Number 10 is under fire from all sides today, quite apart from the latest revelations from Dominic Cumming’s explosive interview with the BBC tonight in which he admits there was a plot to get rid of the Prime Minister within days of the election.
First off, came news that the latest Coronavirus figures are compounding fears that the government’s freedom date was premature. The UK recorded 96 deaths from the virus today – the highest daily toll since 24 March. The total number of deaths over the past week has jumped by 60% compared to the week before.
Then there is the row over vaccine passports which is reaching boiling point after Boris Johnson’s unexpected announcement about plans to make vaccine certificates mandatory for clubbers from September.
When pushed today on whether the edict could be extended to pubs as well, a Downing Street spokesperson refused to rule out the option, merely saying the government will “use the coming weeks to look at the evidence.”
Johnson’s latest plan – seen as a way to force the young into vaccinations- has sparked the wrath of Tory rebels but also much of British business. Specifically, hospitality chiefs have reacted angrily to the U-turn, which comes after Michael Gove and Nadhim Zahawi denied that there were plans to introduce so-called ‘Covid status certification’.
Vaccine passports aside, Number 10 is being accused of sowing confusion over whether or not individuals need to isolate when pinged by the NHS Covid app.
This morning, business minister Paul Scully told TimesRadio that it is “up to individuals and employers” to make “informed decisions”, since isolating post-ping is not a legal obligation.
In a shambolic turn of events, a Downing Street spokeswoman quickly issued a statement, correcting the minister’s words, insisting it was “crucial” to self-isolate when told. See Hound below.
It’s worth noting that this latest bout of mixed messaging is more than just a blunder from one particular MP.
According to The Times, other ministers – including Lord Grimstone, the investment minister – have written to major manufacturers, stressing that the app is just an “advisory tool” and those pinged don’t have a “legal duty” to isolate.
Their compulsion to do so is understandable – indeed, 1.7 million people are thought to be isolating at home thanks to the pingdemic- but that doesn’t stop it from being a foolish move; any suggestion that self-isolation is optional risks undermining the government’s entire public health strategy.
Labour have jumped on these inconsistencies, labelling it as more evidence of “incompetence from the heart of government”. Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow health minister, accused ministers of “making it up as they go along”. They got that one right.
If that’s not enough fire for one day, the cherry on the top of Johnson’s cake will be the sight of Cummings doing his first prime-time TV interview with the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg since his fallout with the PM.
In an astonishing interview, Cummings admits that he and others in the ‘network’ were plotting to get rid of the Prime Minister within days of the election. As for relations with Johnson’s then girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, and now his wife: it was either he goes or she goes.
In a frank and frankly astonishing hour-long session – which looked and sounded like it was therapy on the couch for Cummings – the former Vote Leave campaigner also admitted that if anyone – on either side of the Brexit debate- thought they were right, they were probably not very bright. As he admitted, how can anyone know the truth of these things?
Bezos having a blast
It was the “Best Day Ever” for billionaire Jeff Bezos who made a short journey to space today in the first crewed flight of his rocket ship, New Shepard.
With the Amazon founder was his brother, Mark Bezos, Wally Funk, an 82-year-old pioneer of the space race, and an 18-year-old student. They travelled in a capsule with the biggest windows yet flown in space to give the best views of the Earth.
It’s not just nightclubs that may have to have vaccine passports but sporting venues with more than 20,000 people or more attending may also have to show proof of vaccination according to the government’s latest plans.
Heathrow Airport was the hottest place in the UK today with temperatures hitting 32.2C (89.9F) and the hottest day of the year. The extreme heat is likely to last until Friday.
Caitlin Allen, Reaction Reporter