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Ukraine 1) Biden sceptical of claims of Russian troop withdrawal

“President Biden has urged President Putin not to embark on “a war of choice” as he casts doubt on the supposed withdrawal of Russian troops from the Ukrainian border. Biden said that a diplomatic solution was still possible but warned that the US would “rally the world” to punish Russia if it invaded. Giving an assessment that there were 150,000 troops “encircling” Ukraine, he also spoke to the Russian people directly in a White House address, saying: “You are not our enemy.” He echoed scepticism from western allies over Russia’s suggestion that it was pulling some troops out.” – The Times

  • Markets rally on hopes of de-escalation – BBC
  • Top finance watchdog urges west to ‘think twice’ about Russia sanctions – Financial Times
  • Russia is still building field hospitals on Ukraine border – Daily Mail
  • The Tories must make sure their own donors are squeaky clean if they want to clear up the London laundromat – Sebastian Payne, Financial Times
  • The EU deserves never to recover from its shameful Ukraine failures  – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph
  • We should not entertain Nato membership for Ukraine – Nigel Farage, Daily Telegraph
  • The Russian president may calculate that his military blackmail has won him much of what he wanted – Leader, The Times
  • Putin has exposed the West’s weakness – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • So did he blink… or pull off the most daring bluff of all? – Owen Matthews, Daily Mail

>Today: Columnist Daniel Hannan: Putin has shown the West to be dithering, divided and drippy

Ukraine 2) Johnson detects “mixed signals” from Russia

“Boris Johnson has said there are “mixed signals” from Russia, after it said it was pulling back some of its troops from near Ukraine. The PM said talks between Russia and Western powers has shown “signs of a diplomatic opening” to avert conflict. But he added latest intelligence on Russian military activity was “not encouraging”. Russia denies it is planning an attack, despite having more than 100,000 troops at Ukraine’s border.” – BBC

  • Clampdown on Russian companies in London if Putin invades – Daily Telegraph

Ukraine 3) Dale: Wallace is the new favourite with the Tory faithful

“Few politicians have emerged from the events of the last few weeks with their reputations enhanced, but the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, is the exception. His cool and deft handling of the Ukraine crisis has impressed even those who felt that he was only appointed because of his long-term support for Boris Johnson. So impressed are some of his fellow MPs that they even whisper about him having become a contender for the leadership. They can’t have failed to notice that he has overtaken The Trussette in the monthly Conservative Home popularity polls, and he has done it without trying to take the form of a Margaret Thatcher reincarnation. Certainly, he has resisted the oh-too-obvious photo opportunities that his predecessors loved so much. He doesn’t need to prove his credentials. He just gets on with the job, a lesson some of his more iridescent colleagues could learn from.” – Iain Dale, Daily Telegraph

PM’s allies claim he can avoid fine over ‘partygate’ scandal

“Boris Johnson’s allies are increasingly confident he can avoid being fined over Downing Street parties held during coronavirus restrictions by arguing that he thought he was attending work events. Johnson on Friday received a questionnaire from the Metropolitan Police, which is investigating at least 12 government parties that happened during Covid-19 restrictions, and the prime minister must respond within seven days. With Labour demanding his resignation, Johnson’s political future may rest on whether the police issue him with a penalty, which would confirm that officers believed he had broken Covid-19 rules. If that occurs, ministers said sufficient numbers of Conservative MPs would respond by forcing a no-confidence vote in his leadership. But Johnson’s allies insisted there was a “good chance” he will not be issued with a fine by the police over the so-called partygate scandal.” – Financial Times

  • Johnson must quit if he broke party rules, says former law chief Jeremy Wright – The Times
  • No 10 staff warned not to confer in replies to Met police’s parties inquiry – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Columnist James Frayne: Johnson can recover his position. He has a pathway to survival.

Patel “to axe” visa scheme for foreign billionaires moving to Britain

“Golden tickets for foreign billionaires to move to Britain are to be axed. Home Secretary Priti Patel wants to scrap the Tier 1 Investor visa scheme, which fast-tracks residency in return for millions of pounds in business backing.The clampdown comes amid concerns London is flooded with cash and assets linked to Kremlin tyrant Vladimir Putin. It would mean rogue investors and businessmen from hostile states would no longer be able to buy their way into the country under the premise of investment.” – The Sun

The Good Law Project told it does not have ‘carte blanche’ to sue the Government

“A legal campaign group that has challenged the Government on its handling of the pandemic may have its ability to appeal ministerial decisions curbed after a court judgment said it should not have “carte blanche” to sue. The Good Law Project has brought several high-profile cases against the Government, including over the procurement of PPE and the employment of a Tory-linked PR agency to work on Covid-19 communications at the height of the pandemic. The group, which is funded by donations, lost a ruling in the High Court yesterday after it claimed the appointment of Dido Harding as interim chair of the National Institute for Health Protection was the result of nepotism.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Hancock failed to comply with equality duty – The Guardian

Metropolitan Police resists “institutionally racist” label

“The Metropolitan Police are resisting pressure for chief constables to declare that policing is institutionally racist, despite warnings that they cannot repair broken relations with the black community without the admission. Police leaders have been in high-level talks about making the declaration to show black and minority communities that they accept that racism and discrimination are ingrained in the service, and will take radical steps to fix it. The Times has been told that the Met is one of several police forces opposed to the admission in reforms by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). Helen Ball, an assistant commissioner and one of Dame Cressida Dick’s staunchest allies, spoke out against it at a meeting this month.” – The Times

  • Some officers are racist, professional standards chief admits – BBC
  • Police morale is plummeting – and ministers are turning a blind eye – Ché Donald, The Times
  • Patel to change rules to make it harder to sack chief constables – Daily Express

>Today: Emily Carver: The Met’s failings go much further than Cressida Dick

Send Channel migrants to Ascension Island, report urges

“Channel migrants should be deported to an overseas British territory within 48 hours of arriving in the UK, a report by a right-wing think tank has said. Policy Exchange recommends setting up asylum processing centres in Britain’s Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus; Alderney in the Channel Islands; or Ascension Island, 4,000 miles away in the Atlantic. The think tank, which has close links to the government, urges ministers to adopt a “new Plan B” if France continues to refuse “Plan A” of British vessels intercepting boats in French waters and escorting migrants back to France.” – The Times

  • Number of migrants smuggled into UK in lorries over last 7years ‘would fill Old Trafford’ – The Sun

Sturgeon’s strict Covid rules did not keep Scotland’s deaths below England’s

“Nicola Sturgeon is facing more pressure to ditch her draconian approach to Covid-19 restrictions after an analysis showed it had not prevented Scottish death rates from rising above England’s during the delta and omicron waves. The Scottish Tories said it was time for the First Minister to trust Scots to take personal responsibility for how they manage the risks of the virus and claimed the data cast doubts over the effectiveness of her strategy of “bringing in restrictions on a whim”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Lockdown debate skewed because sceptical scientists were shunned on social media – Daily Telegraph
  • Experts continued to present a false dichotomy throughout the pandemic – Ryan Bourne, Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson hails Douglas Ross, despite Scottish Tory leader urging him to quit – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: MPsETC: “Lessons from the vaccine taskforce.” Kate Bingham’s Romanes Lecture. Full text.

Zemmour claims has “long and friendly” call with Trump

“Éric Zemmour, the far-right pundit standing in the French presidential election, claims to have won the backing of Donald Trump after the two men spoke on the phone on Tuesday. In a statement, Zemmour’s campaign said that the pair had a “long and friendly” conversation on migration, law and order and the economy. The announcement came as two polls showed Zemmour edging into third place in the election race ahead of Valérie Pécresse, 54, the mainstream centre-right Republicans candidate.” – The Times

Widdecombe: The NHS should embrace true equality

“The NHS, we are always being told, is chronically short of cash. Yet a civil servant, Andrew Scarborough, who is of mixed race, has accused a health quango of being obsessed with white privilege and toxic positivity, whatever the latter may mean…The quango in question is NHS Health Education England (HEE), which takes £4bn of our money each year…Criticise a woman and up goes the cry of misogyny but criticise a man and nobody cries misandry. Indeed, I doubt if half the country even knows what the word means. Positive discrimination is acceptable for black people but not white and ditto for females but not males. We simply do not have equality in any meaningful sense of the word.” – Ann Widdecombe, Daily Express

Prince Andrew agrees settlement with Virginia Giuffre

“There are calls for clarity over Prince Andrew’s role in public life and how he will fund a financial settlement, after settling the US civil sexual assault case brought by Virginia Giuffre. The Duke of York agreed to pay an undisclosed sum as part of the settlement, and accepted Ms Giuffre had suffered as a victim of abuse. He made no admission of liability and has always denied the allegations. American lawyer Lisa Bloom said it was a huge victory for Ms Giuffre.” – BBC

  • Surrender has saved Queen’s Platinum Jubilee… but the exile to Siberia will remain permanent for the Duke of York – Robert Hardman, Daily Mail

News in brief

  • Germany is becoming an unreliable ally in the Ukraine crisis – Mark Wallace, The i
  • Has the Good Law Project been dealt an existential blow? – Steven Barrett, The Spectator
  • The Levelling Up White Paper is a missed opportunity to boost charity and volunteering – Luke Stanley, CapX
  • The role of criminal law is to punish harm, not enforce politeness – Professor James Chalmers, The Critic
  • Hysteria over a Russian invasion was always misplaced – David Patrikarakos, Unherd
  • PJ O’Rourke: the finest satirist of his generation – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator