The Guardian 2024-07-04 12:13:30


Governors admit worries but rally behind Biden after meeting: ‘We have his back’

President meets with Democratic governors for ‘candid’ talks as he seeks to reassure his party and the public

A group of leading Democratic governors offered words of support for Joe Biden on Wednesday as pressure mounted on the president to leave the race.

The governors, including Tim Walz of Minnesota, Wes Moore of Maryland, Gavin Newsom of California and Kathy Hochul of New York, held a closed-door meeting with Biden in Washington as he sought to reassure his party – and the public – that he is up to the job after a shaky debate performance.

Biden met for more than an hour at the White House in person and virtually with more than 20 governors from his party. The governors told reporters afterward that the conversation was “candid” and said they expressed concerns about Biden’s debate performance last week. They reiterated that defeating Donald Trump in November was the priority, but said they were still standing behind Biden and did not join other Democrats who have been urging him to withdraw his candidacy.

“We, like many Americans, are worried,” Walz of Minnesota said. “We are all looking for the path to win – all the governors agree with that. President Biden agrees with that. He has had our backs through Covid … the governors have his back. We’re working together just to make very, very clear that a path to victory in November is the No 1 priority and that’s the No 1 priority of the president … The feedback was good. The conversation was honest.”

“The president is our nominee. The president is our party leader,” added Moore of Maryland. He said Biden “was very clear that he’s in this to win it”.

“We were honest about the feedback we’re getting … and the concerns we’re hearing from people,” Moore said. “We’re going to have his back … the results we’ve been able to see under this administration have been undeniable.”

The meeting capped a tumultuous day for Biden as members of his own party, and a major democratic donor, urged him to step aside amid questions over his fitness for office. Two Democratic lawmakers have called on Biden to exit the race, and a third Congressman said he had “grave concerns” about Biden’s ability to beat Trump. The White House, meanwhile, was forced to deny reports that Biden is weighing whether his candidacy is still viable.

Biden, for his part, has forcefully insisted that he is staying in the race.

“Let me say this as clearly as I possibly can, as simply and straightforward as I can: I am running … no one’s pushing me out,” Biden said on a call with staffers from his re-election campaign. “I’m not leaving. I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win.”

Kamala Harris has also stood by his side, despite some insiders reportedly rallying around her as a possible replacement. “We will not back down. We will follow our president’s lead,” the vice-president reportedly told staffers on Wednesday.

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer also threw her support behind Biden. “He is in it to win it and I support him,” she said on Twitter/X after the meeting.

Whitmer is one of several Democratic governors who have been cited as possible replacements if Biden were to withdraw his candidacy. Gavin Newsom, whose name has also been floated, flew in for the governors’ meeting on Wednesday, saying afterwards: “I heard three words from the president tonight – he’s all in. And so am I.”

Newsom has been a top surrogate for Biden’s re-election campaign, but has also garnered increasing buzz as a potential replacement if Biden were to withdraw. He was swarmed by reporters after the debate ended last week, some asking him if he’d replace Biden.

A Siena College/New York Times poll released Wednesday suggested Trump’s lead had increased since the debate, with him winning 49% of likely voters compared to 43% for Biden. Only 48% of Democrats in the poll said Biden should remain the nominee. A Reuters/Ipsos poll published Tuesday said that former first lady Michelle Obama is the only hypothetical candidate to definitively defeat Trump, but she has previously said she’s not running. That poll had Biden and Trump tied.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

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Biden says ‘I’m not leaving’ as cracks appear in Democrats’ support

White House denies reports president is weighing whether his candidacy is viable or not with spate of interviews lined up

The White House insisted on Wednesday that Joe Biden is staying in the election as the presumptive Democratic nominee, while the US president reportedly told his campaign team “I’m in this race to the end” amid mounting pressure for him to step down over concerns he is not up to the job, at 81.

Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary, told reporters “the president is not dropping out”, even while he “owns” his dire performance in the first debate of the campaign against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump last week.

She repeatedly blamed him having a cold, brought on by overly-arduous foreign travel, despite incredulous scoffs and skeptical questions from some reporters at the daily briefing.

Biden separately told staffers on a call, according to multiple reports: “No one is pushing me out” and “I’m not leaving. I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win.”

He was joined on the call by his vice-president, Kamala Harris, reiterating to staffers that they are in this fight for re-election “together”, according to an Associated Press report. She is seen as a likely substitute if Biden drops out, although several Democratic governors are considered serious rivals in that scenario.

The White House earlier denied a report that Biden is weighing whether his candidacy is still viable, ahead of a key meeting with Democratic governors on Wednesday evening, radio interviews due to air on the Fourth of July holiday and a TV interview with ABC airing in parts on Friday evening and over the weekend as he tries to bolster plummeting confidence.

An ally of the president earlier told the New York Times that the president remained fully committed to his re-election effort, but that he knew his upcoming public appearances would have to be successful ones in order for his candidacy to remain viable.

“He knows if he has two more events like that, we’re in a different place,” the source said, referring to Biden’s disastrous debate performance against Donald Trump last week.

The article was published under the headline “Biden told ally that he is weighing whether to continue in the race”.The senior deputy press secretary and deputy assistant to the president, Andrew Bates, posted that: “That claim is absolutely false.”

Democratic governors, meanwhile, rallied around Biden following their closed-door meeting on Wednesday but admitted they shared voters’ concerns about his performance.

“We, like many Americans, are worried,” said Tim Waltz of Minnesota. “We are looking for the path to win.” But, he said, he and other governors “have his back”.

The latest Siena College / NYT poll shows Trump has widened his lead on Biden since the TV debate, opening up a 6-point advantage, 49-43%, over Biden among likely voters. Only 48% of Democrats say Biden should remain the nominee.

Later on Wednesday Biden made his first public appearance of the day at a White House ceremony to award posthumous Medals of Honor to two Union soldiers for acts of bravery in the civil war. The president spoke mainly clearly, aided by a teleprompter.

Cracks in support among Democratic leaders had multiplied late Tuesday into Wednesday.

Barack Obama reportedly expressed concerns about Biden’s path to re-election and

House Democrat Jim Clyburn, known as a kingmaker of sorts within the Democratic party, told CNN that the party should hold a “mini-primary” if Biden steps aside, despite supporting his candidacy.

Almost all elected Democrats continue to back Biden in public.

On Tuesday congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas became the first House Democrat to publicly urge the president to step aside. A second one joined on Wednesday afternoon when Raúl Grijalva of Arizona told the New York Times: “If he’s the candidate, I’m going to support him but I think that this is an opportunity to look elsewhere … What he really needs to do is shoulder the responsibility for keeping that seat – and part of that responsibility is to get out of this race.”

At a Virginia campaign event on Tuesday evening, Biden blamed the debate debacle on his prior international trips, saying: “I wasn’t very smart. I decided to travel around the world a couple times, going through around 100 time zones … before … the debate. Didn’t listen to my staff and came back and nearly fell asleep on stage. That’s no excuse but it is an explanation.”

Obama, who served two terms with Biden as his vice president, has reportedly shared in private with Democratic allies who sought his counsel that Biden was already on a tough road to re-election and that road was now more rocky after the debate, the Washington Post reported late on Tuesday, citing unnamed sources familiar with the former president’s remarks, despite his public support for Biden’s candidacy.

And dozens of House Democrats are considering signing a letter calling for Biden to withdraw from the presidential race, Bloomberg reported, citing an unnamed ‘senior party official’.

A post-debate survey commissioned by Puck news showed that 40% of voters who backed Biden in 2020 now believe he should withdraw. It also showed him now under threat from Trump in states previously considered safe by Democrats, including Virginia, New Mexico and New Hampshire.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday also found that one in three Democrats said Biden should end his re-election campaign.

The former first lady, Michelle Obama, who has never held elected office, also led Trump 50% to 39% in a poll about a hypothetical match-up, Reuters reported.

Also, California congresswoman and former House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, told MSNBC of Biden’s debate performance – and Trump’s: “I think it’s a legitimate question to say, is this an episode or is this a condition? When people ask that question, it’s completely legitimate – of both candidates.”

Harris is the top alternative to replace Biden if he quits, according to seven senior sources at the Biden campaign, the White House and the Democratic National Committee with knowledge of current discussions on the topic, Reuters reported.

In the Reuters/Ipsos poll published on Tuesday, Harris trailed Trump by one percentage point, a showing as strong as Biden’s, within polling margins.

Democrats have been privately scathing both about the White House’s lack of transparency about the president’s apparent recent decline, and about his failure to rebound fully from the debate. All eyes will now be on the ABC interview.

Two House Democrats, Jared Golden of Maine and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez of Washington, have predicted publicly since the debate that they believed Trump would win November’s election.

Anger has also been voiced at the White House and campaign aides for shielding Biden from public and covering up evidence of his supposedly fading powers amid reports that this has been visible for months.

The presidential physician, Kevin O’Connor, has previously said that Biden is in excellent condition.

Sam Levin and Reuters contributed reporting

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Kamala Harris: insiders rally behind VP to replace Biden if he bows out

After president’s poor debate performance, pundits point to polls saying Harris would do better in a race against Trump

As Joe Biden faces increasing pressure to withdraw his candidacy following last week’s poor debate performance, Kamala Harris has emerged as the frontrunner to replace him.

The president forcefully rejected calls to end his campaign on Wednesday, telling his staffers: “No one is pushing me out … I’m not leaving. I’m in this race to the end and we’re going to win.” His defiant remarks came after the New York Times reported that Biden had privately told allies he understood he might not be able to salvage his candidacy if he could not convince voters of his viability.

As the White House has continued to deny reports that Biden was weighing the future of his campaign, talks of who would step up if he did withdraw have escalated.

Senior sources at the Biden campaign, the White House and the Democratic National Committee told Reuters that the vice-president was the top alternative.

Harris, a former senator from California, has stood by the president’s side as he weathers the debate fallout this week, and reportedly told campaign staffers on Wednesday: “We will not back down. We will follow our president’s lead.”

But pundits advocating that Harris take over the ticket have pointed to polls suggesting that she could have advantages over Biden in a race against Donald Trump. A post-debate Reuters/Ipsos poll found that one in three Democrats think Biden should quit, and that 81% viewed Harris favorably, compared to 78% for Biden. Michelle Obama was the only hypothetical Democratic candidate to beat Trump in the poll, but the former first lady said in March she was not running. Biden and Trump were tied in that poll, and Harris performed similarly, earning 42% of votes compared with Trump’s 43%.

A CNN poll published Tuesday also found Harris “within striking distance of Trump in a hypothetical matchup” – 47% supporting the former president, and 45% supporting Harris, a result within the margin of error. The Biden-Trump matchup in that poll had Trump earning 49% of votes and Biden earning 43%. Harris’s modest advantage was due partly to her having broader support from women and independents, CNN said.

With two Democratic congressmen now publicly calling on Biden to step aside, other party leaders have privately suggested they favor Harris as his potential replacement, according to reports. Hakeem Jeffries, House minority leader, signaled to members that she would be the best option, the Washington Post reported.

James Clyburn, a senior congressional Democrat, said publicly he’d support Harris if Biden were to withdraw his candidacy, urging Democrats to “do everything to bolster her, whether she’s in second place or at the top of the ticket”. Summer Lee, a House Democrat from Pennsylvania, also said Wednesday that Harris was the “obvious choice” to replace Biden, if he decided not to run.

Some Harris supporters who are advocating she take over the campaign have argued that she would perform better than Biden with Black and Latino communities, and that she is a more powerful abortion-rights spokesperson than Biden.

Skeptics, however, have noted that Harris also remains fairly unpopular and have pointed to polls suggesting she has vulnerabilities in terms of voters’ trust in her ability to handle immigration, China relations and Israel’s war on Gaza.

The other names that have been floated as possible replacements include California governor Gavin Newsom, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, Illinois governor J B Pritzker and Kentucky governor Andy Beshear. The Reuters poll, however, suggested they would all perform worse than Biden and Harris.

If Harris became the presidential candidate, she could take over the funds raised by the campaign since the account is registered under Biden and Harris.

On Wednesday, the White House also announced a series of “summer of engagement” events for Harris, including visits to New Orleans, Las Vegas, Dallas and Indianapolis.

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Netflix co-founder and Democratic megadonor calls for Biden to step aside

Reed Hastings one of first major party donors to urge Biden to bow out, telling him to make room for a ‘vigorous’ leader

Reed Hastings, the co-founder of Netflix and a Democratic party megadonor, has called for Joe Biden to take himself out of the presidential race following his disastrous performance at last week’s debate against Donald Trump.

Hastings told the New York Times on Wednesday that the president “needs to step aside to allow a vigorous Democratic leader to beat Trump and keep us safe and prosperous”.

The statement makes Hastings one of the first major Democratic donors to speak out as pressure mounts on the president, 81, to step down over concerns he is not up to the job.

The White House has denied reports that donors and allies with in the Democratic party are urging him to drop out of the presidential race.

But by Wednesday, two House Democrats had publicly called for Biden to withdraw his candidacy and a third said he had “grave concerns” about Biden’s ability to beat Trump. Biden is facing escalating pressure as a post-debate poll found that one in three Democrats believes he should quit. At a campaign event earlier this week, Biden blamed his poor debate performance on his busy international travel leading up to the event, saying he “nearly fell asleep on stage”.

Some Democratic party officials have privately suggested that vice-president Kamala Harris should take his place, according to several reports.

Hastings, a billionaire entrepreneur credited with ushering in the streaming era, stepped down as Netflix CEO last year.

Hastings and his wife, Patty Quillin, were prolific supporters of the Democratic party during the Trump administration and have donated more than $20m in recent years, including roughly $1.5m to Biden during his 2020 campaign, according to the New York Times. The couple donated $100,000 last year toward Biden’s re-election efforts.

Hastings has also donated to historically Black colleges and universities and recently gave more than $1bn worth of his Netflix shares to a Silicon Valley charity.

Reid Hoffman, another influential billionaire donor, continued to throw his weight behind Biden after the debate, telling his donor network in an email that he felt it was counterproductive to be “musing on Biden’s flaws” and that they should be “organizing around Trump’s flaws”.

The Biden campaign said this week that it raised $38m after the debate.

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Hurricane Beryl hits Jamaica after leaving ‘Armageddon-like’ trail in Grenada

Jamaican PM says worst is yet to come as category 4 storm hits southern coast after causing at least seven deaths in region

  • Why Hurricane Beryl foretells a scary storm season

Hurricane Beryl has hit Jamaica after leaving an “Armageddon-like” trail of devastation in Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and killing at least seven people across the region.

The category 4 storm hit the island’s southern coast on Wednesday afternoon with maximum sustained winds of 140mph (225km/h), pummeling communities and knocking out communications as emergency groups evacuated people in flood-prone communities.

“It’s terrible. Everything’s gone. I’m in my house and scared,” said Amoy Wellington, a 51-year-old cashier who lives in Top Hill, a rural farming community in Jamaica’s southern St. Elizabeth parish. “It’s a disaster.”

Almost 500 Jamaicans were in shelters by Wednesday afternoon, prime minister Andrew Holness told reporters, urging people in high-risk areas to move. “We have not seen the worst of what could happen,” Holness said. “We can do as much as we can do, as [is] humanly possible, and we leave the rest in the hands of God.”

“Life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides from heavy rainfall are expected over much of Jamaica and southern Haiti through today,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said online, adding that dangerous winds and storm surge were also expected in the Cayman Islands through early Thursday.

Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management warned of dangerous storm surges potentially raising water levels to as high as 2.75 metres (9ft).

At least three people have been reported dead amid floods in Venezuela, three in Grenada, and one in St Vincent and the Grenadines.

A hurricane warning was issued for Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. A hurricane watch was also in effect for Haiti’s southern coast and the Yucatan’s east coast. Belize issued a tropical storm watch stretching south from its border with Mexico to Belize City.

Earlier, the US NHC director, Michael Brennan, said Jamaica appeared to be in the direct path of Beryl.

“We are most concerned about Jamaica, where we are expecting the core of a major hurricane to pass near or over the island,” he said in an online briefing. “You want to be in a safe place where you can ride out the storm by nightfall [on Tuesday]. Be prepared to stay in that location through Wednesday.”

“This is a big hazard in the Caribbean, especially with the mountainous islands,” Brennan said. “This could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides in some of these areas.”

The storm has also affected South America: three people died and four were missing amid intense floods in Venezuela, where the vice-president, Delcy Rodríguez, was injured by a fallen tree as she inspected the Manzanares River, which overflowed in Sucre state.

Beryl became the earliest storm to develop into a category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic, peaking on Tuesday with winds of 165 mph before weakening to a still-destructive category 4. It strengthened at a record pace, thanks in part to unseasonably warm sea temperatures which scientists ascribe to global heating.

In Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines where the monster hurricane has already demonstrated its destructive power, the focus is now on relief, recovery and rebuilding.

After visiting the island of Carriacou, the prime minister of Grenada, Dickon Mitchell, described “Armageddon-like” scenes of “almost total destruction”, with approximately 98% of building structures damaged or destroyed and an almost complete wipeout of the electrical grid and communications systems.

“Having seen it myself, there is really nothing that could prepare you to see this level of destruction. It is almost Armageddon-like. Almost total damage or destruction of all buildings, whether they be public buildings, homes or private facilities. Complete devastation and destruction of agriculture, complete and total destruction of the natural environment. There is literally no vegetation left anywhere on the island of Carriacou,” he said.

People were also evacuated from Union Island, where about 90% of housing was destroyed, arriving in the St Vincent and the Grenadines capital, Kingstown, by ferry.

One evacuee, Sharon DeRoche, said she and her family had taken shelter in her bathroom during the hurricane. “It was a hard four hours battling with six of us in that little area,” she said.

The last strong hurricane to hit the south-east Caribbean was Hurricane Ivan 20 years ago, which killed dozens of people in Grenada.

Roy O’Neale, a 77-year-old Grenadian resident who was forced to rebuild his home after Ivan, said: “I felt the wind whistling, and then for about two hours straight, it was really, really terrifying at times. Branches of trees were flying all over the place.”

Hundreds of people hunkered in shelters across the south-east Caribbean, including 50 adults and 20 children who huddled inside a school in Grenada.

“Maybe some of them thought they could have survived in their homes, but when they realised the severity of it … they came for cover,” said Urban Mason, a retired teacher who served as the shelter’s manager. “People tend to be complacent.”

Scientists say the human-caused climate crisis has increased the intensity, frequency and destructive powers of tropical storms, because hotter oceans provide more energy.

One of the homes that Beryl damaged belongs to the parents of the UN climate change executive secretary, Simon Stiell, who is from Carriacou. The storm also destroyed the home of his late grandmother.

In a statement, Stiell said the climate crisis was worsening faster than expected.

“Whether in my homeland of Carriacou … hammered by Hurricane Beryl, or in the heatwaves and floods crippling communities in some of the world’s largest economies, it’s clear that the climate crisis is pushing disasters to record-breaking new levels of destruction,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

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Keir Starmer hails ‘new age of hope’ as Rishi Sunak fears losing seat

Final polls predict unprecedented Labour victory, with Starmer declaring Britain a ‘great nation, with boundless potential’

Keir Starmer has hailed a “new age of hope and opportunity” as millions of people prepare to vote in a general election that could deliver the biggest shake-up of British politics in a generation.

The Labour leader said he was “ready for government” and that his intended cabinet would “hit the ground running” if it wins Thursday’s election.

With Rishi Sunak’s closest allies appearing to concede defeat for the Conservatives, and the final opinion polls predicting an unprecedented Labour victory, Starmer said he hoped Britain was about to enter a new chapter.

On the last day of a fractious six-week campaign, the Guardian was told Sunak had confided to members of his inner circle that he was fearful of losing his own seat, and a new YouGov poll predicted 16 cabinet ministers would lose their seats – potentially handing Starmer the biggest majority for any single party since 1832.

Speaking at a campaign stop in Scotland, which will be one of the key battlegrounds on Thursday, Starmer told his activists they were “on the final few yards towards the start of a historic day”.

“This is a great nation, with boundless potential. The British people deserve a government that matches their ambition. Today is the chance to begin the work of rebuilding Britain with Labour.”

He promised a flurry of activity should he enter No 10, saying he would push back the parliamentary recess to get his legislative programme under way.

Starmer said he had told his shadow cabinet they will not be forgiven if did not show results immediately. He said he had told them: “I don’t want you having a phone call or a meeting the day after the election that you could have had six months before the election.”

In a rare sign that he was mentally preparing for victory at the end of a deeply cautious campaign, Starmer said: “I’m really pleased that four and a half years of work is being vindicated because this has not been an easy gig.”

Sunak spent the day campaigning in safe Conservative seats in the south of England. Sources told the Guardian he had privately confided his own vote in Richmond and Northallerton was too close to call.

In 2019, he won the seat with a majority of more than 27,000 and 63% of the vote. One source said “he is genuinely fearful of a defeat in Richmond: the risk that it could be tight has hit him hard. He’s rattled – he can’t quite believe it’s coming so close.”

Leading Tories, including the sacked former home secretary Suella Braverman and the work and pensions secretary, Mel Stride, also made clear that election defeat appeared inevitable.

However, Sunak brushed aside the idea that the Conservatives had already accepted defeat, as he campaigned in ultra-safe Tory seats such as Hamble Valley on the final day before polls opened.

He claimed that “millions and millions” of voters had still not made up their minds, saying people should “separate the frustrations which they understandably have about me, the party and the past” from their ultimate decision.

Quizzed at a school about his highlight as prime minister, Sunak dodged the question, while arguing that much of his time in office had been spent struggling with outside events.

“There are lots of things that you’d like to do but the reality is that you’re dealing with the situation in front of you. That’s very much been the story of my political career in the last few years. That’s just reality. You’ve got to play the cards that you’ve been dealt,” he said.

Asked if he would take full responsibility for whatever the election result was, he replied: “Yes.”

The Tories experienced yet another blow on Wednesday night as the Sun newspaper made an abrupt volte-face, putting its support behind the Labour party for the first time since 2005.

After years of fiercely critical coverage of Labour and personal attacks on the leader it called “Sir Softie”, the Sun endorsed Starmer on Wednesday, saying: “It is time for a change … Which means that it is time for Labour.”

In Essex, where Reform UK’s leader, Nigel Farage, is making an eighth attempt to enter parliament, the Tory candidate standing in his way made a last-ditch appeal to stop what he described as “the populist juggernaut”.

Farage led a rally in the centre of Clacton in chants of “we want our country back”, as he once again sought to make immigration the centrepiece of his campaign.

“How are you getting on for dentists in Clacton? Well then you should have come by dinghy,” he said, after arriving on a military-style vehicle to the sound of Without Me by Eminem.

Giles Watling, who is defending his Clacton seat, said the atmosphere in the constituency had changed since the arrival en masse of Farage supporters. He described the Reform leader’s rallies as “chilling” and alleged that people had been intimidated by canvassers for the populist party, including a shop owner who, he said, had been told “it wouldn’t be a good idea” if she put up a Tory placard in her window.

Farage was in a bullish mood as he appeared alongside the former boxer Derek Chisora, predicting that Labour would win as much as 37% of the vote and that his party would be “challenging for government” at the next election.

Labour strategists are tense about the prospect for shocks in some unpredictable constituencies, including those where the Reform vote is surging and where Labour is facing a challenge from the Greens or independent candidates campaigning on Gaza.

The party is braced for a number of upsets that go against the grain, including in the shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire’s Bristol Central seat to the Greens and in seats with large Muslim populations, including Birmingham Ladywood, Bethnal Green and Bow, and Dewsbury and Batley. Islington North, where the former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is running as an independent, is said by party insiders to be too close to call.

On his final day of a gruelling campaign, Starmer spent time in Wales, Scotland and England, culminating in a rally in the Midlands – another area of the UK where Labour is hoping to take multiple seats from the Conservatives.

In Glasgow, he mocked the Scottish National party for urging voters to vote for them to “send a message” to Westminster. “I don’t want Scotland to send a message, I want Scotland to send a government,” he said. Labour is on course to regain dozens of seats in Scotland from the SNP.

On Wednesday night, the first minister, John Swinney, said it was a foregone conclusion Labour would win. “The only story left in this election is in Scotland, where seats across the country are on a knife-edge,” he said.

But Starmer also warned during the course of the day against paying too much attention to Tories downplaying their own prospects. “You can see what the Tories are up to – they are trying to invite people not to exercise their democratic right to go out and vote, trying to dissuade people from voting,” he said.

“A once-respected party is now saying with 24 hours to go nothing that is positive, everything is negative, effectively, to run a campaign to suppress the vote.”

Writing in the Guardian, Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, promised “change will begin immediately” if Starmer enters No 10 and called on voters to help deliver a significant majority. “We will need a clear mandate for change – don’t doubt that.”

The Liberal Democrats also look as if they will regain the party’s strength of the coalition years, capitalising on Tory decline and tactical voting.

The party’s leader, Ed Davey, whose campaign has been dominated by outlandish stunts, wrote in the Guardian on Wednesday that his mission was “beating as many Conservative MPs as possible … More and more people are focusing on how best to use their vote to bring an end to Conservative rule and start a more progressive, more positive era.”

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‘Tories braced for bleak night’: what the papers say as the UK votes

After six weeks, general election campaigning has come to an end and Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak have made their final pitches to the country

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Campaigning has ended and voters are set to decide who will lead the UK for the next five years, with the country’s newspapers covering the parties final pitches – while making a few suggestions of their own.

Starmer hails ‘new age of hope’ as Britain votes in historic election”, reads the Guardian’s front page. The paper’s lead story notes that Rishi Sunak’s closest allies have already appeared “to concede defeat”, while the final opinion polls show Labour is on track for an unprecedented victory.

“On the last day of a fractious six-week campaign, the Guardian was told Sunak had confided to members of his inner circle that he was fearful of losing his own seat”, the paper reports.

As voters go to the polls, the Mirror unsurprisingly comes out with an endorsement for Keir Starmer. Against a stark, black background, its headline reads “Vote for change. Vote Labour”.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the Sun’s front page also come out in support for Labour, with “Time for a new manager”. Despite the waning impact of newspaper endorsements over recent years, there had been fevered speculation over who the Sun would back.

It’s the first time since 2005 that the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid has endorsed Labour and the editorial outlining its case is decidedly lukewarm, labelling Starmer an “ex-remainer” who wants “closer ties with Brussels”. It does however praise him for “dragging his party back to the centre ground of British politics”.

The Times – another Murdoch-owned paper – also offered cautious support for Starmer. The historic scale this election is underline in its headline: “Labour set for ‘biggest majority since 1832’”.

In an editorial headlined “Leap in the dark”, the paper states that “democracy requires change” and tellingly stopped short of urging people to vote Conservative. There is little enthusiasm in its message though, with the paper writing that “Sir Keir has left the British people with little clue as to his intentions in government”.

The Mail carries no such equivocations, with its front page dominated by a warning that votes for Reform will ensure a Labour victory. The headline reads “Vote Farage, get them …” above a picture of Starmer and his deputy, Angela Rayner.

The paper’s election day edition promises a tactical voting guide, that reads “If Labour win today, I warn you not to own a home, run a business, drive a car”; a clear allusion to former Labour leader Neil Kinnock’s celebrated speech, in the days before the 1983 election.

North of the border, the Mail’s Scottish edition tells voters to “Back Rishi and beat the SNP”, accompanied by a full page image of Nicola Sturgeon who resigned as first minister more than a year ago.

Scotland’s Daily Record also turns to recent political history, with a reference to Shepard Fairey’s iconic “Hope” poster of Barack Obama. Under an image of Keir Starmer shaded in red and blue, the paper urges voters to back Labour with the headline “Change”.

The front page of Scotland’s National reads as a direct rebuke to the Record’s headline, with “Change? What Change?” Outlining the areas in which the paper believes Starmer’s Labour will be identical to the Tories, the front page concludes by stating “in Westminster nothing ever changes”.

Across the entirety of its front page, the Express urges Britain to “Vote Tory”. Above the headline, the paper appears to take some time to convince itself of its position, acknowledging that frustration at the government is “understandable” and that it is the right of all voters to register there “protest”, however it concludes by saying it will carry the “torch of Conservatism until it is burning bright again.”

The i reports that “Labour’s lead narrows in final poll but Starmer still on course for landslide”. The paper notes that “most cabinet minister fear for their futures”.

The Financial Times says that Starmer is poised for a “200-plus majority”. “Tories braced for bleak night as polls put Labour on track for landslide win”, is the paper’s headline.

Telegraph readers would be forgiven for forgetting there was an election on, with only one small story on “postal vote chaos” indicating that it’s polling day.

The paper’s main headline reads “Homeowners face council tax raid under Labour”.

Finally, the Star’s front page simply carries a picture of a pair of oversized clown shoes and the headline “Toodle pip!”.

The paper’s front page story is just five lines long and reads “Remeber Bozo. Remember Partygate. Remember Lettuce Liz. Remember Rishi and D-Day. Remember to vote.”

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Britain will not rejoin EU in my lifetime, says Starmer

Labour leader also says he cannot foresee circumstances where UK would re-enter single market or customs union

Keir Starmer has insisted the UK will not rejoin either the EU, the single market or the customs union within his lifetime, in his firmest pledge yet that Labour will not seek much closer relations with Europe for as long as he is prime minister.

The Labour leader told reporters on Wednesday he did not think Britain would go back into any of the three blocs while he was alive, all but ruling out rejoining even if he wins a second term in office.

In recent days, the Labour leader has begun talking more freely about what his party would do in power, as polls continue to suggest it is heading for a landslide victory. He also said on Wednesday, for example, that he would seek to extend the parliamentary timetable immediately after the election to allow more time to legislate before the summer.

With less than 24 hours to go until polls open, Starmer has largely avoided talking about relations with the EU during the campaign, as Labour seeks to avoid the mistakes it made in 2019 when it alienated leave voters by promising a second referendum.

Some have suggested this reluctance to talk about the issue masked a desire to pursue re-entry to the customs union or single market during a second Labour term, something other senior figures in the party have failed to rule out. Starmer insisted on Wednesday, however, this was not the case.

Asked whether he could see any circumstances where the UK rejoined the single market or customs union within his lifetime, Starmer said: “No. I don’t think that that is going to happen. I’ve been really clear about not rejoining the EU, the single market or the customs union – or [allowing a] return to freedom of movement.”

He repeated, however, his view that Labour could achieve better trading arrangements with the EU in certain industries. “I do think we could get a better deal than the botched deal we got under Boris Johnson on the trading front, in research and development and on security,” he said.

Starmer spent his final day on the campaign trail travelling around the UK, starting with a stop in south Wales attended by dozens of Labour activists and candidates.

On the subject of a legislative programme, he said: “How much legislation we will be through by the end of July I think is questionable, because the timetable is very tight, although it seems obvious to me that we’ll have to extend the timetable. We will be working very hard.”

Starmer’s first days in office are likely to be spent battling various crises, including one in Britain’s full-up prisons, which the Institute for Government suggested on Wednesday could be alleviated by cutting average sentences.

Starmer indicated he was open to such an idea, saying: “In terms of the specific things that we will do, we’ll have to wait and see what that is, but I can’t stand here and pretend to you or everybody else that we can build a prison in 24 hours after the election result is called.

“We have to get on with the hard yards of sorting this mess out, but it is one massive mess.”

As well as the immediate crises with which he will be grappling, Starmer has also begun to talk about the long-term challenges facing a Labour government, including taking on the threat of rightwing populism.

He told reporters he saw it as part of his job as a progressive leader to combat the appeal of parties such as Reform UK, and even suggested he would be willing to work across party lines to do so. Such a scenario is playing out in France, where candidates from centre-left and centre-right parties are dropping out of the legislative election to make sure they do not stand in the way of others defeating the hard-right National Rally.

Starmer said: “The very many challenges here in Europe and across the world will have to be met, in my view, by progressive answers. And it falls to us to make that argument – and to work with others to make that argument.”

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Farage says he is part of ‘similar phenomenon’ to Andrew Tate among young men

Reform UK leader claims rise of misogynist influencer has been due to a society that creates feelings of ‘emasculation’

Nigel Farage has said he is part of a “similar phenomenon” to the misogynist influencer Andrew Tate, as he claimed that there were forces in society trying to “stop young men from being young men”.

The Reform UK leader used the last day of campaigning before the general election to appear alongside Derek Chisora, the controversial boxer and Reform UK supporter, in a boxing gym in Clacton, where Farage is making his eighth bid to be elected as an MP.

Farage used the visit to speak about what he described as the feelings of “emasculation” among young men, saying: “Look at the football. You know, they’re told: Go to Germany. Please don’t drink more than two pints of beer. You what? Don’t chant at the football matches. You what? Oh, and don’t tell jokes that might offend the Germans. I mean, come on. We are trying to stop young men being young men.

“That’s why Tate got the following he got. So maybe I’m part of a similar phenomenon,” he said. Since December 2022, Tate has been facing charges in Romania of human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women, which he denies.

Farage led a rally in the centre of Clacton in chants of “we want our country back” as he once again sought to make immigration the centrepiece of his campaign after arriving at the rally on a military-style vehicle to the sound of Eminem’s Without Me.

“How are you getting on for dentists in Clacton?” he asked. “Well, then you should have come by dinghy.”

The Reform UK leader’s comments come against the backdrop of concerns about the rise of role models and influencers associated with a model of toxic masculinity.

A poll of 200 people by JLP found earlier this week that Reform UK was the top choice of political party among 23% of those aged 16 to 17. However, among young men it was on level pegging with Labour, on 35%.

Farage’s appearance came a day after a second Reform candidate defected to the Conservatives. Georgie David, who had been Reform’s candidate for West Ham and Beckton, said the vast majority of people standing for the hard-right party were “racist, misogynistic and bigoted”.

Liam Booth-Isherwood, who had been the candidate for the Erewash constituency in Derbyshire, also cited “reports of widespread racism and sexism in Reform” as his reason for defecting to the Tories last week.

Farage defended his appearance alongside Chisora, who was given a 12-week suspended prison sentence in 2010 after being found guilty of assaulting his then girlfriend.

Asked if Chisora was a good role model, he replied: “You show me someone who has lived a perfect life and never been in trouble. For these young kids he’s a fantastic role model. He’s got a huge following in the country. And yeah, he is a good role model. Imperfect as we all are.”

After taking part in some mock sparring with Farage for the cameras, Chisora reluctantly answered questions about his own past, but insisted he was “born again”.

Young men who spoke to the Guardian at the gym – which was run by a supporter of Farage and had Reform UK banners hung up on the walls – cited the Reform UK leader’s social media presence as one of the reasons why he had a prominent following.

“Everything is not the same in the country and you feel there has been a massive decline, so maybe he’s the change we need,” said one who cited Farage’s position on immigration and the supposed idea of a “woke” culture.

“I think the world is way too woke and it’s past the point of repair. You have to be careful about anything you say. Even supporting him can cause you to be labelled a racist.”

But in a sign that other policies had cut through, another approvingly cited – in some detail – Reform UK’s proposals to lift the income tax personal allowance to £20,000.

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Pro-Palestine protesters scale roof of Australia’s Parliament House to unfurl banners criticising war in Gaza

Call for investigation into security breach after parliament partly locked down as activists climbed onto the roof to reveal banner declaring ‘war crimes … enabled here’

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Some areas of Australia’s federal parliament were locked down as pro-Palestine protesters climbed on to the roof of the building in Canberra and unfurled a banner declaring “war crimes … enabled here”.

Thursday’s protest focused on the war in Gaza appeared to be coordinated with other actions highlighting the climate crisis and Indigenous rights.

Members of the public were cleared from Parliament House on the last sitting day of a two-week session before politicians head home for the six-week winter break.

At about 10am on Thursday, anti-coal protesters in T-shirts emblazoned with “Rising Tide” initially drew police and parliamentary security officers to the foyer inside the building.

They glued themselves to marble pillars and while they were being dislodged and escorted outside, a second set of protesters appeared to climb over a wall and on to a portico above the main entrance to Parliament House.

The pro-Palestine activists unfurled banners protesting against the Gaza war and the treatment of Indigenous Australians, including one sign above the building’s public entrance that stated “war crimes” with a list of conflicts and a red inverted arrow that bore the words “enabled here”.

Another banner declared: “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.”

The activists – who issued a press statement calling themselves Renegade Activists – launched paper planes from the roof that also bore the words “war crimes” and detailed grievances. The protesters linked their action to 4 July – American independence day – and condemned Australia’s support for the US in global conflicts.

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The activists perched on top of the building read out a statement that called for an end to “US and Australian support for the genocidal state of Israel”.

“To the Albanese government: we will not forget, we will not forgive, and we will continue to resist,” they said.

The group also stated: “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.”

The federal opposition called for an investigation into Thursday’s breach following a $120m upgrade to the building’s security in 2017.

The Coalition’s home affairs spokesperson, James Paterson, said: “This is a serious breach of the parliament’s security. The building was modified at great expense to prevent incursions like this. An investigation is required.”

The climate protest was organised by the group Rising Tide.

A spokesperson, Shaun Murray, said the group comprised about 50 demonstrators including about a dozen who glued themselves to pillars inside the foyer.

Murray said the climate was passing critical tipping points and it was wrong for Australia to continue fossil fuel exports as if it was “business as usual”.

Asked whether his group knew other demonstrations would occur at the same time, Murray said: “No. I guess it’s just democracy in action. This government has got a shocking record on genocide and a shocking record on climate.”

The rooftop protesters climbed down after two hours and were detained by Australian federal police (AFP) officers. Police later confirmed four people were arrested.

“They have also been issued with 24-month banning notices from APH,” the police said in a statement.

“The AFP is committed to ensuring the safety of the public and those working in and visiting Parliament House.”

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Pro-Palestine protesters scale roof of Australia’s Parliament House to unfurl banners criticising war in Gaza

Call for investigation into security breach after parliament partly locked down as activists climbed onto the roof to reveal banner declaring ‘war crimes … enabled here’

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Some areas of Australia’s federal parliament were locked down as pro-Palestine protesters climbed on to the roof of the building in Canberra and unfurled a banner declaring “war crimes … enabled here”.

Thursday’s protest focused on the war in Gaza appeared to be coordinated with other actions highlighting the climate crisis and Indigenous rights.

Members of the public were cleared from Parliament House on the last sitting day of a two-week session before politicians head home for the six-week winter break.

At about 10am on Thursday, anti-coal protesters in T-shirts emblazoned with “Rising Tide” initially drew police and parliamentary security officers to the foyer inside the building.

They glued themselves to marble pillars and while they were being dislodged and escorted outside, a second set of protesters appeared to climb over a wall and on to a portico above the main entrance to Parliament House.

The pro-Palestine activists unfurled banners protesting against the Gaza war and the treatment of Indigenous Australians, including one sign above the building’s public entrance that stated “war crimes” with a list of conflicts and a red inverted arrow that bore the words “enabled here”.

Another banner declared: “From the river to the sea Palestine will be free.”

The activists – who issued a press statement calling themselves Renegade Activists – launched paper planes from the roof that also bore the words “war crimes” and detailed grievances. The protesters linked their action to 4 July – American independence day – and condemned Australia’s support for the US in global conflicts.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

The activists perched on top of the building read out a statement that called for an end to “US and Australian support for the genocidal state of Israel”.

“To the Albanese government: we will not forget, we will not forgive, and we will continue to resist,” they said.

The group also stated: “Always was, always will be, Aboriginal land.”

The federal opposition called for an investigation into Thursday’s breach following a $120m upgrade to the building’s security in 2017.

The Coalition’s home affairs spokesperson, James Paterson, said: “This is a serious breach of the parliament’s security. The building was modified at great expense to prevent incursions like this. An investigation is required.”

The climate protest was organised by the group Rising Tide.

A spokesperson, Shaun Murray, said the group comprised about 50 demonstrators including about a dozen who glued themselves to pillars inside the foyer.

Murray said the climate was passing critical tipping points and it was wrong for Australia to continue fossil fuel exports as if it was “business as usual”.

Asked whether his group knew other demonstrations would occur at the same time, Murray said: “No. I guess it’s just democracy in action. This government has got a shocking record on genocide and a shocking record on climate.”

The rooftop protesters climbed down after two hours and were detained by Australian federal police (AFP) officers. Police later confirmed four people were arrested.

“They have also been issued with 24-month banning notices from APH,” the police said in a statement.

“The AFP is committed to ensuring the safety of the public and those working in and visiting Parliament House.”

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  • Keir Starmer hails ‘new age of hope’ as Rishi Sunak fears losing seat
  • ‘To be totally the focus of someone, who was really into sex, was fantastic’: Tracey Emin and Billy Childish on their blazing romance
  • White House efforts to shield Biden’s missteps are unraveling
  • Biden wins crucial support of Democratic governors to continue campaign: ‘We’re going to have his back’ – as it happened

About 90% of people in Gaza displaced since war began, says UN agency

Many have moved more than once, with estimated 1.9m Palestinians relocating since Israel’s invasion, says OCHA

About 90% of the population of the Gaza Strip have been displaced at least once since the war between Israel and Hamas began, according to the UN’s humanitarian agency.

Andrea De Domenico, head of the UN’s OCHA agency in the Palestinian territories, said on Wednesday that about 1.9 million people are thought to be displaced in Gaza.

“We estimate that nine in every 10 people in the Gaza Strip have been internally displaced at least once, if not up to 10 times, unfortunately, since October,” he told reporters.

“Before we were estimating 1.7 (million) but since that number, we had the operation in Rafah, and we had additional displacement from Rafah,” he said, explaining the increase.

“Then we had also operations in the north that [have] also moved people,” he added.

He said such military operations had forced people to reset their lives, over and over again.

“Behind these numbers, there are people … that have fears and grievances. And they had probably dreams and hopes; the less and less, I fear today, unfortunately,” De Domenico said.

“People who in the last nine months have been moved around like pawns in a board game.”

He said the Gaza Strip had been cut in two by Israel’s military operations, with OCHA estimating that there were 300,000-350,000 people living in the north of the besieged territory who were unable to go to the south.

Meanwhile, he added that since the war began, an estimated 110,000 people had managed to leave the Gaza Strip before the Rafah crossing into Egypt was closed in early May.

De Domenico said some had remained in Egypt while others had since moved onwards.

The bloodiest-ever Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s 7 October attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza including 42 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive since then has killed at least 37,953 people, also mostly civilians, according to data from the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

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Gretchen Whitmer wants to meet far-right plotters who tried to kill her, book reveals

Exclusive: Michigan governor and potential Biden replacement writes in memoir True Gretch of desire for ‘face-to-face’ talks

Gretchen Whitmer, the governor of Michigan widely spoken of as a possible Democratic candidate for president should Joe Biden cede to growing pressure and leave the race, wants to meet members of a far-right militia who plotted to kidnap and kill her.

“I asked whether I could meet with one of the handful of plotters who’d pleaded guilty and taken responsibility for their actions, just to talk,” Whitmer writes in a new book, of the plot motivated by resistance to Covid public health measures and revealed with 13 arrests in late 2020.

The attorney general of Michigan, Dana Nessel, said it might be possible to talk to the plotters, Whitmer writes, though it has not happened, due to “all the various trials and appeals.

“But I do look forward to being able to sit and talk, face-to-face. To ask the questions and really hear the answers. And hopefully to take some small step toward understanding.”

As described by Nessel’s office, the affair of the “Wolverine Watchmen” resulted in “20 state felonies against eight individuals alleged to have engaged in the planning and training for an operation to attack the state Capitol and kidnap government officials.” Five men were convicted.

Federal charges were filed against six more men, four of whom were convicted. Two pled guilty to conspiracy charges and co-operated with prosecutors.

Whitmer describes the plot, and how she coped with it and other threats from the armed pro-Trump far right, in True Gretch: What I’ve Learned About Life, Leadership, and Everything in Between. The book will be published in the US next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.

Given Whitmer’s presence in the ranks of proposed replacements for Biden after the president’s disastrous debate against Donald Trump escalated Democratic panic last week, the governor’s book will be eagerly read.

Whitmer has said she does not want to replace Biden but that has not stopped speculation. On Wednesday, she was due to be among Democratic governors meeting Biden at the White House.

Though True Gretch is a standard campaign-oriented biography – perhaps intended as a marker for a run in 2028 – Whitmer does not shy from describing the violent plot against her.

Describing plotters’ threats such as “Grab the fuckin’ governor, just grab the bitch” and “Just cap her”, she considers the toll taken on her husband and daughters as well as on herself.

She describes how her husband was forced by threats to close his dental practice; how her two daughters have refused to go back to a family cottage the plotters were revealed to have “scoped out”; and her own disappointment when two men were acquitted.

Despite it all, showing willingness to bridge the sort of jagged partisan divide that affects the battleground state of Michigan, and the US as a whole, Whitmer insists she wants to talk to those who wanted to kill her.

Elsewhere in the book, the governor does shy away from one thing: open discussion of any ambitions for national office.

In fairness, True Gretch was written before Biden’s hold on the presidency began to be seriously questioned by Democratic politicians, pundits and strategists, concerned that at 81 the former senator and vice-president is proving himself too old to beat Trump and serve a second term.

Whitmer’s readers, however, may spot allusions to higher ambitions now thrown into sharp relief.

Chapter four, describing Whitmer’s first steps as governor of Michigan and the challenge of dealing with extreme cold weather, is titled “Surround Yourself with Great People – and Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help”.

In Chapter 10, Whitmer describes how she prepares for campaign debates, the sort of challenge Biden failed so starkly.

Whitmer’s chapter title is “Be a Happy Warrior” – a label defined by dictionary.com as “a person … undiscouraged by difficulties or opposition” and in US politics perennially linked to Alfred E Smith, Hubert Humphrey, Ronald Reagan and others who ran for president with a determinedly optimistic message.

In her epilogue, Whitmer moves from Reagan to another Republican: Theodore Roosevelt. In “every campaign, and during every term I serve”, she writes, she shares the 26th president’s “Man in the Arena” speech.

In that speech, given in Paris in April 1910, Roosevelt said: “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Whitmer’s use of the quote may strike a chord with Democrats panicked by Biden and now looking the governor’s way. So might what Whitmer writes next.

“Though these words were written more than a hundred years ago, they’re just as true today – except for two things. The “man” may be a woman. And she may just be wearing fuchsia.”

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Mayor of city in south-east Ukraine says kindergartens were among buildings hit in strike that killed at least five people. What we know on day 862

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  • A day of mourning has been announced for Thursday after a Russian missile and drone strike killed at least five people and wounded 53 in the south-eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Wednesday. Borys Filatov, the city’s mayor, said on Telegram that the attack damaged kindergartens, schools and hospitals and caused fires across the city. Commercial buildings were also damaged, officials said. As part of a plea for more air defences and long-range weapons, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy published footage on Telegram showing a large explosion in the sky followed by a fireball shooting down towards the ground. “This Russian terror can only be stopped by modern air defences and our long-ranged weapons,” Zelenskiy said. “The world can protect lives, and only the decisiveness of leaders is needed.” Olha, the manager of a cafe that was hit, told Reuters: “Inside, everything is damaged, outside everything is also damaged. I’ve got jitters on my body, my hands … it’s all very complicated and scary.”

  • Three young brothers have been sentenced in Russia to 17 years in prison for trying to cross into Ukraine to join a unit of Russians fighting on Kyiv’s side. Ioann Ashcheulov, 24, was sentenced to 17 and a half years by a Moscow military court while his brothers – Alexei, 20, and 19-year-old Timofey – were handed 17 years, Russian state media reported. “I believe the Russian leadership, in the name of the Russian state, has committed a huge crime, the biggest of the 21st century,” Ioann Ashcheulov said at the sentencing for treason, according to the Mediazona independent news site. “My actions … were an attempt to stop this crime,” he said. He stressed he did not believe himself to be a “traitor to Russia”, saying: “I am not obliged to support everything the government of the country in which I was born [is doing].” The trio are the sons of a Russian Orthodox priest – Igor Ashcheulov – who preaches in the western Lipetsk region. The head of the Russian Orthodox church, Patriarch Kirill, has sanctified Moscow’s war.

  • The UN general assembly will keep standing up for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty whatever the outcome of national elections across the globe this year, its president, Dennis Franci, has told the Associated Press during his first visit to Ukraine. “I am convinced that the people of Ukraine will not give up,” he said, whatever the election outcomes. “They will not accept it and they will not allow foreign domination of their homeland.” Speaking in Kyiv at the end of a two-day visit, Francis called on Russia “to withdraw immediately all its military forces from the territory of Ukraine” – a reference to a general assembly resolution that was approved shortly after the outbreak of the war. Francis met Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and pledged support for Zelenskiy’s peace plan.

  • Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan has told Vladimir Putin that Ankara could help end the Ukraine-Russia war, an offer dismissed by Putin’s spokesperson. Erdoğan, speaking to the Russian president on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Kazakhstan on Wednesday, said he believed a fair peace suiting both sides was possible, the Turkish presidency said. However, Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, ruled out any role as a go-between for the Turkish leader. “No, it’s not possible,” said Peskov, according to the Russian Tass news agency, without giving further details. Turkey is a member of Nato, but unlike other Nato leaders, Erdoğan has tried to maintain good relations with both Russia and Ukraine throughout the conflict.

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French PM says efforts to prevent far-right majority can succeed

Gabriel Attal urges on campaign to peg back rise of National Rally as candidates pull out to avoid splitting vote

France’s prime minister has said nationwide efforts to prevent Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) winning an outright majority in parliament could succeed, after more than 200 candidates pulled out of Sunday’s legislative election runoff to avoid splitting the anti-far-right vote.

“We can avoid an absolute majority for the far right,” Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday, adding that 90% of candidates from President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist camp had quit three-way races if they were in third with an RN candidate ahead of them.

RN and its potential future prime minister, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, finished a comfortable first in last Sunday’s first-round election with 33% of the vote, followed by the New Popular Front (NFP) alliance on 28% and the president’s Together alliance on 20%.

A historically high turnout dramatically boosted the number of second-round contests featuring three candidates to more than 300, increasing the anti-immigrant party’s chances of securing the 289 seats it would need for an absolute majority.

Although accurate seat projections are difficult before the shape of each constituency contest is known, pollsters’ initial estimates suggested RN could return as many as 300 deputies.

The high number of runoff withdrawals makes that less likely, and one poll released on Wednesday predicted the RN would fall short of a majority on Sunday, with between 190 and 220 seats. The Harris Interactive poll had the NPF in second place, with 159-183, and Macron’s centrist camp in third with 110-135.

Attal said centrist candidates were right to stand down even in favour of a rival from the radical-left France Unbowed (LFI), part of the NFP leftwing alliance. “Neither LFI or NFP can win an absolute majority,” he said. “RN can.”

He added: “What’s at stake is to do everything so that the extreme right does not have an absolute majority. It is not nice for some French to have to block … by voting in a way they did not want to. I say it’s our responsibility to do this.”

According to Le Monde, 221 candidates, including 132 from NFP and 83 from Macron’s camp and its allies, had withdrawn from potential three-way runoffs by the Tuesday evening deadline, leaving 94 so-called “triangular” contests.

The “republican front”, aimed at shutting the far right out of power, has long been a feature of French politics but had shown signs of fraying in recent elections as voters tired of having to vote against candidates they disliked rather than for those they backed.

While the parties have largely swung behind it, this time there is no guarantee centrist voters will be prepared to vote for candidates from the far-left LFI, or that leftwing voters angry with Macron will be happy to cast their ballots for candidates from his camp.

Asked about calls for the creation of a provisional cross-party government in the event of a hung parliament, Attal repeated his proposal for a range of mainstream parties to cooperate on individual pieces of legislation. “I hope the Together camp is as big as possible. After that, we will seek to secure majorities on a project-by-project basis,” he said.

The former prime minister Édouard Philippe called on Wednesday for a more formal broad-based coalition. He said such an alliance could run from “the conservative right to social democrats”, but would exclude the far left, saying there could be “no discussion about a coalition with LFI”. Many centrists argue the radical-left party, which believes traditional parties no longer serve democracy, does not share “republican values”.

Le Pen said on Tuesday that she could try to form a rightwing coalition with MPs from other parties if RN fell short of an absolute majority. Bardella had previously said he would only form a government with a sufficiently strong mandate.

She said her party would seek to form a government with “for example, 270 MPs”, which would require it to find support from a further 19 to govern. “If we then have a majority, then yes, of course, we’ll go and do what the voters elected us to do,” she said.

With RN already supporting dozens of dissident candidates from the divided centre-right Les Républicains party, however, most analysts believe the far-right party will have difficulty recruiting more than a handful more supporters in parliament.

The government spokesperson, Priscille Thevenot, on Wednesday dismissed claims by Le Pen of an “administrative coup d’état” by Macron after the president made a number of senior public sector appointments between the two rounds of voting.

“We knew that Marine Le Pen lies, now we know she also manipulates information,” Thevenot said after a cabinet meeting. She said a similar number of nominations were made every week and these had been “completely routine” and “nothing specific”.

The UN human rights chief on Wednesday warned of a hardening of rhetoric in recent months, including hate speech and dehumanising language against immigrants and other minorities, linked to elections in Europe and elsewhere.

“This is an alarm bell,” Volker Turk said. Turk refused to comment on specific elections but said: “Narratives that denigrate the other, that dehumanise, that make scapegoats of migrants or refugees or asylum seekers or minority groups” are on the rise.

Several RN candidates have been deselected or are the target of judicial investigations after media revelations of allegedly racist or discriminatory remarks and social media posts. Bardella said on Wednesday it “could happen” that there were “black sheep” among the party’s candidates but added that he was dealing with them firmly.

Analysts say the most likely outcome of the second-round vote is a hung parliament that could lead to months of political paralysis. The chaos also risks damaging the international credibility of Macron, who has not spoken in public since last week.

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French PM says efforts to prevent far-right majority can succeed

Gabriel Attal urges on campaign to peg back rise of National Rally as candidates pull out to avoid splitting vote

France’s prime minister has said nationwide efforts to prevent Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) winning an outright majority in parliament could succeed, after more than 200 candidates pulled out of Sunday’s legislative election runoff to avoid splitting the anti-far-right vote.

“We can avoid an absolute majority for the far right,” Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday, adding that 90% of candidates from President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist camp had quit three-way races if they were in third with an RN candidate ahead of them.

RN and its potential future prime minister, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, finished a comfortable first in last Sunday’s first-round election with 33% of the vote, followed by the New Popular Front (NFP) alliance on 28% and the president’s Together alliance on 20%.

A historically high turnout dramatically boosted the number of second-round contests featuring three candidates to more than 300, increasing the anti-immigrant party’s chances of securing the 289 seats it would need for an absolute majority.

Although accurate seat projections are difficult before the shape of each constituency contest is known, pollsters’ initial estimates suggested RN could return as many as 300 deputies.

The high number of runoff withdrawals makes that less likely, and one poll released on Wednesday predicted the RN would fall short of a majority on Sunday, with between 190 and 220 seats. The Harris Interactive poll had the NPF in second place, with 159-183, and Macron’s centrist camp in third with 110-135.

Attal said centrist candidates were right to stand down even in favour of a rival from the radical-left France Unbowed (LFI), part of the NFP leftwing alliance. “Neither LFI or NFP can win an absolute majority,” he said. “RN can.”

He added: “What’s at stake is to do everything so that the extreme right does not have an absolute majority. It is not nice for some French to have to block … by voting in a way they did not want to. I say it’s our responsibility to do this.”

According to Le Monde, 221 candidates, including 132 from NFP and 83 from Macron’s camp and its allies, had withdrawn from potential three-way runoffs by the Tuesday evening deadline, leaving 94 so-called “triangular” contests.

The “republican front”, aimed at shutting the far right out of power, has long been a feature of French politics but had shown signs of fraying in recent elections as voters tired of having to vote against candidates they disliked rather than for those they backed.

While the parties have largely swung behind it, this time there is no guarantee centrist voters will be prepared to vote for candidates from the far-left LFI, or that leftwing voters angry with Macron will be happy to cast their ballots for candidates from his camp.

Asked about calls for the creation of a provisional cross-party government in the event of a hung parliament, Attal repeated his proposal for a range of mainstream parties to cooperate on individual pieces of legislation. “I hope the Together camp is as big as possible. After that, we will seek to secure majorities on a project-by-project basis,” he said.

The former prime minister Édouard Philippe called on Wednesday for a more formal broad-based coalition. He said such an alliance could run from “the conservative right to social democrats”, but would exclude the far left, saying there could be “no discussion about a coalition with LFI”. Many centrists argue the radical-left party, which believes traditional parties no longer serve democracy, does not share “republican values”.

Le Pen said on Tuesday that she could try to form a rightwing coalition with MPs from other parties if RN fell short of an absolute majority. Bardella had previously said he would only form a government with a sufficiently strong mandate.

She said her party would seek to form a government with “for example, 270 MPs”, which would require it to find support from a further 19 to govern. “If we then have a majority, then yes, of course, we’ll go and do what the voters elected us to do,” she said.

With RN already supporting dozens of dissident candidates from the divided centre-right Les Républicains party, however, most analysts believe the far-right party will have difficulty recruiting more than a handful more supporters in parliament.

The government spokesperson, Priscille Thevenot, on Wednesday dismissed claims by Le Pen of an “administrative coup d’état” by Macron after the president made a number of senior public sector appointments between the two rounds of voting.

“We knew that Marine Le Pen lies, now we know she also manipulates information,” Thevenot said after a cabinet meeting. She said a similar number of nominations were made every week and these had been “completely routine” and “nothing specific”.

The UN human rights chief on Wednesday warned of a hardening of rhetoric in recent months, including hate speech and dehumanising language against immigrants and other minorities, linked to elections in Europe and elsewhere.

“This is an alarm bell,” Volker Turk said. Turk refused to comment on specific elections but said: “Narratives that denigrate the other, that dehumanise, that make scapegoats of migrants or refugees or asylum seekers or minority groups” are on the rise.

Several RN candidates have been deselected or are the target of judicial investigations after media revelations of allegedly racist or discriminatory remarks and social media posts. Bardella said on Wednesday it “could happen” that there were “black sheep” among the party’s candidates but added that he was dealing with them firmly.

Analysts say the most likely outcome of the second-round vote is a hung parliament that could lead to months of political paralysis. The chaos also risks damaging the international credibility of Macron, who has not spoken in public since last week.

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Germany’s first African-born MP to stand down after racist abuse

Karamba Diaby’s announcement he wants to spend time with family comes after bullet and arson attacks on his office

The first African-born MP to enter the German parliament has announced he will not be standing in next year’s federal election, weeks after he revealed the hate mail, including racist slurs and death threats, he and his staff had received.

Karamba Diaby, 62, who entered the Bundestag in 2013 in a moment hailed as historic by equality campaigners, said he wanted to spend more time with his family and to make room for younger politicians.

But his announcement comes just weeks after he laid out a litany of hate messages he and his parliamentary staff had received.

Diaby said the racist slurs and death threats were “not the main reasons” for his decision, having frequently emphasised he would not be cowed by threats. But they are widely believed they have played a part.

In interviews, Diaby has emphasised an increasingly hostile mood in parliament and society, blaming the 2017 entry of the far-right populist AfD to the Bundestag.

“Since 2017, the tone in the German parliament has become harsher,” he told the Berlin Playbook podcast of the news magazine Politico. “We hear aggressive speeches from colleagues of the AfD.

“We hear derogatory and hurtful content in these contributions. That is truly a totally new situation compared to the period between 2013 and 2017. This aggressive style of talking is fertile breeding ground for the violence and aggression on the streets.”

Diaby, of the Social Democrats (SPD), entered parliament alongside Charles M Huber, who sat for the Christian Democrats for just one parliamentary term. They were the first black members of the Bundestag and their entry was hailed as groundbreaking and historic by equal rights campaigners.

Diaby, who has a PhD in chemistry, was born in Senegal and moved to the then East Germany in 1985.

He has increasingly faced racist abuse in recent years. His constituency office in Halle, Saxony Anhalt, has been an arson target, and has had bullets fired through the window. Some staff have faced blackmail attempts to stop them working for him and have been subjected to and threats, Diaby said.

“In the last few years I’ve faced several murder threats. This has now overstepped the mark,” he said. “The hatred that the AfD sows every day with its misanthropic narratives is reflected in concrete psychological and physical violence. This endangers the cohesion of our society. We cannot simply accept this.”

Writing to party colleagues on Tuesday, Diaby promised to remain active in the SPD, especially in the 15 months leading to the election, saying: “We face big challenges and hard work.”

He added: “At the same time, I’m looking forward to having more time for my family and friends and our allotment.”

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Nearly 30,000 people in northern California evacuated as raging wildfire spreads

Thompson fire near Oroville destroys homes and vehicles as state simmers in brutal and potentially historic heatwave

Thousands of homes are under threat from a raging wildfire that erupted in northern California on Tuesday, as the state simmers in a brutal and potentially historic heatwave.

Roughly 28,000 residents have been forced to evacuate as the Thompson fire quickly swept across more than 3,500 acres (1,416 hectares) near the city of Oroville, about an hour outside Sacramento, California’s capital.

Photojournalists captured intense scenes on Tuesday night as the blaze tore through homes and vehicles in the rural enclave in Butte county. Officials confirmed that at least four structures have been destroyed.

More than 1,400 fire personnel from across the state have deployed to battle the blaze, which was at 0% containment Wednesday afternoon. Eight injuries have been confirmed by officials, at least half of whom were firefighters, as dangerously high temperatures continue to threaten their health and safety.

Ed Fletcher, a public information officer with CalFire said the agency goes to great lengths to ensure firefighters have relief and rest but the already challenging work is only made harder in extreme conditions.

“The combination of events has presented a huge challenge for firefighters,” he said, urging the public to take extra precautions to limit new fire starts that can quickly spread crews thin, especially as temperatures spike.

“It’s a tough thing to do,” he said. “You are asking people to hike up a mountain when it’s 108F outside.”

The California governor, Gavin Newsom, declared a state of emergency on Wednesday to ensure resources are readily available to support response and recovery to the fire.

Newsom said on Tuesday that California had secured a fire management assistance grant (FMAG) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) to cover some of the costs associated with firefighting. Earlier in the week, Newsom had activated the state 0perations center to coordinate the response to wildfires and excessive heat across the state.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The blaze comes as California was on high alert for wildfires, with high temperatures and gusty winds exacerbating fire risks that rise on the Fourth of July, when hot dry weather aligns with explosive celebrations. Across the country, more than 18,500 fires ignite on average due to Independence Day celebrations, whether from errant fireworks or badly tended campfires.

Fire crews are battling more than a dozen blazes that have erupted since Monday, as the state braces for intensifying conditions. Fire activity and fire behavior this week are likely to be extreme, and new ignitions may become difficult to contain.

“It’s going to be a challenge both day and night – so the message is prevention,” said the Cal Fire deputy director Nick Schuler. The agency is at peak staffing levels to prepare for what is expected to be an extremely busy week, extending into an extremely busy summer.

As the temperatures rise, so do the dangers.

Starting on Wednesday, parts of the state will be subject to “extreme” levels of heat risk – the highest level on the National Weather Service’s index. The extreme conditions could last until Sunday or longer, authorities warned. In some areas, life-threatening triple-digit temperatures could linger for longer than a week.

Temperatures in the state capital, Sacramento, were forecasted to reach between 105F and 115F (40.5C and 46.1C) – conditions that could last until Sunday.

“This is going to be a severe, prolonged, potentially record-breaking heatwave that may have large impacts for much of California,” said climate scientist Dr Daniel Swain during a broadcast discussion of the heat event on Monday. The long duration will only add to the potential impacts and intensity, especially because little relief can be expected even after the sun sets. “It just isn’t going to cool off – even at night,” Swain said.

The heat was expected to linger through the holiday weekend, and hit inland areas like Sacramento, the San Joaquin valley and the southern deserts the worst.

The torrid conditions were being caused by a ridge of high pressure just off the west coast and a separate ridge that spawned heat warnings and advisories from Kansas and Missouri to the Gulf coast states, according to the National Weather Service. By Wednesday morning, more than 129 million people across the country were under heat alerts.

Extreme heat is the most deadly type of weather-related disaster, experts say. The dangerous weather conditions this week will pose health risks to large swaths of the population, forecasters cautioned, in particular to people unable to access cooling.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

More on extreme heat and wildfires in the US

  • Brutal heatwave cooks US west during holiday week

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  • Visualized: the parts of the US where summer heat has risen the most

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Mark Cavendish powers to record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage win

  • Cavendish victorious on stage five of this year’s race
  • 39-year-old overtakes Eddy Merckx in history books
  • In pictures: Cavendish’s greatest Tour stage wins

Mark Cavendish broke new ground in the Tour de France, becoming the most prolific stage winner in the history of the French race, as he took a record-breaking 35th victory with a typically instinctive sprint finish in Saint-Vulbas.

It may not have been as grand as the Champs Élysées, but when the moment came on the Avenue des Bergeries, in a suburban town better known for its boulodromes than for its sprint spectacles, the 39-year-old from the Isle of Man kept his date with destiny.

“You have to go all in,” he said, “and we’ve done it. We worked out exactly what we wanted to do, how we built the team, the equipment. Every detail has gone ­specifically into today.”

The Cavendish who threaded his way expertly through a chaotic melee to eclipse Eddy Merckx’s longstanding record of 34 stage wins was a million miles from the rider who had sweated and vomited his way through the Tour’s first stage, five days earlier.

“You know when things are going right, you know when the team’s dialled in,” he said. “It’s more to do with the belief and confidence you have and I think you saw in the final half of the stage today, my boys were committed.”

Cavendish comebacks have become legendary but this was perhaps the greatest triumph over adversity of all, given how hard he had to battle to get through Saturday’s stage from Florence to Rimini. “It normally takes me days to get into it,” Cavendish said. “I’ve done 15 Tours now. I don’t like having bad days, I don’t like to suffer, but I know it’s just in the head and if you get through it, you can have an opportunity.

“Things have to go your way. It’s the Tour de France. You’re never going to feel fresh in this bike race. I think that’s the same for anyone.”

Even on the first sprint stage, into Turin on Monday, he was stymied by a crash in the last three kilometres. This time, however, the stars aligned once more for Cavendish, with both the peloton and the weather in south-eastern France playing ball.

He is one of the most hardened professionals in World Tour cycling, but he is also one of the most sentimental: a fearless sprinter who places huge value on loyalty, team spirit and togetherness. Cavendish has often insisted that he has not been obsessive about breaking Merckx’s record, but the joy evident on his face, and those of his colleagues in the peloton, revealed the truth.

“I just want to be with everyone,” he said after his win, referring to the many teammates, friends and helpers who have supported him through his 15 Tour appearances.

For win 35, he and his Astana Qazaqstan team were in the zone for much of the final 40km, shepherding him expertly into the closing moments. With 24km to go and the surfaces drying out after an earlier downpour, he and his teammates stubbornly hugged the right-hand side of the road and maintained the steady pace that had characterised much of an uneventful stage.

But with 5km to go, things got messy as the Lotto Dstny team took over the pace making. Suddenly, Cavendish faced a fight on his hands to regain a good position. Despite the expectations and the pressure building to succeed, he kept his cool and navigated his way to the front, before unleashing his sprint with perfect timing.

As he has shown in the past, he sprints as successfully using guile, nous and experience, as he does relying on his team. Fittingly, for his record-breaking win, this was a ­classic example of those instincts.

In the end it looked almost easy. The rival who frustrated him last year in Bordeaux, Jasper Philipsen of Alpecin-Deceuninck, experienced what so many others before him had in the Tour, as the Manx Missile, head down, crouched over his handlebars and left him behind.

“You know what you have to do,” Cavendish said. “I know the final, I go through it in my head. I stay calm, I trust in my boys and I know I’m in with the best shot.”

From a tearful teenager making his world championships debut in 2005 and winning a gold medal, to a similarly tearful father of five, Cavendish has always worn his heart on his sleeve. Most in the race convoy are familiar with his many moods, whether it’s been happy Cav, sentimental Cav, tetchy Cav or fired-up Cav. For his sprint rivals, calm Cav may be the most daunting of all.

As he celebrated his 35th Tour success in 16 seasons and repaid the faith shown in him by the team manager, Alexandre Vinokourov, the prospect of yet more wins came into view. Dijon’s Cours General de Gaulle, scene of the finish of Thursday’s flat sixth stage, awaits.

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Oldest known picture story is a 51,000-year-old Indonesian cave painting

New dating technique finds painting on island of Sulawesi is 6,000 years older than previous record holder

The world’s oldest known picture story is a cave painting almost 6,000 years older than the previous record holder, found about 10km away on the same island in Indonesia, an international team of archaeologists has said.

The painting, believed to be at least 51,200 years old, was found at Leang Karampuang cave on the east Indonesian island of Sulawesi, researchers from Griffith University, Southern Cross University and the Indonesian National Research and Innovation Agency wrote in the journal Nature.

Samples were collected in 2017, but weren’t dated until earlier this year.

The previous record holder was a lifesize picture of a wild pig believed to be created at least 45,500 years ago in a cave at Leang Tedongnge.

The recently discovered painting is of three therianthropes – or human-animal hybrids – and a wild pig.

Adhi Agus Oktaviana, the lead author and a PhD student at Griffith University, said the findings were “very surprising … none of the famous European ice age art is anywhere near as old as this with the exception of some controversial finds in Spain”.

Spanish scientists have previously claimed art at three sites – in Cantabria, Andalusia and Extremadura – was more than 64,000 years old. However, according to Dr Tristen Jones, a rock art expert at the University of Sydney, those findings were “largely rejected by the international science community”.

Jones said it was unclear if the Spanish researchers dated limestone that had formed on top of the art, or if the limestone had formed elsewhere. The findings were also controversial because the researchers argued Neanderthals made the art. It had previously been believed that only modern humans made art.

Jones said the Spanish researchers had not clearly established the crusts that were sampled formed on top of the art. The findings were also controversial because the researchers argued Neanderthals made the art.

The finding contradicts the academic view that early figurative cave art consisted of single figure panels rather than scenes where figures interacted with each other.

The researchers used uranium series dating to date the layers of calcium carbonate that had formed on top of the art. It involved extracting limestone samples that were then vaporised with a laser. The age of the sample was calculated by measuring the ratio of thorium to uranium.

The researchers said this method allowed the layers to be dated more accurately by ensuring younger and older materials were not mixed together.

The researchers also dated art at a nearby cave – Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 – that was previously believed to be the oldest cave art in the world. They found that the artwork, once believed to be at least 44,000 years old, was at least 48,000 years old.

However, the site of the former oldest known cave painting at Leang Tedongnge could not be dated using the newer method, as there was no calcium carbonate material remaining.

Jones said the new method was “a major leap forward in tightening up the resolution and accuracy of dating”. Typically, she said, rock art is extremely difficult to date as the art is predominately made from minerals.

Adam Brumm, a professor from Griffith University who jointly led the study, said that in the hundreds of excavations he had conducted in the region, there were frequent depictions of the warty pig. “They were clearly economically important to these elite people,” he said. “We can see they were also important to them symbolically and perhaps even spiritually”.

However, the researchers said the events taking place in the artwork were “difficult to interpret”, and it was unclear what animals inspired the human-animal hybrids as they were drawn as “essentially stick figures”.

“For whatever reason … early humans … [are] rarely depicted any form that could be reasonably interpreted as a human,” Brumm said. “Animals were often drawn with incredible anatomical fidelity, but [early cave painters] put less effort into doing that.”

He said the researchers were fairly certain one of the human-animal hybrids was a human with the head of a bird, and another had a tail, believed to be that of a civet.

“Storytelling is a hugely important part of human evolution and possibly even helps to explain our success as a species, but finding evidence for it in art, especially in very early cave art, is exceptionally rare.”

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