Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 12 December 2021

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

1. PM ‘broke rules at Xmas quiz’

Boris Johnson has been accused of breaking Covid laws by hosting a Christmas quiz in No10 last year. The Sunday Mirror pictured the PM reading out the questions. According to a source, many staff huddled by computers, conferring on questions and knocking back drinks from a local Tesco Metro. The insider said that in one office there were 24 people. London was then under regulations banning any social mixing between households. Downing Street said the PM “briefly took part virtually in a quiz”.

2. Omicron ‘could kill 75,000 by April’

The Omicron variant could cause between 25,000 to 75,000 deaths by the end of April, according to a new study. Scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the UK will face a substantial wave of Omicron infections without further restrictions beyond Plan B. However, senior ministers are pledging to “resist” any attempt to usher in a “Plan C” of further Covid restrictions.

3. Lib Dems ‘neck and neck’ for by election

The Liberal Democrats believe they are “neck and neck” with the Tories in the run-up to the North Shropshire by-election. The constituency will vote on Thursday for a new MP to replace Owen Paterson, who resigned his seat after the scandal over his second job. The Lib Dems say that internal canvassing shows support for the Tories collapsing in the aftermath of sleaze allegations. Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey is making his fifth visit of the campaign this weekend.

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4. Police shoot dead man in London

A man has been shot dead by police after officers stopped a car near Kensington Gardens in London. The force said it was called to reports of a man with a firearm seen entering a bank and a bookmakers near Marloes Road, Kensington, yesterday afternoon. Around 15 minutes later, officers stopped a vehicle at the junction of Kensington Road and Palace Gate, close to Kensington Palace. The force said shots were fired and a man sustained gunshot wounds and died at the scene.

5. Biden pledges help after tornadoes

Joe Biden has said the government will do all it can to help central areas of the country devastated by tornadoes. The US president has signed a Federal Emergency Disaster Declaration, releasing funds for Kentucky, the worst affected state. More than 70 people died in Kentucky in Friday night's storms and the death toll is expected to rise above 100. “We’re going to get through this together,” said Biden.

6. Britain mulls sanction for Iran

The UK could impose new sanctions on Iran amid an impasse in talks over its nuclear programme. The Telegraph said Britain is understood to be considering a range of options, including severe economic restrictions on Tehran. Israel is threatening to draw up plans for an attack. However, the Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, said on Saturday that Tehran was serious in its nuclear talks with world powers in Vienna.

7. Labour nine points ahead in poll

Labour has opened a nine-point lead over the Tories in the wake of controversies over rule-breaking Christmas parties at Downing Street and Tory sleaze. A poll for The Observer put Labour on 41% and the Tories on 32%. It also showed 57% of voters think Boris Johnson should now resign, up nine points from a fortnight ago. Johnson’s personal ratings have fallen to -35%, down 14 points.

8. Boosters for five-year-olds considered

People aged 30 and over in England will be able to book a Covid booster jab from tomorrow. Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, said data shows that boosters are the “essential defence against Omicron”. Meanwhile, The Sunday Times reported that healthcare staff have been told to start preparing for the mass vaccination of primary school children as young as five. Sage scientists have warned that children were key drivers of adult infections in the summer Covid wave.

9. Astronaut’s daughter goes into space

The daughter of the first US astronaut has blasted into space - 60 years after her father’s flight. Laura Shepard Churchley, 74, was one of six people to make the trip onboard a commercial spacecraft launched by Jeff Bezos’ space company. Her father, Alan Shepherd, who died in 1998, became the first American in space after his Mercury flight took off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on 5 May 1961. “I thought about Daddy coming down,” said Shepard Churchley.

10. John Lewis pulls ‘Lollita’ dress

John Lewis has withdrawn a child’s party dress named “Lollita” from its shelves after an outcry. The Chi Chi London “Lollita” dress was on sale for children aged three to 11 years old on the retailer’s website for £50. The name is similar to the controversial 1955 novel Lolita, which outlines how a middle-aged professor abuses a 12-year-old girl. The listing on the John Lewis website, said: “This dress is… perfect for twirling on the dance floor.”

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