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Newslinks for Saturday 20th February 2021

Downing Street in disarray as second Union adviser quits in two weeks

Screen shot 2013 12 27 at 11.58.00“Downing Street’s policy on the Union has been thrown into disarray after a second Number 10 adviser on the issue quit in as many weeks. Oliver Lewis, a former Vote Leave staffer and Dominic Cummings ally, was appointed earlier this month to lead Downing Street’s Union Unit after the resignation of his predecessor, Luke Graham. But he also resigned on Friday after finding himself in an “untenable” position and clashing with other Downing Street staff. On Friday night it was claimed Mr Lewis had been accused of briefing against Michael Gove, who is responsible for Union policy in his role as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He denies that claim. But insiders suggested Mr Lewis had clashed with Mr Gove on how the Government should approach the Union, and felt boxed in by his supporters in Downing Street.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Johnson’s plan to safeguard the union ‘in chaos’ – FT
  • Symonds allies get key roles in PM’s ‘court of King Henry’ – The Times
  • ‘It’s a complete Carrie takeover’ – Daily Mail

More:

  • Government condemns SNP over EU flag row – Daily Express
  • Salmond agrees to appear at Holyrood inquiry next week as Sturgeon war reaches climax – Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: How even a modest Labour revival in Scotland could return more Conservative MPs

Camilla Cavendish: A new constitutional settlement can strengthen the Union, but it can’t be federal

“Johnson should call Sturgeon’s bluff over any advisory referendum, since her argument for breaking previous SNP commitments would have no more weight than that of separatists in Catalonia, whose unconstitutional 2017 referendum has left it in limbo. But something needs to be done.  One answer would be to introduce a new Act of Union: a much crisper settlement with clear accountabilities. This would define the UK as a unitary state with suitable powers devolved and with due respect for each nation’s identity. But it would also reassert a British identity and keep ultimate sovereignty at Westminster. The leftwing think-tank Scottish Fabians have proposed such an act, which would also set a higher bar for referendums and have the merit of limiting Downing Street’s ability to make ad hoc changes to suit itself.” – FT

Johnson urged to reshuffle Cabinet ‘with Gove, Hancock and Williamson facing job changes’

Screen Shot 2020 02 02 at 19.17.18“Boris Johnson could reshuffle his Cabinet as soon as May, The Sun can reveal. The Prime Minister is being urged by allies to rejig his top team after the local elections. It would coincide with a major speech Mr Johnson has started to write to herald an “era of recovery” after the pandemic. One scenario discussed in No10 would see Matt Hancock move to Education and Michael Gove replace him at Health. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson could be on his way out, sources say. Allies also claim that Mr Johnson was “furious” with reports that he has lost faith in Minister for the Cabinet Office Mr Gove – and instead wants to see “a reformer in his prime” be handed a major new challenge.” – The Sun

  • Ministers will work outside of London for the first time as Housing Ministry sets up shop in Wolverhampton – Daily Telegraph
  • Union challenges Boris Johnson’s decision to stand by Patel over civil servants’ ‘bullying’ claims – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Iain Dale’s column: Forget the theories about Frost’s appointment. What does it mean for Gove?

Coronavirus 1) Families will be able to meet again next month

“Families will be reunited, all schools will return within weeks and care home residents will be allowed visitors under plans to ease Covid restrictions being announced by Boris Johnson on Monday, The Telegraph can reveal. The move will be revealed in the Prime Minister’s roadmap for how the nationwide lockdown will start to be lifted. Two different households will be allowed to meet outside by Easter – allowing groups of relatives to finally catch up in gardens or parks – thanks to the lifting of rules that stop two household groups from gathering outdoors. Relatives who live far away from each other may have to wait a little longer, however, because it is unclear when guidance telling people to remain in their local areas will be lifted.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Two households will be able to meet up outside from Easter – The Sun
  • Visits to UK care homes to be allowed as lockdown eases, says Hancock – The Guardian
  • Wales points the way for Boris Johnson to lift England’s lockdown – Daily Mail
  • Government discusses campaign to encourage people to return to public transport – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • UK acted unlawfully over disclosure of Covid contract awards, court rules – FT
  • Give young vaccine now if centres are half-empty, says Burnham – The Sun

>Yesterday: Ben Howlett in Comment: Hancock must seize this opportunity for health and social care reform

Coronavirus 2) Sunak ‘will use the Budget on March 3 to extend the furlough scheme to the summer’

Screen shot 2014 09 03 at 19.08.00“Rishi Sunak will announce at the Budget on March 3 that the Government’s furlough scheme will be extended to the summer, it was claimed today. The Chancellor is also preparing to prolong a business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, according to the Financial Times. A year-long business rates holiday is due to expire at the end of March while the furlough scheme is currently due to be wound up at the end of April. The moves will be welcomed by business leaders who have warned firms will need longer term support if they are to survive beyond the coming ‘cliff-edge’.” – Daily Mail

  • Data that show us how shops could reopen by late March – Daily Telegraph
  • Chancellor delivers fresh hint at future tax rises to pay for coronavirus crisis – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 3) Whitty at odds with Johnson over ‘big bang’ reopening of schools in England

“A row has broken out over Boris Johnson’s hopes for a “big bang” reopening of schools, as sources claimed it had run into resistance from Prof Chris Whitty. The chief medical officer for England was said to be reluctant to put his name to a public show of support for the policy this week. Education sources had told the Guardian that Whitty was “very unhappy” with the idea of all 10 million children and staff returning to schools in England on 8 March, although the government denied this and insisted that Whitty was not opposed to any of the options being discussed. On Monday the prime minister is to announce the government’s roadmap for lifting national lockdown restrictions in place since the start of the year. While publicly ministers have committed to reopening schools “from” 8 March rather than all pupils returning on that date, No 10 is said to be planning for an across-the-board return for all year groups.” – The Guardian

  • Education unions join forces to try to block the return of all pupils – Daily Mail
  • Johnson ‘vows to get kid backs to class on March 8’ – The Sun
  • Is a scientist rebellion brewing over plan to ease lockdown? – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Covid has shown that England’s schools are desperate for reform – Simon Jenkins, The Guardian

>Yesterday: David Thomas in Comment: Ministers must extend the free schools revolution to the alternative provision sector

Ladies first in Tory plan to abolish primogeniture

Lords“Downing Street is drawing up plans to end the centuries-old practice of aristocrats’ titles being inherited only by male descendants. Under the proposal to abolish male primogeniture, first-born daughters would take on their father’s hereditary peerage or baronetcy instead of younger sons. The Times has learnt that the proposal is one of a package of options being studied on the prime minister’s instructions to tackle what has become known as the Tories’ “women problem”. Boris Johnson has directed a team of female aides to draw up ways to make parliament more welcoming to women. The plans are intended to form part of a bill of reforms. Male primogeniture was abolished for the British monarchy in 2011 under a reform by the coalition government, allowing first-born daughters to assume the throne.” – The Times

Johnson ‘heaps praise on Biden’ who says Trump ‘strained the transatlantic relationship’

“Boris Johnson praised Joe Biden for putting the United States back as ‘leader of the free world’ – and snubbed Donald Trump by saying we are now ‘turning a corner’. Speaking to the annual Munich Security Conference virtually on Friday, President Biden used his first address before a global audience to declare that ‘America is back, the transatlantic alliance is back,’ after four years of a Trump administration. Mr Biden spoke of salvaging the Iran nuclear deal, meeting economic and security challenges posed by China and Russia, and repairing the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic – tasks he said would require close cooperation between the US and its Western allies. Prime Minister Mr Johnson echoed Mr Biden’s sentiment that America was ‘back’, and seemingly snubbed previous US President Mr Trump.” – Daily Mail

  • President and Prime Minister bond over jokes – The Sun

Brussels gives green light to information flows from the EU to Britain

Screen Shot 2017 05 21 at 18.05.44“Brussels on Friday warned it would impose “clear and strict” checks on the UK’s handling of personal data, flagging potential post-Brexit conflict even as it gave provisional approval for information to flow across the English Channel. The European Commission said Britain appeared to offer “essentially equivalent” data protection standards to the EU, allowing the flow of information from the EU to the UK — a decision that will come as a relief to businesses and law enforcement authorities.  But the draft ruling, if confirmed, will be reviewed every four years by Brussels and could be annulled should London be deemed to have departed from EU privacy standards.  “We should ensure that our decision will stand the test of time,” said Vera Jourova, the European Commission vice-president for values and transparency.” – FT

  • Brexit’s sunlit uplands have soon vanished – Matthew Parris, The Times

>Yesterday: Guy Mansfield in Comment: Now we must work with the EU to make Britain more safe and secure

News in Brief:

  • The gig economy is too important to leave to the courts – Sam Dumitriu, CapX
  • Why Starmer is no Attlee – James Kirkup, UnHerd
  • The distortion of British history – Robert Tombs, The Spectator
  • Why is the BBC so slow on international news? – Iain Dale, Reaction
  • Six ways to end Britain’s culture wars – Nigel Jones, The Critic

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