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Johnson plans ‘three-front strategy’ for Covid inquiry…

“Boris Johnson will mount a three-pronged defence as he seeks to counter claims by Dominic Cummings and other critics that his delays in implementing lockdowns cost thousands of lives, The Times has been told. The prime minister yesterday announced plans for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic that will begin next spring. Downing Street said he would give evidence under oath if requested. Aides are understood to have been gathering emails and documents for more than six months to support the prime minister’s case. He announced the inquiry amid mounting concern in government about an appearance by Cummings, the prime minister’s former senior adviser, before MPs on May 26.” – The Times

  • It must examine lockdown’s social and economic impacts, insist Tory MPs – Daily Telegraph

…as he looks at swift easing of homeworking rules in England

“Boris Johnson has signalled that work-from-home guidance for England will be lifted next month if Covid-19 cases continue to drop.  Asked about the government’s advice to workers, and whether it would be relaxed on June 21, the prime minister told the House of Commons: “That is certainly our intention provided we stay on track . . . we must be guided by what’s happening with the pandemic.” This week business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told company leaders that he was increasingly confident that the rules for workplaces could be relaxed within weeks.  Ministers hope that workers will be allowed back into offices from late June without mandatory wearing of face masks, enforced social distancing or need for coronavirus vaccine certification.” – FT

  • Face masks and social distancing set to go on June 21 – The Sun

More:

  • SAGE experts to hold emergency meeting over new variants – Daily Mail
  • Eustice says ‘lightning local lockdowns’ could return – The Sun
  • Downing Street ‘plays down reopening fears’ – Daily Telegraph

Queen’s Speech 1) The ‘Blue Wall’ could collapse, Tory rebels warn over planning reforms

“Boris Johnson is facing a rebellion from dozens of southern Tory MPs over a major overhaul of the planning system as he was warned of a “Blue Wall collapse” if he presses ahead with the plans. On Wednesday night senior Conservatives claimed that the “forces of opposition are gathering fast” against the Planning Bill, due in the autumn, which will make it harder for local residents to object to new development. The rebels say that “many dozens” on the backbenches are now opposed to the plans, which will see the country split into zones either marked for growth or protection, making it easier for developers to secure planning permission in the former. “This rebellion is big enough to kill it,” a former Cabinet minister told The Telegraph.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Radical transport reform with plans for Oyster card system to roll out across the nation – The Sun
  • New Online Safety Bill risks stifling the press, campaigners warn – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • One day, the Tory shires will be overrun by woke young Lefties – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph
  • The state takes control in Johnson’s post-Brexit Britain – Philip Stephens, FT
  • Calorie counts for restaurants is a good idea, but putting it on the menu isn’t the answer – Henry Hill, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Local Government: Are we seeing a Tory recovery in London?

>Yesterday: David Gauke in Local Government: Demographic changes in the Blue Wall will work against the Conservatives – they must pay close attention

Queen’s Speech 2) Davidson blasts voter ID proposal as ‘total b*****s’

“Ruth Davidson, former Scottish Conservative leader, has blasted the Government’s voter ID proposal. The controversial proposal to introduce an ID check when voting was announced this week during the Queen’s speech. It is part of Boris Johnson’s plans to reform electoral law. Speaking on ITV’s Peston, Ruth Davidson branded the proposals “total b*****ks”. She said: “In terms of this particular part of the Queen’s speech, I think it’s total b*ks and I think it’s trying to give a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. “Given where we are and the year we’ve had, we’ve got real problems to solve in this country and the idea that this is some sort of legislative priority I think is for the birds.” The proposals are aimed at reducing voter fraud across the country, but the Government has not produced a huge amount of evidence of wide scale wrongdoing.” – Daily Express

  • Councils could have to issue up to 3.5m ID cards for voters under new bill – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The socially distanced and politically distanced Queen’s Speech

Ministers meet representatives of paramilitaries to discuss Brexit…

“The Brexit minister, Lord Frost, and the Northern Ireland secretary, Brandon Lewis, met representatives of loyalist paramilitaries on Monday during a visit to Northern Ireland, it has emerged. The Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), a body which includes representatives of the UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando paramilitary groups, confirmed a “small delegation” of its members met the ministers on Monday to discuss continuing concerns over checks on goods coming into the region from Great Britain caused by Brexit. “The delegation emphasised the need for significant change to the Northern Ireland protocol to bring it back into consistency with the Belfast agreement and to remove the clear change in the status of Northern Ireland that has occurred due to the imposition of the protocol,” it said.” – The Guardian

  • London turns tables on EU and threatens to suspend deal over Protocol – Daily Express

More NI:

  • Johnson apologises ‘unreservedly’ for Ballymurphy deaths – The Guardian

…as France blocks post-Brexit EU financial services deal with UK over fishing dispute

“Paris has said it will delay a EU financial services deal with Britain until Boris Johnson grants European fishermen fair access to UK waters, sources say. ‘We’ve made a link between the two,’ the source said. The post-Brexit dispute over access to the UK’s fishing grounds last week saw France and the UK send patrol vessels to Jersey as French trawlers protested there. A second source, an EU diplomat, said Britain was failing to adhere to the terms of a deal governing its post-Brexit trade ties with the EU. There can be no progress in other areas if these are not resolved, the person added to Reuters. ‘It’s not just France and it’s not just fishing,’ said the European diplomat. ‘Britain must fully apply the agreements it signed up to, which is not the case right now.'” – Daily Mail

  • Spain urges EU to start Gibraltar Brexit talks after delay to crunch negotiations – Daily Express

Cameron sent 68 messages to ministers and mandarins about Greensill Capital

“David Cameron bombarded ministers and officials with 68 messages about the collapsed lender Greensill, it has emerged, as the scale of his intense lobbying campaign has been laid bare. The communications fired off by the former Conservative prime minister on behalf of the controversial finance firm – totalling up to 19 calls, text and emails in a single day – were published on Tuesday afternoon by a committee of MPs. The Treasury committee, which is one of three Commons select committees conducting an inquiry into Greensill Capital and its collapse, released the messages supplied by Mr Cameron ahead of his appearance before its panel on Thursday. Australian banker Lex Greensill, the eponymous founder of Greensill Capital, faced questions from MPs on Wednesday.” – Daily Telegraph

  • MPs say Lex Greensill may have misled Parliament – FT

More:

  • Johnson to apply to quash court order for unpaid debt – FT
  • Tory chairman’s company admits making illegal payments – The Times
  • Dyson blasts BBC for ‘shamefully twisting’ coverage of texts with Johnson – The Sun
  • Feldman faces conflict of interest claims over PPE contract – FT

Cox’s sister confirms she wants to stand for Labour in Batley and Spen

“The sister of the murdered MP Jo Cox has said she would be “honoured” to represent the people of Batley and Spen as she announced her intention to become Labour’s candidate in the upcoming byelection. Labour is facing a huge test to cling on to the West Yorkshire constituency where Cox was killed by a far-right terrorist in June 2016. Her sister, Kim Leadbeater, confirmed on Wednesday that she hoped to become Labour’s candidate, a day after the Guardian revealed that she was considering the move. Labour is defending a slender majority of 3,525 votes in a seat it has held since 1997. The byelection was called after Tracy Brabin, the local MP, was elected as the first mayor of West Yorkshire on Sunday.” – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: How likely is Batley & Spen to become the Conservatives’ “most Muslim seat”?

Blair and Corbyn weigh in on Labour’s election troubles

“Keir Starmer is facing pressure from two former Labour leaders over how he transforms the party’s fortunes after its disappointing local election results. Tony Blair said Labour’s performance last week, in which it lost council seats and the Hartlepool byelection, was a major setback. He said that while Starmer was “intelligent, capable, moderate-minded”, he was “struggling to break through with the public”. Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn said it was a “bit rich” to pin blame on him for the party’s fortunes in the 13 months since he stood down as leader. The interventions place Starmer in an even trickier position as he tries to reassert his leadership following the “bitterly disappointing” election results and a subsequent derailed shadow cabinet reshuffle.” – The Guardian

  • Shadow minister steps down after MP accuses her of meddling in harassment case – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Personality cults keep Labour out of power – James Matthewson, Times Red Box
  • Labour’s problem is that Starmer is no Blair – Robert Shrimsley, FT
  • Opposition has no hope of winning power alone – David Aaronovitch, The Times

>Yesterday: Left Watch: Deborah Mattinson – Labour’s new strategist. What we know of her views on the Red Wall.

Tom Newton-Dunn: My mentor died a broken man after Starmer’s groundless prosecution

“John Kay was The Sun’s Chief Reporter for 21 years. He was a Fleet Street legend for even longer, winning Reporter of the Year twice, a feat nobody else has managed. He broke some massive stories. Prince Edward quitting the Royal Marines, Roman Abramovich buying Chelsea, and publishing the entire “annus horribilis” Queen’s Christmas speech in advance to name three… As Director of Public Prosecutions in 2012, Keir Starmer decided John and 32 other red top journalists should face criminal charges for paying public officials for information. They were arrested in their homes in dawn raids, despite it being wholly unclear for months what the criminal offence was, and with none of them ever having any idea they had even committed one.” – Evening Standard

  • Why do the obituaries omit that he killed his wife? – Mic Wright, Substack

Salmond’s political future in doubt after dismal Scottish election

“The decline of Alex Salmond, former first minister of Scotland and one of the nation’s most influential politicians of the past 20 years, can be summed up in two numbers. Salmond led the Scottish National party to an overwhelming 59 per cent share of the vote in his northern home constituency of Aberdeenshire East in the 2011 election for the parliament in Edinburgh. Last week, by contrast, just 3 per cent of voters in the area backed Salmond’s new Alba party. The results of Thursday’s Scottish parliamentary election, in which Alba took an even more meagre 1.7 per cent of the vote across the country, were an emphatic rejection of the man who led the SNP and its independence cause from the political fringes to Scotland’s centre stage. “Alba absolutely bombed,” said Mark Diffley, a consultant on Scottish political opinion.” – FT

  • To save Scotland, Johnson must stop competing with nationalists – Jim Gallagher, FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Why there is so much grassroots disquiet at the Welsh Tories’ best-ever Senedd result

News in Brief:

  • A hyper-active Queen’s Speech with one glaring omission – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Should Scotland be partitioned? – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • Sturgeon’s independence bluff – Fraser Nelson, The Spectator
  • Can public art ever be any good? – Alexander Larman, The Critic