Published:

A Foreign Office whistleblower, formerly a ConHome contributor, exposes the department’s failings over this summer’s Afghanistan crisis

“A whistleblower today exposes how Afghan rescue flights were hampered by a ‘work from home’ culture in Whitehall. The junior civil servant claims that – despite lives being at stake – he was at times the only person dealing with thousands of emails from those desperate to flee the Taliban. Raphael Marshall reveals that soldiers had to be drafted in for desk work in the Foreign Office when officials stayed at home and refused to do overtime. He accuses former foreign secretary Dominic Raab of undermining the rescue efforts by delaying decisions. And he also claims that thousands of pleading emails were opened, but not dealt with, just so that Boris Johnson could tell MPs there were no unread messages.” – Daily Mail

  • Raab took hours to make life or death decisions as he didn’t understand Afghan crisis, whistleblower tells MPs – The Sun
  • How an Afghan reporter was left to the Taliban by the Foreign Office – The Guardian

Editorial:

  • How Foreign Office failed our Afghan allies – Daily Mail

>Today: ToryDiary: My whistleblower godson – and a failure in our duty to Afghans who served Britain

Johnson and Biden set for emergency talks over fears Russia will invade Ukraine

“Boris Johnson and Joe Biden were set for emergency talks last night as fears Russia will invade Ukraine soared. The call between the US and UK, and Nato allies France, Italy and Germany came as the US President warned Vladimir Putin that retaliation with sanctions would be swift if he crossed the border by force. The Russians have massed 70,000 troops on the frontier with Ukraine, with the US claiming they are poised to attempt to annex the former Soviet satellite state. Mr Johnson’s spokesman warned Russia to de-escalate tensions. And the White House said they could even deploy troops to the region in support of Nato. An official promised “additional forces and capabilities and exercises to ensure the safety and security of our eastern flank allies in the face of aggression in Ukraine.”” – The Sun

  • Western leaders plan reprisals – The Times
  • Top Space Force official says China is developing capabilities at ‘twice the rate’ of the US – Daily Mail

More:

  • Drop tariffs on British steel to pave way for ‘all-dancing’ UK-US trade deal, senior minister to tell Biden’s team – The Sun
  • President ‘parroting Brussels’ propaganda’ as Brexit clash threatens to derail talks – Daily Express
  • Hope for end to Brexit fishing wars as UK expected to offer France olive branch – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 1) Omicron cases in UK double every three days

“Omicron infections in Britain are doubling every three days, government scientific advisers believe, causing increasing concern about the speed at which the variant is spreading. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, acknowledged yesterday that the coronavirus variant was being transmitted “across multiple regions” of the country after government scientists warned him they were alarmed about a sudden increase in Omicron cases. Epidemiologists said that Omicron could well become the dominant strain of the virus within Britain in “weeks rather than months” as scientists become increasingly confident that it spreads faster than the Delta variant. Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, who sits on the government’s Nervtag advisory group, said that a useful early measure of Omicron cases “suggests a doubling time of three days or less”.” – The Times

  • Community transmission of Omicron variant confirmed in parts of the UK – FT
  • If you think you’ve got a cold, there’s a good chance it’s Covid – The Times

More:

  • Johnson accused of ‘travel apartheid’ for slinging more African nations on red list – The Sun

Coronavirus 2) Vaccine booster rollout at a standstill despite No 10 pledge to put it ‘on steroids’

“The booster rollout vaccinated fewer people over the weekend than it did before ministers promised to put it “on steroids”, figures showed on Monday. The number of third jabs administered in England was lower last weekend than it was the previous one, when the Prime Minister called for the programme to be accelerated, in order to build defences against the omicron variant. On Monday night, there were accusations that the programme was “stuck in first gear” and fears that further restrictions could be introduced over Christmas unless the programme is accelerated. A blame game began in Whitehall over the speed of the rollout, with sources pointing the finger at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), run by Dr Jenny Harries, saying it was responsible for delays.” – Daily Telegraph

  • May launches furious tongue-lashing at Javid over ‘stop and start’ Covid policy – Daily Express
  • She said an ‘annual vaccine’ was the solution rather than continuing to negatively impact businesses – Daily Mail
  • Johnson can’t rule out snap restrictions as he vows to make decision on Christmas rules within next 10 days – The Sun
  • Over 13,000 operations cancelled due to Covid pandemic – The Times

>Yesterday: Peter Franklin’s column: I’m pro-mask, pro-vax and pro-lockdown (if necessary). But against compulsory vaccination. Here’s why.

Coronavirus 3) Downing Street vows to strike off exploitative PCR test firms

“PCR testing companies found to be exploiting holidaymakers will be struck off the government-approved list, Downing Street has insisted. The prime minister’s spokesman said it was unacceptable that PCR firms were taking advantage of passengers… The travel industry remains bitter that more has not been done to protect people. In September the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) wrote to Sajid Javid, the health secretary, with advice on protecting consumers. Among the problems identified were false claims about how long test results would take to be processed; a failure to provide refunds; bait pricing, when an unrealistically low price is advertised to lure customers to the seller’s website; and drip pricing, when an initial low price is gradually increased during the buying process by way of extra charges.” – The Times

  • At least 46 ‘VIP lane’ PPE deals awarded before formal due diligence in place – The Guardian

Coronavirus 4) Javid ‘ducks Commons questions’ in deepening Downing Street Christmas party row…

“Sajid Javid became the latest senior minister to duck questions over the legality of Downing Street Christmas parties today, as the Government was urged to ‘come clean’ about what happened. Number 10 has not denied that a festive gathering was held in December last year but has claimed that all coronavirus rules in place at the time were complied with.  Parties were banned under Covid restrictions at the time and the Government is yet to explain how the gathering was within the rules. Health Secretary Mr Javid faced questions on the issue as he faced his new shadow Wes Streeting, the MP for Ilford North, in the Commons this afternoon to update MPs about the new Omicron variant.” – Daily Mail

  • Number 10 ‘Christmas party hosted by officials’ – The Times
  • Downing Street ‘intends’ to hold Christmas party, despite hangover from last year – Daily Telegraph

…as he says party drug users are fuelling serious crime

“Sajid Javid has said recreational drug users are fuelling an international criminal enterprise, as the government announced a £780m strategy to rebuild the drug treatment system. The health secretary accused casual users of cocaine of being “the final link in a chain that has suffering, violence and exploitation at every stage”. The government announced on Monday a funding boost for drug treatment services. Its 10-year drug strategy was published after a weekend of briefings focusing on targeting users and suppliers, including gangs behind the so-called county lines phenomenon, in which young, vulnerable people are often turned into cross-country mules… Experts in drug rehabilitation have questioned the government’s decision to focus on so-called dinner party users of drugs and ignore the liberalisation of drug laws.” – The Guardian

  • Reform groups hit out at No10 prison drug strategy – FT

Sajid Javid: By tackling both supply and demand, our strategy will reduce the misery of drugs

“Drugs ruin lives. The street where I grew up in Bristol was the centre of the local drugs trade, and I’ve seen first-hand the destructive impact they can have on people and the communities where they live. Addiction to drugs is thought to be linked to about half of all thefts, burglaries and robberies, and the use of powder cocaine alone drives a criminal market worth about £2bn. People having a line of cocaine may not think that they’re causing anyone harm, or that they’re playing a part in a criminal enterprise, but they are actually the final link in a chain that has suffering, violence and exploitation at every stage. Behind every illicit drug is a human cost: the “county lines” operations that increasingly involve young people, human trafficking and the use of “cuckooing”, where drug dealers target the most vulnerable and use their homes for criminal activity.” – The Guardian

Zahawi vows to get ‘justice for Arthur’ as he announces review of social services

“Nadhim Zahawi today launched a review of how officials dealt with the case of tragic six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, as he said ‘no government can legislate for evil’ but ministers would ‘take action to stop it whenever we can’. The Education Secretary said the review by the National Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel will scrutinise the world of Solihull Children’s Safeguarding Partnerships, while police and probation inspectors would carry out their own linked inspections. The action comes after it emerged in court Arthur had been seen by social workers just two months before his death, but they concluded there were ‘no safeguarding concerns’… Mr Zahawi confirmed a review and targeted inspection will take place as part of efforts to assess why things went ‘horrifyingly wrong and what more could be done to prevent abuse such as this happening again’.” – Daily Mail

  • Heartbreak in Parliament as tear-jerking MPs pay touching tribute – The Sun

High Court backs Johnson over Patel bullying decision

“Boris Johnson interpreted the ministerial code correctly when he decided to stand by UK home secretary Priti Patel over findings that she had bullied civil servants, the High Court ruled on Monday. The First Division Association, a civil servants union, brought a judicial review challenge over the prime minister’s decision last year to override the findings of his own ethics adviser to back Patel. It wanted the High Court to rule that the prime minister “misinterpreted” the term bullying as it is defined in the ministerial code. Johnson is the ultimate arbiter of the code. Johnson backed Patel last November after he rejected the findings of an inquiry headed by Sir Alex Allan, the independent adviser on ministerial interests, which examined allegations that she had bullied civil servants.” – FT

  • Lib Dem candidate forced into grovelling apology after ‘comparing Home Secretary to Goebbels’ – The Sun

Tory rebellion looms over visa fees for Commonwealth veterans who fought for Britain

“A Tory rebellion looms on Tuesday over visa fees charged to Commonwealth veterans who want to stay in Britain after leaving the Armed Forces. Johnny Mercer, the former Conservative defence minister, and Dan Jarvis, the Labour MP, are spearheading a cross-party campaign to scrap the “steep” charges for ex-personnel who want to regularise their immigration status. The two men, who are both British Army veterans themselves, have tabled an amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill on Tuesday that would see the fees lifted for all Commonwealth veterans who have served a minimum of five years in the UK military. It would also remove the fees charged for visas for their spouses and children, which can run to thousands of pounds.” – Daily Telegraph

Many LEPs in England face axe under government levelling up plans

“Ministers are examining plans to scrap many of England’s regional development bodies as part of the delayed policy paper that UK prime minister Boris Johnson hopes will deliver his ‘levelling up’ agenda. Three government officials said “serious conversations” had taken place in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities about scrapping Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), voluntary bodies designed to bring business and council leaders together to help set local economic priorities. A shake-up of the 38 LEPs in England would form part of the long-awaited white paper on how the government intends to deliver its plans to tackle regional inequalities, which was expected before the end of the year. Downing Street said on Monday that it would be published in 2022, with Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, expected to finalise it early in the new year.” – FT

>Today: Richard Holden’s column: Snapped pylons, ice, falling trees – and no power for days on end. Would the Home Counties be treated like this?

>Yesterday:

‘Vague and weak’ policies mean Scotland could miss emission targets

“There is an “acute risk” that Scotland will miss its targets to heavily cut carbon emissions because government policies are too vague and weak, an influential advisory body has warned. The Climate Change Committee, which advises all the UK’s governments on climate policies, said the Scottish government was currently unable to prove how it would hit its ambitious promise to cut CO2 emissions by 75% by the end of the decade. In an unusually critical statement, Lord Deben, the CCC’s chair, said “the credibility of the Scottish climate framework is in jeopardy.” His challenge comes after Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, staked her government’s reputation on a partnership deal with the Scottish Green party in August which commits them to tougher policies on combating climate heating.” – The Guardian

  • Scottish Tories need Johnson to back North Sea oil before the votes can start gushing – Daily Telegraph

News in Brief:

  • The latest ‘crackdown’ on middle-class drug users is all for show – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Why the Number Ten Christmas ‘party’ story matters – Katy Balls, The Spectator
  • Canada’s conservative party must hold together – Ben Woodfinden, The Critic
  • Why Macron is a superman – Blake Smith, UnHerd