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First Minister Mark Drakeford backs 'radical socialist traditions'

The Corbyn crony who plunged Wales into lockdown: First Minister Mark Drakeford backs ‘radical socialist traditions’ and thinks it’s ‘fantastic’ to destroy English road signs

  • Mark Drakeford promised to follow ‘radical socialist traditions’ upon his election 
  • First Minister also backed Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for Labour leadership in 2015 
  • He also said he thought trashing road signs was a ‘fantastic thing to be doing’  

The man responsible for plunging Wales into a 17-day lockdown is an atheist, a republican – and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, a keen player of the ukulele.

But then, First Minister Mark Drakeford is not your typical politician.

He promised to follow ‘radical socialist traditions’ when he was elected Welsh Labour leader in 2018 and, as a long-time supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, backed his bid for the Labour leadership in 2015.

At the time, he said Mr Corbyn was the candidate ‘whose views most closely reflect my own’.

But the similarities don’t end there, as Mr Drakeford, 66, also shares the ex-Labour leader’s passion for allotments. 

First Minister Mark Drakeford with former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in Barry, South Wales, in 2019 

One of his key campaign pledges in the Welsh Labour Party leadership contest was to double the number of plots across Wales.

During the March lockdown, Mr Drakeford cycled to his allotment in Cardiff, joking that he had to ‘dig very fast’ because of the one-hour exercise restriction. He once boasted he was the only Welsh politician to have milked a cow.

He was born and brought up in Carmarthenshire. As a boy, he developed a love for cricket and learned to play the clarinet and ukulele.

Patriotic Welsh fervour swept his home town when Gwynfor Evans was elected as nationalist Plaid Cymru’s first MP in 1966. 

Having attended an all-boys grammar school, Mr Drakeford later recalled groups of pupils marching around chanting political slogans, with English-only road signs, torn down the night before, piled on the ground.

In an interview with the BBC last year, Mr Drakeford said he thought trashing road signs was a ‘fantastic thing to be doing’. He later decided that class was more important than nationality, and he became a socialist and joined the Labour Party.

In the final year of his Latin degree at the University of Kent in Canterbury, he answered an advert in The Guardian to become a probation officer. 

After becoming disillusioned with the substandard council houses the offenders he encountered lived in, he moved into politics.

At the same time, he lectured on social policy at Cardiff University, keeping his academic post until his appointment as a Welsh Government minister in 2013. 

He promised to follow ‘radical socialist traditions’ when he was elected Welsh Labour leader in 2018

Mr Drakeford, who coined the phrase ‘clear red water’ to represent the different direction Welsh Labour took to the Tony Blair government of the time, served as an adviser to former First Minister Rhodri Morgan, later claiming that he wanted to remain ‘out of the public eye as much as possible’.

However, that ambition didn’t last long and he became the first candidate to throw his hat in the ring after the resignation in 2018 of Carwyn Jones, his predecessor as First Minister.

During his leadership bid, he admitted taking illegal drugs at university, but insisted it was nothing stronger than cannabis. He also revealed that he did not support the monarchy, having become a republican at 14.

Mr Drakeford won the support of the Corbynista pressure group Momentum, which campaigned on his behalf. He also defended the Welsh NHS when it was criticised for its performance by the then premier David Cameron.

Mr Drakeford, who has three children, revealed in July that he he had spent part of lockdown living in a ‘miniature hut’ at the bottom of his garden to protect his wife and mother-in-law, who had been shielding.

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French minister says EU will veto trade deal against 'our interests'

French minister threatens to veto Brexit trade deal if it does not protect ‘our interests’ and claims Britain is BLUFFING about being ready to walk away without an agreement as talks resume in London

  • Clement Beaune said all bets were off if UK had ‘not shown sufficient movement’ 
  • Suggested PMs threat to walk away without agreement was a charade
  • Post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and European Union  continue today

A senior French minister warned that the EU would not accept a trade deal if it did  not protect ‘our interests’ – and claimed the UK was bluffing about walking away from talks. 

French Europe Minister Clement Beaune said that all bets were off if Britain had ‘not shown sufficient movement’ amid a continuing stand-off over fishing rights in British waters.

The issue has emerged as the last remaining real stumbling block to a deal being complete before the end of the transition period on December 31. 

Post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and European Union will continue in London on Friday as Michel Barnier said both sides have a ‘common responsibility’ to strike a deal.

The European Union’s chief negotiator continued discussions with his UK counterpart Lord Frost as the deadline for an agreement looms.

Speaking to French Television, Mr Beaune said: ‘We thought the end of October was the final deadline. We are giving ourselves a few more days to give the negotiations a chance, but we need to know quickly.

‘Michel Barnier has several days ahead of him where he is going to negotiate and then he will talk to us.

He is going to tell the head of state and government of the EU27: ‘Here is a deal, and I think it is a good one’ – and then we have to evaluate it. Or: ‘I think the British have not shown sufficient movement to reach an agreement that protects our interests and then it’s no deal.’

French Europe Minister Clement Beaune said that all bets were off if Britain had ‘not shown sufficient movement’ amid a continuing stand-off over fishing rights in British waters

Post-Brexit trade talks between the UK and European Union will continue in London on Friday as Michel Barnier said both sides have a ‘common responsibility’ to strike a deal

The European Union’s chief negotiator is expected to continue discussions with his UK counterpart Lord Frost (pictured today) as the deadline for an agreement looms

And he also suggested that Boris Johnson’s position, that he is relaxed for Britain to walk away without a deal and operate on an ‘Australian-style’ trading arrangement, was a charade. 

‘If the British thought they could live with the ”freedom” of no deal outside the EU, if it was so easy and so comfortable, they would have already left without a deal,’ he said.   

Talks had been in limbo after Boris Johnson’s deadline for a deal passed last week, but they resumed on Thursday as Brussels said both sides needed to compromise on trade issues.

Mr Barnier arrived in London on Thursday evening wearing a face covering printed with the EU flag.

He told reporters: ‘I think we have a huge common responsibility. Every day counts.’

Number 10 acknowledged that ‘significant gaps’ remain between the two sides and it was ‘entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed’.

The main stumbling blocks remain fishing rights, the governance of any deal and the ‘level playing field’ aimed at preventing unfair competition, which includes state subsidies.

Time is short to reach an agreement before the end of the transition period on December 31.

Both sides had previously said a deal would need to be reached by mid-October in order to allow time for ratification. 

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Another minister gets coronavirus rules wrong live on air – as he tells people they need to learn the rules

ANOTHER minister has admitted he doesn't know the coronavirus measures across the UK because "he doesn't live there" and told Brits it was "their duty" to educate themselves on the rules.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse stumbled over questions about local lockdown rules this morning and wrongly claimed gyms in Manchester had to close.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates


Mr Malthouse is the latest in a string of Government ministers to bungle their own rules.

When quizzed on whether gyms in Manchester could open, Mr Malthouse told Sky News this morning: "I don't think gyms can (open), I'm not entirely sure, but then I don't live in Manchester.

"If I were a gym user in Manchester I would go and check on the regulations."

The Policing minister claimed he shouldn't have to know the rules in "every particular area."

He said it was Brits' responsibility to check the rules.

"In local areas, there are some variations on what can be open and what can't and I think it behoves all of us to go and inform ourselves," Mr Malthouse said.

"It's not confusing if you go and check, fundamentally that's what you need to do.

"I can't know from every particular area. I know the basics, and I understand."

Speaking later on BBC Radio 4, Mr Malthouse repeated his message that it was on Brits to learn their local rules – not ministers.

He said: "People have a duty to go off and educate themselves.

"They're only inconsistent if you're trying to understand them in more than one area. "

Last month Boris Johnson was baffled by his own rules, claiming that in local lockdown areas which ban household mixing, people could gather in groups of six indoors.

And before the introduction of the 3-tiered system, Skills minister Gillian Keegan admitted she "didn't know the rules" in the North East because "she didn't represent the North East."

When asked if people in the North East could meet up in pub gardens, Ms Keegan said: "I’m sorry I can’t clarify that.

“I don’t know the answer to that question but I’m sure they can find out the answer to that question.”

When she was pressed on how people are supposed to understand the rules when the minister don't, she said: "I'm sorry I can't answer that questions.

“I’m sure there are many people who could. I don’t represent the north-east.”

The repeated botched attempts to explain lockdown rules come as huge parts of the country hurtle towards Tier 3 restrictions due to come in at midnight on Saturday morning.

Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire will both have the toughest rules slapped on them from this weekend.

Almost half of the country, 27.3million people are currently living under extra lockdown measures.

