Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 February 2022

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

1

NHS backlog plan delayed again

Ministers have delayed a long-awaited plan to tackle the six million-strong backlog of patients on hospital waiting lists as a result of the pandemic. The NHS’s “national recovery plan” was expected to be announced by the PM and Sajid Javid today, but has been delayed once again due to “a last minute intervention by Whitehall”, said the BBC. The Daily Telegraph reported on Sunday that the Treasury had refused to sign off the plans, with sources citing concerns over value for money. “Any delay is a working through of final details,” said a government spokesperson. 

2

Food prices may surge in spring

The worst of rising food prices is “yet to come”, the chairman of Tesco has warned. John Allan told the BBC that there could be a 5% surge in spring because “we are impacted by rising energy prices [and] suppliers are impacted by rising energy prices”. The supermarket chief said he was aware that the combination of higher energy prices, national insurance increases and hiked food costs would “squeeze the hardest-up still harder”. The country finds itself in a “parlous” situation, said The Observer, with hard-pressed families facing “the worst threat to their economic wellbeing for many years”.

3

Macron and Putin to meet today

Emmanuel Macron has claimed that a “historic solution” to avoid war in Ukraine is possible and that it is legitimate for Russia to raise its own security concerns. Ahead of a meeting with Vladimir Putin today, the French president called for a “new balance” that would protect European states and placate Moscow. Russia denies planning to invade Ukraine, but has massed more than 100,000 Russian troops near its neighbour’s borders.

4

Church may add ‘Brexit bishop’

Church leaders could be appointed to cabinet-style roles such as “Brexit bishop” or “Covid bishop”, The Times has reported. A radical consultation document, commissioned by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and the Bishop of London, suggests that some senior bishops could be moved from geographical regions to serve as spokesmen or women on political matters. “The church doesn’t need bishops acting as shadow government ministers, it needs bishops who are being pastors to their flocks,” said a London rector.

5

Firms exaggerate climate progress

Some of the world’s biggest companies are exaggerating their progress on climate change, according to a study of 25 corporations. The New Climate Institute report found that Google, Amazon, Ikea, Apple and Nestle are among those failing to change quickly enough. The study’s author Thomas Day told the BBC that his team was “frankly surprised and disappointed at the overall integrity of the companies’ claims”. Corporations are coming under pressure to reduce their environmental impact, with consumers increasingly prioritising green providers.

6

Carrie victim of ‘brutal briefing’

A spokesperson for Boris Johnson’s wife said that Carrie has been the target of a “brutal briefing campaign” by her husband’s “enemies”. The rare statement was issued to Sky News following allegations made by Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft. In a new biography serialised in newspapers over the weekend, Ashcroft accused Carrie of meddling in the PM’s decisions. Her spokesperson said this was “just the latest attempt by bitter ex-officials” to discredit her and stated that Johnson’s wife “is a private individual who plays no role in government”.

7

Peng Shuai withdraws assault claim

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has denied ever claiming she was sexually assaulted. In an hour-long, face-to-face interview with French sport paper L’Equipe – her first with Western media since she accused a Chinese party leader of coercing her into sex – Peng said she was unlikely to return to professional tennis. The winner of two grand slam women’s doubles titles, Peng sparked global concern when she briefly disappeared from public view last year. She had posted the allegation on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.

8

Truss rebukes Beijing over Falklands

Foreign secretary Liz Truss has described the Falklands as being “part of the British family” and insisted that China “must respect” the islands’ sovereignty. When Argentinian president Alberto Fernández met with Xi Jinping at the Beijing Winter Olympics, they inked an agreement that reasserted China’s support for Argentina’s claim to the South Atlantic islands. Fernández also backed Xi’s “one-China policy”, which claims sovereignty over Taiwan.

9

Private parking fines to be halved

Private parking fines will be capped at £50 – down from £100 – as part of a government crackdown. Under plans described as “much needed” by the AA, car parks will have to display charges more clearly and give drivers a grace period for lateness. Minister for Levelling Up Neil O'Brien accused private firms of issuing “roughly 22,000 parking tickets every day, often adopting a system of misleading and confusing signage, aggressive debt collection and unreasonable fees designed to extort money from motorists”.

10

Carr bemoans ‘cancel culture’

Jimmy Carr has complained of “cancel culture” after his joke about gypsies dying in the Holocaust was condemned by the Traveller Movement and the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. Netflix has come under pressure to edit the comedian’s comedy show, which became the most-streamed UK stand-up special last year after its Christmas Day release. “The joke that ends my career is already out there,” said Carr during a gig on Saturday night. Speaking to the BBC over the weekend, culture secretary Nadine Dorries suggested that new laws could hold streaming sites airing “appalling” jokes to account. 

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