London Playbook: Ukraine 1 year on — Tick, tock — SNP nominations close
Presented by Intuit
By ELENI COUREA
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Good Friday morning. This is Eleni Courea. Rosa Prince will be back Monday.
DRIVING THE DAY
ONE YEAR ON: On February 24, 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent shockwaves through Europe and the rest of the world. Few Western leaders thought then that Ukraine’s defenses would hold for longer than a few days — but hold they did. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will lead the nation in a minute’s silence at 11 a.m. today as the world celebrates Ukrainian resistance and considers what should come next.
First, read this: In the last couple of hours, our POLITICO colleagues in D.C. have published an extraordinary account of the days and weeks that led up to the invasion, told from the perspective of some of the key players in the U.S. and U.K. governments. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, CIA chief Bill Barr and our very own Liz Truss — who was U.K. foreign secretary at the time — reflect on how the West scrambled to respond to the crisis.
Head in the sand: Truss recalls how some European powers didn’t believe repeated warnings that Vladimir Putin was planning a full-scale invasion. “We were sitting on very serious, good intelligence, but — for whatever reason — that wasn’t necessarily the shared view of what was going to happen,” she said. “I don’t think any of us wanted to believe.”
Facing Lavrov: Truss defends her fraught trip to Moscow a fortnight before the invasion, during which Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov tried to humiliate her at a combative press conference and via hostile briefings. “This is something we’d discussed with our allies — that we would all try and visit Moscow and … get the message across that there was going to be no accommodation of any kind of invasion of Ukraine — that Russia would be seen as a pariah,” Truss said.
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In London: The PM will hold a video call with G7 leaders this afternoon. He will call for allies to move faster to give Ukraine a “decisive” edge in the conflict — the BBC writes up his trailed remarks. Boris Johnson reiterated his call for the U.K. to supply Ukraine with British Typhoon jets on Thursday, which the government insists are unsuitable.
In New York: Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is taking part in a special session of the U.N. Security Council. On Thursday, 141 countries voted in favor of a resolution condemning the invasion.
In Kyiv: Around a dozen MPs on the Ukraine APPG led by Bob Seely arrived in Ukraine last night, where they will meet government officials and members of parliament.
At your breakfast table: Today’s papers and news websites are packed with great writing on the conflict and what could happen over the next year. Team POLITICO in Brussels have a riveting account of how European leaders, including Estonian PM Kaja Kallas and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, experienced the lead-up to the invasion. Stoltenberg tells them: “When I went to bed, I was absolutely certain that I was going to be woken up late in the night, and that’s exactly what happened. I was told that they have started.” POLITICO’s Veronika Melkozerova traveled to Bucha to interview Valentyn Didkovsky, the 64-year-old Ukrainian territorial defense force volunteer who blew up a fuel tanker in a defining early battle of the war. The Economist harnesses satellite data to illustrate where fighting has taken place over the past year in minuscule detail.
No end in sight: Unherd’s Tom McTague detects a pessimism at the top of the U.K., French and German governments. “Most striking is how few hold much hope for a decisive victory for either side,” he says. “This general fear of inertia … is really a fear of the biggest strategic concern of all: losing the West’s support, particularly American support.” There are also growing concerns that China is considering getting more involved by giving arms to Russia, reported in the Times splash and Germany’s Spiegel.
End game: The Times’ diplomatic editor, Catherine Philp, who has done brilliant reporting in Ukraine over the past year, sets out six possible ways the war could end. The Telegraph splashes on an op-ed from the archbishop of Canterbury, who argues that Russia should not be treated like Germany after WWI when this is over.
On the airwaves: Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is doing a broadcast round and will be on the Today program at 8.10 a.m. Also this morning, Sky’s Tamara Cohen interviews Energy Secretary Grant Shapps and the Ukrainian family who have been living with him for the last 10 months via the government’s hosting scheme.
Elsewhere: Wallace will visit the training of Ukrainian troops in Catterick … Jeremy Hunt is at a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Chandigarh … and Keir Starmer is meeting Ukrainian communities in Cardiff, where he will record a pool clip at around 11.30 a.m.
TICK, TOCK: A decision by the European Commission and Council of the EU to ban their staff from using TikTok on work phones heaps pressure on the U.K. government, which now looks out of sync with both the U.S. and EU.
With amazing timing: Tory MP and TikTok star Luke Evans used the app on Thursday to broadcast the route and locations of security checks on Downing Street.
Here’s a fun fact: Playbook is told that Isaac Levido’s lobbying firm Fleetwood Strategy, which advises the Conservative Party, also works with TikTok.
Who else works with TikTok: Headland Consultancy, commended by PR Week for its “reputation campaign that put TikTok at the heart of British culture.”
Not buying it: Alicia Kearns, Tory chairwoman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, told POLITICO’s Stuart Lau: “We run the risk of being marooned as a tech security laggard amongst free and open nations. The government needs to review its policies and move to ban government officials and parliamentary staff from installing the app on any mobile phones utilized for work, if not any device.” Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith tells Stuart the U.K. is “lagging behind” and “trying not to take action that might upset China.”
Ministers active on the app … include Grant Shapps, the government’s energy secretary and communicator-in-chief, and millennial Leveling Up Minister Dehenna Davison. Thanks to Gen-Z Playbook reporter Noah Keate for digging them out. A spokesperson for TikTok said the EU’s move was “misguided.”
THE REVIEWS ARE IN: Keir Starmer’s five national missions were undeniably vague (we are assured there will be more detail in the coming months), omitted difficult policy areas like immigration and housing, and have as a result got a bit of a drubbing across many of the papers.
Now read this: Henry Zeffman gets to the nub of the matter in an analysis piece Playbook found in some dark recess of the Times website. He writes that while “the speech’s self-professed boldness felt at odds with its substance,” its significance is in demonstrating how Labour has reinvented itself. “The fact that the missions felt almost familiar, that the goals are plausibly deliverable and that Labour is a party determined not to make unforced errors on the glide path to government, might be the most radical thing of all,” he says.
Similarly: In her analysis, the Guardian’s Pippa Crerar writes: “We may not have learned much more about the detail of his plans than we did before, but he offered a first substantial glimpse of what a future Labour government might do.”
TODAY IN WESTMINSTER
ALL CHANGE, PLEASE: Katy Balls has an intriguing column in the Times reporting that there is likely to be a mass exodus of Tory MPs at the next election — while at the same time there is no shortage of interest from new candidates wanting to stand for the Tories. “In many ways, the year of defeat is an ideal time for the ambitious to enter politics,” she writes. “Cameron, Johnson and George Osborne were all in the 2001 intake (Lab majority: 167) and found that a party depleted, demoralised and in opposition offers ample opportunity for promotion.”
More on selections: Balls says CCHQ has started conducting interviews with would-be candidates. Those who score best on policy and communication rather will win a “VIP pass” that gives them the choice of any seat, while middling candidates will be handed marginals.
IMMIGRATION CRACKDOWN: International students will be banned from bringing their spouses and children to the U.K. unless they are studying “high-value” degrees under government plans, the Times reports.
DON’T STOP THE PRESS: Journalists are unconvinced by the Home Office’s attempts at redrafting its controversial espionage bill, which critics warn would hamper investigative reporting. Ministers have laid amendments to the National Security Bill intended to assuage concerns it could be used to criminalize reporters and whistleblowers. The Times’ Geri Scott, the Sun’s Natasha Clark and the Guardian’s Dan Sabbagh have write-ups.
PRIGOZHIN SAGA: Yevgeny Prigozhin — the Russian oligarch and Wagner Group founder who sued Bellingcat journo Eliot Higgins with the Treasury’s permission — used his mum’s gas bill to pass anti-money laundering checks, according to this eye-popping story by the FT’s Miles Johnson.
Ever weirder: OpenDemocracy’s Jim Fitzpatrick revealed last night that Discreet Law, the U.K. firm that is under investigation for representing Prigozhin, hired a solicitor fresh from serving a U.S. jail sentence for lying in the Trump-Russia election interference investigation.
SOME ADVICE: Also for OpenDemocracy, Lucas Amin points out that ministers are taking environmental advice from a water boss whose company has been fined millions for pumping sewage into British waters. Liv Garfield, chief exec of Severn Trent Water, sits on Defra’s Council for Sustainable Business.
HOUSE OF COMMONS: Sits from 9.30 a.m. with a day of Private Members’ Bills including Co-operatives, Mutuals and Friendly Societies Bill (Labour’s Mark Hendrick), Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill (Labour’s Yasmin Qureshi) and Electricity Transmission (Compensation) Bill (the Tory’s Liam Fox).
HOUSE OF LORDS: Not sitting.
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PARLIAMENT UNDER THE MICROSCOPE
PROXY WARS: POLITICO’s Esther Webber picks up concerns that MPs suspended over misconduct claims have been granted proxy votes — which are only meant to be for new parents or (on a trial basis) MPs suffering from serious long-term illness. The scheme runs on “good faith” arrangements with the speaker, with government whips stressing the decision to grant a proxy is nothing to do with them. The matter has however been brought to the attention of the procedure committee, which will be reviewing the pilot before it expires at the end of April.
CRYPTIC CRYPTO FIRM: A cryptocurrency investment firm linked to two APPGs appears to have disappeared, leaving investors fearing they have lost thousands of pounds. The Guardian’s Rowena Mason reports that Phoenix Community Capital established itself last year as a cryptocurrency project sponsoring one APPG, but its website went offline and the investment portfolios became inaccessible in September 2022. It raises fresh questions about the murky world of APPG funding that media outlets including POLITICO have been digging into.
WEEKEND LISTENING: For this week’s episode of Westminster Insider, host Ailbhe Rea goes for a jolly behind the scenes in the Lords, meeting everyone from hereditary peers to Paralympic gold medallists. She finds out how it really works, how it has changed over the years — and delves inside the battles over reforming it. Labour peer David Blunkett tells her that Keir Starmer should “think long and hard” about “obsessed” Gordon Brown’s recommendations for wholesale reform — and “avoid like the plague” the creation of an elected second chamber with the legitimacy to challenge the Commons.
BATTLE FOR SCOTLAND
TODAY IN SNP: The deadline for gathering nominations to become SNP leader closes at noon, POLITICO’s Andrew McDonald writes. The contest will kick off in earnest next week, so expect plenty of yellow-on-yellow action then. Thanks to the low threshold for nominations, it looks like all three candidates will get over the line, including gender rebel Ash Regan (h/t Gina Davidson), who will launch her campaign at 10 a.m.
Fordes in front: The first polling of the race suggests that Kate Forbes remains popular with SNP voters despite her socially conservative views. The poll, commissioned by BIG Partnership, found that 28 percent of voters supported Forbes, compared with 20 percent who backed Yousaf and 7 percent Regan. “Don’t know” won with 31 percent.
Gotta have faith, faith, faith: Notably, just 5 percent of SNP voters said they thought a leader’s faith or personal beliefs were important. Most cited the cost of living crisis and economy as priorities. The question is will the SNP’s 100,000-odd members, who are more politically engaged than the wider Scottish public, see things the same way?
ELSEWHERE BEYOND THE M25
GO LOCAL: Leveling Up Secretary Michael Gove is speaking at the Conservative councilors’ association conference in Leicestershire at 11.15 a.m.
LOVE, DC: David Cameron has expressed a newfound admiration for Abu Dhabi and its NYU outpost after being flown out to teach there for three weeks. “One of the questions in my course … is whether states and governments are capable of long-term thinking and delivering major projects that can transform their nation’s prospects,” Cameron writes for the National newspaper, which is owned by Abu Dhabi’s deputy PM. “There is little doubt that when it comes to the UAE, the answer is a solid ‘yes.’”
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Defense Secretary Ben Wallace broadcast round: Times Radio (7.05 a.m.) … Sky News (7.20 a.m.) … Bauer media clip (7.30 a.m.) … LBC (7.50 a.m.) … Today program (8.10 a.m.) … GMB (8.30 a.m.) … ITN media clip (8.45 a.m.) … GB News (9 a.m.).
Shadow Defense Secretary John Healey broadcast round: GB News (7.10 a.m.) … LBC News (7.20 a.m.) … Bauer media clip (7.30 a.m.) … Times Radio (7.45 a.m.) … Sky News (8.05 a.m.) … ITN clip (playing out shortly after 8.20 a.m.).
Also on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast: Former U.K. Ambassador to Russia and Afghanistan Laurie Bristow (7.10 a.m.) … Special Envoy and Coordinator of the Global Engagement Center at the U.S. Department of State James Rubin (7.40 a.m.) … Former Downing Street Director of Communications Guto Harri (8.05 a.m.) … Former diplomat at the Russian Federation’s mission to the U.N. Office in Geneva Boris Bondarev (8.10 a.m.).
Also on LBC News: Member of Ukrainian Parliament Lesia Vasylenko (7.20 a.m.).
Also on Times Radio Breakfast: Foreign Secretary James Cleverly (8.10 a.m.).
Also on GB News: Evening Standard Defense Editor Robert Fox (7 a.m.) … Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Mellor (8 a.m.) … Scottish Daily Mail pol ed Michael Blackley (8.15 a.m.) … Ukrainian MP Sviatoslav Yurash (9. 10 a.m.).
Also on Good Morning Britain: Actor Mark Hamill (7.25 a.m.) … Former MEP Stanley Johnson and broadcaster Cristo Foufas (both 7.50 a.m.) … U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (8.20 a.m.).
TODAY’S FRONT PAGES
(Click on the publication’s name to see its front page):
Daily Express: Queen’s ‘dismay’ at cuts to Dahl books.
Daily Mail: Camilla swipe at Dahl censorship.
Daily Mirror: Let them eat turnips.
Daily Star: Let them eat turnips!
Financial Times: Wall Street veteran picked to steer World Bank towards climate focus.
i: Sunak softens on NHS pay talks in bid to end strikes.
Metro: Heroes never give in.
POLITICO UK: ‘Oh my God, it’s really happening.’
PoliticsHome: Keir Starmer promises “mission driven” government as he sets out Labour priorities.
The Daily Telegraph: Russia must not be crushed in any Ukraine peace deal, says Archbishop.
The Guardian: ‘Vanished’ crypto firm sparks lobbying fears.
The Independent: 100,000 civilian deaths.
The Sun: Sheepskin G.O.A.T.
The Times: Ukraine’s year of blood.
TODAY’S NEWS MAGS
The Economist: The future of Ukraine.
THANK POD IT’S FRIDAY
EU Confidential: The POLITICO team discuss how Europe has changed in the year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Westminster Insider: POLITICO’s Ailbhe Rea investigates how the House of Lords really works.
Plus six of the best political podcasts to listen to this weekend:
Chopper’s Politics: Christopher Hope speaks to David Campbell-Bannerman about the grassroots efforts to deselect anti-Boris MPs, Tobias Ellwood on the war in Ukraine and DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson on the Northern Ireland protocol talks.
Inside Briefing: The IfG speaks to former top diplomat Peter Ricketts about the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
On the Couch: Lucy Beresford talks to Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski about life in Ukraine today.
Rock & Roll Politics: Steve Richards interviews Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson.
The Rundown: PoliticsHome’s Alain Tolhurst talks to Labour MP Charlotte Nichols and UK Hospitality’s Kate Nicholls about the crisis in the pub industry.
The Political Party: Matt Forde interviews Labour leader Keir Starmer.
WESTMINSTER WEATHER: Light rain with a gentle breeze throughout the day. Highs of 9C.
SPOTTED ON DEAN STREAT: There was some head-scratching last night at Doppo, an intimate Italian restaurant in Soho, after Kwasi Kwarteng walked out without settling his bill. “No one knows what to do, or who will pay,” a bemused fellow patron who tipped Playbook off just after 11 p.m. said. Another customer who witnessed the incident said Kwarteng’s companion, an antique dealer he had spent several hours with, ended up staying behind to discuss what to do with staff. The restaurant declined to comment — but a Tory wag said: “Clearly he manages his own finances as well as he does the country’s.”
Spotted on Wednesday afternoon: Kwarteng again, this time at the Nobu hotel knocking back either Bloody or Virgin Marys while in animated conversation, according to Thursday’s edition of Popbitch. “I guess everyone deals with grief differently,” Playbook’s mole remarked.
MEANWHILE AT THE SAVOY: A Swarovski crystal-studded portrait of Rishi Sunak was auctioned off for an eye-watering £25,000 at the Tory winter party at the Savoy last night, Guido Fawkes’ Christian Calgie reports. One look at Guido’s snap of the thing demonstrates that £25,000 can’t buy good taste. Other prizes included shooting at Warter Priory in Yorkshire for £40,000 and an F1 trip to Abu Dhabi for £50,000.
COOKERY CLASS: Inspired to “cherish the specialisms we have in this country,” Times Radio’s Matt Chorley is broadcasting live from Turnips restaurant in Borough Market from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. today. Tune in for advice from its executive chef on how to make the most of your turnips a la Thérèse Coffey.
NEW GIG: Nawal Al-Maghafi joins Newsnight as international correspondent.
WEEKEND TV GUIDE: Oscar-winning drama “The King’s Speech” is showing on BBC Two this Sunday at 10 p.m.
BIRTHDAYS: POLITICO’s own Emilio Casalicchio … Former Labour MP John Grogan … Retired crossbench peer Kathleen Richardson … Former Alliance leader David Ford … Teneo CEO Nick Claydon … Former Norwegian PM Erna Solberg.
Celebrating over the weekend: Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab … Former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls … Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd … Newcastle-under-Lyme MP Aaron Bell … Tory peer and former party Chairman Andrew Feldman … Retired Labour peer David Puttnam … Unaffiliated peer Lewis Moonie … Welsh government Climate Change Minister Julie James … Former DfE Director General Paul Kett … Former BBC Chairman David Clementi … Public affairs strategist Stephen Lynch … BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty … Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland … Transport Secretary Mark Harper … Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier turns 60… Crossbench peer Lynda Clark … Daily Mirror pol ed John Stevens … The Guardian’s political cartoonist Steve Bell … Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editor Zoya Sheftalovich, reporter Noah Keate and producer Grace Stranger.
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