Newslinks

Coronavirus 1) Boosters for every adult in bid to save Christmas

“Millions more people will be offered booster jabs to maximise protection against the Omicron variant as ministers insisted that Britain will have a “great Christmas”. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said that people should continue with Christmas plans as normal and that the government was “nowhere near” imposing further restrictions. He argued that a turbo-charged booster programme would deal with the new variant. All adults will become eligible for third doses much sooner than planned as vaccine chiefs prepare to cut the gap between doses, with fresh guidance expected within days. Javid promised a new policy “imminently” and said he had told the NHS to be ready to administer far more vaccines every day.” – The Times

  • Omicron variant will cause chaos in schools, warn MPs – Daily Telegraph
  • Holiday plans scuppered as PCR rule raises prospect of days in quarantine – The Times
  • As a third Omicron case is found, Britain is told this is just the start – The Times
  • Two-year NHS waiting lists force more patients to go private – The Times
  • Social care bosses sound alert over winter plight of the elderly and disabled – The Times

Comment:

Coronavirus 2) Mask refuseniks face £200 fines as ministers warned new Covid rules will be met with ‘high degree of non-compliance’

“Fines of £200 will be handed out to people in England who fail to wear masks on public transport and in shops from Tuesday under new government rules. The fines will double with every offence, rising to £400 for a second infraction and £800 for a third, up to a maximum of £6,400. A regulation change including the new enforcement powers will be tabled before Parliament on Monday and will come into effect at 4am on Tuesday. The rules are different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where masks are already required in certain settings. The fines system will be the same as was in place during the last lockdown. The £200 fine for a first offence can be halved to £100 if it is paid 14 days after being issued, as a way to incentivise people to pay the fine with speed.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs demand a vote on bringing back masks after Javid said MPs may not debate the move for weeks after it becomes law – Daily Mail

Analysis:

  • Is 100 deaths a day a price worth paying? – The Times
  • Which countries are on the red list? – The Times

> Yesterday:

Coronavirus 3) Sturgeon warns more travel curbs could be needed to combat Omicron strain with restricting English border a ‘last resort’ – as she says Scots should ‘assume’ the ‘super-mutant’ will arrive there

“Nicola Sturgeon today insisted people should ‘assume’ there will be Omicron cases in Scotland as she warned more travel curbs could be needed in the coming days. The SNP leader said there had been no infections with the ‘super-mutant’ identified north of the border so far. But she stressed that was not likely to continue, and the authorities ‘may need to go further on restricting travel’. Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show whether she would look at closing the border with England, Ms Sturgeon said that was difficult – but pointed out that in the past the Scottish government had advised against travelling between the UK nations. That could happen again in a ‘last resort’, she said. On the possibility of more restrictions, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘I think we need to be open-minded to doing anything that is required to keep the population safe right now.'” – Daily Mail

> Yesterday:

Borders 1) We won’t do a deal with UK over migrants, insists France

“France has rejected Boris Johnson’s call for an agreement to return migrants crossing the Channel, accusing the prime minister of exploiting the crisis for political purposes. Gérald Darmanin, the French interior minister, told Britain that any deal on migration would have to be done with the European Union, in a blow to Johnson’s hopes of a quick Franco-British agreement. In comments that underlined the frostiness of relations between the two sides, he said that Britain should make itself less attractive to illegal immigrants and agree to allow genuine asylum seekers to cross the Channel legally from France. Johnson wrote to President Macron on Friday asking for a bilateral deal to return migrants to France, pending a wider agreement with the EU.” – The Times

Comment:

Borders 2) ‘Patel dropped controversial plans to restrict human rights laws from blocking deportations’

“Priti Patel dropped plans to restrict the use of human rights laws to block deportations, due to concerns in Whitehall that the move would be too controversial, The Telegraph has been told. This newspaper disclosed last year that the Home Secretary was preparing to use the new Nationality and Borders Bill to make it more difficult for failed asylum seekers and foreign criminals to avoid deportation on the basis that they would face “inhuman or degrading treatment” in their home countries. Under the plans, the Bill would have included a legal definition of the phrase, which is contained in Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Ms Patel was said to believe that the change could restrict the ability of judges to make “subjective” decisions about the conditions potential deportees would face in foreign countries.” – Daily Telegraph

UK and Israel join forces to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

“The UK and Israel’s foreign ministers have declared that they will work “night and day” to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon as they sign a “historic” 10-year plan for deepening ties. In a joint article for The Daily Telegraph (see below), Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, and Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign affairs minister, preview their new “memorandum of understanding”. The agreement, which will be signed on Monday, will enable the UK and Israel to work more closely on issues such as cybersecurity, technology development, defence, trade and science. It will see Israel become one of the UK’s most trusted allies in thwarting cyber attacks, according to a Foreign Office insider. Talks on a trade deal are also set to begin early next year.” – Daily Telegraph

Liz Truss and Yair Lapid: As allies, Britain and Israel can be trade and tech superpowers

“Many fear the skies are darkening worldwide due to the pandemic, the threat of terrorism and hostile actors seeking the upper hand. But we believe that, with the right approach, freedom and democracy will prevail. That is why Israel and the United Kingdom are today coming together in London to take a major step forward: transforming our close friendship into an even closer partnership by formally agreeing a new strategic plan for the next decade, spanning cyber, tech, trade and defence. This pact will spur technological breakthroughs, which have the potential to change the world, create high-quality jobs in both our countries and provide tools to our security forces. But more than that, it is a victory for optimism. We believe that a democracy rooted in freedom – which empowers citizens with the opportunity to innovate, create, and fulfill their dreams – is the finest form of government.” – Daily Telegraph

I don’t believe Stanley Johnson groping claims, says Dorries

“A government minister has discounted groping allegations made by a fellow Tory MP against Boris Johnson’s father, causing a rift in the party. Nadine Dorries said “I don’t believe it happened” as she called Stanley Johnson, who is accused of slapping a female MP on her backside, a “gentleman”. “I have known Stanley for 15 years … It never happened to me. Maybe there is something wrong with me,” she told the Daily Mail. Dorries, the culture secretary, said she had not been the subject of men being “handsy”, but said: “But if you ask me, have I experienced mansplaining, being talked down to because I am a woman, yes and yes.” In the interview she said that she went through the sort of abuse “that puts things in perspective”. Dorries said a vicar, who was a family friend, was abusive towards her when she was nine but the matter was never reported to the authorities because “you couldn’t then”. – The Times

Labour 1) Emboldened Starmer plots shadow cabinet reshuffle

“Sir Keir Starmer is planning to reshuffle his shadow cabinet after calls for him to demote poor performers. The Labour leader has been emboldened by strong performances at prime minister’s questions during the sleaze row. Nick Thomas-Symonds, the shadow home secretary, Kate Green, education, and Jo Stevens, culture, are all said to be at risk of demotion. Starmer could give a top job to Yvette Cooper, who is keen to return to frontbench politics. A reshuffle was discussed by senior Labour staff this month and is expected before Christmas. “We are approaching a window when he’s got the scope to do it,” a party source said. Starmer may seek to get Angela Rayner, his deputy, on board before making any changes. His last attempt at a reshuffle in May was derailed when she refused to move.” – The Times

Labour 2) Party proposes watchdog to purge parliament of corruption

“Labour would introduce an independent watchdog to investigate politicians accused of corruption and ban former ministers from lobbying work for five years after leaving office. Angela Rayner, the party’s deputy leader, will use a speech today to argue that the existing system is broken because the rules are not respected and there are “no consequences for breaking them”. She will commit the party to accepting the findings of a proposed “integrity and ethics commission” as part of a plan to “clean up politics”. Under existing rules the prime minister does not have to accept the recommendations of an independent adviser who investigates alleged breaches of ministerial rules. Boris Johnson has faced criticism for backing Priti Patel, the home secretary, over bullying allegations in a row that led to the resignation of his independent adviser on the ministerial code.” – The Times

Post-Brexit Britain 1) London rivals abandon hope of City exodus

“Europe’s financial centres have given up hope of triggering an exodus of companies and jobs away from London in the wake of Brexit. The head of Luxembourg’s government finance agency said relocations from the City are “basically over” with London’s crown as Europe’s financial services capital intact. Nicolas Mackel, chief executive of Luxembourg for Finance, said: “It’s obvious London is and will remain Europe’s most important financial services industry.” He told The Telegraph: “The relocations were basically over after 2018. Why? Because the industry, at least the large players, wanted to be ready by March 2019, which was the initial date for Brexit.” However, he warned that London will no longer be the “automatic choice” for attracting new business due to Brexit and will face tougher competition from European hubs.” – Daily Telegraph

Post-Brexit Britain 2) British researchers to be given ‘safety net’ after EU funding fails to materialise

“British researchers left in limbo over EU funding that has failed to materialise will be given a “safety net” by the Government this week, with a pledge by ministers to guarantee the money owed to them by Brussels. George Freeman, the science minister, is expected to announce that Britain will provide funding to UK-based researchers and businesses left short due to the EU delaying the country’s formal entry to the Horizon Europe scheme, despite accepting bids to fund individual projects. The move comes after Mr Freeman said the UK had a “bold Plan B” if Brussels stopped the UK joining the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation. Ministers believe that, despite accepting funding bids from British individuals and firms, the EU is now delaying the UK’s formal “association” to the scheme in a deliberate attempt to create leverage in the talks over Northern Ireland.” – Daily Telegraph

Buyer demand fuels house market frenzy

“One in 16 homes in the UK is expected to have changed hands by the end of next month, making 2021 the busiest year for the housing market since 2007. Increased buyer demand, 19 per cent higher than the five-year average, coupled with a modest supply of homes to buy, 42 per cent lower than usual, has pushed up prices by almost 7 per cent in the past year, according to Zoopla. The property agent puts the average house price at £240,000. Growth has been steepest in Wales, where prices have risen by 10.8 per cent, and northwest England, where they are up 9 per cent. In London they have risen by 2.3 per cent. The market has been fuelled by a combination of lockdown-induced lifestyle changes and cheap mortgages. The desire for a home office and garden has pushed house prices specifically up 8.3 per cent in the past year. Flats have risen in value by only 1.2 per cent.” – The Times

  • Ministers ‘dragging feet’ over leasehold house ban – The Times

‘Blue Wall Tories could give Johnson a bloody nose in Bexley’

“Nestled in a middle-class, suburban corner of south-east London, the constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcup has long been a safe seat for the Conservatives. Voters there were once represented by a Tory Prime Minister, and live in houses that are 50 per cent more expensive than the national average. Since the seat’s creation in 1983, they have never returned an MP for another political party. But for many, a by-election there triggered by the death of James Brokenshire last month is an opportunity to send a message to Boris Johnson that trust in the Conservative Party is not what it once was. Like Louie French, the Tory candidate, 38-year-old Sidcup resident James Barfield, pictured below, works in banking and is a card-carrying member of the Conservative Party.” – Daily Telegraph

Analysis:

  • ‘People just won’t be able to live’: Tory supporters voice concerns before bellwether by-election – Daily Telegraph

MPs seek to offer young Hong Kongers easier path to UK citizenship

“In July last year Rainy dropped a bombshell on her flatmates: Hong Kong’s police were looking for her and she had decided to escape that night to the UK. “I took my luggage out and said ‘I don’t want to put anyone in danger and I have to leave’. They drove me to the airport and we hugged and cried in the carpark. Then I took my luggage and left on my own,” she said. Just 19 at the time, Rainy – who asked for her name to be changed – had joined the flight of young Hong Kongers heading to the UK to escape the political oppression following the 2019 pro-democracy movement. She had already been on bail for a year after her arrest during a protest rally, when the police turned up at her former address to question her over charges including unlawful assembly and assaulting an officer. She said she had been protecting herself during a rough arrest.” – Daily Telegraph

Universities claim shift to online education in pandemic has benefited students

“Universities claim that online lectures and support are welcomed by students and are in some cases better than the face-to-face contact they replaced. Universities UK (UUK), which represents vice-chancellors, says in a briefing that a range of benefits from the pandemic are helping students. Many institutions plan to continue online careers fairs and open days and digital internships, it says. However, David Laws, a former Liberal Democrat cabinet minister, fears that poorer students would be hit hardest by a move away from face-to-face careers events. The National Union of Students said that “for some universities online learning has been used as a cost-cutting exercise, brought about by universities needing to stay financially afloat in a marketised system”.” – The Times

Comment:

‘Woke’ guests not welcome in Whitehall

“A clampdown on “woke” guests in Whitehall has begun with civil servants now banned from inviting speakers who have attacked the government. The edict was given to networking groups that bring together civil servants with shared interests such as ethnic, religious or sexual minorities. Organisers must now scour guests’ social media to avoid compromising Whitehall neutrality by giving platforms to biased activists and commentators. The memo was leaked to The Sunday Telegraph after an academic who has attacked Priti Patel was invited to the Home Office last month. Priyamvada Gopal, professor of post-colonial studies at the University of Cambridge, tweeted: “Priti Patel is also a reminder that many Asians in British Africa had ferociously anti-black attitudes and were used by colonial administrations to keep black populations in their place.”” – The Times

News in brief: