INDEPENDENT 2024-04-20 10:04:12

Man who set himself on fire outside Trump trial dies

Max Azzarello, 37, who died after setting himself on fire outside the Manhattan courthouse, had recently started posting anti-establishment conspiracy theories online, including a lengthy article on Substack which blasted politicians, and billionaires and even made reference to The Simpsons.

The manifesto-style document warned of an impending “apocalyptic fascist world coup.”

At 1.30pm ET on Friday 19 April, he entered a park outside the New York courthouse, where Donald Trump’s historic criminal trial is taking place, and set himself on fire. The horrific incident lasted several minutes before the flames were extinguished by police officers and court staff.

Police told NBC news that he was declared dead by the hospital after he was admitted with severe burn injuries. No time of death was given by the police.

Here’s what we know:

In his lengthy post, Mr Azzarello described himself as an “investigative researcher”.

Police said that Mr Azzarello’s driver’s license showed he was born in 1987 and was a native of St Augustine, Florida. A registered Democrat, he attended the University of North Carolina from 2005 to 2009, according to public records and his LinkedIn page.

He is believed to have arrived in New York at some point between April 13 and April 19, though family members who spoke to police said they were unaware that he was in the city.

Mr Azzarello was unknown to police before the incident and did not have a criminal history in New York, police said.

Following the incident Ms Azzarello was described as being in a “very critical condition”, but alive, and being treated at Manhattan’s Weill Cornell Medicine Burn Center.

Mr Azzarello had a long history of posting conspiracy theories and railing against the rich and powerful, according to NYPD officials, who had begun to comb through his social media profiles.

His lengthy Substack post called out a string of people, social media companies and institutions. He also labelled the Covid-19 pandemic as an “economic doomsday device”.

In the document, Mr Azzarello said that the act of self-immolation was “an extreme act of protest”.

“To my friends and family, witnesses and first responders, I deeply apologize for inflicting this pain upon you.” he wrote.

Elsewhere in the lengthy post, Azzarello also referred to late paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, cryptocurrency, and episodes of The Simpsons.

At one point he compared himself to Lisa Simpson.

NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny told reporters at a press conference. “The pamphlets [thrown by Mr Azzarello seconds before the incident] seem to be propaganda-based almost like a conspiracy theory type of pamphlets.

“Some information in regards to Ponzi schemes, and the fact that some of our local educational institutes are front for the mob. So a little bit of a conspiracy theory going on here.”

Police said that Mr Azzarello had not breached any security protocols before the incident, as the park – Collect Pond Park – was open to the public at the time.

Seconds before setting himself on fire, he tossed a stack of colourful pamphlets into the air.

A man who witnessed the shocking incident, which occurred just minutes after the final jurors were selected in the former president’s criminal case, and identified himself as Dave, was visibly shaken.

“Papers clattered on the ground and that caught our attention well my attention anyway and I kinda wondered ‘well what are those papers’,” Dave told The Independent.

He added that people around him were “horrified” and became screaming. The incident happened so quickly that nobody was able to stop it.

“It’s awful to see that.”

Azzarello was taken by the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) to a burn unit at NewYork-Presbyterian Cornell Medical Center.

He was in critical condition and was later declared deceased by the hospital staff, NYPD said.

According to the fire department, six first responders, including a minimum of three NYPD officers and one court officer, sustained minor injuries while addressing the incident.

Blackpool voters turn on ‘Richy’ Sunak ahead of crunch by-election

Disillusioned Conservative voters in Blackpool South have turned on “Richy” Rishi Sunak ahead of a crunch by-election, a focus group conducted with The Independent reveals.

With two weeks until the contest to replace disgraced former MP Scott Benton, a group of 10 Tory 2019 voters said the prime minister is “weak” and “just does not have a voice”.

Working in a range of industries, the group described Blackpool’s descent from a bustling beachside resort a town riddled with shuttered shops, antisocial behaviour and an overstretched health service which has driven some to go private.

The sense of disappointment was palpable, with Kathleen, a cleaner, warning her son not to walk down the deprived Central Drive, a once-thriving street with views of the iconic Blackpool Tower. Meanwhile Lorreta, a community support worker, bemoaned that there is nothing for children to do that does not “cost a fortune”.

While a third, David, a mechanic, said he has taken out private health insurance after being left waiting years for multiple surgeries on the NHS.

And while the group voiced their frustration at Mr Sunak, who they saw as weak and out of touch, they did not express any enthusiasm for Sir Keir Starmer either.

The Labour leader was described as unlikable, with one participant saying he was “more scared of Keir than of Rishi”.

A by-election to replace Mr Benton will be held alongside the local elections on 2 May.

The former Blackpool South MP quit before he was removed from parliament after being embroiled in a lobbying scandal.

He was found to have given the impression he was “corrupt” and “for sale” after he was secretly filmed saying he could table parliamentary questions and provide “behind the scenes” information for up to £4,000 a month.

The Blackpool South focus group, run by pollster Luke Tryl of More In Common, were well aware of Mr Benton’s misdemeanour.

But, troublingly for Mr Sunak, they said it came “from the top”. Nicole, a local business owner, said: “If you see your boss actively doing something untowards with no repercussions, everybody then is going to think that they can get away with it too.”

She said she had been turned off by “the tax […] thing”, an apparent reference to Mr Sunak’s multi-millionaire wife Akshata Murty holding non-dom status, as revealed in 2022 by The Independent. Ms Murty has since volunteered to pay tax in the UK on her overseas income.

Another, Hannah, who works for an engineering firm locally, said Mr Sunak was “weak”, “better as chancellor” and called for the Conservatives to “bring back Boris [Johnson]”.

“Boris had a voice, Richy does not,” she added.

And David said Mr Sunak is not “in touch with the modern man”, referencing a stunt in which Mr Sunak appeared to fill up a Kia Rio in New Cross, London.

“He has never seen a Kia in his life,” the voter said. It was later revealed Mr Sunak had borrowed the car from a shop assistant.

Kathleen said: “A lot of it comes down to the money situation, he needs to get in touch with reality and see what it is like to live in the North.

“Come and see how we live here, we struggle, there are thousands on the dole… he’s got money.”

But as much as the focus group revealed disappointment with Mr Sunak, the voters did not display great enthusiasm for Sir Keir. Most of those present expected Sir Keir to win the next general election, but were less certain he would do a better job.

Two participants criticised Sir Keir’s tenure as the director of public prosecutions, for which he has been accused of being behind the failure to prosecute Jimmy Savile.

Former PM Mr Johnson was criticised for falsely claiming Sir Keir used his time as a chief prosecutor “prosecuting journalists and failing to prosecute Jimmy Savile”.

Sir Keir was not central to the decision not to prosecute Savile, which was made on the grounds of “insufficient evidence”.

But Kathleen claimed Sir Keir had concluded Savile “did not have a case to answer”. While Joel, a landscape gardener, criticised his handling of the Savile case and his stance on transgender rights. “If he can’t say a female is a female and a male is a male… it’s not right.”

Mr Tryl, UK director at More In Common, said if there was one word to describe how the focus group viewed politics it was “cynical”.

The pollster told The Independent: “They felt that politicians had neglected Blackpool and that they were only in public life for themselves.

Whether it was crime, the NHS or immigration this group of Tory voters were scathing about the government’s record, and unconvinced the opposition could do much better. Even more than other parts of the country we visit this group in Blackpool clearly believing the stories had run their course but didn’t have much hope for the alternative.

“And far from being surprised that their former MP Scott Benton had been caught seemingly breaking the rules for his own gain, they thought it was just part of a culture that started at the top with the group pointing to Sunak’s tax affairs setting the culture for the rest of his party. Nor did the group think Labour were any different, bringing up both Starmer’s time as head of the CPS and the claims about Angela Rayner’s tax affairs as evidence all politicians were as bad as each other.”

