Government secures fourth jab deal to fight Covid variants

“A fourth coronavirus jab for British adults has moved a step closer after the government rushed through a deal for more than 100 million extra doses that can be tailored against variants. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has agreed to buy enough extra doses to repeat the entire vaccination programme to date as he promised to “future proof” the NHS jabs drive. The deal, which is likely to cost more than £2 billion, was accelerated in response to concern that the Omicron variant may evade the present vaccines, and includes clauses giving access to ones that are modified to target new strains. The boss of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer said that annual vaccines to tackle Covid-19 are likely to be needed.” – The Times

  • Ministers order ‘variant-proof’ Covid vaccines – Daily Telegraph
  • ‘No guarantee’ we won’t face new lockdown, warns Javid – The Sun

Carry on with Christmas parties but take a Covid test before, Javid urges

“Christmas revellers were yesterday told to carry on with their parties – but get tested first. Sajid Javid insisted there is no need to change festive plans – while the World Health Organisation said symptoms of the new Omicron Covid strain seem mild. It comes as hospital admissions from the variant in South Africa continue to rise fast, with concern at the number of under-twos hit. Nine further cases of Omicron were confirmed in England yesterday, taking the UK total to 32, while the US announced its first. But the Health Secretary played down fears that Christmas was being cancelled on the sly… A WHO official said there was “no evidence” yet that the new mutation would blunt the power of vaccines, and clearer data on how contagious it is will be available “within days”.” – The Sun


Healthcare 1) NHS should be reformed to stop extra billions going to waste, Sunak warns

“Rishi Sunak has warned Boris Johnson that the NHS must be reformed to ensure patients and taxpayers get value from the extra billions being poured in. The Chancellor raised the issue during a Cabinet meeting as part of a discussion on Covid and the future of social care, according to sources. Mr Sunak pointed out the Treasury has handed the NHS an extra £5.5billion this winter, with £12.5billion a year due to come on stream from 2023 with the introduction of the health and social care levy. The Chancellor reportedly stressed in the meeting on Tuesday the importance of ensuring the extra billions are not frittered away by the health service’s giant bureaucracy. Other Cabinet ministers are said to have then chipped in their own concerns that the Government risks getting poor value from the investment unless major reforms are carried out.” – Daily Mail

  • Service has to justify increase in its funding, says Chancellor – The Times
  • Only boosting performance can justify tax increases – Daily Telegraph


  •  Johnson denies hospitals plan labelled unachievable – The Guardian
  • Ministers’ costly pet projects ‘avoid scrutiny’ – The Times

Healthcare 2) Social care plan criticised for not addressing staffing crisis

“A £1bn plan to improve the quality of England’s social care over the next decade, published on Wednesday, promised to boost staff skills and allow elderly and disabled people to remain independent for longer. But it was criticised by providers, experts and some Conservative MPs for failing to tackle the sector’s devastating workforce crisis. Much of the £5.4bn earmarked for social care from a manifesto-busting national insurance rise will go to funding a new £86,000 cap on care costs and a more generous means test. Outlining how some of the remaining money will be spent, the document promised £500m investment in the 1.5m-strong adult social care workforce “so they have the opportunity to progress in their careers with training and qualifications while providing an even better standard of care”.” – FT

  • Hunt and Labour attack ministers’ proposals – The Guardian

Freedom of information is a malign law, insists business minister

“A minister has attacked Britain’s freedom of information law as a “truly malign piece of legislation”. Lord Callanan, minister for business, energy and corporate responsibility, was speaking during a debate on transparency in the House of Lords last week. He spoke out against a move to place the Advanced Research and Invention Agency, a new government science agency developed by Dominic Cummings when he was in No 10, under the purview of the Freedom of Information Act, which obliges public authorities to publish records about certain activities if requested. Callanan said: “From my point of view, it is a truly malign piece of legislation.” He added that “not much is ever released under freedom of information that causes any problems for government” and that he “failed to see how the processology of government benefits at all from FoI disclosures”.” – The Times

Macron wants Britain to set up an asylum-seeker processing centre in Calais…

“French President Emmanuel Macron wants Britain to set up an asylum-seeker processing centre in Calais to deal with the migrant crisis. He is expected to outline France’s solutions to the problem in a letter to the PM. But Downing Street has rejected any plans that would pull more migrants to the UK. And after a week of mud-slinging following the deaths of 27 migrants in the Channel, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab said he would launch a consultation on updating the Human Rights Act. He told MPs yesterday there was a strong case to reform the laws, especially Article 8 — which guarantees a right to family life. He said the lion’s share of criminals dodged deportation thanks to the right — which had been too generously interpreted by judges.” – The Sun

  • President dismisses Prime Minister as a ‘clown’ and ‘knucklehead – The Times
  • Smugglers are openly posting routes online and offering British passports – Daily Mail
  • Johnson condemns Facebook for migrant trafficking adverts – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: How Johnson keeps out Zemmour

…as he ‘fans the flames of Brexit divisions in Ireland’

“The French president was accused of trying to sow division last night after he claimed part of the Brexit deal is a matter of ‘war and peace for Ireland’. The integrity of the Northern Ireland Protocol was vital and it was ‘of existential importance for Europe not to compromise’ over it, Emmanuel Macron said. The Protocol was negotiated to avoid a hard border with Ireland, by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market for goods. But unionists have been pressuring for it to be scrapped because of the trade barriers it has created on products crossing the Irish Sea from Great Britain. Tensions over the situation led to sectarian violence in Belfast earlier this year. Mr Macron’s explosive remarks provoked fury in Westminster.” – Daily Mail

  • Talks to drag into next year! Coveney dashes hopes as Frost meetings begin – Daily Express


  • Brexit fears hold back US-UK trade deal – FT


Robert Shrimsley: Johnson cannot just wish away European tensions

“The last month offered up signs that at least some in Downing Street can see the advantages of a reset. Lord Frost, the chief Brexit negotiator, has drawn back at least temporarily from threats to suspend the Northern Ireland Protocol. Media allies have been briefed on the desire for a new “entente cordiale” with France. The growing pressure to halt uncontrolled Channel crossings is the clearest example of how often domestic problems require European assistance. But this reset is an end for which few are prepared to will the means. Boris Johnson wants better relations but sees few domestic benefits to a softer line — especially with his party’s troublesome right flank. John Bew, his foreign policy adviser, is making the case but, in the words of one seasoned observer, “he is cutting a pretty lonely figure”.” – FT

  • We need a reformer who looks to the future – Iain Martin, The Times

‘Game-changing’ countryside shake-up that pays farmers to go green to be unveiled today

“Radical plans to overhaul subsidies for farmers are to be unveiled today. The ‘Sustainable Farming Incentive’ will replace the EU’s common agricultural policy that was worth more than £3.5billion a year. It will reward farmers for protecting the environment instead of largely receiving payments to grow crops and rear livestock. Environment Secretary George Eustice will outline the scheme in a speech today to landowners in London… Farming accounts for more than 10 per cent of UK greenhouse gas emissions, making it critical to climate change. The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) praised the scheme as potentially ‘the most progressive and environmentally responsible’ of its kind. But Britain’s three biggest nature charities – the Wildlife Trusts, National Trust and RSPB – said it was a ‘huge disappointment’.” – Daily Mail

  • Johnson’s interventionist approach to industry ‘defies UK election vow’, say critics – FT

>Today: Jonathan Werran in Comment: Levelling up. Is Gove poised to mimic his academies programme and bypass local authorities?

