Sunak 1) The Prime Minister is to a unveil ‘blueprint’ to tackle the crisis in UK hospitals, in the first major speech of his premiership

“Rishi Sunak will tomorrow take personal charge of tackling the NHS crisis. The Prime Minister will use the first major speech of his premiership to acknowledge the unprecedented scale of the pressures facing hospitals – and invite the public to judge him on his response. Mr Sunak will set out his broad approach to resolving the pressure on the health service, including a renewed focus on tackling the delayed discharges clogging up hospital beds. He will pledge to bring forward an ‘urgent care recovery plan’ later this month, coupled with a recovery plan for primary care to improve access to GPs. Tomorrow’s speech will see him detail his strategy for dealing with major challenges, including industrial strife crippling public services and rampant inflation.” – The Daily Mail

  • The speech was unexpectedly brought forward, ahead of a speech by Starmer on Thursday – The Daily Telegraph
  • What Sunak must do to reconnect with Tory voters – Stephen Pollard, Daily Express
  • 2023 brings more political pain for Sunak’s government – Stephen Bush, The Financial Times

Sunak 2) He plans ‘compulsory maths until 18’ for every schoolchild

“All children will have to study mathematics until they are 18 under Rishi Sunak’s plans to reimagine the education system. The prime minister will make the policy his personal mission today as he attempts to seize control of the political agenda with the first big speech since his inaugural address outside No 10 in October. Sunak will outline his priorities for 2023 and chart a course towards “a better future for Britain”, Downing Street said. But the prime minister’s attempt to strike an optimistic tone comes as he is buffeted by severe difficulties. The government said yesterday it was “confident” that the NHS had the money it needed, even as it admitted the service was grappling with an “unprecedented challenge”.” – The Times

  • He aims to tackle high rates of innumeracy on the UK – The Daily Mail
  • Everything we know so far about the threatened teachers’ strike as parents face not being able to send kids to school – The Sun

Sunak 3) ‘Don’t ditch my childcare reforms’, Truss ‘tells’ her successor

“Liz Truss has warned Rishi Sunak not to scrap her childcare reforms amid growing frustration from Tory MPs over the “unaffordable” costs facing parents. During her short time in No 10, the former prime minister fast-tracked plans to help parents struggling with childcare as part of her solution to fix the acute labour crisis gripping the country. Sunak has ditched her proposals to scrap mandatory staff-child ratios in nurseries. He is also reviewing Truss’s plans to extend free childcare support for toddlers to 50 hours a week. Supporters of Truss, including Simon Clarke, the former levelling up secretary, are among those who have publicly criticised Sunak’s plans. Truss herself is understood to disapprove of the prime minister’s reluctance to embrace significant reform.” – The Times

  • The proposals were fast-tracked during her brief stint in Downing Street – The Daily Mail
  • ‘Senior backbenchers’ warn ‘watering down help for parents’ would ‘cost the party votes’ at the next election – The Daily Telegraph
  • Sunak’s childcare U-turn points to a lack of political nous – and makes me miss Truss – Alys Denby, The I


Sunak 4) He drops Truss-era plans for ‘war on Whitehall red tape’

“Rishi Sunak has dropped plans to rein in Whitehall bureaucracy by setting Government departments “red tape budgets’’. Ministers would have been handed binding annual targets limiting the total regulatory cost they could impose on businesses. The proposals were part of efforts under Liz Truss to ease the burden on the economy from civil servants’ excessive lawmaking. But they will not be taken forward by Mr Sunak…Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary, drew up detailed plans for putting the new system into action. An annual review would have set each department a ceiling for the overall cost of regulation it could impose…They could have chosen how to “spend” their red tape budget but would have faced sanctions for exceeding it.” – The Daily Telegraph

Sunak 5) The Prime Minister is warned an ‘infinite’ number of other migrants are ‘ready to replace Albanians’

“Stopping Albanians crossing the Channel will not solve the small-boats crisis because there is an “infinite” number of migrants from other countries hoping to reach Britain, ministers have conceded. The scale of the problem has persuaded even those in government who were originally sceptical of the plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda that it is necessary to do something “big and bold” to make Britain “a less attractive destination”. One source said: “There are simply too many pull factors at the moment.” Rishi Sunak has staked much of his political future on stopping the small boats, with legislation to be announced early this year effectively barring anyone crossing the Channel illegally from being allowed to stay in Britain.” – The Times

  • Border Force strikes could be extended to Dover and other ports – The Guardian

Hunt’s ‘cash boost’ to low-income UK households to stretch ‘at least 12 months’

“Millions of low-income households in Britain will receive payments totalling up to £1,350 spread over at least 12 months, the government announced on Tuesday as part of its measures aimed at easing the cost of living crisis. The extra help was first announced by chancellor Jeremy Hunt in November’s Autumn Statement but the government had not previously set out when the extra cash would be paid…[The] bulk of the cash would be made up of a £900 cost of living payment for more than 8mn households paid in three instalments…from spring 2023…”Tackling inflation is this government’s number one priority and is the only way to ease the strain of high prices, drive long-term economic growth and improve living standards for everyone,” Hunt said.” – The Financial Times

  • Fresh food prices jump 12 per cent to record highs, as the cost of shopping soars, and shows no sign of slowing – The Daily Mail
  • Fuel price hikes will punish drivers outside of London, the Chancellor is warned – The Sun

Raab launches ‘last-ditch attempt’ to keep mother who abused her baby so badly he needed his legs amputated behind bars

“Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has launched a last-ditch attempt to keep the mother of severely abused boy Tony Hudgell in jail after she became eligible for release this week. Jody Simpson, 29, and her partner Anthony Smith, 52, abused Tony so badly as a baby he required 23…before doctors were later forced to amputate his legs. The pair were found guilty of child cruelty in 2018 and are both currently serving a ten-year prison sentence, however Simpson was due out this week. It comes after she won a High Court challenge against Mr Raab’s decision to delay her release. Ministry of Justice officials have put in an application to the Court of Appeal to challenge the High Court ruling. Simpson will remain behind bars until a decision is made…” – The Daily Mail

Harper, who resisted Covid curbs as a backbencher, ‘now advocates masks’…

“People with coronavirus or flu would be “very sensible” if they wore masks, a Tory minister has said. Mark Harper, the transport secretary, urged people to stay at home if they had such illnesses and called on vulnerable people to have their fourth booster shot. Asked whether he would wear a mask if he had the coronavirus, Harper, who campaigned against stringent restrictions from the backbenches during the pandemic, told LBC: “First of all you should stay at home if you think you have got Covid or you have got flu — actually the most sensible thing to do is to not go out and spread it. If you do go out, clearly wearing a mask is very sensible if you are ill. But we manage these illnesses now by vaccination…”” – The Times

  • Health bosses accused of trying to ‘control our lives’ and wanting to brink back Covid mask rules – The Sun
  • 2,000 passengers ‘a day’ from China to the UK are to be tested for Covid in hunt for new variants amid Beijing secrecy – The I
  • Tory MPs ‘slam’ Labour’s ‘madness’ plan to return to days of ‘hated’ Pingdemic, with masks, testing, and isolation to save ‘broken NHS’ from new Covid wave – The Daily Mail
  • Why is the NHS in its worst ever crisis? – The Financial Times
  • One of Covid’s hangover is a nationwide reluctance to get more jabs. If you’re eligible, please get them sorted – Editorial, The Sun
  • Britain has to say no to mandatory masks – Editorial, The Daily Mail
  • As Covid and flu cases increase, Britons should lighten the load on the health service by wearing face coverings when they’re feeling off-colour – Editorial, The Times
  • We may be entering Covid’s least predictable year yet – Anjana Ahuja, The Financial Times
  • Anyone could do a better job than the NHS’s useless, irresponsible managers – Allison Pearson, The Daily Telegraph
  • Masks and ‘lockdown lite’ measures won’t fix the NHS. It needs an overhaul, and here’s 6 things that must urgently change – Michael Wilkinson, The Sun
  • The NHS delusion is condemning people to death – James Bartholomew, The Daily Telegraph


…as he tells striking rail workers there is “not a bottomless pit of taxpayers’ money”, whilst train drivers are ‘set to be given’ £2,000 in bid to end ongoing strikes

“Train drivers are set to be offered a new pay deal worth more than £2,000 extra per year in a bid to end ongoing strikes. A new package worth four per cent for two consecutive years is being thrashed out by rail firms. Rail bosses hope that if train drivers’ union Aslef back the deal it will further tighten the screw on the RMT and their leader Mick Lynch to find a solution. The package could be formally put to Aslef in a meeting early next week. Around 12,500 drivers are set to walk out tomorrow across 15 rail companies, bringing affected services to a standstill. The intervention comes after 40,000 RMT rail workers downed tools yesterday…on two 48-hour walkouts this week… Harper yesterday told striking rail workers that there is “not a bottomless pit of taxpayers’ money”.” – The Sun

  • Commuters are told to brace for ‘Tragic Thursday’ tomorrow with just 10 per cent of services running on the worst day of action in decades – The Daily Mail
  • Threat to stretch rail strikes into summer – The Times
  • More Britons oppose striking rail workers than support them, new poll suggests, dealing blow to Lynch’s claim his RMT members have ‘massive support’ from the public – The Daily Mail
  • Signals of an end to rail chaos are long overdue – Editorial, Daily Express
  • Striking rail unions need to accept reality – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph

Crosbie reveals she wears a ‘stab-proof jacket’ to meet constituents

“A Tory MP has revealed she wears a stab-proof jacket to meet constituents for fear of an attempt on her life. Virginia Crosbie, who represents Ynys Mon in Wales, said she also got security protection following the killing of fellow Conservative Sir David Amess. The backbencher, 56, said she receives threats on social media “before breakfast” and demanded online giants stamp out anonymous accounts making them. Ms Crosbie told GB News: “I have been in difficult situations. I have surgeries, I do face-to-face surgeries where I wear a stab jacket, obviously following the murder of David Amess…unfortunately, this is one of the things I have to do to ensure that I can actually do the job that I was elected to do.”” – The Sun

Daniel Finkelstein: Tories’ dash to burn EU rules is disreputable

“The government’s proposals for revoking EU regulation have chosen to advance the weak economic argument for Brexit at the expense of the stronger political one. They are trying to move quickly to “take advantage of our Brexit freedoms” even if that means bypassing parliament and democratic decision- making. This measure, if it passes, will I think reduce growth rather than increase it. And it will make a mockery of the political case for leaving the EU… The central proposal Rees-Mogg’s bill makes is that most, if not all, EU law will simply expire at the end of 2023. In other words, in less than 12 months. If that sounds a remarkably cavalier way of dealing with decades of regulation covering thousands of issues, that is because it is.” – The Times

  • We must get rid of burdensome EU red tape – Editorial, The Daily Telegraph
  • The only people who are enthusiastic about keeping the EU’s regulatory burden is ‘the Blob’ in Whitehall – Daniel Johnson, The Daily Mail

Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading regime ‘too strict’, says Varadkar

“Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s new prime minister, has admitted that Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements are “too strict”, fuelling hopes of a deal between the UK and the EU to end the dispute over the issue. He said a protocol in the UK’s Brexit agreement, which created a trade barrier between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, had made pro-UK unionists in the region feel less British and that a compromise was possible. Varadkar, who was involved in drawing up the Northern Ireland protocol in 2019 during his first stint as taoiseach, is an unpopular figure in some parts of the region’s unionist and loyalist communities. Britain and the EU hope talks about a deal to reform the protocol will conclude early in 2023, ending a bitter stand-off.” – The Financial Times

Elgin Marbles could soon be returned to Greece in ‘landmark deal’ by Osborne

“The Elgin Marbles could soon be returned to Greece as the British Museum closes in on a landmark deal. UK law prevents treasures from being legally given away by the museum, but George Osborne, its chairman, is understood to have have drawn up an agreement which would repatriate the antiquities as part of a “cultural exchange”. The deal negotiated with Greek officials would effectively be a loan agreement under which the Elgin Marbles could be moved from London to Athens “sooner rather than later”, sources said. However, the Telegraph understands that this “gesture” will not end the long-running row over the Marbles, as Greece intends to keep fighting to gain full legal ownership of the 2,500-year-old cultural treasures.” – The Daily Telegraph

House of Representatives ‘in chaos’ as Trump-backing Republicans resist McCarthy becoming Speaker in ‘historic failure’

“Chaos marked the Republican return to Washington’s corridors of power after successful midterm elections when rebels blocked their party leader, Kevin McCarthy, from becoming Speaker. After three rounds of inconclusive voting, the House of Representatives adjourned without choosing a new presiding officer for the first time in a century, despite weeks of backroom arm-twisting to try to find the votes. It was a historic failure for McCarthy, 57, a California congressman who has led his party in the chamber since 2014, and plunged the House into paralysis. No business can be conducted until a Speaker is elected. “We stay in it ’til we win . . . it will eventually change,” McCarthy said, pledging to keep holding votes until his opponents caved in.” – The Times

News in Brief:

  • Striking railway workers are fighting a losing battle – Mary Dejevsky, The Spectator
  • Liz Truss still haunts the Tories – Robert Saunders, UnHerd 
  • On British chumocracy – Obadiah Mbatang, The Critic  
  • The Ukraine war has made predictions futile – Lawrence Freedman, The New Statesman
  • What I got right and wrong in 2022 – Sam Freedman, Comment is Freed 

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