The beginning of the end of lockdown? Pupils return to school tomorrow.

“Boris Johnson said the return of millions of pupils to the classroom was made possible only by collective efforts to cut infections. It marks step one of his plan to unlock the country after a year of restrictions to tackle the pandemic. He declared: “The reopening of schools marks a truly national effort to beat this virus. “It is because of the determination of every person in this country that we can start moving closer to a sense of normality — and it is right that getting our young people back into the classroom is a first step.” Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said it was important for all children to be back for their mental health and well-being.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Letters going out to 56-59 years olds, Moderna vaccine arriving, Johnson to be vaccinated himself soon – Mail on Sunday
  • School absences fear over false positives – Observer
  • Families of Covid victims to sue Johnson in order to force an enquiry – Sunday Times
  • Guy Opperman, who had brain tumour surgery, challenges MPs to get fit – Sun on Sunday
  • Johnson has shed two stone – Mail on Sunday
  • Johnson: Asterix was “the original vaccine roll-out champion” – Sun on Sunday
  • Feasability study into Johnson Britain-Northern Ireland tunnel to be recommended – Sunday Telegraph
  • We need a grown-up debate about immigration, culture and race – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday
  • Back to school: the big step but the right step – Amanda Spielman, Sun on Sunday
  • We must expand mental health services for generation lockdown – Nadine Dorries, Sunday Express

> Today: ToryDiary – ConHome’s survey. Johnson’s rating for handling Covid reaches its highest since last spring.

David Frost: The EU has underminded confidence in the Northern Ireland Protocol – and we must respond

“Unfortunately, the action taken by the EU in late January on their vaccines regulation, and the improper invocation of Article 16, has significantly undermined cross-community confidence in the Protocol. As the government of the whole of our country we have to deal with that situation – one that remains fragile. That is why we have had to take some temporary operational steps to minimise disruption in Northern Ireland. They are lawful and are consistent with a progressive and good faith implementation of the Protocol.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Frost preparing “lighter touch checks on food” – Observer
  • EU 1) It’s “set to beg America for Astrazenica vaccines” – Mail on Sunday
  • EU 2) It “may check goods going from Ireland to the rest of the EU” – Sunday Express
  • EU 3) Its isolationism is wrecking Europe – Matt Ridley, Sunday Telegraph
  • EU 4) It’s suffering from a Napoleon complex – Robert Toombs, Sunday Telegraph

Sunak’s next tax increase: on internet firms – if he can get his way

“The chancellor plans to use the G7 summit, which Britain is hosting in June, to push for changes to global laws so he can increase taxes on internet firms. Sunak revealed he had already had talks with Janet Yellen, the US Treasury secretary. “One of my priorities in the G7 this year, which I’ve already started work on, is to try and get international agreement on a new way to tax these companies,” the chancellor said. “I spend a lot of time talking to my finance minister colleagues around the world about this issue.” – Sunday Times

  • How Facebook silenced me – Brian Monteith, Mail on Sunday
  • Trade unions unite to oppose one per cent NHS England staff offer – Observer
  • The proposed one per cent pay increase for nurses “quite why the Government has chosen this particular hill to die on is beyond me” – Sarah Vine, Mail on Sunday
  • Too much crony capitalism – Matthew Syed, Sunday Times
  • Telegraph anti-tax rises comment 1) The Government’s plans will sap growth and make us poorer – Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph
  • Telegraph anti-tax rises comment 2 )They expose flaws in the recovery Budget – Liam Halligan, Sunday Telegraph
  • Telegraph anti-tax rises comment 3) The tax-hiking Tories have captured the national mood, but at what cost? – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph
  • Telegraph anti-tax rises comment 4) All other things being equal, the UK is about to plummet down the corporate tax league table – Jeremy Warner, Sunday Telegraph
  • The Budget was anti-growth – Sunday Telegraph Editorial
  • Sunak is right to target Big Tech – Sun on Sunday Editorial

> Yesterday:

The Government’s coming defence plan: more cyber, fewer troops

“The 100-page document, Global Britain in a Competitive Age, proposes to transform the military. A new RAF Space Command (to launch a rocket from Scotland in 2022), a National Cyber Force and research facilities for artificial intelligence (AI) will make Britain what Johnson has called a “science superpower”. But the plans will lead to cuts in traditional capabilities, including the loss of up to 12,500 troops from the British Army, the details of which will be mapped out in a Ministry of Defence command paper released on March 22.” – Sunday Times

Buckland to double sentences for teenage killers

“Robert Buckland will announce new laws that will mean teenage killers guilty of the most serious murders will be sentenced to at least 27 years in jail compared with the current minimum of 12 years. He will also abolish the right of 17 year olds who are jailed after they turn 18 to have their sentences reviewed halfway through their prison term, forcing them to serve the full term in jail. The move is designed to treat older teenage killers more like adults and will mean that Thomas Griffiths, who stabbed his ex-girlfriend Ellie Gould to death in the kitchen of her home, will lose his right to have his 12-year sentence reviewed at the halfway point.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Patel orders review after man jailed for five years after killing wife – Mail on Sunday
  • Maximum sentences are rarely imposed – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

> Today: Neil Shastri-Hurst on Comment: Criminal Justice reform – a modern crusade for a modern conservatism

Anne McElvoy: Preparing for my Tatler profile of Carrie Symonds

“A long-standing friend of Boris Johnson offered me an entertaining spiel about how the 32-year-old chatelaine of No 10 had turned it into ‘the court of Henry VIII’, with herself as a scheming Anne Boleyn-figure, ousting her fiance’s political cardinals such as Dominic Cummings. On the other hand, testimonials abounded of how smart, empathetic and encouraging of colleagues she can be…Team Carrie, her loyal outriders, did not seem displeased at the idea of her being written about in the so-called ‘society bible’ which had the Duchess of Cambridge on the cover last summer. Although she did not speak to me in person, I was allowed exhaustive access to many friends and allies.” – Mail on Sunday

  • Tory donors paying for Downing Street upgrade, civil servants advised White House-style trust – Sunday Times
  • Johnson’s lifelong worries about money – Sunday Times
  • Nokes calls for gender balanced Cabinet – Observer

Knives out for Starmer’s Shadow Chancellor

“The Opposition leader has been put on notice to strengthen the shadow cabinet after local elections in May to land more blows on the Tories. The pressure comes as a poll revealed the Tories have widened their lead to 13 points after the tax-raising Budget. Sir Keir is also being urged by some to move shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds. Labour MPs fear many shadow ministers are not pulling their weight.
One MP said: “They’ve got to sharpen up the act. [Sir Keir] has made a huge difference, no doubt about it — he has got us back in the game.” – Sun on Sunday

  • Labour urges Shapps to junk smart motorways – Sunday Telegraph
  • Blair says preparation needed for potential Covid nightmare… – Sunday Express
  • (…Blair dismissed pandemic fears as “panpanics” in his autobiography) – Sunday Telegraph
  • One day Starmer will give Johnson a kicking – Rod Liddle, Sunday Times

First post-Sturgeon and Salmond evidence poll finds a No lead on independence

“The survey is the first to take place after both Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond gave their evidence to the Holyrood inquiry into the botched handling of harassment complaints against the former first minister. The polling conducted by Savanta ComRes for The Scotsman interviewed 1,015 Scots between March 4 and 5 – the two days immediately after the First Minister’s appearance before the Salmond inquiry. The survey does show a general preference for a No vote in any second referendum, with a total of 46 per cent support for No, 43 per cent support for Yes and 10 per cent for don’t know.” – Scotsman

  • 61 per cent of Scots say Sturgeon should resign if she’s broken the ministerial code – Sunday Times

Farage quits frontline politics (again)

“Mr Farage famously quit after the 2016 referendum, saying “I want my life back”, but then reformed the Brexit Party two years later in 2018 to exploit disaffection with the way the Government was handling the Brexit negotiations. He adds: “Now’s the moment for me to say I’ve knocked on my last door. I’m going to step down as the leader of Reform UK. I’ll have no executive position at all. I’m quite happy to have an honorary one, but party politics, campaigning, being involved in elections, that is now over for me because I’ve achieved the one thing I set out to do: to achieve the independence of the UK.” – Sunday Telegraph