The Telegraph 2024-03-08 16:00:41

Live Tories triggering election in May would be ‘absolutely nuts’, says Osborne

George Osborne said it would be “absolutely nuts” for Rishi Sunak to call a general election in May as he claimed the idea has been considered by No 10. 

The former chancellor told his Political Currency podcast: “There are a surprising number of Tory MPs who think [Downing Street] are considering a May election. There’s quite a lot of Tory MPs who would like a May election because they think things will only get worse politically for the Tories over the coming months.”

He continued: “They are definitely thinking about it. The centre has thought about a May election. 

“But I think it would be absolutely nuts. They are 26 points behind in the opinion polls. You do not call a general election when you’re 26 points behind in the opinion polls and you still have nine months left of your mandate to run. 

“If I was Sunak, I wouldn’t have ruled out an election in January 2025. You want to give yourself maximum room for manoeuvre.” 

The comments came after Mr Sunak yesterday refused to rule out a May contest. He has previously said his “working assumption” is the election will be in the second half of this year. 

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Rupert Murdoch, 92, to marry for fifth time

Rupert Murdoch will embark on his fifth marriage later this year aged 92, after proposing to his girlfriend Elena Zhukova.

The media mogul will marry Ms Zhukova, a 67-year-old retired molecular biologist, in an early summer ceremony a year after they met.

Mr Murdoch has been married four times and engaged on six occasions. Last year, he broke off his engagement to his previous fiancée, Ann Lesley Smith, just two weeks after he proposed.

He met Ms Zhukova last summer through Wendy Deng, his third wife, and quickly decided he intended to marry her, a spokesman told the New York Times on Thursday.

Wedding invitations for a ceremony on Moraga, Mr Murdoch’s California vineyard and estate, have already been sent out.

The ceremony will be Mr Murdoch’s fifth, after a series of tumultuous relationships that have frequently graced the pages of tabloid newspapers that rival his own.

The magnate, who owns The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times, married his first wife, Patricia Booker, in 1956 but the pair divorced 11 years later. They share one daughter.

He then married Anna Murdoch Mann, a Scottish novelist, and the couple had three children before separating in 1999.

Less than three weeks later, he married Wendi Deng, a television producer who was working on the Murdoch-owned Star TV in Hong Kong.

They remained together until 2013, when Mr Murdoch filed for divorce, arguing that their relationship had been irretrievably broken for six months. The post-divorce settlement reportedly cost him £1.1 billion.

Three years later, he married ex-model Jerry Hall, who had been separated from her first husband Mick Jagger since 1999. They too divorced in 2022 – a decision he notified her about via email.

“Jerry, sadly I’ve decided to call an end to our marriage,” he said.

“We have certainly had some good times, but I have much to do … My New York lawyer will be contacting yours immediately.”

In August 2023 Mr Murdoch was introduced to Ms Zhukova, a former molecular researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

She is originally from Moscow and was previously married to Alexander Zhukov, a Russian-born British billionaire energy investor. They have three children.

Mr Murdoch’s latest engagement comes five months after he stepped down as chairman of his media empire, News Corp, which owns hundreds of local and national outlets across the world.

They include Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the publishing house HarperCollins.

While he continues to take an “active role” in his business interests, the day-to-day chairman role is now performed by his son Lachlan.

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Joe Biden hits back at doubts about his age in fiery State of the Union speech

Joe Biden hit back at attacks on his age and boasted of his experience defending American democracy in his final State of the Union address before facing Donald Trump in November’s election.

The President, 81, said his advanced years meant he had seen the Second World War and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, events he said “taught me to embrace freedom and democracy”.

He said it was Mr Trump who subscribed to “ancient ideas” of “hate, anger, revenge, retribution,” as he sought to portray his predecessor as a would-be dictator.

“I know I may not look like it, but I’ve been around a while, and when you get to my age certain things become clearer than ever before,” Mr Biden said.

“I know the American story. Again and again I’ve seen the contest between competing forces in the battle for the soul of our nation, between those who want to pull America back to the past and those who want to move America into the future.

“My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy.”

The hour-long speech covered a range of Mr Biden’s political successes and his plans for a second term in office, including a pledge to reinstate protections for abortion that were removed by the Supreme Court in 2022.

But the President reserved much of his speaking time to warn of the threat to American democracy, which he said were posed by both Mr Trump and Vladimir Putin.

“My message to President Putin is simple,” he said. “We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down.

“History is watching, just like history watched three years ago on January 6th. 

“Insurrectionists stormed this very Capitol and placed a dagger at the throat of American democracy.”

‘Whether young or old, I’ve always known what endures’

The speech, which Mr Biden and his team have been preparing for months, saw a shift in his messaging on the question of his age, which has become a major weakness of his re-election campaign.

It also saw him draw a clear battle line between himself and Mr Trump, who continues to claim that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him.

On Tuesday, both Mr Trump and Mr Biden swept the board of states voting in the Super Tuesday primaries, setting up November’s election as a rematch of the last vote in 2020.

“In my career I’ve been told I’m too young and I’m too old,” Mr Biden said.

“Whether young or old, I’ve always known what endures: our North Star, the very idea of America.

“That we are all created equal and deserve to be treated equally throughout our lives.

“We’ve never fully lived up to that idea, but we’ve never walked away from it either, and I won’t walk away from it now.”

Biden challenges Israel

Mr Biden also used the speech to issue a stark rebuke to Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over the war in Gaza.

He said that while “Israel has a right to go after Hamas” after the October 7 attacks, it also has a “fundamental responsibility to protect innocent civilians in Gaza”, adding that 30,000 non-combatants had been killed.

“Israel must allow more aid into Gaza and ensure that humanitarian workers aren’t caught in the crossfire,” he said.

“To the leadership of Israel I say this: humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip.

“Protecting and saving innocent lives has to be a priority. As we look to the future, the only real solution is a two-state solution.”

The President has faced criticism from some Democrats for his support for Israel’s military action, and risks losing votes from pro-Palestinian voters at the election.

Another political weakness for Mr Biden, illegal migration, produced a tense exchange between the President and Marjorie Taylor Greene, a firebrand Republican congresswoman.

As he urged GOP members to pass his border reform package, Ms Taylor Greene shouted that the debate on the measures was “about Lincoln Riley” – referring to Laken Riley, a college student killed by an illegal migrant in Georgia last month.

Mr Biden and Ms Taylor Greene exchanged barbs about the issue across the floor of the House, while another congressman held up Ms Riley’s name on a sign.

Trump mocks Biden’s cough

Mr Trump followed his rival’s speech and offered “real-time” rebuttals via his Truth Social platform. 

The former president frequently mocked Mr Biden’s age, hair and his episodes of coughing during his speech.

He posted: “See, as he’s getting ready to cough yet again into his right hand, the Fake News Media rushes him off the screen!” 


The Republican frontrunner also said the speech was an “Embarrassment to our Country!”

“That may be the Angriest, Least Compassionate, and Worst State of the Union Speech ever made,” Mr Trump said.

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LTN scrapped after three-mile bus journey took two hours

A controversial low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) scheme in south London is to be scrapped after turning a three-mile bus journey into a two-hour slog.

The scheme at Streatham Wells has been suspended by Labour-run Lambeth council after it caused huge traffic congestion in the suburb.

The authority, which announced the U-turn on Thursday, admitted thatthe scheme had caused an eight per cent increase in traffic on boundary roads.

One bus reportedly took 121 minutes to travel just 2.9 miles after the A23 arterial road, which runs along one side of the LTN, became heavily congested with traffic trying to avoid the scheme.

The about turn comes after Sadiq Khan described the LTN as causing “huge problems” earlier this month. It is the first time the London Mayor has criticised one of the schemes.

Speaking after the decision, a spokesman for Mr Khan said: “The Mayor has always been clear that if road schemes need to be changed or adapted to better work for the local area, then that is the right thing to do, working with local partners and residents.”

Councillors implemented the LTN last year as part of an 18-month trial intended to improve air quality by blocking vehicles from accessing certain residential streets. After LTNs were introduced in the borough, the number of penalty charge notices more than doubled.

But local campaigners including the Lambeth LTN Watch group said the schemes displace traffic onto neighbouring roads and worsen congestion around the fringes.

The backlash, which led to protests from a 60-strong crowd outside the council’s HQ in Brixton, has forced the authority to backtrack on the scheme.

Rezina Chowdhury, the council’s deputy leader, said: “We’ve listened to the concerns raised by local people and recognise the major disruption coming as part of transport improvements on the main road running through Streatham.”

The council also blamed Thames Water roadworks for the congestion and said a segregated cycle lane was planned to replace the LTN.

Neil Garrat, the City Hall Conservative leader, said: “It is a win for all the local people who have had to put up with Labour’s LTN nonsense in Streatham, and we who pressed Labour to open their eyes and look at the disaster they created.”

Susan Hall, the Tory London mayoral candidate, said: “Sadiq Khan forced LTNs like this on Londoners, which do nothing but cause congestion, and has threatened councils that have tried to get rid of them. I will listen and support councils in removing these LTNs.”

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JK Rowling reported to police by trans activist India Willoughby for misgendering

JK Rowling has been reported to the police by trans broadcaster India Willoughby over “misgendering” on social media…

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Vegan protesters accuse RSPCA of supporting ‘gas chambers’ for pigs

Vegan activists have accused the RSPCA of supporting the use of “gas chambers” to stun and slaughter pigs.

Dozens of protesters descended on the charity’s headquarters in Horsham, West Sussex, on Thursday, with placards reading “RSPCA Is The Meat Industry” and “Pigs Are People”.

A member of the public is believed to have punched one of the female activists and squirted water in her face. 

Sussex Police have been approached for comment.

Joey Carbstrong, an Australian animal rights campaigner who led the protests, claimed the RSPCA was complicit in the “abhorrent, barbaric, and cruel” torture of pigs through its welfare branding on pork products.

RSPCA Assured is a sticker used on products to prove that a farm, abattoir, hatchery or haulier complied with animal welfare standards.

Mr Carbstrong claimed many pork products marked with the badge are from abattoirs where carbon dioxide is used to stun pigs before they are slaughtered.

The practice involves pigs, normally in groups of around half a dozen, being stunned using a 70 to 90 per cent carbon dioxide concentrate. Abattoir workers then slit the pigs’ throats within 15 seconds before they regain consciousness.

The RSPCA has repeatedly criticised the use of CO2 to stun pigs, with a spokesman saying: “We urge the UK Government to follow the European Union’s lead to seek a phase-out by investing in research to find a more humane alternative as a top priority.”

In 2018, the RSPCA wrote a joint letter to the government with Compassion in World Farming, an animal rights lobbying group, calling for the practice to be banned by 2024.

Mr Carbstrong argued that this did not go far enough and urged the charity to tell people not to buy pork altogether.

He said: “They know it is egregiously cruel, these chambers, they are complicit in animal torture. CO2 has been known for decades to be abhorrent, barbaric and cruel.” He added that “90 per cent” of pigs in the UK were killed in what he described as “gas chambers”.

Mr Carbstrong, said the use of RSPCA Assured was “false advertising” and “misleads the public”, who associate the charity with animal welfare.

He denied the choice of the terms “gas chambers” was inflammatory, calling it an “accurate description” and adding: “They are being tortured and slaughtered in farms in chambers filled with gas.”

The National Pig Association, the trade association for pig farmers, has admitted the practice is not perfect but remains the “best, most humane and efficacious commercially available option”.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “Every animal matters to us, and we are working hard to improve the lives of farmed animals by successfully lobbying for laws to protect them – such as banning battery cages for hens, sow stalls for pigs and ending live exports.

“We are also actively campaigning to raise awareness of the huge problems nearly a billion meat chickens suffer every year in the UK – another crucial welfare issue the world needs to tackle.

“We set up RSPCA Assured, a non-profit, welfare-focused assurance scheme, to work with farmers, supermarkets and food businesses to continually drive-up standards. Without the RSPCA’s work, farmed animal welfare standards would be lower, not just here in the UK but around the world.

“It is difficult to think about the killing of farmed animals, and it is critical that this process is as humane as possible. We share the concerns about using CO2 gas, and our welfare standards have requirements which reduces the negative experience for the animals involved.

“We agree more humane alternatives need to be developed as a matter of urgency and we urge the UK Government to follow the European Union’s lead to seek a phase out by investing in research to find a more humane alternative as a top priority.”

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Head teacher sacked for tapping toddler son on hand

A head teacher who was sacked for “assault” after tapping her toddler son on the hand was unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has found.

Shelly-Ann Malabver-Goulbourne was trying to get her three-year-old to stop playing with a bottle of hand sanitiser in her office when she used two fingers to attract his attention.

The incident was witnessed by the teacher in charge of child safety, who accused her of hurting her son and filed an official complaint, which led to the head being suspended and the police called.

Despite the police ruling that her actions were “reasonable chastisement” by a parent, Ms Malabver-Goulbourne was found guilty of gross misconduct and sacked.

She is now in line for compensation after an employment judge concluded there was no evidence that she had committed “physical chastisement or an assault” and ruled her dismissal unfair.

Ms Malabver-Goulbourne was the head of Northwold Primary School in Hackney, east London, which is run by the Arbor Academy Trust. 

The hearing was told she had been a teacher for many years, had joined the trust in 2005 and had been head since 2017.

‘Took up a bottle of hand sanitiser’

The incident took place on Jan 17, 2022, when Ms Malabver-Goulbourne was working late in her office.

“It was around 6.20pm and she was packing up her things to go home after having a meeting with the designated lead for safeguarding,” the hearing was told.

“Her two children who attended the school were in her offices with her, waiting for her to take them home. Her youngest child, her son J, who was three years old at the time, was in the room, as was her 11-year-old daughter.

“J took up a bottle of hand sanitiser, which was on a table. Her daughter told her that he had squirted some to the floor. Ms Malabver-Goulbourne took the sanitiser out of his hand.”

Employment Judge Julia Jones said: “I find it likely that she then bent down to his level to speak to him about why he should not be playing with hand sanitiser.

“When she did so, he turned his face away from her and she tapped him with two fingers on the back of his hand to get his attention so that he would look at her to hear what she was saying.”

Two weeks earlier, the toddler had got hand sanitiser in his eye, the tribunal heard. 

“It was with the knowledge of that earlier experience that she wanted to speak to him again to ensure that he understood that hand sanitiser was not a toy that he should be playing with,” it was told.

‘Safeguarding incident’

Ms Bhagwandas, the teacher in charge of child safety, then told Ms Malabver-Goulbourne that she should not have hurt her son and should have spoken to him instead.

Ms Malabver-Goulbourne replied that she had not hurt him, as all she had done was tap him with two fingers to get his attention.

However, Ms Bhagwandas was “unhappy” with her response and completed a “cause for concern” form to report a “safeguarding incident”.

“In it she reported that she had witnessed Ms Malabver-Goulbourne smack J on the hand,” the tribunal heard. “She also stated that before doing so, she had told J that she was going to smack him and expressed disregard for Ms Bhagwandas’ presence in the office.

“Ms Bhagwandas reported that the child had been crying and that she had pacified him.”

‘Reasonable chastisement’

Her complaint led to Ms Malabver-Goulbourne being suspended, a disciplinary investigation being launched and the local authority and police being called.

The tribunal was told that neither the council nor the police thought further action necessary with officers concluding what she had done was “reasonable chastisement”’.

However, the trust continued its investigation into whether Ms Malabver-Goulbourne “assaulted a pupil/child whilst in a position of trust and on school premises”.

When interviewed, Ms Bhagwandas accused the head teacher of inflicting pain on a child, saying she was shocked at what happened and considered it a form of corporal punishment.

Ms Malabver-Goulbourne said her actions were designed to get her son’s attention and not to hurt him. “[She said that] when explaining inappropriate behaviours to her child she will say ‘this is wrong we don’t do that’ and explain why or show him the appropriate way to behave,” the tribunal heard.

In May 2022, the trust sacked her for gross misconduct. Upholding her claim for unfair dismissal, Employment Judge Jones said: “It is this tribunal’s judgment that [the trust] had sufficient evidence… that she was trying to prevent injury to her child and addressing his behaviour. There was no evidence that she had committed physical chastisement or an assault.”

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