BBC 2024-07-06 20:07:04


Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian elected Iran’s president

By Kasra NajiSpecial Correspondent, BBC Persian • Tom BennettBBC News

Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian has been elected as Iran’s new president, beating his hardline conservative rival Saeed Jalili.

The vote was declared in Dr Pezeshkian’s favour after he secured 53.3% of the more than 30 million votes counted. Mr Jalili polled at 44.3%.

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

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

The leaders of China, India and Russia have all congratulated Dr Pezeshkian on his victory.

Even before the final results were declared by Iran’s interior ministry, Dr Pezeshkian’s supporters had taken to the streets in Tehran and a number of other cities to celebrate.

Videos posted on social media showed mostly young people dancing and waving the signature green flag of his campaign, while passing cars sounded their horns.

Dr Pezeshkian, a 71-year-old heart surgeon and member of the Iranian parliament, is critical of Iran’s notorious morality police and caused a stir after promising “unity and cohesion”, as well as an end to Iran’s “isolation” from the world.

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

His rival, Saeed Jalili, favours the status quo. The former nuclear negotiator enjoys strong support amongst Iran’s most religious communities.

Mr Jalili is known for his hardline anti-Western stance and opposition to restoring the nuclear deal, which he says crossed Iran’s “red lines”.

Turnout in the latest round of voting was 50% – higher than the first round last week, when the turnout was the lowest since the Islamic revolution in 1979 amid widespread discontent, but still considerably low.

Widespread discontent meant that millions of people boycotted the elections.

Lack of choice in the candidates, dominated by Islamic hard liners, and the impossibility of real change as long as the supreme leader tightly controls policies added to their frustration.

Some people who did not vote in the first round were persuaded to cast their ballot for Dr Pezeshkian this time round to prevent Mr Jalili from becoming the president.

They feared that if he won, Iran would be heading for more confrontation with the outside world and that he would bring Iran more sanctions and further isolation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Only the ‘Lord Almighty’ could convince me to quit – Biden

By Mike Wendling in Madison, Wisconsin & Max MatzaBBC News

US President Joe Biden has said only the “Lord Almighty” could convince him to end his bid for re-election, as he sat for a rare primetime interview in an effort to calm Democratic concern over his candidacy.

Speaking to ABC News on Friday, Mr Biden also declined to take a cognitive test and make the results public in order to reassure voters he is fit to serve another term.

“I have a cognitive test every single day. Every day I have that test – everything I do [is a test],” he told George Stephanopoulos.

The 81-year-old once again pushed back on the idea, aired by some Democratic officials and donors, that he should stand aside for a younger alternative following his disastrous debate with Donald Trump last week.

  • Listen: Americast – I’m still standing: Biden strikes back

Throughout the interview, Mr Stephanopoulos pressed the president on his capacity to serve another term, asking Mr Biden if he was in denial about his health and ability to win.

“I don’t think anybody’s more qualified to be president or win this race than me,” Mr Biden said, blaming his poor performance last week on exhaustion and a “bad cold”. In the 22-minute interview, he also:

  • Attempted to ease Democratic fears he had lost ground to Donald Trump since the debate, saying pollsters he had spoken to said the race was a “toss-up”
  • Rejected suggestions allies may ask him to stand aside. “It’s not going to happen,” he said
  • Dismissed repeated questions about what would compel him to leave the race. “If the Lord Almighty came down and said, ‘Joe, get out of the race,’ I’d get out of the race,” he said. “The Lord Almighty’s not coming down”

The president answered questions more clearly than he did on the debate stage last week, but his voice again sounded weak and occasionally hoarse.

It was a sharp contrast to his performance at a rally in Madison, Wisconsin, on Friday, where an energised Mr Biden acknowledged his disastrous performance in last week’s CNN debate. “Ever since then, there’s been a lot of speculation. What’s Joe going to do?” he told the crowd.

“Here’s my answer. I am running and going to win again,” Mr Biden said, as supporters in the crucial battleground state cheered his name.

‘I am running and I’m going to win again,’ Biden says

The interview and the rally come at a critical moment for his campaign, with donors and Democratic allies considering whether to stick with him.

The campaign is aware that the next few days could make or break his re-election bid, according to various reports in US media, as Mr Biden seeks to regain ground that he lost to his Republican rival Donald Trump following the debate.

As he took the stage at the rally, Mr Biden passed one voter who was holding a sign reading “Pass the torch, Joe”. Another voter who stood outside the venue held a sign that read “Save your legacy, drop out!”.

“I see all these stories that say I’m too old,” Mr Biden said at the rally, before triumphing his record in the White House. “Was I too old to create 15 million jobs?” he said. “Was I too old to erase student debt for five million Americans?”

“Do you think I’m too old to beat Donald Trump?” he asked, as the crowd responded “no”.

Referencing Trump’s criminal conviction in New York, and the other charges he is facing in separate cases, he called his rival a “one-man crime wave”.

Some voters at the Wisconsin rally tell the BBC they are open to change

Pressure on Mr Biden to step aside has only grown following the debate which was marked by several instances where he lost his train of thought, raising concerns about his age and mental fitness.

Some major Democratic donors have begun to push for Mr Biden to step down as the party’s nominee, publicly warning they will withhold funds unless he is replaced.

His campaign is planning an aggressive come-back. His wife, Jill Biden, as well as Vice-President Kamala Harris, are planning a campaign blitz to travel to every battleground swing state this month.

Mr Biden, who is due to speak at another rally in Pennsylvania on Sunday, thanked the vice-president for her support. She has emerged as the most likely candidate to replace him on the Democratic ticket if he were to step down.

The Washington Post has reported that Mr Biden’s senior team is aware of the pressure coming from within the Democratic Party to make a decision on the future of his candidacy within the next week.

On Friday, reports emerged that House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries had scheduled a Sunday meeting with senior House Democrats to discuss Mr Biden’s candidacy.

Four Democrats in the House of Representatives in Congress have now called for him to withdraw from the race – Lloyd Doggett of Texas, Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Seth Boulton of Massachusetts and Mike Quigley of Illinois.

“President Biden has done enormous service to our country, but now is the time for him to follow in one of our founding father, George Washington’s footsteps and step aside to let new leaders rise up and run against Donald Trump,” Mr Moulton told radio station WBUR on Thursday.

However, no senior Democrats have called on him to quit, as his campaign has pointed out to reporters.

On Friday, reports emerged that Senator Mark Warner was attempting to form a group of fellow Democratic senators to ask Mr Biden to drop out of the race. The reports, including one in the Washington Post, suggested Mr Warner had deep concerns following the CNN debate.

Speaking to reporters later on Friday, Mr Biden said he understood that Mr Warner “is the only one considering that” and that no one else had called for him to step down.

The same day, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey, a Democrat and ally of Mr Biden, issued a statement urging the president to “carefully evaluate” whether he remains the Democratic nominee.

“Whatever President Biden decides, I am committed to doing everything in my power to defeat Donald Trump,” she said.

More on US 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?

Some Democratic voters, too, have lost faith in Mr Biden’s capacity to run. In a Wall Street Journal poll released on Friday, 86% of Democrats said they would support Mr Biden, down from 93% in February.

At the rally in Madison, multiple Biden supporters told BBC News that they supported his bid for re-election and were not concerned about the debate debacle.

“I’m not worried about his health. I think he can go all the way to the election and beyond,” said primary school teacher Susan Shotliff, 56.

Some said that while Mr Biden struggled for words, more focus should be on his Republican rival. “During the debate, [Trump] told a bunch of lies. How is that any worse than what Biden did?” said Greg Hovel, 67.

Others expressed more concern. “I wanted to have a first hand look at how he’s like, his mannerisms, his energy,” said Thomas Leffler, a health researcher from Madison. “I’m worried about his capacity to beat Trump.”

“As he gets older, I think it’s going to increasingly be an issue. But I’ll vote blue no matter what,” he said.

Hungary’s Russia-friendly PM 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.

West Africa junta chiefs to cement alliance with first meeting

The leaders of three West African military governments are due to meet together for the first time to cement an alliance created in the face of opposition from neighbouring countries.

Soldiers took power in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in a series of coups from 2020 to 2023.

All three countries – which now form the Alliance of Sahel States – have been affected by jihadist violence, in part a reason given for the army takeovers.

In January, they all announced a plan to leave the wider regional bloc Ecowas, which is holding its own summit on Sunday.

At Saturday’s meeting in the Nigerien capital, Niamey, the junta chiefs are expected to formally establish the alliance, known by its French acronym AES.

Niger’s coup leader, Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani is hosting the talks, joined by Burkina Faso’s Capt Ibrahim Traoré and Mali’s Col Assimi Goïta.

Security co-operation is high on the agenda, but the AES will also look towards forming closer economic ties, including the aim of creating a common currency. This would be a rejection of the French-backed CFA Franc, which is used in many states across the region.

All three countries have expelled French soldiers who were there as part of an anti-jihadist mission and turned towards Russia for military assistance.

Calls for greater sovereignty and a rejection of the former colonial power have been a key part of the rhetoric coming from the junta leaders.

The countries have also resisted calls from Ecowas for a rapid return to civilian rule.

Capt Traoré arrived in Niamey a day ahead of the meeting and was welcomed with an enthusiastic reception. Television pictures show cheering crowds waving Nigerien and Burkinabé flags.

Among them was Sidi Mohamed, the head of the National Youth Council.

“Today, as Africans, we are very proud to see a summit where it’s an African summit, a summit where states have decided to pool their energies, to pool their forces to create an alliance for their development, without any foreign stakeholders, without any counterparts from the powers that are used to ruling over us,” he told journalists.

Col Goïta was expected to arrive on Saturday.

The presidents of the wider West African bloc will have their chance to respond at a heads of state meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on Sunday.

They are also due to announce the activation of a standby force to fight regional insecurity.

Over the past decade, the Sahel has become an increasing focus of Islamic State militant activity, creating insecurity and instability.

The juntas in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali have so far failed to quell the violence.

You may also be interested in:

  • Why young Africans are celebrating military takeovers
  • Niger coup leaders expel French troops
  • Burkina Faso outcry over ‘conscription used to punish junta critics’
  • IS: A persistent danger, 10 years since its peak

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‘I’m worried’ – Democrats at Biden rally open to change

By Mike WendlingBBC News, Madison, Wisconsin
Democratic voters chime in on Biden’s ability to run for office

The hundreds of die-hard Democrats who turned out to see Joe Biden in Wisconsin on Friday didn’t need much convincing.

The US president received an enthusiastic response to his loudly delivered remarks at the rally in Madison, especially when he attacked his Republican rival Donald Trump.

But as some major Democratic donors and lawmakers call on Mr Biden to exit the presidential race, even some of his most ardent supporters here in Madison are keeping an open mind about whether he might be replaced – and what might come next.

“It’s OK to change our minds,” said Catherine Emmanuelle, 44, who paused and considered her thoughts carefully before outlining her opinion.

She stressed that she was impressed with Mr Biden’s 17-minute speech, which she called a “presidential litmus test”.

“But if something happens in three days or a week or three weeks, we shouldn’t be afraid of having a conversation about change,” she told BBC News.

Mr Biden is under tremendous scrutiny after a disastrous debate performance last week, marked by a hoarse voice and several instances where he lost his train of thought.

The president, 81, is facing a tide of doubts about his mental acuity and ability to beat Trump, 78, in November’s election.

  • Listen: Americast – I’m still standing: Biden strikes back

Friday’s rally, held in this reliably Democratic town in a critical swing state, was an indication of the support Mr Biden still has in many parts of the country.

But the raucous crowd, which waited through several opening speakers and a hour-long delay from the planned start time, was also shot through with low-grade anxiety.

“I’m worried about his capacity to beat Trump,” said Thomas Leffler, a 33-year-old health researcher.

“As he gets older, I think it’s going to increasingly be an issue. But I’ll vote blue no matter what,” he said – a reference the Democratic Party’s signature colour.

Mr Leffler suggested that picking a new candidate might have unexpected benefits.

“If you go through some sort of open process, you can re-energise people, and show that there’s a process better than what Republicans have, which is basically just to bow down to Donald Trump,” he said.

Earlier this year, both the president and Trump secured the delegates needed to be their party’s respective presumptive candidates.

The Democrats’ nominee will officially be chosen at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago from 19-22 August.

On Friday, Mr Biden was defiant about staying in the race, telling the crowd: “I am running and going to win again.”

Some of the biggest cheers on Friday came when the president directly went after his predecessor.

“Trump is not just a convicted criminal,” he said. “He’s a one man crime wave.”

The prospect of a second Trump administration was an animating factor for many who came to the rally.

“During the debate, he told a bunch of lies,” said Greg Hovel, 67. “How is that any worse than what Biden did?”

Mr Hovel said he believed the country was in a “great place” and that Mr Biden didn’t get enough credit for his economic and pandemic recovery policies.

“At this point, in the next six weeks, the Democratic Party is going to have to make up its mind” whether to retain Mr Biden as their candidate or pick someone new, he said.

But the president’s performance on Friday further bolstered something he strongly believed, even before the speech.

“I think Biden can win,” he said.

More on the 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?

France ends ugly campaign and draws breath before historic vote

By Paul KirbyBBC News in Paris

France’s rushed and sometimes violent election campaign is over, brought to an end with stark appeals from political leaders ahead of Sunday’s pivotal vote.

Centrist Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said on Friday night that a far-right government would “unleash hatred and violence”.

But the leader of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella, accused his rivals of immoral, anti-democratic behaviour, and he urged voters to mobilise and give him an outright majority.

One in three French voters backed National Rally (RN) last Sunday, in the first round of parliamentary elections.

The choice a week on is between France’s first far-right government of modern times or political deadlock, and voters fear there is turmoil ahead whoever wins.

The climate is so fraught that 30,000 extra police are being deployed.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said 51 candidates, or their deputies or party activists, had been physically attacked by people of varying backgrounds, including some who were “spontaneously angry”.

In one incident, an extremist network published a list of almost 100 lawyers “for eliminating”, after they signed an open letter against National Rally.

President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call it less than a month ago came as a shock, but the consequences are unknown.

When voters speak about the election, the tension is often palpable.

Kaltoun’s hair is covered and says in her town on the border with Belgium, where RN won the first round, she and her daughter have felt increasingly uncomfortable. “It’s a remark or a look; each election it’s got worse.”

In nearby Tourcoing, Gérald Darmanin is facing a strong challenge to hold his seat from the far-right candidate who was just 800 votes behind him last Sunday.

That is why left-wing candidate Leslie Mortreux decided to pull out of the second round to give him a better chance of defeating RN.

In the 500 seats being decided by run-off votes, 217 candidates from the left-wing New Popular Front and the Macron Ensemble alliance have withdrawn to block the RN from winning. Although dozens of three-way races are still going ahead, 409 seats will now be decided by one-on-one contests.

After the first round, some opinion polls gave RN a chance of winning an outright majority in the National Assembly.

The final polls of the campaign suggest that is no longer on the cards. Even if RN boss Marine Le Pen believes they still have a “serious chance” of winning the 289 seats they need to control the Assembly, the pollsters say about 200 is a more realistic figure.

One major poll that came out hours before the end of the campaign suggested that the awkward series of withdrawals by third-placed left-wing and centrist candidates had succeeded in scuppering the hopes of National Rally boss Marine Le Pen’s protege of becoming prime minister aged 28.

“We are presiding over the birth of a single Mélenchon-Macron party,” Jordan Bardella complained. “And this dishonorable alliance has been formed with the single goal of keeping us from winning.”

The Popular Front is made up of Socialists, Greens and Communists, but its biggest party is France Unbowed, led by radical firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

He is widely condemned by his rivals as an extremist, and he is certainly no ally of President Emmanuel Macron.

Despite their agreement to keep out the far right, there is no love lost between the two camps.

“You don’t beat the far right with the far left,” the interior minister said, even though a France Unbowed candidate had pulled out to help him win.

The Macron centrists are third in the polls, well behind the Popular Front as well as the National Rally.

“In France we’re fed up with Macron, and I’m more in the centre” said Marc in Tourcoing. “The cost of living is bad, and the rich have become richer and the poor are poorer.”

National Rally has focused its campaign on media appearances by Mr Bardella and Marine Le Pen, and there have been claims of “phantom candidates” barely showing up in some areas.

When one candidate in the city of Orléans, Élodie Babin, qualified for the second round with little attempt at campaigning she later insisted she had been ill for 10 days.

RN is especially popular in rural areas.

In Mennecy, a sleepy town in the Essonne area south of Paris, Mathieu Hillaire was holding his final campaign event as Popular Front candidate. He is in a duel with RN candidate Nathalie Da Conceicao Carvalho, after the pro-Macron candidate pulled out to give her left-wing rival a better chance of blocking the far right.

Mr Hillaire said while the climate was less tense locally than elsewhere some people were still worried: “Of the voters that I’ve met, there are many who are scared of Jordan Bardella.”

Many of RN’s policies focus on cutting the cost of living and tackling law and order, but their anti-immigration plans have raised particular concerns.

RN aims to give French citizens “national preference” over immigrants for jobs and housing, and wants 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.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal spoke of an “uncertainty and worry” among the French people.

He said in the first round his party had averted the risk of Jean-Luc Mélenchon winning a majority. Now the risk came from a far right whose policies would “unleash hatred and violence with a plan to stigmatise some of our fellow citizens” and be catastrophic for the French economy.

But what happens on Sunday night if there is deadlock, and no obvious way forward towards forming a government?

The Olympic Games are now only 20 days away, and there is a suggestion that France might have no government or prime minister when it hosts such a high-profile global event.

Mr Attal, who had earlier suggested his minority government might stay in place “as long as necessary”, was far more vague on Friday night.

“Next week I don’t know what I’ll be doing, where’ll I’ll be doing it,” he said. “But I know who I’ll be doing it for: the people of France, that’s all that counts for me.”

Rescue street dogs, or euthanise them? Turks split over its strays

By Victoria CraigBBC News, Ankara

Under the shade of a leafy green apricot tree on a scorching summer afternoon, Gokcen Yildiz scoops up a squirming ball of light-brown fur.

It licks her all over the face and she breaks out in giggles.

But laughter gives way to a more serious tone as she points to the dog’s back legs, which are missing paws. A sign, she says, of the abuse some of Turkey’s street dogs are subjected to.

Ms Yildiz is a secondary school physics teacher by day, street-dog advocate by night. The canine she’s holding is one of 160 she’s collected on the property where she lives on the outskirts of Turkey’s capital city, Ankara.

Her dogs are a small fraction of the estimated four million that make up the country’s street-dog population.

It’s a problem that has fiercely divided public opinion: are stray dogs a neighbourhood fixture to be looked after and loved?

Or does the government need to take more drastic solutions, like those state media are reporting that it’s considering – including euthanasia?

On her 15,000 sq m property, Ms Yildiz looks after elderly and disabled dogs, and those with psychological or behavioural issues.

“It is not my job, but I look after dogs in need,” she said. “I always experience financial worry because the economy is getting harder. When the price of petrol increases, everything like pet food or the medicine I give, or the vet expenses – everything goes up.”

She said she feels anxious about finances, but her bigger concern is what will happen to the dogs if she doesn’t collect them.

“The dogs outside of here eat every two or three days, but they’re alive. They’re not about to die. That’s what really worries me,” she said.

Lawmakers from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) are working on a new bill aimed at getting dogs off the streets.

It hasn’t yet been introduced into the country’s parliament, but state media report it could require municipalities to collect stray dogs, shelter them for around 30 days, and if the animals are not adopted in that time, euthanise them.

The latter provision has outraged animal rights activists – and Turkey’s dog lovers, like Ms Yildiz – but it’s also raised questions about whether existing facilities across the country could handle additional responsibilities.

Only about one third of the nation’s provincial and district municipalities have shelters, according to Doctor Murat Arslan, president of the Turkish Veterinary Medical Association.

He said this had been one of the problems with an existing law, which requires dogs to be sterilised and then returned to the streets where they lived.

“In order to manage the animal population, street dogs needed to be collected, sterilised, given some vaccinations, and then released back to the street. However, not every municipality had shelters or facilities where these operations could be carried out. Especially in small municipalities, there are neither shelters nor sufficient employment of veterinarians.”

If this law, enacted 20 years ago, had been enforced, the street-dog population wouldn’t be so large today, Dr Arslan said.

Animal abandonment and overbreeding and selling of dogs had also allowed the street-dog population to rise, he told the BBC. Although animals are microchipped and registered in a centralised database, officials needed to be better at following through with fines for owners when animals were found to have been thrown out on the street, he added.

Regardless of what led to the problem, campaign groups like Safe Streets Association argue a solution is needed to take dogs permanently off the street.

Attorney Meltem Zorba is a volunteer for Safe Streets. She works with families that have been victims of stray-dog attacks, and points to government statistics that show over the past five years, street dogs have contributed to 55 deaths, more than 5,000 injuries, and 3,500 traffic accidents.

“We have been pressuring for legal change for three years,” she said. “There should not be stray dogs on the streets. These attacks on people causing death, traffic accidents, and other animals being attacked are unacceptable.”

She’s calling for a legal requirement to take dogs off the streets for good – rather than the catch-and-release protocol in place now. Ms Zorba also says the dogs pose other concerns including rabies and public health issues arising from dog faeces in public places, such as parks and playgrounds.

“This is rationality,” she said of the creation of new legislation, adding that euthanasia should be a last resort and a result of an animal being deemed too sick or posing a risk to society.

That’s where a national consensus seems to be building. A recent opinion poll showed nearly 80% of respondents supported measures to take dogs off the street and provide shelter. But less than 3% believed collected dogs should be euthanised.

Both Ms Zorba and Ms Yildiz support a government solution that would allow dogs to be taken off the streets, collected in newly-built shelters around the country, sterilised, and looked after through the end of their lives, if not adopted.

It’s believed that ministers plan to provide local authorities with fresh funds to implement any new law on stray dogs.

But it’s unclear whether the government – already dealing with an economic crisis that’s seen inflation climb to 75% this year – has the resources available for such a solution.

Mexico’s coast battered by Hurricane Beryl

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

Hurricane Beryl has lashed Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula after wreaking havoc across the Caribbean, causing at least 10 deaths.

It made landfall as a category-two hurricane early on Friday, bringing winds of up to 175km/h (108mph).

It was later downgraded to a tropical storm, but is expected to re-intensify over the Gulf the Mexico at the weekend.

Beryl brought heavy rain to tourist hotspots of Cancún and Tulum. No major damage was reported but the high winds felled trees and caused power outages.

Civil protection chief Laura Velazquez said power would be fully restored to those still without it by Sunday.

Tulum resident Carolina Vazquez was among those to be affected by the outages, speaking to the Reuters news agency as she queued at a soup kitchen organised by the Mexican army on Friday.

“In my little house a tree fell down, half of the house cracked, the roof tiles,” she said.

Fernando Trevino, an employee at a local business, said: “We are evaluating, but so far it seems that everything is in order with the protections that were put in place, the preparations and so.”

Ahead of Beryl’s arrival, Schools were closed, hotel windows boarded up, and emergency shelters were set up in areas facing the brunt of the impact.

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

Hundreds of tourists were evacuated from hotels, and more than 3,000 fled from Holbox Island off the coast, according to local authorities.

More than 300 flights were cancelled or delayed.

On Thursday, many homes and businesses were badly damaged in the Cayman Islands, particularly along the coastline, where entire neighbourhoods were inundated.

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

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

Where will Hurricane Beryl go next?

The storm is projected to 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.

‘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.

After Mr Barnea left Doha, the office of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said gaps still remained between the two sides. Israeli officials had 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 Mr 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.

Slovak PM in first public appearance since shooting

By Aleks PhillipsBBC News

The Slovakian prime minister has made his first public appearance since being wounded in an assassination attempt.

Robert Fico was shot several times on 15 May while greeting people outside a cultural centre in Handlova, about 180km (112 miles) from the capital Bratislava, after holding a meeting there.

He was rushed to hospital to undergo emergency surgery, before later being discharged to receive care at home.

On Friday, Mr Fico spoke during a ceremony at Devin Castle in Bratislava to mark Saints Cyril and Methodius Day, a public holiday in Slovakia.

Cyril and Methodius were brothers credited with converting Slavic people in the region to Christianity in the 9th Century and creating an early version of the Cyrillic alphabet.

Mr Fico, 59, used a speech at the commemoration to criticise the supposed expansion of progressive ideologies and the West’s stance towards Russia over the war in Ukraine.

Moment leading up to shooting of Slovak PM

He said “meaningless” liberal ideas were “spreading like cancer”, and that there were “not enough peace talks” with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the Russian invasion, according to local and international media reports.

Mr Fico, a populist who returned to office last October, is a divisive figure both domestically and within the wider EU, with calls to end military aid to Ukraine and sanctions on Russia. He has also proposed abolishing Slovakia’s public broadcaster.

His attacker, previously named as 71-year-old Jurac C, has been described as a writer and political activist.

Footage of the incident shows a gun being pulled in the crowd and five shots ringing out. The Slovakian PM was then bundled into a car by his bodyguards while the suspected shooter was detained at the scene.

In a video address posted on social media on 5 June, Mr Fico said he forgave his assailant and felt no hatred towards him, while blaming the attack on his parliamentary opposition.

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.

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.

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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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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Meet the new youngest MP – born in 2002

By Louise ParryLouise HullandBBC News, Peterborough

A 22-year-old elected as an MP with a razor-thin majority has said he does not want his age to be the focus as he heads to Westminster.

Labour’s Sam Carling is likely to be the “baby of the House” – the unofficial title given to the youngest member of the House of Commons – after narrowly winning North West Cambridgeshire.

The Cambridge University science graduate student beat veteran Conservative MP Shailesh Vara by 39 votes to take the seat.

Mr Carling called his victory a “political earthquake”, and said he hoped more young people would stand for public office.

“Then they will see themselves represented, both in Parliament and local councils. It will help tackle apathy,” he said.

The previous “baby of the House” was Oxford University graduate and fellow Labour MP Keir Mather, who won the Selby and Ainsty by-election in 2023.

Mr Carling, who has been a councillor in Cambridge, said many voters were surprised to discover he was running for office, but that “people on the doorstep were very positive”.

“They said ‘That’s good, we need more young people’.

“There is a lot of abuse aimed at younger people online, but face-to-face, people are generally thrilled to find out.”

However, he doesn’t want his age to be a focus.

“I want us to get away from this strange mindset towards younger people’s age. As far as I’m concerned we’re just the same as anyone else. I just want to get on with the job.”

He only recently became interested in politics, saying he saw a connection between social and economic decline and “decisions made in Westminster”.

Mr Carling grew up in a rural town in the north-east of England, which he described as “a very deprived area”.

“I saw a lot of things getting worse around me. I was concerned about shops closing on local high streets that used to be a thriving hub and are basically now a wasteland.

“And the sixth form closed, but I didn’t make the connection to politics until later.”

In his constituency, largely based in the city of Peterborough, he said the new Labour government had “a whole host of issues to deal with – it’s a microcosm of the country”.

He wants his party to “get to grips with” a lack of dentists and NHS staff “who are dreadfully overworked”, as well as “fixing rural transport”.

Mr Carling said it would be “interesting to see” what his generation makes of a new era of politics.

“I think a lot of people have only ever been conscious of a Conservative government.

“I would argue we can make significant changes and offer a better alternative, and hopefully engage more young people in politics,” he added.

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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.

Inside Keir Starmer’s preparations for power

By Laura Kuenssberg@bbclaurakSunday with Laura Kuenssberg

“A face of thunder.” As opposition leader, Sir Keir Starmer would go back to his office after the State Opening of Parliament deeply frustrated after witnessing the Conservatives’ plans laid out year after year. He carried the curse of the leader of the opposition – irrelevance.

He formally became prime minister at lunchtime on Friday, but for a number of months now, he has also known that the British state has been quietly preparing for his arrival in Downing Street.

“We have every hour of his first day, every day of his first week, every week of his first month, mapped out,” is how one Whitehall source put it. What promise this victory holds is not going to fail because of a lack of homework or planning.

Such is the level of preparation that the Treasury, in anticipation of the arrival of the first female chancellor, has apparently boxed in the urinal that has long been a feature of the chancellor’s private bathroom. Not exactly bog standard stuff, you could say (sorry!).

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Rachel Reeves is one of the prominent figures in Sir Keir’s team, among them also Wes Streeting and Bridget Phillipson, who have been deeply involved for months in getting ready to govern. Senior civil servants and their shadow ministers have been talking for some time and Sir Keir and some of his team have been regular attendees at Cobra meetings, and security briefings.

One, now a cabinet minister, told me: “We have got personal relationships with the permanent secretary and the senior officials already.“

The former civil servant Sue Gray, who will now be the PM’s chief of staff, has been in regular contact with Cabinet Secretary Sir Simon Case, since the turn of the year. After the headlines of the Labour leader’s missions had been turned into policies, they were then made into “implementation plans” for government. The calls between Ms Gray and Sir Simon became almost daily.

There has been some perhaps less obvious assistance, too. At least two former Conservative ministers have been helping them prepare, including one recent cabinet minister who told me: “It’s ridiculous we just hand over a trillion pound budget” without the kind of transition that an American president, for example, enjoys.

The plan for government

Despite the scale of victory, the Labour manifesto, based on Sir Keir’s mission, is not about to be usurped with a huge bold unknown move.

“There are no secrets,” one senior figure told me. Another source told me the election result is a vindication of the PM’s cautious approach and it is not a “vote for a more radical, bold approach”.

Expect strong resistance to any calls from the left that the scale of the change “proves” Labour could have been more radical in what they put forward. Some in his party may demand a rapid cessation of arm sales to Israel. Labour losing seats and nearly losing others to opponents standing on a pro-Gaza platform will only make those calls more urgent.

Other demands may include an overt commitment to safeguard public services, a longer-term promise to remove the two-child benefit cap and even regular trade union access to No 10. But with a massive majority, there is no suggestion that Sir Keir will feel he is in the mood to redraft his carefully worked out plans.

Instead the new prime minister has held up the result as a rejection of the Tory Party and a vote for a different type of leadership, and frankly, less drama.

But his style, and the gradual way in which his plans were built over a period of many months, belies some very significant changes Labour wants. These include an expansion of rights for workers, a rapid overhaul of the planning system and a state energy company.

In the short-term, new ministers are likely to do everything they can to talk up how they want to get the economy to grow. It won’t be entirely coincidental if within a few weeks, companies start writing cheques for the UK, or that pent -up investments that were waiting for a change of government start to come through.

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And it’s likely that before long there will be new draft laws to give more powers to the government’s independent economic watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility. One of the big first decisions the new chancellor needs to make is when to hold a huge review of the public finances with the teeth clenching decisions it might involve.

The so-called spending review, which portions out cash between departments, expires at the end of the year. It sounds like a dull decision but it is massively important. Ms Reeves will have to decide whether to roll over the existing Tory spending plans for a year, to give her more space to work out a longer-term plan, or crack on with her own review by the end of 2024. Watch this space.

Beware of drift

The Labour mantra in public, and in private has been not just to win, but to be ready to get things done. In their mind are what they see as the lessons of New Labour and Tony Blair’s frustration with the slow pace of change. One new minister tells of a meeting where they briefed the former PM about their plans and he warned them: “I so deeply regret that we didn’t hit the ground running on reform.”

“Keir has taken this incredibly seriously,” the minister told me.

Appointing the cabinet’s been done, but there are dozens of other MPs to receive government jobs, with advisers and new members of the House of Lords. They include the former Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance who has been appointed as a minister of state at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

I’m told the former health secretary, Alan Milburn, is likely to take a senior, though not ministerial, role at the Department of Health to help drive waiting lists down. Other departments and other appointments might throw up some interesting names.

But for all the preparation and experience, the receipt of power and responsibility is huge.

One official said of incoming prime ministers: “They come in exhausted from this now-seemingly endless campaign, they come in elated, they appoint their cabinet – that is a great moment for them. And then sour-faced people like me say, ‘now, can I talk to you about the end of the world!’”

Sir Keir is in a hurry not just to show the public that his government can actually get things done after years of visible political shambles. But he’s also been counselled to make the most of the early goodwill from his vast ranks of new victors, before, inevitably in time, however long, the Parliamentary Labour Party starts to flex its muscles.

One former Labour adviser told me, he should “Go quick! Go fast, before they find the loos!”

It is true that his team has tried very hard to control the quality of candidates, and many loyalists will be picking up their pass for the first day in the big palace soon. But as former prime ministers have found, bright-eyed new recruits don’t stay eager forever.

Problems and Pitfalls

Labour’s scale of victory is something they could have hardly dreamed of not so long ago. But their elation this weekend doesn’t make some of the very tricky realities of governing go away.

Whenever she’s been near a microphone in recent months, Ms Reeves has been warning of what she calls the “worst economic inheritance since the Second World War” or as she said at her election count in Leeds “there is not a huge amount of money”.

Waiting lists are sky high. Prisons are overcrowded. Millions of families are struggling to make ends meet. This was an election result driven partly by voters’ clear feeling that nothing works.

That sense is not confined to public perception. As one senior Whitehall official told me: “Things really are worse on the inside than you can see from outside.”

Labour’s ministerial teams have been discussing how to tell the public how bad, in their view, things really are. No sooner had Mr Streeting been appointed health secretary than he said: “From today the policy of this department is that the NHS is broken.”

A sceptic might also say Labour will be keen to brand the problems once and for all as the Tories’ fault.

The mission

What of the new PM himself? It’s not lost on the public, or his political critics, that he has been willing to junk old promises, and indeed, to junk old colleagues if need be. His backers say it’s a sign of strength, and was a lesson he had to learn – ditching what one source described as “nauseating” pleas for party unity for a clearer priority, the desire to win.

It is no easier now to get to the bottom of what Sir Keir believes in than it was when I first sat down with him. Back then he was pitching for the leadership of his party, when his aim to get them back into power looked fanciful.

He and his team had come up with the phrase “moral socialism”. Then, as now, it sounded like a slogan designed for a Guardian newspaper headline rather than something the public could latch on to. He told me he wanted to persuade people that Labour and politicians could be a “force for good and a force for change“. That’s a line that could feature in one of his many interviews or speeches four years later, where still, you might be searching for a grand ideological mantra.

But perhaps to hunt for an ideology is to miss the point. He is not a factional politician who’s been in the trade, man and boy, not a product of student union elections, decades of party conferences, fevered debates about the purity of particular policies.

For his backers, that arguable absence of an ideology is his huge advantage. “He’ll be the most normal PM we’ve ever had,” says one insider. One minister tells me he belongs not to any faction but to the party. “He is theirs,” the new minister says. Whether Sir Keir can make the public feel that kind of direct connection with him as a leader seems ambitious and highly uncertain.

He sometimes apes Tony Blair, saying he’ll return politics to serve the people through what he terms national renewal. But despite the size of the majority, there is little sign at this moment that he could achieve that kind of incredible personal popularity the 1997 victor saw.

A second term?

It was Sir Keir’s belief that the modern electorate could be incredibly volatile that led him to have faith that he could turn the 2019 disaster round.

The willingness of so many voters to change their minds has been Keir Starmer’s friend at this election but if that volatility is here to stay, it could become his foe.

In time, and perhaps soon, Labour will start plotting privately how this term in office can be extended into what Starmer has already set out as his goal of a “decade of renewal“. Just before polling day, one insider joked: “I’m never not thinking about winning the next election.”

By any traditional measure, a majority on this scale would see a prime minister securely locked into two terms of office. But in 2024 that feels less certain.

For now for Labour, there is a moment of profound celebration. No more the impotence of opposition. No more the pain of losing yet again. No more “face of thunder” for the new prime minister, or the frustration of being irrelevant.

As we saw in Downing Street yesterday, after all the waiting, he can allow himself a smile.

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‘We’ve learnt to do surgery without electricity’: Ukraine’s power cuts worsen

By Vitaly ShevchenkoBBC Monitoring

Power supply is a matter of life and death for Tetiana’s son.

He was born with disabilities, and needs electricity-powered equipment to be able to breathe, to eat, and to receive medication.

“We are very dependent on electricity. If it wasn’t for this bloody war, life would be difficult, but we’d be able to cope,” Tetiana tells the BBC.

Ukrainians are learning to live with extended blackouts as Russia continues to pummel its energy facilities across the country.

Persistent Russian air strikes mean even previously unaffected parts of Ukraine have to go without electricity for hours on end, practically every day.

Tetiana, who lives in the southern port city of Odesa, says that the endless power cuts make life extremely difficult because she needs to make sure the supply of electricity is constant.

She has a generator which runs on petrol and needs to be topped up all the time, but it has to be stopped every six hours to cool down.

Power cuts also affect mobile phone coverage, so getting through to the ambulance service for her son can be a struggle too.

“Sometimes it takes half an hour, sometimes it’s an hour before the ambulance arrives when my child goes into convulsions and turns blue,” she says. “My son can die if he doesn’t get oxygen. I’m lost for words.”

Recent blackouts have lasted as long as 12 hours a day in Tetiana’s neighbourhood.

For millions of Ukrainians, the absence of power can mean no running water, air conditioning, lifts or access to life-saving equipment.

Over the past three months alone, Ukraine has lost nine gigawatts of generating capacity, the national energy company Ukrenergo says. This is more than a third of the capacity Ukraine had before the full-scale invasion in February 2022. It is enough to power the whole of the Netherlands during peak hours of consumption – or Slovakia, Lavtia, Lithuania and Estonia combined, Ukrenergo says.

“All state-owned thermal power plants are destroyed. All hydropower plants in our country are damaged by Russian missiles or drones,” Ukrenergo spokeswoman Maria Tsaturian tells the BBC.

The lack of generated electricity is made worse by rising temperatures in the summer, when Ukrainians turn on power-hungry air conditioning systems.

To cope with the shortfall, Ukrenergo has had to implement a policy of sweeping power cuts across the country, which last for many hours a day every day.

As a result, millions of Ukrainians have become increasingly reliant on fuel-powered generators or big power banks.

The Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, has been experiencing lengthy power cuts.

Roksolana was elected by residents of her 24-storey apartment block to help run the building’s facilities.

She says living in tower blocks is not easy because power cuts also mean no running water on the upper floors.

“The lifts are not working either, so mothers with children and disabled people have to wait. They plan their trips outside depending on when there is electricity,” she adds. “They’ve got to stay indoors for six hours on end, our elderly ladies can’t pop out to the shops to get their bread.”

Such residents in tall buildings are stuck inside their sweltering apartments because air conditioning isn’t working.

They are also more exposed to Russian air strikes because they are unable to go to the safety of the bomb shelters, which are typically located underground.

In Zaporizhzhia, dentist Volodymyr Stefaniv says appointments have to be rescheduled at the last moment, and there’ve been occasions when electricity disappeared during complicated surgery.

“If this happens, we start our generators so we can finish what we have started. There’s no other way – we can’t tell the patient to come back tomorrow,” he says. “Literally a couple of weeks ago power cuts became particularly frequent. Of course they’re very disruptive.”

To perform urgent or less complicated operations during blackouts, Mr Stefaniv uses a head torch. This is a skill he acquired and perfected while treating soldiers on the front line, and his firm still provides free or heavily discounted services for members of the Ukrainian army.

“I can treat toothache or swelling without electricity. We’ve learnt to perform surgery without electricity,” he says.

Maria Tsaturian from Ukrenergo is aware that a lot of anger is directed at her company for cutting electricity so often, for so long and for so many customers. But, she says, there’s no other option.

“We are at war. The energy sector is one of the goals for the Russian terrorists. And it’s obvious why: all our life, all our civilization, is built on electricity. You just have to destroy your enemy’s power grid, and they will have no economy, and they will have no life,” she says.

“This is the price we pay for freedom.”

Celebrating 50 years of marriage in Nigeria’s ‘divorce capital’

By Mansur AbubakarBBC News, Kano

A couple who live in Nigeria’s “divorce capital” are being hailed for their long marriage having recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.

Mahmud Kabir Yusuf and Rabiatu Tahir spoke to the BBC about the secrets of their happiness, and about why so many marriages fail in the northern city of Kano, in a video that has generated much comment.

Mr Yusuf puts it down to his wife’s generous nature.

“She is a very unselfish person and she overlooks a lot which has contributed to the success of our marriage,” the 76-year-old told BBC Hausa.

This prompts a smile from Ms Tahir, who is in her late sixties. Together the couple have had 13 children – and she praised her husband’s ability to remain calm in the face of the difficulties all families confront.

“He is a very patient man and I feel that was also key to our success,” she said.

The pair say they love and respect each other – and they clearly enjoy each other’s company, breaking off to laugh several times during the interview.

For Hassana Mahmud, it is a revelation. The 39-year-old divorcee has been married five times and is impressed by the couple and their evident contentment.

“In all my marriages I have only spent four years with a spouse – so to see them on social media celebrating this milestone was refreshing,” she said.

“My husbands were all nice and caring during courtship but changed after the wedding,” said the mother of four.

“I feel bad whenever I hear people call Kano ‘the divorce capital of Nigeria’, I hope things will change,” she added.

Kano gained the epithet after divorce rates began to rise in the 1990s and it has not been able to shake off the unwanted label.

Hundreds of marriages collapse each month in Nigeria’s most populous state, whose capital, Kano city, is the commercial hub of the north.

In 2022 research done by the BBC in collaboration with the local government disclosed that 32% of marriages in Kano state only survive between three and six months.

It also revealed that some people aged between 20 and 25 had already gone through three marriages.

The scale of separations is a concern – especially for the Hisbah, a Kano state-funded Islamic agency that deals with moral issues and enforces Sharia, or Islamic law in the state.

It has a police unit that enforces things like segregation in public places and an alcohol ban for Muslims, who make up the majority of residents. It also has a counselling service mainly to help struggling married couples.

Long lines of women can often be seen queueing outside its offices to complain that their ex-husbands are not helping with maintenance for their children.

People tend to marry young in Kano – often before the legal age of 18.

Others feel Islam’s easy method of divorce might be a factor as husbands can simply tell their wives: “I divorce you” or write that on a piece of paper and it is over. Nowadays a message sent on social media is enough to end their marriage.

Aminu Daurawa works for the Hisbah to address the high divorce rate. One of their solutions is to offer a second chance to people and better prepare them for married life.

The agency organises mass marriages, known as “Auren Zawarawa”, mainly for divorcees – acting as a matchmaker on a giant scale.

The hundreds of newly wed couples, who are treated to a big wedding ceremony, are also offered a small sum to help them set up a business and other household goods.

This initiative began in 2012 – though Mr Daurawa acknowledges divorce rates are still high.

“We know about that problem – that is why we set up a committee to check on each couple after the marriage so we don’t get the former [same] results,” he said.

But Hadiza Ado, founder of non-governmental organisation Women and Children Initiative, says the number of divorces continue to rise.

“At the moment we get up to 30 marital cases daily in our various offices,” she told the BBC.

“The troubling Nigerian economy is the number-one reason at the moment.

“Husbands go out to make ends meet and sometimes come back home empty-handed, which causes rifts.”

The practice of using matchmakers is common in Kano because in a Muslim society single people do not mix, so it is difficult to meet potential partners.

The only place that the sexes mix would be at university or other tertiary institutions, which most people do not attend.

When people are matched together they often get married hardly knowing each other.

In fact Mahmud Kabir Yusuf and Rabiatu Tahir were introduced as youngsters by an older woman in their neighbourhood.

She was the one who felt they would be a good match – but they did not tie the knot for another 12 years, giving them ample time to get to know one another.

One man with a reputation for making successful matches says that is key.

“A lot of investigation needs to be done before marriage to know the persons involved,” Rabiu Ado told the BBC.

He set up as a matchmaker 10 years ago. The 46-year-old had not intended to become a marriage broker, though it had been the job of his mother.

He was working as a truck driver when he was approached by friends complaining about the difficulty of finding a partner.

After making some successful introductions, he realised he had a knack for the family business.

He now has billboards advertising his services – and gets between one and five clients each day. He interviews them and gets to know their attitudes and expectations. Often men want a woman who can make money and women want rich men.

“A lot of people go into marriages with the wrong mindset, which is why they get disappointed after some time.”

He says he has organised around 500 marriages over the last decade, with a success rate of more than 90%.

He counsels couples to always take time to know each other well before marrying.

Mr Ado, who has the nickname “Mai Dalili” meaning “He who makes it happen”, says the high number of divorces means some people don’t take marriage seriously.

“I feel why divorce is high in Kano is because people feel I can always get another person after a divorce.”

Islamic cleric Abdullahi Ishaq Garangamawa defends the ease with which Muslims can get a divorce.

“Islam is merciful and made marriages and divorces not hard so that people will not be caged when things aren’t going right,” he told the BBC.

“In the past we didn’t have this many divorces as our parents were married for decades. It was in recent times that people started abusing the process for selfish interests,” he says.

“But in essence, unlike in some religions where it’s till death no matter the situation, Islam legalises divorce when things get out of hand.”

Mr Yusuf, who used to work for the now-defunct Nigeria Airways, says sharing life’s difficulties and helping one another has been crucial to his enduring partnership with Ms Tahir.

“Love is also key because when you love each other genuinely you tend to stay together.

“My advice to people getting married is not to get into it for selfish reasons but go into it with genuine intentions.”

His wife agrees, adding: “My own advice is that people wanting to get married have to be patient with each other – if one partner is angry, the other should be calm.”

Additional reporting by Abba Awwalu

More Nigeria stories from the BBC:

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  • Nigeria, twins and a love-hate relationship
  • The Nigerian professor who makes more money welding
  • Mr Ibu – the man who made Africa laugh

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Tennis, flags and fire: Photos of the week

A selection of striking news photographs taken around the world this week.

Iran’s new president gives hope to some women and younger voters

By Kasra NajiSpecial Correspondent, BBC Persian • Caroline HawleyBBC Diplomatic Correspondent

A relatively moderate member of the Iranian parliament, Masoud Pezeshkian, has been declared the next president of Iran after beating his hardline conservative rival by a decisive margin in Friday’s run-off presidential elections.

The 69-year-old will replace Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last month.

Dr Pezeshkian’s mostly young supporters took to the streets of the capital, Tehran, and other cities to celebrate – even before the final results were declared, singing, dancing and waving his campaign’s signature green flags.

He has given some of the nation’s younger generation hope at a time when many were despondent about their future. Some were even planning to leave the country to seek a better life elsewhere.

Representing the city of Tabriz in the Iranian parliament since 2008, he has previously served as the country’s heath minister.

In the 1990s, he lost his wife and one of his children in a car accident. He never remarried and raised his other three children – two sons and a daughter – alone.

His win has upset the plans of the Islamic hardliners, who hoped to install another conservative to replace Raisi and – alongside supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – control all of Iran’s levers of power.

At a polling station in Tehran, 48-year-old Fatemeh told the AFP news agency she had voted for the moderate as his “priorities include women and young people’s rights”.

Afarin, 37, who owns a beauty salon in Isfahan, told Reuters: “I know Pezeshkian will be a lame-duck president, but still he is better than a hardliner.”

Many voters boycotted the first round of voting last week, angry at repression at home and international confrontation which have brought Iran increased sanctions and expanding poverty.

They were also frustrated by the lack of choice in the elections. Of the six candidates who were allowed to run, five were hardline Islamists.

And there was a sense of despair that – with Ayatollah Khamenei having final say over government policy – there is little chance of real change.

One of those who refused to cast a ballot was Azad, a 35-year-old HR manager and activist in Tehran who has been jailed twice for criticising the Iranian government.

Azad, whose name has been changed for her own safety, says she is still traumatised from being kept in solitary confinement and enduring exhausting interrogations.

She told the BBC that regardless of Dr Pezeshkian’s win, the supreme leader remains the “puppeteer” in Iran.

“The reformists have had 45 years and they have made no effort to reform the political structure,” she said, referring to the time since the Islamic Revolution.

But in the run-off election on Friday, some seem to have changed their mind and turned out at polling stations, many voting tactically for Dr Pezeshkian in order to block victory for Mr Jalili.

He would have reaffirmed many policies that have been the subject of both domestic and international discontent, such as Iran’s controversial morality police patrols.

Mr Jalili took an anti-Western stance during his campaign and criticised the 2015 deal that saw Iran curb its nuclear programme in exchange for eased sanctions. Voters were concerned that if he won, his presidency could have antagonised the US and its regional allies – and worsened Iran’s economic situation.

  • Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian elected Iran’s president
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By comparison, Dr Pezeshkian has called for “constructive relations” with Western nations, and to revive the nuclear deal to “get Iran out of its isolation”. He has said that Iran’s economy cannot function with the crippling sanctions currently placed on it.

A win for Mr Jalili would have also signalled a shift to a potentially harsher domestic policy, reinforcing the requirement for women to wear a headscarf.

Dr Pezeshkian is against using force to impose the compulsory hijab rule – a major issue in the past few years.

He has previously lamented the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman who had been arrested for an alleged violation of the law. Her death sparked massive nationwide protests, unlike any the country had ever seen.

The president-elect is expected to take the reins of power in a matter of days to fill the void in government left by Raisi’s sudden death.

As well as pushing to revive the nuclear deal and ease sanctions, Dr Pezeshkian has promised to see Iran join international banking conventions. Conservatives have been reluctant to do so, depriving Iran of normal banking relations with other nations.

He has also said he will remove Iran’s extensive internet censors.

But it is unclear how much political freedom he will be given to bring about meaningful change.

He will have to “work across the conservative-dominated Iranian system to try and build support” for his more moderate agenda, said Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East & North Africa Programme at Chatham House in London.

“He won’t have too much independent room for manoeuvre except on the economic portfolio that sits squarely with the president,” Dr Vakil told the BBC, adding that even there, “meaningful progress can only be achieved through negotiations with the US to obtain sanctions relief”.

Sacred buffalo calf offers hope amid efforts to revive species

By Max MatzaBBC News, Seattle
Indigenous people celebrate birth of rare white buffalo

With cream-coloured fur and jet-black eyes, one of the smallest specimens of America’s largest native animal stumbled into the spotlight on shaky legs.

