BBC 2024-07-05 20:08:15


UK election: What’s happened and what comes next?

By Graeme Baker & Matt MurphyBBC News, in Washington DC & London

Sir Keir Starmer is the UK’s new prime minister, after his Labour Party swept to power in a landslide general election victory.

The Conservative Party suffered a huge collapse after a tumultuous 14 years in power, which saw five different prime ministers run the country.

Rishi Sunak – the outgoing PM – accepted responsibility for the result and apologised to defeated colleagues during a brief statement outside a rainy 10 Downing Street. He said he would resign as party leader in the coming weeks.

In his first speech as prime minister after greeting dozens of jubilant Labour supporters who had lined Downing Street, Sir Keir vowed to kick start a period of “national renewal” and to put “country first, party second”.

“For too long we’ve turned a blind eye as millions slid into greater insecurity,” he said. “I want to say very clearly to those people. Not this time.”

“Changing a country is not like flicking a switch. The world is now a more volatile place. This will take a while, but have no doubt the work of change will begin immediately.”

The result marks a stunning reversal from the 2019 election when Labour, led by the veteran left-wing politician Jeremy Corbyn, suffered its worst electoral defeat in almost a century.

On the other side, Robert Buckland, a former Conservative minister who lost his seat, described it as “electoral Armageddon” for the Tories.

It is the party’s worst result in almost 200 years, with an ideological battle over its future direction expected to commence in the coming weeks.

It’s been a long night of results. Here’s what it all means.

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A huge Labour victory

Britain’s House of Commons has 650 MPs, or members of parliament. Each of their “seats” represents an individual constituency – or area – somewhere in the country.

So far Labour has won 412 seats, while the Conservatives have slumped to just 120 and centrist Liberal Democrats have taken 71. Reform UK, a successor to the Brexit Party, is set to pick up four seats, as are the left-wing Green Party.

Labour’s surge was partly aided by the collapse of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The party has been hit by a succession of controversies around its finances and fell to just nine seats overnight.

The expected 170-seat majority in the House of Commons for Labour is an enormous number but still short of the majority of 179 won by the party under Tony Blair in the 1997 election.

But for more perspective, the Conservatives’ win in the 2019 election under Boris Johnson – seen as a very strong performance – saw them get a majority of 80 seats.

A reminder: If a party holds a majority, it means it doesn’t need to rely on other parties to pass laws. The bigger the majority, the easier it is.

There were, however, a number of notable defeats for Labour to independent candidates campaigning on pro-Gaza tickets – especially in areas with large Muslim populations.

Labour has faced growing pressure over its stance to the conflict. In February, the party called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire but critics said it was too slow to reach that position.

Centre-left parties in other Western countries were keeping a keen eye on the trend ahead of the poll, amid fear of a growing backlash from their own voters over their support for Israel.

Big names fall one by one (but some survive)

As constituencies have declared their results live on television – with all candidates lined up next to each other on stage – there have been some major moments.

Perhaps the most notable was the defeat of Liz Truss. The former prime minister served just 49 days in Number 10 before being ousted by her party. She narrowly lost to Labour in the constituency of South West Norfolk, having previously held a huge 24,180 majority.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Conservative business secretary and arch-Brexiteer, was one of the biggest names to suffer defeat. He lost his East Somerset and Hanham seat to Labour.

He told the BBC that he couldn’t “blame anybody other than myself” for the loss but he took a “small silver lining” from the fact that the Conservatives would be “at least the official opposition” – a reference to fears they wouldn’t even have that.

Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, looked rattled after losing his seat in southern England.

Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt, who ran against Rishi Sunak for the party leadership before he became prime minister, also lost her seat.

As the night wore on, a succession of other Conservative cabinet ministers also lost their seats, including: Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer.

  • Truss and Rees-Mogg among big-name Tory losses
  • The dramatic Tory decline behind Labour’s landslide
  • Key moments from a dramatic election night

But Jeremy Hunt, who serves as chancellor – the UK equivalent of a finance minister – held on to his seat but with a much-reduced majority.

Mr Sunak also won his seat in Yorkshire with a comfortable majority of around 12,000 – but used his acceptance speech to concede and confirm his party had lost the election.

Labour also lost two big names of their own. Jonathan Ashworth and Thangam Debbonaire were both expected to be a part of Keir Starmer’s incoming cabinet.

A new PM within a day

Things move pretty fast in British politics – there is very little time between an election result and the installation of the new prime minister.

Rishi Sunak moved out of 10 Downing Street on Friday morning – the British equivalent of the White House – and Sir Keir Starmer will be installed swiftly afterwards.

But there is a process. Mr Sunak offered his resignation to the King, and Sir Keir was formally invited by the monarch to form the next government in a meeting at Buckingham Palace.

He will then perform the traditional walk up Downing Street – watched by the world’s media – before addressing the nation from the steps of Number 10.

After that he will be expected to invite top Labour MPs to Downing Street and appoint them to his new cabinet.

Speaking before he handed his resignation to the King, Mr Sunak wished his successor well.

“His successes will be all our successes, and I wish him and his family well,” Mr Sunak said. “Whatever our disagreements in this campaign, he is a decent public spirited man who I respect.”

So who is Keir Starmer?

He’s fairly new to politics, relatively speaking.

Sir Keir started his professional life as a barrister in the 1990s, and was appointed the director of public prosecutions, the most senior criminal prosecutor in England and Wales, in 2008.

He was first elected in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency in north London in 2015, and took over leadership of Labour after the party’s poor 2019 general election, pledging to start a “new era” after the left-wing leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Sir Keir was re-elected in the same constituency on Thursday, saying in his victory speech people were “ready for change” and promising an “end the politics of performance”.

“The change begins right here because this is your democracy, your community, your future,” he said. “You have voted. It’s now time for us to deliver.”

The Labour leader largely avoided making big pledges during the election campaign.

But during his address on the steps of Downing Street, Sir Keir said his government would strive to “rebuild” British public services such as the NHS, slash energy bills and secure the country’s border.

“You have given us a clear mandate, and we will use it to deliver change,” he vowed.

You can read Sir Keir’s full profile here.

Nigel Farage finally becomes an MP

This election’s insurgent party was Reform UK, the right-wing successor to the Brexit Party and the UK Independence Party.

Nigel Farage, its leader, finally won a seat on his eighth attempt – but his party’s initial projection of 13 seats fizzled to four. That’s still better than UKIP and the Brexit Party ever did, and Mr Farage has been celebrating.

The party’s share of the vote looks to be about 14%.

Reform drew controversy during the campaign over offensive statements made by some of its candidates and activists.

Mr Farage will be joined in the House of Commons by former Conservative party deputy chairman Lee Anderson, Reform founder Richard Tice and Rupert Lowe.

From their new perch in parliament, the party could seek to cause trouble for the Conservatives and pick off more voters from the party’s remaining base.

Truss and Rees-Mogg among big-name Tory losses

By Paul SeddonPolitical reporter • Christy CooneyBBC News
Some of the most notable Conservative losses this election

Former prime minister Liz Truss has lost her seat in Labour’s landslide election victory, as the Conservatives slump to a historic defeat.

She lost her South West Norfolk constituency to Labour by 630 votes, having previously held a huge 24,180 majority.

The ex-premier was among a clutch of senior Tories ejected from Parliament, in a result set to reshape the direction of the party.

These include Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, who was tipped as a future Tory leadership contender, and former cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg.

But Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who had been seen as vulnerable in his Godalming and Ash constituency, managed to hold on with slender 891 majority.

Speaking after her defeat, Ms Truss said her party had not “delivered sufficiently” in areas such as “keeping taxes low” and reducing immigration.

Asked if she would stay on in Conservative politics, Ms Truss said “I’ve got a lot to think about” and asked people to “give me a bit of time”.

‘Taken a battering’

With only a small number of seats left to declare, the Conservatives are heading for a historic loss in terms of seats after a dramatic 20 point decline in support.

The party lost a string of seats in southern England to the Liberal Democrats, who have won over 70 seats and are set for their best result in a century.

They have also seen their vote squeezed by Reform UK, which has won 14% of the vote and four seats, including Nigel Farage in Clacton.

Unlike the last election in 2019, when as the Brexit Party it stood aside in more than 300 Tory-held seats, Reform’s decision to field candidates across Britain contributed to heavy Tory losses, particularly in Brexit-voting areas.

Twelve ministers attending cabinet have lost their seats, including Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan.

Conceding the election after he was re-elected in Richmond and Northallerton, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the results a “sobering verdict” for his party.

Speaking after losing her seat, Ms Mordaunt said her party had “taken a battering because it failed to honour the trust that people had placed in it”.

She warned against “talking to an ever smaller slice of ourselves,” adding, “if we want again to be the natural party of government, then our values must be the people’s”.

In other high-profile Tory losses:

  • Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer lost to Labour in Plymouth Moor View
  • Education Secretary Gillian Keegan lost to the Liberal Democrats in Chichester, a West Sussex seat the Tories have held for a century
  • Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer lost Ely and East Cambridgeshire, also to the Liberal Democrats
  • Chief Whip Simon Hart – in charge of party discipline – lost to Plaid Cymru in Caerfyrddin, as the Tories lost all their seats in Wales
  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Chris Mason analysis: Voters show ruthless drive to remove Tories
  • What are Labour planning to do in government?
  • Who is my MP now? The election in maps and charts
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland, who also lost his seat, told the BBC his party faced “electoral Armageddon”.

He said too many Conservatives had focused on “personal agendas and jockeying for position” instead of “concentrating on doing the job that they were elected to do”.

“I’ve watched colleagues strike poses, write inflammatory op-eds, and say stupid things they have no evidence for, instead of concentrating on doing the job that they were elected to do,” the former justice secretary said.

He said former home secretary Suella Braverman, savaged Mr Sunak’s election strategy in a newspaper article days before polls opened, was “not an isolated example” of this behaviour.

“I’m fed up of personal agendas and jockeying for position. The truth is now with the Conservatives facing electoral Armageddon, it’s going to be like a group of bald men arguing over a comb.”

Sir Robert said for the party to move further to the right would be a “disastrous mistake” that “would send us into the abyss”.

‘Thank God’

Speaking earlier, before his defeat, Sir Jacob said it was “clearly a terrible night” for his party, that had come to take its “core vote for granted”.

“We need to win voters at every single election. If you take your base for granted… your voters will look to other parties.”

He thought the party had made a mistake by ousting Boris Johnson, who led it to victory in the 2019 election but was forced to step down as prime minister in 2022 following a series of scandals.

Former minister Steve Baker, who lost his Wycombe seat to Labour, told the BBC he was glad to have lost, adding, “thank God I’m free”.

He added that it had been a privilege to be an MP, but politicians now suffered lots of abuse and his house is now “like Fort Knox”.

“I will not be coming back, you can have that as an exclusive,” he added.

Farage elected MP for first time as Reform wins four seats

By Becky MortonPolitical reporter
Nigel Farage becomes an MP as he wins Clacton seat

Nigel Farage has been elected as an MP for the first time, on a night which saw Reform UK take more than four million votes.

The party is on course to be the third largest party in the UK by vote share and has won four seats so far.

Mr Farage overturned a Conservative majority of more than 25,000 to comfortably win in Clacton, Essex – a race which marked his eighth attempt to enter the Commons.

He said the result was “the first step of something that is going to stun all of you”.

Reform also gained Great Yarmouth and Boston and Skegness from the Tories, while former Conservative MP Lee Anderson – who defected to Reform in March – retained Ashfield in Nottinghamshire.

The party drew large support in areas where the Conservatives won in 2019 under Boris Johnson, coming second in many constituencies.

Speaking to reporters after the result, Mr Farage said it was “the beginning of the end of the Conservative Party”.

Taking further aim at the party during his victory speech, Mr Farage said: “There is a massive gap on the centre-right of British politics and my job is to fill it.”

Mr Farage said Reform would “now be targeting Labour votes”.

He continued: “What is interesting is, there’s no enthusiasm for Labour, there’s no enthusiasm for Starmer whatsoever. In fact, about half of the vote is simply an anti-Conservative vote.

“We’re coming for Labour, be in no doubt about that.”

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

An earlier exit poll for broadcasters had forecast the party would win 13 MPs, more than many polls during the campaign had predicted.

However, the figure was highly uncertain, as the model suggested there were 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 all four seats won by Reform, more than 70% of people voted for Brexit.

Reform UK chairman Richard Tice overturned a 27,402 Tory majority to win Boston and Skegness.

Meanwhile, in Great Yarmouth, businessman and former Southampton FC chairman Rupert Lowe beat the Labour candidate by 1,426, with the Tories slipping to third place.

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

The pattern was repeated in a number of other seats, as the Tory vote share plummeted.

Lee Anderson wins first Reform UK seat

However, Reform had less success winning seats off Labour.

In Barnsley North, where the exit poll had forecast a 99% likelihood of Reform taking the seat, Labour held the seat with an increased majority of 7,811.

Reform’s candidate, Robert Lomas, who was disowned by the party last week for offensive comments on social media, came in second place.

In Hartlepool, another seat forecast to go to Reform, Labour also held on comfortably with a majority of 7,698.

  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Chris Mason analysis: Voters show ruthless drive to remove Tories
  • What are Labour planning to do in government?
  • Who is my MP now? The election in maps and charts
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Mr Farage’s surprise announcement that he was standing in the election, after previously saying he would not, saw Reform surges in opinion polls.

At the same time, he took over from Mr 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.

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.

Fielding an almost full slate of candidates in Great Britain posed challenges for the party.

Reform has had to disown six of them over offensive comments since nominations closed.

The party has blamed the surprise announcement of a July election, as well as claiming a company it hired to conduct background checks on would-be candidates failed to carry out vetting before the election was called.

Two Reform candidates also defected to the Conservatives over what they said was a failure of the party’s leadership to tackle the issue.

However, it was too late to remove any of these candidates so they still appeared for the party on ballot papers.

Chris Mason: ‘Starmer tsunami’ as voters show ruthless drive to eject Tories

By Chris Mason@ChrisMasonBBCPolitical editor

This is a spectacular victory for Labour.

Spectacular given where they came from – the doldrums. Their result in 2019 was their worst since 1935.

But spectacular too by any metric, at any time, in any context, because the challenge they faced to win by a smidgen was Himalayan.

It’s “the Starmer tsunami” as one shellshocked opponent put it.

The story of this election is one of an electorate showing a ruthless determination to eject the Conservatives.

In plenty of places that meant electing a Labour MP. In a fair chunk of others it meant electing a Liberal Democrat MP. And there are a heck of a lot of votes for Reform UK.

Sir Keir Starmer will be prime minister by lunchtime, taking to Downing Street a colossal majority.

Expect his tone, outside Number 10 at around lunchtime, to be magnanimous, understated. Sir Keir is emphasising the need to return what he sees as stability and civility to politics.

It looks like – despite their colossal win – that Labour’s share of the vote isn’t colossal, so a pitch from the soon-to-be prime minister that tacitly acknowledges that is probably sensible.

Not least because winning big can create expectations that might be hard to meet.

Remember that Prime Minister Starmer, Chancellor Rachel Reeves – as they soon will be – and the new government will confront all of the old problems that caused its predecessor so much trouble: the cost of living, the government’s finances, the tax burden, a dangerous world – and no majority, however big, can erase them.

  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Watch: The election night in 100 seconds
  • What are Labour planning to do in government?
  • Who is my MP now? The election in maps and charts
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

This was a night of a thousand stories.

Politics at its heart is about human beings, and their emotions: success, failure, jubilation, anguish, regret.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was a very high profile nocturnal casualty.

Arguably the outgoing government’s most able communicator, his voice cracking as he delivered his concession speech.

Jeremy Hunt hung on in Surrey, his voice cracking too as he spoke.

This was a night whose soundtrack was the post mortem beginning in the Conservative Party: from Robert Buckland, Mr Shapps, Penny Mordaunt and others.

There will be plenty more of that to come.

But remember, unlike the circus of Conservative psychodrama in recent years, this will be a sideshow of a tussle – a battle within an opposition party, not a governing party.

It will still matter though because millions of people will want to ensure the new government, with a big majority, is properly scrutinised and held to account, and will want the Conservative Party to play a part in that.

The big picture is this: within hours, we will soon have our fourth prime minister in under two years.

The whirlwind of British politics continues.

We live in a world of unprecedented voter volatility – more people in more places are more willing to change their minds more often and more quickly about politics than ever before.

And it has happened again.

General election 2024 in maps and charts

By Data journalism teamBBC News

The Labour Party has won a landslide majority in the 2024 general election.

The party is set to take 412 seats with a majority of 174, with almost all the results declared.

It is the worst Conservative result in terms of seats in history, with the party forecast to win as few as 122. The Liberal Democrats have their highest tally since 1923, taking 71 seats.

The SNP is forecast to end the night on 10 seats. Reform UK and Plaid Cymru and the Green Party have four each.

Other parties, including those in Northern Ireland, have won 23 seats.

Labour’s vote share is up by less than two points from 32% to 34%, but the Conservatives have seen their vote share fall by about 20 points.

Vote share

Labour has around a 34% share of the vote across the UK and the Conservatives 24%.

While the Liberal Democrats are expected to have the third highest number of seats, Reform are in third place by share of the vote.

However, Reform have found it difficult to convert votes into seats. With almost all the results declared, the party has returned four MPs, including party leader Nigel Farage in Clacton.

The Conservative vote share suffered particularly in areas where high numbers voted to leave the European Union, falling by 27 points in constituencies where more than 60% voted Leave.

Votes for the Conservatives in constituencies in England and Wales where large numbers of people had mortgages fell about 24 points to 32%, while the Labour share grew five points in these places to 28%.

Labour support in constituencies with large Muslim communities fell about 23 points to 39%. Vote share in these areas for the Tories fell 12 points to about 13%.

The Greens have recorded their best general election performance yet, according to polling expert Sir John Curtice, and will likely win 7% of the vote.

The party has taken Bristol Central, Waveney Valley and North Herefordshire and has held Brighton Pavilion.

Turnout across the UK as a whole is 60%, the second lowest in a UK election since 1885. Only 2001 was lower with 59%.

Changed hands

This map shows the seats which have been won by a different party to the last general election.

Labour has made deep in-roads into the SNP’s tally in Scotland. The Liberal Democrats have taken seats throughout England.

Refresh this page to see the latest results.

Scotland

Labour have won many seats in Scotland, while the Scottish National Party has lost more than 35. The Liberal Democrats have taken a handful and the Conservatives have so far held on to five.

The SNP share of the vote is down 15 points, while Labour’s is up by 17 north of the border.

Wales

All the constituencies in Wales have been declared. Labour have gained nine seats, taking the party’s total to 27, despite their share falling by four points.

The Conservatives lost 12 seats and now have no MPs in Wales.

Plaid Cymru has gained two seats, putting the party on four and the Liberal Democrats have taken Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe.

Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin has become Northern Ireland’s largest Westminster party, winning all seven seats it won in 2019, while the Democratic Unionist Party lost three of the eight it held at the last general election.

Regional change

Looking at seat and vote share change across broad areas of England, the Conservatives have lost more than 100 seats in the South excluding London and their vote share is down by about 24 points.

Labour has made seat gains in the Midlands, North and South and has also increased its already-strong London tally by seven seats.

The Liberal Democrats have increased their seats in the South by more than 40, their highest regional tally.

Labour and Lib Dem vote shares fell somewhat in London, while hardly changing in the North and Midlands. Vote share for the two parties rose slightly in the South.

Reform share is up in all of these broad regions.

Biden faces donor pressure as he digs in on re-election bid

By Nadine YousifBBC News

President Joe Biden is facing pressure from some major Democratic donors as he faces a critical few days in his campaign for re-election.

A number of donors are publicly warning they will withhold funds unless Mr Biden is replaced as the party’s candidate following his disastrous debate performance last week.

Friday is a big day for the president as he seeks to shore up his candidacy with a rare primetime TV interview and a rally in Wisconsin.

Pressure on Mr Biden, 81, to step aside has grown following a debate marked by several instances where he lost his train of thought.

While he admitted that he “screwed up” that night, he has vowed to stay on as his party’s standard-bearer taking on Donald Trump in the November presidential election.

Scrutiny on his public appearances has markedly increased since the debate.

In a White House speech to military families on Thursday to mark 4 July Independence Day, he stumbled over his words when referring to Trump as “one of our colleagues, the former president”.

And in an interview with WURD radio in Philadelphia, he lost his thread and appeared to say he was proud to be the first black woman to serve with a black president.

Donors have been weighing their options. Abigail Disney, an heiress to the Disney family fortune, told business news channel CNBC that she did not believe Mr Biden could win against Trump.

She said her intent to pull support was rooted in “realism, not disrespect”.

“Biden is a good man and has served his country admirably, but the stakes are far too high.”

The consequences of defeat in November “will be genuinely dire”, she added.

With her warning, she joined a handful of other wealthy donors.

Philanthropist Gideon Stein told the New York Times that his family was withholding $3.5m (£2.8m) to non-profit and political organisations active in the presidential race unless Mr Biden steps aside.

Hollywood producer Damon Lindelof, who has donated more than $100,000 to Democrats this election cycle, wrote a public essay in Deadline urging other donors to withhold their funds until there is a change.

The brother of Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, told a conference in Colorado that withholding funding was the key to ensuring Mr Biden’s exit from the race, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

“The lifeblood to a campaign is money, and maybe the only way . . . is if the money starts drying up,” he said, according to the newspaper.

Ramesh Kapur, a Massachusetts-based Indian-American industrialist, has organised fundraisers for Democrats since 1988.

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

There are some who are worried there’s not enough time left for a new candidate to join the race, and they have decided to back Biden if he stays on.

A mega-donor the BBC spoke to this week, who declined to be named, said he planned to go ahead with a fundraiser for the president scheduled for later this month at his Virginia home.

The Biden campaign has said it raised $38m from debate day through to the weekend, mainly through small donations – and a total of $127m in June alone.

They have conceded he had a difficult debate but have said he is ready to show the public he has the stamina for the campaign.

On Friday morning they announced a new “aggressive travel schedule” in which he and his wife, along with Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband, would blitz every battleground state.

He will start with a campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday, campaigning with Governor Tony Evers.

After that rally he is scheduled to sit down with ABC – the first television interview after the debate – in a bid to quell concerns about his age and mental faculties.

But the president is facing a series of negative polls which suggest his Republican rival’s lead has widened in the wake of the Atlanta debate.

A New York Times poll 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 a slight shift towards Trump, who had a three-point lead over Mr Biden in the crucial battleground states.

More on election

  • Where Biden and Trump stand on key issues
  • What’s in Trump’s second term wish list, Project 2025
  • What Moscow, Delhi and Beijing make of rematch
  • Who will be Trump’s vice-president?

Fifty violent attacks shock France ahead of crunch vote

By Paul KirbyBBC News in Paris

More than 50 candidates and activists in France have come under physical attack in the run-up to Sunday’s tense final round of parliamentary elections, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has said.

He revealed the figure after government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot, her deputy Virginie Lanlo and a party activist were brutally assaulted as they put up election posters in Meudon, south-west of Paris.

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

The spate of assaults across France reflects the febrile mood on the final day of campaigning in an election that the far-right National Rally (RN) is poised to win.

Although RN is well ahead in the polls, 217 candidates have dropped out from local run-off races so another candidate has a better chance of stopping them winning an outright majority in the National Assembly.

Mr Darmanin told news channel BFMTV the attacks were taking place in a climate in which France was “on edge” and more than 30 people had been arrested.

He said the attackers were either people who had “spontaneously become angry” or they were the “ultra-left, ultra-right or other political groups”.

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”.

Mr 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.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are investigating an extremist “patriotic network” website that published a list of almost 100 lawyers “for eliminating”, after they signed an open letter against National Rally.

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.

Hardliner faces reformist in Iran presidential run-off

By Tom BennettBBC News

Voting is under way to elect a new Iranian president as a hardline conservative goes head-to-head with a reformist.

The run-off comes 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

Tanzanian artist who burned president’s picture jailed

By Wycliffe MuiaBBC News

A Tanzanian portrait artist, who was accused of burning a photo of President Samia Suluhu Hassan, has been sentenced to two years in prison or a fine of $2,000 (£1,600) after being found guilty of cybercrimes.

Shadrack Chaula was arrested for allegedly recording a viral video, showing him burning a picture of President Hassan while verbally insulting her.

The 24-year-old painter admitted committing the crime and failed to defend his action in court.

His arrest sparked legal controversy, with some lawyers saying that no law was broken in burning the picture.

Some social media users have started an online drive to raise money to pay Chaula’s fine so he can be freed from jail.

In 2018, Tanzania enacted tough laws against the spread of “fake news”, which critics see as a way of curbing freedom of expression.

Police said Chaula used “strong words” against the president in the video he posted on his TikTok account on 30 June in Ntokela village, in the south-western city of Mbeya.

Local police chief Benjamin Kuzaga on Tuesday told journalists that the artist’s offences included burning the president’s portrait and disseminating offensive content online.

“It is not the culture of Mbeya people to insult our national leaders,” Mr Kuzaga said.

Some lawyers said there was no law that criminalises burning a picture of the president.

“Was the picture taken by a government photographer? Let them come out publicly and explain their impact on society and the nation. Who can show the law that burning a picture is an offence?” lawyer Philip Mwakilima told the Mwananchi newspaper.

But the act, which is deemed unethical in Tanzania, sparked public outrage.

On Thursday, magistrate Shamla Shehagilo found Chaula guilty of distributing videos on TikTok that contained false information in violation of the country’s cyber laws.

The court ruled that his actions constituted cyber-harassment and incitement.

Chaula remained silent when given the chance to defend himself against the charges, local media reported.

The prosecutor had urged the court to impose a harsh penalty on him in order to deter others from “disrespecting” the president.

The case has sparked a debate in the country with critics saying the sentence is too harsh and a reflection of the government’s crackdown on dissent.

President Hassan, who came to power in 2021, has introduced reforms that have opened up the political and civic spaces.

But the opposition and rights groups have expressed concerns that the country is sliding back to retrogressive policies.

More Tanzania stories from the BBC:

  • Why lifting Tanzania’s opposition ban suits President Samia
  • Zanzibar bans music star over ‘inappropriate’ show
  • World Bank suspends funding Tanzania tourism project

BBC Africa podcasts

Mexico’s coast battered by Hurricane Beryl

By Ian AikmanBBC News

A hurricane which has wreaked havoc across the Caribbean, destroying property and leaving homes without power, has hit Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

Hurricane Beryl, currently classed as category two, lashed the region’s coastline on Friday morning, endangering the area’s two million residents and the tourist hotspots of Cancún and Tulum.

Beaches are closed and thousands of troops have been deployed to help as the storm hits the country’s southeast shoreline.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warned people in the area to shelter from the “life-threatening conditions” the hurricane will bring over the course of the day.

Across the Caribbean, at least ten people are known to have died and more are missing, roofs have been torn from buildings, and thousands of homes were left without power.

Mexican authorities have taken measures to prepare the coastline for the hurricane.

Schools have been closed, hotel windows have been boarded up, and emergency shelters have been set up for locals and tourists in areas facing the brunt of the impact.

