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Ukraine 1) Russians forced to retreat from key areas as Biden warns they could use chemical weapons

“Russian forces have been beaten back in several areas as Ukrainian troops launched a valiant fightback to regain key slices of territory across their country. The Ukrainians deployed devastating hit-and-run tactics against enemy tanks, while some of the Kremlin’s ill-prepared forces suffered frostbite and could no longer fight, according to US officials. With Russian casualties mounting, Vladimir Putin has his “back against the wall”, according to Joe Biden, the US president, and could resort to using biological or chemical weapons.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Russian warships begin shelling Mariupol – The Times
  • Journalists resign from Kremlin state media – The Times
  • The Russian army has run out of time – Richard Kemp, Daily Telegraph
  • Thousands of children being deported – The i
  • Truth is a casualty of Putin’s war – Leader, The Guardian

>Today:

Ukraine 2) Germany and France have failed to send promised supplies

“Ukraine has said it is fast running out of the weapons it needs to destroy Russian aircraft and tanks and urged Germany and France to honour their pledges and send more arms. The defending forces are far surpassing western expectations by stalling the Russians’ advance and preventing them from taking key cities. Western officials said that Ukraine was “obviously expending a lot of ordnance”, and more than anticipated. They had expected to be supporting a more limited insurgency by this stage.” – The Times

  • Putin’s war threatens millions with hunger – Leader, Financial Times
  • Biden’s apathetic approach to Putin is alienating America’s allies – Nile Gardiner, Daily Telegraph
  • US President has yet to show true leadership – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Credible deterrence – Leader, The Times
  • Johnson urges India to abandon neutral stance – Daily Mail

Chancellor “to keep” most of the windfall from public finances to reduce borrowing

“Rishi Sunak is planning to set aside a large part of a windfall in UK public finances this year, risking a backlash from Tory MPs who want the chancellor to use all funds available to cushion the cost of living crisis hurting British families. The official forecasts in the Spring Statement will show the deficit is at least £20bn better than expected this year, but Sunak will use only some of the money to help households facing soaring gas, electricity, and fuel bills. Sunak will instead highlight the importance of “more resilient public finances” as he worries about a surge in the cost of servicing government debt instead of spending the entire windfall. He is set to say he will “stand by” families, with a cut in fuel tax expected to be part of new measures he will announce.” – Financial Times

  • Inflation hit 6.2 per cent, the highest for 30 years – BBC
  • Don’t roll the drums for big financial drama at lunchtime – Laura Kuenssberg, BBC
  • One of the biggest tax-raising chancellors in history – Daily Mail
  • Sunak to promise “security for working families” with a fuel duty cut – The Guardian
  • Here’s the budget speech he should give – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Sunak says he wants to cut taxes, but he keeps raising them – Patrick Minford, Daily Express
  • Triple whammy of tax rises set to cost every adult £1,000 a year extra – Daily Telegraph
  • Taxing jobs as we face a cost of living crisis is the economics of the madhouse – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • Abandon the National Insurance rise – Leader, Daily Mail
  • A Labour chancellor would reduce energy bills, not raise taxes – James Murray, The Times
  • Sunak should prize more the value of ideas – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
  • Levelling up chief warns inflation will make tackling inequalities harder – Financial Times

>Yesterday: Joe Shalam on Think Tanks: Sunak must mount a three-pronged attack to skewer the loan sharks

Cabinet “split” over proposal to ease planning restrictions on wind farms

“Boris Johnson’s cabinet is split over proposals to ease planning rules in England to enable more onshore wind farms, sources have told the BBC. Ministers are next week due to set out plans to produce more energy in the UK to tackle spiralling household bills. Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is in favour of loosening planning regulations to make it easier to approve plans for more onshore wind. But the BBC has been told other cabinet ministers strongly oppose the plans.” – BBC

Countries are “queuing up” to do trade deals, Trevelyan claims

“Countries are “queuing up” round the block to do a trade deal with Brexit Britain, the Trade Supremo Anne-Marie Trevelyan has declared. Her upbeat assessment comes as the UK kickstarts formal trade talks with Canada on Thursday.The Commonwealth giant is just one of eight countries and trading blocs she wants to ink an accord with over the next couple of years. The buoyant minister said Israel, India, Mexico, Greenland and the US are all also eager to do a deal.” – The Sun

  • US rolls back Trump-era tariffs on UK steel – BBC

Pursglove agrees to meet Tory rebels who want to asylum seekers to be allowed to work

“Tom Pursglove, the junior migration minister, said the powers to prosecute and jail people who arrive by unofficial means, such as on a small boat across the Channel, would only be used in “egregious cases”, such as someone entering the country in breach of a deportation order. Tory rebels did claim a slight victory after Pursglove agreed to meet them to discuss ideas to allow all asylum seekers to more easily access work, as is already the case for those from Ukraine and Afghanistan. This was welcomed by Robert Buckland, the former lord chancellor, who was among more than 60 Tory MPs and peers who signed a letter backing a change, saying he hoped to reach “a mutually agreeable solution” with the government over the issue.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: James Bethell on Comment: The Government should drop the ban on asylum seekers working

Truss orders “radical review” of development strategy

“A “radical” review of the Government’s international development strategy will see women and girls prioritised over global health and climate change, The Telegraph has been told. Liz Truss has ordered changes in the way the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) spends aid funding, prompting concerns from her own officials and more than 200 British NGOs. Sources familiar with the review say she is planning a “radical shift of strategy” in the department and fear spending on climate change, health and conflict prevention will be curtailed in favour of new priorities, while other staff are concerned they will lose their jobs.” – Daily Telegraph

Eustice warns of increase in price of chicken

“Chickens are set to skyrocket in price amid the war in Ukraine, the Environment Secretary has warned. George Eustice warned the price of chicken in the UK will spike as a result of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, as Russia’s invasion puts pressure on supply chains around the world. Speaking at the Food and Drink Federation’s annual conference on Tuesday, Mr Eustice said the price of wheat, which the poultry sector uses for its chicken feed, had already doubled as a result of Russia’s invasion.” – Daily Express

  • Government “considering delaying new regulation” to minimise increases in shopping bills – The Times

Housebulders hit back at Gove

“The housebuilding industry has written to Michael Gove after the housing secretary described leading developers as a “cartel” and criticised their approach to protecting the environment…Speaking to the Conservative Environment Network recently, Gove said he is “not particularly popular with developers” at the moment given that he is pushing them to spend billions fixing the nation’s dangerous cladding…Stewart Baseley, the chief executive of the Home Builders Federation, the industry body, wrote to Gove today expressing his “considerable concern” about the use of the word “cartel”, which he said was “entirely unfounded” and implies that housebuilders are engaging in uncompetitive and illegal practices.” – The Times

Labour MP accused of “abandoning women’s rights”

“Olympic medallist Sharron Davies has accused a Labour MP of ‘abandoning’ women’s rights after she defended a transgender swimmer. Former women’s and equalities spokesman Charlotte Nichols said it was ‘lazy transphobia’ to criticise Lia Thomas who became the first transgender athlete to win a US college championship. Miss Thomas, 22, who competed as a man until three years ago, is now just one step away from the Olympics after winning the women’s 500-yard freestyle last Thursday.” – Daily Mail

  • SNP costs taxpayers £150,000 after failed attempt to ‘redefine’ women to include transgender people – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Columnist Andy Street: The Commonwealth Games will leave a Levelling Up legacy for the West Midlands

Court to challenge to “government by WhatsApp”

“Boris Johnson gets details of vital government business sent to him via WhatsApp, court papers have revealed. The material, from the PM’s ministerial “red box”, is sent to his phone for “administrative ease”, officials say, and does not break the rules. But campaigners challenging “government by WhatsApp” in the High Court say it is a security risk. They claim the use of insecure apps and message deletion by ministers and officials is “rampant”. Campaigning law groups the Good Law Project and Foxglove are challenging the government’s use of such services in the High Court, saying that it breaks the law on keeping public records.” – BBC

News in brief

  • Will Sunak stick to his ‘golden rule’? – Kate Andrews, The Spectator
  • Wrong forecasts misdirect policy – John Redwood
  • Badenoch is forging a winning, conservative approach to tackling racial disparities – Frank Young, CapX
  • Why Israel won’t join anti-Russia sanctions – Harry Clynch, Unherd
  • Education in Scotland needs a focus on knowledge and discipline – Murdo Fraser, The Scotsman