Published:

US 1) Biden signs executive orders reversing Trump’s policies

“Joe Biden on Wednesday began dismantling the legacy of his predecessor faster than any other incoming president in the modern era. He signed 17 executive orders, memorandums and proclamations on his first evening in the Oval Office, far more than any other recent president. They were aimed at halting or reversing some of Donald Trump’s most controversial policies. That was set to turn into a flood of actions over Mr Biden’s first 10 days as he sought to implement measures without waiting for approval by Congress. Jen Psaki, Mr Biden’s press secretary, said: “There are many more to come. His focus is on moving the country forward.”… Mr Biden wore a mask while seated behind the Resolute Desk with a stack of orders early on Wednesday evening. He said there was “no time to start like today”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson hails ‘step forward’ as world leaders respond – Daily Telegraph
  • President begins a new day in America with appeal to end ‘uncivil war’ – The Times
  • Federal police use tear gas and flash bangs to disperse Antifa – Daily Mail

Churchill:

  • Bust ‘not on display’ in Joe Biden’s Oval Office… – Daily Telegraph
  • …as Johnson hits back at Nandy over statue row – The Sun

More:

  • Global policymakers look for Biden reset on trade, tax and climate – FT
  • EU splits with Biden already after Coveney dismisses immediate tough action on China – Daily Express

>Yesterday:

US 2) I’ll be back, predecessor warns as he considers forming Patriot Party

“Donald Trump vowed that he would “be back” and said he hoped it would not be a “long goodbye” as he left Washington for the final time as president. Boarding Air Force One for Florida before a few hundred advisers at Joint Base Andrews, Mr Trump said: “Have a good life. We will see you soon.” He then climbed the steps of the presidential aircraft to the sound of YMCA, the Village People hit song, which segued into Frank Sinatra’s My Way as the plane took flight just before 9am. A 21-gun salute afforded a last burst of presidential pomp. In a heavily improvised, nine-minute speech, Mr Trump, 74, said that his achievements were “amazing by any standard” and his was “not a regular administration”… Mr Trump discarded a statement prepared by his staff in which he would have congratulated Mr Biden by name. Instead he delivered effectively a truncated version of his standard election rally speech.” – The Times

  • Murdoch leads Fox News shake-up as network loses Trump supporters – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Johnson ‘blasts back’ at May after she hit out at his ‘moral failure’ in government

“Boris Johnson hit back last night at Theresa May’s claim he has abandoned Britain’s position of ‘global moral leadership’. The Prime Minister insisted his predecessor was wrong as he expressed pride at the ‘leading’ role he is playing on the world stage. Writing in yesterday’s Daily Mail, Mrs May suggested Mr Johnson has failed to honour British values by threatening to break international law in Brexit trade talks and tearing up the foreign aid target. At Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Johnson was interrogated by MPs over the bombshell article that had become the talk of Westminster. But the PM firmly rejected the criticism, telling the Commons that ‘when it comes to global leadership on the world stage, this country is embarking on a quite phenomenal year’.” – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: May – beached not only by frustration and defeat, but the sheer pace and scale of change

Ian Birrell: May is in no position to lecture on moral leadership

“There is a maxim in politics that leaders are defined as much by their successors as by their own triumphs and failures. So Theresa May should be delighted she was replaced as prime minister by Boris Johnson, yet instead she seems consumed with bitterness. May has used the inauguration of a new US president to savage Johnson for abandoning Britain’s position of moral leadership. She is not wrong to make this argument but she is the wrong person to deliver it, given her own record, and she uses flimsy reasoning. Never forget May was the architect of the Windrush scandal that so shamed our nation during her six-year stint in the Home Office. Her mania for reducing immigration led to denial of rights, wrongful detention and deportation for scores of elderly citizens. She was renowned in Whitehall for inflexibility on these issues, yet now delivers a lecture on the need for compromise.” – The Times

  • Bad blood that led scorned ex-Premier to wield the stiletto – Simon Walters, Daily Mail

Prime Minister set for ‘battle royal’ with Tory MPs over easing lockdown…

“Boris Johnson is set for a “battle royal” with Conservative MPs over his expected cautious approach to easing England’s lockdown after the 15m people considered most vulnerable to coronavirus have been vaccinated. The UK prime minister does not intend to rush into easing the nationwide lockdown restrictions, which are set for review on February 15, according to allies. The government estimates that 88 per cent of likely deaths associated with Covid-19 will be cut as a result of the initial wave of inoculations. But the Covid Recovery Group of 50-plus Tory MPs who are sceptical of lockdowns has urged Mr Johnson to set out a road map for exiting the restrictions by March 8, three weeks after the most vulnerable are due to be vaccinated and some immunity has developed. The current restrictions automatically expire in law on March 31 and the legislation will have to be renewed if the tiering system of restrictions returns — a likely flashpoint with Tory MPs.” – FT

  • England’s lockdown fails to suppress rise in Covid transmissions – FT
  • ‘Insane’ to lift Covid lockdown too soon, Vallance warns public – The Times
  • Is there a case for an early release from restrictions? – Daily Telegraph

>Today: Emily Carver in Comment: The struggle against lockdowns seems to be lost. But we must never give up on our civil liberties.

…as he claims UK ready to deploy tweaked vaccines

“Boris Johnson on Wednesday declared Britain was ready to quickly deploy tweaked vaccines to combat new variants of coronavirus, as the number of daily Covid-19 deaths in the UK hit a record of 1,820. The prime minister said he was concerned about the risk posed by dangerous variants of the virus — as well as Britain, Brazil and South Africa have reported new strains — as he justified new border restrictions in the UK. Neil O’Brien, a Conservative MP, asked Mr Johnson at prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons about “concerning data from South Africa” that the virus could mutate and thus “dodge the vaccines and reduce their efficacy”. Mr Johnson said he had been discussing the issue over the past few weeks “and also in the past few hours” to make sure any UK regulatory approval for a new form of vaccine could be swiftly given.” – FT

  • Delaying second Covid vaccine dose puts patients at risk, insist doctors – The Times
  • Immunisation rollout risks exacerbating income, ethnic and geographic divides – FT
  • Blair calls for 600,000 people to be vaccinated every day – Daily Mail
  • GPs frustrated as Covid vaccine supplies are cut at best clinics – The Times

More:

  • Adviser behind bungled £250m mask contract hides earnings – The Times
  • London buses turned into ambulances to ease Covid strain – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: It’s vaccine apprehension, not anti-vaxxers, that public information campaigns need to tackle most

‘Hopes’ for schools to open before Easter, says Williamson

“Schools will open at the “earliest opportunity” and parents will get two weeks’ notice when they do, Gavin Williamson promised today. The Education Secretary said he “hopes” kids can get back in the classroom by Easter – but couldn’t make a guarantee. He said any decision would be made on the scientific advice. The Government has intended to review the national lockdown around February 15 – but it’s likely that schools will be closed after that. If the Government are to open schools after the half-term break as they promised, an announcement could come next week – but ministers are not confident that will be the case… Mr Williamson said one of the “key criteria” for reopening schools would be whether the pressure on the NHS was lifting.” – The Sun

  • Covid testing plan for English schools paused after health bodies’ warning – FT
  • Scotland: Youngest and oldest pupils set to go back to school first under ‘phased return’ plan – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Chris Skidmore MP in Comment: Thinking, fast and slow. Why we need a long-term Education Recovery Plan.

Travellers may have to pay for two weeks in hotel quarantine

“Hotel groups have begun talks with Government officials over using their facilities as quarantine centres, as it emerged on Wednesday that ministers have discussed tighter border controls that could extend to barring foreign travellers. Whitehall sources confirmed that “early discussions” had been held over adopting an Australian-style border system, following reports over the weekend that people could be forced to pay to stay in a hotel for two weeks while observing a self-isolation period. Ministers are increasingly concerned that as the vaccine programme progresses and so-called “herd immunity” increases, the virus will come under greater pressure to evolve and mutate. This in turn would mean there is a greater risk of new strains developing which are likely to be more resistant to the existing vaccines, in turn undoing the Government’s efforts.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Thousands of lives could have been saved if UK shut its borders earlier, Patel admits – The Sun
  • Labour attacks Johnson government for lax Covid border controls – FT
  • Britons face ban on entering the EU under German plan to shut borders – The Times

Comment:

  • Vaccine passports are vital for our futures – David Aaronovitch, The Times

Brussels ultimatum to ease post-Brexit customs delays

“The EU is prepared to ease post-Brexit border friction if Britain drops its plan to create a “Singapore on the Thames”, according to senior diplomatic sources. Problems and delays at borders are increasingly affecting exports, with fish and meat sellers hit particularly hard. European diplomatic sources have indicated that Brussels is open to talks on freeing up trade but only if Boris Johnson abandons plans to tear up EU rules such as the working time directive. “Of course we can in future discuss how to have less friction,” a senior European diplomat said… Increased checks at the border holding up shipments have led DHL, the courier, to restrict services to UK customers. It said that it was no longer processing deliveries of food, drink, cosmetics and perfume from commercial clients in the UK wanting to serve EU markets.” – The Times

  • Social media giants are danger to democracy and must be reined in, warns EU boss – The Sun

British lawyer steps down from Hong Kong trial after intense UK pressure

“David Perry, the British lawyer who was hired by the Hong Kong government to prosecute a group of pro-democracy activists, has stepped down following withering criticism from the UK government. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary and a former human rights lawyer, had labelled the barrister a “mercenary”, adding that he was unable to understand how anyone could take on the case “in good conscience”. Mr Perry was hired by Hong Kong authorities to prosecute a group of veteran activists including Jimmy Lai, the media mogul, and Martin Lee, who helped write the territory’s mini-constitution governing its handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997. The trial was set to begin on February 16. Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong last year following pro-democracy protests in the city in 2019. Critics say the harsh new measures have threatened the city’s independent judiciary and its status as a financial hub.” – FT

Flooding: Prime Minister warns of worse rain to come as thousands are evacuated

“Thousands of people in Manchester are facing evacuation from their homes because of flooding which Boris Johnson warned could get worse next week. Families already enduring lockdown were warned power cuts were likely, while some in the Didsbury area of the city were already being forced to leave their homes. Ministers feared Storm Christoph would also affect the rollout of vaccines in some areas as flooding threatened to close vaccination centres and interrupt the delivery of the jabs. With more than 100 flood warnings issued by the Environment Agency as well as at least 200 flood alerts, preparations were also being made last night for Covid-secure evacuation centres with separate accommodation for those shielding. The Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee yesterday to discuss the response to the storm, which has flooded parts of East Anglia and the north of England.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Firefighters battle to save Oxford Covid vaccine factory – The Sun
  • Thousands are evacuated after ‘biblical’ overnight floods – Daily Mail

Further education blueprint promises more say for British employers

“Employers will have a greater say in designing college courses and qualifications under a government blueprint for a further education system that promises to boost flagging skills and productivity in the UK. In a long-awaited Skills for Jobs white paper unveiled on Thursday, the Department for Education pledged that by 2030 employers would have a “central role” in designing almost all technical courses for people aged over 16, and announced £65m for new college business centres, which will serve as hubs where employers and colleges can collaborate. The long-anticipated plan sets out the government’s grand ambitions to revive the country’s ailing and underfunded vocational education system. But its vision may be limited by economic constraints, with the one-year spending review offering limited scope for further funding and the mounting cost of coronavirus casting a shadow over future investment.” – FT

  • Overhaul of skills and vocational education to focus on employability – The Guardian
  • University funding to attract poorer students may fall – The Times

>Today: Andrew Lewer in Comment: It’s time to turn the taxpayer funding of left-wing student union campaigning

MSPs consider move to force release of ‘explosive’ Salmond documents

“MSPs investigating the Alex Salmond affair are examining how potentially explosive documents allegedly obtained by the former First Minister in his criminal trial can be forced into the public domain. The Daily Telegraph understands that members of a Holyrood committee examining the botched government probe into sexual harassment complaints against the ex-SNP leader are aware of a list of documents published recently on an online blog. Craig Murray, a former UK ambassador and nationalist activist, is awaiting trial for alleged contempt of court for previous comments about the Salmond case. He used his own legal proceedings to request a series of documents from the Crown Office, which it is claimed show internal discussions within SNP high command about the allegations facing Mr Salmond.” – Daily Telegraph

High Court deals blow to expansion of cycle lanes and wider pavements

“Road closures designed to boost walking and cycling could face legal challenges after a judge declared that a big expansion of the plans was “unlawful”. The High Court in London ruled that the introduction of road closures in the capital was based on guidance that was “seriously flawed”. Mrs Justice Lang found in favour of black cab drivers who opposed the schemes that were introduced during the pandemic to promote social distancing and exercise. She said it was “possible to widen pavements to allow for social distancing” without seeking to transform parts of central London into “predominantly car-free zones”. She added that guidance from Transport for London (TfL) and the mayor should be reconsidered and “substantially amended”. Experts said that the ruling could have consequences for the wider expansion of “low-traffic neighbourhoods” which have been introduced across the UK in the past nine months.” – The Times

>Today: Meirion Jenkins in Local Government: The Conservatives have a real chance to win in Birmingham

News in Brief:

  • What self-serving Osborne gets wrong about Scottish nationalism – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Will vaccine wars destabilise Britain? – James Kirkup, UnHerd
  • Shutting up the unspeakable is still a bad idea – Victoria Hewson, The Critic
  • Can Biden stop America’s ‘uncivil war’? – Kate Andrews, The Spectator
  • Radical plans for an “FDR-size presidency” – Joseph Rachman, Reaction