Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 5 November 2022

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

1. Sunak says state can’t fix everything

Rishi Sunak has told The Times that the public cannot expect the state to “fix every problem”. The new PM admitted that trust in the Conservative Party had been rocked by his predecessor Liz Truss’s “sugar-rush” budget but said he was “confident” that the public would judge his autumn budget on November 17 to be “fair and compassionate”. However, said The Telegraph, Sunak and his chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, plan to reveal a “stealth tax raid” on pensions.

2. Rail disruption despite strike cancellation

Significant disruption to train services is still expected today despite a series of strikes by railway workers being called off. Network Rail warned that services would remain “extremely limited”, with trains on Monday also likely to be affected. The strikes were called over jobs, pay and conditions but RMT officials said that the union will now “enter into a period of intensive negotiations with Network Rail”, with the promise of a pay deal from train operators.

3. UN says planet ‘doomed’ without pact

The planet will be “doomed” unless wealthy countries sign a “historic pact” with the poor on the climate, said the UN secretary-general, António Guterres. As world leaders gather for the UN Cop27 summit, which opens on Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, Guterres told The Guardian: “There is no way we can avoid a catastrophic situation, if the two [the developed and developing world] are not able to establish a historic pact. Because at the present level, we will be doomed.”

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4. Musk had ‘no choice’ but to cut team

Elon Musk has defended sacking around 50% of the company’s workforce, saying he had “no choice” as Twitter was losing millions of dollars a day. “Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately there is no choice when the company is losing over $4m a day,” tweeted the world’s richest man. “Everyone exited was offered three months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.” Musk took over Twitter in a $44bn (£38.7bn) deal.

5. Putin ‘reprising Stalin tactic’

British intelligence believes that Vladimir Putin has deployed “barrier units” to shoot Russian soldiers who try to desert the front line. “These units threaten to shoot their own retreating soldiers in order to compel offensives and have been used in previous conflicts by Russian forces,” the Ministry of Defence said in its daily intelligence briefing. If true, the move would be a “reprisal of Stalin’s brutal Second World War tactic”, said The Telegraph.

6. Staff ‘offer drugs to asylum seekers’

Home Office contractors have tried to sell illegal drugs to asylum seekers at the notorious processing centre at Manston in Kent, reported The Guardian. Asylum seekers have complained that security staff had tried to sell them cannabis and security guards raised concerns that their colleagues were smoking the drug while on duty. A Labour spokesperson said the latest revelation about the troubled site was evidence that the home secretary, Suella Braverman, “has completely lost control of the asylum system”.

7. Hancock ‘wants to be all-action hero’

Matt Hancock is facing fresh criticism after The Mirror reported that he missed last month’s Conservative Party conference to film Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins. A source told the paper that the I’m A Celebrity contestant wanted to show off his “mental strength and ­physical fitness”, adding that he is “desperate to reinvent himself as an all-action hero” and “clearly fancies himself as some sort of superstar boy scout”. Hancock’s claim that he chose to appear on I’m A Celebrity to highlight dyslexia is “hurtful”, said a dyslexic Labour MP.

8. Former PMs condemn The Crown

Two former prime ministers have attacked the new series of The Crown. Tony Blair insisted that scenes depicting him and the former Prince of Wales plotting against Queen Elizabeth II were “complete and utter rubbish”, while John Major condemned the Netflix drama for its “utterly untrue” storylines so soon after the death of the Queen. The Telegraph said there will be no disclaimer added when the fifth season is released next week, despite a “mounting outcry” and suggestions that friends of the King and Queen Consort would approve of such a move.

9. Williamson denies ‘vile’ messages

Gavin Williamson has been accused of sending “vile” and “threatening” messages to former chief whip Wendy Morton, reported Tortoise Media. It is thought that Morton made a formal complaint to the Conservative Party, passing on “vile and threatening messages” she had received during the time she was chief whip, which she considered misogynistic. A source close to Williamson said he “strongly refutes these allegations” but The Guardian said the episode raises questions over Rishi Sunak’s decision to reappoint the twice-sacked politician.

10. Covid cases drop amid booster campaign

There are signs that the new Covid vaccination campaign is already helping to reduce pressure on hospitals, said The Times. Almost 13m people have now received a winter booster in England and NHS officials expect to have vaccinated 50% of people in line for jabs by the end of this weekend. Infections in England have fallen for the first time since mid-September: in the week ending October 21, it estimated 1.6m people would have tested positive, or one person in 35.

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