Thursday briefing: What really happened at Chequers?

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Good morning. Spare a thought for Boris Johnson. There helium is, softly going astir his solemn parliamentary duties of taking a reported six-figure quality fee to talk to a “thought enactment gathering for the concern and entrepreneurial ecosystem” astatine the Bellagio Hotel and Casino successful Las Vegas, and awaiting the accomplishment of different caller addition to his numberless tribe. All of a sudden, a viper’s nest of his mortal enemies – that is, his ain ineligible squad – importune connected raking implicit the coals of the pandemic yet again.

Did helium interruption lockdown rules by hosting household and friends astatine Chequers during Covid? Were there, as the Guardian reports this morning, different antecedently undisclosed events astatine Downing Street? Should his resignation honours database beryllium scrapped? Does immoderate of it adjacent substance immoderate more? Isn’t the existent constituent that Rishi Sunak has it successful for him?

In considering these questions, and related quality yesterday that the Cabinet Office is refusing to manus Johnson’s WhatsApp messages and notebooks to the Covid inquiry without dense redactions, we mightiness transmission the erstwhile premier curate by reasoning of Marcus Aurelius: “Look backmost implicit the past, with its changing empires that roseate and fell, and you tin foresee the future, too.” So let’s person a ace astatine it, with the Guardian’s governmental analogous Aubrey Allegretti. First, present are the headlines.

Five large stories

  1. Music | Tina Turner, the pioneering rock’n’roll prima who became a popular behemoth successful the 1980s, has died aged 83 aft a agelong illness. Among galore tributes, erstwhile president Barack Obama called her “the queen of rock’n’roll, and a prima whose airy volition ne'er fade”. See much connected Turner’s beingness below.

  2. Politics | Rishi Sunak has decided not to bid an probe into whether Suella Braverman broke the ministerial code by requesting a one-to-one velocity consciousness course, meaning that she volition stay location secretary. The determination came aft much than 72 hours of deliberations successful Downing Street.

  3. UK quality | Lucy Letby, a caregiver accused of murdering 7 babies and attempting to termination different 10 betwixt 2015 and 2016, told her proceedings that raw sewage whitethorn person been a “contributing factor” successful the deaths. Letby denies the allegations against her.

  4. Wales | South Wales constabulary person refused to apologise aft admitting that 1 of their vans was pursuing 2 boys a infinitesimal earlier they were killed successful a collision that sparked convulsive riots successful Cardiff. The unit refused to judge that families had been deliberately misled by their constabulary and transgression commissioner, Alun Michael, who claimed the riot had been sparked by mendacious rumours of a chase.

  5. US politics | Ron DeSantis’s statesmanlike run motorboat connected Twitter’s audio streaming diagnostic was marred by 20 minutes of glitches that led to a illness successful listening numbers. Twitter proprietor Elon Musk, who besides appeared connected the stream, described the malfunction arsenic “insane”.

In depth: ‘It’s hard to spot a coup d’etat – Johnson’s power is connected the wane’

Police patrol Chequers successful  April 2020.
Police patrol Chequers successful April 2020. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

You could beryllium forgiven for reasoning that the abject play of your beingness successful which you had to beryllium much than peripherally alert of Boris Johnson’s behaviour had travel to an end.

Yes, the parliamentary privileges committee is yet to study the findings of its probe into whether helium misled MPs implicit lockdown parties. But with the taxable truthful exhaustively covered, and truthful overmuch clip having passed since he resigned arsenic premier minister, it seemed implausible that immoderate caller allegation could perchance emerge.

But with Boris Johnson, the past is ne'er dead; it’s not adjacent past. The caller assertion dragging america backmost to the lockdown epoch is that Johnson’s diaries suggest that helium had friends and household to sojourn astatine Chequers (pictured above), the premier minister’s grace-and-favour state residence, successful defiance of his ain government’s lockdown rules.

This morning, Aubrey Allegretti reports that a dossier handed to constabulary shows a twelve perchance amerciable events that were not considered by the Met Police’s erstwhile probe oregon Sue Gray’s inquiry, including immoderate astatine Downing Street.

Johnson’s bureau says the claims are “entirely wrong”, and person been produced with a “political purpose”. Here’s a summary of the cardinal issues facing the erstwhile premier curate arsenic helium seeks to transportation the remainder of us.

Whether helium tin blasted the blob

In caller months, there’s been a increasing assemblage of sentiment connected the close of the Conservative enactment that their radical are the victims of a monstrous conspiracy. First Dominic Raab, past Suella Braverman, present Boris Johnson: each of them, it is claimed, are being done successful by the shadowy cabal of leftie civilian servants known collectively arsenic the blob. (A precise calm take successful the Daily Telegraph is headlined: “The woke blob is astir to execute its top triumph: its last takeover of Britain”.)

Support for that mentation appears to beryllium gaining traction among Johnson’s supporters. The Daily Telegraph’s Christopher Hope has a story afloat of Johnsonite outrage, and acheronian suggestions that Rishi Sunak’s squad has played astatine slightest a tacit role.

“I didn’t truly judge successful the blob till now,” 1 erstwhile curate says. “There is present an unfastened witch-hunt against rightwingers successful the Conservative party,” says different MP. “The enactment of the enactment indispensable unopen this down immediately.”

Johnson’s ain spokesperson has hinted astatine a akin line, saying that “some wrong the government” whitethorn beryllium down “yet different politically motivated stitch-up”.

But if the authoritative mentation of events is correct, those arguments look thin, and trust connected a (suitably) wobbly explanation of “blob”. Downing Street insists that ministers had nary relation successful the determination to notation the substance to police, says Rishi Sunak was unaware until aft the constabulary had been informed, and adds that No 10 has not seen the dossier connected Johnson.

Ironically enough, the superior root of that dossier is Johnson’s ain ineligible team. “Because Johnson’s ineligible fees for the nationalist enquiry into the pandemic are being covered by the Cabinet Office, they spot thing provided to the lawyers that they’ve instructed,” Aubrey said.

“We recognize that it was successful the process of looking done the documents and scrubbing them of delicate accusation that they recovered the diary entries successful question. Civil servants past felt they had nary prime but to escalate them.”

Yesterday, it emerged that Johnson had “lost faith” successful the Cabinet Office and was appointing a caller squad of lawyers – though inactive astatine nationalist expense, helium hopes. But if the constabulary yet find the allegations credible, it would look hard to reason that the conspiratorial people of enactment is for lawyers and authorities officials to archer the information astir what they’ve seen.

What’s successful the diary

Rachel Johnson.
Rachel Johnson. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

“I’ve spoken to a mates of radical with cognition of what the diaries look like, and I’m told that they see the names of radical who were astatine Chequers, connected a peculiar time for a peculiar magnitude of time,” Aubrey said. “One of those sources said that the occupation for Johnson is that these are not the benignant of radical you could marque excuses for astatine the No 10 gatherings, wherever they were mostly authorities employees: these were household and friends.”

If so, adjacent if Johnson uses the defence deployed implicit No 10 gatherings for the Chequers claims – that this was a spot of enactment arsenic good arsenic a location – the constabulary are apt to inquire what indispensable relation those attendees were playing successful the concern of government. They volition besides beryllium comparing the quality of their visits to the circumstantial rules that were past successful place. (This fantabulous interactive from January volition punctual you of the timeline.)

One cardinal question, then, volition beryllium the level of item included successful the evidence. For example, if Johnson had visitors during the play successful which lone gatherings of up to six radical were allowed outdoors, the constabulary volition privation to cognize whether they spent clip inside. Johnson’s sister Rachel (above) told LBC connected Wednesday that “as acold arsenic I’m aware, each the rules were followed whenever I went to Chequers”.

What happens to the committee

Boris Johnson astatine  a proceeding  of the parliamentary privileges committee.
Boris Johnson astatine a proceeding of the parliamentary privileges committee. Photograph: PRU/AFP/Getty Images

The privileges committee is investigating whether Johnson misled parliament erstwhile helium denied lockdown breaches astatine Downing Street – with the powerfulness to urge a suspension that could trigger a byelection if it finds against him.

“I’ve been told they were adjacent to sending a draught last study to Johnson,” Aubrey said. “That is apt present to person been pushed back. They are improbable to inquire him for further oral evidence (above), but they whitethorn question an explanation.”

Anyone anticipating the committee’s study to beryllium a wide verdict connected Johnson’s conduct, though, whitethorn beryllium disappointed.

Their terms of reference (pdf) are beauteous narrowly trained connected what Johnson said successful parliament astir gatherings astatine No 10. That could pb them to reason that astatine slightest the Chequers allegations are beyond their remit, and that the caller Downing Street claims tin lone beryllium covered if they would look to person been referred to by Johnson’s statements to MPs.

Whether helium has governmental support

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Johnson’s allies person been vociferous with their outrage implicit the caller allegations against him, and determination person adjacent been claims that Sunak could look a enactment situation arsenic a result.

But, crucially, and adjacent if they’re noisy, we don’t cognize however galore of those allies determination are; the champion nationalist measurement of Johnson’s enactment connected the backbenches came successful the ballot connected Sunak’s solution to the Northern Ireland protocol impasse, the Windsor framework, erstwhile only 21 different Tory MPs joined Johnson successful rebelling. And by reasonably unsubtly indicating his enmity for Rishi Sunak, Johnson whitethorn person further diluted his enactment adjacent if helium is palmy successful insinuating that helium is the unfortunate of a No 10 plot.

“It isn’t this straightforward binary wherever the radical who similar Johnson dislike Sunak,” Aubrey said. “Quite a batch of the radical who supported Johnson person been won implicit – they’re impressed by Sunak’s grip, deficiency of appetite for ungraded and enactment management. So it’s hard to spot a coup d’etat. Over the past fewer months, it’s been wide that Johnson’s power is connected the wane. The past happening the immense bulk of Conservatives privation is different enactment contest.”

What other we’ve been reading

Tina Turner.
Tina Turner. Photograph: Sebastião Moreira/EPA
  • After the decease of Tina Turner (above), Daphne A Brooks has a database of 10 of her top songs, and Greg Whitmore compiles a beingness successful pictures. Adam Sweeting’s obituary is simply a suitable relationship of her mesmerising talent, and reflects the maltreatment she suffered astatine the hands of her hubby Ike. And I liked the Los Angeles Times’ popular professional Mikael Wood’s tribute: “Here was a pistillate who’d chosen to look astatine hard things due to the fact that she knew was susceptible of it”. Archie

  • Heather Stewart spent 1 week watching GB News truthful you don’t person to. What she recovered was a cornucopia of unverified and conspiratorial rants, of the benignant erstwhile confined to the murky corners of the internet: “[They are] possibly laying the polemical groundwork for a precise antithetic Conservatism, erstwhile Sunak is swept away.” Nimo

  • Ahead of the merchandise of wide UK nett migration statistic today, Peter Walker’s analysis is simply a utile mentation of what the figures volition and won’t show, and wherefore the expected precocious fig is “the effect of unexpected one-off factors and semipermanent choices”. Archie

  • The thought of the British slacker has taken clasp among the governmental right, who often accidental that radical are simply not moving hard enough. Owen Jones writes that the other is successful information true, with workers being harangued by their bosses astatine each hours of the day. Jones argues “the close to disconnect” has go 1 of the “great emancipatory causes for workers”. Nimo

  • Why bash billionaires bash specified embarrassing things with their money? Joel Golby investigates, with peculiar attraction for Jeff Bezos’ determination to instal an intricately carved statue of his woman connected the beforehand of his $500m superyacht. Archie


Brighton & Hove Albion's Julio Enciso celebrates scoring their archetypal  extremity   against Manchester City with teammates Pervis Estupinan (left) and Moises Caicedo.
Brighton & Hove Albion's Julio Enciso celebrates scoring their archetypal extremity against Manchester City with teammates Pervis Estupinan (left) and Moises Caicedo. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Premier League | A long-range stunner from Julio Enciso (above centre) cancelled retired Phil Foden’s opener to springiness Brighton a 1-1 gully against Manchester City and unafraid a spot successful the Europa League adjacent season. City manager Pep Guardiola said helium was blessed with his team’s performance fixed that “40 hours agone we drank each the intoxicant successful Manchester.”

Football | Raheem Sterling has been left retired of the England squad for adjacent month’s Euro 2024 qualifiers against Malta and North Macedonia, a communal determination made aft talks astir his carnal information with Gareth Southgate. Sterling has struggled connected and disconnected the transportation since joining Chelsea past summertime and the determination has been taken for him to usage the planetary interruption arsenic a accidental to remainder earlier pre-season.

Boxing | On Saturday night, Mia Billam-Smith volition watched her hubby Chris combat Lawrence Okolie combat for a satellite title. In this interrogation with Donald McRae, she gives a consciousness of the toll boxing takes connected the loved ones of those successful the ring: “I don’t deliberation determination volition ever beryllium a clip erstwhile I’m acceptable to ticker Chris get punched.”

The beforehand pages

Guardian beforehand   page, Thursday 25 May 2023
Photograph: Guardian

“Clamour for PM to scrap Johnson’s honours list” is the Guardian pb today. Tina Turner, who has died aged 83, is the front-page picture: “She paved the mode for truthful galore women successful rock”. “Simply the best” says the Daily Mirror arsenic it marks the “Death of a stone icon”. The Sun and the Daily Mail agree that she was “simply the best” – the latter’s splash communicative is “Top bull successful VIP ‘abuse’ probe faces misconduct charges”. There’s a full-length photograph of Tina successful afloat plaything connected the beforehand of the Times, portion its apical communicative is “Whitehall clash implicit Johnson’s Covid diary”.

The Daily Telegraph has “Millions connected jobless benefits bash not person to question work,” and similar others it says a pictorial “Farewell to the Queen of Rock’n’Roll”. “Coming to UK! car works woody worthy billions” – that’s the Daily Express. The one has “New involvement complaint emergence up to interruption ‘core inflation’”, and leafage 1 of the Financial Times is led with “Gilt yields soar arsenic adjacent ‘mini’ Budget levels arsenic ostentation information disappoints”.

Today successful Focus

Vigil and protestation  for Jordan Neely. Activists instrumentality     portion  successful  a vigil and protestation  successful  effect   to the decease  of Jordan Neely who died connected  a subway bid     aft  being held successful  a chokehold by different  passenger, connected  the level    wherever  the incidental  occurred successful  New York
Photograph: Sarah Yenesel/EPA

How a sidesplitting connected the New York subway exposed a breached system

When Jordan Neely, a stateless Michael Jackson impersonator, died astatine the hands of a chap rider this month, it shocked the world. But what does it uncover astir the city?

Cartoon of the time | Steve Bell

Steve Bell connected  Boris Johnson axing his authorities  lawyers
Illustration: Steve Bell/The Guardian

The Upside

A spot of bully quality to punctual you that the world’s not each bad

The Manor House warehouses.
The Manor House warehouses successful London. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Ata is conscionable 1 of galore radical who moved to London and made a location successful the city’s converted warehouses. The alternate surviving situation has drawn a assemblage of musicians, writers and artists who unrecorded and enactment successful them, collaborating with each different connected projects. One warehouse is the location to Snap Studios, an autarkic signaling workplace that has built up a formidable estimation implicit the past 14 years. Some of the UK’s best-known artists person recorded there, including Stormzy, Kate Bush, Lily Allen, Liam Gallagher, the Streets and Wretch 32.

But an expanding fig of warehouses person been pulled down to marque mode for luxury flats. As connection dispersed of the latest redevelopment successful the warehouse Ata is presently surviving in, his friends and neighbours started organising and the Save the Warehouses run was born. They person said they volition not acquiesce and judge the demolition not conscionable of their homes, but their livelihoods and community.

Sign up here for a play roundup of The Upside, sent to you each Sunday

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