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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 29 July 2023

1

Labour lead grows again

Labour’s lead over the Tories has leapt three points after Rishi Sunak backtracked on the country’s net zero pledges and lost two by-elections, said the inews site. Labour is now 17 points ahead of the Tories, on 44% compared to the Conservative’s 27%. If this was replicated at a general election, it would hand Sir Keir Starmer a landslide majority “on a scale not seen since 1997”, said the outlet. A third of people surveyed who voted Tory at the last election said they would not do so next time.

2

Covid up as immunity wanes

Sales of Covid tests have jumped by a third as protective immunity from previous infections and vaccinations wanes. Surveillance systems have shown a slight increase in cases and hospital admission rates but Professor Lawrence Young, a virologist at the University of Warwick, told The Times the reported increases were “probably the tip of the iceberg as routine testing is no longer freely available”. The trend “highlights the problem with ‘living with the virus’”, he said, and “doesn’t bode well for this coming autumn and winter”.

3

Police ‘will investigate all crimes’

Police will promise to investigate every crime after years of “overlooking lower-level offences” such as criminal damage, shoplifting, car and bike theft, said The Times. The government wants officers to “dramatically improve” their rates for solving many offences that have been “virtually decriminalised” but which “blight communities”, said the paper. Crime is “shaping up as a key battleground” at the next election after studies found that the majority of the public believe that police have “given up” on investigating lower-level offences, it added.

4

Bulger video ‘beyond sick’

The mother of James Bulger has described fake TikTok images of her son talking about his murder as “beyond sick”. Denise Fergus said it was “disgusting” to use AI images to “bring a dead child back to life”. The clips are part of a “disturbing series of videos” showing fake versions of missing or murdered children, including Madeleine McCann, Baby P and Rhys Jones, said The Mirror. Bulger, two, was tortured and killed by two 10-year-old boys in 1993 after they abducted him from a shopping centre in Bootle, Merseyside.

5

Russia hits apartment block

Russian missiles struck an apartment block and a nearby building of Ukraine’s security service in the city of Dnipro last night, injuring at least nine people. “A few people were trapped but are now out,” the regional governor, Serhiy Lysak, said. Moscow said yesterday that it had intercepted two Ukrainian missiles over its southern Rostov region, bordering Ukraine. A spokesperson said 15 people were hurt by debris falling in the southern port city of Taganrog.

6

Trump support at rally

Donald Trump has told a campaign event he is the only Republican who can win 2024 election. The GOP’s presidential hopefuls shared a stage for the first time in the 2024 White House race at the Iowa event, with chief rivals Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis top of the bill at the Lincoln Dinner fundraiser. There were more than 1,200 in the ballroom, said the BBC, and although “many said they have a genuinely open mind about who they will vote for”, there was “no shortage of Trump stickers among the crowd”.

7

Experts call for clean air resilience

Scientists and doctors have urged politicians not to lose their nerve on plans to improve poor air quality, as pressure grows on them to water down plans to expand city-wide schemes on traffic pollution. The experts said the schemes, such as the ultra low emission zone (Ulez) in London, were vital to tackling “unacceptably high” levels of child deaths. “Children need to remain at the heart of these policies,” said Dr Camilla Kingdon, president of the Royal Society of Paediatrics and Child Health. Traffic pollution levels have been linked to thousands of deaths each year.

8

Concern over second-home levy

Second-home owners could face pay twice the amount of council tax under new laws set to hit nearly half of properties, said The Telegraph. The paper said the “planned raid” has already seen one in four councils in England pre-emptively agree to double the levy, grabbing an estimated £200m. The laws will affect “holiday hotspots” in Devon, Cornwall, the Lake District and Norfolk, but a former minister said councils should “use the powers wisely”, as “not all second-home owners are evil” and a fall in tourism will damage local economies.

9

Crisis puts Brits into six groups

The UK public is now “deeply divided” into six distinct groups based on how they are coping with the cost of living crisis, said The Guardian. A survey of 4,000 adults by Which magazine found that the groups included the “drained and desperate”, the “anxious and at risk” and the “affluent and apathetic”. Other groups were labelled “cut off by cutbacks” and the “fretting about the future”. The government “must help those most in need”, said the consumer group.

10

Swift fans ‘cause an earthquake’

Taylor Swift’s fans generated a minor earthquake at her recent gigs in Seattle. The singer-songwriter’s dancing fans registered the equivalent of a 2.3 magnitude earthquake as she performed at Seattle’s Lumen Field on July 22 and 24. A local seismometer detected activity generated by fans comparable to the 2011 “Beast Quake”, when supporters of the American Football team Seattle Seahawks responded to a dramatic touchdown by running back Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch.

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