Coronavirus 1) Number of workers on payroll falls by 600,000

“The number of workers on UK payrolls dived more than 600,000 between March and May, official figures suggest. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the number of job vacancies in May had also fallen to a record low. The figures reflect the impact of around six weeks of lockdown in the UK, in which almost nine million workers have been furloughed. But economists say the full impact on employment will not be felt until wage support schemes end in October. Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the ONS, said: “The slowdown in the economy is now visibly hitting the labour market, especially in terms of hours worked. Early indicators for May show that the number of employees on payrolls were down over 600,000 compared with March.”  – BBC

>Today: ToryDiary: June 18. Decision time for undergraduates – and the fate of universities

Coronavirus 2) Pressure grows to drop the two-metre rule

“Conservative MPs have called for the two-metre social-distancing rule to be scrapped as the government braces itself for “dire” unemployment figures…There is also mounting pressure within government. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, said last night that there was nothing magic about the two-metre rule, adding that “the science isn’t set in stone”. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has said that reducing it would have a “positive impact” on businesses and jobs. Downing Street said yesterday that a government review of the rule may take weeks to complete. Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee, said: “One metre is the right decision; now is the right time, not in two weeks.” – The Times

>Yesterday: WATCH: Today’s press conference. Raab goes solo.

Coronavirus 3) Hague challenges the Government over lockdown “disaster”

“The coronavirus lockdown has been a “disaster for our society” which will cause economic “catastrophe” for hundreds of thousands of people, the former Tory leader Lord Hague has said. Writing in The Telegraph as unemployment figures released on Tuesday are expected to reveal its unprecedented financial impact, Lord Hague likens lockdown to Dunkirk, describing it as “a heroic operation, but the result of a massive failure”. The former foreign secretary also says the two metre rule should now be scrapped and the “belated” quarantine policy abandoned to save the economy. He says there can be “no second lockdown” because the consequences of the first have been so dire, including “depression, family breakdown and despair” as well as undetected cancers, social tension, poverty, debt and missed education.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Even if the virus returns we can’t repeat the lockdown – William Hague, Daily Telegraph
  • We didn’t learn the lessons from Salisbury – Melanie Phillips, The Times

Coronavirus 4) Britons return to the shops

“Britons flocked to beauty spots and busy high streets today as temperatures soared to 77F on the second day families were allowed to meet again after coronavirus restrictions were eased this weekend. TomTom data showed traffic around Liverpool was at 94 per cent of pre-lockdown levels at 4pm as people took to parks and beaches amid warm temperatures this afternoon. In London, congestion surged to 51 per cent of figures recorded a year earlier – as roads in Brighton had 63 per cent of the capacity seen at the same time in 2019 on Sunday. The latest transport data came as dozens of Britons gathered on Winchester High Street ahead of shops reopening for business tomorrow after weeks of closure amid the coronavirus pandemic.” – Daily Mail

PM calls for “oomph” in trade negotiations with the EU

“Boris Johnson on Monday set an end-of-July deadline for sealing a UK-EU trade deal, amid growing optimism in London and Brussels that a post-Brexit agreement might be possible. Mr Johnson and EU institutional leaders agreed to inject “new momentum” into the negotiations and, in spite of tough talk from both sides, privately officials said the mood was improving. “I don’t think we’re actually that far apart,” Mr Johnson said, adding that he had urged the EU to “put a tiger in the tank” of the talks. “What we need now is to see a bit of oomph in the negotiations,” he added.” – Financial Times

  • The UK’s fight for free trade cannot be fudged – Robert Shrimsley, Financial Times
  • EU preparing to row back on rights to fish in British waters – The Times

>Yesterday: Roderick Crawford on Comment: Brexit and trade. Here’s a grand bargain to open the way to a final agreement.

Culture War 1) Labour accuses the PM of using it as a distraction

“The Labour party has accused Boris Johnson of starting a “culture war” to distract from the government’s handling of racial inequality in the UK, as Britain’s prime minister waded further into the debate about discrimination, statues and British history. Following a fortnight of protests across the UK from the Black Lives Matter movement, triggered by the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, Mr Johnson announced on Monday a “Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities” to examine all elements of racial inequality across British society, including in the criminal justice system and education. “The intention is to set out a new, positive agenda for change,” Mr Johnson’s spokesperson said on Monday. It will make recommendations to the prime minister before the end of this year.” – Financial Times

>Today: Audio: The Moggcast: “Clearly one of the things the police are meant to do is to protect property”

Culture War 2) New race inequality inquiry challenged

“The new government commission on racial inequalities is being set up by a No 10 adviser who has cast doubt on the existence of institutional racism and condemned previous inquiries for fostering a “culture of grievance”, it has emerged. Munira Mirza, the head of the No 10 policy unit, is leading much of the work to form the commission on race and ethnic disparities announced by Boris Johnson on Sunday after the global wave of Black Lives Matter protests, the Guardian has been told. It is understood that Mirza has said she hopes to recruit Trevor Phillips as part of the commission. Phillips, a former chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, would be a controversial choice, having previously referred to UK Muslims as being “a nation within a nation”. When Phillips was named as playing a role in a Public Health England inquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, it prompted condemnation from campaigners.” – The Guardian

  • Tories just offer warm words, says Nusrat Ghani – The Times
  • Race to the top – Leader, The Times
  • Johnson praises hero who rescued rival protester – The Sun
  • It’s time to protest about these endless protests – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Culture War 3) Profile of Mirza – PM’s ‘nonsense detector’

“As the prime minister’s biographer Andrew Gimson wrote in a profile of her on the Conservative Home website last month, “one of the many reasons some commentators find Johnson incomprehensible is that he resists ideological definition”. Gimson went on: “He is eclectic, as is Mirza. Of the two of them, she is the more rigorous and scientific, he more inclined to rely on instinct and intuition. But there is an affinity between them, especially as she also possesses, in the words of a senior minister, ‘a wonderful, waspish sense of humour which is attuned to the prime minister’s’.” A Muslim, born in Oldham to Pakistani parents, Mirza defended the prime minister two years ago when he was criticised for an article suggesting burqa-wearing women resembled “bank robbers” or “letterboxes”, calling the reaction to his comments “hysteria”.” – The Guardian

Tory MPs back footballer’s demand for free school meal vouchers in the summer…

“Pressure is mounting on the government to continue its voucher scheme for free school meals to vulnerable children in England over the summer. There is growing unease among some Tory MPs over the refusal to extend the support, as footballer Marcus Rashford continues to campaign on the issue. During a Commons debate later, Labour will say it would be “callous” not to take what it will call a “small step”. The government says £63m is available to councils to support families. In an emotional open letter to MPs, Manchester United forward Rashford drew on his own experience of relying on free school meals and food banks growing up. He said his story was ‘all too familiar for families in England’.” – BBC

…as report shows millions of children have done little or no school work

“Two million children have done little or no schoolwork at home during lockdown, according to a report that lays bare the impact of school closures. The study by University College London (UCL) found that a fifth of the country’s ten million school children had done no work at home or less than an hour a day. A separate academic study found that about four million pupils had not had regular contact with teachers and that up to six million children had not returned the last assignment set. Francis Green, who led the UCL study, said that the closure of schools and failure to reopen them fully constituted a “potential threat to the educational development of a generation of children”. Schools closed when the lockdown began in March and most pupils will not go back until September.” – The Times

  • Schools are great equalisers. We must get them open again – Sally Coates, The Times
  • In Scotland, parents rush to private schools – The Times

>Today: Raghib Ali on Comment: The harms of lockdown are exceeding the gains – especially when it comes to school closures

Glover: Johnson must be bolder

“The things that have psychologically and physically dragged him down will get better. Though he can never rely on Marina’s counsel again, the pain of the divorce may begin to recede. Baby Wilfred may cry less at night. Most important of all, the lingering ill-effects of the disease will diminish. The trouble is the country needs a clear-thinking and decisive PM now who can make up his mind on a number of crucial issues, and convey the sense that he and the Government have a long-term strategy. In short, that they know what they are doing….If this country is to prosper again, we need that old Boris to shake off his demons, recover his brio and his health, and take control. Unless he does so, the outlook for him, and more importantly for the rest of us, is grim.” – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

  • Jenrick admits he was saving developer millions – Daily Mail

Labour 1) Dodds calls for emergency Budget stimulus package

“The UK’s opposition Labour party has called for an emergency Budget this summer with a stimulus package to prevent the surge in unemployment that is expected once the government’s coronavirus economic support measures are withdrawn. Anneliese Dodds, the shadow chancellor, urged Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, to deliver a “full Budget” to enable government to bring all its fiscal firepower to rescuing the UK economy from its nosedive.” – Financial Times

  • Leaked clip reveals Long-Bailey’s plans to ‘politically educate’ workers – Daily Express

Sylvester: Starmer should finish the purge of Corbynism

“To return to the Yellow Brick Road, the Labour leader now needs to look to the Lion. Having shaped his shadow cabinet in his own image, and brought in a new, more moderate general secretary, he must next find the courage to take on his left-wingers over policy and dump the unrealistic pledges that made the party so unpalatable to the voters at the last election. As for the prime minister, he is looking increasingly like the feeble man behind the curtain pretending to be the Wizard of Oz.” – Rachel Sylvester, The Times

Trump confirms plan to cut troops in Germany

“US President Donald Trump has confirmed plans to withdraw 9,500 American troops from bases in Germany. He accused Germany of being “delinquent” in its payments to Nato, and said he would stick with the plan unless Berlin changed its course. Mr Trump has long complained that European members of Nato should spend more on their own defence. Germany’s ambassador to the US said US troops were not there to defend Germany but defend transatlantic security.” – BBC

News in brief

  • The message behind Raab’s solo press conference – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • The Mail on Sunday’s campaign against US food imports is a new low – Shanker Singham, CapX
  • Contentious statues – John Redwood
  • Care homes and 25,000 reasons for shame – Ann Farmer, Conservative Woman
  • The disturbing history of statue-smashing – Sean Thomas, Unherd