Published:

Cost of Living 1) National Insurance hike will go ahead as planned, Sunak confirms

“Rishi Sunak publicly rejected calls to abandon April’s planned National Insurance hike after a major Cabinet rift opened. The Chancellor hit back at calls made by Common’s leader Jacob Rees-Mogg to slash the size of the Whitehall machine instead of hitting workers wage packets by an extra 1.25 per cent this year. Tuesday’s Cabinet barney was leaked sparking claims from Tory MPs that Mr Rees-Mogg was in the right and the government had lost its way on taxation. He urged a more “frugal” approach to government spending to help struggling Brits being clobbered by the cost of living crisis. But questioned about the rift yesterday, Mr Sunak said: “It’s always easy to duck difficult decisions, but I don’t think that’s the responsible thing to do.”” – The Sun

  • Minister defends plans for tax rises despite cost-of-living crisis – Daily Telegraph
  • Chancellor faces mounting backlash from Tory MPs – Daily Mail
  • Families face squeeze ‘worse than the financial crisis’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Another 1.2m people will be dragged into 40p income tax bracket – Daily Mail

Cost of Living 2) Worried Conservatives urge Prime Minister to ease consumers’ woe as energy prices spiral

“MPs have repeated calls for a VAT cut on energy bills and the removal of environmental levies – even if it meant paying for the beneficiaries out of direct taxation. Craig Mackinlay – chair of the Net Zero scrutiny group of Tory MPs who say they are concerned about the cost and effectiveness of the government’s environmental measures – said that would “smoothen the immediate load on people … I think that would be a better system, perhaps only temporarily until we get more stability in the international energy market.” Robert Halfon, chair of the education select committee, said there should be other tax cuts for the lower paid to ease the burden, including minimising green levies when energy prices rise.” – The Guardian

  • ‘Millions’ of pensioners on brink of horror winter – Daily Express
  • British Gas want Prime Minister to scrap unfair green taxes to ‘cut bills by £170 overnight’ – The Sun

Jeremy Warner: The Government is boxed in by its deluded choices on taxation and on the way it funds green energy

“In any case, from the Government’s perspective, none of the options looks at all appealing. The roots of the current squeeze are global, yet it has been made very much worse in the UK by years of short-sighted, populist energy policy. One delusional intervention has been piled on another, and almost all of them have backfired. The long-term solutions to the double whammy of rising taxes and energy bills lie in radical reform of healthcare spending and energy markets. Yet even if this were a Government bold enough to attempt such an exercise, it wouldn’t solve the immediate problem. Unless saved by rising wages, ministers are about to stumble out of Covid straight into the path of an oncoming lorry marked “Lower Living Standards”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson has a lever to ease cost of living crisis – James Forsyth, The Times

>Today: Robert Buckland MP in Comment: This focus on shrinking the state is out of date. Voters have moved on from the 1980s. So should our party.

Johnson in ‘wallpaper for access’ row over Lord Brownlow’s plans for exhibition…

“Boris Johnson agreed to consider proposals for a new festival in private messages with a Tory donor who helped fund the redecoration of his Downing Street flat, it has emerged. Lord Brownlow of Shurlock Row, who originally provided funds as part of the £112,000 makeover of the flat, discussed with the Prime Minister his plans to hold a new Great Exhibition festival. Mr Johnson agreed to look at the proposal, telling the Tory peer “[I] am on the great exhibition plan…will revert”, newly released messages revealed on Thursday night. Three months later, Lord Brownlow met Oliver Dowden, the then Culture Secretary, and representatives from the Royal Albert Hall to discuss the plan. The peer is a trustee of the Royal Albert Hall, which was built in the wake of the first Great Exhibition in 1851, during the reign of Queen Victoria.” – Daily Telegraph

…as he apologises to Lord Geidt over secret texts in sleaze row

“Boris Johnson has issued a “humble and sincere” apology to Lord Geidt, his ethics adviser, for withholding critical messages from an inquiry into the refurbishment of the prime minister’s Downing Street flat. In a letter to Johnson released today Geidt said that it was “plainly unsatisfactory” that he had not been shown WhatsApp messages the prime minister had exchanged with the millionaire Tory donor Lord Brownlow of Shurlock Row. The messages, in which Johnson asked Brownlow to arrange for further money to do up the flat, which he said was “still a bit of a tip”, cast doubt on Johnson’s original claims to Geidt that he was unaware who was paying for the work. They also revealed that the prime minister agreed to consider a plan being pushed by Brownlow to help stage a second Great Exhibition, resulting in a meeting being arranged between Brownlow and Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary at the time, within weeks.” – The Times

  • Adviser criticises Johnson but says he did not deliberately mislead – The Guardian
  • Failure to reveal messages helped Prime Minister escape censure for flat overhaul – FT

Minister vows to close ‘loophole’ after court clears Colston statue topplers

“Britain is not a country where “destroying public property can ever be acceptable”, a cabinet minister has said, as Conservative MPs vented their frustration at four people being cleared of tearing down a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, said the law would be changed to close a “potential loophole” limiting the prosecution of people who damage memorials as part of the police, crime, sentencing and courts (PCSC) bill. Four people – Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, and Sage Willoughby, 22 and Jake Skuse, 33 – were prosecuted for pulling down the statue during a Black Lives Matter protest on in June 2020. A further six were given “restorative justice” outcomes and ordered to pay a £100 fine, undertake unpaid work and fill in a questionnaire about their actions. Shapps said the PCSC bill would ensure that people “can’t just go round and cause vandalism, destroy the public realm, and then essentially not be prosecuted”.” – The Guardian

  • Case could be reviewed to avoid setting a dangerous legal precedent – Daily Mail
  • Johnson insists people toppling effigies should not be allowed to alter nation’s heritage – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Left Watch: “The right side of history”

Javid warns lifting travel curbs could lead to Covid lockdowns

“Sajid Javid has warned that Britain risks being forced into another lockdown after the decision to relax international travel restrictions. On Wednesday Boris Johnson announced that pre-departure tests for arrivals would be ditched as well as PCR tests two days after entering the UK. Travellers will instead be able to take cheaper lateral flow tests, with the requirement to quarantine before receiving a negative result also scrapped. The Times can disclose that Javid, the health secretary, strongly opposed the move, telling the Covid-O committee of senior ministers that removing the requirement for PCR tests would limit the government’s ability to detect future mutant strains. He argued that it increased the risk that a more deadly and transmissible strain of coronavirus could circulate in the UK undetected.” – The Times

  • Double-jabbed people may soon be stripped of ‘fully vaccinated’ status – Daily Mail
  • Military medics will be deployed in capital to alleviate shortages – The Times

More:

  • Schools in England ‘teetering on edge’ from Covid-related absences – FT
  • Furious parents accuse unions of trying to throw a ‘pandemic straitjacket’ around schools – Daily Mail
  • Teachers told to ignore government guidance – The Sun

>Yesterday:

Farmers sceptical after minister urges them to ‘stand ground’ on fair prices

“Farmers must “stand their ground” on price inflation and ensure that the rising costs they face are reflected in the prices paid to them by supermarkets for their produce, the UK’s environment, food and rural affairs secretary has demanded. George Eustice told the online Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday that rising input costs should result in higher incomes for farmers, but that increasing farm gate prices need not result in food inflation for consumers. “We do need producers to stand their ground and take quite a tough position with retailers to ensure that the money they are paid reflects the costs of their production,” he told the conference. He said food prices were rising as a result of international pressures, as the price of farm commodities internationally was linked to energy prices, which have risen strongly as economies have recovered from the coronavirus shock.” – The Guardian

  • Environment Secretary warned of impact as he defends rewilding scheme – Daily Mail

>Today:

Ministers back MP’s campaign for national anthem to be played on BBC One every night

“The Government’s culture ministers have indicated their support for a return to the national anthem being played every night on BBC One following a long-running campaign by a Conservative MP. Nadine Dorries, the Culture Secretary, and Chris Philp, a junior minister, backed calls from Andrew Rosindell for the broadcaster to play the national anthem before it switches BBC One programming to BBC News in the early hours of each morning. The anthem was played daily on the channel until 1997, but Mr Rosindell, the MP for Romford, said it should be restored this year to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. On Thursday, he asked the Government whether it would “take steps to encourage public broadcasters to play the national anthem” and “ensure that the BBC restore it at the end of the day’s programming”. As Mr Rosindell explained his campaign to MPs, Ms Dorries said: “Fantastic question.”” – Daily Telegraph

Truss says Russia faces high-level sanctions if it invades Ukraine

“Massive coordinated sanctions threatened against Russia if it launches military action against Ukraine will hit the high-level Russian elite and its ability to carry out financial transactions, Liz Truss, the UK foreign secretary, told MPs on Thursday, as she warned the west could not afford to be seen to reward Moscow in crucial talks next week. Her remarks appear indirectly to confirm that if Russia mounts an incursion into Ukraine it could be excluded from Swift, the messaging network used by 11,000 banks in 200 countries to make cross-border payments. The US and its Nato allies have said repeatedly it has a package of massive sanctions ready to be launched if Russia presses ahead with an invasion, but has refused to spell out details in public.” – The Guardian

  • Blair faces fresh scrutiny over dealings with Kazakhstan regime – Daily Mail

More:

  • Stonewall gets £1.2m in taxpayer cash as Foreign Office accused of ‘propping up’ charity – Daily Telegraph

Justice department wasted £160m, Labour inquiry finds

“The Ministry of Justice “wasted” £160 million of taxpayers’ money last year — more than 14 times the amount for the previous 12 months, an investigation has found. An audit of the department’s accounts over the past decade by the Labour Party, found a total of £550 million of wasted spending. Almost a third of the losses came last year, with failed projects, fees for breaking contracts and a botched case management system for court staff. Losses for the previous year amounted to a total of £11 million. The cost of the errors coincide with a £2.2 billion increase in the ministry’s budget over the next three years, announced in the October spending review, to tackle court backlogs caused by the pandemic and record low rates of rape prosecutions.” – The Times

Sturgeon’s right-hand man under pressure over anti-English ‘spin’

“The SNP’S Covid Recovery Minister has been reported to a statistic watchdog after a “deliberate spin” of data. Covid cases have spiked across the UK due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, with Nicola Sturgeon having imposed restrictions on Scots. However while Scotland has recorded lower cases than England, experts have said the country is in the “worst-case scenario” with the variant. John Swinney, also SNP deputy first minister, appeared on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland on Thursday to tout Scotland’s success in curbing Covid. He suggested on the programme Covid rates in Scotland were lower than in England because of extra measures introduced north of the border. Mr Swinney cited Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures, which showed one in 40 Scots were infected compared to one in 25 in England.” – Daily Express

>Today: James Kerr in Local Government: The people of Falkirk are abandoning the Labour Party

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Ministers must not allow devocrats to treat the Treasury like a Covid-19 cash machine

News in Brief:

  • Twitter banning Politics For All raises some tough questions about our new public square – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Why the Omicron wave won’t overwhelm the NHS – Philip Thomas, The Spectator
  • The ECHR has ruled against reopening the “gay cake” case – Lizzie Troughton, The Critic
  • Johann Hari’s stolen ideas – Stuart Richie, UnHerd