Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 5 March 2021

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

1

Funding ‘skewed’ to Tory seats

A government fund intended to boost the UK’s most deprived places is “overwhelmingly skewed” towards Conservative seats rather than those most in need, The Guardian reports. Of 93 English regions placed in the priority group of three tiers to receive money from the £4.8bn levelling up fund, 31 are not in the top third of the most deprived places. Of those, 26 are entirely represented by Conservative MPs.

2

Conservatives 13 points clear

Keir Starmer is under renewed pressure after a YouGov survey found that the Conservatives had opened up a 13-point lead over his party. Tory support rose to 45%, up by four points on last week, while Labour fell by four points to 32%. A senior Labour source described the outlook as “grim” and predicted that the party would fall further behind this summer.

3

‘Ten aides’ to help Meghan inquiry

At least staff members who worked for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are “queuing up” to assist a probe into claims that Meghan bullied her staff, according to the Daily Mirror. The investigation will examine allegations that Meghan “humiliated” aides, subjecting them to “emotional cruelty and manipulation”. A source close to the Sussexes said the couple had not been informed of any investigation by Buckingham Palace.

4

EU to sue over UK Brexit move

Brussels says it will launch legal action “very soon” following a move by the UK to delay implementation of part of the Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland. David Frost, the Cabinet Office minister, said earlier this week that the UK was extending “grace periods” designed to ease trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said the announcement had come as a “very negative surprise”.

5

Asthma sufferers denied jab

People with asthma who are eligible for a Covid vaccine are being refused it by some GPs, the BBC reports. Although an NHS England letter sent to GPs in mid-February says people who have “ever had an emergency asthma admission” to hospital fall into priority group six, which is currently being vaccinated, some are being told a hospital admission within the past 12 months is required.

6

Tsunami warning in New Zealand

New Zealanders have been told they can return to their homes after an earthquake prompted tsunami warnings. Islanders on the east coast fled to higher ground following the series of quakes off North Island. Although small tsunami waves were triggered by the earthquakes, the authorities say the largest of them have now passed and the threat level has been downgraded.

7

Calls for pay rise for NHS staff

Unions are calling for NHS workers to get a bigger pay rise after the government awarded them a 1% increase next year. “This is pitiful and bitterly disappointing,” said Dame Donna Kinnair, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing. The government “can expect a backlash from a million NHS workers”, she added. Labour leader Keir Starmer tweeted: “You can’t rebuild a country by cutting nurses’ pay. Give our Covid heroes a pay rise.”

8

Cyprus to accept UK tourists

Cyprus has become the first country to announce that it will open its borders without restrictions to vaccinated Britons. Its government announced yesterday that from 1 May travellers who have had two doses of an approved vaccine would not need to quarantine nor to be tested upon arrival. Savvas Perdios, the deputy tourism minister, said: “It’s a green light for travellers, saying that Cyprus is ready to welcome them this summer.”

9

Europe about-turns on Oxford jab

European nations have performed a U-turn, admitting they were wrong to suggest that the Oxford vaccine might be ineffective. Germany made the vaccine available to over-65s after Angela Merkel, the chancellor, called for age restrictions to be lifted and said the jab is “highly effective”. Jean Castex, the French prime minister, said the vaccine was "very efficient" and as good as the other EU-approved jabs.

10

More questions on PM’s flat

Boris Johnson “fears” the final bill for the makeover of his Downing Street flat could be as high as £200,000, according to the Daily Mail. The paper also says Whitehall ethics chiefs have refused to approve his bid to raise funds for the makeover by setting up a “Downing Street charity”. The Cabinet Office had asked Conservative chiefs if the party had paid for some of the work but reportedly failed to get an answer.

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