Published:

Covid pandemic ‘over in Britain’, say experts

“Britain is no longer in a pandemic, experts have said, as new data showed the vaccination programme is reducing symptomatic Covid infections by up to 90 per cent. In the first large real-world study of the impact of vaccination on the general population, researchers found that the rollout is having a major impact on cutting both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases. Sarah Walker, Professor of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology at Oxford and Chief Investigator on the Office for National Statistics Covid-19 Infection Survey, said that Britain had ‘moved from a pandemic to an endemic situation’ where the virus is circulating at a low, largely controllable level in the community. The new research, based on throat swabs from 373,402 people between December 1 last year and April 3, found three weeks after one dose of either the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab, symptomatic infections fell by 74 per cent and infections without symptoms by 57 per cent.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Vaccines likely to be slowing spread of virus, scientists believe – The Times
  • Drakeford accused of ‘playing politics’ by speeding up lockdown easing – The Guardian

Fraser Nelson: There’s a conspiracy of silence among politicians about the hidden victims of lockdown

“One of the reasons that lockdown was never previously considered as a tool of pandemic control is that the social damage would be, quite literally, incalculable. There would be problems no one could envisage and victims no one would be able to find. Or help. When the Opposition supports the Government on any matter, there’s always a conspiracy of silence because neither has an incentive to highlight the failings of an idea they both proposed. So there’s no one to ask, for example, why 20,000 pupils seem to have vanished from the school roll – and what might have happened to them. This figure is being passed around quietly in Government, as one of the unexpected side-effects of the pandemic.” – Daily Telegraph

  • How the Tories can appeal to young voters – James Forsyth, The Times

Lobbying 1) Johnson accuses ‘bitter’ Cummings of leaking text messages to try to destabilise him

“Raging Boris Johnson has accused his former right-hand man Dominic Cummings of trying to destabilise him with vengeful leaks. Insiders say the PM is “deeply disappointed and saddened” that texts he sent were made public. His advisor was forced out of No10 last November. The PM has ordered his staff to cease all contact with his former ally. The man who once pulled the strings in Government as an all-powerful advisor is now suspected of “treachery” against the Prime Minister. Mr Johnson has told allies that Downing Street’s soaring poll lead and the success of the vaccine roll-out may have enraged him further. A political row has ignited after text messages sent by Mr Johnson to billionaire business chief James Dyson and a Saudi prince were made public.” – The Sun

  • Revelations ‘implicated Prime Minister in two lobbying scandals’ – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: Arthur and George and Dominic

>Yesterday: Left Watch: Labour’s Tory sleaze accusations look hypocritical, and – even more interestingly – aren’t landing any blows

Lobbying 2) Race for PPE held up by demands from ‘VIP’ suppliers

“Civil servants were unable to buy PPE quickly at the height of the pandemic last year because they were “drowning” in offers from suppliers with links to the government, emails have shown. In correspondence made public after legal action, officials expressed annoyance that VIP suppliers were allowed to “jump to the front of the queue”. Civil servants said that the number of requests they had to process from “high priority contacts” had hurt their ability to accept offers from other suppliers. Applications to supply PPE to the government were ten times more likely to be successful if they came with a recommendation from someone in government, a report by the National Audit Office found last year. One in ten applications processed through the “high-priority lane” were approved, compared to fewer than one in 100 from other channels.” – The Times

  • Freeman ‘broke government rules’ when he worked for PPE firm – Daily Mail
  • Firm run by former Tory aides handed Treasury contracts – The Times

>Yesterday: Simon Schofield in Comment: Iceland, the UAE and Vietnam have had some of the best responses to Covid. Here’s what we can learn from them.

Lobbying 3) Cameron kept pushing Bank and Treasury to risk £20bn to help Greensill…

“David Cameron repeatedly pushed the Bank of England and the Treasury to risk up to £20bn in taxpayer cash to help Greensill Capital, just as the lender started to face “significant” financial pressure at the start of the pandemic. The UK’s central bank was urged to provide support to Greensill, including by setting up a fund that would buy loans made by the financial services company and its competitors, in a string of emails to senior officials. In one, Cameron introduced Greensill’s founder to one of the Bank of England’s four deputy governors, Jon Cunliffe. The exchanges, published by the Bank of England on Thursday afternoon, became increasingly desperate in tone as requests from Greensill for government backing were turned down. Cameron described the situation as “incredibly frustrating” and complained: “I must be missing something here.”” – The Guardian

  • Sir Tom Scholar reveals messages from ex-Prime Minister – The Times
  • Cameron lobbied Bank of England deputy over Greensill decision – The Times

More:

  • Manchester United chief met Downing Street days before ‘Super League’ launch – The Independent

Lobbying 4) Civil servants’ second jobs to be scrutinised

“Britain’s top civil servant has ordered senior colleagues to more tightly police officials who take second jobs after the Greensill saga, The Telegraph can reveal. Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, also said behind closed doors that the current rules would be looked at again to see whether they should be changed. The message was communicated by Mr Case at a meeting he held with the top civil servants in government departments on Wednesday morning. Earlier this month it emerged Bill Crothers, a former head of Whitehall procurement, became an adviser to the lender Greensill Capital while still working in the civil service. Last week, Mr Case launched a hunt for new conflicts of interest by asking all government departments to find out whether senior officials have rule-breaking second jobs.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cabinet Secretary weighs in to Downing Street makeover row – The Times

Ministers ask company executives to form ‘investment council’

“Ministers have asked business chiefs to form an “investment council” that will advise the government on how to boost the UK’s global competitiveness and help attract overseas investors to key national projects. More than 30 executives from large multinationals in a variety of industries have been approached to take roles on the new council, according to several people familiar with the plans. Companies invited to participate include Kraft Heinz, HP and Publicis, they added. The group, which will comprise up to 40 members, will advise on how to encourage global trade and attract foreign money to UK projects under investment minister Lord Gerry Grimstone, the former chair of Standard Life Aberdeen.” – FT

  • Lamont urges Sunak to ‘seize’ Britcoin bounty with digital pound – Daily Express

>Today: Syed Kamall in Comment: The time is right for the UK to boost relations with India – but a trade deal will not be simple

Johnson offers ‘unreserved apology’ to families of black and Asian soldiers who were denied gravestones

“Boris Johnson has offered an ‘unreserved apology’ to the families of black and Asian soldiers who died fighting for the British Empire but were denied gravestones. The Prime Minister said he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the failure to commemorate their deaths in the same way as their white comrades due to racism. It came after a report by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) found that the deaths of many black and Asian troops during the First World War went unrecorded. Meanwhile white soldiers received headstones or had their names engraved on memorials… The CWGC works to commemorate Commonwealth forces and ensure that all those killed in the two world wars are remembered in the same way, regardless of rank, background or religion.” – Daily Mail

  • Defence Secretary formally apologises too – The Sun

More:

  • Veterans in Ulster are traumatised from ‘never leaving the battlefield’ – The Times
  •  UK must win technology race with foreign adversaries, GCHQ chief warns – Daily Mail

MPs unanimous in declaring China’s treatment of Uyghurs genocide

“British MPs on Thursday unanimously approved a parliamentary motion denouncing China’s treatment of Uyghurs as genocide, as pressure grew on Boris Johnson’s administration to adopt a tougher stance against Beijing. The non-binding motion, which was put forward by Conservative MP Nusrat Ghani, one of the five members of parliament targeted by Chinese sanctions last month, was approved in the House of Commons following a three-hour debate. The UK government is under no obligation to act on the motion, which said that Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region were suffering crimes against humanity and called for the government to “fulfil its obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide”.” – FT

Government ‘not being honest about challenge of reaching net zero’, says adviser

“The government is not being honest about the extent people will need to change their lives to reach net zero goals, a government adviser on climate change has said. “To get to net zero, every aspect of the way that we emit at the moment needs to be tackled,” said David Joffe, the head of carbon budgets at the Climate Change Committee. “And we can’t just duck those difficult conversations.” The UK Government set a new target this week to reduce emissions by 78 per cent by 2035 from a 1990 baseline, in line with the recommendations of the CCC, an independent Government advisory body. It is on track to phase out coal in the electricity system by 2025, and has banned the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2030. But it is yet to outline exactly how cuts will be achieved in several areas, including home heating, international aviation and agriculture, which is likely to affect diets.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour unveils £30bn plan to create 400,000 green jobs – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Government must cut carbon, not corners – Philip Dunne MP, Times Red Box

>Yesterday: Ed Birkett in Comment: Biden will spend big to help slow climate change. Johnson won’t. He doesn’t need to. Here’s why.

Border between England and Scotland could create jobs, claims SNP candidate

“The creation of a border with England could create jobs in a separate Scotland despite it erecting barriers with the country’s dominant trading partner, an SNP candidate in the Holyrood election has said. Emma Harper, who was an MSP in the last parliament and is standing in Galloway and West Dumfries, said that “we can show that a border can work” if Scotland left the UK. She insisted that “we want the softest of borders” despite the SNP’s blueprint for a separate Scotland to join the EU leading to a hard customs border with England. The Tories said the intervention showed how “clueless” the SNP was about the devastating economic impact of independence. Scotland’s trade with the rest of the UK is worth more than three times that with the EU.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Scottish Labour tries to shift focus from independence with ‘recovery plan’ – FT

More:

  • First Minister mocked after ‘exploding’ at election rivals – Daily Express
  • How Salmond and Sturgeon went from allies to enemies – FT Magazine

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Lewis to fly the Union Flag from Stormont House all year round

News in Brief:

  • Local elections will set the tone for post-Covid politics – Henry Hill, CapX
  • How we let the IRA walk free – Douglas Murray, UnHerd
  • Is Germany about to go Green? – Katja Hoyer, The Spectator
  • Welcome to the TERF wars – Maya Forstater, The Critic