INDEPENDENT 2024-02-23 22:33:58


Lee Anderson accused of racism and Islamophobia after Sadiq Khan rant

Conservative MP Lee Anderson has been accused of racism and Islamophobia after claiming that “Islamists” have control of London’s mayor Sadiq Khan.

Speaking on GB News, the Tory MP for Ashfield said that Mr Khan had “given our capital city away to his mates”.

In a rant earlier this evening, he said: “I don’t actually believe that these Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London. Again,  this stems with Khan, he’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.

“If you let Labour in through the back door, expect more of this and expect our cities to be taken over by these lunatics.”

Mr Khan, who has been in his position since May 2016, is London’s first Muslim mayor.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said Anderson’s comments were “divisive and dangerous”.

Mr Streeting said on X: “The Conservatives have gone beyond the dogwhistle playbook of previous mayoral elections to outright racism and Islamophobia. Enough is enough. Is this really what your Party stands for @RishiSunak @RicHolden?”

Former Tory MP and Theresa May’s former chief of staff Gavin Barwell added: “A despicable slur on @SadiqKhan and Londoners.

“In his first speech as PM, @RishiSunak said he would “unite our country”. If he allows the likes of Anderson to spread hate and division like this, those words will be revealed as a sham.”

The Liberal Democrat’s mayoral candidate Rob Backie called for him to lose the Tory whip, and accused Mr Anderson of “spreading dangerous conspiracy theories”.

Tan Dhesi, the shadow exports minister, said: “Given the recent spike in Islamophobia and antisemitism, and the febrile atmosphere in our country, it’s deplorable that an elected MP can openly make such incendiary and divisive statements; especially against Sadiq Khan, who has done so much to foster community cohesion and tackle hate crime.”

Mr Anderson was deputy chairman of the Conservative party until January, when he resigned over the vote on the government’s Rwanda deportation policy.

In response to his comments, a Tory source said: “Lee was simply making the point that the Mayor, in his capacity as PCC for London, has abjectly failed to get a grip on the appalling examples of extremism we have seen in London recently.”

Also adding to the criticism, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary Anneliese Dodds said: “Lee Anderson’s comments are unambiguously racist and Islamophobic.

“Rishi Sunak needs to immediately remove the whip. If he is too weak, then people will take their own view of the modern Conservative Party.”

Labour Brent Central MP Dawn Butler added: “This divisive rubbish is straight from the right wing racist rule book. Inciting racial hatred is a criminal offence. @RishiSunak there’s been an 335% increase in Islamaphobia why is your party encouraging hate & lies? Islamophobia encouraged by Tories.”

A London Labour source told the Independent: “This sort of vile Islamophobia is exactly how the Tories campaigned against Sadiq Khan in 2016. Surely they will not tolerate it this time round?”

In the same GB News appearance with political reporter Chris Hope, Mr Anderson engaged in a heated debate over police intervention on pro-Palestinian protesters.

“Ultimately we run the country, and if the police aren’t doing their job – and they’re not doing their job … we need to step in and take over,” he said.

Mr Anderson, Mr Khan and the Conservative Party have been contacted for comment.

Thousands evacuated as army to move bomb through Plymouth and detonate it at sea

A military convoy transported a World War Two bomb through the streets of Plymouth after thousands of homes were evacuated for the risky operation.

Soldiers moved the unexploded device through the city to take it to be detonated at sea.

A major incident was declared on Wednesday after the bomb was found buried in a back garden in St Michael Avenue by a man helping build an extension at his daughter’s home.

Plymouth Council told an estimated 3,250 residents to leave their properties in what was officially described as one of the largest evacuations in the country since the war.

The 500kg bomb was taken to the sea near Torpoint Ferry slipway to be detonated.

A “severe” government alert was sent to residents’ phones, warning them to stay away from the route of the disposal convoy between 2pm and 5pm on Friday.

A government alert also sounded in the background of a police briefing on the operation.

According to the Ministry of Defence, the ordanance was an SC500 transverse fuzed airdrop weapon.

Ian Regan, who received a government alert on his phone urging him to leave his home which was 10m away from the convoy route, told Sky News: “It was scary. We put the cats in the boxes and got to my father’s spare bedroom. It is very stressful. The greatest fear is that it could go off any time.”

He added that residents were let back in to homes to move furniture and valuables out before the bomb was moved.

The Luftwaffe Resource Centre describes the SC 500 as a “general demolition bomb” 80 inches in length in total, weighing in at 500kg with 220kg filling. The filling is described as “40/60 or 50/50 Amatol TNT, trialene.”

Residents affected by the cordon, with a local mechanic from Wayne’s Mobile Mechanic Ltd telling Sky News “It’s been a very scary moment for myself, my wife and three children.

“[The reaction’s] unbelievable and very scary as we live yards from the scene.”

By late afternoon on Friday, after the removal operation was over, evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes.

The council said: “We have been notified by the military that operation has been a success and the bomb has been removed.

“We can now start removing the cordon so people who have been evacuated can return to their homes.”

Johnny Mercer, MP for Plymouth Moor View, thanked emergency responders.

He wrote on social media: “A huge thank you and massive respect to all the Police, coastguard, military, mountain rescue, Plymouth City Council staff and multiple volunteers who have worked around the clock to deal with this bomb in Keyham.

“I expect all 10,000 evacuated residents to return this evening.”

The man who discovered the bomb told Plymouth Live he was helping prepare the groundwork in the back garden of his daughter’s property for an extension when he found it.

One resident added: “We’ve been told to leave our homes – all the residents in St Aubyn Avenue. Police are out knocking on doors telling people there’s been a bomb found. They’ve closed off the lane behind our road. Apparently it’s an old Second World War bomb.”

Plymouth City Council’s leader Tudor Evans said everyone involved in the response to the World War Two bomb’s discovery in Keyham has been extraordinary, saying the incident had brought out the best in Plymouth.

Giles Perritt, assistant chief executive Plymouth City Council, said more than 1,000 staff and officers had been involved in the operation.

He said: “Today is the result of an enormous amount of planning.

“You won’t be surprised to hear that officers and partners have been working around the clock since this incident started to come up with the best and safest solution to deal with this device.”

Former Post Office boss stripped of her CBE

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells has forfeited her CBE for “bringing the honours system into disrepute” following her handling of the Horizon IT scandal.

Ms Vennells was named on Friday in a list published on the Cabinet Office website as an individual whose honour had been revoked by the King.

Issuing an apology last month, Ms Vennells announced that she planned to hand back her CBE “with immediate effect” following fresh fallout over the wrongful prosecution of hundreds of subpostmasters.

The former chief executive, who ran the Post Office while it routinely denied there was a problem with its Horizon IT system, was appointed a CBE in December 2018.

MPs and victims of the scandal have for years called for Ms Vennells to be stripped of the rank, which has the full title Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Her inclusion in the new year honours list came despite legal action being launched against the Post Office by 555 subpostmasters in 2017.

The Post Office said she was recognised for her work on “diversity and inclusion” as well as her “commitment to the social purpose at the heart of the business and her dedication in putting the customer first”.

Demands for her to return the honour intensified after ITV drama Mr Bates vs The Post Office brought the widespread miscarriage of justice back into the spotlight at the turn of the year.

More than 1.2 million people signed a petition calling for her to be stripped of the CBE.

The subpostmaster injustice saw more than 700 Post Office branch managers convicted after faulty Fujitsu accounting software called Horizon made it look as though money was missing from their shops.

A public inquiry into the scandal is ongoing.

In a statement to the PA news agency last month, Ms Vennells said: “I have so far maintained my silence as I considered it inappropriate to comment publicly while the inquiry remains ongoing and before I have provided my oral evidence.

“I am, however, aware of the calls from subpostmasters and others to return my CBE.

“I have listened and I confirm that I return my CBE with immediate effect.

“I am truly sorry for the devastation caused to the subpostmasters and their families, whose lives were torn apart by being wrongly accused and wrongly prosecuted as a result of the Horizon system.

“I now intend to continue to focus on assisting the inquiry and will not make any further public comment until it has concluded.”

While an individual can signal that they want to renounce their honour, the only person who can sign off on the forfeit is the monarch, following advice from the Forfeiture Committee — something King Charles has now done in Ms Vennells’s case.

Before the former Post Office boss issued her statement last month, Downing Street had made it clear that prime minister Rishi Sunak would “strongly support” a review of whether she should hold onto the honour.

Ms Vennells was chief executive of the company from 2012 to 2019, taking the helm in the same year that it split from Royal Mail as part of the latter’s privatisation.

Ms Vennells, an ordained Anglican priest in the Church of England, is due to give evidence to the Horizon inquiry in April when it resumes.

Home secretary James Cleverly said on Friday the government would not be “distracted or deterred” from providing compensation to wronged subpostmasters.

Last month Mr Sunak committed to exonerating all those caught up in the scandal in order to ensure compensation can be paid by the summer to those still waiting for payment.

Further details about the legislation ministers plan to bring forward to help reverse the injustice was announced in the Commons on Thursday.

Asylum seeker sentenced after four migrants die in Channel

An asylum seeker has been detained for nine years and six months for the manslaughter of fellow migrants who drowned trying to cross the English Channel.

Ibrahima Bah was found guilty of killing four migrants when he piloted an “unseaworthy” boat between France and the UK on 14 December 2022.

During a retrial at Canterbury Crown Court, Bah said smugglers threatened to kill him if he did not drive the boat but the prosecution said he was not telling the truth and he owed his fellow passengers a “duty of care” as their pilot.

Jurors reached a majority verdict of 10 to two in what is believed to be the first conviction of its kind on Monday.

They also found the Senegalese national unanimously guilty of facilitating illegal entry to the UK.

Sentencing Bah on Friday, Mr Justice Johnson KC, said: “The boat was wholly inadequate, and not remotely seaworthy for a Channel crossing.

“It was a death trap, just as every boat of its type which sets of across the Channel in similar circumstances is a death trap – the fact that in many cases fatalities do not occur is not remotely reassuring.

“What happened is an utter tragedy for those who died and for their families.”

During the trial, jurors were told that the home-built, low-quality inflatable should have had no more than 20 people on board but carried at least 43 people in the English Channel that night.

While the majority of travellers paid thousands of euros to smugglers for a spot in the overcrowded vessel, prosecutor Duncan Atkinson KC said it appears Bah did not pay for his journey because he piloted the dingy, therefore owing his fellow passengers a “duty of care”.

Mr Atkinson said Bah was not trained or licensed to lead the voyage and there was insufficient safety equipment such as life jackets and no flares or radio on board.

The court heard that when the boat got into trouble a number of migrants described water reaching their knees within 30 minutes of leaving the French coast.

One asylum seeker, Amrullah Ahmadzai, described to jurors how everyone on the boat was screaming and trying to call for help on their mobile phones during the journey, before being rescued by a fishing boat.

He described how the skipper tried to steer the dinghy towards the fishing vessel to help the passengers, and without him “we would have all died”.

A crew on a UK fishing boat called the Arcturus came across the sinking dinghy and tried to rescue the passengers, with help from the RNLI, air ambulance and UK Border Force.

A total of 39 survivors were brought to shore in the port of Dover.

The exact number of migrants who drowned is unknown as it appears at least one migrant’s body was not recovered, Mr Atkinson said.

Three of the people who died were known only as unknown male persons while the other man was named as Hajratullah Ahmadi.

Supporters of Bah attended the sentencing and are expected to hold a protest outside the Home Office in London on Friday evening.

Following the verdict on Monday, Captain Support UK, a solidarity platform for those accused of driving boats to Europe, said Bah’s conviction was a “violent escalation in the persecution of migrants to ‘Stop the Boats’”.

However, Illegal Immigration Minister Michael Tomlinson said on X: “Ibrahima Bah put dozens of lives in extreme danger by taking charge of a perilous and illegal small boat crossing. It is right that he has been brought to justice today.

“Once you get into a small boat, criminal gangs don’t care whether you live or die.”

Paul Marshall’s hateful ‘likes’ prove he’s unfit to be a media mogul

It is, we are told, a matter of some national importance that His Majesty’s Daily Telegraph should not fall into the wrong hands. It has been widely debated whether Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour, while a successful owner of Manchester City, should be allowed near the hallowed newsroom.

But what about Sir Paul Marshall?

Until recently, few outside the magic circle of hedge fund managers had heard of Sir Paul, who was quietly amassing a fortune said to be north of £600m. But then he started showing signs of wanting to be a mini-Rupert Murdoch, and people began to pay attention.

A culinary tour of the Algarve: from wine and seafood to desserts

The Algarve, on Portugal’s southern coast, is the country’s most popular holiday destination for good reason: it boasts over 100 miles of beautiful beaches, charming villages, and endless culture and activities. But one of the best reasons to visit is the region’s incredible food. As befits its proximity to the sea, fish and seafood are an absolute highlight, but the region’s diverse cuisine boasts dishes to suit every taste and palate.

To help you find your perfect foodventure, travel experts Jet2holidays offer breaks in more than 50 amazing destinations, including the Algarve. All holidays include accommodation, return flights, transfers and 22kg baggage, all wrapped up in an ABTA and ATOL-protected package for a low £60pp deposit*. There are thousands of Free Child Places** available, and infants under two go free✝. Meaning it couldn’t be easier to book your next break with the Which? Travel Brand of the Year 2023 and Tripadvisor’s Best UK Airline.

Here we explore some of the region’s must-try dishes, foodie locales and immersive experiences, so you can start planning your own culinary-infused getaway.

Whether you’re in a bigger, buzzier town such as Lagos, Albufeira or Faro, or enjoying the serenity of a smaller seaside resort like Olhão or Praia da Luz, you’ll find many of the same delicious local specialities on restaurant menus.

Must-eats include conquilhas à algarvia, a mix of plump clams fresh from the Atlantic, cooked with garlic coriander, olive oil, lemon juice and slices of succulent Portuguese sausage. There’s nothing better than tucking into a plateful, using bread to mop up the juices, and savouring a crisp glass of white wine at an al fresco eatery overlooking the ocean. You can’t miss the Algarve’s mouth-watering shrimp bisque either: a rich, creamy soup made with just-caught prawns and thickened with day-old bread. Served with a squeeze of lemon, it’s a beach holiday in a bowl.

Sardines are another Algarve must-sample, often simply grilled and served with potatoes, but in the beach town of Portimão, they’re cooked in a blend of herbs and spices, placed on a thick slice of bread, and served with a fresh tomato, cucumber, red pepper, onion and oregano salad. Locals tuck into the fish first, then enjoy the oil and herb-soaked crust afterwards. You might also spot diners eating their supper straight from a metal pot; this is a cataplana, in which a hearty stew of onions, peppers and tomatoes mixed with fish and shellfish is simmered and served.

Portuguese piri-piri chicken is one of the Algarve’s most popular dishes. Known as frango assado, the chicken is grilled or barbecued with a spicy, piri-piri chilli sauce marinade for a favourite the whole family will love. Wild boar, known as javali, is another crowd pleaser: just like pork, it can be served grilled, oven-baked or in rich stews.

If you’re not in the mood for a full meal, you’ll enjoy the tradition of petiscos, essentially light bites or snacks. Order a few of these small plates to share – perfect washed down with a chilled beer – options include the likes of cod fritters, fried prawns, sliced chorizo, or a selection of cheese and charcuterie.

And as a sweet treat to finish any meal, try the dom rodrigo, a delicious, sticky, pyramid-shaped dessert dating from the 18th century, which combines sugar, egg yolks, ground almonds, cinnamon and fios de ovos (a traditional Portuguese sweet, made by boiling eggs in sugar syrup).

Fancy recreating some of these dishes yourself? Book into a local cookery class, where you can learn how to make the food you’ve enjoyed here when you’re back home. Further immersive experiences can involve meeting and chatting to local producers, or getting a tour of a local market with a chef before cooking with ingredients you’ve bought.

There are also several excellent food markets throughout the towns and villages of the Algarve, and it’s worth spending some time wandering around them and marveling at the glossy, farm-fresh produce on offer.

The most popular market in Algarve is Olhão market. Set in twin bright red-brick buildings facing the Ria Formosa lagoon, Olhão Mercado Municipal comprises two market halls. One sells fresh fish directly from the boats. The other fruits, vegetables, meat, nuts, flowers, dried fruits and Portuguese sweets. On Saturday mornings, visitors can experience a much larger farmers’ market, where local farmers and producers exhibit and sell their products directly on the streets around the market building.

Another must-visit is the monthly market in the small town of Moncarapacho, just beyond Olhão, which sells fruit, vegetables and fish, and boasts a range of food stalls so you can eat as you wander. In Lagos you’ll find a typical farmers’ market, where you can pick up fresh eggs, olives, homemade jams, sweets and home-baked bread, while the lively Loulé Municipal Market is located in a historic building that dates back more than 100 years and offers plenty of tasty produce, including fresh fish and organic food.

Finally, for those seeking a tipple, as well as the tales and terroir behind it, the Algarve boasts a wealth of vineyards where you can sample different varieties and learn about their production. The wine region here consists of four DOCs (a ‘designation of controlled origin’, signifying high quality and authenticity): Lagos, Portimão, Lagoa and Tavira, which benefit from a warm, sunny climate, perfect for growing vines. You’ll find crisp whites such as Arinto, Malvasia Fina and Crato Branco, ideal for summer sipping, but also robust, velvety reds, such as Negra Mole, Castelão and Trincadeira. Saúde! (Portuguese for ‘Cheers!’)

To make it even easier for you to enjoy the ultimate break in the Algarve, Jet2holidays provides the perfect package holiday, looking after you at every step of the way with award-winning customer service and In-Resort Customer Helpers to ensure your stay goes smoothly.

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*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. Full payment required by balance due date.

** One free child place per two paying adults. Subject to availability. T&Cs apply, please see www.jet2holidays.com/promotions#fcp for further details.

Applicable for all infants under the age of two years on the date of return. Infants are not entitled to a flight seat (they must be seated with a parent or guardian) or a 22kg baggage allowance.

With the right tools, Ukraine can still finish this job

After two years of merciless destruction that has left cities flattened, millions dead, wounded or displaced, plus an unknown number of children kidnapped and war crimes committed, it takes an effort to recall just how almost casually it started.

A column of unprotected Russian tanks trundled south from the border on the comparatively short, 236-mile journey to the Ukrainian capital, as if they were driving to the shops. Long before they reached Kyiv, they had been stopped and, shortly after, they retreated.

Whatever gains Russia made in the east were purely temporary, and most have been won back by the Ukrainians, particularly in the earlier phases of the war. The Russian invaders were not, as perhaps some in the Kremlin dreamt they might, welcomed with flowers and the traditional gifts of bread and salt as they “liberated” Ukraine from its supposed Nazi masters.

Will Shamima Begum ever be allowed to return to the UK?

Shamima Begum, the “Isis bride”, now 24 years of age, has lost her attempt at the Court of Appeal to overturn the government’s decision to strip her of British citizenship. Begum travelled with friends to Syria at the age of 15 without the knowledge of her parents, school or police, married an Isis fighter (a Dutch national), and became involved herself in supporting Isis as a law enforcer. She claims to have been trafficked and that she is the victim of abuse.

In February 2019, soon after Isis retreated from its “capital” in Syria, she was found in a refugee camp, and her UK citizenship was revoked shortly after. Since then she has conducted a legal and media campaign to have it restored and to return to Britain, where she was born. She has had three children, all now deceased. Thus far she’s enjoyed little success, or indeed sympathy.

Her solicitor Gareth Peirce states: “Shamima Begum is held unlawfully in indefinite arbitrary detention, which is banned by every international treaty. She and others, other women and children, are in what is not a refugee camp but a prison camp, and that is conceded by the United Kingdom, which has stated to the UN that it agrees that Geneva Convention articles apply. Unlawful as that is, there is no exit. There is no way that she can escape from unlawful imprisonment.”