The Telegraph 2024-04-05 16:00:36

Gaza aid worker strikes ‘can never happen again’, warns Blinken

Israel’s drone strike that killed seven aid workers in Gaza earlier this week “can never happen again”, Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, has warned.

“It’s very important that Israel is taking full responsibility for this incident. It’s also important that it appears to be taking steps to hold those responsible accountable,” Mr Blinken said. “Even more important is that steps are being taken going forward to ensure that something like this can never happen again.”

His comments came after Israel dismissed two senior army officers following an initial report into the killings of the World Central Kitchen employees, including three Britons, that found that there had been a “serious failure”.

Israel early this morning approved reopening multiple crossings into Gaza following US demands to allow aid deliveries into the famine-threatened region.

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Russia accuses Ukraine of drone attack on Europe’s largest nuclear plant

Russia accused Ukraine of flying military drones into Europe’s biggest nuclear plant in central Ukraine.

The attack, which took place as Ukraine also destroyed six Russian planes at an airbase inside Russia, caused no damage to its critical infrastructure, the management of the Russian-occupied facility has claimed.

The Telegraph could not independently verify the alleged incident. Both Russia and Ukraine have repeatedly accused each other of shelling the power plant.

“Russia warns Kyiv against any attempts to attack or destabilise the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,” Maria Zakharova, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, said.

The alleged series of strikes come after Ukraine launched over 50 drones into Russian territory overnight, the majority targeting an airbase in the Rostov region, in one of Kyiv’s biggest air attacks of the war.

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Tory support in ‘Blue Wall’ falls to new low

Support for the Conservative Party in crucial “Blue Wall” seats has fallen to a new low in a fresh set back for Rishi Sunak. 

A Redfield & Wilton Strategies survey, conducted on March 31, found 26 per cent of people intended to vote for the Tories, down by two points when compared to the company’s previous survey, conducted on March 3. 

Redfield said the 26 per cent figure was the lowest it had ever recorded for the Tories in the “Blue Wall” since it started its tracking poll in October 2022. 

The latest survey gives Labour an eight point lead over the Tories in the “Blue Wall”, with the former on 34 per cent of the vote. Labour support was down by three points while the Liberal Democrats were up by one point to 20 per cent and Reform UK was up by four points to 14 per cent. 

The “Blue Wall” refers to dozens of affluent constituencies in the south of England where the Conservatives have traditionally won. 

The tracker poll covers 42 seats. The Conservatives won all of them at the 2019 general election, securing just under 50 per cent of the vote.

You can follow the latest updates below. 

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World’s oldest man, 111, says weekly fish and chips are key to his long life

A British great-grandfather who recently became the world’s oldest man has said his weekly fish and chips are the key to his longevity.

John Tinniswood, aged 111, said his long life is largely down to consuming the British staple meal and taking “everything in moderation”.

The father-of-one, who lives in a care home in Southport, Merseyside, took the title this week following the death of 114-year-old Juan Vicente Perez, from Venezuela.

Guinness World Records met Mr Tinniswood at his care home to present him with his certificate.

On finding out he was the oldest man in the world he said: “Doesn’t make any difference to me. Not at all. I accept it for what it is.”

Mr Tinniswood was born in 1912, the same year the Titanic sank, and has since survived two world wars and a global pandemic.

He met the late Elizabeth II twice, and was sent a birthday card from the King and Queen last year.

He is due to turn 112 on Aug 2 and said the day of his wedding to Blodwen Tinniswood, in 1942, was his most precious memory. They met at a dance during the war and were married for 44 years until she died in 1986.

Mr Tinniswood retired in 1972 after a career with Royal Mail during the Second World War and then as an accountant for Shell and BP.

When asked for his advice for younger generations, Mr Tinniswood replied: “Let them make their own way in the world […] we’re all different in different ways. The world, in its way, is always changing. It’s a sort of ongoing experience […] it’s getting a little better but not all that much yet. It’s going the right way.”

When asked what his secret was to become a supercentenarian, Mr Tinniswood told The Sun: “Moderation in all things and keep on moving about. To sit down in a chair all day is no good.”

‘Visits to the chippy keep me young’

In 2019 he told The Mirror: “Fish and chips have got to be my favourite dish, it’s always been such a treat, and I think looking forward to my next visit to the chippy has kept me young. I feel the same now as I did when I was in my 80s, nothing has changed really.”

He added: “Now I get to have my favourite once a week here so I always look forward to a Friday.”

Mr Tinniswood became the oldest living man in the UK following the death of 108-year-old Harry Fransman on September 25 2020.

His family said he was taking his new title “with a pinch of salt” owing to his modesty.

They said in a statement: “We are incredibly proud of John, who is a wonderful and much loved father, grandfather, great grandfather and friend, and we are very lucky that John is with us today.

“Being alive at 111 is testimony to his resilience, love for life, good humour and amazing survival instinct.

“We would also like to thank John’s carers at the Hollies care home for taking such good care of him.”

John’s new world title was verified by LongeviQuest, the global directory on longevity.

Dr. Andrew Holmes, co-founder of the European Supercentenarian Organisation, said: “It’s an incredible achievement to have reached such an age and become the oldest living man in the world.

“Thanks to his family, his age has been fully validated by LongeviQuest and the European Supercentenarian Organisation.”

Maria Morena, who lives in Spain, is the world’s oldest living person at 117.

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Strikes and train derailment spark rush hour chaos across the country

Commuters were hit with rush hour chaos on Friday morning as fresh train strikes left large parts of the country without service.

Members of Aslef at Avanti West Coast, CrossCountry, East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern walked out on Friday, mounting picket lines outside stations.

All five train operators said they were not running any services, with passengers urged not to attempt to travel.

Speaking at the Aslef picket line outside Euston station, Mick Whelan, the union’s general secretary, said strike action was necessary because “we haven’t had a pay rise for half a decade”.

An Aslef ban on overtime at 16 companies is also continuing until Saturday, causing more disruption to services.

Most drivers work a four-day shift pattern, with an average of 154 rest days a year.

Drivers are also entitled to a minimum of 20 days statutory annual leave, with many having extra annual leave as part of their contract, and eight bank holidays, which can be taken as lieu days if worked.

Many opt to work overtime, which can be paid up to £600 per shift.

Train drivers for Chiltern Railways, Great Western Railway, LNER, Heathrow Express, Northern and TransPennine Express will walk out on Saturday.

A strike on Monday will affect c2c, Gatwick Express, Greater Anglia (including Stansted Express), Great Northern, Southeastern, Southern, South Western Railway (including the Island Line) and Thameslink.

‘Bad faith’

Mr Whelan said: “We’ve done 17 pay deals in the last 12 months across all sectors, nations and regions – freight, open-access, Elizabeth line and Tube.

“Yet we only have a problem with one place and the place we have a problem with is the Westminster government, who are interfering with our pay deals with the private companies we work for.”

He said the union’s primary issues were with the “bad faith” train operators who refuse to negotiate because of “political dogma” and the Government who “don’t care”.

Mr Whelan added: “What they want to do is rip up every term and condition we’ve got.”

It comes as a freight train derailed in West Ealing, west London, blocking some lines between Reading and Paddington, causing delays and cancellations.

The train passed a red signal at 6.10am and three wheels of the locomotive came off the track, according to Network Rail. There were no injuries.

A Network Rail spokesman said: “Trains between London Paddington and Reading may be cancelled, delayed or revised while we deal with this incident.”

“Passengers are advised to check their journey with National Rail Enquiries before travelling.”

Disruption is expected on the line until midday on Friday.

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NHS consultants end strikes after agreeing £20k pay rise

NHS consultants will end strike action after accepting a new pay deal worth up to £20,000 a year.

The senior NHS doctors have voted 83 per cent in favour of an improved offer after the first deal put to members was narrowly defeated earlier this year.

The British Medical Association (BMA) had paused strikes while negotiations took place after an initial pay offer was voted against by 51 per cent to 49 per cent in January.

Rishi Sunak hailed the resolution as “excellent news for patients”. He added: “It will mean we can continue making progress towards our goal of cutting the waiting lists, which have now fallen for the fourth month in a row.

“Consultants perform a vital role at the heart of the NHS – I’m pleased they’ve accepted this deal, which is fair for them and fair for the taxpayer.”

As with the original offer, the pay deal will increase the most junior consultants’ salary to £99,532 per year, up £11,000 on the start of 2024, including a 6 per cent pay rise that has already been awarded. It will also mean the most experienced senior consultants get a pay rise that takes their base NHS salaries to nearly £132,000, up by between £12,800 and £19,400 on the start of 2024, bringing more of them in line with the top pay point.

This improved offer was able to secure the support of more consultants by offering those in middle bands, with between four and seven years’ experience, a pay rise of £3,000, or 2.85 per cent, on top of the 6 per cent already awarded.

Consultants also earn tens of thousands of pounds more when including overtime, private work and lucrative NHS pensions.

NHS data for 2022 showed that they earned £128,000 each on average, with a dozen taking home more than £350,000 a year and one person in excess of half a million.

Almost one in 10 consultants were taking home more than £165,000 – the amount that Mr Sunak earns.

The doctors also pay into – with large contributions from the state – to a pension pot with a lifetime allowance worth just over £1 million.

Maternity leave reform

The BMA consultants’ committee also said the deal offered contract reform, including improvements for women’s ability to take maternity leave, and changes to the independent pay review body process.

Consultants, like other public sector staff, will also be awarded a pay rise for 2024-25 based on the decision by the independent pay review body, in this case, the Doctors’ and Dentists’ Review Board.

The BMA said 62 per cent, or 22,700, of its consultants took part in the vote, with 83 per cent voting for the new deal. There are around 60,000 consultants working in England who will all be eligible for the pay rise.

Consultants have been in a pay dispute for almost a year and first went on strike in July – contributing to the 1.4 million cancelled NHS appointments along with junior doctors, who remain in a dispute.

Victoria Atkins, the Health Secretary, said: “I am pleased that, after weeks of negotiations, they have accepted this fair and reasonable offer, putting an end to the threat of further strike action.”

Junior doctors remain in dispute with the Government as they seek a pay rise worth up to 35 per cent a year.

The BMA’s junior doctors’ committee secured a new mandate to continue striking until September as well as “action short of a strike” that could mean they use measures such as “work to rule” where they carry out the minimum they are contracted to.

Dr Vishal Sharma, chairman of the BMA consultants’ committee, said: “We’ve reached this point not just through our tough negotiations with the Government, but thanks to the resolve of consultants, who took the difficult decision to strike, and did so safely and effectively, on multiple occasions, sending a clear message that they would not back down.”

He added: “But the fight is not yet over. This is only the end of the beginning, and we have some way to go before the pay consultants have lost over the last 15 years has been restored.”

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BBC to launch Gary Lineker video game

The BBC is to launch a video game starring Gary Lineker as it scrambles to win over young audiences.

The corporation will launch a game on online platform Roblox featuring some of its biggest shows, including Match of the Day, Doctor Who and EastEnders.

TV stars including Gary Lineker, Louis Theroux, Zara McDermott and Ncuti Gatwa, who plays the Fifteenth Doctor, will star in the online world.

It is the latest effort by the BBC to reach young viewers amid concerns they are increasingly defecting to streaming rivals such as Netflix, as well as social media apps including TikTok.

The crisis has taken on even greater urgency amid questions over the future of the licence fee funding model, which is currently under review.

The game, dubbed BBC Wonder Chase, will promote the BBC brand to 71m daily users of Roblox, the majority of whom are children and teenagers.

The California-based immersive gaming platform, which enjoyed a boom during Covid lockdowns, allows users to programme and play games created by themselves or others.

Players will be able to complete mini-games, collect iPlayer-branded coins, learn facts about nature and tackle obstacle courses. They will also be able to interact with friends and watch clips of BBC shows in a specially-designed cinema area.

Patricia Hildalgo, BBC director of children’s and education, said: “As the children’s media landscape is constantly evolving, we want to meet kids wherever they are.

“We know Roblox is hugely popular with children and we’re giving them the chance to interact and play with their favourite CBBC shows and characters, and discover more to love from across the BBC.”

The game, built by Bristol-based developer Mobile Pie, highlights how traditional broadcasters are seeking to harness their existing intellectual property in new, immersive digital worlds.

Players will begin their journey in Wonder Central, a virtual city in which they can meet documentarians such as Louis Theroux or interact with Hacker T Dog, a border terrier puppet that appears on CBBC.

Separate zones dedicated to themes such as sport, space and nature will allow the BBC to showcase other shows and presenters.

BBC Wonder Chase will be free to play on Roblox and available on PC, mobile, PlayStation and Xbox.

Fiona Campbell, controller of youth audience, BBC iPlayer and BBC Three, said: “BBC Wonder Chase brings some of the biggest BBC shows from the worlds of sport, drama and the natural world alive in a game space that encourages play and social interaction between friends and also the show’s leading characters.”

It comes after the BBC unveiled plans to launch TikTok-style short-form news videos as it adapts to changing viewing habits among younger audiences.

Outlining the BBC’s annual plan, director general Tim Davie said the broadcaster will focus on “embracing reform and innovation” in the year ahead.

The Government has formed a panel to consider options for replacing the licence fee, which currently stands at £169.50, with a new funding model as part of the upcoming Charter review.

The BBC will initially launch the game as an 18-month trial, with more programmes and personalities expected to be added in the coming months.

A spokesman said the corporation did not expect to require regulatory approval for the launch.

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