Connect with us

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick defended Boris Johnson from the suggestion he had ignored his own scientific advisors on further lockdown measures (PA)


5 min read

The government may have to “go even further” and introduce stricter measures than unveiled yesterday to tackle areas with high levels of coronavirus, Robert Jenrick has admitted.

The senior Cabinet minister also attempted to brush off claims Boris Johnson ignored the advice of his scientific advisors to put the country into more severe measures three weeks ago to counter the spiralling infection rate.

He said an announcement by the PM in late September came after “extensive engagement” with the Sage group of advisors, despite it being revealed he only implemented one of their five recommendations.

The housing secretary was speaking the day after the new system of restrictions was unveiled, with every part of the UK given either a “medium”, “high” or “very high” designation, with the top tier meaning pubs will have to shut and travel into and out of there advised against.

But on whether more stringent policies will have to come in if that fails to bring down Covid-19 cases, Mr Jenrick then told Sky News:

 “We may have to go even further than we have announced but want to make sure measures work for the local community themselves.”

“We probably need to go even further, but we want to design those steps between ourselves and local leaders,” he added.

It comes after the chief medical officer for England appeared to undermine the comments of the PM about the new measures as he stood alongside him.

Speaking at last night’s press conference Professor Chris Whitty, said of the restrictions in the “very high” category: “The base will not be sufficient, I think that’s very clearly the professional view.”

It later emerged that in minutes from a Sage meeting on 21 September, quietly released soon after the PM spoke to the nation, the group said a so-called “circuit-breaker” national lockdown of two to three weeks “should be considered for immediate introduction”.

The group said: “Modelling suggests that 14 days of significant reduction in transmission in October could put the epidemic back 28 days and could significantly reduce the prevalence of infection in December.

“The amount of ‘time gained’ is highly dependent on how quickly the epidemic is growing – the faster the growth or stricter the measures introduced, the more time gained.”

It was on a shortlist of five measures, which also included telling people who can to work from home, banning all mixing of households indoors, closing all hospitality premises, gyms and personal services like hairdressers, and moving university and college teaching online.

Sage did not call for all of them to be implemented at once but warned: “A package of interventions will need to be adopted to prevent this exponential rise in cases.

“Single interventions are unlikely to be able to reduce incidence. If schools are to remain open, then a wide range of other measures will be required.”

The day after the meeting Mr Johnson told people to work from home again, but did not announce any of the other measures.

Separately in other papers released by Sage last night the group concluded an early curfew on pubs and bars would have only a “marginal impact” on transmission of the disease, putting further pressure on the government to drop the policy.

And they also tore into NHS Test and Trace, saying “low levels of engagement with the system coupled with testing delays and likely poor rates of adherence with self-isolation suggests that this system is having a marginal impact on transmission at the moment”.

In response to the suggestion the PM had ignored his own scientists Mr Jenrick said they had taken “robust action”, such as introducing the ‘rule of six’ and the 10pm curfew on hospitality, but had overall taken a “balanced ” approach to the situation.

He told BBC Breakfast: “We listened to that advice as we always do and we did take action but these are balanced judgments.

1602596067 772 The Government May Need Stricter Measures Than The New Three Tier

“We also have to balance that up against the effect on the economy, people’s jobs and livelihoods, on education which we have made a priority and all the other unintended consequences of taking action, whether that is on people’s mental health, on other illnesses and elective surgery that might be delayed or cancelled as a result of that.

“We took a balanced view as to what was required at that moment and that’s the way we will continue to behave.”

And appearing later on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the minister said the government “certainly can” say it is still being led by the science.

“We have to take a balanced judgment – these are not easy decisions,” he explained.

“But the Prime Minister has to balance protecting people’s lives and the NHS from the virus while also prioritising things that matter to us as a society, like education and keeping as many people in employment as possible, and also ensuring that other health risks, like mental health and illnesses, don’t get neglected as a result.

“That’s the difficult but balanced judgment we are taking.”

And he again admitted they may have to go further than the current “very high” measures after being quizzed about Professor Whitty’s comments.

“The base lines measures will have an impact. Objectively, they are measures that will reduce the rate of transmission because they will limit the amount of social interaction that people have in those areas,” he said

“But they are, as the Prime Minister said, a base line. What we want to do now is work with local leaders to make difficult decisions where necessary in those communities and to consider going further if we have to.”

Source link

0
Continue Reading

Politics

‘We asked Trump to stop playing YMCA’ – Village People singer Victor Willis

p08wvyhw

The Village People classic, YMCA, is regularly played at Donald Trump’s campaign rallies – with the US president often seen dancing to it.

But the disco group’s lead singer, Victor Willis, told BBC World News America that he does not endorse Mr Trump – and has even asked him to stop playing their music.

Read more:

How Trump and Biden’s playlists pump up the fans

Source link

0
Continue Reading

Politics

Operation Fox Hunt: China sent fugitive’s elderly father to America to coerce him into going home, US claims

170831150553 justice department seal super tease
The case is believed to be part of the ruling Communist Party’s Operation Fox Hunt, an international anti-corruption campaign targeting Chinese fugitives — often former officials or rich individuals suspected of economic crimes.

The US Department of Justice said Wednesday the charges included “conspiring to act in the US as illegal agents of the People’s Republic of China.” Five people have been arrested, while three are believed to be at large in China.

In 2016, the group — which includes an American-licensed private investigator — is alleged to have embarked on an illegal campaign targeting a former Chinese government official, who has lived in the US since 2010. They are accused of recording and harassing his daughter, taping a threatening note to his front door and flying his elderly father from China — allegedly against his will — in 2017 to pressure his son to return to China.

The note on the target’s New Jersey home said in Chinese: “If you are willing to go back to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be all right. That’s the end of this matter!”

Speaking at a press conference Wednesday, US Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said the arrests sent a message that the US “will not tolerate this type of flagrant conduct on our shores.”

“Without coordination with our government, China’s repatriation squads enter the United States, surveil and locate the alleged fugitives, and deploy intimidation and other tactics to force them back into China where they would face certain imprisonment or worse following illegitimate trials,” he said.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said that Chinese law enforcement agencies “conduct foreign cooperation in strict accordance with international law, fully respect foreign laws and judicial sovereignty.”

“The United States ignores the basic facts and uses ulterior motives to smear China’s work in pursuit of escaped and stolen goods. China firmly opposes this. We urge the US to immediately correct its mistakes,” he said.

Operation Fox Hunt

The Chinese government launched Operation Fox Hunt in 2014 to target wealthy citizens who were accused of corruption and had fled the country with large amounts of money.

Beijing authorities said at least 150 corrupt officials had fled to the US, and provided American counterparts with a list of “priority cases.”

Demers said such operations — regardless of whether the targets were guilty or not — were “a clear violation of the rule of law and international norms.”

“Rather than work with US authorities for assistance with recognized criminal cases as responsible nations do, China resorts to extralegal means and unauthorized, often covert, law enforcement activity,” he said.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said at a news conference Wednesday that in a different Operation Fox Hunt case, the Chinese government had sent an “emissary” to the target’s US-based family warning that the person should “return to China promptly or commit suicide.”

Wray said that when Operation Fox Hunt targets refuse to return to China, family members in their home country “have even been arrested for leverage.”

“These are not the actions we would expect from a responsible nation state. Instead they’re more like something we would expect from an organized criminal syndicate,” Wray said.

Source link

0
Continue Reading

Politics

Van Drew’s defection to GOP haunts him in tight race

gettyimages 1073991172 1

Van Drew, like many of his Republican colleagues, now finds himself having to answer for an unpopular president, whose shaky handling of the coronavirus and inflammatory rhetoric has damaged the GOP’s standing nationwide, especially in the suburbs.

Van Drew currently trails in the polls to a well-funded Democratic challenger in Amy Kennedy, a former public school teacher who married into the Kennedy political dynasty. Kennedy is leading Van Drew by five points among registered voters, according to a Monmouth University poll from earlier this month, though it’s within the survey’s margin of error. POLITICO’s election forecasters rate the race as a “toss up.”

Democrats have tried to use Van Drew’s party change and sudden embrace of Trump as a cudgel, branding him as “switcheroo Van Drew” and accusing him of betraying his constituents for his own self interests. In one ad, Democrats even ribbed Van Drew for his taste for flashy suits in a bid to portray him as superficial and inauthentic.

“It felt like he was willing to do or say anything to keep his job,” said Kennedy, who decided to run for office after hearing Van Drew promise his unwavering loyalty to Trump. “There are a lot of people in the district who really respect someone who can be independent-minded, but that’s not what that felt like to them.”

In an interview, Van Drew defended his decision to abandon the Democratic Party, which caught his colleagues off guard and stunned Washington. Van Drew, a dentist who served in the state Legislature for over a decade, noted he was always a conservative-leaning Democrat. But Van Drew argued that the party abandoned its “big tent” principles and was no longer a good fit for him.

Yet despite pledging his fealty to Trump in an Oval Office sit-down, Van Drew now says he is not beholden to any leader — including the president. And Van Drew maintains that voters respect independent-minded politicians, especially in his south Jersey district just outside of Philadelphia, which went for Trump in 2016 but backed Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

“You vote for the person,” said Van Drew, who won his seat by eight points in 2018. “It’s not your job to vote for me, if you were in my district, because I’m a Republican. It’s your job to think about the two candidates and which candidate would do a better job for the district.”

“I didn’t betray anybody,” he added. “When people call me up and they need help, whatever party they are, I help them.”

The match-up between Van Drew and Kennedy — which has become one of the most hotly-contested races in the country — has drawn national attention, with outside resources pouring in. Democrats are not only eager to win back a seat they thought they had already seized in 2018, but also seek revenge for Van Drew’s high-profile defection.

Kennedy, who has notched endorsements from Obama and Joe Biden, has outraised and outspent Van Drew. Kennedy has spent $1.2 million on the airwaves, compared to Van Drew’s $367,000, according to the ad-tracking firm Advertising Analytics. But Van Drew had roughly $600,000 more in the bank than Kennedy as of mid-October, according to the latest FEC reports.

Republicans, meanwhile, have sought to reward Van Drew for joining their ranks while also preventing the GOP from slipping further into the House minority. Since joining the party, Van Drew got a rally from Trump, desirable committee assignments from GOP leaders and a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention.

Notably, Van Drew’s campaign message has focused on calls for bipartisanship and putting country over party. He talks more about American exceptionalism on the campaign trail than he does about Trump, though Van Drew confirmed he plans to vote for the president, despite endorsing home-state colleague Sen. Cory. Booker (D-N.J.) in the Democratic presidential primary.

Van Drew has also tried to label his opponent as a liberal Democrat who supports sanctuary cities, open borders and defunding the police.

“I believe the future of the country depends upon not just my election — of course, I’m not an egomaniac — but on the direction that we take,” Van Drew said. “And the direction that my opponent would want to take is significantly different than the direction I would want to take.”

Switching parties has yielded mixed results in the past, so it was always going to be an electoral gamble for Van Drew, strategists say. He risks infuriating the Democrats who backed him in 2018, while there’s no guarantee Republican voters will trust him. And independents might be turned off by his tight embrace of Trump.

Nearly half of registered voters said they were bothered by Van Drew now running for Congress as a Republican, according to the Monmouth University poll.

Crossing the aisle may have looked like a safer bet for Van Drew during the height of impeachment, when there was widespread concern that swing-district Democrats could suffer at the polls because of the party’s efforts to oust the president.

Had he remained in the Democratic Party and maintained his opposition to impeachment, Van Drew would have likely faced a primary challenge from the left. Before he became a Republican, polling commissioned by Van Drew’s campaign showed just 24 percent of Democratic primary voters believed the congressman deserved to be reelected.

But the political landscape has changed vastly since then. Trump’s approval ratings have slumped both nationally and in Van Drew’s district. The sagging economy is further clouding the outlook for Republicans up and down the ballot. The Monmouth University poll has Joe Biden with a narrow, three-point lead over Trump in a “high turnout” election in the district.

“The president’s popularity has gone down. That hurts someone who pledged undying allegiance to Trump,” said Mike DuHaime, a Republican operative and former adviser to former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Meanwhile, many frontline Democrats are actually well-positioned heading into November, defying expectations and fueling hopes that their party could actually pad their majority even further. And the election has largely been dominated by the coronavirus — not impeachment.

“No one cares about impeachment anymore. It seems like 10 years ago, not 10 months ago.” DuHaime added.

On the coronavirus, Van Drew has echoed Trump’s rhetoric. He railed against health restrictions dampening the economy, highlighted how Trump overcame the virus, criticized D.C. residents for wearing masks even alone in their cars and called on Washington to “go big” on a stimulus package.

“You know what makes people upset where I am in my district? The people that went out of business, the people that lost everything they own, the people that can’t even keep their homes, the people who work for the casinos,” he said.

Van Drew also said he has worked tirelessly on constituent services during the pandemic, which could help boost him in the race. And GOP strategists say Van Drew will likely once again attract some crossover voters — but it may not be enough.

“He has always won because people transcended party to vote for him. But is that enough in a year where Trump is so dominant on the ballot and affecting how everyone views everything?” DuHaime asked. “Now, just so many people this year are voting party-line to send a message to Trump.”

Source link

0
Continue Reading

Trending