Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 4 December 2021

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

1

PM reported to police over parties

Boris Johnson has been reported to the police by Labour MPs over allegations there were at least two parties in Downing Street during lockdown restrictions last year. Neil Coyle MP wrote to the Met asking it to investigate reports that the PM spoke at a leaving do in November and also allowed a staff Christmas party to go ahead in December. Coyle said: “Johnson is not above the law, despite his bloated self-entitlement.”

2

Don’t panic over Omicron says WHO

The World Health Organization said the world should not panic about the new Omicron variant of Covid-19 but it should prepare. After reports suggested Omicron has been found in close to 40 countries, top WHO scientist Soumya Swaminathan said: “How worried should we be? We need to be prepared and cautious, not panic, because we're in a different situation to a year ago.”

3

Biden rejects ‘red lines’ on Ukraine

Joe Biden has warned that he will not accept “red lines” set by Russia as fears grow that Moscow is planning an invasion of Ukraine within months. The US president said he will make it “very, very difficult” for Russia to invade its neighbour. A video call between Vladimir Putin and Biden is expected after Ukraine said Russia has boosted its military at the border and amassed some 94,000 troops there.

4

Overhaul of harassment laws planned

Pestering women in the street or in pubs and making suggestive comments at them could become an offence under plans to criminalise “public sexual harassment”, reported The Telegraph. Next week, a government-commissioned review of hate crimes will call for public sexual harassment and inciting hatred against women to be made criminal offences. However, Whitehall sources said  the review will reject demands for misogyny to be made a hate crime because it believes such a move would be ineffective.

5

‘Schoolgirl’ costumes at Epstein home

A court has heard that a “sexually suggestive photograph of a very young girl” was displayed outside Jeffrey Epstein’s bedroom at his Palm Beach mansion and “schoolgirl” costumes were recovered during a search of his Manhattan home. The Guardian said that Ghislaine Maxwell’s child-sex trafficking trial took a “shocking turn” when prosecutors brought one of Epstein’s infamous massage tables into the courtroom. Maxwell faces eight charges of sex trafficking and other offences.

6

Authorities search for gun suspect’s parents

US prosecutors have charged the parents of a suspect in a deadly Michigan school shooting with involuntary manslaughter. They issued a fugitive warrant for James and Jennifer Crumbley, who are accused of ignoring warning signs before the gun rampage. After the couple disappeared, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told CNN that “if they think they’re going to get away, they’re not”. However, lawyers for the couple said the Crumbleys “are not fleeing from law enforcement”.

7

Boots could be sold by US owners

The owners of Boots are poised to launch an auction of the pharmacy chain valuing the business at more than £5bn. The US group Walgreens Boots Alliance is set to instruct Goldman Sachs to review options for the 172-year-old retailer, reported The Telegraph. Another option on the table is for the high street chain to be floated on the stock exchange, according to Sky News. Shares in Walgreens rose more than 4% in New York on Friday.

8

Sunak plans tax cuts

Rishi Sunak plans to cut income tax by 2p in the pound or to trim VAT rates before the next election, reported The Times. A third option, to cut inheritance tax, is also under consideration after the chancellor told officials to draw up detailed plans to reduce the tax burden. Sunak is said to be determined to rebrand himself after developing a reputation as a “high-tax, high-spend” during the pandemic.

9

Shakespeare actor dies at 72

The actor Sir Antony Sher has died of cancer aged 72, the Royal Shakespeare Company has announced. The veteran was regarded as one of the country’s finest contemporary classical actors and “touched and enriched the lives of so many people,” said the company. His film appearances included Shakespeare in Love and Mrs Brown, while his RSC credits included Richard III and Macbeth. The Guardian described Sher as a man of “staggering versatility”.

10

Aussies ‘heaviest drinkers in the world’

Australians have been crowned as the heaviest drinkers in the world after spending more time drunk in 2020 than any other nation, reported The Guardian. A global study found Aussies drank to the point of drunkenness an average of 27 times a year, almost double the global average of 15. Nearly a quarter of Australians reported feeling regret for becoming intoxicated. Danes and Finns spent the most time drinking to excess after Australians, with the two nations tied at 23.8 times.

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