Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 November 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Sleaze crisis deepens for government
MPs are demanding details of any lobbying by Owen Paterson of government ministers on behalf of a company that won almost £500m of Covid-19 related contracts last year. Meanwhile, the Conservative Party has been accused of abusing the honours system by systematically offering seats in the House of Lords to multimillionaire donors who pay more than £3m to the party.
Ambulance response times at record high
Patients are waiting almost twice as long for a paramedic as they were at the peak of the pandemic, reported The Independent. Response times for all types of emergency are at their highest on record with patients dying before paramedics can reach them. Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said “over a decade of failure to invest in the ambulance workforce,” is now “leaving patients in pain and unimaginable distress, unable to get the help they need”.
Iraq’s PM survives drone attack
A drone aimed at the Iraqi prime minister’s house has failed to kill him, the government has said. Mustafa Al-Kadhimi took to Twitter moments after the attack and called for “calm and restraint from everyone”. Officials said his residence in Baghdad’s Green Zone was targeted by a drone laden with explosives, in an alleged assassination attempt. No-one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Rapper ‘devastated’ after festival deaths
The hip-hop star Travis Scott said he is “absolutely devastated” after at least eight people were killed in a crowd surge as he performed at a music festival in Texas. Officials declared a “mass casualty incident” during Scott’s performance at Astroworld Festival in Houston. The victims were between the ages of 14 and 27. Police are also investigating an allegation that a security officer was injected in the neck while trying to restrain a concert-goer.
Musk asks if he should sell Tesla stock
Elon Musk has asked his 62.5m followers on Twitter if he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock. Referring to a “billionaires’ tax” proposed by Democrats in the US Senate, Musk wrote that “much is made lately of unrealized gains being a means of tax avoidance, so I propose selling 10% of my Tesla stock”. Reuters wrote that his shareholding stood at 170.5m shares as of 30 June and selling 10% of his stock would amount close to $21bn based on Friday’s closing.
Javid calls for jabs ‘mission’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has told the public to get their Covid booster jabs as part of a “national mission” to avoid restrictions over Christmas. As new data revealed that around 30% of over-80s and 40% of over-50s in England are yet to get their top-up jab, Javid urged people to “play their part” to help get through the winter. Reported cases of the virus are continuing to fall, with another 30,693 cases recorded on Saturday.
Explosion kills dozens in Sierra Leone
At least 98 people have died after a huge explosion when a fuel tanker collided with a lorry in Sierra Leone. Fuel spilled before igniting and the resulting inferno engulfed bystanders and vehicles at a busy junction in the capital of Freetown. Following a visit to the scene, vice-president Mohamed Juldeh Jalloh said it was a “national disaster” and pledged that the injured would receive free medical treatment.
Licence fee ‘frozen for two years’
The BBC licence fee will remain frozen at £159 for up to two years in a bid to ease Britain’s cost of living crisis, reported the Sunday Telegraph. Negotiations between the corporation and ministers on the cost of the licence fee from 2022 until at least 2027 are expected to conclude later this month. “Multiple insiders” say the fee is likely to remain frozen initially, helping to alleviate the strain on households facing rising energy and household bills.
Maxwell ‘to call on memory expert’
An expert in “false memories” is being lined up by Ghislaine Maxwell as a defence witness at her forthcoming trial. Professor Elizabeth Loftus, who has testified for Harvey Weinstein and OJ Simpson, is on a list of eight potential expert witnesses that Maxwell hopes will help prove her innocence. She also wants to call on the expertise of a forensic psychiatrist who has previously examined the sanity of mass murderers, including Jeffrey Dahmer, the cannibal serial killer.
Brit in historic South Pole mission
A British-born Sikh Army officer is bidding to become the first woman of colour to ski solo and unsupported to the South Pole. Preet Chandi will be dropped at Antarctica’s Hercules Inlet and trek solo 700 miles across the ice to the pole, hauling a sled weighing 90 kilograms with all her kit, fuel and food for around 45 days. Temperatures could dip as low as minus 50 Celsius with wind chill.