INDEPENDENT 2024-02-04 16:13:03


Premier League leaders Liverpool to face Arsenal at the Emirates

Premier League leaders Liverpool travel to face Arsenal at the Emirates in Sunday’s late kick-off, looking to stretch the gap over the Gunners to eight points.

The Reds beat Chelsea 4-1 in emphatic fashion in midweek, in their first game since Jurgen Klopp announced he would leave the club at the end of the season. Meanwhile, Arsenal beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 at the City Ground. The Gunners sit in third place on 46 points, with Liverpool on 51. The last meeting between the two in the Premier League ended in a 1-1 draw at Anfield in December, before a January FA Cup tie saw the Reds grab a 2-0 away win.

Follow all the build-up and action below, and check out the latest odds and tips for the match at the Emirates here.

Police reveal last sighting of Clapham fugitive and offer reward as manhunt continues

Police have revealed the last known sighting of the Clapham chemical attack suspect and offered a £20,000 reward for anyone with information that leads to his arrest.

As the manhunt for Abdul Ezedi continued for the fourth day, police revealed the convicted sex offender was last seen exiting Tower Hill Station at 9.33pm on Wednesday.

The Met Police also announced it would be offering a £20,000 reward for information and issued a direct warning to anyone who may be helping the fugitive.

“I must warn anyone who is helping Ezedi to evade capture – if you are harbouring or assisting him then you will be arrested,” Commander Jon Savell said today.

It comes after a witness to the attack revealed the three-year-old victim would have died if his partner hadn’t tackled the suspect to the ground.

“My partner lunged in and tackled him, grabbing his leg and falling to the ground in the process like a rugby tackle,” he told The Times.

“I have no doubt that if my partner had not jumped in then the child would no longer be with us.”

New cancer vaccine being trialled by NHS could herald ‘dawn of a new age’

A new mRNA cancer vaccine being trialled in the UK could herald the “dawn of a new age” of treatments for the disease, a scientist has suggested.

With development of the emerging vaccine technology having been turbocharged by the coronavirus pandemic, British patients are among a global cohort enlisted to trial the safety and efficacy of a vaccine experts hope could lead to a new generation of “off-the-shelf” cancer therapies.

The vaccine – named mRNA-4359 and produced by Moderna – is aimed at people with advanced melanoma, lung cancer and other solid tumour cancers.

While in some cases, vaccines are created specifically for each individual patient in laboratories using their own genetic information, the vaccine being trialled by British patients is among those targeted more broadly at specific types of cancer, which can be produced much more quickly and easily.

A man from Surrey with malignant melanoma skin cancer that is not responding to treatment was the first UK person to receive the vaccine at Hammersmith Hospital in late October as part of the trial arm run by Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.

“I had a different immunotherapy, I had radiotherapy, the only thing I didn’t have was chemotherapy. So, the options were either do nothing and wait, or get involved and do something,” said the 81-year-old, who does not wish to be named.

“I’m extremely grateful to the hospitals and the individuals that are running these trials. Somehow we have to change the fact that one in every two people get cancer at some point, and we have to make the odds better.”

During the trial, the vaccine will be tested alone and in combination with an existing drug pembrolizumab, which is an approved immunotherapy treatment, also known as Keytruda.

Between 40 and 50 patients are being recruited across the globe for the trial, known as Mobilize, including in London, Spain, the US and Australia, although it could be expanded. Once in the body, the mRNA (a genetic material) “teaches” the immune system how cancer cells differ from healthy cells and mobilises it to destroy them.

Dr Kyle Holen, head of development, therapeutics and oncology at Moderna, said researchers hope the vaccine may be able to treat a range of cancers beyond those in the current trial.

“We believe it could be effective in head-neck cancer, we believe it could be effective in bladder cancer, we believe it could be effective in kidney cancer,” he said. “But we’re starting out with the two that we think have the highest probability of being effective and that is melanoma and lung cancer.”

Dr Holen suggested that two decades of work on cancer vaccines is finally starting to bear fruit, with the field having “finally come to a point where we’re starting to see a real benefit in patients”.

“That was something that we saw with our first vaccine, where we were able to reduce the risk of recurrence by more than half in patients who had high-risk melanoma,” he said. “So we’re really excited about some of the early results and we hope that this brings in the dawn of a new age of cancer treatments.”

Dr David Pinato, of Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said that while immunotherapies remove “the invisibility cloak that makes cancer hide within the body”, the appeal of cancer vaccines “is that you can make it much more specific – you can basically give the immune system written instructions” like “an identikit of the tumour cells, which is more precise”.

The advantage of mRNA technology is that it “makes your own body produce those instructions”, which then “awakens the immune system”, said Dr Pinato.

While personalised vaccines can also be very effective, they can take weeks to make and rely on a large tumour sample. There is also not enough data at present to say whether personalised vaccines are in fact better than broader cancer vaccines such as Moderna’s, he said.

The Moderna vaccine looks at specific traits across a number of tumours – “at what is the most frequent hit that you can target in cancer”, said Dr Pinato. “And so that has got incredible advantages in terms of the turnaround time, the fact you can make doses of the vaccines ahead of time even before meeting the patient. That is really the advantage.”

The Mobilize trial is still recruiting patients, with Moderna expecting to report results at some point next year.

Dr Holen said the success of mRNA technology for Covid-19 vaccines has given an impetus to speed up development of cancer jabs using mRNA.

“We started creating our cancer vaccine before the Covid epidemic occurred and we used some of that technology that we were creating for the cancer vaccine for the Covid vaccine,” he said.

“And what’s really remarkable is now we’ve treated over a billion patients with our Covid vaccine, and that same technology is now being studied again in cancer patients. Because we’ve treated over a billion patients, we know a lot about the safety of the treatment and how well it’s tolerated around the world.

“So we’ll have probably more safety information on our cancer vaccine than any other vaccine that’s ever been created for cancer, and that makes us feel confident that we’re on the right track.”

The side effects from Moderna cancer vaccines appear to be less than what would be expected with other immunotherapies, he added.

“We’ve had very mild side effects that are consistent with a Covid or a flu shot. There’s some pain in the arm, there’s some fatigue, some low-grade fevers, that lasts a few days. And when you compare that to other immune therapies, it’s actually quite mild,” said Dr Holen.

The UK’s health secretary, Victoria Atkins, said: “This vaccine has the potential to save even more lives while revolutionising the way in which we treat this terrible disease with therapies that are more effective and less toxic on the system.”

However, experts are unsure why some patients respond well to vaccines and others have a poor response or none at all.

Farage to attend Truss’s latest comeback bid with launch of ‘Popular Conservatism’

Nigel Farage is planning to attend the launch of Liz Truss’s new “Popular Conservatism” project this week, as the former prime minister attempts to rally right-wing Tory MPs.

The former Ukip leader is said to be one of hundreds of guests planning to attend the conference in London and will join Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Tory deputy chair Lee Anderson, who will be speaking at the event.

The PopCon movement is Ms Truss’s latest project since she was forced out of Downing Street. It is a platform for right-wing MPs to push Rishi Sunak to adopt hardline policies on immigration and tax before this year’s general election.

The attendance of Mr Farage, reported by The Sunday Times, will pile pressure on Mr Sunak to listen to the group, as he remains a hero of much of the Tory right.

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, the arch-Brexiteer said he was “very interested” in the event, which he is attending in his capacity as a GB News presenter.

Former business secretary Sir Jacob and Ms Truss will be the headline speakers at the PopCon launch.

The director of the group is Mark Littlewood, who ran the Institute for Economic Affairs think tank and was seen as the architect of many of Ms Truss’s policies.

The latest push by free-market right-wingers is also backed by former ministers in the Truss government Simon Clarke and Ranil Jayawardena.

It promises a “new movement aiming to restore democratic accountability to Britain” and deliver “popular” Tory policies.

The Independent understands that the group is aiming to help shape the next Conservative manifesto in the months ahead, as Mr Sunak and party chiefs prepare their election campaign for the second half of 2024.

Ms Truss’s latest association joins an extremely crowded field of Conservative groups and factions. It comes hot on the heels of gatherings by the so-called “five families” of the Tory right who tried to toughen up the Rwanda deportation bill.

The European Research Group joined dozens of MPs aligned with the New Conservatives, the Common Sense Group, the Northern Research Group and the Conservative Growth Group to plot amendments which ultimately failed.

Mr Farage’s attendance at the PopCon launch comes as he is expected to return to Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party, as it seeks to fight the Tories in the general election.

