Published:

Johnson discusses the war in Ukraine with Biden, Scholz, and others…

“Moscow insists on a guarantee that Ukraine never be admitted to NATO, an organisation created to protect Europe from the threat of the Soviet Union at the start of the Cold War. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, NATO has expanded to include countries on Russia’s borders.  This comes as a number of international leaders have held a series of talks, but no substantive solution to the conflict has emerged from that dialogue. Yesterday Mr Zelensky spoke with Israeli legislators via video link, thanking Israel for its efforts to broker talks with Russia. US President Joe Biden, who travels to Europe this week to attend a summit with NATO leaders, discussed the war with politicians including Boris Johnson, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany and Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy today. Mr Biden and NATO have said repeatedly that while they will provide weapons and other defensive support to non-NATO member Ukraine, they are determined to avoid any escalation that risks a broader war with Russia.” – The Daily Mail

  • Dowden claims the Prime Minister is “desperate” to visit Ukraine – The Guardian
  • Johnson ‘snubbed’ by lack of invite to a European Council meeting – Daily Express
  • Holocaust survivor killed in shelling – The Daily Mail
  • Zelensky suggests a referendum for a future peace deal – Daily Express
  • Dowden claims the Prime Minister is “desperate” to visit Ukraine – The Guardian
  • Former Finnish PM accuses Johnson of being in ‘Brexit La La Land’ – Daily Express
  • Trump insists this would not have happened under his watch – The Daily Mail
  • Biden fears cyber-attacks – Daily Express
  • Putin’s superyacht faces seizure – The Daily Telegraph
  • Downing Street claims Kremlin were responsible for prank call t0 Wallace – The Guardian
  • Ukrainian protestors try to block Abramovich’s yacht – Daily Express
Comment:
  • Ukraine can be neutral but it cannot be defenceless – William Hague, The Times
  • Biden must stop insulting Britain – Arlene Foster, Daily Express
  • We must back Ukraine all the way – Editorial, The Sun
  • NATO must get tough to stop Putin – Norman Baker, The Daily Mail
  • Johnson must show Brexit hasn’t weakened the West – Hugo Rifkind, The Times
  • Wokery has sapped us of our power to fight evil – Sherelle Jacobs, The Daily Telegraph

>Today:

>Yesterday: Nikki da Costa in Columnists: The proposed restructuring of Number Ten risks mistaking a personnel problem for a structural one

…as he ‘urges’ the Chancellor urged to focus his Spring Statement on rising living costs 

“Boris Johnson has told Rishi Sunak that his Spring Statement on Wednesday must prove that the government is on the side of people struggling with the crisis in the cost of living. The prime minister’s edict will reinforce expectations that Sunak will cut taxes on fuel, with speculation of either a temporary reduction in VAT or 5p coming off fuel duty to offset high prices at the pumps. The chancellor is also under pressure to soften his planned £12bn national insurance rise, intended to raise money to clear an NHS treatment backlog and to fund social care, or to cut other taxes. One ally of Johnson said: “The prime minister is acutely aware of the pressure on people’s household budgets. He has made it clear to the chancellor we should be on their side.”…Sunak’s team say the chancellor has been making those points himself ahead of the Spring Statement and that he has a record of helping people in difficulties, notably over Covid.” – The Financial Times

  • Cheap loans for heat pumps and other energy efficiency measures to be offered – The Times
  • Cost of servicing Britain’s national debt set to soar – The Daily Mail
  • Sunak forced to spend more on debt interest than on schools – The Sun
  • Toll roads could be introduced to balance fuel duty cuts – The Times
  • Shadow Business Secretary calls for Sunak to focus on energy bills – Daily Express
  • Hope that the worst off may escape the National Insurance increase – The Sun
Comment:

>Today: Gerard Lyons in Columnists: Sunak’s task tomorrow. The best way of reducing the deficit is to go for growth. 

>Yesterday:

Truss fears France and Germany will offer Putin too easy a way out

“Britain is concerned that France and Germany will offer President Putin an “easy off-ramp” as they push for further peace talks with Russia. Ministers have become increasingly concerned about bilateral discussions between President Macron and Putin. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, warned at the weekend that peace talks were a “smokescreen” for Putin while his forces commit further “appalling atrocities”. She is concerned that there will be a repeat of the Minsk agreement in 2014 after Russia’s invasion of Crimea, when Germany and France played a leading role in talks. A government source said: “Any negotiations with Russia should come from a position of utmost strength. The G7 needs to stay united. There should be no easy off-ramp for Putin. We shouldn’t be in the business of making early concessions. We need to be tough to get peace.” – The Times

  • Russia threatens to cut ties with the US after Biden calls Putin ‘a war criminal’ – The Guardian
  • German Chancellor urged to sanction one of his predecessors – The Times
  • Few signs Ukraine and Russia are nearing peace – The I
Comment:

The Prime Minister challenged by new Kabul animal evacuation evidence

“Boris Johnson personally authorised the airlift of staff from a former UK serviceman’s Kabul-based animal charity when the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital city last year, according to a British government whistleblower. Josie Stewart, a senior official at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office who previously worked on the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, said there was “extensive evidence”, including internal emails, that showed the decision to prioritise the evacuation of Pen Farthing’s Nowzad charity came from the prime minister. Another whistleblower who used to work for the FCDO has claimed Johnson intervened to airlift Nowzad’s animals from Kabul, and that pleas for help from thousands of desperate Afghans seeking to flee the Taliban were ignored…In seven pages of written testimony to the committee, Stewart said it was “widespread knowledge” in the FCDO’s Afghanistan crisis centre that “the decision on Nowzad’s Afghan staff came from the prime minister”.” – The Financial Times

  • Donaldson claims the Prime Minister threw Northern Ireland ‘under the bus’ – Daily Express

Gove also targeted by ‘Islamist terrorist’ accused of Sir David Amess’ murder

A “committed terrorist” who “assassinated” Sir David Amess at an Essex church had also staked out Michael Gove’s home, a court heard today. Ali Harbi Ali, 26, is accused of knifing dad-of-five Sir David 21 times with a 12-inch blade as the MP hosted a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea on October 15 last year. The defendant denies murdering the veteran Tory backbencher, as well as a separate charge of preparing acts of terrorism. But prosecutors alleged he’d been planning an atrocity based on his “warped, twisted and violent ideology” for five years – and had also considered other high-profile targets, including Mr Gove and MP Mike Freer. He had even visited Mr Gove’s home address on five separate occasions, and had photos of him exercising and at his door, it was heard.” – The Sun

Ministers 1) Coffey confirms that the ‘triple lock’ will remain in place until the next general election

“The state pension ‘triple lock’ will be honoured again until at least the next general election, Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said yesterday. She pledged in the Commons last night that the Government would reinstate its commitment on retirement benefit increases from next year. The triple lock ensures that the state pension rises each year in line with whichever is highest out of inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), average earnings, or 2.5 per cent. The policy was suspended for 2022/23 after wage growth spiked as the country emerged from the pandemic. This means that the state pension will rise next month by only 3.1 per cent – far below the rate of inflation, currently running at 5.5 per cent and continuing to rise. But in a move welcomed by pensioner groups, Miss Coffey confirmed yesterday that the Conservative manifesto pledge would not be scrapped for a second year. It means the state pension could rise by more than 7 per cent next year if inflation predictions remain on course.” – The Daily Mail

The Met expands Partygate inquiry to cover more than 100 people

“Detectives have begun to interview “key witnesses” in the partygate affair and have sent questionnaires to more than 100 people about their attendance at events held while coronavirus restrictions were in place. Scotland Yard said it had not yet instigated steps to fine anyone who had attended any of more than 12 parties held in Downing Street and Whitehall during lockdown. However, the force said this afternoon that more than 100 questionnaires had been sent out asking recipients about their involvement. Forms were sent to about 50 people last month, but the Met said the number had been expanded after the initial responses identified more individuals involved in the gatherings. Both Boris Johnson, the prime minister, and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, received forms which asked them to justify their attendance at parties.” – The Times

  • There are ‘bigger fish to fry’, claims Duncan Smith – Daily Express
Comment:

The Health Secretary insists there is no reason to panic as Covid cases and hospital admissions spike

“Covid cases in the UK have soared by a third in a week and daily hospital admissions have hit a two-month high, with the country’s resurgence showing no signs of slowing. Another 226,524 cases were logged on the virus dashboard today, which includes positive swabs logged over the last three days. The figure is 33 per cent higher than that recorded last Monday. And the number of daily admissions among people infected with the virus exceeded 2,000 for the first time since mid-January (2,054). For comparison, daily hospitalisations peaked at around 2,600 during the Omicron wave in December. But just 44 per cent of ‘patients’ in hospital in England are unwell with the virus, with the majority primarily under NHS care for other reasons, such as a hip or knee operation. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the data provides ‘a lot of confidence that we are learning to live with Covid’ and that No10 wasn’t concerned about the uptick, which ministers warned was inevitable once restrictions were eased in England.” – The Daily Mail

  • Javid urges the public to treat the virus ‘like flu’ – The Sun
  • Covid fraud may have cost twice as much as Black Wednesday – The Daily Mail
Comment:

Zaghari-Ratcliffe questions why it took the government so long to get her home

“Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe said her freedom would “never be complete” while others remained unjustly detained in Iran as she questioned why it took six years and five foreign secretaries to free her. Zaghari-Ratcliffe praised her “amazing, wonderful” husband, Richard Ratcliffe, for his tirelessly campaigning at her first press conference since arriving back in Britain, along with her “very, very patient” daughter Gabriella, her families in Iran and Britain, her fellow prisoners, her lawyers and her doctors. But she broke with Ratcliffe over his praise for the role of Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, in securing her release, saying it should never have taken so many years of her life to resolve the outstanding debt that led to her freedom.” – The Times

  • Burt calls for an inquiry into unpaid Iran debt – The Guardian
Comment:
  • The former prisoner presented a ‘portrait of serenity’ – Quentin Letts, The Times

