Newslinks for Friday 30th May 2020

Whistleblower ‘exposes ‘test and trace’ shambles’

“With great fanfare, Boris Johnson last week announced a ‘world beating’ army of contact tracers whose job is to stop coronavirus in its tracks. No fewer than 25,000 have been hired. Their mission – to combat coronavirus by sleuthing down every person in danger of contracting Covid from each new case that emerges. On Thursday that scheme went live – four days ahead of the billed start date. Presumably, this was so the Government could meet its original target of opening up schools and shops by June 1, something which could only be achieved with a functional test and trace system in place. Yet it seems this may not be case… Many contact tracers had no idea the system was launching that day. Others hadn’t completed basic training. And before 11am, medical phone handlers reported that the website had crashed, and were greeted with the message that ‘this has been reported as a critical incident’.” – Daily Mail

  • Lockdown relaxation may be moving too fast for safety, scientists warn – FT
  • Government ‘ignored its own experts’ on the risks of reopening schools – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Local lockdowns could lead to ‘significant risk of disorder’ – The Sun
  • Weekend lockdown-breakers will be fined – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Why the Cabinet Office will be in the dock for Covid failures when the inquiry comes. As will Sedwill.

Anonymous: Why I quit working on Boris Johnson’s ‘world-beating’ new system

“On Thursday, according the government, the system launched. But for me, nothing changed. It was a day of waiting, no system access. Yet on TV at the daily briefing, Boris Johnson told the nation all was well. To this day I remain a “key worker”, paid £10 an hour to sit in a chatroom – alone, lost, without support or help. Despite what the government is saying, it seems the relentless problem “with the system” is another pandemic without a cure. Motivated as I am to help out during this difficult time – and after two weeks of doing “pretend” work on the track-and-trace programme – I have decided to quit and try to find a real way to help people. If Boris Johnson or Matt Hancock are reading this, I’d ask them to please go into the chatrooms you created and read what people are saying. You will see a lot of anger and confusion from a lot of people. And none of them have any faith that we’re properly set up to fight any increase in infection rate from this pandemic.” – The Guardian

  • Let’s all just hope the scientists were wrong – Matthew Parris, The Times

Most English primary schools to open on Monday

“Almost every primary school in England is set to reopen on Monday in defiance of the biggest teaching union, The Times has learnt. Most head teachers will accept fewer children than ministers want, however. The reopening will boost the government, which has spent much of the past week defending Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s chief aide, who was accused of breaching lockdown rules. The prime minister announced this month that he wanted all children in nursery, reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to return on June 1. The demand was met with anger by the National Education Union (NEU), which has 450,000 members. Mary Bousted, its joint general secretary, said that the date was “not viable – it is not practical, it is not ethical, we won’t do it”. Other unions took a similar stance.” – The Times

  • Teaching unions have ‘got it wrong’, former Labour minister says – Daily Telegraph

Senior Tories urge Johnson to scrap two-metre rule

“Senior Tory MPs have urged Boris Johnson to reduce the UK’s two metre social distancing rule as they warned failure to do so could risk a wave of redundancies in the hospitality sector. There is a growing campaign for the existing restriction to be eased to one and a half metres. This would give pubs, bars, restaurants and theatres much more room for manoeuvre when they are allowed to reopen and significantly increase the number of patrons allowed in a specific premises… Mr Johnson revealed earlier this week that he has asked top Government scientists to review the existing rule in the ‘hope’ that it could be reduced. But Tory MPs, including former business secretary Greg Clark and former Brexit secretary David Davis, are seeking a commitment from the PM now.” – Daily Mail

  • Ministers draw up plans for ‘air bridges’ as early as June – Daily Telegraph

Sunak calls for ‘fighting spirit’ as he winds down furlough scheme

“The furlough scheme will end in October, Rishi Sunak said yesterday, announcing the winding down of the largest government economic support package ever. The chancellor outlined a “flexible furlough” scheme under which companies would be allowed to bring furloughed employees back part-time from July. Government support would be scaled back from August until October. Mr Sunak said that the scheme would end at the start of November. He ruled out further extensions saying such huge levels of support could not continue “indefinitely”. “Our thoughts, our energies, our resources must turn to looking forward to planning for the recovery,” he said. “We will need the dynamism of our whole economy as we fight our way back to prosperity.” Mr Sunak said that self-employed workers would be able to claim another, slightly less generous, three-month support grant.” – The Times

  • Chancellor ushers in new ‘flexible furlough’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Sunak lays out ‘lifeline’ for millions of jobs to avoid mass UK unemployment – FT

Comment:

  • Chancellor takes a softly-softly approach to easing support – Larry Elliott, The Guardian

Editorial:

