Boris Johnson is being urged to sack his most senior adviser after it was reported that Dominic Cummings said of the government's deeply controversial herd immunity policy on the coronavirus: "If that means some pensioners die, too bad."
According to the article in today's Sunday Times, Cummings made the comments at the end of February before changing his mind on 12 March after he realised he had "helped set a course for catastrophe."
The report, which Downing Street has strongly denied, has prompted widespread calls for Johnson to sack Cummings and for the adviser, who is largely credited with delivering victory for the Leave campaign in 2016 and for the Tories in the 2019 general election, to face a select committee this week:
The allegations against Cummings will make headlines but it is the reports of growing divisions in government, and across the Conservative Party in parliament, that could have long-term implications.
There are believed to be deep disagreements in the cabinet about the response to the coronavirus and fury from some members about Jeremy Hunt's criticism of the government.
Sunak's leadership odds slashed
The chancellor Rishi Sunak has been praised in some quarters for the financial measures he announced on Friday to protect business and workers. Sunak has seen his odds slashed to [4.0] in the next Tory leader betting and he's [4.5] to be the next PM - the same price as you can get on Labour's leader in waiting Keir Starmer.
But Conservative backbenchers are unhappy about the lack of provision for self-employed workers in the financial rescue packages announced by Sunak and there is a growing sense that his measures don't go far enough.
The Telegraph reports today that 80,000 people have already lost their jobs in the UK due to coronavirus and it estimates that there could be another million job losses.
The Conservative are [1.64] to win the most seats at the next general election which is [1.4] to take place in 2024.
Those odds reflect the government's 80 seat majority but, as I pointed out in January, David Cameron's problems started after he had won a majority. True, he didn't have an 80 seat majority but he didn't face anything as big as coronavirus.
Those who were convinced the Tories were a safe bet to win the next election with Johnson as leader might not feel as confident as they did a couple of months ago.
All over the world coronavirus will define our leaders
In France, it's been reported that Johnson only changed course after French president Emmanuel Macron threatened to close the border, warning that the rest of Europe would follow suit.
"We clearly had to threaten him so that he would finally move," said Macron whose early, decisive and far-reaching response to the crisis may have saved thousands of lives and livelihoods, as well as his own presidency when it's up for re-election in two years.
Similarly in Ireland, Leo Varadkar is giving the kind of clear and unequivocal leadership that's been lacking in Britain. He was widely expected to leave his post as PM, after his party came third in the Irish elections in February, but the crisis has put that on hold and Varadkar is carrying on. There are reports this weekend that he could lead a unity government for the duration of the crisis and even beyond.
There are far more important things at stake than the fate of governments but every leader - from Macron to Johnson to Donald Trump in America - knows that their handling of coronavirus will define their premiership.