Newslinks for Sunday 24th May 2020

Cummings 1) The PM will not throw his senior aide “to the dogs”

“Boris Johnson has declared he will not throw Dominic Cummings “to the dogs” as the prime minister’s most senior aide was accused of breaking the lockdown not once but three times. The prime minister is facing three separate calls for a formal inquiry into whether Cummings violated the code of conduct for government advisers after it was revealed that he drove his wife and child to his parents’ home in Durham at the end of March. The government said Cummings had gone into isolation with Covid-19 symptoms on that trip but last night there were allegations he was seen 30 miles from his family’s home about two weeks later. A retired chemistry teacher, Robin Lees, 70, said he had seen Cummings walking with his family by the Tees before getting into a car on April 12.” – Sunday Times

  • New witnesses cast doubt on Dominic Cummings’s lockdown claims – The Observer
  • Did he actually break any lockdown rules? – Sunday Telegraph
  • The Vote Leave svengali who has made himself untouchable in Downing Street – Sunday Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: At a stroke, the Cummings row has weakened the authority of the lockdown

>Yesterday:

Cummings 2) “Power games” with Sedwill

“On Thursday evening it emerged that Boris Johnson had shaken up his top team in Downing Street and brought in Simon Case, the Duke of Cambridge’s private secretary, to lead the response to the Covid crisis. Case, a former No 10 aide under David Cameron and Theresa May, was already on secondment to the Cabinet Office — but now he was to become permanent secretary in Downing Street. On the face of it, this was a move to downgrade the influence of Sir Mark Sedwill, the cabinet secretary, with whom Johnson’s team have clashed over the handling of Covid-19. But now there are claims — vociferously denied by Downing Street — that Case’s appointment stemmed in part from power games orchestrated by Cummings. It is said Johnson’s chief adviser had sought to get the prime minister to remove Sedwill, who was blamed by the political team for failing to get a grip on the virus.” – Sunday Times

  • Speculation mounts that ‘dark forces’ are behind expose on aide who dared to take on Whitehall – Mail on Sunday

Cummings 3) Dispute over police contact with the family

“In another developing row, Durham Constabulary tonight said Mr Cummings’ father had spoken to officers on the phone. The police statement said: “During that conversation, Mr Cummings’ father confirmed that his son had travelled with his family from London to the North-East and was self-isolating in part of the property. “Durham Constabulary deemed that no further action was required. However, the officer did provide advice in relation to security issue.” Number 10 had previously said that the police had not spoken to Mr Cummings or his family, with a spokesman saying: “At no stage was he or his family spoken to by the police about this matter, as is being reported.” Senior Downing Street sources also made clear that Mr Cummings would continue with his usual job, including attending meetings of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).” – Sunday Telegraph

  • “It’s not like he was visiting a lover”, says Johnson – Mail on Sunday

Cummings 4) Ex-brother-in-law speaks out

“Boris Johnson’s senior adviser travelled to his parents farm in the North East to self-isolate with his wife and child, sparking accusations of flouting and demands he resign. His ex-brother-in-law last night rode to his defence by insisting it was ‘very, very easy’ for the Number 10 chief to hole up at his parents’ home. Matthew Herriott, a farmer who lives close to North Lodge, said that the property includes a number of self-contained apartments attached to the main building, which are only accessible via a separate entrance.It meant that Mr Cummings, his wife Mary Wakefield and their young son were able to stay in the £800,0000 sandstone farmhouse without coming into contact with his parents, Morag and Robert.” – Mail on Sunday

Cummings 5) Bower: Why Johnson will fight to the end for maverick guru

“Cummings represents the biggest threat to public sector incompetence, and to the cosy Whitehall Civil Service establishment, that has been a dead weight on Britain’s development for years and which has let us down so badly during the pandemic crisis.The truth is that defending this monolith – which Cummings called ‘the Blob’ in specific reference to the education Establishment because of its resistance to change – is a religion for the Labour Party and trade unions. His removal would ring-fence the cosy, well-paid, gold-plated pension culture of those who run Britain. Yet for Boris Johnson, this country’s prosperity depends on his chief adviser’s genius for creative destruction. That is why Johnson will fight to save Cummings.” – Tom Bower, Mail on Sunday

  • It is in the national interest for him to stay – David Goodhart, Sunday Telegraph
  • He’s left the door wide open to the Government’s critics – Leader, The Sun on Sunday

Coronavirus 1) Sunday Times concludes lockdown should have started earlier

“An Insight investigation has talked to scientists, politicians, academics, emergency planners and advisers to Downing Street about the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis in the three weeks from March 2. We found that a key government committee was informed at the beginning of the month by its two top modelling teams that Britain was facing a catastrophic loss of life without drastic action. By then, however, any hope of containing the virus through contact tracing had fallen through because the government had failed to adequately increase its testing capacity in January and February. Caught in the headlights, the government was intent on pursuing a “contain” and “delay” policy of allowing the virus to spread through the population, with the intention of shielding the vulnerable and elderly and introducing new measures to slow the rate down at some future point when it looked as if the NHS might be overwhelmed.” – Sunday Times

  • Three weeks of inertia that led to the worst of all worlds – Leader, Sunday Times

>Today: MPsETC: Coronavirus Count

Coronavirus 2) Shapps announces funding boost for buses and light rail

“Buses and light rail services will receive £283m towards improving safety and restoring services during the coronavirus pandemic. However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the full service would only run at a fifth of the usual capacity because of social distancing rules. Announcing the funding, he said it does not mean “we can go back to using public transport whenever we like”. Volunteers will also be used to double the 3,400 safety marshals at stations. The £254m for buses and £29m for trams and light rail is intended to increase the frequency and capacity so the UK can “start moving back to a full timetable”, Mr Shapps told the Downing Street daily briefing.” – BBC

>Yesterday: WATCH: Stonewall Shapps. He leads today’s press conference with a £283 transport announcement. But the questions zero in on…

Coronavirus 3) Lawson: People’s voluntary behaviour, rather than the lockdown, is causing the economic downturn

“Even some lifelong libertarians are reluctant to apportion blame to the British approach. Ryan Bourne, chairman for the public understanding of economics at the fiercely free market Cato Institute in America, wrote on the ConservativeHome website: “Global evidence suggests that lockdowns have had a very small additional impact on economic activity relative to the voluntary social distancing we’d see anyway . . . The libertarian in me wants to blame bad government policies for economic harm … Yet one cannot honestly look at the data and conclude anything other than the virus, not the lockdowns, has caused our economic woes, so far.” Bourne rightly stresses those last two short words. If the British government, as we come out of lockdown, continues to insist on two-metre distancing, that could reinforce rather than reduce the destructive effect on “consumer-facing” businesses. But, here again, investment decisions are being taken autonomously by companies, based on their informed anticipation of future consumer choice.” – Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times

Other coronavirus comment

  • The new authoritarian State’s dream has come true – Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday
  • Here’s what the Government must do to avoid an enduring depression – Daniel Hannan, Sunday Telegraph
  • You’re more likely to get coronavirus in Yorkshire than Greece… so a mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals into the UK is bonkers – David Davis and David Blunkett, Mail on Sunday
  • We now need bold moves to revive the country – Leader, Sunday Telegraph
  • We must get back to work or we’ll leave our children a legacy of debt – Karren Brady, The Sun on Sunday
  • In lockdown, violence soars behind closed doors – Torsten Bell, Observer

MPs “in revolt” over planned return on June 2nd return

“Boris Johnson is facing a growing revolt by MPs of all parties this weekend against plans to force them back to Westminster on 2 June and vote in person in the House of Commons. More than 70 MPs, including most chairs of select committees, have signed a letter complaining that the plans to ditch all remote voting – announced by the Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg – would also lead to queues of more than 650 MPs stretching for over a kilometre around the Palace of Westminster. They say that MPs who are shielding will be unable to vote and will therefore be excluded from the democratic process. The rebel MPs have won support from the Speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, who has written to colleagues saying that he would prefer to retain the system of hybrid voting, in which MPs can choose whether they vote in person or remotely, and hopes that the government can be persuaded to change its mind.” – The Observer

Wilshaw warns of poorest pupils being worst hit by school closures

“Children in state primary schools will fall further behind their peers in private education because of a refusal to let more pupils return on June 1, the former chief inspector of schools warns today. Sir Michael Wilshaw also said he was worried that England’s child obesity problem could get worse if children did not return to class soon. One in three 11-year-olds leave school overweight. “Children will not be having PE lessons, they will have been in lockdown in many cases in homes without gardens where there may not be an emphasis on healthy eating. I am worried that childhood obesity is likely to be worse at the end of this crisis,” Wilshaw said. “I want to see children safely back in school as soon as possible.” – Sunday Times

  • Councils must ‘justify their actions’ if they refuse to reopen primary schools next week – Sunday Telegraph
  • Militant unions are facing a moment of political jeopardy, not the PM – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph

Free speech campaign launched – with opinion poll showing opposition to “identity politics”

“A campaign is being launched to combat the rise in identity politics, backed by a poll suggesting that even young people are tired of the culture wars. Voters want an end to ideological drives and disruptive protests on “politically correct” subjects and would prefer politicians to focus on what brings people together in the wake of the coronavirus and Brexit. The Campaign for Common Sense (CCS), which is to be launched this week, will champion free speech and oppose the intolerance of hardline activism that seeks to shut down legitimate debate. It aims to be “a rallying point for people who have had enough of walking on eggshells”. Mark Lehain, its director, was one of the first free-school headteachers, at Bedford Free School, which opened in 2012. He later led the New Schools Network and the Parents and Teachers for Excellence campaign, which advocated a knowledge-rich curriculum and a traditional approach to behaviour. Sir Robbie Gibb, who was director of communications for Theresa May in Downing Street and is the brother of Nick Gibb, the schools minister, is also involved.” – Sunday Times

  • Stonewall’s new boss Nancy Kelley let census expert be no-platformed – Sunday Times

Bruce proposes new law to ban abortion for babies with minor disabilities

“Pregnant women will be banned from aborting babies with minor disabilities under proposed new laws. A cross-party group of MPs have joined forces to bring forward a Bill to end late terminations on the grounds the unborn child has a club foot, cleft lip or palate.All these minor abnormalities can be easily corrected after birth but hundreds of mothers have had abortions after they showed up in scans after the 24-week legal limit. The change is being championed by Tory MP Fiona Bruce, whose son was born with a club foot which was corrected by surgery and physiotherapy. Her Bill, which will get its first reading in Parliament on June 3, has already won the support of 12 MPs from the three largest parties.” – The Sun on Sunday

China condemned over new security law for Hong Kong

“Nearly 200 senior political figures from around the world have added to growing condemnation of Beijing’s planned new security law in Hong Kong. Signatories from Europe, Asia, north America and Australia called the plans a “comprehensive assault on the city’s autonomy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms”. China is seeking to pass a law that would ban “treason, secession, sedition and subversion” in the territory. It rejects criticism of the move. Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the plans, which he described as a “death knell” for the city’s freedoms. The UK, Australia and Canada have also expressed their “deep concern”.Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam, who is seen as part of the pro-Beijing political establishment, has pledged full support for the proposed law and said the city’s freedoms would remain unchanged.” – BBC

  • China covered up coronavirus and thousands more died – how can we trust them with our 5G security? – Liam Fox, The Sun on Sunday
  • Your Aussie friends are baffled, Britain: Why escape from Brussels – only to kowtow to Beijing – Tony Abbott, Mail on Sunday

>Today: Bob Seely on Comment: While we are distracted by Covid-19, China prepares to seize Hong Kong – and crush freedom

News in brief

  • What else could Cummings have done? – Melanie McDonagh, The Spectator
  • Why Cummings must go – Alex Massie, The Spectator
  • The reasons Johnson should sack Cummings are the reasons he won’t – Alastair Campbell, The Article
  • We need to take a firmer line with the world’s remaining communist dictatorships – Andrew Lewer, Free Market Conservatives
  • What we can learn from the pilgrims – Mark Wheatley, Global Vision

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