Residents in Cancún have rushed to supermarkets to stock up on supplies, with some encountering empty shelves on their visits.

More than 8,000 troops from the army, air force and national guard have been deployed in the Yucatán Peninsula to provide support to the population.

Some were seen patrolling the beaches on Thursday, urging people to leave.

Hundreds of tourists have been evacuated from hotels across the peninsula’s coastline, and more than 3,000 people have fled from Holbox Island just off the Mexican coast, according to local authorities.

More than 300 flights have been cancelled or delayed.

Anita Luis, a tourist visiting Cancún from Dallas, Texas, told the Reuters news agency on Thursday: “We just want to go back home safely and pray the same for everybody else but we’re just stranded here.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Rebollar, a Mexican tourist who travelled to Tulum with three family members said: “They cancelled our flight and we had to pay for two extra nights.

“We have some fear, but we are convinced that people are prepared and know what to do,” she told the AFP news agency.

As well as leaving a trail of destruction in its wake, Hurricane Beryl has also broken records.

It is the first hurricane to reach the category four level in June since NHC records began and the earliest to hit category five – the highest category – in July.

Hurricane Beryl’s record-breaking nature has put the role of climate change in the spotlight.

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.

King Charles III said he had been “profoundly saddened” by the destruction the hurricane had caused in the Caribbean, impacting several Commonwealth islands.

The Royal Navy has sent an aid ship to the Cayman Islands to provide support to communities damaged by the hurricane on Thursday.

This came after Hurricane Beryl battered Jamaica on Wednesday and caused huge devastation across other Caribbean nations earlier in the week.

About 90% of homes were destroyed or severely damaged on Union Island, which is part of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Hurricane Beryl heads towards Mexico and the US

Where will Hurricane Beryl go next?

Beryl will weaken rapidly as it moves over land, when it is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm, according to BBC Weather.

Despite this, up to 10 inches of rain could still fall, causing possible flash flooding.

It will then travel over the Gulf of Mexico on Friday evening, moving towards northeastern Mexico and southern Texas by the end of the weekend.

By the time it makes landfall on Sunday evening, the storm is expected to have strengthened back to a hurricane.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott told residents near the state’s Atlantic coast to “keep an eye on the gulf” and “have an emergency plan to take care of yourself and your loved ones”.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned that the North Atlantic could get as many as seven major hurricanes this year – up from an average of three in a season.

Samsung expects profits to jump by more than 1,400%

By João da SilvaBusiness reporter

Samsung Electronics expects its profits for the three months to June 2024 to jump 15-fold compared to the same period last year.

An artificial intelligence (AI) boom has lifted the prices of advanced chips, driving up the firm’s forecast for the second quarter.

The South Korean tech giant is the world’s largest maker of memory chips, smartphones and televisions.

The announcement pushed Samsung shares up more than 2% during early trading hours in Seoul.

The firm also reported a more than 10-fold jump in its profits for the first three months of this year.

In this quarter, it said it is expecting its profit to rise to 10.4tn won ($7.54bn; £5.9bn), from 670bn won last year.

That surpasses analysts’ forecasts of 8.8tn won, according to LSEG SmartEstimate.

“Right now we are seeing skyrocketing demand for AI chips in data centers and smartphones,” said Marc Einstein, chief analyst at Tokyo-based research and advisory firm ITR Corporation.

Optimism about AI is one reason for the broader market rally over the last year, which pushed the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq in the United States to new records on Wednesday.

The market value of chip-making giant Nvidia surged past $3tn last month, briefly holding the top spot as the world’s most valuable company.

“The AI boom which massively boosted Nvidia is also boosting Samsung’s earnings and indeed those of the entire sector,” Mr Einstein added.

Samsung Electronics is the flagship unit of South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group.

Next week, the tech company faces a possible three-day strike, which is expected to start on Monday. A union of workers is demanding a more transparent system for bonuses and time off.

Hungary’s PM meets Putin for talks on Ukraine

By Jaroslav LukivBBC News

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has arrived in Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks on the war in Ukraine.

The visit has been criticised by EU leaders, who have emphasised that Mr Orban is not acting on behalf of the bloc.

Mr Orban is the EU’s only head of national government to have kept close ties to the Kremlin following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

He described the trip as a “peace mission” in a post on X. It comes days after he visited Kyiv.

In footage of the meeting, Mr Putin said the Hungarian prime minister was visiting “not just as a long-time partner” but as a European Union representative.

Hungary has just taken over the EU’s rotating presidency, and will hold it to the end of the year.

Viktor Orban, speaking in the meeting, said: “Hungary will slowly become the last European country that can talk to everyone.”

Some European leaders openly condemned the Moscow trip. Finland’s Prime Minister Petteri Orpo called it “disturbing news”, while Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk tweeted: “The European Council is clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine.”

He went on: “The rumours about your visit to Moscow cannot be true, @PM_ViktorOrban, or can they?”

“Appeasement will not stop Putin,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X.

“Only unity and determination will pave the path to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.”

In a statement, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said the trip “takes place, exclusively, in the framework of the bilateral relations between Hungary and Russia”.

Russia’s president told Mr Orban he would be happy to discuss “the nuances” of his recent Ukraine settlement plan, in which he offered talks if Ukraine pulled out of Russian-occupied regions.

The Kremlin leader voiced a number of tough pre-conditions for negotiations, but Kyiv and its Western allies say these would be tantamount to Ukraine’s capitulation.

Earlier this week, Mr Orban visited Kyiv, saying “a quick ceasefire could be used to speed up peace negotiations”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – who has had frosty relations with Mr Orban – did not publicly respond to the proposal.

Many Ukrainians believe any ceasefire would simply cement Russia’s hold over territory it has seized from Ukraine and, if negotiations were to take place, they would prefer them to be conducted from a position of strength rather than on the back foot.

Mr Orban has been a vocal critic of Western support for Ukraine. He previously slowed agreement on a €50bn ($54bn; £42bn) EU aid package designed to support Ukraine in its defence against Russia.

Tuesday’s visit to Kyiv was his first in 12 years, while he met Mr Putin repeatedly during that time.

During Mr Orban’s joint appearance with Mr Zelensky, the body language between them was not warm, and neither took questions from the media after they gave their statements.

But for the next six months Mr Orban’s position as head of the Council of the European Union means he has an influential role as a figurehead for Europe.

He came to Ukraine on his second day in that role for discussions, saying there was a need to solve previous disagreements and focus on the future.

Bodies of 89 migrants retrieved from Atlantic

By Jaroslav LukivBBC News

Coastguards in Mauritania have recovered 89 bodies of migrants from a boat that capsized in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday.

Nine people – including a five-year-old girl – were rescued, but dozens more are missing.

Survivors say the vessel – a traditional fishing boat – set sail last week from the Senegalese-Gambian border area with 170 people on board. It capsized off Mauritania’s south-western coast.

Mauritania is a key transit point for migrants trying to reach Europe from West Africa, with thousands of boats departing from the country last year.

The most common destination on the perilous route is Spain’s Canary Islands.

The Spanish government says nearly 40,000 people arrived there last year – double the number from the previous year.

Desperate to get to Europe, migrants often travel in overloaded boats.

More than 5,000 migrants died while trying to reach Spain by sea in the first five months of 2024, the Ca-minando Fronteras charity estimates.

In April, the EU granted Mauritania €210m (£177m; $225m) in aid – almost €60m of which will be invested in the fight against undocumented migration to Europe.

Could the ‘flying piano’ help transform air cargo?

By Michael DempseyTechnology Reporter

US start-up Aerolane is seeking the secret to airborne surfing.

Geese already know how to do it. When you see them flying in a v-formation, they are surfing on the air currents created by formation members ahead and around them.

At an airfield in Texas, Todd Graetz is hoping to use that concept to disrupt the market for air cargo.

Aerolane has been mimicking the tricks used by migrating birds, aided by modified planes towed into the air by another aircraft.

Smoke released from the leading plane allowed cameras installed in the towed aircraft to capture vortices in the air that a glider can exploit to stay aloft.

Their latest test aircraft is known as the “flying piano” because of its poor gliding characteristics.

Its twin engines idle for electrical power while it glides along with propellers turning for purely aerodynamic purposes.

Other tests have measured the tension in the towing line.

They spotted when the line went slack, indicating the glider is surfing along on currents generated by the aircraft ahead.

Aerolane’s plan is to feed all this data into a program that will guide an unmanned cargo plane through wakes and turbulence to exploit the possibilities of gliding long distances without burning fuel.

One or more such cargo planes could be towed by a jet, also carrying cargo, to their destination where they would land autonomously.

The only fuel costs would come from supplying the towing aircraft’s engines.

In theory this should work like a truck pulling a trailer, with air currents doing much of the heavy lifting. This is what Mr Graetz calls “a combination of gliding and surfing”.

The same idea occurred to Airbus, which tested the technique in 2021 with two A350 airliners flying 3km (1.9 miles) apart across the Atlantic.

Although the aircraft were not connected by a tow line, the experiment saw one aircraft winning an uplift from the lead A350’s wake to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel burn.

Mr Graetz, a pilot with 12 years’ experience, founded Aerolane with Gur Kimchi, a veteran of Amazon’s drone delivery project, on the basis that “there has got to be a better way to get more out of existing aircraft”.

The project has raised eyebrows among experienced pilots. Flying large gliders in commercial airspace means meeting strict flight safety regulations.

For instance, the towing aircraft has to be confident it can release the tow line at any point in the flight, safe in the knowledge that the auto-piloted glider can make it down to a runway without dropping on top of the local population.

Aerolane says a small electric motor driving a propeller will act as a safety net on their cargo gliders, giving them enough juice to go around again if a landing looks wrong or to divert to another location close by.

Mr Graetz counters that Aerolane employs active commercial pilots who are hard-headed about the practicalities of the project.

“We’ve engaged outside advisors to be devil’s advocates,” he adds.

He says big freight businesses are interested in anything that allows them to cut the cost per delivery.

On top of the cost of fuel, air freight firms also have to think about jet engine emissions and a shortage of pilots.

James Earl, a former RAF helicopter pilot and aviation consultant, thinks Mr Graetz may just be onto something.

“It stands to reason that gains can be had by slipstreaming and combining efforts in the sky. And any innovation in the cargo space is good.”

However, he cautions that public acceptance of unpowered cargo flights over built-up areas is another thing entirely.

“It should have a good gliding range to get to a landing spot in the event of a major failure by the tow plane. Whether that can be effectively communicated to the public is another matter though.”

Regulators are likely to be cautious as well, particularly in the US, where the Federal Aviation Authority is under pressure after serious problems with Boeing aircraft.

Mr Graetz replies that his team has complied with every request from the FAA so far. “The FAA has always been super risk averse. That’s their business!”

Fred Lopez spent 36 years in aviation operations at cargo giant UPS. As he says, he’s put “my entire adult life” into working out the most cost-effective way to operate an air freight business.

Mr Lopez admits he was profoundly sceptical about cargo gliders when Aerolane first approached him. But the prospect of serious fuel savings won him over and now he sits on their advisory board.

Cutting fuel costs is an obsession in civil aviation. When the upturned wing-tips we see out of a cabin window became a standard design feature airlines cut fuel costs by around 5%.

But gliders only consume the fuel required by their tow plane. If that too is a cargo aircraft, a pair of gliders drawn by one jet represents a significant reduction in fuel consumption on a large shipment.

The initial Aerolane design uses their autopilot plus what Mr Lopez terms a human “safety pilot”. This should make certification from the FAA easier.

“Aerolane is not trying to change everything at one go” he says.

Their ultimate goal is autonomous operation using AI, or as Mr Lopez puts it “to pull the pilot out of the seat”.

And, if the flying piano can surf, then who knows what’s possible?

More Technology of Business

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.

Kenya’s president to debate with protesters on X Spaces

By Lucy Fleming & Wycliffe MuiaBBC News, London & Nairobi

Kenya’s President William Ruto is set to hold a historic public online forum to talk to anti-tax protesters on social media platform X Spaces.

His 31-year-old daughter Charlene Ruto has billed it as “the first ever president in the world to hold an online meeting with all Gen Z”.

This is a reference to the young people behind the recent protests that have rocked her father’s presidency.

The demonstrations against his finance bill were organised via X Spaces, a feature that allows users to host live audio conversations with others on the platform formerly known as Twitter.

A section of Kenyans on X has vowed to boycott the president’s upcoming chat and has planned a parallel Space to counter the conversation.

They argue that Mr Ruto already knows their demands.

  • New faces of protest – Kenya’s Gen Z anti-tax revolutionaries
  • Was there a massacre after Kenya’s anti-tax protests?
  • Kenyan president’s humbling shows power of African youth

The outrage over the proposed tax increases forced President Ruto to say he would withdraw the legislation, which was intended to help reduce Kenya’s debt burden of over $80bn (£63bn).

A state-funded human rights commission estimates more than 40 people died during the protests, most on the day the bill was passed by MPs last week. The interior ministry says 25 protesters were killed.

The demonstrations have since morphed into calls for Mr Ruto’s resignation and demands that the security forces face justice over the killing of protesters.

Ahead of his X Space session, President Ruto delivered a national address on TV, promising a raft of cuts including:

  • The dissolution of 47 state corporations with overlapping functions
  • Suspending the purchase of new vehicles for state officials for six months
  • Suspending all non-essential travel for state officials
  • Reducing government advisers by 50%
  • Scrapping the budget for first lady and spouses of deputy president.

The president has invited young people to join him on an X Space this Friday with the hashtag #EngageThePresident, between 11:00 GMT and 14:00 GMT (14:00 to 17:00 local time).

His daughter Charlene also tweeted to publicise the three-hour opportunity to chat directly with the president.

“Young people, the chance of a lifetime awaits you,” she posted.

