Top story: Unions warn Sunak over pay freeze plan
Morning everyone. My name is Martin Farrer and here are the top stories you need to start your week.
Boris Johnson will today lay out plans to contain the coronavirus pandemic after the lockdown in England ends next month, along with proposals for a temporary UK-wide relaxation to allow mixing between households over Christmas. A tougher three-tiered set of restrictions to target the worst-infected areas, and a programme of rapid, mass testing, are expected to be at the heart of the plans for England as the prime minister attempts to reset his government’s response to the crisis and head off an internal rebellion among Conservative MPs. One widely expected concession to critics within his own party will allow people who have come into close contact with someone who has coronavirus to skip the current mandatory 14-day self-isolation, and instead submit to be tested every day for a week. The reconfigured tiers will allow non-essential shops and gyms to remain open, but pubs could face more stringent measures.
Johnson, who is still self-isolating in Downing Street, could be helped if a vaccine is ready by the end of the year. The Pfizer/BioNTech treatment could be given regulatory approval as early as this week. Germany and the US could also start administering the vaccine in December as the G20 leaders have pledged to distribute treatments fairly around the world. The US outbreak is continuing to worsen with roughly one person dying every minute, and concern that millions of Americans will ignore warnings and travel to see family during this week’s Thanksgiving holiday. You can catch up with all the overnight developments in the pandemic at our rolling coverage here.
Pay warning – Rishi Sunak says his plans to freeze public sector pay do not represent a return to austerity as he prepares to announce more money for health, education and the police on Wednesday. Trade union leaders have written to the chancellor warning that pay controls will damage the economy, hurt frontline workers and cause a staffing crisis. The letter, seen by the Guardian, says more pay for firefighters, teaching assistants and care workers is a “matter of justice” after they endured the frontline danger of the Covid-19 outbreak. But Sunak is expected to unveil an additional £151m to tackle rough sleeping and prevent homelessness, an extra £3bn for the NHS to tackle a backlog in operations, fund 50,000 more nurses and 50m additional GP appointments, and announce plans for a new national infrastructure bank and a northern campus for the Treasury.
‘National embarrassment’ – Donald Trump has come under renewed pressure from Republicans to drop his legal attempts to overturn the outcome of the presidential election. Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey and a staunch Trump ally, said the campaign in the courts was a “national embarrassment”, while the former national security chief, John Bolton, said the outgoing president was the political equivalent of a street rioter. As Trump played golf for the second time at the weekend despite the country’s out-of-control coronavirus pandemic, the actual legal efforts ran into more trouble as a Republican judge in Pennsylvania dismissed one case and called it a “Frankenstein’s monster”. In addition, the Trump team has distanced itself from Sidney Powell, a prominent lawyer who has spoken out for the president with theories about alleged electoral fraud that were extreme even by the campaign’s wild standards. Joe Biden, the president-elect, is expected to name the first members of his new cabinet tomorrow, with career diplomat Antony Blinken tipped to be secretary of state.
Hong Kong guilty pleas – Three leading Hong Kong activists have been remanded in custody after pleading guilty to charges relating to protests outside a police station last year. The trial of Joshua Wong, Agnes Chow, and Ivan Lam was scheduled to begin on Monday, but they now face five years in jail following a decison to plead guilty on advice from their lawyers. Before leaving court, Wong shouted: “Everyone hang in there, add oil,” using a common protest cry.
Ice bucket activist dies – Patrick Quinn, the American man whose struggle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis helped power the spectacularly successful Ice Bucket Challenge fundraising campaign, has died aged 37. The New Yorker was diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease as it also known, in 2013 but went on to raise $220m by encouraging people to film themselves having ice cold water poured over their heads.
Banksy mystery – A bicycle with a missing wheel that was part of a Banksy mural in Nottingham has disappeared. The artwork features a girl appearing to hula hoop with a tyre from the bike, which was chained symbolically to a pole in front of the mural. But the bicycle disappeared this weekend from its spot in Lenton, frustrating Banksy fans travelling to see the piece.
Today in Focus podcast
Gary Younge talks to Anushka Asthana about the history of US voting rights and what the changing demographics of the country mean for Republicans with white voters set to be the minority by 2045.
Lunchtime read: ‘I want to make Britain bright again’
Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, king of the TV home makeover, is back with a new series of Changing Rooms. He tells Chris Godfrey about how his extended family dressed up for lockdown, the tragedy of his father’s early death, his TV career (“I’ve been trying to get sacked for years”), and how he wants to “make Britain bright again”.
Jürgen Klopp was full of praise for his Liverpool side as they set a record of 64 league games unbeaten at Anfield with a 3-0 win over Leicester, even though they were missing most of their regular defence. Nicolas Pépé was sent off for a head-butt as Arsenal held Leeds to a 0-0 draw at Elland Road, while Sébastien Haller’s second-half goal was enough to take West Ham into the top half of the table but the result leaves Sheffield United bottom with only one point. Eddie Jones has revealed how Liverpool are having a key influence on his England team, explaining how a meeting with the Premier League champions played a role in Jonny May’s wonder try against Ireland. Scotland’s five-match winning run was brought to a halt as France turned on the power in the second half to earn a first win at Murrayfield in five attempts since 2014. Daniil Medvedev is the king of tennis until someone proves otherwise, after the Russian beat Dominic Thiem to win the ATP Tour Finals trophy, declaring it “one of my best victories”. The former Formula One world champion Damon Hill believes a knighthood is an absolutely deserved honour for Lewis Hamilton. The Football Association of Ireland has concluded its investigation into the video message shown to the Republic of Ireland squad before last week’s friendly against England and now “considers the matter closed”. And arsonists have burned down the third-last fence at Kempton Park leaving ground staff at the Surrey track to rebuild it for the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
Rishi Sunak’s plans for the economy come as an analysis of official figures suggests that the number of unemployed people aged over 50 in the UK has increased by a third in the past year. There are 91,000 more unemployed older people than there were 12 months ago, the biggest percentage increase of all age groups, the research claims. The FTSE100 looks like it’s going to open about 0.3% to the good, while the pound is up to $1.33 and €1.122.
Hopes that Christmas may not be cancelled any more takes the lead on many front pages. “Xmas gets go ahead”, says the Mirror, while the Express goes for the more heroic: “It’s official: Christmas is saved!” The Times says “PM to ease lockdown with Christmas shopping spree”, the i has “Families can meet up for Christmas”, the Guardian says “PM promises mass testing to head off Tory revolt” and the Telegraph goes with “Isolation scrapped for contacts of Covid cases”. In Scotland, the Press and Journal says “Governments agree plans to save Christmas” but the Herald is not so sure, reporting that the reported deal between Westminster and the devolved governments is not nailed on: “Christmas hopes for millions are thrown into confusion”.
The FT focuses on the chancellor’s latest plans for the economy – “Sunak funds schools and police in last hurrah before taxes rise” – the Mail claims to have exposed excessive public sector spending – “Waste that’ll make you weep” – and the Sun has the latest on I’m a Celebrity contestant Jacqueline Jossa: “I’ve had therapy to save my marriage”.
• This briefing was amended on 23 November 2020 to clarify that references to the lockdown, tier system and testing regime in the top item are specific to England only.
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