Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 12 April 2022

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

1

‘Chemical weapon’ claim in Mariupol

Authorities in Ukraine have claimed Russia dropped a drone carrying a toxic substance on the south-eastern city of Mariupol. Ukrainian MP Ivanna Klympush said the unknown substance was “most likely” a chemical weapon. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy did not confirm the claim, but said: “One of the mouthpieces of the occupiers stated that they could use chemical weapons against the defenders of Mariupol. We take this as seriously as possible.” The UK warned that such a move would be a “callous escalation” of the conflict. The UK and US said overnight they are assessing the unconfirmed reports.

2

Tory criticised over Khan verdict

A Conservative MP is under fire over comments about the guilty verdict in Imran Ahmad Khan’s sexual assault trial. Khan, the Tory MP for Wakefield, was expelled from the party with immediate effect after being convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old boy. Crispin Blunt, the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on LGBTQ+ rights, said he was certain Khan was innocent and that the trial “was nothing short of an international scandal”. A Tory spokesperson said: “We completely reject any allegations of impropriety against our independent judiciary.”

3

GPs to work longer hours

Family doctors are being ordered to work longer hours as accident and emergency (A&E) units are deluged with patients. New NHS guidance for GPs instructs them to provide “extended hours” at practices and make up any appointments lost to the four-day bank holiday weekend within a fortnight. GPs traditionally close “routine services” for Good Friday, The Telegraph said, reopening on the following Tuesday morning. This puts A&E departments under extra pressure at a time when more staff are on holiday leave.

4

Consumer confidence collapses

Fears over the rising cost of living led to the sharpest drop in consumer confidence since the 2008 financial crisis, according to industry data. The British Retail Consortium said total sales rose by 3.1% in March compared with the same month a year earlier, significantly down on the 6.7% increase in February and 12-month average growth rate of 10.3%. A spokesperson from Barclaycard said: “We shouldn’t overlook the expected heatwave later in April, and the Easter holidays, both of which are likely to boost non-essential spending.”

5

Starmer: Sunak out of touch

Keir Starmer has accused Rishi Sunak of “rank hypocrisy” and said having a spouse who was a non-dom would create a “very obvious conflict of interest” for any cabinet minister. Speaking to The Guardian, the Labour leader also said there was a “broader issue” with politician’s disconnection from people’s lives and questioned the ability of super-rich MPs to relate to the public amid the cost of living crisis. Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to make clear that no other cabinet ministers had taken advantage of non-dom status, used tax havens or benefited from offshore trusts.

6

Musk won’t ‘fade into background’

Elon Musk has said he could buy more shares in Twitter, opening the door to a hostile takeover after he cancelled plans to join the social network’s board. The Tesla billionaire said he “reserves the right” to boost his 9.2% stake in the social network at any time. The Guardian said Musk is “unlikely to fade into the background by not joining the board”, adding that “interference is hard to avoid when one of your largest shareholders has more than 80m followers on your platform and a penchant for impulsive use of the tweet button”.

7

Man jailed for Amess murder

A “bloodthirsty” and “fanatical” terrorist has been found guilty of the murder of Conservative MP David Amess. Ali Harbi Ali, 26, stabbed the Tory MP to death on 15 October 2021. He was  “fuelled by Islamic State propaganda” having spent “at least two years researching which MP to murder”, The Guardian said. After 18 minutes of deliberation, the jury at the Old Bailey in central London convicted Ali, who refused to stand as the unanimous verdicts were delivered. He will be sentenced tomorrow.

8

Chaos expected at airports

Passengers have been warned to expect a summer of chaos at Britain’s airports after the government was accused of overseeing “cripplingly slow” security checks for new staff. The Times reported that senior industry figures have warned it is taking up to six months to vet new security screening staff, cabin crew and baggage operators as airports and airlines expanded their operations after the pandemic. Dozens of UK flights were cancelled yesterday amid a surge in demand from families wanting to travel abroad for the Easter holidays.

9

French hopefuls appeal for funds

Eight of the 12 candidates in the first round of France’s presidential election failed to reach the 5% vote threshold for campaign reimbursement, leaving some appealing for financial support. “I urgently need your help... to secure the financing of my presidential campaign,” said Les Républicains’ candidate Valerie Pécresse. She added that she was starting a crowdfunding campaign and appealed to “all those who are attached to political pluralism” for support. Yannick Jadot, the Green candidate, adopted a similar tactic. Politico described the appeals as “humiliating”.

10

Oldest Mastermind champ crowned

A veteran quizzer has become the oldest female BBC Mastermind champion after she won at the age of 66. Alice Walker scored a perfect 14 out of 14 in her specialist subject, the Peak District, cheered on by the Morris dancing troupe she belongs to. She said it was a “shock” to win. The previous oldest female winner was Isabelle Heward, who took the title at her fourth attempt at the age of 61 in 2017.

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