Union: Gove tells Sturgeon ‘not now’, but not never as Government ‘opens door to future Scottish referendum’…

“Michael Gove told Nicola Sturgeon “not now” in her bid for Scottish independence – but left the door open for a future referendum. After the SNP fell just short of majority in the Scottish Parliament elections, the Cabinet bigwig swerved questions on whether the Government would use the courts to block her vowed attempt to hold another vote on breaking up the UK. But notably he stopped short of outright rejection of another vote in a significant step back – instead he said now was not the time because of Covid. He told ITV Scotland it was “not now” for a second vote. The SNP fell one seat short of an overall majority during the Super Thursday elections, securing 64 seats in Holyrood… But Mr Gove said the Scottish First Minister’s failure to recapture the dizzy heights of 2011… indicated there was not a fervour among the public for another independence poll.” – The Sun

  • First Minister that ‘Indyref2’ is a matter of ‘when, not if’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Sturgeon and Johnson braced for extended stand-off over independence referendum – FT


  • Sarwar makes ‘open and big offer’ to work with SNP – Daily Telegraph


  • Sturgeon’s canny switch would have made Arthur Daley proud – Andrew Neil, Daily Mail
  • Many Scots don’t want independence, but a more cooperative union – Gordon Brown, The Guardian


…as Government lines up billions for Scottish projects in effort to save the UK

“Ministers are preparing to offer help to clear Scotland’s cancer backlog and invest billions of pounds in infrastructure projects as part of a renewed effort to save the Union. Boris Johnson will use a summit with leaders of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish governments to suggest injecting money directly into areas that need attention as the country emerges from the pandemic, even if it means encroaching on devolved responsibilities. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has stepped up demands for a second independence referendum after the Scottish National Party won a fourth successive victory in the Holyrood elections. The UK government plans to adopt a “show, not tell” approach to its spending over the coming months as part of efforts to highlight the positive case for staying in the UK.” – The Times

  • Drakeford demands more powers for Cardiff parliament – FT

Prime Minister ready to confirm the return of indoor socialising and dining from May 17

“Boris Johnson will Monday formally sign off the return of indoor socialising and dining from May 17, with new data expected to be released which underscores the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines. At a Downing Street press conference the Prime Minister will confirm that stage three of his ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown for England will go ahead as planned. That means six people or two households will be able to mix inside, pubs and restaurants can restart indoor dining, and overnight stays will be allowed from next Monday. From that date people will also be allowed to hug each other again, face masks will no longer be needed in secondary school classrooms, and cinemas and theatres can reopen… The Prime Minister said due to the success of the Covid-19 vaccination roll-out “we can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ministers move ahead with reopening after election triumph – FT


  • Seize this historic moment, Boris, and scrap all social distancing rules for good – Mark Harper MP, Daily Telegraph
  • Keeping social distancing beyond June would be ‘morally wrong’ and cripple recovery – Steve Baker MP, The Sun
  • Under Labour, unions would have jumped the vaccine queue, but voters preferred fairness – Dominic Lawson, Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Be ready for a general election in the spring of 2023

Truss accused of major ‘blunder’: error in small print may cost £35bn

“Liz Truss has been accused of making a “catastrophic blunder” that could see UK companies who sign up to the government’s flagship freeport programme lose out on export markets worth up to £35billion a year. Labour’s Shadow Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry said clauses included in rollover trade deals with 23 countries including Canada, Switzerland, Norway and Singapore exclude manufacturers benefiting from freeport tax breaks. She claimed firms taking advantage of new freeport zones at East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe & Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth & South Devon, Solent, Thames and Teesside will now be forced to pay possible high tariffs on exports to these countries.” – Daily Express

Johnson to relax rules on building new homes

“Boris Johnson will use home ownership to cement Tory dominance of the Midlands and north for a generation, pressing ahead with the biggest shake-up of the planning system for more than 70 years. Cabinet ministers believe that the key to many of the Conservative Party’s extraordinary gains in last week’s local elections was the number of people who owned their homes. A planning bill set to be included in tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech is aimed at expanding rates of home ownership across small cities and towns in areas where, only recently, Conservative support was all but non-existent. The reforms, seen as crucial to Johnson’s “levelling-up” agenda, will simplify the planning process, making it more difficult for existing homeowners to block new housing schemes.” – The Times

  • Johnson eyes biggest overhaul of Britain’s planning laws for 70 years – Daily Mail


