Published:

Johnson could broker oil deal after Saudi Arabia refuses Biden’s phone call…

“Boris Johnson is facing calls to intervene to urge Saudi Arabia to release more oil after the country’s crown prince refused to take a call from Joe Biden, US president. Mohammed bin Salman reportedly rebuffed Mr Biden’s request to talk as he seeks immunity over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident journalist. MBS, as the crown prince is known, has strained relations with Mr Biden, who said during his 2020 election campaign that the Saudis should “pay the price” for Khashoggi’s death. Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist who criticised the country’s leadership, was killed after entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. MBS, 36, is the subject of several US lawsuits related to the killing. But with Western countries vowing to phase out Russian oil and gas imports, there is an attempt to ensure supplies from elsewhere increase to counter sharp spikes in global prices.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Starmer says Prime Minister’s ‘failed energy policy’ is causing bills to rocket – The Guardian
  • Johnson to ‘look at all options’ on energy – The Sun
  • UK is facing bigger economic shock than 1973 oil crisis – Daily Mail
  • Cut taxes, Cameron urges Sunak as petrol hits £2 a litre – The Times

More:

  • War marks paradigm shift on the scale of 9/11, says Truss – The Guardian
  • Foreign Secretary condemns Putin’s ‘reckless and appalling’ hospital air strike – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Sunak must reduce fuel duty and the green levy to shield the public – Robert Halfon MP, Times Red Box

>Yesterday:

…as Patel prepares to allow up to 20,000 more Ukrainian refugees into UK…

“Priti Patel is preparing an about-turn to allow up to 20,000 more Ukrainians in the UK to bring in loved ones and remain for three years in the wake of criticism over the Government’s handling of the refugee crisis. Amid growing fury at the Government’s mishandling of the refugee exodus, Boris Johnson has also approved the deployment of 100 soldiers to Poland to help speed up processing applications after reports of refugees stuck in queues in sub-zero temperatures. Under 1,000 visas have been granted so far, despite the Home Office receiving 22,000 applications. Thousands of refugees have also struggled to book appointments at British visa centres across Europe, with hundreds in Calais unable to cross the Channel.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cameron accuses Home Secretary of misreading public mood – The Times
  • Johnson faces further calls to soften policy – FT
  • Zahawi lays bare plan to bring 100,000 child refugees – Daily Express
  • Jet ordered to Ukraine to collect 20 sick children – The Sun

Comment:

  • Britain’s record on refugees is nothing to brag about – David Aaronovitch, The Times

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

…and Britain to boost Ukraine’s defences with laser-guided missile system

“Britain is to escalate its military aid to Ukraine by sending state-of-the-art anti-aircraft missile systems. Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said that the weapons were in response to a change in Russian tactics. Starstreak, the portable missile that can shoot down helicopters and fighter jets, would help Ukraine to “better defend their skies”, he said. Wallace said that the system was within the definition of a “defensive” weapon, although analysts said that it marked a “step-change” in terms of capability for Ukraine. Moscow has changed its tactics in response to fierce resistance on the ground, “so the Ukrainians need to, too”, the defence secretary said… The government has already supplied Ukraine with 3,615 anti-tank weapons and soon would be sending a “small consignment” of Javelin anti-tank missiles, Wallace told MPs.” – The Times

  • AWOL British soldiers fighting in Ukraine will be prosecuted, warns Wallace – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: Does Germany’s pledge to rearm signal fundamental change – or is it a temporary reflex?

Robert Shrimsley: Ukraine has saved Johnson for now, but dangers remain

“Other factors have helped his survival bid. Rivals have stumbled. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, mishandled the partygate crisis and is losing support among colleagues for persisting with tax rises. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has been upstaged by the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, whose soldierly solidity and mastery of his brief now get him mentioned as a potential leader. Johnson also used the reprieve to further strengthen his Downing Street team. Unpopular measures have been parked and new MPs have been suborned with roles on party policy committees. The police inquiry into lockdown-busting parties at No 10 remains a threat, but even if the prime minister is fined — an outcome he is convinced he can avoid — he will present it as a footling matter when compared with Ukraine.” – FT

  • No matter how painful, we must bargain with posturing Putin – Max Hastings, The Times
  • After this war, the West must learn how to live with Russia – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • The corporate retreat from Moscow is going to be messy – Cat Rutter Pooley, FT
  • Defeating Putin will test Britain’s resilience – Iain Martin, The Times

>Today: Liam Fox MP in Comment: Steady nerves, economic power and self-belief helped to defeat the Soviets. They can do the same to Putin.

>Yesterday:

Tory police chief is reprimanded for sharing controversial JK Rowling trans tweet

“A Tory police and crime commissioner has been reprimanded for sharing a JK Rowling tweet in support of women’s rights. A male-dominated panel of councillors found Lisa Townsend had not been ‘dignified or respectful’ to trans people when she supported the best-selling author’s view that biologically male rapists were not female. They said the Surrey PCC had broken the code of conduct for her office and demanded she explain herself to the three men who had reported her over the tweet – one of whom is local Conservative MP Crispin Blunt… Miss Rowling’s original tweet last December highlighted a policy introduced by Scottish police allowing male rapists to self-identify as women.” – Daily Mail

  • Cooper shies from ‘rabbit hole’ transgender question – The Times

Ministers ‘relaxed’ about England’s rise in Covid cases

“Covid cases are up almost 50 per cent since the start of the month, but the remaining travel rules will be dropped in time for the Easter holidays. Ministers are not “overly worried” about rising cases and hospital admissions, both of which have started to increase this month after falls throughout February. Scientists are uncertain what is driving the increase, with no hard evidence of a big return to normal mixing patterns or waning vaccine effectiveness. NHS vaccinators have been told that boosters for over-75s and the immunosuppressed should begin on March 21 and be finished by the end of June, with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation considering a wider booster campaign later in the year.” – The Times

  • UK anti-fraud minister attacks ‘Dad’s Army’ Covid loan recovery – FT

Universities under pressure to cut ties with ‘serial bully’ Bercow

“Two universities are under pressure to remove John Bercow from academic posts after a parliamentary report found he bullied House of Commons staff on 21 occasions. MPs said Royal Holloway and Birkbeck, both colleges of the University of London, should disown the former Speaker of the House of Commons after appointing him to honorary roles since he stood down from Parliament in 2019. Mr Bercow was found by Parliament’s Independent Expert Panel on Tuesday to have been a “serial bully” of three of his junior colleagues and to have lied to officials investigating allegations stretching back to 2009. He denies all claims of bullying and has refused to apologise, dubbing the panel a “kangaroo court” and suggesting those who accused him were motivated by “a vengeful vendetta” against his reforms of Commons procedure.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ex-Speaker’s protests over bullying verdicts have ‘not a shred of credibility’ – The Guardian

Comment:

  • I watched MPs sucking up to him. It was embarrassing then… but it’s even worse now – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

Tebbit retires from the Lords

“Tributes have been paid to Conservative firebrand Norman Tebbit after he today announced his retirement from Parliament after a no-nonsense 52-year career. The Tory stalwart, 90, made his final appearance in the House of Lords on Wednesday as he bid farewell to Westminster after more than five decades in politics. Lord Tebbit’s family watched on from the public benches with warm smiles as peers from across the political divide joined in unanimous praise for the parliamentarian’s commitment to public service. A former Tory cabinet minister who joined the Conservatives in 1946, he was known as the architect behind the scenes during the Margaret Thatcher era… The Conservative grandee bid his farewell to the red benches on Wednesday as members of his family looked on from the public gallery.” – Daily Mail

Burnham wins legal challenge over bus reform in Manchester

“Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, has defeated a legal challenge of his plans to bring the city’s bus network back into public control in a closely watched court ruling which could pave the way for other northern English cities to press ahead with similar schemes. The High Court on Wednesday dismissed a legal challenge by bus operators Stagecoach and Rotala which claimed that the decision-making process followed by Burnham and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA), which represents 10 metropolitan borough councils, had been flawed. However, Mr Justice Julian Knowles rejected their case and ruled that the decision-making about “fundamental reform of bus services in one of the most populous regions of the country” had not been “unlawful or irrational”. Bus networks outside London have been deregulated for more than 30 years, often leading to disjointed and unreliable services that have resulted in steep price rises for passengers.” – FT

News in Brief:

  • Is this Ukraine’s last chance for peace? – Aris Roussinos, UnHerd
  • Can the West bear the cost of a new cold war? – Bill Blain, CapX
  • Ukraine should think twice before joining the EU – Andrew Tettenborn, The Spectator
  • A quiet revolution – David James, The Critic