INDEPENDENT 2024-04-26 10:04:11


Two charged after deaths of five migrants in English Channel

Two men have been charged with immigration offences following the death of five migrants, including a child, who died trying to cross the English Channel earlier this week.

Yien Both, a 22-year-old from South Sudan, has been charged with assisting unlawful immigration and attempting to arrive in the UK without valid entry clearance.

Tajdeen Adbulaziz Juma, a 22-year-old Sudanese national, has been charged with attempting to arrive in the UK without valid entry clearance.

Both men have been remanded in custody and were expected to appear before Folkestone Magistrates’ Court later on Friday.

A third man, an 18-year-old from Sudan, has been bailed pending further inquiries.

The five migrants appeared to have been caught in a panic on board when the small boat they were travelling in, carrying 112 people, ran aground on a sandbank not long after leaving Plage des Allemands beach in Wimereux in northern France on Tuesday.

French navy sailors discovered them “unconscious and in a serious condition” before taking them ashore where, despite resuscitation attempts, they died, local official Jacques Billant told reporters.

Some 49 people were rescued but 58 others refused to leave the boat and continued their journey towards the UK, the coastguard said in a statement, with several other boats later embarking on the crossing.

The five deceased included a woman, three men and a girl. Their deaths came just hours after the government passed its plan to deport migrants to Rwanda, which the government claims will act as a deterrent to those planning to make the treacherous journey across the Channel.

Just hours after the five asylum seekers were confirmed dead, another boat carrying at least 20 people was seen setting sail from Dunkirk, northern France.

Jill Dando 25 years on: ‘Someone could still say, ‘Yeah, it was me’

On 26 April 1999, Nigel Dando was at his desk at the Bristol Evening Post, where he was chief reporter, when he got a call from a contact on the Daily Mail. It was about his sister, the hugely popular TV presenter Jill Dando. “He said he’d heard that Jill had been involved in some sort of accident, and had I heard anything?” the former journalist tells me from his dining room. “It was 10 o’clock in the morning. I rang Jill to check she was OK, and couldn’t get hold of her. And then he rang back about half an hour later, and said, ‘I think it’s a bit more serious than that, she’s been stabbed in the street where she lives and taken to hospital.’”

Dando tried calling his sister’s fiancé, the gynaecologist Alan Farthing, and eventually got through to him. “He said that he was sitting in the back of a police car on his way to Charing Cross Hospital where Jill had been taken. And there was a police officer in the car, who took over the call. He said that they believed that Jill had died.”

Dando had been murdered. She had not been stabbed, although this was not known by the time her visibly shaken BBC colleague Jennie Bond had to announce the news of her death to the nation on the lunchtime bulletin. Pre-air footage shows her asking, “What shall I say?” as a producer keeps repeating, “She was 37.” She had been shot in the head at very close range on the steps of her home in Fulham. She was found by a neighbour, who called 999 and said that she thought the woman she was looking at, whose arms were blue, with blood coming from her nose, was Jill Dando, and she wasn’t breathing.

Ukraine pulls back US tanks from frontline amid Russian drone threat

Ukraine has withdrawn its American-made Abrams battle tanks from the frontline over concerns they can be easily detected and targeted by Russian drones.

Kyiv has lost five of the 31 Abrams tanks given to it by the US to Russian attacks since October last year. Ukraine had engaged in a months-long campaign arguing that the tanks, which cost about $10m apiece, were vital to its ability to breach Russian lines.

The US is expected to announce that it will provide another $6bn in long-term military aid to Ukraine, US officials said, adding that it will include much sought after munitions for Patriot air defence systems.

Elsewhere, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko claimed “several dozen” Russian tactical nuclear weapons had been deployed in Belarus, Russia’s Tass news agency said, under an agreement jointly announced last year with Vladimir Putin.

It came as the Belarusian security service claimed to have thwarted an attack on the capital Minsk by drones launched from Nato-member Lithuania, which denied taking any hostile action.

Rebel Wilson’s controversial memoir is bemusing and fixated on money

Rebel Wilson landed in Hollywood with a mission: she would be the female Jonah Hill. She sensed there was a gap in the market for a girl like her, who grew up, dreaming of networking opportunities, in an Australian suburb and was taught in a university course on comedy that “people like to laugh at people that they don’t want to sleep with”. “I can create content, and that’s valuable,” she told Hill’s agents at a meeting in 2010, while hoping to get them on board with the Rebel Wilson business plan. “I see them pondering my potential and future in their minds,” she writes in her new memoir Rebel Rising. “My boob sweat starts to drip again.”

