Published:

Take a Covid test to see family, says Johnson

“Boris Johnson has urged people to test themselves before meeting relatives for Christmas as he ruled out new Covid-19 restrictions this week. The prime minister left a big question mark over new year celebrations as he said he could not rule out “further measures” next week, pledging to do “whatever it takes to protect public health”. Johnson said there was not enough evidence yet to justify restrictions but with key data expected this week and next, he put England on notice for post-Christmas restrictions if the numbers worsen. The decision leaves millions of families free to travel in the coming days, and ministers are urging people to use rapid tests to minimise spread of the virus. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, also confirmed that isolation for Covid cases would be cut from ten to seven days, as long as people had negative lateral flow tests on days six and seven.” – The Times

  • Prime Minister brings glad tidings for Christmas (but perhaps not New Year) – Daily Telegraph
  • Don’t send out New Year’s Eve party invites yet minister warns – The Sun
  • Crackdown: ‘indoor mixing capped and pubs outside only’ – Daily Mail
  • Isolation periods cut from 10 to seven days as ‘test to release’ introduced – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • First Minister cancels Hogmanay celebrations – Daily Telegraph
  • Scottish business leaders blast Sturgeon after she brings in new Covid curbs – Daily Mail
  • Welsh face ‘outrageous’ £60 fine for going into the office – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday:

Dodds rules out detailing Labour’s Covid plan as she slams Boris Johnson over ‘uncertain’ new restrictions

“Labour refused to set out a plan to tackle Omicron yesterday while criticising Boris Johnson for failing to outline new restrictions. Despite minutes from the Sage group being published last week, party chairman Anneliese Dodds said the opposition needed more information. In an interview on Sky yesterday, Miss Dodds was asked whether Labour would have followed scientific advice to introduce new restrictions… She criticised the Government for not having made a decision as to new restrictions, adding: ‘We all expected they would use that information to take a decision to provide some certainty. They haven’t done that.’ Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told Times Radio he wouldn’t back a circuit breaker as he did in autumn last year, because hospitalisations are ‘different’ to levels last year.” – Daily Mail

Sunak’s £6,000 grants ‘border on insulting’, say hospitality bosses

“Businesses have hit back at Rishi Sunak over fresh support measures to tackle the spread of omicron, saying the £1bn package doesn’t go far enough. The Government will provide one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England. Other measures include the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and further funding released through the Culture Recovery Fund. But Michael Kill, head of the Night Time Industries Association, said the support was “far too little and borders on the insulting”. Tim Rumney, chief executive of Best Western Hotels, added: “Rishi’s support is like a dud cracker on Christmas day. It’s just so disappointing and underwhelming in every sense.”” – Daily Telegraph

  • Chancellor offers one-off grants to companies hit hard by Omicron coronavirus variant – FT
  • Unions demand support for workers – The Times
  • Sunak warns of ‘enormous amount of uncertainty’ – The Sun
  • London’s shopping streets are almost deserted with theatres and restaurants empty – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Phoebe Arslanagić-Wakefield in Think Tanks: The pandemic has shown why Britain needs domestic abuse leave

Lockdown party inquiry could expand to cover No 10 garden event

“Bereaved families have accused Boris Johnson of showing “flagrant disregard” for the public as ministers struggled to explain the justification for a wine and cheese event in Downing Street at the height of lockdown. A Cabinet Office inquiry into other alleged government parties in breach of Covid rules could be expanded after the Guardian published an image showing the prime minister alongside his wife and up to 17 staff in the Downing Street garden in May 2020. Amid growing fury over the photograph, Johnson said on Monday: “Those were meetings of people at work, talking about work.” Labour dismissed Downing Street’s explanation and said it amounted to evidence of law-breaking. The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group said the lack of any signs of work, with red wine and a cheeseboard visible rather than laptops or pens, showed Johnson “presided over a culture of believing that the rules applied only to other people”.” – The Guardian

  • Met refers itself to police watchdog over handling of Downing Street Christmas party allegations – Daily Telegraph
  • Eight burning questions raised by that Downing Street garden photo – The Guardian

Libertarian Tory leadership rivals just look ‘pathetic’, say Prime Minister’s allies

“Allies of Boris Johnson have turned on “pathetic” leadership rivals, accusing them of using a cabinet debate on coronavirus restrictions to position themselves to succeed him. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has been accused of “desperate” self-promotion by talking up her opposition to new rules while others in government predict that Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and others will “look like morons” if deteriorating data forces new restrictions. Several ministers including Truss have let it be known that they opposed tightening coronavirus rules, to the surprise of colleagues who say they did not speak out in cabinet. “It’s amazing how many people seem to have spoken up who didn’t actually say anything,” one senior Downing Street source said. The jockeying for position in government is a reflection of Johnson’s weakness after a series of setbacks in recent weeks that have led to Tory MPs openly questioning his position as prime minister.” – The Times

  • The likely contenders in a future Conservative party leadership contest – FT
  • Tory poll rating at lowest since Johnson prorogued parliament – The Times

>Today:

Danny Finkelstein: Staging a coup against Johnson is not so easy

“Something similar is happening now with predictions of the demise of Johnson. A compelling narrative about the imminence of his exit can lead us to get carried away. It can lead us to ignore the big number, to forget how rare and difficult it is for prime ministers to be removed by their own parties. Before I start I want to emphasise a couple of things. This article is not saying that Johnson will survive all his troubles. There is a substantial chance he will be deposed. And it does not discuss whether he should be deposed. I didn’t want him to be Conservative leader in the first place. But you can’t make an objective assessment of what will happen based on a subjective view of what should happen.” – The Times

>Today: Daniel Hannan’s column: Don’t write off Johnson

Truss ‘threatens to rip up Ulster deal’ if EU insists on ECJ judges getting final say in trade rows

“Liz Truss warned Brussels that she will rip up the Brexit deal for Northern Ireland unless Eurocrats strip European judges of having the final say in future trade spats. The Foreign Secretary said Britain’s position on the Northern Ireland protocol ‘has not changed’ after talks with European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic. ‘We need goods to flow freely between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, end the role of the ECJ [European Court of Justice] as the final arbiter of disputes between us, and resolve other issues,’ she said. ‘If this does not happen, we remain prepared to trigger Article 16 safeguards to deal with the very real problems faced in Northern Ireland.’ Her words came after she arrived at the Foreign Office yesterday wearing a fur coat and blue face mask emblazoned with the logo for The Beatles Story exhibition in Liverpool.” – Daily Mail

  • Foreign secretary stands by London’s softer line on protocol after talks with EU negotiator – FT
  • EU ‘won’t accept’ delegation of negotiations to a junior minister – Daily Express
  • She warns Brussels that triggering Article 16 ‘remains an option’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Truss told pay EU £15bn and ‘strike deal urgently’ on science – Daily Express

Comment:

  • Ulster gives the Foreign Secretary a chance to prove her leadership credentials – Henry Hill, Daily Telegraph

Patel tells police to do more to protect freedom of speech after landmark court ruling in ‘transphobic’ tweets case

“Police investigating hate crime allegations will have to follow new rules in a bid to protect free speech, Priti Patel announced last night. The Home Secretary pledged to introduce a code of practice regarding how details are stored when no crime is found to have been committed. It comes after former policeman Harry Miller this week won a landmark Court of Appeal challenge. He had been investigated over allegedly ‘transphobic’ posts on Twitter – later recorded by police as a ‘non-crime hate incident’. After a two-year legal fight, a panel of senior judges ruled current police rules breached Mr Miller’s freedom of expression rights. Now, Miss Patel will table an amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to govern how forces store personal data in relation to similar incidents.” – Daily Mail

  • Government’s approach to trans rights has ‘caused real distress’, MPs say – The Guardian

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The Miller judgment – another blow against hate crime legislation

Afriyie failed to declare his role in drug company

“A senior Conservative MP who lobbied parliament about medical cannabis failed to declare his chairmanship of a distribution company for the drug, The Times can reveal. Elite Growth announced that Adam Afriyie, the MP for Windsor, would take on the role on October 22. However, no record of his involvement with the company has been disclosed on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests in the last four of its editions for November 1, 15 and 29, or most recently for December 13. This absence raises questions as to whether he may have broken Commons rules, which state a member must notify within 28 days any change in their registrable interests if they consider “that it might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions or words as a member in the same way as a financial interest”.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • How the BBC lost its way on Covid – Charlie Walsham, The Spectator
  • More Marxism than Methodism – Rakib Ehsan, The Critic
  • The Democrats are more dangerous than ever – Oliver Wiseman, UnHerd
  • A silver lining to Mark Drakeford’s abysmal pandemic performance – Lauren McEvatt, CapX