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Covid 1) Restrictions set in law until March

“New Covid rules on self-isolation have been enshrined in law until March, as Tory MPs warned Boris Johnson that restricting freedoms was a path “towards hell”. The regulations forcing people to isolate for 10 days if they come into contact with someone who has the omicron variant or risk a fine of up to £10,000 – even if they are fully vaccinated – will not expire until March 24, under legislation passed by the Commons on Tuesday. The measure prompted a major revolt of 33 Tory MPs, including former Conservative cabinet ministers Greg Clark, Jeremy Wright and Esther McVey, as well as Mark Harper, the former chief whip. Tory MPs warned the self-isolation rules could lead to a new “pingdemic” that could result in healthy people being fined if they leave their homes.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Europe’s populists eye opportunity in never-ending pandemic – Financial Times
  • Masks aren’t a minor inconvenience. They’re dehumanising and controlling – Philip Johnston, Daily Telegraph
  • Councils lack resources to track Omicron, UK health chiefs warn – Financial Times
  • There is a disconcerting sense of deja vu – Leader, Daily Telegraph
  • Temporary measures need to be taken to hedge our bets – Leader, The Times
  • The public may be ahead of the PM in backing more restrictions – Leader, The Guardian

>Today: Columnist Robert Halfon: Distracted by Covid, policymakers run the risk of creating a mental health epidemic in schools

>Yesterday: David Skelton on Comment: A mask mandate is a proportionate response until we know more about Omicron

Covid 2) Johnson to “throw everything” at vaccination campaign

“More than 23 million people will be able to book booster jabs by the end of next month as Boris Johnson promised to “throw everything” at the Covid-19 vaccination campaign to protect against the Omicron variant. Every adult in England will be able to book a booster jab by the end of January, the prime minister promised last night, as he said it was “time for another great British vaccination effort”. Newly eligible people will not be able to book in until next week as the NHS calls in the army and tens of thousands of volunteers for a huge expansion of vaccination capacity.” – The Times

  • Army to be drafted in – Daily Mail
  • Swiss help skiers by ditching quarantine rules on transit trips – The Times
  • The Government repudiates call from the head of the UK’s Health Security Agency to cut socialising – The Sun
  •  One Grinch is determined to kill Britain’s festive spirit, Dr Jenny Harries – Leader, The Sun 

The Times follows up Rees-Mogg’s criticism of former civil service chiefs on Conservative Home…

“Jacob Rees-Mogg has criticised “well-paid” former civil service chiefs over their demands that Boris Johnson tighten up sleaze rules. All five living former cabinet secretaries wrote to The Times this month calling on the government to strengthen standards rules to make it harder for ministers to “cheat” the system. “The prime minister has a democratic mandate and you cannot hand that over to a bureaucracy,” Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, said. “I would challenge this idea that independent bodies of non-elected people are ipso facto more high-minded, more honest than elected people…You see, I would rather things are determined by those who are accountable rather than those who have deemed themselves to be saintly.” Speaking on his Conservative Home podcast, The Moggcast, Rees-Mogg added: “If an independent regulator does not like the behaviour of somebody the prime minister has appointed, to whom is that regulator accountable? Nobody.” – The Times

…while the Daily Mail follows up the Conservative Home survey which found Johnson’s popularity among the Tory membership slipping into the red

“Boris Johnson’s popularity among Conservative Party members has dipped into the red for only the second time since the 2019 general election, according to a new survey. A ‘Cabinet league table’ poll of the Tory grassroots conducted by the Conservative Home website gives Mr Johnson a net satisfaction rating of minus 17.2. The Prime Minister is second from bottom on the list, with Chief Whip Mark Spencer the only member of the Cabinet to perform worse on minus 21.1…Conservative Home conducts a survey of Tory members every month to measure the popularity of the Cabinet.” – Daily Mail

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

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Our Cabinet League Table. Johnson is back in negative ratings.

Trump criticises Johnson’s support for wind power

“Boris Johnson is “making a big mistake” by trying to turn the UK into the Saudi Arabia of wind, Donald Trump has said. The former US president said that wind farms were “horrible”, “ridiculous”, “kill all the birds” and “start to rust” after a couple of years. They were only backed by environmentalists “who hate the world”, he said. Mr Trump also took aim at a wind farm sited just off the coast of Aberdeen where he owns the Trump International Golf Links, describing it as a “shame” and the windmills as “monsters” in an interview with Nigel Farage on GB News on Wednesday.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Former US President also claims Markle ‘disrespected’ The Queen – Daily Mail
  • Trump: Republicans are begging to serve as my vice-president – The Times

Migrants 1) 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.” – The Sun

  • Raab says ‘too many’ violent prisoners released – The Times
  • Patel maps diplomatic tour of Europe to solve migrant crisis – The Times

Migrants 2) MPs warn Patel turning back boats would increase danger

“UK plans to turn back people attempting to cross the Channel are dangerous and probably unlawful, MPs have warned. Home Secretary Priti Patel said last week the tactic would help deter smuggling gangs, following the deaths of 27 people in a small boat. The Joint Committee on Human Rights is urging Ms Patel to scrap the policy. The Home Office said it could not comment on border security tactics to avoid giving an advantage to organised crime groups.” – BBC

No investigation into Cox

“Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Cox says he will not be investigated over accusations he used his Commons office for legal work. MPs cannot use public resources, including parliamentary offices, for “personal or financial benefit”. But the former Attorney General was pictured in September in a virtual meeting representing the British Virgin Islands government, from what appeared to be his Commons office. Labour had reported it to the Standards Commissioner. Sir Geoffrey said there would be no further action, confirming to BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme that the Commissioner, Kathryn Stone, had declined to open an investigation.” – BBC

Labour reshuffle 1) Starmer risks new clash with Rayner

“Sir Keir Starmer risks a fresh clash with his deputy after giving Yvette Cooper a new role relating to the future of work. The Labour leader’s reshuffle was held up on Monday over a request from Cooper that she be given a role relating to the “digital future” as well as shadowing the home secretary, Priti Patel. Cooper’s extra responsibility will build on research she has been conducting from the back benches about technology in the labour market and the changing nature of employment, raising the possibility of cutting across Angela Rayner’s role as shadow secretary of state for the future of work.” – The Times

  • Labour leader can’t escape his Remainer past – Tom Harris, Daily Telegraph
  • Changes represent a ‘move towards the voters’, says Streeting – The Guardian

>Yesterday: Left Watch: Starmer’s reshuffle shows that Labour is still talking to itself

Labour reshuffle 2) Finkelstein: Keep up the fight against the Left

“Given the choice he has made, fights with the left are an opportunity for him, but not just any old fight. They must be fights that people imagine he might lose, otherwise nobody will pay any attention. Yet under no circumstances can he actually lose them because that would be a disaster, suggesting he is weak and the left is still in control of the party. Tony Blair’s battle to abolish Clause IV was an example of an exquisitely chosen battle. It looked like he really could lose but he knew he wouldn’t. Preventing Corbyn from being a candidate might fulfil a similar purpose but only if Starmer doesn’t fold.” – Daniel Finkelstein, The Times

  • Labour rightwingers are back in control. Are they up to the task? – Owen Jones, The Guardian
  • Sir Keir has strengthened his top team by introducing experienced and accomplished performers – Leader, The Guardian

Truss: Russia will pay a high price if it invades Ukraine

“Together with our Nato allies, we are making clear that any incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a huge strategic mistake. The UK stands ready to use all diplomatic and economic levers at our disposal to avoid such an outcome and impose a high cost should it occur. We cannot, and will not, look the other way while Russia builds up troops on the borders of Ukraine and undermines neighbours like Georgia. Russia is waging a campaign of economic coercion against European friends to undermine them by exploiting their reliance on its gas. We also cannot let Russia wash its hands of the shameful migrant crisis whipped up by Belarus, as it has a clear responsibility to play its part in ending the stalemate.” – Liz Truss, Daily Mail

Hill: Sturgeon knows her time has passed

“Every year, Sturgeon tells her supporters that the next great push for independence is just around the corner. It never comes to pass. Nor will it, unless a general election in 2023 somehow delivers a government at Westminster prepared to grant a legal referendum. She knows why a Catalan-style wildcat referendum is a bad idea. Even if the courts don’t block it (and it would only take a private citizen in Scotland to file the suit, not the UK Government), Unionists would simply boycott it.” – Henry Hill, Daily Telegraph

  • Drakeford’s Labour-Plaid deal ‘moves towards independence’ – Daily Express

Heseltine: The PM is “lurching from crisis to crisis”

“When Boris Johnson ran against Jeremy Corbyn to become UK prime minister in the 2019 election he would often criticise the ageing left-winger for his nationalisation plans. “What we won’t be doing is some crackpot scheme that would involve many, many tens of billions of taxpayers’ money nationalising a British business,” Johnson said at the time. Yet, under Johnson, the British government has taken an interventionist approach to struggling industries on multiple occasions. The latest example came last week when the prime minister approved the regulator’s £1.7bn bailout of Bulb, Britain’s seventh biggest energy company….Michael Heseltine, former Tory deputy prime minister, said there appeared to be no coherent approach. “He [Johnson] is lurching from crisis to crisis.” – Financial Times

News in brief

  • Fighting the virus – John Redwood
  • A new ‘Woke Code’ for MPs would be terrible for democracy – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Zemmour’s campaign launch painted a dark vision of France – Gavin Mortimer, The Spectator
  • Why don’t we care about twentieth century traditional buildings? – Nicholas Boys Smith, The Critic
  • Starmer’s reshuffle gives the public a chance to look again at Labour – Emma Burnell, The Article