Johnson praises the free market as he launches local election campaign

“Boris Johnson has hailed the role of the “free market economy” in the UK’s coronavirus jab rollout as he launched the party’s local election push. The prime minister called on activists to remind voters about the “incredible scientific breakthrough” of the vaccine ahead of May’s elections in England. Mr Johnson said one difference between the Tories and Labour was a belief in the need for “capitalist energy”. The party leader said the UK would recover “jab by jab, job by job”. He told activists at a virtual party forum: “Let’s not be put off our stride. Let’s remember that across the country it is Conservatives, Conservative councils and Conservative councillors that deliver better value for money. And let’s take our great one nation message to the people.” The 6 May elections will include polls for district and county councils, police and crime commissioners and city mayors, including in London.” – BBC

  • PM branded irresponsible over ‘back to the office’ call – Observer

>Yesterday: MPsETC: The Prime Minister points towards the lockdown exit door. His Spring Forum speech: full text

Local election 2) Tory MPs “told to campaign in the West Midlands and the Tees Valley – not London”

“Tory MPs are being told to campaign on behalf of the mayoral candidates in the West Midlands and the Tees Valley, rather than London. With Shaun Bailey, the Conservative Party candidate for London mayor, trailing 25 points behind Labour’s Sadiq Khan, a cabinet minister revealed the Conservative Party’s chances of winning back City Hall have been all but written off. According to the source, MPs are being advised not to campaign for Bailey but to divert their efforts towards Andy Street, who is seeking a second term as mayor of the West Midlands, and Ben Houchen, who is seeking re-election as Tees Valley mayor.” – Sunday Times

SNP MP defects to Salmond’s breakaway Party

“The former Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill has become the first prominent Scottish National party politician to defect to Alex Salmond’s new Alba party. The SNP called for a Westminster byelection in response and said his departure was “somewhat of a relief” after Salmond launched his latest political project on Friday as a means to create a “supermajority” of pro-independence supporters in Holyrood. In an open letter to his party workers, MacAskill said: “I will be joining the newly formed Alba party to deliver the supermajority for independence through the list vote and which I believe is essential to achieving our nation’s independence.” Launching the party, Salmond denied it would rival the SNP, which he led for more than two decades, and said it would only stand candidates in regional lists where voters make two choices.” – Observer

  • Sturgeon: ‘Significant questions’ over Salmond election bid – BBC

>Today: ToryDiary: Winning independence for Scotland isn’t Salmond’s only motive in forming Alba. It may not even be the main one.

Coronavirus 1) Britain to tell EU that AstraZeneca jab would not exist without UK investment

“Britain will this week tell the European Union that it must take into account the millions of pounds spent by British taxpayers on creating the AstraZeneca vaccine as the threat of its export being blocked remains. Talks to break the stand-off over jabs manufactured in the company’s Halix plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, will resume as early as Monday. The European Commission has threatened to block any shipment of vaccines from Halix to the UK because British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has fallen far short of its contracted deliveries to the bloc. Ursula von der Leyen, the commission president, last week demanded “reciprocity” after she disclosed that factories in the EU had sent 21 million jabs to the UK since December but received none in return.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • By smearing AstraZeneca EU clowns have made all the other suppliers wary too – Leader, The Sun on Sunday
  • The three stages of Remainer EU remorse – Leader, Sunday Telegraph
  • The soft-socialist EU believes ‘fairness’ is more important than saving lives – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Moderna launch to boost vaccination programme

“Britain’s world-beating vaccine rollout will move up another gear in mid-April when the Moderna jab is deployed for the first time, The Mail on Sunday understands. The imminent arrival of more than 500,000 doses of the new US vaccine – to add to millions of Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots – will herald the expansion of the programme to the under-50s. Doctors are expected to administer the first Moderna jabs within three weeks…Moderna, which was codenamed ‘Renown’ by the Government during the American company’s development process, is being manufactured by the Swiss-based Lonza biotech company.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Three million over-50s have not had their first Covid vaccine dose – Mail on Sunday
  • We must not forget the threat that the virus still presents – Stephen Powis, Sunday Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Charities urge “clarity” on vaccine donations to poorer countries

“A group of charities is urging the prime minister to “swiftly clarify” how many Covid vaccine doses the UK is prepared to donate to poorer countries. Save the Children and the Wellcome Trust are among those calling on Boris Johnson to begin donating vaccines through Covax. This scheme aims to provide jabs for low and middle-income countries. The government said it will share “the majority of any future surplus” vaccines “when these are available”. The UK, which has ordered 400 million vaccine doses and will have many left over, has said it will donate most of its surplus vaccine supply to poorer countries. The lower income countries most likely to receive the first vaccines through Covax include Afghanistan, Haiti, DR Congo, Ethiopia and Somalia.” – BBC

