Tuesday briefing: Calls to enact ‘David’s law’

·8 min read
<span>Photograph: WPA/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

Top story: Southend city status is tribute

Hello and welcome to today’s briefing with me, Warren Murray.

Boris Johnson is facing calls to enact “David’s law” to crack down on social media abuse of public figures and end online anonymity in the wake of the killing of Sir David Amess. MPs have paid tribute in the House of Commons to the veteran Conservative backbencher, shedding tears, sharing anecdotes and venting anger over his death.

Allies of Amess, who was stabbed to death on Friday, said he had voiced growing concern about threats and toxicity within public discourse. Campaigners have warned, however, that ending online anonymity could put whistleblowers and pro-democracy campaigners in authoritarian regimes at risk.

Southend will become a city in honour of Amess, Boris Johnson has confirmed, paying tribute to the Tory MP who had raised the issue almost weekly in the 38 years he served as a backbench MP.

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House explodes in Ayr – Two adults and two children were taken to hospital after an explosion at a house in Ayr that caused severe damage, with the blast being heard for miles around. Residents were evacuated from part of the Kincaidston area. Police, firefighters and the ambulance service – including an air ambulance – were at the scene in Gorse Park, a residential street in the town in western Scotland, after reports of an explosion just after 7pm on Monday. People living several miles away heard the explosion. In a statement, police said four houses had been affected. Neighbours were evacuated and a cordon was set up.

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Colin Powell dies aged 84 – Tributes have been paid to Colin Powell, the former Republican secretary of state and four-star general, after his death at the age of 84 from complications of Covid-19, which he contracted while being treated for cancer.

Powell was a Vietnam veteran who as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff oversaw Operation Desert Storm – the 1990s Gulf war invasion of Iraq – under the elder president George Bush. In the next Bush presidency he became the first black US secretary of state and pushed for a swift military response to 9/11, including the second Iraq invasion that ended up being based on wrong intelligence.

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Boiler bung – Ministers have unveiled plans for £5,000 grants to install home heat pumps and other low-carbon boiler replacements. Details are to be set out today alongside the government’s net-zero strategy, with a pledge for funding to make heat pumps no more costly than boilers to install or run. Caroline Jones, of Greenpeace UK, said new boilers should be phased out before 2035 and a fully funded nationwide programme brought in to quickly insulate homes. And the importance of Cop26 has been elevated to the celestial, with Prof Brian Cox saying humans might be the only intelligent beings in our galaxy. There were likely very few places in the universe “where atoms can think … Meaning exists in our minds”, so the demise of life on Earth could wipe out meaning.

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Covid spreading in secondaries – The government has warned of “challenging” months ahead after the reported number of Covid cases in the UK reached 49,156 on Monday, the highest reported since 17 July and a 16% rise in new cases over the past week. There were 5,561 people admitted to hospital over the past week, up 6.9% on the week before, and the number dying within 28 days of testing positive reached 869 over the past seven days, up 11.4% on the week before. The new cases are largely among secondary school children, but also some older age groups including those with children in school. Hospitalisations and deaths are mostly driven by infections in older and more vulnerable groups. Still on the pandemic, more than a third of UK music industry workers lost their jobs last year – 69,000 in total – as venues closed, festivals were scrapped and touring halted.

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Sunken sword surfaces – A sword believed to have belonged to a crusader who sailed to the Holy Land almost a millennium ago has been recovered from the Mediterranean seabed in a natural cove near the port city of Haifa. An amateur diver spotted the relic, the Israel Antiquities Authority has said.

Though encrusted with shells, the metre-long blade, hilt and handle were still distinctive. The cove might have served as a shelter for seafarers, said Koby Sharvit, director of the authority’s marine archaeology unit. The sword, believed to be about 900 years old, will be put on display after it has been cleaned and restored.

Today in Focus podcast: An attack on democracy

The shocking killing of the Conservative MP David Amess has been described as an attack on British democracy. Gaby Hinsliff looks at how politicians are responding.

Lunchtime read: Unfreezing the ice age

Archaeological discoveries are shattering scholars’ long-held beliefs about how the earliest humans organised their societies – and hint at possibilities for our own.

The skull of Homo naledi, as discovered in the Rising Star cave system in South Africa
The skull of Homo naledi, as discovered in the Rising Star cave system in South Africa. Photograph: Xinhua/Alamy

Sport

The hostility among Premier League clubs to the Newcastle United takeover was underlined on Monday when they voted through legislation designed to prevent the Saudi owners from striking lucrative sponsorship deals. Alexandre Lacazette scored with virtually the last kick of the game to snatch a 2-2 draw for Arsenal at home to Crystal Palace and deny Patrick Vieira a dream return. England will be forced to play behind closed doors at Wembley after the Football Association was punished for a “lack of order and discipline” in and around the national stadium during the Euro 2020 final. Ireland’s Curtis Campher became only the third player in history to take four wickets in four balls during a Twenty20 international to help his team to a seven-wicket World Cup stroll against the Netherlands.

Eddie Jones has stood by his captain, Owen Farrell, for the Tests against Tonga, Australia and South Africa next month, but several other mainstays of his tenure are conspicuous by their absence from the squad. Christian Malcolm has said there is a need for UK Athletics to “do things better” after several of Britain’s top track and field stars confronted Sebastian Coe last month about the state of affairs at UKA. Unvaccinated tennis players and other athletes are unlikely to get visas to enter Australia, Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrew has said, putting Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open title defence and bid for the grand slam record in doubt. And British sporting leaders have set out a bleak picture for the future of sport in this country, warning that everything from grassroots to elite performance is in peril because of a lack of funding and the impact of the pandemic.

Business

Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey could jeopardise economic recovery if he follows up his strong hints and raises interest rates in the next few months, an economist has warned. Danny Blanchflower, a former member of the bank’s rate-setting committee, said: “If you do this, you’ve lost the plot. How can you possibly do it when you’ve just cut universal credit, you’re talking about doing austerity and we’ve ended furlough?”

Drax has been booted from an investment index of clean energy companies amid doubts over the sustainability of its wood-burning power plant in North Yorkshire. The FTSE100 looks flat this morning while the pound is up overnight at $1.377 and €1.182.

The papers

“PM faces calls for ‘David’s law’ to halt online abuse” – the lead story in our Guardian print edition this morning. The Express calls Southend “A city born of grief, love and respect” as its status is elevated in memory of its slain MP. “Time to end the online hatred” says the Metro. “MPs vow to meet public face to face” – defiance and solidarity in the name of democracy on show in the i.

“Suspect’s stroll to scene of carnage” – the Daily Mail reports on CCTV footage. “Hate cleric’s rants still poisoning minds on web” says the Mirror, which has investigated and found “rants” still accessible online by Anjem Choudary, who was jailed for inciting support for Islamic State. “MI5 ‘should have more control over Prevent’” – that’s the Times reporting about the deradicalisation programme.

The Telegraph has Amess on the front too, while its lead is “Booster rollout ‘too slow’”. And the Financial Times says “Traders bet Bank of England will raise rates as soon as next month”.

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