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Number Ten fears Dominic Cummings bombshell dossier

“Downing Street insiders are increasingly fearful that a devastating “treasure trove” of internal memos and emails from Dominic Cummings will paint the Government in the worst possible light at the height of the Covid crisis. Mr Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, is appearing before a joint committee of MPs investigating Whitehall’s response to the virus crisis next month. Jeremy Hunt, the chairman of one of the committees that will question him, on Saturday night confirmed to The Telegraph that MPs would publish whatever the former Downing Street aide gave them as long as it did not put national security at risk, as long as the MPs on the committee agree. Mr Hunt said: “We will publish whatever he gives us – we would have to check if it passes any tests.” Downing Street insiders have no idea the extent of the material Mr Cummings claims to have and say they are “terrified” about further revelations.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Ex-aide ‘to blame Boris Johnson for Covid death toll’… – Sunday Times
  • …and suggests Britain’s failure to close its borders at start of pandemic was a ‘disaster’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Fears that Downing Street chaos could put off new ethics adviser – Sunday Telegraph
  • Johnson steels himself for final assault from Cummings – Sunday Times

Johnson hit back ‘to end war on his fiancee who’s seen as ‘weak spot’’

“Boris Johnson has staked his political future on halting vicious attacks on fiancée Carrie Symonds. The PM took the high-risk gamble of naming ex-aide Dominic Cummings as the source of embarrassing leaks — many directly aimed at his future bride. Pals believe Mr Cummings targeted her because she is Mr Johnson’s “weakness”. Egged on by Carrie, the PM agreed to confront his former senior adviser head-on, saying that he was the “chatty rat”… Still ahead in the polls and basking in the success of his successful jabs campaign, Mr Johnson was slowly worn down by the drip, drip of leaked texts and emails. It was felt many were aimed at Carrie because she had single-handedly ended the macho culture created by Mr Cummings in No10.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Cummings loyalists claim Prime Minister said of Carrie: ‘I can’t control her, it’s impossible.’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Ex-aide branded an ‘obsessed bully’ over row with PM’s fiancée – Sun on Sunday
  • ‘Sour grapes!’ Britons back Boris – Sunday Express

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  • Downing Street tried to solve ‘Allegra Stratton problem’ by getting her a job as Prince Charles’ spokesman – Mail on Sunday

Starmer renews call for inquiry into government sleaze…

“Keir Starmer has reiterated his calls for a full inquiry into government “sleaze” and the prime minister’s integrity after explosive revelations by the PM’s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings accusing Boris Johnson of cronyism. In a blogpost, Cummings alleged that the prime minister had been mulling “possibly illegal” ways to get Tory party donors to fund a refurbishment of his Downing Street flat, and denied having leaked text conversations between Johnson and James Dyson in which the PM agreed to “fix” Dyson’s tax concerns if his company made ventilators in the UK. Johnson’s former key ally further accused his old boss of seeking to shut down the Whitehall investigation into the identity of the “chatty rat” who leaked plans for England’s second coronavirus lockdown, which is still “live”, sources said on Saturday.” – The Observer

  • Why the decor at No 11 is now so toxic – Sunday Times
  • Johnson faces MPs’ fury over Downing Street sleaze claims – The Observer

>Today: ToryDiary: Meanwhile, with local elections less than a fortnight away, the Conservatives have a nine point poll lead

…as Lister steps aside

“Boris Johnson’s special envoy to the Gulf unexpectedly stood down on Friday, barely two months into the role, after new scrutiny of his private sector interests. Lord Udny-Lister, 71, is the prime minister’s longest-standing aide, having first worked with him more than a decade ago in London’s City Hall. He entered Downing Street as Johnson’s chief strategic adviser in 2019, later serving as his interim chief of staff. His time in government has been marred by stories about alleged conflicts of interest. Most focused on his decision to remain on the payroll of two property developers throughout his time in No 10. As Johnson’s deputy mayor between 2011 and 2016, Sir Edward Lister, as he then was, helped to approve £4 billion of property schemes for developers he went on to work for.” – Sunday Times

  • Cameron faces calls for a probe into his Uber lobbying – Mail on Sunday
  • Johnson campaign aide was on payroll of steel tycoon – Sunday Times

Robert Colvile: No 10 has started a petrol fight with an arsonist

“But for all the personality clashes that precipitated his departure, not least with Carrie Symonds, there was a more fundamental issue. Despite his considerable power, Cummings was not in charge: he might have been Thomas Cromwell, but Henry was still Henry. Paul Goodman of Conservative Home has argued persuasively that Downing Street under Johnson, like London’s City Hall before it, is best analysed as a monarchical court. (Except, of course, that Cromwell got the executioner’s axe, rather than the chance to update his blog.) This in turn has implications for the processes of government. The cabinet secretary, Simon Case, reportedly wants to take the prime minister’s phone away, because pretty much everyone in Westminster has the number. But that would give the courtiers too much power over the king.” – Sunday Times

