Newslinks for Monday 25th May 2020

Cummings 1) The Mail calls for Cummings to go…

“Boris Johnson was facing a furious Tory backlash at all levels of his party last night after he attempted to mount an extraordinary defence of Dominic Cummings. At a dramatic press conference in Downing Street, the Prime Minister claimed his chief aide had acted ‘responsibly, legally and with integrity’ while making a controversial 260-mile trip from London to Durham during lockdown. Mr Johnson insisted Mr Cummings had ‘followed the instincts of every father’ by driving to his parents’ farm after his wife developed symptoms of coronavirus. But he refused to deny that while in the North East, Mr Cummings had also driven 30 miles to go for a walk in the countryside in an apparent second lockdown breach. And he failed to say whether he had given Mr Cummings permission for the Durham trip – or offer any apology for his most senior aide’s behaviour.” – Daily Mail

  • PM’s defence sparks “furious backlash” – FT
  • Johnson’s support of Cummings sparks anger from allies and opponents – The Guardian
  • “You should see the emails I’m getting from my constituents, they’re absolutely furious”, says cabinet minister – The Times
  • Red Wall Tories “absolutely livid” – i News
  • SAGE scientists criticise PM’s defence of his chief adviser – Daily Mail
  • PM “has sacrificed his own credibility to save Dominic Cummings”, says cabinet minister – The Times
  • UK Civil Service Twitter deletes critical post – Daily Mail
  • Cummings was reported by retired teacher – Daily Mail
  • How the crisis engulfing Cummings unfolded – Daily Mail
  • The life and times of the “career psychopath” – Daily Mail
  • Cummings heckled outside home… – The Sun
  • But criticises press for lack of social distancing – Daily Mail

>Today:

Cummings 2)… But The Times says he should stay

“Margaret Thatcher declared: “Advisers advise; ministers decide.” This is constitutionally correct but not quite the full story. Advisers also act as lightning rods for the ministers they serve. Calls over the past 48 hours for the resignation of Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s special adviser, should be seen in that light. Mr Cummings has questions to answer about allegations that he breached government rules on the lockdown during the coronavirus crisis, and did so repeatedly. On the evidence that has so far emerged, however, his conduct is not a cause for resignation. The calls for him to go are not politically disinterested, but come from longstanding critics of Boris Johnson among opposition parties and the press, along with a few Conservative MPs who cordially detest Mr Cummings and resent the pivotal role he plays in the government. It would be wrong for Mr Johnson to accede to these on their own.” – The Times

  • “Shame on you”, Cummings’ father tells press – The Times

Cummings 3) The presentation of the other papers remains neutral

“BORIS Johnson was last night facing a full-blown Cabinet revolt for sticking by embattled top aide Dominic Cummings over his lockdown breach. The PM said he had cleared his most senior adviser of any wrongdoing and branded his actions “sensible and defensible”. Mr Cummings is accused of ignoring strict government advice by driving his virus-stricken wife from London to self-isolate at his family farm near Durham. He spent five hours holed up in No 10 yesterday, fuelling speculation he was about to quit. But Boris emerged to tell the nation he was standing by his man, who he said was only trying to protect his four-year-old son. Hosting a tense evening No 10 briefing, Boris dismissed growing calls for an official inquiry.” – The Sun

  • By publicly defending his chief adviser, the Prime Minister has put his political capital at stake – The Telegraph
  • Johnson stays loyal to man who helped him into Number 10 – FT
  • Number 10 relied on “some very specific lockdown defences” – The Telegraph
  • Johnson’s adviser “is not out of the woods” – The Times
  • Cummings has “acted responsibly legally and with integrity”- The Telegraph
  • Cummings took day trip “to look at bluebells” – The Telegraph
  • Police say Cummings controversy will make lockdown “impossible” to enforce – The Telegraph
  • Officers spoke to Cummings’ father twice after he “broke lockdown” – The Sun
  • 19 unanswered questions from Cummings crisis – The Telegraph
  • Cummings faces possible police investigation – The Guardian
  • Durham residents outline why Cummings was right to flout lockdown – Daily Express

>Yesterday:

Cummings 4: Stephen Glover – After their sacrifices, the British people have the right to expect better from the PM

“This country faces its worst crisis since World War II. Tens of thousands have died, and although the pandemic is being brought under control there will be many more deaths. Our economy is in freefall, and even the most optimistic observers believe we face years of pain and slog just to get back to where this country was before Covid-19 struck. Amid all these enormous challenges, the argument over whether Dominic Cummings breached the terms of the lockdown, which he had helped to engineer, has suddenly become centre-stage. I’m afraid Boris Johnson’s vehement, though unconvincing, endorsement of his wayward adviser at yesterday afternoon’s media briefing will have done nothing to dampen down the fires. His blustering declaration that Mr Cummings had behaved ‘responsibly, legally and with integrity’ will have struck many people — including loyal Tories — as preposterous. – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 1) Johnson: Lockdown restrictions to be eased

“Lockdown restrictions will be eased to allow greater “social contact” and the reopening of non-essential shops, Boris Johnson has suggested. The Prime Minister on Sunday night promised to reveal details of less draconian measures – which could include more mixing between households – in the coming days. The rules were relaxed slightly a fortnight ago to allow members of one household to meet a maximum of one person from a different household in a public place, provided they stay two metres apart. However, the Government’s roadmap for lifting the lockdown raises the possibility of “bubbles” of social contacts once England moves to Step 2. Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said he believed the country to be “in a position to move to Step 2 of our plan”.” – The Telegraph

  • Combat and team sports get the go-ahead for full-contact training – The Telegraph
  • Boss of Britain’s biggest recruiter warns of “tsunami of job losses” – The Telegraph
  • German state is first to abolish enforced lockdown restrictions – The Times
  • UK bailout schemes could create coronavirus debt trap, warn banks – FT

>Today:

Coronavirus 2) School reopening to go ahead, says PM

“Schools in Britain will start to reopen on June 1, the government has today announced. In a briefing to the nation this evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said some primary schools will open at the start of next month, with secondary schools to provide ‘some contact’ from 15 June. Reception, year one and year six classes will be the first to return to primary schools on June 1, Mr Johnson confirmed. It comes after weeks of wrangling between the government and teachers’ unions over coronavirus safety concerns. It also came as the former head of Ofsted today blasted ministers for failing to convince parents it is safe to reopen schools on June 1 amid reports three-quarters will refuse to do so.” – Daily Mail

  • 1,173 councillors sign National Education Union letter to Gavin Williamson – Daily Mail
  • Parents “at war over sending children back to school”… – The Telegraph
  • … as SAGE adviser calls their fears “misplaced” – The Telegraph
  • Exam students complain about Oxford invigilators seeing into their rooms – The Times
Comment:

Coronavirus 3) “Project Birch” to rescue stricken UK companies

“Rishi Sunak has authorised a bailout plan named “Project Birch” to save strategically important companies, as pressure mounts on the chancellor to inject state equity into companies drowning in debt. The Treasury has revealed to the Financial Times the principles under which the government would rescue individual companies, saying it would act to save those whose failure would “disproportionately harm the economy”. Aviation, aerospace and steel firms are among those facing acute problems, while carmaker Jaguar Land Rover is also talking to the government, although the company declined to provide details. Under Project Birch, Mr Sunak has increased the capacity of the Treasury to handle bespoke bailouts of “viable companies which have exhausted all options”, including government loan schemes.” – FT

Coronavirus 4) Ministry of Defence builds “forecasting superpower”

“The Ministry of Defence is helping to create a coronavirus “forecasting superpower” to track the outbreak. The Ministry of Defence’s innovation unit has deployed personnel to work with NHSX, the digital and technology branch of the health service, to merge data from ten British symptom-tracking apps. Codenamed Project Oasis, the central database is designed to help epidemiologists better understand the behaviour of the virus and its spread across different parts of the country. Data from eight UK-based apps has been collated, with information from a further two being processed. Nine other apps have been asked to supply their data to the Oasis database. Only apps that comply with NHS digital health technology standards have been selected for inclusion. Some are simple and collect limited information, while others ask users to fill in detailed questionnaires.” – The Times

Coronavirus 5) French retaliate with quarantine measures for Britons

“France is to impose quarantine measures on British travellers from next month after the home secretary announced that all new arrivals in the UK would be required to self-isolate for two weeks. Ministers in France said they regretted the decision by Priti Patel to impose the quarantine from June 8 and would bring in reciprocal measures. Ms Patel announced last week that travellers, including British citizens, entering the UK would have to isolate or they could face fines of £1,000. A spokesman for the French interior ministry said: “We take note of the British government’s decision and we regret it. France is ready to put in place reciprocal measures as soon as the system comes into force on the British side.”” – The Times

  • Aviation industry prepares for post-pandemic changes – FT

Coronavirus 6) Coronavirus may vanish too fast for vaccine trial

“An Oxford University vaccine for Covid-19 has only a 50 per cent chance of success because there are so few cases. Adrian Hill, who is co-leader of the project, said that a trial involving 10,000 people could return no result because the virus was not prevalent enough for volunteers to catch. Last month the university said that there was an 80 per cent chance of success. Professor Hill said that out of the 10,000 he expected fewer than 50 to catch the virus. If fewer than 20 test positive, the result may be useless. Ministers have said that 30 million doses of a successful vaccine could be ready by September but Professor Hill, director of the university’s Jenner Institute, told The Sunday Telegraph: “It is a race, yes. It’s a race against the virus disappearing. We said earlier in the year that there was an 80 per cent chance of developing an effective vaccine by September. But at the moment, there’s a 50 per cent chance that we get no result at all.” – The Times

Coronavirus 6) Patients stop being infectious after 11 days, according to study

“Coronavirus patients can’t infect others after 11 days of being ill even if their test still comes back positive, scientists find. An infected person becomes contagious around two days before symptoms show, researchers from Singapore found. They then remain contagious for between seven and ten days after they start showing signs of the disease – which include having a high temperature and a new and continuous cough. Covid-19 ‘could not be isolated or cultured after day 11’ of the illness, researchers said. Scientists from Singapore’s  National Center for Infectious Diseases and the Academy of Medicine examined 73 patients with coronavirus. They looked at whether the bug could be passed from them to someone else, the New York Post reported.” – Daily Mail

New inquiry into security risk posed by Huawei technology

“Security officials have begun a new review of the risk posed by Huawei to the British telecoms network, after the Chinese company was banned from using American technology. The government confirmed yesterday that the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), a branch of the intelligence agency GCHQ, is examining additional risks to Huawei products that may arise from the latest US sanctions. The Trump administration unveiled a plan this month to block global chip supplies to Huawei, the latest move in a concerted campaign against the company amid wider tensions between Washington and Beijing. British security officials are concerned that the sanctions will prompt China to use cheaper, less secure alternatives.” – The Times

  • UK draws up plans to restrict Chinese inward investment – FT
Comment:

Truss “clashed with George Eustice” over farmers’ rights – in US trade deal

“Boris Johnson has told ministers that the government “must not let our farmers down” amid a cabinet split over plans for a US trade deal. Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, is said to have clashed with George Eustice, the environment secretary. Mr Eustice is understood to be concerned that the UK could be flooded with cheap US products that may drive British farmers out of business. Ms Truss has insisted that she has no intention of lowering standards. In cabinet a fortnight ago Mr Johnson said: “We must not let our farmers down. One of the reasons for leaving the EU is we can do things differently and better on things like animal welfare.” Ms Truss said that she would not do a trade deal with the US if it “does not benefit every sector of UK agriculture”.” – The Times

Wealthy could be charged more for TV license, says Lord Hall

“The BBC has hinted that wealthier viewers will be asked to pay more as the corporation prepares to end free licences for those over 75. Lord Hall of Birkenhead, the departing director-general, said the broadcaster should consider fairer and more proportionate funding models. Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One yesterday, he raised the prospect of basing the fee on ability to pay or usage as he confirmed that the BBC was “preparing” to begin charging viewers over 75 from August, having shelved the plan because of the pandemic. Lord Hall said his own view on the licence fee was that “we should look at can you make it fairer, make it proportionate, can you charge it in different ways?”” – The Times

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