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Coronavirus 1) Johnson to chair emergency meeting as UK ‘braces for full force of outbreak’

“The news came as the number of confirmed cases in the UK rose by 64 to 278, the biggest increase to date and a third patient in the UK died, the Chief Medical Officer confirmed.  The patient who was in his 60s was being treated at the North Manchester General Hospital and had significant underlying health conditions. Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will convene a “Cobra” meeting of his top ministers and advisers in the Cabinet Office as Britain braces for the full force of the outbreak.  The committee will hear from scientific advisers who are warning that “whilst the Government will continue to try to contain the virus, it was highly likely that it is going to spread in a significant way”, Number 10 sources said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • No 10 unit to fight coronavirus lies pushed by hostile states – The Times
  • Government will tell elderly not to leave their homes if coronavirus gets out of control – The Sun
  • Hancock tries to reassure the public – The Guardian
  • Exams delayed, prisoners released, and other emergency measures being considered – Daily Mail
  • Latest advice – HM Government

Comment:

  • Self-isolation could be a blessing in disguise – Clare Foges, The Times

>Today: MPs Etc.: Coronavirus Count

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: British politics begins self-isolation

Coronavirus 2) Northern Italy locked down in bid to contain outbreak

“Tens of thousands of Britons have had their holiday plans thrown into chaos after Italy quarantined 16 million people in a desperate attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus. The Foreign Office said last night that no one should visit large areas of northern Italy unless it was essential. The advice came after a day of confusion over what the lockdown meant for travellers already in the country or with plans to go there. Anyone who has returned from affected areas of Italy, or is about to, has now been told by the Department of Health to self-isolate for 14 days even if no symptoms are apparent. A man in his sixties who had travelled to Italy became the third person in Britain to die from coronavirus. He had underlying health problems, North Manchester General Hospital said.” – The Times

  • Farce as dozens of planes fly to UK from Italy’s quarantine zones with no checks – Daily Telegraph
  • Italians in last-ditch dash to escape quarantine – The Times

More:

  • German minister calls for ban on events with over 1,000 people – Politico
  • Oil price crash sends shockwaves through financial markets – FT

Coronavirus 3) NHS will get ‘whatever it needs’ to fight outbreak, says Sunak

“The NHS will get ‘whatever is needed’ to cope with coronavirus in the Budget and the chaos will not delay Brexit, the Chancellor has vowed. Speaking this morning, Rishi Sunak warned the UK was set for a “shock” from the killer illness, but vowed to do whatever it takes to make sure the NHS can cope with the outbreak. Ahead of unveiling his budget on Wednesday, the new Chancellor announced extra funds would be available to combat the crisis… Earlier this week the Government announced an extra £46million in the fight against coronavirus. The money will include funds towards the development of a vaccine as well as a new a rapid test for the disease.” – The Sun

  • Sunak hints that UK fiscal rules could be more ‘flexible’ to fight coronavirus – FT
  • Chancellor pledges to save small businesses at risk from outbreak – The Sun
  • Don’t raise coronavirus cash from business, Sunak warned – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “I don’t intend to get into a position of criticising the UK government over this” – Sturgeon on COVID-19

Budget: MPs set to hand-deliver letter to Sunak to warn against fuel duty hike…

“Dozens of MPs will deliver a letter to Rishi Sunak on Monday, warning him against hiking fuel duty. The 36 backbenchers, led by Robert Halfon, say they are “very concerned” about proposals to scrap the freeze, which would see petrol and diesel rise 2p a litre from next month. They will assemble outside the Treasury office in Westminster for noon to hand a letter to the Chancellor. It urges the Government against balancing “environmentalism on the backs of working people” and “whacking normal folk hard with higher taxes on fuel”. Tory grandees including Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis and Chris Grayling have signed the letter ahead of Wednesday’s budget.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Climate fears ‘halt smart motorway plans’ – The Times
  • Tories ‘must spend £33bn more a year’ to reach zero emissions by 2050 – The Guardian

Comment:

  • We need to take back control from the regulators and quangocrats – Victoria Hewson, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Sunak won’t say whether he intends to raise fuel duty in the Budget

