December 9, 2023

Benjamin Better

Better Get Computer

Wednesday briefing: Tories urged to rethink stance on taking a knee |

Top story: ‘People don’t care about culture war’

Hello, I’m Warren Murray and here’s where we are with everything.

Steve Baker, the former minister and hard Brexit campaigner, has called for Conservatives to urgently change their attitudes towards people taking the knee. “Much as we can’t be associated with calls to defund the police, we urgently need to challenge our own attitude to people taking a knee,” Baker wrote. “I fear we are in danger of misrepresenting our own heart for those who suffer injustice.” Another senior Tory said the government must realise “people simply don’t care about the culture war crap. They care about the cost of living, NHS and crime. They don’t want to see us starting fights with Marcus Rashford.”

Labour has called on the government to use the upcoming online safety bill to give courts the power to ban anyone convicted of racist abuse online from attending football matches – an idea that has so far attracted nearly 1m signatures to an online petition. Keir Starmer’s party has been granted an urgent question in parliament on Wednesday on racism on social media after the abuse faced by players following the Euro 2020 final. Boris Johnson has asked tech companies to hand over details of those who posted racist content online to the police.

‘Miserable and destitute’ – Downing Street has been accused from both within and outside its own ranks of putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in some of the world’s poorest nations after Conservative MPs voted to cut billions of pounds in foreign aid for years to come. The former PM Sir John Major said: “It seems that we can afford a ‘national yacht’ that no one either wants or needs, whilst cutting help to some of the most miserable and destitute people in the world.” Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, appeased Tory rebels by striking a compromise that the cut would be temporary until the public finances have improved. But critics say it might not be reversed for more than five years under such conditions. The government won the vote in the House of Commons by 333 to 298. Those opposing the move included 25 Conservative MPs, as well as Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP.

Midweek catch-up

> A drunken Rudy Giuliani urged Donald Trump to “just say we won” on election night, according to a new book. The actual winner, Joe Biden, has meanwhile blasted Republicans – “Have you no shame?” – for their efforts to disenfranchise black voters.

> An Iranian intelligence officer and three alleged operatives have been charged with conspiring to kidnap back to Iran a New York-based journalist who criticised the Tehran regime. US authorities say people in the UK and Canada were also targets.

> The number of women in senior roles at FTSE 350 companies will lag behind men until 2036 as the pandemic adds four years to the wait for parity in the boardroom, according to a new report.

> The chief of MI5, Ken McCallum, is to warn that the activities of China, Russia and other hostile states could be as bad for the UK as terrorism. He will emphasise that Chinese theft of British research and discoveries could “short-circuit years of patient British research or investment. This is happening at scale. And it affects us all.”

> Italy has banned cruise ships from the Venice lagoon after Unesco threatened to put Venice on its endangered list unless the government did so permanently. Vessels of more than 25,000 tonnes will be barred from the lagoon from 1 August.

Drinking blamed for cancer – Alcohol consumption is estimated to have caused more than 740,000 cancer cases around the world last year. There is strong evidence it can cause various cancers including those of the breast, liver, colon, rectum, oropharynx, larynx and oesophagus. Research suggests even low levels of drinking can increase the risk. However, public awareness appears low, and researchers say that needs to change, calling for alcohol labels to have cancer warnings, higher taxes on alcohol, and for marketing of drinks to be reduced.

Flying cheaper but rail far greener – Train fares on popular UK routes cost 50% more than flying despite causing 80% lower carbon emissions, according to comparisons by Which?. Between Birmingham and Newquay the return plane fare was £67 while the train cost £180. Going by rail from Bristol to Newcastle and back cost more than double flying; but the flight created 203kg of CO2 per person, against 33kg for the train. UK campaigners are calling for a tax on the 15% of people who take 70% of all flights. The government’s long-awaited transport decarbonisation plan is due to be published today with new diesel and petrol lorries to be banned in Britain by 2040 and commitments to electrify the entire fleet of government cars and vans by 2027, as well as creating a net zero-emissions rail network by 2050.

Today in Focus podcast: Climate reality seared into US consciousness

An extraordinary heatwave has swept the west coast of the US and Canada, leading to record temperatures, water shortages, and hundreds of deaths – and bringing home the catastrophic consequences of global heating.

Today in Focus

Climate reality seared into US consciousness

Lunchtime read: ‘Incredibly proud of this team’

Guardian readers applaud the England football team’s “dignity and decency” and the joy they brought throughout Euro 2020.

England celebrate after Jordan Pickford makes a save in the penalty shootout.
England celebrate after Jordan Pickford makes a save in the penalty shootout. Photograph: Alex Morton/UEFA/Getty Images


England face being handed a stadium ban by Uefa after the governing body opened an investigation into the chaotic and violent scenes at Wembley around the Euro 2020 final. One of the organisers of the storming of Wembley by thousands of ticketless fans has defended the widely criticised breach, as more details emerged about the scale of the security lapse. The third one-day international between England and Pakistan was a belter, lit up by sublime centuries from two stylists in James Vince and Babar Azam. Despite a poor record, Bryson DeChambeau has said he loves links golf and thinks he can win his second major at this week’s Open.

With 18 World Cup-winners in the South Africa “A” matchday squad involved at Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday the hosts are about to unleash their big beasts 10 days early against the Lions. On the evidence of an understandably hesitant return to elite competition in Gateshead, Katarina Johnson-Thompson will need to defy the odds again to claim a dream medal in Tokyo. Manchester United have been dealt a significant blow with Marcus Rashford deciding he needs surgery on a shoulder injury. The reigning Tour de France champion, Tadej Pogacar, is steeling himself for last‑ditch attacks on his race leadership in what may prove to be the toughest day of this year’s race – the 17th stage to the towering summit of the 2,215-metre Col du Portet pass on Wednesday. And Johanna Konta and Roger Federer have both withdrawn from the Tokyo Olympics.


Afterpay shares have tumbled 7.7% and Zip Co shares 7.6% after PayPal launched Pay in 4 to let users in Australia pay for purchases in four instalments. Asian shares have been mostly lower, tracking a decline on Wall Street as investors weighed the latest quarterly earnings reports from big US companies and data pointing to rising inflation. A lower open for the FTSE is indicated while the pound is worth $1.381 and €1.172 at time of writing.

The papers

The Guardian’s splash is Downing Street slashing foreign aid by billions and “putting tens of thousands of lives at risk in some of the world’s poorest nations”. You can read the story here, and an editorial on the decision here. The Times reveals that Cressida Dick “wants to continue running Britain’s biggest police force despite the Wembley security scandal and a string of other controversies”.

Guardian front page, Wednesday 14 July 2021
Guardian front page, Wednesday 14 July 2021.

Senior Tories want the party to “change its attitude” on race, the Independent reports. A Conservative anti-racism group says that too many MPs “misunderstood” the meaning behind players taking the knee. The Daily Express and Daily Mail lead on the decision to outlaw prosecuting soldiers who served in Northern Ireland during the troubles. The respective headlines are “Witch-hunts of hounded veterans to end” and “At last, justice for our troops”.

A couple the Daily Telegraph reports have been banned from travelling because they were given an AstraZeneca vaccine made in India are on the front page today, under the headline “UK travellers with Indian vaccine barred from holidays”. The i reports that, according to Instagram, it is “OK” to send black football players monkey emojis.

The Financial Times leads on US inflation accelerating faster than expected in June. The Daily Mirror’s headline is “You inspire us”, with a look at messages of support children have pinned to a Manchester mural of Marcus Rashford. The Sun has an exclusive on Harry Maguire’s father sustaining suspected broken ribs in the crush when fans stormed Wembley.

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