INDEPENDENT 2024-02-16 06:03:57


Marjorie Taylor Greene accuses David Cameron of ‘calling us Hitler’ as she doubles down on insult

Marjorie Taylor Greene has doubled down on her mistaken assertion that British Foreign Secretary David Cameron compared Republicans unwilling to support further aid to Ukraine to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.

“Well, number one, I really could care less what Lord Cameron has to say. I just don’t care,” she told The Independent on Thursday. “And number two, he was calling us Hitler and calling us horrible names and that is extremely rude and he needs to stop making that association.

“He needs to consider what he’s actually saying,” she added. “So I just don’t care. He really needs to worry about his country. I think over there, they’re having all kinds of problems, they’re entering a recession. They need to worry about their problems and leave our country alone.”

This comes after the hard-right Republican congresswoman said Lord Cameron “can kiss my a**” on Wednesday after he urged the US Congress to pass aid to Ukraine and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, citing the appeasement of Hitler in the lead-up to the Second World War.

The Democratic Senate has already passed a bill which would send further aid to Ukraine but the legislation faces a steep uphill climb in the House.

In an op-ed published in The Hill on Wednesday, Lord Cameron wrote: “As Congress debates and votes on this funding package for Ukraine, I am going to drop all diplomatic niceties. I urge Congress to pass it.

“I believe our joint history shows the folly of giving in to tyrants in Europe who believe in redrawing boundaries by force,” he added. “I do not want us to show the weakness displayed against Hitler in the 1930s. He came back for more, costing us far more lives to stop his aggression.

“I do not want us to show the weakness displayed against Putin in 2008, when he invaded Georgia, or the uncertainty of the response in 2014, when he took Crimea and much of the Donbas — before coming back to cost us far more with his aggression in 2022,” Lord Cameron, a former UK prime minister, argued. “I want us to show the strength displayed since 2022, as the West has helped Ukrainians liberate half the territory seized by Putin, all without the loss of any NATO service personnel.”

“I don’t want to read it, I know the British embassy wanted me to read it – I have way too many other things to do than read his op-ed,” Ms Greene said on Thursday.

James Matthews of Sky News asked Ms Greene on Wednesday: “David Cameron says that you should vote through funding for Ukraine. What do you say to that?”

“I think he tried to compare us to Hitler also,” Ms Greene said, mixing up the appeasers, whose conduct Lord Cameron did cite, and the Nazi leader.

Ms Greene has previously faced criticism for making comments comparing the use of masks during the pandemic to the Holocaust. She later visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC and apologised for the remarks.

Speaking about Lord Cameron on Wednesday, Ms Greene told Sky News: “If that’s the kind of language he wants to use, I really have nothing to say to him.”

“He likened you can do to an appeaser for Hitler, in not voting through funding for Ukraine, are you an appeaser for Putin?” Matthews asked.

“I think that I really don’t care what David Cameron has to say. I think that’s rude name-calling, and I don’t appreciate that type of language. And David Cameron needs to worry about his own country, and frankly, he can kiss my a**,” she added.

During a visit to Poland on Thursday, the foreign secretary said that he is not someone who wants “to lecture American friends, or tell American friends what to do”, but he added, “We really do want to see Congress pass that money to support Ukraine economically, but crucially militarily in the months ahead.”

Speaking at a press conference, Lord Cameron said: “We have to do everything we can to make sure that Ukraine can succeed in this year and beyond.

“We must not let Putin think he can out-wait us or last us out, and that’s why this vote in Congress is so crucial.”

He added: “And I say this as someone who is not wanting in any way to lecture American friends, or tell American friends what to do.

“I say it as someone who has a deep and abiding love of the United States – of their democracy, of their belief in freedom – [and] as someone who really believes in the importance of our alliance.”

Pontins used list of ‘undesirable’ Irish traveller surnames to refuse or cancel bookings

A holiday camp operator routinely racially discriminated against Irish Travellers by drawing up a list of “undesirable” names, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has found.

Pontins’ staff were forced to refuse or cancel bookings from holidaymakers whose name, accent or address indicated they were part of the Irish Traveller community, according to a new EHRC report.

The company “deliberately, openly and repeatedly broke the law” by breaching the Equality Act 2010 in its discrimination against this ethnic group, said EHRC chair Baroness Kishwer Falkner.

The holiday park operator has now apologised after it was served a legal notice for engaging in what the human rights watchdog described as “shocking overt race discrimination” towards Irish Travellers.

Have you been affected by this? Email tara.cobham@independent.co.uk

The investigation came after a whistleblower in March 2020 disclosed that Pontins had an “Undesirable Guest List” with 40 names of Irish origin that staff had to follow, with some of this discrimination specifically targeting Irish Travellers, while other discriminatory policies were aimed at Gypsies and Travellers more broadly.

Pontins, owned by Britannia Jinky Jersey Ltd, also introduced a policy in 2018, which required guests to be on the electoral roll, a practice that was found to be discriminatory against Gypsies and Travellers, as people from these communities are far less likely to be registered to vote.

The EHRC has now ordered the firm to issue a public apology to the Gypsy and Traveller communities and introduce equality training, with a deadline for an action plan given as 9 April – otherwise Pontins could face criminal charges.

Commenting on the investigation, Baroness Falkner said: “The discrimination faced by Irish Travellers, and other members of the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, has no place in 21st-century Britain. The impact of the discrimination faced by those who were refused bookings at Pontins cannot be overstated. People told us that the experience was ‘painful’ and made them feel ‘dehumanised’.

“As the equality regulator for Great Britain, it is our mission to ensure people are treated equally and fairly. Our investigation, with the help of a brave whistleblower, has shown that Pontins comprehensively failed to treat its customers equally and fairly. At the Equality and Human Rights Commission, we will always challenge such discrimination.

“Pontins broke the law. Pontins must now put right their wrongs. We will continue to hold them, and others who think they are above the law, to account.”

The commission said it was “deeply concerned” about the practices uncovered, but the charity Friends, Families and Travellers said while the findings were “deeply saddening”, they did not come as a surprise.

Chris McDonagh, campaigns officer at the charity, said they are “certain” Pontins are not the only providers operating such discriminatory policies.

A spokesperson for Pontins said: “We are in the process of reviewing the unlawful act notice and investigation report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The specific incidents reported by the EHRC are historic issues, pre-dating 2018.

“The call centre where the incidents took place has now closed and the majority of the staff involved have now left Pontins. We apologise to all who may have been affected. Pontins is committed to ensuring ongoing compliance with the Equality Act 2010.”

Kyiv sends more troops into fierce battle for key city Avdiivka – latest

Ukraine has rotated in fresh forces to push back a rapid Russian takeover of a key frontline town in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade announced this morning that it had been “urgently redeployed to strengthen Ukrainian troops in the Avdiivka area”.

“The situation in the city at the time the brigade was established was extremely critical,” the statement read.

“Separate battalions of the 3rd Armored Brigade raided the enemy-occupied areas of Avdiivka. The enemy’s forces in our section are approximately 7 brigades.”

Russian forces have pushed into the northeast and south of the city over the past fortnight and look to be accelerating their attack through the area this week.

Ukrainian war tracker DeepState posted an updated map last night of Avdiivka that suggested Russian forces had almost severed the city in two.

It comeas the Russian health ministry claimed that at least six people had been killed in the border city of Belgorod after missiles damaged a shopping centre in the area, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

Is having a posh accent a new ick?

There are few experiences more shudder-inducing than having to listen to a recording of your own voice. Something to do with the way we hear vibrations through our bones when we talk, versus the way we hear air-transmitted sounds, apparently. But for Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith, the exact source of the cringe is more specific: her clipped RP tones. “Oh, I hate my voice,” she recently admitted in an interview with The Times. “It’s too posh. When I replaced Mary Berry on Bake Off someone on Twitter said: ‘Oh no, not that posh b***h,’ and I sort of agreed with her.”

Is it really possible to sound “too posh” in the UK? Has speaking like you swallowed several back copies of Debrett’s become a bit of an ick, to borrow that catch-all term, or even (at a very large stretch) a hindrance, likely to result in the sort of social media vitriol that Leith references? Our attitudes to accents are complicated – probably because they reflect our similarly jumbled feelings about class.

We certainly know it’s something the truly “posh” can get self-conscious about. These days they’re just as likely to drop letters as to carefully enunciate them. A few years ago, a former headmaster of elite public school Harrow (where fees are now just under £17,000 each term) claimed that his pupils would adopt “Mockney” accents in a bid to sound less like, well, public school boys. And Prince William, the heir to the throne, has self-consciously referred to his wife Kate (that’s the Princess of Wales, Duchess of Cambridge, etcetera etcetera) as his “missus”. To make the whole thing even more counterintuitive, Kate has reportedly undergone elocution lessons to become posher; according to royal writer Omid Scobie’s book Endgame, she now sounds even fancier than her princely husband.

In public-facing industries like entertainment, where Leith has found fame, there’s a weird double standard around accents, too. Being upper, or at least upper middle, class is pretty much the norm, because no one else can afford to break in. And, apart from on more formal shows like news broadcasts, presenters often affect a more relatable, less refined way of speaking to connect with their viewers. Think of Dexter, the affluent, privately-educated protagonist of David Nicholls’s One Day, now an equally heartbreaking Netflix series, acquiring a much-mocked “everyman” voice every time he’s in a television studio.

Sometimes the process is a little more gradual: when an old Nineties interview clip of the presenter Claudia Winkleman started doing the rounds on Twitter/X last month, it wasn’t her lack of glowing tan and eye-skimming fringe that surprised everyone, but just how much posher she sounded back then compared to now. At the same time, presenters with actual regional accents are apparently told they sound “too common” for the airwaves, as Steph McGovern (who is from Middlesbrough) has claimed.

The same goes for the world of politics: remember Tony Blair’s estuary English? Or when George Osborne temporarily acquired a bizarre “man of the people” accent? What about when Rishi Sunak was mocked for his “geezer” voice on a trip to Essex? Meanwhile, the likes of Angela Rayner (from Stockport) are criticised for sounding “thick” for speaking with the actual regional accent they grew up with. Make it make sense.

Leith might “hate” speaking like a minor royal, but her accent comes with huge privileges, and it feels silly to downplay them. In 2022, research from the Sutton Trust found that accent bias is still a major barrier to social mobility, with attitudes towards certain accents remaining pretty much unchanged since the late Sixties. RP accents are still the highest ranked by the public in terms of “accent prestige”, while those linked to “industrial cities” like Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham, as well as ethnic minority accents, were regarded as the lowest. Twenty-nine per cent of senior managers from working-class families, meanwhile, said that they had been mocked for their accent at work.

It’s no wonder that so many people feel the need to smooth out the way they speak in order to get ahead, because they’ve probably absorbed years of snidey remarks and hints suggesting that their voice renders their contribution void. I never forgot the university interview when I had to answer questions on a random passage of literature, and the interviewer randomly suggested that I might prefer “the docks of the Mersey” to the pastoral landscape described in the book (I’m from the Wirral – like Leith’s fellow Bake Off judge Paul Hollywood, coincidentally – so I speak with a very watered-down variant of a Liverpool accent).

If that was their response to a very mild hint of Scouse, then I hate to think how they’d have belittled someone else with a stronger accent. Saltburn, directed by Emerald Fennell (who has, conversely, been ridiculed online for speaking like – checks notes – someone whose 18th birthday photos were published in Tatler) might not be a work of the highest realism, but let’s just say I found Barry Keoghan’s tutorial scenes even harder to watch than all the weird necrophilia stuff.

So sorry, Prue, I find all the squirming a bit of a bore. Why not just own your poshness, and acknowledge all the doors it has probably opened, rather than moaning about it?

Greece legalises same sex marriage

Greece has become the first Christian Orthodox country to legalise same-sex marriage in a landmark victory for the LGBTQ+ community.

The legislation allowing same-sex couples to wed and adopt children was passed on Thursday by a cross-party majority of 176 votes in the 300-seat Greek parliament.

Seventy-six lawmakers rejected the bill drafted by prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis‘s center-right government while two members abstained.

Greece “is proud to become the 16th (European Union) country to legislate marriage equality”, Mr Mitsotakis wrote on X after the post.

“This is a milestone for human rights, reflecting today’s Greece – a progressive, and democratic country, passionately committed to European values,” he added.

The legislation was approved despite strong resistance from the Orthodox church and mass protests over the weekend opposing gay civil marriage. Organisers of a rally in the capital Athens described the bill as a threat to the traditional family as they chanted: “Hands off our children.”

Although members of Mr Mitsotakis’s New Democracy party abstained or voted against the bill, it gained enough support from the leftist opposition in a rare show of cross-party unity despite a tense debate.

Three small far-right parties and the Stalinist-rooted Communist Party rejected the draft law from the start of the two-day debate.

“This law doesn’t solve every problem, but it is a beginning,” said Spiros Bibilas, an openly gay lawmaker from the Passage to Freedom party.

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, the prime minister said: “People who have been invisible will finally be made visible around us. And with them, many children (will) finally find their rightful place.”

“Both parents of same-sex couples do not yet have the same legal opportunities to provide their children with what they need,” he added. “To be able to pick them up from school, to be able to travel, to go to the doctor, or take them to the hospital. … That is what we are fixing.”

Although the bill confers complete parental rights to married same-sex partners, it precludes gay couples from parenthood through surrogate mothers in Greece.

Surrogacy is only available to women in the country who can’t have children for health reasons.

The absence of any provisions for transgender people in the legislation was criticised by the rights organisation.

Vassilis Stigas, a far-right lawmaker and chief of the Spartans party, described the legislation as “sick” and claimed that its adoption would “open the gates of Hell and perversion”.

Former prime minister Antonis Samaras claimed ahead of the vote that “marriage of same-sex couples… is not a human right”.

But the legislation was celebrated by LGBTQ+ rights groups, who called the approval “a historic moment” and a “day of joy”.

“Discrimination is the most pervasive risk factor for mental health,” Psychologist Nancy Papathanasiou, scientific co-director of Orlando LGBT+, told the Associated Press.

“So just knowing that there is less discrimination is protective and promotive for LGBTQI mental health.”

The bill will become law when it is published in the official government gazette.

Unmissable New York State experiences

Ukraine can still win this war – but it will need our help

Understandably, but unfortunately, overshadowed by the dynamics of the war in Gaza, which constantly threatens to escalate from fresh humanitarian disaster into a regional conflagration, the conflict in Ukraine seems set firmly in a pattern of indefinite attrition. As such, the balance of advantage is tipping towards Russia.

In line with some striking historical precedents, Russia’s armed forces, and especially its navy, may be poorly led, badly equipped, prone to corruption and incompetent – but there are lots of them. A seemingly endless supply of manpower, of varying quality, and of basic but serviceable materiel, supplemented by supplies from Iran and North Korea, means that it’s possible the Russian “meat-grinder” approach and well-dug-in defensive stance will exhaust the Ukrainians.

Smaller in population, and with reported difficulties in recruiting fresh troops, this is becoming an awkward situation for Ukraine. The summer offensive yielded less territory than hoped, and Kyiv’s allies are proving increasingly unreliable. Short of money, shells and the best fighter aircraft, the Ukrainians are not able to press home the substantial technological edge that Western weaponry has given them, and no matter how brave their soldiers and pilots, there is only so much that can be achieved with valour alone. They need help.

What is the fiscal ‘time bomb’ that awaits Labour?

Britain is in recession. Though hardly a shock, the bald headline and the facts that lie behind it certainly have a sobering effect and won’t help to maintain business and consumer confidence. It’s a mild recession by historical standards, and much of the West is in a similar kind of position. The relative performance of the British economy has been unsatisfactory for many years, and such growth as there has been is due to population increase and net migration, whereas much of the downward pressure on economic activity, especially investment and international trade, has been down to Brexit. In any case, whatever the reasons, the economic effects are being felt across the country and, before long, the political consequences of a weak economy will make themselves known…

Bad for the government, obviously. It goes against the “growth” narrative that ministers constantly push and feels like the prime minister has failed to deliver another of his promises. The downbeat media coverage will also affect the voters’ mood, as will the economic consequences of a stagnant economy – less room for pay rises, mortgages staying higher, property prices more depressed than otherwise and less cash for tax cuts or public spending. The “feel good factor” is dangerously absent in an election year: Tories certainly can’t deploy their traditional slogan of “Britain is booming – don’t let Labour ruin it!”. Instead, they have to “stick to the plan or go back to square one”, which is at best opaque and at worst makes a return to how things were in 2010 feel quite appealing.