Published:

Johnson ‘to oust bungling Williamson after A-Levels fiasco’

“Boris Johnson is planning to axe bungling education secretary Gavin Williamson after this year’s A-Levels row, it has been reported. The PM has set his sights on drafting in controversial culture warrior Kemi Badenoch, who has made a name for herself crusading against “woke campaigners”. He is poised to make the move during his next Cabinet reshuffle, which could happen as soon as early next year. Mr Williamson is hanging by a thread after repeated criticism of his handling of schooling and exams during the pandemic. This year’s A-Levels, which were awarded on teacher assessments, have raised fears about rampant grade inflation. Insiders have suggested the PM is reluctant to dispense with the education secretary until the pandemic is fully over.” – The Sun

  • Education Secretary should be sacked over exam failures, says Starmer – The Guardian
  • Warning to parents against using ‘ambulance-chasing’ law firms to appeal A-level grades – Daily Mail
  • Use 2020 as baseline for future exam results, argues former DfE adviser – The Guardian

Comment:

  • This year’s A-level results will only exacerbate existing inequality – Zoe Williams, The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: As school pupils rack up devalued As, Williamson gets an F on grade inflation

Russell Group universities defy order to stop Zoom classes despite calls for a return to lecture theatres

“Some of Britain’s leading universities have revealed they’ll continue teaching classes on Zoom despite Education Secretary Gavin Williamson calling for online lessons to end. Of the 24 institutions that make up the elite Russell Group, 20 confirmed that some undergraduate teaching will continue to be online. Meanwhile, institutions including Russell Group members Birmingham and Leeds have confirmed that they had no places available through Clearing this year after grade inflation saw A Level results hit a record high yesterday. Manchester University, which regularly has several places available through Clearing, also had no vacancies this year. Almost half of all pupils were given A or A* results – up from 38.5 per cent in 2020 and 25.2 per cent in 2019.” – Daily Mail

  • Government urged to aid universities struggling with record student numbers – FT

Minister slams ‘unacceptable’ gap between private and state school and says GCSE exams will be back

“Britain’s Schools Minister today finally admitted Covid-19 has led to a growing fissure between rich and poor pupils as 1million students prepare to receive their GCSE results with record numbers getting top marks just days after rampant grade inflation in A-levels. Nick Gibb also insisted exams will be back next year with ‘adjustments’ but dismissed fears over grade inflation, saying it has been a ‘different, difficult year’, adding: ‘It’s like comparing apples and oranges’… Teenagers trying to get places at sixth-forms and colleges face an unprecedented battle with each other for A-level places as state schools become increasingly selective over who they admit for the next two years. Almost one in three GCSE entries will get top results today as ministers consider an overhaul to stop grades becoming meaningless and degraded because exams were cancelled and teachers had the final say.” – Daily Mail

  • Williamson braced for more inflated grades as record numbers set to get top GCSEs – The Sun
  • Pupils set for record GCSE results and a battle to enter sixth form – The Times
  • Girls set to increase GCSE lead over boys – and we should ‘accept they are cleverer’ – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Dragging down private schools would be no way to close the attainment gap

Brits ‘want Sunak to replace Johnson in No 10’, shock poll shows

“A majority  of voters want Rishi Sunak to replace Boris Johnson in No10 within a year, shock polling reveals today. Brits believe the popular Chancellor would be a better prime minister and regard him as more competent, clever and trustworthy than his boss. The survey will help solidify Mr Sunak’s position amid tensions in Downing Street after Mr Johnson reportedly threatened to demote him to Health Sec. Even Conservatives have swung behind the idea of a speedy Sunak succession, with 47 per cent of Tory respondents believing the handover should take place within 12 months. The number rises to 58 per cent across all parties, according to the JL Partners poll… Almost half (42 per cent) of respondents think Mr Sunak would be better in No10 than Mr Johnson (24 per cent). But in a saving grace the PM narrowly wins among Tory voters by 43 per cent to 39 per cent.” – The Sun

  • Tory MPs are plotting for life after Johnson – Iain Martin, The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Johnson the Earl, Cummings the heiress – and the Downton Abbey marriage cursed before it began

Johnson warned of ‘trouble’ as Red Wall MPs rage against green agenda

“Boris Johnson has been warned of “trouble” ahead as the Government’s green agenda exacerbates a growing divide between his Red and Blue Wall MPs. On Wednesday, several of the new Red Wall intake used the party’s WhatsApp group to launch a blistering attack on the Government’s climate change policies and Mr Johnson’s net zero target. Lee Anderson, the MP for Ashfield, and Mark Jenkinson, the MP for Workington, were among those to rail against proposals after internal polling showed how unpopular they were among the car-owning public, The Sun reported. They told Anne Marie Trevelyn, the climate change minister, that ploughing ahead with such policies risked losing thousands of voters and could cost the party the next election.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sharma admits to driving diesel guzzling car – The Sun
  • Prime Minister poised to backtrack on mid-2030s gas boiler ban – FT
  • Government to crack down on ‘greenwashing’ energy firms – Daily Telegraph
  • Experts challenge Britain’s big hydrogen hope for Net Zero – The Times
  • UK spending far more on polluting policies than green ones, says WWF – The Guardian

Comment:

  • Johnson will rue remaking the Tory Party in his over-confident, rebellious image – Martin Kettle, The Guardian

>Today: Scott Benton MP in Comment: If we decarbonise too fast, we risk lost jobs, higher bills, lower living standards – and power disruption

>Yesterday: Chris Skidmore MP in Comment: Net Zero will mean nothing unless we can convince the highest emitting countries to change too

Facemask rule for fully vaccinated under plans to curb pingdemic

“Fully vaccinated people will be asked to wear masks and limit social interactions if they are identified as coronavirus contacts under government plans to end the “pingdemic”. From Monday people in England who have had two jabs will no longer need to isolate if they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace or pinged by the NHS app. They will instead be advised to get a PCR test. They will be under no legal requirement to get the test, with ministers instead emphasising the need for people to take responsibility for protecting themselves and others. However, they will be advised to take precautions such as wearing masks in enclosed spaces and limiting contact with other people, especially those who are clinically extremely vulnerable.” – The Times

Senior Conservatives call for immediate action to end “rip-off” prices of PCR tests

“Travel Covid test costs should be capped at £40, MPs have told the Government amid a growing Tory backlash against the charges. Senior Conservative MPs are calling on Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, to take immediate action to end “rip-off” prices of PCR tests that still average £75 per person and risk turning foreign holidays into the “preserve only of the wealthy”. It comes as the Government confirmed that, from Monday, people in England who have been double vaccinated and come into contact with someone who has Covid can avoid self-isolation and will instead be advised to take a PCR test. Fully vaccinated travellers still face compulsory PCR tests on their return from both green and amber list countries, however.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cost of Government Covid travel test is four times the price of cheapest private swabs – Daily Mail
  • Watchdog fails to act over costly PCR holiday tests – The Times
  • Ministers under renewed pressure – The Sun
  • Air passengers fleeced by ‘rogue operators’ as PCR tests fail to arrive – The Guardian

Comment:

  • The case for PCR testing all travellers has well and truly collapsed – Henry Smith MP, Daily Telegraph

Truss on ‘final push’ to close £23bn bumper trade deal

“Liz Truss is heading into the “final stages” of securing a bumper trade deal with India as negotiations are set to ramp up. Express.co.uk understands the International Trade Secretary is eager to secure an interim agreement as soon as possible as Britain looks to bolster its trading relationships across the globe. New Delhi is also keen on closing a deal after figures released by the Indian Trade Ministry showed the country exported goods worth a record £25.2billion in July, signalling the rapid economic recovery in key Western markets is increasing demand for its products. Whitehall sources say an interim agreement is likely to be finalised by the end of the year. A UK Government source added: “We are certainly getting to the final stages of putting this deal into action.”” – Daily Express

Last-minute appeals take majority of criminals off deportation flight

“Just seven criminals out of a group of 50 were actually deported back to Jamaica yesterday morning – after the Home Office was hit by a series of last-minute legal challenges. A charter flight to take the offenders from Stansted airport at 1am on Wednesday was almost empty after dozens of appeals with lodged by human rights lawyers within 24 hours of take-off. The 43 who evaded removal had collectively been sentenced to 245 years’ imprisonment for an appalling range of crimes. They include two murderers and one man who had been handed 15 years in jail for raping a child. It has been alleged that two of the offenders had attempted suicide shortly before the flight. The charter plane is believed to have cost around £300,000, meaning the seven criminals removed cost the British taxpayer more than £40,000 each.” – Daily Mail

  • Airbus A330 almost never took off from Stansted at all – The Sun

Comment:

  • We have to stop these people laughing in our faces – Priti Patel MP, Daily Mail

Thousands of civil service jobs at risk in Whitehall spending overhaul

“Ministers are drawing up plans to cut thousands of civil service jobs and reduce the size of Whitehall as part of a three-year review of government spending. The Treasury has told departments to identify cuts in day-to-day budgets before the comprehensive spending review this autumn. Ministers and officials have been told that they need to reverse headcount increases as a result of Brexit and the coronavirus. Civil service numbers have significantly increased every year since the EU referendum in June 2016. “Cabinet ministers and permanent secretaries have been told by the Treasury that the headcount is unsustainable and needs to be significantly reduced,” a senior government source said. Stephen Barclay, the chief secretary to the Treasury, who is leading the spending review on behalf of Rishi Sunak, is understood to be concerned by official figures t’hat show a reversal of almost all the Whitehall cost savings made by the coalition government.” – The Times

  • UK economy grows 4.8 per cent in second quarter – FT

>Yesterday: Ryan Bourne’s column: Furlough may have averted mass layoffs. But the Government’s next challenge is the reallocation economy.

