Top story: Texts show lobbying over Tower Hamlets development
Good morning, I’m Alison Rourke and these are the top stories on this Thursday morning.
The housing secretary is under pressure to resign after documents showed he “insisted” a planning decision for a £1bn property development should be rushed through so a Tory donor’s company could reduce costs by £45m. Civil servants wrote that Robert Jenrick wanted the Westferry printworks development in Tower Hamlets in east London to be signed off the following day so that Richard Desmond’s company would avoid the community infrastructure levy of £45m. Text messages also revealed how Desmond – the former Express titles newspaper owner and pornographer, lobbied Jenrick to avoid the payment: “We don’t want to give Marxists loads of doe [sic] for nothing!,” he said in reference to Labour-run Tower Hamlets council. Jenrick has since had to quash his own approval of Desmond’s project on the old Westferry Road printworks, conceding the decision was unlawful. Boris Johnson has backed Jenrick, with the head of the civil service, Sir Mark Sedwill, saying the PM “considered the matter closed”. You can read the text exchanges, and our explainer on the planning row.
Covid hardship – Families falling out of work during the coronavirus crisis will get £1,600 less on average in benefits than they would have done without a decade of austerity imposed by the Conservatives. Even after taking account of emergency additions to the welfare safety net due to the virus, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said benefits for out-of-work households were worth 10% less than in 2011. There were heated clashes in parliament yesterday as Labour questioned the PM over the government’s test-and-trade strategy with claims that just a third of people who had tested positive for coronavirus had been reached and asked for details of who they had been in contact with. It comes as England prepares for eased lockdown laws from 4 July, including some weddings restarting with up to 30 participants (no singing), two households being allowed to meet indoors and playgrounds and pubs opening. You can see what you can and can’t do from 4 July here.
Globally, the WHO has warned of an oxygen equipment shortage as cases rose by 1m in a week. The WHO boss, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the demand for oxygen concentrators was “outstripping supply”. It comes as the US records its highest one-day total (34,700) since April and the federal government started to wind back the testing programme. California has seen a 69% rise in cases since Monday – Los Angeles county now has the most cases in the US, at 85,000. Administrators and health experts have warned that politicians and a public that, in many cases, is tired of being cooped up are letting a disaster unfold.
There’s more in our Coronavirus Extra section further down … and here’s where you can find all our coverage of the outbreak – from breaking news to factchecks and advice.
‘Knock down the defence wall’ – Victims of a number of paedophiles are to sue Celtic football club in a ground-breaking civil action amid claims it failed to protect them from sex abusers working around Celtic Boys’ Club. Three victim-survivors aim to use a civil trial to “knock down the defence wall” they say Celtic has erected in order to distance itself from the Boys’ Club. The Glasgow-based team insist that Celtic Boys’ Club is a separate legal entity. The Scottish government has been criticised for failing to set up an independent public inquiry into the abuse scandal that has shaken Celtic and Scottish football.
Post-Brexit food standards – The new boss of Waitrose has joined farmers and food campaigners urging the government to protect the UK’s food standards in post-Brexit trade deals. James Bailey said any regression from the UK’s current high food standards would be a step backwards and that Waitrose would not sell any products that didn’t meet its standards. “It would be simply wrong to maintain high standards at home yet import food from overseas that has been produced to lower standards,” he said, adding he felt sure “customers will share our view”.
All change – Another day of soaring temperatures across the UK will end in torrential rain, forecasters are warning. West London is forecast to see temperatures peak between 32C and 33C, while parts of Wales could see the mercury rise to 34C (which would be a June record), before thunderstorms, lightning and hail in the afternoon. Between 30mm to 40mm could fall in less than two hours in parts of the UK.
‘There will be a big party’ – A Tanzanian subsistence miner hit the jackpot when the government handed him a cheque for 7.74bn Tanzanian shillings (£2.4m) for the two largest tanzanite gemstones ever found. They weighed 9.27kg and 5.103kg. The small-scale miner said he planned to build a shopping mall and a school for the poor children near his home. And of course celebrate: “There will be a big party tomorrow,” he said.
New Zealanders returning home are facing a backlash after a number of inbound travellers tested positive for coronavirus. It follows celebrations over all lockdown measures (bare border restrictions) being lifted after the last case in the country had recovered. Those testing positive on return are being seen in some quarters as letting the side down.
In Pakistan a plane has crashed after the pilots were apparently preoccupied by the coronavirus crisis and tried to land with the aircraft’s wheels still up, according to initial official reports. The Pakistan International Airlines plane crashed into a crowded residential area on 22 May after both engines failed as it approached Karachi airport for a second landing attempt, killing all but two people on board, and a child on the ground.
In Australia, Qantas announced it was cutting 6,000 jobs to survive the coronavirus downtown. It doesn’t expect international flights to resume until 2021, and, like many other airlines, has planes sitting idle on the tarmac.
Today in Focus podcast: How damaging is John Bolton’s scathing account of Donald Trump’s presidency?
Despite a last-ditch attempt to prevent publication, John Bolton’s tell-all book about his time in Donald Trump’s White House has landed with a bang. The Guardian’s Jonathan Freedland has been reporting on US politics for years and tells Anushka Asthana that even knowing what we do about the Trump administration, this account still has the ability to shock.
Lunchtime read: Party and protest: the radical history of gay liberation, Stonewall and Pride
A police raid on a gay bar in New York led to the birth of the Pride movement half a century ago – but the fight for LGBTQ+ rights goes back much further than that, writes Huw Lemmey in today’s Long Read. “The five decades of struggle that have followed the riots have sometimes lent the impression that the arc of the moral universe does indeed bend towards justice,” he writes, but says, for all of its talk of unity, Pride can still divide.
Jürgen Klopp believes Liverpool’s performance in the 4-0 win over Crystal Palace last night epitomised his side’s desire to end the club’s 30-year wait for the league title. Elsewhere, Anthony Martial’s hat-trick powered Manchester United to a 3-0 win over Sheffield United and boosted their top-four hopes, while Ahmed Elmohamady equalised late on against Newcastle to secure a 1-1 draw for Aston Villa, although they remain in the relegation zone. And a Raúl Jiménez header was enough to decide a low-grade game against Bournemouth and enhance Wolves’ high-achieving season. The row over Novak Djokovic’s virus-hit Balkan charity fortnight has slid further into denial and acrimony, as the world No 1 faces calls to quit as ATP player council president. Clare Connor, a former England captain, has been named as the next president of the Marylebone Cricket Club and will become the first female president in the MCC’s 233-year history. Mark Wood hopes the 95mph storm he whipped up in St Lucia last year will be on the minds of the West Indies batsmen this summer in the same way Mitchell Johnson once dominated English thoughts. And Angela Madsen, whose remarkable life took in a spell in the Marines, a string of Paralympic gold medals and record-setting rowing journeys, has died while attempting a solo journey from California to Hawaii.
There are some winners out of the economic crisis. Sales at Premier Foods, the company behind Bisto, Mr Kipling and McDougall’s, are expected to surge by a fifth as UK families turn to home cooking during the pandemic. Its shares rose 14% yesterday on the optimistic outlook. The FTSE100 overall is expected to slip 0.4% this morning on continued worries about the soread of the virus globally. The pound is on $1.241 and €1.104.
The front pages are a mixture of pressure on Robert Jenrick and the summer heatwave. The Guardian splashes with “Jenrick under pressure to quit as Tory donor documents released”. The Times has “Pressure mounts on minister”; the Mail has “Cosy texts that damn minister”; and the i has “Minister on ropes in Tory donor row”. There’s plenty of coverage about the warm weather: “Hi, Summer” says the Mirror; the Telegraph carries a big picture of thousands thronging to the beach (as do the Mail, the Express and the FT) but their main headline is: “Schools to scrap social distancing”. The Express’s splash is “The Boris revolution to shake up Britain” about the PM’s “radical plans” to modernise the UK. The FT’s splash is “Brussels willing to compromise on ‘level playing field’ trade talks”, saying the EU is seeking a framework for the Brexit deal.
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