Friday evening UK news briefing: MPs should ‘learn from’ the Queen, says Mike Tindall

Evening briefing: Today’s essential headlines

Christmas disruption | Travel plans have been thrown into disarray ahead of Christmas as train companies grapple with signal failures as well as strikes and high levels of staff sickness. Read on for details.

  • Prostate cancer | Pill that could halve risk of death considered by NHS
  • Water firms | Infrastructure investment cut as sewage dumping grew
  • Mikhail Gorbachev | US grew ‘arrogant’ after the fall of the USSR
  • Population decline | Chinese province offers loans for babies
  • Wedding again | ‘I finally found happiness with my third marriage’

The big story: Politicians can ‘learn from’ the Queen

As you sit down to watch this year’s Christmas message from the Queen, she will be wearing a brooch she wore for her honeymoon photoshoot with Prince Philip, and again for their Diamond Wedding anniversary. 

It is pinned to her right rather than her left, as previously, which it has been speculated is a reference to the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh, just as some widows swap their wedding rings from left to right. 

As the Queen continues stoically in her duty, her grandson-in-law has said that politicians should learn from the example set by Her Majesty, who put the good of the nation ahead of her own feelings even at her husband’s funeral. 

Mike Tindall, who is married to the Queen’s granddaughter Zara, said she "exposed herself" to sit alone at the St George’s Chapel service for the Duke of Edinburgh, in stark contrast to the behaviour of some politicians in lockdown. 

Read more of what the 2003 Rugby World Cup winner said on his podcast The Good, The Bad & The Rugby.

The Queen records her annual Christmas broadcast in the White Drawing Room in Windsor Castle

Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

It comes as two leading scientists have rejected accusations of issuing "doomsday" warnings over the threat posed by the omicron variant of Covid-19.

Dr Jenny Harries, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, insisted that omicron remains a "serious threat" despite new data showing that the risk of hospitaliation is lower in comparison to previous variants. 

Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, has insisted that epidemiological modellers do not "only model the worst outcome" in the wake of a report warning that hospitalisations could peak between 3,000 and 10,000 a day without new restrictions. 

No doubt this is partly behind why a third of Britons think the Covid-19 pandemic will never be effectively over in the UK, according to a new poll which suggests handshakes could become a thing of the past.

Boxing Day texts

To lower the number of Covid-induced hospitalisations, every mobile phone owner in the UK will be sent a text message on Boxing Day urging them to get a booster jab if they have not already done so, following a request from ministers to BT and other networks. 

The appeal to those aged 18 and over is the latest attempt by the Government to encourage take-up of third vaccinations as the omicron variant spreads.

This is particularly poignant as a consultant warns that "Covid bystanders" are becoming a "major problem" for the NHS, as people who come to hospital for non-Covid reasons but subsequently test positive are slowing down urgent surgeries.

The Office for National Statistics said more than 1.5 million people in England had Covid last week, as the prevalence of the virus reached the highest level since the pandemic began. Read on for details.

Follow Santa’s journey

For now, though, it is time to put Covid to the back of our minds, with our suitably cautious festive plans sorted and no new restrictions to be announced before next week. 

The big story for children across the country tonight will be Father Christmas’s journey around the world. 

Thanks to modern technology, children (and adults) can follow Santa’s route across the globe, using the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and Google’s Santa trackers. 

Read how to follow his progress – but make sure you get to bed early, or he may not come!

PS – We have really enjoyed reading your unique family Christmas traditions and I hope you have enjoyed sharing them and reading what other people get up to at this time of year. Here is some final Christmas Eve-themed inspiration from Kathi Drew of Dallas, Texas, in the US:

"Every parent knows that it can be a challenge to get an over-excited young child to sleep on Christmas Eve. In our family, when the children are being put to bed, one or two of the teenagers or young adults take some sleigh bells outside, ring them vigorously by the children’s window, and stamp their feet for a few minutes. The phrase by the parent – ‘Listen! It’s Santa and the reindeer! You better get to sleep quickly’ – never fails to produce a dive under the covers – and it gives time for the real Father Christmas to get to work."

Comment and analysis

  • Matthew Lynn | Lockdown vested interests hate omicron good news
  • Julian Jessop | Listen to the economists and ‘follow the science’
  • John Penrose | Why not give Falklands a seat in the UK Parliament?
  • Rev Marcus Walker | Decline of Christianity has left UK unequipped
  • Austin Healey | A lot of things need to change at ‘nice guys’ Bath

Around the world: Iran accused of ‘nuclear blackmail’

Israel has called on the West to develop a "credible" military threat to deal with Iran if there is no breakthrough in negotiations over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme. Israel has accused Iran of engaging in "nuclear blackmail" during talks in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 deal to limit Tehran’s nuclear activities, with negotiators reporting that little discernible progress has been made. Recent intelligence reports have suggested that Iran is just weeks away from producing weapons grade uranium, a development that would greatly enhance its quest for nuclear weapons. Defence Editor Con Coughlin reveals more in this exclusive interview with Israeli foreign minister Yair Lapid.

Christmas Eve interview

Mel Giedroyc: ‘Maybe it’s finally time I said yes to Strictly’

Mel Giedroyc

Credit: UKTV/Ellis O’Brien

As panel game Unforgivable returns, Mel Giedroyc explains to Julia Llewellyn Smith how the Strictly Christmas Special has whetted her appetite for the real thing

Read the full interview

Sport briefing: McGrath warns England are ‘too nice’

Joe Root will equal Sir Alastair Cook by captaining England 59 times when the Ashes series resumes in Melbourne on Boxing Day but his leadership is under more scrutiny than ever. Root insisted his captaincy "is not a dictatorship" and refuted suggestions there is a rift between him and veteran bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad after he criticised the lengths they bowled in the Adelaide defeat. Yet even with this, Australian bowling great Glenn McGrath reckons England are being too nice, and in this exclusive interview reveals the problem with the mood feeling "very politically correct". Isabelle Westbury reckons England’s harmful preoccupation with "character" is losing them the Ashes.

Editor’s choice

  • Festive classics | The 10 best carols to enjoy (including one that will annoy the French…)
  • Movies | The 33 best Christmas films to watch on Netflix this festive season
  • How to decode the art of the Nativity | Behind the familiar images lie layers of hidden meaning
  • Business briefing: Three stocks to buy next year

    Few market events are as potentially lucrative as the flotation of a promising new company – especially on the first day, when a stampede of new investors can create a happy share price "pop". But not every flotation has had such a positive outcome this year. It can be difficult for DIY investors to separate the wheat from the chaff but market watchers will have spotted that reports of possible IPOs are already circulating for next year. Here are three names to keep an eye out for in 2022.

    Tonight starts now

    The best cosy Christmas cocktails | From a negroni that smells like a fir tree to a julep flavoured with orange, there is something festive about Josh Page’s mixology. Mr Page is the beverages manager behind the cocktail menu at the Double Red Duke hotel. Set in the heart of the Cotswolds and dating from the 16th century, its ivy garlanded bar is exactly what one thinks of when imagining a great British Christmas evening. If you are looking for a new festive favourite this Christmas, why not try making one of the delicious cocktails created at the hotel.

    Three things for you

    • Watch | A Ghost Story for Christmas: The Mezzotint, BBC Two
    • Podcast | Chopper’s Festive Quiz with his Telegraph pals
    • Play | Telegraph Puzzles featuring today’s Crossword and Sudoku

    And finally… for this evening’s downtime

    The Humans, review | To say that this film is set in a New York duplex apartment over Thanksgiving perhaps conjures images of Manhattan splendour: views over Central Park, shopping bags everywhere. It’s not that kind of apartment, and – much as they might wish to be – this isn’t that kind of family. Tim Robey gives a five-star review of this sharp, scary portrait of a family in despair.

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