  • Britain votes for Prime Ministers, not their partners – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday
  • Neither godfather can win this uncivil war – Tim Shipman, Sunday Times
  • We cannot let civil servants use Boris’s texts as an excuse to boost their own power – Dan Hannan, Sunday Telegraph
  • Tories are wrong to think that they will never face a day of reckoning for sleaze – Andrew Rawnsley, The Observer

Wipe non-crime hate allegations, says Patel

“People accused of hate incidents that are not crimes should have the allegation wiped from their record, Priti Patel will tell police chiefs as she launches a review into the policy. The Home Secretary has asked the College of Policing to carry out a review into “non-crime hate incidents” which can blight people’s careers years after they occur, The Telegraph can disclose. Currently, if an individual is reported for committing a hate crime and an investigation by the police finds no crime has been committed, it will remain on their police record as a “hate incident”. This can lead to individuals being disadvantaged in their daily life as the incident can show up on a vetting inquiry such as a DBS check, which discloses a person’s criminal convictions when they are applying for a sensitive job.” – Sunday Telegraph

Britain ‘outwits the EU again’ to secure 100m vaccine doses from French firm

“Britain has again outflanked the EU to secure a huge priority order of vaccines – this time from a French manufacturer, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Brussels chiefs are still furious at AstraZeneca for promising the UK first deliveries of its vaccine supplies and remain engaged in a bitter legal battle with the Anglo-Swedish firm, claiming it has reneged on its deal with the bloc. The dispute appears to have prompted another vaccine maker, France’s Valneva, to make it clear to Eurocrats that its contract will put the UK at the head of the queue for their jabs too. The clash clears the way for the UK to start receiving its 100 million shots of the two-dose vaccine – which is made in West Lothian, Scotland – later this year.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Covid vaccine landmark as more than half UK receives initial jab – The Observer
  • 40m Pfizer jabs bought as Covid booster shots – Sunday Times

>Yesterday: David Gauke’s column: Free trade on vaccines. The EU may have made threats, but it is the US that has actually blocked exports.

Truss interview: ‘With Australia, we have global opportunities’

“Prime Aussie steak in your local restaurant? Jars of Vegemite in the local Sainsbury’s? Possibly. But at least one benefit from the new trade deal with Australia is almost certainly cheaper wine from Down Under. Liz Truss, the trade secretary leading Britain’s post-Brexit charge out into the world, on Friday finished two full days negotiating with Australian Trade minister Dan Tehan on what both sides have declared as “the vast majority of elements of a comprehensive free trade agreement”. The details are secret and need to be formally agreed at the G7 meeting in Cornwall in June but it is likely that it will mean – for example – Australian sparkling wine, which continues to carry a tariff of 20p a bottle from when the UK was in the European Union, will fall in price.” – Sunday Telegraph

Post Office scandal warnings ‘ignored by ministers’

“A string of ministers failed to act even though they were repeatedly warned that the Post Office was wrongly prosecuting its staff, MPs have claimed. Last night there were calls for those who oversaw the government-owned network to be questioned under oath about what they knew — and why more was not done to stop years of injustice. In one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British history, 39 former sub-postmasters — who run branches typically with one or two counters in a corner shop — had their convictions overturned at the Court of Appeal on Friday. Six other convictions were quashed in December. Over the course of 14 years, more than 700 sub-postmasters were prosecuted and convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting after shortfalls were picked up by computers.” – Sunday Times

  •  Dozens of troops put on close surveillance to combat bogus compo claims – Sun on Sunday

>Today: Philip Mitchell in Comment: The army has a social fabric no less than the NHS. And it is under threat.

Labour’s Hartlepool candidate accused of ‘desperate’ approach over St George’s cross posters

“Labour’s candidate in the Hartlepool by-election has been accused of “desperate” tactics to win back “Red Wall” voters by handing out St George’s cross flyers to put in their windows. Posters handed out late last week wished voters “Happy St George’s Day from Dr Paul Williams and the Labour team”. The flyers said: “Display this poster with pride in your window. Please enjoy St George’s Day in a Covid-secure way, helping us all defeat the virus together.” Jake Berry, the chairman of the Northern Research Group of Tory MPs, who was campaigning in the seat, said: “This Metropolitan elite Labour party is insulting the intelligence of Northern voters by thinking that they will support Labour by just putting a St George’s flag on a leaflet. This won’t change the mind of voters about Labour’s patriotism.”” – Sunday Telegraph

Scottish budget black hole hits £40bn as oil revenues tumble

“Scotland’s fiscal deficit has soared to eight times the limit set by the European Union, according to research that could set back the cause of independence. The Institute for Fiscal Studies will report this week that in 2020-21 the gap between public spending and tax revenues has risen to 22-25 per cent of Scotland’s gross domestic product. In cash terms, at more than £40 billion, the gap is nearly three times the level of the Scottish deficit the year before (8.6 per cent) and considerably higher than the UK deficit of 14.5 per cent for the year just ended. News of the scale of the deficit — a peacetime high, in part due to unprecedented Covid-related spending and tumbling North Sea oil revenues — has led to warnings that an independent Scotland would face tough choices between spending cuts and higher taxes to plug the hole.” – Sunday Times

  • Sturgeon warns Johnson: don’t use Trump tactics – The Observer

>Yesterday: