Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 December 2021
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Mass killings in Myanmar
A BBC investigation has found that the Myanmar military carried out a series of mass killings of civilians in July, resulting in the deaths of at least 40 men. Eyewitnesses said soldiers rounded up villagers in an opposition stronghold before separating the men and killing them. The evidence suggests that many of the victims had been tortured. Myanmar’s deputy minister for information, General Zaw Min Tun, did not deny soldiers had carried out the mass killings. “It can happen,” he told the BBC.
Cabinet divided on new rules
Sajid Javid admitted that fresh Covid restrictions could be imposed before Christmas to slow the spread of the Omicron variant. However, Rishi Sunak is one of “at least ten cabinet ministers” who are resisting calls by scientific advisers for new coronavirus restrictions to be introduced before Christmas, The Times reports. Government insiders expect an announcement about whether social mixing will be curtailed before the festive period to be made early this week.
Photo emerges of No 10 gathering
Downing Street is facing new questions over lockdown gatherings after The Guardian published a photograph of Boris Johnson, his wife and up to 17 staff eating cheese and drinking wine in the Downing Street garden in May 2020, when such gatherings were banned. A No 10 spokesman said the photo shows them having a “work meeting”. Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner urged Johnson to “tell us the truth” about gatherings at Downing Street.
Low turnout for Hong Kong vote
China’s attempt to gain legitimacy for its crackdown on Hong Kong with an election of vetted political “patriots” was widely rejected as the turnout fell to the lowest since the territory was taken under Chinese rule in 1997. CNN said the 30.2% turnout reflected a “steep decline” in civic and political engagement following Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral processes. None of the city’s major pro-democracy parties fielded candidates.
New Truss role ‘boosts leadership hopes’
Liz Truss will replace Lord Frost as the UK’s lead negotiator with the EU in post-Brexit talks. She will retain her role as foreign secretary alongside the new post leading negotiations on the Northern Ireland Protocol. Her appointment follows the resignation of Lord Frost as Brexit minister on Saturday. The Times said that the role will give Truss’ leadership ambitions a “significant boost” and her allies regard it is a “big consolidation of power”.
Young leftist wins in Chile
A former student leader is to become Chile’s youngest ever president after beating a far-right rival. With nearly 97% of the vote already counted, the left-wing Gabriel Boric has a 12-point lead over Jose Antonio Kast, an ultra-conservative father of nine. Boric told a crowd packed into a Santiago boulevard: “The times ahead will not be easy.” At 35, he will become Chile’s youngest ever president when he is sworn in on 11 March.
Sunak ‘has 24h to save hospitality’
Hospitality chiefs have told Rishi Sunak he has just 24 hours to commit to a package of support for businesses or risk the permanent closure of 10,000 pubs and restaurants. The chancellor is reportedly considering a fresh emergency VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism industry and additional cash boosts for businesses. Bosses say he must end the “limbo” and pledge Treasury support immediately as venues suffer a dramatic fall in bookings and a surge in cancellations during the normally busy run-up to Christmas.
Quidditch groups in name change
Quidditch organisations are to change the name of the sport to “distance” themselves from JK Rowling, the game’s creator, over her views on transgender issues. The sport is a real-life version of the magical game played on flying broomsticks in the Harry Potter books. QuidditchUK, the governing body for the sport, backed a move by two US organisations to drop the name, citing Rowling’s “anti-trans positions”. She is opposed to people being allowed to self-identify their gender. Her views have also been condemned by the Harry Potter films’ biggest stars.
Queen fearful of William’s flights
The Queen is suffering “sleepless nights” over the Duke of Cambridge’s decision to fly with his wife and children in a helicopter, according to a royal source. The source told The Times that she is “terrified” about an accident. An unwritten rule preventing senior royals flying together was relaxed to allow Prince William to travel with his family between London and Norfolk, but an investigation has been launched after two near-misses.
Raducanu wins and Daley steals show
The teenage US Open champion Emma Raducanu has been voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2021. She was 18 when she ended Britain’s 44-year wait for a women’s Grand Slam singles champion with her victory at Flushing Meadows. The Times said runner-up Tom Daley’s words “stole the show” at the ceremony when the Olympic diver said: “It’s really important we make sport inclusive, so everyone has a space.”