A VERY FRENCH POLITICAL STORM BREWING IN FRANCE
The Telegraph reports: Twenty retired generals and scores of ex-officers have sparked a political furore in France after calling on President Emmanuel Macron to stop the country from descending into chaos and “civil war” at the hands of Islamists. Led by Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac, a retired Gendarmerie general, and signed by 80 other retired officers, the open letter to Mr Macron was published in Valeurs Actuelles, a right-wing news magazine, last week. Strongly supported by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Rally and presidential candidate, the text was this week dismissed by Mr Macron’s government as a diatribe from a bunch of military pensioners who only represent themselves. It was, it said, sadly reminiscent of the Algiers putsch – an attempt to oust Charles de Gaulle 60 years ago by retired generals who opposed moves towards granting Algeria, then a French colony, independence after a bloody civil war. However, the appeal has gained traction just days after a woman police employee had her throat slashed by an Islamist who had entered France illegally from Tunisia before eventually being granted residency.
BORIS ISSUES DIRE COVID WARNING
The Express reports that Boris Johnson has issued a dire coronavirus forecast, telling Britains “there will be another wave” of the virus, and issued a warning for people not to become to relaxed and to stick to public health measures as lockdowns ease as “another wave” of the pandemic cannot be ruled out. However, he did assure Britons that the country’s vaccination programme had built up “robust fortification” against the next surge of the disease.
BRITAIN ORDERS MILLIONS MORE JABS
From the Express: The UK used the current deadlock between Brussels chiefs and AstraZeneca over supplies to seize the moment. This inaction reportedly engaged French vaccine manufacturer Valneva – which put the UK at the head of the queue for their jabs too. Despite outraging Brussels, the move clears the way for the UK to start receiving its 100 million shots of the two-dose vaccine. It will be made in West Lothian, Scotland and will hopefully be available later this year. The row between the pharmaceutical company, based in Nantes in western France, and Brussels comes as it remains in a legal battle with AstraZeneca for promising the UK first deliveries of its vaccine supplies.
TORIES FALL FIVE POINTS IN LATEST POLL
The Evening Standard reports that the Conservatives have plunged five points after weeks of growing sleaze controversy, pollsters Ipsos MORI survey reveal in tonight’s Evening Standard. It will fuel Tory fears that the “drip drip” of allegations is undermining their hopes in the Hartlepool by election and in local and Scottish elections on May 6. The pollsters found the Tories on 40 per cent, down from 45 per cent in March, three points clear of Labour who are on 37 per cent, down from 38. The monthly survey put the Liberal Democrats on eight (from six), and the Greens unchanged at five. The data will dismay Labour MPs because they suggest Sir Keir Starmer has so far failed to capture voters getting disenchanted with the Government and the Prime Minister.
NOT SOLID JOURNALISM SAYS WALLACE
The Evening Standard reports: Defence secretary Ben Wallace has denied claims that Boris Johnson said he would rather bodies piled high in their thousands than order a third lockdown. A Daily Mail report alleged that the prime minister said at an October meeting at Downing Street: “No more f****** lockdowns – let the bodies pile high in their thousands.” However, Mr Wallace categorically denied the allegations. “It’s not true – it’s been categorically denied by practically everyone”, he told Sky News on Monday. “We’re getting into the sort of comedy chapter now of these gossip stories – you know unnamed sources by unnamed advisers talking about unnamed events. You know – look – none of this is serious.” He added: “Where we are at right now is unnamed people talking about unnamed conversations with different people and that isn’t really solid journalism.”
BRITAIN’S BIGGEST SHOW OF NAVAL STRENGTH SINCE THE FALKLANDS
The Mirror reports that HMS Queen Elizabeth will lead Britain’s biggest deployment of naval and air power since the Falklands War as it sets sail on its maiden voyage next month. The £3 billion warship, with eight RAF F35B stealth fighter jets on board, will be joined by six navy ships, 14 helicopters and a submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles. Hailed by the Ministry of Defence as the “largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation,” the deployment will visit more than 40 countries over 28 weeks. The Carrier Strike Group (CSG) will seek to deepen ties with Indo-Pacific nations including India, Japan, South Korea and Australia amid China’s rising power in the region.
LITTLE CHANCE OF FINDING CHATTY RAT
The Telegraph reports that a government investigation to find the “Chatty Rat” who leaked Boris Johnson’s plans for a second lockdown will probably never find the culprit, the Cabinet Secretary has admitted. Appearing before MPs on Monday afternoon, Simon Case would not give details on the investigation into who leaked the plans but suggested it would never be resolved. “What I can say is the investigation is ongoing and this is a clear indication that the source or sources haven’t been identified,” he said. In the time that has now passed, I think it is probable that the team will not successfully identify the source or sources but work is ongoing.” Mr Case said the issue was in the hands of professional investigators,and that such probes were incredibly complicated. He acknowledged a sense of frustration that ‘we are unable to catch more people responsible for leaks.’
BRITS NEED TO UNDERSTAND THAT WORDS CAN CAUSE OFFENCE
From The Times: A disability charity has said that terms such as able bodied and wheelchair-bound are offensive and should be avoided. The Leonard Cheshire charity, which helps people to live independently and campaigns for better disabled access, endorsed government guidelines suggesting that people say “non-disabled” instead of able bodied and “blind people” instead of “the blind”. Wheelchair users are not bound or confined but should be treated as active people, it said. Seventy-three percent of disabled Britons believe that others need more help to understand what words cause offence, according to a study for the charity. The government advises that people avoid “passive, victim” nouns such as epileptic or diabetic, instead calling someone a person with epilepsy or diabetes.
IT’S AUTUMN HOLIDAYS THIS YEAR SAY TRAVEL FIRMS
The Times reports that holidaymakers are pinning their hopes on the longest summer ever as travel companies report a flood of bookings for autumn departures. Airlines, resorts and tour operators have all experienced a surge in demand for breaks later in the year, with reservations for autumn in some cases up by 80 per cent compared with 2019. Growing numbers of Britons are believed to be abandoning hope of an international holiday until later in the year, despite the vaccine success.
POST BREXIT SALES OF MILK AND CREAM TO EU PLUMMET
The Independent reports: Sales of milk and cream to the EU are down an extraordinary 96 per cent – and chicken and beef by almost 80 per cent – because of Brexit. Overall, the trade barriers erected in Boris Johnson’s deal have cost exporters more than £1.1bn since the start of the year, The Food and Drink Federation says. The organisation said it was “essential” that the UK urgently restarts talks with the EU to resolve the crisis – something the prime minister has so far refused to do. The statistics lay bare how withdrawal from the EU – rather than the impact of Covid-19 – lies behind the collapse in exports, since the transition period ended on 31 December. Food and drink exports to non-EU countries rose by 8.7 per cent, between February 2020 and February 2021, but fell by 40.9 per cent to the EU.
NO CONFLICT OF INTEREST HERE SAYS CABINET SECRETARY
From the Independent: Dozens of top civil servants hold second jobs, the Cabinet Secretary has revealed – but he insisted they had been cleared of any conflict of interest. Simon Case revealed the results of his probe – launched amid evidence of Greensill Capital’s apparent infiltration of David Cameron’s government – as he gave evidence to a ‘sleaze’ inquiry. Mr Case said he had “so far been made aware of fewer than one hundred senior civil servants who hold paid employment alongside their civil service role. They are often providing contributions to wider public life – for example as a magistrate, reservist, school governor or charity trustee,” he said in a letter to a Commons committee. “I have been heartened to see that colleagues are making a contribution to wider society.”
The Telegraph reports that a cyclist who attached a tiny engine to his bike to help him tackle the steep hills around his village ended up in court after being charged with failing to licence and insure a motorised vehicle. Lee Middleton, 37, used the petrol engine from a remote controlled car to modify his mountain bike in order to power him up the gradients surrounding the clifftop village of Brotton in North Yorkshire. He said even with the modifications the bicycle could only reach a top speed of 15 miles per hour, which he said was much less than the average electric bike, which have become a popular alternative to pedal power recently. But the former fisherman was hauled before Teesside Magistrates’ Court after he was stopped by police for being in charge of an unregistered motorised vehicle. He was also charged with failing to have insurance and not wearing a helmet.