Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 29 December 2022

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

1. Ukraine fighting ‘deadlocked’

Fighting in Ukraine is “just stuck” and neither Ukraine nor Russia can make significant advances, the head of the Ukrainian military intelligence agency has told the BBC. “We can’t defeat them in all directions comprehensively,” said Kyrylo Budanov. “Neither can they,” he added. He said that Kyiv is “very much looking forward to new weapons supplies, and to the arrival of more advanced weapons”. Blasts were heard in Kyiv this morning, amid reports of over 100 missiles incoming across Ukraine.

2. Unions ‘to co-ordinate strikes’

The TUC has warned that strikes could continue into 2023 unless the government enters talks with unions over wages. Ministers have also been warned that it is only a matter of time before striking unions team up. As Rishi Sunak refused to negotiate, Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Border Force union, said the wider stand-off could lead to a wave of “co- ordinated, synchronised and escalating” industrial action. Meanwhile, teachers’ unions fear the arrival of posted ballots for national strike action in the new year have been put at risk by postal strikes.

3. Labour grasps law initiative

Labour is branding itself as the party of law and order as it promises to give the victims of antisocial behaviour power to decide how perpetrators are punished. Speaking to The Times, Steve Reed, the shadow justice secretary, said the party would crack down on antisocial behaviour, as it updates Tony Blair’s “tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime” mantra with a series of policies aimed at seizing the crime spotlight from the Tories. “Victims will be able to select the unpaid work that offenders carry out, so victims will be seeing justice done,” he said.

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4. A&E waits of up to 20 hours

Some patients are waiting 15 hours in overcrowded A&Es as hospitals struggle to cope with a surge in patients caused by a severe wave of flu and fallout from strike action. Several NHS trusts have declared “critical incidents”, meaning they cannot provide safe levels of care, and two ambulance services declared critical incidents due to a rise in 999 calls. Earlier this week, the Daily Mail reported that some patients were stuck in A&E for both Christmas and Boxing Day due to 20-hour waits for a bed.

5. Past year warmest on record

The Met Office said 2022 will have been the warmest in the UK since records began in 1884. Although the high of 40.3C during the summer heatwave will be memorable, the significant figure is the annual average, which is expected to exceed the previous average of 9.88C, set in 2014. “The warm year is in line with the genuine impacts we expect as a result of human-induced climate change,” said Dr Mark McCarthy, head of the Met Office National Climate Information Centre.

6. MI5 ‘bought Celtic tickets for IRA’

An MI5 spy paid for Spanish holidays and Celtic football tickets for suspected leaders of the New IRA as part of his missions inside the organisation, said The Times. Security chiefs believe that Dennis McFadden’s undercover operation — by “the man who was always there but was never really there” — has severely hampered the New IRA, a dissident group. The Glaswegian was “Celtic mad” and often provided football tickets for his acquaintances, met the cost of travel to Scotland and provided overnight accommodation.

7. Pope calls for prayers for Benedict

Pope Francis has announced that former Pope Benedict XVI is “very sick” and has has asked followers at the Vatican to pray for him. At the end of the Pope’s final audience of the year, he asked people to “pray a special prayer for Pope Emeritus Benedict”. Benedict, 95, resigned as pontiff in 2013 and has since lived within the walls of the Vatican. His health has taken a “sudden turn”, said the Catholic Herald.

8. Brits cut back on discretionary spending

A survey found that two-thirds of British consumers are planning to cut their spending on eating out, holidays and other non-essentials in 2023 due to the cost of living crisis. Researchers from the accountancy firm KPMG found concerns over the cost of basic items – such as food, energy, fuel, and mortgage or rent costs - were the biggest deterrents for discretionary spending. Consumers are “increasingly changing how they shop to save money” including “switching to cheaper retailers, buying more value or promotional produce, and swapping eating out for meals in”, said a spokeswoman.

9. Coffey may scrap free-range protection

The government may tear up free-range egg rules over fears EU farmers will get an unfair advantage, said The Telegraph. Eggs laid by hens kept in barns could be classed as free range under the changes being considered by ministers. As the EU prepares to “rip up its own rules” in response to avian flu outbreaks, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is thought to be weighing up changes to rules that currently mean eggs cannot be classed as free range if birds are indoors for more than 16 weeks.

10. Tennyson was ‘problematic’

Students at Lincoln University have been told the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was “problematic”. On a “decolonisation tour” of the university’s buildings the “offensive views” of some of historical locals figures featured on campus were highlighted. Tennyson, who died in 1892, was born in Somersby, Lincolnshire, was the poet laureate for much of the reign of Queen Victoria. It was said he was “obstinate … in his support of British imperialism” and believed “Africans and Asian were ‘children’ without visualisation and history”.

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