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Good Wednesday morning. This is Dan Bloom, with you for the rest of the week.
DRIVING THE DAY
GHOSTS AT THE FEAST: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is jetting to Northern Ireland straight from PMQs to join 200 guests at a gala dinner to mark 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement. But while they eat chicken, fondant potato and savoy cabbage and listen to the Omagh Community Choir at Hillsborough Castle, they’ll all be painfully aware that Stormont power-sharing remains at a standstill. Back in London, meanwhile, the grand diplomacy could be sidelined any day by the Dominic Raab bullying report.
Whirlwind: The final day of the Agreement 25 conference at Queen’s University Belfast has U.S. Special Envoy for NI Joe Kennedy at 11.30 a.m. … former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and former U.S. President Bill Clinton back to back from 2.45 p.m. … Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at 3.20 p.m. … and Sunak at 3.35 p.m. The gala then kicks off at 5 p.m. with Sunak giving further remarks at about 7 p.m. recorded by pool cameras, before flying back to London tonight.
Speaking notes: Sunak will promise to “use the full force of the U.K. government” to boost investment — and praise the “courage, imagination and perseverance” of negotiators who “brought an imperfect but enduring peace to a place taught to believe no such peace was possible.”
Seating plan of nightmares: All former prime ministers were invited to the dinner — but David Cameron and Gordon Brown were unable to make it due to diary clashes, and John Major had to cancel due to ill health. Major has “conveyed his personal regret” to Sunak, his office told Playbook. Liz Truss and Boris Johnson, who both opposed the Windsor Framework to solve the post-Brexit deadlock, are expected to be there, as is Tony Blair.
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PMQS OF DREAMS: Sunak is due to travel with his wife Akshata Murty — days after parliament’s standards commissioner began investigating the way he did (or didn’t) declare her shares in childcare firm Koru Kids. But he’s been thrown a lifeline ahead of his first PMQs for a month at noon. Playbook hears Speaker Lindsay Hoyle’s office wrote to the political parties on Tuesday evening, warning them they cannot refer to live commissioner cases to avoid interfering with the process. How handy!
What *not* to ask him about: The i’s Paul Waugh says the Department for Education rebuffed an FOI request for any meetings between ministers, officials and Koru Kids since last October … while the Guardian says six previous ministerial registers published since his wife’s stake began in 2019 have not mentioned it.
ANYWAY, BACK TO BELFAST: Sunak is not expected to press the DUP hard today to restore power-sharing — there are plenty of other voices doing that — but he could bump informally into Stormont’s party leaders, including DUP chief and dinner attendee Jeffrey Donaldson.
Good luck with that: Donaldson fumed “we will not be browbeaten into submission” after Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris urged “real leadership” on Tuesday. Comparing him to a “clueless Irish American congressman,” DUP MP Gavin Robinson said: “There is no solid basis for an Executive and Assembly until we have arrangements that restore NI’s place in the U.K. internal market.”
Waiting game: My colleague Shawn Pogatchnik reckons that despite a chorus of attempts to persuade the DUP, there’s little chance things will change ahead of May 18 council elections — in which the party’s hardline stance is seen as essential to securing its core vote. After that, things might get easier. Bill Clinton told an audience in Derry/Londonderry on Tuesday night: “It can fairly easily be done if we want to, but we can always find an excuse to say no.” (H/t the Journal).
TOUCHING MOMENTS: While Alastair Campbell got a standing ovation for a bagpipe lament to the dead, Senator George Mitchell — who chaired the peace talks — told Channel 4 News he may never return to Northern Ireland after being diagnosed with leukemia. The 89-year-old said: “I’ve been pretty sick for a couple of years and I honestly don’t know if this is the last time.”
Unsung hero: The other living international chairman from the negotiations, Canadian General John de Chastelain, is attending, writes Shawn. He was Mitchell’s right-hand man, did more day-to-day work, and stayed on through 2005 to lead the commission that supervised the destruction of paramilitary weapons.
MEANWHILE IN SW1: Whenever Adam Tolley KC’s report into bullying allegations against Dominic Raab appears, it will drive the day — and the rumor mill suggests it’s finally due any day now. The unknown is how long it will take to appear, and whether it will drag into next week. Playbook hears that unlike the Sue Gray Partygate report, officials are hoping not to announce the moment it arrives in No. 10. to the press — though given they are asked at twice-daily Lobby briefings, they won’t be able to hold out for long.
The problem for Sunak: The propriety and ethics team in the Cabinet Office has been helping Tolley throughout. But unlike the report on Nadhim Zahawi, Tolley appears unlikely to make a hard ruling on whether Raab crossed the line, leaving a judgment call to the PM. Sunak will “need time to read through it and make a decision,” predicts an ex-minister. Another colleague of Raab’s hears “the KC has done a very diligent job that’s fair to all sides” but there’ll be “shades of gray.”
Runners and riders: The Times names three possible replacements for the justice secretary if he is sacked or resigns — Victoria Atkins, Victoria Prentis and Lucy Frazer — with a source saying “everyone is very aware that the current gender diversity could be better.” Alex Chalk is also said to be in the frame.
MEANWHILE IN W1A: The FT says the future of BBC Chairman Richard Sharp — who helped facilitate an £800,000 loan guarantee for Boris Johnson — hangs in the balance after “grim” draft findings of a report into his appointment. A person briefed on the report tells the paper: “It seems probable but not certain that he will have to go.”
BREAKING NEWS: Monthly inflation figures released in the last few minutes show CPI inflation was 10.1 percent in the 12 months to March, down from 10.4 percent in February. There’s still plenty of time for Sunak to achieve his pledge to halve inflation this year — but it’s proving stickier than some hoped. The Office for Budget Responsibility predicted it’ll sink to 2.9 percent by the end of the year, but this was based on it dropping to 9.7 percent across the first three months of 2023.
Speaking out: Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is recording a pool clip at 7.30 a.m. — and much more importantly, will be interviewed by POLITICO’s U.K. Editor Jack Blanchard at 6.30 p.m. (register now). Comments from Labour and others on the cost of living will be out imminently.
Something to shout about: The Sun’s Noa Hoffman spotted a parliamentary answer that reveals “tax day” is due on Thursday next week. Its official name is the exceedingly less sexy “Tax Administration and Maintenance Day.” Noa says it will “reveal 25 policies” including consultations on simplifying the Help to Save scheme and demystifying paperwork, but Hunt won’t cut taxes until at least the fall.
Diary date: The FT says Sunak is planning a charm offensive with business leaders at a “big event” in London on Monday, joined by Hunt and Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch.
BIG MAN ON CAMPUS: With 15 days to the local elections, Labour leader Keir Starmer has done three newspaper interviews on a trip to a York medical school — and all three make the front pages. Starmer tells the Telegraph the NHS is “broken” and “if they carry on like this, it can’t survive.” He adds “we support single-sex wards” based on biological sex.
Heir to Blair: The i says Labour would bring back a focus on Blair-style NHS targets. Labour officials tell Playbook they would agree a plan with the NHS to once again meet key patient safety targets, like A&E, ambulance and cancer waits — but others deemed too bureaucratic would be scrapped. Starmer was with Shadow Health Secretary Wes Streeting, who is giving a speech on GP reform on Friday.
Hold the line: FOI requests obtained by Labour say patients were waiting as long as 97 minutes for 999 call handlers to answer. Last December some patients waited three hours for a 111 answer, the party said. A Tory rebuttal says the stats are “puerile political game-playing.”
Hold the purse strings: The Yorkshire Post says Starmer refused to say if he thought NHS staff deserve a pay rise over 5 percent.
Everything is fine! In a longer i write-up that’s just gone online, Starmer claims he is unconcerned about narrowing polls because he is focused on “long term change.”
Can you show a letter on the radio? Tory Chairman Greg Hands is being interviewed by 10 — count ‘em! — BBC local radio stations between 7.15 a.m. and 9 a.m. When Liz Truss got the same treatment, the inquisitors won an award. Full times below.
UN-HOLE-Y ROW: A bitter briefing war has ensued after CCHQ put out a “pronouns not potholes” press release — yes, we’re at this stage in the election cycle. It said Labour-run councils “spent £1.54 million on equality, diversity, and inclusion training in 2022/23” — a “woke spending splurge” which “could have filled over 24,000 potholes.”
There’s just 1 problem: Sandwell Council, which Tory HQ singled out for spending “£509,600 on equalities, diversity, and inclusion initiatives” after it released the figure via an FOI, told Playbook £5,000 of that was for training and the rest was on elements like community engagement and staffing. While not giving a full breakdown, the council branded the use of the figure “a gross misinterpretation.”
