Thursday briefing: Call for ‘Stephen Lawrence moment’ to restore faith in police

Morning everyone. I’m Virginia Harrison and these are the top stories today.

More than a decade of austerity has dealt a “massive body blow” to police services in England and Wales, severely hampering their ability to tackle violence against women and girls, former senior police figures say. They have called for a “Stephen Lawrence moment” of transformation in the service and a full judge-led inquiry to restore faith in policing. Dal Babu, a former chief superintendent with the Metropolitan police , said resources have “never been pulled in a such a dramatic way”. He joins others in arguing that women and girls have been harmed by systemic underfunding.

“There is not a single person who I meet who does not know a woman who has been the victim of some kind of abuse. That is absolutely appalling,” Babu said. “We need a Stephen Lawrence moment here, where we acknowledge the way that we’re failing women and young girls.”

Experts say crimes of violence against females require officers with specialist skills and knowledge about offenders – something heavily restricted by underfunding. It comes with the Met in crisis over the failures that allowed then serving police officer Wayne Couzens to kidnap, rape and murder Sarah Everard.

Conference called – Business figures have taken aim at Boris Johnson in the wash-up to the Conservative party conference, accusing the prime minister of lacking a coherent economic plan after he delivered a boosterish conference speech that barely mentioned the supply chain crisis. From the need to match “rhetoric with action” to “not a single rousing moment”, our panel of experts give their verdict on the PM’s closing address in Manchester. Political correspondent Aubrey Allegretti also combed through the speech and explains what he said – and what he actually meant. And finally, John Crace’s view: “Not so much a conference speech, more an extended Daily Telegraph column.” Read his take here.

Pandora papers – In 2010 the former Conservative MP and minister Jonathan Aitken flew to Washington for the launch of his latest book: a flattering biography of Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. His speech to an audience of senators and diplomats at the prestigious Library of Congress failed to mention one crucial point: that a PR firm working for the Kazakh government appears to have secretly commissioned and paid for his book. According to the Pandora papers – the largest leak of offshore data in history, which has been shared with the Guardian and other media by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – Aitken got £166,000 for his literary efforts. The money was routed via Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands and discreetly sent to Oxford and the ex-MP’s company, Aitken Consultancy & Research Services Limited.

According to the documents, the firm, WorldPR, also picked up the bill for Aitken’s overseas book tour. WorldPR is run by Aitken’s one-time press adviser Patrick Robertson. Aitken’s expenses included a stay at the Capital Hilton, two blocks from the White House. Aitken’s $1,527 (£1,117) receipt – found in the leak – lists three nights’ accommodation, laundry, a meal in the bar and grill, as well as Twigs restaurant, plus high-speed internet access. The PR company paid the Library of Congress $6,996 for venue hire.

Aitken did not respond to an email asking for comment or to two letters sent to his home address in London. Similarly, Robertson did not reply to three emails, a letter and a message left on his mobile phone. You can read the full story – and responses from all those named in the report – here.

‘Eco-anxiety’ rises – The climate crisis is taking a growing toll on the mental health of children and young people, public health experts warn. Increasing levels of “eco-anxiety” – the chronic fear of environmental doom – were likely to be underestimated and damaging to many in the long term, they said. It’s not yet considered a diagnosable condition but recognition of eco-anxiety and its complex psychological effects is on the rise, experts writing in the British Medical Journal said, along with its “disproportionate” impact on the young. So what can people do about it? Access to reliable information about mitigation and adaptation can help, experts say, as well as help to connect with nature, make greener choices and join forces with like-minded groups.

Fly, fly away – A worrying piece of news for those already eco-anxious: the UK has recorded its lowest ever number of butterflies in an annual survey of the insects. Butterfly Conservation has been conducting the count for 12 years and said the latest numbers should prompt urgent action. As well as forming a vital part of the food chain, butterflies are considered significant indicators of the health of the environment.

Spell check – Universities and colleges are failing to mark down students for poor spelling, grammar and punctuation, which is leading to grade inflation due to a misguided application of equalities legislation, England’s higher education regulator said. A review of five institutions by the Office for Students (OfS) said it feared that staff being allowed to ignore errors in students’ written work was “widespread”. The review follows cases this year of institutions using “inclusive assessment” policies more widely, and taking quality of writing into account only in courses where it was deemed to be critical, leading to condemnation from ministers.

‘I just wanted to write something funny’ – Torrey Peters’ novel Detransition, Baby caused a storm last year when it was longlisted for the Women’s prize, and is one of the most talked-about of the year. She talks to writer and trans dad Freddy McConnell about LGBTQ+ families and the “Sex and the City problem”.

In the aftermath of the sentencing of Sarah Everard’s killer, women’s trust in the police has collapsed. Can anything be done to restore it? Is misogyny endemic in British policing? And is there a risk that such an appalling crime could happen again?

Fresh from winning gold in Tokyo, diver Tom Daley answers readers’ questions on everything from gay role models to his passion for knitting and the secrets of his success.

Ben Stokes has undergone a second operation on his longstanding finger injury but remains unlikely to feature in England’s upcoming Ashes squad. The end-of-year tour looks likely to go ahead, but the players’ stand over conditions while in Australia shows a shift in attitude since Marcus Trescothick’s days, writes Andy Bull. A stoppage-time goal from forward Pernille Harder earned Chelsea a point against her former team Wolfsburg after a period of calamitous defending looked to have handed the German team victory in the Champions League. Spain swept into the Nations League final after avenging their Euro 2020 semi-final defeat with a Ferran Torres double against 10-man Italy. A Brighton and Hove Albion footballer has been arrested on suspicion of sexual assault after a woman was allegedly attacked in the Sussex town.

A Saudi Arabian-led consortium is close to finally taking over Newcastle United and ending Mike Ashley’s 14-year ownership of the club, with a deal expected to be approved imminently. Alexander Zverev has welcomed an ATP investigation into allegations of domestic abuse against him, saying it was about time. Tammy Abraham has become the first England player to reveal that he is vaccinated against Covid-19, but the subject remains a sensitive one around the squad. And Deontay Wilder says he has improved since defeat against Tyson Fury in 2020 and his ability to overcome adversity may stand him in good stead in this weekend’s third fight between the pair.

Britain’s top-listed businesses have made further progress on gender targets but still have too few women in senior leadership positions. That’s according to research by Cranfield School of Management, which found the proportion of women on FTSE 100 boards was at an all-time high, but concluded there still were not enough female chairs, chief executives and chief financial officers. Futures trading points to a weaker start for the FTSE this morning, while the pound will fetch you $1.358 and €1.175.

Boris Johnson’s speech to wrap up the Conservative party conference features on most front pages. The Guardian zeroes in on business anger at “vacuous and bombastic” PM speech. The Times takes a similar line, with “PM hit by business backlash”. i leads with “There may be trouble ahead” alongside a picture of the prime minister, saying he “shrugs off” Britain’s cost of living crisis. The Telegraph goes with “PM pledges no homes on green fields”. The Daily Mail has “Booster Boris’s Tory love-in” and also splashes on “Queen’s Sheikh friend hacked peer’s phone” – our story on that is here. And the Daily Express declares “Iron man Boris: I’ll unleash the spirit of Britain”.

The Mirror has “Senseless slaughter”, saying 100,000 pigs face incineration while families struggle to put food on the table”, while the FT leads with “Gas markets whipsaw after Putin offers to stabilise energy prices”.

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