Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 3 January 2022

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

1

Pupils to be tested before term

Secondary schools pupils in England will be tested for Covid before re-joining classes for the new term, the government has announced. Urging pupils to test twice weekly, ministers assured schools that testing kits will be provided as needed. Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has said face coverings will be required in schools until 26 January. However, ministers have said there is “nothing” in the data to support new, wider Covid-19 restrictions.

2

‘Postcode lottery’ on mental health

Vulnerable children are waiting almost three years to access mental health care in some parts of the UK while others are seen in as little as a week, reported The Independent. Psychiatrists warned of the additional toll on young people’s mental health caused by Covid and described the situation as a “scandalous postcode lottery”. One in six children reported a mental health disorder in 2020 and 2021, up from one in nine in 2017.

3

Sudan’s PM quits after fresh protests

Sudan’s prime minister has resigned after another day of mass protests in the capital Khartoum. Thousands marched against the deal Abdalla Hamdok had struck to share power with the army, who staged a coup in October. He was seen as the civilian face of Sudan’s transitional government, after he was reinstated as prime minister in November as part of an agreement with the military following the coup. His decision to quit leaves the army in full control.

4

Tories could lose 100 seats

A poll has found that Boris Johnson could lose more than 100 seats at the next general election, with support for the Tories falling in the ‘Red Wall’. A survey of the 57 Labour heartland constituencies in the Midlands and North gained by the Conservatives in 2019 found almost half of respondents – 49%– said they would vote Labour if there was a general election now, while one third would vote for the Tories. Some 38% believed Sir Keir Starmer would make the best prime minister, while 33% backed Johnson.

5

Veteran tells Duke to step down

A veteran of the Grenadier Guards has publicly called for Prince Andrew to step down from his role as colonel of the regiment. Pressure is growing on the Duke to give up his military titles after the conviction of his friend Ghislaine Maxwell for child sex-trafficking. Julian Perreira, a former lance sergeant, said the Duke’s continued involvement would “stain” the regiment’s history. The Times said officers have “appeared uncomfortable” at being asked to drink to the health of the duke at the end of regimental dinners.

6

More than half of black children in poverty

More than 50% of black children in the UK are now growing up in poverty, according to research by the Labour Party. Black children are also now more than twice as likely to be growing up poor as white children and over the last decade the total number of black children in poor households has more than doubled. Labour said the data is evidence of “Conservative incompetence and denialism about the existence of structural racism”.

7

US ‘could be dictatorship by 2030’

A Canadian political science professor has warned that the US could be under a rightwing dictatorship by 2030. Urging his country to protect itself against the “collapse of American democracy,” Thomas Homer-Dixon, founding director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University in British Columbia, said “we mustn’t dismiss these possibilities just because they seem ludicrous or too horrible to imagine”. He added that “American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence”.

8

Good Friday man criticises PM

An architect of the Northern Ireland peace deal has said Boris Johnson has risked “all the work” put into the Belfast Good Friday agreement and put his hard ideological beliefs ahead of people. Speaking of the PM and former Brexit minister Lord Frost, Jonathan Powell, Tony Blair’s former chief of staff and chief negotiator on Northern Ireland, said “What worries me is the casual political vandalism. They really don’t seem to care.”

9

Queen loses second aide in a month

The Queen has lost a close aide with the death of Diana, Lady Farnham, who served as her lady of the bedchamber for 34 years. Farnham, who was 90, is the second lady-in-waiting to die within a month after Ann, Dowager Duchess of Grafton, who had served the Queen since 1967, died in December at 101.  “Unfortunately a sad consequence of living a long life is that you have to say goodbye to a lot of people you care about,” said a source.

10

Messi tests positive for coronavirus

Lionel Messi has tested positive for Covid-19, PSG said in a statement on Sunday. The superstar is one of four players at the French giant who is “in isolation and subject to the appropriate health protocol”. France registered 232,200 new cases of Covid-19 on Friday, the highest daily number registered across Europe since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from the nation’s Health Ministry.

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