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Coronavirus 1) Social distancing rules to be scrapped from June 21

“The “one metre-plus” social distancing rule will be scrapped from June 21 under plans to ensure that all restaurants, pubs, theatres and cinemas can reopen fully, The Times understands. Masks will have to be worn in some cases to mitigate the risks but it will mean venues can reopen at full capacity for the first time in 15 months. Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, confirmed yesterday that some coronavirus restrictions would remain beyond June 21, causing concern in hospitality. He said “conditions, counteracts and safeguards” would have to stay, adding: “They’ll be something around masks.”” – The Times

  • More than 15 million of most vulnerable Britons have been fully vaccinated – Daily Mail
  • Funeral limits to be lifted and set by venues – The Times
  • Thousands party in Liverpool like it’s 2019 at first post-Covid gig – The Times
  • England to pilot daily Covid tests as way to avoid self-isolation – The Guardian
  • UK to dispatch a further 1,000 ventilators to India – Daily Mail

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Coronavirus 2) Holiday islands expected to be kept off UK’s ‘green list’

“Holiday islands are expected to be excluded from the Government’s “green” list for foreign travel this week despite lower Covid rates compared to the mainland. It comes as ministers from the Spanish, Greek and Portuguese islands appealed to the UK Government to stand by its pledge to create separate “travel corridors” with them when it lifts the foreign travel ban on May 17. Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said last month the Government’s new traffic light ratings of countries will treat islands independently of any higher Covid rate or lower vaccination rate on the mainland.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ministers urge Johnson to push for longer list of ‘safe’ countries – The Times

Nick Timothy: Personal responsibility is being eroded by militant identity politics

“You might have never heard of Noel Clarke. Before his Bafta award for his “outstanding contribution to cinema” last month, I had never heard of him either. Since declaring him its “rising star” twelve years ago, Bafta had not seen fit to grant him any other honours. Nonetheless, the year after Prince William criticised its lack of diversity, Bafta decided to recognise Clarke – who is black – for his career contribution to the British film industry. Thirteen days before the award, Bafta was passed information about Noel Clarke’s allegedly predatory behaviour. Yet it took no action. Why? In a statement, the organisation claims that it was because it had yet to receive a firsthand account. Yet a few days later, following publicity around the decision, it rushed to suspend the award and his membership of the organisation.” – Daily Telegraph

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Scotland 1) Johnson should resign if it is ruled he broke ministerial code over Downing Street flat revamp, Scottish Tory leader says…

“Boris Johnson must resign if he has broken the ministerial code in the lavish makeover of his Downing Street flat, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives has said. Douglas Ross, the most senior Tory north of the border, said the Prime Minister should ‘of course’ quit if he did not abide by the standards of conduct expected of ministers. Several probes are under way into the tangled financing of the costly refurbishment – including an investigation by Mr Johnson’s new adviser on ministerial interests, Lord Geidt. But the PM, as head of the Government, will be the final adjudicator on any breaches of the ministerial code.” – Daily Mail

Scotland 2) … as the PM pledges billions in attempt to put brakes on SNP

“Boris Johnson is preparing to spend billions of pounds improving rail and road links in Scotland as well as treating more Scottish patients in English NHS beds in his latest attempt to blunt the SNP threat to the Union. The prime minister also plans to boost student exchanges among the home nations through the new Turing scheme and order diplomats to make the case against Scottish independence in foreign capitals. There are growing fears in Westminster of an SNP landslide in this week’s Scottish elections, with polling suggesting that Nicola Sturgeon will achieve a majority at Holyrood and demand a re-run of the 2014 referendum.” – The Times

  • Iran ‘peddling disinformation’ to influence Scottish election – The Times

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Labour election crisis: Poll guru Curtice predicts Starmer will do even worse than Corbyn

“Sir John Curtice has warned Sir Keir Starmer that he is in for a tough night on Thursday as Britons take to the polls. The leading British polling guru spoke with George Galloway on his Mother of All Talk Shows this evening. He warned that Sir Keir will likely do worse than Jeremy Corbyn in a humiliating night for Labour. After the bombshell prediction, Mr Galloway followed up: “What you are saying is that Keir Starmer might do more poorly than the much-maligned Jeremy Corbyn last time out?” Sir John responded: “Yes, it seems so. “It seems to have been a risk for some time now that Sir Keir would end up doing less well in his first round of local elections than Jeremy Corbyn did in his first round in 2016.” The professor of politics at Strathclyde University said that Labour had been falling behind the Conservatives “for some time, throughout the winter and early spring” due to the successful vaccine roll-out.” – Daily Express

Johnson wants planning reforms to feature in Queen’s Speech

“Boris Johnson has signed off more than 25 bills to be presented in the Queen’s Speech next week as he seeks to flesh out his coronavirus recovery plan, it emerged last night. The new legislative programme will feature planning reforms, a post-Brexit state aid regime and a long-awaited bill to reform social care. The prime minister has told aides that he wants the Queen’s Speech, which sets out the government’s legislative agenda for the next 12 months, to provide a plan for Britain’s economic recovery from the pandemic. It will include a range of policies promised in the 2019 Conservative Party election manifesto that won him a landslide victory. He wants the programme to signal the start of a return to “normality” following the pandemic, according to the Financial Times.” – The Times

  • First-time buyers hit by £200k cost of average home – The Times
  • Johnson promises crackdown on theft of pets after rise in dognapping – The Times

Hi-tech British troops take fight to jihadists in the southern Sahara

“British troops are fighting an information war with Islamic State in the southern Sahara as they use radio shows and apps to counter jihadist propaganda. They are also turning to high-tech kit such as night-vision goggles, surveillance cameras and drones to track the movements of terrorists in Mali, the landlocked country in west Africa. About 300 British soldiers are there as part of a UN peacekeeping mission helping to protect local villagers from an Islamist insurgency across the Sahel, the semi-arid region between the Sahara and the savanna to the south. They are mapping out areas where Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), an al-Qaeda affiliate, are based near Gao in the east.” – The Times

Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hail reports of £400m deal for her freedom

“The family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hailed Iranian reports that a £400 million deal had been secured for her release as a “good sign”, as Britain insisted talks were ongoing. Iranian state media claimed on Sunday that Tehran had struck a deal in which London would repay a 1970s arms debt to secure her freedom. “The release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in exchange for the UK’s payment of its £400 million debt to Iran has … been finalised,” an Iranian official said. Richard Ratcliffe, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, told The Telegraph that the family had not yet heard anything from London or Tehran, adding: “It’s probably a good sign that it’s being signalled, just as last week’s sentence was a bad sign. But my instinct is it is still a negotiating tactic.”” – Daily Telegraph

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