Sunak and Truss were ‘kept in the dark’ over Zahawi tax affairs…

“Nadhim Zahawi was cleared by senior Whitehall officials to take on two cabinet jobs under Liz Truss despite having paid a fine for tax avoidance. Amid frustration in government at the internal handling of Zahawi’s tax affairs, the Times understands that neither Rishi Sunak nor his predecessor were informed about the former chancellor’s settlement with HMRC. Truss appointed Zahawi as cabinet office minister in September without any warnings from officials about his tax affairs. The next month, Zahawi was on a shortlist of two with Jeremy Hunt to replace Kwasi Kwarteng as chancellor, but even then officials did not flag concerns with Truss…The failure to warn Truss or Sunak about Zahawi’s tax affairs has raised questions about the role played by…Simon Case…” – The Times

  • From Iraqi oilfields to Tory HQ: how Zahawi mixed business and politics – The Financial Times
  • The ex-Chancellor ‘let the public down’ with efforts to push back on tax inquiries, standards chief says – The Daily Telegraph
  • The Prime Minister is failing nurses and the NHS, say voters in Stoke – The Guardian
  • Sunak must deliver his pledge to restore integrity to public life if his party is to rid itself of the taint of sleaze – Editorial, The Times


…as the Prime Minister is ‘to face’ renewed calls to fire his Party Chairman

“Rishi Sunak will on Wednesday face renewed calls to sack Conservative party chair Nadhim Zahawi, as Labour challenges the UK prime minister on why he did not find out sooner the details of his minister’s £5mn tax dispute. Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, will demand answers from Sunak at prime minister’s questions. “The key question to Sunak is: what did he know and when did he know it,” said one Starmer ally. Sunak told MPs last Wednesday that Zahawi had “already addressed the matter in full and there is nothing more that I can add”, as he attempted to draw a line under the matter. But three days later Zahawi admitted he had paid a penalty to HM Revenue & Customs, the tax authority, as part of a settlement of about £5mn over unpaid taxes.” – The Financial Times

Hunt 1) Gloomier-than-expected UK economy growth prospects leaves the Chancellor with a ‘budget black hole’

“Britain’s prospects for growth have declined, leaving the chancellor with a multibillion-pound hole before the budget in March, the government’s spending watchdog has warned. In a private submission to the Treasury, the Office for Budget Responsibility told Jeremy Hunt that it overestimated the prospects for medium-term growth in the economy last year and it intends to revise its forecasts down. The downgrade would wipe out all of the government’s £9.2 billion headroom in Hunt’s autumn statement and limit his scope for manoeuvre as he draws up plans for the budget. In November the OBR forecast that while the economy would shrink by 1.4 per cent this year it would pick up next year, with GDP averaging about 2.6 per cent over the rest of the forecast period.” – The Times

  • Households ‘pay extra £821’ in tax after ‘Tory stealth raid’ – The Daily Telegraph
  • Inheritance tax rise ‘could make us healthier’ – The Times
  • Add green taxes to clothes and gadgets to reach net zero, Downing Street told – The Daily Telegraph
  • Only growth can get us off the road to ruin – Editorial, The Daily Mail
  • An unsustainable mountain of debt – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph
  • Pension age rise must not mean more poverty – Editorial, Daily Express
  • How (not) to explain economics to the public – Sarah O’Connor, The Financial Times
  • The secret to happiness is human connection, not economic growth – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times
  • Idiots of Britain unite against the rising tide of dependency and waste – Philip Johnston, The Daily Telegraph


Hunt 2) He will rule out cutting taxes

“Jeremy Hunt will this week rule out cutting tax at March’s Budget but insist he is not all doom and gloom. The Chancellor will hit back at critics who say he’s too po-faced, slamming those who claim Britain is on the slide. Mr Hunt will set the stage for his Budget in an address to financiers on Friday where he will say he “rejects the declinist narrative”. Instead he will champion “high growth sectors” like life sciences, artificial intelligence, space and green tech where the UK has global standing. But he risks a fresh row with Tory MPs, as sources say he will make clear there is “little to no headroom in the forecasts for giveaways.” He will insist inflation has to fall further first, and any gain of tax cuts now would be lost in soaring prices.” – The Sun

Hunt 3) He ‘examines’ new fiscal powers for mayors in England

“Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is looking to tackle the “begging bowl” relationship between England’s regions and the Treasury by giving local mayors more powers over their own finances. Government officials said Hunt and Michael Gove, levelling-up secretary, are working to find ways to empower mayors through a form of fiscal devolution, starting with the West Midlands and Greater Manchester. One ally of Hunt said: “The chancellor and levelling-up secretary want to empower locally elected leaders to get things done, without always banging on a Whitehall door.” Hunt is studying a memo from Andy Street, Tory mayor of the West Midlands, which calls for “an end to the ‘begging bowl’ culture that undermines the relationship between the regions and the centre”.” – The Financial Times

Gove ‘revives’ Oxford-Cambridge Arc via new British regional partnership

“Rishi Sunak’s government has backed a new regional partnership board to help drive investment into the UK equivalent of Silicon Valley, centred around the two world-class universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The decision to boost local-level collaboration comes a year after a top-down strategic plan for a “Oxford-Cambridge Arc” was shelved by Boris Johnson in order to prioritise “levelling up” spending in the north of England. The new board, while falling far short of the original plan which envisaged the creation of up to 1mn extra homes and 700,000 jobs, has nonetheless been welcomed by local government and technology entrepreneurs. Michael Gove, levelling-up minister, said in a letter…that the government would commit £2.5mn to the project.” – The Financial Times

Halfon ‘tells universities to stop training so many doctors’

“Universities have been told they must limit the number of medical school places this year or risk fines, a move attacked as “extraordinary” when the NHS is struggling with staff shortages. Medical schools have been told to curtail offers to ensure that there is “no risk” of them accepting more would-be doctors than permitted by a government cap, with universities saying they are likely to offer fewer places than normal to sixth-formers this year. Ministers have been criticised for holding firm to a 7,500 cap on new medical students in England…Robert Halfon, the universities minister, wrote to vice-chancellors last week telling them to limit their offers to sixth-formers, causing frustration among universities, which face fines of £100,000 per student for persistent over-recruitment.” – The Times

Rees-Mogg backs tax breaks for firms giving staff private healthcare on the Moggcast, saying it will ‘ease pressure on the NHS’

“Companies should be offered tax beaks to encourage them to offer staff private healthcare to ease pressure on the NHS, a former minister said today. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ex-business secretary, became the latest Tory grandee to urge changes to the health system as he urged the party to abandon its ‘nervousness’ about the subject. In a podcast he said they should be ‘encouraging’ people to go private as the NHS buckles under massive pressure… In his Moggcast podcast for the Conservative Home website Mr Rees-Mogg, who was in the Cabinet until September, said there was new ‘political appetite for reform’ of the health service. He highlighted comments by Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting…” – The Daily Mail

Patel: The UK must bring in tests to stop adult migrants claiming to be children

“Priti Patel has urged the Government to stop dragging its feet over measures to prevent adult migrants from claiming to be children in order to boost their chances of asylum. The former home secretary is also understood to feel that, during her time in office, she faced resistance to plans for scientific age assessments from civil servants who claimed they were “too difficult” and “too controversial” to implement. It follows the conviction on Monday of Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, an Afghan double killer who got into Britain posing as a 14-year-old schoolboy before going on to murder an aspiring Royal Marine. Subsequent checks, more than two years after he entered the UK, established that he was five years older than he had claimed.” – The Daily Telegraph

  • Nearly half of asylum seekers facing removal from UK to Rwanda are married – The Guardian
  • Sunak’s latest deal with France was blown out of the water when ten vessels with 442 migrants arrived on Sunday – Editorial, The Sun
  • Fraudulent asylum seekers put all of us at risk – Priti Patel, The Daily Telegraph
  • The Home Office must stop wringing its hands and start protecting its own citizens – Allison Pearson, The Daily Telegraph

Nokes ‘leads MPs’ demanding the Government shields social media users from ‘extreme misogynists’

“Social media users must be shielded from misogynists like Andrew Tate, senior MPs have warned Rishi Sunak. They want the PM to tighten the Online Safety Bill so tech giants are forced to stop promoting his sexist rants… MPs say the Online Safety Bill should include recognition of violence against women and girls as a “specific harm”, with a code of practice detailing how misogynistic content should be investigated by moderators. They also want to force tech giants to “address and reasonably mitigate against potential harms” caused by sexists like Tate. Tory MP Caroline Nokes told The Sun: “The petition shows how strongly women and girls feel that online abuse can translate into violence and misogyny in the real world…”” – The Sun

