Published:

1922 Committee will allow emailed letters of no confidence in Johnson…

“The entire leadership of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs joined the rebellion over Boris Johnson’s plan for Covid passports, it emerged on Wednesday. It came as Tory MPs were told they can email letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson over Christmas, in a blow to allies who hoped the festive break might ease the pressure on the Prime Minister. There had been a presumption in Westminster that only letters that were physically handed to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 Committee, would be counted to avoid the risk of forgeries. This would have meant that letters would need to be submitted to him before the Commons rises on Thursday, or else wait until the House returns three weeks later in January.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Rules to oust Prime Minister suddenly changed – Daily Express
  • Rebels have warned Johnson that things must change by next year – Daily Mail
  • Covid passport vote: How weak whips and secret rebels left the Prime Minister reeling – The Times
  • How Boris’s magic died at the 1922 Committee – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

…as polls open in North Shropshire

“Polls have opened in North Shropshire for voters to elect a replacement for the disgraced former Tory MP Owen Paterson, who resigned after being found to have breached parliamentary lobbying rules. People in the rural constituency began casting their votes from 7am on Thursday in what is expected to be a close-run byelection between the incumbent Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Polling stations close at 10pm and a result is not expected until the early hours of Friday. There had been speculation that growing concerns about the Omicron Covid variant and poor weather could diminish voter turnout. The byelection was triggered when Paterson resigned following the lobbying scandal in which Boris Johnson attemped to prevent the MP’s suspension from parliament.” – The Guardian

  • Christmas party photo used against the Tories in fight for by-election votes – Daily Telegraph
  • Scandal could affect result, Tory candidate admits – The Times
  • Johnson braced for closely fought contest – FT
  • Byelection loss would be ‘absolute disaster’ for Prime Minister, say MPs – The Guardian

Cut back on social plans over Christmas, warns Whitty

“Chris Whitty has urged people to scale back their Christmas plans as he warned that a big rise in hospital admissions from Omicron was “nailed on”. After Britain recorded its highest number of Covid cases in a single day today, England’s chief medical officer said that such records “will be broken a lot over the next few weeks” as the variant spreads “at an absolutely phenomenal pace”. He said that Omicron was “a really serious threat” and advised people to cut back on socialising with others in the days before Christmas and to limit mixing with other households. His comments contrasted directly with those of Boris Johnson, who said that while people should “think carefully” before going to events the government was not cancelling parties.” – The Times

  • Brits told not to cancel NYE parties yet but ‘think carefully’ about mixing over festive period – The Sun
  • Omicron ‘will hit hospital and care home staff hard’ – The Times
  • UK doubles delivery of lateral flow tests as cases soar – FT
  • Johnson ‘begs Brits to get boosters to stop more restrictions’ – The Sun

Schools:

  • Schools could remain closed after Christmas – Daily Mail
  • Push to jab children as Tory MPs warn of more school closures – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: The two variables that will predict the extent of any NHS winter crisis. And what we can do about them.

Johnson names 7/7 bombings judge Baroness Hallett to lead Covid inquiry

“A retired Court of Appeal judge who led inquests into the 7/7 terror attacks and Iraq has been appointed to chair the Covid-19 inquiry, Boris Johnson has announced. Baroness Hallett, a crossbench peer, will take up the post in spring next year, with the Prime Minister stating on Wednesday that she shared his “determination” for the inquiry to be “forensic” in scrutinising the Government’s handling of the pandemic. The 71-year-old will be in charge of one of the most complex public inquiries undertaken in modern times and will now enter discussions with Downing Street and the devolved administrations over its scale and scope. In a statement issued after the announcement, she said that she was “acutely conscious of the suffering” the pandemic had “caused to so many” and would begin engaging with bereaved families and other groups in the new year.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Police are urged to probe lockdown-busting Tory HQ Christmas party – Daily Mail
  • Inquiry will show it was no party, says Johnson – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: PMQs sketch: Starmer got his jabs in first, but lacked a knock-out blow

UK demands changes to Northern Ireland Protocol so businesses can get Covid support

