Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 5 January 2023

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

1. Labour dismisses Sunak promises

Labour dismissed the five promises unveiled by Rishi Sunak yesterday as “so easy it would be difficult not to achieve them” and “aimed at fixing problems of the Tories’ own making”. The prime minister pledged to halve inflation and bring down NHS waiting lists, as he made five pledges to voters. Chris Mason, the BBC’s political said Sunak’s speech “shows he is a PM in a hurry” but with the health service “under extraordinary pressure right now...some people watching might say ‘Is that it?’.”

Can Rishi Sunak turn things around for the Tories in 2023?

2. William ‘attacked Harry’

The Duke of Sussex’s memoir claims that his brother the Prince of Wales attacked him during a row over his relationship with Meghan Markle, according to The Guardian. In his forthcoming book, Spare, Harry allegedly writes about a confrontation in 2019 that was sparked by William calling the duchess “difficult”, “rude” and “abrasive”. When Harry told William he was “parroting the press narrative” about his wife and the brothers, they had a physical confrontation at Nottingham Cottage in the grounds of Kensington Palace.

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Prince Harry, Princess Diana and the media

3. Strike laws ‘breach human rights’

Bosses will be able to sue unions and sack staff under government plans to curb the right to strike, claimed The Times. New laws will enforce “minimum service levels” in six sectors, including the health service, rail, education, fire and border security. The legislation will require a proportion of union members to continue working to retain a “minimum level” of service. Trade unions may take legal action over the plans, believing they are in breach of the human rights act.

Winter strikes: who will back down first?

4. Cold medicine supplies low

Pharmacy leaders said cough and cold medicines are in short supply because of a lack of planning by the government. The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies said chemists were struggling to get hold of remedies including throat lozenges, cough mixtures and certain painkillers. Leyla Hannbeck, its chief executive, accused ministers of being “in denial” over issues with the drug supply chain. The Department of Health and Social Care said it was aware of low availability of some brands.

5. Francis to preside over funeral

The Vatican said that close to 200,000 people paid their respects to former Pope Benedict XVI during his lying in state over the last three days. “By comparison with the enormous throng of people – most of them Poles – who came to see Pope John Paul II lying in St Peter’s Basilica”, the thousands queuing are “fewer but even more diverse”, said the Catholic Herald. Pope Francis will preside over the funeral today, the first time a sitting Pope has led his predecessor’s funeral in over 220 years.

6. Amazon joins tech cutbacks

Amazon will shed more than 18,000 roles as it cuts costs, the tech giant’s boss says. The job cuts amount to around 6% of the company’s 300,000-strong corporate workforce. Chief executive Andy Jassy said the announcement was brought forward “because one of our teammates leaked this information externally”. The “retail behemoth” has become the “latest tech giant to unveil painful cutbacks as the cost of living crisis eats into profitability”, said Sky News.

What Silicon Valley lay-offs mean for the future of tech

7. Government adds to Mone pressure

A company linked to the Conservative peer Michelle Mone supplied defective gowns that could have compromised the safety of patients, according to the Department of Health and Social Care. The Guardian said the allegation “will add to the intense public and political pressure” on Mone over her apparent involvement in PPE Medpro. Bank documents leaked last year indicated that Mone and her three adult children had secretly received £29m originating from the company’s profits on the government PPE deals. She denies any wrongdoing.

Michelle Mone: The Tory peer facing ‘shocking’ allegations of pandemic profiteering

8. Police ‘lose interest in fraud’

A leading fraud barrister has said that police have lost interest in catching scammers and fraudsters. Clare Montgomery, a recorder and High Court judge, who has been involved in some of the nation’s biggest fraud cases, said that although “you get the occasional show trial in that area” the reality is that “99% of fraud at that level is not even investigated, still less prosecuted”. Just 0.8% of the police workforce were focused on economic crimes, despite fraud accounting for 39% of all crime.

How Scotland Yard took down iSpoof in UK’s biggest ever fraud investigation

9. Thunberg statue is ‘greenwashing’

Students have accused Winchester University of “greenwashing” after it spent almost £24,000 on a statue of Greta Thunberg. Members of the Labour Society, the Allotment Society, and the Sustainability Society gathered at the West Downs Centre, where the statue is located, to protest. The group said they wanted beef taken off the canteen menu, cheaper vegan options and buildings made more energy efficient “rather than wasting money on meaningless statues”.

10. UK ‘not ready for electric car surge’

New car sales in the UK fell last year to their lowest level in three decades, new figures show. During 2022, 1.61m new cars were registered in the UK, the lowest level since 1992. Demand for electric vehicles continued to grow as they accounted for almost a fifth of new car sales. However, warned the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, charging infrastructure is not being built quickly enough to cope with the growing demand for electric cars.

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