⏳ Wednesday Fix: What Party? The Tory Party?
A party? What party? Oh the Tory party, right? You don't mean a party party, do you?
Here's the podcast version of today's newsletter. Enjoy!
WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?
For more than a week, Downing Street has consistently denied there was a staff Christmas party held last year at a time when pandemic restrictions did not allow for social gatherings.
In an explosive ITV exclusive, they released footage of the prime minister's former spokesperson laughing about the "not socially distanced" event, while practicing for press conferences.
Remember: At the time, the government guidance specifically said to avoid Christmas parties, and limit indoor gatherings to two people unless "reasonably necessary" for work. A source told BBC News earlier this week that several dozen people attended the Downing Street Christmas party last year.
Meanwhile, The Mirror is running with its own exclusive this morning - claiming former Education Secretary Gavin Williamson held another Christmas party last year for his staff.
Below is the most helpful summary/explainer we've seen on this - and it is well worth a watch in light of the leaked video.
TUESDAY'S OTHER TOP LINES
Presidents Biden and Putin spoke for two hours yesterday over the ongoing concerns about Ukraine. Most media are leading with Biden's threats of sanctions and a gas embargo if they do push forward with an invasion.
Remember: US intelligence suggest Russia could be planning to invade its neighbour, and possibly even as soon as next month. Russia deny this.
Also, our team made a really helpful explainer (below) on the dynamics of the situation on our Instagram page.
A Saudi man suspected of involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was arrested at an airport in France. Khaled Aedh Al-Otaibi, a 33-year-old former Saudi royal guard, is one of 26 men wanted by Turkey for the murder of Khashoggi in 2018.
Context: Jamal Khashoggi was a US-based Saudi journalist and prominent critic of the Saudi government. In 2018 he visited a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and vanished.
What happened to him? He was murdered inside the consulate, and his body was dismembered and disposed of. According to Turkish officials, 15 Saudi agents arrived in the country to carry out the assassination.
A 2019 report organised by the UN found there was “credible evidence” of “high-level Saudi officials' individual liability, including the crown prince's" - something Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vehemently denies.
There's a fascinating documentary about this on Amazon Prime - trailer below.
China has condemned the US diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
In their reasoning, the US cited China’s “egregious” human rights abuses. However, China has now accused the US of “violating political neutrality in sport” - adding that the boycott would be met with “resolute countermeasures”.
Meanwhile, Australia announced the same diplomatic boycott as the US.
American comedian Nick Cannon revealed his five-month-old son Zen died of brain cancer over the weekend, in an emotional TV announcement.
Cannon explained he initially thought, prior to a diagnosis, that Zen had sinus issues. He also said things got worse around Thanksgiving.
ON TODAY'S AGENDA...
Germany's Angela Merkel wakes up as chancellor for the last time today, as successor Olaf Scholz is expected to be voted in as leader later.
It marks an end to Merkel's 16-year tenure, and the beginning of a more left-leaning coalition government for Europe's largest economy.
Want to know more about Angela Merkel? Read last weekend's NewsFix piece here: Queen of Europe? Angela Merkel's legacy.
The United Arab Emirates has announced that as of January 1 government employees will work 4.5 days a week - with a weekend including Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday.
Context: The move is seen as an effort to get more in line with Western working hours. Currently the UAE has a Friday-Saturday weekend.
- BBC News: Downing Street staffed joked about Christmas party
- The Guardian: PM accused of lying after No 10 officials caught joking about Christmas party
- The Financial Times: The next quant revolution: shaking up the corporate bond market
- Al Jazeera: Biden urges Putin to de-escalate Ukraine tensions in direct talks
- The Irish Times: Traveller couple sleeping in car 'borrow money' for B&B to escape storm
WATCHING OUT FOR...
The trailer for a new ten-part docuseries on Hugh Hefner and Playboy has been released, documenting allegations of widespread drug use and control in what was once seen as the iconic Playboy mansion.
As one participant said, "there was a side of Playboy that nobody wants to talk about", with another adding "he really did believe he owned these women".
Here is a link to the trailer.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE...
Stop. Cutting. Onions.