CHATTY RAT ACCUSATION FROM BORIS
The Daily Mail reports that Boris Johnson has accused his former top aide Dominic Cummings of being the ‘Chatty Rat’ who leaked his private texts, reports say. The Prime Minister is said to have pointed the finger at the Vote Leave mastermind, who quit Downing Street in November after a power struggle. Mr Johnson reportedly thinks Mr Cummings was ‘bitter’ following his exit from No 10 – but was ‘saddened’ about the messages being dished out to reporters. […] Mr Cummings has not replied to the accusations. Since leaving No 10 he has made only one major intervention – before the science select committee last month. He attacked the ‘horrific’ Whitehall bureaucracy and branded the Department of Health a ‘smoking ruin’ when Covid struck.
EU TO SUE ASTRAZENECA OVER DELIVERY DEADLINES
From the Daily Mail: The EU is suing AstraZeneca over its complete failure to meet delivery deadlines and contractual agreements for its vaccine. Brussels also bitterly decided not to take up the option to buy 100 million more of the Anglo-Swedish firm’s vaccine. The EU claimed the deadline to exercise that clause in its current supply contract with the Anglo-Swedish firm had already expired and it didn’t plan to pursue it. Instead, diplomats have now decided to take legal action against AstraZeneca for its failure to deliver doses following a meeting on Wednesday, Ireland’s Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said on Thursday. The EU is seeking to save face in the courts after crippling its own vaccine roll-out by launching a war against Britain – and the rest of the world – first, by suggesting that the vaccines were ineffective, and then embargoing exports.
EU BOTCHES TRADE DEAL WITH MERCOSUR
The Express reports that the EU’s botched trade deal with Mercosur has infuriated many inside the bloc for years, and one critic described it as a disaster waiting to happen. Brussels’ pact with Mercosur – a group made up of South American nations Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay – remains elusive 20 years after talks began. The trade pact struck in 2019 promised to be the EU’s largest deal, with the removal of import tariffs on its products that had previously cost billions. But two years after a preliminary agreement was reached, it is unclear whether it will ever be implemented due to Europe’s concerns over Amazon deforestation and scepticism about Brazil’s commitment to tackling climate change under its President Jair Bolsonaro.
RUSSIAN MILITARY COMPLETES DRILL AS TENSIONS REMAIN OVER UKRAINE
The Express reports that thousands of Russian troops have completed a mass military drill in Crimea as tensions with Ukraine remain high. Hundreds of warplanes and dozens of ships took part in the largest Russian operation since it seized Crimea in 2014. According to the Russian Defence Ministry the exercise involved over 10,000 troops and 1,200 military vehicles. Sporadic fighting has continued in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian troops and Russia backed separatists. Moscow has threatened to use force if Ukraine attempts to retake its territory using force. Following the announcement the Russian rouble rose sharply in value. Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu commented:” I believe the objectives of the snap inspection have been fully achieved. The troops have demonstrated their ability to provide a credible defence for the country.”
CHINA SAYS NUCLEAR PLANTS FOR NON BELLIGERENT PURPOSES
The Express reports that war fears have been raised in the US after China’s new generation nuclear power plants are said to have the capacity to produce large amounts of plutonium that could be used in nuclear weapons. The US Strategic Command (Stratcom) advised lawmakers about Beijing’s new powerful facilities, which boast fast breeder reactors. The first fast breeder reactor is scheduled to become active in 2023. Concerns were raised in the US amid tensions despite there being no evidence Beijing intends to use large amounts of plutonium to manufacture weapons.China asserted its nuclear program is not intended for belligerent purposes.
GOVERNMENT NOT BEING HONEST ABOUT GETTING NET ZERO GOALS
The Telegraph reports that the government is not being honest about the extent people will need to change their lives to reach net zero goals, a government adviser on climate change has said. “To get to net zero, every aspect of the way that we emit at the moment needs to be tackled,” said David Joffe, the head of carbon budgets at the Climate Change Committee. “And we can’t just duck those difficult conversations.” The UK Government set a new target this week to reduce emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 from a 1990 baseline, in line with the recommendations of the CCC, an independent Government advisory body. It is on track to phase out coal in the electricity system by 2025, and has banned the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030. But it is yet to outline exactly how cuts will be achieved in several areas, including home heating, international aviation and agriculture, which is likely to affect diets.
