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First coronavirus-related death reported in the UK

“A British woman has become the first to die from the new coronavirus in this country after having the disease diagnosed during routine testing of pneumonia sufferers, it is understood. The frail patient, who had underlying health conditions and is believed to have been 75, died at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, it was announced yesterday. She is thought to have had the virus diagnosed after the NHS started testing intensive care patients with respiratory problems. The woman had not travelled abroad or been in contact with a known case, as evidence mounts that the virus is being passed on undetected in the UK… Of the 116 people who have tested positive, up from 51 two days ago, 105 are in England, two in Wales, six in Scotland and three in Northern Ireland.” – The Times

  • Food supplies won’t run out in an outbreak, Prime Minister says – Daily Telegraph
  • Supermarket shelves empty amid coronavirus fears – The Sun
  • Profiteers face prosecution, watchdog warns – The Times
  • Hancock challenged on Question Time over panic buying – Daily Mail
  • Treasury yields hit new lows on coronavirus fears as stocks fall – FT
  • What does the ‘delay phase’ mean? – The Times
  • Latest advice – HM Government

Comment:

  • Coronavirus can trigger a new industrial revolution – Ed Conway, The Times
  • Prepare for the worst but hope for the best – Iain Martin, The Times

Editorial:

Johnson faces Tory rebellion over Huawei deal

“Boris Johnson will face his first Commons rebellion next week as Tory MPs demand that he bans Huawei from Britain’s 5G network in two years’ time. The prime minister’s decision to approve the controversial Chinese firm’s role has angered many of his own MPs in addition to allies, such as the United States and Australia. Mr Johnson sought to dispel opposition with a promise to limit Huawei’s involvement to 35 per cent of the network’s “non-core” elements, a proportion that he said would later reduce. However, Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, is leading calls for Mr Johnson to make binding commitments to eliminate the firm completely.” – The Times

Patel is a ‘tough, effective’ leader, say allies as 100 sign letter denouncing bullying ‘smears’

“Priti Patel is a “tough, assertive and effective leader,” say nearly 100 people who have worked with her including former charity commission chief William Shawcross in a letter to The Telegraph. Responding to the bullying allegations against her by civil servants, the authors from business, politics and academics say that even under pressure the Home Secretary has “never crossed the line or lost her temper.” They claim she has been a target of a campaign of gossip, smears and malicious gossip by anonymous individuals who have failed to produce any verifiable facts.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson vows that he’ll ‘stick with Prit’ – The Times

Comment:

  • Saga has made a compelling case for reform, but does Johnson want the headache? – Fraser Nelson, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: I’m assertive. You’re a bully. Discuss.

Sunak ‘to ease restrictions on pensions tax relief’

“The UK chancellor is poised to ease restrictions on pensions tax relief for the country’s highest earners as part of a package of measures to ease a workforce crisis affecting the National Health Service. Currently, those earning more than £110,000 are at risk of having their annual tax-free pension savings allowance reduced from £40,000 to as little as £10,000. Thousands of doctors have faced six-figure tax bills as a result of their earnings, often after working overtime, pushing them into the zone of steep cuts to their pension tax breaks. In next week’s Budget, Rishi Sunak is expected to raise the point at which tapering of the annual allowance starts from £110,000 to £150,000, providing a significant tax boost to higher-earning workers who benefit from tax relief on what they pay into a pension.” – FT

  • Nearly half of Tory-voting drivers ‘vow to ditch the party’ if fuel prices are raised – The Sun

More:

  • Drop VAT on electric vehicles, car industry urges chancellor – The Times
  • Charity chiefs call on Sunak to give £434m funding back to disabled kids and social care – The Sun
  • Blyth’s hopes rest on Tory promises of a new dawn – The Guardian

>Today: James Blagden in Comment: How to level up – and get growth going across the whole of the country

Chris Giles: The Treasury has two dirty secrets about its fiscal rules

“First, even though chancellors from Gordon Brown to Mr Javid liked the “borrow only to invest” rule because it allowed them to insist they were not passing the bill for day-to-day consumption to voters’ children, the words are mostly for public consumption. Officials like the idea because, if adhered to, the public finances will be broadly sustainable in the long term. There is little to dislike about a rule that achieves fiscal sustainability and appeals to the public. Second, the main use of fiscal rules within the Treasury is not to ensure the sustainability of public finances but to control the activity of spending departments. As former Treasury minister David Gauke said at a Resolution Foundation event last month, “When you are in negotiations with spending departments, you do use those fiscal rules to ensure that tough choices are made”.” – FT

  • Hardworking Brits don’t need to be taxed more on fuel – Dan Wootton, The Sun
  • For Johnson’s new voters, the betrayal starts now – Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian

>Yesterday:

Foreign aid ‘overspending’ to be curbed with Foreign Office oversight, report suggests

“Boris Johnson is poised to tighten up restrictions on overseas aid by bringing the Department for International Development under the direct control of the Foreign Office, a leaked memo has suggested. The dramatic change of tack would represent a bid by Mr Johnson to curb spending… However, critics has suggested they would also serve to politicise Britain’s humanitarian assistance programme. Currently, country directors, who are responsible for allocating UK aid to regional projects, report directly to Dfid. However, in the memo, sent to senior staff, Downing Street said in future they would need to go through the British ambassador in each country, which would enable the Foreign Office to keep a tighter grip of the purse strings.” – Daily Express

  • Fears that foreign aid could become ‘tied to the UK’s trade interests’ – The Guardian

Eustice says Brussels will have to fold on fishing

“The EU will have to fold on fisheries under pressure from member states who export to the UK, the Environment Secretary has said. George Eustice, who was formerly Defra minister, said the European Union would be unwise to deny Britain its desire to become an independent coastal nation as it would risk a trade deal that would benefit numerous nations that do not require access to British waters. “The member states that are quite dependent on access to our waters are France, the Normandy Fleet does have quite a lot of access, probably Ireland, to a lesser extent The Netherlands and Belgium,” Mr Eustice told a House of Lords EU Energy and Environment sub-committee.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson ‘will not rely on Merkel’ – Daily Express
  • Barnier warns of ‘grave’ divisions on trade – The Times
  • Four rows that could sink EU trade deal – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Stephen Booth’s column: We must not allow the EU to bind our hands in trade negotiations with other partners

…as Bone calls for bank holiday to mark ‘great democratic event’ on June 23

“Conservative MP Peter Bone has called for Brexit to become a bank holiday as he introduced a bill on it in the House of Commons. Pro-Brexit Tory backbencher Peter Bone has led calls for a United Kingdom Day in June to celebrate Brexit, the Union and the Queen. His proposed bank holiday would fall on the Friday nearest to June 23 – the date of the EU referendum in 2016 – and could also mark the Queen’s birthday and coronation anniversary, both of which fall in June. The Wellingborough MP said an extra day off would boost workers’ productivity as there is “a long gap” between the late May and the late August bank holidays in England, Scotland and Wales.” – Daily Express

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: Full membership list of select committees

Johnson ‘now wants to link Scotland and Northern Ireland by tunnel instead of bridge’, says Jack

“Boris Johnson now wants to build a tunnel to link Scotland and Northern Ireland – instead of a bridge, his Scottish Secretary has revealed. Alistair Jack said a tunnel is preferable because it would avoid two key problems with building a bridge. Experts had warned that a bridge would be hit with frequent closures due to high winds. And unexploded World War Two bombs dumped in an area in the Irish Sea known as Beaufort’s Dyke also poses a major stumbling block to building a bridge. Mr Jack said a tunnel would also be cheaper to build and said it could be completed by 2030. The Scotland Secretary said he and the PM are “on exactly the same page”.” – The Sun

  • Project ‘would strengthen the Union by joining the four home nations together’ – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Scottish Tories have started to turn the tide in row over immigration – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Could the Welsh Conservatives go into coalition with Plaid next year?

