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Coronavirus 1) Johnson suffers biggest rebellion of premiership

“Boris Johnson suffered the biggest rebellion of his premiership last night as nearly 100 Conservative MPs voted against plans for Covid passes and some of them openly questioned his future. Almost half of Tory backbenchers voted against new curbs that will require people to show proof of vaccination or a negative test at large indoor venues across England, leaving the prime minister reliant on Labour’s support. The rebellion — which was far bigger than No 10 and the whips expected — came from all wings of the party, including 13 former cabinet ministers and 26 MPs who were elected in 2019. One Tory who was elected a fortnight ago as the MP for Old Bexley & Sidcup was among those who rebelled. A further 17 abstained, including Theresa May, the former prime minister. The mass rebellion occurred despite an appeal by Johnson to backbenchers less than an hour before the vote in which he said that he had “absolutely no choice” but to introduce the measures.” – The Times

  • ‘Boris is in danger’: Clifton-Brown warns Prime Minister will face a leadership challenge next year unless he stabilises his premiership after huge revolt over Covid passes – Daily Mail
  • Rebels turning their fire on Johnson include 13 former Cabinet ministers – and an MP who has only been in the job a month – Daily Mail
  • Vaccine passports will be needed for clubs and stadiums today – The Sun
  • ‘Ministry of Fear’ fails to unnerve Tory vaccine passport rebels – Daily Telegraph
  • Full list of Tory rebels who opposed No 10’s Covid pass plan – Daily Telegraph

Analysis:

Political sketch:

>Yesterday:

Coronavirus 2) Allison Pearson: Rebels? Those who voted against the Government are the true Conservatives

“Please don’t call the MPs who voted against vaccine passports ‘Tory rebels’. In my book, those upstanding men and women are the true Conservatives. Rather, it is those who pushed through this repellently un-British measure, with the help of the Labour Party, who are the traitors to our philosophy. That stirring creed of liberty that trusts grown-ups to make the best decisions for their own families and does not seek to ostracise people for refusing to provide proof of a medical treatment to go to the theatre or the footie. All I can say is, thank God there are people in Parliament who are prepared to take arms against this sea of senselessness, this tsunami of pseudo-scientific scaremongering.” – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 3) Former mayoral hopeful Bailey quits after attending party

“Shaun Bailey, the Conservatives’ former candidate for mayor of London, has resigned as chairman of the London Assembly’s policing committee after The Times revealed that he attended a lockdown-breaking party in December last year. Revellers drank alcohol and danced at the event for Bailey’s campaign team held in the basement of Tory party headquarters. At the time there was a ban on indoor mixing between households in London. After the event, during which a door was damaged, four of Bailey’s campaign staff were disciplined by Conservative Campaign Headquarters. Yesterday the Daily Mirror published a photo showing Bailey, a Tory donor and two dozen people posing next to one another. Bailey had been due to chair today’s police and crime committee but the Conservatives announced that he would be stepping down with immediate effect.” – The Times

  • Lockdown Christmas party photo puts Tories under renewed pressure – FT

Coronavirus 4) Christmas in isolation for more than one million people

“More than a million people are likely to be isolating with Covid-19 on Christmas Day after the chief medical officer for England warned that Omicron was spreading “unbelievably fast”. The scale of infections led to supermarkets warning of more supply chain problems yesterday as they confronted the prospect of mass staff absences. Ministers are also concerned that rising infection rates will result in huge numbers of workers being off sick and disruption rivalling the summer “pingdemic”, even if only those with confirmed coronavirus have to isolate. Yesterday 59,610 cases were confirmed and levels were expected to soon surpass the daily record of 68,053, set in January. At least a fifth of the confirmed cases were attributed to Omicron but health chiefs believe that the true number of infections caused by the variant is far higher than those recorded.” – The Times

  • Omicron ‘sends fewer patients to hospital than Delta variant’ – The Times
  • Thousands left frustrated as jabs and Covid tests run out – The Times
  • Omicron may be no worse than flu, says government adviser – Daily Telegraph
  • Third of people in London have not had any jabs – The Times
  • Lower back pain and ‘scratchy’ throat emerge as symptoms of omicron – Daily Telegraph

Analysis:

  • Does Britain really have 200,000 new Omicron cases a day? – The Times

Coronavirus 5) Pubs, shops and restaurants could be forced to shut in January as Omicron rips through Britain sparking staff shortages

“Pubs, shops and restaurants could be forced to shut in January because so many workers will be off sick with Omicron. In a “bleak” update to Cabinet the PM and chief medical officer Chris Whitty warned the new variant is set to spark staff shortages. They told the meeting – which was held virtually for the first time in months due to the spread of the strain – things are looking “very bad”. The pair said that even on “the most conservative” estimates the virus is set to unleash a tidal wave of new cases and hospitalisations. And questions were raised about how long vaccine passports can keep venues open, even if they are extended to bars and restaurants.Prof Whitty is said to have warned that hospitals could be overwhelmed in just four weeks by Omicron. The behind closed doors remarks will raise fears of a staff shortages worse than those caused by the “Pingdemic” earlier this year.” – The Sun

  • Nightmare before Christmas as businesses warn of lockdown by stealth – Daily Telegraph

Coronavirus 6) Virus keeps quarter of a million pupils off school in England

“A quarter of a million pupils in England are absent because of Covid as schools struggle to cope in the last week of term. Half of staff are off in some schools as head teachers said the new wave had caused chaos across the country. They said this morning that some parents were choosing to keep children off school because they were so concerned about the Omicron variant. Schools are cancelling nativities and end-of-term, concerts and some are struggling to keep teaching with widespread absence of staff and children. The latest figures, relating to last Thursday, show 236,000 pupils were off for Covid-related reasons from state schools in England. Cases are expected to have increased since then. Total attendance was 88.9 per cent, down from 89.3 per cent a fortnight earlier and 91.5 per cent a month ago. Covid-related absence was 2.9 per cent, up from 2.6 per cent a fortnight ago and 1.6 per cent two weeks before that.” – The Times

  • Schools drawing up plans to stay shut in January as Omicron fears grow – The Times

Comment:

Campaigners demand change for social services after Johnson says little Star Hobson’s murder is ‘shocking and heartbreaking’

“Campaigners today led calls for a dramatic overhaul of the UK’s social services system following the horrific killing of little Star Hobson. The 16-month-old was murdered by her mother Frankie Smith’s girlfriend Savannah Brockhill after suffering months of abuse in her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire during the Covid lockdown last year. Star’s great-grandfather branded Brockhill, 28, ‘pure evil’ and ‘ascended from the bowels of hell’, while Smith, 20, cried as she was convicted of causing or allowing the toddler’s death at Bradford Crown Court today. Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the case ‘shocking and heartbreaking’, adding on Twitter: ‘We must protect children from these barbaric crimes and ensure lessons are learned.’ And Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi vowed: ‘We will never hesitate to take robust steps to prevent tragic cases like this happening’.” – Daily Mail

Analysis:

  • How lockdown helped Star Hobson’s murderer carry on attacking toddler, despite family’s warnings – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

Raab’s human rights proposals will make it harder for stars to gag press

“Celebrities will find it harder to secure an injunction under the government’s plans to overhaul human rights laws. A document setting out proposals by Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, to replace the Human Rights Act (HRA) with a bill of rights includes plans to strengthen provisions protecting freedom of expression. Under the proposals, an individual would have to meet a higher threshold when claiming that their right to privacy had been breached in order to be granted an injunction, stopping a newspaper revealing details of their private life. To gain an injunction at present a claimant must satisfy a judge that in a trial it would be “likely” that publication would be prohibited. The government’s consultation document, published yesterday, did not detail what the higher threshold would entail but sources suggested that it would be raised from “likely” to “highly likely”.” – The Times

Ministers unveil proposals that could raise retirement age to 68, seven years sooner than previously announced

“Millions of Britons born in the 1970s could have to wait longer to retire under plans being discussed by ministers. An increase in the state retirement age to 68 could be brought forward by seven years, in a radical overhaul of the system. A review announced by the Department for Work and Pensioners on Tuesday will consider whether workers should wait until 68 to collect their state pensions from 2037 – rather than 2044 as currently set out in law. Led by Tory peer Baroness Neville-Rolfe, it will examine whether the benefit should be paid based on life expectancy, including ‘differences across countries and regions’ – meaning that people in deprived areas could get their state pensions earlier than those in affluent ones because they are likely to die sooner.” – Daily Mail

  • Pension may be paid earlier in areas with lower life expectancy – The Times

The EU 1) Patel’s new rule is a blow for EU citizens who live in Britain

“More than two million EU citizens face a fresh hurdle to living and working in Britain — and could even face deportation — after a decision by Priti Patel to make them reapply to stay in the country permanently. Under the Brexit withdrawal agreement, the government agreed to let all EU citizens living in Britain to remain either through granting them “settled status” or “pre-settled status” if they could not prove they had been continuously living in Britain for five years. Now, however, the Home Office has ruled that the 2.3 million people who currently have pre-settled status will need to reapply for settled status at the end of the five-year period for which they have been granted a right to remain. Anyone who fails to apply in time would lose rights to work, access housing and benefits and could be liable to removal from the country.” – The Times

The EU 2 European Commission threatens to block Britain’s attempts to reform the Human Rights Act by threatening to rip-up key part of the Brexit deal

“Eurocrats could scupper Britain’s plans to reform the Human Rights Act by threatening to rip up a key part of the Brexit deal that deals with fighting cross-border crime. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, a long-time opponent of the legislation, wants a Bill of Rights to stop ‘vexatious’ bids by foreign criminals to avoid deportation. It would also ensure British rulings take precedence over those from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. But the European Commission warned that the move could spell the end for a pact between Britain and Brussels to cooperate on crime. In a statement, the Commission said: ‘Security cooperation can be suspended in case of violations by the UK of its commitment for continued adherence to the European Convention of Human Rights and its domestic enforcement.'” – Daily Mail

Atherton quits over treatment of female troops

“A Conservative MP who led an inquiry into the military’s treatment of women resigned as a ministerial aide to vote against the government. Sarah Atherton, who left school at 16 and signed up for the army, serving in the Intelligence Corps, disagreed with ministers over whether the most serious charges facing troops, including rape and sexual assault, should be removed from military courts into the civilian system. The Wrexham MP was one of four Tories who voted against the government on the issue when the Armed Forces Bill was brought before the Commons on December 6. As a result she had to resign her position as parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to the Foreign Office and the Government Equalities Office after less than three months in the post.” – The Times

Harry Dunn’s family don’t want to see Anne Sacoolas in British jail

“The American woman accused of killing Harry Dunn in a car crash should serve any jail sentence in the United States if she is convicted at her forthcoming trial in London, his family has said. An adviser to Dunn’s parents said it would “break their hearts” if Anne Sacoolas were separated from her family after pleading guilty or being convicted over their son’s death. The 19-year-old motorcyclist died in a collision with a car driven by Sacoolas in Northamptonshire nearly three years ago. Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, voiced their view amid uncertainty over whether Sacoolas would appear via video link to face a charge of causing death by dangerous driving. The offence carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.” – The Times

Welsh government accused of erasing biological sex from school curriculum

“The Welsh government has been accused of attempting to erase biological sex from the education curriculum after publishing draft guidance that makes no mention of the terms male or female. The Relationships and Sexuality Education Code, which also did not explicitly reference “boys” or “girls”, is due to be debated for 30 minutes in the Senedd today, before becoming mandatory teaching for children aged three to six. “This is not fact-based biologically accurate sex education, but indoctrination of children in gender identity ideology,” said Stephanie Davies-Arai of the Transgender Trend campaign group. “The erasure of sex undermines safeguarding and erodes the concepts of privacy, boundaries and consent, putting girls particularly at risk.”” – The Times

Comment:

  • J.K. Rowling has been miscast as a modern-day witch for challenging the trans dogma but for me she must be 2021’s most inspirational person, Sarah Vine – Daily Mail
  • To think you can undermine women’s rights and disappear JK Rowling is magical thinking, Suzanne Moore – Daily Telegraph

News in brief: