Mordaunt on manoeuvres as she demands protection for Ulster veterans

The Defence Secretary has burnished her leadership pitch this week with a call for new legal protections for ex-servicemen to be extended to those who served in Northern Ireland, the Times reports.

Penny Mordaunt this week unveiled new laws which would place time limits on troops’ exposure to prosecution over conduct whilst on active service overseas. However, at present this will not cover veterans of the Troubles, and the Northern Irish Office is pressing ahead with proposals for a new historical investigator.

Excluding Ulster veterans has angered many Conservative MPs, with the Daily Mail warning that ministers were risking a ‘mutiny’. The Prime Minister has been accused of ‘appeasing Sinn Fein‘ in order to support the NIO’s fumbling efforts to restore devolution in the Province.

Legal protection for current and former soldiers has managed to sneak up on some commentators, but could well be one of the major threads of the upcoming leadership contest. Just this morning the three main centre-right newspapers (the Times, the Sun, and the Daily Telegraph) have all published leaders on the subject.

In other news, Mike Penning has called for Parliament to honour Captain Robert Nairac, his former commanding officer, who was murdered by the IRA during the Troubles.

Davidson criticises Tories for failing to campaign properly in the Euros

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives has urged her colleagues to put more energy into their campaign for the imminent European elections, according to the Times.

Ruth Davidson’s intervention is being interpreted as an attack on those high-profile Tory MPs, such as Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt, she perceives to be putting more effort into their leadership pitches than the Party’s electoral efforts. Johnson this week accused supporters of a second referendum of bolstering the SNP.

Her intervention comes after a poll last month placed the Conservatives in fourth place in Scotland – whilst one published this morning found the Brexit Party in second place north of the border, and the Tories in single figures. Nigel Farage’s national campaign tour is rolling into Edinburgh on Friday, with one candidate stressing that the police must not allow mobs to disrupt his event as they have in the past.

Davies to step aside as Montgomeryshire MP at the next election

Glyn Davies, the Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire, has announced his intention to step down from Parliament at the next election, ITV News reports.

Since first capturing the seat in 2010 – memorably ousting the Liberal Democrats’ Lembit Öpik – he has built up a comfortable majority of over 9,000. He wants to give his successor an opportunity to establish themselves in the seat ahead of the next election, which is scheduled for 2022 but likely to take place rather sooner than that.

Bradley branded ‘unfit to govern’ by Ulster abuse victims

It’s been another week of bad press for the Northern Irish Secretary (is there any other sort?) after she was accused of using abuse victims as a “political football” in her bid to get Stormont back up and running.

The News Letter reports that survivors of abusive children’s homes run by the state and religious orders have claimed Karen Bradley is unfit for her post after she refused to authorise outstanding compensation payments. They say their redress is being held hostage in an effort to ‘blackmail’ local parties, and Arlene Foster has branded the move a “disgrace”.

Sam McBride, a local journalist, has also highlighted Bradley’s inconsistent approach to her powers, and questioned the moral and PR merit of declining to compensate abuse victims whilst legislating to appoint members of the Livestock & Meat Commission.

Cherry refuses to back down as SNP infighting deepens

Tensions inside the Scottish National Party continue to boil over as mounting pressure over its independence strategy and Alex Salmond’s upcoming trial erode its once-legendary discipline.

Joanna Cherry, the Nationalists’ home affairs spokesperson at Westminster, has mounted what the Daily Telegraph calls an “extraordinary attack” on party colleagues. She claims to have been the victim of a smear campaign over allegations of bullying in her office.

In an extremely illuminating column in the Times, Kenny Farquharson sets out why Cherry is the focus of the current row. She stands opposed to Nicola Sturgeon on all four of the SNP’s internal fault lines: on independence strategy; on left/right economics; on transgender issues; and on Salmond and his legacy.

With speculation mounting that Sturgeon may be compelled to step aside as First Minister either before or as a result of her predecessors trial (“on two charges of attempted rape, nine of sexual assault, two of indecent assault and one of breach of the peace”) Cherry is widely perceived as a possible Salmondite contender for the leadership.

But allegations of bullying might lead to her falling foul of the SNP’s candidate vetting process as and when she tried to make the necessary jump to Holyrood. Little wonder then that she has offered to review it – or that Sturgeon has turned her down.

In other news, the Nationalists’ also face a fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office after sending tens of thousands of Euro election mailshots to the wrong addresses.

Reckless leads four AMs in defection to the Brexit Party

The Brexit Party has gained its first foothold in Welsh politics after Guido revealed that four AMs have formally declared their intention to align with it in the Welsh Assembly.

Joining Mark Reckless, who had previously been sitting with the Conservatives, are two ex-UKIP independents and another AM who is leaving UKIP’s decimated Assembly caucus. Reckless’ party-hopping has attracted some rather arch coverage in the Welsh media.

Wales’ centre-left parties have attacked the proposed group for giving the Brexit Party “a political credibility it has not earned through the ballot box” – although that line of criticism doesn’t appear likely to hold much water after the European elections.