TORY MPs DEMAND UNIVERSAL CREDIT INCREASE AND £500 FOR EACH 18-24 YEAR OLD
The Daily Mail reports that everyone aged 18 to 24 should be given a £500 lump sum to boost the coronavirus recovery, a group of almost 100 Tory MPs has demanded. The One Nation caucus wants Boris Johnson to offer the ‘Covid relief payment’ in recognition the age group has been among those ‘worst affected by the pandemic’. The centrist bloc, led by former Cabinet minister Damian Green, estimated that the giveaway would cost around £2.8billion. In a report published today, the MPs demanded the £20-a-week rise in Universal Credit is made permanent and a planned £4billion cut to the foreign budget is axed. Mr Green argued that the country ‘must target our limited resources to those that need our help the most’.
JUNCKER ADMITS HE LISTENED TO CAMERON OVER BREXIT
The Express reports that Jean-Claude Juncker has admitted he should not have listened to David Cameron during the Brexit process during a tell-all interview. The former EU chief admitted he did not do enough to prevent the UK’s exit from the bloc. Commenting on his position, Mr Juncker also insisted he did not defend the EU’s point of view in the UK. Speaking today, he claimed he was too silent throughout the debate over the UK’s departure from the EU. He claimed the British public had been misled and added: “I should not have listened to David Cameron. He told me not to interfere in the debate in the UK, not to come to London, not to do interviews with the British press. I made a mistake because I did not defend the EU’s point of view in the UK.”
NINE MILLION MISSING VOTERS TO LOSE OUT
From the Mirror: More than 9million missing voters could lose their voice in next month’s mini general election. They have just one day left to register or they will miss out on May 6 – when 145 local council elections, 13 mayoral polls and one by-election will be decided. The deadline for registration is at midnight tomorrow, but almost one in five, or 17%, of the electorate have not yet registered correctly or are living at the wrong address. Most are young renters, recent house movers or people from ethnic communities. But if they turn up at polling stations without registering they will not be allowed to vote. Craig Westwood, the Electoral Commission’s director of policy, urged voters to register online. He said: ‘It only takes five minutes – the time it takes to boil a kettle.” The elections, including polls postponed from 2020 because of the pandemic, will be the first electoral test for Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. In the Hartlepool by-election his party is fighting to keep the seat it has held since 1974.
THEY WON’T COME OUT SMELLING OF ROSES
The Express reports: A probe into political “sleaze” could go back decades, including the New Labour years, sources have said. The remits of an investigation will be announced this week in the wake of the recent lobbying scandal which has gripped Westminster. But insiders have suggested it is unlikely to be limited to the Tory or coalition administrations. Multiple inquiries have been announced after revelations of David Cameron’s lobbying on behalf of Australian financier Lex Greensill. MPs are also expected to turn their attention to how power brokers from Tony Blair’s time have used their connections since leaving office. The remits of an investigation will be announced this week in the wake of the recent lobbying scandal which has gripped Westminster. But insiders have suggested it is unlikely to be limited to the Tory or coalition administrations. A senior Conservative source said: “No one is going to come out of this smelling of roses. I think the conduct of the civil service is more of a concern than the conduct of politicians.”
BRITAIN HELPS UKRAINE REVITALIZE NAVY WITH £1.25 BILLION
The Express reports that the Ukraine may have to rely on a coalition of the willing to help defend it from another Russian land grab because Nato is unlikely to intervene militarily, senior policy advisors warned last night. It comes amid a continuing military build-up by Moscow, which now sees 80,000 Russian troops and 2,000 tanks and armoured vehicles positioned either in Crimea or flanking the Ukraine’s borders. Some 14,000 shock troops – 16 battalion tactical groups – arrived in the last few days alone. Britain is assisting Ukraine in other ways, such as a £1.25bn loan to help revitalise Ukraine’s navy or the 18,000 Ukrainian troops it has trained since 2015.
RUSSIA NO THREAT TO UKRAINE SAYS RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR
The Sunday Times reports that the Russian ambassador has denied that conflict is about to break out between Russia and Ukraine but said he has not seen Dominic Raab for more than a year amid rising tensions. Andrey Kelin, Moscow’s ambassador to London, said he arrived for his posting full of aspirations but that over the past year relations with the UK had become worse. He said he had not seen Raab, the foreign secretary, in over a year, despite being summoned multiple times to the Foreign Office to be rebuked for Russia’s actions. Kelin denied that Russia and Ukraine were close to war despite a massive build-up of troops along their border, insisting that on Moscow’s part it was merely a military exercise.
UNPROVEN ASTRAZENECA ISSUES NOT SPOTTED QUICKLY IN UK
From the Telegraph: The first cases occurred in January and February but their significance was not picked up by the MHRA’s algorithms. Early in March, some four weeks after the first AstraZeneca vaccine was administered in Europe, little signals – like flares – started to go off all over the continent. But not it seems in Britain where “we continually monitor the safety of vaccines to ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks,” said Dr Phil Bryan, the MHRA’s Vaccines Safety Lead. On Friday, the MHRA told The Telegraph: “We are aware of thromboembolic events that occurred in January, however, our first report was received in the week commencing 8 February.” Prof Stephan Lewandowsky, a psychologist at the University of Bristol studying the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, told the Financial Times on Friday: “The MHRA was slow in responding to the emergence of a specific constellation of symptoms associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and slow to communicate what they were finding. There is no suggestion whatsoever that the MHRA covered up the reporting of CVST with thrombocytopenia – it just did not spot the still unproven issue as early as others.”
ISRAELIS BREATHE FREE OUTDOORS AT LEAST
THE Sun reports that the outdoor mask mandate has been forsaken in Israel from today after the order to don them outdoors was deserted – as 81% of adults have received both coronavirus jabs. The country has become the envy of the world thanks to its amazing Pfizer-BioNTech powered vaccine rollout and has provided a thrilling look into the future post-pandemic. Approximately 81% of over 16’s have received both vaccine doses, which has seen a sharp decrease in hospitalisations and outbreaks – a promising prospect for the UK. Israelis went barefaced for the first time since last year on Sunday, after the mandatory face-covering rule was rescinded. Some restrictions still apply to foreigners and unvaccinated Israeli’s returning from abroad must still self isolate – over concerns of other variants ravaging the vaccine success.
TO EARLY TO CALL ON REOPENING HOSPITALITY ON MAY 17TH
The SUN reports that it is too early to say whether all hospitality businesses can reopen on May 17, a minister has said. Speaking to Andrew Marr, environment minister George Eustice said: “Well, it is too early to say. But I think we are on track in the sense that we are on track with the rollout of the vaccination programme.” British scientists must urgently learn as much as possible about the Indian Covid-19 variant, a leading epidemiologist has warned, as calls mount for the country to be added to the Government’s “red list”. Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (Spi-M), which provides evidence on coronavirus to the Government’s Sage committee, said as much information about the new variant must be gathered as quickly as possible. But while confirming that there are around 70 cases of the new Indian variant in the UK, George Eustice defended the Government’s decision not to further restrict travel to the country. He added that the situation is being kept under regular review.
From the Sunday Times: Vehicles of the future will know left from right but may not recognise ‘non-white or non-male’ faces. A new generation of self-driving cars was supposed to eliminate the dangers caused by fallible human motorists, but an official body has warned that they may pose a new threat: racist and sexist behaviour. The Law Commission, which is drawing up the legal framework for autonomous vehicles, says that they may “struggle to recognise dark-skinned faces in the dark” because facial recognition software may be less accurate at detecting “non-white and non-male faces”.