Starmer says Kurt Zouma should be dropped over cat cruelty

In his BBC interview Keir Starmer also said that the West Ham defender Kurt Zouma should be dropped after the video emerged of him dropping, kicking and slapping his pet cat. Asked if Zouma should be dropped, Starmer replied:

Yes he should be dropped. I don’t know what they were thinking in playing him the other night. That was just a mistake. It’s such a bizarre thing to be so cruel like that. It’s very, very odd, but I think the club needs to do the right thing, which is to drop him.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tells @bbclaurak West Ham should drop Kurt Zouma over his “cruel” cat video.

Listen to #BBCNewscast tonight on BBC Sounds

— BBC Sounds (@BBCSounds) February 10, 2022

Starmer tells Unite Labour won't be influenced by its funding withdrawal threat

Keir Starmer has recorded an interview with the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, in which he has restated Labour’s support for Nato, as he did in his Guardian article. (See 4.50pm.)

In a second move likely to anger the left, he hit back at Unite for threatening to withdraw funding from Labour over a pay dispute involving bin lorry drivers working for Labour-run Coventry council. Asked whether he was worried by the threat, he said:

The Labour party I lead is not going to be influenced by threats from anybody, whoever they are. And that’s just an absolute matter of principle for me. So this is very, very straightforward. It’s not about the the particulars of a dispute here or dispute there. I am not prepared for the Labour party I lead to be threatened by anyone. Period, full stop.

Keir Starmer’s Guardian about Nato (see 4.50pm) has understandably divided Labour opinion. Here is reaction from two advisers who used to work for Jeremy Corbyn.

From James Schneider, Corbyn’s former communications director

Starmer’s one trick: attack the left.

Boring and childish at this point.

— James Schneider (@schneiderhome) February 10, 2022

From Matt Zarb-Cousin, Corbyn’s former press officer

Starmer routinely punches left, not because it’s particularly interesting or appealing to the public, but because it’s a method Labour leaders can use to signal to the establishment media and corporate interests that their priorities would not be threatened by a Labour government

— Matt Zarb-Cousin (@mattzarb) February 10, 2022

And here is reaction from two figures on the Labour right.

From Tom Watson, the former deputy leader

“Keir Starmer accuses Stop the War coalition of siding with Nato’s enemies”. And reaffirms Labour’s historic commitment to NATO.

— Tom Watson (@tom_watson) February 10, 2022

From Andrew Adonis, the former transport secretary (and the author of a biography Ernest Bevin, one of the founders of Nato)

“I regard both the Ns – Nato and the NHS – as legacies of that transformational Labour government that we need to be proud of and to protect.” Spot on by ⁦@Keir_Starmer

— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) February 10, 2022

Stop the War says Boris Johnson is just “grandstanding” on Ukraine to distract attention from his domestic difficulties. It is holding a rally tonight, where Jeremy Corbyn, the former Labour leader, is speaking.

The crisis around #Ukraine has seen Johnson's govt grandstanding at every occasion to take the spotlight off domestic troubles and cling to the coattails of a US administration stoking tensions abroad.

Join our meeting TONIGHT opposing any push to war:

— Stop the War (@STWuk) February 10, 2022

Starmer accuses Stop the War coalition of siding with Nato’s enemies

Keir Starmer has launched an outspoken attack on the Stop the War coalition, in which Jeremy Corbyn is a leading figure, effectively accusing the campaign group of siding with Russia against Nato. My colleague Heather Stewart has the story here.

Here is Starmer’s Guardian article containing his comments.

And here is the extract about Stop the War.

Nobody wants war. At first glance, some on the left may be sympathetic to those siren voices who condemn Nato. But to condemn Nato is to condemn the guarantee of democracy and security it brings, and which our allies in eastern and central Europe are relying on, as the sabre-rattling from Moscow grows ever louder.

That’s why the likes of the Stop the War coalition are not benign voices for peace. At best they are naive; at worst they actively give succour to authoritarian leaders who directly threaten democracies. There is nothing progressive in showing solidarity with the aggressor when our allies need our solidarity and – crucially – our practical assistance, now more than ever. The kneejerk reflex, “Britain, Canada, the United States, France – wrong; their enemies – right”, is unthinking conservatism at its worst.

To truly stop war, you need to show you are serious about standing up for peace, that you are serious about keeping your promises to your friends, and that you will always stand up to those who threaten.

The conclusion of Boris Johnson’s whirlwind European trip took place at Warsaw’s presidential palace where he was greeted by the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, PA Media reports. PA says:

They exchanged warm words, with the prime minister repeating that Britain stands ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Poland and its eastern Nato allies.

Discussions then took place between Johnson, Duda and their advisers. A number of Polish ministers were also present.

The talks are due to close the trip, with the prime minister scheduled to fly back to London onboard a chartered plane after the meeting.

Boris Johnson with the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.
Boris Johnson with the president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, at the presidential palace in Warsaw. Photograph: Piotr Molęcki/East News/REX/Shutterstock


Commander of the UK contribution to the Nato enhanced forward presence mission in Estonia and Poland, Colonel Dai Bevan, walking with Boris Johnson and the Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki during their visit to Warszawska Brygada Pancerna military base near Warsaw.
Commander of the UK contribution to the Nato enhanced forward presence mission in Estonia and Poland, Col Dai Bevan, walking with Boris Johnson and the Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki during their visit to Warszawska Brygada Pancerna military base near Warsaw. Photograph: Reuters


Nadine Dorries has ended legal restrictions keeping the Times and the Sunday Times separate, PA Media reports. PA says:

The culture secretary announced she had formally released News UK, which publishes both newspapers, from legal undertakings to keep the two publications as separate entities.

It comes after News UK submitted an application requesting the secretary of state to release the company from the arrangement, which stated the newspapers must be kept separate and editorially independent under the supervision of six independent directors.

The requirements were designed to protect media plurality when Rupert Murdoch bought the titles in 1981, when he already owned the Sun and the News of the World.

Changes were made to the arrangement in 2019 to allow for sharing of journalistic resources between the two publications and to strengthen the arrangements relating to the independent national directors.


Johnson says Major's claim that he has 'shredded' UK's reputation abroad 'demonstrably untrue'

Here are the main lines from Boris Johnson’s pooled TV interview.

  • Johnson said Sir John Major’s claim this morning that he has “shredded” Britain’s reputation abroad (see 3.37pm) was “demonstrably untrue”. He explained:

If you look at what the UK is doing to bring the world together, if you talk to our friends in Lithuania, in Ukraine where I was the other week, or here today in Poland, you can see that actually it is the United Kingdom that has been working for months to warn people about what was happening - and I’m afraid we’ve been sadly proved right in what we were saying.

It’s the United Kingdom that has been working to bring countries together, not just in the sanctions package that we want to see, but also in making sure that we fortify Nato’s eastern frontier in the way that we are doing.

  • He refused to say whether he had broken lockdown rules, saying he would have “plenty to say on that in due course”. But it was not a topic he wanted to discuss today, he said, because he was focusing on Ukraine.
  • He said that there was “an automatic package of sanctions ready to go” if Russia attacks Ukraine.
  • He said sanctions should include the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, going from Russia to Germany. He said:

We all know how difficult that it for some of our friends and we all know that, particularly right now with the spike in gas prices, it will be tough to say ‘no’ to Nord Stream 2.

But I think it is absolutely right that we need to make progress on that. That is a very, very important priority.

Boris Johnson with his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, meeting with British military engineers stationed in Poland today.
Boris Johnson with his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, meeting with British military engineers stationed in Poland today. Photograph: Pawel Wodzynski/East News/REX/Shutterstock

Sky News is broadcasting an interview with Boris Johnson from Poland. Beth Rigby, Sky’s political editor, is doing a pooled interview on behalf of all broadcasters, and she is asking him repeatedly about partygate.

She says Dame Cressida Dick, the Met commissioner, said today most of the 50 Downing Street staff getting letters from partygate investigation could end up receiving fines. She asks Johnson if he is worried about that.

Johnson says he will have plenty to say about that in due course, but that today he wants to focus on Ukraine. Rigby tries again, but she gets the same answer.

Johnson tries to wind up the interview, but Rigby asks him to reply to Sir John Major’s claim today that Johnson has “shredded” Britain’s reputation abroad. This is one question on domestic politics that Johnson is willing to engage with. It is “demonstrably untrue”, Johnson says.

This is what Major said in his speech.

Unfortunately, that trust is being lost, and our reputation overseas has fallen because of our conduct. We are weakening our influence in the world.

We should be wary. Even a casual glance at overseas comment shows our reputation is being shredded. A nation that loses friends and allies becomes a weaker nation.

And when ministers attack or blame foreign governments, to gain populist support at home, we are not taken seriously. Megaphone diplomacy merely increases hostility overseas. International trust may not be easy to regain.

Boris Johnson in Poland
Boris Johnson in Poland Photograph: Sky News


Conor Burns, the Northern Ireland minister and another Johnson loyalist, has also taken a swipe on Twitter at Sir John Major.

Just out of a really enjoyable school visit and Q&A with young people to find I have missed yet another of John Major’s ‘rare’ interventions. Leaving it there. 🤐

— Conor Burns (@ConorBurnsUK) February 10, 2022

Nick Timothy, chief of staff to Theresa May in her first year as prime minister, has also had a go.

Who does John Major think he’s helping?

— Nick Timothy (@NJ_Timothy) February 10, 2022

The two tweets provide an interesting insight into the pathology of Tory feuding. Burns is an uber Johnson loyalist. Timothy is anything but; many of those most opposed to Johnson served under May, and Timothy recently wrote: “If [Johnson’s] party allows [Johnson to stay on], the Tories will invite upon themselves public disdain and eventual defeat.” But Burns and Timothy are both Brexiters, and for them their dislike of Major because he’s a remainer trumps almost everything.

According to the FT’s Max Seddon, the talks between Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, and Sergei Lavrov, her Russian counterpart, were even more icy behind the scenes than when they appeared together at their press conference. (See 12.58pm.)

Things behind the scenes were even worse, according to @ElenaChernenko.

Lavrov said, "Do you recognize Russia's sovereignty over Rostov and Voronezh oblasts?"

Truss said the UK would "never" do so – before the ambassador told her they're not in Ukraine

— max seddon (@maxseddon) February 10, 2022

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford tests positive for Covid

Mark Drakeford, the Welsh first minister, has tested positive for Covid, a spokesperson has confirmed. The spokesperson said:

The first minister of Wales has tested positive for coronavirus after taking a PCR test.

He is self-isolating and working remotely.

Vaughan Gething, the Welsh government’s economy minister, will host the three-weekly coronavirus regulations review due to take place on Friday in Drakeford’s place.

Johnson says lesson of history is that, when Poland is threatened, UK is threatened too

Boris Johnson has just held a press briefing now with his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki. In his opening remarks Johnson said:

I’m here because Poland is absolutely critical to our collective European security and the lesson of the last 100 years is that when Poland is threatened with instability or aggression on the borders, then we’re all threatened and we’re all affected.

He said the UK and its allies were trying to de-escalate tensions.

But he said the UK would not accept a world “in which a powerful neighbour can bully or attack their neighbours”.

We need to work together now to achieve de-escalation, to persuade Vladimir Putin to de-escalate and to disengage.

We won’t accept, Poland and the UK, won’t accept a world in which a powerful neighbour can bully or attack their neighbours.

And a country like Ukraine should be free to decide what organisations it joins, Johnson said.

Russia wants an assurance that Ukraine will never join Nato.

Johnson and Morawiecki left without taking questions.

Boris Johnson (L) with the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki.
Boris Johnson (L) with the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki. Photograph: Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images


Labour has demanded a review of how fraud is tackled in the UK, amid concerns over a drop in the number of specialist prosecutors, PA Media reports. PA says:

New figures show specialist fraud staff at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decreased from 224 at the end of 2015 to 167 at the end of 2021, according to the shadow solicitor general, Andy Slaughter.

But Alex Chalk, the solicitor general, insisted the CPS was “taking the fight to fraudsters” and also highlighted work done elsewhere by the government to recover taxpayers’ cash.

The Conservative peer, Theodore Agnew, resigned last month from his ministerial posts over what he described as the “schoolboy” handling of fraudulent Covid-19 business loans.

The shadow attorney general, Emily Thornberry, said in a statement: “We need root and branch reform of how we tackle fraud as a country, from making it easier to prosecute wrongdoing by the major corporations to including scam ads in the scope of the online harms bill. Fraud is the UK’s number one crime, and it’s high time we treated it as such.”


Met chief says stopping illegal parties was not job for police guarding No 10

In her interview with Eddie Nestor on BBC Radio London, Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissioner, said it was not the job of officers guarding Downing Street to prevent illegal parties.

She would not say whether the police officers who protect the building knew about the gatherings now being investigated by the Met because they seem to have broken lockdown rules. But she went on:

I would say one thing to you, which is that my officers are there primarily, with firearms, to keep people safe from terrorists, from armed attackers and the like. That is their primary job.

I do not ask them, and I’m not going to start asking them, to patrol the corridors of Whitehall looking for, you know, what might be going on in offices.

That is not appropriate. We don’t do it in any other environment. We wouldn’t come marching into the BBC to do that.

But Dick also said the current police investigation would cover what officers at the gate at No 10 knew about the parties taking place.

Sturgeon says masks will no longer be compulsory in Scottish secondary school classrooms from end of month

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, has said the requirement for children and teachers in secondary schools in Scotland to wear face coverings in class is being scrapped from the end of this month.

She told MSPs during FMQs that the change would apply to teachers and pupils, and would come into place from 28 February, when all schools will have returned from the half-term break.

As PA Media reports, Sturgeon said the decision to remove the masks in classrooms came after “reducing case rates” for coronavirus in secondary school-aged children, as well as the decrease in hospital admission rates among all ages.

Nicola Sturgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images


John Major just 'stale old corporatist' still bitter about Brexit, says Johnson ally Zac Goldsmith

Zac Goldsmith, the environment minister and a friend of the Johnsons (the PM and his wife stayed in Goldsmith’s Spanish villa last year), has hit back at John Major following the former PM’s speech this morning. Goldsmith said Major was just a “stale old corporatist” who was still bitter about Brexit.

Goldsmith’s father, Sir James, set up the Eurosceptic Referendum party in the 1990s which made a modest contribution to Major’s electoral defeat in 1997 (but paved the way for the much more successful referendum campaign almost two decades later).

A stale old corporatist who delivered 7 years of autopilot govt & a thumping defeat at the polls... & is still struggling to come to terms with the country’s decision to leave the EU.

John Major’s intervention has zero to do with covid rules (or democracy!)

— Zac Goldsmith (@ZacGoldsmith) February 10, 2022


New Russian sanctions law to take effect today, MPs told

James Cleverly, the Foreign Office minister, told MPs earlier that a law allowing sanctions against Russia to be directed at a wider range of individuals and organisations will take effect today. He said:

As the foreign secretary set out on January 31, we are now laying legislation to broaden the designation criteria for the Russia sanctions regime.

As minister for Europe, I have signed that legislation which we will lay before parliament and intend to come into force this afternoon.

We are toughening and expanding our sanctions regime in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This legislation will significantly broaden the range of people, businesses and other entities that we can sanction in response to any further Russian aggression.


Met commissioner says she's transforming force and has no intention of resigning

Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan police commissisoner, has said she wants rogue officers in the force to “get out now”. Speaking on BBC Radio London, she said she was “seething angry” about the recent revelations about racist, misogynist and homophobic messages exchanged by officers. She said:

There is no place in the Met for sexism or racism or homophobia, for abuse of trust or for bullying, and in the last few days I have gone out extremely strongly to my colleagues and told them enough is enough.

This is a fantastic police service. It is hugely capable in so many ways, but its reputation has been tarnished by the awful things that you were hearing about there in relation to the impact team at Charing Cross and also, some other awful things have happened and come to light in the last several months.

So I am absolutely determined that we will be getting out there and rooting out any further individuals.

