INDEPENDENT 2024-03-07 16:04:02

Horner holds press conference after accuser suspended by Red Bull

The woman who accused Christian Horner of inappropriate behaviour has been suspended. The latest report from the Sun comes with the Red Bull boss due to speak today as the F1 season resumes at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

A spokesperson for the company maintained that they “cannot comment on this internal matter,” with teams preparing for today’s practice sessions.

The latest news comes after Max Verstappen refused to rule out the prospect of joining Mercedes in 2025, following his father’s strong words about the impact of the Horner saga on the team. The three-time world champion, who coasted to victory in the opening race of the 2024 season in Bahrain on Saturday, has a contract with Red Bull until 2028, signed two years ago.

However, the current divisions within the team – namely between his father Jos alongside Helmut Marko, and embattled team principal Horner – have raised the prospect of the Dutchman leaving the team. It has emerged that Verstappen has a release clause in his contract allowing him to leave should Marko depart. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff also had dinner with Jos in Bahrain last week.

Follow the latest news with The Independent from the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

BBC presenter Nick Sheridan dies aged 32

BBC presenter and children’s author Nick Sheridan has died aged 32 following a short illness.

The news was announced by the broadcaster in a post on X/Twitter on Thursday morning (7 March).

Head of news Gary Smith said Nick had been a “wonderful colleague to those of us who have worked with him since he joined BBC Scotland in 2018”.

He added: “He was a hugely talented journalist, presenter and author – and one of those rare people who light up the lives of everyone around them. Funny, clever, kind. A lovely man.

“Our hearts go out to his parents, who have been with him over the past ten days, to his partner, Lewis, and to all the rest of his family and friends.”

In a tribute, Former First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon called Sheridan “young, talented, vivacious, and full of potential”.

“What a horrible, senseless loss. My thoughts are with his family, colleagues and many friends,” she wrote on X/Twitter.

The presenter’s BBC Scotland colleague Fiona Stalker wrote on the platform: “There are no words. He was so very loved. I am so thankful for every minute with him. The very best.” Stalker shared several pictures with Sheridan, including one of them having tea in the studio and another wearing wetsuits on a beach.

Sheridan, originally from Wexford in Ireland, presented programmes including Reporting Scotland, Drivetime, the Nine and Seven Days since joining BBC Scotland in 2018.

The journalist had worked in broadcast for more than a decade, previously presenting for RTE News2day, a news programme for young people by Ireland’s national broadcaster, before he moved into a role on the foreign affairs desk.

He then joined BBC Scotland as a researcher, before becoming an on-camera journalist, presenter and correspondent.

Sheridan developed a passion for writing children’s books and announced in 2021 that he had signed a four-book deal with the publishing house Simon and Schuster. He released several children’s stories including Breaking News: How to Tell What’s Real From What’s Rubbish, The Case of the Phantom Treasure and The Case of the Runaway Train.

He wrote Breaking News to help children navigate misinformation in the modern media, filled with illustrations and interactive activities.

The Case Of…. books were from Sheridan’s illustrated mystery series, which was described upon release as the “Scooby-Doo for a new generation, perfect for fans of Pamela Butchart and Sam Copeland”.

Palace breaks silence on Kate health rumours

The palace has addressed rumours surrounding Kate Middleton’s health following her temporary absense from the public eye as she recovers from surgery.

As the Princess of Wales takes time away from her royal duties, and Prince William performs public engagements to be with his wife, rumours and unfounded conspiracy theories have gained traction online.

Referring to William, a royal spokesperson told People magazine: “His focus is on his work and not on social media.”

The remarks come as Kate’s uncle, Gary Goldsmith, continues to make waves in the Celebrity Big Brother House.

Discussing the rumours surrounding his niece’s health, Goldsmith reassured fellow contestants revealing: “I spoke to her mum, she’s getting the best care in the world.”

When asked if Kate would be back, he responded: “She’s amazing, she will be back, of course she will.”

On Tuesday, Mr Goldsmith launched the first of several attacks on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. He first said Harry couldn’t “throw your family under the bus” referring to his memoir Spare and “expect to be invited round for Christmas.

Then he said Meghan’s entrance into the family had brought an extra dynamic that “puts a stick in the spokes and creates so much drama”.

Inquiry to be held into police investigation of Emma Caldwell murder

A public inquiry is to be held into the police investigation of the murder of Emma Caldwell after it took almost two decades to bring her killer to justice, Scotland’s justice secretary has announced.

Angela Constance said an independent judge-led statutory public inquiry will be held to examine the police response to the murder, after both she and Scottish first minister Humza Yousaf met with Miss Caldwell’s mother earlier this week.

Miss Caldwell was killed by serial rapist Iain Packer in 2005. However, while he was interviewed by police officers the month after her body was found in May that year, it was only last week that Packer was convicted of her murder – along with 11 rapes and 21 further charges, including sexual assaults and abduction, involving multiple women over 26 years. Packer was jailed for life with a minimum term of 36 years at the High Court in Glasgow on Wednesday.

Police Scotland has already apologised to the family of Miss Caldwell and his other victims, saying they were “let down” by policing in 2005.

Ms Constance told members of the Scottish Parliament that the 27-year-old’s mother Margaret Caldwell said to her: “My daughter Emma and the many victims who so courageously spoke up deserve nothing less than a robust, independent public inquiry and a judge who will act without fear or favour.

“There are those who say that such inquiries take too long. My family have struggled for 19 years to get justice and we will wait however long it takes to see the truth, and will accept nothing less.”

Miss Caldwell was reported missing by her family in April 2005 and her body was found the following month in Limefield Woods, near Biggar, South Lanarkshire.

Mrs Caldwell said that her husband Willie died of cancer and “with a broken heart” in 2011 before seeing justice for his daughter.

She said her daughter always said she would come home and sort herself out, adding “every day it breaks my heart” that she never got the chance.

Following Packer’s conviction on Wednesday, Assistant Chief Constable for major crime and public protection Bex Smith said: “Police Scotland launched a re-investigation of the case in 2015 after instruction from the Lord Advocate.

“It is clear that further investigations should have been carried out into Emma’s murder following the initial inquiry in 2005.

“The lack of investigation until 2015 caused unnecessary distress to her family and all those women who had come forward to report sexual violence.”

The Independent has contacted Police Scotland and the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for comment.

More follows on this breaking news story…

Men telling other men to lose weight is cruel… but is it ever OK?

Lord Peter Mandelson was on a podcast the other day, talking body politics. “My problem with Rishi Sunak’s fashion is that he wears these skinny suits and narrow ties… and they diminish him,” said the former secretary of state. “Just to be even-handed about it, by the same token,” added Mandelson, “Keir Starmer needs to shed a few pounds.”

Shed a few pounds! Back in the knife drawer, Mandy!

In the House of Commons yesterday, chancellor Jeremy Hunt doubled down on Mandelson’s comments. “I know he has been taking advice from Lord Mandelson, who yesterday rather uncharitably said he needed to shed a few pounds,” Hunt said to Starmer. “Ordinary families will shed more than a few pounds if that lot get in.”

The truth about the £100k gender pension gap

It can be easy to bury your head in the sand when it comes to retirement, especially when it seems a long way off. But if you want to live comfortably when the time comes to stop working, planning ahead is vital. It’s even more important for women, who are on track to have significantly less money than men in later life.

Just as there’s a gender pay-gap, there’s also a discrepancy between how much income men and women have in retirement, too – and it’s even bigger. Research from Scottish Widows shows there is a massive 39% gender pension gap*. This gap grows wider over the course of an average woman’s working life – at 22, there is a £100 difference in pension savings between men and women. By 65, this has grown to a shocking £100,000 difference. For the average woman to level this out, she would have to pay an additional £96 every month over her working life.

Scottish Widows latest ‘Women and Retirement’ report shows that a third of women are not on track to achieve even a basic lifestyle in retirement, covering essential needs, with only a small amount left over for anything else. It means many women won’t have the money to live comfortably, let alone do the things they hope to in retirement, such as travel, socialise and pursue hobbies. The average woman is set to receive £12k per year of income in today’s money during retirement, after paying for any expected housing expenses, compared to £19k for the average man. This includes private pension, other long-term savings, inheritance and the state pension or pension credits.

This gender pension gap is largely driven by deep-seated structural issues. The gender pay/wage gap is a factor, as, naturally, when women earn less, they have less to save. Women are also more likely to work part-time and to take career breaks due to caring responsibilities and a lack of affordable childcare. “Childcare is a huge contributing factor for women, often resulting in them giving up work or reducing their working hours to look after their family,” says Jill Henderson, Scottish Widows’ Head of Business Development. “After women have children the gap between their pension and that of a typical man’s starts to widen. This is because women tend to take on the lion’s share of childcare and employment breaks or part time working – all of which are big drivers of the gender pension gap.” Research found 63% of mothers have either reduced the number of days they worked per week when returning from parental leave or have not yet returned, compared to just over 16% of men.

Some women bear the brunt more than others. “The inability to save has a devastating impact on women’s income and ability to thrive in later life,” says Henderson. “Those women who are in a relationship fare better, but those who are single, divorced or are single mothers are most vulnerable.”

Two-thirds of single women and 60% of divorced women aren’t on track for a minimum lifestyle in retirement, while for single mothers the figures are even starker, at 75%. Working part time, coupled with other financial pressures, makes it much more difficult for single mothers to save for retirement. To make things even more difficult, gaps in work for raising children can also affect eligibility for the state pension. It means that single mothers are almost twice as likely to live in poverty in retirement than the average UK woman.

The overall picture is worrying, but there is some room for optimism. Auto enrolment – where an employer must automatically enrol eligible employees into their pension programme – has nearly doubled the number of females saving into a workplace pension in the last decade. For most people, the state pension will not provide enough income to live comfortably in retirement, so it’s vital to invest in private pension pots.

Recent legislation is set to make two key changes to auto-enrolment; reducing the age requirement from 22 to 18, and removing the lower earnings limit (currently £6,240) which means helps people qualify for auto enrolment and get employer contributions and tax relief from the first ound they earn. “These changes will be most valuable to the young and lower paid, including those who work part-time, most of whom are women,” says Henderson.

The ideal amount to be putting away is 15% of your salary (a combination of what you and your employer pay in, plus any tax relief), but even if you can’t manage that, every little bit makes a difference, especially if you get started today. “People can only save what they can afford to, but we suggest people check in on their pension regularly especially if their situation changes,” says Henderson. Young women are now more likely to start saving earlier in life than men — and the sooner you start, the better the position you’ll be in when you retire.

When it comes to planning for retirement, knowledge is power. Scottish Widows have created a new Beat The Gap tool ( to help simplify how people engage with pensions, and make it easier for women (and men) to understand how things like working pattern, and childcare can affect their pension. By inputting some simple information, including gender, age and salary, it plots the user against the UK average pension across their lifetime. You can then see where the gap is most likely to emerge and get tailored tips on how to boost your pension and close the gap.

It’s part of a range of free educational support to help women plan for their retirement.

There’s a long way to go to close the gender pension gap, with many societal changes that need to happen. Until then, being aware of the factors that can affect their pension can help empower women to take the steps they need to ensure a more comfortable retirement, while they wait for the bigger picture to shift.

Find out more about the gender pension gap, plus expert tips and free tools to help you save for your retirement at

*2023 RR and 2023 W&R reports (based on the National Retirement Forecast)

The Budget is far too little, too late to save the Conservative Party

Well within living memory, a pre-Budget leak would be a resignation matter for a chancellor of the Exchequer – and Treasury ministers were placed in a state of strict pre-Budget “purdah”, during which media appearances were strictly forbidden. Times change, and now they’ve altered to the extent that Jeremy Hunt’s latest package of measures has been so widely and comprehensively floated, briefed and analysed that when he got to his feet he had nothing to add of any substance.

The cuts in national insurance, adjustments to child benefit thresholds, the freeze in fuel duty, and the “full expensing” on leased assets were so well-trailed that the announcements, all significant, were met only with a collective national shrug. Another tradition was broken because the Commons chamber was continuously noisy, and the deputy speaker made only token attempts to impose the sepulchral silence in which Budgets used to be heard, aside from rare moments of gross disorder.

The overall effect was to make the Budget less of an event than the government surely wished for. Indeed the lack of a final rabbit out of the hat – which in reality the press were fully expecting – left Mr Hunt presiding over something of an anti-climax. Rather than the crack of a starting pistol on a frantic period of electioneering, it was a bit boring. It may therefore be just as well that the supposed “early” election (in reality very close to the end of the parliament in any case) seems to have been abandoned. It certainly did not feel like a Budget that might be the game-changer the Tories so desperately need. On balance, Mr Hunt would have been better off keeping schtum.

‘The Kremlin tried to recruit me – then I had to flee for my safety’

When the chief rabbi of Moscow was summoned by Putin’s FSB agents to Sadovnicheskaya Street police station in 2003, they had one goal: to turn him into a Russian agent.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, who had been chief rabbi for the previous decade, was able to resist the Russian state in their efforts to turn him. But when Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago, his time was up.

Having refused to endorse the war, Rabbi Goldschmidt fled, first to Hungary and then Israel, urging other Jewish people to leave Russia while they could. He was designated a “foreign agent” by the Kremlin for his criticism of Putin, whose rise he had witnessed at close quarters.