OK, 2 problems: Labour spinners also gleefully pointed out that diversity officers are deemed important enough to be hired by the DWP, while their widespread use in government sparked complaints by, er, Conservative Way Forward.
MEANWHILE: The Taxpayers’ Alliance think tank’s annual Town Hall Rich List is out, saying 2,759 council officials received more than £100,000 in “total remuneration” — which includes things like pension contributions, benefits in kind, and redundancies. The Sun runs the story.
SETTING TWITTER ALIGHT: Public health professor at UCL Michael Marmot has told LBC’s Andrew Marr: “If you had the hypothesis that the government was seeking to destroy the NHS … all the data that we’re seeing are consistent with that hypothesis.”
**Join online U.K. Editor Jack Blanchard as he speaks one-to-one with Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt on the future of tech within the U.K., today Wednesday, April 19 at 6:30 p.m. BST. Register now.**
MEANWHILE IN SCOTLAND
SNP CRISIS DEEPENS: SNP Treasurer Colin Beattie was released without charge pending further investigation on Tuesday evening, almost 12 hours after he was arrested by Police Scotland. A report will be sent to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.
Who’s next? Sky veteran Jon Craig argues it’s likely to only be a matter of time before Nicola Sturgeon is interviewed by police over the party’s finances, given Tony Blair was over cash-for-honors. SNP politicians tell the Times it’s “inevitable” and “she has to be next.” As the i headline puts it: “Nicola Sturgeon is now only top SNP official named on accounts who has not been arrested in finance probe.”
Forbes’ fears: SNP leadership runner-up Kate Forbes has given her first broadcast interview since the vote to a Radio 4 documentary (details below). She warns her party “will be in trouble” unless the leadership takes “decisive action.” She doesn’t call for a rerun of the election but adds: “We are at a pretty critical moment.”
WHAT THE SCOTTISH PAPERS SAY: The Daily Record splashes on “behind bars,” focusing on the image of the SNP’s seized motorhome at a police compound … The Scotsman says the “SNP crisis deepens after second arrest” … but SNP-supporting paper the National highlights the first minister’s “fresh start for Scotland” in his reset speech.
RE-RESET NEEDED? The timing of Yousaf’s overshadowed speech was about as bad it gets, something that’s been a bit of a theme of his reign so far, POLITICO’s Andrew McDonald writes. The Telegraph lists the policies Yousaf is “ditching to save his leadership,” including the bottle deposit return scheme and a National Care Service.
It gets worse: Elections guru John Curtice told NationalWorld Labour could win around 15 seats in the next general election from SNP woes. Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar addresses the Scottish Trades Union Congress at 10 a.m.
TODAY IN WESTMINSTER
NOT WESTMINSTER BUT: Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Oliver Dowden will today warn “ideologically motivated” Russian-aligned groups want “to disrupt or destroy” U.K. critical national infrastructure, write my tech colleagues Annabelle Dickson and Tom Bristow. The National Cyber Security Centre is “issuing an official threat notice to operators to help protect the country.” Dowden is speaking at the Cyber U.K. conference in Belfast from 10 a.m.
Chinese challenge: After the PM stopped short of branding Beijing a “threat,” NCSC chief exec Lindy Cameron will tell the conference China’s aim for technical supremacy is an “epoch-defining challenge” (per the Times). Meanwhile GCHQ chief Jeremy Fleming, who warned the Cabinet of the benefits and risks of AI on Tuesday, speaks at 4.25 p.m.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: The Times has a fascinating page 1 read on a Chinese businessman, Ruiyou Lin, who has been photographed with Boris Johnson and Theresa May — while running a takeaway app from a Croydon address which, the paper says, hosts an alleged overseas Chinese police station. Lin tells the paper the service simply helps people renew their Chinese driving licence.
HE’S NO HAWK: Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said he “gets why” Tory MPs are hawkish but Britain must not “just pull the shutters down on this relationship” with Beijing. In interviews with the Guardian’s Pippa Crerar and the Express’ David Maddox in Tokyo, Cleverly says: “China will carry on carrying on whether we engage with them or not.”
Pick your words carefully: The papers say Cleverly — now visiting the Pacific islands — will give a speech on the U.K.’s approach to China next week. He says: “Are they competition? Are they a threat? Are they a challenge? … We don’t distil any other bilateral relationship into one word.” But today’s Telegraph leader column warns: “There will come a time when Britain will have to decide which side to take.”
BREAKING SILENCE: In a BBC interview overnight, sacked CBI boss Tony Danker has accepted he made some staff feel “very uncomfortable” but says his “reputation has been totally destroyed.”
ARMY BLOW: The Public Accounts Committee has voiced “serious doubts” about the Ministry of Defense’s 10-year equipment plan, saying it risks the U.K. failing to meet NATO commitments. Sky has more.
BLOOD UPDATE: Paymaster General Jeremy Quin will give an oral statement to the Commons on the infected blood inquiry from 12.30 p.m. (dependent on urgent questions) — but is not expected to announce compensation until ministers have seen a full report, which they hope will come before summer recess.
NOT IN THE SAME BOAT: Despite a “charm offensive” breakfast with the PM on Tuesday, the Times says around 60 Tory rebels still want to toughen up the Illegal Migration Bill when it returns to the Commons next week — with age assessments of migrants and stopping European Court of Human Rights Rule 39 orders that ground deportation flights. The Sun says Sunak told them: “We have to show actual delivery on this.”
See you in court: A full-day High Court hearing between Braintree District Council and the Home Office begins at 10.30 a.m. after the council challenged a planned asylum center at Wethersfield Airfield. The Telegraph notes the Home Office invoke a “national emergency” to justify the change.
Booming backlog: Only 10,188 out of 76,134 small boat migrants’ asylum claims from 2018 to 2022 — 13 percent — have been given a decision, reports the Times. Children’s Commissioner Rachel de Souza tells the New Statesman she has written again to Home Secretary Suella Braverman to request information about who children on small boats are and where they end up in the system.
EVERYTHING IS WOKE NOW: Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has ordered the removal of (checks notes) “woke” colorful welcome signs at Dover, says the Telegraph. They’ll be replaced with notices telling Channel migrants they have broken the law and face deportation. Border Force will also get extra powers to seize and examine migrants’ mobile phones in an amendment to the Illegal Migration Bill, says the paper.
Meanwhile in Wales: Welsh Secretary David Davies has told the Welsh government not to let asylum seekers claim legal aid and a Basic Income at the same time. His letter has been shown to the Sun.
MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN: Tory ex-Ministers Priti Patel and Robert Buckland have teamed up to say statutory sick pay — currently £109.40 a week — should be extended to day one of illness in a joint article for the Safe Sick Pay campaign. More via the Mirror.
BRACE YOURSELF: Six in 10 areas saw a rise in the number of people per dentist since 2019, with some having a ratio of more than 3,000 to 1, according to Lib Dem-commissioned Commons Library research. More here.
26.2 MILES OF OUTRAGE: Was the snooker not enough? Conservative MPs line up to condemn green protesters’ threats to disrupt Sunday’s London Marathon in the Mail splash, with Deputy Chairman Lee Anderson saying: “If there is one whiff of trouble from these eco idiots then they should be immediately rounded up, detained and then charged.”
PM shoots at open goal: Sunak himself has given a quote to the Sun (which has a similar splash) saying: “People who disrupt decent, law-abiding people’s lives, trying to gratuitously ruin great sporting events that many have worked hard and saved to enjoy should be ashamed of their selfish behaviour.”
CHARITIES’ PLEA: More than 90 charities have written a letter to ministers saying “the basic rate of Universal Credit must at least cover life’s essentials” — claiming currently it’s not, with nine in 10 low-income households going without food, utilities or vital goods.
NO ROOM AT THE INN: More than 310,000 children in England are being forced to share beds with family members due to severe overcrowding, says a National Housing Federation report in the Mirror.
RUH-ROAD: An RAC poll in the Times says 69 percent of people believe hard shoulders should be retrofitted onto existing smart motorways, despite ministers not pledging to do so.
WATCHDOG FOR ALL: A £500,000 Four Million Homes training scheme for social housing tenants to exercise their rights is launching today, with free advice on addressing damp.
OBESITY SQUEAMISHNESS: Every government since 1992 has missed targets to reduce obesity, which will mean higher taxes and lower productivity, says an Institute for Government report. The Mirror has a write-up.
HOMEWARD POUND: Monthly statistics on the (soaring) price of private rents are out at 9.30 a.m.
HOUSE OF COMMONS: Sits from 11.30 a.m. with Wales questions followed by PMQs at midday. Anthony Mangnall has a 10-minute rule bill on access to Dartmoor National Park … and then the main business is the second day at consideration in committee stage of the Finance (No. 2) Bill. There is an adjournment debate on the contribution of Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service to the local community.
WESTMINSTER HALL: Debates from 9.30 a.m. on topics including human rights in Myanmar (led by Labour’s Naz Shah) … food security and farming (managed by Tory MP Wendy Morton) … and the future of social housing (headed by Labour MP Mike Amesbury).
On committee corridor: Employers speak to the work and pensions committee about the Plan for Jobs and employment support (9.15 a.m.) … Transport Secretary Mark Harper gives evidence to the transport committee (9.30 a.m.) … The Welsh affairs committee hears from Director Wales at Ofcom Eleanor Marks about broadcasting in Wales (9.30 a.m.) … Crossbench peer Elizabeth Butler-Sloss speaks to the home affairs committee about human trafficking (10.15 a.m.) … The Lords’ constitution committee hears from academics about the appointment and dismissal of permanent secretaries and other senior civil servants (10.15 a.m.) … The international trade committee hears from Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch (1.30 p.m.).
HOUSE OF LORDS: Sits from 3 p.m. with oral questions on VAT rates on building repairs, counselling for young people who accessed the Tavistock Clinic and an increase in arms supplies to Ukraine … and then the main business is the Carer’s Leave Bill at committee stage and the first day of the Online Safety Bill at committee stage.
ONLINE SAFETY BILL: There is plenty of pressure on peers from campaign groups as they begin line-by-line scrutiny, including Refuge, which is calling for a violence against women and girls code of practice to be added. Former Love Island star Amy Hart told TalkTV that she felt “violated” after being a victim of cyberflashing, and she wants the need to prove “malicious intent” in the bill dropped. Will Moy of Full Fact says “it poses a genuine risk to freedom of expression by leaving internet companies to mark their own homework.” Votes will come at a later stage.
WESTMINSTER EVENTS: Tory MP Laura Sandys speaks at an Onward event on food for the future and child health inequality from 1 p.m. … The Centre for Kurdish Progress holds a roundtable on women’s rights in Kurdistan with Labour’s Alex Sobel at 6.30 p.m. … Civic Future has an event on demographic shifts with Tory MP Miriam Cates and IFS Director Paul Johnson at 6.30 p.m. … and Labour in Communications holds a Q&A with the Sun’s Noa Hoffman and the Guardian’s Aletha Adu from 7 p.m. (Apologies to Playbook PM readers, we said it was on Tuesday.)
QUIET NEWS DAY: Times sketchwriter Quentin Letts went off the beaten track to watch noise abatement campaigner Poppy Szkiler at a Lords committee. “Szkiler gently mentioned the value of quietness. Ancient peer: WHAT DID SHE SAY?”
**On April 25 at 1:00 pm, join us at POLITICO Live’s event “Breaking barriers in innovation and access: can the pharma legislation do it all?”. Our Health Care Reporter, Carlo Martucelli, will lead the discussion about the fate of the pharmaceutical sector and how Europe can improve access to innovation. Register here!**
BEYOND THE M25
OUTFOXED: Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems reached a $787.5 million settlement — a sum that frankly makes the U.K.’s phone hacking scandal look like pocket change — in a dramatic last-minute climbdown in a defamation case, POLITICO reports. The electronic voting company sued Fox after it broadcast allegations of voter fraud in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. Witness the schadenfreude on CNN here, while writing for POLITICO, Ankush Khardori explains why Fox News had to settle the suit.
SUDAN UPDATE: Residents in Sudan capital Khartoum are low on food and water as heavy gunfire shattered plans for a 24-hour ceasefire, the BBC reports.
FEELING GASSED: Russia has warned Europe faces a fresh gas crisis next winter as it scrambles to restock reserves, the Telegraph reports — based on a tweet by Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned gas supplier.
EU MUST BE JOKING: European Commission officials accepted dozens of trips paid for by third parties — like law firms and lobbyists — in one department alone, my POLITICO colleagues Edith Hancock and Eddy Wax report. “I don’t know how they ever thought this was a good idea,” one lawmaker said.
DON’T LOOK UP: A 300kg NASA satellite will crash to Earth today after spending 21 years in space, the Mirror reports. NASA experts said the chance of it hitting someone is about one in 2,467 … so that’s all good then.
**A message from Lloyds Banking Group: We’ve joined forces with national homelessness charity Crisis and Simon Community in Northern Ireland to help tackle the shortage of good quality, affordable homes in the UK, which is leaving hundreds of thousands of people trapped in homelessness. Together, we’re calling for one million new genuinely affordable homes to be built over the next decade and made available to those on the lowest incomes, with a focus on supporting people at risk of, and experiencing homelessness. It’s one of the ways we’re helping Britain prosper. Find out more.**
Tory Chairman Greg Hands BBC local radio broadcast round: Radio Merseyside (7.15 a.m.) … Radio Manchester (7.45 a.m.) … Radio Sheffield (7.52 a.m.) … Radio Stoke (8 a.m.) … Radio Berkshire (8.15 a.m.) … Radio Oxford (8.22 a.m.) … Radio Norfolk (8.30 a.m.) … Radio Kent (8.38 a.m.) … Radio Leeds (8.45 a.m.) … Radio Wiltshire (8.52 a.m.).
Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Kyle broadcast round: Times Radio (7.20 a.m.) … LBC (7.50 a.m.) … Sky News (8.05 a.m.) … TalkTV (8.30 a.m.) … GB News (9.05 a.m.).
Today program: National Cyber Security Centre CEO Lindy Cameron (7.15 a.m.) … Former CBI boss Tony Danker (7.30 a.m.) … CBI President Brian McBride (8.10 a.m.).
Also on Times Radio Breakfast: Energy transition committee Chair Adair Turner (7.15 a.m.) … Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith (8.05 a.m.) … SNP MSP Ivan McKee (8.15 a.m.) … Evgenia Kara-Murza, wife of jailed Russian dissident Vladimir (8.20 a.m.) … National Cyber Security Centre CEO Lindy Cameron (9.05 a.m.).
Also on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: Reform U.K. leader Richard Tice (7.05 a.m.) … Refugee Council Chief Executive Enver Solomon (7.10 a.m.) … Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Stephen Watson phone-in (9 a.m. until 9.30 a.m.).
Also on Sky News Breakfast: Former U.K. National Security Adviser Peter Ricketts (7.20 a.m.) … Tory MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (7.45 a.m.) … Lib Dem leader Ed Davey (8.30 a.m.) … Former U.K. Ambassador to Russia Laurie Bristow (9.30 a.m.).
Also on TalkTV Breakfast: Tory MP Craig Mackinlay (8.05 a.m.) … Alba Party’s Westminster leader Neale Hanvey (8.20 a.m.) … Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (9.20 a.m.).
LBC News: Public accounts committee Chair Meg Hillier (6.45 a.m.) … Scottish Conservative Party Chairman Craig Hoy (8.20 a.m.).
Nicky Campbell’s political phone-in (BBC Radio 5 Live 10 a.m.): Tory MP Damian Green … Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson … Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine.
Politics Live (BBC Two 11.15 a.m.): Energy Security and Net Zero Minister Andrew Bowie … Shadow Business Secretary Jonathan Reynolds … Tory MP Tim Loughton … Labour MP Stella Creasy … Former SpAd Salma Shah … the Daily Mirror’s John Stevens.
TODAY’S FRONT PAGES
(Click on the publication’s name to see its front page):
POLITICO UK: In Belfast, world leaders beg the DUP to play ball. They won’t … for now.
Daily Express: You’re paying price of rise in fat cat salaries!
Daily Mail: When will someone get a grip on the eco fanatics?
Daily Mirror: Killer knives — five Tory promises … still kids die.
Daily Star: Not today thank you chatbots!
Financial Times: Goldman hit by trading slowdown as retail reversal drives costs higher.
i: NHS targets will return if Starmer becomes PM.
Metro: How was sleepover psychopath labeled low risk?
The Daily Telegraph: The NHS is broken, declares Starmer.
The Guardian: U.K. must not ‘pull shutters down on China,’ Cleverly warns Tories.
The Independent: I don’t believe the SNP is criminal.
The Sun: Toff justice.
The Times: Soup and shake diet can reverse diabetes.
WESTMINSTER WEATHER: Sunny intervals with a moderate breeze. Highs of 15C.
SCOOP — ON THE BOX: Lobby rising star Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe is joining ITV News as a political reporter in July, after just shy of three years as political correspondent at the FT.
