Prime Minister says military is ‘ready to ‘back-fill’ civilian roles’ in coronavirus plan

“Hospitals have been told to see as many patients as they can via video calls because their beds will be needed to treat coronavirus sufferers. After the government published its plan for dealing with the virus, the NHS stepped up preparations, with hospitals told to convert wards to isolation units. Boris Johnson promised that Britain would “get through coronavirus, and get through it in good shape” as he pledged to do everything possible to fight what is now highly likely to be a widespread outbreak of the illness. The prime minister said that “for the overwhelming majority of people who contract the virus, this will be a mild disease from which they will speedily and fully recover”, as he laid out a plan to deal with disruption to daily life.” – The Times

  • Johnson evokes Blitz spirit as he says coronavirus is ‘national challenge’ – The Sun
  • Government’s coronavirus action plan in detail – Daily Telegraph
  • British cases reach 51 as schools and businesses shut – The Times
  • Health chiefs say coronavirus is ‘level four emergency’ – Daily Mail
  • One in five UK workers could be off during coronavirus ‘peak weeks’ – FT
  • Businesses can claim compensation for virus, Government announces – Daily Telegraph
  • Latest advice – HM Government

>Today: ToryDiary: Coronavirus 1) We should ease the rules that restrict volunteering


Daniel Finkelstein: This crisis is a 9/11 moment for politics

“The coronavirus may prove to be a 9/11 moment, a moment where the hidden history and experiences of centuries suddenly become the subject of popular debate and urgent public policy-making. It is too early to say whether Covid-19 will prove to be the “once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about” as Bill Gates puts it. If it isn’t, it just means that something else will be soon. And its impact on the public consciousness is likely, in any case, to be a game changer. Just as 9/11 made clear the threat of militant Islamism and failed states, and its long history, so this virus outbreak teaches our vulnerability to disease pandemics. Just as terrorist prevention since 9/11 has driven laws and wars, diplomacy and argument, so the same may be about to happen with public health.” – The Times

  • Coronavirus crisis means No 10 can no longer fight the battles it craves – Gaby Hinsliff, The Guardian
  • The big danger is that we panic ourselves into a greater crisis – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph


  • Johnson is successfully handling the coronavirus crisis – The Sun

>Today: Ryan Bourne’s column: Coronavirus 2) Beware it being used as a cover for promoting socialism and protectionism

Patel ‘overdose victim’ case was nothing to do with her, say allies

“The row over Priti Patel intensified on Tuesday as allies hit back against fresh bullying claims by a “victim” who they said had only worked for her for two weeks. Friends of the Home Secretary claimed it was “ludicrous” to drag her into alleged bullying of a junior staff member in her private office at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) who it is claimed took an overdose after clashing with her. “This person at the DWP only worked for Priti for two weeks and was already in the process of quitting when Priti took over as employment minister,” said a friend… A senior official at the Department for International Development (DfID) also reported a “tsunami” of allegations of abuse by officials in her private office when she was secretary of state, BBC2’s Newsnight reported on Tuesday night.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Senior civil servant begins legal case – The Guardian
  • Top officials ‘saw her bully civil servants’ – The Times
  • Patel ‘bullied third civil servant so badly he signed off with stress’ – The Sun
  • Official inquiry launched to ‘establish facts’ – Daily Express
  • Labour demands independent inquiry into Patel bullying claims – The Guardian
  • Concern Sedwill missed Home Office rift due to burden of keeping national security role – FT


  • It’s wrong to assume a woman is a bully but also to assume she can’t possibly be one – Jane Moore, The Sun


  • Home Secretary is getting strong support, but it may not save her – The Times

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

No 10 ‘sacks aide who spoke out against ‘unkind’ Cummings’

“A special adviser sacked after she confronted Dominic Cummings over his “unkindness” is understood to be considering suing the government. Lynn Davidson, a former Sun journalist, lost her job this week, a fortnight after taking Mr Cummings to task for his treatment of staff. Ms Davidson, 41, challenged Boris Johnson’s senior adviser on February 14 at a weekly meeting of ministerial aides claiming he had “picked on” aides to cabinet ministers who were due to be sacked. She told Mr Cummings he had been “out of order” and he had to show more consideration to people, many fairly young, who were “doing their best in incredibly difficult circumstances”… Tory sources denied any connection between Ms Davidson’s departure and her decision to challenge Mr Cummings. They claim that she had resisted a move from the Ministry of Defence to the Department of Health.” – The Times

Ministers 1) Sunak ‘ready to end freeze on fuel duty’ in Budget

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak will next week use his Budget to signal the end to a decade of freezes on fuel duty, as he announces a raft of measures intended to help Britain meet its climate change targets. As the first stage Mr Sunak will scrap the £2.4bn diesel subsidy for users of farming and construction vehicles – part of what government officials say is a wider package of green taxes to help Britain achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. But those close to the Budget preparations have not ruled out the possibility of Mr Sunak also ending the freeze on fuel duty for all motorists next week, or at least foreshadowing the end of a policy dating back to 2010. Conservative MPs have fiercely resisted an end to the freeze on fuel duty, but some admit the policy is nearing the end of its life.” – FT

  • Chancellor forced to find emergency cash in the Budget to help fight coronavirus – The Sun
  • High street lobby appeals for reform of business rates – FT


  • Come on Chancellor, brew up a new pensioner bond – Miles Dilworth, Daily Mail
  • Here’s how we can meet Net Zero without derailing the economy – Owen Paterson MP, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Tim Pitt in Comment: Sunak should walk in Howe’s footsteps and make the Conservative case for tax rises

