Top story: PM holds on after Partygate penalties
Hello, Warren Murray bringing you this penultimate Guardian morning briefing before the switch to a new format.
Boris Johnson has defied calls for him to quit after he was given a fixed-penalty notice for breaking his own Covid laws by attending a party for his birthday in No 10. Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Johnson’s wife, Carrie, were also penalized for attending the gathering on 19 June 2020 in the cabinet room, with the Metropolitan police saying more than 50 have been issued. All three said they had paid their notices on Tuesday.
Johnson and Sunak are thought to be the first sitting prime minister and chancellor to be criminally sanctioned. In a statement from Checkers, Johnson said he “humbly accepted” he had broken the rules, but also claimed the birthday gathering lasted less than 10 minutes and it “did not occur” to him it was wrong. He claimed he had spoken “in good faith” in the House of Commons when he said all rules were followed in Downing Street. Sunak gave an “unreserved apology” for attending the gathering, saying he deeply regretted “the frustration and anger caused” and confirming the £ 50 penalty had been paid. For him, the sanction follows a difficult week in which his wife’s tax affairs have come under scrutiny.
Grieving relatives of Covid victims have said Johnson and Sunak cannot continue in their jobs. Jean Adamson, whose father, Aldrick, died two years ago on Friday, said that while Johnson had been attending lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street, her father “died on his own, on a cold Covid ward without anyone there to hold his hand ”Because she and her family had followed the rules. Keir Starmer, the Labor leader, said families had made “unimaginable, heart-wrenching sacrifices” during Covid and that the prime minister and chancellor had “dishonored all of that sacrifice, dishonored their office… Britain deserves better, they have to go”.
Biden accuses Russia of genocide – Joe Biden has accused Russia of genocide in Ukraine, saying Vladimir Putin is “trying to wipe out the idea of even being Ukrainian”. “More evidence is coming out of the horrible things that the Russians have done in Ukraine,” the US president said. We’ll let the lawyers decide internationally whether or not it qualifies [as genocide], but it sure seems that way to me. ” The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, called them the “true words of a true leader”. Ukrainian security services have announced the arrest of Vladimir Putin’s closest ally in Ukraine, the oligarch and opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk. Zelenskiy has proposed swapping him for Ukrainian men and women in Russian captivity. A British national in the Ukrainian army, Aiden Aslin, aka Cossackgundi on Twitter, has been forced to surrender to the Russians in Mariupol along with his unit after they ran out of food and ammunition. Keep up with further developments at our live blog.
US subway shootings – A manhunt was under way in New York after a gunman set off a smoke canister in a subway car and opened fire on morning rush-hour passengers, injuring more than 20. Ten people had gunshot wounds, while others suffered smoke inhalation or injuries from the panic. Police said they were searching for Frank James, 62, who was a person of interest in connection with the shooting. They said he had addresses in Philadelphia and Wisconsin.
A 9mm semi-automatic handgun and extended magazines, a hatchet, a black garbage can, detonated and undetonated smoke grenades and a key to a U-Haul van were found at the scene, authorities said. Police said officers found the U-Haul van and said James had rented it in Philadelphia.
President Joe Biden said on Tuesday afternoon: “We are not letting up until we find the perpetrator.” The New York city police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, said there was no known motive.
> A third of GPs in England say they want to quit within five years, according to a regular survey that warns clinical doctors are especially unhappy with the number of hours they work.
> More than one in eight privately rented homes in England pose a serious threat to people’s health and safety, costing the NHS about £ 340m a year, according to a report from a committee of MPs.
> Nick Bailey, the former Wiltshire detective sergeant poisoned with novichok in the Salisbury attack, has reached a settlement with the force for personal injury. Bailey was poisoned when he searched the home of Sergei Skripal, the attack’s target.
> A sponsorship tie-up between English cricket and KP Snacks, maker of Hula Hoops and Butterkist, has backfired after the advertising watchdog banned a promotional campaign for targeting foods high in fat, salt and sugar at under-16s.
> We speak louder and start waving our hands on Zoom when the video or audio quality drops off because that’s what people do, researchers have announced.
US nukes coming back – Empty military bunkers in the UK are being upgraded to store US nuclear weapons again after 14 years, according to US defense budget documents. Hans Kristensen from the Federation of American Scientists has said he believes the site involved is at RAF Lakenheath, north-east of London. Such depots also exist in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey. The US withdrew its B61 gravity bombs from Lakenheath in 2008 when they were seen as obsolete and disarmament hopes were high. With Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and both the US and Russia upgrading their nuclear weapons, an updated B61 is being produced. The UK Ministry of Defense had no comment. The nuclear disarmament group CND said the “quiet announcement” amounted to more militarization at a time of growing risk and would add to dangers faced by the British public.
Musk sued – A Twitter shareholder is suing Elon Musk for allegedly failing to promptly disclose that he had bought a substantial stake in the company. The Tesla CEO revealed on April 4 that he had acquired a 9.2% stake in Twitter. The law requires a shareholder to notify the Securities and Exchange Commission within 10 days after surpassing a 5% stake in a company. The claim alleges that Musk passed this threshold on 14 March but did not make it public until 4 April. The lawsuit claims that in the time between passing the 5% threshold and publicly reporting, Musk was able to buy up additional shares at a deflated price, while investors who sold Twitter stock during that time lost out on gains they could have made had Musk disclosed his stake earlier, which would have driven up Twitter stock prices. Filed in a New York federal court on Tuesday, the suit seeks class action status on behalf of investors who sold Twitter stock during that time. Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Today in Focus podcast: The ‘biolabs’ conspiracy theory
First it was just a tweet – but soon it had turned into a favorite Kremlin talking point. Journalist Justin Ling charts how a false claim about biological warfare spread across the internet and the world.
Lunchtime read: Warhol more than sum of parts
One of his portraits of Marilyn Monroe is expected to shatter records at auction next month. So was Andy Warhol just an “affectless hero” of the media age? Or was he the greatest and most profound artist of his era, asks Jonathan Jones.
It was a Champions League mission that was supposed to be impossible for Chelsea, and yet it was one that they thought they had pulled off. The problem was that Real Madrid were not finished. They never are. After Chelsea’s astonishing and ultimately painful night at the Santiago Bernabéu, Thomas Tuchel said he was “super disappointed” in the referee’s handling of a crucial VAR decision. Samuel Chukwueze snatched a dramatic 88th-minute equalizer to send Villarreal through to the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
The Northern Ireland manager, Kenny Shiels, blamed women for being “more emotional than men” as a reason for women’s teams conceding a second goal shortly after a first, following a heavy defeat which all but guarantees England’s qualification for the Women’s World Cup. The US government’s warning to Tyson Fury and other senior figures in boxing were to cut all ties with the Irish alleged crime boss Daniel Kinahan, whose gang was targeted with fresh sanctions and a $ 5m (£ 3.8m) bounty, should mean the sport finally listens to concerns. Richard Wigglesworth has batted away suggestions that his Leicester teammates must safeguard against complacency before their Champions Cup match against Clermont on Saturday. Novak Djokovic was beaten by Alejandro Davidovich Fokina as the world No 1’s return to the ATP Tour fell flat at the Monte Carlo Masters.
Asian shares have been mostly higher so far today: benchmarks rose in early trading in Japan, South Korea and Australia, while slipping in China. Regional optimism was lifted by the easing of a Covid lockdown in Shanghai. The FTSE will open at a lower ebb, the futures market suggests, while the pound is exchanging at $ 1,301 and € 1,200 right now.
As might be expected, there is a polarity to the coverage in today’s papers of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak being among those to receive a fixed-penalty notice for Partygate. “PM: I broke my own law but I refuse to go” – the two offenders mentioned above are shown side by side on the front page of the Guardian.
“Led by liars & lawbreakers” says the Mirror, while the Metro goes with “No 10 partygate shame: PM and the chancellor broke law”. The Financial Times joins in: “Fines for breach of Covid law pile pressure on Johnson and Sunak”. The in has “PM refuses to quit – and faces new party fines”.
The Times goes with: “Johnson refuses to quit over lockdown party fine”. “People have the right to expect better” – the Telegraph hits a conciliatory note. “PM: I’m Sorry, I Will Do Better For Britain” – mea culpa in the Express. “I’m sorry – but I have work to do” says the Sun. The Mail ramps it up with “Don’t they know there’s a war going on?” as it shrills that “Boris was there for nine minutes. Carrie less than five. ”
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