Wednesday briefing: Johnson's emergency landing

The Guardian 1 month ago

Top story: PM and Trump face growing crises

Good morning briefers. I’m Martin Farrer and it’s my pleasure to bring you the top stories this morning.

Boris Johnson and Donald Trump were all smiles yesterday as they gave a joint media conference in New York. But neither the British prime minister nor the president of the United States has much to laugh about today as they face mounting domestic political crises that threaten their positions.

Boris Johnson and Donald Trump in New York yesterday. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

In this tale of transatlantic woe, Johnson will land back in Britain today to face furious MPs and a mounting constitutional crisis after his decision to prorogue parliament was declared unlawful by the supreme court. The humiliated prime minister has been forced to cut short his visit to the United Nations in New York and return home after the Speaker, John Bercow, said the ruling by the 11 judges meant that parliament would be reconvened today. Jeremy Corbyn was consulting with fellow opposition leaders last night about how to ensure the PM cannot escape the legal obligation passed earlier this month to delay Brexit if he hasn’t reached a deal by 19 October. MPs want Johnson to face questions on this in the Commons today, although a Downing Street source said it was not clear if the PM would do so and it’s not clear what happens next in parliament. Johnson, who maintains he will not seek a Brexit extension even he can’t push a deal through parliament, tried to strike a defiant tone after the ruling, saying that he disagreed with the judges but that “we respect the court”. Tory Brexiters rallied around their leader, as did some newspapers.

Jeremy Corbyn tried to capitalise on the government’s predicament by bringing forward his Labour conference speech by a day and issuing a rallying cry to the party to “win an election for the people of this country”. Here are the five key takeaways from his rousing address in Brighton.


‘No one is above the law’ – Back across the pond, Trump faces perhaps the most serious threat to his presidency yet after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she would begin a formal impeachment inquiry. Amid allegations that the president tried to engage Ukraine to smear Joe Biden, Pelosi said: “The president must be held accountable. No one is above the law.” Democrats, who control the House, said they had no choice after the White House refused to comply with requests for information and testimony about the reports.

The move comes in the wake of whistleblower allegations that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate the business dealings of the son of Joe Biden, the former vice-president and the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential election. Trump dismissed the possibility of impeachment as a “witchhunt” and his allies now plan to use the inquiry to their advantage. The increasing calls for impeachment will focus on electoral rules that prevent any party receiving a “thing of value” from a foreign government. Tom McCarthy explains how the impeachment process might work and what happens next.


The computer will see you now – Artificial intelligence is on a par with human experts when it comes to making medical diagnoses based on images, according to a new study that will add to the growing excitement about the capability of computers in healthcare. AI interpretation of medical images relies on feeding information into algorithms and has shown promise in diagnosis of diseases from cancers to eye conditions. But the authors of the study from Birmingham university cautioned it was a reality check for the hype around AI.


Photograph: Michael Buckner/BMA2015/Getty Images for dcp

Beauty myth – The advertising watchdog has banned two beauty salons from using ads on Instagram that imply their products can make customers look like Kylie Jenner. AKJ Aesthetics and Queen of Aesthetics used images of Jenner, the youngest of the Kardashian reality TV clan, to promote cosmetic filler products. But the Advertising Standards Authority says the ads “misleadingly suggested their packages would give customers lips, cheeks and jawline” like Jenner, a cosmetics billionaire who has 150 million Instagram followers.


Mental health concerns – Psychiatrists have called for a public inquiry after inspectors found 28 privately run mental health units to be “inadequate” in the past three years. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has rated 16 independently run mental health units as inadequate so far this year. It put four others in the same category last year, and eight in 2017.


Fleaing the nest – Two days after her stunning triple triumph at the Emmys, Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge has announced that she has signed a deal to produce exclusive content for Amazon Prime. The actor and writer says she is “insanely excited” to continue working for the entertainment arm of the global shopping site, which already screens Fleabag in 200 countries. But her decision bears out warnings by Channel Four boss Alex Mahon and former BBC boss Mark Thompson about the loss of homegrown British talent to overseas rivals.

Today in Focus podcast: ‘The effect on democracy was extreme’

Philippe Sands QC on the decision by the supreme court to rule against the government on the suspension of parliament. Plus: Shoshana Zuboff on how to fight back against surveillance capitalism.

Lunchtime read: Louis Tomlinson on personal tragedy and going solo

Louis Tomlinson and his mother, Johannah, who died in 2016. Photograph: Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

Louis Tomlinson says he wasn’t ready for the breakup of One Direction and a solo career outside the boyband bubble. The death of his mother Johannah from leukaemia a year later and his sister from an accidental overdose in March this year has left him facing a “dark side”, he tells our interviewer Emine Saner. But the personal tragedy he has suffered “gives me strength everywhere else in my life”, he says, and “it makes everything else, not feel easier and not less important, but … you see things for what they are”. His solo career is blossoming with a new single and, if not yet as successful as his former bandmates Harry Styles and Niall Horan, he is philosophical: “I’ve never been competitive like that, but, naturally, you think: ‘If they’re getting this then I deserve that.’”

Sport

Plans by the IOC to introduce stricter guidelines for transgender athletes before the Tokyo 2020 Games have run into the sand because its panel of scientists is struggling to reach agreement on the issue. Tottenham are out of the Carabao Cup after being beaten 4-3 on penalties by Colchester United, whose giantkilling exploits left a subdued Mauricio Pochettino wondering when his underperforming side will rediscover their sense of unity. There were no such upsets for Manchester City, Arsenal and Southampton. Eddie Jones has bristled at the suggestion he is taking a risk by naming Billy Vunipola to start for the second time in five days against the USA at the Rugby World Cup, and issuing a stark warning to the 10 new faces in his England side. At the Road World Championships, the women’s time trial, won by Chloe Dygert, and the men’s under‑23 event, won by Mikkel Bjerg, were both hit by extreme weather that made conditions in Harrogate “like riding into a lake”. Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, has offered Ole Gunnar Solskjær his long-term backing in response to the manager’s mixed results at the start of the season. And Andy Murray claimed his first ATP Tour singles victory since January by beating Tennys Sandgren in the opening round of the Zhuhai Championships.

Business

Thomas Cook directors could face legal action in the wake of the collapse of the travel company which left more than 150,000 Britons stranded abroad. Investigations will focus on the conduct of the board and the last three chief executives, who were paid a total of £35m in the years before the firm went bust with debts of £1.7bn. The auditing firms responsible for signing off the company’s accounts will also face scrutiny. There are also fears that Wrightbus, the Northern Ireland bus maker, could follow Thomas Cook into administration today. The US impeachment threat and Trump’s own anti-China rhetoric at the UN gave the markets in Asia a fright overnight, leading futures trade to point to a 0.25% drop on the FTSE100 this morning. The pound is buying $1.246 and €1.299.

The papers

Photograph: The Guardian

Fleet Street has ruled unanimously that the best story in town is the supreme court ruling. The Guardian’s headline is “He misled the Queen, the people and parliament”, while the Times says the “PM flies back to chaos”. The FT goes with “Johnson faces calls to resign as judges rule parliament’s closure ‘unlawful’”. The i picks up on the calls to quit as well, saying “Humiliated PM refuses to resign”. The Scotsman has a striking front page, with a full-page photograph of Johnson’s face in black and white with the headline in red text: “Unlawful”. The Mirror also prefers a slightly different approach and announces, below a gallery of the shortest-serving PM’s in history: “There’s a special place in history waiting for you, Prime Minister”.

However, not all papers paint such a bleak picture for Johnson. The Telegraph’s headline quotes the prime minister’s defiant words “‘Let’s be in no doubt, there are a lot of people who want to frustrate Brexit’”, while the Mail says “Boris blasts: who runs Britain?” and the Express asks rhetorically: “Unlawful? What’s lawful about denying 17.4m Brexit!” The Sun, meanwhile, summons the catchphrase of 70s comedian Dick Emery to try to capture the national mood: “Ooh, you are lawful… but we don’t like you!”.

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