Coronavirus 1) PM warns lockdown easing “at risk”

“Boris Johnson has warned that the Indian variant of coronavirus could derail the easing of lockdown restrictions with it on track to become the dominant strain in Britain. The prime minister said the spread of the variant could cause “significant disruption” to the plan for opening up England and that the nation faced “hard choices”. At a Downing Street briefing, he said he wanted to “level with” the public that the variant could delay plans to lift restrictions by June 21. Unlocking might have to be thrown into reverse and he pledged to do “whatever it takes to keep the public safe”. Even so he will press ahead with the third stage of the roadmap for lifting lockdown on Monday, enabling people to mix indoors and allow physical contact for the first time since coronavirus restrictions began.” – The Times

  • It’s right to reopen on Monday but to keep June 21’s unlocking under review – Leader, The Sun
  • There’s no case for delay in reopening – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • The dire SAGE warning that Indian variant could put 10,000 in hospital a day within months – Daily Mail
  • Portugal to allow UK tourists from Monday – BBC
  • The nation needs to get out of lockdown, not linger in fear – Camilla Tominey, Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 2) Sturgeon to keep restrictions in Glasgow

“Nicola Sturgeon has cancelled the easing of lockdown in Glasgow on Monday following evidence the more transmissible Indian Covid variant is “driving” the surge of cases in the city. The First Minister said an outbreak in the south side of Scotland’s largest city meant it would join Moray by staying in Level 3 of her lockdown restrictions, while the rest of the mainland moves to Level 2. People are advised not to travel in or out of the two council areas and their 730,000 residents will not be allowed to meet up in one another’s homes or hug loved ones, as is planned in the rest of the country.” – Daily Telegraph

Poots is elected DUP leader

“Northern Ireland Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots has been elected leader of the Democratic Unionist Party. He succeeds Arlene Foster, who steps down as party leader on 28 May and will then leave her role as NI first minister at the end of June. Mr Poots beat MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to take the top post in the party. It is the first time in the party’s 50-year history that a leadership contest has taken place. Mr Poots received 19 votes and Sir Jeffrey 17 votes. He has said that he would like to remain as agriculture minister and would not take on the role of Northern Ireland first minister if elected party leader.” – BBC

  • He vows to ‘undermine’ Northern Ireland protocol – Daily Telegraph
  • A warning to Westminster and Brussels – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson threatens to suspend all checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea if the EU doesn’t stop its hardline approach – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Poots and Faulkner

Jenrick announces extra funding to reduce rough sleeping

“More rough sleepers in England will be helped off the streets and into housing this year as part of a £203m programme, the government has announced. Some 2,688 people were estimated to be sleeping rough on any single night in England last autumn. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said the money will be given to councils to support shelters and specialist mental health or addiction services. But charity Crisis warned the funding “will only scratch the surface”. The government said its Rough Sleeping Initiative had reduced rough sleeping by nearly a third compared to areas that have not taken part in the programme.” – BBC

Sunak predicts a “green jobs bonanza”

“Britain can look forward to a “brighter future” as the economy bounces back from the ravages of Covid. In an exclusive interview, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said hope and opportunity” is spreading around the country as swathes of businesses welcome back customers from next week. Households had “an enormous amount” of pent up savings ready to fuel a surge in consumer spending, he said. And he predicted a “green jobs bonanza” in the UK’s former industrial heartlands thanks to billions of pounds of Government investment in wind power, carbon capture technology and other clean energy sources. Mr Sunak spoke to the Daily Express during a visit to Humberside…The Chancellor declined to comment on the Daily Express call for zero VAT on goods and services that produce zero carbon emissions.”- Daily Express

  • Amazon set to hire 10,000 UK workers – BBC

Home Office says EU workers denied entry over visas should now get bail

“The government on Friday signalled it would largely end detentions of EU citizens suspected of coming to work in the UK without permission, after an outcry over incidents of people being taken to immigration removal centres. The Home Office said it had “updated” its guidance to immigration officers to “clarify” that overseas nationals who had been refused entry should be allowed bail while awaiting removal “where appropriate”. The statement followed reports that some EU nationals arriving in the UK in recent weeks had been taken to prison-like immigration removal centres — including Colnbrook, near Heathrow, and Yarl’s Wood, in Bedfordshire.” – Financial Times