Ms Rayner denies any wrongdoing.

Labour is widely expected to take the contest in Blackpool South, where Mr Benton won in 2019 with a majority of 3,690.

It would make it the latest by-election loss for Mr Sunak, who has suffered a series of stunning defeats since becoming prime minister.

The contest is also crucial for the fortunes of Nigel Farage’s Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party, which threatens to split the vote and deprive the Tories of tens of seats in the next general election.

The party is currently polling in third behind Labour and the Conservatives but is expected to perform well in Blackpool because more than two-thirds of voters in Blackpool backed Brexit.

It’s not Gen Z who need protection from social media – it’s boomers

Hi mum, my phone has broke and I have a new one, please save this number x.” Remember this infamous scam text that did the rounds back in 2022 and 2023? Sent to a huge number of users on WhatsApp, it was a simple yet brilliant trick – spam a load of people purporting to be their children, and a proportion of those targeted will be in the right demographic. There were variations, but the messages usually involved entreating the parent to urgently lend money for rent or similar, to be transferred directly to a “landlord’s” bank account.

The scammers would rely on an emotional response – tugging at the heartstrings by pretending there was an emergency of some kind and their child needed help – to override parents’ suspicion. It worked. An estimated £1.5m was handed over to fraudsters between February and June 2022, according to Action Fraud, the UK’s reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime. The racket also swept across Australia in 2022, with over 11,000 people reporting they had fallen victim to it and losses totalling A$7.2m (£3.7m).

It was obviously a hugely upsetting experience for victims. But it’s also one way in which, contrary to popular opinion, baby boomers might just need protecting from the risks posed by social media more than Generation Z.

Much has been made of the fact that the younger generation can’t get off their phones and struggle with IRL interactions; that they’re all addicted to TikTok and regularly get sucked down YouTube rabbit holes pushing ever-more polarising viewpoints. But, in some ways, they are best adapted to digital life – having grown up online, there’s an argument that they understand its pitfalls better than their older counterparts.

Take, for example, posting offensive opinions or thoughtless comments on social media. We’ve all heard the horror stories of both celebrities and civilians burned on the pyre of so-called “cancel culture” after an off-the-cuff comment or tasteless remark went viral. And that’s before you even get to the problematic IRL behaviour that can get individuals into trouble when it’s videoed, uploaded and shared (the whole “Karen” phenomenon being a good example).

“Baby boomers/Gen X really took to early social media platforms, especially Facebook, and one of Facebook’s characteristics that suits a lot of members of these generations is that it feels more closed,” says Eve Ng, an associate professor of media arts and studies at Ohio University and author of Cancel Culture: A Critical Analysis. “Sure, you’re able to set posts to ‘public’, but my sense is that the default settings for most FB users is having their content visible only to friends and friends of friends. So on FB, there’s a lot more open expression about (potentially) contentious topics.”

From being fired to having their TV shows cancelled or film franchises revoked, various baby boomer and older Generation X media personalities have paid the ultimate price for sharing “jokes” online that hit the wrong note. Radio presenter Danny Baker, 66, was axed by the BBC for comparing Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s child to a chimp; ABC ceased airing the rebooted Roseanne sitcom after its star and co-creator Roseanne Barr, 71, referred to Barack Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, who is Black, as an “ape” in a tweet; comedian Kathy Griffin, 63, lost her gig presenting CNN’s new year coverage in 2018 for sharing a picture of a decapitated Donald Trump online; and actor James Gunn, 57, was swiftly fired from the Guardians of the Galaxy movie series when tweets emerged in which he joked about Aids, sexual assault and adult relationships with children. Trump didn’t even let being Potus stop him from tweeting his every passing thought, regardless of the global political implications (such as the potential to start World War Three).