“I encourage you to use it wisely and engage constructively because you are the ones who will determine the continuity of such levels of discussion for your success.”

Some members of Mr Ruto’s cabinet are also set to take part to engage with young people to address their complaints.

More BBC stories on Kenya’s tax crisis:

  • Why Kenya’s president wants people to love the taxman
  • Protesters set fire to Kenya’s parliament – but also saved two MPs
  • What were Kenya’s controversial tax proposals?

BBC Africa podcasts

US cities can now punish homelessness. Will it help or hurt a crisis?

By Sam Granville and Christal HayesBBC News, Los Angeles

“I still have 20 more minutes before I have to move,” Anthony yelled from his green tent on a Hollywood sidewalk as he heard footsteps approaching.

Officials in Los Angeles had come by earlier to warn him that he could face arrest if he didn’t move his belongings.

They told him about the recent Supreme Court opinion that opened the door for cities and states across the US to punish anyone sleeping outdoors — the most significant ruling on homelessness since at least the 1980s, when many experts say the modern US homeless crisis began.

It’s added to the lengthy list of worries Anthony says he already has.

“I’m just trying to survive,” he told the BBC while lying down in his tent, using a blue backpack as a pillow.

A black trash bag sits inside, filled with what belongings he can carry as he moves from one area to the next.

“Some nights I don’t get no sleep,” he said. “I’ve been tired all day. I just want to lay somewhere comfortable and get a good nap in. And that’s it. I am not bothering nobody.”

Moments later, Anthony packed up his tent and went looking for a new place to call home.

The high court’s ruling is already having a ripple effect on cities across the country, which have been emboldened to take harsher measures to clear out homeless camps that have grown in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Many US cities have been wrestling with how to combat the growing crisis. The issue has been at the heart of recent election cycles on the West Coast, where officials have poured record amounts of money into creating shelters and building affordable housing.

Leaders face mounting pressure as long-term solutions – from housing and shelters to voluntary treatment services and eviction help – take time.

“It’s not easy and it will take a time to put into place solutions that work, so there’s a little bit of political theatre going on here,” Scout Katovich, an attorney who focuses on these issues for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told the BBC.

“Politicians want to be able to say they’re doing something,”

The problem, Ms Katovich and other advocates say, is arresting or fining the homeless will only worsen the problem.

“This tactic simply kicks the can down the road. Sure, you might clean up a street but the people you arrest will surely be back.”

Homeless numbers hit new records in 2023

The high court’s ruling last week didn’t mandate how cities and governments should handle homelessness – but it gave communities leeway to take more severe measures without the fear of legal recourse.

The case began in the small city of Grants Pass, Oregon, with a population of around 40,000. Over the last 20 years the city doubled in size, but its supply of affordable and public housing did not keep up. Housing prices skyrocketed and the number of homeless grew.

Elected leaders passed laws allowing the city to issue $295 (£230) fines – or 20-day jail sentences for repeat offenses – to unhoused people sleeping or camping in public. Three homeless people sued the city in 2018 after they received multiple citations they were unable to pay.

An appeals court found such laws virtually banned homelessness and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

The Supreme Court finally ruled that cities were clear to prohibit homeless people sleeping outside in public places.

“A handful of federal judges cannot begin to ‘match’ the collective wisdom the American people possess in deciding ‘how best to handle’ a pressing social question like homelessness,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the majority’s opinion.

Theane Evangelis argued this case before the Supreme Court on behalf of Grants Pass.

She says city officials had their hands tied because they could not force anyone into a shelter. She argues those who refuse to use the services offered end up staying in encampments.

“Living in tents is not a compassionate solution, and it’s not treating people with dignity. And so the Supreme Court’s decision was remarkable in the degree to which it listened to those cities,” she said.

Leaders in Grants Pass say they plan to examine the Supreme Court opinion before making a plan on whether to enforce its ban on encampments.

The ruling comes at a critical time for the unhoused.

Last year, the US tracked the highest numbers of homeless people since 2007 – when the US Department of Housing and Urban Development started tracking such data.

There were 653,104 homeless people counted as part of the agency’s yearly homeless assessment in 2023. That’s a nearly 11% increase from the year prior.

Advocates work to steer away from arrests

The ACLU has been tracking the reaction to the decision by city leaders across the US.

It has already sent a letter to Manchester, New Hampshire, after the mayor promised to ban encampments to “make our streets safe, clear and passable”.

Other city leaders, like the mayor in Lancaster, California, have promised to “be much more aggressive” against encampments in neighbourhoods and near stores.

Mayor R Rex Parris told the Los Angeles Times “we’re going to be moving them really fast”.

State lawmakers in Oregon also seem poised to look at changing laws that will give them greater latitude to rid homeless camps, local media reported.

In Spokane, Washington, leaders are asking authorities to dismantle more camps.

But fining people who don’t have the means for housing worsens their finances, advocates say.

Arresting them can make it harder to find a job or housing, experts told the BBC.

“There is mounds and volumes of evidence showing that having an unpaid citation and a warrant out for arrest, let alone in incarceration, prevents people from accessing housing, jobs in other places,” Chris Herring, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California in Los Angeles told the BBC.

“It actually prevents people from accessing shelter.”

Not all cities have welcomed the court decision.

In Los Angeles, the mayor called the ruling “disappointing” and vowed to continue investing in affordable housing, voluntary treatment and eviction protections.

Days after the opinion, the city released a homeless count showing the first drop in nearly six years.

Advocates say it is a prime example that other cities can learn from.

“Real change takes time,” Sasha Morozov, a regional director for PATH, a leading homeless provider in the Los Angeles area, told the BBC.

Ms Morozov noted, though, outreach teams in the greater Los Angeles area are still working to inform those living on the streets about the Supreme Court’s ruling. Teams are also preparing for increased demand for legal services.

Jailing the homeless? ‘At least I’ll have a bed’

Around the corner from Anthony, Topher Williams, 28, calls a makeshift tent on a sidewalk home.

Black and blue tarps are tied to tree branches and street parking poles. Plywood boards line the edges of the structure, which he calls a three-room apartment.

Mr Williams, who told the BBC he was an Army veteran, has been living on the streets for four years. An unlucky combination of medical expenses and the pandemic’s economic struggles left him without a job or shelter.

Like Anthony, he’s frustrated at the lack of compassion from city officials and law enforcement.

“It’s mind blowing the way people look at us. The way people straight up treat us like we’re like less than animals. And they have no idea,” he said, tears welling in his eyes.

“I served eight years in the military. I did two tours of duty. I gave the ultimate sacrifice fighting for this country, and to be treated like I’m a second-class citizen is wild.”

Asked if he was scared about potential arrests, he said it’s part of this way of life.

“We’ve got a lot that we have to deal with already. A lot of the things are kind of stressful. But I don’t worry about things until they start affecting me.”

Like Topher, Anthony said being arrested may not be the worst outcome.

“At least I’ll have a bed and maybe I’ll be in the system and get the right kind of help.”

More on homelessness

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.

Jill Biden: The quiet influence of Biden’s closest adviser

By Rachel LookerBBC News, Washington

A day after US President Joe Biden struggled through a 90-minute debate that only served to fuel voter concerns about his age and fitness, Jill Biden stood before well-heeled donors at a New York fundraiser and tried to explain what they had all witnessed.

“‘You know, Jill, I don’t know what happened. I didn’t feel that great,'” the president had confessed, she told them. “I said, ‘Look, Joe, we are not going to let 90 minutes define the four years that you’ve been president.’”

It offered an early glimpse into the president’s mindset and how he rated his debate performance, which was widely panned as a major blow to his campaign.

As doubts about Mr Biden’s candidacy began to circulate, his closest adviser was unequivocal about whether he would step out of the race. “When he gets knocked down, Joe gets back up, and that’s what we’re doing today,” Mrs Biden said.

The first lady has stood beside her husband throughout his decades-long career, from his time as a Delaware senator to becoming commander-in-chief, often serving as the decisive voice behind many of Mr Biden’s political choices.

While the president often turns to his tight-knit family on big decisions, Mrs Biden is among a handful of top advisers who wield the most influence over the president and could ultimately help him determine whether it is time to step out of the race.

“It’s fair to call her Biden’s closest adviser,” veteran Democratic political strategist Hank Sheinkop told the BBC. “Family matters to him significantly and that makes Jill Biden’s role even more important.”

The president’s younger sister, Valerie Biden Owens, who served as his campaign manager during his years in the Senate, as well as his son, Hunter Biden, are also among his most trusted confidantes.

After the fallout from the debate, Mr Biden huddled with his family for a long-planned trip to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, where they discussed the fate of his campaign and urged him to keep fighting, according to the BBC’s US partner CBS. Hunter Biden was among the most vocal family members urging his father to remain in the race, CBS reported.

But as Democratic anxiety over the 81-year-old president’s physical and mental stamina has spilled into public view in recent days, many inside the party have looked to the first lady for any hint of wavering over his candidacy.

Instead, she has continued to hit the campaign trail, travelling to the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Michigan this week for a string of political and official events.

“Because there’s a lot of talk out there, let me repeat what my husband has said plainly and clearly: Joe is the Democratic nominee and he is going to beat Donald Trump, just like he did in 2020,” Mrs Biden told supporters at a campaign event in Traverse City, Michigan, on Wednesday.

Mrs Biden’s influence in the West Wing, however, is not unusual.

Nancy Kegan Smith, president of the First Ladies Association for Research and Education, said there are historic parallels between Mrs Biden and former first ladies.

“Most presidents depend on the uncoloured advice of their wives because that’s the person who is normally closest to them,” she said.

She pointed to Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of former President Lyndon B Johnson, who advised her husband – ultimately convincing him with a moving letter – to run for the White House in August 1964 after he became president following the assassination of John F Kennedy.

Four years later in 1968, she changed her opinion, telling him to not run for re-election. He listened, Ms Kegan Smith said.

Many in the Democratic Party are waiting to see if a similar scenario may unfold in the next month, placing a greater spotlight on Mrs Biden.

The first lady keeps a busy schedule. She is the first in the East Wing to keep a day job teaching English at a northern Virginia community college. When she is not teaching, she is often on the road campaigning for her husband.

“Most modern first ladies have been in the political game for quite a while and have been political sounding boards to their husbands,” Katherine Jellison, an Ohio University professor who studies first ladies, told BBC News.

The president proposed five times before Mrs Biden said yes, and the couple married in 1977, five years after Mr Biden lost his first wife and daughter in a car crash that also injured his two sons.

When he decided not to run for president in 2016, he told 60 Minutes “it was the right decision for the family”. He cited his reasoning was in part because of the loss of his son, Beau, who died from brain cancer in 2015.

Mrs Biden specifically played a role in her husband’s decision not to run for president in 2003, Ms Kegan Smith said, pointing to a scene described in the first lady’s 2019 memoir, Where the Light Enters. In the book, she recalled lounging by the pool as Democratic advisers inside encouraged her husband to launch a campaign. Wearing a bikini, she wrote “no” on her stomach in magic marker and walked through the meeting. Biden did not enter the race that year.

But the first lady has also come under pressure in recent days, facing criticism after the presidential debate for praising her husband after his poor showing on the debate stage.

“Joe, you did such a great job. You answered every question. You knew all the facts,” she told him on stage at a post-debate rally in Atlanta. A clip of the exchange was widely mocked on social media.

Some Republicans have also seized on Democratic worry, laying blame on the first lady for Mr Biden’s debate performance. Representative Harriet Hageman, a Republican from Wyoming, even accused Mrs Biden of “elder abuse” in a post on X, for “rolling him out on stage to engage in a battle of wits while unarmed”.

The Drudge Report, a conservative website, ran a headline on its front page immediately after the debate that read: “Cruel Jill clings to power.”

“It’s really unfair to put the burden on her. She’s his spouse. She’s not a politician,” Michael LaRosa, her former press secretary, told The Hill. “It’s not up to her to save the Democratic Party.”

Mrs Biden, meanwhile, has stressed that the president’s bid for re-election will continue as the stakes in November are high.

“Every campaign is important, and every campaign is hard,” the first lady told Vogue for their August cover story. “Each campaign is unique. But this one, the urgency is different. We know what’s at stake. Joe is asking the American people to come together to draw a line in the sand against all this vitriol.”

That urgency is something the campaign is hoping she’ll be able to convey to voters. In a statement to the BBC, the Biden campaign called Mrs Biden an “effective messenger” on the campaign trail.

“As a teacher, mom, and grandmother, she’s uniquely positioned to connect with key constituencies across the country and speak to the president’s vision for America,” the statement said.

Still, her steadfast support combined with White House dismissals of media reports that the president is weighing his exit have yet to tamp down growing uncertainty about the Democratic ticket. The fallout has triggered a backlash of Democrats, donors and some lawmakers publicly calling for the president’s withdrawal from the race.

“Joe has been knocked down and counted out his whole life… When he gets counted out, he works harder. And that’s what he’s doing, but he needs your help,” she told Michigan supporters on Wednesday.

“We don’t choose our chapter of history, but we can choose who leads us through it,” she added.

For Mrs Biden, that choice remains her husband.

More:

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

No, UK weather is not being manipulated

By Simon KingBBC Weather@SimonOKing • Marco SilvaBBC Verify@BBCMarcoSilva

June’s weather may have felt erratic at times – but for some social media users, there was nothing random about it. They wrongly blamed it on “weather manipulation” and “geoengineering”. Others accused weather presenters of “hiding the truth” from the public.

Much of June experienced temperatures about 2C (3.6F) lower than average, due to colder air coming from the Arctic.

That was reversed in the last week of the month as warmer air moved in, bringing the UK temperature closer to normal, but still 0.4C colder than average.

Combined with one of the wettest winters in recent years, this has left many wondering what is going on with the British weather.

But not all possible explanations circulating on social media are grounded in scientific evidence.

To some users, the recent cooler weather suggests climate change may not be real. But short-term weather events are not representative of long-term climate trends in the UK.

And recent decades have also proved warmer, wetter, and sunnier than those in the 20th Century, as the climate continues to change.

But among those who deny the existence of climate change, an alternative theory has been gaining momentum. It alleges that the government is supposedly controlling both weather and climate for sinister purposes.

Variations of this narrative have been circulating online for years, but in the aftermath of unusual weather events it tends to resurface on all major social media platforms.

By using social media analytics tools, BBC Verify found that conversation around these topics has been gaining momentum this year.

Since January, mentions of #GeoEngineering on X more than doubled worldwide, compared with the last six months of 2023.

BBC Verify found thousands of tweets spreading falsehoods and conspiracy theories.

These claims often lump together processes that are largely different from each other, such as weather modification and geoengineering.

The most well-known form of weather modification is cloud seeding – a technique through which tiny particles are released into existing clouds to produce rain or snow.

Cloud seeding has been around for decades, and has been deployed in places like the US, China and the United Arab Emirates, mostly to help tackle water shortages.

On social media, some users have claimed that high levels of rainfall across the UK could only be explained by the deployment of cloud seeding on an industrial scale.

This is false.

On a rapidly warming planet, warm air is able to hold more moisture, which in turn fuels more intense rainfall.

Climate change may not be the only factor behind the UK’s waterlogged winter, but it has certainly played an important role in it.

While the UK government funded cloud seeding experiments in the 1950s, the Met Office says it is not aware of any activity connected to weather modification taking place in the UK in recent years.

In addition to that, cloud seeding can only have small, targeted impacts. It does not affect long-term weather or the climate.

That is where the idea of geoengineering comes in.

Geoengineering is an umbrella term most commonly used to describe attempts to manipulate the environment, with the goal of reducing the effects of climate change.

Under current climate policies, the Earth is likely to heat up by more than 1.5C in the next few decades, breaching a key climate threshold.

As the clock ticks away, some scientists believe governments should be looking into alternative methods of cooling the Earth.

This could involve capturing and removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere – something the UK is actively researching.

But there is no evidence to suggest that removing gases like carbon dioxide has any impact on short-term weather.

Cooling the Earth could also be achieved through solar radiation management – a process through which some of the Sun’s energy that reaches Earth is reflected back into space.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero says the UK government is “not deploying solar radiation management” and that it has “no plans to do so”.

And yet, some social media users claim, without evidence, that a cover-up is taking place – one in which BBC Weather and other forecasters are playing a key role (or so those users allege).

“Imagine watching the geoengineers at work, and you report the weather without telling the truth about what really is going on,” wrote one user on X. “That is sick!”

Many of these users were also found to frequently tweet about “chemtrails”, a widely debunked conspiracy theory about a secretive plot to spray people with dangerous chemicals.

The Royal Meteorological Society condemns the abuse weather forecasters have been receiving – which, it says, can have chilling effects.

“We work very closely with young scientists to encourage them to share their science with the public,” says Prof Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society. “But they are fearful of the trolling that might take place.”

Others argue that it may also affect research into geoengineering, as potential donors may be reluctant to put their money into projects the public may perceive as “controversial”.

“A lot of funders are very sceptical of funding research,” says Dr Ramit Debnath, an assistant professor at the University of Cambridge, who investigated how online conversations about geoengineering have been hijacked by conspiracy theories.

“It’s this whole idea that someone is trying to control our natural resources, our environment – and that, through that intervention, we are trying to control or take away people’s freedom,” he says.

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.

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.”

Hamas faces growing public dissent as Gaza war erodes support

By Lucy Williamson & Rushdi AboualoufBBC Middle East correspondent & Gaza correspondent

The man in the video is beside himself, a mask of anguish radiating through his bloodied face.

“I am an academic doctor,” he says, “I had a good life, but we have a filthy [Hamas] leadership. They got used to our bloodshed, may God curse them! They are scum!”

The video – unthinkable before the Gaza war – was filmed outside a hospital, inundated with hundreds of Palestinian casualties after an Israeli operation to free hostages from central Gaza last month.

Seconds before the video ends, he turns to the crowd.

“I’m one of you,” he says, “but you are a cowardly people. We could have avoided this attack!”

The video went viral. And it’s not the only one.

Open criticism of Hamas has been growing in Gaza, both on the streets and online.

Some have publicly criticised Hamas for hiding the hostages in apartments near a busy marketplace, or for firing rockets from civilian areas.

Residents have told the BBC that swearing and cursing against the Hamas leadership is now common in the markets, and that some drivers of donkey carts have even nicknamed their animals after the Hamas leader in Gaza – Yahya Sinwar – urging the donkeys forward with shouts of “Yallah, Sinwar!”

“People say things like, ‘Hamas has destroyed us’ or even call on God to take their lives,” one man said.

“They ask what the 7 October attacks were for – some say they were a gift to Israel.”

Some are even urging their leaders to agree a ceasefire with Israel.

There are still those in Gaza fiercely loyal to Hamas and after years of repressive control, it’s difficult to know how far the group is losing support, or how far existing opponents feel more able to speak their mind.

But a senior Hamas official privately acknowledged to the BBC, months ago, that they were losing support as a result of the war.

And even some on the group’s own payroll are wavering.

One senior Hamas government employee told the BBC that the Hamas attacks were “a crazy, uncalculated leap”.

He asked that we concealed his identity.

“I know from my work with the Hamas government that it prepared well for the attack militarily, but it neglected the home front,” he said.

“They did not build any safe shelters for people, they did not reserve enough food, fuel and medical supplies. If my family and I survive this war, I will leave Gaza, the first chance I get.”

There was opposition to Hamas long before the war, though much of it remained hidden for fear of reprisals.

The last time Palestinian elections were held, in 2006, in the party list vote Gazans voted for Hamas in 15 out of 24 seats in the territory – in the other nine districts, voters chose a different party.

A year later, Hamas violently ejected Palestinian Authority forces from Gaza causing a bitter rift with the rival Fatah movement, and took over the running of the whole Gaza Strip.

Ameen Abed, a political activist, said he had been arrested many times for speaking out against Hamas before the war, but said – nine months on – dissent was becoming more common there.

“In Gaza, most people criticise what Hamas has done,” he said.

“They see children living in tents, and insulting their leaders has become routine. But it has a lot of support among those outside Gaza’s border, who are sitting under air conditioners in their comfortable homes, who have not lost a child, a home, a future, a leg.”

Desperation and war are eroding social structures in Gaza, and Hamas control is not what it was.

Four-fifths of Gaza’s population is displaced, often moving between temporary shelters.

And law and order has broken down in places, partly as a result of Israel’s policy of targeting Gaza’s security forces – not just the official Hamas internal security service, but also the community police responsible for street crime.

As control has waned, criminal gangs have thrived, looting neighbourhoods and aid convoys; and private security companies – some run by powerful local families – have emerged.

One staff member from an aid organisation operating in Gaza described “absolute chaos at street level” and “a state of anarchy”, saying that civilian order had completely broken down as a result of the Israeli policy.

Israel’s prime minister has repeatedly vowed to continue the war until Hamas’s military and governing capabilities are destroyed.

But some aid agencies – in both northern and south areas of Gaza – have also reported regular checks on their activities by local Hamas officials, and videos are frequently circulated of unofficial Hamas security forces shooting and beating those caught looting.

One well-placed source told the BBC that dozens of people had been killed by Hamas in bloody score-settling with other local groups, after Israeli troops withdrew from one area.

Fear of criticising Gaza’s leaders might have lessened, but it hasn’t gone, so it is still hard to accurately gauge, beyond individual testimony, how far support for the group is shifting.

Some, like 26-year-old Jihad Talab, still strongly support Hamas.

Displaced from the Zeitoun area of Gaza City with his wife, daughter and mother, and now sheltering in Deir al Balah, he said the group was not responsible for their suffering.

“We must support [Hamas] because it’s the one working on the ground, the one who understands the battle – not you or I,” he said. “Empty accusations only serve the Occupation [Israel]. We’ll support it until our last breath.”

A regular poll carried out by a West Bank-based think tank, the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, claims that most people in Gaza still blame Israel and its allies for the war, rather than Hamas.

The latest survey in June said that almost two-thirds of Gazan respondents were satisfied with Hamas – a rise of 12 points from December – and suggested that just around half would still prefer Hamas to run Gaza after the war ends, over any other option.

Glimpses through chinks in the media blockade around Gaza can never give a full assessment of the situation. International journalists are barred by Israel and Egypt from reporting on the situation there first-hand.

What is clear is that Hamas remains very sensitive to public opinion.

Strikingly similar messages regularly appear on certain social media platforms to justify its actions, often apparently in response to criticism at home.

A source familiar with Hamas told the BBC there was an organised international network to co-ordinate social media messaging for the group.

After Israeli families released a video showing the moment female soldiers were kidnapped by Hamas units on 7 October, some in Gaza questioned whether targeting women during war was in line with Islamic teaching.

In response, several pro-Hamas social media accounts put out similar messages insisting that soldiers – male or female – were justified military targets, and saying the unit had been involved in shooting Gazan protestors during demonstrations six years ago.

Criticism of Hamas is growing sharper, and long-buried divisions over Hamas rule in Gaza are becoming clear.

Out of the destruction left by Israel’s battle with Hamas, a new war is emerging: a battle for control of public opinion within Gaza itself.

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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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.

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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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.

Cameroon president’s daughter hints at same-sex relationship

By Paul NjieBBC News, Yaoundé

The daughter of Cameroon’s president has shared an image in which she is kissing another woman, sparking mixed reactions in a country where same-sex relationships are illegal.

The Instagram post shows 26-year-old Brenda Biya embracing Brazillian model Layyons Valença.

“I’m crazy about you & I want the world to know,” Ms Biya wrote, adding a love heart emoji.

Her 91-year-old father, Paul Biya, became Cameroon’s president in 1982 and is one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders.

Those engaging in same-sex acts or relationships in the Central African nation face up to five years in jail.

Ms Biya – a musician based abroad who goes by the name King Nasty – did not explicitly state her sexuality when posting the picture of the kiss.

However, some time after the image was published, Ms Biya shared an article from Le Monde, in which the French newspaper reported that she had “come out”.

She also shared other messages from people expressing their support for her.

  • Paul Biya: Cameroon’s ‘absentee president’
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Transgender Cameroonian activist Shakiro was among those who praised Ms Biya, saying her Instagram post could be a “turning point for the LGBTQ+ community in Cameroon”.

Shakiro said Ms Biya “is now positioning herself as a voice for social change in a country where taboos are deeply rooted”.

Shakiro currently resides in Belgium. She sought asylum there after being convicted of “attempted homosexuality” in Cameroon.

Although Ms Biya has been praised by some, several social media users in Cameroon responded to her post with homophobic comments.

Some have speculated whether Ms Biya shared the picture in order to generate a buzz, given her reputation for publishing social media posts that spark controversy among Cameroonians.

There have also been questions about whether coming out is a privilege that can only be enjoyed by a select few in the country.

“I love this for Cameroon’s First Daughter,” LGBT activist Bandy Kiki said in a Facebook post.

“However, it highlights a harsh reality: Anti-LGBT laws in Cameroon disproportionately target the poor. Wealth and connections create a shield for some, while others face severe consequences.”

Human rights groups have previously criticised Cameroon’s strict laws against members of the LGBT community.

In 2022, Human Rights Watch urged Cameroon to “take urgent action to revoke this discriminatory law and to ensure that the human rights of all Cameroonians, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics, are upheld”.

Barrister Alice Nkom, a renowned human rights lawyer who defends LGBT people in Cameroon, said Ms Biya was a “model of courage” who is “sending an important universal message of love”.

Most media outlets in Cameroon have not reported on Ms Biya’s recent picture. The media regulatory body has been known to sanction publications and broadcasters for depictions of homosexuality.

The government – and President Biya himself – have not officially commented on the story either.

The BBC has contacted Ms Biya and is yet to receive a response.

You may also be interested in:

  • Cameroon asylum row man ‘told to prove he is gay’
  • The Nigerian queer parties that offer liberation
  • Ghana’s LGBT terror: ‘We live in fear of snitches’
  • Why are African countries passing anti-LGBT laws?

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UK election: What’s happened and what comes next?

By Graeme Baker & Matt MurphyBBC News, in Washington DC & London

Sir Keir Starmer is the UK’s new prime minister, after his Labour Party swept to power in a landslide general election victory.

The Conservative Party suffered a huge collapse after a tumultuous 14 years in power, which saw five different prime ministers run the country.

Rishi Sunak – the outgoing PM – accepted responsibility for the result and apologised to defeated colleagues during a brief statement outside a rainy 10 Downing Street. He said he would resign as party leader in the coming weeks.

In his first speech as prime minister after greeting dozens of jubilant Labour supporters who had lined Downing Street, Sir Keir vowed to kick start a period of “national renewal” and to put “country first, party second”.

“For too long we’ve turned a blind eye as millions slid into greater insecurity,” he said. “I want to say very clearly to those people. Not this time.”

“Changing a country is not like flicking a switch. The world is now a more volatile place. This will take a while, but have no doubt the work of change will begin immediately.”

The result marks a stunning reversal from the 2019 election when Labour, led by the veteran left-wing politician Jeremy Corbyn, suffered its worst electoral defeat in almost a century.

On the other side, Robert Buckland, a former Conservative minister who lost his seat, described it as “electoral Armageddon” for the Tories.

It is the party’s worst result in almost 200 years, with an ideological battle over its future direction expected to commence in the coming weeks.

