Downing Street 1) Mirza among key figures to depart

“Downing Street was in meltdown last night as Boris Johnson ordered a brutal clearout of senior aides in a bid to shore up his troubled premiership, as Rishi Sunak primes himself for a leadership bid. In a dramatic move, No 10 said the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Dan Rosenfield and private secretary Martin Reynolds will leave in the wake of the Partygate scandal. It came shortly after it emerged the PM’s communications chief, Jack Doyle, was also departing. The clearout had been planned for next week, but was brought forward after a turbulent few hours triggered mounting panic in Downing Street about the Prime Minister’s position. First, Mr Johnson was hit by the shock resignation of one his closest allies, policy chief Munira Mirza. …This was followed by Mr Doyle’s resignation, with No 10 then moving to announce the sudden departures of Mr Rosenfield and Mr Reynolds.” – Daily Mail

  • Cabinet ministers “believe there is a 50/50 chance that Johnson will be forced out of office” – The Times
  • The party’s over for Martin Reynolds and Dan Rosenfield, advisers who became the story – The Times
  • Claims of a stand-up row with Mirza and Carrie Johnson – Daily Mail
  • The adviser who a student radical – The Guardian
  • Chalk “had to be persuaded to stay on as a Minister” – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: The Cabinet should take a lead, force change at the top, get a grip – and put the Government back on track

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Mirza quits as Johnson’s policy chief

Downing Street 2) Forsyth: Who would want to replace them?

“In a bid to win round MPs, the prime minister has begun a clear-out of his No 10 operation. Three of his most senior aides quit last night. The hope is that a revamped No 10 will buy Johnson some time with his parliamentary party. The problem is, who would want to replace them? Tory MPs want big hitters in these roles but it won’t be easy to persuade people to join Downing Street now. Look at how an attempt to get strategist Lynton Crosby to take on a formal role has failed.” – James Forsyth, The Times

  • Reckless, Trumpian leadership is losing Johnson allies. It should lose him his job. – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • Thatcher didn’t need hundreds of advisers – Norman Blackwell, Daily Telegraph
  • The party’s over, Prime Minister. It’s time to resign – Judith Woods, Daily Telegraph
  • It’s not all over – Frederick Forsyth, Daily Express
  • After the Tories ditch  Johnson, they need to reset their values – Simon Kuper, Financial Times

Conservatives win Southend West by-election

“The Conservatives have retained the seat of Southend West in a parliamentary by-election prompted by the fatal stabbing of Sir David Amess MP. Anna Firth won with 12,792 votes in a contest that saw a low turnout of 24%. The election was not contested by Labour, the Liberal Democrats or the Greens. Jason Pilley of the Psychedelic Movement came second with 512 votes. UKIP’s Steve Laws was third with 400. There were 1,084 spoilt ballot papers. Sir David was attacked during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea on 15 October.” – BBC

>Today: MPsETC: Anna Firth wins the Southend West by-election for the Conservatives

Givan resigns as Northern Ireland First Minister

“The leaders of four Northern Ireland Executive parties will meet later to discuss how to progress outstanding legislation following First Minister Paul Givan’s resignation. It took effect at midnight and meant Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill, of Sinn Féin, also lost her post. The move by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is in opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol, which places a trade border in the Irish Sea. Sinn Féin called for an early election. An election for the Northern Ireland Assembly is currently scheduled for May. Due to Northern Ireland’s power-sharing arrangements, the roles of first and deputy first ministers are a joint office shared between the two biggest parties at Stormont.” – BBC

  • Other parties “furious” with the DUP – Belfast Telegraph
  • UK Government’s failure to intervene in Irish Sea dispute ‘bizarre’ – The Scotsman

Sunak offers Council Tax rebate. But Ministers urge rethink of net zero plans to ease cost of living pressures

“Senior Cabinet ministers believe there should be a rethink of the Government’s net zero plans as the country faces the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, The Telegraph can disclose. A number of ministers have expressed concern that the pace of the planned switch to renewable energy is too fast and is increasing costs for consumers. They believe Britain should use more of its own gas in the short-term. On Thursday, it was announced that energy bills will rise by almost £700 from April – an increase of more than 50 per cent and the largest on record. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, announced a £9 billion bailout, which will see rebates of £200 for all bills and a £150 council tax cut for those in less expensive homes, to help households cope with the unprecedented rise. However, a controversial green energy levy, which will add £153 a year to the average bill from April, has been kept.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor’s elationship with the PM “has deteriorated” – Daily Telegraph
  • Households face worst squeeze on disposable incomes for 30 years, warns Bank of England – Financial Times
  • Council tax cut is ‘loopy and lopsided’ – The Times
  • Average family will be £2,417 worse off this year – The Sun
  • We have to fix the NHS – Rishi Sunak, The Sun
  • Brace for even higher energy costs in the autumn – The Guardian
  • Interest rates increase to 0.5 per cent – Financial Times
  • There is a wealth of shale gas sitting beneath our feet – Ross Clark, Daily Mail
  • I warned 20 years ago that the lights could go out – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • Here’s my five-step plan to give the UK a growth spurt – Tony Danker, The Times
  • Rebates won’t even come close to helping people with soaring bills – Polly Toynbee, The Guardian
  • Sunak bailout is a crafty sleight-of-hand which could have been plucked from Gordon Brown’s bumper box of sneaky socialist Budget tricks – Leader, The Sun
  • Self-inflicted misery of our energy insanity – Leader, Daily Mail
  • The chancellor is building up big spending commitments while the economy is facing a high-tax, low-growth future – Leader, The Times
  • Shambles with successive governments failing to exploit shale gas and nuclear energy – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Crisis is about to get much, much worse – Leader, The Scotsman
  • Are the Tories the new Labour Party? – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Tony Danker on Comment: Now is the moment for the Government to go for growth

Rees-Mogg’s Cabinet position “under threat”

“The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg has warned that Jacob Rees-Mogg’s future in the Cabinet is under immediate threat. Speaking on BBC’s Newscast programme, the BBC political editor revealed that a Tory MP had claimed Boris Johnson had promised to get rid of Mr Rees-Mogg. The bombshell claim would mark the highest-profile casualty in the ongoing Downing Street shake-up.” – Daily Express

  • Commons Leader compares morning after pill to abortion as Boots cuts price – Daily Telegraph

Javid declares “national war on cancer”

“Sajid Javid will today declare a ‘national war on cancer’ in a bid to improve Britain’s dismal survival rate for the disease. The Health Secretary will promise an ambitious Ten Year Cancer Plan that aims to make England the best place in the world to receive care. It will focus on diagnosing tumours earlier when they are easier to treat and encouraging people to adopt healthier lifestyles that reduce their odds of getting the disease. Mr Javid will also pledge to boost staff numbers and back research into cutting-edge mRNA cancer vaccines and drugs that will help save more lives.” – Daily Mail

  • Brave MPs share inspirational stories of overcoming cancer – The Sun

Bus operators warn that 30 per cent of services will disappear

“UK bus operators are warning up to 30 per cent of services are at risk of ending when emergency government financial support ceases in April, a move that would undercut Boris Johnson’s efforts to improve public transport in deprived areas. The bus industry is seeking clarity from ministers about whether state funding will be extended after a setback in the recovery of passenger numbers when fresh Covid-19 restrictions were introduced late last year in response to the Omicron coronavirus variant.” – Financial Times

US raid kills ISIS leader

“The leader of the Islamic State (IS) is dead following a US raid in northern Syria that also killed a senior deputy of the terror group, US officials say. Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi set off a blast killing himself and his family as special forces rounded on his hideout after a gunfight. US President Joe Biden disclosed the overnight raid on Thursday. Qurayshi’s death “removed a major terrorist threat to the world”, Mr Biden said. US officials did not name the IS deputy also killed, but provided dramatic details of the operation that had been months in the planning.” – BBC

  • Biden has his ‘commander in chief moment’ but it won’t turn the tide – Daily Telegraph

Nelson: The lockdown establishment will never accept that its disastrous policy failed

“We haven’t heard much from Sir Patrick Vallance recently…What I’d love to ask him is why, if there was no bias, did every single one of these scenarios end up overstating the threat? Why were they wrong, so wildly wrong? Again? This isn’t about parading Sir Patrick around Trafalgar Square with a placard of incorrect Sage graphs around his neck. The important question is whether he even thinks there was a problem, whether Sage is capable of error correction – and what he thinks about the fact that the country was very nearly locked down on what turned out to be seriously duff advice. Given that it could happen again, and at any time, are lessons being learned? Or are our scientific advisers still in collective denial?” – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

  • We must prepare the NHS for future pandemics now – Andrew Lilico, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Columnist Sarah Ingham: The Government’s Covid communications campaign made lab rats of us all

News in brief

  • Milder Omicron variant, booster roll-out and better treatments sees Covid intensive care numbers fall sharply – The i
  • Putin’s grand plan is failing – Ian Birrell, Unherd
  • Why Mirza’s resignation matters – Fraser Nelson, The Spectator
  • If we really want to level up, Britain must become a ‘postcode democracy’ – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • Starmer’s silence. Why won’t Labour stand by women? – Joan Smith, The Critic