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‘Freedom day’ in England overshadowed by Prime Minister’s isolation volte-face

“Three of Britain’s most senior cabinet ministers — including prime minister Boris Johnson — will be self-isolating on England’s so-called Freedom Day on Monday, highlighting the surge in Covid-19 cases just as the country throws off its last pandemic restrictions. Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak were forced into a humiliating U-turn on Sunday after facing a backlash over plans to avoid quarantine by taking part in a pilot testing scheme. The pair were contacted by the NHS Test and Trace programme after holding meetings inside Number 10 on Friday with health secretary Sajid Javid, who has announced he is isolating after testing positive for coronavirus.” – FT

  • It was almost delayed until September but ‘no compelling evidence’ to wait, minister admits – The Sun
  • Nightclubs reopen for first time in 16 months – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘Freedom day’ is release for some and a jail sentence for others – The Times

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Ashworth criticises the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s “VIP lane” pilot programme

Johnson and Sunak ‘ridiculed’ over u-turn

“Labour is demanding to know how Boris Johnson had been “magically selected” to take part in a trial that would allow him to avoid self-isolation despite being “pinged” as a contact of Sajid Javid, the health secretary. Yesterday the prime minister said that he had only thought “briefly” about trying to circumvent Covid isolation rules, but decided it was better to “stick to the same rules” as thousands of others told to stay at home. Downing Street initially said that the prime minister and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, would not be following the normal rules despite being contacts of Javid, who tested positive for Covid-19. Instead No 10 said they would be able to work as normal by taking daily tests as part of a trial being run in a range of public sector organisations, including government departments.” – The Times

  • They took just two hours 20 minutes to back down on self-isolation – Daily Telegraph
  • Questions grow over pilot scheme – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: The pilot scheme involves “a range of different public sector organisations” – Jenrick defends Johnson and Sunak

Be cautious, urges Johnson as Covid cases are predicted to hit 200,000 a day

“Britain could have 200,000 new coronavirus cases a day by mid-August, a leading scientific adviser has warned, as Boris Johnson urged the public to “please, please be cautious”. The prime minister defended his decision to lift restrictions in England today despite warnings that it could lead to a surge of hospital admissions and overwhelm the NHS. He also faced embarrassment after trying, along with Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, to avoid self-isolation rules when he was pinged as a Covid contact of Sajid Javid, the health secretary… Yesterday there were 48,161 confirmed cases in the UK and a further 25 deaths, bringing the total to 128,708.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister meets target of offering all adults a Covid vaccine before Freedom Day – The Sun
  • Zahawi hits back on GB News on rising Covid cases – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “100,000 cases a day is almost inevitable”, says Ferguson as England prepares to lift Covid restrictions

‘Get out of jail’ pass for NHS staff…

“Critical frontline NHS and social care staff will be able to avoid self-isolation to go to work from today if they are double-jabbed, the Government announced last night. Ministers were under intense pressure to intervene as the ‘pingdemic’ took its toll on hospitals, with some forced to call off operations because of staff shortages. Healthcare workers who have been in contact with a positive case will now, in exceptional circumstances, be able to return to work after they have had a negative PCR test. They must then take daily lateral flow tests, and should wear PPE properly throughout their day at work.” – Daily Mail

  • Covid test delays hamper England’s battle against new wave – FT
  • Delaying Covid inquiry is a disgrace, says Johnson adviser – The Times
  • Welsh government’s Covid response brings benefit to small businesses – FT

…as ‘pingdemic’ ensures no return to normality.

“Boris Johnson is under pressure to end the “mad” system of self-isolation as he and two other top ministers were forced into quarantine on “Freedom Day”. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, and Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, are all isolating after the latter tested positive for Covid and the other two were identified as close contacts. Downing Street initially said Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak would avoid the required 10 days in isolation by taking part in a pilot scheme allowing them to return to work. But it was forced into a U-turn after just 160 minutes following a backlash from MPs of all parties, businesses and the public. Downing Street and the Cabinet Office have now withdrawn completely from the trial, The Telegraph can disclose.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Businesses and MPs demand end to chaos – Daily Mail
  • Isolation rule to remain until Aug 16, says vaccines minister – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “Regular testing should replace isolation”, suggests Green

Tony Blair: It makes no sense for the vaccinated to be kept isolating

“On the one hand, we’re about to be completely free of all restrictions, even as case levels of Covid-19 are sharply rising. On the other, we have the ‘pingdemic’ – a track and trace system for isolation of those who have or may have come into contact with someone who has had the virus. The result is that we risk isolating large numbers who have not got the disease and yet who need to work – especially in public services – doing immense damage to the economy in the process; while at the same time allowing people to move about without any restriction when this is certain to push up the infection rate. This makes no sense and it’s a policy that arises from the failure to analyse risk coherently.” – Daily Mail

  • Freedom Day is yet another false dawn – Jonathan Sumption, Daily Telegraph

Dowden demands independent oversight of review into FA mishandling of Euros final

“Ministers have called for independent oversight of a Football Association review of security failings at Wembley after violence and disorder at the Euro 2020 final. The move by Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, was prompted by his shock at reading details of the scale of the breaches and alleged corruption among matchday staff exposed on Saturday by a Times investigation. The row over thousands of ticketless fans overwhelming security at the final between England and Italy threatens to derail any combined British and Irish bid to host the World Cup in 2030…. Dowden called in Mark Bullingham, the FA’s chief executive, for emergency talks last Monday. The FA has promised an investigation.” – The Times

>Today: Festus Akinbusoye in Comment: I’m a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner. And here’s why, were I a footballer, I’d take a knee.