  • Government ready to recommit to a social care overhaul in the Queen’s Speech – Daily Telegraph
  • Voters will need photo ID for general elections – The Guardian


>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The pragmatic, moderate and successful conservatism of Andy Street

Starmer invents a new title for Rayner in reshuffle kerfuffle

“Sir Keir Starmer last night demoted his shadow chancellor, sacked his chief whip and invented a 24-word job title for his deputy after a chaotic reshuffle that left his authority diminished. A weekend of anger and bafflement in Labour ranks ultimately produced a shadow cabinet that was overwhelmingly similar to its previous incarnation. But despite Starmer’s general failure to make wide-ranging changes there were some significant moves. Anneliese Dodds, Starmer’s shadow chancellor for the past year, has been replaced by Rachel Reeves. Dodds becomes Labour Party chairwoman, replacing Angela Rayner, Starmer’s deputy. The reshuffle had begun with Starmer’s decision on Saturday afternoon to remove Rayner from her previous roles as party chairwoman and campaign co-ordinator.” – The Times

  • Deputy claims victory in chaotic shake-up – Daily Telegraph
  • Shadow Chancellor, Chief Whip and party chairman sacked after local election humiliation – The Sun
  • Reeves named shadow chancellor as Starmer tries to steady Labour – FT
  • Weekend of whispering after election catastrophe – The Times
  • Burnham is bookies’ favourite to replace Sir Keir as leader – The Sun
  • Momentum is growing to oust Starmer – Daily Mail


Labour considering moving party headquarters out of London

“Labour could move its party headquarters out of London after it emerged that its current offices are due to be demolished as part of a redevelopment project. Party insiders have confirmed a relocation outside of the capital was being considered as Sir Keir Starmer’s attempts to win back Labour’s northern heartlands were given renewed impetus by a “disastrous” set of local election results. While no decisions have been made, one source pointed out that Labour already had a large office in Newcastle, which includes a call and communications centre. A move out of London would also ease pressure on the party’s finances, which have come under strain in recent months due to the fall in “short money” following the 2019 election and uncertainty over the future generosity of left-wing trade unions.” – Daily Telegraph

  • More Labour misery in north and Batley and Spen by-election looms – The Times

>Today: Richard Holden MP’s column: Knightmare on Starmer Street. Labour loses control of Durham – held by the party for a century.

Stephen Bush: Starmer’s poor judgment has been exposed

“In painful times, that’s when it’s most important for an opposition leader to remember the Mastercard principle: there’s plenty in political life you can’t control, so it’s important not to mess up the few things you can. Starmer has, thus far, flunked that particular test. The decision to hold the Hartlepool by-election on the same day as the local elections meant that it defined how everything else was covered; while the decision to impose the leadership’s handpicked candidate, the former Stockton MP Paul Williams, surely contributed to the exodus of Labour votes to the independent candidate, Sam Lee, a local businesswoman who embodied everything the Labour candidate was not (a Hartlepool native, not a middle-of-the-road career politician).” – The Times

  • He isn’t the solution to the Labour Party’s crisis, he’s the cause – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph
  • Voters want to hear a plan for the future, not nostalgia for the past – David Blunkett, Daily Mail
  • Labour’s identity crisis, in an era of identity politics – John Curtice, The Times

>Yesterday: Dr Liam Fox MP in Comment: Labour’s choice – adapt or die

Surging Greens pitch to replace Lib Dems as England’s third party

“The co-leader of the Green party has said voters have finally come to accept his party as a credible electoral force as he marked gains from both Labour and the Conservatives in local elections. Jonathan Bartley said the party’s strong performance in areas such as Bristol – where it is now the joint-largest party, forcing the Labour mayor Marvin Rees into a run-off vote – showed it could no longer be dismissed as a wasted vote. “We’re moving from being the biggest small party to being one of the big parties,” he said. “We’ve been polling ahead of the Lib Dems and we’ve seen in this election that there are no no-go areas for the Greens.” He said the Green party was gaining support from Labour voters who felt disillusioned with the “authoritarian Blairism” of Keir Starmer, and winning over Tory voters coming to the party through environmental concerns raised by the likes of David Attenborough.” – The Guardian


News in Brief:

  • Sturgeon awaits the longest tightrope walk of her career – Tom Harris, CapX
  • The SNP has no mandate for a second referendum – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator
  • How the government has gaslit British workers – Gawain Towler, The Critic
  • Publishing is now a left-wing bubble – Douglas Murray, UnHerd