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Tory whips ‘scramble to persuade MPs to back new coronavirus curbs’

“Tory whips were last night scrambling to persuade MPs to back new coronavirus curbs amid fears Boris Johnson could suffer his ‘biggest rebellion’ yet. More than 50 backbenchers are poised to vote against the Plan B measures to counter the Omicron variant, with particular anger at plans for vaccine passports. MPs have said the curbs – which also include an extension of mask-wearing and the return to working from home – are ‘illiberal’ and ‘unnecessary’. Last night a minister told the Daily Mail that Conservative whips are engaged in a ‘massive ring round’ in a desperate bid to quell the revolt. ‘[Plan B] will lead to probably the biggest rebellion in this Parliament so far, although the irony is we will win the vote by a huge amount because Labour is voting with us,’ they said.” – Daily Mail

  • Six MPs could quit Government in rebellion – Daily Telegraph
  • Javid advised to take ‘stringent’ Covid measures within a week, leak reveals – The Guardian
  • Gove hints at tougher restrictions amid ‘deeply concerning’ omicron spread – Daily Telegraph
  • Care home visits restricted to just three per resident – Daily Mail
  • You must keep schools open come what may, Johnson told – Daily Telegraph
  • Drakeford slams ‘gross violation’ as meeting leak sparks fear of Welsh lockdown – Daily Express

Editorial:

  • Voters won’t forgive calamitous new curbs – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Viva the vaccine passport rebellion

Johnson now four points behind Labour in polls

“Boris Johnson is now four points behind Labour in the polls following backlash over the lockdown Christmas party revelations. The Conservatives have fallen three points to 33 per cent following claims over multiple festive parties being held while parts of the country were in lockdown last year. Labour have also gained four points, reaching 37 per cent, according to the YouGov poll for The Times. The slump is the Conservatives’ worst poll rating in 11 months as the prime minister battles on several fronts. And a Redfield & Wilton poll shows 63 per cent of voters think the PM should resign following the partying revelations and sleaze rows circulating in Westminster in recent weeks. More than two-thirds of voters are also now questioning the PM’s integrity over his response to the Downing Street Christmas party, according to YouGov.” – The Sun

More:

  • Prime Minister under fire over ‘very dangerous’ approach to governing – FT
  • Why North Shropshire is Johnson’s own personal referendum – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The Government needs a levelling up vision for younger generations

Embattled Downing St ‘liaising’ with standards adviser over flat probe

“Boris Johnson’s adviser on standards has demanded new information from Downing Street after discrepancies came to light in the prime minister’s account of the controversial refurbishment of his flat, piling fresh pressure on his battered administration. Downing Street confirmed on Friday that officials were “liaising” with Lord Christopher Geidt after an Electoral Commission report triggered questions over the accuracy of the prime minister’s account of how the redecoration of his flat at 11 Downing Street in 2020 was funded. The intervention marked the end of one of Johnson’s most tumultuous weeks as prime minister, encompassing reports of illicit Downing Street parties during the strict Covid-19 lockdown in the run-up to last Christmas and an angry reaction by many Conservative MPs to new restrictions to stem the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.” – FT

  • Whitehall’s anti-sleaze boss demands new evidence – The Sun
  • Watchdog investigates failure to release messages – The Times

Udny-Lister could return as search for Number 10 ‘enforcer’ begins

“Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser, Lord Udny-Lister, could go back to work for the Prime Minister and oversee the hiring of a senior adviser who can bring order to a chaotic Downing Street. Lord Udny-Lister – who as Eddie Lister was a trusted confidante of Mr Johnson’s for 13 years in City Hall and later in Downing Street – quit as the PM’s chief strategic adviser earlier this year. However, he has told friends he is willing to return to Number 10 to help find a senior figure who can help impose some discipline on both Mr Johnson and the team around him. One source said: “Eddie could go back in there and find somebody. Boris needs someone who can go in there and say: ‘You can’t do that.'” The news came as Mr Johnson’s popularity dropped to an all-time low, with a net favourability rating of -42 – down 11 points since mid-November.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Five new Tory MPs have demanded scandal-hit Johnson quits – The Sun
  • Johnson’s cabinet rivals circle as he has an unhappy leadership anniversary – The Times

More:

  • No 10 cancels Christmas party due to Omicron concerns – The Guardian
  • Treasury staff had office drinks party during lockdown – The Times

>Yesterday: Dr Sarah Ingham’s column: Under Johnson, the Marie Antoinette of our times, a Labour government is no longer unimaginable

Charles Moore: Johnson makes life far too easy for his enemies in the Westminster village

“Today this week has been a masterclass in how all this is done, deploying the tabloid technique of relegating all other news to the sidelines. Thus Nusrat Ghani MP was given prime time yesterday for her bit of Boris-bashing, while her actual purpose – to talk about Chinese persecution of the Uyghurs – was pushed towards the programme’s end, genocide being less important than whether a few Downing Street press officers had illicit cheese and wine last Christmas. Even omicron was made to give place to the alpha and omega of BBC coverage (especially when a by-election looms), which is that Brexit is dreadful and Boris is a liar. Once again, the foetid air of Westminster intrigue, hypocrisy and moralism stifles the important things we need to know about our country and our world in these weird times.” – Daily Telegraph

  • How typical of Boris to trip up on frivolities – John Humphreys, Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: There is a case against the Electoral Commission, but the Prime Minister can no longer make it

Truss bills UK G7 meeting as a show of western unity against China and Russia

“A new show of western unity against Russia and China is being lined up by the UK foreign secretary Liz Truss as she hosts a weekend meeting of G7 foreign ministers starting on Saturday. The G7 meeting, held against the backdrop of a potential invasion of Ukraine, tensions in the South China Sea and the potential collapse of the Iran nuclear deal, is being billed by Truss as a “chance to show a united front against malign behaviour – including Russian posturing towards Ukraine.” Truss will also pledge security and economic support to defend “the frontiers of freedom” around the world, a reference to the array of western infrastructure investment vehicles being assembled by the US, EU and the UK in a bid to offer a rival to the Chinese belt and road initiative.” – The Guardian

  • Foreign Office to cut staff by 20 per cent in four years – The Times

Comment:

  • Don’t replace a charlatan with another sham – Matthew Parris, The Times

>Today: Book Reviews: Cockerell’s greatest hits remind us that many of our PMs have been extremely odd

Parliament will overrule European judges on human rights, Raab to announce

“Parliament will get powers to override European judges on human rights under plans to be unveiled by Dominic Raab next week. The Justice Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister will unveil a proposed overhaul of the Human Rights Act that aims to prevent UK institutions and courts being “dictated to” by judges in Strasbourg. The consultation paper will set out three key measures by which Mr Raab aims to curtail the influence of the European Court of Human Rights and protect UK laws and traditions from “undue interference”. He has made clear that Britain will not derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), but that Parliament reserved the right to interpret rulings in ways that fit with UK laws and traditions.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: MPs Etc.: Snap guide to modern conservative thinkers 4) Niall Ferguson

Spy chiefs should not quit and then cash in on secrets, MPs say

“Former spy chiefs should not be able to take on highly paid second careers as “talking heads” and divulge secrets without sanctions, parliament’s intelligence watchdog has said. The Intelligence and Security Committee (ICS) said that it sent “entirely the wrong message” for former intelligence staff to reveal secrets. The MPs questioned whether Robert Hannigan, the former head of GCHQ, had breached the Official Secrets Act by revealing operational details about how the agencies identified Mohammed Emwazi, also known as Jihadi John, for a Channel 4 documentary. Their report stated that of “concern to the committee are the actions of senior staff when they leave the agencies and the extent to which they are still bound by their former duties – in particular . . . when they seek a second career as a ‘talking head’ on security issues”.” – The Times

  • Damning report criticises Hannigan for revealing ‘operational details’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Watchdog says it was misled over reason for GCHQ boss’s resignation – The Guardian

MPs approve charities watchdog chair with criticism of ministers

“MPs have approved a new chair of the charities watchdog but criticised the way the search “became subject to allegations of political interference” as well as a lack of diversity. The Commons culture select committee approved Martin Thomas, an insurance and financial services professional and experienced charity trustee, as chair of the Charity Commission following a pre-appointment hearing on Thursday. However, while the committee welcomed Thomas’s appointment, it said it was “regrettable” that the process had been drawn out and mired in controversy around alleged attempts by ministers to influence the process. The former culture secretary Oliver Dowden caused controversy when he wrote a Sunday Telegraph article in September saying ministers would only choose a candidate who could show they would use the commission’s power to pursue charities which stray into so-called “woke” and “political” activities.” – The Guardian

UK offers ‘major concession’ over Northern Irish trading relations

“Boris Johnson’s government has offered a significant climbdown in talks with the EU over post-Brexit trading relations in Northern Ireland, as the prime minister tries to end the toxic dispute. A senior British official on Friday briefed London-based EU journalists that Johnson was no longer seeking the immediate axing of the European Court of Justice from its role in enforcing the so-called Northern Ireland protocol. In a move described as “an important shift”, the UK official said “no one is demonstrating on the streets of Belfast” in protest against the role of the ECJ. The protocol is the part of the UK’s Brexit deal which aims to maintain an open border in Ireland. In exchange, some checks on east-west trade across the Irish Sea are needed.” – FT

  • Frost stands firm despite EU bid to kick key issue ‘into long grass’ – Daily Express

More:

  • French threaten port blockade as Britain digs in over fishing licences – The Times

>Yesterday: Stephen Hammond MP in Comment: How MEPs, MPs, and peers are coming together to put the divisions of Brexit behind us

Ulster prosecutions bill blocked over fears it is preferential towards terrorists

“The Defence Secretary has objected to a new law to protect troops and terrorists from prosecution in Northen Ireland because he believes it treats military veterans unfairly. Ben Wallace has expressed serious reservations over proposals put forward by his Cabinet colleague Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, for a new Legacy Bill that has been held up by wrangling behind the scenes. Mr Lewis had hoped to push through his Legacy Bill this autumn but its progress has been stalled by objections from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and failed negotiations with the Irish Government. Last week, a former Conservative defence minister called on Mr Lewis to resign over the delay in introducing the legislation, accusing him of “letting down his people and his party”.” – Daily Telegraph

Cut income tax by 2p, Labour’s Reeves urges Sunak

“Labour has called for a 2p cut in the basic rate of income tax, with the party’s shadow chancellor saying she would back the move. Rachel Reeves said she “would like to see the Chancellor do it” when asked if she would support the cut amid reports that Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is considering it. However, she warned that Mr Sunak’s potential cuts could be “just talk, talk, talk”. It comes amid reports that the Treasury is considering cutting income tax by 2p in the pound or slashing VAT rates before the next election. The Times reported that Mr Sunak had told officials to draw up detailed plans to reduce the tax burden. His preference is said to be an income tax cut over the next three years as part of a “retail” offer before 2024, when the next general election is expected.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Dr Spencer Pitfield in Comment: Introducing Union Blue – a trade union to represent workers in modern Britain

News in Brief:

  • The government is running out of time to stop messing up – Steve Baker MP, The Critic
  • Why satire gave up on politics – Dorian Lynskey, UnHerd
  • Riding the populist wave: British Conservatives and the Constitution – Tim Bale, Constitution Unit
  • Make History Great Again! – Dominic Sandbrook, The Spectator
  • Why Brexit Britain must embrace genetic engineering – Cameron English, CapX