Thursday briefing: Despair and blame after Channel deaths |


Top story: Call for safe routes for those in need of protection

Hello, Warren Murray bringing you Thursday’s headlines.

Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson have traded blame after the deadliest incident in the Channel since the current migrant crisis began. At least 27 people died trying to reach the UK in an inflatable dinghy on Wednesday. The British PM renewed calls for France to agree to joint police patrols along the Channel coast. Macron, the French president, said Johnson must not politicise migrant flows.

Two survivors remain in intensive care while police have arrested four people suspected of being linked to the drownings. The French interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, likened the boat that sank to “a pool you blow up in your garden”. The French are to hold an emergency meeting this morning and Macron has called for more EU help, saying: “France will not let the Channel become a cemetery.” Johnson said efforts by French authorities to patrol their beaches “haven’t been enough … what we want now is to do more together – and that’s the offer we are making”. The French have been resisting UK offers to send police and Border Force agents on to France’s sovereign territory.

Refugee charities have called on the government to save lives by opening safe routes for asylum seekers wanting to come to the UK. Enver Solomon from the Refugee Council said: “How many tragedies like this must we see before the government fundamentally changes its approach by committing to an ambitious expansion of safe routes for those men, women and children in desperate need of protection?”

Arbery murder trio all guilty – The three white men who chased and killed Ahmaud Arbery have been found guilty of murder following his 2020 shooting death in south Georgia. Travis McMichael, his father, Greg McMichael, and their neighbour William “Roddie” Bryan pursued the unarmed Arbery in February 2020, claiming without evidence that he had been involved in a spate of neighbourhood burglaries. They face life in prison and will be sentenced at a later date. All the men face separate federal hate crimes charges that are due to go to trial in February 2022.

‘Taking the mick’ – Geoffrey Cox has again appeared in his million-dollar role as a lawyer for the British Virgin Islands (BVI) inquiry while the UK parliament is sitting. Cox joined the BVI inquiry into corruption allegations for two hours while the House of Commons was sitting on Wednesday afternoon. Cox has previously voted by proxy at least 12 times over four days while doing paid legal work. Angela Rayner, the Labour deputy leader, said Cox was “taking the mick” and called it a “test of leadership” for Boris Johnson: “The prime minister is letting him get away with it.” Cox has previously defended his outside work saying it is up to electors whether they wish to be represented by a “distinguished professional” working in their field. Some cabinet ministers have rowed in behind Johnson as Downing Street seeks to play down divisions between No 10 and the Treasury. In the Commons, the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, has ribbed Johnson about the disquiet of Tory MPs, asking: “Who knows if he’ll make it to the next election?”

‘Worry and dread’ – One student in England has amassed a study debt of £189,700, according to official figures. The Student Loan Company said the figure was “an exceptional case” and was possibly accrued over loans for several courses, according to a response to a Freedom of Information request. However, when the FOI response was published on Reddit, other graduates cited debts around the £100,000 mark, including those who had studied five-year medicine degrees, postgraduate courses or who had switched courses or institutions. Debts soared after annual tuition fees were tripled to £9,000 in 2012. Those who graduated in 2020 took out an average of £45,060 in loans, according to a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute, which warns that graduates’ “draining” debt is causing them “anxiety, pressure, worry and dread”.

Bulb’s dim strategy – The scheme allowing Bulb to keep supplying gas and electricity to its 1.7 million customers through the winter months could cost taxpayers up to £1.7bn, according to a court application to hand the company to a special administrator. Officials are understood to be focused on finding a quick exit strategy from the arrangement as signs of the supplier’s “unsustainable” business model grow clearer. Bulb was founded in east London in 2015 by entrepreneurs Amit Gudka and Hayden Wood. An industry source pointed to Bulb’s habit of buying energy from the market three months in advance as a large part of its downfall. Analysts have said the company failed to buy its wholesale supplies far enough in advance to cushion it against recent price hikes.

Plastic surgery teen ad ban – Cosmetic surgery clinics are to be banned from targeting adverts for procedures such as breast enlargement, nose jobs and liposuction at Britain’s under-18s. New rules will bar ads on all media – ranging from social media sites such as Facebook, TikTok and Instagram to billboards and posters, newspapers, magazines and radio as well as social influencer marketing – that are aimed at under-18s or likely to have a particular appeal to that age group. The changes come into force from May and follow a consultation by the Committee for Advertising Practice (Cap), which writes the codes that all UK advertisers have to follow.

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Frankly, this could have gone on all night. Did we have to stop? Did we really need to call an end to it? On a chilly, still night at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester City produced a performance against PSG that was oddly hypnotic: a brilliantly fluid, delicately stitched, oddly gentle display of how to win a game by simply picking your opponent apart. Nothing can disrupt Liverpool’s procession through a group of European heavyweights. Jürgen Klopp rested, re-energised and recuperated players against Porto and was rewarded with a fifth successive victory that yielded the club’s highest ever points tally in the Champions League group phase. He could not have wished for more.

Premier League clubs should pay a stamp duty-style tax on every transfer fee to help support the English football pyramid, the government’s fan-led review has said, in one of 47 recommendations to safeguard the future of the game. England has been given an effective green light to stage the 2025 women’s Rugby World Cup while Australia was given similar backing to host the men’s 2027 tournament. The Rugby Football Union has laid bare the full financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, announcing a revenue shortfall of £120m compared to previous forecasts. A survey of county board membership undertaken by the Guardian has found the majority have failed to meet the target of 30% representation of each gender, to which they committed more than two years ago, and exposes the hard deadline of April 2022 that the England and Wales Cricket Board is attempting to impose on them as far-fetched.


Britain’s manufacturers are struggling to meet the biggest demand for goods since records began in 1977 after severe supply constraints put a brake on production lines. The CBI said its monthly snapshot of industry showed the increase in demand was being accompanied by heightened inflationary pressure. The global supply chain crisis also threatens higher food prices in the US due to a shortage of nitrogen fertiliser. The FTSE100 looks like climbing 0.25% this morning and the pound nudged up to $1.334 and €1.190.

The papers

Today a full roundup of the papers can be found here. The Guardian front page headline, which went to print before the total death toll was revised down to 27, reads “Tragedy at sea claims 31 lives in deadliest day of refugee crisis”. The Times says “Dozens of migrants drown in Channel dinghy tragedy” and features a photograph of migrants preparing to launch a boat from France. The FT takes a similar angle to the Guardian noting the worst day so far in the migrant crisis.

Guardian front page, 25 November 2021
Guardian front page, 25 November 2021.

The Telegraph reports that Boris Johnson has told the French government that it has to “step up”. The Mail uses what it says are the prime minister’s words to the French president – “You’re letting gangs get away with murder” – under the strapline reading “Tragedy in the Channel”. The Express carries a slightly different interpretation of Johnson’s words with “PM: Smugglers getting away with murder”.

The Sun’s headline reads “Shameful” and asks “Now will leaders finally act?” A French police vehicle is shown parked nearby as people pull an inflatable dinghy into the water. The Mirror has a close-up version of that scene, showing children loaded into a vessel – not thought to be the same on involved in the drownings. It says “A human tragedy” was allowed to occur “under the noses of French cops”. The i hints at the wider causes, saying the boat people died “in search of a better life”, while the Metro shows the same scene as the Sun and asks “Why didn’t France stop them?”.

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