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Friday briefing: Cameron’s email barrage

Martin Farrer
·7-min read

Top story: lobbying twist as No 10 blames Cummings

Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories today.

David Cameron repeatedly pushed officials at the Bank of England and the Treasury to risk up to £20bn in taxpayers’ money to save Greensill Capital, according to a string of emails released by the bank that show the former prime ministerlobbying on behalf of the now defunct finance firm. Cameron urged officials to set up a fund to buy loans made by the company, and grew increasingly frustrated as his requests were turned down. “I must be missing something here,” one email complains. Cameron, who denies any wrongdoing, also used an email to introduce one of the bank’s deputy governors to Greensill’s founder, and MPs learned yesterday that Cameron called and texted the Treasury’s most senior civil servant, Sir Tom Scholar, seeking help for Greensill. A spokesperson for Cameron said Greensill was “not asking for a government loan or direct support in any way”.

The lobbying scandal continued to spread last night after three Tory-supporting papers led with stories on reports that No 10 is blaming former adviser Dominic Cummings for leaking texts from Boris Johnson to Sir James Dyson.The texts reveal the billionaire businessman’s direct access to the PM about not paying extra tax, and the latter’s response: “I will fix it tomo!”. The Cabinet Office has launched an investigation into the leaks but Labour said it was more important for ministers to show “they are not pandering to Tory friends and donors at the expense of taxpayers”.

* * *

Malaria hope – Scientists at Oxford University have developed a vaccine against malaria shown to be highly effective in trials against a disease that kills 400,000 mostly small children a year. It is not the first malaria vaccine, but it is the first that passes the World Health Organization’s efficacy threshold of 75% with trials of 450 children in Africa showing it is up to 77% effective. It is another triumph for researchers at the Jenner Institute, who also came up with the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine.

* * *

A man walks past burning funeral pyres in India.
A man walks past burning funeral pyres in India. Photograph: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Travel ban – India joins the UK’s “red list” of countries from which travel is banned as its devastating new pandemic wave continues. In a boost for Britain’s vaccination rollout, a study has found that one shot of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca jab can reduce infections by two-thirds. Dreams of a foreign holiday this year could come true for people in England after the Guardian learned that “Covid passports” could be available from next month. The documents, which are still being developed by government officials, would allow people to go abroad without having to quarantine when reaching their destination.

* * *

Clear Horizon – Dozens of former subpostmasters who were convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting because of a faulty IT accounting system are today expected to finally have their names cleared. Their lives were “irreparably ruined” after they were prosecuted despite the Post Office knowing that the Fujitsu-developed Horizon system had “faults and bugs from the earliest days of its operation”, the court of appeal heard last month.

* * *

‘Get serious’ – Boris Johnson has urged world leaders at the virtual summit hosted by Joe Biden to “get serious” about climate action, boasting that Britain had showed it was possible to cut emissions without hindering growth. His comment that action was not “politically correct ‘bunny hugging’” prompted activist Greta Thunberg to change her Twitter biography to “bunny hugger”. Earlier, Biden said the US had to “step up” to slash his country’s emissions and his climate envoy, John Kerry, admitted that the policies pursued by Donald Trump had “destroyed” US credibility. Our diplomatic editor says that credibility is also troubling Johnson and that he could be having second thoughts about cutting Britain’s aid budget when most other G7 countries will come to the British-hosted summit in June increasing theirs.

* * *

Sub search – Indonesia’s president has urged his navy to make an all-out effort to try to find a submarine missing for two days with 53 crew on board. The KRI Nanggala-402 went missing north of Bali on Wednesday and although rescue ships have found an unidentified object 100 metres down in the search zone, it is estimated the crew only have enough oxygen for another 24 hours.

* * *

Vesta visitor – It took 22m years to reach Earth, but astronomers have taken just three to reconstruct the voyage of an asteroid that hurtled through the solar system and exploded over Africa, showering meteorites across the Kalahari desert. Scientists believe it came from Vesta, one of the largest bodies in the asteroid belt that circles the sun between Jupiter and Mars.

Today in Focus podcast

Plans for a breakaway super league rocked European football this week as fans, politicians and the game’s governing bodies united in fury. After two chaotic days, the whole scheme had collapsed. David Conn looks back on a week of humiliation for football’s richest clubs

Lunchtime read: ‘Damn! This is a Caravaggio!’

When a painting of Christ by an obscure 17th-century artist was listed for sale in Madrid for €1,500, the auction house received an offer for €500,000 from a buyer requesting utmost discretion. The reason was simple: the buyer suspected the work was actually by the great master Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and he wanted to spirit it back to Italy before anyone else twigged. But the secret was out and soon the bewildered owners were being offered millions. Lorenzo Tondo and Sam Jones unravel a centuries-old mystery.

Sport

Uefa is considering imposing sanctions on the 12 clubs involved in the failed attempt to establish a breakaway European Super League. A fan-led review into the governance of football will look into whether the current owners’ and directors’ test is fit for purpose, while the Guardian has identified five reforms that could help fix football, from fairer distribution of money to giving fans more power. The Arsenal director Josh Kroenke, meanwhile, has told supporters his family have no intention of selling the club despite this week’s fierce backlash to the proposal.

England’s captain Sarah Hunter is set to win her 125th cap this weekend but it will be from the bench in Saturday’s Women’s Six Nations final at Twickenham Stoop against France. Exeter visit Premiership leaders Bristol tonight needing to show they will not relinquish their domestic crown without a fight. Wigan maintained their unbeaten start to the Super League season as two tries from Bevan French helped to inflict a first defeat of 2021 on Castleford Tigers. UK Athletics is planning legal action after being barred from staging the Anniversary Games at the London Stadium in July. Anthony McGill missed a shot at a maximum break at the world snooker championship, but clawed back a three-frame deficit against the defending champion Ronnie O’Sullivan. And American showjumper Andrew Kocher has received a 10-year suspension for using electric spurs on his horses after a tribunal by the International Equestrian Federation.

Business

Keir Starmer has announced a green jobs plan that he says will create 400,000 new positions as he seeks to boost Labour’s chances of hanging on to Hartlepool in next month’s byelection. The FTSE100 looks on course to drop around 0.3% when it opens this morning. The pound is buying $1.385 and €1.152.

The papers

The Guardian leads with “Cameron pushed Bank for £20bn to support Greensill”. The FT has the same story “Cameron lobbied senior ⁦Treasury and BoE officials in Greensill pitch”, as does the i: “Cameron used Covid to lobby Bank of England”.

Three pro-government papers choose to lead on the No 10 leaking story. “Cummings is accused of leaking PM’s texts”, says the Times, while the Telegraph says “Cummings accused of leaking No10 texts”. The Sun’s headline is: “Boris: Dom’s a text maniac”. The Mirror prefers a bit of cheer, reporting on the Spanish tourism boss welcoming British tourists this summer: “We’ll see you in June”, says the paper’s splash, while the Express has “Spain boosts summer holiday hopes”. The Mail thinks the government should allow more mourners at funerals: “Show them some pity”.

The face of the late Bay City Rollers frontman Les McKeown dominates the Scottish press. “Bye bye baby” says the Record, while his hometown Edinburgh Evening News says “Farewell our first love”, quoting still-besotted fans of the “boy from Broomhouse who conquered the pop world”.

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