Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 9 December 2021

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

1

Tories held second party

Boris Johnson is facing further difficult questions after it emerged that Conservative Party staff danced and drank wine late into the night at another “raucous” party last December. Amid a storm over an event held at Downing Street on 18 December last year, The Times revealed that Tory staff also danced and drank wine until the early hours at another event that month. Senior advisers and officials working in Downing Street also held a Christmas quiz, which was held while restrictions banned such gatherings.

2

Lai convicted in Hong Kong

Hong Kong media mogul Jimmy Lai has been found guilty of taking part in a vigil to mark the Tiananmen massacre. Along with social activist and former reporter Gwyneth Ho and ex-politician Chow Hang Tung, Lai was convicted for inciting and taking part in an unlawful assembly. The group were among thousands who defied a ban and took part in a vigil last June commemorating the deadly 1989 crackdown. Lai is the founder of the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper.

3

Tory mutiny over Plan B

Boris Johnson is facing a Conservative backlash after announcing the introduction of his Covid-19 Plan B to limit the spread of Omicron. The new rules include masks in most public places, Covid passes for some venues and work from home guidance. The Guardian said some Tory MPs are “mutinous” over the move. One senior MP heckled Health Secretary Sajid Javid in the Commons yesterday, calling for him to “resign”. Other MPs questioned why the public should observe restrictions amid the scandal over the Downing Street party.

4

Maxwell pictured at Queen’s cabin

An ex-boyfriend of a teenager who claimed to have been groped by Ghislaine Maxwell has told a court his former partner would come out of Jeffrey Epstein’s house with $100 notes. The witness told the court that he would drive the then 14-year-old to Epstein’s house in Florida because she was “too young”. Evidence disclosed in the high-profile trial has also revealed pictures of Maxwell and Epstein relaxing at the Queen’s log cabin on her Balmoral estate.

5

UK firm offers grandparental leave

Employees of an insurance firm are to be offered a week of paid time off when their grandchildren are born. Saga, which offers insurance to the over-50s, said it is granting the paid leave to recognise and celebrate the role of grandparents. The move follows research that found a quarter of working grandparents find it “difficult” to balance work and their family life. It is believed to be the first move of its kind for a major UK business.

6

Johnson hints at mandatory jabs

Boris Johnson has raised the possibility of mandatory vaccines, calling for a “national conversation” about how to defend the country against Covid-19. The prime minister said the UK could not “keep going indefinitely” with restrictions “just because a substantial proportion of the population still sadly, has not got vaccinated”. He added that he didn’t want us to have “a culture where we forced people to get vaccinated”, but added that if vaccines are found to be effective against the Omicron variant, discussions about how to drive continued uptake may be required.

7

‘Phenomenal’ bird flu in UK

An expert has warned the BBC that there is a “phenomenal level” of avian flu in the UK. Dr Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, said tens of thousands of farmed birds have already been culled and the “largest number of premises ever” have reported infections. Officials said the risk to human health is low, however, the chief vet said the outbreak “has huge human, animal and trade implications”. As of Wednesday, there were 38 confirmed infected premises in the UK.

8

Evidence of crucifixion in UK

Archaeologists say they have found the “best physical evidence for a crucifixion in the Roman world” at a housing estate in Cambridgeshire. The remains of a man were discovered in an ancient grave in the village of Fenstanton alongside a wooden board he is thought to have been pinned to. The man had a 5cm iron nail in his right heel bone. Experts say he was probably aged between 25 and 35, while his emaciated skeleton suggests he was most likely a Roman slave who was routinely punished by his master.

9

Finland PM criticised for clubbing

Finland’s prime minister has come under fire for partying at a nightclub despite knowing she had come in contact with Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto who had contracted Covid-19. Sanna Marin, 36, said she was “really sorry” for her actions after photographs of her dancing with friends till about 4am at the Butchers nightclub in Helsinki were made public. Covid-19 cases are now at an all-time high in Finland, which has so far recorded a total of 196,180 Covid cases and 1,384 deaths.

10

Cavendish assaulted during burglary

Tour de France cyclist Mark Cavendish was assaulted by intruders during a targeted burglary days after he returned home from intensive care. The Olympian said that he, his wife, Peta, and his young children were left “extremely distressed” after they were threatened at knifepoint when masked burglars ransacked their home in Essex last month. He added that his children feared for their lives and are “now struggling with the after-effects”.

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