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Coronavirus 1) Get back to the office, ministers order Whitehall…

“Cabinet ministers are planning a “big push” to get civil servants to return to the office from next month amid concern about the lack of staff at desks. One Whitehall department is likely to order its employees to work from the office at least three days a week by October, The Times has learnt. Senior officials at the department, which asked not to be named amid fears of a revolt, said they had struggled to persuade civil servants to return to their desks for only one day a week. “We are significantly concerned at the lack of people coming into the office. We are monitoring attendance,” a source in the department said. “We will be mandating people to return from the start of September. It might not be every day of the week but at least two to three days a week by October.” – The Times

  • Minister wants to slash wages of civil servants who have not returned to the office since Covid restrictions were lifted – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 2) …and university lecturers are told to get back to class as students face more online learning

“WORK-shy university tutors have been ordered back to class as students face yet more online learning. Professors at a string of universities will keep giving lectures and some classes via the internet over fears of spiralling Covid cases. Some will ask students to wear masks on campus or to have been double-jabbed. Of the leading 24 Russell Group universities, 20 say they will still hold some classes online. Now they face calls to get back to normal or suffer a student backlash. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and his team are keen to get students back on campus and official guidance says any social distancing measures should not be a barrier to in-person teaching. Tory MP Robert Halfon said: “Students are being conned. Ministers and the Office for Students should make it clear — either get back to normal or cut your fees.””- The Sun

  • Middle classes urged to consider an apprenticeship after A-levels – The Times
  • ‘Too many’ teenagers going to university, warns education charity chief – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Pubs and clubs that enforce vaccine passports could open fully during Covid surges

“Nightclubs and concert venues could avoid social distancing rules during future Covid surges by agreeing to only admit customers who are double jabbed, under plans being explored by the Government. The idea is being looked at as an alternative to changing the law to mandate vaccine passports – a tougher stance that Boris Johnson warned could be adopted next month. Under the latest proposal, venues with large indoor crowds would not be forced to adopt vaccine passports but would be offered incentives to adopt them instead. This could include being able to stay open at full capacity, rather than only being allowed to conduct table service and have no punters at bars, if there is another Covid wave. One adviser to a Cabinet minister said the idea was being discussed, saying that there was now momentum inside the Government behind some form of Covid certification this autumn.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Macron defiant after mass protests over French vaccine passports – The Times

Coronavirus 4) Herd immunity close ‘but Covid restrictions needed beyond winter’

“Britain is close to achieving herd immunity but is likely to “bounce over and below” the threshold throughout the winter, a government adviser has said. Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Edinburgh University, who sits on a Sage modelling sub-group, said he was optimistic that the country was over the worst of the pandemic. But he said that protective measures, including wearing masks, would need to continue for months. Woolhouse told Times Radio yesterday that the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant had raised the threshold for herd immunity from under 70 per cent of the population to the “high 80s”. Herd immunity refers to a population being protected from a disease when a high enough proportion of people have antibodies, either as a result of infection or vaccination, to stop it spreading.” – The Times

  • Britons back Covid vaccines for 12-year-olds, poll shows – The Times
  • Ditch the travel traffic light system, says former head of vaccine taskforce – Daily Telegraph

Nick Timothy: To tackle anti-social behaviour we need stronger social norms and communities

“Last month five thugs caused mayhem in a supermarket in south London. One punched and kicked a female staff member to the ground. Another smashed an object over a disabled customer’s head before punching and knocking him out of his wheelchair. One victim ended up in hospital. As shocking as the violence was the realisation that many people had watched on as innocent, vulnerable people were attacked. At least one bystander recorded the incident on a smartphone. Nobody appears to have tried to intervene. Before we rush to condemn the bystanders, however, consider whether you might have put yourself in harm’s way. There were five perpetrators, apparently fit, strong and violent. Would you be confident you could overcome them? Could you be sure they were not carrying weapons? Would others back you up? How competent, and how far away, were the supermarket security guards?” – Daily Telegraph

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Sunak wouldn’t accept demotion, allies warn Johnson

“Allies of Rishi Sunak warned Boris Johnson that he would “lose direction completely” if he sacked the chancellor as they hit back at reports that the prime minister had considered demoting him. Johnson was said to have gone “tonto” in a meeting with Downing Street staff after a letter from Sunak calling for travel restrictions to be axed was leaked to the media. He even suggested demoting Sunak to health secretary, according to The Sunday Times. An ally of Sunak said, however, that he would opt for the back benches over demotion. They said that such a move would derail Johnson’s administration and risk provoking a leadership contest. “If he loses Rishi, he loses direction completely,” a source said. “He would have the most likely contender to replace him on the back benches. He’s not going to take a demotion. That would be ridiculous.” Polling for The Times suggests that Johnson is losing public support to Sunak.” – The Times

  • Sunak vows to protect poorest from burden of net zero – The Times

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  • Neighbours at war – or business as usual? Boris v Rishi is more than political theatre – Daily Telegraph

Gove tipped to take Patel’s job

“Tory MPs have scoffed at the prospect of Michael Gove being appointed home secretary after reports that Boris Johnson is lining him up to replace Priti Patel. The prime minister is considering the move if the Channel migrant crisis continues to grow, according to The Mail on Sunday. Earlier The Times revealed that Johnson was becoming increasingly frustrated at the failure to stop the crossings. More than 10,050 migrants have crossed in small boats this year, already surpassing last year’s annual record of 8,420. However, Tories pointed out last night that as home secretary, Gove would be in charge of reducing drug use, which one described as an “interesting move given his own personal experience of cocaine”. During the Tory leadership contest in 2019 he admitted to taking cocaine on “several occasions at social events” when he was a journalist more than 20 years ago.” – The Times

