INDEPENDENT 2024-06-05 09:17:24


Putin faces rare protest as Kyiv fires first US weapon inside Russia

Vladimir Putin faced a rare protest in Moscow by Russian women who demanded his defence minister Andrei Belousov return their mobilised husbands from the frontline in Ukraine.

A group of 18 women gathered to appeal personally to Belousov, who was appointed to the role last month. They asked him to impose strict limits on how long soldiers could serve before they were rotated out of active duty, said Paulina, 20, whose husband is fighting in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Russian sources claimed that Ukraine fired American weapons at Belgorod for the first time after Washington lifted a ban on Kyiv using its weapons inside Russia.

The Ukrainians reportedly fired the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, at bordering Belgorod city, Russia’s defence ministry and military bloggers said.

The escalation comes as Norway’s top general warned that Nato’s window of preparing against Russia had dwindled from about ten years to two or three years.

“At one point someone said it’ll take ten years but I think we’re back to less than ten years because of the industrial base that is now running in Russia,” said General Eirik Kristoffersen, head of the Norwegian Armed Forces.

You won’t be ‘chuffed’ to hear it… These words are showing your age

You know that feeling you get when you read an obituary in the paper of a public figure and it comes as a horrible shock? A shock not because you were surprised by their going, but because you would have sworn blind they had died a decade previously. Who knew him out of ’Allo ’Allo! was still with us, you marvel. Except – oh. There’s probably a German word for this sort of double-take. And it applies, as a sort of special sub-category, to the reaction of anyone north of 40 years old to the recent report on “out-of-date” slang.

Researchers from WordTips (me neither) surveyed 310 different obsolete slang terms as defined in the crowdsourced slang resource UrbanDictionary and counted the numbers of “upvotes” and “downvotes” that each term had accrued from the site’s users.

Among the antiquated expressions that users of the site professed apparent nostalgia for were such epithets as “bugger all”, “sod off”, “pear-shaped”, “chuffed” and “innit”.

Labour manifesto: What will the key general election policies be?

Labour announced its ‘triple-lock’ commitment to Britain’s nuclear deterrent on June 3, with Sir Keir Starmer aiming to prove his defence credentials before the general election next month.

The Labour leader said his party would build four new nuclear submarines if elected, and ensure Britain’s nuclear deterrent remains at sea “24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

It is the latest policy offering from Labour ahead of the general election, as both parties continue to give hints of what their final election manifestos may contain.

For the latest political updates ahead of the general election, follow The Independent’s live coverage

Responding to the general election announcement, Sir Keir said: “A vote for Labour is a vote for stability – economic and political. A politics that treads more lightly on all our lives, a vote to stop the chaos.”

“They have failed. Give the Tories five more years, and things will only get worse”.

While neither party has released an official election manifesto yet, which will come in the next few weeks, both have dropped hints and promises over the course of the past few years which offer a clue for their vision for the country.

Here’s where Labour is likely to fall on some key policy areas ahead of the general election:

NHS waiting times have skyrocketed over the past two years, with the number of people waiting for a hospital treatment hitting a record 7.8 million in late 2023 as around a third of patients wait over 6 months.

The proportion of people waiting over 4 hours in A&E has also increased, reaching a peak of over 50 per cent last Summer, and now at around 45 per cent.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has said the party will get the NHS “back on its feet” by delivering two million more appointments a week by paying NHS staff to work more evenings and weekends.

Labour has pledged to hit the 18-week waiting list target by the end of its first term in government.

Other proposals include doubling the number of NHS scanners, creating 700,000 more urgent dentist appointments, and hiring 8,500 mental health staff.

The party also laments the loss of the “family doctor,” and promises it will enable patients to see the same GP for every appointment if they want to.

However, Mr Streeting raised some eyebrows in April when he announced his intention to use “spare capacity in the private sector” to work towards Labour’s NHS goals, despite what “middle-class lefties” might think.

The shadow health secretary has since clarified that this does not mean Labour wishes to privatise the NHS in any way, and that he believes the health service should always be free for everyone.

NHS key points

Labour has been critical of the government’s economic record, with shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves promising to take an approach of ‘securonomics’ as an antidote to the economic turmoil caused by Liz Truss’s catastrophic 2022 ‘mini-budget’.

Outlining Labour’s ‘first steps for change’ in May, Keir Starmer said the party would impose strict rules on themselves.

Mr Starmer also says the party would introduce an ‘Office for Value for Money’ to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and halve government consultancy spending, instead focussing on long-term staffing.

This would come alongside a ‘Covid Corruption Commissioner,’ aiming to recoup billions in taxpayer money wasted on fraudulent Covid contracts, as well as ending what Labour calls the VIP ‘fast lane’ government contract procurement process.

Labour has also ruled out increasing income tax (or changing its bands), capital gains tax, or corporation tax.

Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves has confirmed the party would not seek to undo the government’s 2p cut to National Insurance tax if it came to power, looking to other measures to raise funds.

Chief amongst these measures is scrapping the controversial ‘non-dom’ tax status held by some wealthy foreign nationals in the UK, as well as a crackdown on tax avoidance, and introducing VAT and business rates to private schools.

In April Mr Sunak beat Labour to the punch on non-doms by announcing that the tax regime would be phased out over a transitional period. Labour has said it would scrap the transitional measures, saving a further £2.6 billion.

Tax and economy key points

Sir Keir has vowed that a Labour government would aim to ensure no person receiving the state pension lives in poverty, suggesting the leader would likely want to boost the payment.

However, his party has not matched some of the Conservatives’ more generous offers to the UK’s pensioners. In May, Mr Sunak announced the ‘triple lock plus,’ which would increase the personal allowance for pensioners, ensuring the state pension is never taxed.

Labour’s shadow paymaster general Jon Ashworth called this policy not “credible”.

The opposition party has also said it would reintroduce the pensions lifetime allowance

On welfare, work and pensions secretary Liz Kendall has said there would be “no option of a life on benefits” under Labour, as she vowed in March to increase youth employment rates.

The MP for Leicester West said the party would be “investing” in young people’s futures, bringing down the sickness benefit bill, and reforming the welfare system.

This includes measures such as overhauling job centres to end “tick-box culture” and devolving employment support to local areas.

Pensions and welfare key points

Labour’s plan on immigration looks to reduce the UK’s reliance on overseas’ workers and bring down migration. The party says it would implement policies that tackle “home-grown skills shortages” to fill key sectors facing employment gaps.

The opposition party says it would take inspiration from Australia’s points-based immigration system, which assesses a migrant workers’ suitability for a visa based on factors such as education, language skills, and work experience.

Another tabled plan involves limiting access to the immigration system for ‘rogue employers’ who underpay workers or otherwise flout labour laws.

The Labour party has also pledged to secure the UK’s borders and reduce small boat crossings by introducing a Border Security Command, which would use counter-terror style tactics.

This would come alongside a Returns Unit that would aim to more efficiently removed asylum seekers with failed applications and so end the practice of housing them in hotels.

Migration key points

Labour has made education a key part of its policy programme in its time as in opposition. Their headline measure is to recruit 6,500 new teachers in key subjects, as well as creating a ‘national excellence programme’ which would see teachers given continuous support with professional development.

The party has also said it will set out to review the national curriculum, giving it wider scope to improve creativity, and digital and communication skills.

They also plan to introduce more mental health support staff in schools in a bid to boost attendance. This will come alongside free breakfast clubs for every primary school in England.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has said that Labour will also look to reform Ofsted so that parents are given better, more qualitative information than the simple scorecard.

For the youngest children, the party has promised to improve the quality and availability of childcare places where needed. They also aim to boost communication and maths skills for young children.

And for further education, Labour has unveiled Technical Excellence Colleges which aim to give people specialist skills in the fields their local area most requires.

Education key points

Labour has raised doubts around the Renter’s Reform Bill, which has seen several amendments that renters’ rights charities have called “watering down”. Lisa Nandy has instead promised a ‘Renters’ Charter’ that would offer a number of new protections to renters.

These include an end to Section 21 ‘no-fault evictions’, bringing an end to automatic evictions for rent arrears, and new rights to keep pets and to make reasonable alterations to property.

On housebuilding, Sir Keir has said he would reintroduce the mandatory target to build 300,000 homes a year. The Tories watered this policy down in 2022 after the target was missed nearly every year.

The party would look to build on what they call the ‘grey belt’ – poor-quality land, car parks and wastelands that are currently classed as green belt.

Measures to help first-time buyers have also been pledged, with Ms Reeves promising a mortgage guarantee scheme and increasing the stamp duty surcharge for foreign investors into UK property.

The shadow chancellor says Labour would also give first-time buyers “first-dibs” on new-build homes, rather than those who already own one or more homes.

