Salmond launches new independence Alba Party

“Alex Salmond is returning to frontline politics by launching a new party, splitting the Scottish independence movement. The new group, called the Alba Party, will aim to produce a “supermajority” for independence at the Holyrood election in May. It will only stand on the regional lists, the proportional representation vote where members of the Scottish parliament are elected alongside first-past-the-post constituencies. The SNP is expected to win the vast majority of constituencies, but far fewer list candidates.” – The Times

  • Scottish Tories warn Salmond’s move makes independence more likely – Daily Mail
  • Sturgeon clings to tarnished crown – Daily Telegraph
  • Salmond’s comeback attempt does not bode well for SNP – FT

Coronavirus 1) Over-70s to get booster Covid vaccines from September

“Over-70s will start to get booster Covid vaccines from September to protect them from new virus variants as the Government drives ahead with its jabs rollout. In an interview with The Telegraph, Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, revealed details of the plan, which will see some people have three doses within the first 10 months of the jabs being in use. The first booster doses will go to people in the top four priority groups for the original rollout – those aged over 70 as well as frontline NHS and social care workers. Mr Zahawi also revealed that ministers were expecting up to eight vaccines to be available by the autumn with a number made in the UK, including one that could protect from three different Covid variants in a single jab.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Jab for over-70s ‘will work against 3 variants’ – The Sun
  • Mass testing of lorry drivers entering UK delayed – Daily Telegraph
  • Face masks and social distancing ‘could be in place for 10 years’ – The Sun
  • ‘Traffic light’ testing to get Brits on holiday – The Sun
  • UK Covid deaths fall by 31% in a week – The Sun
  • If vaccines render Covid no worse a threat than flu, we must return to full normality in summer, Editorial – The Sun

Coronavirus 2) High street shops to open until 10pm

“High street shops will be allowed to stay open until 10pm when the lockdown restrictions are eased and Rishi Sunak is urging people to “go have fun” and spend money. Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, announced that to help the economic recovery there would be no requirement for shops to fill out extra paperwork. Retailers usually need council permission to open after 7pm. Sunak urged people to “get out there” and spend their money when shops, pubs and restaurants reopened on April 12. The extended shop opening hours will apply in England from Monday to Saturday.” – The Times

  • Shops to open til 10 six days a week – The Sun
  • Take your summer break in Birmingham or Portsmouth, urge ministers – The Times

Coronavirus 3) Britain ready to seal Covid vaccine deal with EU

“The UK is close to striking a vaccine deal with the European Union that will remove the threat of the bloc cutting off supplies. After a week of frantic behind-the-scenes diplomacy the two sides are expected to seal an agreement as soon as this weekend under which the EU will remove its threat to ban the export of Pfizer-BioNTech jabs to Britain. In return the government will agree to forgo some long-term supplies of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine that had been due to be exported from Holland.” – The Times

  • EU plot to ‘seize control’ of AstraZeneca supply – Daily Express

Tories ‘in crisis’ over race for London mayor

“One of the things that has made the Conservative Party successful is the ruthlessness with which it defenestrates its poorly performing leaders. It is all the more surprising, then, that it is going into the London mayoral contest with a candidate who is trailing 25 points behind after a lengthy campaign pockmarked with setbacks and controversies. Shaun Bailey has spent more than two and a half years working to unseat Sadiq Khan, but many in his party have given up all hope of winning back City Hall this year. Two moves have been made to deselect him over the past nine months. Both times the party held back.” – The Times

Cameron cleared of breaking lobbying rules

“David Cameron has been cleared of breaking lobbying rules after asking ministers to grant Covid loans to a company he worked for. The former PM, 54, texted the Chancellor’s private phone asking for support for finance business Greensill Capital. He also allegedly spoke to the Bank of England. Directly lobbying ministers without being registered is an offence. His activities were investigated by the Registrar of Consultant Lobbyists – a post set up in legislation passed by Mr Cameron’s Government in 2014.” – The Sun

  • The boredom, naivety and chance connections that led Cameron into scandal – The Times
  • Johnson ‘loves visiting schools and painting with tiny people’ – The Times

Matthew Parris: No religion has the right to escape ridicule

“Once we decide a teacher can’t show a cartoon because someone will be offended then we’ve given up on a free society. Events at Batley Grammar School, where there have been angry demonstrations against the showing of a cartoon image of the Prophet Muhammad, take me back to the late 20th century. I sat for five years on a government quango called the Broadcasting Standards Council (BSC). Viewers or listeners sent in their complaints about TV or radio and we adjudicated. Sex and violence featured heavily but the BSC’s diet was eclectic: whether any actual budgie had been upset during the filming of a home-insurance ad depicting the ceiling falling in around the bird’s cage; or whether a drama depicting (without recommending) satanic rituals outraged decent Christians.” – The Times

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Oliver Dowden: ‘Return the Marbles, then what . . . demand the Bayeux Tapestry?’

British museums show historic treasures from around the world to the world and won’t be giving them up, the culture secretary tells David Sanderson. Perhaps wearing fancy dress on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile trying to sell tickets for a Victorian melodrama you are performing in should be a rite of passage for every culture secretary. Oliver Dowden did it. “It was not high culture,” he admits of his Watford youth theatre group’s production of Murder in the Red Barn at the Fringe. “A few of my more sophisticated friends came up and were slightly aghast. It was am-dram but very well costumed. And performed.” – The Times

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