Newslinks for Sunday 31st January 2021

31 Jan

Vaccines 1) Zahawi pledges that the UK is “ready to help” the EU

“Britain stands ready to help the EU with its vaccination crisis, the vaccines minister said after Brussels abandoned its threat to block supplies at the border. In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Nadhim Zahawi said the focus is now on “collaboration” with the EU, adding that Britain has gone “out of our way” to help Brussels with its production problems and “will continue to do so”. The Government drew a line under the extraordinary diplomatic row over vaccine exports on Saturday after the EU promised Britain that it would not stop supplies from Pfizer’s Belgium factory reaching the UK.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • A year on, we’re more scared of Covid than ever – Sunday Times
  • Send surplus jabs to the Irish Republic urges Foster – Mail on Sunday
  • Union snubs jabs for teachers – Mail on Sunday
  • A GP surgery in St Austell vaccinated more patients in 24 hours than Latvia, Lithuania and Ecuador put together – Sunday Times
  • When will lockdown end? Three scenarios for the next few months – Sunday Times

Vaccines 2) Gove declares that relations will be “reset”

“The UK and European Union will “reset” relations after Brussels triggered a provision in the Brexit deal to control vaccine exports, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove has said. The government is confident that the EU will not block vaccines entering the UK. It comes after Brussels reversed its widely-condemned decision which could have seen checks at the Irish border. Mr Gove added the European Commission recognised its “mistake”. He said he had spoken with European Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič and the pair had agreed to put the people of Northern Ireland first.” – BBC

  • Calls for ‘vindictive’ von der Leyen to resign over Irish border debacle – Sunday Telegraph
  • Vaccines to be recorded in Dublin in compromise deal – Observer
  • Swayne may face disciplinary action – Observer

Vaccines 3) Johnson’s “double victory” forcing von der Leyen to withdraw threats

“Boris Johnson forced the EU into an extraordinary double climbdown during a dramatic late-night intervention to protect the UK’s record-breaking vaccine rollout. During two phone calls just 30 minutes apart, the Prime Minister made European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen ditch plans to stop 3.5 million doses of the Pfizer jab from reaching the UK from a factory in Belgium and abandon the ‘nuclear option’ of imposing a hard border on Northern Ireland to prevent them reaching the UK. Following his diplomatic victory, Britain yesterday recorded a daily record for first-dose jabs – 487,756 – to bring the total to almost 8.4 million. In his phone calls, Mr Johnson warned Ms von der Leyen that her actions risked denying millions of British pensioners their second Pfizer injections.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Second dose for millions is at risk, PM told EU chief – Sunday Times
  • Vaccine supply assault backfired spectacularly – Sunday Telegraph

Vaccines 4) European Commission’s allies hit back at critics

“Allies of von der Leyen have hit back against such criticism, however, saying the commission’s task was complicated by the need to square differences between member states with varying views of how much they were ready to pay. Some were also reportedly wary of the more experimental mRNA — messenger RNA — vaccines of Pfizer or Moderna, preferring Astrazeneca’s more conventional one. Either way, the results have been demonstrably disastrous: EU countries did not start vaccinating until a good three weeks after Britain and then, far from closing the gap with the UK, they have slipped further behind. The European Medicines Agency — which moved from London to Amsterdam in 2019 — delayed giving its approval to the Astrazeneca vaccine, a mainstay of its immunisation campaign and at the centre of last week’s vaccine war. It was finally granted on Friday.” – Sunday Times

  • WHO criticises EU over vaccine export controls – BBC

Vaccines 5) Hannan: For some remainers this has been a “Kronstadt moment”

“The European Commission elbowed aside its member states, which had begun their own procurement programmes, and insisted on negotiating en bloc for the 27. It moved slowly and bureaucratically, reportedly because it was holding out for vaccines produced by Continental firms. In the end, three months after Britain, it signed a contract with AstraZeneca similar to that which some of its nations had tried to sign earlier. As criticism mounted, it panicked and lashed out – smashing the principles of due process, private property and free trade in the process…For at least some British Remainers, the events of this week have served as what Western Communists used to call a “Kronstadt moment”. Kronstadt, the site of a naval mutiny against the Bolsheviks in 1921, became a shorthand for the moment when a previously loyal party member suddenly grasped the true nature of the Soviet regime.” – Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph

Other comment

  • The EU’s failure to secure life-saving jabs for its citizens is abject – Leader, The Sun on Sunday
  • So, Lord Adonis et al, what price Remain now? – Mark Francois, Sunday Telegraph
  • Brexit is done. We don’t need to bait Brussels – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times
  • Making a scapegoat of Britain can’t disguise the EU’s shambolic response to Covid-19 vaccine acquisition – Leader, The Observer
  • As a dyed-in-the-wool Remainer, I now wish I’d been a Brexiteer – Alan Cochrane, Sunday Telegraph
  • The lumbering EU monster panicked and showed its true nature – Leader, Mail on Sunday
  • This has been a sad and revelatory crisis for the EU – Leader, Sunday Telegraph
  • It’s time to look ahead – Leader, Sunday Times
  • We must not pin all our hopes on Covid vaccines alone – Paul Nuki, Sunday Telegraph

IDS to chair new review of EU regulation

“Boris Johnson has set up two task forces to kickstart the economy after lockdown. The PM will chair the National Economic Recovery Team alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak and other Cabinet ministers. NERT’s job will be to devise an action plan to be launched as soon as the main phase of vaccinations is complete. The plan will be unveiled by Mr Johnson in the summer or early autumn. A second task force, TIGER, will explore ways of taking advantage of our new-found regulatory freedoms on the first anniversary of Brexit. The Taskforce for Innovation and Growth through Regulatory Reform will be chaired by ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith alongside MPs George Freeman and Theresa Villiers.” – The Sun on Sunday

  • Sport faces crisis with the “end of gambling cash” – Sunday Times
  • Sunak may be trapped between the wings of his own party – Phillip Inman, Observer

UK applying to join Asia-Pacific free trade pact

“Britain is set to cash in on one of the world’s biggest trade deals as it formally opens its application to join the massive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Writing for the Sunday Express today, international trade secretary Liz Truss said that the massive opportunity for British businesses to join a £9 trillion free trade area is only possible because “we are no longer held back by the EU.” The 11 country bloc is one of the fastest growing free trade areas in the world set to overtake the EU in the next few years. The announcement comes as the UK celebrates one year since leaving the EU and becoming an independent trading nation. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed the move which will be the biggest Brexit bonus yet. ” – Sunday Express

  • Dynamic Pacific nations will unleash our potential – Liz Truss, Sunday Express
  • What is the CPTPP? – BBC
  • US trade deal ‘blown by Kim Darroch’ – Sunday Times
  • Tariffs on steel would be “very damaging” – BBC

Heywood warned Cameron against EU referendum

“The UK’s top civil servant during Brexit privately warned David Cameron that he would “open up a Pandora’s box of problems he couldn’t solve” by offering a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. Jeremy Heywood, who was Cabinet Secretary from 2012 to 2018, penned a personal memo alerting the then Prime Minister to the pitfalls of holding the vote. In her biography of him, entitled “What Does Jeremy Think?” and serialised in The Telegraph, his widow Suzanne describes the “almost unheard-of trip” he made to the office on December 30, 2012, to compose the note.” – Sunday Telegraph

Conservatives regain poll lead

“The Conservatives have regained the lead against Labour in the latest Opinium poll for the Observer after a week in which the total number of deaths from Covid-19 passed 100,000. The figures – showing the Tories on 41%, up four percentage points compared with two weeks ago, and Labour down three points on 38% – are a blow to Labour and will raise questions about whether the party’s progress has stalled under Keir Starmer. With the country in its third lockdown and the death toll passing such a grim milestone, Labour MPs and activists would have hoped to be surging ahead of Boris Johnson and the Conservatives.” – The Observer

Shadow Cabinet claimed first-class flights on expenses

“Labour’s Shadow Cabinet pocketed thousands in expenses during lockdown, billing taxpayers for first-class travel, TV licences — and hand gel. A Sun on Sunday probe reveals a dozen of Keir Starmer’s top team travelled in style since March totting up £14,061. Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner, who boasts of “standing up for working people”, spent £1,600 on 23 first-class tickets between London and her Manchester constituency since March. Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy blew £1,800 on 13 first-class journeys since May. The Wigan MP billed taxpayers for thousands in rent for a London flat, an office TV licence and £20 for hand-sanitiser. Shadow Business Minister Lucy Powell billed £390 for first-class trips.” – The Sun on Sunday

Russian Government faces Navalny protests

“Russian authorities have closed metro stations and are restricting movement in Moscow ahead of planned rallies in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Many restaurants and shops in the city centre will be closed and overground transport will be diverted. More than 4,000 people were arrested across Russia during rallies last week. Mr Navalny was jailed on his return to Russia after recovering from an attempt to kill him with a nerve agent.” – BBC

  • Putin misjudges his greatest threat, the people – Sunday Times

Church of England memo warns “20 per cent of worshippers may never return”

“The damage inflicted on the Church of England by the pandemic is revealed in a leaked internal document which warns up to 20 per cent of its regular worshippers may never return. It calls into question “the sustainability of many local churches” and the continued financial subsidy given to 5,000 loss-making parishes out of a total of 12,000. The document also warns that most dioceses intend to “prune [the] number of clergy and diocesan staff”. One bishop and another senior source said the number of paid priests could be cut by 10 to 20 per cent, as the church cuts costs by recruiting more unpaid clergy.” – Sunday Times

>Today: John Redwood on Comment: Let’s hear more debate about how the Church of England enjoys its privileges

Hodges: Give the Scots another referendum

“How is it that Boris, Michael Gove and their lieutenants – still proudly sporting the battle-scars of Brexit – have not learned the lessons of their own successful campaign? Why can’t they see they are replicating, with almost perfect symmetry, all the mistakes made by the Remainers? The first of these is the most basic. Like it or not, the referendum is going to happen. And the longer it’s delayed, and the longer politicians in Westminster are seen to be trying to delay it, the more certain it is it will be lost.” – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday

  • Sturgeon may seek vote on Scottish independence before Christmas – Sunday Times
  • If the referendum in 2016 had been pushed back significantly then history might have been different – Robert Colville, Sunday Times
  • “We can give the SNP and Labour a fright” claims  Scottish Greens co-leader – Scotsman

News in brief

  • Johnson has to go big on education – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • The Archbishop’s flawed understanding of Christianity – John Redwood
  • Does the Confederate flag symbolise identity or slavery? – Derek Gadd, The Article
  • Our children’s care system is failing – Stephen Skeet, Independent
  • The quiet collapse of Scottish unionism – Scott Hames, New Statesman

Newslinks for Saturday 30th January 2021

30 Jan

Johnson ‘spurns flag waving’ as UK sets global pace with vaccines…

“Boris Johnson was on Friday accused of wanting to start “a vaccine war” by a senior EU official as Brussels imposed export controls on jabs from the bloc. But after years of Brexit tension with Brussels, the British prime minister has spent the week trying to do the exact opposite. After being pilloried for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Johnson finds himself in the unusual position of having manoeuvred Britain into the position of being a global leader in the purchase and distribution of vaccines. “We gambled and it paid off,” said one ally of Mr Johnson on Friday. Britain now has orders for 367m doses of seven different vaccines in production or development and the good news kept coming this week for the prime minister. The UK has vaccinated more than 10 per cent of adults, compared with the EU’s 2 per cent, and encouraging results from two more trials this week raised hopes that vaccines by Novavax and Johnson & Johnson could come on stream in Britain later this year.” – FT

  • How British scientists put the UK ahead of the game – Daily Telegraph
  • Strategy ‘paying off’ as latest trials boost stockpiles – The Guardian
  • Jabs are slowing spread of virus already, early study shows – The Times
  • Government estimates 220,000 will be the true death toll of the pandemic – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Vaccine is our only way out so when you get the call to have it please, please take it – Nadhim Zahawi, The Sun
  • The jabs success story may help Johnson bounce back – Tom McTague, The Times

…as vaccine roll-out grinds to halt as shortages hit EU

“Vaccination plans across the European Union are unravelling as Brussels begins negotiations to acquire the latest jab to be backed by promising clinical trial results. The bloc’s failure to secure an advance order from Novavax, which appears to prevent 89 per cent of infections, has become emblematic of the sense of disarray in national capitals. Glitches in production of two vaccines and a shortfall in deliveries from Astrazeneca have prompted a crisis in some areas, with the regions around Paris and Madrid temporarily forced to stop giving first doses, and moving Jens Spahn, the German health minister, to declare: “Ladies and gentlemen, we are living in and with the greatest crisis since the Second World War.” Germany has warned it is facing shortages for at least another “ten hard weeks”; Italy says it is running ten days behind schedule.” – The Times

  • EU ‘declares vaccine war on Britain’ by demanding AstraZeneca diverts ’50m’ UK doses – The Sun
  • Commission backs down over Covid vaccine export controls – Daily Express
  • France and Italy suffer further blows as Moderna will deliver fewer doses – Daily Mail
  • Fury at Macron’s ‘nonsense’ claims about Oxford Covid vaccine – Daily Telegraph
  • Barnier tells Brussels to step back from Covid vaccine war – The Times

Ireland:

  • Bloc reverses course after Irish border curbs for vaccines trigger uproar – FT
  • Ex-Northern Irish Secretary denounces ‘almost Trumpian act’ – Daily Mail

More:

  • ‘Brexit was au revoir not goodbye’ – Interview, The Times

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: EU threatens war-time occupation of vaccine makers as AstraZeneca crisis spirals

“The EU sledgehammer is coming down. The European Council is preparing to invoke emergency powers of Article 122 against AstraZeneca and Big Pharma within days. This nuclear option paves the way for the seizure of intellectual property and data, and arguably direct control over the production process – tantamount to war-time occupation of private companies. This is Europe First pushed to another level. It takes the EU into the territory of 1930s methods and an authoritarian command economy. Charles Michel, President of the European Council, is being badgered by member states to take action before the escalating vaccine crisis mutates into a political crisis as well and starts to topple governments. He is offering them the most extreme option available in the Lisbon Treaty… Germany has become the hardest of hard-liners, departing ever further from its traditional role as a good global citizen and defender of markets.” – Daily Telegraph

  • No wonder the EU is trying to distract the world from its failings – Fleur Launspach, Daily Mail
  • Our vaccine success shows there is a way to stop the decay of the great British state – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • The day the bullies of Brussels went mad – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Jab triumph will allow us to be generous to a failing EU – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • EU’s block on life-saving Covid jabs bound for UK is an act of unforgivable hostility – The Sun
  • It is ill judged and risks undermining the global fight against the virus – The Times

Lift lockdown once most vulnerable are vaccinated, urges senior Tory

“The leader of the influential group of Tory MPs pressuring prime minister Boris Johnson over the UK’s Covid lockdown said on Friday that all restrictions should be eased once the most vulnerable groups had been vaccinated. Mark Harper, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative MPs, told the Financial Times’ Payne’s Politics podcast that politicians rather than scientists should determine the risk to society from the virus after everyone aged 50 and over have received the vaccine. “I think once you vaccinated certainly the top nine groups, and you’ve reduced 99 per cent of those that have died from Covid, and to reduce the level of hospitalisation by 80 per cent, it seems to me at that point, you’d struggle to make an argument for having any restrictions in place at all,” he said. Mr Harper’s views run contrary to the prime minister, who has said England should take a gradual path out of lockdown from March 8 — the earliest date when schools might be able to reopen.” – FT

  • Johnson ‘wants lockdown exercise rules relaxed’ but shops, gyms and hairdressers could stay shut – Daily Mail
  • Tiers set to return amid claims they could be ditched for a nationwide approach – The Sun
  • SAGE urges Downing St to make face masks compulsory outdoors in crowded areas – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Personal liberty is another, unsung victim of the pandemic – Camilla Cavendish, FT

Johnson reverses national security advisor appointment of Lord Frost

“The Prime Minister has reversed plans to make Lord Frost his national security advisor and appointed a Ministry of Defence mandarin, signalling an end to the “hard rain” on Whitehall. Boris Johnson announced that the peer, who led his negotiations on the UK’s exit from the EU and the subsequent bilateral trade deal, would instead become a representative for Brexit and international policy. The move followed a backlash when Lord Frost was first unveiled as Mr Johnson’s choice for one of the most senior security jobs in Government last June, with opponents complaining about his lack of experience in the domain. Eyebrows had also been raised at the decision to appoint a political adviser rather than a career civil servant. Critics pointed at the time to the influence of Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s then chief adviser, who is said to have warned a “hard rain” would fall on Whitehall.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cabinet faces firmer hand after a week of divisive leaks – The Times

Ministers 1) Britain can’t spend way to prosperity after Covid, Kwarteng warns

“Britain cannot spend its way to prosperity, the Business Secretary has warned amid a growing Tory debate over state spending in the run-up to the Budget in March. Kwasi Kwarteng, promoted to the Cabinet earlier this month, signalled that a squeeze on public spending is coming with the Government deficit, fuelled by Covid handouts, forecast to exceed £400 billion this month. Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is keen to rein in public spending and start setting out future tax rises in the Budget. But Tory backbenchers and several senior Government ministers are pushing for further public spending increases and believe this is the way to boost the economy in the wake of the pandemic. Speaking to The Telegraph, Mr Kwarteng insisted that a booming private sector was the way in which Britain will recover after the virus crisis… The comments come as the Government begins to turn its attention to a post-pandemic future.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Is Sunak set to extend the stamp duty holiday? – Daily Mail
  • economic impact ‘could kill an extra 40,000 people over 50 years’ – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • ‘We’re constantly looking at the glass being half-empty – actually it’s three quarters full’ – Interview, Daily Telegraph

Ministers 2) Badenoch under fire over tweets about journalist who sent her questions

“A government minister is facing criticism after publicly accusing a journalist of “making up claims” and creating disinformation for asking questions about a video campaign promoting the coronavirus vaccine programme. In a Twitter thread, Kemi Badenoch accused the journalist from HuffPost of “creepy and bizarre” behaviour, and published screenshots of questions sent to her MP’s office and to a ministerial press office, naming the reporter. In the wake of the tweets, the journalist concerned, Nadine White, had been forced to make her own Twitter account private as she was receiving so much abuse, HuffPost said. Badenoch, who serves both as exchequer secretary to the Treasury and as an equalities minister, said White was undermining trust in the vaccine programme by asking why the minister did not appear in a video promoting vaccine take-up in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities.” – The Guardian

Ministers 3) Patel criticises asylum seekers after fire breaks out at former barracks

“Home secretary Priti Patel branded the actions of asylum seekers being housed at a former military barracks in Kent on Friday as “appalling” and “deeply offensive” after fire broke out during a protest over conditions at the site, where hundreds have contracted coronavirus. The fire followed days of protests over conditions at Napier Barracks near Folkestone, which the Home Office has started using to accommodate some asylum seekers in preference to the usual system of housing them in hotels or flats. Residents have complained that dormitories in the disused military facility are overcrowded, allowing coronavirus to spread. The home secretary’s statement drew criticism from groups working with asylum seekers. Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, which represents people in immigration detention, questioned why Ms Patel had made the fire a political issue.” – FT

  • Channel migrants ‘set fire to Kent barracks’ after Covid outbreak – Daily Telegraph

Planning reforms ‘mean beauty will be in the eye of the council’

“Local communities will be given the power to set design standards for all new developments under plans to improve the look and quality of housing. Developers will have to make sure that all new properties adhere to the character of the areas where they are being built, under proposals being announced by Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary. Any planning proposal that does not meet the new criteria will be automatically rejected by local councils as part of efforts to eliminate “identikit” housing estates. Symbolically, the word “beauty” is to be included in planning rules for the first time since the system was created in 1947. The measures come in response to the Building Beautiful Commission that reported last year. It called for local people to be given much more say in setting standards for new homes in their areas and emphasising the importance of ensuring that new developments had adequate green space.” – The Times

  • All new streets set to be lined with trees to make more beautiful neighbourhoods – The Sun

Editorial:

  • A justified push for beautiful buildings cannot become another nimby’s veto – The Times

Salmond ‘torments Sturgeon’ over what she knew of assault claims

“While he was head of the Scottish National Party and Scottish government, Mr Salmond used his political skills to torment opponents, usually UK ministers. The focus of his ire is now Nicola Sturgeon, his former protégée and his successor in both roles. Senior SNP figures are increasingly concerned that the position of the first minister, who is facing two inquiries into her conduct around the investigations into Mr Salmond, is under threat in their war. It is easy to see why there is a desire to protect Ms Sturgeon. Research this week by YouGov for The Times found that she has a net favourability rating of +21 in Scotland, higher than her party at +8. Mr Salmond has a -60 rating, worse than Boris Johnson’s -54, and is unpopular even within the SNP, with 63 per cent of nationalist voters taking a dim view of him. Professor Sir John Curtice, the polling expert, said Ms Sturgeon was a priceless asset the SNP could not afford to lose.” – The Times

  • Johnson sinks push for another independence referendum – The Sun
  • First Minister ‘on brink’ as political analyst outlines path to SNP leader’s defeat – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Don’t wreck England just to foil Sturgeon – Matthew Parris, The Times

China will no longer recognise British national overseas citizens

“China has announced it will no longer recognise the passports of British national overseas citizens just hours after the UK launched its scheme to give passport holders a path to residency as political freedoms decline in Hong Kong. “From 31 January, China will no longer recognise the so-called BNO passport as a travel document and ID document, and reserves the right to take further actions,” the foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, told reporters, according to AFP. It was still unclear whether or not the decision would affect the possibly tens of thousands of people who had been planning to leave Hong Kong since the scheme was announced last summer in response to national security legislation. Hong Kong citizens and foreign residents are not required to show a passport when they depart Hong Kong international airport, instead using a smartcard ID.” – The Guardian

Newslinks for Friday 29th January 2021

29 Jan

Novavax: Johnson hails new British-made Covid vaccine after ‘spectacular’ trials

“Boris Johnson was celebrating last night the “spectacular” trial results of a British-made Covid-19 vaccine. Novavax announced that a UK study had suggested it was almost 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 and was effective against the new Kent variant. The company said that it was ready to submit its data to the regulator in what promises to add another significant boost to the vaccination programme. The NHS expects to administer fewer vaccinations this week because supply has fallen by about a fifth. A total of 7.9 million jabs have been given across Britain, with 7,447,199 first doses, up 282,812 on the previous day’s figures. Wednesday’s figures for England are down 21 per cent on the same day last week and it is understood that supplies to NHS England are lower this week than last by a similar amount, with some estimates putting the fall at 18 per cent. Officials said that next week’s supplies would increase again as part of a “lumpy” delivery schedule.” – The Times

  • New jab is 89 per cent effective and combats Kent variant, trial shows… – Daily Telegraph
  • …and we’ve ordered 60m doses – The Sun
  • Prime Minister insists Oxford jab does work on over-65s – The Times
  • Nimble vaccine task force that left global rivals trailing in its wake – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Three cheers for Kate Bingham

Sturgeon accused of siding with EU over vaccinations

“Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of siding with the EU in its battle with the UK over vaccine doses, with the Scottish First Minister pledging to publish confidential vaccine data despite warnings that the information could jeopardise the UK’s supply. Ms Sturgeon promised to publish the data – which reveals how many vaccine doses her nation expects each week – to counter claims that she is failing to rollout the vaccine in Scotland at speed. It led to allegations that Ms Sturgeon was “showboating” and “attempting to curry favour” with the EU. Boris Johnson urged her to reconsider, warning that UK must “continue to have national security of supply”. Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, argued it would be “deeply irresponsible” for Ms Sturgeon to put her politics ahead of the people of Scotland and them getting vaccinations.” – Daily Telegraph

  • First Minister’s excuses over slower vaccine rollout are beginning to wear thin – Daily Telegraph

More EU:

  • Britain seeks end to row with EU over diplomatic status of London envoy – FT

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: ‘Stronger together’ – Ministers put vaccine at the centre of its latest pro-Union push

Brussels say AstraZeneca contract guarantees them a supply of vaccines from British labs

“Brussels today stepped up its Covid-19 vaccine war with AstraZeneca by insisting their contract allows them to grab millions of doses made in the UK as the bloc unveils new powers that could stop Pfizer jabs destined for British arms crossing the Channel from Europe. Ursula von der Leyen, the German president of the European Commission, said the EU’s deal with the pharmaceutical giant is ‘crystal clear’ that supplies would come from four factories including two in Britain. The UK signed a deal with AstraZeneca in May for 100million doses all made at labs in Oxford and Staffordshire and put into vials at a facility in Wrexham. The EU signed up for 100million doses of the British-designed jab three months later in August. Ms von der Leyen said today that AstraZeneca, who warned Brussels this week that its first delivery at the end of March will be down 60 per cent, has offered ‘no plausible reasons’ for production problems.” – Daily Mail

  • If a vaccine trade war starts, disadvantages of leaving the bloc will loom – Daily Telegraph
  • Covid-19 vaccine exports face new EU restrictions as shortages bite – FT
  • EU threatens to publish AstraZeneca amid claims UK has legal right to first supplies – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Vaccines. The United Kingdom v a “rules-based organisation”.

