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Sunak ‘plans to slash income tax by 2p before next election’

“Rishi Sunak is reportedly planning to slash income tax by 2p in the pound before the next general election in a bid to end his reputation as a “high income” chancellor. On top of the plans to cut tax, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, 41, is also reportedly considering a VAT reduction. According to The Times, Mr Sunak has told officials to draw up plans which aim to reduce the tax burden. Although his preferred plan is to cut income tax over the next three years, Mr Sunak has reportedly asked that ten options be drawn up. Three of the tax-cutting options – income tax, VAT and inheritance tax – are purportedly being drawn up in more detail. The plans come after the Chancellor previously promised that “actions speak louder than words” and urged the public to trust that he would deliver the tax cuts before the next election in 2024.” – Daily Express

  • The 45p higher rate of income tax could be scrapped – The Times

American-style governors could level up England

“Swathes of rural England could elect powerful American-style governors under Michael Gove’s plans to “level up” the country. Devolution is at the heart of his attempts to flesh out Boris Johnson’s domestic slogan, with an ambition for every part of England to have a local leader with equivalent powers to London by the end of the decade. Residents of some rural areas where the term mayor is deemed inappropriate could elect governors instead. The proposal is contained in a draft of the levelling up white paper being written by Gove’s new Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Though Downing Street announced in May that the paper would be published by the end of this year, it has been delayed to early next year, The Times has learnt.” – The Times

>Yesterday: David Willetts in Comment: Yes, let’s have more white male working class students. And new universities, too – some in the Red Wall.

Johnson targeting 2,000 county lines gangs in crime crackdown

“Boris Johnson will pledge to dismantle 2,000 more county lines gangs by the next election and introduce drug testing on arrest for all crimes as part of a law and order strategy to be published on Monday. Police will be urged to take a more interventionist approach to closing down drug-dealing networks with new measures such as using data on dealers’ phones to identify and support addicts. Drug takers found on a dealer’s phone will be targeted with a range of messages to discourage their use of illegal substances and direct them towards support. The tactic, which has already been deployed by several police forces, is designed to warn people that they are not anonymous when buying illegal drugs, a source familiar with the strategy said.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister ‘vows to find out who failed six-year-old Arthur’ – Daily Mail

Laws could be changed to protect press freedoms following Duchess of Sussex’s legal victory

“Downing Street has hinted at introducing new safeguards to protect the freedom of the press, in the wake of the Duchess of Sussex’s legal victory over the Mail on Sunday. The Government would “study the implications” of the Court of Appeal decision in the case “carefully”, a spokesman for Boris Johnson announced on Friday. No 10 stressed that “a free press is one of the cornerstones of any democracy”, and added: “This Government recognises the vital role that newspapers and the media play in holding people to account and shining a light on issues which matter to communities.” Boris Johnson’s spokesman added he could not comment “too much further” on the matter, as the Duchess of Sussex’s privacy row with Associated Newspapers Ltd was an ongoing legal case.” – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Siobhan Baillie MP in Comment: As Good Divorce Week draws to a close, how ministers can make it a reality for more families

Raab to offer greater rights for victims of antisocial behaviour

“New rights and protections against antisocial behaviour will be included under plans for a victims’ law to be announced by ministers next week. All rape victims will also be given the automatic right to pre-record evidence under the proposals to be announced in a consultation by Dominic Raab, the justice secretary. A stronger complaints system will make it easier for victims of all offences to raise concerns about the way they have been treated by criminal justice agencies, such as the police or the courts. It will also become easier to appeal against sentences. The proposals will ensure victims are recognised as “participants” in the criminal justice system rather than bystanders, government sources said.” – The Times

  • Cat-calling women in pubs or on the street could become a crime – Daily Mail

Scientists pushed for tougher Covid rules even before UK’s first omicron case

“Government scientists urged ministers to impose restrictions before any cases of omicron had been found in Britain, new papers show. Documents released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) on Friday show that members of Nervtag, the experts advising ministers on new viruses, recommended “early and robust actions” to prevent transmission of the new variant. Nervtag held an extraordinary meeting on November 25 after the South African health authorities alerted the world to omicron, and warned it was carrying a dangerous suite of mutations. In a briefing note, the subgroup warned that although data on disease severity was not yet available, if omicron was introduced to Britain “it would likely be capable of initiating a new wave of infection”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Sage seek balanced British response to Omicron concerns – The Guardian
  • Majority of sequenced super-variant infections are in fully vaccinated people – Daily Mail

More:

  • Covid-19 booster programme ‘on steroids’, but not for another ten days – The Times
  • Now Brits are urged to go to the pub for Christmas – The Sun
  • The new focus on Covid is a gift for Johnson – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: The UK’s changing Covid death rate per head

Only a quarter of small companies ready for new Brexit border checks, says trade body

“Only a quarter of small British importers are ready for new border controls on imports from the EU that will be imposed in four weeks, a trade body has warned, sparking fears of further disruption to supply chains immediately after Christmas. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) also warned there was a lack of capacity among small companies to handle the new paperwork. From January 1, companies will no longer be able to delay making import customs declarations for EU goods, and will instead have to make declarations and pay relevant tariffs at the point of import. Notice of imports of food, drink and products of animal origin will also be needed to be given in advance.” – FT

  • ‘Brexit nightmare’ as EU red tape risks crippling small firms – Daily Express

More:

  • Brexiteers say Prime Minister stalling on triggering Article 16 – Daily Express
  • UK offers road and rail sweeteners in bid to secure £1bn Rivian factory – FT

Labour is now the party of Middle England, Labour leader claims

“Asked if he thought Labour was the party of Middle England, he replied: ‘Yes, yes, absolutely, yes it is, and it must be… Have we got to focus on winning votes in the Red Wall? Yes, but we’ve also got to focus on winning votes in the Blue Wall, win votes in Scotland and across the whole United Kingdom.’ Starmer promoted a number of prominent centrist figures in his surprise reshuffle on Monday, demoting his key allies in the shake-up. His wide-ranging reshuffle saw a return to the frontbench for Yvette Cooper who replaced Nick Thomas-Symonds as shadow home secretary. He also also handed big promotions to two of Labour’s rising stars, Bridget Phillipson and Wes Streeting, who are taking on the roles of shadow education secretary and shadow health secretary.” – Daily Mail

  • ‘Johnson’s broken promises hit people in the pocket. It’s toxic’ – Interview with Sir Keir Starmer, The Times

Opposition ‘piles pressure on Cressida Dick’ to investigate No 10 Christmas party

“Dame Cressida Dick has been urged by Labour MPs to launch an investigation into allegations that a Downing Street party took place last Christmas in breach of Covid-19 restrictions. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner was under mounting pressure on Friday to initiate a probe, after she said that the force had not received any complaints about the controversy. It comes days after it was first reported that two events had been held in Number 10 last year, at a time when the country remained under tough restrictions. One event, a leaving party for a senior aide, was alleged to have taken place in November, when the country was in the middle of the second lockdown, during which Boris Johnson is said to have given a speech.” – Daily Telegraph

John Curtice: Labour needs to do better to win a majority

“At 10 per cent, the swing from Conservative to Labour was above the 6 per cent recorded on average by national opinion polls and the largest by-election swing to Labour for seven years. However, governments often lose ground more heavily in by-elections, so there is little reason to believe that the polls are underestimating Labour’s strength. Moreover, that 10 per cent swing owed more to a 13 point fall in Conservative support than the 7 point increase in Labour’s tally. Labour has previously advanced by more than that in nearly a dozen by-elections since 2010 but has still gone on to lose the next general election. Even if the whole country were to have swung in the way that Old Bexley did, Labour, with 308 seats, would still be short of an overall majority. The party needs much more than modest progress before it will look capable of winning the next election.” – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Conservatives hold Old Bexley and Sidcup with a reduced share on a low turnout

Sturgeon ‘putting jobs and energy supply at risk’ by rejecting Cambo oilfield

“Scotland’s first minister is facing a backlash over her stance on the Cambo oilfield as business leaders warned that jobs are being put at risk and criticism of her government intensified. Nicola Sturgeon changed her position last month and said she did not want to see the project proceed. On Thursday evening it emerged that Shell, the oil company, was no longer going ahead with its minority investment in Cambo although Siccar Point, which owns the other 70 per cent of the field, does still intend to press on. There are concerns that pressure by environmentalists to block Cambo, which lies about 80 miles northwest of the Shetland Isles, may reduce the likelihood of any new North Sea fields being approved.” – The Times

  • Field could produce up to 170million barrels of oil over 25 years – Daily Mail
  • ‘Cheering job losses’; Sturgeon and SNP savaged – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Philip Scott in Local Government: Once known for jute, jam and journalism, Dundee is reinventing itself as a hub of creativity