Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 25 Feb 2021

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

1. MPs may block tax rise

Backbench Conservative rebels may team up with Labour MPs to vote down plans to increase corporation tax from 19% to 25%. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to use next week’s budget to announce a “pathway” to increase the tax on businesses. The Daily Mail says Sunak is planning for a “giveaway budget”, with help for motorists, hospitality firms and the housing market among “a string of eye-catching policies” aimed at aiding the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

Spring budget 2021 predictions: what will Rishi Sunak announce?

2. Teachers to decide grades

Teachers will be given sweeping powers to decide the grades of students in England whose GCSE and A-level exams are cancelled because of the pandemic, the watchdog Ofqual has confirmed. Schools will be allowed to determine grades this summer by using a combination of mock exams, coursework and essays. Results will also be published earlier in August to allow time for students to appeal. The Education Policy Institute think tank has warned that the plans risk “extremely high grade inflation”.

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Exam U-turn: behind the algorithm that triggered A-level grades mayhem

3. US single-shot jab ‘safe’

Regulators in the US have confirmed that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective. The ruling paves the way for it to become the third Covid-19 vaccine to be authorised in the US, possibly within days. The vaccine can be stored in a refrigerator instead of a freezer and is 66.9% effective at protecting against against moderate to severe illness after 14 days, analysis by the US Food and Drug Administration found. The UK has ordered 30m doses of the vaccine.

The coronavirus vaccines

4. Book calls PM an ‘inveterate liar’

Boris Johnson is “an unrepentant and inveterate liar” who feels he is not subject to the same rules as others, according to a former French ambassador to the UK’s new book. In Goodbye Britannia, Sylvie Bermann writes that Johnson uses “lies to embellish reality, as a game and as instrument of power”. The former ambassador to the UK from 2014 to 2017 also predicts that Johnson will seek to use Covid to conceal the true economic cost of Brexit on the UK economy.

5. Clegg defends Facebook

Nick Clegg has said the Australian government and press drove Facebook to block news from the feeds of users down under. Offering what he describes as “the real story” behind the news ban in Australia, he blamed the fallout on the government and publishers rather than his employers. However, after users in Australia were denied access to news last week, the vice-president of global affairs for the social media giant admitted that Facebook “erred on the side of over-enforcement”.

Can Facebook and Google really be regulated?

6. Festivals to return this summer

Live music fans have cheered the announcement that Reading and Leeds Festival will return this summer. The promoter has confirmed that the events will take place at Little John’s Farm in Reading and Bramham Park in Leeds over the August bank holiday weekend. The organisers have yet to confirm whether they will require people to present vaccine passports or Covid test results to gain entry.

How Israel’s ‘green pass’ could be adapted for UK

7. Racist views remain common - study

One in eight Britons quizzed by researchers from Kings College London said they think black people are more likely to be unemployed and have lower incomes because they “lack motivation or willpower”. This view was held by more than one in five of the Conservative voters polled, compared with less than one in 20 Labour supporters. The survey of more than 2,000 people found that some “strikingly racist views remain”, The Guardian says, with 4% of respondents saying inequality was caused by black people having “less in-born ability to learn”.

How racist is Britain today?

8. Biden reverses immigration ruling

Joe Biden has officially reversed another series of measures taken by Donald Trump, including a decree that blocked many green card applicants from entering the US. Trump said the ban was necessary to protect American workers amid high unemployment during the coronavirus pandemic, but Biden said it was preventing families from reuniting in the US and harming businesses.

The Donald Trump policies Joe Biden has already overturned

9. Franco statue removed in Spain

The last public statue of General Francisco Franco has been removed from Spanish soil. Workers took away the statue of the Spanish dictator, which stood on a street in a Spanish enclave in Morocco, on the 40th anniversary of an attempted coup by Franco supporters. In 2007, the Spanish government passed the Law of Historical Memory, which stipulates that symbols connected to Franco must be removed from public view.

Should Britain topple slavery-linked statues?

10. Golfer punched pensioner

A golfer punched a pensioner in face after being asked to get a move on, a court has heard. James Claridge had become increasingly frustrated at being stuck behind 41-year-old Justin Lowe and his friends at the Ferndown Forest Golf Club in Dorset. Ben Schofield, mitigating for Lowe at Poole Magistrates’ Court, said it was an “isolated incident” and insisted there had been an element of provocation.