Thursday evening UK news briefing: Chinese 'spy' in Parliament

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Your evening briefing from The Telegraph
Your evening briefing from The Telegraph

Evening briefing: Today's essential headlines

Chinese spy active in Parliament | MI5 has warned a suspected agent of the Chinese government has been active in the British Parliament, MPs have heard. An MI5 notice has named the suspected agent as Christine Lee, pictured above, who the security service claims is "knowingly engaged in political interference on behalf of the United Front Work Department (UFWD) of the Chinese Communist Party". Read her affiliations to Labour MP Barry Gardiner and what was written in a letter sent to MPs by the House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle.

The big story: Rees-Mogg 'giving boost to Sturgeon'

Jacob Rees-Mogg has been accused of helping Nicola Sturgeon make the case for Scottish independence after calling Douglas Ross a "lightweight figure" following his demand for Boris Johnson's resignation.

Mr Rees-Mogg made the comments about the Scottish Tory leader as he toured TV and radio studios attempting to bolster Mr Johnson's precarious position after he admitted attending a party in the Downing Street gardens in May 2020 during the first Covid lockdown.

But senior Scottish Tories called the interventions "bonkers" and "blue-on-blue madness" that would play into Ms Sturgeon's hands.

The First Minister said Scotland is being treated with "utter contempt" by Westminster, adding she had "big political differences with Douglas Ross, but even I am not as derogatory about him as his own Tory colleagues are being".

The Scottish Secretary has accused Tory MSPs of having "jumped the gun" by demanding that Mr Johnson quits, urging them to reconsider.

Mr Johnson has been absent today after pulling out of a planned visit to a vaccination site in Lancashire "due to a family member testing positive for coronavirus".

With his premiership hanging in the balance, many are considering who might be better suited to the job.

Here is what your fellow readers think and you can join a webinar with Associate Editor Gordon Rayner and Comment journalist Mutaz Ahmed as they unpick the events of the past few days.

Of course, ministers and many MPs have been saying they will wait for the outcome of Sue Gray's report into the gatherings before making their judgment.

Patrick O'Flynn sets out why the civil servant is not going to end the Prime Minister and Deputy Political Editor Lucy Fisher analyses who could replace Mr Johnson.

Self-isolation cut

Aside from the Downing Street parties and spy drama in the Commons, the day's main business has been the Health Secretary's announcement about self-isolation.

Under new rules, from Monday those isolating after testing positive for Covid, or showing symptoms of it, will be freed from the start of their sixth day, as long as they have a negative lateral flow result that day, and the day before.

Sajid Javid announced the change after weeks of business leaders calling for quarantine periods to be reduced, amid warnings they were crippling sectors of the economy.

TTFN for JVT

The other person facing the final whistle, the end of the line, the last stop is Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam.

He will leave his role as England's deputy chief medical officer at the end of March, having become one of the nation's most familiar faces during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He regularly took to the podium at Downing Street press conferences - and has become known for his penchant for a metaphor and sporting analogies.

He will take up a new role as Pro-Vice Chancellor at the University of Nottingham. Watch his best moments on camera here.

Today's other Covid headlines

Around the world: First conviction over Assad regime

A former senior Syrian intelligence officer has been convicted of crimes against humanity and sentenced to life in prison by a German court. The trial is the first time the Assad regime has been held responsible for state-sponsored torture by a court anywhere in the world. Anwar Raslan, a former colonel in the Syrian intelligence service, was found guilty of the murder of 27 detainees and the torture of 4,000 at the infamous al-Khatib prison in Damascus. Read what former inmates said to the court.

Comment and analysis

Thursday interview

'I thought no real man would go on stage and sing'

Willard White - JB MILLOT
Willard White - JB MILLOT

The great bass baritone Willard White tells Jasper Rees how he used to be embarrassed about his voice and why little fazes him now

Read the full interview

Sport briefing: World No 4 Tsitsipas criticises Djokovic

Stefanos Tsitsipas, the world No 4, says Novak Djokovic has made his vaccinated rivals "look like fools" as he has been "playing by his own rules" during the Australian visa furore. With ministers finally poised to act, Tsitsipas hit out at Djokovic claiming to have secured a medical exemption when the vast majority had got the jab "in order to come and perform". In cricket, James Anderson is set to miss out in the final Ashes Test, while Sam Billings will become men's Test cap number 700.

Editor's choice

  1. US obsession | This is what America gets wrong about Britons from watching TV

  2. Hyundai Ioniq 5 review | Why spending less is more with this retro-futuristic electric car

  3. Sleaze, sexism, and Scream | How Neve Campbell survived Hollywood with her dignity

Business briefing: Costly delays hit EDF's nuclear plans

In the port of Flamanville on the coast of north western France, sits an almost completed new design of nuclear reactor due to open a decade ago. Fuel-loading at Flamanville 3 was pushed back by another six months on Wednesday to the end of 2023, said French state-owned parent EDF who blamed the pandemic. The project will now cost €300m more than forecast at an estimated €12.7bn. Across the world in Guangdong, China, inspections at a plant in Taishan, run by state-owned CGN with EDF, and using the same technology, showed "mechanical wear of certain assembly components". Howard Mustoe analyses how problems plague the French design for Britain's nuclear future.

Tonight starts now

Eternals, review | You want to watch a movie but would rather avoid the hassle of going to the cinema. Marvel's 26th film, Eternals, offers just that opportunity after its arrival on Disney+ this week. There had been hopes it might rattle the franchise out of its comfort zone - you can be the judge of whether it does so. Robbie Collin dubs it a gallumphing superhero snooze. Still, there are worse ways to spend a Thursday night.

Three things for you

And finally... for this evening's downtime

Ronnie Spector tribute | From Be My Baby to Walking in the Rain, Ronnie Spector, who has died aged 78, could move anyone to tears. Neil McCormick remembers how the soulful voice of the Ronettes' lead singer was pure heartbreak to a whole generation.

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