Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 25 January 2022

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

1

Birthday party sparks fresh anger

Boris Johnson is facing fresh outrage after it was revealed that Carrie Symonds arranged a birthday surprise for him during the first Covid lockdown. ITV News understands that up to 30 people attended the June 2020 event, sang “Happy Birthday” and were served cake, despite rules at the time banning most indoor gatherings of more than two people. The PM is already under pressure as Sue Gray’s report is due this week, with a source telling The Guardian that it contains “appalling evidence of mismanagement” at the heart of Downing Street.

2

US puts 8,500 troops on alert

The US has placed 8,500 troops on heightened alert to deploy to Europe, amid growing fears of a possible “lightning” attack by Russia to seize the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv (or Kiev). The troops will only be deployed if Nato allies decide to activate a rapid-reaction force “or if other situations develop” around the Russian troop build-up, reported the BBC. Moscow continues to deny planning military action against Ukraine, despite massing 100,000 troops near its neighbour’s border, surrounding the country with forces from the north, east and south.

3

Markets fall amid global tensions

European stock markets fell sharply again yesterday as investors pulled their money out of risky assets due to continued tensions over Ukraine and the prospect of interest rate rises in the US. The FTSE 100 fell 196.98 points, or 2.6%, to 7,297.15, its biggest one-day decline since the end of November. Other European markets also suffered: Italian stocks in Milan fell by 4%, while the CAC 40 in France and the Dax in Germany also struggled.

4

Cocaine linked to football trouble

Cocaine use is a significant factor behind a surge in crowd trouble at football matches and played a key role in the shameful disorder at the Euro 2020 final, said The Daily Telegraph. New data shows that there has been a rise in arrests relating to cocaine or other drug use, with Britain’s head of football policing saying that drug users should be punished with a ban from all games. “Cocaine use does fuel violence,” said Chief Constable Mark Roberts. “We see it in the night-time economy; we see it in football.”

5

Peer quits over Treasury ‘errors’

Boris Johnson’s counter-fraud minister dramatically announced his resignation at the House of Lords yesterday, attacking the government’s “desperately inadequate” efforts to stop taxpayers’ money from being stolen during the pandemic. Lord Agnew of Oulton accused the government of “schoolboy errors”, including giving bounce-back loans to companies that were not trading when Covid struck. Last week it was revealed that the Treasury has written off £4.3bn of the £5.8bn that was stolen from its emergency Covid schemes.

6

Tonga eruption ‘hundred times Hiroshima’

Nasa has said the eruption of an underwater volcano near Tonga was hundreds of times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb. Jim Garvin, chief scientist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, said the eruption of the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano on 15 January released “hundreds of times the equivalent mechanical energy of the Hiroshima nuclear explosion”. The eruption near Tonga sent volcanic material surging as high as 25 miles into the atmosphere.

7

Victory for Guatemala rape survivors

Indigenous women raped by paramilitaries during Guatemala’s brutal civil war have been vindicated after their aggressors were sentenced to 30 years each in prison. “We are very happy, very satisfied with the outcome,” said a coordinator for Impunity Watch Guatemala, who accompanied the women during the trial. The Guardian described the verdict as “slightly bittersweet”, noting that three of the group of 36 Maya Achi survivors had died during the legal proceedings, including one just last week.

8

Gay couple barred from buying home

A gay couple were refused a viewing and the chance to buy a house in south London because of their sexuality. Lachlan Mantell and Luke Whitehouse received a message from the owners of the property which said they were “unwilling” to let them view or buy the house because they considered a same-sex relationship to be “contrary to the gracious teaching in God’s Word, the Holy Bible”. Online estate agency Purplebricks has withdrawn the house from its website.

9

Frost: National Insurance rise should be scrapped

Plans for a national insurance hike should be dropped to help the economic recovery, said Lord Frost. “The tax rises this April were never necessary or justified,” he said, adding that “given the new pressures on energy prices and inflation, it’s even more important now to scrap these tax increases and focus on getting the economy growing again”. Frost’s remarks came after former Brexit secretary David Davis also called for the proposed increase to be scrapped in the face of cost of living pressures, reported The Independent. 

10

Driver arrested for ‘running over knifeman’

A motorist who is alleged to have mowed down and killed a knifeman as he was stabbing a woman has been arrested on suspicion of murder. The 26-year-old driver was arrested after a car hit a man who had launched a frenzied attack on a woman outside the entrance of a park in Maida Vale, west London, yesterday morning. Paramedics and an air ambulance attended, but both the woman and her 41-year-old attacker were pronounced dead at the scene.

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