Friday briefing: sleaze crisis engulfs Tories |

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Top story: PM’s judgment questioned

Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories today.

Boris Johnson has become engulfed in a sleaze crisis following a humiliating U-turn that saw veteran Tory MP Owen Paterson resign from parliament after Downing Street ditched a bid to shield him from lobbying claims. A furious reaction from backbenchers forced the prime minister to withdraw his backing from Paterson less than 24 hours after ordering MPs to support a controversial amendment tearing up House of Commons anti-sleaze rules to protect the now ex-member for North Shropshire. As he quit, Paterson said the past two years had been an “indescribable nightmare”, but colleagues called the fiasco an “own goal” by No 10. Many questioned Johnson’s judgment in trying to revisit the anti-sleaze rules. Labour tried to pile more pressure on the government by calling for an inquiry into business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s remarks about standards commissioner Kathryn Stone.

The Paterson affair is the latest in a long list of very public U-turns by Johnson since he became prime minister, including over Covid lockdowns and free school meals. Our commentator Simon Jenkins says it shows that Johnson does not have advisers, but rather courtiers.

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‘Stop Covid-19 hanging around’ – People could help to stop the spread of Covid-19 this winter by keeping their windows open for 10 minutes every hour when they are socialising at home. A government-funded campaign will encourage us to “stop Covid-19 hanging around” by ventilating homes to help disperse virus particles. A study suggests that new cases may have peaked in the UK but concerns are growing that Europe is entering another deadly phase. The World Health Organization said uneven vaccine coverage and a relaxation of preventive measures have brought the continent to a “critical point” with 500,000 more deaths forecast by February.


Morgue horror – An electrician who admitted murdering two women in 1987 also sexually attacked scores of corpses in a hospital mortuary, in what prosecutors say is the worst offending of its kind in British legal history. David Fuller, 67, pleaded guilty to murdering Wendy Knell, 25, and Caroline Pierce, 20, in separate attacks in Tunbridge Wells, police said. His trial heard that he also sexually assaulted women’s corpses in the mortuaries at Kent and Sussex hospital and Tunbridge Wells hospital while working there. Police have detected at least 99 potential victims of Fuller, in what is believed to be the worst case of necrophilia in British legal history.


Emissions warning – The CO2 emissions of the richest 1% of humanity are on track to be 30 times greater than what is needed to keep global heating below 1.5C, research warns. Amid anger at some leaders using private jets to travel to the Cop26 climate talks in Glasgow, the study says the wealthiest people on Earth are on track to release 70 tonnes of CO2 per person a year. They will account for 16% of total emissions by 2030, up from 13% of emissions in 1990. After 40 countries committed to phasing out coal use in Glasgow, the focus has turned to gas with activists saying its use must be slashed by nearly a third this decade to avoid disastrous climate effects. Indonesia has questioned the terms of a Cop26 deal to end deforestation by 2030, days after joining more than 100 countries in signing up to it.


Tough gig – The number of adults in England and Wales working for gig economy companies has reached 4.4 million and is now two-and-a-half times bigger than in 2016. Almost 15% of working adults now get paid by platforms such as Deliveroo, Uber and Amazon’s delivery arm Flex, research for the TUC claims, compared with about 6% in 2016 and just under 12% in 2019.


Grape gripe – We’ve had shortages of computer chips, petrol and timber, but now things are getting serious: world wine production is expected to fall to one of its lowest levels on record after harsh weather battered vineyards in Europe’s major wine-producing regions. The conditions “severely impacted” production in Italy, Spain and France, resulting in “extremely low” production volumes, an international wine body has said.

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Sport

Yorkshire have been suspended from hosting international cricket and face the prospect of additional financial sanctions following the club’s botched handling of Azeem Rafiq’s racism allegations. The former Yorkshire and England captain Michael Vaughan has revealed he has been accused of racism by Rafiq but strongly denies the claim. West Ham have condemned footage of their fans apparently singing an antisemitic song towards a Jewish man on a plane and vowed to issue those involved with bans from the club. Son Heung-min, Lucas Moura and an own goal put Tottenham 3-0 up against Vitesse on Antonio Conte’s debut in charge but the new manager then witnessed his side’s frailties in the 3-2 Europa Conference League win. Daniel Amartey swiftly cancelled out Victor Moses’s opener to give Leicester a 1-1 draw against Spartak Moscow but they were left to rue Jamie Vardy’s spot-kick miss. Eddie Howe is on the verge of being confirmed as Newcastle United’s new manager after agreeing a deal in principle with the club’s Saudi Arabian-led owners.

If the lineup for England’s rugby union match against Tonga hasn’t produced many ripples, a radically reshuffled leadership group hints at a change in tone, writes Robert Kitson. The feelgood factor has returned to the Australia camp after a crushing win over Bangladesh boosted their hopes of reaching the T20 World Cup semi-finals. Cameron Norrie is unlikely to qualify for the ATP Finals in Turin after he bowed out of the Paris Masters in the third round, losing to Taylor Fritz of the United States in an intense two-set tussle. Lewis Hamilton has insisted he would never deliberately take out his rival Max Verstappen in order to win the Formula One title. And in an interview with the Guardian, Republic of Ireland international Katie McCabe has spoken about Arsenal’s exciting signings and the need to keep breaking barriers after her country’s equal pay deal.

Business

The pound has dipped again overnight to $1.348 after falling heavily in the wake of the Bank of England’s surprise decision to keep interest rates at their record low level of 0.1%. Sterling is doing a bit better against the euro at €1.168, while the FTSE100 is set to open up 0.1%. As China Evergrande faces another do-or-die debt deadline next week, Xi Jinping is piloting a local property tax that he hopes can deflate China’s massive housing bubble. But is it already too late?

The papers

The Guardian leads on the sleaze scandal – “Tories plunged into crisis after sleaze rules U-turn” – as do many others. The Times splash head reads “No 10 faces party backlash after suspension U-turn” and the Telegraph has “Paterson quits after backlash from MPs”. The Mail says the nation is aghast and asks “Is anybody in charge at No10?, although it leads on the morgue deaths: “Horror at the morgue”. That’s also the lead in the Mirror: “How many more victims?”. The Yorkshire Post leads with the county cricket race row: “Sponsors ditch club as racism scandal deepens”.

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Guardian front page, Friday 5 November 2021
Photograph: The Guardian

The FT says the City was caught out by the non-rate rise – “BoE sends investors scrambling by keeping interest rates on hold” – while the Express has “Game-Changer! World’s first pill to fight Covid”. The Record leads on “Cops attack Gers fans”.

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