Ministers ‘push back’ launch of trace-and-track…

“The PM said the key new programme would be up and running by June 1. The Sun has learned that Downing Street delayed its rollout this week amid fears it has just one shot to gain the public’s trust over the vital plan. The 18,000-strong contact tracing force was due to start work on Monday this week, according to internal Government plans. But one minister said that “any more shoddy handling” after last week’s roadmap rollout debacle could torpedo faith in the Government. Under pressure from Labour, the PM told the Commons that the programme would be in place in time for the step of lockdown relaxation. Cabinet ministers are desperate to allow non-essential shops to reopen from Monday June 1, as well as the return of some primary school classes, to help restart the economy.” – The Sun

  • Trackers complain of ‘chaotic’ training – The Times
  • Cabinet minister scolded by own colleague after blaming scientists – Daily Express


  • More scientists in Cabinet would help stand up to the boffins – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail


…as Government adopts ‘more positive tone’ as hospital admissions fall to lowest level of coronavirus crisis

“The number of people seriously ill with coronavirus has dropped below 10,000 for the first time since the start of the lockdown. Deaths and infections will continue to fall if people stick with social distancing, the NHS’s leading doctor said, as ministers held out hopes of summer holidays in Britain. Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said that he hoped to have tourism “up and running by the beginning of July” as the government prepared a push for domestic holidays. He also hinted at free Premier League football on Saturday afternoon television as the government adopted a more positive tone after days of confusion on schools and care homes.” – The Times

  • Virus fading in London as major hospitals report no deaths in 48 hours – Daily Telegraph


  • Zig-zagging Starmer had Keirleaders behind him looking bored – Henry Deedes, Daily Mail
  • The Prime Minister came out fighting – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph


Shapps ‘left isolated’ as ‘air bridges’ plan for holidaymakers faces Cabinet backlash

“Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been left isolated over his air bridge plan as Number 10, the Foreign Office and Home Office are said to have branded it “unworkable.” His announcement on Monday of “air bridges” for countries with low coronavirus rates to bypass the proposed 14-day quarantine was not authorised, according to one Government source. “It was just Grant freelancing,” the source said. “He has been against this whole thing from the get go, because he’s got the airlines on his back.” … The disclosures suggest the chances of Britain securing “air bridge” deals with other nations this Summer are remote as a blanket quarantine is introduced for all international arrivals, including returning Britons.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Dowden gives UK tourism a pick-me-up – The Times
  • Britons could have staycation summer holidays in July and August – The i


  • Putting a moat around Cornwall will not protect it from economic ruin – Sally Jones, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Blood tests at airports, robot microbe killers, and attendants in PPE: How Covid-19 will affect the future of travel

How Johnson’s big vision to reopen schools ‘tumbled into chaos and rancour’

“When Boris Johnson announced that schools should prepare to reopen from June 1, he hoped that parents would breathe a collective sigh of relief… But just 10 days after Mr Johnson’s Sunday night address to the nation, No 10 faces a fight to stick to their plans on its June 1 date for schools to reopen. On Wednesday morning, Robert Buckland, the Justice Secretary, became the first minister to acknowledge that what we are more likely to see next month is a “mixed” picture, with some schools opening while others remain closed. The Government must “respect and understand” that some schools and councils do not think it is safe to reopen, he added. Later in the day Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said that schools and councils that refuse to reopen on June 1 will not face any sanctions for doing so, emphasising the importance of reaching a “pragmatic and practical” solution.” – Daily Telegraph

  • No 10 retreats as rebellion over schools gathers pace – The Guardian
  • 2,200 primary schools set to defy plans to reopen – The Sun
  • Brokenshire insists schools can open without track and trace app – Daily Telegraph
  • Head teachers left to decide if and when schools will reopen – The Times
  • With schools reopening across the Continent, managing risk is taking center stage – Politico


  • Boris can’t afford to surrender to the contemptible teaching unions – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph


Sunak planning to extend UK mortgage relief scheme

“Rishi Sunak is drawing up plans to extend the mortgage relief scheme beyond the end of June as many businesses remain unable to reopen, Whitehall sources have confirmed. The Financial Times reported that the chancellor was in discussions with the banking sector about how to continue supporting cash-strapped borrowers through the coming months. The talks follow Sunak’s announcement last week that he would extend the unprecedented furlough scheme, under which the taxpayer is meeting the costs of paying 9 million workers on behalf of struggling firms.. with the government moving only gradually to lift the stringent lockdown conditions that have shut down much of the economy, ministers are keen to avoid a sharp increase in financial distress as the scheme ends.” – The Guardian

  • Chancellor faces Tory rebellion if he doesn’t extend grants for the self-employed – The Sun
  • Gyms flex muscles for restart as pubs left high and dry – The Times


  • Treasury set to curb property investments by councils – FT
  • Two-metre coronavirus rule ‘will bankrupt businesses’ – The Times
  • Jobs and businesses in ‘Red Wall’ towns will see worst long-term damage – The Sun

>Today: Daniel Pryor in Comment: Reducing homelessness. Housing First is a liberal approach based on harm reduction. We need more of it

NHS and social care staff to get coronavirus antibody tests from next week

“NHS and social care staff will be given antibody tests revealing whether they have had coronavirus from next week, ministers are to announce on Thursday. In a move designed to reduce frontline workers’ anxiety and provide data on how many people have had Covid-19, hundreds of thousands of workers will be offered access to the blood tests, which must be processed in laboratories. However, experts warned of the risk of creating a false sense of security for those with positive antibody test results, as they offer no guarantee of immunity. While it is hoped that the presence of antibodies reduces or removes the risk of reinfection, this has not yet been proved. The length of any immunity gained is also unknown.” – The Guardian

  • Home Office u-turn as bereavement scheme will cover all NHS and care staff – The Times


  • Ventilator challenge to cost government £450m despite cancellations – FT
  • Being black does not put you at greater risk, researchers say – The Times


Tories split as Jacob Rees-Mogg orders MPs back to distanced Commons

“Virtual sittings of the House of Commons have been scrapped after less than a month as the government ordered MPs to return to Westminster on June 2. Despite opposition within the Conservative Party, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Commons leader, confirmed yesterday that after the half-term break MPs were expected to turn up in person. “In line with government advice for those who cannot do their jobs from home, I am asking members to return to their place of work after Whitsun,” he said. “We will not be returning to the crowded, bustling chamber of old, we will be observing social distancing.” The number of MPs allowed into the chamber at any one time will still be limited to 50, a fraction of the total of 650. MPs’ staff would be asked to work from home. However, Tory MPs have warned that the move flies in the face of official advice on travelling to work.” – The Times

  • Senior Tory backbencher attacks proposal to return to physical parliament in June – The Guardian

Conservatives eyeing staffing cuts at HQ

“The UK Conservative party is struggling for funds during the coronavirus crisis and is eyeing plans to reduce staffing levels at its central office in Westminster. Senior Tories told the Financial Times that Boris Johnson’s party was facing a “massive downsizing” of its operations due to a combination of economic uncertainty, plans to decentralise operations and the typical drop-off following a general election. A senior Conservative party figure said: “CCHQ [Conservative Campaign Headquarters] is really struggling for cash at the moment and they’re looking at making lots of people redundant, not even furloughing them.” One influential donor said he had been approached by the party in recent weeks to raise funds to keep CCHQ afloat, but questioned whether it was necessary.” – FT

Johnson hints at cabinet reshuffle to bring more women into government

“Boris Johnson has suggested that he could carry out another reshuffle after being told that there are too few women in government and among his scientific advisers. Mr Johnson was asked at prime minister’s questions why there are only a “handful” of women on the Sage committee of scientific advisers and only one female cabinet minister has given a Downing Street press conference. Rosie Duffield, a Labour MP, said that there needs to be a “change of tone” and “more female voices at the top of government”… Amber Rudd, the former home secretary who quit over Brexit, has previously said that the government would make “better decisions” if more women were in senior positions. It was not a matter of “optics” but of “good government”.” – The Times

  • Patel says sentences for coughing on police officers will be doubled – The Sun


  • We will protect our society’s hidden victims – Priti Patel MP, Daily Telegraph

>Today: Profiles: Munira Mirza, the Muslim from Oldham who leads Johnson’s Policy Unit

Gove confirms Irish Sea checks

“The government has confirmed for the first time that there will be Brexit checks on animals and food goods entering Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK from next January. The announcement, detailed in a 23-page document released by the government on Wednesday, comes months after Boris Johnson pledged there would be no checks on trade crossing the Irish Sea – telling businesses that if anyone asked them to fill in new paperwork, they could “throw it in the bin”. Despite that pledge, Michael Gove said on Wednesday the checks would be necessary to ensure the entire island of Ireland maintained “disease-free status”, with border inspection posts for agrifood arrivals at Belfast port, Belfast international airport, Belfast City airport and Warrenpoint port.” – The Guardian

  • Yet he insists their position in UK is protected in EU trade talks – Daily Express


  • Brexit blow as Northern Irish business to face extra checks on trade – Daily Telegraph
  • UK set for new clash with Brussels over Northern Ireland Brexit plan – FT

Sturgeon to unveil ‘cautious’ four-phase lockdown exit plan

“Nicola Sturgeon will today unveil a “very careful and cautious” blueprint for moving Scotland out of lockdown in four phases after the public flocked to parks and beaches on the hottest day of the year. The First Minister will publish a route map that will not even consider starting lifting restrictions for another week, nine-and-a-half weeks after the lockdown started and more than a fortnight after England. The blueprint will provide details of a four-phase move out of lockdown, with the first phase only beginning on May 28 “if suppression of the virus continues to be successful.” Progress will be assessed every three weeks. This would mean that process will last at least three months, with the final phase not finishing before late August at the very earliest.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scottish Government considering an end to free tuition for EU students – The Scotsman

Henry Hill: The SNP’s reputation in England should not survive this crisis

“Since at least the vote to leave the European Union in 2016, the Scottish National Party have become a counter-intuitive darling of much of the metropolitan Remainer class. An administration dedicated to picking apart a centuries-old Union, and a party containing a ‘hardcore’ wing no less nasty than any to be found on the fringes of continental nationalist parties, have been held up as a progressive alternative to the Conservative Government in London. For English commentators whose only experience of Nicola Sturgeon is the occasional polished media performance, this illusion has been easy enough to sustain. But Covid-19 is putting a spotlight on Scotland, and the SNP’s reputation should not survive sustained exposure to the facts.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Even before the pandemic, Transport for London was ripe for reform – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • Tories have to choose between beef and liberty – Danny Kruger MP, UnHerd
  • Farewell Hybrid Parliament. Goodbye Scottish MPs? – Graham Grant, The Critic
  • Brexit is back, and Covid has transformed negotiations – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Tensions as UK lays out plan for Northern Irish border compromise – Jack Dickens, Reaction