Friday briefing: Muted Trump fails to land blows in final debate

·8-min read
<span>Photograph: Julio Cortez/AP</span>
Photograph: Julio Cortez/AP

Top story: ‘One of the most racist presidents ever’

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

Joe Biden and Donald Trump have gone head-to-head for the last time before the US election on 3 November in the final television debate in which they offered contrasting visions of how to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Squaring off in Nashville, the Democratic challenger said anyone who had presided over the deaths of more than 220,000 Americans did not deserve to be president. The incumbent, who failed to land any knockout blows to revive his faltering campaign, could only venture that the virus would “go away”. Biden had to field aggressive questioning about his son’s business dealings but when Trump compared himself to Abraham Lincoln, the challenger branded his opponent “one of the most racist presidents we’ve had in modern history”. Overall the debate was much more orderly than their first clash, helped by a mute button on the candidates’ microphones which prevented interruptions. TV viewers and undecided voters declared Biden the winner, according to CNN. Our Washington correspondent, David Smith, says Trump tried to use the 2016 playbook but was outmanoeuvred by Biden, while Richard Wolffe argues that an underprepared Trump failed to pull his campaign out of a tailspin. Our panel of experts concludes Trump didn’t get the win he needed, while there’s also a case that the moderator, Kristen Welker, was the real winner.

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Coronavirus latest – Rishi Sunak has been forced to extend his economic support package for workers and businesses in an effort to head off mounting concern among Tory backbenchers fearful of the impact on the new coronavirus restrictions in place across large urban areas. Despite hoping to scale back government support, the chancellor has been left no choice but to funnel billions more pounds into supplementing wages and helping companies that he conceded were struggling under the “cumulative weight of all these new restrictions”. The UK recorded 21,242 new coronavirus cases yesterday and although the rate of increase appears to be easing, hospital admissions are rising more rapidly. In another blow to the government, Boris Johnson admitted that the test and trace system is not working properly and needs to improve. Wales starts its lockdown today while Nottingham is braced to join Manchester on tier 3 restrictions. In Surrey, a hospital is investigating how two junior doctors caught Covid-19 at a function in Surrey where social distancing rules were allegedly ignored.

In the US, where the upper Midwest has seen a rapid rise in cases, the anti-viral medicine remdesivir has been approved for use on Covid-19 patients after a trial showed it cut recovery time by five days. You can keep up to date with all the developments in the virus via our live blog.

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Migrant shame – Hundreds of migrants arriving cold and wet in small boats from across the Channel are being forced to spend hours in cramped, windowless shipping containers on a building site, according to prison inspectors who visited the site at Tug Haven in Dover. Their report reveals a lack of warm clothing for the migrants and accuses the Home Office of failing to plan for “what must have been a predictable increase” in arrivals. There have been 7,400 arrivals this year already, four times more than last year. One Yemeni migrant says she was “shocked by everything”, including sharing the containers with men, trying to keep warm and the lack of familiar food.

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Meals target – Celebrities such as Gary Lineker and Kelly Cates have joined together with opposition MPs and even Nigel Farage to support Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free meals for disadvantaged children during the school holidays. The former England footballer ignored BBC impartiality rules to tweet support for his successor in the forward line, while the former Ukip leader argued that if the government had money to subsidise the whole population eating out, it could find cash for poorer families. To promote his campaign, Rashford and his mother yesterday visited a food charity in Manchester.

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Hong Kong plea – Dozens of MPs and peers are urging Dominic Raab to demand the return of 12 young Hong Kong activists who have been detained in mainland China after attempting to flee to Taiwan by boat in August. In a letter to the foreign secretary, the MPs warn of the dangers of allowing Beijing to “to prosecute and imprison Hong Kong activists in the mainland with little outcry or response from the international community”.

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Insurance policy – Insurers have warned against driverless cars being allowed onto motorways next year as planned by the government. Vehicles with technology to keep in lane, accelerate and brake automatically, have been earmarked for motorway driving by ministers. But the insurance lobby says the lane technology is still a “quantum leap” away from what is needed to be totally safe and allowing driverless cars on motorways would be “hugely wrong”.

Today in Focus podcast: Battle for Ohio

The race in Ohio has long been a reliable guide to the US election: the state’s winner usually goes on to win the presidency. In 2016, it broke decisively for Trump, but this year there are signs that its voters are turning away from the president.

Lunchtime read: Whatever happened to Josh Hartnett?

Josh Hartnett, the actor once bracketed with A-listers such as Leonardo di Caprio, tells Ryan Gilbey about why he left Hollywood to live in Surrey, discusses his new thriller Target Number One and what he knew about Harvey Weinstein.


England men’s cricketers face the prospect of their win bonuses being slashed in half and their pay reduced by around 15% under the latest round of cost-cutting measures in the sport. England’s autumn curtain-raiser has been plunged into chaos after the former national captain Chris Robshaw was one of 12 Barbarians players to go on an unauthorised night out, breaching strict Covid protocols. Gareth Bale impressed as Tottenham began their Europa League campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over LASK, while Thomas Partey impressed on his full Arsenal debut as they came from behind to beat Rapid Vienna 2-1. Neil Lennon said his Celtic side were “terrific” in the second half as they threatened a comeback from two goals down in a 3-1 defeat to Milan, while Steven Gerrard has described Kemar Roofe’s stoppage-time wonder strike for Rangers in their 2-0 victory over Standard Liège as the best goal he has ever seen live. Jai Hindley and Tao Geoghegan Hart vaulted themselves to within seconds of the leader’s maglia rosa as the Giro d’Italia exploded on the slopes of the famed Stelvio. Lewis Hamilton has questioned the FIA’s appointment of Vitaly Petrov as a race steward for this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix. And the chief executive of next year’s Rugby League World Cup has conceded the event could be pushed back 12 months to 2022 as a “last resort”, but insists the current plan is for the event to still go ahead as planned in England next autumn.


Liz Truss, Britain’s trade secretary, has signed a bilateral free-trade deal with Japan in the the first such post-Brexit deal. She hailed the deal, which will reduce tariffs on Yorkshire lamb, as a new dawn. Goldman Sachs has agreed to a $2.9bn settlement for its role in Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund corruption scandal. The investment bank also agreed to claw back $174m in pay and bonuses handed out to employees involved. The FTSE100 is expected to open flat this morning while the pound is worth $1.306 and €1.107.

The papers

Most of the front pages focus on Rishi Sunak’s new and improved furlough scheme. “Sunak forced to dig deeper amid anger at level of support for jobs”, says the Guardian’s main headline, while the FT has “Sunak triples aid package with pledge of £11bn in extra support”. For the Telegraph it’s all about “£13bn to keep businesses alive”, while the Express has a picture of Sunak and Boris Johnson with a headline reading “Together we will protect Britain”. The Times fears that the chancellor’s largesse has ended up in the wrong pockets, reporting “£2bn lost to criminals in furlough cash fraud”. The i focuses on operational problems with “Covid cases up to 90,000 a day – and Test and Trace can’t cope” and the Mail despairs: “Staying-in rule does not stop the virus”.

The Mirror leads on how Marcus Rashford has been out helping get food to poorer families with his mother – “This is what compassion looks like”. In Scotland the big story is the warning that families should prepare for “digital” celebrations this Christmas. “Traditional Christmas is cancelled”, says the Scottish Daily Mail, while the Record goes for “The Worst Noel”. The Herald also has that story but leads on “Hospitality industry to fight Covid closures in the courts”.

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