Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 3 March 2021

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1

Sunak to extend furlough

The chancellor is set to extend the furlough scheme until the end of September in his Budget speech today. Rishi Sunak will say the scheme will help millions through “the challenging months ahead”. However, Labour said the support schemes should have been extended “months ago”. Bridget Phillipson, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said Sunak has focused on “getting his moment in the sun rather than protecting jobs and livelihoods”.

2

Meghan ‘faced bullying claim’

Royal aides say the Duchess of Sussex faced a bullying complaint from one of her closest advisers during her time at Kensington Palace. The complaint claimed that Meghan drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member, says The Times. A spokesman for the Sussexes said they are the victims of a calculated smear campaign.

3

Parents ‘blackmailed’ over tests

Parents say they have been “blackmailed” by schools into giving consent for Covid tests after being told their children will be banned from face-to-face lessons if they refuse. They say they are “gobsmacked” after headteachers wrote to explain that any pupils who do not agree to take lateral flow tests at the start of term will be segregated from their peers. The Department for Education says the tests are voluntary.

4

Pressure grows on Sturgeon

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is under renewed pressure to answer allegations that she misled parliament after the publication of previously hidden legal advice and new witness evidence. She is expected to appear today at an inquiry looking into the mishandling of harassment complaints against her predecessor, Alex Salmond. Sturgeon denies any wrongdoing.

5

Free trip to Moon on offer

A Japanese billionaire has invited eight members of the public to join him for a free trip around the moon on Elon Musk’s SpaceX flight. “I want people from all kinds of backgrounds to join,” said Yusaku Maezawa in a video on Twitter. He says the successful applicants will advance “whatever activity” they are in to “help other people and greater society in some way”, and be willing to support other crew members who share similar aspirations”.

6

China faces new Uighurs allegation

China’s transfer of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs in Xinjiang to new jobs often far from home is leading to a thinning out of their populations, according to a study. The BBC says the research shows that the policy involves a “high risk of coercion” and is designed to assimilate minorities by changing their lifestyles and thinking. Beijing says the transfers are designed to raise incomes and alleviate chronic poverty.

7

Parton sings for her jab

Dolly Parton has been given a Covid-19 vaccine after urging others to follow her example by adapting the lyrics to one of her hit songs, Jolene. “Vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, vaccine, I'm begging of you, please don't hesitate,” sang the 75-year-old in a video before receiving the Moderna shot at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee yesterday. Parton has donated $1m (£716,000) to the centre.

8

Pontins blocked Irish names

The holiday firm Pontins says it will change its working practices after it was revealed that it had a blacklist of Irish surnames it used to prevent bookings for its holiday parks from Gypsies and Travellers. The Equality and Human Rights Commission said the names included Boyle, Keefe, Gallagher, O'Donnell, McGuiness, Murphy, and O'Reilly. The Traveller Movement charity said the Pontins policy was “truly shocking”.

9

Texas to lift mask rule

Texas will lift its requirement to wear masks and allow businesses to reopen at full capacity next week. “It is now time to open Texas 100%,” said governor Greg Abbott, a Republican. The move puts the state at odds with the position of US President Joe Biden, who has said coronavirus restrictions are still necessary. Michigan, Louisiana and Mississippi have also dropped laws requiring masks.

10

Soho locals say no to al fresco

Soho residents are protesting against plans to revive alfresco dining in the West End, complaining that it will be too noisy and they will be unable to park on the road. Last summer, the streets of the West End resembled European capital city pavements, says the Daily Telegraph, with diners sat outside and traffic diverted away from busy restaurant streets. The Soho Society has complained that residents have not been consulted.

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