“People may be able to celebrate Christmas “as a family” this year, Downing Street has insisted, as a Sage scientist claimed this was “wishful thinking”. There are growing warning that the festive season could be at risk unless there is some form of mini-lockdown, whether it be a circuit breaker or firebreak. However this afternoon a Number 10 spokesman told a Westminster briefing: “The PM has been clear previously that he is hopeful that in many ways we could be able to get some aspects of our lives back to normal by Christmas. “As I say, we’ve been clear about the ambition to ensure that people may celebrate Christmas as a family this year.” Earlier today Sage scientist Professor John Edmunds said “radical action” would be needed for that to happen.” – Daily Telegraph
>Today: David Gauke’s column: With a position so exposed, how did Burnham get away with it?
“According to Mr Sunak’s allies he remains committed to the “signature” manifesto commitments, a formulation that leaves the obvious question of which pledges do not bear that imprimatur. No 10 and No 11 deny any link between the decision to scrap the three-year spending round and to make the new furlough scheme more generous. One said that it was “110 per cent untrue” that Mr Sunak had only moved under pressure from Mr Johnson. Mr Johnson’s allies admit the timing of the package made the government look “disjointed” given it came 48 hours after the prime minister had denied £5 million more to satisfy Mr Burnham. They point out, however, that apart from Greater Manchester, talks with local leaders over Tier 3 and Tier 2 measures were going well. Covid’s geography makes for awkward politics for a prime minister committed to “levelling up” but only in the short term.” – The Times
>Today: ToryDiary: Should the Treasury underwrite Drakeford’s assault on the Welsh economy?
>Yesterday: ToryDiary: Our lives are still on hold
“Net migration targets have been abandoned by the Government as it ditches the £35,800 salary cap for migrants to be allowed to settle in the UK. The new rules for Boris Johnson’s points-based immigration system demolish the last vestiges of Theresa May’s attempts to reduce net migration to tens of thousands. Skilled migrants will no longer be required to earn £35,800 to be able to settle in the UK but the cap will instead be lowered to £25,600 under the rules, which were quietly slipped out on Thursday and take effect on December 1. Unskilled migrants on salaries of just £20,480 but with enough points to be allowed into the UK to plug gaps in jobs where there is a shortage of workers, will also be entitled to settle in Britain after six years and become citizens. Under the current system, migrant workers have had to leave the UK after six years unless they earned £35,800 a year, a rule introduced in 2011 by Mrs May to reduce net migration when she was Home Secretary.” – Daily Telegraph
“A French minister has dismissed Boris Johnson’s claim that Britain can “more than live with” a no-deal Brexit if trade, security and fishing talks with the European Union fail. Clément Beaune, the French Europe minister who is a close associate of President Macron, poured scorn on the prime minister’s upbeat assessment that Britain could prosper without an EU deal. “If the British thought they could live with ‘the freedom’ of no deal outside of the EU — if it was so easy and so comfortable — they would have already left without a deal,” he told French BFM television on Thursday. Mr Macron last week rallied other European leaders to issue an ultimatum that a trade, security and fishing deal would be possible only if Britain conceded to EU demands. As a result Mr Johnson cancelled trade talks and said that if it came to a no-deal scenario of trade tariffs “we can more than live with it”. He said: “I think we can prosper mightily under those circumstances.”” – The Times
“Despite all the fretting about fish, comes the hopeful message: “We’re close.” As close, indeed, as social distancing permits. Our chief negotiator, Lord Frost, spent Thursday and yesterday in talks with M Barnier in the basement of the Department for Business. This was itself a good sign. Britain’s terse statement that there was nothing more to talk about had brought the EU back to the table. It acknowledged, as it had not before, that this is a discussion between equal entities. Given the long, sad history, however, one must ask: “Are the British public being manipulated by a government which is in reality ready to trade major long-term issues of principle for short-term presentational wins?” Old hands will remember the brilliantly spun “Game, set and match to Major”, which fanfared Maastricht in 1991. Yet Maastricht was the treaty from which the Tory party has never fully recovered, and from which the longing to leave was reborn.” – Daily Telegraph
“Boris Johnson was under pressure to back down in his fight with the footballer Marcus Rashford as Tory councils joined a nationwide revolt against his refusal to fund free school meals at half-term. The Conservatives’ most powerful regional leader, Andy Street, criticised Downing Street’s response to the issue as the Manchester United player’s campaign gathered momentum. Rashford’s petition on child food poverty, which includes a call for funding free meals for eligible pupils during school holidays, was approaching half a million names last night. His Twitter account was also flooded with messages from businesses and people offering help, including taxi firms offering free rides to food banks and a bridal boutique making up packed lunches. The government provided food vouchers in the Easter holidays and, under pressure from Rashford, during the summer break. Mr Johnson insists that the return of schools in September should have ended the extension of free school meals in the holidays and says there are better ways to help those in the most need.” – The Times
>Yesterday: Emily Carver in Comment: Under this Government, the state is rolling forward. But to be Conservative, it must roll it back.
“Britain has launched a series of covert attacks on Russian leaders and their interests, the former cabinet secretary has revealed. Lord Sedwill said that clandestine operations had been mounted to punish President Putin and his senior allies and signalled that this included deploying Britain’s newly declared offensive cyber-capability. The “series of discreet measures” were used to “impose a price greater than one they might have expected”, he said in an interview with Times Radio. It is the first time a senior British figure had confirmed such tactics. The disclosure marks an escalation in British action against a resurgent Russia. Britain and its allies increased their public pressure on the Kremlin over its international transgressions in recent weeks. Lord Sedwill, who was also national security adviser until he stepped down last month, refused to disclose the exact nature of the attacks, “because they are covert”.” – The Times
“More than 100 Tory MPs have written to Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer demanding he take action over Angela Rayner’s incendiary comments in the House of Commons. They said dozens of MPs have been threatened, had graffiti daubed in their constituencies or were abused online after Deputy Leader Angela Rayner called Chris Clarkson “scum” during a debate this week. Senior Tories are calling on a public apology from Sir Keir and the promise of stronger action against Ms Rayner if she uses “unparliamentary” language again. After the row, the phrase “Tory Scum” trended on twitter, and MP’s offices were targeted with abusive phone calls. Tory MP Shaun Bailey’s mother received abuse with a member of the public copying the language of Rayner over the telephone. Minister Chloe Smith has been targeted locally with graffiti calling her Tory Scum.” – The Sun
“The National Trust could face an official investigation by the charity regulator for straying from its “clear, simple purpose” to preserve historic buildings and treasures. Speaking to The Telegraph’s Chopper’s Politics podcast (which you can listen to on the audio player above), Baroness Stowell of Beeston, who chairs the Charity Commission, said it was “important” that the National Trust did not “lose sight” of what members expected, adding that it was right that it was facing questions. The commission is examining whether the Trust has breached its charitable objects. Regulators approached it earlier this month after members of the public complained about its controversial review into links between its properties and the British empire and slavery. That could lead to a formal investigation in the coming weeks, with the questioning of the Trust’s recent conduct by the regulator extremely embarrassing for a charity with 5.6 million members.” – Daily Telegraph