Published:

Cummings still in frame as lockdown leaks ‘rat’ – as Case due to give evidence to MPs today

“Britain’s most senior civil servant is still investigating Dominic Cummings as part of the inquiry into who leaked sensitive details of the government’s lockdown plans. Senior Whitehall sources said that Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, had not cleared Cummings of being the so-called chatty rat leaker despite claims by Boris Johnson’s former adviser. Case is due to give evidence to MPs today. He will make clear that inquiries are continuing in the investigation prompted by the revelation in October that Johnson had decided to implement a second lockdown. A Whitehall source said that despite claims by Cummings last week that Case had cleared him of involvement in the leak, this was not the case. “That could well have been true some week in November last year,” the source said. “But things change. No one has been exonerated and the investigation is still active.”” – The Times

  • Cummings will accuse Johnson of fatal second lockdown delay – The Times
  • Claims that PM said he would rather ‘bodies pile high in their thousands’ than order a third lockdown – Daily Mail
  • Cummings ‘has audio recordings of key government conversations’ and ‘can back up a lot of his claims’, ally of the former chief adviser says – Daily Mail
  • Truss refuses to say whether donor gave cash for Johnson’s flat – The Times
  • Labour calls for Electoral Commission inquiry into PM’s flat refurbishment – The Guardian

Analysis:

  • Johnson and the Downing Street flat row: What do we know happened? – The Times

Comment:

  • Lonely losing battle of PM who’d resisted the clamour for lockdowns: Yes, his outburst was shocking. But libertarian Boris knew it wasn’t just Covid lives at stake, Andrew Pierce – Daily Mail

>Yesterday:

Dominic Lawson: Tightwad Boris will have hated forking out for Carrie’s decor. But his cash problem isn’t a patch on his idol’s

“The Prime Minister has a problem with his personal finances. That is the easiest explanation for why Boris Johnson attempted to get Conservative Party donors to help pay for an expensive refurbishment of the Downing Street flat in which he, his fiancée Carrie Symonds and their baby son Wilfred live. It would have been an unprecedented arrangement — which the PM’s former chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, said last week was ‘unethical, possibly illegal, and almost certainly broke the rules on proper disclosure of political donations if conducted in the way he intended’. Following Mr Cummings’s remarks — delivered on his personal blog in retaliation for Boris Johnson’s idiotic move to brief newspapers that Cummings had been the source of various disobliging leaks about the matter — the PM decided, after all, to cough up the £58,000 bill which was to have been given by benefactors.” – Daily Mail

More comment:

Crime 1) Patel orders police to stop recording hate incidents that are not crimes

“Priti Patel is to stop police from recording so-called hate incidents that are not crimes over fears that the policy is blighting employment prospects and curbing free speech. Government sources confirmed that the home secretary has told the College of Policing to drop guidance to forces that those accused of non-criminal incidents should have them recorded on police files. In a letter to the college — the body that oversees the training of officers in England and Wales — Patel expressed concern that hate incident records ruin lives when they are disclosed as part of vetting processes such as the Home Office’s disclosure and barring service. Patel instructed the college to review the reporting of non-crime hate incidents, which can lead to individuals being put at a disadvantage in their daily lives, most significantly when applying for jobs.” – The Times

Crime 2) Abuse bill set to include new stalking register

“Ministers are preparing a last-minute concession on a stalking register to get their domestic abuse bill enshrined in law this week. The government is understood to be planning a statement in the Commons tonight that will promise to create within a year a database to track perpetrators of sexual harassment, such as stalking. It will be modelled on the sex offenders register. Sources said they hoped the concession would prevent opposition and rebel MPs pushing a vote on the domestic abuse bill tonight. It must be passed by parliament and receive royal assent by the end of this week or face having to be reintroduced after the Queen’s Speech next month. The Lords last week backed overwhelmingly an amendment that would add serial stalkers to a national register of sex offenders. The government has resisted the move despite repeatedly losing votes on the issue since the murder of Sarah Everard sparked calls for tougher action against perpetrators.” – The Times

Coronavirus 1) Don’t be complacent, under-45s told as they join queue for jabs

“The coronavirus vaccination rollout will be extended to the under-45s this week as it was announced that more than half of the British population had received at least one dose of a vaccine. From today about half a million 44-year-olds will be invited by the NHS to book their vaccine in England. Later in the week the offer of a vaccine will be extended to everyone aged 40 to 43 and a television advertising campaign will be launched to encourage take-up. There are hopes that within days people in their thirties will be able to be invited to get a jab, according to reports. The advertising campaign, called “every vaccination gives us hope”, will also run across radio, social media and on billboards and will feature a cover version of the Dinah Washington song What a Difference a Day Makes recorded by the English songwriter Shells.” – The Times

  • Government launches first TV ad urging under-50s to get the vaccine – with anyone aged over 30 likely to be invited within days – Daily Mail
  • Brits in their 30s ‘will be invited for Covid jabs within days’ with officials ‘close to agreeing deal for 40million Pfizer jabs’ as daily infections fall by 9 per cent in a week to 1,712 and deaths rise by one to 11 – Daily Mail

Coronavirus around the world:

  • India fears Covid storm will hit 500,000 cases a day – The Times
  • Italy eases Covid lockdown but south must stay on alert – The Times

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 2) Scrap all UK Covid rules by June 21, scientist group demands

“Senior scientists have called for an end to all coronavirus restrictions including mass testing and facemasks by June 21 and for “citizens to take back control of their own lives”. The 22 signatories of the open letter, which include Robert Dingwall, a member of the government’s vaccination committee, and Carl Heneghan, head of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, criticised the government for “confused and contradictory directions” in pandemic management. “We are being told simultaneously that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true,” they write, saying that mandatory face coverings and community testing should also end by the summer.” – The Times

  • Britons eye autumn getaway as holiday bookings soar – The Times

Comment:

Analysis:

  • Coronavirus tracker map UK: where the latest Covid cases have spread – The Times

Coronavirus 3) ‘Johnson shelves plans to bring in controversial vaccine certification scheme’

“Boris Johnson has shelved plans to introduce Covid passports in pubs and restaurants this summer. The Prime Minister has shifted the focus of the controversial scheme away from the hospitality sector, government sources have said. Officials have been ordered to concentrate instead on devising a system that will enable foreign travel and the reopening of sectors like theatres, sports venues and nightclubs. The move follows a furious backlash from Tory MPs and parts of the hospitality industry about the idea of forcing people to produce ‘papers for the pub’. The PM floated the idea of extending a new ‘Covid certification scheme’ to the hospitality sector last month, saying it ‘should not be totally alien to us’. And officials suggested that venues deploying the policy could be allowed to relax social distancing rules in return.” – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 4) U-shaped Covid jobs crisis hits older and younger workers

“Older workers suffered the biggest annual fall in employment since the 1980s after the pandemic led to a spike in redundancies, according to research by the Resolution Foundation. The think tank said that the virus had created a “U-shaped crisis” with younger and older workers the worst affected. The fall in employment among the over-50s was twice as big as that experienced by workers aged 25 to 49. “Becoming unemployed during the pandemic can potentially have a big impact on older workers’ retirement plans,” it said. “Either forcing them to retire earlier than they would have planned to, thereby reducing their income in retirement, or forcing them to work longer to make up for lost earnings.” It called on the government to provide retraining opportunities for older workers and to ensure that its support was tailored to their needs as well as to those of younger workers.” – The Times

EU offers quid pro quo to ease checks with Northern Ireland

“Boris Johnson is being pressed by Brussels to align the UK’s food standards rules to those of the European Union in return for easing checks between Britain and Northern Ireland. Commission negotiators have told the UK that the EU will drop its demand for checks on food crossing into Northern Ireland if the government aligns itself with all EU plant, animal health, environment and food safety rules. They have also raised the prospect that pets would also be able to travel freely using the pet passport scheme and that the ban on British soil being sent to Northern Ireland would also be lifted. But in an echo of the fractious negotiations in the run up to last year’s trade deal the UK side under Lord Frost have rejected the so-called ‘dynamic alignment’ offer.” – The Times

  • Johnson is warned of ‘dangerous political vacuum’ in Northern Ireland – The Guardian
  • Britain ‘WON’T lower beef standards to secure a trade deal’ – but we could be drinking cheaper wine from Australia – Daily Mail

Comment:

>Today:

Chinese company Nuctech handed security deals worth £12m

“A Chinese company dubbed the “Huawei of border security” has been given more than £12 million in security contracts at the border, in prisons and at the Home Office headquarters in Westminster, The Times has learnt. Nuctech, which has close ties to the Chinese state, has provided its scanning equipment in key areas of UK infrastructure despite bans in the US and Canada. Its parent company is owned by the China National Nuclear Corporation, which is tied to the military and developed the country’s nuclear arsenal, and its chairman until 2008 was the son of Hu Jintao, president of China at the time. Nuctech has been awarded a £4 million contract, which expires in November, to provide x-ray body scanners that inspect everyone who enters the Home Office headquarters. It has provided freight scanners to the UK Border Agency to help to detect drugs and other contraband. Boris Johnson was photographed beside one of its body scanners at Leeds prison in 2019.” – The Times

Rising car costs drive down number of young motorists

“The number of young drivers on the roads has plunged as the cost of motoring and Covid restrictions deter people from taking their test. Fewer than 3m people aged 18-25 held a full driving licence as of last month, according to government data analysed by The Telegraph – down by more than a quarter of a million compared to a year earlier. While lockdowns have caused a tailback of learner drivers unable to take their tests, the numbers reflect a longer-term decline attributed to young adults’ economic uncertainties and the more online nature of modern socialising. The most recent official data detailing the percentage of age groups holding full driving licences – covering 2019 – showed just 62pc of the 20 to 29-year age group had passed their tests.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief: