UK coronavirus live: Johnson under pressure from Tories over lockdown and possible chief of staff appointment | Politics

Good morning. With the vaccine announcement on Monday, and a call with Joe Biden yesterday, Boris Johnson has been having a relatively good week so far, but the Conservative party is disruptive and this morning he faces pressure on two fronts.

First, reports that he is planning to install Lee Cain, the combative, Vote Leave diehard currently in charge of No 10 communications, as Downing Street chief of staff are going down very badly in some party circles. As Alex Wickham reports in his London Playbook briefing, this proposal is being viewed by some as a power grab by the Dominic Cummings faction (although some of us thought Cummings was running the place already). Wickham writes:

The Times story sent genuine shockwaves through government. Playbook received WhatsApp messages from no fewer than nine serving special advisers last night, asking if it was true and expressing their bewilderment. One SpAd said the move would mean Cummings installing a puppet as chief of staff. Another SpAd even claimed they would resign if it happened, and suggested they would not be alone. The pugnacious Cain is a controversial figure in Whitehall, having been at loggerheads with many current (and many more former) SpAds and ministers over the last year…

“My phone is on fire. I have never seen a night like this the entire time I’ve been in here,” one SpAd told Playbook.

And, second, Conservative MPs have formed a new group to oppose further lockdowns.

Mark Harper, the former chief whip, announces the creation of the Covid Recovery Group in an article in the Daily Telegraph. According to the paper, 50 Tory MPs have already joined, and another 45 are considering signing up. In his article Harper says:

Lockdowns and restrictions cost lives, whether in undiagnosed cancer treatments, deteriorating mental health and missed A&E appointments – not to mention the impact they have on young people’s education, job prospects and our soaring debts.

Last week, I voted against my party for only the second time in fifteen years. The country is badly in need of a different and enduring strategy for living with the virus that doesn’t require us to keep living under a series of damaging lockdowns and seemingly arbitrary restrictions.

I’ll post more on both these stories as the day goes on.

Here is the agenda for the day.

9.30am: The ONS publishes a report on the impact of coronavirus on the disabled.

12pm: Boris Johnson faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs.

12.15pm: Kirsty Williams, the Welsh government’s education minister, holds a briefing.

12.15pm: Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, is expected to hold a coronavirus briefing.

12.30pm: A minister responds to a Commons urgent question on rough sleeping and coronavirus.

At some point today No 10 is also due to be holding a coronavirus data briefing.

Politics Live is now doubling up as the UK coronavirus live blog and, given the way the Covid crisis eclipses everything, this will continue for the foreseeable future. But we will be covering non-Covid political stories too, like Brexit, and when they seem more important or more interesting, they will take precedence.

Here is our global coronavirus live blog.

I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.

If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter. I’m on @AndrewSparrow.

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