Published:

Northern Ireland power-sharing in doubt after Foster quits

“Northern Ireland’s first minister resigned abruptly yesterday in the face of a revolt by hardliners in the Democratic Unionist Party, throwing power-sharing in the province into doubt. Arlene Foster, the party’s leader since 2015, announced that she would quit after 85 per cent of the DUP’s parliamentarians in the Stormont assembly and Westminster signed a letter of no confidence in her leadership. Her decision was made after months of unease among unionists over the Northern Ireland protocol, which introduced checks on goods travelling between the province’s ports and Britain when the transition phase of Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal with the EU ended on January 1. Foster had vowed to defy her internal opponents as recently as Tuesday, but said in a statement that she would depart as DUP leader on May 28, and as Northern Ireland’s first minister by the end of June.” – The Times

  • Resignation comes after some in DUP sought a leadership contest – FT
  • Party revolt over her handling of Brexit and ban on gay conversion therapy – Daily Mail
  • Who is the ex-leader of the Democratic Unionist Party? – The Sun
  • The likely contenders to replace Foster as DUP leader – The Guardian
  • Departure poses serious questions for the Northern Ireland Protocol – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Foster has been thrown to the wolves by Johnson’s Brexit games – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

Johnson may be forced to hand over emails about Downing Street flat refurbishment

“Boris Johnson could be interviewed by the Electoral Commission and forced to hand over text messages and emails after it launched a formal investigation into payments for the Downing Street flat refurbishment. Conservative Party chiefs and Government advisers could also be ordered to share communications and financial documents to the watchdog, with inspections of the party’s headquarters a possibility. The dramatic escalation in the furore about declaring the payments came on Wednesday when the Electoral Commission released a statement saying “there are reasonable grounds to suspect that an offence or offences may have occurred”. The news dropped around 11am on Wednesday, blinding the Prime Minister – who Number 10 claims was not given prior notice – just an hour before he faced Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Downing St concern at ‘paper trail’ – The Times
  • Electoral Commission opens formal investigation into funding… – Daily Mail
  • …and says Prime Minister ‘may have broken the law’ – The Sun
  • It could be the biggest investigation of Downing St since ‘Cash for Honours’ – Daily Mail
  • Johnson comes out swinging after legal probe – The Sun
  • We can’t expect the Prime Minister to live in a skip, insists Gove’s wife – The Times
  • Main players emerge in UK’s ‘cash for curtains’ saga – FT
  • In depth: The gilded makeover and the battle to pay for it – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson knows it’s best to keep the personal private – The Times

More:

  • Ex-officials criticise limited remit of Johnson’s new standards adviser – The Guardian
  • Chancellor redecorated his Downing Street flat ‘entirely at his own expense’, Treasury reveals – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: “Genuinely haven’t seen complaints”…”Not a single e-mail”…”Nobody is raising it”. Tory MPs on sleaze claims and the local elections.

>Yesterday:

David Howarth: Probe will prove no one is above the law

“The Electoral Commission’s job is to regulate the financial activities of the most powerful people in the country – politicians up to and including the Prime Minister. As I know from my experience as a Commissioner, it is always unpopular in the highest circles, always being accused of bias and threatened with abolition. Its resources and powers are not enough, being restricted by the very people it regulates. But what it does is vital to our democracy. As another investigator of the powerful says, it is interested in one thing and in one thing only, and that is open politics. It might seem extraordinary that the Commission is reaching into Downing Street, but the rule of law means that the highest in the land are not above the law. More than that, the most powerful should be setting the highest example.” – Daily Mail

  • Team Johnson needs some levelling up – Robert Shrimsley, FT
  • He’s chaotic, careless and cavalier, and it has to stop – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Davis: Conservative Party loans and donations to the Party leader should require approval in advance

Williamson wants to turn more state schools into academies

“The education secretary has said he wants to end the “pick and mix” of school types in England, unveiling a push to get more state schools managed by autonomous trusts rather than headteachers and parents. With about half of England’s state schools still locally governed, Gavin Williamson wants more of them to become academies and join multi-academy trusts (Mats) as part of the government’s main policy for school improvement. However, school leaders reiterated their opposition to “forced academisation”, arguing the structural changes are an unnecessary additional distraction given all the other pressures facing schools, particularly funding shortages… Williamson announced a form of temporary Mat membership for maintained schools or standalone academies, allowing a trial “for some of those schools that have nervousness” about joining a trust, and a push by the Church of England and the Catholic education service to corral more of their schools into Mats.” – The Guardian

Raab announces Britain is sending more help to India

“Britain is sending more life-saving equipment to India including three mini Oxygen factories, Dominic Raab announced today. The foreign secretary unveiled the new package of help after the Covid-ravaged country passed the grim toll of 200,000 deaths. It will include three container-sized oxygen factories to help produce life-saving supplies for overwhelmed hospitals. Each plant can produce 500 litres of oxygen per minute, which is enough for 50 people to use at any one time. They will be sent from surplus stocks in Northern Ireland. His remarks come after the first shipment of help from the UK arrived in New Delhi early yesterday morning. It included 495 oxygen concentrators and 200 ventilators sent from surplus stocks freed up now the virus is under control here.” – The Sun

  • Vaccine passports won’t be ready until after foreign trips restart – Daily Mail
  • Cummings set to claim Johnson was fan of discredited herd immunity policy – The Sun

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: Modi, India’s strongman, has weakened his country abroad as well at home – through his terrible Covid mismanagement

Ofcom dismisses Alex Salmond’s complaint over exclusion from BBC debate

“Alex Salmond’s claim to have been unfairly excluded from a live TV debate by the BBC has been dismissed by the media regulator Ofcom. The Alba Party leader made a formal complaint after he was not invited to take part in an election debate and said his party had suffered a wider “virtual blackout” in coverage. However, the regulator said it had investigated and found there had been no breach of its rules. It pointed to Alba’s support in polls, which has generally been low and suggests the party could fail to win a single Holyrood seat. It also said the TV debate from which Mr Salmond said it was “deplorable” for him to have been excluded was held only four days after Alba’s launch. The row with the BBC had echoes of the 2014 referendum campaign, when Mr Salmond had a high-profile dispute with the broadcaster’s then political editor, Nick Robinson.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Voters issued rallying cry as Sturgeon puts nation ‘on brink’ – Daily Express
  • Cultural figures demand EU lays out welcome mat for Scotland – The Guardian

More Union:

  • Welsh leader says Union Jack ‘off-putting’ – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Johnson’s Tories have given up on saving the Union – Philip Stephens, FT

>Yesterday:

MEPs brand Brexit a ‘historic mistake’ as they approve trade deal

“Britain’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU cleared its last political hurdle on Wednesday, after the European Parliament approved it by an overwhelming majority.  MEPs backed the future-relationship deal with 660 votes in favour, five against and 32 abstentions, even as they branded Brexit a “historic mistake”. The vote removes any legal uncertainty around the deal, which has been in provisional effect since the start of this year and which ensures tariff-free trade without quotas for British and EU-made goods.  The 1,449 page trade and co-operation agreement was hammered out by Boris Johnson’s government and the EU last year, culminating in frantic negotiations in December to get a deal over the line before Britain left the EU single market and customs union on January 1.” – FT

  • Britain to formally recognise EU ambassador for first time since leaving – The Times

Editorial:

  • Relations with our continental neighbours need to be reset on a path of diplomatic concord – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Blair is still deluded about devolution – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • The nightmare: Johnson’s battles are just beginning – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • The reinvention of Ed Balls – Alexander Larman, The Critic
  • A ‘British Super League’ would be a fine way to fortify the Union – Henry Hill, CapX