Johnson ‘backs down in face of Tory revolt’ – just a day after Gove said Covid tier measures were essential to prevent NHS collapse

“Boris Johnson capitulated to Tory MPs last night, announcing that he would reform his new coronavirus crackdown before Christmas after threats by backbenchers to vote down the government’s plans. In a sign of disarray in Downing Street, the prime minister wrote to MPs, signalling that millions of people who will be hit with the toughest restrictions this week will see them eased on December 19. He announced that the new rules would be scrapped altogether in February unless MPs want them to continue — putting an end to claims that tough restrictions will continue until Easter.” – Sunday Times

  • Secret meeting ended in tiers – Sunday Times
  • Angry Tory MPs turn on Gove after ‘overwhelmed NHS’ claims – Observer
  • PM says ‘Virus tiers could end in nine weeks’. – Sunday Telegraph
  • ‘Let’s not trip on the last barbed wire’ – Mail on Sunday

Boris Johnson: ‘We are so nearly out of our captivity’

“We can’t blow it now. We can’t just throw it all away – not when freedom is in sight. We have worked too hard, lost too many, sacrificed too much, just to see our efforts incinerated in another volcanic eruption of the virus Once again, the British people have come together to bring Covid under control. Once again, our collective efforts have paid off – and as I write the R rate is once again below one. Across the country, the disease is no longer doubling in prevalence. It is halving. We did it before, in the spring, and now we have done it again.”- Boris Johnson – Mail on Sunday


Damian Green: ‘This is nonsense on stilts’

“The lovely town of Tenterden in my constituency has no Covid cases. But as the whole of Kent is in tier 3, the most restricted area, all pubs must close. Help is at hand, however. Drinkers can be driven a few miles to East Sussex, where the incidence of Covid is higher, but the county is in tier 2, so the pubs are open. This is nonsense on stilts. We are entitled to ask: what has the national lockdown achieved? Before we went into lockdown, 42% of the country was living in tier 1. That figure is now 1%.” – Sunday Times

Other comment

Zahawi appointed as vaccine rollout minister

“Nadhim Zahawi has been appointed as a new health minister to oversee rollout of the Covid vaccine in England. The rollout is expected to begin before Christmas, subject to regulatory approval. Mr Zahawi, MP for Stratford-on-Avon, will oversee distribution of the vaccine until at least next summer. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “delighted”, adding in a tweet there was “an enormous task ahead”. Under the interim arrangement, Mr Zahawi will serve as a joint minister between the health department and the business department, where he currently works. His primary focus will be on delivering the vaccine, with most areas of his business portfolio put aside.” – BBC News

  • Minister in charge of rollout named – Observer
  • Christmas travel tsar appointed to oversee Covid-hit networks – Observer

No-deal Brexit is ‘underpriced’, No 10 warns

“Britain could be just seven days away from leaving the European Union without a trade deal, Downing Street warned on Saturday night. In a candid assessment issued “at the start of what may be the final week of trade negotiations”, Number 10 warned that a “significant gap” still exists on fisheries, adding: “No deal is arguably underpriced.” The comments mark a toughening of the UK’s position on the talks which have dragged on for months and have seen various deadlines missed.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Britain will announce No Deal next week unless EU concedes, warns No 10 – Sunday Express

Quick economic recovery ‘could see Treasury delay tax rises plan’

“Treasury ministers are hoping that a quick economic recovery in the middle of next year will mean that any consideration of significant tax rises can be delayed until 2022. There has been speculation for months that personal taxes will start to increase in this spring’s Budget to start bringing down the deficit, which has surged during the pandemic. However The Telegraph understands that senior Treasury ministers are keen to ensure the UK has gone past the worst of the pandemic before even considering tax rises. This realistically pushes any large-scale increases in taxes to March 2022 at the earliest. Last night, a senior Treasury source told The Telegraph that people would have to wait “a bit longer” than the Budget to see whether tax increases were necessary.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Sunak attacked over benefit top-up commitment – Sunday Times
  • SNP promises free breakfast and lunch for all primary pupils – FT

Mandarins ‘stick knife into boss’ during Patel peace talks

“It was meant to be the meeting in which the Home Office’s top official reassured senior civil servants that, whether or not Priti Patel had bullied them, they were all still valued and listened to. Then he would draw a line under the matter. However, as Matthew Rycroft, the permanent secretary, quickly learnt last Tuesday, hell hath no fury like Sir Humphrey scorned. He was deluged with comments from his subordinates, telling him they were “ashamed”, “disillusioned” and “had no faith in our organisation”; that Patel’s caveated apology was “shocking” and the atmosphere in the department “toxic”. – Sunday Times

Sajid Javid: We must not allow woke activists to stop us confronting Islamist extremism

“In a year so saturated by one major risk to our safety and way of life, I wouldn’t blame anyone for wanting to avoid dwelling on others. But the commemoration of the London Bridge terror attack one year ago today is an important reminder of a threat that cannot be kept at bay by quarantining. In fact the opposite may even be the case. Extremism of various hues has flourished during lockdown, with people spending much more time online being bombarded by conspiracy theories, while operations to monitor extremist and terrorist activities have themselves been forced to adapt quickly.” – Sunday Telegraph

Starmer urged to invite Berger back into Labour

“Sir Keir Starmer should “bend his knee” and invite Luciana Berger – who quit Labour over anti-Semitism and fought the party at the last election – to rejoin Labour, the Government’s anti-Semitism tzar says on Sunday. Lord Mann of Holbeck – who as Labour MP John Mann campaigned against anti-Semitism in the party – says Sir Keir “must open his arms to and, if necessary, bend his knee” to ask Jewish former Labour MPs to rejoin the party. Ms Berger quit as Labour MP for Wavertree from 2010 to February last year after suffering anti-semitic abuse. She then joined the Independent Group of MPs before running as a Liberal Democrat candidate at last December’s election.” – Sunday Telegraph

And finally, Jacob Rees-Mogg: Choirs and carol singers can still warm hearts this Christmas

“From tinned music in lifts to straggly infant concerts, carols are a joyful element of Christmas celebrations. Even the stoniest-hearted atheist may draw pleasure from them. Indeed, we will all be able to sing to the Lord with cheerful voice. As the government will ease some restrictions choirs and carol singers can perform and warm hearts again. They will be heard from churches, doorsteps and terraces across the land. There will be some differences of course. Choristers and revellers must be socially distanced, and singers should congregate in groups according to the local tier system.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Johnson steps in save Christmas by allowing groups of six carol singers – Sunday Telegraph