Monday briefing: Prime Minister turns on BBC as ‘Partygate’ pressure rises |

Top story: Distrust letters pile up

Good Monday morning to you, Graham Russell here with the latest news to start the week.

The Prime Minister has given the BBC’s funding a serious blow in what critics say is one diversion tactics to escape responsibility for the “Partygate” revelations. With reports that dozens of Tory backers have written letters of no confidence, Boris Johnson’s ally Nadine Dorries said the BBC’s license fee would be abolished in 2027 and the broadcaster’s funding frozen for the next two years, potentially leading to thousands of redundancies.

Other measures under what has been called Operation Red Meat are said to involve a renewed effort to stop people crossing the canal in small boats, measures to tackle the NHS backlog, additional investment in skills and lifting of Covid restrictions on 26 January.

Shadow Culture Secretary Lucy Powell said: “The Prime Minister believes that those who report his breach of the rule should pay the consequences while he is released”, while Scottish Shadow Secretary Ian Murray described the announcement as “a last-ditch attempt. [by Johnson] to save his failing premiership ”.

The timing of the messages is extremely convenient, writes Heather Stewart, and gives Tory right-wingers something to cheer about as Johnson’s future hangs in the balance.


‘An act of terrorism’ Two teenagers have been arrested in Manchester by counter-terrorism police over the synagogue in Texas, where the attacker was named a British citizen. The couple are being questioned after suspect Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old resident of Blackburn, Lancashire, took four people hostage in a synagogue in a suburb of Dallas Saturday. He was pronounced dead after the FBI stormed the building. All four hostages were unharmed after what Joe Biden described as “an act of terrorism”.


‘It’s unbearable’ A British woman is feared to have been swept to death in the tsunami triggered by the eruption over the weekend of an underwater volcano in Tonga. Angela Glover, who runs an animal boarding school there, has not seen since they were hit by the wave, who also caught up with her husband and the couple’s dogs. “One of the dogs has been found, but Angela has not been found,” said brother Nick Eleini. “It’s unbearable. I can not believe at all that the words come out of my mouth, to be honest.” Australia and New Zealand have sent aircraft to assess the damage from the eruption, which has covered the area with ash, contaminated water supplies and interrupted communications.

Angela Glover, who is believed to be the first victim of the tsunami in Tonga
Angela Glover is believed to be the first victim of the tsunami in Tonga. Photo: Delivered by the family

Pandemic pres – Eight million people in England drink so much wine, beer or spirits that it is harmful to their health, government data show, with a large increase in the number who drink at dangerous levels. Before the pandemic, the figure was around DKK 5 million. That the switch to drinking at home was part of the blame, said Professor Julia Sinclair of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, with drinking sessions sometimes lasting several hours longer than they would in a pub. “Just even nine months of drinking, which we saw in 2020, was enough to push a whole lot of people over the edge.”


‘I thought that was my ambition over’ – Ruth Davidson, the former Scottish Conservative leader, has said she did not consider running for leadership amid fears that her mental health records would be revealed. Davidson, who was diagnosed with clinical depression while in college, said her fears were prompted by the press accessing medical records about Gordon Brown’s son, which “felt like a really violent breakup”. Davidson said she hoped being able to open up about mental health issues on her own terms would help others realize that it is not career-ending, as she had once feared.


Burns after reading Robert Burns, the venerable Scottish bard behind Auld Lang Syne, was advised not to write in Scottish because no one in London would understand it, new research has shown. Dr. John Moore, a Scottish physician and travel writer who was a regular correspondent with the poet, “warned Burns that he was limiting his audience” and also told him to avoid political issues. When Burns sent Moore a long letter detailing his entire childhood, Moore wrote back, urging him to split up his letters next time because he was “obligated to pay six and eight pence for it.” The correspondence will be published as part of a new work collected by Oxford University Press.


Today in Focus podcast: Afghan women MPs fight for their country in exile

After a shocking escape from the Taliban, Afghanistan’s female politicians are regrouping in Greece to fight for their country. Amie Ferris-Rotman reports on the work of the Afghan women’s parliament in exile.

Today in focus

Afghan women MPs are fighting for their country in exile

Lunch time read: Christine Baranski at Sondheim, star status and snobbery

Christine Baranski
‘How lucky was I?’: Christine Baranski. Photo: Al Seib / Contour RA

As she prepares to star in the new “American Downton,” the 69-year-old actress talks to Hadley Freeman about her blue-collar roots, her friendship with Stephen Sondheim – and pleasures of late career fame.

Sport

Andy Murray has said “physically I’m in a pretty good place”, When a Djokovic-free Australian Open finally got underway after more than a week of quarrels off the field. You can follow our live blog here for all the recent action at Melbourne Park, which so far has seen Naomi Osaka surely negotiate a difficult opening meeting, Rafael Nadal advances with ease but a major shock to British men’s No. 1 Cam Norrie, beaten in equal sets by American Sebastian Korda. (PS OK if you want the latest on Djokovic click here.)

Jonathan Wilson writes that perhaps the strangest aspect of Rafa Benítez’s time at Everton is how well it started, with 14 points after seven league games. But the problem was that Benítez is Benítez and a significant part of that identity is linked to Liverpool.

In terms of cricket, England have been collapse specialists for some time, but even by their standards, the Ashes Test in Hobart was a spectacular explosion of happiness, says Tanya Aldred. Joe Root seems eager to lead England into a new era regardless.

In netball, England kept alive their hopes of a first Quad Series title after overcoming an eight-goal deficit to defeat New Zealand 49-46 and book their place in Wednesday’s final.

Business

Scotland’s largest auction of permits to build offshore wind farms is expected to raise up to £ 860m Today when the results are published. There is hope that the amount of electricity produced in Scottish waters will double in the next decade, creating tens of thousands of jobs. ONE “Game with company chicken” could end up with Amazon UK refusing to accept Visa credit cards this week unless a last-minute deal can be reached. Mintel said 89% of Britons shopped at Amazon last year.

The pound buys $ 1,367 and € 1,197.

The papers

That Guardian leads with Boris Johnson’s reported Operation Red Meat, with the headline: “PM accused of attacking BBC to save his own skin”.

Front page of the Guardian, Monday, January 17, 2022
The front page of The Guardian, Monday, January 17, 2022

That I sees it more as “Operation Dead Meat” after talking to senior Tories, and it Mirror looks at “Johnson’s scapegoats” with a report that other heads will roll to keep his job safe and that the Prime Minister was at another party in 2020. Telegraph says Johnson has already been questioned by investigator Sue Gray over the “Partygate” scandal.

Other places are Times reports on the second tip of Johnson’s distraction strategy, with his call on the military to help stop canal boat crossings “as part of an effort to save his premiership”.

That Express talks about Johnson’s plan to win back popular support with the headline “PM: fightback plan to level up Britain”, but does not mention the attack on BBC funding.

That Mail focuses on the re-release of a photo of Keir Starmer taking a beer with his colleagues last year at a constituency office at a time when household mixing was only allowed while working. The headline is: “Starmer must say sorry for drinks in lockdown”. You can read more at that story here.

That Sun announces that the Queen will not intervene Harry’s efforts to pay for police protection while in the UK, mens Metro covers the expulsion of Novak Djokovic with the headline: “Go pack Djokovic”.

That FT reports no later than d Unilever’s bid to buy a health project from GSK and Pfizer.

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