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Coronavirus 1) Johnson is pulled one way by scientific advisers and the other by his backbenchers over new Covid restrictions

“Boris Johnson is considering urging the public to limit household mixing over Christmas, as he risks a new row with his Cabinet. The Telegraph understands that the Prime Minister has been presented with three options drawn up by officials for further restrictions to curb the spread of omicron. The lowest level of intervention would see families asked to limit indoor contacts, without legal enforcement. However, Mr Johnson is also weighing up option two, which would mandate curbs on household mixing, the return of social distancing and an 8pm curfew on pubs and restaurants. Option three is the return to full lockdown. However, Cabinet ministers warned on Sunday that such regulations would not be “stomached” by ministers.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Health Secretary fails to rule out fresh Omicron curbs – FT
  • Delaying new coronavirus restrictions will overwhelm NHS, scientists say – The Times
  • Whole households should stay home if one member gets Covid, say Sage advisers – The Guardian
  • Raab confirms ‘large proportion’ of Omicron hospitalisations unjabbed – Daily Express
  • Johnson’s pledge to get every adult a booster jab by New Year ‘looks a bust’ – Daily Mail

More:

  • Omicron variant may damage lungs less than Delta – The Times
  • UK has failed to resolve post-Brexit health issues, report warns – FT
  • Increasing concern as number of London NHS staff off sick doubles in a week – Daily Telegraph

>Today: David Gauke’s column: We need real vaccine passports now. The unvaccinated must pay a price for their anti-social behaviour.

Coronavirus 2) Sunak ‘resists new Covid restrictions before Christmas’

“Rishi Sunak is one of at least ten cabinet ministers who are resisting calls by scientific advisers for new coronavirus restrictions to be introduced before Christmas by questioning the accuracy of official modelling. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, yesterday refused to rule out a “circuit breaker” that would ban household mixing and said the government might need to act before the data was clear. “If we wait until the data is perfect, it may be too late,” he said. The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said the emergence of the Omicron variant means that without action, 3,000 patients a day could need a hospital bed, with pressure rising the longer ministers delay introducing restrictions.” – The Times

  • Foreign Secretary and Business Secretary also opposed – Daily Telegraph
  • New push to cut ten-day Covid isolation period to a week – Daily Mail
  • Hospitality bosses warn 10,000 pubs and restaurants risk collapse – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Cabinet minister threatens to quit and MPs say letters of no-confidence ‘will go in’

“Boris Johnson was under growing pressure last night not to impose lockdown restrictions that will ruin Christmas for the second year in a row, with one Cabinet minister threatening to quit if a new festive crackdown is imposed. Tory MPs last night said any attempt to toughen rules before Christmas will provoke letters seeking to oust Mr Johnson as party leader. The Prime Minister is reportedly considering three scenarios to tackle the Omicron variant, including restrictions on mixing indoors in England, a curfew on pubs and restaurants and even an immediate lockdown. And Health Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday refused to rule out Covid measures coming into force before Christmas Day.” – Daily Mail

  • Problems mount as Johnson ponders next move on Covid – The Times
  • Rebellious Tory MPs plot Boris Johnson’s downfall from ‘secret Westminster base’ – The Sun
  • Tories go to civil war on WhatsApp – Daily Mail
  • Odds on the various possible leadership challengers – The Sun
  • Javid says Johnson is not to blame for Tories’ by-election humiliation – Daily Mail

Fraser Nelson: I tackled a Sage Covid modeller on Twitter and it was quite the revelation

“I asked him straight. “So you exclusively model bad outcomes that require restrictions and omit just-as-likely outcomes that would not require restrictions?” “We generally model what we are asked to model,” came the reply. “There is a dialogue in which policy teams discuss with the modellers what they need to inform them with their policy.” Again, quite the revelation. Until now, we’ve been told that policy is informed by the data: the impartial independent Sage scientists come down with their figures, and ministers act on this advice. Lockdown is always said to follow the science. But Prof Medley suggests the scientists are doing what they are “asked” during a “dialogue” with a pre-existing “policy”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • We’re yearning for a steward like Sunak – Clare Foges, The Times

Editorial:

  • Now it’s time to prove you’re true blue, Prime Minister – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: Bone suggests that some Tories rebelled last week because Johnson isn’t being Conservative enough