Wilson’s book may be the first celebrity memoir to forgo gossip and myth-making in favour of detailing marketing strategies and movie-star asset management. Yes, there is a gripping – and, for the book’s UK release, heavily redacted – chapter describing the actor and comedian’s run-ins with Sacha Baron Cohen, which moves with the speed of a thriller. But otherwise, Rebel Rising is a bemusing curiosity, an autobiography in which we are asked repeatedly to celebrate its author’s expensive jewellery, high salaries and multiple apartments around the globe. “I love buying property,” Wilson writes. “It reminds me of how little Rebel would strategise whilst playing Monopoly – ‘Buy, buy, buy!’ was always my motto.”

The tell-all memoir has always held a vaunted position in celebrity culture, lending even the most throwaway of stars an elegant, literary sheen. But the market is also at saturation point, flush with books by famous faces with little to say about anything, let alone themselves. Paris Hilton’s was too brand-conscious. RuPaul’s was a narcissistic slog. Jada Pinkett Smith’s felt like being held hostage by someone who’s just got back from an ayahuasca retreat and is determined to tell you absolutely everything about it. Wilson’s, frankly, is too early – written by a star who is still figuring out who they are as a woman and as a celebrity, so fills in the blanks with braggadocio and boob jokes.

Wilson has, without question, had a film career. But it’s been a very modern one, her work scattershot rather than consistent, unmemorable when it’s not completely catastrophic. No other modern funny-person is as perfect for an age of Netflix algorithms and semi-regular magazine articles asking whether the comedy movie is dead. After making a name for herself in Australian sketch shows, Wilson moved to Los Angeles in 2010, immediately signing with an influential talent agency. She was then cast in a role in Kristen Wiig’s rollicking comedy hit Bridesmaids. It remains the only truly good film she’s ever made.

The ones that followed Bridesmaids – among them star vehicles including The Hustle and Isn’t It Romantic, as well as the Pitch Perfect musical franchise – gleefully embraced Wilson’s comic persona, her staccato deadpan, and her somewhat rote, fish-out-of-water oddity. In her book, Wilson acknowledges the niche she’s always filled in the industry – “the fat funny girl, making self-deprecating jokes” – and occasionally hints at resentment over it, but never pursues the thought further. She seems curiously uncurious about her own image, or the creative legacy she’s leaving behind. There are only scant mentions of Cats, for instance, despite the 2019 Andrew Lloyd Webber adaptation being a noteworthy blight on a CV already awash with guff. “I actually quite like the film and think the artistry is incredible,” she writes, in what is potentially the book’s only laugh-out-loud line.

Instead, it is money that always seems to soothe Wilson’s wounds. When she decides to lose weight in 2020, she briefly ponders whether she’ll still be funny with a different body size, or if it’ll affect people’s responses to Senior Year, a cheerleader comedy she’s due to shoot. “89 million unique Netflix accounts watch it within the first 10 days of release. It’s a global hit! I think I’m fine,” she writes a sentence later.

There is, I suppose, something slightly transgressive about a famous person writing about their own life like this – that Rebel Wilson is openly and proudly a form of content, happy to be flogged to the masses. The female Jonah Hill like she promised, optimised for massive earning potential. But it makes Rebel Rising a surprisingly chilly read – celebrity tell-all by way of a Steven Bartlett podcast. Everything is slightly mechanical: the professional choices Wilson makes, the endorsement deals she takes, what she feels constitutes a win. “I filmed three movies back-to-back for a whopping $20m US dollars in acting salary total,” she boasts. “I also produced The Hustle and Isn’t It Romantic, which made me even more money.”

In its early stages, Wilson’s book feels so on-the-nose in its love of cash and trinkets that it almost comes off as a gag. “My four MTV Movie Awards sit in a trophy case I have at my second home in Los Angeles,” she declares. “Because yes, I have two.” But as Rebel Rising unfolds, it becomes clear that this is just Wilson – her natural mode of conversation, at least on paper, is consistently tone-deaf and baffling. “I really related to rap music,” she writes at one point. “Rappers wanted money and prestige – I wanted that too. Rappers normally had a hard life – even though I clearly wasn’t growing up in Compton around guns and drugs, in my own mind things were tough. I had no friends, my parents were increasingly bickering and money was again tight. Tight because of my expensive school fees, Dad said.” See what I mean?

In the Baron Cohen chapter, Wilson describes working with him on the doomed spy spoof Grimsby, and how “everything felt off”. “From how I perceived it, he wanted me to wear a sleeveless top that showed the chunkiest part of my arms and a much shorter skirt where you could see as much cellulite as possible … This felt personal – like he just wanted me to look and feel awful.” Her character Fat Amy in the Pitch Perfect movies was different, she adds. “I was in control of that character. It felt to me [on Grimsby] like a bunch of men were degrading me … in my opinion, they thought it was funny to laugh at the fat girl.”

It’s the best chapter in the book, not only for the gossip but because it gets so close to actually being about something – about agency and power, and the delicate difference between using your body for a joke and having your body used for a joke. Some of the best celebrity memoirs in recent months have been by women who are aware of how their bodies have been packaged and sold in the entertainment industry, and are able to articulate the tension between exploitation and self-expression – think Pamela Anderson’s insightful Love, Pamela, Britney Spears’ haunting The Woman in Me, or Julia Fox’s harrowing Down the Drain.

Every once in a while, Wilson needles towards an insightful point like those women did in their books, but then scampers away frightened. It’s consistently disappointing. But perhaps it’s just the comedian in her. Why bare your soul when you can just slip on a banana peel?

‘Rebel Rising’, published by HarperCollins, is in shops

Father of man killed in Thai train fall calls for new safety measures

The grieving father of a 24-year-old killed falling from a train in Thailand has paid tribute to his “extraordinary” son and called for changes to railway safety measures to spare other families the same loss.

Ryan Ralph fell from an overnight locomotive during a journey with his girlfriend, Shona Morgan, 22, from Northern Ireland, who was backpacking in the country.

The tragedy happened when Mr Ralph went to have a cigarette, leaving Ms Morgan asleep. It’s believed that as he stood between carriages, he lost his footing and fell onto the tracks. A major hunt for him was carried out before his body was found.

His father, Tim Ralph, paid tribute to “an extraordinary young man”, saying: “Ryan had completed a degree with honours in business but he knew that he didn’t want to be or belong in the business world, he wanted to be a ‘a good human’.

“He was travelling to see how he could accomplish that: he had talked about many potential career paths such as environmental law or something that would allow him to benefit people. “I am sure I am biased but Ryan could literally have done anything. He was a straight-A student while playing soccer and hockey at the highest levels.

“For hockey in particular this would involve long bus rides on school nights to play as far as 500km – he would finish his homework on the bus without any prompting.

“I would often refer to him as a ‘self-cleaning oven’ – we never had to ask if his school work was done or if he had projects due, he was always on top of it.”

Mr Ralph said his son encouraged his sister, Lauren, two years his junior, who adored him.

He became captain of his hockey team and “had a group of friends that was closer than I have seen even in army sections,” he added.

Mr Ralph, a former physician assistant in the Canadian Army and emergency medicine, who visited the site where his son died, said the tragedy had been preventable and his death was senseless.

“Ryan would have been standing on the bottom step of an open area between the rail cars and his leg would have struck the unlit platform at mid-thigh,” he said. “This accident could have been easily prevented.”

He said that when he went to collect his son’s body, Thailand Tourist Police were compassionate and accommodating.

However, when he wanted to speak to rail officials, he was referred to their insurers but was unable to contact them.

Mr Ralph outlined four changes he thinks would avoid future tragedy, including doors between carriages that close; doors on side openings; enforcement of a ban on smoking on trains and at stations, and lighting areas on tracks.

“We have come to learn that not only are there no physical doors or barriers on the train’s access points, and there are windows that have no physical glass or barrier,” he said.

Mr Ralph’s parents say they plan to put any compensation towards a bursary they are setting up at his former high school.

The Independent has asked the State Railway of Thailand to respond.

E2E Female 100 List for 2024 Revealed

For more information and to see the full E2E Female 100 2024 list click here.

E2E, in association with The Independent, proudly unveils the E2E Female 100 list, a definitive index recognising the exceptional achievements of the 100 fastest-growing female-led or founded businesses in the United Kingdom, based on their remarkable growth rates over the past three years.

The data underpinning this prestigious recognition is gathered by Experian and Go Live Data, ensuring a meticulous selection process that acknowledges businesses solely for their tangible contributions to the commercial landscape.

Spanning a myriad of sectors, these league tables serve as a testament to the remarkable endeavours spearheaded by women across the UK.

A celebratory gala dinner is scheduled for the autumn of 2024, hosted by Shalini Khemka CBE.

Featured in the list and demonstrating extraordinary growth are Darina Garland, co-founder and co-CEO at Ooni, who has seen an 88% increase, Alison Doherty, CEO at Sarah Raven’s Kitchen & Garden Limited who has seen an 83% increase and Fateha Begum, co-founder and executive director at Dare International Ltd who has seen an 81% increase in growth.

