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“Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation represents a “generational setback” for Scottish independence, ministers believe, while senior Labour figures say it will help Sir Keir Starmer to secure victory at the next election. The first minister announced on Wednesday that she would stand down, admitting she had become a polarising figure and no longer had the energy to lead the campaign for independence. In a press conference at Bute House in Edinburgh, where she appeared close to tears, she said that while she believed the majority of Scotland backed independence this support “needs to be solidified”… Senior Tories and figures in the Labour Party reacted with jubilation. “The case for independence is massively weaker,” a senior government source said.” – The Times
>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Alister Jack the giant slayer? Sturgeon had plenty of reasons to go, but few explain why she went now.
“Not long after lockdown began back in March 2020, Sturgeon started holding daily press conferences. And then she carried on. And on. And on… And it is those press conferences at which she made her reputation which perfectly sum up the legacy of Nicola Sturgeon, the longest serving First Minister of Scotland. They demonstrated her ample presentational gifts. They illustrated her most admirable political quality: her sheer stamina and endurance. But they also exposed her greatest failing as a political leader. Despite her spending every day speaking to the nation, Scotland did no better than the rest of the UK in the way it managed the Covid outbreak. It was a great performance, but it didn’t deliver.” – Daily Mail
>Today: ToryDiary: Sunak and Sturgeon. His part in her downfall.
“Public sector pay rises must stay below 5 per cent next year to control inflation, the Treasury has told ministers in a move that could prolong strikes beyond the summer. Unions are preparing to continue their campaign of industrial action for months as ministers struggle to agree pay offers with No 11 for the financial year starting in April. Teachers said on Wednesday that further industrial action was “inevitable” and there is increasing concern in government that prolonged strikes by health workers will imperil Rishi Sunak’s promise to bring down NHS backlogs. NHS chiefs believe that a target to eliminate waits of more than a year and a half by the end of next month is likely to be missed as strikes continue.” – The Times
>Today: Chris McGovern in Local Government: How to end the teachers strike? Fund a pay rise by reducing the number of support staff.
>Yesterday: Chloe Dobbs in Comment: The state sector would pay the price for Starmer’s short-sighted tax raid on private schools
“Ben Wallace has called for a return to ‘investing in defence properly’ as he hit out at successive governments for ‘hollowing out’ the military. The Defence Secretary accused ministers of ‘raiding’ his department’s budget since 1991 and said he faced an uphill struggle to get more cash ahead of next month’s Budget. But he said he hoped defence spending had ‘turned the corner’ after being given an extra £16billion over four years in 2020. He also branded reports in the German media about Nato asking Berlin to remain in charge of the alliance’s rapid reaction force next year as ‘just b****cks’. The UK is scheduled to take leadership of the Nato Response Force (NRF) from Berlin at the end of the year, but German media has claimed Nato asked Berlin to remain in charge due to depleting British resources.” – Daily Mail
>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: Ukraine’s fight is our fight. It must live in freedom. So Russia must be defeated.
“Ben Wallace has given his strongest indication yet that he plans to run for the “great job” of secretary-general of Nato. Jens Stoltenberg, the current head of the defensive alliance, has announced he will stand down in October. The former prime minister of Norway, 63, has had his term extended three times and will have led Nato for nine years. Wallace is facing an uphill battle to retain a seat in the Commons at the next general election with his Wyre Valley & Preston North constituency set to be abolished. The seat will revert to a similar profile as Lancashire & Wyre, the marginal constituency that was originally won by Wallace in 2005. On a visit to Brussels, where he is attending a meeting of Nato defence ministers, Wallace refused to rule out a bid to succeed Stoltenberg.” – The Times
“One in three parole board chiefs who decide whether to let out sick murderers or rapists will have to have a police background in a major shake-up. The Justice Secretary will today announce a major recruitment drive of ex-detectives and police chiefs to stop softies letting out people who go on to commit more crimes. Dominic Raab wants to double the number of parole board members with policing experience to 50 by the end of the year with a national recruitment push. He will bring forward new laws so former police officers will have to sit on “top tier” cases like those jailed for rape, murder, terror, or the death of a child.” – The Sun
“Boris Johnson yesterday came out swinging against Sadiq Khan’s “mad lefty tax” on London’s drivers. The former PM said the Mayor’s expansion of the ULEZ eco zone was “unreasonable and unnecessary”. Labour’s Mr Khan wants to charge all motorists in the city £12.50 for driving in non-compliant cars. His predecessor Mr Johnson blasted: “You do not need an all-London emissions zone. It’s inner London that has the air quality problem. “There’s only one reason why he’s doing it, and that is because he has bankrupted TfL with his mismanagement. “Fight his plans to take money off hard-pressed motorists at a very difficult time and stop this mad lefty tax on people’s lives and livelihoods.”” – The Sun
“Sir Keir Starmer has said that former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn will not stand for the party in the next general election, as he pledged to take a “zero tolerance” approach to antisemitism. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the leader of the opposition reiterated his apology “to all those who were hurt” and “who suffered the most appalling abuse” and insisted that, under him, Labour had changed “permanently, fundamentally, irrevocably”. Starmer’s comments mark his strongest break yet with Corbyn, who served as leader between 2015 and 2020, and come after the UK equalities watchdog said it was “content with the actions” taken by Labour to address antisemitism.” – FT