Top story: Archive reveals ‘substantial influence’ over laws

Morning, everyone. This is Martin Farrer bringing you the news you need to start the week.

The Queen lobbied the government to change proposed new legislation so that she could hide the true scale of her private wealth, according to documents unearthed by the Guardian in the National Archive. The papers, which the Guardian is publishing this week, suggest that the constitutional process of Queen’s consent, under which the monarch and her lawyers are given advance sight of bills coming into parliament, enabled her to keep shareholdings secret. The agreement made under the Heath government in the early 1970s meant that her financial interests, believed to run into hundreds of millions of pounds, were hidden in a state-backed shell corporation. Thomas Adams, a constitutional law expert at Oxford University, said the consent procedure appeared to have given the monarch “substantial influence” over draft laws that could affect her.

The documents raise questions about whether the monarch’s impartiality, a cornerstone of the constitution, still holds given the Queen’s use of a power that dates back to the 18th century. The investigation shows the Queen is still being consulted on draft laws that affect the crown and her private interests, including changes to agricultural subsidies and the Brexit bill.

Vaccine fears – South Africa has suspended use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine after a study showed it was only around 60% effective against the variant raging through the country. A professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, which carried out the study of 2,000 people, said vaccinations should focus on at-risk individuals rather than achieving herd immunity through mass vaccinations. Earlier, Oxford acknowledged the jab will not protect people against mild to moderate illness caused by the South African variant, but the UK vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, urged the British public to maintain confidence in the treatment. Here’s a quick guide to the new variants and their resistance to vaccines. As a poll showed that a majority of Japanese remain opposed to holding the Olympics this summer, you can catch up with all the other overnight developments in the pandemic at our live blog.

Carers’ guilt – Care workers are having to take holiday when they are off sick with coronavirus or see already low wages fall to £96 a week, raising fears they may not self-isolate as they try to earn extra money. Unison has been contacted by multiple workers about the practice, which contravenes government rules. A carer at one home hit by 12 fatalities from Covid has told the Guardian about the guilt they feel in the wake of the outbreak. “There’s a voice in your head saying you’ve killed these people,” they said.

Myanmar marchers – Police in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyidaw, have used water cannon against protesters demonstrating against a coup a week ago amid anti-coup protests across the country. Thousands of people gathered in towns and cities for the third day running as workers went on a nationwide strike, demanding the release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the return of democracy. Many adopted the three-finger Hunger Games salute used by pro-democracy activists throughout south-east Asia.

Stabbing appeal – The mother of a 22-year-old man stabbed to death in north-west London has appealed to Boris Johnson to intervene in the case. Sven Badzak died in Kilburn on Saturday afternoon in one of a spate of stabbings in the capital over the weekend, prompting his mother, a Conservative party activist, to appeal to the prime minister and one of his predecessors, David Cameron, to help track down her son’s killers. Other attacks in London included four near West Croydon station.

Dam disasters – Rescue teams in India are racing to find 170 people missing after a part of a glacier collapsed and released a torrent of water, rock and dust down a mountain valley in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, killing 14. The floodwater destroyed Rishiganga hydropower dam, swept away five bridges and damaged dozens of homes before crashing into another, larger dam.

Snow near Ashford in Kent. Photograph: Angel Mansell/Pathos/Rex/Shutterstock

Darcy danger – The east and south-east of England face more heavy snow showers today and many areas will not see temperatures much above freezing as Storm Darcy continues to bring bitterly cold weather from eastern Europe. The regions are covered by amber warnings of snow through to lunchtime today and forecasters predict widespread travel disruption. The Netherlands is under a code red emergency after the storm caused a rare snowstorm, but it has raised hopes of staging a traditional ice-skating marathon for the first time in 24 years.

Today in Focus podcast

Guardian journalists Lorenzo Tondo and Clare Longrigg discuss the trial against the ’Ndrangheta, the largest mafia trial in three decades. At the centre is Emanuele Mancuso, son of boss Luni Mancuso, who has been revealing the clan’s secrets after accepting police protection.

Today in Focus

The trial against the ‘Ndrangheta mafia

Lunchtime read: Catherine O’Hara on the joy of Schitt’s Creek

Catherine O’Hara in Schitt’s Creek
Catherine O’Hara in Schitt’s Creek. Photograph: AP

Schitt’s Creek, the story of a family holed up together against their will, is one of the biggest television hits of the pandemic. The show’s star, Catherine O’Hara, tells Hadley Freeman about her long working relationship with co-star Eugene Levy, starring In Home Alone and why she loves playing Moira Rose.


England have chosen not to enforce the follow-on after dismissing India for 337 in the first session on the fourth day of the first Test in Chennai. But things have not gone too well with Rory Burns out first ball to leave England 1-1 at lunch. You can follow the action live. Tom Brady claimed a seventh Super Bowl crown after he quarterbacked the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a 31-9 win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Florida. The Weeknd provided the half-time entertainment. The isolations are finished and the Australian Open tennis has started in Melbourne at last amid tight biosecurity. Follow all the action on our live blog here to find out about first-day victories for Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.

Liverpool’s hopes of retaining the Premier League title look remote after they were well beaten 4-1 by Manchester City, who are now five points clear at the top. The visitors were gifted two goals thanks to blunders by Reds’ keeper Alisson, but City were worthy winners with young England star Phil Foden outstanding. Spurs beat West Brom 2-0 with Harry Kane marking his return from injury with a goal, while Chelsea needed a Jorginho penalty to overcome Sheffield United. England rugby coach Eddie Jones admitted that his side let the country down by losing at home to Scotland for the first time since 1983. In the big Six Nations clash yesterday, Wales ground out a 21-16 victory over Ireland.


Britain’s economy faces a long haul back from the third coronavirus lockdown as new figures show that businesses took on debt at more than twice the normal average growth rate since the crisis began. The total borrowed is set to reach £61bn by the end of the year. The renewable power revolution could gain momentum from a plan devised by scientists to adapt hydropower technology and turn thousands of gently sloping hillsides around Britain into energy storage batteries. The FTSE100 is set for a lift of around two-thirds of a percentage point this morning, while the pound will buy you $1.372 and €1.141.

The papers

Many front pages are concerned with the vaccine rollout story this morning, with the Telegraph leading on “Keep faith in Oxford jab, urges minister” and the Times suggesting another round of jabs later in the year: “Autumn jab to ward off new strains of Covid 19”. The i has “New jabs on way to beat virus variants” and the Mail reports that immigrants who have not registered with a GP are being urged to get vaccinated: “Illegal migrants’ vaccine amnesty”. The Scotsman says “Fears quarantine regime will not be ready in time”.

Guardian front page, Monday 8 February 2021
The Guardian’s front page, Monday 8 February 2021

The Guardian reports on the vaccine concerns on its front but leads with the investigation into the Queen’s finances: “Queen lobbied for change in law to hide her wealth”. The Mirror splashes with “Miracle of Dunblane”, about a woman who survived the shooting massacre 25 years ago and who is now about to give birth. The Star focuses on the weather with “Darcy’s rage” while the Express has a new campaign: “Join our green Britain revolution”. The FT’s lead is “Cosy of liability insurance for company directors soars”. Sub-editors on the sports desks at the Guardian, the Mirror and the Sun deserve a special mention for going with “Alisson blunderland” as the headline on stories about mistakes by the Liverpool goalkeeper in the defeat to Man City.

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