The Home Secretary’s opponents are accused of being “on the side of criminals”

“Supporters of Priti Patel have branded Tory MPs plotting to vote against her plan to stop small boats “on the side of criminals.” Furious allies of the underfire Home Sec lashed out as record numbers continued to cross the Channel over the weekend. And they took aim at 66 Tory MPs and Lords who wrote to Boris Johnson today to urge him to allow asylum seekers to work if still waiting for a decision. The letter was signed by 29 MPs including former justice minister Sir Robert Buckland…It’s thought around 20 Tory MPs will vote against the Nationality and Borders Bills which the Home Sec has pinned her hopes of tackling the small boat crisis – by blocking asylum claims for people coming from safe countries like France. It also gives her the power to process asylum applications ’off-shore.’” – The Sun

  • ‘Chaotic’ Homes for Ukraine scheme preventing arrivals in the UK – The I
  • Ellwood: Terrorists are using the Ukraine ‘distraction’ to prepare – The Daily Telegraph

Ministers 2) Trevelyan claims America set to drop 25% tariffs on British steel

“Washington is poised to abandon punitive tariffs on British steel today as ministers pin their hopes on striking a trade deal before the next election. International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan declared last night that there had ‘definitely’ been a change of approach from Joe Biden, who put talks on the backburner when he entered the White House. In an interview with the Daily Mail, she said that after having no appetite for a deal in January 2021, his administration had ‘leaned in’ to the idea. Mrs Trevelyan, who is on a two-day visit to Baltimore, believes formal negotiations on an agreement may begin by the end of this year, with the expectation that they could be completed within 18 months. In a boost for trade between the two countries, the US is expected to agree to remove tariffs on British steel and aluminium exports that have been in place since 2018. In return, the UK will drop retaliatory tariffs on American brands such as Harley-Davidson.” – The Daily Mail

Ministers 3) Kwarteng wants a nuclear power taskforce to deliver new power stations at “warp speed”

“UK ministers want to replicate the country’s successful Covid-19 vaccine task force to deliver new nuclear power stations at “warp speed”, after Boris Johnson said he wanted atomic power to provide at least a quarter of UK electricity generation by 2050. The UK prime minister told industry leaders on Monday he was “insanely frustrated” with the slow pace at which Britain’s nuclear sector was being developed, according to people at the Downing Street meeting. As part of the plan Kwasi Kwarteng, business secretary, is pushing for the creation of a new delivery organisation to end more than a decade of stalled efforts to build a fleet of nuclear power stations. Downing Street and the Treasury have yet to formally endorse the proposal, according to people familiar with the situation.” – The Financial Times

  • Planning controls may be eased to allow for more wind farms – The I

>Yesterday: Anthony Browne MP in Comment: Now is not the time to go slow on Net Zero

Ministers 4) Government to unveil new LGBT strategy

“Ministers are working on a comprehensive new strategy to “advance” the rights of LGBT+ people in the country, i understands. The cross-government plan will cover issues like sex work, IVF, veterans and homelessness – as well as specific healthcare for LGBT+ communities – largely across England and Wales. It is due to be announced next month by Equalities Minister Mike Freer, and will be fully launched at the global LGBT conference being hosted in the UK later this year. But it is not clear whether the plan will include new Government funding or be supported through existing departmental budgets. “The big part of the portfolio that Liz [Truss] has asked me to do is […] to work across government,” Mr Freer told i. “Over the next few weeks, we’ll be talking about a major domestic piece of work, which covers things like homelessness and sex work, HIV, sexual health IVF.” – The I

  • Freer also wishes to take the heat out of the “toxic” transgender debate – The I 

Conservative MPs write to Nottingham University over cancelled honourary degree for Tony Sewell

“More than 40 Tory MPs have written to the boss of a university to demand it rescinds a decision to withdraw the offer of an honorary degree to Tony Sewell…Now a group of parliamentarians has written to the university’s vice-chancellor, Professor Shearer West, to demand a U-turn. They said the ‘extreme, hasty and regrettable’ decision was all the worse because Nottingham had given honorary degrees to Chinese diplomats who denied Uighur genocide. And they argued that giving Dr Sewell, who was appointed chairman of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities by Boris Johnson in 2020, the honour would help to ‘restore the good name’ of what was once a ‘well-regarded institution’. The letter was signed by 43 MPs – including Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Tory Common Sense group, and Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons education committee – and five lords.” – The Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Stewart Jackson in Comment: Badenoch and Sewell have found a conservative way of viewing ethnicity and culture – and acting on it

News in Brief:

  • Has Zelensky made his first mistake? – Nigel Jones, The Spectator 
  • The fictional world of trans activism – Kathleen Stock, UnHerd 
  • Moral panic over Ukraine risks nuclear war – Andrew Latham, The Critic
  • Gordon Brown has become the SNP’s biggest asset – Henry Hill, Cap X
  • Don’t they know there’s a war on? – Richard Littlejohn, The Daily Mail