The former chair of the Conservative party used an advisory role in the UK health department at the start of the pandemic to initiate a government contract for a client of his lobbying company, according to emails seen by the Financial Times.

Andrew Feldman was quietly given an unpaid job advising health minister Lord James Bethell from March 24 to May 15 last year — despite potential conflicts of interest with clients of Tulchan, the lobbying and PR firm he has run since 2019.

Emails obtained by the Good Law Project, a not-for-profit campaign group, showed that Feldman — while advising Bethell — urged a Cabinet Office official in March 2020 to buy personal protective equipment from Bunzl, a Tulchan client.

The health department subsequently awarded Bunzl a £22.6m deal.

Column chart of Contribution to output loss compared with Jan 2020 (%) showing The UK economy was much more resilient in the Covid-19 second wave

Intellectual property must not be an obstacle to fair vaccine supply, argues Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s prime minister. A database of vaccine orders would enable policymakers to address imbalances in supply and price more easily, writes argues Gillian Tett. Follow the latest on our live blog, and sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter.

Israel-Hamas clashes intensify Israel killed several senior Hamas commanders in air strikes in the Gaza Strip, as the Jewish state vowed to step up hostilities against the Palestinian militant group: “We’ll hit them like they’ve never dreamt possible,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Inside Israel’s military, concerns have grown that Hamas has built up a critical mass of weapons since the last war in 2014.

House Republicans oust Liz Cheney The Wyoming lawmaker was removed from Republican congressional leadership over her opposition to Donald Trump’s false election claims, the latest development in an intraparty war over the enduring influence of the former US president.

Airbnb pricing algorithm led to widened racial disparities The introduction of a “Smart Pricing” algorithm, designed to help hosts earn more money on the platform, widened the earnings gap between black and white users, research found, because of the relative reluctance of black hosts to use the tool.

Colonial pipeline resumes operations The critical fuel artery resumed operations on Wednesday, allowing petroleum supplies to begin reaching eastern US states five days after a cyber attack caused a shutdown. The attack precipitated a run on petrol stations that pushed average prices above $3 a gallon, their highest level since 2014.

Colonial pipeline hack leads to tightening in petrol supply. Map showing Colonial pipeline and refineries in the East Coast and Gulf Coast regions

Musk: Tesla to no longer accept bitcoin payments Elon Musk reversed his backing of bitcoin, saying the electric carmaker was suspending plans to accept payment in the cryptocurrency. Musk put the change of heart down to environmental worries about the mechanism used to validate bitcoin transactions.

SoftBank reports record net profit SoftBank has reported the highest annual net profit for a Japanese company thanks to a rise in the valuations of Vision Fund investments. However, a sell-off in US technology stocks since March has eroded gains in the current quarter.

UK trade unions target executive pay Unions representing 3m workers and high pay campaigners have urged 60 of the biggest investors in UK companies to vote against those with egregiously wide pay gaps between management and workers at annual meetings.

David Cameron faces Greensill questions The former UK prime minister will face scrutiny over his lobbying for Greensill Capital, which collapsed in March, as part of a Treasury committee inquiry.

US infrastructure spending Joe Biden will host Republican senators at the White House to see if there is any scope for compromise on his $2.3tn infrastructure spending package.

Earnings Alibaba, Brookfield Asset Management, Walt Disney, Intel, Airbnb, BT, Suzuki Motor and Burberry report. Jack Ma’s ecommerce group’s results follow a record $2.8bn fine as Beijing steps up scrutiny of the tech sector.

US unemployment Initial unemployment claims are expected to hold below 500,000 for a second week, after April’s disappointing figures showed the jobless rate inched up to 6.1 per cent after an unexpected deceleration in job creation.

FT European tech correspondent Madhumita Murgia and Washington correspondent Kiran Stacey will answer your questions about the ethical conundrums facing Big Tech companies throughout the day. Post your question in the comments section of this article.

How mRNA became a vaccine game-changer Though messenger mRNA, the genetic material that acts as a kind of courier in the human body, had been tested relatively little on humans before Covid-19, the vaccines that use its technology work extremely well. Can the molecule revolutionise medicine?

Brexit forces German exporters to think again Increased costs and delays to shipments have become typical of the bureaucracy created by post-Brexit customs checks. But these disruptions are forcing companies in Germany and elsewhere to seek other markets. Boris Johnson has abandoned Thatcherism for the dirigisme of the UK’s European neighbours, writes Philip Stephens.

How India’s Covid-19 crisis diminished Modi Fury is pervasive in urban parts of India as citizens struggle to obtain medical care for ailing loved ones and scarce vaccinations. The calamitous wave of Covid-19 infections has exposed cracks in the armour of charismatic strongman Narendra Modi, India’s powerful prime minister.

Keir Starmer is no Tony Blair After a series of disappointing results, the last rites are again being read over Labour and its leader, whose botching of a reshuffle has left him looking both inept and weak, writes Robert Shrimsley. The malaise has seen Starmer attacked by the hard left arguing for a return to socialism and Blairites calling for muscular centrism.

FT business books: May edition From the science and data that can help nudge people into better habits to unleashing the power of mid-life women, here is our round-up of the month’s top business book titles, including the latest from behavioural scientist Katy Milkman and McKinsey-trained, former Best Buy chief executive Hubert Joly on leadership.

Greensill: a tale of hubris, hype and greed | FT Film The FT charts the rise of Lex Greensill and Sanjeev Gupta and examines where it all went wrong.