Published:

Ukraine 1) Johnson says Russia has plans for ‘biggest war in Europe since 1945’

“Russia’s plan to invade Ukraine would lead to the largest conflict in Europe since the second world war, Boris Johnson has warned. The British prime minister told the BBC he wanted people to “understand the sheer cost in human life” that an incursion into Ukraine would bring, with casualties on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides, as he continued to urged Moscow to engage in peace talks. The UK’s foreign secretary, Liz Truss, meanwhile, used a separate interview to state that Vladimir Putin “will not stop at Ukraine”, arguing that he is looking to piece the Soviet Union back together.” – The Observer

Comment

Ukraine 2) Britain warns of Russian cyber attacks as companies urged to take defensive action

“Vladimir Putin may be preparing a cyber assault on British interests, the Home Secretary and GCHQ warned as they urged companies and public services to take “pre-emptive measures” to defend themselves against an attack. Writing for The Telegraph, Priti Patel said that “as this crisis develops” the Government expects to see “cyber attacks aimed at the West”. In a separate article, Lindy Cameron, the head of GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), warned of a “heightened cyber threat” and said: “Cyber attacks do not respect geographic boundaries.” Britain is seen to be a potential target, having taken a leading role in calling out Mr Putin’s aggression and threatening severe consequences in the event of an invasion.” – Sunday Telegraph

Ukraine 3) Priti Patel: We’re taking action to keep Britain safe from Russia’s malicious activities

“The situation in Ukraine remains critical. The Government is doing everything it can to support British nationals still in Ukraine following the formal advice to leave. My department has taken quick and decisive action to support them and their families to travel to the UK. This has included implementing a dedicated visa helpline, prioritising family visas from Ukraine so they are processed in days rather than weeks, waiving the family visa application fee and ensuring that eligible family members of British nationals are granted a visa. Dedicated teams have also been prioritising passport applications – including surrogacy cases – and supporting the Foreign Office to issue emergency travel documents.” – Sunday Telegraph

Ukraine 4) Tim Shipman: Ukraine couldn’t have come at a better time for Johnson

“If a week is a long time in politics, a month looks like several geological ages in the rollercoaster career of Boris Johnson. Just three weeks ago the prime minister was a joke figure on the world stage, mocked by the White House for his lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street, lampooned in newspaper cartoons around the world. But when he joined fellow world leaders on a conference call last week his energetic response to the Ukraine crisis appeared to have helped him to turn a corner, at least internationally. There are additional benefits for Johnson, of course. Ukraine has taken the parties scandal off the front pages. “I think Wednesday was the first time he’s done an interview in weeks when he wasn’t asked about them,” an aide noted.” – The Sunday Times

Johnson to end forced self-isolation after positive Covid test in England

“The prime minister is to announce the end of the legal duty to self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 next week. Downing Street said Boris Johnson will lay out his intentions to repeal all pandemic regulations that restrict public freedoms in England as part of his “living with Covid” plan on Monday. Johnson will also tell MPs returning to parliament after February recess that the country can rely on the vaccine programme, testing, and new treatments to keep people safe. The prime minister said: “Covid will not suddenly disappear, and we need to learn to live with this virus and continue to protect ourselves without restricting our freedoms.” – The Observer

Comment

PM set to be among first to learn fate in ‘partygate’ investigation

“Boris Johnson will be among the first to learn his fate in the “partygate” scandal, insiders believe, as Scotland Yard seeks to resolve the trickiest cases first. The Prime Minister has already responded to a police questionnaire asking whether he breached Covid rules by attending illegal gatherings during lockdown. It was feared that, with more than 50 suspects being contacted by police, the scale of the inquiry could mean the outcome would not be known for some months. But it is now understood that the Metropolitan Police Special Enquiry Team is prioritising the most complex and politically sensitive cases first before moving on to the “low-hanging fruit” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Here is the right road for our drifting PM, says Lord Frost – Sun on Sunday

‘I owe Johnson my absolute undying loyalty’ – Dorries

“Once dismissed as “Mad Nad” by David Cameron (she responded by describing the prime minister and George Osborne as “two posh boys who don’t know the price of milk”), Nadine Dorries now finds herself at the heart of a government in turmoil. In the first few months since her appointment battle lines have been drawn with the BBC, social media firms and, most recently, amid the fallout from Jimmy Carr’s Gypsy joke, Netflix. And yet, as we sit down for this interview, all these conflicts are secondary to the bigger battle — the attempt to save the prime minister’s political life.” – The Sunday Times

Dominic Lawson: Labour is right to fear Sunak’s winning ways

“Bill Belichick, American football’s nearest equivalent to Sir Alex Ferguson, has always argued it’s a good plan to target the opposing team’s best player. Here, on the political playing field of Westminster, the Labour Party is adopting exactly that strategy. In the last PM’s questions before the recess, it was noticeable, as the New Statesman observed, that “the Labour leader didn’t ask about lockdown parties or Metropolitan Police investigations or cite the prime minister’s fragile standing among his MPs. Instead, as one member of Starmer’s team puts it, ‘We literally just asked six questions about Rishi!’” – The Sunday Times

More comment

The Tory donors with access to Johnson’s top team

“Shortly before Christmas, a photograph taken in the Downing Street garden emerged that was felt by many to epitomise a prevailing attitude at the heart of government. Taken on May 15, 2020, it showed Boris Johnson, his fiancée Carrie Symonds and groups of his top staff enjoying wine and cheese at the height of lockdown. It can now be revealed that another previously unreported event was taking place on the same day inside No 10, one which perhaps offers a starker illustration of the way power works. At 3pm, Johnson’s longest-standing adviser and confidant Lord Udny-Lister sat down to open the latest virtual meeting of the “advisory board”: a secret group of ultra-wealthy Conservative Party donors.” – The Sunday Times

  • Six Tory donors given top cultural posts since Johnson became PM – The Observer
Comment

Ministers hunt for Clegg Facebook spies

“Nick Clegg is at the centre of a Whitehall leak inquiry after Ministers raised concerns he was receiving secret information about Government plans to regulate Facebook. The former Deputy Prime Minister has just been promoted to president of global affairs at the £400 billion tech giant, where he will lobby against tough new regulations that could affect its business. But Whitehall officials fear he is being fed sensitive details about what is being planned, and have launched a major hunt to track down the suspected mole. Sources say the alarm was raised when Sir Nick cited classified information in a Zoom call with Government officials as long ago as June 2020.” – Mail on Sunday

  • My ‘debate’ with Extinction Rebellion confirmed all my worst fears about this eco doom cult – Sunday Telegraph