The Telegraph 2024-05-23 10:00:47


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Richard Tice is set to launch Reform UK’s general election campaign after Nigel Farage announced he will not be standing as a candidate. 

Mr Tice, the Reform leader, will use a press conference in central London to set out his plans for the election. 

Mr Farage, the party’s honorary president, announced this morning that he will be supporting Reform’s efforts but he will not be returning to the political frontline.

You can follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section here

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Child among at least nine dead after stage collapses at Mexico campaign rally

 

At least nine people have died – including a child – after a stage collapsed in northern Mexico when strong winds gusted through a presidential candidate’s campaign rally.

Images of the accident showed a crowd fleeing as the structure supporting the stage toppled and a giant screen fell where Jorge Alvarez Maynez, the presidential candidate, and members of his Citizens’ Movement party were standing.

The accident took place in the town of San Pedro Garza Garcia, which is part of the greater metropolitan area of the city of Monterrey in Nuevo Leon.

According to Samuel Garcia, the governor of Nuevo Leon, the victims were eight adults and one child. He said around 50 people had also been injured, with three needing surgery. 

“I am fine and in communication with the authorities over what happened”, Maynez wrote on X, adding that the priority was to take care of the victims. He said he would remain at the scene until the last injured person had been taken to hospital.

Some members of his team were being treated at the hospital, according to Maynez, who is in third place ahead of the June 2 presidential election according to the latest polls. 

He lags far behind both frontrunner Claudia Sheinbaum and main opposition presidential candidate Xochitl Galvez in surveys.

The Citizens’ Movement party said “hurricane-like” winds had knocked the stage down, and announced it would be cancelling all further events in the region.

Mexican weather reports before the event said that tornados were possible in Nuevo Leon and nearby states during an unstable pattern of storms, with winds of up to about 43 miles per hour expected.

After the stage collapse, Mr García, the Nuevo León governor, said: “We’re witnessing electric storms. Very strong winds and heavy rain are expected for the next two hours,” he said. “There’s already been a tragedy.”

In a post on social media, outgoing President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered his sympathies to the family members and friends of the victims.

He said the campaign rally accident had been caused by strong winds.

Maynez’s party said in a statement that he would suspend all campaign events “in solidarity with those affected”.

‘Pure hysteria, pure panic’

Jose Juan, who was at the rally, recounted how the structure came crashing down on the candidates and their supporters.

“It hit me on the head and I fainted. The rest was pure hysteria, pure panic,” he told broadcaster Televisa.

The other two presidential candidates also expressed solidarity with those affected.

“I hope with all my heart that there are no serious injuries,” opposition candidate Galvez wrote on social media before the deaths were confirmed.

On June 2, Mexicans will vote for a new president as well as members of Congress, several state governors and local officials. In total, more than 20,000 positions are being contested.

Mexico has been in the grip of a punishing heatwave as a “heat dome” has been sitting above the country, with a third of the country hitting 45C this week.

26 people are thought to have died from the heat, and it was so hot that howler monkeys fell from the trees.

At least 138 of the midsize primates, who are known for their roaring vocal calls, were found dead in the Gulf Coast state of Tabasco on May 16, according to the Biodiversity Conservation of The Usumacinta group.

Others were rescued by residents, including five who were rushed to a local veterinarian who battled to save them.

“They arrived in critical condition, with dehydration and fever,” said Dr. Sergio Valenzuela. “They were as limp as rags. It was heatstroke.”

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Paula Vennells says ex-Post Office IT director called Horizon issues ‘nonsense’

Paula Vennells has blamed a former Post Office IT director for issues with the Horizon computer system not being investigated in 2009.

In her written evidence to the public inquiry, the organisation’s disgraced former boss revealed that an article by Computer Weekly on problems with Horizon was dismissed as “nonsense” by bosses.

Mike Young, the former operations director, who was in charge of IT at the Post Office until 2012, allegedly said that the trade magazine “did not know what it was talking about”.

Mr Young had been “adamant” that the article, which first revealed the plight of sub-postmasters suffering unexplained accounting shortfalls, should not be treated as a “red flag”, according to Ms Vennells.

She wrote in her witness statement to the inquiry: “I remember the Computer Weekly article because it was mentioned by Mike Young at a meeting of the executive management team which I attended.”

She added: “Mike told us that the article was critical of Horizon and had been picked up by a Welsh-language television station.

“I remember this reasonably well because Mike was dismissive of Computer Weekly. I recall he said it was a trade magazine that did not know what it was talking about in relation to Horizon. Mike said he was handling it.

“I spoke to him about it after the meeting because I was still concerned. He assured me that there was nothing wrong with the system and that the article was nonsense (or words to that effect).”

She said later in her 861-page written statement that it was because Mr Young took such a “firm view” on this that potential concerns with the Horizon system were not escalated further within the organisation.

“As a non-IT specialist, I accepted that Mike, with his knowledge of IT and the Horizon system, had considered the article fairly and that it was no cause for concern. This message was reinforced during my time as MD of POL [Post Office Ltd] between 2010 and 2012,” she added.

The disclosures were made as Ms Vennells, 65, began her first of three days of evidence before the public inquiry.

Jason Beer, the lead counsel to the inquiry, questioned her on why she had a tendency to recall things that “diminish your blameworthiness” in her testimony.

He accused her of often saying she did not recall matters that could potentially be damaging to the Post Office, but “has no problem” remembering things that attribute blame to others.

“I don’t believe that’s the way I approach my statement at all,” she replied, adding that she had the intention to approach it with integrity and honesty.

It also emerged that Mr Young, who is mentioned frequently throughout Ms Vennells’s witness statement but has not yet been called to appear before the inquiry, said in 2012 that Post Office bosses “should not bother” meeting with an MP who wanted to discuss concerns from his constituents about Horizon.

Lord Arbuthnot, then MP for North East Hampshire, had written to Alice Perkins, the Post Office chairman, asking to meet as he was “deeply sceptical” of the Post Office’s view that there was nothing wrong with Horizon.

Ms Vennells wrote: “I recall that Alice was approached by Lord Arbuthnot, and Mike Young saying that we should not bother with it (or words to that effect).

“Alice and I both decided that she should meet Lord Arbuthnot on the basis that if there was nothing in the challenge, then we had nothing to worry about; and if there were issues, it was better to review what they were.”

The Telegraph has approached Mr Young for comment.

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Steve Wright charged with 1999 murder of 17-year-old Victoria Hall

Steve Wright has been charged with the murder of 17-year-old Victoria Hall, who disappeared following a night out in Felixstowe in 1999…

Israel kills less than third of Hamas fighters in Gaza

Israel has only eliminated 30 to 35 per cent of the Hamas terrorists who were part of the group prior to the October 7 attack, US intelligence believes.

In addition, 65 per cent of Hamas’ vast network of underground tunnels, which Hamas has used to carry out attacks, remain intact, Politico reported.

The outlet also said that US officials believe that Hamas has recruited thousands of new members in recent months.

Top officials from the Biden administration have expressed fears that Israel is scuppering its chance to defeat Hamas, publicly lambasting Israeli’s strategy in the Gaza Strip as “self-defeating” and “likely to open the door to Hamas’ return.”

Israel vowed to “crush and destroy Hamas” in response to the October 7 attacks, when about 1,200 people were killed and more than 250 were taken hostage.

However, it appears to have abandoned its plans for a full invasion of Rafah.

US officials said Israeli forces will focus on targeted incursions to eradicate Hamas from the area.

The US had for weeks warned Israel against going into Rafah, the last city in Gaza untouched by heavy fighting.

Earlier, Hamas said decisions by three European countries to recognise a Palestinian state were a “turning point”.

It thanked Ireland, Norway and Spain.

“These successive recognitions are the direct result of this brave resistance and the legendary steadfastness of the Palestinian people,” Bassem Naim, a senior figure in Hamas, said. “We believe this will be a turning point in the international position on the Palestinian issue.”

Israel’s foreign ministry, which withdrew its envoys from Ireland and Norway immediately after the announcement, warned that the recognition of a Palestinian state “will lead to more terrorism, instability in the region and jeopardise any prospects for peace”.

“Don’t be a pawn in the hands of Hamas,” it said.

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British grandfather who died in Singapore Airlines turbulence a ‘wonderful human being’

A British grandfather who died on a turbulence-hit Singapore Airlines flight has been described as “the most wonderful human being that you could ever know” by a close friend…

St Albans set to be first smartphone-free UK city for under-14s

St Albans is attempting to become the first British city to go smartphone-free for children under the age of 14.

A consortium of head teachers in the Hertfordshire city has written to parents asking them to delay buying high-tech devices for their children over fears of damaging their mental health and academic success.

The consortium, made up of 20 out of the city’s 24 primary schools, wrote: “We encourage all parents to delay giving children a smartphone until they reach the age of 14, opting instead for a text/call phone alternative if necessary.

“As head teachers, we have committed to promoting our own schools as smartphone-free. We believe we can all work together across St Albans and join the growing movement across the country to change the ‘normal’ age that children are given smartphones.”

The parents were urged to “work together with a wide network of parents and schools to reset the expectation” from children who felt they were entitled to have smartphones.

The move follows numerous studies that suggest students who do not have mobile phones achieve higher grades at school compared with those who have them. It also follows research that has shown children as young as five are being given the devices.

Smartphone Free Campaign

The letter follows the increasingly popular Smartphone Free Childhood campaign which has been challenging how teachers and parents view the devices.

Earlier this year, Meta enraged many parents when it lowered the minimum age for Whatsapp users from 16 to 13 in the UK and EU.

Smartphone Free Childhood said the decision flew “in the face of the growing national demand for big tech to do more to protect our children”.

The consortium’s letter explains: “We understand the importance of being able to contact your child as they become more independent, walking to and from school, in order to give you peace of mind and for children to be able to call in emergencies.

“Children’s phones do not need to have access to the internet in order for you to keep them safe, however.

“The use of smartphones is now a feature of daily life for most adults and over the last few years, the age at which children are given their first smartphone has dropped significantly.

“We know that in our schools some children as young as Key Stage 1 have smartphones.”

Not an overnight success

Justine Elbourne-Cload, the executive head teacher of Cunningham Hill schools, told the BBC: “We understand this is not going to be an overnight success.

“But we think it’s going to be something that grows over the next few years. There has been such a positive response that we think this is really starting to take hold around St Albans.”

Ms Elbourne-Cload, who is also the co-chairman of the St Albans Primary Schools Consortium, admitted that some parents may resist the pleas to hold off giving children smartphones.

“There will always be parents who don’t agree for whatever reasons,” she added. “We’re trying to change the culture and we’re trying to change the expected norms.”

The head teacher said pupils had joined Whatsapp groups only to be bombarded with pornography and other inappropriate material.

In February, Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, promoted new government guidance to prohibit mobile phone use during the school day.

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