I’ve already said: If you have those attitudes or behaviours, get out now. Otherwise, we will find you and I have a whole new team which will be helping me root out individuals and, indeed, where there are dysfunctional or toxic teams, rooting those out too.

Dick also said she had no intention of resigning over the scandal. She said:

I have absolutely no intention of going and I believe that I am, and have been, actually for the last five years, leading a real transformation in the Met.

We have a service now which is, I’m absolutely certain, more professional, fairer, more transparent, more accountable and closer to its communities and more effective in, for example, reducing violent crime, which has been going down year-on-year-on-year in almost every category, bucking the national trends.

Cressida Dick arriving at the BBC studios in London this morning.
Cressida Dick arriving at the BBC studios in London this morning. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA


Boris Johnson has arrived in Warsaw and has been taken by motorcade to the chancellery of the Polish prime minister, PA Media reports. PA says:

Johnson is due to receive an official welcome from his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki.

The pair are then due to hold talks about tensions with Russia before giving statements to the press in Poland’s capital.

They will then travel to a military base to meet Nato armed forces, including UK troops.

Boris Johnson arriving in Warsaw this afternoon.
Boris Johnson arriving in Warsaw this afternoon. Photograph: Daniel Leal/AFP/Getty Images


Russsian foreign minister accuses Truss of not hearing his concerns

At his joint press conference with the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, Sergei Lavrov, her Russian counterpart, claimed the west was using Ukraine against Moscow. He also accused Kyiv of attempting to rewrite agreements intended to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

He also accused Truss of not hearing his concerns. He said:

I’m honestly disappointed that what we have is a conversation between a dumb and a deaf person. It’s as if we listen but we don’t hear.

Truss restated her warning that an invasion would have severe consequences for Russia. She said:

There is still time for Russia to end its aggression towards Ukraine and pursue the path of diplomacy. But Nato is very clear that if that path is not chosen there will be severe consequences for Russia, Ukraine and the whole of Europe.

Oliver Carroll, a UK correspondent based in Moscow, thinks Truss did quite well in her encounter with Lavrov, who has been Russian foreign minister for almost 20 years and who is regarded as one of the toughest diplomats in the world.

Thought that was a fascinating contest — a hedgehog and fox dual. Truss doggedly kept to the script. Lavrov tried to throw every idea — some sane, some not — into the mix. She appeared to get under his skin at times. Certainly not the mauling some expected

— Oliver Carroll (@olliecarroll) February 10, 2022

But Lionel Barber, the former Financial Times editor, has a different take.

Lavrov - Putin’s Gromyko - eats Liz Truss alive on camera, dismissing her as an ignorant lightweight who spends too much time on social media. Easy to have anticipated this payback !

— Lionel Barber (@lionelbarber) February 10, 2022

And this is from ITV’s Emma Burrows.

This presser has not gone well. Sergey Lavrov has just briskly walked off, leaving @trussliz on her own at the podium. He said talking to her was ‘like talking to a deaf person’ & said what Russia does in its own territory is ‘not her business.’ She’s now got lunch with him…

— Emma Burrows (@EJ_Burrows) February 10, 2022
Liz Truss with Sergei Lavrov in Moscow today.
Liz Truss with Sergei Lavrov in Moscow today. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images


Johnson has not yet been contacted by Met police over partygate, says No 10

Here are the main points from this morning’s No 10 lobby briefing.

  • Boris Johnson has not yet been contacted by the Met police in connection with the partygate investigation, No 10 said. Last night the Met said it would be contacting more than 50 people from Downing Street and elsewhere in Whitehall in connection with the inquiry.

The PM’s spokesperson said that, if Johnson is contacted, No 10 will confirm this “given the significant public interest”. But it will not release the same information about officials.

  • The spokesperson did not challenge John Major’s claim that Johnson and his staff did break lockdown laws. (See 11.45am.) In the past No 10 has said the PM did not break the law. But today the spokesperson said: “There’s a Met investigation under way on these events, I simply wouldn’t seek to comment.”
  • The spokesperson said Johnson would not be getting personal legal advice from government lawyers in relation to the police inquiry. He said:

With regards to the prime minister, he won’t be receiving bespoke personal legal advice from the government legal department in that regard.