Sunak defends his job-saving Eat Out to Help Out scheme as data shows no link to increased Covid cases

“Rishi Sunak has launched a full throated defence of his flagship Eat Out to Help Out scheme after data showed no link to rising Covid cases. The incredibly popular £849million scheme launched last August to keep the hospitality industry afloat has come under fire in light of the deadly second wave. More than 160 million punters were given 50 per cent off meals to try to get people back into struggling pubs and restaurants, with the scheme credited for getting 400,000 workers off furlough. Now data published by the Treasury shows areas with the high take up of the scheme also still had the low virus levels between August and October. The figures show places such as Westminster and Scarborough and North Devon had very high take-up of Eat Out to Help Out, but very low subsequent Covid cases.” – The Sun

Swayne refuses to apologise after claiming Covid-19 statistics were ‘manipulated’

“A Conservative MP has refused to apologise after he lent support to anti-vaccination campaigners and claimed that NHS statistics were manipulated. Sir Desmond Swayne, who was an aide to David Cameron when he was prime minister, told the Save Our Rights UK group to persist with their fight against government restrictions. In an interview from November obtained by Sky News, Sir Desmond said: “It seems to be a manageable risk, particularly as figures have been manipulated… We’re told there is a deathly, deadly pandemic proceeding at the moment… Michael Gove, Cabinet Office minister, told Sky News: “Sir Desmond is wrong. I work with Sir Desmond, I have great affection for him, but I’m afraid here he is completely out of order. I would hope that he issues a full and complete retraction and apology for what he said — it’s unacceptable.”” – The Times

  • Rayner urged to retract teachers are ‘more at risk of catching Covid’ claim – Daily Telegraph

Profile:

  • Swayne won’t be fazed by any howling opponents – Quentin Letts, The Times

More lives could have saved from Covid if Britain closed borders last March, minister says

“More lives could have been saved if Britain had closed its borders last March, a minister has said. Gillian Keegan said there was “no doubt” the death toll would be lower if flights had been grounded in the first Covid lockdown. The universities minister told BBC’s Question Time: “There is no doubt that we could have locked everybody down, we could have locked the borders from the beginning and we would have had a lower death toll, for sure.” But asked if the Government should have done so, she replied: “I don’t think so.” Ms Keegan suggested such action would’ve had other consequences. Her comments came as a police chief yesterday suggested celebs and the rich could still board flights for sunshine hotspots even if they are fined for breaching Covid rules.” – The Sun

  • Dubai and UAE taken off UK’s travel corridor list – The Times
  • Police could be powerless to stop people flying off on holiday, top officer warns – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • The UK’s half-baked Covid travel quarantine scheme will not work – Gabriel Scally, The Guardian

Tory activists hope for Covid ‘bounce’ if curbs are lifted

“Conservative campaigners are urging Boris Johnson to reopen much of England’s economy by early May, ahead of local elections in which the party is increasingly hopeful of benefiting from a “vaccine bounce”. The UK prime minister will set out a road map for exiting the nationwide lockdown in the week commencing February 22, with the intention of reopening schools from March 8. Government insiders insisted it would be a “slow, phased” approach starting with schools. One scenario, where schools return in March, non-essential shops reopen in April and pubs and restaurants reopen in May, was described as “the most optimistic timetable that could happen” by one Whitehall official, who cautioned that “nothing is set in stone yet, it all depends on the data”. Tory campaigners are eager for as much of the economy to be open ahead of a major set of local government elections on May 6.” – FT

  • Pressure on NHS suggests pubs and restaurants won’t reopen until May – The Times
  • Johnson could ‘scrap’ confusing’ regional Covid tiers under plan to ease restrictions – Daily Mail

Schools:

  • Pupils could be offered summer classes to catch up on lessons – Daily Mail
  •  Schools could reopen after half-term in Wales – The Sun

>Yesterday: David Thomas in Comment: Five policies to help school pupils catch up after the Covid crisis

Independence vote ‘irrelevant’ to most Scots, says Prime Minister

“UK prime minister Boris Johnson on Thursday insisted Scotland should not have a second independence referendum for at least a generation, saying such a vote was “completely irrelevant” to the concerns of most Scots. During a one-day visit to Scotland billed by colleagues as an effort to shore up support for the union with England, Mr Johnson cited joint efforts on coronavirus vaccination as an example of the way in which the UK’s constituent nations benefited each other. But amid opinion polls suggesting that a majority of Scottish voters would now back leaving the UK if there were to be another referendum, Mr Johnson declined to say how he plans to respond to a renewed push by the pro-independence Scottish National party for such a vote.” – FT

  • Johnson faces fight to woo Scots away from secession – The Times
  • Brexiteer urges him to call Sturgeon’s bluff – Daily Express

More:

  • SNP revives council tax freeze and promises further support for businesses – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Johnson can say all the right words. But not in a way the public relate to, as Blair and Cameron could.

Michael Gove: Fight against Covid demonstrates the power of the British family

“The vaccine programme is a reminder of the importance of another family — the family of nations which is our United Kingdom. From Aberdeen to Aberystwyth, Birmingham to Belfast, UK citizens are being vaccinated faster than anywhere in Europe. And it is the strength of the ties that bind our family of nations which has made that possible. The AstraZeneca jab, for example, was developed by scientists from across the UK, working in Oxford. The vaccine is manufactured there and in Staffordshire. And then made ready for distribution in a factory in Wrexham in Wales. The initial investment that made this vaccine possible came from the UK Government. The research funding that goes to universities in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, which powers innovations such as this vaccine, all comes from the UK Government.” – The Sun

  • When will Unionists realise that Sturgeon is far from invincible? – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph
  • Covid has taught the UK the importance of self sufficiency – James Forsyth, The Times

Editorial:

  • The battle is under way to save the British union – FT
  • Trip was an implicit acknowledgment that the Union is in peril – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: The Good Union

Johnson considers joining ‘Asian Nato’ to resist China

“Boris Johnson will raise the prospect of Britain joining the “Asian Nato” informal alliance when he visits India as part of a post-Brexit strategy. President Biden is seeking to recruit more members to the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. The strategic forum to strengthen alliances to counter China, referred to as the Quad, consists of the United States, India, Japan and Australia. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said during a trip to India last month that Britain had not ruled out joining the alliance. He added that the prospect would be discussed when the prime minister visited Delhi on his first foreign trip after the end of the Brexit transition period. Mr Johnson had planned to be in India this week but he was forced to postpone his visit because of the lockdown. He is expected to travel again as soon as conditions allow.” – The Times

  • Thousands of Hong Kongers granted UK residence ahead of visa scheme – FT

State takes stakes in UK start-ups under £1bn convertible loan scheme

“The government has started taking equity stakes in British start-ups as part of the £1bn pandemic emergency loan scheme that has offered a funding lifeline to some of the most promising companies in the UK. State loans given to often lossmaking start-ups under the UK’s Future Fund have begun to convert into equity, according to officials, with more likely to follow as companies seek additional funds. The Future Fund could make the government one of the biggest backers of fast-growing companies in the UK, offering potentially high returns on the investment if those businesses were to become successful. But it also carries a high level of risk of losing taxpayer money given that many fledgling companies fail.” – FT

  • Covid cases push UK closer to double-dip recession – The Guardian
  • Road bridges are falling to pieces as council budgets feel the strain – The Times

>Yesterday:

UK ministers rethink plans to rip up EU regulations

“Boris Johnson’s government is shying away from a wholesale scrapping of EU regulations after ministers cancelled a post-Brexit review of workers’ rights in the face of fierce Labour opposition. The Financial Times reported this month that employee protections enshrined in EU law — including the 48-hour working week — could be torn up under the controversial proposals. But the idea was condemned by trade unions and Labour and Downing Street confirmed on Thursday: “Any reforms would not come at the expense of the UK’s high standards in areas like workers rights and the environment.” Rishi Sunak, chancellor, is leading a “better regulation” review but he has made it clear that his focus will be on improving future rules — including those covering new technologies — rather than ripping up old ones.” – FT

  • British business leaders warn of ‘substantial difficulties’ at UK ports – The Guardian

Firm owned by McCluskey’s friend was paid £95m for ‘£7m project’

“A company owned by a friend of Len McCluskey has been paid £95 million by Britain’s most powerful trade union for a construction project that was initially supposed to cost £7 million. Flanagan Group received the money as primary contractor for a conference centre and hotel in Birmingham for the trade union Unite. The further evidence of the spiralling cost of Unite’s flagship development emerged on the eve of a crisis meeting today at which the union’s ruling council will receive a report on financing the project. Questions are likely to be asked about how contracts were awarded and the level of scrutiny that was applied to prices charged by contractors during four years of work. It is thought that the overall profit for Flanagan from the project will be more than £15 million. Work began in 2016 and was finally completed last year, significantly late and over budget.” – The Times

  • Corbyn supporters ask for ‘Momentum TV’ funding to take on GB News – Daily Express

Stockbrokers face anger and lawsuits after pulling plug on retail investors backing GameStop

“Online stockbrokers pulled the plug on retail investors backing highly-traded stocks on Thursday, provoking scrutiny from politicians and anger from users who accused the companies of favouring Wall Street funds. A string of trading services including Robinhood and e-Trade restricted investments in popular shares including GameStop and cinema chain AMC, leading to widespread criticism from a coalition including Elon Musk, the world’s richest man, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the left-wing Congresswoman. Mr Musk tweeted that popular fee-free trading apps were “beholden to big trading houses”, while Ms Ocasio-Cortez demanded answers about why retail investors were blocked from trading while major institutions continued to be able to trade. Trading apps stopped users from making investments in a range of popular stocks that have found favour on online investing communities, blaming high volatility and, in some cases, being cut off from partners that execute trades on their behalf.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Robinhood raises $1bn from investors and taps banks at end of wild week – FT

News in Brief:

  • Forsyth and Dalyell were right about devolution – Eddie Barnes, CapX
  • Should Boris keep out of Scotland, whatever the Covid level? – Graham Stewart, The Critic
  • The phoney War on Woke – Ed West, UnHerd
  • Why wealth taxes don’t work – Kate Andrews, The Spectator

Newslinks for Thursday 28th January 2021

28 Jan

Johnson ‘confident’ that EU efforts to ‘disrupt vaccine supplies’ will fail

“Britain has more than enough coronavirus vaccines for this year and could eventually donate them to other countries, senior industry sources told The Times last night. They said that Britain had secured the doses needed to meet its targets and expected its deals with pharmaceutical companies to be honoured. It came as Boris Johnson said that he was confident EU threats to disrupt supplies would fail. The bloc’s vaccination rate is lagging far behind Britain’s and Brussels has accused Astrazeneca, one of the biggest suppliers, of reneging on delivery agreements. It has called for supplies from the company’s British factories to be diverted to Europe. It marks an escalation in a deepening post-Brexit conflict that has included German threats to block exports of Pfizer’s vaccine from its factory in Belgium to Britain. A senior German MEP warned that the stand-off was heading towards a “trade war”.” – The Times

  • EU demands British Covid vaccines – Daily Telegraph
  • AstraZeneca ‘hints it won’t give in to demand’ – The Sun
  • Doses  ‘planned, paid for and scheduled’ will stay in UK, says Gove – Daily Telegraph
  • Covid vaccine ‘can’t fail’ to stop virus spreading – The Times
  • Blair urged the UK to put a global ‘travel pass’ on the G7 agenda – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • How the vaccine network grew into rare British success – The Times
  • British experts defend 12-week delay for second vaccine dose – FT
  • Why the UK’s vaccine gamble paid off, and the EU left itself without a leg to stand on – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Vaccines. The United Kingdom v a “rules-based organisation”.