NOT ANOTHER 1! Move over the ERG, CRG, NRG … the Regulatory Reform Group of Tory MPs (RRG) launched on Tuesday night at the Old Queen Street Cafe. Chief Secretary to the Treasury John Glen (who began talks with its Chair Bim Afolami nine months ago) criticized the “very cumbersome and bureaucratic” system and said “interventions are being worked up in government” within weeks to address the RRG’s first report.
SPOTTED: Tory MPs Aaron Bell, Alan Mak, Anthony Browne, James Wild, John Penrose, Vicky Ford, Robert Buckland, Pauline Latham and Richard Fuller … Tory peer Andrew Tyrie … Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake … SpAds Nick Park and Lucy Noakes … Hacks Katy Balls, Sam Coates, Sam Lister, Claire Ellicott and Hugo Gye … Ramesh Chhabra of the FCA … Tracy Blackwell of the PIC … TheCityUK CEO Miles Celic … Sainsbury’s government relations chief Sara Argent … Nick Lakin of Kingfisher … Sarah Boon of U.K. Finance … and Paul Naish of AstraZeneca.
ALSO SPOTTED: At the book launch for Tim Bale‘s “The Conservative Party After Brexit” at Queen Mary University of London, in conversation with ex-Westminster Hour presenter Carolyn Quinn: Former Labour MP Tony McNulty … Labour peer Roger Liddle … Tory activist Dinah Glover … the BBC’s Iain Watson … the New York Times’ Stephen Castle … Documentary maker Michael Cockerell … the i’s former pol ed Nigel Morris … QMUL’s Patrick Diamond and Tom Chidwick … Strand Group’s Jon Davis and Jack Brown … and lots of attentive students.
EVEN MORE SPOTTED: At a United by Music reception to celebrate Eurovision in the Commons … Ukrainian Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko … Britain’s first Eurovision winner Sandie Shaw … “Amarillo” singer Tony Christie … Eurovision Managing Director Martin Green … Liverpool’s Director of Culture Claire McColgan … Arts Minister Stephen Parkinson … U.K. Music CEO Jamie Njoku-Goodwin … Labour MPs Maria Eagle, Ellie Reeves, Stephanie Peacock, Alex Sobel, Kevin Brennan and John Spellar … Tory MP Dehenna Davison … Lib Dem MP Layla Moran … SNP MP John Nicolson … and peers including Jeffrey Archer, Tom Watson, David Watts, Stephen Benn, John Attlee, Judith Jolly, Susan Garden, Angela Harris and Dominic Hubbard.
DON’T MISS: The BBC’s Nick Eardley explores the future of the SNP and Scottish independence in “Leading Scotland Where?” at 8.30 p.m. on Radio 4, featuring contributions from Leveling-up Secretary Michael Gove, Labour leader Keir Starmer, Former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Former SNP Cabinet Secretary for Finance Kate Forbes and the SNP’s deputy Westminster leader Mhairi Black.
CULTURE FIX: In need of some midweek political escapism? The London Philharmonic Orchestra performs Prokofiev’s “War and Peace” at the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre at 7.30 p.m.
HAD A CR*P DAY? Matt Hancock is trying to be a Gwyneth Paltrow-style life coach, if his latest TikTok is anything to go by.
JOB ADS: The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change is looking for a senior director of strategy … the Ministry of Defense would like a senior policy adviser … and Times Radio’s broadcast assistant internship is open for applicants.
DUCK AND COVER: It was light-hearted bantz by my Playbook PM colleague Emilio Casalicchio, but before any conspiracist nutters get the wrong idea, the government insists the new national alert is not — repeat, not — for the event of a nuclear attack.
TEA BREAK READS: Former Wall Street Journal (Europe) and Sunday Telegraph Editor Patience Wheatcroft argues in Prospect that the government is treating parliament and the public with contempt … while the Guardian’s Jessica Elgot makes the case for Rishi Sunak being the most socially conservative PM of his generation.
BIRTHDAYS: Defra Minister Trudy Harrison … Labour strategist Morgan McSweeney … Labour peer Wilf Stevenson … Crossbench peer Jane Campbell … Centre for European Reform Director of Foreign Policy Ian Bond … and anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller.
PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editor Zoya Sheftalovich, reporter Noah Keate and producer Grace Stranger.
The online version of this newsletter was updated to clarify who the speaker’s office wrote to ahead of prime minister’s questions.
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