rewrite this content and keep HTML tags Key eventsUK borrows less than expected this year as Hunt lines up giveawaysThe UK government borrowed less than expected in the first seven months of the financial year as Jeremy Hunt puts the last-minute touches to a series of pre-election giveaways in his autumn statement tomorrow, Phillip Inman reports.If you are one of those Conservative MPs who believe that the secret to electoral success is tax cuts (are there any Tory MPs who don’t?), then the splash headlines in this morning’s papers will be very welcome. Here are three of them from rightwing papers.Laura Trott, the new chief secretary to the Treasury, was giving interviews this morning and she confirmed the papers were right to anticipate tax cuts. She told Times Radio: We have turned a corner. Inflation has halved. That is really significant for people at home. We know how tough things have been. Real wages are, for three months, now ahead of inflation – again, that’s really important to kind of making a difference to how people feel. So we can now talk about tax cuts and focus on growth, and that is what we’re going to be doing. Patrick Vallance says he considered resigning during Covid because of threats to his familyIn one of his witness statements published last night, Sir Patrick Vallance also said that he had considered resigning during Covid because of threats he was facing. As the BBC reports, Vallance said: Like many others I received abuse and threats and I was concerned for the wellbeing and safety of my family. At times those factors did lead me to question whether I should continue. I also found people breaking the lockdown rules very difficult and considered what I should do in response, but decided that I would help most by continuing with my job. Prof Sir Chris Whitty arriving at the Covid inquiry this morning. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PAGovernment accused of economic blackmail after omitting Northern Ireland from latest levelling up fundingRory CarrollThe government has been accused of “economic blackmail” after omitting Northern Ireland from levelling up funding because of its political vacuum.Michael Gove’s Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said yesterday the region would not receive anything from the latest allocation, which will fund 55 projects in England, Wales and Scotland. “Given the current absence of a working executive and assembly, the government is not proceeding with this round of the levelling up fund at this time,” it said.Stormont collapsed in February 2022 when the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) walked out to protest post-Brexit trading arrangements that treat Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK.Sammy Wilson, a DUP MP, said the funding cut was an “outrageous” attempt to blackmail the party into reviving power-sharing. He also accused the government of siphoning money to Conservative-held seats in England.Conor Murphy, a Sinn Féin assembly member, said the decision was a “cynical attack on ordinary people” and that Northern Ireland was paying the price for the DUP’s “reckless boycott”.Claire Hanna, an SDLP MP, said: “The Conservative government don’t ever need an excuse to under-invest in our region but the DUP have given them that cover on this particular fund.”Northern Ireland received allocations in two previous rounds and was led to expect another allocation – the department placed advertisements in local media that used images of Belfast with the declaration “Levelling Up is here”.Chris Whitty expected to say he regrets saying people would not tolerate long lockdown in Covid inquiryGood morning. Prof Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and chief medical adviser for the UK, is giving evidence all day to the Covid inquiry. The session starts at 10am, but we have already had an insight into one of the points he might make from a witness statement from Sir Patrick Vallance published by the inquiry last night. In it, Vallance says Whitty regrets saying “fatigue” might stop people putting up with a long lockdown.Extract from Patrick Vallance’s witness statement Photograph: Covid inquiryThis was in one of three witness statements from Vallance published by the inquiry last night, after the government’s former chief scientific adviser finished giving evidence in person.In his evidence Vallance said Whitty had initially been more reluctant than others to support an early lockdown at the start of the Covid crisis. This wasn’t a great secret because in those very early press conferences Whitty argued that, if the government were to introduce restrictions on what people could to too early, there was a danger that people would get tired of complying, and start reverting to normal behaviour, at a point where Covid was still a threat. This is what Vallance is referring to when he talks about Whitty introducing the concept of “behavioural fatigue”.This later became highly controversial not just because it was wrong – people were willing to comply with lockdown restrictions for a long time (perhaps surprisingly) – but also because there does not seem to be much evidence to support the concept in the first place. Scientists on SPI-B (the Scientific Paendemic Insights group on Behaviour) subsequently said the idea did not come from them.Here is the agenda for the day.10am: Prof Sir Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer for England, and chief medical adviser for the UK, gives evidence to the Covid inquiry.10.15am: Andrew Bailey, governor of the Bank of England, gives evidence to the Commons Treasury committee about the Bank’s monetary policy reports.11.30am: No 10 holds a lobby briefingAfter 3pm: David Cameron is due to speak in the Lords for the first time as foreign secretary in a debate on the trade (comprehensive and progressive agreement for Trans-Pacific partnership) bill.If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.Updated at 10.42 CET
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