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Coronavirus 1) Fears grow of a third lockdown

“Boris Johnson’s plan to avoid a third national lockdown by posting millions of testing kits to homes every week is being blocked by the medicines regulator. The prime minister refused to rule out a January lockdown yesterday as English hospitals were on course to face a record number of coronavirus patients after Christmas. Doctors and NHS leaders said the country was heading “inexorably” for further restrictions, with warnings that a winter lockdown would need to be tougher than the one lifted this month. Mr Johnson and Matt Hancock, the health secretary, have repeatedly said that fast “lateral flow” testing kits would help to bring down infection rates in the worst-affected areas. The extension of mass testing to individual homes, however, has been blocked by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which believes that they are not accurate enough when people test themselves.” – The Times

  • Covid-hit retail industry fears loss of Boxing Day sales – The Guardian
  • PM urges those seeing family over Christmas to isolate in advance – The Sun
  • Stay away from church if you are vulnerable, warns Welby – The Times
  • Italy orders Christmas lockdown – BBC

>Today: ToryDiary: Emergency proxies and postal votes: how the Government intends to ensure the local elections go ahead in May

Coronavirus 2) London and south east could be cut off from travel

“London and the South East could be ‘cut off’ from the rest of the UK with potential travel bans as a new ‘highly contagious’ coronavirus variant rips through the region. Boris Johnson could announce a strengthening of Covid-19 advice as soon as today after holding a meeting in which ministers are understood to have discussed how to contain the mutant strain. This has so-far been confined to London and the South East, with scientists warning the new variant is 50 per cent more contagious than any strain detected before.” – Daily Mail

  • Welsh First Minister attacks “selfish” people who “go the wrong way down the one way system in a supermarket” – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 3) We need to give people hope, declares Berry

“We are governing via fear,” thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, says a prominent northern Conservative MP. Jake Berry, who leads a group of MPs representing the North of England, called for Boris Johnson to set out a route out of Covid restrictions. Parts of the region have been under strict measure since July, when other areas saw relaxations. “We need to inject hope again,” Mr Berry told the BBC’s Political Thinking with Nick Robinson podcast. The MP for Rossendale and Darwen, in Lancashire was minister for the Northern Powerhouse initiative, until earlier this year.” – BBC

>Today: WATCH: “The next election will be fought in the North”

Coronavirus 4) Unions insist mass testing of pupils “undeliverable”

“The government’s plans for mass Covid testing of secondary pupils after Christmas are in disarray after unions told members not to work on the scheme over the holidays, branding it “inoperable” and “undeliverable”. A statement by the four main teaching unions and the National Governance Association advised staff to delay preparations until the start of term on 4 or 5 January and refuse to work on the scheme over the Christmas break.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Nick Maughan on Comment: To shut schools again would inflict further harm on a damaged generation of children.

Coronavirus 5) Oxford vaccine “to be approved within days”

“The Oxford vaccine is expected to be approved within days of Christmas, kickstarting a massive drive to give jabs to millions of people in January, The Telegraph can reveal. Senior Whitehall sources believe the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will authorise the vaccines on December 28 or 29 after final data is provided to the regulator on Monday. Football stadia and other sites across the country will then be opened from the first week of January, to allow mass vaccinations on a scale never seen before in the UK. However, the progress comes amid growing fears that England is about to enter a third lockdown, with the Prime Minister recently refusing to rule out following Wales and Northern Ireland in such a course of action.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Give NHS staff Covid vaccine now or face growing winter crisis, say hospital bosses – The Guardian
  • Frustration at delays in care home vaccinations – The Times
  • US approves Moderna as second vaccine – BBC
  • A successful vaccination programme can set Britain free again – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 6) Parris: Being bossed around has infantilised us all

“So this is what a free people have been reduced to. Whimpering for someone to boss us around. Yearning for a smack or to see others threatened with a smack. After nine months when the smallest twitch of an epidemiologist’s eyebrow seems to have been translated into statute, we’ve come to feel naked if there aren’t laws commanding everyone to be sensible rather than just advice recommending it. Thus we British slide, order-in-council by order-in-council, back to childhood. We’ve been infantilised. Even if we trust our own common sense, we don’t trust others’…I’ve no window into Boris Johnson’s soul but I don’t believe that by pausing lockdowns for Christmas the prime minister was being a coward. I half think he was reverting to his deeper instincts. I wish he had trusted them earlier and I wish he’d trust them again.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

  • The simple truth is that lockdowns do not work – Jonathan Sumption, Daily Telegraph

Brexit 1) Johnson rebuffs Barnier’s fishing demands

“Boris Johnson has rejected an ultimatum from Michel Barnier that gave him just hours to accept a demand that would allow Brussels to impose trade tariffs on Britain if access to fishing is cut. The EU’s chief negotiator told MEPs yesterday that the time had come “when decisions need to be taken . . . in the few crucial hours that remain” to finish Brexit trade, fishing and security talks this weekend. The prime minister insisted that Mr Barnier needed to come to the table with concessions if the EU wanted to avoid no deal. “Our door is open, we’ll keep talking but I have to say things are looking difficult,” he said.” – The Times

  • Negotiations could stretch to New Year’s Eve – Daily Telegraph
  • Britain will not be truly independent if it surrenders its water to Brussels – Leader, The Sun
  • The Channel Tunnel is already clogged – Daily Telegraph
  • Civil service rehearses nightmare scenarios – The Times
  • A trade deal with India could be worth up to £100 billion – Daily Express

>Today: Columnist David Gauke: Whether there’s a deal or not, Brexit will still not be done

>Yesterday: Syed Kamall on Comment: There may be advantages to No Deal for both the UK and EU

Brexit 2) Starmer makes case for backing any deal on offer

“Labour’s leadership is seeking to head off a new party split over Brexit by arguing any EU-UK trade deal will present Britain with the opportunity to work with Brussels to implement higher standards on workers rights and the environment. Keir Starmer, Labour leader, wants to back a Brexit deal to try to win back Eurosceptic voters in “red wall” seats, which were lost to the Conservatives in last year’s general election. The alternative, he has repeatedly argued, would be to risk the economic damage of a no-deal Brexit.” – Financial Times

  • All it takes is a chance misjudgement for Brexit talks to collapse – Macer Hall, Daily Express

Lewer sacked as PPS but denies leak

“A Conservative MP has been sacked from his job as a ministerial aide after an investigation into the leaking of a letter warning MPs not to leak. Andrew Lewer was dismissed from his role at the Home Office after a No 10 probe led by chief whip Mark Spencer. In an attempt to try and identify the culprit, a number of MPs were allegedly sent the same letter but with slightly different wording. Mr Lewer denied he was responsible, saying he had never leaked. “In nearly 20 years of elected office I have never leaked to the press,” the MP for Northampton South told the Politico website. The former Euro MP, elected to the UK Parliament in 2017, suggested one of his staff may have been involved.” – BBC

Sturgeon fires Scottish Public Health Minister

“Scottish public health minister Joe FitzPatrick has lost his job over the country’s drug deaths crisis. The decision was confirmed just hours after a motion of no confidence was lodged in Mr FitzPatrick at the Scottish Parliament, with two opposition parties saying they wanted him to step down. Mr FitzPatrick had faced persistent calls to resign after yearly figures released earlier this week showed a rise to a new record high of 1,264 drug deaths last year. He confirmed he was quitting following a discussion with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.” – The Scotsman

Roberts: Rees-Mogg is right to denounce Unicef’s stunt

“The deluge of ad hominem criticism of Rees-Mogg for daring to criticise Unicef will scare off politicians in the future, inevitably emboldening the Left and its network of supporters to conduct further stunts of this kind. The saddest thing of all, however, is that there are genuinely starving children in Chad and Somalia and Yemen at this time of year who are now going without £700,000 worth of desperately needed food. But at least Unicef will have made its egregious political statement.” – Andrew Roberts, Daily Telegraph

Truss: We must root the equality debate in the real concerns people face

“Quotas, unconscious bias training and diversity statements still pervade our body politic. They are supported by a philosophy which puts symbolic gestures ahead of policies that would have been a game-changer for the disenfranchised, like better education and business opportunities. All the while, the focus on oppressed groups at the expense of individuals has led to harmful unintended consequences….We cannot waste any time on this misguided, wrong-headed and ultimately destructive ideology which undermines individual dignity and has failed to help those most in need.” – Liz Truss, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • The failures of Thatcher, Cameron and Major provide lessons for the PM – Tim Hale, Unherd
  • Truss doesn’t lack courage – David Scullion, The Critic
  • Children are being condemned to a life in care by misguided adoption rules – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • Devolution and the virus – John Redwood
  • Brits don’t appear to have been influenced by anti-vaxxers – Ross Clark, The Spectator