Published:

Britain pulls embassy staff out of Ukraine over invasion fears

“Britain has begun to withdraw some of its staff and their families from its embassy in Kiev in response to the mounting Russian threat to Ukraine. The move was confirmed by the Foreign Office after the United States ordered the families of its embassy personnel to leave the country for fear of an imminent invasion. In a statement, the Foreign Office said: “Some embassy staff and dependants are being withdrawn from Kiev in response to the growing threat from Russia. The British embassy remains open and will continue to carry out essential work.” Yesterday the US State Department announced that it had ordered diplomats’ family members to leave the country in a clear sign that the Biden administration is bracing itself for an aggressive Russian move in the region.” – The Times

  • Nato sends ‘ships and fighter jets’ to Eastern Europe as tension grows – Daily Telegraph
  • Biden is considering sending up to 50,000 troops – Daily Mail
  • How the west went public to stop a war in Ukraine – FT

Consequences:

  • Putin could cut UK’s Internet ‘in days’ – Daily Express
  • Britain may be forced to contend with record-breaking prices for gas and petrol – Daily Mail

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Putin will never have another chance like this to overthrow the European strategic order

“If Mr Putin is to attack, he must act soon. He has a narrow window for a combined-arms invasion with tanks and towed-artillery before the infamous rasputitsa turns the ground into a bog. The military imperative is to lunge deep into Ukraine and deliver a knock-out blow before the mid-March thaw. That is not easy: it took six weeks for Russian forces to clear the Chechen capital of Grozny in urban fighting. Kiev, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Zaporizhzia, and Odessa are all larger. A team of ex-military officers and planners writing for the Atlantic Council say that Mr Putin has over the last week “set the conditions to execute a high intensity, multi-domain attack”.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Thornberry – Putin will take advantage of any weakness we show

No 10 police give ‘extremely damning’ evidence to Gray over ‘partygate’

“Police officers who guard Downing Street have been interviewed by Sue Gray for the “partygate” investigation, The Telegraph can disclose. Members of the Metropolitan Police’s Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command who were on duty when a string of lockdown-breaking gatherings are alleged to have taken place have provided detailed testimonies about what they witnessed. The statements, described by one source as “extremely damning”, are expected to form a key part of Ms Gray’s report, which is due to be published within days. The senior civil servant has also spoken to the Prime Minister, civil servants and political advisers, and accessed security pass logs and even Boris Johnson’s official diary.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cummings to be interviewed today – The Sun
  • Raab refuses to confirm full publication of report – The Guardian
  • Johnson still believes he broke no lockdown rules – The Times

Civil service to probe claims ex-minister was sacked in reshuffle over ‘Muslimness’

“Boris Johnson today ordered the Cabinet Office to investigate allegations an ex-minister was sacked over ‘Muslimness’. The PM has instructed the civil service to carry out a probe after the extraordinary claims from Tory MP Nusrat Ghani. The move came after Nadhim Zahawi and Sajid Javid joined calls for a ‘proper’ inquiry – with others suggesting it should be fully independent. A No10 spokeswoman said this morning that Mr Johnson took the allegations ‘very seriously’. ‘The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Office to conduct an inquiry into the allegations made by Nusrat Ghani MP,’ the spokeswoman said… Ms Ghani alleged that chief whip Mark Spencer said her faith was partly responsible for her getting the boot in 2020 – something he flatly denies.” – Daily Mail

  • Fresh row threatens to engulf Johnson – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister  accused of not probing Islamophobia allegations – FT
  • Rayner urges Geidt to investigate – The Times

Comment:

  • Why I’m speaking out against my own party’s Islamophobia – Nusrat Ghani MP, Times Red Box
  • While Boris hangs on, poison is spreading through the Tory party – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Ghani, Spencer, Johnson, anti-Muslim prejudice, justice, the ’22, leadership unrest – and identity politics

We must turn historic Cop26 words into action, says Sharma

“The deal agreed at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow is at risk of remaining “just words on a page”, according to the minister who brokered it. Alok Sharma will warn today that the promises made in November may “wither on the vine” unless countries act. The promises include a commitment by all countries to strengthen their climate change targets for 2030 by the end of this year. In a speech at Chatham House, the Cop26 president, will say “There is no doubt that the commitments we secured at Cop26 were historic. Yet at the moment they are just words on a page. “And unless we honour the promises made, to turn the commitments in the Glasgow Climate Pact into action, they will wither on the vine. We will have mitigated no risks. Seized no opportunities. We will have fractured the trust built between nations. And 1.5 degrees will slip from our grasp.”” – The Times

Pressure to scrap National Insurance tax hike as ‘entire cabinet backs delay’

“Boris Johnson is under pressure to scrap the hated National Insurance tax hike – with the entire cabinet backing a delay. They want the hike — set to pay for extra NHS funding and social care — to be shelved for a year to help hard-up Brits cope with rising bills. Brits are braced for a spring bombshell as taxes, energy costs and everyday prices are set to soar because of pandemic pressures. But now its thought the the cabinet as a whole are hoping that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will delay or scrap the plan… The national insurance hike will raise £12billion to £13billion a year for the Treasury. It was supposed to help fund health and social care – however most of the money will go toward clearing the post-Covid NHS backlog.” – The Sun

  • Johnson U-turns over VAT on energy bills – Daily Mail
  • Sunak tried to distance himself from ‘the Prime Minister’s tax’ – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Tax increases are essential to improve social care, says Raab – The Times

>Today: Julian Brazier in Comment: Meet a hidden driver of a bigger state, higher taxes and more regulation. The libertarian movement.

Labour plotting ‘eye-watering tax increases’ as Tories warn £30bn plans will cripple incomes

“Labour has been accused of plotting “eye-watering” tax rises on middle and high earners after analysis showed the party has made more than £90 billion of spending promises. Pledges made by Sir Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, would amount to an extra £2,138 per household if all of them were paid for through general taxation. It comes despite Ms Reeves describing the Conservatives as “the party of high taxation” when she set out her economic policy in a speech earlier this week. She has made it clear that Labour would impose a raft of new wealth taxes if the party won an election, targeting property, shares, capital gains, higher earnings and private schools.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Starmer must be honest about the pain ahead – Clare Foges, The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Wakeford should resign and fight a by-election in Bury South