Millions face early second vaccine to slow Indian coronavirus strain

“Ten million people could have their second doses of coronavirus vaccines brought forward as the government attempts to stop a faster spreading Indian variant from delaying the end of restrictions. Cases of the variant have more than doubled in a week and Boris Johnson said yesterday that he was “anxious” about the threat posed by the strain to the route out of lockdown. Indoor mixing will go ahead as planned on Monday despite calls yesterday from scientists and Dominic Cummings for it to be postponed. But modelling for Sage has concluded that if the variant is much more than 30 per cent more transmissible than the Kent strain it would be a big risk not to delay the final easing of restrictions next month.” – The Times

  • Johnson under fire over failure to close borders to India sooner – Daily Telegraph
  • Over-50s and vulnerable people in Indian variant hotspots will get urgent second doses – Daily Mail
  • Government to push ahead with reopening despite rise in Indian variant cases – Daily Telegraph


  • Covid passport plans ‘scaled back’ as ministers question health benefits – Daily Telegraph
  • British tourists in limbo as Portugal extends its ‘state of calamity’ until May 30 – The Times

Fraser Nelson: We really need an inquiry into how Sage forced Britain into lockdown

“We can already look at America, where the states took wildly different approaches, and see the lack of correlation between lockdown stringency and virus control. Importantly, the few countries who did not lock down suffered far less death than Imperial’s models predicted. Sweden ended up with less than half the modelled death toll. Poor old Taiwan was down for 93,000 Covid deaths unless it locked down: it held its nerve and saw only a dozen fatalities. Which brings us to the main problem: why the Sage group of advisers ever ended up with so much power. Such models will always have monstrous error margins: how could they not? But ministers wanted to say they were being guided by “the science” and saw, in Sage, a convenient political shield.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Fjolla Kraniqi in Comment: As we bounce back from Covid-19, ministers must not neglect the loneliness epidemic

Developers who fail to build new homes face ‘use it or lose it’ tax

“Developers will face new “use it or lose it” taxes for failing to build homes on land that already has planning permission amid concerns that more than 1.1 million have been left unbuilt in the past ten years. Robert Jenrick, the housing secretary, is considering the levy as the government oversees the biggest shake-up of the planning system for 70 years. About 2.8 million homes have been given the green light for construction since 2010-11, but only 1.6 million have been built, according to analysis by the Local Government Association (LGA). Critics have claimed that such “land banking” has artificially kept house prices high and deprived first-time buyers of the chance to get on the property ladder. Housebuilders have rejected this analysis, and dismissed land banking as a myth.” – The Times

  • Amid fears of a house-building boom, Chipping Norton has gone from Blue to Red – Daily Mail


  • Nimbyism will cost the Tories new voters – James Forsyth, The Times


Channel 4 could be privatised as early as this year, Dowden reveals

“Ministers are looking at how they could privatise Channel 4 as early as this year, Oliver Dowden admitted last night. The Culture Sec told MPs that he has instructed officials to look into the best way of “sustaining” the channel as more Brits swap live telly for streaming, leaving its finances in crisis. They haven’t made any firm decisions on whether it will be privatised or not, but ministers have long hinted it may be on the cards. And he suggested it could happen within this Parliament’s session – meaning the next year. He said that broadcasting has rapidly changed in recent years as more flock to Netflix and other streaming services rather than terrestrial telly. The Culture Secretary also said last night he hopes live gigs will be able to return from June 21 – with the full reopening of all venues.” – The Sun

>Today: Gavin Williamson MP in Comment: Skills, jobs and freedom. My priorities for this week’s Queen’s Speech – and the year ahead.

COP26 is last chance to stop global warming, Cabinet minister will warn

“COP26 is our last opportunity to stop global warming, with “no second chances” to act, a Cabinet minister will warn today. Alok Sharma will urge richer countries to pay to help poorer nations to ditch polluting coal. And he will say 2021 is our “last hope” of sticking to strict climate goals to stop Earth from getting so hot it will transform beyond all recognition. He will also say that his young daughters begged him to tell world leaders to act for future generations… His speech at a windfarm today will mark six months until the event.” – The Sun

  • Sharma will urge countries to stop financing new coal power stations – Daily Mail

Cameron endures ‘ritual humiliation’ at hands of MPs

“David Cameron sat impassively, staring into his Zoom camera, as one of his most famous barbs was thrown back at him by Labour MP Rushanara Ali: “You were the future once.” Cameron may have wished he had never aimed that comment at Tony Blair in 2005, as his efforts to explain away the Greensill Capital lobbying affair reinforced the old adage: there is nothing as ex as an ex-prime minister. The former Conservative prime minister endured the darkest of days on June 24 2016 after presiding over the UK’s referendum vote to leave the EU, but on Thursday he suffered a ritual humiliation at the hands of MPs. Cameron’s insistence that his epic lobbying efforts for Greensill Capital were motivated by a desire to help small companies during the Covid-19 crisis — not his own bank balance — set the scene for a toe-curling Thursday afternoon.” – FT

