Published:

Patel’s career ‘under scrutiny’ over handling of Ukraine crisis…

“Priti Patel faced days of public and private opprobrium before the Home Office made a U-turn on Thursday and decided to halt Ukrainian visa appointments for passport holders. But has the prime minister already lost faith in the home secretary? One cabinet source said Boris Johnson had been perturbed by the volume of negative headlines around the low number of refugees being granted visas, and speculated that Patel’s future would again come under discussion at the summer reshuffle. They highlighted the cover of this week’s Spectator magazine – formerly edited by Johnson – which featured a cartoon comparing the UK’s bureaucratic response with that of other EU nations. Another MP said: “Priti is fundamentally opposed to a more liberal system, yes, but the other issue is that she just cannot do effective, fast-paced delivery.”” – The Guardian

  • Home Secretary simplifies UK’s Ukraine family scheme – FT
  • Refugees will finally be fast-tracked into Britain, says under-fire Patel – The Sun
  • Applicants ‘left fuming’ after visa application centre failed to open – Daily Mail
  • Cabinet split delays plan to welcome Ukrainians into British homes – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Home Office is flying blind in the Ukrainian refugee crisis, pretending as usual that there is no real problem

…as public will be asked to take Ukrainian refugees into their homes

“The British public will be asked to offer homes to tens of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion under plans to be announced this weekend. Ministers will launch a hotline and webpage enabling individuals, charities, businesses and community groups to offer rooms to refugees with no family links to the UK. The move follows criticism of the Home Office’s “chaotic” rollout of its scheme for Ukrainian refugees with family in the UK, which has led to delays and complaints of excessive bureaucracy. Western officials on Thursday warned that the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine could rise as high as four million in the coming days, almost doubling current estimates of 2.2 million.” – Daily Telegraph

  • ‘Local sponsorship scheme’ to be announced by Gove – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: The Ukraine War Quad. Johnson, Sunak, Wallace – and Gove

Fraser Nelson: Britain’s bungled response to the Ukraine refugee crisis goes right to the top

“Polish households have so far absorbed 1.4 million Ukrainians and are paid a nightly allowance for those they put up. Germans are offering up spare rooms via websites like Airbnb: Germany’s Interior Ministry has counted private offers of 350,000 beds in all. It only expects 200,000 Ukrainians. An unprecedented human need has met an unprecedented public response – and government has not got in the way. Compare this to Britain where the Home Office forbids refugees from working or supporting themselves in any way, and insists on putting them up in hotels at a cost averaging about £200 a night. Almost 50,000 have now been waiting more than six months for their case to be heard – but are told to stay on welfare. This appalls many government ministers, who see a tragic waste of both taxpayers’ money and human potential.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Georgia L Gilholy’s column: Ukraine’s surrogacy industry shows capitalism at its worst

Truss urges West to ‘tighten the ratchet’ on Putin

“Liz Truss has called for a “tightening of the ratchet” on Vladimir Putin with further sanctions by Western allies, warning that the Russian president could turn to “more and more extreme violence”. In an interview with The Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary said it was time to be “strong and tough” with Putin following the horrifying attack on a maternity hospital in Mariupol. Ms Truss said Putin must be offered no concessions and must be “seen to lose” in Ukraine, calling for Russia to be fully excluded from the Swift international payments system and for an end to Russian oil and gas dependency across the G7. She accused Putin of playing an “appalling cat and mouse game” with Ukrainian civilians in bogus humanitarian corridors, and vowed that Britain was “in it for the long haul” to help Ukraine.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Foreign Secretary says countries ‘especially dependent’ on Russian energy could get compensation – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Saudi Arabia can help defuse Putin’s energy bomb – James Forsyth, The Times

>Yesterday:

British troops who leave to fight Russia will face court martial, says Johnson

“British soldiers who travel to Ukraine to fight can expect to be court-martialled, Boris Johnson has said, adding that civilians should also avoid going there to fight. When asked about reports that a 19-year-old from Warrington with no military experience had travelled to the country to join efforts against the Russian invasion, the prime minister said that while he could comprehend why people wanted to help, they should remain in the UK. “I think that everybody seeing what’s happening in Ukraine will understand those feelings,” he told reporters during a visit to the Cammell Laird shipyard in Merseyside. His comments are in notable contrast to those by Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, who said at the end of last month that she would back Britons going to Ukraine to take part in the fight against the Russians.” – The Guardian

  • Soldiers who go to fight in Ukraine putting Britain’s safety at risk, warns minister – The Sun

Prime Minister:

  • Johnson reveals his ‘deeply upsetting’ conversations with Zelensky over no-fly zone… – Daily Mail
  • …as he warns that Russia could use chemical weapons in Ukraine – The Times

More:

  • Troubled new armoured vehicle puts army overhaul at risk – FT

>Today: Sir Gerald Howarth in Comment: The West is guilty of weakness and complacency in the face of Russian aggression

‘No more help’ from Sunak for rising energy costs

“Rishi Sunak will not include a new package to help people cope with energy bills in his spring statement later this month and is “highly unlikely” to cut fuel duty, The Times has been told. The chancellor is under mounting pressure from the energy industry, campaigners and fellow Cabinet ministers to do more to help people who are facing soaring bills. Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, has suggested increasing the energy bills rebate from £200 to £400. The rebate is effectively a loan that is clawed back over a five-year period in the form of higher energy bills. However, Sunak discussed plans for his March 23 statement with Boris Johnson yesterday and they agreed that the existing £9 billion programme of support announced last month is enough.” – The Times

  • Chancellor to reject calls to beef up energy bill package as pressure mounts to bail out consumers – The Guardian

More:

  • Rethink fracking risks so people can heat homes affordably, says Rees-Mogg – Daily Telegraph
  • Sturgeon says it’s ‘impractical’ to ramp up production of oil and gas – Daily Mail

>Today: Jane MacBean in Local Government: Conservatives must prove we are the true environmentalists

MPs demand proof education catch-up scheme for England is working

“MPs have demanded the government prove its Covid education catch-up programme for England is working or drop the multimillion-pound contract with the company charged with delivery, as evidence mounts that the scheme is failing to meet its targets. A report by the cross-party House of Commons education select committee published on Thursday concluded the National Tutoring Programme was “clearly not delivering” and risked an “epidemic of educational inequality”. The call comes amid mounting anger from teachers and school leaders over the £1.1bn three-year NTP, which aims to help children catch up on learning lost during lockdowns… Robert Halfon, the Conservative chair of the committee, said there was a “real question” as to whether the scheme was “actually working”.” – FT

  • Eton plans on levelling-up sixth forms by opening three satellite units in ‘cold spots’ – Daily Mail

Scottish Tory leader withdraws letter of no confidence in Johnson

“The Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, has withdrawn his letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson, citing the war in Ukraine and saying it was no time for a change of leadership. Ross, who has been an outspoken critic of the prime minister, had criticised him over lockdown parties in Downing Street. Johnson, along with dozens of staff and officials, is under police investigation for the breaches. But on Thursday Ross said he had withdrawn the letter of no confidence he had sent to the party’s 1922 committee chair, Sir Graham Brady. A total of 54 letters are needed to trigger a vote on Johnson’s leadership. Ross’ declaration of no confidence was endorsed by the Conservative group at Holyrood. Signs that relations between Johnson and Ross had begun to thaw began after it was announced that the prime minister would attend the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen on 18 and 19 March.” – The Guardian

  • SNP backlash as minister refuses thrice to answer about Indyref2 legal advice – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Sturgeon can’t keep Great British Railways completely out of Scotland

Liberal Democrats pave way for pact with Labour

“Sir Ed Davey, Liberal Democrat leader, has paved the way for a possible working relationship with Labour in a hung parliament to oust Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, pouring praise on Sir Keir Starmer for transforming the UK’s largest opposition party. In an interview with the Financial Times, Davey hinted at a pre-election rapprochement with Labour… Speaking ahead of his party’s mainly virtual spring conference this weekend, the Lib Dem leader also called for a one-year 2.5 percentage point cut in value added tax to alleviate the cost-of-living crisis. The FT revealed last month that Starmer was not planning to campaign hard in most of the Lib Dems’ top 30 target seats to give Davey’s party a clear run against the Conservatives. In a tacit understanding between the two parties, the Lib Dems will reciprocate in Labour’s top target seats.” – FT

News in Brief:

  • Did the end of the Cold War make conflict in Ukraine inevitable? – John Keiger, The Spectator
  • Wealthier areas need to take in their fair share of refugees – Rakib Ehsan, CapX
  • Lies Western elites tell themselves – Stephen Wigmore, The Critic
  • The cowardice of the far Left – Tanya Gold, UnHerd