Williamson criticised for blaming officials

“Gavin Williamson has been warned against “scapegoating” officials after the A-level grading fiasco and urged to announce an independent inquiry. The Times has been told that Jonathan Slater, permanent secretary at the Department for Education, could be ousted. Mr Williamson also repeatedly refused to say yesterday that he had confidence in Sally Collier, chief regulator of Ofqual, the exams regulator. Mr Williamson insisted that he would remain in post as education secretary, and suggested that Ofqual was to blame for the problems with A-level and GCSE grades. Sir David Bell, a former permanent secretary at the Department for Education, said he found the targeting of officials “depressing, demotivating and disreputable”.” – The Times

  • Top civil servant at Department for Education ‘is facing axe’ – Daily Mail
  • Parents and teachers have lost faith in Education Secretary, government told – The Guardian
  • Johnson stands ground as pressure for autumn Cabinet shake-up grows – Daily Telegraph
  • Demands for Prime Minister to ‘come out of his tent and take charge’ – Daily Mail


  • Ofqual chief staring at sack as MP calls quango ‘absolutely useless’… – Daily Telegraph
  • …and Halfon calls for its abolition – The Guardian


  • Legal threat to universities wrestling with extra offers – The Times
  • Universities demand more money to take on extra students – Daily Telegraph
  • Calls to lift cap on number of medical students in UK after thousands of A-level pupils reapply – Daily Mail
  • Merriman calls for rebate on student loans – The Times
  • Rich kids studied a third more during lockdown, think-tank warns – The Sun
  • Thousands must delay university courses for a year – The Times


  • Blunkett calls for ‘Nightingale’ drive to expand sixth form capacity – Daily Telegraph
  • GCSE grades to rise in all subjects – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Why Williamson should be moved now


Philip Johnston: Governments are rarely able to survive the stench of incompetence

“It will forever be known as the exams fiasco or the A-levels debacle and the consequences will be hard to shake off. The worst charge that can be levelled at a ruling party is one of incompetence. Voters will forgive many things, but not that. Moreover, if it becomes apparent that the country has lost faith in an administration’s ability to govern effectively, the Prime Minister’s own position is in jeopardy, whatever his majority in parliament. John Major won a general election against the odds in 1992, and yet within a few months his fate was sealed by the ejection of sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. That event established a reputation for haplessness that Major could never dispel, whatever he did. Pressure grew on the Tory backbenches for his resignation until he stepped down as party leader telling his critics to “put up or shut up”. He called their bluff and won, only for the Conservatives to be obliterated at the polls in 1997.” – Daily Telegraph

  • A masterclass in ministerial feebleness – Henry Deedes, Daily Mail
  • This half-baked fix will leave most UK universities struggling – Catherine Fletcher, The Guardian
  • Don’t let next year’s students lose out from this year’s chaos – Jules White, Daily Telegraph
  • Exams fiasco is proof that we can’t trust algorithms to rule our lives – Ross Clark, Daily Mail


  • Blame the politicians, not the technology, for A-level fiasco – FT
  • Ofqual and PHE are symptomatic of the deep problems with Britain’s machinery of government – The Times

>Today: Daniel Hannan’s column: Politicians can’t win. When they don’t give us what we want, we protest. And when they then do, we carry on.

Hancock: We must reform health quangos to fight future threats

“An overhaul of the public health system is necessary to prepare for “the next threat that lies around the corner”, Matt Hancock said yesterday. Announcing plans in which Public Health England will be merged with NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre, the health secretary said that there was “no time to lose”. The organisations will become a new National Institute for Health Protection with “a single and relentless mission: protecting people from external threats to this country’s health”, he said. These included infectious diseases, pandemics and biological weapons. The three organisations will immediately begin reporting to a single leadership team, headed by Baroness Harding of Winscombe, a Tory peer, and be formally merged over the next six months.” – The Times

  • Health chiefs attack ‘risky and unjust’ decision to scrap PHE – The Guardian


  • UK wasn’t adequately prepared for pandemic, Health Secretary admits – Daily Telegraph
  • English councils hit by £2bn coronavirus funding shortfall – FT
  • Winter resurgence of Covid-19 predicted – Daily Telegraph

Royal Navy will send ships to Ukraine to defend against Russian threat

“The Royal Navy is to send ships to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia threat in the Black Sea for the first time. Ben Wallace said that the new Maritime Training Initiative would be led by the UK to assist the Ukrainian Navy as it defends its “territorial integrity from Russian-backed separatists”. “We have already assisted thousands of Ukrainian personnel in a plethora of skills ranging from basic first aid to operational planning, all of which defends their territorial integrity from Russian-backed separatists,” Mr Wallace said… The Defence Secretary, who visited Ukraine yesterday, confirmed that the Royal Navy ships would be sent to the region in autumn as he discussed issues of regional security and areas of mutual interest and cooperation in meetings with defence minister Andriy Taran and Ukrainian commander-in-chief Colonel General Ruslan Khomchak.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Admirals splash out £2million on advisers – The Sun

Brexit trade talks ‘set to stall again’ over British truckers’ EU access

“Brussels has rejected the UK’s opening demands for continued wide-ranging access to the EU for British truckers, setting the stage for a clash when Brexit trade negotiations resume on Wednesday. UK road haulage groups warned that failure to strike a deal by the end of the post-Brexit transition on December 31 would hurt hauliers and businesses on both side of the Channel, driving up costs and reducing availability for pan-EU supply chains. The European Commission has told EU member states that the British request for trucking access was “fundamentally unbalanced”. The UK wants British truckers to be allowed to continue making pick-ups and drop-offs both inside EU member states — known as “cabotage” — and between them, according to two people familiar with the negotiations.” – FT

  • Scottish Government rejects plans for British single market – Daily Express

Duncan Smith urges Ministers to lobby against Chinese Winter Olympics

“Ministers may boycott Beijing’s 2022 Winter Olympics as diplomatic relations with China head for a freeze. Rows over Covid-19, Hong Kong and Huawei may see royals and the Government snub the event. The stance would mirror that at the World Cup in Russia 2018 two months after the Novichok gas attack in Salisbury. A senior minister said: “Awkward conversations are having to be had about it.” On Tuesday night a government source insisted that no decision had yet been made. However ex-Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith urged the Government to lobby the International Olympic Committee to change the venue. He said: “China is dictatorial, aggressive and intolerant. I don’t see how any self-respecting British citizen could go there to endorse this regime. From the torture and sterilisation of Uighur Muslims, to the smashing of the Sino-British agreement over Hong Kong.”” – The Sun

Sturgeon ‘knew about Salmond concerns almost three years ago’, her top mandarin discloses

“Nicola Sturgeon has been urged to “come clean” about when she knew of complaints against Alex Salmond after her most senior mandarin told a Holyrood inquiry she directly raised concerns almost three years ago. Leslie Evans, the Scottish Government’s permanent secretary, said that in November 2017 she told Ms Sturgeon that Sky News were investigating an “incident” at Edinburgh Airport, and that Mr Salmond had contacted government staff about it. Ms Evans denied designing a new harassment complaints policy to “get Alex Salmond” after it was signed off by Ms Sturgeon in December 2017, the month after they were informed of the investigation. But she told a specially-convened Holyrood committee that one of the women who later lodged a complaint against Mr Salmond under the scheme was consulted about its drafting.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Investigation into former First Minister was ‘the right thing to do’ – FT


  • SNP Health Secretary accused of ‘clearing’ elderly into care homes – Daily Express


  • Will Holyrood inquiry end up being The Trial of Nicola Sturgeon? – Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph
  • How dream of independence came back into play – Mure Dickie and George Parker, FT

>Today: Adrian Mason in Local Government: Welsh disillusionment with devolution gives the Conservatives an opportunity

Biden formally crowned as Democratic nominee

“Joe Biden was formally nominated as the Democratic candidate for president as the party rolled out more Republican figures to underline his credentials as a unifier for America after the divisive Trump years. The second day of the virtual convention was capped by an intimate speech from Jill Biden, who likened their rebuilding of a family shattered by the death of Mr Biden’s first wife and daughter to the work of reconciling a polarised country. Two former Democratic presidents endorsed Mr Biden, 77, in recorded speeches with Bill Clinton, 74, breaking the code of not directly criticising a successor to condemn the “chaos” in the White House under President Trump.” – The Times

  • His election will show that the Western alliance is no more – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph
  • Even today moderation still wins elections – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

News in Brief:

  • The A-levels fiasco will cripple our crisis-ridden universities – Lee Jones, The Spectator
  • Johnson must be very careful if he plans to cut the Armed Forces again – Henry Hill, CapX
  • What Dungeons and Dragons taught me about politics – James Kirkup, UnHerd
  • Licensing rules are holding the economy back – Len Shackleton, 1828
  • Why don’t ministers care about the politics of their civil servants? – Justin Elderman, The Critic