Tensions in Northern Ireland and over the vaccine, tributes paid to Dame Cheryl Gillan

Dame Cheryl Gillan 

The Conservative MP for Chesham and Amersham, Dame Cheryl Gillan, has died at the age of 68. The former Secretary of State for Wales had been an MP since 1992 and was joint Chair of the 1922 Committee. After her initial election, she was a minister at the Department of Education in John Major’s government, a party whip between 2001-2003 and became shadow Welsh secretary in 2005. 

Tributes have come in from across the political aisle. Speaker of the House Lindsay Hoyle said she ‘was one of the most popular, friendly and kindly’ Parliamentarians, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said she was ‘respected across the House and a great champion for her constituents’ whilst Prime Minister Boris Johnson noted that she was ‘always full of wise advice and good humour, she was much loved on all sides of the House of Commons and will be sorely missed.’ 

Officers injured in Northern Ireland 

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has said that 41 officers have been injured in recent days as tensions over the Northern Ireland protocol and a decision not to prosecute members of Sinn Fein over their attendance at Bobby Storey’s funeral last June continue to rise. Police have reported petrol bombs thrown at officers restoring order in areas of un-notified parades.  

Tensions from loyalist communities in Northern Ireland cannot be attributed to any one thing in particular, but a combination of Brexit, rising tensions over perceived preferential treatment for separatists and Covid lockdowns. Diffusing these tensions in the midst of lockdown and a Brexit deal that recalibrates Northern Ireland’s position within the UK must be led by senior Unionist politicians.  

Moderna vaccine rolled out in UK 

A third vaccine produced by pharmaceutical company Moderna has started to be rolled out in the UK. This comes just in time, as Government advisors say the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine should not be offered to under-30s. The Government now faces a public confidence crisis in vaccine take up. 

However, the Government has been able to successfully import hundreds of thousands of Moderna doses from Spain which will undoubtedly alleviate some of the negative press surrounding this issue. These doses are said to be ear-marked for the 40-49 age group. 

With global vaccine supplies running low and public faith in AZ wavering, we can expect Boris Johnson’s Government to defend the use of AZ in over 30s and so called ‘Vaccine Nationalism’ to worsen. 

Passports for pubs? 

As reported in last week’s Smith Square Review, the vaccine passport row continues to rumble on. Although the exact implementation of the policy remains unclear, ministers have said they will not be enforced in shops or pubs. Instead, venues will be presented with a trade-off between no passports and social distancing or passports and no social distancing. 

Many in Whitehall are thinking that these ‘certificates’ will only be used for mass events and nightclubs. Vaccination certificates will also be needed for most foreign travel – we eagerly await the list of ‘green’ destinations. 

Education, Education, Education 

Education secretary Gavin Williamson has launched a crackdown on pupils using mobile phones in the classroom. The Telegraph reports he is worried about a lack of “discipline and order” which has been a result of lockdown learning.  With education having already been incredibly disrupted this year, this seems like a strange initiative to lead with. We expect the education of our children through the COVID-19 era to be an ongoing cause for concern, both for the Government and parents. 

Charlie Souster Account Executive

Benedict Croft Researcher

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