Published:

Johnson faces police interview over No 10 lockdown parties…

“Boris Johnson faces being interviewed by police after Scotland Yard said Downing Street parties crossed the threshold for a “serious and flagrant” breach of lockdown rules. Sue Gray, a senior civil servant who is overseeing an inquiry into the events, triggered the formal investigation when she handed evidence to detectives. The prime minister now faces being interviewed by the police, either under caution or as a witness. Officers are said to be investigating eight parties and could issue fines. Johnson is preparing to publish Gray’s report as soon as today before making a statement to the Commons.” – The Times

  • Detectives have power to force aides to give up phone records – The Times
  • Voters observed the rules and sacrificed celebrations – The Times
  • Covid rules broken in ‘most homes’, claims MP defending Johnson – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson left cabinet in the dark about Met’s investigation – The Times
  • Met Police were wary of a high-stakes pursuit of the PM … but then the evidence became impossible to ignore – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson’s hopes of respite from ‘partygate’ scandal are dashed – FT

Analysis:

  • As Blair will tell you, having the police in doesn’t help – The Times
  • How ‘partygate’ compares to cash for honours – the last time a PM faced police questions – Daily Telegraph
  • The ‘no nonsense’ Met police officers leading Downing Street parties probe – Daily Telegraph

Political sketch:

Comment:

>Today:

… as pressure grows on PM to release full Sue Gray ‘partygate’ report

“Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to publish Sue Gray’s report into the “partygate” allegations in full, after the Metropolitan Police cleared the way for its release. Ms Gray is understood to have found evidence that eight gatherings may have broken lockdown rules and possibly the law, with Whitehall braced for the release of her findings as early as Wednesday. She reportedly expects the Prime Minister to publish her findings in the full form they are handed to him within hours of receipt. Dame Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, revealed on Tuesday that officers were investigating “a number” of events “without fear or favour”, after concluding there appeared to be no reasonable defence.” – Daily Telegraph

Ukraine crisis: Britain readies troops and warns Putin of tough sanctions

“Moscow faces sanctions “heavier than anything” seen before if it invades Ukraine, Boris Johnson said yesterday as Russian troops around Ukraine began new exercises. The prime minister said Britain was preparing to deploy more soldiers in Europe in the event of conflict, raising the prospect of troops heading to Hungary to bolster defences there. In a statement to the Commons he warned that an invasion would turn Ukraine into a “wasteland” and risk the worst bloodshed since 1945. The resistance would be “dogged and tenacious” and “many Russian mothers’ sons will not be coming home”, he said. Johnson held video talks with western leaders on Monday. After the meeting, which lasted 80 minutes, President Biden said the US and its European allies were in “total unity”.” – The Times

  • Johnson warns Putin invading Ukraine would spark worst bloodshed since WW2 and many Russians ‘won’t come home’ – The Sun
  • Macron calls for ‘de-escalation’ of tensions in Ukraine as he prepares to speak with Putin – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

>Today:

Madeline Grant: The truth about Biden can no longer be ignored

“Over the years, shoals of public figures have fallen prey to the snare of the hot mic. Obama and Sarkozy were famously caught moaning about Benjamin Netanyahu in 2011. “I cannot stand him. He’s a liar,” muttered Sarkozy. “You’re fed up with him?” retorted Obama, “I have to deal with him every day!” Gordon Brown’s “bigoted woman” gaffe prompted a row that all but destroyed his political career, and who could forget Prince Charles’s comments about Nicholas Witchell on the ski slopes of Klosters? Yet such moments can be as revealing as they are funny – and often as destructive. This week provided another hot mic for the ages. On Monday, President Biden was addressing a meeting held by the White House Competition Council, a group that works, among other things, to help consumers deal with higher prices.” – Daily Telegraph

Lord Agnew says banks must answer for pandemic fraud losses

“The minister who quit over “schoolboy errors” in tackling fraud in a pandemic loans scheme has said the government must do more to hold banks to account to mitigate taxpayer losses. Lord Agnew of Oulton told The Times that as counter-fraud minister, the state-owned British Business Bank had failed to share with him the identity of banks that he said appeared to be linked to the majority of fraud losses on the Bounce Back Loan Scheme. The scheme gave £47.4 billion of credit via 1.6 million emergency loans, with about one in four UK companies receiving one. Official estimates suggest £17 billion may never be repaid, as much as £5 billion of which is thought to have been stolen by fraudsters. Banks who lent the funds benefit from a 100 per cent state guarantee to cover their losses once they have attempted recovery action.” – The Times

Javid ‘reflects’ on mandatory vaccinations for NHS staff…

“The government is “reflecting” on its policy of requiring NHS staff to be double jabbed against Covid-19, the health secretary told MPs last night, but said the patient safety reasons behind it remained unchanged. Sajid Javid also told the health and social care select committee that he wanted to establish a “national vaccination service” that would mean GPs did not have to stop doing other work in order to deliver jabs. All frontline health and social care workers must be double vaccinated by April 1 to keep their jobs, with a deadline for first jabs on February 3. Javid said he had had representations from people saying he should add boosters to the requirement because of evidence two vaccines were “not quite good enough” against the Omicron variant, while others suggested dropping it altogether.” – The Times

  • Record school infections mean national Covid cases no longer falling – The Times
  • Flight sales soar as Covid testing is dropped – The Times
  • Two thirds of people who catch Omicron have already had Covid, study finds – Daily Telegraph
  • Work from home advice to be phased out from Monday in Scotland as optimism continues – The Scotsman
  • Welsh Government changes rules on self-isolation for people with Covid – Wales Online

… as warns ‘there likely will be a variant that will be trouble in the future’

“The minister told MPs that the Government had to “stay on top of” the virus as new strains emerge in the months and years ahead. He warned that there would continue to be mutations in the future and pharmaceutical interventions such as vaccines may need to once again be rushed out in a bid to stay on top of the situation. The Bromsgrove MP confirmed planning was also underway to prepare the NHS for new surges of infections caused by variants in future. “It’s a reminder of the importance to stay vigilant but also to stay vaccinated,” Mr Javid told the health and social care committee. “I think there likely will be a variant that will be trouble in the future.”” – Daily Express

Sunak insists he won’t scrap National Insurance rise – despite pressure to delay

“Rishi Sunak insists he will not scrap the hated National Insurance rise — despite a £13billion “tax windfall”. The Treasury is under massive pressure to shelve the 1.25 percentage point hike to help families. Rosy economic figures out yesterday reveal Britain borrowed £13billion less than expected this year due to the booming economy — enough to cover the £12billion cost of the NI rise in the first year. But Chancellor Mr Sunak and PM Boris Johnson both doubled down on their plans. Mr Sunak suggested he wanted to give the UK wriggle room if the economy gets tight. He said: “Risks to the public finances, including from inflation, make it even more important that we avoid burdening future generations with high debt repayments.” And the PM quashed hopes of a delay to the April rise.” – The Sun

>Today:

Clampdown on late and absent pupils

“More parents could face fines for school absence as the government vows to clamp down on poor attendance. More than half a million children were persistently absent from school, according to the latest figures, but the Department for Education said that there was a “postcode lottery” of how local authorities tackled the problem. New measures will be included in a schools white paper expected in the spring. The department found that there was “a radically different approach to sanctions across the country, with some local authorities issuing no fines in 2020-21 to parents whose children did not attend school, while others issued more than 1,500.” – The Times

Post-Brexit trade deal with India could be bigger than agreement with America

“A post Brexit trade deal with India could be bigger and better than an agreement with the United States, experts have said. The Government is laying on the charm to try to seal a deal with New Delhi as part of a tilt towards the Indo-Pacific. Boris Johnson has sent his senior lieutenants, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and trade chief Anne Marie Trevelyan, to charm the Indians in recent months. New analysis by the Resolution Foundation (RF) think-tank finds the UK stands to make more money with a tilt towards India than America. Sophie Hale, an RF economist, said a trade deal with India could bring in megabucks – but is also very risky.” – The Sun

News in brief: