Welcome to Monday’s Early Edition from i.
There are those who hoped that Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal might herald in a new era. Not just one in which that particular issue might be put to bed, but that of a post-Boris Britain, where the former prime minister slowly faded from the headlines, only surfacing here and there for the spicy bits of the upcoming privileges committee ‘trial’. But those people will be currently disappointed, because the headlines are all back, and weeks before the official questioning over Partygate even begins. Just in the last two days: Tories turn on Boris, Boris was an egomaniac, Boris was a nationally distrusted figure, Boris is a ‘man of integrity’, Boris welcomes UN treaty, Boris Johnson ‘nominates father for a knighthood’, Boris Johnson criticises Sue Gray’s ‘surreal’ partygate probe. Some may brush it off as the continuation of the former PM’s scandal-hit days in office. But the headline-hitting interventions from Boris himself are angering some Tories. We’ll look at why, after the news.
Today’s news, and why it matters
Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt are set to rule out a cut to corporation tax in next week’s “slimmed down” Budget, putting them on a collision course with Boris Johnson and Liz Truss. Striking unions are also expected to be disappointed as the Treasury is poised to rule out any major public sector pay rises in a bid to keep the country’s finances under control.
Senior Tories have warned that the Government will suffer a series of defeats over its plans to scrap EU laws, including crucial water safety regulations, unless it changes course on the proposals. Ministers are pushing the Retained EU Law Bill through the Lords, which promises to scrap thousands of laws and rules made in Brussels. “The approach they are taking is anti-democratic and prevents us taking back control of our laws to Parliament,” Baroness Altmann told i.
Some of Britain’s best-loved holiday destinations are facing drought restrictions this summer following the driest February in 30 years. Devon, Cornwall and East Anglia remain under official drought conditions having been declared to be in drought last August, with experts telling i they were “very nervous” about what the months ahead could mean for Britain’s rivers in those areas.
A man who assaulted a prison officer had a jail sentence overturned due to court backlogs and cell shortages, i can reveal. Arie Ali, who was convicted of assaulting an emergency worker in February, was sentenced to six months in prison. But the sentence was quashed after a judge said prison overcrowding concerns and the delays during his prosecution meant he should not be jailed.
The former vaccines taskforce boss has branded Matt Hancock as “bit like a headless chicken” when he was serving as Health Secretary during the pandemic. Dr Clive Dix, the former chairman of the Vaccines Taskforce, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that Mr Hancock was the “the most difficult of all the ministers because he didn’t take time to understand anything”.
Partygate and the protocol – How Boris Johnson’s meddling could cost the Tories: :
Partygate: In recent days, Boris Johnson has raised doubts over the credibility of the Sue Gray inquiry into Partygate, after it was revealed she was going to work for Keir Starmer. “If you told me at the time I commissioned Sue Gray to do the inquiry, if you told me all the stuff that I now know, I think I might have cross-examined her more closely about her independence,” Mr Johnson told Sky News. He continued: “I might have invited her to reflect on whether she was really the right person to do it.” But senior Tories are now warning his interventions, on Partygate and the House of Commons privileges committee, could undermine the Conservatives’ chances at the next election. Allies of Rishi Sunak are said to be furious over the former prime minister’s antics in recent days. Some Tory MPs say Mr Johnson is “enough of an egomaniac” to force a division in the Commons on any sanction that the committee recommends should he be found to have knowingly misled parliament over Covid parties held in Downing Street. Tobias Ellwood, chair of the Defence Select Committee, told i Mr Johnson’s “antics are a threat to the party’s and Rishi’s efforts to succeed”.
Northern Ireland protocol: Last week, Mr Johnson, talking about Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal, said he would “find it very difficult to vote for something like this myself, because I believed we should’ve done something very different”. Although EU officials say the former PM’s opinion carries no weight, Tory MPs now fear that Rishi Sunak’s attempts to govern through statecraft and quiet diplomacy could be ruined by the noise surrounding Mr Johnson. “The man is a narcissist with no loyalty to the party that made him,” one former minister told i. “He is praying for a trouncing in the local elections so that he can bully his way in again.” Some have viewed Mr Johnson’s decision to speak out as ominous for Mr Sunak. “It could spell trouble for Rishi if things don’t start looking up,” a veteran Conservative MP told i‘s Richard Vaughan.