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Education Minister Nick Gibb rules out cancelling school holidays

Education Minister Nick Gibb rules out cancelling school holidays to help children catch up on learning as he says teachers ‘need a break’ after ‘working phenomenally hard’ during coronavirus crisis

  • Nick Gibb said it is ‘not the intention currently to erode the school holidays’ 
  • There have been calls for holidays to be shortened to help students catch up 
  • Education Minister said teachers ‘need a break’ because of coronavirus crisis

Education Minister Nick Gibb today ruled out cancelling school holidays to help pupils catch up on learning as he said teachers ‘need a break’. 

The Government has faced calls to shorten or even scrap holidays in the coming months in order to give students more time in the classroom after six months of disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis.

But Mr Gibb told the Education Select Committee that it is ‘not the intention currently to erode the school holidays’. 

He said time off would allow children to do their own studying while also giving teachers the opportunity to recharge their batteries after ‘working phenomenally hard over this period’. 

Nick Gibb today ruled out cancelling school holidays to give students more time to catch up on learning

The chairman of the committee, Tory MP Robert Halfon, asked Mr Gibb if he believed school holidays should be cut to ensure students can catch up. 

The minister replied: ‘No, I don’t. Those holidays are necessary for the students to do their own work and to study.

‘Also teachers have been working phenomenally hard over this period and they do also need a break during those school holidays.

‘It is not the intention currently to erode the school holidays.’

The Government is adamant that exams will go ahead in 2021 after the closure of schools meant they had to be scrapped this year.  

But there are concerns that ongoing disruption caused by localised outbreaks of Covid-19 could harm pupils’ preparations. 

Mr Gibb told the committee: ‘The policy is that we expect schools to sit exams, we expect all students in year 11 and year 13 who are studying for exams to take those exams.

‘We have been working very closely with Ofqual and the exam boards, certainly to begin with on the timing issue and we have already announced there will be a three week delay to the timing so they will finish on July 2 and start after the May bank holiday half-term.

The Government is adamant that pupils will sit exams next year after school closures meant this year’s had to be scrapped 

‘That means a constrained marking time and that is an issue that we are dealing with with exam boards and we are working through other contingencies now with the exam boards.’

Asked whether using teacher predicted grades could be an option if exams have to be cancelled again, Mr Gibb said: ‘I have been very clear that we want students to take exams and we are looking at contingencies about what happens in worst case scenarios.’ 

The Government will be desperate to avoid a repeat of the exam results debacle seen this summer after a flawed algorithm used to calculate grades prompted a furious backlash and embarrassing U-turn.

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Emirati minister of tolerance accused of 'serious sexual assault'

Emirati minister of tolerance is accused of ‘serious sexual assault’ by the organiser of the Hay literary festival in Abu Dhabi who says Sheikh ‘assaulted her on Valentine’s Day’

  • Caitlin McNamara, 32, claims Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan assaulted her
  • She was in Abu Dhabi working on the launch of the Hay literary festival in the city
  • McNamara claims the Sheikh called her to a meeting at his home in February
  • It was there that she claims the Sheikh sexually assault her – which he denies

The Emirati minister of tolerance has been accused of ‘serious sexual assault’ by the organiser of the Hay literary festival in Abu Dhabi.

Caitlin McNamara says she was attacked by Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, 69, on Valentine’s Day earlier this year.

Ms McNamara, 32, who was in Abu Dhabi working on the launch of the festival in the city, has now been interviewed by Scotland Yard.

She has waived her right to anonymity and, in an interview with the Sunday Times, spoken publicly about the alleged assault.

The sheikh – who is a member of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family and likes to be known as the ‘Sheikh of Hearts’ – denies any wrongdoing, and said over the weekend that he was ‘surprised and saddened’ by the claims made by McNamara.

On Saturday, the directors of the Hay festival pledged never to return to the UAE while the Sheikh remains in his post as the minister of tolerance in the United Arab Emirates cabinet.

Nahyan has previously hosted both Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London and also former Prime Minister Tony Blair. 


Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, 69, (pictured) has been accused by a British woman – Caitlin McNamara (right), the organiser of the Hay literary festival in Abu Dhabi – of sexually assaulting her on Valentine’s Day

Nahyan previously hosted Boris Johnson in 2013 when the then mayor of London went to Abu Dhabi as part of a trade mission

Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan’s family is the fourth richest royal family in the world.

According to Business Insider, it controls a sovereign wealth fund with assets estimated to be worth £640bn, including Manchester City football team.

In 2013, Nahyan, who was educated in the UK and attended Oxford University, welcomed Boris Johnson to Abu Dhabi when he came to the country as part of a trade mission.

At the time, the sheikh was minister of culture and youth. In the same role, he also hosted Tony Blair when he attended the opening of the UAE’s global education and skills forum.

Nahyan also hosted Tony Blair when he attended the opening of the UAE’s global education and skills forum

He and Blair were previously photographed together at the Volvo Ocean Race in Abu Dhabi.

After he left office, Blair worked as a consultant for UAE’s sovereign wealth fund.

Ms McNamara had spent almost six months working at the Sheikh’s ministry after being hired by the Hay festival to organise its first event in the UAE.

On the morning of the alleged assault, which was Valentines Day, she told The Sunday Times that she received a phone call from the Sheikh inviting her to dinner, saying she had never spoken to him on the phone before then.

‘After six months there I was used to being summoned to meetings at all times of day,’ she told the newspaper. ‘And no one said no to Nahyan — he was like a god.’

From the car which was taking her to meet Nahyan, Ms McNamara texted Peter Florence, the head of the Hay Festival.

She described how she felt like she had been ‘called to the headmaster’s office for disrupting class,’ before joking that Florence should ‘send help’ if she did not return in 24 hours.

Despite the joky tone, Ms McNamara said she felt uncomfortable and so turned on her Whatsapp tracker, enabling others to follow her location.

Her disquiet grew when, instead of heading to the royal palace, she said the car that picked her up drove in the opposite direction and started going away from the city, with the driver not telling her where they were driving to.

McNamara said that she was taken across a bridge to a small island that she believes to be the exclusive Al Gurm resort, where many of the Emirati royals own properties, and then to the Sheikh’s house.

There, she was taken inside where she met the Sheikh, who she said was very friendly towards her, greeting her with a hug and producing a £3,500 watch with gold and diamonds.

They were also drinking wine, she said, which surprised her because it is prohibited in the country. 


Ms McNamara, pictured above in 2014, has waived her right to anonymity and, in an interview with the Sunday Times , spoken publicly about the alleged assault

Nahyan was also pictured with sports stars Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal after final of the Capitala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi on January 3, 2009

After trying to keep the conversation professional, talking about a poet – which irritated the Sheikh – McNamara then claims that he started touching her.

‘It was creepy,’ she said. ‘He was on the sofa next to me and began touching my arm and feet and I was pulling away, then he got forceful… Suddenly, it clicked why I was there. I felt so naive.’

At that point, McNamara said her situation dawned on her, and she began thinking of ways she could escape from the home and the island without offending him by making him think she was rejecting him.

After she tried to find excuses to leave, McNamara said the Sheikh instead took her on a tour of the house, at one point ‘grabbing her face and kissing her’, and when inside a gold elevator, she claims he assaulted her again.

‘We got in a gold lift where he pushed me against the wall and began rubbing my breasts in a weird way like windscreen wipers,’ she claimed. 

From the car which was taking her to meet Nahyan, Ms McNamara texted Peter Florence, the head of the Hay Festival. She described how she felt like she had been ‘called to the headmaster’s office for disrupting class,’ before joking that Florence should ‘send help’ if she did not return in 24 hours

In text exchanges with Florence after the alleged incident, she told him that Nahyan had kissed her and that she needed to ‘get out of here’. Florence told her to ‘come home immediately’

‘He pulled up his kandora and was naked under, and got on top of me. I pulled my dress down but he put his hands up my dress and his fingers inside of me.’

Nahyan has denied the allegations.

Eventually, McNamara told The Times that she was able to get downstairs, out the door and into a car away from the island, and the following morning took a two-hour taxi to Dubai.

In text exchanges with Florence after the alleged incident, she told him that Nahyan had kissed her and that she needed to ‘get out of here’. Florence told her to ‘come home immediately.’ 

Nahyan with former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (left) and former US secretary of state James Baker (right) in 2013

In the days that followed the alleged assault, Ms McNamara claims that the Sheikh tried to call her multiple times and also texted her. Pictured: The alleged texts 

In the days that followed, she claims that the Sheikh tried to call her multiple times and also texted her.

The full statement from the chairman of the Hay Festival

In a statement, posted on Twitter on Sunday, Hay Festival Chair Caroline Michel, said: ‘What happened to our colleague and friend Caitlin McNamara in Abu Dhabi last February was an appalling violation and a hideous abuse of trust and position.

‘Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan made a mockery of his ministerial responsibilities and tragically undermined his government’s attempt to work with Hay Festival to promote free speech and female empowerment’.

‘We continue to support Caitlin in seeking legal redress for this attack and we urge our friends and partners in the UAE to reflect on the behaviour of Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and send a clear signal to the world that such behaviour will not be tolerated. 

Hay Festival will not be returning to Abu Dhabi while he remains in position.’

One alleged text, which is visible in a screenshot, reads, ‘Good morning my dearest darling I all is going as plan have a wonderful day don’t stress yourself looking forward to see you soon miss you take care LoL.’

On February 25, the festival opened as planned, and on March 5, she flew back to London as the coronavirus pandemic started to gather pace. 

‘What he had done affected everything,’ she said, telling The Sunday Times that she has since split up with her long-term boyfriend, lost her job and feels she could never return to the UAE.

During lockdown, she reached out to Philippe Sands – renowned writer and human rights barrister – who put her in touch with Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, a leading voice on women’s rights.

‘For a man who is a leading minister of his nation to grossly violate a women who is there to organise a major cultural event is criminal,’ Kennedy told The Times.

‘The UAE should sack him immediately but I suspect that will not happen. His family owns the country.’

As soon as lockdown ended, McNamara contacted to the police, giving them a three hour interview at the Family Unit in Stratford, east London.

Following the interview, the police took her security concerns so seriously they fitted panic alarms in her flat.

The Sunday Times reached out to the Sheikh and his representatives for a response to the allegations but he did no directly respond, the newspaper reported.

It did receive a response from London libel lawyers Schillings with a statement.

‘Our client is surprised and saddened by this allegation, which arrives eight months after the alleged incident and via a national newspaper,’ it said. ‘The account is denied.’

Caroline Michel, chair of the Hay board, told the Sunday Times on Saturday night that the alleged assault was ‘an appalling violation and a hideous abuse of trust and position.’

On Saturday, the directors of the Hay festival pledged never to return to the UAE while the Sheikh remains in his post as the minister of tolerance in the United Arab Emirates cabinet

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Former Prime Minister Tony Blair appears to break two week quarantine

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair appears to break two week quarantine rules after being photographed at a London club 10 days after returning from US for White House event

  • Tony Blair, 67, was pictured at Harry’s Bar in London’s Mayfair last month
  • The photographs came less than two weeks after he returned from the US
  • A spokesman said Mr Blair had ‘followed all UK and US guidelines as advised’ 
  • He was invited to an ‘international conference’ at the White House in September 

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has been accused of breaking the two-week quarantine rules after he was photographed at a London club 10 days after a trip to the US.

Mr Blair, 67, was pictured at Harry’s Bar in London’s Mayfair less than two weeks after returning from a two-day trip to the White House. 

A spokesman for the former prime minister said Mr Blair was invited to an ‘international conference’ because of his ties to the Middle East peace agreement between Israel and the UAE.

He has been accused of ignoring the quarantine rules after a special dispensation from the rules was not awarded to him, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

His spokesman denied the claims and said Mr Blair ‘was told to follow the guidance on international conferences which he did’.

Tony Blair, 67, was pictured at Harry’s Bar in London’s Mayfair less than two weeks after returning from a two-day trip to the White House

Mr Blair was pictured mingling with guests on the South Lawn of the White House on September 14. He held his face mask while posing for photographs

The ‘international conferences’ exemption to the rules applies to ­diplomats, staff at international bodies such as the UN and formal representatives at international conferences who have been ‘granted privileges and immunities’.

But Mr Blair is considered a private ­citizen since he left his role as Middle East envoy in 2015.

 

His spokesman said: ‘We believe he followed all UK and US government guidelines as advised. 

‘Mr Blair was tested for Covid before departing the UK, on arrival at the White House, when he returned to the UK and has been tested several times since. All tests have been negative. No other meetings were attended.’ 

Elsewhere today: 

  • Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson’s elder brother died of coronavirus, just hours after being taken into intensive care. The city is currently under Level 3 restrictions, having one of the highest infection rates in the country
  • London’s hospitality sector warned profits were 85 per cent down during the first daytime trading session of Tier 2 lockdown, though drinkers emerged on to the city streets in the evening
  • Tony Blair denied breaching coronavirus isolation rules after returning from a trip to Washington DC 
  • The House of Commons admitted breaching curfew by allowing MPs to drink in bars after-hours, but wouldn’t say whether Health Secretary Matt Hancock was in attendance
  • Coronavirus cases continued to rise across Europe with countries hitting record one-day totals as lockdown-free Sweden said it is considering putting local measures in place 

David Jones, a Conservative member of Parliament’s public administration committee, told the newspaper ‘it sets an appalling example to travellers if a former prime minister appears to flout the rules’.

Mr Blair was pictured mingling with guests on the South Lawn of the White House on September 14. He held his face mask while posing for photographs.

Returning to the UK on September 16, Mr Blair reportedly travelled by private jet on the £7,000-an-hour Falcon 7X.

He is believed to have had with him a team of Scotland Yard protection officers – paid for by the British taxpayer. 

Ten days after his return, on September 26, he was pictured leaving ‘one of the most elegant and sophisticated private members’ clubs in London’.

Those failing to follow the rules on self-isolation could be liable for a £1,000 fine, or potential prosecution.

Blair praises new Labour leader Keir Starmer for making party ‘competitive’ again after Corbyn

Sir Keir Starmer has returned Labour to being a ‘politically competitive’ party which is in a position to win a general election, Tony Blair says.

The former Labour leader and prime minister praised his successor’s performance in the three months since he won the contest to replace Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Blair told the PA news agency: ‘Keir is doing a good job – a very good job actually – and I think he has put Labour back on the map. He has made them competitive again.

‘He will know and we all know that there’s a long way to go before a general election and many things to be done.

‘But in these months since he has become the leader, he has I think completely changed the image certainly of the Labour leadership amongst the public and he deserves respect and admiration for that.’

Asked if Sir Keir had made Labour a party that can win again, the former prime minister said: ‘He has put it in a position where it can.

‘There are a whole set of questions around policy and so on that in time I’m sure and know he will come to.

‘But has he made it politically competitive again which it hasn’t really been for quite a long period of time? Yes – and that is a huge step forward for the Labour Party.’

Labour has failed to win a general election since Mr Blair left office in 2007, with Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn all failing to secure majorities.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘The FCDO provides travel exemptions to diplomats travelling on business relating to the interests of the UK, ­representatives of international organisations, and their families and dependants. Those issued an exemption will not need to self-isolate.’

As of last month, police forces have only issued 38 fines from over 4,000 referrals from public health authorities.

The story emerged as Britain recorded its highest number of coronavirus deaths in four months after another 150 victims were announced.

Department of Health statistics show the grim milestone hasn’t been reached since June 10 when 164 lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths were announced.

It is also a surge of 85 per cent compared to last Saturday, when 81 deaths were registered, and a rise of 16 from yesterday’s toll of 136 victims.

Health chiefs today posted another 16,171 cases, up only six per cent on the figure recorded last Saturday (15,166), in a sign that the UK’s coronavirus outbreak may be beginning to slow. 

As many as 15,650 more positive tests were added to the tally yesterday.

Although still rising, the number of deaths from the virus remains miles off the levels seen at the height of the pandemic when more than 1,000 were being registered every day at the beginning of April. 

More than half the population are also living under tightened coronavirus restrictions – with London entering tier two curbs and Lancashire joining Liverpool in tier three.

But Boris Johnson is resisting calls to plunge the whole country into a two-week circuit breaker lockdown, amid fears of the harm it could do to the economy.  

In July, Mr Blair said infrastructure to stop the spread of the virus was critical as another national lockdown would not be possible, suggesting that people instead need to learn to live safely with the virus.

Mr Blair described the crisis as ‘the biggest challenge logistically and practically’ a government has ever faced, but criticised ministers for not yet putting in place an ‘infrastructure of containment’.

He said: ‘The reality is that we’re going to be living with Covid-19 – we’re not really going to be able to eliminate it.

‘And when you look at what has been happening in other countries, as lockdown has been eased, then more and more problems have appeared and many countries, having gone into lockdown then easing it, are finding spikes in the disease.

Coronavirus positive tests in London have increased dramatically since the beginning of September but changes in recent weeks suggest the rate of rise is slowing down, with a 37 per cent increase in the seven days to October 7, compared to the almost double 84 per cent in the third week of September

Some 136 deaths were recorded yesterday, but scientists have warned this could rise to 690 by the end of the month

‘You can’t be sure of this but there’s at least a 50/50 chance that you have a resurgence of the disease in the autumn and that’s why it is absolutely essential now to prepare for that.

‘And to put in place every single last bit of containment infrastructure that you possibly can to make sure that if that happens you are able to control the disease, because you’re not going to be able to go back into the lockdown that we endured in March, April and May.’

In August, he claimed ministers had got the Government’s travel quarantine policy ‘wrong’.  

He took aim at the Government’s 14 day quarantine rules for people returning to the UK from countries where coronavirus is on the rise as he said the self-isolation period could be cut ‘substantially’. 

He called for ministers to take a more ‘sensible’ approach to calculating risk amid rising speculation that Croatia and Greece could soon join Spain and France on the UK’s ‘red list’. 

Meanwhile, Mr Blair also suggested ministers had been over reliant on officials during the crisis and that they needed to recognise ‘where the science ends and judgements begin’.    

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Minister to veto power on removal of statues in wake of BLM protests

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick will be granted power to block removal of statues as government fights back against woke campaigners ‘bullying’ local officials into wiping out Britain’s heritage

  • It would mark the first legal intervention by the Government 
  • It comes after the BLM protests called for a reevaluation of British monuments
  • Many figures featured in statues have links to slavery and colonial history 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to hand a cabinet minister the power to veto the removal of statues and monuments to help fight back against woke campaigners and ‘bullying’ local officials. 

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick would have the final say on what statues and memorials could be removed from public view. 

The decision currently sits with the local councils.  

If the move goes ahead, it would mark the Government’s first legal intervention in the wake of a public reconsideration of Britain’s monuments and statues.

Many statues of figures with alleged links to slavery have been targeted by Black Lives Matter protesters since the killing of black man George Floyd in the US. 

A bronze memorial to Edward Colston in Bristol was pulled down during a Black Lives Matter protest on June 7, before being dumped in Bristol Harbour

In June, the governing body of Oxford University’s Oriel College said it wanted to remove the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes (pictured)

Since Edward Colston’s statue was thrown into Bristol Harbour, there has been a wave of attacks from vandals on various monuments across Britain.

A statue to Winston Churchill was defaced with the words ‘was a racist’ and ‘f*** your agenda’ written underneath the memorial to the war time PM in Westminster Square, London.

Slave trader Robert Milligan’s was covered with a shord and the message ‘Black Lives Matter’ was placed on it in West India Docks amid calls for it to be taken down. It was later removed by Tower Hamlets Council.

Tower Hamlets Council removed a statue of slave trader Robert Milligan after it was covered and displayed the message ‘Black Lives Matter’ during last month’s protests

Less than a year after it was erected, ‘Nazi’ was scrawled underneath a statue of Nancy Astor, the first woman to take a  seat in Parliament, in Plymouth.

A monument to 19th-century politician Henry Vassall-Fox, the third Baron Holland, was left splattered with red paint in Holland Park. A cardboard sign reading ‘I owned 401 slaves’ was perched in the bronze statue’s arms, with the number painted on the plinth alongside red handprints.

A Grade II-listed monument to Admiral Lord Nelson, Britain’s foremost naval hero, which stands in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral, was sprayed with a black ‘V’ in the middle of a circle – an anarchist symbol.

Red paint spattered another stature of Lord Nelson at Deptford Town Hall in South London.

In Kent, a former councillor wrote ‘Dickens Racist’ outside a museum dedicated to the beloved 19th century author. Letters sent by the Oliver Twist author showed he wished to ‘exterminate’ Indian citizens after a failed uprising.

A statue of Civil War leader Oliver Cromwell in Wythenshawe Park, Manchester, had the words ‘Cromwell is a cockroach,’ ‘f*** racist’ and the Black Lives Matter acronym ‘BLM’ scrawled across it last month. Thousands of people were massacred during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.

BLM was also scrawled across the Worcester Civil War memorial in Royal Park.

Protesters in Bristol tore down the statue of slave trader Sir Edward Colston on June 7, on the same day a memorial to Winston Churchill in London was defaced with the words ‘was a racist’ written on its plinth underneath.

It prompted a wave of statues being targeted with graffiti or being attacked during protests, culminating in some statues, including ones of Nelson Mandela and Churchill’s, being covered up to be protected from vandals.

Other monuments have since been toppled by protesters or removed by local authorities or property owners. 

The Topple the Racists campaign launched a comprehensive list of statues it wanted to see removed as it believed the names behind the monuments held racist beliefs.

It led to Oriel College at Oxford University voting to remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a colonialist politician in southern Africa in the 19th century.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden this week called on Britons to be proud of the nation’s history rather than ‘trashing’ it, saying it was a sign of weakness to seek to ‘eradicate’ history.

He said of cultural institutions: ‘Of course they should be talking about their history, I always say ‘keep stuff in place, keep your monuments in place and use them to explain our history, don’t hide it away’.’

Mr Dowden added: ‘We should stand up for our cultural values. 

Mr Dowden acknowledged there were ‘dark moments’ in the history of the UK but people should also celebrate its strength.

He added: ‘Clearly slavery was a terrible stain on the British Empire, but it is equally true that we abolished slavery – we were one of the first nations to abolish slavery – and actually it is the case that the Royal Navy spent huge amounts of our national wealth, according to some estimates up to 2 per cent of our national wealth every year, patrolling the North Atlantic to stop the evils of the slave trade.

Tower Hamlets and Lambeth councils in London are said to be the latest authorities to consider removing statues and memorials from their boroughs, The Telegraph reports.  

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in June: ‘We cannot now try to edit or censor our past. 

‘We cannot pretend to have a different history. 

‘The statues in our cities and towns were put up by previous generations.

‘They had different perspectives, different understandings of right and wrong. 

‘But those statues teach us about our past, with all its faults. 

‘To tear them down would be to lie about our history, and impoverish the education of generations to come.’

After Sir Winston Churchill was covered up in June to protect it from further attacks, historian and bestselling author Tom Holland said many Britons would regard the move as ‘sinister’.

Mr Holland, 52, also claimed the sight of locals in Poole, Dorset, needing to defend the statue of founder of the Scouting movement Robert Baden-Powell ‘does not do anti-racism campaigners any favours.’ 

Scouts from all around the country arrived to defend the statue of Baden-Powell after it was added to a ‘topple the racists’ list compiled by Black Lives Matter supporters. 

Popular historian and bestselling author Tom Holland said many Britons will regard the boarding up of Winston Churchill’s statue as ‘sinister’ after it was covered to protect it from further attacks

Mr Holland, 52, also claimed the sight of locals in Poole, Dorset, needing to defend the statue of founder of the Scouting movement Robert Baden-Powell ‘does not do anti-racism campaigners any favours’

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Mr Holland said: ‘The sight of Churchill boarded up is to large numbers of Britons very sinister.

‘As is the sight of scouts defending Baden Powell, it doesn’t do anti-racism campaigners any favours. It will turn people against them.’

The historian, who took no issue with the toppling of the statue of slave trader Colston, added that protesters were at risk of looking ‘ridiculous’ if they widened their focus to too many British national figures. 

Mr Holland was speaking exclusively to MailOnline

‘I think the danger is for anti-racism campaigners is that the Colston statue, as a one-off, as a bracing way of getting people to talk about slavery and the legacy, it reverberated profoundly, but as so often happens with tidal waves of moral outrage they end up turning either sinister or ridiculous.’

After the Colston statue was toppled, other statues including those of Lord Horatio Nelson, King James II, Charles I, Oliver Cromwell, Francis Drake and Sir Robert Peel were targeted.    

Mr Holland said anti-racism campaigners risked turning ordinary Britons against them by widening their focus to other statues and historical figures.

‘I am generally not enthused by the idea that groups of people should feel themselves empowered to defacing or vandalising statues willy nilly,’ he said. 

‘Purely on the level of strategy, people who want a debate about the inheritance of slavery and racism in Britain need to think tactically and strategically.

‘The way that this has spiralled out of control will play into the hands of people who don’t want to have a discussion about it.’ 

Trevor Phillips, the chairman of Policy Exchange’s History Matters Project, said the Government’s move was ‘very welcome’. 

He said last night, ‘In recent months, Policy Exchange has documented more than 100 cases where aspects of our shared past – from statues to street names and what is taught in schools and universities – are being erased, without genuine debate and with very little consultation with the public who pay the bills.

‘For example, it was shocking to see a statue in Bristol be torn down against the will of the only black mayor of a large British city.

‘We should recognise changes in public sentiment, but our response in a democracy must not be driven just by those who shout loudest.’ 

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