Mercer sacked as Defence Minister

“Tory MP Johnny Mercer says he was “forced” to resign as a defence minister over the treatment of veterans who served in Northern Ireland. No 10 confirmed his exit on Tuesday – ahead of the Overseas Operations Bill returning to the Commons on Wednesday. The new law is designed to protect veterans from unfounded prosecutions. But British soldiers who served in Northern Ireland will be excluded from the bill. Mr Mercer called that a “red line” for him staying in government. In response, Boris Johnson said the government was “committed to doing more over the coming months, including for those who have served in Northern Ireland”. A No 10 spokesperson said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had “accepted” Mr Mercer’s resignation and thanked him for his service as a minister.” – BBC

>Today: Austen Morgan on Comment: The strange story of Adams, the IRA, imprisonment, compensation – and an important decision for Ministers

>Yesterday: MPsETC: “We have abandoned our people.” Mercer is sacked – and accuses Johnson of letting down Northern Ireland veterans.

Downing Street abandons plans for daily TV news briefings

“Boris Johnson has cancelled plans for daily televised White House-style press conferences just weeks after spending £2.6m of taxpayers’ money on a new briefing room in Downing Street. Johnson had pursued the idea since last summer as a way for his spokesperson to speak directly to the nation each day via people’s TV screens. The new room at 9 Downing Street was first trialled last month for one of Johnson’s coronavirus press conferences. Now, however, it will be used only for ad hoc news briefings by the prime minister and other ministers — rather than for a daily event with a single spokesperson.” – Financial Times

  • Being on-camera might have encouraged the person in front of it to stick more religiously to set government lines to take – Mo Hussein, The Times
  • Johnson challenged over Jennifer Arcuri relationship – BBC

“Super League” abandoned after backlash from fans…

“The European Super League collapsed last night after all six English clubs involved announced that they were pulling out following an extraordinary backlash from fans, players, managers and politicians. Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur said that they were ending their association with the project, with the other six clubs involved in the league expected to join them. Ed Woodward, the vice-chairman of Manchester United and one of the main architects of the project, resigned last night.” – The Times

  • Whether it’s football or chips, let’s be upfront about our national interests – Helen Thomas, Financial Times
  • PM refused to allow “closed shop” – The Sun

…Finkelstein: It deserved to fail

“In his book Blink Malcolm Gladwell describes how consumer testing led Coca-Cola to disaster. Consumers appeared to prefer Pepsi, so they created New Coke, which tasted more like it. But it flopped and Coke had to return to its old formula. It turned out that while people preferred Pepsi when given a sip, they didn’t want to drink a whole can of it. This mistake is made all the time in politics. Some of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies tested well, such as free broadband, but people didn’t want to drink a whole can of them. The Super League made the same mistake. Their research told them that people loved Manchester United playing Real Madrid so they should put it on every week. But the one doesn’t follow from the other.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

Other comment

  • Football’s Fiasco -Leader, The Times
  • Greed of the European Super League has been decades in the making – David Goldblatt, The Guardian
  • The European Super League is protectionism at its worst – Mark Littlewood, Daily Telegraph
  • Billionaires will not be allowed to destroy our national sport – Leader, The Sun

>Today: Columnist Emily Carver: So the European Super League has collapsed. But either way, it’s none of the Government’s business.

Coronavirus 1) Just 32 people in hospital after having vaccination

“Just 32 vaccinated people were hospitalised with Covid-19 in recent months, according to “extraordinary” real world data showing the effectiveness of Britain’s jabs programme. The figure represents a tiny fraction of the more than 74,000 people admitted to hospital with the virus during the time period examined in the study. Scientists are preparing to hand findings to the Government’s advisers on Thursday, showing the dramatic impact of first doses on hospitalisations and deaths. It comes after Boris Johnson was questioned at a Downing Street press conference on Tuesday over why the Government does not publish statistics showing the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths among those who have been vaccinated.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Vaccines are working – Financial Times
  • Sturgeon criticised for not accepting the UK’s successful vaccine rollout due to her “blind hostility” towards the Union – Daily Express
  • The Government’s Covid pessimism is misplaced – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Starmer has betrayed a chilling truth about lockdown – Jonathan Sumption, Daily Telegraph
  • It’s time to lift the lockdown completely – Douglas Murray, The Sun
  • Let’s all raise a glass to Rod, the landlord who spoke for millions – Dan Wooton, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Simon Fell on Comment: Urgent lessons from the pandemic about keeping children safe online

Coronavirus 2) Johnson assured Dyson he would not have to pay extra tax for coming to the UK to make ventilators

“Boris Johnson assured Sir James Dyson his employees would not have to pay extra tax if they came to the UK to make ventilators during the pandemic. Sir James, whose firm is now based in Singapore, wrote to the Treasury to ask for no change in tax status for staff. But in text messages sent in March 2020 – seen by the BBC – Sir James then went directly to the PM, with Mr Johnson replying: “I will fix it.” The government said it did everything it could to get the right equipment. And Sir James said it was “absurd to suggest that the urgent correspondence was anything other than seeking compliance with rules” and that his company did not receive “any benefit from the project”. – BBC

  • Government faces legal action over £102m face mask deal – Financial Times
  • Cameron must hand over Greensill texts – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Johnson should not let officials use the Greensill scandal to expand their power

Coronavirus 3) PM pledge to search for new cures continues

“Pills taken at home will stop people getting severe Covid-19, Boris Johnson promised as he warned that the country would have to deal with a third wave of the virus this year…He cited dexamethasone, remdesivir, tocilizumab and “other treatments with names like Aztec divinities” as potential options. Dexamethasone is a steroid already shown to cut the risk of hospital patients dying and is credited with saving 22,000 lives. Tocilizumab is an anti-inflammatory, which has also shown benefit. Remdesivir, the only true antiviral Johnson mentioned, has a mild benefit in severe Covid.” – The Times

  • Mass testing is a ‘waste of time and money’, MPs warned – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 4) “Save our festivals” urge Tory MPs

“Tory MPs have urged the Government to save music festivals this summer, after Boomtown was cancelled for a second year in a row. Mark Harper, Chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, along with the deputy chairman Steve Baker, have led a group of 42 Conservative MPs calling on Boris Johnson to “ensure live music events and festivals can go ahead this summer”. It comes after it was announced that Boomtown, a 70,000 person music festival, has cancelled this summer’s event, which it blamed on a lack of a government-backed insurance scheme.” – Daily Telegraph

Free Market Forum of Conservative MPs launched

“We are delighted to be co-chairing a new group of MPs, the Free Market Forum. Now is the time to refocus the political debate after the disruption of 2020-21 and to once again make the case for a smaller state and individual liberty. It means removing barriers so businesses can compete fairly to offer customers the best products and services. It means eliminating the obstacles that hold segments of the population back from reaching their true potential. It means increased competition and openness to ideas. Our parliamentary supporters will be putting pen to paper and drafting essays on the policy areas that matter to them and their constituents.” Dehenna Davison MP and Greg Smith MP, The Times

Chauvin found guilty of George Floyd’s murder

“Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murder for killing George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes, a crime that prompted waves of protests in support of racial justice in the US and across the world. The jury swiftly and unanimously convicted Chauvin of all the charges he faced – second- and third-degree murder, and manslaughter – after concluding that the white former Minneapolis police officer killed the 46-year-old Black man in May through a criminal assault, by pinning him to the ground so he could not breathe. Huge cheers immediately went up among a crowd of several hundred people outside the heavily fortified courthouse with people chanting “All three counts” and “Whose victory? Our victory!” – The Guardian

  • Murder that drove America to the brink – BBC

Truss to hold showdown talks with Australia over ‘glacially slow’ trade negotiations

“Liz Truss has thrown down the gauntlet to her Australian counterpart over “glacially slow” progress in trade deal talks, as her allies urged Canberra to “show us the colour of their money”. The International Trade Secretary is preparing for showdown negotiations with Dan Tehan, Australia’s trade minister, after he accepted her invitation to meet face-to-face in London this week. Sources in her department told The Telegraph that Australia needs to show “some serious movement on their side” to unblock negotiations on a free trade agreement, which are said to have stalled since Mr Tehan took up the role in December.” – Daily Telegraph

Clark: Green targets would mean only the rich could afford to fly

“Somewhat belatedly, the Government says it will now include aviation and shipping in its official carbon emission figures. That will have a huge impact on the airline industry, as we currently have no commercially proven technology for flying passenger jets without fossil fuel. If airline passengers are forced to pay to offset their emissions, as some experts are suggesting, it will take us back to a time when flying was an option only for the wealthy. It’s all very easy setting targets, but a very different matter actually achieving them. And to set legally binding targets when you have little idea as to how they will be achieved is highly questionable.” – Ross Clark, Daily Mail

Fraser: SNP’s spending pledges lack credibility

“The irony of an SNP government reliant upon Barnett consequentials from UK spending to fund policy pledges, and at the same time committed to an independence referendum which would see that lifeline disappear and Scotland left with a massive black hole in its public finances, will not be lost on many observers…Crucially, and in stark contrast to the SNP’s offer, the Scottish Conservatives’ manifesto comes with a financial supplement, setting out how each and every one of these measures would be funded – an approach specifically welcomed by the IFS.” – Murdo Fraser, The Scotsman

News in brief

  • Mercer’s departure became inevitable – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Is Labour in the doldrums – or terminal decline? – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • Football and the decline of Englishness – Dominic Sandbrook, Unherd
  • Super-hypocrisy of the Super League critics – Peter Baum, Conservative Woman
  • Badenoch hits out at ‘appalling abuse’ following race report – Independent