Troops could be deployed to deal with fallout of Storm Arwen

“British troops could be deployed to help to deal with the fallout of Storm Arwen after more than 30,000 homes were left without power for five nights in sub-zero temperatures. Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, said that the storm, which hit parts of Northern England and Scotland last week, was the worst in 60 years. The government has asked the Ministry of Defence if it can provide a military advisory team. Rural areas have been particularly hard hit as engineers said there had been problems accessing properties in remote locations. Energy suppliers admitted that some homes would be left without power until the end of the week – seven days after the storm hit. Kwarteng said the storm, in which three people died and winds reached speeds of more than 100mph, had exposed frailties in the electricity network and admitted that lessons needed to be learnt.” – The Times

  • 30,000 households remain without power – FT

Armed police detain man over Westminster security breach

“A man has been detained by armed police after breaching security to enter the Palace of Westminster. Police officers wrestled the unnamed man to the ground and surrounded him in New Palace Yard — the same place where PC Keith Palmer was stabbed to death by Khalid Masood in the Westminster terrorist attack in March 2017. Footage shows officers training their guns and Tasers on the suspect, who was not believed to be carrying a weapon, as he lay spreadeagled on his front. An abandoned bike was seen yards away, with the rider — a parliamentary pass-holder — bundled off to safety after the security breach. Police said they were investigating how the man managed to enter the heavily guarded parliamentary estate. The man was seen surrounded by officers before being taken away in the back of a police van.” – The Times

MP warns of financial corruption in UK escaping ‘toothless’ enforcers

“The Pandora Papers leak shows that the UK is in danger of becoming a corrupt country because it is failing to take economic crime seriously enough, the former chair of the public accounts watchdog told MPs, as she called for more funding for financial crime enforcers. Dame Margaret Hodge, a senior Labour MP, raised the issue in the Commons as part of a debate on the finance bill, highlighting the central role of London in facilitating economic crime. She said the Pandora Papers leak, exposed in October this year by the Guardian and an international consortium of journalists, was “the largest cache of documents we have ever received” in relation to tax havens… Hodge called for a doubling or tripling of the planned £100m levy for fighting money laundering in order to tackle financial crime. She said it was “absolutely critical that we do start taking economic crime seriously in this country”.” – The Guardian

  • Economic crime is a scourge on the nation – Margaret Hodge MP and Kevin Hollinrake MP, The Times

Labour and Lib Dems forge informal by-election pact to exploit sleaze scandal

“Boris Johnson on Thursday faces his first big electoral test since last month’s sleaze scandal, in the first of two December by-elections that have seen new evidence that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are marshalling their forces to maximise damage to the ruling Conservatives. Although both opposition parties insist that there is no formal deal, the Lib Dems have fought a minimal campaign ahead of Thursday’s Old Bexley and Sidcup contest in south-east London, giving Labour a clear run in a solidly Tory seat. Meanwhile, Labour has decided not to campaign heavily in the Shropshire North by-election on December 16, even though the party finished second there in the 2019 general election, allowing the Lib Dems to be the focus for anti-Tory protest.” – FT

  • Tories fear they could lose in Old Bexley and Sidcup – Daily Express
  • Reshuffle ‘has boosted Labour’ ahead of by-election – Daily Telegraph
  • Can Tory troops lift the smell of sleaze? – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Vox Pub in Sidcup: “I think that Boris will get in and Labour will have to have a rethink”.

Starmer’s team ‘feared leadership challenge after conference season’

“Keir Starmer’s team feared they were at risk of a leadership challenge in the aftermath of conference season, senior sources have said, but they believe Yvette Cooper’s arrival in the shadow cabinet will silence any threat. It comes as a senior ally of Starmer, his former director of communications Ben Nunn, said that the Labour leader’s reshuffle this week created the team he had long wanted, and said there was now a need to capitalise on the party’s stronger position. Nunn, speaking publicly for the first time since leaving his role in June, said Starmer had needed more people with experience of government as well as those who knew how to attack from opposition… One shadow cabinet source said Starmer had been “at the moment of maximum danger” but said the Labour leader had now reasserted his authority and been boosted by positive movement in the polls.” – The Guardian

News in Brief:

  • Our NHS, the system failing us all – Kate Andrews, The Spectator
  • Mitchell’s friends in Rwanda – Ian Birrell, UnHerd
  • Labour’s reshuffle underlines how far it has drifted – Jordan Tyldesley, CapX
  • On the side of Engels – Josephine Bartosch, The Critic