Published:

Local elections 1) The Conservatives lose seats across London and Oxfordshire, as local council leaders question Johnson’s leadership

“The Tories lost the flagship Wandsworth Council to Labour after having controlled it since 1978, while Keir Starmer’s party also claims to have taken the totemic stronghold of Westminster – where the PM himself voted. The Conservatives also lost Barnet and Southampton to Labour and West Oxfordshire and Worcester to no overall control. Furious local leaders have already been turning on the PM, with one calling on Mr Johnson to ‘consider his position’. But so far the results have not been as apocalyptic as some had predicted, with voting guru John Curtice saying Labour does not look in a position to win a majority at the next general election.” – The Daily Mail

  • Westminster, Wandsworth, and Barnet all taken by Labour – The Daily Mail
  • Johnson will face ‘increased scrutiny’ as the Conservatives endure defeats – The Financial Times
  • Rutland Conservative council leader resigns as polls close – whereas the leader of Worcester, lost to No Overall Control, left his count early – The Daily Mail
  • Lib Dems and Greens toast their success as both Labour and the Conservatives fall back – The Daily Mail
  • Why the local election results will not predict the outcome of the next General Election – The I

>Today:

Local elections 2) Wandsworth: ‘Thatcher’s favourite council’ was ‘unable to distance itself from Number 10’

“Wandsworth has been a Conservative stronghold for the past 44 years with one of the lowest rates of council tax in London. The leafy borough stretches from Battersea to Putney and was Margaret Thatcher’s “favourite council”. In an attempt to keep residents happy ahead of the local elections, the borough announced that it would live up to its Thatcherite principles and cut council tax this year — the only local authority in London to do so. But the local Conservative party’s attempts to distance itself from the party antics in Westminster have failed as Labour secured overall control, beating the Tories into second place with 35 seats to 22.” – The Times

Local election 3) Labour retains control of Sunderland, as Conservatives blame Partygate and the cost of living crisis…

“Labour retained its grip on Sunderland on Friday, spelling major relief for the party following fears it would lose overall control of the council for the first time in history. Waving two fists in the air, local Labour leader Graeme Miller said the victory showed the party was delivering at a community level and “rebuilding that trust with people” under Keir Starmer’s command. Labour has dominated in Sunderland for decades, but faced the prospect of the council turning blue for the first time in 48 years if it lost just six seats in the local elections. Sunderland was one of the few areas in England where the local Conservatives had believed they could pose a credible threat to Labour and serve a hammer blow to Mr Starmer.” – The I

Local elections 4) …but make only modest gains outside London, despite earlier predictions

“Labour has admitted that voters do not believe they have “all the answers” as the party made modest gains in council elections across the UK. Despite the loss of almost 120 Conservatives seats by 7am on Friday morning, Labour did not win as many seats as it had hoped for in target areas in the north of England, picking up just 73 of those changing hands. The party’s national campaign coordinator described the election as a “turning point” and praised Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership, but Labour MPs were muted about the scale of their success. Labour has taken Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet councils in London from the Tories, but has made fewer gains than expected outside of the capital, including losing control of Hull Council.” – The Daily Telegraph

Local elections 5) The Liberal Democrats claim the Prime Minister’s ‘magic dust’ is gone, after winning all but one seat on offer in Eastleigh

“The Lib Dems have teased Boris Johnson after winning all but one seat in Eastleigh, despite the PM campaigning there on Tuesday. London and west oxfordshire, Southampton, then something to suggest tories aren’t doing too badly elsewhere, photo of total numbers of losses so far. The Prime Minister was in Eastleigh on Wednesday with the Tory MP for the Hampshire seat Paul Holmes. Despite his pleas on Twitter to #VoteConservative, the Lib Dems gained in Eastleigh Central and held Eastleigh North and South. A Liberal Democrat spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We’ve won all but one seat that was up in Eastleigh. “Boris Johnson was campaigning in Eastleigh on Tuesday. Not magic dust then?”” – Daily Express

Local elections 6) High turnout ‘set to benefit Sinn Fein’, as the DUP fear they will be forced into second place

“ Northern Ireland is bracing itself for more political turmoil after a high election turn out increased the chances of Sinn Fein winning for the first time. The hardline republicans – who want a united Ireland – are favourites to become the largest party in the power-sharing executive for the first time in its history, overtaking the Democratic Unionist Party.Victory for a party wanting Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom would mark an historic shift 24 years after the Good Friday agreement that ended three decades of sectarian bloodshed between those seeking unity with neighbouring Ireland and those wanting to remain part of the United Kingdom.” – The Daily Mail

  • UK to push Brussels to drop tough stance over Northern Ireland protocol amid fears of political paralysis – The I

>Yesterday:

The Bank of England warns of looming recession, as interest rates rise

“The Bank of England has warned the UK economy will slide into recession this year as higher energy prices push inflation above 10 per cent, a forecast that pushed sterling to a two-year low. Despite forecasting a severe fall in household incomes, the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee voted on Thursday to squeeze them further, raising the main interest rate a quarter-point to 1 per cent, its highest level since February 2009. Three of the nine MPC members voted for a half-point rate increase…Andrew Bailey, BoE governor, said there would be a “very sharp slowdown” and he understood that higher energy prices and borrowing costs would hurt. “I recognise the hardship that this will cause,” he said, blaming most of the pain on energy prices rather than higher borrowing costs.” – The Financial Times

  • Inflation hits 40-year high – as workers face biggest pay drop since 1990 – The Daily Mail
  • Sunak urged to slash taxes to avoid a recession – The Times
  • Bank of England warns of £1,200 hit to households – The I
  • Tories’ greatest test is tackling the cost crisis – Editorial, The Daily Mail
  • Britain faces a deep-rooted economic mess – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph
  • It’s time for tax cuts – Editorial, The Sun
  • The Bank of England’s dismal forecast is the stuff of Tory nightmares – Kate Andrews, The Daily Telegraph
  • Warning to Johnson: Inflation is a poison that brings down governments – Dominic Sandbrook, The Daily Mail
  • Britain is uniquely capable of escaping this spiral of decay – David Frost, The Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Johnson rebuked Wallace for calling for a defence spending rise…

“Boris Johnson personally asked the defence secretary to withdraw a letter calling for increased spending on the armed forces in the first weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Times can disclose. Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, wrote to Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, on March 11 warning that Britain risked missing a Nato commitment to spend 2 per cent of national income on security by 2025. The letter, sent before the chancellor’s spring statement in March, warned that the cost of arming Ukraine and rising inflation meant that the UK was facing a real-terms cut in security spending.” – The Times

… as the Defence Secretary claims the war in Ukraine could become ‘Russia’s Vietnam’

“Ben Wallace said that the strain of operating beyond its borders and the potential loss of public support at home could result in the “collapse” of Vladimir Putin’s, despite fielding far more advanced weapons than Ukraine. Speaking in Finland during a visit to British troops on exercises, Mr Wallace said the war in Ukraine could result in a frozen conflict, like the Korean peninsula, or a military collapse – such as the US experienced in 1973. “Vietnam lasted 15 years and led to the overwhelming defeat, the rout, of the biggest military power with highly advanced weapons over their enemy, because they had home advantage and public support,” he said. “This could be a Vietnam. Armies reach a breaking point. If the Russians collapse like they did north of Kyiv, it could very quickly turn from a quagmire to a rout and the whole thing could collapse back into Russia.”” – The Daily Telegraph

Patel repeats commitment to clamping down on illegal immigration

“Two dozen Albanians were deported yesterday in a move that the Home Secretary said showed her tough approach to the ‘scourge of illegal migration’. Among them was a man smuggled across the Channel by boat less than two months ago. Others on the charter flight included foreign criminals who had been jailed for a total of 56 years, including for firearms and drugs offences as well as assaulting an emergency services worker. One deportee had reached the UK in the back of a lorry in 2015, while another had overstayed his visa by a year. It was the 24th flight this year, with many in recent years disrupted by Covid and legal challenges.” – The Daily Mail

  • Channel crossings increase despite plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda – The I
  • Only 300 migrants will be removed to Rwanda each year, according to a Home Office model – The Times
  • Home Office ‘delaying Ukrainian children escaping war-torn Ukraine with visa red tape’ – The I
  • Left-wing lawyers fighting Johnson’s Rwanda migrant plan may think are virtuous, but they have blood on their hands – Leo McKinstry, The Daily Mail

