Sunak ‘retreats’ on outlawing strikes…

“Rishi Sunak has backed away from plans for even wider-ranging laws to curb public sector strikes because of fears that the move would be blocked by the House of Lords. Ministers announced legislation yesterday that will require NHS staff, teachers, firefighters and rail workers to provide minimum service levels during industrial action. Unions that refuse to do so will face injunctions and could be sued for damages. Employees could be sacked if they are asked to work under the minimum service requirement but decline to do so. However, Sunak vetoed more far-reaching measures that would have increased the threshold for strike ballots, doubled the notice for industrial action from two weeks to a month and banned ambulance workers from striking.” – The Times

  • UK plans ‘minimum service levels’ for eight sectors under anti-strike law – The Financial Times
  • New anti-strike laws will curb fire, ambulance, and rail service unions, Government announces – The I
  • News law would keep schools open during teachers’ strike – The Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Major blow’ to Brits as key workers will strike for first time this month when country at risk from bad weather – The Sun
  • ‘Union fury’ as Sunak unveils anti-strike laws for ‘minimum service levels’ – The Guardian
  • Nurses ‘would accept 10 per cent pay rise’ and avoid strikes – The Times
  • Firm action at last on striking trade unions – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph
  • We battled strikes with Wilson in the 1970s. Here’s how Sunak can win. – Bernard Donoughue and Joe Haines, The Times

…as ‘majority’ have no confidence in his ability to solve migrant boats crisis

“The majority of British adults have no confidence in Rishi Sunak’s ability to solve the migrant boats crisis, a new poll has found. Just four per cent believe the Prime Minister will get a handle on Channel crossings, with 57 per cent saying they are not at all confident in his ability to do so, according to the survey. It comes despite Mr Sunak making stopping the boats one of five pledges on which he staked his premiership this week. On Wednesday, he gave the most detailed vision of his leadership so far, vowing to “pass new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally you are detained and swiftly removed”. More than 45,000 people crossed the Channel to the UK in small boats last year, up 60 per cent on the previous year.” – The Daily Telegraph

  • Tories left with ‘lowest ever vote share’ in latest poll – Daily Express

Brexit 1) Berlin says a deal on NI protocol is needed ‘to heal UK-Germany ties’, as Cleverly hosts Baerbock

“Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s foreign minister, said ahead of a visit to London on Thursday that the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol — part of the 2019 Brexit deal — was the “Achilles heel in the bilateral relationship. “It’s essential that we find a responsible and pragmatic solution for Northern Ireland, on the basis of existing agreements,” she said. “Only then will we be able to exploit the great potential of our partnership.” London and Brussels are trying to resolve a long-running dispute over the protocol, which keeps Northern Ireland inside the EU’s single market for goods to prevent a trade border on the island of Ireland… James Cleverly on Thursday hosted Baerbock for the inaugural UK-Germany Strategic Dialogue…” – The Financial Times

Brexit 2) Freeman: UK may scrap only hundreds, not thousands, of EU laws

“A promised bonfire of thousands of EU laws could be scaled back to just a few hundred, a government minister has said. George Freeman, the business minister, said the Government might only axe a fraction of up to 4,000 EU laws that ministers have to decide whether to retain or scrap…A decision on whether to keep or drop legislation inherited from Brussels during the UK’s EU membership must be made this year under the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill…However, in comments that will alarm Eurosceptic Tories, Mr Freeman told The Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast that officials should initially drop “the top 10 per cent of daft regulations that are holding us back” rather than trying to axe all superfluous EU rules at once.” – The Daily Telegraph


Brexit 3) Spencer boosts payments for farmers after ‘low uptake’ of post-Brexit scheme…

“Ministers are ramping up cash available to farmers under England’s post-Brexit environmental payments scheme after only a fraction of the 82,000 eligible farmers applied to take part in its early stages. Mark Spencer, farming minister, announced on Thursday that English farmers and landowners could receive up to £1,000 a year of additional money through the Sustainable Farming Incentive, the first tranche of the flagship Environmental Land Management Scheme to launch. The move aims to “drive uptake in the schemes to protect nature and support sustainable food production”, said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The Sustainable Farming Incentive moved from its pilot phase to a fuller rollout in 2022…” – The Financial Times

