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Sleaze: Prime Minister ‘blames colleagues’ for committee mishap

“Boris Johnson has admitted to Tory MPs that he had “crashed the car into a ditch” by embroiling his party in two weeks of sleaze allegations. In a tacit apology to Conservative backbenchers the prime minister admitted that he had been wrong to try and rip up parliamentary standards rules to save the career of the former cabinet minister Owen Paterson. He pledged that the government would work with opposition parties to toughen up the rules on outside jobs as the Commons voted to back changes to parliamentary regulations governing MPs conduct. “On a clear day I crashed the car into a ditch,” Johnson told MPs at a meeting of the backbench 1922 committee, adding: “I will get the car out of the ditch.”” – The Times

  • Plan on ‘second jobs’ would hit fewer than 10 MPs – The Guardian
  • MPs vote to ban themselves from consultancy jobs – FT
  • Johnson is ‘trying to clear out old guard’ of MPs with curb on second jobs – Daily Telegraph
  • Brady faces questions over ‘opaque’ £800 an hour job – The Guardian

Comment:

  • When it comes to transparency, it is ‘pot, meet kettle’ for the SNP and Tories – Conor Matchett, The Scotsman

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Johnson – trapped in a Conservative civil war between Red Wallers and Blue Jobbers

EU backs down on threats to retaliate if Article 16 triggered

“Brussels has rowed back from threats of retaliating against Britain over Article 16, as the UK and EU near their first deal to break the deadlock in talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol. European Commission officials signalled a possible compromise and, in a private briefing with senior EU diplomats, said they were closing in on an agreement to protect medicine supplies to the province. Ahead of face-to-face talks between Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, and Maros Sefcovic, his European counterpart, in Brussels on Friday, EU governments were told “on medicines, we’re nearly there”, according to a source close to the discussions. With hopes rising of a breakthrough as soon as Friday, Lord Frost has signalled a new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland could be agreed before Christmas.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson’s Christmas truce – FT

Comment:

  • An energy crisis is coming, but I’d rather be in Brexit Britain than the EU – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph

No 10 ‘betrays North’ with £14bn cut in railway plan…

“The government will save £14 billion by axing the eastern leg of HS2 and downgrading plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail, analysis of the cost cutting has revealed. Research by the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, which represents businesses and civic leaders, found that the Treasury is set to save £10.3 billion by shelving plans for the full phase 2b eastern leg, which was due to link the West Midlands and Leeds. Diluting plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail will save £4 billion. It is understood that plans for a new high-speed line between Manchester and Leeds have been axed. New track will be built only from Manchester to Huddersfield, while Bradford will remain cut off from the high-speed line. Critics described the move as a “betrayal of the north”.” – The Times

  • Red Wall fury over ‘HS2 betrayal’ – Daily Express
  • Johnson to unveil £96bn of rail investment – FT

More:

  • DfT says rail benefits to come 10 years early amid fury over cuts to HS2 – The Guardian
  • Rail line Maid Marian to be reopened and Robin Hood line to be extended – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: HS2. We have “a very British solution – a half-built railway”

…as Khan threatens to cut number of London buses and slash Tube services

“London’s bus and tube services could be severely disrupted without urgent Government investment because of a £1.9 billion funding gap, the Mayor of London has warned. Sadiq Khan says bus services could be reduced by a fifth and tube services by almost 10 per cent unless the Government steps in with an injection of funds. It comes after a report to City Hall’s finance committee detailed worse-than-expected impacts on the transport network from the Covid-19 pandemic, and with Transport for London’s (TfL) emergency funding deal coming to a close next month… The Labour mayor said while he supported the Government’s transport investments across the country for the cause of levelling up, this should not come at the cost of ‘levelling down London’.” – Daily Mail

  • Transport for London’s funding crisis puts UK recovery at risk – Sadiq Khan, FT

Government will ‘scale back’ social care support for poorer households

“Boris Johnson’s government has significantly scaled back the social care support it plans to offer poorer households in a move that will hit pensioners with lower-value homes. On Wednesday, the government published details of its social care cap, introducing technical changes that mean those with total assets below £185,000 will pay more than initially thought for social care when the new rules are introduced in 2023. Under the new plans, lower-asset households will have to pay a proportion of their care costs for longer before they hit a cap of £86,000, after which state support kicks in. The change is the result of removing means-tested support from the government’s calculation of the cap.” – FT

  • Poorer pensioners hit as cap on social care costs diluted – The Times
  • Those who get help from their council may still lose homes – The Sun

Defence minister to visit Poland amid border dispute with Belarus

“Britain’s defence minister will visit Poland on Thursday hoping to set out how UK troops can help strengthen the country’s border with Belarus at a time when thousands of migrants are trying to cross into the EU. The mission comes two days after Ben Wallace visited Ukraine, where the two countries finalised an arms deal, and underlines the UK’s post-Brexit willingness to reach defence agreements with countries near Russia’s borders. A study team of about 10 UK soldiers, invited over by Warsaw last week, are racing to complete an assessment before the summit between Wallace and his Polish counterpart, Mariusz Błaszczak. The expectation is that Poland will ask for a British contingent of engineers to help with reinforcing the border fence, which has been repeatedly breached by people, mostly from the Middle East, desperate to start new lives in the west.” – The Guardian

  • UK agrees to sell warships and missiles to Ukraine as tensions with Russia grow – Daily Telegraph
  • Royal Navy submarines and special forces in underwater race against Russians – Daily Mail

More:

  •  Britain and USA to swap more spies in a bid to crack down on increased terror threat – The Sun

>Yesterday: Lord Ashcroft in Comment: Forty years on since the Falklands War, my new book celebrates the bravery of our Armed Forces

France claims it did ‘not agree’ to prevent ‘all migrant boat crossings’ with Patel’s £54m

“Emmanuel Macron’s Minister and the French ambassador in London denied the Home Office’s allegations they agreed to intercept 100 percent of all migrants crossing the Channel from the French coast. After a meeting with her counterpart in Paris on Monday, French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, Priti Patel released a “joint statement” highlighting France and the UK agreed to continue the work they’ve started after signing a £54m deal in July 2021. The funds, paid by the UK to France, are supposed to strengthen patrolling across the Northern French coastline and halt people from making the perilous journey across the Channel. On Wednesday, Home Office minister Tom Pursglove declined to tell MPs how much of the £54m has so far been handed over to the French government.” – Daily Express

  • Just five illegal migrants have been returned this year, admits minister – The Sun
  • Migrants to be held in Albania – The Times

Push to get civil servants back to the office by scrapping social distancing

“Top civil servants have launched a drive to get more government employees back to the office by urging the removal of social distancing measures where it is safe. Alex Chisholm, the Cabinet Office permanent secretary, last week sent a letter to the chief operating officers of all government departments and agencies. Extracts, seen by The Telegraph, show the employers were urged to take steps that could increase the number of people who can work in the office. The move comes after criticism from some Tory MPs that many civil servants continue to work from home despite government guidance urging a return to offices over the summer. Mr Chisholm’s letter, circulated via email, followed updated work from home guidance for all businesses last week in which wording was refined to ensure clarity.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister ‘misinterpreted’ the term ‘bullying’ in ministerial code – Daily Mail

Johnson Snr says he has ‘no recollection’ after Me Too claims he groped Tory MP

“Stanley Johnson insisted tonight that he has “no recollection” of the “Me Too” claims that he’d sexually assaulted two women. The Prime Minister was yesterday forced into condemning gropers as his own father faced a probe into two separate incidents at Tory Party conferences. Downing Street desperately scrambled to distance themselves from him amid a chorus of condemnation across the political divide at his alleged sex pest behaviour. Mr Johnson senior, 81, faced calls for investigation into claims he “smacked” MP Caroline Nokes on the bum in 2003 and groped journalist Ailbhe Rea in 2019. The former MEP broke his silence tonight, telling The Sun: “I have no recollection of Caroline Nokes, and no idea what she was talking about.”” – The Sun

  • Public sexual harassment should be a crime, Nokes tells Prime Minister – Daily Telegraph

Endless independence debate has left Scotland ‘worse than it has ever been’, says Lord McConnell

“Scotland is “worse than it has ever been” thanks to the independence debate causing total political paralysis at Holyrood on major domestic problems, a former first minister has said in a damning indictment of devolution. Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale said the country was “stuck in treacle”, with no progress on issues ranging from education to the economy to record drug deaths as both sides of the constitutional debate wait for another referendum. The former Labour first minister, who was ousted from power by the SNP in 2007, said nobody at Holyrood “engages with the actual issue itself” as everything is seen by MSPs as being a proxy for the independence debate.” – Daily Telegraph

Unionists critical of decision to make vaccine passports mandatory

“The DUP MP said it was a “bad decision” that was “made in haste” to enforce Covid passports in Northern Ireland. Mr Wilson also accused Health Minister Robin Swann of bringing forward the policy to “hide his own lack of planning”. DUP ministers voted against the move but were outvoted by the other parties. They did not use the petition of concern veto mechanism. Mr Swann has been asked to produce a further paper with more information. Mr Wilson, who is not a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Executive, hinted that his party still could intervene: “It may well be that our ministers have decided not to use the veto until they have got the additional information”. Fellow DUP man Paul Frew vowed to never use a vaccine passport and to “fight any discrimination against people due to medical history and status”.” – News Letter

>Today: Andrew Haldenby in Comment: Surgical hubs deliver more for the NHS than typical hospitals. So we need more of them.

News in Brief:

  • The EU’s migrant crisis and the new hybrid war – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Get the control freaks out of government – John Myers, CapX
  • This is how civilisations collapse – Aris Roussinos, UnHerd
  • Le Pétain nouveau – Jonathan Meades, The Critic