By freezing pay and benefits, Sunak will be levelling down, not up | Polly Toynbee

The chancellor’s spending review will hit the north hardest: prepare yourselves for a new austerity

The gargantuan sums will look big enough to see from space. Noughts too many to count, in every number for borrowing and spending, may numb the senses. “No austerity,” the government will declare. But not for long.

In this week’s spending review, the chancellor will fulfil Boris Johnson’s lavish manifesto bribes – more police, doctors, nurses and hospitals, as well as infrastructure projects in the north of England. (Although not that 0.7% foreign-aid pledge.) Pensioners will keep their triple lock. Yet the two-child limit and the benefit cap will help child poverty reach record levels.

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The Guardian view on the winter Covid plan: hospitality left out in the cold | Editorial

A beefed-up tier system will be a hammer blow for pubs, bars and restaurants. The government must ensure viable businesses are still standing when vaccines are eventually rolled out

The news that the Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine can prevent up to 90% of infections is an early Christmas present for the UK. The Oxford scientists’ success comes just weeks after the Pfizer and BioNtech breakthrough. It signals that extraordinary levels of human ingenuity and expertise are providing the means to bring this pandemic to an end. It no longer feels fanciful to speculate about the return of lost freedoms in the coming spring.

It was therefore understandable that Boris Johnson chose to preface his unveiling of a winter Covid plan with an upbeat reference to the scientific “cavalry” coming over the hill. But for those at the sharp end of the restrictions that the prime minister went on to announce, there was little cause for celebration.

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A Covid Christmas and the price of life | Letters

Dr Hazel Chipchase on the care she received from stressed NHS staff, Dr Michael Peel on putting a price on lives. Plus John Yates and Ron Brewer on the coronavirus Christmas problem

I read with interest the letter (20 November) from a consultant neurosurgeon as I recovered from neurosurgery at Salford Royal hospital, which was undertaken on 8 November. I noticed that many of the staff who treated me probably missed Diwali, which seemed to go unremarked. They had frameworks of support in place but there was an increasing toll on them from increased safety measures, their domestic lives complicated by school closures and support issues.

As a retired clinical psychologist, I could see firsthand the trauma of patients going through frightening interventions without physical family support, and seeing patients die around them in some cases. This had a knock-on impact on the teams supporting them. I felt humbled at the love and care shown to me, almost without exception. I also felt angry at the grudging attitude to staff pay by the government for people who have given so much.
Dr Hazel Chipchase
Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire

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Was it right to give Peter Sutcliffe a Guardian obituary? | Elisabeth Ribbans

Many readers thought an obituary about the man who murdered 13 women was an ‘honour’ he did not merit

“Obituaries should be reserved for people who have done something notable with their lives, not something notorious. We should not glorify criminals by giving them attention, but instead remember their victims: Wilma McCann, Emily Jackson, Irene Richardson, Patricia Atkinson, Jayne MacDonald, Jean Jordan, Yvonne Pearson, Helen Rytka, Vera Millward, Josephine Whitaker, Barbara Leach, Marguerite Walls and Jacqueline Hill.”

So wrote a reader, one of about 80 who complained about the decision to publish an obituary of Peter Sutcliffe, the serial killer who between 1975 and 1980 spread terror across the north of England through his brutal murder of the 13 women named above, and the attempted murder of seven more. He received a whole-life sentence for his crimes.

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Trump has tested the limits of the US constitution – but it’s still holding | Simon Jenkins

The fact that the president cannot hold on to power shows the checks and balances are working

Slowly, painfully, alarmingly, Donald Trump has been conceding the US presidency to Joe Biden. Over the weekend his close friend Chris Christie called his delay “a national embarrassment”, joining judges, aides and other Republican politicians. Meanwhile the world has erupted in a chorus of derision at the state of American democracy, polluted by corruption, fake news and money. Countries whose leaders would not dream of risking an open election, let alone conceding one, mimic Moscow in ridiculing “the obvious shortcomings in the American electoral system”. Beijing celebrates by preparing to jail a clutch of Hong Kong democrats.

The reality is the opposite. The late American historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr pointed out that the US constitution regularly takes its grand coalition of diverse peoples to the brink of disintegration, shows them disaster and pulls them back. Trump in 2016 was a populist candidate who ran for election on a pseudo-revolutionary ticket against the Washington establishment. Though he won fewer votes than his opponent, Hillary Clinton, an electoral college biased to protect the interests of small states against big ones gave him the presidency. In office he ran up huge debts, was a bully and a xenophobe, and relentlessly attacked all centres of establishment power. The economy boomed.

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Not everyone wants a ‘normal’ Christmas if it means a harsher lockdown to come | Gaby Hinsliff

Boris Johnson is obsessing over tradition, but many would prefer to keep festivities small, and try something different this year

Binge in December, purge in January.

Or at least, that’s the way Britain normally does Christmas: a brief splurge of shopping, partying and stuffing our faces, before waddling into new year skint, hungover and carrying an extra half a stone. Boris Johnson is clearly a stickler for tradition, to judge from early briefings about a superspreader Yule in which up to three households could be allowed to mingle for up to five days and to hell with the consequences for intensive care units. But is a big blowout, paid for by yet more lockdown when the R number inevitably surges, really what we want this year?

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