Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 18 June 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Lib Dems grab Tory safe seat
The Liberal Democrats have pulled off an unexpected victory in the Chesham and Amersham by election, taking a formerly safe seat from the Conservatives. The party’s Sarah Green secured 21,517 votes, leaving the Tory Peter Fleet trailing with 13,489, and giving the Lib Dems a majority of 8,028 in the Buckinghamshire constituency. Green said: “This Conservative party has taken people across the country for granted for far too long.”
Whitty warns of winter wave
A further wave of Covid-19 cases is inevitable this winter, the government’s chief medical adviser has warned. Chris Whitty told the NHS Confederation’s conference that there are “really quite a lot of things that we need to worry about, particularly I think this next surge, and then going into the following winter”. He added that he NHS should “brace for the fact that the coming winter may well be quite a difficult one” because the virus “has not thrown its last surprise at us”.
Cuts hit rape conviction rates
The Justice Secretary has apologised to rape victims for low conviction rates in England and Wales and promised to “do a lot better” after rape convictions have fallen to a record low in recent years. Speaking to the BBC, Robert Buckland said the rates are “not good enough” and admitted budget cuts were partly to blame. Charities and victim groups said the measures planned to tackle the problem lacked urgency and were underfunded.
Poots quits as DUP leader
Edwin Poots has resigned as leader of the Democratic Unionist party after just 21 days in the job. He quit after his colleagues rebelled over a deal to revive the Northern Ireland assembly. Party sources expect the process to appoint his successor to move “at pace”. The Guardian says his departure is “the latest drama in a leadership meltdown” in Northern Ireland’s biggest party that “could sink the power-sharing assembly at Stormont”.
Kim prepares for US ‘confrontation’
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says his country is preparing for both “dialogue and confrontation” with the US, and “especially to get fully prepared for confrontation”. The Pyongyang regime’s first direct comment on Joe Biden’s administration comes after it snubbed efforts by the White House to establish diplomatic communication. Prior to the US election, Biden had called Kim a “thug”.
Call to scrap Covid tests in schools
Covid testing in schools is disruptive and should be scrapped, according to the Oxford vaccine pioneer. Professor Sir Andrew Pollard told the Daily Telegraph that “if children are not severely affected, if they’re not major drivers of transmission” and if “the testing itself is picking up lots of cases - causing classes to be sent home and so on - we’ve got to get to a point where we’re not impacting on education”. Up to 60% of “positive” tests in schools are coming back negative when checked with a follow-up test.
Inquiry finds police failures
A public inquiry has found that police and security failures on the night of the Manchester Arena bombing cost lives. Sir John Saunders, the inquiry chairman, yesterday outlined missed opportunities to stop Salman Abedi, who killed 22 people when he blew himself up in the aftermath of a pop concert in May 2017. Fifteen minutes before the explosion, a security steward “fobbed off” a member of the public who reported concerns about Abedi.
Exports to EU hit by Brexit
Food and drink exports to the EU almost halved in the first three months of the year, the Food and Drink Federation reports. The group’s data showed that EU sales dropped by 47% compared to the same period in 2020. Covid is likely to have had an impact but the trade body said the decline was largely due to changes in the UK’s trading relationships with the bloc. The government said it was “too early to draw any firm conclusions” on the long-term impact of Brexit.
C4 could be privatised next year
Channel 4 could be sold off as soon as next year, reports the Financial Times, with ministers planning to launch a formal consultation into the broadcaster’s privatisation within weeks. Last month, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, foreshadowed the move by announcing the government may move to privatise Channel 4 to “provide a sustainable future for the broadcaster”. John Whittingdale, the culture minister with responsibility for broadcast policy, will oversee the impending consultation.
Police to get tough on drones
Police officers are being handed new powers to crack down on people flying drones irresponsibly or illegally. The Home Office said that officers will be given “the tools needed to tackle drone misuse,” with dedicated teams on the lookout for those breaking the rules. The news comes a week after a drone user was fined more than £5,000 for flying illegally over MI6’s building in central London.