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Prime Minister and Chancellor jointly commit to National Insurance hike

“The Prime Minister and the Chancellor have vowed to push ahead with a £12 billion National Insurance hike amid pressure from Tory MPs to ditch the controversial move. In a joint intervention, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak described the levy – which will fund sweeping social care reforms and aim to clear the NHS patient backlog caused – as “the right plan”. The planned 1.25 percentage point rise in National Insurance Contributions, which is expected to cost the average worker an extra £255 a year, is reported to have led to a Cabinet split. There has been mounting speculation that Mr Johnson was “wobbling” over the move as he fights to stave off a backbench uprising against his premiership in the wake of ‘partygate’, with Tory MPs urging him to delay or cancel the tax increase.” – Sunday Telegraph

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Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak: We must stick to our recovery plan — tax will rise to pay for it

“We have a plan to sort it out — to do what no government has done for decades and to integrate health and social care. We want to stop the duplication in which the elderly or vulnerable can be asked the same question, five days running, by five publicly funded officials. We will use advances in data technology to cut costs and drive efficiency. But at the same time we must perform those operations and ensure that people see their GP and get scans and tests. We must clear the backlogs with our health and social care plan, and now is the time to stick to it. We must go ahead with the health and care levy. It is progressive: the burden falls most on those who can most afford it. Every penny of that £39 billion will go on crucial objectives — including nine million more checks, scans and operations, and 50,000 more nurses, as well as boosting social care.” – Sunday Times

  • The Prime Minister has to show why he’s fighting – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday
  • If partygate doesn’t kill the Tories, Sunak’s spending cuts might – Phillip Inman, The Observer

Scotland Yard sends letters to Downing Street party ‘suspects’ after receiving Gray dossier

“Scotland Yard has announced that it will start sending letters to Downing Street officials suspected of breaching lockdown rules after receiving a dossier of evidence from Sue Gray. The Metropolitan Police said those alleged to have broken Covid-19 laws at government parties would be told to provide a “reasonable excuse” or be fined. Those known to have attended events under investigation are expected to receive letters, raising the possibility Boris Johnson and his closest advisers will be contacted. Mr Johnson will this week attempt to refocus on the day job, which will include a string of domestic policy announcements on Brexit and “levelling up”, but this risks being undercut by the ‘partygate’ report.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • ‘Tipsy’ Downing Street official ‘taunted cops after leaving a lockdown-busting booze-up’ – Sun on Sunday
  • Chope claims Met is ‘abusing power’ – The Observer

More:

  • Here’s what Tory voters really think about Boris and ‘partygate’ – Sunday Telegraph
  • When is Gray’s report due and why is it delayed? – Sunday Times
  • Heavily censored version ‘will be released next week’ – Sun on Sunday

Comment:

  • Johnson could evade justice due to the Met’s disastrous move – Charles Falconer, The Observer
  • I supported Cressida Dick; now I feel betrayed – David Blunkett, Sunday Times
  • Have the Commissioner’s Cake Squad joined the drama because they too hate us being free? – Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday

>Today: ToryDiary: A majority of our Party member panel now believes that “partygate” is overblown

Gove’s Red Wall revolution – radical blueprint to help ‘reset’ struggling premiership

“Michael Gove today unveils a radical blueprint to turbo-charge the economy in deprived areas – and help ‘reset’ Boris Johnson’s struggling premiership in the process. The Levelling Up Secretary uses an article in today’s Mail on Sunday to vow that he will take ‘the steps necessary to power up every part of the country’ and stop the economy being ‘like a jet firing on only one engine’. In a new White Paper he will set out plans to deliver on Mr Johnson’s key policy commitment to unleash the ‘productive power’ of every corner of the country and answer the plea of Britain’s ‘left-behind towns’. The pledge is seen as critical to the Prime Minister’s hopes of holding on to the swathe of ‘Red Wall’ seats the Tories seized from Labour in the 2019 Election.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Nandy slams claim of boost for 20 towns, saying ‘new’ fund for poorer areas is recycled pledge – The Observer

