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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 20 April 2023

1

Interest rates ‘could reach 5%’

Homeowners are facing a further cost of living squeeze amid forecasts that interest rates could potentially reach 5% this year. Revising forecasts that interest rates had peaked, markets are now predicting further rises, after inflation was announced to have reached 10.1% yesterday. Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies told the i news site: “My guess is the financial markets are overreacting to the core inflation figures, but an increase to 5% is not impossible.” Helen Dickinson, the chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said “wider inflation will continue to ease”.

UK mortgage predictions: where will rates go next?

2

Dozens die in Yemen stampede

At least 85 people have died in a stampede in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Video footage on social media shows scenes of panic after the incident in the Bab-al-Yemen area of the city, which came during a distribution of charity for Ramadan. Witnesses told the Associated Press news agency that armed Houthis had fired into the air in an attempt at crowd control, apparently hitting an electrical wire, which exploded and caused panic among those waiting. According to Reuters, hundreds of people had crowded into a school to receive donations that amounted to about $9 (£7) per person.

3

‘Crunch time’ for Raab

Senior officials at the Ministry of Justice could quit in protest if Dominic Raab is cleared of bullying, according to The Guardian. Preparations “at the heart of government” are “ramping up” for the imminent publication of the long-expected report on claims of bullying by Raab, added the paper. The BBC’s political editor Chris Mason described it as “crunch time” for Raab, who will either be sacked, resign or stay on. Five months ago, the government appointed a senior lawyer, Adam Tolley KC, to conduct an independent investigation into complaints about his conduct, which he denies.

Dominic Raab: the deputy PM at centre of new bullying row

4

Russian spy ships eye UK

Russian “ghost ships” are mapping wind farms and key communication cables off the coast of Britain as part of plans to “sabotage critical infrastructure”, reported The Daily Telegraph. GCHQ chiefs have warned of a surge in Russia-aligned hackers aiming to “disrupt or destroy” energy facilities such as power stations. European intelligence agencies claimed they have observed a fleet of Russian boats, often disguised as fishing trawlers or research vessels but with armed guards. The news has prompted calls from Tory MPs for the Armed Forces to be given greater funding.

Nato vs. Russia: which side would win?

5

Police chief accepts Met is racist

The head of the Police Federation of England and Wales has accepted that the Metropolitan Police is institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic. Speaking to The Guardian, Steve Hartshorn said he expected a “backlash” for his admission but insisted that making his views public was an act of “leadership”, as policing needs a “mindset shift”. He has become the first leader of a major British policing institution to accept the findings of a stringent report last month.

Is breaking up Scotland Yard the answer to its problems?

6

Sunak ‘caves in’ on migrants

Judges are set to no longer be able to block migrant deportations after Rishi Sunak “caved in” to avoid a backlash from right-wing Conservative MPs, said The Times. The PM has agreed to amend the Illegal Migration Bill to allow ministers to ignore interim injunctions from the European Court of Human Rights on deportations. In return, the would-be Tory rebels have agreed not to table other amendments that risked dividing the party, the paper added.

Stop the boats: will immigration define the next election?

7

US ‘running out of time’ on China

The West is running out of time to match China’s firepower, Joe Biden’s top commander in the Indo-Pacific has warned. Admiral John Aquilino, who is the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, said President Xi was overseeing the “largest, fastest, most comprehensive military build-up” since the Second World War in both the “conventional and strategic nuclear domains”. He said “conflict” in the region is “neither imminent nor inevitable” but the US and its allies “do not have the luxury of time”, so they “must act now to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

Is China preparing to invade Taiwan?

8

Fox ‘can write-off settlement’

Fox News can claim a tax write-off for its settlement over election fraud claims, according to a report. On Tuesday, the broadcaster and its parent company Fox Corporation agreed to pay a record $787m (£633m) settlement to Dominion, concluding two years of litigation over the news network’s false claims that the 2020 election was rigged. However, The Lever reported that an “arcane line in the tax code”, means Fox can deduct that settlement payment from its income taxes, according to a company spokesperson and tax experts.

9

PM: don’t judge me on riches

Rishi Sunak has told schoolchildren not to “judge” him for being rich. Appearing on the Sky Kids news show FYI, the PM was asked by Ruby in Highgate: “It’s been a tough winter for us all, but how do you know to help struggling families when you’re so rich yourself?” Sunak replied that “the best way to judge people is not by what job they’re doing or where they come from, it’s about what they’re actually doing and I think you can judge me by my actions”.

‘Rishi Rich’: How the Sunaks made their fortune

10

Harry Styles boosts tape revival

Harry Styles and Arctic Monkeys are being credited with a rise in sales of the cassette tape. Last year, sales of the “retro” format hit their highest in almost two decades, noted The Times, with 195,000 cassettes sold. The top-sellers were Arctic Monkeys’ The Car and Harry’s House by Harry Styles. Industry insiders told the paper the “unexpected revival” could be due to a “mixture of nostalgia and a desire from consumers for choice in how they listen to music”. Nevertheless, their commercial importance is “dwarfed by that of the streaming services such as Spotify”, it added.

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