London and Liverpool hope to dodge Tier 3 Covid restrictions

“London and Liverpool are hoping to escape the toughest Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions but only a few rural areas are expected to be placed in Tier 1 when new rules are disclosed today. With a study finding that Tier 1 restrictions failed in almost every area subject to them, millions of people across southern England are expected to face a ban on indoor socialising when national restrictions end next week. Boris Johnson warned last night that the new tiering system was going to be “very tough”. He said: “We’ve got to keep our foot on the throat of this virus.” Matt Hancock, the health secretary, will today announce which areas are subject to the three levels of restrictions in a revamped tier system. Although they have laid out the five criteria, he will consider that ministers have discretion about how they are weighted and applied across council areas and decisions had yet to be finalised last night.” – The Times

  • Millions of Brits to be in Tier 3 lockdown ‘in all but name’ – The Sun
  • Prime Minister faces fight with English regions over Covid tier plan – The Guardian
  • Government sources suggest ‘at least one’ area in Tier 3 before second lockdown is likely to drop to Tier 2 – Daily Telegraph
  • London set to be spared toughest Covid curbs – FT
  • Johnson to give press conference today on new Tiers for England – The Sun

>Today: Dr Caroline Johnson MP in Comment: Tiers are a tough but necessary step for the country. We must hold our nerve over winter.

Scotland’s Covid death rate prompts questions over Sturgeon’s strategy

“Nicola Sturgeon has cited the lower prevalence of coronavirus in Scotland, compared with other parts of the UK, as proof of the effectiveness of the action taken by her devolved government against Covid-19. Left unmentioned by Scotland’s first minister has been a less flattering fact: weeks of official statistics suggest that proportionately more people have actually been dying of coronavirus in Scotland than in England. In the week to November 13, for example, data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics and National Records of Scotland showed 40 deaths per million people where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate in England, compared with more than 50 per million in Scotland. Scotland’s relatively high death rate challenges a popular image of Ms Sturgeon and her government as being more effective in the fight against coronavirus than the UK government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which is responsible for health policy in England.” – FT

  • Scottish leader has single-handedly broken a “four-nations” Christmas coronavirus lockdown plan – Daily Express

Spending Review 1) Our economic emergency has just begun, Sunak warns

“Britain’s economic emergency “has only just begun”, Rishi Sunak said on Wednesday as he put the country on notice of tax rises to pay for the £550 billion cost of coronavirus. The financial devastation caused by the virus will see the economy shrink by 11.3 per cent this year – the biggest drop in 300 years – with borrowing reaching levels never seen in peacetime. But Mr Sunak said he could only address the imbalance “once the economy recovers” and used his autumn spending review to announce yet more borrowing so he can spend money protecting jobs and businesses. The Chancellor confirmed that the Government will cut £4  billion from its foreign aid budget in a move that prompted the resignation of a minister and was described as “shameful and wrong” by the Archbishop of Canterbury.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor echoes Iron Lady as he says Governments only ‘set the direction’ – Daily Mail
  • Covid costs ‘three years of growth to economy’ – The Times
  • How the major Government departments fared in the spending review – Daily Telegraph
  • Sunak warns of ‘economic emergency’ as borrowing hits record £394bn – FT
  • IFS warns that more cash may be needed – Daily Mail
  • OBR says tough decisions needed to fill spending gap by 2024 – The Guardian
  • Pay freeze for public sector but a boost for low earners… – The Times
  • …and nurses and doctors are spared – Daily Mail
  • Ministers give green light for council tax hikes – The Sun

Levelling Up:

  • Sunak launches £4bn fund to bridge regional inequality… – FT
  • …but says levelling-up regional cash will need MP’s support – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Sunak opts to suck it and see


Spending Review 2) Sunak falls short on meeting healthcare needs, experts say

“Rishi Sunak trumpeted his healthcare spending review announcement as honouring the government’s “historic, multiyear commitment to the NHS”. But sector leaders and experts said the chancellor had fallen short of the sums needed to fulfil the government’s ambitious pledges for the health service while making up the ground lost through Covid-19. Hailing a rise in the “core health budget” next year of £6.6bn, Mr Sunak said it would allow the NHS to deliver 50,000 more nurses and 50m more GP appointments, two key manifesto pledges on which Boris Johnson won last year’s general election. Capital investment would increase by £2.3bn to allow spending on new technologies and to replace ageing diagnostic machines, while also funding “the biggest hospital-building programme in a generation — building 40 new hospitals and upgrading 70 more”.” – FT

  • Businesses ‘could refuse to serve Brits who have not had Covid vaccine’ – The Sun


  • NHS should make better use of its billions – Iain Martin, The Times

Spending Review 3) Foreign Office minister Baroness Sugg quits over foreign aid cut

“Rishi Sunak announced plans for legislation that could mean years of foreign aid budget cuts to plough billions of pounds back into the economy, prompting a ministerial resignation. The chancellor said the reduction from 0.7 per cent of gross national income to 0.5 per cent was temporary, but did not say for how long. He said that it was the government’s “intention” to restore the target “when the fiscal situation allows”, arguing that it was “difficult to justify” at a time of record borrowing because of the coronavirus. Baroness Sugg, a Foreign Office minister whose brief included sustainable development, resigned soon after the announcement, saying that promises should be kept in the “tough times as well as the good”. The government now faces a rebellion from Tory MPs and senior party figures over the foreign aid cut. The Times has been told that David Cameron, the former prime minister, made clear in a text message to Boris Johnson this month that he was prepared to “go to war” over the issue.” – The Times

