INDEPENDENT 2024-04-11 10:08:44


JK Rowling says Harry Potter cast can ‘save their apologies’

JK Rowling has directly addressed her criticism from Harry Potter stars Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson, suggesting she won’t “forgive” them for it.

The author, who had a close relationship with the pair when they starred in the film adaptations of her wizarding world series, faced a backlash from several of the franchise’s stars when she shared controversial remarks about the trans community in June 2020.

At the time, Radcliffe, who played lead character Harry Potter, wrote an essay for The Trevor Project as a way of showing support for the trans community, and apologised “for the pain” Rowling’s comments have caused the Harry Potter fandom.

Meanwhile, Watson wrote amid the controversy: “I want my trans followers to know that I and so many other people around the world see you, respect you and love you for who you are,” and appeared to make a dig at Rowling at the Baftas in 2022.

After host Rebel Wilson said: “Here to present the next award is Emma Watson. She calls herself a feminist, but we all know she’s a witch,” Watson replied, after walking onto the stage: “I’m here for all the witches.

”On Twitter/X, one commenter, whose account name include the phrase “FarRightHooligan”, wrote to Rowling: “Just waiting for Dan and Emma to give you a very public apology … safe in the knowledge that you will forgive them.”

Rowling responded: “Not safe, I’m afraid. Celebs who cosied up to a movement intent on eroding women’s hard-won rights and who used their platforms to cheer on the transitioning of minors can save their apologies for traumatised detransitioners and vulnerable women reliant on single sex spaces.”

Her comment comes after it was reported the author could be investigated by police for misgendering trans people under Scotland’s new hate crime law.

The SNP party’s community safety minister, Siobhian Brown, had previously claimed that misgendering – for example, using the pronoun “he” when talking about a trans woman – would not count as a hate crime, but she has now said it would be a police decision.

However, Rowling, who has frequently argued online that trans women are not women, vowed to continue “calling a man a man” despite what she called the “ludicrous law”, and said she would not delete social media posts that could breach hate crime laws.

The author has long been a fierce critic of the Scottish Government’s gender reform plans, arguing the proposals infringe on women’s safety.

She has previously stated that she would rather go to jail than refer to a trans person by their preferred pronouns.

Ultimately, police said that Rowling’s comments about new hate crime laws “are not assessed to be criminal” and confirmed no further action would be taken.

King Charles hoping to play ‘peacemaker’ in bitter Harry and William feud

King Charles is hoping to play the “peacemaker” between Prince Harry and Prince William during the Sussexes next visit to the UK, a palace insider claimed.

Former royal butler Grant Harrold, who worked closely with Charles for several years when he was Prince of Wales, believed it was “very likely” Harry and William would reconnect this year.

The Duke is scheduled to return to London on 8 May to mark the tenth anniversary of his signature Invictus Games organisation at an anniversary service at St Paul’s Cathedral.

“It is very likely that Harry and William will see each other next month and anything is possible. The King will want the brothers to patch things up so it’s more than likely that he could play peacemaker,” Mr Harrold told Sky News.

Meanwhile, a new survey revealed that 76 per cent of Britons have a positive view of the Princess of Wales – a six-point increase since the start of the year.

But the disgraced Duke of York, whose car-crash Newsnight interview in now subject to not one but two separate TV dramas, was seen in a negative light by 86 per cent of respondents.

His lowly rank was followed by the Duchess of Sussex, whose new wellness brand is also unlikely to appeal to the 64 per cent of Britons who admitted holding negative views towards her.

Johnson jabs at Cameron and warns Trump not to concede to Putin

Boris Johnson has warned Donald Trump he will fail to make America great again if he allows Ukraine to fall into the hands of Vladimir Putin as he called for the European nation to be allowed to join Nato.

Speaking at a conservative event in Canada, the former prime minister warned Donald Trump – who hopes to return to the White House following November’s US election – against a reported plan to pressure Ukraine to cede Crimea and the Donbas border region as a price for peace with Russia.

“If you are the party of Ronald Reagan, if you want to make America great again, then you don’t begin a new Republican presidency… by conceding victory to Vladimir Putin,” Mr Johnson said.

He added: “It would be a disaster for the West and it would be a disaster for America.”

The former prime minister also urged Republicans to unite against Russia and deliver the $60billion package of aid that had previously been held up by Congress.

Taking the opportunity to press on foreign secretary David Cameron’s open wounds after he was snubbed by Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson on a recent US visit, Mr Johnson appealed directly to his namesake.

“I would say Mike … my cousin Mike Johnson, long lost, separated …” he jokingly addressed the speaker, as he renewed calls for Ukraine aid: “America is currently investing in the US, supporting the Ukrainians about five per cent or less of their annual defence spending. It is a fantastically efficient way of supporting freedom.”

Speaking at the Canada Strong and Free Networking Conference in Ottawa, Mr Johnson said “the resolution to this problem is the security and the stability that comes with certainty about where Ukraine is and what Ukraine is”.

Appearing alongside former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, he added: “Ukraine has chosen to be a free, independent European nation oriented towards the west, towards the EU, towards Nato.

“And Ukraine must join Nato. That is the only logical way through this.”

He said fears such a move would provoke Mr Putin could not prevent action.

“We tried that … and look where that left us,” he said. “With the worst war in Europe for 80 years.

“Nato is the body that gives certainty and stability and will bring peace. But in the meantime, give those Ukrainians what they need.”

He described Ukraine as a “formidable fighting force” and said they have often been supplied with “the right stuff at the wrong time, in other words, too late”.

“The Ukrainians will do the job if we give them the tools. Let’s give them the tools,” he said.

“They have shown they are a proud, independent nation and they are going to fight for freedom. What we need to do is keep supporting Ukraine, keep supporting freedom.”

His comments come after foreign secretary Lord Cameron stepped up calls for the US to release billions of dollars of extra funding for Ukraine.

Lord Cameron said a funding package held up in Congress by political wrangling would be good for US security and jobs and show the West was prepared to stand up against “bullies”.

But Lord Cameron told CNN during his visit to Washington: “Everyone wants to see an end to the killing and an end to the war. But you only get that by backing Ukraine, by showing strength.

“Peace comes through strength, not through appeasement and weakness.”

The foreign secretary was expected to meet with the Republican House Speaker earlier in the week but Mr Johnson declined to meet with Lord Cameron, reportedly claiming he could not find the time.

The speaker is refusing to table a table a vote on a bill that would send $60 billion of weapons shipments to Kyiv, despite pressure from UK politicians.

Mr Johnson spared no jabs at Rishi Sunak too, heaping criticism on the Conservative’s current direction, lambasting some of the “absolutely nuts” things “being done in the name of conservatism.”

The former MP urged Rishi Sunak to increase defence spending, telling the conference: “Now is the moment for an even more robust posture … We all need to recognize the world is more uncertain, more dangerous, we all need frankly to be spending more on defense — that goes for the U.K. as well as everybody else.”

Mr Sunak has come under fire for committing just 2.3 per cent of GDP to defence spending, with some in and outside of the party – including defence secretary Grant Shapps – calling for it to rise to 3 per cent.

Pictured: Woman, 27, found stabbed to death at £4m home near Hyde Park

A woman who was stabbed to death at a £4m home in Westminster has been named, as police continue an urgent manhunt for her killer.

The body of 27-year-old Kamonnan Thiamphanit, who was known to her friends as Angela, was found by officers who forced their way into the property on Monday morning after friends raised concerns for her welfare.

Neighbours had heard high-pitched screaming coming from the property in Stanhope Place, which is just a stone’s throw away from Marble Arch and Oxford Street.

The Metropolitan Police has referred itself to the police watchdog after it emerged the force received two calls from her friends on Sunday evening, but failed to act on the concerns until the following day.

Her family have now said they are devastated by her death, with Scotland Yard vowing to catch whoever is responsible.

One elderly woman, who has lived on the street for over half a century, told MailOnline: “I did hear very, very high-pitched screams on Sunday evening coming from that direction.

“A series of screams. I recall two – I’m very sensitive to sound. They were very unusual. There was no other sound other than the screams, then silence after.”

Inside the Grade II-listed terraced home – which dates from the 1820s – near Marble Arch, police discovered the body Ms Thiamphanit, with her cause of death given as sharp force trauma.

Detective chief inspector Adam Clifton, who is leading the investigation, said: “My team continues to work tirelessly to piece together the events that led to Kamonnan’s murder.

“I would like to thank local residents for their patience while we have gone about our work at the scene.

“I would appeal to anyone who has information that could assist us, no matter how insignificant you think that may be, to come forward and speak to us.

“Kamonnan’s family and friends have been devastated by this murder and we must ensure whoever is responsible is held to account.”

There has been no arrest and inquiries continue.

Scotland Yard referred itself to the IOPC after officers waited around 12 hours before responding to calls from her concerned friends.

The force said in a statement: “The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards has been informed and a mandatory referral will be made to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in relation to the initial contact from the woman’s friends.”

In 2024, we’ve forgotten how to interact with celebrities

Picture the scene: you’ve spotted a celebrity in the street. What happens next will be determined by a few things – namely how online you are, how interested you happen to be in this particular celebrity, and, well, your morals. Perhaps you play it cool, sneaking the odd glance while furiously messaging the group chat. Maybe you go for gold, snapping a photo and sending it to a tabloid or, in all likelihood, a celebrity gossip account like DeuxMoi. Or you could just bound up to them like an over-excited labrador, profess your love, and take a selfie without their consent.

The latter seems to be happening a lot recently. Prior to the digital age, all people wanted from a famous person was a piece of paper with their signature scribbled on it. Today, this holds little value. Why? Because you can’t really post it online – and, if you do, who’s to say you didn’t draw that autograph yourself? In our hyper-online modern era, one where everyone is just one meme away from becoming a viral TikTok star, you need a selfie if you want social capital.

Understandably, this isn’t always something celebrities are willing to give. Take Zendaya, who recently told Vogue she’s changed tack whenever fans approach her now. “I think growing up, I always felt like when someone asks for a picture, I have to do it, all the time,” said the 27-year-old Dune star. “You have to say yes, because you just need to be grateful that you’re here. And while I still feel that way, I also have learnt that I can say no, and I can say kindly that I’m having a day off, or I’m just trying to be myself today, and I don’t actually have to perform all the time.”

Can you blame her? The actor is one of the busiest and most famous stars around right now – why should she have to constantly be available to pose in front of the smartphones of strangers? The remarks were reminiscent of those made in light of a viral video of Dua Lipa walking with her rumoured boyfriend, Callum Turner, alongside a bodyguard. In the clip, a fan is seen rushing up to Lipa with her smartphone and appears to walk excitedly next to the couple for a few seconds before the bodyguard quickly slaps the phone to the ground. The fan does not look happy about this.

At first, seeing that video might make you pity the fan. Why should that poor excitable young girl have to pay to repair her now presumably broken phone because of a particularly brusque bodyguard? After all, Lipa is (like Zendaya) one of the most recognisable people on the planet. She could afford to buy several Apple stores, never mind a new iPhone. Of course people are going to want to take photos with her. Wasn’t the bodyguard’s behaviour a bit extreme?

All this highlights just how warped our relationship with celebrities has become in the social media age. Take a look at footage from any red carpet event and you’ll see what I mean. Instead of trying to talk to the stars they apparently admire and respect, fans are simply shoving smartphones in their faces, desperately trying to capture an image they can share on Instagram, thus subsequently garnering validation from their own friends. Unless a meaningful conversation happens before or after the photo is snapped, the celebrity is entirely dehumanised in this scenario. They are a prop. A vehicle for you to exploit to increase your own social currency.

Of course, in most cases, the celebrities oblige. After all, one wrong move or comment and they’ll be painted as a selfish, entitled a***hole.

It’s a real shame that nobody bothers to ask for autographs anymore. At least in those exchanges there might have been a conversation, or a moment of human connection shared between two people that actually amounted to something tangible. What good is a selfie beyond a few Instagram likes? It doesn’t bring you closer to that person, nor does it offer you any real insight into who they are or how they move through the world. It means nothing.

With this in mind, it’s hard to feel resentful of any celebrity like Zendaya or Lipa who doesn’t want to play the game of taking photos anymore. With Lipa in particular, the fan didn’t even try to talk to her. She just ran up without a word and tried to film herself walking next to her idol – who wants or deserves to be used like that? To be seen as something so two-dimensional and flat – you might as well be a doll.

It’s also worth noting that today’s celebrities get far more exposure than those who operated in the autograph era. People are a lot more famous now than they were pre-social media – and, subsequently, seem even further away from us regular folk. But this is a harmful narrative to cling to. The second we start seeing anyone, famous or otherwise, as “other”, we fail to see them as a real person deserving of consideration, respect and, yes, privacy.

At least, that’s what seems to be happening with every person fighting tooth and nail for a selfie with their favourite celebrity. The next time you spot someone out in the wild, my advice is to leave them alone and let them enjoy their time off. But if you must approach, do so with care. And instead of asking for a photo, why not simply say hello and strike up a conversation? Who knows – you could make memories that last much longer than any selfie.

Paul McCartney shares ‘embarrassing’ Beatles blunder that made him want to quit

Sir Paul McCartney has said he suffered an “embarrassing” onstage blunder early on with The Beatles, which shaped the course of his career.

The 81-year-old served as the band’s lead vocalist alongside John Lennon, while also playing the bass guitar and writing some of their biggest hits including “Love Me Do” and “Yesterday”.

However, when The Beatles first started playing together, McCartney was most interested in being the lead guitarist – and tried his hand at it during their early performances.

In the latest episode of the podcast McCartney: A Life In Lyrics, the Liverpool-born musician recalled playing his first lead guitar solo during a gig when he froze up mid-performance and began to question his career path.

“We had this gig and it was the first thing I ever played, and I was lead guitar player,” he continued. “John [Lennon] was rhythm. I had a solo and I totally froze. Could not move my fingers.”

“It was just so embarrassing. My lead guitar playing career melted at that moment and I said, ‘Well, I’m not doing this again. I’m not cut out for this. I’m no good.’”

The Beatles, also made up of Ringo Starr and George Harrison, were originally formed in 1960, and with McCartney eventually as lead vocalist and bass guitarist, they went on to make generational classics including “Hey Jude” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”.

Last week, McCartney expressed his joy at Beyoncé’s moving cover of “Blackbird”, the civil rights-inspired song he released with The Beatles in 1968, which features on her new album Cowboy Carter.

The American popstar sings her version of the track with Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy and Reyna Roberts, championing the four emerging female country singers.

“I am so happy with Beyoncé’s version of my song ‘Blackbird’,” McCartney, 81, said in an Instagram post.

“I think she does a magnificent job of it and it reinforces the civil rights message that inspired me to write the song in the first place.

“I think Beyoncé has done a fab version and would urge anyone who has not heard it yet to check it out. You are going to love it!”

McCartney revealed that he spoke with Beyoncé on FaceTime, where she thanked him for writing the song: “I told her the pleasure was all mine and I thought she had done a killer version of the song.”

He continued: “When I saw the footage on the television in the early Sixties of the Black girls being turned away from school, I found it shocking and I can’t believe that still in these days there are places where this kind of thing is happening right now.

“Anything my song and Beyoncé’s fabulous version can do to ease racial tension would be a great thing and makes me very proud.”

McCartney has previously said he wrote the song after he “heard about the civil rights troubles” that were happening in America during the 1960s, predominantly in the deep south in states like Alabama and Mississippi.

The latest episodes of Paul McCartney: A Life in Lyrics are available on all major streaming platforms.

Donald Trump’s plan for peace in Ukraine means no peace at all

It cannot have been a great surprise to the foreign secretary, David Cameron, that Donald Trump showed such little interest in supporting Ukraine’s war of resistance. Had Mr Trump wanted to see Ukraine receive the military assistance that Kyiv has been begging for, and which remains stalled in the House of Representatives, he’d have given it the nod months ago, and the Republican caucus would have responded with alacrity.

The fact that Trump’s puppet, speaker of the House Mike Johnson, couldn’t find time in his diary to speak to His Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office speaks volumes for the indifference America feels for its allies and the weakness of the now almost satirically-styled “special relationship”.

We’re learning, if we had not already, the full gruesome nature of what lies behind the slogan “America First”. Mr Trump, as he’s already practically admitted, is not interested in helping President Biden get his plan through Congress; nor is he much bothered about the territorial integrity of Ukraine. He plainly regards the war as a waste of money and a lost cause – indeed, a cause for which he feels little sympathy.

How deep does the ‘honeytrap’ plot go?

It is not quite a week since the (now ex-Conservative) MP William Wragg confessed to the press that he’d been the victim of a “honeytrap” blackmail plot. Someone he’d met on the Grindr dating website had pressured him into giving the contact numbers for (about 20) politicians and journalists. Some have come out and described the strange, unsolicited messages and/or rude photographs sent to them.

After initially treating Wragg as a victim and taking no action against him, there are reports that some in the cabinet believe there should have been more serious consequences for his foolishness. Other colleagues and former colleagues have been even less generous. It appears that Wragg is in an emotionally vulnerable position and his allies feel that a duty of care and some compassion would be appropriate.

In the last few days, Wragg has voluntarily stepped down from his positions as vice-chair of the backbench 1922 Committee and chair of the House of Commons select committee on public administration and constitutional affairs, in which role Wragg was seen asking the prime minister if he was “part of the deep state”. He has now also renounced the Conservative whip, reportedly of his own accord. He announced in November 2022 that he would not contest the next election; his seat will, in any case, almost certainly fall to the Liberal Democrats. It’s not clear if Wragg remains a now ironic member of the Conservative Common Sense Group: probably not.