Published:

Johnson 1) The Prime Minister aims to axe 91,000 civil servants to free up £3.5 billion for cost-of-living tax cuts…

“Boris Johnson has ordered ministers to slash the size of the Civil Service by a fifth to free up billions for tax cuts. The Prime Minister used a ‘cost of living’ Cabinet meeting in the Midlands yesterday to order his top team to redouble their efforts to ease the financial pressure on struggling families. Mr Johnson told the Daily Mail: ‘We have got to cut the cost of government to reduce the cost of living.’ He said the Civil Service had become ‘swollen’ during the pandemic and more than 90,000 jobs had to go. And he suggested the billions saved could be ploughed into tax cuts, saying: ‘Every pound the Government pre-empts from the taxpayer is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives.’” – The Daily Mail

  • Stuart rejects Rees-Mogg’s criticism of Whitehall working-from-home – The Times 
  • A bonfire of bureaucrats can tackle costs crisis – Editorial, The Daily Mail
  • The Prime Minister has reached peak ‘cakeism’ – and all of us are paying the price – Fraser Nelson, The Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson’s tone-deaf party are arrogant clowns who just don’t get it – Piers Morgan, The Sun

Johnson 2) …as he suggests the Government will look at a windfall tax on the energy giants…

“BP has said it would love to invest more money in the UK but issued a warning as Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak threatened to hit the company with a windfall tax. Bernard Looney, BP’s chief executive, angered ministers last week when he told The Times he would press ahead with £18 billion worth of investments in the UK this decade even if a levy were imposed. His comments were seized upon by Labour, which has been pushing for a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, and led to a shift in the government’s position. Boris Johnson yesterday said he would look at introducing a windfall tax on oil and gas companies, while Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said yesterday that “no options are off the table”.” – The Times

  • The Chancellor insists he is ‘pragmatic’ on the matter – The Guardian
  • BP head warns the tax would threaten Britain’s energy security – The Daily Telegraph
  • A tax on energy companies’ purportedly excess profits remains a bad idea – Editorial, The Times
  • Windfall blackmail is not the solution – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph
  • A windfall tax on rip-off energy firms will help hard up Brits – Robert Halfon, The Sun

Johnson 3) …and he launches a fresh push to cut childcare bills

“Boris Johnson will launch a fresh push to cut childcare bills as he vowed to use compassion to ease cost of living shocks. But the PM stopped short of announcing tax cuts or a new support package after a special Cabinet meeting in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs. The PM wants to change the law so childminders can look after five children at a time, rather than four. Ministers hope the move will cut the astronomical costs of childcare, the highest in the Western world. But Children’s Minister Will Quince admitted the change was not a magic bullet. He added that dad-of-seven Mr Johnson had ordered ministers to look at more radical measures to help parents. Mr Quince hinted free childcare might be extended.” – The Sun

  • Lee Anderson is right to say that cooking and budgeting classes can help the poor – Editorial, The Times

Truss warns Brussels Britain has ‘no choice but to act’ on Northern Ireland…

“The UK is heading for a trade clash with Brussels over plans to bring forward legislation to unilaterally scrap parts of the Brexit deal after talks over Northern Ireland’s trading rules ended in deadlock and recrimination. Liz Truss, UK foreign secretary, said on Thursday that Britain would have “no choice but to act”, but the EU warned that any move would force it to restrict Northern Ireland’s access to the single market for goods. British officials expect Boris Johnson to set out as early as next week plans for a bill to disapply parts of the so-called Northern Ireland protocol the prime minister signed just 18 months ago.” – The Financial Times

  • The Foreign Secretary won’t compromise, says Brussels – The Times
  • US congress delegation to fly to London as protocol concerns grow – The Guardian
  • Truss’ plan could be delayed to up to a year by peers – The I
  • Northern Ireland deserves better – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph
  • Dublin can no longer treat Irish unity as a distant aspiration – Philip Stephens, The Financial Times
  • We must rip up the Northern Ireland protocol – Lord Frost, The Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

…as the Foreign Secretary also pledges the UK will take more control over foreign aid under new strategy

“Liz Truss will overhaul the foreign aid budget so that Britain hands out more money itself rather than through international organisations. The Foreign Secretary will unveil a new overseas development strategy next week that will take greater control of how taxpayers’ money is spent. As part of this, Miss Truss will slash the sums given to organisations such as the United Nations and World Bank. The cash will be redirected to British-led programmes, giving the Government a bigger say over how it is used. More than £4.4billion of the £11.5billion spent on foreign aid last year was distributed through international bodies.” – The Daily Mail

Patel ‘slams’ the ‘barmy bid’ of the Mayor of London to legalise marijuana

“Sadiq Khan’s barmy plan to legalise weed on the capital’s streets are up in smoke after Priti Patel slammed the idea. The Home Secretary told the London Mayor to focus on soaring crime rates on his patch after he pitch rolled legalising the drug. Mr Khan toured legal cannabis farms and dispensaries on a tour of California after appointing a drugs tsar to explore legalisation of cannabis. And he even sparked an internal row within Labour, after Labour allies slapped down his proposals… The Home Secretary said Mr Khan’s time would “be better spent” focusing on tackling knife crime in London after he announced he was launching a commission to assess the effectiveness of UK drug laws.” – The Sun

