Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has suggested he is very much in favour of reducing the two-metre social distancing rule. Unsurprising, perhaps, for the minister responsible for the economy but important nonetheless that he has said it.
On Sky News, Sunak said “I very much understand the positive impact it will have” on the economy but “at the same time we must make sure it’s safe to do so”.
He suggested that reducing the rule could be the “difference between three quarters and a third of pubs opening, for example” – an example that will almost certainly win the backing of some newspapers. Sunak also said Norway and Denmark had recently reduced their social distancing guide from two metres.
He welcome that Boris Johnson was overseeing a “comprehensive review” of the policy, which Sunak said would consider evidence from economists as well as scientists “so we can look at it in the round”.
When Sophy Ridge said it sounded like Sunak was very much in favour of shortening the rule, the chancellor said: “I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the findings of [the review] … it’s right to look at it and I’m glad we’re doing so.”
Rishi Sunak condemns violent protests as ‘shocking and disgusting’
The chancellor Rishi Sunak has described the clashes between police and protestors in London yesterday as “shocking and disgusting” but said the UK had made “enormous progress” on issues of race.
Appearing on Sophy Ridge’s programme on Sky News, Sunak confirmed that the justice secretary Robert Buckland would meet Conservative MPs this week to discuss strict new measures against those who vandalise a war memorial, including potential 10-year jail terms.
“There will always be a small minority who maintain prejudice and indeed are racist but that’s not the description that I would make of our country,” he said, adding that things have changed “enormously for the better”.
Labour’s shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, has said the party would potentially support proposals to jail for 10 years anyone who desecrates a war memorial.
The Sunday Telegraph reports that ministers are considering plans to make it easier to prosecute those who vandalise historic monuments, including with jail terms of up to a decade.
Speaking on the Sky News Sophy Ridge programme, Thomas-Symonds said he was “extremely disturbed” by the “completely unacceptable” scenes of violence on the streets following protests on Saturday.
My colleague Peter Walker tweets:
Today’s front pages
A variety of stories make the front pages of Sunday’s newspapers, with some focusing on the violent scenes in London yesterday and others on coronavirus.
The Observer leads with a warning from England’s children’s commissioner Anne Longfield that there was a “very dangerous” threat to the historic right to education for children after the government said most schools would not reopen until September at the earliest.
The Sunday Times reports that plans to allow people to change their legal gender by self-identifying as a different sex have been scrapped.
The Mail on Sunday says Boris Johnson has paved the way for the two-metre social distancing rule to be scrapped by “taking personal control of the decision to axe it”. It says the prime minister has commissioned a “comprehensive No 10 review” of the policy.
The Sunday Mirror leads with a simple one-word headline: “Shameful” as it depicts the violent demonstrations by far-right activists in London.
The Independent on Sunday reports on Brexit (remember that?) and a poll suggesting that most Britons would support an extension to the transition period for leaving the European Union due to Covid-19.
The Sunday Telegraph says ministers are considering proposals to jail for 10 years anyone who desecrates a war memorial.
And finally… the Daily Star Sunday reports on “a big flap” in the Royal household after “eight of the Queen’s racing pigeons died in quarantine”. The paper says the poor pigeons died in crates after being flown to South African to take part in a race. A “Palace coo” is underway, it says.
Good morning and welcome to the UK liveblog.
There is widespread condemnation of the violent protest in central London yesterday, which saw thousands of demonstrators – including far-right activists – descend on the capital prompting clashes with the police.
As of 9pm on Saturday, the Metropolitan police said it had made more than 100 arrests at the protest which Boris Johnson said had descended into “racist thuggery”.
The clashes with police and journalists came after thousands of white nationalists poured into London to “protect the monuments,” after graffiti on the statue of Winston Churchill and the Cenotaph in London, and the toppling of the statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, during Black Lives Matter protests last weekend.
Elsewhere today, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is touring the TV studios ahead of the reopening of non-essential shops in England on Monday as the government attempts to reboot the economy.
It’s also emerged that the prime minister has ordered an official review of the two-metre social distancing rule, potentially providing a further boost for business. However, any move to one metre is likely to split the government’s scientific advisors who have repeatedly expressed caution about reducing the rule.