Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 29 June 2021

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

1

Dirty tricks in Batley and Spen

Allegations of underhand tactics in the Batley and Spen by-election are mounting after Labour’s campaign was targeted by fake leaflets and the party was accused of using “dog-whistle racism”. Leaflets mimicking Labour’s official campaign literature have stated that the party believes “the biggest threat to our precious multicultural society is whiteness”. Meanwhile, Labour MP Navendu Mishra criticised his own party for distributing a flyer to Muslim voters showing Boris Johnson with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi alongside the message: “Don’t risk a Tory MP who is not on your side.”

2

Javid: ‘time to live with Covid’

New Health Secretary Sajid Javid has signalled that he plans to end all Covid restrictions on 19 July. In his first statement since replacing Matt Hancock, Javid said he was determined that 19 July was the “end of the line” for lockdown, adding that it is time for Britain to “learn to live” with the virus. The freshly appointed cabinet minster added that it was time to “start returning to normal” and that restrictions should not last “a moment longer” than necessary.

3

CBI calls for immigration reform

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has asked the government to relax post-Brexit immigration rules to help companies struggling with staff shortages. Amid what the CBI has described as a “perfect storm” of staff shortages as Covid restrictions are gradually removed, the UK’s biggest business lobby group said ministers should swiftly update the “shortage occupations list” to include areas where employers are finding it difficult to recruit staff. This includes professions such as butchers, bricklayers and welders.

4

Ceasefire in Ethiopia conflict

Ethiopia’s government has declared a “unilateral ceasefire” in the Tigray region after rebel fighters claimed control of the regional capital Mekelle. “The capital of Tigray, Mekelle, is under our control”, Getachew Reda, the spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, told Reuters by satellite phone last night. The BBC says there have been “scenes of jubilation”, with thousands of people in the streets waving flags and setting off fireworks.

5

Third minister used private email

Health Minister Helen Whately used a private email account to conduct government business during the pandemic response, The Guardian reports. The UK’s information watchdog is considering an investigation into the use of Gmail by Whatley and two other health ministers - Matt Hancock and James Bethell - during the Covid pandemic. Boris Johnson has refused to answer when asked if he has ever conducted government business using a personal email account, saying: “I don’t comment on how I conduct government business.”

6

School isolation rules to be scrapped

School isolation rules in England could end in autumn amid growing frustration among parents. Last week, official figures showed that more than 250,000 children in the UK were absent from school because of the isolation rules. In England alone, 172,000 were self-isolating because of potential contact with an infected pupil. England’s children’s commissioner told The Telegraph that children must get back to normal as lockdown had been a “real trauma” for younger people.

7

BBC reprimands Maitlis over tweet

The BBC has said its presenter Emily Maitlis has been reprimanded for sharing a “clearly controversial” post on social media. The Newsnight host retweeted a Piers Morgan post which said: “If failing to quarantine properly is punishable by 10yrs in prison, what is the punishment for failing to properly protect the country from a pandemic?” The BBC’s complaints unit said Maitlis breached editorial guidelines by failing to provide “surrounding context” to ensure impartiality. Morgan described the reprimand as “spineless”.

8

Study: smacking worsens behaviour

Smacking children makes their behaviour worse, according to a new review of two decades of research. The study found that children subjected to physical punishment showed increased behavioural problems with no improvement in behaviour. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children are among the groups calling for an outright ban on physical punishment of children.

9

PM ‘re-writing history’ over Hancock

Boris Johnson has been accused of re-writing history after he appeared to claim he sacked Matt Hancock, despite his press team briefing that the former health secretary quit of his own volition. The prime minister said: “I read the story on Friday and we’ve got a new health secretary in post on Saturday, and I think that’s about the right pace to proceed in a pandemic.” Downing Street had previously told reporters that Hancock had not been pressured to step down.

10

Lloyd Webber production ‘not diverse enough’

Campaigners have criticised a new production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat for failing to cast performers with a Middle Eastern and north African (MENA) background. MENA Arts, which campaigns to increase opportunities for artists from a MENA background, described the casting choices for the musical, which opens in London next month, as “very disappointing and confusing”. It said the biblical tale is a “MENA story with MENA characters”.

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