Published:

Covid isolation to be scrapped in move towards plan to live with virus

“Boris Johnson is to end the legal requirement for people to self-isolate after catching Covid as he reveals a new roadmap for living with the virus later this month. The rule will be replaced by government guidance urging people who have Covid to stay at home but not legally compelling them to do so. Universal free Covid tests are expected to end, while officials are also considering scrapping passenger locator forms for inbound travellers and daily Covid data announcements. The changes will only apply in England, but will heap pressure on devolved administration leaders to consider similar steps in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. They had been expected at the end of March but have been brought forward by a month by Mr Johnson, who cited improved Covid data.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Tests to be wound down – The Times
  • Johnson piles the pressure on Sturgeon and Drakeford to follow England’s lead – Daily Mail

More:

  • Minister apologises for continuing meeting after positive Covid test – The Guardian

Thousand British troops put on standby to bolster allies in Eastern Europe…

“A thousand British troops were put on standby last night for deployment to eastern Europe after the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, warned that Russia would face “massive consequences” if it invaded Ukraine. On the eve of Truss’s talks in Moscow, No 10 said that the troops would be deployed to eastern Europe should a potential Russian invasion cause a humanitarian crisis that could affect the Nato allies Poland and Lithuania. Boris Johnson is scheduled to arrive in Poland in a further show of support amid fears about President Putin’s intentions as he continues to amass forces around Ukraine. Truss, who will meet her counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in the first visit to Moscow by a foreign secretary in four years, urged Russia to “choose the path of diplomacy”.” – The Times

  • They will support humanitarian response in event of a conflict – Daily Telegraph
  • UK to emphasise ‘deterrence’ message in Moscow – FT
  • Truss told MPs laws would be in place by 10 February but nothing has been put to Parliament – The Guardian

More:

  • How Truss transformed herself from also-ran to potential Prime Minister – FT
  • Cummings predicts leadership contenders will u-turn on tax hike – Daily Express

>Today: ToryDiary: There is no public support for turning the Dnieper into Britain’s next Suez

…as Starmer goes on the offensive at NATO

“When Sir Keir Starmer meets Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of Nato, in Brussels today he will be the first Labour leader to do so for more than a decade. For Starmer it represents a watershed moment as he seeks to re-establish Labour as the party of national security in the image of Ernest Bevin, the Labour foreign secretary and staunch anti-communist whose vision of a transatlantic alliance led to Nato. He says his predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn, a staunch critic of Nato who eschewed the principle of collective defence, was wrong — wrong on Nato and emphatically wrong on the Salisbury poisonings for refusing to hold Russia responsible. “What was said by my predecessor in relation to issues like Salisbury was wrong. I spoke out at the time,” he said in an interview with The Times.” – The Times

Defiant Johnson won’t resign even if police fine him, allies insist

“Boris Johnson will not resign even if he is fined for breaking lockdown law, according to his pals. The PM could be handed a fixed penalty notice if the Met’s Partygate probe concludes he flouted the rules. If found to have broken the rules he inflicted on the rest of the country, there would be enormous pressure for him to fall on his sword. But Mr Johnson has resolved to fight regardless of whether he’s lumped with a fine or not, allies told The Times. He has not yet been interviewed by Scotland Yard, but both he and Carrie are set to be grilled in the coming days. Mr Johnson has begged Tory MPs to hold off submitting letters of no confidence until reading the full Met report – which could take weeks.” – The Sun

  • Johnson among 50 set to be questioned by police over parties – The Times
  • Met police say they are not investigating claims that No 10 blackmailed MPs… – Daily Mail
  • …but are considering whether to investigate PM over Downing Street flat refurb – The Guardian
  • Chalk tells of dismay at Downing Street parties – The Times

More:

  • Prime Minister appoints Samantha Jones as Downing Street permanent secretary – Daily Telegraph
  • The former nurse who is now the most powerful woman in Downing Street – Daily Mail
  • Johnson’s ethics chief investigating new Commons leader over Islamophobia row – Daily Mirror

>Yesterday:

Iain Martin: Zombie government has lost all of its focus

“The cover story also only works as a reason to keep a crisis-hit administration in office if that government is clearly doing the country considerable good. John Major’s government in the mid-1990s falls into that category. For all that it was engulfed by sleaze, it implemented important reforms of education and health and, in 1994, introduced the national lottery. It has since raised over £45 billion for good causes though, up for renewal soon, has fallen into sad disrepair. The public finances under the chancellor Ken Clarke were restored. The Major government carried on a serious amount of decent work. Today is quite different. Today, Britain has a zombie government.” – The Times

  • No amount of ‘reboots’ or reshuffles can hide the truth: Johnson is finished – Marti Kettle, The Guardian

>Today: Stephen Booth’s column: The Government’s regulatory reform plans. We know a lot about the principles…but not much about the practice.

>Yesterday:

Government to pool health and social care budgets in England

“The UK government on Wednesday published a plan to ensure more seamless working between the NHS and social care sector in England as it seeks to demonstrate value for money from the record sums it is ploughing into the service. The white paper, which came just a day after the health service revealed that patient waiting lists would grow for another two years, proposed more pooling of budgets between the health and social care services, and designating a single person accountable for joint planning at local level. Jointly issued by Sajid Javid, health secretary, and Michael Gove, levelling-up secretary, the blueprint claimed to improve the use of resources and prevent people falling into the gaps between the health and social care sectors.” – FT

  • England’s hospital waiting lists may exceed 10 million by 2024, ministers told – The Guardian

Comment:

  • The NHS doesn’t need more of our taxes, it needs to start thinking like the private sector – Hugh Osmond, Daily Mail

Johnson reignites war of words with Brussels as he threatens to tear up Brexit border deal

“Boris Johnson last night reignited his war of words with Brussels as he threatened to tear up the Brexit border deal. The Prime Minister said he is ready to bin EU red tape in Northern Ireland if eurocrats do not adopt a more “common sense” stance. He warned the balance of the NI peace deal is “being upset” by the EU’s approach to goods checks. The PM said: “I believe we can fix it but if our friends don’t show the requisite common sense then of course we will trigger Article 16.” His remarks came as the DUP’s Ian Paisley told the Commons there is “zero support from Unionists” for the Protocol. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will host EU chief Maros Sefcovic in London tomorrow for talks.” – The Sun

>Yesterday: Peter Lilley in Comment: If controls at the UK/Ireland land border are unacceptable, so too at the Great Britain/Northern Ireland sea border

Energy 1) Sunak ‘under fire’ as elderly facing ‘hole in pocket’

“Pensioners are set to be £237.40 a year worse off despite Rishi Sunak’s efforts to ease the energy crisis, new analysis shows. The Chancellor has been accused of leaving the elderly “out in the cold” after breaking the Conservatives’ triple lock pension pledge last year. New measures announced by the Treasury to help households in the coming months following a 52 percent hike in the energy price cap are unlikely to make up for the less than expected increase in pension payments. Energy bills are expected to rise to nearly £2,000 a year from April. Last week Mr Sunak outlined a £150 council tax rebate to help those most in need and a £200 energy bill discount to be paid back over the next five years.” – Daily Express

  • Rocketing costs of Net Zero, pensions and NHS could leave Britain on the brink of ruin – The Sun

Energy 2) Tory MPs denounce order to close last fracking wells as ‘madness’

“The fracking regulator has ordered two of England’s only viable shale gas wells to be sealed up despite the energy crisis, sparking a backlash from Tory MPs. The Oil and Gas Authority has instructed Cuadrilla, the gas production company, to press ahead with “plugging and abandoning” its wells at the Preston New Road site in Lancashire, according to correspondence seen by The Telegraph… This week, Jacob Rees-Mogg called on the Prime Minister to return to fracking in a bid to boost the nation’s energy independence, amid concerns about spiralling global wholesale gas prices pushing up bills for UK families.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Most Conservative MPs support net zero, says Tory environment group – The Guardian

Dick has days or weeks to tackle toxic culture at Met Police, says Sadiq Khan

“Sadiq Khan has increased the pressure on Dame Cressida Dick by threatening to withdraw his support for her unless she comes up with a quick, effective plan to tackle sexism, racism and culture problems in the Metropolitan Police. The mayor of London said the Met commissioner’s future was “contingent” on her coming up with a plan on addressing culture issues and winning the public’s trust. Khan has given Dick “days or weeks” to gain his confidence after a series of scandals at Britain’s biggest force. The commissioner has been forced to apologise on numerous occasions in the past year for Met failings.” – The Times

  • Home Office sources say her position is ‘untenable’ without Mayor’s backing – Daily Mail

Unite threatens to cut its support for Labour

“Labour’s biggest donor, Unite the Union, has threatened to cut financial support for the party over a dispute between a Labour-run local authority in the Midlands and local bin collectors. Sharon Graham, elected as general secretary of Unite last year, said she was launching a review of the organisation’s financial support for Labour as a result of Coventry council’s behaviour. Unite members in the West Midlands city have been on strike for weeks in a long-running row over pay. The union’s move threatens to escalate the financial difficulties at Britain’s main opposition party, which imposed 80 voluntary redundancies last autumn to try to cut costs.” – FT

News in Brief:

  • Putting politicians behind a ring of steel will cost more than just money – Henry Hill, CapX
  • The bunker: Johnson’s new defensive strategy – James Forsyth, The Spectator
  • Green energy cannot save us – Crag Mackinlay, The Critic
  • The fake feminism of Carrie – Tanya Gold, UnHerd