When it comes to the civil service there are processes in place in terms of general broad support for civil servants, but I think the same approach broadly will remain.

  • The spokesperson declined to accept Major’s claim that Downing Street’s response to the partygate allegations looked “distinctly shifty”. Asked about this claim, the spokesperson said:

The prime minister wanted the full details of this to be looked into firstly by Sue Gray and he wants the Met investigation to be concluded as well. The prime minister initiated the investigation into these events.

This is what Major said on this issue in his speech.

At No 10, the prime minister and officials broke lockdown laws.

Brazen excuses were dreamed up. Day after day the public was asked to believe the unbelievable. Ministers were sent out to defend the indefensible – making themselves look gullible or foolish.

Collectively, this has made the government look distinctly shifty, which has consequences that go far beyond political unpopularity.

No government can function properly if its every word is treated with suspicion. A report by the Constitution Unit of UCL tells us that the public trust the courts more than the civil service; the civil service more than parliament; and parliament more than the prime minister.


Q: Do you think Boris Johnson’s government will suffer the same fate as yours did over sleaze in the 1990s?

Major says he is not going to predict what will happen.

But he says the sleaze allegations when he was PM either related to individual behaviour, or to things that had happened in the past, like arms to Iraq, that related to decisions taken in the 1980s which only came to light in the 1990s.

But he says it is important to speak out. He says the UK has had a political system “as clean ... as any country I know”, but that what is happening now is “nibbling away” at that.

And that’s it. The Q&A is over.

John Major (right) being interviewed by the IfG director, Bronwen Maddox
John Major (right) being interviewed by the IfG director, Bronwen Maddox Photograph: Sky News

Q: Do you think the UK would still be in the EU today if you had granted a referendum on Maastricht?

Major says that before the Maastricht treaty was negotiated, he got parliament to approve his negotiating position. He got a majority of about 500 to 100, he says. He says he delivered on what it said. And he said he was able to tell other EU leaders that, because his mandate had been approved by parliament, he would deliver on what he negotiated.

But when he went back to parliament, a new group of MPs said the mandate did not matter, he says.

There was no reason to have a referendum, he said.

And when the referendum did take place in 2016, just 37% of the electorate backed the vote to leave, he says.

He says it would have been “utterly dishonourable” for him to have held a referendum on Maastricht having told EU leaders that parliament would back what they were offering.

Q: Do you regret creating the Conserative Eurosceptic movement with Maastricht?

Major expresses surprise. He says the Eurosceptic movement went back to the 1970s.

Major says in the past it would have been British PM having five-hour meeting with Putin, not French president

Major says Britiain’s influence in the world has diminished under Boris Johnson.

He says he welcomes the fact that Liz Truss is in Moscow today. And he says Johnson had a “brief conversation” with Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, recently.

But he says Emmanuel Macron, the French president, had a five-hour meeting with Putin in person. “That would have been us years gone by,” he says.


Major says NI protocol 'one of worst pieces of negotiation in recent history'

Newsnight’s Nick Watt asks if Major thinks Johnson lied about the implications of Brexit. And he asks Major how he would respond to supporters of the PM who would say this is just Major pursuing a 30-year vendetta against Johnson since the days when he caused trouble for the Major government as the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent.

Major says that as a Brussels correspondent Johnson’s reporting was “often mistaken”. He says the Foreign Office once offered to brief him before he published a story. Johnson replied that this would be “one phone call too many”.

He says he does not know whether or not Johnson’s claim that Brexit would save £350m a week for the NHS was an intentional lie, but he says he has not noticed that money materialising.

And, asked about Johnson’s claims about Brexit and Northern Ireland, Major says the Northern Ireland protocol was “arguably one of the worst pieces of negotiation we have seen in recent history”. He goes on:

It does help if you sign treaties if you understand them before you sign them.


Major says Johnson should resign if he has broken the law

In his speech Major said: “At No 10, the prime minister and officials broke lockdown laws.”

When pressed on this in the Q&A, Major appears to backtrack a little, and says he would be happy to await the results of the police inquiry into these events.

But he says Johnson should resign if he is found to have broken the law.

