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FirstFT: Boris Johnson faces Tory mutiny

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Boris Johnson is facing an intensifying Conservative mutiny against his leadership as a “sulphurous” mood engulfed the party over his attendance at a lockdown-breaking “bring your own booze” event in Downing Street.

The prime minister is under pressure from senior Tories to admit he attended the party in the Number 10 garden on May 20, 2020 — as confirmed by witnesses — in defiance of England’s lockdown rules.

Some Tory MPs claimed the row could be terminal for his premiership and two polls found the majority of the public thought he should resign. Many MPs want him to apologise at question time in the House of Commons today.

Whitehall’s inquisitor, Sue Gray, has been tasked with investigating allegations of Downing Street parties that flouted Covid restrictions. Find out more about the top civil servant.

  • The FT View: The prime minister’s bluster has hurt trust in the political system.

  • Opinion: Increasingly, Tories are wondering if the only choices left to them are a surgical strike or lingering death, writes Robert Shrimsley.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Jennifer

1. Russian troops to withdraw, says Kazakhstan president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who requested help from Russia last week after claiming the protests were a “coup d’état”, said yesterday that the Moscow-led military mission was complete and the contingent would leave within 10 days.

At least 164 people have been killed, including three children, and almost 8,000 people arrested in Kazakhstan, according to the country’s authorities
At least 164 people have been killed, including three children, and almost 8,000 people arrested in Kazakhstan, according to the country’s authorities © AP

2. Citadel Securities sells $1.2bn stake to Sequoia and Paradigm Hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin has sold a $1.2bn stake in Citadel Securities to venture capitalists Sequoia and Paradigm, paving the way for an initial public offering of one of the world’s biggest market makers.

3. Inflation in rich economies surges Consumer price growth in the OECD group of developed nations hit 5.8 per cent in November, a 25-year high, fuelling concerns about the cost of living and increasing pressure on central banks to raise interest rates. Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell warned that high inflation posed a “severe threat” to the US jobs market recovery.

Line chart of Annual % change in consumer price index, OECD average showing Inflation in rich countries hits a 25-year high

4. Man City revenues overtake United Revenues at Manchester City exceeded those of rivals Manchester United last season for the first time after it won the Premier League title and reached the final of the Uefa Champions League, underlining the impact of the pandemic and the rise of a new power in English and European football.

5. Surging real yields deflate ‘everything rally’ A jump in real yields — the return bond investors can expect once inflation is taken into account — has jolted markets in early 2022 and was behind a pullback in high-flying technology stocks, investors said.

Coronavirus digest

  • A top World Health Organization official has warned that more than half of Europe could be infected with the Omicron variant within the next two months.

  • Developing countries will fall further behind as they struggle to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, according to World Bank forecasts.

  • One in 12 teachers in England was absent from classrooms in the first week of term because of a jump in infections. Covid-19 hospital admissions for adults have begun to fall, according to NHS data.

  • UK ministers are considering allowing the use of out-of-date protective equipment to prevent the disposal of 303m items bought for almost £300m.

  • Opinion: As a solution to anti-vaxxers, Andreas Utermann argues that those unvaccinated by choice should be required to pay for their Covid hospital care.

The day ahead

Nato meetings The Military Committee, the transatlantic alliance’s highest military authority, meets virtually in the Chiefs of Defence session at Nato headquarters in Brussels. Separately, the Nato-Russia Council will meet to discuss the build-up of Russian soldiers along Ukraine’s border.

Inflation data With global inflation ticking up, attention will be on CPI data from the US, which is expected to show a rise at an annual clip of seven per cent, the fastest pace in four decades, as well as from Russia.

Federal Reserve Beige Book The US central bank will release its first summary on economic conditions in 2022.

Corporate earnings The Christmas trading update from J Sainsbury, one of the first supermarkets to report, is the big event. Other retailers updating include sportswear vendor JD Sports, sofa group DFS Furniture, Premier Inn owner Whitbread, delivery platform Just Eat Takeaway, recruiter PageGroup and housebuilder Vistry.

What else we’re reading and listening to

North Korean women suffer from black market crackdown Thousands of women have emerged under the nose of North Korean authorities as an entrepreneurial class, filling the void left by an incapacitated state. But the regime is reasserting control over the black market economy dominated by women.

A woman sits in a train at a subway station in Pyongyang
The UN has accused North Korean ‘agents who police the marketplace, inspectors on trains, and soldiers’ of ‘committing acts of sexual assault on women in public spaces’ © Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

Beware the lure of false precision in City regulation battle CBA, depending on the context, stands for cost-benefit analysis or can’t be arsed. The latter is often true of the former, writes Helen Thomas. Post-Brexit rulemaking could come with new oversight of regulators’ cost-benefit analyses. But it is the subject of furious academic debate.

One London hospital trust’s pandemic experience While the capital is no longer the centre of the UK’s Omicron surge, staff at London’s University College Hospital continue to work flat out, in part due to very high absences of colleagues sick or self-isolating from Covid-19. Here they recount fears of being overwhelmed, of broken relationships and burnout.

Novak Djokovic exemption backfires on Scott Morrison An Australian court’s decision to free the unvaccinated world number one men’s tennis player has embarrassed the government ahead of an election and focused attention on inconsistencies in immigration laws. Here’s what some FT readers had to say about Djokovic’s detention and release.

How to ask for a pay rise — and get one Claer Barrett, the FT’s moneymaking expert, pulls apart that scary box labelled “Asking for a pay rise” in this episode of the Money Clinic.

Cities

Be it New York subway trains, a Frankfurt bakery or a Tokyo karaoke joint, here are the city spots that never fail to uplift the FT’s globetrotters.

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