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Boris Johnson used to be the Teflon man of British politics, brushing off scandals, gaffes and mistakes. Not any more


Now Johnson’s plans appear ruined. He’d wanted to use his personal enthusiasm for Brexit to instil a fresh sense of optimism that the UK’s future was brighter outside the European Union. Free from the Brussels bureaucracy, Johnson’s government vowed to address the UK’s socio-economic imbalance that in some sense led to Brexit by “leveling up” deprived areas. He would also seek to strengthen the bond between the four nations of the UK, which had been stretched to near-breaking point amid the bitterness following the 2016 referendum. In short, the man who led the campaign that caused so much division was on a charm offensive to heal the country.

However, 10 months on, his government is short on resources and losing good will. Johnson’s opponents point to numerous errors made early in the pandemic over testing and confusing messaging over lockdowns, the highest death count in Europe and worst recession of any major economy as evidence of his failures. Worse, members of his own party fear that his lack of attention to detail and instinct for combative politics is causing a shift in the PM’s public perception: From affable optimist to incompetent bully who is hopelessly out of his depth. And they worry what long-term damage this might do both to Johnson’s personal mission and the brand of the Conservative party writ large.

One former Conservative cabinet minister and colleague of Johnson, who declined to be named, agreed with this analysis. “To deal with a crisis like this, you need public confidence and you need different bits of the state working together as effectively as possible,” the politician said. “Instead, they have managed to enrage the leadership in Scotland and Wales while picking largely pointless fights with mayors of major cities where Conservatives historically don’t do well. It’s a very strange way of going about uniting the country.”

Over the past week, Johnson has been in a protracted and public spat with the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. Johnson wanted the city to enter the UK’s highest tier of Covid restrictions. Burnham didn’t want this to happen without more financial support from the central government. The whole thing ended in a complete mess, as Johnson’s government didn’t make clear after talks collapsed that the money deemed insufficient by Burnham was still on the table. This led to a televised press conference in which Burnham supposedly found out live on air that the government had withdrawn their offer of £60 million ($78 million) for the city, instead only offering £22 million.

The government claims the whole thing was a set up by Burnham and in fact the minister responsible had talked with him before the press conference.

A government minister told CNN that there is “zero evidence that the PM picked a fight with Burnham,” adding that a central government “naturally has to balance economic and public health issues while local politicians have a much narrower focus,” implying Burnham was playing politics with Johnson.

However, worryingly for Johnson, his personal approval ratings and trust in his government have plummeted sufficiently since the crisis that the truth doesn’t entirely matter.

“When you look at Boris’s personal brand you see dramatic drop-offs in people who think he is likeable and trustworthy since the start of the pandemic. He now lags behind Keir Starmer (leader of the opposition Labour party) on almost all of those metrics,” says Chris Curtis, Political Research Manager at pollster YouGov.

This dip in trust is particularly toxic for Johnson when you combine it with the reputation Conservatives have in parts of the country that historically vote Labour and Johnson was able to pick up seats in last December’s election — the so-called Red Wall.

This reputation was not helped when Johnson found himself in round two of a fight with popular Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford over providing meals for the poorest children during the Christmas holidays this year. On Wednesday night, Johnson directed his party to vote against the proposal.

“People will remember in six or 12 months that the government didn’t seem to care if children went hungry over Christmas during an economic crisis. It costs relatively little to fund compared to other government spending this year,” says Lauren McEvatt, former special adviser to a previous Conservative administration. “It feeds into a narrative which still exists that Conservatives ultimately don’t care as much about poor people.”

What’s perplexed many observers over the Rashford affair is that Johnson had to U-turn earlier this year on exactly the same matter for summer holidays. “This government is like that GIF where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on the same rakes and whacking himself in the face,” says Rob Ford, professor of politics at the University of Manchester.

All of which only goes to reopen the question of government competence. “From the start, this government set out to hyper-centralize everything from a small team in Downing Street in order to have a tight grip on the Johnson project,” says a senior Conservative lawmaker. “That means a small group of people are making decisions in areas they might not be experts. That’s hard enough at the best of times, but during a crisis which affects the whole country and is constantly changing, it’s virtually impossible.”

