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By ANNABELLE DICKSON
PRESENTED BY BARCLAYS
Good Friday morning. This is Annabelle Dickson.
DRIVING THE DAY
EASTERN PROMISE: Philip Hammond will take the stage in Beijing within the next hour with a major speech designed to court Chinese investment. The U.K. Chancellor is due to speak at 7.50 a.m. U.K. time, and will be interviewed by international broadcast media afterward. Journalists’ focus will likely be the furore back home in Britain, where Cabinet Secretary Mark Sedwill is still trying to pinpoint the source of a diplomatically-sensitive leak of the National Security Council discussion to allow Chinese telecoms supplier Huawei to help build the U.K.’s 5G network. Hammond is thought to be broadly in favor of Huawai’s limited involvement – but is unlikely to look kindly on those ambitious colleagues suspected of leaking the decision.
Belt up: Hammond has headed east to sell U.K. business infrastructure finance and skills at the second Belt and Road Forum hosted by President Xi Jinping, which will also be attended by leaders from 37 countries, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
It wasn’t me: The fallout from the mega leak continues in London as ministers at the meeting were forced to deny they were to blame for the disclosure. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who faced the whole press lobby at a lunch yesterday, was first out of the blocks (to the annoyance of some cabinet colleagues). He strongly denied he was the source of the leak. He was followed by Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson who issued a statement, while International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox (who was also busy clarifying his position on climate change) and Home Secretary Sajid Javid also made it clear they did not have any involvement. Sedwill had written to those present at the meeting and demanded that they tell him by 2 p.m. yesterday “whether they were involved and would be willing to cooperate with an inquiry,” according to the Guardian. The Daily Mail has drawn up a “Hua-Dunit page” this morning complete with mugshots of the suspects.
Officials put in the frame: Both the HuffPost’s Paul Waugh and the Sun’s Tom Newton-Dunn have been told that Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson initially pinned the blame on the Cabinet Office secretariat on hearing about the leak — though “quickly realized he had made an error.” Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright told the House of Commons the inquiry could become a criminal investigation. On Newsnight last night Andrew Mitchell said the security services may have to interview senior cabinet ministers sitting on the National Security Council as part of the inquiry.
From the author: The Telegraph’s Steven Swinford, who broke the story, defended its publication in a column for the paper. The issue of Huawei is “undeniably a matter of significant public interest.” “It is the fundamental role of political journalists to give their readers an insight into what goes on behind closed doors in the corridors of power, and inform them of decisions that will affect their lives,” he writes. The paper follows up with a leader warning against a heavy-handed investigation. “Doubtless, the Government would have preferred to handle its presentation differently. But thwarted PR opportunities do not justify a heavy-handed or even criminal investigation aimed at curbing the freedom of the press to report such information when it receives it,” the paper writes.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
REMAIN ALLIANCE: The Liberal Democrats will launch their European election campaign in London at 11 a.m. today. On a pretty feisty BBC Question Time last night Vince Cable reiterated his desire to work with the breakaway party Change UK. “I had suggested we have that kind of cooperation. It wasn’t feasible within the present voting system and there wasn’t willingness to do it … I am concerned we’re just fragmenting in rather a chaotic way,” Cable said. In the Times former Tony Blair speechwriter turned columnist Philip Collins also criticizes Change UK for turning down serious talks about forming an alliance with the Liberal Democrats and the Greens for next month’s elections.
Also not impressed: Disillusioned former Change UK activist Dan Heley claims in the Times that Change UK is “riddled with distrust.” Despite being “overwhelmed” by more than 3,500 applicants for just 70 positions, “the party largely chose to favour D-list public figures, former MPs and candidates, and those who had personal relationships with the MPs and staff,” he claimed.
RAINING ON HIS PARADE: Tiny Tommy Robinson, the pint-sized far-right protester who announced yesterday that he was standing for the European Parliament next month, was banned from handing out burgers at his rain-soaked BBQ in Manchester last night after being told by police he would breach electoral bribery laws.
Accusation: Campaign group Hope not Hate have accused UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin of using deeply offensive language in this video.
LABOUR BREXIT DRAMA: All is not happy in the Labour Party election campaign. HuffPost’s Paul Waugh reports that Labour’s European election leaflet omits to mention a second referendum. Waugh tweeted last night that there was “huge pressure” to change the leaflet before it is printed and that Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is “furious.”
MAKING THE CASE: POLITICO’s Mark Scott has reviewed Facebook’s political ad data and found that groups opposing Britain’s departure from the EU have outspent those in favor of Brexit on Facebook political ads by more than a third since October. Spending by the main anti-Brexit organizations, People’s Vote UK and Best for Britain, has totaled more than £750,000 since Facebook began publishing records of political advertising on its platform, compared to less than £500,000 from pro-Brexit groups like Britain’s Future. The story is here for Brexit Pro subscribers.
RUNNERS AND RIDERS: The full slate of candidates for next month’s European election was unveiled yesterday. The i paper has pulled together a handy list of who is standing where. Most of the full statement of parties and individual candidates nominated were also published in most areas last night, including in the East Midlands … the North-East … the North-West … the South East … the South West … the West Midlands … the Yorkshire and the Humber.
ELSEWHERE IN BREXIT
NO-DEAL WARNING: Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, reiterated his calls for a no-deal Brexit to be avoided at all costs during a visit to Brussels yesterday. POLITICO’s David Herszenhorn reported from the news conference on Thursday evening where Abe and his European counterparts “did not quite finish each other’s sentences but they happily spoke each other’s lines — underscoring their friendship by raising each other’s priorities.”
Also not in favor of no deal: Business leaders who need to stockpile goods. Business Insider’s Adam Payne reports that many of the warehouses used to stockpile goods in the run-up to March 29 are now no longer available for the new Brexit deadline, as they have already been booked for storing large quantities of stock needed for Christmas.
If at first you don’t succeed: The Sun’s Tom Newton-Dunn reports that Graham Brady, chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, is planning to table an amendment to the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to remove the backstop. Anyone getting a bit of déja vu?
Hopes dying: The FT says Theresa May has abandoned her plan to try to secure parliamentary approval for the EU withdrawal agreement before next week’s local elections. Officials also pretty much accept they have missed the boat on passing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in order to avoid participating in the European election. It would have to start making its way through the House of Commons next week to have any chance of passing before May 22, and with opposition talks making slow progress there is little optimism that will happen.
**Emissions from new cars will have to be 37.5% lower in 2030 compared to 2021, according to a recent agreement reached at the Council of Ministers. Join Barbara Stoll, International Project Lead, Clean Air Campaign, Greenpeace, to find out if this is enough during POLITICO’s Connected Mobility Summit on October 8 in Amsterdam. For any registration before May 17, a 40% discount is applied.**
LIFE BEYOND BREXIT
DEMENTIA CARE: Labour unveils plans to inject an extra £1 billion and provide home help to an extra 50,000 people with dementia. The Guardian writes up the announcement. The Daily Mail brands it a £3-billion tax on the rich. Meanwhile in Tory land … there is still no sign of the social care green paper.
YEMEN PEACE MEETING: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will host Saudi Arabian and United Arab Emirates foreign affairs ministers Adel al-Jubeir and Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan along with the United States’ David Satterfield for a meeting on the U.N.-led peace process in Yemen.
NOT GOING OUT: First it was Vince Cable, now the Sun’s Matt Dathan hears House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has turned down the Queen’s invitation to the state banquet in honor of U.S. President Donald Trump.
FRENCH CONNECTION: The Restoration and Renewal Bill — which will kickstart the restoration of the crumbling Houses of Parliament — could be tabled next Thursday, the Sun’s Steve Hawkes hears.
NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT: Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was paid a whopping £122,899 to make a speech for India Today and a further £38,250 from Citigroup Bank, according to the latest register of interests. The Times writes up the story.
WOKE IS GOOD FOR BUSINESS: International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt will tell the Stonewall Workplace conference at the QEII Centre at 10 a.m. today that supporting everyone in a workplace is not about being “woke” or PC or trendy, but good for business.
HAPPY QATAR DAY: International Trade Secretary Liam Fox will call Qatar the U.K.’s “natural partner” for trade at a City of London Corporation event at Mansion House today.
