Sunak and his Cabinet are told by Levido that they must focus on a ‘narrow path’ to election victory…

“Rishi Sunak’s chief strategy guru has warned the cabinet that the Conservatives have only a “narrow path” to victory at the next election and that ill-discipline could lead the party to disaster at the polls. Isaac Levido, the Australian strategist who oversaw Boris Johnson’s general election victory in 2019, has told ministers at a cabinet “awayday” that solid adherence to a core Tory message is vital. With the Conservatives typically trailing Labour by 20 percentage points in opinion polls, Sunak has told colleagues privately that party discipline is key: “We can win, but it depends whether our MPs actually want to win.” Sunak on Thursday convened the cabinet at Chequers, the prime minister’s country retreat in Buckinghamshire…” – The Financial Times

  • Step one for the Tories is to get a new leader – Frederick Forsyth, Daily Express
  • The Conservatives have one last chance to save Brexit and the party – David Frost, The Daily Telegraph

…he has a ‘foreign student plan’ to ‘shore up the economy’…

“Foreign students would be allowed to work longer hours under plans to boost the economy by plugging vacancies. Ministers are looking at ways to encourage British and overseas students to take more part-time jobs to deal with shortages in areas such as hospitality and retail. Britain’s 680,000 overseas students are limited to 20 hours of paid work a week during term time, a limit designed to prevent student visas from being used as backdoor routes to jobs in this country. However, discussions have begun within the government about either raising this cap to 30 hours or removing it entirely. The idea risks running up against Suella Braverman’s determination to reduce the number of foreign students.” – The Times

…and he is told that Christians risk being ‘criminalised’ by trans conversion therapy ban

“Christians are at risk of being “criminalised” by a proposed new ban on trans conversion therapy, 1,400 church leaders have warned Rishi Sunak. In a letter to the Prime Minister, they said the legislation would also see parents and teachers fall foul of the law. They have called for a meeting with Mr Sunak in Downing Street and urged him to drop the “confused” and “unnecessary” proposal. The Government has said the new law, which will ban all forms of conversion therapy in England and Wales, will cover trans people. Mr Sunak is facing a Tory revolt over the plans…Church leaders from different denominations have said the teachings of their faiths are “at grave risk of being outlawed by the proposed legislation”.” – The Daily Telegraph

Hunt 1) He will condemn ‘Labour’s declinism’ as he vows to use ‘British genius’ to ‘turbo-charge growth’

“Jeremy Hunt will pledge to transform ‘British genius and hard work’ into long-term prosperity. Setting out a plan for growth, the Chancellor is to hit out at the ‘declinism’ peddled by Labour and say this country is well placed to exploit ‘the growth sectors which will define this century’. He will insist that downbeat projections from gloomy forecasters ‘do not reflect the whole picture’ and argue that the economy is standing up well against global rivals. Making ‘the case for optimism’, he will claim EU red tape has held back investment and productivity but future growth can be ‘built on the freedoms which Brexit provides’. Mr Hunt told a Cabinet ‘awayday’ at Chequers yesterday that the Government could meet Rishi Sunak’s pledges to halve inflation, kick start growth and rein in debt.” – The Daily Mail

  • Cuts to red tape are needed to stimulate growth, the Chancellor will say – The Daily Telegraph
  • He is to promote a private sector ‘retooling’ of industry – The Guardian
  • Hayes and Duncan-Smith call for a “talk up Britain” approach to the economy – Daily Express
  • Hunt’s upbeat vision for Britain future – Editorial, The Daily Mail
  • The Chancellor needs to find his inner Botham, not his Boycott – Editorial, Daily Express

Hunt 2) He ‘holds the line’ on tax cuts until inflation is under control

“Tax cuts must wait until inflation has fallen, Jeremy Hunt is insisting as he resists calls from Tory MPs looking to influence his March budget. The chancellor will use a speech in London today to argue that the government must focus on its target of halving inflation and cutting borrowing. He is also expected to warn against raising public sector pay in line with inflation. He is under pressure from some backbench Conservative MPs to bring forward tax cuts to stimulate growth. Liz Truss, the former prime minister, is expected to make a speech calling for tax cuts and financial reform before the budget. She quit as prime minister after her package of £45 billion of unfunded tax cuts led to turmoil in the financial markets and serious fears that some pension funds could go bust.” – The Times

  • He will ‘defy right-wing Tory MPs’ – The Financial Times
  • Redwood ‘insists’ he must cut taxes to ‘grow economy’ and reduce the deficit – The I
  • There’s an alternative to ever-higher taxes – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph
  • Tax cuts are a terrible idea – but so is Sunak’s assault on business – Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Daily Telegraph

Hunt 3) Truss is ‘poised to break months of silence’ with a ‘major intervention’ ahead of his Budget

“Liz Truss is reportedly set to break months of silence with an intervention on taxes ahead of Jeremy Hunt’s Budget. The former prime minister, who has kept a low profile since she left No 10 in October, is expected to join Tory calls for the tax burden to be slashed. It comes as the Chancellor has warned Conservative MPs not to expect lower taxes in the March Budget as he looks to get soaring inflation and a black hole in the public finances under control. But Ms Truss – who resigned in the wake of her disastrous mini-budget which sparked economic turmoil with its sweeping unfunded tax cuts – is among Tories arguing that the move will help boost growth… An ally said he expected the ex-PM to end months of silence ahead of Mr Hunt’s Budget.” – Daily Express

  • She will call for a return to a ‘pro-growth agenda’ – The I
  • Why Trussonomics was doomed. The Tories cannot stomach spending cuts – Stephen Bush, The Financial Times

Sebastian Payne: Quickest way to level up is to stop the yobs

“A new antisocial behaviour strategy is due shortly from the government. It will undoubtedly feature a range of initiatives allowing ministers to appear active, including banning of laughing gas canisters and bulking up community policing numbers in problem areas. This approach, however, risks failure. If antisocial behaviour is treated to Whitehall’s conventional problem-solving playbook and is seen chiefly as a national ill to be solved from the top, it would be a mistake. Specific towns will require specific answers. Local leaders are the solution. If citizens feel unable to hop on a bus, they are less likely to commute, visit a high street for pleasure, and further deprive their towns of sorely needed business. So local leaders should start with public transport.” – The Times


Windrush inquiry head ‘disappointed’ as ‘Braverman drops crucial measures’

“Windrush campaigners have described the government’s decision to drop crucial reform commitments made after the Home Office scandal as a “slap in the face”. The head of the inquiry into the Windrush debacle was one of those who expressed disappointment after Suella Braverman confirmed she would not implement two key changes that would have increased independent scrutiny of immigration policies, and a third promise to run reconciliation events with Windrush families. Wendy Williams’s comments were echoed by others such as campaigner Patrick Vernon, who accused the home secretary of “backsliding” on promises to set things right, and victims of the scandal, who said they were dismayed that recommendations were not being followed through.” – The Guardian

Betting firms ‘face fresh gambling tax’ in ‘big shake-up’ from Donelan

“Betting companies will be slapped with a fresh gambling tax under a huge shake-up of the industry being revealed within weeks. Ministers plan to introduce a mandatory levy on flutter firms to fund measures that combat addiction, the Sun understands. Government insiders say Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan wants to “strike a balance” that lets punters enjoy a wager while helping problem gamblers. Stronger age verification is also on the cards in next month’s reforms among policies to stop youngsters becoming addicts. Measures targeting 18 to 24-year-olds in particular are being considered. And Premier League clubs are expected to voluntarily phase out betting ads from their shirts under the plans.” – The Sun

Whitehall ‘blob’ will be ‘cut down to size’ as the civil service needs major reduction, says Dowden

“Oliver Dowden told MPs the Government remains committed to slimming down the civil service, even though a previous target for major reductions has been abandoned. He said the workforce needs to be reduced to the level it was at before major recruitment drives to deal with Covid-19 and prepare for Brexit. Mr Dowden said most departments are facing ‘quite substantial’ budget reductions that will lead to a ‘reduction in head count’. He warned ‘nothing is off the table’ when asked if ministers’ private offices and special advisers could also be at risk. Figures show the civil service workforce stood at 510,080 last March, up from 418,343 in 2016. Boris Johnson’s administration set out plans to cut up to 91,000 jobs to save money but the target was scrapped by Rishi Sunak…” – The Daily Mail

