Published:

Gove issues stark warning to rebel MPs

“Every hospital in England faces being overwhelmed with Covid-19 cases if MPs fail to back the government’s tough new restrictions, Michael Gove has warned. Amid a growing Conservative backbench rebellion over the tiering system, the Cabinet Office minister is calling on MPs to “take responsibility for difficult decisions” to prevent further spread of the disease. Mr Gove’s intervention, in an article for The Times today, comes as tens of millions of people in Tiers 2 and 3 were warned they were unlikely to be able to socialise indoors until the spring. The prime minister’s scientific advisers have told him that it won’t be safe for a large number of areas to be moved into Tier 1 until the danger period for the NHS has passed. They conclude that at the lowest level the restrictions are insufficient to stop cases rising.” – The Times

  • Covid tiers have united Tories in furious rebellion – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister ‘defiant’ over new English coronavirus tiers… – FT
  • …but towns and villages offered ‘escape route’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Strict system system won’t be lifted ‘until Easter Monday’ in bid to protect NHS – The Sun
  • Covid ‘data spies’: town halls harvest millions of highly personal details – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The conditions under which Conservative MPs should back the tiering plan next week

Michael Gove: Lockdown was the only way to stop the NHS being broken

“Others have argued, in good faith of course, for a sort of Sweden-that-never-was — for the strict segregation of the most vulnerable while the rest of us go about our business until the pandemic passes. But what would that involve? How, practically, could we ensure that every older citizen, every diabetic, everyone with an underlying condition or impaired immune system was perfectly insulated from all contact with others for months to come? How many are we expected to isolate completely and for how long? Five million? Ten? No visits by carers or medical staff, no mixing of generations, the eviction of older citizens from the homes they share with younger? No country has embarked on this course, with no detailed plan for implementing such a strategy ever laid out. That is not to deny the course we are on has costs. But those costs are not ones we choose; they are ones we must endure.” – The Times

  • The Tier system is destroying Britain… so I’ll be voting against – Sir Graham Brady MP, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Yes to what’s in the new tiers. But No to who’s been put in them. Using county boundaries is barking mad.

Mass testing could hinder vaccine roll-out, health officials warn

“Ambitious rapid coronavirus testing plans for England threaten to become a distraction from other key goals such as the roll-out of a vaccine, prominent health officials have warned. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised the fast mass community testing systems conducted in Liverpool will be replicated in all tier three areas after lockdown ends. This covers areas with a combined population of some 23 million people. But the Faculty of Public Health and the Association of Directors of Public Health said in a joint statement this would be a massive undertaking that would stretch the country’s resources such that other priorities may be compromised. “Firstly, substantial resources – human and financial – are needed to deliver lateral flow testing at scale,” the two bodies said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • People with diabetes set to receive coronavirus jab before over-65s – The Times

Editorial:

  • Johnson must move heaven and earth to get Covid jabs rolled out at lightning speed – The Sun

>Yesterday: Robert Courts MP in Comment: Our new Test to Release scheme will help to revive British tourism

Ministers in ‘last-minute dash to stop Christmas rail chaos’

“Urgent plans to prevent Christmas getaway chaos are being prepared by ministers amid fears that huge numbers of people will be unable to join their families during the five-day festive relaxation of coronavirus restrictions. Britain’s first Christmas transport tsar has been appointed to prevent meltdown on the rail network and has been given the power to force train firms to lay on extra carriages following warnings that social distancing will prove impossible. Advance rail tickets for the holiday period went on sale on Friday – far later than usual – giving ministers less than a month to plan for the rush once they have an indication of how many people plan to travel. Demand is likely to outstrip supply. Sir Peter Hendy, the former Olympics Tube boss who is currently the chairman of Network Rail, has been asked to examine whether road, rail and air links will be fit for purpose when festive travel is crunched into the period from December 23 to 27.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Extra trains planned amid fears of Christmas crowds – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Shapps has spotted a once-in-a-lifetime chance to give Britain world-class railways

Sunak under fire after refusing to appear in front of MPs to answer questions on Spending Review

“Rishi Sunak is under fire from MPs after he was accused of refusing to appear in front of the Treasury Select Committee to answer questions about his controversial Spending Review. The Chancellor’s spending plans, set out on Wednesday, sparked a political firestorm after he decided to slash the foreign aid budget and freeze public sector pay for many workers. The Committee asked Mr Sunak to attend a meeting to give evidence on his proposals but he declined and said he would only appear after next year’s Budget. The Tory chairman of the committee, Mel Stride, has now written to the Chancellor to demand he ‘provide evidence to us before the end of the year’. The Spending Review saw Mr Sunak announce a pay freeze for an estimated 1.3 million public sector workers.” – Daily Mail

  • Wakefield gives conditional thumbs-up to Sunak’s spending review – FT
  • ‘Stealth tax’ may see households hammered with £70 council tax rise, experts warn – The Sun
  • Warning tourists will abandon Britain if Chancellor scraps duty-free shopping – Daily Mail
  • Johnson ‘secretly scraps’ flagship promise to roll out superfast internet to every home by 2025 – The Sun

Comment:

  • The Tories cannot avoid the tax question forever – Camilla Cavendish, FT

>Yesterday:

‘Pragmatic’ Rosenfield offers a clean break with past at Number Ten

“The arrival of Dan Rosenfield, a former Treasury official, in a move that largely blindsided Westminster, has led to some furious recalculations over where power now lies. It is the latest in a series of decisions Mr Johnson has taken in recent weeks to clear the decks before a Brexit endgame that will dominate the remainder of the year… Friends say the new chief of staff, who worked with the former chancellors Alistair Darling and George Osborne before a successful City career, sought and received a number of assurances from the prime minister. It is unlikely to be coincidental, for example, that Cleo Watson, a close friend of the prime minister’s adviser Dominic Cummings, who quit this month, announced her departure from No 10 hours after the news of Mr Rosenfield’s appointment. He is also likely to have demanded that he be given full authority to carry out a role as Mr Johnson’s “enforcer” across Whitehall and Westminster.” – The Times

Charles Moore: A culture of fear is undermining leadership at every level of society

“Yet leadership today – political, industrial/financial, civil service, educational, sporting, media, cultural, charitable, Church and state, private and public, police, even military – has reached a state of weakness that may be even worse than that of the Seventies. In the course of my work, I meet leaders in the above areas – Cabinet ministers, chief executives, bankers, judges, vice-chancellors, chief constables, bishops, generals, museum directors, etc. Many of them are people of high ability, but all of them nowadays, I sense, are subject to an emotion which corrodes their ability to act: fear. They are not wrong to be fearful. Something in the culture wants them to be afraid. What is it? How did we get here? As is often the case with things that go wrong, the road has been paved with good intentions. Tony Blair’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), for example, was designed to empower the citizen against the excessive secrecy of bureaucracy. Yet it has also undermined the proper, iterative, well-recorded process by which leaders should reach policy decisions.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Our leaders have their heads in the clouds – Matthew Parris, The Times

Johnson looks north for fresh faces in new year reshuffle…

“Boris Johnson is lining up a group of younger and northern Conservative MPs to join his Cabinet next year in a reshuffle that will complete the reset of his government and keep potentially rebellious backbenchers on side. Allies of the UK prime minister say he wants to shake up his top team following the abrupt departure this month of Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain, his two most senior aides, and the appointment of Dan Rosenfield as his new Number 10 chief of staff. His focus will be on changing senior figures at the top of government as well as promoting loyal talent in the junior ministerial ranks… MPs representing non-traditional Conservative seats in the North and Midlands are tipped for promotion, as well as those elected in 2015 and 2017. Rising stars who have proved their abilities in the House of Commons and in the media are in line for more senior roles, including Treasury minister Kemi Badenoch, Foreign Office minister James Cleverly and health minister Edward Argar.” – FT

…as Patel hits back at black public figures seeking to stop Jamaicans’ deportations

“Priti Patel on Friday night hit back at attempts by 82 black public figures to halt the deportation of up to 50 Jamaican criminals next week, saying she was “unapologetic” about removing people who posed a risk to the public. The 82, including Naomi Campbell, the historian David Olusoga and actors Naomie Harris and Thandie Newton, have written to airlines urging them not to carry the Jamaicans the Home Office wants to deport. They claimed that if next week’s and other similar flights went ahead there was a risk of the unlawful removal of people who have the right to remain in the UK. However, Ms Patel’s department issued a breakdown of the 50 Jamaicans’ criminal records, which comprised a combined total prison sentence length of 294 years including two life sentences counted as 20 years each. The 50, whose offences included murder, rape drug dealing, child sex, grievous bodily harm, firearms possession, importing drugs, manslaughter and attempted murder, had an average sentence length of eight years and two months.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Government ready for 100 per cent increase in Hong Kong citizens coming to UK – The Times

Brexit 1) UK dismisses ‘derisory’ EU fishing offer ahead of last-ditch trade talks

“The UK has dismissed an EU offer on rights to Britain’s fishing waters as “derisory”, dealing a blow to hopes that the two sides can secure a post-Brexit trade deal in coming days. With only five weeks to go before the end of the transition period, talks on the UK’s future relationship with the EU boiled over when Britain lashed out at an indication from Michel Barnier about how far the bloc was prepared to move on the vexed issue of EU access to UK waters. At a closed-door meeting with EU ambassadors, Mr Barnier, the bloc’s chief Brexit negotiator, said he had told Britain the EU could accept a 15 to 18 per cent cut in its share of rights in UK waters. British and EU officials said the offer was made some weeks ago. Brussels estimates that the EU fleet’s catch in UK waters is worth about €650m a year. The offer would mean that Brussels would sacrifice fishing rights equivalent to up to 18 per cent of that revenue – about €120m.” – FT

  • Barnier’s offer on post-Brexit fishing rights ‘impossible for Britain to accept’… – The Times
  • …or is a fishing breakthrough close? EU ‘set to recognise British sovereignty over UK waters’ – Daily Telegraph

Brexit 2) Labour leader risks fury by reopening bitter divide in party

“Sir Keir Starmer risks reopening a Brexit divide in his Labour Party as he edges closer to backing the Tory Government’s UK trade deal with the EU. The Remainer premier is said to be under pressure to throw his weight behind a deal from what’s left of the so-called ‘Red Wall’ – Labour MPs in Brexit heartlands. But Sir Keir, a former senior public prosecutor and Labour’s former Brexit spokesman, risks reopening wounds in a party – battling to make a comeback from the divides under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. This is because Labour MPs, who campaigned desperately for a People’s Vote following the UK’s decision to leave the Brussels club, are said to be furious over Sir Keir’s focus on the “fighting the last war” by reaching out to Brexit voters in the red wall. They fear backing Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal will leave them unable to hold the Tory Government to account over the consequences of leaving the bloc.” – Daily Express

  • Labour MPs and members ordered not to discuss Corbyn’s suspension – The Guardian

Sketch:

  • Members quitting in droves? That’s the best news he’s had all year – Michael Deacon, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Kate Hoey joins us for the next episode of ConservativeHome Live

Iranian ‘bomb plot’ targeted Tory MPs…

“An Iranian diplomat planned to carry out a terrorist attack in France that could have killed five British MPs and Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s lawyer, a court has been told. Assadollah Assadi, 48, failed to appear yesterday for the opening of his trial at which he is accused of masterminding a foiled attack on an event held by Iranian opposition activists in June 2018. The event, near Paris, was attended by the Conservative MPs Bob Blackman, Matthew Offord, Theresa Villiers and Sir David Amess and Labour’s Roger Godsiff, as well as 30 other British officials. Mr Assadi and three alleged co-conspirators are being tried in Antwerp. Two of them, Amir Saadouni, 40, and his wife Nasimeh Naami, 36, were arrested in Belgium, supposedly en route to the event. Mehrdad Arefani, 57, was arrested in Villepinte, on the outskirts of Paris, where the event was taking place, and Mr Assadi was arrested in Germany and extradited.” – The Times

…as Iran vows to ‘descend like lightning’ to avenge ‘Israeli’ assassination

“Iran has vowed to ‘descend like lightning’ on Israel to avenge the death of a prominent nuclear scientist dubbed the ‘father’ of the rogue nation’s bomb programme. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi was killed in an ambush involving an explosion and then machine gun fire on a road between the countryside town of Absard and the capital of Tehran yesterday. His death sent tensions in the regions skyrocketing as Iran accused Israel of trying to provoke a war by killing Fakhrizadeh-Mahabadi – who Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu once called out in a news conference saying: ‘Remember that name’. Hossein Dehghan – who is a presidential candidate in Iran’s 2021 election as well as an adviser to its supreme leader Ali Khamenei – echoed the claim that Israel was behind the attack and issued a warning.” – Daily Mail

  • Scientist’s assassination could trigger ‘full blown war’, claims Tehran – Daily Express

SNP conference set to be dominated by race and referendum strategy

“Despite its pared-down online format, this weekend’s Scottish National party conference will see two areas of significant tension between the leadership and ordinary members, amid anger at the quashing of debate on independence referendum strategy and frustration at the lack of black and minority ethnic candidates for next May’s Holyrood elections. While the party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, refused to rule out a second referendum next year in pre-conference interviews, this is unlikely to satisfy those within the SNP and the wider independence movement pushing for development of a plan B for holding a referendum if the UK government continues to deny Holyrood the powers to hold one legally. But senior party sources believe that Sturgeon’s popularity with voters and the bounce in support for independence this year gives them increasing latitude to disappoint these activists, arguing that a second referendum is not a priority for conference.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • The Oxford vaccine can be a shot in the arm for foreign aid – Sam Olsen, CapX
  • Welcome to the new Middle Ages – Ed West, UnHerd
  • Italy is about to hijack the eurozone – Matthew Lynn, The Spectator
  • The Marxist cell in Number Ten – Adam LeBor, The Critic