Published:

Coronavirus 1) Summer exams to be voluntary sparking fears over grade inflation

“End of year exams will be voluntary, the Department for Education (DfE) will announce on Thursday, amid warnings of another summer of chaos and record grade inflation. Exam boards will prepare a series of test papers for every subject, but teachers will be allowed to choose whether or not to use them to inform their predicted grades. If teachers decide to use the papers, students will not need to take them under exam conditions. Teachers will also have discretion over whether they are taken at home or at school. The Telegraph has learned that Sir Jon Coles, a former director general at the (DfE), who was on the Ofqual committee advising on exams, has resigned and is now publicly criticising the Government.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Algorithms will not be used again but lack of national guidelines prompt fears of grade inflation – The Guardian
  • Ofqual adviser ‘quits’ over A-Level and GSCE exam replacement plan – Daily Mail
  • Doubts over summer schools as poor pupils fall months behind in lockdown – The Times

More:

  • Williamson confirms staggered start and masks for March 8 – The Sun
  • Parents should enforce Covid tests for children, says Williamson – Daily Telegraph
  • Grammar schools face call to spend extra cash on widening intake – The Times

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 2) Starmer urges Johnson to ignore his lockdown-sceptic MPs

“Sir Keir Starmer has urged the Prime Minister not to listen to his lockdown-sceptic backbenchers who have suggested the route out of lockdown could be accelerated. On Wednesday, the Labour leader said the principles behind Boris Johnson’s four-step roadmap out of restrictions were “plainly right”, but added that the blueprint was threatened by Tory MPs’ claims about the virus. The national recovery is being undermined by “people saying that Covid statistics ‘appear to have been manipulated’ and that Monday’s road map is based on ‘dodgy assumptions’ and ‘false modelling’,” the opposition figure said during Prime Minister’s Questions. He said the comments were “irresponsible” and derived from Conservative MPs, lashing out at the “60 or so members of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG)” who have questioned aspects of the coronavirus lockdown.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Khan adviser quits panel to review London statues after ‘racist’ posts exposed – Daily Telegraph
  • Labour scraps all-female shortlist for Liverpool mayor – The Guardian

>Today: Shaun Bailey in Local Government: My ten point plan for London

Coronavirus 3) Rees-Mogg praises ‘impeccable’ logic of Johnson’s unlocking timetable

“Jacob Rees-Mogg has suggested the Government has a “degree of flexibility” on whether lockdown rules could be lifted earlier. It comes despite Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock insisting the lockdown roadmap dates are the earliest they could possibly be relaxed… In the latest edition of his Moggcast for the ConservativeHome website, Mr Rees-Mogg insisted the logic of the PM’s roadmap was “impeccable”. When asked whether the timeline could be brought forward if vaccine goals were being smashed, he replied: “Inevitably governments always have within them a degree of flexibility.” – The Sun

  • Vaccinate prisoners en masse, not police or teachers, JCVI tells ministers – The Times
  • Music festivals ‘to return’ as Johnson ‘backs Covid Status Certificates’ – The Sun
  • Cameron backs vaccine passports – Daily Express
  • Shapps becomes first Cabinet minister to receive vaccine – Daily Mail

Vaccines:

  • Germany’s biggest newspaper admits Britain’s successful vaccine rollout is the envy of Europe – The Sun
  • US set to approve Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose Covid vaccine – The Times

>Yesterday:

Patel demands MPs probe ‘Nick’ shambles

“Priti Patel signalled a dramatic new intervention into Scotland Yard’s disastrous VIP child sex abuse investigation yesterday. The Home Secretary admitted there were ‘outstanding questions’ about the Operation Midland scandal and urged MPs to launch an ‘all-encompassing’ inquiry. It escalated tensions between Miss Patel and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick, after the Home Secretary refused to declare confidence in her earlier this month. Her aides and the Prime Minister later insisted Britain’s most senior police chief had the backing of the Government. Miss Patel revealed for the first time yesterday that she will meet retired High Court judge Sir Richard Henriques, who has urged her to order an independent criminal investigation into five detectives at the centre of the scandal – and the watchdogs who cleared them.” – Daily Mail