Advocates hope the June birth of a white buffalo calf – an exceedingly rare event – will translate into new momentum for a decades-long push to revive the species in America’s Great Plains.

Many tribes consider a white bison birth to be a sacred omen that signifies change. The herd this calf was born into has also become an important cultural symbol – it’s the last wild buffalo herd in North America.

The herd is entering a new chapter of its life as stewardship of the species is increasingly being overseen by indigenous communities again and advocates push to grow bison populations.

The American buffalo, also known as bison, once numbered in the tens of millions before being brought to the brink of extinction in the 1800s. Now, the only wild herd in the US is limited to just 5,000 animals.

But tribes and bison advocates see opportunity as Yellowstone, America’s first national park and the home of the white calf, considers a proposal to expand the wild herd’s size for the first time in decades.

The white calf has added spiritual significance to buffalo advocates’ efforts as they test a long-standing status quo where government policies prioritise beef ranching over the beliefs of native tribes.

A prophecy revealed

Just after noon on 4 June, Yellowstone photography guide Jordan Creech was sightseeing with clients when he spotted the freshly-born white buffalo calf, taking its first steps in the park’s Lamar Valley.

Bison calves can walk within two minutes of being born, and run alongside their herd within the first seven minutes of life.

“It’s the most unique experience I’ve ever had,” Creech says.

Erin Braaten, a photographer of Native American descent from Kalispell, Montana, also witnessed the calf’s first moments of life before it disappeared into the herd.

“I thought I’d have a better chance of capturing Bigfoot than a white bison calf,” she tells BBC News.

For the last 2,000 years the people of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakoda tribes have told the story of a woman who arrived during a time of need.

A version speaks of two scouts searching for food and buffalo in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

The mysterious woman appeared and offered their tribe a bundle of sacred gifts, including a pipe carved from red rock, and instructed the people on how to live and pray.

She transformed several times before taking the form a white buffalo calf with a black nose, black eyes and black hooves. As she departed, a great number of buffalo returned to feed the people.

Dozens of other tribes have white buffalo stories, interpreting its arrival as both a blessing and a warning.

Chief Arvol Looking Horse, a spiritual leader of the Lakota Tribe, is known as the Keeper of the Sacred Bundle — the bundle and pipe left by the spirit. He likens the white calf’s return to the second coming of Christ.

Looking Horse, 70, said that before she departed, the woman told the people that she would return as a white buffalo calf “when everything is sickly and not good, and when people are with a not good mind”.

“This is spirit. It means spirit is happening,” he added.

On 26 June, more than 500 supporters formally celebrated the white calf at an event in West Yellowstone, just outside the park. Nearly a dozen tribes were represented.

Together, they heard the name bestowed upon the calf – Wakan Gli, meaning Sacred Returns or Comes Holy in the Lakota language. An altar of three buffalo skulls and three buffalo robes marked the occasion.

Waemaetekosew Waupekenay, 38, who travelled from Wisconsin to attend on behalf of the Menominee Tribe, said the birth of the sacred calf has been a spiritual awakening.

Its arrival, he says with amazement, shows that “there’s a lot of healing, a lot of love going around. People are being united.”

National Park rangers at Yellowstone have confirmed the white bison’s birth, but rangers have not reported any sightings themselves.

“The birth of a white bison calf in the wild is a landmark event in the ecocultural recovery of bison by the National Park Service,” the park said in a statement on 28 June confirming it as the first white bison ever seen inside Yellowstone.

They added that it “may reflect the presence of a natural genetic legacy that was preserved in Yellowstone’s bison, which has revealed itself because of the successful recovery of a wild bison population”.

“The National Park Services acknowledges the significance of a white bison calf for American Indians,” it added.

A species reborn

The Yellowstone bison make up the only wild herd in the US and are among the last genetically pure bison in existence.

But Yellowstone National Park regularly reaches the legally-permitted capacity of 5,000.

Tribes who support the species’ growth have stepped in, believing the species’ health is tied to their own history. Since 2019, the US National Park Service has transferred 414 healthy bison from Yellowstone to 26 tribes in 12 states through the Bison Conservation Transfer Program.

Native people also have their own distribution system to share buffalo independent of the park’s efforts. Since 1992, the Intertribal Buffalo Council – a collective of 83 tribes working to “restore the cultural, spiritual and historic relationships” with the animals – has sent 25,000 bison to 65 herds on tribal lands in 22 states.

“People don’t understand or realise that what happened to the buffalo similarly happened to native people, and that history is intertwined,” says Jason Baldes, who serves as vice-president of the council and is a member of the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.

The returning of buffalo to tribal people marks a major change in federal policy for a country whose soldiers had once been ordered to kill them all to deprive tribes of food and supplies.

And officials are not only returning animals, they’re considering taking on more themselves: the National Park Service has just completed an environmental impact study at Yellowstone, and determined that the size of the herd should increase from 5,000 to 6,000 – but could accommodate as many as 10,000. It’s the first time the park has proposed an increase in 24 years.

The herd’s growth is made more striking by the fact that up to 60 million American buffalo were killed in the rush to claim ownership of the American frontier.

Unlike the native people – who are known to use nearly every part of the animal for food, shelter and more – the settlers killed them with reckless abandon, taking furs and leaving carcasses to rot.

By the 20th Century, no more than 1,000 bison remained in the wild.

Large-scale cattle operations took over the empty land and commercial interests continue to be a source of conflict between those who wish to see the wild buffalo roam as they once did, and the livestock industry.

Ranchers and the state’s Republican governor oppose the park service’s proposal to expand the herd, fearing a disease called brucellosis – which is carried by about 60% of Yellowstone bison – could infect beef herds and undercut profit margins.

The Montana Stockgrowers Association, which opposes the plan, has warned that the new policy could lead “to an exponential growth in bison numbers”.

Elk are also known to transfer brucellosis to domestic livestock, but do not face the same restrictions as bison.

Mike Mease of the Buffalo Field Campaign, a Montana-based non-profit which works to increase wild bison numbers, says the debate “is part of the old range wars of the West, competition for grass and which animals get to eat it”.

Yellowstone officials previously conceded that the controversy over bison management is a complex challenge with several opposing interest groups.

“It’s probably the single-most challenging wildlife issue in Yellowstone,” Cam Sholly, the park superintendent, told the New York Times last year. “The bison is the only species we constrain to a boundary.”

But for tribes, the birth of the white calf is proof that more needs to done to support bison. The fact that the calf comes from Yellowstone has imparted it with extra spiritual significance.

“The Yellowstone [herd] are the most purest, wildest buffalo – the only left in the country,” Chief Looking Horse says.

“This is a message that Mother Earth is speaking through the animal nation.”

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.

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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

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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.”

  • LIVE: Follow all the latest general election results news
  • Who’s in Keir Starmer’s new cabinet?
  • Laura Kuenssberg analysis: After impotence of opposition, Starmer prepares to wield power
  • Who is my MP now? The election in maps and charts
  • General election 2024: All BBC stories and analysis

Japan declares victory in ‘war’ on floppy disks

By Kelly NgBBC News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flames, chains and grains: Africa’s top shots

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

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

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

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

Followed the next day by fellow Nigerian star Burna Boy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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?

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Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian elected Iran’s president

By Kasra NajiSpecial Correspondent, BBC Persian • Tom BennettBBC News

Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian has been elected as Iran’s new president, beating his hardline conservative rival Saeed Jalili.

The vote was declared in Dr Pezeshkian’s favour after he secured 53.3% of the more than 30 million votes counted. Mr Jalili polled at 44.3%.

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

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

The leaders of China, India and Russia have all congratulated Dr Pezeshkian on his victory.

Even before the final results were declared by Iran’s interior ministry, Dr Pezeshkian’s supporters had taken to the streets in Tehran and a number of other cities to celebrate.

Videos posted on social media showed mostly young people dancing and waving the signature green flag of his campaign, while passing cars sounded their horns.

Dr Pezeshkian, a 71-year-old heart surgeon and member of the Iranian parliament, is critical of Iran’s notorious morality police and caused a stir after promising “unity and cohesion”, as well as an end to Iran’s “isolation” from the world.

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

His rival, Saeed Jalili, favours the status quo. The former nuclear negotiator enjoys strong support amongst Iran’s most religious communities.

Mr Jalili is known for his hardline anti-Western stance and opposition to restoring the nuclear deal, which he says crossed Iran’s “red lines”.

Turnout in the latest round of voting was 50% – higher than the first round last week, when the turnout was the lowest since the Islamic revolution in 1979 amid widespread discontent, but still considerably low.

Widespread discontent meant that millions of people boycotted the elections.

Lack of choice in the candidates, dominated by Islamic hard liners, and the impossibility of real change as long as the supreme leader tightly controls policies added to their frustration.

Some people who did not vote in the first round were persuaded to cast their ballot for Dr Pezeshkian this time round to prevent Mr Jalili from becoming the president.

They feared that if he won, Iran would be heading for more confrontation with the outside world and that he would bring Iran more sanctions and further isolation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet the new youngest MP – born in 2002

By Louise ParryLouise HullandBBC News, Peterborough

A 22-year-old elected as an MP with a razor-thin majority has said he does not want his age to be the focus as he heads to Westminster.

Labour’s Sam Carling is likely to be the “baby of the House” – the unofficial title given to the youngest member of the House of Commons – after narrowly winning North West Cambridgeshire.

The Cambridge University science graduate student beat veteran Conservative MP Shailesh Vara by 39 votes to take the seat.

Mr Carling called his victory a “political earthquake”, and said he hoped more young people would stand for public office.

“Then they will see themselves represented, both in Parliament and local councils. It will help tackle apathy,” he said.

The previous “baby of the House” was Oxford University graduate and fellow Labour MP Keir Mather, who won the Selby and Ainsty by-election in 2023.

Mr Carling, who has been a councillor in Cambridge, said many voters were surprised to discover he was running for office, but that “people on the doorstep were very positive”.

“They said ‘That’s good, we need more young people’.

“There is a lot of abuse aimed at younger people online, but face-to-face, people are generally thrilled to find out.”

However, he doesn’t want his age to be a focus.

“I want us to get away from this strange mindset towards younger people’s age. As far as I’m concerned we’re just the same as anyone else. I just want to get on with the job.”

He only recently became interested in politics, saying he saw a connection between social and economic decline and “decisions made in Westminster”.

Mr Carling grew up in a rural town in the north-east of England, which he described as “a very deprived area”.

“I saw a lot of things getting worse around me. I was concerned about shops closing on local high streets that used to be a thriving hub and are basically now a wasteland.

“And the sixth form closed, but I didn’t make the connection to politics until later.”

In his constituency, largely based in the city of Peterborough, he said the new Labour government had “a whole host of issues to deal with – it’s a microcosm of the country”.

He wants his party to “get to grips with” a lack of dentists and NHS staff “who are dreadfully overworked”, as well as “fixing rural transport”.

Mr Carling said it would be “interesting to see” what his generation makes of a new era of politics.

“I think a lot of people have only ever been conscious of a Conservative government.

“I would argue we can make significant changes and offer a better alternative, and hopefully engage more young people in politics,” he added.

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France ends ugly campaign and draws breath before historic vote

By Paul KirbyBBC News in Paris

France’s rushed and sometimes violent election campaign is over, brought to an end with stark appeals from political leaders ahead of Sunday’s pivotal vote.

Centrist Prime Minister Gabriel Attal said on Friday night that a far-right government would “unleash hatred and violence”.

But the leader of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella, accused his rivals of immoral, anti-democratic behaviour, and he urged voters to mobilise and give him an outright majority.

One in three French voters backed National Rally (RN) last Sunday, in the first round of parliamentary elections.

The choice a week on is between France’s first far-right government of modern times or political deadlock, and voters fear there is turmoil ahead whoever wins.

The climate is so fraught that 30,000 extra police are being deployed.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said 51 candidates, or their deputies or party activists, had been physically attacked by people of varying backgrounds, including some who were “spontaneously angry”.

In one incident, an extremist network published a list of almost 100 lawyers “for eliminating”, after they signed an open letter against National Rally.

President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call it less than a month ago came as a shock, but the consequences are unknown.

When voters speak about the election, the tension is often palpable.

Kaltoun’s hair is covered and says in her town on the border with Belgium, where RN won the first round, she and her daughter have felt increasingly uncomfortable. “It’s a remark or a look; each election it’s got worse.”

In nearby Tourcoing, Gérald Darmanin is facing a strong challenge to hold his seat from the far-right candidate who was just 800 votes behind him last Sunday.

That is why left-wing candidate Leslie Mortreux decided to pull out of the second round to give him a better chance of defeating RN.

In the 500 seats being decided by run-off votes, 217 candidates from the left-wing New Popular Front and the Macron Ensemble alliance have withdrawn to block the RN from winning. Although dozens of three-way races are still going ahead, 409 seats will now be decided by one-on-one contests.

After the first round, some opinion polls gave RN a chance of winning an outright majority in the National Assembly.

The final polls of the campaign suggest that is no longer on the cards. Even if RN boss Marine Le Pen believes they still have a “serious chance” of winning the 289 seats they need to control the Assembly, the pollsters say about 200 is a more realistic figure.

One major poll that came out hours before the end of the campaign suggested that the awkward series of withdrawals by third-placed left-wing and centrist candidates had succeeded in scuppering the hopes of National Rally boss Marine Le Pen’s protege of becoming prime minister aged 28.

“We are presiding over the birth of a single Mélenchon-Macron party,” Jordan Bardella complained. “And this dishonorable alliance has been formed with the single goal of keeping us from winning.”

The Popular Front is made up of Socialists, Greens and Communists, but its biggest party is France Unbowed, led by radical firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

He is widely condemned by his rivals as an extremist, and he is certainly no ally of President Emmanuel Macron.

Despite their agreement to keep out the far right, there is no love lost between the two camps.

“You don’t beat the far right with the far left,” the interior minister said, even though a France Unbowed candidate had pulled out to help him win.

The Macron centrists are third in the polls, well behind the Popular Front as well as the National Rally.

“In France we’re fed up with Macron, and I’m more in the centre” said Marc in Tourcoing. “The cost of living is bad, and the rich have become richer and the poor are poorer.”

National Rally has focused its campaign on media appearances by Mr Bardella and Marine Le Pen, and there have been claims of “phantom candidates” barely showing up in some areas.

When one candidate in the city of Orléans, Élodie Babin, qualified for the second round with little attempt at campaigning she later insisted she had been ill for 10 days.

RN is especially popular in rural areas.

In Mennecy, a sleepy town in the Essonne area south of Paris, Mathieu Hillaire was holding his final campaign event as Popular Front candidate. He is in a duel with RN candidate Nathalie Da Conceicao Carvalho, after the pro-Macron candidate pulled out to give her left-wing rival a better chance of blocking the far right.

Mr Hillaire said while the climate was less tense locally than elsewhere some people were still worried: “Of the voters that I’ve met, there are many who are scared of Jordan Bardella.”

Many of RN’s policies focus on cutting the cost of living and tackling law and order, but their anti-immigration plans have raised particular concerns.

RN aims to give French citizens “national preference” over immigrants for jobs and housing, and wants 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.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal spoke of an “uncertainty and worry” among the French people.

He said in the first round his party had averted the risk of Jean-Luc Mélenchon winning a majority. Now the risk came from a far right whose policies would “unleash hatred and violence with a plan to stigmatise some of our fellow citizens” and be catastrophic for the French economy.

But what happens on Sunday night if there is deadlock, and no obvious way forward towards forming a government?

The Olympic Games are now only 20 days away, and there is a suggestion that France might have no government or prime minister when it hosts such a high-profile global event.

Mr Attal, who had earlier suggested his minority government might stay in place “as long as necessary”, was far more vague on Friday night.

“Next week I don’t know what I’ll be doing, where’ll I’ll be doing it,” he said. “But I know who I’ll be doing it for: the people of France, that’s all that counts for me.”

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 a record 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.

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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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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 has taken 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 on 121. The Liberal Democrats have their highest tally since 1923, taking 71 seats.

The SNP is on nine 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 part 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.

‘I’m worried’ – Democrats at Biden rally open to change

By Mike WendlingBBC News, Madison, Wisconsin
Democratic voters chime in on Biden’s ability to run for office

The hundreds of die-hard Democrats who turned out to see Joe Biden in Wisconsin on Friday didn’t need much convincing.

The US president received an enthusiastic response to his loudly delivered remarks at the rally in Madison, especially when he attacked his Republican rival Donald Trump.

But as some major Democratic donors and lawmakers call on Mr Biden to exit the presidential race, even some of his most ardent supporters here in Madison are keeping an open mind about whether he might be replaced – and what might come next.

“It’s OK to change our minds,” said Catherine Emmanuelle, 44, who paused and considered her thoughts carefully before outlining her opinion.

She stressed that she was impressed with Mr Biden’s 17-minute speech, which she called a “presidential litmus test”.

“But if something happens in three days or a week or three weeks, we shouldn’t be afraid of having a conversation about change,” she told BBC News.

Mr Biden is under tremendous scrutiny after a disastrous debate performance last week, marked by a hoarse voice and several instances where he lost his train of thought.

The president, 81, is facing a tide of doubts about his mental acuity and ability to beat Trump, 78, in November’s election.

  • Listen: Americast – I’m still standing: Biden strikes back

Friday’s rally, held in this reliably Democratic town in a critical swing state, was an indication of the support Mr Biden still has in many parts of the country.

But the raucous crowd, which waited through several opening speakers and a hour-long delay from the planned start time, was also shot through with low-grade anxiety.

“I’m worried about his capacity to beat Trump,” said Thomas Leffler, a 33-year-old health researcher.

“As he gets older, I think it’s going to increasingly be an issue. But I’ll vote blue no matter what,” he said – a reference the Democratic Party’s signature colour.

Mr Leffler suggested that picking a new candidate might have unexpected benefits.

“If you go through some sort of open process, you can re-energise people, and show that there’s a process better than what Republicans have, which is basically just to bow down to Donald Trump,” he said.

Earlier this year, both the president and Trump secured the delegates needed to be their party’s respective presumptive candidates.

The Democrats’ nominee will officially be chosen at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago from 19-22 August.

On Friday, Mr Biden was defiant about staying in the race, telling the crowd: “I am running and going to win again.”

Some of the biggest cheers on Friday came when the president directly went after his predecessor.

“Trump is not just a convicted criminal,” he said. “He’s a one man crime wave.”

The prospect of a second Trump administration was an animating factor for many who came to the rally.

“During the debate, he told a bunch of lies,” said Greg Hovel, 67. “How is that any worse than what Biden did?”

Mr Hovel said he believed the country was in a “great place” and that Mr Biden didn’t get enough credit for his economic and pandemic recovery policies.

“At this point, in the next six weeks, the Democratic Party is going to have to make up its mind” whether to retain Mr Biden as their candidate or pick someone new, he said.

But the president’s performance on Friday further bolstered something he strongly believed, even before the speech.

“I think Biden can win,” he said.

More on the 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?

Endangered tiger enjoys meat-cake on first birthday

By Aida FofanaBBC News, West Midlands

A Sumatran tiger, whose species is critically endangered, has celebrated its first birthday.

One-year-old Lastari enjoyed a birthday cake cake made from frozen goat’s milk and chunks of meat and some shaped, blood ice blocks.

Born at West Midlands Safari Park, hers was the first tiger born in 16 years and the first Sumatran cub to be born in the park’s 50-year history.

Her milestone birthday comes after she had initially struggled to walk because of weakness in her front limbs.

After physiotherapy and walking aids to help strengthen her legs however, Lestari was soon causing mischief around the safari park.

It is estimated that there may be fewer than 4,000 tigers left in the wild and with only 400 of those Sumatran, it makes them the most endangered of the subspecies.

For her birthday, Lestari enjoyed playing with giant colourful boomer balls and splashing in the pool, which keepers say is amazing after her worrying start to life.

“To see her progress and become stronger every day, has been very rewarding,” said Chris Hodgkins, head keeper of carnivores.

“Although she seems very independent at times, she still looks for her mum, Dourga, and never wanders far from her side.

“We’re all very proud of the young tiger Lestari has become.”

