Ukraine 1) PM urges western unity on sanctions if Russia invades

“Boris Johnson will on Saturday rally Western leaders to show solidarity “beyond anything we have seen in recent history” to avert bloodshed in Ukraine. The Prime Minister will fly to the Munich Security Conference to affirm support for heavy sanctions on Russia if it launches an invasion of Ukraine. It comes after pro-Moscow separatists began to evacuate citizens from the breakaway statelets of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine on Friday, claiming the Kyiv government was preparing an attack.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Biden says he is convinced Putin has decided to invade – BBC
  •  Putin’s twisted ploy to trigger instability and panic – Ian Birrell, Daily Mail
  • Europe prepares for the “new normal” – Financial Times

>Today: ToryDiary: The Foreign Office recognises better than it did the need to combat Russia propaganda over Ukraine

Ukraine 2) Moore: The West has forgotten why it matters that our enemy Putin doesn’t win

“We may think that the possibility that Ukraine might join Nato is what really irks Putin. Some conclude that since it is highly unlikely to be allowed to join in the foreseeable future, it will be almost cost-free for the West to grant his wish that it won’t. If the West did that, however, it would break the purpose of a defensive alliance, which is to deter rivals from gaining by the threat of force, and would throw away the principle of sovereignty over security. It would also misunderstand Putin. For him, the idea of Ukraine in Nato is not the root of the matter. It is merely a symptom of something wider. What he really cannot stand is the idea that Ukraine can be a fully independent country which has its sovereign right to decide such things.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Johnson returns lockdown party questionnaire to police

“Boris Johnson has returned his questionnaire about allegations of Downing Street lockdown breaches to the police, the BBC has been told. The PM was one of more than 50 people to be sent the document by the Metropolitan Police, which is looking at potential Covid rule-breaking. Mr Johnson had until 22:00 GMT on Friday to answer the survey…Mr Johnson has received legal advice about his response.” – BBC

  • Sue Gray allows staff to see her notes before they respond to police – The Times
  • PM will try any trick to cling to power – Matthew Parris, The Times

Extensive damage from Storm Eunice

“Energy companies are under pressure to urgently restore power to hundreds of thousands of homes that were cut off as record 122mph winds from Storm Eunice tore across Britain, killing three people….Ministers sought yesterday to reassure the public that lessons had been learnt. Damian Hinds, the Home Office minister, told Sky News: “Over the longer term, a lot of learning has been done from Storm Arwen, particularly on welfare issues, staying in touch with people, staying in touch with customers for the [power] networks.” – The Times

MI5 chief calls for legal changes to help prosecute foreign spies

“The head of MI5 today lays bare the terrifying threat to Britain from hostile nations. Ken McCallum says ‘we are in a struggle here’ for our very way of life. In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, he warns Russia and China are waging an all-encompassing ‘contest’ for international supremacy, seeking to interfere in Parliament, shape public thought and steal from businesses, universities and ordinary Britons… the Director General also warns that MI5 is being hamstrung by outdated laws which make it impossible to prosecute foreign spies.’We are in effect operating with one hand behind our back on state threats,’ he admits.” – Daily Mail

  • Spymaster steps out of the shadows – Daily Mail
  • A chilling warning to the west – Leader, Daily Mail

Zahawi “abandons plans to extend school day”

“Plans have been ditched to extend school days to help Covid kids catch up. Nadhim Zahawi has thrown out predecessor Gavin Williamson’s “strong case” for making up for lost learning.The current Education Secretary had said he would “look at” the idea for England — but has now decided against this. A source said: “All the studies show the impact is negligible for the huge amounts of money that would be needed. Ultimately, schools have power to set their time — they could put an extra half an hour onto lunchtime.” Instead, a targeted package of tuition was rolled out to kids who most needed additional help while older pupils, ages 16 to 19, were given more hours in class.” – The Sun

Rees-Mogg determined to reduce the size of the civil service

“Rees-Mogg sees his other role, as minister for government efficiency, being linked to this and says that Brexit needs to be accompanied by a small and more limited role for the state. He recently met Francis Maude, his predecessor in that role under the coalition government, and says he is determined to fulfil his legacy of reforming and cutting the size of the civil service. Under Maude Whitehall shrank from about 470,000 full-time officials in 2010 to about 380,000 just before the EU referendum. But thanks to Brexit and Covid that has now been entirely reversed. It is an issue that Rees-Mogg is determined to address…He says that at a bare minimum the civil service needs to close 65,000 posts created during the pandemic but wants to go much further.” – The Times

  • NHS has 675 staff taking home salaries of more than £150,000 a year – Daily Mail


Trevelyan makes progress on new trade deal

“The UK yesterday won approval to enter final negotiations for joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade zone embracing some of the fastest growing emerging markets. International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will fly to Indonesia, Japan and Singapore next week to discuss the UK’s application to join Australia, Canada, and nine other countries in the zero-tariff bloc. Officials are optimistic that membership can be agreed by the end of the year in a deal that is expected to add an estimated £1.8billion a year to GDP.” – Daily Express

  • A major trading power on a new world stage – Leader, Daily Express

Davis warns of threat to free speech from new internet rules

“Top Tories have vowed to fight a major social media crackdown over fears it could strangle free speech and make Nick Clegg the web’s chief censor…Ex-Cabinet Minister David Davis railed against the plans and said Parliament should determine the type of posts which get deleted instead. He told The Sun: “Don’t leave it to the platforms themselves or Ofcom to decide as they get colonised with woke tendencies, or whatever the latest intellectual fashion is in California.” – The Sun

  • UK cabinet backs tough new internet laws on online harms – Financial Times
  • Who triumphed among the coalition trio? – The Times
  • Legal but harmful – Leader, The Times

Election results in key London boroughs “key” to Johnson’s fate

“Totemic Conservative boroughs in London will help to decide Boris Johnson’s fate as prime minister in local elections, polling experts believe. Johnson’s argument to his restive parliamentary party that he retains the electoral appeal that gave him a landslide in 2019 will be tested for the first time in May, when elections are due for 146 councils in England, all 32 Scottish councils, all 22 Welsh councils and seven directly elected mayoralties. The patchwork of results will be watched by Conservative MPs and the party rank and file for evidence of whether they should keep Johnson as leader, if he has not already been removed before polling day. Lord Hayward, a former Conservative MP and expert on local elections, identified the London boroughs of Wandsworth and Westminster, where all seats are up for re-election, as two of the most crucial contests.” – The Times

  • Plaid Cymru calls for a change to voting system – Wales Online

>Yesterday: Local Government: Council by-election results from yesterday and forthcoming contests

Police arrest protestors in Ottawa

“Police have clashed with demonstrators in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, as they move to end a three-week anti-vaccine mandate protest, with 100 arrests made. The operation started early on Friday, with some officers on horseback, after the government invoked the Emergencies Act to crack down on the protest. Some protesters who resisted were thrown to the ground and had their hands zip-tied behind their backs…Some of the remaining protesters formed a line in front of approaching officers, linking arms and singing O Canada – the national anthem.” – BBC

  • Canada’s illiberal response to protesters – Leader, Financial Times
  • NHS is at last emerging from pain of Covid – Sajid Javid, The Times
  • The tragedy of Covid’s 100,000 ‘ghost children’ will make those who demanded never-ending lockdowns hang their privileged heads in shame – Harriet Sargeant, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: David Hare on Comment: How Javid can ensure the elective recovery plan for the NHS delivers

Frost: Voters don’t give credit for past glories

“Voters don’t give credit for past glories. They want to know “what now?” And here the prospectus looks thinner. The Government doesn’t seem to be able to decide whether it is a traditional, low-tax Tory administration, or whether its ambition is to turn Britain into a European-style social democracy. Consequently, it isn’t pleasing anyone – and the sense of drift is palpable. Whatever happens with partygate, things need to get back on track. If we don’t stop vacillating between inconsistent objectives, and failing to make the case for any of them, we won’t take people with us – and we will deserve to lose.” – David Frost, Daily Telegraph

Murray: Ministers are failing to act against woke ideology

“This problem even extends to the departments over which government ministers preside. The Civil Service in our country is infused with woke ideology, regularly participating in Diversity, Inclusion and Equity struggle sessions and the like. When it comes to public appointments, time and again the Civil Service try to ensure that only those with centre-Left or Left-wing opinions are deemed appointable to all public bodies. When you ask ministers about this, you tend to hear that these are initiatives that the Civil Service starts without the awareness of the politicians running the departments. It is a wholly inadequate excuse. If schools, universities or other public bodies were found to be doing things that their heads did not approve of, those heads would not be excused simply because they professed ignorance.” – Douglas Murray, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Trudeau is behaving like a dictator – Donal Forbes, Conservative Woman
  • Biden is ‘convinced’ Putin will invade Ukraine. Is Putin? – Jacob Heilbrunn, The Spectator
  • Storms have already become more damaging “due to climate change” – Tom Bowden, The i
  • To make the most of Brexit, we should embrace radical freeports – Phil Radford, CapX