Published:

Tories ‘at war’ over Symonds’ power at No.10: Think-tank that includes grandees Tebbit and Lamont demands inquiry into behind-the-scenes influence of PM’s fiancee

“Bitter Tory in-fighting broke out last night after a Conservative-friendly think-tank demanded an inquiry into the power of Boris Johnson’s fiancee, Carrie Symonds. Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group – which boasts Tory heavyweights Norman Tebbit and Norman Lamont among its patrons – called for an independent investigation into the influence that Ms Symonds exerts in Downing Street. Allies hit back to insist that it was normal for a Prime Minister to consult his partner, not least because Ms Symonds is a former director of communications for the Tory Party. And senior Tory MP Sir John Redwood, another of the think-thank’s patrons, disowned the Bow Group’s intervention, dismissing it as a ‘very bad idea’. He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The PM is responsible for who advises him and he is quite entitled to take advice from anybody he likes.’” – Mail on Sunday

Comment and analysis:

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 1) Ministers meet today to finalise lockdown roadmap to let families meet by Easter

“Every adult in the country will be offered at least one dose of a Covid vaccine by the end of July, Boris Johnson is expected to announce tomorrow. The ambitious new inoculation target will form a vital part of the Prime Minister’s long-awaited roadmap towards easing lockdown restrictions. The Government previously said it hoped to reach all those aged 18 and over by the autumn, but Mr Johnson aims to greatly accelerate the successful campaign. He is also expected to say that everyone over 50 will be offered at least a first dose by April 15, rather than by May, as previously suggested. The Prime Minister will temper news of the turbo-charged vaccination programme with a ‘cautious and phased’ route out of lockdown. All pupils will return to school on March 8, and care home residents in England will each be allowed one regular visitor.” – Mail on Sunday

  • No 10 is set to announce that restaurant reopenings will be put off until mid-April – Mail on Sunday
  • Expect flu to surge next winter, warn experts – Sunday Telegraph
  • Ban on outside sport can end, top scientist urges Johnson – Observer
  • Five-minute coronavirus test made in the UK is touted as ‘game-changer’ in unlocking live events – Mail on Sunday
  • NHS sees surge in referrals for eating disorders among under-18s during Covid – The Observer
  • Call for new Beveridge report as number of destitute UK households doubles during Covid – The Observer

Analysis

  • Mapping the route that will take us out of lockdown – Sunday Telegraph
  • How to avoid a fourth lockdown: schools first in a gradual reopening – Sunday Times
  • Zero Covid strategy is impossible… the future of the virus is more likely to follow the flu or measles – Sunday Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Harper – PM’s roadmap out of lockdown is a chance for national unity as we look to reclaims our lives

“WHEN the PM said in January that his roadmap out of lockdown would allow us to “reclaim our lives once and for all”, he created the spirit of hope and optimism that powered him to a brilliant election victory just over a year ago. Covid is a serious disease and we must control it. However, just like Covid, lockdowns and restrictions cause immense social and health damage, with a huge impact on people’s livelihoods. For most of the past year the Government has been taking big decisions and asking us to change our lives so we could all do our bit to protect the NHS and save lives. Now that vaccines are here, we can achieve those aims through vaccination, rather than lockdowns or restrictions.” – The Sun

More comment:

Coronavirus 3) Vaccine for all adults by July as hope is raised for summer holidays

“Every person aged over 18 will have been offered a coronavirus vaccination by the end of July, Boris Johnson announced on Saturday night, raising hopes of foreign holidays and the return of outdoor events by August. Unveiling the latest official targets, the Prime Minister confirmed all 45 million people living in England will have been invited to receive their first dose two months earlier than previously promised. He also confirmed the target for inoculating all over-50s, due to have been hit by May, would be brought forward by a fortnight to April 15. It would mean that 32m people, accounting for 98 per cent of Covid-19 deaths, will have received some level of protection against the disease by the end of April, with over 17m already vaccinated with one jab as of Saturday night.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • More than two-thirds of people aged between 65 and 69 have had their first vaccine doses – just a week after invitations went out, health bosses say – Mail on Sunday
  • Continent’s medics boycott Oxford  jab as Europe talks down efficacy – Sunday Times
  • Ethnic gap in vaccine uptake narrows – Sunday Times
  • Hancock is ‘livid with Blair for pinching his Covid ideas to pass off as his own’ as ex-PM gets the vaccine at 67 – Mail on Sunday