Northern Ireland Protocol must be abolished, demands European Research Group

“The Northern Ireland Protocol must be abolished rather than tweaked, the European Research Group will urge the Government on Thursday. The hardline Tory Brexiteers will publish a report, seen by The Telegraph, urging Boris Johnson to overhaul the problematic protocol rather than work with the EU to amend it. It comes amid a growing outcry over bureaucracy and checks, required under the protocol, hampering the inward flow of some goods to Northern Ireland from Great Britain. The protocol was established to smooth trade friction arising from Northern Ireland remaining inside the UK internal market while continuing to apply some EU rules. The Brexiteer MPs propose replacing it with a “mutual enforcement” arrangement, via which both the UK and EU would agree voluntarily to enforce each other’s rules.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK and EU fail break to break impasse over Irish Sea border – The Guardian
  • Bank of England chief shamed ‘controversial’ plan to steal UK business – Daily Express
  • Brexit trade delays getting worse at UK border, survey finds – The Guardian

>Today:

‘No room for pro-Europeans in Tory party’, says Rudd

“The Tory party is no longer a place for pro-Europeans, says former home secretary Amber Rudd. The Remain supporter said that those hoping to be selected as a candidate for MP had to show ‘real Brexit enthusiasm’. She resigned the Conservative whip after Boris Johnson sacked 21 of her colleagues who tried to stop a no-deal Brexit. She did not stand again as an MP in 2019. She said on ITV yesterday: ‘The Conservative Party used to be a place where you could have pro and anti-Europeans, not always in harmony, but it was a home for both. Now there is no place for pro-European Conservatives. That’s a loss because I think there’s a legitimate Conservative position which is pro-European, not trying to get back into the EU, but fundamentally pro-European. Those people are not going to be part of the MP selection process in the future.’” – Daily Mail

Sunak readies a six-month extension to Universal Credit rise in Budget…

“A six-month extension to the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit will be announced in the Budget next Wednesday, The Telegraph understands. The Prime Minister, Chancellor and Work and Pensions Secretary have arrived at an agreement on the issue following tense negotiations and pressure from backbenchers for a lengthier commitment. Reports on Wednesday night suggested Mr Sunak will retain the fuel duty freeze and extend VAT cuts for the hospitality and tourism sectors. He is also facing calls to consider high street vouchers for shoppers and lower alcohol duty for restaurants and pubs hit by Covid-19. The extra £20 a week for claimants of Universal Credit, which wraps legacy welfare schemes into a single payment, was introduced in 2020 to help six million families struggling during the pandemic.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson hints Goverment could slash tax on pints in next week’s Budget – The Sun
  • ‘Giveaway’ budget next week to inject the UK with a post-lockdown boom – Daily Mail
  • Chancellor to choose northern base for new Treasury HQ – FT
  • Give Brits free high street vouchers in ‘Shop Out to Help Out’ scheme in next week’s budget, Sunak urged – The Sun
  • Investors look to Chancellor for clarity on new UK infrastructure bank – FT

…as Tory rebels and Labour ready to block corporation tax rise…

“MPs could vote down plans to increase corporation tax from 19 per cent to 25 per cent amid opposition from Tory rebels and Labour, a senior minister has said. Rishi Sunak is expected to use his budget next week to announce a “pathway” to increase corporation tax over the course of the current parliament. It had been thought that he was looking to raise it to 23 per cent. However, The Times has been told that officials are considering going as high as 25 per cent. Sunak’s US counterpart, Janet Yellen, said recently that corporation tax in the US might rise from 21 per cent to 28 per cent. This would mean that the UK could still claim to have the lowest level of corporation tax in the G7 group of developed nations. The first increase is likely to be in the autumn budget, with subsequent rises. However, there is significant opposition to the move among Tory backbenchers and in cabinet.” – The Times

  • Chancellor will say move matches Biden administration policy in US – FT
  • Starmer under pressure to back plans for corporation tax rise – The Guardian
  • Sunak signals the UK’s return to fiscal conservatism – FT

Comment:

  • Sunak must keep splashing the cash – Larry Elliott, The Guardian
  • Chancellor faces tough choices, but our recovery starts here – Robbie Gibb, Daily Telegraph

Editorial:

  • Starmer says it’s not the time for tax rises for businesses: for once he’s making sense – The Sun

