Weirdos, misfits and why I had to check my dog’s horoscope

In the week of Sabisky, most Tories saw no problem. Neither did Herbert Hound

Monday

Dominic Cummings’s programme to recruit more “weirdos” and “misfits” into No 10 got off to a cracking start with the appointment of “Mystic” Andrew Sabisky, the self-styled superforecaster. Just weeks after Sabisky started work, several newspapers did a cursory trawl of his social media posts and discovered that he had a tendresse for racial eugenics and enforced contraception for working-class teenage girls.

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When the storms hit, will Johnson and co help you? It’s the new postcode lottery | Jonathan Watts

This government’s response to the climate crisis appears to be: some of you will have to fend for yourselves

As British high streets and farm fields lie under water this week, Boris Johnson has repeatedly been urged to put on his wellies, go out and listen to flood victims.

So far though, his response has been more about tin ears than rubber boots: during Storm Dennis the prime minister was reportedly holed up in a 17th-century mansion in the Kent countryside.

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The Tories have evolved as the left plays the same old tune | Owen Jones

Johnson and Cummings are able students of the new right that blends culture war with a raid on leftwing economics

In the age of David Cameron and George Osborne, the left’s arguments seemed straightforward. Here was a slash-and-burn assault on the public realm, and an ideologically driven one at that.

Despite initial claims that an attempt to drive government spending back to 1930s levels was simply an unavoidable necessity to save Britain from the fate of Greece, Cameron would later admit the objective was a permanently “leaner” state. At the centrepiece was an onslaught against the welfare system that targeted disabled people and, over time, low-paid workers, accompanied by an unrelentingly vicious campaign to demonise benefit claimants.

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Jeremy Corbyn keeps door open to shadow cabinet role

Labour leader says he would ‘see what it is’ before deciding on any offers after departure

Jeremy Corbyn has held open the possibility he could stay on as a Labour frontbencher after stepping down as party leader, declining to rule out the idea of serving in the next shadow cabinet.

Asked about the possibility during a visit to flood-hit areas in south Wales, he said that if offered a frontbench post he would “see what it is”.

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Tory MPs to warn against raising fuel duty in budget

Backbenchers alarmed at plan under consideration to increase tax by about 2p a litre

A group of Tory MPs is planning to warn the Treasury against a mooted rise in fuel duty at the budget, amid wider alarm within the party that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are prepared to raise taxes on 11 March.

Backbench MPs plan to write to the chancellor calling for a fuel duty cut or freeze and highlighting Johnson’s claims during the election campaign that he had “no intention” of raising fuel duty, which was repeatedly frozen during George Osborne’s years as chancellor.

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Conservative majority sent us on a shopping spree? Pull the other one | Larry Elliott

‘Boris bounce’ theory is disproved by industry, with CBI painting relatively downbeat picture

Tills are ringing merrily in the high streets and it is all down to Boris Johnson. Thanks to the prime minister the dark clouds of uncertainty are now scudding away and a grateful nation feels free to start spending again.

Really? Sure, there was a chunky rise in retail sales in January but in the latest three months – a better guide to the underlying trend – they were up by just 0.8% on the same period a year earlier, the weakest annual growth since 2013.

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The Conservatives’ immigration plan puts ideology before economics | Tom Kibasi

The cause of low wages isn’t EU freedom of movement, but the erosion of employment rights and collective bargaining

The government’s new immigration plan, which aims to move away from relying on influxes of cheap labour by closing Britain’s borders to “non-skilled” workers, is based on a flawed understanding of how the economy works. It reveals the risks of privileging ideology over economics, the hallmark of Conservative governments since the 1970s.

Related: Immigration: firms will need to train more UK workers, says Priti Patel

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Rebecca Long-Bailey vows to make it Labour policy to scrap Prevent

Leadership candidate says anti-extremism programme has alienated Britain’s Muslims

Rebecca Long-Bailey has vowed to make it Labour policy to scrap the anti-extremism programme Prevent if she is elected to replace Jeremy Corbyn as party leader.

The shadow business secretary said she wanted to ban the scheme and then conduct a review aimed at setting up a new government-funded system that involves Muslim leaders, in an effort to stop the “alienation” of Britain’s Muslim communities.

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Councils say 1m homes given go-ahead but not yet built

LGA says stripping councils of planning powers not the answer to housing shortages

Councils have hit back at possible government moves to strip them of planning powers to speed up housebuilding by releasing analysis that shows more than a million so-far unbuilt homes have already been granted planning permission in the last decade.

The Local Government Association said its analysis found 2,564,600 units had been given planning permission since 2009-10 and 1,530,680 had been constructed. It said this showed councils were not the block to the government’s target of creating 300,000 new homes a year.

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Eugenics row rears it’s ugly head in No 10: Politics Weekly podcast

Rowena Mason is joined by Faiza Shaheen, Helen Lewis and Will Tanner to discuss No 10’s hiring of advisor Andrew Sabisky, Labour’s deputy leadership race, and the importance of “difficult women” in Westminster.

After it was revealed that Downing Street advisor Andrew Sabisky had previously suggested that intelligence is linked to race, and made other controversial comments, he promptly resigned. However, his recent hiring by chief aide Dominic Cummings’ in a drive to employ more “misfits and weirdos” in No 10 has called into doubt their vetting process. It has also raised questions about Cummings’ role in Downing Street and what Boris Johnson’s refusal to comment means.

Earlier this week, a report revealed that ‘Red Wall’ voters might not have liked Labour’s plans to tax the very wealthy more, and instead prefer the idea of taxes being fairer across the board - supporting modest tax hikes and closing of loop-holes.

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Sabisky row: Dominic Cummings criticised over ‘designer babies’ post

PM’s aide dragged further into row over decision to hire adviser with eugenicist views

Boris Johnson’s senior aide Dominic Cummings has been dragged further into the row over No 10’s decision to hire an adviser with eugenicist views after it emerged that he suggested in his own writings that the NHS should cover the cost of selecting babies to have higher IQs.

In a blogpost covering his views on the future of “designer babies”, Cummings said he believed rich would-be parents would inevitably select embryos with “the highest prediction for IQ” and floated the idea that “a national health system should fund everybody to do this” to avoid an unfair advantage for the wealthy.

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The Guardian view on a new immigration policy: make it more than tabloid fodder | Editorial

Boris Johnson saw immigration as the driver of Brexit, and has produced a policy that taps into questions about the nature of work

The government’s proposed immigration reforms represent perhaps the biggest change to British life since the Maastricht treaty almost three decades ago gave Europeans the freedom to live and work in this country. It is to be regretted deeply that free movement of people, a high-minded ideal that was intended to make the European Union more popular, was weaponised to make membership so unpopular that the British public voted to leave the bloc. In its place, Boris Johnson proposes new routes for high-skilled migrants to enter Britain while closing the door on large-scale unskilled immigration.

For Mr Johnson, having decided immigration was the driver of the Brexit vote, there is no trade-off between controlling borders and trading with Europe. From next year businesses can no longer recruit from outside the UK for unskilled workers and will only offer jobs to those with an A-level or above and who are to be paid more than £25,600 annually. There will be a level playing field for immigrants from the EU and the rest of the world. For certain privileged categories – the plans cite foreign nurses – there will be exceptions. The government says overall numbers of migrants will fall. Ministers might be right, but it’s not certain. If the economy suffers – the sudden loss of EU workers may lead to widespread labour shortages – then we may see ministers U-turn and relax the rules further to let numbers rise.

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Whitehall’s take on Johnson’s reshuffle: this prime minister is insecure | The civil servant

The political conformity of this new cabinet is spreading fear in Whitehall – and may derail the government’s ambitions

In 2016, the then civil service chief Sir Jeremy Heywood gave evidence to the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war. He challenged a committee of MPs with a question: “Do you have a culture in which senior officials, ministers and external experts feel it is possible to offer an alternative view to the prevailing wisdom so to avoid groupthink?” Four years later, the answer to that seems to be: no, we don’t.

Heywood died in 2018 aged 56, saluted by politicians of every stripe as the pre-eminent public servant of his generation. I have no doubt that if he’d been in the room last week with Boris Johnson’s fledgling cabinet, he too would have joined the chorus of dismay gurgling through Whitehall.

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Caroline Lucas investigated over election fundraisers

Former Ukip candidate complained Lucas breached code of conduct by offering rewards for donations

Parliamentary standards authorities are investigating Caroline Lucas for allegedly breaching rules by offering a tour of the House of Commons in an election fundraiser after a complaint from a Conservative MP.

Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion since 2015, insisted she has done nothing wrong, but said she cannot comment further as investigations by the parliamentary commissioner for standards are confidential.

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Grime has given black British politics a voice. Now the mainstream has to listen | Kehinde Andrews

Dave’s powerful performance at the Brit awards was a landmark moment for the music and politics of black Britain

Dave’s performance of his song Black at the Brit awards marked the moment that grime truly gave full-throated and undeniable voice to the politics of black Britain.

