No 10 passes back control of advisers after Cummings

“Downing Street is preparing to relinquish day-to-day control over government special advisers in an attempt to improve morale in Whitehall after the departure of Dominic Cummings. One of Mr Cummings’s first acts in Downing Street was to change the contracts of “Spads”, the political appointed special advisers who provide support to ministers, to allow him direct responsibility for their conduct and discipline as he sought to exert No 10’s influence over Whitehall. The change was blamed for a toxic culture across government which left cabinet ministers unsure whether their own advisers could be trusted or if they were reporting back to Mr Cummings and Lee Cain, the Downing Street director of communications.” – The Times

  • Times Diary: Cummings briefs history – The Times

Frost ‘tells PM to prepare to shake on EU trade deal as soon as Tuesday’

“Brexit boss David Frost has told Boris Johnson to expect a Brussels trade deal “early next week”, The Sun can reveal. Britain’s chief negotiator has pinpointed “a possible landing zone” as soon as next Tuesday. But talks could still collapse over fishing and red tape, with both sides urging the other to “get real”. The PM last night said he would not row back on his Brexit red lines amid claims Cabinet members are pushing for a climbdown. Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Business Secretary Alok Sharma have been accused of urging a compromise. That could bind Britain to Brussels rules forever and give the EU huge access to the UK’s fishing waters. And some ministers have said Michael Gove has warned No Deal will lead to Scotland breaking away.” – The Sun

  • “It will be Britain that has to make the concessions to get the deal” – Frost’s prediction in 2016 – FT

Coronavirus 1) Lockdown looms over Christmas

“Lockdown could carry on beyond December 2, Matt Hancock has admitted, saying it was “too early to know” whether the current restrictions have been effective. Even if the nationwide measures end on the scheduled date, a senior health chief warned that a “strengthened” tier system would be needed to replace it because the lowest tier had “very little effect”. It raises the prospect of the traditional family Christmas being effectively cancelled for millions of people as hospital admissions and the average number of daily deaths continue to climb. On Monday night, Tory MPs demanded a “clear route out of lockdown” during a virtual meeting with the Prime Minister, and Mr Johnson has been warned that he will face a revolt from dozens of backbenchers if he tries to extend it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ban indoor socialising when Covid lockdown ends, urges adviser – The Times
  • Long NHS delays for replacement joints and cataract surgery – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Michael Deacon: Van-Tam lines up his latest football metaphor… and slots it home with ease

“Stressful, isn’t it. On the one hand, it’s wonderful to hear there’s another vaccine on the way. But on the other hand, as ministers keep anxiously reminding us, none of the possible vaccines has yet passed all the required safety tests. As a result, it’s hard to decide how to feel. Dare we let ourselves get excited? Or are we racked with superstition, fearing that our premature cheers will somehow jinx the vaccines’ progress, and guarantee their failure? At last Monday’s Downing Street news conference, Jonathan Van-Tam, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer of England, summed up the nerve-jangling uncertainty with a footballing metaphor. Waiting for a Covid vaccine to be approved, he said, was like watching your team in a penalty shoot-out.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Hancock refuses to rule out making vaccine mandatory

“Health Secretary Matt Hancock has refused to rule out making a coronavirus vaccine mandatory, suggesting ministers could consider it if initial take up is lower than expected. On Monday he insisted the Government was not “proposing” compulsory vaccination, pointing out a number of people would be unable to take it for medical reasons. However, when asked whether he could rule it out in future, Mr Hancock said he had learned “not to rule things out” during the pandemic, adding: “We have to watch what happens and you have to make judgments accordingly.” Echoing his comments, a Government source said while ministers were focused on encouraging voluntary take up, “nothing could be ruled out” at this stage.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Moderna vaccine’s effectiveness bodes well for Oxford/AstraZeneca jab – The Guardian
  • Vaccination rescue plan is given a fresh boost – The Times
  • Moderna briefed out market-moving Covid jab data before general release – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 4) Operation Moonshot Covid testing flawed and unethical, say experts

“Screening experts have expressed alarm over the government’s Operation Moonshot plans for mass testing, warning it is likely to result in thousands of false positive and false negative results. The plans, which could cost an estimated £100 billion and are being led by Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s outgoing special adviser, have been developed without scrutiny from the National Screening Committee, they revealed. At a briefing yesterday, scientists with up to 35 years’ experience in the field said that there would be 400,000 false positives if 60 million Britons were screened in the run-up to Christmas.” – The Times

Coronavirus 5) Care homes to allow visitors by Christmas

“Care homes will be able to let residents see their families before Christmas by testing all visitors, Matt Hancock has said. The health secretrary committed himself to the goal of expanding visitor testing across the country before the end of the year as pilots begin today. About 20 care homes in lowinfection areas in Hampshire, Devon and Cornwall are allowing visitors to see relatives without screens if they test negative for coronavirus. This is the first stage of what it is hoped will become a national policy within weeks.” – The Times

  • Care home deaths from first Covid wave may be 10,000 higher than reported, say scientists – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 6) Foreign aid spending faces cut to pay for crisis

“Boris Johnson is considering a temporary cut to Britain’s aid spending to help repair the nation’s Covid-ravaged public finances. Ministers have drawn up plans to reduce the proportion of Britain’s gross national income spent on aid from 0.7 per cent to 0.5 per cent, saving billions, The Times has learnt. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, is pressing for the move to be announced in next week’s comprehensive spending review. His allies have insisted that cutting the aid budget is a political necessity at a time when spending on domestic areas will be limited as a result of the pandemic. Mr Johnson wants the cut to be time-limited and is insisting that aid spending returns to the 0.7 per cent total as soon as 2022.” – The Times

  • Businesses may not get £1,000 job retention bonus for furloughed workers – The Sun

Coronavirus 7) PM’s self-isolation shows rules need to change, scientists and MPs say

“Scientists and MPs are calling for urgent changes to Britain’s isolation rules, saying the confinement of Boris Johnson demonstrates the folly of the UK’s testing regime. A total of 12 MPs, including the Prime Minister, are now self-isolating after coming into contact with Ashfield MP Lee Anderson before he tested positive for coronavirus. Six of them, including Mr Johnson, came into contact with him during a meeting in Downing Street last week, and a further six came into contact with him elsewhere, including in Parliament. On Monday night, scientists said the situation showed the system was not “fit for purpose”, saying it would be far more sensible to offer rapid tests to those at risk of exposure. They said Mr Johnson – who was hospitalised with Covid in April – was extremely unlikely to contract the virus again and even less likely to transmit it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • The strange quirks of Britain’s Covid quarantine system – Daily Telegraph
  • In full: Host of Tory MPs join Johnson in self-isolation – Guido Fawkes

Social housing residents will have right to smoke alarm after Grenfell

“Tenants in social housing are set to have the right to smoke and carbon monoxide alarms for the first time under plans that have been devised since the Grenfell Tower fire. Ministers will announce proposals to end an anomaly under which the law offers social housing residents less protection than those in the private sector. Proposals include a tougher regulator of social housing able to conduct inspections to ensure landlords meet their responsibilities and a new system for investigating tenants’ complaints. Ministers will also begin a consultation on making smoke and carbon monoxide alarms compulsory.” – The Times

Johnson gives Tories representing the North a whip hand over levelling up…

“Boris Johnson promised last night to make northern Conservative MPs his “praetorian guard” as ministers moved to rewrite Treasury spending rules and allow billions of pounds of new infrastructure investment. In an attempt to rebuild relations with backbenchers after a tumultuous week in Downing Street, the prime minister promised the Northern Research Group (NRG) of Tories that their seats would benefit from “the largest financial commitment to infrastructure” in nearly a century. During an energetic video address to 67 backbenchers, many of them concerned that they could be marginalised after the departure of Dominic Cummings from No 10, Mr Johnson said: “You are my steer on the north and praetorian guard.”” – The Times

…as he is reported to have called devolution ‘a disaster north of the border’

“Politicians across the spectrum have reacted angrily after Boris Johnson dismissed devolution as “a disaster north of the border”. During a Zoom call with around 60 northern Conservative MPs on Monday evening, the prime minister described devolution as “Tony Blair’s biggest mistake”. While Downing Street later stressed that the remarks referred to Scottish National party mismanagement, Johnson’s comments will be seen as especially provocative with support for Scottish independence showing a sustained lead in polling throughout 2020, and ongoing frustration from both Scottish and Welsh governments at a lack of communication from Westminster during the coronavirus pandemic.” – The Guardian


Trump was ‘talked out of’ launching a strike on Iran last week

“President Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material, four current and former U.S. officials said on Monday. A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike. The advisers — including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.” – The New York Times

News in brief: