Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Saturday 25 Jan 2014

The Week’s super-quick catch-up on the main news talking points, available from 8am daily

1. BALLS: WE’LL BALANCE BUDGET BY 2020
Ed Balls will pledge to balance the UK's books and deliver a current budget surplus by 2020 if Labour wins the next election. In a speech today, the shadow chancellor will also promise that Labour would pass a law force it to adhere to “tough” and binding economic rules. “How fast we can go will depend on the state of the economy and public finances we inherit,” he will say.
2. BE PUSHY, EXPERT TELLS PATIENTS
British patients should adopt a more ‘American’ approach to healthcare and be more pushy with GPs about treatment, says NHS drugs rationing chief professor David Haslam. The former GP tells the Daily Telegraph: "Americans tended to want to know more about their treatment than the British who tend to be much more ‘thank you doctor, I will take that’.”
3. BITTER SYRIA FOES TO MEET IN GENEVA
The bitter enemies in the Syrian conflict will today come face to face in the same room at the peace conference in Geneva. Yesterday, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi held separate talks with the Syrian opposition and government. With each side currently blaming the other for the lack of progress, diplomats are aiming for small concessions rather than overall peace.
4. WILL NICK CLEGG BE FROZEN OUT?
Nick Clegg could be the odd man out at the next election as Labour and Conservative figures work on plans for minority government. As sources close to Ed Miliband say they are drawn to the idea of governing alone, the Conservative right-win is aiming to force David Cameron to put a second coalition to a vote, which would face a good chance of defeat.
5. FARAGE: LETS LIFT THE HANDGUN BAN
Nigel Farage has called for the ban on handguns to be lifted. The UKIP leader says legislation outlawing weapons, which was passed after the 1996 Dunblane school massacre, was “knee-jerk” and “ludicrous”. He argued: “If you criminalise handguns, then only the criminals carry the guns.” Earlier this week a UKIP councilor blamed flooding on gay marriage.
6. MILLION CLAIMANTS ‘FOUND FIT’
Almost a million people who applied for sickness benefit over the past five years have been found fit for work, says the Department for Work and Pensions. The DWP claims 38% of new applicants for the benefit were capable of work, and that more than a million others withdrew their claims after interviews. Disability campaigners say the tests are “ridiculously harsh”.
7. GLOOMY PROGNOSIS FOR SCHUMACHER
Michael Schumacher may remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life, says The Mirror. Doctors working to save the life of the Formula One legend have no plans to wake the 45-year-old from his coma, the report claims. The seven-times world champion has been in an artificially-induced coma after suffering brain injuries in a skiing crash at the French Alps 26 days ago.
8. UK PENSIONER SENTENCED TO DEATH
Pakistan has sentenced to death a UK pensioner with a history of mental illness. Muhammad Ashgar, from Edinburgh, has been found guilty of breaking the country’s hardline blasphemy laws. The 69-year-old, who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, was convicted without a jury after a trial which heard he had claimed to be the prophet Mohammed.
9. ONE YEAR ON SHARD REMAINS A SHELL
London’s Shard skyscraper remains mostly unoccupied a year after its grand opening, says The Guardian. Of the 25 floors of offices, 20 are currently unoccupied, with Wall Street firm Duff & Phelps the only tenant. The Shangri-La Hotel, between floors 34 and 52, has yet to open, despite a scheduled launch of last summer.
10. PODOLSKI FIRES GUNNERS THROUGH
Arsenal cruised through to the FA Cup fifth round with a 4-0 victory over Coventry City. Two first-half goals from Lukas Podolski effectively ended the contest, with Giroud and Cazorla doubling the scoreline late on. Manchester United have confirmed they have reached a deal with Chelsea for Juan Mata, with a price tag of around £37m.