Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 21 May 2022

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

1

Gray met PM to discuss photos

Sue Gray met with Boris Johnson to discuss publishing photos as part of her report into Downing Street parties, reported the BBC. According to a senior government source, the PM had told the civil servant the decision was a matter for her, and the findings of her investigation were not discussed. However, Labour said the “secret meeting” could damage confidence in the report. Meanwhile, a former civil service chief has said the “real issue” in the ‘partygate’ scandal is the leadership of Johnson and his cabinet secretary, Simon Case.

2

Steelworks ‘completely liberated’

Russia has declared victory in its battle to conquer the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. Following a months-long standoff, the last fighters defending the city’s Azovstal steel plant have now surrendered, according to Moscow officials.  The city and its steel plant are now “completely liberated” after 531 Ukrainian troops left the site, the Russian defence ministry said. Sky News said the port city has been a “key target” for Vladimir Putin as its capture would create a land corridor between annexed Crimea and pro-Russian separatist controlled regions.

3

Police to apologise for racism

Police chiefs will announce that they are “ashamed” about racism in law enforcement, and apologise for the “discrimination and bias” still dominating forces. Although the statement from National Police Chiefs Council and College of Policing will stop short of admitting institutional racism, it will commit the force to becoming “institutionally anti-racist”. The Guardian said the document and planned reforms come after decades of promises by police to stamp out racism in the ranks, and failure to deliver.

4

Truss wants to arm Moldova

Liz Truss wants to send modern weaponry to Moldova to protect it from the threat of invasion by Russia. In an interview with The Telegraph, the Foreign Secretary said Vladimir Putin was determined to create a “greater Russia” and she therefore wants Moldova “equipped to Nato standard”. Truss added that Vladimir Putin “has been absolutely clear about his ambitions to create a greater Russia” and “just because his attempts to take Kyiv weren’t successful it doesn’t mean he’s abandoned those ambitions”.

5

Passport delays ‘to get worse’

Passport Office staff have privately warned that the agency’s 500,000 application backlog will only get worse, putting summer holidays at risk for millions. The Times has seen internal messages from officials in which staff raise concerns that the backlog is just the “beginning of a very lengthy scenario” and pressure will only become “heavier”. Meanwhile, said The Telegraph, a backlog blamed on civil servants working from home has left hundreds of thousands of elderly and vulnerable people unable to hand over critical financial powers to their loved ones.

6

Monkeypox hits sexual health clinics

Doctors have been warned that monkeypox could have a “massive impact” on access to sexual health services. Staff at clinics are having to isolate if they have come into contact with anyone infected, and sexual health clinics in London have stopped people walking in altogether. Meanwhile in Spain, monkeypox cases have been linked to a superspreader event at an adult sauna in Madrid, while three cases in Belgium have been linked to a fetish festival in Antwerp.

7

Musk denies harassment claims

Elon Musk has denied claims that he groped and exposed himself to an employee at his SpaceX rocket company six years ago. According to a report in the Business Insider, SpaceX paid the ex-flight attendant $250,000 (£200,000) to settle the claim. However, Musk, the world’s richest man, wrote on Twitter that “those wild accusations are utterly untrue”. He also told Business Insider its article was a “politically motivated hit piece”. Shares in Musk’s electric car company, Tesla, dropped on Friday.

8

Sunak under fire over rich list

Rishi Sunak has faced a new wave of criticism following the news that he and his wife Akshata Murty have been named the 222nd wealthiest people in Britain on the Sunday Times Rich List. The Daily Mirror said the “fatcat chancellor” has come under fire from the GMB union, which said: “We can’t trust this multi-millionaire to help us.” The chancellor became first frontline politician in the Sunday Times rankings just days after telling people the “next few months will be tough” due to the cost of living crisis.

9

Two new variants of concern announced

Officials have revealed that two types of the Omicron, known as BA.4 and BA.5, have been labelled as variants of concern in the UK following new evidence on their growth. The UK Health Security Agency has revealed that two further Omicron sub-lineages, BA.4 and BA.5, have been added to the list of “variants of concern”. Experts in South Africa have suggested there is little indication these new sub-lineages will be more severe than other Omicron sub-lineages.

10

Becker denies jail complaints

Boris Becker is upset with “fictitious” media reports of his time in jail since he was sentenced for bankruptcy offences, his lawyer has said. The disgraced tennis champion was reported by German media to have made emergency calls from his cell at Wandsworth jail, complaining about the food. A prison employee had told Bild that Becker “was warned not to just press the emergency call button” because “it’s not like room service in hotels here”. He had reportedly complained about corned beef.

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