INDEPENDENT 2024-06-07 18:10:16


The climate crisis has gone woke: Can King Charles save us?

We met – the King and Queen and 40 or so senior journalists – in a glorious palace to talk about the climate crisis. Under an ornate Baroque ceiling and chandeliers the size of small SUVs, we blinked at scary charts and wondered – some of us, anyway – why they weren’t front-page news.

We broke for drinks and dinner, the King and Queen mingling easily among the guests. And then we returned to the conversation, with further debate over the food. On my table, I sat between the King’s private secretary and a fiery young woman from Extinction Rebellion. It was, um, lively.

No, this was not King Charles and Camilla. Committed environmentalist though I know he is, I cannot easily imagine our own King inviting Fleet Street’s finest in for a fireside chat about climate change. He does not – perhaps understandably – seem to like journalists very much. And his advisers would surely caution him against getting involved in anything so woke.

CBI predicts Britain’s economy will see faster-than-expected growth

Britain’s economy will see faster-than-expected growth this year and next as the outlook brightens after a tough 2023, according to the CBI.

The business group has upped its forecasts for UK growth to 1% in 2024 and 1.9% in 2025 thanks to an expected pick-up in consumer spending as inflation falls back and wages remain robust.

It marks a upgrade on the CBI’s December predictions for expansion of 0.8% in 2024 and 1.6% in 2025 and comes after the UK eked out growth of a paltry 0.1% in 2023, having slipped into a technical recession at the end of last year.

The forecast also sees the CBI giving a much rosier outlook than the Bank of England, which predicted growth of 0.5% for this year in its last set of quarterly forecasts in May.

The CBI said: “Encouragingly, economic activity began to recover at the start of 2024.

“Robust growth over the first quarter completely reversed the decline in gross domestic product (GDP) seen over the second half of last year, and business surveys report that underlying economic momentum has been improving into the second quarter.”

The report also follows hot on the heels of an upgrade this week from fellow business group, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which is now predicting growth of 0.8% in 2024 and 1% in 2025.

The CBI said the main driver of the improving picture is consumer spending, which it expects to rise by 0.8% this year, rising to 2.5% next year, as inflation is set to drop back to the Bank’s 2% target in the second quarter.

“Nevertheless, households will feel the pinch this year from the cumulative increase in the level of prices over the last three years, in addition to still relatively higher lending rates,” the CBI cautioned.

After falling to target, inflation is expected to pick up again at the end of the year, before falling back to 2% more sustainably in 2025.

The CBI is predicting that interest rates will start to come down from their current level of 5.25% in August, before falling steadily to 3.5% between April and June next year.

Louise Hellem, CBI chief economist, said: “It’s encouraging to see that the outlook for the UK economy is improving after a difficult 2023.

“However, we cannot afford to be complacent about our progress going forward,” she added.

“To ensure longer-term, sustainable growth, we must tackle our ongoing productivity problem.”

The CBI also warned the stronger outlook was unlikely to offer much in the way of room for tax cuts for the next government.

Martin Sartorius, principal economist at the CBI, said: “While our forecast for stronger GDP growth means that the public finances outlook has improved, the next government will still face a difficult fiscal inheritance.

“This implies that there will not be much room for significant fiscal stimulus over our forecast period.”

Two British judges quit top Hong Kong court amid pro-China crackdown

Two British judges have quit Hong Kong’s top court amid a pro-China crackdown on dissent in the city.

Lord Jonathan Sumption, 75, and Lord Lawrence Collins, 83, said they had resigned from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal this week.

It comes afterThe Independent reported that the judges were paid £40,000 with flights, accommodation and travel expenses, to sit on the court for up to a month at a time. Lord Sumption and Lord Collins were two of five British judges – all of whom are retired from their British roles – listed as overseas non-permanent judges for the Court of Final Appeal, who could be selected at any time to sit on cases.

Lord Collins, who has served since 2011, cited the “political situation” in Hong Kong as his reason for stepping down from the court. Lord Sumption, who was appointed to the court in 2019, told The Independent he would make a statement next week about his resignation.

Lord Collins told The Independent: “I have resigned from the Court of Final Appeal because of the political situation in Hong Kong, but I continue to have the fullest confidence in the court and the total independence of its members.”

British judges have sat on the court since 1997 on a non-permanent basis as part of an agreement when the city was handed back to China by the UK. The intention was to help preserve the rule of law, provide expertise to local lawyers and reassure businesses and financial markets.

Human rights groups have criticised Western judges for continuing to serve on Hong Kong’s top court, which still includes judges from the UK, Canada and Australia. More than 1,800 political prisoners have been detained in Hong Kong in a crackdown on dissent since mass pro-democracy protests in 2019. This has intensified since the passing of a national security law by the city’s pro-Beijing legislature in 2020, although British judges cannot rule on national security cases.

The Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong Foundation has previously accused the Western judges of lending “their prestige to a justice system that has been undermined and co-opted by Beijing”.

Last week, 14 pro-democracy activists were found guilty of charges of subversion under the national security law in a Hong Kong court, a decision which Amnesty International described as a “near-total purge” of the city’s political opposition.

In 2022, two of the UK’s most senior current judges, Supreme Court justices Lord Robert Reed and Lord Patrick Hodge resigned from the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal on the basis that continuing to serve on it would appear to endorse Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing administration.

In a statement at the time, Lord Reed said on behalf of himself and Lord Hodge: “I have concluded, in agreement with the government, that the judges of the Supreme Court cannot continue to sit in Hong Kong.

“It would appear to endorse an administration which has departed from values of political freedom, and freedom of expression, to which the justices of the Supreme Court are deeply committed.”

Raye says ambitious new song ‘Genesis’ is ‘a plea and a cry for help’

British pop sensation Raye has said she wanted to create something as “deeply personal and as raw” as she could for her ambitious new single, “Genesis”.

Fresh from sweeping the 2024 Brit Awards with a record-breaking six wins, the 26-year-old told The Independent that the track, a seven-minute epic laid out in three acts, is at once “a prayer and a plea and a cry for help”.

“There is a Nina Simone quote, ‘It is an artist’s duty to reflect the times’. This quote is everything to me and I believe the best way I can try to do this is through my art and my music,” she said.

“There is so much darkness and pain in this world we live in, and I wanted to create something both as deeply personal and as raw as I could find myself to be about my own mind and the world I see around me.”

Raye, real name Rachel Keen, also revealed she spent over a year working on the project, experimenting with various genres and sonic expressions, with an underlying message beneath those layers of: “Let There Be Light.”

“It is a prayer and a plea and a cry for help and I really hope this song will be able to bring some hope, the way this music does for me, to those who need it most,” she said.

“Genesis” is Raye’s first official release since her critically adored, Mercury Prize-shortlisted debut My 21st Century Bluesin 2023, and comes after months of teasing the track during live performances, including during her triumphant Brits appearance in March.

At the ceremony, she dominated a number of the biggest awards categories, taking home prizes for Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist and Best R&B Act, as well as performing a medley that featured hits “Escapism” and “Prada”.

“Genesis” signals a brand new phase for the artist, as she incorporates elements of big band, jazz, hip-hop, gospel and R&B. On part one, she struggles with the negative voices in her head, ego and the distractions of social media, while enveloped by swooning harmonies and sweeping strings.

On part two, she croons over skittering hip-hop percussion, snares and an ominous brass section: “Oh she a sad little sinner, in the mirror/ The devil works hard, like my liver.”

It develops into a battle cry, as Raye reflects on the issues plaguing society, returning again and again to the refrain: “Let there be light.”

Towards the close, she reflects on “fake democracy, killing overseas, killing ourselves, suicide, government lies, discrimination, hating ourselves… why oh why keep going, why try, why?”

“Dear god in the sky/ Hear my cry,” she pleads.

Closing the three acts, she flips the sound to a twenties-influenced big band style and adding vocal trills and flourishes as she hails “all the builders and the cleaners/ For all the farmers and the chefs and the train drivers, yes/ The nurses, and the doctors/ God bless the NHS/ Let the pay rise, let the pay rise!”

“Genesis” is out now on all major streaming platforms and as a limited edition seven-inch vinyl.

Putin ‘invokes Cuban Missile Crisis’ as he moves ‘nuclear-capable’ ship to Havana

Vladimir Putin is invoking the memory of the Cuban Missile Crisis by moving “nuclear-capable” warships to Cuba in a move intended to provoke the United States.

Four Russian vessels will make a port call to Havana between 12 and 17 June before stopping off in Venezuela later in the month, according to Cuban and US officials.

The Admiral Gorshkov frigate, the Kazan nuclear-powered cruise missile submarine, the Academic Pashin replenishment oiler, and the Nikolai Chiker rescue tug will all be part of the visit, the US-based think tank IsW said.

The Admiral Gorshkov is capable of carrying Zircon hypersonic missiles, which the Kremlin has touted as being able to carry a nuclear warhead. There is no suggestion the ship will be equipped with nuclear weapons during the visit.

In 1962, former Russian premier Nikita Khrushchev moved nuclear missiles to Havana which led to an intense stand off between Moscow and Washington.

Meanwhile, Putin has threatened to retaliate against Western countries that are allowing Ukraine to hit Russia with their long-range missiles.

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

They did not flinch – and we salute them for that

They did not want to be treated as heroes, and insisted they were merely doing their duty. But the 40 British veterans who travelled to Normandy for Thursday’s moving ceremonies to mark the 80th anniversary of D-Day were rightly greeted as heroes by the French people who thanked them for the inspirational acts of courage that rescued their country from the horrors of Nazi occupation.

Anniversaries have become something of a devalued currency but D-Day is one of those rare, pivotal events that deserves all the attention it gets. It provides a moment to reflect on the remarkable operation that changed the course of the Second World War, and thus history.

The greatest amphibious operation the world has seen involved 156,000 seaborne and airborne troops from Britain, the United States and Canada landing in Normandy on 6 June 1944, marking the start of Operation Overlord. More than 4,400 Allied troops were killed on that day – a tragic loss but, given the huge risks, a figure that could easily have been much higher.

Which taxes could rise if Labour wins the general election?

The Conservatives claim that Labour is considering 10 separate tax increases if it wins the general election, after challenging Keir Starmer’s party to rule out a series of rises.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, has announced that Labour would not raise income tax, national insurance or VAT. She previously promised not to raise the other of the “big four” revenue raisers – corporation tax – during the next five-year parliament.

Although Labour dismissed as a “lie” Rishi Sunak’s claim that Labour would impose a £2,000 tax hike on working households over four years, the Tories are continuing to mine the tax seam. On Thursday, Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, urged Labour to match his “family home tax guarantee” to protect homes from capital gains tax, and his promise not to increase stamp duty or the number of council tax bands or to revalue homes for council tax (which is currently based on 1991 property values).