And then there are the contingent of divisive characters like JK Rowling and Graham Linehan, both of whom have traded well-respected careers and critically acclaimed bodies of work for being more closely associated with increasingly savage social media crusades against transgender people. Controversy surrounding the Harry Potter author’s ideological stance on gender had been bubbling for years, but her most recent tirade on Twitter/X felt particularly vicious. The more nuanced arguments Rowling used when she first started writing about these issues have slowly been cast aside in favour of stronger positions online – culminating this month in her sharing a thread naming various trans women, finishing with the line: “Obviously, the people mentioned in the above tweets aren’t women at all, but men, every last one of them.”

Linehan, meanwhile, has swapped a reputation for being the creator of some of the most genius comedy series of the past 30 years – Father Ted, The IT Crowd, Black Books – for that of a vehement anti-transgender “activist” on social media (it is the sole topic occupying his incredibly active Twitter/X account, which has been suspended on numerous occasions for causing offence). His recently released autobiography, Tough Crowd, even acknowledges this trajectory in the tagline: “How I Made and Lost a Career in Comedy”. Both he and Rowling seem to have fallen victim to the curse of the social media echo chamber, which often serves to further galvanise views and inherently encourages more and more extremist rhetoric over time by rewarding it with increased engagement.

It perhaps makes sense that a certain demographic – those young enough to feel compelled to engage with social media, but not young enough to have a healthy respect for the potential reach a post might have if it goes viral – is more susceptible to sharing “cancel”-worthy opinions online.

“Boomers may not always remember that anyone can screenshot anything – even on a relatively closed platform like Facebook – and repost elsewhere,” says Professor Ng. “I am still surprised how much I see my own Facebook friends share there (I’m Gen X), given that fact.”

Gen Z are much more likely to agree that the rise of cancel culture has meant they increasingly self-censor when and with whom they share their opinions, according to one study from 2022 – 40 per cent compared to just 21 per cent of baby boomers. The same research found that Gen Z are also the generation most likely to hide their perspective on topical issues because they’re afraid of how people will respond (35 per cent compared to 16 per cent of baby boomers).

It’s not to say that we should all go around censoring our true opinions – more that native internet users better understand there’s a time and a place to do so, and that social media might not always be the most safe or sensible platform. Even if that thoughtless post or comment doesn’t turn around to bite you immediately, there’s every chance it could be dredged up to haunt you in 10 years, ruining your career prospects or relationship. Cautionary tales like that of former Teen Vogue editor Alexi McCammond – who was forced to resign from her dream job after homophobic and racist tweets she’d written a decade previously while still a teenager resurfaced – are etched on young people’s memories.

“I think I made a Facebook account when I was about 10 years old,” Emily*, 23, tells me. “When my friends and I got home from school, we would update our Facebook statuses and write on each other’s walls, chatting about what happened at school that day. I’d also make albums on my Facebook profile documenting days out with my mates and would post cryptic song lyrics when I was feeling sad. Basically, we posted every aspect of our lives online!”

This early behaviour of over-sharing prompted a social media “clean-up” from Emily and her Gen Z peers when they got older, she says. “There came a point in sixth form when I realised, damn, this is embarrassing – and also, do I want a future employer to see the inner workings of my 10-year-old brain? Only the brave of my generation keep their old statuses or Instagram posts. I feel like a lot of us had a reckoning before going to university or joining the workforce when we realised our childhood digital footprint needed to be invisible.

“I think in general my generation are a lot more careful about what we post because we embarrassed ourselves very early on.”

This stance is backed up by data that suggests Gen Z is more privacy conscious than previous generations, with 64 per cent switching on privacy settings on their Facebook accounts compared to just a third of users aged 65 and over, according to a survey by Pew Research Center.

And it’s not only misjudged Insta posts that baby boomers are more prone to – they’re far more likely to circulate fake news on social media. One 2019 study conducted by NYU and Princeton found that American Facebook users over the age of 65 shared nearly seven times as many articles from fake news domains as those aged between 18 and 29.

