Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 14 May 2021

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

1

Variant may prompt local lockdowns

The government has announced that local and regional restrictions to tackle the Indian Covid variant cannot be ruled out. Concern is growing over the speed of the variant’s spread in England and ministers are under growing pressure to deploy “surge vaccinations” in Covid hotspots. Cases of the variant jumped from 520 to 1,313 in a week, according to Public Health England’s latest figures.

2

Fighting escalates in Gaza

Israel has intensified its assault on Gaza, as Palestinian militants continue to fire rockets into Israel. The country’s military has said its ground and air forces are attacking targets in the Gaza Strip. More than 100 people have been killed in Gaza and seven have died in Israel since fighting began on Monday. The Guardian says the violence has offered Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu a “refuge” after he seemed likely to lose his post. 

3

Record number of cases dropped

An unprecedented number of criminal cases collapsed last year as more than a million alleged victims dropped out before trials began. Data shows that the trend was particularly pronounced in rape cases, in which more than 44% of alleged victims gave up before a trial began. Campaigners say the government is “failing to protect victims and keep the public safe”. 

4

Harry fled ‘cycle of pain’

Prince Harry has reopened the rift with his father by declaring that he had moved to California to “break the cycle [of] pain and suffering” in the royal family. In a podcast interview, the Duke of Sussex compared his royal life to “a mixture between The Truman Show and being in a zoo”. However, he also told Armchair Expert: “I don’t think we should be pointing the finger or blaming anybody.”

5

Spacey assault case ‘to be dismissed’

The lawsuit against actor Kevin Spacey that alleges he sexually assaulted a teenager in the 1980s is set to be dismissed after the legal team for the accuser said he refused to identify himself. The announcement comes after a federal judge ruled last week that the man who alleged Spacey sexually assaulted him when he was 14 must reveal his identity publicly.

6

Biden celebrates Covid landmark

Joe Biden has celebrated a “great day for America” as US officials said vaccinated people can go maskless in most indoor and outdoor settings. The US president symbolically removed his mask in the Oval Office with Republican lawmakers as the guidance was being announced. The Covid caseload in the US has fallen to its lowest point since last September, with deaths at their lowest since last April.

7

Cameron ‘stalked’ ministers for Greensill

David Cameron has been told that his persistent lobbying of ministers, asking for favours on behalf of Greensill Capital, had “demeaned” the position of the prime minister and left his “reputation in tatters”. During four hours of intense questioning by two committees of MPs he was asked if he was not “a little bit embarrassed” about the number of messages he sent, which one MP said was “more like stalking than lobbying”.

8

Minister says C4 could be privatised

Channel 4 could be privatised in less than three years, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced yesterday. He has asked for a review into the future of the broadcaster to consider the “best future operating model”. Privatisation within the life of this parliament was “one of the options under consideration”, Dowden added. Although the broadcaster is commercially funded it is owned by the government.

9

PM criticised for helicopter trip

Boris Johnson is facing questions over his commitment to tacking climate change after he took a helicopter flight from London to the West Midlands to promote a local bike-hire scheme. Critics said the flight was “completely unnecessary” because the train from London takes just over two hours.

10

NHS backs down from online plan

The NHS has abandoned plans to use online and telephone “screening” for GP appointments and announced that all patients will have the right to see their doctor face-to-face. The announcement comes after reports that family doctors had been told to introduce a system of “total triage”, meaning people seeking to see their GP would be told to have an online or phone discussion first.

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