Coronavirus 1) Restrictions “to be eased over Christmas”

“Families will be allowed to meet for up to a week at Christmas – but tough restrictions could remain in place until then under Government plans to be announced early next week. Boris Johnson is preparing to announce a UK-wide relaxation of rules from December 22 to 28, allowing several families to join in one “bubble”,  The Telegraph can reveal. But the Prime Minister will say that the strength of the restrictions for the rest of next month will depend on how well the public complies with the current lockdown, which expires on December 2.” – Daily Telegraph

  • What they don’t tell you about Covid – Ross Clark, Daily Mail
  • Former Tory party chairman facing House of Lords conflict claim – Financial Times
  • Christmas tree shops can reopen – The Sun

Coronavirus 2) Scotland imposes tougher rules

“More than two million people in Scotland are now living under the country’s toughest level of coronavirus restrictions. The level four rules came into force at 18:00 on Friday in 11 council areas across central and western Scotland. It means non-essential shops must close, as well as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, gyms and visitor attractions. The restrictions will remain in place until 11 December. Shoppers in many areas headed to stock up on Christmas presents ahead of the restrictions coming into force.”  – BBC

Coronavirus 3) NHS plans to offer every adult the vaccine by April

“Every adult in England should be offered the coronavirus vaccine by April, according to NHS draft plans. The roll-out plans will see those aged 18 to 50 start being offered jabs in January after older people and care workers are vaccinated. The provisional timetable – which depends on the authorisation and arrival of millions of vaccines – sees care home residents and staff, NHS workers, and those in their 70s and 80s start receiving jabs before Christmas, with a far wider roll-out planned in the New Year. While those aged between 50 and 70, along with younger people with health conditions, should be offered jabs during January, people aged between 18 and 50 should start to be offered them by the end of the month.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 4) Parris: Talk of a “war” on the virus is misleading

“In the end the world, including Britain, will learn to live with this disease, and the sooner we develop coping strategies the better. It will never be all or nothing. It will always be a matter of balancing medical against other human needs. My temporary immersion in “the science” this month has shown me that, from the very start, few scientists ever suggested otherwise. One could wish they had been more explicit and that our politicians had not taken the easy, lazy course of scaring a nation out of its wits.” – Matthew Parris, The Times 

  • The real coronavirus scandal is not corruption. It’s shocking state failure – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph

Patel 1) Johnson urges colleagues to “form a square around the prittster”

“Boris Johnson told Tory MPs to “form a square” around Priti Patel yesterday as he defied the findings of an official inquiry that she had sworn, shouted at and bullied senior officials. His demand for protection came after he took the unprecedented step of overruling his adviser on ministerial standards, who concluded that the home secretary had breached the prime minister’s own code of conduct. Two senior Whitehall sources told The Times that Mr Johnson had tried and failed to convince Sir Alex Allan to water down his findings. The prime minister is understood to have asked Sir Alex to tone down his conclusion that Ms Patel’s behaviour amounted to bullying. Mr Johnson told Conservative MPs in a private WhatsApp group that the time had come to “form a square around the prittster”.” – The Times

  • PM “asked for Patel report to be palatable”  – BBC
  • The veteran windsurfing mandarin who quit – The Guardian
  • Is Johnson running Britain in secret by WhatsApp? – Daily Mail
  • It’s the PM and his gang against the world – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • Labour’s moral indignation over the accusations is a sham – Leader, The Sun
  • Rejecting Patel report leaves Johnson in danger of further isolation – The Times
  • The Conservatives look like a team again – Leader, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The Ministerial Code is a paper tiger – Johnson is responsible for who serves in his Government

>Yesterday: WATCH: Patel – “I am sorry if I have upset people in any way whatsoever”

Patel 2) Kirby: Why is the civil service so keen to get rid of her?

“A touch of Sir Humphrey-esque condescension might also have been apparent to the Home Secretary, whose own background, as the daughter of Ugandan Asian immigrants, is rather different from the average senior Whitehall mandarin. Like another woman in politics who was prepared to challenge the status quo, Ms Patel is a shopkeeper’s daughter whose path up the political ladder hasn’t always been greeted with delight by the old boys’ network. In common with her hero Margaret Thatcher, the Home Secretary asks awkward questions and when told by civil servants that something can’t be done is apt to say “why not?” Overseeing a police force so weighed down by a “woke” agenda that they seem unable to catch criminals, and having her attempts to deport convicted offenders continually thwarted, it is hardly surprising if the Home Secretary sometimes allows her frustration to surface.” – Jill Kirby, Daily Telegraph

Spending Review 1) Sunak “to move 22,000 civil servants out of London”

“The Chancellor will use a financial statement next week to pledge his commitment to “levelling up” the country with a massive cash injection. A northern headquarters for the Treasury will open next year as part of the government’s plans to move 22,000 civil service roles out of London and the south east by 2030. Rishi Sunak warned on Friday night the UK’s finances will need to be put on a “sustainable path” after public sector debt passed the £2 trillion mark for the first time in history.” – Daily Express

  • Chancellor  set to launch UK infrastructure bank to fund capital projects – Financial Times
  • Huge commitment to fire starting gun on a string of major projects intended to level up the UK – Daily Telegraph
  • £1.6 billion to fix potholes – The Sun
  • Trade unions attack public sector pay freeze – The Sun
  • National debt soars – The Times

>Today: Columnist David Gauke: Next week’s spending review – and why our holiday from spending restraint is coming to an end

Spending Review 2) Cameron and Blair warn against Aid cut

“Former prime ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair have warned Boris Johnson that cutting the UK’s overseas aid budget would undermine the UK’s G7 presidency next year and cost lives. The UK is committed to spending 0.7% of GDP on aid – a global benchmark. But the government is considering reducing the target to 0.5%, which would have saved around £4bn this year. Such a decision would be a “moral, strategic and political mistake”, Mr Cameron has warned. Spending on foreign aid is linked to the UK’s national income – its GDP – which has been badly impacted by the pandemic.” – BBC

EU trade deal “both close and far away”..

“Brussels today claimed a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK is ‘both close and far away’ due to the ‘persistent’ deadlock over crunch issues like fishing rights. Top-level talks were suspended yesterday after a member of Michel Barnier’s team tested positive for coronavirus. Officials continue to work remotely on the detail of the accord but EU diplomats said this morning that sticking points ‘still need their time’ to be resolved as the clock ticks down to the end of the transition period in December.” – Daily Mail

  • Officials prepare future relationship bill to pass at breakneck speed – The Times
  • EU plots another extension – Daily Express

…Verhofstadt furious at Hungary’s threat to veto EU budget

“Eurocrat Guy Verhofstadt has accused Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban of trying to extort money from the EU as he continues to dig in his heels on protests over the bloc’s budget. He furiously slapped down Hungary’s strongman president after he threatened to veto the EU budget. Mr Orban is unhappy about the rule of law mechanism attached to the financial deal. He has called the proposed mechanism to link the rule of law to budget disbursements for EU member states a “political and ideological weapon.” – Daily Express

Setback for Trump’s efforts to overturn election results

“Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the US presidential election result suffered significant setbacks on Friday after Georgia officially certified Joe Biden’s win and top Republican lawmakers in Michigan dismissed the idea they would throw the state to the president. The developments were the latest blows to Mr Trump’s unprecedented and long-shot effort to retain power by tossing out or disregarding millions of votes that carried Mr Biden to victory by a clear margin in several battleground states and the Electoral College.” – Financial Times

  • I’m glad Biden won, says O’Brien – The Times

Sandbrook: The Crown’s portrayal of Thatcher is absurd

“The character who dooms the entire enterprise is Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher. When she first hove into view as the Iron Lady, I burst out laughing. Her Thatcher is so over-the-top that she seems to have escaped from some deranged 1980s pantomime. It’s well known that Thatcher deepened her voice when she became Tory leader, so she would sound less shrill on TV. But The Crown’s Thatcher speaks so deeply, so huskily and so slowly that it is impossible to take her seriously…The portrayal of Thatcher’s Britain is pure Left-wing agitprop. Michael Fagan is shown breaking into Buckingham Palace because he has been brutalised by the Tories’ economic policies and wants to discuss them with the Queen. Fagan has condemned this as nonsense, complaining that the producers ‘never thought to speak to me before they made this rubbish’.” – Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail

Moore: The Government’s Green fanaticism needs to be challenged

“The problem is Government, urged on by pseudo-religious fanaticism. In the Middle Ages, it was common for rulers to summon up crusades to the Holy Land to prove their piety. Always these were bloody and time-consuming…Frequently they were futile. But they could raise a king’s reputation. Climate change is the 21st-century equivalent, and so Boris wants, as reporters put it, to “burnish his Green credentials”…This is governmental vanity. The Prime Minister wants a Green Industrial Revolution. Look at the real Industrial Revolution – the one which made Britain rich. It was not started by a politician in 1760 or thereabouts saying, “Let’s have an industrial revolution” and taxing everyone to make it happen. It started for almost the opposite reason – that inventive people were free to get on inventing, and Government kept its distance.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • Batteries are expensive, inflexible and will leave us dangerously reliant on China – Iain Duncan Smith, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Andrew Montford on Comment: Johnson’s green industrial plan is a recipe for soaring prices, new consumer costs – and more pain for taxpayers

News in brief

  • Sitting Priti: the PM is right to stand by his Home Secretary – Matt Kilcoyne, CapX
  • Social distancing could end by April – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • The contaminated Covid testing programme – Toby Young, Conservative Woman
  • Starmer must restore the whip to Corbyn – Andrew Scattergood, Independent
  • Politically correct speaking – John Redwood