Truss replaces Frost in overseeing UK’s Brexit talks with EU

“Foreign secretary Liz Truss has been tasked with overseeing the UK’s relations with the EU after Brexit minister Lord David Frost resigned on Saturday evening, citing worries over the government’s “direction of travel”. The appointment of Truss during such an intense period of negotiations with Brussels comes as Eurosceptic Tory MPs fear that prime minister Boris Johnson is capitulating on post-Brexit trade arrangements in Northern Ireland. It is understood Johnson is no longer seeking the immediate axing of the European Court of Justice from its role in enforcing the Northern Ireland protocol. Frost had been a vocal critic of the ECJ… Truss, who voted for Remain, tops popularity polls among the Conservative grassroots and is seen as a potential leadership rival to Johnson.” – FT

  • Article 16 beckons! Foreign Secretary to square up to Brussels – Daily Express
  • Frost has unfinished business – The Guardian
  • Departure of ‘Frosty, the No-man’ hailed in Europe – The Times
  • Brexiteers are ‘scrambling behind the scenes’ to limit the fallout – Daily Express

More:

  • France urges Johnson to use Frost’s exit to rebuild trust with EU – The Guardian
  • Sefcovic calls for strategic partnership to address climate change, defence and scientific research – FT

>Today: Oliver Lewis in Comment: In praise of my friend Frosty – the man who got Brexit done

>Yesterday:

Labour urged to vote down ‘draconian’ changes to crime bill

“The Labour party has been urged to take advantage of a unique opportunity to vote down a raft of last-minute amendments to an already controversial crime bill, which human rights activists have described as “a dangerous power grab”. The 18 pages of amendments to the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill were introduced by government peers in November, on the day nine members of the protest group Insulate Britain appeared in court charged with contempt. Unlike the rest of the bill, however, where the lords can merely send amendments back to the Commons to be reconsidered, because the latest amendments were introduced in the House of Lords they will fall if peers vote against them.” – The Guardian

  • UK seeks to reassure businesses over new national security act – FT

Partygate: Johnson pictured with wine and cheese in Downing Street garden with colleagues during first Covid lockdown

“Boris Johnson is pictured having cheese and wine in the Downing Street garden with colleagues during the first Covid lockdown. The patio pic shows the PM and wife Carrie, possibly holding son Wilf, in May last year with staff around. At the time, Brits could meet up outside of work with only one person from another household. Social distancing was in force and only essential meetings were permitted. Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner claimed the photo was “a slap in the face of the British public”. But No 10 last night denied rules had been broken, saying: “Work meetings often take place in the garden in the summer.” Top civil servant Sue Gray is investigating the partygate claims.” – The Sun

  • Anatomy of Downing Street lockdown gathering – The Guardian
  • Poll finds majority of Tory voters think Prime Minister is ‘dishonest’ – Daily Mail

More:

  • MPs question standards chief over claims PM misled him on flat redecoration – The Guardian

>Today: ToryDiary: Will Sue Gray’s report topple the Prime Minister?

Another by-election? Tory MP being investigated by police after crashing his car

“A Conservative MP is under investigation after crashing his car into a lamp post late at night. Jamie Wallis, the MP for Bridgend, was arrested on suspicion of driving while unfit after police were called to the scene of the crash last month. The Mail on Sunday reported that Mr Wallis was arrested by police after a “single-vehicle collision” took place at just after 1am on Sunday, November 28. Sources in the village of Llanblethian told the newspaper that the MP hit a wooden lamp post with such an impact that it snapped at its base. The collision reportedly caused an internet blackout for some residents, until it was replaced earlier this month. A spokesman for Mr Wallis confirmed that he was arrested and released without charge.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Video: WATCH: We’ve proved that we can beat the Conservatives anywhere, says Davey

News in Brief:

  • After North Shropshire, ‘listening’ is not nearly enough for Johnson – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • It’s not up to Boris to save Christmas, it’s up to us – Lara Prendergast, The Spectator 
  • Liberté autorité identité – Henry Hopwood-Phillips and Lola Salem, The Critic
  • The unbearable lightness of being cancelled – Howard Jacobson, UnHerd