The lawmaker goes on to explain that he thinks they “rely too much on focus groups” in order to appeal to public opinion. “The trouble is, focus groups don’t have much foresight. Something might be very popular one day but six months down the line look like a massive mistake. Normal practice in government is to find the right policy and sell it to the public, not the other way around.”

Numerous current and former Downing Street insiders told CNN that while it was true this government did run a lot of focus groups and deemed them to be very important, opinion was divided on their precise influence over policy making. Some said that decisions were made on the basis of focus groups; some said they helped shape how the government would sell policy to the public; some claimed it had led to major policy U-turns, including over Rashford’s summer campaign. A government official denied this claim.

Boris Johnson visits the headquarters of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust  on July 13, 2020 in London.

Whatever the truth, it is hard to deny that Johnson’s credibility has taken a significant hit this year. Many point to a scandal surrounding his most senior adviser, Dominic Cummings, as the worst moment of the year. Cummings, having displayed symptoms for Covid, decided to drive hundreds of miles from his home in London when government advice clearly stated that he should self-isolate. Cummings claimed that he did so to provide childcare for his young son.

“They could have killed that story in 48 hours if they said he was desperately worried about his baby and now realizes it was wrong,” says the former cabinet minister. Instead, Cummings gave a bizarre press conference where he defended not only his initial trip, but a further outing in his car which he claimed to merely be testing his eyesight. “The refusal to show any kind of contrition led to a big change of mood. That episode symbolizes what has been wrong about the approach,” the former minister adds.

Whether that’s fair or not, it’s certainly possible to argue the case that the Cummings scandal had three key ingredients: Cock-up; lack of apology; aggressive response. It is also possible to superimpose this playbook onto both the responses to Burnham and Rashford. In the case of the latter, Johnson was not helped by members of his own party implying that some poor parents are feckless and not interested in feeding their children and that children have always gone hungry anyway.
Marcus Rashford clashes with lawmakers as UK parliament votes against free school meals proposal

All of this leaves Johnson vulnerable to those who want to paint him as a mean-spirited bully running a shambolic government. “Fairly or unfairly, it does play to the stereotype of Conservatives as not interested in the poor and not interested in the north. This, unfortunately, does really damage his agenda for leveling up, cementing the red wall and defending the union,” says the former minister.

It’s worth pointing out that as things stand, Johnson’s party is still ahead in the polls. A government minister puts this down to the fact that despite all the headlines, Johnson’s real actions present an alternative narrative that voters understand. “If you move away from Covid, all the big announcements we have made are focused on investments in skills, and we didn’t go for austerity 2.0 despite massive pressure. All of these things suggest that leveling up is still the PM’s top priority,” the minister said.

However, despite those polls, Johnson only won his majority last December and that lead has been slipping. And as the crisis continues, many of his previous supporters are increasingly skeptical that Boris Johnson was ever really the man to unite a country divided by political chaos for which he was largely responsible.



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Man Utd chief Ed Woodward ‘prepared to sack’ Ole Gunnar Solskjaer


Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s position is under threat after Manchester United’s poor start (AFP via Getty)

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is willing to sack Ole Gunnar Solskjaer if results do not improve, according to reports.

United have lost two of their three Premier League games so far and have entered the international break after being hammered 6-1 at home by Tottenham last Sunday.

Former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino has already been linked with replacing Solskjaer as United boss.

And according to the Sunday Mirror, Woodward has ‘privately insisted’ that he is prepared to remove Solskjaer from his position if United’s form worsens.

The report claims that Woodward uses Liverpool as an example of a club legend being sacked in the right circumstances after they fired Kenny Dalglish in 2012.

Solskjaer faces a tough task in the next few weeks as United face both Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig in the Champions League, while they will host both Chelsea and Arsenal in the Premier League.

Manchester United’s executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward (AFP via Getty Images)

United are reportedly keeping tabs on Pochettino’s situation as the Argentine remains out of work since Spurs sacked him last November.

Speaking after United’s heavy defeat to Spurs, Solskjaer said: ‘It’s nowhere near good enough.

‘And when you have a defeat like this, which has happened at the club before, you’ve just got to look yourself in the mirror.

More: Manchester United FC

They’re lucky now, the boys, or I don’t know if it is lucky, but they’re going away on international duty some of them and for the ones who are staying here, we’ve got a good [amount of] time to work.

‘But we don’t see each other for ten days and that’s hard now because we need to batten down the hatches and get together because that wasn’t anywhere near good enough as a squad or a team.’

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For more stories like this, check our sport page.





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Transfer news LIVE: Haaland and Sancho to Man United, Arsenal Ozil talks, Bale Tottenham debut, Messi latest



Guendouzi: I needed game time to express myself

Arsenal midfielder Matteo Guendouzi insists a loan move to Hertha Berlin was necessary in order to express himself once more. 

Speaking following France U21’s 5-0 win over Liechtenstein, he was asked whether he still had a future at Arsenal. 

“It is not that, I just really needed to play this year, a new challenge,” he said, as per The Mirror. “That was the most important thing for me. I am still young, I am only 21, so playing time was the top priority for me.

Photo: Getty

“I know that by going to Hertha Berlin, I’ll be able to really express myself in a great league, so everything is perfect.

“They’re a very good German club, with great ambition, so I’ve gone on loan for a year over there.

“I’m going to give everything for this club. I needed game time, to enjoy myself on the pitch and that’s what I’m going to do this year.”



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Arsene Wenger opens up on recent friendship with Man Utd rival Sir Alex Ferguson


Legendary Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has revealed that one of the only people he still keeps in touch with from football is former rival Sir Alex Ferguson.

Wenger enjoyed many heated clashes with Ferguson’s Manchester United over the years as they shared a domination of the Premier League.

There pair shared a number of fiery moments on the touchline throughout their respective tenures before retiring, including one memorable food fight in 2004.

But Wenger, who has since taken a up a role with Fifa as their chief of global football development, insists those disagreements are firmly in the past now.


He told The Times: “These people are all very busy. I’m not close enough to them… except [pause] Ferguson, yes.”

“I have Ferguson’s number, yes.

“We have a lot of respect for each other now. We had a period when it was very tough, very hot.

“After you’re not competing any more, everyone becomes a bit more objective.

“He knows better wine than I do. Ah, we had some good battles. He’s an intelligent man. You don’t make a career like this guy if you’re stupid.”

Former United boss Ferguson had some famous clashes with Wenger

Wenger also made a startling revelation about Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who he admits he is not in touch with at the moment.

“When Guardiola was still a player he came to my home to ask to play for Arsenal,” the 70-year-old revealed.

At the time I had Vieira. I had Gilberto Silva. I couldn’t take him.”

Wenger also revealed that he has been offered the main job at United in the past, which he obviously declined.

When asked when, he replied: “I don’t tell you that.

“But I can tell you Man Utd offered me the job but I don’t tell you when.”





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South Korea says slain man tried to defect to North Korea



SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea said Tuesday that a government official slain by North Korean sailors wanted to defect, concluding that the man, who had gambling debts, swam against unfavorable currents with the help of a life jacket and a floatation device and conveyed his intention of resettling in North Korea.

Senior coast guard officer Yoon Seong-hyun said at a televised briefing that there was a “very low possibility” that the man could have fallen from a ship or tried to kill himself because he was putting on a life jacket when he was found in North Korean waters last week.

Yoon said tidal currents at the time would also make it extremely difficult for him to drift into North Korean waters naturally.

The coast guard said its assessment was based on an analysis of tidal currents in the area, a visit to a government boat the official had been aboard before his disappearance, investigation of his financial transactions and a meeting with South Korean Defense Ministry officials.

Yoon said the man conveyed his wish to defect before his death. He cited intelligence showing North Korea knew the man’s name, age, height and hometown as an evidence of his communication with the North.

Yoon didn’t elaborate. But some experts said he likely was referring to South Korea’s interception of communications among North Korean officials about the man.

Coast guard officials have previously said the 47-year-old official was a father of two with some debts. Yoon said Tuesday the debts totaled about 330 million won ($282,240), 80% of which were from gambling.

It’s still unclear whether Tuesday’s announcement would sooth mounting questions about why the man was in North Korean waters. The brother of the late official has said it was more likely that he fell into the sea by accident. The official had been aboard a government inspection ship before he disappeared.

South Korea has accused North Korea of having fatally shot him and burning his body. North Korea acknowledged that its troops killed him because he refused to answer to questions and attempted to flee. But North Korea said its troops only burned the man’s floatation device.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has offered a rare apology over the man’s death, but his government hasn’t confirmed the man was trying to defect.

The man’s shooting has triggered a huge political firestorm in South Korea, with conservatives launching fierce political attacks on liberal President Moon Jae-in, who espouses greater ties with the North.



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RCMP charge Ontario man over ‘hoax,’ say claims he fought for ISIL in Syria duped media


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RCMP has announced charges against a Burlington, Ontario man, saying he claimed to have gone to Syria to fight with ISIL in 2016, but was instead involved in an elaborate hoax.

On Friday, RCMP O Division’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (OINSET) announced the arrest of Shehroze Chaudhry, 25, “in connection with a hoax regarding terrorist activity.”

OINSET investigates people who have left Canada to join terror groups, or who later come back to Canada after being involved in terrorism overseas.

According to a release, Chaudhry did “numerous” media interviews with outlets, in which he claimed he went to Syria to fight for ISIL, and committed terrorist acts. Now, RCMP says it was all a hoax, and says Chaudhry was arrested for causing alarm in this country.

“The interviews were published in multiple media outlets, aired on podcasts and featured on a television documentary, raising public safety concerns amongst Canadians,” RCMP said.



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Black man killed by US police after being ‘shot 20 times in back’ by two officers


A black cyclist was killed by police after being shot more than 20 times in the back during a bicycle violation stop, his lawyers claim.

The killing of Dijon Kizzee has renewed protests in Los Angeles by demonstrators angered at deadly violence against black people by police.

The Los Angeles county Sheriff’s Department and a lawyer representing 29-year-old cyclist Mr Kizzee’s family have given diverging accounts of Monday’s incident.

Two sheriff’s deputies opened fire at Mr Kizzee after he dropped a handgun he was carrying and punched one of the officers, police said.

His attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represented the family of George Floyd, said they stopped him over a bicycle violation


Protests have become a near daily occurrence across the US after Mr Floyd was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer in May

They have continued in Kenosha, over a white police officer’s shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, seven times in the back, leaving him paralysed.

“You don’t kill any race but us, and it don’t make any sense,” Fletcher Fair, Mr Kizzee’s aunt, told reporters at the site of the shooting on Tuesday where activists called for an independent investigation by California’s attorney general.



The unrest has become a major issue ahead of November’s presidential election.

Republican President Donald Trump arrived in Kenosha on Tuesday as he seeks to rally his base of white supporters by defending police against criticism of brutality.

Dijon Kizzee’s aunt Debra Ray (L) cries where Dijon Kizzee was shot by two sheriff deputies

Mr Kizzee was riding his bike on Monday afternoon in Los Angeles County’s Westmont neighborhood when two sheriff’s deputies who had been driving by tried to stop him.

He abandoned his bike and ran for a block with the deputies in pursuit, Brandon Dean, a sheriff’s department spokesman, told reporters on Monday evening.

Mr Kizzee then punched one of the deputies in the face, dropping a bundle of clothing he was carrying, the department said.

The deputies said a semi-automatic handgun was in the dropped bundle, and both of them began shooting Mr Kizzee, the department said.

Mr Dean said he did not know what part of the bicycle code Kizzee was suspected to have violated or how many times the deputies shot him, other than saying it was fewer than 20.

His office declined to answer questions about the shooting and the status of the two deputies on Tuesday.

The county coroner was due to conduct an autopsy on Kizzee on Tuesday.

However, Mr Crump, a civil rights lawyer known for representing black victims of police violence around the country, wrote in a Twitter post: “They say he ran, dropped clothes and handgun. He didn’t pick it up, but cops shot him in the back 20+ times then left him for hours.”

The attorney asked on Twitter for people to send him any videos of the incident, saying that sheriff’s deputies are not required to wear body cameras.





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Man City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak holds no grudge against Uefa after overturned ban



Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak says the club hold no grudges against Uefa following their Financial Fair Play row.

City were initially handed a two-year ban from European competition for alleged FFP breaches. The Premier League side successfully overturned the ban after taking their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Al Mubarak says the club want to move on and build a ‘constructive relationship’ with European football’s governing body.


“Life is too short to carry grudges,” he said. “It is an important competition. It is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world of sports and it is a competition we want to win and it is a competition we have to respect in order to win.

“And this was a challenge. It’s behind us, end of story as far as I am concerned.

“I am focused on one thing – how I can help this club compete in this competition and win it, and how to have a constructive relationship with UEFA. I think it’s the only way to go.”



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Would You Use the Same Language to Describe a Man?



Former Obama White House advisor Valerie Jarrett on Sunday sounded off on the criticisms of presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s vice president pick, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

MSNBC “Kasie DC” host Kasie Hunt asked Jarrett about a recent New York Times column, entitled, “The Undertold, Undersold Story of Kamala Harris,” which asks the question: “As a prosecutor, she can make you tremble. But as a trailblazer, can she make you cry?”

Jarrett expressed disappointment with the column and asked if the same language would be used to “describe a man.”

“When are we gonna say, ‘Well, are the men going to make us cry?’” Jarrett asked.

“I think the question we put is this: Would you ask the same thing of a man? Would you use the same language, in the same way, to describe a man?” she continued. “This whole issue about whether women are mean or nasty or ambitious. What’s wrong with ambition? Who, in their right mind, wants to be President or Vice President of the United States, who isn’t ambitious? This is a teaching moment, not just for the media, but I think for America to say women are going to be moving to positions of power, and you better get used to it. And you better treat us equally. Level playing field.”

Follow Trent Baker on Twitter @MagnifiTrent





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Rio Ferdinand’s brutal assessment of Man Utd mistakes after Europa League defeat


Rio Ferdinand slammed Manchester United’s performance in both boxes as they lost in the Europa League semi-final to Sevilla.

Bruno Fernandes’ early strike was cancelled out by goals from Suso and Luuk de Jong.

But United were made to pay after they fluffed several big chances early in the second-half as Bono performed impressively in the Sevilla goal.

De Jong’s winner then came after a lapse in concentration at the back for United and Ferdinand said they only had themselves to blame on social media.

He tweeted: “You don’t take ya chances you get punished. You don’t defend well you get punished. No need for insight tonight!”

Man Utd’s lack of cutting edge cost them dear

Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford all missed chances to put the English side ahead when the game was in the balance.

Defeat was United’s third semi-final defeat this season after they fell short in both domestic cup competitions.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side had only lost the once since the restart, but were dealt a harsh lesson by a side who are accustomed to success in European competition.

Sevilla defended a 100 per cent success rate in Europa League quarter finals and United captain Harry Maguire confessed that they paid the price for their lack of cutting edge.

Did Man Utd deserve to lose their semi-final? Have your say below

“The best team lost. They punished us for missing chances. We conceded from two crosses which is not good enough,” he said.

“We worked our socks off and deserved to win and get through. We fell short in a semi-final for the third time this year.

“Perhaps that bit of inexperience cost us – we shouldn’t have conceded that second goal.”

Solskjaer echoed that sentiment as he said: “It’s very disappointing, hard to take. We played fantastic stuff at times and created chances but couldn’t get the goal we deserved.”





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