“British negotiators will demand on Wednesday that the EU changes Northern Ireland Protocol subsidy rules so businesses can benefit from coronavirus state support. The UK has to request EU authorisation for Covid support loans to Northern Ireland, which, under the Protocol, must be cleared by Brussels. Government sources said the fact that the UK had to seek permission before distributing the emergency support underlined the need to change the treaty, which was signed in 2019. A UK government source said, “It’s ridiculous that because of the Northern Ireland Protocol we’re forced to seek permission from the EU in order to give vital Covid support loans to businesses in our own country, especially given the pressures they are facing at the moment with omicron.” – Daily Telegraph

  • UK delays Brexit checks on goods entering from Ireland – The Guardian
  • Emergency Cobra meeting as ministers from four UK nations gather to thrash out common response – The Sun

More:

  • Sunak under pressure to support pubs as thousands face collapse – Daily Telegraph
  • Companies warn about impact of Omicron staff shortages – FT
  • Pigs being culled and fruit rotting on trees due to staff shortages, say MPs – The Sun

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: We approach the anniversary of the UK/EU trade agreement. And already, it seems like a lifetime ago.

Gove seeks a ‘Renaissance for the North’

“Sedgefield, Darlington and Dudley may not be about to get their own versions of the Duomo, the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio, but Michael Gove is seeking inspiration from Renaissance Italy to deliver the levelling-up agenda. Gove, the levelling-up secretary, wants to emulate the way the Medici family turned Florence into an arts and science superpower in the 15th century. He told The Spectator that they succeeded in creating a wealthy society by improving many professional fields at once. “The human flourishing at the time of the Renaissance in the cities of Italy was as a result of a number of different factors coming together,” he said… He also outlined his plans for devolution after The Times reported that counties could elect American-style governors. Gove said that devolving power from Whitehall was a “core Conservative model”.” – The Times

Soldiers were put at risk testing Ajax armoured vehicle, says defence minister

“Soldiers were put at risk of harm in testing the new £5.5bn Ajax armoured vehicle, which was so noisy that troops could suffer hearing loss, the defence procurement minister has told MPs. Jeremy Quin said 11 soldiers had to be placed under long-term monitoring following a catalogue of “complex and systemic” failures. He admitted the episode showed the army did not place as high a value on safety as cost and value for money. A string of warnings about excessive noise and vibration dating back three years were not properly acted upon, the minister said. “It lays bare a deep malaise which is cultural and results in systemic failures across our organisations,” Quin told MPs on Wednesday. Further details were spelled out in a health and safety report published by the Ministry of Defence in conjunction with Quin’s statement to MPs.” – The Guardian

  • Army ‘knew of Ajax tank dangers for two years’ – The Times
  • Report also reveals ‘deep malaise’ in UK government’s defence procurement culture – FT

More:

  • Veterans face fresh criminal inquiry into claims soldiers and police ‘tortured’ 14 IRA suspects – Daily Mail

Government slashes electric car grants by 40 per cent

“Ministers have cut grants to buy new electric cars by 40 per cent. The maximum discount motorists can now receive has been cut from £2,500 to £1,500. A surge in demand for plug-in vehicles had placed a massive strain on the scheme. It is the second time the grant has been cut this year after it was reduced from £3,000 to £2,500 in March. Eligibility thresholds were also lowered, with motorists able to spend the money only on cars costing up to £32,000, down from £35,000. At the turn of the year the cap was £50,000. The reduction means that many bestselling models will no longer qualify for the discount, including the BMW i3, Kia e-Niro and Nissan Leaf. In addition, large e-vans are now eligible for a grant of up to £5,000 — down from £6,000 — while the amount for smaller vans will fall from a maximum of £3,000 to £2,500. This grant will be limited to 1,000 a year.” – The Times

  • Subsidy available will fall from £2,500 to £1,500 – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • We can relieve Covid strain, but solving the annual NHS crisis is a different story – Jonathan Kitson, CapX
  • Why should humans be in charge? – Mary Harrington, UnHerd
  • Would the Tories be better off without Johnson? – Tim Bale, Open Democracy
  • ‘Politics exacts a very high price’: an interview with Gove – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Hitchens’s weaknesses have become our own – Jimmy Nicholls, The Critic