  • Khan must be mad to want to repeat America’s cannabis catastrophe – Tom Leonard, The Daily Mail

Javid promises a ‘radical new approach’ to tackling the ‘incredibly disabling condition’ ME

“Sajid Javid has promised a radical new approach to tackling the ‘incredibly disabling condition’ of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Speaking to parliament on World ME Day yesterday, the health and social care secretary claimed he was ‘committed to better care and support for people living with ME and their families’. The condition affects up to 250,000 people in the UK and 17million around the world. Javid, who is the first senior government minister to speak about the condition, will lead a plan for new research and better patient care… ME is a long-term and poorly understood condition that causes a range of symptoms. Its main symptom is extreme tiredness and feeling generally unwell.” – The Daily Mail

Kwarteng’s enterprise strategy delayed by the focus on the cost-of-living crisis

“Ministers have delayed a long promised enterprise strategy that would have set out plans to drive growth and boost private sector investment in the UK as it emerged from the coronavirus pandemic. Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has been working on the plans to encourage entrepreneurship and support small business expansion since last summer…Kwarteng had previously said he was hoping to publish the document by the end of last year…However, it never materialised and instead officials have recently paused work on the strategy, according to three people familiar with the situation, sparking dismay among business groups who want the government to focus on supporting growth at a time when confidence is faltering.” – The Financial Times

Russia accuses Finland of ‘pushing above its weight’ as Putin’s EU ambassador vows to bolster their 800-mile long border

“Russia has accused Finland of ‘pushing above its weight’ as the country signalled its intention to join NATO. Putin’s EU ambassador vowed to bolster defences on the Russia and Finland’s shared 800-mile-long border if it decided to join the alliance. Vladimir Chizhov said if Finland joined it would lead to ‘certain military-technical measures, like improving or raising the degree of defence preparations along the Finnish border’. A move would ‘certainly necessitate rethinking of Russian defence posture’ but not ‘necessarily [involve] troops and tanks, but certain preparations like radars, perhaps’, he told Sky News.” – The Daily Mail

  • Why are Sweden and Finland not yet in NATO, and does the alliance want them? – The Guardian
  • British troops are ‘ready to go and fight’ against Russia, says head of elite unit – The Daily Telegraph
  • There are risks. But Finland and Sweden would strengthen the NATO alliance and enhance Britain’s security – Editorial, The Times
  • Vladimir Putin has made his biggest blunder yet – Michael Fallon, The Daily Telegraph

>Today:

Raab says a prison wedding for serial killer Bellfield is “inconceivable” at this time

“A request by the serial killer Levi Bellfield to get married in prison is “inconceivable” unless safeguarding concerns are addressed, Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, said yesterday. Bellfield, 53, was yesterday described as being “besotted” with a prison visitor, a blonde woman in her forties. He got down on one knee to propose in front of guards at HMP Frankland, Co Durham, one of Britain’s highest security prisons, The Sun said yesterday. Bellfield often targeted women with dyed-blonde hair, describing them as “sluts” and “impure” and saying they “deserved to be messed around with”” – The Times

Shapps signs historic space deal with his US counterpart

“Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has hailed a landmark partnership with the US that will help cut red tape and make future spaceflight easier and cheaper. Mr Shapps and his US counterpart Pete Buttigieg signed a declaration on Wednesday to work together on future commercial spaceflight missions. The Department for Transport (DfT) said the move will help launch quicker and more streamlined spaceflight operations between the two countries on licensing of commercial space launches. The UK is preparing to make its first-ever launch from home soil later this year from Spaceport Cornwall.”– Daily Express

Forsyth: The housing crisis puts Tories in a death spiral

“Planning reform is off the agenda. One government source warns: “Even the stuff which is in the levelling up bill will meet lots of opposition from backbenchers.” Some in Whitehall fear that Tory MPs, worried about the Lib Dem threat, will demand further concessions and protections. The current system is unpredictable and sclerotic. It acts as a drag anchor on the economy. It is also causing growing societal problems. The average age of a first-time buyer is 34; in the 1990s it was 29…The Tories used to take comfort from the facts of life being conservative. But the later in life those facts kick in, the worse things are for the Tories.” – The Times

Ministers to make a decision on extending the life of the Hinkley Point B reactor ‘in weeks’

“Ministers have just four to five weeks to make a decision on keeping Hinkley Point B running beyond its decommissioning date, nuclear industry insiders have said. As revealed by i, the Government is looking at delaying the decommissioning of the country’s existing nuclear reactors in a bid to help keep soaring energy prices down. The Hinkley Point B reactor is due to be taken off-grid in July, but i understands that talks could be imminent to keep the Somerset station going in a bid to provide a cheaper and more secure energy supply over the next year or so. The likelihood of reactors, such as Heysham 1 in Morecambe and Hartlepool, both of which are due to be shut down in 2024, continuing beyond their decommissioning dates is even stronger, the paper has been told.” – The I