His own political career: Last week’s interim report by the House of Commons privileges committee contained more damning evidence about Boris Johnson’s role in “Partygate” than the original Sue Gray inquiry, saying it believes the former PM “may have” misled Parliament. Even Mr Johnson’s then director of communications Jack Doyle suggested there could be a “gaping hole” in Boris Johnson’s denials at the time. Boris Johnson will face cross-examination from MPs at the privileges committee in the week starting 20 March, where, undoubtedly, we will learn a lot more. The committee is crucial for the former PM. If he’s found to have misled Parliament intentionally (which may still be tricky to prove), he will face suspension from the House of Commons, or even lose his seat. And even if that does not occur, the latest revelations could work to tarnish what reputation he has left. As i‘s Oly Duff notes: “So while these messages confirm what we already knew – that Johnson is untruthful, and distrusted by some of those who know him best – they could yet prove very damaging to his political ambitions.”
Around the world
The high seas, previously left exposed by their status as international waters, may finally get the same treatment as wildernesses on land, after negotiators at the UN finally concluded the first major international treaty to protect the world’s oceans. Greenpeace Nordic called it a “historic day for conservation and a sign that in a divided world, protecting nature and people can triumph over geopolitics”.
This is how it will work.
A massive fire in a Rohingya refugee camp – believed to be the world’s largest refugee camp – in Bangladesh has left 12,000 people without shelter. Police are investigating if the fire was an act of sabotage.
Donald Trump’s threat to go rogue and run as an independent in 2024 could ruin the Republicans, writes Simon Marks. By running as a third-party candidate he could tarnish a Republican nominee’s chances of getting into the White House, and history has shown it’s a tried and tested method.
The iconic chocolate bar Toblerone will have its Matterhorn mountain peak image removed, due to the confection’s production moving outside of Switzerland. The picture will be replaced by a more generic Alpine image and the packaging will now read “established in Switzerland”, instead “of Switzerland”.
Venice’s art museums are saving masterpieces by Tintoretto, Titian and Tiepolo from the sea in a radical new conservation approach. “This is an extremely big and in-depth project,” says architect Arianna Abbate, who is leading the initiative. “We are among the first in the world to do something like this.”
Watch out for…
more wrangling over Rishi Sunak’s small boats plans. Today a preliminary hearing will be held at the Court of Appeal over the High Court decision over the Home Office’s Rwanda policy.
Thoughts for the day
The true Covid lab leak scandal is how easily our politicians and scientists dismissed it. That blanket dismissal of a lab leak as a conspiracy theory showed the dangers of partisanship in our divided age, writes Ian Birrell.
Quit whingeing Prince Harry, many of us come from ‘broken homes’ but we just get on with it, says Stefano Hatfield.
Nobody seems to know what counts as ‘sex’ – but my lesbian friend has the best solution, reveals Rebecca Reid.
‘Nearly dying is very good for your career’. Michael Rosen talks about his Covid coma, the catharsis of writing about lost loved ones and the stage production of his children’s book Unexpected Twist
The Big Read
What a real culture war looks like: Book burnings, ransacked museums and a ban on enemy music. The Ukrainian language has been repressed in Russian-occupied areas – while many Ukrainians in free cities now refuse to play Russian music or read Russian literature.
Liverpool offer a reminder of their attacking majesty to condemn Man Utd to a deeply troubling defeat. Their record-breaking victory serves as a reminder that when they click they can make your tummy fizz and your eyes open wide, writes Daniel Storey.
Something to brighten your day
The word ‘gladiators’ conjures up images of Rome’s Colosseum. But now new evidence suggests gladiator battles may have taken place in Britain. A vase dug up from a Roman grave in Colchester suggests a fight may have taken place in the late second century AD.“It’s the only evidence of a Roman arena gladiator combat actually being staged in Britain,” Frank Hargrave, director of Colchester and Ipswich museums, told the Observer.