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Diverse UK hailed over narrowing of race gap

“Britain is a model on race for other countries, with children from ethnic minorities outperforming their white peers at school, a landmark government review has concluded. The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, formed last July after the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, said that Britain had become a more open society and that racial inequalities had narrowed in education and employment. Its report, published today, states that the success of much of the ethnic minority population in education and, to a lesser extent, the economy “should be regarded as a model for other white-majority countries”. Education is “the most emphatic success story”, it says, pointing out that pupils from Indian, Bangladeshi and black African backgrounds in England scored better on average across eight GCSEs than white British children.” – The Times

Sturgeon clashes with opposition on independence and Covid in Scottish leaders’ debate

“Coronavirus and the prospect of a second independence referendum dominated exchanges in the first TV leaders’ debate of the Holyrood election campaign. SNP leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took on her rivals in the BBC Scotland clash which took place just days into the campaign. But with just the five parties who currently have MSPs in Holyrood taking part, there was no place for former first minister Alex Salmond, who recently made a dramatic return to politics as the leader of the new Alba Party. As Scotland looks to move on from the coronavirus pandemic, Ms Sturgeon promised to be an “experienced hand at the wheel” with her SNP party bringing forward “bold policies to drive our recovery”. But she insisted that when the crisis has passed, people should have a “choice on independence”. The SNP wants that vote to take place in the first half of Scottish Parliament’s five-year term. But Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross insisted: “We can’t have a recovery and a referendum.”” – Edinburgh Live

>Today:

Nigel Farage: For all their tartan, neither Sturgeon nor Salmond truly wants to achieve Scottish self-determination

As Alex Salmond returns to the political fray with his own custom-made Alba Party, inevitable comparisons have been drawn between his latest political enterprise and my decision in 2019 to launch the Brexit Party. I like to think I have little in common with Mr Salmond personally. But there are more fundamental differences between us, too. The fact is that from the moment the UK Independence Party was launched in 1993, my crusade was for our nation to be sovereign once again. What got me out of bed every morning was the desire to help make Britain truly free. Salmond, and his successor as SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, have a very different vision for what they misleadingly call an “independent” Scotland. – Daily Telegraph

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Politicians criticised as Met’s policing of Everard vigil cleared

“Scotland Yard was exonerated yesterday over its policing of the Sarah Everard vigil by an independent report that rounded on politicians who criticised the force. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services condemned the “chorus” of public figures who attacked the Met after the arrest of female protesters in Clapham Common, south London. The watchdog said that the Met’s response to the vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, 33, who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by a police officer, was justified given the coronavirus risk and “malign actions” by abusive and aggressive protesters. It criticised “leading voices in positions of some responsibility” who called for the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick as commissioner of the Met despite having “very limited understanding of what had happened”.” – The Times

Welby backs free speech in Batley Grammar School Prophet cartoon row

“The Archbishop of Canterbury has defended the right to free speech after a teacher was suspended for allegedly showing his class a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. Parents of children at Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire protested for several days last week after children said they had been shown the cartoon during a religious studies lesson. Gary Kibble, the head teacher, apologised over the use of the “inappropriate” image, which is thought to have been taken from the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The teacher, who has faced threats, has been suspended pending a full investigation. His family say that he is in hiding and is in fear for his life.” – The Times

Ofsted chief asked for greater powers to check for abuse in private schools

“The chief inspector of schools in England asked for greater powers to monitor independent schools over “potential safeguarding issues”, but was ignored by ministers, the Guardian can reveal. Despite concerns raised by Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, the body was later stripped of its role in overseeing the inspections of private schools now engulfed by a wave of sexual assault allegations. Documents seen by the Guardian show Spielman complained to the Department for Education in 2018 and 2019 that her organisation was unable to monitor the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI), to which the DfE delegates inspections of elite private schools such as Westminster and Dulwich College.” – The Guardian

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Coronavirus 1) Don’t ‘blow it’, Hancock warns, as temperatures threaten March record

“The Health Secretary has warned Britons not to “blow it” ahead of what could be the UK’s hottest March day on record. Met Office forecaster Alex Burkhill said it was a “possibility” that Wednesday’s temperatures could surpass the March record of 25.6C (78F), set in 1968 at Mepal in Cambridgeshire. It comes as the mercury peaked at 24.5C (76.1F) at Kew Gardens in west London on Tuesday – the hottest March day in 53 years. People have been making the most of sunny conditions across England after Monday’s easing of coronavirus rules which means groups of up to six, or two households, are now able to socialise in parks and gardens while outdoor sports facilities can reopen.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Half of Britons have antibodies against Covid, says ONS – The Times

