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Government ‘poised to accept’ that coronavirus can’t be contained

“Britain recorded its biggest jump in coronavirus cases yesterday with clear signs that the infection is now spreading freely in this country, increasing the risk of an epidemic. Thirty-two more patients were confirmed in England, three times more than in previous days, plus two in Scotland and two in Northern Ireland, taking the UK total to 87. A ban on handshakes is being considered and Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, said the government was poised to accept that the virus could no longer be stamped out in Britain. It would switch from aiming to contain it to delaying its spread. In efforts to ensure that the public follow health advice, the Behavioural Insights Team, or “nudge unit”, has been brought into the Downing Street “war room”.” – The Times

  • NHS hospital in ‘lockdown’ after two patients test positive – Daily Telegraph
  • Parliament could be shut for months to tackle coronavirus – The Times
  • Debates may be ‘carried out over Skype’ – Daily Mail

More:

  • Self-isolating workers will get sick pay from day one – The Times
  • Move to weekly UK updates criticised by experts – The Guardian
  • Coronavirus has mutated into ‘more aggressive disease’, say scientists – Daily Telegraph
  • Flybe collapses as outbreak hits bookings – The Times
  • Sony and Nike become latest big names to lock down UK offices – Daily Mail
  • Latest advice – HM Government

Comment:

  • Why Johnson’s fortunes will be shaped by coronavirus – Patrick O’Flynn, Daily Express
  • At best, coronavirus is a dry run for the catastrophic pandemic to come – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • How long will the advice to wash our hands suffice? – The Sun

>Yesterday:

Taliban deal must honour fallen troops, Johnson told

“Former military chiefs have challenged Boris Johnson to ensure that the British troops will not have fought and died in vain in Afghanistan amid rising concerns over President Trump’s peace deal with the Taliban. Mr Trump confirmed yesterday that he had spoken to a Taliban leader after the weekend’s signing of an agreement with the militant group responsible for the deaths of thousands of Nato troops, including 405 British troops. The agreement, which the Taliban insist requires the release of 5,000 of their captured fighters, has caused consternation in Kabul, where the Afghan government insists that it has not agreed to the condition. The prospect of power-sharing with the group, another condition of the deal, has led to fears that it will reverse advances in areas such as women’s employment and education.” – The Times

  • Veterans need to know they did not fight in a pointless war – The Times

Prime Minister and Scottish Conservative leader discuss making migration occupation list more ‘flexible’ for Scotland

“Boris Johnson and Jackson Carlaw have discussed making an official shortage occupation list more “flexible” for Scotland following a business backlash against the Tories’ immigration blueprint. Senior insiders told the Telegraph the Prime Minister and Scottish Tory leader held talks over reforming Scotland’s list to make it more “agile and comprehensive”, allowing more employers to use it to hire staff from abroad. Key immigration requirements, including a salary threshold, can be waived or watered down for those jobs included on the list… Speaking following the talks in London, Mr Carlaw said he was “hopeful and confident” a plan would be announced shortly that would address the concerns of key Scottish sectors.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Crackdown on EU immigration to hit Budget growth forecast – FT

Priti Patel: New system will unleash our country’s full potential

“This new legislation gives the UK full control over who comes to this country for the first time in decades. We are shaping how our immigration system works for the whole of the UK, building a high-skill, high-wage economy, where no region or nation is left behind. We are restoring public trust in our immigration system with a system that truly works for this country. Our focus is on the skills people have to offer and their potential to contribute, rather than solely where they come from, demonstrating the UK is open for business more than ever before… We want to end the reliance on cheap, low-skilled labour coming into the country and instead focus on making sure we have exactly the right skills our economy needs to grow and prosper.” – Daily Telegraph

Eustice says EU fishing vessels could pay to access British waters

“The environment minister has refused to rule out EU boats paying to access Britain’s fishing waters after Brexit. Speaking to MPs this morning, George Eustice opened the door to Brussels paying for continued access to our waters, following in the footsteps of Greenland. His comments came during a meeting of the EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, where the minister told the Bloc to prepare for big changes. With the two sides in a furious spat over Britain’s fishing waters, the Camborne and Redruth MP was asked if he had considered a “financial arrangement” to break the deadlock. He said: “We have as an independent coastal state, and given the resources in our waters, we do have a very strong hand.” Mr Eustice also confirmed that the EU will lose access to UK fishing waters, but was optimistic a deal could be reached with the bloc by July.” – The Sun

  • Government urged to stop promising no Irish Sea checks – The Guardian

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

Labour accused of coordinating bullying allegations against Home Secretary

“Labour was yesterday accused of coordinating bullying allegations against Priti Patel after Jeremy Corbyn revealed civil servants had made complaints to the Labour party. As Boris Johnson declared in the Commons he was “sticking by” his “outstanding” Home Secretary, Tory allies of Ms Patel accused civil servants of undermining their impartiality with politically-motivated moves and called on the Cabinet Secretary to investigate. Ms Patel is said to be facing a “tsunami” of allegations that she bullied staff at the three departments where she has been a minister: the home office, the department of work and pensions and the department for international development (Dfid).” – Daily Telegraph

  • Patel’s ‘regret’ at bitter departure of her top official – Daily Express
  • Johnson pushed to disclose when he heard bullying claims – The Guardian
  • Commons spends £800,000 on staff payoffs and NDAs – The Times

Comment:

  • Allegations are turning into a #MeToo moment for the civil service – The Civil Servant, The Guardian
  • Messy political row exposes a deep fault-line between the Government and the civil service – Guy Adams, Daily Mail
  • “Not very bright” or a “force of nature”? – Arj Singh, Huffington Post
  • Why is Patel still in her job? Because the boss needs her there – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

>Yesterday: John Redwood in Comment: Lessons for managing civil service obstruction from the Thatcher years. And my role as head of her Policy Unit.

Sunak ‘has ruled out mansion tax’

“Rishi Sunak is set to signal the end of the decade-long freeze on fuel duty in next week’s Budget – but has ruled out a so-called mansion tax, Tory sources revealed last night. The new Chancellor is under intense pressure to maintain the fuel duty freeze, with Tory backbenchers warning a rise in tax would alienate voters… The Chancellor has ruled out introducing a mansion tax. The idea of an annual levy on high-end homes was said to have been favoured by the PM’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings but was opposed by many Tory MPs and has now been dropped. Treasury sources said Mr Sunak had been forced to scale back ambitions for the new Government’s first Budget because of economic uncertainty created by the coronavirus.” – Daily Mail

  • ‘Red Wall’ voters urge Sunak not to hike fuel duty – The Sun
  • Spend £8bn to kickstart plan to decarbonise economy, chancellor told – The Guardian

More:

  • Javid planned to fund tax cut with ‘Brexit dividend’ – FT
  • Johnson faces battle to fund infrastructure ambitions – FT

>Today: Nick King in Comment: The Chancellor should look to Laffer for Budget inspiration and cut taxes

>Yesterday: Nola Leach in Think Tanks: The Chancellor must end the tax system’s discrimination against families

Dowden to accuse the BBC of having a ‘narrow outlook’

“The BBC has provided a “narrow urban outlook” and failed to reflect the views of millions of British voters, the new Culture Secretary will say on Thursday. In his first speech since taking up the role, Oliver Dowden will suggest that the corporation lacks “diversity of thought” and failed to understand the strength of pro-Brexit feeling or concerns about immigration. His remarks will be seen as an attack on the BBC over its perceived Left-wing bias, and a warning that the Government plans to overhaul the corporation when a new chairman is installed next year. Mr Dowden will give the speech at a media conference this morning where fellow speakers include Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the BBC director-general.” – Daily Telegraph

  • He will also question whether the corporation has guarded its ‘unique selling point of impartiality’ – Daily Mail

Leadsom takes parting shot at Bercow

“Andrea Leadsom used her Commons resignation speech to deliver a parting shot at John Bercow, joking that he was the only politician she would tell to “f— off”. The former business secretary – who regularly sparred with the ex-Speaker in the Commons – also said the Brexit referendum result was as good as Mr Bercow’s face when she reprimanded him for calling her “a stupid woman”. In a personal statement after Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs Leadsom recalled her first rebellion against a three-line whip when she joined 80 other Tory rebels to vote for a referendum on EU membership in 2011. She said this led to “media speculation” that she had told the former chancellor George Osborne to “f— off”. “Well, I can assure you that there’s only one person to whom I might be tempted to provide such frank advice…” she said.” – Daily Telegraph

