The DRD Snapshot - 8 January 2021
8 Jan 2021
Welcome to first DRD Snapshot of 2021, your essential guide to what you may have missed this week and what you won’t want to miss next… including the vaccine, Brexit and Donald Trump
Boris: “I’m beginning to have my doubts about this chap… maybe I’ll just wait and see what happens… “
THE WEEK THAT WAS
Never a dull moment. Since your last Snapshot, rather a lot has happened! Though none of us expected to enjoy a normal Christmas, the Prime Minister was forced to end the year with yet another U-turn after the new and highly transmissible variant of the Covid-19 virus spread at alarming rates across London and the South East. On Saturday 19 December, Christmas was cancelled…
At the eleventh hour, the Prime Minister secured his Brexit deal and so at 11pm on the 31st December, the transition period came to an end…
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use in the UK, with the first doses given out earlier this week…
With the Conservative Government never ones to break with tradition, the New Year began with yet another U-Turn. Children went back to school on Monday, only to be told that primaries, secondaries and colleges would be shutting from Tuesday, until at least the February half-term. A-levels have been scrapped for the second year and millions of families are back to juggling work and home schooling. Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson may soon find himself stood outside the Headmaster’s Office.
Third time lucky. Whilst many heralded the arrival of the vaccines and chinks of light appeared at the end of the tunnel, the new variant of Covid-19 which has seen 1 in 50 people in England, and 1 in 30 in London carrying the virus, has come as a stark reminder that there remains some way to go before returning to any sort of normal. With a grim inevitability, the Prime Minister was back on our screens on Monday night to plunge us back into a third national lockdown. MPs briefly interrupted their recess to vote on the measures, which passed with an overwhelming majority (just 14 Tories rebelled this time, compared to 55 who voted against the tier system in late 2020).
Chaos in the Capitol. On Wednesday, President Trump incited his supporters to march to Capitol Hill and put pressure on those ‘weak’ Republican politicians who were not planning to object to the ratification of the Electoral College vote. Little did we know that a mob, led by far-right activists, would storm the US Capitol building for the first time since the British tried to burn it down in 1814. Shocking live images were relayed around the world of the crowds rampaging through the Capitol Rotunda, the chambers of the House and the Senate, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
Congressional aides caught up in the turmoil told Snapshot that “they were shaken up, safe but fine … but were determined to continue business as normal in terms of ratifying the Electoral College Vote.” One added that it was a “shameful day for American democracy.” What was noticeable was how little resistance was met by the mob from the police. They, apparently vastly outnumbered, had to restrain from a full-on pitched battle against waves of people in paramilitary apparel, some of whom were armed. The scene was stark compared to the huge police presence of the Black Lives Matters protestors the previous summer.
Although shocking, it was not surprising that the MAGA supporters acted as they did, following four years of partisan and incendiary rhetoric by Trump and a number of GOP politicians. Certainly, for many, the location of the unrest took on an extra symbolism, as America’s reputation as a stable democracy was tarnished around the world. Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the attacks on the Capitol and stated that Trump was “completely wrong” to cast doubt on the election result. Even the voice of moderation, Home Secretary Priti Patel, got involved, saying President Trump’s comments “directly led” to the storming of the Capitol. While the British Government’s comments were seen as a politically significant shift, many couldn’t help noticing that such condemnation had been neatly saved for after the US election result.
Committee Corridor. Current Health Secretary Matt Hancock was quizzed by former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, and the Health Select Committee on the U.K.’s worsening Covid-19 situation yesterday. Asked about a lack of data and transparency in the vaccine rollout, Hancock stated that as the rollout progresses more information will be made public to ensure greater trust, and that more doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine are being delivered to community pharmacists to meet demand.
On the significant work and staffing pressures faced by hospitals, the Health Secretary denied reports that Nightingale hospitals were being decommissioned, but acknowledged that more staff were needed, and while access to twice weekly lateral flow tests for staff should be 100% in England, the high number of Covid cases among staff and patients would surely limit the workforce. Hancock reiterated the Government’s commitment to the JCVI priority list for vaccination, though the order of vaccination for groups after that list (i.e. under 50s without underlying health conditions) is as yet undecided, with teachers, police and other key workers having a strong case.
THE WEEK TO COME
Back to work. MPs return from Christmas recess (again) on Monday and in good, post-Brexit style, things are kicking off with a debate on Global Britain. How very appropriate.
It’s all in the numbers. On Tuesday, the Prime Minister announced that there would be 1,000 vaccination sites up and running across the country by the end of the week. On Thursday, the Prime Minister publicised a new national booking service to make it easier to book and access vaccine appointments. From Monday, the Government will begin publishing daily vaccination figures. In less promising news, CityAM reported that London’s Nightingale Hospital is set to reopen next week.
Nothing to declare. The Government is getting tougher on arrivals entering the UK, with travellers from abroad soon to be obliged to prove they have had a negative Covid-19 test. The DfT said the measure is one of several being considered to “prevent the spread of Covid-19 across the UK border”. Scotland and England have signed up, with Wales and Northern Ireland expected to announce shortly. It comes after analysis from Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds revealed that just three in every 100 arrivals into the U.K. are being checked to ensure they are complying with quarantine measures. Not particularly good odds…
WHAT YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED
Sky News got the scoop that former banker (and Tory party donor) Richard Sharp is set to be named as the next BBC Chairman in February. Sharp, formerly Sunak’s boss at Goldman Sachs, currently works as an adviser to the Chancellor. In this latter capacity, Snapshot has crossed swords, professionally with Sharp in recent months. Intellectually, he lives up to his name. We also have no doubt he will retain his independence from his former prodigy.
Choppy waters ahead, Prime Minister
In the first of two blogs looking at the issues the main parties will face in the year ahead, DRD Associate and former parliamentary adviser, Samantha Beggs outlines the challenges for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party in 2021.
When the Prime Minister stormed to victory in December 2019 with a new intake of loyal Brexiteers and an 80-seat majority, his greatest challenge was delivering a good deal and “getting Brexit done” (as he often liked to tell us). Then, he’d turn his attentions to addressing geographical inequality with big infrastructure projects and a new Skills Fund as part of his levelling up programme – a thank you if you will to the new ‘blue wall’ communities. Big plans and high hopes… but along came Covid-19 and changed everything…
To read more, please click here.
WORTH A READ
The FT – With Brexit done, reality dawns that frictionless UK-EU trade is no more
The Spectator – A race against time: can the vaccine outpace the virus? (Richard Dobbs)
New Statesman – Why Labour is failing to benefit from Boris Johnson’s repeated mistakes (Stephen Bush)
The Times – For Joe Biden and Boris Johnson the carnage is only just beginning (Patrick Maguire)
The Guardian – Rishi Sunak unveils £4.6bn relief package for UK retail and hospitality sectors (Larry Elliott)
STAT OF THE WEEK
One U-turn too many?
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