INDEPENDENT 2024-03-10 10:04:11


Gove: ‘Good-hearted people’ at Palestine marches should question potential ‘extremist organisers’

Pro-Palestinian marchers should question whether extremist groups are behind some of the protests, Michael Gove said.

He said “good-hearted people” who have taken part in marches should be aware they could be “lending credence” to extremists.

The communities secretary, who is set to produce a new official definition of extremism within days, also warned that chanting “from the River to the Sea” meant calling for the “erasure” of Israel and risked fuelling hate and intimidation.

In the most recent march, thousands of people took to the streets of London to demand a ceasefire in Gaza with singer Charlotte Church among those attending.

Mr Gove told the Sunday Telegraph the new definition of extremist groups would help protesters decide whether to attend pro-Palestinian events.

“If we’re clear about the nature of extremist organisations, then I think that means that some of the people – and there are good-hearted people who go on these marches, I don’t agree with them, but they’re moved by suffering and they want peace – but it may help some of them to question who are organising some of these events. I won’t go into details now, but we will later,” he said.

“Some of the events that have been organised, have been organised by extremist organisations.

“That doesn’t mean that people who have gone on them are extremist, quite the opposite. But it means that you can begin to question: do you really want to be lending credence to this organisation? If you do, fair enough. But now there is no excuse for ignorance.”

Focusing on the chant of “from the River to the Sea” – a reference to a Palestinian state stretching from the River Jordan to the Mediterranean – Mr Gove said: “We can also have a broader conversation about the way in which some of what’s said on these marches springs from an extremist ideology, rather than simply being an expression of passionate opposition to conflict.

“‘From the river to the sea’ is not a call for peace… when you’re saying ‘from the river to the sea’, you’re explicitly saying: ‘I want to see the end of Israel as a Jewish state, the Jewish homeland erased.’

“Now, be clear about that and be clear about what that means.

“Be clear about the fact that you know a key Islamist demand is the erasure of what they see as the ‘Zionist entity’ or the ‘crusader Zionist state’.

“And therefore, let’s be clear that there is a difference between a cry for peace and the legitimisation of an extremist position which intimidates and leads to hate.”

The Government’s new definition will replace one in the existing Prevent counter-radicalisation programme, giving “more specificity”, and will enable the Government and other public bodies to ban funding and engagement with Islamist and far-right groups.

Mr Gove sought to address fears from some Tories that the new definition could encompass gender-critical feminists or devout religious groups.

“It’s only extremism if you translate that into a political ideology that is anti-democratic,” he said.

“Private belief should be cherished. Free speech has to be protected.”

Mr Gove hinted that foreign governments such as Iran could be behind some of the extremist groups operating in the UK.

“One of the things that we’re explicitly looking at is the way in which foreign state and non-state actors seek to encourage extremism here,” he said.

“And again, this is inevitably sensitive work about which I can say only a very limited amount because it’s not only Iran that attempts to use some of these forces to destabilise British democracy.”

Navy embarrassment as fire hits £3bn flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth

A fire broke out on the Royal Navy’s £3bn flagship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, while it was in the dock awaiting repairs.

The fire started on board the Royal Navy’s largest and most powerful vessel, said to be docked at Glenmalan in Scotland, on Saturday morning.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said the “minor, isolated fire” was quickly brought under control and extinguished.

It is understood there were no reported injuries and no ordnance was involved in the incident. Officials are working to establish how the fire started.

It is the second time in as many weeks that HMS Queen Elizabeth has been hit with a problem. The flagship vessel pulled out of a Nato exercise earlier this month after an issue was discovered with its coupling – a part between the propeller shaft and gearbox.

It was replaced with its sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, which was to take part in the largest Nato maritime exercise in nearly half a century.

HMS Prince of Wales itself encountered problems when it broke down off the Isle of Wight 18 months previously after setting sail for the US. It also suffered a malfunction with a coupling on its starboard propeller.

HMS Queen Elizabeth is now en route to Rosyth in Scotland so any necessary repairs can be carried out on her starboard propeller shaft coupling.

It comes after the government faced questions over the effectiveness of Britain’s nuclear deterrent after a test launch of the UK’s Trident nuclear missile failed, crashing back into the ocean close to the submarine that fired it.

The unarmed Trident II missile was launched from the nuclear-powered HMS Vanguard as part of final tests following a £500m overhaul, before the vessel returns to patrol service.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt did not announce any additional funding for the Ministry of Defence in his spring Budget on Wednesday despite growing threats around the world and war in Europe.

Rishi Sunak is under pressure to boost defence spending after two serving ministers publicly called for a “much greater pace” of investment.

The call from Foreign Office minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan and security minister Tom Tugendhat came after the Budget was criticised for failing to boost defence spending.

The two senior Tories said the UK needs to “lead the way” by increasing defence and security spending to at least 2.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the size of the economy.

While the government has an aspiration to reach 2.5 per cent, beyond the Nato-wide target of 2 per cent, the ministers said the global risk posed by countries including Russia and China meant there was no time for delay.

“The sad truth is that the world is no longer benign,” they said.

Radioactive gas detected at HMP Dartmoor forces closure of 180 cells

A UK prison has had to close down more than 180 cells after radioactive gas was detected, which has also led to the vast majority of nearly 200 recent prisoner transfers.

HMP Dartmoor has been forced to close the cells and carry out prisoner removals due to the presence of radon.

The capacity of the Devon prison has been reduced by 184 places between November and February, with official figures suggesting its total safe capacity is 640.

In the same period until February, 194 prisoners have been moved out of the jail.

While the reason for their removal is not recorded, the PA news agency understands the vast majority have been moved due to radon.

Radon, an odourless and colourless gas, is produced by decaying radioactive materials in rocks and soils, and is responsible for around 1,000 lung cancer deaths a year.

It is thought to occur more often in areas with high concentrations of granite, such as Dartmoor.

The Prison Service said “a number of prisoners” had been moved as a precautionary step, with efforts to reduce radon levels currently ongoing.

The Labour Party, which revealed the figures in a series of questions to ministers, said it was “shocking that the Government’s mismanagement of the prison estate means they are having to reduce the number of prison places during a capacity crisis”.

Ruth Cadbury MP, shadow prisons minister, said: “This dangerous gas was first detected in 2020, and yet the Ministry of Justice have said that measures weren’t put in place until 2022.

“Ministers need to explain why it has taken over two years for them to act.

“After 14 years in power and a dozen prison ministers, our prisons are out of control and the Government need to get a grip.

“Labour will rebuild public confidence in the criminal justice system and we’ll restore law and order in Britain.”

Answering Labour’s questions on behalf of the Government, justice minister Edward Argar said the Prison Service is “continually investing in the prison estate to ensure that prisons remain safe, decent and secure”.

Mr Argar said elevated radon readings were detected at Dartmoor in 2020 in “subterranean areas adjacent to the kitchen and workshops”.

He added: “Temporary mitigations have been in place at Dartmoor in those areas since 2022 following advice from specialist contractors, pending permanent mitigations that are near completion.

“Further specialist advice has been commissioned following the recent identification of elevated radon levels in some accommodation areas of the prison.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “A number of prisoners have been relocated as a precautionary measure after routine testing revealed higher than normal levels of radon.

“This is a temporary measure while work to permanently reduce radon levels is completed and there are no safety implications to staff or prisoners who remain on site.”

The latest monthly bulletins for the prison population in England and Wales also appear to track a falling number of inmates and a decreased capacity at Dartmoor.

January figures record an operational capacity of 583, with a population of 555, while in February the capacity was 505 with a population of 470.

In December, a report by Dartmoor’s independent monitoring board warned the prison was understaffed and overcrowded, and arguably “not fit for purpose”.

It also pointed to radon first being detected in 2020, and claimed “it is only in this year that some actions have been taken while further monitoring is undertaken to inform future decisions”.

Additional reporting by PA.

Smith crushes Irish grand slam dream to make England title contenders

Twickenham has scarcely known a noise like it. Marcus Smith dropped boot to ball and then wheeled away in embrace of triumph and, once they’d caught up, his England teammates. Ireland – the best team in the world – had been beaten, dreams of a grand slam and history dashed by a side producing their best home performance for more than a decade.

Smith’s drop goal with time expiring gave England victory by a single point, the margins so fine in this grand old championship. The Six Nations heads to the final weekend with a title still up for grabs – and on this evidence, England will be contenders.

With Scotland beaten in Rome, Ireland knew a win of any kind would be enough for a title retention and set up a shot at history in Dublin next week. But this tournament of contradictions, contortions and coils just keeps on delivering.

Perhaps not since beating the All Blacks in 2012 have England gone toe-to-toe with a side of this sort of repute and emerged on top. The hosts had returned to Twickenham unfancied and unloved, again an eddy of contradictions and complications caught cold by Scotland in another Calcutta Cup of missed opportunities.

This was a performance to be proud of for Steve Borthwick’s side, their best by a distance since the World Cup semi-final against South Africa; perhaps, in the manner in which they shut down so many components of Ireland’s all-court game, better even than that. Crucially, the result was different – Borthwick at last has the signature win he has so craved, Smith coming up with a magic moment in the throes to throw this championship open again.

England began with intent and intelligence in attack up at Murrayfield a fortnight ago, before deviating from the script to let a strong start slip. They had learned their lines here, too, with Ellis Genge and Ben Earl prominent as midfield thrusting carriers and some funky shapes behind the primary ball carriers in a bright first 15 minutes.

There was still a stroke of fortune about their first try, nicely taken though it was. A horrible collision between Tommy Freeman and Calvin Nash left the Ireland wing prostrate having suffered a head injury, leaving the Irish right flank unguarded. England were smart and sharp enough to exploit the space, George Ford and Henry Slade providing the linking hands to allow Ollie Lawrence to steam past Jack Crowley to the line.

Nash departed for a head injury assessment from which he would not return, Ciaran Frawley’s introduction pushing Hugo Keenan to the wing. Ireland flashed at times in phase play but missed Keenan’s canny touches in the line, allowing England and their blitz defence to harry and hassle Jack Crowley.

Ford and Crowley traded penalties to leave England two points in front after an opening quarter they had just about edged. Lawrence was soon dotting down what he felt was a legitimate second score, the centre collecting the loose change after Ciaran Frawley and George Furbank had tangled trying to corral Lawrence’s own kick. Furbank had just got their first, though – knock on, no try.

Territory tilted England’s way as they controlled the middle quarter but Ford missed both from the tee and with a rather ugly snap drop goal, allowing Crowley to wipe away the hosts’ lead with a wobbly penalty. A crisper strike from the Ireland fly half sent his side down the tunnel four to the good.

But a tight half left tensions high, Borthwick and Irish counterpart Andy Farrell clashing as they waited to follow the players down the tunnel. The Ireland head coach was rather happier five minutes after the restart, a Jamison Gibson-Park box kick won back in the air by Irish hands to spring an attack. Crowley delayed his pass beautifully to put Caelan Doris through a hole with Slade charging up with reckless abandon, and that left plenty of room on the left for James Lowe to hurry home in the corner.

England, though, had an answer. With Ireland narrowed on the right, George Martin and Maro Itoje lolloped into space like two giraffes on the open savannah. Martin offloaded, Itoje transferred, and Furbank provided a gazelle’s gambol to the line.

English spirits lifted. With Ireland’s lineout malfunctioning, the more stable game was the hosts’, allowing them to progress bit by bit before Earl bashed the door down, shrugging off three defenders to breach the line. Peter O’Mahony’s cynical breakdown infringement saw him sin binned, and the irrepressible Earl capitalised with a bruising short-range burst with England a man to the good.

Ireland – who by now had starting scrum-half Gibson-Park on the wing – have shown their champion qualities time and again over the last four years and this was another significant test. Where their phase play has repeatedly worn teams down, England were holding firm, still up off the line with the relentless intensity. With 12 minutes to play, the hosts had made almost double the metres of their opponents – England had made all of the running.

And so it was merely a question of holding their nerve, something with which Borhwick’s side have so struggled with both under the head coach and his predecessor. Furbank’s aimless charge gave Ireland a penalty and territory, and England’s outside blitz faltered. Lowe cantered to the corner for a second time.

When Elliot Daly’s long-range penalty slipped by 10 minutes from time, it felt like the engraver could begin their etching on the trophy. But Smith struck and Ireland fell to the floor. They will pick themselves up and go again against the travelling Scots next weekend. It may yet be a St Patrick’s Day party to remember in Dublin, but England have catapulted themselves back into the title mix.

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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Fly to the Algarve from 11 UK airports: Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and London Stansted. To find out more and start planning your trip, visit Jet2holidays

*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.

The expansion of free childcare is threatened by unbelievable promises

When Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, announced 30 hours a week of free childcare for all working parents in the Budget a year ago, the scheme seemed too good to be true. The Independent warned that it was a lot less ambitious than it sounded, in that the expansion of free hours would start modestly next month.

The expansion to the largest number of children would be saved up for September this year, just before the likely date of the general election. And the completion of the “30 hours a week for all” would be a cheque postdated to September 2025.

As the first phase of the expansion approached, however – and it is now only three weeks away – it became increasingly clear that all was not well in the delivery of even his first, modest phase. What is supposed to happen in April is that, in addition to the existing 30 hours of free care for children aged three and four, children aged two will receive 15 hours of free care.

Gazza says he’s a sad drunk – I prefer to remember the football genius

Poor old Gazza. Hearing him talk this week on some podcast about how he used to be a happy drunk but now he’s a sad drunk and about how he lives in his agent’s spare room, seeing the footage of him, his face ravaged by self-loathing surgical procedures, there can be no other reaction: poor old Gazza, how did it come to this? 

Pretty simple really. Fame did it to him, lanced him through the soul. Ill-equipped to handle it from the start, he has been chewed up and spat out by celebrity.

And now, a couple of generations on from his heyday as Paul Gascoigne, the man whose footballing talent once electrified a nation, this is what he is known as: a victim. That is the only currency he has left to trade in.