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i morning briefing: Grubby deals and Boris Johnson

Welcome to Thursday’s Early Edition from i.

The words of Keir Starmer yesterday were cutting: “Last year he lost a Tory beauty contest to [Liz Truss] who then lost to a lettuce. Last week, when he finally came into contact with voters, he lost everywhere. No matter who the electorate is, the Prime Minister keeps entering a two-horse race and somehow finishing third.” As we know, the Tories took a huge bruising last week, but the fallout from the local elections shows a wider impact than just the leadership of Rishi Sunak. From the prospect of a hung parliament, to “grubby deals” and yet more whispers of a Boris Johnson come-back, we’ll look at what’s possibly on the cards, after the headlines.

 Today’s news, and why it matters

Andrew Marr threatened to quit the BBC after being told he could not interview Boris Johnson unless the then Prime Minister agreed to a grilling from Andrew Neil too. Marr says he thought “f*** you, it’s my show” when the row broke out shortly before the 2019 general election. Rob Burley, formerly the BBC’s editor of live political programmes, has written about the exchange in his book about political interviews, Why Is This Lying Bastard Lying To Me?

Suella Braverman could face fresh rebellions from Conservative MPs over her controversial small boats laws unless she makes concessions in the House of Lords, senior party figures have suggested. The Home Secretary has already once seen off the threat of Tory revolts on her controversial Illegal Migration Bill by striking deals with MPs.

Dominic Raab is being courted for a potential presenting gig with GB News following his resignation over bullying allegations last month, i has been told. The former deputy prime minister had lunch with GB News’ editorial director, Michael Booker, on Tuesday, as the free-to-air TV channel looks to expand its roster of political show hosts.

The London Ambulance Service has launched a pioneering scheme to try to reduce the number of people suffering catastrophic effects of chemsex drugs – as figures show paramedics are called out to substance-fuelled hook-ups every single day in the capital. The scheme – which has never been tried anywhere before – was prompted by alarming data compiled by an advanced paramedic practitioner.

RNLI volunteers are being used as a “taxi service” by the Government as they struggle to hold down their regular jobs amid a huge increase in emergency callouts, according to a former crewman. “Sometimes last year they were out four times in a days and they weren’t coming into work. It’s getting harder for the crews to justify giving up their time to act as a taxi service really for the Government,” he told i.

Three key things to watch after the local elections:

Grubby deals and hung parliaments: Yesterday saw a mud-slinging match between the two major parties over the prospect of either teaming up with others to form a coalition after the next general election. Labour called on the PM to rule out a “grubby, desperate deal” to “cling to power” after his press secretary declined to rule out the Tories entering any pacts. The spokesperson would not rule out deals with Reform, which was founded with Nigel Farage’s backing, or Reclaim, the party led by actor Laurence Fox, who has just welcomed in MP Andrew Bridgen. Labour, however, could also be facing the prospect of electoral pacts given the current polls put them at winning with just a small majority. Earlier this week, Sir Keir declined to rule out doing a deal with the Lib Dems, although insisted he was “going for an outright majority”. It has also raised the prospect of a Labour-SNP coalition, something that’s “a bit like the Loch Ness Monster,” writes Andrew Liddle. “It pops up from time to time, is terrifying to some, attractive to others, and is considered by most to be an elaborate hoax. It also, like the spectre of Nessie, continues to endure, despite the weight of evidence to the contrary.” Read his full piece on why, here.

Keir Starmer finally feels like a threat. The Labour leader’s insults have a bit more of a sting to them this week. As Paul Waugh writes: “Despite his mild-mannered image, the Labour leader is increasingly going in studs-up in PMQs and this week he was merciless in his ridicule of his opponent. His opening gag – that the PM needed to update his misleading employment numbers after he cost a thousand Tory councillors their jobs – was rough enough.” Read his full piece here.

Is there, gulp, hope for Boris Johnson? The former PM’s name has been hitting the headlines recently for all kinds of other reasons, but the Tories’ defeat last week suggested – to some camps at least – that Boris Johnson is still a Conservative winner. As Jane Merrick writes: In the hours following the results, supporters of Boris Johnson were the most vocal inside the Conservative Party about who was to blame for the Tory losses. The grassroots group Conservative Democratic Organisation set up by his backers are holding their first conference this weekend. If he escapes suspension or serious censure by the Privileges Committee inquiry into whether he misled Parliament over “Partygate”, expect calls for him to stage a comeback to intensify.” Read her full piece here.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Sir Ed Davey in Windsor, Berkshire, where the Conservatives lost control of Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead council in the local elections (Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)

Around the world

Donald Trump said he would be “inclined to pardon many” of his supporters convicted for their involvement in the 6 January attack on the US Capitol if he were re-elected next year, during a contentious CNN town hall. “I am inclined to pardon many of them. I can’t say for every single one because a couple of them probably they got out of control,” he said.

George Santos, the New York Republican congressman infamous for fabricating key parts of his life story, has been arrested on fraud, theft of public funds and money laundering charges. The indictment says Mr Santos induced supporters to donate to a company under the false pretense that the money would be used to support his campaign. Instead, it says, he used it for personal expenses, including luxury designer clothes and to pay off his credit cards.

A Russian dissident and former state TV journalist says she doesn’t believe Vladimir Putin has enough Novichok to kill his growing number of critics. “I think that Putin doesn’t have enough Novichok for all his opponents. Because actually when the war started, many more people started speaking against the regime and many more will do that,” Marina Ovsyannikova, who made global headlines for her on-air protest against the war in Ukraine, told Sky News.

A woman known as the “queen of mommy blogging” has been found dead at the age of 47. Heather Armstrong, from Utah in the US, had documented the ups and downs of motherhood on her website Dooce.

A 91-year-old Italian man who has been getting up since 5am each day since 1953 to run a newsstand can finally retire, after it was purchased by a Prada fashion boss. Patrizio Bertelli, the chair of the Italian fashion house and husband of Miuccia Prada, bought the historic stand in Arezzo for a reported sum of £87,000. Newspaper seller Piero Scartoni said: “Bertelli was a customer in the 1960s and 70s. He was a special customer. Then he became one of the richest people in Italy. I’m delighted he came to the rescue.”

 Watch out for…

 interest rates, which are expected to be pushed up again today as the Bank of England continues to tackle sky-high inflation. Here’s what it means for mortgage-holders.  

 Thoughts for the day

 ‘Safe and legal routes’ for asylum seekers is a myth, allowing the Government to discriminate. The Government’s policy is not just inhumane and illegal – it’s also ineffective, writes Tiara Sahar Ataii.

We’ve seen the danger of the Public Order Act. Now it must be repealed. No matter how many ‘free speech tsars’ they use to attack students, this government has worked relentlessly to silence free speech, says Ian Dunt.

There’s no right time to have children – but aged 79 seems pretty wrong to me, Robert De Niro. The list of men who had kids after the age of 65 just goes on and on, Rebecca Reid writes.

Robert De Niro has just had a seventh child (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

Culture Break

‘As big as the invention of the camera’: How AI will revolutionise cinema. From AI-generated scripts to AI-aided CGI, the future of film hangs in the balance, writes Rick Burin.

Lavie Tidhar’s darkly funny short film Welcome to Your AI Future! (Photo: Supplied)

The Big Read

Why Tories blame ‘slippery’ Simon Case for everything from Partygate to bullying controversies. The country’s top civil servant has been embroiled in a string of controversies – but allies insist he is only a scapegoat for Government failures, reports Hugo Gye.

Simon Case was appointed Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service in September 2020 by then PM Boris Johnson (Photo: Daniel Leal/AFP)


Uefa has signed a 20-month deal with the European Space Agency to use satellite technology for planning purposes and to avoid a repeat of the chaotic 2022 Champions League final, reports Sam Cunningham.

Uefa has teamed up with the European Space Agency (Photos: Getty)

Something to brighten your day

I tried to quit caffeine by replacing it with mushrooms. I don’t particularly like coffee, but at some point I started needing it, says Mike Rampton. Could funghi be the answer?

Mike Rampton tried a chocolate-flavoured mushroom drink to replace his daily coffee fix (Photo: supplied) 

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