Published:

Johnson refuses to say No 10 parties were illegal, despite fines

“Boris Johnson has refused to acknowledge that Covid laws were broken over “partygate”, despite 20 fines being issued this week, putting him at odds with his own Justice Secretary. Both the Prime Minister and his most senior spokesman on Wednesday declined to accept that fines issued by the Metropolitan Police meant government figures broke the law. Hours earlier, Dominic Raab, the Deputy Prime Minister, who has the justice brief in the Cabinet, had said that was the case during radio interviews. Mr Raab, a former lawyer, said it was “clear there were breaches of the law” as he spoke to broadcasters on Wednesday morning. “Clearly there were breaches of the regulations,” Mr Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “That is the only thing that can warrant the 20 fixed penalty notices. That must follow.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Deputy prime minister says those fined over affair have broken lockdown law – FT
  • Met Police will start handing out 20 £200 fines – The Sun

More:

  • Johnson cracked gags about Partygate letters as he buries hatchet with rebellious MPs – Daily Mail
  • He says he’s ‘getting on with the job’ in fiery clash with Starmer – The Sun
  • Tory MPs and voters back Boris to stay on even if PM is fined over ‘partygate’ – Daily Express

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: PMQs sketch: Johnson discredits Blackford by embracing him as a friend

We may send armoured vehicles to Ukraine, says Prime Minister…

“Britain is considering sending armoured vehicles to Ukraine to help stop the “humanitarian catastrophe” in Mariupol, the prime minister has said. Boris Johnson said the UK was “going up a gear” in military aid for Ukraine, including potentially supplying armoured personnel carriers. He also said sanctions should remain in place until every Russian soldier has left Ukraine, including Crimea, and questioned the value of talks between President Macron of France and President Putin, saying the Russian leader was “not to be trusted”. Questions have been raised about whether the UK could act as a “guarantor” to any peace deal agreed between Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine has specifically asked if the UK could take on the role.” – The Times

  • Britain could send Land Rovers to help Mariupol humanitarian relief effort – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Ukrainian refugees use Irish escape route to travel to UK – The Times
  • Only ten per cent of Ukrainian refugee visa applications to live with Britons approved – FT

…as Truss’s India visit made awkward by presence of Russian counterpart

“Liz Truss, Britain’s foreign secretary, is due to land in India on Thursday to urge Narendra Modi’s government to reduce its strategic dependency on Russia. But her arrival in New Delhi coincides with that of her sparring partner Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, who also arrives in India for his first visit since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. India has been criticised by western powers for not taking a tough enough line against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the UK hopes for clear signals from Modi’s government about its opposition to the invasion and support for the UN charter. Joe Biden, the US president, described the Indian position recently as “shaky”. Truss will sign a joint strategic cyber partnership with India and sees this as a sign of the two countries’ willingness to increase security cooperation.” – The Guardian

  • Foreign Secretary to urge Modi to call out Putin over Ukraine invasion – Daily Express

More:

  • Two senior British judges resign from Hong Kong’s top court – FT

>Today:

>Yesterday:

Liz Truss: China’s repression of Hong Kong makes position untenable

“Since the imposition of the national security law, authorities have cracked down on free speech, the free press and freedom of assembly. Time and again, China has breached legally binding commitments it freely gave under the Sino-British Joint Declaration to uphold Hong Kong’s autonomy. Beijing’s promises — ostensibly designed to protect human rights and freedoms — are utterly hollow. The consequences are clear to see in the courts, where pro-democracy activists have been sentenced to jail. As national security law cases proceed through the courts, judges will be required to enforce Beijing’s laws and the autocratic values they represent. This puts sitting British judges in an increasingly uncomfortable position.” – The Times

Johnson blows cold on onshore wind revolution

“Boris Johnson has hinted he is cautious over plans for an onshore wind revolution amid Cabinet fears that it would mean thousands of turbines are built in Tory heartlands. At a hearing of Parliament’s Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister stressed his support for offshore wind in a sign that he is less convinced about the need for a major increase in projects on land. It comes amid Cabinet disagreements over a proposal to rip up 2015 planning reforms that made it almost impossible for new onshore turbines to be built. The change, which is being debated as part of a wider overhaul of energy policy, would pave the way for new wind farms across swathes of rural England. Mr Johnson told MPs that he was keen to take action that will help wean the West off Russian gas.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tory opposition to land-based turbines expected to influence government’s new energy strategy – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: Tory wars over climate change. The Conservative Environmental Network v the Net Zero Scrutiny Group.

Ministers will be able to block the release of violent criminals from jail, Raab to announce

“Ministers will be able to block the release of violent criminals from jail, Dominic Raab will announce today. The landmark reform comes after public outcry over the decision to release Black Cab rapist John Worboys and double child murderer Colin Pitchfork. It means the deputy PM could veto the release of up to 600 rapists, murders, terrorists and child torturers every year… The radical shake-up will beef up safeguards against letting dangerous convicts back on the streets, and increase the rights of victims. It will include a new legal requirement for the Parole Board to take a “precautionary approach” and only release prisoners if they are safe to walk free. The current test is whether the Parole Board is satisfied that imprisoning an offender is no longer necessary for the protection of the public.” – The Sun

  • Justice Secretary to appeal against release of Baby P’s mother from prison – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Releasing Baby P’s monster mum in 2013 was the wrong call then and still is now – Dominic Raab MP, The Sun

Shapps vows new law to ban P&O Ferries from British ports if crew are not paid minimum wage

“Grant Shapps today vowed a new law to ban P&O Ferries from British ports if crew are not paid minimum wage. The Transport Secretary told the Commons he wanted to impose the tough rules ‘as quickly as possible’ amid the bitter row over the firm’s mass sackings. But Mr Shapps conceded that the measure cannot be brought in immediately, saying he was urging ports to act before it is formally on the statute books. He also said the UK is looking at doing deals with other countries to guarantee enforcement of minimum wages across jurisdictions. These include plans to create ‘minimum wage corridors’ on ferry routes between the UK and other countries. And he repeated his call for P&O Ferries chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite to quit, revealing he has written to the Insolvency Service complaining he is ‘unfit to lead a British company’.” – Daily Mail

  • Industry dismisses plans to block ferries that employ underpaid crews – The Guardian
  • Sackings prompt push to plug UK employment law loopholes – FT

More ministers:

  • BBC to employ more working-class staff after Dorries ‘snob’ jibe – The Times
  • Sunak ‘viscerally hates’ Office for Budget Responsibility, sources claim – The Times

>Yesterday:

‘Unimaginable trauma’ caused, says Javid of maternity scandal

“The health secretary has said failures at an NHS hospital trust led to “unimaginable trauma for so many people” as a new inquiry shed light on the worst maternity scandal in the history of the British health service. Sajid Javid also apologised after the report found 295 baby deaths or brain damage cases could have been avoided with better care. More than a dozen women also died. The inquiry – led by maternity expert Donna Ockenden – looked into more than 1,000 incidents at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust over two decades. It found the trust presided over catastrophic failings during this time, which resulted in babies dying, suffering fractured skulls and other injuries, as well as causing harm to mothers.” – The Independent

  • Two midwives struck off… and bosses walked into lucrative new posts – Daily Mail
  • Abortions at home to stay as MPs save pills-by-post policy – The Times

Comment:

  • Why are female voters moving to the left? – Stephen Bush, FT

Wallis is first transgender MP…

“A Conservative MP has announced that he is transgender and has been the victim of rape and blackmail. Jamie Wallis, the MP for Bridgend, said he was transgender, “or to be more accurate, I want to be”, and had been diagnosed with gender dysphoria. Wallis, 37, said he had “felt this way since I was a very young child” but “imagined I would leave politics well before I ever said this out loud”. Wallis, who won his seat at the 2019 general election, would be Britain’s first openly transgender MP. He said there had been a “close call” in 2020 “when someone blackmailed me, outed me to my father and sent photographs to other family members. He wanted £50,000 to keep quiet. The police were so supportive, so understanding and on this occasion the system worked. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.”” – The Times

  • Johnson: ‘The House stands with you, and we will give you the support you need to live freely as yourself’ – Daily Telegraph
  • He describes ‘horror ordeal’ – The Sun
  • Tory transgender MP has been dogged by controversies – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: The first trans MP is a Conservative

…as Duffield ‘fuels speculation’ she could defect over the issue

“Rosie Duffield yesterday fuelled speculation she may be considering defecting to the Tories after she appeared at an event with Nadine Dorries and hit out at Labour trolls. The Canterbury MP said the ‘horrible’ abuse she has received made her ashamed of the Labour Party. Miss Duffield arrived at an event to launch the Government’s Online Safety Bill in the Culture Secretary’s car and said she was happy to ‘work together’ with ministers. She said she has been labelled transphobic – which she denies – for raising concerns about ‘male-bodied biological men’ being allowed to self-identify as female in order to access women-only spaces such as prisons and domestic violence refuges. Labour frontbenchers have recently struggled to define what a woman is.” – Daily Mail

  • She says “I think the Prime Minister nailed it” – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Emily Carver’s column: It’s ridiculous that so many politicians can’t answer the question ‘What is a woman?’

Labour to launch ‘on your side’ local elections battle

“Labour will launch its local elections battle with the slogan “On your side”, urging voters to send the Conservatives a message about the pain of the cost of living crisis and No 10 lockdown breaches. Keir Starmer will launch the party’s campaign in Bury, a symbolic location where one local MP, Christian Wakeford, defected from the Tories to Labour over Boris Johnson’s behaviour during the Partygate investigation. Though the launch will focus entirely on the high prices of bills and the tax burden, Labour sources said the slogan was also intended to evoke the feeling of “one rule for them” that the public had expressed during the exposés of lockdown breaches. The party will launch its campaign with new analysis claiming families will be £2,620 worse off, even despite the additional measures in Rishi Sunak’s spring statement to cut fuel duty and raise the threshold for paying national insurance.” – The Guardian

  • Labour leader turns to ex England and Man Utd star to revive his fortunes – The Sun

Sturgeon delays scrapping Scotland’s face mask law for second time

“Nicola Sturgeon has postponed scrapping the legal requirement to wear face masks in Scotland for a second time, blaming the UK’s highest Covid rates for the delay. The First Minister told MSPs that, from next Monday, Scots will no longer have to wear a face covering in places of worship or while attending a marriage ceremony, civil partnership, funeral or commemorative event. But the legal requirement to wear one in other indoor public places such as shops and public transport will only be converted to guidance on Easter Monday, April 18. Ms Sturgeon admitted wearing masks was an “inconvenience” but argued that the delay took account of the “very high level of infection” in Scotland and pressures on the NHS.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Future legislation will make clear that controversial IRA ‘comfort letters’ have no basis in law

News in Brief:

  • No, Ukraine does not justify further shrinking the Army – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • The NHS failing mothers is nothing new – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • DUP gains ground, but overall support drops for divided unionism – Sam McBride, Belfast Telegraph
  • The Union won’t be brought down by a Sinn Fein First Minister – Ian Acheson, CapX
  • Who actually got Brexit done? – David Scullion, The Critic