Published:

Loyalists appeal for more time for Downing St reset

“Boris Johnson should be given “time and space” to lead, the UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng urged on Sunday, as the prime minister battled to shore up backbench support with a shake-up of his Downing Street team. Following a chaotic week, which included the departure of five senior officials and public criticism from cabinet ministers, Steve Barclay, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was appointed Johnson’s chief of staff. Guto Harri, a former BBC journalist and communications director during Johnson’s first term at City Hall as London mayor, will become the prime minister’s director of communications. Disgruntled MPs say they are willing to give Johnson more time but expect further changes to his operation to be announced in the coming days.” – FT

  • Fears backbenchers are planning ‘No Confidence’ push this week – Daily Mail
  • Allies insist ‘grownups’ in charge of new team – The Guardian
  • Johnson vows it will take a ‘division of tanks’ to oust him – The Sun

Barclay:

Harri:

  • Harri lobbied Government for Chinese tech giant Huawei – The Sun
  • Spin doctor’s scathing comments about Johnson – The Times

Carrie does not have too much power over the Prime Minister, says Kwarteng

“Carrie Johnson does not have ‘undue influence’ over the Prime Minister, a Cabinet minister has insisted. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng leapt to the defence of the PM’s wife yesterday after a new bombshell biography accused her of wielding too much power. The book First Lady by Lord Ashcroft – a former Tory Party deputy chairman – was serialised in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday. Mr Kwarteng disputed the claims made about Mrs Johnson – but said he did not believe the criticism was sexist… In the book, Lord Ashcroft claims Mr Johnson voiced his anguish and frustration at the way his wife tried to exert her influence over the running of Downing Street. No 10 has strongly rejected all the claims. In a statement, Mrs Johnson’s spokesman also hit back, saying: ‘Yet again Mrs Johnson has been targeted by a brutal briefing campaign.'” – Daily Mail

  • Carrie lashes out at ‘nasty smears by bitter ex-officials’ – The Times
  • Johnson furious at ‘hit-job’ book on wife – The Sun
  • She ‘made use of Boris’s mobile phone to direct and control events’ – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Johnson hugs Conservative MPs close

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Ashcroft biography. Is the Prime Minister’s wife fair game?

Andrew Hill: Bureaucracy cannot curb Johnson’s chaotic culture

“There was an echo of “stop me before I kill again” in last week’s promise by Boris Johnson to create an “office of the prime minister” to bring order to Number 10 Downing Street. The suggestion was part of his response to a report into parties held there when the population was under Covid-19 restrictions. Try to ignore for now the strange sight of a leader who promised to use Brexit to tear down bureaucratic EU rules binding himself in red tape to stay his hand from the prosecco and cake. Set aside the lack of detail, the fact that such a plan has been pondered before, but never implemented, and the possibility this is just chaff to deflect attention from “partygate”. Instead, consider this: reforming and resetting an organisation in an effort to change its culture is not the worst idea in the world.” – FT

  • A reshuffle might not be enough to save the Prime Minister – Mhari Aurora, Times Red Box
  • Being a ‘friend of Carrie’ wasn’t enough to save Newman – Andrew Pierce, Daily Mail

>Today: Andrew Griffith MP in Comment: It is ultimately outputs that matter. Here are my priorities as the Prime Minister’s new Director of Policy.

NHS 1) Treasury blocks Johnson’s plan to clear backlog

“A multi-billion pound plan to tackle the NHS backlog has been delayed after the Treasury blocked an announcement due to be made on Monday. The National Recovery Plan for the health service had been the subject of detailed discussions over the past week involving Number 10, the Treasury, the Department of Health and the NHS. Health officials were expecting it to be announced by Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, on Monday as evidence of the Government’s determination to tackle delays in treatment owing to the Covid pandemic, which have left a record six million patients on waiting lists. However, it has emerged that the Treasury refused to sign off the plans, with sources citing concerns over value for money after deadlines for hitting treatment targets slipped as a result of the omicron surge.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ministers seek tougher targets – The Times
  • Fears Chancellor is delaying sign-off of draft plan by dragging his feet – Daily Mail

More:

  • NHS patients needing operations will be able to ‘shop’ online for hospitals with shortest waiting lists – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Stewart Jackson’s column: Tax cuts, more homes, immigration control and NHS reform. What the Tories need to do to win next time.

NHS 2) Javid tells medical regulators to insist staff get jabs

“Medical regulators must crack down on unvaccinated staff, the health secretary has said as he tries to deal with the fallout from abandoning compulsory jabs. Sajid Javid has rebuked regulators and demanded that they send a “clear message” to healthcare workers that they must get a coronavirus vaccine. Unions warned him against an attempt to introduce compulsory vaccination “by the back door” after his last-minute retreat on a legal requirement for frontline staff to be fully vaccinated. Javid announced last week that the policy would not go ahead, days before hospitals were due to start sacking staff who had not been vaccinated before a deadline on Thursday. He cited the lower risk from the Omicron variant, against which two vaccines offer little protection, although he also acknowledged concerns of a staffing crisis if 77,000 unvaccinated staff lost their jobs.” – The Times

  • Camilla and May back NHS campaign to help victims and survivors of abuse – The Guardian

Truss says Falklands part of ‘British family’ after China backs Argentina…

“Liz Truss has defended the Falklands as “part of the British family” after China backed Argentina’s claim over the South American islands. The foreign secretary tweeted that “China must respect the Falklands’ sovereignty” after the Argentinian president, Alberto Fernández, met China’s President Xi on the fringes of the Beijing Winter Olympics. According to a statement on the website of the Chinese embassy in the UK, the two leaders spoke of their “deep friendship” and Argentina signed up to China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, a state-backed campaign for global influence. But they also signed an agreement in which China reasserted its support for Argentina’s claim to the Falklands, while Fernández backed Xi’s one-China policy, which claims Taiwan as its own.” – The Guardian

  • Government ‘completely reject any questions’ over islands’ sovereignty – Daily Express

…as she heads to Russia with fresh warning over Ukraine invasion

“Liz Truss will fly to Russia on Thursday to try to defuse tensions over Ukraine as she said it was clear the Kremlin’s denials of a pending invasion were false. In the first visit by a foreign secretary in four years she is expected to tell Moscow to “de-escalate and desist its unprovoked aggression”. She will emphasise to Sergey Lavrov, her opposite number, the harm an invasion would do to ordinary Russians as well as the damage to the economy, saying that the Kremlin risks a “drawn-out quagmire”. Last night Truss tweeted: “The depths of Russian attempts to subvert and threaten Ukraine are clear. Russia’s actions show their claims to have no plans to invade are false. We and our allies stand united in support for Ukraine and our resolve to raise the cost to Russia if they take further action.”” – The Times

  • Labour calls on Tories to return money from donors linked to Moscow – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Foolish politicians have made life easy for the enemies of the West – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

Northern Ireland: Terrorists could be prosecuted for offences during the Troubles if they do not cooperate with authorities…

“Terrorists who refuse to cooperate with authorities could still face prosecution for atrocities committed during the Troubles under new legislation designed to protect British troops, The Telegraph understands. A new Legacy Bill has faced fierce opposition over claims military veterans were being unfairly treated – despite a demand for legislation to protect them from criminal investigation. Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, had hoped to push through his Legacy Bill last autumn, but its progress has been stalled by objections from victims of terrorism as well as  veterans’ groups. Now Mr Lewis is considering strengthening powers in the Bill to force terror suspects to participate in hearings into hundreds of unsolved murders during the Troubles.” – Daily Telegraph

…as Donaldson gambles by pulling the plug on Northern Ireland’s executive

“The leader of Northern Ireland’s biggest unionist party has pulled down the power-sharing executive in a row over post-Brexit trading rules. But his gambit, three months before elections are due, will be difficult to deliver on. Soon after taking the reins of the Democratic Unionist Party last year, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson met the UK prime minister at the Conservative party conference. Boris Johnson told him then that negotiations with the EU to overhaul post-Brexit trading arrangements for the region would be “short, sharp” and take just three weeks, he claims. Four months after that pledge, with no breakthrough in sight, Donaldson decided it was time to apply “maximum leverage” on London and Brussels. As he had threatened since September, he pulled the plug on the Stormont government, led by the DUP.” – FT

>Yesterday:

Inquiry after pupils told they are victims in race lessons

“The education secretary has asked officials to investigate school lessons that say children are not “racially innocent” and endorse white privilege. Nadhim Zahawi’s department has contacted Brighton and Hove city council over the racial literacy training for school staff, which has been completed by hundreds of teachers. A group of MPs has written to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to ask it to investigate the council’s five-year “anti-racist” schools project, The Daily Telegraph reported… Twenty-four MPs and peers from the Common Sense Group, which says that it stands for “authentic conservatism”, wrote to Zahawi demanding a “crackdown on bad-faith councils funding such sinister programmes”. It said that Brighton’s training was “extremist dogma… peddling such cruel myths [which] stymy the life chances of young children”.” – The Times

  • Labour seeks inquiry into huge jump in top grade A-levels at private schools – The Guardian
  • Pupils will return to exam halls armed with clues ‘for fairness’ – The Times

UK sets out £6bn plan B science fund if EU blocks association with Horizon

“The UK is planning to spend £6bn over three years on a new global science fund, if the EU refuses to let the country take part in its Horizon Europe research programme, the government’s preferred option. George Freeman, science minister, told the FT that he was working on the new international fund, known in science policy circles as Plan B, while still hoping that Brussels will give Britain associate membership of Horizon Europe — the EU’s main funding programme for research and innovation with a budget of €95bn over seven years. British association with Horizon Europe was foreseen in the 2020 Brexit agreement but has not taken place yet, as a result of continued disagreements between the EU and UK over Northern Ireland and other issues. Switzerland remains shut out too for similar political reasons.” – FT

>Today: Ben Houchen in Local Government: Unleash the free market to deliver on levelling-up

Online fraud isn’t an everyday worry, Kwarteng insists

“Fraud and online scams are not problems that “people experience in their daily lives”, the business secretary has suggested as he sought to defend Boris Johnson’s inaccurate claim that crime was falling. Kwasi Kwarteng was accused of failing to take fraud seriously after arguing that the prime minister was not counting rising numbers of online scams when discussing crime statistics in the Commons. Johnson was rebuked by the head of the UK Statistics Authority last week for his misleading use of official crime figures after claiming in the Commons that crime had fallen by 14 per cent. Sir David Norgrove said: “If fraud and computer misuse are counted in total crime, as they should be, total crime in fact increased by 14 per cent between the year ending September 2019 and the year ending September 2021.”” – The Times

  • Johnson’s criticism of Starmer over Savile case was correct, says Business Secretary – The Times

>Yesterday:

Prime Minister pulls plug on ‘woke’ rule change in MPs’ code of conduct

“The Prime Minister is preparing to block a move by the Commons standards committee which would require MPs to promote ‘anti-racism, inclusion and diversity’ under a controversial overhaul of parliamentary rules. The Commons standards committee published a package of reforms to clean up Westminster in the wake of the row over second jobs and ‘sleaze’. But the formal Government response is expected to oppose the proposal to include the new ‘respect’ principle as part of the seven principles of public life which are currently enshrined in the rules… The changes were backed unanimously by members of the cross-party committee which is chaired by Labour MP Chris Bryant.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • Sink Gove’s Irish Sea border – Lee Reynolds, The Critic
  • The council tax ‘rebate’ offers a stark lesson about our data-poor state – James Ball, CapX
  • Politics isn’t a branch of the entertainment industry – Sam Leith, The Spectator
  • Cressida Dick has failed women – Joan Smith, UnHerd