Opposition MPs call for Cummings to resign over claims he broke lockdown guidance

“Opposition MPs are calling for Dominic Cummings to resign if he is found to have broken the lockdown guidance after travelling 250 miles from London to Durham when he had Covid-19 symptoms. The prime minister’s chief aide and his wife, who was also unwell, stayed at his parents’ home while self-isolating. Labour demanded No 10 provide a “swift explanation” for Mr Cummings’ actions. A source close to Mr Cummings denied a breach of the coronavirus rules, saying the couple needed childcare help. They added the couple had stayed in a separate building at the property….a Labour spokesman said: “If accurate, the prime minister’s chief adviser appears to have breached the lockdown rules. The government’s guidance was very clear: stay at home and no non-essential travel. The British people do not expect there to be one rule for them and another rule for Dominic Cummings.” The Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said Mr Cummings should resign or be dismissed by Mr Johnson and that it was a “key test of leadership” for the prime minister.” – BBC

“Tensions” between the PM and the Chancellor over easing the lockdown

“Tensions have opened up between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, his chancellor, over the speed at which Britain’s lockdown is lifted, amid growing Treasury alarm at the damage wreaked on the public finances by the pandemic. Mr Sunak told Tory MPs on a conference call that he wants to open up the economy as swiftly as possible, taking aim at the “very cautious” experts on the government’s scientific advisory body, Sage. Mr Johnson told the cabinet earlier this month the government would “advance with maximum caution” as it gradually eases the lockdown. But the chancellor told Tory MPs of his frustration that so much of the economy remained shuttered. “Somehow Greece and Italy are opening up,” Mr Sunak told them. “This country can’t be the only place in the world where people can’t go and have a drink in the pub.” According to one MP on the call, Mr Sunak added: “The single best way to help tourism in this country is to allow people to open up.” – Financial Times

  • Cracks widen as fatigue takes its toll – The Times
  • Don’t panic, Chancellor – Patrick O’Flynn, Daily Express
  • Only the prime minister can fix this the increasingly febrile atmosphere – Leader, The Times
  • Senior Tory MP “fears PM has lost his edge” – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The triumph of Whatsapp and trouble for the whips

Sunak to require firms to start paying a quarter of staff wages

“Employers will be required to pay a quarter of the wages of furloughed staff under Treasury plans to unwind the state subsidy scheme. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is expected to announce next week that employers will have to contribute from August as the lockdown is eased. He will allow employers to take furloughed workers back part time for as many hours a week as they want. All employers using the scheme will be required to make the payments, even if they are still under lockdown. Companies will also be required to restart paying national insurance but the government will continue to pay pension contributions. More than eight million people have been furloughed, equivalent to a third of the private sector workforce. The Office for Budget Responsibility has said that it could cost up to £80 billion.” – The Times

  • Mass coronavirus testing was stopped in mid-March due to the ‘sheer scale of cases in the UK’ – Daily Mail

>Today:MPsETC: Coronavirus Count

Scientists urge caution on school reopenings

“Government advisers have urged great caution over the reopening of schools in England, saying there is no scientific evidence to show that it can be done completely safely. The scientific advisers have also told ministers that a robust system to test and trace new cases of coronavirus should be in place before more pupils are allowed to return to their classrooms. Michael Gove, Cabinet Office minister, has said the government is ‘confident that children and teachers will be safe’.” – Financial Times

  • The strain begins to show – Camilla Cavendish, Financial Times
  • Children will be “scarred for life” unless they return to school – The Sun
  • Starmer’s children are already at school – Interview with Sir Keir Starmer, Daily Telegraph
  • Rival SAGE group opposes opening – The Sun
  • The Left defying impartial scientific evidence about schools reopening is a national disgrace – Leader, The Sun

China 1) Johnson “to reduce Huawei’s role in Britain’s 5G network”

“The Prime Minister plans to reduce Huawei’s involvement in Britain’s 5G network in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Telegraph has learned. Boris Johnson has instructed officials to draw up plans that would see China’s involvement in the UK’s infrastructure scaled down to zero by 2023. It comes as Mr Johnson is poised to visit the US for the G7 summit next month in his first trip abroad since the crisis began. Having called for the UK to become more self-sufficient and less reliant on China for goods, he is expected to ramp up trade talks with US President Donald Trump as Brexit negotiations with the EU have become increasingly fractious.” – Daily Telegraph

  • PM set to shrink Chinese firm’s involvement to zero by 2023 after caving to backbench pressure – The Guardian

> Yesterday: Maria Chaplia on Comment: Illiberal regimes are exploiting the pandemic to attack the foundations of democracy

China 2) Moore: Stop kowtowing

“Free, open cities, such as London and New York, have suffered badly under Covid; and so – though not chiefly for medical reasons – has the once-free and open city of Hong Kong. It is disappointing that Boris Johnson himself, once the mayor and champion of our great open city, has avoided the subject. The old Chinese order, “Tremble and obey”, is working well. Indeed, China seems to think its model of governance is vindicated by Covid, in contrast to the weediness of the West. The Government’s stance towards China has been so inadequate that, despite its large and fresh majority in the Commons, it finds its party in revolt. Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the parliamentary party’s new China Research Group, is trying to supply the strategic thinking which the Government shies away from.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • The UK should offer support and asylum to Hong Kong’s citizens – Leader, The Times
  • Beijing has thrown down the gauntlet to Hong Kong – Leader, Financial Times
  • We have a moral duty to stand up against bullying – Interview with Chris Patten, The Times

Travel 1) Patel announces the UK to impose 14-day quarantine from June 8th

“The UK will impose a two-week quarantine, with fixed penalty fines of £1,000 for any breaches, from June 8, Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced. Passengers will have to fill a form providing their contact and travel information so they can be traced if infections arise and could be contacted regularly during the 14 days to ensure their compliance. Breaches will be punishable with a £1,000 fixed penalty notice in England, or prosecution with an unlimited fine, while devolved nations can set out their own enforcement approaches. Anyone arriving by air, sea or rail will be advised to use personal transport to head to their accommodation and once there not leave for 14 days. But it will not apply to people coming from Ireland, medics tackling Covid-19 and seasonal agricultural workers.” – Daily Telegraph

  • ‘Coronavirus passports’ and quarantine-free travel pacts could still be introduced – Daily Mail
  • Bank Holiday warning to maintain social distancing or risk ‘going back to square one’ – The Sun
  • “Safe corridors could open in July” – The Sun

>Yesterday: WATCH: Patel announces that from June 8 arrivals in Britain must self-isolate for 14 days

Travel 2) Parris: Impractical to prevent summer holidays

“If the government thinks Britons are not going to travel abroad this summer then it’s got another think coming. The whole idea of untargeted quarantining is a fiasco in the making: obvious even before the first person arriving at Heathrow is handed the first pamphlet instructing them to go and stay in one place and see nobody for 14 days, or else …Or else what? Or else you’ll be a very, very naughty girl. Ministers must know this can’t be enforced. Cressida Dick, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, says she sees no role for her officers in policing it. The moment overall numbers of arrivals begin to climb, the possibility of surveillance flies out of the window. That ministers were until recently mumbling about some loopy plan to exempt arrivals from France only goes to show how brains have fried at the very top.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

  • Quarantine plan risks doing untold damage for no obvious gain – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Duncan Smith: We must reopen London

“With the number of new cases plummeting and with the fabled R rate at 0.4 and falling, London is ready to go back to work. Furthermore, as the Health Secretary revealed, a Government study has estimated that 17 per cent of Londoners have already had coronavirus..However, standing in the way of this opportunity is a desperate level of dysfunction which has caused confusion for those who travel to work. London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, should by now recognise the need to make bold decisions, cut through red tape and reduce unnecessary costs to help get business moving. Instead, he has got himself locked in a spat with central government over his decision to reinstate the congestion charge while also increasing it by 30 per cent and extending its hours of operation. This has become a farce. Told to avoid public transport and drive to work, are Londoners now to be penalised for following government advice?” – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph

  • Pressure to free London from lockdown as cases fall – The Times

>Today: Columnist David Gauke: A localised piloting, regional approach to ending lockdown. It’s what should happen – and now it may.

Poll suggests that the public still supports the lockdown

“A total of 53 per cent overall say the lockdown is already being eased too fast, while 11 per cent insist it is too slow. However, Tory voters are keener to get back to normal – 45 per cent of Conservatives say the pace of easing the lockdown is ‘about right’, a further 10 per cent say it is ‘too slow’. Few Britons believe the economy will bounce back quickly. Only 6 per cent say it will revive in twelve months – 41 per cent say it will take at least three years. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson still has his work cut out to persuade parents that schools should start to re-open in June. Only 26 per cent of primary school parents say they will send their children school in early June – 60 per cent say they will refuse.” – Daily Mail

Trump demands that churches be reopened

“Donald Trump has declared churches, mosques and synagogues “essential services” and threatened to override governors who refuse to reopen them this weekend – a power he does not possess. “Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship,” the president told reporters at the White House on Friday. “It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.” Trump added: “The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now. For this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America we need more prayer, not less.” After his two-minute statement, the president left the briefing room podium without taking questions.” – The Guardian

Harwood: Slim down our bloated Quangocracy

“For some reason the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency is a wholly separate body from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, costing the taxpayer £445 million and £354 million respectively every year. Meanwhile, Health Education England remains an entirely separate body to Public Health England, costing three billion pounds a year between them. There is enormous scope for scrapings and savings, especially as we enter the 2020s saddled with an unprecedently rapidly engorged level of public debt. Slimming down our bloated quango state is an obvious place to start, not only to fix great errors of the state in recent years, but also to get the country back on the road to thrift. A new bonfire of the quangos is needed, and abolishing PHE along with the Electoral Commission must be the place to start.” – Tom Harwood, Daily Telegraph

Plaid MP has whip withdrawn

“A Plaid Cymru MP has had the whip withdrawn by the party after being arrested on suspicion of assault. Jonathan Edwards, who has represented Carmarthen East and Dinefwr since 2010, was arrested on Wednesday 20 May. Dyfed-Powys Police said a 44-year-old man from Ammanford had been arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of assault. He has been released on bail and the investigation is ongoing. Plaid Cymru confirmed it had withdrawn the whip from Mr Edwards.” – BBC

>Today: Europe 2.0? How divisions over devolution could stall the Tories’ march on Cardiff

>Yesterday: Christopher Harries on Comment: We Welsh Tories must be a bulwark against devocrat demands for ‘more powers’

News in brief

  • Immunity passports are an unlikely route out of lockdown – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • For our economy and society, it’s time to lift the ban on asylum seekers working – Eamonn Ives, CapX
  • Getting people back to work – John Redwood
  • Why do so many elderly British people live in care homes? – Harry Phibbs, The Article
  • The teaching unions intimidate teachers – Chris McGovern, Conservative Woman