SHOCK CHARGE FOR EV USERS
From The Times: Motorists face having to pay up to £41 to charge an electric car amid warnings that the most expensive public charge points can cost almost as much as a tank of petrol. Research published yesterday found that the price of roadside charging for electric cars varied significantly between private operators. The study by What Car? magazine revealed that some motorists could pay as much as £40.66, including parking, to charge the battery from 10 percent to 80 per cent using a public chargepoint. That figure is almost six times that of charging the vehicle at home. The sum was close to the estimated £46 cost of filling the tank of an average-sized petrol car by the same proportion.
FROST JOINS THE CABINET
The Express reports that Lord David Frost has been appointed to the Cabinet by Boris Johnson, Downing Street has announced.Last month it was announced Lord Frost would become the UK’s Brexit and international policy representative to help ensure smooth implementation of the EU trade deal he negotiated with Brussels in 2020. No10 has now confirmed his role will see him become a Minister of State and join Mr Johnson’s top team in Cabinet. In his new role he will be charged with maximising the opportunities of Brexit, including on international trade and economic issues. He will formally take up the position on March 1.
COVID RESTRICTIONS HAMPER SCOTTISH ELECTION
The Express reports that George Galloway has launched another blistering attack against Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP, accusing the party of rigging the upcoming Scottish election as Covid rules in the country have prevented rivals from campaigning. The crunch Holyrood elections are scheduled to take place on May 6 – subject to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and any issues that might materialise alongside that over the next three months. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said she will push for a second referendum on Scottish independence if the SNP can gain a majority in the election – a move Prime Minister Boris Johnson has outright refused. Mr Galloway is furious at what he claims is an unfair advantage the SNP has claimed in the weeks leading up to those elections. Covid restrictions in Scotland have severely hampered opposition campaigns, with Ms Sturgeon appearing daily on weekdays on national television during her coronavirus briefings.
VOTER I.D. NOT NEEDED SAY LABOUR
According to the SUN voters are expected to have to show ID to vote by 2023 under a crackdown on voter fraud. Anyone without a form of photo ID such as a passport or driving license will have to contact their council before polling day to confirm their ID if they want to cast their ballot. The new plans will come as part of the Electoral Integrity Bill, which will be introduced to MPs in the next few months.No firm date has been set for when the new rules will come in yet, but it’s expected to be in place for the 2023 May elections. Ministers think the ID plans, which were a manifesto promise from the PM, will lead to more confidence in the electoral system, which already exists in Northern Ireland. But the bill sparked a furious political row as Labour are dead set against the idea and say it will lock people out of the democratic system.
CONSERVATIVE RULE WEAKENED FOUNDATIONS OF SOCIETY
The Guardian reports that Keir Starmer will use a major speech to claim that the coronavirus pandemic has hit the UK disproportionately hard because 10 years of Conservative rule weakened the foundations of our society. The Labour leader, who has faced internal criticism in recent weeks for failing to chart a clear political course, will say Rishi Sunak’s budget next month is a fork in the road and should be a moment to diagnose the condition of Britain and to start the process of putting it right. He will argue that the aftermath of the pandemic that has claimed more than 100,000 lives, with those in poorer communities disproportionately hit, calls for a Beveridge-style reassessment of life in the UK.
BORIS TO FOLLOW PRUDENCE
The Times reports that Boris Johnson said that the easing of England’s lockdown would follow a cautious and prudent approach and be based on “data, not dates”. The Prime Minister stressed that the loosening of restrictions will be done in stages so that the departure from lockdown this time is irreversible and suggested hospitality would be one of the last stages. Asked on a visit to a vaccination centre in south Wales whether he agreed with Professor Dame Angela McLean, a government scientist, that the roadmap out of lockdown should follow “data, not dates”, the prime minister replied: I do think that’s absolutely right. Johnson continued: That’s why we’ll be setting out what we can on Monday about the way ahead.
TRUMP BEGINS FIGHTBACK AGAINST McCONNELL
The Times writes that Donald Trump launched a ferocious campaign to oust the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, as opinion polls showed him retaining a firm grip over the party faithful. Trump branded McConnell “a dour, sullen and unsmiling political hack” who would “never do what needs to be done, or what is right for our country”. It followed the senator’s criticism of Trump, 74, as practically and morally responsible for inducing a mob to storm the Capitol , even though he voted to acquit him in the impeachment trial. Trump’s typically aggressive fightback signalled open warfare for control of the Republican party between its two leading figures. The party requires a gain of just one seat to retake the Senate.
BREXIT RUINS TREE EXPORTS TO NORTHERN IRELAND
From the Guardian: Orders for almost 100,000 trees have been cancelled by buyers in Northern Ireland because of a post-Brexit ban on the plants being moved from Britain. Leaders in the business say it is a major setback for tree-planting programmes in Belfast and elsewhere in the region. The Woodland Trust in Northern Ireland has just cancelled an order for 22,000 trees, which were destined for schools and communities as part of a Northern Ireland greening project. Scotland-based Alba Trees, one of the biggest suppliers in Britain, selling around 250,000 trees a year to Northern Ireland, says it has also been hit. At a stroke, Brexit has taken away a huge chunk of our business,” said Craig Turner, the chief executive. We turned down an order of 70,000 oaks a couple of weeks ago because we can’t ship them.
THERE MAY BE A SWIFTER MOVE OUT OF LOCKDOWN THIS TIME
The Guardian reports that the success of the vaccination programme makes it possible to consider lifting the lockdown restrictions, scientists have told MPs, but the UK should not expect to become Covid-free like New Zealand. Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, told the Commons science and technology committee on Wednesday that the country could begin to ease out of lockdown earlier than it did the first time round. He told the committee that the public health benefit of a lockdown declines over time. “You get half the public health benefit … in the first two weeks. And the next two weeks is only half the benefit again and then half the benefit again. So the actual public health benefit you’re getting from lockdown diminishes over time.”
COMMENTS CAUSE CHILLY REACTION
The London Evening Standard reports that a director at supermarket chain Iceland has been sacked over comments he made about the Welsh language. Keith Hann called the language gibberish adding that Welsh sounded like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat, WalesOnline reported. The supermarket chain, which has its HQ in Wales in the border town of Deeside, had already apologised on Tuesday after Mr Hann reportedly tweeted that inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loathe all visitors. But Mr Hann was sacked with immediate effect on Wednesday after further comments about Welsh people were unearthed on private blog posts. Mr Hann was the company’s Director of Corporate affairs.
GOING TO WORK WITH A COUGH OR COLD SOCIALLY UNACCEPTABLE
From the Daily Mail: Britons may never go to work with a cough again because Covid-19 has made it socially unacceptable , a top scientific adviser has predicted. Workers suffering from a cough, stuffy nose or flu could become accustomed to staying at home in order to stop spreading respiratory illnesses. Professor Dame Angela McLean told a Parliamentary committee today that it would be powerful if people saw going into work with symptoms such as a runny nose, sore throat or cough as socially unacceptable. Dame Angela, a professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Oxford and chief scientific adviser to the Ministry of Defence, said: ‘I think it’s quite unlikely that we will return completely to the way we behaved in February 2020. There are things we used to do I suspect we won’t do anymore. I suspect we just won’t go to work if we have a respiratory illness.’ Asked in the Science and Technology Select Committee if staying home would be mandatory, she said: “To be honest, I think it would be most powerful if it simply became socially unacceptable to go work with a cough.”
The Daily Mail reports: Black Country residents have slammed woke Facebook rules after a local history group was threatened with a ban for discussing the local delicacy – faggots and peas. Members of a popular community group on West Midlands heritage were left in disbelief after users were warned about posting offensive and homophobic content. Faggots and peas is a traditional dish in the Black Country – but residents were told they were breaching community standards by using the word which can carry another hateful meaning. Admin of the group Linda Beech, 64, from Bromley, Dudley, West Midlands, has now had to warn users to stop using the word faggot, which is sometimes used as a derogatory term for a gay person in the USA. In Britain, faggots are meatballs traditionally hand-made with offal by butchers and served with mashed potatoes and peas.