The Telegraph 2024-05-11 01:00:40

Voters not in love with Starmer’s Labour Party, warns Kinnock

Britain is not yet in love with Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, Lord Kinnock has said, as party insiders fear that the general election could become a repeat of 1992.

The former Labour leader told BBC Radio Four’s Week in Westminster that it was “fair” to say that voters were not fully convinced by his party, and that it was not guaranteed it would win a House of Commons majority.

His point is echoed by Anneliese Dodds, the Labour Party chairman, in an interview with The Telegraph. She said: “We can be very good at losing elections people thought we would win. Think of 1992.”

It comes in a week where Sir Keir has had to justify why he allowed Tory MP Natalie Elphicke to defect to Labour, with the decision criticised by those on the Left of the party and female Labour MPs.

Yesterday, Rishi Sunak hailed the official end of a short recession by saying the economy now had “momentum”, with No 10 believing the improvement helps the Conservatives’ re-election hopes.

Since an academic analysis of the local election results pointed to a hung parliament, there has been debate about whether Labour’s 20-point poll lead will translate into a majority.

Lord Kinnock was Labour leader in the run-up to the 1992 general election, when his party was widely expected to win, only for Sir John Major’s Tories to pull off a shock victory.

On the Week in Westminster, which is broadcast on Saturday, the Labour peer was asked if the truth of the current political dynamic was that the country was “deeply disillusioned with the Tories” but “not yet fully convinced or in love with the Labour pitch”.

Lord Kinnock responded: “I think that’s fair.  And I think that it’s pretty natural after 14 years of continuous Conservative-led and Conservative governments.

“Expressing enthusiasm is different from expressing desperation. People will say ‘let’s get the bloody Tories out’, but they won’t say ‘Hurrah hurrah, marvellous, freedom, liberation is with us because of Keir Starmer.’ They are entirely different departments of human sentiment.”

He declined to say whether the run-up to this election felt more like 1992 or 1997, when New Labour was swept into power under Sir Tony Blair, saying no two elections were the same.

But Lord Kinnock did strike a note of caution when asked whether he thought the election result would be a Labour majority or a hung parliament, which is when no party has an overall majority.

He said: “I’m simply saying I don’t think we’ll lose. In fact, I think I can say with some certainty we’re not going to lose.

“When it comes to trying to guess the possibility of majorities – large, medium, small – I simply won’t engage in that because we’ve got a first-past-the-post system which can be very capricious.”

Labour insiders often point to the surprise defeat in 1992 to back up their argument that they must not be complacent, even with their vast opinion poll lead over the Tories.

Pat McFadden, Labour’s national campaign co-ordinator, who was an adviser in the Blair rebuild after 1992, has been reminding colleagues that not a single vote has yet been cast for the general election.

On Friday, Sir Keir tried to counter Tory attacks on his pledge to scrap the Rwanda deportation flights by announcing plans to create a new border security command and use terror laws to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel if he were to win office. Being seen as credible by the public on tackling immigration is one of the Labour Party’s biggest challenges.

No 10 insiders hope that multiple Rwanda flights taking off over the summer and the improving economy will give them a chance of what Mr Sunak has said would be the “greatest comeback in political history”. The general election is expected in October or November.

Mr Sunak seized on the news that the recession was over on Friday, saying: “Confidence is returning to the economy and the country, and I hope that you’re starting to feel that too.”

In his interview, Lord Kinnock acknowledged Sir Keir and Sir Tony had differing political appeals, but argued that they both matched the specific public mood at the time.

Lord Kinnock said: “‘97 was exceptional in many ways. This one is too. And frankly I actually think that Keir’s sobriety, his maturity, his steadiness, his dependability are really useful and essential features of the political landscape now.

“Because we’ve had – I think anybody would admit – giddy years in terms of political leadership and in terms of the swirl of economic and economic-related events. So what we’re looking for, what I think the country is looking for, is someone who will give, for want of a better phrase, the country a helmsman to be depended upon.”

In comments also made on the Week in Westminster but released earlier in the week, Lord Kinnock criticised the decision to allow Ms Elphicke to join Labour. He said: “I think we have got to be choosy to a degree about who we allow to join our party because it’s a very broad church but churches have walls and there are limits.

“Ms Elphicke has got to decide whether she is committed to the programme and principles of the Labour Party, broadly defined, generously defined with great liberal intentions, but we are a political party and not a debating club.”

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Live Thrilled Britons capture stunning images of Northern Lights over UK – latest news

People across the UK are capturing stunning images of the Northern Lights as they light up the night sky.

The aurora borealis is visible across much of Britain as the most powerful solar storm in almost 20 years hits Earth. 

The Northern Lights have been spotted in Whitley Bay on the north east coast, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Berkshire. They were also spotted in Suffolk, Kent, Hampshire and Liverpool.

Space weather experts are expecting the buffeting wind to collide with our planet’s magnetic field at around 2am BST on Saturday morning, and this could trigger strong aurora at more southerly latitudes than normal.

The scale of the geomagnetic storm heading to Earth is the largest in two decades and the effects will likely last several days. 

The Northern Lights will likely be visible until dawn on Saturday, but may appear (in places with clear skies and not thunderstorms) on Saturday night too.

Follow below for live updates and share your reactions in the comments

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Kevin Spacey interview: The British ask me ‘when are you going back to work? This has gone too far’

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Jeremy Clarkson’s eight most cancellable moments – and how he’s survived

He’s done it again. Jeremy Clarkson made headlines in December for a column about the Duchess of Sussex in which he said he hated Meghan Markle “on a cellular level” and wanted to see her publicly shamed and smeared in excrement. He was met with widespread outrage.

It might well be the last straw: the Independent Press Standards Organisation received a record number of complaints and both Amazon and ITV are reportedly cutting ties with Clarkson after their current filming commitments have ended.

But it’s definitely not the first time he has courted controversy. Over a 34-year career on TV he has peddled more insults than there are episodes of Top Gear and even resorted to a punch-up on more than one occasion. And yet, with each offensive remark he seemed to bounce back stronger – until now. Here, we recall eight previous incidents that had the potential to curtail his career… 

1. The Piers Morgan punch

In a fracas at the British Press Awards in 2004, Clarkson punched Piers Morgan. It was the culmination of a feud between the pair that began when a photograph of Clarkson with another woman was published in the Daily Mirror while Morgan was editor.

Clarkson reflected on the incident in his Sunday Times column last April and wrote: “[He] said something unkind about my wife. So, even though I was calm and sober, having just come from a recording of Call My Bluff, I hit him. And immediately a gang of portly hacks gathered round, chanting ‘Finish it’.”

At the time, Clarkson was married to Frances Cain, with whom he has three children. They divorced in 2014. Morgan was left with a scar on his forehead from Clarkson’s right hook but responded by saying: “I’ve frankly taken worse batterings from my three-year-old son.” 

2. The ‘special needs’ joke

Clarkson faced criticism for a joke about a car having “special needs” on a 2010 episode of Top Gear. He said the Ferrari F430 Speciale was “a bit wrong… that smiling front end… it looked like a simpleton… [it] should have been called the 430 Speciale Needs”. After Ofcom intervened and said the comments were “capable of causing offence”, the BBC removed them from reruns of the show on BBC Two, and from iPlayer.

3. The One Show

In 2011, the BBC’s One Show presenters Alex Jones and Matt Baker looked shocked when Clarkson said he believed striking workers should be “shot”.

“I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families,” he said of public sector workers taking part in the strikes. The BBC received 31,000 complaints and later issued an apology. 

4. The N-word

In an outtake from series 19 of Top Gear, Clarkson was shown mumbling a racial slur whilst reciting the children’s rhyme, “eeny, meeny, miny, moe”. This was removed in the edited version that aired on the BBC in February 2013.

After the footage was published by the Mirror, he issued an apology video. “I was well aware that in the best-known version of this rhyme there is a racist expression that I was extremely keen to avoid,” he said. “If you listen very carefully with the sound turned right up, it did appear that I’d actually used the word I was trying to obscure… Please be assured I did everything in my power to not use that word, as I’m sitting here begging your forgiveness for the fact my efforts obviously weren’t quite good enough, thank you.”

He later wrote in his Sun column: “I’ve been told by the BBC that if I make one more offensive remark, anywhere, at any time, I will be sacked.”

5. The other race rows

Ofcom found that Clarkson had deliberately used an “offensive racial term” that breached broadcasting rules during Top Gear filming. In the Burma special, which aired in March 2014, he used the word “slope” – a derogatory term for Asian people – as an Asian man crossed a bridge over the River Kwai in Thailand. The BBC also had to apologise for comments the Top Gear presenters made about Mexican people in 2011.

6. The rant against Liverpool

A Sunday Times column in 2015 about the North-South divide left Clarkson in hot water. “People up there earn less, die more quickly, have fewer jobs and live in houses that are worth the square root of sod all,” he wrote. He then took to Twitter for a foul-mouthed rant against Liverpool Echo journalists, whom he called “the f—tards on the local rag”. Joe Anderson, then mayor of Liverpool, said Clarkson was a “buffoon”. 

7. The Top Gear producer punch

In the same year, it was an altercation over a sirloin steak that eventually got Clarkson fired from the BBC. He punched a producer in a hotel in North Yorkshire after being told he could not order a steak and was instead served a cold platter for dinner. Clarkson launched an “unprovoked physical and verbal attack” at Top Gear producer Oisin Tymon, now aged 44, which left him bloodied and requiring hospital treatment. He allegedly called Tymon a “lazy, Irish c—” and had to pay in excess of £100,000 in damages for racial discrimination and and personal injury. 

8. The trouble on Clarkson’s Farm

Clarkson’s Farm, which launched on Amazon Prime in 2021, was popular with viewers but less so with locals. Clarkson clashed with his Cotswolds neighbours over plans to develop his Diddly Squat farm to include a restaurant in 2021, which he opened via a “delightful little loophole” in planning law. He was accused of flooding the village with traffic and turning the area into a “rural theme park”. Clarkson responded by calling the hordes of fans “a bloody nuisance… you have my absolute sympathy”.

After residents lodged complaints with the council, Clarkson was eventually forced to close the restaurant. He called the “jealous locals” the “red trouser brigade.”

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Sussexes’ Nigeria trip is a royal tour – on their terms

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Police officer shot in the leg with a crossbow

A police officer has been shot in the leg with a crossbow after reports of a stabbing in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, Thames Valley Police said.

Police attended School Lane, Downley, at around 6pm on Friday after a man in his sixties suffered a stab wound.

A 54-year-old man, from High Wycombe, has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder.

He has been taken to hospital under police supervision with potentially life-changing injuries after he was shot by an armed police officer.

Assistant Chief Constable Tim Metcalfe said one of the officers in attendance was shot in the leg with a crossbow and was taken to hospital but has since been released.

“Our thoughts are with the injured officer and we are doing everything to support him and his colleagues, as well as all others affected by the incident within the force,” he said.

“The assault victim has also been taken to hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries. Our thoughts are with him as well.”

He continued: “We are not looking for anyone else in relation to the incident at this time.

“There is a large police presence in the area as a result but there is no ongoing threat to the wider public. Anyone with concerns should speak to a uniformed police officer.”

The force has made a mandatory referral to the Independent Office for Police Conduct over the incident.

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