The Telegraph 2024-04-18 10:00:36

Live Red Wall support for Reform UK hits record high

Support for Reform UK in key Red Wall seats has hit a record high, according to a new survey conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies. 

The poll, carried out between April 13-14, put Reform on 18 per cent, just six points behind the Tories on 24 per cent. 

Reform was up by two points when compared to the company’s previous Red Wall poll from March 16 while the Tories were unchanged. 

Labour maintained its position in first place but support for the party has fallen. Labour was on 44 per cent, down by four points, to give the party a 20 point lead over the Tories. 

The continued rise of Reform in the Red Wall is likely to prompt alarm bells in Conservative Party HQ, amid Tory fears the former could cost the latter votes. 

The seats played a huge role in propelling Boris Johnson to victory in 2019 and a Tory wipeout in the constituencies would likely torpedo Rishi Sunak’s hopes of staying in No 10. 

The Red Wall refers to mostly northern, traditionally Labour-voting seats that the Tories won at the 2019 general election. Redfield polled 40 seats in total. The Tories won all but one of them in 2019 and then won Hartlepool at a by-election. 

You can follow the latest updates below. 

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Live We cannot rely on US to help Ukraine, EU tells G7

We “cannot rely on the United States”, the European Union’s top diplomat has warned, as he urged the bloc’s leaders to empty their warehouses of air defence systems and send them where the “war is raging”.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of G7 foreign ministers on the Italian island of Capri, Josep Borrell said: “We have Patriots, we have anti-missile systems. We have to take them (out) from our barracks where they are just in case and send them to Ukraine where the war is raging.

“Otherwise the electricity system of Ukraine will be destroyed. And no country can fight without having electricity at home, in the factories, online, for everything.”

His intervention comes after European Union leaders agreed “the need to urgently provide air defence to Ukraine” at a summit in Brussels and Germany launching an international appeal to Nato Allies to provide more assistance to Kyiv. 

Mr Borrell said he regretted the “internal politics” in the US holding up a planned $60 billion military aid package for Ukraine, adding: “We cannot rely on the US. We have to take responsibility and stop saying, ‘oh, the US will do’.”

G7 ministers will also discuss Ukraine’s needs for air defence systems, after a Russian missile attack on the northern city of Chernihiv killed at least 17 people.

Follow for latest updates.

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SNP suspends puberty blocker prescriptions in major about-turn

Scotland is to suspend the use of puberty blockers as a result of the Cass Review, in a major about-turn from the SNP.

The Sandyford Clinic in Glasgow said that it would also no longer prescribe “gender-affirming hormones” to under 18s.

The move follows intense scrutiny of methods at the Sandyford, which has been branded the “tartan Tavistock”, following the publication of the review by Hilary Cass, the esteemed paediatrician.

The SNP has previously said the Scottish NHS would take time to review her findings, suggesting many parts of the damning Cass report for NHS England did not apply to Scotland.

As recently as Monday, ministers insisted there would be no “snap judgements” over whether to follow Cass and they backed clinicians prescribing the drugs, saying they followed “very high standards”.

Maree Todd, an SNP health minister, claimed puberty blockers “were never routinely prescribed” in Scotland.

However, Dr Cass’s report warned that there was no credible evidence to suggest that puberty blockers were effective or safe. She could also not rule out that they could contribute to psychological or physical problems in later life, including infertility.

Referrals ‘paused’

In a statement issued by the Sandyford’s young person’s gender service on Thursday, it said it had “paused” referrals to endocrinologists for puberty blockers “for any new patients assessed by our Young Person’s Gender Service”.

It added: “Patients aged 16 to 17 years old who have not been treated by Paediatric Endocrinology, but who are still seeking treatment for their gender incongruence, will no longer be prescribed gender-affirming hormone treatment until they are 18 years old.”

The suspension will not apply to existing patients on the drugs, which is in line with the ban announced last month by NHS England.

The youngest known patient to be prescribed puberty blockers after being seen at the Sandyford was just nine years old.

Almost 100 children aged 16 or under were referred to endocrinologists for possible puberty blocker prescriptions by the Sandyford between 2016 and 2023.

The Sandyford statement added: “This service update follows research from NHS England and the publication of the Cass Review while we work with the Scottish Government to engage in research with NHS England that will generate evidence of safety and long-term impact for therapies.

“We are committed to providing the best possible clinical care for young people accessing and understand the distress that gender incongruence can cause.

“While this pause is in place, we will continue to give anyone who is referred into the Young People Gender Service the psychological support that they require while we review the pathways in line with the findings.”

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Police arrest gang behind Britain’s most prolific scam site

Police have arrested a gang of fraudsters including university students behind Britain’s biggest phishing website, which scammed 70,000 victims in the UK out of tens of millions of pounds.

Scotland Yard this week raided the homes of the gang leader and his four key lieutenants, who provided a one-stop shop for 2,000 fellow criminals to buy and set up fraudulent websites for as little as £200 to £300 a month.

The bespoke phishing websites used the profiles of 170 well-known brands, banks and public services. They enabled the criminals to scam victims into handing over their personal data such as email addresses, passwords and financial details.

In a two-year operation with 17 other law enforcement agencies worldwide, the Metropolitan Police infiltrated the website, known as Lab Host, to identify the gang bosses and the 2,000 criminal “customers” who bought the fraudulent websites.

Police estimate Lab Host was used to create 40,000 fraudulent phishing sites and harvested over one million data logs worldwide. This included 70,000 victims in the UK alone. Worldwide, police believe the criminals obtained 480,000 card numbers, 64,000 PIN numbers and one million passwords for online services.

Police arrested 37 suspects in the UK and searched 70 properties worldwide as they shut down the site. A significant number of the 2,000 UK criminal users were said by police to be university students or young people who were “likely to go on to perfectly legitimate careers”.

One investigator said: “They see this as easy to do and anonymous. They don’t have that physical interaction with [a victim]. They are entering into this not fully understanding the risks and the potential outcomes for them.”

For the £200 to £300 monthly membership fee, the gang offered a bespoke service to help users set up their fraudulent sites within minutes with little technical know-how. They even offered a customer support messaging service via the encrypted app Telegram.

The fraudsters could choose to be “active” users who tracked victims in real time as they entered their fake sites and then stole their personal data. Or they could simply leave them as “sleeper” sites which would automatically harvest victims’ details. They could then sell these on to the dark web or other fraudsters.

Many of the victims were in the 25 to 44-year-old age group because of their frequent use of the internet for services from banking to food deliveries and online subscriptions.

In a reverse sting, police created a bespoke message to send to 800 of the users identified by detectives. It detailed to each of them their illegal actions over the past year. Police likened it to a Spotify-style wrap of the fraudster’s year’s usage which it joked was “made in partnership with international law enforcement”.

“We valued you as a customer ever since the day you joined. We’ve been collecting your data that whole time. And now we’ve served it to police on a platter,” said the message.

“You’ve targeted victims all around the world. The police there may not be too happy so think carefully about where you go on holiday next. That was your 2023 Lab Host wrap. Lab Host is dead now.”

Lynne Owens, the Met Police’s deputy commissioner, said there would now be a major operation to contact all the 70,000 victims of the phishing scams to provide them with support and advice. Some 25,000 have already been contacted this week.

She said the “wrap”, which police hope will go viral, and the raids were designed to strike fear into fraudsters. “Fraud gets to the heart of individual and community confidence. It undermines confidence in day to day activity that we all do online and elsewhere,” she said

“This operation is about creating that same level of fear and uncertainty for the criminals because they can no longer be confident that the enabling services they are buying are protecting them.”

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Scottish primary schools appoint children as ‘LGBT champions’

Scottish primary schools are appointing children as “LGBT champions” and are being urged to ask pupils as young as four if they are gay, lesbian or trans, The Telegraph can reveal.

Documents show that schools are setting up LGBT clubs and “gender and sexual orientation alliance groups” for pupils as part of their membership of a scheme run by the charity LGBT Youth Scotland.

The charity, which received nearly £1 million of taxpayers’ money last year, also urges head teachers to install gender neutral lavatories and mark Transgender Day of Remembrance, an event critics say is designed to reinforce myths spread by trans activists.

It comes after the Cass Review into NHS gender identity services last week raised fears that found the evidence for allowing children to change gender was built on weak foundations. 

Dr Hillary Cass, a paediatrician, said allowing “social transitioning” for young people – when they are treated as the opposite gender – could “change their trajectory” and lead to them pursuing a potentially damaging medical pathway in later life.

The SNP Government was urged to address concerns over the promotion of ideology in classrooms in the wake of the revelations and the Cass Review.

It also follows a major row about the introduction of new hate crimes law in Scotland which introduced new legal protections for trans people.

Miriam Cates, co-chairman of the New Conservatives group of MPs, said: “We have seen from the Cass Review the appalling results of using children as pawns in adult political battles. Indoctrinating small children with sexualised ideologies is deeply unethical and breaks all established safeguarding principles.”

Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Tory Common Sense Group, said: “Those responsible for the outrage of approaching four year olds in this way should be rounded up and charged with child abuse”

Carolyn Brown, an educational psychologist, said: “Children of primary school age are very suggestible and are still at a very early stage of their psychological and emotional development.

“What we are seeing here is the product placement of gender ideology in schools which is potentially very harmful.

“Kids in primary school cannot possibly know if they are LGBT because biologically, psychologically and emotionally they will not yet have the capacity.”

LGBT Youth Scotland in 2022-23 received almost £450,000 in taxpayer funding from the SNP Government and a further £340,000 from local authorities. NHS organisations handed over a further £154,000.

It claims that more than 200 Scottish secondaries, more than half of the national total, and over 40 primary schools, have joined its LGBT charter for education. The fees it charges to join range from £850 to £2,000.

It claims the programme enables schools, colleges and universities to “proactively include LGBTQ+ people in every aspect of [their] work”.

As part of membership, staff must be trained by the organisation, which provides an online guide and letter templates for children wishing to change their gender at school.

Each school joining the scheme is told it must appoint at least two pupils and two staff members as “LGBT Champions” and those hoping to obtain “gold” status are told to consider a survey of pupils to ask them if they are “part of the LGBT community in order to discern whether bullying affects those pupils proportionally within the school”.

Documents given to schools in the scheme say the champions should hold quarterly meetings to drive forward LGBT inclusion.

One primary school tweeted about its group of champions with a picture of five young children.

Among 10 annual events that Scottish schools are being urged to “celebrate” are “National Coming Out Day” and “Transgender Day of Visibility”.

Schools hoping to obtain a gold award are also told to provide evidence of their “LGBT safe spaces” such as gender neutral lavatories and PE classes.

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former business secretary, said: “I do not understand why these organisations want to brainwash children with peculiar ideas. Primary school children should be allowed to live in the innocence of childhood. They will learn soon enough from their contemporaries and parents, who have the principal role.”

LGBT Youth Scotland states that it has trained more than 5,000 teachers since 2021 and that its scheme means it is “reaching a minimum of 30,000 young people” and successfully changing the “culture and ethos” of Scottish schools.

To achieve its gold award, schools are told they must “undertake at least one activity which specifically addresses the needs of transgender young people” such as “conducting a campaign that addresses trans rights”.

They are also told they must put up the organisation’s posters and rewrite school policies in areas such as transgender inclusion and school uniform to ensure they are “inclusive”.

Ash Regan, a former SNP minister who quit the government to vote against Nicola Sturgeon’s gender self-ID law and is now an Alba Party MSP, said: “Reports I’ve received on the promotion of gender ideology in Scottish primary, high schools and even nursery schools present a grave concern, especially in light of the Cass review recommendations.

“We need governments to engage in a comprehensive debate on the Cass review in parliament urgently.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “We are committed to doing everything we can to make Scotland the best place to grow up for LGBTQI+ young people. This includes funding LGBT Youth Scotland to deliver a range of projects, such as the LGBT Charter programme.”

LGBT Youth Scotland has been approached for comment.

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Sainsbury’s sacks worker of 20 years after he took ‘bags for life’ without paying

A Sainsbury’s worker of 20 years was sacked after taking “bags for life” without paying after a night shift, a tribunal heard.

Niamke Doffou selected the “zero bags used” option on the self-service checkout as he packed up his £30 shop, an employment tribunal heard.

He was hauled in front of bosses who sacked him after watching CCTV footage of the incident and deciding the supermarket could no longer trust him.

Mr Doffou, a native French speaker who has lived and worked in Britain for nearly two decades, had claimed he was “tired and unaware of what he was doing”.

However, his claim of unfair dismissal was thrown out by a judge who said it was “hard to argue” with the decision to dismiss him after the theft of the bags, which are sold to customers for either 30p or 65p.

The tribunal was told Mr Doffou worked as a night shift assistant at Sainsbury’s Romford superstore in east London from June 2003 until he was fired for gross misconduct in October 2022.

Personal shopping

During the August bank holiday in 2022, he did some personal shopping in the early morning after working a night shift.

He bought £30 worth of food, pillows and bedding, but CCTV footage showed he didn’t pay for multiple reusable “bags for life” that he took to put his shopping in at the self-service checkout.

The tribunal was told he made “more than one” trip to get bags, despite selecting the zero bags option on the screen and checking his receipt.

Giving evidence, Mr Doffou accepted that Sainsbury’s had a zero tolerance approach to theft.

In September 2022, he was invited to attend a disciplinary investigation meeting, where the CCTV was played to him.

At a disciplinary hearing the following month, he was dismissed for gross misconduct.

The tribunal was told: “[The disciplinary hearing chairman] formed the view that he had deliberately selected the zero bags option on the self-checkout, knowing full well he would need some to put his bulky shopping in.

“This in turn, she concluded, meant that [Sainsbury’s] could no longer have trust in [Mr Doffou] as an employee, even if the bags did not cost as much as his shopping had.”

‘Not credible’

He appealed this decision, but this was dismissed.

Employment Judge Eleena Misra KC said: “Having considered all of the evidence before me I concluded that the claim for unfair dismissal is not well founded and is therefore dismissed.

“The CCTV footage and receipt clearly proved to [Sainsbury’s] that [Mr Doffou] took ‘bags for life’ without paying for them.

“[Sainsbury’s] carried out a reasonable and proportionate investigation into the alleged conduct and he was given a full opportunity to respond.

“[Mr Doffou]’s explanations were not deemed to be credible explanations and [Sainsbury’s] was entitled on the evidence to conclude that he had committed misconduct notwithstanding the low value of the bags taken.

“Once the decision maker had concluded that he had acted dishonestly and committed theft, it is very hard to argue that the decision to dismiss fell outside a reasonable band of responses. I find that it was within such a band.”

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Home Office official arrested for ‘trying to sell UK residency to asylum seeker’

A Home Office case worker has been arrested on suspicion of trying to sell UK residency to an asylum seeker living in Northern Ireland.

The official, who has been suspended by the Home Office, allegedly contacted a vulnerable man and asked for £2,000 in return for approving his refugee application.

The BBC, which uncovered the alleged cash-for-residency scandal, said that sensitive Home Office records were used as part of the attempted scam.

Police have been called in to investigate by the Home Office, which said that it expected “the highest standards” from its staff.

Stephen Kinnock, the shadow immigration minister, said that the allegations were “deeply concerning” and the Government had “lost control” of the asylum system.

‘He offered me a positive decision’

The intended victim, using the pseudonym Renas to protect his identity, said that he was contacted by a worker employed as an asylum “decision maker” in the north of England.

Renas said he received a call in early March in which it was claimed that “95 per cent of people like you” have their applications refused.

The “decision maker” then allegedly suggested a direct payment would guarantee success.

“He said I could be sure he would refuse my application,” Renas said. “But if I could help him, he could help me and he asked for some money. He asked for £2,000.

“He basically offered me a positive decision.”

Renas, a former journalist, said at first he thought it was “a total scam”, but it became clear to him the man on the phone did work for the Home Office.

“He had all my information. He gave me very specific details from my application.”

‘Targeted the most vulnerable people’

Renas recorded a subsequent video call he received from the “decision maker”, which he passed to police.

The footage appears to show an individual using a laptop that has official Home Office software containing case files.

“He targeted the most vulnerable people in society,” Renas said.

“There will be other asylum seekers who are going through the same process, or maybe there are some people who have already been scammed like this. I feel this is my responsibility to inform them.

“I was persecuted in my home country by the authorities. I was already afraid of the Home Office and other institutions here.”

Renas raised concerns with his solicitor, who alerted the authorities.

In a statement, Lancashire police said: “We can confirm we have arrested a man on suspicion of misconduct in public office, suspicion of money laundering, bribery, and computer misuse offences.

“Officers from Lancashire Constabulary alongside partners from the Home Office arrested the man, in his 30s, in the Ramsgreave area of Blackburn. An investigation remains in its early stages and enquiries are ongoing.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We expect the highest standards from our staff to ensure asylum claims are properly considered, decisions are sound and that protection is granted to those who genuinely need it.

“The member of staff was arrested and suspended. It would be inappropriate to comment further as the matter is subject to a live police investigation.”

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