Newslinks for Friday 31st July 2020

31 Jul

Home visits banned for millions in north of England

“Lockdown restrictions were tightened last night for four million people across large parts of northern England after a rise in the number of coronavirus cases. The government announced that people from different households would be barred from meeting indoors in Greater Manchester, east Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire. The move comes after a rise in cases in northern England, which ministers believe has been caused by people failing to observe social-distancing rules. The restrictions apply to all indoor gatherings, including pubs and restaurants, with immediate effect. However there was confusion about whether people could still meet indoors within their support bubbles.” – The Times

  • Hancock says ‘we are prepared to take action’ after Manchester – Daily Express
  • Leicester mayor condemns Government over lockdown confusion – The Times
  • ‘New low for the Government’s communications’ – Daily Mail

More:

  • Self-isolation for Covid-19 symptoms extended to ten days across UK – FT
  • How concerned should we be about a coronavirus resurgence? – Daily Telegraph
  • Fewer than half now know what the rules are – Daily Mail
  • Anti-lockdown campaign raises £230,000 – The Times

Comment:

  • When did easing pressure on the NHS change to stopping anyone catching it? – Janet Street-Porter, Daily Mail
  • Quarantine sledgehammer is crushing far more than just Covid – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Targeted lockdown is the right approach – The Sun

Scotland 1) Carlaw ‘ousted to make way for Cummings critic’ Ross

“Ruth Davidson is poised to take centre stage for the Scottish Conservatives again after Jackson Carlaw was forced out as party leader. Less than six months since he took charge Mr Carlaw, 61, said in a statement that he had reached the “simple if painful conclusion” that he was not the best person to guide the Tories through the coronavirus crisis and into the Holyrood election next May. It is understood that he was pressured to quit by senior figures in the Scottish party who are backing Douglas Ross, 37, the former Scotland Office minister, to be his replacement. Mr Ross left the government in May over Dominic Cummings’s 260-mile drive to Durham during the lockdown.” – The Times

Comment:

  • Carlaw is a good man, but comparisons with Davidson did him no favours – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

Scotland 2) Sturgeon rebuked by statistics watchdog over ‘dodgy’ claims about UK virus rate differences

“Scotland’s First Minister repeatedly claimed earlier this month that the prevalence of the virus was “five times” higher in England, and opponents said she had deployed the figure “to suggest her policy was working better than elsewhere in the UK”. She also used the statistic to justify her controversial refusal to rule out imposing quarantine on visitors crossing the border into Scotland and taking a different approach to Boris Johnson on air bridges. But in an intervention described by her critics as “damning”, Ed Humpherson, Director General for Regulation at the Office for Statistics Regulation, said that the “uncaveated” comparison should never have been made as it was not backed up by sound data.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson reprimanded for child poverty statistics misuse – FT

More SNP:

  • Nationalist split as Cherry attacks ‘obsession’ with Brexit – Daily Express

Hancock ‘hails Zoom medicine’ as GPs go online

“Matt Hancock has hailed a new era of “Zoom medicine” in which patients consult their doctor by video-link or phone rather than face to face. The health secretary said there must be “a compelling reason” to see a doctor in person as he called for the NHS to learn lessons from the pandemic. In a speech to the Royal College of Physicians yesterday Mr Hancock said the health service must keep some of the operational changes that were introduced to cope with the pandemic. There must be a drive for “bureaucracy-busting” in the NHS, he said. Ministers believe that remote consultations will lead to a better service for those who need face-to-face care by freeing up doctors’ time.” – The Times

  • Philp is latest minister to isolate – The Sun

Johnson ‘threatens Lords reform’ after peerages for Tory party donors blocked…

“Boris Johnson is understood to be furious after he was blocked from giving peerages to some of the Conservative Party’s financial backers, and is threatening to reform the House of Lords in retaliation. The Prime Minister is said to be “very frustrated, angry and upset” after a Lords watchdog refused to sign off peerages for some of his business supporters this summer. Instead, the list – which has been ready to publish for a number of days – will largely consist of political backers, with a second list of financial supporters, including businessmen Johnny Leavesley and Peter Cruddas, due to be published in the autumn. The House of Lords Appointments Commission is said to have raised objections after the Lords Speaker, Lord Fowler, expressed concerns about the size of the Second Chamber, which is set to surge above 800 after the appointments.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Peers urge cut to Universal Credit wait – The Sun

…as he praises new police numbers

“Boris Johnson hailed the highest increase in police officer numbers in almost two decades after figures revealed more than 4,000 have already been recruited this year. Police forces have signed up almost a quarter of the 20,000 the PM promised to deliver in his flagship election pledge. Some 4,336 officers were hired in the first eight months of the Government’s recruitment drive from a whopping 89,950 applications to join the police. It takes the overall headcount of officers in England and Wales to 133,131, according to Home Office figures released yesterday.” – The Sun

  • Officer strength highest since 2012 – The Times

Conservatives ‘face questions’ over handling of allegations against Elphicke

“The Conservative Party is facing serious questions over its handling of allegations against Charlie Elphicke after his conviction yesterday for three sex attacks. The then MP for Dover had the party whip suspended – meaning he was effectively kicked out of the party – in November 2017 following claims of sexual assault, almost a year after he was first reported to his party. But Elphicke controversially had the whip restored in December 2018, ahead of a crucial confidence vote in the then Prime Minister Theresa May, while he was being investigated by police. Mrs May was facing what was expected to be a knife-edge vote tabled by hardline Brexit Conservatives angry at her withdrawal policy. The move to bring him back into the fold during Mrs May’s tenure has been described as ‘appalling’ by Anna Soubry, who was a Tory MP at the time.” – Daily Mail

  • Ex-MP ‘faces prison and divorce’ after sex assaults conviction – The Times
  • Wife and Dover MP dumps him on Twitter – Daily Mail

More:

  • ‘Evasive’ ex-minister loses bid to keep £20 million divorce battle secret – Daily Telegraph

Ian Dale: Downing Street’s new spokesperson job is the ultimate poisoned chalice

“No one in their right mind, and certainly no one at the top of their game, would apply for this job given the conditions they would have to operate under. It is the ultimate poisoned chalice – and I say that as someone who’s being quoted as one of the favourites to land it. If you’re of a betting persuasion I’d advise you to save your money. The advantage of being 58 years old is that I have enough self-knowledge to know that I’d both hate it and, perhaps more importantly, be useless at it. So why is No 10 breaking decades of parliamentary lobby tradition and insisting on these briefings being on the record? Simples. It fits into their narrative of going over the heads of political journalists and straight into people’s living rooms.” – Daily Telegraph

China fires warning shot to UK over ‘cold war’

“China has warned the UK not to allow “cold war warriors” to “kidnap” cordial relations between Beijing and Britain, firing a new salvo in the ongoing diplomatic row between the two countries. Liu Xiaoming, China’s ambassador in London, said disagreements over Beijing’s imposition of a new security law in Hong Kong, as well as the UK’s ban on using Huawei in its 5G mobile networks, had “seriously poisoned the atmosphere” in Sino-British relations. “China and the UK should have enough wisdom and capability to manage and deal with these differences, rather than allowing anti-China forces and cold war warriors to kidnap China-UK relations,” he told reporters on Thursday, urging Britain to exercise its independence and avoid being coerced by the US into taking a “hostile” stance against Beijing.” – FT

  • Passport veto as Beijing says UK has poisoned relations – The Times

Labour Party in ‘humiliating data breach’

“The Labour Party is the latest in a number of organisation to have their data breached following a cyber-attack on cloud computing provider Blackbaud. Hackers are believed to have accessed information about thousands of party donors over a period of several years. The Party are understood to have been first informed of the breach on July 16 and will be informing all of those impacted by the attack later this week. Inside sources told ITV News they believe personal and confidential information about donors, including analysis that was run by the party about their personal views, is likely to have been accessed. They also said that all donors, including those who donated less than £7,500 and therefore did not have to declare their donation to the Electoral Commission, are likely to have had their data breached.” – Daily Express

  • Opposition ‘slaps down union demands’ to put kids in face masks – The Sun

Newslinks for Thursday 30th July 2020

30 Jul

Isolation for Covid-19 ‘to be increased by three days’…

“People with symptoms of coronavirus will be told to stay home for 10 days, amid fears that Britain is facing a second wave of the virus. The period of isolation – which is currently seven days – will be increased by three days, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer will announce. However, the Health Secretary will on Thursday say that ministers are now exploring ways to reduce the 14-day quarantine period for those entering the UK, which could mean that quarantine and self-isolation periods are standardised at 10 days. All this comes after Boris Johnson expressed fears about the threat of a second coronavirus wave across Europe, with concerns that it could arrive in the UK in the next two weeks.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister ‘scrambles to avoid new lockdown’ – Daily Express
  • Johnson faces demands from Tory MPs and industry for airport testing – Daily Telegraph
  • Davis leads calls for Boris Johnson to introduce shorter isolation periods – Daily Mail
  • MPs urge government to provide targeted emergency support – The Guardian

Comment:

  • The figures on a second wave don’t add up – Ross Clark, Daily Mail

….as Government to expand Covid-19 rescue loan scheme

“The government is expanding its Covid-19 rescue loan scheme to cover small businesses on the edge of collapse, a move that Labour warned would come too late for many troubled firms. With less than a week before the furlough scheme covering 9 million employees is cut back, plunging more employers into debt, the Treasury said it would use a change in EU state aid rules to allow firms previously locked out of the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS) to access government funds. The economic secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, said he would write to major lenders advising them of the change, which will make more small businesses – specifically those that have racked up large losses and debts – eligible for loans of up to £5m. By the end of June, more than £11bn had been lent to more than 50,000 businesses under CBILS.” – The Guardian

  • Furlough scheme has cost taxpayer more than £30 billion, Treasury data reveals – Daily Telegraph
  • UK strikes deal for 60m Covid-19 vaccine doses with Sanofi and GSK – FT

More:

  • Baffling advice raises risk of second wave, says BMA chief – The Times
  • MPs claim care homes were ‘thrown to the wolves’ – The Sun
  • Outbreaks highlight disparities in UK test and trace regimes – FT

Shapps arrives back in UK to start quarantine

“Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has arrived back in the UK after cutting short his Spanish holiday. The minister was on a family holiday when new travel restrictions came in to force at the weekend and will now have to self-isolate for two weeks himself. The move to scrap the so-called travel corridor with Spain, which came following a spike in cases in the country, has caused chaos for airlines and the travel industry at the peak of the summer holiday season. But speaking on his return Mr Shapps said he “cannot rule out” that other countries could be included under the UK’s quarantine measures. He told reporters  that the decision to require travellers arriving in the UK from Spain to isolate for 14 days was the “right thing to do”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Fears over coronavirus second wave starting to roll across Europe, warns Hancock – The Sun
  • Britain must plug ‘alarming’ gaps, MPs warn – Daily Express
  • Doctors should use WhatsApp to give patients test results, says Hancock – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Stranded Britons should take more responsibility – Clare Foges, The Times
  • Ditch overseas holidays to eliminate coronavirus – David Hunter and Neil Pearce, The Guardian

No 10 ‘wants woman’ for daily White House-style press briefings

“No 10 is on the hunt for a female broadcaster to host daily White House-style televised briefings and broadcast its message directly to the public. Boris Johnson wants to build on the success of the coronavirus press briefings with the new format starting in October. The successful candidate will be paid more than £100,000 to field questions from lobby journalists — more than MPs and on par with most cabinet ministers. It is understood that the government is determined to hire a woman to counter the impression that Mr Johnson has a “woman problem”. Three quarters of his cabinet ministers are men, and No 10 has been criticised for the lack of women fronting its coronavirus briefings.” – The Times

Paul Goodman: Johnson’s majority may not survive the tough decisions ahead

“Are Tory MPs really up for the hard choices ahead? Two examples suggest they may not be. The first took place in the plain light of political day. Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United footballer, led a campaign to extend free meals for schoolchildren during the summer holidays. Prominent Tory MPs, such as Robert Halfon and Tracey Crouch, threatened to vote with Labour to support it. The Government caved in. The second was less blatant, but it worried the Treasury more. Most Conservative MPs like to think of themselves as champions of lower taxes and a smaller state. But when Covid-19 came, their response was much the same as the Labour big state politics they had denounced at the election only a few weeks previously.” – Daily Telegraph

Gove urges sceptical businesses to embrace £50m customs broker scheme

“The government has urged business to take advantage of a £50m grant scheme to boost the training and recruitment of 50,000 new customs brokers for the coming trade border with the EU, despite industry warnings that the scheme is insufficient and “flawed”. Customs, logistics and haulage industry leaders said the drive to expand capacity in the customs sector before border checks come into force in January next year was facing headwinds caused by Covid-19 and the uncertainty around EU-UK trade talks. “I urge the intermediary sector and businesses to take advantage of the help on offer now,” said Michael Gove, the cabinet office minister, adding that brokers, freight forwarders and express parcel operators will play a “critical role for businesses” from January.” – FT

  • Johnson’s new immigration system ‘risks opening up UK to over 600 million people’ – The Sun
  • French minister says ‘No Deal Brexit is better than a bad deal’ – Daily Mail

Johnson ‘planning second peerages list to reward donors in autumn’

“Boris Johnson is understood to be planning a second list of peers as early as September to reward leading businessmen and financial donors to the Conservative Party. A list of dozens of new members of the House of Lords, including ex-cricketer Sir Ian Botham, Sir Eddie Lister, Mr Johnson’s Number 10 chief of staff, and the former Labour MP Gisela Stuart is due to be announced within days. However, financial supporters including Peter Cruddas and Johnny Leavesley, who have backed the party in the past, have been shunted to a second list in the early autumn. It is also understood that Michael Spencer, a businessman and the party’s treasurer from 2006 to 2010, will also have to wait until the autumn for his peerage.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Donations of £1bn trigger calls for parties to adopt corruption checks – The Times

Britain is in ‘panicked’ discussions with Five Eyes allies to combat the West’s reliance on China

“The UK government is in ‘panicked’ discussions to revive the Critical 5 alliance to combat the West’s dependence on China for its infrastructure. Five Eyes countries – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, are said to be in ‘feverish discussions’ to resurrect the Critical 5 branch of their agreement from 2012 which deals with critical infrastructure such as water, energy and communications… ‘They haven’t met for five years but fears over supplies and our ability to secure ourselves have grown so great that the governments are resurrecting this historic body in order to tackle security together.’ The source added that many ministers in the UK Government see the Critical 5 initiative as an ‘oven-ready’ structure to deal with the challenge of China’s stranglehold on the supply chain on a ‘multilateral basis’.” – Daily Mail

Corbyn acted in ‘self-interest’ when deleting Wiley tweet, says anti-Semitism charity

“Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “acting purely out of self-interest” after he deleted an old tweet thanking Wiley but failed to condemn the rap star’s anti-Semitic rant. The former Labour leader became the latest public figure to distance themselves from the 41-year-old rapper, known as ‘the Godfather of grime’ following his anti-Semitic rants over social media. Mr Corbyn – whose five-year leadership of the Labour Party was repeatedly dogged by complaints of anti-Semitism and became embroiled in multiple scandals – deleted a tweet from December thanking the musician for his support at the 2019 general election, in which his Conservative Party rival, Boris Johnson, won an 80-seat majority.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Corbynite rebellion crumbles after plot to undermine Starmer backfires – Daily Express

More:

  • Khan ‘thought Brexit was bigger risk’ than coronavirus – The Sun

Comment:

  • To rebuild the left, let’s look beyond the Labour leadership – Neal Lawson, The Guardian

Newslinks for Wednesday 29th July 2020

29 Jul

Coronavirus 1) Johnson “fears a second wave” in the UK in a fortnight

“Boris Johnson fears a second wave of coronavirus could start within a fortnight. A senior government source told the Mail the Prime Minister was ‘extremely concerned’ by outbreaks ‘bubbling up’, both at home and abroad. Although the number of UK cases is relatively low, rises were recorded each day last week for the first time since the April peak. The seven-day average stands at almost 700 – 28 per cent up on three weeks ago. Ministers have been warning of a potential second wave of the pandemic this winter but now fear it could come sooner. On a visit to Nottingham yesterday, Mr Johnson said Britons must not drop their guard.” – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 2) Ministers split on travel restrictions

“Boris Johnson is facing government splits over his travel quarantine policy after a transport minister suggested that a regionalised approach could be adopted. All non-essential travel to the Canary Islands and the Balearics was barred on Monday, bringing the destinations into line with the restrictions for mainland Spain… Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, pushed strongly for a blanket country-by-country approach rather than allowing travel to specific regions. There were suggestions that the Department for Transport and the Foreign Office pushed for a regionalised approach, but there was unanimous agreement between cabinet ministers at a meeting of the Covid-19 operations committee on Saturday. However, Baroness Vere of Norbiton, a transport minister, said yesterday that the government could adopt a regionalised approach in future.” – The Times

  • Smart tests for Covid ‘poised to halve quarantine within days’ – The Times
  • France introduces beach-side testing – The Sun
  • Government must reconsider its blanket quarantine on arrivals back from Spain – Leader, The Sun
  • Island breaks – Leader, The Times
  • An alternative approach must be found – Leader, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Government’s speedy response to Spain reflects what happened in the initial stages of the Coronavirus outbreak

Coronavirus 3) Heathrow boss calls for airport tests

“The chief executive of Heathrow Airport has urged the Government to allow passengers to be tested for Covid-19 on arrival in a trial to rescue the summer tourism season. John Holland-Kaye told The Telegraph that Heathrow could have a test “up and running” in two weeks, meaning holidaymakers who have just set off for Spain could be checked – at a cost of £150 – when they arrived home. They would be tested on arrival and, if the result was negative, would be tested again five or eight days later. A second negative test would allow them to come out of quarantine up to six or nine days early, depending on how quickly tests are processed. France and Germany are among at least 20 countries already using such tests to cut quarantine for arrivals from countries with high levels of coronavirus, and there is growing pressure on Boris Johnson to follow suit.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK facing ‘K-shaped’ economic recovery as the gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ widens – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 4) MPs condemn “appalling error” of patients discharged to care homes untested

“The decision to allow hospital patients in England to be discharged to care homes without Covid-19 tests at the start of the pandemic has been described as “reckless” by MPs. The Public Accounts Committee said there had clearly been an “emerging problem” with official advice before it was “belatedly” changed in April. It accused ministers of being slow to support social care during the crisis. The government said it had been “working closely” with the sector. The committee said around 25,000 patients were discharged into care homes in England between mid-March and mid-April to free up hospital beds. After initially saying a negative result was not required before discharging patients, the government later said on 15 April all patients would be tested. In a highly critical report, the cross-party committee said the initial decision to allow untested patients into care homes was an “appalling error”.” – BBC

Coronavirus 5) Ending furlough scheme “will increase unemployment to ten per cent”

“UK unemployment will rise to 10 per cent of the workforce by the end of the year because of the government’s decision to bring a premature end to its furlough scheme, the National Institute for Economic and Social Research has warned. Publishing its latest quarterly forecasts, the think-tank said on Tuesday that its main scenario was for UK output to fall by 10 per cent in 2020, and to remain 6 per cent below its pre-coronavirus trajectory in 2024. In this scenario, unemployment would rise above 3m to almost 10 per cent, its highest rate since the early 1990s — and although the jobless rate would recede after that, it would not return to pre-Covid lows by 2024.” – Financial Times

  • Labour highlghts loss of jobs in tourism sector – The Guardian
  • Here comes a 1920s-style, post-pandemic boom – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Simon Kaye on Local Government: The scale of the community and voluntary response to the pandemic was a wake up

Coronavirus 6) Government agrees to £500 million emergency funding for film industry

“Ministers have pledged £500 million to get the cameras rolling on Britain’s crisis-hit film sets. The money will cover the insurance of productions hammered by the Covid lockdown. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “The UK’s film and TV industry is the envy of the world. He added: “It’s vital that productions get the help they need to restart as part of our plan to kickstart jobs following the lockdown. “This targeted scheme, which will help fill the gap created by the lack of available insurance, will help protect tens of thousands of jobs, from actors and directors through to camera operators, costume designers, and runners. The sector is worth over £12billion to the UK’s economy, so it’s right that we do what we can to help them reopen and get back to making the films and shows that we all love.” – The Sun

Coronavirus 7) Sturgeon: I wouldn’t book a foreign holiday at the moment

“The First Minister has said she would not personally book a foreign holiday given the “inherent unpredictability” of the spread of coronavirus, as she poured cold water on demands for compensation for those affected by the sudden reintroduction of quarantine on travellers from Spain. Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Nicola Sturgeon was asked about potential compensation for Scots who booked holidays in Spain only to find they would now have to spend 14 days in quarantine on their return, with the potential loss of earnings it could cause.” – The Scotsman

>Today: ToryDiary: The Union with Scotland is neither as weak nor as strong as it looks

First Brexit trade deal “will be with Japan”

“Britain will sign the first post-Brexit trade deal within weeks after talks with Japan. The discussions, in the wake of 40-plus years of being tied to the European Union, were carried out at breakneck speed. Negotiations opened on June 8 and have been conducted daily until today’s “significant breakthrough”. The top-level dialogue is at an “advanced stage” and ministers believe they could wrap it up by September. The accord will reduce the cost of Japanese tech devices, such as PlayStations, and allow the UK to sell more luxury cars there. The arrangement will be implemented on January 1, 2021 — as soon as the UK’s transition period out of the EU expires. The outline of the agreement is based on the EU-Japan deal from last year.” – The Sun

  • £50 million for new customs officers “not enough” – Peter Foster, Financial Times
  • David Frost has warned his counterpart Michel Barnier to rethink his position or the UK would proceed with no deal – Daily Express

>Today: Andrew Bowie on Comment: Evidence today that Ministers won’t negotiate trade deals that expose British farmers to unfair competition

Downing Street searches for a spokesman for televised press conferences

“Boris Johnson has launched a search for a new £100,000-a-year spokesman to become the face of the Government in regular televised press conferences from this autumn. A job advertisement for a new spokesman to “communicate with the nation on behalf of the Prime Minister” will be posted online by Conservative Central Office on Wednesday morning. Mr Johnson wants to build on the success of the Government’s coronavirus press briefings which, until late last month, were broadcast to millions of Britons from Number 10 each day.” – Daily Telegraph

Call to widen eligibility for free school meals

“Free school meals should be extended to another 1.5 million children in England, says a government-commissioned review into food and healthy eating. The National Food Strategy warns that the country’s eating habits are a “slow-motion disaster”. The review warns of the toxic connection between poor diet and child poverty. Report author Henry Dimbleby said a nutritious diet was the “foundation of equality of opportunity”. “Unless action is taken to improve our food system, many thousands will continue to suffer,” said Mr Dimbleby, co-founder of the Leon food chain.” – BBC

  • ‘Once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity for more sustainable food – BBC
  • Ban on checkout treats would be a ‘shoplifters’ charter’ – The Sun
  • Contradictory measures show the government is making it up as it goes along – Julia Hartley-Brewer, Daily Telegraph

Facebook bans anti-semitic grime musician

“The Facebook and Instagram accounts of grime star Wiley were finally removed today after he launched another inflammatory rant which appeared to contain anti-Semitic remarks. The musician – real name Richard Cowie – had previously been suspended from Facebook and Instagram for seven days over the posts, which were made over the past 48 hours. He had already been banned from Twitter over the weekend over anti-Semitic comments which are currently being probed by police. However, his Twitter account has not yet been taken down.” – Daily Mail

>Today: Columnist Robert Halfon: Do Twitter’s bosses believe that anti-semitism is worth indulging for profit?

Vans could be banned in city centres

“HGVs and delivery vans could be banned from city centres under government plans to create more road space for cyclists. The transport department is proposing to introduce compulsory “freight consolidation schemes” where all deliveries are made to out-of-town depots. The goods would then be transported to their final destination in the city centre by a “far smaller number of vehicles”, with a focus on environmentally friendly cargo bikes and electric-powered vans. Pilot schemes are being proposed in one or two small older cities with “narrow and crowded streets”.” – The Times

Balls: Tory split over online sales tax

“Johnson’s first instinct is to go for growth but even these measures have so far proved controversial. A plan to temporarily relax Sunday trading laws to stimulate the economy was pulled when the old Christian right of the Tory party began to rally MPs to their cause. Some form of tax rise is viewed as likely – with an online sales tax the latest to be under discussion. This immediately divided opinion with Telford MP Lucy Allan voicing her opposition after West Midlands mayor Andy Street suggested it was a good idea. But Johnson has said recently that the government will not raise income tax, national insurance or VAT for five years and will protect the state pension triple lock. This is where it all becomes rather dicey. The new Tory coalition all have different views on who should carry the burden.” – Katy Balls, The Guardian

  • Tories can’t put off new property tax forever – James Kirkup, The Times
  • We must have an online tax to save our high streets – Tim Newark, Daily Express

>Today: Columnist Darren Grimes: “Hey folks, eat out and spend more – no, not you, fatty. And here’s a new tax for you, consumer-friendly online retailer.”

Johnston: Scrapping the Lords would not improve democracy

“When it comes to the Lords, though, I doubt that much will change and nor am I convinced that it should. Proponents of reform tend to caricature the Lords as a bloated legislature stuffed with placemen and women claiming money for doing no work. But it contains scores of peers with far greater expertise and wisdom than anyone in the Commons. An elected Upper House would merely replace independent-minded crossbenchers with party hacks. Lord Fowler is right to keep plugging away at reducing the numbers. But as to more sweeping reforms, there is no evidence that members of an elected House would contain members of a higher quality than an appointed body…Two elected chambers would make government more difficult because they would always be confronting one another. So when the new peers are gazetted in the next few days we should take the calls for Lords reform that will inevitably accompany their elevation with a pinch of salt.” – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • The growing evidence of a V-shaped recovery – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • The four sins of science – and how to overcome them – Sam Bowman, CapX
  • Where should we build? Harry Phibbs, The Article
  • Defending our nation – John Redwood
  • We must free the millions held as modern slaves – Laura Anne Jones, Conservative Woman

Newslinks for Tuesday 28th July 2020

28 Jul

Quarantine to be cut to 10 days for people arriving from Spain…

“Quarantine for people arriving from Spain and other countries with high levels of Covid-19 will be cut to 10 days under plans being finalised by ministers, The Telegraph has learnt. The Government hopes to announce this week a new policy of testing arrivals from high-risk countries eight days after they land. If they test negative they will be allowed to come out of self-isolation two days later, reducing the mandatory quarantine period by four days. The move will cut almost an entire working week off the self-isolation requirement, and ministers hope it will help salvage the summer holiday season for some of those already booked on flights abroad.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish Prime Minister, criticises the UK’s decision – Reuters
  • Whitty told ministers they had to act – Daily Telegraph
  • Shapps flies home from Spain into Coronavirus quarantine – The Times
  • No 10 tells holidaymakers to claim universal credit for quarantine – The Guardian
  • Millions face losing entire cost of holiday as Coronavirus cases increase – The Times
  • Bookings for staycations surge – The Times
Comment

… as holidaymakers are told there’s a risk to all travel

“Holidaymakers were warned yesterday that “no travel is risk-free” as concern grew that the quarantining of arrivals from Spain will be extended to other countries. Downing Street insisted that rules on overseas travel were under “constant review”, raising fears that the holiday plans of millions will be threatened. At least 11 European countries where quarantine-free travel is possible have suffered Covid-19 increases in recent days, with some reaching higher infection rates than the UK. In the past fortnight Croatia and Belgium have registered twice as many cases per head as Britain. Infections have climbed in France, Germany and Austria too.” – The Times

  • Curfews and local lockdowns make holiday resorts the new Coronavirus front line – The Times
  • Europe faces tough tourist season as result of virus – Daily Telegraph
  • Repatriation during pandemic hampered by penny pinching, say MPs – The Times
  • Foreign Office neglected Britons abroad after Covid-19 travel bans, says report – The Guardian
  • Police crack down on “illegal” staycations – Daily Telegraph
  • WHO says Covid-19 is “easily the most severe” crisis it has faced – The Guardian

Downing Street urged to toughen up on “back to work” message as big companies say they’ll keep staff working from home

“Downing Street was urged to toughen up its ‘back to work’ message last night after a string of top firms said they would not be encouraging staff back to offices for months. A Mail audit of big companies found many are not planning for the majority of workers to return to offices until at least towards the end of the year. In another worrying sign for city and town centres, several bosses said they expected working from home to become the ‘new normal’ after the crisis. Among the firms contacted by the Mail, consultancy giant KPMG said the majority of its 16,000 office-based workforce were unlikely to return until next year. Education publisher Pearson, which has about 3,600 office staff, also said workers would not be expected to return potentially until 2021.” – Daily Mail

  • Johnson warns UK businesses to prepare for second wave – FT
  • Cat diagnosed with Coronavirus in first UK case of animal infection – The Guardian

Junk food ad ban is likely to take two years

“A 9pm watershed for junk food adverts is likely to take two years to introduce as ministers give companies time to make food healthy enough to promote. Calorie labels on pub beer pumps are being considered and the government has told cafés and restaurants that they will be next for compulsory nutritional labels on menus and chalk boards. Boris Johnson promised an obesity plan yesterday that would not be “nannying or bossy” as he cited his weight-loss efforts to encourage people to use fear of the coronavirus to get in shape. The prime minister said that he had been “too fat” when he was admitted to intensive care with Covid-19 in April.” – The Times

Mark Wallace: Boris Johnson’s obesity drive is nannying – and contradicts Sunak’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme

“Yesterday, Rishi Sunak tweeted a list of restaurants, the first letters of which spelled out the slogan of his new policy to help the industry: Eat Out to Help Out. The scheme is pretty famous, and not just for its enjoyably smutty undertone. The Treasury will provide a 50% subsidy for diners in thousands of establishments for most of August. On the same day, the Chancellor’s neighbour announced another government initiative: a new obesity strategy. “Like many people, I struggle with my weight,” Boris Johnson confessed, citing his personal experience of Covid-19 as evidence of the need for the nation to get fitter and shed some flab.The plan includes a ban on pre-9pm TV advertising of unhealthy foods.” – The i Paper

>Yesterday:

Johnson will today announce £2 billion strategy to encourage cycling

“Electric bikes will be cheaper under a new subsidy to encourage older people and commuters to get out on the road. Boris Johnson will announce today a £2 billion strategy to spread “the transformative benefits of cycling” following concerns that people shun two wheels because of worries over road safety or cost. In England grants will help cyclists to buy ebikes, which typically cost £1,000 to £3,000. The subsidy level is yet to be fixed but if it mirrors the electric car scheme, it would mean a third off the price. The grants will be on top of the government’s cycle to work scheme, which gives higher-rate taxpayers up to 42 per cent off the cost of a bike, potentially providing more than two thirds off for some employees.” – The Times

The “cabinet is too large”, Sedwill tells the PM

“Boris Johnson should cull half the cabinet and the government is “too siloed” and “too rivalrous”, the departing head of the civil service said yesterday. In a valedictory speech Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, said that decision-making was being hindered by the “preoccupations of Westminster” rather than the “issues which matter to our citizens”. His call for Whitehall reform is striking because it chimes with the views of Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s chief adviser, with whom Sir Mark has clashed in recent months. Whitehall sources said that both men had always agreed on the need to streamline government but fell out over what Mr Johnson and Mr Cummings saw as Sir Mark’s inadequate early response to the coronavirus.” – The Times

Hackers “based in China” targeted Tugendhat with campaign of lies

“Chinese cyberagents are suspected of being behind a campaign against a senior Conservative MP involving hacking attempts and online impersonations. Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, said last night that he had been subjected to concerted efforts to access his email account and discredit him professionally and personally. The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a division of GCHQ, the government listening post, was called in to examine attacks on his communications and attempts to impersonate him online. Google’s security team also investigated the origins of “spoof” email accounts set up to mimic him and found that the ultimate users were based in China.” – The Times

PM told to include care workers in NHS visa scheme

“Boris Johnson is under pressure to include social care workers in a fast-track NHS visa as figures show that half a million more carers will be needed over the next 15 years. A year after Mr Johnson promised to fix the elderly care system “once and for all”, efforts have intensified in government to find a solution but no structure or funding model has been finalised. Yesterday No 10 denied reports that a tax for the over-40s to fund social care was under consideration. The prime minister’s spokesman said: “It is not true that we are considering this.” However, the idea has gained support among some in government as a way of raising billions of pounds needed to improve the system.” – The Times

Comment:

Ministers gave £275m of aid cash to firm that built “unsafe” schools in Pakistan

“A company that failed to build schools for 115,000 pupils in Pakistan was awarded an extra £112 million by the British government for projects around the world. IMC Worldwide was awarded a £184 million contract to rebuild earthquake-damaged schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab in 2014 by the Department for International Development (Dfid). However, six years later some students are still being taught in tents after safety concerns revealed serious design flaws in 92 per cent of the schools. It has now emerged that Dfid awarded the company responsible a further £112 million of business for projects ranging from road construction in Nepal to water sanitation in Sierra Leone.” – The Times

