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Conservatives see 16,000 majority overturned by Lib Dems in shock by-election defeat

“Tories were in shock today as they suffered a brutal by-election defeat with the Lib Dems overturning a 16,000 majority in Chesham & Amersham. In an extraordinary result, the Lib Dems defied years of electoral woe to storm the ultra-safe seat – which has been held by the Conservatives since it was created in 1974. Party leader Ed Davey said the 8,000-vote margin of victory showed that Boris Johnson’s ‘Blue Wall is beginning to crumble’. And the bombshell news will fuel fears that the Brexit-driven political realignment that allowed Mr Johnson to smash Labour’s Red Wall is now loosening his grip on traditional Tory heartlands. Chesham & Amersham, in Buckinghamshire on the outskirts of London, voted strongly for Remain at the 2016 referendum. Opposition to HS2 is also thought to have been a major factor – with Lib Dem candidate Sarah Green against the rail project even though the national party supports it.” – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: The voters of Chesham and Amersham remind the Prime Minister that he is mortal

Frost fires warning shot at Boris Johnson’s spending blitz

“Lord Frost has fired a warning shot at Boris Johnson over the Government’s big-state spending plans as emergency Covid support comes to an end. The Cabinet minister said the country must avoid “falling into the trap of statism”, in comments widely interpreted as a rallying cry against squandering the free market benefits of Brexit. He dismissed as an “intellectual fallacy” claims that long-term economic growth could be founded on “big state, high levels of public spending, more regulation, and government-determined goals”, and called for an end to all Covid restrictions as fast as possible. Lord Frost’s intervention, at the annual Königswinter Conference in London, aligns him with the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, Trade Secretary, in seeking a return to traditional fiscal conservatism after unprecedented spending to save the economy from Covid.” – Daily Telegraph

NHS backlog twice as big as we had thought, admits Hancock

“The NHS is facing the “biggest pressure in its history” from a backlog potentially twice as big as previously feared, Matt Hancock has warned. On Thursday, the Health Secretary told hospitals to brace for a flood of up to 12.2 million people in need of elective procedures such as hip, knee and eye operations. This includes 5.1 million patients currently on waiting lists. Health bosses believe there could be a further 7.1 million who stayed away during the Covid pandemic but who will come forward demanding treatment, Mr Hancock revealed. He said that even with the NHS “running at 100 per cent”, coping with this total would be the greatest challenge the service had yet encountered. “I’m totally open about the fact that we fully expect the formally declared backlog to rise because there is another backlog out there – it just isn’t in the numbers,” he told the NHS Confederation conference.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Harding ‘will change the NHS’ – The Times

More:

  • Covid vaccine target beaten as all adults offered first dose – The Times
  • Let children travel under double vaccination holidays scheme, urge Tory MPs – Daily Telegraph
  • Uefa threat over Euro 2020 final at Wembley – The Times

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: The 49 Conservative MPs who voted against the Coronavirus Regulations

Anger as Government accused of ‘burying advice’ about Covid-19 sick pay

“Ministers faced fury today as leaked emails claimed penny-pinching Treasury mandarins thwarted self-isolating Brits getting sick pay. Crucial guidance explaining how bosses could temporarily furlough workers quarantining was allegedly kept on the down-low to save money. Guidance on the Government website says “self-isolation should not be a consideration when deciding if you should furlough an employee”. But exchanges between officials and ministers from the start of this year – seen by Politico – show civil servants complaining furlough cash COULD be used for self-isolation but this was not made clear. One senior official said: “Furlough can be used to cover self-isolation, but HMT [Treasury] are reluctant to say this explicitly in guidance because it could lead to employees being furloughed who do not need to be.”” – The Sun

Johnson ‘wants people back in offices as soon as possible’

“Boris Johnson is opposed to the scale of working from home seen during the pandemic becoming permanent, according to government sources. The Prime Minister is said to be supportive of encouraging people to return to offices once it is safe to do so, having hoped to ease working from home guidance this month. The Government is in favour of proposals to boost flexible working, including the right of employees to request changes about where they work at the start of their jobs. But Downing Street argues that backing the change is different from wanting to see millions of people who were in offices before the pandemic continuing to work full weeks from home. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It’s important to stress that there are no plans to make working from home the default or introduce a legal right to work from home.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Ministers reject post-Covid ‘right to work from home’… – FT
  • …but ‘will not tell workers to return to office when lockdown ends’ – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Johnson wants to jolt commuters back to work – James Forsyth, The Times

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: If Wales is last to unlock, will Welsh business pay the price for our disjointed approach to Covid-19?

MPs launch inquiry into ‘get rich quick’ children’s homes

“MPs will examine failings in children’s homes that are charging thousands of pounds a week to look after vulnerable young people, over concerns that unscrupulous owners see them as a “get rich quick scheme”. Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons education select committee, said the findings of a Times investigation were “incredibly disturbing”. Yesterday’s report revealed that companies who rushed to set up children’s homes during the pandemic were paid tens of millions of pounds despite inspectors finding serious failings at almost a third. At one home, children were able to access knives and take them to school. Staff at another dropped a young person off at the home of a drug dealer despite police warnings. Ofsted found new homes often hired support workers who were ill-equipped to manage the complex behaviour problems of young people in their care and put the children at risk of harm.” – The Times

  • Time for a local vision of levelling up – Ben Bradley, Times Red Box

Ministers apologise to rape victims and promise overhaul of system

“Ministers have apologised unreservedly to rape victims, saying they are “deeply ashamed” that thousands of survivors have been failed on the government’s watch, as they pledged an overhaul of the criminal justice system. A long-awaited government review into a precipitous decline in rape prosecutions promises sweeping reform of how cases are handled in England and Wales, including targets for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police to increase the number of prosecutions, and plans to shift the focus of investigations from the victim’s credibility to the perpetrator. But while charities and victim groups welcomed the apology, they said the measures lacked urgency and were underfunded.” – The Guardian

  • Scorecards for prosecutors and police to judge rape case success – The Times
  • Patel ‘deeply ashamed’ so many rape victims have been denied justice – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Rankings for rape convictions will imperil justice – Frances Gibb, The Times

>Today: Tom Hunt MP in Comment: Soft sentencing is causing voters to lose faith in the justice system. And it’s up to the Government to put it right.

Brussels expected to turn down the heat in Brexit sausage skirmish

“The EU is preparing to agree to a three-month extension when Britain can send processed meat to Northern Ireland in an attempt to avoid a “sausage trade war”. Lord Frost, the Brexit minister, formally requested the extension until September 30 from Brussels yesterday. Publicly the commission said that it would “assess” the request. Britain had said that it could unilaterally extend the deadline if Brussels did not back down. Sources said privately that the EU planned to grant the request to give the sides more time to reach a settlement on all aspects of the Northern Ireland protocol. The G7 summit in Cornwall was dominated by the row over sausages, with the UK accusing President Macron of claiming that Northern Ireland was a separate country from the UK.” – The Times

  • UK accuses EU of ‘playing political games’ – Daily Express
  • British food and drink exports to EU fall by £2bn in first quarter of 2021 – The Guardian

More:

  • Trade deal will serve up more Australian beef – The Times
  • Truss secures deal US tariff deal worth hundreds of millions pounds – Daily Express

>Today: Interviews: Raab: The EU’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol is “pretty analogue in a digital age”

Northern Ireland power-sharing at risk after Poots ousted in party revolt

“The future of power-sharing in Northern Ireland was in jeopardy on Thursday night as the DUP’s new leader was forced to resign following a full-scale revolt over his chosen candidate for the role of first minister. Just 20 days after replacing Arlene Foster as party leader, Edwin Poots announced he would step down hours after he nominated one of his former advisers as the new head of the Stormont executive against the wishes of his party. His resignation statement followed an emergency meeting of the DUP’s officers, which came after senior figures in the party had threatened a vote of no confidence in Mr Poots. He will remain in the post until a new leader is elected. Mrs Forster, his predecessor, only stepped down as party leader on April 28.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Party topples its new leader over Irish-language deal – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Time to scrap the triple lock, and bring in the double-lock – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Can the Tory electoral coalition hold after Chesham and Amersham? – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • The hatred behind Stop Funding Hate – Douglas Murray, UnHerd
  • Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens need to work as one – Lewis Baston, The Critic