The Telegraph 2024-04-07 10:00:34

UK has failed to prepare itself for war, warn former defence ministers

Britain has failed to prepare itself for war as a “whole nation endeavour”, former defence ministers have warned in a stark wake-up call to the Government…

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‘Game changer’ UTI vaccine stops infection for nine years

Recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be prevented for up to nine years with an oral spray vaccine, a landmark British trial has shown.

Experts said the treatment was a “game changer” for people suffering from continual painful infections, which lead to 150,000 hospitalisations each year, costing the NHS £380 million annually.

Around half of women and 20 per cent of men suffer UTIs, which can be particularly dangerous for older people, causing irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and triggering potentially lethal falls.

The death rate for hospital UTIs is four in 100, accounting for around 6,000 deaths a year. It rises to one in 10 for people aged 95 and over as it can often develop into sepsis and make dementia worse.

In a long-running trial, 89 patients were asked to spray the pineapple-flavoured vaccine under their tongue every day for three months, and then followed up for nine years by clinicians at the UK’s Royal Berkshire Hospital.

Nearly half of the participants (48 per cent) remained entirely infection-free during the nine-year follow-up.

The average infection-free period across the cohort was 54.7 months (four and a half years) – 56.7 months for women and 44.3 months, one year less, for men. Forty per cent of the trial participants reported having second doses of the vaccine after one or two years.

‘Vaccine restored quality of life’

Dr Bob Yang, consultant urologist at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, who co-led the research, said: “Before having the vaccine, all our participants suffered from recurrent UTIs, and for many women, these can be difficult to treat.

“Nine years after first receiving this new UTI vaccine, around half of the participants remained infection-free.

“Overall, this vaccine is safe in the long term and our participants reported having fewer UTIs that were less severe. Many of those who did get a UTI told us that simply drinking plenty of water was enough to treat it.

“Many of our participants told us that having the vaccine restored their quality of life.”

At present ongoing and recurrent UTIs are treated with antibiotics, but antibiotic-resistant infections are now on the rise and drugs are becoming less effective.

The vaccine, known as Uromune, was developed by Spain-based pharmaceutical company Immunotek, and contains whole bacteria of the four most common bugs that cause UTIs in men and women –  Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus vulgaris and Enterococcus Faecalis.

It is licensed in Spain and although it is currently only available off-licence in Britain, experts are hoping it will soon be passed for use on the NHS. New results are expected to be passed to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

‘Study results offer hope to those affected’

Mary Garthwaite, chair of the Urology Foundation and a former consultant urological surgeon at James Cook University Hospital, in Middlesbrough, said: “The ability to potentially gain cure or long-term remission, with a non-antibiotic therapy, is a game changer.

“The results of this study, looking at the long-term outcomes for patients treated with Uromune, offer hope to all those affected by this devastating condition which impacts on all aspects of life – from physical and mental health, the ability to work and study, to difficulties with relationships and sex.

“In addition, it offers the benefit of helping to reduce our use of antibiotics, which often leads to a pattern of increasing antimicrobial resistance in the bacteria causing the urine infections in this patient group.

“We hope to see this non-invasive, simple treatment more widely available to recurrent UTI sufferers in the UK in future.”

The research was presented this weekend at the European Association of Urology (EAU) Congress in Paris.

Gernot Bonkat, chairman of the EAU Guidelines on Urological Infections, said: “These findings are promising. Recurrent UTIs are a substantial economic burden and the overuse of antibiotic treatments can lead to antibiotic-resistant infections.

“This follow-up study reveals encouraging data about the long-term safety and effectiveness of the MV140 vaccine.

“While we need to be pragmatic, this vaccine is a potential breakthrough in preventing UTIs and could offer a safe and effective alternative to conventional treatments.”

If the vaccine is approved by the MHRA it would also need to be approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence for cost effectiveness. The NHS calculates that Uromune would cost about £326 per course, compared to about £50 for antibiotics.

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Sunak being ‘propped up’ by 1922 committee ‘stooges’, claim MPs

The Conservative Party’s 1922 committee has the power to make or break the careers of MPs, right up to the party’s leader. It has sealed the fate of two recent prime ministers.

In the dying days of both Boris Johnson’s and Liz Truss’s time in office, it fell to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the committee, to pay them a visit in Downing Street and tell them the game was up.

The committee, which celebrated its 100th anniversary last year, was set up to represent the interests of backbench MPs. It operates behind closed doors, holding weekly meetings with MPs and acting as a conduit between the parliamentary Tory party and the Government.

Given the influence it wields, it is no surprise that the committee occasionally attracts the ire of fellow MPs. But in recent weeks, frustration among backbenchers has reached boiling point, with the committee’s members accused of acting as “stooges” for the Prime Minister.

As one former Cabinet minister put it, far from acting as “shop stewards”, the 1922 committee is now seen by some Tory MPs as “propping up Rishi”.

Another MP told The Telegraph: “They no longer represent the parliamentary party. It has become a thank you club for Rishi. They are just his stooges.” The MP claimed some senior members of the committee may have been “bought off with gongs and peerages”.

A veteran MP and former officer of the 1922 committee echoed that sentiment, saying: “One of the problems is that too many of the officers of the ’22 are not standing again as MPs, so what are they looking for? They are looking at their ticket to the House of Lords.

“They should be more representative of what’s happening. In terms of their relationship with the PM, there should be a healthy tension between the two. They are not really doing their job of robustly defending the interests of backbench MPs.”

The MPs argue that, since some of the senior members of the committee are standing down at the next election, they feel less inclined to rock the boat and are, if anything, seeking to curry favour with Mr Sunak.

Sir Graham has said he will not stand again as an MP, as has William Wragg, one of the committee’s joint chairmen along with Jo Gideon, an executive member. 

A source said Downing Street did not recognise claims about promises of peerages and gongs.

Some believe those MPs who have said they will stand down should give up their places on the committee to make way for fresh faces.

One former Cabinet minister said: “Most people feel that the 1922 committee is not a useful body for expressing frustration to the PM. You either go to someone in Downing Street yourself, or you go by other routes, or you go public with it.

“No one can even remember their names, apart from Graham Brady who is leaving at the next election anyway – that changes the position. It makes him a lame duck.”

Others believe the rise of factions in the Conservative Party is in part a response to the lack of trust in the 1922 committee’s ability to adequately convey the feelings of the MPs to ministers.

The rise of factions “speak to how divided the party is” and “shows how broken the 1922 committee is. We are just not a functioning party”, some MPs have claimed.

For some in the party, suspicion around the motives of the 1922 committee dates back to the last Tory party leadership contest. “He [Mr Sunak] was put in position, and is being kept in position, by the committee,” said one MP.

At the time of the last leadership contest, the committee drew up the rules, along with the Conservative Party board. The rules stated that only candidates who can secure the nomination of 100 Tory MPs – out of roughly 360 available – can make it into the MPs’ voting round. 

That meant Mr Sunak was crowned party leader and Prime Minister without a vote going to Tory party members, who did vote for Ms Truss, his predecessor.

John Strafford, who chairs the grassroots group Conservative Campaign For Democracy, said there was “no doubt at all” that the committee was keeping Mr Sunak in power.

“When Rishi became Prime Minister, the ’22 committee acted in liaison with the party board and changed the existing system of how many people were needed to nominate a candidate,” he said. “They just quite disgracefully changed the rules, and there was no consultation with the party members.”

One senior MP said: “The way in which the rules were manipulated in order to prevent there being a proper contest, to prevent Boris being able to come back and so on, all of that showed them to be not objective and out for themselves.”

However, even those who criticise the committee still heap praise on Sir Graham, who is widely respected by colleagues. “Graham, to his credit, has always been very discreet, hasn’t revealed what he said to prime ministers but has handled with reasonable distinction a number of different occasions,” said one MP.

Sir Graham said: “Most of the work of the officers and executive of the 1922 committee is done privately, and is more effective for it. We also provide a regular open forum in which all colleagues can express their views.”

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Israeli family forced to relive Hamas trauma as photo of murdered daughter wins award

An award given to a photo of Shani Louk’s dead body in the back of a Hamas truck has forced her family to “relive the pain” of her murder and abduction on Oct 7, her mother has told The Telegraph.

Ricarda Louk, 53, said that pictures of her Israeli-German daughter, 22, were “traumatic for all of us. Just try to imagine seeing your loved girl lying half-naked and lifeless on the truck with those savages around her.”

That trauma was raked up all over again, she said, when one of the photos was among those awarded “Team Picture Story of the Year” by the Missouri School of Journalism’s Reynolds Journalism Institute last month.

The picture, which was taken by freelance photographer Ali Mahmud and published by Associated Press, shows four triumphant-looking Hamas militants brandishing a rocket launcher and guns as they sit on top of Shani Louk’s body, lying face-down in the back of a pickup truck.

In the picture, she was still wearing the clubbing outfit she had on when she attended the Nova music festival. Blood and dirt can be seen on her skin.

Separate footage posted online later in the day showed her body being paraded around the streets of Gaza, with some spitting on her.

“Seeing those pictures again because of the contest makes our family relive the pain,” said Ms Louk.

She also highlighted the fact that the image can still be bought by news outlets, effectively generating profit from her daughter’s death.

“That’s really unimaginable, every day goes by they still earn money on those pictures… They’re still selling them and they’re still making lots of money from them,” she said.

Ms Louk said the family was not told in advance that the photo was up for an award, adding it “made me angry”.

“The fact they celebrated this photo with a prize makes us hurt even more because really, it’s like celebrating that they were killed. I mean, the whole massacre is celebrated. It’s not by chance that they chose this picture so it hurts us even more.”

Bringing attention to harsh realities of war

The Reynolds Journalism Institute has said it “strongly” condemned the Oct 7 attack by Hamas but that it stood by its award.

“Reactions to the Team Picture Story of the Year express the greater emotions related to that conflict,” said Lynden Steele, the director of photojournalism at the institute. 

“While we understand the reactions to the pictures, we also believe that photojournalism plays an important role in bringing attention to the harsh realities of war.”

The Telegraph has contacted the Associated Press (AP) for comment.

The wire agency is currently being sued by the US-based National Jewish Advocacy Centre for allegedly being so quick to photograph events on Oct 7 because they or their journalists had advance knowledge of the attack.

In a statement in February, AP said the lawsuit was “baseless”.

“AP had no advance knowledge of the Oct. 7 attacks, nor have we seen any evidence – including in the lawsuit – that the freelance journalists who contributed to our coverage did. Allegations like this are reckless and create even more potential danger for journalists in the region.”

Social media outcry

Ms Louk is not the only person to condemn the picture being given an award.

There was outcry on social media when the picture was posted on Instagram by the Institute. That post has since been deleted.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, the British historian and author wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter: “It is hard to know who is more repellent – @‌AP for using the product of a ghoul who rode with terrorists and rapists as they slaughtered women and children and then stopped to pose and snap this vision of heartless, diabolic triumph… or the Missouri School of Journalism that is rewarding that repulsive conduct,” 

A petition demanding Nikon to denounce the award given to the Associated Press for Picture of the Year has raised nearly 150,000 signatures.

Ms Louk says she is trying to move on from the horrors of her daughter’s murder, while still waiting for her body to be returned by Hamas.

“We did the Shiva which is like the seven days of mourning with lots of people, but we didn’t do a burial yet,” she said. “We are giving it a year for her body to come back and if it doesn’t in a year, we will do a burial.”

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Beard-loving pagans are fastest growing religion in Armed Forces

Paganism is the fastest growing religious group in the British Armed Forces, The Telegraph can reveal.

Followers of the pagan faiths, who typically sport beards as a lifestyle choice, numbered 660 at the start of the year across the Armed Forces, up 144 per cent from 270 in April 2020.

In addition to the pagans, there are around 50 self-declared Heathens, Wiccans, Druidists and Odinists, all of which are nature-revering religions associated with paganism.

Earlier this month, the head of the army overturned a 100-year ban on facial hair to allow soldiers to grow beards. The announcement has been heartily welcomed by pagan leaders.

The figures, obtained under freedom of information requests, show that growth in paganism has been highest in the regular army, with numbers increasing from 190 to 500 over the past four years.

Meanwhile, the number of self-declared pagans has more than doubled from 40 to 90 in the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and increased from 40 to 70 in the RAF.

In recent years, paganism has become the fifth most celebrated religion among UK service personnel, after Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.

There are now three times more pagans in the British armed forces than there are Sikhs. If the numbers of pagans continue to rise at the same rate they will soon outnumber Muslims as well.

The number of Buddhists and Hindus serving in the regular armed forces have risen by 1.8 per cent and 8.6 per cent over the past four years, while the number of Muslims has increased by more than a quarter from 610 to 770.

But these increases are dwarfed by the 144 per cent rise in the number of pagans in the armed forces over the same period.

‘Freedom of choice’

Arthur Pendragon, a senior druid and pagan priest from Salisbury, said he welcomed the ban on beards being lifted for soldiers.

Mr Pendragon, who served in the British army for six years, said: “I am pleased to hear about it because I like a beard and I would have liked to have worn one when I was in the army. I welcome it because it means freedom of choice.”

He said the true number of pagans in the army will be much higher because “a lot of people will just say ‘no religion’ even if they have pagan leanings. If you look worldwide, you will see that all the Earth-based religions are on the increase. People seem to be looking back to a time when we were closer to nature and when everything worked.”

Manny Tejeda y Moreno, editor of The Wild Hunt, an online pagan news site, explained that there are “elements of living the faith that do have to do with facial hair”.

He went on: “The presence of facial hair is part of honouring a particular path that you have chosen. We welcome the army’s decision, just as we welcome any movement forward to offer greater freedom of expression and freedom of religion.”

Religious requirement?

There is debate within the pagan community about whether beards are a religious requirement or not.

The Pagan Federation says: “For many years there has been a recurring discussion regarding the right of Pagans, and in particular Heathens, in the armed forces and other uniformed organisations to grow a beard.