‘Three-stage’ plan to end lockdown in Britain

“Schools will not open until March at the earliest, Boris Johnson has said, as the Government works on a “three-stage plan” to release Britain from lockdown. The Telegraph understands that officials are working on proposals which could see most shops closed until April, and pubs and restaurants shut until May. On Wednesday, Mr Johnson announced that schools will not reopen before March 8, and even that would depend on the success of the vaccine rollout and the rate of Covid-19 deaths and cases. Promising to publish a “roadmap” on February 22, he said that would allow Britain to “begin steadily to reclaim our lives”. A senior government source said the current thinking would mean that, once schools return, it could be at least another month after that before non-essential shops would be allowed to open. The “staggered approach” would mean that if schools open in March, shops would be unlikely to get the green light until April, while pubs and restaurants could remain closed until May.” – Daily Telegraph

Cabinet split over schools reopening date

“Boris Johnson overruled his education secretary yesterday and announced that schools in England will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest. The prime minister insisted it was right to “buy the extra weeks we need” to vaccinate the most vulnerable and said that the country was in a “perilous situation”. The Times has been told that the delay was resisted by Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, at a meeting of the government’s Covid-19 operations committee in the morning. He had been pushing for schools to reopen after the February half-term but this was rejected by the prime minister, who was chairing the meeting. It means other lockdown restrictions will also remain in place until March 8, because Mr Johnson has said that the closure of schools will be the first measure to be reversed.” – The Times

  • ‘Students like me are the last thing on the government’s mind’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Pupils will fall a year behind but the mental harm may last longer – The Times

Editorial:

  • Delay a blow to pupils and parents, but it will buy crucial time for vaccinations – The Times

>Yesterday:

Chancellor ‘lays the groundwork for potential tax rises’

“Rishi Sunak has told Tory MPs that implementing tax rises soon will hand the Government greater leverage to slash them ahead of the next election in 2024. The Chancellor made his pre-budget appearance at the powerful 1922 committee of backbench Conservatives on Wednesday evening to take soundings before the fiscal event on March 3. He told MPs that honesty and fairness were his guiding principles, as he signalled that difficult decisions lie ahead on raising revenue and reducing the deficit, according to several sources present on the call. Laying the groundwork for potential tax rises in the coming budget and the next one, Mr Sunak argued that the public would respect candour about what is to come. Such moves will also burnish the Conservatives’ reputation for responsible management of the public finances, and are essential to differentiate the party from the opposition, he added.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sunak urged to give more money to help victims of domestic abuse – The Sun

Going abroad for no good reason will be illegal, Patel warns

“Leaving the country without good reason is to become illegal, Priti Patel announced yesterday. The home secretary criticised social media stars for “showing off in sunny parts of the world” and said travellers would be required to fill out a declaration form explaining why they are flying, which will be checked by airlines. Only “essential” travel will be allowed, and police will issue fines at borders. The government is reviewing the list of travel exemptions to ensure people are not abusing the system. Britons returning from 30 high-risk countries, including Brazil, South Africa and Portugal, will have to go into hotel quarantine for ten days. Details of the plan will be announced next week. Ms Patel had privately advocated a temporary full closure of borders, followed by the introduction of hotel quarantine for all entering the UK. The idea was rejected by the prime minister.” – The Times

  • British holidaymakers ‘will be stopped at border and sent home’ – Daily Telegraph
  • UK launches review of Covid quarantine exemptions – FT

More:

  • Home Office set to shake up UK anti-terror strategy Prevent – The Sun

Editorial:

  • Our borders must be completely sealed until millions more Brits have had Covid vaccine – The Sun

Allister Heath: Covid is a 1914 moment for the post-Cold War globalised order

“Yet just like our own pre-Covid universe, when we thought we had conquered disease, it was too good to be true. The Great War wiped it all away, and it took around 100 years for the global economy to surpass the level of integration it had reached in 1914. It is now Covid’s turn to wreck the assumptions that underpinned another period of globalisation: a wonderful, freewheeling, ultra-mobile 30-year affair that started with the downfall of communism in 1989 has come to a screeching end. A paradigm has shifted: a shrinking, integrating world is expanding and fragmenting again. Many of the freedoms we had taken for granted have been revealed as temporary privileges, revocable at any time, by states that are flexing muscles we thought had atrophied. A liberal era is over; a new phase of managed globalisation is upon us. It will affect all of us hugely, in two major ways.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Next time there won’t be a vaccine to save us – David Aaronovitch, The Times
  • The blame game for Covid-19 deaths should look far beyond the Tories – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Can mass travel ever recover from Covid? – Iain Martin, The Times

Government plan to build 24,000 homes faces legal challenge

“A plan to build more than 20,000 homes in rural Oxfordshire, championed by secretary of state for housing Robert Jenrick, is facing a legal challenge from residents who say it is incompatible with the government’s legally binding commitments to tackle the climate emergency. Campaigners have issued a legal claim against South Oxfordshire district council’s decision to go ahead with the local plan – which sets out proposals to build 24,000 new homes in the area by 2035. Jenrick, is accused of “massive intervention” to push the scheme through after he ordered South Oxfordshire district council to go ahead with the development in March… The legal challenge is the latest attempt to stop major infrastructure projects – from a new runway at Heathrow to Europe’s biggest gas fired power station – which campaigners argue fail to meet the government’s legally binding commitments to tackle the climate emergency. Both challenges have faced recent setbacks in the courts.” – The Guardian

>Today: Sam Hall in Comment: The Government must secure tougher emission-reduction commitments at this year’s COP26

>Yesterday: Clive Moffatt in Comment: Going green with the lights off. We need a more realistic approach to climate change.

Johnson ‘struggles to stem support for Scottish independence’

“Boris Johnson will visit Scotland on Thursday to try to stem support for independence, as ministers grapple with ways to persuade Scots of the advantages of remaining in the 313-year-old union with England. The prime minister is expected to focus on the vaccination effort to highlight the role of the whole UK in what has so far been one of the world’s most successful Covid-19 inoculation programmes. Meanwhile, ministers in London are looking to bypass the pro-independence Scottish National party government in Edinburgh by funding some “UK projects” north of the border directly from London. But while Mr Johnson wants to remind Scotland that the UK Treasury has underpinned economic support packages during the coronavirus crisis, some ministers are uneasy at a strategy depicting Scots as recipients of cash from London.” – FT

  • Prime Minister visits Scotland despite Sturgeon warning him it’s ‘not essential’ – The Sun
  • Gove insists Johnson is right to go – Daily Mail
  • SNP concedes it lacks competence to negotiate with the EU – Daily Express

Comment:

  • There is no cunning wheeze to stop Scottish independence – Robert Shrimsley, FT
  • It is misleading to call the four entities of the United Kingdom the “four nations” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Review of UK workers’ rights post-Brexit ‘is axed in sudden U-turn’

“A controversial review into how EU employment rights protections could be changed after Brexit is no longer going ahead, the business secretary has announced. In an interview with ITV’s Peston, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “So the review is no longer happening within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). I made it very very clear to officials in the department that we’re not interested in watering down workers’ rights.” He added: “I can’t have been more clear about this on a number of occasions. I’ve said repeatedly that Brexit gives us the opportunity to have higher standards and a higher growth economy and that’s what officials in the department are 100% focused on.” The Guardian understands the consultation on employment rights was signed off by Kwasi Kwarteng’s predecessor Alok Sharma, who left after being given a full-time role leading preparations for the Cop26 climate conference.” – The Guardian

  • Small businesses struggle with Brexit red tape – FT

Sacked aide claims Labour MP failed to act over antisemitism

“A Labour MP has been accused of failing to act on claims of antisemitism after sacking a Jewish aide who previously signed a non-disclosure agreement. Elaina Cohen, 61, has accused Sir Keir Starmer’s office of failing to take seriously her complaints that Khalid Mahmood, 59, the MP for Perry Barr in Birmingham and the shadow defence procurement minister, ignored her concerns of antisemitism by Labour colleagues. She said that she was sacked yesterday after “a year of bullying” by a Labour staffer. Ms Cohen reported Mr Mahmood, her former boyfriend, to the Labour leader’s office and to West Midlands police last year over bullying motivated by discrimination. It was recorded as a non-crime hate incident. Ms Cohen was one of the original whistleblowers about antisemitism in Labour.” – The Times

  • Labour failing to win back enough Tory voters, officials warn – The Guardian

>Today: Tim Briggs in Local Government: Labour’s neglect of council housing tenants is losing it working class votes

BBC forced into grovelling climbdown after calling IRA terrorist a ‘veteran’

Shield“BBC bosses have been forced into a humiliating climbdown after labelling a dead IRA terrorist a “veteran” and grovelled for the “upset” it caused. In coverage of the funeral of Eamon “Peggy” McCourt, BBC News described the republican gunman as a “veteran.” Police are probing possible Covid rule breaches at the gathering in Londonderry on Monday. But the BBC’s description of the late McCourt as a “veteran” – giving equivalence between criminals and troops – sparked uproar. Defence chiefs, MPs and former soldiers raged against the corporation, accusing it of besmirching the 1,400 British soldiers who laid down their lives during The Troubles. Former Defence Minister Lord Lancaster told The Sun the BBC’s choice of words was “bizarre and deeply insulting”.” – The Sun

Poll puts Le Pen almost level with Macron if they make the final round of next year’s French elections

“A poll ahead of next year’s French presidential election has put far-right politician Marine Le Pen almost level with President Emmanuel Macron, should they make it to the final round. The poll by Harris Interactive saw Macron receive 52 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 48 percent, according to Le Parisien. France is due to head to the polls in April 2022 for the first round of the presidential election. The incumbent President Macron is eligible for reelection but has not yet said whether he will run again. Le Pen, who came second to Macron in the 2017 election and third to François Hollande in the 2012 election, has announced that she will run in 2022. Only the survey results for the first round of the vote have been made public for now, with Le Parisien reporting what it says are the poll’s second round findings from the poll. The study was commissioned by the CommStrat firm and the daily L’Opinion and was carried out online between January 19 and 20.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • Whatever he might imagine, Brown is not the man to save the Union – Henry Hill, CapX
  • How the nationalists tweak their records to escape scrutiny – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • Vaccine wars: the global battle for a precious resource – Matthew Lynn, The Spectator
  • Italy’s government collapses. What now? – Robert Fox, Reaction
  • Is live music in Britain doomed? – Alexander Larman, The Critic

Newslinks for Wednesday 27th January 2021

27 Jan

Coronavirus 1) Virus deaths pass 100,000

“The UK has become the first European country to officially record more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths, a figure described by health leaders as a tragedy. Britain is the fifth nation in the world to reach six figures, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico. It now has a higher coronavirus death rate per million people than any other country. There were 7,776 deaths registered in the UK in the week ending January 15 with the virus mentioned on the death certificate, bringing the total since the beginning of the pandemic to 103,602.” – The Times

  • Johnson ‘deeply sorry for every life that has been lost’ to Covid – Daily Telegraph
Analysis:
  • Covid-19 death toll: where did the UK make mistakes? – The Times
  • From Rolls Royce to Skoda: How the pandemic has exposed Britain’s failed ‘regulatory state’ – Daily Telegraph
  • 100,000 coronavirus deaths in charts: What’s really happening in the UK – Daily Telegraph
  • 100,000 Covid deaths: How we know so much more than when UK’s first victim perished – Daily Telegraph
Comment:

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 2) Johnson prepares to “unveil road map out of lockdown in mid-February”

“BORIS Johnson is preparing to unveil his road map out of lockdown by mid-February – as Britain is now on course to vaccinate 30 million people by March. Government sources hint the PM’s ambitious blueprint is likely to include crucial targets concerning the roll out of coronavirus jabs, falling numbers of infections and the reopening of some schools. The eagerly-awaited document is said to be likely to be published sometime around February 15 – the date the PM has already pledged to review the current pandemic measures.” – The Sun

  • Whitty declares the top of the second wave – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Quarantine hotels for highest-risk passengers

“The government will announce today a limited hotel quarantine system for arrivals from high-risk countries after Boris Johnson rejected calls by Priti Patel for the temporary closure of Britain’s borders. The Times has been told that the home secretary pushed for a travel ban to stop potentially vaccine-resistant strains of coronavirus being imported into the country. Ms Patel suggested the move to allow time for the preparation of a blanket hotel quarantine system for all arrivals.” – The Times

  • Police fined over lockdown haircuts – The Times

Coronavirus 4) Schools in low Covid infection areas may open sooner, parents told

“Boris Johnson said schools would reopen only “cautiously” as parents were promised news within days about the chance of children going back after the half-term holiday. The prime minister suggested that schools could reopen first in English regions with a lower infection rate. Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 pupils in primary schools, and those sitting GSCEs and A-levels are expected to be the first to return under plans being drawn up by Gavin Williamson, mirroring the first national lockdown last year. The education secretary has rejected a rota system because it will not help parents back to work or reduce transmission.” – The Times

  • “Lack of planning” could see them “remain closed until the summer”, the Children’s Commissioner warns – Daily Telegraph
  • Portugal blocks remote lessons at private schools to help state pupils – The Times
Comment:

>Today:

Coronavirus 5) UK ‘head start’ on EU means over-50s will be vaccinated by March, AstraZeneca chief says

“The UK’s “head start” in rolling out vaccines before the European Union means nearly everyone aged over 50 will be inoculated by March, the AstraZeneca chief executive has said. Pascal Soriot said he believed the UK was on course to administer doses to “maybe 28 or 30 million people” within weeks – nearly half the total population – and would comfortably hit the target of vaccinating the most vulnerable groups by mid-February. It came amid rising international tension after the EU threatened to block vaccine doses from leaving the Continent without prior approval, leading Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, to accuse Brussels of “protectionism and narrow nationalism”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • New Covid therapies will make life normal, says Head of the NHS – The Times
  • Pioneering antibody treatment for Covid that is being trialled on NHS is found to ‘prevent 100% of symptomatic infections and cut asymptomatic infections in half’ – Daily Mail
  • Germany presses Brussels for powers to block vaccine exports – FT
Comment:

£1 million wasted on cycle-friendly road zones that councils abandoned

“More than £1 million of public money has been wasted on cycle-friendly road schemes that were subsequently ripped out because of local opposition, an investigation has found. Research showed that almost one in ten “low-traffic neighbourhoods” has been abandoned as little as a month after being introduced after complaints from residents and businesses. In one case, Westminster council spent almost £138,000 on design, engineering and consultation fees only to scrap a scheme before it was launched.” – The Times

Boost for Trump as 45 Republican senators vote to dismiss impeachment…

“Donald Trump’s hopes of avoiding conviction by the US Senate received a boost on Tuesday when 45 Republicans tried to dismiss his impeachment trial before it even began. The procedural vote was not enough to prevent the trial going ahead, since 55 senators voted that it should, but it did suggest that Democrats face an uphill battle to get the 67 senators they will need for a conviction on a two-thirds majority vote. Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives on the charge of “incitement of insurrection” following the storming of the US Capitol, including the Senate chamber, by an angry mob on 6 January. Senators gathered at the scene of the crime on Tuesday to begin his trial.” – The Guardian

… as Biden tells Putin to come clean about Navalny

“President Biden challenged President Putin yesterday over the poisoning of the opposition activist Alexei Navalny in his first phone call with his Russian counterpart since taking office. He also raised concerns over evidence of Russian interference in US elections, over a massive cyberespionage campaign against the American government, and over reports that Russia placed bounties on US troops in Afghanistan. In addition, he expressed “strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty” in the face of continued aggression from Moscow.” – The Times

News in brief:

Newslinks for Tuesday 26th January 2021

26 Jan

EU ‘threatens to block exports of Pfizer Covid vaccine’

“Britain’s Covid vaccine supply is in jeopardy after the EU threatened to block exports of the Belgian-made Pfizer jabs amid a row with UK-based AstraZeneca. Brussels decided to impose tighter controls on exports after reacting with fury to the news that AstraZeneca will deliver 50 million fewer doses to the EU than it had expected. Ministers now fear deliveries of the Pfizer jabs will – at best – be delayed by extra paperwork and that the EU could try to stop doses being sent to non-EU countries after saying it will “take any action required to protect its citizens”. In March, the bloc imposed export restrictions on personal protective equipment after it struggled with supply to its member states. On Monday night, MPs accused the EU of acting out of “spite” and trying to deflect blame for its own mistakes in getting vaccination programmes off the ground.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Brussels brings in new controls amid fear over vaccine supply – The Times
  • Tories warn EU will ‘poison relations for a generation’ – Daily Mail
  • Fury at EU’s ‘vaccine nationalism’ – The Sun
  • Scientists’ fury at ‘completely incorrect’ German claim about Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – Daily Mail
  • UK will open labs to world in hunt for new Covid variants – The Times

More:

  • Brussels warns Britain against downgrading EU ambassador’s status – The Guardian
  • Brexit leaves UK and EU diminished in fight against international crime – FT
  • Starmer’s MPs vote to keep Britain ‘shackled to EU employment laws’ – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Tories are at odds over benefits of Brexit – Rachel Sylvester, The Times

Johnson hints at easing coronavirus lockdown…

“Ministers will look at easing lockdown measures next month, Boris Johnson said yesterday as he insisted that he wanted England’s schools to reopen “as fast as possible”. The prime minister said that the government would be “looking at the potential of relaxing some measures” when restrictions are reviewed on February 15. He added: “I do think now this massive achievement has been made of rolling out this vaccination programme, I think people want to see us making sure we don’t throw that away by having a premature relaxation and then another big surge of infection.” Matt Hancock, the health secretary, struck a much more cautious tone when he warned that demands on hospitals made any short-term relaxations of the measures impossible. Jenny Harries, the deputy chief medical officer for England, suggested that the UK may have to wait for the spring before any significant change in the rules because the NHS would still be under strain from other winter illnesses.” – The Times

  • Hancock rebuffs MPs seeking roadmap out of restrictions – The Guardian

Schools:

  • Primary schools ‘safe to open soon’ – The Times
  • Pressure grows on Prime Minister from his own party amid doubts over original return date – FT
  • Furious MPs demand Williamson faces Parliament – The Sun

Comment:

  • Our children are paying the highest price in lockdown, we owe them answers – Suzanne Moore, Daily Telegraph

>Today:

…as he touts vaccine rollout as example of ‘wonderful Union’ on visit to Scotland

“Boris Johnson is to launch a charm offensive in Scotland later this week as part of his plan to save the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister is expected to use a visit north of the border to highlight the UK Government’s role in delivering hundreds of thousands of coronavirus vaccines to the Scottish NHS in an attempt to turn the tide against record levels of support for independence. Plans for the trip emerged after Gordon Brown warned that the UK was at risk of becoming a “failed state” and splitting up unless Mr Johnson embarks on a programme of major constitutional reform. The SNP is determined to push ahead with its plan for separation, and published plans at the weekend to hold an independence referendum even without UK Government approval. Unionists are frustrated that Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity has soared during the pandemic, despite UK Government initiatives such as the furlough scheme and the Treasury boosting the Scottish Government budget by billions of pounds.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Hancock takes swipe at Sturgeon and says UK ‘stronger together’ in fight against Covid – The Sun
  • He said other nations had ‘stepped forward’ to help Scottish Ambulance Service – Daily Mail
  • Sturgeon ‘failing to provide seven-day vaccination’ after Sunday total falls to record low – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Inoculations are done at the rate of 250 every minute – The Times
  • Councils set to be enlisted to boost Covid-19 vaccination rates – FT

>Yesterday: Neil O’Brien MP’s column: Five lessons from the pandemic

Universal Credit uplift set to be extended while Covid restrictions last

“The £20 Universal Credit boost is likely to stay while Covid rules remain – and then be phased out to target the poorest. The bump expires at the end of March. And PM Boris Johnson has stepped into a growing Cabinet rift to demand a middle way to avoid a cliff-edge. It has been seen as a weekly lifeline to Britain’s poorest families, adding an extra £1,040 a year income. Chancellor Rishi Sunak does not want to make the £6billion uplift permanent but is under pressure from MPs and Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey to change his mind. He says it will cost the equivalent of a penny on income tax for 30 million Brits, and a 5p rise in fuel duty to fill the black hole in Britain’s battered finances… It is understood Mr Sunak plans to announce at the Budget that the full measure will stay for a long as Covid restrictions are in place, before being phased out to help only the neediest.” – The Sun

  • MPs demand UK Covid support for 3m excluded self-employed – FT

More:

  • Hunt says Covid cases in self isolation should be tracked by GPS – Daily Telegraph
  • Covid-19 carriers ‘are refusing to get checked over fears they will have to stop working’ claims testing tsar – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: James Heywood in Think Tanks: A £20 blanket uplift in Universal Credit would miss an opportunity for better targeted change

British residents flying back from Covid hotspots face hotel quarantine

“A limited system of hotel quarantine will be introduced in England this week but initially only for British residents returning from countries with new, more virulent forms of coronavirus, including Portugal, South Africa and Brazil. Whitehall sources said Downing Street would “reserve the right” to go further by requiring all visitors from anywhere in the world to isolate for 10-days at their own expense. The decision to limit the requirement at first to certain countries came after travel industry executives warned that imposing mandatory hotel quarantine on all arrivals immediately could prompt a rush of UK citizens returning home in days, making it hard to find sufficient hotel rooms near airports. The move effectively means only British residents will be affected. Bans had already been put in place over recent months on visitors entering the UK from South Africa, Portugal, Brazil and other South American countries in an attempt to control the spread of new variants of the virus that scientists fear could be resistant to existing vaccines.” – FT

  • Britons returning from South Africa and Brazil the first to pay £1,500 be locked down for ten days – Daily Mail
  • Covid quarantine hotels ‘will take three weeks to be ready’ – The Times
  • Who will be forced to quarantine and can I upgrade my hotel room? – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • For many, ten days spent in a quarantine hotel would be deeply traumatic – Zoe Strimpel, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

£30m deal to build Britain’s first fleet of unmanned fighter drones

“Britain’s first fleet of unmanned fighter aircraft will be developed in Northern Ireland following a £30 million investment by the Ministry of Defence. The “loyal wingman” aircraft, as it has been nicknamed, will be designed to fly at high speeds alongside fighter jets such as the Typhoon or F-35. The contract to design and manufacture the prototype, which is expected to support 100 jobs, was handed to Spirit AeroSystems, an American company, in Belfast in a three-year deal. Team Mosquito will develop the RAF’s Lightweight Affordable Novel Combat Aircraft (Lanca) technology, with a vehicle flight-test programme expected by the end of 2023. The MoD plans to start manufacturing the first aircraft by 2025. Armed with missiles, surveillance and electronic warfare technology, it will be Britain’s first uncrewed aircraft able to target and shoot down enemy aircraft and survive against surface-to-air missiles.” – The Times

>Today: Profiles: Wallace, one of Johnson’s Long Marchers, and a traditional but also irreverent Defence Secretary

Sturgeon’s husband ‘should be investigated for possible perjury’, Scottish Labour claims…

“Nicola Sturgeon’s husband should be investigated for possible perjury over sworn evidence he gave to the Alex Salmond inquiry, the interim Scottish Labour leader has said. Peter Murrell, who is also the SNP’s chief executive, is facing questions over the existence of messages to other party officials related to the criminal probe that Mr Salmond faced. When he gave evidence to the Holyrood inquiry under oath last month, Mr Murrell said there were no other messages between himself and party officials about Mr Salmond, other than an exchange in which he spoke about pressure being applied to police to investigate the former party leader. However, Jackie Baillie, the Labour MSP who questioned Mr Murrell, said information had been seen by the committee to suggest he had “not been truthful”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • First Minister accuses Alex Salmond of spinning ‘false conspiracy theories’ – The Sun

…as Scottish Tory leader dismisses SNP ‘wildcat’ referendum move

“The Scottish Conservatives would boycott any “wildcat” referendum on independence from the UK, the party’s leader declared on Monday amid a renewed push by the governing Scottish National party to end the three century-old union with England. The SNP announced at the weekend that it would seek to hold another independence referendum after May elections for the Scottish parliament — without UK government approval if necessary. Voters in Scotland rejected independence by 55-45 per cent in 2014, but opinion polls over the past year suggest another referendum on the issue would yield a majority for leaving the UK. At an online event, Douglas Ross, Scottish Tory leader, said any new plebiscite must follow the “gold standard” of the 2014 vote, which was approved by the UK government under devolution legislation.” – FT

  • Party would boycott unofficial independence plebiscite – The Guardian

More: 

  • UK at risk of becoming failed state, says Brown – The Guardian
  • Sturgeon’s ‘anti-English’ stance laid bare by paradoxical pro-Brussels position – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Andrew Bowie MP in Comment: That weekend poll and Scotland’s future. Until we start to call ourselves British, why should anyone else?

William Hague: Constitutional tinkering won’t stop the Scottish nationalist juggernaut

“At its heart, the problem here is not the current balance of devolved powers or the economic arguments. It is that Scotland has a distinct political identity and feels that England has become permanently out of step with it. Seen from Edinburgh and Glasgow, the UK has Tory Government for the foreseeable future, reinforced by English voters being strikingly keen on Brexit, with ministers who have looked flat-footed in the early stages of a monumental crisis. For an alternative, they see a Labour Party that used to represent Scotland but has recently been completely hopeless. There is a good deal of polling evidence that this dominant perception is the real issue. If so, the Union will only be maintained if both the Labour and Conservative parties can change the way that many Scottish voters see them.” – Daily Telegraph

  • If Remainers cared as much about our own Union as the EU, we might be able to preserve it – Hugo Rifkind, The Times
  • Johnson’s last-minute bid to save the union can’t undo years of neglect – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

Labour writes to CPS over ‘fraudulent’ Tory London mayoral leaflets

“The Labour party’s lawyers have written to the director of public prosecutions alleging that Shaun Bailey, the Conservative party’s candidate for London mayor, used fraud to influence upcoming elections by publishing leaflets headed with fake City Hall insignia. Bailey’s campaign last month drew cross-party condemnation for the leaflets, which said Londoners’ council taxes would rise “if you do not take action” and vote against the incumbent mayor, Sadiq Khan. The leaflets did not explicitly mention the Conservative party. Labour’s complaint called the leaflets a “fraudulent device” to gain undue influence, as described by the 1983 Representation of the People Act. Under the act, Max Hill, the director of public prosecutions, is responsible for making inquiries into potential offences. The London mayoral election has been scheduled for May 2021, a year later than initially planned because of the coronavirus pandemic. Khan is the strong favourite to win.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Nobody wins from vaccine nationalism – Laura Spinney, UnHerd
  • British vaccine roll-out vindicates Brexit, and I voted to Remain – Steve Moore, Reaction
  • Hancock’s tests for lifting lockdown – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • Battle over Scottish independence is going to be a fight, not a rout – John Lloyd, CapX
  • Keep Britain’s countryside free from bureaucracy – Andrew Tettenborn, The Critic

Newslinks for Monday 25th January 2021

25 Jan

Coronavirus 1) Tory MP “in revolt on school closures”

