The Telegraph 2024-05-30 10:00:37

LIVE Starmer can’t stand up to Abbott – let alone Putin, says Jeremy Hunt

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The Chancellor has accused Sir Keir Starmer of not being able to stand up to Diane Abbott, let alone Vladimir Putin.

The row over Ms Abbott’s selection has thrown Labour’s campaign into turmoil this week after she claimed she had been blocked from standing for re-election with the party after being given the whip back.

She has gone on to accuse Sir Keir of an “appalling cull of Left-wingers” amid a growing backlash among backbenchers and activists.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Jeremy Hunt said: “I absolutely do think it is my job to highlight the risks of a Labour government that crashed the economy before.”

He added: “I would just say one more point about risk. If Keir Starmer can’t deal with Diane Abbott, how on earth is he going to deal with Vladimir Putin?”

Speaking to the same programme on Thursday morning, Darren Jones, Labour’s chief secretary to the Treasury, said he felt “sorry” for Ms Abbott but declined nine times to say whether she should be allowed to stand as a Labour candidate.

Follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments

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Child and three others shot in ‘drive-by’ gun attack

Four people including a child have been injured following a shooting in Hackney, east London, on Wednesday night.

Specialist firearms officers were called to the scene near a restaurant on Kingsland High Street at 9.20pm after reports of gunfire.

Three adults and a child were found with gunshot wounds. They were all taken to a nearby hospital and the child is in a serious condition. 

The Metropolitan Police are awaiting updates on the condition of the adults.

No arrests have been made and police are investigating the incident.

Witnesses reported seeing a motorcyclist speeding away from the scene near the Evin restaurant.

There are unconfirmed reports that the motorcyclist fired shots towards the direction of the restaurant.

An anonymous witness told the Hackney Gazette that he used his coat to help a victim whose leg was bleeding.

The man was eating at the Evin restaurant which he said was “busier than usual” before the incident. 

When the shooting began he said that everyone dived onto the floor and under the tables.

“It was chaotic,” he said.

Antonia, a local resident who was at a restaurant nearby, told the Hackney Gazette that she heard five or six gunshots and saw a person speeding away on a motorcycle, leaving one person lying on the ground.

“At first everyone didn’t think it was [a shooting], it sounded like a car not working, but we were in Nando’s and we just saw people running past,” she said.

“Everyone stepped out to look and we could see loads of people surrounding that shop.

“The police took ages to come and prior to that we saw the motorcyclist. He went around Nando’s on that road.”

“It happened really quickly.”

A London Ambulance Service spokesman said: “We were called at 9.21pm on Wednesday to reports of a shooting on Kingsland High Street, Hackney.

“We sent resources to the scene, including ambulance crews, advanced paramedics, incident response officers and members of our tactical response unit. We also dispatched a trauma team from London Air Ambulance, which consisted of a doctor and a paramedic in a car.

“We treated three adults and one child at the scene before taking them all to a major trauma centre.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Ward, said: “We know Londoners will be shocked by what has taken place tonight.

“Our thoughts go to all those affected.

“Fast moving enquiries are under way and we will update as soon as we can. If anyone has any information, please contact us.”

Anyone with information that can help police should call 101 or post @MetCC reference CAD 8082/29May.

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Two bodies found in search for father and son, 12, who went missing on hike

Two bodies have been found in the search for a father and his 12-year-old son, who went missing after going hillwalking in the Scottish Highlands, police said.

The bodies are yet to be formally identified, however the family of Mr Parry and his son have been informed.

Tom Parry, 49, and his son Richie were due to return to their home in Cheshire on Wednesday after visiting Glen Nevis and Glencoe.

Their car was found in the Three Sisters car park in Glencoe where they stopped on Tuesday to go hillwalking, and a major search has been launched in the area. 

Police said that two bodies were found during a search in Glencoe on Wednesday evening.

Police said inquiries are ongoing but there are no apparent suspicious circumstances.

Inspector Craig Johnstone, of Police Scotland, said: “Our thoughts are with all those involved. I would like to thank all emergency services and mountain rescue volunteers.”

Inspector Johnstone said on Wednesday that a search had been launched after the pair had not returned home as planned.

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Jeremy Hunt accuses Labour of plotting VAT raid

Jeremy Hunt has accused Labour of having a secret plan to raise VAT and has challenged Sir Keir Starmer to explicitly rule out the possibility.

Labour has repeatedly refused to rule it out after being asked at various campaign events.

On Wednesday night, in the wake of the accusation, Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, issued a statement insisting that the party was not planning to increase VAT, although it remains to be seen whether that will be a manifesto commitment.

The attack will be on the first Conservative poster of the election campaign, unveiled on Thursday, which declares: “If you think Labour will win, start saving…”

The Tories say a one percentage point increase in the main rate of VAT would generate around £9 billion a year – the same as what they claim is the funding black hole in Labour’s plans.

Writing for The Telegraph, Mr Hunt says: “A VAT increase will hammer families’ finances and push inflation back up, just when we have got it down to normal.

“That’s why I can commit today that, not only will a future Conservative government not increase any rate of income tax or national insurance, but we won’t increase the main rate of VAT for the duration of the next Parliament. Keir Starmer should make the same explicit commitment in front of a camera today.”

Ms Reeves insisted Labour would not raise VAT, saying: “This is absolute nonsense. Labour will not be increasing income tax, National Insurance or VAT. 

“I want taxes on working people to be lower, not higher. That is why we opposed the increases to National Insurance when Rishi Sunak put those forward as chancellor.”

Meanwhile, City economists have said tax rises will be “inevitable” under a Labour government as Sir Keir Starmer prioritises greater spending on public services.

Analysts at Deutsche Bank said Sir Keir and Ms Reeves will be likely to have to find an extra £15-25 billion at their first review of public spending after the election.

The exchanges underscore how Tory strategists see the battle over the economy as the central issue of the campaign and are keen to reclaim their reputation as a low-tax party.

Mr Hunt and Rishi Sunak have made much of their National Insurance cuts in the 2023 Autumn Statement and this year’s Spring Budget, saying they are focused on reducing taxes after taming inflation.

But the argument has been challenged because of the tax hikes that the Conservatives have overseen since the 2019 election, pushing the overall tax burden to a 70-year high – something they blame on the financial impacts of the Covid pandemic and Ukraine war.

Labour has long sought to nullify the inevitable tax attacks, something which was seen as critical in Labour’s surprise loss under Lord Kinnock in 1992 when the Tories won a comeback victory.

Both Ms Reeves and Sir Keir stress that they want to lower taxes on working people, though the specifics of their tax approach should they win office remains unclear.

The new poster, which will go up on billboards across the country from Thursday, features a piggy bank alongside the “start saving” tagline in thick black letters.

Tory insiders said the design was picked to have echoes of the party’s famous “Labour isn’t working” poster from Margaret Thatcher’s victory in 1979. That poster’s slogan, which appeared alongside a snaking queue leading to an unemployment office, appears in black capital letters.

Mr Hunt says: “The first week of the campaign has shown how they want to plug that gap. Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves have been explicit that they are promising not to raise income tax or national insurance in the next parliament. But they have repeatedly refused to give the same guarantee about VAT.

“Asked four times to rule out a rise in the main rate of VAT earlier this week the Shadow Chancellor refused to do so. Keir Starmer was asked the same question twice and he also refused to do so. Increasing VAT to 21 per cent would raise about £9 billion a year – almost exactly the amount the analysis I published said was needed to plug their black hole.

“Coincidence? I hardly think so. It’s clear Keir Starmer and Rachel Reeves have a plan to increase VAT and they don’t want you to know about it until after polling day.”

The Chancellor is set to push the claims on a round of broadcast interviews on Thursday morning.

The idea that Sir Keir has a £9 billion a year hole in his spending plans is strongly contested by Labour, which has challenged the assumptions on which the analysis was based.

On Wednesday, Labour unveiled its own claim, saying the Tories had a £71 billion a year black hole in their spending plans.

That contained questionable assumptions, for example that the Tories would abolish National Insurance in year one. That is a longer-term ambition for the party, with some Cabinet ministers saying it could have to be implemented over 10 years or more.

Darren Jones, Labour’s shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, accused the Tories of having “unfunded” spending plans and criticised their flurry of recent policy announcements.

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Boy, five, attacked by XL Bully had ‘half his scalp ripped off’

A five-year-old boy had “half his scalp ripped off” after being attacked by an XL bully-type dog, his mother has said.

In shocking footage of the incident, which took place in Hull on Monday, the boy can be heard saying, “Mummy I don’t like it”, before he emerges from the house in his mother’s arms with his head covered in blood.

He was rushed to hospital where he reportedly underwent emergency surgery.

The mother, who cannot be named, told friends: “He has been so brave. However, he has had half his scalp ripped off and will be scarred for life.

She said it was “ripped off down to the skull. I cannot believe how good he has been. He is a little soldier, bless him.”

The attack reportedly took place at a house the mother and child were visiting on the bank holiday.

The boy was set upon “within seconds” after they arrived at the property, a family friend said.

“It took three guys to get the dog off him,” she said. “If those three guys were not there I don’t think the [child] would still be here.”

A friend said the boy would “need more treatment”.

Heard pleading for ambulance

In footage of the attack, the boy’s mother can be heard pleading for an ambulance and moments later bursts out of the house with her child in her arms.

Although an ambulance was already on its way, the pair were taken to hospital by a passing car in a desperate bid to save the child’s life.

Several police vans arrived at the scene at about nearby and the area was cordoned off nearly four hours.

Crime scene investigators found part of the boy’s bloodied scalp still lying on the front room carpet of the house, where it was later collected so surgeons could attempt to re-attach it.

Police seized the dog from its owner.

Footage shows the alleged owner pleading with police that “it is a good dog” as the suspected XL bully was taken away.

A man whose wife witnessed the attack said: “The kid was completely scalped. Some of his head was completely gone. You could see all his skull.

“The guy who took him to hospital came back for the scalp because the hospital only had so much time before the cells would start to die.”

Humberside Police said on Wednesday said that inquiries into the attack were continuing.

Detective Chief Inspector Allison Sweeting said: “We are working closely with the boy’s family and the owner of the dog to understand the circumstances surrounding the incident.

“At this stage, the breed of dog is believed to be an XL bully-type and it has been seized as part of our inquiries.”

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Person dies after falling into aircraft engine at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport

A person died after being caught in the engine of a passenger plane moments before it was due to take off from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.

The incident occurred on Wednesday afternoon as a KLM Cityhopper flight pushed back from its gate at the busy terminal, a Dutch military police source told The Telegraph.

“An incident took place at Schiphol today during which a person ended up in a running aircraft engine,” the Dutch national flag-carrying KLM airline said in a statement.

“Sadly the person has died,” it added, without disclosing the victim’s identity.

Investigators were on Wednesday night looking into a possible suicide as part of the initial probe into the highly unusual death.

The aircraft, bound for Billund, Denmark, was full of passengers when the body fell into the engine’s spinning turbine blades.

The passengers were almost immediately disembarked from the plane and offered support because of the tragic nature of the incident.

They will be questioned as they could offer some of the best insight into the person’s death, said a spokesman for the Dutch military police, who are responsible for security at the airport.

“An incident occurred this afternoon on the Schiphol platform where a person fell into a running aircraft engine and died,” the Marechaussee agency added in a statement.

“All passengers and employees of the flight in question have been disembarked and are being taken care of.”

The jet involved was an Embraer, operated by KLM on short-haul routes, such as London.

A picture published by the NOS public broadcaster showed the plane surrounded by fire engines and ambulances next to the terminal.

The Dutch Safety Board sent three investigators to Schiphol, NOS reported.

Workplace standards inspectors were also dispatched by the labour ministry to establish whether it was a workplace accident.

Schiphol airport wrote on X: “Our thoughts go out to the relatives and we care for the passengers and colleagues who witnessed this.”

Safety and security measures are strict at Schiphol and accidents are rare at the busy airport, which handled around 5.5 million passengers last month alone, according to airport figures.

The airport, which is six miles from Amsterdam, is Europe’s third busiest.

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Man who raped gipsy girl, 12, acquitted because relationship ‘common’

A man who raped a 12-year-old girl was acquitted by a court that deemed their relations formed “part of the cultural reality of the gipsy community”.

Under Spanish law, minors under the age of 16 cannot consent to sex. But the court ruled that the man, who was 20 years old at the time, should benefit from a legal exception.

The ruling in Ciudad Real in central Spain, holds that the relationship was “always consensual within the framework of a romantic relationship”, adding that the two were “close in age and maturity”.

The acquittal is the latest in a series of rulings in which judges have taken into account customs followed by some of Spain’s Roma population when dealing with cases of sexual assault concerning minors.

Leaders of civil society and government officials have expressed outrage that the ethnicity of the alleged victim and abuser in cases of underage sex should have any bearing on the legal rights.

The girl was found to be pregnant by a doctor who activated protocols for the protection of minors, leading to the man’s arrest.

Went to doctor about pregnancy

According to the ruling, the defendant said he did not know the exact age of the minor and discovered that she was 12 only when they went to the doctor about her pregnancy.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 11 years for a crime of repeated rape against a minor.

However, the court ruled to acquit, describing it as “an undisputed fact [that] the relationship took place in the cultural and social context of the gipsy community, where marriages between very young people are frequent”.

The ruling in Ciudad Real comes just two days after another verdict was made public in which another man saw his sentence reduced considerably for the statutory rape of a minor.

The man, who has not been named, was sentenced to 11 years in prison after a sexual relationship with a Roma girl saw her become pregnant three times between the ages of 12 and 15.

The court in León was told by the victim that in her culture it was normal for a 12-year-old girl to have sexual relations with an adult. Prosecutors, who had initially pursued a 37-year sentence on three counts of rape, eventually agreed on a plea bargain deal with the reduced sentence, with the conviction ruling stating that “couples start at very early ages in gipsy culture”.

Ruling an ‘absolute disgrace’

Beatriz Carrillo, director general of non-discrimination and anti-racism within Spain’s Equalities Ministry, described the ruling in León as an “absolute disgrace”.

“The penal code does not exclude Roma minors from protection. If it did so, we would be saying that abusing, attacking or raping gipsy girls has few legal consequences.”

There are around 750,000 Roma living in Spain, according to an estimate by the Gypsy Secretariat Foundation (FSG).

Sara Giménez, FSG director general, said: “Spain’s legal framework says under-16s cannot give consent and this law should be applied for the protection of women, including gipsy women.

“Gipsy culture does not include abuse or the violation of rights. There may be exceptional cases of relationships between minors but these rulings foment negative stereotypes that are really damaging.”

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