Top story: Cummings could go by Christmas – reports
Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories this morning.
Tory MPs are warning Boris Johnson that he is down to his last chance to sort out the dysfunctional mess in Downing Street as the fallout from the resignation of communications chief Lee Cain continues to reverberate around Westminster. As backbenchers queued up to give their unflattering verdicts on the way in which No 10 has lurched from one crisis to another, speculation grew that Dominic Cummings, the PM’s chief adviser and a close ally of Cain, could quit his post by Christmas. The controversial figure, who is widely disliked by Conservative MPs, fuelled some of the reports by telling the BBC that his “position hasn’t changed since my January blog” when he said that he wanted to make himself “largely redundant” by the end of 2020. It is uncertain whether this week’s bloodletting will see more victims, but it was being interpreted as a turning point for Johnson’s regime. Tory MPs were unsparing in their criticism with Sir Roger Gale saying Johnson had to “get a grip”, while another Tory, who asked not to be named, said of the Downing Street team: “They’re children. Ideologues and self-obsessed fools.”
Met reform – The Metropolitan police will have to hire 40% of its new recruits from ethnic minority backgrounds and stop and search incidents will have to be justified to community panels as part of new plans to be unveiled today to tackle the race crisis engulfing Britain’s biggest force. The Guardian has learned that the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, is expected to accept that the force is not free of racism or discrimination, and has agreed the reforms after months of negotiations with the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. The action plan is the latest in a long line of attempts to address the problem of lack of trust in the police among black communities.
‘Bash the virus’ – Uğur Şahin, the scientist behind the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19, has told the Guardian that he believes the treatment can “bash the virus over the head”. Şahin, the chief executive of BioNTech, said in his first interview with a British newspaper that it “will have a dramatic effect” in curbing the spread of the disease, which has now infected more than 50 million people around the world. Britain hit a new daily high of 33,470 confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, with another 563 deaths. There was also a record figure of new cases in the US – 143,231 – as well as other countries including Russia, Japan, Croatia and Greece. Follow all the developments in the pandemic at our live blog here.
Admissions reform – University leaders have given their backing to a radical overhaul of admissions policy which would mean UK students would only be offered places once they have their A-level results. The long-awaited reform aims to make the system fairer by eliminating the use of predicted grades, which are often unreliable, and will bring the UK into line with other countries, possibly as early as 2023/24.
Fox attack – Donald Trump’s claims that there was widespread fraud in last week’s US presidential battle have been given the clearest repudiation yet after a coalition of federal and state officials said the elections were the most secure in American history. A statement by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said there was no evidence that any voting system had deleted or lost votes, had changed votes, or was in any way compromised. As he faced more calls to concede defeat, Trump unleashed a series of tweets denouncing Fox News, accusing the network of having forgotten “what made them successful, what got them there”.
Barack Obama believes Trump won the presidency in 2016 in part because sufficient numbers of Americans had been “spooked by a black man in the White House” for the preceding eight years. Writing in his newly released memoir of his time in the Oval Office, Obama says those voters were prey to “the dark spirits … of xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, paranoid conspiracy theories, an antipathy toward black and brown folks”. The book, A Promised Land, also recalls how Joe Biden, then vice-president but now president-elect, advised Obama to delay the raid to kill Osama bin Laden in 2011.
They’re back – David Marshall has entered the pantheon of Scottish sporting heroes after saving Aleksandar Mitrovic’s penalty to send Steve Clarke’s side to next summer’s delayed Euro 2020 finals. The shootout victory in Belgrade means Scotland will play in a major men’s finals for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France. As an added bonus they also get to take on England in one of the group games. Andy Robertson, Scotland’s captain, said he had never felt so emotional after a game, adding that he “can’t wait” for next summer’s competition. Ryan Christie, who scored Scotland’s only goal in regular time, also gave an emotional TV interview as he dedicated the win to the “whole nation”.
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Lunchtime read: AC/DC are back in black – again
Despite death, deafness and drugs, AC/DC are back in black again with a new album that few expected would ever be made. Angus Young and Brian Johnson tell Michael Hann how it felt to be back in the studio after the passing of lynchpin Malcolm Young and the Geordie singer losing his hearing after decades of hard rocking. “It just shows the resilience and the bond that exists between us,” Johnson says. “We walked into the studio, and you could feel the electricity in the air.”
Gareth Southgate said after England cruised to a 3-0 friendly win over the Republic of Ireland that he is looking forward to a “super occasion” against Scotland when the two sides meet in the Euro 2020 group stage. There was heartbreak for Northern Ireland, though, as Michal Duris’s extra-time goal sent Slovakia through next summer’s tournament. In Swansea, a youthful US side held Wales to a goalless draw, in the absence of manager Ryan Giggs. Paul Casey got off to a seven-under flier in the first round of the Masters at Augusta, where another member of the old guard, Tiger Woods, shot a wonderfully composed 68. The term BAME can be insulting and should be retired from use, a survey of UK sporting organisations has found. Jack Willis, Ollie Lawrence and Will Stuart will make their first starts in an England XV to play Georgia showing seven changes from the Six Nations-clinching win over Italy. EFL clubs have collectively agreed to accept the Premier League’s offer of a £50m bailout for teams in League One and League Two. Lewis Hamilton has said that winning a seventh world championship would be a feat “far beyond his wildest dreams”. And the pandemic has exposed the inequalities that lie beneath the shiny veneer of the Women’s Super League, writes Suzanne Wrack.
The annual John Lewis Christmas ad has relegated gift-giving to the backburner and instead brings kindness to the fore as the store chain seeks to reflect the year of coronavirus. The two-minute animation features a hedgehog who hopes to fly, a group of hip-hop pigeons and lots of love hearts to deliver its message. Concerns about the impact of the virus on economies everywhere will send the FTSE 100 down by 1% this morning, futures trading shows, while the pound is on $1.312 and €1.116.
The Guardian leads with the latest developments in the Downing Street/Dominic Cummings soap opera – “Tory MPs warn PM: final chance to ‘get a grip’ on chaos in No 10”. The Times finds some positive spin with “PM hopes to win back friends with softer touch”, but the Telegraph is notably negative about the future of Boris Johnson’s favourite aide: “‘Beginning of the end’ in No 10 for Cummings”. The story also gives the Star another chance to use its Cummings cut-out-and-keep mask. Under a strapline saying “Cummings wants to leave No 10 without losing face”, the headline reads “Let’s help Dom go!”.
The FT has an optimistic-sounding headline that reads “Central bank chiefs upbeat over vaccine boost to global economy”, but the i has a gloomier take: “Vaccine goal put at risk by baseless safety fears”. The Express reports on “Queen’s vow to keep serving her country”, the Mirror has “£450m lotto winner on death crash charge”, and the Mail launches a campaign to let relatives visit lonely loved ones in care homes this Christmas – “The clamour that cannot be ignored”. In Scotland, the only thing that matters today is the national team’s win over Serbia. “We’re back”, says the Record. The Herald has a picture of the players celebrating with the headline “The wait is over… Scotland are back”.
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