“Schoolchildren have become the pandemic’s “forgotten victims”, Tory MPs have warned Boris Johnson, amid a growing backlash against plans that could keep classrooms closed until Easter. A dozen Conservative MPs, including the former Cabinet minister Esther McVey and Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, have backed a campaign by the parents’ pressure group UsforThem to fully reopen schools. They argue that the schools shutdown means education has become an “optional extra”, with the gulf between the most disadvantaged children and their wealthier peers growing “by the day”. At the same time, the pressure on parents who are trying to hold down full-time jobs while also acting as teachers “is simply becoming too much”, they say, meaning schools should reopen now.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Halfon calls for school reopenings in areas with low case numbers – The Sun
  • One in three locked-down families don’t have enough computers for their children to study – Daily Mail
  • Prospect of schools staying shut until Easter is a nightmare – Leader, The Sun
  • We must help these children fulfil their hopes and dreams – Sarah Vine, Daily Mail
  • Keep all cathedrals open for worship – Ysenda Maxtone Graham, The Times

>Today:

Coronavirus 2) 6.35 million have had the vaccine as the rollout intensifies

“According to government data released on Sunday, a total of 6,353,321 people in the UK have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. A further slew of vaccination centres are due to open on Monday to speed up delivery of the jabs. These include at the Crick Institute in London, the Blackpool Winter Gardens, Lancaster town hall, Bath racecourse and the Black Country Living Museum, where scenes for the TV show Peaky Blinders were filmed.” – The Guardian

  • NHS on course to beat targets – The Times
  • Scottish vaccine rollout ‘at a standstill’ as nation falls further behind UK – Daily Telegraph
  • The information warriors fighting ‘robot zombie army’ of coronavirus sceptics – The Guardian
  • Even with vaccines, we’ll still have to learn to live with Covid – Tim Stanley, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 3) Sunak “backs Covid quarantine hotels for all UK arrivals”

“Rishi Sunak has thrown his weight behind plans to force everyone entering Britain to quarantine in a hotel to prevent new coronavirus strains jeopardising the mass vaccination programme. Amid growing support for the proposal among members of the cabinet, the chancellor is understood to have concluded that the economic cost of the move is outweighed by the risks of the present travel restrictions. A decision on tightening border rules is due to be made by Boris Johnson tomorrow at a meeting of the government’s Covid operations committee. Two senior government sources said that the prime minister was becoming “more swayed” by the need to take decisive action.” – The Times

  • Shapps disagrees with the proposal – Daily Telegraph
  • British holidaymakers returning home won’t escape the order – Daily Mail
  • France “may need third national lockdown” – BBC
  • MPs demand more help for the self-employed – Financial Times
  • Five ways to rebuild Britain’s economy after the pandemic – Julian Jessop, Daily Telegraph
  • A travel ban would be a serious, possibly irrevocable, step for Britain – Leader, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Liam Fox on Comment: Are we really going to close down the global economy every time a new virus emerges?

>Yesterday: WATCH: Nick Thomas-Symonds – Labour “would have acted more quickly” on border protections

Sturgeon denies misleading Scottish Parliament over Salmond

“Scotland’s first minister has insisted she did not mislead parliament about when she learned harassment allegations had been made against her predecessor Alex Salmond. Nicola Sturgeon said “false conspiracy theories were being spun” about her involvement by Mr Salmond’s supporters. A Holyrood inquiry into how the government handled the allegations against Mr Salmond is under way. She said she expects to give evidence to the inquiry in the coming weeks. The BBC’s Andrew Marr asked Ms Sturgeon how she responded to Mr Salmond saying that parliament had been repeatedly misled, and that evidence she gave to the inquiry was “simply” and “manifestly untrue”…Her interview came after the inquiry announced it would use legal powers to seek documents from the Crown Office.” – BBC

  • SNP blunder as £700,000 spent on ‘political propaganda’ thank-you letters – Daily Express
  • More than two million people could use postal votes in Scotland elections – The Guardian

>Yesterday: WATCH: Sturgeon – “I didn’t collude with Salmond and I didn’t conspire against him”

Gove “in talks with Brown to save the Union”

“Reports in The Sunday Times state that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has held talks with the former Labour prime minister around both the Conservatives and Labour’s plans to thwart the SNP’s push for independence. Mr Brown is leading a review of Labour’s policy position on the constitution which could suggest a federal system with new powers for Holyrood and is expected to return its recommendations within 18 months…The talks come as Downing Street has reportedly stepped up its attempts to tackle the SNP’s dominating support, with plans to fight the Holyrood elections without promising further constitutional concessions…The paper also reports plans to challenge the “woke left view” that Scotland’s union with England is a residue of empire and highlight the diversity within the UK Government cabinet. ” – The Scotsman

  • The United Kingdom must urgently rediscover what holds it together – Gordon Brown, Daily Telegraph
  • Scottish independence referendum has Johnson cowerin’, Sturgeon insists – The Times
  • SNP plan to deliver referendum without UK consent is ‘deluded and pointless’, experts say – Daily Telegraph
  • This battle will make Brexit look genteel – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

Foster: Border poll would be “absolutely reckless”

“DUP leader Arlene Foster has said a potential vote on a united Ireland would be “absolutely reckless”. She was speaking after a poll commissioned by the Sunday Times in NI found 51% of people want a referendum on Irish unity in the next five years. Speaking to Sky News, the first minister said “we all know how divisive a border poll would be”. Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill said there was an “unstoppable conversation under way” on the issue.” – BBC

>Yesterday: WATCH: “It is very disappointing” to see talk of constitutional politics “during a time of national crisis”, says Foster

PM “to promote female ministers”

“Boris Johnson plans to promote a raft of female ministers in a reshuffle aimed at addressing his ‘woman problem’. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is set to be handed a more senior Cabinet post after impressing the Prime Minister. Junior ministers Kemi Badenoch, Lucy Frazer, Gillian Keegan and Victoria Atkins are also seen by No 10 as rising stars. Mr Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds and press secretary Allegra Stratton are understood to be among those encouraging him to refresh his top team.” – Daily Mail

An “anti-woke” version of the Citizens Advice service launched

“A new “anti-woke” version of the Citizens Advice service to support workers threatened by the culture wars launches today. The organisation, “Counterweight”, will “support people at work, school, and university who feel isolated and under threat from the imposition of anti-liberal policies and ideas,” its founders said. The service was conceived by Helen Pluckrose, a British author who became concerned about the imposition of “unconscious bias training” and other forms of woke “critical social justice ideology” in the workplace.” – Daily Telegraph

Police investigating MPs expenses fraud

“Police are investigating three cases of MPs’ expenses fraud — but Commons chiefs refuse to say who is involved. The incidents involve one serving MP, one aide and one former MP. The suspects’ blushes have been spared on privacy grounds. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority annual report states only that the investigations are ongoing. It is understood that one of the cases relates to the ex-Labour MP Geoffrey Robinson. Last year, he paid back £30,000 having said some expenses were paid “in error”.” – The Sun

New Zealand trade deal “just weeks away”

“White wine loving Brits are set for joy as a free trade deal with New Zealand is just weeks away, The Sun can reveal. Round three of talks start today with trade officials confident an agreement will be wrapped up before Easter – handing a welcome to boost to British businesses and for Sauvignon Blanc drinkers. Wine imports will be cheaper while we will send the Kiwis more gin with overall trade between the two nations worth nearly £3billion in 2019. The deal could see tariffs slashed on car exports – worth £200 million in trade alone – and busses, with a third or Kiwi coaches made in Leeds or Falkirk.” – The Sun

  • EU’s negotiations with Britain about fish are only just beginning – Financial Times

Romney says Trump trial is a “moment of truth” for Republicans

“Donald Trump led “an attack on the very foundation” of American democracy and must be tried by the Senate for the sake of “truth and justice”, the Republican senator Mitt Romney has said. The Senate trial will be triggered by the delivery, expected today, of the article of impeachment passed by the House of Representatives, which accuses Mr Trump of inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol on January 6.” – The Times

  • Johnson-Biden phone call: Love of railways puts US relations on right track – The Times
  • Democrats push for stimulas deal – Financial Times
  • Of course Joe Biden embraced Boris Johnson – our common interests and outlook demanded it – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Timothy: Biden’s call for unity is a sham

“The modern Left – in Britain as well as America – cannot hope to overcome division. They, as much as the nativist and populist Right they so despise, are often the very source of the discord. For blaming people on the basis of their own immutable characteristics for the misfortunes of others, for discriminating today to compensate for the discrimination of yesterday, for attacking the traditions and institutions that many hold dear, for policing thought, word and deed with such vindictiveness and zeal, the Left cannot be the unifiers they claim to be. And that will remain the case until they finally ditch their divisive dogma.” – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

  • Liberalism’s abandonment of individual freedom and scepticism of authority is now complete – Douglas Murray, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • The EU’s vaccine catastrophe is a crisis of its own making – Matthew Lynn, The Spectator
  • In practice and in principle, there is no good reason to delay May’s local elections – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • 40 years on from its creation, the SDP has another chance – William Clouston, Unherd
  • How the ‘anti-racist’ bandwagon captured the classroom – Frank Palmer, Conservative Woman
  • Disruption to trade has been greater than Leavers expected, we must now hope common sense prevails – Hamish McRae, Independent

Newslinks for Sunday 24th January 2021

24 Jan

Union in crisis as polls reveal voters want referendum on Scottish independence and united Ireland

“The UK is facing a constitutional crisis that will strain the Union as new polls reveal a majority of voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland want referendums on the break-up of Britain. A four-country survey we commissioned, based on separate polls in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, also found that the sense of British identity that once bound the country together is disintegrating. And in another significant move, the Scottish National Party (SNP) announced that it is prepared to call a wildcat referendum of its own if Boris Johnson refuses to grant one himself — a move that puts the two governments on a constitutional collision course.” – Sunday Times

Comment:

>Yesterday:

Welsh Tory leader quits after drinking during Covid alcohol ban

The leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh parliament has quit after he was seen drinking in the Senedd during a pub alcohol ban. Paul Davies insisted he had not broken any rules but that the fallout from the news meant “I simply cannot continue in my post”. His colleague and chief whip, Darren Millar, also said he was stepping down. They were among politicians seen drinking four days after pubs in Wales were banned from serving alcohol. The incident triggered an investigation in the Senedd, which found that five people, four of whom were members, were involved in a possible breach of Covid regulations. In a statement, Davies said he was “truly sorry” for his actions, acknowledging that they had “damaged the trust and respect I had built up over 14 years in the Welsh parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative party but more importantly with the people of Wales”.” – The Guardian

Johnson beats his EU rivals to bag Biden phone call

“Boris Johnson has made a decisive break with Donald Trump, telling his successor Joe Biden that his election was “a moment of hope in a dark time” for the world. The prime minister made the comments in a telephone call with the new president last night. It is understood he was the first European leader spoken to by Biden since his inauguration on Wednesday. Johnson also used the call to welcome Biden’s announcements that America would rejoin the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organisation, and the two men discussed the prospects of a free trade deal. Downing Street called their conversation “warm and friendly” and released a picture of Johnson chuckling on the call.” – Sunday Times

Comment:

Coronavirus 1) Government quietly changes law to give councils lockdown powers until July 17 this year

“The Government has quietly extended lockdown laws to give councils the power to close pubs, restaurants, shops and public spaces until July 17 this year. The news will be a major setback for those hoping that life might have returned to normal by early summer once more people are vaccinated against coronavirus. It comes after Boris Johnson admitted late last week that “it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some of the restrictions”. The Government had pledged to review the lockdown measures in the middle of next month. The changes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020 were made as part of a review of the third lockdown by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, earlier this month.” – Sunday Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Van-Tam: The vaccine has given us hope, but we still need to follow the rules

“Next Saturday will mark the first anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and next Sunday will be one year on from the first case of Covid-19 detected in the UK. It has been a terrible year as the virus has spread across the world causing misery, hardship, death and severely disrupting all of our lives. The silver lining has been the incredible work of scientists and healthcare professionals across the world. If you had told me 12 months ago, that the UK would have discovered, in dexamethasone, the first treatment proven to reduce Covid-19 deaths, and vaccinated over five million people by this point, I would have been astonished. But that is the place in which we find ourselves. Hardship, but also hope.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Israeli healthcare group says coronavirus infections have plunged by at least 60% among vaccinated over-60s – Daily Mail
  • Covid vaccine: why are doctors alarmed about the 12-week gap between jabs? – Sunday Times
  • Hospitals send Covid patients home to ‘virtual wards’ under care of Dr App – Sunday Times
Comment:

Coronavirus 3) Travellers from virus hotspots face UK ban

“Boris Johnson will approve a new border crackdown on Tuesday that could ban foreign passport-holders from countries where the coronavirus is mutating from entering Britain. New arrivals, including British citizens who come home from Covid hotspots, would be met at point of entry and escorted to isolation hotels, where they will have to stay at their own expense. The proposals will have to be approved by a cabinet committee. Cabinet and Downing Street sources say plans are also “actively” under discussion for an outright ban on all passport-holders from hotspot countries to stop them entering Britain, regardless of where they have been.” – The Times