…as he says gene-edited food is ‘simply speeding up nature’

“Genetically engineered food does not need to be labelled in supermarkets because the science is simply speeding up the natural process, the farming minister has said. Mark Spencer told farmers that Britain needed to stay “at the forefront” of genetically engineered (GE) crops, which he said would have a “huge positive impact” on food security. Asked whether such products should be labelled once they went from field trials to products on shelves, he said “we’re not going to go down that route”. Spencer said: “You end up in a position, if you’re not careful, with food labels being bigger than the products themselves, because of all the data on calories and ingredients. The most important thing is to make sure that that is regulated and it’s safe for consumers…”” – The Times

Johnson was ‘secretly nudged’ into wearing a Covid mask by government scientists

“Boris Johnson was secretly ‘nudged’ into wearing a facemask during the pandemic, according to the head of the government’s Behavioural Insights Team. In an interview for the Reckitt Global Hygiene Institute published today by The Telegraph, Professor David Halpern says he turned his subliminal powers of persuasion on the prime minister himself after it became apparent he was not leading by example. Prof Haplern is a member of Sage and CEO of the controversial ‘nudge unit’, which advised on much of the government’s messaging during the pandemic, including the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ and ‘Stay home – Protect the NHS’ slogans. In the interview…Prof Halpern describes how he helped nudge Mr Johnson to wear a mask himself.” – The Daily Telegraph


Dorries claims ENO funding cut was a ‘politically-motivated stunt’

“Nadine Dorries has lambasted Arts Council England, saying that the funding body she used to control withdrew all subsidy from English National Opera as a “stunt”. The former culture secretary described Arts Council England’s (ACE’s) decision to cut ENO’s £12.6 million annual grant as shocking, lazy and politically motivated. Dorries broke her silence yesterday on the settlement announced in November, which withdrew £24 million from organisations in London and distributed it to others outside the capital. English National Opera…lost all their funding. The arts council said it had been under instruction from Dorries…to move money away from the capital as part of the government’s levelling-up agenda.” – The Times

Patel calls for stronger Online Safety Bill with ‘power to jail tech bosses’

“Priti Patel is among up to 30 Tory MPs who are urging the Government to introduce powers to jail social media bosses who fail to protect children from online harms. The former home secretary is backing an amendment to the Online Safety Bill that would see named directors at tech firms jailed for up to two years if they fail to comply with legal duties to protect children from harms such as child abuse, suicide and self harm. Some 14 Tory MPs initially signed up for the amendment, which is also backed by Labour, but it is thought the number could double as the Bill progresses through Parliament. Ms Patel said: “The public expect senior managers at tech firms to be held fully to account for content published on their platforms and to be proactive in preventing harms…”” – The Daily Telegraph

Katy Balls: Watch out Sunak, the Trussites are mobilising

“Clarke has already opened hostilities with Sunak, pushing to overturn the ban on new onshore wind farms. He’s backed by Truss and Boris Johnson. He’s also setting up a new group of Tories dedicated to that Trussite watchword: growth. This group of MPs has the potential to throw the prime minister’s best laid plans off course. Just three months ago, Truss was centre stage and warning about the anti-growth coalition: the vested interests and groups blocking her agenda. Now Sunak has to worry about the pro-growth coalition within Tory ranks. Growth is becoming a proxy, for Truss and Johnson supporters, to push Sunak into being more energetic and radical… Sunak’s supporters argue that with no real authority over his MPs, trying anything too bold would only expose weakness.” – The Times

  • Sunak lacks Johnson’s ‘vision’ Tory right says, and warn PM of ‘carnage’ if local elections go badly – The I

Newmark saved 15,000 Ukrainians from the Russians after being ‘inspired by Schindler’

“A ex-Conservative MP has told how he has spent over £100,000 of his money laying on buses to rescue 15,000 Ukrainians from the war zone in a fleet of buses. Brooks Newmark is heading out to Ukraine next week to continue the work he says was inspired by the humanitarian work of Oscar Schindler and Sir Nicholas Winton during the Second World War. Mr Newmark served as a minister in the Cabinet Office before he quit as MP for Braintree in 2015 after being caught up in a sexting scandal and has spent the past seven years doing charity work and investing in businesses. He is currently working on a doctorate at Oxford University. He became involved in Ukraine shortly after the Russian invasion in February…” – The Daily Telegraph

Starmer ‘branded a hypocrite’ after adopting ‘Take Back Control’ slogan, despite having attempted to keep Britain in the EU…

“Sir Keir Starmer was labelled a hypocrite yesterday as he pledged a ‘take back control’ Bill – despite previous efforts to thwart Brexit. In his first major speech of the year, the Labour leader vowed to deliver on the Leave campaign’s slogan from the 2016 Brexit referendum if his party wins the next election. He promised to turn the ‘slogan into a solution, from a catchphrase into change’ by devolving more powers to local communities. But critics accused him of a cynical attempt to ‘hoodwink’ Red Wall voters into returning to Labour…They pointed out that [he] repeatedly tried to force a second referendum to overturn the Brexit result… Sir Keir was tasked with his party’s Brexit strategy and was…insistent that any deal should include a confirmatory vote.” – The Daily Mail

  • He announces laws he claims will carry out Brexiteer wishes – The Sun
  • But he refuses to rule out trading UK sovereignty for an EU deal – The I
  • As so often, the Labour leader looks like he is merely shifting his position to whatever is most convenient – Editorial, The Sun
  • Labour serves either the unions…or voters – Editorial, The Daily Mail
  • Starmer’s address to the nation underlined beyond doubt his credentials for high office. But his party still lacks a positive case for power – Editorial, The Times
  • Starmer – or is it Darth Vader? – rolls his sleeves up for another auto-generated speech – Madeline Grant, The Daily Telegraph
  • Starmer’s vacuous muddle of a speech, billed as the address that would herald ‘a decade of national renewal’, shows he has no idea what he would do as Prime Minister – Dan Hodges, The Daily Mail
  • His vision for the future pixillates and freezes – Quentin Letts, The Times
  • Starmer squandered chance to present coherent contrast to Tory rule – Leo McKinstry, Daily Express
  • Labour is on the brink of power, if only Starmer truly believed it – Kate Malby, The I
  • A middle-ranking civil servant doing his day job so complacently – Richard Littlejohn, The Daily Mail
  • Tories can’t afford to play it safe, even against a Labour Party this vacuous – Fraser Nelson, The Daily Telegraph



…as he is to ‘review Labour pledge’ to abolish university tuition fees

“Keir Starmer has put Labour’s pledge to abolish university tuition fees under review in a move that underlined the UK opposition party’s newfound commitment to fiscal discipline. The Labour leader refused to say on Thursday whether he would keep a commitment by his hard-left predecessor Jeremy Corbyn from the 2019 general election to abolish tuition fees, at a cost of £9.5bn a year. Starmer’s stance highlighted how he is seeking to draw a line under the Corbyn era through… a commitment to sound public finances. Labour is about 20 percentage points ahead of the Conservatives in opinion polls… Starmer had promised to stick by the Labour pledge to abolish tuition fees during the 2020 party leadership contest…” – The Financial Times

  • He instead gives a ‘cast iron guarantee’ that all manifesto pledges will be ‘fully funded’ ahead of the next election – The Daily Telegraph

Sturgeon’s proposed ban on conversion therapy ‘would be unlawful’

“Nicola Sturgeon’s proposed ban on conversion therapy…in Scotland would be unlawful, an eminent lawyer…has warned ahead of an expected court battle. Aidan O’Neill KC said legislation prohibiting the controversial practice would be beyond Holyrood’s powers as it would change UK equality and discrimination law. In a written opinion for the Christian Institute (CI), he also said it would breach the European Convention on Human Rights, including the parts that protect family life, freedom of religion and freedom of expression. He warned the “fundamentally illiberal” proposals would criminalise innocent parents and preachers, including “much mainstream pastoral work of churches, mosques and synagogues and temples”, such as prayers and sermons.” – The Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Clarke: What the PM can learn from Truss – James Heale, The Spectator 
  • From the EU to Scholz, Germans are losing faith – Katja Hoyer, UnHerd 
  • How Britain became a gerontocracy – Mike Jones, The Critic 
  • Monarchy doesn’t have to be modern – Henry Hill, CapX 
  • The return of Johnson is dangerously plausible – David Gauke, The New Statesman

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