Downing Street 1) Johnson “reinstates leadership team” in preparation of a challenge

“Boris Johnson has reinstated his Tory leadership team to save his premiership amid increasing concern across government that a confidence vote is inevitable, The Times has learnt. The prime minister is using the group of ministerial lieutenants who helped him to win the leadership contest in 2019 to record the position of every Tory MP, with a spreadsheet detailing those who are loyal, wavering or determined to oust him. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is playing a key role in the operation with three former whips and other loyalists to the prime minister. They began their work this week.” – The Times

  • Rebel Conservative MPs  “threaten to expose secret recording’ of ‘blackmail’ threats made by whips – Daily Mail
  • Downing Street staff told “they may have to fall on their swords” to save the PM – The Times
  • Rosenfeld cancels meeting amid rumours he faces the sack – Daily Telegraph
  • Sue Gray, the formidable official investigating a very British scandal – Sebastian Payne, Financial Times
  • “Johnson is unfit for office,” declares Ruth Davidson – Interview, The Times
  • The greatest leaders have turned despair into triumph – Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail
  • “Wine was spilt over the printer on which the laptop blaring out music was placed, according to an eye-witness. There were fears it had been broken, but a government source said that no equipment was damaged.” – Daily Telegraph
  • Looks like checkmate, says Steve Baker – BBC
  • Truss backs Boris Johnson but won’t rule out leadership run – The Times
  • Does Nick Robinson give Johnson such a hard time because they were old Oxford rivals? – Daily Mail

Downing Street 2) Ellwood: Bring in the military

“We require a fresh approach in the day-to-day running of Number 10. I believe the nation would approve of inviting a senior military officer to take responsibility. It may sound like a cliché to seek a military solution, but the public needs a sense of assurance that rigour will return to Downing Street, along with improved command and control. Not only in operations but in management and process. And there is a reason why we call on the military in times of need. Their training in strategic thinking, situational awareness and management of the mission are invaluable during a crisis. Why do we wait for things to go out of control before leaning on these assets?” – Tobias Ellwood, Daily Telegraph

Whips 1) Wragg to meet Metropolitan Police over “blackmail” claims

“A Conservative backbencher who accused Downing Street of trying to “blackmail” MPs seeking to oust Boris Johnson is to meet police to discuss his allegations. William Wragg said he will be speaking to a Met Police detective in the House of Commons early next week, after requesting a meeting with the force. The MP, who wants the prime minister to quit, said he wanted to leave any probe to “experts” rather than No 10. Downing Street said it had not seen any proof of the behaviour he alleges.” – BBC

  • David Jones accuses Wragg of misusing his committee chairmanship to attack the Whips – The Times
  • Allegations need to be investigated, says Kwarteng – The Guardian
  • Claims of bullying and “toxicity” in the Cotswold Conservative Association – The Times

Whips 2) Parris: The PM has made their work impossible

“For everyone to sense and most people to respect the limits, the tone must be set from the top, otherwise chaos ensues and the whips become as much victims as the villains of the piece. Within a parliamentary party they are the interface between leader and the led. When the leader is just blocking his ears, they panic. The whips’ behaviour alleged this week smacks to me mostly of such panic. Whips are often at their ugliest when they know you’re right. Boris Johnson may not be lying when he says he has no evidence of such goings-on — but he wouldn’t. A prime minister outsources discipline to the whips, but the PM creates the ethos they work in. He has made their work impossible.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

  • The bully boy tactics have taken cynicism in politics to new heights – Camilla Cavendish, Financial Times
  • Revelations of parties have given Remainer’s a revenge flamethrower to torch Brexit – Leader, The Sun
  • Britain needs a new era of serious leaders – Rory Stewart, Financial Times
  • How Bridgend feels after voting Conservative two years on – Wales Online

Barclay orders civil servants to return to their desks

“Civil servants working from home have been ordered to get back to their desks and make ‘maximum use’ of Government offices by next week. Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay confirmed last night that departments must prepare for all staff to return in an attempt to boost the economic recovery after the pandemic.” – Daily Mail

Javid promises “radical” shake-up of NHS

“A “radical” shake-up of the NHS is planned, with a former banker appointed as chairman of the health service. Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, will confirm on Saturday the appointment of Richard Meddings, a former chairman of TSB bank, as the chairman of NHS England. It comes as health officials prepare to publish an elective recovery plan to deal with a record six million people on waiting lists.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The NHS is in crisis, and ministers are taking the opportunity to extend private healthcare’s reach – Leader, The Guardian

Daily Mail launches campaign to scrap National Insurance increase

“A hike in national insurance this April must be stopped to help families survive a cost of living crisis, MPs and business leaders insisted last night. Amid mounting concern over soaring bills, they have joined the Mail to warn ministers that they must delay and rethink the increase – or risk piling unsustainable pressure on struggling households. Senior Conservative MPs said the 1.25 percentage point rise was ‘too much’ and would make families poorer just as the nation was hoping for a post-Covid economic upswing….Former Tory minister Sir John Redwood said: ‘They need to scrap the NI rise now. It is a clear breach of an important manifesto commitment and a tax on work. It will make the cost of living crisis worse.’ ” – Daily Mail

  • We have embarked on an unwise experiment in higher taxes and a bigger state – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Tory MPs tell Johnson to shelve the rise if he wants to stay as PM – The Sun
  • Scepticism of Sunak’s low tax credentials – The Guardian
  • Frost warns Conservative Party against “drifting away” from free market policies – Daily Express
  • If centrist Johnson fails to revive conservatism, disaster beyond the 1970s is coming – Interview with Steve Baker, Daily Telegraph

SNP challenged over delay scrapping face masks in schools

“SNP ministers were on Friday urged to “stop dragging their heels” on scrapping face masks in schools after Scotland’s national clinical adviser said the “day is coming” when the requirement will end. Prof Jason Leitch said he believed secondary pupils would soon no longer have to wear face coverings in class, although he did not know exactly when the restriction would be lifted. His intervention came less than 24 hours after John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister, said the requirement remained “absolute” in Scotland’s schools and ruled out following England by scrapping it. The Scottish Tories said it was “clear” that even the SNP Government’s own advisers believe the change must be examined and asked why ministers were “so reluctant” to consider it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sturgeon is being given a far too easy ride by Scotland’s broadcasters – Brian Wilson, The Scotsman
  • Khan scraps emergency Covid status but says Londoners should still wear masks – The Sun
  • Masks in classrooms must be scrapped, Johnson tells overcautious teachers – The Sun
  • Drakeford refuses to name date for lifting restrictions in Wales – Daily Telegraph
  • It’s time to topple the failed lockdown elites – Camilla Tominey, Daily Telegraph

Moore: Britain faces a truly dangerous situation in Ukraine

“If he thinks he can shatter Ukrainian forces and expose Western divisions, Putin has good reason to act now. He might even pass it off as the sort of “minor incursion” which President Biden hamfistedly indicated this week the United States might tolerate. Once you start arguing with yourself about what is major, your opponent knows how to twist the ratchet. Probably thousands of Russian troops will not soon march through Kyiv. But it does seem quite likely that Ukrainian soldiers will be murdered and perhaps civilians bombed, key sites attacked, systems assailed by cyber-attacks and disinformation, supplies cut off. Then the entire balance of power in Europe will have been altered, because the West has lost the strength to deter.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: With Westminster fixated on Partygate, Wallace is doggedly ‘keeping his eye on Russia’

>Yesterday: Ryan Baldry on Comment: Our global security is at risk when we become distracted by events in Westminster

News in brief

  • How SAGE’s junk science brought us to the brink of lockdown – Christopher Snowden, Spiked
  • 80,000 NHS workers still completely unvaccinated against Covid – The i
  • Whoever succeeds Johnson will face the same electoral conundrum – Henry Hill, CapX
  • This is not a Conservative Government – Madsen Pirie, Adam Smith Institute Blog
  • The rampant egotism of Boris’s backbench MPs – Patrick O’Flynn, The Spectator