Coronavirus 4) Business tax will rise to pay for job support

“Rishi Sunak is to put Britain on course for an increase in business taxes to pay for an extension to Covid-19 support schemes in the budget next month. The chancellor will announce that he is increasing corporation tax from 19p in the pound in his speech on March 3 and will outline a pathway where it keeps rising to 23p in the pound by the time of the next general election — a move that will raise an expected £12 billion a year. At least 1p is set to be added to the bill for business from this autumn, at a cost to business of £3bn, with further rises in subsequent years. That will help to pay for an extension to the furlough scheme, VAT cuts and business support loans until at least August — longer than most commentators have expected.” – Sunday Times

  • Sunak is planning to announce the extension of furlough-style support for businesses hit by Covid until the autumn – Mail on Sunday
  • Designers seeking emergency support told by the culture secretary to use their ‘star power’ – Sunday Times
  • Chancellor prepares to even out North-South divide with a Budget that will see tax relief for heavy industry – Sunday Telegraph

Hundreds of independent schools affected by the pandemic are being targeted by Chinese investors

“Hundreds of independent schools left in dire financial straits by the coronavirus pandemic are being targeted by Chinese investors, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Experts anticipate a ‘feeding frenzy’ as firms, including some run by high-ranking members of the ruling Chinese Communist party, seek to expand their influence over Britain’s education system. Seventeen schools are already owned by Chinese companies, but that number is set to rocket. Amid rising concern about Beijing’s tentacles reaching into British classrooms, an investigation by this newspaper can reveal: Nine of the 17 schools under Chinese control are owned by firms whose founders or bosses are among China’s most senior Communist Party members…” – Mail on Sunday

Comment:

PM sets his sights on a roundabout under the Isle of Man

“As flights of political fancy go, Boris Johnson’s desire to build a tunnel between Great Britain and Northern Ireland might seem to be one of the most audacious. However, Whitehall officials have revealed that one version of the plan worked up in Downing Street went even further, envisaging not one but three tunnels under the Irish Sea connecting in an “underground roundabout” beneath the Isle of Man. No 10 officials given the task of examining how Johnson’s blue-sky thinking might be feasible quickly concluded that the original plan of a link between Stranraer in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland was impractical.” – Sunday Times

Don’t selectively focus on Britain’s historical controversies, Dowden to tell charities

“A selective focus on the most controversial elements of Britain’s colonial past risks skewing the public’s understanding of history, Oliver Dowden will warn charities at a crunch meeting this coming week. The Culture Secretary will on Tuesday tell 25 of the UK’s biggest heritage bodies, museums and art galleries to use their collections and assets to provide the public with a better understanding of Britain’s imperial history. Rather than repeatedly singling out the most notorious events from the British Empire, Mr Dowden will urge the organisations to provide a “more rounded view” of how they fit within Britain’s wider impact on the world.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Khan statue appointee labelled ‘racist’ after accusing Abbott of disloyalty to ‘her own community’ – Sunday Telegraph

‘Insane’ EU law that requires ride-on lawn mowers, golf buggies and mobility scooters to be insured is axed as ministers hail new Brexit dividend

“Ministers have hailed a new Brexit dividend by scrapping ‘insane’ new EU rules that would have required ride-on mowers, golf buggies and mobility scooters to be insured. A judgment passed by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) would have widened the number of vehicles that require insurance, but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is to shelve the ‘over the top’ rules. Officials said introducing the law would have had the knock-on effect of hitting British drivers with a £50 average hike in annual car insurance premiums. Mr Shapps said: ‘We have always disagreed with this over-the-top law that would only do one thing – hit the pockets of hard-working people up and down the country with an unnecessary hike in their car insurance.” – Mail on Sunday

Comment:

  • Italy snubbed in its hour of need. France and Germany at each other’s throats. Hungary and Austria turning to Russian and Chinese vaccines… the EU is tearing itself apart right before our eyes, Douglas Murray – Mail on Sunday
  • How Britain can fight back against the EU’s self-destructive war on the City, Daniel Hannan – Daily Telegraph

News in brief: