Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 1 February 2022

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

1

‘Updated’ report will be published

Downing Street has confirmed that an updated report on lockdown parties will be published by Sue Gray once the Met Police finish their inquiries. Speaking in the Commons yesterday, the PM initially declined to say whether the report would be published in full, but No. 10 later clarified that Boris Johnson would “ask Sue Gray to update her work in light of what is found”, reported the BBC. Gray’s initial report has left Johnson “desperately trying to shore up his premiership”, said The Guardian. The Met confirmed that detectives are investigating 12 Downing Street events, including a party in the PM’s private flat.

2

PM to travel to Ukraine

Boris Johnson will travel to Ukraine today for talks with the country’s president, amid rising concerns over a possible Russian invasion. The PM has promised to work with Volodymyr Zelensky to find a diplomatic solution to arguments with Moscow and “avoid further bloodshed”, said the BBC. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, has said Russian oligarchs and key supporters of Vladimir Putin will have “nowhere to hide” if Russia invades Ukraine.

3

100% chance of interest rate rise

The markets are betting that the Bank of England will implement back-to-back interest rate rises for the first time since 2004, said The Times. Futures markets have priced in a 100% chance that the central bank will increase its base rate by 0.25% to 0.5% when the monetary policy committee meets on Thursday. The policymakers are trying to stem soaring prices after inflation rose to 5.4%. Consumer advice expert Martin Lewis has warned that this could affect homeowners paying off a variable rate mortgage.

4

NHS vaccine mandate scrapped

The government has announced it will abandon an order forcing all NHS staff in England to get vaccinated against Covid. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, confirmed the move in a statement to MPs on Monday evening, saying he believes “it is no longer proportionate to require vaccination as a condition of deployment by statute”. Data published last week by NHS England showed that 127,515 NHS and domiciliary care staff working in registered settings had not received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of 23 January.

5

Biden makes appeal to Taliban

Joe Biden appeared to offer the Taliban a pathway towards legitimacy if they released Mark Frerichs, a US Navy veteran and civil engineer who was taken hostage by a Taliban-allied militia nearly two years ago. “The Taliban must immediately release Mark before it can expect any consideration of its aspirations for legitimacy. This is not negotiable,” the US president said on Monday. Washington has repeatedly told the Taliban it will have to “earn” legitimacy before being recognised by the international community, said AFP.  

6

Masked flights expected for years

The requirement to wear a face mask during a flight could remain an official policy for years, experts have said. The Times explained that different rules around the world will make it almost impossible for airlines to move individually in allowing passengers to travel without masks. A senior aviation source said that “until there is a harmonised lifting of mask mandates on flights by governments worldwide it is simpler for airlines to keep the rules in place”.

7

669 child protection referrals per day

Police made an average of 669 child protection referrals to social services every day last year because of incidents of domestic abuse across England and Wales, reported The Guardian. Charities are urging deputy prime minister Dominic Raab to ensure all child victims of domestic abuse have access to specialist, therapeutic services in the community to support their recovery. “Domestic abuse can derail a childhood and it is unacceptable that support… remains patchy across the country,” said the NSPCC. 

8

Goldberg apologises for Holocaust remark

Whoopi Goldberg has apologised for saying that the Holocaust “was not about race” on a US talk show. The actress said on ABC’s The View that the Nazi genocide of the Jews involved “two groups of white people”, but campaigners pointed out that Hitler had expressed his hatred of the Jews in racial terms and that the Nazis believed themselves an Aryan “master race”. “Holocaust distortion is dangerous”, tweeted Jonathan Greenblatt, leader of the Anti-Defamation League,  a Jewish anti-hate watchdog.

9

‘Witch hat’ banker awarded £2m

A City banker has been awarded more than £2m for discrimination – thought to be one of the largest pay-outs awarded by an English tribunal for a finding of unequal pay based on gender, said The Times. Stacey Macken, 50, sued the City office of BNP Paribas, claiming that colleagues repeatedly belittled her and even left a witch’s hat on her desk after a “drinking session”. Macken said that over a four-year period she received hundreds of thousands of pounds less than her male peers in salary and bonuses, but when she raised the issue she was treated unfairly.

10

NYT snaps up Wordle

The New York Times has acquired the viral word game Wordle for an undisclosed seven-figure sum. Wordle gives players just six guesses to determine a five-letter word that changes every day. The game is the brainchild of Josh Wardle, a former Reddit software engineer based in Brooklyn, New York. It was initially popular in his family’s WhatsApp group, but has attracted millions of players in recent weeks. Some Wordle fans responded to the news of the acquisition with concern that the newspaper would move the puzzle behind a paywall.

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