It’s been a long night of results. Here’s what it all means.

  • Follow live updates

A huge Labour victory

Britain’s House of Commons has 650 MPs, or members of parliament. Each of their “seats” represents an individual constituency – or area – somewhere in the country.

So far Labour has won 412 seats, while the Conservatives have slumped to just 120 and centrist Liberal Democrats have taken 71. Reform UK, a successor to the Brexit Party, is set to pick up four seats, as are the left-wing Green Party.

Labour’s surge was partly aided by the collapse of the Scottish National Party (SNP). The party has been hit by a succession of controversies around its finances and fell to just nine seats overnight.

The expected 170-seat majority in the House of Commons for Labour is an enormous number but still short of the majority of 179 won by the party under Tony Blair in the 1997 election.

But for more perspective, the Conservatives’ win in the 2019 election under Boris Johnson – seen as a very strong performance – saw them get a majority of 80 seats.

A reminder: If a party holds a majority, it means it doesn’t need to rely on other parties to pass laws. The bigger the majority, the easier it is.

There were, however, a number of notable defeats for Labour to independent candidates campaigning on pro-Gaza tickets – especially in areas with large Muslim populations.

Labour has faced growing pressure over its stance to the conflict. In February, the party called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire but critics said it was too slow to reach that position.

Centre-left parties in other Western countries were keeping a keen eye on the trend ahead of the poll, amid fear of a growing backlash from their own voters over their support for Israel.

Big names fall one by one (but some survive)

As constituencies have declared their results live on television – with all candidates lined up next to each other on stage – there have been some major moments.

Perhaps the most notable was the defeat of Liz Truss. The former prime minister served just 49 days in Number 10 before being ousted by her party. She narrowly lost to Labour in the constituency of South West Norfolk, having previously held a huge 24,180 majority.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Conservative business secretary and arch-Brexiteer, was one of the biggest names to suffer defeat. He lost his East Somerset and Hanham seat to Labour.

He told the BBC that he couldn’t “blame anybody other than myself” for the loss but he took a “small silver lining” from the fact that the Conservatives would be “at least the official opposition” – a reference to fears they wouldn’t even have that.

Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, looked rattled after losing his seat in southern England.

Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt, who ran against Rishi Sunak for the party leadership before he became prime minister, also lost her seat.

As the night wore on, a succession of other Conservative cabinet ministers also lost their seats, including: Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer and Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer.

  • Truss and Rees-Mogg among big-name Tory losses
  • The dramatic Tory decline behind Labour’s landslide
  • Key moments from a dramatic election night

But Jeremy Hunt, who serves as chancellor – the UK equivalent of a finance minister – held on to his seat but with a much-reduced majority.

Mr Sunak also won his seat in Yorkshire with a comfortable majority of around 12,000 – but used his acceptance speech to concede and confirm his party had lost the election.

Labour also lost two big names of their own. Jonathan Ashworth and Thangam Debbonaire were both expected to be a part of Keir Starmer’s incoming cabinet.

A new PM within a day

Things move pretty fast in British politics – there is very little time between an election result and the installation of the new prime minister.

Rishi Sunak moved out of 10 Downing Street on Friday morning – the British equivalent of the White House – and Sir Keir Starmer will be installed swiftly afterwards.

But there is a process. Mr Sunak offered his resignation to the King, and Sir Keir was formally invited by the monarch to form the next government in a meeting at Buckingham Palace.

He will then perform the traditional walk up Downing Street – watched by the world’s media – before addressing the nation from the steps of Number 10.

After that he will be expected to invite top Labour MPs to Downing Street and appoint them to his new cabinet.

Speaking before he handed his resignation to the King, Mr Sunak wished his successor well.

“His successes will be all our successes, and I wish him and his family well,” Mr Sunak said. “Whatever our disagreements in this campaign, he is a decent public spirited man who I respect.”

So who is Keir Starmer?

He’s fairly new to politics, relatively speaking.

Sir Keir started his professional life as a barrister in the 1990s, and was appointed the director of public prosecutions, the most senior criminal prosecutor in England and Wales, in 2008.

He was first elected in the Holborn and St Pancras constituency in north London in 2015, and took over leadership of Labour after the party’s poor 2019 general election, pledging to start a “new era” after the left-wing leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.

Sir Keir was re-elected in the same constituency on Thursday, saying in his victory speech people were “ready for change” and promising an “end the politics of performance”.

“The change begins right here because this is your democracy, your community, your future,” he said. “You have voted. It’s now time for us to deliver.”

The Labour leader largely avoided making big pledges during the election campaign.

But during his address on the steps of Downing Street, Sir Keir said his government would strive to “rebuild” British public services such as the NHS, slash energy bills and secure the country’s border.

“You have given us a clear mandate, and we will use it to deliver change,” he vowed.

You can read Sir Keir’s full profile here.

Nigel Farage finally becomes an MP

This election’s insurgent party was Reform UK, the right-wing successor to the Brexit Party and the UK Independence Party.

Nigel Farage, its leader, finally won a seat on his eighth attempt – but his party’s initial projection of 13 seats fizzled to four. That’s still better than UKIP and the Brexit Party ever did, and Mr Farage has been celebrating.

The party’s share of the vote looks to be about 14%.

Reform drew controversy during the campaign over offensive statements made by some of its candidates and activists.

Mr Farage will be joined in the House of Commons by former Conservative party deputy chairman Lee Anderson, Reform founder Richard Tice and Rupert Lowe.

From their new perch in parliament, the party could seek to cause trouble for the Conservatives and pick off more voters from the party’s remaining base.

Truss and Rees-Mogg among big-name Tory losses

By Paul SeddonPolitical reporter • Christy CooneyBBC News
Some of the most notable Conservative losses this election

Former prime minister Liz Truss has lost her seat in Labour’s landslide election victory, as the Conservatives slump to a historic defeat.

She lost her South West Norfolk constituency to Labour by 630 votes, having previously held a huge 24,180 majority.

The ex-premier was among a clutch of senior Tories ejected from Parliament, in a result set to reshape the direction of the party.

These include Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, who was tipped as a future Tory leadership contender, and former cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg.

But Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who had been seen as vulnerable in his Godalming and Ash constituency, managed to hold on with slender 891 majority.

Speaking after her defeat, Ms Truss said her party had not “delivered sufficiently” in areas such as “keeping taxes low” and reducing immigration.

Asked if she would stay on in Conservative politics, Ms Truss said “I’ve got a lot to think about” and asked people to “give me a bit of time”.

‘Taken a battering’

With only a small number of seats left to declare, the Conservatives are heading for a historic loss in terms of seats after a dramatic 20 point decline in support.

The party lost a string of seats in southern England to the Liberal Democrats, who have won over 70 seats and are set for their best result in a century.

They have also seen their vote squeezed by Reform UK, which has won 14% of the vote and four seats, including Nigel Farage in Clacton.

Unlike the last election in 2019, when as the Brexit Party it stood aside in more than 300 Tory-held seats, Reform’s decision to field candidates across Britain contributed to heavy Tory losses, particularly in Brexit-voting areas.

Twelve ministers attending cabinet have lost their seats, including Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk and Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan.

Conceding the election after he was re-elected in Richmond and Northallerton, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called the results a “sobering verdict” for his party.

Speaking after losing her seat, Ms Mordaunt said her party had “taken a battering because it failed to honour the trust that people had placed in it”.

She warned against “talking to an ever smaller slice of ourselves,” adding, “if we want again to be the natural party of government, then our values must be the people’s”.

In other high-profile Tory losses:

  • Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer lost to Labour in Plymouth Moor View
  • Education Secretary Gillian Keegan lost to the Liberal Democrats in Chichester, a West Sussex seat the Tories have held for a century
  • Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer lost Ely and East Cambridgeshire, also to the Liberal Democrats
  • Chief Whip Simon Hart – in charge of party discipline – lost to Plaid Cymru in Caerfyrddin, as the Tories lost all their seats in Wales
  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Chris Mason analysis: Voters show ruthless drive to remove Tories
  • What are Labour planning to do in government?
  • Who is my MP now? The election in maps and charts
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland, who also lost his seat, told the BBC his party faced “electoral Armageddon”.

He said too many Conservatives had focused on “personal agendas and jockeying for position” instead of “concentrating on doing the job that they were elected to do”.

“I’ve watched colleagues strike poses, write inflammatory op-eds, and say stupid things they have no evidence for, instead of concentrating on doing the job that they were elected to do,” the former justice secretary said.

He said former home secretary Suella Braverman, savaged Mr Sunak’s election strategy in a newspaper article days before polls opened, was “not an isolated example” of this behaviour.

“I’m fed up of personal agendas and jockeying for position. The truth is now with the Conservatives facing electoral Armageddon, it’s going to be like a group of bald men arguing over a comb.”

Sir Robert said for the party to move further to the right would be a “disastrous mistake” that “would send us into the abyss”.

‘Thank God’

Speaking earlier, before his defeat, Sir Jacob said it was “clearly a terrible night” for his party, that had come to take its “core vote for granted”.

“We need to win voters at every single election. If you take your base for granted… your voters will look to other parties.”

He thought the party had made a mistake by ousting Boris Johnson, who led it to victory in the 2019 election but was forced to step down as prime minister in 2022 following a series of scandals.

Former minister Steve Baker, who lost his Wycombe seat to Labour, told the BBC he was glad to have lost, adding, “thank God I’m free”.

He added that it had been a privilege to be an MP, but politicians now suffered lots of abuse and his house is now “like Fort Knox”.

“I will not be coming back, you can have that as an exclusive,” he added.

General election 2024 in maps and charts

By Data journalism teamBBC News

The Labour Party has won a landslide majority in the 2024 general election.

The party is set to take 412 seats with a majority of 174, with almost all the results declared.

It is the worst Conservative result in terms of seats in history, with the party forecast to win as few as 122. The Liberal Democrats have their highest tally since 1923, taking 71 seats.

The SNP is forecast to end the night on 10 seats. Reform UK and Plaid Cymru and the Green Party have four each.

Other parties, including those in Northern Ireland, have won 23 seats.

Labour’s vote share is up by less than two points from 32% to 34%, but the Conservatives have seen their vote share fall by about 20 points.

Vote share

Labour has around a 34% share of the vote across the UK and the Conservatives 24%.

While the Liberal Democrats are expected to have the third highest number of seats, Reform are in third place by share of the vote.

However, Reform have found it difficult to convert votes into seats. With almost all the results declared, the party has returned four MPs, including party leader Nigel Farage in Clacton.

The Conservative vote share suffered particularly in areas where high numbers voted to leave the European Union, falling by 27 points in constituencies where more than 60% voted Leave.

Votes for the Conservatives in constituencies in England and Wales where large numbers of people had mortgages fell about 24 points to 32%, while the Labour share grew five points in these places to 28%.

Labour support in constituencies with large Muslim communities fell about 23 points to 39%. Vote share in these areas for the Tories fell 12 points to about 13%.

The Greens have recorded their best general election performance yet, according to polling expert Sir John Curtice, and will likely win 7% of the vote.

The party has taken Bristol Central, Waveney Valley and North Herefordshire and has held Brighton Pavilion.

Turnout across the UK as a whole is 60%, the second lowest in a UK election since 1885. Only 2001 was lower with 59%.

Changed hands

This map shows the seats which have been won by a different party to the last general election.

Labour has made deep in-roads into the SNP’s tally in Scotland. The Liberal Democrats have taken seats throughout England.

Refresh this page to see the latest results.

Scotland

Labour have won many seats in Scotland, while the Scottish National Party has lost more than 35. The Liberal Democrats have taken a handful and the Conservatives have so far held on to five.

The SNP share of the vote is down 15 points, while Labour’s is up by 17 north of the border.

Wales

All the constituencies in Wales have been declared. Labour have gained nine seats, taking the party’s total to 27, despite their share falling by four points.

The Conservatives lost 12 seats and now have no MPs in Wales.

Plaid Cymru has gained two seats, putting the party on four and the Liberal Democrats have taken Brecon, Radnor and Cwm Tawe.

Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin has become Northern Ireland’s largest Westminster party, winning all seven seats it won in 2019, while the Democratic Unionist Party lost three of the eight it held at the last general election.

Regional change

Looking at seat and vote share change across broad areas of England, the Conservatives have lost more than 100 seats in the South excluding London and their vote share is down by about 24 points.

Labour has made seat gains in the Midlands, North and South and has also increased its already-strong London tally by seven seats.

The Liberal Democrats have increased their seats in the South by more than 40, their highest regional tally.

Labour and Lib Dem vote shares fell somewhat in London, while hardly changing in the North and Midlands. Vote share for the two parties rose slightly in the South.

Reform share is up in all of these broad regions.

Rishi Sunak apologises after historic Tory defeat

By Jennifer McKiernan@_JennyMcKiernanBrian WheelerPolitical reporter
Sunak announces resignation as PM in Downing Street

Rishi Sunak has apologised to the nation following the Conservative Party’s general election defeat – the worst in its parliamentary history.

Sir Keir Starmer has led the Labour Party to a landslide victory and will take over from Mr Sunak as the UK’s prime minister.

Accepting responsibility for the result, Mr Sunak said he heard voters’ “anger” at his government.

“To the country I would like to say first and foremost I am sorry,” he said.

“I have given this job my all but you have sent a clear message that the government of the UK must change, and yours is the judgement that matters.

“I have heard your anger, your disappointment, and I take responsibility for this loss.”

Mr Sunak delivered his speech outside Number 10, despite earlier rain – this time with a brolly on hand to avoid a repeat of his sodden election announcement in May.

Mr Sunak said he would step down as party leader, adding “not immediately but once the formal arrangements for selecting my successor are in place”.

The MP for Richmond and Northallerton insisted there would be “an orderly transition” and also paid tribute to Sir Keir, whom he described as “a decent and public-spirited man who I respect”.

Having said goodbye to staff in Downing Street just before his speech, Mr Sunak then got into a car with his wife Akshata to travel to offer his resignation to the King.

In an earlier victory speech in central London, Sir Keir said “change begins now”, adding “it feels good, I have to be honest”.

With nearly all results declared, Labour is projected to form the next government, with a majority of 174. Currently they have 412 MPs, up 211 from the last election.

The Tories are set for the worst result in their history. They have lost 250 seats and are currently on 121 seats.

Former Prime Minister Liz Truss – whose brief, disastrous time in office led to a slump in Tory support from which it never recovered – lost her South West Norfolk seat to Labour by 630 votes.

Ms Truss saw her huge 32,988 majority overturned, with the Reform candidate coming third with 9,958 votes.

She is among dozens of senior Tories who have lost their seats, including Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, Commons leader Penny Mordaunt, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk and former minister Sir Jacob-Rees Mogg.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told the BBC a “large number of people who had previously voted Conservative have voted Reform” and the Conservatives now had to “think hard” about how to win back their support.

Former minister Steve Baker, long a thorn in the side of Tory leaders over Brexit, expressed relief following the news he had lost his seat after 14 years as the MP for Wycombe.

“Thank God, I am free – it’s over,” he said from the empty hall where the ballots had been counted overnight.

Steve Baker: Thank God, I am free, it’s over and I am glad

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage won a seat in Parliament at his eighth attempt, in Clacton, promising “this is just the first step of something that is going to stun all of you”.

Reform has four MPs so far – including chairman Richard Tice and former Tory Lee Anderson – and has finished second in many parts of the country, taking large amounts of votes from the Conservatives.

In a victory speech in London, Sir Keir told cheering Labour supporters the country was waking up to “the sunlight of hope” which was “shining once again on a country with the opportunity after 14 years to get its future back”.

He added: “Now we can look forward – walk into the morning.”

The Liberal Democrats have slightly fewer votes than Reform but have benefitted most from the Tory collapse, surging to a record 71 MPs, including the constituencies of three former Tory PMs – Boris Johnson, David Cameron and Theresa May.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: “This is a record-breaking night for the Liberal Democrats.”

He added: “We will now work hard to keep that trust with a focus on the issues that matter most to them, most of all the NHS and care.”

The Green Party of England and Wales now has four MPs, with co-leaders Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsay among the winners.

But it has been a terrible night for the SNP, which has been reduced to just eight MPs so far.

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has defeated his old party to retain his Islington North seat as an independent.

But another high profile former Labour MP, George Galloway, failed to retain the Rochdale seat he won at a by-election in February, losing to Labour’s Paul Waugh.

Sir Keir Starmer’s landslide is short of the 179 majority won by Tony Blair in 1997, with its vote share across the country up by just 2%, largely thanks to big gains in Scotland, according to polling expert Sir John Curtice.

But 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.

  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Chris Mason analysis: Voters show ruthless drive to remove Tories
  • What are Labour planning to do in government?
  • Who is my MP now? The election in maps and charts
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Penny Mordaunt, who lost to Labour by just 780 votes, had been tipped to make another attempt to be Tory leader after the election.

Admitting defeat, she said her party had lost because it “had failed to honour the trust people had placed in it”.

Her message was echoed by Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, who told the BBC the Tories had “lost the trust of the British people by not delivering. That’s where it went wrong.”

He added: “We have to regroup and reconnect and actually just be a unified Conservative Party.”

The Conservatives have lost seats they have held since the 19th or early 20th century, across the shire counties of England.

Former attorney general Sir Robert Buckland, the first Tory MP to lose his seat as results began rolling in, told the BBC his party was facing “electoral Armageddon” and Labour’s victory was a “big vote for change”.

And he angrily lashed out at colleagues, such as former home secretary Suella Braverman, for what he called “spectacularly unprofessional and ill-disciplined” behaviour during the campaign.

“I’m fed up of personal agendas and jockeying for position,” he added, warning that the upcoming Tory leadership contest was “going to be like a group of bald men arguing over a comb”.

The SNP is “not winning that argument” on Scottish independence, said First Minister John Swinney.

“Opinion polls still show that about half the population in Scotland want our country to be independent,” he told the BBC.

“That’s not manifested itself in the election result tonight and that’s something we’ve got to look at very carefully as a party and to think about how we can remedy that situation.”

Fifty violent attacks shock France ahead of crunch vote

By Paul KirbyBBC News in Paris

More than 50 candidates and activists in France have come under physical attack in the run-up to Sunday’s tense final round of parliamentary elections, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has said.

He revealed the figure after government spokeswoman Prisca Thevenot, her deputy Virginie Lanlo and a party activist were brutally assaulted as they put up election posters in Meudon, south-west of Paris.

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

The spate of assaults across France reflects the febrile mood on the final day of campaigning in an election that the far-right National Rally (RN) is poised to win.

Although RN is well ahead in the polls, 217 candidates have dropped out from local run-off races so another candidate has a better chance of stopping them winning an outright majority in the National Assembly.

Mr Darmanin told news channel BFMTV the attacks were taking place in a climate in which France was “on edge” and more than 30 people had been arrested.

He said the attackers were either people who had “spontaneously become angry” or they were the “ultra-left, ultra-right or other political groups”.

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”.

Mr 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.

Meanwhile, prosecutors are investigating an extremist “patriotic network” website that published a list of almost 100 lawyers “for eliminating”, after they signed an open letter against National Rally.

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.

Labour’s Keir Starmer becomes UK prime minister

By Paul SeddonPolitical reporter

Sir Keir Starmer has become the UK’s first Labour prime minister since 2010 after his party’s landslide general election victory.

Labour is returning to power with a huge parliamentary majority of 174, following a collapse in support for the Conservatives.

Sir Keir has been formally appointed by the King at Buckingham Palace, replacing Tory leader Rishi Sunak, and will soon make his first speech in Downing Street.

Speaking outside No 10, Mr Sunak vowed to remain his party’s leader until formal arrangements for selecting his successor are in place.

In a short farewell speech, he apologised to unsuccessful Tory candidates and told the public: “I have heard your anger, your disappointment.”

Sir Keir is expected to begin appointing his new cabinet on Friday afternoon, before it meets for the first time on Saturday.

Labour’s victory has come largely as a result of a dramatic 20 point drop in Tory support, with the party down 250 seats to 121, a historic low.

It marks a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for Sir Keir’s party, which suffered its worst result in terms of seats – 202 – at the last election in 2019 under Sir Keir’s predecessor Jeremy Corbyn.

Despite only increasing its share of the national vote by around 2%, the party has won 412 seats with just two seats yet to declare, delivering a result just short of the historic 179 majority won by Tony Blair in 1997.

Its vote share increase came entirely as a result of a 17 point increase in support in Scotland, where it regained its status as the largest party as the SNP slumped from 48 to just nine seats.

On a good night for smaller parties, the Liberal Democrats won 71 seats, the party’s best result in a century, whilst Nigel Farage will become one of four MPs for Reform UK, following a breakthrough night for the fledgling party.

  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Chris Mason analysis: Voters show ruthless drive to remove Tories
  • What are Labour planning to do in government?
  • Who is my MP now? The election in maps and charts
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Sir Keir fought a cautious campaign in which Labour made very few new policy pledges, but managed to largely retain the large polling lead over the Tories it began with when outgoing Tory PM Rishi Sunak called the election in May.

This polling lead had remained steady since the disastrous premiership of Liz Truss, who lost her previously safe seat of South West Norfolk.

Despite its resounding overall victory, Labour lost a number of former strongholds to independent candidates campaigning on pro-Gaza platforms.

In one of the biggest shocks of the night, shadow minister Jonathan Ashworth lost his Leicester South seat, which had a majority of more than 22,000.

Shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire lost in Bristol Central to the Greens, who celebrated their most successful election night ever after winning four seats, up from the one they held in the last Parliament.

And shadow health secretary Wes Streeting – one of Labour’s most high-profile figures during the campaign – saw his majority in Ilford North slashed from more than 9,000 to just 528.

Mr Corbyn – standing as an independent after Sir Keir blocked him from standing again for the party he once led – was also returned in the North Islington seat he has represented since 1983, defeating Labour’s official candidate by 7,247.

Manifesto pledges

Labour fought its campaign on a manifesto centred around boosting the UK’s sluggish rate of economic growth in recent years.

It pledged to do this largely through changes to the planning system, and by making the country more attractive to inward investment.

But against a difficult economic backdrop, party figures have admitted they face a challenge amid challenges to the public finances.

The party has also promised to overhaul UK employment law, renationalise nearly all passenger rail and set up a state-owned energy investment and generation company, along with boosting green investment.

Biden faces donor pressure as he digs in on re-election bid

By Nadine YousifBBC News

President Joe Biden is facing pressure from some major Democratic donors as he faces a critical few days in his campaign for re-election.

A number of donors are publicly warning they will withhold funds unless Mr Biden is replaced as the party’s candidate following his disastrous debate performance last week.

Friday is a big day for the president as he seeks to shore up his candidacy with a rare primetime TV interview and a rally in Wisconsin.

Pressure on Mr Biden, 81, to step aside has grown following a debate marked by several instances where he lost his train of thought.

While he admitted that he “screwed up” that night, he has vowed to stay on as his party’s standard-bearer taking on Donald Trump in the November presidential election.

Scrutiny on his public appearances has markedly increased since the debate.

In a White House speech to military families on Thursday to mark 4 July Independence Day, he stumbled over his words when referring to Trump as “one of our colleagues, the former president”.

And in an interview with WURD radio in Philadelphia, he lost his thread and appeared to say he was proud to be the first black woman to serve with a black president.

Donors have been weighing their options. Abigail Disney, an heiress to the Disney family fortune, told business news channel CNBC that she did not believe Mr Biden could win against Trump.

She said her intent to pull support was rooted in “realism, not disrespect”.

“Biden is a good man and has served his country admirably, but the stakes are far too high.”

The consequences of defeat in November “will be genuinely dire”, she added.

With her warning, she joined a handful of other wealthy donors.

Philanthropist Gideon Stein told the New York Times that his family was withholding $3.5m (£2.8m) to non-profit and political organisations active in the presidential race unless Mr Biden steps aside.

Hollywood producer Damon Lindelof, who has donated more than $100,000 to Democrats this election cycle, wrote a public essay in Deadline urging other donors to withhold their funds until there is a change.

The brother of Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, told a conference in Colorado that withholding funding was the key to ensuring Mr Biden’s exit from the race, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

“The lifeblood to a campaign is money, and maybe the only way . . . is if the money starts drying up,” he said, according to the newspaper.

Ramesh Kapur, a Massachusetts-based Indian-American industrialist, has organised fundraisers for Democrats since 1988.

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

There are some who are worried there’s not enough time left for a new candidate to join the race, and they have decided to back Biden if he stays on.

A mega-donor the BBC spoke to this week, who declined to be named, said he planned to go ahead with a fundraiser for the president scheduled for later this month at his Virginia home.

The Biden campaign has said it raised $38m from debate day through to the weekend, mainly through small donations – and a total of $127m in June alone.

They have conceded he had a difficult debate but have said he is ready to show the public he has the stamina for the campaign.

On Friday morning they announced a new “aggressive travel schedule” in which he and his wife, along with Vice-President Kamala Harris and her husband, would blitz every battleground state.

He will start with a campaign rally in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday, campaigning with Governor Tony Evers.

After that rally he is scheduled to sit down with ABC – the first television interview after the debate – in a bid to quell concerns about his age and mental faculties.

But the president is facing a series of negative polls which suggest his Republican rival’s lead has widened in the wake of the Atlanta debate.

A New York Times poll 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 a slight shift towards Trump, who had a three-point lead over Mr Biden in the crucial battleground states.

More on election

  • Where Biden and Trump stand on key issues
  • What’s in Trump’s second term wish list, Project 2025
  • What Moscow, Delhi and Beijing make of rematch
  • Who will be Trump’s vice-president?

Farage elected MP for first time as Reform wins four seats

By Becky MortonPolitical reporter
Nigel Farage becomes an MP as he wins Clacton seat

Nigel Farage has been elected as an MP for the first time, on a night which saw Reform UK take more than four million votes.

The party is on course to be the third largest party in the UK by vote share and has won four seats so far.

Mr Farage overturned a Conservative majority of more than 25,000 to comfortably win in Clacton, Essex – a race which marked his eighth attempt to enter the Commons.

He said the result was “the first step of something that is going to stun all of you”.

Reform also gained Great Yarmouth and Boston and Skegness from the Tories, while former Conservative MP Lee Anderson – who defected to Reform in March – retained Ashfield in Nottinghamshire.

The party drew large support in areas where the Conservatives won in 2019 under Boris Johnson, coming second in many constituencies.

Speaking to reporters after the result, Mr Farage said it was “the beginning of the end of the Conservative Party”.

Taking further aim at the party during his victory speech, Mr Farage said: “There is a massive gap on the centre-right of British politics and my job is to fill it.”

Mr Farage said Reform would “now be targeting Labour votes”.

He continued: “What is interesting is, there’s no enthusiasm for Labour, there’s no enthusiasm for Starmer whatsoever. In fact, about half of the vote is simply an anti-Conservative vote.

“We’re coming for Labour, be in no doubt about that.”

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

An earlier exit poll for broadcasters had forecast the party would win 13 MPs, more than many polls during the campaign had predicted.

However, the figure was highly uncertain, as the model suggested there were 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 all four seats won by Reform, more than 70% of people voted for Brexit.

Reform UK chairman Richard Tice overturned a 27,402 Tory majority to win Boston and Skegness.

