Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 6 December 2021

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

1

PM plans ‘new war with judges’

Boris Johnson is planning to allow ministers “to throw out any legal rulings they do not like”, The Times said. The prime minister reportedly wants to curtail the power of the courts to overrule decisions by ministers through the process of judicial review, in a move that would “herald a fresh war with judges”. Edward Garnier QC, solicitor-general in David Cameron’s administration, said: “This government seems to forget that like all of us it, too, is subject to the law.

2

CBI cuts growth forecast

The Confederation of British Industry has revised its grow expectations for next year from 6.9% to 5.1%. The closely watched forecaster blamed weaker-than-expected output since its last survey. The accounting company KPMG issued an even more pessimistic prediction, saying it expected growth to reach 4.2% next year at best, even if the Omicron variant turns out to be a “false alarm”. Both groups also raised the alarm about a lack of business investment.

3

Next pandemic ‘more lethal’

The next pandemic could be even more lethal, the creator of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has warned. Professor Dame Sarah Gilbert said that while it was increasingly obvious that the Covid pandemic “is not done with us”, the world should already be preparing for a more damaging disease. Delivering the 44th Richard Dimbleby lecture, she said the next pandemic “could be more contagious or more lethal or both”m and called for more investment in “pandemic preparedness”.

4

Mortgage rules could be relaxed

The Bank of England is expected to loosen mortgage lending rules introduced in the wake of the financial crisis. As part of a review of the market restrictions, officials are understood to be considering a reduction in affordability checks for borrowers. This would benefit first-time buyers, but economists have said it would risk sparking a housing bubble. Andrew Wishart, housing economist at Capital Economics, said it “would help perpetuate very strong demand that might take prices to an unsustainable level”.

5

Pressure grows on No 10 party

The Metropolitan Police said it does not routinely probe “retrospective breaches” of Covid laws as calls grew for an investigation of a Downing Street Christmas party held during 2020’s restrictions. Grieving families told The Mirror that throwing a party as Covid killed their loved ones was “the ultimate insult”.  Dominic Raab told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday that media reports of events were “unsubstantiated” as they had come from anonymous sources.

6

Wealthy drug users face curbs

Middle-class drug users are to be targeted as part of a ten-year strategy on drugs, The Guardian reported. “Lifestyle” users of class-A drugs face losing their passports or driving licences under proposals designed to target wealthy professionals. Drug reform campaigners have said the UK is taking a “backwards” step by adopting a criminal sanction-led approach while other countries are adopting more progressive approaches, including the legalisation of cannabis.

7

Most girls sent sexual images

Three in four girls have been sent explicit photos via apps, according to new study by academics at University College London and the University of Kent. The researchers also found that just over 50% of teenagers who had been sent unsolicited sexual images said they had not reported the offences to either their parents, the authorities or the companies involved. The report said schools and parents should do more to support students who are being sexually harassed through platforms such as Snapchat and Instagram.

8

Colombian El Paisa dissident killed

A former rebel commander in Colombia has been killed in an ambush in Venezuela. Hernan Darío Velasquez, also known as El Paisa, was reportedly shot dead in Venezuela’s Apure state. The notorious dissident former leader of Colombia’s Farc rebels was behind a car bombing in the Colombian capital, Bogata, that killed 36 people and wounded nearly 200 more in 2003.

9

Far-right hopeful headlocked

The far-right French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour was put in a headlock by a protester at his first campaign event. A few days after he announced his candidacy, in a video highlighting his anti-migrant and anti-Islam views, Zemmour was seemingly grabbed by a man and later reported to have suffered light injuries. The presidential hopeful has been described by opponents as a “cut-price Trump”.

10

Beijing controlled weather for event

The Chinese government ensured blue skies for a major political celebration earlier this year by flushing moisture out of the sky beforehand, according to a study by Tsinghua University in Beijing. The research paper said an extensive cloud-seeding operation in the hours prior to the Chinese Communist Party’s centenary celebrations ensured clear skies and low air pollution. The Guardian said the Chinese government has been an “enthusiastic proponent” of weather-controlling technology.

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