Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 7 August 2023

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

1. ‘Crazy’ rent rises revealed

Renters are now spending nearly four times as much of their income on housing as homeowners, said The Independent. The average private renter is currently handing over more than a third of their wages to a landlord, found the paper, showing “the scale of the growing emergency gripping the UK”. Call handlers working for the housing charity Shelter said that they were now dealing with people facing “crazy” rent rises.

The UK’s looming rental crisis

2. Baton rounds controversy

A freedom of information request has found that the only events for which Metropolitan police chiefs authorised the potential use of baton rounds in the past six years were black-led gatherings. The weapons, which have never been fired during public order incidents on the British mainland, were cleared for use at Notting Hill carnival and the Black Lives Matter protests. The Met told The Guardian that it is “inaccurate and irresponsible” to imply the “ethnicity of those likely to be involved in an event or protest influences the tactics considered”.

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3. Nominees turn down Truss gongs

At least two people have reportedly turned down honours from Liz Truss. The former PM has drawn up a list of 14 names, which is being vetted by the House of Lords appointments commission. However, one source told The Times they felt it would be “humiliating” to receive an honour from Truss, while another aide said they did not feel they deserved it. The 14 nominations are the equivalent of “one gong for every four days she was in No 10”, said The Times.

The pros and cons of the honours system

4. Niger closes airspace

Coup leaders in Niger have closed the country’s airspace until further notice, citing the threat of military intervention from their neighbours. “In the face of the threat of intervention that is becoming more apparent … Nigerien airspace is closed effective from today,” said a junta representative. Flight tracking website Flightradar24 was showing that there were no aircraft in Niger’s skies, said the BBC this morning. Neighbouring countries had earlier warned they could use force if President Mohamed Bazoum was not reinstated.

What role is Russia playing in the Niger coup?

5. Boris dominates second job tally

MPs were paid £10m for second jobs and freelance work over past year, according to analysis by The Guardian. Boris Johnson’s extra income accounts for almost half of the figure, found the paper, and the “vast majority” of was made up by Tory MPs. Labour, SNP and Lib Dem MPs brought in outside income of just over £400,000, it added. Transparency campaigners are calling for tighter rules, as more MPs will be looking to supplement their income over the next year with a general election looming.

The MPs earning millions from second jobs

6. Ministers consider Rwanda alternatives

The government has revisited proposals to send illegal migrants to Britain’s overseas territories, said The Times. Ascension Island is one of the territories being reconsidered, in case the Rwanda policy has to be abandoned. Ministers hope that the remote location of the volcanic island, 4,000 miles from the UK in the middle of the South Atlantic, would be a “strong deterrent”, said the paper. The government is in talks with at least five other countries over a similar deportation deal to the one agreed with Rwanda last year.

Government to appeal ‘unlawful’ Rwanda deportation ruling

7. Starmer dismisses Just Stop Oil

Keir Starmer has described Just Stop Oil’s call to immediately cease drilling for oil and gas as “contemptible”. Writing for The Times, the Labour leader confirmed that he would not revoke any existing licences. “The likes of Just Stop Oil want us to simply turn off the taps in the North Sea, creating the same chaos for working people that they do on our roads”, wrote Starmer. “It’s contemptible.” Labour has faced questions over links with Just Stop Oil, having received £1.5m from Dale Vince, who is also a big donor to the campaign group.

Does the UK need more North Sea oil and gas?

8. More top grades predicted for A-levels

The number of students missing out on top A-level grades this year will not be as high as predicted, said an educational expert. After ministers said that the number of and A* and A grades awarded in England should fall back to pre-pandemic levels, Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said teachers had developed a “taste for awarding top grades” during the pandemic which markers will be “reluctant to relinquish”.

9. ‘Postcode lottery’ for sleep

The UK has a ‘postcode lottery’ when it come to sleep, a major study has found, with those living in deprived areas of the UK having poorer sleep quality than those in affluent areas. The research, published in the journal Clocks & Sleep, found that both social deprivation and ethnicity affected the quality of sleep, irrespective of age, sex, personal wealth, employment and education. “The consequences are huge in terms of inequalities”, said Prof John Groeger, the lead researcher.

10. Family makes space history

An 18-year-old student and her mother will travel to space later this week, becoming the first mother and daughter to go to space. Anastatia Mayers and her mum Keisha Schahaff won a place on Virgin Galactic’s second commercial flight in a prize draw. “I filled out this sweepstake”, said Schahaff and then “months later” she was told she had won. “Suddenly, who's walking into my yard? Richard Branson.” The pair will take off from New Mexico on Thursday.

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