MPs voted by 498 to 114 to approve the bill which will allow the UK government to begin negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union. Forty-seven Labour members – a fifth of the parliamentary party – defied Jeremy Corbyn’s three-line whip and voted against the bill. The SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats also opposed it. The only Conservative rebel was the former chancellor Ken Clarke, who said he was voting with his conscience; otherwise the many Tory remainers dutifully flocked into line. Boris Johnson said mysteriously that Britain would now be in a position to make 'an amazingly positive contribution to Europe'. Quite how he did not divulge. The right-wing press was in full bulldog mode this morning, the Daily Mail illustrating its front-page story with a photograph of Churchill’s statue in Parliament Square and accusing the 114 opponents of the bill of 'betraying the will of the people' (ignoring not only the principles of parliamentary democracy but the factual inconvenience that only 37% had voted in the referendum to leave the EU).
Rex Tillerson, an oil executive with the hard features we have come to associate with Trump’s men, was duly confirmed by the US Senate as secretary of state, a role that confers on him the status of America’s leading diplomat. The new regime announced that it was 'officially putting Iran on notice' in response to aggressive new moves by the Iranians, but failed to say what this vague threat meant. Trump fell out with Australia during an acrimonious telephone conversation with that country's prime minister. In Britain, a new 'Stop Trump Coalition' of artists and politicians said it hoped to bring a million people on to the streets of London for a demonstration against the state visit. One of Trump’s supporters in Europe, Marine le Pen, refused to repay €300,000 of EU funds that a parliamentary investigation decided she had mis-spent. Her friends in Ukip, Nigel Farage and the party leader Paul Nuttall, are among others now being investigated for alleged misuse of funds. When Farage spoke in the European Parliament, a fellow MEP behind him put up a notice saying: 'He’s lying to you'. France’s centre-right presidential candidate, Francois Fillon, was under increasing pressure to withdraw from the campaign over claims that his Welsh wife Penelope received large sums of public money for doing nothing. There was unrest in Romania.
After an alleged hit-and-run in Ayr in which a gifted local musician, Joan Price, 'a beautiful soul' according to her friends, was killed at the age of 59, two youths appeared in court charged with causing death by dangerous driving. One of them, Logan Knox, 19, faced additional charges of driving while banned and without insurance. A man in a cap, Geoff Ellis by name, disclosed plans to bring a new pop music festival to Glasgow Green in July, temporarily replacing T in the Park. Scotland’s first minister said she was looking for a young woman to mentor. The Greens said they were 'not prepared' to bring down the Scottish budget, upon which MSPs are apparently preparing to vote.
Three of the 13 main stories on the BBC 'news' website this morning concerned, directly or indirectly, the BBC. Ken Morrison, head of the supermarket chain of that name, checked out for the last time at the age of 85. When he was asked once how he chose sites for his stores, he replied: 'We get on a bus and we look for chimney pots'.