Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 15 July 2021

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

1. PM to reassure traditional Tories

Boris Johnson will today attempt to reassure southern Tory voters that his levelling-up agenda will not come at the expense of the party’s heartlands. The prime minister will promise that investing more in the north and Midlands will not mean the south is “levelled down”. In a speech, he is expected to say: “We don’t want to decapitate the tall poppies.” There have been rising concerns that the Tories risk losing seats in the southeast if the party is too focused on the so-called red wall.

Is the Conservatives’ ‘blue wall’ beginning to crumble?

2. Bush criticises Afghan withdrawal

George W. Bush has said the withdrawal of US troop from Afghanistan is a mistake and predicted that the consequences, especially for Afghan women and girls, will be “unbelievably bad”. Speaking to German radio, the former US president said: “I am afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm.” His remarks are “especially notable” as he has “typically been reluctant to criticise his successors’ decision-making”, CNN says.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Taliban seizes cities as Afghan military collapses

3. Amazon ‘accelerating climate crisis’

The Amazon rainforest is emitting more carbon dioxide than it is able to absorb, a new study has found. The vast rainforest had previously been a carbon sink, absorbing the emissions driving the climate crisis. However, it is now causing its acceleration, emitting a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. The majority of the emissions are caused by fires, many deliberately set to clear land for beef production, said the study published in the journal Nature.

Climate change: is the planet reaching a ‘point of no return’?

4. Warning 60,000 could die of flu

Up to 60,000 people could die from the flu in England this year, doctors have warned. A report, commissioned by England’s Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance, has called on ministers to start treating flu like Covid-19. Although society has never shut down in the face of a flu crisis, NHS hospitals have had to cancel tens of thousands of operations in the middle of previous influenza outbreaks. On average, between 10,000 and 30,000 people die of flu in England each year.

Why Boris Johnson fears flu may become bigger threat than Covid

5. Mortgages refused to self-employed grantees

Leading high street banks are refusing to give mortgages to self-employed people who received government grants during the Covid-19 pandemic. Brokers said that lenders often regard people who have received grants as high risk and that those working in sectors like entertainment, hospitality and travel are the worst affected. A hospitality worker told the BBC: “I almost feel like I am being treated like [I’m] bankrupt in some way, that I am being penalised for something that wasn’t my fault.”

How the new low-deposit mortgage scheme works

6. PM under pressure over Troubles amnesty

Dublin has said that Boris Johnson’s plans to end the prosecution of Troubles veterans are “not a done deal”. After Brandon Lewis announced that the UK government would end prosecutions for all sides involved in the conflict, Simon Coveney, Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs, said the plans were not a “fait accompli”. The statute of limitations on prosecutions would apply to British veterans, former members of the security services and Royal Ulster Constabulary, as well as Republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

A history of the peace walls in Belfast

7. Call for new salt and sugar tax

A government-ordered review has declared that salt and sugar taxes should be introduced to drive a revolution in Britain’s diet. The National Food Strategy says that people must cut their meat intake by a third and up to a fifth of farmland should be turned over to woods and wildlife as part of a “farm to fork” reset aimed at slashing carbon emissions and obesity. Environment Secretary George Eustice said he would “carefully consider the conclusions”.

Meat sales plunge as veganism continues to rise in UK

8. MPs call for reset on streaming

A committee of MPs has said that even successful pop stars are seeing “pitiful return” from streaming. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee is calling for a “complete reset” of the market so that musicians can enjoy a “fair share” of the £736.5m that UK record labels earn from streaming. “Performers, songwriters and composers are losing out,” said Conservative MP and committee chair Julian Knight.

The Week Unwrapped: why don't artists make money from streaming?

9. Unlocking a ‘perfect storm’ for pregnancies

Midwives and doctors fear next week’s relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions will lead to a significant increase in infections among pregnant women. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives said the easing, combined with rising infection rates and vaccine hesitancy, will create a “perfect storm” for pregnant women who are at greater risk of getting severely ill with coronavirus.

Are we heading for another Covid lockdown?

10. Britney allowed to choose own lawyer

A judge in LA has ruled that Britney Spears should be able to choose her own lawyer in the fight to end her controversial conservatorship. The US pop star is demanding that her father, Jamie Spears, be removed from the legal agreement that has controlled her affairs for years. Yesterday, she repeated her appeal in an emotional statement in which she called for her father to be charged with “conservatorship abuse”.

Timeline: Britney Spears’ conservatorship battle

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.