Speculation has been mounting for months about Mr Farage’s return, which could add to the scale of the electoral challenge facing Mr Sunak.

His involvement would boost support for Reform among voters across the country concerned about high levels of immigration, and risks splitting the Conservative vote in dozens of Tory seats.

Diana wasn’t like other royals – she’d try and carry my things for me

I have spent mere minutes with Jimmy Choo, the ubiquitous King of Shoes, and he’s already told me about his friendship with Princess Diana, inquired about my marriage plans, and analysed my footwear.

“Cowboy boots,” the 75-year-old whispers, eyeing up my feet. I ready myself for criticism. “Very nice!” I can breathe again. “When are you getting married?” he asks. “Because when you do, give me a call and we can do your dress and shoes!” I’m not engaged, but I make a mental note to find myself a fiancé immediately upon completion of our interview.

This is Choo in a nutshell: endearing, disarming and slightly, but brilliantly, eccentric. It was in 1996 that Choo earned his “King of Shoes” nickname, having co-founded his eponymous label with business associate Tamara Mellon, then an accessories editor at British Vogue. The brand’s stiletto heels became something of a cultural phenomenon in the Nineties: “I lost my Choo!” wailed Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw when she tumbled out of her footwear while trying to catch a ferry. For Beyoncé’s unofficial remix of 50 Cent’s “In Da Club”, she crooned: “Jimmy Choo kicks, killin’ it”.

Choo left the brand in 2001, selling his 50 per cent stake in the company for £10m. But it continued to flourish without him: in 2017, Michael Kors Holdings bought Jimmy Choo Ltd in a deal worth £896m. And the brand is still partly in the family, with its current creative director Sandra Choi being the niece of Choo’s wife Rebecca.

Meanwhile, Choo has embraced pastures new. He has founded his own fashion school, the Jimmy Choo Academy, or JCA for short – it’s his attempt to spread his crafty wisdom to the next generation of designers. We’re in the top-floor office of the school, Choo sitting on a Lamborghini swivel chair, his signature aviator shades resting on a side table. The building itself is regal and luxurious; situated in a grand, five-storey Grade I period townhouse opposite Vogue House, soon to be the former location of publishers Condé Nast. An enormous spiral staircase leads students to their shiny workshop rooms, and there is a library filled exclusively with glossy magazines. Students, clearly on a deadline, briskly float past. “Are you looking for a mannequin too?” “Yep!”

The academy offers BA and MA degree courses with small class sizes, all for the eye-watering price of £18,000 per year for UK students – that’s £8,750 higher than the annual fees for “normal” universities, if you were curious. (Bursaries are available, and the academy recommends prospective students individually discuss tuition and fee options with their finance office.) Choo is involved in the teaching, too, promising one-to-one tutorials with students whenever he’s in town. It’s also why he arrives late to our interview – a feedback tutorial he was leading apparently overran (one staff member at the school tells me Choo “gets really into it” when he’s teaching).

The legacy of the Choo label might explain why someone would fork out the best part of £20,000 for his expertise. Diana, Princess of Wales, famously played a big part in the brand’s mythmaking. She wore her first pair of Choos – a pair of pale-blue satin sling-backs – to a performance of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall in June 1997, and arguably became the brand’s early poster girl. Choo, who has boldly said in the past that Diana’s favourite shoes were his own, remembers his first visit to Kensington Palace fondly.

“I would turn up with my big case, we’d sit on the floor together and she would sample everything,” he says. For his initial visit, he had to liaise with the palace staff, but their subsequent meetings were less formal. Diana would call him directly when she wanted something new. “At first, she wanted low heels, but then we started to want higher. She would always go ‘You’re so intelligent’, and ask how everyone was: how is my mum, my dad – she cared about everybody.”

He says it was their goodbyes at the end of each meeting that will stick with him most. “She would walk me back into the car park and try to carry my case for me,” he laughs. “I thought… ‘Princess! What are you doing in the car park!’” Choo has met different royals since, but he says those interactions haven’t quite compared. “The [rest] of the royal family….” Would they do that? “I don’t think so. They would say ‘Bye! That’s it!’ Diana was very kind.”

