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Johnson ‘fights to avoid introducing any stricter new Covid curbs’

“Boris Johnson is battling to avoid imposing tough Covid restrictions for the New Year ahead of a crunch meeting with scientists today. The Prime Minister will hold talks with advisers to discuss whether legal curbs are needed to deal with the threat of Omicron. Downing Street is understood to be leaning towards new guidance urging people in England to be careful and limit contacts – rather than imposing new legally binding restrictions such as table service in pubs or limits on household mixing. But this could change if data on hospitalisations suggests the NHS could be overwhelmed by a wave of coronavirus infections.” – Daily Mail

  • Prime Minister poised for ‘D-Day’ Covid meeting – Daily Express
  • Weddings and funerals spared from Covid restrictions – The Times
  • Johnson to examine hospital data before decision on Covid rules – The Guardian
  • Fears UK could be crippled by quarantine – Daily Mail

More:

  • Travel chaos as Covid staff shortages ground flights – Daily Mail
  • Spread of Omicron variant and new restrictions keep UK shoppers at home – FT
  • Hospitals draw up battle plans as shortages of staff get worse – The Times
  • Sturgeon’s Covid measures spectacularly backfire as Celtic fans storm football ground – Daily Express
  • One in four Britons ‘not confident NHS can care for them’, survey reveals – The Guardian
  • Health chief is accused of spreading ‘dodgy’ data – Daily Mail
  • Decisive use of AstraZeneca vaccine may have spared UK from omicron crisis hitting Europe – Daily Telegraph

Schools ‘plan to send home whole year groups as Covid fears mount’

“Schools are drawing up plans to send whole year groups home amid growing concern that the Covid omicron variant will lead to staff shortages spiralling out of control in January. Headteachers have warned the Prime Minister that they may be forced to prioritise key age groups for time in the classroom, while others are told to learn remotely. The biggest threat to keeping children in face-to-face education will be high numbers of teachers forced into self-isolation after testing positive for Covid-19. Primary schools in villages and small towns are understood to be considered by Whitehall officials as especially at risk of teacher shortages, given they have small numbers of staff.” – Daily Telegraph

  • They ‘may be forced to close’ – Daily Mail

Covid lockdown increased terror threat and rise in risk of young people becoming radicalised, Security Minister says

“Lockdown has increased the terror threat and helped a rise in the ‘dark journey’ to bedroom radicalisation of young people, the Security Minister has warned. Damian Hinds said in recent years there has been a ‘shift’ in attacks being organised from global terror groups to ‘self-directed’ plots, and expressed his concern about the rise of Right-wing extremism. He added there had been a rise in the number of young people referred to the Prevent scheme due to far-Right ideologies. Since starting his post in August, the UK has had two alleged terror attacks – the killing of Tory MP Sir David Amess and a bomb outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Remembrance Day. Nearly two years of Covid restrictions may have contributed to the radicalisation of young people.” – Daily Mail

Sarah Vine: It’s time Johnson trusted people’s common sense and left us to get on with our lives

“With every victory against the virus, we move one step closer to getting our lives back and, ultimately, learning to live with this thing. There is a sense that we are finally starting to take back control (to coin a phrase). And boy, does it feel good. That is why the decisions the Prime Minister makes in the next few days are so important. Unless the numbers post-Christmas go completely bonkers, it seems unlikely he will recall Parliament — and that is a good thing. But he needs to go further. What is required now is a fundamental shift in the Government’s response to Covid, and Boris Johnson must lead the way. It is a very simple choice, between continuing to treat us all like children; and handing back our autonomy and freedoms (as well as responsibilities) and trusting in the innate common sense of the British people to do what is right when necessary.” – Daily Mail

  • In 2021, the Tories surrendered the country to the medical-socialist state – Tim Stanley, Daily Telegraph

Prime Minister dishes out £75m war chest to rebuild fishing industry depleted by EU

“Fishing communities across the UK are set to benefit from £75million of Government investment to spur the industry’s post-Brexit growth. Ministers announced the extra cash last night to provide better local infrastructure around the country’s harbours to mark the first anniversary of the UK’s exit from the EU’s single market this weekend. They aim to strengthen the fishing industry’s ability to land more fish in the UK and take the produce to market faster. The taxpayer-funded investment has been earmarked for improving the capacity and efficiency of fishing harbours and processing facilities. Ministers say the move will boost the long-term sustainability of the fishing industry and support jobs while crews seize the increased opportunity opened up by the UK’s departure from Brussels-run Commons Fisheries Policy.” – Daily Express

Ministers urged to ban trail hunting ahead of Boxing Day hunt

“Ministers are being urged to ban trail hunting on public land ahead of this year’s traditional Boxing Day hunt, amid concern from critics that the practice is being used as a smokescreen for illegal foxhunting. In a landslide vote at the National Trust’s annual meeting in November, members voted overwhelming to ban this form of hunting, which was devised after the Hunting Act banned the hunting of foxes with dogs. The National Trust ban came after one of the biggest landowners in Wales, Natural Resources Wales, similarly banned the practice. But activists expect more than 240 hunting days will have taken place on land owned by the Ministry of Defence this year. In trail hunting, a “trail layer” goes out ahead of the hunt, dragging a rag coated in an animal scent. Hunters cast the hounds to this scent and follow it to the end of the trail.” – The Guardian

  • Hunts outfox opponents as councils waste money on ‘politically motivated’ bans – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Labour will never scent victory if it keeps up its toxic class war on hunting – Ann Mallalieu, Daily Telegraph

Billionaire Tory donor John Caudwell attacks Johnson’s ‘mistakes and faux pas’

“A billionaire donor to the Conservative Party has announced he is thinking of withdrawing support as the party becomes mired in sleaze. Phones4U founder John Caudwell handed the Tories £500,000 before the last election in 2019 but says he is deeply disappointed by the ‘mistakes and faux pas’ under Boris Johnson’s leadership. It comes amid a shock poll which suggests Labour is eight points ahead of the Conservatives following a bruising few weeks for Boris Johnson, while Tory backbenchers are openly discussing contenders to be their next leader… If current polling projections were realised, the PM would lose his seat in Uxbridge & South Ruislip, which would make him the first sitting prime minister to be ejected from Parliament.” – Daily Mail

  • Sleaze could be the end of him, says Caudwell – The Times

More:

  • Prime Minister ‘would lose his majority and his own seat if election happened today’ – The Sun
  • Five Cabinet ministers would lose seats if election were held now – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Our Next Tory Leader survey. Truss leads Sunak by 20 votes.

Starmer has made Labour safe, Jewish members say

“Labour has become a “safe space” for Jews again under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership, a survey of the party’s Jewish affiliate has found. A survey of 363 members of the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM) found strong support for Starmer’s efforts to tackle antisemitism since he became leader last year. Seventy per cent of the survey’s respondents said that Labour was a safe space for Jewish people under his leadership. Only 4 per cent said that it had been a safe space under Jeremy Corbyn, his predecessor. Asked whether they agreed with the statement “I trust that Keir Starmer is genuinely trying to tackle antisemitism,” 91 per cent of the group agreed. Three per cent believed that the statement had held true for the period of Corbyn’s leadership.” – The Times

  • Reeves: ‘We are in the strongest position maybe in 10 years’ – The Guardian

Parliament repairs could force MPs out of the building for 20 years

“A refurbishment of the Houses of Parliament could force MPs out of the Palace of Westminster for two decades. Under the restoration plan the cost of repairs to the Commons and the Lords could reach £14 billion, exceeding the original estimate threefold. Originally MPs were told the work would take only six years and cost about £4 billion. A government source told The Telegraph that the £14 billion price tag was “one estimate that has been discussed”. They said: “MPs will have to vote on these plans and they will have to be able to justify such a project to their constituents. MPs from across the House will be incredibly concerned by these suggested costs and timescales.” … Sources have said this is a worst-case scenario and that there is another plan which would limit the time MPs and peers would have to leave the building to between 12 and 15 years.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Taxpayer may face £14bn bill for colossal rebuild – Daily Express

>Today: Harry Fone in Local Government: My Christmas Awards to local authorities this year

Lib Dems warn of ‘winter energy crisis’

“Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey warned energy bills will be the ‘worst possible gift’ this Christmas as the party found households will pay £100 million more this year. The party’s analysis says that bills will rise by £104,141,465.75 in the seven days between Christmas Day and New Year, compared with the same period in 2020. The Liberal Democrats have also said that because of the rise in the energy price cap, families will end up paying an extra £195 each over the year. Sir Ed criticised the Government for ‘totally failing to tackle the problem’… This comes as the Government is due to hold crunch talks with energy industry bosses in a bid to address rapidly rising wholesale gas prices after providers warned bills could skyrocket more than 50% to £2,000 a year.” – Daily Mail

  • We’re sleepwalking towards the great energy crisis of 2022 – Stephen Fitzpatrick, The Times

EU nations push for stronger rules to detain asylum seekers after hybrid attack launched by Belarus

“Hardline member states are pressing Brussels to water down protections for asylum seekers, allowing them to detain migrants for five months to avert future border crises. Austria and Poland are leading the push for the European Commission to introduce further draconian measures under its “Crisis Regulation” to deter illegal immigrants crossing into the bloc. Vienna believes the rules need tightening to deter future “hybrid attacks” by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who has been accused of sending tens of thousands of migrants to the border with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. “In the present situation, on the Polish-Belarusian section of the state border, we have a similar situation, where access is severely limited or prevented,” Poland said in an internal EU document, first reported by the EU Observer website.” – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • Britain needs a cigarette – David Hockney, UnHerd
  • The Government stole Christmas – Gawain Towler, The Critic
  • Scotland’s 2022 constitutional courtroom drama will be pure theatre – John Ferry, The Spectator