OVER IN NORTHERN IRELAND: The FT’s Laura Hughes hears Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney will announce fresh talks will be held following the local elections to get the Northern Ireland Assembly up and running. Perhaps Catholic Priest Martin Magill’s message at the funeral of murdered journalist Lyra McKee got through to the politicians?
THINK TANK: Tory leadership wannabe Dominic Raab will lead the judging panel for this year’s Institute of Economic Affairs’ Richard Koch Breakthrough Prize, which awards £50,000 to the “best idea to give everyone in society a real opportunity to succeed on their own merit.”
**Did you get it? Our second issue of the EU Election Playbook dedicated to Belgium came out yesterday. Written in collaboration with Le Soir, it tells you all you need to know about how the small country hosting most of the EU Institutions is having an agenda collision between the European election and its own national parliamentary and regional polls. Read it in English, in Dutch or in French.**
PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW — MICHAEL BATES
Michael Bates, who was an international development minister, resigned this week after concluding an “aggressiveness, intolerance and incivility” had emerged in the public discourse post-Brexit. He and his wife Xuelin set off on a walk in search of a process to restore national unity from Belfast to Brussels on Good Friday. It is the latest chapter in their walk for peace mission, which has taken Bates across 8,000 miles through 25 different countries. He spoke to Playbook yesterday during the Dublin leg of a walk.
Attempted resignation: Bates is probably best-known in Westminster as the minister who tried to resign after turning up late for questions in the House of Lords in January 2018. He told Playbook that it was pointed out to him after the attempted resignation that the mistake may have come because prayers that day were said in the morning due to an earlier Brexit debate, rather than before afternoon questions as is tradition. “I was standing outside the door waiting for prayers to finish and go in … my Mum said to me after she heard about this ‘as I said you should always be there for prayers just in case.’”
Gut reaction: “It is my job to be here to answer questions and I wasn’t here at the time. It was a very instinctive thing and I thought ‘gosh, what else can I do?” he explained.
Saved by a time zone: “It was fortuitous for my career that this happened while the prime minister was on a visit to China … they weren’t going to wake her to say your junior minister has resigned, so between the leader of the House of Lords and No.10 and the chief whip they managed to square it all out so hopefully it didn’t cause [Theresa May] too much trouble when she woke up in the morning and found out what had happened.”
Violence in NI: The murder of Lyra McKee, the journalist who was killed the evening before Bates set off from Belfast on Good Friday, was the dominant theme of the first week of his walk, he said. “It is not directly linked to the purpose of the walk, but there are powerful messages there about the importance of doing all we can to bring about reconciliation to ensure that our institutions are working correctly, so that our society functions and we don’t give way to violence.”
Not in our name: Bates praised the way the community itself has said “No, we are not going back [to the violence of the troubles,] not in our name.” He added: “They are the ones who have been at the fore … they have got no political leadership, but the people have taken ownership of that and I think it is all the more powerful because they have done that.”
Rebuilding our relationship with Dublin: Until he traveled across the border and met a dairy farmer in Lusk on the Irish border concerned about tariffs post Brexit, Bates said he “hadn’t quite picked up almost the despair amongst our friends in the Republic of Ireland” about Brexit. “There is a lot of damage being done not only to our country, but there is a lot of damage being done to our closest friends and our relations with them. At some point we need to think how we get those relationships repaired, it is almost in my view becoming a bigger issue than how or whether we leave under Brexit.”
On the PM’s position as leader: Bates, who worked in the Home Office with Theresa May, said it was not the right time to change Tory leader. “If you have ever been in a relationship with anybody and it has ever broken down and you want to repair it, I promise you the last thing you need to start talking about is moving house or changing job or doing anything else … what you need to do is restore the relationship and often the decisions you make together will be easier.”
**A message from Barclays: We’re backing the U.K.’s smaller businesses, the backbone of our economy. Our support package includes a £14 billion lending fund for SMEs, over 100 Brexit clinics across the country, and promoting our national network of on-the-ground relationship managers and industry experts. Unveiling the package of support, Group CEO Jes Staley, said: “Barclays stands ready to help local businesses in towns, cities and rural communities, up and down the country, during this period of uncertainty.” We are proud to be part of the fabric of the United Kingdom, where we help the 23 million customers and almost one million businesses who put their trust in us, every day. #BackingtheUK**
Shadow Social Care Minister Barbara Keeley broadcast round: BBC 5Live (6.50 a.m.) … BBC 4’s Today program (8.40 a.m.) … Sky’s All Out Politics (9 a.m.).
Also on the Today program: Writer and philosopher Roger Scruton (7.50 a.m.); Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (8.10 a.m.); Former Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell (7.30).
BBC Breakfast: Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland (6.40 a.m.) … former Home Office Minister Pauline Neville-Jones (7.10 a.m.) … Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (7.40 a.m.) … Lib Dem deputy leader Jo Swinson (8.30 a.m.)
Also on All out Politics: Polly Toynbee, columnist for the Guardian and Asa Bennett, Brexit commissioning editor at the Telegraph (The View 9.15 a.m.) …. Luis Quiroga, spokesperson, Partido Popular UK … Celia Maza de Pablo, London correspondent for the Spanish Daily Mail (9.30 a.m.) … Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP and European election candidate (9.45 a.m.) … Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP and Brexit spokesperson (10 a.m.) … Lucy Fisher, defense correspondent at the Times … Paul Gibson, former head of counter-terror at the U.K. Ministry of Defence (10.30 a.m.) … David Kogan, author of “Protest and Power: The Battle For the Labour Party” (10.45 a.m.)
On LBC Radio: Bob Kerslake, former head of the civil service (7.05 a.m.) … Jonathan Shaw, former head of cyber security at the U.K. Ministry of Defence (7.10 a.m.) … Mark Wild, chief executive of Crossrail (7.40 a.m.) … Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats (8.30 a.m.)
On TalkRADIO: Former Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind (7.08 a.m.) … Nazir Afzal, former chief prosecutor for the North West, Ché Donald, vice chair of the Police Federation (7.20 a.m.) … Tory MP Julian Lewis (8 a.m.) … Tory Brexiteer Peter Bone (8.20 a.m.) … Change UK MP Sarah Wollaston (8.30 a.m.) … journalist James Ball (9.30 a.m.).
Politics Live (BBC2, 12.15 p.m.): LBC Presenter Nick Ferrari … former SNP MP and Progress Scotland Chair Angus Robertson … Green Party co-leader Siân Berry … the Adam Smith Institute’s Sophie Jarvis.
Any Questions? (BBC Radio 4, 8 p.m.): Mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham … Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry … Liberal Democrat welfare spokesperson Christine Jardine … and the Sun’s Harry Cole.
Have I Got News for You (BBC1 9 p.m.): Guest hosted by actor David Tennant with panelists Zoe Lyons and Tory MP Johnny Mercer.
Reviewing the papers tonight: BBC News Channel (10.45 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.): Telegraph women’s editor Claire Cohen and Deltapoll co-founder Joe Twyman… Sky News (10.40 p.m. & 11.30 p.m.): Daily Mirror columnist Susie Boniface and the FT’s Sebastian Payne.
TODAY’S FRONT PAGES
(Click on the publication’s name to see its front page.)
City AM: Sainsburied
Daily Express: End this sickening injustice
Daily Mail: Olympic star Mo ‘punched me in Gym’
Daily Mirror: No MMR jab … no school
Financial Times: Failure of Deutsche merger talks
i: Calls for police to investigate ministers over security leak
Metro: New bomb alert for Sri Lanka
The Daily Telegraph: Ministers deny being source of Huawei leaked
The Guardian: Ultimatum to Ministers on Huawei leak investigation
The Independent: A knife attack in Britain every 12 minutes
The Sun (not online): £4m Lotto Plot
The Times: Fee paying schools ‘save the tax payers £20bn’
TODAY’S NEWS MAGS
The Economist: South Africa’s best bet
BEYOND THE M25
RESPONDING TO THE YELLOW VESTS: French President Emmanuel Macron announced a range of measures, including tax cuts and public sector reform last night in a bid to turn the page on five months of Yellow Jackets protests. POLITICO’s Rym Momtaz reports.
SNUBBED: President Donald Trump has announced he will be skipping the White House Correspondents’ Dinner for the third year in a row, and has ordered his whole staff to boycott it. POLITICO’s John Harris and Daniel Lippman say the dinner, which is accompanied by a four-day marathon of surrounding parties, is “at best, in a semi-flaccid state.”
From Sri Lanka
TRAVEL WARNING: The U.K. government advised against all but essential travel to Sri Lanka following the Easter Sunday bombings that killed about 250 people, including eight Britons. The BBC writes up the story.
THANK POD IT’S FRIDAY
Chopper’s Brexit Podcast: The Telegraph’s Chris Hope is joined by Brexit minister Martin Callanan, Brexit Party Candidate Claire Fox and Dinah Glover, the Conservative association chair leading a controversial attempt to oust Theresa May.
EU Confidential: POLITICO’s Ryan Heath and Nazan Gökdemir, a journalist from the Franco-German TV station ARTE, interview European Commission president hopeful Manfred Weber.
The Times Red Box Podcast: Matt Chorley is joined by Jo Tanner, a former adviser to Boris Johnson, and columnists Matthew Parris and Hugo Rifkind.
Brexitcast: Playbook’s own Jack Blanchard joins the BBC Brexitcast team.
E!sharp: Paul Adamson talks to Susannah Wellford, CEO & founder of Running Start.
YOUR WEEKEND IN POLITICS
SUNDAY SHOWS LOOKAHEAD: On the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Tory Party Chairman Brandon Lewis, Labour’s National Campaign Coordinator Andrew Gwynne and Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson.
INDEPENDENCE DAY: The Scottish National Party hold their spring conference in Edinburgh on Saturday. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will speak at 2.45 p.m.
SPANISH ELECTIONS: Spain goes to the polls on Sunday to vote in the national election. The big question is: How many seats will Vox — the country’s insurgent far-right party — get? POLITICO’s Diego Torres reports.
BEST OF LUCK: To everybody doing the London Marathon this weekend. Sixteen MPs will be lining up — seven each for the Tories and Labour and two Scottish National Party MPs.
MPs on the run: Look out for Tory MP Tom Pursglove … Tory MP James Duddridge … Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns … Tory MP John Lamont … Tory MP Andrew Bowie … Tory MP James Morris … Tory MP Rehman Chisti … Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire … Labour MP Nic Dakin … Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth … Labour MP Paul Williams … Labour MP Ruth Cadbury … Labour MP Stephanie Peacock … Labour MP Chris Evans … SNP MP Neil Gray … SNP MP David Linden.
From the lobby: Bloomberg’s Alex Morales … the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman … the Sun’s Matt Dathan and Business Insider’s Tom Colson will also be on the start line.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: Sunday is Ed Balls Day — the weirdly remembered anniversary of the day the former shadow chancellor typed his name into Twitter to look for articles mentioning his name, but accidentally tweeted it instead.
Westminster weather:☁️🌥 🌦 Bring your brolly, light rain is forecast. Highs of 15C.
Travel: Crossrail — the new Elizabeth Line — will be delayed … potentially until March 2021, it was reported yesterday. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is not impressed.
Farewell: No. 10 aide Molly Milton-White departs Downing Street today after two years as private secretary to director of comms Robbie Gibb.
New boss at the Economist: The Economist Group announced yesterday that Lara Boro, currently chief executive of Informa Intelligence, will become the publisher’s new chief executive, replacing Chris Stibbs.
Last chance: The deadline for the Anthony Howard Award for Young Journalists 2019 is 11.59 p.m. tonight. Past winners include Eleni Courea, Dulcie Lee, Patrick Maguire, Henry Zeffman, Ashley Cowburn and Lucy Fisher.
Spotted: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt nearly didn’t make it to lunch with the U.K. parliament press corps yesterday. He was found wandering toward the press gallery bar Moncrieff’s, not realizing its canteen has been turned into offices.
Happy birthday to: Harrow East MP Bob Blackman … Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards … PCS trade union General-Secretary Mark Serwotka … Former Tory MP Victoria Borwick … U.S. First Lady Melania Trump … And Labour peer Alan Haworth.
Celebrating over the weekend: Former Justice Minister Andrew Selous … St Helens South and Whiston MP Marie Rimmer … Argyll and Bute MP Brendan O’Hara … Department of Work and Pensions’ Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield … The Sun’s Westminster correspondent Harry Cole … King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands … Former Tory MP Chris White.
PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: London Playbook Editor Jack Blanchard … Esther King … producer Manon Jacobs.
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