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Coronavirus 2) Oxford jab pioneer warns Britain still lacks the capacity to make its own vaccines without outside help – as country faces EU supply squeeze

“Britain faces a lack of vaccine manufacturing bases which could hamper research into coronavirus and other diseases, an expert has warned. Professor Adrian Hill, director of Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, says the development of jabs is being held back because the country is ‘very weak’ when it comes to the manufacturing side of vaccines. His warnings come as Britain faces challenges over the supply of vaccines from overseas factories, with India ordering a temporary stop to the export of the AstraZeneca vaccine, meaning supplies to the UK will likely fall during April. Threats of export bans in Europe have also emerged amid a row over difficulties meeting delivery demands for the EU.” – Daily Mail

  • Two-thirds of global disease experts believe coronavirus variants will make vaccines ineffective within one year – Daily Mail
  • About half of people in UK now have antibodies against coronavirus – The Guardian
  • Merkel and Macron in talks to use Russia’s Sputnik Covid vaccine – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Covid vaccine success can open up world to travel, ministers told

“Summer holidays should be permitted to more than 130 countries because of the success of Britain’s vaccination programme, ministers have been told. Research submitted to a government task force today said that the risks of travel would be significantly reduced by the high inoculation rate combined with a basic testing programme. The study said that it should even be possible to visit countries with higher coronavirus infection levels than last summer without “increasing the risk of putting pressure on the NHS” when people return. This includes most of Europe, the Caribbean, north Africa and the United States. The conclusions, in a study commissioned by Manchester Airports Group, will add to the pressure on the government to reopen international travel from mid-May, the target date set out in the prime minister’s “road map” out of lockdown.” – The Times

  • Tourism industry begs for September bank holiday boost after Covid pandemic – The Times

Coronavirus 4) World leaders question WHO Covid origins report

“Britain, the United States and a dozen other countries have voiced concerns over an initial World Health Organisation report into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic and urged China to provide “full access” to future investigations. The head of the WHO itself also criticised China’s sharing of data from the beginning of the pandemic in Wuhan in December 2019, and added that the highly politicised four-week WHO investigation was not “extensive enough”. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a deeper inquiry into the possibility that the coronavirus escaped from a Chinese laboratory, despite his chief investigator saying that there was no evidence it had done so.” – The Times

Comment:

  • What a surprise… world health ‘experts’ have let China off the hook over Covid (so what hope for the world to avoid a future pandemic?) – Daily Mail
  • We need new alliances to replace failing global institutions, Con Coughlin – Daily Telegraph

Laurence Fox describes London as ‘cathedral of wokery’ as he launches mayoral campaign

“Laurence Fox has launched his London mayoral campaign by describing the capital as the “cathedral of wokery” and promising to “unlock” the city”. The actor and “anti-woke” campaigner, 42, this morning unveiled his campaign battle bus emblazoned with the words “Free London” and a picture of a gagged Winston Churchill statue. Arriving on the bus in Westminster, Mr Fox said: “I am not a politician. I never wanted to be a politician.” He said that he is a single father and then joked that he “used” to be an actor. He is standing for the Reclaim party, which he founded last year to “fight the culture wars”. His campaign will be completely funded by a donation from ex-Tory political donor Jeremy Hosking, according to reports.” – Evening Standard

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Skripals ‘targeted five years before novichok attack’

“A coroner will investigate the role of the Russian state in the Salisbury novichok poisoning after being told that operatives scoped out their targets up to five years before the attack. Lady Hallett widened the inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess, a mother of three who was exposed to the nerve agent in a perfume bottle, to include an investigation into the source of the poison and Russian responsibility. The inquest will also examine the activities of two Russian intelligence officers accused of carrying out the original poisoning of Sergei Skripal, 69, a former double agent, and his daughter, Yulia, 37. The Skripals fell seriously ill but survived the attack in March 2018.” – The Times

Cameron lobbied Mohammed bin Salman despite Khashoggi murder claim

“David Cameron went on a desert camping trip to lobby Mohammed bin Salman only months after the Saudi crown prince ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Cameron was invited on the trip in his role as a paid adviser and lobbyist for the billionaire Australian financier Lex Greensill, whose company Greensill Capital collapsed this month. At the time of the trip early last year a United Nations report had already found “credible links” between the crown prince and the murder of Khashoggi in October 2018. The United States has since formally announced that bin Salman approved the killing. Details of the trip emerged as Labour said that it had been handed a business card dating from Greensill’s time working as an adviser in the Cabinet Office, suggesting that he worked directly with Cameron while he was prime minister.” – The Times

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