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Budget 1) Some business and personal taxes ‘have to go up’, says Lord Hague

“Some business and personal taxes “have to go up”, Lord Hague, the former Conservative leader and close ally of Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has warned. In a new article for The Telegraph, Lord Hague writes that people who oppose some form of tax rises in the current climate are buying into “dangerous illusions”. The intervention the day before Mr Sunak stands up to deliver his Budget will raise eyebrows, given the fierce debate about tax rises in the party and the pair’s close relationship. Mr Sunak took over Lord Hague’s seat of Richmond, Yorks, when the latter stepped down as a Tory MP in 2015. Both men will appear at the Budget event together on Friday.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Meat prices won’t rise as Johnson rules out green tax hike – The Sun
  • ‘Red wall’ Tory MPs urge Sunak to cut business rates for shops – The Guardian
  • Sunak must use Budget to get back on ‘firm financial footing’, says Javid as he signals support for tax rises – Daily Telegraph
  • The long road to levelling up – FT

>Today: Ryan Bourne’s column: Why is Sunak so taken with tax hikes – when the tax burden is forecast to be its heaviest for 70 years?

Budget 2) Labour indicates it would back gradual rise in corporation tax

“Labour would back a gradual increase in corporation tax across this parliament, the shadow chancellor has indicated after a week of criticism over the party’s assertion that tax rises should be off the table. Writing for the Guardian, Anneliese Dodds says Labour would not back an immediate hike in taxes on company profits in Wednesday’s budget but was open-minded about future increases. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is believed to be preparing to increase corporation tax from 19% to up to 25% by the end of the parliament in 2024. Dodds also said the party would back reforms to tighten corporation tax loopholes. But she accused the chancellor of playing politics with early tax hikes, which he reportedly bragged he would cut later in the parliament as a pre-election sweetener.” – The Guardian

  • Government is losing up to £52 billion a year to fraud – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Richard Holden MP in Comment: The Chancellor shouldn’t try to win a spending arms race with Labour – which we would lose anyway

Budget 3) £400m bonus for gigs, theatres and galleries

“Theatres, museums, galleries and live music venues will get a further £400 million in support to help ensure their survival as lockdown is eased, the chancellor will announce in the budget. Rishi Sunak said he wanted to ensure that the arts could “captivate audiences in the months and years to come” as he disclosed the extra funding. The Covid-Recovery fund, which provides grants to the arts sector and has supported 3,000 organisations in England so far, will be increased from £1.57 billion to £1.87 billion. Museums will receive a further £90 million and local cultural projects will get £18.8 million. The Treasury said the fund had supported 75,000 jobs.” – The Times

  • Brits to receive £1million to rescue pubs and football clubs from closure – The Sun
  • Chancellor to arm City of London for fightback with listings shake-up – FT
  • Sunak to offer ‘help to grow’ training for SME managers – The Guardian
  • Fuel Duty frozen for tenth year in a row – The Sun
  • Johnson says UK economy will prove ‘pessimists’ wrong with surging recovery – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Britain’s music industry, the EU, the UK – and an early entry for Frost’s inbox

William Hague: Time to cast aside the dangerous illusion that tax increases can wait

“If press briefings and speculation are to be believed, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, will announce some such rises in the Budget, and at the same time add to the colossal support he has given to households and businesses since the pandemic began. Rumour has it that he will increase corporation tax, and possibly decline to raise the thresholds of the income tax bands. He has left no doubt that he will still be pumping money into the economy, on top of a record splurge of spending and borrowing that has resulted in the UK running a deficit of more than £300 billion in the current financial year. Already, however, a wide range of MPs from Left and Right have declared that there should be no imminent tax rises at all.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sunak’s Budget will do nothing to address a decade of economic negligence – Anneliese Dodds, The Guardian
  • Will the real Sunak please stand up? – Rachel Sylvester, The Times
  • Broadening welfare in this Budget makes good political sense – Tim Pitt, FT
  • The country craves a ‘Beveridge moment’, but it is beyond our grasp – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph
  • Starmer is right to oppose a Tory corporation tax increase – Alan Johnson, The Guardian

>Yesterday:

Covid-19: 5m doses a week is new goal as Covid vaccine rate to double…

“Vaccination rates will double in a “very big month” for immunisation, the vaccines deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi has promised. He raised the prospect of five million jabs a week as both first and second doses increase, with a large boost in supply expected this month. On Sunday 185,900 first doses were given after two weeks of relatively limited supplies as a result of upgrade work to the Pfizer plant in Belgium and a break in AstraZeneca deliveries. Supplies of both jabs will increase significantly this week; it is understood that roughly twice as many will arrive in Britain as last week. Weekly deliveries in March are expected to exceed five million.” – The Times

  • Fewer than 10 Covid patients over 80 sent to intensive care each day – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson offers to host all European Championship matches in Britain – The Sun

…as hunt is on for new strain

“It was confirmed last night several cases of the Brazil variant were found in the UK… Meanwhile, a nationwide search is under way this morning for a mystery person infected with the Brazilian variant of Coronavirus. They didn’t put down the right information on their forms after flying into the UK, sparking a frantic search for them. Ministers have branded the new variant a “concern” because it may be more resistant to vaccines – though it’s not yet known for sure… Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said today that a massive effort is underway to locate the missing Covid patient and that they need to be found “as soon as possible” so measures can be taken to squash any outbreak.” – The Sun

  • Johnson defends UK border regime amid hunt for Covid patient – FT
  • ‘Efforts to halt new variant won’t slow route out of lockdown’ – Daily Express

More:

  • EU leaders across the bloc are breaking away from Brussels’ vaccination strategy – Daily Express
  • Vaccination passport to unlock Europe for UK tourists – The Times
  • Tory-linked PR firm hired to provide test and trace ‘reputation management’ – The Guardian

>Today: Video: WATCH: Truss discusses ‘Global Britain – navigating the post-Brexit world’

>Yesterday: Anand Menon in Comment: What does Global Britain mean in practice, and when will the Government deliver it?

Cameron rules out ‘Trump-style’ return to politics

“David Cameron has ruled out a return to frontline politics, telling politicians that the prospect of Donald Trump making a comeback in America was enough “to keep us all spinning over”. The former prime minister was responding to a question during an appearance before the joint committee on the national security strategy, when he also criticised decisions taken on security and aid by his successors. Cameron was asked by the Scottish National Party MP Angus MacNeil if, like Trump — who on Sunday hinted that he might run for office again in 2024 — a comeback ever crossed his mind. “No,” he replied. “I am happy doing what I’m doing for Alzheimer’s and dementia and I’ve spent a lot of time on that.”” – The Times

  • He criticises Johnson and May over aid cuts and security oversight – The Guardian

Johnson’s secret fund for Symonds’ No.10 makeover

“Boris Johnson is secretly trying to set up a charity to help pay for a costly makeover of his official flat by his fiancée, it has been claimed. The scheme is based on one used by the White House to raise millions of dollars for interior design, antiques and art. The presidential charity is bankrolled by private donors – and the proposed Downing Street version is expected to be funded largely by wealthy Tory benefactors. It runs the risk of claims of conflict of interest if it is seen as a back-door way of providing a financial benefit to the Prime Minister. Mr Johnson has complained the cost of the refurbishment by Carrie Symonds was ‘totally out of control’, the Daily Mail has been told.” – Daily Mail

  • MPs spent nearly £40,000 of taxpayers’ money on Apple gadgets – Daily Telegraph
  • Fury at ‘No10 psychodrama’ – Daily Mail

Whittingdale: TV licence could be axed when all viewers have fast broadband

“The BBC could be moved away from the TV licence to a subscription model when superfast broadband is rolled out to all homes, the media minister said last night. John Whittingdale said that there would “come a time” in the next few years when a Netflix-style funding system would be possible, but it would require every household to have the technology to watch programmes on demand over the internet, which is not the case now. Whittingdale said that the government’s plans to accelerate the expansion of broadband could allow subscription funding of the BBC to be considered by the time the corporation’s royal charter expires in 2027… Whittingdale is leading negotiations with the BBC about the level at which the licence fee should be set from 2022 to 2027.” – The Times

  • Corporation sparks fury over offensive anti-Semitic debate – Daily Express

Support for Starmer plunges to new low, poll suggests

“Public support for Sir Keir Starmer has fallen to its lowest level since he was elected Labour leader, new polling suggests. A survey released by Deltapoll on Monday found that Sir Keir’s net approval rating has crashed to zero, with Boris Johnson now enjoying a 10 per cent cushion over the opposition leader. While the significant decline in Mr Johnson’s own standing in the middle of the pandemic coincided with a steady level of support for Sir Keir, their fortunes have since reversed as the covid-19 vaccines have rolled out. Between 21-23 January and 24-26 February, Sir Keir’s approval rating has tumbled from 14 per cent, while Mr Johnson’s rating has increased from 1 per cent to 10 per cent. Sir Keir is now 12 per cent down on his approval rating on 23 April, shortly after he saw off the pro-Corbyn MP Rebecca Long-Bailey and moderate rival Lisa Nandy to secure the Labour leadership.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Alleged leakers of Labour antisemitism report should not be named, rules judge – The Guardian

Swinney’s job hangs by thread as legal advice is published

“SNP ministers will today publish key legal advice behind the Scottish government’s disastrous court case against Alex Salmond. The announcement came as John Swinney’s job appeared to be on the brink after the Scottish Greens said they were prepared to back a vote of no confidence in the deputy first minister over his repeated refusal to release the documents. Whether or not the eleventh hour move will be enough to see off the attempt to oust Swinney, who is seen as Nicola Sturgeon’s most trusted cabinet ally, will depend on exactly what ministers are prepared to make public… The Scottish Conservatives proposed the one-line no confidence motion, which will today be put before Holyrood’s managers.” – The Times

  • Johnson brands Sturgeon’s pleas for another referendum ‘completely irrelevant’ – The Sun
  • Scottish Labour leader calls for UK to move closer to single market – The Guardian

Galloway vows to vote Tory to sabotage SNP’s independence ‘neverendum’

“George Galloway announced he would be standing up to Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP by voting Tory in the upcoming Scottish elections. Alliance for Unity founder George Galloway informed listeners of his show, Mother Of All Talk Shows, that he would be voting Conservative in the upcoming Holyrood elections. He called on all voters to do the same to help maintain the unity of Scotland to the United Kingdom. He argued the votes the SNP would receive would improve their argument for another Scottish referendum. To counter this, Mr Galloway insisted voters should lend their votes to SNP opposition parties… Mr Galloway insisted that everyone in the upcoming election should oppose the SNP and their bid to win the election.” – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Dr Dan Boucher in Comment: Labour’s stewardship of the NHS in Wales has been disastrous. Come May, it’s time for a Conservative administration.

Former French president Sarkozy sentenced to jail for corruption

“When the verdict came, it reduced the Paris court to a stunned silence: Nicolas Sarkozy was guilty of corruption and influence peddling, and sentenced to three years in prison, two of them suspended. France’s president from 2007 to 2012 had played an “active role” in forging a “corruption pact” with his lawyer and a senior magistrate to obtain information on a separate investigation into political donations, the leading judge declared, and there was “serious and concurring evidence” of collaboration between the three men to break the law. The conviction and sentence were dramatic, unexpected and historic. Sarkozy, 66, had repeatedly declared his innocence and dismissed the charges as an “insult to my intelligence”.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Are we about to see the start of the ‘Ulsterisation’ of Welsh politics? – Henry Hill, The Spectator
  • We will never defeat the Taliban – Mike Martin, UnHerd
  • We can’t trust the National Trust’s history – David Starkey, The Critic
  • Why the Salmond saga threatens Sturgeon and the separatist cause – Henry Hill, CapX