Kwarteng vows to put free market approach at heart of UK’s post-Covid recovery

“UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has vowed to put a free market approach at the heart of the post-Covid recovery, as the economy is weaned off the massive state support it received during the pandemic. A national enterprise strategy is being drawn up by officials to encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs and will be unveiled later this year, Kwarteng told the Financial Times in an interview.  He said that his challenge would be “to reassert what we strongly believe in as a centre-right government: in the free markets, enterprise, entrepreneurship,” adding: “These are all things we want to celebrate. And it’s been very difficult to get that message out when we’re spending huge amounts of money [on state intervention].” Kwarteng, who hails from the Conservative party’s Thatcherite free-market tradition, sits in a cabinet that has overseen massive state intervention, whether through the £350bn spent on Covid support measures or in other aspects of the post-Brexit economy.” – The FT

Chinese spies pose as refugees in UK visa plot

“Chinese spies are posing as refugees in an attempt to enter Britain through a resettlement scheme designed for Hongkongers, The Times can reveal. Government sources have said they are aware of sleeper agents applying for British National (Overseas) visas under the pretence of seeking refuge from the totalitarian state. “There are stringent background checks in place for the visa applications — and they’re in place for a reason,” government sources said. “The vetting process for the BNO visa scheme is much more thorough than any other.” Lord Patten of Barnes, the last governor of Hong Kong, said: “We are dealing with a totalitarian state which uses informers. If anybody has fears that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) will seek to place informers and people who will steal security secrets in open societies then they are entirely justified. We should get real about this.”” – The Times

Rape victims face postcode lottery in the fight for justice

“The prospect of rape victims getting justice is half as likely in some regions compared with others, analysis of statistics shows. Victims of rape also have to wait twice as long for a prosecution in some counties. The 94.4 per cent rape conviction rate in Gloucestershire is the highest in England and Wales. In Warwickshire, a neighbouring county, the proportion of convictions is 46.7 per cent, the lowest rate. The analysis, based on last year’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) figures, shows that rape victims in Warwickshire are 47.7 per cent less likely to see their attacker face justice than their counterparts in Gloucestershire. A discrepancy also arises in the average time rape victims have to wait for a prosecution. In Sussex, it took an average of 474 days last year from the police passing their investigation to the CPS to when a decision was made. This compared with 231 days in Wiltshire.” – The Times

Labour recruits political novices to add new blood

“Labour is recruiting hundreds of people who may never have been party members to stand as parliamentary candidates at the next election. Sir Keir Starmer has launched a centralised drive, likened to David Cameron’s “A list”, to start installing candidates in battleground seats in anticipation of an early election in 2023. The party has changed its rules to allow anyone, no matter how long they have been a member, to stand as part of its Future Candidates Programme to attract talented candidates. Morgan McSweeney, who was Starmer’s chief of staff before moving to a more strategic backroom role in June, has been put in charge of the selection process as well as election strategy.A Labour source said: “Keir is very keen to get candidates from outside normal party circles. He wants to open the party up and make it more representative and less obsessed with internal issues.”” – The Times

Former Conservative donors give millions to Reform UK, the bad boys of Covid

“Looking out from behind his sunglasses, the millionaire former property developer Richard Tice flew in a helicopter over central London. Tice is the leader of Reform UK, which until January was known as the Brexit Party. The party’s president is Nigel Farage, 57. Tice, 56, had hired the helicopter out of frustration. He believed that the “mainstream media” was ignoring the scale of anti-lockdown protests taking place that day. Thousands of vaccine sceptics, climate activists and small-state libertarians were thronging central London. They chanted, marched and, for reasons still unclear, they threw tennis balls. Broadcasting live on his party’s YouTube channel, Tice described the protesters as “freedom fighters, democracy defenders, liberty lovers”.” – The Times

Stonewall paid £1m by taxpayers for its advice

Stonewall“Hundreds of publicly funded bodies have been paying the LGBT group Stonewall a total of £1 million a year in taxpayers’ money for diversity advice, a report says. Most of the money has gone straight to the Diversity Champions scheme, which has been criticised for its stance on transgender rights. Public spending campaigners claim that the payments amount to taxpayer-funded support for a lobby group. They are demanding an end to the scheme. The total public spend on Stonewall diversity advice, compiled by the TaxPayers’ Alliance, comes at a sensitive time and Whitehall has sent mixed signals on whether the government should continue supporting the group. Between 2018-19 and 2020-21 some £3 million was paid by 327 publicly funded bodies. Of that, £2,573,779 went to the Diversity Champions scheme and £532,099 was spent on conferences, events and training programmes.” – The Times

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Geronimo the alpaca may be killed today as minister is accused of lying

“Geronimo the alpaca was on the brink of being put down last night as the vet caring for it accused a minister of lying to win public support for the killing. Human shields were invited to protect Geronimo from dawn today and animal lovers were preparing to march to Downing Street with their alpacas. The alpaca’s owner said she was tortured by the lack of understanding from George Eustice, the environment secretary, of the animal’s health problems. Geronimo, imported from New Zealand to Gloucestershire in 2017, is being put down to stop the spread of TB to cattle. The government has 28 days from last Thursday to destroy it after Helen Macdonald, an alpaca breeder, lost a legal battle.” – The Times

  • Johnson’s dad Stanley joins fight to stop Eustice’s ‘murderous errand’ to kill alpaca Geronimo – The Sun

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