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Salmond accuses Sturgeon of “untruths”. And breaking the Ministerial Code

“Alex Salmond has made an extraordinary personal attack on Nicola Sturgeon, calling her testimony to the inquiry into sexual assault claims made against him “simply untrue”. The former first minister said that Ms Sturgeon misled parliament and had broken the ministerial code which, if he is correct, would almost certainly spell the end of her political career. Mr Salmond said the breaches included a failure to inform the civil service in good time of her meetings with him, and allowing the Scottish government to contest a civil court case against him despite having had legal advice that it was likely to collapse…The ministerial code says that any meetings about government business should be recorded and that ministers must ensure the government complies with the law. A minister found to have knowingly misled Holyrood “will be expected to offer their resignation”. In a strongly worded statement, Ms Sturgeon said she “entirely rejected” Mr Salmond’s claims that she had broken the ministerial code.” – The Times

Sharma to run climate conference. Kwarteng is the new Business Secretary

“Alok Sharma is to leave his position as business secretary to focus full-time on his role as president of the UN COP26 climate conference in November. The Glasgow event is expected to be the biggest summit the UK has ever hosted. Mr Sharma, who will remain in the cabinet, said he was “delighted to have been asked by the PM to dedicate all my energies” to the position. Kwasi Kwarteng replaces him as business secretary while Anne-Marie Trevelyan becomes the new energy minister.” – BBC

>Today: ToryDiary: The short sharp shuffle. Sharma takes on COP26 full-time. Kwarteng steps up a rung to become Business Secretary.

Coronavirus 1) Deaths reach highest daily figure as London hospitals “risk running out of beds”

“The UK reported more than 1,300 deaths from Covid-19 on Friday, the highest daily figure since the pandemic began, as London’s mayor declared a “major incident” in the city. Sadiq Khan said the spread of Covid-19 in London was “out of control”, adding that in some parts of the city one in every 20 people has been infected with the disease. The mayor warned that the city’s hospitals risk not having enough beds in the coming weeks and urged the government to take several emergency measures, including providing additional money for people who have to self isolate, and ensuring that face masks be worn outside the home.” – Financial Times

  • Evictions ban extended – BBC
  • Vaccination targets could be exceeded, claims former taskforce head – BBC
  • The NHS could vaccinate everybody in five days if it were better motivated – Interview with Sir John Bell, The Times
  • The price of freedom is now NHS capacity – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson was last man standing over Covid schools closures – The Times

Coronavirus 2) Crackdown planned on rule-breakers

“Ministers are considering a “tough crackdown” to pressure more Britons to stay at home after the daily coronavirus death toll hit a record high. There is growing concern in Government over compliance with the latest lockdown after Covid cases continued to rise sharply, with one in 15 people now estimated to be infected in some parts of London. Rates in Liverpool and some other areas have almost quadrupled in a week. A new hard-hitting Government advertising campaign, unveiled on Friday night, warned the public that if they leave their homes “people will die”. In a new television advertisement, Professor Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, says: “Covid-19, especially the new variant, is spreading quickly across the country…Boris Johnson issued a plea to the nation to obey the rules, saying doing so “is now more vital than ever” because the NHS faces “severe strain”. He warned against complacency based on the “renewed hope” offered by the vaccine rollout.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Police claim cups of tea counted as a picnic – Daily Mail
  • West Mercia Police says snowball battle not a justifiable reason for people to leave homes during lockdown – Daily Telegraph
  • Even in a pandemic, citizens should be free to ask difficult questions – Leader, Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Sunak “looking to delay tax rises and end the stamp duty holiday”

“Rishi Sunak is expected to shelve plans for tax rises in his March budget amid mounting concerns about the “colossal” scale of the economic fallout from coronavirus. The chancellor has repeatedly warned that the huge levels of debt built up by the government as it battles to contain the fallout from coronavirus could be unaffordable if there is a sudden rise in interest rates…The government is likely to borrow £370 billion this year, more than double the £158 billion deficit in the peak year of the financial crisis. The Treasury has drawn up plans for an array of potential tax rises including cutting pensions tax relief for high earners, increasing capital gains tax and introducing a digital sales tax for online retailers….The Times understands that Mr Sunak has rejected calls to extend the stamp duty holiday despite warnings that almost a quarter of a million house sales could collapse.” – The Times

