The Telegraph 2024-06-06 18:00:51

LIVE General election latest: Labour frontbencher refuses to rule out property tax rises

A Labour frontbencher has left the door open to the party putting up property taxes. 

John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said Labour’s plans “do not require us to start looking at raising taxes across the board” but he refused to rule out rises on specific things like stamp duty and capital gains tax. 

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, has unveiled a new Tory pledge not to increase capital gains tax, stamp duty or the number of council tax bands and he has challenged Labour to make the same commitments. 

Mr Healey was asked repeatedly about those specific taxes this morning during an interview on Sky News but he failed to rule out Labour putting them up. 

He said: “We will not raise taxes on working people. We will not raise income tax, we will not raise VAT, we will not raise National Insurance. Our plans, beyond the specific tax rises and changes that we set out to pay for our first steps, our plans do not require us to start looking at raising taxes across the board.”

Asked if Labour could increase capital gains tax, Mr Healey said: “Our plans do not require us to start looking at raising…” 

Asked if Labour could increase stamp duty, he said: “We will not raise the taxes that are most important to working people…”

Asked again about increasing stamp duty, he said: “I am not going to go through the list. The taxes that are most important to people – income tax, VAT and National Insurance – will not be raised under a Labour government.”

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XL bully mauls woman, 23, to death on her birthday

A 23-year-old woman was mauled to death in a suspected XL bully dog attack on her birthday, police said.

Nicole Morey had been out celebrating her birthday before she was attacked by a dog outside a house in Ballyneety, Co Limerick, at around 11.40pm on Tuesday.

Paramedics treated Morey at the scene but she succumbed to her injuries. Her body was taken to University Hospital Limerick for a post-mortem examination.

The death has prompt calls for Ireland to follow UK and Northern Irish ban on the XL Bully breed. 

Morey had shared TikToks challenging a ban on the breed before she was attacked. 

Gardaí said they encountered “a number of aggressive dogs” at the scene, one of which has since been put down.

Several others have been seized by the dog warden, one of which is understood to be an XL bully, though Gardaí are still working to identify the precise breeds involved.

Brigid Teefy, a local councillor, described the incident as “terrible”.

“I was talking to people on the phone and everybody is horrified,” she said. “It’s a horrific story. It’s so rare that there’s an occurrence like that.”

Another councillor, Conor Sheehan, said the incident was “very, very tragic” and said that his sympathies go out to the woman’s family.

Councillor Adam Teskey also sent his condolences, and said there was shock among locals.

“This is a harrowing moment in our community,” he said.

The attack has reignited the debate over whether Ireland should follow the UK and ban XL bully dogs.

‘More action is required’

Heather Humphreys, the Irish rural minister, who recently set up a group to examine dog control, said she was “appalled” by the “deeply shocking incident”.

In a statement, she said: “I have consistently said that more action is required in relation to dog control.

“That’s why I have set up a cross-governmental stakeholder group, chaired by the retired deputy Garda commissioner John Twomey, to examine this whole area.”

She said she has asked the group to examine the restricted breeds list and whether Ireland should follow the example of the UK and Northern Ireland.

“If they recommend to me that we should ban a particular breed, I’m happy to do that. But I want to let them carry out their work because there’s a number of different views and different approaches on this and I want to make sure we get it right.”

There are several restricted breeds in Ireland, including German shepherds, rottweilers and various bull terriers, as well as some crosses.

Restricted dogs must be kept collared with their owner’s information on a tag, muzzled in public and on a short, strong lead with someone over the age of 16 who is able to control them.

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LIVE D-Day 80th anniversary: King pays tribute to ‘remarkable generation’ who ‘did not flinch when the moment came’ – watch live

The King has paid tribute to those who “did not flinch when the moment came” on D-Day as he spoke at a ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of the operation.

Dressed in military uniform, the King addressed leaders and veterans at the British Normandy Memorial in Ver-sur-Mer, Normandy, for the UK’s national commemoration event.

He said: ”Our gratitude is unfailing, and our admiration eternal.

”They carried out their duty with humility, sense of resolve and determination – qualities so characteristic of that remarkable generation.”

He added: “It is with the most profound sense of gratitude that we remember them and all who served at that critical time.”

His Majesty was joined by the Queen, who was seen wiping her eye as the memories of a D-Day veterans were read out at the event.

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Reform will overtake Tories this weekend, claims Dorries

Reform will overtake the Conservative Party in the polls this weekend, former cabinet minister Nadine Dorries has claimed in the wake of a fresh polling blow…

BBC accused of ‘monumental double standards’ for not dropping ‘racist’ cricket pundit

The BBC has been accused of a “monumental double standard” on racism by continuing to employ cricket commentator Qasim Sheikh.

In an open letter, more than 100 Jewish figures in the media and entertainment industry condemned the BBC’s decision to stand by Sheikh, who began commentating this week for Test Match Special.

The former Scotland international cricketer shared an image on social media which depicted Rishi Sunak and other world leaders with Hitler moustaches, and was captioned: “Kids Killer Union.”

In another post made in the wake of the Oct 7 Hamas attack on Israel, he argued that Palestinians have “a right to defend themselves”.

The BBC said Sheikh would continue as part of the team covering the T20 World Cup.

‘Treatment in stark contrast to Michael Vaughan case’

It is in contrast to the case of Michael Vaughan who was accused of racism three years ago. The broadcaster dropped him from all coverage, although he was later cleared.

The letter accused BBC management of a “total absence of courage, morality and understanding” in relation to Jews. Signatories include Neil Blair, agent to JK Rowling; Danny Cohen, a former BBC director of television; Claudia Rosencrantz, a former ITV entertainment boss; and Anita Land, talent agent and sister to Lord Grade.

“As BBC staff, contractors, suppliers and contributors who are Jewish, from across the television and film industry, we write to you today in disbelief,” the group said in an open letter to Tim Davie, the director-general, and Charlotte Moore, chief content officer.

“Qasim Sheikh was a key part of the Test Match Special team on Tuesday 4th June for the Scotland v England T20 game, despite the fact the BBC knew he has in the past few months on social media posted (and re-posted) rhetoric that is both racist and wholly undermines civility in public discourse.

“One tweet on ‘X’ likens our Prime Minister alongside other prominent Western leaders including Netanyahu to Hitler, denouncing them collectively as the ‘Kids Killer Union’.  Significantly, following the brutal massacre of infants, children, men, women and the elderly on October 7th in Israel by Hamas terrorists, another tweet by Mr Sheikh claims that the terrorists were justified in their indiscriminate mass rape and slaughter in order ‘to defend themselves’,” the letter said.

“By stark contrast, we wish to point out a monumental double-standard in relation to the BBC’s actions and the Test Match Special’s own commentary box.

“When in 2021 Michael Vaughan was accused of racist comments (made in 2009, which he categorically denied) he was promptly dropped from the BBC commentary team. A mere accusation was enough for him to be suspended from all cricket commentary with the BBC statement: ‘While he is involved in a significant story in cricket, for editorial reasons we do not believe that it would be appropriate for Michael Vaughan to have a role in our Ashes team or wider coverage of the sport at the moment’.

“The BBC also did not hesitate to drop the radio show Vaughan co-presented with Phil Tufnell. Indeed, Vaughan was axed from the BBC’s sporting commentary for the best part of two years until the ECB’s Cricket Disciplinary Committee cleared his name.”

Azeem Rafiq, a Yorkshire player, claimed that Vaughan had told four Asian players: “There are too many of you lot, we need to have a word about that.” He was cleared in March 2023.

‘BBC seems deaf to news of its contributors’ racism against Jews’ 

The letter went on to say: “What of the Jewish members of staff deeply affected by the indisputable rise in anti-Jewish racism since October 7th? What trust can any of our community have in the BBC when these double standards are so explicitly demonstrated?

“Yet again, the BBC appears entirely deaf to news of its contributors’ racism against Jews. Invoking images of Hitler (specifically) to portray Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, and its allies is Holocaust inversion and antisemitic by every definition.”

The letter asked while “Sheikh’s justification and legitimisation of the mass murder of (principally) Jews in Israel is ostensibly not a sufficiently ‘significant story in cricket’ to merit any repercussions.”

It asked Mr Davie and Ms Moore to explain why Sheikh was allowed in the commentary box and said “if your answer is that the BBC’s social media guidelines do permit his posts they are clearly unfit for purpose”.

The letter added: “Is applauding October 7th and comparing Rishi Sunak and other world leaders to Hitler and calling them child killers merely a grotesque libel rather than grounds for cancelling his BBC booking?”

Around half of the 119 signatories have chosen to remain anonymous.

The letter ended: “We are despairing at the total absence of courage, morality and understanding that BBC leadership repeatedly demonstrate in relation to Jews time and again. We can now add the case of Qasim Sheikh to the ever-growing canon that the BBC must answer for.”

Sheikh earlier apologised for “any offence caused”.

He said: “If my messages have caused people to think I am supporting the attacks of Oct 7, then that would not sit well with me, and I apologise for any offence this has caused. I would never seek to support any loss of innocent lives. That was not my intention.

“I welcome the opportunity to clearly state my views. I have been clear from the outset that the killing of innocent lives is wrong. There is no way I would support what happened on Oct 7 as acceptable, it was morally reprehensible.

“As is the ongoing situation in Gaza where many innocent lives continue to be lost – many of which are women and children. I will continue to call for a stop on the killing of innocent civilians, my message is clear for a ceasefire and a stop to all conflict.”

He then said in a statement issued on Wednesday: “I have been sent the recent letter, and as a result want to reiterate my apology for any offence my past messages caused. I reiterate what happened on October the 7th was morally reprehensible.

“I have removed the social media posts and want to reiterate that my intention was and is to raise the plight of the death of all innocent civilians

“My position is clearly outlined in my statement of yesterday. I am against all forms of racism and discrimination and I believe in the need for peace in Gaza.”

The BBC has been approached for comment. 

Mr Vaughan has since returned to BBC commentary.

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Christian Brückner linked to Madeleine McCann via email account, court hears

An email account which links rapist Christian Brückner to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann has been discovered by police, a German court was told yesterday.

Titus Stampa, a police detective, said investigators found a Hotmail account and hard drive belonging to Brückner which were “related to the killing”, referring to her 2007 disappearance.

“An external hard drive also belonging to the killing case, and I am not allowed to talk about it,” he told a court in Braunschweig, in comments reported by the Daily Mirror, during a trial of Brückner on unrelated sex offences.

He declined to give any further details, such as of any photographs or video files which implicated Brückner, who was identified in 2020 by German authorities as a suspect in the case of McCann’s disappearance.

It is the first time German authorities have disclosed some detail of the evidence they hold against Brückner in the McCann case.

Mr Stampa, who said he could not further discuss the email account as it was related to a different criminal case, went on to describe a second email account in which Brückner shared child abuse content with other predators.

He told the court that Brückner had deleted all the emails in that account dating to early 2007, when Madeleine vanished from a hotel resort in Praia da Luz, in Portugal.

“I can remember that things were massively deleted in the inbox. There was nothing in there from January 2007,” he told the court in Braunschweig.

Mr Stampa also referred to an email allegedly written by Brückner involving a fantasy of a young girl and her mother being kidnapped and abused. “It was about violence and brutality and them being abused sexually,” he said.

Brückner is on trial in Braunschweig facing three charges of rape and two charges of child sexual abuse which are unrelated to the McCann disappearance. 

His lawyers say he denies those charges.

If convicted in the Braunschweig trial, he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years on top of his current rape sentence, for which he is due for release at the end of 2025.

Camper van

Brückner was living in a T3 Westfalia camper van near the area where Madeleine, who German prosecutors suspect is dead, disappeared. British detectives say they continue to treat the case as a missing person investigation.

German prosecutors also say that phone records show Brückner receiving a call on May 3 2007 near the Ocean Club resort, where the McCann family had been staying. He insists he was several miles away with a young woman at the time.

Last May, detectives investigating the Madeleine case said they were searching a Portuguese reservoir for more evidence, in the first dig of that nature in Praia de Luz since 2014.

The search of the Arade man-made reservoir, near Silves, ended after three days with investigators taking material from the area for further analysis. Scotland Yard detectives reportedly travelled to Portugal to take part in the search.

Brückner denies any involvement in the disappearance of Madeleine and has not been charged with that offence. 

His lawyers have said he cannot receive a fair trial in the Braunschweig case as German prosecutors have “created a worldwide sense of pillory against our client”.

He is currently serving a seven-year sentence for raping an American pensioner in the same resort town where Madeleine vanished. The trial, which is expected to last until October, continues.

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Martin Lewis accuses Labour of living ‘in fairy-tale land’ over spending black hole

Money-saving expert Martin Lewis has accused Labour of living “in fairy-tale land” over how it intends to tackle the black hole in its public spending plans.

Mr Lewis clashed with Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow paymaster general, on ITV’s Good Morning Britain about how Labour will approach the UK’s finances if it enters government.

The MoneySavingExpert founder said: “When you have a black hole in the public finances, you know, I know, and Rachel Reeves [the shadow chancellor] certainly knows, there are only four ways you can deal with that.

“You can increase debt, which you’ve said you won’t do; you can print money, which would be inflationary; you put up taxes, which you’ve said you won’t do; or, you could cut spending, which you’ve said you won’t do, which means if you can’t do any of those, we’re living in fairy-tale land.”

He added: “You are hoping to be in the next government. We need to know from you which of those four options will you use to fill the black hole, because we know there is one there.”

Mr Ashworth cited Labour’s plans to close loopholes in the non-dom tax status to fund its NHS reforms, as well as its policy on imposing VAT on private school fees to fund more teachers and mental health support in schools.

He added that Mr Lewis had “missed out a fifth option” – to use the proceeds of economic growth to deal with some of the public services black hole, with proposed skills reform and investment into green energy.

Mr Ashworth said: “Part of the reason why the public finances are shot to pieces, as you referred to, is because we’ve had anaemic economic growth these last 14 years.”

But Mr Lewis pressed the shadow paymaster general again, saying: “You’ll forgive me Mr Ashworth, that is a very nice sound bite but the Institute for Fiscal Studies says it is a fiction that you are going to be able to do that and reduce the national debt as you have pledged to do by the end of the next Parliament.”

He said: “We need some honesty in politics, which of the four options, because growth won’t cut it.”

Mr Ashworth responded: “It’s not a soundbite, it’s not a fiction. It is detailed plans for the future of this country and is an indication of the change that we will bring to this country after 14 years of decline.”

It comes after Rishi Sunak repeatedly accused Sir Keir Starmer of plotting a tax raid worth £2,000 on every household, during the first televised debate of the general election campaign between the pair.

During the head-to-head clash, the Prime Minister accused Sir Keir of wanting to “saddle people with £2,000 of higher taxes”, as he declared: “Mark my words, Labour will raise your taxes.

“It’s in their DNA. Your work, your car, your pension. You name it, Labour will tax it.”

Mr Sunak’s claims were based on analysis commissioned by the Conservatives which examined the costs of Labour’s planned policies.

Sir Keir dismissed the claim as “absolute garbage”, as Labour said that the costings were based on “dodgy assumptions” and had “glaring mistakes”.

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