Local Elections: Red Wall blues ‘to deepen in former Labour heartlands’…

“Labour is on course to lose dozens of seats in Red Wall councils to the Conservatives next week, according to a poll in the party’s former heartlands. The Tories are likely to win majorities in key marginals including Dudley, Northumberland and Derby and increase their number of seats in Red Wall areas by a third, a YouGov survey for The Times has found. The Conservatives are also likely to be the largest party in Bolton. Labour may lose control of Bury, Hyndburn and Lincoln, with its majorities in Sheffield, Warrington and Wolverhampton also under threat. The survey suggests that Labour is set to lose between 35 and 88 councillors across its former northern heartlands, while the Tories are expected to make between 69 and 122 gains.” – The Times

  • Starmer is going backwards in the polls – The Sun
  • Scottish Labour candidate seeks Tory help to continue her career – Daily Telegraph
  • Khan bucks national trend as Labour set to dominate in London – FT

>Yesterday: Emily Barley in Local Government: For voters in Rotherham, the “take back control” message means control of their own lives

…but Street warns election is on a knife edge as he accuses Labour of dirty tricks

“Tory West Midlands mayor Andy Street today warned Boris Johnson’s historic Red Wall breakthrough is on the line in crucial elections next week. Mr Street said the battle for the key job will be the litmus test of whether the dramatic shift in the political landscape that delivered the PM’s majority is permanent. In an interview with MailOnline, he voiced fears that Tories are assuming he will ‘win easily’ – when actually the contest is ‘very, very close’. The former businessman criticised Labour opponent Liam Byrne for running attack ads in the campaign, saying he hoped they would merely underline that he is facing a ‘career politician’. In an optimistic assessment, Mr Street – who was the boss at John Lewis before entering politics – also dismissed the idea that the row over the premier’s lavish flat refurbishment and lobbying revelations were having a significant impact with voters.” – Daily Mail

  • Mayor’s success shows how quickly the shift in British politics has occurred – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The first North Koreans to stand as Conservative candidates help vindicate our democracy

Matthew Parris: Voters will tire of living in a one-party state

“Boris Johnson is in trouble again: but (I suspect) rather as Huckleberry Finn was forever in trouble again. Having railed against this squalid imposter for half a decade I’ve found myself muttering, as Dylan Thomas muttered when walking out of a dinner party: “Somebody’s boring me; I think it’s me.” So when it comes to wallpapergate, or whatever, I’m in the back row with my box of popcorn, watching quietly. He’ll survive and the Tories will ride the surf for a while. Labour will continue to struggle. The Liberal Democrats will continue not to matter, and the Greens will carry on failing to break through. Scotland will teeter just short of becoming a one-party state.” – The Times

  • Westminster redecorating could tarnish the Prime Minister’s carefree image – Camilla Cavendish, FT
  • The charge sheet that should have felled Johnson years ago – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian
  • Why he will always get away with it – Janice Turner, The Times

Body with power to suspend MPs could investigate Prime Minister’s flat refurb

“Boris Johnson’s refurbishment of his Downing Street residence could be investigated by parliament’s sleaze watchdog, a move that would mean the prime minister could be personally sanctioned if found to have breached conduct rules. The Guardian understands an extensive complaint has been submitted to the parliamentary commissioner for standards, Kathryn Stone, with powers that can lead to suspensions of MPs or even byelections if serious breaches have occurred. The complaint, submitted by the Labour MP Margaret Hodge and seen by the Guardian, says parliament’s watchdog must probe the initial funding of the renovations, which cost tens of thousands of pounds, and investigate the possible involvement of three Tory peers. An investigation by the standards commissioner would mean Johnson fighting a battle on multiple fronts over the payments for the redecoration of his No 11 Downing Street flat.” – The Guardian

  • Behind closed doors, farrago has Johnson panicked – The Times
  • Tories fear senior party officials will ‘take bullet’ over Downing Street flat makeover – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson’s aides are warned they face jail if they delete texts or emails about renovation – The Sun
  • Double life of ally raises awkward conflict of interest questions – FT
  • Cummings has nothing to lose, and knows where the bodies are buried – Daily Telegraph


>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Only one of the two Conservative Chairmen may be in trouble over donations. And it isn’t Amanda Milling.

Johnson seeks tougher treason laws to punish returning Islamic State jihadists

“Boris Johnson is planning to overhaul Britain’s 650-year-old treason laws to make it easier to prosecute jihadists returning from Syria and Iraq. Ministers will consult on proposals to use treason laws for the first time since 1946 as part of a national security bill to be included in the Queen’s Speech on May 11. Among them are plans to redefine what counts as an “enemy”, including widening “acts of betrayal” to cover membership or support of non-state actors who seek to harm the UK, such as terrorist groups or hackers. There is also a proposal to reverse the burden of proof needed to prosecute a British citizen who has travelled overseas to join a terrorist group such as Islamic State. Individuals would have to have a legitimate reason to justify their trip to a legally designated “hotspot” to which travel is banned or face prosecution under treason laws.” – The Times

  • Government nearly halfway to reaching goal of 20,000 more police officers on Britain’s streets – The Sun
  • Rudd backs push to scrap records of hate incidents – The Times

Prime Minister forced to change phone number after pranksters tweeted it

“Boris Johnson was last night forced to ditch his phone number after pranksters tweeted it — triggering an avalanche of abusive texts and attempted calls. The number could be found on the bottom of an old press release dating back to when he was MP for Henley in 2006. It had been sitting online for more than 15 years, before being highlighted by showbiz troublemakers Popbitch on Thursday. The number is now switched off and sources confirmed Mr Johnson had changed it after a torrent of abusive texts and attempts to call. Former national security adviser Lord Ricketts said hundreds, if not thousands, of people could have had access to it. He added it could not be ruled out that hostile states or criminal gangs may have had access to it as well.” – The Sun

  • Former UK national security adviser warns over Johnson’s mobile number – FT

Overseas holidays get green light from May 17

“The ban on overseas holidays will end on May 17, the Government is set to announce next week, in the first step to reviving foreign travel. It will no longer be illegal to go abroad from that date, meaning summer holidays overseas will be allowed, with a traffic light system for countries to be introduced. Initially only a “tiny handful” of countries are expected to be on the “green list”, however, and everyone – even those who have been vaccinated – will have to take a PCR Covid test after returning to Britain. Most European countries are expected to be on the “amber list”, which will require tests and quarantine on return. A senior government source told The Telegraph that ministers believe they can “keep tight controls in place at the border while taking a significant step forward on international travel”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK well on road to recovery, says vaccine boss as cases drop 40 per cent in a week – The Times
  • Lord Speaker calls for Covid public inquiry ‘as soon as possible’ – The Guardian

Union 1) Johnson ‘prepared to take SNP to Supreme Court’ to stop second independence referendum

“Boris Johnson is prepared to take the SNP to the Supreme Court to stop the party unilaterally holding a second Scottish independence referendum should it win next week’s Holyrood elections. The Government has legal advice dating back to 2011 that argues the Scottish Parliament cannot hold a binding independence referendum without the UK Parliament’s approval. Government advisers are gearing up to deploy a “not now” argument to any request for a referendum, pointing to the Covid-19 pandemic that the country is still facing. But they believe that position can hold for years, given the point of total recovery – on everything from the economy to court backlogs and education – is impossible to predict. Mr Johnson’s Government is getting ready not just to reject a request for permission to hold “indyref2” but also to enter a court battle should the SNP then attempt to hold a unilateral vote.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scotland would ‘totally’ sign up to the Euro as a condition of joining the EU, says SNP chief – Daily Mail
  • Independence case flaws ‘mean Sturgeon unlikely to win outright majority’ – Daily Telegraph

Union 2) Poots tipped to succeed Arlene Foster as DUP leader

“The Northern Ireland agriculture minister, Edwin Poots, is expected to replace Arlene Foster as leader of the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) after winning swift endorsements to his candidacy. The Stormont assembly member is so far the only candidate to declare and appeared to gain momentum on Friday. Poots, 55, a young Earth creationist who believes the planet is only 6,000 years old, is believed to have been instrumental in the revolt against Foster, who announced on Wednesday she would step down as party leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister. Foster announced on Friday she would also quit as an assembly member and leave the party she has led since 2015. “Politics is a very brutal game,” she told a press conference in her native county, Fermanagh.” – The Guardian

  • Northern Ireland’s era of peace is in grave danger – The Times

Mercer will lead a ‘respect our veterans’ march through London after trial of troops

“Sacked minister Johnny Mercer will lead a ‘respect our veterans’ march after the controversial trial against two paratroopers accused of murdering Official IRA leader Joe McCann effectively collapsed. Mr Mercer – who left his ministerial role after expressing frustration at a lack of progress on legislation to protect British veterans who served during the Troubles from prosecution – attended Belfast Crown Court yesterday. He went in support of Soldier A and Soldier C, who now face an agonising wait to find out whether their case will be dropped completely after a judge in the landmark trial ruled crucial evidence inadmissible. Prosecutors have agreed that they have no case without the evidence – but can still challenge the judge’s decision.” – Daily Mail

  • Key evidence dismissed in trial of former paras over IRA man’s murder – The Times

Dunstone quit museum post over government ‘culture war’

Shield“One of Britain’s best-known entrepreneurs has resigned as chair of a prestigious museum group in protest at ministers purging his board as part of a culture war being waged by the government. Sir Charles Dunstone, the billionaire founder of Carphone Warehouse, quit as chair of the Royal Museums Greenwich after the government refused to reappoint a trustee whose academic work advocates “decolonising” the curriculum, according to several people familiar with the events. The dispute is the latest in a concerted campaign by Boris Johnson’s government to reset the balance of opinion at the top of Britain’s cultural and media institutions, largely through an aggressive approach to board appointments… Dunstone warned Oliver Dowden, culture secretary, that he would resign as its chair unless he lifted his veto on a second term for Aminul Hoque, a Bangladeshi-British academic in education studies at Goldsmiths, University of London, according to people close to the situation.” – FT

News in Brief:

  • Foster’s coulda, woulda, shoulda leadership of the DUP – Owen Polley, The Critic
  • Symonds and the First Girlfriend problem – Douglas Murray, The Spectator
  • Duchess of Cambridge is a refreshing antidote to modern-day feminism – Julie Birchill, UnHerd
  • How the UK is joining the genomic technology arms race – Yusef Paolo Rabiah, CapX