  • Almost all civil servants want to work from home permanently, survey finds – The Sun
  • Charities set for £800m boost from expansion of UK dormant asset fund – Financial Times

>Today: Book Reviews: Peel increased the burden of taxation on the rich – perhaps Sunak and Johnson will too

Coronavirus 4) Moderna jab approved – but no doses until March

“Britain has approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine – but won’t be able to get any of the 17million doses it has bought until March at the earliest. Moderna’s Covid jab is the third to be given the green light by regulators in the UK, joining the vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca. Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted that No10 won’t get any doses until the spring but said: ‘This is further great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease.’ And Business Secretary Alok Sharma described it as ‘another huge step towards ending lockdown’. The EU – which approved the same vaccine two days ago – will get supplies of the jab from next week after health chiefs struck a deal with the US-firm to buy 180million doses last summer.” – Daily Mail

  • NHS says patients no longer need to be monitored for 15 minutes after receiving the Oxford jab – Daily Mail
  • Israel ‘paid to jump the vaccine queue’ – Daily Mail
  • Zahawi is ‘so self-assured that he seems to be on a hustle all the time’ – Financial Times

Twitter permanently suspends Trump’s account…

“Twitter has permanently suspended the account of Donald Trump, citing his repeated violations of the company’s rules and risks including the “further incitement of violence”. Twitter assessed two tweets sent by Trump on Friday morning as “highly likely to encourage and inspire people to replicate the criminal acts that took place at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021”, the company said in a statement. Plans for “future armed protests” are spreading on Twitter and elsewhere, the company warned, “including a proposed secondary attack on the US Capitol and state capitol buildings on January 17, 2021”. Twitter’s extraordinary decision to ban Trump’s personal account carries pointed symbolism for the embattled president, whose use of social media to stoke hatred and fear fueled both his unlikely political rise and his presidency’s ignominious end.” – The Guardian

…as Democrats press for impeachment

“Democrats are urging Republicans to help them to impeach President Trump on a single charge of incitement of insurrection written narrowly to appeal across the political divide. Members of the House judiciary committee have drafted an article of impeachment accusing Mr Trump of high crimes and misdemeanours for “wilfully inciting violence against the government” with his rabble-rousing speech to his followers on Wednesday before they attacked the Capitol. It concludes that Mr Trump will “remain a threat to national security, democracy and the constitution” and should be removed and disqualified from public office, preventing him from seeking a second term in 2024.” – The Times

  • We risk underestimating Trump’s capacity to bounce back, again – Christopher Meyer, Daily Telegraph
  • The Second American Civil War – Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Mail
  • Can Joe Biden REALLY unite the USA under socialism?  – Christopher Smithers, Daily Express
  • Trump at bay – Leader, The Times

Labour MPs “desperate” to rejoin the EU

“Most Labour MPs are “desperate to re-join” the EU, one of the party’s former frontbenchers has admitted. Labour MP Rosie Duffield said most of her colleagues are still Remainers “at heart”. And they have not “given up” hope of one day tearing up Brexit and rejoining the EU, she said. Her explosive comments contradict Sir Keir Starmer’s repeated assertions the Brexit debate is “over” and Labour does not want to unpick the result. Ms Duffield told HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast that she wants to “try and shift the leadership” to change its mind.” – The Sun

  • EU spends £350,000 on gender identity books for children featuring gay kangaroos – The Sun
  • City of London stumbles through first week of Brexit – Financial Times
  • Gove warns of “significant” disruption as France orders ports crackdown – Daily Telegraph

Parris: The future looks bright

“When the vulnerable are protected, the argument for everybody else staying at home will become hard to sustain politically into the summer. Ministers and health officials will resist my line of reasoning but it will gather force. We have — as yesterday’s dreadful figures suggest — at most a couple of months of horrible difficulty coping with hospital admissions before we sail into calmer waters. “It gets harder, then it gets easier”, I remember once being advised in a moment of despair. At the time this sounded trite, banal. It is not. It has been getting harder but before too long it will get easier. Trump will be gone. Covid-19 will be under control. Brexit will have been survived. Just you see.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

  • Let’s try to focus on the positives and remember life will get better – Leader, The Sun

News in brief

  • University challenge – John Redwood
  • Uganda faces a fraught election – Archie McKenzie, The Spectator
  • Is the NHS already being overwhelmed? – Daniel Johnson, The Article
  • Fox News starts to pivot away from Trump – Will Lloyd, Unherd