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Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 30 January 2023

1

Putin ‘threatened to kill’ Johnson

Boris Johnson has claimed that Vladimir Putin threatened him with a missile strike during an “extraordinary” phone call in 2022, ahead of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. After the then prime minister described the likely sanctions response to any such invasion, Putin reportedly replied: “Boris, I don’t want to hurt you, but with a missile, it would only take a minute.”  Details of the conversation are revealed in an upcoming BBC documentary, exploring Putin’s interactions with world leaders.

Are we heading for World War Three?

2

Business bounces back

British business confidence has bounced back, according to a new survey showing that it had reached its highest level in six months in January. Overall confidence among UK companies increased by five points to 22% this month, the latest Lloyds Bank Business Barometer found, edging closer to the long-term average of 28%. Confidence is an “important economic indicator and driver of growth”, because “the more optimistic companies feel, the more likely they are to invest”, said The Times.

The outbreak of optimism at Davos

3

Covid ‘disastrous’ for kids

Researchers have found that young people have been “disastrously” affected by the consequences of the Covid pandemic. Two studies reveal the “wide-ranging ways in which young people continue to suffer”, said The Guardian with “poorer mental and physical health, as well as extensive learning loss” that experts say will “undoubtedly” harm their futures. “While many see the pandemic as being over, the after-effects are far from over for our country’s youngsters, particularly those from less well-off households,” said Sir Peter Lampl, of the Sutton Trust, which co-led one of the studies.

4

Tories blame Johnson for sleaze

Leading Conservatives are blaming Boris Johnson for the sleaze scandals surrounding Rishi Sunak’s administration, said the i newspaper. In the wake of the prime minister’s decision to sack Nadhim Zahawi for breaching the ministerial code, a former minister said: “Johnson appeared to treat the code as advisory. The damage he did to behaviour in Government must be reversed and the way he has handled Zahawi suggests Rishi can do that.” Earlier this month, Tory chair of the health select committee Steve Brine described the government as suffering from “long Boris”.

Back to basics: can Sunak stave off return of Tory sleaze?

5

British Army ‘no longer top-level’

A senior US general has privately told the UK government that the British Army is no longer regarded as a top-level fighting force according to Sky News. “Bottom line… it’s an entire service unable to protect the UK and our allies for a decade,” a defence source told the broadcaster. They added that the decline in war-fighting capability, caused by decades of cuts to save money, needed to be reversed in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The defence budget needed to be increased by at least £3bn a year, they argued.

How the Ukraine war exposed cracks in Western defence

6

Turkey may block Sweden’s Nato bid

The Turkish president has suggested that he may block Sweden’s application to join Nato. Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited Sweden’s refusal to extradite dozens of people allegedly tied to Kurdish militant groups and other critics of his government. “If you absolutely want to join Nato, you will return these terrorists to us,” said Erdogan. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Sweden and Finland applied to join Nato but their application must be unanimously approved by all current Nato members.

Turkey holds Finland and Sweden hostage over Nato bids

7

Gove will scrap ‘feudal’ rules

Michael Gove has promised to scrap most “feudal” leaseholds in England this year. The government wants to ditch rules that prevent flat owners from buying the freehold to their property if a small part of their building is given over to shops or other commercial ventures. “When you’ve got a tangle of property laws going back hundreds of years, unstitching all of that is difficult,” Gove told Sky News, adding that “the fundamental thing is that leasehold is just an unfair form of property ownership”.

8

Welby ‘to broker Harry deal’

The King has reportedly asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to broker a deal to allow Prince Harry to attend the Coronation. Justin Welby officiated Harry and Meghan’s wedding and royal sources told The Telegraph that the Archbishop is “very close” to Harry and Meghan, speaking to them regularly by telephone. The King is said to feel that the couple’s absence would be a bigger distraction than if they attend but the Prince of Wales is believed to be worried that his brother could cause a “stunt” that would overshadow the ceremony.

Going Spare: can Prince Harry ever reconcile with the royals?

9

Trump questions DeSantis loyalty

Donald Trump has launched a “blistering attack” on Ron DeSantis, his main rival for the Republican presidential nomination, said The Telegraph. “He’s going to have to do what he wants to do, but he may run,” said Trump. “I do think it would be a great act of disloyalty because, you know, I got him in. He had no chance. His political life was over.” In the past, Trump has mocked the Florida governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious.”

Ron DeSantis vs. Donald Trump: how Republican rivals match up

10

Calls for Potter game boycott

Gamers are calling for a boycott of the new Harry Potter release in response to JK Rowling’s position on transgender issues, reported The Times. Although the makers, Warner Bros Games, said they had made the role-playing game inclusive, with players able to become trans wizards and witches, the lead-up to its release next month has been overshadowed by a boycott campaign. Will Overgard, a US gamer, is among those calling for a boycott. “By supporting the title you are essentially aligning yourself with some really heinous transphobic values,” he said.

JUN 20: Transgender row: is J.K. Rowling destroying her legacy?

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