‘Pressure mounts’ on Zahawi over his tax affairs

“Pressure mounted on Conservative chair Nadhim Zahawi over his tax affairs on Thursday after the head of HM Revenue & Customs said “there are no penalties for innocent errors in your tax affairs”. Jim Harra made his comments to MPs as Zahawi fought to save his political career after it emerged he paid a penalty to settle a tax dispute with HMRC. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak this week asked his ethics adviser Sir Laurie Magnus to investigate Zahawi’s tax affairs, and whether there had been a breach of the ministerial code of conduct, saying there were “questions that need answering”. Zahawi has been under intense scrutiny over claims by tax experts and opposition parties that he tried to avoid paying tax.” – The Financial Times

  • Zahawi ‘to share his tax returns with Number 10 inquiry’ in ‘bid to save his job’ – The I
  • He ‘oiled the wheels’ and was handsomely paid – The Times
  • Treasury ‘was aware’ of investigation into his finances, sources claim – The Guardian


Zelensky rules out peach talks with Putin, as Chalk ‘admits’ that British tanks won’t arrive in Ukraine until the end of March

“Volodymyr Zelensky last night dramatically ruled out peace talks with Putin’s Russia, even as British ministers revealed that tanks pledged to Ukraine will not arrive…until the end of March. Speaking to Sky News, the Ukrainian President declared: ‘They don’t want any talks, and this was the case before the invasion. President Putin decided so. He doesn’t want negotiations because he doesn’t want peace. I am convinced that Ukraine is just the first step for him…after Ukraine there will be further steps, there will be other countries, if we fail to withstand. I think we will manage, we will get support and we will win.’… In the Commons, defence minister Alex Chalk said…’The intention is that [the tanks will arrive]…at the end of March…’” – The Daily Mail

  • France could meet Ukraine’s demand for fighter jets – The Daily Telegraph
  • Russia launches deadly strike on cities as Ukraine waits for tanks – The Times
  • Macron must stand with Ukraine – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph
  • The Government must act against lawyers who bring vexatious libel actions on behalf of foreign gangsters – Editorial, The Times
  • Now the West must give Ukraine everything it needs to win the war – Richard Shirreff, The Daily Mail
  • Without Crimea, Ukraine will never win – Ben Hodges, The Daily Telegraph

Johnson earns £1 million in six weeks…

“Boris Johnson has earned nearly a million pounds in just over six weeks, it has been revealed. The former prime minister registered more than half a million pounds he received as an advance for a book described as “a memoir like no other”, while also being paid for speaking engagements. The figures were disclosed in the latest register of MPs’ interests, which recorded Johnson as having worked on his memoirs for ten hours. He has been paid an advance of £510,000 by HarperCollins. He also received £447,299 for two speeches: for Bloomberg Singapore this month and for the Aditya Birla Management Corporation, an Indian multinational conglomerate, last month. Johnson also declared a gift of flowers and chocolates worth £785…” – The Times

  • Taxpayer funding for partygate probe legal costs ‘surges’ to £220,000 – The Daily Telegraph

…as Maitlis alleges ‘overreach’ by his government in trying to influence BBC News coverage

“Emily Maitlis has suggested that “overreach” from the Government under Boris Johnson’s leadership made it harder for the corporation’s journalists to do their jobs. The ex-Newsnight host, who quit the BBC along with several of her colleagues last year to set up a news podcast, The News Agents, with commercial rival Global, made the remarks as a storm envelops the corporation over chairman Richard Sharp’s ties to Mr Johnson. Ex-Goldman Sachs banker Mr Sharp is facing an internal BBC probe and an external investigation by the public appointments commissioner after allegations that he personally helped to guarantee an overdraft facility for his friend Mr Johnson, who was then prime minister, months before being handed the key role at the broadcaster in 2021.” – The I

Rees-Mogg joins GB News as he hails ‘bastion of free speech’

“Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Cabinet minister, is joining GB News in a major coup for the outspoken broadcaster. The Conservative backbencher will host his own show on the network, debating current affairs and interviewing guests. He will also take his show on tour, broadcasting in front of live audiences in towns and cities across the country. Mr Rees-Mogg, the MP for North East Somerset since 2010, is expected to tackle a variety of political issues, as well as other interests including classic cars and “good Somerset cider”. After serving as Brexit Opportunities minister under Boris Johnson and briefly as Business Secretary in Liz Truss’s Cabinet, Mr Rees-Mogg resigned to the backbenches in October when Rishi Sunak entered Downing Street.” – The Daily Telegraph

HS2 ‘shambles’ as the high-speed rail project ‘may not even go to central London’

“Britain’s flagship high speed rail project linking the capital to the Midlands and the North may never reach central London, The Sun can reveal today. Blighted by soaring ­inflation, HS2 bosses are weighing up a scaling back of the project — including delaying its Euston terminus to 2038 or scrapping it altogether. Ministers last year ordered a cost-cutting review of HS2 — a project that has been ravaged by rising construction prices — amid secret fears the first ­London to Birmingham phase alone could cost £60billion. A two to five-year delay to the entire project is being considered, with fresh fears the Birmingham to Crewe and Manchester legs will also be scrapped. High speed trains would instead run from a new hub at Old Oak Common in West London…” – The Sun

  • The Government has not denied the reports – The Guardian 
  • How can Britain justify ploughing on with HS2 while up to our neck in debt? – Editorial, The Sun

Former MP O’Mara ‘owed cocaine dealer thousands’ for drug habit

“A former Labour MP accused of claiming public money to help fund a five-gram-a-day cocaine habit was thousands of pounds in debt with a drug dealer, a court was told. Jared O’Mara, the MP for Sheffield Hallam from 2017 to 2019, was said to have used cocaine instead of attending parliament. He is accused of making fraudulent expense claims to parliament’s spending watchdog worth £30,000, mostly through an allegedly fictitious autism organisation. O’Mara, 41, who defeated Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, to win his seat, is standing trial alongside John Woodliff, 43, and Gareth Arnold, 30, friends of his. Yesterday Leeds crown court was read messages between O’Mara and Arnold, then said to be employed as “chief of staff”, sent between June and August 2019.” – The Times

Sturgeon’s trans law ‘in disarray’ after rapist climbdown

“Nicola Sturgeon’s controversial trans laws were in disarray on Thursday night after she was forced to announce that a rapist who claimed to be female would be moved into a male prison. Isla Bryson, who was this week convicted of raping two women, was initially housed at Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling but has now been transported to the male wing of Edinburgh’s Saughton jail. Ms Sturgeon announced the move following a huge backlash but repeatedly refused to say whether she considered Bryson, 31…to be a man or a woman. It comes with the First Minister locked in a battle with the UK Government over her Bill allowing people to self-identify their legal gender by signing a statutory declaration, removing the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.” – The Daily Telegraph

  • The trans rapist scandal has destroyed Sturgeon – Alan Cochrane, The Daily Telegraph
  • Dour Ron Ron calls for a cut-price coronation – Quentin Letts, The Times
  • Mordaunt, hammer of the Scots Nats – Madeline Grant, The Daily Telegraph
  • Will Starmer ever stand up for the rights of women? – Esther Krauke, Daily Express
  • Prepare for a Labour victory in Scotland – Tom Harris, The Daily Telegraph



News in Brief:

  • The Oxford-Cambridge arc shows why the Tories don’t get it – William Atkinson, The Spectator
  • Holocaust Memorial Day is for everyone – except Jews – Nicole Lampert, UnHerd 
  • Nothing sums up British decay quite like the period property premium – Henry Hill, CapX 
  • Bring back the traitors – Yuan Yi Zhu, The Critic 
  • Stalin and the birth of British values – Ed West, Wrong Side of History 

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