Tory majority at risk, warns Hunt

“Boris Johnson has a “big mountain to climb” if he is to lead the Tories to victory at the next election, the former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned as he refuses to rule out a leadership bid. In his starkest criticism of the government to date, Hunt said that the Tories’ loss of nearly 500 seats in last week’s local elections was not just “mid-term blues” but reflected deep concerns of voters about the cost of living. He warned that the “very, very low growth” of the economy risked undermining the NHS as it faced “ever increasing bills” and shortages of doctors. The government’s focus on targets to clear the post-pandemic backlog in hospitals presented the risk of “another Mid-Staffs” scandal, where hundreds of patients were mistreated by the NHS, he warned.” – The Times

Fox condemns the Bank of England for underestimating the threat of rising inflation

“Senior Conservative MPs have turned on the Bank of England over its handling of inflation, in a rare outbreak of political criticism of the central bank in the way it is doing its core job. Boris Johnson’s party is feeling the political heat as the cost-of-living crisis intensifies and now some Tory MPs are blaming the BoE, which has been operationally independent for 25 years, for losing its grip on prices. Liam Fox, a former cabinet minister, told the Commons that the BoE had “consistently underestimated the threat” of rising inflation, which the BoE fears could top 10 per cent later this year. “The BoE persisted beyond any rational interpretation of the data to tell us that inflation was transient, then that it would peak at 5 per cent,” he said.” – The Financial Times

The Covid inquiry will probe the impact of lockdowns on mental health and young people

“No10’s long-awaited Covid inquiry will examine how badly lockdowns impacted the nation’s mental health and children. Officials today revealed the scope of the independent probe would be broadened to include the wider impacts of pandemic restrictions. There were fears the investigation would fall into the same trap as earlier reports that focused on lives lost directly to Covid and ruled the UK should have locked down for longer. Since then, data has accrued suggesting the benefits of lockdowns were overblown and the wider consequences were underestimated. The inquiry, which already included 26 topics, is being chaired by Baroness Heather Hallett. She will have the power to summon witnesses to give evidence under oath — even the Prime Minister.” – The Daily Mail

  • The inquiry will also review collaboration between UK and Scottish governments – The Scotsman
  • Downing Street is the most fined address in the country for lockdown breaches – The Daily Telegraph 
  • The damning truth about Covid deaths – Frederick Forsyth, Daily Express

‘Porn MP’ Parish could stand against the Conservatives in Tiverton and Honiton by-election

“Shamed former Conservative MP Neil Parish is threatening to stand against the Tories as an independent candidate in the forthcoming Tiverton and Honiton by-election to save his political career. Mr Parish told The Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast he had been pledged the necessary financial backing to stand in a move that would risk splitting the Conservative vote and letting in the Liberal Democrats. Speaking on his final day as an MP this week, Mr Parish also disclosed that he had written to Sir Graham Brady, the 1922 committee chairman, to urge Conservative colleagues to be nicer to each other.” – The Daily Telegraph

  • Voters in Tiverton and Honiton desert the Tories – The Times

>Yesterday:

Security advice linked to Lord Lebedev’s controversial peerage withheld

“Ministers today cited ‘national security’ concerns as they withheld information related to Lord Lebedev’s controversial peerage to prompt fresh Labour claims of a ‘cover-up’. There has been intense scrutiny of the Prime Minister’s decision to nominate Lord Lebedev for a peerage, in July 2020, following claims Boris Johnson brushed aside official advice against it. Russian-born Lord Lebedev is the son of an ex-KGB officer and it was claimed that security services – following the PM’s intervention – had withdrawn an assessment that granting the 41-year-old a peerage posed a national security risk.” – The Daily Mail

Blair tells Starmer to drop ‘woke’ politics and focus on the economy

“Tony Blair has urged Keir Starmer to reject “woke” politics and present a programme for government that is “radical without being dangerous”. A report published by the Tony Blair Institute analyses the impact of class on voting in the 2019 general election and beyond. Based on analysis by the veteran pollster Peter Kellner, it points to particular problems for Labour with two groups: the 26% of voters who fit into the formal definition of middle class; and the 12% who would be defined as working class by pollsters but consider themselves middle class.” – The Guardian

  • The New Statesman declares Starmer to be boring – The Sun
  • The Daily Mail on Beergate 1) Labour activists are told to avoid the issues and the BBC admits complaints for insufficient coverage – The Daily Mail
  • The Daily Mail on Beergate 2) Durham Police retrospectively fined a woman £10,000 for breaching Covid laws within weeks of Starmer’s Beergate gathering – The Daily Mail
  • The Daily Mail on Beergate 3) Rayner blasts Johnson over fines as she is probed for allegedly breaking lockdown rules – The Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • Sadiq Khan shows why London doesn’t need a mayor – Gus Carter, The Spectator 
  • The nuclear family has failed – Yoram Hazony, UnHerd 
  • The economic cost of Brexit is only getting worse – David Gauke, The New Statesman 
  • Can the new Dr Who save a tired franchise? – Tim Dawson, The Critic 
  • TFL’s venture into the property market is hugely welcome – if only it could go further – Henry Hill, Cap X