Newslinks for Thursday 17th March 2022

17 Mar

Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s released after Truss “overruled US objections” to deal

“The US wanted to secure the release of Morad Tahbaz, who has Iranian, American and British citizenship. Iran was adamant it would release Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashoori and Tabhaz would only be released on furlough. Two government sources told The Times that the US blocked the deal, leading to an angry — and until now undisclosed — diplomatic row. “The US effectively blocked it,” one source said. “We were furious about it but nobody could say anything. Iran was never going to accept releasing three people. It was always about the two.” The collapse of the deal and the arrival of Liz Truss as foreign secretary in September led to a change of approach. She made clear that securing Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release was her priority and urged officials to be as creative as possible. She said that the matter should be seen as between Britain and Iran rather than one linked to the US.” – The Times

  • Inside the secret talks – Daily Telegraph
  • £393m deal with Iran that will smooth nuclear talks – Daily Telegraph
  • Courage during six years of hell has been immense – Leader, The Sun
  • Cackhanded diplomacy encouraged hostage-taking – Leader, The Times
  • Democracies must rethink how they deal with dictators – Leader, The Scotsman

>Today: ToryDiary: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Is the cost of her freedom too high?

Johnson was warned of Lebedev security concerns, claims Cummings

“Dominic Cummings has said he was present when Boris Johnson was told of security concerns about his plan to award a peerage to Evgeny Lebedev. The ex-adviser said he was “in the room” when the PM was told intelligence officials had “serious reservations” about giving the honour to the Russian-born businessman. It follows reports the security services changed their advice after Mr Johnson intervened. The PM has previously denied this.” – BBC

Ukraine is “paying the price” for the West’s failure to understand the threat from Putin, says PM

“Ukraine is “paying the price” for the West’s failure to understand the threat posed by Vladimir Putin, the PM says. Boris Johnson told the BBC the Russian president’s invasion had “already failed” because he underestimated the “strength of resistance” in Ukraine. But he blamed European countries who “went back to treating [Putin] as part of the community” after his annexing of Crimea in 2014. Mr Johnson has been visiting Saudi Arabia, discussing energy security. He said the West needed to ensure it was “never again vulnerable to Putin’s blackmail” – especially when it came to relying on Russian oil and gas.” – BBC

  • Johnson returns from trip to Saudi Arabia without commitment on oil – Financial Times
  • Putin “humiliated” as Ukrainian forces take down more than 10 aircraft in a day – Daily Express
  • Russia and Ukraine at odds over neutrality in 15-point peace plan – Daily Telegraph
  • No time to check homes of refugee hosts, says minister – The Times
  • Putin’s chilling warning to the West – Daily Mail
  • Russia loses a fourth General – Daily Mail

>Today:

Raab to clampdown on ‘lawfare’ used by oligarchs to avoid scrutiny

“The UK has announced plans to clamp down on the use of the courts by Russian oligarchs and powerful elites to “weaponise” litigation as a way of silencing critics and shielding themselves from scrutiny. Dominic Raab, deputy prime minister and justice secretary, will on Thursday set out proposals to protect free speech and stop wealthy corporations and businesspeople using the courts in England and Wales to lodge libel lawsuits known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs).” – Financial Times

>Yesterday: Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: Labour goes for guilt by association with oligarchs

Dorries insists new online harms bill will protect free speech

“Woke” tech giants will be barred from “arbitrarily” removing content they regard as controversial to protect freedom of speech in the new online harms bill, Nadine Dorries has said. In an exclusive article for The Telegraph, the Culture Secretary has moved to head off criticism – including from senior Tory backbenchers – that a requirement for firms like Facebook and Twitter to combat “legal but harmful” content could lead to them censoring controversial political comments.” – Daily Telegraph

  • There’s nothing woke about online safety – Nadine Dorries, Daily Telegraph
  • We’re taking back control from Silicon Valley – Damian Collins, Daily Telegraph
  • Why we must act now to protect our children – Chris Philp, Daily Mail
  • Promised changes to the Bill are welcome – Leader, Daily Mail

Government responds to Sewell Report with agreement to drop the term “BAME”

“Ministers will drop the term black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), beef up local scrutiny of police stop and search and draft a model history curriculum to teach Britain’s “complex” past in response to the Sewell report on racial disparities. Launched as a response to the Black Lives Matter protests, the Sewell report caused controversy when it was published last year for broadly rejecting institutional racism as an explanation for many of the challenges faced by ethnic minorities in the UK. In the government’s response, called Inclusive Britain, ministers acknowledge that racism exists but stress the importance of other factors, too.” – The Guardian

  • Response “sidesteps Sewell ’s most criticised conclusions” – The Guardian

Badenoch: Real disadvantage is also an issue for groups whose experience can’t be explained by racism

“We certainly won’t achieve greater equality if we fall for the narrative that this country and its institutions are fundamentally racist, that the lack of opportunity experienced by people from ethnic minorities is all due to racial prejudice and we won’t achieve equality until we decolonise this, tear down that and put our entire history and every person of ‘privilege’ in the dock for crimes of commission and omission. A society that sees everything through the prism of race and ethnicity will never be a society at ease with itself. It certainly will not be a society that is welcoming to the many immigrants like myself who choose to make this country our home. We need to be able to talk about race and tackle racism without creating a more racialised society.” – Kemi Badenoch, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Cristina Odone on Comment: The government engaging with parents is crucial in improving early years education

Murray: We can no longer obsess over micro-aggressions amid real aggression

“The heads of our intelligence services and Armed Forces boast of their LGBT credentials more than they boast about getting on with their own jobs. Meanwhile some soldiers apparently feel their jobs have become so suffocatingly woke they have gone AWOL to fight in Ukraine….Ukraine should be a wake-up call about the brutal realities of the world and the need to face up to them. I suppose we’ll see whether a generation brought up on fantasies is capable of making that switch.” – Douglas Murray, The Sun

  • Brave Ukrainians have secured a place in history – Leo McKinstry, Daily Express
  • The hubristic West has declared victory over Putin far too soon – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • Our enemies see us as weak and divided, but this war is the West’s wake-up call – Tony Blair, Daily Mail

Bridgen withdraws no-confidence letter in the PM

“Another Conservative MP has publicly withdrawn his letter of no confidence in Boris Johnson, citing the Ukraine crisis – in a sign that the Prime Minister’s “partygate” troubles have abated. At a Telegraph event chaired by Christopher Hope on Wednesday, Andrew Bridgen, the MP for North West Leicestershire, said that it would be an “indulgence” to hold a vote of no confidence during the war. Speaking on stage at the panel event, titled “How will history judge Boris Johnson?”, Mr Bridgen said he was “appalled by partygate” – but that the current climate was “no time for internecine warfare within the Conservative Party”.” – Daily Telegraph

Government “remains committed to banning hunting trophies”

“The government has said it remains committed to banning the import of hunting trophies in its forthcoming Animals Abroad Bill. Concerns were raised by some Tory MPs that the ban – promised in the party’s 2019 general election manifesto – would be dropped after media reports. But a government source dismissed the claims. Other measures in the bill to ban the import and sale of fur and foie gras are likely to be dropped.” – BBC

Cabinet split over fracking

“Boris Johnson’s top team bickered over restarting fracking the UK. Jacob Rees Mogg told a meeting of ministers that there can be “no stone unturned” to solve our energy crisis. But hours later Michael Gove took aim in public saying the baffling ban must stay. The big beast told green Tories at the Conservative Environment Network he was “not at all convinced” that fracking is the way forward.” – The Sun

  • ‘No quick ways’ to reduce energy bills – The Times

Sunak to gain tax windfall from higher inflation

“The Treasury is in line for a windfall of £12.5 billion in extra tax revenues due to a surge in inflation, according to estimates from the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, will collect £20.5 billion from his decision last year to freeze income tax thresholds for four years — up from an initial estimate of £8 billion, the IFS said. The increase is the result of far higher inflation — which could hit 8 per cent next month — leading to workers with rising wages paying more income tax. Inflation stood at less than 1 per cent when the announcement was made in March 2021.” – The Times

>Yesterday: Tom Clougherty on Comment: The Chancellor can help households next week by raising tax thresholds and rebooting energy policy

Labour MP joins Farage’s anti-net zero campaign

“A Labour MP is to appear on stage with Nigel Farage at the launch of an anti-net zero campaign for a referendum on policies to tackle climate change, a move that has sparked anger from party colleagues. Graham Stringer, a prominent Brexiter who has appeared with Farage at pro-leave events and on his GB News show, was billed as appearing alongside the former Brexit party leader along with Reform UK leader Richard Tice and the broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer. The Vote Power Not Poverty rally is scheduled to launch Farage’s campaign for a referendum on net zero, taking in place in Bolton next Saturday. It is understood that the Labour leader’s office is concerned by the appearance.” – The Guardian

News in brief

  • Could China get sucked into war in Ukraine? – Harold James, The Spectator
  • Covid cases and hospital admissions rise by a third in the past week – The i
  • If Britain pays the Zaghari-Ratcliffe ransom, we will regret it – Stephen Pollard, CapX
  • The revised Online Safety Bill is better, but still awful – Jennifer Powers, Unherd
  • Hypothecated taxes are a bad idea – John Redwood

Newslinks for Wednesday 31st March 2021

31 Mar

Diverse UK hailed over narrowing of race gap

“Britain is a model on race for other countries, with children from ethnic minorities outperforming their white peers at school, a landmark government review has concluded. The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, formed last July after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, said that Britain had become a more open society and that racial inequalities had narrowed in education and employment. Its report, published today, states that the success of much of the ethnic minority population in education and, to a lesser extent, the economy “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries”. Education is “the most emphatic success story”, it says, pointing out that pupils from Indian, Bangladeshi and black African backgrounds in England scored better on average across eight GCSEs than white British children.” – The Times

Sturgeon clashes with opposition on independence and Covid in Scottish leaders’ debate

“Coronavirus and the prospect of a second independence referendum dominated exchanges in the first TV leaders’ debate of the Holyrood election campaign. SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took on her rivals in the BBC Scotland clash which took place just days into the campaign. But with just the five parties who currently have MSPs in Holyrood taking part, there was no place for former first minister Alex Salmond, who recently made a dramatic return to politics as the leader of the new Alba Party. As Scotland looks to move on from the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Sturgeon promised to be an “experienced hand at the wheel” with her SNP party bringing forward “bold policies to drive our recovery”. But she insisted that when the crisis has passed, people should have a “choice on independence”. The SNP wants that vote to take place in the first half of Scottish Parliament’s five-year term. But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross insisted: “We can’t have a recovery and a referendum.”” – Edinburgh Live

>Today:

Nigel Farage: For all their tartan, neither Sturgeon nor Salmond truly wants to achieve Scottish self-determination

As Alex Salmond returns to the political fray with his own custom-made Alba Party, inevitable comparisons have been drawn between his latest political enterprise and my decision in 2019 to launch the Brexit Party. I like to think I have little in common with Mr Salmond personally. But there are more fundamental differences between us, too. The fact is that from the moment the UK Independence Party was launched in 1993, my crusade was for our nation to be sovereign once again. What got me out of bed every morning was the desire to help make Britain truly free. Salmond, and his successor as SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, have a very different vision for what they misleadingly call an “independent” Scotland. – Daily Telegraph

More comment:

Politicians criticised as Met’s policing of Everard vigil cleared

“Scotland Yard was exonerated yesterday over its policing of the Sarah Everard vigil by an independent report that rounded on politicians who criticised the force. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services condemned the “chorus” of public figures who attacked the Met after the arrest of female protesters in Clapham Common, south London. The watchdog said that the Met’s response to the vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, 33, who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by a police officer, was justified given the coronavirus risk and “malign actions” by abusive and aggressive protesters. It criticised “leading voices in positions of some responsibility” who called for the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick as commissioner of the Met despite having “very limited understanding of what had happened”.” – The Times

Welby backs free speech in Batley Grammar School Prophet cartoon row

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has defended the right to free speech after a teacher was suspended for allegedly showing his class a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. Parents of children at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire protested for several days last week after children said they had been shown the cartoon during a religious studies lesson. Gary Kibble, the head teacher, apologised over the use of the “inappropriate” image, which is thought to have been taken from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The teacher, who has faced threats, has been suspended pending a full investigation. His family say that he is in hiding and is in fear for his life.” – The Times

Ofsted chief asked for greater powers to check for abuse in private schools

“The chief inspector of schools in England asked for greater powers to monitor independent schools over “potential safeguarding issues”, but was ignored by ministers, the Guardian can reveal. Despite concerns raised by Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, the body was later stripped of its role in overseeing the inspections of private schools now engulfed by a wave of sexual assault allegations. Documents seen by the Guardian show Spielman complained to the Department for Education in 2018 and 2019 that her organisation was unable to monitor the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), to which the DfE delegates inspections of elite private schools such as Westminster and Dulwich College.” – The Guardian

Comment:

>Today:

Coronavirus 1) Don’t ‘blow it’, Hancock warns, as temperatures threaten March record

“The Health Secretary has warned Britons not to “blow it” ahead of what could be the UK’s hottest March day on record. Met Office forecaster Alex Burkhill said it was a “possibility” that Wednesday’s temperatures could surpass the March record of 25.6C (78F), set in 1968 at Mepal in Cambridgeshire. It comes as the mercury peaked at 24.5C (76.1F) at Kew Gardens in west London on Tuesday – the hottest March day in 53 years. People have been making the most of sunny conditions across England after Monday’s easing of coronavirus rules which means groups of up to six, or two households, are now able to socialise in parks and gardens while outdoor sports facilities can reopen.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Half of Britons have antibodies against Covid, says ONS – The Times

Comment:

>Today:

Coronavirus 2) Oxford jab pioneer warns Britain still lacks the capacity to make its own vaccines without outside help – as country faces EU supply squeeze

“Britain faces a lack of vaccine manufacturing bases which could hamper research into coronavirus and other diseases, an expert has warned. Professor Adrian Hill, director of Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, says the development of jabs is being held back because the country is ‘very weak’ when it comes to the manufacturing side of vaccines. His warnings come as Britain faces challenges over the supply of vaccines from overseas factories, with India ordering a temporary stop to the export of the AstraZeneca vaccine, meaning supplies to the UK will likely fall during April. Threats of export bans in Europe have also emerged amid a row over difficulties meeting delivery demands for the EU.” – Daily Mail

  • Two-thirds of global disease experts believe coronavirus variants will make vaccines ineffective within one year – Daily Mail
  • About half of people in UK now have antibodies against coronavirus – The Guardian
  • Merkel and Macron in talks to use Russia’s Sputnik Covid vaccine – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Covid vaccine success can open up world to travel, ministers told

“Summer holidays should be permitted to more than 130 countries because of the success of Britain’s vaccination programme, ministers have been told. Research submitted to a government task force today said that the risks of travel would be significantly reduced by the high inoculation rate combined with a basic testing programme. The study said that it should even be possible to visit countries with higher coronavirus infection levels than last summer without “increasing the risk of putting pressure on the NHS” when people return. This includes most of Europe, the Caribbean, north Africa and the United States. The conclusions, in a study commissioned by Manchester Airports Group, will add to the pressure on the government to reopen international travel from mid-May, the target date set out in the prime minister’s “road map” out of lockdown.” – The Times

  • Tourism industry begs for September bank holiday boost after Covid pandemic – The Times

Coronavirus 4) World leaders question WHO Covid origins report

“Britain, the United States and a dozen other countries have voiced concerns over an initial World Health Organisation report into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and urged China to provide “full access” to future investigations. The head of the WHO itself also criticised China’s sharing of data from the beginning of the pandemic in Wuhan in December 2019, and added that the highly politicised four-week WHO investigation was not “extensive enough”. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a deeper inquiry into the possibility that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese laboratory, despite his chief investigator saying that there was no evidence it had done so.” – The Times

Comment:

  • What a surprise… world health ‘experts’ have let China off the hook over Covid (so what hope for the world to avoid a future pandemic?) – Daily Mail
  • We need new alliances to replace failing global institutions, Con Coughlin – Daily Telegraph

Laurence Fox describes London as ‘cathedral of wokery’ as he launches mayoral campaign

“Laurence Fox has launched his London mayoral campaign by describing the capital as the “cathedral of wokery” and promising to “unlock” the city”. The actor and “anti-woke” campaigner, 42, this morning unveiled his campaign battle bus emblazoned with the words “Free London” and a picture of a gagged Winston Churchill statue. Arriving on the bus in Westminster, Mr Fox said: “I am not a politician. I never wanted to be a politician.” He said that he is a single father and then joked that he “used” to be an actor. He is standing for the Reclaim party, which he founded last year to “fight the culture wars”. His campaign will be completely funded by a donation from ex-Tory political donor Jeremy Hosking, according to reports.” – Evening Standard

Comment:

Skripals ‘targeted five years before novichok attack’

“A coroner will investigate the role of the Russian state in the Salisbury novichok poisoning after being told that operatives scoped out their targets up to five years before the attack. Lady Hallett widened the inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess, a mother of three who was exposed to the nerve agent in a perfume bottle, to include an investigation into the source of the poison and Russian responsibility. The inquest will also examine the activities of two Russian intelligence officers accused of carrying out the original poisoning of Sergei Skripal, 69, a former double agent, and his daughter, Yulia, 37. The Skripals fell seriously ill but survived the attack in March 2018.” – The Times

Cameron lobbied Mohammed bin Salman despite Khashoggi murder claim

“David Cameron went on a desert camping trip to lobby Mohammed bin Salman only months after the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Cameron was invited on the trip in his role as a paid adviser and lobbyist for the billionaire Australian financier Lex Greensill, whose company Greensill Capital collapsed this month. At the time of the trip early last year a United Nations report had already found “credible links” between the crown prince and the murder of Khashoggi in October 2018. The United States has since formally announced that bin Salman approved the killing. Details of the trip emerged as Labour said that it had been handed a business card dating from Greensill’s time working as an adviser in the Cabinet Office, suggesting that he worked directly with Cameron while he was prime minister.” – The Times

News in brief:

Newslinks for Tuesday 30th March 2021

30 Mar

Prime Minister joins world leaders in call for pandemic treaty

“The world needs a global settlement like that forged after the Second World War to protect countries in the wake of Covid, Boris Johnson and other world leaders have said. Writing for The Telegraph on Tuesday, Mr Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, the French president, and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said the virus pandemic had been “a stark and painful reminder that nobody is safe until everyone is safe”. Amid growing international tension over vaccine supplies, they called for an end to isolationism and nationalism in favour of a new era of solidarity. The call by 24 world leaders alongside Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organisation (WHO) chief, is made in The Telegraph and newspapers across the world including Le Monde in France, El Pais in Spain and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Germany.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson urged to push his coalition against China to top of G7 agenda – The Sun

Boris Johnson, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron et al: No government can address the threat of pandemics alone

“The Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest challenge to the global community since the 1940s. At that time, following the devastation of two world wars, political leaders came together to forge the multilateral system. The aims were clear – to bring countries together, to dispel the temptations of isolationism and nationalism and to address the challenges that could only be achieved together in the spirit of solidarity and co-operation, namely peace, prosperity, health and security. Today we hold the same hope that, as we fight to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic together, we can build a more robust international health architecture that will protect future generations. There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone.” – Daily Telegraph

  • China’s aggressive strategy of divide and rule is a historic miscalculation – William Hague, Daily Telegraph

Prime Minister hails ‘small step to freedom’ but urges caution as lockdown eases

“Boris Johnson has hailed Monday’s easing of the lockdown in England as “a small step to freedom”, but warned that a new wave of the virus could hit the UK from abroad, overwhelming its defences. Johnson is considering a “traffic light” system for foreign travel, but ministers have struck a cautious note and have given no firm dates as to when overseas summer holidays might be allowed again. The prime minister told a Downing Street press conference that the country had to “proceed with caution”, even as people in England were allowed to resume outdoor sports and meet family and friends in parks and gardens.” – FT

  • Britain’s ‘wall of vaccination’ against Covid is ‘leaky’, warns Whitty – Daily Mail
  • We’re on track to reopen shops and pubs – The Times
  • Forty MPs call on Boris Johnson to ease travel curbs and bring back foreign holidays – Daily Mail

>Today: Ryan Bourne’s column: We can never be certain of the costs and benefits of lockdowns

Britain seeks Covid vaccine security by making Novavax doses

“Almost 60 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine shown to be effective against the South African variant will be made and packaged in Britain. Boris Johnson called the Novavax jab a “significant new weapon in our armoury against Covid” as ministers plan autumn booster jabs for older people to prevent a damaging surge next winter. The vaccine is already being made on Teesside and Johnson announced that Britain’s largest pharmaceutical company, GlaxoSmithKline, has agreed to finish and bottle it at its Barnard Castle plant in County Durham. As negotiations continue with the EU over allocations of Dutch-made doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, ministers are keen to ensure that as much as possible is made in Britain to ensure security of supply.” – The Times

More:

  • Covid contact app team NHSX now creating vaccine passports – The Times

Cameron ‘cleared of breaking lobbying rules’

“David Cameron has been cleared of breaking lobbying rules after asking ministers to grant Covid loans to a company he worked for. The former PM, 54, texted the Chancellor’s private phone asking for support for finance business Greensill Capital. He also allegedly spoke to the Bank of England. Directly lobbying ministers without being registered is an offence. His activities were investigated by the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists – a post set up in legislation passed by Mr Cameron’s Government in 2014. “Based on detailed information and assurances provided, Mr Cameron’s activities do not fall within the criteria that require registration on the Register of Consultant Lobbyists,” the watchdog’s decision said.” – The Sun

  • He ‘blocked rule change’ that might have prevented him lobbying for Greensill – The Guardian

Ministers’ use of secret ‘Mission Impossible’ texting app faces courtroom showdown

“Boris Johnson’s alleged use of an ultra-secretive messaging app that destroys texts after sending faces a courtroom challenge. Last year The Sun revealed the PM had joined Signal, the most secure digital communication app on the open market, alongside a host of other ministers and officials. It gives users the option of being able to self-destruct their messages within a set period of time, from a week down to just five seconds. Disappearing messages are liked by senior Government figures because they help limit leaks. But transparency campaigners fear it is a loophole to avoid scrutiny from Freedom of Information laws and are threatening legal action.” – The Sun

  • Arcuri pursuing ‘vendetta’, say friends of Johnson – Daily Telegraph

BAME is unhelpful as it fails to include white minorities, says Government

“The Government does not use the term BAME because it fails to include people from white minority and mixed ethnic backgrounds, Downing Street has said. Number 10 on Monday appeared to give its backing to calls for the term, an acronym for black, Asian and minority ethnic, to be dropped by public bodies as it fails to account for certain groups. It comes after The Telegraph revealed that the racial disparities commission set up by Boris Johnson last year had recommended scrapping the label because it had become “unhelpful and redundant”. The body, set up by Mr Johnson last July in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests, is concerned that the catch-all term fails to differentiate between the experiences of Britain’s numerous ethnic groups.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Race review chief reveals his schools plan to help white working-class boys – The Times
  • Lammy hits back at caller after she told him ‘you will never be English’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • It’s meaningless, especially for mixed-race Britons like myself – Calvin Robinson, Daily Telegraph

Education Secretary urges abuse victims to report their experiences…

“England’s education secretary has urged school pupils who are victims of sexual abuse to come forward to report their experiences, after thousands of young people published testimonies of “rape culture” at the hands of their peers in an online campaign. Writing on Twitter about “shocking and abhorrent” allegations made in recent days, Gavin Williamson said on Monday evening that “no school . . . should ever be an environment where young people feel unsafe, let alone somewhere that sexual abuse can take place”. The intervention follows the rapid growth of Everyone’s Invited, an online platform on which more than 9,000 people have reported incidents of sexual assault, harassment, violence and misogyny in education since June.” – FT

  • Call for urgent Ofsted inquiry into allegations of school sexual abuse – The Guardian
  • Former law chief says Britain could ‘live to regret’ rush to criminalise schoolboys – Daily Mail

…as Labour says ministers dropped the ball on sexual violence in schools

“Sexual violence is endemic in schools and the government must launch an inquiry to establish how widespread it is, the shadow minister for domestic violence has said. Jess Phillips said the issue had been pointed out to the government five years ago, it had been a “problem for a very long time” and ministers had “dropped the ball”. She told Times Radio: “We need to have proper safeguarding responsibly monitored by Ofsted and it needs to be written into the statute that schools have to prevent sexual violence.” On Monday the Conservative MP Maria Miller called for an urgent Ofsted inquiry into allegations of school sexual abuse as part of a “deep dive” investigation to establish why complaints by pupils of rape, harassment and assault are not being taken seriously.” – The Guardian

  • Today’s teenage boys need to be shown a positive vision of masculinity – Robert Taylor, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Schools and abuse. Do we really want to repeat the disaster of the Child Abuse Inquiry?

