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Downing Street parties 1) Case quits investigation – after it emerges his own office held one

“Downing Street was plunged into greater turmoil last night after the top civil servant appointed by Boris Johnson to lead a significant inquiry had to step down from the role. Simon Case, the cabinet secretary, quit the investigation into Downing Street Christmas parties after it emerged that his office had held one itself during lockdown. Johnson admitted that public anger about the parties last year had contributed to the Conservatives’ capitulation in the North Shropshire by-election yesterday, a seat that they had held for 200 years.” – The Times

  • Claims that the PM “spent about 15 minutes with staff” at social gathering on 15th May 2020 – The Guardian
  • No party could be worth the hangover Johnson is now suffering – Marina Hyde, The Guardian

Downing Street parties 2) IDS calls on those who broke the rules to be sacked

“Iain Duncan Smith – who led the party for two years – told the BBC the government had lost focus as a result of stories about Downing Street parties. “The prime minister needs to show really strongly that he doesn’t just disapprove but is prepared to get rid of people who are breaking those rules,” he said.” – BBC

By-election 1) Johnson “put on probation”

“Boris Johnson was put on probation by Conservative MPs on Friday after a disastrous Tory parliamentary by-election defeat, with warnings he could face a coup by mid-2022 unless he raises his game. The prime minister said he took “personal responsibility” for the result in North Shropshire, where the Liberal Democrats overturned a 23,000 Conservative majority in a constituency which had been in Tory hands for almost 200 years. Johnson added he was going to have “to fix, of course” the running of his government, after weeks of allegations of Conservative sleaze and media reports of Downing Street parties held last year during lockdown.” – Financial Times

  • Leadership rivals circle and allies batten down hatches – The Times
  • The knives are out – Trevor Kavanagh, The Sun
  • Sir Keir Starmer accused of lacking ambition for treating North Shropshire as a ‘no-go area’ – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Liberal Democrats win the North Shropshire by-election with one of the biggest swings in modern times

By-election 2) Davidson declares the PM “drinking in the last chance saloon”

“Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish Conservatives leader, told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that the PM was ‘in the last chance saloon’ and that backbenchers were ‘tired of the constant drama coming out of No 10 and the No 11 flat’ where he lives. Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the treasurer of the 1922 committee, said it was not the time for a ‘big blame game’ but that Mr Johnson needed to stop the ‘self-inflicted own goals’. ‘I want him to succeed, I am giving him the benefit of the doubt,’ he told Sky News. ‘But in doing that, as one of his seasoned backbenchers, I am asking him to think carefully how he governs the country and avoid these self-inflicted measures.’ ” – Daily Mail

By-election 3) BBC “cancelled” Redwood interview after he said high taxes were to blame

“A Conservative MP who blamed high taxes for his party’s by-election defeat has claimed the BBC cancelled an interview with him after “hearing what I might say”. John Redwood hit out at the corporation after Radio 4’s Today programme rescheduled his appearance on Friday morning to discuss the crushing result. The Lib Dems overturned a Tory majority of almost 23,000 to win the North Shropshire seat on Thursday, a former blue stronghold of Owen Paterson, who resigned in a lobbying row….Mr Redwood did appear on the Today programme an hour later than billed, at around 8.10am, when he said Lib Dem Helen Morgan’s victory signalled “a longer-term worry about the direction of the Government and a strong urging of the Government to do better.” – Daily Telegraph

By-election 4) Neil: There is no Johnsonian core of beliefs around which Tories can gather

“Voters are not stupid. They know that governments across the world are struggling to cope with Covid. They’re just looking for some quiet competence, a seriousness of purpose, a sense of direction to get us through the nightmare, politicians that can be trusted even if they don’t always get it right. In a word, leadership. The lack of all of the above gave us this week’s result in North Shropshire. It is a watershed for the Prime Minister. Boris Johnson’s support in the Tory Party has always been skin-deep. There is no Boris base on the backbenches or among activists in the country. There is no Johnsonian core of beliefs around which Tories can gather, as there was with Thatcherism, because there is no Johnsonian ideology beyond opportunism. He has almost no friends to rally round him.” – Andrew Neil, Daily Mail

By-election 5) Parris: Removing the PM is not enough

“Helen Morgan, the Lib Dem by-election candidate, will have hit the right nerve among rueful Tory supporters when, in her victory speech in the small hours of yesterday morning, she called recent Conservative governance “a nightly soap opera of calamity and chaos”. Populism will always yield that result because tummy-tickling can never be a recipe for sound government. Since the European referendum campaign began, the Conservative Party has been poisoning itself, and the toxin is called populism. At first the experience was intoxicating, heady. Now the party’s getting the shakes. The cure will require more than the removal of one man.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

  • In mere weeks, the government has managed to extinguish virtually all public goodwill – Janet Daley, Daily Telegraph
  • This is what happens when you are seen to have ditched core Tory policies – Leader, The Sun
  • The public needs a reason to vote Conservative – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • A damning verdict – Leader, The Guardian

Omicron 1) ‘No evidence’ it is less severe than Delta, claims Ferguson

“Covid-19 cases in the UK soared past 93,000 to reach a record high for the third consecutive day on Friday, as researchers warned there was “no evidence” that Omicron was milder than the Delta variant. The Imperial College London research, which analysed UK infection data, casts doubt on the hopes of some experts, based on reports from medics in South Africa, that a change in the virulence of the new variant would limit pressure on health systems…Prof Neil Ferguson, a UK government science adviser who led the Imperial study, said “time is of the essence” if the government wishes to make “additional decisions” about further restrictions.” – Financial Times

  • I believe a climate of dread around Covid is deliberately being manufactured by scientists and my fellow medics – Professor Angus Dalgleish, Daily Mail

Omicron 2) Business leaders call for ten-day rule to be eased

“Covid isolation rules must be relaxed to stop Britain grinding to a halt, health experts and business chiefs said last night. They warned the ten-day rule was ‘lockdown by stealth’ – keeping people at home even when their symptoms and infectiousness had eased. Leading doctors suggested that quarantine could be ended early for those who test negative for at least two days in a row. Daily virus cases hit a record 93,000 yesterday and are expected to go much higher – raising fears that self-isolation will cause chaos to schools, hospitals and the economy. It is not yet known whether Omicron – the Covid variant driving the surge – is milder. However, victims recover faster and may become less infectious just three to five days after a positive test, according to evidence from South Africa.” – Daily Mail

  • Sage calls for more stringent restrictions – BBC
  • Chancellor in talks about emergency funding – Daily Telegraph
  • Ministers are planning to permanently change the law so couples are able to get married outdoors – The Sun

Omicron 3) Modelling behind Javid’s claim of 200,000 daily infections ‘no longer valid’

“Modelling used to justify Sajid Javid’s claim that there were 200,000 omicron infections a day has been abandoned by health officials, who say it is “no longer valid” because of behavioural changes. On Monday, the Health Secretary caused widespread confusion by announcing the figure without releasing the methodology behind the calculation. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) consistently warned this week that omicron infections were doubling every 1.9 days. But a methodology memo published quietly by the UKHSA on Thursday states it is now wrong to assume that the doubling rate will remain constant, and so should no longer be used.” – Daily Telegraph

Britain unlikely to send troops to help Ukraine, says Wallace

“Ben Wallace has said it is “highly unlikely” that Britain or its allies will send troops to defend Ukraine if Russia invades. The defence secretary appeared to row back from previous comments when he said that the UK could deploy “defence capabilities” to see off a threat from Russia. Wallace said that Ukraine was not a member of Nato and so the concept of collective defence did not apply.” – The Times

EU eases medicines rules for Northern Ireland

“The EU is changing its rules to allow Britain to continue supplying medicines to Northern Ireland as a first step in solving a dispute over post-Brexit trade in the region. Brussels will legislate to permit UK-approved medicines to enter Northern Ireland to avoid a possible shortage due to post-Brexit regulations. The EU move was given a cautious welcome by Lord Frost following meetings with the EU on Friday, but the UK Brexit negotiator warned that the two sides still had a long way to go to resolve their differences.” – Financial Times

  • We have not made enough progress on the Northern Ireland protocol – David Frost, Financial Times
  • Macron to ask the EU to sue Britain over rejected fishing licenses – The Sun
  • Sunak urged Boris Johnson not to ‘blow up’ talks with EU on NI protocol before Christmas – Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: A retreat on the Northern Irish Protocol shows Johnson’s flight reflex in action

Merz chosen as the new leader of Germany’s Christian Democrats

“The conservative MP Friedrich Merz is to become leader of Germany’s centre-right Christian Democratic Union after soundly winning a popularity poll of its members. The 66-year-old’s task will be to rebuild the morale of a party still reeling from defeat in September’s Bundestag election, when it chalked up the worst result in its 76-year history. Merz won 62.1 per cent of the vote, beating his rivals Norbert Röttgen, the former chair of the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee, and Helge Braun, who served as ex-chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff.” – Financial Times

Moore: Johnson can survive – if he stops kowtowing to the Blob

“Johnson’s biggest appeal – so well demonstrated in the four years of warfare from referendum campaign to full Brexit – was that he appeared to be with the citizen against the Blob. In hundreds of unmetropolitan constituencies like Shropshire North, citizens duly responded. Since Covid, this has become much less apparent. On net zero, Boris is the Blob’s most closely guarded hostage. On Covid, he ultimately goes along – if not always quietly – with the experts’ bias, in which fear naturally dominates, rather than with the attitude of those who wish to get on with normal life and prefer hope. On the cost of living, he is almost silent. Despite Boris’s compliance with its views, the Blob still hates him as much as ever, and strives daily to get rid of him.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

News in brief

  • Can the PM really blame the press for his defeat? – Fraser Nelson, The Spectator
  • Which of the varied and contradictory messages are the Tories going to actually hear? – Harry Phibbs, CapX
  • Our win in North Shropshire shows there are consequences for the Conservatives, who’ve broken the very rules they asked our country to follow  – Ed Davey, Independent
  • Only the Treasury can control Sturgeon and Drakeford – Henry Hill, Unherd
  • The GenderBread Man is coming – Caroline ffiske, The Critic