Related: Dave attacks Boris Johnson in Brit awards performance: 'Our prime minister's a real racist'

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The starting gun has fired on Brexit trade talks – and we’re already running out of time | Mujtaba Rahman

For all the tough rhetoric of Johnson’s henchmen, the timeline and the EU’s busy inbox could be bad news for Britain

As the UK and EU gear up for intensive trade negotiations in March, the temperature is already rising. Just this week Boris Johnson’s most senior Europe adviser and lead negotiator, David Frost, delivered an unflinching message to his EU counterparts. Echoing previous statements by cabinet ministers such as Michael Gove and former chancellor Sajid Javid, Frost reiterated the government’s unwillingness to be bound by EU labour, social, environmental and fiscal norms in the future, even as the EU insists this will be the price for the kind of trade deal – zero tariffs, zero quotas – the government seeks.

And today, home secretary Priti Patel has fleshed out plans for a new immigration regime that will come into effect at the end of this year, when free movement of labour ends. At its heart, the system is designed to significantly reduce low-skilled immigration from the EU (by 140,000 per year). There is even chatter in Whitehall circles of introducing a fingerprint system for EU workers in the future.

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There’s nothing ‘sensible’ about Priti Patel’s heartless immigration proposal | Maya Goodfellow

The proposed English language requirement is simply a dogwhistle based on muddled logic

“Let’s pretend we were inventing the world from scratch today and you decided you were going to have borders,” said Benjamin, a migrants’ rights activist, to me a few years ago in a cafe in London. “On what basis would you make the decision about who gets to move and who doesn’t get to move through borders? Surely you wouldn’t make them in the way the world is constituted today?”

We live in a world where your gender, race and class shape whether you can move and how you’re treated if you do. While many of us strive to change that, too many of our politicians are entrenching that system and making things worse. This is precisely what the Conservatives’ immigration proposals would do.

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Eugenics refuses to die – and now Andrew Sabisky has put it back in the headlines | Angela Saini

Today’s right still turns to 19th-century pseudoscientific ideas of ‘human breeding’ to avoid responsibility for social problems

If there’s one thing policymakers love, it’s simple technical ideas that can solve complex problems at a stroke. They’re always on the lookout for what the American nuclear physicist, Alvin Weinberg, in 1965 termed the “technological fix”, be it a high-speed rail network to solve regional inequality, or nuclear power as an answer to the climate crisis.

This week, one old and discredited technological fix has reared its head: eugenics, the pseudoscientific belief that humans can be bred to “perfection” in the same way we breed cattle or domestic pets for particular traits. Developed by Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, in the 19th century, it was promoted by politicians and intellectuals in Britain, before becoming the justification for millions of involuntary sterilisations globally, mainly of the poor and disabled, and the Nazis’ devastating programme of “racial hygiene” that culminated in the Holocaust.

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Dave attacks Boris Johnson in Brit awards performance: ‘Our prime minister’s a real racist’

South London rapper, who won album of the year for Psychodrama, also called for support for the Windrush generation and castigated the media over their coverage of Meghan Markle

South London rapper Dave has accused Boris Johnson of being a racist on stage at the 2020 Brit awards.

Performing Black, a freestyle track that charts the difficulties of black Britons and celebrates black excellence, he added a newly written final verse that began: “It is racist, whether or not it feels racist, the truth is our prime minister’s a real racist / They say – ‘you should be grateful, we’re the least racist’ / I say the least racist is still racist.”

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Boris Johnson agrees divorce settlement with Marina Wheeler

Wheeler and Johnson, who have four children, separated in 2018 after marrying in 1993

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, and his estranged wife Marina Wheeler are preparing to end their marriage after reaching an agreement over money.

A family court judge on Tuesday approved a financial settlement and gave Wheeler permission to apply for a divorce decree which will bring the marriage to an end.

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The new UK immigration rules tell employers to suck it up

Points-based plan makes it hard for low-skilled migrants to work – it pulls up the drawbridge rather than takes back control

The self-employed Polish plumber will be a thing of the past. Uber taxis in Britain’s big cities could be harder to come by. Anybody who wants to hire a Lithuanian nanny will have to pay them £500 a week – and make sure the taxman knows about it.

Welcome to the government’s new points-based immigration system, which will administer the biggest structural change to the UK labour market in decades when it comes into force next year.

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