BBC 2024-07-06 04:07:18


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

By Matt Murphy & Graeme BakerBBC News, in London & Washington DC

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 dramatic collapse after a tumultuous 14 years in power, which saw five different prime ministers run the country. It lost 250 seats over the course of a devastating night.

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 run a “government of service” and to kick start a period of “national renewal”.

“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 ahead.

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 a constituency, or district.

So far Labour has won 412 seats, while the Conservatives have slumped to just 121 and centrist Liberal Democrats have taken 71. Reform UK, a successor to the Brexit Party, is set to pick up four seats, as is the left-wing Green Party.

There is just one seat left to be declared, in Scotland, for the constituency of Skye and Ross-shire.

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.

First moment Sir Keir Starmer met King Charles after election

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 were 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 another 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, lost her seat in Portsmouth.

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.

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But Jeremy Hunt, who served 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 about 12,000 – but used his acceptance speech to concede and confirm his party had lost the election.

Labour 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.

By mid-morning moving vans had arrived to help Rishi Sunak out of 10 Downing Street. He was then whisked away to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation to King Charles III.

Then, just 14 hours after the initial exit poll dropped, Sir Keir was formally invited by the monarch to form the next government.

Moments later – watched by the world’s media – he walked up Downing Street and addressed the nation for the first time as prime minster.

He has already started appointing a new cabinet.

Angela Rayner has been made deputy prime minister, while Rachel Reeves has become the first female chancellor.

Meanwhile David Lammy is the new foreign secretary with Yvette Cooper as home secretary.

Speaking before he handed his resignation to the King, Mr Sunak wished the new PM 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 campaign.

But during his address outside 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.

Keir Starmer: From indie kid to prime minister

By Nick Eardley@nickeardleybbcPolitical correspondent

Three years ago Sir Keir Starmer seriously considered quitting as Labour leader.

It was 2021 and his party had just lost the Hartlepool by-election to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

It was the first time Labour had ever lost the seat. Three short years feel like a political lifetime ago now.

Sir Keir has become only the fifth person in British history to take Labour from opposition to power.

His party has gone from a historic thumping at the general election in 2019 – to victory in 2024.

The Hartlepool result though, is a reminder that Sir Keir’s journey to Downing Street was far from straightforward. In fact, for a long time his life and career were on a very different path.

Keir Starmer, one of four children, was brought up in the town of Oxted on the Kent-Surrey border.

He was raised by his toolmaker father and nurse mother, who suffered from a debilitating form of arthritis known as Still’s disease.

Sir Keir has spoken about the challenges of growing up at a time of high inflation in the 1970s.

“If you’re working class, you’re scared of debt,” he said during the election campaign.

“My mum and dad were scared of debt, so they would choose the bill that they wouldn’t pay.” The choice was the phone bill.

Sir Keir had a lot going on in his younger years.

He was obsessed with football (on the centre-left of midfield, of course). He was a talented musician and learnt violin with Norman Cook, who went on to become chart-topping DJ Fatboy Slim.

Sir Keir also had a rebellious streak. He and his friends were once caught by police illegally selling ice-cream on a French beach to raise cash.

But what about politics? There were always clues, including his name which was given to him as a tribute to the first leader of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie.

Sir Keir dabbled in left-wing politics over the course of his pre-parliamentary life.

That started at school, when he joined the Young Socialists, Labour’s youth movement.

After school, Sir Keir became the first person in his family to go to university, studying law at Leeds University and later at Oxford.

At Leeds, he was influenced by the indie music of the 1980s, from The Smiths and The Wedding Present to Orange Juice and Aztec Camera.

His biographer, Tom Baldwin, notes his favourite drink as a student was a mix of beer and cider – or Snakebite – and he had a taste for curry and chips.

For a while after graduating, Sir Keir lived above a brothel in north London.

More importantly, he was building a reputation as a workaholic that would see him go on to become a successful and prominent human rights lawyer.

At the same time, Sir Keir continued his left-wing activism, as a prominent contributor to the magazine Socialist Lawyer.

But politics was a side interest and, for much of the next 20 years, his legal career was his focus.

In 2008, he became Director of Public Prosecutions, the chief prosecutor for England and Wales.

Sir Keir likes to talk about this period in life as an example of his dedication to public service, and often recalls his role in prosecuting terrorist gangs. But what else?

Under the 2010-15 coalition government, he had to implement significant cuts, with the Crown Prosecution Service’s budget reduced by more than a quarter.

He also oversaw high-profile decisions including the prosecution of MPs over their parliamentary expenses following the 2009 scandal and prosecuting the then Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne for asking his wife to take speeding points for him.

Sir Keir’s legal work was rewarded with a knighthood in 2014. But how successful was his leadership?

Towards the end of his tenure, Sir Keir admitted in a BBC interview that vulnerable victims were still being let down by the justice system.

A late career change

It wasn’t until the age of 52 that the career change came.

Sir Keir was selected for a safe Labour seat in north London, winning comfortably. He and his predecessor Rishi Sunak became MPs on the same day.

But it wasn’t a happy time for the Labour Party.

The Conservatives had just won the general election and a bitter factional battle loomed after Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

Much has been said and written about Sir Keir’s journey from backbencher to the Labour leadership – and now to Downing Street. But some things are worth highlighting.

When he became leader, Jeremy Corbyn made Sir Keir shadow immigration minister but it didn’t last long.

He resigned after less than a year, one of dozens of frontbenchers who quit after the Brexit referendum in an attempt to force Mr Corbyn out.

When that failed, and Mr Corbyn saw off a leadership challenge, Sir Keir returned to the fold as shadow Brexit secretary.

Labour in the doldrums

Sir Keir’s position on Mr Corbyn has evolved over time.

In 2019, he was asked on BBC Breakfast to repeat the sentence “Jeremy Corbyn would make a great prime minister”. He did.

A few months later, he would tell the BBC he was “100%” behind Mr Corbyn and working with him to win a general election.

While others refused to serve under Mr Corbyn, Sir Keir stayed in the tent and helped persuade the leader to back a second Brexit referendum at the 2019 election.

That election was a disaster for Labour. Mr Corbyn quit and Sir Keir won the race to replace him.

But when he took over, a lot of people thought Boris Johnson was destined to govern for some time.

Many saw Sir Keir as a leader who could help rebuild – but few thought he was the man who would take them back to power.

When did that change? The polls give us a good indication.

Sir Keir’s Labour trailed Mr Johnson’s Conservatives in the polls for much of 2020 and 2021 when the Hartlepool by-election was held.

But that started to change after the first reports of Downing Street parties during the pandemic, when strict restrictions were in place around social gatherings.

There is a clear point in the polls where Labour overtakes the Conservatives in November 2021.

Its lead increased significantly after the Liz Truss mini budget and has been consistent and significant ever since.

A ‘ruthless’ leader

Sir Keir’s allies argue that wouldn’t have happened without big changes in the Labour Party. Sir Keir has sometimes been ruthless.

Jeremy Corbyn was thrown out of the parliamentary party and ultimately barred from standing as a Labour candidate.

Economic policy was tightened; meaning policies were junked if they weren’t seen as affordable.

Sir Keir embraced British patriotism, using the union jack as a backdrop for speeches and getting his conference to sing God Save the King.

All of that has contributed to Sir Keir’s message of change. He spent the campaign arguing he had changed Labour and could change the country too.

The election result will also mean change for the Starmer family.

Sir Keir, now 61, married his wife Victoria in 2007. Her intention is to keep working for the NHS in occupational health as he serves as prime minister.

Lady Starmer has been seen at some high-profile events like conference speeches, a rally last week – and at a Taylor Swift gig. But she is unlikely to play as prominent a role in public life as some partners have in the past.

Sir Keir though has been candid about the impact high office could have, particularly on his teenage son and daughter.

He told the BBC in 2021: “I am worried about my children. That is probably the single thing that does keep me awake – as to how we will protect them through this.”

It’s a challenge the Starmers will now face as they move into Downing Street at the end of a testing, far from straightforward, journey.

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What went wrong for the Conservatives?

By Ione WellsPolitical correspondent

The Conservative Party had become accustomed to almost being the Manchester City of politics.

A blue, winning machine for so long that some of its key players could barely remember anything else.

But their streak – that delivered Tory prime ministers in four elections in a row – has been brought to a dramatic end.

Many Tories, both winners and losers, are almost speechless and still processing it.

One told me they were simply “not coherent”.

A post-mortem on what went wrong with their tactics and leadership, and where to go next, is now beginning.

When I speak to Conservatives, several themes come up repeatedly.

Some feel Labour’s policy offering was not drastically different to theirs, but think the choice became more about perceptions of “competence”.

They have had five leaders, and prime ministers, in less than 10 years.

Seismic events, from Brexit to Covid to multiple leadership contests, splintered the party into ideological factions. Some Tories spent more energy plotting to take each other down than their opposition – and never really patched things up.

Scandals rocked the party in a whack-a-mole fashion, from lockdown parties to sexual misconduct allegations to a mini-budget that contributed to raising interest rates. An election betting saga was the cherry on top.

When I asked former Chief Whip Sir Mark Spencer during the campaign if the party had a conduct problem, he mentioned that other parties also had to suspend MPs for poor behaviour – which is true – but conceded this had become too regular.

Then there was the undoubted desire for change – a word Labour deployed in its campaign.

The cost of living, NHS waiting lists, and small boats were all issues voters raised on the doorstep – and felt had been getting worse, not better.

Nigel Farage’s late return to the fray meant the latter theme became a particular thorn in Tory sides, with some right-leaning voters who switched to Reform UK wanting tougher immigration policies and lower taxes.

Rhetoric and policies attempting to win them back alienated some more centrist Tories who abandoned the party for Labour or the Liberal Democrats, leaving the Tories pincered in between.

This was a more comfortable switch for some centrists who didn’t feel they could vote Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

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Did these circumstances mean defeat was inevitable? Most Tories I’ve spoken to describe the result as “not unexpected”, but some feel the scale of it could have been mitigated.

There were avoidable gaffes – like Rishi Sunak leaving D-day commemorations early.

While Boris Johnson was prone to gaffes too, some of his fans felt Mr Sunak didn’t charm voters back in the same way. The former prime minister still yielded chants of ‘Boris! Boris!’ at an eleventh-hour rally to try to energise the campaign.

There is still a lingering bafflement among some about why Mr Sunak decided to call the election in July.

Their campaign guru, Isaac Levido, had argued for a later date – hoping by then there would be more “measurables” to demonstrate their policies were having an impact.

A flight of asylum seekers taking off to Rwanda, for example, or an interest rate cut.

But he lost that argument. And the Conservatives had little evidence in their armoury of some of their policies working when they went to the electorate.

The risk of the alternative, Mr Levido’s critics argued, was that more bad news could come down the road for the Tories – more Channel crossings this summer, more offenders being released because of prison overcrowding, universities going under.

But policy and identity wise, what else could the Conservatives have done? That’s where their focus will lie now as a search for the soul of the party begins.

What – and who – could come next?

Mr Sunak has confirmed he will resign as Tory leader once arrangements are in place to choose his successor.

There have been murmurings for the last few weeks about whether an interim leader is appointed to avoid the awkwardness of, for example, the former PM having to do Prime Minister’s Questions from the opposition benches.

Could this be someone who served in the cabinet previously – like Sir Oliver Dowden, James Cleverly, or even Jeremy Hunt, who just about scraped back into the Commons?

If so, it would probably need to be someone who doesn’t actually want to run for leader full time.

Otherwise, Mr Sunak could stay on until the next Tory leadership contest concludes.

There are some MPs who have been working behind the scenes for a long time on shoring up their support, including Kemi Badenoch (the bookies’ favourite) who is on the right of the party, and Tom Tugendhat, who is more to the centre.

Former contenders like Suella Braverman and former Sunak ally-turned-critic Robert Jenrick are tipped to run too.

They both spent time in the Home Office, are on the right of the party, and have criticised the government’s record on immigration.

One interesting thing to note, though, is who the remaining Tory MPs are, and what that might mean for who wins support among the parliamentary party.

I’ve had a quick skim over the new intake of Tory MPs and who they backed in the first Tory leadership contest of July-September 2022.

Interestingly, the majority are Sunak-backers, with a hefty chunk of Liz Truss supporters too.

Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch have lost a couple of their key allies on the right of the parliamentary party. A couple of Mr Tugendhat’s backers are gone too.

Some of the most notable Conservative losses this election

Why do the leanings of the remaining MPs matter? Well, partly because this will determine how the Tory party decides to shape itself going forward.

Does it decide to elect someone on the right of the party, like Ms Badenoch, Mrs Braverman or Mr Jenrick, to try to stave off the growing influence of Reform UK who have now won several seats?

Some in the party argue not being tougher on issues like immigration was part of their downfall.

Or does it try to shift back toward the centre ground with a candidate like Mr Tugendhat or Mr Hunt to reclaim some of the space Labour is now trying to occupy on the political spectrum?

Some in the party argue the Tories’ drift to the right was part of the problem, and alienated socially liberal, but fiscally conservative, voters.

The answer will be the result of a lot of tussling and soul-searching over the weeks to come.

Sunak’s ‘dismal end’ and ‘bland’ Starmer: World media reacts to UK election

The Conservatives have emerged with “broken bones” from the UK election after Rishi Sunak’s “dismal end” – but the big question for some in the international media is whether the “bland, even boring” Keir Starmer can clean up the UK’s “mess”.

Labour’s landslide victory is being digested by commentators all over the world, many dissecting what the results mean for relations with the UK – as well as for the future of the Conservative Party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

The rise of Reform UK also generates many international column inches of coverage, especially in Europe where it didn’t go unnoticed that its leader, the arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage, became an MP for the first time.

Europe: Centre-left success bucks a trend

For Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the results mean “the British [have] had a burden lifted from their shoulders”, but any renewed stability in the UK is seen as fragile.

Voters “were primarily concerned with getting rid of the Conservatives,” the paper says, adding that “Labour has a stable majority, but also problems within the party”.

German business daily Handelsblatt says the British election result “opens up the opportunity to correct Brexit”.

“Now is the time to correct one of the biggest mistakes in British politics. A security pact with the EU can only be the beginning,” the paper said.

Mr Farage’s success attracted a lot of attention. German Tabloid Bild dubbed it an “election earthquake”, albeit one for which the paper says Labour can be thankful, seeing that Reform took many votes from the Conservatives.

French media largely hails Labour’s victory, also noting the election of Nigel Farage. Le Figaro says that despite the Reform party leader’s success in Clacton, “the British people have overwhelmingly chosen a moderate centre-left leader”.

According to Le Monde, the UK’s return to the centre-left is “striking, especially seen from France, where the far right has the wind in its sails on the eve of the second round of the legislative elections”.

Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera says of the Conservative defeat: “The party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher emerges from this election with broken bones: it will take years to recover. Has the right-wing wind that blows across the continent stopped at the English Channel? Obviously not… If the person in charge disappoints, he is replaced.”

Conservative Italian daily Il Giornale hopes for a return to stability in the UK, calling Prime Minster Sir Keir Starmer “a reassuring institutional alternative”.

But for Poland’s national broadcaster TVP, Mr Starmer is seen as “a bit bland, even boring”. But fortunately for him, the broadcaster says, “previous leaders of the Conservative Party achieved much worse results”.

In Hungary, the press there noted two issues: “Unchanged support for Ukraine”, according to pro-government paper Magyar Nemzet; and Hungarians in the UK hoping for “a more relaxed stance on visa rules and work permits,” said the left-wing paper Telex.

US sees ‘frustrated’ voters plump for ‘dull competence’

The New York Times casts Labour’s victory as “a seismic moment in the UK’s politics, returning to power a party that just five years ago suffered its most crushing defeat since the 1930s”.

But it also notes the low voter turnout, reporting only about 60% of those eligible cast ballots.

“The low figure speaks to the mood of an electorate that seemed frustrated with the last government but hardly full of optimism about the next one. It also pointed to the challenge facing the new Labour government, which will have to work fast if it wants to restore disillusioned voters’ faith in mainstream politics,” the Times says.

For ABC News, Rishi Sunak’s campaign to remain Britain’s prime minister showed a lack of political touch.

“Predecessors such as Tony Blair and Boris Johnson were more politically astute and able to connect with voters.” As for Mr Sunak, he defied political advice by calling the election in May — “with Conservative support dwindling steadily amid an economic slump, ethics scandals and a revolving door of leaders over the last two years,” the broadcaster said.

Meanwhile, a headline in the Wall Street Journal read: “The UK elects a no-drama prime minister after years of post-Brexit chaos.”

“Eight years after the UK voted to leave the European Union and entered an era of political and economic turmoil, voters have asked Keir Starmer to steady the entire country with his brand of dull competence,” the paper said.

India: ‘Dismal end’ for Sunak

Most TV channels and news sites in India focused on Rishi Sunak conceding defeat.

“British Indians Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman win seats, but apologise for poor Tory performance,” The Times of India noted.

The Wire website called it “a dismal end to his 20 months as head of government”.

Everything Sunak tried during the campaign “really failed”, Times Now TV added. “Everyone thought the Conservatives had a plan but now all those plans have fallen flat.”

But the Labour win “is also a triumph for India”, one news site thought, suggesting that Sir Keir Starmer would seek better relations with Delhi.

China: ‘Can Starmer clean up UK’s mess?’

China’s only official statement so far has been via its foreign ministry, which said China “had noticed the results of the British election” and “we hope to get Sino-UK relations along the right track”.

Despite these hopes, state media outlets were not overly optimistic.

“With six prime ministers in eight years, can Starmer clean up the UK’s mess?” asked broadcaster CCTV.

Given the next government faces “the most challenging issues in 70 years”, “public dissatisfaction” might soon follow, mused The Paper.

The Global Times, however, published a positive profile of the prime minister-to-be, saying Sir Keir was “not the inflammatory politician that people imagine”, and that media impressions of him are that he is “conscientious, good at management, and a little dull”.

China can hope for a more pragmatic relationship with the UK, the paper said.

Russia: No change in policy expected

Russia’s state-controlled TV channels have presented the UK election result as a “miserable failure” and a “crushing defeat” for the Conservative party and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

State channel Rossiya 1 said that Brexit was the only achievement of 14 years of Conservative rule and Channel One objected to how Russia had been cast in the election in the UK, which has helped rally Western opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“This election, like politics in general in Britain in recent years, just can’t manage without an enemy figure in the form of Russia,” the channel said.

Outlets and commentators in both Russia and Ukraine don’t expect the election to change UK policies toward Russia.

“For Moscow [Keir Starmer’s] arrival in power changes nothing, since he takes anti-Russian positions and supports continued backing for Ukraine,” said NTV, another leading Russian channel.

Pro-government paper Izvestiya thought anyway that: “Political changes in Europe show that for the electorate, internal issues are becoming much more important than Ukraine.”

In Ukraine, the country’s national wartime news service Suspilne thought the same. “For the first time in 14 years, power will change hands in the UK, but this will not have an impact on support for Ukraine,” the news service said.

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 one result yet to be 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 finish with 10 seats. Reform UK have five and Plaid Cymru and the Green Party have four each.

Some 23 seats were won by other parties, all in Northern Ireland, and independent candidates.

The biggest gap on record has emerged between the share of the vote won nationally by parties and the number of seats they have gained.

Vote share

Labour gained over 200 seats but their vote share increased by less than two percentage points to 34%.

The Conservatives saw their vote share plummet by 20 points to 24% and the party lost 251 seats.

Reform are in third place by share of the vote on 14% but they found it difficult to convert votes into seats. The party has returned five MPs, including party leader Nigel Farage in Clacton.

By contrast, the Liberal Democrats’ 12% vote share translated into 71 seats.

The Greens recorded their best ever general election performance, winning four seats and seven per cent of the vote.

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Changed hands

This map shows the seats which have been won by a different party to the last general election. To see all the results use the “Changed hands” toggle.

All of the new seats Keir Starmer’s party took came from constituencies won by either the SNP or the Tories at the last general election. A total of 182 seats changed from blue to red.

All of Reform’s gains came from seats previously won by the Conservative Party in 2019. Labour lost five seats to independent candidates, including former party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North.

Labour also lost one seat, Leicester East, to the Conservatives and Bristol Central to the Greens.

Share by constituency

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.

Labour support in constituencies with large Muslim communities fell about 23 points to 39%.

Click through the slides on these maps to see constituency vote share by party.

Scotland

Scotland is the only region of the UK where Labour’s vote share rose sharply. It jumped by 17 points as the party took 36 seats from the SNP.

The SNP share of the vote is down 15 points. They also lost three seats to the Liberal Democrats.

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, lost his seat in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.

Wales

The Conservatives lost 12 seats in Wales, meaning they now have no MPs there.

Labour gained nine seats, taking the party’s total to 27, despite their share falling by four points.

Plaid Cymru has gained two seats, putting the party on four and the Liberal Democrats have taken one seat.

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.

In a surprise result, Traditional Unionist Voice took North Antrim from the DUP, unseating Ian Paisley Jr.

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.

Turnout

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

It was lowest in Wales, where only 56% of the electorate voted. Northern Ireland had a turnout of 57%, Scotland 59% and England 60%.

The lowest turnout of any constituency was 40% in Manchester Rusholme, where Afzal Khan held the seat for Labour. The bottom five for turnout also included Leeds South, Hull East, Blaenau Gwent & Rhymney and Tipton & Wednesbury.

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

By Nadine YousifBBC News
Biden ‘not going anywhere’ despite unclear moments in July 4 speech

President Joe Biden is facing pressure from some major Democratic donors ahead of 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.

Ms Disney has given thousands of dollars to left-leaning political groups this year, according to Federal Election Commission records. But a spokesperson for the Biden campaign told BBC News she has not donated to the campaign directly this cycle.

A handful of other wealthy donors have conveyed similar intent.

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?

EU’s most Russia-friendly leader meets Putin in Moscow

By Jaroslav Lukiv and Nick ThorpeBBC News, London and Hungary

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, in a visit that has been heavily criticised by EU leaders and Ukraine’s government.

Friday’s meeting was part of what Mr Orban called a “peace mission”, coming three days after a visit to Kyiv where he met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Hungary has just taken over the presidency of the Council of the European Union, but EU leaders have stressed that Mr Orban is not acting on behalf of the bloc.

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

After the meeting, which lasted several hours, Hungary’s PM said Russia and Ukraine were still “far apart” in their views on achieving peace.

“Many steps are needed to end the war, but we took the first step to restore dialogue,” he said.

The Russian leader called it a “frank and useful” conversation. He also repeated a previously rejected proposal for Ukraine to withdraw from regions in the south and east of the country which Russia claims to have annexed – an area that includes territory Russia does not currently occupy.

Volodymyr Zelensky has long said Ukraine will not negotiate with Moscow until Russian forces leave all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.

Earlier, Mr Putin said Mr Orban was visiting “not just as a long-time partner” but as a European Union representative.

However, European leaders openly condemned the Moscow trip and emphasised he was not representing the EU.

“The EU rotating presidency has no mandate to engage with Russia on behalf of the EU,” Charles Michel, President of the European Council, wrote on X.

“The European Council is clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine.”

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

Ukraine also condemned the visit: “For our country, the principle of ‘no agreements on Ukraine without Ukraine’ remains inviolable and we call on all states to strictly adhere to it,” the foreign ministry said a statement.

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

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

Ahead of Ukraine’s offensive last summer, Mr Orban warned that Ukraine cannot win on the battlefield.

Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, the Hungarian prime minister has underlined that Russia’s advantage in resources and men makes Putin’s country unbeatable.

However, 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.

His visit to Kyiv came on his second day in that role, saying there was a need to solve previous disagreements and focus on the future.

Jailed Russian dissident moved to prison hospital

By Ido VockBBC News

Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza, who was jailed after criticising President Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine, has been taken to a prison hospital, his wife says.

Evgenia Kara-Murza said on X that officials refused to comment on his condition when his lawyers tried to visit him.

Last year Mr Kara-Murza, a dual Russian-British citizen, was jailed and transferred to a prison colony in Siberia.

His wife says he suffers from a neurological condition as a result of poisonings.

Mr Kara-Murza, 42, has accused Russian authorities of trying to poison him in 2015 and 2017.

On Friday, lawyers for the dissident arrived at the Omsk prison colony but were not told where he was for five hours and then not permitted to visit him in hospital, Evgenia Kara-Murza says.

The outspoken critic of the Kremlin was arrested in April 2022.

In 2023 he was sentenced to 25 years for spreading “false” information about the Russian army and being affiliated with an “undesirable organisation”.

He has criticised President Vladimir Putin over the Russian government’s crackdown on dissent and the war in Ukraine.

He had also played a key role in persuading Western governments to sanction Russian officials for human rights abuses and corruption.

The US state department has described Mr Kara-Murza as “yet another target of the Russian government’s escalating campaign of repression”.

Mr Kara-Murza, who comes from a Soviet dissident family, received British citizenship when he moved to the UK as a teenager with his mother.

His wife has expressed concern over his wellbeing while in prison, particularly following the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny earlier this year.

Historic first as president takes on Kenya’s online army

By Anne SoyBBC deputy Africa editor, Nairobi

This was a first.

Perhaps a turning point in Kenya’s civic engagement.

The willingness of Kenya’s President William Ruto to engage in a live audio discussion on X Spaces was keenly anticipated, coming just 10 days after deadly anti-government protests.

The beginning, however, was cringeworthy.

Participants struggled to connect. And there were three or four false starts.

Finally, after a shaky first hour, someone who it was thought would be chairing a parallel conversation on X as a rival to the president’s efforts, hosted Mr Ruto’s interaction, which meant he had the power to decide who was allowed to speak.

This was an X user who went by the name of Osama Otero. He has been one of a handful of social media users who have emerged as key voices in the successful campaign to block a finance bill that was set to raise a series of taxes.

“Traitor” his compatriots posted on X, getting the word to trend. There was no doubt this was the result of some sort of effort to get those involved in the protests to take part.

The questions were direct and raw.

Speakers challenged the president about his and his government’s record and conduct.

  • New faces of protest – Kenya’s Gen Z anti-tax revolutionaries
  • Kenyan leader faces furious young people in online debate
  • Was there a massacre after Kenya’s anti-tax protests?

As host, Mr Otero set the tone.

“Are we in a terrorist country?” he asked, referring to the brutal police response to the protests that left dozens dead.

He questioned the government’s official casualty numbers, insisting that possibly hundreds had died in the demonstrations. President Ruto challenged the speaker to produce the families of those alleged to have been killed and their bodies hidden.

“Do we really matter as people who elected you?” said Miller, a cameraman who said he had witnessed a protester being shot dead outside parliament. With the anger obvious in his voice he said: “I’m really pissed off. Guys, go back and reflect.”

An unabashed Marvin Mabonga, an unemployed university graduate, told the president: “In your cabinet, we have so many incompetent cabinet secretaries.”

Returning to the theme of those who died last week, the host asked if the president had “tried to reach out to any of the families of those who were killed or injured”.

The president replied that he had contacted the mother of a 12-year-old who was shot dead during the protests just outside Nairobi.

The social media platforms have changed the conversation in Kenya.

And it is historic in the way that it has brought citizens up close with the authorities and given them a largely unfiltered forum to ask hard questions.

Never before has a president exposed themselves to this and responded to members of the public in real time.

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta deactivated his account on X following incessant comments from what is known as “Kenya’s online army”.

Yes, the online activism is not new. KOT – Kenyans on Twitter, now X – have forced corporations in the past to issue apologies.

But this is a step up.

The X Space provided a platform for live, one-on-one engagement with the country’s leader, and enabled members of the public to speak truth to power.

The recent protests have led to hundreds of thousands of people discussing the country’s laws and taxes and demand accountability.

Sometimes, these have become platforms for venting frustrations, but it has left the public discourse all the richer.

Mr Ruto’s X Space peaked at 163,000 participants.

Placed in the context of the country’s population of over 56 million, it may appear small but social media conversations are amplified once they hit the street.

It is not a surprise though that Mr Ruto would take part in a debate that was always going to have angry and forthright takes on tough issues.

In his political career, he has not shied away from addressing challenging questions and situations.

He is considered a more accessible president by the media than his predecessors.

Taking part in an X Space sets a strong precedent for the office and his successors.

More BBC stories on Kenya’s tax crisis:

  • Protesters set fire to Kenya’s parliament – but also saved two MPs
  • What are Kenya’s controversial tax proposals?
  • Why Kenya’s president wants people to love the taxman
  • The ‘tax collector’ president sparking Kenyans’ anger

BBC Africa podcasts

‘Breakthrough’ heightens hopes of Gaza ceasefire deal

By Sebastian UsherBBC Middle East analyst

The head of Israel’s spy agency Mossad, David Barnea, is reported to have travelled alone to Doha to meet Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani as momentum is again building over a possible ceasefire and hostage deal between Israel and Hamas.

This appears to be very much a preliminary move in what could once again be a complicated series of discussions aimed at finally bridging the gap between the Israeli government and Hamas over what each defines as its bottom line in what any potential deal would comprise.

Israeli officials have already said that expectations need to be lowered.

The latest rekindling of hope for a deal came after Hamas delivered its response to the three-phase proposal that President Biden set out several weeks ago.

The key to that formulation was to put off what has long appeared to be the main obstacle in either side accepting a deal – the demand by Hamas that there must be a permanent ceasefire and the counter-demand by Israel that it must have the freedom to resume fighting in Gaza if necessary.

Exactly what Hamas has presented has not yet been made public. But the Israeli response appears far more positive than in other instances in the past seven months when the process has regained momentum. A source in Israel’s negotiating team said that the proposal put forward by Hamas included a “very significant breakthrough”.

There are indications that this could be that Hamas has accepted the key point of the proposal announced by President Biden – that it would allow negotiations to achieve its goal of a permanent end to the war through the first six-week phase of the ceasefire, rather than demanding it as the starting point.

Hamas has throughout bridled at its portrayal by the US in particular as the main stumbling block in agreeing a deal. Should it become clear that it has indeed made this concession, then the ball would be firmly back in the court of the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

At no time has he personally yielded an inch in his public commitment to the complete eradication of Hamas – and Israel’s right to continue fighting in Gaza after any ceasefire. He has resisted all pressure from inside and outside Israel to modify that stance. But the pressure has been building on him from all sides, inexorably.

The latest push seems to have come from within his own military. A recent article in the New York Times, citing unnamed current and former security officials, said that Israel’s top generals “want to begin a ceasefire in Gaza even if it keeps Hamas in power for the time being”.

Mr Netanyahu dismissed this as defeatist. But he may not be able to resist such pressure forever – nor the ever growing anger on the streets of Israel from those who want the remaining hostages in Gaza to be brought home now.

For Hamas, there are also some signs of growing despair over the continuing war by those who suffer from it every day, the civilian population of Gaza. And internationally, the patience of mediators, like Egypt and Qatar, may be running out.

Regional countries that wholeheartedly support the Palestinian cause have also been reported to be putting increasing pressure on Hamas to accept a deal. Its leadership may feel that the group’s apparent survival, even if severely degraded both politically and militarily, may be victory enough.

And for the international community, the need to find some end to the war has grown even more urgent with the spectre of the confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah potentially erupting into all-out war. A ceasefire in Gaza could potentially ease those tensions.

And for the Biden administration – still reeling in the aftermath of last week’s debate between the president and Donald Trump – a diplomatic success here would be a much-needed boost.

All these elements suggest that the hopes that have once again been raised may this time finally prove more resilient to the negative factors that have seen them dashed before.

Pope Francis critic excommunicated by the Vatican

By Ian AikmanBBC News

An Italian archbishop and staunch critic of Pope Francis has been excommunicated by the Vatican, its doctrinal office has said.

Carlo Maria Vigano was found guilty of schism – meaning he has split from the Catholic Church – after years of fierce disagreement with the pontiff.

The 83-year-old ultra-conservative has previously called on the Pope to resign, accusing him of heresy and criticising his stances on immigration, climate change and same-sex couples.

Archbishop Vigano was a senior figure in the Church, serving as papal envoy to Washington from 2011 to 2016.

In 2018 he went into hiding after alleging that the Pope had known about sexual abuse by an American cardinal and failed to act. The Vatican rejected the accusation.

Over time, the archbishop became associated with US conspiracy theorists, criticising Covid vaccines and alleging a “globalist” and “anti-Christian” project by the UN and other groups – both familiar conspiratorial themes.

On Friday the Vatican’s doctrinal office said his refusal to submit to Pope Francis was clear from his public statements.

“The Most Reverend Carlo Maria Vigano was found guilty of the reserved delict [violation of the law] of schism,” the statement said, adding that he had been excommunicated – or banished from the church.

Responding by a post on X, the archbishop linked to the decree that was emailed to him and said:

“What was attributed to me as guilt for my conviction is now put on record, confirming the Catholic Faith that I fully profess.”

Archbishop Vigano was charged with schism and denying the pope’s legitimacy last month. At the time, he write on X that he regarded the accusations against him as “an honour”.

“I repudiate, reject, and condemn the scandals, errors, and heresies of Jorge Mario Bergoglio,” he said, using Argentine Pope’s given name.

Pope Francis has put himself at odds with traditionalist Catholics by making overtures towards the LGBTQ+ community, championing migrant rights and condemning the excesses of capitalism.

Last year, he took action against another ultra-conservative critic, dismissing Bishop Joseph E Strickland of Texas when he refused to resign after an investigation.

Shania Twain surprises superfan, 81, at show

Ken Northall has spent the last 25 years travelling the world to see Twain play live

An 81-year-old Shania Twain superfan has told his hero that meeting her was a “dream” after she called him up on stage at a show in his hometown.

The Canadian superstar, who recently lit up Glastonbury’s legends slot with a set of her greatest hits, asked Ken Northall to join her during her show at Lytham Festival in Lancashire on Thursday night.

She even changed the lyrics to That Don’t Impress Me Much in honour of him, swapping film star Brad Pitt’s name for Ken’s.

Thanking her as he left the stage, he told her it had been “a dream”.

Andrew Tate free to leave Romania but not the EU

By Ruth ComerfordBBC News

Controversial influencer Andrew Tate and his brother Tristan are free to leave Romania but not the EU, a Bucharest court has ruled.

They had previously been banned from leaving the country where they are awaiting trial, indicted on charges of human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women. They deny all allegations against them.

The decision to allow freedom of movement in the EU is not final and can be appealed.

The brothers said the move represented a “significant victory and major step forward” in their ongoing case.

The brothers’ lawyer, Eugene Vidineac, called the ruling a “reflection of the exemplary behaviour and assistance of my clients.

“Andrew and Tristan are still determined to clear their name and reputation; however, they are grateful to the courts for placing this trust in them.”

Posting on X, a platform from which he was previously banned, Andrew Tate said: “The sham case is falling apart.”

The Tate brothers, former kickboxers who are dual UK-US nationals, are accused of exploiting women via an adult content business, which prosecutors allege operated as a criminal group.

Two female Romanian associates were also named alongside the brothers in an indictment published in June last year, and seven alleged victims were identified.

Andrew Tate is a self-described misogynist and was previously banned from social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views.

He has repeatedly claimed Romanian prosecutors have no evidence against him and there is a conspiracy to silence him.

The internet personalities are also wanted in the UK over sexual offences allegedly committed there.

The brothers have had restrictions on their movement for the past two years.

They were held in police custody during the criminal investigation from late December 2022 until April 2023, before being placed under house arrest until August, when courts put them under judicial control.

Mexico’s coast battered by Hurricane Beryl

By Ian AikmanBBC News
Hurricane Beryl due to strengthen again after making landfall in Yucatan Peninsula

A hurricane which has wreaked havoc across the Caribbean has hit Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

Hurricane Beryl, currently classed as category one, lashed the region’s coastline on Friday morning, endangering two million people 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 10 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 in areas facing the brunt of the impact.

People in Cancún have rushed to supermarkets to stock up, with some encountering empty shelves.

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

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

Mara Lazema, the governor of Quintana Roo state on the eastern part of the peninsula urged residents to “please stay home” in a video released overnight.

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

More than 300 flights have been cancelled or delayed.

Stranded US tourist Anita Luis told Reuters news agency on Thursday: “We just want to go back home safely and pray the same for everybody else.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Rebollar, a Mexican tourist who travelled to Tulum, told AFP news agency: “They cancelled our flight and we had to pay for two extra nights.”

Hurricanes frequently occur near the peninsula, with the official storm season running from June to late November.

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.

Hurricane Beryl battered Jamaica on Wednesday after causing huge devastation across other Caribbean nations.

The Red Cross said its teams had witnessed the life-threatening impact of Beryl’s rains first-hand.

“The severity of the damages in the aftermath of the hurricane is tangible and heartbreaking,” Rhea Pierre, a Red Cross disaster manager in the Caribbean, told reporters via video link from Trinidad and Tobago.

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

Though was classed as a category two hurricane on Friday, it has previously been classed higher.

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.

Where will Hurricane Beryl go next?

Beryl weakened over land and is expected to be downgraded to a tropical storm.

The storm will then travel over the Gulf of Mexico, moving towards north-eastern Mexico and southern Texas by the end of the weekend.

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

Texas Governor Greg Abbott told people near the state’s Gulf coast to “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.

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.

Thousands evacuated from California wildfires

By Mallory MoenchBBC News
Blazing infernos force evacuations in northern California

Tens of thousands of people in northern California have been allowed to return to their homes after evacuating as wildfires spread in the region during a heatwave.

Approximately 16,000 people were under evacuation orders and warnings when the Thompson Fire broke out on Tuesday, according to Megan McMann, spokesperson for Butte County Sheriff’s Office, although originally 28,000 was reported by officials.

All evacuations were lifted by 18:00 local time Thursday (02:00 BST Friday), she said, but hours earlier, new orders were put in place elsewhere in the state.

Dangerously hot weather is expected to continue with temperatures of 118F (47C) forecast in some areas, feeding the state’s 3,000-plus burning wildfires.

The heatwave – expected to last until early next week – has cast uncertainty on efforts to contain multiple wildfires.

No one has died, while 74 structures across the state have been destroyed or damaged from fires this season.

The Thompson Fire, which began on Tuesday, was finally contained by Friday morning, a welcome sign of progress for the crew of nearly 2,000 responders that battled the flames.

At least four people were injured, according to CalFire, although the extent of their injuries is unknown.

Roughly 241 miles (387km) south of the Thompson Fire, the French Fire emerged on Thursday evening, forcing evacuations and road closures in Mariposa County.

Local news reported deputies going door-to-door to notify residents of evacuation orders, as patients at a local hospital were told to shelter in place.

The French Fire continued to spread Friday, with the latest update showing 5% containment and more than 800 acres burned.

As of Friday morning local time, nearly 12,000 individuals were under evacuation orders or warnings statewide, according to the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

The city of Oroville, near where the Thompson fire started, cancelled its Independence Day fireworks, and warned residents to avoid using them and risking another blaze.

“The last thing we need is somebody who’s purchased fireworks from a local fire stand going out and doing something stupid,” Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said. “Don’t be an idiot, cause a fire and create more problems for us.”

Mr Honea said the area had seen four fires within the last couple of weeks and cautioned that danger was far from over.

“This is a bad fire season,” he added.

Fire season started recently in California and usually runs until October. The size and intensity of fires in the state have grown in recent years.

The amount of burned areas in the summer in northern and central California increased five times from 1996 to 2021 compared to the 24 year period before, which scientists attributed to human-caused climate change.

  • How climate change worsens heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods

This week, the National Weather Service issued excessive heat and red flag warnings – indicating hot, dry and windy weather – across the state. The agency said “dangerous” temperatures posed a major to extreme risk of heat stress or illnesses.

According to CalFire, around two dozen fires have burned more than 10 acres sparked across the state since the last week of June. The largest one, at nearly 14,000 acres, was in Fresno County.

California governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Butte County to provide resources.

The Thompson fire started in Oroville, about 70 miles north of the state capital Sacramento, on Tuesday. The city is around 20 miles from Paradise, which was devastated in 2018 by the Camp Fire that killed 85 people. Fires hit the region again in the years following.

CalFire spokesman Robert Foxworthy told the BBC that the fire was no longer growing amid lighter wind speeds, but the heat – which was predicted to hit 110F (43C) on Thursday – was the “biggest factor” impacting firefighters.

Two days after the fire broke out, many residents remained unable to return home.

Brittanie Hardie, a Louisiana native and recent California transplant, told the San Francisco Chronicle that she had not been at home when her girlfriend evacuated their flat, and had nothing but the clothes she was wearing.

“I knew wildfires were bad in California, but I didn’t know it was this bad,” Hardie told the newspaper.

Oroville City Council member Shawn Webber posted a video on Facebook on Wednesday showing hillsides smoking on both sides of a road, but thanked firefighters for preventing further destruction.

California’s state parks system said agencies responding to the fire “also have employees with families displaced by these evacuations who are tirelessly assisting the community of Lake Oroville”.

Chris Mason: ‘Starmer tsunami’ and civility after brutality

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.

Today, the brutality of campaigning yielded to the civility of its aftermath.

The victor and the defeated offering each other public warm words.

Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak paid each other compliments, not criticisms, as they spoke outside 10 Downing Street.

To stand in Downing Street today, as I have done, was a privilege – to witness something actually quite rare in contemporary British history.

I am 44 – I was born in 1980 – and so what I saw has only happened three times in my lifetime: the transfer of power from Conservative to Labour, or Labour to Conservative.

It happened in 1997, it happened in 2010, and it’s happened again in 2024.

Garnishing the baked-in choreography of the changing of the prime ministerial guard – the trips to Buckingham Palace, the still images of the prime ministers shaking hands with the monarch – was a splash of partisan stagecraft too.

Labour activists brandishing union flags, Welsh flags and the Saltire as the Starmers arrived – and so trying to project an image of a government for all of the UK.

The thrust of Keir Starmer’s message was to emphasise a desire for stability, in contrast to the chaos of recent years.

His huge majority may help deliver that, but doesn’t guarantee it.

Labour’s share of the vote is the lowest won by a post-war single-party government, suggesting a breadth, not a depth to its support.

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It 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, Liz Truss and others.

There will be more of that to come.

The Conservatives, for so long the Formula 1 car of British politics, find themselves wheels off and up on bricks.

Their forthcoming leadership race won’t have quite the jeopardy of changing driver while in office, but will matter in determining how coherent and effective an opposition to an all powerful new government the Tories can prove to be.

British politics has changed profoundly. The challenges for those now leading it have not.

Labour manifesto: What they plan to do in government

By the Visual Journalism teamBBC News

Labour has won a big majority in the general election. That means it should be able to pass the new laws it wants easily. But what are those likely to be?

During the election campaign, Labour released a manifesto – a list of pledges explaining to voters what it would do if elected.

Use our interactive guide below to find out what the party said it would do on key issues that interest you – whether that’s the economy, the environment or immigration.

Because of devolution, the UK parliament has limited powers over some of the issues highlighted in the guide. For example, health policy is devolved to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

If you want to find out what was promised by other parties around the UK during the election campaign, you can find out in our full manifesto guide.

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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.”

Israel settlements drive heightens Palestinian land angst

By Yolande KnellBBC Middle East correspondent

Palestinian officials have condemned a dramatic new settlement drive by Israel in the occupied West Bank which includes retroactively authorising three outposts.

The move is set to further stoke tensions in the territory which has seen a surge in violence since the war in Gaza began on 7 October.

Palestinians claim the West Bank as part of their hoped-for future state. Settlements are widely seen as illegal under international law although Israel disagrees.

The three unauthorised outposts that have now been legalised under Israeli law were described as new neighbourhoods of existing settlements. They are in sensitive areas in the Jordan Valley and near the southern city of Hebron.

In addition, the Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now said on Thursday that Israeli authorities had approved or advanced plans for 5,295 homes in dozens of settlements.

It also emerged this week that the Israeli government’s Higher Planning Council had approved the largest seizure of West Bank land in over three decades.

Some 12,700 dunams (5 sq miles) has been seized in the Jordan Valley and declared as Israeli state land. This year has marked a peak in the extent of declarations of state land with a total of 23,700 dunams affected.

The Palestinian president’s spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeinah, said the new announcements confirmed that Israel’s “extremist government is bound by the right-wing policy of war and settlement”.

He said the latest steps would not “achieve security and peace for anyone” and were meant to prevent the establishment of a geographically contiguous Palestinian state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Last week, Israel’s security cabinet decided to authorise retroactively five settlement outposts built without official government approval.

The UN, the UK and other countries denounced the move as undermining hopes for the two-state solution – the internationally approved formula for peace that would see the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

“Israel must halt its illegal settlement expansion and hold to account those responsible for extremist settler violence,” the British Foreign Office said.

“The UK’s priority is to bring the Gaza conflict to a sustainable end as quickly as possible and ensure a lasting peace in the Middle East, through an irreversible pathway towards a two-state solution.”

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not immediately respond to a BBC request for comment on the overall strategy for the West Bank.

However, the far-right Israeli minister, Bezalel Smotrich, who lives in a West Bank settlement, has welcomed the recent steps. “We are building the good land and thwarting the establishment of a Palestinian state,” he said Wednesday on social media platform X.

Not counting annexed east Jerusalem, about half a million settlers live in the West Bank alongside three million Palestinians. Last year, Mr Smotrich instructed government departments to prepare to double the number of settlers to one million.

Since Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Middle East War, successive Israeli administrations have allowed settlements to grow. However, expansion has risen sharply since Mr Netanyahu returned to power in late 2022 at the head of a hardline, pro-settler governing coalition.

Last month, Peace Now released the recording of an address by Mr Smotrich to his Religious Zionism party, in which he proposes transferring the management of settlements from military to civilian officials, building a separate road bypass system for settlers, expanding farming outposts and cracking down on unauthorised Palestinian construction.

Peace Now warned that the plan would irreversibly change the way the West Bank was governed and lead to “de facto annexation”.

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.

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Victoria Starmer: Who is the new PM’s wife?

By Kate WhannelPolitical reporter

Throughout the general election campaign and much of her husband’s tenure as Labour leader, Victoria Starmer has kept a low profile.

Apart from appearances at Labour conferences, the odd state banquet and a Taylor Swift concert, Lady Starmer, nee Victoria Alexander, has sought to avoid public appearances

Asked on LBC about his wife’s low profile, Sir Keir pointed out that she had a full-time job at an NHS hospital and that their eldest child was doing his GCSEs.

“We took the decision that whilst I was out and about on the road, we wanted to create the environment where he could study calmly in ordinary circumstances.”

However, now that Sir Keir has won the election and become prime minister, Lady Starmer may find it trickier to shun the spotlight.

When she first met Sir Keir in the early 2000s, he wasn’t a politician but a barrister. She was a solicitor working on the same case.

Sir Keir told ITV’s Piers Morgan’s Life Stories, of their first meeting: “I was doing a case in court and it all depended on whether the documents were accurate.

“I [asked the team] who actually drew up these documents, they said a woman called Victoria, so I said ‘let’s get her on the line.'”

He grilled her forensically on the paper but as he hung up he heard one comment from her.

“She said, ‘who the bleep does he think he is’, then put the phone down on me,” Sir Keir said. “And quite right too.”

Despite the rocky beginnings, the relationship blossomed after a first date in the Lord Stanley pub in Camden, north London.

Speaking to his biographer Tom Baldwin, Sir Keir described her as “grounded, sassy, funny, streetwise – and utterly gorgeous too”.

He proposed just a few months later on a holiday in Greece.

“Won’t we need a ring, Keir?” was her down-to-earth response.

They were married in 2007 at the Fennes estate in Essex, walking down the aisle to one of Sir Keir’s favourite pieces of music – Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No.5, 2nd movement.

He later described her to Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs as an “incredibly warm, wonderful woman. My complete rock”.

The couple have two teenage children – but have been at pains to keep them out of the limelight – making a point of not naming them in public.

Lady Starmer grew up in north London, not far from where she currently lives with her family.

She attended Channing School before studying law and sociology at Cardiff University.

While there, she got involved in student politics, becoming president of the student union in 1994.

In an interview with the student newspaper Gair Rhydd, she said her main priority was to campaign against cuts to student grants.

Rob Watkins was at Cardiff University at the same time and worked as a photographer for the paper.

He remembers the future Lady Starmer as being “witty and professional, clearly dedicated to her work” and aware of her responsibility to the people she represented.

Lady Starmer currently works in occupational health for the NHS – something her husband has frequently referred to during his time as Labour leader.

He says it gives him insight into the problems faced by the health service.

Speaking to the Times in May, Sir Keir said his wife intended to keep her job if he won the election.

“She’s absolutely going to carry on working, she wants to and she loves it.”

While the couple say they want to keep life as normal as possible for their children, their domestic life has already been disrupted by Sir Keir’s job.

In April, pro-Palestinian demonstrators held a protest outside their home, hanging a banner outside their house and laying children’s shoes outside the front door.

Lady Starmer had returned from a shopping trip with her son when she saw the protesters.

Asked how the protest made her feel, Lady Starmer said: “I felt a bit sick, to be perfectly honest.”

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Kris Jenner shares plans for removal of her ovaries

By Bonnie McLarenCulture reporter

US reality TV star Kris Jenner has spoken emotionally about plans to have her ovaries removed.

In scenes during reality show The Kardashians, the US media personality and businesswoman revealed she was set to have the procedure after doctors found a cyst and a tumour.

While on holiday in Aspen, Colorado with partner Corey Gamble, Jenner broke the news to her daughters, Kendall, Kim and Khloé Kardashian.

“I wanted to tell you guys something because I hadn’t told you yet, but I went to the doctor and I had my scan,” she said.

“And this just makes me really emotional, but… they found a cyst and like a little tumour on my ovary.

“So I went to the doctor, and Dr A said I have to have my ovaries taken out. And I’m just really emotional about it because they came in handy with you guys.

“It’s also a thing about getting older,” she added.

“It’s a sign of ‘we’re done with this part of your life.’ It’s a whole chapter that’s just closed.”

Jenner has six children. Kim, Khloé, Kourtney and Rob Kardashian, from her marriage to the late Robert Kardashian. She also has Kendall and Kylie Jenner, from her marriage to Caitlyn Jenner.

Kris Jenner added that her biggest achievement was raising her family.

“People often ask me what is the best job you’ve ever had, and I always say mom,” she said.

“The biggest blessing in my life was being able to give birth to six beautiful kids.”

Daughters’ support

Speaking to the camera, Kim Kardashian empathised with why her mother was upset.

“To have a surgery and remove your ovaries is a really big deal,” she said.

“I feel really sad for her. I couldn’t even imagine being in that situation and how you would feel really scared to be going through that.”

Kourtney also agreed, saying she “would feel the same way”. “It’s like your womanly power,” she added.

“It doesn’t mean it’s taking away who she is or what she’s experienced, but I would feel this sentimental feeling of what it’s created.”

Kendall added: “I get that it’s sad because they [her ovaries] have brought all her kids into the world, which is totally fair.

“But at the same time, what are we going to use those for anymore? If they’re potentially hurting you, let’s get them out of there.”

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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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

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 one result yet to be 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 finish with 10 seats. Reform UK have five and Plaid Cymru and the Green Party have four each.

Some 23 seats were won by other parties, all in Northern Ireland, and independent candidates.

The biggest gap on record has emerged between the share of the vote won nationally by parties and the number of seats they have gained.

Vote share

Labour gained over 200 seats but their vote share increased by less than two percentage points to 34%.

The Conservatives saw their vote share plummet by 20 points to 24% and the party lost 251 seats.

Reform are in third place by share of the vote on 14% but they found it difficult to convert votes into seats. The party has returned five MPs, including party leader Nigel Farage in Clacton.

By contrast, the Liberal Democrats’ 12% vote share translated into 71 seats.

The Greens recorded their best ever general election performance, winning four seats and seven per cent of the vote.

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  • Who’s in Keir Starmer’s new cabinet?
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  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Changed hands

This map shows the seats which have been won by a different party to the last general election. To see all the results use the “Changed hands” toggle.

All of the new seats Keir Starmer’s party took came from constituencies won by either the SNP or the Tories at the last general election. A total of 182 seats changed from blue to red.

All of Reform’s gains came from seats previously won by the Conservative Party in 2019. Labour lost five seats to independent candidates, including former party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Islington North.

Labour also lost one seat, Leicester East, to the Conservatives and Bristol Central to the Greens.

Share by constituency

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.

Labour support in constituencies with large Muslim communities fell about 23 points to 39%.

Click through the slides on these maps to see constituency vote share by party.

Scotland

Scotland is the only region of the UK where Labour’s vote share rose sharply. It jumped by 17 points as the party took 36 seats from the SNP.

The SNP share of the vote is down 15 points. They also lost three seats to the Liberal Democrats.

The leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, lost his seat in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.

Wales

The Conservatives lost 12 seats in Wales, meaning they now have no MPs there.

Labour gained nine seats, taking the party’s total to 27, despite their share falling by four points.

Plaid Cymru has gained two seats, putting the party on four and the Liberal Democrats have taken one seat.

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.

In a surprise result, Traditional Unionist Voice took North Antrim from the DUP, unseating Ian Paisley Jr.

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.

Turnout

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

It was lowest in Wales, where only 56% of the electorate voted. Northern Ireland had a turnout of 57%, Scotland 59% and England 60%.

The lowest turnout of any constituency was 40% in Manchester Rusholme, where Afzal Khan held the seat for Labour. The bottom five for turnout also included Leeds South, Hull East, Blaenau Gwent & Rhymney and Tipton & Wednesbury.

Keir Starmer: From indie kid to prime minister

By Nick Eardley@nickeardleybbcPolitical correspondent

Three years ago Sir Keir Starmer seriously considered quitting as Labour leader.

It was 2021 and his party had just lost the Hartlepool by-election to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.

It was the first time Labour had ever lost the seat. Three short years feel like a political lifetime ago now.

Sir Keir has become only the fifth person in British history to take Labour from opposition to power.

His party has gone from a historic thumping at the general election in 2019 – to victory in 2024.

The Hartlepool result though, is a reminder that Sir Keir’s journey to Downing Street was far from straightforward. In fact, for a long time his life and career were on a very different path.

Keir Starmer, one of four children, was brought up in the town of Oxted on the Kent-Surrey border.

He was raised by his toolmaker father and nurse mother, who suffered from a debilitating form of arthritis known as Still’s disease.

Sir Keir has spoken about the challenges of growing up at a time of high inflation in the 1970s.

“If you’re working class, you’re scared of debt,” he said during the election campaign.

“My mum and dad were scared of debt, so they would choose the bill that they wouldn’t pay.” The choice was the phone bill.

Sir Keir had a lot going on in his younger years.

He was obsessed with football (on the centre-left of midfield, of course). He was a talented musician and learnt violin with Norman Cook, who went on to become chart-topping DJ Fatboy Slim.

Sir Keir also had a rebellious streak. He and his friends were once caught by police illegally selling ice-cream on a French beach to raise cash.

But what about politics? There were always clues, including his name which was given to him as a tribute to the first leader of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie.

Sir Keir dabbled in left-wing politics over the course of his pre-parliamentary life.

That started at school, when he joined the Young Socialists, Labour’s youth movement.

After school, Sir Keir became the first person in his family to go to university, studying law at Leeds University and later at Oxford.

At Leeds, he was influenced by the indie music of the 1980s, from The Smiths and The Wedding Present to Orange Juice and Aztec Camera.

His biographer, Tom Baldwin, notes his favourite drink as a student was a mix of beer and cider – or Snakebite – and he had a taste for curry and chips.

For a while after graduating, Sir Keir lived above a brothel in north London.

More importantly, he was building a reputation as a workaholic that would see him go on to become a successful and prominent human rights lawyer.

At the same time, Sir Keir continued his left-wing activism, as a prominent contributor to the magazine Socialist Lawyer.

But politics was a side interest and, for much of the next 20 years, his legal career was his focus.

In 2008, he became Director of Public Prosecutions, the chief prosecutor for England and Wales.

Sir Keir likes to talk about this period in life as an example of his dedication to public service, and often recalls his role in prosecuting terrorist gangs. But what else?

Under the 2010-15 coalition government, he had to implement significant cuts, with the Crown Prosecution Service’s budget reduced by more than a quarter.

He also oversaw high-profile decisions including the prosecution of MPs over their parliamentary expenses following the 2009 scandal and prosecuting the then Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne for asking his wife to take speeding points for him.

Sir Keir’s legal work was rewarded with a knighthood in 2014. But how successful was his leadership?

Towards the end of his tenure, Sir Keir admitted in a BBC interview that vulnerable victims were still being let down by the justice system.

A late career change

It wasn’t until the age of 52 that the career change came.

Sir Keir was selected for a safe Labour seat in north London, winning comfortably. He and his predecessor Rishi Sunak became MPs on the same day.

But it wasn’t a happy time for the Labour Party.

The Conservatives had just won the general election and a bitter factional battle loomed after Jeremy Corbyn became leader.

Much has been said and written about Sir Keir’s journey from backbencher to the Labour leadership – and now to Downing Street. But some things are worth highlighting.

When he became leader, Jeremy Corbyn made Sir Keir shadow immigration minister but it didn’t last long.

He resigned after less than a year, one of dozens of frontbenchers who quit after the Brexit referendum in an attempt to force Mr Corbyn out.

When that failed, and Mr Corbyn saw off a leadership challenge, Sir Keir returned to the fold as shadow Brexit secretary.

Labour in the doldrums

Sir Keir’s position on Mr Corbyn has evolved over time.

In 2019, he was asked on BBC Breakfast to repeat the sentence “Jeremy Corbyn would make a great prime minister”. He did.

A few months later, he would tell the BBC he was “100%” behind Mr Corbyn and working with him to win a general election.

While others refused to serve under Mr Corbyn, Sir Keir stayed in the tent and helped persuade the leader to back a second Brexit referendum at the 2019 election.

That election was a disaster for Labour. Mr Corbyn quit and Sir Keir won the race to replace him.

But when he took over, a lot of people thought Boris Johnson was destined to govern for some time.

Many saw Sir Keir as a leader who could help rebuild – but few thought he was the man who would take them back to power.

When did that change? The polls give us a good indication.

Sir Keir’s Labour trailed Mr Johnson’s Conservatives in the polls for much of 2020 and 2021 when the Hartlepool by-election was held.

But that started to change after the first reports of Downing Street parties during the pandemic, when strict restrictions were in place around social gatherings.

There is a clear point in the polls where Labour overtakes the Conservatives in November 2021.

Its lead increased significantly after the Liz Truss mini budget and has been consistent and significant ever since.

A ‘ruthless’ leader

Sir Keir’s allies argue that wouldn’t have happened without big changes in the Labour Party. Sir Keir has sometimes been ruthless.

Jeremy Corbyn was thrown out of the parliamentary party and ultimately barred from standing as a Labour candidate.

Economic policy was tightened; meaning policies were junked if they weren’t seen as affordable.

Sir Keir embraced British patriotism, using the union jack as a backdrop for speeches and getting his conference to sing God Save the King.

All of that has contributed to Sir Keir’s message of change. He spent the campaign arguing he had changed Labour and could change the country too.

The election result will also mean change for the Starmer family.

Sir Keir, now 61, married his wife Victoria in 2007. Her intention is to keep working for the NHS in occupational health as he serves as prime minister.

Lady Starmer has been seen at some high-profile events like conference speeches, a rally last week – and at a Taylor Swift gig. But she is unlikely to play as prominent a role in public life as some partners have in the past.

Sir Keir though has been candid about the impact high office could have, particularly on his teenage son and daughter.

He told the BBC in 2021: “I am worried about my children. That is probably the single thing that does keep me awake – as to how we will protect them through this.”

It’s a challenge the Starmers will now face as they move into Downing Street at the end of a testing, far from straightforward, journey.

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What went wrong for the Conservatives?

By Ione WellsPolitical correspondent

The Conservative Party had become accustomed to almost being the Manchester City of politics.

A blue, winning machine for so long that some of its key players could barely remember anything else.

But their streak – that delivered Tory prime ministers in four elections in a row – has been brought to a dramatic end.

Many Tories, both winners and losers, are almost speechless and still processing it.

One told me they were simply “not coherent”.

A post-mortem on what went wrong with their tactics and leadership, and where to go next, is now beginning.

When I speak to Conservatives, several themes come up repeatedly.

Some feel Labour’s policy offering was not drastically different to theirs, but think the choice became more about perceptions of “competence”.

They have had five leaders, and prime ministers, in less than 10 years.

Seismic events, from Brexit to Covid to multiple leadership contests, splintered the party into ideological factions. Some Tories spent more energy plotting to take each other down than their opposition – and never really patched things up.

Scandals rocked the party in a whack-a-mole fashion, from lockdown parties to sexual misconduct allegations to a mini-budget that contributed to raising interest rates. An election betting saga was the cherry on top.

When I asked former Chief Whip Sir Mark Spencer during the campaign if the party had a conduct problem, he mentioned that other parties also had to suspend MPs for poor behaviour – which is true – but conceded this had become too regular.

Then there was the undoubted desire for change – a word Labour deployed in its campaign.

The cost of living, NHS waiting lists, and small boats were all issues voters raised on the doorstep – and felt had been getting worse, not better.

Nigel Farage’s late return to the fray meant the latter theme became a particular thorn in Tory sides, with some right-leaning voters who switched to Reform UK wanting tougher immigration policies and lower taxes.

Rhetoric and policies attempting to win them back alienated some more centrist Tories who abandoned the party for Labour or the Liberal Democrats, leaving the Tories pincered in between.

This was a more comfortable switch for some centrists who didn’t feel they could vote Labour under Jeremy Corbyn.

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  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Did these circumstances mean defeat was inevitable? Most Tories I’ve spoken to describe the result as “not unexpected”, but some feel the scale of it could have been mitigated.

There were avoidable gaffes – like Rishi Sunak leaving D-day commemorations early.

While Boris Johnson was prone to gaffes too, some of his fans felt Mr Sunak didn’t charm voters back in the same way. The former prime minister still yielded chants of ‘Boris! Boris!’ at an eleventh-hour rally to try to energise the campaign.

There is still a lingering bafflement among some about why Mr Sunak decided to call the election in July.

Their campaign guru, Isaac Levido, had argued for a later date – hoping by then there would be more “measurables” to demonstrate their policies were having an impact.

A flight of asylum seekers taking off to Rwanda, for example, or an interest rate cut.

But he lost that argument. And the Conservatives had little evidence in their armoury of some of their policies working when they went to the electorate.

The risk of the alternative, Mr Levido’s critics argued, was that more bad news could come down the road for the Tories – more Channel crossings this summer, more offenders being released because of prison overcrowding, universities going under.

But policy and identity wise, what else could the Conservatives have done? That’s where their focus will lie now as a search for the soul of the party begins.

What – and who – could come next?

Mr Sunak has confirmed he will resign as Tory leader once arrangements are in place to choose his successor.

There have been murmurings for the last few weeks about whether an interim leader is appointed to avoid the awkwardness of, for example, the former PM having to do Prime Minister’s Questions from the opposition benches.

Could this be someone who served in the cabinet previously – like Sir Oliver Dowden, James Cleverly, or even Jeremy Hunt, who just about scraped back into the Commons?

If so, it would probably need to be someone who doesn’t actually want to run for leader full time.

Otherwise, Mr Sunak could stay on until the next Tory leadership contest concludes.

There are some MPs who have been working behind the scenes for a long time on shoring up their support, including Kemi Badenoch (the bookies’ favourite) who is on the right of the party, and Tom Tugendhat, who is more to the centre.

Former contenders like Suella Braverman and former Sunak ally-turned-critic Robert Jenrick are tipped to run too.

They both spent time in the Home Office, are on the right of the party, and have criticised the government’s record on immigration.

One interesting thing to note, though, is who the remaining Tory MPs are, and what that might mean for who wins support among the parliamentary party.

I’ve had a quick skim over the new intake of Tory MPs and who they backed in the first Tory leadership contest of July-September 2022.

Interestingly, the majority are Sunak-backers, with a hefty chunk of Liz Truss supporters too.

Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch have lost a couple of their key allies on the right of the parliamentary party. A couple of Mr Tugendhat’s backers are gone too.

Some of the most notable Conservative losses this election

Why do the leanings of the remaining MPs matter? Well, partly because this will determine how the Tory party decides to shape itself going forward.

Does it decide to elect someone on the right of the party, like Ms Badenoch, Mrs Braverman or Mr Jenrick, to try to stave off the growing influence of Reform UK who have now won several seats?

Some in the party argue not being tougher on issues like immigration was part of their downfall.

Or does it try to shift back toward the centre ground with a candidate like Mr Tugendhat or Mr Hunt to reclaim some of the space Labour is now trying to occupy on the political spectrum?

Some in the party argue the Tories’ drift to the right was part of the problem, and alienated socially liberal, but fiscally conservative, voters.

The answer will be the result of a lot of tussling and soul-searching over the weeks to come.

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

By Matt Murphy & Graeme BakerBBC News, in London & Washington DC

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 dramatic collapse after a tumultuous 14 years in power, which saw five different prime ministers run the country. It lost 250 seats over the course of a devastating night.

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 run a “government of service” and to kick start a period of “national renewal”.

“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 ahead.

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 a constituency, or district.

So far Labour has won 412 seats, while the Conservatives have slumped to just 121 and centrist Liberal Democrats have taken 71. Reform UK, a successor to the Brexit Party, is set to pick up four seats, as is the left-wing Green Party.

There is just one seat left to be declared, in Scotland, for the constituency of Skye and Ross-shire.

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.

First moment Sir Keir Starmer met King Charles after election

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 were 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 another 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, lost her seat in Portsmouth.

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 served 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 about 12,000 – but used his acceptance speech to concede and confirm his party had lost the election.

Labour 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.

By mid-morning moving vans had arrived to help Rishi Sunak out of 10 Downing Street. He was then whisked away to Buckingham Palace to offer his resignation to King Charles III.

Then, just 14 hours after the initial exit poll dropped, Sir Keir was formally invited by the monarch to form the next government.

Moments later – watched by the world’s media – he walked up Downing Street and addressed the nation for the first time as prime minster.

He has already started appointing a new cabinet.

Angela Rayner has been made deputy prime minister, while Rachel Reeves has become the first female chancellor.

Meanwhile David Lammy is the new foreign secretary with Yvette Cooper as home secretary.

Speaking before he handed his resignation to the King, Mr Sunak wished the new PM 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 campaign.

But during his address outside 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.

Who’s in Keir Starmer’s new cabinet?

By the Visual Journalism teamBBC News

The country’s new Prime Minister Keir Starmer has appointed 22 Labour MPs and peers to key cabinet positions – including 11 women – after the party’s landslide election victory.

Explore our guide for short biographies of each member of the new cabinet and of ministers who will be able to attend its meetings.

  • 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

EU’s most Russia-friendly leader meets Putin in Moscow

By Jaroslav Lukiv and Nick ThorpeBBC News, London and Hungary

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, in a visit that has been heavily criticised by EU leaders and Ukraine’s government.

Friday’s meeting was part of what Mr Orban called a “peace mission”, coming three days after a visit to Kyiv where he met Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Hungary has just taken over the presidency of the Council of the European Union, but EU leaders have stressed that Mr Orban is not acting on behalf of the bloc.

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

After the meeting, which lasted several hours, Hungary’s PM said Russia and Ukraine were still “far apart” in their views on achieving peace.

“Many steps are needed to end the war, but we took the first step to restore dialogue,” he said.

The Russian leader called it a “frank and useful” conversation. He also repeated a previously rejected proposal for Ukraine to withdraw from regions in the south and east of the country which Russia claims to have annexed – an area that includes territory Russia does not currently occupy.

Volodymyr Zelensky has long said Ukraine will not negotiate with Moscow until Russian forces leave all Ukrainian territory, including Crimea.

Earlier, Mr Putin said Mr Orban was visiting “not just as a long-time partner” but as a European Union representative.

However, European leaders openly condemned the Moscow trip and emphasised he was not representing the EU.

“The EU rotating presidency has no mandate to engage with Russia on behalf of the EU,” Charles Michel, President of the European Council, wrote on X.

“The European Council is clear: Russia is the aggressor, Ukraine is the victim. No discussions about Ukraine can take place without Ukraine.”

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

Ukraine also condemned the visit: “For our country, the principle of ‘no agreements on Ukraine without Ukraine’ remains inviolable and we call on all states to strictly adhere to it,” the foreign ministry said a statement.

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

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

Ahead of Ukraine’s offensive last summer, Mr Orban warned that Ukraine cannot win on the battlefield.

Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022, the Hungarian prime minister has underlined that Russia’s advantage in resources and men makes Putin’s country unbeatable.

However, 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.

His visit to Kyiv came on his second day in that role, saying there was a need to solve previous disagreements and focus on the future.

Sunak’s ‘dismal end’ and ‘bland’ Starmer: World media reacts to UK election

The Conservatives have emerged with “broken bones” from the UK election after Rishi Sunak’s “dismal end” – but the big question for some in the international media is whether the “bland, even boring” Keir Starmer can clean up the UK’s “mess”.

Labour’s landslide victory is being digested by commentators all over the world, many dissecting what the results mean for relations with the UK – as well as for the future of the Conservative Party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

The rise of Reform UK also generates many international column inches of coverage, especially in Europe where it didn’t go unnoticed that its leader, the arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage, became an MP for the first time.

Europe: Centre-left success bucks a trend

For Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the results mean “the British [have] had a burden lifted from their shoulders”, but any renewed stability in the UK is seen as fragile.

Voters “were primarily concerned with getting rid of the Conservatives,” the paper says, adding that “Labour has a stable majority, but also problems within the party”.

German business daily Handelsblatt says the British election result “opens up the opportunity to correct Brexit”.

“Now is the time to correct one of the biggest mistakes in British politics. A security pact with the EU can only be the beginning,” the paper said.

Mr Farage’s success attracted a lot of attention. German Tabloid Bild dubbed it an “election earthquake”, albeit one for which the paper says Labour can be thankful, seeing that Reform took many votes from the Conservatives.

French media largely hails Labour’s victory, also noting the election of Nigel Farage. Le Figaro says that despite the Reform party leader’s success in Clacton, “the British people have overwhelmingly chosen a moderate centre-left leader”.

According to Le Monde, the UK’s return to the centre-left is “striking, especially seen from France, where the far right has the wind in its sails on the eve of the second round of the legislative elections”.

Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera says of the Conservative defeat: “The party of Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher emerges from this election with broken bones: it will take years to recover. Has the right-wing wind that blows across the continent stopped at the English Channel? Obviously not… If the person in charge disappoints, he is replaced.”

Conservative Italian daily Il Giornale hopes for a return to stability in the UK, calling Prime Minster Sir Keir Starmer “a reassuring institutional alternative”.

But for Poland’s national broadcaster TVP, Mr Starmer is seen as “a bit bland, even boring”. But fortunately for him, the broadcaster says, “previous leaders of the Conservative Party achieved much worse results”.

In Hungary, the press there noted two issues: “Unchanged support for Ukraine”, according to pro-government paper Magyar Nemzet; and Hungarians in the UK hoping for “a more relaxed stance on visa rules and work permits,” said the left-wing paper Telex.

US sees ‘frustrated’ voters plump for ‘dull competence’

The New York Times casts Labour’s victory as “a seismic moment in the UK’s politics, returning to power a party that just five years ago suffered its most crushing defeat since the 1930s”.

But it also notes the low voter turnout, reporting only about 60% of those eligible cast ballots.

“The low figure speaks to the mood of an electorate that seemed frustrated with the last government but hardly full of optimism about the next one. It also pointed to the challenge facing the new Labour government, which will have to work fast if it wants to restore disillusioned voters’ faith in mainstream politics,” the Times says.

For ABC News, Rishi Sunak’s campaign to remain Britain’s prime minister showed a lack of political touch.

“Predecessors such as Tony Blair and Boris Johnson were more politically astute and able to connect with voters.” As for Mr Sunak, he defied political advice by calling the election in May — “with Conservative support dwindling steadily amid an economic slump, ethics scandals and a revolving door of leaders over the last two years,” the broadcaster said.

Meanwhile, a headline in the Wall Street Journal read: “The UK elects a no-drama prime minister after years of post-Brexit chaos.”

“Eight years after the UK voted to leave the European Union and entered an era of political and economic turmoil, voters have asked Keir Starmer to steady the entire country with his brand of dull competence,” the paper said.

India: ‘Dismal end’ for Sunak

Most TV channels and news sites in India focused on Rishi Sunak conceding defeat.

“British Indians Rishi Sunak, Suella Braverman win seats, but apologise for poor Tory performance,” The Times of India noted.

The Wire website called it “a dismal end to his 20 months as head of government”.

Everything Sunak tried during the campaign “really failed”, Times Now TV added. “Everyone thought the Conservatives had a plan but now all those plans have fallen flat.”

But the Labour win “is also a triumph for India”, one news site thought, suggesting that Sir Keir Starmer would seek better relations with Delhi.

China: ‘Can Starmer clean up UK’s mess?’

China’s only official statement so far has been via its foreign ministry, which said China “had noticed the results of the British election” and “we hope to get Sino-UK relations along the right track”.

Despite these hopes, state media outlets were not overly optimistic.

“With six prime ministers in eight years, can Starmer clean up the UK’s mess?” asked broadcaster CCTV.

Given the next government faces “the most challenging issues in 70 years”, “public dissatisfaction” might soon follow, mused The Paper.

The Global Times, however, published a positive profile of the prime minister-to-be, saying Sir Keir was “not the inflammatory politician that people imagine”, and that media impressions of him are that he is “conscientious, good at management, and a little dull”.

China can hope for a more pragmatic relationship with the UK, the paper said.

Russia: No change in policy expected

Russia’s state-controlled TV channels have presented the UK election result as a “miserable failure” and a “crushing defeat” for the Conservative party and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

State channel Rossiya 1 said that Brexit was the only achievement of 14 years of Conservative rule and Channel One objected to how Russia had been cast in the election in the UK, which has helped rally Western opposition to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“This election, like politics in general in Britain in recent years, just can’t manage without an enemy figure in the form of Russia,” the channel said.

Outlets and commentators in both Russia and Ukraine don’t expect the election to change UK policies toward Russia.

“For Moscow [Keir Starmer’s] arrival in power changes nothing, since he takes anti-Russian positions and supports continued backing for Ukraine,” said NTV, another leading Russian channel.

Pro-government paper Izvestiya thought anyway that: “Political changes in Europe show that for the electorate, internal issues are becoming much more important than Ukraine.”

In Ukraine, the country’s national wartime news service Suspilne thought the same. “For the first time in 14 years, power will change hands in the UK, but this will not have an impact on support for Ukraine,” the news service said.

Pope Francis critic excommunicated by the Vatican

By Ian AikmanBBC News

An Italian archbishop and staunch critic of Pope Francis has been excommunicated by the Vatican, its doctrinal office has said.

Carlo Maria Vigano was found guilty of schism – meaning he has split from the Catholic Church – after years of fierce disagreement with the pontiff.

The 83-year-old ultra-conservative has previously called on the Pope to resign, accusing him of heresy and criticising his stances on immigration, climate change and same-sex couples.

Archbishop Vigano was a senior figure in the Church, serving as papal envoy to Washington from 2011 to 2016.

In 2018 he went into hiding after alleging that the Pope had known about sexual abuse by an American cardinal and failed to act. The Vatican rejected the accusation.

Over time, the archbishop became associated with US conspiracy theorists, criticising Covid vaccines and alleging a “globalist” and “anti-Christian” project by the UN and other groups – both familiar conspiratorial themes.

On Friday the Vatican’s doctrinal office said his refusal to submit to Pope Francis was clear from his public statements.

“The Most Reverend Carlo Maria Vigano was found guilty of the reserved delict [violation of the law] of schism,” the statement said, adding that he had been excommunicated – or banished from the church.

Responding by a post on X, the archbishop linked to the decree that was emailed to him and said:

“What was attributed to me as guilt for my conviction is now put on record, confirming the Catholic Faith that I fully profess.”

Archbishop Vigano was charged with schism and denying the pope’s legitimacy last month. At the time, he write on X that he regarded the accusations against him as “an honour”.

“I repudiate, reject, and condemn the scandals, errors, and heresies of Jorge Mario Bergoglio,” he said, using Argentine Pope’s given name.

Pope Francis has put himself at odds with traditionalist Catholics by making overtures towards the LGBTQ+ community, championing migrant rights and condemning the excesses of capitalism.

Last year, he took action against another ultra-conservative critic, dismissing Bishop Joseph E Strickland of Texas when he refused to resign after an investigation.

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

By Nadine YousifBBC News
Biden ‘not going anywhere’ despite unclear moments in July 4 speech

President Joe Biden is facing pressure from some major Democratic donors ahead of 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.

Ms Disney has given thousands of dollars to left-leaning political groups this year, according to Federal Election Commission records. But a spokesperson for the Biden campaign told BBC News she has not donated to the campaign directly this cycle.

A handful of other wealthy donors have conveyed similar intent.

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?

Charge over alleged inmate and officer sex video

A woman has been charged over a social media video allegedly showing a member of prison staff having sex with an inmate in a jail cell.

The Metropolitan Police said Linda De Sousa Abreu, 30, from Fulham in west London, was charged on Saturday with misconduct in public office.

The Met added it began its investigation on Friday “after officers were made aware of a video allegedly filmed inside HMP Wandsworth”.

Ms De Sousa Abreu is due to appear in custody at Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court on Monday.

In May, an “urgent notification” about conditions at HMP Wandsworth was issued by chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor.

It came after inspectors found Wandsworth was stricken with severe overcrowding, vermin and rising violence among inmates.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons declined to comment due to the pre-election period.

Ministry of Justice figures from June 2023, quoted by the House of Commons Library, showed HMP Wandsworth was operating at 163% of Certified Normal Accommodation – the standard that the Prison Service aspires to provide all prisoners.

There are more than 1,500 inmates at the jail in south-west London, which was built in 1851.

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Remco Evenepoel claimed his first victory at the Tour de France in stage seven’s individual time-trial as Tadej Pogacar held on to the leader’s yellow jersey.

The Belgian, who is the current world time trial champion, underlined his credentials as one of the favourites in the general classification, with a superb run on 25.3km course to finish 12 seconds ahead of Slovenia’s Pogacar.

Evenepoel, 24, who thought he had suffered a puncture on the approach towards the finish in Gevrey-Chambertin, is now just 33 seconds behind Pogacar overall.

Another Slovenian, Primoz Roglic was third 34 seconds down, while defending champion Jonas Vingegaard conceded 37 seconds in fourth.

The Dane now trails by one minute and 15 seconds in the GC after also losing time on stage four.

Simon Yates was the top-placed British rider in the time-trial, finishing 1:33 behind Evenepoel.

The stage win gives Evenepoel, who is wearing the white jersey as the best young rider in the race so far, stage victories in all three Grand Tours.

“It’s crazy. I enjoyed every metre of this time trial and coming out with the win was simply amazing,” said the Soudal-Quick Step rider.

“We wanted a stage win, and that is done. It’s a perfect day for me and my team. Mission accomplished. As for the rest of the Tour de France, I believe Tadej is going to be unreachable. But this is cycling, you never know what can happen.

“I think the further into the race we go, the better I will feel, so I’ll focus more on the podium because I feel I have the legs for it.”

Before Friday’s stage Pogacar had forecast that Evenepoel would be the man to beat in a discipline he excels in.

However, the two-time winner produced a determined ride of his own to extend his advantage over Roglic and Vingegaard, who will now see the mountain stages as their best opportunity to regain ground.

“I can be satisfied,” Pogacar said.

“I would have loved to have taken a stage win today but against Remco it’s a bit tough. But I gained time on Primoz [Roglic] and Jonas [Vingegaard] and the other guys so I can be really happy.”

On Saturday, the Tour will take a lumpy 183.4km route from Semur-en-Auxois to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises.

Tour de France stage seven results

Stage seven results 1. Remco Evenepoel (Bel/Soudal-Quick Step) 28mins 52secs

2. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) +12secs

3. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe) +34secs

4. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Visma-Lease a Bike) +37secs

5. Victor Campenaerts (Bel/Lotto-dstny) +52secs

6. Kevin Vauquelin (Fra/Arkea-B&B Hotels) Same time

7. Matteo Jorgenson (US/Visma-Lease a Bike) +54secs

8. Joao Almeida (Por/UAE Team Emirates) +57secs

9. Ben Healy (Ire/EF Education-EasyPost) +59secs

10. Stefan Kung (Swi/Groupama – FDJ) +1min

General classification after stage seven

GC: 1. Tadej Pogacar (Slo/UAE Team Emirates) 27hrs 16mins 23secs

2. Remco Evenepoel (Bel/Soudal-Quick Step) +33secs

3. Jonas Vingegaard (Den/Visma-Lease a Bike) +1min 15secs

4. Primoz Roglic (Slo/Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe) +1mins 36secs

5. Juan Ayuso (Spa/UAE Team Emirates) +2mins 16secs

6. Joao Almeida (Por/UAE Team Emirates) +2mins 17secs

7. Carlos Rodriguez (Spa/Ineos Grenadiers) +2mins 31secs

8. Mikel Landa (Spa/Soudal-Quick Step) +3mins 35secs

9. Matteo Jorgenson (US/Visma-Lease a Bike) 4mins 03secs

10. Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus/Red Bull Bora-Hansgrohe) +4mins 46secs

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Manchester City and Manchester United have been cleared to take their places in European competition next season after conflicts over multi-club ownership with Girona and Nice respectively were resolved.

However, United will be prevented from signing highly-rated Nice defender Jean-Clair Todibo by Uefa.

City Football Group owns City and Girona, while Ineos controls the football operations of United and Nice, and Uefa does not allow clubs with the same ownership to be involved in the same competition.

The Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) of European football’s governing body said on Friday “significant changes” had been made at Girona and Nice which would “substantially restrict investors’ influence and decision-making power”.

In addition, shares have been transferred through independent trustees to a blind trust, which will be supervised by the CFCB.

Among additional guarantees given by the City Football Group and Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s Ineos Group to prove the independence of the respective clubs, they agreed not to transfer players “permanently or on loan, either directly or indirectly from July 2024 to September 2025”.

This means United will not be able to sign Frenchman Todibo, the £40m-rated defender Ratcliffe had hoped would switch clubs.

However, City’s pursuit of Brazilian winger Savio will be unaffected as he has returned to parent club Troyes, who are also part of the City Football Group, after his loan with Girona expired on 30 June.

A CFG source told BBC Sport that City and Girona were compliant with all the CFCB requests.

Ineos said in a statement: “We are pleased with the positive decision from the First Chamber of the Uefa Club Financial Control Body which will see Manchester United play in the Europa League next season. The focus for Manchester United is on the season ahead and performance on the pitch.”

City will be playing in their 14th consecutive Champions League campaign, but Girona qualified for the first time by finishing third in La Liga, their highest ever league position.

Nice also seemed set to qualify for Europe’s most prestigious club competition for a long time last season, but eventually finished fifth in Ligue 1. Manchester United qualified for the Europa League by beating Premier League champions City in the FA Cup final.

It remains to be seen how the matter is dealt with over the longer term, given the shares are due to be transferred back in July 2025.

At that point, CFCB say the clubs will be considered to be “under the control or decisive influence of their investor”.

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Defending champion Carlos Alcaraz avoided a surprise exit at Wimbledon by holding off American Frances Tiafoe in a five-set thriller.

The Spaniard won an intense match 5-7 6-2 4-6 7-6 (7-2) 6-2 in front of a raucous Centre Court crowd.

It keeps Alcaraz’s hopes of winning back-to-back major titles alive after triumphing at the French Open last month.

“Obviously it is always a big challenge playing against Frances,” said third seed Alcaraz.

“All I was thinking is ‘fight one more ball’.”

Friday’s first match on the main show court lived up to the pair’s previous meeting in the semi-finals of the 2022 US Open.

Alcaraz was the victor on that occasion as well, beating Tiafoe in a five-set epic on the way to winning his first Grand Slam title.

Alcaraz survives scare against ‘talented’ Tiafoe

Tiafoe was seeded 10th at Wimbledon last year, but he has since dropped down the rankings and suffered second-round exits at this year’s Australian Open and French Open.

Now 29th in the world rankings, he frustrated Alcaraz throughout and received the early backing of the crowd after coming back from a break down to take the opening set.

“He is a really talented player, really tough to face,” Alcaraz added. “He deserves to be at the top, he deserves to fight for big things.”

Alcaraz, who had not dropped a set at the Championships until then, regained control in the second, but a single break of serve was enough for Tiafoe to win the third.

The American waved to the crowd and pointed to his ears, calling for more noise under the closed Centre Court roof.

The fans willingly obliged, cheering on the 26-year-old through the fourth set until it reached a tie-break after both players’ serve held firm.

Sensing the crowd were on his opponent’s side, Alcaraz whipped up emotion with cries of “vamos” after striking huge winners and he cruised his way through to force a decider.

From there it was plain sailing for the three-time major winner, who broke twice before raising his arms in celebration after sealing the victory with a delightful drop shot.

He will play American Brandon Nakashima or French 16th seed Ugo Humbert in the fourth round.

Rain wreaks havoc on men’s singles schedule

Only three matches, including Alcaraz’s, have so far been completed on Friday, with play on the outside courts ending early because of the weather.

Queen’s champion Tommy Paul wrapped up a 6-3 6-4 6-2 win over Alexander Bublik on court two before the rain arrived.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian 10th seed Grigor Dimitrov moved past Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-3 6-4 6-3 under the Court One roof.

Nakashima and Humbert’s third-round tie was suspended just before the fourth set headed to a tie-break, while fifth seed Daniil Medvedev leads Jan-Lennard Struff by two sets to one.

Top seed Jannik Sinner is scheduled to play Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic under the Centre Court roof.

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