Coronavirus 1) Johnson hit by biggest rebel vote yet as tough tier rules passed

“Boris Johnson suffered his biggest backbench rebellion since the general election last night as more than 50 Tory MPs voted against the new tiered system of coronavirus restrictions. England returns to a toughened three-tier lockdown system after MPs voted by 291 to 78 in favour of the move, with Labour abstaining. Fifty-four Tory MPs voted against and ten abstained. The size of the rebellion was such that the government would have been easily defeated if all the opposition parties had voted against it. Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has said that he is prepared to work with Tory rebels to force the government to publish a secret dossier detailing the impact of the virus on the economy. In an article for The Times today he accuses the government of attempting to “suppress the evidence” and calls for “maximum transparency”.” – The Times

  • MP Charles Walker warns that ‘you can’t compare the death of a baby or teenager with a 90-year-old’ as he rages against restrictions – Daily Mail
  • UK Covid death toll passes 75,000 despite falling infections – The Times
  • Care homes reopen to visitors – The Times
  • Tory MPs rage against ‘unfair’ tier lockdown restrictions that deny ‘touch of loved ones’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson won the Covid tiers vote – but the Tory rebellion has left him wounded – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Iain Duncan Smith – No 10’s Christmas stitch-up is the real reason for months of draconian rules

“The Government’s decision to return the UK to a tier system far tougher than the one which preceded the nation-wide lockdown has baffled many. It is becoming increasingly clear from the results that the original tier system was working in flattening and then bringing down the R rate. Since then, the lockdown has accelerated that process and in England as a whole, the R rate is now just below 1 and falling. So why, despite this positive evidence, is the new tier system so tough? Parliament may have been given the chance to have its say on the issue of whether the new tier plan is fair, reasonable and necessary, but we have failed to have an honest debate about the real reasons behind the Government’s adoption of such a tough position. This has little to do with the R rate or even with the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed, a scenario for which the Government has produced no evidence.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is approved by regulators for use in UK and could be rolled out across the country next week

“A Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for use in the UK – paving the way for mass vaccination to start in just days. Officials said the vaccine will be made available ‘from next week’ as Health Secretary Matt Hancock declared ‘Help is on its way’. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman made the announcement just after 7am this morning as England left its second national lockdown. He said: ‘The Government has today accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve Pfizer/BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for use.” – Daily Mail

  • Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine wins licence for use in the UK – The Guardian
  • Coronavirus vaccine will go on GP file but there’s ‘no passport plan’ – The Times
  • Britain yet to receive single dose of Covid vaccine – The Times
  • Doctors question why BAME communities are not on Covid vaccine priority list – The Times

Coronavirus 4) Ministers make a meal out of deciding if scotch eggs count as substantial meal for pubs

“Ministers have scrambled the government’s message on Scotch eggs with confusing messages on whether they count as a “substantial meal” for would-be drinkers in England. Michael Gove became the second cabinet member to wade into the debate yesterday by claiming that Scotch eggs were a starter before backtracking and saying they were definitely a substantial meal. The controversy began on Monday when George Eustice, the environment, food and rural affairs secretary, said that the eggs “probably would count” as a meal under new coronavirus rules in England. Pubs in Tier 2 areas can reopen today only if they serve customers a “table meal” with their drinks. Downing Street has refused to clarify the term but insisted that it was well understood in the hospitality industry because of licensing laws that allow 16 and 17-year olds to drink in such circumstances.” – The Times

Deportation critics hurt crime victims, says Patel

“Priti Patel has accused Labour MPs of “re-traumatising” victims of rape and other serious crimes after they demanded the government cancel a deportation flight to Jamaica. The flight, which was due to take off in the early hours today, had fewer than 20 convicted criminals on board. Originally 36 were due to leave but many did not travel after a succession of legal challenges this week. Campaigners attempting to halt the deportations appealed for lawyers yesterday to act for two men who they claimed would be at risk from flying because of their high blood pressure. The Movement for Justice said that six detainees had been given “last-minute” reprieves. One of the men, who was still scheduled to be deported, is a 57-year-old father of five who has not been convicted of any crime since his release from jail six years ago, they claim.” – The Times