Top story: Westminster on edge for Gray report
Morning everyone. This is Martin Farrer bringing you the best stories of the day.
Boris Johnson is facing calls to launch an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Tory party after the former minister Nusrat Ghani claimed she was told her “Muslimness” was “making colleagues uncomfortable”. The prime minister was dragged into the controversy as he awaits the findings of a make-or-break investigation into alleged lockdown-busting parties in Downing Street. No 10 conceded on Sunday that Ghani had raised her concerns personally with Johnson at a meeting in 2020, and said he had responded by encouraging her to make a formal complaint with the Conservative party. Ghani says that when she was sacked as a junior transport minister in a reshuffle in 2020, Tory whips told her that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable”. In a sign of the tensions with the party, chief whip Mark Spencer called the claims “completely false”.
Ghani, the first female Muslim Tory MP, has described the comment as like being “punched in the stomach”, and has reignited fears about racism in the party.
The case added to the febrile atmosphere at Westminster where the findings of Sue Gray’s investigation into alleged parties at Downing Street are expected this week. Doing the rounds of TV stations yesterday, Dominic Raab, deputy PM, refused to say whether the report would be published in full.
Ukraine order – The US government has ordered the families of all American personnel at the US embassy in Ukraine to leave the country amid heightened fears of a Russian invasion. The US also issued a statement last night noting the buildup of Russian troops on the border and that “security conditions are unpredictable and can deteriorate with little notice”. Anthony Blinken, US secretary of state, said Nato would be united and respond “swiftly” if Russia crossed the border. It came as Ukraine’s government said it was reacting “seriously” to UK allegations that Moscow has plans to invade the country and install a puppet government, adding that Kyiv is resisting Russian efforts to destabilise its government and economy.
Long Covid impact – NHS trusts in England lost nearly 2m days in staff absences due to long Covid in the first 18 months of the pandemic, according to an all-party group of MPs. The group’s chair, Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, said the government had paid “almost no attention to long Covid and the severe impact it was having on vital public services”. In another study into the impact of Covid, nearly half of those who became ill in the first wave of infections may have long-term and even permanent changes to their sense of smell.
Peng ‘capitulation’ – The tennis legend Martina Navratilova has condemned as “pathetic” the Australian Open’s decision to stop fans wearing “Where is Peng Shuai?” T-shirts, accusing Tennis Australia of “capitulating” to China. Late last week spectators at Melbourne Park were asked to remove their T-shirts and security confiscated a banner emblazoned with the same words, on the grounds that TA prohibits “clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political”.
Exclusive – A committee of MPs has produced a report which says the gambling watchdog is “too harsh” on the industry and criticises the regulator’s attempts to reduce addiction. The MPs accuse the Gambling Commission of a “bullying attitude that has caused mental harm” within the industry and calls for it to be placed in special measures. The findings by the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on betting and gaming have been described as “ludicrous” by a campaigner for regulatory reform and met with a frosty reception from the regulator. Several members of the committee have faced criticism for taking thousands of pounds worth of freebies from betting firms.
Truss accused – Paul Keating, the outspoken former Australian prime minister, has accused Liz Truss of making “demented” comments about Chinese military aggression and urged the foreign secretary to hurry “back to her collapsing, disreputable government”. Keating also said Britain “suffers delusions of grandeur and relevance deprivation” after Truss visited Australia for meetings with counterparts last week.
Thierry Mugler dies – The French designer, Manfred Thierry Mugler, who was at the forefront of the 1980s power-dressing look, has died at the age of 73 of “natural causes”. A former ballet dancer, Mugler’s continued to dress the world’s most famous women such as Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian. “He was timeless and ahead of his time,” supermodel Jerry Hall said of the designer.
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Antonio Conte bemoaned the “incredible” decision to disallow Harry Kane’s first-half strike as his unbeaten league start as Tottenham manager came to an end against Chelsea, before admitting his former club are on “another level” to his present squad. A livid Patrick Vieira was unsparing in his criticism of the referee, Kevin Friend, and VAR after his Crystal Palace side were beaten 3-1 by Liverpool. An injury-time strike from Tobin Heath salvaged a point against Manchester City at the Academy Stadium but there was controversy about the opening goal that led the Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall to call for greater support for WSL referees.
England won the second T20 international at Kensington Oval after Jason Roy provided the platform to survive a late surge from the West Indies, who finished with the highest-ever ninth-wicket stand. Tennis Australia maintains Peng Shuai’s safety is its “primary concern” despite asking fans at Melbourne Park to remove T-shirts and a banner bearing the words “Where is Peng Shuai?” The Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs advanced to the championship games after two thrilling NFL clashes on Sunday. On a weekend where complaining golfers were hardly difficult to come by, Thomas Pieters delivered a timely redemption tale with a one-stroke victory at the Abu Dhabi Championship. And Youssef Msakni scored with a long-range shot to hand Covid-hit Tunisia an improbable 1-0 win over 10-man Nigeria in Garoua to advance to the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals.
Large cities have lost almost a year’s worth of sales during the pandemic thanks to lockdowns, resulting in a “levelling down” of historically more prosperous high street destinations, a study by Centre for Cities says. London lost 47 weeks’ worth of sales between March 2020 and November 2021, while Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff also lost nearly a year’s worth of sales as people stayed away from big cities. The FTSE100 looks like dipping around 0.2% at the opening bell, while the pound is on $1.355 and €1.196.
The Guardian leads with “PM pulled into row over Tory party Islamophobia” as Boris Johnson also faces the findings into the partygate affair this week. That’s the lead in the Telegraph – “No10 police questioned by Gray over ‘parties’” – while the Express has “Boris accepts ‘need for change’ at No10”. The Mail reports that “Entire cabinet would back a tax hike delay”. The Mirror focuses on what it calls the “Scandal of cold Britain” with a headline “Freezing” while the Daily Record in Scotland has “Power struggle”. The Times looks further afield with “Fears mount Russia will weaponise gas supplies”, and the FT says “Unilever faces pressure on new front as US activist builds stake”. The Scotsman leads with “Airline steps up flights ahead of rush for summer holidays”.
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