Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 October 2022

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

1. Warning of UK blackouts

Liz Truss has refused to rule out widespread blackouts for up to three hours a day this winter if the UK is unable to import enough energy. National Grid said a worst-case scenario could include “load-shedding”, where power is restricted to different areas at different times to prevent uncontrolled outages. The PM said Britain is in a “much better position than many other countries” but refused to guarantee blackouts would be avoided. The i news site said it is “unlikely” that the UK will face blackouts unless there is a cold snap, too little wind and no gas imports.

What is ‘power rationing’ and how does it work?

2. Thailand in mourning

Thailand is in mourning following a shocking gun and knife attack at a childcare centre in the Nong Bua Lamphu province that left 37 people, including 23 children, dead. Flags across Thailand are flying at half-mast as a “devastated nation grapples with the tragedy,” said the BBC. A former policeman stormed the building on Thursday, killing children as young as two as they slept, before killing himself. Panya Khamrab, 34, had been dismissed from the force in January for methamphetamine possession.

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3. Prince Harry sues the Mail

Prince Harry, Elton John, Doreen Lawrence and actresses Sadie Frost and Elizabeth Hurley are taking legal action against the publisher of the Daily Mail over what they call “gross breaches of privacy”. Their lawyers claim they have “compelling and highly distressing evidence” they have been the “victims of abhorrent criminal activity,” including “an accusation relating to the placing of listening devices in private homes”, reported The Guardian. Associated Newspapers Ltd, the publisher of the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday and MailOnline described the allegations as “preposterous smears”.

A timeline of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s legal action against UK press

4. ‘Rapid surge’ of Covid in Britain

Millions of Britons have got Covid and official data is “struggling to keep up with a rapid surge in infections”, said The Mirror. According to the ZOE Health Study, which uses testing and symptom data from millions of participating app users, some 2.6m are estimated to have the virus. People who feel unwell have been encouraged to avoid seeing elderly relatives as hospital admissions continue to rise, “stoking concerns that a winter wave is building”, said The Times.

Is this the end of Covid?

5. Dimbleby says BBC too sensitive on royals

David Dimbleby has said the BBC refuses to tackle sensitive topics relating to the royal family. Speaking at the Henley Literary Festival, the veteran broadcaster said the corporation “would not go near things like the power that the palace has to change taxation legislation” or whether it was right for the Duchy of Cornwall not to pay capital gains tax. “All those issues are never touched by the BBC because I think they feel their viewers will not like it — a visceral feeling,” he said. “I think it is wrong and these things should be properly examined.”

‘A fundamental right’: free speech and anti-monarchists

6. ‘Shadowy’ thinktank linked to PM

A thinktank with ties to Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng has drawn up a blueprint of what The Guardian described as “slash and burn” ideas that could be at the heart of the government’s supply-side reform programme. The Free Market Forum suggests abolishing free childcare hours, releasing green belt land for housing, scrapping corporation tax and dropping teacher training qualifications for graduates. A Labour source told The Guardian the Free Market Forum, which is an offshoot of the Institute of Economic Affairs, was a “shadowy group”.

The ‘anti-growth coalition’: who are Liz Truss’s new enemies?

7. Biden to pardon dope convicts

Joe Biden is to pardon all Americans who have been federally convicted of possessing small amounts of cannabis. “No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” said President Biden. “It’s legal in many states, and criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.” The announcement stops short of a full decriminalisation of cannabis, which Biden promised during his presidential campaign. However, it “begins the process of potentially loosening federal classification of the drug”, said CNN.

Should the UK decriminalise some drugs?

8. Young people do not support UK role in Ukraine

Fewer than half of young people support Britain’s current role in the Ukraine conflict, according to a poll in The Times. The survey of 1,095 people found that although there was strong backing for the UK’s contribution overall, among those aged 16 to 34 just 45% either strongly supported or tended to support Britain’s role in the war. In contrast, 63% of 35 to 54-year-olds and 80% of those aged between 55-75 were supportive. Tory voters were slightly more supportive of the UK’s role than Labour voters.

Is Putin preparing for a nuclear attack on Ukraine?

9. Truss calls Macron a ‘friend’

Liz Truss has described Emmanuel Macron a “friend” as they unveiled plans to work together at the first meeting of a new political grouping of nations. During her campaign for the Tory leadership, Truss had refused to say whether the French President was a “friend or foe”. But now the PM appears to seek a thaw in relations and was in the Czech capital of Prague for the first meeting of the European Political Community, a new group dedicated to advancing security and energy cooperation across the continent.

What is the European Political Community?

10. Princess told Ireland belongs to Irish

During an impromptu walkabout in Belfast the Princess of Wales was told: “Ireland belongs to the Irish.” While shaking hands with the princess on Antrim Road in north Belfast, a woman said: “Nice to meet you but it would be better if it was when you were in your own country.” Kate smiled politely before moving on to another well wisher. William was standing close by but “did not appear to be aware of the exchange”, reported the Belfast Telegraph. It is the couple’s first trip to Northern Ireland since the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Sinn Féin’s historic victory: how likely is a united Ireland?

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