Asked whether any PM should have to resign if found to have broken the law, Major replies: “That has always been the case.”


Major says Johnson's plan for 'Office for the PM' sounds like gimmick

Asked about Boris Johnson’s plan to set up an Office for the Prime Minister, Major says he thought one existed already. It sounds “a little like a gimmick”, he says.


Sir John Major is taking questions now.

He says that if Margaret Thatcher had tried to do some of the things that Boris Johnson is doing, the cabinet secretary would have told her she couldn’t. He says that does not seem to be happening now. If people are giving him advice like that, and he is ignoring them, then those officials should resign, he says.

UPDATE: Major said:

If Mrs Thatcher in her time had been seen to behave in the way the present prime minister has, I can tell you what would have happened.

The cabinet secretary would have been around straight away to tell her she couldn’t do it and so would Mr [William] Whitelaw, Lord Carrington, Sir Geoffrey Howe and many other senior and weighty member of the cabinet.

If I had done it I would have had Douglas Hurd, Ken Clarke, Michael Heseltine, never mind others in No 10, telling me, ‘You just cannot do that’.

Nobody in cabinet, nor indeed the cabinet secretary, seems to be saying that to the present prime minister and that is a weakness in No 10.


Major says Patel's borders bill plan to criminalise migrants unfair and 'decidedly un-British'

Sir John Major’s speech is mostly about standards, and why he believes Boris Johnson and his government have undermined the norms essential to a healthy democracy.

But he also included a powerful passage attacking the plans in Priti Patel’s nationality and borders bill that criminalise entering the UK without authorisation to seek asylum. He said:

[The bill] also proposes to criminalise the migrants themselves.

We should search our souls before doing this.

Can it really be a crime to be frightened; homeless; desperate; destitute; fleeing from persecution, or war, or famine, or hardship; and to cross half the world on foot and dangerous waters in an unsafe boat, in the hope of finding a better life?

Of course, if the numbers are too large, this creates an appalling problem for local communities. But surely, to seek sanctuary from an unbearable life cannot – morally – be treated as a crime?

Yet, the government’s border bill proposes to punish asylum seekers who take an unsanctioned route, with a jail sentence of up to four years.

There must be a better way to protect areas such as Kent, than filling our prisons with miserable unfortunates, whose only real crime is to seek a better life.

Prison – for these refugees – is punishment without compassion.

I do sympathise with the awful problem facing the government. But these proposals are not natural justice, and are decidedly un-British.

I hope the government will reconsider.

Sir John Major making his speech at the IfG.
Sir John Major making his speech at the IfG. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images


John Major says Johnson broke lockdown laws and is creating mistrust

Sir John Major, the former Conservative prime minister, is delivering a speech to the Institute of Government thinktank accusing Boris Johnson of breaking lockdown laws and undermining the standards that uphold democracy. He has disliked Johnson since the 1990s, when Johnson was one of the rightwing journalists critical of his leadership, but even by his standards this is strong stuff.

Major’s office released the text in advance to journalists, and my colleague Peter Walker has the story here.


Johnson says UK could offer further military support for Ukraine if Russia invades

Here are the main points from Boris Johnson’s press conference this morning with Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general.

  • Johnson said the Ukraine crisis is reaching its “most dangerous moment”. He said:

Our intelligence, I’m afraid to say, remains grim. We’re seeing the massing of huge numbers of tactical battalion groups on the border with Ukraine.

This is probably the most dangerous moment in the course of the next few days in what is the biggest security crisis Europe has faced for decades.

But he said he did not think Vladimir Putin had definitely decided to invade Ukraine.

I honestly don’t think a decision has yet been taken but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible that something absolutely disastrous could happen very soon indeed.

  • He would not rule out the UK giving further military support to Ukraine in the event of an invasion. Asked if he would authorise military support for an insurgency in Ukraine against Russian invaders, he replied:

We will consider what more we can conceivably offer. The Ukrainians are well prepared, there are things we’ve offered that they in fact don’t seem to need because they think they have them in enough numbers already.

It’s possible, I don’t want to rule this out, but at the moment we think the package is the right one. But I want to stress it would be an absolute disaster if it was to come to that and if there was to be serious bloodshed on Ukrainian soil.

  • He said talks with Russia could cover issues like transparency about Nato exercises, force posturing and the stationing of missiles, as well as Russia’s breach of the Intermediate-Range nuclear forces area. He went on:

All those are subjects for discussion and far, far better to begin a discussion now than to have a catastrophe.

  • Stoltenberg said he had written to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, proposing further talks. He said:

This morning I have sent a letter to foreign minister Lavrov reiterating my invitation to Russia to continue our dialogue in a series of meetings in the Nato-Russia council to find a diplomatic way forward.

We are prepared to listen to Russia’s concerns and ready to discuss ways to uphold and strengthen the fundamental principles of European security that we all have signed up to.

Nato will not compromise on core principles - the right of each nation to choose its own path and Nato’s ability to protect and defend all allies.

Boris Johnson, left, gestures with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg during their joint press conference.
Boris Johnson, left, gestures with Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg during their joint press conference. Photograph: Daniel Leal/AP

Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, is currently holding a press conference with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, after their talks in Moscow.

She accused Russia of “attempting to destabilise Ukrainian democracy” and argued that its threats levelled against Ukraine were counterproductive. She said:

These acts have actually had the effect of strengthening Nato’s resolve and turning the Ukrainian people further away from Russia.

Liz Truss at her press conference in Moscow
Liz Truss at her press conference in Moscow Photograph: Sky News

Johnson refuses to say if he will resign if found to have broken law

At the press conference the BBC’s Laura Kuensssberg asked Boris Johnson about Ukraine, but also whether he would resign if he were found to have broken the law over lockdown-busting parties at No 10.

Johnson refused to say. In response to the question, he just said:

On your point about what’s going on at home, that process must be completed and I’m looking forward to it being completed, and that’s the time to say more on that.

When Kuenssberg pressed him a second time for an answer, Johnson replied: “We are going to wait for the process to be completed”.

The Times has reported this week that allies of Johnson are saying that he won’t resign if he is found to have broken the law. But today the paper quotes an unnamed Tory saying this may be impossible. In their report Steven Swinford and Fiona Hamilton say:

A senior Conservative MP said that those who believed that the prime minister could survive were “deluded”, adding: “We are supposed to be the party of law and order. We can’t have a prime minister who has received a criminal penalty. A criminal penalty in any normal world should be the end.”


Johnson says UK's commitment to European security 'unconditional and immovable' at Nato HQ

Good morning. Boris Johnson is in Brussels this morning where he has been meeting Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, at Nato HQ. They have been holding a press conference, and Johnson used his opening remarks to say that the UK’s commitment to European security was “unconditional and immovable”. These are from the Mirror’s Pippa Crerar.

Boris Johnson says it's not just about Russia, it's about upholding Nato alliance.

PM says UK's commitment to European security is "unconditional and immovable" as confirms plans for more troops, planes & ships.

"The risks are v big and this is a v dangerous moment".

— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) February 10, 2022

Boris Johnson says intelligence on Russian threat to Ukraine remains "grim".

He warns: "This is probably the most dangerous moment in what is the biggest security crisis Europe has faced for decades."

— Pippa Crerar (@PippaCrerar) February 10, 2022

I will post more from the press conference shortly. Later Johnson is visiting Poland.

Keir Starmer is also visiting Brussels to stress Labour’s support for Nato.

I am proud to re-affirm Labour’s commitment to NATO and the principle of solidarity with Britain’s allies.

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) February 10, 2022

Here is the agenda for the day.

10.30am: David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, asks a Commons urgent question about Russian sanctions legislation.

Around 11am: Anneliese Dodds, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, asks a Commons urgent question about Randox contracts.

11am: Sir John Major, the Conservative former prime minister, gives a speech on trust and standards in government.

11am: Dame Cressida Dick, commissioner of the Metropolitan police, takes questions from listeners on BBC Radio London.

11.15am: Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary, gives a speech on Labour’s priority for business.

12pm: Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, takes questions from MSPs.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

Alternatively, you can email me at



Andrew Sparrow

The GuardianTramp

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