Gove meets Clarkson to discuss countryside planning nightmares

“Farming fanatic Jeremy Clarkson met Michael Gove this week to discuss countryside planning nightmares. The Amazon agrarian swapped his Cotswolds crofts for Whitehall on Tuesday to meet the Communities Secretary. He was invited in to discuss rural planning issues and what councils could do to help farmers diversify their business. Clarkson was recently refused permission by Oxfordshire Council to expand his Diddly Squat Farm. Sources said he and Mr Gove joked that his planning row may even boost Clarkson’s Farm’s ratings even higher. One insider said: “A few of the directors in the department also got to meet him and were quite star struck.”” – The Sun

Raab ‘angry’ as Baby P’s mother, Tracey Connelly, to be released

“The mother of Baby P will be released from prison even though a review warned of her capacity to manipulate, including how she traded letters with a secret lover in jail. Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, called for a “fundamental overhaul” of the parole board after it rejected a government challenge to stop Tracey Connelly being set free within weeks. He said yesterday that her “cruelty” towards her son was “pure evil”. He added: “The decision to release her demonstrates why the parole board needs a fundamental overhaul — including a ministerial check for the most serious offenders — so that it serves and protects the public.” – The Times

Javid holds crisis talks with HRT suppliers as pressure grows to solve shortage of menopause medication

“Sajid Javid met HRT suppliers yesterday amid growing pressure to resolve shortages of the vital medication. In a boost for the Daily Mail’s campaign to fix the crisis, the Health Secretary pledged to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in improving supplies of hormone replacements. Thousands of women have been unable to obtain the therapy for menopause symptoms such as low mood, brain fog and hot flushes. Mr Javid and Madelaine McTernan, the new head of the HRT supply taskforce, met representatives of the supply, wholesale and community pharmacy sector. Prescriptions for HRT have more than doubled in England over the past five years, according to NHS data, leading to a huge shortage.” – The Daily Mail

Forsyth: The Online Safety Bill represents the slow road to state censorship

“What is the most consequential piece of legislation this government will ever pass? The obvious answer is the Brexit deal. But you could make a good case for the Online Safety Bill, which is working its way through the Commons. It could affect what you read, how you read it, and whether you can even find it. Its bold ambition is to regulate the internet. It will determine whether social media remains a wild west saloon or whether it becomes a more curated space (with government directing the curating). Tweets, blogs and videos would be reviewed and scanned for “harmful” content, usually by bots.” – The Times

Philp: The Government will stop tech giants abusing power and ripping you off

“The internet and the digital devices that connect to it have made our lives infinitely easier – from shopping and banking online to connecting with friends and family. But if the internet was a high street it would be dominated by just a handful of massive shops – the tech giants. These firms have huge influence over what we do and don’t see on our devices, and showcase their own apps and services over rivals. Technology minister Chris Philps, pictured, said powerful tech companies are able to charge whatever they like for online services with little oversight. This makes it difficult for smaller firms to compete – including those in the UK’s thriving tech scene…The Government has set up a regulator – the Digital Markets Unit – as a new watchdog to make sure the tech companies don’t abuse their power.” – The Daily Mail

  • Ministers retreat from giving new tech regulator statutory backing – The Financial Times
  • Tough new laws will force the tech giants to play fair – The Daily Mail

Employment bill sidelined – and the Government is accused of ‘betraying workers’

“The government has been accused of betraying some of the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers in Britain after it emerged it would leave out landmark reforms to employment rights from the Queen’s speech. The employment bill is not expected to be included in next Tuesday’s list of priorities for parliament as the government focuses on policies relating to energy and economic crime. The bill, which is being delayed for a second year, would have introduced protections against pregnancy discrimination, ensured restaurants handed over all service charges and tips to staff, and created a single enforcement body for employment rights to make sure that abuses do not fall in the gaps between different regulators.” – The Guardian

‘Resolute’ Ukraine response vital to deter China on Taiwan, claims Japanese PM as he visits London

“Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida has used a visit to London to stress the importance of a resolute international response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in deterring potential future Chinese action against Taiwan. Kishida issued the warning following a meeting with UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who on Thursday also insisted there was a “direct read across” from recent events in Europe to East Asia. The comments from the two prime ministers highlight international concerns about Chinese intentions towards Taiwan and come after talks in early March between UK and US officials over how best to deter any use of force against the island.” – The Financial Times

  • Macron’s vision for Europe is crumbling – and he can’t even blame the Brits – Fraser Nelson, The Daily Telegraph

McVey: Discipline isn’t dull – it’s what made this country great

“Discipline and dependability, qualities that might sound dull but, which along with a stiff upper lip, helped make this country great. However, for now at least, they seem to have disappeared. This is a result of lockdown and it has seeped into the pores of our most trusted organisations with devastating consequences. Need a timely reply? Forget it. Whether you need a new passport, a driver’s licence or planning permission, the delays are so bad that families are missing holidays, drivers are prevented from working and building sites lay idle. Worse still, no one seems to care or have an answer… So how do we get back to a pre-Covid smooth-running country?” – Daily Express

The Queen may pass the opening of Parliament to Prince Charles

“Buckingham Palace has drawn up contingency plans for the Prince of Wales to read the Queen’s Speech next week amid concern that Her Majesty will be unable to attend. The Queen, 96, has missed the ceremony twice during her 70 years on the throne — once when she was pregnant with Prince Andrew in 1959 and just before Prince Edward’s birth in 1963. In recent months she has missed a number of engagements because of mobility problems. Buckingham Palace confirmed yesterday that she would miss the royal garden party season in her Platinum Jubilee year. A Whitehall source told The Times that it was looking increasingly unlikely that the Queen would read the speech. They said that discussions on the prince taking over were advanced.” – The Times

Channel 4 pushes back against privatisation

“Channel 4 is fighting back against privatisation with an alternative plan for its future model that was previously rejected by the UK government, as it announced record financial results for 2021. The UK broadcaster’s proposal to head off privatisation, first reported by the Financial Times last month, outlined the business case for the commercially funded broadcaster to remain in public hands through a hybrid model that would give it access to private capital and debt. Channel 4 had presented culture secretary Nadine Dorries with the plans in February before she announced that the network would be put up for sale.” – The Financial Times

Covid lockdown in Shanghai reduced world trade by £22 billion and has left the UK exposed to price shocks

“The swingeing Covid lockdown which halted or delayed production in Shanghai for two months has put a dent of more than £20bn in world trade and will be particularly damaging for the British economy, experts have warned. Figures looking at the impact of the near total shutdown of the city – China’s financial centre and one of its largest manufacturing hubs – show that sectors from clothing to cars were among those to suffer the largest hits to production as the authorities pursue a “zero Covid” strategy to snuff out outbreaks of the Omicron variant of the virus.Officials in Shanghai, which also hosts the world’s biggest container port, insisted this week that the city was finally emerging from the lockdown which was first imposed in early March, affecting the entire population of 26 million people. “ – The I

  • WHO: World’s true Covid death toll is nearly 15 million – The Daily Mail

Labour urged to ‘release the Beergate tapes’ following Starmer’s suggestion that he recorded video clips of his late-night takeaway

“Labour was under pressure last night to release the Beergate Tapes following Sir Keir’s suggestion that he recorded video clips after his late-night takeaway. Having said the curry was consumed during a break from work, Sir Keir has struggled to prove that he carried out any duties after he was filmed holding a bottle of beer at Durham Miners Hall at 10.04pm. An ‘online event for members’ cited as an example concluded at 9.18pm. Sir Keir has also said he recorded ‘pieces to camera’ for social media – but just one Facebook clip appears to have been recorded that day, and it was shot during daylight hours. ‘Shifty Starmer’s accounts of what happened at his beer and curry night just don’t add up,’ Mark Jenkinson, MP for Workington, said.” – The Daily Mail

  • The Labour leader’s ‘Beergate’ gathering ‘the same as Downing Street parties’, according to Khan – The Sun
  • Labour MP who made ‘racist comments’ to a journalist still allowed to campaign for the party – The Daily Mail
  • Starmer is Corbyn mark two – so the Prime Minister is safe whatever the polls say – Robert Taylor, Daily Express

News in Brief:

  • No sea change in favour of Labour despite Tory defeats – James Forsyth, The Spectator 
  • The emptiness of being queer – Kathleen Stock, UnHerd 
  • I am big, it’s freesat that got small – Rob Hutton, The Critic 
  • The Bank of England is helping drive the UK into a recession – David Blanchflower, The New Statesman 
  • From space empire to decadence – Ed West, Substack