Top story: Sedwill’s treatment ‘unacceptable’, says ex-mandarin
Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories to help you start your week.
Sir Mark Sedwill, the UK’s top civil servant, is quitting after weeks of tension over the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis and his supposed opposition to reform in Whitehall. Sedwill, who has been criticised in off-the-record briefings to newspapers, wrote to Boris Johnson saying he would stand down as cabinet secretary and head of the civil service in September. His other role as national security adviser will be taken by Johnson’s chief Brexit adviser, David Frost. His departure will be seen as a victory for the prime minister’s top aide, Dominic Cummings, who has clashed with Sedwill in a struggle for power in Whitehall. Lord Kerslake, a former head of the civil service, said Sedwill had been unfairly smeared by Johnson’s aides and that his treatment was “unacceptable”. Appointed by Theresa May, Sedwill’s comment that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for Britain has set him on a collision course with the PM’s coterie of Vote Leave staffers.
Coronavirus updates – The UK needs its biggest-ever peacetime job-creation plan to prevent the wave of coronavirus-related job losses from spiralling into mass unemployment, a thinktank has warned. Resolution Foundation said the government scheme supporting more than 9 million workers should be turned into a job protection scheme that would be kept in place throughout 2021. It comes as Boris Johnson promised a £1bn rebuilding programme for England’s schools to provide a “world-class education” for children and help the economy to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis. Johnson will set out the 10-year investment plan for upgrades and refurbishments in a speech in the Midlands tomorrow. Travel firms have reported a big rise in bookings after the government gave the go-ahead for trips overseas via so-called “air bridges” with European countries. A YouGov poll has found that only 6% of the public want to return to the same type of economy as before the pandemic as trade unions, business groups and religious and civic leaders unite to call for a green recovery plan. Meanwhile, Leicester could be the first area in Britain to be placed on localised lockdown.
The number of worldwide deaths from the virus has passed 500,000 as the pandemic continues to spread quickly through the US and South America. Donald Trump’s health secretary, Alex Azar, warned yesterday that “the window is closing” on the country’s chance to take action to curb the coronavirus, as the number of confirmed cases surpassed 2.5m. China has “sealed off” 400,000 people near Beijing in an attempt to suppress an outbreak of the virus. In Italy, Covid-19 is fuelling a rise in poverty and there is anger about the lack of support for families and businesses. The crisis has also been a tough one for the rodent population, with rats becoming more brazen in their search for food in homes, including one discovered in a toddler’s cot.
Black votes matter – Beyoncé has urged black people to vote “like our life depends on it” in the upcoming US election. The singer used an acceptance speech at the BET awards to rally the black community to use the ballot box to register their desire for change amid the Black Lives Matter protests. Lawmakers in Mississippi have voted to remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag, widely seen as a racist symbol. The state legislature House will create a commission to design a new flag that must have the words “In God We Trust”. Mississippi governor Tate Reeves has signalled he will sign the measure in the coming days. Donald Trump earlier deleted a tweet of a supporter shouting “White power! White power!” after outrage, including from Tim Scott of South Carolina, the sole African American Republican in the US Senate.
Statue inquiry – Police in Bristol have released the images of 15 people they want to speak to in relation to the toppling of the statue of slaver Edward Colston during a Black Lives Matter protest in the city. Avon and Somerset police released a statement saying they had no choice but to seek the individuals over criminal damage when the statue was pulled down and thrown in the river.
Polish runoff – Poland’s rightwing president, Andrzej Duda, appears to have fallen short of the 50% he needs to avoid a second round of voting in the country’s election. Duda received 45.73% of the vote in Sunday’s election, according to results based on 82.2% of polling districts. Second place is held by the liberal mayor of Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, suggesting the pair will contest a runoff on 12 July. In France, the Green party surged in local elections but Anne Hidalgo, the Socialist mayor of Paris, won another term after a bitter campaign fight.
To kill a king – MI5 tried to cover up an attempt to assassinate Edward VIII in a tale involving a fraudster turned double agent, Mussolini and a long-lost memoir. George McMahon tried to assassinate the king while he rode a horse near Buckingham Palace in 1936 but was portrayed as a fantasist when told his trial he had been paid by Italian agents to do so. However, a manuscript by McMahon has been unearthed which appears to back up his claims and details an attempt by British spies to whitewash the affair.
Today in Focus podcast
Reni Eddo-Lodge has become the first black British author to top the UK bestseller list with her 2017 book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race. In an exclusive interview, she talks about global discussions on racism following the death of George Floyd.
Lunchtime read: The rise of the genderqueer generation
A growing number of American youngsters are rejecting traditional gender identities in favour of being non-binary, but many feel misunderstood and face prejudice. Adrienne Matei launches our series of stories about the genderqueer generation.
It will take Wimbledon several months to recoup losses from the cancelled championships – which were due to begin on Monday – according to the outgoing chief executive, Richard Lewis, but there will be minimal impact on the finances of the game in Britain. Pep Guardiola says retaining the FA Cup would be the perfect preparation for Manchester City’s Champions League reunion with Real Madrid, following their 2-0 quarter-final win over Newcastle. In the Premier League, Danny Ings scored twice for Southampton in a 3-1 win over Watford at Vicarage Road that increases the home side’s relegation worries. England bowler Stuart Broad is working on how to raise his emotional level when the Test series against the West Indies takes place without spectators. A pair of bogeys on the back nine and a rain delay were not enough to derail Dustin Johnson, who ended on 19 under par to win the Travelers Championship by one stroke in Connecticut. And free-agent quarterback Cam Newton has agreed to a one-year contract with the New England Patriots, according to reports.
Chesapeake Energy, the fracking company credited with leading the boom in US shale oil and gas extraction, has gone into bankruptcy with debts of $9bn as the recent plunge in prices made it possible to meet repayments. But the Oklahoma-based firm has filed for chapter 11 protection and so will restructure its debts and continue trading. The FTSE100 is set to open the week down 0.64% while the pound is $1.237 and €1.10.
The Guardian leads with “UK’s top civil servant quits in victory for Cummings” and that’s also the main story in the Express – “Boris takes axe to civil service”. The Telegraph also splashes on the ousting of Sir Mark Sedwill with “PM wants Brexiteer to head the Civil Service” and so does the FT: “Sedwill to leave top civil service job amid PM’s Whitehall shake-up”.
The Times’ main story is “PM pledges a decade of spending on schools” and the Mirror is similar territory, quoting Manchester mayor Andy Burnham telling Boris Johnson to “Keep your promise” on spending. The Mail leads on the impact of Covid-19 on the NHS – “Now wait a year for your hip op” – and the i has “Tory donor in planning row lobbied Johnson over lunch”. In Scotland the Record claims “Knife rampage attacker snapped after a row over noise” and the Scotsman says “‘Make or break’ for the high street as shops set to reopen”.
The Guardian morning briefing is delivered to thousands of inboxes bright and early every weekday. If you are not already receiving it by email, you can sign up here.
For more news: www.theguardian.com