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Johnson fights to move on from leaks row

“Boris Johnson will on Tuesday tell his Cabinet to be “totally focused on the public’s priorities” in an attempt to move on from a series of Downing Street leak controversies. The Prime Minister was on Monday night embroiled in a row over whether he had said he would rather “let the bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a second lockdown. He categorically denied making the remark – allegedly said last autumn after agreeing to a second lockdown – answering “no” when asked whether he had done so. But both the BBC and ITV led their evening news bulletins by citing sources who contradicted the denial.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Claims suggest turmoil in No 10 over economic damage of virus – The Times
  • What really happened on night he was accused of outburst – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson hits back at Cummings to deny ‘bodies pile-up’… – The Sun
  • …but he texted aide to exonerate him over ‘Chatty Rat’ – Daily Mail
  • Top mandarin admits inquiry ‘unlikely to trace chatty rat’ – Daily Express
  • Comments have boosted the SNP, Scottish Tories claim – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Slowing the loss of senior staff is integral to shoring up Johnson’s Government – and enabling it to deliver

Top civil servant to examine Downing Street flat revamp as pressure on Prime Minister grows

“Britain’s most senior civil servant is to conduct a review of how the controversial refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat was paid for after growing political pressure on the prime minister. Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, told MPs that he had not been “involved directly” in plans to set up a trust funded by a Tory donor to pay for the works, but had been asked by the prime minister to examine how the renovations had been funded. He promised that the findings of his inquiry would be released to parliament following claims by Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former adviser, that the Tory leader tried to get party donors to “secretly pay” for the revamp.” – The Times

  • Refurb of Downing St flat paints Johnson into a corner – FT
  • Money trail gets murkier as party says it stumped up £58,000 in July – Daily Mail
  •  £58k refit  is set to be investigated in new review – The Sun

More:

  • Voters not put off by sleaze claims, Tory MPs say – The Guardian
  • Ban ministers from text chats with businessmen, say former civil service heads – Daily Telegraph
  • Greensill worked within UK government without contract – FT
  • Officials ‘surprised and puzzled’ by lack of paperwork – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: “There are constraints as to what I can say”. Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, answers questions on Downing Street leaks.

William Hague: Sleaze returns to haunt the Conservatives

“But the prevalence of digital communication is one of several reasons the government should worry about the latest accusations of impropriety. When Dominic Cummings provides the full version of his onslaught on the prime minister next month, he will presumably be armed with audio recordings, screen grabs, email chains and other partial but revealing evidence. While public opinion might discount the views of someone bitter at being dismissed and famous for driving around County Durham testing his eyesight, he will arrive at a select committee hearing loaded with digital evidence. Someone who might have been a dodgy witness will instead be a well-planned cyberattack in human form.” – The Times

  • How we should reform the way politicians handle business – Gus O’Donnell, FT
  • Redecoration is scandal that could push the Prime Minister out of office – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

Leaks:

  • This ‘chatty rat’ spat is no Watergate moment – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Cummings spat could be a dangerous political trap for Johnson – Katy Balls, The Guardian
  • Falling out with a ‘psychopath’ may prove costly mistake – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Actions speak louder than words… Johnson didn’t let bodies pile high – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Superleague and questions for Number Ten

Johnson says there is a ‘very good chance’ all Covid restrictions could be lifted on June 21

“Boris Johnson has said there is a ‘very good chance’ the UK could see all Covid restrictions lifted on June 21 – but has warned the disease is not ‘totally licked’ yet. The Prime Minister said while lockdowns meant the virus was now ‘under control’, ‘there probably will be another wave of the disease’. But Mr Johnson said that coronavirus jabs would provide ‘pretty robust fortifications’ should there be another spike in infections going forward, as he hailed the UK’s vaccination programme. He was confident that June 21 could see all restrictions on social contact lifted across the UK – meaning mass gatherings, full-capacity concerts and nightclubs would all open up again as planned.” – Daily Mail

  • The return of mass gatherings, nightclubs, conferences and other events – The Times

>Today: Ryan Bourne’s column: A lesson from the pandemic. We place high value on all our lives – including those of the elderly.

260 youngsters a day are starting jobs with Sunak’s ­Kickstart apprenticeship scheme

“A whopping 260 youngsters a day are starting jobs with Rishi Sunak’s covid-fixing Kickstart apprenticeship scheme. As the nation’s shops, gyms, businesses have reopened across the country, 16,500 16 – 25 year olds on Universal Credit have begun new roles in the last six weeks alone through the Treasury and DWP programme, which is designed to help get them back into the workplace. The programme aims to help the tens of thousands who have lost their jobs over the Covid crisis, with under 35s accounting for nearly 80 per cent of those recently unemployed… Nearly 200,000 Kickstart jobs have now been created across the nation to help young Brits get back on the career ladder and gaining key skills.” – The Sun

  • Tories must match the red wall’s radicalism to retain voters’ support – Jake Berry MP, Times Red Box

Patel blasts Burnham for not blocking Rochdale groomers from their old haunts

“Priti Patel has blasted Manchester mayor Andy Burnham for not blocking vile Rochdale groomers from their old haunts while she tries to get them deported. The Home Secretary raged that the Labour mayor had not used all of his powers to stop paedos Adil Khan, 51 and Qari Abdul Rauf, 52 from stepping foot in Rochdale where they committed their horrendous crimes. Both have launched fresh appeals against their deportation – but Ms Patel says Mr Burnham and Greater Manchester Police have failed to use new powers to curb their freedoms while they go through the court process.” – The Sun

>Yesterday: Philip Booth in Comment: Ordinary people have suffered under our hate crime rules. Patel is right to change the system.

Mercer attends murder trial of Troubles veterans

“Two former paratroopers had no legal justification for shooting an unarmed Irish Republican leader in the back in Belfast nearly 50 years ago, their trial heard yesterday. The defendants, referred to as Soldier A and Soldier C to protect their identities, allegedly killed Joe McCann while he lay dying on the ground despite the Official IRA militant saying: “You got me cold, I’ve no weapon.” Soldier A is said to have reported that he heard McCann make the statement after the shooting in April 1972, Laganside court in Belfast heard. McCann was shot in the Markets area as he tried to flee the soldiers and at least one Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Branch officer. “On any view of the facts, the level of force was unreasonable,” the QC for the prosecution, who has been granted anonymity, said.” – The Times

  • He brands the process ‘shameful’ – The Sun

Scottish parties’ spending pledges are unrealistic, says IFS

“All three of the main Scottish political parties have pledged unrealistic levels of public spending in an attempt to win the parliamentary election next month, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. After examining the parties’ manifestos ahead of the May 6 poll, the respected think-tank said that the governing Scottish National party along with the Conservatives and Labour were all offering an expanded welfare state that was “disconnected” from the budgetary realities that will face the next government in Edinburgh. David Phillips, associate Director at the IFS said: “If the hope was that fiscal devolution would improve the financial accountability of Scottish politics, the evidence of this election is that it is a hope that has not yet been fulfilled”.” – FT

  • Trident could be forced overseas or halted if Scotland gains independence – The Guardian
  • Sturgeon insists the SNP ‘doesn’t have a sleaze problem – Daily Telegraph
  • Nationalists to miss majority as hopes for independence fade – Daily Express

Generals call for military rule to halt France ‘disintegrating’

“Twenty retired generals have created a political storm in France with a call for a military takeover if President Macron fails to halt the “disintegration” of the country at the hands of Islamists. The open letter, published in Valeurs Actuelles, a right-wing news magazine, has gained resonance after a Tunisian Islamist stabbed to death a 49-year-old woman who worked at a police station in Rambouillet, in the western Paris commuter belt, on Friday. Macron’s government condemned the appeal, whose first signature was Christian Piquemal, a former head of the Foreign Legion, comparing it to the failed coup by generals against President de Gaulle 60 years ago this month. Piquemal, 80, lost his privileges as a retired officer after he was arrested while taking part in an anti-Islam demonstration in Calais in 2016.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Does anyone doubt Boris’s leaked ‘bodies’ comment? – Alex Massie, The Spectator
  • Khan’s record in London is dismal, so why can’t the Tories capitalise? – Alys Denby, CapX
  • India needs America’s vaccines – Tom Chivers, UnHerd
  • Why is Further Education still neglected? – Aveek Bhattacharya, The Critic