INDEPENDENT 2024-04-09 10:04:10


Liz Truss says Queen told her to ‘pace yourself’

Liz Truss has revealed the late Queen Elizabeth II told her to “pace yourself” during their first and final meeting as prime minister.

In her new book, Ten Years to Save the West, Truss admitted she did not take the monarch’s advice when they met in September 2022 to confirm her as Britain’s new prime minister.

Of her historic meeting at Balmoral in Scotland, which occured just two days before the monarch’s death, Truss says the 96-year-old the Queen “seemed to have grown frailer” since she had last been in the public eye.

“We spent around 20 minutes discussing politics. She was completely attuned to everything that was happening, as well as being typically sharp and witty,” she writes.

“Towards the end of our discussion, she warned me that being prime minister is incredibly aging. She also gave me two words of advice: ‘Pace yourself.’ Maybe I should have listened.”

At the meeting, the Queen was pictured using a walking stick and smiling warmly as she greeted Ms Truss in front of an open fire in her sitting room.

The meeting produced the last public photograph of the late Queen before she died on September 8 2022 at her Scottish residence.

Ms Truss’ book dives into the visit among other tales from her short tenure as prime minister which lasted just 49 days.

She travelled to Balmoral Castle to meet Elizabeth II on September 6 and described the monarch as “frail” but “mentally alert” prior to the book’s release.

Ms Truss said that she had been summoned to the Scottish palace due to the Queen’s health. However, she found her namesake was “absolutely on top” of things and seemed intent on meeting again.

“She was very, very keen to reassure me that we’d be meeting again soon… It was very important to her,” Ms Truss told GB News in September 2023.

“She was absolutely on top of what was happening. Although she was physically quite frail, she was absolutely mentally alert.”

Ms Truss added that there was no suggestion the Queen might be about to pass away. Truss writes in her new book that the news came as “a profound shock” to her which left her thinking “Why me? Why now?”

“I was obviously only in the first few days of the job of being prime minister. I was thinking about many different things,” Ms Truss told GB in 2023.

“But the assumption absolutely was that this would be the first of many meetings [with the Queen].

“She was very determined to do her duty, right to the end. We had a very, very good meeting. She was upbeat.”

While promoting her book to the Mail on Sunday last September, Ms Truss revealed that her formerly close political friendship with Kwasi Kwarteng – who she sacked as chancellor – is effectively over.

And she admitted she “still struggles to compute what happened” during her turbulent time in Downing Street.

“I was pushing against a system and against an orthodoxy that was gradually moving to the left,” she said, singling out the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility as she recalled the “seismic” period in politics.

World Netball bans trans athletes from competing in internationals

World Netball has banned transgender players from international competition with immediate effect under a new participation and inclusion policy issued on Monday.

The global governing body of what has traditionally been, and remains at an international level, a women’s sport said it had undergone a lengthy consultation before issuing the policy. A recent BBC survey suggested a majority of elite sportswomen were “uncomfortable” with trans athletes competing in female classes, but the small-scale sendout only received 143 responses and was only issued to around 600 athletes initially.

“Following detailed review of the science and consultation with experts and members, it has determined that international level women’s netball is a gender affected activity and that a policy is required (to) ensure fairness and safety at this level of our sport,” World Netball said in a statement.

“World Netball believes that the research on which it has relied is robust, it comprises many research studies, all of which have been published in peer-reviewed journals and come from multiple distinct research groups around the world.”

Global governing bodies for cricket, cycling, athletics, swimming and chess have all tightened their participation rules for transgender athletes in elite women’s competitions over the last couple of years.

The netball policy pertains only to international competition and WN said national governing bodies could choose to “modify or even not apply these guidelines” if they decided to base their participation rules on other factors.

Critics of transgender inclusion in women’s sport say going through male puberty imbues athletes with a huge musculo-skeletal advantage that transition does not mitigate. LGBT advocacy groups say excluding trans athletes amounts to discrimination and that not enough research has been done into the impact of transition on athletic performance.

WN will review the policy on an annual basis. “World Netball is committed to evidence-based decision making and commits to evaluating any emerging evidence that pertains to elements of the policy,” the statement added. “This includes any high-quality research that is published, and which will inform a formal review of the policy.”

Reuters

The picture from Khan Younis that cries out: agree a ceasefire now

Palestinians are slowly returning to the devastated city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza to find their homes completely destroyed with piles of rubble lying in bombed-out craters.

Picking their way through twisted metal and shattered buildings, it seems extraordinary anyone would ever go back – but they fear what the Israeli military may have planned next.

Many of those heading home, after months of heavy bombardment and battles in the streets, have come from the city of Rafah, at the southernmost tip of Gaza. Israeli officials say the withdrawal of troops from Khan Younis was part of a regrouping in preparation for an offensive on Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are believed to be sheltering.

For Khalil Haddad, his wife and three children, there is nothing left of their home in Khan Younis. But they feel an overwhelming sense of relief that they will not be in Rafah and threatened by an Israeli onslaught.

“People are terrified of what could happen in Rafah. The main thing is to keep the family alive. Khan Younis has really been destroyed, but at least there won’t be any fighting. We’ll find somewhere to stay and then bring my father and mother out. I cannot rest until we do that,” said the 48-year-old carpenter.

“We cannot really stay in our house. We also had relations living here, maybe they have somewhere we can live for the time being. I don’t know what will happen in the future here. It has been really terrible for the last six months since the war started. But we were afraid if we stayed in Rafah some of us could die.”

In a video address as people streamed back into Khan Younis, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu escalated his pledge to invade Rafah, declaring: “There is a date.” Mr Netanyahu said the Rafah operation is essential for victory. “It will happen,” he said, without elaborating. The US State Department later said it hadn’t been briefed on a date for an assault on Rafah.

Jamila El Masry said Khan Younis is unrecognisable from when she and her family fled to Rafah on the instructions of the Israeli military. “We knew they had been bombing [the city] for months. But we did not expect this. They have spared nothing. It will all have to be rebuilt. But who’s going to do it?”

It comes as calls grow for a ceasefire in Gaza, with the Palestinian death toll at more than 33,000 according to health officials in the Hamas-run strip. Nations including the UK and US – Israel‘s staunchest ally – have been calling for Mr Netanyahu’s government to allow more aid into Gaza. Months of aerial bombardment, a ground assault and a blockade triggered by the Hamas attack inside Israel on 7 October have left areas of northern Gaza facing famine. Around 1,100 Israelis were killed and another 250 were taken hostage in the Hamas attack.

The US has also stepped up its calls for a ceasefire in recent weeks and on Monday the White House said the director of the CIA, William Burns, had been in Cairo for a “serious round” of negotiations for a ceasefire and the release of the remaining hostages in Gaza, believed to number around 130 – although Israel believes a quarter of that number are dead. White House spokesperson John Kirby said the United States was taking the discussions very seriously and that a deal to release hostages would include a ceasefire of around six weeks.

Although Hamas rejected the latest Israeli ceasefire proposal suggested at discussions in Cairo on Monday night, mediator Qatar said there was cautious optimism around the talks, with a new proposal potentially closing the gaps between Israel and Hamas. Qatar Foreign Ministry spokesperson Majed Mohammed al-Ansari told the BBC: “If you ask me if I’m more optimistic today than I was a couple of days ago, I would say, yes.”

However, he cautioned: “We are by no means at the last stretch of the talks.”

Two Egyptian security sources and the state-run Al-Qahera News said on Monday some progress had been made in the Cairo talks. The security sources told Reuters that both sides had made concessions that could help pave the way for a deal for a truce which – as proposed during previous talks – would be staggered over three stages, with the release of any remaining Israeli hostages and a long-term ceasefire addressed in the second stage. However, a Hamas official claimed to Reuters that no progress was made in the latest talks.

Asked about the talks by reporters on Monday, Israeli government spokesperson Avi Hyman would not go into detail, saying only: “The most important thing is that the right people are in the right place at the right time to discuss a way in which the 133 Israeli hostages can be released.”

In terms of aid, the White House said that 300 aid trucks entered Gaza on Sunday, and that it would keep pressing for more. Qatar’s Mr Ansari said his nation was encouraged to see more aid taken into the besieged territory, but that it was nowhere near what was needed.

For those returning to Khan Younis, they have lost everything. Mahmoud Abdel-Ghani, who fled to Rafah in December, found him and his neighbours’ houses flattened. “Many areas, especially the city centre, have become unfit for life,” he told the Associated Press.

One woman clambered over slabs of collapsed concrete atop a mountain of wreckage that was once her home. Her son crawled on all fours into a hollow under the rubble and twisted rebar, clearing away concrete blocks.

“There are no words to describe the pain inside me,” the woman said to the AP, her voice breaking. “Our memories, our dreams, our childhood here, our family – we were raised with them here – it’s all gone.” The woman, who identified herself only by her first name, Hanan, put a few items they found into a backpack, including a plastic red flower.

There is also the threat of unexploded bombs or other remnants from Israel’s fight with Hamas.

An estimated 55 per cent of the buildings in the Khan Younis area – around 45,000 buildings – have been destroyed or damaged, according to the latest figures from two researchers, Corey Scher of City University of New York and Jamon Van Den Hoek of Oregon State University, who have been using satellite imagery to track destruction throughout the war.

Israel’s military quietly drew down troops in devastated northern Gaza earlier in the war. But it has continued to carry out airstrikes and raids in areas where it says Hamas regrouped, including Gaza’s largest hospital, al-Shifa, leaving what the head of the World Health Organization called “an empty shell”. Israel blames Hamas for the damage, saying it fights from within civilian areas.

The move to withdraw most Israeli troops from southern Gaza sparked alarm among far-right members of Mr Netanyahu’s governing coalition. Israel’s national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, warned that “if Netanyahu decides to end the war without an expansive assault in Rafah, he won’t have the mandate to serve as prime minister”.

The UK is among those to have warned against an assault on Rafah, and over the weekend, the foreign secretary, David Cameron, said that Britain’s support for Israel to defend itself would not be “unconditional”.

Writing in The Sunday Times, he said: “Of course our backing is not unconditional: we expect such a proud and successful democracy to abide by international humanitarian law, even when challenged in this way. As an occupying power, Israel has a responsibility to the people of Gaza.”

On Saturday, Lord Cameron said a Royal Navy ship had been deployed to help supply “life-saving aid” to Gaza, with the situation inside the strip being “dire” as “the prospect of famine is real”.

Brother-in-law of Scotland’s first minister charged with abduction

The brother-in-law of Scotland’s first minister has been charged with abduction and extortion in a case linked to a man who died falling from a window.

Police Scotland said the 36-year-old was seriously injured in the incident at a block of flats in Morgan Street, Dundee, on 10 January and he later died in hospital.

Ramsay El-Nakla, the brother of Humza Yousaf’s wife, Nadia El-Nakla, will be the fourth person to appear in court in connection with the case.

The 36-year-old has been arrested and charged with abduction and extortion.

Jennifer Souter, 38, appeared at Dundee Sheriff Court on Thursday charged with culpable homicide.

Souter, of Dundee, did not enter a plea and was remanded in custody.

Stephen Stewart, 50, and Victoria McGowan, 41, appeared at the same court on Thursday charged with abduction and extortion.

They both did not enter a plea and were both released on bail.

El-Nakla is expected to appear at the same court on Tuesday.

Police Scotland said in a statement: “A 36-year-old man has been arrested and charged with abduction and extortion following an incident where a man fell from a block of flats on Morgan Street, Dundee, on Wednesday 10 January. He died a week later in hospital.

“Three others were previously arrested and charged following the same incident.

“The 36-year-old man is due to appear in Dundee Sheriff Court today, Tuesday 9 April. A report will be submitted to the procurator fiscal.”

This is a breaking story, more follows.

Ex-NHS worker jailed for poisoning young boy with laxatives

A former NHS worker has been jailed for giving a young boy “industrial amounts” of laxatives, which caused his development and mobility to be affected.

Tracy Menhinick, from Aberdeen, poisoned the child while he was aged between three and six, and was admitted to hospital weighing just under 10kg when he was five years old.

The 52-year-old then consented to treatments, procedures and operations on him which she knew were unnecessary “all to his permanent disfigurement, permanent impairment and to the danger of his life”.

Following a trial at the High Court in Aberdeen, she was found guilty of “wilfully” ill-treating the child in a manner likely to cause him unnecessary suffering or injury to health on various occasions over the course of three years from 2014.

She has now been jailed for seven years when she appeared for sentencing at the High Court in Glasgow on Tuesday.

One expert witness told jurors that the child resembled a survivor from a concentration camp, and that he was taken to hospital in October 2016 following concerns for his weight loss and explosive diarrhoea.

Under observation by hospital staff, it was discovered that he would drastically deteriorate when under Menhinick’s care, and a test result from Great Ormond Street Hospital confirmed lactulose was present in his stool sample.

The ill-treatment happened on various occasions at an address in Aberdeen, at Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital and elsewhere.

The child cannot be named for legal reasons.

Frances Connor, representing Menhinick, said she has a “package of mental health problems” and a very complex psychiatric history.

More follows.

Savvy spending guide: 5 ways to shop more mindfully and save money

The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute financial advice. This information is from an independent third party, these are their own views and do not necessarily constitute the views of American Express.

Whether you’re trying to be more sustainable, save money or a bit of both, there’s no doubt that adopting a more mindful approach to shopping has real benefits for us and the planet we live in. So, whether you’re splashing out on a new wardrobe item or the latest piece of tech, how can you ensure you shop savvily, and don’t end up disappointed or having to throw good money after bad?

According to finance coach Ellie-Austin Williams, the founder of financial wellbeing community ‘This Girl Talks Money’ and author of Money Talks: A Lifestyle Guide for Financial Wellbeing, it’s all about having a strategy when it comes to spending.

“A lot of it is just about taking your time to make the decision and being confident that you have explored all the options,” she explains. “Work out what you actually need or want as well as why, do your research, and then buy smartly.” Here Ellie shares her advice for savvy spending, so you’ll never regret a splurge again…

Whether it’s a new tech item for work or one of your hobbies, a vital piece of homeware or a new pair of shoes – investment buying is about adopting a more thoughtful, mindful approach to spending, which will pay off in the long run.

“For me, investment purchases are where you have to spend a little bit more money up front but in the long term, you’ll save money because you’re buying something that will stand the test of time, that’s going to be better quality and is going to meet your needs for a longer period,” says Ellie.

When it comes to things that you use or wear everyday – whether a pair of noise-cancelling headphones or a new sofa – it’s worth making sure you’re buying something that will last. “Sometimes paying a bit more for higher quality materials will mean that something lasts several times longer as something that’s half the price so overall you end up spending less,” says Ellie.

It’s not about spending more money for the sake of it – the best buy won’t always be the priciest one. But when you are looking to drop some cash on something more significant than your small, everyday purchases, it can pay off to spend more upfront.

There’s nothing better than the feeling of buying the right thing, at the right time, for the right price. But too often we can end up feeling like we’ve made a mistake with our purchases. So how should you approach an investment buy?

“I think the key question to ask yourself is, why am I buying this?” says Ellie. “Is this something that I need or want? If it’s something that you want, that’s fine, but know why you want it. Is it something that actually is going to elevate or enhance your life in a valuable way or is it just part of a trend or fad?”

Be realistic with what you can afford, too. When it comes to any non-essential buys, Ellie always recommends prioritising essentials and long-term finances first. “So, figure out how much you want to put into your savings and then look at what’s leftover as disposable income.”

Work out your budget before you start browsing. “There will nearly always be higher end options, as well as cheaper ones, but be focused in your research and look for the best option within that budget,” says Ellie. “If you’re buying a washing machine and your budget is £600, don’t spend time looking at the £1000 machines that have great reviews but you can’t afford.”

Don’t rush it, either. One good strategy for buying bigger or more expensive items is to go home and think about it, or put it in your virtual basket and leave it there for a few days. “It’s good to sit on investment purchases for a little bit,” says Ellie. “A day or two – maybe longer if it’s a bigger purchase. Just to see if you feel the same about it once the initial buzz of the idea has worn off.”

An easy mistake to make with investment buying is assuming you should always go for the more expensive item where possible. The latest phone release might be getting all the headlines – but do you really need everything it offers, or would a lower range or slightly older model suit you just as well?

It’s all about working out what product best suits your needs, says Ellie. “For example, I don’t do a lot of heavy video editing or gaming so I don’t need a super high processing speed laptop and have saved money on that,” she says. “But I do a lot of filming on my phone for my social channels and the lowest level model doesn’t have the best quality camera. So it’s all going to be individual to your specific needs and usage.”

Especially when you’re buying out of your comfort zone, speaking to an online sales advisor or – even better – going into a store can be helpful in pinning down which specific product is going to be right for you. “If you’ve got the time to actually talk to someone with some expertise, that can be really helpful in finding an item that really suits your needs rather than just buying something that’s new and shiny and might require spending more money than you need to. You’ll get the chance to try it out, talk through the product and functions, and look at alternatives.”

Even if you intend to buy online eventually – if you have a specific online or app deal or discount code for example – it’s worth looking at things in person first.

While getting the advice of salespeople is useful, do your own research, too. When it’s a big purchase, make sure you look at independent consumer review websites like Which?, even if you have to pay a small fee to access them.

“Sometimes paying for a subscription to a site like this is worth it if you’re going to spend a lot of money on an item, to get a well-rounded assessment, see the pros and cons in one place and to see it compared to similar products,” says Ellie.

