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Alba Party says an independent Scotland should not have to pay its fair share of the UK’s £1.8trillion national debt

“An independent Scotland should not have to pay its fair share of Britain’s national debt if it quits the UK, Alex Salmond’s new nationalist party has claimed. Policy documents drawn up by Alba say that it ‘rejects entirely any obligation’ for the country to inherit a slice of the £1.8trillion if it secedes from the union in the future. The statement puts the party at adds with Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP, which before the 2014 referendum agreed an independent Scotland would take on a ‘negotiated and agreed’ share of the UK debt. Mr Salmond, who was previously SNP leader, has urged his former party to adopt this stance on what Alba called a ‘clean break settlement’. It comes Nicola Sturgeon today rejected as ‘rubbish’ suggestions made by her opponents that an independent Scotland would not have been able to vaccinate its people against Covid as quickly as it has done.” – Daily Mail

  • Scottish Indy voters hit by ‘fact denying epidemic’ claims – Daily Express

Comment:

  • For the UK to survive, it needs a new identity – William Hague, The Times
  • Take the issue of independence out of Scotland’s election and the SNP would be struggling – James Mitchell, The Guardian
  • Reckless ‘neverendum’ will make losers of Scotland and Britain – Matthew Lynn, Daily Telegraph
  • SNP would be mad to form a coalition with the Greens – Alex Massie, The Times

Labour and Conservatives battle over Gower once more

“When there is a huge political shock, even if it’s a one-off, it will always leave a political party a little bit nervous. For Labour that seat – or one of them – is Gower. In the 2015 General Election Byron Davies made history by turning the Westminster constituency blue for the first time in 105 years. Just 27 votes were between him and Labour. Two years later Labour won it back – their majority was 3,269 and it is still represented in Westminster by Labour today… Despite that, for a long while yet, it will still be a seat where those two parties think: “What if?”. It isn’t a formal “target” seat for the Tories but Labour are being cautious and the incumbent admits that either her Labour party or the Conservative party could win.” – Wales Online

>Today: Andrew Tettenborn in Local Government: The Welsh Government’s flawed “anti-racist” instructions to local authorities

Conservatives ‘lead Labour by 17 points in Hartlepool by-election’

“The Tories are leading Labour by 17 points in the Hartlepool by-election, a new poll has revealed today. Boris Johnson is set to add another blue brick to Labour’s northern red wall with a victory there. A poll for Good Morning Britain ahead of Thursday’s by-election found the Conservatives have moved ahead, in what has traditionally been a crucial Labour stronghold. At the weekend we told how the foreign secretary admitted “anything is possible” in the upcoming results. Lisa Nandy let slip it would be “difficult” for Sir Keir Starmer to make inroads… Yesterday The Sun joined the PM on the campaign trail as he tries to make history and deliver a knock out blow to Labour in the port town on the North East coast.” – The Sun

  • Johnson remains bullish on campaign trail despite a poll showing Tory support sliding by eight points – Daily Mail
  • Tory angst over ‘cash for curtains’ diversion before the local elections – The Times
  • Conservative staff furious over flat refurbishment after being told no cash for pay rises – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Amanda Milling MP in Comment: Let’s keep our campaigning going during these last few days

Tories’ red wall shows no signs of crumbling on Teesside

“Houchen is up for re-election on May 6, when the 34-year-old hopes to gain a second term representing a conurbation of several of England’s post-industrial towns. From Stockton to Middlesbrough, this corner of England once had deep connections to the opposition Labour party — ties that were cut when the region’s heavy manufacturing industries entered inexorable decline. In 2017, he delivered an electoral shock by winning the Tees Valley mayoralty for the Conservatives. His victory represented the first brick to be chipped out of the so-called “red wall”: Labour’s traditional heartland areas of England which have defected to the Tories over Brexit. Now he hopes to prove that the victory was not a one-off.” – FT

  • Hunt: ‘I don’t think I’d have got the majority that Boris Johnson did’ – The i

>Today: ToryDiary: Why you should vote Conservative in the local elections on Thursday

Bailey accuses Khan of ‘getting rich by suing the police’

“Sadiq Khan was accused of ‘getting rich by suing the police today’ as the fight to become London mayoral vote on Thursday heated up. Tory candidate Shaun Bailey launched an attack on the Labour incumbent’s record on crime in the capital in a new election broadcast. It accuses Mr Khan of earning £1.3million in eight years from 328 legal cases brought against the Metropolitan Police between 1996 and 2004. The Shaun Bailey campaign cites a freedom of information request that showed Mr Khan’s former firm, Christian Khan, earned this money while he was a partner before being elected Tooting MP in 2005. In the new video, Mr Bailey speaks to a victim of crime in London  and question’s Mr Khan’s credentials to oversee the Metropolitan Police on the basis of his previous legal work.” – Daily Mail

  • Mayor pledges to bring the Olympics back to London for the fourth time – The Sun

Confusion over UK ‘levelling-up’ plan prompts Johnson to hire new adviser

“UK prime minister Boris Johnson has appointed a former senior Treasury aide to be his chief adviser on “levelling up” to tackle concerns in Whitehall that few know what the slogan is supposed to mean. Neil O’Brien, the Conservative MP for Harborough who also served as a special adviser to former chancellor George Osborne and ex-prime minister Theresa May, has been asked by Johnson to oversee the programme that many recently elected Tories believe is critical to their re-election. Following the 2019 election, when the Conservatives won scores of seats in northern England and the Midlands for the first time in the so-called “red wall” of traditional Labour strongholds, Johnson pledged to “level up” the country to tackle regional inequalities.” – FT

  • O’Brien touted as proof of commitment to red wall – The Times

>Today: David Skelton in Comment: Yes, social mobility is important. But jobs in the professions aren’t the only ones that matter.

>Yesterday: Neil O’Brien MP’s column: The demographic challenge – not of rising but of falling population

Prime Minister vows to support campaign for Covid memorial (as readers donate more than £96k)…

“Boris Johnson last night ‘wholeheartedly’ backed the Daily Mail’s campaign to help create a national memorial for Britain’s Covid victims. As generous donations from readers continued to flood in, the Prime Minister led a chorus of cross-party approval for the drive to build a moving tribute at St Paul’s Cathedral. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was ‘honoured’ to support the plan, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said it was a ‘fantastic idea’ and the SNP’s Ian Blackford and the Green Party’s Jonathan Bartley also pledged their support. The idea is for a magnificent new entrance at the cathedral featuring a grand oak portico engraved with the words ‘Remember Me’, leading through to a chapel housing screens showing a virtual book of remembrance for those lost to the pandemic.” – Daily Mail

  • A day with just one Covid death as vaccine drive hits 50m doses – The Times
  • ‘Good chance’ social distancing rules will be scrapped on June 21 – Daily Telegraph
  • MPs urge Prime Minister to look at ‘data not dates’ and speed up end of lockdown – Daily Mail

Overseas:

  • Johnson optimistic but cautious on reopening foreign travel – FT
  • EU may welcome vaccinated Britons without quarantine this summer – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Sorry, Matthew, but there’s a Centre Party already – Johnson’s Conservatives

…as he delays social care reform ‘amid cost fears’

“Boris Johnson is expected to delay the announcement of plans for overhauling social care funding until after the Queen’s Speech over concerns in government that it will require cuts or tax rises worth up to £5 billion a year. The prime minister met Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, last month to discuss funding for social care, and more talks are expected in coming weeks. Johnson has taken a keen interest in a decade-long plan from Sir Andrew Dilnot, an expert in social care funding, that would cap care costs for individuals at £45,000 with the state covering the rest. The Queen’s Speech, on May 11, setting out the government’s legislative programme, is expected to mention the prime minister’s promise to come forward with plans for the funding of social care this year, but will not give detail.” – The Times

Foreign Policy 1) UK and US urge G7 to ally against threats from Russia and China

“Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, and the UK foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, have called for a revitalised and broadened alliance of G7 nations determined to defend open societies and the rules-based order from the threats posed by the autocracies of China and Russia. Speaking after a meeting in London on Monday, Raab said he saw “an increasing demand and need for an agile cluster of countries that share the same values and want to protect the multilateral system”. He said the fact the UK had invited Australia, South Korea, India and South Africa to the G7 foreign ministers meeting in London was “a sign that we can see a shift to a pattern of like-minded countries working together”… Ahead of his trip to the UK, Blinken accused China of repression at home and aggression abroad. But he told CBS 60 Minutes that a military conflict between the world’s two biggest economies does not serve either of their interests.” – The Guardian

  • Cameron’s $1bn China fund in the balance – The Times

Foreign Policy 2) Johnson and Modi to meet by video after £1bn India trade package sealed

“Boris Johnson has announced £1 billion worth of trade with India in what ministers hope will be a significant step towards a fully fledged deal. The prime minister will hold a virtual meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi tomorrow after he was forced to cancel his planned visit to Delhi as coronavirus tightened its grip on the country. Downing Street said the package contains more than £533 million of new investment from India, which is expected to create more than 6,000 jobs in Britain in sectors such as health and technology. This includes a £240 million investment by the Serum Institute of India supporting clinical trials, research and possibly the manufacture of vaccines. Meanwhile, Downing Street said British businesses have secured export deals with India worth more than £446 million, which is expected to create more than 400 British jobs.” – The Times

Liz Truss: Strengthening trade with India will fuel our recovery

“Few countries have demonstrated the power of free trade in the fight against coronavirus more than the United Kingdom and India. As the pharmacy of the world, India has kept its borders open to supply healthcare systems around the world, including our NHS, with vital medicines and PPE. And as I write, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, conceived by and developed in the UK, is being manufactured around the world including in India’s Serum Institute to be distributed – at cost – to the planet. Keeping trade flowing ensures critical supplies such as vaccines get to those who need them. As India’s coronavirus crisis has reached an acute level, I have been speaking with my friend Minister Piyush Goyal regularly about what we can do to help.” – Daily Telegraph

Starmer vows to clean up British politics after Tory sleaze rows

“The UK still has a system that allows power to be abused, Keir Starmer has said, pledging after weeks of stories about lobbying, cronyism and cash for Boris Johnson’s flat renovations that the Labour party will “clean up our politics”. In the final days before polls close for local, mayoral, Welsh and Scottish elections, the Labour leader will attempt to draw a close connection between the stories of Tory sleaze and their effect on ordinary people. Labour sources said Starmer would link the row over Johnson’s lavish refurbishments to the early days of the pandemic and question whether the prime minister was distracted as he apparently sought donors to sponsor the decorations, which he has now funded himself.” – The Guardian

  • Consultants awarded over £600m of UK Covid contracts – FT
  • Non-NHS healthcare providers given £96bn in a decade, says Labour – The Guardian

Donaldson launches campaign to become DUP leader

“Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has announced a bid to become the next leader of the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) and by extension become the next first minister of Northern Ireland. The MP for Lagan Valley said in Belfast on Monday he would square off against Edwin Poots, the agriculture minister, creating the first leadership contest in the party’s 50-year history. Donaldson, 58, paid tribute to the outgoing leader, Arlene Foster, and said he stood for the “politics of persuasion”, a coded reference to centre-ground voters who could decide any referendum on a united Ireland. “We want to build a shared future for Northern Ireland where everyone, regardless of their background, has a part to play in showing the world what we are truly capable of,” he said.” – The Guardian

  • Party faces its first-ever leadership contest – Daily Mail

More:

  • UK vindicated as Ireland turns on ‘draconian’ EU – Daily Express
  • Brussels signals flexibility on post-Brexit rules for Northern Ireland – FT

Comment:

  • Sorry Arlene, the DUP is still the same party you joined in 2004 – Alex Kane, News Letter

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Lewis on the hundredth anniversary of Northern Ireland, which falls today

Parliament’s archive to be moved to save historic documents from fire or flood

“Parliament’s original Acts are to be rehoused off the Westminster estate, The Telegraph can reveal, as the race to save 500-year-old vellum rolls that bear Britain’s laws from the threat of fire or floods begins. Efforts have started to pack up 64,000 pieces of legislation and move them to new premises, where they will be safer and easier for both academics and the public to access. Around half the Acts in the Parliamentary archive are rolled membranes of stitched-together parchment bearing hand-written script, the biggest of which is a quarter of a mile long when unfurled. The oldest document dates to 1497, the first year that Parliament began to keep its own records.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • What is unionism for? – Andrew McKinley, The Critic
  • The dividing wall between law and politics is under attack – Steven Barrett, The Spectator
  • How the Left lost Hartlepool – Tanya Gold, UnHerd
  • This is no time for extra employment rules – Len Shackleton, CapX