Top story: Speaker swings behind written constitution
Good morning briefers. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories to help you over the line and into the weekend.
John Bercow has promised that he will be prepared to rip up the parliamentary rulebook to stop any illegal attempt by Boris Johnson to take the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October. The Commons Speaker, who announced that he is standing down next month, has been a thorn in the side of hardline Conservative MPs throughout the Brexit process. Delivering the Bingham lecture in London last night, Bercow said he would permit “additional procedural creativity” if necessary to allow parliament to block the prime minister from ignoring the law. He warned: “The only form of Brexit that we have, whenever that might be, will be a Brexit that the House of Commons has explicitly endorsed.” Bercow also said that the Brexit imbroglio had exposed weaknesses in the political system and he was now persuaded that a royal commission was needed to examine whether a written constitution was needed.
The Speaker’s intervention came as Johnson was forced to deny accusations that he misled the Queen over the reasons for proroguing parliament this week and as MPs condemned the government’s “Get ready for Brexit” ad campaign as “misleading”. And in case you need to remind yourself of how we got here, Jon Henley traces the long road to the crisis of the past 10 days.
Democrats clash – Joe Biden has clashed on the issue of healthcare with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, his leading rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, in the latest debate between the candidates. Biden, who was vice-president under Barack Obama for eight years, defended the administration’s Obamacare scheme and challenged his rivals to spell out how they pay for their plans to provide healthcare for all and eliminate private insurance. Questions about gun violence, immigration and trade also revealed a difference of opinion and strong criticism of president Donald Trump. Richard Wolffe reckons Biden was the best – and worst – on the stage in Houston, while Tom McCarthy says the former vice-president fumbled his facts. You can read exactly how it all unfolded on our live blog here.
Disease risk – Almost 100,000 people in Britain are at risk of dying because they do not know they have the liver disease hepatitis C. Around 95,600 people, mainly drug users, are thought to have the disease but are unaware of the condition because they have not been diagnosed, Public Health England warns today. Steve Mowle, of the Royal College of GPs, said the figures were “extremely concerning” and called the situation a “significant public health risk”. Nine in 10 people infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) inject recreational drugs such as heroin or have done so. The virus is spread among drug users by sharing contaminated needles.
Knife killing – A man has died and another has been taken to hospital after a double stabbing in Camden High Street in north-west London. Police said they were called to the area, which has many pubs and clubs, shortly after 11pm last night. They found a man suffering from a stab wound but he was pronounced dead at the scene. Another man in his 20s was found nearby with a knife wound and was taken to hospital. It is the latest in a series of knife killings to blight the capital this year.
Tunnel vision – It is rated one of the most endangered Victorian buildings in Britain. But campaigners fear that an abandoned railway tunnel hundreds of feet under the Pennines could be lost to the nation if Department of Transport officials get their way and are allowed to fill it with concrete. Heritage groups instead want to restore the 1.4-mile tunnel, which was built to link Halifax and Keighley in 1878, and turn it into a cycle path as Yorkshire seeks to secure its place as “the beating heart of British cycling”.
Mail models – A study of French postmen’s testicles and a nappy-changing machine were among the winners of this year’s Ig Nobel awards, the alternative science prizes that aim to “first make people laugh, and then make them think”. Roger Mieusset, a fertility specialist at the University of Toulouse, found the way to renown by strapping thermometers to the testicles of postmen in order to determine if one sac is warmer than the other. It turns out the left is warmer, but only when a man is clothed. (Who knew?) Britain’s frontrunner was Francis McGlone, a researcher at Liverpool John Moores University, who won for mapping which parts of the body are most pleasurable to scratch.
Today in Focus podcast
Tom Phillips, our Latin America correspondent, describes his recent Amazon trip and examines the impact of the new era of wrecking ushered in by Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro. Also, Rhik Samadder on coping with depression when your job involves trying to amuse people.
Lunchtime read: The top 100 films of the 21st century – discuss
If you’re stuck for something to talk about with friends, family or colleagues this weekend you could do worse than summon up our list of the top 100 films of the century so far. Compiled lovingly by our film team, it counts down through the gamut of gangsters, lovers, aliens and animes to arrive at No 1, which goes to … There Will Be Blood. Our lead critic Peter Bradshaw explains why Paul Thomas Anderson’s “strange masterpiece” is top of the pile but I won’t spoil the rest of the countdown for you. We’ve also asked some leading directors to pick their favourites.
Jos Buttler put confusing thoughts of fatigue to one side and decided to have some fun before the counterattacking half-century that has kept England’s heads above water in the final Ashes Test. Mitchell Marsh, the Australia all-rounder, is always a controversial pick but he swung the ball more than any bowler in the series to grab four England wickets on day one at the Oval. Kyle Sinckler has insisted he is relishing the prospect of playing two matches in five days at the start of England’s Rugby World Cup campaign, claiming he is well prepared to do so. Europe’s Suzann Pettersen says she is “fine” but will miss the first morning of the Solheim Cup due to illness. Anthony Joshua’s trainer Rob McCracken will not face any disciplinary action for saying he allowed his heavyweight to keep fighting while concussed, after receiving the full backing of the British Boxing Board of Control. Clinical first-half finishing from Kim Little and Vivianne Miedema ensured Arsenal will host the second leg with a surely unassailable four-goal lead over Fiorentina on their Champions League return. And former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who announced his retirement in March, has said he absorbed about 20 concussions in a lifetime on the gridiron.
The European Central Bank’s decision to relaunch quantitative easing to boost the ailing eurozone economy has helped to lift stocks in Asia overnight. Mario Draghi, in one of his last acts as ECB president, announced an interest rate cut and plans to inject €20bn a month into the financial markets. But he also warned countries with stronger balance sheets to increase spending in order to take some of the strain off the central bank. Either way, investors liked the extra stimulus and shares pushed higher on the main Asian indices. The FTSE100 is seen rising 0.3% at the open this morning while sterling is flat at $1.233 and €1.114.
The Times is optimistic about a new Brexit plan: “DUP opens door to new Brexit deal for Johnson”, whereas the Guardian has: “Bercow: I’ll stop Johnson breaking the law on Brexit”. The Telegraph leads on Corbyn’s plans to charge VAT on private school fees: “Corbyn tax raid on private schools” and the Express has: “Boris: Labour will ‘clobber’ you with tax hikes”.
The i says “NHS hit with £600m interest bill – by Whitehall” and the Sun reports on the BA pilot strike: “British scareways”. The FT reports on the European Central Bank’s plans to revive eurozone growth: “Draghi calls for urgent spending surge as he relaunches stimulus” and the Mail carries a report of declining marriage rates: “Britain turns its back on marriage”. The Mirror features a picture of its US editor standing in the midst of burning trees in the Amazon, wearing a full suit, tie and what appears to be a flower in his lapel: “Our world… choking to death”.
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