Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 15 May 2021

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

1

PM says variant could disrupt easing

Boris Johnson has admitted that the Indian Covid variant could pose “serious disruption” to lockdown easing in England. The prime minister said if the strain was found to be “significantly” more transmissible there could be “some hard choices”. The Guardian says the variant could lead to a “serious third wave” of Covid in the UK. The gap between the first and second jab will be cut from 12 weeks to eight for all over-50s and the vulnerable.

2

US envoy to hold Middle East talks

A US envoy has arrived in Tel Aviv for de-escalation talks as violence between Israel and the Palestinians continue. Hady Amr will hold meetings with Israeli, Palestinian and UN officials. Clashes between the two sides over the past five days marks some of the worst violence in the region in years. At least 133 people have been killed in Gaza and eight have died in Israel.

3

Harry accused of ‘lack of compassion’

The Duke of Sussex’s latest remarks about the Prince of Wales have prompted senior royals to accuse him of a “woeful lack of compassion” for his own family. The Daily Telegraph says “all three royal households were seemingly left reeling” by the Duke’s comments that his father had treated him “the way he was treated” and that he wanted to “break the cycle” of “genetic pain” for his own children.

4

Debenhams closes final stores

The final remaining Debenhams close for good today, more than 240 years after the department store began trading. The Debenhams brand will continue to trade online after it was bought by the fashion retailer Boohoo for £55m in January. Debenhams was launched in 1778, when William Clark opened a shop in London’s West End, selling fabrics, bonnets and parasols.

5

Patel accused of ‘flagrant breach’

Priti Patel has been accused of a “glaring and flagrant” breach of the Ministerial Code after she lobbied a fellow minister on behalf of a healthcare company trying to land a £20m deal for masks. Dominic Grieve, the former Tory attorney general, said the news of Patel’s move was “astonishing”. However, her efforts were in vain because after Health Secretary Matt Hancock decided the masks were not suitable for the NHS.

6

China lands robot on Mars

China has landed a spacecraft on Mars, according to state media. The six-wheeled Zhurong robot used a combination of a protective capsule, a parachute and a rocket platform to make the descent. China has become the second country to put a rover on Mars and the BBC says the successful touchdown is a “remarkable achievement, given the difficult nature of the task”.

7

Bashir quits BBC ahead of Diana report

Martin Bashir has quit the BBC ahead of the publication of an investigation into his conduct in securing a 1995 Panorama interview with Diana, Princess of Wales. The controversial broadcaster resigned on health grounds. Last year, the BBC commissioned an independent inquiry to look into how Bashir persuaded Diana to speak on camera about her marriage, and whether he used fake documents to gain the trust of the family.

8

Cameron could be drawn into new probe

David Cameron could be drawn into a criminal inquiry after the Serious Fraud Office launched an investigation into the business empire of a steel tycoon. The Daily Telegraph says the authorities are investigating allegations of fraud and money laundering at Sanjeev Gupta’s company GFO, including the firm’s relationship with Greensill. There is no suggestion the former prime minister has done anything wrong.

9

Poots named new head of DUP

Edwin Poots has been narrowly elected leader of the Democratic Unionist party, narrowly beating Sir Jeffrey Donaldson in a two-horse race to succeed Arlene Foster. Poots won by 19 votes to 17 from an electorate comprised of the DUP’s eight Westminster MPs and 28 Stormont assembly members. He promised to remould Northern Ireland’s biggest party and continue to fight the Irish Sea border.

10

Uni chief quits in plagiary scandal

The president of the University of South Carolina has resigned for plagiarising remarks in a commencement speech. Bob Caslen stood down after admitting his commencement speech plagiarised portions of a speech given by the former head of US Special Operations Command, retired Navy Adm. William McRaven. “I was searching for words about resilience in adversity and when they were transcribed into the speech, I failed to ensure its attribution,” he wrote in a letter to students.

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