INDEPENDENT 2024-03-17 10:06:13


Tories in leadership chaos over plot to replace Sunak with Mordaunt

Rishi Sunak’s premiership is under threat from a chaotic plot of backbench Tory MPs who want to replace him with Penny Mordaunt before the general election.

With the Conservatives languising on 24 per cent in the polls, jittery MPs from across the party are said to have met and held talks about a “coronating” Ms Mordaunt as prime minister.

The desperate bid to shore up support would see the Conservatives impose their sixth prime minister on the country since the 2010 general election, and the third without going to the country.

But an ally of Ms Mordaunt, the leader of the House of Commons, denied there was a plot to install her as Tory leader, describing the plans as “nonsense”.

Meanwhile Tory former minister Dame Andrea Jenkyns, who has publicly backed installing a new leader before the nation goes to the polls, denied that right-wing Tory MPs would unite behind Ms Mordaunt.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former business secretary, denounced the idea as “madness”.

Transport secretary Mark Harper told Sky News on Sunday that Mr Sunak “will take us into that election” and stressed that the government’s “plan is working” and he is “confident we will win”.

“I’m going to be supporting him all the way through, and I’m confident that my colleagues will,” he said.

Mr Harper also said reports that there could have been a snap election in May as “nonsense”.

Labour’s shadow paymaster general Jonathan Ashworth said the Conservative Party is in turmoil, with MPs discussing whether Mr Sunak can even continue as PM.

He told Sky News: “This is not in the national interest anymore. It is irresponsible. We need stability in this country.

“He could stabilise this by naming the date of a general election. Otherwise, I fear we may have a Tory leadership election ahead of a general election.”

With many Tories increasingly concerned about losing their seats at the election, reports in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph suggested MPs on the right of the party met moderates this week to discuss uniting behind Ms Mordaunt if the prime minister faces a no-confidence vote.

Pressure on the prime minister will only increase after 2 May, when the Conservatives could lose swathes of local council seats across the country.

It followed a difficult week for Mr Sunak, in which he came under fire over his handling of racist comments allegedly made by a major party donor, and the defection of Lee Anderson – who Mr Sunak had promoted to Tory deputy chairman – to the right-wing populist Reform UK party.

Ms Mordaunt, who was a contender in the party’s leadership race to replace Boris Johnson in 2022, has not commented on the claims but allies suggested she was focusing on her ministerial role.

Ms Jenkyns tweeted: “Interesting to hear lots of media reporting of centre-right Conservative MPs pushing for a certain leadership candidate to replace Rishi.

“Having spoken with lots of my colleagues, no one seems to have heard or been pushing for such a thing!”

Noise about Mr Sunak’s position grew louder in Westminster this week, after Jeremy Hunt’s Budget failed to boost the Tories’ dire polling figures and No 10 struggled to deal with the fallout from Frank Hester’s remarks about MP Diane Abbott, which Mr Sunak eventually condemned as “racist” after 24 hours of prevarication, while still refusing to return the £10 million the businessman has donated to the Tory party.

But a No 10 source said: “The PM is focused on delivering on his plan to build a brighter Britain.

“The plan is starting to work with inflation down, mortgages down, wages up, the economy forecast to grow and the boats down by a third. But there’s more to be done – that’s what the PM is concentrating on. In contrast Sir Keir Starmer has no plan and would take us back to square one.”

The febrile mood within Mr Sunak’s ranks came as he ruled out holding a general election on May 2 to coincide with local elections, having previously indicated he will send the country to the polls in the latter half of 2024.

A growing list of Tory MPs have announced their exit from Parliament, with armed forces minister James Heappey, ex-party chairman Sir Brandon Lewis and former prime minister Theresa May some of the most recent additions.

More than 60 Conservatives have so far said they do not plan to run, prompting Sir Ed Davey to accuse many of “running away from the Liberal Democrats because they know that we can beat them in those seats”.

Speaking to the PA news agency ahead of his party’s spring conference in York, the Lib Dem leader expressed optimism about nabbing Conservative constituencies “across the south west of England and across the whole blue wall where it’s a Liberal Democrat-Conservative fight”.

“The response we’re getting is phenomenal. Lifelong Conservatives switching to the Liberal Democrats, which gives us great, great belief that we can beat many Conservative MPs whenever the election comes,” he said.

Trump says US will see ‘bloodbath’ if he’s not re-elected

Former President Donald J Trump is appearing as a special guest speaker at a Buckeye Values PAC Rally in Dayton, Ohio one day after his criminal trial was delayed.

Mr Trump is in the state to help boost the campaign of Bernie Moreno, a car dealership owner who has his backing in the state’s US Senate primary coming this Tuesday. The former president is wading into an abnormally vicious GOP primary that appears to be neck-and-neck between three candidates, with Mr Moreno holding a slight lead.

The race turned especially ugly over the past week as supporters of Mr Moreno’s rivals circulated a story from the Associated Press revealing that an email used by the businessman was registered on the sexual rendezvous site “Adult Friend Finder”; not to be outdone, Mr Moreno’s allies launched a mailer accusing another Republican in the race, conservative Frank LaRose, of being a closet ally of the LGBT+ community.

Additionally, it was a busy week for Donald Trump’s criminal cases.

Judge Juan Merchan has ruled that his New York hush-money trial will be pushed back by 30 days from today following a dump of new evidence for both parties to consider — the original start date was 25 March.

Volcano erupts again in Iceland spewing lava into the air

A state of emergency has been declared in Iceland after a volcano erupted for the fourth time spewing bright orange lava metres into the air.

The dramatic event marks the fourth “alarming” volcanic eruption in three months along the Reykjavik peninsula, nearby the abandoned town of Grindavik.

The Icelandic Met Office said on Saturday night that the fissure had opened as livestreams of the event saw fountains of lava spewing into the sky.

“Warning: An eruption began in Reykjanes,” the Icelandic Meteorological Office said on its website, while Reykjavik’s nearby Keflavik Airport’s website showed it remained open both for departures and arrivals.

Authorities had warned for weeks of an imminent eruption. Iceland’s Civil Protection Agency said prior to the latest explosion: “Since October 24, scientists at the Icelandic Met Office have been monitoring a rise in seismic activity on the Reykjanes Peninsula, which may signal an impending volcanic eruption.

“The heightened intensity of these seismic events, particularly near the town of Grindavík, indicates the potential for volcanic activity in the area.

“As a precautionary measure, the town was evacuated on November 10 to prioritize the safety of its residents. Evacuations will remain in effect until seismic activity subsides.”

Local media reports that residents of the nearby fishing town of Grindavik had been evacuated from the area, having received text messages telling them to leave just minutes earlier.

Grindavik, a town of 3,800 people about 50km south-west of Iceland‘s capital Reykjavik, was evacuated in November when the Svartsengi volcanic system awakened after almost 800 years with a series of earthquakes that opened large cracks in the earth between the town and Sylingarfell, a small mountain to the north.

The volcano eventually erupted on 18 December, sending lava flowing away from Grindavik.

A second eruption that began on 14 January sent lava towards the town.

The volcano last erupted in early February, cutting off district heating to more than 20,000 people as lava flows destroyed roads and pipelines, while an outbreak in January burned to the ground several houses in a fishing town.

Volcanic outbreaks in the Reykjanes peninsula are so-called fissure eruptions, which do not usually cause large explosions or significant dispersal of ash into the stratosphere.

However, scientists fear they could continue for decades, and Icelandic authorities have started building dykes to divert burning lava flows away from homes and critical infrastructure.

Iceland, which sits above a volcanic hot spot in the North Atlantic, averages an eruption every four to five years.

The country boasts more than 30 active volcanoes, making the north European island a prime destination for volcano tourism – a niche segment that attracts thousands of thrill seekers.

The most disruptive in recent times was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and led to widespread airspace closures over Europe.

Strictly crisis as three stars ‘meet to discuss difficult experience’

Strictly Come Dancing pro Giovanni Pernice has addressed the controversy surrounding Amanda Abbington, who unexpectedly quit the show in 2023.

While the Sherlock star originally cited “medical reasons”, she went on to request what was described by a source as “tense” footage of her rehearsals with Pernice for a supposed investigation. The actor then revealed she was “diagnosed with mild PTSD after Strictly for several reasons”.

Now, Pernice has shared his thoughts on the subject – and his musings arrive at the same time as a fresh report claims the Italian dancer was the source of complaints by two other former celebrity partners during their time on the show.

It’s being alleged that Good Morning Britain host Ranvir Singh and former Love Island presenter Laura Whitmore, who previously said she was “uncomfortable” with Pernice, had a “tearful summit” with Abbington about their respective “difficult experiences” working with the dancer, “who is well known to be intense during training”.

A source told The Sun: “They met in person to share their experiences. Their meeting was emotional but heart-warming. They now know they are there to support each other after their tough times with Giovanni. Tears were shed.

“There is every possibility all three could take it further and formally complain to the BBC, but for now they’re comforting each other.”

The Independent has contacted the BBC, Pernice, Abbington, Singh and Whitmore for comment.

This new claim arrives as Pernice spoke about Abbington’s decision to quit the show, which he called “a shame”.

Speaking on The Mirror’s Invite Only podcast, Pernice said: “It was a shame that she had to leave for medical reasons because I think, in my opinion, we could have gone all the way.”

Pernice said his reputation as a “perfectionist” comes from “caring” about the celebrity he’s partnered with, adding: “In every single part of the world, if [you’re] a professional dancer, we have to get these people on the Saturday night looking the best as they can.

“And if we get to have good scores at the end, I look back and say ‘I’ve done a great job’. We all care about our partners and we all want to look great on the Saturday.”

When it was claimed Abbington had requested training footage, the BBC said that “robust” duty of care protocols and “constant dialogue” occurs between the show’s producers and its celebrity contestants.

Pernice has been a part of Strictly since 2015, and won legions of fans due to his on-screen camaraderie with EastEnders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis. The pair won the show in 2021.

Since the news, Pernice was supported by his fans, and also Debbie McGee, one of his former celebrity Strictly partners.

He was partnered with Whitmore in 2016, and Singh in 2020, finishing in ninth and fifth place, respectively.

Whitmore previously criticised the show’s bosses for forcing her to spend 12 hours a day with Pernice when she “just wanted to dance”.

She also said in 2018 that she was “extremely uncomfortable” with Pernice, stating: “I’m still not ready to talk in depth about my experience on the show… In the end I felt broken. I cried every day. And I really was broken, both mentally and physically, by the end.”

I’ll do it later: my quest to stop procrastinating

At some point, I must do something about my procrastination habit,” is a thought I’ve had at periodic intervals, before deciding to do something else instead. It was last year that I first began to seriously ponder it. January when I mentioned it to my colleagues. A few weeks later when I decided to get advice from some experts. A few weeks more when I set up time to talk to them. And here I am now, in the middle of March, finally sitting down to write about what I learnt from my quest to stop procrastinating.

The piece you are reading has become a running joke among my colleagues. “Oh, by the way, how’s the procrastination feature going, Jessie?” Each time I smile with slightly gritted teeth as I update them on its status. “Not got round to it yet!” But I am far from alone in finding endless things to do in order to put off a task I want to avoid. In 2010, a survey found that 95 per cent of people admit to procrastinating some of the time, while in 2013 a study discovered that 20 per cent of us procrastinate chronically. Writer-director Charlie Kaufman has made high art from procrastination with films such as Synecdoche, New York and Adaptation. In an interview, he said he’d come to realise that, for him, “stalling is a creative technique”. But most of us don’t channel this pesky habit so creatively. In fact, it’s only going to rise because, in our permanently connected, always-on age, distraction and procrastination go together like strawberries and cream (except far less enjoyable). Just this month, more articles have decried the dangers of “bedtime procrastination” – staring helplessly at our phones, and all the other things we do to delay going to bed – inevitably playing havoc with our minds, bodies and souls in the process. Apparently, procrastination is so unavoidable that even pigeons are guilty of it.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines procrastination as “the act of delaying something that must be done, often because it is unpleasant or boring”. I mean, who among us has not sinned? Although I’d class myself as a fairly productive person, my procrastination hits hard when I have to change gears and address a task that requires specific focus and concentration (like, for example, writing a feature about procrastination). It manifests in many ways, including but not limited to: completing every non-urgent work task that I can, checking Slack, making seven cups of tea, checking my emails, doing the washing up, checking Slack again, googling “how to stop procrastinating”, WhatsApping my friends to tell them I’ve just googled “how to stop procrastinating”. Oh, and checking Slack again.

This doesn’t happen every time. But when it does – and even though the work gets done and I don’t miss deadlines – the hours leading up to it are horrible. I hate the immobilising feeling that procrastination gives me – why can’t I just do it? I want to be able to sit down at my desk in perfect harmony, typing away serenely as I achieve effortless productivity and a state of deep, immersive focus! So. I decided that it was time to address this; that it was time for “new year, new me” (three months in now but no worries).

Could I find the perfect hack to eradicate procrastination from my life forever? It turns out it’s not quite that simple. Dr Mahrukh Khwaja, founder of wellness startup Mind Ninja, is a positive psychologist and accredited mindfulness teacher with a zen-like aura of wisdom. She uses science-backed methods around mindfulness and self-compassion to support workplace wellbeing, and when I enlist her help, she starts by giving me some Lego. Khwaja asks me to build something with it that represents my procrastination, and I dive straight in, creating a chaotic pile of different-sized bricks, helmed by a headless person. Essentially: my procrastination is a picture of overwhelm that I don’t feel in control of. As I’m building my masterpiece, she asks me to explain the emotions I feel when I’m procrastinating – frustration, helplessness, anger – and the messages I hear in my head. “I can’t do it,” is generally my main recurring thought.

“Everyone’s on a scale with it, so it’s worth delving into,” she explains. “I’ve heard of procrastinators who will be delivering a talk and literally doing their slides just minutes before they’re about to present something. It doesn’t sound like you’re that level, it’s more that you’re normally quite productive, but you’d love to be ahead of time so you can do other things.” Yes! So why am I putting these annoying obstacles in my own way?

Khwaja shows me something called the “avoidance loop” that seems to capture exactly the trap I fall into. “Psychologists have discovered that procrastination is a result of trying to cope with negative emotions and thoughts, then choosing an unhelpful coping strategy,” she tells me. Basically, it goes like this: unpleasant task creates unpleasant feelings, cue procrastinating with unproductive activities, which triggers a temporary feeling of relief or reward, before the whole thing starts again, going round and round. Procrastination can manifest for many reasons: imposter syndrome, negative thoughts, or as banal a reason as the thing we need to do is just a bit boring.

From our conversation it also becomes clear that something else might be getting in my way: perfectionist tendencies. Done is better than perfect, as they say. But not for a perfectionist, paralysed by the idea that everything they do must be the best thing they’ve ever done. But the negative thoughts that spring from this mindset activate the amygdala part of our brain – its fight or flight alarm centre. This is not good for us, as it triggers the stress hormone cortisol. But the methods that Khwaja teaches, around mindfulness and self-compassion, engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which invites positive emotions. When we think bad thoughts, we actually do feel bad – and vice versa. This is why, Khwaja adds, high performers from CEOs to elite athletes tend to work with psychologists and coaches who help them healthily navigate their perfectionism.

There are specific tools that we can use to counteract what’s going on in our brain, Khwaja explains. There’s mindfulness, which “helps you stay present, rather than getting lost in the story of your thoughts”. She says we should get into the habit of “checking our emotional weather”. For example, what if the day I have a big deadline I’m feeling exhausted, but expecting a level of high performance from myself that doesn’t make allowances for this? There’s self-compassion training, which is about understanding that our struggles are human and we are not alone in them. And there’s also CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), which is about challenging our negative thoughts.

It’s Khwaja’s advice around perfectionism and self-compassion that gives me a lightbulb moment. “You have an unpleasant task – like writing up an interview or feature. And it’s not unpleasant because of the write-up, because you know how to do that. It’s unpleasant because it’s putting some negative thoughts in your mind, like ‘I can’t do this,’” she explains.

Wait, so maybe my problem isn’t with how I manage my work, but how I feel about my work? And yet, inspired as I am by my conversation with Khwaja, I’m unsure about applying the cuddly sounding principles of wellness and mindfulness to the fast-paced daily life of the newsroom. Jessica Brewer, founder of Emiz HR & Coaching, has a theory that my procrastination might in fact be to do with my profession: journalists are used to working on deadline, so by limiting the time we have to work on a task, procrastination lets us recreate the fuel of that adrenaline rush. But as we talk more, Brewer, an approachable presence who emanates good sense, provides further insight into how my procrastination might be more about my feelings than I’d originally realised. “To understand what’s going to work for you, you really need to get under the skin of what it is that’s going on for you,” she suggests. “What is getting in the way of you doing these things?”

One issue, I mention, is that I struggle to disconnect from the pinging of Slack and my inbox, to feel that it’s OK to be unavailable so I can move into a mode of focused solo work. I’m from a millennial generation that graduated into a jobs market defined by scarcity. As such, me and many of my peers feel an anxiety attached to not responding to everything straight away, lest anyone think we’re not working hard enough. Brewer has practical, straightforward advice: schedule your time, communicate your boundaries, and be disciplined about sticking to both. “Our ways of working have massively changed,” she says. “There’s that fear – you want to always be contactable, because otherwise people will think you’re slacking. That could be something playing into this.”

Scheduling, Brewer explains, can be a useful tool for anything you want to commit to but keep finding ways to avoid. You can book time in your diary for deadlines, but also for gym sessions. Of course, sometimes we need to be flexible – but we should always move these commitments, rather than cancel them. Otherwise we’re back to the same place – it doesn’t get done. And on the subject of things getting done, she adds that there’s a practical logic into how we divide our work into two types: the “important and urgent” tasks, and “important but not urgent”. Because there’s always so much other stuff to do, those “not urgent” tasks get left – until they become urgent. It’s something that is instinctively familiar to me – but is it really procrastination, or just a full plate?

Suddenly, I have a wild theory. What if… procrastination is just part of my process? What I mean by this is that my day-to-day work is intensive, requiring the juggling of a handful of things at a high pace. What if, when I have a deadline, my brain just needs time to reset and reach a new time zone? “There is something about change of speeds, change of what you’re doing, change of focus,” Brewer agrees. “It might well be that what you’re doing isn’t procrastination, it’s having to allow yourself to acclimatise to a different pace, to not being distracted, to being focused. Now, can you get that time down? Potentially, yes.” The next step, she suggests, might be to look at how to “speed up that process of slowing down”.

Obviously I’m not saying I need to go and walk the Three Peaks in order to be able to meet a deadline, but it makes me feel better to know that maybe what I’m experiencing is more like a workplace type of jetlag. Perhaps I simply need to allow myself time to change rhythms when I have to work in a different way. “One of the things I would look at is the language you use to speak to yourself about it. Are you thinking you’ve got more of a problem than you actually have? How can you reframe that? You’re someone that thrives under pressure – but you’re probably not thinking that, you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I always leave everything to the last minute’.” Again, something happens when my thoughts are reframed. I’m not a useless procrastinator! I’m a busy person who sometimes needs a moment to limber up. Brewer echoes a point that Khwaja has made too: “The negative talk is what’s creating the stress in you, not necessarily the deadline.”

So, it turns out that there is no tool or hack to stop you procrastinating, no secret that will rewire your brain, no magic potion that will make you a fully optimised, constantly productive person. When we do try to work in that way, there’s usually one predictable outcome: burnout. Procrastination, I’ve learnt, is in fact as much about our emotions as it is about time management. But the biggest plot twist of all on my journey to stop procrastinating? I discovered that I’m not actually such a procrastinator after all. A revelation that was worth – eventually – getting round to.

For more information about Mind Ninja visit www.mind-ninja.co.uk and for Emiz HR visit emiz-hr.com

Island-hopping in the Ionian sea: a guide to Greece’s idyllic islands

Mamma Mia! It’s time to start thinking about a summer holiday, and there’s nowhere more picturesque and dreamy than a Greek island. With an estimated 1,600 isles, although not all are inhabited, there’s plenty to choose from that guarantee sparkling seas, golden sands, rugged nature, delicious food, and a warm welcome.

To help you find your ideal Greek island holiday this summer, travel experts Jet2holidays offer great-value breaks in more than 50 amazing destinations, including 21 in Greece. Hotspots and hidden gems, all boards and budgets, flexible stays and fab flight times – there’s something for everyone. With just a £60pp deposit*, 22kg baggage included and flexible monthly payments** to help spread the cost of your well-deserved holiday, it’s never been easier to get your next Greek getaway booked. 

What’s more, with the Jet2holidays sale now on, you can enjoy even better value on your break with up to £240 off† all holidays. Simply sign up for a myJet2 account, visit your independent travel agent or call the Jet2holidays contact centre. Book now and let the countdown to sunshine begin.

Here’s our pick of some of the best islands Greece has to offer…

Stunning beaches are a given in Greece, and in Corfu, the most beautiful include Agios Georgios, a long, horseshoe-shaped bay with a mix of sand and pebbles fringing calm, clear waters. Down the northwest coast is the pretty village of Palaiokastritsa which boasts six sheltered bays and offers boat trips to the fascinating Blue Caves. For a beach as romantic as its name, head to the Canal d’Amour, where a series of unique rock formations create intimate, narrow channels; legend has it that couples who swim between the sea walls together, stay together!

Explore the cobbled streets of Corfu Old Town, and take in pastel-coloured Venetian architecture while looking out for the new and old Fortresses which loom over the harbour. Base yourself at the swish Olivar Suites on the southeastern coast, a restful haven set in olive groves, away from the bustle.

Lefkas, also known as Lefkada, is an island connected to the Greek mainland by a causeway. Head to the beach at Porto Katsiki, located below a set of huge, looming cliffs which create a unique and dramatic landscape. Another gem is nearby Egremni, a classic, Caribbean-style stretch of white sand, fringing crystal-clear turquoise water, while if you fancy windsurfing, head to Vasiliki. On the east coast, check into the four-star, beachfront Porto Galini Sea Side Resort and Spa; handily, it’s just 15 minutes’ drive from Lefkada Town.

Also formerly under Venetian rule, landmarks including Church of the Pantokrator and the ruins of Agia Mavra Castle are worth a look. Escape to a pretty coastal village, such as Agios Nikitas or Nikiana, where you can take a table at a seafront taverna, and tuck into local speciality Englouvi lentils served with riganada (bread with olive oil, vinegar, and oregano). For a foray into nature, head to the spectacular waterfalls of Dimossari, near Nydri village.

Also known as Zakynthos, Zante is a popular island in the Ionian Sea, with a plethora of alluring beaches. The most famous is Navagio, which is surrounded by dramatic, honey-coloured cliffs and often called ‘Shipwreck Beach’ after the cargo boat which ran aground there in 1980, another must-visit is Agios Nikolaos, a serene pebbly stretch on Zante’s northern shore.