Johnson defends decision not to visit flood-hit areas

“Boris Johnson has signalled he has no regrets about refusing to visit areas devastated by floods this year and claimed the emergency services advised him to stay away. The prime minister came under fire for heading to the government’s country mansion at Chevening during half-term rather than visiting flood-hit areas. Pressed repeatedly on whether he feels now that was the wrong decision, Johnson made the claim that the fire services, Environment Agency and others had told him his presence would be counterproductive. He has previously taken the decision to visit flood-hit homes during the general election campaign and some of his ministers made repeated visits to devastated homeowners during the latest disaster.” – The Guardian

Bailey unveils plans for crime crackdown

“Families of murder victims will get extra help to fight for tougher jail sentences under a new plan from the Tory London Mayoral hopeful. Shaun Bailey will set up a new sentencing unit and tsar in City Hall in charge of helping families fight for justice. If he wins the Mayoral race in May, six members of staff will be moved from the Office for Policing and Crime to work with the families of the victims. They will look at sentences handed down to violent thugs and criminals and use the Unduly Lenient Sentences scheme to challenge them. Members of the public will get support to challenge sentences for murder, rape, robbery, GBH and other sexual offences.” – The Sun

>Today: Shaun Bailey in Local Government: I will put 40,000 police officers on the streets of London to make people safe

>Yesterday: Jay Singh-Sohal in Local Government: It’s not just London. Knife crime is a huge problem in the West Midlands

Muslim council ‘urges investigation into Conservative Party’

“The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has renewed its call for an independent inquiry into accusations of Islamophobia in the Conservative Party, accusing it of failing to act. In a letter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the MCB accused the party of a reluctance to address what it said was a “systemic” problem. The Conservative Party said it takes a “robust approach to discrimination”. The commission said it was “actively considering” what action it might take. The EHRC – the UK’s human rights watchdog – also said it was “awaiting the final terms of reference of the party’s independent review which we will consider as part of our decision making process”.” – BBC

  • 300 allegations of Tory Islamophobia sent to equality watchdog – The Guardian

Labour faces claims members yet to receive leadership ballots

“Labour is under pressure to step up its efforts to ensure party members receive their leadership ballots amid widespread reports of glitches. Several leadership and deputy leadership campaigns have told the Guardian their canvassers are picking up a large volume of party members still awaiting their ballot. The issue appears to be particularly acute for new members who joined the party after December’s election, believed to number more than 100,000, who are being subjected to a verification process that involves checking their address against the electoral roll. Polling suggests this group, as well as those who joined before Jeremy Corbyn became leader, are less likely to support his preferred candidate, Rebecca Long-Bailey.” – The Guardian

  • Brown backs Starmer for Labour leader – The Guardian
  • Housing fund favours London and the south, Labour claims – FT

Farage ‘to launch a new party’

“Nigel Farage’s career is not over now that Brexit has been delivered as, according to Lord David Owen, the former MEP is set to launch a new party and start a different crusade against Westminster… According to Lord David Owen, though, there is a different crusade that the Brexit Party leader will lead before attempting to take down the bloc… When Mr Farage launched his general election campaign in November, he had announced that on top of Brexit, his party would have also pushed for voting reform, the abolition of the House of Lords in favour of an elected second chamber, and the creation of a written constitution.” – Daily Express

Pay rise for MPs boosts salaries to over £80,000

“MPs will receive a 3.1 per cent pay rise this year, bringing their salary above £80,000 for the first time. Parliament’s standards watchdog said yesterday that the basic rate for MPs would increase from £79,468 to £81,932 next month. Senior MPs, such as ministers and select committee chairmen or women, will receive a salary top-up of an additional £16,422, up from £15,928. It follows a decision made in 2015 and confirmed in 2018 to adjust MPs’ pay at the same rate as public sector earnings. The staff members of MPs will also receive a salary boost, after a review found that they were underpaid compared with workers in other sectors. Each MP will receive more than £25,000 extra towards staffing budgets – equivalent to a 13 per cent rise. Two hundred MPs backed a campaign last spring to give their staff a bigger rise.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Break London’s domination of state spending to level up Britain – Neil O’Brien MP, Reaction
  • Toryism, but not as we know it: an interview with Ben Houchen – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • ‘Noughts + Crosses’ is an ugly work about racism – Douglas Murray, UnHerd
  • The IFS is wrong about the value of degrees – Len Shackleton, 1828
  • Khan: the Mayor who can’t – Frank Lawton, CapX

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