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Every adult to be offered Covid booster jab by end of December, says Johnson

“Every adult in Britain will be offered a Covid booster jab by the end of this month, Boris Johnson pledged tonight, as he warned there was “a tidal wave of Omicron coming”. Under plans for an unprecedented acceleration of the country’s vaccination campaign, from today anyone over the age of 18 will be eligible for a third Covid vaccination with plans to set up seven day a week mass walk-in vaccination centres around the country. Over 40 military teams will be brought in to provide logistics while hundreds of frontline NHS staff will be redeployed to help with the rollout. So far just over 23 million people have had a booster jab, with the NHS carrying out half a million vaccinations a day for only the second time on Saturday.” – The Times

  • NHS will ‘need to jab 1.1 million people a day’ to hit target – Daily Mail
  • Surgical procedures and face-to-face GP appointments cancelled to hit target, admits Javid – Daily Telegraph
  • UK starting to see first Omicron hospitalisations – The Times
  • Army mobilised – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Hoping for good luck with Omicron isn’t enough – Tom Whipple, The Times

Zahawi refuses to guarantee that schools will remain open

“Ministers will do “everything” in their power to ensure that schools remain open amid a second winter wave of Covid, the education secretary said yesterday — but stopped short of an outright guarantee that no schools would be forced to close. Nadhim Zahawi said that at present “99 per cent of schools are open” and were being supported with government financial help to fund supply teachers to replace those off because of Covid. He added that all the data suggested keeping schools open was critical to supporting children to deal with the wider effects of Covid and the “mental anguish” it could cause. But asked on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC1 if he could give a “guarantee” that schools will not close as part of any measures to deal with the new Omicron variant, Zahawi tacitly admitted that he could not make such a promise.” – The Times

  • Keeping them so is a ‘moral duty’, campaigners say – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Omicron. The vaccines have lulled us into a false sense of security. Tough choices loom.

Johnson swerves questions over ‘No10 lockdown parties’ as he faces toughest week of premiership

“The Prime Minister last night avoided questions over his alleged No10 lockdown parties. It comes as he faces possibly the toughest week of his premiership. Boris Johnson was silent on the awkward photographs showing him hosting a Christmas staff quiz at the height of lockdown last year. Instead, he gave a TV address rather than take questions at a press conference. But he will face the music today when he visits a jab centre — followed by the fury of his backbenchers in a vaccine passport vote tomorrow. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi defended the PM yesterday, saying the media had “hyped up” the party story. Mr Johnson was photographed in front of a laptop in the No10 library with two ­colleagues who were draped in tinsel, at a time when social mixing was banned.” – The Sun

  • Prime Minister accused of breaking the law by hosting a quiz during last year’s Covid restrictions – Daily Telegraph
  • Parties investigation to include quiz night – The Times
  • Photo seems to show he broke Covid laws, says Starmer – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “It looks like he was”, says Starmer on whether Johnson broke the law

Clare Foges: Tories can’t let Johnson brazen this one out

“The common threads running through all of this — cavalier arrogance, casualness, dishonesty — are of course threads which run through the prime minister’s personality. We can’t lay all government failures at Johnson’s door but the culture is set at the top, and the culture he has set is proving disastrous in a number of ways. Some of the criticism of Johnson is overblown. He is not the devil incarnate, nor a nasty or vindictive person, but he is careless. He is careless with important things, such as the truth and the good word of a prime minister, and I doubt the veteran of numerous scandals actually cares much about any of this. I worked as his speechwriter many years ago and recall a joke he made a couple of times after being told off by a handler for one of his gaffes: “You’ve let yourself down, you’ve let me down, you’ve let the school down . . . said the inflatable headmaster to the inflatable boy in the inflatable school . . .” A silly line, but it captures Johnson’s response to reproach: to smirk.” – The Times

Up to a quarter of Downing Street ministerial aides on resignation watch ahead of Covid votes

“As many as a quarter of the Government’s team of ministerial aides are on resignation watch ahead of a dramatic “Super Tuesday” series of votes on controversial new coronavirus restrictions. Ten parliamentary private secretaries (PPS) have formed a secret WhatsApp group to discuss how they will vote when the measures are put to MPs in a series of four votes, The Telegraph can disclose. At least one PPS was teetering on the brink of resignation on Sunday night after watching the Prime Minister’s televised statement, in which he confirmed vaccine passports will go ahead, but decided to wait. The MPs in the PPS group include two out of three ministerial aides to Michael Gove, the Communities Secretary: Danny Kruger and Angela Richardson.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson may face biggest rebellion so far over new Covid rules – The Guardian
  • Tory backbenchers add to sense of crisis engulfing Prime Minister – FT

More:

  • Red list to be scrapped after just a fortnight and replaced with testing for the fully vaccinated – Daily Mail
  • Unvaccinated workers must come clean to employers under new Covid rules – Daily Telegraph
  • Plan C fears as ‘MPs warned to be on standby for vote on new restrictions in Christmas week’ – The Sun
  • Bosses hit out at ‘absurd’ message to stay away from office – Daily Mail

>Today: Video: WATCH: Johnson – we must buy ourselves the time to get more boosters into arms

>Yesterday:

