INDEPENDENT 2024-02-09 12:04:12


Putin rants about Ukraine, Johnson and jailed US journalist in Tucker Carlson interview

Former Fox News host Tucker Carlson released his interview with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who started with a long diatribe on Russian history and its relationship with Ukraine.

The two-hour, seven-minute interview was recorded on 6 February and released in full shortly before 6pm ET on Thursday. Carlson travelled to Moscow for Putin’s first interview with a Western media figure since the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.

Putin repeated his argument that Ukraine wasn’t a real country which was shaped by the “will” of Soviet leader Josef Stalin.

When Carlson requested that jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich be allowed to return to the US with Carlson and his crew as a show of “goodwill” from Putin, the Russian leader said that his “goodwill” had run out, complaining about the lack of reciprocity from the West.

Asked why he doesn’t call President Joe Biden and work out a solution in Ukraine, Putin asked: “What’s there to work out?”

“Stop supplying weapons and it will be over within weeks,” he added.

Putin also claimed that peace talks had at one point “reached a very high stage of coordination of positions … they were almost finalized”.

Long-time Tory Rod Stewart says Labour should win next election

Long-time Tory Rod Stewart has thrown his weight behind Labour’s Keir Starmer ahead of a general election this year.

The ageing rocker, 79, slammed “lying f***ing public schoolboy” Boris Johnson and called for the Conservatives to be booted out of No10 following a string of unelected prime ministers.

Keir Starmer and Labour deserve a crack at it,” he toldThe Times in an interview on Friday. “If there was anyone else we could vote for, then maybe, but they should be given a shot.”

Stewart, who moved back to the UK last year after three decades living in Los Angeles, said he was watching “what the Conservatives get up to”.

“Well, I liked Boris Johnson,” he said. “He was a good figurehead, but he turned out to be a lying f***ing public schoolboy. He got found out and things haven’t been much better since. How many prime ministers have we had that haven’t been voted for? What’s all that about?”

His remark is at odds with comments made in June 2023 when he admitted he was “still a bit of a fan” of the former prime minister in the wake of a report, which found Johnson had mislead parliament over illegal gathering in Downing Street during the pandemic.

“I was and still am a bit of a fan of Boris because I think he’s got wonderful charisma,” the “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” star told Sky News.

He added: “But you know, you knew what you were getting with Boris, so it’s not unusual. He’s told a few porkies over the years. So I’m not surprised.

“He’s in big trouble now. But how is he going to make a comeback? I don’t know. Maybe he should talk to me. I’ve been making comebacks for years.”

Six months earlier, the self-professed “long-time Tory” surprised Sky News viewers when he joined a live phone-in about the NHS Crisis, declaring that he had “never seen it so bad”.

“I personally have been a Tory for a long time but I think this government should stand down now and give the Labour Party a go at it,” he told viewers during his unscheduled appearance.

During the call, he also offered to pay for “10 or 20” hospital scans after patients shared their experiences of long waiting lists in the NHS.

He revealed that his desire to help had been sparked by his visit to a private clinic that was basically “empty”.

“There are people dying because they cannot get scans. Now listen to me, I don’t need the publicity, I just want to do some good things and this, I think is a good thing. If other people follow me, I’d love it.”

He told The Times that he felt a duty to help the British public after being knighted by Prince William in 2016.

“I want to live up to that reputation. I’m a knight — I should do some f***ing good!” he said. “But it’s a double-edged sword. You help out but people say, ‘Oh, he must have an album out.’ Which is so far from the truth.”

Stewart was widely praised in 2019 for disclosing the news that he had been cleared of prostate cancer after privately receiving treatment for the disease for three years.

While appearing at a fundraising event for the Prostate Project and European Tour Foundation – alongside his former Faces bandmates, Ronnie Rood and Kenney Jones – Stewart said that he had learned of his diagnosis in February 2016 following a routine medical check-up, and had gone into remission in July.

“No one knows this, but I thought this was about time I told everybody,” he said. “I’m in the clear now, simply because I caught it early. I have so many tests.”

