Michael gove

Michael Gove Hints at Extension of Furlough Scheme

The Government is “open minded” about extending the furlough scheme, according to Michael Gove, amid pressure from Nicola Sturgeon. Gove insisted that spending in response to Covid will remain high to help the country “build back better”. The Evening Standard has the story.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will use a Four-Nations Summit with the Prime Minister on Thursday to push for the job retention scheme to continue beyond its current September expiry date.

Now Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has indicated it could be continued.

Asked about the possibility of this, he said: “We are open minded, yes.”

Speaking ahead of the Four-Nations Summit on tackling Covid, Mr Gove said the initiative, which sees the taxpayer pay cash towards workers’ wages, had been a “huge success” that was only possible “thanks to the broad shoulders of the U.K. Treasury”.

The U.K. Government minister insisted higher spending as a response to the coronavirus pandemic would continue, as the country as a whole seeks to “build back better”.

The Scottish Government has voiced concerns about a possible return to austerity from the Conservatives at Westminster, but Mr Gove told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “We’ll be spending more.

“We’ll be spending more on the NHS, we will be spending more on education, we will be spending more on criminal justice, because in all of these areas it is absolutely vital that we build back better.

“Extra funding for everyone will continue, and it is important we all learn from each other about how that money should be spent.”

Last week, hospitality industry bosses called on the Government to do the opposite, to end the furlough scheme, arguing that people on furlough would rather stay at home than work. The Sun highlighted that there are currently 188,000 job vacancies in hospitality where more than 250,000 workers remain on furlough.

The Evening Standard report is worth reading in full.

Government to “Allow” Us to Cuddle Friends and Family From May 17th

As if we ever needed the Government’s permission, Michael Gove says that Brits will be allowed to hug friends and family from May 17th – that is, “all being well”! MailOnline has the story.

The Cabinet Office minister said “intimate contact” between people in different households is set to return when the latest stage of the roadmap is reached in a week’s time. 

Boris Johnson is set to confirm the relaxation at a Downing Street press conference tomorrow, after the vaccine rollout and plunging infections led to huge pressure from Tory MPs to speed up his plans…

It is also expected that funerals will be permitted to take place for up to 30 people from May 17th – a month earlier than anticipated.

But rules for weddings and “other life or commemorative events” will update as expected, with only 30 guests able to attend indoor receptions until June 21st.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Gove said that the Government wanted to restore “contact between friends and family”.

He said: “All being well, the Prime Minister will confirm tomorrow that there will be a relaxation, we’ve already indicated a proportionate relaxation on international travel, very limited at this stage because we have to be safe.

“In the same way, as we move into stage three of our road map it will be the case that we will see people capable of meeting indoors.

“And without prejudice to a broader review of social distancing, it is also the case that friendly contact, intimate contact, between friends and family is something we want to see restored.”

Asked if that meant hugs will be allowed again from around May 17th, he said: “Yes.”

Gove also said that “we’ll be seeing more about [whether mask-wearing rules will continue in secondary schools beyond May 17th] shortly”, despite Education Secretary Gavin Williamson signalling last week that the decision had already been made.

Mr Gove said he was “genuinely worried” about Indian coronavirus variants and whether they might take hold in the U.K.. But he said currently there was not an issue that would derail the roadmap.

He said the Government is reviewing whether pupils should continue to wear masks in schools from May 17th – something Gavin Williamson previously said will be dropped.

Ministers have faced calls from union leaders for face coverings to remain in secondary schools and colleges for longer. 

When asked whether mask-wearing in schools will end, Mr Gove said: “What we want to do throughout is balance public health by making sure we can return to normal as quickly as possible.”

“I won’t pre-empt that judgment, we’ll be seeing more about it shortly.”

It seems as though the Government could still bend to pressure from the teaching unions yet.

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

Stop Press: It is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between reality and spoof: BBC News has produced a report on “how to hug safely” that could well have been published on Babylon Bee.

Stop Press 2: Silkie Carlo, the Director of Big Brother Watch, has pointed out that hugging was never not “allowed”.

Gove Ignores Pesky Mask Mandate

Good to see this picture of Michael Gove in the Times of Israel ignoring pointless rules about indoor mask wearing. As you can see, he has set his to one side while he talks to the Israeli Prime Minister on his fact-finding mission in Israel. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is over there to investigate the country’s ‘Green Pass’ system, which is similar to the Covid status certification scheme that he is currently looking into on behalf of the Government.

No doubt when challenged about this, Gove will say he had just temporarily removed his mask in order to speak and promptly put it back on again when he returned to nodding-and-listening mode. But in those indoor spaces where the Government has recommended mask wearing – when out shopping, for instance – the guidance doesn’t say you’re allowed to remove your mask when you’re talking. Surely, if you’re a believer in the magical properties of disposable face nappies, of the type Gove has put aside in this photograph, you think it’s precisely when you’re holding forth at a small gathering that it should be worn? Or is the Gover, who apparently does believe in this voodoo, just worried about being infected by Benjamin Netanyahu and not about infecting him?

Whichever way you cut it, this is an embarrassing photograph for Boris’s right-hand-man.