Brits could get cheaper goods under plans to boost trade with poorer countries

“Brits could get cheaper goods as the UK plans to give 70 poorer countries tariff discounts to trade their way to prosperity. As Britain breaks free of EU rules, ministers Liz Truss and Dominic Raab will today reveal a scheme for giving incentives to developing nations to boost their UK trade. The proposed plans for a Developing Countries Trading Scheme will help grow trade with other nations while slashing prices for customers in the UK. The plans for low and middle- income countries would see tariffs cut and simpler rules for businesses. Ministers have hailed Bangladesh and Vietnam for trading their way out of poverty and want other nations to do the same.” – The Sun

Comment:

  • The Developing Countries Trading Scheme is global Britain at its best – Liz Truss MP, Times Red Box

>Yesterday: Shanker Singham in Comment: The Dimbleby food plan would wreck Britain’s trade policy

Firms face instant fines for ripping off customers

“Companies that rip off customers could be fined up to 10 per cent of their turnover under government plans to give the competition watchdog new post-Brexit powers. Under proposals to be announced by Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be able to fine companies directly for breaches of consumer law without going to court. Companies that make misleading claims, have unfair terms and conditions or restrictive contracts would also be liable for fines of up to 10 per cent of their global turnover. Kwarteng also wants the CMA to have powers to protect young companies from “killer acquisitions”, where a big company takes over a rival before it can launch a new service or product.” – The Times

Home Office: Patel ‘misled’ MPs over plans for protest crackdown…

“Priti Patel is under fresh pressure after being accused of appearing to have misled parliament on proposed powers to crack down on protests and, separately, issuing a statement on her asylum bill that does not seem to be supported by evidence. Both interventions from the home secretary were used to justify some of the most controversial aspects of her bills on policing and the asylum system, which have both been criticised as either undemocratic or cruel… During a 15 March parliamentary debate on the contentious police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, Patel said she had worked closely with the Police Federation, which represents the interests of 130,000 officers, when drafting the legislative proposal.” – The Guardian

  • Social media trolls could be jailed for up to two years in new clampdown – The Sun

…and her plan to jail Channel asylum seekers ‘will cost taxpayers £412m a year’

“Priti Patel’s proposal to penalise all asylum seekers trying to cross the Channel in small boats would cost taxpayers up to £412 million a year, new research has found. The Refugee Council has calculated the costs based on thousands of refugees who will face prosecution under an offence being created by the Nationality and Borders Bill, which will be put to the vote in the Commons tonight. The home secretary is to tell MPs today that refugees arriving through legal routes will be given indefinite leave to remain from October. She will contrast the resettlement scheme, which started in February, with illegal crossings on which her legislation will impose tough penalties.” – The Times

  • One hundred more migrants arrive at Dover in seven boats – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Time for Patel to step in and force change on the failing Met Police – Nick Timothy, Daily Telegraph

Starmer plots ban for ‘poisonous’ Labour groups and Corbynistas

“Sir Keir Starmer will move to purge “poisonous” campaign groups from the Labour Party this week as he tries to further isolate the party’s far left. Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee (NEC) will be asked to proscribe four groups associated with the party that promote communism, claim that antisemitism allegations are overblown and demand that the former leader Jeremy Corbyn has the Labour whip restored. If the move is successful any Labour member who remains publicly affiliated with the groups could be expelled. Sources said that this could run into hundreds of members. Those to be banned include Resist and Labour Against the Witchhunt, which claim that antisemitism allegations were politically motivated, and Labour in Exile, which welcomes expelled or suspended members.” – The Times

  • Battle to control UK’s biggest trade union could decide his fate as Labour leader – The Sun

>Today: Antony Mullen in Local Government: As the Tories make gains in Sunderland, Labour are divided and in denial

SNP in spotlight as fraud probe underway

“A pro-independence MP who defected from the SNP is calling for the party leaders to be properly held accountable as a fraud probe into the SNP’s finances gets underway. Police Scotland say they are investigating after saying it had received seven complaints about donations made to the party. The allegations surround claims made by whistleblowers who say that more than £600,000, which has been ring-fenced for holding a second independence referendum, is missing from the party’s accounts. It is alleged by certain members the funds were diverted elsewhere. SNP members had raised concerns about donations to a referendum fund after members of the party’s Finance and Audit Committee claimed they were refused access to accounts by chief executive Peter Murrell.” – Daily Express

  • Sturgeon’s husband could be interviewed in police fraud probe – Daily Telegraph

More Scotland:

  • Davidson: I’m astonished Johnson signed off on peerage – Daily Telegraph

Bercow breaks pledge not to take Speaker’s pension until he is 65

“John Bercow has broken his vow to defer taking his gold-plated pension until he has neared retirement age. The former Commons Speaker, 58, was plunged into a fresh row on Sunday after it emerged that he had decided to take his final salary pension – reportedly worth more than £35,000 a year – after stepping down in 2019. Until 2013, Prime Ministers, former Lord Chancellors and Speakers were entitled to claim half their final salary as a pension from the moment they stood down, regardless of their age and length of service. While former Prime Minister David Cameron and Lord Chancellor Ken Clarke refused to take up the entitlement in the wake of the financial crisis, the Mail on Sunday revealed that Mr Bercow had now done so. It comes despite his promise in 2012 to postpone taking it until he reached 65.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Why are politicians able to side-step their own rules? – Kate Andres, The Spectator
  • How Old Nick spawned a thousand conspiracy theories – Helen Dale, CapX
  • Who wants to be a teacher? – David James, The Critic
  • Sex positivity can’t last – Katherine Dee, UnHerd
  • Why don’t youngsters want to be engineers? – Maggie Pagano, Reaction