…and he ‘snubs Sturgeon’ as he ignores SNP and hands millions directly to Scots

“Rishi Sunak has snubbed the SNP as a new financial fund will be given to Scots directly and not sent to the Scottish Government, it can be revealed tonight. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay, said communities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will now all benefit from at least £800million of investment by the UK Government. The £4.8billion from the levelling up fund will be used to boost regeneration across the UK. Councils will be given the money by the UK Government which will be used for town centre and high street regeneration and local transport schemes, as well as cultural and heritage projects which will be delivered for the benefit of local people. It comes as the nationalists were accused of betraying local services after rejecting a Scottish Conservative demand for fairer funding of Scotland’s councils.” – Daily Express

  • UK ‘tax day’ will signal long-term government policy, experts say – FT
  • SNP told to come clean on £2.7bn of unallocated UK cash – Daily Express

>Today: ToryDiary: The Union policy Lewis wanted, why he left – and how his unit will replaced by a Cabinet committee

Salmond peddling ‘dangerous conspiracy theories’, says First Minister

“Nicola Sturgeon has accused Alex Salmond, her former political mentor, of peddling “dangerous conspiracy theories” about her government as a battle at the heart of the SNP becomes increasingly toxic. Salmond, her predecessor as party leader and first minister, was due to appear before a committee of MSPs yesterday, but withdrew after his written submissions were censored after an intervention by the Crown Office, the body responsible for prosecuting crime in Scotland. He said the move was “astonishing” and asked his lawyers to seek answers about the “unprecedented and highly irregular actions”… Sturgeon repeated her assertion that there is not “a shred of evidence” to support Salmond’s claim that there was a “malicious and concerted” attempt to see him removed from public life involving claims of sexual harassment while he was first minister.” – The Times

  • First Minister faces claim she is ‘acting like tin pot dictator’ – Daily Telegraph

Sturgeon backtracks over lockdown plan by suggesting lower tier of restrictions in April

“Nicola Sturgeon has backtracked over her controversial lockdown plan by conceding that parts of Scotland could move in April to a lower tier of restrictions that allows domestic travel and pubs to serve alcohol. The First Minister faced a barrage of criticism over her blueprint after stating that the entire mainland would initially move to Level 3 of her five-tier system when full lockdown formally ends on April 26. The beleaguered tourism and hospitality industries said many of their businesses would have to remain shut, with alcohol and travel outside council areas banned under the Level 3 restrictions that operated last year. Ms Sturgeon has conceded that parts or all of the country could instead speedily move to Level 2, which previously allowed restaurants and pubs to serve alcohol and open later.” – Daily Telegraph

  • First Minister says she can’t give definitive lockdown lift date as her roadmap is slammed – The Sun
  • Scotland reaps dividend of Covid response that diverged from England – FT

Allister Heath: Useless and authoritarian SNP is turning Scotland into a failed state

“But the horror show in Holyrood over the past few weeks fills me with foreboding. Regardless of how atrociously the SNP behaves, or how uselessly it governs, it remains by far the most popular party in Scotland, on course to win the elections to Holyrood in May, and poll after poll registers a majority for independence. Let me remind you, dear readers, of the mad saga gripping Edinburgh, exposing not merely a nationalist establishment in open warfare but also a parliament that has lost control, a constitutional settlement in crisis and a banana republic in the making. In a series of explosive allegations that followed a botched Scottish government inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against him, Alex Salmond, the former first minister, alleged that there was “a deliberate, prolonged, malicious and concerted effort amongst a range of individuals within the Scottish government and the SNP to damage my reputation, even to the extent of having me imprisoned”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sturgeon’s Scotland has the stench of decay – Iain Martin, The Times
  • Holyrood is failing to act like a proper parliament after Salmond concerns are brushed aside – Daily Telegraph
  • Sturgeon’s storm troops have turned Scotland into a banana republic – Andrew Neil, Daily Mail

Editorial:

  • SNP feud threatens its Scottish independence hopes – FT

>Yesterday: Andrew RT Davies in Comment: Wales. Here’s how we can extinguish the dangerous flame of separatism.

News in Brief:

  • Unionists are preparing for the wrong fight – Henry Hill, The Spectator
  • Johnson must hold his nerve and stick to a cautious re-opening – Jonathan Kitson, CapX
  • Are you a ‘basic conservative’? – Ed West, UnHerd
  • What the Uber verdict means for Conservatives – Andrew Tettenborn, The Critic