The E2E Female 100 constitutes a pivotal component of The E2E 100, a visionary initiative encompassing six league tables, complemented by expansive receptions and a plethora of associated content.

This initiative stands as a resounding testament to the exceptional calibre of UK enterprises, showcasing their unwavering commitment to excellence, consistent growth, and groundbreaking business strategies that reverberate not only within their respective sectors but resonate nationwide, and in some instances, globally.

Highlighting talent from every corner of the UK, this list underscores the rich diversity of businesses founded by women and the monumental successes they have achieved despite navigating through the challenges of an uncertain economic landscape.

Speaking about the list, Shalini Khemka CBE, founder of E2E says: “The E2E Female 100 list is a testament to the remarkable achievements of women in business. It showcases their talent, dedication, and resilience in navigating the business world. We’re still in a period of transition where women have to be recognised as much as possible to create parity in our economy, both in terms of general recognition, pay recognition, and equal opportunities, and I believe this list serves as a pivotal step towards achieving that goal. By shining a spotlight on the outstanding contributions of women entrepreneurs, the E2E Female 100 list not only celebrates successes, but also advocates for the recognition and equal treatment of women in business.”

Andy Morley, Chief Revenue Officer from The Independent, said: “It brings us great pleasure to highlight this extraordinary assembly of women, each having demonstrated remarkable strides over the past three years in their respective fields. The collaboration between E2E and The Independent for the E2E Female 100 provides a platform to spotlight the exceptional female talent across the UK whilst inspiring future generations of female entrepreneurs, and shows E2E’s commitment to championing female leadership in business.

Lord Bilimoria CBE, DL said: “As a founding Board Member of E2E, I’ve witnessed its transformation under the stewardship of Shalini Khemka CBE, evolving into a pivotal ecosystem supporting founders, business leaders, and investors. The Female 100 is a testament to E2E’s commitment to spotlighting the fastest growing female-led enterprises across the UK— a remarkable initiative that not only celebrates the achievements of these dynamic women but also serves as an inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs. E2E’s dedication to fostering diversity and empowering female leaders underscores its invaluable contribution to the entrepreneurial landscape, shaping a future where opportunity knows no bounds.”

The tracks are independently compiled by Go Live Data and Experian according to specific criteria and official data. Each track is supported by our partners Champions (UK) plc, Go Live Data, Virtuoso Legal and Experian.

To find out more about E2E, visit https://www.e2exchange.com

How did a Tory promise to end no-fault evictions become stalled?

Conservatives pledged in the 2019 manifesto to abolish Section 21 notices, which allow landlords to evict tenants without giving a reason. No-fault eviction, as it is called, has been one of the biggest complaints of tenants, and the abolition of Section 21 notices has long been a central demand of tenant and homelessness campaign groups, such as Shelter.

Now, almost five years after the first promise was given, and almost a year since the Renters (Reform) Bill was tabled, the commitment seems no closer to being honoured. The bill is now going through its report stage and third reading in the Commons before returning to the House of Lords, but the key sections are expected to be watered down or subject to delay.

Michael Gove, the housing secretary, also seems to be wavering. In a television interview in February, he insisted Section 21 orders would be abolished by the next election. On the eve of the bill’s third reading, he seemed less certain, saying to the BBC: “Everything depends on the House of Lords. My determination is to ensure that we get this bill on the statute book. But it’s up to the Lords to decide the rate of progress that we can make … It will be a judgement of the Lords as to how this bill progresses.”

Labour’s ‘radical’ plan to overhaul rail isn’t as radical as it sounds

The Labour Party has promised “the biggest overhaul to our railways in a generation” by renationalising the network if it wins this year’s general election.

The policy is not quite as radical as it sounds. Wisely, a Keir Starmer government would not waste taxpayers’ money on old-style nationalisation. Instead, it would transfer the 10 remaining rail operators’ contracts still in private hands into “public control” when franchises expire by the end of a five-year parliament, avoiding the compensation needed in an immediate transition.

Under Sir Keir, Labour has rightly moved a long way from Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge at the 2019 election to put the railways, energy utilities, water industry, postal services and broadband infrastructure in public hands. It is increasingly clear that an incoming Starmer government would have a rotten economic inheritance with no money for such extravagant schemes. Although it would set up a publicly owned Great British Energy company to invest in clean energy like offshore wind, the deservedly criticised water industry would be reformed through tougher regulation rather than state ownership.