Cummings leads push for light-touch UK state-aid regime after Brexit

“Leading members of the UK government are pushing for a minimal, light-touch regime for state aid for British business after Brexit — a stumbling block for talks between London and Brussels over an EU-UK trade deal. Influential Brexiters led by Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s most senior adviser, are arguing against any legislation that would see the UK’s internal market subsidy regime between England, Scotland and Wales governed by an independent regulator. The light-touch regulatory approach would be opposed strongly by Brussels, with the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier saying last week there could be no future economic partnership without “robust guarantees” on a level playing field for future trade — including on state aid.” – FT

Government draws up extension to Help to Buy scheme

“UK ministers are drawing up plans to extend the Help to Buy property support scheme beyond its December deadline to prevent buyers losing out due to Covid-19 delays. The government is set to prolong the Help to Buy Equity Loan programme, which allows people in England to buy a new-build property with a tiny deposit, to protect several thousand people whose purchases have been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. Introduced in 2013, the initiative helps people buy a home with a deposit of as little as 5 per cent of the property’s total value, with the government providing a further 20 per cent equity loan, or up to 40 per cent in London.” – FT

Bercow, Watson and Corbyn’s ex-chief of staff “will not get peerages”

“John Bercow, Tom Watson and Jeremy Corbyn’s former chief of staff Karie Murphy will be formally rejected for peerages this week when the Dissolution Honours are published. Whitehall sources said the trio – who were all nominated by Mr Corbyn – have been dropped from the final list following concerns raised by the House of Lords Appointments Commission, known as Holac. Former Conservative Party treasurer Peter Cruddas has also been left off the list, and two other major Conservative donors are in doubt. However, Holac has approved around 30 new peers, including the England Cricket legend Sir Ian Botham, former Tory chancellors Kenneth Clarke and Philip Hammond and former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson.” – Daily Mail

News in brief:

Newslinks for Monday 27th July 2020

27 Jul

Quarantine 1) Scramble to flee Spain as 1.8m Britons face chaos…

“British holidaymakers faced travel chaos yesterday amid anger over the government’s “disastrous” decision to introduce a two-week quarantine on arrivals from Spain. Passengers told of a scramble to book last-minute flights back to the UK on Saturday evening — hours before the restrictions were imposed — in an attempt to beat the quarantine rule. Many warned of a complete breakdown in communication from the government and airlines over the change to travel rules which were suddenly introduced following a spike in coronavirus cases in the country. An estimated 1.8 million Britons are either in Spain or due to fly there over the coming month — the peak of the summer getaway.” – The Times

Comment
>Yesterday:

Quarantine 2) …and Shapps must quarantine on return from Spain

“Grant Shapps was mocked by Government figures on Sunday after falling foul of his own “air bridges” policy by jetting off on holiday to Spain. The Transport Secretary will have to self-isolate for 14 days when he returns home after ministers closed the travel corridor with Spain on Saturday. Business minister Paul Scully fell into the same trap by going on holiday in the Canary Islands. Mr Shapps was unaware that his Government colleagues were about to remove Spain from the “safe list” of countries with lower levels of coronavirus infection when he set off on holiday last week. On Saturday, the Government decided to re-impose a 14-day quarantine period for all arrivals from Spain after Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, was shown data revealing that coronavirus was on the rise in 15 of the country’s 19 provinces.” – Daily Telegraph

Quarantine 3) The Sun: Imposing quarantines at short notice will destroy confidence

“We’ve all grown used to Coronavirus trampling our well-laid plans. But the Spain quarantine shambles over the weekend isn’t just causing inconvenience. Those being asked to stay away from work on their return aren’t legally entitled to sick pay. Which means that unless employers do the right thing and offer paid leave, sticking to the rules could mean losing two weeks’ income. It’s hard to blame the Government for acting quickly: cases in Spain spiked suddenly, and it would be a crying shame to undo all the good work over lockdown by allowing returning holidaymakers to roam freely around the UK. But you don’t need a crystal ball to realise that in the long run, imposing quarantines with four hours notice will destroy travellers’ confidence and decimate the struggling tourism industry.” – The Sun

Lose 5lb and save the NHS £100m, says Hancock

“Everyone who is overweight should lose at least 5lbs in order to save countless lives and spare the NHS a £100million cost, the Health Secretary has said. Matt Hancock said coronavirus was the “deadly wake-up call” Britain needed to tackle obesity, as the Government unveils a strategy to slim the nation’s waistlines. The advertising of unhealthy food will be banned online and before the 9pm watershed on television, with buy one get one free deals on chocolate and crisps axed and calorie counts placed on menus. An army of “weight loss coaches” at GP surgeries will be trained to persuade millions of people to change their diets and reform couch potato lifestyles.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Online junk food ads face ban – FT
  • Family doctors will become ‘weight coaches’ – Daily Mail
  • PM to launch obesity plan – The Sun
  • Four in five swimming pools remain closed in setback for Johnson’s anti-obesity drive – Daily Telegraph
Comment

Sunak ‘considers online sales tax in bid to save high street’

“Rishi Sunak is considering a new tax on goods sold online amid mounting concern about the collapse of the high street as Britain emerges from the coronavirus crisis. The chancellor is examining proposals for an online sales tax to provide a “sustainable and meaningful revenue source for the government” and help bricks-and-mortar retailers to compete. The Treasury is also considering radical plans to abolish business rates and replace them with a “capital values tax” based on the value of land and the buildings on it. The tax would be paid by the owner of the property rather than the business leasing it.” – The Times

  • ‘Four years’ to recover from record recession – The Times
  • Chancellor mulls tax on online sales – Daily Mail
  • Johnson and Sunak will announce spending spree on roads, infrastructure and energy – Daily Mail
Comment
>Today:

Over-40s in UK ‘to pay more tax to fix social care crisis’

“Everyone over 40 would start contributing towards the cost of care in later life under radical plans being studied by ministers to finally end the crisis in social care, the Guardian can reveal. Under the plan over-40s would have to pay more in tax or national insurance, or be compelled to insure themselves against hefty bills for care when they are older. The money raised would then be used to pay for the help that frail elderly people need with washing, dressing and other activities if still at home, or to cover their stay in a care home. The plans are being examined by Boris Johnson’s new health and social care taskforce and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, is a keen advocate of the plan.” – The Guardian

Patel takes on Twitter over Rapper’s antisemitic posts

“Priti Patel has criticised Twitter and Instagram for being slow to remove antisemitic posts by the rapper Wiley as the Jewish Board of Deputies called for him to lose his MBE. The home secretary demanded that social media companies act faster on “appalling hatred”. Messages by the grime artist, including one likening Jews to the Ku Klux Klan, were visible for 12 hours before some were removed. The Board of Deputies, the country’s largest Jewish group, called for the removal of his MBE, an honour awarded in 2018 for his services to music.” – The Times

  • Home secretary lashes out at Twitter – Daily Mail

No 10 faces challenge over rising cost of opinion polls

“Downing Street is facing questions from parliament’s spending watchdog over a surge in public money being spent on opinion polling. Analysis by The Times reveals that the Cabinet Office spent at least £833,000 with polling companies between January and May this year, more than was spent during the whole of last year. Meg Hillier, Labour chairwoman of the Commons public accounts committee, will write to the Cabinet Office this week over the increase. The figures put the department on track to spend £2 million on polling by the end of the year, which would be triple the £686,000 spent last year.” – The Times

  • Hoyle ‘worried’ by No 10 TV briefings plans – BBC News
  • Chief whip ‘did nothing when I said I’d been sexually assaulted’ – The Times

Whistleblowers ‘will drop legal action if Corbyn expelled’

“Expelling Jeremy Corbyn from Labour could spare the party legal action over a leaked anti-Semitism report that would bankrupt it. Some ex-party staff now poised to take part in multi-million pound lawsuits against Labour say they will drop their claims if the former leader is thrown out of the party. But the extraordinary ultimatum will enrage backers of Mr Corbyn already furious that Labour under new leader Sir Keir Starmer last week apologised to anti-Semitism whistleblowers and agreed to pay them damages in a separate case.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief

Newslinks for Sunday 26th July 2020

26 Jul

Tourists must quarantine for 14 days on return home from Spain

“Tens of thousands of British tourists in Spain have had their holidays thrown into disarray after the Government imposed an immediate two-week quarantine for anyone returning home from the country. Ministers reimposed restrictions on travel from Spain, including its islands, on Saturday night following new outbreaks of coronavirus that prompted Spanish health officials to warn of a potential second wave of infections. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office changed its advice to warn against all but essential travel to mainland Spain.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is currently in Spain – Sunday Times

Senior Tories accuse PHE of failing to learn lessons from Coronavirus response…

“Public Health England has been accused of failing to learn the lessons of the first wave of coronavirus after Duncan Selbie, the chief executive, insisted its decision to drop mass contact tracing in March was “entirely appropriate” because “people weren’t moving around”. Senior Conservatives said PHE’s leadership appeared not to realise “quite how much harm they did” by failing to carry out mass testing and contact tracing during the peak of Covid-19 infections.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Some local Coronavirus outbreaks could be “mass hysteria”, says Joint Biosecurity Centre – Sunday Telegraph
  • Number of people with Coronavirus antibodies lower than thought – Sunday Telegraph
  • London cab drivers say Sadiq Khan has prioritised cyclists and buses as their earnings fall – Daily Telegraph

… and other Tory MPs claim union chiefs want civil servants to “stay home forever”

“Union chiefs were last night accused of wanting staff to ‘stay at home forever’ after defying Boris Johnson’s clarion call for workers to get back to the office. Tory MPs reacted with anger after the Public and Commercial Services Union told their members to challenge bosses who ordered them back to their desks. Former Minister Andrew Percy said it was ‘unacceptable’ that vital public-sector work such as issuing passports was going undone while private employees had toiled to keep the country going during the coronavirus crisis.” – Mail on Sunday

Treason laws to target UK lobbyists for “hostile” Russia and China

“Ministers are rewriting the treason laws to target Britons who work for foreign powers as concern grows about attempts by China and Russia to buy influence in Britain and manipulate public opinion. Senior government sources say Home Office officials have their “foot very much on the gas” to publish new treason laws this autumn, probably as part of a defence and security review. The definition of treachery would include helping foreign states that are engaged in various types of attacks on the UK and assisting groups with which the UK is engaged in armed conflict. Sajid Javid raised the prospect of a definition of treason to tackle “hostile state activity” when he was home secretary in 2019 and that work is now nearing a conclusion.” – Sunday Times

  • Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, warns that “China too are developing offensive space weapons” – Daily Telegraph

Javid: We must treat the threat of Chinese and Russian cyber attacks as seriously as we do terrorists

“In the Cold War television thriller Deutschland 83, there’s a scene in which a young East German spy is ordered to photograph a report in the possession of Nato’s top analyst. After breaking into his hotel room, the spy finds the report is stored on a floppy disk. Having sent it back across the Iron Curtain, the fiasco ends with his boss staring at the disk in bewilderment, asking his colleagues: ‘What the hell am I supposed to do with this?’ They hadn’t developed a computer that could read it. This is a quaint reminder of the days when technology worked to the West’s advantage and there were limited ways for foreign countries to interfere with domestic life.” – Mail on Sunday

>Today:

GPs told to get tough and tell patients “you’re fat”, under Johnson’s obesity drive…

“Boris Johnson will tomorrow tell the two-thirds of Britons who are fat to get on their bikes to lose weight – as GPs are ordered to be direct and tell their patients when they’re too fat. The Prime Minister intends to put daily exercise front and centre of his new ‘Better Health’ drive targeting the 35 million Britons estimated to be overweight. He is even recruiting his pet dog, Dilyn, to extol the benefits of going for walks. It is understood the year-old rescue pup will appear in a video alongside Mr Johnson as he launches the campaign. One of the key elements of the campaign will be urging GPs to be direct with patients.” Mail on Sunday

… as he and Sunak shake up Treasury with “Silicon Valley” approach

“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, are to ditch decades of Treasury orthodoxy, prioritising public spending on projects that will “move quickly, start small and fail fast”. In a major speech this week, Steve Barclay, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, will reveal plans to import a venture capitalist-style approach from Silicon Valley that would champion “innovative” schemes and those that would be quickest to deliver Government promises on infrastructure, roads and energy.” – Sunday Telegraph

Shapps intervenes after his green traffic policy creates “ghost town” in his own constituency

“Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has been forced to lobby against his anti-car policy in his own constituency after barriers meant to aid social distancing turned a village high street into a “ghost town”. Shopkeepers in Welwyn say businesses already struggling after the lockdown could be forced to close because visitor numbers plummeted when roads were transformed and a one-way system was introduced. More than 1,300 people have signed a petition calling on Hertfordshire County Council to use “common sense””. – Daily Telegraph

Green electric railways to cost up to £30bn, says Network Rail

“Taxpayers are in line for a bill of up to £30bn to make the railways greener, according to a leaked Network Rail report. The document urges Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, to take action immediately or risk missing the Government’s 2050 net zero carbon goal. The 231-page analysis by state-backed tracks and stations owner, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, shines a light on how Britain’s railways have failed to keep pace with electrification overseas. In order to meet Britain’s climate change commitments, 15,700 km (9,756 miles) of track, on which predominantly diesel locomotives run, needs to be upgraded.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tax break for MPs and 3,000 staff to get on £2,500 e‑bikes – Sunday Times

A-level and GCSE results to be decided by computer modelling

“Most A-level and GCSE results will be decided by statistical modelling rather than teachers’ predicted grades, in a major about-turn by the Government. Teachers’ predicted grades will serve “little or no purpose” in the modelling that determines the majority of pupils’ results, sources have said. Concerns over the reliability of teachers’ predictions – in particular, their tendency to inflate pupils’ grades – led to a decision by Ofqual, the exam regulator, not to rely on them. Hundreds of thousands of students will receive their A-level and GCSE results next month, despite all exams being axed this year.” – Daily Telegraph

Free TV licences: over‑75s launch “guerrilla warfare” on BBC to escape fee

“The BBC has been accused of a “distinctly amateurish” start to charging over-75s for television licences as it emerged that pensioners will not receive a letter outlining the change until after it takes effect. From Saturday viewers over 75 will no longer be automatically exempt from paying the £157.50 fee. But TV Licensing will only then start sending out the 4.5 million “payment invitation” letters. They will be posted in batches, so many pensioners face a longer wait. Although households do not need to act until after the letters land, the three million aged over 75 who do not receive pension credit will still be expected to pay for the year from August 1.” – Sunday Times

Minorities still believe in tolerant Britain, poll finds

“Most people in ethnic minorities think Britain’s racial and religious groups get on well and have a positive view of other communities, according to a new poll. More than three in four adults in black, Asian and other communities agree that “in general, the different ethnic groups that make up this country get on well”. The findings come after a summer of protests led by Black Lives Matter (BLM) and suggest that the country’s reputation for tolerance is still seen as deserved. It comes 10 days after Boris Johnson launched a commission to look into racial disparity in the UK in the wake of the anti-racism protests, which followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.” – Sunday Times

Labour antisemitism row: legal cases could bankrupt party

“Labour has been warned it faces payouts of millions of pounds that could threaten the party’s financial stability unless it settles a series of legal actions out of court. Lawyers from 3D Solicitors, representing nine current and former Labour members, are expected to inform the party of the detailed basis of claims they are making this week for breaches of data protection and privacy rules. All nine had their WhatsApp messages included in a report produced by Jeremy Corbyn loyalists in the party’s headquarters that was then leaked to the media in April.” – Sunday Times

20mph limit puts brakes on motorists in a third of UK towns

“A speed limit of 20mph is rapidly replacing 30mph as the norm in towns and cities – backed by an unprecedented level of police enforcement. After years of sparsely distributed speed cameras and police patrols, the new approach is catching drivers unawares. More than 77,000 motorists in London have been caught breaking the 20mph limit since January and face court hearings, fixed penalties and speed awareness workshops. The figure for the whole of last year was just over 50,000.” – Sunday Times

Google profits from anti-vaxxers

“Five companies have pulled online adverts after a Sunday Times investigation found Google placed them on websites spreading “dangerous nonsense” about vaccines and the coronavirus. Currys PC World, JD Sports, Sotheby’s, Jigsaw and Accenture ordered the tech giant to remove their ads from websites promoting false claims that vaccines cause autism and that people who have a Covid-19 vaccine will have a tracking chip implanted in them. Google was accepting web pages that violate its policies and as a result was earning millions of pounds in revenue via its digital advertising platform.” – Sunday Times

News in brief:

Newslinks for Saturday 25th July 2020

25 Jul

Coronavirus 1) “Very open questions” about whether the lockdown should have started earlier

“Boris Johnson has admitted the government did not understand coronavirus during the “first few weeks and months” of the UK outbreak. The PM told BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg there were “very open questions” about whether the lockdown had started too late. Mr Johnson also spoke of “lessons to be learned” and said ministers could have done some things “differently”…Previously, the prime minister has said he took the “right decisions at the right time”, based on the advice of scientists. But, in an interview with Laura Kuenssberg to mark the first anniversary of his entering Downing Street, he said: “We didn’t understand [the virus] in the way that we would have liked in the first few weeks and months. And I think, probably, the single thing that we didn’t see at the beginning was the extent to which it was being transmitted asymptomatically from person to person.” – BBC

>Yesterday: Amanda Milling on Comment: A year ago, Johnson became Prime Minister – and we have since laid strong foundations for our levelling-up agenda

Coronavirus 2) Sharma: Please volunteer for a vaccine trial

“The best way to defeat this virus once and for all is finding a safe and effective vaccine, and, while scientists are leading the charge, the public can help by volunteering for trials. We are asking people to register to participate in important clinical studies, helping to speed up the search for a vaccine and to end the pandemic sooner. I am incredibly proud that, here in the UK, remarkable vaccine research is taking place right this second at the University of Oxford and Imperial College London…As a Government, we are backing every horse in the race to ensure the British public can be vaccinated against this disease as soon as possible.” – Alok Sharma, Daily Mail

  • Hopes for ‘game-changer’ coronavirus antibody test sinking fast – The Times

Daily Telegraph confirms ConHome’s report: The Conservatives are scrapping their proposal for a Democracy Commission…

“Boris Johnson has speeded up plans to curb the judiciary after axing a manifesto pledge to hold a commission on changing the way the courts operate. The Prime Minister is expected to announce next week that he has set up a panel to examine the issue of judicial reviews, which were successfully used to overturn his decision to prorogue Parliament last year. Mr Johnson believes the courts have become increasingly politicised and are being used to “conduct politics by another means” and wants to define in law what they can and cannot be used to challenge. The Conservative Party’s last manifesto promised to set up a Constitution, Democracy and Human Rights Commission by December to examine “in depth” issues ranging from judicial reviews to the Human Rights Act. But instead, Mr Johnson has decided to speed up the process on priority issues by setting up small, highly expert panels to deal with each element individually.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Whitehall coup upstaged by Scots – The Times

>Thursday: ToryDiary: The Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission pledged in the Conservative Manifesto is being quietly shelved

…as Moore welcomes the decision

“This week, it has emerged that the Government is dropping its manifesto pledge to set up a Constitution, Democracy and Human Rights Commission. This should be seen not as a jettisoning of these subjects, but the opposite. Commissions on great themes tend to spread themselves too widely, take up too much time, and produce no result. Instead, the Government seems set to pursue the issues by other means. Soon there will be a reappraisal of Judicial Review (JR). JR used to be the legitimate practice of ensuring that governments only acted within the scope of the powers conferred on them. It has increasingly become a means to question the merits of the decisions governments have made. It must rein back. The long-touted repeal of the Human Rights Act is now being actively pursued.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Patel to restrict hostile Chinese commercial activity

“Priti Patel is to bring in sweeping powers to protect British companies from being ripped off by hostile Chinese rivals. Tough laws will stop Beijing-backed firms taking over UK businesses and stealing their ideas.Home Secretary Ms Patel said Britain is “completely geared up” to better protect itself against such “pernicious behaviour”. Under the shake-up, sanctions will be imposed on spies and their governments to curb hostile activities in the UK. Ms Patel said: “You’ve got to have effective sanctions and tools that are deployed. We’ve seen China responsible for all sorts of actions even through Covid.” The Bill will also include greater screening of overseas investment to protect critical industries.” – The Sun

Restaurants “to be forced to publish calories for each meal”

“Restaurant and takeaway chains will be forced to publish the calories in every meal they serve. Similar labels will also have to be placed on bottles and cans of beer, wine and spirits sold in shops. The move is part of an anti-obesity strategy ordered by Boris Johnson following his near-fatal brush with coronavirus in April. Obesity is one of the key risk factors for coronavirus. The Government is also expected to consult on plans to outlaw online advertising of junk food and restrict it on TV until after 9pm. A ban on buy-one-get-one-free supermarket deals is part of the strategy although ministers are wrangling over exactly which items to include.” – Daily Mail

  • Johnson’s obesity strategy embraces his inner nanny – Leader, Financial Times
  • Public Health England calls for action – The Guardian
  • We’re on a runaway train to a total ban on all ‘junk food’ advertising, and it will achieve nothing – Christopher Snowdon, Daily Telegraph
  • Government isn’t the only means to fix the obesity problem – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Conservatives “considering reinstating Party Conference”

“The Conservatives are considering reinstating a scaled-back party conference weeks after cancelling the annual event on safety grounds as they seek to boost confidence in the flagging UK economy. The governing party moved this year’s gathering in Birmingham from October 4-7 entirely online because of the lockdown. At the time it said it “hoped to” run some small scale meetings but is now advancing plans to lead by example in demonstrating Britain is open for business. Events venues can reopen on October 1 in England and the owner of Birmingham’s International Convention Centre said it was talking to Conservative high command about a “hybrid event”, with some delegates present and the rest participating online. Paul Thandi, chief executive of NEC Group, told a media briefing on Friday that the event was cancelled on July 7 when the government did not know when venues would reopen.” – Financial Times

Brexit 1) Merkel “will help secure UK/EU trade deal”

“British negotiators believe Angela Merkel is set to switch her attention to Brexit and can help broker a deal in September. The German chancellor and other EU leaders will have more time to focus on the talks now they’ve ended their internal budget bunfight.No10 hopes capitals will provide Michel Barnier with some meaningful guidance on a way forward to smash the deadlock. EU chiefs have been distracted by a long scrap over how to bankroll the continent’s coronavirus recovery which was finally resolved this week.” – The Sun

