Johnson calls in military to stem flow of migrants…

“Boris Johnson will put the military in charge of stemming the number of boats crossing the Channel as part of an attempt to save his premiership. Plans are also being drawn up to send migrants to countries such as Ghana and Rwanda for processing and resettlement in a move to tackle the small boats crisis. The prime minister will give the Royal Navy “primacy” over all government vessels in the Channel this month in one of a series of populist announcements as he faces pressure to quit over Downing Street parties. A rear admiral will have the power to direct Border Force, coastguard, fisheries protection and customs and excise to carry out surveillance or intercept those crossing the Channel.” – The Times

… as he’s grilled by Sue Gray over Downing Street parties

“Boris Johnson has been questioned by Sue Gray over “partygate” allegations, Whitehall sources have told The Telegraph, as new signs of a Tory grassroots backlash emerged. The Prime Minister is understood to have shared what he knows with Ms Gray, the civil servant overseeing the investigation into alleged parties at Downing Street during lockdown, ahead of publication of the report as early as this week. Downing Street is already planning its response to the findings, with the promise to overhaul a “drinking culture” in Number 10 and the departure of senior figures expected.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Advisers could face sack as Johnson battles to stay in No 10 – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson denies aides warned him about garden party – The Times
  • Sunak stays silent as Cabinet ministers back PM in Tories’ ‘Operation Save Big Dog’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Carrie Johnson admits she broke rules – The Times
  • Tories dismiss Johnson’s plan for a Downing Street clearout – The Times
  • PM draws up survival plan as calls to quit grow louder – FT

Nick Timothy: Can the Prime Minister change, or do the Tories need to change prime minister?

“Conservative MPs face a decision. Do they stick with the Prime Minister – whom most voters, most Conservative voters, and most Conservative members believe has lied about breaching Covid rules – or do they force him out of office? There is an uneasy peace in Westminster, a phony war, as ministers and backbenchers and the few diehard Johnsonites await the publication of the Sue Gray report. But whether they want the Prime Minister to stay or go, or if they cannot make up their minds, the conversation is about one topic only: how can Boris Johnson survive? Government insiders expect Gray to reveal more breaches of Covid rules, mainly by civil servants, than those reported to date.” – Daily Telegraph


Starmer: My office beer doesn’t compare to Downing Street parties

“Sir Keir Starmer has insisted that a picture of him drinking beer in an office does not compare to the parties in Downing Street, as he accused Boris Johnson of lying and breaking the law. The Labour leader repeatedly denied allegations that he broke lockdown rules after an image emerged of him taken last year holding a bottle and chatting to a woman when the country was at that time in step two of the roadmap out of the third lockdown. The photo, below, which was taken days before the Hartlepool by-election, is of Sir Keir and a woman who is thought to be the Labour MP Mary Foy in her Durham constituency office. When asked by the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme if he was breaking step two rules in place at the time, Sir Keir said: “It was not a breach of the rules.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tory MPs ask what is the difference between Labour leader’s beer with colleagues and Prime Minister’s Downing St ‘work event’ – Daily Mail


  • Can Starmer win by being as ‘un-Boris’ as possible? – The Times


BBC warns Dorries will plunge it into a ‘spiral of decline’ by declaring end to licence fee

“Nadine Dorries has declared an end to the BBC licence fee, prompting the corporation to accuse her of plunging the broadcaster into a “spiral of decline”. In a war between the Culture Secretary and the BBC, Ms Dorries posted on social media that the next announcement about the licence fee “will be the last”. She is expected to say in the coming week that the fee will be frozen at £159 until April 2024. She has further indicated that a new funding model will be found by 2027, when the Royal Charter is up for renewal. The breakdown in funding negotiations has caused deep anger. One senior source close to the BBC Board warned that Ms Dorries was “profoundly damaging” the corporation, with a deal that would force “well loved” dramas to be scrapped and the World Service to be pared back.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson accused of targeting BBC to save his premiership – The Guardian


Coronavirus 1) Treasury writes off £4.3 billion lost to fraud

“The Treasury expects to recover only £1 of every £4 stolen from the public purse by fraudsters during the pandemic, it has admitted for the first time. The department has written off £4.3 billion of £5.8 billion that was stolen from its emergency Covid-19 schemes that propped up swathes of the workforce during successive lockdowns, including the furlough scheme, the self-employed income support programme and Eat Out to Help Out. This means that a maximum of only 26 per cent of money unlawfully taken from the Treasury will be recovered. The figures, which were contained in documents quietly published on the HMRC website last week, represent the first time Rishi Sunak’s department has put a number on how much it expects its new £100 million 1,265-strong anti-fraud taskforce to get back from Covid-19 scammers.” – The Times

  • Gove attacks abuse of Covid grants by property owners flipping holiday homes for rentals – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 2) ‘Optimistic’ Dowden hints curbs will be lifted on January 26 as Javid believes the ‘data is moving in the right direction’

“Oliver Dowden today gave a firm hint that Plan B restrictions will be lifted in England on January 26 as he said the latest coronavirus data ‘seems to be heading in the right direction’. The chairman of the Conservative Party said the numbers relating to Covid infections and hospitalisations are now ‘very promising’. Mr Dowden said it has ‘always been my hope that we would have the Plan B restrictions for the shortest period possible’ and he is ‘very hopeful and optimistic’ that curbs will be eased before the end of the month. However, he cautioned that the Government will ‘await the data at the point of the decision before making that final decision’. There is a growing expectation in Westminster that Boris Johnson will lift Plan B measures when they are reviewed on January 26.” – Daily Mail

  • UK Covid update says masks will stay but vaccine passports face axe – The Times


Coronavirus 3) Self-isolation law set to be scrapped in favour of move towards ‘learning to live with virus’

“People will no longer be legally bound to self-isolate when they catch Covid-19 under plans being drawn up by Downing Street to learn to live with coronavirus in the long-term. The Telegraph understands Boris Johnson wants to permanently repeal emergency coronavirus laws which have governed how the public can live for almost two years. Instead, official guidance would remain in place which encourages people to behave in certain ways, but would not result in fines or legal punishment if ignored. The plans will be worked up over the coming weeks, with an announcement being penned in as early as the spring – although no final decisions have been taken.” – Daily Telegraph

News in brief: