Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 21 March 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Tories press PM on Covid curbs
Boris Johnson is under pressure from senior Tories not to extend the blanket ban on overseas travel or delay the loosening of UK restrictions, following warnings over rising Covid cases in Europe. Meanwhile, proposals to hand police “the most draconian detention powers in modern British legal history” for another six months have also been condemned by Conservative MPs.
Sex abuse claims against Met
There were 594 complaints of sexual abuse against Metropolitan Police employees between 2012 and 2018, of which 119 were upheld. The Observer says the “grim list” includes claims that one officer had sex with a rape victim and another assaulted a domestic abuse survivor. Campaigners said the news shows that the police cannot be trusted to protect women’s safety.
Food bank use rockets
Nine in 10 councils in England have seen a rise in people using food banks, according to new research. Two-thirds of local authorities have also reported an increase in mediations in family breakdowns. As the numbers of people needing help for homelessness rises, experts have warned that many poorer households will face “disaster” unless emergency support is extended well beyond the pandemic.
Mandelson advises Starmer on policy
Lord Mandelson is urging Sir Keir Starmer to begin a review of the party's policies. The Labour peer, who was a pivotal figure in the development of New Labour, said Sir Keir needed to start the process as “he still has the 2019 manifesto around his neck”. Lord Mandelson said his party needed polices which were “radical, credible, affordable”.
Protest at Netanyahu home
Israelis have demonstrated outside the official residence of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu ahead of this week’s parliamentary elections. The grassroots protest movement behind the rally believes Netanyahu cannot serve as prime minister while he is on trial for corruption charges. According to opinion polls, the outcome of the election will be close and could lead to weeks of horse-trading or another election.
Aid cut ‘illegal’ says expert
Boris Johnson’s decision to cut foreign aid without passing new legislation has been described as unlawful by a former director of public prosecutions. His formal legal opinion had been requested by senior Tory MPs who are campaigning to reverse the aid cut. However, the Foreign Office insists that the government has acted in accordance with the International Development Act 2015.
SAS to tackle Russian meddling
SAS soldiers will be told to disrupt Russian interference around the world, reports the Sunday Telegraph. Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, the chief of the general staff, said that special forces will be asked to take on “hostile state actors”. It is believed that the SAS and other units in the Special Forces Group will work alongside MI6 to conduct covert surveillance operations against Russian spies and military units.
Cameron lobbied for firm
David Cameron sent several text messages to Rishi Sunak asking him to grant hundreds of millions of pounds in loans to a company that later went bust. The Sunday Times reveals that last spring, the former prime minister lobbied Sunak to lend to Greensill. At the time Cameron was an adviser to Greensill and had share options potentially worth up to tens of millions.
‘Christian’ ticks in census to fall
Less than half of Britons are expected to tick “Christian” in the UK census. In the 2011 census, 59.3% ticked Christianity, a fall from 71.6% a decade earlier. Abby Day, professor of race, faith and culture at Goldsmiths, University of London, said the proportion of people ticking Christianity this time “could drop below 50%”. Day says post-war generations regard the church as irrelevant and immoral.
Hancock tells men to keep shirt on
Matt Hancock says that middle-aged men should wear short-sleeved shirts to get their Covid jabs as some male politicians stripped to their waists to receive their vaccinations. After Lord Bethell, Hancock’s colleague in the Department of Health, posted a video of himself shirtless, Hancock said: “I hope that he gets the opportunity to change into a short-sleeved shirt, because some colleagues have inadvertently had to undo an awful lot of buttons in order to be vaccinated.”