Wednesday briefing: Tories brace for Cummings appearance

Hello, Warren Murray delivering part of your complete news diet.

Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s former top adviser, is preparing to expose many of the mistakes he claims the government made as the Covid pandemic hit Britain in 2020. Cummings will be quizzed on camera by two committees of senior MPs. Some Tory figures fear bombshell evidence about Boris Johnson’s actions, while others are unfazed, believing Cummings to be distrusted by the public for his lockdown-breaking trips and out for revenge against Johnson.

In the meantime Cummings has ramped up his attacks on Johnson, accusing the prime minister of having no “serious plan” to protect society’s most vulnerable people from Covid. It has been reported Cummings will use his appearance before MPs to claim Johnson referred to coronavirus as “kung-flu”, and was willing to be infected with the virus live on TV – a statement that was allegedly made before he contracted the disease. Downing Street did not deny the claim. In global news, calls are growing for a full inquiry into Covid’s origins – read more at our live blog.

Year that George Floyd changed America – Joe Biden has held a private meeting with family of George Floyd as events were held to mark one year since the murder of the African American man by a police officer in Minneapolis. A celebration of Floyd’s life was held less than a mile from where the former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of all three counts of murder. The event was filled with shrieks from children as they leapt in bouncy houses while others filled the air with bubbles. The smells from a dozen food trucks penetrated the space as people danced and basked in the sun, writes Amudalat Ajasa.

In the UK, Keir Starmer has vowed to introduce a race equality act to address inequalities exposed by the coronavirus pandemic on the anniversary of Floyd’s murder, as vigils were held across the UK to mourn his death. Our editorial says: “Sections of the British public now seem galvanised about racism and shocked to find it embedded in the policies of public and private institutions. That is heartening, though it will take more than incredulity to change much. [Boris Johnson] is trying to contain public anger over racism by enacting voter suppression measures and paving the way for police to use mass arrests during protests as a crowd control tactic. After racial justice protests, Mr Johnson views stacking the deck as a means of retaining power in a democracy.”

Midweek catch-up

> The total value of homes sold in the UK is expected to reach £461bn this year, a jump of 46% on 2020, according to the property website Zoopla, which says locations away from London and the south-east are attracting the strongest buyer interest.

> New York prosecutors have reportedly convened a special grand jury to consider evidence in a criminal investigation of Donald Trump’s business dealings.

> A long-awaited review into Islamophobia within the Conservatives has been condemned as a whitewash by Muslim Tories.

> The children’s commissioners of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have written to the UK government calling on it to scrap the two-child limit restricting social security benefits received by larger families.

> An ad campaign telling the public that “it’s time to buy” bitcoin has been banned after the advertising watchdog ruled that it was irresponsible and misleading.

‘They’re going to kill him in there’ – The parents of Raman Pratasevich have pleaded for international help to free the Belarusian journalist as the US president, Joe Biden, said sanctions against Alexander Lukashenko’s regime were “in play”. Pratasevich, 26, was detained after Belarus’s president ordered the forcing-down of his Ryanair flight travelling between Greece and Lithuania. His Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, was also seized. From Poland, Natalia Pratasevich, the blogger’s mother, told Agence France-Presse: “I’m asking, I’m begging, I’m calling on the whole international community to save him … They’re going to kill him in there.” Sapega’s mother, Anna Dudich, said her daughter steered clear of politics: “She simply showed up in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Poverty tightens grip in UK – Black, Asian and disabled tenants are disproportionately likely to face discrimination looking for a home, and to end up somewhere shoddy, unsafe and unsuitable, according to Shelter. The charity’s survey suggests 17.5 million people are affected by what it calls the “housing emergency”. Meanwhile the IPPR thinktank’s analysis of latest official figures shows working families are now at the highest risk of falling into poverty since the welfare system was at its most generous in 2004. And the government faces calls to create a social tariff to protect millions of families experiencing “water poverty”. The water industry’s consumer watchdog is calling for the tariff to save hard-pressed households from paying more than 5% of their income on water bills. Around 1.5 million homes are in water poverty with another 3 million on the verge of it.

Blimp and you’re there – A small Bedford-based company is promising a surprising solution for short low-carbon trips: commercial airships. Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV) has named a string of routes it hopes to serve from 2025, including Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca in four-and-a-half hours, which the company says is roughly the same time as aeroplane travel once getting to and from the airport are taken into account.

HAV said the CO2 footprint per passenger on its airship would be about 4.5kg, compared with about 53kg on a jet. Other routes planned include Liverpool to Belfast, which would take five hours and 20 minutes; Oslo to Stockholm, in six-and-a-half hours; and Seattle to Vancouver in just over four hours.

As Covid travel restrictions begin to be lifted, a new, far less welcoming post-Brexit attitude is greeting EU citizens at the UK border.

Tyrant, war criminal, mob boss or, to his loyalists, their shrewd saviour: views about Bashar al-Assad rarely fall in between. As the Syrian leader faces a presidential poll on Wednesday – the result a foregone conclusion – a truer test of the authority he wields across a broken country has taken shape away from the political banners and faux campaigning. In battered towns and villages, the now veteran president has been consolidating himself as the only figure who could plot a course from the ruins of the region’s most devastating modern conflict.

Assad and his extended family have been shoring up their influence: seldom seen during much of the crisis, the ruler has become a fixture in what remains of Syria’s industrial heartland, visiting factories, pressing employees on their hardships, and hosting delegations. The husk of Syria is, in many ways, more under the Assad family’s control than at the war’s outset, as power structures established over four decades have anchored dynasty and dictatorship, writes Martin Chulov.

Ole Gunnar Solskjær has urged Manchester United to win the Europa League final to honour Sir Matt Busby and encouraged his team to enjoy the “pleasure of the pressure” of playing for a trophy that could start an era of success. Gareth Southgate has opened the door to including Trent Alexander-Arnold as one of four right-backs in England’s final squad for Euro 2020 and has insisted he still has a good relationship with the Liverpool defender. Egan Bernal is expected to win the Giro d’Italia on Sunday but there are still plenty of chances for the top 10 to be reshuffled in the next few days and for bad weather to give race organisers sweaty palms.

Manu Tuilagi is set to end his eight-month absence from rugby by featuring for Sale Sharks against Bristol on Friday. England’s five-Test series against India is expected to proceed as planned with a revised plan to squeeze the second half of the Indian Premier League between the tour’s conclusion and the T20 World Cup in October. The fractious relationship between two of the world’s best golfers, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, appeared to hit an entertaining new low during last weekend’s US PGA Championship. Tributes have been paid to the sportswriter David Foot, the doyen of West Country sportswriters who has died at the age of 92. And the Football Association is lobbying MPs to tighten provisions in the government’s online safety bill as social media companies continue to ignore calls to act on online abuse.

British banks provided at least £900m in finance last year to companies involved in deforestation overseas, a study claims, as pressure grows on the government to include financial institutions in plans to force companies to root out illegal deforestation from their supply chains. The FTSE100 is on course for a flat opening this morning, while the pound is on $1.416 and €1.155 at time of writing.

The Guardian print edition leads with “Anger forces climbdown over travel restrictions”. The reversal by ministers came after millions of people were left wondering if they needed to cancel bank holiday plans in England. Controversial guidance directly affected 1.7 million people living in eight local authorities – Bedford, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, North Tyneside and the London borough of Hounslow – as well as many others planning to visit those areas.

The Telegraph has “Farce as plan for new lockdown unravels”, while the i says “No 10 cancels accidental lockdowns”. The Times splashes on “Vaccines hit new high as all over-30s offered jabs”. The Mirror combines the Super League (which it says Boris Johnson initially endorsed) and the imminent testimony of Dominic Cummings (the PM allegedly said Covid was “only killing 80-year-olds”) to produce the front-page treatment “Prime minister under siege – out of touch, out of control”.

The Express has “Now that’s the proof we need to open up”, as “just 15 test positive for Covid after 58,000 attend events”. The Mail reports on what it calls the “Pandemic plunderers scandal” saying “40,000 jobs lost at firms targeted by sharks” meaning “private equity tycoons” behind many high-street chains. The Metro calls Belarus “Bela not mates” as airlines skirt round after the Ryanair ambush. The Financial Times has “Sunak proposes powers to block London listings over security risks” while the Sun’s lead is about “DIY legend” Nick Knowles not losing his job at the BBC.

The Guardian Morning Briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes bright and early every weekday. If you are not already receiving it by email, you can sign up here.

For more news:

If you have any questions or comments about any of our newsletters please email

Comments are closed.