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Tory whips scramble to curb backbench revolt against Covid vaccine passports

“Tory whips launched a frantic 11th hour operation on Monday to curb a backbench revolt set to be the largest of Boris Johnson’s premiership. Junior members of the Government were warned they would have to quit if they voted against the move to introduce Covid passports, as whips applied heavy pressure to prevent a payroll mutiny. Around 80 Tory MPs – more than a third of the party’s backbenchers – have indicated their intention to rebel, meaning Mr Johnson faces a revolt that could eclipse his largest so far, when 54 Conservatives voted against the tiered system of restrictions last December. The plan is expected to pass despite the Tory backlash, because Labour has said it will support it. Under the Government’s proposals, people will need to show proof of two jabs or a negative lateral flow test in order to enter nightclubs and large venues from 6am on Wednesday.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Third of Conservative backbenchers ready to rebel against Omicron plan B – The Times
  • At least 80 Tory MPs to vote against – The Sun
  • MPs ‘line up to throw PM under bus’ – Daily Express
  • The Tory tribes that could rebel over Johnson’s Covid plan – The Times
  • Javid accused of ‘shifting goalposts’ – The Guardian
  • Ministers accused of ‘playing with people’s Christmases’ by furious tourism chiefs – Daily Mail
  • Johnson confronted by business backlash over new Covid rules – FT

More:

  • Proof of booster jabs will be needed for Covid passports, says Javid – Daily Telegraph
  • They’ll be needed for nightclubs, footy and travel – The Sun
  • Will we need three jabs to have ‘fully vaccinated’ status by January? – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Murdo Fraser MSP in Comment: Scotland’s experience is that vaccine passports don’t work – a warning to Conservatives in England

Labour ‘tears apart lateral flow testing shambles’

“Sajid Javid was today accused of living on another planet after insisting there was no shortage of lateral flow tests. Tens of thousands of Britons trying to get their hands on home testing kits were told none were available by the Government’s own website. Many pharmacies, town halls, sports clubs — and even Parliament — have also run out of swabs. But the Health Secretary told the Commons that tens of millions were already sitting in warehouses in the country and millions more were arriving every week. Labour’s Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting blasted Mr Javid over the shortage of lateral flow tests in a debate this afternoon… Mr Javid said a ‘sudden surge’ in demand had overwhelmed the system, with Royal Mail left unable to keep up with deliveries. Amazon has been brought in to help.” – Daily Mail

Johnson ‘insists shutting schools is last resort’

“Bonkers teacher unions are demanding ministers stagger pupils’ return to school after Christmas for fear of Omicron. But Boris Johnson insists going back to remote learning is the nuclear option and will only be the course of last resort. The PM’s spokesman today said there were “no plans” to lump schools with any restrictions after the leftie NASUWT called for immediate Covid measures… Yet Downing Street is adamant kids should continue having lessons in person and vows to pull out all the stops to prevent them going online again. The PM’s spokesman this afternoon reaffirmed that keeping schools open was a “national priority” and that they’d be among the last to close in any lockdown.” – The Sun

  • Schools send pupils home early – Daily Telegraph
  • No face-to-face appointments with your family GP until New Year – Daily Mail

More:

  • Businesses to get more funding and possible furlough support if further lockdown is imposed – The Times
  • Employment rises despite end of furlough scheme – FT

>Today: Audio: The Moggcast. “You have to learn to live with Covid…life is about taking risks.”

We can’t hit Covid booster jabs target, warn NHS bosses

“Boris Johnson’s goal of giving everyone a booster jab by the end of the year is unlikely to be met, NHS leaders warned as huge queues formed outside vaccine centres. Waits of up to five hours were reported at some clinics and the central booking website repeatedly crashed as it struggled to keep up with demand. The UK Health Security Agency estimated that 200,000 people were infected with Omicron today, far more than previously known to have caught Covid-19 in a single day and suggesting that the variant has already outpaced Delta. The prime minister launched an appeal for vaccine volunteers to help the NHS “hit warp speed” on boosters. Councils, fire brigades and police have been asked to offer up any staff trained in delivering jabs.” – The Times

  • Service overwhelmed after millions answer call – Daily Telegraph
  • NHS leaders warn service is being ‘set up to fail’ – Daily Mail
  • Routine care paused again to focus on booster campaign – The Times
  • Crisis mode as hospitals told to discharge patients where possible – The Guardian
  • Frustration, confusion, chaos: day one of Johnson’s war on omicron – Daily Telegraph
  • Omicron infections running at 200,000 a day, says health agency – FT

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Omicron. The vaccines have lulled us into a false sense of security. Tough choices loom.

Prime Minister: I broke no Covid rules over Downing Street quiz night

“Boris Johnson has insisted he “broke no rules” after being pictured hosting a quiz night in Number 10, as Tory MPs said on Monday night that the Cabinet Secretary must be given time to conduct a “thorough” investigation. On Monday, Mr Johnson hit back at allegations that he may have misled Parliament and broken Covid rules as he continued to face questions over his participation in events in Downing Street last Christmas. He also confirmed that Simon Case, the head of the civil service, would expand the scope of his investigation to include the quiz night, which took place on Dec 15 last year. It follows the unearthing of an image of Mr Johnson this weekend, which appeared to confirm he had taken part in the quiz three days before the alleged Christmas party in Downing Street. The picture, obtained by the Sunday Mirror, showed him sitting in front of a laptop in the Number 10 library alongside two colleagues, wearing tinsel and a Christmas hat.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Starmer takes dig at Johnson saying ‘we must all stick to the rules… however inconvenient’ – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: Christmas parties are a derisory pretext for trying to overthrow the Prime Minister

William Hague: The unvaccinated are putting us all at risk

“The inescapable conclusion of such evidence is that a refusal to be vaccinated, excepting those cases where people are immuno-compromised and have a medical reason not to be jabbed, is an important factor in keeping everyone else under threat of restrictions on their liberty. The main reason the government has to revert to its plan B and think of a plan C is the risk that health service capacity will be overwhelmed. The disproportionate number of NHS beds required for unvaccinated individuals means the point of using up all capacity, and having to cancel other much-needed operations, is reached more rapidly than it need be. This is presumably going to be a bigger problem as time goes on.” – The Times

  • An unvaccinated nurse is better than no nurse at all – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson’s excessive Covid measures must be stopped – Chris Green MP, Times Red Box

Editorial:

  • Boosters are only part of the UK’s answer to Omicron – FT
  • Acceleration of booster jabs risks exacerbating NHS backlogs – The Times

UK to inject ‘common sense’ into human rights legislation

“The UK is to announce plans to inject “a healthy dose of common sense” into its human rights legislation by giving parliament and domestic judges more flexibility in how they interpret rulings from a European court. The proposals are based on a review of the 1998 Human Rights Act, legislation passed under Tony Blair’s Labour government, by former Court of Appeal judge Sir Peter Gross. Some elements of the Conservative party have long criticised aspects of the act, which brought into British law the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, drawn up in 1949 and of which the UK was a founding signatory. The convention is separate from the EU, which the UK left last year, and is interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.” – FT

  • Criminals to be deported under new bill of rights – The Times
  • Foreign prisoners to be stopped from exploiting human rights laws to dodge deportation – The Sun
  • Raab to claim overhaul of human rights law will counter ‘political correctness’ – The Guardian

Dominic Raab: New bill of rights will deliver a healthy dose of common sense

“The fault lies with the HRA — not the judges. And it’s just one illustration of why we need to restore some balance, and common sense to the system. So, today, I am setting out plans to overhaul the system, revise the HRA and replace it with a bill of rights. The proposals, we will consult widely on, are designed to deliver four key reforms. First, we want to strengthen the quintessentially UK rights, which are the cornerstone of our tradition of liberty and, I would say, our way of life. Freedom of speech is the liberty that guards all the others. Yet, a combination of court-innovated privacy law, licensed by the HRA, and the hyper-sensitivity of some in our society to opposing views, has incrementally and surreptitiously whittled away the scope for the rambunctious debate which is essential to our democracy.” – The Times

  • Proposed new British bill of rights may not be all that it seems – The Times

North ‘fears transport power grab’ as Tories line up grandee

“A former Conservative minister is expected to be made chairman of the transport authority for the north as Grant Shapps seeks to counter the influence of Labour’s metro mayors. Lord McLoughlin, the former Tory chairman, is in the final round of interviews to run Transport for the North (TfN), the statutory body set up to advise ministers on the region’s rail, road and bus needs. McLoughlin, 64, did not deny he was seeking the £60,000-a-year role when reached by phone last night. A friend said it would be inappropriate to comment. Insiders fear that his appointment would represent a ministerial power grab and another case of cronyism as the government tries to sideline TfN. Last month Shapps, 53, the transport secretary, stopped paying the body — whose board includes all the northern mayors — to develop Northern Powerhouse Rail, a line across the Pennines.” – The Times

>Yesterday: Dean Machin in Comment: Policymakers must understand the reasons people go to university – or else educational reforms will be resented

MPs call for online safety bill overhaul to protect children and penalise tech firms

“Britain’s online safety bill needs a sweeping overhaul to prevent children from accessing pornography, vulnerable people from being encouraged to commit self-harm and negligent tech chiefs from failing to protect users, according to a committee of MPs and peers. A wide-ranging series of proposals to amend the pioneering legislation also includes creating a new criminal offence for cyberflashing, punishing tech platforms for hosting fraudulent adverts, and exempting news organisations from content takedowns. The recommendations by the joint committee on the draft online safety bill will tackle an industry that has become the “land of the lawless”, according to committee’s Conservative chair, Damian Collins MP. “A lack of regulation online has left too many people vulnerable to abuse, fraud, violence and in some cases even loss of life,” he said.” – The Guardian

Lib Dems are bookies’ favourites for North Shropshire by-election

“The Liberal Democrats are now favourites to win the Shropshire North by-election, according to some bookmakers. Helen Morgan, the party’s candidate, is set to overturn a 23,000 Tory majority, although senior Lib Dem sources played down the chances of an upset and said a narrow Conservative win remained the most likely outcome. The by-election, which takes place on Thursday, was triggered by the resignation of Owen Paterson, who stood down after 24 years over paid lobbying. The seat has only ever returned Conservatives, but with Boris Johnson fighting on multiple fronts, the Lib Dems hope to score a significant upset. The party’s internal polling now has it “neck and neck” with the Tories. The Tory candidate, Neil Shastri-Hurst, has promised to relocate his family to the constituency after being criticised for the fact that he does not live in North Shropshire.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Johnson’s booster jab plan comes at a price… – Ross Clark, The Spectator
  • …and it won’t work – Tom Chivers, UnHerd
  • Calling the vaccine-hesitant ‘stupid’ is both cruel and counter-productive – Rakhib Ehsan, CapX
  • Vaccine passports don’t work, but we’re getting them anyway – Chris Green MP, The Critic