Born in Malaysia in 1948 to a family of cobblers, Choo learnt his trade from his father, who made him sit and watch as he worked. At first, watching was all Choo was allowed to do. “And I [sat] there for one month, thinking, why haven’t I started yet?” Eventually, he was allowed to sit at the pattern-cutting table. “Patience is what I learnt from my father. He taught me how to cut out the pattern. The first few times [I did it], I cut my leg.” He motions a slicing action along the top of his thigh. Choo would make his first pair of shoes at the age of 11: slippers for his mother. “People are always amazed that I made shoes so young, but in those days – more than 50 years ago, there were no mobile phones, computers,” he explains. “We had no machines. You did everything with your hands.”

Choo eventually moved to east London and, in 1982, he began studying at Cordwainers Technical College in Hackney, which is now part of the London College of Fashion. It’s also where he met his wife. He remained in Hackney after graduation and went on to have two children: Emily, who works alongside her father in fashion, and Danny, who now lives in Japan and owns a company that designs smart AI dolls.

While Choo isn’t strictly in the business of making stilettos for the Hollywood elite any more, he is still passionate about high-quality craftsmanship, the composition of shoes and, of course, glamour. He has been running his newer brand The Atelier London, which specialises in wedding dresses, for six years. “We sell all over the world, and ship to New York, Barcelona, Paris, Italy,” he says. “That’s why I’ve got a hundred staff working with me in Shanghai in the main office. Then we have Kuala Lumpur – a four-storey building – we have almost 50 people working over there.”

Choo’s daughter Emily helps him run the business and the shop out of 18 Connaught Street in London – a building that was previously home to a Jimmy Choo Ltd store. “I’ve got my Connaught Street store back,” he tells me. “We’ve changed the whole thing, there’s nothing old there – all new.” Choo also slips me a business card – it reads Zhou Yang Jie, his Chinese name, and the name he uses to make custom shoes on request for very exclusive clients. I slip it in my purse, between my Oyster and my Boots Advantage Card.

As if to prove he’s still a shoemaker at heart, Choo pulls out a napkin from a side table in his office. He asks me for the pen I’m using, and begins scribbling away. The room falls silent. All we can hear are the sounds of a master at work. He’s drawing a stiletto. “Here, you see?” he asks. “This is a court shoe. You have to understand the fitting. If they are too tight or cut too high, you will hurt your feet or back.”

I think he’s given me my first lesson. I just hope he doesn’t charge me.

The JCA offers open days and tours for prospective students here.

Unmissable New York State experiences

The ‘forever war’ will go on until Palestinians have their own state

When British planes joined American airstrikes on the Houthis in Yemen, voices were raised in the UK warning against “escalation” of the Gaza conflict to a wider war in the Middle East. There were similar voices on the pro-Palestinian march in London today, warning that the US airstrikes against allegedly Iranian-backed targets in Iraq and Syria risk a wider war.

In one sense, these warnings are misconceived, in that it was the Houthis, formally known as Ansar Allah or “Supporters of God”, who were engaged in escalation, using drones and missiles to attack international shipping in the Red Sea in solidarity with the Palestinians of Gaza. And it was Iranian-supported militia who “escalated” a conflict that otherwise did not exist when they attacked US forces in Jordan, killing three soldiers.

The responses to these attacks cannot be defined as “escalation” if they are trying to prevent and deter further attacks, and if they are proportionate to the initial attack. Unfortunately, in such situations proportionality is very much in the eye of the beholder. Palestinians in Gaza, and their many supporters around the world, do not regard the Israeli response to the 7 October atrocities as proportionate. Some of them even regard the US-British strikes against the Houthis as a display of excessive force, although it is hard to argue that attacks on international shipping should be simply ignored.

How Turkey has dealt another blow to Rishi’s ‘stop the boats’ plan

Rishi Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats” has suffered another setback. The Home Office has declared Turkey an unsafe country for the purposes of asylum, meaning deporting anyone there could risk their life, in breach of domestic and international human rights law.

It is not the biggest setback he’s faced – everything to do with the Rwanda scheme has been far more embarrassing and damaging – but it’s undoubtedly an uncomfortable end to a difficult week. Questions about the asylum system as it has worked under successive Conservative governments have also been raised by the case of the chemical attack suspect, Abdul Ezedi. So on an important issue where the government hopes to gain some political advantage over Labour, the headlines continue to be all about chaos and failure.