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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 May 2023

1

Labour tuition fees U-turn

Keir Starmer is reportedly preparing to scrap Labour’s commitment to free university tuition, a move that would put him on “another collision course with the left of his party”, said The Times. The Labour leader is preparing a U-turn on his 2020 leadership commitment, to show his “fiscal discipline” the paper said. “At a time when we’re being so careful about spending commitments, it’s a glaring anomaly that we still haven’t moved on tuition fees,” said a party source.

Left out: is this the end for Labour’s Corbynites?

2

Patients could ‘shop around’

The NHS app could allow patients to “shop around” local hospitals for the shortest waiting time, said the i news site. Although data on how long it takes to get an appointment at most hospitals is published online already, it is “not straightforward” to compare different treatment options, said the report. However, ministers hope that once the app is updated, users in England will be able to compare the waiting times at all their local hospitals for whichever treatment or procedure they require.

3

‘Disused ships’ asylum plan

The Home Office is planning to acquire 10 disused cruise ships, ferries and barges to house asylum seekers in ports across the country as the government struggles to address the backlog in the asylum system, said The Guardian. A leading maritime company is conducting a feasibility study into housing migrants on redundant oil rigs, added the paper. The news comes as the backlog is believed to have grown by 1,500 people since December, when Rishi Sunak pledged to clear it within a year.

How much does it cost the UK to house asylum seekers?

4

AI ‘godfather’ walks away

A man seen as “the godfather of artificial intelligence (AI)” has warned about the growing dangers from developments in the field. Announcing his resignation from Google in a statement to the New York Times, Geoffrey Hinton said he now regretted his work because the dangers of AI chatbots were “quite scary”. Speaking to the BBC, he said: “Right now, they’re not more intelligent than us, as far as I can tell. But I think they soon may be.” He added that the chatbots could be exploited by “bad actors”.

Pros and cons of artificial intelligence

5

Food prices rise again

Food prices in the UK continued to rise last month despite a fall in wholesale costs, exacerbating the ongoing cost-of-living crisis in the UK. The British Retail Consortium found that food inflation jumped to 15.7% last month compared with April in 2022, up from 15% in March. However, said the trade body, the cost of a food shop “should start” to come down in the next few months. Meanwhile, noted Reuters, the Institute of Directors has reported a fifth consecutive monthly rise in confidence among its members, returning to its level immediately before Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Is it time for Britons to accept they are poorer?

6

Is NHS breakthrough imminent?

Ministers and unions are expected to agree today to a new deal giving NHS staff in England a 5% pay increase. At a lunchtime summit between the government, NHS officials and representatives from 14 NHS unions, the unions will announce whether a majority of the workforce are in favour of the deal, which also includes a one-off lump sum. The meeting could be a “key step forward” in the government implementing the pay rise to all health workers covered by the agreement, said Sky News.

Is the NHS pay deal a win for striking nurses?

7

Case ‘should quit’ says historian

A leading political historian has said Simon Case should resign as cabinet secretary because the civil service has “never been weaker, more demoralised or less powerfully led”. Speaking to The Times, Anthony Seldon said that Case no longer had “the authority or experience” to lead the civil service. Case has come under renewed pressure in recent days because of his involvement in Richard Sharp’s resignation as BBC chairman.

Civil service neutrality: is it time for a more politicised Whitehall?

8

Poll finds Charles support

A majority of Britons think Charles will be a good king, according to a new poll. The King’s positive ratings are rising, with 62% believing that Charles will be good for the monarchy, in a change of fortune from a poll in March last year, where just 39% of people predicted that he make a good monarch. Anthony Wells, head of European political and social research at YouGov, told The Times: “As it stands now people have a positive perception of him and believe he is going to do a good job. It is certainly the case that doubts have faded away and people are rallying around the King.”

9

Colonial descendant talks reparations

A descendant of a British colonial administrator said she is prepared to pay reparations if the Irish government said her family was liable for the potato famine. Former BBC journalist Laura Trevelyan has previously given £100,000 to an economic development fund in Grenada, where her ancestors owned sugar plantations. Speaking of her ancestor and the question of reparations, she told BBC Radio Ulster that “if the Irish government said the Trevelyan family are liable for what Charles Edward did, then of course that would have to be considered”.

Should the UK pay slavery reparations and which institutions could owe money?

10

Study shines light on death

Scientists have captured “conscious-like” brain activity in dying patients, a development that offers “new insights into the process of death”, said The Guardian. Researchers retrospectively analysed the brain activity data after the patients had life support withdrawn, and found that two of the patients showed an increase in heart rate along with a surge of gamma wave activity, which is considered the fastest brain activity and associated with consciousness. This might correspond to the patients being “internally awakened”, said a researcher.

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