BBC 2024-07-05 08:07:23


Starmer set to be PM as Tories face worst defeat – exit poll

By Brian WheelerPolitical reporter

Labour is set to win a general election landslide with a majority of 170, according to an exit poll for the BBC, ITV and Sky.

If the forecast is accurate, Sir Keir Starmer will become prime minister with 410 Labour MPs – just short of Tony Blair’s 1997 total.

The Conservatives are predicted to slump to 131 MPs, their lowest number ever.

The Liberal Democrats are projected to come third with 61 MPs.

The Scottish National Party will see its number of MPs fall to 10, while Reform UK is forecast to get 13 MPs, according to the exit poll.

The Green Party of England and Wales is predicted to double its number of MPs to two and Plaid Cymru is set to get four MPs. Others are forecast to get 19 seats.

The exit poll, overseen by Sir John Curtice and a team of statisticians, is based on data from voters at about 130 polling stations in England, Scotland and Wales. The poll does not cover Northern Ireland.

At the past five general elections, the exit poll has been accurate to within a range of 1.5 and 7.5 seats.

If the exit poll is correct it will be a remarkable turnaround for the Labour Party, which had its worst post-war election result in 2019, when the Conservatives under Boris Johnson won an 80 seat majority.

The Conservatives may avoid the wipe-out predicted by some opinion polls but they are still set for the worst result in the party’s history, losing 241 MPs – a devastating blow after 14 years in government.

It will mean a Labour prime minister in Downing Street for the first time since 2010 and a battle for the future direction of the Conservatives if, as seems likely, Rishi Sunak stands down as leader.

The Tory losses are likely to have been inflicted by the resurgent Liberal Democrats and Nigel Farage’s Reform UK, which looks set to win more seats than many polls predicted.

We will have to wait until the early hours, when the bulk of results start rolling in, to see if the exit poll is accurate.

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Labour’s predicted landslide would be just short of the 179 majority won by Tony Blair in 1997 and the party may achieve it on a smaller share of the vote than former leader Jeremy Corbyn won in 2017, according to Sir John Curtice.

But it will be seen as a vindication of Sir Keir Starmer’s efforts to change his party and move it back to the centre ground of British politics.

Labour shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson won the Houghton and Sunderland South constituency, in the first result of the night.

She said in her victory speech: “Tonight the British people have spoken, and if the exit poll this evening is again a guide to results across our country as it so often is, then after 14 years the British people have chosen change.

“They have chosen Labour and they have chosen the leadership of Keir Starmer. Today our country with its proud history has chosen a brighter future.”

In a pattern repeated in two other early results from North-East England, the Reform UK candidate came second ahead of the Conservatives by a large margin.

In a social media message, Reform UK leader Nigel Farage predicted his party was going to win “many, many seats,” adding: “This, folks, is huge.”

The Liberal Democrats are, meanwhile, set to squeeze the Tory vote in the south of England, where a number of Conservative cabinet members, including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, are looking vulnerable.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “It looks like this will be our best result for a generation.”

Rishi Sunak had insisted he could still win right to the end despite failing to make a dent in Labour’s commanding opinion poll lead over the six-week campaign.

Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride told BBC Radio 4: “This is a very difficult moment for the Conservative Party.”

He said he was “very sorry” that the exit poll is projecting that a number of his colleagues will lose their seats. On keeping his own seat, he says “we will have to wait and see”.

On Wednesday – the day before the election – Mr Stride made headlines when he admitted he thought it was likely there would be a massive Labour majority, effectively conceding defeat.

Scotland’s former first minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “not a good night” for the SNP, which is predicted to lose 38 seats, adding that she believed the prediction would be “broadly right”.

Rishi Sunak surprised many in his own party by announcing a summer election.

But his campaign was hit by a series of gaffes, from the rain-drenched announcement in Downing Street to his decision to leave a D-Day celebration in Normandy early to record a TV interview and confused messaging about a Labour “super majority”.

What’s happened in UK election, and what comes next?

By Graeme BakerBBC News

Voting has ended and Britain’s Labour Party is projected to have won the UK’s general election with a landslide victory.

If the projection based on an exit poll is correct, Sir Keir Starmer’s centre-left party will return to power with a large majority after 14 years of right-wing government under the Conservatives.

And Mr Starmer, a former chief prosecutor and human rights lawyer, who only entered Parliament in 2015, will become the new UK prime minister on Friday.

Current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, will have led the Conservatives to their worst result in many decades.

Exit polls are not official results but they have proved increasingly accurate since the mid-1990s.

What comes next will be a long night of vote counting and there will undoubtedly be plenty of storylines to follow along the way.

Here’s what’s happening, and what it means.

What was the exit poll result?

Exit polls in recent elections have been a very reliable indicator of who will form the new government.

The UK runs a parliamentary system with 650 MPs, or members of parliament. Each of these represents an individual constituency – basically an area – somewhere in the country.

The exit poll projects Labour to win 410 seats, the Conservatives 131, the centrist Liberal Democrats 61 and Reform UK (a successor to the Brexit Party) 13. Other parties and independents will take the rest of the seats.

This result would give Labour a huge 170-seat majority. To compare, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s big victory in the 2019 election won his Conservatives a majority of 80 seats.

What happens now?

Right now, election officials in each constituency are busy counting votes, and at some point in the evening will declare their results. Whichever candidate gets the most votes wins and becomes the MP for the area.

Some local areas pride themselves on being among the first in the country to announce their winners. Houghton and Sunderland South was the first – returning Labour MP Bridget Phillipson – who is expected to become education secretary in the next government.

The announcement of results – often held in school halls – are usually televised. All candidates in a constituency – including those running as a joke – are present on stage.

So, on that note, watch out for Count Binface, who is challenging Mr Sunak in his northern English constituency (that seat is due to declare around 04:00 BST).

But perhaps of more political significance will be some of the senior Conservatives who will lose their seats.

Steve Baker, a cabinet minister, and Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader, are projected to have a less than 1% chance of keeping theirs.

Jeremy Hunt, who serves as chancellor – the UK’s equivalent of a finance minister – has a less than 20% chance.

Grant Shapps, the defence minister, and Johnny Mercer, the veterans minister, could also lose their seats.

When will we know the result?

That all depends. It will come when it’s clear which party will hit the magic number of 326 seats.

That figure represents a majority in parliament, meaning the party has enough MPs to be able to pass laws without needing the help of any other party.

The leader of the party with the most MPs becomes prime minister, after the King officially invites them to form a government.

And the leader of the party with the second highest number of MPs becomes what’s known as the leader of the opposition.

If the incumbent prime minister loses, the changeover is quick, compared with many other countries.

So if this exit poll is correct, Mr Sunak will probably be out of 10 Downing Street – the UK equivalent of the White House – within a day, with Mr Starmer installed soon after.

Prof Sir John Curtice answers key election night questions

How did we get here?

In late May, facing a significant deficit in the polls, Rishi Sunak surprised many in his own party as well as political pundits by deciding to call a snap election, triggering a six-week campaign.

The Conservatives have held power since 2010 and the country has seen five leaders in that time – including a tumultuous period in 2022 when the UK had three prime ministers in a matter of weeks.

For its part, Labour hasn’t won a general election since 2005 and its last result in 2019 under left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn was its worst for almost a century.

Keir Starmer sought to show voters during the campaign that the party had moved on, and deserved to run the country after such a long period of Conservative government.

Mr Sunak, meanwhile, repeatedly warned voters against handing Labour a large majority.

Let’s talk about Reform UK

The insurgent party of this election has been Reform UK, the right-wing successor to the Brexit Party and the UK Independence Party, all of which have been led by Nigel Farage.

Neither UKIP nor the Brexit Party gained any seats in parliament at a general election. Now Reform is projected to get at least 13 – and early constituency results show big support.

In Houghton and Sunderland South, Sunderland Central, and Blyth and Ashington, the first three constituencies to declare, Reform came second to Labour but beat the Conservatives into third place.

Mr Farage could himself become an MP on the eighth time of trying. He’s standing in Clacton, in south-east England.

While exit polls show a Labour landslide, he said the results for his party showed that “the revolt against the establishment is under way”.

David Bull, of Reform, told the BBC the exit poll projection represented a “historic moment”.

“We are an insurgent party, this has come out of nowhere,” he said. “The shy Reformers [are] coming out in droves. Thirteen seats is extraordinary.

Reform drew controversy during the campaign over offensive statements made by some of its candidates and activists. One canvasser was filmed using a racial slur to describe Rishi Sunak.

Farage hails ‘unbelievable’ early results for Reform

By Becky MortonPolitical reporter

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has described early results for his party as “almost unbelievable”.

He pointed to the first two results in north-east England, where Reform easily beat the Conservatives to come second, winning almost 30% of the vote.

Reform, which was formed in 2018 as the Brexit Party, is forecast to win 13 MPs, according to an exit poll for the BBC, ITV and Sky.

This is more than many polls during the campaign had predicted.

However, the figure is highly uncertain, as the model suggests there are many places where the party only has a relatively low chance of winning.

Polling expert Sir John Curtice said Reform had benefited from a significant fall in the Conservative vote in seats the party had previously held, as well as advancing most in areas where people voted Leave in the 2016 referendum.

In an early sign of Reform’s success in winning over former Tory voters, the first two results of the night – in Blyth and Ashington and in Houghton and Sunderland South – saw the party beat the Conservatives by more than 4,000 vote.

The third result of the night, in Sunderland Central, followed a similar pattern, with the Reform candidate more than 5,000 votes ahead of his Tory opponent.

Reacting to the results, Mr Farage posted on social media: “The revolt against the establishment is under way.”

In a video he said the first two results from north-east England were “more than any possible prediction or projection”.

“It means we’re going to win seats, many, many seats I think right now across the country,” he said.

“This is going to be six million votes-plus. This folks, is huge.”

Among Reform’s top targets is Clacton in Essex, where Mr Farage is hoping to overturn a Conservative majority of 24,702.

The exit poll suggests a 99%-plus likelihood that Mr Farage will gain the seat.

Meanwhile, Lee Anderson, who became Reform’s first MP when he defected from the Conservatives in March, is also seeking to hold on to his Ashfield seat in Nottinghamshire.

Dr David Bull, the party’s co-deputy leader, told BBC Radio 4 if the exit poll was right “this is an historic breakthrough”.

He suggested so-called “shy Reformers” could be behind the party gaining more seats than expected, with some people unwilling to tell pollsters they were planning to vote for the party.

He added: “It is the beginning of a revolt. It is the beginning of the people saying we don’t like what’s going on in Westminster.”

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Mr Farage has said he is aiming for Reform to become the main opposition to Labour by the time of the next election.

His surprise announcement that he was standing in the election, after previously saying he would not, saw a jump in Reform’s poll ratings.

At the same time he took over from Richard Tice as Reform’s leader and he has played a prominent role in the party’s campaign.

The former UKIP and Brexit Party leader has stood unsuccessfully to be an MP seven times, most recently in South Thanet, Kent, in the 2015 general election, when he finished second behind the Tory candidate.

Clacton was the first constituency to elect a UKIP MP in 2014, after former Tory MP Douglas Carswell defected to the party and triggered a by-election, which he won.

He was unseated by Conservative Giles Watling in 2017, who is fighting to retain the seat.

More than 70% of voters in the Essex constituency supported leaving the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

In 2019 Reform’s previous incarnation, the Brexit Party, stood aside in more than 300 seats previously won by the Tories, amid concerns it could split the pro-Brexit vote.

However, this time the party contested 630 seats across England, Scotland and Wales.

Sir John Curtice: Understanding the exit poll numbers

By Sir John CurticeBBC polling expert

Labour have likely secured their anticipated landslide victory, though the party may have fallen just short of the majority Tony Blair won in the 1997 general election.

They may have achieved this on a smaller share of the vote than former leader Jeremy Corbyn secured in 2017.

Both the Conservative share of the vote and their seat tally could be the lowest in the party’s history. Their seat tally might be affected by their vote falling more heavily in seats where they were previously strongest – a pattern that is largely because support for Reform has risen most there.

To add to the Conservatives’ travails, the rise in Labour support is stronger in seats where the party started off second to them. Equally, the Lib Dems have performed especially well in seats where they started second to the Conservatives – and particularly in ones the party held until 2015.

It is these patterns that, above all, help explain why the Conservative seat tally is expected to be so low.

Sir John Curtice on Reform UK and SNP predictions

It appears the Conservatives have suffered heavily in places where more than a third of households have a mortgage – a reflection perhaps of the damage caused by former prime minister Liz Truss’s “fiscal event”.

It looks as though Reform UK may win more seats than many polls suggested. This is largely because the Conservative vote has fallen far in seats they previously held, but also because Reform have advanced most in seats where more people voted Leave in 2016. This is especially the case in seats being defended by the Conservatives.

Reform are also inevitably advancing more strongly in seats that the Conservatives won in 2017 – where the Brexit Party did not stand in 2019.

However, how many seats Reform will win is highly uncertain.

Our model suggests there are many places where they have a chance – but a relatively low one – of winning.

Labour’s vote rises in areas of poor health

Meanwhile, Labour’s vote is up more in seats where a large part of the population say they are in bad health – a measure of relative deprivation – and in places where more people voted Leave in 2016. The party also seems to be advancing strongly in Scotland but less well in Wales, where they have held power in the Senedd since 2021.

While the Lib Dems are doing relatively well in seats where they start second to the Tories, conversely their vote has been squeezed somewhat in places where the Conservatives were facing a challenge from Labour.

They also appear to be doing better in places with a relatively high Leave vote, which was one of Ed Davey’s objectives.

The Greens are performing particularly well in places where the population is relatively young. Their success in these places may help to explain why Labour’s share of the vote nationally might be less than 40%. The Greens may still only pick up two or three seats, despite recording their highest-ever general election vote share because of its even distribution across the country.

Questions remain in Scotland

In Scotland, it appears the SNP have suffered a more substantial reverse than was anticipated by most polls. Though the decline in the party’s support appears to be lower in places where a high proportion of people identify as Scottish rather than British.

The exit poll only has a small number of sampling points in Scotland. If the poll has even slightly overestimated Labour’s advantage over the SNP, the latter’s tally could end up being higher.

The forecast for the SNP – and for Scotland in general, where the exit poll is pointing to substantial Labour gains – must thus be treated with a great deal of caution.

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Exit poll: What is the forecast in my area?

The Labour Party is forecast to win a landslide majority in Parliament, according to an exit poll published as voting ended in the 2024 general election.

Labour is set to take 410 seats, well ahead of the Conservatives on 131, according to the forecast based on the poll carried out by Ipsos for the BBC, ITV News and Sky News.

This suggests Labour is on course for a majority of 170 seats, although they may have fallen just short of the majority Tony Blair won in 1997.

The Liberal Democrats are currently forecast to win 61 seats, Reform UK 13, the SNP 10, Plaid Cymru is on four and the Green Party two.

Other parties, including those in Northern Ireland, are forecast to get 19 seats.

Enter your postcode or a constituency name to find what the exit poll forecast is currently suggesting may happen in your area.

Bear in mind that this is only an indication of what may happen. Sir John Curtice, who leads the exit poll team, says the number of seats Reform will win is particularly uncertain.

He explains: “Our model suggests there are many places where they have some, but a relatively low, chance of winning.”

This look-up will be updated as results come in and the forecasts are modified.

What is the exit poll

The exit poll is a way of forecasting what may happen in the general election, after voting ends but before the results are known.

The poll focuses on revealing national trends and is mainly used to forecast which party may form the government at Westminster.

Forecasting results at a constituency level is harder, especially if there are local factors that make the election distinct in any particular seat.

Researchers at 133 polling stations across England, Scotland and Wales ask around 20,000 people to indicate which way they voted.

A team of academics led by Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, uses this and other data to estimate the vote share per party in each constituency and then to forecast each party’s likelihood of winning in any given seat.

All the individual probabilities are added together to arrive at the forecast seat totals for each party. The exit poll is not held in Northern Ireland so the 18 seats there are labelled “Other”.

The model is updated throughout the night as results come in, so seat totals and individual constituencies are likely to change.

Find out more

Pattern across Great Britain

These maps show the exit poll forecast across England, Wales and Scotland.

In the locations coloured grey, the contest is very close. Everywhere else is coloured by the party currently considered most likely to win.

When an actual result is declared it will overwrite the exit poll data in this map, and in the postcode lookup above.

Again, the forecasts may change over the night. You will need to refresh this page to see those updates.

Rural constituencies are larger than those in cities because the population is more spread out.

So here is the same data in a cartogram, where each constituency is shown as equal in size.

The cartogram is a way of viewing each seat as the same size, while attempting to show roughly where in the UK they are.

All the seats are correctly within the right nation and English region, but they may not follow typical geography beyond that.

There are some, mostly around London – whose high population density distorts the map most significantly – that are in different places to where you’d expect, no longer neighbouring the seats they lie next to geographically.

Note

All declaration times estimated by the BBC are approximate and the actual results may happen earlier or later than stated. As with the main results, all 2019 figures are notional, because of boundary changes. You can read more about that here.

Full details of how the exit poll methodology was developed can be found at Warwick University Department of Statistics website.

Credits

Look-up developed and designed by Scott Jarvis and Prina Shah, produced by Christine Jeavans. Cartogram template used with thanks to Philip Brown and Alasdair Rae.

Violent attacks shock France ahead of crunch vote

By Paul KirbyBBC News in Paris

A growing number of candidates and activists in France have been targeted with violent or verbal attacks in the run-up to Sunday’s tense final round of parliamentary elections.

Government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot was putting up election posters with her deputy and a party activist in Meudon, south-west of Paris, when they were brutally assaulted by a gang of youths.

Other election campaigners have come under attack across France, reflecting the febrile mood in politics with the far-right National Rally (RN) the front-runner in the election.

The motive for the attack on Ms Thevenot and her colleagues is not clear, but she returned to Meudon on Thursday with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who condemned “attacks of intolerable cowardice”.

Images filmed from a block of flats showed the youths swarming around the candidate, her deputy Virginie Lanlo and a party activist for President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble alliance.

Ms Thevenot told Le Parisien website that when she and her colleagues objected to the youths defacing party posters “they immediately attacked one of my activists, injuring Virginie”. Ms Lanlo suffered an arm injury, while the activist was punched and hit with a scooter, ending up with a broken jaw. The car windscreen was also smashed by the scooter.

Three teenagers and a man aged 20 were arrested by police and the incident was quickly condemned across the political spectrum.

Mr Attal called on people to “reject the climate of violence and hatred that’s taking hold”, while RN leader Jordan Bardella said one of his “big commitments as prime minister” would be to “combat record insecurity and repeat offending”.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has announced that 30,000 police will be deployed across France for Sunday’s vote in an attempt to prevent “the ultra-left or ultra-right” from stirring up trouble.

The BBC spoke to voters in his constituency in northern France on Thursday who said they feared youths would go on the rampage whoever won, to express their anger at the political system.

Law and order is one of RN’s big priorities, alongside immigration and tax cuts to target the cost-of-living crisis.

RN candidates have also come under attack. Marie Dauchy described being “violently assaulted” as she campaigned at a market in La Rochette near Grenoble in the south-east.

