Johnson ‘fears coronavirus threat to Christmas’

“Britain faces a Christmas without large family gatherings after Boris Johnson announced tough new coronavirus measures that make it illegal to socialise in groups of more than six. Normal life is unlikely to resume before the spring, the prime minister suggested, as he pinned hopes for an end to restrictions on a “moonshot” mass-testing programme. Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, prepared people for up to six months of tougher rules as the weather turned cold, warning: “The period between now and spring is going to be difficult.” After the “rule of six”, as Mr Johnson termed it, comes into force on Monday, police will step up enforcement and “Covid marshals” will patrol city centres to split up large groups. “Anyone breaking the rules risks being dispersed, fined and possibly arrested,” the prime minister said last night.” – The Times

  • Don’t rule out more restrictions, says Professor Ferguson – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Dad’s Army’ of busybodies will patrol England – The Sun
  • Government facing mounting backlash over new social gathering restrictions – Daily Telegraph


  • ‘Operation Moonshot’ plan could see entire UK population tested ‘in a week’… – The Sun
  • …as ministers hope to avoid second lockdown – The Guardian
  • Plan ‘is forecast to cost almost as much as entire NHS budget’ – Daily Mail
  • Hancock slams holidaymakers for triggering Covid test shortages – The Sun


  • Oxford University’s coronavirus trial ‘to resume in days’ – The Times
  • Pause ‘not necessarily a setback’, says Hancock – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Curfews and marshalls. There’s a flavour about Johnson’s virus plans not of Churchill, but of Attlee.


Dominic Sandbrook: How will this ultra-cautious, hellish version of snakes and ladders ever get Britain back on its feet?

“Of course we shouldn’t be complacent about the threat of this dreadful virus. Even so, I doubt I’m alone in finding last night’s press conference extraordinarily depressing. After all, there is something uniquely dispiriting about climbing your way out of a deep, dark hole, only to find yourself abruptly thrust back where you began, as if in some hellish version of Snakes and Ladders. When this crisis began, I made a resolution to give our politicians the benefit of the doubt. There have never been easy answers, and I remain convinced they are doing their best. Yet watching Mr Johnson’s press conference yesterday afternoon, I found myself shaking my head with growing scepticism. Does it really make sense to limit gatherings to six people, even as the Government is encouraging us to go back to work? What about workplaces?” – Daily Mail

  • Britain’s second lockdown will be even more terrible than the first – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph

EU ‘considers legal action’ as UK unpicks Brexit deal

“The European Union is considering legal action against the UK after Boris Johnson pressed ahead with plans to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement. The bloc believes it may be able to mount a challenge before the Government manages to pass legislation which changes part of the deal struck last year relating to Northern Ireland, which ministers admit does breach international law in a “very specific and limited way.” According to Bloomberg, a draft working paper prepared by Brussels and circulated to member states warns that the UK Internal Market Bill represents a “clear breach” of the agreement which would “open the way to legal remedies”. It adds that once the transition period ends, the EU could also trigger the dispute settlement mechanism contained in the deal, which could ultimately result in the UK being hit with financial sanctions.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Taoiseach warns Prime Minister over plans to recast Brexit deal – FT
  • US Democrats wade into row over Brexit deal – Daily Mail
  • Johnson hits back over EU claim he’s turning UK into ‘rogue state’ – The Sun


  •  Gove in emergency talks with EU as huge row erupts – Daily Express
  • UK ‘will not finalise state aid plan until 2021’ – FT
  • ‘Wrecker’ Johnson on way to no-deal, Brussels warns – The Times


  • Internal Market Bill risks undermining its reputation at home and abroad – The Times
  • The UK’s reputation for rule of law is in jeopardy – FT



Relief funds for businesses facing Covid ‘cash crunch’

“Employers’ groups have warned that new grants to help businesses hit by local lockdowns will “not be enough” to prevent some going bust. The government said yesterday that businesses forced to shut under restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19 would be able to claim up to £1,500 per property every three weeks. Smaller ones with a rates valuation, annual rent or mortgage bill below £51,000 would be eligible for £1,000 every three weeks. The Treasury said the measures would offer a “safety net to further protect jobs” and Alok Sharma, the business secretary, said the money would provide “breathing space” for those that had to temporarily close. Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said the grants would throw a “much-needed additional financial lifeline to those most harmed” by local lockdowns and sector-based restrictions.” – The Times