Green warns that planning reforms will lose votes

“Boris Johnson would be “foolish” to take Conservative voters for granted as he pushes ahead with planning reforms designed to trigger a housebuilding boom, senior Tories have warned. Former cabinet ministers said that deregulation of the planning system would “alienate” the Conservatives’ southern heartlands…Damian Green, the former de facto deputy prime minister, said the election results had shown that the Tory party would be “foolish” to ignore its shire voters, while Theresa Villiers, the former environment secretary, said it could not “take the south for granted”. Ministers are determined to make good on a manifesto pledge to build 300,000 new homes a year.” – The Times

>Yesterday: Ben Southwood on Comment: Why planning reform may work this time round, delivering us the new homes that we need

Women must be heard on transgender identity, says new equalities chief

“Women must have the right to question transgender identity without being abused, stigmatised or risking losing their job, the new head of Britain’s equalities watchdog has warned. In her first interview since taking office, the incoming chairwoman of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission said it was “entirely reasonable” for people to challenge the biological status of women who were born as men. Baroness Falkner of Margravine added it was a “freedom of belief” the commission was determined to protect.” – The Times

Starmer “to build bridges with backbenchers”

“Keir Starmer has appointed well-respected north-east of England MP Sharon Hodgson as his new parliamentary aide, as he seeks to smooth relations with Labour backbenchers after last weekend’s fraught reshuffle. Hodgson, the MP for Washington and Sunderland West since 2010, replaces Carolyn Harris, who resigned earlier this week amid claims that she had stoked up tensions between Starmer and his deputy, Angela Rayner. As Starmer’s parliamentary private secretary, her job will be to liaise between backbenchers and the leader’s office. Some MPs have complained in recent weeks that they felt neglected by Starmer’s team.” – The Guardian

  • Streeting diagnosed with kidney cancer – BBC
  • Cluskey urged to ditch his heir apparent Beckett – Daily Telegraph
  • Union leader “lied” about Liverpool links – The Times
  • Interview with Angela Rayner – The Times

US envoy arrives in Tel Aviv as violence continues

“A US envoy has arrived in Tel Aviv for de-escalation talks as unrest between Israel and the Palestinians continue. Hady Amr will take part in talks with Israeli, Palestinian and UN officials in the hope of agreeing on a ceasefire. Early on Saturday, Israel conducted air strikes in Gaza and Palestinian militants responded by firing rockets into Israel. The clashes recorded over the past five days mark some of the worst violence in the region in years.” – BBC

Moore: Why we must clamp down on voter fraud

“An infinitely more serious example of the problem had been exposed in Tower Hamlets in London. After long wrangles, the directly-elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was found by the Election Court to have used numerous illegal methods to secure his election…Although justice was ultimately done, a worrying feature of the case was the extreme reluctance of the authorities to clamp down on Mr Rahman’s abuses. The ensuing Pickles report on electoral malpractice noted acidly that the Electoral Commission had managed to award a gold star for electoral integrity to Tower Hamlets while all this was going on.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

Oxford University proposal to “decolonise” imperial measurements

“Oxford University has suggested imperial measurements should be “decolonised” over links to the British Empire. The mile, inch, yard, pound and ounce are “tied deeply to the idea of the Empire” and their presence in the curriculum could change, decolonising plans by Oxford’s maths, physics and life sciences faculty suggest. Undergraduates have been recruited (on living wage) to conduct extensive research this summer, alongside scholars, into how Oxford’s science curricula can be made less “Eurocentric”. They will draw up proposals for lecturers to implement any recommendations in syllabuses, in a drive to “diversify” maths and science courses.” – Daily Telegraph

Parris: It’s time we stopped pandering to Travellers

“We should stop forcing local authorities to create Traveller sites, phase out the “ethnic minority” rights of people who are not a race but a doomed mindset, prioritise with the utmost generosity the offer of social housing to Traveller families; and, to those who refuse it, begin a gradual but relentless squeeze on anyone who tries without permission to park their home on public property or the property of others. This should be done with as much humanity as is consistent with telling a group of people honestly that their lifestyle offers them and their children no future, but their country wants to help them change it. Travellers are just people, just human souls like you or me; good, bad or indifferent, like you or me; and victims of their circumstances perhaps more than you or me. There is a place for them but no longer for their way of living.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

News in brief

  • Can Boris keep his roadmap on track? – Kate Andrews, The Spectator
  • Republicans think Jimmy Carter is their best weapon against Biden – Andrew Naughtie, Independent
  • The Oxford Union believes the right can represent the working class – John Redwood
  • Brexit vs Remain – what’s the score when it comes to trade? – Julian Jessop, CapX
  • Why Israel erupted – Shany Mor – Unherd