Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 19 June 2023

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

1. Rate rises ‘should be paused’

Interest rate rises should be paused to spare struggling households, experts have told the Daily Mail. The Bank of England is expected to announce a 13th consecutive increase on Thursday, but Howard Davies, a former Bank of England deputy governor, suggested the Bank could “wait a bit” for previous increases to take effect. Andrew Montlake of Coreco Mortgage Brokers said higher rates would help push up wages and “exacerbate” inflation, defeating the Bank’s strategy. The i news site reported that the government is to put pressure on banks to do more to help homeowners struggling with rising mortgages.

Sticky inflation and sluggish growth: why is UK economy struggling?

2. Austerity blamed for Covid failure

David Cameron’s austerity cuts are to blame for the NHS’s “disastrous” failures during the pandemic, the chairman of the British Medical Association has said. In a blog, Professor Philip Banfield accused the former PM of having “ground down and pulled apart public health systems” with cuts that meant the health service “didn’t stand a fighting chance”. Cameron, his former chancellor George Osborne, and the former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, will appear at the Covid inquiry this week.

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Covid inquiry: can it bring about meaningful change?

3. Police ‘consider’ party footage

Rishi Sunak’s hopes of moving on from the legacy of Boris Johnson’s “chaotic premiership” have suffered a further setback as police announced they were “considering” fresh Partygate video footage, said The Guardian. Amid anger over the video of Conservative party staff partying during lockdown, a Scotland Yard spokesperson said: “We are aware of the footage and are considering it.” Tory MPs campaigning in the looming by-elections have “acknowledged the public’s anger over new footage”, the paper added.

A timeline of the Partygate scandal

4. Greek coastguard story in doubt

Evidence “casting doubt” on the Greek coastguard’s account of last week’s migrant shipwreck has been published by the BBC. Fresh analysis of the movement of other ships in the area suggests the overcrowded fishing vessel was “not moving for at least seven hours before it capsized”, said the corporation. This contradicts the coastguard’s claims that during these hours the boat was on a course to Italy and not in need of rescue. Hundreds are feared to have died in the incident.

Tragedy at sea: hundreds feared dead in Greek migrant disaster

5. Ministers mull council house reform

British citizens and permanent citizens will be prioritised for council housing under plans being discussed by the government. Ministers are considering legislation that will require local authorities to stop others “jumping the queue”. More than 1.2 million households are waiting for social housing and about 10% of those given a home are non-UK nationals. The figure is “considerably higher in areas with more migrants”, said The Times.

Pros and cons of building on the green belt

6. Starmer to make green pledges

Labour will end new North Sea oil and gas exploration, but help communities profit from clean power projects, Keir Starmer is to pledge today. Speaking in Edinburgh later, the Labour leader will promise to “throw everything” at net zero and the overhaul of the UK’s energy system and industries, vowing to “cut bills, create jobs and provide energy security”. Starmer is “under pressure” from environmentalists and the oil industry “over the scale and pace of Labour’s planned transition to cleaner power”, said the BBC.

Keir Starmer’s transformation of the Labour Party

7. Teens ‘planned Pride massacre’

A group of teenagers were arrested just one hour before the Vienna Pride parade under suspicion of planning an axe and knife attack. The suspects, aged between 14 and 20, were described as Islamic State sympathisers. Security services decided to wait until after the parade had finished before they announced the arrests, to avoid concern for Pride revellers. “That’s ultimately the goal of terrorism, to cause anxiety and fear in the public,” said Omar Haijawi-Pirchner, from Austria’s state protection and intelligence directorate. “It’s also our job not to let that happen.”

Taking Pride: the virtue signals of corporate America

8. Sunak ‘mocked trans women’

Rishi Sunak has been secretly filmed “mocking trans people”, said PinkNews. The outlet said the prime minister was caught on video joking about “women having penises” and mocking Lib Dem leader Ed Davey for supporting trans rights. The footage, from a party with the Tory backbench 1922 Committee, shows the PM saying “you might have noticed Ed Davey has been very busy” and “you can probably see that he was trying to convince everybody that women clearly had penises”.

9. Beer giants reduce alcohol

Leading beer brands have had their alcohol content reduced before August’s new duty regime, which will tax drinks based on their strength. Foster’s, Old Speckled Hen, Bishops Finger and Spitfire have “all become weaker”, said The Times, reducing the tax that must be paid per unit. However, “savings have not been passed on to consumers”, the paper added. A spokesman for the University of Sheffield’s research group said that “given their historically strong opposition to public health policies” the companies’ motive is “much more likely to be financial”.

Wine wars: are health warnings needed on alcohol?

10. Britain’s ‘most desirable town’ named

Harpenden in Hertfordshire is Britain’s “most desirable town”, according to a study commissioned by The Telegraph. Using the latest census data to compile a list of the 50 places that scored the highest across several factors, estate agent Savills put Cobham, Surrey, in second place, with Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire third. But it’s “not all about the south”, said the paper, because Wilmslow, a Cheshire market town lying 11 miles south of Manchester, has “climbed 10 places since the research was last carried out using the 2011 census data”.

21 of the UK’s best places to visit

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