Stay at the luxury Domes Aulus Zante Autograph Collection, a laidback beachfront paradise on the south coast, near the quiet resort town of Kalamaki, where you can spot endangered loggerhead turtles. Zante has its own Blue Caves, a set of geological formations turned azure by the reflections of the sea, while its capital, Zakynthos Town, offers architecture influenced by its former Venetian, French and English rulers. Don’t miss the imposing Church of Agios Dionysios with its signature bell tower, and the ruins of the old Venetian Castle.

Sprinkled with Hollywood stardust, scenic Kefalonia was the location for the Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz movie, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin. Key scenes were shot in the harbour town of Sami, the stunning Antisamos beach and in the picturesque fishing village of Fiscardo. Kefalonia’s jagged coastline is made up of limestone cliffs, bays and strips of dazzling white sand, like Myrtos Beach in the north. Other standout beaches include Skala, bordered by thick trees and rocky outcrops, and the unusually named Xi beach, where white cliffs contrast with rare, rust-coloured sand.

Stay at the luxurious, contemporary, adults-only Thalassa Boutique Hotel Kefalonia on the southwest coast, a short drive from capital, Argostoli, where you can explore the Archaeological Museum, Municipal Theatre and historic castles and monasteries. For something more adventurous, explore the vast azure lake inside Melissani cave or hike Mount Ainos, the island’s highest peak, covered in pine forests and home to wild horses. Visit a winery such as Robola or Haritatos for a tasting.

Jet2holidays, the UK’s number one tour operator, offers package holidays you can trust where everything’s included. With you every step of the way, Jet2holidays has an incredible range of great-value, expert-rated getaways for all types of holidaymakers, across more than 50 stunning destinations. From the five-star luxury of Indulgent Escapes by Jet2holidays® to the compelling cities of Jet2CityBreaksVIBE by Jet2holidays for Insta-worthy stays that suit your style to family-friendly Jet2Villas, the boxes are ticked for every age, budget and interest. What’s more, with holidays secured for just £60pp deposit* and flexible payment options**, plus a host of perks like 22kg baggage and return transfers included††, it’s easy from start to finish. It’s all ABTA and ATOL-protected too, so you can enjoy sunshine with peace of mind. To find out more and book with the best, head here.

*On bookings made ten weeks or more before departure. **Terms and conditions apply. Please visit www.jet2holidays.com/part-payment for details. †Based on 4 people. On all holiday departures until 31 October 2025. . T&Cs apply. £60pp discount does not apply to Free Child Places. See http://Jet2holidays.com/promotions#60OFFMYJET2SALE ††Transfers are not included as standard on Jet2CityBreaks. Jet2Villas packages include car hire instead of transfers.

The prison riot squad shortage is a sign of a much deeper crisis

The Independent has raised the alarm in its reporting of the state of Britain’s prisons over the past year. Our warning that overcrowding was becoming serious came long before Alex Chalk, the justice secretary, took emergency action a few days ago to release a large number of offenders two months before their sentences were due to end.

We have reported on the problems with recruiting staff, and the pile-up of prisoners held on remand as court backlogs push the system to capacity and beyond. Now we report the shortage of “Tornado squad” riot officers, those trained to deal with violent disorder, who are the last line of defence in a prison estate that is bursting at the seams.

Prisons are rarely a political priority and are always likely to suffer from underfunding. But the combination of the recruitment crisis throughout the public services and the rise in prisoner numbers caused by longer sentences and court delays has turned a chronic problem into an acute one.

What will the House of Commons look like after the general election?

We don’t know when the general election will come, or who will win, albeit we can make some fairly safe guesses. However, what is as near to certain as can be is that the next House of Commons will look, sound and behave very differently from the present one.

The preponderance of mostly male Conservatives standing down or facing likely defeat – and the sheer scale of that defeat, coupled with an influx of more gender-balanced and diverse Labour candidates – means that the next House will have a record number of female MPs, and more people from an ethnic minority background than ever before. It will also be younger, feature more members from LGBT+ communities, and, dare one say it, be more “woke” and open to newer ways of running parliamentary debates, dress codes, hours of work and much else. We are on the brink of a dramatic change