Housing key points

Sir Keir has made efforts to show his party is tough on national defence ahead of polling day. He has vowed that Britain will remain committed to NATO. He has also said that Labour would meet a 2.5 per cent of GDP military spending target “as soon as we can”.

Speaking in Derbyshire, the Labour leader made clear his commitment to the UK’s nuclear deterrent, pledging to build four new nuclear submarines and ensure the programme is up and running at all times.

The party also says it would conduct a ‘Strategic Defence Review’ to fully understand the state of the Armed Forces and where further funding may be required.

This would come alongside improving service accommodation to boost morale and appointing an ‘Armed Forces Commissioner’ to advocate for service staff.

Defence key points

Labour has laid out its plans for ‘Great British Energy,’ a publicly-owned sustainable energy company, which it says will reduce household energy bills and create half a million jobs.

This is Labour’s plan to “take control of our energy system” by creating clean, UK-produced power to reduce the country’s reliance on energy from overseas.

The party says the move should permanently take hundreds of pounds off household energy bills, and bring 500,000 jobs to industrial and coastal communities.

Shadow environment secretary Ed Milliband says the party would pay for the plan with a windfall tax on excess profits made by oil and gas companies.

The party has also pledged to hit water companies with “automatic and severe” fines for polluting waterways, as well as blocking water bosses bonuses until they have resolved issues with pollution.

However, Labour made an embarrassing U-turn in February when the party revealed its intention to ditch a pledge to spend £28bn annually on green initiatives, reducing the amount by nearly half.

Environment key points

Military horses that bolted through London set to Troop the Colour

All five of the cavalry horses which bolted through London earlier this year are expected to make a “remarkable” return to military duty – with three set to take part in next week’s Trooping the Colour parade.

In an update on Tuesday, the British Army said three of the injured horses – Trojan, Tennyson, and Vanquish – are already back on duty and “against all expectations, are looking likely to take part” in the King’s Birthday Parade on 15 June.

The remaining two injured horses – Vida and Quaker – are “enjoying a summer holiday” in the country but look set to return to work in due course, said the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (HCMR).

Three of the injured soldiers are back on duty and two are continuing to convalesce, but are also expected to make a full return to service, the regiment said.

There has been an outpouring of concern for the wellbeing of the horses since they made global headlines with a panicked gallop through central London, leaving pools of blood and a lengthy trail of damage in their wake.

The cavalry horses threw their riders and bolted after being spooked by rubble being dropped through a plastic tunnel while on an exercise in Belgravia on 24 April.

The horses smashed into a tour bus and taxis, with two followed by police for five miles during the morning rush hour as tourists fled from their path.

Ambulance crews treated four people in three separate incidents in Buckingham Palace Road, Belgrave Square and at the junction of Chancery Lane and Fleet Street, in the space of 10 minutes.

Once Trojan, Tennyson, and Vanquish were well enough to travel after the incident, they were sent for respite at The Horse Trust in the Chilterns until they were fit to return to London.

On the same day that those three horses returned to Hyde Park Barracks, Vida and Quaker – the two most severely injured – were pronounced fit to travel and arrived at The Horse Trust for their respite care, having been discharged from veterinary care in London, the Army said.

Vida and Quaker “made a remarkable physical recovery and showed great enthusiasm and joy upon their arrival at The Horse Trust, galloping into fresh pastures”. Cavalry Grey Vida, who was seen covered in blood galloping through central London, “wasted no time in turning from white to brown as he rolled in the grass”.

“The horses appeared bright and in good spirits, clearly displaying a close bond with each other and the soldiers who accompanied them,” the Army said. “The facility offers a serene environment for relaxation, ensuring each horse receives personalised and attentive care.”

The horses will remain with The Horse Trust for as long as they need before being assessed for their suitability to return to work.

Additional reporting by PA

New poll shows Tories heading for election wipeout

A new poll has indicated the Tories are on the cusp of suffering the biggest general election disaster in their history.

Redfield and Wilton’s survey of 10,000 voters published today (3 June) has the Conservatives at just 20 per cent, 26 points behind Labour. It is the second poll in three days predicting disaster for the government.

Director of research Philip van Scheltinga said: “After a week and a half of campaigning, the polls have changed, and the Conservatives are no longer facing a big loss on July 4. Instead, they are now facing a catastrophe, a complete wipeout.”

Click here for the latest coverage of election polls.

The findings have suggested a potential “Canada-style” collapse for the party based on when the Canadian Conservative Party went into the 1993 election as the government and only managed to hold on to two seats.

In a crushing blow for the Tories, Electoral Calculus predicts they would win a mere 24 seats if the poll was replicated in an election. Electoral Calculus is a website used by political analysts which bases its estimates on the effects of swings in support between parties but does not take local factors into account.

The Liberal Democrats would be the second party on 51 seats and Labour would have a majority of 426 with more than 500 seats. Even Rishi Sunak would lose his North Yorkshire seat to Labour in this scenario.

This follows the MRP poll over the weekend suggesting the Tories will win only 66 seats.

The Tories are emphasising that the predictions are based on polls – with the only real poll being the general election itself.

The worst election in the Tories’ history was in 1906 when they won 156 seats and Arthur Balfour became the only major party leader to lose his seat. But the Conservative problems are being compounded by a push on tactical voting, particularly by the Lib Dems.

The findings by the independent pollster are the second worst recorded for the Conservatives, beaten only by the 19 per cent when Liz Truss was prime minister at the height of the economic crisis triggered by her mini-Budget.

The survey suggests that everything tried by Mr Sunak in the election has failed to make an impact, including announcing he would reintroduce national service for school leavers and protect the state pension with a new “triple lock plus” guarantee.

Instead, the party has lost three points in the last week, while Labour has remained unchanged on 46 per cent.

Concerningly for the Tories, Reform were up one point to 14 per cent, even before Nigel Farage announced he would run as party leader.

Meanwhile, the Lib Dems are up one to 10 per cent and Greens are unchanged on 5 per cent.

Only 42 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 2019 say they would vote Conservative again – the joint-lowest percentage Redfield & Wilton has recorded since Mr Sunak became prime minister and just five points higher than the lowest percentage (37 per cent) ever recorded.

When asked about the issues, 58 per cent of voters cite the economy as among the three most important issues that would determine how they would vote in a general election, ahead of healthcare (52 per cent). Respondents also selected immigration (37 per cent), housing (25 per cent), and policing and crime (19 per cent).

When asked about the leaders, Mr Sunak gets a negative 17 per cent rating while Sir Keir Starmer has a plus 11 per cent rating. When asked who would make the better prime minister, Sir Keir on 46 per cent leads Mr Sunak on 26 per cent by 20 points.

The poll was conducted amongst an extra-large sample of 10,000 voters across Great Britain from Friday 31 May to Sunday 2 June, with additional intra-regional weightings.

A Greek escape: Take your pick from these luxury resorts

Whether you are dreaming of walking the narrow, cobbled streets of Corfu Town, charmed by traditional fishing villages and ancient Olympian ruins of romantic Peloponnese or drawn to vibrant Mykonos with its family-friendly beaches and waterfront restaurants, there’s one thing for sure – Greece certainly has something for everyone.

With warm and authentic Greek hospitality as standard, Grecotel Hotels and Resorts span the mainland’s coastline and dot the idyllic Greek isles at spectacular locations in the best destinations.

Even better, when you book with British Airways Holidays you can secure your holiday with a low deposit and pay the remaining balance off in as many instalments as you like*. Plus with the assurance of full ATOL protection (5985), as well as 23kg luggage per person and a 24-hour holiday helpline, your only worry is getting so comfortable, you never want to leave. What’s more, British Airways Executive Club members can use their Avios Points for part payment on holiday packages (see ba.com/holidays for more details).

Here are our top picks for luxury stays.

Impressively located, and nestled in its own private peninsula, Kommeno, the five-star Grecotel Corfu Imperial resort reveals a world of seaside olive groves, marble-clad architecture, tropical palms, emerald gardens and beach coves along a sweeping promenade.

Stunning two-bedroom Corfiot-Italian designed Dream Villas, each with its own private pool, are new to the collection. With four sandy shores and one Blue flag pebble beach to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice on where to spend your time.

Those hoping for adventure can book onto the resort shuttle, which makes the 20-minute journey into Corfu Town on a reservation basis, while e-bikes are also available to visit nearby landmarks, such as the popular Dassia beach town (two miles) and north-eastern bay, Ypsos (four miles).

The in-house Dine Club invites you to extend the culinary experience beyond the hotel’s four eateries, by visiting up to 13 restaurants at Grecotel’s sister resorts in the Kommeno peninsula. This includes the picturesque Danilia Village – a replica of a traditional 1930s-style Corfiot village.

Less than a 10-minute drive from Mykonos Airport, and located on the famous Psarou Beach, a stay at Mykonos Blu is an experience in itself. This quintessentially Greek resort oozes traditional style, mirroring the look and feel of Mykonos Town, and gazing across the Aegean Sea and the superyachts. Meticulously revamped, its Cycladic architecture enhanced, private pools and all-white cave rooms breathe in the stunning vistas – the best in Mykonos.

A selection of pools offer respite from the midday sun – the highlight being the two-tiered infinity pool which provides Instagram-worthy Aegean sea views. While families enjoy the abundant space of a garden bungalow, couples can indulge in the privacy of an open-plan suite with a private pool.

Mykonos Blu’s B&B meal basis means guests are free to explore the myriad of surrounding restaurants and bars. With a protected bay for mooring yachts and a nearby helipad, the likes of Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner and even Leonardo Di Caprio have been spotted mingling on Psarou Beach in recent years. Book a cabana at the exclusive Nammos Bar to people watch while sipping on a margarita.

Mandola Rosa is a Luxury Boutique Resort with 25 elegant suites and 20 Beachfront Villas: a true slice of Greek paradise on a dreamy sandy beach.

Built in traditional Greek-style with a dose of modernity, with pretty balconies and terraces overlooking the water, Mandola Rosa’s charm is that it flawlessly fits into traditional surroundings. A remote location – two hours away from Kalamata airport – makes it easy to fully immerse in the Greek way of life. Rooms are bright and airy, with family sized options available for those who want more space. Villas sleep up to six and come equipped with a private pool.

Ochre and blood-orange hues light up the sky on most evenings, a gentle reminder that you are somewhere special. With a 2km-long sandy beach on your doorstep, it’s the perfect location for sundowners. The resort’s 23 restaurants and bars specialise in using local ingredients. Don’t miss Cap Voyage, which serves mouth-watering local dishes, including Greek salads sourced from Grecotel’s organic farm, souvlaki and fresh tuna.

Meanwhile, woodland walks will lead you to extraordinary settings, such as the Killinis Roman Baths and the ruins of the Rόmisches Amphitheatre, located just 10 minutes away. Arkouti, a traditional Greek village with beachfront tavernas and craft stores, is reachable on foot. Archaia Olympia – the archaeological site of Olympia – is a 45 minute drive and a must for those with a love for history and Greek mythology.

All holidays with British Airways Holidays are ATOL protected and include 23kg baggage allowance per person and a 24-hour holiday helpline. Secure your Greece holiday now with a low deposit* at ba.com/corfuimperialba.com/mykonosblu and ba.com/mandolarosa

*Based on two sharing. Full balance due four weeks before departure for short haul holidays. Subject to availability. T&Cs apply. See ba.com/deposits

Has Nigel Farage turned this into the ‘immigration election’?

Nigel Farage has called for an “immigration election” after becoming leader of Reform UK and deciding to stand as the party’s candidate in Clacton. The former Ukip and Brexit Party leader proposed that net migration, which stood at 685,000 last year, be reduced to zero. He said Reform would “freeze non-essential migration” to “reverse long-standing wage depression and save Britain’s public services from the burden of unlimited demand”.

His unexpected intervention in the election will put the Conservatives’ record on immigration under the spotlight, and could make it harder for them to put Labour under pressure on the issue.

To turn hard right now, Mr Sunak, would guarantee electoral disaster

Rishi Sunak went into the first televised head-to-head debate with Sir Keir Starmer knowing that he needed a game-changer to alter the course of an election campaign that appeared to be going from bad to worse for the Conservatives.

The prime minister will have been relieved that he could finally present voters with “the choice” between him and Sir Keir; the whole point of calling a July election was to force people who have written off the Tories to at least look more closely at the only possible alternative. But ominously for Mr Sunak, the build-up to the ITV debate was dominated by Nigel Farage’s dramatic arrival in the campaign as the new leader of Reform UK and the party’s candidate in Clacton, where he launched his campaign and outlined his aim to enact a reverse takeover of the Conservative Party after the drubbing he expects it to suffer.

For Mr Sunak, there is now no escaping Mr Farage, who was the ghost at the TV debate feast. With the latest opinion polls suggesting a catastrophe for the Tories, Mr Sunak might be tempted to lurch further to the right in a desperate attempt to woo voters attracted by a Farage-led Reform party.