Foreign aid must be cut by two thirds to meet target

“The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, will need to reduce Britain’s unilateral foreign aid budget by two thirds to meet the government’s new spending target, analysis reveals. Ministers have repeatedly refused to publish plans for how they intend to make the savings necessary as part of the government’s proposals to cut aid spending from 0.7 per cent of gross national income to 0.5 per cent. A study of current spending by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office reveals that the cuts will have to fall most heavily on UK charities supported by the government and directly-funded UK aid projects. Under plans announced by the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, UK aid will fall from £15 billion in 2019 to £10 billion this year because of a shrinking economy and reducing the 0.7 per cent target.” – The Times

Starmer urged to condemn candidates who criticised police over Bristol protests

“Sir Keir Starmer has been urged to condemn Labour politicians who criticised police for “excessive force” in dealing with illegal Kill the Bill protests in Bristol. A group of 16 Labour candidates for the forthcoming city council elections put their names to an open letter condemning “chilling” scenes of police using “excessive force” against protesters demonstrating against the Government’s new criminal justice Bill. Their letter was in stark contrast to a defence of police and the tactics used to clear people staging sit-down protests on Tuesday and Friday by Marvin Rees, the Labour Mayor of Bristol. He said: “Avon and Somerset Police in Bristol have shown they are capable of managing protests well and with sensitivity and have developed a strong culture of working with our communities.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour frontbencher under fire after calling business people ‘the enemy’ – The Sun
  • Opposition names Joanne Anderson as Liverpool mayor candidate – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Buckland gears up for a stealth raid on judicial power – and the Labour legacy that boosted it

Sturgeon takes swipe at Salmond at Scottish campaign ‘conference’

“Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday took a thinly veiled swipe at her former mentor and new election rival Alex Salmond, saying she would not indulge those who put “self-interest” above country. Salmond’s dramatic return to frontline politics last week opened a new chapter in the bitter rift between him and Sturgeon, his former protégée and successor as Scottish National party leader and first minister. Salmond’s launch of his new Alba party also seriously complicated the SNP’s campaign strategy ahead of May 6 Scottish parliamentary elections that Sturgeon hopes will provide a platform to push for a second referendum on leaving the UK. In her speech to an online SNP “campaign conference” on Monday, Sturgeon did not mention Salmond by name, but said coronavirus had changed how she felt about politics.” – FT

  • Hospitality bosses hit out at £680,000 taxpayer subsidy for politicians’ pandemic catering – Daily Telegraph

Unionist legal challenge over Northern Ireland Protocol set for High Court hearing

“A legal challenge by unionists against the Government over the Northern Ireland Protocol looks set to end up in the High Court after ministers dropped their opposition to the case being heard. The judicial review, which is being pursued by the leaders of the three main unionist parties in Northern Ireland and Lord Trimble, one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement, is now expected to be heard between May 13-18. The group, which includes Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, are seeking to challenge the legality of the post-Brexit trading arrangements which were set up to reflect the province’s dual status of being in the UK internal market while continuing to apply many EU rules. The protocol has been blamed for fuelling trade disruption for businesses and consumers in Northern Ireland, with Boris Johnson now facing calls from prominent unionists for it to be overhauled.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • The Guardian’s careless use of data is dangerously unhelpful on racism in schools – Tom Chivers, UnHerd
  • Salmond’s new party could be a two-edged sword – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Sturgeon reinvents herself as a social democrat. Again. – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator
  • Filling n the gaps in an official guide to Scottish history – Minoo Dinsahw, The Critic

Newslinks for Monday 29th March 2021

29 Mar

Johnson to urge caution as England takes first step out of lockdown

“Boris Johnson will stress the need for people to be cautious as England takes its first significant step towards easing lockdown restrictions for adults. People will now be able to meet up legally outdoors in groups of six, or in two households, including in private gardens, and organised outdoor sport can resume. The relaxation of restrictions is being accompanied by the launch of a government advertising campaign showing vividly why indoor mixing with people from other households is still deemed risky. In an unusual move, as part of the campaign, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is publicising advice from a psychologist about how people can resist pressure from their friends and relatives to break the rules.” – The Guardian

  • PM to address nation with urgent warning – Daily Express
  • Lockdown exit can herald great summer of sport, Johnson says – The Times
  • Don’t break rules, public told, as lockdown eases – Daily Telegraph
  • Brits to enjoy freedoms again – The Sun
  • Vaccinations on track, but holiday outlook is gloomy – The Times
  • Care home infections reduced 60% by single vaccination – The Times
  • Johnson urged to consider lifting ‘work from home’ guidance – Daily Telegraph
  • The joy of six: how we will mark a return to socialising – The Times
  • Foster backs idea of sharing vaccines with Ireland – Daily Telegraph
Comment
>Today:
>Yesterday:

Schools ‘cover-up’ sexual abuse by pupils

One of the country’s most senior police officers has said he believes that schools have covered up sexual offences to protect their reputations as a task force took charge of the surge in abuse complaints. Chief Constable Simon Bailey told The Times that the outpouring of allegations was the education sector’s “MeToo” moment and that he feared a “culture of misogyny and sexual harassment” had not been challenged in some schools.” – The Times

  • Every police force will have to investigate claims, senior officer warns – Daily Telegraph
  • Police investigating 7,000 school sex crimes – Daily Mail

Cameron ‘told friends he would make $60m from Greensill deal’

David Cameron told friends that he stood to make $60 million from the listing of a company at the heart of a lobbying scandal, it has been claimed. A friend of the former prime minister said that he was “candid” about the potential windfall from his shareholdings in Greensill after it was valued at $7 billion. Cameron subsequently sent a series of texts to Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, lobbying him to grant hundreds of millions of pounds in taxpayer-funded loans to the company. Sunak referred him to senior officials at the Treasury, who decided to refuse the company’s applications for loans.” – The Times

  • Steel jobs under threat after £170m bailout for Gupta rejected – The Times

Scrap use of BAME label, race commission tells Johnson

“The term BAME should no longer be used by public bodies and companies, Boris Johnson’s racial disparities commission will recommend this week. Scrapping the label – an acronym for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic – is one of the key proposals in a report by the independent Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, details of which have been shared with The Telegraph. The body, chaired by the international education consultant Dr Tony Sewell, was set up by Mr Johnson last July in the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter protests. A source familiar with the report said BAME had become “unhelpful and redundant” as a term as the Government looks to tackle racial inequalities.” – Daily Telegraph

Comment

Batley’s hardliners are winning by exploiting Britain’s liberal principles, Nick Timothy – Daily Telegraph

Salmond makes peace offering to Sturgeon

“Alex Salmond has held out an olive branch to Nicola Sturgeon only days after opening a schism in the support for Scottish independence with the launch of his rival party. The former SNP leader said it was time for him and his successor to put their “personal differences” behind them and work together to prepare for the creation of a Scottish state. Salmond recently gave evidence that directly contradicted Sturgeon’s, accusing her of misleading the Scottish parliament and of conspiring against him, to a committee examining the Scottish government’s handling of harassment complaints made against him.” – The Times

Comment
>Yesterday:

Tories fear Welsh independence push if Labour loses power

“Cabinet ministers fear that the Cardiff government will insist on holding a Welsh independence referendum if Labour loses power in May’s elections. The most likely outcome of the May 6 poll is a three-way split between Labour, the Tories and Plaid Cymru, with no party getting close enough to a majority of 60 seats. Plaid Cymru disclosed on Times Radio yesterday that a referendum for Wales to split away from the UK will be central to its election campaign. Adam Price, the Welsh nationalist party’s leader, ruled out governing with the Tories”. – The Times

Comment
>Yesterday:

Green homes vouchers scrapped amid acrimony

The government has ditched the £1.5 billion green homes voucher scheme a year early due to delays and “incompetent” administration, critics claim. The grant, which was launched last year by Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, will close to new applications this week, the business department has announced. The policy aimed to install efficient heating and improve draughty homes that are responsible for around a fifth of total carbon dioxide emissions. It was also designed to support more “green jobs”. – The Times

Stephen Bush: Does Starmer have the killer instinct?

early a year after he was elected, the Labour leader shows little sign that he can adapt to politics after the pandemic. “Part of the art of opposition is invention. Waiting lists have been a feature of the National Health Service since its invention but as a political concept, the idea of “NHS waiting times” dates back to the late 1980s. They became not only a favoured stick with which to beat the Conservative governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major but, later, a key way that Tony Blair’s government assessed its own performance. Even today, the amount of time someone waits in accident and emergency or for an appointment is a central part of the political debate about how well or badly the governments of England, Scotland and Wales are running their health services.” – The Times

BBC sneers at patriots says Dowden after Union flag rumpus

“The BBC sneers at people who are patriotic, the culture secretary has said after presenters appeared to mock a minister’s Union flag. Oliver Dowden said that the corporation had a duty to represent “all different parts of the United Kingdom”, not only metropolitan areas. He was speaking after Robert Jenrick, the business secretary, appeared on Breakfast on BBC1. At the end of the interview Charlie Stayt, one of the presenters, joked that the flag in the minister’s office was not up “to standard size”. – The Times

News in Brief

Newslinks for Sunday 28th March 2021

28 Mar

Johnson praises the free market as he launches local election campaign

“Boris Johnson has hailed the role of the “free market economy” in the UK’s coronavirus jab rollout as he launched the party’s local election push. The prime minister called on activists to remind voters about the “incredible scientific breakthrough” of the vaccine ahead of May’s elections in England. Mr Johnson said one difference between the Tories and Labour was a belief in the need for “capitalist energy”. The party leader said the UK would recover “jab by jab, job by job”. He told activists at a virtual party forum: “Let’s not be put off our stride. Let’s remember that across the country it is Conservatives, Conservative councils and Conservative councillors that deliver better value for money. And let’s take our great one nation message to the people.” The 6 May elections will include polls for district and county councils, police and crime commissioners and city mayors, including in London.” – BBC

  • PM branded irresponsible over ‘back to the office’ call – Observer

>Yesterday: MPsETC: The Prime Minister points towards the lockdown exit door. His Spring Forum speech: full text

Local election 2) Tory MPs “told to campaign in the West Midlands and the Tees Valley – not London”

“Tory MPs are being told to campaign on behalf of the mayoral candidates in the West Midlands and the Tees Valley, rather than London. With Shaun Bailey, the Conservative Party candidate for London mayor, trailing 25 points behind Labour’s Sadiq Khan, a cabinet minister revealed the Conservative Party’s chances of winning back City Hall have been all but written off. According to the source, MPs are being advised not to campaign for Bailey but to divert their efforts towards Andy Street, who is seeking a second term as mayor of the West Midlands, and Ben Houchen, who is seeking re-election as Tees Valley mayor.” – Sunday Times

SNP MP defects to Salmond’s breakaway Party

“The former Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has become the first prominent Scottish National party politician to defect to Alex Salmond’s new Alba party. The SNP called for a Westminster byelection in response and said his departure was “somewhat of a relief” after Salmond launched his latest political project on Friday as a means to create a “supermajority” of pro-independence supporters in Holyrood. In an open letter to his party workers, MacAskill said: “I will be joining the newly formed Alba party to deliver the supermajority for independence through the list vote and which I believe is essential to achieving our nation’s independence.” Launching the party, Salmond denied it would rival the SNP, which he led for more than two decades, and said it would only stand candidates in regional lists where voters make two choices.” – Observer

  • Sturgeon: ‘Significant questions’ over Salmond election bid – BBC

>Today: ToryDiary: Winning independence for Scotland isn’t Salmond’s only motive in forming Alba. It may not even be the main one.