…as he announces £1bn deal to boost mobile coverage in ‘not spots’…

“Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, will this week announce a £1bn deal with the mobile phone industry to improve patchy network coverage, and confirm long-promised funding for a £5bn rollout of the next generation of broadband for rural areas. The announcements are at the heart of Mr Sunak’s first Budget on March 11, in which he will claim the government is making good on its promise to “level up” economic opportunity across the country. The deal with Three, O2, Vodafone and BT-owned EE to significantly improve 4G coverage – notably in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – will be announced on Monday after months of discussions with the industry.” – FT

  • Top-speed broadband will reach even remotest parts of Britain, promises Chancellor – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Andrea Leadsom MP in Comment: The legacy that I’ve left my successor at the Business Department

…and prepares to ‘give companies a big tax break’ for hiring Armed Forces veterans

“Companies will get a big tax break if they hire forces veterans in a bid to get more straight into work, Rishi Sunak will announce. In his Budget on Wednesday, the Chancellor will declare employers will no longer have to pay any National Insurance Contributions for ex-forces personnel for the first year of their work. The move – part of an ongoing government drive to better  vets’ plight – will save bosses £2,000 in the tax for a worker hired on a £25,000 salary. It  is also one of an array in the Budget that delivers on promises made by the Tories in their general election manifesto… Around 15,000 sailors, soldiers and airmen leave the services every year. The tax break will kick in from April next year.” – The Sun

  • UK Budget: five things to watch – FT

Editorial:

  • Government should review its fiscal rules to focus on public-sector net worth rather than just debt- The Times
  • Tax cuts to employers who hire veterans will turbocharge Britain’s economy – The Sun

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: The Chancellor downplays suggestions the coronavirus will postpone Brexit

Steve Barclay: This Budget will kickstart Britain

“When the Prime Minister addressed the nation on the steps of Downing Street after winning the election, he promised to level up opportunities in this country, so that no matter where you live you can succeed. He promised to invest in the NHS. He promised to boost spending on public services. At our Budget this Wednesday, we will deliver those promises and lay foundations for a decade of renewal. We will ensure that someone in Teesside has the same opportunities to unlock their talents as someone in Twickenham. We are already taking action to level up the country, kickstarting a transport and infrastructure revolution.” – Daily Express

  • Coronavirus and efforts to level up the country have made tax rises inevitable – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph
  • Events mean Sunak’s flagship budget must wait – Richard Partington, The Guardian
  • China is seizing up over coronavirus so we must seize the day – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun

>Today: Neil O’Brien MP’s column: The balance of power between economic and social conservatives may be shifting to the latter

Prime Minister hecked on visit to flood-hit town

“Boris Johnson was heckled with shouts of “traitor” today as he finally visited a flood site after announcing a £5billion boost. It is the PM’s first visit to anywhere affected by floods since the extreme weather began battering Britain last month. Bewdley has been among the worst-hit areas in England following the wettest February on record. The visit was far from plain sailing for Mr Johnson, who was repeatedly heckled as a “traitor” as he arrived to the town. Another resident defended the PM, saying: “We’re just glad to see him eventually”. He was taken to view the still-erected flood defences by Environment Agency staff. Mr Johnson said he would “get Bewdley done” as he spoke to residents affected by the floods.” – The Sun

  • Aftermath ‘brings communities together’ – The Guardian
  • Britain is set for downpours of up to four inches with 50mph winds – Daily Mail

Cross-party talks to solve social care crisis to start ‘ten months later than Johnson promised’

Shield“Talks about solving the social care crisis will not start until May – 10 months after Boris Johnson promised action on the steps of 10 Downing Street. Mr Johnson said shortly after becoming PM in July last year: “My job is to protect you or your parents or grandparents from the fear of having to sell your home to pay for the costs of care. And so I am announcing now – on the steps of Downing Street – that we will fix the crisis in social care once and for all, and with a clear plan we have prepared to give every older person the dignity and security they deserve.” However health secretary Matt Hancock told MPs in a letter sent late on Friday that “structured talks” with MPs from all parties will only get under way in May.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister keeps his options open on social care taxes – The Times

Gove warns elections watchdog against ‘wasting time’ on referendum request as Graham joins Downing Street

