The Telegraph 2024-02-20 10:30:25


Ex-Strictly Come Dancing professional Robin Windsor dies aged 44

Robin Windsor, a former professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing, has died at the age of 44, his dance company has announced.

Windsor joined the BBC competition in 2010 and participated in four series before leaving the show. His celebrity partners included actresses Patsy Kensit, Anita Dobson and Lisa Riley as well as Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Deborah Meaden.

Windsor’s agents and co-stars have been among the first to pay tribute to the dancer, who had previously revealed his struggle with depression whilst on the show. In 2018, Windsor told the Dancing Times: “We all have dark days but I was having dark weeks.

“I would end up not getting out of bed for four or fives days at a time, as far as everyone was concerned I was ‘happy Robin’ – except to the people I lived with.”

Mr Windsor’s ex-partner, Marcus Collins, who was a finalist on ITV talent show the X-Factor in 2011, said on his Instagram page: “The world just got a lot less sparkly. Robin you were so loved.”

No cause of death has yet been given.

The news was confirmed by Sisco Entertainment, which represented Windsor in various areas of theatre and corporate entertainment.

A statement said: “It is with heavy hearts that we announce the tragic passing of our beloved friend, Robin Windsor. 

“Robin’s presence in Come What May was more than just a performance; it was an embodiment of passion, grace, and sheer talent. His laughter was contagious, his kindness boundless.

“His friendship was a gift cherished by all who had the privilege of knowing him. Robin, you will be deeply missed.

Burn the Floor, an international Latin and ballroom dance company, said Mr Windsor’s death leaves “a void in our hearts that will never be filled” in a statement on its Facebook page.

The statement reads: “The Burn the Floor family has lost one of its founding members, Robin “Bobby” Windsor – who has tragically passed away.

“A BTF journeyman he danced with us for twenty years – including Broadway, The West End and all our crazy adventures around the world.

“His stunning image attached with Jessica Raffa defined our company, colourful, extreme and sensual.

His talent, attitude, energy and personality helped create the Burn the Floor stage reputation. He leaves a void in our hearts that will never be filled, yet our wonderful memories will stay forever.

Susanna Reid, the Good Morning Britain presenter, fought back tears as she announced Windsor’s death on Tuesday.

Reid had previously danced with Robin on the BBC One show’s Children In Need special back in 2011 and handed over the announcement to co-presenter Ed Balls as she was visibly in shock.

She said: He was just an extraordinary person and as I say, he would have had so many people gripped watching either Strictly Come Dancing or Burn The Floor or other tours and dance productions he was in involved in. 

“I’m sorry if you’re waking up to that this morning and are as devastated about that as we are.”

“We send all of our love to Robin’s family and to his friends and colleagues.”

Loved by so many

Paying tribute to Windsor, Craig Revel Horwood, Strictly Come Dancing’s longest standing judge, wrote on Twitter: “I have just heard the tragic news my dear friend ‘Bobby’ Robin Windsor has passed.

“He was one of the kindest, gentle, honest, funny and caring people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with. He will be forever missed. My heart goes out to all his family & friends.

“RIP darling man, you were truly loved x.”

Patrick Helm, a choreographer on the show, said Windsor was someone who was loved by so many but couldn’t see it himself

He wrote in a tribute: “I don’t even know how to find the words to this post. I will dearly miss you Robin Windsor

“This one is hitting me hard and too close to home. My deepest condolences go to your family and everyone who knew you! You were another one who was loved by so many but couldn’t see it himself.

“May you finally be free and find piece [sic]. RIP Bobby.’”

Windsor first began dancing at the age of three when his parents enrolled him in classes in Ipswich, according to his website. He went on to represent England in numerous championships, both on the domestic and international levels. 

He joined the cast of show Burn The Floor in 2001 and toured the world for 10 years, with a nine-month run on Broadway.

Windsor also appeared in Dancing With The Stars Australia and So You Think You Can Dance in the Netherlands and assisted in the choreography for the Australian version of So You Think You Can Dance, as well as acting as a motivational speaker.

The Telegraph has approached the BBC for comment.

Sadiq Khan puts ‘anti-UK propaganda’ on a pedestal in Trafalgar Square

Sadiq Khan has been accused of promoting “anti-British propaganda” with a multicultural shortlist of sculptures for Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth.

The Mayor of London has resisted calls for a statue of Queen Elizabeth II to be erected in the space and instead launched a competition that will be decided by a public vote.

Offerings include a Bollywood-themed ice cream van, a golden bust of a woman’s head representing “a collective community portrait” and a black woman in a revealing blue dress.

The shortlist of seven was announced just days after Mr Khan announced a “woke” rebrand of the London Overground where six lines were given names to “celebrate the city’s diverse culture and history”.

Stretches of the network now honour migrant communities, Suffragettes and the England women’s football team in a move that was dismissed by critics as “virtue signalling nonsense”.

‘Let’s be proud of London’

Howard Cox, Reform UK’s candidate in May’s mayoral elections, said: “The fourth plinth should be a celebration of London’s history, illustrious Londoners, and genuinely creative metaphors about our capital city. It should not be a political platform to convey subliminal anti-British propaganda.

“Let’s be proud of London and steer clear of virtue signalling endorsements of other nations’ continued disdain for British history and culture.”

Last night Mr Khan said he was “proud to support the fourth plinth art exhibition in Trafalgar Square”.

“Since 1998, this initiative has showcased world-class artwork, adding to London’s dynamic cultural scene,” he wrote on social media. “Excited to see what new exhibits will be next to grace this iconic space.” The two winning entries will be displayed on the plinth for two years each from 2026 and 2028 and the shortlist has been drawn up by a panel of art experts hand-picked by Mr Khan’s Greater London Authority.

Chila Kumari Singh Burman, who created the ice-cream van which will broadcast Bollywood music to the square, has said Indians invented the treat not Italians. The Liverpool-born artist’s submission is inspired by her father’s job as an ice-cream man.

“Nobody knows about the Indian community in Liverpool,” she said.

 “We [should] not be talking about ice cream [started] by Italians, [it was] Indians.”

Other artworks on the shortlist include a large black cat, a sprouting sweet potato, a mud-like wood-fired oven and a person riding a horse under a translucent lime green shroud.

The winners of the shortlist will follow in the footsteps of a series of progressive artworks that have been placed on the fourth plinth in recent years.

The space is currently occupied by Samson Kambalu’s Antelope, which depicts John Chilembwe, an anti-colonial minister who led a 1915 revolt against British rule in Nyasaland, now Malawi.

It will be succeeded in November by face casts of 850 transgender people that are arranged in the style of a central American “tzompantli” war trophy skull rack.

A Conservative Party source said that Susan Hall, the Tory Party candidate, plans to move the artworks to make way for a statue of the late Queen if elected.

The London Assembly unanimously agreed in March last year that a statue of the late monarch should be placed somewhere in central London but Trafalgar Square appears unlikely to be its eventual destination.

‘No place for the Queen’

David Jones, the Tory MP for Clwyd West, said at the time that the plinth would not be a suitable location because the late Queen would be overshadowed by Lord Nelson’s statue.

“It needs to be sufficiently prominent and in my view being one of four statues in Trafalgar Square is not good enough. You can’t have her statue at a lower level than Lord Nelson,” he said.

The shortlist follows the announcement last week of six new names for the London Overground.

The new names – Lioness, Windrush, Suffragette, Weaver, Liberty and Mildmay – were introduced as the Overground was split into six separate lines in a £6.3 million rebrand.

Lord Frost, the Conservative peer, accused Mr Khan of forcing “politicisation” on the public and diverging from the London tradition of only naming public transport lines after royalty or local geography.

The Fourth Plinth Committee, which is ultimately under the control of the Mayor of London, commissions the winner of the public vote at a cost of £140,000, plus a £30,000 artist’s fee.

The proposals are available to view online and scale models of the proposed artworks are on display at the National Gallery until March 17. Voting closes on March 12.

Live Politics latest news: Sunak and Starmer approval gap widest ever after Tory by-election defeats

Rishi Sunak’s approval rating has plummeted in the wake of the Tories’ by-election defeats, with the gap between the Prime Minister and Sir Keir Starmer now the widest it has ever been. 

A new survey conducted by Deltapoll gave Mr Sunak a net approval rating of minus 43, with 26 per cent of respondents saying he was doing well in his job and 68 per cent saying he was doing badly.  

Sir Keir recorded a net approval rating of minus two, with 43 per cent saying he was doing well and 45 per cent saying he was doing badly.  

The poll was conducted between Feb 16-19 in the immediate aftermath of the Wellingborough and Kingswood by-elections on Feb 15, both of which the Tories lost to Labour.  

Mr Sunak’s net approval rating was down by eight points while Sir Keir’s was up by five points when compared to the company’s previous poll conducted between Feb 9-12. 

Deltapoll said: “The gap between net approval for Sunak and Starmer is now the widest it has ever been.”

You can follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section here

Men and women’s brains do work differently, scientists discover for first time

The brains of men and women operate differently, scientists have shown for the first time in a breakthrough that shows sex does matter in how people think and behave.

‌The issue of whether male and female brains are distinct has proven controversial, with some academics arguing it is society – rather than biology – that shapes divergence.

‌There has never been any definitive proof of difference in activity in the brains of men and women, but Stanford University has shown that it is possible to tell the sexes apart based on activity in “hotspot” areas.

‌They include the “default mode network”, an area of the brain thought to be the neurological centre for “self”, and is important in introspection and retrieving personal memories. 

‌The limbic system is also implicated, which helps regulate emotion, memory and deals with sexual stimulation, and striatum, which is important in habit forming and rewards.

‌Experts said the brain differences could influence how males and females view themselves, how they interact with other people and how they recall past experiences.

‌Dr Vinod Menon, prof of psychiatry and behavioural sciences at Stanford, said: “This is a very strong piece of evidence that sex is a robust determinant of human brain organisation.”‌

“Our findings suggest that differences in brain activity patterns across these key brain regions contribute to sex-specific variations in cognitive functioning.”

However, he added that further research is needed to fully understand the implications of the findings.

‌It is well known that male and female chromosomes release sex-specific hormones in the brain, particularly in early development, puberty and during ageing.‌

There are also marked differences in how women and men perform in the real world. 

Women tend to be better at reading comprehension and writing ability on average, and have good long term memory. 

Conversely, men seem to have stronger visual and spatial awareness and better working memory.

‌Yet scientists have struggled to spot these differences in neural activity, with brain structures looking the same in men and women.‌

For the research, the team used “explainable AI” – a type of computer learning which can sift through vast amounts of data to explain why an effect is taking place.

‌The model was shown MRI scans of working brains and told whether it was looking at a woman or man. Over time, the neural network began to pick out subtle differences between the two sexes that had been missed by humans.

‌When the researchers tested the model on about 1,500 brain scans, the model was able to tell if the scan came from a woman or a man more than 90 per cent of the time.

‌Dr Gina Rippon, emeritus professor of cognitive neuroimaging at the Aston Brain Centre, and author of The Gendered Brain, has argued that society is to blame for brain differences in men and women.

‌Commenting on the study, she said: “The really intriguing issue is that those areas of the brain which are most reliably distinguishing the sexes are key parts of the social brain.

‌“The key issue is whether these differences are a product of sex-specific, biological influences, or of brain-changing gendered experiences. Or both. Are we really looking at sex differences? Or gender differences?

‌“Or, acknowledging that almost all brain–shaping factors are dynamically entangled products of both sex and gender influences, are we looking at what should be called sex/gender differences?”

‌Experts are hopeful that finding differences between male and female brains could be crucial in tackling neurological or psychiatric conditions that affect women and men differently.

‌For example, women are twice as likely as men to experience clinical depression while men are more at risk of drug and alcohol dependence and dyslexia. The brain areas discovered in the study are often associated with neurological disease.

‌Dr Menon added: “A key motivation for this study is that sex plays a crucial role in human brain development, in ageing, and in the manifestation of psychiatric and neurological disorders.”

“Identifying consistent and replicable sex differences in the healthy adult brain is a critical step toward a deeper understanding of sex-specific vulnerabilities in psychiatric and neurological disorders.”

‌Researchers said the AI model could answer other important questions about brain connectivity, cognitive ability, or behaviour and will be making it publicly available for any researchers to use.

‌The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jewish baby’s birth certificate returned from Home Office with ‘Israel’ scribbled out

The Home Office has been accused of scribbling out the word “Israel” on a six-month-old Jewish girl’s birth certificate.

A family from Edgware, in north London, sent off the document on Feb 6 to obtain a British passport for their baby daughter Ronnie. But when they received the returned certificate on Monday morning, the place of birth for her father – Israel – had been scribbled out with a black pen.

The Telegraph understands that the Home Office is looking into the matter and the department has been contacted for comment. It is unclear whether it was a mistake.

A picture of the birth certificate, which was released by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, shows a single scribble on the document in the birthplace box for the father, while the mention of Israel for the mother’s place of birth remains intact.

The girl’s father, whose name is also Israel, claimed that the certificate also arrived ripped, in a soft envelope and invalidated. The 32-year-old engineering company owner is now demanding an apology and explanation from the Home Office and a new birth certificate.

“My wife was very, very upset. The baby isn’t even six months and is already suffering discrimination,” he claimed.

“It’s like going back to the Nazi 1930s when Jewish documents had notes on the side. This baby did nothing wrong and was just born to Jewish parents, that’s all. We sent it to the Home Office which is in charge of our security and should be the most safe place for our private document.”

‘Completely unacceptable’

Israel and his wife Dorin, 29, have lived in Britain for almost a decade.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is supporting the family, said it was “completely unacceptable”.

It added: “When sending off a passport application to the Home Office, the last thing one should ever expect is to have their child’s birth certificate returned, torn, with the parent’s place of birth scribbled out, just because it is the Jewish state,” the group said.

“We are assisting the parents, who are understandably very concerned. We are also asking the Home Office to investigate how this happened.

“The Home Office has responsibility for law enforcement and the security of the Jewish community and the wider public. Confidence in the authorities among British Jews is at painfully low levels and must be restored.”

The Home Office has been contacted for comment. 

US moves to stop Israel’s invasion of Rafah

The US said on Monday night that Israel’s planned invasion of Rafah “should not proceed under current circumstances” as it sought to use the UN to halt fighting.

Joe Biden is pushing for a United Nations vote on a “temporary ceasefire” in a break with the Israeli government as its troops prepare for an assault on the city, in south Gaza.

In a draft resolution, the US warns that a ground offensive into the city, where more than one million Palestinians are sheltering, would have “serious implications for regional peace and security”.

The move comes as Israel has rebuffed efforts by frustrated Western allies to call off its planned invasion of Rafah, the only remaining city controlled by Hamas.

It marks a departure from America’s initial position at the UN that Israel has the right to defend itself. Washington has twice vetoed council resolutions for a ceasefire in Gaza since the Hamas terror attack on Oct 7.

Mr Biden has raised concerns both privately and in public that Israel must create a plan to ensure the safety of the civilians sheltering in Rafah. US media reported that the president was considering a “breach” in the relationship with Israel.

US diplomats circulated its draft resolution on Monday after America rejected a rival Arab-backed vote for an end to fighting due to take place on Tuesday.

The US plan has not been scheduled for a vote, but is likely to be backed by the Security Council’s permanent members, including the UK.

It calls for a temporary ceasefire “as soon as practicable” alongside the lifting of blockades to aid delivery, and also demands Hamas releases all its hostages.

On Monday, Israel gave Hamas until March 10, the beginning of Ramadan, to hand over all hostages held in Gaza or it would order the ground assault on Rafah.

Around 1.4 million Palestinians, most of whom have been pushed from their homes in the north by Israel’s ground operations, are believed to be sheltering in the Gazan city on the Egyptian border.

On Monday, Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, said: “To those saying the price [of an offensive] is too high, I say this very clearly: Hamas has a choice – they can surrender, release the hostages, and the citizens of Gaza will be able to celebrate the holy holiday of Ramadan.”

The Biden administration has reportedly urged Israel to finish the war by Ramadan, fearing that hostilities around the holiday could antagonise Muslims across the world.

It comes as international pressure on Israel continues to mount, with 26 out of 27 EU countries calling for an “immediate humanitarian pause that would lead to a sustainable ceasefire”.

Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, did not disclose which country had abstained, but Hungary reportedly blocked a similar initiative earlier.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer is under fierce pressure to back calls for an immediate ceasefire as he faces the threat of a fresh Labour rebellion over Gaza.

The party leader, who has been urged by Left-wing backbenchers to call for an end to the war, is braced for one of the toughest tests of his time in office on Wednesday when MPs vote for a second time on whether to support a truce.

He is widely expected to table his own amendment to an SNP motion in an attempt to see off a mutiny, but no final decision had been made as of Monday night.

The draft US text cited by Reuters urges “support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable”.

“Under current circumstances, a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighbouring countries,” it says, warning that the offensive was fraught with “serious implications for regional peace and security”.

The resolution would also reject “any actions by any party that reduce the territory of Gaza”, referring to the “buffer zone” Israel is building around the border area.

It was not immediately clear when or whether the draft resolution would be put to a vote in the 15-member council. To be adopted, a resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the US, France, Britain, Russia or China.

The move appears to be a response to the move by Algeria on Saturday to request a Security Council vote later this week on its draft resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, quickly signalled that it would be vetoed because it could jeopardise “sensitive negotiations” on hostages.

Unicef, the UN’s children’s agency, warned on Monday against the offensive as it called Rafah one of the most densely populated places on the planet. “They must be protected. They have no safe place to go,” it said.

Meanwhile, UN rights experts called for an independent investigation into alleged Israeli abuses targeted against Palestinian women and girls in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including killings, rapes and sexual assault.

The statement by the seven independent UN experts prompted an angry reaction from Israel, which rejected the “despicable and unfounded claims”.

Laughing gas dealer caught after telling police drugs were Christmas presents

Police have released footage of the moment a drug dealer was arrested after telling officers packs of laughing gas canisters in his car were Christmas presents.

Thomas Salton, 30, became the first person in the UK to be jailed for possessing laughing gas since it was classified a Class C drug in November last year.

He was sentenced to 35 months in prison at Basildon Crown Court on Monday after pleading guilty to possessing nitrous oxide with intent to supply at a hearing last month.

Following the conviction, Essex Police released footage of the moment Salton was caught in a plan to supply a Christmas party with ketamine and nitrous oxide.

Video shows Salton, of Brentwood, notably nervous and agitated after he was pulled over in his Range Rover in Basildon on Dec 1.

When asked whether he has anything illicit inside his vehicle, Salton tells the officer he has “Christmas presents” and later repeats the claim when police tell him “honesty is the best policy”.

The footage then pans to the boot of the Range Rover where officers found party bags containing items such as Christmas crackers and sweets alongside grip-sealed bags of ketamine, together with nitrous oxide canisters with balloons.

More than £38,000 in cash was also seized. Police also found in the car a “naughty” and “nice” list of customers, with gift bags for those on the naughty list, the CPS said.

A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said 60 small canisters of the Class C drug and 48 one-gram bags of ketamine were recovered from the vehicle.

A further 408 nitrous oxide canisters and 965 grams of ketamine were later found at a property Salton was renting 10 miles from his home.

‘Hippy crack’

Salton pleaded guilty to possessing nitrous oxide with intent to supply at a hearing last month.

He also admitted possessing ketamine with intent to supply, possession of a Class A drug and possessing criminal property, in relation to the cash, according to the CPS.

Alex Hinds, a prosecutor for CPS East of England, said: “The evidence against Thomas Salton was overwhelming and this case is an example of all parts of the justice system working together to get drugs and those who sell them off the streets.

“The change in the law coupled with the actions of the police has allowed the CPS to present the strongest case in court and put Thomas Salton out of business and into prison.

“Nitrous oxide is a dangerous drug and hopefully this first conviction will deter those thinking of buying or selling it.”

Nitrous oxide, nicknamed “hippy crack”, was made a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 last November, as part of the Government’s anti-social behaviour action plan.

This means possession of nitrous oxide, where a person intends to wrongfully inhale it for a psychoactive effect, is now an offence and dealers could face up to 14 years behind bars.

It is still possible to use the gas for legitimate reasons, such as catering, pain relief during labour or in model rockets.