Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 10 August 2023

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

1. Ministers to press Sunak on ECHR

Up to a third of the cabinet will press Rishi Sunak to put leaving the European Convention on Human Rights at the heart of the election campaign if deportation flights to Rwanda are blocked by the courts. A growing number of senior Tories, including at least eight ministers, are prepared to back the move if ECHR membership blocks the government’s plans, The Telegraph has been told. Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, is the only minister to have publicly backed leaving the ECHR.

Could the UK pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights?

2. Is ‘mortgage misery’ ending?

Banks have launched a “mortgage price war” that will bring “much-needed relief to embattled homeowners”, said the Daily Mail. Halifax will cut the cost of its loans by up to 0.71 percentage points, following cuts announced this week by HSBC, TSB and Nationwide. Industry analysts have predicted that mortgage rates would now be lowered elsewhere. The cuts will boost hopes that mortgage costs have peaked, although borrowers still face near-record payments. “Have we finally turned the corner on mortgage misery?” asked the paper.

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Who will get the blame for UK mortgage misery?

3. Migrants die as boat sinks

Forty-one migrants are thought to have died after a boat capsized off Tunisia, according to Italian state television. A group of four people who survived told rescuers that they were on a boat that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia and sank on its way to Italy. Diane Abbott has deleted a tweet which stated that the dead migrants have “indeed f***ed off”. The post was directed at Lee Anderson, deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, who said asylum seekers complaining about being moved on to an accommodation barge should “f**k off back to France”.

Bibby Stockholm: the UK’s own Alcatraz?

4. Police chief calls for sack powers

Britain’s most senior policeman has claimed that chief constables are unable to sack hundreds of officers who are unfit to serve. Mark Rowley, the Metropolitan Police commissioner, called on the government to pass legislation giving police chiefs dismissal powers instead of having the process overseen by independent lawyers, who he said were “fundamentally soft”. Rowley said: “I’ve got a big mission to sort out here and I’m in a hurry to get on with it.”

5. Fears of new Covid wave

The World Health Organisation has classified a fast-spreading Covid strain circulating in the UK as a “variant of interest”. The variant, known as EG.5 or Eris, did not seem to pose more of a threat to public health than other variants, confirmed the WHO, but hospital admissions have spiked amid bad weather and waning immunity in the UK this summer. Prof Christina Pagel, a member of the Independent Sage group, said the UK was definitely starting to enter another wave of Covid.

The new Covid variant Eris behind a rise in cases this summer

6. ‘Covid generation’ stays at home

One in three students starting university this year may choose to live at home, according to a study by University College London. Before the pandemic about 20% of first year undergraduates in England lived at home while studying, but a study of current sixth formers found that as many as 34% of 18-year-old school-leavers could stay at home. Rising costs and family needs are affecting the “Covid generation” of school-leavers, said The Guardian.

The UK students taking on universities over Covid disruption

7. FBI shoot Biden threats man

A man who posted violent threats against Joe Biden online was shot dead during an FBI raid. Agents were attempting to serve an arrest warrant on Craig Robertson at his home in Utah, hours ahead of a planned visit to the state by the US president. SWAT agents were giving commands to Robertson when he pointed a gun at them, according to a source. He was facing three federal charges, including threats against the president as well as influencing, impeding and retaliating against federal law enforcement officers by threat.

8. Eating out costs surge

The cost of eating out has soared by nearly 15% during the past 12 months, said The Times. An industry tracker found that the average item is £2.50 more expensive than this time last year, as chains hike prices after pandemic restrictions, food price inflation and rising labour and energy costs. The cost of a pizza at Pizza Express has risen to £17.95, and a cheeseburger at Five Guys now costs £8.25. A separate study found that the UK’s top 100 restaurant groups increased their profit margins from 0.5% to 3% in the six months to March.

9. Ecuador candidate assassinated

A presidential candidate in Ecuador has been shot dead at a campaign rally. Fernando Villavicencio, a member of the country’s national assembly, was shot in the head as he left the event in the northern city of Quito on Wednesday. The current president, Guillermo Lasso, vowed that “the crime will not go unpunished”. The assassination comes as Ecuador “struggles with a deteriorating security crisis”, said CNN.

10. Prince William big in the US

The Prince of Wales is the United States’ most popular public figure, according to a poll. The Gallup survey asked Americans for their views on 15 prominent public figures and William emerged as the strongest candidate, with 59% of the vote, just ahead of the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, at 57%. The King was fourth list, with 46% of respondents viewing him favourably. Donald Trump was in sixth place, with 41%.

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