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Ministers 1) Exam delay ‘set to be announced’, as Parliament returns

“GCSE and A-level exams will be delayed next summer to give children the chance to catch up on lost lesson time, Gavin Williamson has indicated. The Education Secretary told The Telegraph he was studying plans for a “short delay” to public exams “with the aim of creating more teaching time”. Sources suggested exams could be pushed back to June and July, but would not cut into the scheduled summer holidays. Around four in 10 schools in England will reopen fully on Tuesday for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown in March, with the remainder opening by the start of next week.”- Daily Telegraph

  • Williamson considers delay to A-level and GCSE exams – The Times
  • Johnson faces crucial test as school holidays end in England – FT
  • Gap between rich and poor pupils ‘grows 46%’ – The Guardian
Virus round-up
  • Tourists in turmoil over Portugal quarantine restrictions – The Times
  • Sturgeon warns of second lockdown in Scotland – The Scotsman
  • Hancock accused of favouring Tory areas with lockdown changes – The Guardian
  • Diners endure long queues as Eat Out to Help Out draws to a close – The Times
Comment
>Today:

Ministers 2) PM to outline ‘roadmap to normality’ at Cabinet meeting today

“Boris Johnson will tell his Cabinet today that the reopening of schools should act as a springboard for ‘more normality’ for the whole country. Millions of children return to classrooms this week, with many heading back for the first time in almost six months. Around 40 per cent of schools in England are expected to open today, with the rest following later in the week. They were closed by Covid-19 on March 20, with only vulnerable pupils and the children of key workers allowed to continue classes.” – Daily Mail

>Today:

Barnier refuses to open talks on Brexit fishing deal

“The European Union is refusing to discuss British proposals on a future fisheries treaty despite it being the most difficult element in trade and security talks that have stalled. David Frost, Britain’s chief negotiator with the EU, and Michel Barnier will hold informal talks in London today in an attempt to revive negotiations as the prospect of a no-deal scenario looms at the end of this month. Mr Barnier, the EU’s lead negotiator, has refused to discuss the proposals because of his “parallelism” policy: he will not hold talks on any issue until Britain has agreed significant concessions.” – The Times

Sunak ‘may cut foreign aid to fund tax rises’

“Ministers are considering scrapping the legal commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid, after pressure from backbenchers to find a way to pay for the costs of the pandemic without raising taxes. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is said to be considering bringing an end to the commitment in the budget but ministers would have to repeal legislation that enshrines it in law. A government source played down that prospect, first reported yesterday, and said keeping it was a “manifesto commitment” Mr Sunak has been told by Conservative MPs not to raise taxes for the wealthy and businesses because of concerns that it would stunt the economic recovery.” – The Times

  • Raab resisting plans to cut foreign aid budget to pay Covid costs – Daily Telegraph
  • Chancellor could increase fuel duty by 5p to pay for virus crisis – The Sun
  • And Sunak told to ditch tax rises – Daily Telegraph
  • Which taxes would Sunak dare to raise? – The Times
Comment

Johnson appoints ally to shake up civil service

“Boris Johnson has chosen a 41-year-old member of his inner circle to lead the UK’s civil service, in a sign that the prime minister wants a trusted figure to push through tough reforms to how the British state is run. Simon Case’s appointment, confirmed by three people with knowledge of the selection process, will be announced on Tuesday. One senior civil servant summed up the reaction in Whitehall: “Shock.” The government declined to comment. Mr Case has earned Mr Johnson’s trust since his temporary appointment as permanent secretary in Number 10 in May, a move intended to bring some order to the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis. But his relative lack of experience — and his professed desire to return to his old job as private secretary to Prince William — meant that few considered him a leading candidate to replace Mark Sedwill.” – FT

  • Case to head up Civil Service – The Times
  • Profile: Simon Case, Britain’s new civil service head – FT
  • Johnson’s in tray: tests of a premiership loom – The Times

Seldon: PM’s leadership needs a dramatic makeover for the new term

“Never in the last 100 years has a prime minister begun a new parliamentary autumn session with more weighty and diverse problems than those that greet Boris Johnson this morning. The source of many of the woes, the Covid-19 outbreak, was beyond his power to stop, and while his handling of the crisis has been widely criticised, few would deny he has been dealt a terrible deck of cards. If this was a football match, you would say the government team was in deep trouble. After a triumphant first leg, the team is five-nil down in the second, with 20 minutes left to play. At least three were own goals. If it carries on like this, the match will be lost. A change of style, tactics and players alone will save the day.” – The Times Red Box

Tories offer ‘virtual stalls’ at online party conference for up to £25,000

“The Conservative conference may be strictly virtual this year, but the party is still seeking to extract a lucrative income stream from businesses wanting access to ministers – at a cost of up to £25,000. The usual autumn gathering is cancelled because of coronavirus, but the party has promised members the consolation of an online event, which it said would still provide “a fantastic opportunity for members to share ideas and hear from voices across the party”. While attendance is free for members, the party hopes to squeeze a significant income from the event. Politico reported on Monday that the Conservatives would offer “virtual stalls” in an online “exhibition hall” at prices ranging from £6,000 to £25,500 plus VAT.” – The Guardian

Wallace: Ministers must take direct responsibility for decisions

“Quangos occupy a peculiar position in British politics. Oppositions habitually bemoan them – criticising their performance, lamenting their lack of accountability, and even promising the oft-pledged but rarely-started “bonfire of the quangos”. The same politicians tend to change tack once in government, however. As a result, we still have hundreds of quangos spending a large amount of taxpayers’ money and handling a sizeable share of the state’s responsibilities. The variety of organisations has grown over time, encompassing everything from traditional agencies to arms-length state-owned companies, but the problems with this twilight form of government persist – as the recent performance of Ofqual, the Electoral Commission and Public Health England demonstrates all too clearly.” – the i

Davidson: BBC’s new director-general has to face need for deep reform

“Welcome to the hot seat, Tim Davie. The new director-general of the BBC starts on Tuesday – and there’s plenty in his in-tray. While his predecessor Lord Hall of Birkenhead was met with multiple scandals to solve in his first few months – Jimmy Savile sexual abuse allegations, Panorama’s false accusations against Lord McAlpine, and the small matter of Jeremy Clarkson allegedly assaulting production staff – Mr Davie’s challenges may be less explosive but ultimately prove harder to solve. What is the role of a national broadcaster in an on-demand age? How does the BBC pay for itself in the future, and can it take on the behemoths of Netflix and Amazon?” – Daily Telegraph

Beleaguered Labour leader in Scotland appoints new spin doctor

“Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has hired a top spin doctor to help turn around his flagging fortunes. Andy Whitaker, who was head of strategic communications for former shadow chancellor John McDonnell, starts in post on Wednesday. Leonard has been in the job for nearly three years, but has suffered devastating defeats at the ballot box. Scottish Labour slumped to fifth at the European election, and lost six of their seven seats at the general election.” – Daily Record

And finally, BBC’s new boss ‘threatens to axe Left-wing comedy shows’

“The BBC’s new director-general is planning to tackle perceived Left-wing bias in the corporation’s comedy shows, The Telegraph can disclose. Tim Davie believes the BBC’s comedy output is seen as too one-sided and needs a radical overhaul in the coming months, senior sources revealed. The BBC has long faced accusations that its comedy shows on radio and television are unfairly biased against the Tories, Donald Trump and Brexit. In his first speech as director general on Thursday, Mr Davie will set out plans to restore “trust and confidence” in the BBC by better reflecting all sides of the political divide.” – Daily Telegraph

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