  • UK needs successor to jobs scheme, says union leader – FT
  • Make jobs higher priority, Brown tells Bank of England – The Guardian


  • Boris Johnson’s one-legged economic strategy is tripping up Tories – Robert Shrimsley, FT

>Yesterday: Johnny Leavesley in Comment: The Chancellor must find the courage to cut taxes and make it easier to hire

Media 1) Johnson slams ‘left-wing anarchists’ who blocked newspaper deliveries last week

“The PM hit out at the “left-wing anarchists” who blocked newspaper print plants last week. Boris Johnson also criticised Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer for failing to condemn the Extinction Rebellion protests more swiftly. He accused Sir Keir of not speaking up for 36 hours for fear of offending the left wing of his party. Mr Johnson said: “When left-wing anarchists tried to destroy the freedom of the Press, he was silent because for some reason he did not want to offend crusty left-wing anarchists.” The protesters blocked printworks in Hertfordshire and Merseyside, where The Sun and other national newspapers are printed.” – The Sun

  • Extinction Rebellion press blockade backfires – The Times


  • Why I rebelled against Extinction Rebellion… and went nuclear – Zion Lights, Daily Mail

Media 2) Prime Minister woos Sunak aide for TV press calls

“Boris Johnson wants to recruit the chancellor’s head of communications to host the government’s new White House-style televised press briefings, The Times has been told. Mr Johnson is said to have been “impressed” with Allegra Stratton, a former TV presenter credited with helping bolster Rishi Sunak’s reputation. Ms Stratton, who has not formally applied for the role, has worked as a journalist for The Guardian, the BBC and ITV News. She joined Mr Sunak’s team this year. Lee Cain, the prime minister’s director of communications, is overseeing the hiring. Half a dozen candidates have been identified and will be interviewed and given a screen test. The final two will be presented to the prime minister next month. A Downing Street source said: “There is going to be a full and proper process. We wouldn’t comment on any of the candidates.” The host will be the face of government and have a more high-profile role than most members of the cabinet with a salary of at least £100,000.” – The Times

Media 3) BBC licence fee on the way out, says Knight

“The licence fee is “morally on the way out” and the BBC should be required to make much of its money through optional subscriptions, the chairman of the culture select committee said. Julian Knight, the Conservative MP, said the corporation’s sprawling size had done lasting damage to the media industry, arguing that commercial publishers could not compete with the “behemoth” BBC website. Mr Knight suggested that a reduced form of public funding would continue to be required to sustain a “basic BBC”, including its flagship TV and radio stations. He argued that the corporation should charge viewers for access to premium services, such as iPlayer, meaning people who do not wish to use them would not have to pay. Tim Davie, the BBC’s new director-general, is preparing to open negotiations with ministers on its future funding.” – The Times

Sturgeon’s husband claims he never asked what crunch meeting with Salmond was about

“Nicola Sturgeon’s husband has told a Holyrood inquiry he knew his wife was meeting Alex Salmond in their home about “something serious” but never asked what. Peter Murrell, who is also the SNP’s chief executive, said he was aware of meetings between his wife and Mr Salmond in April and July 2018, shortly before sexual misconduct allegations became public. But he said Ms Sturgeon told him she could not discuss the details and he accepted this as the “nature of Nicola’s job means that when she tells me she can’t discuss something, I don’t press it.” Mr Murrell insisted he only found out about the allegations in August 2018 when they were reported in the media, despite Ms Sturgeon having known about them for at least four months.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Bowie, Capurro, and Hill debate how best to defend the Union

News in Brief:

  • The rules of Britain’s internal market should be set by Westminster – Matt Kilkoyne, CapX
  • Shetland Islands Council votes to explore breakaway from SNP-run Scotland – Iain Martin, Reaction
  • Race for a vaccine has become a global power struggle – Matthew Lynn, The Spectator
  • Stop crying foul over fascism – Michael Tracey, UnHerd
  • Who will stand up for nightclubs? – Henry Hill, Free Market Conservatives

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