Coronavirus 4) Traffic light system “could save holidays abroad”

“Ministers are to consider a “quarantine-light” traffic light system in a bid to save summer holidays, The Telegraph can reveal. Heathrow Airport has submitted plans to Boris Johnson’s global travel taskforce proposing a four-tier traffic light scheme with an “amber” option of a customised three-day quarantine and testing regime specifically designed to combat the threat from new Covid variants. The risk of importing variants – such as the South African and Brazilian versions now spreading in mainland Europe – is regarded by government scientists and Mr Johnson as the biggest hurdle to restarting international travel on May 17 and saving summer holidays.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • There is no longer a justification to ban all travel after May 17 – Leader, Mail on Sunday
  • Stand and fight to defeat the twin threats to liberty – Leo McKinstry, Sunday Express

Coronavirus 5) Sunday Express follow up Gauke’s criticism of the EU on Conservative Home

“The EU’S threat to block vaccine exports to the UK has now been described as “indefensible” by Remainer, David Gauke.
The former Justice Secretary and Tory MP who described himself as a “convinced Remainer”, claimed even the instinctive desire to protect the EU over the vaccine row fails. With the EU’s vaccine programme failing, Mr Gauke criticised the bloc for its threat to the UK while also tearing apart the argument that Britain is imposing its own vaccine export block. In a brilliant explanation of the EU’s failures over its vaccine programme, Mr Gauke claimed there is confusion within Brussels over what the UK is allowed under its contract with AstraZeneca and what is produced. Writing for Conservative Home, Mr Gauke said: “For some on the Remain side of the Brexit debate, there is an instinctive desire to defend the EU and cast the UK as vaccine nationalists or selfish panic-buyers and AstraZeneca as contract-breakers, arbitrarily favouring one customer over another. It is, however, an unconvincing case.” – Sunday Express

As PM, Cameron gave financier “privileged access to No 10”

“Lex Greensill was the odd one out. As David Cameron, then the prime minister, announced a new policy to business leaders gathered in Downing Street on October 23, 2012, he was flanked by three of his closest cabinet colleagues: Oliver Letwin, Michael Fallon and Francis Maude. Sitting with them at the top table was Greensill, a charming but unknown Australian banker in his thirties. Fresh faced and wearing a jet blue suit, he was neither a minister nor a civil servant. Still, it was Greensill’s day. That afternoon Cameron was making the Australian’s vision a reality. For almost a year Greensill had enjoyed a security pass to Downing Street, his own team of officials and access to the most powerful civil servant in Britain and the prime minister himself. Now his plan to get small businesses paid on time was being presented as government policy.” – Sunday Times

  • Ex-PM “gave scandal-hit banker access to 11 Government departments” – Sun on Sunday
  • He also  ‘brokered an Obama meeting’ for the tycoon – Mail on Sunday
  • Politicians seem incapable of being open and transparent – Leader, Sunday Times

Johnson and Biden agree “global coalition” needed to confront China

“Boris Johnson and Joe Biden, the US president, have vowed to create a global coalition to combat China, in retaliation for its imposition of sanctions on British MPs and peers. The two leaders have discussed plans for an infrastructure project to rival the Belt and Road strategy used by Beijing to expand its economic and political influence. Separately, the Home Office is soon to publish an espionage bill that will make it easier to expel Chinese spies from Britain. The legislation will include a compulsory register of foreign spies in the UK. Security chiefs believe that the Chinese have far more intelligence officers in Britain than they formally declare. The bill should make it easier to send them home.” – Sunday Times

>Today: Tim Loughton on Comment: So – no Wuhan holiday home for me. Yes, I’ve been sanctioned by China. But it won’t stop me speaking out.

Poll show eight point Conservative lead

“Boris Johnson’s handling of the coronavirus crisis has helped the Tories to their largest poll lead over Labour since last June. A Deltapoll survey for The Mail on Sunday puts the Conservatives on 44 per cent, with Labour lagging by eight per cent on 36, as public support rallies behind the vaccine rollout and ‘roadmap’ for easing lockdown rules. The poll found that 68 per cent support the plan, with just 20 per cent opposed. The Prime Minister’s ratings have also been boosted by his handling of the ‘vaccine wars’ with the EU: just 24 per cent think European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was right to threaten to block vaccine exports, while 54 per cent believe she was wrong.” – Mail on Sunday

Javid warns that sex offenders could be working with children and escaping detection

“Thousands of sex offenders could be working with children because they have changed their names by deed poll to escape detection, according to a hard-hitting new report by former Home Secretary Sajid Javid. Mr Javid found shocking evidence of what he called an ‘epidemic’ of child sexual abuse in the UK that has been made worse by the lockdown. Last night, the Tory MP – who has been tipped for a return to the Cabinet in the next reshuffle – called for sweeping changes to tackle child sexual abuse, including a demand for social media giant Facebook to abandon plans to encrypt its Messenger service, which would mean that abusive videos and images could be shared anonymously.” – Mail on Sunday

  • We need to bring the school nurse back to help protect children from sexual abuse – Sajid Javid, Mail on Sunday


More homes needed on greenfield land, admits Jenrick

“More homes will have to be built on greenfield land if the government is to hit its target of building one million homes before the next general election, the housing secretary has admitted. In a private call last week with MPs and donors, Robert Jenrick also suggested that there might need to be building on the protected green belt as well. Jenrick made the comments in a video call with members of the Conservative Friends of India. He stressed that the government wanted to “build on brownfield sites first”, but added: “We also know that we will have to build on some greenfield sites as well if we want to meet our overall housing targets, which are very significant.” It was a “Conservative mission” to help “young people and those on low incomes back onto the housing ladder”, he said.” – Sunday Times

>Yesterday: WATCH: Levelling Up: Pan-Regional Partnerships and the key to success

Union flags to be flown from hospitals

“Union flags will be flown from hundreds of hospital and NHS buildings across the country under plans backed by an “enthusiastic” Matt Hancock. The Health secretary has made clear he supports a campaign which a group of Conservative MPs say will “reaffirm our collective pride in the NHS”. It comes after Cabinet ministers moved last week to encourage civil servants and officials to fly the union flag more often over Government and council buildings. The idea of flying the flag from NHS buildings came from Sir John Hayes, the chairman of the Common Sense group of around 50 Conservative MPs.” – Sunday Telegraph

Colville: Being tougher on asylum is a political and humanitarian imperative

“Britain’s asylum system is meant for the most vulnerable, fleeing the worst persecution. Yet a parallel, illegal system is flourishing, in which migrants pay criminal gangs up to £30,000 to smuggle them from their homes to Britain. The number detected crossing the Channel via small boats has surged from fewer than 300 in 2018 to 8,500 last year — most of them economically active young men. All passed through other, safe countries where they could have claimed refuge. And for some the voyage proves fatal…Fixing the asylum system is not just a humanitarian imperative. It is a point of significant vulnerability for this government — as well as one of its strongest weapons against Labour.” – Robert Colville, Sunday Times

Hannan: Hereditary peers must stay

“For what it’s worth, my impression as a new life peer is that the hereditaries are more disinterested, more industrious and more heterodox in their opinions than most of us. They certainly do more than their share of the unrewarding, workaday jobs – serving as Whips, overseeing the maintenance of the buildings and so on. The £47 million that the Sunday Times put in big red font on its front page sounds a lot less outrageous when you work it out as £27,000 per hereditary peer per year. Are there cheaper legislators anywhere in Europe? All that, though, is beside the point. Defenders of the surviving hereditaries are not arguing that the system is ideal, or even that it is particularly justifiable. What they are arguing is that the original bargain must be kept. It is a question of good faith.” – Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph

  • My lords and ladies, it’s time we got rid of the lot of you – Quentin Letts, Sunday Times
  • Hereditary peers claim £500,000 pandemic expenses – Sunday Times

Starmer “to axe Shadow Chancellor”

“Sir Keir Starmer is preparing to replace his shadow chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, in a shake-up of his frontbench team. Starmer, who will mark his first anniversary as Labour leader next Sunday, is due to demote several underperforming shadow ministers after the local elections in an attempt to get on the front foot and challenge Boris Johnson. Allies of Starmer say Dodds, an Oxford-educated economist, is highly intelligent but has failed to communicate effectively the party’s vision. Rachel Reeves, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, is the favourite to replace her and has become one of Starmer’s closest confidantes. Reeves, who also went to Oxford and is an economist, has won plaudits for exposing Tory cronyism in the awarding of government personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts during the pandemic.” – Sunday Times

Further violence at “kill the bill” protests

“Kill the Bill demonstrators ignored officers’ pleas to stay at home as they marched in rallies across Britain to oppose controversial anti-protest legislation – amid fears of another night of violence in Bristol. Scenes of violence have erupted in Bristol over the past week, with demonstrators seen hurling fireworks and eggs at riot officers while protesting the government’s upcoming Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.  The legislation would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance, with those convicted under the bill liable to fines or jail terms. In Manchester on Saturday, police made eighteen arrests as pictures showed protesters clashing with officers.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Demos are fun for some, but achieve nothing – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

News in brief

  • With his new job, Prince Harry is fully signed up to the misinformation delusion – Oliver Wiseman, CapX
  • Salmond’s new party Alba makes the Scottish independence movement look a shambles – Chris Deerin, New Statesman
  • Is the United Kingdom still one nation? – Henry Hill, Spectator
  • The symphony of our salvation – Peter Mullen, Conservative Woman
  • Johnson is not a feminist, says Nokes – Independent