Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 27 September 2021

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

1. Fuel law change to tackle crisis

Ministers will suspend competition laws to allow oil firms to target fuel deliveries at struggling petrol stations following recent panic buying. It is hoped that the move will make it easier for companies to share information and prioritise parts of the country most at need. Soldiers could be ordered to deliver fuel “within days”, said The Times, after a third of BP stations ran out of the main two grades of fuel.

2. Social Democrats win in Germany

Germany’s centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) have narrowly won the country's federal elections, according to preliminary results. The SPD took 25.7% of the vote, while Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc secured 24.1%. A coalition will need to be created to form a government. The Greens could have a stake in negotiations, having achieved the best result in their party’s history, coming in third with 14.8% of the ballot.

25 Aug: Are the Social Democrats poised for election victory?

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3. Taliban forbids beard trimming

Barbers in Afghanistan’s Helmand province have been banned from shaving or trimming beards by the Taliban. Religious police say cutting beards breaches their interpretation of Islamic law and anyone violating the rule will be punished. In a notice posted on salons in southern Helmand, Taliban officers warned that: “No one has a right to complain.” The BBC said the instructions “suggest a return to the strict rulings of the group’s past tenure in power”.

Explained: the relationship between the Taliban and Isis

4. Rayner defends ‘Tory scum’ attack

Angela Rayner has stood by her description of the Conservatives as “a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, misogynistic” and “absolutely vile” after Keir Starmer distanced himself from her words. The deputy Labour leader said said her comments at a Labour conference reception on Saturday were made in the “street language” of her northern working-class roots. “Senior Conservatives weighed in to condemn the remarks,” The Telegraph reported, and Starmer said: “That’s not the language that I would use.”

5. ‘Significant’ arrest in Nessa case

A man has been arrested on suspicion of murder by officers investigating the death of primary school teacher Sabina Nessa. The 36-year-old was detained in East Sussex early on Sunday morning in what Scotland Yard said was a “significant development”. The 28-year-old victim was attacked while walking to meet a friend at The Depot bar, Kidbrooke, on 17 September. Her sister said her family’s “world is shattered, we are simply lost for words”.

6. Spice Girl tackles Murdoch

Melanie Chisholm from the Spice Girls, Shane Lynch from Boyzone, Hannah Spearritt from S Club 7, and Steps’s Ian Watkins and Lee Latchford-Evans are among the latest celebrities to launch phone-hacking cases against Rupert Murdoch’s media group. “The scandal that has dogged the company” for more than 15 years “continues to rumble on at the high court”, said The Guardian.

7. Covid lowers life expectancy

A worldwide study has found that the Covid pandemic has caused the biggest decrease in life expectancy in western Europe since the Second World War. Even bigger declines were seen among males in the US, with a decline of 2.2 years relative to 2019 levels, followed by Lithuanian males (1.7 years). Last week the Office for National Statistics estimated that life expectancy for men in the UK had fallen for the first time in 40 years because of the impact of the pandemic.

8. Russian jets intercept US plane

Russian fighter jets were scrambled to escort a US Air Force plane that approached Russian airspace over the Pacific Ocean, according to reports from Moscow. The fighter jets “strictly followed” international rules and returned to base after the US plane moved away from the Russian border, said the state news agency Tass. In March, Nato scrambled fighter jets ten times to intercept an unusually “rare peak” of Russian bombers and fighters flying over the North Sea, said CNN.

9. Javid criticises Starmer on trans rights

Labour and the Conservatives have clashed over trans rights after Keir Starmer criticised the Labour MP Rosie Duffield, who said that “only women have a cervix”. The Labour leader said: “It is something that shouldn’t be said.” Health Secretary Sajid Javid described Starmer’s remarks as a “total denial of scientific fact”.

10. Strictly jab row after positive test

Strictly Come Dancing’s Tom Fletcher and dance partner Amy Dowden have tested positive for Covid-19. The pair will miss next week’s live show and are now self-isolating separately, the BBC said. Meanwhile, three of the show’s dancers who have refused to get a Covid vaccination are hiring lawyers in an effort to protect their identity. The Mail on Sunday reportedly tried to name two of the alleged vaccine refuseniks but decided not to after legal warnings.

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