A conservative candidate allied with RN, Nicolas Conquer, complained that he and a female colleague had been pelted with eggs. And last month another RN candidate was treated in hospital after he was set upon while handing out pamphlets.

Having won 33.2% of the vote in the first round of the snap election, called out of the blue by President Macron, Mr Bardella’s party is now aiming to win an absolute majority in the 577-seat National Assembly.

But his political opponents have agreed to do all they can to block the far right from winning enough seats to form a government.

Seventy-six seats were won outright in the first round by candidates who won more than half the local vote in their constituency, including 39 RN candidates and their allies.

The other 501 seats will be settled in run-off votes, and 217 third-placed candidates have pulled out of the race to hand a rival a better chance of defeating RN. Of those 217 withdrawals, 130 candidates came from the left-wing New Popular Front and 81 from the Macron alliance.

Marine Le Pen has complained bitterly about the operation to secure “mass withdrawals”, and blamed those who sought to “stay in power against the will of the people”.

However, she said she thought there was still a chance of winning an absolute majority, if the electorate turned out in big numbers.

The latest Ifop poll suggests RN will win 210-240 seats, short of the 289 it needs to form a government. That is down on the 240-270 range of seats that it was estimated to win after the first round.

Nevertheless there is fear among some of France’s minorities of what RN might do if it gets into power.

It aims to give French citizens “national preference” over immigrants for jobs and housing and to abolish the right to automatic French citizenship for children of foreign parents, if those children have spent five years in France from the age of 11 to 18.

Dual citizens would also be barred from dozens of sensitive jobs.

One Muslim woman in a district that voted 54% for RN last Sunday told the BBC that RN was gaining ground with every election that took place.

On the eve of France’s quarter-final tie against Portugal in the European Championships in Germany, national football captain Kylian Mbappé called on voters to “make the right choice”.

After Sunday’s “catastrophic” first-round results, he said “we can’t put the country into the hands of those people”, without specifying who they were.

Israel tells Gaza ceasefire negotiators to resume work

By Raffi BergBBC News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to send a team of negotiators to discuss a hostage release deal with Hamas.

US President Joe Biden welcomed the development, which comes a day after Hamas responded to a Gaza ceasefire plan he outlined in late May. The last indirect talks took place in Cairo earlier that month.

Details of Hamas’s latest response have not been made public, but a Palestinian official told the BBC that the group was no longer demanding a full ceasefire at the outset of the plan presented by Mr Biden.

A senior US administration official said Hamas had agreed to “pretty significant adjustments” to its position.

“We’ve had a breakthrough on a critical impasse,” the US official said, although he stressed that “this does not mean this deal is going to be closed in the period of days”.

President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu held a phone call on Thursday, which focused on the hostages and ceasefire negotiations, the official said.

On Wednesday, Hamas’s political leadership said it had contacted mediators from Egypt and Qatar about ideas it had been discussing with the aim of reaching an agreement.

Up to now Hamas has demanded an end to the war and a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. Israel says it will accept only temporary pauses in the fighting, until it eliminates Hamas.

When he announced the plan on 31 May, President Biden said it was based on a more detailed Israeli proposal, and that it involved three phases.

The first would include a “full and complete ceasefire” lasting six weeks, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas of Gaza, and the exchange of some of the hostages – including women, the elderly and the sick or wounded – for Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

The second phase would involve the release of all other living hostages and a “permanent end to hostilities”. The third phase the start of a major reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of dead hostages’ remains.

After the two leaders’ phone call on Thursday, the Israeli government said in a statement: “Prime Minister Netanyahu updated President Biden on his decision to send a delegation to continue the hostage negotiations and reiterated the principles that Israel is committed to, especially its commitment to end the war only after all of its goals have been achieved.”

Mr Netanyahu has declared his objectives to be the return of all remaining hostages, the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities, and ensuring Gaza no longer constitutes a threat to Israel.

The White House said Mr Biden “welcomed the prime minister’s decision to authorise his negotiators to engage with US, Qatari, and Egyptian mediators in an effort to close out the deal”.

A source in the Israeli negotiating team meanwhile told Reuters news agency that Hamas’s response included “a very significant breakthrough” and that there was “a deal with a real chance of implementation”.

A senior Palestinian official told the BBC earlier on Thursday that Hamas had given up the demand for a complete ceasefire. Its new conditions, the official said, related to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from a strip of land running along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, known as the Philadelphi corridor, and from the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

The source, who was informed of the response Hamas submitted to the mediators, added that the atmosphere was positive. “We are going to a new round of negotiations soon,” the source said.

The US has accused Hamas of blocking progress towards a ceasefire.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the group was the “one exception” to international support for the ceasefire proposal. Hamas, he said, had created “gaps… in not saying yes to a proposal that everyone, including the Israelis, had said yes to”.

Prime Minister Netanyahu has said he is “committed to the Israeli proposal welcomed by President Biden”, although he has not publicly endorsed the outline as it was laid out.

The war was triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel on 7 October in which Hamas-led gunmen killed about 1,200 people and took 251 others back to Gaza as hostages.

At least 38,010 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s offensive, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Hamas and allied armed groups are believed to still be holding 116 hostages who were taken on 7 October. At least 42 are presumed by Israeli authorities to be dead.

The others have been released, rescued or their bodies recovered.

Four other Israelis have been held hostage since 2014 and 2015, two of whom are presumed dead.

US man jailed in Russia for 12 years on drug charges

By Matt MurphyBBC News

A US citizen has been sentenced to 12.5 years at a maximum security penal colony by a Russian court after being convicted on drugs charges.

Robert Woodland, 32, was detained in Moscow in January and accused by prosecutors of seeking to sell a large quantity of methadone. His lawyer told the Reuters news agency that he had partially confessed to the charges.

Mr Woodland, who was born in Russia and adopted when he was two, had travelled to the country in 2020 to find his birth mother. His journey was documented by a Russian reality TV programme.

He is the latest US citizen to be imprisoned in the country, with some Western officials suggesting the Kremlin is “hoarding” Americans to trade for allies and operatives imprisoned abroad.

In a statement released after Mr Woodland’s conviction on Thursday, Russian prosecutors said he had been caught while packaging a large quantity of narcotics at an apartment in the Russian capital.

They claimed he had been working with a large-scale criminal group and had transported 50-grams of the drug from a pick-up point outside the city.

His lawyer, Stanislav Kshevitsky, had initially denied the charges, saying officials had presented “no evidence” of drug sales before the court.

But he told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday that Mr Woodland had confessed to some of the allegations against him. It remains unclear which charges he has accepted.

Footage carried by state media in Russia showed Mr Woodland sitting inside a glass cage in court, staring impassively ahead as the verdict against him was read out.

Russian media reported that Mr Woodland decided to remain in the country after meeting his mother in 2020 and worked as an English teacher near Moscow. His tearful reunion with his mother was broadcast on state television at the time.

The Interfax news agency said he holds US and Russian citizenship.

At least a dozen US nationals, including journalists and active duty soldiers, are currently being held in Russian prisons and penal colonies.

Among those is Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter detained over a year ago on espionage charges which he denies. The US considers him to be “wrongfully detained”.

Western officials have long suspected that Moscow is seeking to detain Western citizens to use as bargaining chips in prisoner swaps. US law prohibits the payment of ransoms to terror groups, but successive administrations have been willing to offer concessions to other states to secure the release of Americans.

This is what happened to Brittney Griner, who was released at the end of 2022 in a prisoner swap with the US in return for the controversial Russian arms dealer Victor Bout.

While the US state department said earlier this year that it was aware of Mr Woodland’s case, it avoided commenting directly on the allegations.

Instead, it issued a statement saying it “has no greater priority than the safety and security of US citizens overseas”.

US officials have repeatedly warned US citizens in Russia to leave the country, citing the risk of wrongful arrest and harassment by authorities.

Hezbollah fires 200 rockets and drones into Israel

By David GrittenBBC News

The Lebanese armed group Hezbollah has launched more than 200 rockets and attack drones into northern Israel, in response to the killing of one of its senior commanders.

Israel’s military said one of its officers was killed in the barrage, which started a number of fires.

The military also said it had targeted Hezbollah “military structures” and other targets in southern Lebanon in response.

Lebanese media reported that one person was killed in an Israeli drone strike in the town of Houla.

The latest barrage, which followed one comprising 100 rockets on Wednesday afternoon, was one of the biggest so far in the nine months of cross-border violence which have raised fears of an all-out war.

The Hezbollah commander killed in an Israeli air strike near the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, Mohammed Nimah Nasser, was one of the most senior figures in the group to have been killed in the conflict.

The Israeli military said Nasser commanded Hezbollah’s Aziz Unit, which is responsible for launching rockets from south-western Lebanon, and accused him of directing a “large number of terror attacks”.

It also described him as “the counterpart” of Taleb Sami Abdullah, the commander of another unit whose killing last month prompted Hezbollah to launch more than 200 rockets and missiles into northern Israel in a single day.

There have been almost daily exchanges of fire across the Israel-Lebanon border since the day after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza on 7 October.

Hezbollah has said it is acting in support of the Palestinian group that is also backed by Iran. Both groups are proscribed as terrorist organisations by Israel, the UK and other countries.

So far, more than 400 people have been reported killed in Lebanon, the vast majority of them Hezbollah fighters, and 25 people in Israel, mostly soldiers.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to restore security in northern Israel.

“In the tough campaign against Lebanon we have set a principle – whoever harms us is a dead man. We are making that a reality in practice,” he said on Thursday.

The hostilities have also displaced tens of thousands of people from border communities in northern Israel and southern Lebanon.

“The response to the assassination of the dear leader Hajj Abu Nimah [Nasser]… started last night and quickly,” senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine warned at Nasser’s funeral in Beirut on Thursday.

“This series will continue to target new sites that the enemy did not imagine would be hit.”

A spokeswoman for the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Unifil, said the exchanges were now extending deeper into both sides of the border, and called on both Israel and Hezbollah to show restraint.

“We’re very concerned… because any exchange, any incident, can escalate into something greater if there is a misunderstanding,” Kandice Ardiel told the BBC.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions in recent weeks, with the UN and US warning of the potentially catastrophic consequences of a war that could also draw in Iran and other allied groups.

Israeli officials have repeatedly warned that they are ready for a war if diplomacy fails. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Wednesday that the military would soon be ready to “take any action required in Lebanon, or to reach an arrangement from a position of strength”.

Hezbollah, which is seen as a significantly superior foe to Hamas, has said it does not want a full-out war with Israel and that it will observe in Lebanon any ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. But it has also warned Israel that it would fight “without rules” if there was a war.

EU hits Chinese electric cars with new tariffs

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

The European Union has raised tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles, as Brussels takes action to protect the bloc’s motor industry.

The new tariffs on individual manufactures range from 17.4% to 37.6%, which is on top of a 10% duty that was already in place for all electric cars imported from China.

This could raise the price of EVs across the EU, making them less affordable for European consumers.

The move is also a major blow for Beijing, which is already in a trade war with Washington. The EU is the largest overseas market for China’s EV industry and the country is counting on high-tech products to help revive its flagging economy.

EU officials say this rise in imports was boosted by “unfair subsidisation”, which allowed China-made EVs to be sold at much lower prices than ones produced in the bloc.

China has denied this repeated allegation from the US and the EU: Beijing is subsidising excess production to flood western markets with cheap imports.

The new charges come into effect on Friday but are currently provisional while the investigation into Chinese state support for the country’s EV makers continues. They are not likely to be imposed until later this year.

So who are the potential winners and losers in this trade dispute?

It is not just Chinese brands that are affected by the move. Western firms that make cars in China have also come under scrutiny by Brussels.

By imposing tariffs, Brussels says it is attempting to correct what it sees as a distorted market. The EU’s decision may seem tame compared to a recent US move to raise its total tariffs to 100%, but it could be far more consequential. Chinese EVs are a relatively rare sight on US roads but much more common in the EU.

The number of EVs sold by Chinese brands across the EU rose from just 0.4% of the total EV market in 2019 to almost 8% last year, according to figures from the influential Brussels-based green group Transport and Environment (T&E).

Patryk Krupcala, an architect from Poland, who expects to take delivery of a brand new China-made MG4 in two weeks told the BBC: “I have chosen an MG4 because it is quite cheap. It is a really fast car and it’s a rear-wheel drive like my previous car which was BMW E46.”

T&E projects firms like BYD and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation (SAIC), the Chinese owner of the formerly British brand MG, could reach a market share of 20% by 2027.

But not all Chinese-made EVs will be hit equally by the new tariffs.

Winners and losers

They were calculated based on estimates of how much state aid each firm received, while companies that cooperated with the probe saw the duties they were hit with cut. Based on these criteria, the European Commission has set individual duties on three Chinese EV brands – SAIC, BYD and Geely.

SAIC has been hit with the highest new tariff of 37.6%. State-owned SAIC is the Chinese partner of Volkswagen and General Motors. It also owns MG, which produces one of the top-selling EVs in Europe, the MG4.

“The price for not cooperating is a severe blow to SAIC, which gets 15.4% of its global revenues from EV sales in Europe,” says Rhodium Group, an independent research firm.

For Mr Krupcala, who bought his MG4 before the tariffs hit, the EU’s move does not matter much: “I don’t really care about the tariffs. I have a nice car with a seven-year warranty.”

For China’s largest EV maker, BYD, it is a different story, as it faces an extra duty of 17.4% on the vehicles it ships from China to the EU.

That is the lowest increase and one that, according to research by Dutch bank ING will “give the automaker an advantage in the European market”.

Luís Filipe Costa, an insurance industry executive from Portugal, who has just bought a BYD Seal, says price was one of the deciding factors when he chose his new car.

But, he added that even if the European Commission’s new tariffs had already been in place he would still have gone with BYD because “other brands would also be affected”.

Geely, which owns Sweden’s Volvo, will see an additional tariff of 19.9%.

According to Spanish bank BBVA, the company will “still export to the EU profitably” but “its profits will be significantly reduced.”

Other firms, including European car makers operating factories in China or through joint ventures, will also have to pay more to bring electric cars into the EU.

Those deemed to have cooperated with the probe will face an extra duty of 20.8%, while those EU investigators see as non-cooperative will pay the higher tariff of 37.6%.

US-based Tesla, which is the biggest exporter of electric vehicles from China to Europe, has asked for an individually calculated rate which EU officials have said will be determined at the end of the investigation.

Still, the firm has posted a notice on some of its European websites, that prices for its Shanghai-made Model 3 could increase due to the new tariffs.

Last year, businessman Lars Koopmann, who lives in the motor industry powerhouse that is Germany, bought a China-made Tesla Model Y.

Mr Koopmann says he particularly enjoyed the car’s high-tech features, such as the large touch screen.

“Price was also a big factor that set it apart from premium German brands,” Mr Koopmann says.

“If the tariffs had been in place, they would have always affected my decision.”

Localising production

While some China-based exporters will be better off than others, it is clear from the European Commission’s plans that all of them will be facing higher costs when shipping to Europe.

The hardest hit “will be SAIC brands like MG… as well as joint ventures between foreign and Chinese firms in China, which often have narrower profit margins on the cars they export to Europe,” Rhodium says.

“The biggest beneficiaries of the duties are European-based producers with limited China exposure, such as Renault.”

In other words, the duties are likely to do as the EU hopes they would – cut the number of Chinese-made EVs coming into the region, easing pressure on local manufacturers.

There is also another result of the move – some big Chinese EV firms are planning to build production capacity in the EU, which could help shield them from the new duties.

Work on BYD’s first European factory is well under way in Hungary and production is expected to begin there by the end of next year.

Chinese car maker, Chery, has recently signed a joint-venture deal with a Spanish firm that will see the two companies making EVs and other types of cars in Barcelona.

And, SAIC is looking to secure a site for its first factory in Europe.

“It’s a well architected plan to encourage companies to shift their investments to the EU, instead of relying on exporting from China,” said Bill Russo, from Shanghai-based consulting group Automobility.

“The fact that some companies are taxed higher than others is a signal that they will make the penalty higher or lower based on the degree the company is committed to investing in the EU.”

The Chinese government placed its bet on EVs early on.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, between 2009 and 2023 more than $230bn (£181bn) of state support was pumped into the industry.

As a result its EV industry has become world leading.

The International Energy Agency says China accounted for more than 60% of the world’s new electric car sales last year.

While the vast majority of EVs produced in China are sold domestically, overseas markets, and particularly Europe, have become increasingly important.

“Exports are the profitable segment,” said Rhodium’s senior analyst, Gregor Sebastian.

“The EU tariffs will hurt China’s EV industry because these exports help recover losses from China’s domestic price war.”

Meanwhile, the world’s second largest economy is struggling to shake off an economic slowdown in the wake of the pandemic and an ongoing property crisis.

Faced with lower domestic consumption and investment levels, China is trying to “export its way out” of the slump, says Alicia Garcia-Herrero, chief economist for the Asia Pacific region at investment bank Natixis.

And Beijing is placing yet another large bet on EVs by making the industry one of its “New Three” growth drivers – a government blueprint for reviving the economy that also relies on exports of batteries and renewable energy.

However, with major markets like the US, the EU and others imposing tariffs and other barriers, it looks like China’s latest gamble could deepen trade tensions with some of its largest trading partners.

Hardliner faces reformist in Iran presidential run-off

By Tom BennettBBC News

Voters will elect a new Iranian president on Friday as a hardline conservative goes head-to-head with a reformist.

The run-off takes place after no candidate secured a majority in the first round of the election on 28 June, which saw a historically low voter turnout of 40%.

One of them Dr Massoud Pezeshkian, a former heart surgeon, is critical of Iran’s notorious morality police – but his rival Saeed Jalili favours the status quo.

The election was called after Iran’s previous president Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash in May, in which seven others died.

Dr Pezeshkian has caused a stir after promising “unity and cohesion” and an end to Iran’s “isolation” from the world.

He has called for “constructive negotiations” with Western powers over a renewal of the faltering 2015 nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in return for an easing of Western sanctions.

Mr Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator who enjoys strong support amongst Iran’s most religious communities, is known for his hardline anti-Western stance and opposition to restoring the nuclear deal, which he says crossed Iran’s “red lines”.

In order to stand, both candidates had to make it through a vetting process run by the Guardian Council, a body made up of 12 clerics and jurists that hold significant power in Iran.

That process saw 74 other candidates removed from the race, including several women.

The Guardian Council has previously been criticised by human rights groups for disqualifying candidates who are not loyal enough to the regime.

After years of civil unrest – culminating in anti-regime protests that shook the country in 2022-23 – many young and middle-class Iranians deeply mistrust the establishment and have previously refused to vote.

With turnout in the first round at its lowest since the 1979 Iranian revolution, voter apathy could be a deciding factor in the run-off.

On Iranian social media, the Persian hashtag “traitorous minority” has gone viral, urging people not to vote for either of the candidates and calling anyone who does so a “traitor”.

But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected suggestions that the low turnout represents a rejection of his rule.

“There are reasons [behind the low turnout] and politicians and sociologists will examine them, but if anyone thinks that those who did not vote are against the establishment, they are plainly wrong,” he said.

In a rare move, he acknowledged that some Iranians do not accept the current regime. “We listen to them and we know what they are saying and it is not like they are hidden and not seen,” Mr Khamenei said.

Within Iran, local media has encouraged people to cast ballots.

Reformist daily newspaper Sazandegi said “the future is tied to your votes” while the Hammihan newspaper said “now it’s your turn”.

Tehran municipality-run daily newspaper Hamshahri published a piece entitled “100 reasons for voting”, while the state broadcaster-run daily newspaper Jaam-e Jam said Iran was “awaiting the people”.

Preliminary election results are expected to be released by Saturday morning.

More on this story

Australian Senator resigns after Gaza vote backlash

By Hannah RitchieBBC News, Sydney

Senator Fatima Payman has resigned from Australia’s ruling Labor Party, days after voting against it to support a motion on Palestinian statehood.

Labor has strict penalties for those who undermine its policy positions, and Ms Payman was already “indefinitely suspended” from the party’s caucus after vowing to do it again.

“This is a matter I cannot compromise on,” the 29-year-old said on Thursday, adding that she was “deeply torn” over the decision.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Ms Payman had thanked him for his leadership and denied allegations she had been intimidated into quitting.

Ms Payman will now join the crossbench as an independent senator.

The 29-year-old Muslim lawmaker, whose family fled Afghanistan after it fell to the Taliban in 1996, is Australia’s first and only hijab-wearing federal politician.

“Unlike my colleagues, I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of injustice. My family did not flee a war-torn country to come here as refugees for me to remain silent when I see atrocities inflicted on innocent people,” she said during a press conference on her resignation.

The conflict in Gaza has become a volatile political issue in Australia that all sides have sought to carefully manage.

Officially the government favours a two-state solution, but it did not back the motion on statehood after trying – and failing – to insert a condition that any recognition should be “as part of a peace process”.

The Israeli military launched a campaign to destroy the Hamas group which runs Gaza in response to an unprecedented Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on 7 October, during which about 1,200 people were killed, and 251 others were taken hostage.

More than 37,900 people have been killed in Gaza since then, including 28 over the past 24 hours, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Ms Payman said that since crossing the Senate floor to vote with the Greens party last Tuesday she had received “immense support” from some colleagues, and “pressure… to toe the party line” from others. She also reported receiving “death threats and emails that were quite confronting” from members of the public.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who handed down the indefinite suspension on Sunday, had repeatedly said Ms Payman could rejoin the caucus – where MPs discuss the government’s agenda – if she was willing to participate “as a team player”.

But in a statement earlier this week, Ms Payman said she had been “exiled” by Labor – explaining that she had been removed from meetings, group chats and all committees.

An iconic wildlife park has banned koala cuddles. Will others follow?

By Tiffanie TurnbullBBC News, Sydney

For what seems like time immemorial, giving a fluffy little koala a cuddle has been an Australian rite of passage for visiting celebrities, tourists and locals alike.

And for many of them, a wildlife park in a leafy pocket of Queensland has been the place making dreams come true.

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has entertained everyone from pop giant Taylor Swift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But as of this month, the small zoo – a Brisbane icon which bills itself as the world’s first koala sanctuary – has decided it will no longer offer “koala hold experiences”.

Lone Pine said the move is in response to increasingly strong visitor feedback.

“We love that there is a shift among both local and international guests to experience Australian wildlife up close, but not necessarily personal, just doing what they do best – eating, sleeping and relaxing within their own space,” said General Manager Lyndon Discombe.

Animal rights groups say they hope this is a sign that the practice – which they argue is “cruel” – will be phased out nation-wide.

They quote studies which have found that such encounters stress koalas out – especially given that the creatures are solitary, mostly nocturnal animals who sleep most of the day.

To have or to hold?

Koalas are a much beloved national icon – priceless in biodiversity terms, but also a golden goose for the tourism industry, with one study from 2014 estimating they’re worth A$3.2bn ($2.14bn; £1.68bn) each year and support up to 30,000 jobs.

However the once-thriving marsupial is in dramatic decline, having been ravaged by land clearing, bushfires, drought, disease and other threats.

Estimates vary greatly, but some groups say as few as 50,000 of the animals are left in the wild and the species is officially listed as endangered along much of the east coast. There are now fears the animals will be extinct in some states within a generation.

And so protecting koalas, both in the wild and in captivity, is an emotional and complex topic in Australia.

All states have strict environmental protections for the species, and many of them have already outlawed koala “holding”.

For example, New South Wales – Australia’s most populous state – banned it in 1997. There, the rules state that a koala cannot be “placed directly on… or [be] directly held by any visitor for any purpose”.

But in Queensland – and a select few places in South Australia and Western Australia – the practice continues.

For those willing to fork out, they can snap a picture cuddling a koala, for example at Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld for A$29.95 and the internationally renowned Australia Zoo for A$124.

Steve Irwin even went on the record to argue that these experiences help conservation efforts.

“When people touch an animal, the animal touches their heart. And instantly, we’ve won them over to the conservation of that species,” the late conservationist once said.

And the Queensland government say there are clear rules around this. For starters, the koalas cannot be used for photography for more than three days in a row before they’re required to have a day off.

They can only be on duty for 30 minutes a day, and a total of 180 minutes each week. And females with joeys must not be handled by the public.

“I used to joke, as the environment minister, that our koalas have the best union around,” said Queensland Premier Steven Miles.

Right groups have welcomed Lone Pine’s decision – but some have called for such attractions to eventually be removed altogether.

“The future of wildlife tourism is seeing wild animals in the wild where they belong,” said Suzanne Milthorpe of the World Animal Protection (WAP).

Wild koalas avoid interactions with humans, but at these attractions have no choice but to be exposed to unfamiliar visitors, sights and noises, says WAP – a London-based group which campaigns to end the use of captive wild animals in entertainment venues.

“Tourists are increasingly moving away from outdated, stressful selfie encounters.”

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Australia also says that “in the ideal world, koalas would never have contact with humans”, adding that they would like to see this approach “adopted across the board”.

“As cute as they are, koalas are still wild animals in captivity and are extremely susceptible to stress,” Oceania director Rebecca Keeble told the BBC.

“Their welfare is paramount and as they are an endangered species we need to do all we can to protect them.”

But the hope that Lone Pine’s move would add momentum towards a state-wide ban appears to have been scuppered.

A government spokesperson told the BBC there is no intention of changing the law – and Lone Pine itself has also clarified that it supports the laws as is.

However WAP says it will keep piling pressure on other venues to leave the koalas on their trees.

“Ultimately, we need the Queensland Government to consign this cruel practice to the history books.”

Ukraine calls them meat assaults: Russia’s brutal plan to take ground

By Gordon CoreraSecurity correspondent, Kyiv

On the frontlines, Ukrainian soldiers use a graphic term to describe the Russian tactics they face daily.

They call them “meat assaults”: waves of Russian soldiers coming at their defensive positions, sometimes nearly a dozen times in a day.

Lt Col Anton Bayev of the Khartia Brigade of Ukraine’s National Guard says wave after wave can arrive in just a few hours at front-line positions north of Kharkiv.

“The Russians use these units in most cases purely to see where our firing equipment is located, and to constantly exhaust our units,” he said.

“Our guys stand in positions and fight, and when four or five waves of the enemy come at you in a day, which you have to destroy without end, it is very difficult – not only physically, but also psychologically.”

This tactic has led to staggering Russian casualties since Moscow launched its latest offensive two months ago. Around 1,200 Russian soldiers were being killed or wounded every day in May and June, the highest rate since the beginning of the war, according to Western officials.

Those attacking are normally quickly spotted by drones above and the Russians leave their dead and wounded on the battlefield, Lt Col Bayev says. “Their main task is simply meat assaults and our total exhaustion.”

The tactic is a sign that Russia is seeking to make the most of its key advantage – numbers.

In Pokrovsk in the Donetsk region, Captain Ivan Sekach from Ukraine’s 110th Brigade compares what he sees to a conveyor belt bringing Russians to be killed, although still allowing them to push forward slowly.

Russia benefits from a significantly larger population than Ukraine. Some of those in the assaults are former prisoners, but Russia is also able to recruit through making one-off payments, sometimes thousands of dollars.

And there have been complaints from the Russian side about “crippled regiments”, in which wounded soldiers are forced back into fighting. One video shows dozens of men, some on crutches, appealing to their commanders because they say they are wounded and require hospital treatment, but instead are being sent back into combat.

All of this, Western officials say, means Moscow can keep throwing soldiers, even if poorly trained, straight on to the front lines at the same rate they are being killed or wounded.

Ukraine could not match the Russian tactics even if it had the numbers, partly due to a different attitude towards casualties. A senior general was removed in recent weeks after complaints he was using what are often called Soviet tactics – throwing people at the front lines.

“There are a lot of criticisms because we have lost a lot of our guys because of Soviet-type mindset and strategy,” says Ivan Stupak, a former Security Service officer. “We are limited with manpower. We have no other options than thinking of our people.”

In the area around Kharkiv, Russian advances have been stopped. But in the east, Russia’s attritional approach is making slow but steady advances.

“Unfortunately there are a lot of Russians. And they are trying to conduct this rolling operation centimetre by centimetre, inch by inch, 100m per day, 200m per day. And unfortunately, it’s successful for them,” says Stupak.

There is frustration in Kyiv about the pace of Western support. One senior official complains they are receiving enough help to ensure they do not lose but not enough to make sure they win.

Western officials acknowledge 2024 has been a tough year for Ukraine, with delays in the arrival of US military aid creating a major strain on defences which has cost territory and lives.

“It seems like a so-called incremental approach,” Oleksandr Merezhko, chair of Ukraine’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told the BBC.

“We receive little by little, and I get the impression that our Western allies give a little bit of weaponry, and they see what happens next, as if they’re afraid of what they refer to as escalation.”

The lifting of restrictions on using US weapons over the border into Russia has made a difference and helped stall Moscow’s assault on Kharkiv.

“If we have to fight with our hands tied behind our back, you know we’ll be only bleeding to death,” says Mr Merezhko. “That’s why it’s crucially important to be allowed to use long range missiles in the territory of Russia, and we already have results.”

But a Ukrainian official said the use of longer range strikes into Russia had only been a palliative and was not fundamentally altering the dynamic of the war.

“We are driving towards stalemate,” former security service officer Ivan Stupak says, acknowledging that this may lead eventually to the “bitter pill” of some form of negotiation.

During a visit to Kyiv this week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban suggested a ceasefire first to hasten negotiations, a position that officials in Kyiv are wary of.

“We [are] not ready to go to the compromise for the very important things and values,” Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine’s President Zelensky, told reporters in Washington.

Ukrainians fear without hard security guarantees – such as Nato membership, rather than vague talk of a bridge to such status – Russia may simply regroup and attack again in the future.

Vladimir Putin is counting on wearing down Ukraine on the battlefield and outlasting the West’s resolve to provide support. As well as launching guided aerial bombs against frontline positions and civilians in Kharkiv, Moscow has also targeted energy infrastructure across the country, leading to increasingly frequent power blackouts and concerns over what winter might bring.

November’s US election adds another layer of uncertainty, along with a question mark as to whether the European Union could realistically pick up any slack.

For Lt Col Anton Bayev on the frontline near Kharkiv, the ability to strike into Russia may have been vital, but he now sees his enemy adapting its tactics – and not just with “meat assaults”.

His losses now come from mortars and glide bombs, while his Ukrainian forces remain short of ammunition.

“We need everything, and there is always a lack,” he says.

“The boys are holding on. We’re all hanging on. It’s hard, but everyone knows the price and why it’s all being done.”

Biden says he ‘screwed up’ debate but vows to stay in election

By Gareth Evans, Courtney Subramanian and Kayla EpsteinBBC News, Washington & New York
Joe Biden admits poor performance in debate

US President Joe Biden has admitted he “screwed up” in last week’s debate against Donald Trump, but has vowed to fight on in the election race and moved to reassure key allies.

He told a Wisconsin radio station he made a “mistake” with his stumbling performance, but urged voters to instead judge him on his time in the White House.

On Wednesday, as reports suggested he was weighing his future, he worked to calm senior Democrats including state governors and campaign staff.

“I’m the nominee of the Democratic Party. No one’s pushing me out. I’m not leaving,” he said in a call to the broader campaign, a source told BBC News.

Mr Biden was joined on the call by Vice-President Kamala Harris, who reiterated her support.

Speculation has mounted over whether she could replace the president as the party’s candidate ahead of the November election.

A fundraising email sent after the call by the Biden-Harris campaign was also bullish. “Let me say this as clearly and simply as I can: I’m running,” Mr Biden said.

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Questions have been swirling around whether the 81-year-old will continue with his campaign following a debate marked by verbal blanks and a weak voice.

It sparked concern in Democratic circles around his fitness for office and his ability to win the election.

Pressure on Mr Biden to drop out has only grown as more polls suggest his Republican rival’s lead has widened.

A New York Times poll conducted after the debate, which was published on Wednesday, suggested Trump was now holding his biggest lead yet at six points.

And a separate poll published by the BBC’s US partner CBS News suggested Trump has a three-point lead over Mr Biden in the crucial battleground states.

Name-calling and insults – key moments from Biden and Trump’s debate

The damaging polling for Mr Biden has been compounded by some Democratic donors and lawmakers publicly calling on the president to stand aside.

Among them are Ramesh Kapur, an Indian-American industrialist based in Massachusetts, who has organised fundraisers for Democrats since 1988.

“I think it’s time for him to pass the torch,” Mr Kapur told the BBC. “I know he has the drive, but you can’t fight Mother Nature.”

And two Democrats in Congress also called for a change at the top of the party’s ticket. The second, Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona, told the New York Times it was time for Democrats to “look elsewhere”.

Despite this, the White House and the Biden campaign have vehemently denied reports he is actively weighing his future and say he is committed to defeating Trump for a second time on 5 November.

The New York Times and CNN reported on Wednesday that Mr Biden had told an unnamed ally he was aware his re-election bid was in danger.

His forthcoming appearances – including an ABC News interview and a Friday rally in Wisconsin – were hugely important to his campaign, he reportedly said.

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A spokesperson rejected the reports as “absolutely false”, shortly before White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said reports that he may drop out were untrue.

Among the senior Democrats Mr Biden met on Wednesday was a group of 20 state governors from around the country, including California’s Gavin Newsom and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer. Both have been tipped as potential replacements if Mr Biden were to stand aside.

“The president has always had our backs, we’re going to have his back as well,” Maryland Governor Wes Moore told reporters after the meeting.

CBS confirmed reports that Mr Biden told governors that he needs to get more sleep and curtail public events and meetings that stretch after 20:00, according to a participant in the meeting.

Should Mr Biden step down, Ms Harris is still considered the most likely replacement. The 59-year-old has been hampered by poor approval ratings, but her support has increased among Democrats since the Biden-Trump debate.

Amid the speculation, comments made by Trump indicated he could be switching his attention to attacking Ms Harris.

In footage obtained by the Daily Beast – and shared online by Trump himself – he can be seen in a golf cart pouring scorn on Mr Biden, whom he describes as “broken down”. He suggests that Ms Harris would be “better”, though still “pathetic”.

The vice-president gave an immediate interview on CNN after the debate, projecting calm as she expressed full support for the president.

“She has always been mindful to be a good partner to the president,” her former communications director Jamal Simmons told BBC News.

“The people who ultimately will make the decision about who the nominee should be mostly are people who are pledged to him. Her best role is to be a partner to him.”

A source close to Ms Harris said nothing had changed and she would continue to campaign for the president.

Members of the Democratic National Committee are charged with voting to officially make President Biden the party’s nominee at the August convention, putting him on the ballot nationwide.

One member, who has spoken to other delegates and requested anonymity to speak frankly about sensitive discussions, told the BBC that the nomination should go to Vice-President Harris if Mr Biden opted not to run.

“If we open up the convention, it will cause pure chaos that will hurt us in November,” they said.

A report by the Washington Post, meanwhile, said Mr Biden and his team recognised that he must demonstrate his fitness for office in the coming days.

He has planned trips to Wisconsin and Philadelphia later in the week, and is due to appear on ABC News on Friday for his first televised interview since the debate.

His full interview with Wisconsin’s Civic Media is also due to be published on Thursday.

While acknowledging that he had “screwed up” with his performance, he told the station: “That’s 90 minutes on stage. Look at what I’ve done in 3.5 years.”

Ghana chef accused of faking Guinness World Records award

By Thomas Naadi & Basillioh RukangaBBC News, Accra and Nairobi

A Ghanaian chef who claimed to have broken the world record for the longest non-stop cooking by an individual has been arrested over a dispute with his sponsor.

Ebenezer Smith held a press conference on Tuesday announcing he was the new world-record holder after cooking continuously for 802 hours and 25 minutes – more than a month.

He presented a certificate purportedly from Guinness World Records (GWR) confirmed him as the record holder.

But on Wednesday, a GWR spokesperson told BBC Pidgin the claims were “not true” and added that it was “not our certificate”.

In another response to a Ghanaian media outlet, GWR also explained they were not aware of his attempt and that they did not receive an application from him.

The chef was arrested by the police shortly after announcing his purported award, over a dispute with his sponsor, the Amadia Shopping Centre, Spintex, in the capital Accra, where he held his cooking marathon in March.

They accused him of breaching a contractual agreement by not informing them about the new developments regarding the alleged confirmation of the award.

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Many Ghanaians have expressed shock and disappointment on social media about the case, which was widely covered when Mr Smith claimed to have broken the record.

The chef, who is still in police custody and has not been charged yet, has not commented on the accusations.

His unsuccessful record attempt earlier this year attracted the support of several local celebrities.

Several Ghanaians have attempted to break Guinness World Records in recent times, including media personality and entrepreneur Afua Asantewaa Aduonum, who attempted the longest singing marathon last year.

Earlier this year another chef, Failatu Abdul Razak, attempted the longest cooking marathon in the northern city of Tamale.

The current record for longest cooking marathon by an individual is held by Ireland’s Alan Fisher at 119 hours, 57 minutes 16 seconds from 28 September-3 October last year, GWR said.

It had previously been held by Nigerian chef Hilda Bacci, whose record stood at 93 hours 11 minutes. Her win caused a sensation in Nigeria with people trying to get themselves in the record books by doing things like crying or singing non-stop.

She was dethroned by Mr Fisher months after being declared the record holder.

You may also be interested in:

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Hurricane Beryl leaves Jamaican homes without power

By Nick DavisBBC News, Kingston
Cayman Islands and Mexico braces for Hurricane Beryl

Hundreds of thousands of homes in Jamaica remain without power in the wake of Hurricane Beryl.

The category four storm – one of the most powerful to ever hit the country – swept along the island’s southern coast on Wednesday night, bringing more than 12 hours of heavy rain.

Officials and residents are assessing the damage after an island-wide curfew was lifted early on Thursday.

Beryl, which has now weakened to a category two storm, is headed for Mexico and the Cayman Islands. It left a trail of devastation across the Caribbean, killing at least 10 people.

St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Venezuela reported three deaths each, while one person died in Jamaica.

The storm destroyed almost every home on two small islands in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Mayreau and Union.

Strong winds and dangerous storm surges and waves are expected to hit the Yucatan Peninsula by early on Friday, the National Hurricane Center in the US forecasted.

The hurricane is expected to bring 10cm (4in) to 15cm (6in) of rain into Friday across the peninsula, with some places getting up to 10in.

Predicted path of Hurricane Beryl

Here in the capital, Kingston, while the winds were extremely strong, they were not the hurricane gusts that were expected. But the hours of heavy rain are a real concern, especially on farmland where flooding has been reported.

One resident of a rural farming community told the Reuters news agency: “It’s terrible. Everything’s gone. I’m in my house and I’m scared.”

“It’s a disaster,” said Amoy Wellington, who lives in the southern parish of St Elizabeth.

On Wednesday night I was able to go outside briefly to move my car away from overhanging trees.

A full-length mirror was lying next to the car – it had probably blown off someone’s balcony, a reminder that unexpected objects suddenly become missiles in winds that strong.

Jamaican energy provider JPS said that 65% – or about 400,000 of its customers – were without power on Thursday morning.

The hurricane had delivered “a most devastating blow” to parts of the island, said the MP for St Elizabeth South Western.

Posting on X, Floyd Green said in his constituency “significant numbers of roofs [have been] lost, houses destroyed, trees uprooted, light poles downed, almost all roads are impassable”.

King Charles III, who is also monarch in several Caribbean nations, said on Thursday he was “profoundly saddened to learn of the dreadful destruction” left by Hurricane Beryl.

The UN has unlocked $4m (£3.1m) from its emergency response fund to help the recovery in Jamaica, Grenada and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness thanked “first responders, essential services, security forces and good Samaritans who have assisted others in this time of crisis” on his X account.

Beryl became the the earliest category five Atlantic hurricane in records going back around 100 years – thought to be as a result of warmer sea surface temperatures.

The storm shocked meteorologists at how fast it intensified – taking just 42 hours to go from a tropical depression to a major hurricane.

Watch: Flooding and destruction after Hurricane Beryl hits Jamaica

Diddy faces new sexual assault case

By James FitzGeraldBBC News

Embattled rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs is facing another sexual assault case after a woman came forward with fresh accusations against him.

The complaint filed him in New York by former porn star Adria English is the latest of several lawsuits filed against the star in recent months.

Mr Combs, who is one of rap’s most successful moguls, has consistently denied all allegations of sexual assault and physical abuse, including the latest ones.

The star is now reportedly also the subject of a federal criminal investigation, though there is no sign any charges are imminent, according to NBC News.

Mr Combs’s legal woes have mounted after accusations made by ex-girlfriend Cassandra “Cassie” Ventura in November. Earlier this year, he apologised after footage came to light that showed him attacking Ms Ventura in a hotel hallway in 2016.

The new case against in New York alleges that Mr Combs “forced and coerced (Ms English) to engage in sex work for him” at parties. It also alleges that the rapper threatened to ruin her career if she did not comply.

A total of 33 allegations are made against Mr Combs and his associates in Ms English’s 114-page filing, which gives an account of events between 2004 and 2009.

“No matter how many lawsuits are filed it won’t change the fact that Mr Combs has never sexually assaulted or sex trafficked anyone,” his lawyer told US media.

The statement went on to say that “Mr Combs is confident he will prevail against these and other baseless claims in court”.

Ms English is the latest in a string of women to make claims against Mr Combs in recent months, following a lawsuit launched by Ms Ventura that was settled by Mr Combs in November for an undisclosed sum.

She had accused him of rape and sexual trafficking over a decade. Mr Combs’ team clarified that the settlement was not an admission of wrongdoing.

Various allegations of sexual and physical abuse have been made against the rapper since then.

His homes in Los Angeles and Miami, Florida, were raided earlier this year as part of a federal investigation into human trafficking.

Mr Combs’s team has been notified that he is a subject of an ongoing federal criminal investigation, according to NBC News, citing two sources familiar with his legal issues.

Details of the reported investigation have not been revealed, and neither federal officials or Mr Combs’s legal team have commented on the matter specifically.

An iconic wildlife park has banned koala cuddles. Will others follow?

By Tiffanie TurnbullBBC News, Sydney

For what seems like time immemorial, giving a fluffy little koala a cuddle has been an Australian rite of passage for visiting celebrities, tourists and locals alike.

And for many of them, a wildlife park in a leafy pocket of Queensland has been the place making dreams come true.

The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has entertained everyone from pop giant Taylor Swift to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But as of this month, the small zoo – a Brisbane icon which bills itself as the world’s first koala sanctuary – has decided it will no longer offer “koala hold experiences”.

Lone Pine said the move is in response to increasingly strong visitor feedback.

“We love that there is a shift among both local and international guests to experience Australian wildlife up close, but not necessarily personal, just doing what they do best – eating, sleeping and relaxing within their own space,” said General Manager Lyndon Discombe.

Animal rights groups say they hope this is a sign that the practice – which they argue is “cruel” – will be phased out nation-wide.

They quote studies which have found that such encounters stress koalas out – especially given that the creatures are solitary, mostly nocturnal animals who sleep most of the day.

To have or to hold?

Koalas are a much beloved national icon – priceless in biodiversity terms, but also a golden goose for the tourism industry, with one study from 2014 estimating they’re worth A$3.2bn ($2.14bn; £1.68bn) each year and support up to 30,000 jobs.

However the once-thriving marsupial is in dramatic decline, having been ravaged by land clearing, bushfires, drought, disease and other threats.

Estimates vary greatly, but some groups say as few as 50,000 of the animals are left in the wild and the species is officially listed as endangered along much of the east coast. There are now fears the animals will be extinct in some states within a generation.

And so protecting koalas, both in the wild and in captivity, is an emotional and complex topic in Australia.

All states have strict environmental protections for the species, and many of them have already outlawed koala “holding”.

For example, New South Wales – Australia’s most populous state – banned it in 1997. There, the rules state that a koala cannot be “placed directly on… or [be] directly held by any visitor for any purpose”.

But in Queensland – and a select few places in South Australia and Western Australia – the practice continues.

For those willing to fork out, they can snap a picture cuddling a koala, for example at Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld for A$29.95 and the internationally renowned Australia Zoo for A$124.

Steve Irwin even went on the record to argue that these experiences help conservation efforts.

“When people touch an animal, the animal touches their heart. And instantly, we’ve won them over to the conservation of that species,” the late conservationist once said.

And the Queensland government say there are clear rules around this. For starters, the koalas cannot be used for photography for more than three days in a row before they’re required to have a day off.

They can only be on duty for 30 minutes a day, and a total of 180 minutes each week. And females with joeys must not be handled by the public.

“I used to joke, as the environment minister, that our koalas have the best union around,” said Queensland Premier Steven Miles.

Right groups have welcomed Lone Pine’s decision – but some have called for such attractions to eventually be removed altogether.

“The future of wildlife tourism is seeing wild animals in the wild where they belong,” said Suzanne Milthorpe of the World Animal Protection (WAP).

Wild koalas avoid interactions with humans, but at these attractions have no choice but to be exposed to unfamiliar visitors, sights and noises, says WAP – a London-based group which campaigns to end the use of captive wild animals in entertainment venues.

“Tourists are increasingly moving away from outdated, stressful selfie encounters.”

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Australia also says that “in the ideal world, koalas would never have contact with humans”, adding that they would like to see this approach “adopted across the board”.

“As cute as they are, koalas are still wild animals in captivity and are extremely susceptible to stress,” Oceania director Rebecca Keeble told the BBC.

“Their welfare is paramount and as they are an endangered species we need to do all we can to protect them.”

But the hope that Lone Pine’s move would add momentum towards a state-wide ban appears to have been scuppered.

A government spokesperson told the BBC there is no intention of changing the law – and Lone Pine itself has also clarified that it supports the laws as is.

However WAP says it will keep piling pressure on other venues to leave the koalas on their trees.

“Ultimately, we need the Queensland Government to consign this cruel practice to the history books.”

Amazon at 30: What next for ‘The Everything Company’?

By Tom SingletonTechnology reporter

Three decades on from the day it began, it is hard to get your head around the scale of Amazon.

Consider its vast warehouse in Dartford, on the outskirts of London. It has millions of stock items, with hundreds of thousands of them bought every day – and it takes two hours from the moment something is ordered, the company says, for it to be picked, packed and sent on its way.

Now, picture that scene and multiply it by 175. That’s the number of “fulfilment centres”, as Amazon likes to call them, that it has around the world.

Even if you think you can visualise that never-ending blur of parcels crisscrossing the globe, you need to remember something else: that’s just a fraction of what Amazon does.

It is also a major streamer and media company (Amazon Prime Video); a market leader in home camera systems (Ring) and smart speakers (Alexa) and tablets and e-readers (Kindle); it hosts and supports vast swathes of the internet (Amazon Web Services); and much more besides.

“For a long time it has been called ‘The Everything Store’, but I think, at this point, Amazon is sort of ‘The Everything Company’,” Bloomberg’s Amanda Mull tells me.

“It’s so large and so omnipresent and touches so many different parts of life, that after a while, people sort of take Amazon’s existence in all kinds of elements of daily life sort of as a given,” she says.

Or, as the company itself once joked, pretty much the only way you could get though a day without enriching Amazon in some way was by “living in a cave”.

So the story of Amazon, since it was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, has been one of explosive growth, and continual reinvention.

There has been plenty of criticism along the way too, over “severe” working conditions and how much tax it pays.

But the main question as it enters its fourth decade appears to be: once you are The Everything Company, what do you do next?

Or as Sucharita Kodali, who analyses Amazon for research firm Forrester, puts it: “What the heck is left?”

“Once you’re at a half a trillion dollars in revenue, which they already are, how do you continue to grow at double digits year over year?”

One option is to try to tie the threads between existing businesses: the vast amounts of shopping data Amazon has for its Prime members might help it sell adverts on its streaming service, which – like its rivals – is increasingly turning to commercials for revenue.

But that only goes so far – what benefits can Kuiper, its satellite division, bring to Whole Foods, its supermarket chain?

To some extent, says Sucharita Kodali, the answer is to “keep taking swings” at new business ventures, and not worry if they fall flat.

Just this week Amazon killed a business robot line after only nine months – Ms Kodali says that it is just one of a “whole graveyard of bad ideas” the company tried and discarded in order to find the successful ones.

But, she says, Amazon may also have to focus on something else: the increasing attention of regulators, asking difficult questions like what does it do with our data, what environmental impact is it having, and is it simply too big?

All of these issues could prompt intervention “in the same way that we rolled back the monopolies that became behemoths in the early 20th century”, Ms Kodali says.

For Juozas Kaziukėnas, founder of e-commerce intelligence firm Marketplace Pulse, its size poses another problem: the places its Western customers live in simply can not take much more stuff.

“Our cities were not built for many more deliveries,” he tells the BBC.

That makes emerging economies like India, Mexico and Brazil important. But, Mr Kaziukėnas, suggests, there Amazon does not just need to enter the market but to some extent to make it.

“It’s crazy and maybe should not be the case – but that’s a conversation for another day,” he says.

Amanda Mull points to another priority for Amazon in the years ahead: staving off competition from Chinese rivals like Temu and Shein.

Amazon, she says, has “created the spending habits” of western consumers by acting as a trusted intermediary between them and Chinese manufacturers, and bolting on to that easy returns and lightening fast delivery.

But remove that last element of the deal and you can bring prices down, as the Chinese retailers have done.

“They have said ‘well, if you wait a week or 10 days for something that you’re just buying on a lark, we can give it to you for almost nothing,'” says Ms Mull – a proposition that is appealing to many people, especially during a cost of living crisis.

Juozas Kaziukėnas is not so sure – suggesting the new retailers will remain “niche”, and it will take something much more fundamental to challenge Amazon’s position.

“For as long as going shopping involves going to a search bar – Amazon has nailed that,” he says.

Thirty years ago a fledging company spotted emerging trends around internet use and realised how it could upend first retail, then much else besides.

Mr Kaziukėnas says for that to happen again will take a similar leap of imagination, perhaps around AI.

“The only threat to Amazon is something that doesn’t look like Amazon,” he says.

What we know about the India crush that killed 121

By Cherylann MollanBBC News, Mumbai • Dilnawaz PashaBBC Hindi, Hathras
Watch: Survivors recount the horror of India religious event crush

The number of people killed in a crush at a religious gathering in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has risen to 121, making it one of the deadliest such disasters in more than a decade.

The incident took place during a satsang (a Hindu religious festival) in Hathras district on Tuesday.

Police said the number of people present at the venue was three times the permitted limit and most of those who died or were injured were women.

A case has been registered against the event’s organisers.

The tragedy has sparked outrage in India, and has led to questions about lapses in safety measures.

What happened?

The crush took place in Pulrai village, where a self-styled godman called Bhole Baba was holding a religious gathering.

Officials said the event was massively overcrowded.

Authorities had given permission for 80,000 people to gather but around 250,000 people attended the event, according to the first information report (FIR) lodged by the police.

Chaos broke out at the end of the event as the preacher was about to leave in his car.

The police report said thousands of devotees ran towards his vehicle and began collecting dust from the path in an act of devotion.

As crowds swelled, several of those sitting and squatting on the ground got crushed.

The document added that some people tried running to a patch of mud-filled fields across the road, but were forcibly stopped by the organisers and were crushed.

Police have registered a case against a man who they say was the event’s main organiser and a few others on several charges, including culpable homicide.

On Tuesday, distressing images from the site were circulated online.

Some videos showed the injured being taken to hospitals in pick-up trucks, tuk tuks and even motorbikes.

Other clips showed distraught family members screaming outside a local hospital as they tried to find their loved ones among rows of bodies left at the entrance.

Bunty, who uses only one name and comes from the state’s Aligarh district, said he was devastated at the loss of his mother.

He saw her body lying outside a hospital on a news channel on Tuesday evening.

“But when I went there, I could not find my mother and have since been trying to locate her body,” he told BBC Hindi.

Others expressed anger over the incident.

Ritesh Kumar, whose 28-year-old wife was among those killed, said his life had been upended.

“My family has been destroyed. The government should see to it that we get justice,” he said.

Who is Bhole Baba?

The self-styled godman’s original name is Suraj Pal but he reportedly re-christened himself Narayan Sakar Vishwa Hari. His devotees call him Bhole Baba.

He hails from Bahadurpur village in Kasganj district, which is about 65km (40 miles) from Hathras.

Sanjay Kumar, a senior police officer in the state, told BBC Hindi that he was a constable in the police but was suspended from service after a criminal case was lodged against him.

He was reinstated in the force after a court cleared him but left his job in 2002, Mr Kumar added.

Details about his life are sketchy, but Mr Kumar says that after leaving the force, he began to call himself Bhole Baba.

He does not have much social media presence, but has hundreds of thousands of followers in Hathras and neighbouring districts.

Huge crowds attend his sermons where he is mostly seen in white clothes.

Since the tragedy, the preacher is believed to be hiding in his ashram in Mainpuri, about 100km (62 miles) from Pulrai village.

Shalabh Mathur, a senior official in Aligarh police, said a search was underway to find him and question him.

Police say he runs an organisation called the Ram Kutir Charitable Trust, which was also the main organiser of Tuesday’s event.

Satsangs are events where people gather to pray, sing devotional songs or listen to a preacher and they are often attended by a large number of women.

Gomti Devi, who was present at the event, said she had a lot of faith in the Bhole Baba.

She said she wears a locket with his photo because he “cures diseases, ends domestic troubles, and provides employment”.

Lucy Letby: Courtroom drama, a failed appeal, and battles over the truth

By Judith Moritz and Jonathan CoffeyBBC News

When former nurse Lucy Letby was convicted of murdering babies last year, news channels rolled on the story, and her mugshot was splashed across front pages and websites around the world.

The scale of Letby’s crimes, the extreme vulnerability of her victims, and unanswered questions about the nurse all combined to stoke interest in the case.

But this was a saga that was still unfolding. Hospital consultants who’d suspected Letby spoke of the struggles they’d had to be heard. Public outcry quickly led to the announcement of a public inquiry.

Meanwhile, police said they were reviewing the cases of 4,000 admissions of babies into neonatal units at hospitals where Letby worked or trained, and were launching an investigation to establish whether the Countess of Chester Hospital should face criminal charges.

There was blanket coverage. Then the news cycle moved on, and Lucy Letby fell out of the headlines.

But that wasn’t the only reason things went quiet. We can now explain why coverage of Letby’s story has been restricted over the last 10 months – and what we haven’t been able to report, until now.

  • Listen to Judith read this article on BBC Sounds

A month after Britain’s most notorious nurse was sentenced to spend the rest of her life in prison, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced it was seeking a fresh trial.

Letby had been convicted of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder another six at the Countess of Chester Hospital’s neo-natal unit between June 2015 and June 2016. She was acquitted of two counts of attempted murder.

But there were six further charges on which jurors couldn’t decide. Now the CPS said it was intending to run a retrial to put one of those undecided charges before a new jury. The judge quickly imposed a court order prohibiting the reporting of anything that could prejudice the upcoming trial. The result was a virtual news blackout, at least temporarily.

In the background, Letby’s defence team applied for permission to appeal against her convictions. There was no public hearing, and journalists weren’t told about Letby’s grounds for appeal – or the judge’s reasons when they decided to deny her request.

But that wasn’t an end to it – Letby could make one final appeal request, in front of three judges at the Court of Appeal in London – and this time the hearing would take place in public.

Barristers, solicitors, police officers and journalists who’d been involved in the original trial traipsed down to the Royal Courts of Justice. Letby attended remotely, via a video link from a non-descript room in HMP Bronzefield, where she is currently an inmate.

It was the first time we’d seen her since she’d refused to turn up to her sentencing hearing. Her hair had grown, but it was still difficult to read anything from her expression – she maintained the same impassivity as she had during the trial.

What unfolded in court was fascinating, but had to stay in our notebooks.

Letby’s lawyers claimed her convictions were unsafe, calling into question the science behind the prosecution case, laying into the prosecution’s expert witness, and arguing part of the judge’s directions to the jury had been wrong.

It was the first time since the end of her trial eight months earlier that anyone had heard her team set out its stall – but much of it was familiar to those of us who’d been following the case.

The same attacks on the prosecution’s experts had been made during the course of the trial, and Letby’s lawyers had also previously argued against the judge’s legal directions.

But Letby’s lead barrister, Ben Myers KC, a seasoned courtroom performer, had a couple of cards up his sleeve. The first was a saga involving a fight in a cafe, the theft of a mobile phone, and an email to the court from someone alleging they’d overheard a juror claim the jury had already made up their minds from the start of the trial.

Although the judge had spoken to the juror and allowed him to carry on serving, Letby’s barrister argued this wasn’t enough. The judge, Mr Myers argued, should have questioned the person who’d made the allegation too.

None of this had anything to do with whether or not Letby had murdered babies – but it was thrown into the mix as one of the grounds for appeal.

More Lucy Letby coverage

There was also a new witness – neonatologist Shoo Lee, from Toronto, the co-author of a 1989 medical research paper about air embolism in neonatal babies. An air embolism occurs when one or more air bubbles enter a vein or artery, causing a block in circulation. The consequences can be fatal.

Letby was found guilty of injecting air into the bloodstreams of some of the infants, causing air embolism. Prosecution experts had based some of their evidence on Dr Lee’s paper, although he hadn’t been called to give evidence.

Now he was appearing on behalf of the defence.

During the trial, much was made of changes in skin colour observed on some of the babies, which it was suggested were symptomatic of air embolism. The prosecution cited Dr Lee’s paper in support of this, and paediatric consultant Dr Ravi Jayaram told the court a “chill went down (his) spine” in June 2016 when he read the research and believed it fitted with what he’d seen on babies in Chester.

But nobody had checked with Dr Lee. The point he now made, via webcam from 3,500 miles away, was that only one, very specific skin discolouration was diagnostic of air embolism, and none of the babies in the case had displayed this exactly.

For Letby’s defence, it was a basis for appeal. The prosecution disagreed. They argued that all of the instances of skin discoloration in the Letby case were consistent with air embolism, and some of these could be proven using Dr Lee’s own diagnostic method.

They said Dr Lee hadn’t been shown any of the eyewitness testimony from the trial, or any of the babies’ records – and so was not qualified to weigh in now.

Sitting on the uncomfortable wooden benches of court 4, one couldn’t help but wonder why this development hadn’t been aired at the trial. Letby’s lawyers were arguing the science was too weak to support as many as nine of her 14 convictions.

But on 24 May, Court of Appeal judges again rejected Letby’s request for permission to appeal against her convictions.

During Letby’s trial, online forums and communities sprang up, where users analysed the evidence as the case unfolded. There were views on everything from the science, to the barristers’ performance, and endless speculation about Letby herself.

Very few of those posting opinions were at Manchester Crown Court to watch the trial in person. The majority were following media reports, tweets, and a live blog on the Chester Standard newspaper’s website.

The online commentary was voluminous – and often in breach of legal restrictions. The trial judge directed jurors not to go online, or conduct their own extra-curricular research, and the hearings continued without anyone being prosecuted for contempt of court.

After the verdicts finally came through last August, newspaper headlines screamed “Monster” and “Angel of Death”. But the view on the internet wasn’t always as condemnatory.

Sceptics appeared, including Richard Gill, a statistician in the Netherlands, who argued the data presented at the trial was flawed and used improperly. Sarrita Adams, a California-based biotech consultant, launched a campaign aimed at critiquing the science in Letby’s case. Her website invites donations and describes itself as “the first organisation dedicated to fighting for a new trial for Lucy Letby”.

They weren’t the only ones. There are podcasts, blogs, websites and videos dedicated to the same topic. Some delve into the arguments presented by the defence about air embolism, and the expertise in the case. Others stray into different territory – statistics, or questions about other areas of science which Letby’s team have steered clear of.

It was notable how the sceptics’ arguments weren’t incorporated in the defence submissions at the Court of Appeal. We understand some of those campaigning for Letby’s freedom have made repeated attempts to contact her, her inner circle, and her lawyers.

But why the mismatch between the arguments raging online and those in the courtroom? It may be that Letby’s team has looked into the sceptics’ arguments and decided they don’t check out and wouldn’t stand up in a court of law.

But that’s not the only possibility.

Letby and her legal team didn’t have carte blanche to make any arguments they wanted in support of her request for permission to appeal.

Criminal appeals are not “a second bite of the cherry”, as lawyers sometimes put it. The only way Letby would be allowed to appeal against her conviction was if she could show the judge in her original trial had made a legal mistake, or there was new evidence that, had it been available at the time, might have led the jury to different verdicts.

That meant the range of arguments Letby’s legal team could present was limited. Cherry-picking the best of the online arguments was never an option.

  • Who is baby serial killer Lucy Letby?

It’s also important to remember the one person in control of the defence case was Letby herself. Her lawyers advised her, but they were required to act according to her instructions. Letby has used the same local Chester solicitor since her arrest in 2018, and has been represented by the same barristers throughout both trials and the appeal. Whether she’s aware of the community campaigning in her name or not, she hasn’t signalled she’s unhappy with her lawyers’ strategy.

Those who’ve continued to maintain the nurse’s innocence are undeterred. They seem to be increasingly vocal and at the first hearing of the Thirlwall Inquiry, which will examine the way the hospital dealt with Letby, barristers representing the parents of the babies spoke of the anguish these campaigns have caused.

“The modern age has brought a proliferation of conspiracy theories which sprout, spread and fester on social media blogs and on websites,” Peter Skelton KC said. “Lucy Letby’s crimes, in particular, continue to be the subject of such conspiracies, some of which are grossly offensive and distressing for the families of her victims.”

The families’ lawyers argued, unsuccessfully, for the public inquiry to be live streamed when it gets under way in Liverpool in the autumn.

“It is well known that the case has generated considerable public interest and that conspiracy theories have grown around it,” Richard Baker KC said. “They are toxic, they are often ill-informed, and they ultimately grow in the shadows. The more light that we put on this Inquiry, the less space there is for speculation and conspiracy.”

It probably hasn’t helped that much of the reporting of the Letby case over the past year has been restricted by court orders, to protect the retrial. It has left an information vacuum – one the internet has happily filled.

On 10 June, 10 months after she was first convicted of murdering and attempting to murder babies, Letby was back in court for her retrial on one count of attempted murder.

Although there was a feeling of déjà vu – the same courtroom, the same lawyers, the same judge – there was something palpably different about the atmosphere.

During the first trial, which had lasted for nearly a year, only five or six members of the public turned up with any regularity. They sat quietly in an annexe alongside police officers and experts who couldn’t fit into the main room.

At the retrial, up to 30 people crowded around the courtroom door each morning, jostling to be allowed in. Court ushers did their best to maintain order, asking them to move aside to allow the baby’s family, police officers and journalists in, but then they were allowed to take their places in the public gallery.

Katie, Leah and Richard were in court throughout the first trial and came back for the second. They’ve asked for their names to be changed because they say they’ve felt intimidated by some of the people who’ve turned up this time around.

“People come literally from all over, we’ve had people come from the USA and Brazil,” Katie says.

“They’re not interested in listening to the arguments – they just want to be in that court,” Leah adds. “Then halfway through they’re trying to get up and leave because they realise it’s quite dry, it’s quite tedious.”

They maintain it’s important for members of the public to be allowed to observe trials. Richard, who had never been to one before, says he committed his time to following the Letby trial because of its complexity.

“To really understand the case, I think you have to be there to listen to it and absorb as much of it as you can.”

  • What did nurse Lucy Letby do to babies in her care?

Not everyone was there to listen carefully. A man handing out flyers about judicial corruption was asked to leave. Court ushers had to remind someone else not to record the hearing. And there was shouting and tears when competing views were aired outside in the corridor. But if the lack of decorum inside the courthouse felt new, it was as nothing compared with the invective raging online.

Reporters and even witnesses found themselves being trolled and accused of bias and dishonesty. There were two battles – the traditional courtroom duel of prosecution v defence; and the information war going on in parallel.

Where will this all end up?

“I’m not guilty of what I’ve been found guilty of,” Letby said at her retrial. But having been denied permission to appeal, she’d have to come up with startling new evidence or arguments to have a chance of overturning her convictions. That won’t stop the debate though.

There could be further criminal prosecutions – Cheshire Police is still investigating Letby’s career. And the public inquiry, which starts in September, will examine the wider fallout, interrogating hospital managers about the way they handled doctors’ concerns.

We watched Letby as closely during her retrial as we had throughout the 10 months of the first prosecution. She was readier to catch our eye – looking up at the public gallery, and glancing across to where the baby’s family was sitting. She often blinked rapidly and clutched a furry stress-toy under the desk of the witness box. When she gave evidence, she spoke in the same neutral, clipped tone as before, betraying little emotion.

These were intriguing little details, but they seemed to conceal more than they revealed. Even after two trials, questions about the nurse’s character, motive and psychology are still unanswered.

Lucy Letby remains an enigma.

BBC Action Line

‘I’m as happy as I’ve been in my life,’ says aid worker Simon Boas as he faces death

Simon Boas explains how cancer diagnosis helped him enjoy life more

In September 2023, Simon Boas was diagnosed with throat cancer. Aged just 46, he was told the disease was terminal, and that it would ultimately take his life.

Over the following year, he knitted together his reflections on life into a book – A Beginner’s Guide to Dying. The book is set to hit the shelves in October. It will be a posthumous publication.

In what he expects to be one of his final interviews, Simon spoke to Emma Barnett on the Today Programme, offering his reflections on life and death as he moved into hospice care.

My pain is under control and I’m terribly happy – it sounds weird to say, but I’m as happy as I’ve ever been in my life.

I used to think I’d rather be hit by the proverbial bus, but having a couple of months knowing this is coming has really helped me both do the boring ‘death-min’, but also get my thoughts and prepare myself, and feel so accepting of what’s to come.

It’s been such a great bonus, actually.

The book is called A Beginner’s Guide to Dying, but really what I’m trying to convey is how enjoying life to the full kind of prepares you for this.

In some ways I was lucky that my life and my career have taken me to quite a lot of places where death is more a part of life than it is for us in the West.

I spent my life as an aid worker – quite a lot with the UN – and I’ve lived in places where death is something that not just exists in the background, but is imminently possible.

I spent three years running a UN office in the Gaza Strip. I spent a lot of time in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and I’ve been working in Ukraine. Seeing people there for whom death is such a part of life – they lose children, they don’t know where the next meal is coming from – has really helped me.

I’ve also been a Samaritan for the past four years. In some cases you are on the line while people end their lives, so I think death has been more a part of my life than for many people.

It does us all good to think about it.

That’s not in a gloomy way… by kind of realising it’s inevitable and it’s a part of life, it actually throws life into perspective and helps you to enjoy it more and prioritise the important things.

My family are about to go through the most difficult thing in their lives. My lovely wife, Aurelie, and my parents… are well surrounded, and I hope that my cheerfulness in the leaving of life might perhaps help them in the next few years…

All our lives are little books – but they’re not someone else’s complete book. You’re a chapter or a page or a footnote in someone else’s life and they are going to keep writing beautiful chapters when you are gone.

And those green shoots can grow around grief and put it in perspective. I hope people will think, “I’m glad I read that – Simon’s story”. And just because it’s over, doesn’t mean it’s gone.

You don’t need to have been a politician or a mover and shaker or an aid worker or anything in life. All of us make a huge difference.

I love this quote from George Eliot’s Middlemarch:

“The effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistorical acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

All of us make a huge difference in life. I love the idea that most films about time travel revolve around changing one tiny thing in the past, and of course they come back to the present and everything is different.

If you project that forward, you can change huge amounts of things into the future.

All our tombs will be unvisited in a few years – all our actions will mostly be unremembered – but the smile you gave the checkout lady or the kind words you gave to a stranger in the street could still be rippling forward.

We all have that opportunity and it’s a huge power. And I want everyone to realise how special and precious they are.

I love melted cheese. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to eat since Christmas. The chemotherapy killed my taste buds and the radiotherapy killed my salivary glands.

So, sadly, melted cheese and all the things I loved are off the menu.

However, I’ve been given full permission by my oncologist and my hospice team to enjoy as much Muscadet and as many cheeky rollups as I want – and I shall certainly be indulging in those and spending time with my family.

I’m sort of – not looking forward to my final day – of course that’s the wrong way to see it. But I’m kind of curious about it, and I’m happy and I’m ready.

As Julian of Norwich said: “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

More on this story

Japan declares victory in ‘war’ on floppy disks

By Kelly NgBBC News

It’s taken until 2024, but Japan has finally said goodbye to floppy disks.

Up until last month, people were still asked to submit documents to the government using the outdated storage devices, with more than 1,000 regulations requiring their use.

But these rules have now finally been scrapped, said Digital Minister Taro Kono.

In 2021, Mr Kono had “declared war” on floppy disks. On Wednesday, almost three years later, he announced: “We have won the war on floppy disks!”

Mr Kono has made it his goal to eliminate old technology since he was appointed to the job. He had earlier also said he would “get rid of the fax machine”.

Once seen as a tech powerhouse, Japan has in recent years lagged in the global wave of digital transformation because of a deep resistance to change.

For instance, workplaces have continued to favour fax machines over emails – earlier plans to remove these machines from government offices were scrapped because of pushback.

The announcement was widely-discussed on Japanese social media, with one user on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling floppy disks a “symbol of an anachronistic administration”.

“The government still uses floppy disks? That’s so outdated… I guess they’re just full of old people,” read another comment on X.

Others comments were more nostalgic. “I wonder if floppy disks will start appearing on auction sites,” one user wrote.

Created in the 1960s, the square-shaped devices fell out of fashion in the 1990s as more efficient storage solutions were invented.

A three-and-a-half inch floppy disk could accommodate up to just 1.44MB of data. More than 22,000 such disks would be needed to replicate a memory stick storing 32GB of information.

Sony, the last manufacturer of the disks, ended its production in 2011.

As part of its belated campaign to digitise its bureaucracy, Japan launched a Digital Agency in September 2021, which Mr Kono leads.

But Japan’s efforts to digitise may be easier said than done.

Many Japan businesses still require official documents to be endorsed using carved personal stamps called hanko, despite the government’s efforts to phase them out.

People are moving away from those stamps at a “glacial pace”, said local newspaper The Japan Times.

And it was not until 2019 that the country’s last pager provider closed its service, with the final private subscriber explaining that it was the preferred method of communication for his elderly mother.

Flames, chains and grains: Africa’s top shots

A selection of the week’s best photos from across the African continent:

On the eve of Mauritania’s presidential election, a man arrives at the Grand Mosque in Nouakchott for Friday prayers…

Days later supporters of the incumbent president celebrate his re-election. The runner-up, an anti-slavery campaigner, alleges that the vote was stolen.

On Saturday, Ayra Starr becomes the first Afrobeats artist to perform on the Pyramid stage at the UK’s Glastonbury Festival…

Followed the next day by fellow Nigerian star Burna Boy.

Also on Sunday, South African singer Tyla appears at the BET awards in the US and takes home two trophies – for best Best New Artist and Best International Act.

Angola’s Silvio de Sousa and Spain’s Willy Hernangomez vie for the ball during an Olympic basketball qualifier on Wednesday.

Eritrean cyclist Biniam Girmay takes in the moment after winning the third stage of the Tour de France on Monday. He becomes the first black African competitor to win one of the 21 stages in this yearly feat of endurance.

Fishermen bring their catch to shore in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on Saturday.

The next day, Nigerian golfer Georgia Oboh lines up her putt at the Dow Championship in the US.

Protests continue in Kenya on Tuesday even though an unpopular draft law to raise tax is dropped…

Young people have been at the forefront of these demonstrations in cities and towns across the country.

And on Friday in the Tunisian town of Nabeul, a woman spreads couscous out to dry in the sun.

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Scotland’s skies aglow with rare clouds

Noctilucent clouds have been spotted from Scotland over the past few weeks.

The Met Office says the clouds are extremely rare and form in summer high up in the Earth’s atmosphere.

The Latin name means “night shining” and the clouds usually appear bluish or silvery in colour.

They have been seen from the Western Isles, north-east Scotland and the Scottish Borders.

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Jeff Bezos to sell another $5bn of Amazon shares

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos says he will sell another 25 million shares in the technology giant, worth nearly $5bn (£3.9bn).

It comes after the company’s stock market value hit a record high on Wednesday.

In February, he announced that he would sell Amazon shares worth around $8.5bn.

That marked the first time since 2021 that Mr Bezos had sold Amazon shares.

The company’s shares have risen by more than 30% this year on expectations that growing demand for artificial intelligence (AI) technology will boost earnings at its cloud computing business.

Last month, Amazon’s stock market valuation topped the $2tn for the first time.

However, that is still behind other major technology firms Nvidia, Apple and Microsoft, all of which have crossed the $3tn mark.

Amazon reported robust quarterly earnings at the end of the April, that showed the company’s bet on AI was paying off.

Mr Bezos stepped down as the company’s chief executive in 2021 and is currently its executive chair and remains its largest shareholder.

He founded Amazon in 1994 in a garage in Bellevue, Washington, when the internet was still in its infancy.

The company started out as an online bookseller, touting the world’s largest collection of ebooks.

Since then Amazon has become one of the world’s leading online retail and cloud computing companies.

He also founded the rocket company Blue Origin, which in May sent six customers to the edge of space.

Mr Bezos is the world’s second richest person, according to the Forbes Billionaires list, with an estimated net worth of around $214bn.

Starmer set to be PM as Tories face worst defeat – exit poll

By Brian WheelerPolitical reporter

Labour is set to win a general election landslide with a majority of 170, according to an exit poll for the BBC, ITV and Sky.

If the forecast is accurate, Sir Keir Starmer will become prime minister with 410 Labour MPs – just short of Tony Blair’s 1997 total.

The Conservatives are predicted to slump to 131 MPs, their lowest number ever.

The Liberal Democrats are projected to come third with 61 MPs.

The Scottish National Party will see its number of MPs fall to 10, while Reform UK is forecast to get 13 MPs, according to the exit poll.

The Green Party of England and Wales is predicted to double its number of MPs to two and Plaid Cymru is set to get four MPs. Others are forecast to get 19 seats.

The exit poll, overseen by Sir John Curtice and a team of statisticians, is based on data from voters at about 130 polling stations in England, Scotland and Wales. The poll does not cover Northern Ireland.

At the past five general elections, the exit poll has been accurate to within a range of 1.5 and 7.5 seats.

If the exit poll is correct it will be a remarkable turnaround for the Labour Party, which had its worst post-war election result in 2019, when the Conservatives under Boris Johnson won an 80 seat majority.

The Conservatives may avoid the wipe-out predicted by some opinion polls but they are still set for the worst result in the party’s history, losing 241 MPs – a devastating blow after 14 years in government.

It will mean a Labour prime minister in Downing Street for the first time since 2010 and a battle for the future direction of the Conservatives if, as seems likely, Rishi Sunak stands down as leader.

The Tory losses are likely to have been inflicted by the resurgent Liberal Democrats and Nigel Farage’s Reform UK, which looks set to win more seats than many polls predicted.

We will have to wait until the early hours, when the bulk of results start rolling in, to see if the exit poll is accurate.

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Labour’s predicted landslide would be just short of the 179 majority won by Tony Blair in 1997 and the party may achieve it on a smaller share of the vote than former leader Jeremy Corbyn won in 2017, according to Sir John Curtice.

But it will be seen as a vindication of Sir Keir Starmer’s efforts to change his party and move it back to the centre ground of British politics.

Labour shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson won the Houghton and Sunderland South constituency, in the first result of the night.

She said in her victory speech: “Tonight the British people have spoken, and if the exit poll this evening is again a guide to results across our country as it so often is, then after 14 years the British people have chosen change.

“They have chosen Labour and they have chosen the leadership of Keir Starmer. Today our country with its proud history has chosen a brighter future.”

In a pattern repeated in two other early results from North-East England, the Reform UK candidate came second ahead of the Conservatives by a large margin.

In a social media message, Reform UK leader Nigel Farage predicted his party was going to win “many, many seats,” adding: “This, folks, is huge.”

The Liberal Democrats are, meanwhile, set to squeeze the Tory vote in the south of England, where a number of Conservative cabinet members, including Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, are looking vulnerable.

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey said: “It looks like this will be our best result for a generation.”

Rishi Sunak had insisted he could still win right to the end despite failing to make a dent in Labour’s commanding opinion poll lead over the six-week campaign.

Conservative Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride told BBC Radio 4: “This is a very difficult moment for the Conservative Party.”

He said he was “very sorry” that the exit poll is projecting that a number of his colleagues will lose their seats. On keeping his own seat, he says “we will have to wait and see”.

On Wednesday – the day before the election – Mr Stride made headlines when he admitted he thought it was likely there would be a massive Labour majority, effectively conceding defeat.

Scotland’s former first minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was “not a good night” for the SNP, which is predicted to lose 38 seats, adding that she believed the prediction would be “broadly right”.

Rishi Sunak surprised many in his own party by announcing a summer election.

But his campaign was hit by a series of gaffes, from the rain-drenched announcement in Downing Street to his decision to leave a D-Day celebration in Normandy early to record a TV interview and confused messaging about a Labour “super majority”.

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Violent attacks shock France ahead of crunch vote

By Paul KirbyBBC News in Paris

A growing number of candidates and activists in France have been targeted with violent or verbal attacks in the run-up to Sunday’s tense final round of parliamentary elections.

Government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot was putting up election posters with her deputy and a party activist in Meudon, south-west of Paris, when they were brutally assaulted by a gang of youths.

Other election campaigners have come under attack across France, reflecting the febrile mood in politics with the far-right National Rally (RN) the front-runner in the election.

The motive for the attack on Ms Thevenot and her colleagues is not clear, but she returned to Meudon on Thursday with Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who condemned “attacks of intolerable cowardice”.

Images filmed from a block of flats showed the youths swarming around the candidate, her deputy Virginie Lanlo and a party activist for President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble alliance.

Ms Thevenot told Le Parisien website that when she and her colleagues objected to the youths defacing party posters “they immediately attacked one of my activists, injuring Virginie”. Ms Lanlo suffered an arm injury, while the activist was punched and hit with a scooter, ending up with a broken jaw. The car windscreen was also smashed by the scooter.

Three teenagers and a man aged 20 were arrested by police and the incident was quickly condemned across the political spectrum.

Mr Attal called on people to “reject the climate of violence and hatred that’s taking hold”, while RN leader Jordan Bardella said one of his “big commitments as prime minister” would be to “combat record insecurity and repeat offending”.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has announced that 30,000 police will be deployed across France for Sunday’s vote in an attempt to prevent “the ultra-left or ultra-right” from stirring up trouble.

The BBC spoke to voters in his constituency in northern France on Thursday who said they feared youths would go on the rampage whoever won, to express their anger at the political system.

Law and order is one of RN’s big priorities, alongside immigration and tax cuts to target the cost-of-living crisis.

RN candidates have also come under attack. Marie Dauchy described being “violently assaulted” as she campaigned at a market in La Rochette near Grenoble in the south-east.

A conservative candidate allied with RN, Nicolas Conquer, complained that he and a female colleague had been pelted with eggs. And last month another RN candidate was treated in hospital after he was set upon while handing out pamphlets.

Having won 33.2% of the vote in the first round of the snap election, called out of the blue by President Macron, Mr Bardella’s party is now aiming to win an absolute majority in the 577-seat National Assembly.

But his political opponents have agreed to do all they can to block the far right from winning enough seats to form a government.

Seventy-six seats were won outright in the first round by candidates who won more than half the local vote in their constituency, including 39 RN candidates and their allies.

The other 501 seats will be settled in run-off votes, and 217 third-placed candidates have pulled out of the race to hand a rival a better chance of defeating RN. Of those 217 withdrawals, 130 candidates came from the left-wing New Popular Front and 81 from the Macron alliance.

Marine Le Pen has complained bitterly about the operation to secure “mass withdrawals”, and blamed those who sought to “stay in power against the will of the people”.

However, she said she thought there was still a chance of winning an absolute majority, if the electorate turned out in big numbers.

The latest Ifop poll suggests RN will win 210-240 seats, short of the 289 it needs to form a government. That is down on the 240-270 range of seats that it was estimated to win after the first round.

Nevertheless there is fear among some of France’s minorities of what RN might do if it gets into power.

It aims to give French citizens “national preference” over immigrants for jobs and housing and to abolish the right to automatic French citizenship for children of foreign parents, if those children have spent five years in France from the age of 11 to 18.

Dual citizens would also be barred from dozens of sensitive jobs.

One Muslim woman in a district that voted 54% for RN last Sunday told the BBC that RN was gaining ground with every election that took place.

On the eve of France’s quarter-final tie against Portugal in the European Championships in Germany, national football captain Kylian Mbappé called on voters to “make the right choice”.

After Sunday’s “catastrophic” first-round results, he said “we can’t put the country into the hands of those people”, without specifying who they were.

What’s happened in UK election, and what comes next?

By Graeme BakerBBC News

Voting has ended and Britain’s Labour Party is projected to have won the UK’s general election with a landslide victory.

If the projection based on an exit poll is correct, Sir Keir Starmer’s centre-left party will return to power with a large majority after 14 years of right-wing government under the Conservatives.

And Mr Starmer, a former chief prosecutor and human rights lawyer, who only entered Parliament in 2015, will become the new UK prime minister on Friday.

Current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, meanwhile, will have led the Conservatives to their worst result in many decades.

Exit polls are not official results but they have proved increasingly accurate since the mid-1990s.

What comes next will be a long night of vote counting and there will undoubtedly be plenty of storylines to follow along the way.

Here’s what’s happening, and what it means.

What was the exit poll result?

Exit polls in recent elections have been a very reliable indicator of who will form the new government.

The UK runs a parliamentary system with 650 MPs, or members of parliament. Each of these represents an individual constituency – basically an area – somewhere in the country.

The exit poll projects Labour to win 410 seats, the Conservatives 131, the centrist Liberal Democrats 61 and Reform UK (a successor to the Brexit Party) 13. Other parties and independents will take the rest of the seats.

This result would give Labour a huge 170-seat majority. To compare, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s big victory in the 2019 election won his Conservatives a majority of 80 seats.

What happens now?

Right now, election officials in each constituency are busy counting votes, and at some point in the evening will declare their results. Whichever candidate gets the most votes wins and becomes the MP for the area.

Some local areas pride themselves on being among the first in the country to announce their winners. Houghton and Sunderland South was the first – returning Labour MP Bridget Phillipson – who is expected to become education secretary in the next government.

The announcement of results – often held in school halls – are usually televised. All candidates in a constituency – including those running as a joke – are present on stage.

So, on that note, watch out for Count Binface, who is challenging Mr Sunak in his northern English constituency (that seat is due to declare around 04:00 BST).

But perhaps of more political significance will be some of the senior Conservatives who will lose their seats.

Steve Baker, a cabinet minister, and Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader, are projected to have a less than 1% chance of keeping theirs.

Jeremy Hunt, who serves as chancellor – the UK’s equivalent of a finance minister – has a less than 20% chance.

Grant Shapps, the defence minister, and Johnny Mercer, the veterans minister, could also lose their seats.

When will we know the result?

That all depends. It will come when it’s clear which party will hit the magic number of 326 seats.

That figure represents a majority in parliament, meaning the party has enough MPs to be able to pass laws without needing the help of any other party.

The leader of the party with the most MPs becomes prime minister, after the King officially invites them to form a government.

And the leader of the party with the second highest number of MPs becomes what’s known as the leader of the opposition.

If the incumbent prime minister loses, the changeover is quick, compared with many other countries.

So if this exit poll is correct, Mr Sunak will probably be out of 10 Downing Street – the UK equivalent of the White House – within a day, with Mr Starmer installed soon after.

Prof Sir John Curtice answers key election night questions

How did we get here?

In late May, facing a significant deficit in the polls, Rishi Sunak surprised many in his own party as well as political pundits by deciding to call a snap election, triggering a six-week campaign.

The Conservatives have held power since 2010 and the country has seen five leaders in that time – including a tumultuous period in 2022 when the UK had three prime ministers in a matter of weeks.

For its part, Labour hasn’t won a general election since 2005 and its last result in 2019 under left-wing leader Jeremy Corbyn was its worst for almost a century.

Keir Starmer sought to show voters during the campaign that the party had moved on, and deserved to run the country after such a long period of Conservative government.

Mr Sunak, meanwhile, repeatedly warned voters against handing Labour a large majority.

Let’s talk about Reform UK

The insurgent party of this election has been Reform UK, the right-wing successor to the Brexit Party and the UK Independence Party, all of which have been led by Nigel Farage.

Neither UKIP nor the Brexit Party gained any seats in parliament at a general election. Now Reform is projected to get at least 13 – and early constituency results show big support.

In Houghton and Sunderland South, Sunderland Central, and Blyth and Ashington, the first three constituencies to declare, Reform came second to Labour but beat the Conservatives into third place.

Mr Farage could himself become an MP on the eighth time of trying. He’s standing in Clacton, in south-east England.

While exit polls show a Labour landslide, he said the results for his party showed that “the revolt against the establishment is under way”.

David Bull, of Reform, told the BBC the exit poll projection represented a “historic moment”.

“We are an insurgent party, this has come out of nowhere,” he said. “The shy Reformers [are] coming out in droves. Thirteen seats is extraordinary.

Reform drew controversy during the campaign over offensive statements made by some of its candidates and activists. One canvasser was filmed using a racial slur to describe Rishi Sunak.

Sir John Curtice: Understanding the exit poll numbers

By Sir John CurticeBBC polling expert

Labour have likely secured their anticipated landslide victory, though the party may have fallen just short of the majority Tony Blair won in the 1997 general election.

They may have achieved this on a smaller share of the vote than former leader Jeremy Corbyn secured in 2017.

Both the Conservative share of the vote and their seat tally could be the lowest in the party’s history. Their seat tally might be affected by their vote falling more heavily in seats where they were previously strongest – a pattern that is largely because support for Reform has risen most there.

To add to the Conservatives’ travails, the rise in Labour support is stronger in seats where the party started off second to them. Equally, the Lib Dems have performed especially well in seats where they started second to the Conservatives – and particularly in ones the party held until 2015.

It is these patterns that, above all, help explain why the Conservative seat tally is expected to be so low.

Sir John Curtice on Reform UK and SNP predictions

It appears the Conservatives have suffered heavily in places where more than a third of households have a mortgage – a reflection perhaps of the damage caused by former prime minister Liz Truss’s “fiscal event”.

It looks as though Reform UK may win more seats than many polls suggested. This is largely because the Conservative vote has fallen far in seats they previously held, but also because Reform have advanced most in seats where more people voted Leave in 2016. This is especially the case in seats being defended by the Conservatives.

Reform are also inevitably advancing more strongly in seats that the Conservatives won in 2017 – where the Brexit Party did not stand in 2019.

However, how many seats Reform will win is highly uncertain.

Our model suggests there are many places where they have a chance – but a relatively low one – of winning.

Labour’s vote rises in areas of poor health

Meanwhile, Labour’s vote is up more in seats where a large part of the population say they are in bad health – a measure of relative deprivation – and in places where more people voted Leave in 2016. The party also seems to be advancing strongly in Scotland but less well in Wales, where they have held power in the Senedd since 2021.

While the Lib Dems are doing relatively well in seats where they start second to the Tories, conversely their vote has been squeezed somewhat in places where the Conservatives were facing a challenge from Labour.

They also appear to be doing better in places with a relatively high Leave vote, which was one of Ed Davey’s objectives.

The Greens are performing particularly well in places where the population is relatively young. Their success in these places may help to explain why Labour’s share of the vote nationally might be less than 40%. The Greens may still only pick up two or three seats, despite recording their highest-ever general election vote share because of its even distribution across the country.

Questions remain in Scotland

In Scotland, it appears the SNP have suffered a more substantial reverse than was anticipated by most polls. Though the decline in the party’s support appears to be lower in places where a high proportion of people identify as Scottish rather than British.

The exit poll only has a small number of sampling points in Scotland. If the poll has even slightly overestimated Labour’s advantage over the SNP, the latter’s tally could end up being higher.

The forecast for the SNP – and for Scotland in general, where the exit poll is pointing to substantial Labour gains – must thus be treated with a great deal of caution.

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Exit poll: What is the forecast in my area?

The Labour Party is forecast to win a landslide majority in Parliament, according to an exit poll published as voting ended in the 2024 general election.

Labour is set to take 410 seats, well ahead of the Conservatives on 131, according to the forecast based on the poll carried out by Ipsos for the BBC, ITV News and Sky News.

This suggests Labour is on course for a majority of 170 seats, although they may have fallen just short of the majority Tony Blair won in 1997.

The Liberal Democrats are currently forecast to win 61 seats, Reform UK 13, the SNP 10, Plaid Cymru is on four and the Green Party two.

Other parties, including those in Northern Ireland, are forecast to get 19 seats.

Enter your postcode or a constituency name to find what the exit poll forecast is currently suggesting may happen in your area.

Bear in mind that this is only an indication of what may happen. Sir John Curtice, who leads the exit poll team, says the number of seats Reform will win is particularly uncertain.

He explains: “Our model suggests there are many places where they have some, but a relatively low, chance of winning.”

This look-up will be updated as results come in and the forecasts are modified.

What is the exit poll

The exit poll is a way of forecasting what may happen in the general election, after voting ends but before the results are known.

The poll focuses on revealing national trends and is mainly used to forecast which party may form the government at Westminster.

Forecasting results at a constituency level is harder, especially if there are local factors that make the election distinct in any particular seat.

Researchers at 133 polling stations across England, Scotland and Wales ask around 20,000 people to indicate which way they voted.

A team of academics led by Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, uses this and other data to estimate the vote share per party in each constituency and then to forecast each party’s likelihood of winning in any given seat.

All the individual probabilities are added together to arrive at the forecast seat totals for each party. The exit poll is not held in Northern Ireland so the 18 seats there are labelled “Other”.

The model is updated throughout the night as results come in, so seat totals and individual constituencies are likely to change.

Find out more

Pattern across Great Britain

These maps show the exit poll forecast across England, Wales and Scotland.

In the locations coloured grey, the contest is very close. Everywhere else is coloured by the party currently considered most likely to win.

When an actual result is declared it will overwrite the exit poll data in this map, and in the postcode lookup above.

Again, the forecasts may change over the night. You will need to refresh this page to see those updates.

Rural constituencies are larger than those in cities because the population is more spread out.

So here is the same data in a cartogram, where each constituency is shown as equal in size.

The cartogram is a way of viewing each seat as the same size, while attempting to show roughly where in the UK they are.

All the seats are correctly within the right nation and English region, but they may not follow typical geography beyond that.

There are some, mostly around London – whose high population density distorts the map most significantly – that are in different places to where you’d expect, no longer neighbouring the seats they lie next to geographically.

Note

All declaration times estimated by the BBC are approximate and the actual results may happen earlier or later than stated. As with the main results, all 2019 figures are notional, because of boundary changes. You can read more about that here.

Full details of how the exit poll methodology was developed can be found at Warwick University Department of Statistics website.

Credits

Look-up developed and designed by Scott Jarvis and Prina Shah, produced by Christine Jeavans. Cartogram template used with thanks to Philip Brown and Alasdair Rae.

Hezbollah fires 200 rockets and drones into Israel

By David GrittenBBC News

The Lebanese armed group Hezbollah has launched more than 200 rockets and attack drones into northern Israel, in response to the killing of one of its senior commanders.

Israel’s military said one of its officers was killed in the barrage, which started a number of fires.

The military also said it had targeted Hezbollah “military structures” and other targets in southern Lebanon in response.

Lebanese media reported that one person was killed in an Israeli drone strike in the town of Houla.

The latest barrage, which followed one comprising 100 rockets on Wednesday afternoon, was one of the biggest so far in the nine months of cross-border violence which have raised fears of an all-out war.

The Hezbollah commander killed in an Israeli air strike near the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, Mohammed Nimah Nasser, was one of the most senior figures in the group to have been killed in the conflict.

The Israeli military said Nasser commanded Hezbollah’s Aziz Unit, which is responsible for launching rockets from south-western Lebanon, and accused him of directing a “large number of terror attacks”.

It also described him as “the counterpart” of Taleb Sami Abdullah, the commander of another unit whose killing last month prompted Hezbollah to launch more than 200 rockets and missiles into northern Israel in a single day.

There have been almost daily exchanges of fire across the Israel-Lebanon border since the day after the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza on 7 October.

Hezbollah has said it is acting in support of the Palestinian group that is also backed by Iran. Both groups are proscribed as terrorist organisations by Israel, the UK and other countries.

So far, more than 400 people have been reported killed in Lebanon, the vast majority of them Hezbollah fighters, and 25 people in Israel, mostly soldiers.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to restore security in northern Israel.

“In the tough campaign against Lebanon we have set a principle – whoever harms us is a dead man. We are making that a reality in practice,” he said on Thursday.

The hostilities have also displaced tens of thousands of people from border communities in northern Israel and southern Lebanon.

“The response to the assassination of the dear leader Hajj Abu Nimah [Nasser]… started last night and quickly,” senior Hezbollah official Hashem Safieddine warned at Nasser’s funeral in Beirut on Thursday.

“This series will continue to target new sites that the enemy did not imagine would be hit.”

A spokeswoman for the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, Unifil, said the exchanges were now extending deeper into both sides of the border, and called on both Israel and Hezbollah to show restraint.

“We’re very concerned… because any exchange, any incident, can escalate into something greater if there is a misunderstanding,” Kandice Ardiel told the BBC.

There has been a flurry of diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions in recent weeks, with the UN and US warning of the potentially catastrophic consequences of a war that could also draw in Iran and other allied groups.

Israeli officials have repeatedly warned that they are ready for a war if diplomacy fails. Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Wednesday that the military would soon be ready to “take any action required in Lebanon, or to reach an arrangement from a position of strength”.

Hezbollah, which is seen as a significantly superior foe to Hamas, has said it does not want a full-out war with Israel and that it will observe in Lebanon any ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. But it has also warned Israel that it would fight “without rules” if there was a war.

How record-breaking Hurricane Beryl is a sign of a warming world

By Mark PoyntingClimate reporter

Hurricane Beryl is wreaking havoc in parts of the Caribbean – and putting the role of climate change under the spotlight.

With maximum sustained wind speeds of more than 160mph (257km/h), it became the earliest category five Atlantic hurricane in records going back around 100 years.

In fact, there has only been one previous recorded case of a category five Atlantic hurricane in July – Hurricane Emily, on 16 July 2005.

The causes of individual storms are complex, making it difficult to fully attribute specific cases to climate change.

But exceptionally high sea surface temperatures are seen as a key reason why Hurricane Beryl has been so powerful.

Usually, such strong storms only develop later in the season, after the seas have heated up through the summer.

Hurricanes generally need the sea surface to be at least 27C in order to have a chance of developing. As the map below shows, waters along Hurricane Beryl’s path have been much warmer than this.

All else being equal, warmer seas mean more powerful hurricanes, because the storms can pick up more energy, enabling higher wind speeds.

“We know that as we warm the planet, we’re warming our sea surface temperatures as well,” explains Andra Garner, an assistant professor at Rowan University in the US.

“And we know that those warm ocean waters are a critical fuel source for hurricanes.”

In the main Atlantic hurricane development region, the ocean heat content – the energy stored throughout the water column – is at levels not usually seen until September.

That is when the Atlantic hurricane season is usually at its most active, as the sea surface is typically at its warmest at the end of summer.

This is illustrated by the chart below, where a dot represents a major hurricane between 1940 and 2024. As you can see, most major hurricanes happen in late August and September, and earlier ones are very rare.

While a category five hurricane is unheard of this early in the season, its strength fits into the broader picture of how these storms are changing in a warming world.

The number of hurricanes has not been increasing, but a higher proportion of them are expected to reach the highest categories globally as temperatures rise.

“Although it is uncertain to what extent climate change contributed to the early formation of Hurricane Beryl, our climate models suggest that the mean intensity of hurricanes will increase in the future due to enhanced global warming,” explains Hiroyuki Murakami, research scientist at Noaa’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Another factor to consider this year is regional weather patterns.

In the eastern Pacific, El Niño conditions have recently come to an end.

El Niño inhibits the formation of strong hurricanes in the Atlantic, because of the way it affects winds in the atmosphere. The opposite phase, known as La Niña, favours Atlantic hurricane development.

Currently, there are “neutral” conditions – neither El Niño nor La Nina. But La Niña conditions are expected later this year.

This likely transition – as well as rising sea temperatures through July and August – has led to concerns that even more powerful hurricanes could form later in the season.

“Hurricane Beryl sets a precedent for what we fear is going to be a very, very active, very dangerous hurricane season, which will impact the entire Atlantic basin,” says Ko Barrett, Deputy Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization.

In May, the US weather agency Noaa warned an “extraordinary” Atlantic hurricane season could be in store, forecasting between four and seven major hurricanes – category three (111mph) or above – between June and November. On average, the Atlantic is hit by three major hurricanes a year.

Watch: Union Island resident explains impact of Hurricane Beryl

Rapid intensification

Meteorologists and climate scientists have also remarked about how quickly Hurricane Beryl strengthened.

It took just 42 hours to go from a tropical depression – with maximum sustained wind speeds of 38mph or less – to a major hurricane (meaning above 111mph).

“What makes Beryl particularly notable is that it […] intensified the fastest from a tropical depression to a hurricane [of any Atlantic hurricane in June or early July],” explains Shuyi Chen, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Washington.

Hurricane Beryl is an example of “rapid intensification” – where maximum wind speeds increase very quickly. It can be especially dangerous, because communities have less time to prepare.

The frequency and magnitude of these rapid intensification events in the Atlantic appears to have increased in recent decades.

“Unprecedented as Beryl is, it actually very much aligns with the kinds of extremes we expect in a warmer climate,” Dr Garner says.

“As we’re warming the planet, we’re essentially “stacking the deck” of extreme events against ourselves, making events like Hurricane Beryl not only possible, but more likely.”

“It’s up to us to reduce our emissions to change that story.”

More on Hurricane Beryl

Staying up? All you need to know about election night

By Sean SeddonBBC News

Settle in, folks – it’s going to be a long night.

Our election night watcher’s guide includes key timings and the pivotal seats you should watch out for as we wait to find out who will be the next prime minister.

We’ll also be telling you where you can watch, listen and read everything you need to know about the results from across the BBC.

So if you’re staying up, we hope you’ve got Friday booked off and you’re stocked up on snacks and coffee. Now make yourself comfortable.

22:00 – Exit poll marks the start of results night

This is the first big moment of the night. Voters in more than 130 constituencies are polled across the country on behalf of broadcasters.

The results allow BBC analysts to forecast approximately how many seats each party has won across Britain. The exit poll isn’t always exactly right, but more often than not it gives a good indication of where we’re heading.

The result is being projected on the BBC’s London HQ, Broadcasting House.

Staying up past then? We’ve got you covered.

Online: Follow all the election developments and results on the BBC News website and app, where we’ll be running a live page through the night with analysis from correspondents and experts.

TV: The BBC’s Election 2024 programme with Laura Kuenssberg, Clive Myrie and Chris Mason begins on BBC One and BBC News at 21:55 BST. You can also keep up to date by tuning in to the BBC News Channel and the Election 2024 livestream on BBC iPlayer.

There will also be dedicated results programmes in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

23:00 – The race to be first

Sunderland used to be famous for getting the first result out but this year it could come from nearby Blyth and Ashington, a new seat.

This is traditional Labour territory but includes towns where voters have switched to the Tories in recent years.

The important thing to watch out for here will be the size of any swing towards Labour, which will provide the first bit of hard data pointing to how the party has performed nationally.

Remember, all result timings are estimates and could change.

Radio: Check in with Nick Robinson, Rachel Burden and Henry Zeffman on Radio 4 and 5 Live. The Newscast podcast team are hosting a watch-along with 150 listeners at the BBC’s London HQ. A special edition of the podcast will be available on Friday morning. Listen here.

00:00 – The calm before the storm

Not many results are due in around midnight – can you resist the urge to go to bed during this lull?

There could be an early eye-catching result in Swindon South, where Labour hope to unseat former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland.

That would be ominous for Rishi Sunak – and he’ll also be concerned if the Liberal Democrats make an early breakthrough in Harrogate and Knaresborough.

01:00 – Results trickle in

Starting to feel those first flickers of tiredness? Well, it’s about to start picking up.

The big result to look out for is Darlington, which the Tories took from Labour in 2019 under Boris Johnson. Similarly, watch out for Wrexham at around 01:30.

To put it simply, if Labour isn’t winning this sort of place back, it probably isn’t winning.

In Basildon and Billericay, we’ll find out if Conservative Party chairman Richard Holden’s relocation to this usually safe Tory seat has paid dividends for him.

Keep your eyes peeled for Rutherglen, which is due to be the first result from Scotland. We’ll start to find out if pro-independence voters have stuck with the SNP, stayed at home or switched to Labour.

Online: Remember, you can see all the results online and they will be updated throughout the night.

International users can access all BBC News election content on BBC.com.

02:00 – Results come in thick and fast

  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Keir Starmer set to be prime minister – exit poll
  • Results tracker: Find out who won in your area
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis
  • Election results night: Your essential guide

Boris Johnson won a string of seats in traditional Labour heartlands in the Midlands and northern England in 2019 on a promise to “get Brexit done”.

Watch out for places like Bolsover, West Bromwich and Hartlepool.

They’ll start to give us a sense of whether the Conservatives have held on to these so-called red wall constituencies or whether Labour has won them back.

If you’re reading this shortly after polls close and wondering what time to wake up in order to see the big moments, this would be a good time to set your alarm for.

According to BBC polling guru Prof Sir John Curtice, an eventual result could be forecast by broadcasters around this time in the event of a landslide. It wouldn’t be official – it would just mean that based on the results so far, the BBC and others might feel confident enough to “call it”.

Between 02:30 and 03:00, we’re expecting the pace of declarations to really pick up – so if you’ve got to get up for work soon, walk away now while you still can.

Watch for Na h-Eileanan an Iar – this island constituency off Scotland’s west coast might have the smallest population of any in the UK, but it will give us an early sign of whether Labour are breaking through north of the border.

In Northern Ireland, the performance of the DUP could be the story of the night.

Party leader Gavin Robinson is facing a strong challenge from Naomi Long, the leader of the Alliance Party, in Belfast East, while in South Antrim, the Ulster Unionist Party thinks it has a good chance of returning to Westminster by beating the DUP.

The DUP is also under pressure from Alliance in Lagan Valley, which is the seat formerly held by Sir Jeffrey Donaldson – who resigned as DUP leader earlier this year when he was charged with historical sex offences, which he denies. That result is due a bit later.

03:00 – For whom the bellwethers toll

If you’re staying up, get some coffee and strap in – because if alarm bells aren’t already ringing for one of the two main parties, they soon will be.

Bellwether seats like Nuneaton and Stevenage are hotly contested places which have switched between Labour and Tory. The party that wins in Dartford has gone on to form a government at every election since 1964. Keep an eye on Scarborough and Whitby too.

In short, if Labour are winning these seats, they‘re likely to be on for a comfortable majority – and if they’re not, then the pollsters may want to keep a low profile for a while.

Sir Keir Starmer will be watching from Holborn and St Pancras, where his result is due at around the same time as his predecessor’s. Jeremy Corbyn will be learning his fate down the road in Islington North, where he is standing as an independent.

Also watch Chingford and Woodford Green, where Labour’s attempt to unseat former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith has been complicated by its former candidate Faiza Shaheen running as an independent.

Then there is Rochdale, where we’ll find out if ex-Labour MP George Galloway’s recent by-election victory was a temporary protest vote or if he’s there to stay.

In Wales, a good night for Plaid Cymru would mean holding on to their seats in west Wales – which, because of boundary changes, would mean beating Rishi Sunak’s chief whip Simon Hart in Caerfyrddin – and taking Ynys Môn from the Tories. They’re due around this time.

03:30 – Senior Tories in spotlight as floodgates open

If you’re still with us by this stage, then in the words of Chris Mason, you clearly ooze stamina.

Now it’s going to get hectic. About one fifth of all the results are due to be announced in a 30-minute window from 03:30.

Attention will turn to senior Tories in seats where pre-election polls suggested they could lose. Watch for:

  • Cheltenham – Justice Secretary Alex Chalk
  • North East Somerset and Hanham – former minister Jacob Rees-Mogg
  • Welwyn Hatfield – Defence Secretary Grant Shapps
  • Portsmouth North – Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt

There may be some high drama in Surrey, where Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is being pushed by the Lib Dems in Godalming and Ash. A sitting chancellor has never lost their seat but if things are going really badly for the Tories, that could change.

Elsewhere, we’ll get a sense of how the Lib Dems and Greens are doing.

Both Wimbledon and South Cambridgeshire are key Lib Dem targets, but the party will need a much bigger swing to win somewhere like Chichester, which is Education Secretary Gillian Keegan’s seat. If they win there, they’re having a very good night.

In Bristol Central, Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer has one of the party’s best chances of taking a new seat.

The party’s other leader, Adrian Ramsay, will hope to win in Waveney Valley – though we’re not expecting that result until closer to 04:30.

04:00 – Sunak and Farage take the stage

Rishi Sunak’s constituency Richmond and Northallerton isn’t due to declare until around this time, by which time his party’s fate may already be sealed. This could well be the first time in the evening we hear him speak.

Reform UK has shaken up this election but will it make it into the Commons? At around 04:00, we’ll find out if Nigel Farage has won in Clacton, a race that marks his eighth attempt to become an MP.

Two other big Reform targets are due around that time, too – Richard Tice in Boston and Skegness and Lee Anderson in Ashfield.

Elsewhere, the picture in Scotland should be pretty clear after the Glasgow results are through. The SNP will feel it has weathered the storm if it limits any losses there – but Labour wins in Glasgow South and Glasgow West could indicate a real shift across the country.

Winning back Gordon Brown’s old seat Cowdenbeath and Kirkcaldy from the SNP would be a big symbolic moment for Labour, and the SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn will hope to prevent any revival in Aberdeen South.

04:51 – A new day – and a new government?

Noticed that strange glowing light at the window? That’s the sun coming up. If you’re still awake by now, give yourself a big pat on the back.

By the time it’s light, we are likely to know who will form the next government, because enough seats should have been declared for a party to pass the 326 seats needed for a majority.

In the event of a Labour landslide or a very comfortable win, we could already have reached that point earlier in the night, closer to 04:00. If the Tories have defied the polls or the election is close, it could come later.

05:00 – Last results come in

If you are still up by now, you are either: a) extraordinarily caffeinated or, b) Professor Sir John Curtice. Either way, you have earned your election night stripes.

Mercifully, there should be a bit of a breather around this time as the pace of results slow – but there are some big ones still to come.

Deciding to run in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East led to Douglas Ross announcing he will quit as leader of the Scottish Conservatives due to internal party anger over his attempt to serve in Westminster and Holyrood at the same time. We’re due to find out if it was worth it.

Johnny Mercer is another high-profile Tory figure facing a tough challenge. Labour hope to take his Plymouth Moor View seat at around this point in the morning.

At around 05:30, we’re expecting to get Liz Truss’s result in South West Norfolk.

06:00-07:00 – What does it all mean?

People who went to bed after the exit poll will be waking up to a set of results that is more or less complete, with counting only continuing in very close seats or ones that started late for logistical reasons.

If things have gone badly for the Tories, we could still see some big names losing their seats at this point – for example, Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker in Wycombe and Jonathan Gullis, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, in Stoke-on-Trent North.

Whatever the result, the focus will now start moving to victory speeches, recriminations, resignations and what the new government will look like.

Results night might be over, but really, the big stuff is just beginning – so if you’ve been with us all night, for goodness sake, go to bed.

Online: Follow all the reaction to the election developments and results on the BBC News website and app.

TV: Sophie Raworth, Jon Kay and Vicki Young will lead TV coverage on BBC One and BBC News into the afternoon.

Radio: The Today programme will be drilling down into the result from 06:00 on Radio 4. Global audiences can follow events, with a mix of dedicated UK election coverage and international news, through the BBC World Service.

Sign up: A special edition of our Election Essentials newsletter will be sent to subscribers on Saturday – make sure you’re signed up here. There’ll also be an extra News Daily newsletter – sign up here to make sure you don’t miss anything.

Ukraine calls them meat assaults: Russia’s brutal plan to take ground

By Gordon CoreraSecurity correspondent, Kyiv

On the frontlines, Ukrainian soldiers use a graphic term to describe the Russian tactics they face daily.

They call them “meat assaults”: waves of Russian soldiers coming at their defensive positions, sometimes nearly a dozen times in a day.

Lt Col Anton Bayev of the Khartia Brigade of Ukraine’s National Guard says wave after wave can arrive in just a few hours at front-line positions north of Kharkiv.

“The Russians use these units in most cases purely to see where our firing equipment is located, and to constantly exhaust our units,” he said.

“Our guys stand in positions and fight, and when four or five waves of the enemy come at you in a day, which you have to destroy without end, it is very difficult – not only physically, but also psychologically.”

This tactic has led to staggering Russian casualties since Moscow launched its latest offensive two months ago. Around 1,200 Russian soldiers were being killed or wounded every day in May and June, the highest rate since the beginning of the war, according to Western officials.

Those attacking are normally quickly spotted by drones above and the Russians leave their dead and wounded on the battlefield, Lt Col Bayev says. “Their main task is simply meat assaults and our total exhaustion.”

The tactic is a sign that Russia is seeking to make the most of its key advantage – numbers.

In Pokrovsk in the Donetsk region, Captain Ivan Sekach from Ukraine’s 110th Brigade compares what he sees to a conveyor belt bringing Russians to be killed, although still allowing them to push forward slowly.

Russia benefits from a significantly larger population than Ukraine. Some of those in the assaults are former prisoners, but Russia is also able to recruit through making one-off payments, sometimes thousands of dollars.

And there have been complaints from the Russian side about “crippled regiments”, in which wounded soldiers are forced back into fighting. One video shows dozens of men, some on crutches, appealing to their commanders because they say they are wounded and require hospital treatment, but instead are being sent back into combat.

All of this, Western officials say, means Moscow can keep throwing soldiers, even if poorly trained, straight on to the front lines at the same rate they are being killed or wounded.

Ukraine could not match the Russian tactics even if it had the numbers, partly due to a different attitude towards casualties. A senior general was removed in recent weeks after complaints he was using what are often called Soviet tactics – throwing people at the front lines.

“There are a lot of criticisms because we have lost a lot of our guys because of Soviet-type mindset and strategy,” says Ivan Stupak, a former Security Service officer. “We are limited with manpower. We have no other options than thinking of our people.”

In the area around Kharkiv, Russian advances have been stopped. But in the east, Russia’s attritional approach is making slow but steady advances.

“Unfortunately there are a lot of Russians. And they are trying to conduct this rolling operation centimetre by centimetre, inch by inch, 100m per day, 200m per day. And unfortunately, it’s successful for them,” says Stupak.

There is frustration in Kyiv about the pace of Western support. One senior official complains they are receiving enough help to ensure they do not lose but not enough to make sure they win.

Western officials acknowledge 2024 has been a tough year for Ukraine, with delays in the arrival of US military aid creating a major strain on defences which has cost territory and lives.

“It seems like a so-called incremental approach,” Oleksandr Merezhko, chair of Ukraine’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, told the BBC.

“We receive little by little, and I get the impression that our Western allies give a little bit of weaponry, and they see what happens next, as if they’re afraid of what they refer to as escalation.”

The lifting of restrictions on using US weapons over the border into Russia has made a difference and helped stall Moscow’s assault on Kharkiv.

“If we have to fight with our hands tied behind our back, you know we’ll be only bleeding to death,” says Mr Merezhko. “That’s why it’s crucially important to be allowed to use long range missiles in the territory of Russia, and we already have results.”

But a Ukrainian official said the use of longer range strikes into Russia had only been a palliative and was not fundamentally altering the dynamic of the war.

“We are driving towards stalemate,” former security service officer Ivan Stupak says, acknowledging that this may lead eventually to the “bitter pill” of some form of negotiation.

During a visit to Kyiv this week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban suggested a ceasefire first to hasten negotiations, a position that officials in Kyiv are wary of.

“We [are] not ready to go to the compromise for the very important things and values,” Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine’s President Zelensky, told reporters in Washington.

Ukrainians fear without hard security guarantees – such as Nato membership, rather than vague talk of a bridge to such status – Russia may simply regroup and attack again in the future.

Vladimir Putin is counting on wearing down Ukraine on the battlefield and outlasting the West’s resolve to provide support. As well as launching guided aerial bombs against frontline positions and civilians in Kharkiv, Moscow has also targeted energy infrastructure across the country, leading to increasingly frequent power blackouts and concerns over what winter might bring.

November’s US election adds another layer of uncertainty, along with a question mark as to whether the European Union could realistically pick up any slack.

For Lt Col Anton Bayev on the frontline near Kharkiv, the ability to strike into Russia may have been vital, but he now sees his enemy adapting its tactics – and not just with “meat assaults”.

His losses now come from mortars and glide bombs, while his Ukrainian forces remain short of ammunition.

“We need everything, and there is always a lack,” he says.

“The boys are holding on. We’re all hanging on. It’s hard, but everyone knows the price and why it’s all being done.”

  • Published

Andy Murray thanked Wimbledon organisers for an “emotional” farewell ceremony after his final appearance began with a defeat alongside older brother Jamie in the men’s doubles.

The two-time singles champion is playing at the All England Club for the last time before retiring later this year.

A video montage of Murray’s career was played on the Centre Court big screen after the match, leaving the former world number one in tears as thousands of fans showed their appreciation with elongated applause.

“It feels like a good ending to me. Whether I deserve it or not, I don’t know. But they did a really, really good job,” said Murray, who won Wimbledon in 2013 and 2016.

The Murray brothers arrived on a packed Centre Court to a standing ovation.

Another followed moments after they lost 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 to Australian pair John Peers and Rinky Hijikata.

Murray’s parents Judy and Will, his wife Kim and two of their daughters watched on as former BBC presenter Sue Barker conducted a poignant ceremony shortly after.

Murray thanked his family, his team members over the years and the fans for their continued support.

“It is hard because I want to keep playing, but I can’t,” Murray said on court.

“Physically it’s too tough now. I want to play forever. I love the sport.”

Fellow Grand Slam champions Novak Djokovic, Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe and Iga Swiatek applauded from the side of the court, alongside British players Dan Evans, Jack Draper and Cameron Norrie.

Murray is set to appear again later this week, having signed up to the mixed doubles with fellow British Grand Slam champion Emma Raducanu.

“It was obviously very special to play with Jamie, we’ve not the chance to do it before,” Murray, who won the first of his three major titles at the 2012 US Open, said.

“It was a race against time to get out here and physically it wasn’t easy but I’m glad we were able to do it one time together.”

Why Wimbledon means so much to Murray

Wimbledon has been the scene of many of the defining moments of Murray’s career and the emotional ties are why he fought so hard to play one final time.

Murray’s chances of a last hurrah had been thrown into serious doubt.

A back issue caused a loss of power and feeling in his right leg during a match at Queen’s three weeks ago.

The only option was an operation on 22 June to remove a cyst close to his spine, but it left Murray in a race against time to be fit.

Ultimately, having left making a decision until the night before his scheduled singles match on Tuesday, he realised with a heavy heart it was not possible to play a five-set match.

Going out alongside 38-year-old Jamie in the shorter doubles format was the next best thing.

The plan, which was initially put in place around the French Open in late May, did come to fruition.

Not since 1995 had a men’s doubles first-round match been put on Centre Court.

This occasion could not have been scheduled anywhere else.

Murray reached his first Wimbledon final in 2012, losing to Roger Federer in an four-set match which left him in tears and changed public perception about him.

Redemption came when he won Olympic singles gold on the same court against the same opponent four weeks later.

A year on, Murray ended Britain’s 77-year wait for a Wimbledon men’s singles champion by beating world number one Djokovic in a moment of national celebration.

Another triumph at the All England Club came in 2016, which he says he enjoyed more.

After both victories, Murray walked back through the marbled corridors of Centre Court – like tradition dictates – and was given a guard of honour before stepping on to the balcony to greet the adoring fans below.

The same ceremonial walk was made by Murray again on Thursday night.

While Murray had not won the trophy again, it was the only farewell – of sorts – fit for a player who has led British tennis with distinction.

How an emotional day unfolded

Talk of the Super Murray Bros dominated day four of this year’s Championships.

The famous Wimbledon queue, where fans camp overnight to grab one of the limited first-come first-served tickets for the following day, grew to a line of 11,000 hopefuls by mid-morning.

The Murraynators were there, of course. A group of super-fans, who have travelled the world to watch their hero, slept outside in Wimbledon Park and were rewarded with Centre Court tickets.

If you weren’t there with a tent and sleeping bag, your alarm had to be set for a time when nightclubs usually kick out.

Inside the All England Club, fans not fortunate enough to have a court ticket gathered on Henman Hill – sorry, Murray Mound. Hundreds had been in position all day with picnics and blankets.

Back on Centre, supporters took a breather after women’s top seed Swiatek wrapped up a straight-set win at about 18:30 BST.

Then, the change of stage began. Down came the net and singles posts, replaced by the longer doubles version.

A half-hour turnaround allowed the atmosphere to bubble with the Murrays’ nearest and dearest taking their seats.

Andy’s wife Kim was flanked by their daughters, with mum Judy alongside them. Dad Will had travelled down from Scotland to watch.

Andy Murray insisted the brothers were not just playing for show, claiming they had a good chance of winning the match and going far in the tournament.

The match did not pan out as they hoped.

It was clear from the third game that the younger Murray sibling was struggling with his movement.

His ‘will to win’ – which has become the epitaph of his tennis career – had not diminished, however.

The usual teeth-baring and fist-pumping was on show. As was the chuntering at his team.

Unfortunately, his body was not operating how his mind wanted it to. That’s been a recurring theme for the past five and a half years.

At the 2019 Australian Open, Murray broke down in a news conference as he said he thought he would have to retire later that year because of a hip injury.

No singles player had come back to professional tennis after a resurfacing surgery.

Metal-hip Murray not only returned. He returned and won an ATP Tour title later that year. More memorable moments at Grand Slams followed.

But he could not regain the level which made him one of the best players of his generation.

“The injuries have been tough, quite significant injuries,” he said.

“We’ve worked extremely hard just to be on the court competing, probably not on the level that any of us wanted but we tried.”

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Dutch rider Dylan Groenewegen clinched victory in a thrilling photo finish to win stage six of the Tour de France.

The flat 163.5km route from Macon to Dijon was always likely to end in a bunch sprint, following Mark Cavendish’s record-breaking victory a day earlier.

But the British rider, 39, finished out of contention in Thursday’s sprint and was unable to add to Wednesday’s 35th stage win on the Tour, which took him clear of Eddy Merckx for the outright record.

Team Jayco–AlUla’s Groenewegen, 31, made a late surge for the line to beat Jasper Philipsen by little more than a wheel trim.

That gave Groenewegen the sixth stage win of his career and his first since 2022, his first year with his Australian team.

Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Philipsen was later relegated to 107th place for shifting his line and blocking Wout van Aert during the the final 150m.

There was no change at the top of the general classification standings so Tadej Pogacar remains the leader, 45 seconds ahead of Remco Evenepoel, with defending champion Jonas Vingegaard five seconds further adrift in third.

Astana Qazaqstan’s sporting director Mark Renshaw said after Cavendish’s win on Wednesday that coming into this year’s Tour, which is expected to be the Manx Missile’s last, the team felt that Thursday’s stage would be his best opportunity to clinch the record.

Having sealed the deal on stage five, it means Cavendish now has the chance to increase his record before finally calling it quits.

With just one climb on the stage, it promised to be a relatively straightforward ride through the vineyards of Burgundy, and so it proved for the most part.

Cavendish did show some frustration after the first of two stoppages because of mechanical issues, but he managed to safely rejoin the peloton long before it picked up the pace rolling into Dijon.

He was well placed before the Uno-X Mobility team hit the front but Astana started to fall back with less than 2km remaining and, as the race entered the 800m dash to the line, Cavendish had drifted out of contention.

Mathieu van der Poel led out team-mate Philipsen, who then hit the front before Groenewegen – sporting sunglasses that feature an aerodynamic beak – and stage three winner Biniam Girmay came back at the Belgian.

Philipsen looked to have held them off but it needed a photo to split them, which showed that Groenewegen had timed his lunge for the line to perfection to win it by little more than the width of his wheel trim.

Philipsen was later penalised for forcing Van Aert to slow down as they raced along the barriers.

The race continues on Friday with an individual time trial over 25.3km from Nuits-Saint-Georges to Gevrey-Chambertin.

Stage six result

1. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned/Team Jayco-AlUla) 3hrs 31mins 55secs

2. Biniam Girmay (Eri/Intermarche-Wanty) Same time

3. Fernando Gaviria (Col/Movistar)

4. Phil Bauhaus (Ger/Bahrain Victorious)

5. Arnaud de Lie (Bel/Lotto Dstny)

6. Wout van Aert (Bel/Visma-Lease a Bike)

7. Arnaud Demare (Fra/Arkea-B&B Hotels)

8. Alexander Kristoff (Nor/Uno-X Mobility)

9. Pascal Ackermann (Ger/Israel-Premier Tech)

10. Piet Allegaert (Bel/Cofidis)

General classification standings

1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 26hrs 47mins 19secs

2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel/Soudal-Quick Step) +45secs

3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Visma-Lease a Bike) +50secs

4. Juan Ayuso (Spa/UAE Team Emirates) +1min 10secs

5. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe) +1mins 14secs

6. Carlos Rodriguez (Spa/Ineos Grenadiers) +1mins 16secs

7. Mikel Landa (Spa/Soudal-Quick Step) +1min 32secs

8. Joao Almeida (Por/UAE Team Emirates) +1min 32secs

9. Giulio Ciccone (Ita/Lidl-Trek) +3mins 20secs

10. Egan Bernal (Col/Ineos Grenadiers) +3mins 21secs

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Former junior rivals Emma Raducanu and Sonay Kartal will aim to reach the Wimbledon last 16 on Friday when they play their third-round matches.

Raducanu is second on Centre Court against Greek ninth seed Maria Sakkari.

Fellow Briton Kartal, the world number 298, faces second seed Coco Gauff in the final match on Court One.

Before Raducanu’s tie, there is an attractive match-up between defending men’s champion Carlos Alcaraz and 29th seed Frances Tiafoe from 13:30 BST.

World number one Jannik Sinner closes the programme on Centre against Miomir Kecmanovic.

Wildcard Raducanu, 21, comes into the third round full of confidence after she thoroughly outplayed Elise Mertens on Wednesday, losing just three games in her success.

The test against Sakkari is a rematch of their 2021 US Open semi-final which the Briton won 6-1 6-4 on her way to the title.

Now ranked 135th as she continues her comeback from multiple surgeries last year, Raducanu reached the Nottingham semi-finals and Eastbourne quarter-finals in the build-up to Wimbledon.

“I have had quite a few matches on grass so I am feeling really good,” she told BBC Sport.

“It’s a match where I can go out and have a swing.

“I have no pressure or expectation to beat someone in the top 10 right now, but of course I believe in myself and I’m confident with the way I am playing.”

Playing Gauff ‘what dreams are made of’

While Raducanu rocketed to stardom with her stunning win in New York as an 18-year-old qualifier, Kartalc, 22, has taken longer to make a name for herself.

The pair regularly played each other at junior level and a clip of a lengthy rally, external from that period has previously gone viral.

Kartal’s development was checked by injuries before “a scary few months at the start of the year” with health issues. She did not expect to be well enough to play at Wimbledon this year and says coming through qualifying was “the best thing for me”.

Kartal told BBC Sport she had “spent my whole life kind of under the radar a little bit”.

On Friday, she steps into the Court One spotlight to play American Gauff, the 2023 US Open champion.

“I think it’s what dreams are made of,” said Kartal. “I came here as a little kid, when I was six or seven, watching matches. I’ve got pictures in my house of me and my family on Centre Court, watching Roger Federer and things like that.

“I’ll play my game and play my strengths and we’ll see what the outcome is on Friday.”

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Max Verstappen says he and Lando Norris “agreed with 99% of everything” when they discussed their Austrian Grand Prix clash this week.

The pair, who collided while fighting for the lead at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday, resume battle at the British Grand Prix this weekend.

Verstappen revealed he “cared about maintaining his relationship” with Norris because “we are great friends”.

During their talk this week, the world champion said he told the McLaren driver they could trust each other when racing closely.

Verstappen added: “We go at it flat out – that’s what we agreed. That’s what we like to do and that’s what’s good for F1 as well.”

Briton Norris said: “It’s clear how he races. It’s tough, it’s on the limit, it’s what I love. I thoroughly enjoyed the fight I had with him.

“The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think it’s just racing. It was good racing, very close to the edge at times. We’ve spoken about it and we are both happy to go racing again.”

Their battle ended when they touched while Norris was trying to overtake Verstappen around the outside and both suffered punctures, a collision for which the Dutchman was given a 10-second penalty.

Verstappen recovered to finish fifth while the damage caused to Norris’ McLaren forced the 24-year-old’s retirement.

Verstappen said: “The only thing I cared about was maintaining my relationship with Lando because we are great friends and thats’ why I said after the race we had to let things cool down because emotions run high.

“We spoke on Monday and we came to the conclusion that we actually really enjoyed our battle.

“We like to race hard. We have done this for many years not only in F1, like online racing where we had a lot of fun together, and these things have to carry on because that’s what we like to do and it’s great for F1.”

Verstappen added he had reassured Norris about his intentions when they are racing.

“I always said to Lando, ‘When you go for moves up the inside or outside, you can trust me that I am not there to try and crash you out of the way’. Same the other way around because we spoke about that as well.”

‘Lando is a great guy, a really nice person’

Norris had accused Verstappen of changing his line in the braking zone, which is forbidden in F1, and the Dutchman acknowledged indirectly that had been the case.

“Naturally, there is always a human reaction when someone dives down the inside or outside that you have a bit of a reaction to it,” said Verstappen. “But I felt everything I did was nothing massively over the top.

“Of course, like how you design a car, you try to go to the edge of the rules, maybe you find some grey areas here and there, and that’s the same how you race because otherwise you will never be a top driver or succeed in life anyway.”

Norris, who trails Verstappen in the drivers’ championship by 81 points, added: “Max isn’t going to want to crash and ruin his own chances. I don’t think he’s going to change too much, and I don’t think I need to change much.

“There are things from both sides we probably wanted to do better. But avoiding an incident from moving under braking is probably the biggest thing.

“The stewards need to be aware that something can easily go wrong. You’re defending and that’s fine, but at some point that has a limit and it needs to be imposed.”

Asked if they could remain friends if their battles continued for a long time, Verstappen said: “I think so. It also depends on your personalities. Lando is a great guy, a really nice person, who loves F1 and racing and is very passionate about it.

“You also have to realise that he is fighting for his second win, I am fighting for my 62nd, so your emotions are a little bit different. I know that from myself, when I was fighting for my first wins, that’s what I also said, ‘Let’s let it cool off’.”

Another issue to arise from Austria was that Norris earned a five-second penalty for going off track while trying to pass Verstappen, despite immediately giving the place back, because it was conflated with a warning he had previously been given for exceeding track limits.

Norris himself and Williams driver Alex Albon both said that decision was “silly”.

Verstappen admitted it was “a bit of an odd one”.

He said Red Bull have an upgrade on their car this weekend, but that he expected the battle to be close on track with McLaren.

Norris’ team-mate Oscar Piastri said he expected Verstappen to be “really tough to beat” because of his car’s strengths in the sort of high-speed corners that abound at Silverstone.

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Only eight teams are left in Euro 2024, but who will make it to the final in Berlin on 14 July?

BBC Sport football expert Chris Sutton did pretty well with his predictions for the last 16, with Switzerland’s success against Italy and Turkey’s win over Austria the only results he got wrong.

Turkey caught most of you out too – of more than 95,000 votes, only 12% of you backed them to progress – but you were right about the outcome of the other seven ties.

That is a vast improvement on your record in the group stage and means that, like Sutton, from the 44 games played in Germany, you have been correct about 22 of them.

Will there be any more surprises in the quarter-finals? You can make your predictions below, including England against Switzerland, and France – Sutton’s pick to win the European Championship – versus Portugal.

QUARTER-FINALS

FRIDAY, 5 JULY

Spain v Germany

Spain are the best team in the competition.

Germany were jubilant when Niclas Fullkrug scored their stoppage-time equaliser in their final group game against Switzerland, but they will be gutted that it meant they ended up in this side of the draw. They would rather be playing England, I’m sure.

Germany are not just the hosts, though. They have got a bit about them as well. Antonio Rudiger has arguably been the best central defender at this tournament.

They are a well-balanced team but Spain have stood out and, wherever you look, they have got quality and nous.

Rodri and Fabian Ruiz have been dominant on the ball in midfield and they have the intelligence of Pedri ahead of them. On the wings, they have Lamine Yamal, who is such an exciting talent, and Nico Williams, who is impossible to stop in one-on-one situations.

So Spain are going to be difficult to stop. If there is a criticism of them at these Euros, it is that they have not been ruthless enough, but, in terms of performance levels, they have been head and shoulders above everyone else.

That makes it very difficult to go against them here, even though Germany have got home advantage and have also been playing well.

Sutton’s prediction: 2-1

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Portugal v France

I really don’t understand why Portugal manager Roberto Martinez indulges Cristiano Ronaldo the way he does.

We know what a great player Ronaldo has been in the past, and he can still influence games, but you have got to draw the line when it is clear he is having a negative impact on the team.

Why, for example, is Ronaldo taking free-kick after free-kick when there are much better options? It’s selfish from him, and he has a massive ego, but why is Martinez allowing it to happen? The bigger fault lies with him, and he should be strong enough to do what is best for the team.

I may end up with a large dollop of egg on my face if Portugal win the tournament and Ronaldo bangs in a couple of 35-yard free-kicks on the way, but I don’t see it happening.

In 300 years people will probably still be talking about what a genius Ronaldo was, but he is 39 and I don’t know what Martinez is expecting from him. Football has always been a team game and it feels absolutely ridiculous to rely on him like this when you look at how much quality Portugal have right through their side.

I picked France to win Euro 2024 before a ball was kicked and I am not going to change my mind now. They were not exactly exciting against Belgium in the last 16, but there were signs that they are coming to life, and they look so solid defensively.

France have scored only three goals in their first four games in Germany – and they were two own goals and a penalty. I am expecting them to click here, though.

I am at this game for Radio 5 Live. My other prediction is that Ronaldo will take seven free-kicks – and not one of them will be on target.

Sutton’s prediction: 0-2

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SATURDAY, 6 JULY

England v Switzerland

Switzerland are another well-balanced team. They have belief in the way they play, and they seem to be getting stronger as the tournament goes on, as we saw when they beat Italy in the last 16.

I had hung my hat on Italy, thinking the holders had to get going eventually – a bit like I have been doing with England – but they didn’t play well and a big part of that was down to how dominant the Swiss were.

There are plenty of similarities with this tie, but I don’t think England will be rolled over like Italy. I am not just backing Gareth Southgate’s side blindly, because they deserved to beat Slovakia – just about – and maybe a moment like Jude Bellingham’s equaliser can change the mood of their tournament.

There are still plenty of areas where England need to get better. I hate their lack of balance on the left-hand side. Luke Shaw has not played a minute in this tournament yet, and that was a risk that manager Southgate has got badly wrong.

At the moment, there is not much point dwelling on that. It is all about getting through this game, and England can do it.

I still want to see Cole Palmer start on the right because he offers something different creatively and looks so at ease with himself, but it is pretty obvious that won’t happen.

We will see one change at the back because Marc Guehi is suspended, and Ezri Konsa will probably come in, which is fine, but that will be it.

I am not expecting England to do very much different from what we’ve seen so far.

England are a bits-and-pieces team and are not going to suddenly turn into a side like Spain who play some beautiful football, but they have so much talent that they should still have too much for the Swiss.

Sutton’s prediction: 1-0

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Netherlands v Turkey

What a game Turkey’s last-16 win win over Austria was.

I am at this quarter-final for Radio 5 Live and am looking forward to seeing Turkey and their fans in Berlin – their supporters have brought so much to this tournament.

I loved the way Turkey fought to get over the line against Austria – and they did it without their captain, Hakan Calhanoglu, who was suspended for that game but will be back for this one.

Mert Gunok’s incredible save in stoppage time was something people will talk about for years and I guess he will now be known as the ‘Turkish Gordon Banks’.

There were many reasons why I expected Austria to win that tie, but Turkey were much better organised defensively than I thought they would be, so credit to their manager, Vincenzo Montella. They always carried a threat on the counter too.

The only problem is they all gave so much in that game. Turkey will need to do it all again to get past the Netherlands, and that is such a big ask.

The ‘Oranje Army’ have been amazing too, so the atmosphere at the Olympiastadion is going to be incredible.

I am still not fully convinced by the Netherlands team. They beat Romania easily enough last time out, but we don’t really know how good Romania are.

The Netherlands have to be favourites here, though. With players like Nathan Ake and Virgil van Dijk at the back and Cody Gakpo and Xavi Simons going forward, they have quality all over the pitch.

Memphis Depay misses so many chances that he reminds me of me when I was playing for Chelsea, but his movement is excellent and he does a lot of good work for the team.

This is going to be close but, rather than predicting Turkish delight, it will be a case of a double Dutch strike sending them through.

Sutton’s prediction: 2-1

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