“Michael Gove has warned the elections watchdog that it will be wasting time and public money if it grants an Scottish National Party request to formally consider a re-run of the independence referendum. In a letter to the Electoral Commission, Mr Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, claimed the SNP was attempting to trigger a “re-testing” of the 2014 referendum question in order to persuade party members that a poll is imminent. The intervention comes after Boris Johnson rejected the Scottish Government’s call for a second referendum… Meanwhile, The Telegraph understands that Mr Johnson has appointed Luke Graham, a former government aide who lost his seat to the SNP in December, as his new special adviser on issues relating to the union.” – Daily Telegraph

Labour suspends ‘race pioneer’ peer over Islamophobia claims

“Trevor Phillips, the former head of Britain’s equalities watchdog, has been suspended from the Labour Party over allegations of Islamophobia, The Times can disclose. A pioneering anti-racism campaigner, Mr Phillips, 66, now faces expulsion from the party for alleged prejudice against Muslims. He first alerted Britain to the problem of Islamophobia in the 1990s but is now being investigated for public statements that include expressing concerns about Pakistani Muslim men sexually abusing children in northern towns such as Rotherham. Comments by Mr Phillips about the failure by some Muslims to wear poppies for Remembrance Sunday and the sympathy shown by a substantial proportion in an opinion poll towards the “motives” of the Charlie Hebdo killers also form part of the complaint.” – The Times

  • Muslim backbencher dismisses ‘outlandish’ allegations – The Sun

More:

  • Khan calls for misogyny to be made a ‘hate crime’ – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • How I fell victim to Labour’s inquisition – Trevor Phillips, The Times

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: McDonnell – “There’s always a bit of a tussle”, but Labour is not riven by factional warfare

Starmer refuses to rule out bid to rejoin the EU

“Keir Starmer, the Labour leadership frontrunner, has declined to rule out campaigning to rejoin the EU in the years ahead, saying it was a question for future generations. The shadow Brexit secretary said he did not think it was a “priority for now and the immediate future” and has previously said the question of leaving the EU is over. But when pressed to rule out advocating rejoining the EU in future, he said: “It’s for our kids to decide what our future relationship is.” Starmer was the only candidate not to rule out campaigning to reverse Brexit at a Labour hustings hosted by the Mirror in Dudley. Rebecca Long-Bailey was the candidate who posed the question to her two leadership rivals and she ruled it out herself.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Elliott Keck in Comment: Johnson’s approach to the EU negotiation is straight out of The Office

Salmond’s trial begins

“Former first minister Alex Salmond is set to go on trial over accusations of sexual assault, including one of attempted rape. The 65-year-old faces 14 charges of alleged offences against 10 women, all of which he denies. They include one of attempted rape, 11 of sexual assault – including one with intent to rape – and two of indecent assault. His trial is due to begin on Monday in front of judge Lady Dorrian at the High Court in Edinburgh and is expected to last for four weeks. The charges span a period between June 29 2008 and November 11 2014, with one sexual assault said to have taken place in the month of the Scottish independence referendum.” – The Herald

  • Shipyard at centre of SNP ferry scandal ran out of money before finishing design – Daily Telegraph
  • Second Nationalist minister to quit at the next election – The Herald

>Today: ToryDiary: My row with Gordon Brown. And what it taught me about the state of the Union.

Moran announces Liberal Democrat leadership run

“Layla Moran announced her intention to run for the leadership of the Liberal Democrats on Sunday, while admitting that “nine out of ten” people don’t know what the party stands for. The MP for Oxford West and Abingdon conceded that the party lost relevance during the general election and said voters felt its revoke policy was “a big mistake.” Ms Moran said she had travelled the country since the Dec 12 election – which saw the party drop from 12 to 11 seats – asking voters what they think the Lib Dems stand for… Ms Moran blamed a “lack of diversity of voices” in decision-making rooms for the Lib Dem general election pledge to revoke Article 50.” – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Local Government: Local elections: The greatest threat to the Conservatives comes from the Lib Dems

News in Brief:

  • The notion of ‘Islamophobia’ is being used to stifle honest debate – Trevor Phillips, The Spectator
  • It’s the right time to lift the freeze on fuel duty – Joe Ware, CapX
  • Despite Tory election victories, the Right still faces huge problems – Ed West, UnHerd
  • On free speech don’t pass laws, win the arguments instead – Claire Fox, Reaction
  • Eat more meat! – Jamie Blackett, The Critic

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