Johnson beats his EU rivals to bag Biden phone call

“Boris Johnson has made a decisive break with Donald Trump, telling his successor Joe Biden that his election was “a moment of hope in a dark time” for the world. The prime minister made the comments in a telephone call with the new president last night. It is understood he was the first European leader spoken to by Biden since his inauguration on Wednesday. Johnson also used the call to welcome Biden’s announcements that America would rejoin the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organisation, and the two men discussed the prospects of a free trade deal. Downing Street called their conversation “warm and friendly” and released a picture of Johnson chuckling on the call.” – Sunday Times


Welsh Tory leader quits after drinking during Covid alcohol ban

“The leader of the Conservatives in the Welsh parliament has quit after he was seen drinking in the Senedd during a pub alcohol ban. Paul Davies insisted he had not broken any rules but that the fallout from the news meant “I simply cannot continue in my post”. His colleague and chief whip, Darren Millar, also said he was stepping down. They were among politicians seen drinking four days after pubs in Wales were banned from serving alcohol. The incident triggered an investigation in the Senedd, which found that five people, four of whom were members, were involved in a possible breach of Covid regulations. In a statement, Davies said he was “truly sorry” for his actions, acknowledging that they had “damaged the trust and respect I had built up over 14 years in the Welsh parliament with my colleagues and the wider Conservative party but more importantly with the people of Wales”. – The Guardian

Polls suggest support for referendum on Scottish independence and united Ireland

“The UK is facing a constitutional crisis that will strain the Union as new polls reveal a majority of voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland want referendums on the break-up of Britain. A four-country survey we commissioned, based on separate polls in Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales, also found that the sense of British identity that once bound the country together is disintegrating. And in another significant move, the Scottish National Party (SNP) announced that it is prepared to call a wildcat referendum of its own if Boris Johnson refuses to grant one himself — a move that puts the two governments on a constitutional collision course.” – Sunday Times


Coronavirus 1) Government quietly changes law to give councils lockdown powers until July 17 this year

“The Government has quietly extended lockdown laws to give councils the power to close pubs, restaurants, shops and public spaces until July 17 this year. The news will be a major setback for those hoping that life might have returned to normal by early summer once more people are vaccinated against coronavirus. It comes after Boris Johnson admitted late last week that “it’s too early to say when we’ll be able to lift some of the restrictions”. The Government had pledged to review the lockdown measures in the middle of next month. The changes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020 were made as part of a review of the third lockdown by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, earlier this month.” – Sunday Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Van-Tam: The vaccine has given us hope, but we still need to follow the rules

“Next Saturday will mark the first anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and next Sunday will be one year on from the first case of Covid-19 detected in the UK. It has been a terrible year as the virus has spread across the world causing misery, hardship, death and severely disrupting all of our lives. The silver lining has been the incredible work of scientists and healthcare professionals across the world. If you had told me 12 months ago, that the UK would have discovered, in dexamethasone, the first treatment proven to reduce Covid-19 deaths, and vaccinated over five million people by this point, I would have been astonished. But that is the place in which we find ourselves. Hardship, but also hope.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Israeli healthcare group says coronavirus infections have plunged by at least 60% among vaccinated over-60s – Daily Mail
  • Covid vaccine: why are doctors alarmed about the 12-week gap between jabs? – Sunday Times
  • Hospitals send Covid patients home to ‘virtual wards’ under care of Dr App – Sunday Times

Coronavirus 3) Travellers from virus hotspots face UK ban

“Boris Johnson will approve a new border crackdown on Tuesday that could ban foreign passport-holders from countries where the coronavirus is mutating from entering Britain. New arrivals, including British citizens who come home from Covid hotspots, would be met at point of entry and escorted to isolation hotels, where they will have to stay at their own expense. The proposals will have to be approved by a cabinet committee. Cabinet and Downing Street sources say plans are also “actively” under discussion for an outright ban on all passport-holders from hotspot countries to stop them entering Britain, regardless of where they have been.” – The Times

Coronavirus 4) Children face months at home as schools stay shut until Easter

“Children will not go back to school next month and may not return to the classroom until after the Easter holidays. Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, is expected this week to rule out children returning to the classroom after the February half-term holiday and will prepare parents for the prospect of many more months of homeschooling. While he will not put an exact date on the reopening of schools, education leaders said they did not expect them to reopen fully until mid-April or even as late as May. A government source said: “We are in this for the long haul. We are going to start giving parents more information so they can start managing their expectations. Although we have not arrived at an exact date when we think schools will go back, it will not be after half-term.”” – Sunday Times

Sunak doubles one-off payment offer for universal credit claimants to £1,000

“Rishi Sunak has doubled his offer of a one-off payment to millions of universal credit claimants to £1,000 to replace the weekly £20 uplift, and stave off a growing rebellion among Tory MPs. The Chancellor is hoping that paying an upfront sum could trigger a spending spree to help the economy, The Telegraph understands. Businesses are set to be hit with a double whammy of tax rises in March’s budget, however, as Mr Sunak is lining up a gradual reintroduction of business rates and a rise in corporation tax. Writing in The Telegraph, Andrew Griffith MP, a former business adviser to Boris Johnson in 10 Downing Street, backed an increase in corporation tax.” – Sunday Telegraph

Tories keep top women off TV shows

“When it comes to the flagship political TV programmes on Sunday mornings, it appears that the government is applying its “stay at home” message to the female ranks of the cabinet. Downing Street has put up only one female cabinet minister to answer questions on either The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One or Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday since the start of the first lockdown on March 23. Priti Patel, the home secretary, appeared on both programmes on June 28 last year. Of the 21 cabinet ministers under Johnson, 16 are male, which critics say can affect perspectives on policy decisions. An examination of the guest lists for both Sunday morning programmes reveals that 12 male cabinet ministers have appeared on both shows during that time, some repeatedly.” – Sunday Times

Shapps steers Britain towards being first country to allow hands-free driving

“Britain aims to become the first country to let drivers take their hands off the wheel on motorways. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, is pressing ahead with his ambition to clear the way for driverless cars. Senior officials at the Department for Transport (DfT) told insurance industry chiefs on Tuesday that lane-keeping technology could permit drivers to watch a film, send texts or check emails at the wheel from the summer. However, the government is stepping back from a plan to allow this at 70mph and signalled that it will apply in stop-start motorway traffic at speeds of up to 37mph. The technology, the third of five stages leading to cars that have no driver, was approved in United Nations regulations that came into force in Britain on Friday.” – Sunday Times

Climate change tsar Sharma seethes at Jenrick over Cumbria coalmine

“Boris Johnson’s climate change tsar is “apopletic” with a cabinet minister for approving Britain’s first new deep coalmine in decades. Alok Sharma, who quit as business secretary this month to devote himself full-time to the presidency of the COP26 summit, is said to be furious with Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, for not stopping the mine in Cumbria. On January 6, Jenrick formally refused to intervene in the £165m Whitehaven project to remove coking coal from beneath the Irish Sea for steel-making. Jenrick, 39, decided not to use his powers to call in the scheme, which would have given him the right to block it, instead telling councillors he was “content” for the decision to be made locally. A government source said Jenrick did not consult Sharma or other ministers on the plan, in line with planning guidance.” – Sunday Times

Labour shadow Foreign Secretary praises calls for British Army to be replaced with a ‘gender-balanced human security force’ in new woke row

“Labour’s Lisa Nandy is at the centre of a new row over ‘wokery’ after praising a report which suggested replacing Britain’s Armed Forces with a ‘gender-balanced human security’ corps. The Shadow Foreign Secretary faced ridicule after helping to launch a report by the Open Labour group which said the main job of the forces should be to ‘dampen down violence rather than intervene on one side or the other’. Ms Nandy, 41, said she was ‘inspired’ by the pamphlet, which included the argument that that ‘the UK is no longer a great power’ and cited ‘countries like [the] Scandinavians’ as a model for the UK’s role in the world. She told last month’s launch: ‘I hear it a lot on the Tory benches, this idea of a country that ruled the waves.” – Mail on Sunday

  • BBC home-schooling programme that tells 9-year-olds there are ‘over 100 genders’ is a masterclass in indoctrination… on the licence fee, Sarah Vine – Mail on Sunday

Hundreds arrested at rallies for Alexei Navalny across Russia

“Russian police detained more than 2,000 people in Moscow and cities across the country yesterday as tens of thousands of protesters braved freezing temperatures and threats of prosecution to demand the release of Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned opposition leader. As many as 50,000 people gathered in a Moscow square a short walk from the Kremlin to chant “freedom for Navalny” and “Putin is a thief” in what was believed to be the biggest unsanctioned protest in the city since President Putin came to power 21 years ago. Among the hundreds detained in Moscow was Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who announced her arrest on Instagram from a police van. She was later released. Clashes broke out as riot police began making arrests, pulling people from the crowd at random and lashing out with truncheons.” – Sunday Times


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