Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 4 September 2023

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

1. Starmer to reshuffle pack

Keir Starmer is expected to reshuffle his shadow cabinet today, as MPs return to Westminster from their summer break. There is “much speculation” over what the Labour leader may do with deputy leader Angela Rayner, said the BBC. Currently, she shadows the Cabinet Office, but supporters want her to be given a more prominent department to shadow. Most senior figures, such as Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, and Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, are “believed to be safe”, said The Telegraph.

Does Tony Blair hold the answers for Keir Starmer?

2. School absence figures revealed

More than one in five children in England are regularly missing school, in a sign attendance is “still struggling to get back to pre-pandemic levels”, said the BBC. The children’s commissioner Rachel de Souza said some children play truant, but others suffer from anxiety or have educational needs and therefore find it easier at home. The news comes as schools face waiting until December to find out if their buildings are in danger of collapse because of crumbling concrete, meaning many more could close.

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Can England fix its crumbling schools?

3. Israel to deport African migrants

Benjamin Netanyahu plans to deport all African migrants from Israel after Eritrean groups were involved in violent clashes. The controversial move came 24 hours after “bloody protests” by rival groups of Eritreans in south Tel Aviv left dozens of people injured, said Al Jazeera. However, the outlet noted that under international law Israel cannot forcibly send migrants back to a country where their life or liberty may be at risk.

Netanyahu’s reforms: an existential threat to Israel?

4. Covid testing ramps up

Covid testing and monitoring will be scaled up for the winter, said the UK Health Security Agency. The news comes a month after experts said the UK was nearly “flying blind” because many of the surveillance programmes from the peak years of the pandemic have been wound down. Schools are preparing for the return of pupils after the summer break, employees are heading back to work and indoor gatherings are becoming more common, factors that are “known to increase the risk of respiratory infections, including Covid, spreading”, said The Guardian.

Covid-19: where we are now

5. Lost evidence halts homicide probes

Prosecutions involving 16 homicides and more than 100 sexual offences collapsed before trial in England and Wales last year as a result of lost or missing evidence, said The Guardian. The findings, obtained by a freedom of information request, show that lost or unavailable materials were responsible for the pre-trial collapse of 7,316 cases between September 2021 and September 2022 in forces across England and Wales. They raise concerns about police handling of crucial evidence, such as “DNA samples, CCTV footage, weapons, drugs and mobile phone data”, said the paper.

6. Hot autumn predicted

A “blast of heat” from Africa is set to make the UK warmer than Thailand, said The Mirror, and the autumn heat could “stick around until October”. Some of the “most sweltering days of the year” are expected this week, with the Met Office forecasting 28C highs rising to 31C on Wednesday and Thursday. “Trick or heat”, said the Daily Star, as it reported that there is the potential for “a long spell of spookily warm weather up to Halloween”.

The world’s most extreme weather events in 2023

7. Ukraine claims decisive breach

Ukraine claims it has breached Russia’s formidable first line of defences in the south. “Little by little, I think we’re gaining momentum,” said Yuriy Sak, a government advisor. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he plans to dismiss the defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov, from his post and will ask parliament to replace him with Rustem Umerov, the head of Ukraine’s main privatisation fund.

Ukraine death toll: how many lives have been lost in the war?

8. Andrew papers secret until 2065

Official documents relating to the Duke of York are to be kept secret until 2065, according to a historian. There is a “general rule” that documents relating to members of the royal family must remain closed until 105 years after their birth, said The Times. But Andrew Lownie, who has written books about the Mountbattens and the Duke of Windsor, said this “does seem quite extreme”. He said a “culture of secrecy” surrounds royal correspondence.

What are the pros and cons of the monarchy?

9. Pensioner quizzed over trans sticker

A pensioner was questioned by police over a “hate incident” after taking a photograph of a sticker that said “keep males out of women-only spaces”. The 73-year-old woman took a photo of a transgender flag-themed poster, over which a sticker had been placed with the anti-trans message. She told The Mail on Sunday that police gave her a “long lecture about the sensitivity of the issue, and how something like this could cause harassment and alarm to the community”. She denied she had placed the sticker over the poster.

10. Speculation over Biden dropout

It would not be a “total shock” if Joe Biden drops out of the race for the White House, said his biographer. “It doesn’t take Bob Woodward to understand that Joe Biden is old,” said ‌Franklin Foer, whose book on the first two years of the Biden administration is published this week. ‌Democratic congressman Dean Phillips has urged the president to pass the baton onto the next generation. Age has become a “persistent issue in US politics”, said The Telegraph, including for the 80-year-old president.

How the political world might change in 2024

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