Scam-wise, they’re also at risk of losing more money to romance fraud – schemes which draw people in with fake tales of love via social media or dating apps, then ask for payments of gift cards, wire transfers and cryptocurrency – than younger cohorts. The median reported loss across all romance scams in the US in 2021 was $2,400 (£1,930) – but this amount was more than three times higher ($9,000) among adults aged 70 and over.

In the UK, meanwhile, “when it comes to romance fraud, those aged 51-65 accounted for the majority of cases where money is lost”, says Dr Jessica Barker MBE, author of Hacked: The Secrets Behind Cyber Attacks. “Romance fraudsters often play a long con, spending a lot of time manipulating victims who may be vulnerable, for example targeting people who have recently lost a spouse.”

However, she stresses that no one is immune from this kind of scam – “the data shows that, ultimately, romance fraud does not discriminate. There was an 80-year age gap between the youngest and oldest victims of romance fraud reported to TSB Bank. None of us are immune.” Regardless of age, the signs to look out for remain the same, including “love bombing and a keenness to send you gifts – a way to accelerate the relationship and make you feel that you owe them something, as well as a ploy to manipulate you into sharing personal information that can be used for identity fraud”.

The moral of the story is this: young or old, we’re all at risk when we go online. And with the rise of AI, deepfakes and more, those risks are only set to grow in number and complexity. So let’s swap “OK boomer” tropes for compassion and understanding to others on social media – and maybe keep the more contentious jokes offline.

*Name has been changed

Lewis Hamilton to start Chinese Grand Prix in 18th after costly error

Lewis Hamilton’s troubled start to the new season took another desperate twist on Saturday after he qualified a lowly 18th for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Hamilton earlier in the day had led the sprint race in Shanghai for eight laps before he had to settle for runner-up after he was overtaken by eventual winner Max Verstappen.

But less than four hours after Hamilton’s drive to second place – a result he described as his “best in a long time” – the 39-year-old was brought crashing back down to earth when he was eliminated in the opening phase of qualifying for Sunday’s main event.

The seven-time world champion locked up at the penultimate corner on his speediest lap, and he finished in the Q1 knockout zone, leaving only RB’s Yuki Tsunoda and Williams’ Logan Sargeant behind him on the grid.

An exasperated Mercedes boss Toto Wolff looked to the heavens after Hamilton’s fate was confirmed.

“Sorry guys,” reported Hamilton, 39, over the radio. He finished eight tenths off the pace and half-a-second behind George Russell in the other Mercedes.

Aside from his strong showing in Saturday’s 19-lap dash to the chequered flag, this has been Hamilton’s worst-ever start to a season.

The British driver, who is leaving Mercedes to join Ferrari next year, failed to finish inside the top six at the opening four rounds of the campaign. And his bleak result in qualifying here leaves him staring at another underwhelming result.

Carlos Sainz, the man who is giving up his seat at Ferrari for Hamilton next year, brought out a red flag in Q2 after he lost control of his Ferrari.

The Spaniard dropped his rear wheels on to the gravel on the exit of the final corner, sending him backwards into the wall on the opposing side of the track.

Sainz broke his front wing but he was able to limp back to the pits.

However, following the red-flag delay, Ferrari were able to repair Sainz’s Ferrari and the Spaniard participated in the remainder of qualifying.

Verstappen beat Hamilton by an impressive 13 seconds in Saturday’s sprint and he raced to a perhaps predictable pole position.

The Dutch driver, who is on course to take his fourth consecutive world championship, saw off team-mate Sergio Perez as Red Bull secured a front-row lockout. It also marked Red Bull’s 100th pole in F1.

Verstappen finished 0.322 seconds clear of Perez, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso third. Lando Norris, who dropped from pole to finish sixth in the sprint race, qualified fourth ahead of Oscar Piastri in the other McLaren.

Charles Leclerc and Sainz finished sixth and seventh respectively for Ferrari, while George Russell could manage only eighth on a poor afternoon for the Silver Arrows.

Joey Barton contacted by police over social media posts

Former Premier League footballer Joey Barton has been contacted by police over comments posted on social media.

Cheshire Constabulary confirmed they had received “reports of offences under the Communications Act”.

The force said officers had made “multiple attempts” to arrange a voluntary interview with a 41-year-old man from Liverpool.

In a statement on X, Mr Barton said he had been “visited 4 times in 3 days by Cheshire Police” who he claims had asked for a voluntary interview “about something I’ve tweeted”.

He claimed officers attended his home at 9.30pm when “my kids were in bed”.

Mr Barton said in the post that he had given the officers his solicitor’s contact details.

He also said his solicitor had tried to contact a sergeant at the force but had received no response.

He added: “Either it’s a shambles or an attempt to intimidate me and my family. Welcome to North Korea.”

A spokesperson for Cheshire Constabulary confirmed the force had been contacted by legal representatives, “but an interview is yet to be confirmed”.

Mr Barton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He has been criticised in recent months for comments attacking female footballers and pundits.

He described ITV pundits Eni Aluko and Lucy Ward as “the Fred and Rose West of football commentary”.

Former England striker Aluko criticised the social media platform for allowing Mr Barton and others to “vomit hatred unchecked”.

In January, sports minister Stuart Andrew described Mr Barton’s attacks as “dangerous” and warned they “opened the floodgates for abuse”.

From reefs to rainforests: A nature-lover’s guide to Queensland

From the oldest tropical rainforest on the planet to iridescent everglades, striking marine life and dramatic mountain peaks, Queensland is a paradise for anyone into nature and wildlife. We’ve put together a guide to the best natural spots to visit in each region, with help from the experts at Travelbag, who are on hand to make your dream holiday happen.

Queensland’s vibrant capital, Brisbane offers plenty to lure urbanites with its galleries, museums and restaurants, and it doesn’t fall short on the nature front either.

For an especially tranquil spot, head to the city’s Botanic Gardens, set just outside the centre and home to the biggest collection of Australian native rainforest trees in the world (entry is free). If you fancy getting up close and personal with the local wildlife, swing by the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – home to a koala research centre alongside various experiences, from wildlife encounters to a Nocturnal Twilight Tour.

Beyond the city itself, you’ll find plenty more to explore; for one of the most jaw-dropping spots, head to the Scenic Rim, a dramatic caldera landscape scattered with soaring peaks, lush valleys and scenic bushwalking trails.

The Gold Coast might be best-known for its beaches, nightlife and family-friendly fun, but as the gateway to several national parks, it’s also a dream for nature-lovers. It’s here you’ll find Lamington National Park and Springbrook National Park – both part of the Unesco-listed Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, the biggest subtropical rainforest on the planet. Hiking trails lace these tree-carpeted landscapes, with waterfalls, mountains and lush flora for scenery.

Elsewhere, venture to Burleigh Heads National Park to amble between scenic coastline and emerald rainforest, and come between July and October to spot migrating whales as they pass the famous ‘Humpback Highway’.

Just north of Brisbane sits the Sunshine Coast – an idyllic stretch lined with sugary beaches and cerulean sea, and the home of laid-back surf town Noosa.

Among the myriad natural charms here you’ll find the Noosa Everglades – one of only two everglades systems in the world, tucked within a sprawling UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Nicknamed the ‘river of mirrors’, this network of waterways, tea tree forests and wetlands is home to 40% of Australia’s bird species, with canoe and kayak tours available if you want to see its wildlife from the water.

It’s not just the everglades worth a visit here, though. In the wider Great Sandy National Park, you’ll find hidden-away beaches, tumbling sand dunes and sprawling rainforests – best explored by 4×4 – while elsewhere in the hinterlands lie the Glass House Mountains, a cluster of volcanic, craggy peaks offering excellent hiking and exceptional views.

Much of Queensland’s charm lies beneath the surface, of course, and if you’re looking to explore the region’s colourful marine life, the Whitsunday Islands should be high on your list.

There are plenty of options for sailing trips here, with key spots including the talcum-sand Whitehaven Beach and paradise-worthy Hamilton Island. Book a Whitehaven Camira Sailing Adventure to explore the first, or if you fancy getting properly back to nature, opt for the two-day Reeflseep, which combines snorkelling and optional diving with dinner and a night sleeping under the stars.

There’s more in the way of world-class snorkelling and diving in Cairns – the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, where dwarf minke whales, manta rays, turtles and groupers inhabit the surrounding waters.

But it’s not only about the marine life here – two hours away sits the Daintree Rainforest; the oldest tropical rainforest in the world, believed to date back around 180 million years. Saltwater crocodiles, kaleidoscopic butterflies and an array of tropical birds inhabit this ancient landscape, with waterfalls, creeks and swimming holes hidden among the trees.

Head out on a riverboat cruise to take it all in, or book an indigenous-led tour to learn more about the Daintree’s Aboriginal people; this vast, heritage-filled wilderness is Australia at its most quintessential, and a perfect symbol of Queensland’s striking diversity.

Book it: Combine Queensland’s natural highlights on Travelbag’s Queensland Ocean & Rainforest Experience, or get in touch with Travelbag’s experts for a private, tailor-made trip to suit.

Is Rishi Sunak playing politics or do benefits need to be reformed?

The prime minister has provoked outrage from health charities and groups representing people with disabilities due to his proposed changes to eligibility for social security. Rishi Sunak has said he will end what he calls a “sick note culture” with a new “moral mission” to reform the welfare system if re-elected. Focusing on younger people and the numbers suffering from mental health conditions in particular, he calls the number of economically inactive young people – for whatever reason not seeking work – in Britain a “tragedy”. Pointing out that reforms in recent years have not prevented an increase in long-term sickness, Sunak says: “We don’t just need to change the sick note, we need to change the sick note culture, so the default becomes what work you can do – not what you can’t.”

Because any speech or policy that touches on the most vulnerable in society is bound to be so – but also because Sunak himself wants to confront the issue despite the reaction it’s bound to cause. In his speech, he struck a balanced but unusually sceptical note on mental health assessment, specifically in a work context: “We need to be more ambitious about helping people back to work. And more honest about the risk of over-medicalising the everyday challenges and worries of life.” He added: “The biggest proportional increase in economic inactivity due to long-term sickness came from young people. Those in the prime of their life, just starting out on work and family – instead parked on welfare. We should see it as a sign of progress that people can talk openly about mental health conditions. But just as it would be wrong to dismiss this growing trend, so it would be wrong merely to sit back and accept it because it’s too hard or too controversial or for fear of causing offence.”

Israel and Iran must not let these violent skirmishes turn into war

Is this not how wars start? Conventionally, one sovereign state deliberately bombing the embassy of another sovereign state in a third country would be a reason to go to war, and a lawful one.

This is indeed what happened on 1 April, when Israel destroyed a building within the Iranian embassy compound in Damascus, Syria. Iran, however, did not declare war in true 19th-century style. It instead launched a huge one-night bombardment of assorted missiles at Israel, almost all of which were dealt with before they could land through intervention by Israel and other, friendly, air forces, with the fabled Iron Dome anti-missile defence system working impeccably.

Again, even though the Iranian assault turned out to be more a show of Israeli than Iranian strength, that attempted bombardment would at least notionally serve as a perfectly adequate casus belli for Israel. Yet it provoked Israel “only” to retaliate via a precisely targeted aerial assault on a Revolutionary Guard airbase and munitions store – more than likely from whence the Iranians had dispatched their own drones towards Israel days before.