Newslinks for Wednesday 18th May 2022

18 May

Sunak “to increase warm home discount and cut tax”

“Rishi Sunak is drawing up plans to increase the warm home discount by hundreds of pounds before cutting taxes to help with the cost-of-living crisis. The chancellor will take a two-pronged approach: a package to help with energy bills in July followed by general tax cuts in the autumn. From October the warm home discount will give three million of the poorest households in England and Wales £150 off their bills. Treasury officials have drawn up a range of options, including a one-off increase of £300, £500 or even £600 to help households to cope with soaring energy prices.” – The Times

  • Tory clamour to act now on cost of living crisis – The Guardian
  • Chancellor “plots 1p income tax cut a year” – The i
  • Ministers “warm to energy windfall tax” after polling finds it “wildly popular” – Daily Telegraph
  • Unemployment falls to lowest level in nearly 50 years – Financial Times

>Today: Columnist Ryan Bourne: Beware these new Keynesians who claim more spending is always the answer – whatever the state of the economy

>Yesterday: Stephen Crabb on Comment: The Government must show it remains committed to helping low-income families

Conservative MP arrested on suspicion of rape

“An unnamed Conservative MP has been arrested on suspicion of rape and sexual assault. The Metropolitan Police confirmed a man was in custody over allegations dating back to between 2002 and 2009. The Conservative Party said he had been asked by the chief whip not to attend Parliament while an investigation is ongoing. The man also faces allegations of an abuse of position of trust and misconduct in a public office.” – BBC

  • Anger of innocent Tory politicians who fear ‘names will fly around’ – Daily Mail
  • Police ordered to revisit drug case of Labour MP Stephen Doughty – The Times

EU “to offer concessions” over the Northern Ireland Protocol…

“The EU will offer Britain new concessions on the Northern Ireland Protocol, but has threatened a trade war if Boris Johnson refuses to agree a compromise. The Telegraph understands that the European Commission will propose tweaking the bloc’s own laws to ease checks between mainland Britain and the province in order to end the long-running row over Brexit rules. According to sources, Maros Sefcovic, the EU’s chief negotiator, set out the olive branch in a call with Liz Truss after weeks of acrimony between the pair. Details of their conversion emerged after the Foreign Secretary vowed on Tuesday to introduce new powers to tear up the post-Brexit solution and suspend border checks in the Irish Sea.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The Good Friday Agreement is in peril if Brussels doesn’t budge – Theresa Villiers, Daily Telegraph
  • Britain must hold firm – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • M&S chair attacks ‘pointless’ post-Brexit rules for Ulster – The Guardian
  • Farage slams Government for ‘betraying’ people of Northern Ireland – Daily Express
  • Post Brexit businesses across the UK have not just coped with change, but used the opportunities it has brought – Penny Mordaunt, Daily Express

…but Truss to introduce legal changes in case a deal is not reached

“Liz Truss has said a new law would be introduced to change the post-Brexit trade deal for Northern Ireland. The foreign secretary insisted the bill would be legal under international law. Boris Johnson’s government agreed the trade deal – which governs how goods enter Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK – with the European Union in 2019 after the Brexit vote. But a row over its impact on trade has created a block on forming a devolved government in Northern Ireland.” – BBC

  • These moves are not about scrapping the Protocol, but making it work – Liz Truss, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Johnson tells Cabinet to focus on crime

“Priti Patel was blasted over poor police pay as she faced rank and file officers today, after Boris Johnson had vowed to get touch on crime…Earlier the Prime Minister had played up the Government’s crime fighting credentials as he vowed to get tough on violent crime. He said ‘crime crime crime is what we want to focus on’ and vowed to ’round up’ drugs gangs and cut violent crime as he chaired a Cabinet meeting in Downing Street.” – Daily Mail

Border crossings continuing but Elphicke predicts Rwanda policy will work

“Border Force has deployed “ferry-style” vessels to pick up Channel migrants, as the new Rwanda policy failed to deter a surge in crossings….Natalie Elphicke, the Dover MP, said she was confident that once the Rwanda policy – where migrants are taken on one-way ticket to Africa, to claim asylum there – was operational, it would act as a deterrent, alongside the tougher penalties and restricted benefits for illegal entry. “What is certainly being heard is that the people-smugglers are now communicating that the window to cross may close,” she said. “That does mean the deterrent effect and the determination to go ahead with the policy is being clearly communicated to them.” – Daily Telegraph

Kwarteng orders petrol firm to pass on fuel duty cut to drivers

“Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng tonight warned petrol firms they could face legal action following concerns they are not passing on the 5p per litre fuel duty cut to hard-pressed motorists. In a letter to industry leaders, the Cabinet minister informed them he had asked the competition watchdog to ‘closely monitor’ fuel prices. And Mr Kwarteng said he had been ‘reassured’ the Competition and Markets Authority would ‘not hesitate to use their powers’ if they found law breaches.” – Daily Mail

Gideon attacks u-turn on food offers

“A Tory MP has criticised the government’s about-turn on banning promotional deals on unhealthy food, warning Boris Johnson that he will never level up Britain when so many are overweight. Jo Gideon, who represents Stoke-on-Trent Central, told MPs that they were “wrong” to think dropping the ban would help with the cost of living. She added that “the cost to our health, the NHS and the economy is too great” to delay the plans….A ban on “buy one, get one free” deals on unhealthy food due to come into effect in October was delayed for at least a year by Boris Johnson due to the rising cost of living.” – The Times

Inflation increases to nine per cent

“Prices are rising at their fastest rate for 40 years as higher energy bills hit millions of households. UK inflation, the rate at which prices are rising, jumped to 9% in the 12 months to April, up from 7% in March. The surge came as millions of people saw an unprecedented £700-a-year rise in energy costs last month. Higher fuel and food prices, driven by the Ukraine war, are also pushing the cost of living up, with inflation expected to continue to rise this year.” – BBC

  • The Bank of England’s task of taming inflation just got harder – Financial Times
  • Beating inflation will require more than rate rises – Leader, Financial Times
  • This nightmare of surging inflation and taxation is a direct consequence of the retreat from Thatcherism – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph
  • There is little sign so far of inflationary wage rises – Leader, The Times

>Yesterday: Columnist Andy Street: How thinking green, and levelling up, can insulate against future cost-of-living shocks

Other political news

  • Wakefield and Tiverton and Honiton by-elections will be held on June 23rd – The Guardian

Wallace: Ukraine shows us the power of nationhood

“Ukraine’s enemies seek to deny its nationhood precisely because that unifying idea is its most powerful asset. The Russian Army was sent out on the false prospectus that Ukraine did not really exist – only to be shattered by the stubborn resistance of the Ukrainian people, who insist that it does. That should give us pause to reconsider assumptions about the future of our own countries. For many years, the nation state proved to be the most successful and durable medium for free, democratic life. Given that it is serving the same function for a people in deep crisis right now, is it really time to leave the concept behind?” – Mark Wallace, The i

  • Is Germany’s leader so soft on Russia because he’s an ex-Marxist who savaged Nato and bowed to Moscow? – Hubertus Knabe, Daily Mail

Finkelstein: We need a return to neutral policing

“The fault here does not just lie with the police. People who believe in liberal democracy forgot the principle of equality under the law and the importance of operational independence of the police when Johnson was their prey. The danger of forgetting this has been shown with the equally dispiriting investigation of Starmer. For an advanced liberal democracy to be engaged in tit-for-tat politically inspired police investigations is shameful. And those who argue it is appropriate for police to act differently with Starmer and Johnson because they are powerful figures are being naive. Departure from neutral policing will, in the end, always favour the powerful over the less powerful.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

  • Labour braced for 20 staff to be quizzed over Starmer’s lockdown curry – The Sun
  •  Starmer’s Beergate defence sunk faster than a bottle of San Miguel – Leader, The Sun

News in brief

  • Take back control. A plan B for Northern Ireland – Fraser Nelson, The Spectator
  • Why does Russia hate Britain so much? – Gabriel Gavin, Unherd
  • There’s no evidence of a climate crisis in the UK – Kathy Gyngell, Conservative Woman
  • Defunding the illiberal National Union of Students doesn’t go far enough – Marc Glendening, CapX
  • Since when did Stonewall side with bullies? – Julie Bindel, The Critic

Newslinks for Monday 31st May 2021

31 May

Coronavirus 1) Exclusive: ‘UK vaccine passport plans to be scrapped’

“Plans to make Covid-19 passports a legal requirement for large events are set to be dropped, The Telegraph understands. Officials working on the review into Covid-19 status certification believe there is no chance the law will be changed to mandate their use within the UK. “It’s not a case of ‘it’s finely balanced’. It’s not going to happen,” said one well-placed government source close to the review. “Everyone says it’s dead.” It comes as ministers examine data to determine whether the lifting of restrictions can continue as planned from June 21 in England, when it was hoped that the public would be able to return in greater numbers to mass events such as football matches and concerts. The Government first expressed interest in Covid passports in February, when a review into their use domestically was launched as part of Boris Johnson’s reopening roadmap for England.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Over-50s to have second vaccine in race to save June 21 – The Times
  • Struggling hospitals warn of a ‘perfect storm’ on June 21 – The Times
  • France locks the doors: British travellers must show ‘compelling reason’ to enter the country from today as Macron battles to keep Indian variant at bay – Daily Mail

Comment:

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 2) Health workers may have compulsory Covid jabs to protect patients…

“The government is considering making coronavirus jabs compulsory for NHS staff, the vaccines minister said yesterday, and would be prepared to give them to children once approved. Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News that it was considering compulsory vaccination for healthcare workers. The government has opened a consultation on making vaccinations a condition of employment for social care workers. He said: “It would be incumbent on any responsible government to have the debate, to do the thinking as to how we go about protecting the most vulnerable by making sure that those who look after them are vaccinated.” He said there was a precedent because surgeons get vaccinated for hepatitis B. The Times understands that NHS bosses favour persuasion over compulsion. Statistics suggest that across England 88 per cent of hospital staff have had at least one dose of vaccine.” – The Times

Coronavirus 3) …But ministers are urged not to ‘threaten’ NHS staff over mandatory jab

“Ministers have been urged not to “threaten” NHS staff by forcing them to get vaccinated against coronavirus under plans being considered by the government. The shadow Commons leader, Thangam Debbonaire, said it was not a “good idea” after the vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, said the proposal was being investigated alongside the existing consultation on making jabs mandatory for social care workers. There is nervousness in Whitehall about doing anything to destabilise the vaccine rollout by requiring that people get the jab instead of keeping it voluntary – something that several behavioural scientists have warned could dampen take-up among already vaccine-hesitant groups. But after concerns that a sizeable number of health and social care staff, who were among the first to be offered the vaccine, are reluctant to get jabbed, the government has been consulting on making vaccines mandatory for care workers, and is now expanding that to include all those working in the NHS.” – The Guardian

Boris and his barefoot bride: inside the bohemian wedding party that no one saw coming

“Standing barefoot in a floral headband and staring into the eyes of her new husband, Carrie Symonds defied the traditional trappings one might associate with the wife of a Prime Minister. Surrounded by hay bales, colourful bunting and with lanterns hanging in the garden of Number 10 Downing Street, the couple opted for a bohemian, festival-style celebration after tying the knot in secret on Saturday. But as the first unmarried couple to live together in Downing Street, and the first prime minister to wed whilst in office in almost 200 years, the Johnsons are not shy of breaking with tradition. After much speculation about their nuptials, and a save-the-date for July 30, 2022 card sent just six days before they married, people were expecting an elaborate affair. But in the end Mr Johnson’s third marriage was a low-key celebration which saw guests dancing to Don McLean’s American Pie played by a wandering acoustic fiddle band.” – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

>Today:

Sunak 1) Restaurant and pub bosses blame furlough for lack of staff as they struggle to fill 190,000 vacancies amid fears many people will lose the will to work

“Pub and restaurant bosses have called for an end to the furlough scheme as they desperately struggle to fill 190,000 job vacancies. Several businesses say they cannot get the staff needed to kickstart their recovery while millions remain on furlough. There are fears that workers languishing on the job retention scheme, which runs until September, will lose the will to work. The Office for National Statistics reported that a tenth of businesses’ workforce was on furlough in mid-April, or 2.7 million people. Across the UK there are 700,000 job vacancies, including 188,000 in hospitality, where a million remained on furlough before the May 17 reopening. Bosses say some staff would rather stay at home on 80 per cent of their full salary than get a new job. But the industry said the scheme is needed to protect jobs because many businesses will operate below full capacity until restrictions are lifted.” – Daily Mail

  • End of eviction ban leaves tenants in Britain at risk – FT

Sunak 2) Chancellor urges Biden to strike deal on tech giant taxes

“Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has urged Joe Biden to do a deal on the taxation of tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Amazon as part of a global shake-up of business levies. Finance ministers from the G7 group of leading industrialised nations, including the UK and US, will meet in London on Friday, a week before Biden flies in for the leaders’ summit in Cornwall. The US president has called for a minimum global corporation tax level, with 15 per cent proposed as a base rate, to stop companies using offshore strategies. Following years of criticism of the way that Silicon Valley giants handle their tax affairs, the UK wants to ensure that US tech firms pay their fair share of tax for their activities in Britain. Sunak told The Mail on Sunday: “I want to make sure we get the right deal for British taxpayers, that we level the playing field for British high streets and that’s what I’m doing.”” – The Times

Nick Timothy: We’re not drifting into segregation, we’re hurtling perilously towards it

“After the 7/7 terror attacks, Trevor Phillips, then the head of the Commission for Racial Equality, issued a stark warning. “We are sleepwalking our way to segregation,” he declared. “We’ve emphasised what divides us over what unites us. We have allowed tolerance of diversity to harden into effective isolation of communities, in which some people think special separate values ought to apply.” Sixteen years later, optimists will point to the minorities reaching the top of UK business and government. The Business Secretary is black, the Chancellor and Home Secretary have Indian heritage, the Foreign Secretary is the son of a Jewish refugee, and the recent London election saw a black Tory challenge a Muslim Labour mayor. Many minorities are thriving at school, building successful careers, and raising confident and happy families, secure in their identities.” – Daily Telegraph

More comment:

Truss urges official withdrawal from Stonewall diversity scheme

“Liz Truss, the equalities minister, is pushing for all government departments to withdraw from Stonewall’s employment scheme following a row over transgender rights. Truss, also the international trade secretary, has told officials that she believes that government bodies should withdraw from the diversity champions scheme run by the equality group. Several organisations and bodies, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the employment dispute service Acas, have both withdrawn “for cost reasons”. A source close to Truss said she shared the concerns raised by the EHRC over the scheme’s value for money, particularly as the civil service has its own in-house workplace diversity programme. The Times understands that responsibility for co-ordinating participation in the scheme rests with the Cabinet Office. The scheme counts 250 government departments and public bodies among its 850 members, which pay for guidance on issues such as pronouns and gender-neutral spaces.” – The Times

Criminal case warning for Post Office scandal bosses

“Post Office executives “should be very worried” about possible criminal prosecutions after the accounting scandal that triggered the UK’s biggest miscarriage of justice, one of its former lawyers has said. Speaking to a Radio 4 documentary that will be broadcast this evening, an unnamed former lawyer at the government-owned company said that several senior figures could be charged with perverting the course of justice over the Horizon computer system scandal. The lawyer’s comments in the last instalment of the radio series The Great Post Office Trial: The Reckoning came after the Court of Appeal last month quashed 39 convictions of subpostmasters for fraud after it was found that the system, made by the Japanese company Fujitsu, had been faulty.” – The Times

  • Six Post Office bosses ‘could face charges for possible criminal offences’ in handling of IT scandal that saw postmasters hounded, bullied and wrongly prosecuted for fraud, lawyer says – Daily Mail

Child abusers in Rotherham ‘still avoiding justice’ as few crimes end in charges

“The police force at the centre of the Rotherham abuse scandal secured a charge for just one in 34 crimes linked to child sexual exploitation last year. South Yorkshire police made 16 charges from 540 crimes that its officers had flagged as related to children being exploited for sex, according to records disclosed in freedom of information act requests. The findings come after an investigation by The Times a decade ago revealed hundreds of young girls had been exploited in northern towns by predominantly Asian criminal gangs. In 2014 a subsequent independent inquiry found that between 1997 and 2013 more than 1,400 children in Rotherham were exposed to severe levels of violence and sexual abuse by groups of men. Sarah Champion, the Labour MP for Rotherham who has campaigned for grooming victims, said she feared child abusers in the area were getting away with offences.” – The Times

UK government to ask citizens if it should ban fur trade

“The public is being asked to weigh in on the fur trade, as the government considers a potential ban on sales across the UK. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched a call for evidence amid plans for tighter animal welfare standards following Brexit. The consultation will consider the social and economic impacts of fur sales, both in the UK and overseas. It is understood that the UK could introduce an outright ban depending on the feedback it receives. The UK was the first country in Europe to ban fur farming in 2000, and has introduced strict rules prohibiting the import of skin and fur products from commercial seal hunting and domestic cats and dogs. However, the sale of other furs are still legal in the UK. Carrie Symonds, Boris Johnson’s wife, has described anyone who buys fur as “really sick”. The government has been been mulling tougher rules after Brexit, given the UK is no longer bound by the EU’s single market rules that blocked any individual country from taking a unilateral stance on fur trading.” – The Guardian

Schools are still allowed to use cladding banned after Grenfell

“An estimated 70 schools may have been built with combustible insulation since it was banned on tall buildings to prevent a repeat of the Grenfell Tower fire. Plastic foam insulation was outlawed on towers more than 18m tall in December 2018 but can still be used on low buildings. The Construction Industry Council, firefighters and the mayor of London want the ban extended to schools. Rockwool, which makes non-flammable insulation, used construction industry data to find out how many buildings were built with rain-screen cladding since the ban. It applied its estimate that combustible insulation has a 75 per cent share of the market to produce its totals. The tally was published by The Guardian last night. About 25 new hospitals, care homes and sheltered housing complexes were also thought likely to have been constructed using flammable insulation.” – The Times

EU Commission calls on UK to ditch ideology over Northern Ireland protocol

“A senior European Commission figure has defended the Northern Ireland protocol, calling on the UK government to ditch ideology in favour of pragmatism in order to transform problems arising from the Brexit deal. Maroš Šefčovič said he was looking at “solutions” to iron out disruption to businesses caused by the protocol, a key part of the Brexit agreement designed to protect the bloc’s single market at its frontier with the UK on the island of Ireland, without a return to a hard border. It means Northern Ireland has in effect stayed within the EU’s single market for goods, and a customs border was enforced on goods crossing the Irish sea. The resulting checks at the ports of Belfast and Larne have angered unionists and loyalists, who feel the region is being separated from the rest of the UK, and this anger has escalated into threats, violence and rioting.” – The Guardian

Have we got cheese for you, Johnson tells Canada

“Britain is eager to clinch a deal that will send more “affordable, high-quality British cheese” to Canada, Boris Johnson has said. The prime minister urged the Canadians to commit themselves to dropping their reservations about the import of British dairy products, which he said had delayed progress on an agreement. Speaking to the Canadian broadcaster CBC, he said that progress had been “slightly held up by the Canadian reluctance to allow too much British cheese to tempt the palates of Canadians”. He added: “I think what’s really needed now is more affordable, high-quality British cheese in Canada and I hope that we can do a deal to allow that. We’re very hopeful that we can do a great deal. There are big opportunities for Canadian business here in the UK: we’re a giant market.”” – The Times

Netanyahu on cusp of being replaced by far-Right leader Naftali Bennett

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s rivals were on the brink of removing him from power on Sunday after Naftali Bennett, a right-wing firebrand, threw his support behind a coalition government with centrist leader Yair Lapid. In a major step towards unseating Israel’s longest serving prime minister, Mr Bennett said his Yamina party would back a “unity” coalition that would draw support from across the Israeli political spectrum. “It’s either a fifth election, or a unity government,” Mr Bennett said in a televised speech.  He vowed to end the “madness” of Israel’s worst political crisis in its history, which has seen four inconclusive election results since 2019. According to Israeli media reports, Mr Bennett is finalising a power-sharing deal where he will serve as prime minister for two years before handing the reins to Mr Lapid.”- Daily Telegraph

News in brief:

Newslinks for Sunday 30th May 2021

30 May

Prime Minister marries Carrie Symonds in a “secret” ceremony at Westminster Cathedral

“Boris Johnson married girlfriend Carrie Symonds in a secret ceremony yesterday morning, the Mail on Sunday can reveal. Mr Johnson, 56, exchanged vows with Ms Symonds, 33, in Catholic Westminster Cathedral in front of a handful of close friends and family – becoming the first Prime Minister to marry in office since Lord Liverpool married Mary Chester in 1822. It comes just six days after the couple – who became engaged on the Caribbean island of Mustique in December 2019 and have baby Wilfred, aged one – sent out save-the-date cards to guests telling them to keep Saturday, July 30, 2022 free for a marriage celebration. Despite sending out the cards, the couple are understood to have been secretly planning the small ceremony for six months. ” – Mail on Sunday

  • A delightful small-scale ceremony for Downing Street’s happy couple – Tim Stanley, Sunday Telegraph
  • How did they marry in a Catholic church? – Sunday Telegraph

>Yesterday: MPsETC: Johnson and Symonds marry, newspapers report

Coronavirus 1) Wuhan lab leak is ‘feasible’, British agents believe

“British agents now believe it is “feasible” that the global pandemic began with a coronavirus leak from a Chinese research laboratory. In a significant sharpening of tension with Beijing, they are investigating a possible leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which Beijing angrily insists was not the source of the virus that has caused more than 3.5 million deaths and is still raging globally. They do so as controversy grows about the alleged silencing of scientists who wanted an investigation of the lab-leak theory. For the past 16 months — since China first confirmed that people were infecting one another with a new and deadly virus in the city of Wuhan — British, American and other western intelligence agencies have appeared to discount the possibility of the virology institute playing a role in the pandemic.” – Sunday Times

Coronavirus 2) Further questions for Hancock over care homes

“Matt Hancock was facing new questions over the spread of Covid to care homes on Saturday night as it emerged that guidance from his department ordered hospitals to discharge patients without any mention of a need to test them first. Instructions issued by the Department of Health and NHS on March 19 last year stated that “discharge home today should be the default pathway” in order to free up beds for the sickest Covid patients. The instructions were issued shortly after Mr Hancock told Boris Johnson that he would ensure that tests were undertaken on patients being discharged to care homes….the guidance fails even to recommend the use of tests in hospitals where they were available.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Email warning was sent to the Health Secretary – Sunday Times
  • Hancock’s a human shield. Must Cummings destroy him to finish off the PM? – Sunday Times
  • Johnson had F-word rant at Hancock over care home fiasco – The Sun on Sunday

Coronavirus 3) NHS staff “face compulsory vaccination”

“NHS staff would be legally required to have a Covid vaccine under plans to crack down on transmission of the virus within hospitals. As the Government also prepares to press ahead with plans to oblige care home workers to be vaccinated, ministers are understood to believe that changing the law to apply the requirement to doctors and nurses as well would “save lives”. Under the plans, having a Covid vaccine would become a condition of employment by the NHS, although the obligation could be targeted at staff deemed to be at the greatest risk of exposure to the virus.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • ‘Very few’ Covid hospital patients had two jabs, NHS boss says – BBC
  • Anti-lockdown protestors clash with police – Mail on Sunday

>Today: Bella Wallersteiner on Comment: I attended the Freedom March yesterday. I’m no anti-vaxxer, or Covid denier. I just want a return of common sense.

Coronavirus 4) Starmer warns “chaos” threatens plan to lift restrictions on June 21st

“Labour leader Keir Starmer today warns that plans to lift almost all Covid-19 restrictions on 21 June are at risk because of serial incompetence and “civil war” inside Boris Johnson’s government. In his strongest attack for months on the prime minister’s handling of the pandemic, Starmer says that the huge death toll in the second wave of cases from last autumn, in which more than 80,000 lives were lost, was “avoidable and unforgivable” …As scientists warn today about the dangers of easing locking too early, Starmer says the level of incompetence and infighting within government raises doubts about whether the 21 June “big bang” release from lockdown will happen.” – The Observer

  • We faced an unprecedented crisis, but tens of thousands of second wave Covid deaths were avoidable and unforgivable – Keir Starmer, The Observer
  • Deadly government incompetence – Leader, The Observer

“We’ve turned the tide against cancel culture,” claims Jenrick

“New safeguards to prevent statues and monuments from being torn down “on a whim” have resulted in a “turn of the tide”, according to the Cabinet minister who introduced the protections. In an interview with The Telegraph, Robert Jenrick said the recent changes had “made a huge difference already”, with councils, charities and heritage organisations now “much more careful” about “bowing to a small number of very vocal people”. “I think that we have seen a turn of the tide,” he said. “You’re finding organisations who were subject to abuse, often from a small but very vocal group of people, being able now to know that they’ve got the backing of the law… there is due process that has to be followed. And the Government now has a very, very clear position.” – Sunday Telegraph

Patel to announce tagging for foreign criminals

“Thousands of foreign criminals will be tagged to stop them fleeing, Priti Patel will announce today. More than 900 have been deported this year but many stay to mount legal challenges. The Home Secretary will make electronic ankle tags a condition of their release from jail. She has ordered enough GPS kit for 4,500 offenders by the end of next year. Britain can kick out foreign citizens who have been jailed, with 7,985 removed since January 2019. But they can be released from a detention centre if they challenge the grounds of their deportation, sometimes at the last minute. So far, more than 250 criminals have been issued with GPS devices.” – The Sun on Sunday

Royal Yacht Britannia replacement “to enter service in four years”

“The new national flagship to replace the Royal Yacht Britannia and give British businesses a new global platform will enter service in four years, Boris Johnson has announced. The Prime Minister said work on the new flagship, which will be crewed by the Royal Navy, will start next year. The Government hopes it will be constructed at a UK shipyard. Number 10 said the name of the new ship will be decided “in due course”, although sources have previously told The Telegraph that the intention is to call it “Prince Philip” after the late Duke of Edinburgh.” – Sunday Telegraph

Williamson plans to offer 15 hours of free tuition to help children catch up

“Schoolchildren in England will be offered 15 hours of free tuition to help them catch up after months of lost learning during the pandemic. The plans are expected to give teachers the chance to earn more money for working longer hours, but they will not be forced to do so, as ministers seek to avoid confrontation with unions. Under the £1.5 billion scheme, almost all pupils aged 5-16 will be offered extra lessons in groups of up to three…The extra teaching is part of the “recovery plan” led by Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, which is expected to be published next month. Private tutors will also be recruited.” – Sunday Times

Corbynistas “plot challenge” to Starmer if Labour lose Batley and Spen by-election

“Allies of Jeremy Corbyn were last night accused of preparing for a Labour leadership contest amid warnings that Sir Keir Starmer will be ‘finished’ if the party loses a crucial by-election this summer. Ian Lavery, the party chairman when Mr Corbyn was leader, faced claims of plotting to boost the hard Left’s grip on Labour’s grassroots membership, who will play a vital role in picking a new leader. In an email seen by The Mail on Sunday, Mr Lavery told fellow members of the giant Unite union – whose leaders has been fiercely critical of Sir Keir – that they could change the direction of the Labour Party if they became more active…It comes ahead of a parliamentary by-election on July 1 in the Labour-held seat of Batley and Spen in West Yorkshire, with predictions that Sir Keir will be a ‘dead man walking’ if his party fails to hold the seat.” – Mail on Sunday

  • The UK’s richest union is fighting in the courts, but not for the low paid – Nick Cohen, The Observer

Littlewood: Cummings has left us with a social democratic Government

“The much trumpeted ‘levelling up’ agenda is simply a return to old-fashioned regional development policy. The man in Whitehall knows best and will direct central funding to areas which fit the right criteria on a civil service spreadsheet…We may have returned to a social democratic consensus, where state intervention is the automatic response to any human ill…The best way of understanding this government’s overarching vision is to grasp the philosophy of the departed Mr Cummings. His analysis is less about the state’s role than the bureaucrats’ level of expertise. If only we had better data scientists and strategic managers in Whitefall, central planning would suddenly produce perfect results. But this doesn’t even amount to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. It’s merely fretting about who sits in those deckchairs.” – Mark Littlewood, Sunday Telegraph

  • Cummings is the hero of the Left – Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday
  • Chancellor “confident” of G7 agreement on “fair taxation of tech companies” – Interview with Rishi Sunak, Mail on Sunday
  • Cummings has no credibility as he rages against reality he helped create – Craig Oliver, The Sun on Sunday
  • Judas of Downing Street – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday
  • He has betrayed his comrades – Leo McKinstry, Sunday Express
  • A chess man in a gambler’s world – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times
  • Houdini Johnson has dodged a bullet but the failures of state may come back to wound him – Robert Colvile, Sunday Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Hollywood’s erasure of Cruella de Vil’s smoking habit is pointless and dull. Companies, and the state, must stop telling people what to do.

Hannan: Switzerland is right to reject tighter EU controls

“The Swiss are no more likely than the British to give in to threats. If their current half-in- half-out deal status is no longer on offer, they will almost certainly move further out. And they will be right, for the best way to safeguard their prosperity is to retain the unusual political structures on which it rests…the reason the Swiss did not want to join the EU is that they could see that ever-closer union was incompatible with the principles that govern their confederation, namely the dispersal of power to the cantons and the regular use of referendums. Those precepts have served to make them the richest and freest people in Europe, and good luck to them.” – Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph

Green: Clegg should have no say in who is Chairman of Ofcom

“The new Chair of Ofcom is a big role. Which is why we should be bothered that Nick Clegg has been lobbying the Government not to appoint Sir Paul Dacre….If Nick Clegg had interfered in the appointment of an independent regulator as Deputy PM it would have been improper. As the voice of Facebook it is outrageous. We need strong independent regulators to control the likes of Facebook. I don’t know if Paul Dacre is the right person for the job. But I do know that Facebook should have no say whatsoever in deciding who is.” – Damian Green MP, The Sun on Sunday

News in brief

  • The EU falls out over the pace and cost of net zero – John Redwood
  • Should conservatives offer sanctuary to dissidents of the Left? – Peter Franklin, Unherd
  • Has Hancock been straight with the public about deaths in care homes? – Daniel Johnson, The Article
  • Jewish pupils face a climate of fear – Julian Mann, Conservative Woman
  • Boris is getting off the BLM train – Alex Story, The Critic

Newslinks for Saturday 29th May 2021

29 May

Plan to keep facemasks if infections go on rising

“Facemasks and work from home guidance could remain in place after June 21 under government plans to “prioritise” the end of social distancing if the Indian variant continues to surge, The Times has been told. Ministers are increasingly concerned that the variant’s spread could undermine plans to lift all restrictions next month. They are discussing contingency plans that could mean only a partial end to the lockdown. The Treasury is prioritising the end of the “one metre plus” distancing rule and the “rule of six” indoors, which is viewed as crucial to supporting hospitality and retail and helping the economy to recover. Ministers also want to end rules that limit mass gatherings so that festivals, concerts and sporting events can go ahead.” – The Times

  • End of lockdown could be ‘moved’ beyond June 21 – The Sun
  • Expert who helped change Covid policy in first wave warns over risk of easing – The Guardian
  • MPs warn of ‘another lost summer’ for festivals unless Covid safety net introduced – Daily Express

Johnson will be forced to decide on child Covid vaccinations

“Medical advisers will next month insist that Boris Johnson makes a political decision on whether to vaccinate children and will not offer a firm recommendation, The Telegraph understands. In a break from previous practice, the joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) is expected to set out “options and consequences” rather than taking a stance on the controversial issue. It comes as the European Medical Agency recommended Pfizer vaccines for children as young as 12, causing deep divisions. Germany’s national regulator insisted more data is needed before it can be sure the move is safe for children. A coalition of doctors, MPs, parents and celebrities has already started a campaign to exclude under-18s from the UK’s vaccine rollout with a letter to Mr Johnson urging him not to put children in “unnecessary danger”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Vaccines rollout sees Prime Minister ride high in Mail poll – Daily Mail
  • UK approves use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine – FT

More:

  • New study backs claims virus is man-made – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Chris Green MP in Comment: The narrative for vaccinating children and Covid passports is getting stronger. We need to stop and think.

Pressure grows on Health Secretary over Covid policy for care homes

“Matt Hancock is facing further pressure over the measures put in place to protect care homes early in the coronavirus pandemic following allegations from Dominic Cummings that he misled the prime minister over the issue. A woman whose father died of Covid in a care home that admitted an infected hospital patient is demanding that the health secretary release crucial internal documents about his risk assessment before thousands of people were discharged into care homes without tests. The move is part of a potentially explosive high court case against Hancock, the NHS Commissioning Board and Public Health England scheduled for a three-day trial in October. It is likely to shed new light on this week’s claim and counter-claim between the prime minister’s former chief adviser and Hancock over care homes policy in the first weeks of the pandemic.” – The Guardian

  • What really happened in Number Ten when the crisis blew up? – Daily Mail
  • Cummings ‘has documents showing Hancock was summoned’ to Downing Street – The Sun
  • Johnson breathes a sigh of relief but Cummings is playing a long game – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Questioning Hancock. How far will Clark and Hunt go?

Charles Moore: Wuhan puts paid to Cummings’ idea of how to manage a public health crisis

“My own view about Mr Cummings’s testimony is that he made some very pertinent points about how British government and officialdom do not work, but also broke trust and unfairly accused individuals who could not answer back. But it is not relevant for the purposes of this article whether Mr Cummings was right to speak as he did. The point is that he could, and that the press and the public could study what he said, debate it and throw it all back at elected politicians. Although many of the matters Mr Cummings raised were seriously important, they matter much less than what happened in Wuhan. China’s behaviour has brought death, disease, misery and impoverishment and has reduced freedom everywhere. Yet its actions cannot be discussed in public in China at all.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The patience of voters will snap in the end – Matthew Parris, The Times
  • No, Britain didn’t come bottom of the class – Niall Ferguson, Daily Mail
  • If Cummings’ assault on Johnson fails, he will have only himself to blame – Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Cummings is behaving like a woman or man scorned. But you can’t dismiss all that he says.

Johnson did not break ministerial code over No11 flat refurb, official probe finds…

“Boris Johnson has been cleared over his No11 flat refurb – as an official report said he didn’t break the ministerial code in the “cash for curtains” row. But the probe from a top Whitehall sleazebuster found that the Cabinet Office, Tory Party and a peer had helped stump up the cash for his Downing Street renovation – and the PM only settled the bill in full in March. For weeks the PM has been dogged over who paid the costs of a lavish revamp of the No11 digs he shares with Carrie Symonds and one-year-old son Wilfred. Lord Christopher Geidt, a former aide to the Queen, today released the long-awaited register of members interests about the PM’s Downing Street decorations. But the independent adviser concluded that there was nothing to suggest the PM had acted improperly or broken the code – effectively clearing him of wrongdoing.” – The Sun

  • Report says he acted ‘unwisely’ – FT
  • Prime Minister unaware Tory donor paid part of flat refurbishment bill – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

…and Hancock committed ‘minor breach of ministerial rules’ over NHS contract

“Matt Hancock committed a “minor” breach of ministerial rules but acted with “integrity”, an investigation has found. The Health Secretary failed to declare that a family firm he held shares in won an NHS contract. But he did not know about the deal and the failure was in “no way deliberate”. Lord Geidt, the PM’s adviser on standards, said the “technical breach” should not “impugn his good character”. Mr Hancock declared in the MPs’ register of interests in March that he owns 20 percent of shares in Topwood. The firm specialises in secure storage, shredding and scanning of documents. It won a place on a framework to supply the English NHS Shared Business Services in 2019, as well as contracts with the NHS in Wales, after Mr Hancock was given his Cabinet brief in 2018.” – Daily Express

Foreign Affairs 1) Johnson raises ‘significant concerns’ on Orban’s human rights record

“Downing Street attempted to defuse the controversy over Boris Johnson’s decision to host a meeting with Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban on Friday, insisting he voiced “significant concerns” over his counterpart’s record on human rights.  In a statement issued after the talks, Downing Street said Johnson expressed his concerns surrounding Orban’s record on issues such as “gender equality, LGBT rights and media freedom”. “The leaders also discussed a number of foreign policy issues including Russia, Belarus and China,” Number 10 added. “The prime minister encouraged Hungary to use their influence to promote democracy and stability.” In recent years, Orban, who is regarded a rightwing populist and an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, has become a controversial figure on the international stage.” – FT

  • Backlash grows against Olympics as Japan extends state of emergency – The Times

Comment:

  • Orban’s visit illustrates UK’s post-Brexit balancing act – Timothy Garton Ash, FT

Foreign Affairs 2) Frost puts foot down over first ministers’ ‘private chats’ with the EU

“Lord Frost has put his foot down and warned devolved nations not to approach the EU in private without consulting with the UK Government. In a letter to the Scottish and Welsh Government, he said Cardiff and Edinburgh should keep the UK involved in all contact the devolved Governments have with EU institutions. Lord Frost said they should keep the “UK Government informed” about the “content” of all meetings senior officials and ministers have with the European Commission and other EU institutions. He said this was because the UK needed to conduct its “international affairs” effectively with Brussels and made clear he didn’t want secret back door contact. SNP-led Scottish Government ministers have previously written to the European Commission and had regular talks with officials in Brussels amid crunch trade talks between Lord Frost and Michel Barnier.” – Daily Express

  • UK told to back off as desperate Sturgeon tries to keep Scotland in Brussels scheme – Daily Express

More Union:

  • Brussels warns of souring relations with UK over Northern Ireland – FT
  • Only a fifth of English voters oppose Scottish independence, poll reveals – Daily Telegraph
  • Foster: ‘If the union is to succeed, we need to be a bigger tent’ – FT

Schools must act now to tackle spike in ‘abhorrent’ anti-Semitic incidents, Williamson says

“Schools must act now to counter a spike in “abhorrent” anti-Semitic incidents which has emerged as the Israel-Palestine conflict flared up, the Education Secretary has warned. In a letter to head teachers and school leaders, Gavin Williamson warned that in some schools an “atmosphere of intimidation or fear” was at risk of emerging. He said that both Jewish students and teachers had been targeted with anti-Semitic bullying, stressing such behaviour was a form of racism and had “no part” in British schools. In one part of Mr Williamson’s letter he demanded that schools not use materials from organisations which “publicly reject Israel’s right to exist”. In another he stressed that where older students were engaging in political activity they must do so “sensitively” and not in a way that disrupts the classroom.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Longer school hours won’t plug Covid learning gaps, says Cambridge academic – The Guardian
  • Children born in the summer are being ‘unfairly labelled’ as having special educational needs – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Why educational snobbery is good for society – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

Sadiq Khan costs taxpayers £10m in row over Thames tunnel contract

“Sadiq Khan has been forced to pay more than £10m of taxpayer cash to a consortium of builders to settle a long-running row over a flagship road tunnel under the Thames. Transport for London – chaired by Mr Khan, the city’s mayor – has struck a deal with the Silver Thames Connect group following accusations of a botched procurement process for the Silvertown Tunnel in east London. Sources said that TfL has agreed to pay more than £10m of public funds to the consortium, which includes the companies Hochtief, Dragados and Iridium Concesiones de Infraestructuras, after it launched a legal challenge when the contract was awarded to a rival. The revelations come as talks between Mr Khan and Whitehall go down to the wire over a fresh bailout for the capital’s transport authority.” – Daily Telegraph

  • TFL close to striking £1bn rescue deal with government – FT

News in Brief:

  • SNP’s worst-of-both-worlds plan to decriminalise drugs – Henry Hill, CapX
  • The myth of American mass shootings – Kat Rosenfield, UnHerd
  • The BBC cannot survive many more scandals – Stephen Daisley, The Spectator

Newslinks for Friday 28th May 2021

28 May

Covid-19 1) Hancock admits some patients with Covid were moved into care homes

“The UK health secretary has admitted that some hospital patients with Covid-19 were discharged into England’s care homes last year because of a lack of testing capacity, as he faced claims that he lied over the policy. Matt Hancock is under pressure after Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, claimed the health secretary had promised colleagues that patients being sent into care homes would be tested. Some 30,000 care home residents are thought to have died from the virus. Under repeated questioning at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday about whether he told the truth about care home testing, Hancock said: “My recollection of events is I committed to delivering that testing when we could do it. I then went away and built the testing capacity.”” – FT

  • He defends care home plan that ‘killed thousands’ – The Sun
  • Cummings ‘has document from last May showing the PM thought he had been misled by Hancock over care home testing’ – Daily Mail
  • What the hell has happened, Boris Johnson roared after learning of care home crisis – Daily Telegraph
  • Health Secretary’s care home ‘protective shield’ claim branded ‘absolute rubbish’ by expert – Daily Express

More:

  • Downing Street says bombshell claims don’t ‘bear any relation to reality’ – The Sun
  • Cummings unveils the whiteboard charts that Covid ‘heroes’ used to convince Johnson to lock down – Daily Mail
  • Covid bereaved demand public inquiry and end to ‘political pantomime’ – The Guardian
  • ‘Clearout’ means exit from Number 10 for Cummings ally Warner – The Times
  • Johnson ‘blocked’ letter to the press from Symonds about her dog – Daily Mail

>Yesterday:

ToryDiary: Cummings Reborn – as the champion of Parliament. He has given MPs more power, so leaving the inquiry with less.

Video: Johnson’s response to Cummings. Number Ten decided that he must say something. But he doesn’t want to say much.

Covid-19 2) Fraser Nelson: The crucial facts Cummings left out tell a very different story of lockdown

“Strategically, it’s inspired. Cummings has a mobile phone full of documents and quotes which he releases on social media to augment his great j’accuse. As he knows, No 10 does not want to fight back. But there’s another side to this story, one not told this week – and one that might not come out in full for months, or even years. It is far less striking. It doesn’t involve the manslaughter of thousands. Instead, it shows decisions being made not in a chaotic way – but following the best advice. And a prime minister always nervous about the absence of a good case presented for lockdown.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson is the master of chaos and confusion – James Forsyth, The Times

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Cummings is behaving like a woman or man scorned. But you can’t dismiss all that he says.

Covid-19 3) End of Covid restrictions on June 21 ‘is hanging in the balance’

“The country’s hopes of ending coronavirus restrictions next month hang in the balance as the Indian variant surges but the number of people in hospital remains flat. The faster-spreading strain is now dominant in England and responsible for up to three quarters of known coronavirus cases, official data shows. Boris Johnson said yesterday that people would need to “wait a little bit longer” to know whether life could return to normal next month. Health officials are pushing for as much time as possible to analyse conflicting data. Cases of the Indian variant have doubled in a week and official data from Public Health England suggested that it could be 67 per cent more transmissible than the Kent strain.” – The Times

  • Hancock warns ‘this isn’t over yet’ – The Sun
  • Average age of Covid infection falls to 29 after vaccine blitz – The Times

Covid-19 4) Football fans won’t have to social distance if vaccine passports get green light, says Gove

“Football stadiums could be packed to the rafters if vaccine passports get the green light, Michael Gove suggested today. The Cabinet Minister said Covid certificates would do away with social distancing in the stands and allow clubs to bring back maximum capacity. A decision on the controversial documents is expected to be made next month – with Mr Gove warning it is currently “finely balanced”. In recent weeks Boris Johnson appears to have cooled on the idea of rolling them out across the board. Following a furious backlash from landlords he has already ruled out needing them for the pub on June 21’s Freedom Day. But Mr Gove today paved the way for them to be used in tightly-crammed venues such as sports ground, nightclubs and music festivals.” – The Sun

  • No smartphone? You might need your passport to enter theatres or sports grounds – Daily Telegraph

HS2 will go to Leeds and may even arrive early, says Shapps

“The HS2 rail project will go all the way to Leeds and could arrive sooner than forecast, the government has said, scotching speculation that mounting costs would prevent from the full scheme proceeding. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, told an online event for the Policy Exchange think tank: “We are going to complete HS2 and include HS2 on the eastern leg to Leeds. And the only question that we have is how to better integrate that with plans which were developed a very long way since HS2 was first dreamt up all those decades ago, and that pertains to the Northern Powerhouse Rail.” The Oakervee review, commissioned by the government, warned last year that the final bill for HS2 could reach £106 billion, leading to concerns that the eastern leg of the project, which would run to Leeds, could be scrapped. Fears were compounded when the National Infrastructure Commission said in December that the focus should be on regional connectivity.” – The Times

  • Last stop for bus timetables under plans to boost services around UK – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The Government must deliver more homes, and they must be in the South

Expats to get lifetime general elections vote as 15-year limit abolished

“The Government is to scrap a 15-year limit on casting ballots from abroad and give UK expats lifetime rights to vote in general elections. The Elections Bill will remove the “arbitrary” rule which means those who have lived outside Britain for more than 15 years lose their right to vote in a general election. It will also include measures allowing overseas voters to stay on the register for longer. Ministers believe expats should have a say because decisions made by MPs on areas such as foreign policy, defence, immigration, pensions, and trade deals affect them wherever they live. It is thought the new rights will benefit up to three million overseas voters. It is understood ministers have also discussed whether there should be similar rights for expats in referenda – a move that could have a dramatic effect on any future independence referendum for Scotland because it would be likely to boost a “no” vote.” – Daily Telegraph

  • 35,000 Hongkongers apply to live in UK under visa scheme – The Times

>Today: Jihyun Park in Comment: Growing up in North Korea, I could have never imagined standing in the UK local elections. Here’s what I learnt.

Johnson orders rerun of search for Ofcom chair after Dacre rejected

Shield“Boris Johnson has ordered a rerun of the process to appoint a new Ofcom chair after an assessment panel unanimously rejected his favoured candidate Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail newspaper, according to people involved in the decision. The unorthodox intervention by the UK prime minister adds a further layer of controversy to an already highly contentious appointment process for the media watchdog, which is running more than six months late. Johnson told aides last summer that Dacre, a fierce critic of the BBC and online platforms, was his favoured candidate to chair the board of Ofcom, a regulator with a large and expanding remit over telecoms, media and the internet.” – FT

  • Rejection ‘lacks clarity’ – The Times

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Dowden must resist the SNP’s Eurovision power-grab – and force the BBC to up its game

Sunak stands by his Greensill texts with Cameron

“The Treasury has nothing to learn from the Greensill lobbying scandal, Rishi Sunak said yesterday as he defended his text messages with David Cameron. The chancellor told the Treasury select committee that he would not have changed his approach to the company and the former prime minister despite allegations that Cameron had preferential access to ministers and senior officials… The MPs questioned Sunak’s claim that he and the Treasury spent only “a very small amount of time” and he did not know Cameron “very well”. Mel Stride, the Tory chairman of the committee, said: “It just doesn’t seem credible if it was a former prime minister pushing something as vigorously as he did, at the very highest level.”” – The Times

  • UK aid cuts ‘directly hamper’ fight against HIV, warn politicians and Aids groups – FT

Roberts suspended from Commons for six weeks

“Sex pest MP Rob Roberts has been barred from the Commons for six weeks for harassing a member of staff – and is now facing calls to quit. The ex Tory member for Delyn in North Wales will be banned from Westminster until mid-July after breaching sexual misconduct rules. And senior minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said he should now do the “honourable” thing and resign altogether. MPs today overwhelmingly backed backed a motion calling for Mr Roberts’ temporary banishment. But there has been fury that he’s set to dodge being kicked out of his seat because of a loophole in recall laws. Mr Rees-Mogg fumed it’s “frankly ridiculous we have a higher sanction for somebody who uses a few envelopes incorrectly than for somebody who is involved in sexual misconduct”.” – The Sun

  • Rees-Mogg tells sex pest to quit as MP – The Times

>Yesterday: Robert Salisbury in Think Tanks: The machinery of government needs reform – or else the UK will find itself adrift in this new world

Galloway joins Batley and Spen byelection race

“George Galloway is to contest the upcoming Batley and Spen byelection in a move that could make it harder for Labour to hold the seat. After the party’s defeat to the Tories in the recent Hartlepool byelection, Labour had been regarded as facing a tough battle to hold Batley and Spen when voters go to the polls on 1 July. But the entry of Galloway, a former Labour MP who has edged the party out in previous battles for seats in Bradford West and Bethnal Green, presents a new challenge and potentially increases the chances of a Conservative win. In announcing on Thursday that he would stand, Galloway made it clear that his focus was on placing Labour’s leader under pressure. “I’m standing against Keir Starmer. If Keir Starmer loses this byelection it’s curtains for Keir Starmer,” he said in a video posted online.” – The Guardian

>Today: Emily Barley in Local Government: We achieved a breathrough in Rotherham by being unembarrassed about our strong Conservative values

Sturgeon warned pact to secure Indy vote a ‘disaster’ for Scotland’s Covid-ravaged economy

“Nicola Sturgeon has claimed tax hikes are not on the table amid growing fears that a pact with the Greens will prove a “disaster” for Scotland’s Covid-ravaged economy. The First Minister’s office insisted she would not deviate from her manifesto pledge to freeze rates and bands despite Green plans to hit hundreds of thousands of Scots with savage levies. It came as Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross warned her proposed co-operation deal with Patrick Harvie’s party risked economic doom. At the opening session of First Minister’s Questions of the new parliament, Mr Ross insisted the chief SNP must urgently “reset” her relationship with business leaders, who he said “don’t see anyone around the Scottish Government table who’s fighting their corner”.” – Daily Express

  • Greens want to pull plug on North Sea oil industry, First Minister is warned – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • A trade deal with Australia will enable Scotland to thrive – Andrew Bowie, Times Red Box

>Yesterday:

Poots says post-Brexit trade rules might remain until 2024

“The new leader of Northern Ireland’s most powerful political party has admitted that post-Brexit trading rules could stay in place until at least 2024 and ruled out toppling the region’s government in protest at the regime. Edwin Poots, who was ratified as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party after a three-hour meeting of the party’s executive on Thursday evening, swept to power promising to take a tougher stance on the Northern Ireland protocol than his ousted predecessor Arlene Foster. In a live-streamed address on Thursday night, he struck a softer tone, ruling out dramatic actions such as torpedoing the region’s government in protest at a regime that imposes high costs on businesses and strikes a blow to the heart of unionism by creating a customs border in the Irish Sea.” – FT

  • Foster libel costs TV doctor Christian Jessen £425,000 – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Cummings the ‘people person’ doesn’t see the real problem with government – Ryan Bourne, CapX
  • He is is writing history – Ed West, UnHerd
  • The questions Hancock still has to answer – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • An affront to justice – Joshua Rozenberg, The Critic

Newslinks for Thursday 27th May 2021

27 May

Cummings 1) “Absolutely f*cked”. Cummings says Johnson is unfit to be Prime Minister and caused thousands of unnecessary Covid deaths.

“Dominic Cummings has branded Boris Johnson unfit to be prime minister and accused him of being responsible for tens of thousands of needless deaths from coronavirus. The prime minister’s former senior adviser used a seven-hour session with MPs to savage Johnson and his government’s response to the pandemic, which he said fell “disastrously short” of what the public deserved. Cummings said that ministers were too slow to realise the danger of Covid and too willing to condemn thousands to death by refusing to challenge the assumption that the virus could not be stopped.” – The Times

  • Johnson believed initially that Covid was a scare story, and floated injecting himself with the virus on live TV. – Daily Telegraph
  • In the summer, he wanted to be the mayor of Jaws. “Now I’m going to be. Open everything up. Get on with it.” – Daily Mail
  • In the autumn, he was willing to see “bodies pile high” – The Sun
  • There was no proper border policy because the prime minister never wanted a proper border policy – The Guardian
  • Johnson was ‘distracted by his finance and divorce’ – FT
  • He veers about like a “shopping trolley…” – Daily Express
  • …and welcomes “chaos.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Cummings Reborn – as the champion of Parliament. He has given MPs more power, so leaving the inquiry with less.

Cummings 2) “Terrifyingly sh*t” He flays Ministers, the former Cabinet Secretary, senior civil servants, the Cabinet Office, advisers – and himself. We needed someone who could act “like a kind of dictator”

“The top aide, who left Government last year in a flurry of fury and briefings, said March last year was like an “out of control movie”… No10 was not on a war footing fast enough and “lots of key people were skiing in the middle of February”, he raged. Ministers didn’t realise the huge holes in their planning until it was too late, he claimed, and called the Cabinet office “terrifyingly s**t”… There was no plan for furlough or for shielding until the very last minute, he said, but dodged questions on whether ministers should face corporate manslaughter charges.” – The Sun

  • The then Cabinet Secretary wanted “chicken pox parties” to help Britain reach herd immunity – Daily Mail
  • McNamara’s early verdict: “we’re f*cked” – The Sun
  • The first lockdown came too late.- Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Starmer had a point on the Government’s amber travel list

Cummings 3) “Serial liar”. He targets Hancock – and says he “should have been fired for at least 15, 20 things”.

“Matt Hancock will today hit back at Dominic Cummings’ vicious attacks on his pandemic record including allegations he lied repeatedly, failed care home residents and should have been ‘sacked daily’ for ‘criminal, disgraceful behaviour’. The Health Secretary will give a statement in the Commons later after he and Boris Johnson’s were accused of ‘disastrous’ handling of the pandemic that had cost tens of thousands of lives. He will then face the media at a Downing Street press briefing as he tries to brazen out the storm… Mr Hancock insisted last night that he was focused on the vaccination drive, but a source called it a ‘character assassination’ that was ‘not backed by evidence’.” – Daily Mail

  • Health Secretary’s 10,000 corona tests a day pledge was “criminal, disgraceful behavior” – Daily Express
  • He “falsely claimed that patients were being tested for coronavirus before being discharged from hospital”… – The Times
  • …and sought to blame other for PPE failures – Daily Mail
  • Sedwill told Johnson that he had “lost confidence” in Hancock’s honesty and advised that he should be sacked.- The Guardian
  • The Health Secretary will defend himself today – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Video: Cummings – Hancock ‘should have been fired for at least 15, 20 things, including lying to everybody’

Cummings 4) But he praises Sunak, plus Vallance, Whitty, Bingham, Raab and some officials.

“Dominic Cummings today fuelled rumours he wants Rishi Sunak to become prime minister after claiming the Chancellor was ‘supportive’ of his drive to lock-down the country in March last year – while launching blistering attacks on Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock’s early handling of the pandemic. In his epic seven-hour evidence session with MPs, the ex-No10 adviser said Mr Sunak did not try to block the first shutdown despite ‘powerful voices’ in the Treasury warning against the dangers of restrictions on the economy. He rubbished reports in September that a circuit-breaker lockdown was delayed over fears Mr Sunak would resign, calling them ‘100 per cent’ false and telling the Commons committee: ‘The Chancellor never threatened to quit.'” – Daily Mail

  • He also says that Gove had little control of events – The Times

Cummings 5) He claims Symonds tried to appoint her friends to jobs in ways that were “completely unethical and clearly illegal”

“Carrie Symonds, the prime minister’s fiancée, has been accused of attempting to make an “illegal” intervention in the No 10 hiring process by appointing her friends to key roles. Dominic Cummings said during yesterday’s hearing that his resignation last autumn stemmed partly from Symonds’s interference. He alleged that she had acted illegally by trying to install friends and allies, including the government spokeswoman Allegra Stratton, to influential roles around Boris Johnson. A government source said that claims of illegal interference were wrong and Johnson had full responsibility for choosing his team.” – The Times

  • The Prime Minister’s fiancee was obsessed by claims that he and she were planning to rid Downing Street of Dilyn the dog – Daily Express

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Gimson’s Commons sketch: Johnson’s former adviser gives us politics as a disaster movie

Cummings 6) And he shifts his ground on Barnard Castle. He says that he told the truth…but not the whole truth.

“Dominic Cummings has admitted he did not tell the whole truth over his lockdown journeys to Durham, apologised for his handling of the “debacle”, and said he now wishes he had never gone to Barnard Castle. In evidence to MPs on Wednesday, the prime minister’s former chief aide said his account of the trips given in the No 10 rose garden a year ago had failed to disclose fully a plan to move his family out of their London home for security reasons, with Boris Johnson’s agreement. Cummings said he and Johnson had initially agreed to “stonewall” questions from the media when the Guardian and Daily Mirror revealed the Durham journeys. But after days of pressure, Johnson told him “this line won’t hold”, and he would have to give a press conference, Cummings told MPs.” – The Guardian

  • Inconsistencies in his story? – Daily Telegraph
  • He is a  “disingenuous little f**ker.” – Twitter
  • What will be in Cummings’ What’sApps and texts? – The Sun

Robert Shrimsley: Testimony exposes dangers of a lightweight leader and a dysfunctional system

“There are two ways to view what Westminster has enjoyed calling “Domaggedon”, the appearance of the prime minister’s estranged and vengeful former chief adviser at a parliamentary inquiry into the handling of the pandemic. Inside the political bubble that Cummings affects to despise and yet whose admiration he appears to covet, his words were viewed through their likely impact on Boris Johnson… But to focus on the immediate consequences for Johnson is to succumb to the political theatre and miss the fundamentals. For all the hours of testimony, Cummings’ key words were his very first, his admission that the government “failed” when the public needed it most, that it “fell disastrously short”. In his estimate this meant “tens of thousands” died unnecessarily.” – FT

  • Covid could yet destroy Johnson, but not in the way Cummings expects – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

Sketches:

  • Bullet after vengeful bullet… but the Boris Boom will leave Cummings baying at the wind – Andrew Neil, Daily Mail
  • Lessons? Pah! We were here for revenge – Quentin Letts, The Times
  • A comprehensive bloodletting, complete with Jaws references – Madeline Grant, Daily Telegraph
  • With a glimpse of Hasselhoff chest rug, he let fly his fireballs – Henry Deedes, Daily Mail

Tory pressure mounts for cross-border carbon levy

“Boris Johnson is coming under pressure from senior Conservatives, including his own father, to introduce a UK carbon border tax to protect British industry from cheap competition from polluting countries. Rishi Sunak, chancellor, has ordered work to be done on the tax, a levy on carbon emissions attributed to imported goods that are not carbon-taxed at source… Liam Fox, former UK international trade secretary, will on Thursday urge Johnson to lead a global debate on carbon border taxation ahead of the UN COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow in November. “We must use the opportunity not simply to chair but to lead,” Fox will say in a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies, a centre-right think-tank.” – FT

Close ‘preposterous loophole’ that allows disgraced MP to avoid by-election, says Government

“A loophole which prevents constituents of disgraced MP Rob Roberts from forcing a by-election should be closed, the Government has said. The Delyn MP faces being suspended from the Commons for six weeks after breaching sexual misconduct rules by making repeated unwanted advances to a member of staff. He has been stripped of the Tory whip, but the way recall laws are drawn up means he cannot face the prospect of losing his seat. The sanction was proposed by the panel set up in 2020 to deal with cases raised under the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme. But the Recall of Parliament Act was passed in 2015, and only allows the prospect of a by-election for sanctions imposed on the recommendation of the Commons Committee on Standards.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister ‘rejects new sanctions for suspended Tory sex pest’ – The Times

Europe and Britain to slap ‘rogue state’ Belarus with new sanctions and shut off air space

“European nations nations followed in the footsteps of Britain last night and slapped rogue state Belarus with sanctions over its hijacking of a Ryanair flight. Furious EU leaders leaders announced they’ll ban the country’s airlines from flying over the continent’s airspace and from using any of its airports. They demanded the release of blogger Roman Protasevich – a fierce opponent of dictator Alexander Lukashenko – and his Russian girlfriend Sofia Sapega. The pair were hauled off a flight on Sunday after it was ordered under threat of being shot down to divert to Minsk airport over a bogus “bomb scare”.” – The Sun

>Today: Garvan Walshe’s column: Lukashenko’s air piracy. By way of western response, sanctions are only a start. Here’s what we need to do next.

News in Brief:

  • The families of the Covid dead say: listening to Cummings’ evidence was “painful and bleak” – Politics Home
  • Cummings rails against Hancock, Johnson, and the failed British state – John Ashmore, CapX
  • How will history judge Boris? – Ed West, UnHerd
  • The Covid lab leak theory is looking increasingly plausible – Matt Ridley, The Spectator

Newslinks for Wednesday 26th May 2021

26 May

Coronavirus 1) Vaccines hit new high as all over-30s offered jabs

“Britain is heading for two “big” weeks of vaccination, boosting hopes that immunisation can stay ahead of the Indian variant and allow restrictions to end next month. Vaccination rates are approaching all-time highs and the coming weeks will bring record-breaking numbers as jabs are opened up today to everyone aged over 30. More than four million doses have been given in a week for the first time since March and ministers hope that the number will rise to more than 4.5 million, adding to optimism that restrictions can end as planned. Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said that he was “cautiously optimistic that we are in a good place” to open up completely on June 21, with increasing evidence that two vaccine doses protect against B.1.617.2, the Indian variant.” – The Times

  • France on track to end mask-wearing as Covid recedes – The Times
  • India, world’s largest jab maker, has to ask overseas for vaccines – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Downing Street explored over-55s isolation plan to avoid second lockdown

“Boris Johnson was so keen to avoid a second Covid-19 lockdown in England last summer that senior officials were ordered to draw up plans for all over-55s to self-isolate. The policy, which would have meant much of the economy could have stayed open, was formally known as “segmentation” and worked on at the highest level. A proposal was presented to the prime minister as he tried to avoid locking down the country when infection rates started to rise, according to two people briefed on internal discussions. The scheme, which would in some cases have meant dividing families in homes where children were living with grandparents or older parents, was rejected as unworkable by scientific advisers. However, it gained traction in Downing Street last summer.” – FT

Comment:

Coronavirus 3) Government’s plan for new local lockdowns ‘unravels’

“Ministers have been forced into retreat over “local lockdowns” after councils threatened to defy the rules. The Government on Tuesday night changed its advice to tackle outbreaks of the Indian variant of Covid within less than 24 hours of a row erupting over the policy, which critics said had descended into “farce”. The original guidance urged 1.7 million people in eight parts of England to restrict their travel in and out of their area and to socialise outdoors instead of indoors where possible. Ministers failed to pass on the new advice to local health and council leaders, who then told residents they did not have to follow the guidelines. The Government said on Tuesday it would “update” the guidance, insisting it was up to individuals whether to follow it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Williamson ‘failed children with lack of pandemic plan’, damning report from MPs says – The Times

Political sketch:

  • Oops! This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into, ministers: Henry Deedes watches the Government’s local lockdowns U-turn – Daily Mail
  • Grumpy Tories smell mutiny during dictator Hancock’s island jaunt, Quentin Letts – The Times

Cummings 1) ‘Johnson said Covid only kills 80-year-olds’

“Dominic Cummings is today expected to accuse Boris Johnson of claiming that “Covid is only killing 80-year-olds” as he resisted a push to impose a second lockdown. The prime minister’s former senior adviser will use an appearance before MPs to criticise Johnson for delaying the second lockdown last year despite increasing numbers of coronavirus cases. Cummings will argue that the delay in implementing the lockdown in September, along with other government failings, ultimately cost thousands of lives. ITV News reported that Johnson made the comments during a period of intense debate in government in September, when Cummings and scientific advisers were pushing for a “circuit-breaker” lockdown. The prime minister told colleagues the economic damage wrought by a second lockdown would outweigh the public health benefits.” – The Times

  • PM ‘wanted to be infected with Covid on live TV, called virus Kung-Flu and was slow to act because he was on holiday with Carrie’: Just some of the grenades Dominic Cummings will lob at Johnson tomorrow in explosive evidence to MPs – Daily Mail

Comment:

Analysis:

  • Will attacks by Cummings leave Johnson damaged? – The Times
  • What to expect when Dominic Cummings gives evidence to MPs – The Guardian

Cummings 2) ‘Easy to be Professor Hindsight,’ says Shapps

“Cabinet minister has defended the government ahead of Dominic Cummings’ blockbuster committee appearance saying “it’s easy to be the Professor of Hindsight”. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps dismissed Mr Cummings’ appearance before MPs as a “sideshow” and suggested he “has his own agenda”. Mr Shapps made the comments two hours before Mr Cummings is expected to use his evidence session with MPs to hit out at Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic. Mr Shapps said he would leave it to others to determine “how reliable a witness” Mr Cummings is. He told Sky News: “We were making decisions under [an] unprecedented situation. There’s no rule book. There’s no sort of text book to open to see how to deal with the pandemic. The last time the world faced something like this was 100 years ago with the Spanish flu.” He said “of course” mistakes were made but added: “It’s easy to be the Professor of Hindsight and look back on these things.”” – Evening Standard

Tories must banish Islamophobia from party, says Javid…

“Sajid Javid has urged the Conservatives to get their “house in order” on Islamophobia as he reveals that he was blocked from standing in a safe Tory seat on the basis that its constituents wouldn’t vote for a Muslim MP. In a piece for The Times the former chancellor called on his party to implement the recommendations of an independent report into Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination “without delay” and “set an example” for others to follow. The inquiry, led by Swaran Singh, a former equality and human rights commissioner, found that anti-Muslim sentiment “remains a problem” in the Conservative Party. Javid, who called for the review to take place two years ago, says he was once told by the chairman of a Tory association he could not stand in that constituency because “some members didn’t think locals would vote for a Muslim”.” – The Times

… as he writes: “Following society is not enough: Tories have to lead Britain against racism”

“Becoming a Conservative candidate is difficult at the best of times. Aspiring MPs must deliver speeches, write essays and survive being cross-examined by their future colleagues. Those who succeed are allowed to attempt the final stage: auditioning at a local Conservative association. Associations are notoriously unpredictable, with applicants often rejected for their politics or personality. This is to be expected. What I didn’t expect was to be rejected by one association because, as its chairman later explained, “some members didn’t think locals would vote for a Muslim to be their MP”. It’s a testament to how far we’ve come as a party that less than a decade later Saqib Bhatti, the former leader of Muslims for Britain, was selected over the former No 10 chief of staff Nick Timothy to represent a strikingly similar constituency.” – The Times

More comment:

Johnson warned plans to punish homeowners who fail to buy costly green boilers could spark riots

“BORIS Johnson has been warned that potty plans to punish homeowners who fail to buy costly green boilers could spark riots. No 10 yesterday scrambled to defuse fears of huge fines for those not switching to eco alternatives such as heat pumps. But it refused to rule out possible stealth taxes and gas price rises. Some Tory MPs say the Government is being dishonest about the reality of its aim to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050. Proposals would see gas boilers banned in new-builds by 2025 and stripped out of other homes by 2035. Alternatives cost upwards of £10,000 to install and hundreds a year to maintain. Critics say they do not work as well as gas heating. But ministers are also looking at switching subsidies on gas to electric to make it costlier to keep gas boilers.” – The Sun

  • Used electric car saves you £5,600 on petrol equivalent – The Times

Comment:

  • The ‘Net Zero’ boiler ban will leave Britain’s poorest out in the cold, Steve Baker – The Sun
  • It is suicidal for Tories to bludgeon us into complying with Net Zero pledges – The Sun

England’s NHS plans to share patient records with third parties

“England’s NHS is preparing to scrape the medical histories of 55m patients, including sensitive information regarding mental and sexual health, criminal records and the abuse of adults and children, into a database it will share with third parties. The data collection project, which is the first of its kind, has caused an uproar among privacy campaigners, who say it is “legally problematic”, especially as patients only have a few weeks to opt out of the plan. NHS Digital, which runs the health service’s IT systems, confirmed the plan to pool together medical records from every patient in England who is registered with a GP clinic into a single lake that will be available to academic and commercial third parties for research and planning purposes.” – FT

Spy team to advise universities on national security threats

Flexible working will help levelling up, Truss argues

“Flexible working should “become the norm” because it allows people based outside metropolitan areas to take up senior jobs, a cabinet minister has said. Liz Truss, the equalities minister and international trade secretary, said the expansion of remote working would promote the government’s levelling-up agenda by helping both women and people in places such as Stoke-on-Trent and Darlington have better careers. “The government policy works best where you have a universal solution that helps particular groups, and I’ve highlighted flexible working as a key one,” Truss told MPs. “Flexible working doesn’t just help women, it helps people who don’t live in major metropolitan areas . . . It’s about bringing opportunity to those areas.” Truss told the women and equalities committee that the government wanted to see more senior jobs in business and the civil service made available to people living outside big cities.” – The Times

>Today:

Ucas to drive more teenagers towards apprenticeships

“Sixth-formers will find it easier to apply for leading apprenticeships after the universities admissions service pledged to tackle the “outdated stigma” about vocational qualifications. The head of Ucas said that “misplaced snobbery” was deterring teenagers from considering apprenticeships. In a report to be published tomorrow, the service says that half of school-leavers thinking of starting higher education next year were also interested in apprenticeships. However, it says that options are blocked by a lack of information about the qualifications offered by employers such as Rolls-Royce, KPMG, the BBC, Lloyds and the NHS. Clare Marchant, the Ucas chief executive, said: “More needs to be done to shake off the outdated stigma or misplaced snobbery associated with apprenticeships, given they are a great start to any career.”” – The Times

Roberts has whip removed over sexual harassment breach

“A Conservative MP who has been stripped of the whip and suspended from the Commons for six weeks over unwanted sexual advances will not face a by-election because of obscure process rules. The Independent Expert Panel (IEP) found that Rob Roberts, the MP for Delyn in North Wales, made repeated and unwanted advances towards a member of his staff, although the MP insisted his actions were “romantic” rather than sexual. He has apologised and said the “breach of trust” was “completely improper and should not have happened”. Sir Stephen Irwin, chairman of the IEP, said Mr Roberts misconduct was “significant”. He said: “Our conclusion is that the determination of six weeks’ suspension from the service of the House was proper and proportionate.”” – Daily Telegraph

Britain’s youngest MP to take time off with post-traumatic stress disorder

“Britain’s youngest MP has been signed off work for several weeks on the advice of her doctor after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Nadia Whittome, 23, who has represented Nottingham East in the Commons since 2019, said she had been “battling some persistent health issues” for several months, and that while she had “been attempting to manage them” alongside her duties as a politician, it had recently “become clear that this is not feasible”. The Labour backbencher said that despite one in four people experiencing a mental health problem each year, “there is still a great deal of shame and stigma”. She said she hoped that by “being open about my own mental health”, others would “feel able to talk about theirs”. The decision was “incredibly difficult” to make, Whittome admitted, but she said her constituents could continue to contact the “fantastic staff” working in her office as normal.” – The Guardian

Nick Clegg bids to derail Paul Dacre’s campaign to chair Ofcom

“Sir Nick Clegg has reignited hostilities with Paul Dacre by attacking the former Daily Mail editor’s bid to become chairman of the media watchdog Ofcom. The former Liberal Democrat leader, now head of Facebook’s international political operation, has joined forces with Google to persuade ministers against appointing Mr Dacre, who has called for tech giants to be broken up. The companies are understood to have lobbied against giving the job to the 72-year-old Fleet Street veteran, who has privately signalled his determination to spearhead the successful implementation of new online harms laws. These aim to hold Google and Facebook to account for child sexual abuse images, terrorist material and suicide content carried on their services. Ofcom currently regulates telecoms, broadcasting and the postal services, but its remit is being broadened to include the internet.” – Daily Telegraph

Johnson threatens tougher sentences for dog theft

“Dog thieves and owners who abandon their pets when they return to the office after the pandemic could face tougher sentences under plans being considered by the government. Dognapping, which soared during lockdown, could be prosecuted under animal welfare laws instead of the Theft Act 1968. Ministers believe this will ensure that the emotional attachment between owners and their pets is considered in more cases. Boris Johnson, who owns a white Jack Russell cross called Dilyn, has said that dog theft can “cause huge pain and grief to the victims”. There are fears that the return to normality will lead to a sharp rise in the number of abandoned pets. Evidence from America bears this out. The remit of the government’s pet theft task force has been widened to crack down on owners who abandon animals.” – The Times

News in brief:

Newslinks for Tuesday 25th May 2021

25 May

Don’t fly over Belarus after ‘hijacking’, Raab tells UK airlines

“Dominic Raab ordered British airlines last night not to fly over Belarus as he condemned Minsk’s “outlandish” operation to arrest a dissident by forcing a Ryanair plane to land on the pretext of a bomb threat. The foreign secretary said that Britain was also revoking the Belarusian national carrier’s licence to operate in the UK over what Michael O’Leary, the Ryanair chief executive, called a “state-sponsored hijacking” on Sunday. The opposition journalist Roman Protasevich was arrested after Belarusian authorities ordered the flight from Athens to Vilnius, Lithuania, to divert to Minsk, scrambling a fighter jet to force it down and claiming that a bomb might be on board. Protasevich’s Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, was also arrested and up to five passengers, thought to be Belarusian secret service members, disembarked.” – The Times

  • EU agrees sanctions on Minsk for forcing down flight – FT
  • Journalist appears on state TV ‘with a broken nose’ to ‘confess’ to crimes – Daily Mail
  • ‘Europe’s last dictator’ fighting to keep his grip on Belarus – The Times

Patel vows new border crackdown with tough controls to ‘slam the door on dangerous criminals’

“Priti Patel this morning vowed to “slam the door on dangerous criminals” with a fierce border crackdown. The Home Secretary announced sweeping plans for a “fully digital border” by 2025 to make it easier to weed out convicts. She also pledged to fix the UK’s “broken” immigration system – and took aim at migrants who “abuse our hospitality and generous spirit”… Ms Patel promised to pursue “digital by default” strategy so the Government can count the amount of people coming to Britain. Arrivals without a visa will be forced to apply for a US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) so their criminal record can be checked. But Ms Patel also said the e-border would make it easier for talented internationals to immigrate here under the post-Brexit points-based system.” – The Sun

  • Immigration protesters protecting ‘murderers and rapists’, says Home Secretary – FT

More:

  • Patel accused of ‘cover-up’ over Daniel Morgan investigation – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: When the police take the knee, the mob takes the streets

‘Hypocrite’ Cummings accused of trying to rewrite the past over Covid response

“Dominic Cummings is attempting to “rewrite history” and is a “rank hypocrite”, a government source has said ahead of his appearance before MPs tomorrow. Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser will criticise the prime minister for repeatedly delaying lockdowns and accuse the government of initially pursuing a policy of herd immunity. He is expected to claim that by failing to get a grip on the crisis Johnson and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, cost thousands of lives. A government source yesterday sought to defend Johnson’s record against criticism that the government had failed to do enough to prepare for the impacts of the coronavirus. Cummings has described the government’s contingency planning for virus epidemics as “part disaster, part non-existent” and criticised the fact that it considered only the threat of flu.” – The Times

  • He blasts ministers for not ‘understanding’ chilling effect of herd immunity – The Sun
  • Cummings to be challenged as source of ‘let the bodies pile high’ claims – Daily Telegraph
  • The curious tale about Johnson and the Shakespeare biography – FT

More:

  • Tories sense ‘shapeshifter’ Gove and Cummings are stalking No 10 – Daily Telegraph
  • Weddings, social distancing and masks update delayed – The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Cummings’ revenge tragedy

Wallace ‘regrets’ withdrawal from Afghanistan without setting conditions on Taliban

“Britain was against Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan without setting conditions for the Taliban, the Defence Secretary has admitted. It comes as British troops are preparing to leave Afghanistan by September 11, in line with the date set by the American president. However, Ben Wallace told MPs that it was “a regret for most of the Nato allies” that the United States had not made the withdrawal agreement  “conditions based” for the Taliban. He said:  “We thought that was important, however, a lot of people have lost their lives in that conflict and sacrificed a lot. It is not my intention that that is for nothing.” Last month, General Sir Nick Carter revealed the decision to pull out all US troops was “not the decision” the UK wanted.” – Daily Telegraph

MPs slam BBC over Bashir scandal

“Angry MPs battered the BBC yesterday over the Martin Bashir scandal, with one boasting of ripping up his TV licence. The barrage of criticism came as desperate bosses at the Beeb launched an internal probe into the fiasco. Tory Lee Anderson was among those lashing out in the Commons. A hard-hitting report by Lord Dyson last week found that Bashir lied and forged documents to win his 1995 Princess Diana interview. BBC bosses then spent years covering up the truth. Mr Anderson, MP for Red Wall seat Ashfield in Notts, called for the BBC to lose its funding and warned that the Corporation had lost touch with viewers… Ex-Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said police should consider prosecuting Bashir and his BBC bosses for fraud.” – The Sun

  • Corporation ‘badly tarnished’ by cover-up, says Whittingdale – The Times
  • Government will not ‘rush into any changes’ – The Guardian
  • BBC to investigate broadcaster’s culture and editorial practices – FT

More:

  • Truss: British entries to Eurovision should be picked in public talent show – The Sun

>Today: Ryan Bourne’s column: GB News will offer viewers a new choice – within the rules. Which is precisely why the left fears it.

William Hague: A strong institution doesn’t evade scrutiny

“And here we have broadcasters under a responsibility to provide balance, with public service broadcasters who have a duty, in the classic definition of Lord Reith, to “inform, educate and entertain”. Last week, 120 distinguished figures wrote to the culture secretary with a good argument that this system, with its “independence from government and commitment to impartiality”, needs building up. Not many hours later, however, came the devastating findings of the Dyson inquiry, a long story of repeated deceit, subsequent cover-up and long-term failure to mount effective questioning and challenge internally. In the same way that a political party, like the US Republicans today, can possess many smart people, pursue good ideas and enjoy popularity but still be a failing institution, so can a broadcaster.” – The Times

UK accuses minority Norwegian party of ‘undermining’ trade negotiations

“Liz Truss and her International Trade team are keen to secure an “ambitious and comprehensive” free trade agreement as they look at building opportunities for a post-Brexit Britain. The EEA nation exported goods worth 181 billion Norwegian crowns (£15.5billion) last year to the UK with oil and gas making up the majority of exports. Norway wants to continue enjoying zero tariffs on all industrial goods exported to Britain but wants fully free trade in seafood. However, the Christian Democrats threatened to block any agreed trade deal due to fears many farmers in the country were out of business due to fears of being outcompeted by British counterparts. The Christian Democrats are one of three parties in Norway’s current coalition government led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg.” – Daily Express

  • Blame Brexit for Northern Irish tensions, says Von der Leyen – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Alexander Downer in Comment: A trade deal with Australia is just the first step. It could open the door for Britain to the Asia-Pacific trading club

Students face bigger loan repayments to aid public finances

“Student tuition loan repayments could rise or be extended under plans that are being considered by the Treasury. Measures to reduce the government’s exposure to unpaid student loans could include lowering the income threshold at which graduates begin to repay their student debts, which is at present set at £27,295 a year, and extending the repayment window past the present 30 years. As many as three quarters of student loans will never be repaid in full. Universities are also understood to be nervous before the autumn spending review, which is due to be published within two months. One option to help the government’s books is to cut tuition fees, as recommended two years ago by the Augar review, which suggested that they be reduced to £7,500 a year.” – The Times

>Today: Nick King in Comment: Levelling up. The challenge is less defining it than delivering it, for which Johnson will need the private sector.

>Yesterday: Peter Aldous MP in Comment: To bounce back from the pandemic, we need immediate action on ‘lost learning’

Chesham and Amersham byelection will be test of Tory retreat in south, say Lib Dems

“The Liberal Democrats aim to use next month’s Chesham and Amersham byelection to test the extent of disillusionment with the Conservatives in southern commuter belt seats, Ed Davey has said – even if victory is still seen as a long shot. While there has been much focus about Tory gains in former Labour heartlands, this month’s local elections highlighted an apparent retreat for the party in more prosperous areas in the south of England and around London. On 17 June, voters in Chesham and Amersham will select a new MP to replace Cheryl Gillan, who died in April, in a Buckinghamshire constituency which has never seen the Conservatives win less than 50% support since it was created in 1974. Nonetheless there “definitely could be a shock”, the Lib Dem leader told the Guardian.” – The Guardian

  • Rural areas face threat of 400,000 new homes – The Times

>Yesterday:

News in Brief:

  • Is the BBC really the people’s public service broadcaster? – Alys Denby, CapX
  • Why Lukashenko keeps getting away with it – Tim Ogden, The Spectator
  • Cummings can’t read the room – Tom Chivers, UnHerd
  • The problems with Labour mythology – Anthony Broxton, The Critic

Newslinks for Monday 24th May 2021

24 May

BBC scandal 1) Dowden calls for changes…

“The culture secretary today accuses the BBC of having a “we know best attitude” in the wake of the Martin Bashir scandal, and says that the corporation must change to represent all of Britain. Oliver Dowden says that the BBC is guilty of “groupthink” and needs to “project British values” if it is to survive competition from the streaming giants Netflix and Amazon. Writing in The Times, he calls for deep change to ensure that it stays in tune with “all parts of the nation it serves”, saying that the scandal has “exposed failures that strike at the heart of our national broadcaster’s values and culture”. In his first full comments on how the report into Panorama’s interview in 1995 with Diana, Princess of Wales will affect the long-term future of the organisation, Dowden writes that the government will not “stand idly by”.” – The Times

  • MPs set to quiz BBC bosses over Bashir row – Daily Telegraph
  • Bashir’s ex-employers urged to look into other celebrity scoops – The Times

BBC scandal 2) … as he writes: the “BBC needs to a shine a light on its failings”

“Lord Dyson’s thorough investigation has exposed failures that strike at the heart of our national broadcaster’s values and culture. Long-serving employees of the BBC — people who have worked there their entire lives — have described the shame they feel about the revelations. The BBC must act quickly to restore trust and reassure the country that it will shine a light on any other areas falling short of the high standards we rightly expect from it. The new leadership deserves credit for having set up an independent investigation and accepting Lord Dyson’s findings in full and I expect them to act swiftly on all his recommendations.” – The Times

More comment:

Gove backs report on shaking up Whitehall mandarins

“Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, has backed the findings of a new report advocating broad-ranging reform of the UK’s civil service, with a focus on wider recruitment and more accountability for senior officials. The Johnson government is planning a shake up of Whitehall in the wake of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic, and a white paper on civil service reform is expected to set out plans to reform the permanent structures of the state. Government Reimagined, published on Monday by the influential think-tank Policy Exchange, sets out 10 criteria for improving the civil service with faster adoption of technology and recruitment of officials from “a wide range of backgrounds, life experiences and perspectives.” The report states that greater emphasis should be put on performance rather than seniority, with pay rewards for those who develop professional qualifications. Its findings were endorsed by Gove, who is leading the Whitehall reform agenda.” – FT

Coronavirus 1) Government’s response was a ‘bodged plan B amid utter chaos’, Cummings says

“Boris Johnson was forced into a “bodged” Covid plan because the government did not realise its initial strategy would cost hundreds of thousands of lives and lead to an economic disaster, Dominic Cummings has claimed. The prime minister’s former chief adviser claimed in a series of posts on Twitter over the weekend that the government’s initial pandemic goal was to achieve herd immunity by last September. He said today that the “whole ‘flatten the curve’ plan A was to get herd immunity by summer & avoid 2nd peak during annual NHS winter crisis”. But he claimed that in the week of March 9 last year it became clear that Matt Hancock, the health secretary, and the Cabinet Office, did not understand “herd immunity effects: 100s of 1,000s choking to death + no NHS for *anybody* for months + dead unburied + econ implosion; so we moved to Plan B: suppression + Manhattan Project for drugs/vaccines + test&trace etc”.” – The Times

Analysis:

  • Cummings’ damning accusations stand up to scrutiny? – The Times

Comment:

Coronavirus 2) Confidence growing over June 21 all-clear

“Coronavirus restrictions are almost certain to be lifted next month with signs that the growth in the Indian variant may be levelling off, according to a health expert. Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said yesterday that she was “increasingly confident” that the vaccines would work well against the variant. Public Health England has estimated that the strain may already account for most cases across the country but that two doses of vaccine offer similar levels of protection against it as against the Kent variant. A single dose appears, however, to offer less protection against catching it than the Kent strain. Boris Johnson is confident that all social distancing can end as planned on June 21 and is hoping that data on hospital admissions in variant hotspots will confirm early this week that the strain does not risk overwhelming the NHS.” – The Times

  • Covid jabs for under-30s ‘by the end of the week’ – Daily Mail
  • Labour calls for more Covid travel controls – The Times
  • Anthony Fauci calls for inquiry into Wuhan laboratory’s Covid role – The Times
  • Covid in India: Modi has betrayed us, say doctors – The Times
  • Patients wait three years for NHS dentist – The Times
  • Cancer crisis ‘replacing Covid emergency’ as 300,000 miss urgent checks – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

Patel 1) Home Secretary unveils ‘radical plan’ to stop illegal immigration

“Only a radical overhaul of the immigration system that “slams the door on dangerous criminals” will meet the demands of the British people, Priti Patel will say today. The home secretary will promise to deliver a “wholesale reform” of immigration rules and border controls. She will pledge to create “the world’s most effective border system” by implementing a “fully digital border” by 2025. All visitors to the UK will have to pay about £9 for a US-style electronic travel authorisation (ETA) to ensure that the authorities can carry out security and criminal checks before they arrive. The digital revolution of borders will enable the government to count the number of people entering and leaving the country. A new policy statement will outline plans to simplify the application process for work visas for migrants and employers. It will set out details of how the government will simplify more than 500 pages of immigration rules.” – The Times

  • Patel ‘considers appointing senior QC or retired judge to oversee fresh probe into Scotland Yard’s disastrous VIP paedophile inquiry – Daily Mail

Patel 2) Facebook could be hit with fines if MI5 is denied access to secret messages

“Facebook could be fined if British spies are denied access to messages on the tech giant’s apps, it emerged yesterday. Priti Patel warned that the social media firm was operating in ‘dangerous territory’ and risking public safety with its plans for stronger encryption. With ‘end-to-end encryption’, messages on Facebook Messenger and Instagram would only be visible to the sender and receiver. The Home Secretary is concerned the move could block hundreds of counter-terrorism investigations, and prevent police intercepting other crimes including child sexual exploitation.  The Security Service and the police want Facebook to be able to see users’ content and share it with authorities if necessary. Miss Patel told Times Radio yesterday: ‘We’ll bring changes, we will legislate [and] we will absolutely fine companies because this is a dangerous territory for Facebook to be operating in.’” – Daily Mail

Johnson and Symonds ‘will celebrate their wedding’ next summer

“Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds will “celebrate their wedding” next summer, The Sun can reveal. The Prime Minister, 56, and his fiancée, 33, have sent save-the-date cards to family and friends for a lavish bash on Saturday, July 30, 2022. The couple got engaged in late 2019 but, like thousands of other loved-up Brits, have had to delay plans because of Covid. Details of exactly where the couple will say “I do” remain a closely guarded secret, but pals say they are waiting until next year for a big celebration to be on the safe side. BoJo is expected to announce that the lockdown cap of 30 guests at weddings will be lifted next month. However, friends of the couple say the fight against the virus, and getting the country bouncing back from the pandemic, means this summer is too soon for their big knees-up. Early contenders as a location for the party include the PM’s country pile Chequers in Buckinghamshire, or the Port Lympne safari park in Kent, where Carrie works.” – The Sun

Prince William charms the Scots on royal tour to ‘shore up’ Union

“The Duke of Cambridge has continued his charm offensive in Scotland during a week-long tour that is being seen as an opportunity to “shore up the Union”. Prince William visited a care home yesterday where a 96-year-old resident asked him to give her a kiss. Betty Magee, 96, a great-grandmother, ex-servicewoman and resident of Queen’s Bay Lodge in Edinburgh, told him: “It’s customary in these parts to give a lady a kiss on the cheek.” He replied: “Oh you are sweet. You’ll make me blush.” Magee persisted, asking him to give her a peck as William laughed and covered his face in mock embarrassment. “When the rules relax more I will come back and give you a kiss on the cheek, Betty,” he said, before quipping: “Is there whisky in your tea?”” – The Times

  • SNP official tells Europe ‘Scotland hates the UK too’ after Eurovision entry flops – Daily Telegraph

Troubles cases to last years, Northern Ireland veterans told

“Hundreds of veterans who served in Northern Ireland face the threat of prosecution for incidents during the Troubles as investigators wade through case files from the Ministry of Defence. Figures released by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) show that detectives have a caseload of 1,419 deaths, of which 289, more than 20 per cent, involved the military. Only 9 per cent of deaths have been attributed to the military during the Troubles. The figures will fuel concerns that the investigations will focus disproportionately on the armed forces. The cases will continue to be investigated — and potentially lead to prosecutions — until the government puts forward legislation to stop them.” – The Times

Equalities watchdog pulls out of Stonewall diversity scheme amid row over transgender activism

“The equalities watchdog has pulled out of a Stonewall diversity scheme amid a row over transgender activism. The Equality and Human Rights Commission left the LGBT charity’s Diversity Champions programme in March after citing concerns over “value for money”. More than 850 organisations are currently part of the scheme, which seeks to ensure the acceptance of all LGBT employees through its Workplace Equality Index. “As a publicly funded organisation we have to ensure that we are making the best choices when it comes to our budget and are currently reviewing all of our memberships,” the EHRC said in a statement.” – Daily Telegraph

Black rights activist Sasha Johnson shot in head after facing death threats

“A leading black rights campaigner was in a critical condition in hospital after being shot in the head, her fellow activists said last night. Sasha Johnson, a mother of two, is understood to have received numerous death threats owing to her activism. The Taking the Initiative Party (TTIP) said that she was shot in Consort Road, Peckham, southeast London. Officers from Trident, the Met’s Specialist Crime Command, who are leading the investigation, appealed for information. No arrests have been made. The Metropolitan Police said that a 27-year-old woman was shot shortly before 3am at a gathering. TTIP posted a message on its Facebook page saying that Johnson had been subject to numerous death threats.” – The Times

Labour 1) Tearful Starmer opens up in ITV Life Stories interview with Piers Morgan

“The Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer broke down in tears during a television interview with Piers Morgan, as he described a series of family tragedies including his mother’s debilitating illness. In the interview,to be broadcast on June 1, Starmer recounted how his mother, Josephine, a life-long Labour supporter, died weeks before he was sworn in as an MP in 2015 and never got to see him in office. The MP, 58, also described how his father largely gave up on life and became a recluse after his wife’s death, saying: “When she died, it broke him. She was his whole life.” Starmer was speaking on ITV’s Life Stories with Piers Morgan, in an effort to boost his appeal after disappointing results in the May local elections and the party’s loss of Hartlepool for the first time since 1959 in a by-election.” – The Times

> Today:

Labour 2) Jo Cox’s sister selected as candidate for Batley and Spen by-election

“The sister of murdered MP Jo Cox has been selected by the Labour party to run in her former seat. Kim Leadbeater was last night selected as the Labour candidate for the Batley and Spen by-election, which will take place in July. The vote will be seen as a major test for Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership, after the recent humiliating byelection defeat in Hartlepool. Last week Diane Abbott said that failure in the West Yorkshire stronghold should spell “curtains” for Sir Keir.  Ms Leadbeater, 44, said she was “overwhelmed and humbled by the support” from members in Batley and Spen. She said: “I’m ready to hit the ground running and take Labour’s campaign to local people.” During an online hustings meeting yesterday afternoon Ms Leadbeater said she was a “proud Yorkshire woman” and “the candidate the Tories fear”.” – Daily Telegraph

Anger after Ryanair flight ‘hijacked’ by Lukashenko to arrest dissident

“Britain said that the dictator of Belarus faced “serious consequences” after he scrambled a fighter jet to force a Ryanair flight carrying a fugitive critic to land in the capital yesterday. The plane, carrying 171 passengers from Greece to Lithuania, was nearing the end of its journey when its crew was warned by Belarusian air traffic control that there had been a report of a bomb on board. The pilot of the MiG-29 ordered to intercept the airliner signalled that it should land in Minsk. When it did, the opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, 26, was arrested by state security service officers. He could face the death sentence after being accused of organising protests against President Lukashenko.” – The Times

News in brief:

Newslinks for Saturday 22nd May 2021

22 May

BBC 1) Corporation “faces shake-up” after Bashir scandal

“The BBC was facing a major shakeup on Friday night to ensure the Martin Bashir scandal can never be repeated. Ministers are considering an overhaul of the BBC’s editorial oversight in the wake of Lord Dyson’s damning report, which found Bashir had deployed “deceitful behaviour” to secure his world exclusive interview in 1995 with Diana, Princess of Wales and that the corporation had covered it up. Boris Johnson, in his first intervention, said such an episode “must never happen again”, while Scotland Yard said it was assessing Lord Dyson’s findings to see if there was any scope for a criminal investigation into Bashir’s conduct. On Friday night, it was reported that the Princess’s brother, Earl Spencer, had contacted Dame Cressida Dick, the Met Commissioner, to allege his sister was the victim of blackmail and fraud.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Executive who ruled out foul play quits Ofcom – The Times
  • More than minor reforms are needed – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • BBC rehired Martin Bashir even after being told about Diana deceit – The Times
  • Whistleblower demands face-to-face apology – The Guardian
  • Tory MPs claim that trust has been eroded – Daily Mail
  • Bruised broadcaster is left facing cut to £3.2bn licence fee – The Times
  • The BBC is damaged beyond repair – John Humphrys, Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Whatever change is needed at the BBC, Dowden must ensure he ‘reforms to conserve’

BBC 2) Moore: public service broadcasting and fake news can’t mix

“What should happen after the Bashir affair? Changes of editorial governance are talked of. Yes, the system could be improved, but long governance reviews are easily captured by the bureaucracy. The more immediate weapon which lies to hand for the Government is the mid-term Charter review, due next year. It should surely insist on no increase in the licence fee (“flat cash”) for the remaining five years of the current Charter. The more fundamental issue is leadership. When he succeeded Tony Hall, Tim Davie announced that the BBC must restore its impartiality if it is to retain its unique rights and revenues. He seems sincere and repeats his line strongly. But impartiality is not a narrow concept about balance between coverage of political parties. It requires an attitude to broadcast public-service journalism in which facts and fairness come first and ego comes nowhere.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Free trade 1) UK offers a deal to Australia that would phase out tariffs and quotas over 15 years

“The UK has offered trade deal terms to Australia under which both countries would phase out taxes on imports over 15 years. The cabinet was reportedly split on what terms to propose, amid concerns UK beef and lamb farmers could be undercut by larger Australian producers. But the dispute was apparently resolved after Boris Johnson pushed for unity. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss formally made the UK offer to her Australian counterpart on Friday. If accepted, it would also lead to quotas – limits – on tax-free trade between the two countries to be phased out.” – BBC

  • Australia is pushing for a transition of about 10 years – Financial Times

Free trade 2) Duncan Smith: It is of strategic importance for us

“Relations with Australia and New Zealand are key to the UK accessing the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP). Not only would joining this bloc open huge markets for our exports but it would also give the UK a leadership role as part of a critical bulwark against aggressive Chinese expansionism. I believe that China now poses the single biggest strategic threat to the free world, which is why this opportunity for us is enormous in every respect.” – Iai Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph

  • UK agriculture must adjust to a new reality – Alex Brummer, Daily Mail

Big weddings “will be allowed” from June 21st

“The Prime Minister is poised to announce that big weddings will be allowed to take place from June 21, The Telegraph has learned, despite it emerging that scientists urged the Government to “overreact” to the Indian variant. Boris Johnson vowed on Friday to give the public an update “by the end of the month” on the results of the review into relaxing social distancing rules, including the “one metre plus” and face mask regulations. He gave a strong hint that the fourth and final step in his roadmap out of restrictions, which is due to scrap the cap on attendees at weddings and other large-scale events, will go ahead as planned on June 21. “I am still seeing nothing in the data that leads me to think that we’re going to have to deviate from the roadmap,” he said, signalling his confidence that the Indian variant will not derail his blueprint.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Holidays across Europe may soon be allowed – Interview with Grant Shapps, Financial Times
  • America has chosen to be free. Why hasn’t Britain? – Douglas Carswell, Daily Telegraph
  • This troubled industry cannot take much more delay – Olivia Utley, Daily Telegraph
  • Cummings ready to ‘napalm’ Boris Johnson over Covid lockdown delays – The Times
  • Evidence from Cummings promises to be the parliamentary event of the year – The Guardian

Hunt says vaccinating children should be considered

“The government should “definitely look into” offering Covid vaccines to children over 12, former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said. The Tory MP told the BBC it should be considered because children can spread the disease to older people, even if they are at low risk themselves. He added it was “encouraging” the United States had recently authorised the Pfizer jab for over-12s. No decision has yet been made about vaccinating children in the UK. The Pfizer vaccine is currently approved for use in over-16s in the UK, with the AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines authorised for over-18s.” – BBC

  • G7 must bear the burden of vaccinating the world – Gordon Brown, Financial Times

Netanyahu warns of “a whole new level of force” in response if Hamas attacks again

“Israel and Hamas both threatened renewed fighting over Gaza in years to come, even as they agreed to end the latest round of bloodshed with a ceasefire yesterday. Binyamin Netanyahu, accused by right-wing parties of having caved in to pressure and of calling off airstrikes too early, hailed the military operation to destroy Hamas’s missiles, tunnels and leadership as a success, saying it had set back the enemy by years. He promised to repeat it if necessary. “The rules of the game were changed,” the prime minister said at a press conference after the ceasefire early yesterday morning. “We changed the equation not only as regards the operation, but also as regards the future. If Hamas thinks we will tolerate a drizzle of rockets, it is mistaken. We will respond with a whole new level of force to every instance of aggression.” He suggested that previous “containment” of Gaza had been too soft.” – The Times

Facebook “giving terrorists a free pass”

“Enemy states routinely meddle in British politics by targeting ministers and MPs, the country’s top spook has warned. MI5 chief Ken McCallum laid bare the rising threat of hostile powers attempting to disrupt the heart of government….The spymaster also railed against Silicon Valley giants like Facebook for giving terrorists a “free pass” by allowing them to plot in secret. Facebook’s encrypted messages makes it hard for MI5 operatives to catch home-grown bomb-makers, he warned.” – The Sun

Parris: Stonewall should stay out of trans rights war

“What is the charity I helped to found doing, getting entangled in attempts to deny free speech at a university? This column should avoid getting into the trans debate itself. My single, tight focus is on this question: why Stonewall? There’s something perversely 20th-century about linking gays to trans. Gay men do not want to be women. We like being men. I doubt that being a lesbian is about not wanting to be a woman. Our issues have nothing to do with identification or changing our bodies: we know what we are and nobody disputes it. Most gay men would strongly resist the suggestion we’re boys who want to be girls. I can’t think of anything I’d like less.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Scottish finance secretary “has to tiptoe around” her Christian faith

“Scotland’s finance secretary has revealed she has often been “guilty” of “tiptoeing around” her Christian faith. Kate Forbes was partly raised in India after her parents travelled there as missionaries when she was just six weeks old. Ms Forbes is a member of the Free Church of Scotland, which follows a strict interpretation of the Bible. It is opposed to gay marriage and believes there are few circumstances in which abortion is justified. It only allowed the singing of hymns and playing of musical instruments in its church services in 2010, and traditionally opposes doing most activities on a Sunday.” – BBC

News in brief

  • Hamas doesn’t want a Palestinian state – Efraim Karsh, The Spectator
  • Top of the cops. The new generation of PCCs shaking up the police force – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • The railways need more competitive challenge to ensure innovation and rising service standards – John Redwood
  • Who destroyed Prince Harry? – Ed West, Unherd
  • The poorest will pay the highest price for Net Zero fantasies – Steve Baker, The Critic