Cameron and Hancock face questions over how £123m government contract was awarded

“David Cameron is facing new lobbying questions over his involvement in the awarding of a bumper £123m government contract to a company he works for. He wrote to ex health secretary Matt Hancock just before his employer Illumina was handed the multi-million pound genetic sequencing deal. The ex PM is already embroiled in a scandal over his role as an adviser to collapsed financial firm Greensill Capital. Labour said the latest revelations show there is a culture of “rampant cronyism, sleaze, and dodgy lobbying” at the heart of government. The Times reported that Mr Cameron lobbied the former health secretary to attend a genomics conference organised by Illumina. Mr Hancock had already received an invitation from the firm’s boss weeks earlier, which he had not replied to.” – The Sun

  • Reveal advice on firm’s contract, says Labour – The Times
  • Ex-PM urged to address reports he made $10m from Greensill – The Guardian

More:

  • Labour calls on Johnson to sack Elliot as Conservative co-chair – FT

Comment:

  • If he wants to recover his reputation, David Cameron must pay back his tainted millions – Stephen Glover, Daily Mail

‘Spy’ at UK’s Berlin embassy feared to have sold terror intelligence to Russia

“A British embassy worker in Berlin suspected of taking a cash bribe to feed information to Russia is believed to have passed on sensitive documents about British counterterrorism operations. David Smith, 57, a security guard contracted to the embassy, was arrested after a months-long investigation by MI5 and German intelligence agencies. He is “strongly suspected” of having worked for the Russians since at least November, Germany’s highest prosecutor said. Sources suggested that his motivation was money rather than ideological links to the Russian state. Security officials are carrying out a full assessment of what he allegedly passed on, although he is not believed to have had access to highly classified information. Some of it is thought to relate to counterterrorism and he is believed to have obtained information opportunistically.” – The Times

  • Claim raises security fears over private sector involvement in UK embassies – Daily Telegraph
  • Putin’s tubby ‘traitor’ – Daily Mail

Sturgeon’s second referendum on edge as Greens deal faces collapse over fish

“The SNP’s hopes of a second independence referendum bill passing through the Scottish Parliament is teetering on the edge as a “New Zealand-style” co-operation deal with the Scottish Greens faces collapse tonight. The two parties have been locked in negotiations since May, after the SNP fell just one seat short of an overall majority at the Holyrood elections. While both parties said there would not be a formal coalition between the two, an agreement would see them work together on key issues, and could even see some Green MSPs appointed as ministers in Nicola Sturgeon’s government. The key area of agreement between the two sides before the negotiations was the constitution with both the Greens and the SNP in favour of Scottish independence. An agreement would also help towards formalising the 72 pre-separation MSPs in Holyrood, seven more than the 65 needed for a majority.” – Daily Express

Lead campaigner in People’s Vote group quits as director

“Roland Rudd, one of the leading campaigners in the fight to keep Britain tied closely to the EU, has stepped down as a director of the company behind the People’s Vote group. In a move one insider said marked as a “sorry end” to the slow decline of the movement forged during the fierce battle over Brexit, Rudd and another director, Richard Reed, resigned and handed over the reins of PV Campaign Ltd to Mark Kieran. Kieran, a former civil servant, will be tasked with transforming the business into a wider campaigning organisation no longer devoted solely to the EU cause; instead it will focus on driving voter registration, pushing for electoral reform and standing up against racism. Allies praised him as “intelligent, bright and liberal”… The resignation signalled a significant moment for the group which, along with a host of celebrity backers, supported a second referendum.” – The Guardian

  • EU ready to issue final Brexit ultimatum over border row as ‘patience wearing thin’ – Daily Express

News in Brief:

  • The Tory machine is falling down – Harry Phibbs, The Critic
  • The true cost of net zero – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • The Church is on the brink of revolt – Giles Fraser, UnHerd
  • Tensions between Britain’s ethnic groups are too often overlooked – Rakhib Ehsan, CapX

And finally… ‘Tears and technical chaos’ – Neil weighs up his future at GB News

“Just two weeks after the launch of GB News, its star presenter and chairman packed his bags and left for France. There were an immediate flurry of questions over Andrew Neil’s sudden leave of absence from the right-leaning broadcaster, which he had spent months building in a bid to reshape Britain’s media landscape. Were there tensions at the top? Had an amateurish launch and sharply declining viewing figures prompted a change of heart from the veteran broadcaster? Neil himself was quick to brush aside concerns. “I’m simply taking a break to replenish my batteries after the rigours of launch,” the 72-year-old former BBC interviewer and Sunday Times editor said. “I’ll be back before the summer is out brimming with ideas for the channel and my show.”  But for staff at GB News’ Paddington headquarters, those assurances appear weaker by the day.” – Daily Telegraph