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Things will be tough but I’ve done all I can, insists Sunak

“Rishi Sunak vowed to put “responsible” measures ahead of “short-term popularity” as Tories urged him to do more to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. From today, tax, energy, phone and council tax bills will surge, with average households experiencing annual rises of more than £1,000. The chancellor said he was confident that the measures announced in his spring statement last week would help with the rise in the cost of living. “I know it’s tough for people,” he told the BBC’s Newscast podcast… Some Tories believe he may have to offer more support before his budget in the autumn. A cabinet minister told The Times: “It’s not enough. It doesn’t even touch the sides for a lot of families. It feels unsustainable.”” – The Times

  • Chancellor hints at extra help later this year – Daily Express

More:

  • Businesses face April ‘cliff edge’ as most pandemic support ends – FT
  • More firms expect to raise prices than at any time since 1980s – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Sunak’s decisions have raised the spectre of an ‘inflation tax’ – Chris Giles, FT

Russian general dubbed the ‘Butcher of Mariupol’ hit by crippling UK sanctions

“The evil Russian general dubbed “the Butcher of Mariupol” is today being sanctioned by the UK after bombing pregnant women in hospital. Putin’s murderous henchman Mikhail Mizintsev – who has exacted terror on the besieged Ukrainian city – is being stung in Liz Truss’ latest punishment package along with Kremlin propagandists. Up to 90 per cent of the city, home to 400,000 before the war, has been destroyed or damaged after a month of heavy shelling, according to Ukrainian authorities. Ukraine has alleged that Putin’s general was behind both the bombing of a maternity hospital in the city as well as the shelling of a theatre being used as a bomb shelter by up to 1,000 people… Mizintsev has been accused of masterminding the horror airstrike on a maternity hospital – with a harrowing picture showing a mother being stretchered from the hospital before she later died.” – The Sun

  • Western powers oppose linking Ukraine peace talks to sanctions relief for Russia – FT
  • UK will send long-range weapons – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Ukrainian refugees on family visas locked out of housing plan – The Times

>Yesterday: Eliza Easton in Comment: If the arts and culture are a third front in the Ukrainian war, here’s what Ministers should do

Johnson does double U-turn on LGBT conversion therapy ban

“Boris Johnson performed two U-turns within the space of an evening yesterday over a plan to drop a controversial ban on conversion therapy. Downing Street announced first that the prime minister had decided against making it illegal to change or suppress someone’s sexuality or gender identity. The move was an abandonment of a Tory pledge to outlaw conversion therapy — which broadly refers to counselling that is designed to change a person’s sexual orientation — amid concerns that the law could have unintended consequences for professionals working with children who had gender dysphoria. However, hours later, following a backlash from Tory MPs and campaign groups, Johnson backtracked again, saying that he would now move to ban conversion therapy but exclude gender dysphoria from the legislation.” – The Times

  • Leaked document had suggested plans to ban practices were being ditched despite repeated promises – The Guardian
  • Backlash from LGBT community and negative reaction from Tory MPs forces u-turn – Daily Telegraph

British shale gas wells will not be sealed up

“The UK’s only shale gas wells have been handed a year-long reprieve amid pressure on Boris Johnson to use fracking to lower energy prices. Cuadrilla had been under instruction to plug its two wells in Lancashire by the end of June 2022. But the North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) said the firm now had until the end of June 2023 to evaluate options for the Preston New Road and Elswick sites. The move comes ahead of the publication of the Government’s delayed energy strategy, with Boris Johnson facing demands from Tory MPs to end a moratorium on fracking. The process is currently banned after the technology was linked to earthquakes. But Tory backbenchers have demanded the technology be reassessed amid soaring gas and oil prices caused by sanctions targeting Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.” – Daily Mail

  • UK poised to follow US and unleash oil reserves – Daily Express
  • Hundreds of Extinction Rebellion protestors block entrances to ten oil terminals – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Spineless MPs are sapping our energy needs – James Forsyth, The Times

