First vaccine jabs for NHS staff and elderly patients

“The coronavirus vaccine will be given to elderly people attending hospital appointments and NHS staff next week after Britain became the first western country yesterday to approve the jabs. Sir Simon Stevens, head of the health service in England, said that the initial distribution of 800,000 doses would begin from 50 “hospital hubs” next week as he played down hopes of mass vaccination before next year. Care home managers demanded clarity over when their residents would receive jabs after it emerged they would not be sent any doses for weeks. They warned of “confusion and raised expectations” among vulnerable people. The government confirmed yesterday that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) had approved the Pfizer-Biontech jab. Britain’s approval of the vaccination prompted an extraordinary spat with European Union regulators over the speed of the decision.” – The Times

  • Military carry out dry run for UK’s biggest-ever vaccination programme – Daily Mail
  • Health chiefs rule out private sector jumping queue – FT

Public confidence:

  • Hancock: I’ll take coronavirus vaccine on TV to combat antivaxers – The Times
  • Johnson could do so too – Daily Telegraph


  • Rapid vaccine breakthrough is thanks to Brexit, say ministers – The Times
  • Drug company boss appears to agree – Daily Telegraph

Back to normal:

  • Vaccines prompt wave of market exuberance – FT
  • Don’t get hopes up about rapid rollout, Johnson tells UK – The Guardian


Williamson says next years exams will be easier to offset Covid disruption

“Next year’s exams will be made dramatically easier while the summer’s record-breaking grade inflation will be allowed to continue, the Education Secretary has announced. Pupils sitting their GCSEs and A-levels in 2021 will be told in advance the topics covered in the exam and be allowed to take study aids, such as reference sheets, into the exam room. Marking standards will also be relaxed, it has been announced. Gavin Williamson has been determined not to cancel next year’s exams in England – despite the ‘unprecedented disruptions’ to learning caused by Covid. Exams in Wales have been cancelled next year, while the Scottish government has decided to replace their GCSE equivalent, National 5 exams, with assessments.” – Daily Mail


  • Staggered return planned for university students in England after Christmas – The Guardian

>Today: David Willetts in Comment: Solving our nation’s problems requires a fair deal for the young

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Europe will pay a high price for vaccine bureaucracy

“The pandemic is not an international beauty contest. But it is indisputable that the UK has stolen a march by freeing itself from the EU’s policy orbit and going its own way under the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the teeth-arm of the EU system in its day. There was much outrage in anti-Brexit circles when Boris Johnson shunned the EU’s vaccine alliance. He was accused of reckless nationalistic infantilism. It was said that the UK would not have the great power ‘clout’ to obtain global vaccines at scale. Events have not played out remotely as they expected. The UK’s approval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine clears the way for immunisation of health care staff as soon as Monday. The armed forces –  vaccination veterans from Africa –  will deploy their logistical muscle to set up injection hubs and a cold storage chain in the biggest military operation since the Falklands War.” – Daily Telegraph

  • So this is what it’s like to run our own show! – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail
  • The Tory backbench rebellion is a problem of Johnson’s own making – Martin Kettle, The Guardian
  • It’s the greatest scientific achievement of my lifetime – Professor Brendan Wren, Daily Mail


  • The power of science has delivered the best possible news in a ghastly year – Matt Ridley, Daily Telegraph
  • Science is fast‑forwarding into the future – David Aaronovitch, The Times


  • We salute the brilliant scientists who made the breakthrough happen – The Sun


Sunak issues warning over mounting debt pile as he signals tax hikes on horizon

“Rishi Sunak on Tuesday night signalled that tax rises could be needed sooner rather than later as he issued a stark warning over Britain’s mounting debt pile. With the UK deficit set to hit £394 billion this year, the Chancellor said the country was “much more sensitive” to increases in interest rates, which could force the Exchequer to spend significantly more servicing the country’s debt. Although most economists believe the Treasury will resist tax hikes in the short-term to avoid stifling the post covid-19 economic recovery, Mr Sunak’s comments suggest he may be forced to act earlier than anticipated. It comes after the Office for Budget Responsibility, the independent financial forecaster, last week said that ultra-low interest rates meant the Government would save billions of pounds in interest payments compared to the forecast in March.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Borrowing is set to double – The Times
  • Pubs and hospitality bosses urge Chancellor to hand over £585m handed back by Tesco – The Sun


  • Johnson needs a plan or Tories will oust him – Iain Martin, The Times

Gas boilers in firing line as Prime Minister vows cut to emissions

“Boris Johnson will promise to cut Britain’s greenhouse gas pollution at a faster rate than any other big economy as part of an attempt to hit net zero emissions by 2050. The prime minister is expected to announce tomorrow a new target to reduce emissions by 69 per cent by 2030 compared with 1990 levels. Last month Mr Johnson published a ten-point plan for cutting emissions that included a ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030. Experts have suggested, though, that the measures do not go far enough. “The big issue is gas boilers,” a government source said. “If we really want to make these kinds of inroads we have to do more to decarbonise people’s homes. The prime minister’s ten-point plan will not be enough.” Britain has reduced emissions by 45 per cent since 1990, meaning that the rate of decarbonisation will have to increase by half over the next decade to meet the new target.” – The Times

  • Gove ‘will survive’ reshuffle, says Stratton – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Our survey. Almost three in five party members back Johnson’s decision about Cummings.

Immigration minister urges fruit farms to recruit redundant workers

“Scottish fruit farmers should recruit workers who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic for next year’s harvest rather than relying on migrants, a UK immigration minister has suggested. Kevin Foster told The Daily Telegraph that “very few people are expecting a general labour shortage next year” and urged fruit farmers to look to the domestic market for fruit pickers, with the sector facing major shortages due to an end to free movement after the Brexit transition period ends. However, Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, has warned that there is a “real risk of soft fruit going to waste in Scotland” unless the Home Office rethinks its approach and has told  Boris Johnson that telling employers to look to UK-based workers to fill the void was unrealistic.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Celebs and lefty lawyers kept 23 dangerous criminals in the UK – The Sun

France ‘will push for no-deal’ if UK refuses to give ground

“Michel Barnier has been warned by France and five other EU states not to concede too much to the UK in efforts to get a Brexit deal over the line. Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, briefed European ambassadors and MEPs yesterday after France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark raised concerns over the talks. “As we are entering the endgame of Brexit negotiations, some member states are becoming a bit jittery,” an EU diplomat said… France and other countries are said to have suggested that the EU should be prepared to walk away and trigger no-deal unless the UK government makes significant concessions soon. The hardliners urged that unless the UK backs down over the next 48 hours, the European Union should declare that negotiations have failed and allow the economic pain of a short no-deal period to bring a chastened Britain back to the table next year.” – The Times

  • UK has given ground on fishing quotas, says Barnier – Daily Telegraph
  • Red wall voters ‘will not forgive Johnson’ if he sells out to get a trade deal – The Sun


  • Sunak ‘destroys’ BoE chief’s doom-mongering claim no deal Brexit worse than Covid – Daily Express
  • UBS chairman backs London to remain Europe’s top financial centre – FT
  • Biden warning dashes UK hopes of early US trade deal – The Guardian


  • Betrayalism is dragging Johnson down – Robert Shrimsley, FT

>Yesterday: Ben Roback in International: Biden’s top team takes shape. Diversity is required in principle though not always in practice.

Labour leadership split on whether to back Johnson’s Brexit deal

“Labour leader Keir Starmer and shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds are at odds over how the UK’s main opposition party should vote if Boris Johnson strikes a Brexit trade deal with the EU in the coming days. Sir Keir has indicated that the leadership will whip the party’s MPs to back a deal if it comes to a vote in the House of Commons — given that the alternative is a more damaging no-deal severing of ties with the bloc. But some colleagues have warned that doing so could tarnish Sir Keir’s reputation because he opposed Brexit in the run-up to the 2019 general election, citing what happened to former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg when he changed his stance on student tuition fees a decade ago. Ms Dodds is among a number of high-profile members of the shadow cabinet who argue that Labour should abstain — so it cannot be blamed for any economic fallout in the coming months.” – FT

  • Up to 60 backbench MPs threaten to rebel if told to vote with Government – The Guardian


  • Labour shouldn’t fall out over Brexit: it ought to focus on what happens next – Peter Mandelson, The Guardian

Row erupts as Sturgeon sitting on £1bn UK taxpayer cash

“With Nicola Sturgeon pushing for a referendum as soon as next year, a new poll has suggested support for Scottish independence has surged to 56 percent. However, critics have today lambasted an SNP plan for a tax-free £500 coronavirus bonus for NHS and care staff – with the Fraser of Allander Institute think tank dismissing it as a political gimmick which would reward the rich more than the poor. Meanwhile Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie accusing the First Minister of using NHS staff as a “battering ram on the constitution” – pointing to the think tank’s estimate that the First Minister’s government was sitting on £1billion in unallocated cash… Mrs Sturgeon announced the “one-off thank you payment” in her speech to her party’s annual conference yesterday.” – Daily Express

News in Brief:

  • Abstaining on Covid tiers is not clever politics, it’s a dereliction of duty – Alan Lockey, CapX
  • Macron turns on the liberals – Aris Roussinos, UnHerd
  • The Sturgeon paradox: the worse she does, the more popular she becomes – Alex Massie, The Spectator
  • Is London on the verge of another phase of urban decline? – Lincoln Allison, The Critic