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Wednesday briefing: New plan – we’re having an election

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Main image: A Halloween pumpkin carved in protest against Brexit outside parliament. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP

Top story: Is Johnson making same mistake as May?

Good morning – Warren Murray here. Did you know election signs are made of something called “correx”? You’re going to be seeing quite a lot of it …

Brexit will again be taken to the ballot box with a general election to be held on 12 December. Parliament will dissolve on Wednesday of next week for a five-week campaign, assuming the House of Lords passes the election bill as expected, as soon as today. MPs voted in favour of an election by 438 to 20; a majority of 418. For toeing the line this time, the Conservatives restored the party whip to 10 of the 21 rebel MPs ejected in September when they voted against the government.

This morning our political team assess how well the parties are prepared. Dan Sabbagh asks whether Labour can eat into the 58-seat majority projected for Boris Johnson, who is ahead 10 points in published opinion polls. Labour has axed its “trigger ballot” process where incumbent MPs could be deselected by the local branch membership. The party’s national executive committee will meet to consider the fate of controversial MPs such as Keith Vaz, Chris Williamson and Roger Godsiff.

Our editorial carries a reminder that Theresa May called a snap election in 2017 thinking she had the upper hand – but ended up dumped into minority government. “More often than not, politicians overestimate their ability to frame the terms of political debate … Boris Johnson might be on the verge of making a similar mistake.” The spectre of the Brexit party looms, with incumbent Tory MPs reportedly begging Nigel Farage’s party not to run candidates against them. Electoral meltdown or not for the Tories, thousands of 50p coins minted in advance to mark 31 October as Brexit day are going to be melted down until when (and if) the metal is actually needed.

The Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Green party are set to unveil a pact in which the parties will stand aside in certain seats to boost each other’s chances and reduce the risk of a damaging Brexit. The Lib Dem MP Heidi Allen – who arrived at the party by way of the Conservatives, then Change UK, then a stint as an independent – is standing down, citing the “invasion into my privacy and the nastiness and intimidation” she has experienced as a politician: “Nobody in any job should have to put up with threats, aggressive emails, being shouted at in the street, sworn at on social media, nor have to install panic alarms at home.”

This morning it emerges that the Conservatives’ election manifesto is being drawn up by Rachel Wolf, a lobbyist for the fracking company Cuadrilla and partner at a business that lobbies ministers on behalf of the shale gas industry. Much more news and many more twists to come as we embark on the trudge to 12 December – head over to our live blog to keep track of this first full day of campaigning.

Midweek catch-up

> Priti Patel’s chief of staff, James Starkie, was escorted by armed police out of the Strangers’ Bar in the Houses of Parliament last night. Witnesses said he had started swearing, punched a door and been refused service. He apologised as he was ejected.

> “Extremely disturbing” testimony to the Trump impeachment inquiry from Lt Col Alexander Vindman, a decorated military officer, has left Republicans grappling with how to counter a highly credible account from a Purple Heart veteran about the president’s attempts to recruit Ukraine into a political smear campaign.

> Police are hunting Ronan Hughes aka Rowan Hughes, 40, and his brother Christopher, 34, both from Armagh, for the suspected manslaughter and human trafficking of 39 people whose bodies were found in a lorry trailer in Essex.

> Female MPs have condemned the British media’s treatment of Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, in running “often distasteful and misleading” stories that sometimes display “outdated, colonial undertones”.

> The climate campaigner Greta Thunberg has declined a prestigious environmental award, declaring: “The climate movement does not need any more awards. What we need is for our politicians and the people in power start to listen to the current, best available science.”

WhatsApp sues spyware lab – WhatsApp has launched a lawsuit against the Israeli cyber-weapons and surveillance firm NSO Group, alleging its software was used for attacks on more than 100 human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and academics. The attacks exploited a vulnerability that allowed a malicious party to install spyware on people’s phones. WhatsApp said it believed the technology sold by NSO was used to target the phones of more than 1,400 of its users in 20 different countries during a 14-day period from the end of April to the middle of May. The lawsuit, filed in a California court on Tuesday, demands a permanent injunction blocking NSO from attempting to access WhatsApp computer systems and those of its parent company, Facebook.

And finally – The Great British Bake Off is done and dusted (with cocoa powder and the like). Here is the result.

Today in Focus podcast: The day Baghdadi’s time ran out

The Guardian’s Martin Chulov describes how US special forces finally tracked down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who died in a raid at the weekend. Plus: Robert Booth on the criticism of the London fire brigade’s response to the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Today in Focus

The day Baghdadi's time ran out

Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen https://audio.guim.co.uk/2019/10/29-66317-20191030_TIF_ISIS.mp3

00:00:00 00:29:12

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June Hallworth at the Davenport Arms in Woodford, Stockport, where she has been serving pints since 1957. Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

Sport

England coach Eddie Jones has gone back to what he feels has worked, writes Ugo Monye, and ahead of the Rugby World Cup final, we have discovered the new trend is actually an old trend. Saturday’s opponents, South Africa, are using the experience seven of their squad have of playing in the Premiership to aid their preparation. Meanwhile, England have been reprimanded and fined for their V-shaped formation when facing the haka before their semi-final victory over New Zealand.

Richard Freeman, the former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor, will admit to telling “a lot of lies” and supplying banned testosterone to a senior figure in both organisations, an independent medical tribunal heard. Ashleigh Barty experienced mixed emotions as she became the first Australian to secure the year-end No 1 ranking simply by stepping onto the court at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen but then lost in three sets to Kiki Bertens. Bulgaria have been sanctioned by Uefa after the racist chanting which marred the Euro 2020 qualifier with England this month, but people should stop throwing stones inside English football’s glass house, writes David Conn. Sergio Agüero scored twice in Manchester City’s 3-1 win in the Carabao Cup as Southampton at least avoided a repeat of their hiding by Leicester. And goals from Mason Holgate and Richarlison spared Marco Silva’s blushes against his former club Watford and sent Everton into the quarter-finals.

Business

Asian share markets have slipped as the prospect of a rate cut by the Federal Reserve is countered by worries a China-US first-stage trade deal could be delayed. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell from Tuesday’s three-month high while Japan’s Nikkei also dropped off from a one-year high. On Wall Street the S&P 500 index touched a record intraday high, led by strong earnings from drug manufacturers such as Merck and Pfizer, before ending down 0.08%. A disappointing profit report from Google parent Alphabet kept the Nasdaq in the red. Sterling is trading around $1.286 and €1.158 at time of writing; the FTSE is flat.

The papers

Wednesday’s papers all look ahead to a festive snap election with turkeys, a Grinch and even a New Year’s Leave party. The Guardian casts the election vote in terms of Brexit: “Parliament breaks deadlock with December 12 election” and notes the national poll could be the most unpredictable in a generation.

Guardian front page, Wednesday 30 October 2019 Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Guardian front page, Wednesday 30 October 2019.

Metro goes with a cheery “Jingle polls!” for its headline and says it is the first December election in almost a century. The Mail features a cartoon Boris Johnson dressed as Santa and a green-skinned Jeremy Corbyn riding a sleigh: “Don’t let the Grinch steal your Christmas.” The Mirror says “It’s time to stuff the turkey” and superimposes the head of the PM on the animal. The Telegraph chooses a picture in which Corbyn and his shadow cabinet resemble Christmas carollers, above the simple headline: “Christmas election.”

The Sun skips Christmas and heads straight for “New Year’s Leave” and says Johnson has a chance to get a Brexit deal done before the end of 2019. It pitches 1 January as “the first day of the rest of our lives”. The Express chooses a Churchillian picture of Johnson and predicts that 12 December will be the day “when Britain will vote … once and for all … to deliver Brexit.” The Times is less confident, saying the PM has gambled on voters backing him to secure Brexit. The FT casts the election as a way to break the paralysis. The i begins its election countdown timer – 43 days – and predicts the race will be won and lost on social media.

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