Johnson in talks to hire ‘hard man’ ally of Sir Lynton Crosby as No 10 enforcer

“Boris Johnson is in talks to appoint a senior ally of election guru Sir Lynton Crosby to be his new 10 Downing Street enforcer, as he attempts to see off a series of threats to his leadership. The Prime Minister wants to hire David Canzini, a director at Sir Lynton’s firm CTF Partners who has known Mr Johnson for more than two decades, to be his new chief adviser, The Telegraph can disclose. Allies of the Prime Minister are hoping that Mr Canzini can be appointed before what could be a testy meeting on Wednesday between Mr Johnson and his backbenchers furious about a series of own goals which have damaged the Conservatives’ popularity. Talks between Mr Canzini are understood to be “wide ranging”. One government source said: “He has been approached. They are hoping that he will take a significant cut in salary.”” – Daily Telegraph

‘Protest vote’ may see Tories lose safe seat in Thursday’s by-election, Education Secretary says

“A “protest vote” in North Shropshire could see the Tories lose their safe seat in Thursday’s by-election, a Cabinet minister has said, as Labour plans to bus in hundreds of volunteers for the final days of the campaign. Nadhim Zahawi said voters in the constituency could “send a message” to the Government by unseating the Conservatives for the first time since its creation. A source close to the Labour campaign said it plans to have between 200 and 300 Labour volunteers on doorsteps in the constituency this week, up from just 40 at the beginning of the campaign six weeks ago. Despite bookmakers’ predictions that the seat will fall to the Liberal Democrats, Labour believes it has a better chance of eliminating a majority of 23,000 votes in the area, which was previously held by Owen Paterson.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Lib Dems sniff an upset as Tories win apathy vote – The Times
  • Fifth of Tory voters ready to abandon party just two years after general election – The Sun

Comment:

  • Johnson’s woes are multiplied if he cannot ‘unite the right’ – Tim Bale, FT

Truss ‘plays stateswoman’ as Tory leadership contenders line up for battle

“While Downing Street spent a disastrous week attempting to deal with scandals over parties and wallpaper – and the prime minister was juggling the crises with the birth of a daughter – things were somewhat more serene for another member of his top team. Rather than dealing with resignations among staff or the latest revelations about Whitehall Christmas parties, foreign secretary Liz Truss has spent the weekend boosting her credentials as a stateswoman, using a meeting of her international counterparts in Liverpool to pitch herself as one of those protecting “the frontiers of freedom” around the world. Her high-profile outing at the G7 meeting comes after a week that could scarcely have contrasted more starkly with the chaos engulfing No 10. The gathering came after a bilateral meeting with US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and a major speech appealing to the Tory base, appealing for a “confident, outward-looking, patriotic and positive” Britain.” – The Guardian

  • G7 united on sanctions if Putin invades Ukraine – The Times

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: “I’m not calling for that at all” – Baker says the country “wouldn’t be well served” by a leadership contest

Dangerous foreign criminals ‘to find it harder to dodge deportation’ as Raab tightens up human right laws

“Dangerous foreign criminals will find it harder to dodge deportation under a shake-up of the law. Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will tighten the human rights laws used by murderers, rapists and paedos to stay in Britain. He aims to change the rules so that public safety is the top priority in future legal rulings. It will include limiting the right to a family life — a clause used in seven out of ten appeals brought by foreign offenders. More than 1,300 have used Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to avoid deportation in the past decade… Mr Raab has told officials that Article 8 had become a “serious issue” and he is determined to put an end to this abuse of the system to keep our communities safe.” – The Sun

  • Meddling with human rights law makes UK less secure, senior figures from GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 say – The Times

MPs call for halt to UK elections bill as voter ID could hit turnout

“Plans to introduce voter identification risk upsetting the balance of the UK’s electoral system, making it more difficult for people to vote and removing an element of the trust inherent in the system, a cross-party group of MPs has said. The Commons public administration and constitutional affairs committee (PACAC) is urging the government to stop the passage of the elections bill, which would introduce a requirement to show photographic ID to vote at polling stations and could give Downing Street more power over the election watchdog. A report from the committee released on Monday said more thorough consultations were needed, particularly in regards to the voter ID requirement. It said: “There is a concern that a voter ID requirement will introduce a barrier preventing some people from exercising their vote”.” – The Guardian

  • Voter ID ‘will upset balance of elections’ – The Times

Government to boost investment in ‘nudge unit’ by selling stake

“The UK government is to sell its one-third stake in the Behavioural Insights Team — popularly known as the ‘nudge unit’ — as part of plans to attract £100m of investment in smart ways to hit net zero by 2050, cut obesity rates and improve early-years education. The £15.4m deal will see BIT become a wholly owned subsidiary of Nesta, the UK innovation foundation. Nesta will look to grow the reach of the social consultancy company, which was spun out of the Cabinet Office in 2014. Ravi Gurumurthy, chief executive of Nesta, said the acquisition would unlock the door to greater funding for BIT, which started as a seven-person team in 10 Downing Street in 2010, but grew to become a global social consultancy with 250 staff and a turnover of £20m.” – FT

News in Brief:

  • From Boris to boring – Harry Phibbs, The Critic
  • Does Taiwan hold the answer to the lab leak theory? – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • Omicron might evade antibodies, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have immunity – Mick Bailey and Nicholas John Timpson, CapX
  • Will California ever be safe? – Ayaan Hirsi Ali, UnHerd