  • He’s right to wean Britain off furlough scheme before it bankrupts us – The Sun

>Yesterday: WATCH: Sunak – “The furlough scheme cannot continue indefinitely,”

Baillie ‘is sent a deluge of abusive messages’ for taking maternity leave

“Newly-elected Tory MP Siobhan Baillie has been sent ‘abusive messages’ by her constituents for taking maternity leave after giving birth to her first child. Ms Baillie, who was elected MP for Stroud, Glos, in December, was already pregnant at the time she was selected to stand but had not announced she was expecting. After giving birth to a baby girl last week she announced she would be taking four weeks off, prompting fury from some of those she represents. Ms Baillie’s agent Harriet Butcher said one person wrote to the MP saying ‘I am amazed she has the nerve to take maternity leave when she has only been in the post for five months.’ … Despite making it clear that all of her parliamentary duties will be covered while she is absent, others continued to complain.” – Daily Mail

  • Questions over Jenrick’s approval of Tory donor’s housing plan – The Times

Durham Police ‘face prospect of inquiry’ after complaints over Cummings probe

“The police chief who carried out the investigation into Dominic Cummings is now facing the prospect of an inquiry over her force’s handling of the matter, The Telegraph can reveal. Durham Police have received a number of complaints from members of the public angry at the way the investigation was dealt with. The complaints came after the force announced that Mr Cummings might have committed a minor breach of the lockdown rules when he drove to Barnard Castle on Easter Sunday. It is understood some of the complaints are against Durham’s Chief Constable, Jo Farrell, who was appointed to the top job last summer.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Conservatives weigh long-term cost of controversy – FT
  • May says adviser broke spirit of the rules – Daily Express
  • Constituents bombard MPs with tens of thousands of emails – The Guardian
  • Chief of Staff sets his sights on one thing only: Brexit – The Times

Comment:

  • Suddenly that 80‑seat majority isn’t so big – James Forsyth, The Times

>Today: Book Reviews: Disraeli the anti-prig tells us far more about Johnson than Churchill does

UK path to citizenship for Hong Kongers lacks detail, say advocates

“A UK plan to offer a pathway to citizenship to hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people offers too little detail and does not go far enough to protect them from an increasingly authoritarian Beijing, campaigners say. Dominic Raab, UK foreign minister, on Thursday pledged to extend visa rights for British National (Overseas) passport holders in the territory that he said could be used to obtain citizenship unless Beijing reversed plans to impose national security laws on Hong Kong. Craig Choy, spokesman for campaign group Equal Rights for British National Overseas, said Mr Raab’s comments were encouraging but were “meaningless” if the path to citizenship was no different to the existing route open to BNO holders.” – FT

  • Three million Hong Kong residents ‘eligible’ for UK citizenship – The Guardian
  • China retaliates over offer of working visas – The Times
  • Trump orders removal of city’s special status with US over new security law – Daily Telegraph

Comment:

  • What horrors await Hong Kong under full Chinese rule? – Juliet Samuel, Daily Telegraph

>Yesterday: Tom Tugendhat MP in Comment: With the world distracted by the virus, China moves to curb freedom in Hong Kong. Here’s how we must respond.

Maitlis suggests she ‘deserves more respect’ from BBC bosses

“Emily Maitlis has fuelled her row with the BBC by sharing a message on social media which said she deserves “more respect” from the corporation. The presenter was publicly reprimanded by BBC News management for “overstepping the mark” in her Newsnight monologue about Dominic Cummings. Initially, her only comment on Twitter was to thank supporters for their kindness after they criticised the BBC for admonishing her. But after the corporation released a lengthy statement explaining why her Newsnight remarks were unacceptable, Ms Maitlis shared this tweet from a follower, who wrote that her views “deserve more respect from her employers” … The Telegraph has learned that the head of the BBC complaints unit previously criticised Ms Maitlis’s interviewing style on Newsnight as “combative” and casting “more heat than light”, it has emerged.” – Daily Telegraph

  • BBC gets 40,000 complaints in just two days over ‘rant’ – The Sun

Comment:

  • This is win-win for her, lose-lose for the BBC – Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph

>Today: ToryDiary: The BBC and politics. Maitlis’ Cummings intro was out of order. And so too, in its time, was Neil’s denunciation of ISIS.

News in Brief:

  • The way ‘Covid deaths’ are being counted is a national scandal – Dr John Lee, The Spectator
  • Test and trace won’t get us ahead of the virus – Freddie Sayers, UnHerd
  • Should free marketeers give up on health reform? – Kristian Niemietz, CapX
  • The stab-in-the-back myth – Nick Cohen, The Critic
  • A return to sporting localism is no bad thing – Allan Massie, Reaction

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