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

Javid vows to ‘go after’ those responsible for NHS maternity scandal…

“Sajid Javid has vowed to “go after” the people responsible for the biggest maternity scandal in the history of the NHS, saying he will “leave no stone unturned” to ensure they are held to account. An independent inquiry led by Donna Ockenden found that 201 babies and nine mothers could have or would have survived if Shrewsbury and Telford hospital NHS trust had provided better care. No staff member or health leader in charge was identified in the damning 234-page report published on Wednesday, despite presiding over catastrophic failings. But on Thursday the health secretary said he was “appalled” by the conclusions of the inquiry. He promised to track down the individuals whose failures left hundreds of babies dead or severely injured.” – The Guardian

  • Doctors too often ‘ignore’ women’s pain, says Health Secretary – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: The vote on ‘pills by post’. 72 Conservative MPs voted to keep abortions at home – and 175 voted against.

…and says sport should be ‘about sex rather than gender’

“Senior minister Sajid Javid jumped two-footed into the gender and sport debate today amid a furious row over whether a trans cyclist should be allowed to take part in women’s competitions. The Health Secretary said that competitions should be ‘about sex rather than gender’ as Emily Bridges was blocked from a female-only competition because she had competed as a man until a few weeks ago. Other female riders had threatened to pull out of the National Omnium Championships in Derby on Saturday before Miss Bridges, 21, was forced to pull out. Asked about the row on the UnherdTV podcast, Mr Javid said: ‘My own view is that when it comes to sport, it should be about sex rather than gender and sex should be based on your biological sex.'” – Daily Mail

  • Silly for NHS to ask if men are carrying a baby, insists Javid – The Times

More:

  • Starmer says ‘biology matters’ after confusion over Labour’s trans stance – Daily Telegraph

Public should be told if Carrie Johnson gets ‘partygate’ fine, says Starmer

“Sir Keir Starmer on Thursday said the public should be told if Carrie Johnson is fined for breaking Covid laws, despite Number 10’s insistence that it will not do so. The Labour leader’s intervention – a rare comment on another political leader’s partner – reflects interest in whether a gathering in the Johnsons’ Downing Street flat broke lockdown rules. Carrie Johnson, Boris Johnson and a string of advisers are all said to have been present at points in the event on Nov 13, 2020. The Mail on Sunday reported that the Abba song The Winner Takes It All was played during the gathering, which came on the day that former adviser Dominic Cummings was ousted. Downing Street has always denied any rules were broken.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour ahead of Tories on law and order among ‘wobbling voters’, shock poll reveals – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Moralists like Starmer who call on Johnson to resign over partygate repel “Live and let live Britain”

MPs reject Government’s ‘unimaginative’ choice for Charity Commission chairman

“MPs have rejected the Government’s top candidate to be the Charity Commission chairman, criticising him as an “archetypal and unimaginative choice”. Orlando Fraser, a barrister who served on the regulator’s board between 2013 and 2017, was named as the preferred candidate after Martin Thomas pulled out of the running in December. Mr Thomas had faced allegations of inappropriate conduct after it emerged that he was the subject of three complaints while chairman of the charity Women for Women International. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee said that although it recognised Mr Fraser’s potential to do the job and had no concerns about him as an individual, he represented “yet another archetypal and unimaginative choice” from a limited shortlist.” – Daily Telegraph

  • They criticise “slapdash and unimaginative approach” to the recruitment process – The Times

>Yesterday: Scott Benton MP: Ministers must seize this chance to put English football on a fair financial footing

News in Brief:

  • Polling shows the public is waking up to the shameful state of British healthcare – Rakib Ehsan, The Critic
  • The NHS should be ashamed of itself – Alys Denby, CapX
  • Why we fell for the con artist – Dorian Lynskey, UnHerd
  • The SNP ferries fiasco has taken another nasty turn – John Ferry, The Spectator