Thursday briefing: Fury as PM vetoes sleaze watchdog

Good morning on a Thursday. Warren Murray here to show you the way.

Boris Johnson has torn up the independent system for combating sleaze in parliament, throwing the government’s weight behind protecting a Conservative MP who was found to have repeatedly breached lobbying rules. The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, wrote: “I am sick of people skirting around calling this out for what it is: corruption.”

The MP involved, Owen Paterson, was found to have repeatedly approached ministers and officials on behalf of two companies that were paying him more than £100,000. But Johnson whipped his MPs to halt Paterson’s parliamentary suspension and demand a review of the entire standards process to allow for appeals. Johnson is himself facing what would be a fourth inquiry by Kathryn Stone – the parliamentary standards commissioner – this time over refurbishments to Johnson’s Downing Street flat that were initially paid for by a Tory donor.

Westminster MPs voted by 250 to 232 to support a government-backed amendment to set aside the ruling against Paterson and overhaul the independent disciplinary system on Wednesday, which the prime minister claimed was a matter of “natural justice”. The government’s majority was reduced from 79 to just 18, underlining the unhappiness of many Conservatives. The vote result was met with cries of “shame” from opposition MPs. Thirteen Conservative MPs voted against the government. At least a dozen frontbenchers abstained.

Brexit-linked unrest in Belfast – Two boys aged 12 and 15 years have been arrested and bailed following disorder in Belfast linked to a rally against the Brexit protocol. Police came under attack with missiles and fireworks close to a peace line on Wednesday evening. The disorder came on Lanark Way in the loyalist Shankill Road area; there was also disorder on the nationalist Springfield Road side of the peace wall. Opposition to the arrangements that have created trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK has contributed to unrest and rioting.

‘Reality check’ – Global carbon emissions are shooting back to the record level seen before the coronavirus pandemic, new analysis has shown. Scientists said the finding was a “reality check” for the world’s nations gathered at the Cop26 climate summit. In Glasgow, more than 40 countries have agreed to phase out their use of coal-fired power, the dirtiest fuel source, through the 2030s and 2040s. But some of the world’s biggest coal-dependent economies including Australia, China, India and the US are missing from the deal. Emissions pledges on the table at Cop26 would limit global temperature rises to below 2C, the first time the world has been on such a trajectory, according to other research. Plans by India, the world’s third-biggest emitter, have made a sizeable difference, research by the University of Melbourne has found.

Blake cottage in decay – The 17th-century thatched cottage where William Blake wrote the words to the hymn Jerusalem is at risk of being lost because of decay, Historic England has said. The Grade II listed house needs urgent repairs to the thatch, roof structure and supporting masonry. Fundraising is under way.

Historic England, the government heritage agency, has included the cottage among 130 places added to the 2021 Heritage at Risk register that are threatened by neglect, decay or inappropriate development. The 2021 register also includes 233 sites whose futures have been secured, including Battersea Power Station, which is due to reopen next year after extensive redevelopment.

Putin wanted Nato entreé – Vladimir Putin wanted Russia to join Nato but didn’t want to make an application alongside “a lot of countries that don’t matter”, according to George Robertson, a former Labour defence secretary who led Nato between 1999 and 2004. “They wanted to be part of that secure, stable prosperous west that Russia was out of at the time,” Robertson has told the One Decision podcast, which examines how Putin’s worldview has evolved during his 21 years of unbroken rule of Russia. After the Orange Revolution street protests in Ukraine in 2004, Putin became increasingly suspicious of the west and angered by Nato’s expansion into countries including Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Croatia and Albania.

‘Transformative’ – Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, popularly known as Madam Thao, is Vietnam’s first and only female billionaire with an estimated $2.7bn (£2bn) fortune made from VietJet, the airline she founded and runs, alongside a vast property empire that stretches from skyscrapers in Ho Chi Minh City to five-star beach resorts across the country as well as offshore oil and gas exploration and fossil fuel financing.

Her name may soon be well known in the UK as well, after University of Oxford’s Linacre College agreed to rename itself Thao College after a £155m “transformative donation” from her holding company Sovico Group. Her son studied at Oxford. Phuong Thao’s airline has attracted notoriety for having flight attendants dress in bikinis. She wants to expand Vietjet to become the “Emirates of Asia”.

Mark Zuckerberg changed Facebook’s name to Meta last week – and launched a vision for his company that he claims will transform the way we interact with the internet and each other. So what exactly is the metaverse? And will it ever leave the realm of science fiction?

Among under-18s, vaccine uptake is low, and there is a growing issue with misinformation spread on social media and at school. Is there anything a concerned caregiver can do?

Gary Ballance, the former England batsman, has admitted using racist and offensive language to his teammate Azeem Rafiq in a controversy that has engulfed Yorkshire County Cricket Club and the sport as a whole. One of the world’s leading track and field coaches is to be investigated by the US Center for SafeSport after multiple complaints of sexual misconduct were made against him, the Guardian can reveal. Two goals in the first 21 minutes and Felipe’s sending off smoothed Liverpool’s path into the knockout stage of the Champions League in a 2-0 win over Atlético Madrid at Anfield. Goals from Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus fired Manchester City to a 4-1 victory against Club Brugge, while Ajax came from behind to beat 10-man Borussia Dortmund 3-1.

In an interview with the Guardian, Anita Asante, the Aston Villa defender, has talked about speaking up for others, being kicked by boys in cage football and why the US was an eye-opener. Tymal Mills has been ruled out of the remainder of the T20 World Cup after scans confirmed a significant thigh strain and has been replaced in the England squad by Surrey’s Reece Topley. India finally got going in their third match of the tournament in Dubai, crushing Afghanistan in a 66-run victory, while Martin Guptill struggled badly with the heat but helped New Zealand to a 16-run win that eliminated Scotland. Cameron Norrie kept himself in contention to win a spot at the ATP Finals as he coolly navigated a second round match at the Paris Masters, beating Reilly Opelka of the US 6-3, 6-4. And Scottie Pippen has reiterated his dissatisfaction with Michael Jordan’s outsized influence on The Last Dance, the wildly popular ESPN/Netflix docuseries on the Chicago Bulls’ glory years of the 1990s.

The Bank of England could raise interest rates today for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, against a backdrop of rising inflationary pressures and a rebound in economic growth. Financial markets expect an increase of 0.15%, taking the base rate from 0.1% to 0.25%. It comes after the US Federal Reserve said last night it was winding down its huge stimulus programme amid fears that the central bank may also have to raise rates soon. The FTSE100 is set to open up 0.4%, while the pound is down at $1.365 and €1.178.

“PM accused of corruption as rules on sleaze torn up” – the lead story in our Guardian print edition today. Also previewed on the front: “Spyware firm barred by US”. NSO Group has been placed on a US blacklist by the Biden administration after it determined the Israeli spyware maker has acted “contrary to the foreign policy and national security interests of the US”. NSO’s signature spyware – known as Pegasus – is alleged to have been deployed by foreign governments against dissidents, journalists, diplomats and members of the clergy, with several alleged victims in the UK.

Most of the papers rail against what happened in the Commons yesterday. “Tories rip up Britain’s anti-sleaze rules to save guilty MP” says the i while the Metro calls it “The sleazy way out”. “Shameless MPs sink back into sleaze” says the Daily Mail. The Express has something about Covid: “Warning: let’s be cautious and save Christmas”, quoting Dr Van Tam. A puff pointing to page 7 is sympathetic with Owen Paterson, saying: “After 2 years of hell, I can now clear my name”.

“Tories rebel over vote to block MP’s suspension” – the Times reports remarks that Boris Johnson has made a “colossal misjudgment”. The Telegraph’s front runs the Paterson story down its right-hand column while its splash is “NHS staff won’t have to be jabbed this winter” – there will be no compulsion until next April. The Mirror has “PM’s flying shame”, that few-days-old story about Johnson flying back from Cop26, with the added detail that he jetted in to have dinner with a “climate sceptic pal”, that being Charles (Lord) Moore, former Telegraph editor. And the lead in the Financial Times is “Fed triggers winding down of $120bn stimulus program”, which you can read about here.

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