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Covid-19 1) Hancock admits some patients with Covid were moved into care homes

“The UK health secretary has admitted that some hospital patients with Covid-19 were discharged into England’s care homes last year because of a lack of testing capacity, as he faced claims that he lied over the policy. Matt Hancock is under pressure after Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, claimed the health secretary had promised colleagues that patients being sent into care homes would be tested. Some 30,000 care home residents are thought to have died from the virus. Under repeated questioning at a Downing Street press conference on Thursday about whether he told the truth about care home testing, Hancock said: “My recollection of events is I committed to delivering that testing when we could do it. I then went away and built the testing capacity.”” – FT

  • He defends care home plan that ‘killed thousands’ – The Sun
  • Cummings ‘has document from last May showing the PM thought he had been misled by Hancock over care home testing’ – Daily Mail
  • What the hell has happened, Boris Johnson roared after learning of care home crisis – Daily Telegraph
  • Health Secretary’s care home ‘protective shield’ claim branded ‘absolute rubbish’ by expert – Daily Express

More:

  • Downing Street says bombshell claims don’t ‘bear any relation to reality’ – The Sun
  • Cummings unveils the whiteboard charts that Covid ‘heroes’ used to convince Johnson to lock down – Daily Mail
  • Covid bereaved demand public inquiry and end to ‘political pantomime’ – The Guardian
  • ‘Clearout’ means exit from Number 10 for Cummings ally Warner – The Times
  • Johnson ‘blocked’ letter to the press from Symonds about her dog – Daily Mail

>Yesterday:

Covid-19 2) Fraser Nelson: The crucial facts Cummings left out tell a very different story of lockdown

“Strategically, it’s inspired. Cummings has a mobile phone full of documents and quotes which he releases on social media to augment his great j’accuse. As he knows, No 10 does not want to fight back. But there’s another side to this story, one not told this week – and one that might not come out in full for months, or even years. It is far less striking. It doesn’t involve the manslaughter of thousands. Instead, it shows decisions being made not in a chaotic way – but following the best advice. And a prime minister always nervous about the absence of a good case presented for lockdown.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson is the master of chaos and confusion – James Forsyth, The Times

>Today: Iain Dale’s column: Cummings is behaving like a woman or man scorned. But you can’t dismiss all that he says.

Covid-19 3) End of Covid restrictions on June 21 ‘is hanging in the balance’

“The country’s hopes of ending coronavirus restrictions next month hang in the balance as the Indian variant surges but the number of people in hospital remains flat. The faster-spreading strain is now dominant in England and responsible for up to three quarters of known coronavirus cases, official data shows. Boris Johnson said yesterday that people would need to “wait a little bit longer” to know whether life could return to normal next month. Health officials are pushing for as much time as possible to analyse conflicting data. Cases of the Indian variant have doubled in a week and official data from Public Health England suggested that it could be 67 per cent more transmissible than the Kent strain.” – The Times

  • Hancock warns ‘this isn’t over yet’ – The Sun
  • Average age of Covid infection falls to 29 after vaccine blitz – The Times

Covid-19 4) Football fans won’t have to social distance if vaccine passports get green light, says Gove

“Football stadiums could be packed to the rafters if vaccine passports get the green light, Michael Gove suggested today. The Cabinet Minister said Covid certificates would do away with social distancing in the stands and allow clubs to bring back maximum capacity. A decision on the controversial documents is expected to be made next month – with Mr Gove warning it is currently “finely balanced”. In recent weeks Boris Johnson appears to have cooled on the idea of rolling them out across the board. Following a furious backlash from landlords he has already ruled out needing them for the pub on June 21’s Freedom Day. But Mr Gove today paved the way for them to be used in tightly-crammed venues such as sports ground, nightclubs and music festivals.” – The Sun

  • No smartphone? You might need your passport to enter theatres or sports grounds – Daily Telegraph

HS2 will go to Leeds and may even arrive early, says Shapps

“The HS2 rail project will go all the way to Leeds and could arrive sooner than forecast, the government has said, scotching speculation that mounting costs would prevent from the full scheme proceeding. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, told an online event for the Policy Exchange think tank: “We are going to complete HS2 and include HS2 on the eastern leg to Leeds. And the only question that we have is how to better integrate that with plans which were developed a very long way since HS2 was first dreamt up all those decades ago, and that pertains to the Northern Powerhouse Rail.” The Oakervee review, commissioned by the government, warned last year that the final bill for HS2 could reach £106 billion, leading to concerns that the eastern leg of the project, which would run to Leeds, could be scrapped. Fears were compounded when the National Infrastructure Commission said in December that the focus should be on regional connectivity.” – The Times

  • Last stop for bus timetables under plans to boost services around UK – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The Government must deliver more homes, and they must be in the South

Expats to get lifetime general elections vote as 15-year limit abolished

“The Government is to scrap a 15-year limit on casting ballots from abroad and give UK expats lifetime rights to vote in general elections. The Elections Bill will remove the “arbitrary” rule which means those who have lived outside Britain for more than 15 years lose their right to vote in a general election. It will also include measures allowing overseas voters to stay on the register for longer. Ministers believe expats should have a say because decisions made by MPs on areas such as foreign policy, defence, immigration, pensions, and trade deals affect them wherever they live. It is thought the new rights will benefit up to three million overseas voters. It is understood ministers have also discussed whether there should be similar rights for expats in referenda – a move that could have a dramatic effect on any future independence referendum for Scotland because it would be likely to boost a “no” vote.” – Daily Telegraph

  • 35,000 Hongkongers apply to live in UK under visa scheme – The Times

>Today: Jihyun Park in Comment: Growing up in North Korea, I could have never imagined standing in the UK local elections. Here’s what I learnt.

Johnson orders rerun of search for Ofcom chair after Dacre rejected

Shield“Boris Johnson has ordered a rerun of the process to appoint a new Ofcom chair after an assessment panel unanimously rejected his favoured candidate Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail newspaper, according to people involved in the decision. The unorthodox intervention by the UK prime minister adds a further layer of controversy to an already highly contentious appointment process for the media watchdog, which is running more than six months late. Johnson told aides last summer that Dacre, a fierce critic of the BBC and online platforms, was his favoured candidate to chair the board of Ofcom, a regulator with a large and expanding remit over telecoms, media and the internet.” – FT

  • Rejection ‘lacks clarity’ – The Times

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Dowden must resist the SNP’s Eurovision power-grab – and force the BBC to up its game

Sunak stands by his Greensill texts with Cameron

“The Treasury has nothing to learn from the Greensill lobbying scandal, Rishi Sunak said yesterday as he defended his text messages with David Cameron. The chancellor told the Treasury select committee that he would not have changed his approach to the company and the former prime minister despite allegations that Cameron had preferential access to ministers and senior officials… The MPs questioned Sunak’s claim that he and the Treasury spent only “a very small amount of time” and he did not know Cameron “very well”. Mel Stride, the Tory chairman of the committee, said: “It just doesn’t seem credible if it was a former prime minister pushing something as vigorously as he did, at the very highest level.”” – The Times

  • UK aid cuts ‘directly hamper’ fight against HIV, warn politicians and Aids groups – FT

Roberts suspended from Commons for six weeks

“Sex pest MP Rob Roberts has been barred from the Commons for six weeks for harassing a member of staff – and is now facing calls to quit. The ex Tory member for Delyn in North Wales will be banned from Westminster until mid-July after breaching sexual misconduct rules. And senior minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said he should now do the “honourable” thing and resign altogether. MPs today overwhelmingly backed backed a motion calling for Mr Roberts’ temporary banishment. But there has been fury that he’s set to dodge being kicked out of his seat because of a loophole in recall laws. Mr Rees-Mogg fumed it’s “frankly ridiculous we have a higher sanction for somebody who uses a few envelopes incorrectly than for somebody who is involved in sexual misconduct”.” – The Sun

  • Rees-Mogg tells sex pest to quit as MP – The Times

>Yesterday: Robert Salisbury in Think Tanks: The machinery of government needs reform – or else the UK will find itself adrift in this new world

Galloway joins Batley and Spen byelection race

“George Galloway is to contest the upcoming Batley and Spen byelection in a move that could make it harder for Labour to hold the seat. After the party’s defeat to the Tories in the recent Hartlepool byelection, Labour had been regarded as facing a tough battle to hold Batley and Spen when voters go to the polls on 1 July. But the entry of Galloway, a former Labour MP who has edged the party out in previous battles for seats in Bradford West and Bethnal Green, presents a new challenge and potentially increases the chances of a Conservative win. In announcing on Thursday that he would stand, Galloway made it clear that his focus was on placing Labour’s leader under pressure. “I’m standing against Keir Starmer. If Keir Starmer loses this byelection it’s curtains for Keir Starmer,” he said in a video posted online.” – The Guardian

>Today: Emily Barley in Local Government: We achieved a breathrough in Rotherham by being unembarrassed about our strong Conservative values

Sturgeon warned pact to secure Indy vote a ‘disaster’ for Scotland’s Covid-ravaged economy

“Nicola Sturgeon has claimed tax hikes are not on the table amid growing fears that a pact with the Greens will prove a “disaster” for Scotland’s Covid-ravaged economy. The First Minister’s office insisted she would not deviate from her manifesto pledge to freeze rates and bands despite Green plans to hit hundreds of thousands of Scots with savage levies. It came as Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross warned her proposed co-operation deal with Patrick Harvie’s party risked economic doom. At the opening session of First Minister’s Questions of the new parliament, Mr Ross insisted the chief SNP must urgently “reset” her relationship with business leaders, who he said “don’t see anyone around the Scottish Government table who’s fighting their corner”.” – Daily Express

  • Greens want to pull plug on North Sea oil industry, First Minister is warned – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • A trade deal with Australia will enable Scotland to thrive – Andrew Bowie, Times Red Box

>Yesterday:

Poots says post-Brexit trade rules might remain until 2024

“The new leader of Northern Ireland’s most powerful political party has admitted that post-Brexit trading rules could stay in place until at least 2024 and ruled out toppling the region’s government in protest at the regime. Edwin Poots, who was ratified as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party after a three-hour meeting of the party’s executive on Thursday evening, swept to power promising to take a tougher stance on the Northern Ireland protocol than his ousted predecessor Arlene Foster. In a live-streamed address on Thursday night, he struck a softer tone, ruling out dramatic actions such as torpedoing the region’s government in protest at a regime that imposes high costs on businesses and strikes a blow to the heart of unionism by creating a customs border in the Irish Sea.” – FT

  • Foster libel costs TV doctor Christian Jessen £425,000 – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Cummings the ‘people person’ doesn’t see the real problem with government – Ryan Bourne, CapX
  • He is is writing history – Ed West, UnHerd
  • The questions Hancock still has to answer – Isabel Hardman, The Spectator
  • An affront to justice – Joshua Rozenberg, The Critic