Comment:

  • Britain needs to be firing on all its engines… not just the one in the South East and London – Michael Gove, Mail on Sunday

Leadership 1) Tugendhat ‘is the first Tory MP to admit openly his ambitions’

“Tom Tugendhat has become the first Tory MP to say he would run to replace Boris Johnson in a leadership contest. It comes less than 24 hours after reports that the Prime Minister will receive imminently the report from Sue Gray into alleged breaches of Covid restrictions during ‘partygate’. Mr Tugendhat, a former soldier and the current chair of the foreign affairs select committee, said: “I think I’m making it pretty clear that I think that it’s up to all of us to put ourselves forward. “And it’s up to the electorate, in the first case parliamentary colleagues, and in the second case the party, to choose.” He declined to say whether he had put in a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson, despite the long-standing dislike between the two men.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • ‘Serving as PM would be a huge privilege. I don’t know why others are coy’ – Interview, Sunday Times

Leadership 2) Truss hires Johnson’s official videographer

“Liz Truss has recruited Boris Johnson’s official videographer to accompany her on overseas trips and overhaul her digital presence, The Telegraph can reveal. The Cabinet minister has hired Robert Midgley from Downing Street as her digital media adviser, in a move that will add to mounting speculation about the Foreign Secretary’s leadership ambitions. A Foreign Office source said that Mr Midgley, a civil servant who was the first in-house videographer at No 10, would advise Ms Truss and officials on digital media and “help raise the level and quality of the department’s output”. Ms Truss wants to boost the use of “digital diplomacy”, including through videos posted on Twitter and Instagram, according to the source, who suggested that the new role was the digital equivalent of her official press secretary.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Sunak ‘has already built a dummy campaign website’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Rees-Mogg: ‘He’s no Churchill, but Boris is an excellent, exceptional leader’ – Sunday Telegraph

Foreign Secretary ‘to risk trade war with EU’ by letting Belfast blow up Brexit border deal

“Liz Truss is set to risk a trade war with the EU by letting Belfast blow up the Brexit border deal. The Foreign Secretary, with one eye on the Tory leadership, is preparing for battle with Brussels. She has paved the way for Northern Ireland to defy Eurocrats and ditch hated red tape. Angry DUP chiefs are ready to order within days an end to EU checks on goods arriving from Britain. That would enrage Brussels, which would tell No 10 to reimpose controls or face the threat of trade reprisals. But Ms Truss dropped a heavy hint last night that she will side with Belfast in the brewing cross-Channel row, insisting she wants “significant progress” by February 21.” – Sun on Sunday

  • NFU president decries trade deal with Australia and New Zealand – The Observer
  • Civil servants hit out at Boris’ Brexit masterplan – Sunday Express

Comment:

  • Now is the right time to trigger Article 16 – Robin Millar MP, Sunday Express
  • Ignore the hysteria: Truss was right to use the Government plane – Henry Hill, Sunday Telegraph

Prime Minister set to double UK’s troop deployments to Ukraine’s borders…

“The Prime Minister is looking at doubling the number of troops deployed to strengthen Europe’s borders with another 1,000 troops, as he warns an incursion from Russia into Ukraine would be a “tragedy”. Boris Johnson said the new offer to Nato currently under consideration would “send a clear message to the Kremlin” that “we will not tolerate their destabilising activity”. In addition to bolstering troop numbers, No 10 said this could involve sending defensive weapons to Estonia. Fast jets, warships and military specialists could also be sent to protect Nato allies. The measures will see a squadron of RAF jets sent to Cyprus to patrol Romanian and Bulgarian air space.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Johnson to visit Ukraine region and hold call with Putin next week – The Observer
  • Defence Secretary warns that Russia ‘plans flood of kompromat’ to throw West off guard – Sunday Times

…as mandarin apologises formisleading MPs on dog airlift

“The most senior civil servant in the Foreign Office has apologised to MPs for “inadvertently” misleading them about Boris Johnson’s alleged involvement in the evacuation of more than 170 stray dogs and cats from Afghanistan. Sir Philip Barton, the permanent undersecretary, gave evidence to the foreign affairs committee in which he talked about the department’s handling of the airlift of Pen Farthing and his animals out of Afghanistan. His claims later proved inaccurate. Barton told MPs that Nigel Casey, the prime minister’s special representative for Afghanistan, had not received emails that referred to Johnson’s personal authorisation for the evacuation. However, it emerged that Casey had written to another official, requesting “clear guidance for us from No 10 asap”.” – Sunday Times

  • Prioritising animals over people in Afghan evacuation was ‘disgusting’, say ex-soldiers – Sunday Telegraph
  • BBC journalist ‘exposes Foreign Office Afghanistan whistleblower’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Johnson’s senior aide ‘watched cricket as Kabul fell’ – Sunday Telegraph

Health 1) Johnson had to be forced not to cancel Christmas, claim anti-lockdown ministers

“Boris Johnson was forced to abandon his plans to cancel Christmas after a revolt by furious Cabinet colleagues who warned that the idea was ‘insane’, anti-lockdown Ministers have told The Mail on Sunday. They described how a three-pronged attack by former Brexit Minister David Frost, Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg forced the Prime Minister to ignore demands by his scientific advisers for families to be banned from mixing over the festive period. Their account of how close the country came to another lockdown in December can be revealed now for the first time, at the end of a week in which the Cabinet’s anti-restriction Ministers have been vindicated.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Zahawi tells universities to come clean about face-to-face teaching – Sunday Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Did New Zealand’s Covid strategy work?

Health 2) GPs ‘nationalised’ in Javid plan to reduce hospital admissions

“GPs would be nationalised under plans from the health secretary to make them do more to keep patients out of hospital. Sajid Javid is considering radical changes to the 70-year-old structure of the NHS that could see many family doctors directly employed by hospitals instead of running their own surgeries. He has told Boris Johnson that there are “considerable drawbacks” to the system under which GP surgeries are in effect independent contractors paid per patient by the NHS. A review of primary care planned by Javid will look at how to better integrate GPs with hospital care as part of attempts to do more to stop people developing serious illness. Sources insisted there would be no forcible state takeover of GPs, who are likely instead to be given incentives to link up with hospital trusts.” – Sunday Times

Agnew says there is ‘zippo’ detail on how UK will deal with Covid fraud

“A Treasury minister who resigned over the government’s “schoolboy” handling of fraudulent Covid business loans has said there has been “not a zippo” of detail about how the chancellor plans to deal with the issue. Theodore Agnew of Oulton, who was the Tories’ anti-fraud minister, publicly resigned from his Cabinet Office and Treasury posts on Monday over the government’s decision to write off £4.3bn in fraudulent loans. He called the oversight of the scheme “nothing less than woeful”. Discussing his dramatic exit in an interview with the Times, Lord Agnew said: “I didn’t want to blow my top, but I was very angry.” Agnew accused the government of “arrogance, indolence and ignorance” in its attitude to tackling fraud estimated to cost £29bn a year.” – The Observer

  • Treasury ‘stopped Britain’s FBI from investigating Covid loans fraud’ – Sunday Telegraph

Tech giants Google and Facebook may be forced to pay newspapers for their stories

Shield“Tech giants such as Google and Facebook will be required to pay newspapers and other media outlets for using their stories, under new laws being drawn up by the Government. Under the plans, which are modelled on a system that has been introduced in Australia, the platforms will be encouraged to negotiate payment deals with news organisations. If the negotiations fail, an independent arbitrator would set a fair price. The move, being driven by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, comes amid growing concerns that the tech companies are dominating online advertising, to the detriment of consumers and businesses. The new regime will be regulated by the Digital Markets Unit (DMU), the digital watchdog that was set up within the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to rein in the power of the tech platforms.” – Mail on Sunday

>Yesterday: Matthew Lesh in Think Tanks: Woke organisations are letting their customers down