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Johnson announces new Covid restrictions to counter Omicron variant

“The prime minister said the restrictions, which include strict travel rules, would be reviewed in three weeks, at the start of the school holidays. He told a Downing Street press conference he was confident this year’s celebrations would be “considerably better than last Christmas”, when families were banned from mixing. England is to rejoin Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland this week in requiring facemasks to be worn in shops and on public transport after it was confirmed that the UK Health Security Agency had detected cases of the variant in Nottingham and in Brentwood, Essex. The cases are linked and the two people are self-isolating while more tests and contact-tracing take place.” – Sunday Times

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Matt Hancock: People stop me in the street and ask “Will we be ok?” My answer is a resounding “Yes”.

“Research published recently by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine modelled the immunity levels of 19 countries in Europe.  This showed that if everyone was suddenly exposed to the virus in one go, we would be the lowest at risk of serious illness as a result of our vaccine and immunity levels. Next, we have large-scale testing so we know where the virus is. Just over a year ago we took the first delivery of the lateral flow tests that are now ubiquitous. Regular testing helps to find who is ill and stops them infecting others. It is a vital piece of our armoury and firing on all cylinders. Finally, we now have antiviral treatments to lower the impact of the disease if you do catch Covid. These are being given to those most at risk – and they have the potential to save many lives.” – Mail on Sunday

Ministers round on Patel over small boats as her supporters fight back

“Among those questioning her actions was Dominic Raab, the justice secretary and deputy prime minister, who has been charged by Johnson with reforming human rights legislation to deter asylum seekers from coming to the UK. One Downing Street official said: “She got an absolute pasting in the meetings, with other ministers questioning her performance in pretty blunt terms. She’s done absolutely nothing for two years. It just gets worse. Everyone else is sick of listening to the excuses.” Earlier this month, Stephen Barclay, the Cabinet Office secretary, was tasked with leading a cross-government review into how to prevent migrants crossing the English Channel.” – Sunday Times

Small Boats news:

  • Johnson “plans to tear up Human Rights Act” – Sunday Express
  • PCS union may seek to disrupt Government border control policy – Observer
  • Hinds plays down tensions with France – Observer
  • Barnier pledges to tear up border treaty with UK – Mail on Sunday
  • Patel facing criticism from Tory MPs over failure to launch Afghan refugee resettlement scheme – Observer

Small boats comment:

  • There is no magic wand to solve the migrant crisis – Priti Patel, Sun on Sunday
  • We must use our heads and hearts to solve the problem – Matthew Syed, Sunday Times
  • If people arrive illegally, they must be sent away – Adam Holloway, Sunday Telegraph
  • Our benefits are a migrant magnet – Philip Davies, Sunday Express
  • Collapse of cold war certainties stoking crisis – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph
  • Macron 1) He is risking more migrant lives – Patrick O’Flynn, Sunday Express
  • Macron 2) He should stop bashing Britain – Iain Duncan Smith, Mail on Sunday
  • Macron 3) His regime is morally bankrupt – Sunday Express Editorial
  • Blame the traffickers, not the migrants – Tony Parsons, Mail on Sunday

> Today: ToryDiary –  Our survey. If necessary, resile from international commitments to stop the small boats, say Tory activists

Ministers 1) Gove prepares for Levelling Up White Paper

“Michael Gove is chairing a new weekly cabinet committee on levelling up, to bang heads together across Whitehall, as the government battles to repair the political damage of the past three weeks and show it is serious about tackling economic inequalities. After a tumultuous period that culminated in the prime minister’s fumbled speech to the CBI on Monday, the forthcoming levelling-up white paper, expected to be published in mid-December, is regarded as a key moment to demonstrate the government’s seriousness. Gove had publicly argued for a new committee structure to ensure levelling up is implemented across government, and has won the backing of the prime minister for that approach.” – Observer

Ministers 2) Zahawi wants university target for white working-class males

“A new national target is to be introduced in a bid to increase the number of white working-class males studying at university, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Research shows that only 12.6 per cent of them go on to higher education by the age of 19 – the lowest of all demographic groups – and they are less likely to get good grades at school than their equally disadvantaged ethnic minority peers. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has asked regulators at the Office for Students to renegotiate universities’ targets to address ‘regional inequalities and prior attainment in schools’.” – Mail on Sunday

Ministers 3) Freeman Brexit funding safety net move

“British researchers left in limbo over EU funding that has failed to materialise will be given a “safety net” by the Government this week, with a pledge by ministers to guarantee the money owed to them by Brussels. George Freeman, the science minister, is expected to announce that Britain will provide funding to UK-based researchers and businesses left short due to the EU delaying the country’s formal entry to the Horizon Europe scheme, despite accepting bids to fund individual projects. The move comes after Mr Freeman said the UK had a “bold Plan B” if Brussels stopped the UK joining the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation.” – Sunday Telegraph

Other political news:

  • Commons Standards Committee set to recommend new value of free holidays declaration – Mail on Sunday
  • Red Wall 1) MPs set up “Liz for Leader” WhatsApp group, former PPS Bim Afolami ConHome article quoted – Mail on Sunday
  • Red Wall 2) Public First Red Wall focus groups – Sunday Telegraph
  • Will Cummings ally Cleo Watson move from Number Ten to the Treasury? – Mail on Sunday
  • Matt Vickers says that Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol must be kept on the table – Sunday Express
  • Fletcher electric vehicle rumpus – Mail on Sunday
  • Penrose urges “points-based honours system” – Sunday Telegraph
  • “Whitehall Blob tries to ban Christmas” – Mail on Sunday
  • Farage mulls comeback – Sunday Express

> Yesterday: ToryDiary – Ministers must not let this Parliament pass without making progress on Civil Service reform

Other political comment:

  • Johnson v The Right – Tim Shipman, Sunday Times
  • Rein in these Spads – who remind me of Dobby the House Elf – Sarah Vine, Mail on Sunday
  • Johnson’s social care plan was unfairly slated – Esther McVey, Sunday Express
  • Tice and Fox stalk Old Bexley and Sidcup – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday
  • Messy continental governments make ours look transparent – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

Labour campaigns to cut petrol costs

“Labour has thrown its weight behind the call to cut petrol costs, with Shadow Business and Consumer Minister Seema Malhotra saying: “Greedy retailers keeping prices of petrol at record highs despite a drop in wholesale prices is nothing short of a scandal. “Hard-working families face a triple whammy of crippling costs this winter — with food prices and energy soaring too. “If retailers and ministers won’t act now, millions of Brits will not be able to afford to be driving home for Christmas this year.” – Sun on Sunday