Seeley: ‘Legal gangsters’ who try to silence critics exposing wrongdoing ‘should face £1 million fines’

“Expensive law firms that threaten free speech by using “legal gangsterism” to silence critics should face £1 million punishments, an MP has warned. Bob Seely, the Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight, tabled proposals to curb the use of “noxious” lawsuits by “bad actors” to intimidate journalists and campaigners. Firms that engage in strategic lawsuits against public participation (Slapps), utilised by the “enemies of law-governed states”, are offering a “one-stop shop to spy, to snoop, to smear and to sue”, he said. Slapps usually involve wealthy elites using legal action to try to stop journalists or campaigners from exposing wrongdoing under defamation and privacy laws.” – The Daily Telegraph

  • A slap in the face for Sue, Grabbitt, and Runne – Quentin Letts, The Times

BBC chairman ‘to face MPs’ over claim he helped Johnson secure an £800k loan

“BBC chairman Richard Sharp will be hauled before MPs to be grilled over his alleged role in helping set up an £800,000 credit line for Boris Johnson. The national broadcaster’s most senior executive has been summoned to appear in front of the Commons culture committee on Feb 7. He will be braced for intense scrutiny from backbenchers over the circumstances which saw him appointed to the top job in February 2021. His appearance will also mark a nervous moment for the former prime minister who is facing questions about his finances while in No 10. On Monday the commissioner for public appointments announced an investigation into claims Mr Sharp helped Mr Johnson arrange a loan of up to £800,000 in late 2020.” – The Daily Telegraph

German tanks ‘will be sent to Ukraine’ after Scholz U-turn

“Germany and the United States are expected to make landmark pledges to supply Ukraine with advanced western battle tanks, paving the way for their allies to follow suit and delivering a potentially decisive boost to Kyiv’s self-defence. American officials indicated that the Biden administration was ready to give the Ukrainians 30 M1 Abrams main battle tanks after months of stonewalling their appeals for the armour. Shortly afterwards Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, yielded to sustained international pressure and signalled that his country would send about 14 Leopard 2A6 tanks. The move…effectively gives the green light to a dozen other European allies such as Norway, Spain and Finland, to do the same.” – The Times

  • ‘Hammer blow for Putin’ as Ukraine to get 200 tanks from the West – The Daily Telegraph
  • Germany’s U-turn on tanks for Ukraine could mark the beginning of the end of this bloody nightmare – General Lord Dannatt, The Daily Mail
  • Britain needs new tanks to defeat Putin – Tobias Ellwood and Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, The Daily Telegraph



Tim Stanley: Conservatives have certainly changed their tune on gay marriage

“Conservatives always seem to be arguing with the Church of England. But the truth is they are very similar: wet, woke and at each other’s throats, held together – just – by characters such as Andrew Selous, who was sent into the Commons to explain the new Anglican position on same-sex marriage.  In short, the Church will bless gays and lesbians but not marry them, which Labour MPs Ben Bradshaw and Wes Streeting said is discriminatory. Several Conservatives agreed… Ten years ago, you could expect at least one old stick to rise unsteadily to his feet and deliver a lecture on “Adam and Steve” and the benefits of cold showers, in the sure and certain hope that two weeks later, he’d be photographed in the arms of a Latvian drag queen.” – The Daily Telegraph

Labour 1) Lammy won’t commit to a ‘foreign aid boost’

“David Lammy declined to commit Labour to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on international aid, saying it would be “irresponsible” to do so. In a speech at Chatham House in London, the shadow foreign secretary said that he wanted the UK to be a “development superpower once more”. However, he said the economic situation was such that it would be the wrong course of action to pledge to return to the 0.7 per cent figure now. The statutory duty to spend this proportion of GDP was introduced by David Cameron in 2015. But in 2021, owing to the impact of the Covid pandemic, this was temporarily reduced under Boris Johnson to 0.5 per cent, saving billions of pounds.” – The Daily Telegraph

  • Labour is schemeing to edge us back into the EU’s sclerotic embrace – while loudly insisting it’s doing anything but – Stephen Glover, The Daily Mail

Labour 2) He says his party would ‘order’ embassies ‘to help Britons abroad’

“UK citizens who need legal assistance or practical help while travelling abroad will get a new right to consular protection under Labour plans announced yesterday. David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, said that, if elected, Labour would change the law to oblige embassies to provide help to Britons abroad. The move is in response to revelations in The Times that the foreign office had told lawyers for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe that she had no automatic right to the government’s assistance or protection despite being jailed by the Iranian authorities. In a letter, Sarah Broughton, head of consular affairs at the Foreign Office, wrote in 2020 that British citizens falsely accused overseas have “no legal right to consular assistance” and would be dealt with on a case by case basis.” – The Times

Labour 3) Davies-Jones is being investigated over lobbying claims

“A top Labour MP was today facing a lobbying probe by Westminster’s sleaze-buster. Alex Davies-Jones, the shadow culture minister, is under investigation by the standard’s commissioner. Breaching the strict rules around lobbying can result in a suspension from the Commons. The ally of Sir Keir Starmer allegedly breached “paid advocacy” rules in the MP code of conduct. New Parliament’s ethics chief Daniel Greenberg launched the probe this afternoon. The Welsh MP declined to comment when approached by the Sun. It is understood Ms Davies-Jones referred herself for investigation for asking a question in the Commons about British Council funding – shortly after taking a all-expensed trip with the organisation to Japan.” – The Sun

Labour 4) Dodds ‘must act on shouting down of female MPs’ amid calls for sanctions over Duffield row

“Labour is today under growing pressure to take action against an MP who tried to shout down and intimidate women in the House of Commons. Party chairman Anneliese Dodds has been urged by the Tories to condemn the ‘aggressive behaviour’ of Lloyd Russell-Moyle and ensure he is disciplined. She has also been told Labour should apologise to the victims of his outburst – Labour MP Rosie Duffield and Tory Miriam Cates – to counter the damaging impression that Labour has a ‘woman problem’. It comes after senior Labour MP Pat McFadden called on Mr Russell-Moyle to apologise for his behaviour in the heated debate over transgender law reform a week ago, in which he jeered Ms Duffield when she spoke up for women’s rights and branded Ms Cates transphobic.” – The Daily Mail

  • Labour won’t speak up for for MP silenced over gender reform – Jawad Iqbal, The Times 

Labour 5) O’Mara accused of making false claims from disability budget for MPs

“Jared O’Mara, the former MP on trial for submitting fraudulent expenses, tried to falsely claim thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money through the parliament disability budget, a court has heard. O’Mara, who served as MP for Sheffield Hallam from 2017 to 2019, is facing eight counts of fraud totalling £30,000 and is accused of submitting fabricated invoices from a fictional autism organisation. Georgia Wilson, the director of MP services at the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), told Leeds crown court how suspicions were raised when the invoices for consultancy and training from an organisation called Confident About Autism SY were “amateurish” and missing key details.” – The Guardian

Scotland drug deaths rise ‘despite Sturgeon’s pledge’

“Drug deaths in Scotland have started to rise sharply again in Scotland despite Nicola Sturgeon’s pledge to make tackling the crisis her “national mission”. A quarterly report by Public Health Scotland said the number of suspected drug deaths increased in October and November last year. A total of 109 people died from suspected drug use in November, an increase of more than a fifth on the death toll of 89 recorded in the same month the previous year. It was also higher than the 93 deaths reported in November 2020. No figures were published for October alone. Ms Sturgeon promised to tackle the situation after admitting she took her “eye off the ball” on Scotland having the highest drugs death rate in Europe.” – The Daily Telegraph

  • MSPs approve tougher crackdown on hunting with dogs – The Times
  • Can Britain really be trusted with assisted dying? – Madeline Grant, The Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • The rise of the nympho nepo daughters – Julie Burchill, The Spectator 
  • What’s wrong with being a matriarch? – Mary Harrington, UnHerd
  • Yes, I’m on the wrong side of history – Victoria Smith, The Critic
  • Stephen Flynn: “The Tories and Labour are one and the same” – Rachel Wearmouth, The New Statesman 

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