Friday morning UK news briefing: The inside story of the U-turn that ended Owen Paterson’s career

Owen Paterson knew his political career was effectively over during a phone call from Mark Spencer, the Government’s Chief Whip, just after 10am on Thursday. 

Mr Spencer told the former environment secretary that there would be another vote on whether to ban him from the Commons for six weeks over lobbying allegations, which would take place as early as next week. 

Crucially, Tory MPs would not be ordered to support Mr Paterson. 

Within hours, Mr Paterson had issued a statement resigning as an MP. 

The future had looked so different for him just 24 hours earlier, when MPs had voted to reform the standards system and overturn his suspension – giving him a path back to mainstream politics. 

Christopher Hope and Tony Diver have the inside story on how, just hours after passing, the reforms seemed dead in the water. 

Madeline Grant sketches how the omnishambles was complete as the Tories beat a humiliating retreat from the Leadsom amendment.

Fraser Nelson warns the Tories are behaving like a tired government in its dying days.

Owen Paterson, the former Tory Cabinet minister, with his daughter Evie. He said on Thursday that his children had urged him to quit politics

Credit: Heathcliff O'Malley

Pressure was growing on Mark Spencer, the Chief Whip, to quit over the debacle, described as a "catastrophic misjudgment" and a "s—storm" by Tory insiders. 

It has emerged that Labour, the Lib Dems and the Green Party may agree to allow an independent "anti-sleaze" candidate to have a clear run at the by-election triggered by Mr Paterson’s resignation.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph can reveal Tory Party chiefs have received the initial findings of the Electoral Commission’s probe into the luxury refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat. 

No 10 sources rejected any suggestion that the case – which could be taken up by the standards commissioner – was linked to attempts to reform the rules.

Equivalent of 25m trees burned in UK for ‘green’ fuel

Britain will continue to produce electricity from burning the equivalent of more than 25 million trees a year despite Boris Johnson’s pledge to end the destruction of forests, the Telegraph can reveal. The Prime Minister agreed with 100 world leaders at Cop26 to halt and reverse tree loss. However, he has been accused of "conveniently ignoring" the alleged harm to forests done by the Drax biomass power station, which burns fuel pellets made from processed wood. Hayley Dixon’s special report shows how hundreds of scientists, environmentalists and policy experts have warned world leaders that the "renewable" energy is undermining "both climate goals and the world’s biodiversity" and contains a graph that shows the emissions increase from switching from coal to wood.

Don’t press the paws button… it’s TV for dogs at home

A television channel for dogs may conjure visions of Fido sitting down to The Great British Bark Off, Woof Hall and the Canine O’Clock News. But DogTV is launching in the UK as a serious proposition, aimed at alleviating separation anxiety and loneliness for pets left home alone. The channel founder has described it as "HBO for dogs". It is a timely launch, as workers return to the office and the puppies they bought during lockdown face adjusting to spending time alone in an empty house. Read what the programming on DogTV will include each day.

Daily dose of Matt

  • Today’s cartoon | View Matt‘s latest cartoon inspired by the Owen Paterson controversy.

Also in the news: Today’s other headlines

Lionel Blair dies | Showbusiness veteran Lionel Blair has died aged 92. Across a seven-decade career, Blair was an all-round entertainer who worked on the small screen and stage as an actor, tap dancer, presenter and choreographer. Read the Telegraph obituary of one of television’s best known hoofers and song-and-dance men who became a jaunty team captain on the ITV daytime charades game Give Us a Clue.

  • UK’s youngest gun killer | 14-year-old murdered boy in gang attack
  • ‘Lupin’ | Scotland Yard launches hunt for international jewel thief
  • Weekend away | Doctors give Queen go-ahead to fly to Sandringham
  • Duchess of Sussex | US senators called to lobby for paid family leave
  • Weekly quiz | Which Hollywood star made an appearance at Cop26?

Around the world: Get jab or test weekly, Biden says

Workers in America have been told to get vaccinated by January 4 or face having to take weekly tests and continue to wear face masks. The plans from Joe Biden come as Democrats rounded on the President saying their devastating defeat in the Virginia governor race was a "wake up call" not to move the party too far Left, jeopardising the president’s landmark spending plans. Today, the US House of Representatives is expected to vote on the social policy and climate-change bill and a bipartisan infrastructure bill that form the centerpiece of the President’s legislative agenda, with Democrat leaders confident the vote can go-ahead despite missing previous self-imposed deadlines.

Comment and analysis

  • Kate Andrews | It’s time for the NHS to return the favour
  • Jeremy Warner | We’ll all pay for turning Big Oil into a pariah
  • Jemima Lewis | UK’s grey seal population boom is man-made miracle
  • Judith Woods | The woke confusion of John Lewis’s unlit jumper
  • Reader letters | Paterson case shows government can’t think ahead

Editor’s choice

  • Rod Stewart interview | ‘Sex was always there for me, and it became boring’
  • ‘Historic’ results | Will there soon be a vaccine for all cancers?
  • The Spencer question | The true story of Princess Diana and her trusted dresser
  • Sport briefing: Yorkshire banned from England games

    Yorkshire have been banned from staging England matches and other showpiece games after finally being held to account over the "abhorrent" racism scandal to engulf the county cricket club. The England & Wales Cricket Board bowed to intense pressure that "heads should roll" at the country’s biggest county over the handling of an unprecedented crisis that has brought shame on the game. It comes as Michael Vaughan exclusively reveals in this article for the Telegraph that he is named in the Azeem Rafiq report – but he totally denies any accusation of racism.

    Business briefing: Steel tycoon Gupta criticised by MPs

    Sanjeev Gupta has been accused of putting staff at his steel empire in an "unacceptable" position as MPs demanded an urgent inquiry into the obscure firm responsible for signing off its accounts. The business select committee said it had identified "inadequate" accountability within Mr Gupta’s GFG Alliance following an investigation into the impact of the collapse of Greensill Capital, GFG’s main lender. Meanwhile, Andrew Bailey has insisted he is not an "unreliable boyfriend" in the face of a City backlash after the Bank of England wrongfooted financial markets by leaving interest rates unchanged at an all-time low of 0.1pc.

    Tonight’s dinner

    Fish pie with cod and prawns | Nothing fancy, but this dish by Angela Hartnett is brilliant and delicious. Click here to view the recipe and for more, try our Cookbook newsletter.

    Your daily travel inspiration

    List to ignore | Lonely Planet has released a list of destinations it claims are must-visit but looks as though it has been selected by a mystic octopus with four left feet. Simon Parker identifies the flaws with the suggestions – and picks the places to visit in 2022 that make more sense.

    And finally… for this morning’s downtime

    Booker winner interview | "It’s easy to feel a moral exhaustion about South Africa right now" says Damon Galgut after his kaleidoscopic family saga The Promise won the Booker Prize. The author talks about identity politics, growing up during apartheid and how a terrible childhood illness helped him become a writer.

    Welcome to your early morning news briefing from The Telegraph – a round-up of the top stories we are covering on Friday. To receive twice-daily briefings by email, sign up to our Front Page newsletter for free.

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