Coronavirus 1) Britain to tell EU that AstraZeneca jab would not exist without UK investment

“Britain will this week tell the European Union that it must take into account the millions of pounds spent by British taxpayers on creating the AstraZeneca vaccine as the threat of its export being blocked remains. Talks to break the stand-off over jabs manufactured in the company’s Halix plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, will resume as early as Monday. The European Commission has threatened to block any shipment of vaccines from Halix to the UK because British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has fallen far short of its contracted deliveries to the bloc. Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president, last week demanded “reciprocity” after she disclosed that factories in the EU had sent 21 million jabs to the UK since December but received none in return.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • By smearing AstraZeneca EU clowns have made all the other suppliers wary too – Leader, The Sun on Sunday
  • The three stages of Remainer EU remorse – Leader, Sunday Telegraph
  • The soft-socialist EU believes ‘fairness’ is more important than saving lives – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Moderna launch to boost vaccination programme

“Britain’s world-beating vaccine rollout will move up another gear in mid-April when the Moderna jab is deployed for the first time, The Mail on Sunday understands. The imminent arrival of more than 500,000 doses of the new US vaccine – to add to millions of Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots – will herald the expansion of the programme to the under-50s. Doctors are expected to administer the first Moderna jabs within three weeks…Moderna, which was codenamed ‘Renown’ by the Government during the American company’s development process, is being manufactured by the Swiss-based Lonza biotech company.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Three million over-50s have not had their first Covid vaccine dose – Mail on Sunday
  • We must not forget the threat that the virus still presents – Stephen Powis, Sunday Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Charities urge “clarity” on vaccine donations to poorer countries

“A group of charities is urging the prime minister to “swiftly clarify” how many Covid vaccine doses the UK is prepared to donate to poorer countries. Save the Children and the Wellcome Trust are among those calling on Boris Johnson to begin donating vaccines through Covax. This scheme aims to provide jabs for low and middle-income countries. The government said it will share “the majority of any future surplus” vaccines “when these are available”. The UK, which has ordered 400 million vaccine doses and will have many left over, has said it will donate most of its surplus vaccine supply to poorer countries. The lower income countries most likely to receive the first vaccines through Covax include Afghanistan, Haiti, DR Congo, Ethiopia and Somalia.” – BBC

Coronavirus 4) Traffic light system “could save holidays abroad”

“Ministers are to consider a “quarantine-light” traffic light system in a bid to save summer holidays, The Telegraph can reveal. Heathrow Airport has submitted plans to Boris Johnson’s global travel taskforce proposing a four-tier traffic light scheme with an “amber” option of a customised three-day quarantine and testing regime specifically designed to combat the threat from new Covid variants. The risk of importing variants – such as the South African and Brazilian versions now spreading in mainland Europe – is regarded by government scientists and Mr Johnson as the biggest hurdle to restarting international travel on May 17 and saving summer holidays.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • There is no longer a justification to ban all travel after May 17 – Leader, Mail on Sunday
  • Stand and fight to defeat the twin threats to liberty – Leo McKinstry, Sunday Express

Coronavirus 5) Sunday Express follow up Gauke’s criticism of the EU on Conservative Home

“The EU’S threat to block vaccine exports to the UK has now been described as “indefensible” by Remainer, David Gauke.
The former Justice Secretary and Tory MP who described himself as a “convinced Remainer”, claimed even the instinctive desire to protect the EU over the vaccine row fails. With the EU’s vaccine programme failing, Mr Gauke criticised the bloc for its threat to the UK while also tearing apart the argument that Britain is imposing its own vaccine export block. In a brilliant explanation of the EU’s failures over its vaccine programme, Mr Gauke claimed there is confusion within Brussels over what the UK is allowed under its contract with AstraZeneca and what is produced. Writing for Conservative Home, Mr Gauke said: “For some on the Remain side of the Brexit debate, there is an instinctive desire to defend the EU and cast the UK as vaccine nationalists or selfish panic-buyers and AstraZeneca as contract-breakers, arbitrarily favouring one customer over another. It is, however, an unconvincing case.” – Sunday Express

As PM, Cameron gave financier “privileged access to No 10”

“Lex Greensill was the odd one out. As David Cameron, then the prime minister, announced a new policy to business leaders gathered in Downing Street on October 23, 2012, he was flanked by three of his closest cabinet colleagues: Oliver Letwin, Michael Fallon and Francis Maude. Sitting with them at the top table was Greensill, a charming but unknown Australian banker in his thirties. Fresh faced and wearing a jet blue suit, he was neither a minister nor a civil servant. Still, it was Greensill’s day. That afternoon Cameron was making the Australian’s vision a reality. For almost a year Greensill had enjoyed a security pass to Downing Street, his own team of officials and access to the most powerful civil servant in Britain and the prime minister himself. Now his plan to get small businesses paid on time was being presented as government policy.” – Sunday Times

  • Ex-PM “gave scandal-hit banker access to 11 Government departments” – Sun on Sunday
  • He also  ‘brokered an Obama meeting’ for the tycoon – Mail on Sunday
  • Politicians seem incapable of being open and transparent – Leader, Sunday Times

Johnson and Biden agree “global coalition” needed to confront China

“Boris Johnson and Joe Biden, the US president, have vowed to create a global coalition to combat China, in retaliation for its imposition of sanctions on British MPs and peers. The two leaders have discussed plans for an infrastructure project to rival the Belt and Road strategy used by Beijing to expand its economic and political influence. Separately, the Home Office is soon to publish an espionage bill that will make it easier to expel Chinese spies from Britain. The legislation will include a compulsory register of foreign spies in the UK. Security chiefs believe that the Chinese have far more intelligence officers in Britain than they formally declare. The bill should make it easier to send them home.” – Sunday Times

>Today: Tim Loughton on Comment: So – no Wuhan holiday home for me. Yes, I’ve been sanctioned by China. But it won’t stop me speaking out.

Poll show eight point Conservative lead

“Boris Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has helped the Tories to their largest poll lead over Labour since last June. A Deltapoll survey for The Mail on Sunday puts the Conservatives on 44 per cent, with Labour lagging by eight per cent on 36, as public support rallies behind the vaccine rollout and ‘roadmap’ for easing lockdown rules. The poll found that 68 per cent support the plan, with just 20 per cent opposed. The Prime Minister’s ratings have also been boosted by his handling of the ‘vaccine wars’ with the EU: just 24 per cent think European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was right to threaten to block vaccine exports, while 54 per cent believe she was wrong.” – Mail on Sunday

Javid warns that sex offenders could be working with children and escaping detection

“Thousands of sex offenders could be working with children because they have changed their names by deed poll to escape detection, according to a hard-hitting new report by former Home Secretary Sajid Javid. Mr Javid found shocking evidence of what he called an ‘epidemic’ of child sexual abuse in the UK that has been made worse by the lockdown. Last night, the Tory MP – who has been tipped for a return to the Cabinet in the next reshuffle – called for sweeping changes to tackle child sexual abuse, including a demand for social media giant Facebook to abandon plans to encrypt its Messenger service, which would mean that abusive videos and images could be shared anonymously.” – Mail on Sunday

  • We need to bring the school nurse back to help protect children from sexual abuse – Sajid Javid, Mail on Sunday

>Yesterday:

More homes needed on greenfield land, admits Jenrick

“More homes will have to be built on greenfield land if the government is to hit its target of building one million homes before the next general election, the housing secretary has admitted. In a private call last week with MPs and donors, Robert Jenrick also suggested that there might need to be building on the protected green belt as well. Jenrick made the comments in a video call with members of the Conservative Friends of India. He stressed that the government wanted to “build on brownfield sites first”, but added: “We also know that we will have to build on some greenfield sites as well if we want to meet our overall housing targets, which are very significant.” It was a “Conservative mission” to help “young people and those on low incomes back onto the housing ladder”, he said.” – Sunday Times

>Yesterday: WATCH: Levelling Up: Pan-Regional Partnerships and the key to success

Union flags to be flown from hospitals

“Union flags will be flown from hundreds of hospital and NHS buildings across the country under plans backed by an “enthusiastic” Matt Hancock. The Health secretary has made clear he supports a campaign which a group of Conservative MPs say will “reaffirm our collective pride in the NHS”. It comes after Cabinet ministers moved last week to encourage civil servants and officials to fly the union flag more often over Government and council buildings. The idea of flying the flag from NHS buildings came from Sir John Hayes, the chairman of the Common Sense group of around 50 Conservative MPs.” – Sunday Telegraph

Colville: Being tougher on asylum is a political and humanitarian imperative

“Britain’s asylum system is meant for the most vulnerable, fleeing the worst persecution. Yet a parallel, illegal system is flourishing, in which migrants pay criminal gangs up to £30,000 to smuggle them from their homes to Britain. The number detected crossing the Channel via small boats has surged from fewer than 300 in 2018 to 8,500 last year — most of them economically active young men. All passed through other, safe countries where they could have claimed refuge. And for some the voyage proves fatal…Fixing the asylum system is not just a humanitarian imperative. It is a point of significant vulnerability for this government — as well as one of its strongest weapons against Labour.” – Robert Colville, Sunday Times

Hannan: Hereditary peers must stay

“For what it’s worth, my impression as a new life peer is that the hereditaries are more disinterested, more industrious and more heterodox in their opinions than most of us. They certainly do more than their share of the unrewarding, workaday jobs – serving as Whips, overseeing the maintenance of the buildings and so on. The £47 million that the Sunday Times put in big red font on its front page sounds a lot less outrageous when you work it out as £27,000 per hereditary peer per year. Are there cheaper legislators anywhere in Europe? All that, though, is beside the point. Defenders of the surviving hereditaries are not arguing that the system is ideal, or even that it is particularly justifiable. What they are arguing is that the original bargain must be kept. It is a question of good faith.” – Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph

  • My lords and ladies, it’s time we got rid of the lot of you – Quentin Letts, Sunday Times
  • Hereditary peers claim £500,000 pandemic expenses – Sunday Times

Starmer “to axe Shadow Chancellor”

“Sir Keir Starmer is preparing to replace his shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, in a shake-up of his frontbench team. Starmer, who will mark his first anniversary as Labour leader next Sunday, is due to demote several underperforming shadow ministers after the local elections in an attempt to get on the front foot and challenge Boris Johnson. Allies of Starmer say Dodds, an Oxford-educated economist, is highly intelligent but has failed to communicate effectively the party’s vision. Rachel Reeves, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, is the favourite to replace her and has become one of Starmer’s closest confidantes. Reeves, who also went to Oxford and is an economist, has won plaudits for exposing Tory cronyism in the awarding of government personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts during the pandemic.” – Sunday Times

Further violence at “kill the bill” protests

“Kill the Bill demonstrators ignored officers’ pleas to stay at home as they marched in rallies across Britain to oppose controversial anti-protest legislation – amid fears of another night of violence in Bristol. Scenes of violence have erupted in Bristol over the past week, with demonstrators seen hurling fireworks and eggs at riot officers while protesting the government’s upcoming Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.  The legislation would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance, with those convicted under the bill liable to fines or jail terms. In Manchester on Saturday, police made eighteen arrests as pictures showed protesters clashing with officers.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Demos are fun for some, but achieve nothing – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

News in brief

  • With his new job, Prince Harry is fully signed up to the misinformation delusion – Oliver Wiseman, CapX
  • Salmond’s new party Alba makes the Scottish independence movement look a shambles – Chris Deerin, New Statesman
  • Is the United Kingdom still one nation? – Henry Hill, Spectator
  • The symphony of our salvation – Peter Mullen, Conservative Woman
  • Johnson is not a feminist, says Nokes – Independent

Newslinks for Saturday 27th March 2021

27 Mar

Salmond launches new independence Alba Party

“Alex Salmond is returning to frontline politics by launching a new party, splitting the Scottish independence movement. The new group, called the Alba Party, will aim to produce a “supermajority” for independence at the Holyrood election in May. It will only stand on the regional lists, the proportional representation vote where members of the Scottish parliament are elected alongside first-past-the-post constituencies. The SNP is expected to win the vast majority of constituencies, but far fewer list candidates.” – The Times

  • Scottish Tories warn Salmond’s move makes independence more likely – Daily Mail
  • Sturgeon clings to tarnished crown – Daily Telegraph
  • Salmond’s comeback attempt does not bode well for SNP – FT
Comment

Coronavirus 1) Over-70s to get booster Covid vaccines from September

“Over-70s will start to get booster Covid vaccines from September to protect them from new virus variants as the Government drives ahead with its jabs rollout. In an interview with The Telegraph, Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, revealed details of the plan, which will see some people have three doses within the first 10 months of the jabs being in use. The first booster doses will go to people in the top four priority groups for the original rollout – those aged over 70 as well as frontline NHS and social care workers. Mr Zahawi also revealed that ministers were expecting up to eight vaccines to be available by the autumn with a number made in the UK, including one that could protect from three different Covid variants in a single jab.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Jab for over-70s ‘will work against 3 variants’ – The Sun
  • Mass testing of lorry drivers entering UK delayed – Daily Telegraph
  • Face masks and social distancing ‘could be in place for 10 years’ – The Sun
  • ‘Traffic light’ testing to get Brits on holiday – The Sun
  • UK Covid deaths fall by 31% in a week – The Sun
Comment
  • If vaccines render Covid no worse a threat than flu, we must return to full normality in summer, Editorial – The Sun
>Today:
>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 2) High street shops to open until 10pm

“High street shops will be allowed to stay open until 10pm when the lockdown restrictions are eased and Rishi Sunak is urging people to “go have fun” and spend money. Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, announced that to help the economic recovery there would be no requirement for shops to fill out extra paperwork. Retailers usually need council permission to open after 7pm. Sunak urged people to “get out there” and spend their money when shops, pubs and restaurants reopened on April 12. The extended shop opening hours will apply in England from Monday to Saturday.” – The Times

  • Shops to open til 10 six days a week – The Sun
  • Take your summer break in Birmingham or Portsmouth, urge ministers – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Britain ready to seal Covid vaccine deal with EU

“The UK is close to striking a vaccine deal with the European Union that will remove the threat of the bloc cutting off supplies. After a week of frantic behind-the-scenes diplomacy the two sides are expected to seal an agreement as soon as this weekend under which the EU will remove its threat to ban the export of Pfizer-BioNTech jabs to Britain. In return the government will agree to forgo some long-term supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that had been due to be exported from Holland.” – The Times

  • EU plot to ‘seize control’ of AstraZeneca supply – Daily Express
>Today:
>Yesterday:

Tories ‘in crisis’ over race for London mayor

“One of the things that has made the Conservative Party successful is the ruthlessness with which it defenestrates its poorly performing leaders. It is all the more surprising, then, that it is going into the London mayoral contest with a candidate who is trailing 25 points behind after a lengthy campaign pockmarked with setbacks and controversies. Shaun Bailey has spent more than two and a half years working to unseat Sadiq Khan, but many in his party have given up all hope of winning back City Hall this year. Two moves have been made to deselect him over the past nine months. Both times the party held back.” – The Times

Cameron cleared of breaking lobbying rules

“David Cameron has been cleared of breaking lobbying rules after asking ministers to grant Covid loans to a company he worked for. The former PM, 54, texted the Chancellor’s private phone asking for support for finance business Greensill Capital. He also allegedly spoke to the Bank of England. Directly lobbying ministers without being registered is an offence. His activities were investigated by the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists – a post set up in legislation passed by Mr Cameron’s Government in 2014.” – The Sun

  • The boredom, naivety and chance connections that led Cameron into scandal – The Times
  • Johnson ‘loves visiting schools and painting with tiny people’ – The Times
Comment

Matthew Parris: No religion has the right to escape ridicule

“Once we decide a teacher can’t show a cartoon because someone will be offended then we’ve given up on a free society. Events at Batley Grammar School, where there have been angry demonstrations against the showing of a cartoon image of the Prophet Muhammad, take me back to the late 20th century. I sat for five years on a government quango called the Broadcasting Standards Council (BSC). Viewers or listeners sent in their complaints about TV or radio and we adjudicated. Sex and violence featured heavily but the BSC’s diet was eclectic: whether any actual budgie had been upset during the filming of a home-insurance ad depicting the ceiling falling in around the bird’s cage; or whether a drama depicting (without recommending) satanic rituals outraged decent Christians.” – The Times

More comment

Oliver Dowden: ‘Return the Marbles, then what . . . demand the Bayeux Tapestry?’

British museums show historic treasures from around the world to the world and won’t be giving them up, the culture secretary tells David Sanderson. Perhaps wearing fancy dress on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile trying to sell tickets for a Victorian melodrama you are performing in should be a rite of passage for every culture secretary. Oliver Dowden did it. “It was not high culture,” he admits of his Watford youth theatre group’s production of Murder in the Red Barn at the Fringe. “A few of my more sophisticated friends came up and were slightly aghast. It was am-dram but very well costumed. And performed.” – The Times

News in Brief

Newslinks for Friday 26th March 2021

26 Mar

Coronavirus 1) Brussels “backs down” on blockades in vaccine war with Britain

“EU leaders have stepped back from threatening to ban vaccine shipments to Britain. Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, had urged leaders to support regulations to hit Britain with blockades in any future supply crisis, because vaccination rates in the UK are higher than in the EU. She was backed by President Macron…However wording inserted by the Netherlands and Belgium, with German support, emphasised “the importance of global value chains” and urged companies such as AstraZeneca to “ensure predictability of their vaccine production and respect contractual delivery deadlines”. Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, noted that Pfizer’s vaccine production in Belgium was dependent on British factories and that an export ban could lead to retaliation.” – The Times

  • EU leaders clash as Austria demands extra doses – Financial Times
  • Macron is overruled – Daily Telegraph
  • Von Der Leyen maintains threat despite snub from EU leaders – The Sun
  • Tussles over supplies could last months despite commitment in public to work together – The Guardian
  • EU chief makes Jean-Claude Juncker look like a statesman – Leader, The Sun

>Today: David Davis on Comment: The Covid public inquiry should open in October, be held in two stages – and prepare for the unexpected

Coronavirus 2) MPs vote to extend emergency powers for another six months

“MPs have voted to extend emergency coronavirus powers for another six months. They backed the health secretary’s call to renew “essential” emergency rules to deal with the pandemic as England moves out of lockdown. But some Conservatives voted against the measures saying they were “out of step” with the roadmap for lifting restrictions. Ministers say the powers will stay in place “only as long as necessary”…The law gave the government wide-ranging powers unlike others seen before – from shutting down pubs, through to detaining individuals deemed at risk as part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus. MPs voted by 484 to 76 to extend it – 36 Conservative MPs rebelled, by opposing the legislation. Twenty-one Labour MPs also voted against it.” – BBC

  • Lord Sumption claims face mask rules could last 10 years – Daily Express
  • Sunak: ‘Workers could quit if forced to stay at home’ – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 3) Survivors could be allowed to show proof of immunity to claim ‘freedom pass’

“Brits could have three ways of getting a Covid “freedom pass” to get into venues such as pubs and sports stadiums. Past infection, proof of a jab or a recent negative test recorded on a smartphone app would give the green light. Those who have had Covid will be able to show proof of their immunity from the bug on the NHS app to claim their pass even if they have not been jabbed. PM Boris Johnson revealed yesterday that evidence of antibodies in the blood could be enough to qualify for the certificates for pubs, restaurants, cinemas, stadiums and theatres. It follows Wednesday’s bombshell admission that pubs will be able to use vaccine passports to block un-jabbed drinkers… A paper version will be handed out to those without smartphones. Individual businesses will be able to ignore the scheme — but those that take it up look set to be allowed to relax social distancing in their premises and pack in more punters.” – The Sun

  • Government supporters argue it would allow for social distancing rules to be relaxed sooner than planned, possibly some by May 17th – Daily Telegraph
  • Publicans say it’s “bonkers” and “unBritish” – Daily Mail
  • Checks at pubs ‘could nudge young people to get vaccine’ – The Guardian

Coronavirus 4) Network of drive-through vaccination centres planned

“A network of drive-through vaccination centres is being prepared for the next phase of the Covid-19 jabs roll-out as the UK insists diplomatic rows with the EU and India will not stop people getting their second dose of the vaccine. The NHS is also planning to begin a further round of vaccinations in the autumn, alongside flu jabs, to deal with the potential for dangerous new strains of coronavirus, according to papers from a health service board meeting seen by i.” – The i

  • 40,600 people likely caught Covid while hospital inpatients in England – The Guardian

Coronavirus 5)  Nelson: Voters want illiberal measures

“Lockdown remains very popular, to the Prime Minister’s initial amazement. But he talks now as if he has been given a new mandate from the electorate… The creation of a “Health Security Agency” was announced this week. An unusual name: British “security” services have not, so far, tended to involve public health officials. But perhaps the language is simply catching up with reality: that the fundamentals of a biosecurity state are now under construction. This is what ministers think the public now want: a big shift in the dial away from liberty so the state can better provide security. It’s happening incrementally, with no real debate.” – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

China imposes sanctions on British politicians

“China has slapped sanctions on nine British politicians, lawyers and an academic for “maliciously spreading lies and disinformation” about Xinjiang, days after Britain sanctioned China officials for human rights abuses in the region. Iain Duncan Smith, the former Conservative party leader, is among nine British citizens sanctioned days after Britain joined the United States, Canada and the European Union in coordinated sanctions on Chinese Communist Party officials involved in a campaign of persecution against the Uighurs. China’s Foreign Ministry said the named individuals and their family members were banned from entering China, Hong Kong or Macau and that Chinese citizens and institutions will be prohibited from doing business with them. Those targeted include Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee…and the Conservative MPs Neil O’Brien and Nusrat Ghani.” – The Times

  • Relations will deteriorate further – James Landale, BBC
  • I’ll save world from an over-mighty China, vows Biden – The Times

Williamson condemns “unacceptable” threats to teacher who showed a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad

“Gavin Williamson has condemned parents’ protests against children being shown a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in class as “completely unacceptable”. Crowds gathered yesterday at Batley Grammar School to complain about the image, which parents said was from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The non-selective school in West Yorkshire has apologised over the “inappropriate” image, shown during a religious studies lesson this week, and suspended a teacher. Video film shows people gathered around the school gates amid shouts of “get the head teacher”, although police confirmed that there had been no arrests or fines issued for breaches of the coronavirus restrictions. The education secretary intervened last night. A spokesman for the Department for Education (DfE) said: “It is never acceptable to threaten or intimidate teachers. We encourage dialogue between parents and schools when issues emerge. However, the nature of protest we have seen, including issuing threats and in violation of coronavirus restrictions, is completely unacceptable and must be brought to an end.” – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: What has really changed in West Yorkshire – or elsewhere in Britain – since copies of The Satanic Verses were burned?

Brexit 1) UK and EU begin diverging on financial regulation

“The UK and EU have already begun to diverge in the way they oversee financial markets as hopes the two will reach a broad agreement on supervisory “equivalence” in the wake of Brexit fades. Britain has outlined tweaks to areas including the rules surrounding equity, fixed income and commodities trading just months after the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31. The subtle rule changes strike at the contrasting philosophies between the EU and UK on how markets should be regulated…The EU’s priority is to develop a more harmonised internal capital market. By contrast UK politicians view Brexit as the chance to return to restore powers and discretion to regulators and exchanges, lost by layers of detailed and prescriptive EU rulemaking.” – Financial Times

  • EU “ignoring pleas from its own member states” to intervene and fix fishing trading frictions – Daily Express

Brexit 2) Lords committee claims Britain has lost “significant” access to EU policing data

“Britain has lost “significant” access to EU policing data under the Brexit deal negotiated at the end of last year, a House of Lords report has said. It also concluded that post-Brexit law enforcement arrangements are “complex” and “untested”. And peers warned it would take much longer for vital data to be passed to frontline police officers. A government spokesman said the UK “continues to be one of the safest countries in the world”. When the UK left the EU it lost automatic access to EU databases with information on criminal records, fingerprints and wanted persons. Under a deal struck between the two sides at the end of last year, the UK secured access to certain sets of information, for example air passenger data.” – BBC

Lewis and Foster clash over access to abortion in Northern Ireland

“First Minister Arlene Foster has told the NI secretary to “back off” over the issue of providing abortion services in Northern Ireland. The government has published regulations allowing Brandon Lewis to direct commissioning of the services. Mrs Foster said it was a complex, controversial and legally challenging issue. “But let us be clear, it is for the executive. It is not for Brandon Lewis,” she said. “The reason why he brought it to the House [of Commons] was that there was no devolution at the time. There is devolution now, and he should back off.” Earlier in the Commons, Mr Lewis said it was unacceptable that women and girls in NI could not access abortion services even though the law changed more than a year ago.” – BBC

Council Tax bills to average over £2,000 in more than 100 local authorities

“Householders in more than 100 districts will receive average bills of more than £2,000 next week as town halls put up council tax by 11 times the rate of inflation. Across England the average bill for a typical Band D home will be £1,898 – up £80 on last year, according to figures released yesterday. A total of 104 districts will charge families more than £2,000, compared to only 36 last year. For the most expensive Band H homes in these areas, it will be more than £4,000. The most expensive council tax bills will be in Nottingham, where Band D bills will go up £107 to £2,226. That works out as £42.81 every week.” – Daily Mail

>Today: Local government: The key contests that will show if the Red Wall has been truly demolished

Sturgeon offers nurses a four per cent pay rise

“Nicola Sturgeon today attacked Boris Johnson over his ‘miserly’ one per cent pay rise offer to NHS staff in England as she promised a four per cent hike…Her pay promise prompted a furious backlash from Tory MPs over UK funding arrangements as they claimed she could never afford such a move if Scotland became independent.” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Columnist Henry Hill: Ross’s blitzkrieg didn’t bring down Sturgeon, but Fabius Johnson can yet deny her the prize

Hartlepool “on a knife-edge”

“Focaldata has surveyed vast numbers of voters, and then used machine learning to get a more accurate picture of voters in Hartlepool in the run-up to the by-election. Hartlepool is on a knife-edge. While Labour are marginally ahead of the Conservatives (by 3 per cent), the contest looks to be far closer than many predicted. Although Labour vote share is projected to be fairly stable compared with the 2019 general election, the Tories are predicted to increase their 2019 vote share by 7 per cent. The main reason? Former Brexit Party voters are moving. Nearly four times as many migrated towards the Conservatives (40 per cent) than Labour (12 per cent).” – The Times

Forsyth: Political class have abandoned risk

“The most lasting change from Covid will be in our political class’s attitude to risk. We’ve had a generation of politicians and officials who had grown used to the worst case scenario not happening, be it the millennium bug or bird flu. This bred a certain insouciance. Tony Blair confessed in his memoirs that he did the ‘minimum’ to prepare for bird flu. ‘There is a whole PhD thesis to be written about the ‘pandemics’ that never arise,’ he said. It’s fair to say there was quite a bit of this attitude in Downing Street and Whitehall in January last year. Covid has changed all that, though. We now have a situation in which the ‘reasonable worst case scenario’, to use the government jargon, has happened. This will lead ministers and civil servants err on the side of caution for the rest of their careers.” – James Forsyth, The Times

News in brief

  • How to fix Brexit’s Northern Ireland protocol problem – Raoul Ruparel, Politico
  • Can Priti Patel’s asylum shake-up help Britain take back control? – Dean Godson, The Spectator
  • Should pubs be allowed to ask drinkers for proof of vaccination? – Annabel Denham and Emma Webb, 1828
  • Restore our freedoms – John Redwood
  • The EU’s threats to seize vaccines are on shaky legal ground – Lee Rotherham, CapX

Newslinks for Thursday 25th March 2021

25 Mar

Jab blockade would damage you for years, Johnson warns Europe

“Boris Johnson warned the EU last night that a vaccine trade war would result in “considerable” long-term damage to the bloc as efforts to resolve the dispute over AstraZeneca exports continued. EU leaders are due today to discuss new rules that could ban coronavirus vaccine shipments to “countries which have a large production capacity” but “restrict their own exports to the EU”. It was also reported yesterday that India was preparing to implement a worldwide vaccine export ban amid concerns about its domestic supply. The UK is relying on doses from both the EU and India to keep up the pace of its vaccine rollout. Britain and Brussels have been engaged in talks to agree a compromise that would avoid a formal export ban in return for the UK relinquishing some supplies of its ordered Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, which are being made in the EU.” – The Times

  • UK and EU move to calm tensions over access to jabs – FT

More:

  • EU’s ‘most embarrassing’ day: How the story behind the vaccine factory raid unravelled – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Greed can have good consequences, generosity bad ones. What counts isn’t the motive. It’s the result.

New pandemic-fighting unit will stop next health crisis in its track, says Hancock

“A pandemic-fighting unit is being set up to stop the next health crisis in its tracks, Matt Hancock announced. The Health Secretary said the new agency will be a “protective shield” around the UK by being on permanent alert to respond quickly to dangerous outbreaks. UKHSA, the UK Health Security Agency, will be led by deputy chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries. Its “sole job” will be to protect the nation by working with “zeal” in good times and bad. Mr Hancock said: “I want everybody at UKHSA, at all levels, to wake up every day with a zeal to plan for the next pandemic… The Health Secretary UKHSA will be the country’s permanent standing capacity to plan, prevent and respond to external threats to health.” – Daily Express

  • Health Secretary says he can ‘see an end’ to coronavirus crisis – FT

>Yesterday: Dr Raghib Ali in Comment: Why it’s now time to unite behind the roadmap

Prime Minister’s warning a ‘huge summer holiday blow’

“Brits were last night dealt a huge summer holiday blow as Boris Johnson issued a warning about the third wave ripping through Europe. It comes as France could be slapped on the UK’s travel red-list – forcing a ten-day isolation for when travellers return. Ministers are concerned about France, where up to 40 per cent of cases are said to be worrying variants like the South African strain. The PM told MPs: “I’m afraid we cant rule out tougher measures and we will put them in if necessary”. On April 5 he will reveal more details of what experts will recommend for after lockdown is lifted – as no final decisions have been made. But Mr Johnson warned: “It’s looking difficult on the continent”.” – The Sun

  • France could be added to travel red list – Daily Mail

More:

  • Johnson backs compulsory vaccinations for care staff – The Times
  • Pubs ‘may demand Covid passport’ before they will pull your pint – Daily Telegraph
  • Book a jab while still you can – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Sir Graham Brady MP in Comment: The UK must not squander its vaccine success through an excess of caution on air travel

Social care reform to be announced in Queen’s speech, hints Johnson

“Ministers hope to bring forward plans to reform social care as early as May, Boris Johnson suggested yesterday. The prime minister pledged on his first day in Downing Street in July 2019 to “fix” the social care crisis and has come under sustained pressure to reveal the government’s solution. Giving evidence to the Commons liaison committee, Johnson offered the closest indication yet of when reforms might be announced, saying it was “highly likely” social care would be featured in the Queen’s speech on May 11… The prime minister’s comments come as a new critical report from government auditors warned that the sector was facing a fresh cash squeeze. The National Audit Office (NAO) found most local authorities were paying care providers below a “sustainable rate” for the residents in their care, while occupancy rates had also fallen significantly.” – The Times

  • Support for veterans under threat as Treasury considers 40pc budget cut – Daily Telegraph
  • Sturgeon trolls Boris by rushing in a promise for a 4 per cent pay rise for NHS staff – Daily Mail

Countries that refuse to take back migrants lose visas under Patel plan

“Britain could block visas from countries that refuse to take back failed asylum seekers and criminals in a tit-for-tat plan laid out yesterday by Priti Patel. The proposal is among a “range of levers” the government is considering to increase the number of illegal migrants sent back. It was included in a document published by the home secretary that outlined an overhaul of asylum rules. Patel said the changes were needed to fix a system that was “collapsing under the pressure of illegal routes”. Fresh figures revealed that the cost of the asylum system to taxpayers had risen to more than £1.3 billion because of backlogs caused by legal challenges. Ministers want to imitate a US law that withdraws visa routes from countries that refuse to take back illegal immigrants.” – The Times

  • Home Secretary insists UK’s new asylum system will comply with international law – FT
  • She reveals sick people smugglers will face life in jail – The Sun
  • Border Force will get powers to stop and redirect boats carrying migrants across Channel – Daily Telegraph
  • Asylum shake-up lacks clarity and compassion, say critics – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Global Britain? The ‘New Plan for Immigration’ looks like slow progress in the right direction

Whitehall seizes control of Liverpool council functions

“The UK government is seizing control of some functions of Liverpool city council to end what a cabinet minister dubbed the “pervasive and rotten culture” in the local authority. Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said commissioners would spend three years in the Labour-run city where they would take responsibility for highways, property management and regeneration. The move came after the publication of an independent report by Max Caller, a professional council inspector, into whether taxpayers were getting “best value” from those running the borough. That report contained a “deeply concerning picture of mismanagement, a breakdown of scrutiny and accountability . . . putting spending of public funds at risk and undermining the city’s economic development,” Jenrick told the House of Commons on Wednesday.” – FT

  • Government taskforce to run failed council for three years – The Times

More:

  • Ex-Johnson aide running ‘smear campaign’ against Khan, says Labour – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: What the Red Wall really is. But why it’s also a mindset – not just geography

Union Jack to fly on all government buildings

“Ministers have ordered government departments to fly the Union Jack every day “as a proud reminder of our history and the ties that bind us”. Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said this would apply all year round except on days when another flag was being flown, such as the Saltire on St Andrew’s Day or the Cornish flag on St Piran’s Day. At present the Union Jack flies from government buildings only on designated days. Dowden said that the public expected to see it and promised that the new guidance would ensure “that happens every day”. Regulations will be introduced to make it more difficult for public buildings to fly the European Union flag and rules will be relaxed to enable flags associated with the NHS to be flown more often. Labour indicated its support for the plan.” – The Times

  • Johnson preys on Labour’s self-doubt in flag row – Robert Shrimsley, FT

>Today: ToryDiary: New and old reasons for flying the flag

UK stuck with BBC licence fee until 2038 after broadband rollout failure, say MPs

“Britain is stuck with the licence fee until 2038 because the Government’s failure to roll out super-fast broadband has left no viable alternative, MPs have concluded. The Government’s pledge to deliver full-fibre broadband to every home by 2025 was downgraded to a target of just 85 per cent in November. A subscription-based, universal alternative to the licence fee would require all households to be online before the next BBC Charter is negotiated for 2028-38. That now appears all but impossible, according to a report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee. “It’s clear that the BBC TV licence fee has a limited shelf life in a digital media landscape. However, the Government has missed the boat to reform it,” said Julian Knight, the committee’s chairman.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Leadsom review proposes ‘Start for Life’ package for new parents – The Guardian

Cameron investigated over ‘breach’ of his own lobbying laws

“David Cameron is being formally investigated over a possible breach of lobbying sleaze laws that he brought in when he was prime minister. Treasury figures allege that he directly lobbied the chancellor to secure multimillion-pound Covid loans for Greensill, a finance firm he was advising. Cameron also approached the Bank of England in an attempt to secure Greensill’s participation in the loans programme. Such interventions may fall foul of legislation that forbids third parties to directly lobby ministers or senior officials without declaring themselves on the government’s official register of lobbyists. Failure to register can lead to a £7,500 civil penalty or, in severe cases, criminal prosecution… A spokesman for Harry Rich, the registrar who polices the lobbying rules, confirmed he was launching an official investigation.” – The Times

  • Labour seeks disclosure on Covid loans to Greensill for Liberty Steel – FT

Labour to outline plan to spark electric car ‘revolution’ across UK

“Interest-free government loans should be made available to help up to a million households buy electric cars over the next two years, the shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband, is to argue. In a speech on Thursday, Miliband will set out Labour’s plans for an “electric vehicle revolution” to promote a rapid increase in the take-up of electric cars as the UK moves towards net zero carbon. With Boris Johnson already promising a “green industrial revolution” to bring new jobs to former industrial areas, Labour is keen to underline the fact that its own plans would be more radical… The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, recently announced £20m to help fund new charging points, as the government works towards its target of ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 – but Labour believes the government is not acting fast enough.” – The Guardian

Salmond to take legal action over ‘conduct’ of Sturgeon’s most senior civil servant

“Alex Salmond is to take legal action over “the conduct” of Nicola Sturgeon’s most senior mandarin after she refused to resign for the Scottish Government’s unlawful sexual misconduct investigation into him. The former First Minister announced he will shortly instruct his lawyers to bring proceedings in the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest civil court, arising from the conduct of permanent secretary Leslie Evans. In his first statement since the publication of two major reports this week into the affair, he said Ms Evans’ refusal to quit in light of their findings “cannot stand” and predicted that the action would allow his lawyers to “properly interrogate those individuals responsible.” He also disclosed he is to make a complaint to the police over a leak to a tabloid newspaper in Aug 2018 disclosing that the Scottish Government was investigating sexual misconduct allegations against him by two civil servants.” – Daily Telegraph

  • First Minister told off for personal comments on Davidson’s departure to House of Lords – Daily Express
  • Scottish judge rules Sturgeon’s church ban is unlawful – Daily Mail
  • Fish quotas have been “rigged” in favour of Scotland, as UK industry chief has warned – Daily Express

Comment:

  • With Sturgeon safe, the battle for the union is back on – Katy Balls, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Interviews: Douglas Ross: Sturgeon is not in the clear, and is part of a “conspiracy against getting out the truth”

News in Brief:

  • The EU’s threats to seize vaccines are on shaky legal ground – Dr Lee Rotherham, CapX
  • Sturgeon fights on ­– but at what cost? – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Libertarians have lost their way over vaccine passports – Freddie Sayers, UnHerd
  • How the big banks tried to stop us setting up the Reclaim Party – Jeremy Hosking, The Critic

Newslinks for Wednesday 24th March 2021

24 Mar

Coronavirus 1) Bells toll for 126,000 lives lost to Covid-19

“It was a day to reflect and remember, a time for the nation to mourn its losses and contemplate a future that remains worryingly uncertain. For the prime minister, it was a moment to admit that the consequences of the pandemic, and the decisions his government took, will stay with him for ever. “This is something that we will all remember and be dealing with in different ways,” Boris Johnson said in a Downing Street press conference to mark the anniversary of Britain first being put into lockdown.” – The Times

Comment:

Coronavirus 2) ‘Inevitable’ third Covid-19 wave will not change the plan, vows Johnson

“Boris Johnson and Chris Whitty have both said that Britain will suffer another surge of coronavirus as restrictions are eased. The prime minister last night told Conservative MPs that a third wave coming from Europe was “inevitable”. However, he insisted that “we are prepared” and there was “no reason to deviate” from the unlocking road map he set out last month. He hailed the success of the vaccine rollout as a reason to persist with the existing timetable even if cases rise again.” – The Times

  • ‘Greed’ and ‘capitalism’ behind vaccine success, Johnson tells MPs – The Guardian
  • ‘Certainty over haste’: PM’s curt response to Covid lockdown rebels – The Times
  • Border curbs demanded to stop Covid strains from France – The Times
  • Covid ‘vaccine hesitancy’ in England and Wales is being overcome, study finds – The Guardian

Comment:

Coronavirus 3) Merkel steers EU from brink of vaccine war

“The European Union has backed away from a vaccine war with Britain after Angela Merkel signalled that she would not support an export ban. EU leaders will discuss this week how to step up European vaccine supplies. Proposals include restricting future shipments of jabs if Europe’s supply problems continue and Britain’s vaccination rates remain high. However, the German chancellor, distanced herself from the plans aired by the European Commission that identified the UK as “country number one” for a vaccine export ban.” – The Times

  • Merkel cancels Easter as British variant sweeps Germany – The Times
  • EU to widen criteria for possible Covid vaccine export bans – The Guardian

Coronavirus 4) Ambrose Evans-Pritchard – Scapegoating Britain will not save Europe from a self-made disaster

“Language matters. The Commission’s Ursula von der Leyen states that the EU has shipped 10 million vaccines to the UK – and another 30 million to the rest of the world – but has yet to receive a single vaccine in exchange. The EU has done no such thing. The American pharmaceutical company Pfizer produces the Turkish-German BioNTech vaccine at a plant in Belgium, relying on critical supplies of lipid nanoparticles made in Yorkshire (the complex part) and on a long list of inputs from dozens of countries.” – Daily Telegraph

Patel vows illegal immigrants landing on UK beaches face deportation in as little as 24 hours

“ILLEGAL immigrants landing on England’s beaches face “boomerang” deportation in as little as 24 hours and will be sent to the back of the asylum queue, Priti Patel will announce today. And “asylum shoppers” will be blocked from travelling through safe countries to settle in their preferred destination of the UK. Taking aim at immoral lawyers and lefty armchair critics, the Home Secretary declared “no one can defend the current system” as she launches the biggest reforms in a generation to Britain’s “broken” asylum process.” – The Sun

  • Migrants who enter UK illegally to lose benefits – The Times

Defence review that cuts size of army leaves Britain at risk, says former forces chief

“Troop cuts announced today will encourage an attack from Russia and leave Britain unable to retake the Falklands, a former defence chief has warned. After weeks of speculation, Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, has confirmed that his reforms will involve a reduction in the overall number of armed forces personnel. Wallace also admitted the cuts would break a Tory election promise issued by Boris Johnson 16 months ago. The army’s strength is expected to be reduced by 10,000 soldiers, to leave it at its smallest in 200 years.” – The Times

Comment:

Police release images of Bristol riot suspects as violence breaks out again

“Detectives have released the first images of suspects they are seeking over the riots in Bristol in which 21 police officers were injured on Sunday. In the city’s worst unrest for almost a decade, officers were attacked by a mob with glass bottles and scaffolding, their vehicles were set on fire and a police station had its windows smashed after a peaceful protest against the police and crime bill turned violent at nightfall. Seven men aged between 20 and 44 have been arrested and released under investigation for violent disorder.” – The Times

Ministers look at ways to extend flexible working

“Ministers are preparing to make flexible working a permanent feature of British life after coronavirus, with plans to strengthen employees’ rights to work from home or ask for different hours. The government will start a public consultation later this year on how to extend flexible working, potentially ensuring that people who have transitioned to a hybrid of home and office working during the pandemic will be able to maintain that pattern. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is likely to look at ways to strengthen the existing legal right to request flexible working.” – The Times

Cameron lobbying ‘breached his own law’

“David Cameron could face an investigation for allegedly breaching the anti-lobbying sleaze rules that he brought in as prime minister. Cameron has refused to comment on his involvement in trying to secure coronavirus loans from the government for the finance company Greensill Capital, which collapsed into administration this month. However, senior government figures have confirmed that he texted the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, on behalf of the company, to which he was an adviser, and helped to arrange meetings with Treasury officials.” – The Times

Comment:

Taxman targets second-home owners over holiday let dodge

“Tens of thousands of second-home owners who falsely register their properties as holiday lets in order to claim tax breaks tax face a clampdown by the taxman. Ministers have also announced plans to increase taxes on ultra-long-haul flights to discourage greenhouse gas emissions. HMRC will tighten rules to force holiday landlords to prove they have made a realistic effort to rent properties out for at least 140 days per year. There are suspicions that many simply declare that they will do this but leave the properties empty.” – The Times

‘Festival of Brexit’: first events for divisive £120m project announced

“A celebration of the British weather and the largest grow-your-own food project of modern times will be among the events being staged for a nationwide festival of creativity aimed at bringing the UK together in 2022. Organisers of the £120m festival, commissioned by Theresa May’s government and supported by Boris Johnson, announced 10 teams who had successfully pitched ideas. The festival remains a divisive one. In some eyes it is a politically motivated “festival of Brexit”, but its supporters say that is the last thing it will be. Its chief creative officer, Martin Green, said it was about bringing people together and celebrating creativity in events that are “open, original and optimistic”.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday:

UK government to allow new North Sea oil and gas exploration

“Ministers will allow oil drillers to keep exploring the North Sea for new reserves, despite the government’s pledge to tackle carbon emissions, as long as they pass a “climate compatibility” test. The government has offered to help the North Sea oil and gas industry cut its carbon emissions through a joint investment of up to £16bn to help support 40,000 North Sea jobs. In return, the industry has promised to cut its carbon emissions by 50% by the end of the decade. The government said its “landmark deal” would help support the oil and gas industry’s transition to a clean energy future.” – The Guardian

News in brief:

Newslinks for Tuesday 23rd March 2021

23 Mar

Johnson seeks to end UK-Brussels stand-off over AstraZeneca vaccine…

“Boris Johnson has sent an emissary to Brussels to end a bitter stand-off over vaccines, calling for “international co-operation” and warning that a surge in Covid-19 cases in the EU would end up hitting the UK. Speaking on Monday ahead of the anniversary of Britain’s first lockdown, Johnson said Britain and the EU were in the same boat: “On the continent right now you can see, sadly, there is a third wave under way,” he said. “And people in this country should be under no illusions that previous experience has taught us that when a wave hits our friends, I’m afraid it washes up on our shores as well.” Tim Barrow, Britain’s former ambassador to the EU, was dispatched to Brussels to try to defuse a looming vaccine war and to offer British support to efforts to boost production capacity.” – FT

  • Britain warns EU it ‘would have no choice’ but to block vaccine exports in return – The Sun
  • Former top civil servant warns against vaccine protectionism – FT
  • Government negotiating to divide up stocks and improve production – The Times
  • ‘Bring back Juncker’, says Hague – Daily Express
  • Germany and France back ban on Covid vaccine exports… but Dutch and Irish oppose it – Daily Mail
  • Prime Minister sends envoy to seek vaccine deal with India to ease UK shortage – FT

William Hague: The EU’s vaccine nationalism is even more dangerous than it looks

“Earlier this month I was chatting to Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of a Zoom webinar, and soon found myself reflecting that the EU Commission might be in better shape if he was still in charge of it. It was a startling thought: having joined in the British effort in 2014 to try to prevent Juncker from becoming Commission president, I never thought I would one day wish he was back. Yet the months since his departure, in which a new Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen has been wrestling with the EU vaccines scheme, have been among the most dismal in its existence. And the damage being done, to future trust, mutual reliance, and the ability to respond to future pandemics in the long term, is adding up by the day.” – Daily Telegraph

Prime Minister prepares to ‘plead with Tory MPs over Covid lockdown revolt’…

“Boris Johnson will address Tory MPs today as he attempts to persuade them to back another three months of coronavirus restrictions amid warnings that further delay “will not be tolerated”. The prime minister will attend the 1922 Committee of backbenchers before a vote on coronavirus regulations on Thursday amid a backlash over the pace at which the lockdown is being eased. Dozens of Tory MPs are expected to either abstain or vote against the government, although the coronavirus powers will still pass because they have the support of Labour. One senior Tory MP said: “People have gone along with this extraordinarily slow so-called road map, but I don’t think they’re in a place where even more delay can be tolerated.”” – The Times

  • Prime Minister vows to end lockdown ‘once and for all’ on anniversary of country first shutting down – The Sun

More:

  • Holidaymakers could be fined £5,000 for visiting airport  – Daily Telegraph
  • Overseas travel ban extended until July due to third wave fears – The Times

Comment:

  • Johnson plays to his voters, not his party – Rachel Sylvester, The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Today’s Covid anniversary and the freedom gap

…as Cabinet colleagues say he was ‘naive’ to give Sturgeon pandemic powers

“Boris Johnson should have used sweeping civil contingencies powers to cut out Nicola Sturgeon from the Covid response, Cabinet colleagues claim. And a year on, some around the top table say the PM regrets his decision not to do so. Ahead of Tuesday’s anniversary of the first Lockdown, The Sun can reveal a major rift at the top of government last March over how to respond to the emerging pandemic. The PM was urged by some ministers and aides not to use 1980s Public Health laws to respond – as Health matters are devolved meaning Edinburgh and Cardiff were given the chance to go their own way in response.” – The Sun

>Yesterday: Aidan Shilson-Thomas in Think Tanks: Parliament failed to monitor pandemic preparation in the run-up to Covid

Care home staff to face compulsory Covid vaccination

Shield“Care home workers will be required by law to have a Covid-19 jab under a historic legal change agreed by Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock, The Telegraph can reveal. Leaked details of a paper submitted to the Covid-19 Operations Cabinet sub-committee last week show that the Prime Minister and Health Secretary have requested the change in law. Ministers feel compelled to act amid alarm at the low take-up of vaccines among staff in care homes, where many of those most at risk from the virus live. Only around a quarter of homes in London, and half in other parts of England, have reached the level of vaccination among staff and residents deemed safe by government scientists.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Minister reveals test and trace spending on consultants – FT
  • Government reviewing whistleblowing rules amid record pandemic sackings – Daily Telegraph

UK ‘tax day’ to include cuts to red tape

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak will hold back from embarking on a large number of public consultations on potential revenue-raising tax measures when the Treasury publishes a raft of consultations on Tuesday. Dubbed “tax day”, the measures will include proposals to cut the bureaucracy involved with inheritance tax for those dying with smaller estates, but Treasury officials say there will not be any consultations on reforming tax reliefs on pension contributions, capital gains tax or increasing taxes on the self-employed. The tax policy and consultation update, for the first time separated from the Budget, is not a backdoor mechanism to raise taxes without telling people in the Budget, the Treasury said.” – FT

>Yesterday: Neil O’Brien MP’s column: The view that manufacturing is a relic of the past is itself a relic of the past

Williamson’s pitch to keep his job: ‘I’m a bit Marmite but stand up for what’s right’

“Gavin Williamson doesn’t think it’s for him to judge whether or not he’s everyone’s cup of tea – but he ventures that he is “almost a little bit Marmite”. Given last summer’s exam fiasco, and the screeching U-turn on schools’ return in January, that might be considered a generous assessment of his popularity. Spring has brought faint glimmers of an unlikely redemption for the Education Secretary, however, as even union leaders concede that this time he led a successful march back into class. It is no longer absurd to believe that Boris Johnson might allow Mr Williamson to continue a job he feels is far from finished, when the Prime Minister finally gets round to shuffling his team this summer.” – The i

  • It’s time we revived direct grant schools – Melanie Phillips, The Times

>Today: Jonathan Simons in Comment: Let’s build on the education reforms we worked for – not tear them down

Police braced for summer of disorder

“Police forces nationwide are bracing for a summer of disorder as warm weather combines with a “frustrated population” after a year of lockdown. All police forces in England and Wales have been ordered to gather and provide intelligence on protests and groups that may be planning demonstrations following Sunday night’s riots in Bristol, The Times has learnt. Yesterday the government confirmed that its temporary ban on protests — brought in to stop the spread of coronavirus — will be lifted on Monday. Senior police sources and the head of the government’s advisory group on policing and security have said they are expecting the end of the ban to trigger a surge in protests.” – The Times

  • More than 20 officers hurt in night of destruction in Bristol – The Times
  • First eight suspects are arrested as detectives hunt up to 500 ‘extremists’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • It’s time for a dedicated riot control police force – Henry Hill, Daily Telegraph
  • The British left needs to condemn political violence – John Woodcock, The Times
  • ‘Revolutionary tourists’ will piggy-back on any tragedy to get their kicks – Celia Walden, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Once Patel has delivered the Crime Bill, she should back it up with a specialised public order police force

Britain sanctions China over persecution of Uighur Muslims

“Britain has announced co-ordinated sanctions with the EU, US and Canada against China in response to Beijing’s “appalling” persecution of Uighur Muslims. Dominic Raab has blacklisted four Chinese officials and one agency allegedly responsible for human rights abuses in the northwestern province of Xinjiang. A senior diplomat at the Chinese embassy in London responded furiously to the announcement of asset freezes and travel bans, saying that reports of forced sterilisation and slave labour in Xinjiang were the “lies of the century”. Conservative MPs urged the government to toughen up its approach to China even further last night after Boris Johnson defeated a rebellion from 29 Tory backbenchers who wanted to stop the government from striking trade deals with countries convicted of genocide.” – The Times

‘Warhorses’ of the military put out to pasture as new era of fighting technology arrives

“The Defence Command Paper makes no secrets of the military’s ambition to pivot towards cyber conflict, space and robotics. Tanks are being retired, traditional mine hunters superseded by autonomous capabilities, and older aircraft replaced with a modern fleet. Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, cautioned that it was “tempting to use the shield of sentimentality to protect previously battle-winning but now outdated capabilities” and said that if the UK were to do so, it would “risk the lives of our people”. As such, hard decisions have been made to fight the wars of tomorrow, as well as working towards achieving the Government’s ambition to be a meaningful player in space by 2030.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Army to lose 9,500 personnel while older tanks, aircraft and warships will be retired – FT
  • More than 100 aircraft are grounded to make way for more drones – Daily Mail
  • Cuts leave armed forces ‘too small to be credible’… – The Times
  • …and ‘barely bigger than US special forces’ – The Sun

More:

  • Williamson leak damaged trust in security council, says May – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Britain’s expanded nuclear arsenal has a vital role to play in reining in China – John Bolton, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • A shrinking military need not be a cause for alarm if it is fast on its feet and open to innovation – The Times

Johnson flies into another storm over deal for second ‘Brexit jet’

“Boris Johnson has risked another row over the use of taxpayers’ money after procuring a second plane painted in the colours of the Union flag. Downing Street confirmed on Monday night that the UK had acquired a second aircraft, a six-month-old Airbus A321, after images emerged of it stationed at Stansted Airport with a red, white and blue paintwork. The plane has been leased from Titan Airways and will be used by Mr Johnson, Cabinet ministers and members of the Royal family for short-haul flights. However, a government spokesman refused to say how much the lease deal cost when approached by The Telegraph, although they insisted it was “value for money”. Details of the contract are due to be published later this year.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Former adviser ‘set to make thousands dishing dirt on rows with PM’s fiancee’ – The Sun

Comment:

  • Even no deal might make more sense than this unstable Brexit agreement – Anand Menon and Jonathan Portes, The Guardian

Inquiry clears Sturgeon of breaking ministerial code…

“Nicola Sturgeon will renew her push for Scottish independence today after she was cleared on all counts of breaching the ministerial code during her involvement with sexual harassment complaints against Alex Salmond, a prosecutor has ruled. James Hamilton, an independent adviser to the Scottish government on the code, cleared the first minister of any wrongdoing in a 60-page report delivered more than two years after she referred herself for investigation. She was found not to have broken any rules in her three meetings and two telephone calls with Salmond, her predecessor and erstwhile mentor, to discuss the Scottish government investigation into him.” – The Times

  • First Minister told she is ‘not free and clear’ despite being cleared of ministerial code breach – Daily Telegraph
  • She vows to focus on elections after being cleared by inquiry – The Guardian

…but she’s accused of misleading the Scottish Parliament

“Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of misleading the Scottish parliament over her dealings with Alex Salmond, but not knowingly, in a highly critical report by MSPs. A specially convened Holyrood committee voted by a 5-4 margin to find the first minister had misled parliament over her accounts of a meeting with Salmond, her former mentor, in April 2018. Their report, small excerpts of which were controversially leaked last week, said: “The committee finds it hard to believe that the first minister had no knowledge of any concerns about inappropriate behaviour on the part of Mr Salmond prior to November 2017. If she did have such knowledge, then she should have acted upon it. If she did have such knowledge, then she has misled the committee,” it stated.” – The Guardian

  • Tories vow to stage no confidence vote – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Sturgeon has won the battle with Salmond but the SNP civil war still rages – Kenny Farquharson, The Times

Labour faces worst Senedd election result in history

“Welsh Labour is facing the possibility of its worst Senedd election result since devolution began in 1999, according to a new poll. The party is predicted to get 32% of the vote in the constituency section of the ballot, down two points from the last poll in January, with the Conservatives on 30% (+4). Plaid Cymru is in third place on 23% (+1) the Liberal Democrats on 5% (+1), Reform UK on 3% (-2), the Greens on 2% (-4) and Others on 5% (+1). The YouGov poll for ITV Wales and Cardiff University also gives Labour (31% – +1) a narrow lead over the Conservatives (28% – +3) in the regional section of the ballot… Overall, Labour would win 22 seats, the Conservatives 19, Plaid Cymru 14 , Abolish the Assembly 4 and the Liberal Democrats 1.” – Wales Online

>Yesterday:

News in Brief:

  • Ignore the hysteria, the Crime Bill is a chance for the police to win back trust – Henry Hill, CapX
  • The cost of vaccine caution – Tom Chivers, UnHerd
  • The shine has finally come off the SNP – Henry Hill, The Spectator
  • How Labour are taking the voting public for granted – Nigel Jones, The Critic