Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 11 January 2022

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

1

PM attended lockdown party

Up to 100 people were invited to a “bring-your-own-booze” drinks event in the Downing Street garden during the first lockdown, it has emerged. Eyewitnesses told the BBC that Boris Johnson and his wife were among about 30 people who attended the gathering on 20 May 2020. The PM has refused to confirm whether he was present. An email obtained by ITV shows Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s principal private secretary, encouraged staff to “make the most of the lovely weather” and “join us from 6pm” with “your own booze”. At the time, social mixing was banned except with one other person from another household outdoors in a public place. Scotland Yard said that the Metropolitan Police is considering investigating the event.

2

EA ‘ignores some pollution’

The Environment Agency has told its staff to “shut down” reports of low-impact pollution events because it does not have enough money to investigate them. A leaked internal report seen by The Guardian declared that events such as “farm pollution or hazardous dumps by business” may not be properly investigated due to a lack of funding. Mark Lloyd, the chief executive of the Rivers Trust, described the strategy as an “appalling scandal”. An EA spokesperson said: “We focus our incident response effort on those pollution incidents which pose the greatest risk to the environment.”

3

Minister to rule on Djokovic

Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic has said he wants to stay in Melbourne and compete in the Australian Open after winning his visa court battle yesterday. His fate will now be determined by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who has the power to cancel the visa again. The Australian Border Force is also investigating whether Djokovic incorrectly declared that he had not travelled and would not do so for two weeks before his flight to Australia.

4

PM backs isolation cut

Boris Johnson is pressing his scientific advisers to slash the recommended Covid-19 isolation period to five days. The UK Health Security Agency yesterday admitted that it misread guidance from the US when it opposed the reduction. But as the PM presses for shortened quarantine, advisers have warned Health Secretary Sajid Javid that “a five-day isolation period could lead to a third more people returning to work while still infectious”, The Times said.

5

Pig heart transplant could ‘solve crisis’

A man in the US has become the first person in the world to get a heart transplant from a genetically-modified pig. Doctors in Baltimore said David Bennett, 57, is doing well three days after the experimental seven-hour procedure. A surgeon said the operation would bring the world “one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis”. But animal rights campaigners have questioned the morality of the procedure.

6

Sunak to meet MPs on energy crisis

Rishi Sunak is to meet with MPs in a bid to quell growing Tory unrest over the cost of living crisis. The Guardian said that the “delegations of MPs” will press the chancellor to cancel a planned tax rise and ditch VAT on energy bills. An increase in national insurance is set to coincide with rising energy bills this spring. Sunak and Boris Johnson have ruled out a cut to VAT. But a Tory MP told the paper that the move has “the most widespread support”.

7

North Korea launches ballistic missile

North Korea has reportedly fired a ballistic missile less than a week after it launched what it claimed was a hypersonic missile. South Korea and Japan both reported the launch, which came after six countries issued a statement urging the North to cease its “destabilising actions”. The BBC said the launch could be intended to “divert public attention from an increasingly severe economic situation in the country”, a crisis that has been worsened by the pandemic.

8

Pope decries cancel culture

Pope Francis has criticised the rise of cancel culture, describing it as a form of “ideological colonisation”. Speaking to diplomats at the Vatican, he said “the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples” were being undermined, adding that cancel culture “leaves no space for freedom of expression”. The Telegraph said that although his speech was in Italian, he used the English phrase “cancel culture” to refer to a concept that is still “in its infancy in Italy”.

9

Energy giant suggests star jumps

Britain’s third-biggest energy supplier has advised customers to keep their heating bills low by “having a cuddle with pets”, eating “hearty bowls of porridge” and “doing a few star jumps”. Ovo Energy has apologised and said it was “embarrassed” after the guidance from its company, SSE Energy Services. The advice was labelled “insulting” and “offensive” by MPs. The news comes as millions of households face a “cost of living catastrophe” this spring.

10

Angelou first black woman on quarter

Maya Angelou has become the first black woman ever featured on the US quarter. The poet and activist, who died in 2014 at the age of 86, was also the first black woman to write and perform a poem at a presidential inauguration. Coins are planned for other pioneering women — including an astronaut, a tribal chief and an actor — as part of the American Women Quarters programme.

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