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Israel Hits Iran’s Isfahan Province

Friday feeling, Israeli missile strike on Iran, today's speech from the PM on sicknote culture, and lower-than-expected UK retail sales for March.

Friday Feeling

Check out this weeks playlist here!

Five Feet High and Rising – Johnny Cash

Mercy Now – Mary Gauthier

Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell

Safe From Harm – Massive Attack

Smokin Out The Window – Bruno Mars

Israel Hits Iran’s Isfahan Province

This morning, the world is reacting to the news that an Israeli missile hit an Iranian site in the in central province of Isfahan. The extent of the damage is currently unclear, with Tehran downplaying the incident.

The strike follows days of speculation on how Benjamin Netanyahu’s War Cabinet would respond to the Iranian attack on Israel in which Tehran fired 300 drones and missiles. Iran says that this was in retaliation to the strike on its consulate in Syria at the start of the month which killed 13 people amongst which were senior military officials.

As news emerges on last night’s strike, attention turns to how the most recent hostilities may play out. The US, and others including the UK, have already urged restraint on all sides with concerns over the prospect of escalation into a regional conflict. According to the BBC’s Chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet, “Tehran says its old doctrine of “strategic patience,” of playing a longer game when its assets and individuals are attacked, has ended.”

Though it’s unclear where the strike landed, some are speculating on whether it targeted the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Centre which holds a uranium conversion facility. According to a former US official speaking to the BBC, “Isfahan really is to a great extent the centre of the Iranian nuclear programme in terms of training, research and, what some would say, the development of the Iranian nuclear capability.” At 07:11 this morning, the UN atomic watchdog the International Atomic Energy Agency said that no damage has been caused on the site and is continuing to monitor developments.

Iran has said that no such damage has taken place there, though such reports have not been independently verified.

PM’s to Speak on ‘Fit to Work Notes’

Today, the Prime Minster is expected to criticise the country’s ‘sicknote culture’ in a bid to drive up productivity. Attention has recently been focused on the rising number of those that are ‘economically inactive’. Recent data suggested that there are now 2.8 million economically inactive people which is defined by the ONS as “People not in employment who have not been seeking work within the last 4 weeks and/or are unable to start work within the next 2 weeks.”

According to the ONS this has been partially due to a rise in long-term sickness which has been rising throughout all age groups. (A rise in the number of students has also fed into the rise).

Sunak is expected to float the idea of “work and health professionals” issuing ‘fit to work’ notes. Presently, only doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists can do so.

The Telegraph is citing how Sunak will say that while we should “never dismiss or downplay the illnesses people have”, “more honest about the risk of over-medicalising the everyday challenges and worries of life”.

Sunak’s plans are coming under fire however with many critics citing longer waiting times and pressure on the health service leading. According to an investigation by The Times, in the first ten months of 2023, it took more than 28 days to hold 14.9m NHS appointments, a rise from 12.8m in the previous year.

UK Retail Sales Miss Expectations

UK Retail Sales for March have come in considerably lower-than-expected this morning, hitting 0% growth on a month-on-month basis. This was far lower than the market consensus which was pointing to a 0.3% print. On an annualised basis the figures came in at 0.8%, a marked increase from the previous figure which saw a 0.3% contraction.

According to the ONS automotive fuel and non-food stores sales volumes rose by 3.2% and 0.5%, respectively, though this was offset by falls in food stores and non-store retailers which fell 0.7% and 1.5%.

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