Newslinks for Saturday 31st July 2021

31 Jul

Vaccine passports deny basic freedoms, cabinet critics tell Johnson…

“Boris Johnson has been accused by cabinet ministers of denying people their fundamental freedoms over plans for vaccine passports. The prime minister has announced plans to make vaccine passports mandatory in indoor venues such as nightclubs and conference centres from September. The move is in response to concerns from government advisers that they are “super-spreading” environments and could fuel a resurgence of coronavirus in the autumn and winter. Cabinet ministers believe that the policy was “railroaded” through at the behest of the prime minister by Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister.” – The Times

  • Vaccine passports given short shrift by employers – The Times
  • Amber plus rules for France to be binned – The Sun
  • NHS ‘drew up secret plan’ to assess patients on their ‘probability of survival’ in the event of a pandemic – Daily Mail
Comment
>Today:

…as PM ‘wants to waive’ vaccine rules for Cop26 conference…

“Boris Johnson has given his support to plans to allow thousands of delegates treated with Russian and Chinese vaccines to attend the Cop26 climate change summit despite cabinet opposition, The Times has been told. The prime minister is facing a cabinet split over plans to allow officials and leaders who have been jabbed with Sinovac or Sinopharm vaccines from China, or Sputnik V from Russia, into the UK without quarantining. The vaccines are not recognised by either the UK or European medical regulators because of concerns over their efficacy. Officials have raised concerns about the public health implications of allowing in the delegates.” – The Times

Comment
>Yesterday:

…and Milling accuses Labour leader of having more positions than Kama Sutra

“Tory party chairwoman Amanda Milling compared Sir Keir to a weather vane as well as the ancient sex manual, saying: “He points different ways depending on which day it is, changing position more often than the Kama Sutra to chase headlines and play politics.” Labour had said the latest border rules were “reckless” and that Boris Johnson was opening up the UK too fast. However, wobbly Sir Keir now says bringing forward the self-isolation exemption date for the fully vaccinated would make a “huge difference” to businesses and holidaymakers. The Labour chief’s U-turn came after he said in March that vaccine passports would be “un-British” — only to say last week they made sense. He also previously criticised calls for the NHS app to be altered to stop so many people being “pinged” after contact with a Covid sufferer.” – The Sun

Comment

Iain Duncan Smith: In our determination to ‘follow the science’ we have abandoned all logic

“The latest announcement on travel and Covid has, I confess, left me confused. It appears that someone from overseas, with documents proving they have been double-vaccinated with a reliable covid vaccine, may enter the UK without having to quarantine, providing they test negative. UK citizens, on the other hand, must still self-isolate at the first ping of their test and trace app, even if they have already had two jabs. ‘The science’, we are told, means this will remain the case until 16 August. In short – we are happy to accept the certification of vaccination for a foreign country, but not our own.” – Daily Telegraph

‘Elite Tory donors club holds secret meetings’ with Johnson and Sunak

“A secretive club for major Conservative donors known as the ‘Advisory Board’ has been holding regular meetings and calls with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the chancellor Rishi Sunak. The club, some of whose members have given at least £250,000 to the party, has been developed by Ben Elliot, Tory co-chair, as a means of connecting major Conservative backers with its top figures. The club does not appear in party literature, but Conservative officials confirmed the Advisory Board “occasionally” meets with Johnson and Sunak “for an update on the political landscape”. One person briefed on the Advisory Board’s activities said it held monthly meetings or conference calls with either the prime minister or the chancellor. Some members have used those discussions to call for public spending cuts and lower taxes, a donor said.” – FT

  • Labour calls for PM to explain ‘advisory board’ for wealthy Tory donors – The Guardian
  • Rayner urges Tories to repay £580k of public funds spent on polling – The Guardian
  • Inside Johnson’s money network – FT
  • Johnson’s support is slipping away in true blue territory – The Times
  • And Johnson bursts out of the traps to shore up his lead – The Times

Sunak optimistic as pace of economic recovery picks up

“UK government officials have become more optimistic about the prospects of a strong economic recovery in the second half of the year as chancellor Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun for new autumn economic forecasts. Sunak hailed “fantastic” figures showing a 560,000 fall in the number of people receiving furlough money in June to 1.9m, and asked for the new forecasts to be prepared for October 27. These are likely to be published alongside a long-term public spending settlement. However, he wants to dampen any over-optimism that might increase pressure on him to loosen the public spending taps, including from his Downing Street neighbour Boris Johnson.” – FT

  • Details of Truss’ Australia trade boom uncovered – Daily Express
>Yesterday:

Starmer seeks billionaire cash as Labour struggles to pay staff

“Sir Keir Starmer is trying to persuade wealthy donors, including the founder of the outsourcing company Capita, to donate money in an effort to repair the Labour Party’s finances as staff threaten strike action. The Labour leader has spoken to a member of the Sainsbury family and to a billionaire property developer as staff at the party HQ face redundancy. Others who are being asked for donations include an heiress to the Tetra Pak fortune, the granddaughter of the founder of River Island, and the former executive chairman of Capita. The party has only one month’s wages left in its reserves.” – The Times

Comment

Matthew Parris: There are 3,000 lifers who shouldn’t be in jail

“Let’s call him David. David had been a truculent youth, in trouble with the law before, though in summing-up the judge said he believed, on the evidence, that “you do not have a serious mental illness”. But David could fly violently off the handle. When he was 24 his girlfriend split up with him. In misery and rage he put a “small amount” (said the judge) of petrol in a milk bottle, lit a rag in the top and flung it at the wall of her house in her front garden, terrifying her and her family, though no serious damage was done.” – The Times

News in Brief

Newslinks for Friday 30th July 2021

30 Jul

Johnson told to take the lead on the return to office working by sending civil servants back to Whitehall

“Pressure is growing for civil servants to get back to the office amid fears the working from home culture could wreck the economies of town and city centres. Critics believe private businesses are waiting for the Government to ‘take the lead’ before they ask their own workers to return to their desks. But Boris Johnson has so far taken a softly-softly approach to getting staff back into the workplace, despite mounting confidence that the worst of the pandemic is over. Downing Street yesterday said there were ‘no plans’ to order Whitehall civil servants back to their desks or to launch a wider return to work push this summer. However, former cabinet minister David Jones said it was vital for the Government to encourage firms to bring their offices back into use.” – Daily Mail

  • Ministers admit only 13 per cent of key worker testing sites are operational – FT
  • Starmer demands self-isolation for double-jabbed ends on August 7 – Daily Mail

Hospital figures for Covid cases ‘misleading’

“One in four patients classed as a Covid hospitalisation is being treated for other reasons, official data reveal, prompting claims that the public has been misled. For the first time, the NHS national stocktake establishes how many patients categorised as Covid hospitalisations had another primary cause of admission. The data shows that of 5,021 patients this week classed as hospitalised by Covid, 1,166 were admitted for other reasons. On Thursday night, Tory MPs accused the Government of making “flawed decisions based on misleading data”, with leading scientists questioning why the true picture was only now beginning to emerge. Since last March, the NHS has published daily statistics on the number of Covid hospitalisations and the total number of patients in hospital with the virus.” – Daily Telegraph

Raab risks row after saying it’s ‘smart’ for firms to insist staff are double-jabbed before returning to work

“Dominic Raab risked a row last night after he said it was “smart” for firms to insist staff are double-jabbed before they return to offices. The Foreign Secretary said he “can understand” why firms would want to adopt a tough stance to keep staff safe. But No 10 distanced itself from his comments, saying it was up to individual businesses what to tell workers. It came as the NHS app revealed a new “domestic” passport feature. To download the QR code, users need either a negative test, to have had Covid in the past six months, to be double-jabbed or have another exemption. UK venues can choose to ask for these codes, but they are not yet required by law. Mr Raab admitted for the first time ministers are trying to use vaccine passports to “cajole” younger Brits into getting jabbed.” – The Sun

  • You won’t legally need two jabs to return to the office, says minister – Daily Telegraph
  • More than 50 Tory MPs are ready to vote against Covid passports – Daily Mail
  • Decisions over their use on campus will be taken in September – FT
  • Double-jabbed Brits will be able to go on cruise hols without quarantine on return, say ministers – The Sun

Sunak optimistic as pace of economic recovery picks up

“UK government officials have become more optimistic about the prospects of a strong economic recovery in the second half of the year as Chancellor Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun for new autumn economic forecasts. Sunak hailed “fantastic” figures showing a 560,000 fall in the number of people receiving furlough money in June to 1.9m and asked for the new forecasts to be prepared for October 27. These are likely to be published alongside a long-term public spending settlement. However, he wants to dampen any over-optimism that might increase pressure on him to loosen the public spending taps, including from his Downing Street neighbour Boris Johnson. Official figures on Thursday showed that the number of confirmed Covid-19 hospital cases fell for the first time since late June with 5,056 patients being treated for the virus compared with 5,182 on Wednesday.” – FT

  • Some 1.9m jobs are still on furlough despite 590,000 people returning to work in a month – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Sunak must always remember that the Treasury is one of the few truly British departments

Abandon NHS ‘power grab’, former chairman tells Javid

“Sajid Javid must drop his plans for “micromanagement” of the health service or risk failure and confusion, the former chairman of the NHS said. Professor Sir Malcolm Grant, founding chairman of NHS England, today warns against a ministerial power-grab over the health service, saying it “opens the door to a muddle of second-guessing and micromanagement”. Stressing that ministers “cannot run the NHS from the sidelines”, Grant says the appointment of a successor to Lord Stevens of Birmingham as chief executive is the time for a rethink of controversial health reforms that Javid himself is known to have doubts about. A bill introduced to parliament this month aims to undo much of the controversial 2012 market-based reforms of the health service but also gives ministers significant new powers to issue orders to NHS England, which has had operational independence for a decade.” – The Times

  • Clarke apologises for his ‘combative behaviour’ at the infected blood inquiry… – Daily Mail
  • …as he’s branded ‘pompous and arrogant’ – The Times

Comment:

  • Pritchard has the chance to refresh NHS England – Malcolm Grant, Times Red Box

Johnson intervenes to halt plan to fill in dozens of Victorian railway crossings with concrete

“Boris Johnson has intervened to prevent dozens of Victorian bridges up and down the country from being filled in with concrete. Highways bosses plan to fill in 69 historic bridges in five years over concerns they are not strong enough to carry heavy lorries. It sparked claims of vandalism last month after a 159-year-old stone railway bridge in Cumbria was buried by tons of concrete. The issue was highlighted by the Daily Mail. But today Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, will unveil a new strategy to preserve the bridges. Highways England will be told to ‘pause’ any planned infilling or demolition to allow studies to be carried out into whether any can be used for cycle routes or other transport purposes. Residents and councils will also be given a greater say in whether the bridges should be preserved.” – Daily Mail

>Today: Andrew Selous MP in Comment: The suggestion voters weren’t consulted on LTNs is wrong. Local elections suggest they approve.

Britain faces backlash from France over Covid travel rules

“Britain is facing a diplomatic backlash from France over “excessive” quarantine restrictions after the foreign secretary said they had been imposed because of many cases of a coronavirus variant on an island nearly 6,000 miles away. Dominic Raab said that the decision to put the country on the amber-plus list had been taken in part because of the high rate of the Beta variant in Réunion, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean. Scientists are concerned that the strain, which originated in South Africa, is more resistant to vaccines than other variants. France said it was discriminatory and “scientifically unfounded” to require all holidaymakers to quarantine on their return to Britain for ten days, regardless of whether they had been vaccinated. Brittany Ferries described the decision as “madness”.” – The Times

  • Raab admits France went on amber-plus list because of tiny Reunion Island – Daily Mail

‘We will return you!’ Patel’s £23k adverts in bid to curb migrant Channel crossings

“The Home Office has spent £23,000 on social media advertisements in an attempt to curb the number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel. In a campaign which has run since December, migrants considering making the treacherous crossing from France are warned “we will return you”. It adds that attempting to make the journey will “put your child’s life in danger”. The adverts have been running on Facebook and on Instagram. Slogans featured include: “There is no hiding place”, “Don’t put your or your child’s life in danger” and “We will return you”. Each advert was translated into Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and Pashto. Details of the cost of the adverts were uncovered via a Freedom of Information request submitted by PA.” – Daily Express

  • RNLI donations soar after criticism of migrant rescues – Daily Telegraph
  • MPs decry ‘shocking conditions’ at facilities for asylum seekers – The Guardian
  • Home Office hits back by saying that it took the migrants’ safety seriously – Daily Mail

More:

  • Senior Home Office staff get pay rises of up to £20k – The Times

Baker: plan to scrap BTecs is an act of vandalism

“The former Conservative education secretary Kenneth Baker has described the government’s overhaul of vocational and technical qualifications at schools and colleges in England as “an act of vandalism”. Lord Baker, who initiated controversial school changes under Margaret Thatcher, said he opposed the Department for Education’s (DfE) plans to scrap most applied general qualifications such as BTecs in favour of its new T-levels, which will leave students aged 16 with few alternatives to A-levels. The qualification is designed to be a single two-year course focused on a specific career such as accounting, building services or hair and beauty. “This is an act of educational vandalism. BTecs have been established for decades and they are internationally recognised. They are a particular help to disadvantaged young people,” said Baker. He argued that 44% of white working-class students who go on to university study at least one BTec and 37% of black students access higher education with only BTec qualifications, which are recognised by universities as equivalent to A-levels.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Build back better. Does this phrase run the risk of alienating Conservative voters?

Minister ‘deleted his texts with Cameron about Greensill’

“A minister deleted his “informal communications” with David Cameron about Greensill Capital, the government has admitted. The Times submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, asking for all communications between Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, and Cameron. The department refused the request, saying it did not “hold the information”. Cameron had in fact texted Zahawi and released his messages with Zahawi to a select committee inquiry into the Greensill lobbying scandal. Cameron praised Zahawi for being “v helpful” in helping him lobby the Treasury over Greensill and asked for the contact details of Richard Sharp, a former banker advising Rishi Sunak, the chancellor… More than a third of Boris Johnson’s cabinet have downloaded Signal, a messaging app that allows users to delete their communications.” – The Times

  • Cummings ‘pushed through award of £580k Covid deal to Vote Leave ally’ – The Guardian

Property donors provide one-quarter of funds given to Tory party

“The Conservative party has received almost £18m in donations from 154 donors with property interests since Boris Johnson became UK prime minister two years ago, according to Financial Times analysis. The donations made by individuals and companies in the property sector — which account for a quarter of total donations made to the Tory party since July 2019 — come as Johnson pushes ahead with a contentious liberalisation of England’s planning system which critics say could benefit housing developers. An FT analysis of data published by the Electoral Commission, the UK watchdog for election and party finance, found that at least £17.9m has been given to the Conservative party from property sector donors since July 24, 2019 — when Johnson entered Downing Street. The analysis includes all company donors and those who have given over £100,000 but excludes hundreds of individuals who gave smaller amounts, meaning the true figure could be higher.” – FT

  • Record funding for flood defences in England as climate crisis worsens risks – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: ‘Location, location, location’ vs ‘a property-owning democracy’. Are we seeing a shift in Tory housing priorities?

Salmond’s party won’t break Sturgeon’s grip, says Curtice

“Alex Salmond does not pose a true threat to Nicola Sturgeon polling expert professor Sir John Curtice has claimed as the Alba Party celebrates 6,000 members. While the party celebrates the milestone with the acquisition of a long-standing SNP member, Sir John revealed Alba will struggle to exert much pressure on the First Minister. The long-time polling expert also claimed Ms Sturgeon will be able to retain the nationalist vote as long as she continues to satisfy those who want to break up the UK. Asked by Express.co.uk if the Alba Party could pose a threat in the short-term, Sir John said: “This is a point of pressure visa-a-vis holding a referendum and they do act as a focal point for those members of the nationalist movement that feel Sturgeon is moving things too slowly. “But given that they did not get very far in the Scottish Parliament election, and given that Sturgeon has a secure position in the wake of that election and Parliament as a whole, I’m not sure it’s a great deal of pressure that they’re able to exact.” – Daily Express

  • SNP ridiculed over paper forms instead of digital Covid pass – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Treating public sector workers like saints does us all a disservice – David James, CapX
  • Is this peak Boris? – Matthew Goodwin, UnHerd
  • What Pritchard’s appointment means for the NHS – Andy Cowper, The Spectator
  • The revolution might not be televised – Graham Stewart, The Critic
  • Spain’s leftist rulers gag the truth about their past – Gerald Warner, Reaction

Newslinks for Thursday 29th July 2021

29 Jul

Fears over Covid health risk from US and UK travellers

“Ministers approved plans to reopen the border to foreign travellers yesterday in defiance of official warnings that the move posed a “clear public health risk”. From Monday, millions of fully vaccinated passengers from the US and EU — which includes countries on the amber list — will be able to enter England, Scotland and Wales without spending up to ten days in quarantine. The change is widely expected to be expanded to other countries in the coming months. However, senior officials warned the cabinet that allowing fully vaccinated Europeans to enter freely could raise the risk of lower quality vaccines undermining Britain’s immunity against the coronavirus. Ministers on the Covid-19 operations (Covid-O) committee were told the move posed a “clear public health risk”.” – The Times

  • Shapps expects move to be reciprocated – Daily Telegraph
  • Lack of quarantine at England’s borders ‘risks havoc of Covid variants’ – The Guardian
  • Why Biden is in no rush to let Britons back in to the US – Daily Telegraph
  • Staycation boom benefits UK more than other countries – FT

Britain has reached herd immunity, minister says

“Britain has reached herd immunity, a minister has claimed – as Covid cases fell for the seventh day in a row. Hopes the Covid pandemic is finally beginning to end in the UK have emerged as the infection rate appears to have slowed, with deaths remaining comparatively low. And a top expert whose grim predictions on deaths led to the first lockdown believes the country will be past the pandemic by the autumn. Herd immunity refers to where enough people in a population have immunity to infection to be able to effectively stop that disease from spreading. Despite Boris Johnson warning against “running away” with “premature conclusions”, one senior minister said the jabs roll-out – along with 5.72million positive tests in Britain – means the virus will struggle to spread.” – The Sun

  • Vaccine passports needed for festivals, sport and air travel, suggests Johnson – The Times
  • Jabs for jobs is a ‘smart policy’, says Raab – Daily Telegraph
  • No10 gives green light for cruises to restart – Daily Mail
  • Government unwilling to tell people to stop working from home – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Developers to be banned from building on land in danger of flooding

“Developers are to be blocked from building on land at risk of flooding, with the Environment Secretary warning that climate change is heightening the threat of deluges destroying homes. On Thursday, the Government will set out plans to channel £860 million into 1,000 flood defence schemes this year as part of a package of measures to better protect households, business premises and infrastructure. Improvements to flood insurance will also be announced in an effort to encourage the installation of flood doors, air brick covers and flood-resistant paint in homes previously hit by water damage. The move comes amid growing fears in Whitehall about climate change and the need for the nation to adapt urgently to the challenges it poses.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Bills set to rise by £400 a year to cover cost of net-zero target – The Times
  • Johnson’s spokesperson for Cop26 suggests joining Greens to solve climate crisis – The Guardian

Cost of Britain’s ‘national flagship’ jumps by up to £100m in a week

“The price tag on Boris Johnson’s controversial “trade yacht” has already jumped by as much as £100m before the contract to build it has even been awarded, the UK defence secretary admitted on Wednesday. Ben Wallace said in a speech to launch the project that the vessel was likely to cost “between £200m and £250m on a firm price”. His comments come just over a week after the Ministry of Defence issued its formal invitation to tender that stated the “total available budget” was £150m. The prime minister announced plans for the new “national flagship” in May as a way to promote British business around the world, with the aim of getting it in service by late 2025.” – FT

  • Johnson: Britannia replacement will pay for itself ‘many, many times over’ – Daily Telegraph

Johnson shoots down Home Office plans that could see journalists and whistleblowers jailed for 14 years over leaks

“Boris Johnson has shot down planned changes to the Official Secrets Act that could jail journalists for 14 years for exposing public interest stories. After a massive backlash to a suggested Home Office clampdown that would treat newspapers like spies, the PM mounted a passionate defence of Britain’s free Press. And he vowed to protect it as “​​a search light that will continue to shine on every crevice.” In the wake of the Matt Hancock scandal the PM offered his full throated defence of whistleblowing that has produced “the best and most important stories.” Mr Johnson’s comments came amid alarm that a review of the Official Secrets Act could curtail reporting like The Sun’s expose of the Health Secretary’s lockdown breaking affair.” – The Sun

  • Prime Minister avoids question on Dick’s second term – The Times

>Today: Adrian Crossley in Comment: The Government should be commended for its preventative measures to clamp down on crime

Climbdown on Afghan heroes who helped our troops on the battlefield after salvo from 40 top brass

“Shamed ministers are set to offer sanctuary to more interpreters living under a Taliban death sentence in Afghanistan following unprecedented criticism by military chiefs. They are considering flying some translators to the UK so their applications can be decided here – and they are ready to widen the definition of who is deemed vulnerable. In an open letter to the Prime Minister, more than 40 senior officers warned Britain faced ‘dishonour’ if translators who served with UK troops are left to be murdered. In a broadside which shocked the Ministry of Defence, furious former top brass demanded an overhaul of the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Programme, or ARAP, after it rejected 500 cases in three months, including applications by 130 interpreters.” – Daily Mail

  • Rape victims serving in the military fail to defeat Ministry of Defence ban on meeting MPs – The Times

>Yesterday: Enver Solomon and Sunder Katwala in Comment: Refugees mark 70 years of UK sanctuary

Tory MPs warn ministers against ending triple lock

“Conservative MPs have been asked whether or not they would support a suspension to the pensions triple lock in the clearest indication yet that a key manifesto pledge will be dropped. Figures in the Department of Work and Pensions are reported to be canvassing Tory backbenchers’ opinions on a temporary abandonment of the guaranteed annual increase in pensions. Under the triple lock, pensions rise by whatever is highest out of 2.5 per cent, inflation or average wages. Earnings figures have been distorted this year because furloughed employees returning to work have seen their salaries dramatically increase, meaning that pensions could grow by as much as 8 per cent.” – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Build back better. Does this phrase run the risk of alienating Conservative voters?

Sheffield Forgemasters to be nationalised to secure its future

“Sheffield Forgemasters, one of Britain’s oldest steelmakers, is to be acquired by the UK’s Ministry of Defence for £2.5m as the government firms up its control of vital aspects of the country’s nuclear industry supply chain.  The deal paves the way for up to £400m of investment over the next 10 years by the MoD to replace equipment and infrastructure at the steelmaker, which has been struggling financially for years. The transaction values Forgemasters at £2.56m plus debt. The company, whose existing shareholders are made up of former chief executive Graham Honeyman and its employees through a trust, said they had agreed to sell their holdings to the MoD for 121p a share. While some would be making a modest profit from the sale of their holdings, others would be crystallising a loss, the company said.” – FT

Sunak talks up Union ahead of Scottish visit

“Rishi Sunak will today reaffirm the “Strength of the Union” through the UK’s generosity to the Scottish Government in a bid to tone down the calls for separation from the SNP. Ahead of a visit to Scotland, the Chancellor hailed Scotland’s “innovation and ingenuity” as part of the United Kingdom. During the visit to Glasgow and Edinburgh, the Chancellor will highlight the “plan for jobs” scheme, which he said has supported one in three jobs in Scotland and tens of thousands of Scottish businesses. But the SNP claim the Chancellor should apologise for plunging Scotland into economic uncertainty… It comes after SNP ministers demanded further financial flexibility in its funding arrangement with the UK Government and an extension of the furlough scheme which finishes in September.” – Daily Express

  • The SNP no longer has the momentum to push for another independence referendum – Iain Martin, The Times

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: Both sides must accept that substantive change is necessary for the Northern Ireland Protocol

Hancock told to quit by local councillors who blast ‘hypocrisy and hubris’ of lockdown affair

“Shamed Matt Hancock has been told to quit politics by his local councillors amid fury at his lockdown breaking affair. Raging councillors in the former Health Secretary’s local town of Newmarket tore into his “hypocrisy” and accused him of “neglecting” his voters. Throwing down the gauntlet, they passed a vote of no confidence in the disgraced former Cabinet minister. It comes after Mar Hancock was forced to quit as Health Secretary after The Sun revealed he was having a secret affair with his close aide Gina Coladangelo. Mr Hancock, 42, was caught breaking Covid social distancing rules by having a steamy kiss with Ms Coladangelo in his government office. He had used taxpayers money to hire Gina, 43, a millionaire lobbyist.” – The Sun

Pritchard named new head of NHS England

“Amanda Pritchard, a health service insider for almost 25 years, has been appointed the next chief executive of England’s NHS. She is the first woman to hold the role, assuming it at a time of daunting challenges for the taxpayer-funded system. The organisation’s current chief operating officer, she succeeds Lord Simon Stevens, immediately after he steps down at the weekend after seven years. Pritchard said she was “honoured to lead the NHS, particularly as the first woman chief executive of an organisation whose staff are more than three quarters female”. Pritchard, whose appointment was approved by Boris Johnson, the prime minister, had always been seen as a leading contender for the top job after impressing the NHS England board during her two years as Stevens’ de facto deputy.” – FT

  • Lord Stevens of Birmingham steps down after seven years in job – The Times

More:

  • West Suffolk hospital chief resigns prior to bullying claims review – The Guardian

Labour MP ‘acted dishonestly’ to ‘jump the queue’ on the social housing register, court hears

“A Labour MP accused of conning a local council out of £64,000 in housing benefits ‘acted dishonestly’ to make personal gain and ‘jump the queue’ on the social housing register, a court heard today. Apsana Begum, 31, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse in east London, claimed she was living in ‘overcrowded conditions’ with her family when she was in a four-bedroomed house with three other people, jurors were told. She successfully gained a social housing tenancy in under four months, rather than the average three-year wait, due to her claims, a court heard. Begum, who is on trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court, later blamed her partner, local councillor Ehtashamul Haque, for making an application to Tower Hamlets Council in her name, it is claimed.” – Daily Mail

Exodus from Starmer’s top team goes on as deputy chief of staff resigns

“An exodus from Sir Keir Starmer’s top team continued on Wednesday night as one of his closest aides resigned. Chris Ward, the Labour leader’s speechwriter and deputy chief of staff, told officials he was leaving after seven years at Sir Keir’s side. Only one of the “gang of five” of the leader’s closest aides now remains after Labour’s loss in the Hartlepool by-election in May prompted an exodus of the party’s top officials. Ben Nunn, Sir Keir’s spokesman, Baroness Chapman, his political secretary, and top aide Morgan McSweeney have already left the posts they held before the by-election earlier this year. Labour’s drubbing at the polls in Hartlepool and Chesham and Amersham has provoked unease within the party about its chances at the next election.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Latest departure from ‘gang of five’ of close advisers – The Guardian

More Labour:

  • Summer school catch-up classes insufficient, say heads and Labour – The Guardian

Duffield is investigated by her party for liking tweet that said trans people were ‘mostly heterosexuals cosplaying’

“A Labour MP is being investigated by party officials after she liked a tweet saying trans people are ‘mostly heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as gay’. Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield, 50, is now facing a backlash from activists after liking the post by American rapper Kurtis Tripp, accusing trans people of ‘colonising gay culture’ and appropriating the word ‘queer’. The affiliated group LGBT+ Labour has pressured party leader Sir Keir Starmer to remove the whip from Ms Duffield… The group’s chairwoman, Alex Beverley, urged the party to prove it does not ‘tolerate transphobia’, telling the Labour List website: ‘This recent endorsement of extremely homophobic and transphobic comments by Rosie Duffield is yet another example in a consistent pattern of behaviour.'” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Calvin Robinson in Comment: The Left and Right are both wrong on pronouns – and it’s distracting us from the real battle that’s going on

News in Brief:

  • Why the SNP fraud allegations matter – Henry Hill, The Spectator
  • Not everything is racist – Rakin Ehsan, The Critic
  • Rusbridger always wins – Douglas Murray, UnHerd
  • What we get wrong about going green – Sam Dumitriu, CapX

Newslinks for Wednesday 28th July 2021

28 Jul

Coronavirus 1) Pandemic is not over, Johnson warns as infections fall

“Covid cases have fallen by a third in a week but Boris Johnson warned they would rise again if people did not remain cautious. The prime minister braced the country for a further increase resulting from the end of restrictions as he cautioned against drawing “premature conclusions” that the threat of the pandemic had passed. The sustained reduction has taken ministers and scientists by surprise, with the government concluding that much of it is likely to be real, but they are concerned that it will reverse if people react to the good news by becoming less cautious. Cases have fallen most among those in their late teens and early twenties, according to analysis of internal government data.” – The Times

  • Covid cases fall for seventh day in a row as top minister says Britain has reached herd immunity – The Sun
  • Why wait three more weeks to end hell of pingdemic? Calls to scrap scheme grow as even Government health chiefs say daily Covid testing is as good as isolation – Daily Mail
  • Sturgeon accused of ‘Donald Trump-style meltdown’ over vaccine figures – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Trying to predict patterns and outcomes relating to a new, unknown disease is challenging… but what else have ‘the experts’ got wrong? Sarah Vine – Daily Mail
  • Politically motivated ‘experts’ predicting catastrophe have done far more harm than good during the pandemic – The Sun
  • Indolent Britain has given up on working, Madeline Grant – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) England to drop quarantine for EU and US tourists

“England is poised to reopen its borders as soon as next week by allowing fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and US to enter without quarantining, The Times has been told. Ministers are expected to approve the plans today after Boris Johnson is said to have become concerned that the EU is ahead of Britain in enabling international travel. He is said to believe that Britain risks “squandering its vaccine bonus”, a reference to the advanced state of the domestic coronavirus jabs programme. Research from the World Travel and Tourism Council suggests the economy is losing £639 million a day because of the squeeze on inbound tourism. Countries beyond the EU and US could be allowed quarantine-free inbound travel at a later date.” – The Times

  • Spain is poised to go on the Amber-plus list – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 3) Gove – vaccine refuseniks are selfish

“Michael Gove has described those who refuse vaccines as “selfish” amid hints that the government’s threats to young people may be paying off. The Cabinet Office minister insisted that it was right that those who turned down jabs be denied access to “certain venues and certain events”. Ministers are striking a harder line on vaccine passports to encourage young people to come forward. After months of positive messaging on the benefits of vaccination, Boris Johnson has warned the young that they will be refused entry into nightclubs if they do not get jabs. He has also floated the idea of requiring immunisation for university students. However, the settings where vaccination will be required are yet to be finalised.” – The Times

  • Long Covid sufferers report discrimination and lost jobs – The Times
  • No Covid jab? You’re not so smart, says Biden, as Delta spreads – The Times

Coronavirus 4) Britain’s economic recovery set to outstrip the G7

“Britain will be the world’s fastest-growing advanced economy this year after the rapid vaccine rollout and support for households and businesses persuaded the International Monetary Fund to upgrade UK GDP more than any other country. In its latest forecasts, the institution said the UK will grow 7 per cent this year, revised up from 5.3 per cent in April, making it the equal fastest expanding G7 economy alongside the United States. Some of the upgrade is merely bringing forward growth to 2021 from 2022, but next year Britain, with 4.8 per cent, is expected to remain the second fastest growing G7 nation, behind the US. The UK had been expected to bounce back more quickly than G7 rivals simply because it suffered the deepest recession in 2020, contracting 9.8 per cent, and the IMF’s forecasts indicate that it will not return to pre-pandemic levels of GDP until early 2022, behind the US, Germany, Canada and Japan.” – The Times

James Kanagasooriam: Why conservatives win social progress gold

“I feel incredibly proud to say that I am a gay man and an Olympic champion,” Tom Daley proclaimed when picking up his first Gold at his fourth Olympics this week. His words felt like a moment for Britain to take stock. As recently as 2012, Daley’s second Olympics and the year before the Cameron-Clegg coalition’s Equal Marriage Act, 55 per cent of the UK supported same-sex unions. Nine years later, it has risen to 74 per cent. The transformation of attitudes towards same-sex relationships is a chapter in a larger story of how Britain has become significantly more accepting over the last 20 years of ideas that started on the left. On gender roles and equality, race relations, the environment and industrial relations, Britain has shifted decisively in a more liberal direction. The British Social Attitudes Survey records some 33 per cent believing in the traditional gender roles of men and women in 1991. This falls to 8 per cent by 2017. Similar precipitous falls occur in support for most socially conservative viewpoints.” – The Times

Johnson vows to bring back ‘chain gangs’

“Boris Johnson has promised to bring back “chain gangs” as a deterrent for antisocial behaviour. The prime minister said there was “no reason” why offenders should not be forced to wear high-vis jackets while carrying out unpaid work. It would ensure they were “visibly paying their debt to society,” he said. He referred to them as “fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs” in a move likely to cause controversy due to their historical use in the southern US states and the Transportation era in Australia. Johnson was speaking during a visit to Surrey police headquarters with Priti Patel, the home secretary, to mark the government’s new “Beating Crime Plan”. Among the plans is a pledge to give every victim of crime a named police officer that they can contact wherever they live in the country.” The Times

Comment:

New bill would prevent trafficked Britons returning to UK

“British women and children trafficked to terrorist organisations abroad would be legally excluded from returning to Britain under the government’s immigration bill, The Times can reveal. The Nationality and Borders Bill, which passed its second reading last week, gives the home secretary the power to deny victims protection under the Modern Slavery Act if they are trafficked by a terrorist organisation, by deeming them a threat to national security. Legal experts believe that the clause is aimed at preventing the return of dozens of British women and children trafficked to Syria by Islamic State and forced into marriage, sexual slavery and slave labour. It comes after the Home Office was forced to backtrack over the case of a child trafficked to Afghanistan by a terrorist gang, having tried to claim that his case “did not fall under the definition of modern slavery”.” – The Times

  • Police ‘buying small boats in attempt to curtail Channel migrant crossings’ – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

Britain must block sale of tech companies to China, says Abbott

“Tony Abbott, the Government’s trade adviser, has called for Britain to block the sale of technology companies to China in a significant intervention as Whitehall seeks to limit the influence of Beijing. Mr Abbott, a former Australian prime minister and an adviser to the Board of Trade, said that combatting the Communist regime was likely to be the “challenge of the century” and urged Boris Johnson against becoming “economically dependent” upon China. It comes as ministers oversee a national security investigation into the takeover of Britain’s biggest microchip factory by a Chinese-backed company, and consider shutting the country’s businesses out of nuclear power operations. Writing for The Telegraph (below), Mr Abbott said Beijing viewed trade as a tap that can be turned on and off “to reward friends and to punish foes”.” – Daily Telegraph

Drivers who don’t wear a seatbelt may face penalty points and ban

“Drivers face having penalty points added to their licence for failing to wear a seatbelt amid growing concern over the number of people who go without. Motorists could receive at least three points and a possible driving ban under reforms to stop them and their passengers flouting road safety laws. The penalty may apply even if the driver has a seat belt on but a passenger does not. The change will be considered as part of a road safety plan to be published this year. At present drivers can be given only a £100 fine — rising to £500 in the courts — for the offence. Many can opt to take an online seatbelt awareness course instead, which costs £53. Almost a quarter of car drivers and passengers killed in road accidents in 2019 (23 per cent) were not wearing seatbelts. This had increased from 19 per cent six years earlier.” – The Times

Comment:

Clarke objects to ‘pointless’ questions over infected blood scandal

“The chance to save “thousands of lives” was missed when health officials failed to act on “startling” warnings sent to the government about the risk posed by infected blood products, the former health minister Ken Clarke has told an inquiry. Lord Clarke of Nottingham was in office between 1982 and 1985, during which period it began to emerge that many NHS patients, particularly haemophiliacs, had been infected with HIV from contaminated treatments. Almost 3,000 died. Clarke became yesterday the first minister from the time to appear before the Infected Blood Inquiry. He said that he bore no responsibility for the use of infected drugs in a session that grew heated as he objected to “pointless” questions.” – The Times

Higher gas bills to pay for hydrogen market growth

“Households face higher gas bills under plans being brought forward by ministers to subsidise the growth of the hydrogen market. The government will shortly publish its “hydrogen strategy”, which will, according to reports, include plans to guarantee green businesses a reliable price for the energy they sell. It would amount to a levy on household gas bills. Boris Johnson announced targets to increase the size of the hydrogen industry last year as part of his ten-point plan to reach “net zero” by 2050. The hydrogen sector aims to have a production capacity of 1GW by 2025 and 5GW by 2030, creating about 8,000 jobs. In order to reach this target, ministers want to ensure hydrogen firms can sell their products at a more predictable price.” – The Times

>Yesterday:

Abuse inquiry: Lambeth council care staff put children in path of sex offenders

“Council staff failed to stop predators infiltrating children’s homes and treated children in care “as if they were worthless”, a damning report into decades of abuse has found. Employees in the south London borough of Lambeth appeared to demonstrate “a callous disregard for the vulnerable children they were paid to look after”, according to the findings of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). It heard evidence of children being raped, indecently assaulted and sexually abused, but said that of the 705 complaints made by former residents across three such facilities, only one member of senior staff was ever disciplined.” – The Times

Labour MP Rosie Duffield is investigated by her party for liking tweet that said trans people were ‘mostly heterosexuals cosplaying’

“A Labour MP is being investigated by party officials after she liked a tweet saying trans people are ‘mostly heterosexuals cosplaying as the opposite sex and as gay’.  Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield, 50, is now facing a backlash from activists after liking the post by American rapper Kurtis Tripp, accusing trans people of ‘colonising gay culture’ and appropriating the word ‘queer’.  The affiliated group LGBT+ Labour has pressured party leader Sir Keir Starmer to remove the whip from Ms Duffield, The Times reports. The group’s chairwoman, Alex Beverley, urged the party to prove it does not ‘tolerate transphobia’, telling the Labour List website: ‘This recent endorsement of extremely homophobic and transphobic comments by Rosie Duffield is yet another example in a consistent pattern of behaviour.” – Daily Mail

>Today:

More drug addicts to be offered treatment instead of punishment

“More addicts found in possession of Class A and B drugs will be targeted with treatment and recovery services as decriminalisation moves closer. Drug users will benefit from extra investment in treatment as a trial to shift away from repeatedly punishing addicts is expanded. The programmes will be offered in five city centres to ensure more black and ethnic minority people benefit. Priti Patel, the home secretary, said that the move was designed to help people escape the “poisonous cycle” of drug addiction and reoffending, which costs society £19 billion a year. It will be combined with a tougher approach to policing against suppliers of drugs. Police forces will be given more resources to target drug supply chains as part of a “whole system approach to rid communities of the harm drug misuse causes”.” – The Times

News in brief:

Newslinks for Tuesday 27th July 2021

27 Jul

Coronavirus 1) Compulsory vaccine passports ‘could spark first Tory Party split in nearly 200 years’

“Boris Johnson could spark the first split in the Tory Party in nearly 200 years if he brings in compulsory vaccine passports, a senior Conservative has warned. Former minister Steve Baker made the explosive prediction as football clubs, universities and raging MPs all hammered the plan. While senior scientists warned that “using the stick approach” could massively backfire and put youngsters off getting the jab. The PM has sparked uproar by threatening to make uni students get both jabs in order to attend lectures or stay in halls of residence. He is mulling the idea as a nuclear option to force the ‘missing 3 million’ of 18 to 29 year-olds who have not got their jab to get one. The radical plan – being pushed by Michael Gove – has sparked concern with Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and his department who fear it may be open to legal challenge.” – The Sun

  • Tugendhat accuses Johnson of turning Britain into a ‘Beijing-style democracy’ – Daily Mail
  • Vaccine passports plan ‘railroaded through’ despite ministers’ concerns – Daily Telegraph
  • Universities balk at ‘Covid passports’ plan for English campuses – FT

>Today: Georgia L Gilholy in Comment: The Government has no business coercing my generation into getting the vaccine

Coronavirus 2) No 10 ‘cautious over declaring Covid turning point’ despite fall in cases

“Downing Street and scientists remained cautious about declaring a turning point in the outbreak on Monday night despite a huge drop in Covid case numbers for the sixth day in a row. No 10 said it was “encouraging” that infections had fallen to their lowest level in three weeks at 24,950 confirmed cases, with Boris Johnson taking the decision to allow more double-vaccinated key workers to avoid isolation with a daily testing programme. But the prime minister’s official spokesman said he still believed the UK was “not out of the woods yet” and highlighted the fact that the full impact of the 19 July unlocking has not yet been reflected in case numbers. Several Whitehall health sources said the government was still extremely cautious about the implications of the falling case data, which cannot yet be fully explained by scientists.” – The Guardian

  • Covid-19 cases fall again as pandemic starts retreat – The Times
  • ‘Vast numbers classed as being hospitalised by the virus’ when they were admitted with other ailments – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson warns ‘we’re not out of the woods yet’ – The Sun
  • Public must be ‘very careful’ and wait a few more weeks before celebrating fall in cases – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Javid was gracious to apologise for his tweet. But backing down comes at a cost.

>Yesterday: Nat Wei in Comment: To make lockdowns a thing of the past, we need a smart revolution in healthcare

Coronavirus 3) Pingdemic is leading to panic buying, supermarket bosses warn ministers

“Downing Street has been warned that the “pingdemic” has led to panic buying and forced one in five workers at some supermarket chains to isolate, as calls mount for self-isolation rules to be relaxed before August 16. The Telegraph has learnt that, at a crunch meeting with supermarkets last week, ministers were told that the impact was hitting rural, tourist and coastal areas hardest. During the meeting on Thursday, chief executives in the food industry are understood to have highlighted that the Co-op’s absence rates nationally are now above 20 per cent as a result of staff being sick with Covid or self-isolating. Waitrose is also said to have warned that it had begun to see panic buying on the back of images of empty shelves caused by problems with deliveries and disruption to supply chains.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Soldiers and sailors ordered to turn off their Test and Trace apps as a record 5,200 are self-isolating – The Sun
  • Binmen, soldiers and prison workers added to list of key workers exempt – The Sun

Travel:

  • Brits jabbed abroad will be able to head home quarantine free at the end of the month – The Sun
  • UK to consider relaxing travel restrictions from EU and US – FT
  • No quarantine for Americans who enter the UK with a vaccine card – The Times

Comment:

  • England’s ‘pingdemic’ is a convenient distraction from the real problem – Stephen Reicher, The Guardian

>Today: Jonathan Rogers in Comment: A psychiatrist’s view. Lockdowns reversed Cameron’s progress on mental health.

Johnson gets tough on burglars with new stop-and-search powers

“Burglars and thieves will be tracked using electronic tags and restrictions on the use of police stop-and-search powers will be scrapped under plans to be announced by Boris Johnson today. The prime minister will use his first day after leaving quarantine to present a package of measures aimed at “beating crime” as he attempts to shift his premiership away from coronavirus. All burglars, robbers and thieves who have served a jail sentence of a year will automatically be fitted with a GPS tag on their release, allowing their movements to be tracked. Offenders will also be required to carry out unpaid work such as cleaning the streets and picking litter while they are on probation so they are “visibly and publicly making reparations for their crimes”.” – The Times

  • Patel promised to make ‘yobs pay back to the communities they’ve blighted’ – Daily Mail
  • MPs and campaigners alarmed at UK’s ‘discriminatory’ crime reduction plans – The Guardian

Priti Patel: The public want to see justice done… and offenders pay for crimes

“Crime destroys lives and ruins neighbourhoods. It leaves people afraid, bereft and bereaved. It must be confronted. Our Beating Crime Plan contains a range of measures to reduce crime and level up the country so that everyone has the security and confidence that comes from having a safe street and a safe home. From day one as Home Secretary, I’ve made it clear that I will back the police. We have already recruited nearly 9,000 extra police officers as part of our unprecedented recruitment drive to bring in 20,000. We’ll make sure that every community in the country has a named police contact – someone who knows your neighbourhood and can act on the challenges your community faces.” – Daily Mail

Johnson could rethink national insurance rise after Tory backlash…

“Boris Johnson could rethink plans for a national insurance rise to fund an overhaul of social care, after a significant backlash from cabinet ministers and Conservative MPs. At least five cabinet ministers are said to oppose plans for a 1% increase in national insurance, likely to be branded a health and social care levy, to tackle the NHS Covid backlog and long-term funding for a more generous social care package based on a cost cap. One cabinet minister said the prime minister was pushing back against what they saw as an attempt to bounce him into the tax rise, against the Tories’ manifesto pledge. Treasury sources denied they had briefed the plans. “The Treasury was trying to push the PM in a particular direction, and he’s put his foot down,” the cabinet minister said, suggesting there were more options still on the table.” – The Guardian

  • Mental health must be at the heart of social care reform – Andrew Lewer, Times Red Box

>Yesterday: Duncan Simpson in Comment: With the Covid bill standing at £372 billion, the Government’s spending spree looks increasingly unsustainable

…and Brits may be allowed more time to swap over dirty boilers in major row-back plot

“Brits would be allowed up to five more years to swap out their dirty boilers in a major row-back plotted by Boris Johnson. The PM is looking at pushing back a ban on sales of all new gas boilers by 2035 after a furious backlash over spiralling costs. The shift would give more time for new heat-pumps and hydrogen boilers to come down in price, and for businesses to pump extra cash into shifting people over gradually. Brits will be incentivised to buy an eco-friendly heat pump next time their boiler breaks down, but would be given extra time to buy one if they want to before the ban kicks in. That may mean that working boilers could have to be taken out before 2050 or Britain would be at risk of failing to hit Net Zero targets – something ministers are desperate to avoid.” – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The war on cars

EU’s protocol proposals don’t go far enough, says UK

“Britain has told the European Union that new proposals from Brussels aimed at resolving the standoff over the Northern Ireland Protocol do not go far enough. On Monday, the EU issued a paper which suggested that checks on over-the-counter medicines destined for Northern Ireland could be conducted by UK authorities. Brussels said this would require the UK to meet several conditions – including ensuring all drugs comply with European Medicines Agency standards and that all packets destined for Northern Ireland are labelled as such. However, a UK government spokesman said the proposal “remains the same as the one [the EU] sent to us in late June” and does not address outstanding “issues and concerns”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Unionists warn Boris Johnson could be caught ‘off-guard’ by support for Welsh independence – Daily Express

Comment:

  • If Britain wants to resolve the Northern Ireland protocol, this is not the way to do it – Anand Menon and Jill Rutter, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Jayne Ayde in Comment: It’s time to move beyond Brussels on financial services

France rejected plan for British warships pick up migrants and take them back to shore

“France rejected a request to have British warships pick up migrants in the Channel and take them back to shore. The French military gave a resounding “non” to the request by UK border officials. Last year, Border Force carried out exercises alongside the Royal Navy to show it was possible to pluck migrants out of the sea and return them to France safely. Home Secretary Priti Patel said at the time: “We want the French to work and collaborate with us on this.” It has now emerged the plan was flat-out rejected by Paris. Since then, two separate deals have been made, with Britain paying more than £70 million to help patrol French beaches. It comes as Home Office insiders said people smugglers are launching migrants in stormy weather.” – The Sun

  • UK been hindered by a French legal ruling that has prohibited the use of drones – Daily Mail
  • Small boats used by migrants to cross the Channel will be handed to British charities – The Sun

MPs demand nation register of home-schooled children

“An ‘unacceptable level of opaqueness has clouded elective home education’ for too long, the chairman of an influential Commons committee has said. Conservative MP Robert Halfon, who heads up the Commons Education Committee, has branded it ‘frankly astonishing’ the Government is only able to make a ‘best guess’ over the standard of education children who learn at home were receiving. And his committee has called for a national register to be established and more data to be collected to ensure all children out of school get a suitable education. A report from the group of MPs released on Tuesday detailed how the Association of Directors of Children’s Services projected that, as of October 2020, more than 75,000 children were being educated at home, an increase of 38 per cent from the previous year.” – Daily Mail

Labour pledges same rights for all workers from day one of jobs

“All workers from direct employees to those in the gig economy would be eligible for sick pay, holiday, parental leave and the minimum wage from day one of their jobs under new plans announced by Labour. The party said it would create a new definition of “worker” in law to make sure everyone in employment gets the same protections. Under the current system, there are qualifying periods for rights such as statutory maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental leave and flexible working requests. Labour said all workers should get rights immediately, whether they were in direct employment or working in the so-called gig economy. The move would mean an extra 6 million people in insecure work having access to sick pay, potentially helping to solve the issue of some gig economy workers with Covid being reluctant to isolate because of worries about losing money.” – The Guardian

  • Starmer clashes with unions over stay-at-home staff – Daily Mail

More:

  • Shadow chancellor promises Labour will repair trade ties with EU – FT
  • Butler was right to call Johnson a liar, says Starmer – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Starmer is shrinking the Labour party – Tom Blackburn, The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • What the SNP’s missing referendum fund tells us – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Nationalists have blurred lines between party, ‘Yes movement’, and devolved state – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • The Lancet, China and the origins of coronavirus – Stuart Richie, The Spectator
  • A new report is gratifyingly pro-freedom and pro-free speech – Andrew Tettenborn, The Critic

And finally… Cummings backs Britney Spears in her conservatorship court battle

“Dominic Cummings last night backed Britney Spears in her conservatorship court battle as he declared “free Britney”. The rogue ex No10 aide waded into the blockbuster case to urge the pop star’s lawyers to lobby American politicians to challenge the “shocking conservatorship laws”. His bizarre intervention comes after the singer, 39, told a court she is “depressed” and cries every day because she cannot have a baby or make any life decisions on her own. The millionaire songstress has been under the control of her father, Jamie, since 2008. The drastic step was taken after Britney suffered a very public breakdown… Weighing in behind the popstar, Mr Cummings urged American President Joe Biden and members of Congress to intervene and tear up the draconian laws which have left Britney a virtual prisoner.” – The Sun

  • He’s right: we deserve better leaders – Max Hastings, The Times

Newslinks for Monday 26th July 2021

26 Jul

Coronavirus 1) Big fall in cases suggests third wave has peaked

“Britain is seeing a sustained fall in reported coronavirus cases outside of lockdown for the first time since the pandemic began. In new evidence that the country has passed the peak of its third wave, the number of confirmed infections fell for the fifth consecutive day. Yesterday, 29,173 positive cases were recorded, the first time it had fallen below 30,000 for two weeks and down from a peak of about 50,000 shortly before almost all legal restrictions were lifted in England last Monday. It was also nearly 40 per cent lower than the same figure last Sunday and the first period in which case numbers had consistently fallen since the start of May.” – The Times

  • Public Health England criticised for excluding reinfections from official Covid figures – Daily Telegraph
  • Quarantine from France could end as Covid Beta strain fades after one week – The Times

Analysis:

  • Early days but fall in Covid cases is reason to be cautiously optimistic – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Vaccine passports for work considered by nearly a third of major businesses

“Vaccine passports in the workplace are being considered by nearly a third of major businesses, according to industry surveys. More than 30 per cent of large UK firms have signalled that staff may be asked for proof of vaccination before they can physically return to work. It comes after the Government appeared to suggest that the NHS App should be used by businesses to ensure office workers had received both jabs. In a survey of 1,000 firms conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce, 31 per cent of firms with more than 50 employees suggested they were considering introducing so-called vaccine passports.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Helpline on way for double-jabbed who missed out on vaccine passport – Daily Telegraph
  • Police investigate antivax rally over ‘Nuremberg’ cry – The Times
  • Merkel aide hints at Covid vaccine passports plan – The Times
  • Reluctant Swedes will be paid £17 to have Covid jab – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Javid apologises after saying nation does not need to ‘cower’ from virus

“Sajid Javid has apologised after saying that the nation does not need to “cower” from coronavirus following criticism from those who have lost loved ones. The health secretary described the tweet a “poor choice of word” for which he said he would like to “ sincerely apologise”. Javid said on Saturday he had made a “full recovery” and that his “symptoms were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines”, of which he had received two doses. “Please, if you haven’t yet, get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus,” he wrote on Twitter. Co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Jo Goodman, said Mr Javid’s comments “are deeply insensitive on a number of levels”.” – The Times

Coronavirus 4) Unions battling Government’s plans to end pingdemic

“Union leaders have launched a battle against Government plans to end the pingdemic in a move that threatens a summer of disruption for holidaymakers, shoppers and commuters. Critical workers are able to avoid self isolation via a Government scheme launched amid fears key infrastructure could collapse under the pressure of hundreds of thousands being told to stay at home by the NHS app. However, leaders of the UK’s largest unions are now encouraging key workers, including in transport and food, to ignore the exemption and stay at home, citing fears that they could be exposed to Covid-19 in the workplace, the Telegraph can reveal.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Covid testing won’t prevent food shortages, warn hauliers – The Times

Coronavirus 5) Unjabbed students face ban as ‘raging’ Johnson targets vaccine refuseniks

“University students will have to be fully vaccinated to attend lectures or stay in halls of residence under plans being pushed by Boris Johnson. The prime minister is said to have been “raging” about the relatively low vaccine uptake among young people and is determined to apply pressure. During video meetings with colleagues while in isolation at Chequers last week, he suggested that students in higher and further education settings should face compulsory vaccination, subject to certain medical exemptions. However, The Times has been told that the Department for Education has reservations about the legality and practicability of the plans given that universities are independent and offers to study are legally binding.” – The Times

  • Pushing young to get vaccine ‘risks damaging trust in jab’: Strong-arming people into getting Covid shot could undermine rollout, expert warns – Daily Mail

Douglas Murray: No one’s listening to you any more, Boris – too often the story has changed

THERE were terrible scenes in the UK and around the world this weekend. In multiple cities and countries, members of the public came out to protest the endless rolling lockdowns and vaccine rules. In Australia, mounted police on horseback confronted crowds. In Paris, police fired tear gas. And in London, Manchester and other UK cities, police and demonstrators clashed. In Manchester, a crowd tried to storm a Covid test centre. And in Parliament Square in the capital, arrests were made as police and protesters got into a stand-off. There have inevitably been a fringe of wack jobs and conspiracy theorists at the rallies. People who believe that the virus is not real or only exists as a means to control the population.” – The Sun

More comment:

French seek eyes in sky over Channel

“France has asked the European Union border agency to provide airborne surveillance of the Channel in an effort to reduce migrant crossings. Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister, said he wanted Frontex to extend its mission to the fight against people-smuggling along the Channel coast. He urged Belgium and the Netherlands to co-operate, suggesting that neither country was doing enough at present. Darmanin was speaking on a visit to Calais after Priti Patel, the home secretary, pledged a further £54 million for security measures in France to prevent migrants from trying to reach the UK. The French minister said the deal would finance police reinforcements, but also air surveillance, notably drones, and other equipment such as infrared sights.” – The Times

Save women and girls from rise in domestic abuse and sex offences, police told

“Ministers will tell chief constables how their forces should investigate domestic abuse and sex offences under plans being considered to deal with a surge in cases. Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, held talks with colleagues about using existing powers to set minimum standards for police handling allegations of violence against women and girls. Ministers are concerned that investigations take too long and victims are left unsupported. This contributes to the “indefensibly” low level of prosecutions for rape and domestic abuse. Only 1.4 per cent of about 55,000 rape cases reported to the police in England and Wales in 2019-20 resulted in a suspect being charged, while more than 750,000 domestic abuse cases were recorded, with only 47,534 convictions.” – The Times

London sees months worth of rain in three hours flooding tube stations and motorways

“A month’s worth of rain fell in three hours in London, flooding tube stations and forcing drivers on motorways to abandon their cars. Motorists along the A406 were left stranded with emergency services telling some drivers no help would be available until late in the evening as thunderstorms battered the South East. Footage posted on social media on Sunday night showed crews attempting to rescue stranded drivers who risked becoming submerged under rising water levels. A part of the M11 was shut for a time on Sunday after it became flooded.” – Daily Telegraph

House prices have nearly tripled in two decades

“House prices have nearly tripled in the past twenty years, making up for any value homeowners may have lost during the global financial crisis. The average home in Britain is now worth £163,700 more — £106,800 once adjusted for inflation — than it was in 2001, according to research from Zoopla. Buyers who bought their home before the financial crash saw a dip in its value between 2008 and 2012, but these losses have been offset by strong price growth since 2013. Grainne Gilmore, head of research at Zoopla, puts this down to “long-term undersupply [of housing], as well as access to low-cost mortgage finance” due to low interest rates. House prices have risen the most in Kensington and Chelsea in west London, where the average house price is about £1.2 million.” – The Times

Wine-lovers to save £130m as Brexit frees imports from red tape

“Wine-lovers are set to save about £130m per year as the Government uses its new Brexit freedoms to chop EU red tape on imports. Each bottle could become 13p cheaper, according to the industry, thanks to the abolition of the VI-1 forms – a bureaucratic exercise which includes lab tests to verify the acidity of the wine, something which is not done for other drinks such as beer or spirits. The Government is set to scrap the requirement for imports from outside the EU to come with the certificate, and has also abandoned its previous plans to impose the rule on wines coming from the EU to Britain. Officials estimate the saving for consumers at £130m, while the industry believes it will save £100m on non-EU wines and avoid imposing costs of £70m on those from the continent.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief:

Newslinks for Sunday 25th July 2021

25 Jul

Coronavirus 1) Double jabs set to be needed to watch Premier League matches

“Premier League football fans who have not been fully vaccinated could be barred from attending matches from October under plans expected to be signed off by ministers, The Telegraph can disclose. The mandatory requirement is expected to extend to the autumn rugby internationals, major concerts, and spectator events of 20,000 or more as part of Boris Johnson’s efforts to turn Covid-19 into a “manageable menace”. A social media campaign aimed at boosting uptake among 18-30 year-olds will also be ramped up, linking vaccination to the ability to go on holiday, as three million of them are yet to receive a single dose. The NHS booster jab rollout will deliver 35 million doses to over-50s and the most vulnerable over 13 weeks from Sep 6 to save the country from another lockdown this winter.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Police, fire crews and Border Force staff can skip Covid isolation – Sun on Sunday
  • Johnson ‘will stand firm on lifting of restrictions’ – Mail on Sunday
  • Privacy tsar wants NHS Covid app ‘decommissioned’ as soon as the pandemic eases – Sunday Telegraph
  • Army on standby as 20 per cent of Britain’s food workers hit by ‘pingdemic’ – Sun on Sunday

>Today: Bella Wallersteiner in Comment: As a parliamentary staffer, I’m appalled by the double standards on who has to wear a mask

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Will Dido Harding have her Kate Bingham moment?

Coronavirus 2) Anger over Javid’s advice to not ‘cower’ from Covid

“Sajid Javid has provoked a wave of anger from families of the victims of Covid after he said people must no longer “cower” from the virus. The health secretary announced on Saturday that he had made a “full recovery” from Covid-19 after falling ill eight days ago, and said: “Please, if you haven’t yet, get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus.” Jo Goodman, the co-founder of Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said Javid’s “comments are deeply insensitive on a number of levels”. Labour accused him of denigrating people who followed the rules to protect others, while the Lib Dems told him to apologise to those who have shielded because they are particularly vulnerable to the disease.” – The Observer

  • Sage adviser claims ministers trying to get as many as possible infected with Covid – The Observer
  • Covid infections halve in a week – Sunday Times
  • Government opening floodgates to Covid variants, MPs warn – The Observer

Comment:

  • Not one of my NHS colleagues believes the NHS as we know it can survive much longer – Rachel Clarke, Sunday Times

Coronavirus 3) Bill has soared to £372 billion, and it’ll take 20 years to pay off

“Action to tackle the pandemic has so far cost £12,277 for every taxpayer in Britain, a report reveals today. But the final bill is expected to be even higher — with the public having to fork out more huge sums for the next 20 years. Figures show the Government has splashed out £372billion on fighting Covid so far. That is twice the amount raised in income tax every year and almost every penny of it is borrowed. With England’s lockdown lifted, 40,000 music fans have packed the Latitude festival in Suffolk this weekend amid hopes of a return to normal. But worried MPs fear it will take decades to get the nation’s finances in tune again.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Cost of Covid will last for decades, say MPs – Sunday Times
  • Unpaid hospital bills from foreign ‘health tourists’ hit £40million in the last year – Sun on Sunday

Cabinet in revolt over national insurance hike…

“Boris Johnson is facing a cabinet revolt on two fronts as opposition grows to his plan to overhaul social care by increasing national insurance contributions while maintaining the triple lock on pensions. Five cabinet ministers have said that they oppose the proposed rise, which would hit young workers while at the same time delivering a bumper rise in the state pension next year. National insurance is not charged once state pension age is reached. The triple lock guarantee is set to push up pensions by about 8 per cent, costing taxpayers between £3 billion and £4 billion, because wages have bounced back sharply from the Covid recession. Under the triple lock, the basic state pension increases by earnings, inflation or 2.5 per cent each year, whichever is the highest.” – Sunday Times

  • Pensions triple lock could be suspended amid concern over fairness to young – Sunday Telegraph
  • Johnson wants to mimic Tony Blair’s project, say No 10 sources – The Observer

Comment:

  • The Tories need to start sending the good stuff our way if they want young votes – Charlotte Ivers, Sunday Times

…and ‘at war’ over France fiasco…

“Health Secretary Sajid Javid was last night accused of ‘frightening’ Boris Johnson into making his ill-fated decision to move France into the Amber-plus travel category. Insiders say the decision – which has thrown the plans of thousands of holidaymakers into chaos by requiring them to quarantine for up to ten days even if they are double vaccinated against coronavirus – was taken at a meeting on July 16 attended by Mr Javid, Mr Johnson and senior scientific advisers, but not Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. A source claimed Mr Javid had overreacted to claims that the AstraZeneca vaccine might not work against the South African – or Beta – variant, which is responsible for about ten per cent of Covid-19 cases in France, although many are in its Indian Ocean territories of Reunion and Mayotte.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Johnson and Raab ‘risk losing seats at election over Covid travel chaos’ – Sunday Telegraph

…as Sunak baulks at the £1.4trillion cost of net zero

“Proposals to reduce emissions to ‘net zero’ as part of Boris Johnson’s plan to make the UK a ‘world leader’ in green policies have been thrown into disarray after Rishi Sunak raised objections to the eye-watering cost to the Treasury. As part of the net zero plan –which would decarbonise the economy by 2050 – No 10 had been expected to publish in the spring details of the strategy for moving away from gas boilers ahead of Glasgow’s COP26 climate change conference in November. But this has been delayed until the autumn amid mounting alarm about the bill. The Chancellor – who is already looking for ways to pay back the £400 billion cost of the Covid crisis and the £10 billion a year required to reform long-term care for the elderly – is understood to have baulked at estimates of hitting net zero at more than £1.4 trillion.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Prime Minister launches search to find Britain’s top eco-warriors – Sun on Sunday
  • Animal testing could end as Patel launches review – Sunday Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Snap guide to this session’s Government legislation 6) Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill

Robert Colvile: All this sound and fury before summer recess betrays a disturbing faith in big government

“But what does this blizzard of announcements tell us about the government? What can we learn by studying not what it is saying but what it is actually doing? Perhaps the most obvious point is the sheer scale of its ambition. Despite the demands of the pandemic, the government is still advancing — or at least attempting to — on all manner of fronts. That said, the pandemic has obviously made it hard to focus on other matters. Even those in No 10 accept that Boris Johnson’s big speech on levelling-up two weeks ago was strikingly light on detail, given how long he has been talking about it and how central it is to his agenda. There is, invariably, a strong streak of nannying and intervention in many of the government’s proposals. Yet there is also a welcome attachment to deregulation.” – Sunday Times

  • Who’s to blame for the chaos in No 10? Well, it’s not Dom, Rishi or Carrie… – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday

>Yesterday: Pamela Hall in Comment: Why I’m seeking election as Chairman of the National Conservative Convention

Government disability strategy risks becoming a ‘car crash’, says Tory peer

“The launch of the government’s long-awaited disability strategy risks becoming a car crash if ministers do not do more to listen to the views of people with disabilities before releasing it, a Conservative peer has said. Lord Shinkwin warned the prime minister that releasing a report that is roundly rejected by people with disabilities would greatly undermine his levelling-up agenda, after campaigners complained bitterly that the consultation process that informed it was seriously flawed. “It gives me no pleasure to say that if the strategy is launched next week, the government will be looking at another car crash that will make the launch of the recent ethnicity and racial disparity commission report look like a PR triumph,” he said. Shinkwin, chair of the Centre for Social Justice’s disability commission, said that while he did not feel the Tory minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, should lose his job, he did feel he should hand over more control for drawing up the strategy to people with disabilities.” – The Observer

  • Clarke rejected infected blood scandal advice – Sunday Times

Johnson talked out of triggering ‘nuclear option’ over Northern Ireland Brexit stalemate

“Boris Johnson was ready to overhaul the Northern Ireland Protocol this week but was talked down by his Brexit minister Lord Frost, The Telegraph has learnt. With the UK now demanding a renegotiation of the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland, The Telegraph has been told Mr Johnson is now convinced of the need to use the so-called “nuclear option” if Brussels refuses. It is understood that the warning was issued to Dublin this week, with UK officials making clear that it is Mr Johnson, rather than Lord Frost, who is most in favour of triggering Article 16 should the EU fail to change course. Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, is also known to have relayed similar messages to Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, during recent discussions over post-Brexit arrangements in the province.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Britain wants a ‘standstill’ period in the protocol so it can be renegotiated – Mail on Sunday
  • NI deal scuppers hopes for Theresa May to become Nato’s secretary general – Sunday Express

Comment:

  • Do not try to modify the Northern Ireland Protocol, just scrap it cleanly – Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph

‘Facebook-hating’ New Zealander in line to be Britain’s privacy tsar

“The government’s preferred choice as the next information commissioner is a vocal critic of social media and once called Facebook “morally bankrupt pathological liars”. John Edwards, a lawyer from New Zealand who is that country’s privacy commissioner, is favourite to be the new head of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The office protects Britons’ digital and privacy rights and has the power to levy huge fines against companies that fail to protect customer data. Edwards has often attacked social media companies and even deleted his Facebook account after claiming it had breached privacy laws in his country. An independent panel selected Edwards as the preferred candidate and he was then recommended for the role by Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport (DCMS). The appointment is awaiting Boris Johnson’s approval.” – Sunday Times

  •  Bombshell raids to find Hancock whistleblower blasted as ‘chilling’ for press freedom by minister – Sun on Sunday

Starmer appoints adviser from Blair years as his chief of staff

“Keir Starmer has appointed an adviser from the Blair and Brown years as his chief of staff in the final step of a reshuffle of the Labour leader’s top team after the party’s byelection losses. Sam White, who was a special adviser to Alistair Darling when he was chancellor, will run the leader of the opposition’s office from September. He will replace Morgan McSweeney, who was named Labour elections director. White, 46, was the longest-serving adviser to Darling while he was chancellor under former prime minister Gordon Brown, and also worked for him when he held cabinet positions under Tony Blair. In his new role, McSweeney will work with campaign coordinator Shabana Mahmood.” – The Observer

Newslinks for Saturday 24th July 2021

24 Jul

England facing weeks of ‘pingdemic’ disruption to services and food supply

“England is facing weeks of disruption to bin collection, transport and food supply due to staff self-isolating, companies and councils have warned, amid concerns the 16 August date to lift quarantine for the double-vaccinated could be delayed. No 10 was on Friday scrambling to set up a system to let more key workers take daily tests rather than isolate for 10-days, over fears that large parts of the economy could grind to a halt over the so-called “pingdemic”. Ministers initially said that there would only be a narrow definition of critical workers allowed to be routinely excused from quarantine, with about 10,000 workers at 500 food distribution sites and some NHS and social care workers permitted to take daily tests instead of isolation.” – The Guardian

Latest wave of Channel migrants to hit 22,000

“Border Force is braced for 22,000 migrants to cross the Channel in small boats this year with thousands more expected to be smuggled over in lorries. More than 8,900 migrants have already reached Britain after making the 21-mile journey across from France, exceeding last year’s record total. Analysis by The Times using data from the past 18 months suggests the numbers could double by October. By the end of the year, a further 12,900 are forecast to cross, according to a formula that has accurately predicted this year’s figures so far. It would take the total for this year to about 22,000. That is almost triple the 8,420 that made it across in 2020, which was itself four times higher than the previous year’s figure.” – The Sun

  • Pregnant migrants risk Channel dash – The Times

Not enough cash to finish HS2 in the north, ministers warned

“Huge upgrades to the transport system such as HS2 are being threatened by delays and mounting costs, according to a government audit. A report published by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority warned that plans for some major rail improvements may require significant changes before they can be completed. The annual study gave the lowest “red” rating to the northern section of HS2 – phase 2b – which means that successful delivery of the scheme “appears to be unachievable”. The conclusions were made as it emerged that a Department for Transport decision on the future of the line and other rail projects in the north and Midlands was being delayed until the autumn.” – The Sun

Interview – Allegra Stratton: ‘Cop26 is our moment of truth, when we say how we’re getting to net zero’

“Like many of us Allegra Stratton has a diesel car that she frets about replacing and a gas boiler that she worries about in winter with a house full of children. However, unlike the rest of us she is also the face and the voice of Boris Johnson’s climate change ambitions. And sitting in her north London garden on a sweltering day she is well aware of the potential irony. “If what you’re driving at is people are nervous of being told they can’t drive certain cars or have certain boilers then I am that person,” she says. “I don’t want anybody to be telling me tomorrow that I need to spend thousands on a new car or thousands on a new boiler. But that’s not what we’re doing.” – The Times

Families could get rewards for healthy living in new war on obesity

“Boris Johnson is to launch a government-backed rewards programme for families switching to healthier food and exercising under radical plans to tackle Britain’s obesity crisis. The scheme will monitor family supermarket spending, rewarding those who reduce their calorie intake and buy more fruit and vegetables. People increasing their exercise by taking part in organised events or walking to school will also accumulate extra “points” in a new app. On Friday night, Lord Stevens, the outgoing head of the NHS, warned that the health service would struggle struggle to cope in future if there were not radical moves to tackle obesity.” – Daily Telegraph

Tory poll lead over Labour collapses to just four percent – the lowest in six months – amid fury over national insurance tax hike to fund social care reforms

“The Tory party’s lead has collapsed to just four percent – the lowest in six months – amid fury over a national insurance tax hike to fund social care reforms. It is the Conservative’s smallest lead since mid-February, when the UK was in the midst of its third lockdown, according to a YouGov poll conducted for The Times. The data gave Johnson’s government only 38 per cent support, down from 44 per cent the previous week. By comparison, Labour had gained three points for 34 per cent support. It comes as Johnson faces a Cabinet revolt over social care after Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng publicly dismissed the idea of funding social care reforms by hiking national insurance.” – Daily Mail

Comment:

Grand ambitions: Johnson’s two years as prime minister

“It was the week that was supposed to be a turning point — as well as the second anniversary — for Boris Johnson’s premiership. On Monday the prime minister had hoped to mark “Freedom Day” with a high-profile cultural visit as he released the nation from lockdown, before finally unveiling his plans to overhaul social care on Tuesday. A cabinet away day in a northern red wall seat to emphasise his commitment to levelling up was pencilled in for Thursday. Yesterday he was expected to celebrate the anniversary in Downing Street. Instead, his ambitions were again thwarted by Covid. Both Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, had to self-isolate after Sajid Javid, the health secretary, tested positive after their meeting on social care on Friday last week.” – The Times

Tokyo Olympics – Opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics showcases elegance, simplicity and precision

“Once it was under way, it was possible to forget at times what a uniquely bizarre occasion the opening of the Tokyo Olympics has become. There is a well-established formula for such occasions: fireworks, a parade of athletes, the lighting of the torch, and an elaborate musical performance, a pageant expressing a combination of national pride and cosy Olympic togetherness. In Tokyo, we had been promised a subdued, rather than a triumphalist show, and in its way it was delicate and rather beautiful. There was a video montage of striving athletes, a sequence of petals and blood vessels projected in light upon the stadium floor, and a performance of butoh avant-garde dance.” – The Times

News in brief:

Newslinks for Friday 23rd July 2021

23 Jul

Food supply staff freed from Covid quarantine during pingdemic

“Supermarket depot workers and suppliers will be exempt from quarantine regardless of their vaccination status as ministers try to avoid food shortages amid mounting pressure over the Covid-19 “pingdemic”. Workers in 2,000 warehouses and supermarket distribution centres who are identified as contacts of people with coronavirus will be allowed to take daily tests at work instead of self-isolating. It represents a retreat by the government after Boris Johnson said that only a “very small” number of people would be allowed to use testing to avoid quarantine. Up to 10,000 staff are expected to qualify for the scheme. The change comes after supermarkets warning about food shortages and images of empty shelves left ministers urging people not to panic-buy.” – The Times

  • Johnson backs emergency plan to avoid disruption to UK food supplies – FT
  • Full list of workers exempt from self-isolation rules from today – The Sun
  • The ‘critical’ industries that could be exempt from pingdemic self-isolation – Daily Telegraph
  • Ellwood: we may have to call in the Army – The Times
  • Top firms demand an end to ping peril – Daily Mail
  • Public warned ‘don’t panic buy’ – The Sun

Public consent for test and trace in England at risk, says Hunt

“The government “risks losing social consent” for its test-and-trace programme if it does not immediately allow fully vaccinated people to avoid isolation, the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said. His comments came as it was revealed that a record 618,903 people in England and Wales were sent self-isolation alerts in the week to 15 July. Conservative MPs were in open revolt on Thursday as reports and pictures emerged of empty supermarket shelves, blamed on the hundreds of thousands of people “pinged” or contacted by NHS test and trace and told to stay at home because of the rapidly rising number of Covid cases, which are at their highest level since January.” – The Guardian

  • Ministers urge public not to delete Covid app – FT

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

Tory MPs threaten conference boycott if they have to use vaccine passports

“A growing number of Conservative MPs are threatening to boycott this year’s party conference if they are forced to have vaccine passports as a condition of entry. Lockdown-sceptic Tories are incensed at suggestions that only people who are double jabbed with a Covid vaccine will be allowed into the gathering in Manchester in October. The news came as Cabinet ministers said there had been a big increase in over-18s coming forward for jabs after Boris Johnson threatened to make them a condition of entry at nightclubs from September… Tories on the party’s libertarian wing were spooked by the Mr Johnson’s announcement on Monday that he would change the law to require proof of two doses of a Covid vaccine for entry into nightclubs and “other venues where large crowds gather” by the end of September – just before the start of the conference.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Zahawi insists they are the way forward – The Times

More:

  • Forcing children to isolate is ‘needless’, Oxford University study says – Daily Mail

Police declare no confidence in Patel after wage freeze

“Rank and file officers have announced they have no confidence in Priti Patel, the home secretary, after the government froze police pay. The head of the Police Federation of England and Wales said the move was the “final straw” for officers and said they were angry with the government and would no longer support the pay body responsible for setting police wages. Patel confirmed yesterday that officers earning more than £24,000 would be affected by the freeze. Those earning less will be given an annual rise of £250… The federation’s announcement is humiliating for Patel, who has made investment in frontline policing a cornerstone of her tenure. A recruitment drive to replace 20,000 officers lost to austerity since 2010 was a flagship Conservative general election policy as the party moved to restore its image as the party of law and order.” – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The fall in rape prosecutions. What’s behind the statistics?

Planned national insurance hike to pay for social care opens split in Cabinet

“Plans to hike national insurance contributions to pay for social care have opened a split in the Cabinet. Kwasi Kwarteng claimed the move would break the Tories’ election manifesto pledge. The Business Secretary spoke out as anger erupted over the mooted £10billion raid on wages to pay for elderly care costs and to help clear the NHS backlog. Mr Kwarteng said that he believes a social care plan will come “by the autumn”… The Government was also on the backfoot after claims an NICs rise could be used to fund the three per cent pay rise for nurses. Furious nurses said the rise was not enough and did not rule out striking. Other public sector staff, such as teachers and police, will see only their lowest-paid get a boost in wages, putting ministers at war with most of the public sector.” – The Sun

  • NHS budget could increase to pay for doctors’ pay rise, Number 10 suggests – Daily Telegraph
  • Ministers force NHS England to cover part of three per cent staff pay rise – The Guardian

More:

  • Health Service shares English hospital data with dozens of companies – FT
  • Data watchdog chief ‘passionate’ about whistle-blowers despite raids to catch sources for Hancock story – The Sun

MPs’ pay rises could outstrip public sector under watchdog’s plans

“MPs could get pay rises above those of public sector workers from next year, according to plans set out by the independent expenses watchdog. The news comes in a week that tens of thousands of public sector workers across the country have seen their pay frozen, despite nurses receiving a three per cent rise. The proposal, from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), suggests it takes new powers “to vary the [annual pay] award below or above” public sector pay. A four-week consultation will lead to conclusions in the autumn and any announcement would come in the spring. Ipsa could have the new powers to set MPs’ pay in the 2022/23 financial year.” – Daily Telegraph

DUP threatens to stymie ‘unacceptable’ Brexit deal

“Northern Ireland ministers will unilaterally suspend checks on goods crossing into the province from Britain if the prime minister signs up to an “unacceptable” new Brexit deal, the leader of the DUP has warned. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson told The Times yesterday in his first newspaper interview since being elected head of the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland that the DUP was “not going to be in the business” of implementing the protocol if it continued to damage the province’s relationship with Britain. He also warned the Irish government that his party could suspend key parts of the peace agreement if a compromise could not be reached. His comments came as Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, rejected Boris Johnson’s call to renegotiate the deal on Northern Ireland after a phone call.” – The Times

  • Arrangements saw Ulster facing food shortages recently – Daily Telegraph
  • Northern Ireland set to lose access to 2,000 medicines – FT
  • Merkel snubs Johnson’s Brexit demands after call last night – Daily Express

More:

  • Ministers accused of ‘dodging’ tough trade-offs in post-Brexit trade deals – FT

>Yesterday:

Sharma urges Russia and China to act on climate change

“The man desperately trying to pull together ­leaders from around the globe to act now says there’s no time to waste — but adds that big polluters such as China, Russia and India must do their bit too, if the world is to avoid disaster. Alok Sharma, in charge of the global COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November, says it is the world’s last chance to keep 1.5 degrees of warming within reach, or risk landing future generations with a ­climate nightmare — and a huge bill to pay for the consequences. With the summit drawing nearer Mr Sharma revealed he hopes to visit China beforehand, and won’t shy away from heaping huge pressure on the big global ­emitters to cut their greenhouse gases.” – The Sun

  • Street asks Johnson to put him in charge of boiler replacement – The Sun

Comment:

  • Holyrood and Westminster must work together to save the planet – Ian Murray MP, Times Red Box

>Yesterday: Andrew Carter in Local Government: The Prime Minister’s net zero promise is brave but right

‘Whitewash’ claims after Greensill review finds no need for lobbying reform

“Boris Johnson has been accused of orchestrating a “whitewash” over the Greensill lobbying scandal after an official review defended the actions of David Cameron despite finding that Lex Greensill enjoyed “extraordinarily privileged” access to ministers. Nigel Boardman, a lawyer, said that lobbying was “vital for the proper functioning of democracy” as he revealed that employees of Greensill Capital contacted nine different departments in an effort to sell the firm’s supply chain finance products to government before the company collapsed this year. In his review, Boardman reserved only mild criticism for those involved in the lobbying scandal, saying that Cameron “could have been clearer” about his work for Greensill, an Australian financier. Labour said the report was a “classic Boris Johnson cover-up”.” – The Times

  • Cameron ‘understated’ his Greensill relationship during lobbying – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Richard Ekins in Comment: The Government’s judicial review legislation is welcome, but could go even further

English football requires independent regulator, says MP’s report

“A review has found that English football needs an independent regulator after the European Super League debacle when a breakaway competition backed by the country’s biggest clubs collapsed following strong backlash. In a letter to UK culture secretary Oliver Dowden, Tracey Crouch MP, who is leading a review into football governance, said “pre-emptive action” was required to stop the threat of an “existential crisis in the years to come” in the sport amid financial pressures due to the coronavirus pandemic. An independent body would address financial regulation, corporate governance and ownership, said Crouch, along with other requirements such as cost controls, “real time” financial monitoring and independent non-executive directors on club boards.” – FT

  • Rugby world cup in doubt as Australia and New Zealand pull out – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: David Skelton in Comment: The new snobbery. How football fans and Brexit voters were demonised as racists.

Starmer will not rule out alliance to defeat Tories

“Sir Keir Starmer has declined to rule out forming a pre-election coalition with other parties such as the Liberal Democrats before the next election. The Labour leader said that there was “a majority broadly against the Tories in the country” when he was asked about the prospect of forming a political pact with smaller parties. “We’ve got to do a lot more work,” he told the ITV podcast Calling Peston. “Obviously, going into the next general election . . . there will be a question of what we do. “There’s a majority broadly against the Tories in the country and we’ll have to see how we go into the next general election. But we’re rebuilding our party, putting out our arguments and going hell for leather for that election.” Privately, shadow cabinet ministers have taken heart from the Chesham and Amersham by-election on June 17, when the Lib Dems won the previously safe Tory seat with a majority of 8,028.” – The Times

  • Butler booted out of Commons for calling Johnson a ‘liar’ – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Rees-Mogg brands Labour a ‘party of people traffickers’

News in Brief:

  • Now what? The government’s Covid optimism is fading fast – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • In a battle of values with China, getting good things built matters – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Cuba: BLM supports a brutal dictatorship – Noel Yaxley, The Critic
  • The Olympics deserve better heroes – Tom Holland, UnHerd

Newslinks for Thursday 22nd July 2021

22 Jul

Johnson threatens to tear up Brexit deal to avoid chaos in Northern Ireland

“Boris Johnson is threatening to tear up the Brexit deal to prevent food shortages and riots in the streets in Northern Ireland. The PM said the EU is ruining businesses and risking peace by imposing petty checks on the Irish Sea border. He warned Brussels the Brexit deal is “failing to deliver” and needs “significant changes”. He published a blueprint that would scrap most checks and replace them with an ‘honesty box’ approach. This would see the EU trust companies that said their goods were only going to Northern Ireland, and therefore should be exempted from EU customs checks. Britain also wants UK goods to be sold in NI even if they depart from EU standards, and for EU courts to be booted out of ruling on trade rows.” – The Sun

  • M&S warns it is already cutting Christmas range over fears of export problems – Daily Mail
  • Frost finally loses patience as he issues EU ultimatum – Daily Express
  • London’s five proposals – FT

Response:

Lord Frost: We can do better for Northern Ireland

“Over the past few months I have spoken to representatives of Northern Ireland’s political parties, business community, civil society groups as well as people from many other walks of life about how the Northern Ireland protocol is working. Overwhelmingly they want stability, they want everyday lives to continue undisrupted and they want to be confident that the peace process and the Belfast (Good Friday) agreement will not be undermined. Unfortunately all this is in question in Northern Ireland — and precisely because of the way the protocol is operating. Its rigid implementation has severely disrupted trade; adversely affected consumers; hit businesses in Northern Ireland and Great Britain; and contributed to political instability.” – The Times

  • Johnson has made a Brexit offer the EU can only refuse – Philip Stephens, FT

Fears over shortages as supermarkets hit by ‘pingdemic’

“Supermarkets apologised for empty shelves in stores yesterday amid warnings that the “pingdemic” was putting a strain on supply chains. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose all said they were facing problems, blaming factors including a growing number of staff and delivery drivers being forced to isolate after coming into contact with someone with Covid-19. Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, which represents supermarkets, said: “The ongoing ‘pingdemic’ is putting increasing pressure on retailers’ ability to maintain opening hours and keep shelves stocked. Government needs to act fast.” Ministers confirmed yesterday that supermarket workers were unlikely to be granted an exemption from isolating if they came into contact with someone who had the coronavirus.” – The Times

  • Supply chains ‘starting to fail’ – Daily Telegraph
  • BP petrol stations and Iceland stores are the first to be shut – Daily Mail
  • Johnson to replace Hands Face Space with new slogan despite pingdemic chaos – The Sun
  • Starmer is struck by the pingdemic – Daily Mail

>Yesterday:

ToryDiary: Long Covid – what we know so far

Paul Maynard MP in Comment: The pandemic has left many people with serious health and financial problems

Is England starting to ignore Test and Trace?

