Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 31 March 2022

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

1. US says Putin being misled

The White House has claimed that Vladimir Putin is being misled by advisers who are too frightened to tell him how badly the war in Ukraine is progressing. Spokesperson Kate Bedingfield told reporters there was “persistent tension between Putin and his military leadership”, adding that the conflict “has been a strategic blunder that has left Russia weaker over the long term and increasingly isolated on the world stage”. The Pentagon described the assessment as “discomforting”, warning “you don’t know how a leader like that is going to react to getting bad news”.

Is Vladimir Putin’s power base collapsing amid stalled invasion?

2. Starmer: Labour ‘on your side’

Keir Starmer will today accuse the Conservatives of a “pathetic” response to the cost of living crisis and urge voters to send the government a message “they cannot ignore” in May’s local elections. Launching Labour’s campaign, the party leader will also highlight its plan to cut energy bills through a windfall tax on oil and gas companies. Labour’s slogan for the campaign will be “on your side”. The local elections take place on 5 May in England, Scotland and Wales.

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UK cost of living crisis: what will increase in price from April?

3. PM won’t admit rules broken

Boris Johnson has declined to admit that rules were broken on Downing Street during lockdown. Appearing before MPs on the liaison committee, the prime minister insisted he would not give a “running commentary” on the “partygate” probe, adding: “I just think it would be wrong of me to deviate from that.” Justice Secretary Dominic Raab had earlier admitted there were “clearly breaches of the regulations”. The Metropolitan Police has so far issued 20 penalty notices to people who attended gatherings at No. 10.

Partygate police fines: will anyone resign?

4. White House rebukes Trump

The White House has reprimanded Donald Trump over comments in which he said that Vladimir Putin should release potentially damaging information about Hunter Biden. Asked about unsubstantiated allegations over Biden’s former business dealings in Russia, the ex-president said: “I think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it.” A White House spokesperson said: “What kind of American, let alone an ex-president, thinks that this is the right time to enter into a scheme with Vladimir Putin and brag about his connections to Vladimir Putin?”

What is Donald Trump up to now?

5. Javid apologises for births scandal

Sajid Javid has apologised to the families affected by the Shrewsbury maternity deaths scandal and promised to hold those responsible to account. The BBC said that “sweeping changes” to maternity services in England are expected after a report laid bare catastrophic failures at the NHS trust that may have led to the deaths of more than 200 babies. The health secretary told MPs the government was accepting all recommendations and “will act swiftly so no families have to go through the same pain in the future”.

Ockenden review: how the UK’s biggest maternity scandal unfolded

6. Oil prices down on US hint

Oil prices have fallen after Washington signalled that it is set to take new steps to bring down high fuel costs. Joe Biden is reportedly considering the release of up to 180 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the coming months, the largest-ever release since the reserve was created in 1974. The White House said the president will announce today “his administration’s actions to reduce the impact of Putin’s price hike on energy prices and lower gas prices at the pump for American families”.

‘Grim milestone’ as UK petrol prices soar to record highs

7. Council tax rise adds to pain

Council tax bills are set to hit £2,000 a year from tomorrow, further deepening the cost of living crisis. A typical family will be almost £1,000 a year worse off as energy, council tax and water bills all start to rise, according to The Telegraph, prompting the nation to “brace itself for the biggest living standards crunch in a generation”. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has introduced a number of measures to support families through the impending cost of living crisis, but he has been accused by critics of failing to go far enough.

Has Rishi Sunak wrecked his hopes of becoming prime minister?

8. Farage set for green windfall

Nigel Farage will enjoy a payday of €19m (£16.1m) if he can restore the fortunes of a Dutch green energy company divided by a dispute between its directors and a major shareholder. The former member of the European Parliament owns one million share options in Dutch Green Business, which can be redeemed if the company’s share price leaps to €20 (£17), a Greenpeace investigation revealed. The Telegraph said that the potential windfall comes despite Farage being a “vocal opponent” of the government’s net-zero drive.

One Party After Another: the ‘best biography of Nigel Farage’

9. BBC sets working-class target

The BBC is aiming to ensure a quarter of its staff come from working-class backgrounds after Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries accused the corporation of “snobbishness”. The BBC said it is one of the first media organisations in the UK to set the 25% target, which it hopes to achieve by 2027. Dorries had said: “If you’ve got a regional accent in the BBC it doesn’t go down particularly well. They talk about lots to do with diversity but they don’t talk about kids from working-class backgrounds.”

BBC licence fee: the pros and cons

10. Tom Parker dies at 33

The Wanted’s Tom Parker has died after battling an aggressive brain tumour for 18 months. “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we confirm Tom passed away peacefully earlier today with all of his family by his side,” his wife, Kelsey Parker, wrote on Instagram. His band mates said they were “devastated” by Parker’s death and that they were with him and his family when he died. The Wanted formed in 2009 and had two UK number one singles.

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