CAMERON FOUND LOBBYING PERCISTANTLY FRUSTRATING
The Telegraph reports that David Cameron wrote to the deputy governor of the Bank of England to ask for help with Greensill Capital, after failing to get anywhere with the Treasury, documents released moments ago show. The former prime minister made multiple representations to Sir Jon Cunliffe, beginning in March 2020, as part of his work for the now-collapsed financial firm, according to 24 pages of documents released by the BoE. As his efforts failed to make progress, Mr Cameron wrote on April 22 2020, telling Sir Jon it was incredibly frustrating. This morning MPs heard that Mr Cameron was part of persistent lobbying efforts made by the financial firm, which resulted in Treasury officials refusing time after time to do so.
FIRST WORLD WAR AFRICAN DEAD UNREMEMBERED
The Guardian reports that the Prime Minister has apologised for Britain’s failure to properly commemorate tens of thousands of black and Asian soldiers who died serving the country, as the defence secretary pledged to explore “decolonising” schools’ teaching of the first world war. Boris Johnson said he was deeply troubled by the fact that not all of our war dead were commemorated with equal care and reverence as Ben Wallace admitted historic failings had been identified in an inquiry set up by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). The African first world war soldiers without a grave Wallace said was a deep point of regret for him and that his own education of the 1914-1918 war was limited mostly to the Battle of the Somme and famous poets, and did not take in the contributions of soldiers from the wider Commonwealth and former British empire. “I think it is important to remember that we have excluded a lot of that from our children’s education, and I think we absolutely have to rectify that”
UNLAWFUL DEMO ARRESTS
The Guardian reports: Four people arrested while staging demonstrations in Bristol are to receive apologies and substantial damages from Avon and Somerset police after the force admitted its declaration of a blanket ban on protest was unlawful. The apologies, which followed a legal challenge, are thought to be the first time a police force has admitted it misapplied coronavirus powers to ban protests. In a statement agreed with the claimants, the police said the arrests had been made on the basis of a misunderstanding of the legal effect of the regulations” and admitted all four “were unlawfully arrested. Paula Richardson, 60, Ros Martin, 60, Taus Larsen, 44, and Rolland Dye, 68, had been detained on 25 January while protesting outside Bristol magistrates court in solidarity with four defendants accused of toppling the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston during last June’s Black Lives Matter protests.
MARINE LePEN COULD WIN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION NEXT YEAR
From The Times: Marine Le Pen could defeat President Macron at next year’s elections if she capitalises on contempt for him among left-wing voters, a leading think tank has suggested. There is a growing consensus in the political world that a far-right victory is no longer unthinkable if the contest moves to a run-off between the pair, as it did in 2017. Le Pen, 52, has succeeded in detoxifying her image enough to attract mainstream conservative voters among whom she is viewed as preferable to Macron despite her “disastrous” performance in the final stages of the last campaign, according to the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, which is close to the centre-left Socialist party. Left-wing voters, meanwhile, see Macron, 43, as arrogant and elitist. Half of them said they would abstain.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH TO RECRUIT ALL GOOD COPS
From the Independent: Police vetting for potential extremists has “dangerous weaknesses”, the shadow home secretary has said after an officer was convicted of joining a neo-Nazi terrorist group. Benjamin Hannam, 22, was able to pass checks by the Metropolitan Police despite being part of a banned National Action offshoot. The force accused him of lying on application and vetting forms, but Hannam maintained he answered questions honestly in court. He remained in the force for two years before his affiliation was discovered when antifascists leaked data from a far-right online forum. An investigation by The Independent has now revealed that police forces across England and Wales are asking new recruits different questions when screening for racism and political affiliations.
From the Daily Star: A Scots woman discovered a huge washed up skeleton on a remote beach of South Uist and her sister took it to Twitter for answers. Sharing the photo, which was taken by her sister and included her dog, Bonnie, Edinburgh-based Polly Burns wrote: “My sister has just moved to South Uist and has found this skeleton – anyone able to help with ID? Golden retriever provided for scale.” Theories quickly emerged about what animal could have left behind the mysterious bones could have been, with it receiving over 17,000 likes and 1,100 comments. They ranged from the fantastic, with a cousin of Nessie or even a dinosaur being suggested, to the more mundane (and much more likely), with them being attributed to being the remains of a beached sperm whale.