Long-Bailey vows to commit to nationalisation if she becomes leader…

“Rebecca Long Bailey has vowed to tear up Tony Blair’s legendary reforms and commit Labour to nationalisation again if she becomes leader. The Corbynista candidate wants to rewrite Clause 4 of the party’s constitution to commit the party to “expanding democratic public ownership”. Mr Blair famously ditched the party’s commitment to common ownership in 1995, in a move which ushered in the New Labour revolution. Pitching to the party’s hard-left members, Ms Long Bailey is calling for a “Clause 4 for our time”.  She says she wants members to help re-pen the constitution. But she has laid out what she wants in it, including “expanding democratic public ownership and universal provision of high quality public services to guarantee the building blocks of the good life”.” – The Sun

  • Left-winger ‘crumbles in brutal car crash interview’ – Daily Express
  • Corbyn gets booed during British Kebab Awards – The Sun

…as she keeps up pressure on Starmer over donations

“Keir Starmer has said the largest donation to his Labour leadership campaign has been the £100,000 from a like-minded lawyer that he has already declared, as he came under attack from rival Rebecca Long-Bailey. The pair appeared in separate interviews with the BBC’s Andrew Neil on Wednesday, and Starmer was challenged over the source of his funding. He said he was complying with Labour’s rules for declaring donations and, after being repeatedly pressed by Neil, said the £100,000 contribution – details of which were published on Tuesday – was the largest he had received. That donation came from Robert Latham, a fellow barrister. “Nobody’s given me more than £100,000, that biggest donation went up yesterday or the day before,” he said.” – The Guardian

Northern leaders demand review of ‘Green Book’

“Political and business leaders from northern England have proposed reforms to public spending rules they say are necessary for the government to fulfil its promise to “level up” prosperity across the UK. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is already reviewing the “Green Book” rules, which favour infrastructure investment in wealthier areas such as London and the south-east of England because they focus on short-term, national gains. In a letter to Mr Sunak, the leaders set out detailed changes to the Green Book they want implemented in the Budget on March 11. The current “static accounting-based approach only benefits schemes which deal with growth that will already happen, as opposed to making growth happen where it otherwise might not,” they said.” – FT

US senators urge UK to scrap role for Huawei in 5G network

“A cross-party group of 20 US senators has called on the UK to reverse its decision to allow Huawei in to the country’s 5G mobile network, highlighting the “significant security, privacy, and economic threats” of the plan. In an unusual letter addressed to the House of Commons, some of the most influential politicians in Washington “strongly urge[d] the United Kingdom to revisit its recent decision”. They argue that Chinese companies are compelled to co-operate with Beijing’s espionage operations and that  – contrary to reassurances by the British intelligence officials – the risks of Huawei spying on UK communications cannot be mitigated. Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the intelligence committee, and Mark Warner, the committee’s Democratic vice-chairman, are among those who signed the letter…” – FT

  • Promise of Huawei phase-out is not enough, say Tory rebels – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Britain risks plunging the Five Eyes alliance into crisis – John Hemmings, Daily Telegraph

Biden ‘grabs control of Democratic primaries’ as Bloomberg pledges cash

“The transformation of Joe Biden from “joke to juggernaut” was complete yesterday when Michael Bloomberg pledged his vast resources to help him to build on a successful Super Tuesday and go on to win the White House. Mr Bloomberg’s $58 billion personal fortune, his team of data experts and about 2,000 campaign staff will first be deployed against Bernie Sanders, his rival in what is now effectively a two-horse race. Mr Biden, 77, was widely written off after poor early primary results and lacklustre appearances last month but he roared back into contention on Tuesday with surprise wins in Texas, Minnesota and Massachusetts, going on to rack up ten state victories. Mr Sanders, 78, who won four states, including California, did not have the successful night that his early momentum had suggested as moderate voters coalesced against him at the 11th hour.” – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Writing brief lives of America’s Presidents taught me that Trump is far from being the first outlandish one

News in Brief:

  • The maverick advisers running Britain – Harry Lambert, New Statesman
  • Lammy and the tribalism of the Left – Eric Kaufmann, UnHerd
  • Parliamentary sovereignty is inextricably linked with national sovereignty – David Starkey, The Critic
  • For the Scottish nationalists, timing is everything – Tom Harris, CapX
  • Coronavirus death rate is 3.4% says WHO – Joseph Rachman, Reaction

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