“Many misinformed groups argue that Heathens should be allowed exemptions from dress-code rules and uniform regulations with regards to facial hair on religious grounds.”

The Federation goes on to point out that in pagan sacred texts, beards are featured in physical descriptions of people but “at no point do they mention any spiritual or religious aspect of beard wear”.

Earlier this month, the King, who is Commander-in-Chief, signed off on the decision to allow officers and soldiers to wear beards.

Following a review of the Army’s policy on appearances and beards, Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of the Army, took the decision that “the appearance policy will change” after a survey of serving and reservist troops.

The findings showed an “overwhelming majority” felt the Army needed to change its policy and allow soldiers to wear beards.

It came after Grant Shapps, the Defence Secretary, said the beard ban was “ludicrous” when discussing the Army’s recruitment crisis.

The move brings the Army into line with the RAF and Royal Navy who already permit full beards.

A Government spokesman said: “Our Armed Forces are made up of personnel from a vast range of backgrounds.”

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Hobby horses to take part in show pony championship

It seemed so far-fetched that many of Horse & Hound’s readers assumed it was an April Fool’s joke. But to the delight of aspiring young riders everywhere, the British Show Pony Society (BSPS) really has introduced hobby horse riding competitions.

In the latest move to encourage an even wider age group to take up the sport, classes will be divided into two age ranges – three to six and seven to 11.

Competitors at the BSPS’s summer championships will each perform a freestyle show of no more than two minutes, with 50 marks on offer for coordination, balance, energy and body control.

Another 50 marks will be awarded for “overall performance of the show with energy and appeal”.

While plaits will be optional, riders’ toes will be required to be pointed outwards and “elegance and energy” will be the key determiners in qualifying for a hobby horse riding final.

A BSPS spokesman said: “The BSPS wanted to embrace the hobby horse craze as an addition to our fabulous children’s entertainment programme, which sets the society apart from others in providing all-round family fun.”

Under the rules each competitor must be mounted on a hobby horse and all riders must wear shoes.

Plaited or unplaited

There is no specific dress code but trainers or gym shoes should be flexible to enable toes to be pointed. “Your hobby horse can be plaited or unplaited,” state the rules, while reminding young riders that “the judge’s decision is final”.

The top three in each section will qualify for the summer championships, with a £300 voucher on offer for the winners.

The BSPS said: “We are a children’s society and, as such, it is important to ensure that we make sure our championship shows are fun for all our smaller members.

“We hope that this will raise awareness of our extensive children’s entertainment programme at both the BSPS summer and winter championships.

“All the children’s entertainment is free and includes a playbus, craft room, iBox bus, football competition, fancy dress, disco and fashion show, and parties for the adults, and enables the BSPS to stand out against other major Society shows.”

Hobby horse riding competitions are already popular in Finland, where they have been held for several years, with dozens of children taking part. The events have coaches and judges and the riders give their horses names and assign them breeds and sex.

The hobby, so to speak, has even spread to Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as Russia.

Several readers were so baffled by the announcement that Horse & Hound – the oldest equestrian weekly magazine in Britain, dating back to 1884 – even published a clarification on its website.

It stated: “This year, our April Fool story was about the earliest example of ‘matchy-matchy’ horse and rider gear, dating from about 35,000 BC.

“While most readers correctly identified this as a spoof story to mark the day, some assumed that the story published later the same day about the BSPS introducing a hobby horse championship was also an April Fool, when it was not.”

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Feminists accuse pro-trans activists of ‘intimidation’ on Scottish march

Feminists protesting against the new Scottish hate crime law have hit out at “abusive” placards displayed by pro-trans activists.

Women marching in Edinburgh against Humza Yousaf’s legislation, which critics including JK Rowling have warned could criminalise airing gender-critical beliefs, criticised the pro-trans protesters for “harassment and intimidation”.

Pictures from the march showed demonstrators draped in the trans pride flag holding abusive placards.

One sign read “trans dogs bite terfs”. The term “terfs” is used by transgender campaigners to describe women who oppose the view that gender is unfixed and can change according to how people self-identify.

Another sign suggested that lesbians are attracted to the male genitalia of transgender people, and another that they are attracted to transgender breasts.

Women Scotland, a campaign group, told The Telegraph: “It’s pure harassment and intimidation. They are deliberately going out to cause upset.

“Women are trying to talk about their lives and are being subject to torrents of sexist and homophobic abuse.”

The march was organised by Kellie-Jay Keen, a gender-critical campaigner who has led a number of Let Women Speak rallies around the world. Many of those events have attracted counter-protests by pro-trans demonstrators.

Ms Keen said her purpose was to “test the law” on the march to see how the police would handle gender-critical chants in light of the new legislation, which took effect on April 1.

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