  • Sunak on collision course with dozens of Tory MPs – Daily Telegraph
  • He confirms foreign aid will be slashed next year, but says it will rise again in future – The Sun


  • It’s liberal hysteria to think cutting foreign aid will turn Britain into an international pariah – Douglas Murray, Daily Telegraph


Spending Review 4) Robert Shrimsley: Sunak is fighting a battle for traditional Tory values

“The first came with his quip that sometimes he should take away the prime minister’s “credit card”. The second was an interview in which, by denying he was insisting on a Brexit deal at all costs, he made clear that he would not be the fall guy for those crying “sellout”. These were acts of differentiation rather than disloyalty. Mr Sunak was reminding Conservative MPs that, as a true Brexiter and a fiscal hawk, he is at the spiritual centre of the party. Not so unbending as to rule himself out of the top job, but constant enough for when Tories tire of what one might call overly spontaneous leadership. Even so, he is in a spot. For the evidence suggests Tory MPs have lost their stomach for being the party of sound money, low taxes and funded spending. Instinctively resistant to any tax rise, yet uncomfortable with spending cuts except on overseas aid or public sector work.” – FT

  • Britain is facing ruin, but deluded Tories are still refusing to accept it – Allister Heath, Daily Telegraph
  • The colossal annual borrowing shared by us all… how do we pay it back? Alex Brummer, Daily Mail
  • We needed long-term spending and higher taxes – Tom Kibasi, The Guardian


  • The Chancellor’s strategy makes sense – The Times
  • What planet are MPs who oppose him on? – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Commons sketch: The Chancellor brings a mysterious poetry to his numbers

Brexit: EU ‘threatens to pull out of Brexit talks’ if UK refuses to compromise…

“The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has warned David Frost that without a major negotiating shift by Downing Street within the next 48 hours he will pull out of the Brexit negotiations in London this weekend, pushing the talks into a fresh crisis. In talks via videoconference on Tuesday, Barnier told his British counterpart that further negotiations would be pointless if the UK was not willing to compromise on the outstanding issues. Should Barnier effectively walk out on the negotiations it would present the most dangerous moment yet for the troubled talks, with just 36 days to go before the end of the transition period. While Brussels might hope such a move would put the UK prime minister under pressure to give Frost new negotiating instructions, it might also embolden those within the Tory party who believe no deal is the better outcome.” – The Guardian

  • ERG warns it will vote against UK-EU deal if sovereignty is not preserved – Daily Telegraph
  • No-deal Brexit could hit harder than virus – The Times
  • Europe’s finance sector hits ‘peak uncertainty’ over Brexit – FT

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: Agreeing to disagree on the trickiest parts of the UK-EU deal may be the best way forward. For now.

…and Starmer will ‘order Labour MPs to back Brexit deal to win back North’

“Sir Keir Starmer will order Labour MPs to back a Brexit deal to try to win back the North, his allies claim. Shadow Cabinet sources say the party will support “almost any trade deal” that PM Boris Johnson forges with Brussels. They hope that doing so will “put the issue to bed for good” and win back the trust of “Red Wall” voters lost to the Tories in last year’s election. Strategists also say Labour’s support will give the PM wiggle room to compromise and still have the votes to get an agreement through the Commons even with objections from those in his own party. Trade talks between the EU and UK are reaching an endgame, with negotiators “working around the clock to get a deal”, according to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove. Approval for any deal will be needed by the end of December for it to kick in on January 1, when Britain finally severs ties with the EU.” – The Sun

  • The left is determined to show it’s irrelevant – David Aaronovitch, The Times
  • Still no end in sight to the infighting tearing Labour apart – Sienna Rodgers, The Guardian

Johnson backs the campaign for half of MPs to be women

“Boris Johnson appears to have committed the Conservatives to equal gender representation at Westminster. The prime minister suggested it in a two-minute video message to the 50:50 Parliament campaign, but The Times understands that he is not considering ordering measures such as new quotas in selections for Tory candidates. Mr Johnson said: “The past century has seen women blazing a trail through politics… From the first female MP to the first female minister, prime minister, Speaker of the House of Commons… and more. But there is one first that is still long overdue, and that is the moment when for the first time we finally achieve 50:50 representation in our parliament…” In the past the Conservatives have stopped short of making a commitment on the gender balance in parliament and have avoided using affirmative action such as all-women shortlists.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Mak’s proposed NHS Reservists should be run through the Armed Forces – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Why I had to leave The Guardian – Suzanne Moore, UnHerd
  • A vaccine won’t heal the scarring of lockdown – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Ross is proving a better critic of Johnson than of Sturgeon – Graham Stewart, The Critic
  • Johnson’s Conservatives are burning bridges with China – Alberto Nardelli, Kitty Donaldson and Peter Martin, Bloomberg