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Friday briefing: Tory tax hike ‘not enough’ for NHS


Top story: details of funding plan expected within days

Morning everyone. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the top stories today.

A manifesto-busting 1p increase in national insurance contributions for workers and employers could be used for a post-Covid boost for the NHS and to address long-term social care funding. The funding package to help the NHS deal with the legacy of Covid will be thrashed out in talks on Friday and the final details could be announced on Monday as MPs return to Westminster and prepare for the conference season. But health service leaders are concerned that the final figure could be just half the £10bn they are demanding. One official said ministers would try to look like “they’re giving the NHS gazillions” but a £5bn increase “won’t be enough”.

The scientist leading research into giving adults a third Covid shot says there is “almost certainly no urgency” to press ahead and it may be better to see how the pandemic pans out before a decision is made next week on boosters. A decision on extending Covid vaccinations to 12- to 15-year-olds is also expected to be announced soon, following days of increasing pressure on the government’s vaccinations watchdog to approve the idea. Australia has received a boost in its efforts to get its biggest cities out of lockdown by securing 4m Pfizer vaccine doses after a deal with the UK. Kim Jong-un has rejected offers of the Covax vaccine, saying North Korea will fight the virus “our style”. Catch up with all the pandemic news here.

Afghanistan ‘self-harm’ – Britain and its allies have no coherent plan to deal with the huge refugee crisis expected to follow the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, according to former cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill. He warned that the emergency airlift out of Kabul had only helped “relatively small numbers” and that “we will be very lucky indeed if there is not a really significant refugee crisis”. The west also faced an increased terror threat, he said, and the withdrawal was “an act of strategic self-harm”. It comes as foreign secretary Dominic Raab hit back at comments by his cabinet colleague Ben Wallace that the government knew the “game was up” in July. As the Taliban prepared to announce the make-up of its new government, its fighters have clashed with the country’s last resistance in the Panjshir valley.

Ida toll – The death toll from floods and tornadoes in the US north-east has climbed past 40 after the remnants of Hurricane Ida ravaged the region. In New York City, police said 11 people died in flooded basement apartments, while 23 people have perished in New Jersey, most of them caught in their cars amid rising flood waters. There were also fatalities in Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Joe Biden said the extreme weather showed “we need to act” on climate change. Ida struck Louisiana last Sunday, knocking out power in New Orleans.

Abortion target – Pro-choice users on TikTok and Reddit have tried to sabotage Texas’s extreme new abortion law by flooding an online tip website that encourages people to report violators of the law with false reports, Shrek memes, and porn. One TikToker said they had submitted 742 fake reports of Texas governor Greg Abbott getting illegal abortions. The law makes it illegal to help women in Texas access abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy.

Facebook Twitter Digital, de-aged images of Abba as they will appear in nightly shows in London from next year. Photograph: Industrial Light and/PA

Abba’s new Voyage – Forty years after a bitter breakup, pop superstars Abba have reunited for an album of new songs, Voyage, that will be released on 5 November, including a Christmas song. The group – Benny Andersson, Agnetha Fältskog, Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Björn Ulvaeus – have also announced a new concert experience in London beginning next year. De-aged digital versions of themselves will appear nightly alongside a 10-piece live band. Tickets go on general sale on Tuesday.

Dog collars – Dognappers will face tougher penalties under government plans to introduce a criminal offence of pet abduction. Pet theft is currently prosecuted under the Theft Act and is treated as a loss of property to the owner, which campaigners say fails to recognise the emotional distress caused by the crime. Around 70% of animal thefts, which have boomed during the pandemic, involve dogs.

Today in Focus podcast

With new petrol and diesel vehicles to be banned in the UK from 2030, what can a road trip in an electric car teach us about the future? Sam Wollaston sought the answers to this question and many more by driving from Land’s End to John o’Groats.

Today in Focus An EV drive from Land’s End to John o’Groats to Sorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen 00:00:00 00:36:27

Lunchtime read: After 30 years, nothing else matters

Facebook Twitter Back to black: Metallica. Photograph: Ross Halfin

Thirty years after releasing their seminal Black Album, Metallica are marking the moment with a 52-track covers album, The Metallica Blacklist, with stars as unlikely as Miley Cyrus, Elton John and Phoebe Bridgers giving their takes on the album’s tracks. The band talk to Matt Mills about the album’s legacy, fighting in the studio, and how drugs and divorce took their toll.


Gareth Southgate called for Fifa to take strong action after Hungary fans targeted Raheem Sterling and Jude Bellingham with monkey chants during England’s 4-0 victory in Budapest. Chris Woakes offered a timely reminder of his abilities with the red ball to help England bowl out India for 191 before Joe Root’s golden patch was ended as the tourists battled back on an enthralling first day of the fourth Test. Emma Raducanu is still yet to drop a set at this year’s US Open after an impressive 6-2, 6-4 win over Zhang Shuai. Max Verstappen said Lewis Hamilton is likely to get a hostile reception from a fiercely partisan crowd at the Dutch Grand Prix this weekend and the world champion responded bullishly with his belief it was not respectful to any driver.

A 17th triumph has made Sarah Storey the most decorated Paralympic athlete in British history and she may still be a contender in Paris in 2024, writes William Fotheringham. Patrick Reed has offered a dramatic insight into his recent hospitalisation with bilateral pneumonia, with the former Masters champion admitting he feared he would never see his family again. And after causing a sensation at the Solheim Cup in 2019, US siblings Jessica and Nelly Korda are hoping to make a similar impact against Europe this weekend.


The housing market is soaring ahead and causing a scramble even for previously hard-to-sell homes as property proves one of the pandemic’s boom sectors. With supply still limited, prices are still rising despite predictions of a drop when the stamp duty holiday ended in July. One agent said homes were selling “like the last turkey in the Christmas shop”, aided by ultra-low interest rates, demand for more space to work from home, and pent-up savings. Demand has helped Barratts, Britain’s biggest homebuilder, almost double its profit to more than £800m. The FTSE100 looks likely to slip a bit this morning while the pound will buy you $1.384 and €1.165.

The papers

The Mirror is angry about potential delays to the rollout of Covid booster shots, asking in its headline “Jabs: Why the hold-up?”. The Sun agrees, demanding “More jabbing less jabber”. The Express, ever-loyal to the government, says “Millions to get booster jabs”. The Times leads on the fiscal fallout of the pandemic with “Javid calls for 2% tax rise to fund social care”, while the Telegraph says “Tax rise for 25m to pay for social care”.

Facebook Twitter The Guardian’s front page, Friday 3 September 2021

The Guardian splashes on “West ‘has no coherent plan’ for Afghan refugee disaster”, and the FT’s lead is “Centrica warns supply crunch signals higher winter fuel bills”. The Mail likes “Seven years jail for dognappers”, while in Scotland the Herald warns “Food and drink supplies at risk as staff shortage looms”.

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