There is no end to the ingenuity of the British tabloid press and, having campaigned aggressively for a fresh Durham police investigation into beergate, this morning the Daily Mail has run a story criticising Keir Starmer for saying he will resign if said investigation shows he has broken the law. The Mail headline is based on comments from an unnamed government source, the digital minister Chris Philp and a barrister called Francis Hoar saying Starmer’s intervention amounts to putting the police under pressure.
Rachael Venables from LBC points out the hypocrisy inherent in the paper’s approach.
In an interview on the Today programme this morning Lord Macdonald, the former director of public prosecutions, said the claim that Starmer’s intervention would put undue pressure on the police was “wide of the mark”. He said:
My experience of working with the police in very sensitive cases under full glare of public and press interest was that, very quickly, you find your focus taking over and, in a sense, a sort of bloody-mindedness creeps in: ‘this is my case and I’ll decided it, thank you very much, without any help from you’.
So, that sort of pressure actually becomes, in my experience, reinforcing of independence, which I’m sure is what we want.
I don’t think Durham Police will be troubled at all by that sort of aspect.
And this is from Jonathan Jones, a former head of the government legal service, on the argument used by the barrister quoted in the Daily Mail splash.
Irish PM urges Johnson to avoid ‘unilateral action’ over NI protocol amid reports ministers might start ditching it next week
Micheál Martin, the taoiseach (Irish PM), has used a call with Boris Johnson this morning to urge him not to take “unilateral action” over the Northern Ireland protocol.
According to a report in the Times this morning, the government is poised to announce that it will take unilateral action over the protocol, with legislation that would abolish large parts of it. The Times says:
The foreign secretary has concluded that there is little point trying to reach a Brexit deal with the European Union and will move as soon as next week to scrap large parts of the Northern Ireland protocol in British law.
Officials working for Liz Truss have drawn up draft legislation that would unilaterally remove the need for all checks on goods being sent from Britain for use in Northern Ireland.
It would also allow businesses in the province to disregard EU rules and regulations and take away the power of the European court of justice to rule on issues relating to Northern Ireland.
The paper said an announcement could come next Tuesday.
Johnson would not have to resign over lockdown breaches even if Starmer did, says minister
In his interviews this morning Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, also said he did not think that Keir Starmer should have to resign if Durham police fined him for breaking lockdown rules. Asked whether Starmer was right to say yesterday he would quit if that happened, Malthouse replied:
That’s a matter for him. Look, my view is that this was a very difficult situation with complicated rules that were often changing quite quickly.
Mistakes were made and they’re acknowledged and fixed-penalty notices are paid.
I don’t see why anybody, be they so high or so humble, should lose their job.
Malthouse also said that, if Starmer were to resign, that would not mean Boris Johnson (who has already been fined for a breach of lockdown rules) would have to go too. Asked if Johnson would have to follow Starmer’s example, Malthouse replied: “Not necessarily, no.”
Liz Truss ‘preparing to tear up Northern Ireland protocol’
Liz Truss is reportedly preparing draft legislation that would unilaterally scrap key parts of the Northern Ireland protocol removing the need for checks on goods between Britain and Northern Ireland, my colleague Jessica Elgot reports.
Tesco chairman says Queen’s speech should include windfall tax on energy companies
John Allan, the chairman of Tesco and a former president of the CBI, has joined those calling for a windfall tax on energy companies. Asked what he would like to see in the Queen’s speech, he told the Today programme this morning:
First of all, I think action to help people cope with a very, very sharp increase in energy prices.
It’s harder for people to mitigate energy than it is with food, and I think there’s an overwhelming case for a windfall tax on profits from those energy producers fed back to those most in need of help with energy prices.
I think that would be the single biggest thing that could be done.
A windfall tax on energy companies is the Labour party’s most distinctive policy proposal. The Liberal Democrats and the SNP also back the idea.
The government is opposed, on the grounds that this might deter investment by the energy companies in the UK. But there have been hints that a U-turn might be possible. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, said last month that he would consider the case for a windfall tax if energy companies did not invest in the UK. And William Hague, the former Tory leader, recently said a tax on a genuine windfall was “not a crazy idea” and something Conservatives had done in the past.
Minister says Queen’s speech will tackle ‘hooligan’ protesters amid concerns ‘non-Tory’ bills left out
Good morning. It’s the Queen’s Speech, and overnight the government has flagged up measures that will be included in a new public order bill. My colleague Rajeev Syal has a preview here.
Kit Malthouse, the policing minister, has been doing the morning interview round and he told BBC Breakfast this would allow the government to tackle “hooligan” protesters. He said:
We have seen a number of very, very prolific, persistent offenders who decide to just flagrantly ignore the courts and so we’ll be bringing in a new serious disruption prevention order which we can place on them as individuals to deter them, if you like, from this kind of hooligan way of protesting.
We believe that protest is fundamental to our democracy but it has to be balanced against the rights of others to go about their business, and indeed keeping us all safe. I’m afraid some of the tactics we’ve seen recently haven’t done that.
If you think this sounds more like the kind of language you would hear at a Conservative party conference, than in a speech setting out legislative priorities for the whole of the nation for the next year, then you would not necessarily be wrong. Legislative programmes are inherently party political but, as Jim Pickard and George Parker report in the Financial Times, this one has gone through a particularly rigorous filtering process, with non-Tory measures removed. They attribute this to the influence of David Canzini, Boris Johnson’s newish deputy chief of staff, who has reportedly told ministerial aides to come up with more “wedge” issues that differentiate the Tories from Labour and the Lib Dems. The public order bill is a good example.
The FT says that, as a result some measures that had widespread support, but that that were deemed too regulatory and consensual, and insufficiently Tory, have been dropped. It says:
Legislation to improve UK auditing and corporate governance, provide statutory powers for a technology watchdog, and create a new football supervisory authority — all meant to enhance the operation of business or to enable fairer market conditions — have been dropped from the Queen’s Speech …
With the Bank of England warning last week that the UK is heading for recession, Canzini has told colleagues in recent days that Downing Street believes that “Conservative governments don’t legislate their way to economic growth”, said one official.
The government has dropped plans for a bill which would have created a single agency to enforce employee rights and made flexible working the default option for staff …
One minister said that the aversion by some in Number 10 to new business regulation was part of a “bastard form of Thatcherism” which failed to recognise that good rules could help the operation of markets — for example by stopping corporate scandals.
The FT quotes the Institute of Directors, the business group, as saying this approach is “disappointing”.
Here is the agenda for the day.
11.30am: Prince Charles delivers the Queen’s Speech on behalf of his mother at the State Opening of Parliament.
12.30pm: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.
2.30pm: MPs open the debate on the Queen’s Speech. Conservative MPs Graham Stuart and Fay Jones will start, proposing and seconding the loyal address, and they will be followed by Keir Starmer and then Boris Johnson.
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