Brexit 2) Parris: The EU is slowly herding Britain to satellite status

“We may manage a few deals that don’t undermine the European standards we’ll undertake to stick to but the last thing we’ll want is big new rows that threaten the trade deal with Brussels. Thus, slowly but with a horrible inevitability, and after four years of bleating and barking and running hither and thither, are the Brexit sheep herded through the only gate left: economic satellite status to the EU. It won’t be a disaster and we’ll remain free (as Mr Johnson will trumpet) to depart the playing field whenever we choose. And we won’t.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Labour was warned antisemitism report was deliberately misleading

“Labour’s most senior lawyer under Jeremy Corbyn formally warned the party that an internal report on antisemitism was deliberately misleading and relied upon improperly obtained private correspondence, leaked documents show. Thomas Gardiner, Labour’s director of governance and legal until last month, wrote that the report should not be circulated because party employees’ emails and WhatsApp messages had been “presented selectively and without their true context in order to give a misleading picture”. The report, which was leaked to the media, was compiled to be submitted to an inquiry by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into Labour’s handling of antisemitism complaints.” – The Guardian

  • Corbyn supporters raise £190,000 for legal fight – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: LeftWatch: Starmer’s desire to “draw a line” under anti-Semitism in Labour will be harder than he thinks

Lib Dems hold online hustings for leadership election

“The Liberal Democrats will hold a virtual meeting with its members in Wales on Saturday to help decide the next leader of the party. MPs Sir Ed Davey and Layla Moran are the two candidates, with results to be announced on 27 August. The Liberal Democrats lost their only Welsh MP at the last General Election and the party only has one Senedd seat. That is held by Member of the Senedd (MS) for Brecon and Radnorshire Kirsty Williams, the education minister. The hustings will be held online and available for all to watch, although only Welsh Liberal Democrat members will be allowed to submit questions to the candidates.” – BBC

>Today: ToryDiary: The Tories’ hard pivot against the Cardiff Bay establishment reveals the power of Welsh devoscepticism

Peers went to Russia despite warning

“Peers travelled to Moscow to launch talks on the “restoration of inter-parliamentary relations” with Russia in defiance of warnings from the Foreign Office last year, The Times can reveal. Viscount Waverley, a hereditary peer who sits as a crossbencher, joined Tory Lord Balfe and Labour parliamentarian Lord Browne of Ladyton on the visit to the Duma, Russia’s parliament, last December. They had talks with Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the state assembly, and other Russian representatives. Viscount Waverley and Lord Balfe are vice-chairmen of the all-party parliamentary group on Russia, which had been warned by the British government to avoid travelling to Moscow.” – The Times

Murray: Trump has a path to victory

“One giant opportunity has been handed to Trump. And, being a man of shark-like senses, he will not let it go to waste. That is the opportunity that the Left has handed him through its response to the shocking killing of George Floyd two months ago now. The legitimate expression of outrage that followed the killing in Minnesota did not last long before its crazier elements began to take hold. Within days, the narrative had slipped from “These were outrageous actions by specific policemen” to “The American police have a problem in their entirety”. From there it was the work of a moment to fall into the current slogans of the radical Left: “All cops are b—–s” and “Defund the police”. It is easy enough for campaigning radicals to think that the public is on their side in such a moment. The vast majority of Americans were appalled by what happened in Minnesota as much as were publics worldwide. But in that moment of opportunity the Left significantly overplayed their hand.” – Douglas Murray, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Has a spending splurge staved off a slump? – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • Power up the powerhouse – Alistair Burt, The Article
  • Managing the overseas aid budget – John Redwood
  • Johnson faces an almighty battle against the SNP – here’s how he can win it – Henry Hill, CapX
  • A ban on junk food ads is gesture politics – John Rentoul, Independent

Newslinks for Friday 24th July 2020

24 Jul

Johnson ‘nurtures Union’ with extra £1.9bn for Scots

“Boris Johnson has given Scotland an extra £1.9 billion as part of a plan to help Britain “bounce back stronger together” which he hopes will shore up support for the Union. The prime minister suggested that Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, had highlighted differences between London and Edinburgh throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. During a trip to Orkney and northeast Scotland, Mr Johnson said that the main differences between his approach to the virus and Ms Sturgeon’s was presentational. She had claimed that his trip north of the Border, where he promoted a joint £100 million growth deal for the Scottish islands with the Scottish government, was political campaigning.” – The Times

  • He pledges Scotland and England will ‘bounce back stronger together’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Anniversary in power blighted by Scottish woes – FT
  • Sturgeon accuses Johnson of using Covid-19 as ‘political weapon’ – The Guardian
  • MSP says First Minister’s briefings are ‘party broadcasts’ – Daily Mail

More:

  • Bridge to Northern Ireland could be ‘as essential as M25’, says minister  – Daily Telegraph
  • Huge Holyrood row erupts over SNP’s plans for schools – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Only money is holding the union together – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian
  • Linking Scotland and Ireland may weaken the Union – Eilis O’Hanlon, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Remainers cannot re-write history: it is Covid-19, not Brexit, that challenges the Union

>Yesterday:

 Johnson to ‘ban junk food ads before 9pm watershed’ in bid to battle Covid-19 obesity risk

“Junk food ads will be banned online and before TV’s 9pm watershed under Boris Johnson’s radical plan to battle obesity, it emerged last night. Shops could also be barred from promoting unhealthy food and drink products in store. The PM is planning to unveil the sweeping new restrictions on the marketing of high-fat and sugary foods as part of his blueprint for making Brits leaner following evidence obese people are more likely to die from coronavirus. He will unveil the Government’s new obesity strategy on Monday. The new curbs are expected to cover a wide range of products, including chocolate, sweets, milkshakes and even yoghurt drinks.” – The Sun

  • Huge rise in coronavirus test centres to prepare country for winter – The Times
  • Everything you need to know about donning face masks – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: As a leading epidemiologist says school closures may have been a “mistake”, did the decision lack adequate debate?

Brexit: UK sets October deadline as Barnier warns agreement ‘unlikely’

“Britain has set a new deadline of October for a trade deal with the EU to be signed after Michel Barnier said an agreement was now “unlikely”. The two sides remain deadlocked on the issues of fishing rights and anti-competition guarantees, but will continue talking through the summer after conceding that Boris Johnson’s July deadline will be missed. David Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator, said a deal could still be reached if the EU was prepared to give ground – but Mr Barnier said Britain’s current position was “completely unacceptable” to Brussels. Government figures had previously suggested that Mr Johnson could walk away from the talks if there was no outline agreement by the end of this month. However, Mr Frost said he still believed an agreement could be reached before the end of September, so the talks will continue.” –

  • Trade deal in September is possible, UK and EU officials say – The Times
  • Johnson turns to shadowboxing in tussle over deal – FT
  • Barnier ‘demands fishing power grab’ – Daily Express

Fraser Nelson: Johnson learn the real lesson of his first year in office?

“This top-down model – clear orders, no discussion, flay enemies – is what’s needed to finish the job. Deadlines need to be respected and red lines defended. Giving ground on either can be fatal, as Mrs May found out. The Prime Minister will have hated purging Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond, but if he hadn’t, there would be no 80-strong majority now. The problem is that once you start governing this way – diktats from No 10, punishments for dissenters, nodding dogs in Cabinet – it can be hard to stop… But the command-and-control methods have failed with Covid. Ministers are told to await instructions, but none are forthcoming. No 10’s indecision seems final.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Britain’s hand is stronger than doomsters think – Iain Martin, The Times

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: My end of term school report on the Cabinet. Grades below. Open with care.

Treasury draws up plans for infrastructure bank

“Rishi Sunak is drawing up plans for a new infrastructure bank to provide billions of pounds of new funding for capital projects across the country, as ministers seek to kickstart Britain’s economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic. With the UK unlikely to remain a member of the European Investment Bank after the end of the Brexit transition period later this year, detailed discussions are taking place across Whitehall over how a new state-owned lender could accelerate upgrades to Britain’s creaking infrastructure. While government officials cautioned that no final decision had been made, Mr Sunak is expected to make an announcement on the bank in his autumn statement. “The talks have stepped up and I think the government is very serious about doing this now,” said one person with knowledge of the talks.” – FT

>Yesterday: Grant Shapps MP in Comment: Why I’m in Manchester today to help kick-start better, greener and more modern transport for the North

Tory MPs ‘plot to oust leader before next election’

“Boris Johnson is facing a coup after it emerged some Tory MPs are already considering ousting their leader, with the Prime Minister’s honeymoon period well and truly over ahead of his year anniversary in office. Tory MPs are understood to be looking to get rid of Prime Minister Boris Johnson before the next General Election in 2024 as they grow increasingly frustrated at his approach to the coronavirus crisis, which has left behind a crippled UK economy. Critics have accused Mr Johnson of being “obsessed” with Brexit and therefore not well equipped to deal with coronavirus as he reaches his 12-month milestone on Friday… Mr Johnson’s first year in office has seen Brexit, a baby and a brush with death from coronavirus.” – Daily Express

  • ‘Brutally honest’ insight into rollercoaster first year in power – The Sun

China threatens to stop recognising UK’s Hong Kong passports

“China has threatened to stop recognising the British National Overseas passports held by Hong Kong residents as valid travel documents, after the UK promised a route out of the former colony for millions of residents. Following China’s imposition of a national security law on the territory last month, the UK offered extended visa rights and promised to “provide a pathway to future citizenship” to almost 3m Hong Kong residents eligible for a BNO passport. China has condemned the pledge to extend visa rights, arguing that the two countries had agreed a memorandum stating that the UK would not give Hong Kong BNO passport holders right of residency.” – FT

  • Patel vows to ‘face down UK’s enemies’ with tough laws – Daily Express
  • Downing Street ‘to pull China funding’ in aid shake-up – The Sun
  • European committee chairs jointly condemn China over Hong Kong – The Guardian

Name Russian tycoon behind power company, say top Tories

“The Russian tycoon behind plans for one of Britain’s biggest infrastructure projects must be publicly identified, senior Tories said last night as scrutiny of the party’s finances intensified. Aquind has given the Conservative Party more than £240,000 since 2018 and wants to install a £1.2 billion electric power link under the Channel. But its controlling party cannot be named under an exemption to regulations that were introduced to improve corporate transparency and contain a get-out clause if an individual claims that their life would be at risk if they were identified. Companies House said it had granted an exemption because the “person with significant control” of Aquind was “at risk of serious risk of violence or intimidation”… The decision on the interconnector planning application will be made by Kwasi Kwarteng, a junior business minister.” – The Times

Corbyn accused of ‘unleashing wave of legal claims’ that could bankrupt Labour

“Supporters of Sir Keir Starmer have accused Jeremy Corbyn of unleashing a wave of legal claims against Labour that threaten to leave the party at risk of bankruptcy. After the party on Wednesday agreed to pay out an estimated £370,000 in fees and damages to anti-Semitism whistleblowers, it has now emerged that Labour is  facing at least 40 further civil claims. Many of the claims, which are being handled by two law firms, relate to a leaked internal report on the party’s handling of anti-Semitism, and revolve around allegations of data privacy breaches, misuse of private information and libel. Among those taking action is Lord McNicol, a former Labour general secretary who stepped down during Mr Corbyn’s leadership.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Momentum founder apologises for joining Labour attack on whistleblowers – The Guardian
  • Labour’s ex-general secretary Lord McNicol sues the party – The Sun

More:

  • Starmer critic ‘pushed out of running’ for Unite chief – The Times
  • Blair gushes with praise for ‘transformation’ of Labour – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Time to root out Corbynites once and for all – Philip Collins, The Times

Khan ‘wrongly claims number of TFL workers on over £100k has gone down on his watch’

“Sadiq Khan has been accused of misleading MPs by wrongly claiming the number of TFL staff earning huge paypackets has gone down on his watch. The London Mayor claimed yesterday that there were fewer people at Transport for London raking in more than £100,000 a year than when Boris Johnson was in charge. But figures show they have gone up every year except one, where they dropped. Mr Khan told MPs on the Transport Select Committee yesterday: “Unlike during the previous administration where the number of people earning over £100,000 was going up and bonuses were going up, in the last 4 years they have been going down.” He said that the number of people on high salaries had gone down.” – The Sun

>Yesterday: Andrew Boff in Local Government: The London Assembly needs more power to hold the Mayor to account

Newslinks for Thursday 23rd July 2020

23 Jul

Union ‘vital to recovery’, Johnson tells Scots

“The Union is more than a “marriage of convenience” and will prove vital in protecting its four nations from the “alarmingly choppy” economic waters caused by coronavirus, Boris Johnson argues today. In a trip to the north of Scotland the prime minister will highlight the Treasury’s financial assistance during the pandemic as he tries to stem the tide of support for Scottish independence. He will make a case for the Union that focuses on investment and infrastructure projects. This will include £50 million as part of a growth deal for Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles, which will be topped up by £50 million from the Scottish government. The UK is expected to have huge job losses in October when the furlough scheme, which has supported 900,000 Scottish workers, comes to an end.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister says ‘sheer might of the Union’ has saved it 900,000 jobs – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson stresses measures for north of border – FT
  • He will use Scotland visit ‘to talk up plan for bridge to Northern Ireland’… – Daily Record
  • …as he ‘confirms funds for a study’ – The Sun
  • Data suggests SNP are on course for a Holyrood majority – Daily Express

One year on: Tories reflect on the Prime Minister’s leadership

“When Boris Johnson sailed into a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers on the wave of a seismic election victory, he joked that he was looking forward to seeing how long it would take for letters of no confidence to start pouring in from his parliamentary colleagues. A year after he became leader, the Conservative backbenches are already restless. One former cabinet minister said they thought the “clouds had gathered” – and not just because of the pandemic, but owing to a feeling that a “good-time” prime minister was not what was needed for the massive economic challenges ahead. Even Johnson’s critics concede he has had, as one put it, “a hell of a year”.” – The Guardian

  • Britons could have to wear facemasks in sandwich shops under new legislation – Daily Mail

Chancellor ‘turns his back’ on millions excluded from coronavirus support

“The Chancellor has turned his back on millions of struggling workers excluded from coronavirus support schemes, despite his pledge that no one would be left behind, an influential group of MPs has said. The Treasury Select Committee, which scrutinises the Chancellor, made a series of recommendations in a recent report aimed at bringing those still suffering financial hardship within the scope of the protection measures. More than a million people have been unfairly left without help, the report found, including those moving between jobs who missed the cut-off for furlough, the newly self-employed, directors who pay themselves in dividends and PAYE freelancers. Campaigners have said as many as three million people have fallen through the cracks, left without an income now for four months.” – Daily Telegraph

  • MPs ‘astonished’ at Government’s failure to plan for economic impact of pandemic – The Sun
  • We’ll get economy back on an ‘even keel’ before 2024 election, says Johnson… – Daily Telegraph
  • …as he tells army to prepare for ‘quadruple winter whammy’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • This is the final proof HMRC hates Britain’s self-employed – Janet Daley, Daily Telegraph

Conservative Party ministers ‘bankrolled by donors linked to Russia’

“The Conservative Party’s finances came under renewed scrutiny last night as it emerged that two of its MPs on the intelligence watchdog committee and 14 ministers had accepted donations linked to Russia. Electoral Commission records show that six members of the cabinet and eight junior ministers received tens of thousands of pounds from individuals or businesses with links to Russia. The donations were made either to them or their constituency parties. The disclosures came 24 hours after the intelligence and security committee (ISC) published its long-delayed Russia report and questioned whether the government “took its eye off the ball” by allowing oligarchs to invest billions of pounds in Britain and make high-level political connections.” – The Times

  • Big spenders who made friends of Prime Minister and his MPs – The Times
  • Calls for overhaul of ‘largely ineffective’ Official Secrets Act – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Starmer calls for Kremlin network Russia Today to lose licence… – The Times
  • …as Johnson blasts him for trying to blame Brexit on Russia… – The Sun
  • …and rules out inquiry into referendum interference – Daily Express
  • Royal Navy ships shepherd Russian sub through English Channel – The Times

David Aaronovitch: Complacent Britain is a soft touch for Moscow

“Then let’s consider what is not in the report. US intelligence helped Mueller to uncover a network of Russian agents, directed from Moscow and often using social media to intervene against Hillary Clinton in 2016. When the original ISC requested to understand from British intelligence whether anything similar had happened in British votes, such as the referendums of 2014 and 2016, they were essentially told that these services hadn’t looked and therefore didn’t know. MI5 supplied six lines of text on the subject, most of it from academic sources. This absence was parlayed by the prime minister in PMQs into the fraudulent suggestion that British intelligence had looked and had found nothing. Well, it worked for his backbenchers.” – The Times

  • Report points to wilful negligence by the British government – Dominic Grieve, The Guardian
  • Idea that Moscow had a decisive effect in our Brexit referendum is an insult – Rod Liddle, The Sun
  • First an intimate relationship with China, now Russia… – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • See off the bad guys to save the good ones – Roger Boyes, The Times

Lewis: ‘Keep Dominic Cummings away from security committee’

“Dominic Cummings and other special advisers must be blocked from politicising the intelligence and security committee, its new chairman has warned. Julian Lewis called yesterday for a commitment from the government that no party political aide would be allowed “anywhere near” the ISC. He said he had been warned by a source that people within government had tried to sack the committee’s civil service secretariat and replace it with “political appointments” instead. James Brokenshire, the security minister, refused three times to give a firm assurance on the matter in the Commons… The debate follows a row over the government’s failed attempt to parachute in its preferred candidate as chairman of the committee.” – The Times

  • Downing Street takes back control of all government data – The Times

Comment:

  • Are Cummings’ visions anything more than just policy tourism? – Glen O’Hara, The Guardian

UK to offer emergency Brexit talks with ‘EU to blame’ if trade deal collapses

“Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator will offer to hold an emergency round of talks next week as the UK tries to avoid blame for any failure to agree a trade deal. Formal talks between David Frost and the EU’s Michel Barnier in London will end on Thursday with neither side believing the current deadlock will be broken this week. The Telegraph has revealed that the Government’s working assumption is now that Britain will have no trade deal in place when the transition period ends on December 31, but Downing Street said on Wednesday that the talks were not yet at “breakdown”. Boris Johnson had set a deadline of the end of July for an outline agreement to be reached, and Mr Frost is expected to make himself available to continue one-to-one talks with Mr Barnier next week to ensure everything has been done to meet the target.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Brussels to warn time is running out for Brexit deal – FT
  • Johnson ‘refuses negotiation on fishing’ – Daily Express

America:

  • US senators warn UK digital services tax could derail trade talks – FT
  • UK trade department to tackle ‘fake news’ with new rebuttal role – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Trade bill means the NHS is now unquestionably up for sale – Emily Thornberry, The Guardian

Ministers 1) Foreign aid budget ‘slashed by £2.9 billion’ by Raab

“Britain is to slash its international aid budget by £2.9billion, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has confirmed. The cut to the foreign aid budget comes in response to the coronavirus pandemic, as the UK’s economy is expected to contract. Despite the revision to the budget, the Government will retain its commitment to spending at least 0.7 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) on international aid. At present, the UK is the only G7 country to meet the spending target which was set as a goal by the United Nations in the 1970s. The announcement of the cut comes after the Government committed last month to merging the Department for International Development with the Foreign Office.” – Daily Express

  • Patel: crime commissioners ‘too cosy’ with police chiefs they oversee – The Times

Ministers 2) ISIS remains the ‘most significant’ threat to the UK, warns Defence Secretary

“ISIS remains the ‘most significant’ threat to the UK, the Defence Secretary has warned today. Ben Wallace said an estimated 360 people from the UK who travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight for the terror group, also referred to as Daesh, remain in the region either at large or in detention. RAF aircraft have struck 40 terrorist targets as part of operations against ISIS in the last 12 months. But he said the ‘hard fight’ is ‘by no means done’ despite the group having lost control of territory it once held in Syria and Iraq… Mr Wallace also said the UK remains ‘determined’ to ensure those who have fought for or supported IS should ‘pay for their crimes’, adding it should occur under the ‘most appropriate jurisdiction, often in the region where the crimes were committed’.” – Daily Mail

Ministers 3) Sharma ‘ignored official’ who feared OneWeb satellite deal was a waste of £400m

“The business secretary forced through the £400 million purchase of a bankrupt satellite company even though his top civil servant said that all the money could be lost. Alok Sharma pointed to “wider, less quantifiable benefits of signalling UK ambition and influence on the global stage” as he told officials to go ahead. The business committee has now opened an inquiry into the “troubling and concerning” deal. Britain agreed to buy 45 per cent of OneWeb for $500 million to rescue a company that aims to provide ultra-fast broadband from low-orbit satellites. The deal was pushed through with little scrutiny earlier this month and Mr Sharma said that it would boost space and manufacturing industries.” – The Times

  • Jenrick ‘regrets’ close contact with tycoon whose £1bn development he approved – The Sun

Labour to pay antisemitism whistleblowers in libel case

“The Labour Party has apologised to antisemitism whistleblowers and agreed to pay damages to settle a libel case in a decision that is expected to cost it nearly £1 million. The move has caused a row with Jeremy Corbyn, the former party leader, and Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite, its biggest donor. Labour announced yesterday that it would pay hundreds of thousands of pounds and apologise to former staff and a journalist it defamed after a BBC Panorama investigation into its handling of antisemitism complaints last year. The party issued “unreserved” apologies to seven former party officials and John Ware, 72, the broadcaster who led the documentary, at the High Court.” – The Times

  • Starmer ‘locked in row with Corbyn’ over £370k payout – Daily Telegraph
  • McCluskey hits out at anti-Semitism damages – Daily Express
  • Settlement plunges Labour Party ‘into civil war’ – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Why I had to go to war with Labour’s vile attack dogs – John Ware, Daily Mail

Young Hong Kongers ‘will need to prove dependency on parents’