Coronavirus 4) Children face months at home as schools stay shut until Easter

“Children will not go back to school next month and may not return to the classroom until after the Easter holidays. Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, is expected this week to rule out children returning to the classroom after the February half-term holiday and will prepare parents for the prospect of many more months of homeschooling. While he will not put an exact date on the reopening of schools, education leaders said they did not expect them to reopen fully until mid-April or even as late as May. A government source said: “We are in this for the long haul. We are going to start giving parents more information so they can start managing their expectations. Although we have not arrived at an exact date when we think schools will go back, it will not be after half-term.”” – Sunday Times

Sunak doubles one-off payment offer for universal credit claimants to £1,000

“Rishi Sunak has doubled his offer of a one-off payment to millions of universal credit claimants to £1,000 to replace the weekly £20 uplift, and stave off a growing rebellion among Tory MPs. The Chancellor is hoping that paying an upfront sum could trigger a spending spree to help the economy, The Telegraph understands. Businesses are set to be hit with a double whammy of tax rises in March’s budget, however, as Mr Sunak is lining up a gradual reintroduction of business rates and a rise in corporation tax. Writing in The Telegraph, Andrew Griffith MP, a former business adviser to Boris Johnson in 10 Downing Street, backed an increase in corporation tax.” – Sunday Telegraph

Tories keep top women off TV shows

“When it comes to the flagship political TV programmes on Sunday mornings, it appears that the government is applying its “stay at home” message to the female ranks of the cabinet. Downing Street has put up only one female cabinet minister to answer questions on either The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One or Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday since the start of the first lockdown on March 23. Priti Patel, the home secretary, appeared on both programmes on June 28 last year. Of the 21 cabinet ministers under Johnson, 16 are male, which critics say can affect perspectives on policy decisions. An examination of the guest lists for both Sunday morning programmes reveals that 12 male cabinet ministers have appeared on both shows during that time, some repeatedly.” – Sunday Times

Shapps steers Britain towards being first country to allow hands-free driving

“Britain aims to become the first country to let drivers take their hands off the wheel on motorways. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is pressing ahead with his ambition to clear the way for driverless cars. Senior officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) told insurance industry chiefs on Tuesday that lane-keeping technology could permit drivers to watch a film, send texts or check emails at the wheel from the summer. However, the government is stepping back from a plan to allow this at 70mph and signalled that it will apply in stop-start motorway traffic at speeds of up to 37mph. The technology, the third of five stages leading to cars that have no driver, was approved in United Nations regulations that came into force in Britain on Friday.” – Sunday Times

Climate change tsar Sharma seethes at Jenrick over Cumbria coalmine

“Boris Johnson’s climate change tsar is “apopletic” with a cabinet minister for approving Britain’s first new deep coalmine in decades. Alok Sharma, who quit as business secretary this month to devote himself full-time to the presidency of the COP26 summit, is said to be furious with Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, for not stopping the mine in Cumbria. On January 6, Jenrick formally refused to intervene in the £165m Whitehaven project to remove coking coal from beneath the Irish Sea for steel-making. Jenrick, 39, decided not to use his powers to call in the scheme, which would have given him the right to block it, instead telling councillors he was “content” for the decision to be made locally. A government source said Jenrick did not consult Sharma or other ministers on the plan, in line with planning guidance.” – Sunday Times

Labour shadow Foreign Secretary praises calls for British Army to be replaced with a ‘gender-balanced human security force’ in new woke row

“Labour’s Lisa Nandy is at the centre of a new row over ‘wokery’ after praising a report which suggested replacing Britain’s Armed Forces with a ‘gender-balanced human security’ corps. The Shadow Foreign Secretary faced ridicule after helping to launch a report by the Open Labour group which said the main job of the forces should be to ‘dampen down violence rather than intervene on one side or the other’. Ms Nandy, 41, said she was ‘inspired’ by the pamphlet, which included the argument that that ‘the UK is no longer a great power’ and cited ‘countries like [the] Scandinavians’ as a model for the UK’s role in the world. She told last month’s launch: ‘I hear it a lot on the Tory benches, this idea of a country that ruled the waves.” – Mail on Sunday

Comment:
  • BBC home-schooling programme that tells 9-year-olds there are ‘over 100 genders’ is a masterclass in indoctrination… on the licence fee, Sarah Vine – Mail on Sunday

Hundreds arrested at rallies for Alexei Navalny across Russia

“Russian police detained more than 2,000 people in Moscow and cities across the country yesterday as tens of thousands of protesters braved freezing temperatures and threats of prosecution to demand the release of Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned opposition leader. As many as 50,000 people gathered in a Moscow square a short walk from the Kremlin to chant “freedom for Navalny” and “Putin is a thief” in what was believed to be the biggest unsanctioned protest in the city since President Putin came to power 21 years ago. Among the hundreds detained in Moscow was Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who announced her arrest on Instagram from a police van. She was later released. Clashes broke out as riot police began making arrests, pulling people from the crowd at random and lashing out with truncheons.” – Sunday Times

Comment:

News in brief:

Newslinks for Saturday 23rd January 2021

23 Jan

Hancock ‘rebuked’ for suggesting coronavirus vaccine won’t combat new strain…

“The government’s chief scientific adviser criticised the health secretary yesterday for suggesting that vaccines would be 50 per cent less effective against the South African variant of coronavirus. Sir Patrick Vallance insisted that “you just can’t” take laboratory studies as a sign of what would happen in people, after Matt Hancock appeared to do so in a call with travel agents. Sir Patrick acknowledged that the studies did suggest that the immune system may find it harder to recognise the South African and Brazilian variants but urged people to wait for human data from those countries’ vaccination programmes. He also downplayed concerns raised in Israel that a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine may not be as effective as thought.” – The Times

  • Health Secretary warns importation of new strain could ruin UK vaccination drive – Daily Telegraph
  • Covid variant may be more deadly than original – The Times
  • PHE chief admits it’s not ‘absolutely clear’ if Kent strain is deadlier – Daily Mail

Delay:

  • Israeli data does not undermine decision to delay second dose of vaccine, Vallance says – Daily Telegraph
  • Senior doctors call for gap between first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine to be halved – Daily Mail

Lockdown:

  • March of mutant strain forced Johnson into war of attrition – The Times
  • Fears lockdown may go on for longer as Prime Minister warns that infections remain ‘forbiddingly high’ – Daily Telegraph
  • The best and worst case scenarios – The Times

Editorial:

  • It is becoming clear that we remain in for a long haul – The Times
  • Look on the bright side and focus on the NHS and vaccine progress – The Sun

…as half a million fewer vaccines being supplied to NHS next week…

“Up to half a million fewer doses of Covid vaccine will be supplied to the NHS next week as Whitehall sources admitted the target of vaccinating priority groups by mid-February was increasingly “tight”. Deliveries of the Pfizer vaccine will be cut by between 15 and 20 per cent next week after the US firm announced delays in shipments because of work to increase capacity at its Belgian processing plant, sources said. Boris Johnson announced on Friday that more than 400,000 people in the UK were vaccinated on Thursday in another record day for the national rollout… But Government sources admitted that scheduled deliveries of around 2.8 million doses of Covid vaccine to the NHS will be cut next week to just over 2.3 million doses, partly due to the Pfizer delays.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Britain hits 400,000 daily Covid jabs – Daily Mail
  • NHS staff band together to survive Covid ‘war zone’ – FT
  • Stratton to self-isolate due to Covid rules – The Guardian

Minorities:

  • Almost half of people in high ethnic minority areas snub coronavirus jab – The Times
  • Fake theories may leave half of British Indians reluctant to take it – The Sun

Europe:

  • AstraZeneca warns EU countries it will cut deliveries due to production problems – Daily Mail
  • Brussels ‘panic’ as bloc investigated over secretive Covid jab supply – Daily Express

…and Fire Brigades Union accused of bullying to stop volunteers

“The firefighters union has been accused of bullying its members and advising them to avoid volunteering for the coronavirus effort. A report by the fire services watchdog claimed yesterday that the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) had prevented members from taking part in efforts to tackle the virus. Its leadership held a Facebook event on Thursday as the report was due to be published in which they issued advice to members on how they could withdraw their services. A fire chief told The Times that the union had “bullies” who had intimidated firefighters, including himself. The FBU faces questions over its handling of firefighters’ response to the pandemic. Zoe Billingham, HM inspector of constabulary, the fire services’ watchdog, said its last instruction had been not to assist in efforts to tackle the virus, including volunteering in vaccination centres. It remains in place.” – The Times

  • Rollout is slowest in some of England’s most infected areas – Daily Telegraph

More unions:

  • Unite calls special meeting over alleged overspend on £50m building project – The Guardian

Paul Goodman: The summer will be Johnson’s danger time

“For between a spring of falling deaths, God willing, and an autumn of total vaccination (that’s to say: the point at which all adults have been protected) lies an ambiguous summer, during which deaths will fall faster than cases. Indeed, the latter are set to rise for months to come. Ministers will then face a trade-off between opening up the economy, so pushing the number of health-harming Covid cases back up, or else keeping it closed, and so increasing the economic damage. In the meantime, the government is still struggling to get enough people tested. Hence Matt Hancock’s push for a £500 payment per head for those who volunteer. Some senior ministers are bullish about that trade-off: “It’s a nice problem to have,” one told me. By which he meant that at least in such a scenario deaths will have fallen. One sees his point. But Tory MPs in the Covid Recovery Group may not.” – The Times

  • We must not allow takeovers by global firms to undermine British science – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Please ignore conspiracy theories, take the vaccine and protect yourself and loved ones – Bishop Karowei, The Sun

>Yesterday: James Somerville-Meikle in Comment: The Conservative Party and the Catholic community can find much common ground

Sunak warns MPs that Covid handouts ‘can’t go on forever’

“Rishi Sunak has told Tory MPs that coronavirus handouts “can’t go on forever” as he considers a second budget in the autumn to raise taxes. The Chancellor has begun rolling the pitch for revenue-raising measures but is understood to want to wait until later in the year when the economic outlook is clearer and the recovery in train before making many key decisions about taxes. His March 3 budget is expected to focus on job creation and stimulating the economy, with a warning that the public finances must be put on a sustainable footing in the medium term. A Government source said Mr Sunak is “under constant pressure from Number 10 to be sympathetic on a case-by-case basis [to those financially affected by coronavirus], but the problem is those cases grow all the time”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor’s plan to end UK stamp duty holiday boosted by housing boom data – FT
  • Borrowing hits highest December level on record – The Guardian
  • Allies of Sunak and Johnson slam ‘half baked idea’ to hand every Brit £500 for getting Covid… – The Sun
  • …as ministers look at increasing support for people forced to self-isolate – FT
  • Government urged to raise high income charge threshold for child benefit – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Chancellor has thrived in the pandemic, but his biggest challenges are yet to come – Katy Balls, The Guardian
  • ‘When Boris Johnson moves on, Rishi Sunak will become leader. The party will demand it’ – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Julian Brazier in Comment: A single allowance rate for Inheritance Tax – and five other proposals for making social care more resilient

Patel condemns Facebook encryption plans as ‘morally wrong and dangerous’

“Facebook’s encryption plans for messaging are “morally wrong and dangerous”, Priti Patel said after the tech giant admitted the moves would make it easier for paedophiles to share images of child sexual exploitation. The Home Secretary is demanding that Facebook abandons its plans for end-to-end encryption on all its platforms unless it can guarantee that children will continue to be protected by allowing police and other enforcement agencies “lawful access” to encrypted messages. Police, the Home Office and children’s charities believe encryption will make it impossible for even Facebook itself to detect the millions of messages or images shared by paedophiles that are currently passed to law enforcement agencies for investigation. Their fears were confirmed this week when Monika Bickert, the vice-president of global policy management at Facebook, told MPs there would be a reduction in the number of paedophiles reported to the police as a result of the change.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: 400,000 police records have gone. In the Blair years, home secretaries were forced to resign over less.

Trade 1) EU to seek more time to ratify trade deal with UK

“The EU is set to ask Britain for more time to ratify their new trade deal despite the UK urging Brussels to press ahead quickly, with the issue becoming a fresh point of tension between the two sides.  Diplomats said national ambassadors from EU countries at a meeting on Friday backed an extension to the current end of February ratification deadline, amid concerns that legally approved versions of the trade treaty in all of the bloc’s 24 official languages will not be ready by then. Ambassadors in Brussels were briefed at their meeting by the EU’s in-house lawyers that an end of April deadline would be more realistic to have “authentic” versions ready of the 1,246-page agreement in all 24 of the bloc’s languages. Both the European Parliament and the EU Council that represents member states need to ratify the agreement. The concern on the EU side is that it would be difficult in practice for EU institutions, including the European Parliament, to prepare ratification documents while relying on provisional translations of the deal that may not perfectly match.” – FT

  • Brexit red tape strangling small firms – The Times
  • Peers demand Gove offers them answers about impact on Northern Ireland – Daily Express
  • Fishermen feel waves of betrayal – FT
  • French customs officials’ post-Brexit dirty tricks are revealed – Daily Mail

More:

  • Bloc launches £5bn ‘off-budget’ defence fund to send ‘weapons’ globally – Daily Express
  • MEPs vote to add Channel and British Virgin Islands to tax haven blacklist – The Guardian

Trade 2) Britain’s hopes of a quick trade deal with US fade

“Boris Johnson’s hopes of striking an early trade deal with the US – seen as one of the biggest prizes of Brexit – have faded after new warnings that such pacts were not a priority for president Joe Biden’s new administration. Liz Truss, UK trade secretary, insists that much of the work needed to secure a trade deal has been done, but senior UK government officials have admitted that an agreement may not be possible in 2021. Janet Yellen, Mr Biden’s nominee for Treasury secretary, said the new president had made it clear that the US economy had to be upgraded before more trade barriers were taken down… White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday said there was no set timeline for completing the deal. The administration’s “primary priorities” were tackling coronavirus and providing economic relief to Americans, she added. Kim Darroch, Britain’s former ambassador to Washington, told the BBC it was “a stretch” to think a UK-US trade deal would happen during Mr Biden’s first term as president, saying Britain would not be a top priority.” – FT

  •  US Embassy attempts to play down fears that removal of Churchill bust signals a souring of ‘Special Relationship’ – Daily Mail

‘Varsity line’ will return after £800m pledge to reverse Beeching rail cuts

“Plans to link Oxford and Cambridge by train for the first time in more than 50 years were given a serious boost yesterday as part of a £794 million investment in Britain’s railway. The Department for Transport said it would commit to reopening 20 miles of the old Varsity line between the university cities. It represents a big step towards the full reopening of the 70-mile route which was shut in 1967 after more than 100 years of service because of a decline in passenger numbers. Additionally, the government will fund the reopening of the Northumberland line between Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Ashington, which was closed to passengers in 1964. It has been used for freight but will now be reopened to full passenger services with the addition of six new stations. The investment in both lines was announced as part of a wider policy designed to reinstate old rail services scrapped in the 1960s as part of the infamous Beeching cuts.” – The Times

  • Red Wall projects get just £34 million – The Sun

Holyrood inquiry in ‘unprecedented’ legal move to force release of ‘explosive’ Salmond documents

“Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP face potentially damaging revelations over the Alex Salmond affair after a Holyrood committee invoked legal powers never used before to force the release of “explosive” documents. The Holyrood inquiry investigating a botched civil service probe into allegations of sexual misconduct against the former First Minister said it needed to see information held by Scottish prosecutors to assess claims that a harassment procedure was used to “damage the reputation of Alex Salmond”. Its convenor, an SNP MSP, said the “unprecedented” move, designed to force the release of  documents obtained in the criminal investigation into Mr Salmond and passed to his defence, was needed to uncover the truth. The legal notice to the Crown Office requests internal communications between senior SNP and Scottish Government officials, over text message and WhatsApp, related to Mr Salmond.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Johnson should be deeply wary of opening Pandora’s Box with a constitutional commission

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The amazing story of Mohammad Sarwar shows how Sturgeon can be defeated

London ‘goes to war’ with Sadiq’s ‘illegal’ road schemes

“Residents in five London boroughs have taken the fight against cycle-friendly ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhoods’ to the high court. Sadiq Khan’s controversial road scheme was this week ruled ‘illegal’ by a high court judge who said it was found to be ‘seriously flawed’. Dozens of roads were closed and others narrowed to create new cycle lanes in the height of lockdown last year in an effort to encourage walking and cycling. But residents in Hackney, Ealing, Hounslow, Lambeth and Croydon have now launched a legal challenge to stop the road closures. The hearing on February 12 could be decisive in the battle between councils and motorists across the capital. One of the challenges, by residents in Hackney, said the road changes were unlawful because of the lack of consultation, failure to consider the impact on traffic, air pollution, and the disproportionate effect on people from Black and ethnic minority groups.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • O’Brien: the Tory MP holding right-wing Covid conspiracy theories to account – Marie Le Conte, GQ
  • Sensationalist headlines spread Covid panic and lead to bad decisions – William Wellesly, CapX
  • Life after Cummings at No.10 – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • There’s nothing so ex as an ex-Prime Minister – Nigel Jones, The Critic
  • It’s time to stop blaming boomers – Ben Sixsmith, UnHerd

Newslinks for Friday 22nd January 2021

22 Jan

Coronavirus 1) £500 payments for those who self-isolate

“Everyone in England who tests positive for coronavirus could be given £500 to ensure they self-isolate under plans to stop hardship spreading the virus. Ministers are trying to solve a problem that scientific advisers have long said is an obstacle to controlling the virus. Paying all those with a positive test could cost £2 billion a month. However, the payment could be limited to those who cannot work from home. Ministers are due to discuss the issue next week but an overhaul of financial support seems imminent. The present payments system has been blamed for prolonging the pandemic by forcing infectious people to go to work.” – The Times

  • Biden warns Covid deaths will top 500,000 next month – Financial Times
  • Best areas push ahead as two million given vaccines in a week – The Times
  • Fixating on the R number isn’t real science – Ed Conway, The Times

Coronavirus 2) “Too early” to say restrictions will be lifted in the spring, PM cautions

“It is “too early” to say whether England’s Covid restrictions will be able to end in the spring, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said. Once the four priority groups have been vaccinated, by mid-February, “we’ll look then at how we’re doing,” he said. Nearly two million people in the UK have had their first dose of vaccine in the past week, government figures show. Scientist Marc Baguelin, who advises the government, has said restaurants and bars should not reopen before May.” – BBC

  • Schools could be shut until after Easter holidays – Daily Mail
  • Delaying the second dose a terrible mistake – Professor Herb Sewell, Daily Mail

Coronavirus 3) Patel announces £800 fines for partygoers

“People attending illegal house parties will face £800 fines from next week as police tighten their clampdown on coronavirus rule-breaking. Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the hefty penalty for anyone attending gatherings of 15 or more people as she lashed out at revellers for spreading Covid. The fines will double for each repeat offence, up to a maximum of £6,400, she announced as she fronted a Downing Street press conference. Hosts of illegal parties are already eligible for a £10,000 fine.” – Daily Mail

  • In our dark times, an illicit rave in Leighton Buzzard is music to the ears – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Columnist Iain Dale: 400,000 police records have gone. In the Blair years, home secretaries were forced to resign over less

Coronavirus 4) Nelson: Vaccines may bring freedom at home but usher in Fortress Britain

“We could well end up with a situation where Britain wins the fight against Covid, with the vulnerable vaccinated and the economy reopening, but with Australian-style barriers at the borders and the country harder to get into than ever. Even the most hardline advocates of the policy accept that trade must keep moving, so hauliers would stay on the roads (after regular tests). It’s also argued that this is temporary. The Aussie Rules may only be needed until other countries vaccinate enough. But still, it would be more Fortress Britain than the global Britain that we had been told to expect after Brexit.” – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

  • PM faces pressure to shut borders – Daily Telegraph
  • Cabinet doves and Treasury hawks in battle over borders – Daily Telegraph
  • Closing the borders might work for Australia, but it won’t work for us – Matthew Lynn, Daily Telegraph
  • Beware knee-jerk border closures. Measures, once imposed, are hard to reverse – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Dowden shelves plans to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee

“Plans to decriminalise non-payment of the TV licence fee will not go ahead, but the issue remains under “active consideration”, the Government has said. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said switching to a civil enforcement may be seen as an “invitation” to avoid paying the fee. But he said the Government is concerned that a criminal sanction could be “disproportionate and unfair”. This week has seen renewed calls for the licence fee to be scrapped altogether, with John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, saying there is “no wonder millions of us have turned off the BBC” in recent years. Mr O’Connell referred to the BBC as Auntie- a phrase oft-used in the 1950s to contrast the organisation’s prudish image with that of the brash ITV.” – Daily Express

  • BBC spends £1m in legal battles fighting discrimination and equal pay cases – Daily Mail
  • The BBC needs to raise its game and reform its funding structure – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Sunak: “There is no magic money tree”

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak has told Conservative MPs he wants to use his March Budget to start restoring order to the public finances, as he attempts to put “clear blue water” between the Tories and Labour. Mr Sunak has warned Tory MPs in private meetings that their demands for extra public spending could force cuts elsewhere, or tax rises. “He wants to wean us off the magic money tree,” said one senior Tory MP. Although the chancellor’s main focus in his March 3 Budget will be to support the economy through what he hopes will be the final phase of the coronavirus pandemic — requiring billions of pounds of extra support — he wants to take the first steps to tackle the virus-induced deficit.” – Financial Times

  • UK retail sales stage tentative recovery over Christmas – City AM
  • Covid has made the rich richer and the poor poorer. Sunak must do nothing to worsen that divide – Leader, The Sun
  • No 10 piles pressure on Chancellor over universal credit extension – The Times
  • France demands Britain help bail out Eurostar – Daily Telegraph
  • Bailing out Eurostar would be an insult to the north – Tony Lodge, The Times

>Yesterday: Jo Gideon on Comment: Civic pride can help level up post-Covid Britain, but it needs Government support

Raab refuses diplomatic credentials to EU ambassador

“Brexit Britain is refusing to grant hordes of Eurocrats in London diplomatic immunity — to the fury of Brussels. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has turned down elite credentials to the EU’s new ambassador to the capital — because he does not represent a country.Livid Brussels bosses want him to be able to roam the UK above the law. But Joao Vale de Almeida, the EU’s first ambassador in London after Brexit, has not been given the same favoured status as other diplomats.” – The Sun

Nissan welcomes “competitive edge” from Brexit

“Nissan has said Brexit has given the company an edge, as the Japanese carmaker said it will buy more batteries from within the UK to avoid tariffs. The owner of the UK’s largest car factory, in Sunderland, also said it would push ahead with the production of a new version of its Qashqai SUV this year, after it delayed the new model as the coronavirus pandemic wrought havoc on car sales and production. Ashwani Gupta, Nissan’s chief operating officer, said: “Brexit gives us the competitive advantage not only within the United Kingdom but outside the United Kingdom also.” Speaking from Nissan’s Yokohama headquarters, Gupta said the Brexit deal had turned out to be positive for the carmaker. The advantage comes because it is not reliant on batteries imported from east Asia, unlike many of its rivals.” – The Guardian

  • Retailers could burn goods stuck in the EU – BBC
  • Shoppers pay a third extra to get hold of EU goods – The Times
  • Annual £7.5bn cost of EU trade as bad for business as no-deal Brexit – The Times
  • Making Brexit work – Leader, The Times

Average cost of MP rises to £240,000 a year

“Taxpayers are forking out nearly £240,000 on average to fund their MP, figures show. Members of Parliament claimed expenses and allowances of £157,747 on average last year – up an inflation-busting 6.5 per cent on the year before. This is on top of the basic MP’s salary of £81,932 – adding up to £239,679. The total claimed in expenses and allowances in 2020/21 was £127.6million, Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority figures analysed by the TaxPayers’ Alliance show.” – Daily Mail

Republicans seek delay in Trump’s impeachment trial

“Republicans in the US Senate are asking Democrats to delay the start of former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial until February. They argue this will give Mr Trump time to prepare a defence. He is accused of inciting insurrection after supporters of his stormed the Capitol this month. House of Representatives’ Democrats are ready to hand the charge to the Senate. Mr Trump flew to Florida as his term ended on Wednesday, skipping his successor Joe Biden’s inauguration.” – BBC

  • Biden risks squandering the chance to heal – Gerard Baker, The Times

Forsyth: A flat ‘no’ to Sturgeon won’t save the Union

“One idea gaining traction in Whitehall is taking the Tories’ manifesto commitment to a “Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission” and turning it into a broader look at where powers should rest after Brexit and after Covid. In a conversation last month, Johnson sought the view of one senior Tory on the merits of a royal commission to look at the constitution. I’m told that Johnson himself seemed sympathetic to the idea. One of the attractions of this proposal is that it would extend the debate beyond Scotland. It would examine how power in England should be distributed, how the new mayoralties are performing and whether counties should have more responsibilities.” – James Forsyth, The Times

  • It is toxic nonsense to say Scotland would have weathered Covid better as an independent country – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Hugely disappointing’ as £36m SNP digital fund pays out just £6m – The Scotsman

>Yesterday: Columnist Henry Hill: Welsh Conservative leader under pressure to quit over Senedd drinking session

News in brief

  • Decline and fall of the dollar and America itself  George Paterson, Conservative Woman
  • The basic flaw in British Government – Peter Franklin, Unherd
  •  The urgent case for new nuclear investment – Eamonn Ives, CapX
  • What the West can do about China’s Uyghur labour camps – Harald Maass, The Spectator
  • The return of Alexei Navalny – James Snell – The Critic