Addressing men in the audience, Stewart said: “Guys, you’ve got to really go to the doctor. Finger up the bum, no harm done.”

Stewart is releasing his next album Swing Fever, a collaboration with Jools Holland, on 23 February.

BA flight stopped from taking off as its cushions were too padded

A British Airways plane was stopped from taking off in Italy because its seat cushions were too thick and wide.

Italian aviation officials conducted a surprise inspection of the BA flight from Milan to London Heathrow on Monday (5 February) only to conclude that the Airbus A320neo aircraft had the wrong kind of seat cushions.

The offending cushions affected seats in the overwing exit rows, which are usually less pronounced to create more space in the event of an evacuation, according to View From the Wing.

Following the inspection, it was established that the aircraft did not have the requisite modified cushions, however.

A passenger on the sold-out flight uploaded two videos of his experience to TikTok, which showed bemused business class passengers in suits – “funny scenes”, he wrote.

Air stewards can be heard reading out the correct serial number, while passengers were instructed to pull back their seats in an effort to find the smaller cushions that could be exchanged with the plush pillows.

“Basically, they [British Airways] had standard seat cushions in emergency rows; they need to have short ones in case of an emergency,” the TikTok user explained.

“So we are checking under the seats in case they are somewhere else. If we can’t find them, if we can’t find 12, we need to disembark and we are not safe to fly”.

Fortunately, the sharp-eyed passengers identified the correct cushions which were duly swapped and the flight departed with just an hour’s delay.

Several social media users were baffled by the debacle, however.

“Since when [are] pax allowed to dismantle [the] seat base? It is supposed to be done by an engineer or trained cabin crew,” said one, while another applauded the belt-and-braces approach, writing: “Nicely done, British Airways must follow the rules.”

The Independent has contacted British Airways for comment.

The unusual incident comes just weeks after new data revealed that one third of UK passengers suffered delays or cancellations in 2023.

Data from AirHelp found that London Gatwick was the worst offending airport when it came to disruption, with 42 per cent of passengers affected, while London Stansted came in a close second with a 39 per cent disruption rate.

The most punctual airport was Durham Tees Valley Airport, where just 19 per cent of flights were disrupted.

Sunak refuses to apologise to Ghey family over PMQs trans joke

Rishi Sunak has refused to apologise to the family of murdered trans teenager Brianna Ghey after making a joke about transgender people while her mother was visiting parliament.

The prime minister insisted the jibe, about how to “define a woman”, was “absolutely legitimate” because he was attacking Sir Keir Starmer’s indecisiveness – and said it was “sad and wrong” that the Labour leader had linked his comments to Brianna.

Asked if he would apologise, he said: “If you look at what I said, I was very clear, talking about Keir Starmer’s proven track record of u-turns on major policies because he doesn’t have a plan.”

Doubling down on the comments, Mr Sunak said Sir Keir’s plan to drop a flagship commitment to spend £28bn on green energy “demonstrated the point” he was making.

Brianna’s father, Peter Spooner, demanded an apology over Mr Sunak’s joke, saying he was “disgusted” with Mr Sunak, before branding the comments “degrading” and “absolutely dehumanising”.

But Mr Sunak said critics were using his comments to “detract from the very separate and clear point I was making” and claimed it “demonstrates the worst of politics”.

As ministers also rallied to defend Mr Sunak, one even appeared to suggest Mr Spooner should “actually listen” to what the PM said.

And, in an apparent bid to save face over the episode, Mr Sunak has invited Brianna’s mother to Downing Street for a meeting about online safety.

Mr Sunak on Wednesday accused Sir Keir of being incapable of “defining a woman” and said it was one of a number of issues on which he had changed his mind.

But an angry Sir Keir immediately admonished the Tory leader. He said: “Of all the weeks to say that, when Brianna’s mother is in this chamber. Shame.”

Kemi Badenoch was among those rallying behind Mr Sunak’s trans jibe on Wednesday night, accusing Sir Keir Starmer of “weaponising” the murder of transgender teenager Brianna Ghey.