Civil Service Job Advert Confirms Covid Passports Are In Development

Michael Gove is visiting Israel to review its ‘green pass’ scheme as part of his ongoing review into Covid passports – but new civil service job ads suggest that the introduction of ‘Covid Status Certificates’ (both digital or non-digital) is already underway. Guido Fawkes has the story.

Multiple jobs have now come up in both London and Leeds with NHSX [the tech arm of the NHS], which spells out they are: “Developing both digital and non-digital options to enable U.K. residents to assert their Covid status, including both vaccination history and test results.”

The ad also confirms a rapid timetable, given applicants must be able “to start with us by Tuesday, May 4th, 2021“. The consultation document released by the Government a fortnight ago merely said they had “committed to explore whether and how Covid-status certification might be used to reopen our economy”. Sounds like the “exploring” is over…

It doesn’t take an incredible memory to remember back to February when [Vaccine Minister] Nadhim Zahawi was confidently telling Andrew Marr Covid passports would be “discriminatory”.

In a recent article for the Telegraph – in which he asked readers to give their thoughts on Covid passports and received some great (though not, for him, agreeable) responses – Gove praised Israel’s ‘green pass’ scheme and considered whether something similar could be introduced here.

In Israel, which is one of the few countries to have vaccinated a higher percentage of the population than we have in the U.K., they have been using a ‘green pass’ to get back to normal more quickly. This green pass system allows citizens who’ve been vaccinated, recently recovered from the virus or who’ve had a recent negative test to congregate in venues which had been closed for months such as theatres and nightclubs…

If we do accept that Covid certification is going to be required to travel abroad, the question then follows can these certificates help in other ways? If Israel can accelerate its citizens’ returns to nightclubs, football stadia and theatres with these certificates, might we?

The Guido Fawkes report is worth reading in full.

Telegraph Readers Give Their Verdict on Michael Gove’s Vaccine Passport Proposals

Michael Gove has asked readers of his article in the Telegraph today to “keep sharing their views on the way ahead” regarding Covid vaccine passports.

Certification will be an inevitability for international travel. It could be a valuable aid to opening up our domestic economy and society faster. Unless the Government takes a lead we risk others establishing the rules of the road. So where should the lines be drawn to help protect freedoms, respect privacy, promote equality and get us back to normality? And how can we ensure our approach is proportionate and time-limited? Those are the questions we need to ask in the days ahead – and I know Telegraph readers will help us find common-sense answers.

Judging from some of the top-rated comments, Gove may regret having asked!

Sam Spencer (761 likes at the time of publication): Absolutely abhorrent idea, forcing a vaccine on people for a virus so deadly most people need to be tested to know that they have it… 

89 deaths for people under 40 in England without pre-existing health conditions (according to NHS statistics) – why on EARTH should we tolerate any more of this dictatorship?!

You and your party have completely misjudged the mood of the nation and to be quite frank with you most people aren’t listening to the “rules” anymore. You’ve become obsessed with Covid to the point where no other death matters, we’re all sick to death of the goalposts constantly shifting and the barrage of lies.

I, like clearly every other Tory voter here will be voting with our feet. You’re a disgrace.

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Nick Jones (790 likes): Why do we need any of this if 99% of those at risk of dying are now vaccinated?!

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David Barlett (780 likes): It’s a disgraceful idea without justification.

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Jane Kerr (217 likes): If the aim is to “get us back to normality”, then there is absolutely no role for Covid certification of any type. It absolutely is not normal to have to prove you’re not infected with any particular disease in order to participate in normal life.

Your own Government is warning vaccinated people they mustn’t meet indoors because the vaccine is not 100% effective, so it would be utterly nonsensical to allow/exclude people from anything on the basis of whether they are vaccinated or not. Vaccinated people can still catch/transmit Covid.

If this is allowed, don’t imagine it’ll stop with Covid: how long before everyone is being tested for flu twice a week, or any other virus the Government cares to conjure up as the new bogeyman?

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James Wright (303 likes): You needed to address in your article why you were previously against vaccine passports whereas now you are in favour of them.

And don’t pretend this is some kind of consultation – we all know you are pushing it through, regardless of what anyone says, and regardless of your previous public commitments.

Can’t you see you are the epitome of why politicians are distrusted?

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Peta Seel (911 likes): I didn’t get past the first paragraph. The average age of death worldwide of (or with) Covid is 82. Almost all of them were either very old, had severe underlying conditions or both. That hasn’t changed from the start. Children almost never get it. Few young people who get it even show symptoms. Worldwide deaths are under three million since the beginning of last year. Spanish flu killed 50 million, mostly young people, in the same time span. Now just go away, you lying, deceitful, power-hungry and power-grabbing charlatan.

Perhaps most plainly stated:

Clare Spencer (833 likes): No, no, no. That clear enough for you?

Read more comments at the bottom of Gove’s article here.

Stop Press: The Telegraph has published its own compendium of the best responses to Michael Gove’s article. Here’s one of the comments:

Jonathan Powell: “Absolutely and emphatically not. It is a terrible idea that will destroy freedom, divide society and enable government overreach. And that’s the best that could happen. The worst is more chilling than can be imagined. It should not even be discussed.”

Well worth reading in full.