Meanwhile, in Great Yarmouth, businessman and former Southampton FC chairman Rupert Lowe beat the Labour candidate by 1,426, with the Tories slipping to third place.

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

The pattern was repeated in a number of other seats, as the Tory vote share plummeted.

Lee Anderson wins first Reform UK seat

However, Reform had less success winning seats off Labour.

In Barnsley North, where the exit poll had forecast a 99% likelihood of Reform taking the seat, Labour held the seat with an increased majority of 7,811.

Reform’s candidate, Robert Lomas, who was disowned by the party last week for offensive comments on social media, came in second place.

In Hartlepool, another seat forecast to go to Reform, Labour also held on comfortably with a majority of 7,698.

  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Chris Mason analysis: Voters show ruthless drive to remove Tories
  • What are Labour planning to do in government?
  • Who is my MP now? The election in maps and charts
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Mr Farage’s surprise announcement that he was standing in the election, after previously saying he would not, saw Reform surges in opinion polls.

At the same time, he took over from Mr 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.

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.

Fielding an almost full slate of candidates in Great Britain posed challenges for the party.

Reform has had to disown six of them over offensive comments since nominations closed.

The party has blamed the surprise announcement of a July election, as well as claiming a company it hired to conduct background checks on would-be candidates failed to carry out vetting before the election was called.

Two Reform candidates also defected to the Conservatives over what they said was a failure of the party’s leadership to tackle the issue.

However, it was too late to remove any of these candidates so they still appeared for the party on ballot papers.

Hungary’s PM meets Putin for talks on Ukraine

By Jaroslav LukivBBC News

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has arrived in Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin for talks on the war in Ukraine.

The visit has been criticised by EU leaders, who have emphasised that Mr Orban is not acting on behalf of the bloc.

Mr Orban is the EU’s only head of national government to have kept close ties to the Kremlin following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

He described the trip as a “peace mission” in a post on X. It comes days after he visited Kyiv.

In footage of the meeting, Mr Putin said the Hungarian prime minister was visiting “not just as a long-time partner” but as a European Union representative.

Hungary has just taken over the EU’s rotating presidency, and will hold it to the end of the year.

Viktor Orban, speaking in the meeting, said: “Hungary will slowly become the last European country that can talk to everyone.”

Some European leaders openly condemned the Moscow trip. Finland’s Prime Minister Petteri Orpo called it “disturbing news”, while Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk tweeted: “The European Council is clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine.”

He went on: “The rumours about your visit to Moscow cannot be true, @PM_ViktorOrban, or can they?”

“Appeasement will not stop Putin,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X.

“Only unity and determination will pave the path to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.”

In a statement, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said the trip “takes place, exclusively, in the framework of the bilateral relations between Hungary and Russia”.

Russia’s president told Mr Orban he would be happy to discuss “the nuances” of his recent Ukraine settlement plan, in which he offered talks if Ukraine pulled out of Russian-occupied regions.

The Kremlin leader voiced a number of tough pre-conditions for negotiations, but Kyiv and its Western allies say these would be tantamount to Ukraine’s capitulation.

Earlier this week, Mr Orban visited Kyiv, saying “a quick ceasefire could be used to speed up peace negotiations”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky – who has had frosty relations with Mr Orban – did not publicly respond to the proposal.

Many Ukrainians believe any ceasefire would simply cement Russia’s hold over territory it has seized from Ukraine and, if negotiations were to take place, they would prefer them to be conducted from a position of strength rather than on the back foot.

Mr Orban has been a vocal critic of Western support for Ukraine. He previously slowed agreement on a €50bn ($54bn; £42bn) EU aid package designed to support Ukraine in its defence against Russia.

Tuesday’s visit to Kyiv was his first in 12 years, while he met Mr Putin repeatedly during that time.

During Mr Orban’s joint appearance with Mr Zelensky, the body language between them was not warm, and neither took questions from the media after they gave their statements.

But for the next six months Mr Orban’s position as head of the Council of the European Union means he has an influential role as a figurehead for Europe.

He came to Ukraine on his second day in that role for discussions, saying there was a need to solve previous disagreements and focus on the future.

Chris Mason: ‘Starmer tsunami’ as voters show ruthless drive to eject Tories

By Chris Mason@ChrisMasonBBCPolitical editor

This is a spectacular victory for Labour.

Spectacular given where they came from – the doldrums. Their result in 2019 was their worst since 1935.

But spectacular too by any metric, at any time, in any context, because the challenge they faced to win by a smidgen was Himalayan.

It’s “the Starmer tsunami” as one shellshocked opponent put it.

The story of this election is one of an electorate showing a ruthless determination to eject the Conservatives.

In plenty of places that meant electing a Labour MP. In a fair chunk of others it meant electing a Liberal Democrat MP. And there are a heck of a lot of votes for Reform UK.

Sir Keir Starmer will be prime minister by lunchtime, taking to Downing Street a colossal majority.

Expect his tone, outside Number 10 at around lunchtime, to be magnanimous, understated. Sir Keir is emphasising the need to return what he sees as stability and civility to politics.

It looks like – despite their colossal win – that Labour’s share of the vote isn’t colossal, so a pitch from the soon-to-be prime minister that tacitly acknowledges that is probably sensible.

Not least because winning big can create expectations that might be hard to meet.

Remember that Prime Minister Starmer, Chancellor Rachel Reeves – as they soon will be – and the new government will confront all of the old problems that caused its predecessor so much trouble: the cost of living, the government’s finances, the tax burden, a dangerous world – and no majority, however big, can erase them.

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This was a night of a thousand stories.

Politics at its heart is about human beings, and their emotions: success, failure, jubilation, anguish, regret.

Defence Secretary Grant Shapps was a very high profile nocturnal casualty.

Arguably the outgoing government’s most able communicator, his voice cracking as he delivered his concession speech.

Jeremy Hunt hung on in Surrey, his voice cracking too as he spoke.

This was a night whose soundtrack was the post mortem beginning in the Conservative Party: from Robert Buckland, Mr Shapps, Penny Mordaunt and others.

There will be plenty more of that to come.

But remember, unlike the circus of Conservative psychodrama in recent years, this will be a sideshow of a tussle – a battle within an opposition party, not a governing party.

It will still matter though because millions of people will want to ensure the new government, with a big majority, is properly scrutinised and held to account, and will want the Conservative Party to play a part in that.

The big picture is this: within hours, we will soon have our fourth prime minister in under two years.

The whirlwind of British politics continues.

We live in a world of unprecedented voter volatility – more people in more places are more willing to change their minds more often and more quickly about politics than ever before.

And it has happened again.

  • Published

It was already past midnight, but hundreds of fans gathered outside the Frankfurt Arena, hoping to get one last glimpse of their hero before heading home.

Ultimately, the wait was worth it as Cristiano Ronaldo smiled and waved to them while leaving the stadium on the national team bus.

That was the end of a day that, regardless of whatever happens on Friday when Portugal take on France in the Euro 2024 quarter-finals, will forever be remembered.

Ronaldo had already cried on different occasions with the Selecao, but never ever had he burst into tears the way he did on Monday after having a penalty saved in extra time during a dramatic last-16 match against Slovenia.

There was, after all, still a game to be won – which they eventually did on penalties as goalkeeper Diogo Costa shone following a 0-0 draw.

This was different from anything else in his illustrious career.

At 39, it looked like the one opponent he had been trying so hard to outrun had finally caught up with him – time.

Having been Portugal’s main star for the past two decades, lifting trophies and managing to change the perception around a team previously known back home for its losing mentality, Ronaldo has yet to find the net in this tournament.

Despite that, according to a poll from Mais Futebol website, he can still rely on the support from his compatriots – 54% of them want him to start in Friday’s quarter-final versus France.

Not even his meltdown in Frankfurt has affected their confidence.

“If there’s something to take from this, it’s the deep humanity of the moment. There’s an authenticity of a street boy in Ronaldo,” Henrique Raposo, a columnist for Expresso newspaper, said.

“If you follow his career, you know that he has always cried from joy or frustration not fearing the exposure, something that makes him such an unparalleled mediatic star.”

Bernardo Ribeiro, a director of Record newspaper, added: “I don’t know what made Ronaldo cry – whether it was seeing his mother crying, failing his country or failing himself.

“Whatever the reason, they’re all understandable because even the most selfish one of them shows us what we’ve known for many years. For better or for worse, he’s a competitive animal.”

Regardless of the local sympathy for his tears right now, there’s a feeling, however, that such mentality isn’t helping the team any longer as it once did.

‘His mental side is being exposed’

Ronaldo’s performance against Slovenia certainly did no good to his cause as he reached 20 shots at goal, the most of any player at the competition, but still failed to score after appearing in every single game so far.

Taking a free-kick from wide on the left wing only contributed to the impression that he was running his own sideshow in an attempt to become the oldest goalscorer and the first player to score in six different editions of the Euros.

“Six, seven years ago, Ronaldo would have easily bagged a hat-trick in this game. But he doesn’t have any more the same jumping capacity, the explosion, the balance to shoot at speed and the dribble. So all these situations are exposing his mental side in moments of frustration,” Luis Cristovao, a pundit for SIC Noticias, argued.

“This is the first time he’s playing at a major competition coming from a way lower competitive context [Saudi Arabia] compared to the one he’s facing in Germany.”

Having been in charge for 18 months – or 20 games – now, coach Roberto Martinez has also been criticised for how he has handled the situation.

“He needs to stop behaving as a diplomat with rainbow in his eyes”, Tomas da Cunha, a pundit for DAZN, TSF Radio and No Principio Era A Bola podcast, said.

“Ronaldo has started all games and the team obviously look for him in the finishing zone, but he’s not the same physically and you can also see that, if he can’t make a difference, it affects him psychologically.

“It would be the coach’s job to play other players. Where else would you see a 39-year-old playing four games in two weeks during a competition in July? Or 120 minutes in a round of 16 match? Nowhere else.”

‘Association of Support to Cristiano Ronaldo’

Such is the mood in Portugal before the game against France that the team has been dubbed ‘Association of Support to Cristiano Ronaldo’ by the A Bola newspaper.

Dropping the Al-Nassr striker would undoubtedly require a lot of diplomacy by Martinez, considering what happened the last time a coach decided to bench the team captain.

It took place in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, with then boss Fernando Santos replacing Ronaldo with Goncalo Ramos, who responded by scoring a hat-trick against Switzerland in the 6-1 victory in the last 16. Ramos kept his place for the quarters against Morocco but Portugal ended up losing 1-0.

That was the end, however, of the relationship between Santos and Ronaldo.

“We haven’t talked since Qatar,” Santos admitted to A Bola in November last year. “I had a very strong relationship with Ronaldo, a personal one, beyond professional.

“We met at Sporting when he was 19 and only strengthened it after that. It was a bit like a father-and-son relationship. But I had to make a decision and, when I came to explain it to him, he didn’t take it very well. Anyway, he knows I’m here.”

Will Martinez be willing to go through the same situation?

  • Published

Jude Bellingham is free to play in England’s Euro 2024 quarter-final against Switzerland on Saturday after being given a one-match suspended ban and fine for a gesture he made in the last-16 win over Slovakia.

The 21-year-old’s ban is suspended for a year and he has also been fined £25,400 (30,000 Euros).

The midfielder’s crotch-grabbing gesture towards the Slovakian bench after scoring a late equaliser in the 2-1 victory was investigated by Uefa.

Bellingham, who has made the gesture while playing for his club side Real Madrid, denied that it was aimed at England’s opponents.

Responding to the incident on social media, Bellingham said it was “an inside-joke gesture towards some close friends who were at the game”, adding he had “nothing but respect for how Slovakia played”.

Bellingham has started all four of England’s Euro 2024 matches, scoring two of England’s four goals in Germany, including the 95th-minute overhead kick equaliser against Slovakia.

England play Switzerland in Dusseldorf at 17:00 BST in a match that will be live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website and app. All 26 players in manager Gareth Southgate’s squad trained on Friday morning.

Meanwhile, the Football Association has been fined £9,310 (11,000 euros) for crowd issues involving England supporters. A fine of 10,000 euros was issued for crowd disturbances, and 1,000 euros for lighting fireworks.

While Bellingham is available for Saturday’s match, Turkey defender Merih Demiral has been handed a two-match ban for a gesture he made during his side’s last-16 win against Austria.

Demiral, 26, scored both of Turkey’s goals in the 2-1 win and celebrated his second goal with a ‘wolf salute’.

The gesture, which is banned in Austria and France, is associated with the far-right extremist group Grey Wolves that is closely linked with Turkey’s ruling coalition party the National Movement Party.

Turkey face the Netherlands in Berlin, with the game kicking off at 20:00.

  • Published

Turkey defender Merih Demiral has been given a two-match ban for making an ultra-nationalist salute during his country’s Euro 2024 win against Austria.

Demiral, 26, scored both Turkey’s goals as they beat Austria 2-1 to earn a quarter-final spot against the Netherlands on Saturday.

The Al-Ahli defender celebrated his second goal with a ‘wolf salute’, a gesture associated with the far-right extremist group Grey Wolves that is linked with Turkey’s ruling coalition party the National Movement Party.

Demiral said the salute, which is banned in Austria and France, was pre-planned in case he scored in the last-16 tie.

He was charged by Uefa – European football’s governing body – for failing to comply with general principles of conduct, for violating the basic rules of decent conduct, for using sports events for manifestations of a non-sporting nature and for bringing the sport of football into disrepute.

Jude Bellingham is free to play in England’s quarter-final against Switzerland on Saturday after making a crotch-grabbing gesture as he celebrated scoring in the last-16 win over Slovakia.

The Real Madrid midfielder, 21, has been given a one-match – suspended for a year – and has also been fined £25,400 (30,000 Euros).

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