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Cummings declares war on Johnson over lockdown leak…

“Dominic Cummings launched a personal attack on Boris Johnson last night, accusing the prime minister of being “unethical” and falling “below the standards of competence and integrity the country deserves”. The former chief adviser used a 1,000-word blog post to condemn Johnson’s conduct, alleging he tried to stop a leak inquiry because it implicated a friend of Carrie Symonds, his fiancée. He also claimed that Johnson had attempted to get Tory donors to secretly fund £58,000 worth of renovations to his Downing Street flat. He said he warned the prime minister that the plan would be “unethical, foolish and possibly illegal”. Cummings said he had WhatsApp messages, emails and documents to support his claims and that he would be prepared to hand them over to a parliamentary inquiry.” – The Times

  • The Cummings Blog: Statement regarding No 10 – The Times
  • PM has to pay £60,000 flat revamp bill – The Times
  • “People don’t give a monkey’s”: Johnson dismisses leak blame claims – Daily Mail

Analysis:

>Yesterday:

… as the PM’s top adviser Lord Lister quits after only two months as Gulf envoy

“A top aide to Boris Johnson has tonight quit after only two months in his role, amid the ongoing row over lobbying. Lord Udny-Lister – a trusted political advisor to the Prime Minister and who worked alongside him during his time as Mayor of London – is to step back from his role as special envoy for the Gulf. It comes after a series of stories about the 71-year-old peer’s previous work within the private sector. These includes reports in the Mail on Sunday last week that Lord Udny-Lister owned shares in a company that has won nearly £1million in Government and NHS contracts. A source told the Telegraph that there were ‘no links between the disclosures and Lord Lister’s departure’. The source also told the paper that the timing of his departure was linked to Mr Johnson’s trip to India – which was cancelled due this week due to Covid.” – Daily Mail

Fraser Nelson: Why Cummings is out to get Johnson

“When No 10 accused Dominic Cummings of leaking text messages from Boris Johnson, its logic was obvious. It sought to portray him as a deranged schemer bent on revenge – and, ergo, not to be listened to. This raised a basic question of tactics. If Cummings is half as dangerous as they imagine, how did they think he would respond to all this? With a shrug? Or with something more potent? The answer came on Friday night: a statement published on Cummings’ own website, laden with political explosives. He says the Prime Minister wanted to stop a leak inquiry because the trail was leading to a friend of Carrie Symonds, his fiancée. He then talks about the Prime Minister’s plan to have a Tory donor “secretly” pay for her upgrade to No 10 flat only to be told by Cummings that idea was “unethical, foolish, possibly illegal” and more. And finally: he has called for an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the Prime Minister’s behaviour over lockdown. And yes, he’d give evidence under oath.” – Daily Telegraph

More comment:

Coronavirus 1) Royal Albert Hall, O2 arena, Lord Lloyd-Webber and Sir Simon Rattle join chorus of calls for virus certificates

“Britain’s biggest entertainment, sporting and conference venues have told ministers they will back the use of Covid-19 status certificates when lockdown restrictions are eased in June. In a boost for Boris Johnson, who is facing internal opposition to the plan, venues including the Royal Albert Hall, O2 arena and Birmingham NEC have said they will administer the scheme. Senior figures in the arts world are urging party leaders to endorse the use of certificates to reopen the “beating heart of society”. Lord Lloyd-Webber, Sir Simon Rattle and Sir Tom Stoppard are among those who have written to the prime minister and Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, saying that a system of certification would allow audiences to return without social distancing. Other signatories to the letter include the actors Sir Simon Russell Beale and Ralph Fiennes.” – The Times

  • Face masks could be gone by summer as vaccines keep Covid at bay – Daily Telegraph
  • Booster jabs to battle new Coronavirus strains will be ready by September but the current vaccines will provide some protection, Oxford expert says – Daily Mail

Comment:

Coronavirus 2) Threat to holidays as ‘green list’ countries may still be barred by Foreign Office

“Summer holidays abroad are under threat because of concerns that the Foreign Office may refuse to sanction travel to some countries placed on the government’s “green” list, The Times has learnt. Ministers are preparing to lift the ban on non-essential foreign travel on May 17 and are finalising a traffic-light system. Sources familiar with the latest discussions said that almost all European countries were expected to be put on the “amber” list, which would allow holidaymakers to travel to destinations such as Spain, France and Greece as long as they went into quarantine for at least five days when they returned. Only a handful of destinations are expected to be put on the quarantine-free green list, with sources naming Gibraltar, Malta, Iceland and possibly Portugal.” – The Times

  • Johnson says he is ‘looking at what we can do to help’ India after it sees a record 332,000 cases in a day and 2,263 deaths – Daily Mail
  • Indoor mixing set to go ahead next month despite new Covid variants – The Times

Coronavirus 3) EU urges member states to re-embrace AstraZeneca vaccine

“Brussels has encouraged EU member states to act on a new European Medicines Agency opinion that the benefits of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine outweigh the risks of blood clots in all adult age groups. The European commissioner for health, Stella Kyriakides, emphasised the vaccine’s importance as part of the EU’s strategy despite months of controversy following the latest conclusions from the EMA. In reference to member states who have resumed use of the vaccine in recent days following the discovery of blood clots as a very rare side effect, Kyriakides said she welcomed the fact that they had reflectedon the latest evidence. She has been lobbying capitals to take a coordinated position on the use of the vaccine to rebuild public confidence. Last week, however, Denmark became the first EU member state to abandon the jab.” – The Guardian

  • Rise in blood clots forces UK vaccine chiefs to ponder alternative to AstraZeneca for under-40s – Daily Telegraph

Johnson presses Sunak over cap on cost of social care in old age

“A cap on the amount older people pay for social care is being closely considered by Boris Johnson as he tries to reach a deal with Rishi Sunak on reform. The prime minister met the chancellor recently to kick-start intensive government work intended to solve the crisis in social care this year. He hopes to give a taste of it in the Queen’s speech next month. Johnson has taken a keen interest in decade-old plans that would cap the amount an individual had to contribute towards their own care, with the state picking up the rest of the bill, seeing it as a potential way to meet his manifesto pledge that people should no longer have to sell their homes to pay for help. This is the prime minister’s favoured option according to some accounts. However, other sources dispute this.” – The Times

Post Office scandal: Hundreds could claim compensation after convictions quashed

“Hundreds of subpostmasters could now appeal to overturn criminal records and claim compensation after senior judges quashed 39 fraud convictions in Britain’s biggest miscarriage of justice. Lawyers for the victims called for senior former Post Office executives to face criminal proceedings over their involvement in bringing the flawed cases. Yesterday the executives were accused of ruining hundreds of lives — with some of the convicted subpostmasters having served jail sentences — after they introduced a computing system called Horizon into branches 22 years ago and then brought fraud prosecutions based on its faulty evidence. The vindicated group began their legal battle six years ago with a plea to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, the body that investigates claims of miscarriages of justice.” – The Times

  • One former postmaster killed himself after being accused of stealing £60,000 in Post Office scandal – The Times

Comment:

Extinction Rebellion activists cleared ‘despite having no defence’

“A jury yesterday cleared six Extinction Rebellion protesters of causing criminal damage to Shell’s London headquarters despite being directed by the judge that they had no defence in law. Simon Bramwell, 49, co-founder of the climate change protest group and one of those acquitted, said that he hoped the verdict would encourage more people to take similar actions. Diana Wilson, for the prosecution, said that the defendants had deliberately sprayed graffiti or smashed windows at the Shell building in Belvedere Road, central London, on April 15, 2019. The protest, in which activists also poured fake oil and glued themselves to windows and doors, was part of a demonstration that blocked roads in central London for several days.” – The Times

Comment:

Hartlepool by-election: Tories grow hopeful of taking seat from Labour

“In the December 2019 general election a tide of Tory votes swept away traditional Labour seats in the Tees Valley from Redcar to Darlington and handed the Conservatives an 80-seat majority. Hartlepool, a coastal town of 100,000 people, clung on. But now Boris Johnson has a second shot at triumph in a by-election next month and Labour is fighting to retain a seat that has not switched loyalties since it was created in 1974. Despite its political infrastructure on the ground and a lacklustre Tory candidate, the party is having to throw everything at keeping hold of the constituency that was represented for two decades by Peter Mandelson, an architect of New Labour.” – The Times

  • Elections 2021: what’s at stake and who will win on Super Thursday? – The Times

Comment:

  • Labour isn’t working and will it ever again? One victorious leader since Wilson, its laudable social objectives achieved, more divided than ever – and facing a by-election defeat in its heartland, Dominic Sandbrook – Daily Mail

Parliament’s £1.3million bulletproof screen that separates MPs from the public may be removed to let more politicians back in the ‘lifeless’ House of Commons

“Parliament’s bulletproof security screen may be removed to let more MPs back in the ‘lifeless’ Commons chamber. Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has asked officials to investigate the temporary removal of the glass screen which separates MPs from the public gallery. The screen was installed in 2004 at a cost of £1.3million after MI5 warned MPs faced a specific security threat. That year, protesters had hurled condoms packed with purple powder at Tony Blair while he stood at the dispatch box. But with the public gallery likely to remain closed indefinitely because of Covid restrictions, officials are now investigating whether it could be used to allow more MPs to take part in debates. Regulations mean that just 50 out of 650 MPs are currently allowed into the chamber at any time.” – Daily Mail

Smart motorways delaying fire brigade callouts

“Fire services are facing considerable delays on emergency callouts because of smart motorways, according to Britain’s biggest fire brigade. The London Fire Brigade said that the system, in which the hard shoulder is converted into a live vehicle lane, can “pose unique challenges” for crews attempting to reach the scene of a crash. In a further disclosure, a former chief scientist at the Department for Transport raised serious doubts over the value of the roads, saying that they often “fail to deliver” economic benefits such as improvements in traffic flows. Smart motorways have been introduced to about 350 miles of the network in England in recent years as part of a plan to boost road capacity. It was reported last Sunday that it had taken ambulance crews 24 minutes to get to the scene of a serious crash on a smart motorway section of the M1 in March 2019.” – The Times

Spy chief warns cyber threat from China could see it control the ‘global operating system’ as West faces ‘moment of reckoning’ in race for tech supremacy

“A UK spy chief has warned the cyber threat from China could see it control the ‘global operating system’. Jeremy Fleming, the director of GCHQ, said the west faces a ‘moment of reckoning’ in the race for tech supremacy. And while the UK is a digital ‘big animal’, there is a ‘pressing need to act’ to combat undemocratic nations who are increasingly powerful. In a major speech today, he warned the digital dominance of hostile states like China threatens our future prosperity and security. He said: ‘The concern is that China’s size and technological weight means that it has the potential to control the global operating system.’ And, if left unchecked, this could threaten the design and freedom of the internet and endanger future technologies such as ‘smart cities’. Mr Fleming said it was now vital that the UK adapt in order to keep up with the evolving threats, calling it a ‘moment of reckoning’.” – Daily Mail

  • Our satellites will see what China is doing on climate change, says John Kerry – The Times

News in brief: