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Parties 1) Gray felt “completely blindsided” by new revelations

“Boris Johnson has been warned by cabinet ministers that he is in the “last chance saloon” after Downing Street was forced to apologise to the Queen over new allegations of lockdown parties. Dozens of aides and officials were at two drunken parties in No 10 the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April last year, when the Queen was forced to sit alone. The Times has been told that Sue Gray, a senior civil servant who is overseeing an investigation into the parties, felt “completely blindsided” by the revelations. She is concerned that Downing Street staff are deliberately concealing information about parties held at No 10.” – The Times

  • Boozy culture where Downing Street staff slept off hangovers on sofas – The Times
  • Labour takes a ten point lead in Savanta ComRes poll – Daily Express
  • YouGov has Labour eight points ahead – The Times
  • “Mounting fury” from grassroots Tories – The Guardian
  • Woman who “wrote government Covid rules” held “boozy” party during Christmas restrictions – Daily Telegraph
  • Did nobody at Downing Street ask: “Er, what if we get caught?” – Jeremy Clarkson, The Sun

>Today: ToryDiary: Over half of our panel of Party members want Johnson to resign now

Parties 2) MPs inboxes “fill up”

“Hundreds of angry constituents have been contacting Tory MPs about reports of parties being held in Downing Street while Covid restrictions were in place. Some MPs say their inboxes have filled up after No 10 apologised to the Queen for two staff parties the night before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. One former minister told the BBC Boris Johnson was “toast”, and another said the situation now feels “terminal.” The government has urged people to reserve judgement for an inquiry.” – BBC

  • What’s a PM to do when even kids joke about his future? – Laura Kuenssberg, BBC
  • The mood in Sutton Coldfield and Dudley North – Daily Telegraph
  • The view from Swindon – Financial Times
  • Hague says Johnson’s future is “in the balance” – The Times

Parties 3) Starmer accused of hypocrisy

“Senior Tories have accused Sir Keir Starmer of being an ‘absolute hypocrite’ over the Downing Street party row. Sir Keir has slammed Boris Johnson over revelations about Covid rule-busting events in Number 10 and has called on the Prime Minister to resign. But Tory figures have criticised Sir Keir, highlighting a picture of the Labour leader from last year which appeared to show him drinking a beer while chatting to party staff indoors. The image re-emerged as Downing Street apologised to Buckingham Palace after it emerged parties were held in Number 10 the day before the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral last year.” – Daily Mail

  • Labour leader vows ‘great renewal’ of NHS in bid to make Labour a vote winner – The Guardian
  • Gary Neville joins Labour and considers move into politics – The Guardian

Parties 4) Opperman declares that the PM “needs to change his ways”

“A minister whose baby twins died during the pandemic says Boris Johnson “needs to change his ways”, following a string of revelations about drinks parties at No 10 during lockdown. Guy Opperman said that in May 2020 – when the PM attended a garden party – he could not visit his wife and sons in hospital due to Covid rules. His twins Rafe and Teddy died shortly afterwards. But Mr Opperman told the BBC that Boris Johnson should stay in post.” – BBC

Parties 5) Moore: Johnson “has a way of surviving and reviving”

“I realise that gratitude is not a strong emotion in politics, and the polls are bad now, but Tory MPs should at least recognise that such skills are not easily replicated. The leading contenders if Boris falls – Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss and Michael Gove – are all able politicians, but none has exhibited anything like Boris’s reach. This man has come close to political death before – when Michael Gove denounced him after the referendum and when he failed as Foreign Secretary. He has also come close to actual death – when he got Covid in the early days of the plague. But he has a way of surviving and reviving. These skills deserve respect from the party he leads.” – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

  • ‘Partygate’ should prove fatal for a malevolent, cavalier Boris Johnson – Camilla Cavendish, Financial Times
  • Tory MPs should listen to their constituents and their conscience – Leader, Financial Times

Parties 6) Parris: Brexiteers close to concluding the PM’s usefulness to them has passed

“My guess is that the real arbiters of Johnson’s fate are the ideological right wing among his Commons colleagues. They’re close to concluding — but have not quite yet concluded — that his usefulness to them has passed. Johnson was chosen to get Brexit done. But parliamentary crusaders for leaving the European Union have never really accepted him as one of their own. They know his identification with their cause was opportunistic, a route to Downing Street…Foremost among the reasons they wanted Brexit was that this would give Britain the freedom to depart the European regulatory orbit. David (Lord) Frost’s resignation as Johnson’s Brexit minister is a highly significant telltale of the way the wind is blowing among this group.” – Matthew Parris, The Times

Plan B restrictions “to be lifted”

“Boris Johnson is set to lift Plan B Covid restrictions as he plots a leadership fightback in the wake of mounting allegations of lockdown-breaching parties. Covid passports and work from home guidance are widely expected inside Whitehall to be lifted from Jan 26 for England, with an announcement as soon as this week, though some rules on face masks may remain. Scientists appear to have provided evidence that offers support for the change, as modelling included in new Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) documents suggests that restrictions would make little difference to hospital admissions.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Face masks in schools “could be ditched before January 26th” – The Sun
  • As the Omicron wave recedes, the challenge is to learn to live with Covid-19 – Leader, The Times
  • Cases fall across UK – The Times
  • Scientists caution against dropping curbs too soon – Financial Times
  • Drakeford says all Welsh Government restrictions to go “in two weeks” – Wales Online
  • Scottish Ministers “unlawfully kept second wave death and case predictions secret” – The Scotsman

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Spare a thought for those on zero-hour contracts as you mull the downside of restrictions

MI5 outed Chinese spy over fears she was ‘grooming’ rising MPs

“At one prominent Conservative Party fundraising event, organised by a parliamentary candidate, Ms Lee attended along with Boris Johnson, who at the time was foreign secretary. A Whitehall source said: “Barry Gardiner was yesterday’s man. The great worry was she was grooming future MPs. It looks like she was seeding people to bring them under her control.” Ms Lee’s main campaign vehicle, the British Chinese Project (BCP), which she founded in 2006, featured a number of parliamentary candidates on its website ahead of the 2019 general election, including Alex Yip, a Conservative councillor in Birmingham and a magistrate who was also vice-chairman of the BCP. Mr Yip stood in the last general election in Birmingham Edgbaston but lost to Labour’s Preet Kaur Gill. In 2015, he was identified as an organiser of Chinese crowds cheering on Xi Jinping, China’s president, during a state visit that had attracted counter-demonstrations.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cameron and Osborne were the useful idiots who opened Britain’s door to China’s spies by cosying up to Beijing – Andrew Neil, Daily Mail
  • Conservatives “received donation” from suspected Chinese agent Christine Lee – The Times
  • A senior Labour adviser who later worked for Jeremy Corbyn had his salary paid for by Lee – The Times

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: The ‘Chinese spy’ story puts All-Party Parliamentary Groups in the spotlight

Eustice sets out plans to protect National Parks

“Plans to safeguard England’s national parks for future generations have been unveiled by the government. The proposals also aim to improve access to nature and ensure landscapes are key to tackling climate change. It follows a review of protections for national parks and Areas of Outstanding Beauty (AONBs). Environment Secretary George Eustice said the plans – including a public consultation – were “a new chapter in the story of our protected landscapes”. The consultation runs to 9 April and will ask for views on the proposals to drive nature recovery and support communities that live and work in those areas.” – BBC

  • Antisocial visitors to national parks face ‘Asbo orders’ – The Times

Wallace warns Russia of “severe” penalties if Russia is invaded

“Ben Wallace has accused Vladimir Putin of Tsarist ambitions as he said there will be “severe economic sanctions” if Ukraine is invaded. The Defence Secretary made his comments after high-stakes talks this week between Nato and Russia failed to find a solution to the Kremlin’s increasingly threatening behaviour towards its neighbour. Citing a 5,000-word essay that the Russian president wrote last summer entitled “On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians”, Mr Wallace said that he had been unable to “separate” himself from Mr Putin’s belief that “Ukraine really is Russian”. “I’m concerned that what this is really about is President Putin’s legacy; that is about a false vision, a Russia that even the Tsars failed to create and consolidate – that is the Russia of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia,” he said.” – Daily Telegraph

  • What comes after jaw-jaw? – Leader, The Guardian
  • The Defence Secretary must take care of British troops and fix the PAX insurance scheme – Leader, The Sun

MPs anger over delay to ending prosecutions from Northern Ireland “troubles” legacy

“A Tory MP confronted a Northern Ireland minister in the Commons after proceedings had finished – hitting out at the “utter farce” of delays to legislation addressing the Troubles legacy. After yesterday’s sitting had concluded, former defence minister Mark Francois approached Conor Burns to vent his frustration. Minutes earlier, during an adjournment debate questioning the Government’s plans for the legislation, a number of backbench Conservative MPs pushed for the minister to say when the proposed Bill would come forward. After the debate finished and the House adjourned, Mr Francois could be heard saying “you call this a Government” and saying loudly that the situation was an “utter farce”.”- Belfast Telegraph

  • Truss declares there is a “deal to be done” with the European Union – The Times

Energy price cap “will nearly double to £2,400 a year from October”

“Millions of British households face further crippling rises in their electricity and gas bills next winter, with the latest projections suggesting the energy price cap will nearly double to £2,400 a year from October. The calculation by energy consultancy EnAppSys for the Financial Times underlines that the country’s looming cost-of-living crisis is likely to be protracted as wholesale gas prices continue to trade at historically high levels. The price cap, introduced in 2019 to protect the bills of roughly 15m households who do not opt for fixed-price deals, is already set to rise by more than 50 per cent in April to £2,000 a year from £1,277, based on average usage.” – Financial Times

  • MPs charge taxpayers up to £3,500 for energy bills at second homes – Daily Mail

News in brief

  • The government needs to reset, to show Ministers are in charge – John Redwood
  • Will Britain now take the threat of Chinese espionage seriously? Andy Owen, The Spectator
  • Leadership rivals Sunak and Truss holding regular meetings with MPs – The i
  • Why are Dublin and Brussels killing off the peace process? – Christopher Howarth, The Critic
  • The tide has turned on Omicron. We should get rid of Plan B restrictions now – Paul Ormerod and Gerard Lyons, CapX