Published:

Cummings claims Johnson lied to parliament about lockdown party

“Dominic Cummings has accused Boris Johnson of lying to parliament about a Downing Street garden party during the first lockdown after claiming that he directly warned the prime minister it should not go ahead. Cummings, formerly the prime minister’s most senior adviser and now one of his most vociferous critics, said that he discussed the drinks party with Johnson and told him: “You’ve got to get a grip of this madhouse.” He said that Johnson “waved it aside”, adding that he would be prepared to “swear under oath” about the veracity of his account. Cummings also said that he and another senior official told Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s principal private secretary, who had sent an email inviting staff to the party on May 20, 2020, that the event was in breach of the rules.” – The Times

  • Seven occasions when the Prime Minister denied Number Ten broke Covid rules – The Guardian
  • Mastermind behind Brexit campaign is relentless in his pursuit – FT

Caulfield, Fell, Freeman, Grant, Swayne, Watling: ministers and MPs tell of angry backlash…

“No 10 has been openly criticised by two ministers in an escalation of Conservative discontent about Downing Street parties during the pandemic. George Freeman, the science minister, said he was “shocked and flabbergasted” by revelations of Downing Street parties and added that stories of “boozy” gatherings in No 10 had caused “serious damage” to public trust in the government. He questioned why some staff had been holding parties when members of the public “couldn’t see dying loved ones”. In a letter to a constituent sent after Johnson’s appearance at prime minister’s questions last week, Freeman pointed the finger of blame at the prime minister and senior aides for the gatherings, saying people in positions of power “shouldn’t seek to escape public responsibility or accountability”. “The prime minister and his office should set the highest standards,” he said.” – The Times

  • Don’t dodge responsibility over No 10 parties, says minister – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • Johnson needs to work fast to save himself – William Hague, The Times

>Today: Richard Holden MP in Comment: With Labour as the alternative, Conservatives cannot afford any more divisions

…but Zahawi says Johnson is safe in his job because we all make mistakes

“Boris Johnson “is safe in his job”, a Cabinet ally insisted this morning despite mounting Tory anger at the avalanche of party allegations. The PM is battling to stay in Downing Street following the dripping allegations of Covid rule-breaking and hypocrisy. Ahead of a crunch report into parties by Whitehall mandarin Sue Gray, he is planning a charm offensive to win round mutinous Tory MPs. Six Conservative backbenchers have publicly confirmed submitting letters of no confidence in the PM. This morning Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi insisted Mr Johnson was staying put… Mr Zahawi, who himself has been tipped as a future leader, dismissed suggestions of a concerted plan to save his boss’ career.” – The Sun

  • ‘Soap opera’ allegations from Cummings not accurate, says Justice Secretary – Daily Telegraph
  • Tory MPs returned to Westminster in a muted mood – FT

More:

  • Opinium finds majority of Tory members want Johnson to remain in-post – Twitter
  • Prime Minister won’t recover in the polls, says Curtice – The Times

>Yesterday:

Starmer accused of flouting Covid rules banning political campaigners from meeting indoors

“Sir Keir Starmer was accused last night of flouting Covid guidance which banned political campaigners from meeting indoors during last year’s local elections. The Labour leader was pictured drinking beer with Labour colleagues in a constituency office in Durham last April, just days before the vote. The event – which Sir Keir said was for the purposes of ‘running an election campaign’ – took place even though ‘step two’ rules banned household mixing indoors. Now it has emerged that the event may also have breached special guidelines published for the local election campaign. This guidance said campaigners should not meet indoors and there should be no social use of committee rooms.” – Daily Mail

  • Labour leader refuses to apologise – The Sun

Comment:

Red Meat 1) Magistrates get power to jail offenders for a year

“Magistrates are to be given tougher sentencing powers, allowing them to jail offenders for up to a year, under plans to reduce a backlog of cases clogging the crown courts. The reform, which will be announced today by Dominic Raab, the justice secretary, will double the maximum prison sentence that can be handed down in magistrates’ courts in England and Wales. Penal reform campaigners described the measure as “the height of irresponsibility”, warning that it would stretch the prison system to breaking point. Justice ministry officials predicted that the reform — which is due to come into effect within months — would free up 2,000 sitting days at crown courts and shift about 500 trials to magistrates each year.” – The Times

  • It’s time to clear the backlog in our courts – Dominic Raab MP, Daily Telegraph

Red Meat 2) My reforms could end prosecutions for refusing to pay BBC licence fee, says Dorries

“People who refuse to pay the licence fee might no longer be prosecuted as part of an overhaul of the way the BBC is funded, Nadine Dorries has suggested. The Culture Secretary also said the BBC could slash the salaries paid to some of its biggest names to save money as she confirmed plans to freeze the licence fee for the next two years. And she hit back at claims from Opposition MPs that the freeze to the BBC’s income was “unpatriotic”, telling MPs: “I am very patriotic.” Setting out a review of the existence of the licence fee from 2028, Ms Dorries suggested that it would be unacceptable to threaten people with jail terms for non-payment of the fee by then… Ms Dorries was backed by Tory MPs.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Culture Secretary rows back on plans to scrap licence fee – The Times

>Today: ToryDiary: Johnson and Dorries are not quite so hostile to the BBC as they pretend

Red Meat 3) Royal Navy rejects Patel’s ‘illegal’ plan to push back Channel migrant boats

“The Royal Navy will abandon Priti Patel’s plans to push back small boats in the Channel amid concerns that they are illegal and could lead to the death of more migrants. Boris Johnson is handing the military responsibility for overseeing Border Force and other government agencies operating in the Channel in an attempt to stem the number of migrants coming to Britain. It is one of several populist policies intended to shore up his leadership amid calls for him to go. However, military sources made clear that the navy would focus on escorting migrants to shore for processing in new migrant hubs. Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, chief of the defence staff, believes the plan ensures “no one gets to the UK on their own terms”.” – The Times

  • ‘Desperate’ policy chiefs explored using sonic weapons – The Sun

More:

  • Lords inflict 13 defeats on Government’s crackdown on disruptive protests – Daily Telegraph

British anti-tank weapons sent to defend Ukraine from Russia

“Britain has sent an anti-tank missile system to Ukraine to help the country defend itself from a Russian invasion. Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said last night that a small number of UK personnel would also travel to the country to provide training on the short-range system in light of Russia’s “increasingly threatening behaviour”. Wallace would not say what the system was, although it is understood to be the next-generation light anti-tank weapon (NLAW), which can take out a tank from 800m away and penetrate armour more than 500mm thick. The 12.5kg weapon, which was used against the Taliban in Afghanistan, is a shoulder-launched system capable of taking out a tank with one shot. It can be deployed in five seconds by a single soldier, is lighter than the Javelin anti-tank missiles that the US has sent to Ukraine and can be fired in confined spaces.” – The Times

  • Nobody should fall for Putin’s straw-man claims about NATO – Ben Wallace MP, Gov.uk

UK looks at payments to energy suppliers to shield consumers from high bills

“The UK is exploring a radical intervention in the power market, under which the state would make payments to energy suppliers when wholesale gas prices rise sharply in a bid to soften the blow to consumers. The proposal, which is being promoted by energy companies, is described by government insiders as “plausible” and “logical”, but they admit there are also many downsides to such a step. Under the initiative, energy suppliers would receive payments from government when wholesale gas prices exceeded a certain threshold so they would not then have to pass the increase on to consumers. Some suppliers say the proposal — known as a temporary price stabilisation mechanism — could be self-funding over the course of several years as energy companies would have to return money to the government when wholesale prices traded below the agreed level.” – FT

  • Britain urged to sign ‘energy alliance’ with Macron – Daily Express
  • Johnson and Sunak won’t feel heat of rising bills – The Times

More:

  • Big boost to UK offshore wind capacity from Scottish auction – FT
  • Does it aid Scottish independence? – Daily Express

Javid plans NHS revolution modelled on academy schools

“Academy-style hospitals will be set up to improve patchy NHS leadership under a shake-up planned by Sajid Javid to deal with post-pandemic waiting lists. The health secretary is formulating the reorganisation to give well-run hospitals more freedom as well as forcing failing trusts to improve. A new class of “reform trust” will be established as Javid signals an appetite for wide-ranging changes to deal with a “huge” variation in performance across the health service. Modelling reforms on the Blairite academies programme could lead to failing hospitals being forcibly turned into reform trusts, as happens with schools that are rated inadequate. It is possible that chains of hospitals will be run by leading NHS managers, or even outside sponsors, although this is yet to be decided.” – The Times

  • Health Service will start sacking unvaccinated staff early next month – Daily Telegraph
  • Javid calls NHS bosses over harassment of female surgeons – The Times

Extend face mask rules and you risk three-figure rebellion, Johnson warned

“Boris Johnson has been told it would be “mad” to extend face mask rules beyond Jan 26 as Tory MPs warned doing so could spark a “three-figure rebellion”. Mr Johnson is widely expected to scrap regulations on Covid passports and guidance to work from home in England next Wednesday, when “Plan B” restrictions are reviewed. It is possible that an announcement on these measures could come as soon as this week. However, the Government is understood to be considering retaining some rules on face masks beyond the end of the month. The proposal would require a Commons vote, as the powers used to introduce the current rules – which oblige people to wear masks in most public indoor settings – expire next Wednesday. On Monday, a series of Tory MPs urged Mr Johnson to rule it out.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Prime Minister set to make major announcement this week to confirm new Plan B rules – The Sun

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Falling Omicron cases and Tory poll ratings

News in Brief:

  • Health over care: how the NHS morphed from safety net to straightjacket – Henry Hill, CapX
  • Beating the Blob – Sam Ashworth-Hayes, The Critic
  • Inside the Tory trans civil war – Josephine Bartosch, UnHerd
  • Boris can’t fix the migrant crisis – Patrick O’Flynn, The Spectator