The Telegraph 2024-05-23 16:00:48

Live Sunak facing Tory MP exodus as four step down after election announcement

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  • How the election will unfold in July

Rishi Sunak is facing a growing exodus of Tory MPs after a further four announced that they would stand down.

Ahead of the announcement of the general election, 65 Tory MPs had announced that they would not be standing, and four more have since said they will also be stepping down. 

Huw Merriman, the rail minister, is the most senior of the four. He became the 69th Tory MP to say they would quit Parliament rather than face re-election.

Jo Churchill, the employment minister, and Dame Eleanor Laing, deputy speaker of the Commons, also announced on Thursday that they would not stand.

James Grundy, who entered Parliament in 2019 representing the Red Wall constituency of Leigh, also confirmed on Thursday he would stand down, opting not to contest the new Leigh and Atherton seat.

A series of senior Tories have already said they will not seek re-election, including Ben Wallace, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab and Nadhim Zahawi.

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

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Tories challenge Starmer to a record six TV debates

The Tory election campaign is challenging Sir Keir Starmer to a record six TV debates as they attempt to show Labour has no plan, The Telegraph can reveal…

Live Post Office inquiry: Vennells admits ‘lost decade’ before wrongful convictions uncovered was avoidable

The Post Office could have avoided a “lost decade” before wrongful convictions were uncovered if more cases were reviewed, Paula Vennells said today.

In an email dated July 2013 that year, the former Post Office chief executive asked for thoughts on why all cases of false accounting “eg over the last 5-10 years” would not be reviewed.

Jason Beer KC, lead counsel to the Horizon inquiry, asked: “Do you agree your nascent idea here of a review of all prosecutions of false accounting, if it had been carried into effect, may have avoided a lost decade until miscarriages of justice were discovered?”

Ms Vennells paused for a short moment before responding: “It may well have done. It may well have done.”

Responses to the same email showed the Post Office’s then-director of communications warning that such a decision could lead to the “story” becoming “front page news”.

In her response Ms Vennells said: “You are right to call this out. And I will take your steer. [sic] no issue.”

However, when asked about the exchange, Ms Vennells said she “absolutely” did not accept that she took a decision to not review past cases “based on a media outcome”. She added: “I didn’t take any decision on that, I wouldn’t have been able to do so.”

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Covid Inquiry: Good people ‘smashed to pieces’ in Johnson’s government, Case claims

Simon Case told the Covid Inquiry that “good people were being smashed to pieces” in Boris Johnson’s government.

He said it was a “fair conclusion” to draw that a WhatsApp message he sent in April 2020 saying “Crisis + pygmies toxic behaviour” was an observation on the abilities of individuals in the Cabinet Office and No10.

In the same message, sent to Helen MacNamara, the deputy cabinet secretary at the time, he complained that there was “far too much ego and bitching going on” in Downing Street at the time.

He also told the inquiry: “Good people were working incredibly hard in impossible circumstances with choices where it seems there was never a right answer.

“But that lack of sort of a team spirit, the difficult atmosphere, we were trying to run everything from the centre of government, trying to run the response to a global pandemic.”

Mr Case appeared emotional when asked about the messages, saying: “I found reading Helen MacNamara’s both written evidence and oral evidence quite difficult, just as I found preparation for this, re-reading this material, quite emotionally difficult, because it reminded me of quite how difficult it was,” he tells the inquiry.

The “toxic” culture in No10 during the pandemic is a frequent theme that has emerged throughout the Covid Inquiry from those who worked in government at the time.

Speaking earlier at Thursday’s inquiry session, Simon Case said he was “flipping p—-d off deep down after being attacked over the “Partygate” scandal.

The Covid Inquiry was shown a message from December 2021 between Mr Case and Martin Reynolds, who was then Boris Johnson’s principal private secretary, where the cabinet secretary appeared angry after having to recuse himself from the investigation into lockdown parties in No 10.

He told Mr Reynolds he had been “dragged through the mud by association. Am flipping p—-d off deep down (like the PM) that I am being attacked for something which I wasn’t even involved in…I have to carry the can as the boss.”

Mr Case was initially tasked in November 2020 with investigating gatherings in Downing Street that took place at the height of lockdown, but was asked to recuse himself that December after it emerged one of the parties had taken place in his own office.

A quiz had been held for members of Mr Case’s private office on 17 December 2020, with invites were sent out titled “Christmas Party!” and around 15 people invited to the gathering.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray took over the investigation, publishing her report in May 2022.

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Pictured: Mudslide victim named as ‘much-loved’ schoolgirl, 10

A “much-loved” schoolgirl died following a mudslide in North Yorkshire, it has emerged.

Leah Harrison, a Year 6 pupil at Mount Pleasant Primary School, in Darlington, died after a mudslide on the edge of the North York Moors National Park on Wednesday, May 22.

In a statement, Leah’s family described the 10-year-old as a “happy, bubbly, go-lucky little girl”.

They added: “The beautiful smile, the giddy laugh, the silly jokes. You will never ever be forgotten baby girl. You will achieve your dream and become a player for the Lionesses. Spread those wings. May you rest in paradise.”

The family are being supported by specially-trained officers.

Mount Pleasant said staff and pupils had been left in a “state of shock”, describing her as a “much-loved part of their school”.

Paying tribute to Leah on Thursday morning, Nick Blackburn, Lingfield Education Trust chief executive, said: “The full details are still emerging but this is clearly a heartbreaking tragedy.

“Leah was a much-loved part of our school and our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and the school staff.

“Counselling is being arranged within the school for pupils and staff. We are all in a state of shock and we would ask that the privacy of the family and the school community is respected while we try to come to terms with what has happened.”

North Yorkshire police said the incident occurred at 1.15pm on Wednesday and that no one else was injured.

Emergency services attended the scene and members of the public have been asked to avoid the area, which is cordoned off.

“We would ask the public to refrain from speculation and spreading unverified information,” a police spokesman said.

“Our thoughts are with [the victim’s] family and friends during this difficult time.”

Cleveland Mountain Rescue were also involved in the attempted rescue operation.

A spokesman said: “Two Land Rovers and nineteen Cleveland MRT volunteer members were initially deployed, eventually rising to thirty at the scene during the course of the afternoon.”

They added: “The thoughts of the whole team are with the family and friends of the deceased during such a very sad time.”

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Boy, 11, shot in head after climbing garden fence to retrieve football

A schoolboy has been shot in the head after climbing a garden fence to retrieve a football…

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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