Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 13 May 2022

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

1

90,000 civil service jobs to go

Boris Johnson has told the cabinet to create a plan to cut roughly 90,000 civil service jobs, reducing the size of departmental workforces to 2016 levels. The PM told the Daily Mail that the plan was “to cut the cost of government to reduce the cost of living” and sources suggest that about one in five posts will go. The FDA, the union for civil servants, said the “ill-thought-out” proposal could affect services such as passport processing and healthcare. Labour accused Johnson of “pointless rhetoric and lack of action”.

2

Truss calls on allies to do more

The foreign secretary said Vladimir Putin is “humiliating himself on the world stage” and called on international allies to go “further and faster” in their support for Ukraine. Liz Truss said that international sanctions against Russia should only be lifted when all of its troops have left Ukraine. She also argued that Ukraine should have increased access to Nato military equipment. In an address on Thursday night, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed Russia’s strategic defeat was “obvious to everyone in the world”.

3

Hunt may run for leadership

Jeremy Hunt has said that Boris Johnson has a “big mountain to climb” if he is to lead the Conservatives to victory in the next election. In what The Times described as his “starkest criticism of the government to date”, the former foreign secretary said that the party’s loss of nearly 500 seats in last week’s local elections was not just “mid-term blues” but an expression of the serious concerns of voters about the cost of living crisis. When asked whether he was considering a leadership bid, Hunt replied: “I would be very open with you that I don’t rule out a return in the future.”

4

Met issues 50 more fines

The Metropolitan Police announced it has issued a further 50 fixed penalty notices for lockdown gatherings in No. 10 and Whitehall, bringing the total so far to 100. “Boris Johnson’s Downing Street has now reached a century of fixed penalty notices for their partying,” said Labour’s Angela Rayner, adding that “they have racked up the dubious distinction of receiving more fines on the Prime Minister’s watch than any other location”. Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s former aide, claimed staff at No. 10 feel the PM is hanging them out to dry and plan to make his life “nightmarish” at the Covid inquiry.

5

Cancer podcaster gets damehood

The podcaster, journalist and campaigner Deborah James has been honoured with a damehood just days after revealing she is receiving end-of-life care for her bowel cancer. The 40-year-old host of the chart-topping You, Me and the Big C said she was “blown away” by the honour, adding: “I don’t feel like I deserve this. I can’t tell you what this means to my family, it’s so much to take in.” James was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016, an experience she has shared on You, Me and the Big C, with the show “earning praise for its frank discussion of cancer”, said the BBC.

6

Frost calls for protocol boldness

David Frost has said that Boris Johnson must show the same leadership over Northern Ireland as he has on Ukraine by tearing up the Northern Ireland Protocol. “The government has no option now other than to act unilaterally to disapply part or all of the Protocol,” the former Brexit minister wrote in a piece for The Telegraph. The Guardian revealed this morning that a delegation of influential US congress representatives will fly to London within days amid growing concern in the White House about spiralling tensions over the protocol.

7

Sunak ‘pragmatic’ about windfall tax

Rishi Sunak has insisted he is “pragmatic” about the idea of a windfall tax on energy companies, saying that “no options are off the table”. The chancellor has faced growing calls to introduce a windfall tax on oil firms, which have benefited from rocketing global prices, with the proceeds used to reduce domestic energy bills. The government had previously suggested such a tax would disincentivise investment in the North Sea, but Sunak told the BBC yesterday that although he was “not naturally attracted to windfall taxes in general” he was “pragmatic about it”.

8

Plants grown in moon soil

Scientists have grown plants in lunar soil using samples collected during the Apollo missions to the moon. “Holy cow. Plants actually grow in lunar stuff. Are you kidding me?” said Robert Ferl of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, when announcing the news. Experts said the next step is to repeat the feat on the surface of the moon. “When humans move as civilisations to stay somewhere, we always take our agriculture with us,” said Ferl. “The idea of bringing lunar soil into a lunar greenhouse is the stuff of exploration dreams.”

9

Brexit critic joins Bank of England

Rishi Sunak has appointed an “ardent critic of Brexit” as one of the Bank of England’s key policymakers, said The Telegraph. Amid the highest inflation in three decades, Dr Swati Dhingra, an associate professor at the London School of Economics, has been chosen to sit on the Bank’s rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). Dhingra will succeed one of the Bank’s most hawkish rate-setters, meaning a more dovish stance could edge the MPC away from interest rate rises to tame inflation, said the paper. 

10

Jubilee pudding announced

A lemon and Swiss roll amaretti trifle will be the official pudding of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations. The dessert – made with layers of lemon curd and custard, St Clement’s jelly, a mandarin coulis, and amaretti biscuits – was inspired by the lemon posset served at the Queen’s 1947 wedding to Prince Philip. Jemma Melvin, who made the dish, won the nationwide competition to craft a new pudding to commemorate the Queen’s 70-year reign. Some 5,000 people, aged between eight and 108, entered the baking challenge.

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