Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 28 December 2022

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

1. Turmoil damages respect for democracy

The speaker of the House of Commons said the public’s respect for democracy has struggled in the aftermath of Brexit and throughout a year of political turmoil, in which the UK was governed by three prime ministers. Lindsay Hoyle said Westminster had “never seen anything like it before” with the “disaster” of three PMs within three months. In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, he said people were disappointed with what went on in politics and were left “wondering what was happening to our democracy”.

2. Warning on ‘fad diets’

Experts have warned that “fad diets” will probably make you fatter in the long run, noted The Times. The British Dietetic Association, which represents the UK’s 10,500 qualified dieticians, encouraged the public to avoid anything that “claims to offer a quick-fix weight loss solution”, amid a rise in trends such as the boiled egg diet, the water diet or the keto diet. It said that diets that claim to help people lose dramatic amounts of weight should be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority.

3. Hancock’s celebrity ambitions ‘failing’

Matt Hancock’s “floundering showbiz career” has hit a “speed bump” after he abandoned his search for an agent amid signs his “star power has already faded”, said The Mirror. Friends said the former health secretary was hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Labour MP Ed Balls, who has become a TV personality following his stint on Strictly Come Dancing. However, Hancock’s “short-lived telly popularity” has not translated into sales of his book on the pandemic, which only shifted a few thousand copies, said the tabloid.

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4. Wild weather harming nature

A year of wild and extreme weather has devastated some of the UK’s most precious flora and fauna, said the National Trust. The ferocious storms, searing heat and deep cold snaps have gravely challenged animals from toads and bats to birds and butterflies, and from great trees to meadowland flowers. “It is a stark illustration of the sort of difficulties many of our species will face if we don’t do more to mitigate rising temperatures and help nature’s survival,” said a spokesperson.

5. MPs warned about sex blackmail

Politicians have been warned of their vulnerability to blackmail after British MPs on a visit to a foreign state were met at their hotel by sex workers. The Times said that some MPs and peers are engaging in “sex and heavy drinking” on foreign visits, leading senior government figures afraid that incriminating evidence could be used against those who are misbehaving. An investigation by Politico earlier this month uncovered a series of allegations about misconduct by MPs relating to overseas trips.

6. DNA offers cancer breakthrough

A novel way of using DNA to kill cancer cells has raised hopes of finding a cure for the disease. The new technique, which involved injecting artificial, hairclip-shaped DNA into cancer cells to provoke an immune response, worked against human cervical cancer and breast cancer cells, as well as malignant melanoma cells in mice. “The results are good news for doctors, drug discovery researchers and patients, as we believe it will give them new options for drug development,” said Akimitsu Okamoto, from the University of Tokyo.

7. ‘Epidemic’ of rape culture in army

Sandhurst is being urged to tackle a “toxic culture” of sexual assault, after a charity for female military personnel who have experienced sexual assault and rape said hundreds of servicewomen had reported abuse during their training. Salute Her UK called on the government to confront predatory behaviour at the military academy and claimed there was an “epidemic” of rape culture across the military. Nearly 200 women have sought help after suffering sexual abuse while training at Sandhurst over the past 20 years, according to figures obtained by the charity.

8. Gove unveils north-east deal

Michael Gove has announced that a £1.4bn devolution deal for the north-east of England would bring seven local authority areas under the control of an elected mayor in 2024. The levelling-up secretary revealed the £48m-a-year deal for Northumberland, Durham, Newcastle, South Tyneside, North Tyneside, Gateshead and Sunderland after months of negotiations over the new devolved area covering two million people. Critics have said there has been insufficient progress towards levelling up across the country since Boris Johnson announced the approach in 2019.

9. Thousands face ‘benefits cliff-edge’

A crossover of two child welfare systems means thousands of middle-class families could face an effective tax rate of up to 96% next year. The “benefits cliff-edge” is the result of the decade-long cash freeze of the £50,000 income threshold when child welfare begins to be tapered off, explained The Times, because only one parent has to be earning above this threshold before the benefits start to be clawed back under the “high income child benefit charge”. The Resolution Foundation think tank said “the number of families affected by this double whammy is set to almost double by the end of the decade”.

10. Styles and Swift boost vinyl

Vinyl sales have overtaken CDs for the first time in 35 years “thanks largely to fans of Taylor Swift and Harry Styles”, reported The Telegraph. Rick Astley was topping the charts the last time vinyl sales were higher than those of CDs in 1987 but vinyl has now won favour with a new generation of younger music fans with Swift’s latest album, Midnights, the biggest-selling vinyl record of the century in the UK. This proves that “the vinyl boom” is not “all about middle-aged men indulging in nostalgia”, said Kim Bayley, chief executive of the Entertainment & Retail Association.

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