Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 February 2022

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

1. Levelling-up plans revealed

The government has announced its long-awaited plans to fulfil Boris Johnson’s vow to “level up” neglected parts of the UK. The strategy will take until 2030 to complete and aims to close the gap between wealthy and poor parts of the country. Plans include providing access to 5G broadband for the “large majority” of households and bringing public transport across the country up to London standards. Labour’s shadow levelling-up secretary Lisa Nandy described the plans as “more slogans and strategies, with few new ideas”.

What will it take to ‘level up’ the UK?

2. Putin: US ignored Russia’s proposals

Vladimir Putin has accused the US of ignoring Russia’s security proposals, reported The Guardian. During a press conference at the Kremlin, the president said he was unsatisfied with Washington’s response to Moscow’s demands that Nato remove troops and infrastructure from eastern Europe and agree never to accept Ukraine into the alliance. Putin said the West was using Ukraine as a “tool to hinder Russia”. During his flying visit to the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday, Boris Johnson warned that an invasion of Ukraine would end in a humanitarian, political and military disaster for Russia and the world.

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The global fallout of a war between Russia and Ukraine

3. PM ‘attended prosecco party’

Boris Johnson attended a “prosecco-fuelled leaving do” for a Downing Street aide during the post-Christmas lockdown last year, according to reports. Sue Gray’s redacted inquiry document listed the 2021 gathering but revealed no further details. Sources say Johnson gave a speech and stayed for around five minutes. England’s third national Covid lockdown had come into effect just over a week before the leaving party and the PM had “effectively cancelled Christmas” the previous month, said The Guardian.

Sue Gray report published: can Boris Johnson hang on?

4. £9bn ‘wasted’ on Covid PPE

More than £4.3bn has been lost to Covid loan fraud and almost £9bn has been wasted on personal protective equipment, it was revealed last night. In what the Daily Mail described as “a staggering illustration of government waste”, it emerged that much equipment was faulty or not used before its sell-by date. The combined cost to the taxpayer is more than the £12bn expected to be raised each year by April’s planned national insurance hike. “We stand by the decision to purchase the items that we did,” said No. 10.

A ‘gift’ for scammers: the true cost of furlough fraud

5. Macron blames UK for migrant deaths

Every migrant who drowns in the Channel is Britain's responsibility, President Emmanuel Macron told a French newspaper. Macron called once again on Boris Johnson to establish a legal route to Britain for asylum seekers. “The responsibility for those who die at sea does not fall upon France but upon this British refusal,” he said. The French president added that the UK economy relies on low-paid, illegal immigrant labour and “the British continue to have a system from the 1980s, which manages economic immigration through hypocrisy”.

Why have Channel migrant drownings reached a record new high?

6. Guinea-Bissau coup attempt fails

An attempted coup in the West African state of Guinea-Bissau has left many members of the security forces dead, its president has said. Umaro Cissoko Embaló said the situation was under control, describing the uprising as a “failed attack against democracy”, reported the BBC. Gunfire was heard near a government building in the capital Bissau on Tuesday, where the president was reportedly attending a cabinet meeting. “Coups appear to be making a comeback in West and Central Africa”, added the corporation.

7. Met under fire for rape messages

The Metropolitan Police is facing a fresh wave of criticism after an official report revealed that officers shared messages about hitting and raping women, the deaths of black babies and the Holocaust. Officers referred to a colleague as “mcrapey raperson” and a male officer told a female colleague that he would “happily rape” her. Offensive remarks were also made about gay people, Muslims and disabled people. Home secretary Priti Patel and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan have told the Met to “overhaul its toxic culture and raise standards”, said The Times.

The Week Unwrapped: Religious tolerance, trans treatment and police misogyny

8. Highest price rises in a decade

Shoppers have faced the highest price rises in nearly ten years thanks to shop inflation almost doubling over the past month, according to new data. The BRC-NielsenIQ price index indicated that shop price inflation jumped from 0.8% in December to 1.5% in January. After looking at price changes in 500 commonly bought items, researchers found that shop price rises were the highest since December 2012.

9. Vaccine refusal linked to childhood trauma

A new study has found that refusal or reluctance to take a Covid vaccine may be connected to traumatic events in childhood, such as parents separating, neglect and sexual abuse, said The Guardian. The study, funded by Public Health Wales, showed that the more trauma people had experienced in childhood, the more likely they were to mistrust NHS Covid-19 information. “A better understanding of how to increase their trust in health systems and compliance with health guidance is urgently required,” said researchers.

Anti-vax and vaccine hesitant: what is the impact of those refusing to get jabbed?

10. The View suspends Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg has been suspended from a US talk show after saying the Holocaust involved “two groups of white people”. ABC News said the actor would be off-air for two weeks after her “wrong and hurtful comments”. Goldberg has since apologised for claiming that the Nazi genocide of the Jews was “not about race”. CNN said Goldberg is “no stranger to controversy” and once remarked that Roman Polanski was not guilty of “rape-rape”.

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