The business secretary said it was “shameful” for the Labour leader to criticise Mr Sunak over the joke, made while Brianna’s mother Esther Ghey was expected to be in the Commons viewing gallery.

And on Wednesday night Ms Badenoch, who also oversees the government’s equality policy, said: “Every murder is a tragedy.  None should be trivialised by political point-scoring.”

In tweets signed off by No10, the business secretary extraordinarily claimed that “as a mother, I can imagine the trauma that Esther Ghey has endured”.

And she doubled down on the PM’s comments, saying: “It was shameful of Starmer to link his own inability to be clear on the matter of sex and gender directly to her grief.”

Her tweets came as it emerged Mr Sunak, who has repeatedly refused to apologise over the joke, invited the Ghey family to Downing Street.

Mr Sunak has now invited Ms Ghey to a meeting about online safety, which she is campaigning to improve.

Policing minister Chris Philp told BBC Breakfast: “The Prime Minister made no reference at all to any individual trans people.

“It was Keir Starmer who introduced that. The Prime Minister was making a point about Labour’s very numerous flip-flops.”

Asked about Brianna Ghey’s father’s call for an apology, Mr Philp said: “I think anyone who is interested in this issue should actually listen to the clip, listen to the initial exchange.”

Asked if he was suggesting Brianna’s father Peter Spooner had misunderstood the Prime Minister’s comments, Mr Philp said: “I have got every respect for, obviously, the views and feelings of a bereaved father.”

On Wednesday Treasury chief secretary Laura Trott denied Mr Sunak’s remarks were a “joke” and insisted they had “absolutely nothing to do with this appalling tragedy”.

The chief secretary to the Treasury told LBC: “I want to be really, really clear that this wasn’t a joke…it has absolutely nothing to do with this appalling tragedy.”

Meanwhile chancellor Jeremy Hunt insisted that the PM “could not have been clearer about the enormous respect he has for Brianna Ghey’s mother” and that his point had been about Labour “flip-flopping on important issues”.

The blunder was the latest in a series of political missteps from the PM. He was criticised for betting Piers Morgan £1,000 that deportation flights to Rwanda would take off before the general election, and for an embarrassing moment when he laughed as a mother pleaded with him to cut NHS waiting lists for her daughter.

Brianna was stabbed to death by teenagers Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe in a Cheshire park last February.

During their sentencing earlier this month, the judge said the “exceptionally brutal” murder had elements of both sadism on the part of Jenkinson and transphobic hate on the part of Ratcliffe.

As the row continued, Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said his views on gender identity are unchanged, that “a man is a man and a woman is a woman”. His spokesman said the Prime Minister’s view of the “definition of a woman is an adult, human female”.

Unmissable New York State experiences

Did Rishi really mean to suggest Boris Johnson could make a comeback?

Rishi Sunak has been subjected to the personal profile treatment by ITV, featuring a previously unseen photo of him as a boy in front of a caravan… and an interview with Anushka Asthana in which he “doesn’t rule out” Boris Johnson returning to the cabinet.

“Doesn’t rule out” is being used in the journalistic sense, in which he also “didn’t rule out” flying to Mars and back in time for tea. It was not so much that Sunak “didn’t rule out” Johnson following Lord Cameron back to the front rank, but that he didn’t answer the question at all.

He told Asthana: “I’m proud of the work that we did together. And we worked well together for a long time…”

Labour’s green contortions are a foretaste of trouble ahead

Confirmation that global warming has exceeded 1.5C over the past year will rightly be seen as a flashing red light on the climate crisis dashboard.

As responsible news organisations – including The Independent – have reported, there are short-term factors behind this rise, notably the El Nino natural variation in winds and sea surface temperatures. And while that warning level set by the Paris climate agreement has not yet been breached by long-term average temperatures, the latest figures reinforce the likelihood that the long-term average will breach that 1.5C threshold within the next decade.

So it looks like bad timing for the Labour Party, which is likely to form a government by the end of the year, to announce the same day that it is retreating from its central policy aimed at minimising climate change.