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  • Published

England survived a huge scare in the last 16 of Euro 2024 when Jude Bellingham’s last-gasp overhead kick for the ages rescued them from a humiliating exit against Slovakia.

It set up a quarter-final meeting with Switzerland, impressive winners over holders Italy in their last match, in Dusseldorf on Saturday.

England’s poor performances so far in Germany have diluted their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites, but they still have a golden opportunity if a gifted squad can show their true potential.

So why should there be any hope that England can still flourish as Euro 2024 enters its final phase?

Centurion Southgate has chance to get it right

Somehow England have survived manager Gareth Southgate’s tactical muddle to still have the chance to put matters right in the tournament.

Southgate, who will take charge of his 100th game as manager against the Swiss, has overseen a mess in midfield, which saw the failed “experiment” of using Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold alongside Declan Rice ditched just after half-time in the second Group C game against Denmark. Conor Gallagher then lasted only 45 minutes when he replaced Alexander-Arnold in the next game against Slovenia.

Phil Foden has been a threat, but often forced to drift around the margins on the left-hand side, meaning moments of individual brilliance from Bellingham primarily have sent England into the last eight.

Manchester United’s Kobbie Mainoo performed creditably against Slovakia but once again the team looked unbalanced, uninspired and extremely fortunate to win after another dismal display.

This appears to have convinced Southgate of the need for urgent change – a luxury he is fortunate to still have given England’s showings in Germany.

And that means a switch to back three, somewhat enforced by defender Marc Guehi’s suspension. It is also a chance to give England more balance, potency and the opportunity to get the best out of what is, at first glance, an array of attacking riches.

Southgate could also form a golden triangle between Foden, Bellingham and Harry Kane giving England more shape and structure.

He was in defiant mood on Friday as he said: “As a 53-year-old, I’m not worried about losing or about things going wrong. The downsides for me are irrelevant.

“It’s about going for it. That’s the mindset and it has been my mindset throughout the tournament.”

This is a chance England and Southgate are lucky to have – but they must raise their game several levels to take it.

The Bellingham factor

In Bellingham, England have a player with the “X-factor” – as proved by that stroke of genius with 86 seconds left against Slovakia as their Euro 2024 campaign stood on the brink of a humiliating collapse.

His injury-time overhead kick was a goal, and a moment, that earned instant iconic status. More significantly, though, it kept England in a tournament when an inglorious exit looked certain and, on the mediocrity they have delivered, deserved.

It gave Southgate a chance to reset. Again.

The “who else?” celebration re-affirmed Bellingham’s concrete confidence and self-belief – bolstered even further by the 21-year-old winning La Liga and the Champions League in his first season at Real Madrid – that he is the player who can make the difference to England.

Bellingham has already done that, despite indifferent personal performances against Denmark and Slovenia, with defining contributions such as the winner against Serbia in England’s opening game and that moment of magic against Slovakia.

If there is one player who can provide optimism that the impossible can be possible in Berlin on 14 July, then it is Bellingham.

England can only get better

England have been a pale imitation of the team that carried so much hope and expectation with them on the journey to their Euro 2024 base at the Weimarer Land Spa and Golf resort in Blankenhain.

A richly talented group of players have looked jaded, disorganised and, mysteriously for a side containing the attacking threat it does, short on creativity and menace.

Southgate has realised so much has been missing that it must be addressed with a change of system to revive their fortunes.

Kane has scored two goals but has not been his usual threat. Foden has arguably been England’s most dangerous player, but the feeling remains he could do a lot more if Southgate can devise a tactical style to allow him to work more centrally.

Even Bellingham’s brilliance has come in those two flashes rather than with consistency, so Southgate’s hope going into the last eight is that there is still more to come from his key men.

It would be a source of huge regret to him and England if they went home with a sense of what might have been, especially as they have landed in a favourable half of the draw.

If they had been offered the opportunity of beating Switzerland, then either Turkey or the Netherlands, to reach the final before flying out they would surely have signed up.

It is in their hands and Southgate has seen signs of improvement, saying: “There has been a lot of expectation on the team in the early part of the tournament.

“I feel the team, in training, looks in a different place mentally. They look more fluid and I’m expecting us to play well.”

If England are to fulfil those hopes, they cannot afford another poor show against Switzerland.

Echoes of Italia ’90 for England

When England began their 1990 World Cup campaign in Italy with a tedious 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland, Rome newspaper La Repubblica carried the headline “Is This All There Is To England?”

Those words could have been repeated after Southgate’s side drew with Denmark and Slovenia, as well as the scrape to victory against Slovakia.

England have received scrutiny and criticism in Germany and cannot escape the fact it has been merited.

In Italy, manager Bobby Robson proved there was more to that particular vintage by altering his system to a back five for the next group game against a Netherlands side boasting Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten, Ronald Koeman and Frank Rijkaard.

Terry Butcher, Des Walker and Mark Wright – who scored the winner in the final group game against Egypt – took on the centre-back roles as a Paul Gascoigne-inspired England reached the semi-final, eventually losing on penalties to West Germany.

Southgate also looks to have decided on this radical shift to cure England’s lack of balance with Kyle Walker, John Stones and Ezri Konsa set to be employed as the back three against Switzerland to help spark his side into life.

It is a bold move to make midway through a tournament, as well as evidence of a previously flawed plan. Yet history shows it can work. If it brings the best out of players such as Bellingham and Foden and gives more ammunition to main marksman Kane then it is a risk worth taking.

England have the players to make such a system work if they can unlock the potential that has been hidden away in Germany. Can they now do it?

England beware – ‘confident’ Switzerland ‘in great shape’

Switzerland are now regarded dark horses to win Euro 2024, posing a serious danger to England, especially if Southgate’s side perform as poorly as they have.

The 2-0 win over Italy was framed in some quarters as being down to the holders’ under-performing. This does a grave disservice to a confident, competent Swiss side under the shrewd leadership of coach Murat Yakin.

It also came on the back of fine display against Germany, when the hosts needed Niclas Fullkrug’s injury-time header to earn a point.

Switzerland have players known to England’s squad too, such as outstanding Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji, former Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka – the driving force behind Bayer Leverkusen’s trophy treble in their unbeaten Bundesliga season – and Newcastle United defender Fabian Schar.

Former Stoke City and Liverpool maverick Xherdan Shaqiri can still make an impact, as Scotland found out, while Remo Freuler has been outstanding in midfield, as has Ruben Vargas on the left.

This well-rounded team has scored seven goals from seven different scorers and the mood was genuinely confident when Yakin addressed the media on Friday night.

He said: “We are in great shape. We have a lot of confidence. We have shown against Germany and Italy we can play against the big teams.

“We played well against the reigning champions, we played well against the hosts. We will cause problems for England.”

England have been warned.

  • Published

“If they were playing in the back garden I’d close the curtains.”

Not a flattering description for a side who have just reached the semi-finals of Euro 2024.

But that is how former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton felt as he watched France stumble past Portugal, needing a penalty shootout to progress.

Their performance did very little to silence their critics, who have grown louder throughout the tournament, as France are still to score a goal from open play.

With superstar striker Kylian Mbappe yet to hit top form and struggling with the broken nose he suffered in the group stage, France have ridden their luck to reach this stage having largely underwhelmed and disappointed.

But manager Didier Deschamps remains defiant.

“We are now in the semi-finals and you could see the emotions we had with the fans,” he said afterwards.

“It is pride for my players even though not everything has been done perfectly. We just keep going. I’d like to seize this moment and make the most out of it.”

‘Bang average’ – but do France care?

No side has ever gone longer without a goal from open play in the tournament’s history than France’s five games.

With an array of attacking talent at their disposal, it is a shocking statistic.

Vice-captain Antoine Griezmann was substituted after 67 minutes in Hamburg, while Mbappe had to come off in extra time having registered two tame shots on target.

An inspired substitute performance from Ousmane Dembele put a little shine on an otherwise dismal display but, with Spain up next, France must surely improve.

“France did not deserve to go through and they have been bang average in this competition,” said former striker Sutton.

“But it is about finding a way in tournament football. Didier Deschamps stumbles through again.

“Still, it’s pretty staggering when you look at the players. Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann were ineffective.

“In the final third, their link-up play has not been there – that has been the story of France [at Euro 2024].”

Second favourites to win the tournament, external a few weeks ago and the highest-ranked European side in world football, France have failed to flatter and yet find themselves in the semi-finals.

Former England defender Rio Ferdinand said: “We mentioned the style of football, but do France care?”

“The resilience and grit they showed to get to this point… There were some wonderful penalties taken in the shootout.”

‘It’s worked up until now’

Portugal created more chances, dominated possession and stamped their authority on a largely forgettable tie in Hamburg.

Rafael Leao caused problems down the left-hand side, while Bruno Fernandes came close on a few occasions in the second half.

A strong defensive display – helped by another colossal performance by Arsenal’s William Saliba – helped France battle through.

“I will always defend my players. Kylian [Mbappe] and Antoine [Griezmann] are not playing their best football but, despite this, we’re here,” said Deschamps.

“Of course both are supposed to make us more efficient and we lack efficiency but they are hanging in there. They are part of a team.

“Beyond their football qualities, there is still a team strength that is alive. We had good substitutions and it’s worked up until now.”

It has worked so far but will it work again when France face in-form Spain, who overcame Germany in their quarter-final and have emerged as main contenders?

Ferdinand said France “ruined the game” against Portugal because of their gameplan, while ex-midfielder Danny Murphy said Deschamps “could be more adventurous”.

“You do feel with the quality of the French players, Deschamps could be more on the front foot. Maybe the argument is the success he’s had is proof enough,” added Murphy.

But, while criticism remains, belief has grown within the France squad.

With their impressive defensive record recently – just one goal conceded in seven matches – they have been able to stay in games.

Now, just two matches away from European glory, Dembele believes they can go all the way, even if they are not at their best.

“Since 2014 the French national team has done very well apart from at Euro 2020 when we went out in the last 16,” said Dembele.

“Our character has got stronger and we show solidarity. There have been difficult matches this year. We have reached the semi-finals and that shows how solid the team is.

“From a defensive point of view, we did a great job. That’s how we won the match. We were solid and we kept that.”

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