major row with MPs after China trade deal comments

“Boris Johnson declared “I am a Sinophile” as he opened the door to a new free trade deal with China. In an interview with The Sun, the Prime Minister spoke of his love of the Oriental superpower and said any deal would be difficult  – but did not rule one out. The warm words will stun MPs given relations with Beijing are at a modern low over Hong Kong, human rights and the Covid outbreak. Mr Johnson said loving a country’s history and culture was not the same as supporting its government and he insisted he “disagreed vehemently” with many of Beijing’s actions. But asked if he could see a free trade deal with China during his premiership, the PM replied: “We want to expand UK trade around the world.”” – The Sun

  • China’s Communist party ran campaign to discredit BBC, thinktank finds – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: “With one exception, those promoted in our intake have been women, ethnic minority members, or gay”

Government may start offering financial rewards for becoming healthier

“The government is expanding access to weight loss services and may start offering people financial rewards for maintaining a healthy lifestyle as part of the fight against obesity. The Department of Health and Social Care is giving the NHS and local councils in England £70m to pay for up to 700,000 overweight or obese people to go on weight management courses, such as those provided by Weight Watchers or Slimming World, or work with a personal coach to help them shed unwanted pounds. In addition, it has asked Sir Keith Mills, the creator of the Nectar and air miles reward schemes, to look into whether financial incentives would motivate people to eat better and exercise more.” – The Guardian

Pension funds should not dump fossil fuel shares, says minister

“Pension funds should not dump holdings of fossil fuel companies despite the growing pressure on asset managers to divest “planet-wrecking” stocks, a government minister has said. Guy Opperman, pensions minister, said the funds managing the retirement savings of millions of investors would impede broader efforts to tackle climate change if they offloaded shares in companies with high carbon footprints, such as oil and gas suppliers. “I massively believe that it is perfectly appropriate for trustees to hold stocks in the likes of Shell or BP; I do not want them to divest,” Opperman said in an interview with the Financial Times.” – FT

  • New NS&I ‘green bonds’ will launch in the summer – Daily Mail
  • Britain is second best in the world at cutting carbon emissions – The Times

Starmer attacks ‘unconscionable’ cut in aid to Yemen

“Boris Johnson has been accused of an “unconscionable” decision of cutting aid to war-ravaged Yemen, at a bad-tempered PMQs in which the prime minister accused Keir Starmer of prioritising the Arab country over the UK. The UK has announced it will give Yemen only about £87m in aid this year, down from £164m in 2020. The Labour leader said there was widespread outrage at the decision to cut the aid. “The UN has said that Yemen faces the worst famine the world has seen for decades. And the secretary general said on Monday that cutting aid would be, in his words, a death sentence for the people of Yemen. How on earth can the prime minister justify selling arms to Saudi Arabia and cutting aid for people starving in Yemen?” he said.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Starmer leads on arms sales to Saudi Arabia at PMQs

Sturgeon dismisses Salmond’s conspiracy claims as ‘absurd’

“Nicola Sturgeon has ridiculed Alex Salmond’s “absurd” claims of a conspiracy and condemned his “deeply distressing [and] injurious attack” on party colleagues and Scotland’s institutions. Over a gruelling eight hours of evidence the first minister rebuffed allegations that she misled MSPs, dismissing her predecessor’s claims as “twisted”. She was speaking at the inquiry into her government’s unlawful handling of harassment complaints against Salmond. The feud is threatening to derail the SNP’s march towards a second independence referendum. The party’s poll ratings have dipped, threatening its chances of achieving a majority in the May Scottish election. Sturgeon faces a vote of confidence at Holyrood for misleading MSPs.” – The Times

  • Defiant First Minister rejects claims she misled Scottish parliament – FT
  • She claims ignorance of 30 sexual harassment complaints against five SNP ministers – Daily Mail
  • SNP to release Salmond legal advice – Daily Express
  • Tories vow to try and force resignation for ‘lying’ – Daily Mail


  • Scottish Government obfuscation lets Sturgeon off the hook – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
  • First Minister only succeeded in raising further questions about her conduct – Graham Grant, Daily Mail
  • Sturgeon and Sunak were both playing for Scotland’s future – Martin Kettle, The Guardian


  • The Scottish government emerges with little credit from the Salmond saga – The Times

>Today: Profiles: Galloway, who “is going to vote for Beelzebub, I’m going to vote for a Scottish Tory”

News in Brief:

  • Two cheers and one boo for the Budget – Julian Jessop, CapX
  • Will inflation crush the recovery? – Kate Andrews, The Spectator
  • How the EU humiliated itself – Peter Franklin, UnHerd
  • The battle for Ofcom – Robin Aitken, The Critic