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Johnson told to take the lead on the return to office working by sending civil servants back to Whitehall

“Pressure is growing for civil servants to get back to the office amid fears the working from home culture could wreck the economies of town and city centres. Critics believe private businesses are waiting for the Government to ‘take the lead’ before they ask their own workers to return to their desks. But Boris Johnson has so far taken a softly-softly approach to getting staff back into the workplace, despite mounting confidence that the worst of the pandemic is over. Downing Street yesterday said there were ‘no plans’ to order Whitehall civil servants back to their desks or to launch a wider return to work push this summer. However, former cabinet minister David Jones said it was vital for the Government to encourage firms to bring their offices back into use.” – Daily Mail

  • Ministers admit only 13 per cent of key worker testing sites are operational – FT
  • Starmer demands self-isolation for double-jabbed ends on August 7 – Daily Mail

Hospital figures for Covid cases ‘misleading’

“One in four patients classed as a Covid hospitalisation is being treated for other reasons, official data reveal, prompting claims that the public has been misled. For the first time, the NHS national stocktake establishes how many patients categorised as Covid hospitalisations had another primary cause of admission. The data shows that of 5,021 patients this week classed as hospitalised by Covid, 1,166 were admitted for other reasons. On Thursday night, Tory MPs accused the Government of making “flawed decisions based on misleading data”, with leading scientists questioning why the true picture was only now beginning to emerge. Since last March, the NHS has published daily statistics on the number of Covid hospitalisations and the total number of patients in hospital with the virus.” – Daily Telegraph

Raab risks row after saying it’s ‘smart’ for firms to insist staff are double-jabbed before returning to work

“Dominic Raab risked a row last night after he said it was “smart” for firms to insist staff are double-jabbed before they return to offices. The Foreign Secretary said he “can understand” why firms would want to adopt a tough stance to keep staff safe. But No 10 distanced itself from his comments, saying it was up to individual businesses what to tell workers. It came as the NHS app revealed a new “domestic” passport feature. To download the QR code, users need either a negative test, to have had Covid in the past six months, to be double-jabbed or have another exemption. UK venues can choose to ask for these codes, but they are not yet required by law. Mr Raab admitted for the first time ministers are trying to use vaccine passports to “cajole” younger Brits into getting jabbed.” – The Sun

  • You won’t legally need two jabs to return to the office, says minister – Daily Telegraph
  • More than 50 Tory MPs are ready to vote against Covid passports – Daily Mail
  • Decisions over their use on campus will be taken in September – FT
  • Double-jabbed Brits will be able to go on cruise hols without quarantine on return, say ministers – The Sun

Sunak optimistic as pace of economic recovery picks up

“UK government officials have become more optimistic about the prospects of a strong economic recovery in the second half of the year as Chancellor Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun for new autumn economic forecasts. Sunak hailed “fantastic” figures showing a 560,000 fall in the number of people receiving furlough money in June to 1.9m and asked for the new forecasts to be prepared for October 27. These are likely to be published alongside a long-term public spending settlement. However, he wants to dampen any over-optimism that might increase pressure on him to loosen the public spending taps, including from his Downing Street neighbour Boris Johnson. Official figures on Thursday showed that the number of confirmed Covid-19 hospital cases fell for the first time since late June with 5,056 patients being treated for the virus compared with 5,182 on Wednesday.” – FT

  • Some 1.9m jobs are still on furlough despite 590,000 people returning to work in a month – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: Sunak must always remember that the Treasury is one of the few truly British departments

Abandon NHS ‘power grab’, former chairman tells Javid

“Sajid Javid must drop his plans for “micromanagement” of the health service or risk failure and confusion, the former chairman of the NHS said. Professor Sir Malcolm Grant, founding chairman of NHS England, today warns against a ministerial power-grab over the health service, saying it “opens the door to a muddle of second-guessing and micromanagement”. Stressing that ministers “cannot run the NHS from the sidelines”, Grant says the appointment of a successor to Lord Stevens of Birmingham as chief executive is the time for a rethink of controversial health reforms that Javid himself is known to have doubts about. A bill introduced to parliament this month aims to undo much of the controversial 2012 market-based reforms of the health service but also gives ministers significant new powers to issue orders to NHS England, which has had operational independence for a decade.” – The Times

  • Clarke apologises for his ‘combative behaviour’ at the infected blood inquiry… – Daily Mail
  • …as he’s branded ‘pompous and arrogant’ – The Times

Comment:

  • Pritchard has the chance to refresh NHS England – Malcolm Grant, Times Red Box

Johnson intervenes to halt plan to fill in dozens of Victorian railway crossings with concrete

“Boris Johnson has intervened to prevent dozens of Victorian bridges up and down the country from being filled in with concrete. Highways bosses plan to fill in 69 historic bridges in five years over concerns they are not strong enough to carry heavy lorries. It sparked claims of vandalism last month after a 159-year-old stone railway bridge in Cumbria was buried by tons of concrete. The issue was highlighted by the Daily Mail. But today Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, will unveil a new strategy to preserve the bridges. Highways England will be told to ‘pause’ any planned infilling or demolition to allow studies to be carried out into whether any can be used for cycle routes or other transport purposes. Residents and councils will also be given a greater say in whether the bridges should be preserved.” – Daily Mail

>Today: Andrew Selous MP in Comment: The suggestion voters weren’t consulted on LTNs is wrong. Local elections suggest they approve.

Britain faces backlash from France over Covid travel rules

“Britain is facing a diplomatic backlash from France over “excessive” quarantine restrictions after the foreign secretary said they had been imposed because of many cases of a coronavirus variant on an island nearly 6,000 miles away. Dominic Raab said that the decision to put the country on the amber-plus list had been taken in part because of the high rate of the Beta variant in Réunion, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean. Scientists are concerned that the strain, which originated in South Africa, is more resistant to vaccines than other variants. France said it was discriminatory and “scientifically unfounded” to require all holidaymakers to quarantine on their return to Britain for ten days, regardless of whether they had been vaccinated. Brittany Ferries described the decision as “madness”.” – The Times

  • Raab admits France went on amber-plus list because of tiny Reunion Island – Daily Mail

‘We will return you!’ Patel’s £23k adverts in bid to curb migrant Channel crossings

“The Home Office has spent £23,000 on social media advertisements in an attempt to curb the number of migrants attempting to cross the English Channel. In a campaign which has run since December, migrants considering making the treacherous crossing from France are warned “we will return you”. It adds that attempting to make the journey will “put your child’s life in danger”. The adverts have been running on Facebook and on Instagram. Slogans featured include: “There is no hiding place”, “Don’t put your or your child’s life in danger” and “We will return you”. Each advert was translated into Kurdish, Arabic, Persian and Pashto. Details of the cost of the adverts were uncovered via a Freedom of Information request submitted by PA.” – Daily Express

  • RNLI donations soar after criticism of migrant rescues – Daily Telegraph
  • MPs decry ‘shocking conditions’ at facilities for asylum seekers – The Guardian
  • Home Office hits back by saying that it took the migrants’ safety seriously – Daily Mail

More:

  • Senior Home Office staff get pay rises of up to £20k – The Times

Baker: plan to scrap BTecs is an act of vandalism

“The former Conservative education secretary Kenneth Baker has described the government’s overhaul of vocational and technical qualifications at schools and colleges in England as “an act of vandalism”. Lord Baker, who initiated controversial school changes under Margaret Thatcher, said he opposed the Department for Education’s (DfE) plans to scrap most applied general qualifications such as BTecs in favour of its new T-levels, which will leave students aged 16 with few alternatives to A-levels. The qualification is designed to be a single two-year course focused on a specific career such as accounting, building services or hair and beauty. “This is an act of educational vandalism. BTecs have been established for decades and they are internationally recognised. They are a particular help to disadvantaged young people,” said Baker. He argued that 44% of white working-class students who go on to university study at least one BTec and 37% of black students access higher education with only BTec qualifications, which are recognised by universities as equivalent to A-levels.” – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Build back better. Does this phrase run the risk of alienating Conservative voters?

Minister ‘deleted his texts with Cameron about Greensill’

“A minister deleted his “informal communications” with David Cameron about Greensill Capital, the government has admitted. The Times submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, asking for all communications between Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, and Cameron. The department refused the request, saying it did not “hold the information”. Cameron had in fact texted Zahawi and released his messages with Zahawi to a select committee inquiry into the Greensill lobbying scandal. Cameron praised Zahawi for being “v helpful” in helping him lobby the Treasury over Greensill and asked for the contact details of Richard Sharp, a former banker advising Rishi Sunak, the chancellor… More than a third of Boris Johnson’s cabinet have downloaded Signal, a messaging app that allows users to delete their communications.” – The Times

  • Cummings ‘pushed through award of £580k Covid deal to Vote Leave ally’ – The Guardian

Property donors provide one-quarter of funds given to Tory party

“The Conservative party has received almost £18m in donations from 154 donors with property interests since Boris Johnson became UK prime minister two years ago, according to Financial Times analysis. The donations made by individuals and companies in the property sector — which account for a quarter of total donations made to the Tory party since July 2019 — come as Johnson pushes ahead with a contentious liberalisation of England’s planning system which critics say could benefit housing developers. An FT analysis of data published by the Electoral Commission, the UK watchdog for election and party finance, found that at least £17.9m has been given to the Conservative party from property sector donors since July 24, 2019 — when Johnson entered Downing Street. The analysis includes all company donors and those who have given over £100,000 but excludes hundreds of individuals who gave smaller amounts, meaning the true figure could be higher.” – FT

  • Record funding for flood defences in England as climate crisis worsens risks – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: ‘Location, location, location’ vs ‘a property-owning democracy’. Are we seeing a shift in Tory housing priorities?

Salmond’s party won’t break Sturgeon’s grip, says Curtice

“Alex Salmond does not pose a true threat to Nicola Sturgeon polling expert professor Sir John Curtice has claimed as the Alba Party celebrates 6,000 members. While the party celebrates the milestone with the acquisition of a long-standing SNP member, Sir John revealed Alba will struggle to exert much pressure on the First Minister. The long-time polling expert also claimed Ms Sturgeon will be able to retain the nationalist vote as long as she continues to satisfy those who want to break up the UK. Asked by Express.co.uk if the Alba Party could pose a threat in the short-term, Sir John said: “This is a point of pressure visa-a-vis holding a referendum and they do act as a focal point for those members of the nationalist movement that feel Sturgeon is moving things too slowly. “But given that they did not get very far in the Scottish Parliament election, and given that Sturgeon has a secure position in the wake of that election and Parliament as a whole, I’m not sure it’s a great deal of pressure that they’re able to exact.” – Daily Express

  • SNP ridiculed over paper forms instead of digital Covid pass – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Treating public sector workers like saints does us all a disservice – David James, CapX
  • Is this peak Boris? – Matthew Goodwin, UnHerd
  • What Pritchard’s appointment means for the NHS – Andy Cowper, The Spectator
  • The revolution might not be televised – Graham Stewart, The Critic
  • Spain’s leftist rulers gag the truth about their past – Gerald Warner, Reaction