“Test and Trace may already be struggling to keep up with England’s third Covid wave before it has even peaked, MailOnline analysis revealed today. Official figures show the proportion of infected patients who are not being tracked down has doubled since the start of June, when cases began to spiral. Experts said the same trend was seen as the second wave began to take off, when performance dipped slightly in line with a ferocious surge in infections. But others warned it may be a sign people are starting to revolt against Test and Trace amid the ‘pingdemic’ chaos that has engulfed the country, which has seen pubs forced to close, trains cancelled and supermarkets left with empty shelves.” – Daily Mail

Javid vows Covid rules won’t last ‘a day longer than necessary’

“Sajid Javid has vowed he doesn’t want the remaining Covid rules to last “a day longer than necessary”. But the isolating Health Secretary, who tested positive for the virus last week despite being double jabbed, admitted there will be no big bang ending to the pandemic as we learn to live with the virus. Mr Javid also said his experience dealing with the pandemic has been “rather more personal than I would have wanted.” In an article for The Spectator today he joked: “Testing positive for Covid-19 definitely wasn’t in the 100-day plan” and revealed he’s even had to isolate from his own wife on their wedding anniversary. But he stressed that “curtailing people’s precious liberties, as vital as it has been, is never something that’s come easily to me” as a Conservative.” – The Sun

  • Zahawi to give update as fears grow freedom will be scrapped – Daily Express
  • Atkins says key workers will be exempt – The Sun
  • Hotel quarantine bills could rise by £500 to curb trips to red list countries… – Daily Telegraph
  • …as Javid is urged to let double-jabbed Brits fly to France without having to quarantine – Daily Mail

More:

  • Labour opposes Johnson’s plans for Covid vaccine passports – The Times
  • Making people show proof of Covid jabs for access to venues ‘costly and impractical’ – Daily Telegraph

Swinney’s misleading Covid graphic reported to UK Statistics Authority

“The SNP’s John Swinney has been reported to the UK Statistics Authority for his use of misleading Covid information by the Scottish Conservatives. The Deputy First Minister was accused of spreading “fake news” and endangering public health by Annie Wells, the Tories Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health. The latest political furore in Scotland was triggered after Mr Swinney posted a tweet on Monday about face masks. The tweet contained a face mask graphic along with unsubstantiated claims about their effectiveness in preventing the spread of the virus. One such assertion maintained that a person with Covid could not transmit the virus to another person just six feet away, if both were wearing masks.” – Daily Express

  • Sturgeon warns vaccine passports raise ‘sensitive ethical’ concerns – Daily Mail

NHS pay award prompts anger from healthcare workers

“NHS workers will be awarded a pay rise of 3 per cent, triple the amount first proposed after the government faced a wave of criticism for undervaluing those who have struggled through the rigours of the pandemic. Health secretary Sajid Javid said the pay bump, to be backdated to April this year, was offered to health service staff despite a wider public-sector pay freeze “in recognition of their extraordinary efforts” during the Covid pandemic, which has left nearly half a million Britons in need of hospital care. But unions have expressed dismay that the deal still fails to keep pace with the predicted level of inflation, representing a cut in real terms. The Royal College of Nursing made clear that industrial action remained on the table.” – FT

  • Hoyle ‘on warpath’ over NHS pay rise announcement – Daily Express

Comment:

  • A social care tax raid won’t work and will divide Britain – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

Johnson is forced to put off announcing social care reforms after he could not agree with leading ministers

“Boris Johnson has been forced to put off announcing his social care reforms until the autumn after he failed to reach agreement with leading ministers. He was understood be considering a 1p-in-the-pound increase in National Insurance (NI) contributions to fund his long-awaited plans. But critics said such a plan would hit the low-paid and would spare even well-off pensioners – including those still working – from having to contribute anything to the cost of the new care system. The plans are understood to include measures to integrate the NHS better with the local-authority-run social care system, to ensure elderly people are properly cared for. There will also be reforms to ensure better training.” – Daily Mail

  • NHS pay rise ‘likely to come out of social care tax’ – The Times
  • Starmer attacks ‘jobs tax’ for social care – The Times

Cummings allies deny plot to oust Boris Johnson

“Dominic Cummings’s allies have cast doubt on his claims that there was a plot to remove the prime minister within days of the general election and accused him of going too far in an hour-long BBC interview. The former senior adviser revealed that he held discussions about ousting Boris Johnson within days of his landslide victory in the 2019 general election because he realised the prime minister’s fiancée wanted “rid of us”. Cummings claimed that Carrie Johnson, then Symonds, wanted to “pull the strings” and appoint “complete clowns” to key roles in Downing Street. No 10 said that political appointments were “entirely made” by the prime minister. But privately Cummings also came under fire from his own supporters, who were baffled both by his claims and his approach to the interview.” – The Times

  • Who plotted with whom in his Dirty ‘Few Dozen’? – Daily Telegraph
  • Cummings accuses ‘interfering’ Carrie of ‘trying to appoint clowns to key positions’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Brutal, disloyal and obsessive… Dom seems hellbent on destroying his former boss – Sarah Vine, Daily Mail
  • Johnson’s instincts led him to complacency – David Aaronovitch, The Times

Johnson’s levelling up plan lacks definition and planning, say MPs

“Boris Johnson’s plan to “level up” depressed areas of the UK to close the gap with London and the south-east risks becoming an “everything and nothing policy” that lacks definition, coordination and planning, according to an all-party group of MPs. In a report on progress towards boosting regional health and economic activity, MPs said the government needed to come forward with coherent proposals with more detail about the outcomes communities could expect from a levelling-up agenda and how success will be measured. The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Beis) committee said that while it understood the pressure on ministers during the pandemic, it was alarmed at the slow progress towards developing the economic policy, raising “concerns that the levelling up agenda will fail to deliver meaningful change for people across the country”.” – The Guardian

  • MPs fear second wave of homes on trading estates – The Times
  • Liverpool loses World Heritage status over redevelopment concerns – FT

Comment:

  • Proving ‘levelling up’ is a hollow slogan should be Labour’s mission – Liam Byrne, Times Red Box

>Yesterday:

Tory MPs suspended for trying to influence judge in Elphicke case

“Several Conservative MPs will be temporarily suspended from the Commons and told to apologise after being found to have tried to influence a judge presiding over the trial of a former colleague for sexual assault. The one-day ban from parliament was handed down by the standards committee to backbenchers Sir Roger Gale, Theresa Villiers and Natalie Elphicke – the then partner of Charlie Elphicke, who was given two years in prison after being found guilty of three counts of sexual assault. Two other Tory MPs – Adam Holloway and Bob Stewart – were ordered to make a statement apologising for their behaviour in the chamber, with all five found to have threatened to undermine public trust in the independence of the judicial system. The politicians sent a letter to senior judges in November 2020 before a hearing on the release of pre-sentencing character references for Charlie Elphicke.” – The Guardian

Home Office 1) Journalists could face up to 14 years in prison for stories embarrassing the Government

“Journalists could face prison sentences of up to 14 years for stories that embarrass the Government under plans to reform the Official Secrets Act. Under a consultation run by Priti Patel’s Home Office, which closes later this week, reporters who handle leaked documents would not have a defence if charged under new laws designed to clamp down on foreign agents. The 1989 act is being updated to take into account the impact of the internet age, especially in the area of speedy data transfer. Human rights organisations and the Law Commission, which drew up the proposals, say there should be a ‘public interest defence’ included to prevent the prosecution of journalists who receive leaked documents.” – Daily Mail

  • Plan to target journalists is ‘oppressive’ – The Times

Comment:

  • Law change will treat journalists like spies – Sean O’Neill, The Times

Home Office 2) Patel accused of throwing good money after bad over Channel migrants

“Handing £55m to French authorities to clamp down on migrants crossing the Channel in small boats is “throwing good money after bad”, the home secretary has been told by a Conservative colleague as she was grilled by MPs. Priti Patel revealed late on Tuesday that she had agreed to pay the sum as part of a deal with the French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, to double the number of officers patrolling the French coast. The announcement came after 430 people arrived on British shores in small boats on Monday, a record for a single day. A further 287 reached the UK on Tuesday, bringing the total for the year to at least 8,452, according to official data compiled by PA Media. More people, including children, were seen arriving on Wednesday.” – The Guardian

  • Home Secretary defends paying French £54m more to halt migrants crossing Channel – The Times
  • France not stopping Channel migrants, despite getting £54 million to fight illegal crossings – Daily Telegraph

>Today: David Skelton in Comment: The new snobbery. How football fans and Brexit voters were demonised as racists.

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Is racism in Britain increasing?

Home Office 3) Wolf whistling and catcalling could become crimes

“Wolf whistling and catcalling could be made a crime under government plans to outlaw ‘public sexual harassment’. A strategy to combat violence against women and girls unveiled today will pave the way for a specific offence of public sexual harassment, banning explicit sexual and abusive comments. Following the uproar sparked by the abduction and murder of Sarah Everard by Scotland Yard officer Wayne Couzens, the Home Secretary received 180,000 responses to a call for comments about crimes that disproportionately affect women. Today Priti Patel will unveil plans for a national police lead officer to combat violence against women and girls, ensuring offences such as indecent exposure – which Couzens was previously accused of – and street harassment are taken more seriously.” – Daily Mail

Gibb rubbishes calls to ‘decolonise the curriculum’

“Black kids should still be taught the works of “dead white men”, Education Minister Nick Gibb said yesterday. He rubbished calls to “decolonise the curriculum” – insisted it would do nothing to create a more equal society. And he said that it is important all pupils – whatever their colour or creed – get the same high standards of education. Delivering a speech over zoom to the Social Market Foundation, he said firebrand demands to purge subjects of classic texts penned by white people risk backfiring… Throwing open the doors to purging subjects because of the colour of the writers will not help in tackling racism today, he warned.” – The Sun

  • Teach ‘dead white men’ with pride, says schools minister – The Times

>Yesterday: Emily Carver’s column: The Government’s plan to make exams easier will be devastating for this country’s education system

Sunak has £30billion extra for spending or tax cuts next year thanks to strong UK recovery, says IFS think-tank

“The Treasury is on track to borrow £30billion less than Rishi Sunak predicted in March, according to  a respected think-tank, as UK debt piles up to a 60-year high. The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that government borrowing will amount to around  £204billion in 2021-2022, less than the £234billion estimated at the March Budget. The lower figure could give the Chancellor wriggle room for tax cuts or additional spending in the short term. But borrowing would still amount to 8.8 per cent of national income – the third highest level since the Second World War. And the IFS warned that he will be constrained as ‘scarring’ will leave the economy 3 per cent smaller by 2025 than it would have been without the pandemic.” – Daily Mail

Fraud trial begins for Labour MP

“A Labour MP conned a local authority out of £64,000 in benefits by ‘deliberately and dishonestly’ obtaining social house, after using her connections as a housing advisor to ‘jump the queue’, a court heard today. Apsana Begum, the MP for Poplar and Limehouse in east London, claimed she was living in ‘overcrowded conditions’ with her family when she was in a four bedroomed house with three other people, jurors were told. Snaresbrook Crown Court heard the 31-year-old was a former housing officer at a group working with the local council and because of this she ‘had a good understanding’ of the system. She successfully gained a social housing tenancy in under four months, rather than the average three-year wait, due to her claims, jurors were told.” – Daily Mail

  • Starmer begins purge of hard-left by expelling four ‘crank’ factions – The Sun

News in Brief:

  • Cheer Labour’s purge of the hard left – Oliver Kamm, CapX
  • When the news no longer feels like the news – Ben Cobley, The Critic
  • Did scientists stifle the lab-leak theory? – Ian Birrell, UnHerd
  • Party time: the price of freedom – Kate Andrews, The Spectator