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Monday, August 15, 2022

Friday briefing: ‘Partygate’ report delay leaves PM under Gray cloud |

Top story: Critics worry PM will ‘wriggle out of scrutiny’

Hello. Yes, it’s Friday, and this is Warren Murray bringing you news upon which to muse.

Boris Johnson has been told it is “time for the truth to be released” as he faced more calls to publish a long-awaited report into “partygate” in full and not “suppress crucial details”. Anticipation reached fever pitch early this week of its arrival but some Tories believe the report will not be released until early next week. Sue Gray, the senior civil servant compiling the report, is said to want to send it in a state that can be published by Downing Street in full, without further redactions.

“We are in no way seeking to block the report,” the prime minister’s spokesperson said. “It remains our intention to publish the report as it is received from the investigation.” Allies of the prime minister believe the longer-than-expected wait for the official civil service investigation is proving helpful for him, because it is letting anger in the party ebb. One Tory critic feared Johnson would “wriggle out of the scrutiny he deserves once again”.

Fears of NICs U-turn – The Treasury is becoming increasingly alarmed that Boris Johnson may be preparing to scrap the national insurance rise as he fights to save his job. The Guardian understands the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has stressed to MPs that it must go ahead. Speaking in Wales on Thursday, when asked to confirm explicitly that the increase would go ahead as planned, Johnson declined to do so. Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, told the BBC on Thursday that there would be “no U-turn” on the rise. The 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributions (NICs) is badged a “health and social care levy” and is meant to bolster funding for the NHS and social care.

UK falls behind on protecting antibiotics – The reputation of British farming is at risk after its failure to follow the EU in curbing the overuse of antibiotics in healthy animals, say campaigners. From today, a ban on giving antibiotics to groups of healthy animals comes into force across the EU. UK ministers have previously refused to commit to an outright ban on preventive use. Antibiotic overuse is the main driver of antimicrobial resistance, one of the biggest threats to human and animal health. About two-thirds of antibiotics globally are given to animals. The government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate said it would set out proposed regulatory changes as part of a public consultation during 2022.

Hate crime accused in court – A teenager is to appear in court today charged with racially aggravated actual bodily harm after two Jewish men were attacked in north London on Wednesday, the night before Holocaust Memorial Day. Police were called at 9.50pm on Wednesday to a road in Haringey after receiving reports that two men had been assaulted. Both were taken to a north London hospital to be treated. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan police said the incident was being treated as a hate crime.

‘Honoured to be a part of change’ – Inflo, the genre-straddling producer known for work with Adele, Little Simz and Michael Kiwanuka, has been announced as producer of the year in 2022’s Brit awards. It is the first time a non-white artist has won the award since the inception of the Brits in 1977. “I feel honoured to be a part of change,” said Inflo, whose real name is Dean Josiah Cover. “All the Black producers before me, I’m in awe and have studied you. I am you. Thank you for both paving the way and for your integral contribution to British music.” Inflo will receive his award at the Brits ceremony on 8 February at the O2 Arena, London. Adele, Ed Sheeran, Little Simz and Dave are top of the nominations, with four each.

Sight for more eyes – The crumbling medieval fortress at Barnard Castle had a record number of visitors last year after gaining notoriety as the destination of Dominic Cummings on a lockdown mission to test his eyesight, according to English Heritage. Separately, a “green corridor” is to be created linking the city of Bath with the rolling hills that surround it. Twenty similar projects are planned in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Bath route it is expected to start near Bath Abbey and will head east out of the city along current paths. A public consultation will begin in the spring.

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Animated cast of Disney’s Encanto. Photograph: Everett Collection/Alamy


At the Australian Open, the men’s semi-finals are under way with Rafael Nadal on court against Matteo Berrettini, and Stefanos Tsitsipas due to face Daniil Medvedev. Catch all the action at our live blog. After Australia declared on 337-9, the England women’s captain Heather Knight is sitting on 126 at time of writing in the second day of the Ashes Test. England are currently 223-8. Newcastle have agreed terms with Lyon to sign the Brazil star Bruno Guimarães in a £40m deal.

In Women’s Super League football, a revitalised Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead have breathed life back into Arsenal’s title challenge in a tough 2-1 defeat of Brighton. The sprinter Harry Edward, who won two bronze medals at the 1920 Antwerp Games, has long been lauded as Britain’s first black Olympian. But researchers have discovered he was preceded by 12 years by a long forgotten black heavyweight wrestler named Louis Bruce, who reached the second round of the 1908 Olympics in London.


Apple reported record sales in the holiday quarter, beating estimates as it benefited from high iPhone demand in China and withstood constraints caused by supply chain disruptions and the Omicron variant. The company made an all-time record revenue of $123.9bn, 11% up from last year and higher than analysts’ average estimate of $118.7bn. Stock markets in Asia followed stronger leads from the US and Europe to bounce back today after Thursday’s heavy losses. The FTSE100 is set to nudge up around 0.2% this morning while the pound is on $1.339 and €1.201.

The papers

Our Guardian front-page lead today is “Treasury alarm as PM refuses to confirm national insurance rise”. The i has “PM’s plan for cost-of-living crisis delayed by Downing Street turmoil” while the Metro has “Plan A OK” as “millions return to public transport” after the lifting of restrictions. The Telegraph likes the sound of “Work from home tax loophole to be closed” – the £125 in relief was costing the Treasury £500m, the paper reports.

Guardian front page, 28 January 2022
The Guardian’s front page, Friday 28 January 2022

The Times has “US sounds alarm over Russian cash in London”. There is plenty to keep the PM’s partygate woes off the front pages or at least suppressed today, but the Express fails to cotton on: “Boris allies: don’t repeat Thatcher betrayal”. The Mail attempts to divert the asteroid of public fury from No 10 with “600 Whitehall fat cats paid over £150,000”. The Mirror has “Palace’s sex trial fear”, about the US court action against Prince Andrew. The Financial Times leads with “New Russian gas projects face sanctions if Ukraine is invaded”.

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