Ministers 2) Buckland wants victims of violent and sexual offences to be told when their offender leaves jail

“Victims of violent and sex offences are for the first time to get an automatic legal right to know when their attacker will be released from jail and what measures are in place to protect the public. The move will be included in a new victims’ law and aims to end scandals where families have been left in the dark only to subsequently discover the offender has been released or is about to be let out of jail – as happened with black cab rapist John Worboys. Under the change proposed by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland, victims will no longer have to opt into the so-called “victim contact scheme” but will automatically be included and then decide if they want to opt out.” – Daily Telegraph

Ministers 3) Truss sets out Brexit vision in WTO speech

“Liz Truss declared “Britain is back” yesterday, as she made the first speech by a British minister at the World Trade Organisation since the UK became a member in its own right. The UK has re-taken it seat at the table of the international organisation following Brexit. In the historic speech the International Trade Secretary hit out at industrial subsidies and state-owned enterprises. Ms Truss vowed Britain will lead a global crackdown on unfair trade practices and protectionism. Announcing that “Britain is back”, the cabinet minister used the address to position the UK as a world leader in setting standards in areas such as services and digital, and ensuring the WTO takes advantage of the digital revolution powering the global economy.” – Daily Express

  • Car manufacturers to demand compensation from Government for ‘bad deal’ – Daily Express


  • Johnson’s bluster on Brexit is about to face reality – Rafael Behr, The Guardian

Ministers 4) Trevelyan revives plan for DfID to pay for hospital ship

“The British government is exploring using its international aid budget to purchase a multimillion pound hospital ship that could be used for humanitarian relief and assisting military operations. Anne-Marie Trevelyan, minister for international development, has ordered officials to examine ways of broadening the use of her department’s budget, which represents 0.7 per cent of national income, to better chime with the aims of Boris Johnson’s Conservative government. One option officials are investigating is the purchase of a “hospital ship” to improve the UK’s humanitarian relief capabilities, while also having the potential to assist the Royal Navy in military operations, according to one senior insider.” – FT

MPs to call for Huawei deal to be dropped by 2023

“MPs will call on the government to reduce Huawei’s involvement in the UK’s 5G infrastructure from 35 per cent to zero by 2023. A cross-party group of around 40 MPs want Boris Johnson to rethink the controversial decision to allow the state-subsidised Chinese firm to supply more than a third of the UK’s ‘fifth generation’ network equipment. Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith will lead Wednesday morning’s 9.30am Westminster Hall debate, amid growing fears Britain’s technology could be exploited for mass surveillance by the Chinese state. Mr Duncan Smith’s Tory leadership rival, David Davis, the former Brexit Secretary is expected to be among the rebels, along with former First Secretary of State, Damian Green and Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tory MP asks BT if using Huawei complies with anti-slavery policy – The Guardian


  • The Government is failing in its duty to keep Britain safe – Iain Duncan Smith MP, Daily Telegraph

Build on the green belt to give young people homes, says top adviser

“Britain needs to build on the green belt if ministers want to provide affordable homes, the government’s infrastructure adviser says. Sir John Armitt, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, said ministers had put themselves in a corner by refusing to entertain the idea, and must be honest with voters about the “responsibility to their children and grandchildren” to provide homes. If councils are going to stop “silly” building on floodplains, the government must accept the need for large-scale housing on rural land, he said. The government is due to respond formally to Sir John’s assessment of infrastructure needs in the next 25 years and he said that they faced tough choices about the sacrifices needed now.” – The Times

  • Building on the green belt judiciously is vital to provide more homes – The Times

Labour braced for ‘one of its worst local election results in recent history’

“Labour is preparing for one of its worst poll results in recent history, with hundreds of council seats expected to fall in the local elections in May, it has emerged. According to a document leaked on Tuesday, the party is braced to lose up to 315 seats, with internal polling pointing to “substantial losses” across the country. Just months after Labour slumped to its worst general election defeat since 1935, its own modelling suggests it will lose control of as many as 10 councils, including Sheffield, Plymouth, Crawley and Harlow. The analysis adds that the so-called “red wall” of traditional Labour areas, many of which fell to the Conservatives in December, is continuing to crumble.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Corbyn’s successor ‘in line for disaster’ – Daily Express
  • Labour faces one of its worst results in history – The Sun


  • Starmer challenged to publish all campaign donations – The Guardian

Peers’ demands could cause Parliament’s renovation costs to spiral

“Costs for restoration works to the Houses of Parliament are feared to far exceed the £5.6billion estimate after it emerged peers have suggested completely overhauling their temporary accommodation, including plans for turning one of the floors into a catering suite with bars and restaurants… While the refurbishment takes place, both chambers of the Commons will temporarily relocate, with peers moving to the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre located round the corner from Parliament. When the relocation was first announced, it was agreed the centre would undergo “minimal” refitting; but a leaked document shows peers want to radically overhaul the building.” – Daily Express

News in Brief:

  • The five women who shaped the Prime Minister’s life – Phoebe Parke, Grazia
  • What Extinction Rebellion’s new pamphlet tells us about why they rebel – JCD Clarke, The Critic
  • ‘Be kind’ and the slippery slope of subjective morality – Resham Kotecha, CapX
  • Let’s scrap the Human Rights Act – John Gray, UnHerd
  • The urban history that makes China’s coronavirus lockdown possible – Toby Lincoln, Reaction