Back to the pub as lockdown eases

“Brits have danced into the night after piling into pub gardens for their first post-work pints in months as lockdown eased yesterday. Huge queues were seen outside boozers across the country with revellers partying in the street despite the chilly weather. Brits enjoyed their newfound freedom after four months of lockdown by sipping pints as soon as the clock struck 12 as venues reopened. Keen punters were seen waiting patiently in line for pubs to open at midnight. Crowds filled pub gardens throughout the day – with some even queueing for two hours to get a table at Wetherspoons in Exeter. And revellers were pictured boogying into the night in London’s Soho. One described the celebrations as like VE Day, but added there is “very little” social distancing.” – The Sun

  • Liberty takes shape in England’s beer gardens, its shopping centres and its mother-and-baby groups – The Times


  • Scotland’s delay in reopening hospitality will cost £20 million, ministers warned – Daily Telegraph
  • Under-50s invited for Covid vaccines as second phase gets under way – The Times

MPs share fondest memories of Prince Philip

“Told that Ghana’s parliament had only 200 MPs, Prince Philip mused: “That’s about the right number. We have 650 of them and most of them are a complete bloody waste of time.” Regardless of what he thought of them, the current crop of MPs cut short their Easter holiday to pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, sharing with delight personal memories of the times he had pricked the pomposity of politicians. It was very much a celebration of what Sir Keir Starmer described as “a life well lived”, rather than a sombre moment of remembrance, and the Duke would surely have approved of the laughter in Parliament that stories of him prompted. Theresa May recalled one of her visits to Balmoral as prime minister, during which the Duke “very kindly” suggested a walking route to her and her husband Philip, both keen hikers.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson ‘will consider permanent memorial’ – The Sun


  • Senior royals will accompany the Queen on future public engagements – The Sun
  • Liberal Democrats accused of breaking mourning pledge day after Prince Philip’s death – Daily Telegraph


UK and EU ‘edge closer to deal on Brexit checks in Northern Ireland’

“The UK is edging towards a new deal with the EU on Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland with the potential for easing border checks on certain goods. Officials in London and Brussels have been involved in intense “technical talks” in the past two weeks over the future checks on food, plants and parcels going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. Downing Street’s official spokesman said the discussions had been constructive but that there were “still significant differences that need to be resolved”. The cabinet minister David Frost spoke by phone to the European commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič on Friday. Sources said that while progress has been made on Northern Ireland, efforts did not involve removing checks on goods but instead were being concentrated on removing the series of “rolling deadlines” from the implementation of border controls.” – The Guardian

  • Bloc urges the Government to accept food standards alignment – Daily Express


  • Brussels opposes UK bid to join legal pact, splitting EU states – FT

>Today: ToryDiary: Loyalist alienation

Henry Hill: Northern Ireland is paying the price for May’s negotiating blunders

“Perhaps had Theresa May not repeatedly used the Northern Ireland Office as a handy Cabinet seat for her tiny band of loyalists, including the lamentable Karen Bradly, things might have been different. Instead, she committed the UK to a border pledge so expansive it left new barriers in the Irish Sea as the only option – short of permanent alignment with the EU, that is. That latter was her so-called ‘better plan’, and if the situation in Ulster deteriorates there will doubtless be fresh attempts to burnish its memory. But it would at best have provided a temporary salve for the symptoms of her earlier blunder. Northern Ireland’s alignment with the EU would have been a matter of treaty; the mainland’s a matter of government policy alone.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Britain and Brussels must be good neighbours – William Hague, The Times

Salmond ‘stoking anti-English feelings with Braveheart video on breaking spines of oppressors’

“Alex Salmond has been accused of pandering to extreme Scottish nationalists after his new party released a campaign video which spoke of breaking “the spine of English superiority” and he claimed the support of a King who died nearly seven centuries ago. The former First Minister’s Alba Party on Monday broadcast a supposed endorsement from Robert the Bruce, who successfully led Scotland during the first War of Independence against England in the fourteenth century. In the clip, ‘The Bruce’, who actually died in 1329, predicts that Mr Salmond’s new rival party to the SNP would “unite the clans”. The bizarre video was in fact voiced by Angus Macfadyen, an actor who played the Scottish King in the 1995 blockbuster Braveheart, and is a supporter of Mr Salmond’s party.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Salmond launches new attack on Sturgeon over her strategy for independence – Daily Mail
  • Johnson will allow second referendum if SNP wins, says First Minister – The Guardian


  • Being dead for 700 years is no barrier to supporting the Alba Party – Stephen Daisley, Daily Mail

Government launches independent probe into Greensill…

“Boris Johnson has ordered an independent inquiry into the Greensill scandal that has engulfed his predecessor David Cameron amid concerns it has exposed a lax lobbying culture in Whitehall. Cameron has been criticised for his private lobbying efforts as a senior adviser to collapsed finance company Greensill Capital. These included texts to chancellor Rishi Sunak on the company’s behalf, arranging a “private” drink with health secretary Matt Hancock and calls with senior officials. The investigation will be overseen by the Cabinet Office and Johnson has requested it be conducted “thoroughly and promptly”. The prime minister’s spokesperson said he wanted to ensure the government was acting “completely transparently”.” – FT

  • Ex-Prime Minister: I’ll welcome questions on lobbying scandal – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Cameron and Greensill. We also blame the Sue Gray-ification of British politics.

…as Cameron faces scrutiny over £123m Illumina health contract

“David Cameron is facing new questions over lobbying after an American healthcare company he acts for as a paid adviser secured a £123 million contract with the Department of Health. Illumina was awarded the sum a week after the former prime minister appeared with Matt Hancock, the health secretary, at a genomics conference in September 2019. Cameron has denied lobbying on any Illumina contracts, saying that his role at the company was purely to promote the benefits of genome sequencing. The conference coincided with a £200 million expansion in the government’s sequencing programme. A week later Genomics England, a health department body, awarded Illumina the £123 million contract without competition.” – The Times


  • Why we must have new rules to control ex-Prime Ministers – Anthony Seldon, Daily Mail

>Today: David Gauke’s column: Cameron’s values in government may be out of favour, but they are not wrong

Shirley Williams, Lib Dem peer and SDP founder, dies aged 90

“Shirley Williams, one of the original “gang of four” Labour politicians who split to form the Social Democratic party, died peacefully in her sleep in the early hours of Monday morning, the Liberal Democrats have announced. Hailed by many as a trailblazer for a political career that spanned more than 50 years, she entered parliament as MP for the Hertfordshire town of Hitchin in 1964 and left it as Lady Williams of Crosby in 2016. Williams, who was 90, served in multiple prominent roles, including as education and science secretary under the Labour prime minister James Callaghan, and later became the first SDP member elected in a 1981 byelection in Crosby, Merseyside. She became president of the new party and supported its merger with the Liberals to form the Liberal Democrats, and was a stalwart who served as its leader in the House of Lords for three years from June 2001.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • It seems much of the Cabinet is clueless on Scottish independence – Henry Hill, The Spectator
  • Williams’ her legacy for education – David James, The Critic
  • The Prime Minister women needed – Jenni Murray, UnHerd
  • The musical chairs farce reveals a deeper truth about the EU – Daniel Hannan, CapX