ConservativeHome Newslinks for Wednesday 15th September 2021


End exam shambles, Tories tell Johnson

“Boris Johnson has been warned by Conservative MPs that they will go on the warpath unless he tackles the “unfairness” of England’s A-level grading system. The threat of rebellion came as the problems surrounding the exams deepened at the weekend. Ofqual, the exams regulator, issued advice on lodging appeals that contradicted the government’s position, only to withdraw it hours later. The confusion, and an apparent lack of leadership, was criticised by students, parents and teachers, some of whom took part in demonstrations yesterday. A growing number of Conservative MPs have complained to their whips about the “Kafkaesque” computer algorithm used to determine this year’s results.” – The Times

  • Scrap the algorithm and return to teacher’s predicted grades, says Tory MP Robert Syms – Daily Mail
  • Ofqual “blindsided” government by revoking A-level appeals process – The Guardian
  • Senior Tories demand that GCSEs be postponed – Daily Telegraph
  • GCSE creator calls for delay in results to repair flawed system – The Times
  • Thursday’s GCSE results “will surely decide” Williamson and OfQual’s fate – The Times
  • Students from Williamson’s Staffordshire constituency to march from the school gates to his office in protest – Express & Star
  • Appeals fiasco threatens school reopenings – The Times
  • Anger boils over after regulator drops guidelines within hours – The Times
  • Grades by algorithm face legal test – The Times
  • Labour calls for Johnson to cancel planned break… – The Guardian
  • … as the party finally backs school reopenings, “no ifs, no buts” – The Sun



Halfon: Accepting all predicted grades may be our only way out of this mess

“Conservatism is supposed to be about individual achievement and meritocracy. Yet Ofqual has created an exam system that seemingly favours the collective. It’s algorithm prioritises collective school records over that of the pupil’s personal efforts. At a time when the agenda of the Government is all about levelling up, how is it possible that the Ofqual Standardisation Model appears to penalise Further Education colleges that have been steadily improving in recent years, whilst benefiting private schools pupils  We now know according to education datalab that private schools saw a rise in their proportion of A and A* grades that was more than double the increase for any kind of state school.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 1) Public Health England: Testing strategy was never our job, says scrapped body

“Public Health England has suggested that the Department of Health was responsible for failures over coronavirus testing in the early stages of the pandemic as ministers prepare to axe the organisation. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, will this week announce a merger of the pandemic response work of Public Health England with NHS Test and Trace, as revealed in The Times on Saturday. The merger will see the creation of a new body called the National Institute for Health Protection. Earlier in the pandemic Boris Johnson complained that the response had been “sluggish” in comments that were interpreted as a criticism of Public Health England.” – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Burnham: Lockdown could be “relaxed in a few days” in the North

Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has suggested that coronavirus restrictions could be relaxed in the north ‘in a few days’. Residents in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and West Yorkshire were ordered not to mix with other households in private homes or gardens on July 30. The move by public health authorities was taken after contact tracing data showed the infection was being passed through people visiting each other, and that there was a spike in cases in the regions. But, after viewing the figures, Andy Burnham said he was ‘hopeful’ that restrictions could soon be relaxed because cases are ‘flattening’.” – Daily Mail

  • Lockdown “will mean fewer healthy years for many” – The Times
  • Lucky day for punters as casinos reopen – The Times
  • Cancer care is an unfolding disaster, warns top oncologist – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Greece and Croatia could be next on the quarantine list

“British tourists returning from Croatia and Greece could face quarantine measures after an increase in the number of cases in the past week. In Croatia the number of cases per 100,000 people has risen above 20, a key benchmark. Last year 875,000 British people went on holiday there. The infection rate in Greece is lower, at 13.8, but there has been a significant rise in the number of new cases, from 202 a week ago to 226 yesterday. Ministers are particularly concerned because Greece is such a popular destination, with more than 3.5 million Britons visiting last year. Boris Johnson has said that the government would be ruthless about implementing quarantine measures if there is a rise in numbers.” – The Times

  • Japan suffers its biggest economic slump on record – BBC
  • Calls for “digital passports” to help beat travel curbs and open economy – Daily Telegraph
  • Britons quarantining after holidays to France are allowed one supermarket trip on way home – Daily Telegraph
  • France fights Coronavirus second wave with masks in the office – The Times
  • Success starts to slip in Japan and Korea – The Times
  • Partying Germans bringing virus from Spain – The Times

Coronavirus 4) UK looks to extend bailout loans to private equity-owned groups

“The British government is trying to find a way to offer state-backed loans to debt-laden companies owned by private equity groups, in the hope of rescuing a swath of the British high street. The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department (Beis) wants to help private equity-backed groups that employ large numbers of people, such as PizzaExpress, Prezzo or Merlin, the owner of Legoland, without breaching EU state aid rules, according to four people involved in the process. They cautioned, however, that there is no guarantee the government will find a solution. PE-backed companies typically carry high levels of debt to reduce their tax bill, resulting in statutory losses even when they are generating cash.” – FT

Only one in seven civil servants working at the Cabinet Office are back at their desks

“Just one in seven civil servants at the ministry reporting directly to Boris Johnson have returned to the office, the Mail can reveal. The number of employees back at the Cabinet Office could even be as few as one in ten, a Freedom of Information request has disclosed. On August 4, around 10 to 15 per cent of staff at the department travelled into work. This woeful total comes despite pleas from the Prime Minister for people to stop working from home in a bid to boost the economy.  It follows fears that city centre shops and restaurants – which rely on footfall from office workers – face ruin if more employees do not return. Last month the Mail revealed that just one in five of the 430,000 civil servants had returned to work by the end of July.” – Daily Mail

Government accused of stoking “diplomatic row” with France over migrants and quarantine

“The Government has created a “diplomatic storm of its own making”, MPs have warned, after Priti Patel suggested migrants were making channel crossings to escape France because it is “racist”. A “war of words” between the two nations broke out on Sunday, as Paris gears up to impose reciprocal quarantine measures on British travellers. French politicians accused the Home Secretary of spreading “hateful claims” in a “callous manner”, after her comments emerged on Sunday. In the frank discussions between Ms Patel and MPs last week, the Home Secretary reportedly said that migrants were crossing the Channel because they believe France is a “racist country” where they may be “tortured”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Home Office apologises after “error” led them to housing asylum seekers in a hotel in Patel’s constituency – Daily Mail
  • Channel migrants should be quarantined on cruise – Daily Telegraph

Truss leads Tory hawks trying to derail TikTok’s London HQ plan

“A last-ditch attempt to prevent the UK government from endorsing TikTok’s plans to locate its headquarters in London is being mounted by China hawks who accuse the app’s parent company of cooperating with authorities in Xinjiang province. Downing Street is keen to encourage TikTok to move from Beijing to London, but faces a rearguard action led by the trade secretary, Liz Truss, who is anxious about some of the demands being made by the business. TikTok’s owner, ByteDance, wants a public statement of support from a senior minister that it will be welcome in the long term so that it does not face what happened to Huawei, which last month was banned from supplying 5G technology to the UK from 2027.” – The Guardian

Legal threat over ‘unfair’ Brexit deal on customs

“Trade bodies have threatened legal action against the Government’s new Brexit customs system, claiming it will unfairly distort competition. In a heated meeting of HM Revenue and Customs’s expert customs panel, industry groups said the new Trader Support Service, which will enable the Government effectively to act as a customs agent on behalf of traders, would destroy businesses that provided customs brokerage services themselves. Last week, Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, announced that the TSS would be free at the point of use and operational from September, with the goal of protecting trade flows across the Irish Sea when the UK leaves the EU single market and customs union.” – Daily Telegraph

  • EU warns city it faces longer wait for market access after Brexit – FT


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