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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 February 2023

1

British Gas prepayment pause

British Gas has suspended the force-fitting of prepayment meters, after The Times reported that the energy giant had imposed them on vulnerable customers. The paper said Arvato Financial Solutions, a company employed by British Gas, had broken into homes to fit the meters, despite in some cases signs children and disabled people were living there. In one case, debt agents in below-freezing conditions worked with a locksmith to break into the home of a single father of three young children. British Gas owner Centrica said the suspension would last “until at least after winter”.

2

Tories prepare for Liz Truss return

Liz Truss could spark a fresh Tory civil war when she returns to public life with calls for Rishi Sunak to back her “pro-growth” economic agenda, reported the i news site. Sources said that having taken a “breather” after her eventful spell in Downing Street, the former prime minister is preparing to return to the political spotlight with the demand for fresh growth packages, a prospect that is “starting to send ripples of panic across battle-weary Conservative back benches”, said the paper.

UK economic woes: are tax cuts the answer?

3

EU door is ‘open to Britain’

The door is open for Britain to rejoin the EU “any time”, said Michel Barnier. However, added the former Brexit negotiator, diverging too far from EU rules now would make it more difficult for Britain to re-join the bloc in future. He added that he was surprised it was still making UK headlines. “The door to the EU side will remain open any time for you,” he said. “It will be your choice exactly as Brexit has been the choice of the UK people,” he said. “Though everybody knows the conditions,” he added, referencing the acceptance of freedom of movement and committing to one day joining the euro.

No Bregrets: is Brexit remorse on the rise?

4

Rates rises ‘nearing peak’

The Bank of England is expected to raise interest rates for the 10th time in a row today, as the benchmark rate is forecast to go up from 3.5% to 4%. However, experts believe the rises are nearing their end. “Analysts believe rates will peak at 4.5% in the summer”, said the BBC, lower than predictions had suggested when the government was in turmoil after its mini-budget was badly received. Although policymakers are keen to avoid pushing the UK into a recession by raising borrowing costs, their mandate is to keep inflation at around 2%.

Why is the Bank of England raising interest rates again?

5

Haley set to be first challenger to Trump

Nikki Haley, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, is preparing to throw her hat into the ring for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, according to reports. The Post and Courier said it had seen an invitation “soon going out to her backers”, for a “special announcement” at The Shed at Charleston Visitor Center on 15 February. The former governor of South Carolina would become the second major Republican candidate for the presidency, after her former boss Donald Trump launched his bid in November.

Trump to run in 2024: what has he been up to?

6

Watchdog explores Johnson funding

The government’s spending watchdog is examining the decision to provide £220,000 of taxpayers’ money to fund Boris Johnson’s legal defence for the inquiry into his Partygate denials. Although the National Audit Office has yet to decide whether to mount a formal investigation, The Guardian reported that “a director is planning to speak to the Cabinet Office about it”. The news comes as Johnson “fuelled speculation that he is planning a comeback as Prime Minister by taking a swipe at Rishi Sunak on the US leg of what is being described as his comeback tour,” said the Daily Express. 

Three issues that could stop a Boris Johnson comeback

7

F-35 helmets ‘too heavy for women’

Women cannot fly F-35 Lightning jets because the helmets provided are too heavy, said an RAF boss. Speaking to MPs, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said that the RAF had not approved a lighter helmet because of safety fears. He said a “lighter helmet that would allow lighter aircrew, so not just women but lighter aircrew, to fly the F-35” but “we would have challenges in clearing it in safety terms because it does not give the pilot the protection that the other helmet has”. The lack of women flying F-35s “comes amid a backlog in training all pilots, who in some cases have waited up to ten years to fly”, said The Times. Last year the RAF came under attack from some quarters over its efforts to meet diversity targets in recruitment.

Is the RAF embracing ‘woke ideology’?

8

Football shake-up plan leaked

A leaked government paper revealed plans for “the biggest shake up to football ownership in years”, said The Sun. The document proposes to block multi-millionaires who cannot prove the source of their wealth from owning football teams. Fans would get a say in running clubs and stop bosses radically changing logos and kits, it added. The football white paper could be published as early as next week, claims the tabloid, adding that Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan wants a new regulator in place for the 2024/5 season. The white paper follows a fan-led review last year launched after a series of footballing crises in the country, including the collapse of Bury in 2019 and the attempted creation of the Super League in 2021.

What are the ‘radical’ plans to reform men’s football in England?

9

Italy rules against grandparents

Italy’s highest court has ruled that grandparents do not have the right to see their grandchildren. In Italy, the bonds between children and their “nonni” are “considered practically sacred”, said The Telegraph, but the Supreme Court in Rome ruled that children, particularly those over the age of 12 and “capable of discernment”, should not be forced to be spend time with their grandparents. The ruling came after grandparents in Milan insisted it was their right to see their two grandchildren, despite a poor relationship with the children’s parents.

10

Row as Wales bans Delilah

The Welsh Rugby Union has banned Delilah from being sung by a choir in Cardiff during the Six Nations. Announcing the ban of the rugby anthem, which is about a jealous lover stabbing his unfaithful partner, a Principality Stadium spokesperson said the WRU “condemns domestic violence of any kind” and is “respectfully aware” that the song is “problematic and upsetting to some supporters because of its subject matter”. The singer Tom Jones, who made the track famous, said: “It’s not political, it’s about a man just losing it.”

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