“Young Hong Kongers born after 1997 will have to prove they are dependent on migrating parents or risk losing out on the Government’s fast-track  immigration lifeboat. Children of British National (Overseas) (BNO) citizens who are aged between 18 and 23 will only be granted a UK visa if they are still dependent on their parents and the Government decides they have compelling and compassionate grounds. There are concerns that this could leave young people who have been most active in the protests against China vulnerable to the draconian security laws introduced by Beijing. The new law gives Beijing powers to crack down on dissent with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment for a range of crimes, in effect outlawing public protest.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Hong Kongers eye UK property as they weigh escape routes – FT

Comment:

  • Brexit Britain is more welcoming than feared – Jemima Kelly, FT

Newslinks for Wednesday 22nd July 2020

22 Jul

Russia report: MI5 to get more powers

“Boris Johnson is preparing to give the security services more powers to stop foreign interference in Britain after a cross-party report said that the government “took its eye off the ball” over Russia. The intelligence and security committee published yesterday the long-awaited Russia report, which accused ministers of failing to protect the EU referendum in 2016 against outside influences. It criticised the intelligence agencies for adopting an approach of “extreme caution” and said that the government had “directly avoided” an investigation into allegations that agents of President Putin meddled in the Brexit vote.” – The Times

  • UK ministers accused of turning blind eye to any Russian interference – FT
  • How Moscow’s malign influence became the ‘new normal’ – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Tighten up rules on Lords business links’ – The Times
  • Sturgeon ‘squirms’ as reporter grills her on Russia claims – Daily Express

Comment:

  • After this row over the Russia report, no one will be happy… except Putin – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • The Russian threat to the UK’s democratic system – FT

Pompeo says WHO chief ‘killed British coronavirus victims’

“The US secretary of state claimed yesterday that the director-general of the World Health Organisation had been “bought” by China’s government and his election resulted in “dead Britons”. Mike Pompeo made the allegation against Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a closed-door meeting with cross-party MPs during a visit to London. He said that it was based on a “firm intelligence foundation” but did not disclose more information, according to multiple sources present at the event hosted by the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think tank that takes a hardline stance on Beijing. Mr Pompeo also said that Britain has been handed intelligence by the US about whom to target with sanctions over Chinese human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslims.” – The Times

  • US secretary of state alleges that China ‘bought’ health official – Daily Telegraph
  • Pompeo urges UK to join alliance against Beijing – FT

More:

  • Johnson ‘at odds with Raab over fears more sanctions will spark economic war’ – The Sun
  • ‘Hackers run by China tried to steal vaccine data’ – The Times
  • China warns Britain will ‘bear the consequences’ after Johnson scraps treaty – The Sun

Iain Duncan Smith: China is our greatest threat, not Putin’s Russia

“In any case, staring us in the face is a far greater threat: China. Too often in past weeks, the issues around Huawei, human rights abuses of the Uighurs, and potential Magnitsky sanctions on China have been treated as a Tory psycho-drama, yet nothing could be further from the truth. The serious concerns about Beijing are shared across the political divide, and the Pompeo meeting showed that. The issue of China and its totalitarian government has over the past few months also become more stark and more urgent. Across a range of issues, Beijing’s behaviour has broken all international norms. Its imposition of a new security law on Hong Kong, contrary to the Sino-UK agreement, allows the Chinese security services to seize people they disapprove of and try them, very unfavourably, in China.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The UK cannot afford to self-isolate from China – Carolyn Fairbairn, FT
  • Britain doesn’t need a Cold War with Beijing – Roger Boyes, The Times

UK abandons hope of US trade deal by end of year…

“The British government has abandoned hopes of reaching a US-UK trade deal ahead of this autumn’s American presidential election, with British officials blaming the Covid-19 pandemic for slow progress. Prime minister Boris Johnson and international trade secretary Liz Truss had hoped to conclude a fast-track agreement by late summer, which would be hailed as an early win from leaving the European Union. For the last 40 years the UK has not had any bilateral trade deals because all trade policy for EU member states is conducted through Brussels. But senior government figures have concluded no comprehensive deal is possible before the November poll as the two sides grapple over contentious issues such as whether to allow US agricultural products into the UK market.” – FT

  • Raab vows UK will strike ‘win win’ post-Brexit trade deal with US – Daily Express

…and Government’s ‘working assumption’ is that Britain will trade with Europe on WTO terms

“Ministers now believe that Britain and the EU will fail to sign a post-Brexit trade deal, with just days to go until Boris Johnson’s July deadline for an outline agreement passes. The Telegraph has learnt that the Government’s central working assumption is that Britain will trade with Europe on World Trade Organisation terms when the transition period ends on December 31. UK and EU negotiators began the latest round of negotiations in London on Monday, but remain deadlocked on the stumbling blocks of fishing rights, so-called level playing field guarantees, governance of the deal, and the role of the European Court of Justice. Senior sources said there was now an assumption that “there won’t be a deal”, though it remains possible that a “basic” agreement could be reached if the EU gives ground in the autumn.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson runs down the clock to his July deadline – Daily Mail

More:

  • Brussels hails €750bn rescue after night of squabbling – The Times
  • European leaders make ‘biggest leap towards superstate in 20 years’ – The Sun

Comment:

  • EU summit fiasco is the final proof that we need a clean-break Brexit – Liam Halligan, Daily Telegraph
  • I was Remain… but what a relief we’re out! – Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Emily Barley in Comment: The Government’s Brexit plan puts us at risk of substandard and corrupt justice systems in EU member states

Hancock ‘confirms plans to downgrade SAGE’

“Matt Hancock today confirmed Number 10’s scientific advisory panel SAGE has been downgraded and the secretive Joint Biosecurity Centre is going to take over the UK’s coronavirus response. The independent body has taken a backseat now that Covid-19 is a ‘semi-permanent’ problem and not an emergency like it was during the darkest days of the crisis back in April, the Health Secretary said. And he revealed there are now Covid-19 committees set up inside Whitehall to make decisions without COBRA meetings, which are usually hosted by the Prime Minister in response to pressing issues. The Health Secretary said that the new Joint Biosecurity Centre (BC) is now taking charge of decisions on Covid-19 after ministers were accused of acting too late in implementing the lockdown.” – Daily Mail

  • Older people first in line for a vaccine ‘this side of Christmas’ – The Times

>Today:

Dr Luke Evans MP’s column: While we all hope for a vaccine, we know that we will never return to pre-pandemic normal

Daniel Hannan’s column: ​Fewer are dying of the virus, thank goodness. But we are somehow more nervous about it now than we were in March.

Public sector must expect pay restraint in future, says Sunak

“Rishi Sunak signalled a return to public sector austerity yesterday as he ripped up government spending plans in the wake of the pandemic. A day after the government announced an above-inflation pay rise for 900,000 teachers, doctors and policemen, the chancellor warned that public sector workers would have to accept far greater pay “restraint” in future. This could mean that nurses and junior doctors who missed out on this year’s rises because they were already in multi-year pay deals could face tighter pay settlements next year. Even this year’s pay rises must come from departments’ existing budgets. Mr Sunak said that private sector pay in May compared with last year was down 1.2 per cent while the public sector got an average 3.7 per cent increase.” – The Times

  • Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) will be unveiled in the autumn – Daily Mail
  • Teachers’ pay increase ‘a kick in the teeth’ for senior staff, union says – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Cabinet ministers ordered to find savings by September – The Sun
  • Cost of lockdown ‘big’ and Government have got balance wrong, says civil servant – Daily Telegraph
  • Treasury to require digital tax returns every quarter – FT

Comment:

  • Rewarding workers who sailed through lockdown is sheer folly – Ross Clark, Daily Telegraph

>Today:

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Tory MPs, Downing Street and the Treasury are poised to clash over plans to cut the army to 60,000. Who will win out?

All 35,000 Home Office civil servants to be taught history of migration

“All 30,000 civil servants in the Home Office are to undergo training to understand and appreciate the history of migration and race in Britain after the Windrush scandal, Priti Patel has announced. The Home Secretary said every existing and new member of staff would be required to undertake the learning as part of a strategy to prevent a repeat of the Windrush scandal. It follows a highly critical report by Wendy Williams, an HM inspector of constabulary, which found the Home Office displayed aspects of “institutional racism” in the “ignorant and thoughtless” way it dealt with immigrants in the Windrush scandal. Speaking in the Commons, Ms Patel also promised a “full evaluation” of the hostile environment policy in the wake of the Windrush scandal.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Migrants intercepted in Channel bring year’s total close to record 3,000 – The Times

Interview:

  • Rudd: ‘The Prime Minister is clearly more comfortable with men’ – FT

>Yesterday: Raghib Ali in Comment: Systemic classism, not racism. Why the main factor in health and educational inequalities is deprivation, not race.

Calls for inquiry into Tory MP accused of asking intern to ‘fool around’

“Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called for the Conservatives to suspend Delyn MP Rob Roberts, while an investigation is carried out into allegations he propositioned an intern. BBC Wales reported that Roberts, who was elected in the north Wales constituency of Delyn last year, sent text messages to the 21-year-old woman asking her to “fool around” with him. In the messages, as published by the BBC, Roberts told the intern: “Don’t ignore me when I’m making you feel better,” before suggesting she might want to “fool around with no strings, you might come and visit me in London.” He told her he “might be gay but I enjoy … fun times”… The woman told BBC Wales the messages made her feel “incredibly sick”.” – The Guardian

  • Elphicke accused of ‘identical assaults’ – The Times

Civil servants fear press office centralisation could ‘undermine democracy’

“Civil servants have questioned whether sweeping plans to centralise government communications could serve to “undermine democracy”, an internal document shared with the Guardian has revealed. In a dramatic overhaul of civil service press offices, social media teams, designers and campaigners, the UK government’s 4,500 communications staff will be reduced to about 30 per department – and have each of them working for a central employer instead of the department they work with. Many of the civil servants affected by the proposals, which the leaked document states have been signed off by Boris Johnson himself, first learned of them from media reports earlier this month. In the wake of discontent following that, the Government Communication Service (GCS) prepared a 14-page report of frequently asked questions responding to concerns.” – The Guardian

TfL launches review into funding of transport in UK capital

“Transport for London has launched an independent review into its funding options, as it works to recover after the pandemic shredded its finances and for”ced it to accept increased government scrutiny. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said on Wednesday that an independent panel of experts had begun to examine long-term funding options that could support the continuation, modernisation and development of London’s public transport. It will be conducted alongside the government’s own review of TfL’s finances, now taking place as a condition of the £1.6bn rescue package it gave the provider just hours before it ran out of money in May. Mr Khan said the review had been announced because the network’s current funding structure was “not fit for purpose”.” – FT

  • HS2 chief’s £660,000 pay package causes ‘deep disquiet’ in Whitehall – The Times

>Yesterday: Nicholas Rogers in Local Government: Over a decade, acid attacks in London have quadrupled

News in Brief:

  • Europe’s coronavirus rescue fund is dead on arrival – Matthew Lynn, The Spectator
  • On trade, Trumpism will outlast Trump – Oliver Wiseman, CapX
  • No one wants to own Boris’s Northern Ireland Protocol – Andrew McKinley, The Critic
  • A cautionary tale for today’s ‘woke’ movement – John Gray, UnHerd
  • How post-Brexit free trade can help fight climate change – Alexander Stafford MP, 1828