Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 August 2021

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

1. Resurgent Taliban escalates offensive

The Taliban has renewed assaults on three major cities and rocketed a major airport as it escalates its nationwide offensive in Afghanistan. In Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand which was once the focus of UK military activities, eyewitnesses described street fighting and bodies lying in the open. If Lashkar Gah were to fall to the Taliban it would be the first of the nation’s 34 provincial capitals to be lost by the government.

2. Pharmacies to run next jab rollout

Pharmacies will spring into action early next month as booster Covid vaccines are offered to 32m people. The government has decided to put pharmacies at the centre of the next vaccine programme so that GPs and other NHS staff can focus on the growing backlog of patients waiting for other treatments.

3. PM faces spending revolt

Boris Johnson is facing a fresh backbench rebellion over the Treasury’s spending this autumn, as a high-profile Tory MP complained of “intolerable” levels of hunger and poverty in his affluent home counties constituency. Steve Baker, MP for Wycombe, said ministers must not ignore people “in real trouble” who had been “tipped over the edge” financially by the pandemic. The government plans to withdraw the pandemic universal credit uplift of £20 a week at the end of September.

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4. Samaritans volunteers ‘met callers for sex’

Samaritans volunteers have abused their position by having sex with vulnerable callers, prompting the charity to listen in to conversations for the first time. The Daily Telegraph says the “shocking” incidents are believed to include volunteers meeting up with callers for inappropriate relationships, with a “specific demographic” of some middle-aged men who were abusing female callers by meeting up and having sex with them.

5. Warning on sea levels in African city

Africa’s most populous city may become uninhabitable by the end of this century as sea levels rise due to climate change, scientific projections suggest. Home to more than 24m people, Lagos, a low-lying city on Nigeria’s Atlantic coast, is experiencing one of its worst floods in recent years. Experts say sea levels are rising due to climate change and poor drainage systems.

6. NZ apologises for historic racist policing

New Zealand’s prime minister has issued a formal apology for historic racist policing of Pacific people, and offered scholarships to Pacific students. As some audience members at a town hall event wept, Jacinda Ardern said of the dawn raids of the 1970s that saw authorities hunt for visa over-stayers: “It remains vividly etched in the memory of those who were directly affected. It lives on in the disruption of trust and faith in authorities, and it lives on in the unresolved grievances of Pacific communities.”

7. Entrepreneur calls for meat tax

The founder of the world’s biggest plant-based meat firm is calling for a tax on meat to encourage people to cut their consumption of animal-based products. Speaking to the BBC, Beyond Meat boss Ethan Brown said he is in favour of a “pigouvian tax”. Past examples of such taxes include levies on tobacco and carbon. However, critics argue that a meat tax would raise the cost of living.

8. Wellbeing on the decline in England

Analysis of data from the ONS shows that wellbeing in England has decreased in the last year while loneliness and mistrust in government has increased. Carnegie UK says “gross domestic wellbeing” has fallen to 6.79 out of 10 from 6.89 for 2018/19. The number of adults in England feeling lonely has jumped by 44%, from 2.6m to 3.7m. Meanwhile, trust in government has suffered a 40% drop from 2018/19 to 2019/20.

9. PM’s popularity plummets

Boris Johnson has fallen nearly 40 points in a poll of grassroots Tory members after a challenging month for his government. A Conservative Home survey found that the prime minister’s recent U-turn over self-isolating cost him 36 points. The news comes after an Ipsos Mori survey showed that public satisfaction with Johnson and his party had fallen to a nine-month low.

10. Lord’s booze ban after rowdy scenes

Lord’s cricket ground has banned spectators from bringing alcohol to the grounds after fans were deemed to have become too rowdy. Visitors had been allowed to take “small quantities” of alcoholic drinks to consume while watching the new Hundred competition, which was designed to attract new followers. However, says The Times, this led to “unruly scenes” as groups of men chanted and sang during a match between London Spirit and Trent Rockets.

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