The Telegraph 2024-03-05 16:30:32

Labour claims Tories planning May election as Hunt to cut NI by 2p

Labour today claimed the Tories are preparing for a general election in May as Jeremy Hunt gets set to announce a 2p cut to National Insurance at the Budget tomorrow. 

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow paymaster general, said he believed a May contest is now the Conservative Party’s “preferred choice” as he challenged Rishi Sunak to set a date. 

He told Times Radio: “I think everything the Conservatives are doing in terms of both their advertising on social media and their political positioning suggests to me that May is their preferred choice and I think we are heading for a general election in May.” 

Greg Hands, a trade minister, told Times Radio he did not believe there would be a general election in May. 

The speculation over the timing of the election came as Government sources confirmed Mr Hunt will announce a 2p cut to National Insurance tomorrow in a move which will be worth £450 for the average worker. 

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Ukraine strikes oil depot in Russian border region

A Ukrainian drone struck an oil depot in the Russian border region of Belgorod on Tuesday, a military intelligence source in Kyiv told AFP.

The source said at least one fuel tank was set ablaze following the attack on the oil facility in the Russian village of Dolgoye, in Belgorod, about 2.5 miles from the Ukraine border. 

Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said emergency services were dealing with a fire at an “infrastructure facility”, but did not mention a drone.

“There were no casualties. Operational and emergency services are working on the site. All circumstances of the incident are being established,” he said.

Kyiv has ramped up drone attacks on Russia’s energy industry in the past three months, deeming it “fair” retaliation on infrastructure Moscow uses to fuel its invasion.

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Double-decker bus crashes through shop window in London

A double-decker bus crashed into a shop next to a branch of All Bar One in central London, with one person taken to hospital.

The yellow vehicle, which had no passengers on it, struck the vacant shop shortly after 10am in New Oxford Street, Soho.

Police said there were no injuries with the driver understood to have left the bus before emergency crews arrived at the scene.

Witnesses claimed the driver was helped by builders who dragged him out of the vehicle through a window.

Neighbouring shops and offices were evacuated, with police officers telling workers it could be several hours before they could return.

One woman, who works in a nearby Costa coffee shop, told The Telegraph the crash “felt like a bomb”.

“I heard a loud crash and everyone ran out to see what happened,” she said. “We looked outside and saw the bus had crashed into the shop next door.

“I called 999 and they said they had a lot of people contacting them about it. The fire brigade arrived in about three minutes and they evacuated all the customers.”

She added: “There was no one on the bus, just the driver, and he didn’t seem to be hurt. A group of builders had to pull him out of the window because the door didn’t work.

“If that was just a little to the left, it would have gone straight through our window. If there were customers there then they could have been badly hurt.”

Fiona Mansfield, who works in an office above All Bar One, added: “It was pretty scary and we all ran to look out of the window to see what happened.

“It’s not the kind of thing you expect to happen on a normal working day. It took us all by surprise.”

Another office worker, who gave her name as Maya, said: “We just heard a loud crash.

“We were really worried that someone had been hurt because there’s a whole line of cafes and restaurants there. It could have been a lot worse.”

The road was closed with police officers and firefighters at the scene.

London Ambulance Service said one person was taken to hospital after paramedics treated two people at the scene.

A spokesman said: “We were called at 10.10am today [March 5] to reports of a road traffic collision on New Oxford Street, WC1A.

“We sent resources to the scene, including an ambulance crew, a cycle paramedic, an incident response officer and members of our hazardous area response team.

“Our first paramedic arrived on scene in approximately five minutes.

“We treated two people. We took one patient to hospital and discharged the other at the scene.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: “Firefighters are at the scene of a road traffic collision on New Oxford Street in Soho.

“One double-decker bus collided into the front of a building. One man left the bus before the brigade’s arrival and is being assessed on scene by London Ambulance Service crews.

“Road closures are in place and people are advised to avoid the area at this time.

“The Brigade was called at 10.11am. Two fire engines and two fire and rescue units from Soho, Euston and Battersea fire stations are at the scene.”

Transport for London said it was working to remove the bus, with damage understood to be superficial.

A spokesman said: “A route 8 bus has collided with a building on New Oxford Street.

“There were no passengers onboard the bus and we have support available for anyone affected by this incident. We are working with Stagecoach London, the operator, to establish what happened.”

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MoD jumps gun with Princess of Wales Trooping the Colour announcement

The Ministry of Defence has prompted confusion after announcing the Princess of Wales’s attendance at Trooping the Colour without consulting Kensington Palace.

The Army’s website announced that the Princess, as Colonel of the Irish Guards, would review soldiers on parade on June 8.

However, the palace was not consulted ahead of the announcement and has not yet confirmed her attendance.

While plans are in place for the Princess to attend, sources said the palace would make the official announcement as and when a final decision is made.

The MoD said the King, who is undergoing cancer treatment, would also be back in action for his official birthday parade the following Saturday, June 15.

Tickets have gone on sale for both events.

First announcement for Princess

The announcement is the first to be announced for the Princess since she stepped back from official duties to convalesce following abdominal surgery on Jan 16.

Buckingham Palace sources said that planning for the King’s future engagements continued, with allowance to be made for his changed circumstances, if necessary, nearer the time.

The Army’s website, which is selling tickets for £15, said the Trooping the Colour attended by the Princess would be the same as the parade traditionally inspected by the monarch.

The site said: “Trooping the Colour reviewed by Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales is identical to Trooping the Colour reviewed by His Majesty The King, with the exception that some additional mounted officers ride when His Majesty The King is present.

“Taking part will be over 1,400 soldiers of the Household Division and The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, including 400 musicians from the Massed Bands, all of whom will parade on Horse Guards for the second of two formal reviews.

“Trooping the Colour reviewed by Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales also includes 250 soldiers from the Foot Guards who will line the processional route along The Mall.

“The soldiers will be inspected by Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales, Colonel Irish Guards.”

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Russian patrol boat sunk by Ukrainian sea drones off Crimea

Ukrainian sea drones sank a Russian Black Sea Fleet patrol ship off occupied Crimea, Kyiv claimed on Tuesday.

Ukraine’s navy said explosive-packed drones had hit the ship near the Kerch Strait off the Crimean peninsula, causing “damage to the stern, starboard and port sides”.

“As for the crew, the details are being clarified. There are dead and wounded. But it is likely that some of the crew managed to evacuate,” military intelligence spokesman Andriy Yusov told local media.

Ukrainian forces claim to have destroyed more than two dozen Russian ships since Moscow invaded in February 2022, including several in recent weeks.

Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence unit released a video on Tuesday showing what it said was the overnight attack. The footage showed a naval drone approaching the side of the Sergei Kotov, a 308-foot patrol boat, before a large explosion can be seen sending fire, smoke and debris into the sky above the vessel.

Train and highway traffic was temporarily stopped on the bridge linking the Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland following the attack, according to the Telegram channel of a Russia-installed official in Crimea.

Andriy Yermak, president Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, said on Telegram on Tuesday that “The Russian Black Sea Fleet is a symbol of occupation. It cannot be in the Ukrainian Crimea,” in an apparent reference to the attack.

It came as Ukraine’s air force said on Tuesday it had downed 18 of 22 Iranian-designed attack drones launched by Russia over the Black Sea port city of Odesa.

The Russian defence ministry did not immediately reply to a Reuters request for comment.

Last month, Ukraine claimed it twice sank Russian warships using drones – the Russian missile-armed corvette Ivanovets and the Caesar Kunikov landing ship. Russian officials did not confirm those claims.

Kyiv officials say 20 per cent of Russian missile attacks on Ukraine are launched from the Black Sea. Hitting Russian ships there is embarrassing for Moscow.

Last year, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Moskva guided-missile cruiser, sank after it was heavily damaged in a missile attack.

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British Museum accused of sexism after ‘misguided’ Roman Empire meme

The British Museum has been accused of sexism after suggesting single women can attract a man by “looking confused” at its Roman exhibition…

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Grandchildren whose lack of visits ‘hurt’ retired soldier lose legal battle over his will

A retired soldier who was “hurt” that his grandchildren did not visit him more often was entitled to leave them only £50 each of his £500,000 fortune, a judge has ruled.

“Strong-willed” Frederick Ward Snr died in 2020, splitting almost all of his estate between his children, Terry Ward and Susan Wiltshire.

However, his late son Fred Jnr’s five adult children were handed just £50 each in envelopes, leading to a family row.

Mr Ward, who died aged 91, told his legal representatives he was upset because he had not been visited by Fred Jnr’s children when he was in hospital three times with a lung condition.

After learning they had been all but disinherited, the five – sisters Carol Gowing, Angela St Marseille, Amanda Higginbotham, Christine Ward and Janet Pett – sued, claiming they should get their late father’s one-third share of their grandfather’s money.

They argued that their uncle and aunt had “unduly influenced” their relative into changing his will at their expense.

‘Entirely rational’

However, their case was thrown out by High Court judge Master James Brightwell, who said it was “entirely rational” for the “disappointed” grandfather to cut out his grandchildren because of their “very limited contact” with him in his last years.

He said that “the evidence does not come close to persuading me” that Terry Ward had “coerced” his father or that Mrs Wiltshire had “controlled” him such as to cast doubt on his will.

In his ruling, Master Brightwell described the 2018 will as “rational” in the circumstances, given that Fred Jnr’s children had not seen much of their grandfather after their father died in 2015.

They had not visited him in hospital because they were not informed he was there, but that was because of how often he was admitted and also “because contact between the parties had stopped in any event”, he said.

The five sisters had made only “very occasional short visits” to see their “disappointed” grandfather, while he was on close terms with his son Terry and Mrs Wiltshire was his full-time carer.

‘Became disappointed’

“It is most likely that given the changed circumstances following Fred Jnr’s death and the limited contact with the claimants after then that Fred became disappointed with the claimants,” he said.

Clearing both Terry Ward and Mrs Wiltshire of influencing their father into effectively cutting his granddaughters out of the will, he said: “The evidence does not come close to persuading me that it is more likely than not that the 2018 will was procured by the undue influence of the defendants or either of them.”

The judge also rejected claims that Mr Ward did not have “capacity” to make the will in 2018 or that it was invalid for “want of knowledge and approval” of its effect.

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