  • He refuses to disclose ‘generous’ amount he was paid by Greensill Capital – Daily Telegraph
  • MPs push him to reveals pay, shares and perks – The Times


  • Johnson’s county court judgement is struck out after appeal against ‘vexatious’ £535 debt claim- The Sun
  • New adviser on UK ministers’ interests says he will quit if ignored – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: Cameron – The actions of former Prime Ministers with commercial interests “can be open to misinterpretation”

Ross has furious row with SNP MP over ‘inept’ chairing of Commons committee

“Douglas Ross has accused a senior SNP of “inept and poor chairing” of the powerful Commons Scottish affairs committee after he focused on a second independence referendum rather than the Covid crisis. The Scottish Tory leader lashed out at Pete Wishart during the committee’s session yesterday after the Nationalist spent the first 20 minutes quizzing Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, about another separation vote. Mr Wishart, the Perth and North Pertshire MP, questioned Mr Jack over last week’s Holyrood election results and whether they gave the SNP a mandate for a referendum. He interrupted the Scottish Secretary repeatedly as he claimed that the SNP increasing its seat tally by one last week, but falling short of a majority, meant the UK Government must now transfer the powers to Nicola Sturgeon for another vote.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Brexit deal blocks life-saving cancer drug in Northern Ireland – The Times

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Last week, Ross secured his ‘Unionist’ base. The next task: selling Scots on the ‘Conservative’ bit.

Labour has no divine right to exist, warns David Miliband

““The writing is on the wall” for the Labour Party after its defeat in Hartlepool, David Miliband has said in the latest warning from a senior Blairite to Sir Keir Starmer. In an interview with Matt Chorley on Times Radio, to be broadcast this morning, the former foreign secretary warned that Labour had no “divine right to exist” and suggested that its leader had yet to set out a platform capable of winning an election. “There’s no point dodging the fact we’ve dug ourselves into a hole,” Miliband said when asked about Labour’s poor local election results and defeat to the Conservatives in Hartlepool last week. “And it’s not just a Corbyn-shaped hole. There are Corbyn elements to the hole, but it’s a bigger hole.”” – The Times

  • One in three Labour voters have no idea what the party stands for – The Sun

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Until Labour stops telling voters they’re wrong, racist, or stupid, it will continue to decline

Opposition suspends Unite leadership nominee over ‘Patel should be deported’ tweet

“Labour has suspended a leadership candidate for the Unite trade union from the party after he called for the home secretary, Priti Patel, to be deported on Twitter. Howard Beckett, the union’s assistant general secretary and a member of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC), has since apologised and deleted the message following criticism. The tweet, in response to an attempt to deport two asylum seekers in Glasgow, read: “Priti Patel should be deported, not refugees. “She can go along with anyone else who supports institutional racism. She is disgusting.” Asked about the tweet, a Labour spokesperson said: “The Labour party takes these allegations extremely seriously and appropriate action will be taken.” It was later reported that he had been suspended.” – The Observer

  • Police order release of men detained in immigration raid after Glasgow standoff – Daily Telegraph

SNP win Airdrie and Shotts by-election

“The SNP has won the Airdrie and Shotts by-election, with Anum Qaisar-Javed elected as the new MP to serve the North Lanarkshire area. Qaisar-Javed took first place in the contest ahead of Scottish Labour ‘s Kenneth Stevenson who managed to reduce the SNP’s majority. The vote was triggered by former MP Neil Gray who decided to run for Holyrood in last week’s election for the Nationalists. After he was elected to the corresponding constituency last Friday, Qaisar-Javed, 28, retained the seat he had held – albeit with a majority down on the 5,201 held by Gray in 2019. She polled 10,129 votes, ahead of Stevenson who managed 8,372 votes, a majority of 1,757.” – Daily Record

  • Sturgeon blasted by Lord who says Nationalist leader ‘doesn’t want a referendum’ – Daily Express


Israeli air and ground forces hit targets in Gaza Strip as death toll climbs

“Israel’s military has said its ground and air forces are attacking targets in the Gaza Strip as residents reported a massive bombardment, amid fears that Israel would launch an incursion into the blockaded territory. “[Israel Defense Forces] air and ground troops are currently attacking in the Gaza Strip,” the military said in a statement just after midnight local time, without providing further details. The military later issued a statement saying there were no troops inside the Gaza Strip, suggesting it was not a ground invasion but artillery and tank fire from the border. “Clarification: there are currently no IDF ground troops inside the Gaza Strip. IDF air and ground forces are carrying out strikes on targets in the Gaza Strip,” the statement said.” – The Guardian

  • Massive bombardment of Hamas tunnels – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Sir Alan Duncan MP in Comment: The Conservative Party has a moral blind spot about the rights of Palestinians

News in Brief:

  • Mapping the relentless march of the nanny state – Christopher Snowdon, CapX
  • Inclusion is an illusion – Olivia Hartley, The Critic
  • The divisive demand for equality – David Goodhart, UnHerd
  • The C of E’s misguided obsession with statues – Daniel French, The Spectator