Now peers are dragged into the lobbying storm: Cameron’s top aide works for firm

“A top aide to David Cameron is one of several members of the House of Lords who also work for major lobbying firms. Baroness Fall was deputy chief of staff to the former prime minister, now embroiled in a scandal over his contacting ministers on behalf of Greensill Capital, and was given a peerage by him. She is a member of an international relations select committee in the Lords and was last year appointed to the Government’s Cultural Recovery Board that oversees the delivery of a £1.5billion fund to save venues left on the brink by Covid restrictions. But Baroness Fall also has a paid role at Brunswick, one of the country’s biggest lobbying firms.” – Daily Mail

  • Ex-Prime Minister’s ‘insurgents’ under scrutiny amid row over lobbyist influence… – The Guardian
  • …and he advises firm based in ‘worst tax haven’ – The Times
  • Cameron pitched Greensill’s services to German government official – FT
  • He ‘prepares to fight back after his week from hell’ – The Times
  • Just how sleazy is British politics? – FT

>Yesterday: John O’Connell in Comment: Lobbying, and an unacknowledged problem – namely, groups funded by the taxpayer that lobby for even more

Charles Moore: The Greensill affair is about an official culture that neglects self-examination

“The most important piece of information yet unearthed concerns Bill Crothers, the then government chief commercial officer. He also took a position as an adviser to Greensill while doing that job, thus contravening the basic principle of government propriety, classically enunciated by William Gladstone, the greatest 19th-century Liberal prime minister. Mr Gladstone cited Matthew’s Gospel 6:24: “No man can serve two masters.” There is no reason to think Mr Crothers is a wicked man, so the question is: What made him think he could serve two masters? He never brought the issue to Acoba, the supervisory committee, and seems to have wriggled round its rules. Why did he behave thus? The answer surely lies in the culture then prevailing in the Cabinet Office where he worked.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scandal smacks of something we’d see in a banana republic – Ian Birrell, Daily Mail

>Today: Sarah Ingham’s column: Greensill. Not so much “What does Jeremy think?” as “What on earth was Jeremy thinking?”

Johnson leaves wreath with hand-written note for Duke of Edinburgh

“Boris Johnson left a wreath for the Duke of Edinburgh today saying the nation owes ‘more than words can say’. A handwritten message was placed with the PM’s tribute outside St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle. ‘In grateful memory of a man to whom the nation owes more than words can say,’ it reads. ‘Sent on behalf of the nation. From the Prime Minister’. Mr Johnson will watch Prince Philip’s funeral tomorrow from his Chequers country residence, after indicating he will not attend in person to allow more space for family. Other official wreaths had also been left at St George’s Chapel today. One from Nicola Sturgeon read: ‘With deepest sympathy from the First Minister of Scotland and the Scottish Government.'” – Daily Mail

  • The Queen bids farewell to Prince Philip – The Times
  • Dean of Windsor to pay tribute to Duke of Edinburgh’s decades of public service – Daily Telegraph

Hancock accused of conflict of interest over family firm access to NHS contracts

“Matt Hancock was accused of a conflict of interest on Friday after it emerged that as Health Secretary he has a controlling hand in the organisation that awarded his sister’s firm potential access to NHS contracts. The Telegraph can disclose that Mr Hancock is listed as one of two “persons with significant control” over NHS Shared Business Services (SBS), which in 2019 awarded his sister’s company, Topwood Ltd, a place as a potential supplier to NHS Trusts. The details are publicly available on Companies House, which also states that the Health Secretary holds the “right to appoint and remove directors” of SBS. The decision was taken after Mr Hancock became Health Secretary, although SBS stated that “no business has been awarded to the supplier through the framework.”” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Paul Howell MP in Comment: Left behind communities must be the priority as the Government plots a recovery from the Covid pandemic

Tories take 14-point lead over Labour…

“Boris Johnson’s Tories have taken a whopping 14 point lead over Labour amid Britain’s soaraway vaccine rollout success, a bombshell poll reveals today. A new survey puts the Conservatives on a massive 43% of the vote, miles ahead of Sir Keir Starmer’s struggling left-wing party which is down on 29%. It comes in the week England’s lockdown was further eased, with pubs and restaurants reopening thanks to the lightning quick jabbing campaign. The poll shows the Tories have doubled their lead over floundering Labour in the space of just a week to its biggest margin since last Spring. While the Conservatives have added two points to their vote share the left-wing party has shed five, according to the YouGov survey for The Times.” – The Sun

  • Labour accused of refusing to rule out second Scottish independence referendum – Daily Telegraph
  • Opposition will ‘never win again’ if Keir Starmer loses any more red wall seats, warns top MP – The Sun

…as Street ‘goes it alone’ in West Midlands mayoral fight

“Before agreeing to stand for Tory mayor of the West Midlands in 2017, Andy Street set two conditions: that Theresa May would back him to the hilt, and he would have total control over his campaign. Four years later, the former John Lewis boss is seeking re-election under a new Conservative prime minister, who once said “f*** business”, and with whom he has a far frostier relationship. At the time, Street said the comment — made by Boris Johnson in response to Brexit concerns — was “completely inappropriate” and that he was proud to be led by May, whose values were “inclusive and moderate”… Now, as Street prepares to contest one of the closest-run regional elections in England for the second time, his calculation seems to be that he must put some distance between himself and Johnson’s Tory party.” – The Times

  • Senior Conservatives ‘braced to lose 550 council seats on Super Thursday’ – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Stuart Coster in Comment: There is anger from the editors of real local newspapers at the fake versions from the Lib Dems

EU and UK hold ‘productive’ talks on Northern Ireland crisis

“Talks between the EU and UK to ease tensions in Northern Ireland have been described as “productive” and “constructive” with momentum now established to achieve a solution to the crisis, the Brexit minister, David Frost, has said. But the EU used the first face-to-face meeting since lockdown between Lord Frost and the European commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, to warn that the outcome needed to be jointly agreed. There was “no space for unilateral action”, he said, adding the threat of legal action over the UK’s decision last month to delay some of the border checks in Northern Ireland would remain on the table for “as long as necessary”… The two sides have agreed to intensify talks at all levels in the coming weeks, with meetings with business and civic leaders in Northern Ireland in the next fortnight.” – The Guardian

  • Brussels ‘deploying same old negotiating tactics’ – Daily Express

Pro-UK parties could stop an independence majority at Holyrood, claims Lib Dem leader

“Pro-UK parties could yet stop an independence majority at Holyrood because even “hardline” SNP voters are unsure about Nicola Sturgeon’s mid-pandemic push for a new referendum, the Lib Dem leader has claimed. Launching his party’s manifesto, Willie Rennie said the SNP vote was “softer than I’ve ever seen it” in the current campaign and insisted it was “all to play for”. He predicted that momentum could rapidly swing away from the nationalists in the final weeks of the campaign, despite opinion polls currently suggesting a pro-independence majority after May 6 is a near certainty. The Lib Dems have said the next Holyrood term should be focused on recovery from the pandemic rather than a new independence vote.” – Daily Telegraph

  • SNP accused of trying to ‘deceive’ Scots into separation – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: On my radio show, I asked Salmond who he would side with out of Putin or Biden. Can you guess his answer?

News in Brief:

  • The Northern Ireland Protocol is untenable – Henry Hill, The Spectator
  • He was never really ‘Phil the Greek’ – Aris Roussinos, UnHerd
  • Too many Scots don’t want to hear the truth – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • Supporters of market capitalism should welcome the Foxtons pay revolt – Oliver Kamm, CapX
  • Is America really back? – James Snell, The Critic