Search online for write-ups in national news titles or specialist magazines, and check out customer reviews on the big retailers’ sites. “I look at the negative reviews just to see if there are any specific complaints that consistently pop up,” says Ellie.

Seek advice closer to home, too. “Getting recommendations from friends and family is a great way to cut through the noise and overwhelm.” Social media can be a great place to ask for opinions and recommendations, including in any relevant social media groups you’re a member of, such as on Facebook or Reddit.

Once you’ve figured out what it is that you need (or want!), make sure that you’re shopping around and buying in the most cost-effective way.

“Google Shopping is a good starting point to compare prices, as it searches a wide range of retailers, including Amazon, Currys, John Lewis and Tesco, as well as less traditional sites such as eBay, Etsy and daily deals site Groupon,” says Ellie. “But use the filters to select retailers that you know and trust. If a price looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

Look into price-tracking sites – these have browser extensions that scour the internet for coupons and promo deals and automatically apply them at online checkouts. There are also specific sites that track Amazon prices and show the pricing history so you can see if you’re buying at a good time.

Money Saving Expert have created a special tool to help you find bargain buys in Amazon Warehouse (where you can buy customer returned or slightly damaged products for low prices). Also explore fashion and sale aggregate sites – many of these have discount alert functions, allow you to create watchlists of items from different online retailers, and set target sales prices, so you can maximise your discounts.

“A lot of retailers offer discounts of 10 per cent on your first purchase if you sign up to mailing lists, so that can be worth doing, and you can always unsubscribe later,” says Ellie. If you’re already signed up with a retailer, it’s worth leaving something in your online basket without buying it – sometimes they’ll email you with an offer to tempt you to complete the purchase.

Be clever about when you buy, and hold out for seasonal discounts. “If you don’t need something urgently then it can be worth waiting for one of those calendar moments to see if you can get a discount. The obvious ones are Black Friday and after Christmas, but there can be deals throughout the year.”

And don’t rule out buying pre-loved options via sites like eBay and Facebook Marketplace. “It’s a great way to get things that are high quality but that are usually out of your price range,” says Ellie, “and many items are sold unworn with tags.”

By making purchases on your credit card, you can take advantage of cashback offers and exclusive retail discounts, making your buy even savvier. “Also make sure that you’re checking the big cashback websites like TopCashback and Quidco before you make any purchases,” says Ellie. “Some retailers are on certain sites but not others so check them all. These are all little things that you can do to help you to save a bit extra.”

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The NHS must be open to a course of tough love as prescribed by Labour

Labour’s perpetually combative shadow health secretary, Wes Streeting, has never shied away from unarmed political combat, but to launch himself into an attack on his own party’s core support is, even for him, veering into dangerous-dog territory.

In what the police would, in a different context, term an “unprovoked attack”, Mr Streeting gave little more warning than a cursory snarl about Labour’s investment in the NHS being “linked to reform” before sinking those sharp centrist fangs of his into the soft flesh of the Labour movement.

Pouring more money in without reform would be like pouring water into a leaky bucket. We will also use spare capacity in the private sector to cut the waiting lists. Middle-class lefties cry ‘betrayal’. The real betrayal is the two-tier system that sees people like them treated faster – while working ­families like mine are left waiting for longer.” Constituency Labour parties and Unison branches across the land were left needing stitches.

Do the allegations about Angela Rayner’s tax affairs have any merit?

Angela Rayner, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, has been accused, variously, of evading tax, avoiding tax, lying, and misleading the public as well as her party leader about her tax affairs. The allegations arise from a book by Michael Ashcroft, a former deputy chair of the Tory party and no stranger to tax-based controversies himself.

In Red Queen? The Unauthorised Biography of Angela Rayner, Ashcroft alleges that, long before she was an MP, she bought her former council house, in Vicarage Road in Stockport, with a 25 per cent “right to buy” discount. In due course, she got married and cohabited with Mark Rayner, and she sold the house in 2015 at a gross profit of £48,000.

Ashcroft used information from the electoral register, Rayner’s marriage certificate, and the address given on the birth certificates of her children in his research, but the evidence is inconclusive, and even if it were possible to establish where she and her husband/partner were living at various points, it may be irrelevant from a tax liability perspective. The great irony may be that both Rayner and Ashcroft are misunderstanding the regulations relating to capital gains tax (CGT), albeit in their own different ways.