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Is England back on course for opening up on June 21?

“Scientists are increasingly optimistic that Covid-19 rules can end next month after “astounding” data last night revealed that vaccines are “highly effective” against the Indian variant. The B1.617.2 strain remains the biggest threat to the government’s blueprint to scrap coronavirus restrictions on June 21. A senior government scientist said that they were “most concerned” about Bedford, Bolton and Blackburn with Darwen, where cases continue to rise sharply. But the country’s largest study of the effectiveness of vaccines against the Indian variant offered renewed hope last night that the final easing remained on track.” – Sunday Times

Covid and Cummings 1) His opening salvo.  He says herd immunity was the Government’s original plan – as he prepares for a Select Committee appearance this week

“He also claimed that all three lockdowns could have been avoided if someone “competent” had been in charge. In a broadside at the prime minister before he gives evidence to MPs this week, the former Downing Street aide said the “shocking truth” was that herd immunity was the government’s plan until less than a fortnight before the first lockdown. It was abandoned only when ministers were warned that it would lead to “hundreds of thousands choking to death” on hospital wards. Cummings also accused the government of doing “very badly” on mass testing, a failure that meant lives were “needlessly lost” – Sunday Times

Covid and Cummings 2) Tim Shipman: He will shoot to kill

“Cummings, who can “go dark” even from old friends for long periods, has been preparing his arguments and his evidence without help from his circle of political confidants. He is a solitary figure preparing meticulously like the sniper in The Day of the Jackal for his big moment. Last week he took to Twitter to reveal that he will produce a key document, of which he claims to have the only copy. “He will shoot to kill,” said one associate. The scene that will unfold at 9.30am on Wednesday promises to be one of the most remarkable moments in modern political history, when the two men who have done most to shape British politics over the past five years collide head-on at a hearing called by the Commons select committees on health and science.” – Sunday Times

> Today: ToryDiary – Snap guide to this session’s Government legislation 2) The Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill

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Bashir and BBC latest: Tony Hall resigns as Chairman of the National Gallery

“Hall, 70, resigned yesterday as chairman of the National Gallery as the fallout over Martin Bashir’s interview with Diana, Princess of Wales continues to spread. Hall, who between 1993 and 2001 was the BBC’s head of news and current affairs, has come under intense criticism for his handling of the 1995 Panorama interview and its aftermath. Bashir was found to have used fake bank statements to deceive Diana and her brother, Earl Spencer, into agreeing to the interview.” – Sunday Times

News:

  • Bashir interview – Sunday Times
  • BBC reform 1) Will the Government now beef up the role of OFCOM? – Observer
  • BBC reform 2) Ministers considering complaints board staffed by former journalists – Mail on Sunday
  • How the Board was kept in the dark – Observer
  • How high up did the conspiracy go? – Tom Mangold, Mail on Sunday
  • (Dinenage will cost TV harassment inquiry) – Sun on Sunday

Comment:

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Whatever change is needed at the BBC, Dowden must ensure he reforms to conserve

> Today: John Redwood on Comment – The BBC is disruptive, anti-Brexit, divisive – and belittles and ignores England

Truss interview: she revels in a trade deal with Australia, declaring that “it’ll be win, win, win”.

“The International Trade Secretary declared: “It’ll be win, win, win — and we hope that will just be the start.” She believes the agreement with our friends Down Under will add £400million to wages in the UK. But, more importantly, it will give Britain a foothold in the lucrative Asia-Pacific bloc — and the chance to join its £9 trillion trading club. Two-thirds of the world’s ­middle-class population will live in the region by the end of the decade and it is a market Ms Truss is ruthlessly targeting. In an exclusive interview with The Sun on Sunday, the minister promised lockdown lifting would allow her to be “unleashed” to drum up even more opportunities. She said: “I want them to get their hands on fantastic British products — whether it’s beef or lamb, whisky, cars, robotics, insurance or financial services.”

News:

  • “Officials close to the International Trade Secretary said she spoke by telephone to Australian trade minister Dan Tehan last night – Sunday Express
  • Labour takes aim at the UK seeking to join the CPTPP – Observer

Comment

Patel mulls inquiry into Operation Midland, the investigation into false sex abuse claims

“Home Office officials are considering appointing a senior QC or retired judge to look into the conduct of police officers involved in Operation Midland, a £2.5 million investigation into bogus allegations of murder and sex abuse at the heart of the British establishment. Twenty-seven officers from the Metropolitan Police spent 14 months chasing claims made by Carl Beech, who falsely alleged that he was abused as a child by attackers including the former prime minister Sir Ted Heath, the late home secretary Lord Brittan, the D-Day hero Lord Bramall and the former Tory MP Harvey Proctor.” – Sunday Times

  • U.S-style digital checks coming – Observer

Wallace interview: Russian submarines are encircling Great Britain

Normally Russian vessels are spotted in the North Sea or English Channel. However, Mr Wallace said a Russian kilo class submarine was spotted in the Irish Sea at the end of last year, adding that the UK had not seen one there “for a very, very long time. It might have been for the first.” It is the first time the Government has confirmed their presence in the Irish Sea. He said: “We’re regularly visited by nosy Russian ships, and we are regularly visited now by a number of Russian warships.” He added: “We have tried de-escalation, we have tried methods but at the moment until Russia changes its attitude, it’s quite hard to see where we’re going to go. This is a country that killed someone in Salisbury.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Tanks that can’t shoot when they’re moving. Ministers are said to be unhappy with a contract signed by David Cameron’s government – Sunday Times
  • Four years after the Manchester Arena bomb, the questions only grow – David Collins, Sunday Times
  • Ariana Grande says: my heart is with you – Mail on Sunday

The Northern Ireland Protocol. Tensions rise further over the scale of EU border checks

“Burdensome” checks on supermarket pork pies and ham by European Union inspectors risks exacerbating tensions in Northern Ireland, a Cabinet minister has said, calling for the EU to demonstrate common sense. Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, warns that the damage caused by the EU’s “unilateral move to put a hard border on the island of Ireland for vaccine exports in January cannot be overstated”. Ministers are increasingly worried about the way that the European Union is enforcing checks when goods move from Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Scotland’s new Education Secretary urged to cancel high school pupil assessments – Scotsman

More prosecutions of veterans on their way? Mercer claims up to 50 Northern Ireland legacy inquests will begin in weeks

“A former minister has revealed that new inquiries are to be held into the deaths of 71 people during the Troubles, many of whom were shot dead by British troops. Ex-servicemen will be called to give evidence and fear they could face prosecution if coroners rule the deceased were unlawfully killed. The revelation was met with dismay by vets who only a fortnight ago learned of plans to exempt them from prosecution for actions taken during the Troubles. Ministers intend to bring in a qualified statute of limitations so no one can be charged over incidents up to the 1998 Good Friday agreement except in cases involving war crimes, genocide or torture.” – Sun on Sunday

Anti-semitism on the streets of London. Firm with a Jewish founder targeted, blood libel placard brandished

“Video footage shared online showed speakers calling for a boycott of Marks & Spencer, one of the founders of which was Jewish, as the company was dubbed the “Israeli embassy on the high street”. Stephen Pollard, the editor of the Jewish Chronicle, said: “Jew haters have an obsession with M&S. I assume that it’s in the guide to Jew hating that you get when you join the Guild of Jew Haters: Go for M&S because it’s a Jew Store but remember to say it’s about trade with Israel.” Another placard showed a picture of Jesus carrying the cross, with the words: “Do not let them do the same thing today again”.” – Sunday Telegraph

  • Extinction Rebellion runs rings round the law – Sunday Times
  • MacDonalds blockade causes mayhew – Sunday TimesPolicewoman who shouted “free, free Palestine” may face gross misconduct charge – Mail on Sunday

Liam Halligan: Inflation is coming

“UK inflation is “transitory” says the Bank of England. Andrew Bailey, the Governor, argues there is little sign of higher producer costs feeding into consumer prices. Really? He insists the Bank is “watching extremely carefully” and “will take action when we think it’s appropriate”. I’d say Andy Haldane, the Bank’s chief economist, is on the money when he warns the “inflation genie” is escaping the bottle. The Monetary Policy Committee should “start tightening the tap to avoid the risk of a future inflationary flood”, he warned earlier this month, after casting a lone vote finally to scale back the Bank’s QE scheme.” – Sunday Telegraph

Other Conservative and Labour news:

  • Starmer weeps over family tragedies as he gambles with Piers Morgan interview relaunch – Mail on Sunday
  • Ed Miliband says he wasn’t bold enough – Observer
  • Shaun Bailey “to gain peerage” – Sunday Times
  • Mordaunt book calls for elected Lords – Sunday Times
  • Sharma flies to 19 countries in three months – Sunday Telegraph
  • Red drift in blue seats – Charlotte Ivens, Sunday Times