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Prime Minister warned to ‘expect riots’ if cities with low Covid rates remain in Tier 3

“Boris Johnson was last night warned there would be riots if he forced cities with low Covid rates to remain in Tier 3. Millions in England will today hear if they will be plunged into harsher lockdown, or be freed from the most draconian measures. The PM is expected to up restrictions in many areas as he scrambles to damp down a third wave of the virus before the Christmas amnesty. Ministers and health bosses were locked in intense tiers discussions until late last night. Greater Manchester and Leeds have been hammering at No10’s door to go down into Tier 2 after their infection rates fell below the national average. Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull are also clamouring to be freed from the harshest rules after their rates fell since the last decision.” – The Sun

  • Ministers will ‘overcompensate’ for Christmas ‘mistake’ with higher tiers, says Burnham – Daily Telegraph
  • English Covid cases rise sharply but no big change to tier system – The Times
  • Wales set for third lockdown – Daily Mail
  • Whitty: coronavirus vaccines don’t mean an end to social distancing – Daily Telegraph
  • NHS bosses say no areas should be dropped from Tier 3 to 2 today – The Sun

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: On Covid, the Government has dithered. On Covid, the Opposition has carped. Competing narratives clash in the Commons.

Sunak details prescription for economic recovery from Covid

“Rishi Sunak has said he wants to see Britain’s deficit reduced to under 3 per cent of GDP in his most specific prescription so far for the country’s Covid-ravaged public finances. The chancellor made clear he will press for social distancing measures to be scrapped as soon as the first phase of vaccination is completed, with the forthcoming decision on the Astra Zeneca Oxford jab “a significant swing factor in the timeline”. The Office for Budget Responsibility stated that Britain’s public sector net borrowing will balloon to 19 per cent of GDP in the current financial year, a peacetime record. Mr Sunak has repeatedly said that he wants to bring the deficit down to a “sustainable” levels warning of unacceptable exposure to interest rate increases and the need to maintain a political dividing line with Labour.” – The Times

  • More than 800,000 jobs have been lost during the pandemic, alarming figures reveal – The Sun

More:

  • 4.4m cancer scans missed during height of pandemic, analysis reveals – Daily Telegraph

Johnson defies calls to ‘cancel Christmas’, urging small gatherings

“Boris Johnson has defied his medical and political critics by refusing to “cancel Christmas”, instead urging the public to keep gatherings small, short and local even as the devolved nations introduced stricter guidelines for the festive period. The prime minister on Wednesday insisted a five-day relaxation of Covid-19 rules would go ahead from December 23 and said that he did not want to “criminalise” families. But he pleaded with the public to “think hard and in detail” about their plans and refrain from unnecessary travel and visiting elderly relatives where possible.  In recent days, Mr Johnson has been under pressure from the health establishment and Labour to scrap the holiday “window” in the face of rising Covid-19 cases… Instead, he said that the existing guidance allowing three households to mix for up to five days should be regarded as the absolute “maximum”.” – FT

  • Elderly told to avoid family at Christmas – The Times
  • Ellwood attends ‘Christmas party’ in London with 27 people – but insists he didn’t break the rules – Daily Telegraph
  • Nations split on guidance – The Guardian
  • Trains get cancelled as major outbreak of sweeps through rail company – Daily Mail
  • Most will spend Christmas at home, but one in four are ready to break Covid rules – The Times

Comment:

  • We need Johnson to be the Christmas Grinch – David Aaronovitch, The Times

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “Have yourselves a Merry Little Christmas. I’m afraid this year I do mean little” – Johnson.

Pivot from ‘fashionable’ race and gender issues to focus on poverty, says Truss

“The Government has focused too heavily on “fashionable” race, sexuality and gender issues at the expense of poverty and geographical disparities, Liz Truss will say as she overhauls the equalities brief on Thursday. The Women and Equalities minister will hit out at the dominance of “identity politics, loud lobby groups and the idea of lived experience” in the debate about developing a fairer society. She will outline a pivot away from quotas, targets, unconscious bias training and diversity statements to improve equality, dismissing them as “tools of the Left” that “do nothing to fix systems”. The state must not “waste time on misguided, wrong-headed and ultimately destructive ideas that take agency away from people,” she will say.” – Daily Telegraph

  • She dismisses quotas and unconscious bias training as ‘tools of the Left’ – Daily Mail

More:

  • Equalities minister runs department with second-biggest gender pay gap – The Times
  • Covid press briefings led exclusively by men for past six months – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Down with equality, up with opportunity

>Yesterday: Mark Lehain in Comment: The end of unconscious bias training and Truss’s coming speech on equality – signs of a Ministerial anti-woke fightback

Johnson to send MPs home for Christmas tonight – but clears diary for tomorrow…

“Boris Johnson will send MPs home for Christmas tonight, scotching hopes a Brexit deal is close. It is also a warning shot to Brussels that he will not be bounced into a talks climbdown. MPs had seen an announcement that they would sit next week as a sign trade discussions were reaching an end game. Hopes had risen further that a breakthrough was imminent when the PM cancelled a foreign visit pencilled in for tomorrow. But tonight, Downing Street insisted the two sides were still far apart on fishing and a row over Brexit Britain undercutting the EU. However, No 10 said MPs could still be recalled on Monday and Tuesday if decisive progress was made. But any emergency sitting is now more likely to be needed between Christmas and the new year to hit the December 31 deadline.” – The Sun

  • Johnson ramps up pressure on EU by sending MPs home for Christmas – Daily Telegraph
  • Prime Minister boosts hopes of a Brexit breakthrough – Daily Mail
  • Fishing is last barrier to a Brexit deal, Von der Leyen claims – The Times
  • Pound hits highest level since 2018 on hopes of Brexit trade deal – FT

More:

  • UK rejects Dover funding bid for more French passport booths – FT
  • Wales and Scotland threaten legal action over UK internal market plan – The Guardian
  • EU has ‘completely unreasonable demands’ of Britain, says ex-ambassador – Daily Telegraph
  • EU forced to ignore constant SNP attempts to meddle in Brexit negotiations – Daily Express
  • Brexit stockpiling triggers cross-Channel freight crunch – FT

>Today: Roderick Crawford in Comment: Brexit and trade. What we are and aren’t committed to in order to help bring about a level playing field

Robert Tombs: Britain will never be a European nation

“We could never have been at the heart of this “Europe”, with its quasi-religious mission to replace old nationalisms with an ersatz Europeanism seen as benign. “We have made Europe, now we have to make Europeans”, wrote one leading EU politician a few years back. We might theoretically understand the mistrust of popular sovereignty that has created the EU as a secretive elite power structure. But most of us can never feel this to be the inevitable price for peace. The 20th century taught us a different lesson: that the democratic nation is the bulwark of European civilisation, not its enemy. We instinctively feel that suppressing democratic choice is the truly dangerous course.” – Daily Telegraph

  • If self-interest is the measure, Johnson will do a Brexit deal – Robert Shrimsley, FT
  • The twin tests ahead that will prove whether the Prime Minister is just bluster – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • The UK will now count the cost of Brexit sovereignty – Philip Stephens, FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Johnson’s Brexit journalism and Brexit politics are of a piece: in both he thrives by infuriating the Establishment

Infrastructure Retreat 1) MPs urge for house planning to be locally-led, amid overhaul of controversial formula

“Ministers must go further than shelving a controversial housing target algorithm and ensure that planning systems are locally-led, MPs and campaigners have urged. Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, was applauded by Tory MPs in rural constituencies on Wednesday after he announced an overhaul of the formula for house building targets that will see more homes built in urban areas. Former prime minister Theresa May was among senior Tories who had warned the computer-based formula first proposed in August would lead to swathes of southern England being “concreted over”. Mr Jenrick said the changes to the methodology used to determine roughly how many homes should be built in each council area reflect concerns that more investment should be directed to the North and Midlands, with new development concentrated on brownfield sites.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Government uses Covid crisis to justify housebuilding U-turn – FT
  • U-turn makes it ‘harder to deliver 300,000 homes’ – The Guardian

More:

  • Third of house sales ‘will fall through unless Sunak extends stamp duty holiday beyond March’ – The Sun
  • London renters are leaving the capital for countryside locations, expert warns – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Ditching Jenrick’s ‘mutant algorithm’ is a win for localism – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

Infrastructure Retreat 2) Johnson refuses to back third runway after Supreme Court backs Heathrow

“Boris Johnson has refused to endorse proposals for a third runway at Heathrow despite a ruling in favour of the airport by the UK’s highest court. The panel of five Supreme Court justices overturned an earlier judgment against expansion, effectively giving Heathrow the green light to plan for the £14 billion project. The Court of Appeal ruled in February found that government backing for the two-mile runway in 2018 was unlawful because it failed to take account of climate change commitments. Heathrow welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision. It will still need to apply for a development consent order – planning approval for large projects. The airport said the decision was the “right result for the country”. Critics questioned whether the runway, which is supposed to be built northwest of the existing airport, would proceed.” – The Times

  • Judges say Government has taken proper account of climate change commitments – FT

Starmer will face no police action over his collision with a cyclist

“Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer will face no police action over his collision with a cyclist. A Met spokesperson said that the decision followed a thorough investigation and that “both parties have been informed”. A witness claimed that millionaire Sir Keir was performing a U-turn when he collided with the Deliveroo cyclist on October 25. The unnamed rider allegedly yelled “How did you not see me?”’ after being knocked from his bicycle in Kentish Town, North London. He was treated for an injured arm. Sir Keir, former Director of Public Prosecutions, was in his Toyota RAV4 and a mile from his home. He exchanged details with the cyclist, spoke with an off-duty community police support officer and reported the incident at a police station.” – The Sun

News in Brief:

  • EU said to expedite Covid vaccine for pre-Christmas rollout –  Alberto Nardelli, Naomi Kresge and Jonathan Stearns – Bloomberg
  • It’s absurd to attack Britain for wanting to defend her own waters – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Parenting should be tyrannical – Mary Harrington, UnHerd
  • Sunak’s plan to fix the UK economy – Katy Balls and Fraser Nelson, The Spectator
  • What deal would be acceptable to most Brexit-supporting MPs? – Graham Stewart, The Critic