BBC 2024-07-08 16:07:24


What just happened in France’s shock election?

By Paul KirbyBBC News in Paris

Nobody expected this. High drama, for sure, but this was a shock.

When the graphics flashed up on all the big French channels, it was not the far right of Marine Le Pen and her young prime minister-in-waiting Jordan Bardella who were on course for victory.

It was the left who had clinched it, and Emmanuel Macron’s centrists had staged an unexpected comeback, pushing the far-right National Rally (RN) into third.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the veteran left-wing firebrand seen by his critics as an extremist, wasted no time in proclaiming victory.

“The president must call on the New Popular Front to govern,” he told supporters in Stalingrad square, insisting Mr Macron had to recognise that he and his coalition had lost.

His alliance, drawn up in a hurry for President Macron’s surprise election, includes his own radical France Unbowed, along with Greens, Socialists and Communists and even Trotskyists. But their victory is nowhere big enough to govern.

France is going to have a hung parliament. None of the three blocs can form an outright majority by themselves of 289 seats in the 577-seat parliament.

  • Live: France faces hung parliament deadlock after left alliance wins most seats

As soon as he had spoken, Mr Mélenchon went off to a much bigger square, Place de la République, to celebrate his success with a crowd of 8,000 people, according to police numbers.

For National Rally’s supporters the champagne was fast turning flat at their celebration-gone-wrong in the Bois de Vincennes forest to the south-east of Paris.

Only a week ago all the talk had been of a possible absolute majority, and Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella were still talking up their chances a couple of days before the vote.

Marine Le Pen put a brave face on it. “Two years ago we had just seven MPs. Tonight RN is the first party in France in terms of MP numbers.”

In the last parliament they had 88 MPs and now more than 140, so she was right. And no other party has more than 100 MPs, because the Macronists and the Popular Front are both coalitions.

Jordan Bardella complained that his party had been foiled by unnatural “alliances of dishonour”, forged by a “single party” made up of the Macron camp and the left. He wasn’t wrong about the unnatural alliance, but it is only a temporary one of convenience.

More than 200 candidates who saw themselves as part of a “republican front”, pulled out of the second round so that a better-placed rival could stop RN winning.

Not even Marine Le Pen’s younger sister, Marie-Caroline, was able to offer a glimmer of good news from her own election battle around Le Mans.

Her bid to get into parliament failed by just 225 votes, defeated by Mr Mélenchon’s candidate, Elise Leboucher, after the Macron candidate dropped out.

Turnout, at 66.63%, was the highest in a parliamentary second round since 1997. Even if RN’s vote held up, this time it was having to contend with non-RN votes often being used tactically to create a “barrage” or block against them.

All over France, RN was losing run-offs it needed to win.

Some of their candidates were less than appealing.

There was the woman who promised to stop making racist jokes if she was elected in Puy-de-Dôme; and then there was the ill-equipped young man in Haute-Savoie in the south-east who took part in a TV debate with his centrist rival and made barely any sense on anything.

They both lost, but they reflected RN’s big advance in rural areas.

RN scored 32% of the vote – 37% with their right-wing allies – and for more than 10 million voters a taboo has been broken.

In Meaux, east of Paris, RN won but not by much.

After casting her vote, Claudine said people she knew tended not to admit to voting RN, unless they were with close friends.

Before the projected result at 8pm, there was fevered speculation about whether President Macron would come out and speak. Word spread that he had gone into a meeting 90 minutes earlier.

Gabriel Attal, his beleaguered prime minister, eventually appeared to give the government’s response.

Four weeks ago, he had sat stony-faced and arms folded opposite the president as Mr Macron revealed his election plan.

Now he announced he would be handing his boss his resignation in the morning, but he would stay on as long as duty called.

Mr Attal is supposed to fly off on Tuesday evening to a Nato meeting in Washington. It’s hard to imagine him being replaced just yet.

France has entered a period of political instability with no obvious way out. There had been talk of unrest on the streets, but only a handful of incidents were reported in Paris and cities including Nantes and Lyon,

All eyes are now on the president, who will have to navigate a way out of this deadlock.

The new National Assembly is due to convene in 10 days’ time, but the Paris Olympics starts on 26 July and France could do with a period of calm.

Left-leaning newspaper Libération summed up the whole night with the headline .

“It’s crazy,” in colloquial French, but for them it’s also a relief that voters brought RN’s bid for power to a halt.

French people reject the far right – again

By Hugh SchofieldBBC News

The French have said it again: they do not want the far right in power.

They gave them a big win in the European elections; they gave them a big win in the first round of this parliamentary election.

But when it came to a vote that really counted, just as in the presidentials, they drew back from the brink.

This surprise upset which has reduced the National Rally (RN) to third place – with perhaps 150 seats compared with predictions a week ago of nearly 300 – is due entirely to voters turning out in large numbers to stop them.

Bardella: ‘Dishonourable alliance deprived’ France of RN victory

The RN will argue – with some justice – that this was only possible because the other parties came together to play the system.

They note that the disparate parties of the left all suddenly forgot their differences to form a new anti-RN coalition; and then that the Macronites and the left forgot their differences too.

They note that nothing unites these politicians (from Edouard Philippe on the centre right to Philippe Poutou of the Trotskyist left) except their opposition to the RN. And that this lack of agreement bodes ill for the future.

Nonetheless, the fact remains. Most people do not want the far right – either because they oppose its ideas, or because they fear the unrest that would inevitably attend its coming to power.

So if Jordan Bardella will not be the country’s next prime minister, who will be?

That is the great unknown. And contrary to convention following previous French parliamentary elections, it may be weeks before we have an answer.

Because something has happened these past tense weeks to change the very nature of the French political system.

  • Live: France faces hung parliament deadlock after left alliance wins most seats
Left alliance supporters burst into cheers in Paris’s Stalingrad Square

As Alain Duhamel — veteran of every election since Charles de Gaulle – put it: “Today there is no longer any dominant party. Since Macron came to power seven years ago, we have been in a period of deconstruction of our political forces.

“Perhaps now we are beginning a period of reconstruction.”

What he means is that there is now a multitude of political forces: three major blocs (left, far-right and centre); plus the centre-right. And within these there are competing tendencies and parties.

With no party able to call the shots in the Assembly, a long period of haggling is now inevitable aimed at forming a new coalition from the centre-right through to the left.

It is far from obvious how it will be formed – given the mutual loathing that the different potential components have expressed till now.

But we can bet that President Macron will now call for a period of apaisement – conciliation – after the tensions of the last weeks.

Conveniently this period will last through the Olympics and the summer holidays, allowing the French to recover their spirits.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal says he will hand in his resignation

In the meantime, he will designate somebody to lead the talks and reach out to the different parties. Will it be someone from the left? Will it be someone from the centre? Will it be a political outsider? We do not know.

What seems certain though is that France is about to enter a more parliamentary system.

Power will drain from President Macron, and towards whoever heads the new government.

Even if he manages to place a centrist in the prime ministership (far from easy, given the strength of the left) that person will exercise power in his or her own right, and on the basis of parliamentary support.

Macron – with no prospect of running again in 2027 – will be a diminished figure.

So has the president lost his bet? Is he regretting his haste in calling the elections? Is he ready to take a backward step?

We can be sure that is not the way Macron sees it. He will be saying that he called the vote because the situation was untenable; that he has clarified politics, offered the RN a fairer share of Assembly seats, given their widespread support; and that his gamble that the French would never put the far-right in power was correct.

And in the meantime, he has not exactly gone away. Macron’s power may be on the wane. But he is still there at the Elysée, consulting with his team, prodding politicians, still master of the political clock.

Euphoria and rage in Bordeaux over shock poll result

By Ido VockBBC News

“I can barely believe it.”

That was one left-wing activist’s response to the exit poll which showed the left ahead in France’s parliamentary elections.

At an election count at Pessac, in the Bordeaux region, disbelief blended into euphoria as the news sunk in that the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) – not the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) – had come first. Teary-eyed volunteers hugged each other and gave triumphant whoops as the winning candidate, Sébastien Saint-Pasteur, walked in.

“I am cherishing this moment,” Salima Z, an NPF activist, told me. “I haven’t thought about what comes next yet.”

The so-called “republican front” holding was key to the NFP’s victory. The front – a type of forced tactical voting, where some candidates withdraw to leave a single option for anti-far right voters – prevented scores of RN candidates winning.

East of Bordeaux, RN candidate Sandrine Chadourne expected to easily take the seat she was standing in. But in the end, she was narrowly beaten because of voters like winemaker Paul Carrille, who said he viewed voting against the far right as his democratic duty.

“Our institutions are strong. But it would still be very bad for the far right to win,” Mr Carrille told me outside the medieval town hall in Libourne.

Voters seemed to realise that they were in a unique – for many, uniquely dangerous – political moment. Turnout in the country was the highest for over 40 years. In some seats where the RN stood a chance of winning, numbers were up in the second round compared to the first.

NFP candidates were also helped by campaigns often grounded in their local areas. As Mr Saint-Pasteur, a longstanding local official, went around the town of Pessac on election day, he seemed to know many voters he greeted by name.

By contrast, his RN opponent was an 18-year-old high school student who was accused of ducking scrutiny by refusing to debate between the two rounds of voting.

But even though the RN underperformed expectations, its result was still the best in its history. It has only slightly fewer MPs than the other two blocs in parliament.

And the rage felt by its voters towards establishment politics is unlikely to dissipate. Sylvie, a first-time RN voter, told me she was angry at high taxes being used to “pay for illegal immigrants”.

“We have tried all the other parties – why not them?”

Addressing that anger before the next presidential election, due in 2027, will be the paramount task of the next government.

Mr Saint-Pasteur alluded to the scale of the challenge following his election victory.

“The French people have sent a clear signal that they do not want the RN,” he told me.

“But if, by 2027, people have not been given the answers they need, more social justice and less inequality… maybe this time Marine Le Pen will win.”

France’s far right ‘sad and disappointed’ over election result

By Mark LowenBBC News

The champagne was on ice, the jazz was on low: the scene was set at the pavilion in Paris’s Bois de Vincennes forest where the National Rally (RN) was staging what it hoped would be its victory rally.

Hundreds of journalists had come from across the world, the sniffer dogs in place to protect a party that was, we all thought, at the gates of power; the first time the far right would enter government in France since World War Two.

But as time ticked towards the exit poll at 8pm, the mood began to turn. Party apparatchiks talked in hushed tones of indications they had fallen short. Nervous glances were exchanged, the glasses looked more half-empty than half-full.

And then the screens told the story: of the National Rally beaten into third place by the left and by President Macron’s centrists. There was stunned silence – and then a smattering of applause by party supporters to try to keep spirits up.

“We are sad, disappointed, struck down by this result,” said Rosa Gave, as she clutched a French flag.

“We are victims of a dishonest alliance led by Macron to block us from power.”

That “alliance” was more of a pact, struck in the last week by opponents of the National Rally – that in many of the three-way races where the RN was in the lead, the third candidate would withdraw, urging voters to rally behind the figure best-placed to stop the far-right. And it worked. It’s a common electoral tactic here – but has still drawn the ire of the RN.

As Jordan Bardella, the party’s 28-year-old president – and the man who had hoped to become France’s prime minister – arrived, there were cheers from the dwindling crowd inside.

“Depriving millions of French people of the possibility of seeing their ideas brought to power will never be a viable destiny for France”, he said.

He denounced President Emmanuel Macron for, in his words, pushing France towards instability – and into the arms of what he called the “extreme left”: a reference to France Unbowed, the party leading the victorious left-wing coalition.

And then came Marine Le Pen, the National Rally’s leader, whose dream of national power has once again been thwarted at the eleventh hour. She was thronged by journalists, as her supporters chanted “Marine, Présidente!” A couple of reporters were pushed over in the melee.

“The tide is rising – our victory has only been delayed,” she said, calling President Macron’s position “untenable”.

  • Live: France faces hung parliament deadlock after left alliance wins most seats

The president who came to power promising to revive the centre ground, to bridge right and left, has done anything but – pushing the French to the extremes. And while many in the National Rally will feel bitterly disappointed that their victory in the first round of this election did not lead them to power after the second, they will be cheering a significant increase in the number of their MPs since the last parliamentary election, confident that one day their time will come.

“France has chosen the coalition of the worst,” said Matteo Giammaresi, a National Rally supporter, holding his champagne glass on a rapidly emptying dancefloor.

“What we say now is giving France hope for the future.”

The party will now wait this government out, believing that division and disunity will play into Marine Le Pen’s hands. And then, at the 2027 presidential election, she would be able to say – this is what happens when we are blocked from power.

What government now emerges is still deeply unclear.

A hung parliament awaits – and potential paralysis. France has been plunged into the political unknown – just not in the way pollsters predicted.

Boeing to plead guilty to criminal fraud charge

By Natalie ShermanBBC News, New York

Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal fraud conspiracy charge after the US found the company violated a deal meant to reform it after two fatal crashes by its 737 Max planes that killed 346 passengers and crew.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) said the plane-maker had also agreed to pay a criminal fine of $243.6m (£190m).

However, the families of the people who died on the flights five years ago have criticised it as a “sweetheart deal” that would allow Boeing to avoid full responsibility for the deaths.

The settlement must now be approved by a US judge.

By pleading guilty, Boeing will avoid the spectacle of a criminal trial – something that victims’ families have been pressing for.

The company has been in crisis over its safety record since two near-identical crashes involving 737 Max aircraft in 2018 and 2019. It led to the global grounding of the plane for more than a year.

In 2021, prosecutors charged Boeing with one count of conspiracy to defraud regulators, alleging it had deceived the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about its MCAS flight control system, which was implicated in both crashes.

It agreed not to prosecute Boeing if the company paid a penalty and successfully completed a three-year period of increased monitoring and reporting.

But in January, shortly before that period was due to end, a door panel in a Boeing plane operated by Alaska Airlines blew out soon after take-off and forced the jet to land.

No-one was injured during the incident but it intensified scrutiny over how much progress Boeing had made on improving its safety and quality record.

In May, the DoJ said it had found Boeing had violated the terms of the agreement, opening up the possibility of prosecution.

Boeing’s decision to plead guilty is still a significant black mark for the firm because it means that the company – which is a prominent military contractor for the US government – now has a criminal record. It is also one of the world’s two biggest manufacturers of commercial jets.

It is not immediately clear how the criminal record will affect the firm’s contracting business. The government typically bars or suspends firms with records from participating in bids, but can grant waivers.

However, Paul Cassell, a lawyer representing some families of people killed on the 2018 and 2019 flights, said: “This sweetheart deal fails to recognise that because of Boeing’s conspiracy, 346 people died.

“Through crafty lawyering between Boeing and DoJ, the deadly consequences of Boeing’s crime are being hidden.”

He called on the judge assessing the deal to “reject this inappropriate plea and simply set the matter for a public trial, so that all the facts surrounding the case will be aired in a fair and open forum before a jury”.

In a letter to the government in June, Mr Cassell had urged the DoJ to fine Boeing more than $24bn.

Ed Pierson, executive director of Foundation for Aviation Safety and a former senior manager at Boeing, said the plea was “seriously disappointing” and “a terrible deal for justice”.

“Instead of holding individuals accountable, they’re just basically giving them another get out of jail free card,” he said.

A Boeing 737 Max plane operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed in late October 2018 shortly after take-off, killing all 189 people on board. Just months later, an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed, killing all 157 passengers and crew.

In the 2021 deal, Boeing also agreed to pay $2.5bn to resolve the matter, including a $243m criminal penalty and $500m to a victims’ fund.

The deal outraged family members, who were not consulted on the terms and have called for the company to stand trial.

Senior staff at the DoJ recommended in favour of prosecution, CBS News, the BBC’s US news partner reported in late June.

At a hearing in June, Senator Richard Blumenthal said he believed there was “near overwhelming evidence” that prosecution should be pursued.

Lawyers for family members said the DoJ was worried it did not have a strong case against the firm.

Mark Forkner, a former Boeing technical pilot who was the only person to face criminal charges arising from the incident, was acquitted by a jury in 2022. His lawyers had argued he was being used as a scapegoat.

Mark Cohen, a professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University, who has studied corporate punishments, said prosecutors often prefer plea deals or deferred prosecution agreements, which allow them to avoid the risk of a trial and can give the government greater power over a company than a typical sentence.

“Because it’s easier to get than going to trial, it may ease the burden on the prosecutor but the prosecutor also may believe it’s a better sanction [because] they may be able to impose requirements that aren’t normally in sentencing guidelines,” he said.

He said there was little doubt that Boeing’s status as a key government contractor played a role in determining how to proceed.

“They’ve got to think about the collateral consequences,” he said. “You don’t take these kinds of cases lightly.”

The issues with MCAS were not Boeing’s first brush with the law.

It has also paid millions in penalties to the Federal Aviation Administration since 2015 to resolve a series of claims of improper manufacturing and other issues.

The company also continues to face investigations and lawsuits sparked by the incident on the January Alaska Airlines flight.

Democrats weigh risks and rewards of losing Biden

By Holly HonderichBBC News, Washington

President Joe Biden sought to revive his beleaguered re-election effort on Sunday, as members of his party debated the future of his candidacy.

The president’s halting debate performance last week raised serious questions about his physical and mental capacity to run. A prime time interview with ABC on Friday fuelled further speculation about his campaign’s future.

Amid the uncertainty, Mr Biden appeared at two campaign events in Pennsylvania, a key swing state, on Sunday.

But those efforts have not stopped the president’s fellow Democrats from weighing the risks and rewards of keeping Mr Biden, 81, at the top of the ticket. On Sunday afternoon, House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries convened a meeting with ranking Democratic lawmakers that reportedly included discussion of Mr Biden’s candidacy.

Four of those on the call said they thought Biden should drop out, according to CBS, the BBC’s US news partner. Sources said at least three others expressed concern about his chances in November.

A number of top Democratic figures also voiced their stances in televised interviews over the weekend, aiming to address the question: is it riskier to stick with Mr Biden or to leave him behind?

Some say the party could be headed to defeat against Donald Trump in November if Mr Biden stays on, but others say replacing him comes with many unknowns.

Some see potential in a fresh start

Amid the fallout of Mr Biden’s disastrous debate performance, asking the president to step aside could bring some immediate relief.

Some Democrats, including avowed supporters of the president, have said as much, suggesting that concerns about his age and mental acuity had grown difficult to overcome.

The debate “rightfully raised questions among the American people about whether the president has the vigour to defeat Donald Trump”, said California Representative Adam Schiff on Sunday.

Mr Schiff stopped short of saying Biden should drop out in his interview with NBC News – a position taken publicly by five House Democrats so far.

Instead, Mr Schiff urged him to seek advice from people with “distance and objectivity” and make a decision about whether he believes he is the best candidate to run.

“Given Joe Biden’s incredible record, given Donald Trump’s terrible record, he [Biden] should be mopping the floor with Donald Trump,” Mr Schiff said. “It should not be even close and there’s only one reason it is close, and that’s the president’s age.”

Mr Biden is 81, while Trump has just turned 78. The ages of both candidates have become an increasingly contentious point among voters.

On the left, polls suggest some voters are losing faith in Mr Biden. In a Wall Street Journal poll released on Friday, 86% of Democrats said they would support Mr Biden, down from 93% in February.

A different candidate may also offer a clean slate in other areas, too. Before this wave of Democratic panic, Mr Biden drew criticism from voters on several policy fronts, including his handling of the US economy and the migrant crisis at the country’s southern border.

Clip of Biden in an exclusive interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos

The president faced a threat of defection from progressive voters who oppose his response to Israel’s war in Gaza. Their resistance cost him more than 100,000 votes in Michigan – a crucial swing state – during its primary in February.

A Biden ticket “is going to drag everybody else down”, said former Ohio Representative Tim Ryan on Sunday in an interview with Fox News. “I think you’re going to see a significant amount of pressure whether it’s today or tomorrow, sometime this week, as members come back that this may be untenable for them.”

Others say the unknown is too big a risk

Any benefit to losing Mr Biden may be muted by the looming risks, according to some Democratic leaders.

If the president stood aside, most of what comes after remains unclear: who would replace Mr Biden, and how? And how would that candidate fare against Trump?

And in recent days, several Biden allies have stressed the pitfalls of charting a new course, arguing that Mr Biden has been a proven success.

“Biden is old,” said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, 82, on CBS News on Sunday. “He is not as articulate as he once was. I wish he could jump up the steps on Air Force One. He can’t. What we have got to focus on is policy – whose policies have and will benefit the vast majority of the people in this country.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who spent the weekend stumping for the president, said the same at a rally in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on Saturday.

“It’s the hypothetical that gets in the way of progress in terms of promoting this candidacy,” Mr Newsom said. “It’s exactly where the other party wants us to be, is having this internal fight, and I think it’s extraordinarily unhelpful.”

Mr Biden’s public supporters say replacing him may become a direct benefit to Trump’s Republicans, who can argue their opponents are engulfed in party chaos.

“We’ve got to stop talking about this,” Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan said on CNN on Sunday. “We’ve spent a whole week. Republicans are having a great time. I mean, we need to get back to talking about Donald Trump and his performance.”

A middle path in keeping Harris?

Earlier this week, former Ohio Representative Tim Ryan put forward a potential replacement: Mr Biden’s Vice-president Kamala Harris.

“I strongly believe that our best path forward is Kamala Harris,” he wrote in a op-ed for Newsweek. “Those who say that a Harris candidacy is a greater risk than the Joe Biden we saw the other night and will continue to see are not living in reality.”

Though she has demonstrated only loyal support to Mr Biden, the idea of Ms Harris, 59, stepping in for Mr Biden has gained traction in recent days.

In Adam Schiff’s Sunday morning interview, the congressman said Ms Harris could win against Trump “overwhelmingly”.

As vice-president, and a 2020 Democratic contender, supporters say she is already campaign-tested and familiar to the Democratic establishment and its fundraisers.

Ms Harris “knows the job”, said former Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile on ABC on Sunday. “To ask the delegates elected to the convention who are Biden-Harris supporters to bypass Kamala Harris… it would be political malpractice.”

But what makes her attractive to supporters could also be a catch: age isn’t voters’ only complaint against Biden and the administration’s baggage surrounding policy choices could extend to Ms Harris.

Senior Hamas official killed as Israel orders fresh evacuation

By Sebastian Usher and Rushdi AbualoufBBC News

A senior Hamas administration official was among four people killed in an Israeli air strike at a school in Gaza City, Palestinian sources say.

A local official told the BBC that Ehab Al-Ghussein was appointed to manage the affairs of the Hamas government in Gaza City and northern Gaza three months ago.

The Israeli army says that it carried out a strike on the area of a school building in Gaza City from which it says “terrorists were operating and hiding”.

It says that it took steps to minimise the risk of civilians being harmed.

Eyewitnesses say the attack targeted the Holy Family School next to the Holy Family Church to the west of Gaza city. A large number of people were sheltering in the building, the BBC understands.

The air strike targeted two classrooms on the ground floor, they said.

Ehab Al-Ghussein was formerly deputy labour minister in the Hamas administration and before that an interior ministry spokesman. His death is not considered to be a blow to Hamas militarily, but he was considered a significant figure in the leadership of the Hamas administration.

Many others in the Hamas administration have been killed in the past nine months.

In one Israeli airstrike last November, the deputy culture minister and the deputy speaker of the legislative council were killed, along with other government employees and officials, as well as senior police officers.

Separately the Israeli military issued another evacuation order for a central part of Gaza City.

Ibrahim Al-Barbari, 47, who lives with his wife, five children, mother and sister in the Bani Amer neighbourhood, told the BBC that dozens of families were leaving and women and children were carrying bags and heading west.

“We heard from the neighbours that we had to leave the house. We haven’t received any calls or texts from the army, but we have already started gathering our belongings in preparation for moving again.

“We have been living in a state of near famine for months.”

Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that any ceasefire deal in Gaza must allow Israel to resume fighting afterwards, until its objectives are met.

He has previously defined these as dismantling Hamas’s military and governing capabilities, as well as returning hostages.

Hamas officials say they are awaiting Israel’s response to the latest ceasefire proposals.

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

At least 38,098 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s offensive, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

After Covid and Olympics, Tokyo’s first female governor wins third term

By Toby LuckhurstBBC News, London

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has won a third consecutive term in Sunday’s gubernatorial election, securing her position for the next four years.

Ms Koike received more than 2.9 million votes – or 42.8% of the votes – in Sunday’s election, beating her opponents by a wide margin.

Her victory will be a relief for struggling Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), who backed the 71-year-old in her contest as an independent candidate.

Ms Koike became Tokyo’s first female governor in 2016, and won her second term in 2020.

The conservative governor successfully guided Japan’s most populus city through the Covid-19 pandemic and its delayed summer Olympics in 2021, but also weathered controversies regarding her university credentials and infrastructure projects under her governorship.

Declaring victory, Ms Koike said her main challenge was “how to proceed with digital transformation as industries have changed significantly.”

She said she would consolidate efforts to keep improving Tokyo, including “the environment for women’s empowerment”, which she said was “insufficient [in Japan] compared to other parts of the world.”

Ms Koike’s appointment makes her one of the most powerful women in Japan’s male-dominated politics. She told the BBC that she won her first term “because I [am] a woman”.

“People prefer to have something new, or somebody new, in order to change society,” she said then.

With Tokyo accounting for about 11% of the country’s population and contributing to nearly 20% of its total GDP, it also puts her in charge of the city’s budget, which climbed to a staggering 16.55 trillion yen ($100bn; £80bn) this fiscal year.

She will now also have to work hard to improve Tokyo’s shockingly low birth rate, which came up as a major issue during this campaign. At 0.99 – less than one child per woman aged between 15 and 49 – it is the lowest of any region nationwide.

In all, 56 contenders were vying to lead the sprawling capital and a number of other cities in the prefecture. Voter turnout on Sunday was more than 60%, up from 55% in the 2020 race.

Observers had initially expected the election to be a neck-to-neck race between Ms Koike and prominent opposition politician Renho Saito.

Unexpectedly, Shinji Ishimaru, an independent candidate and the former mayor of Akitakata, a town in Hiroshima prefecture, placed second, a position that was long thought to be guaranteed for Ms Renho.

Ms Renho, 56, supported by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDPJ), came in third instead.

Mr Ishimaru, 41, was relatively unknown in Tokyo before the official campaign began.

His success is thought to be down to his appeal among young voters. During the election campaign, he focused on boosting his profile by reaching out to his large social media following.

As a former banker, he also focused on advancing the economy and industry of Tokyo.

After the polls closed, he told his supporters, “I did all I could”, alluding to the fact that he had no particular party affiliation, unlike the two main contenders.

Who is Yuriko Koike?

Yuriko Koike started her career as a journalist, working as a television news anchor before moving into politics in the early 1990s.

But it was not until 2016 that she came to true national prominence after winning the governorship of Tokyo for the first time. She was not the official candidate of LDP, but still managed to win comfortably, taking more than 2.9 million votes to become the first woman in the role.

“I will lead Tokyo politics in an unprecedented manner, a Tokyo you have never seen,” Ms Koike promised supporters on election night.

She officially left the LDP in 2017 to set up her own political party, though she retains the support of many in the party – who gave her their backing in the 2024 race.

Ms Koike vowed to focus on local issues during her term, including tackling overcrowding on public transport, as well as the culture of overworking in the city. But it was global issues that came to dominate her time in office.

The emergence of Covid-19 forced Tokyo to delay its summer Olympics, planned for 2020. Ms Koike won a second term that year after her successful handling of the pandemic, and garnered further praise for managing the delayed Olympics, held in the city in 2021 in the shadow of the coronavirus.

Ms Koike, however has not escaped scandal. An allegation that she never graduated from Cairo University – first reported during her first term – has never quite died away. Despite repeated denials from her and a statement confirming her graduation from the university itself, reports that she falsified her graduation documents still persisted during her try at a third gubernatorial term.

Opponents also criticised her for failing to follow through on her pledges in Tokyo. The trains remain overcrowded and overwork culture remains a problem, they say.

Of her 55 rival candidates, it had been expected Ms Renho would be Ms Koike’s main opponent.

The former upper house member was backed by the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, as well as the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party.

Ms Renho left the CDP before official campaigning started on June 20. She lost her Upper House seat when she filed her candidacy.

She rose to lead the centre-left group in 2016 as its first ever female head, but resigned a year later over poor results in Tokyo’s prefectural election.

Japanese media projected the race as a proxy war between national parties, as the conservative incumbent was challenged by the left-leaning opposition politician.

The gubernatorial election also took place amid a climate of general mistrust towards politics. Critics say this is linked in part to the economic difficulties of the Japanese followed by an end of the long historical period of deflation, and the weakening of the yen.

India event organiser arrested after fatal crush

By Meryl SebastianBBC News, Kochi

The chief organiser of a religious gathering in northern India where 121 people were killed in a crush last week, has surrendered to police, his lawyer says.

The incident in Hathras district in Uttar Pradesh state is one of the deadliest such disasters in the country in more than a decade.

Nearly all those killed were women and children who were attending the satsang – a Hindu religious gathering.

Chaos broke out at the end of the event as many in the crowd rushed towards the preacher leading the overcrowded congregation as he was about to leave in his car.

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

On Thursday, police said they had arrested six people who were part of a group that organised the event.

On Friday night, police said they had arrested Devprakash Madhukar, the main organiser of the event, in the Najafgarh area of the capital, Delhi, and handed him over to police in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state.

However, AP Singh, a lawyer for the preacher Bhole Baba who led the congregation, later said Mr Madhukar had surrendered to the police.

“We told you that we would surrender Devprakash Madhukar, take him in front of the police, interrogate him, participate in the investigation, and take part in the inquiry,” he told ANI news agency.

“We have handed him over to the special investigation team and the Uttar Pradesh police. Now a thorough investigation can be done.”

Mr Madhukar was produced before a local court and sent to 14 days in judicial custody.

He is a key suspect in the police complaint and is facing charges of attempted culpable homicide.

The complaint said officials had given permission for 80,000 people to gather, but some 250,000 people turned up to the event.

  • What we know about the India crush that killed 121
  • India preacher denies blame for crush deaths

The police report says thousands of devotees ran towards the preacher’s vehicle as he was leaving and began collecting dust from the path in an act of devotion.

Mr Singh, however, denied blame and told the BBC the crush occurred “due to some anti-social elements”. He blamed a “criminal conspiracy hatched against” his client.

He also denied reports that security guards at the festival had triggered panic by pushing away people who tried to get Bhole Baba’s blessing.

A three-member judicial inquiry commission has been established to investigate the incident.

Massive floods affect millions across South Asia

By Tessa Wong and Anbarasan EthirajanBBC News

Massive floods have swept through swathes of India, Nepal and Bangladesh in recent days, killing scores of people and affecting millions of others.

Large-scale rescue operations are under way, with authorities directing thousands to shelters while sending food and supplies to those who are stranded.

Major rivers including the Brahmaputra and the Koshi, which flow through several countries, have overflowed their banks due to heavy rain.

Floods and landslides are not uncommon during South Asia’s monsoon season, when it receives up to 90% of its annual rainfall.

But experts say the issue has worsened in recent years due to climate change.

Over the weekend in Nepal, authorities said 14 people had died since Thursday, with key highways blocked and some bridges swept away by swollen rivers.

Authorities estimate that this year’s monsoon has killed more than 40 people so far. They have urged residents in the south-east of the country to be on alert as the Koshi river, which flows through Nepal and India, is flowing above the danger level.

“This is not new for us, but the timing is wrong,” Kathmandu resident Rajkumar Bk told Reuters news agency.

“The flooding triggered by heavy rains started early this year, in July. The water level has reached up to our knees. If the rainfall continues the same way then we will have to run for our lives.”

In the Indian state of Assam, about 2.4 million have been affected by floods while 66 people have died since mid-May. Officials have warned of even more rain with water levels in the Brahmaputra expected to increase in the coming days.

Roads and vast areas of farmland have been submerged along the banks of the Brahmaputra, which flows through parts of India and Bangladesh, and other rivers.

Television pictures in recent days showed villagers salvaging their belongings and leaving their inundated homes by boat. Several bridges and roads have been washed away, disconnecting remote villages.

Assam’s Kaziranga nature reserve, home to nearly 2,200 one-horned rhinos, was also under water. Four rhinos and scores of deer and other animals have died so far. Experts have said it is one of the worst incidents of flooding in recent years in terms of the number of animals killed.

On Monday, officials closed some schools in India’s financial capital Mumbai as heavy rains overwhelmed some roads.

In Bangladesh, authorities said two million people have been affected by floods with at least eight people dead.

The overflowing Brahmaputra has inundated a quarter of the districts in the country.

“We live with floods here. But this year the water was very high. In three days, the Brahmaputra rose by 6ft to 8ft (2m-2.5m),” Abdul Gafur, a local councillor in the district, told the AFP news agency.

“We are trying to deliver food, especially rice and edible oil. But there is a drinking water crisis.”

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization is predicting “above normal” rainfall for the South Asia monsoon season that is expected to last until September.

How fetching water is holding back India’s women

By Anagha PathakBBC Marathi

Fetching drinking water is a gruelling daily routine for millions of women in India.

Even without enduring the scorching summer months or the freezing winters, they walk for miles every day, balancing plastic or earthen pots on their heads and carrying buckets in their hands to manage the household water stock.

“It’s a daily struggle. I get so tired that I collapse when I’m done,” says Sunita Bhurbade from Tringalwadi, a tribal village 180km (112 miles) from India’s financial hub, Mumbai.

Ms Bhurbade spends four-to-five hours every day travelling back and forth from her nearest reliable water source – a dry lake – to fill her pots. The water is dirty and she has to dig holes on the side for the water to filter through naturally and seep in.

“For four-to-five months every year, women have no option but to fetch water from long distances because nearby wells and water sources dry up,” she says. Ironically, her village receives one of the heaviest rainfalls in the region.

Because of this daily grind, she constantly complains of back and neck pain, fatigue and weakness.

The daily rigour also bars her and other women from her village from pursing a paid job.

“No-one will hire me even as a farm labourer because they won’t allow me to show up at work in the afternoon,” she says.

“If I go after water, I have to sacrifice my livelihood. If I try to earn a wage, my family stays thirsty.”

According to a 2023 report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef, 1.8 billion people worldwide collect drinking water from supplies located off premises, and in seven out of 10 households, women and girls are primarily responsible for water collection.

This is particularly true in India where, experts say, the need to secure drinking water is holding women back and hindering economic growth.

“First, women can’t take up paid work because they have to do all the household chores and secondly, even if they wish to find some work after doing their daily chores, there are not enough paid jobs for women in rural India,” says Prof Ashwini Deshpande, who heads the economics department in Delhi’s Ashoka University.

  • Water crisis shakes India’s Silicon Valley
  • Why millions in India are still without tap water

The value of women’s unpaid labour in Indian economy is huge. India’s largest commercial bank State Bank of India (SBI)’s Ecowrap report indicates that the total contribution of unpaid women’s work to the economy is around 22.7bn rupees ($276.8m; £216.7m), almost 7.5% of India’s total GDP.

The NGO International Development Organisation estimates that Indian women spend 150 million work days every year fetching water.

Experts say that if women can spend this time in paid activities, they can be financially independent and it can also boost the economy.

The Indian government says it is constantly working to improve water infrastructure countrywide. By January 2024, it said it had provided piped water to almost 74% of rural households.

For those who had to earlier fetch water from outside but are now getting piped water in their homes, the experience has been life-changing.

“I open the tap, water comes rushing… it’s like a dream. I had been fetching water since I was five,” says Mangal Khadke, who’s married and in her 30s and lives about 30km from Ms Bhurbade.

But there are still millions who lack access to tap water.

Around 700km away from Tringalwadi, in the Aaki village of central India’s Amaravati district, village head Indrayani Javarkar spends most of her day finding and collecting water.

“It’s so dry here in the summer that every day I wake up with one thought in my mind: where can I find water today?” she says.

Indrayani has two jobs: first, find and collect water for her family, and second, to organise water tankers for her village.

“Both the tasks are getting harder every day,” she says.

Ms Bhurbade says getting tap water for her is still a distant dream.

“[Women] start when they are children themselves. Someone hands them a small bucket and says, fetch what you can carry. And then, it’s a lifetime’s obligation – until she dies, she is fetching water,” she says.

Ms Bhurbade doesn’t remember a single year where she didn’t have to walk miles with a pot on her head.

We asked what she would do if she didn’t have to fetch water and had spare time.

She thinks hard and says she likes to sing. But her songs are also about water.

“Radu nako bala mi panyala jate,” she sings for us.

It means: “Don’t cry my child, I am going to fetch water.”

New foreign secretary wants to reset UK-EU ties

By Paul AdamsBBC News

David Lammy’s whirlwind first trip as foreign secretary, organised at very short notice, is not about instant results or even brave new horizons.

It is all about perception – the appearance of a new, vigorous administration, determined to hit the ground running, brimming with goodwill towards some of the UK’s most important partners.

After an evening spent with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock – the two found time to watch a few minutes of England’s European Championship quarter-final – Mr Lammy’s tour moved to the bucolic surroundings of the country estate of Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorsky.

After a couple of hours of talks, it was back on the plane for a short flight north to one of Nato’s newest members, Sweden.

Why Germany, Poland and Sweden?

Partly because of Ukraine. Along with Britain, all three countries play important roles in sustaining Kyiv’s war effort. With the new Defence Secretary John Healey on the ground in Odesa, Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer’s government is keen to stress that the UK’s commitment to Ukraine will remain rock solid.

Following a meeting with President Zelensky and his counterpart Defence Minister Rustem Umerov, Mr Healey said the UK would provide more artillery guns, a quarter-of-a-million ammunition rounds and nearly 100 precision Brimstone missiles.

“There may have been a change in government, but the UK is united for Ukraine,” he said, promising to “reinvigorate” support via increased military aid.

He also pledged to fast-track the reinforcements to ensure they arrive with the next 100 days.

“We want to double down on our commitment to Ukraine,” Mr Lammy said, as dragonflies swooped over a tranquil lake and a pair of majestic eagles circled overhead.

France, in the midst of its own election – one which seems destined to have far-reaching consequences – was not on the itinerary. Not this weekend.

No stop in Brussels, either. Sir Keir has said the UK will not return to the EU “in my lifetime”.

But Poland and Sweden are both key European partners and fellow Nato members – good places for the foreign secretary to start exploring the outlines of closer future relations.

“I want to reset both our bilateral relationship and our relationship with the European Union,” Mr Lammy said, adding a reference to Labour’s still rather nebulous pledge to strike a new EU-UK security pact.

Meanwhile, on a visit to Edinburgh on Sunday, the prime minister said work was already under way to improve the UK’s relationship with the EU.

He said his government “can get a much better deal than the botched deal that Boris Johnson saddled the UK with”.

Mr Lammy said that when European leaders gather at Blenheim Palace on 18 July for the next meeting of the European Political Community (established by Emmanuel Macron in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), “the new spirit of co-operation will be on show”.

Lammy’s concerns: Russia, China, Gaza

The trip comes just days before Sir Keir takes his own first steps on the international stage as prime minister, at the Nato summit in Washington DC.

These are tricky times to be shoring up relationships, with France taking a lurch to the right and the US possibly on the verge of returning the unpredictable Donald Trump to office.

Mr Lammy agreed this was a “tough geopolitical moment”, but said it was important not to confuse disagreements between mature democracies with the threats posed by authoritarian regimes.

“I am concerned when I see Iranian drones turning up in Ukraine,” he said.

“I am concerned when I see shells from North Korea being used here on European soil.

“And of course I’m concerned with the partnership that I see Russia brokering across those authoritarian states.”

Other issues hang heavy over the new foreign secretary’s first trip, in particular the war in Gaza.

In Germany on Saturday, Mr Lammy spoke to the need to strike a “more balanced approach to Israel-Gaza”.

It is not clear exactly what he meant, but with ceasefire talks apparently poised to resume, finding a way to end the Gaza war and revive the Arab-Israeli peace process seems destined to consume a large amount of diplomatic time in the coming months.

For his part, Mr Lammy’s famously anglophile host said the relatively new Polish government shared something in common with the incoming Starmer administration.

Both, Mr Sikorski said, were “the product of the public being tired with enthusiasts on the nationalist side of politics” – a remark which perhaps only partially reflected the true nature of last week’s general election.

Mr Sikorski said he looked forward to “a more pragmatic approach” from Britain to its relationship with Europe and said the two ministers had discussed “some creative ideas of how to further that”.

Texas braces for Hurricane Beryl

The US state of Texas is bracing for the arrival of storm Beryl, which has strengthened into a hurricane again, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters say the storm could bring destructive winds, storm surges and up to 25cm (10 inches) of rain when it makes landfall early on Monday local time.

Some of the state’s largest ports have closed in preparation, while residents have been warned of widespread power outages.

Beryl caused at least 10 deaths in the Caribbean before being downgraded to a tropical storm as it hit Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

More than a million Texans were placed under a hurricane warning ahead of the storm’s arrival.

It is expected to make landfall between the cities of Galveston and Corpus Christi and could reach Category 2 level, meaning that it could sustain winds of up to 177km/h (110mph).

The authorities say that even though it may not be as strong as it was in the Caribbean, it could still cause widespread power outages and disruption in Texas, as far inland as the city of Houston.

The director of the US National Hurricane Center, Michael Brennan, has warned those living in Beryl’s path to find a safe place to be through Monday “as hazardous conditions will persist even after the centre of Beryl moves through”.

“There’s a very considerable risk of flash flooding across the Texas Gulf Coast, eastern Texas, ArkaTex [Arkansas-Texas] region.

“Do not ignore this very serious storm,” urged Acting Governor Dan Patrick.

The ports of Corpus Christi, Houston, Galveston, Freeport and Texas City have all closed, meaning there could be a temporary halt to exports.

All vessel movement and cargo operations have been restricted.

Refugio County, north of Galveston, on Saturday issued a mandatory evacuation – stating the limited capacity of emergency services staff, 4 July holiday traffic and the area’s weakened infrastructure from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 as reasons.

Nueces County, meanwhile, ordered the mandatory evacuation of visitors and strongly encouraged locals to leave as well.

More than 2,000 emergency responders have been made ready to deal with Beryl’s aftermath, Mr Patrick announced, including members of the Texas National Guard.

According to US forecaster AccuWeather, landfalling hurricanes of this kind are somewhat rare for Texas in July.

Beryl is expected to move across America’s central states, including Mississippi, later in the week.

Hurricane Beryl has been an unprecedented storm. At one stage, it became the earliest Category Five hurricane ever recorded.

It has already left a trail of devastation across the Caribbean – hitting islands including St Vincent and the Grenadines, Mayreau and Union, and Grenada especially hard.

The storm was also one of the most powerful to ever hit Jamaica and left hundreds of thousands of people without power.

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

While it is difficult to attribute specific storms to climate change as the causes are complex, exceptionally high sea surface temperatures are seen as a key reason why Hurricane Beryl has been so powerful.

It is the first hurricane of the 2024 Atlantic season but 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.

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Hollywood icon Paramount agrees $28bn merger deal

By Peter HoskinsBusiness reporter

One of Hollywood’s oldest companies, Paramount Global, has agreed to merge with independent film studio Skydance Media.

Under the deal, Paramount’s non-executive chair Shari Redstone will sell her family’s controlling stake in the company in a complex transaction that will result in a new firm worth around $28bn (£21.9bn).

It marks the end of an era for the Redstone family, whose late patriarch, Sumner Redstone, transformed a chain of drive-in cinemas into a vast media empire.

As well as Paramount, the group includes the television networks CBS, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and MTV.

“Our hope is that the Skydance transaction will enable Paramount’s continued success in this rapidly changing environment,” Ms Redstone said in a statement.

According to the company its TV channels have a global reach of over 4.3 billion subscribers across more than 180 countries.

The merger would combine Paramount, home of classic films such as Chinatown and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, with its financial partner on several recent big releases, including Top Gun: Maverick and Star Trek Into Darkness.

Under the agreement, Skydance will invest around $8bn in Paramount, including paying $2.4bn for National Amusements, which controls the group.

National Amusements owns just 10% of Paramount Group’s shares but accounts for almost 80% of its voting rights.

Paramount said it expected to close the deal by the summer of next year.

Paramount Global traces its origins back more than a century to the founding of Paramount Pictures Corporation in 1914.

The studio has made many hit films, including the Godfather, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible series.

But the entertainment giant has struggled over the past decade. Paramount Global’s shares have fallen by more than 75% in the last five years.

Skydance is owned by David Ellison, the son of Larry Ellison, who founded US technology giant Oracle.

The announcement came after eight months of negotiations that saw Redstone holding talks with a number of potential partners including Sony and private equity firm Apollo.

In April, Paramount’s chief executive Bob Bakish left the company after clashing with Ms Redstone over the planned Skydance deal.

The deal comes as the global entertainment industry is being transformed by the video-streaming revolution.

Napoleon’s pistols sell for €1.69m at auction

By Kathryn ArmstrongBBC News

Two pistols owned by the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, with which he once intended to kill himself, have been sold at auction for €1.69m (£1.4m).

The weapons, which were created by the Paris gunmaker Louis-Marin Gosset, had been expected to fetch between €1.2m and €1.5m.

They were sold at the Osenat auction house on Sunday – next to the Fontainebleau palace where Napoleon tried to take his own life following his abdication in 1814.

The pistols’ sale comes after France’s culture ministry recently classified them as national treasures and banned their export.

This means the French government now has 30 months to make a purchase offer to the new owner, who has not been named. It also means the pistols can only leave France temporarily.

The guns are inlaid with gold and silver, and feature an engraved image of Napoleon himself in profile.

He was said to have wanted to use them to kill himself on the night of 12 April, 1814 after the defeat of his army by foreign forces meant he had to give up power.

However, his grand squire Armand de Caulaincourt removed the powder from the guns and Napoleon instead took poison but survived.

He later gave the pistols to Caulaincourt, who in turn passed them to his descendants.

Also included in the sale were the pistols’ original box and various accessories including a powder horn and various powder tamping rods.

Auctioneer Jean-Pierre Osenat said that the “image of Napoleon at his lowest point” was being sold alongside the objects.

Napoleon memorabilia is highly sought after. One of the tricorne hats that became a part of his brand sold for €1.9m in November.

The historic leader returned to power in 1815 following his exile to the Mediterranean island of Elba but went on to be defeated at the Battle of Waterloo.

He died in 1821 after his second banishment – this time to the island of St Helena in the South Atlantic.

How fetching water is holding back India’s women

By Anagha PathakBBC Marathi

Fetching drinking water is a gruelling daily routine for millions of women in India.

Even without enduring the scorching summer months or the freezing winters, they walk for miles every day, balancing plastic or earthen pots on their heads and carrying buckets in their hands to manage the household water stock.

“It’s a daily struggle. I get so tired that I collapse when I’m done,” says Sunita Bhurbade from Tringalwadi, a tribal village 180km (112 miles) from India’s financial hub, Mumbai.

Ms Bhurbade spends four-to-five hours every day travelling back and forth from her nearest reliable water source – a dry lake – to fill her pots. The water is dirty and she has to dig holes on the side for the water to filter through naturally and seep in.

“For four-to-five months every year, women have no option but to fetch water from long distances because nearby wells and water sources dry up,” she says. Ironically, her village receives one of the heaviest rainfalls in the region.

Because of this daily grind, she constantly complains of back and neck pain, fatigue and weakness.

The daily rigour also bars her and other women from her village from pursing a paid job.

“No-one will hire me even as a farm labourer because they won’t allow me to show up at work in the afternoon,” she says.

“If I go after water, I have to sacrifice my livelihood. If I try to earn a wage, my family stays thirsty.”

According to a 2023 report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef, 1.8 billion people worldwide collect drinking water from supplies located off premises, and in seven out of 10 households, women and girls are primarily responsible for water collection.

This is particularly true in India where, experts say, the need to secure drinking water is holding women back and hindering economic growth.

“First, women can’t take up paid work because they have to do all the household chores and secondly, even if they wish to find some work after doing their daily chores, there are not enough paid jobs for women in rural India,” says Prof Ashwini Deshpande, who heads the economics department in Delhi’s Ashoka University.

  • Water crisis shakes India’s Silicon Valley
  • Why millions in India are still without tap water

The value of women’s unpaid labour in Indian economy is huge. India’s largest commercial bank State Bank of India (SBI)’s Ecowrap report indicates that the total contribution of unpaid women’s work to the economy is around 22.7bn rupees ($276.8m; £216.7m), almost 7.5% of India’s total GDP.

The NGO International Development Organisation estimates that Indian women spend 150 million work days every year fetching water.

Experts say that if women can spend this time in paid activities, they can be financially independent and it can also boost the economy.

The Indian government says it is constantly working to improve water infrastructure countrywide. By January 2024, it said it had provided piped water to almost 74% of rural households.

For those who had to earlier fetch water from outside but are now getting piped water in their homes, the experience has been life-changing.

“I open the tap, water comes rushing… it’s like a dream. I had been fetching water since I was five,” says Mangal Khadke, who’s married and in her 30s and lives about 30km from Ms Bhurbade.

But there are still millions who lack access to tap water.

Around 700km away from Tringalwadi, in the Aaki village of central India’s Amaravati district, village head Indrayani Javarkar spends most of her day finding and collecting water.

“It’s so dry here in the summer that every day I wake up with one thought in my mind: where can I find water today?” she says.

Indrayani has two jobs: first, find and collect water for her family, and second, to organise water tankers for her village.

“Both the tasks are getting harder every day,” she says.

Ms Bhurbade says getting tap water for her is still a distant dream.

“[Women] start when they are children themselves. Someone hands them a small bucket and says, fetch what you can carry. And then, it’s a lifetime’s obligation – until she dies, she is fetching water,” she says.

Ms Bhurbade doesn’t remember a single year where she didn’t have to walk miles with a pot on her head.

We asked what she would do if she didn’t have to fetch water and had spare time.

She thinks hard and says she likes to sing. But her songs are also about water.

“Radu nako bala mi panyala jate,” she sings for us.

It means: “Don’t cry my child, I am going to fetch water.”

‘I had to downgrade my life’ – US workers in debt to buy groceries

By Natalie Sherman and Nathalie JimenezBBC News, New York

Stacey Ellis, a lifelong Democrat from Pennsylvania, should be the kind of voter that US President Joe Biden can count on.

But after four years of rising prices, her support has worn thin – and every time she shops at the supermarket, she is reminded how things have changed for the worse.

Ms Ellis works full-time as a nurse’s assistant and has a second part-time job.

But she needs to economise. She has switched stores, cut out brand-name items like Dove soap and Stroehmann bread, and all but said goodbye to her favourite Chick-fil-A sandwich.

Still, Ms Ellis has sometimes turned to risky payday loans (short-term borrowing with high interest rates) as she grapples with grocery prices that have surged 25% since Mr Biden entered office in January 2021.

“Prior to inflation,” she says, “I didn’t have any debt, I didn’t have any credit cards, never applied for like a payday loan or any of those things. But since inflation, I needed to do all those things….I’ve had to downgrade my life completely.”

The leap in grocery prices has outpaced the historic 20% rise in living costs that followed the pandemic, squeezing households around the country and fuelling widespread economic and political discontent.

“I’m a Democrat,” says Ms Ellis, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown. “I love voting for them. But Republicans are speaking volumes right now and Democrats are whispering.”

“I want somebody to help me, help the American people,” she adds. “Joe Biden, where are you?”

For the president, already contending with serious doubts about his age and fitness for another term, the cost-of-living issue presents a major challenge, threatening to dampen turnout among supporters in an election that could be decided, like the last two, by several tens of thousands of votes in a handful key states.

Across the country, Americans on average spent more than 11% of their incomes on food, including restaurant meals last year – a higher proportion than any time since 1991.

The jump in food prices has hit younger, lower-income and minority households – key parts of the coalition that helped Mr Biden win the White House in 2020 – especially hard.

But worries about the issue are widespread: a Pew survey earlier this year found that 94% of Americans were at least somewhat concerned about rising food and consumer goods prices.

That was nearly identical to two years earlier, even though the staggering jumps in food prices that hit the US and other countries after Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine have subsided.

Dylan Garcia, a 26-year-old security guard from Brooklyn, says he’s never struggled to buy groceries as much as he has now.

Instead of the fresh food and brand-name items he used to enjoy, he now stocks up on ramen noodles and frozen vegetables – and only eats twice a day because he can’t afford more.

At checkout, he routinely uses “buy now, pay later” schemes, which allow him to pay the bill in installments, but have led to mounting debt.

“I’m stuck in a loop,” he says. “It’s become an insecurity to pull up my phone at the register and have to use these programmes. When they see me, it’s embarrassing.”

Mr Garcia, who has long voted for Democrats, says his precarious financial situation has made him lose hope in politics and he does not plan to vote in November’s election.

“I don’t think the government has our best interest and I don’t think they care,” he says.

The White House maintains Mr Biden has been engaged on issues of food affordability, fighting to increase food stamp benefits and other government aid, initiatives opposed by Republicans.

At last month’s presidential debate, the first question was on inflation, and Mr Biden sought to shift blame to big companies, accusing them of price gouging – a claim that is hotly disputed among economists.

But despite strong job creation and low unemployment, opinion polls show voters continue to trust Mr Biden’s opponent, former President Donald Trump, more on economic issues.

On the CNN debate stage, the Republican White House candidate blamed Mr Biden for stoking inflation, which the White House denies, and said: “It’s killing people. They can’t buy groceries anymore. They can’t.”

The Trump campaign in turn denies that policies he proposes – including a 10% tariff on all goods coming into the US – would worsen price rises, as many analysts predict.

“We believe that a second Trump term would have a negative impact on the US’s economic standing in the world, and a destabilizing effect on the US’s domestic economy,” wrote 16 Nobel prize-winning economists in an open letter last month.

Republicans have accused Mr Biden of trying to mislead the public about the extent of the inflation problem, noting that Mr Biden has claimed, incorrectly, that inflation was already at 9% when he entered office. It was 1.4%.

Katie Walsh, a makeup artist in Pennsylvania, voted for Trump in 2020 and says she plans to do so again, based on his economic record.

The 39-year-old says her family has struggled to keep up with inflation, especially since her business has slowed, as people squeezed by higher prices cut back.

“I know he’s a big fat mouth,” she says of Mr Trump. “But he at least knows how to run the economy.”

Analysts say it is clear that the economy is important to voters, but less clear it will prove decisive in the November election.

In 2022, when inflation was at its worst, Democrats did better than expected in mid-term elections, as concerns about abortion access drove supporters to the polls.

This time around, issues such as immigration and fitness for office are also top of many voters’ minds, while economic trends appear to be moving in the right direction.

Grocery prices were up just 1% over the past 12 months, well within historic norms; and the cost of a few items, including rice, fish, apples, potatoes, and milk, has even come down a bit.

As major chains such as Target, Amazon and Walmart announce price cuts in recent weeks, there are signs the situation could continue to improve.

Some analysts also expect wages, which have increased but trailed the leap in overall prices, to finally catch up this year, providing further relief.

“We’re on the right track,” says Sarah Foster, who follows the economy for Bankrate.com. “Wage growth has slowed, price growth has slowed but, you know, prices are slowing at a much faster rate than wages.”

Stephen Lemelin, a 49-year-old father of two from Michigan, another electoral battleground, says he was pleasantly surprised by lower prices on a recent supermarket trip.

Whatever his concerns about the economy, the military veteran says his support for Mr Biden, who got his vote in 2020, has never been in doubt, given that he sees Trump as a threat to democracy.

“Nobody likes high interest rates or high inflation but that’s not under presidential control,” he says. “If you know politics, there’s really only one choice.”

More on the election

‘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 to 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?

Who could replace Rishi Sunak as party leader?

By Andre Rhoden-PaulBBC News

Rishi Sunak has pledged to remain Conservative Party leader until arrangements are in place for selecting his successor, following the party’s worst election defeat in its parliamentary history.

So far none of the party’s 121 surviving MPs have confirmed whether they plan to run in the eventual contest to replace the former PM.

Two-time former leadership hopeful Jeremy Hunt has reportedly ruled himself out of a run for the job, telling GB News “the time has passed”.

Here we look at some of those who might decide to throw their hat into the ring when the party’s leadership election gets going.

Kemi Badenoch

The ex-business secretary is seen as a frontrunner among the right of her party and has consistently attracted high approval ratings among party members in surveys conducted by Conservative Home, a popular website among activists.

Speaking at her count on election night, the North West Essex MP said the Conservatives had lost the public’s trust and the party had to ask “some uncomfortable questions” to address.

The 44-year-old Brexiteer previously ran for Conservative leader following the resignation of Boris Johnson and came fourth despite starting the race with a relatively low-profile.

It is arguably through her other former role – as minister for women and equalities – that she has emerged as a darling of the modern Conservative right for her stance on trans rights.

Suella Braverman

The 44-year-old MP has not ruled out a leadership run, but told GB News reflecting on what caused the Tory election defeat was a more urgent task than electing a new leader.

Ms Braverman had a spectacular exit from government in late 2023, when she was sacked as home secretary after accusing the police of political bias over pro-Palestinian marches.

She continued to hit the headlines over the demonstrations, describing them as “hate marches” and claiming that Islamists and extremists were “in charge now”.

It was the second time she had left that role, following her resignation in October 2022 after sending an official document from her personal email.

After leaving office she fired semi-regular broadsides at Mr Sunak’s record on migration, and rebelled over his blueprint to implement the now-failed Rwanda deportation scheme, a programme she once described as her “dream” to deliver.

She stood in the 2022 leadership contest to replace Mr Johnson, but was eliminated in the second round of voting among Tory MPs.

At her count on election night, she said “sorry” on behalf of her party for “not listening” to the public, saying the Tories “did not keep our promises”.

James Cleverly

The MP for Braintree has yet to declare his intentions. “What might happen in the future I’ll leave that for the near future,” he told Sky News.

James Cleverly has been an MP since 2015 and served in the cabinets of Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Sunak, becoming the first black foreign secretary.

The 54-year-old succeeded Suella Braverman as home secretary during Rishi Sunak’s cabinet reshuffle in November 2023.

He has attracted criticism for some gaffes, including telling LGBT footballs fans to be respectful at the Qatar World Cup, denied making derogatory comments about Stockton-on-Tees in the Commons and apologised for joking about spiking his wife’s drink at a Downing Street reception.

Priti Patel

Former Home Secretary Dame Priti Patel, 52, has said the Tories need to take a “pause and stocktake” following their election loss.

She became MP in 2010 and served as international development secretary under Theresa May, but quit amid controversy over unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials.

As home secretary under Boris Johnson, she launched the points-based immigration system, sealed a returns deal with Albania and Serbia and signed the controversial deal with Rwanda to send asylum seekers to the country.

Her time in office was also met with criticism, including getting involved in a row with England footballers over taking the knee, and an inquiry finding her to have broken rules on minsters’ behaviour – she strongly denied bullying allegations.

She resigned as as home secretary after Liz Truss became Tory leader.

Tom Tugendhat

The outgoing security minister Tom Tugendhat has repeatedly refused to rule himself out of bidding to become party leader during the election campaign.

The Tonbridge MP, 51, previously lost the leadership race against Liz Truss, during which he pitched himself as offering a “fresh start” and “bridge the Brexit divide”.

The former Army officer is seen as being on the centrist wing of the party, which could prove a problem with more right-leaning party members.

Mr Tugendhat voted remain during the Brexit referendum. He was highly critical of the Nato withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021.

Victoria Atkins

Victoria Atkins has not ruled out standing in the leadership race but said it was not yet time for contenders to launch their campaigns.

She told BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg: “This weekend is not about leadership.”

Having spent little more than six months in cabinet as health secretary, she is being discussed as a potential contender from the moderate wing of the party.

The 48-year-old became MP for Louth and Horncastle in Lincolnshire in 2015 and retained her seat in the general election, despite her majority significantly dropping.

Robert Jenrick

Robert Jenrick, 42, has said the Tories suffered a “devastating” general election defeat because the party failed to deliver on its promises to the public.

Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, he refused to talk about his leadership ambitions. “The first step for the party is to have a proper honest diagnosis about what’s gone wrong,” he said.

Last year he resigned his role as immigration minister, saying the government’s emergency Rwanda legislation did not go far enough.

He claimed “stronger protections” were needed to stop legal challenges that were “paralysing” the scheme.

That year he also made headlines for instructing painting over murals of cartoon characters at a reception centre to welcome child asylum seekers in Dover.

He became an MP in 2014 and also served as housing minister under Boris Johnson.

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She accused Assange of sexual assault, but is glad he’s now free

By Phelan ChatterjeeBBC News

Swedish human rights activist Anna Ardin is glad Julian Assange is free.

But the claims she has made about him suggest she would have every reason not to wish him well.

She is one of two women who accused the WikiLeaks founder of sexual assault 14 years ago.

The allegations – which Assange has always denied – were explosive, and made headlines across the world. They set off a chain of events which saw him trying to avoid extradition to Sweden by seeking asylum in a London embassy for seven years.

In 2019 the Swedish authorities ended their investigation. However, he spent the next five years in a British prison fighting extradition to the US, where he faced prosecution over massive leaks of confidential information.

These include US army footage showing Iraqi civilians being killed, and documents suggesting the US military killed hundreds of Afghan civilians in unreported incidents.

Assange was eventually freed last month, after a plea deal with the US.

Ardin is fiercely proud of Assange’s work for WikiLeaks, and insists that it should never have landed him behind bars.

“We have the right to know about the wars that are fought in our name,” she says.

“I’m sincerely happy for him and his family, that they can be together. The punishment he’s got has been very unproportionate.”

Speaking to Ardin over Zoom in Stockholm, it quickly becomes clear that she has no problem keeping what she sees as the two Assanges apart in her head – the visionary activist and the man who she says does not treat women well.

She is at pains to describe him neither as a hero nor a monster, but a complicated man.

The 45-year-old activist is also a Christian deacon, with a belief in forgiveness, and she uses the words “truth” and “transparency” again and again throughout the interview. It might explain why she is in awe of what WikiLeaks accomplished but, at the same time, bitterly disappointed that the assault allegations she made against Assange were never formally tested.

Ardin describes her encounter with Assange in her book, No Heroes, No Monsters: What I Learned Being The Most Hated Woman On The Internet.

In 2010, just three weeks after WikiLeaks’ release of the Afghan war logs, she invited him to Stockholm to take part in a seminar organised by the religious wing of Sweden’s Social Democrats.

Assange did not want to stay at a hotel for security reasons and Ardin was due to be away, so she offered him her flat. But she returned early.

After an evening of discussing politics and human rights, they ended up having what she describes as uncomfortable sex during which she says he humiliated her.

Ardin says she was pressured into having sex with Assange and stressed he must use a condom, but the condom broke and he continued.

She says he deliberately broke the condom. If this was the case, he probably would have committed an offence under Swedish law.

Later, Ardin writes that she heard from another woman – named in legal papers as SW – who had attended the seminar. SW apparently said that Assange had penetrated her without her consent when she was asleep.

In a 2016 statement to Swedish prosecutors, Assange maintained that his sexual relationship with SW was entirely consensual, and that in texts seen by his lawyers, she told a friend that she had been “half asleep”.

Both women filed police reports – Ardin’s case was categorised as alleged sexual misconduct, and SW’s as alleged rape.

The press got hold of the reports, setting off an extraordinary series of events.

Assange denied the allegations, and suggested that they were a US set-up. WikiLeaks had just leaked 76,000 US military documents – sparking massive global attention and scrutiny of US foreign policy.

On 21 August, 2010, WikiLeaks tweeted: “We were warned to expect ‘dirty tricks’. Now we have the first one.”

Another post followed the next day: “Reminder: US intelligence planned to destroy WikiLeaks as far back as 2008.”

Assange’s UK lawyer Mark Stephens claimed that a “honeytrap” had been sprung and that “dark forces” were at work.

A social media furore erupted which Ardin describes as “hell” – she tells me the amount of harassment and death threats forced her to leave Sweden at one point.

“I couldn’t work. My life passed me by for two years.”

To this day, many believe Ardin is part of a US conspiracy, and that her allegations are false. Greece’s former Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, a long-time supporter of Assange, last week described her claims as “mud” and “innuendo”.

No evidence has ever been found to link Ardin with US intelligence. She concedes that the narratives spread by Assange had an air of plausibility, because he had been “messing with the Pentagon”, but says the claims were nothing but “lies” and a “smear campaign”.

Months after the incidents, an international arrest warrant was issued for Assange, who was in London at that point.

In December 2010, he admitted to the BBC that it was “not probable” he was part of a classic honey-trap operation – but he still denied any wrongdoing.

Assange was convinced that if he went to Sweden he would then be extradited to the US – where he feared the death penalty awaited. In 2012, he took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

Sweden refused to guarantee he would not be extradited to the US, but said any move to do so would need to be approved by the UK too. Both countries also said they would not extradite him if they thought he might face the death penalty.

In 2015, Swedish prosecutors dropped the investigation into Ardin’s allegations as time had run out.

In 2019, prosecutors abandoned their investigation into SW’s claims, saying the evidence had “weakened considerably due to the long period of time since the events in question”.

By this time, Assange was being held in London’s high-security Belmarsh prison, facing extradition to the US on espionage charges. If convicted there, he could have faced 170 years behind bars.

Assange finally won his freedom in 2024, after agreeing to plead guilty to a single charge under the US Espionage Act.

Ardin still wishes he had faced trial for the alleged assault against her. “But he won’t. So I have to let it go.”

She says some of her doubters don’t take her seriously because they don’t think the details of her experience, or reaction, were dramatic enough.

She suggests there’s an expectation of sexual assault to always be brutal, involve a lot of violence, and leave the victim heavily traumatised – and if that doesn’t happen you can’t be a real victim, or a real offender.

But that doesn’t align with what Ardin describes as the reality of her experience. She stresses that doesn’t make it any less serious or unacceptable.

She slams many of Assange’s supporters – and journalists – for seeking a “one-sided narrative” which turns him into a hero, and her into an evil CIA agent.

“I think that we have a problem that we have to have these heroes that are flawless… I don’t think heroes exist outside fairytales.”

Ardin says her intention was never to write off Assange as a one-dimensional villain, to be “kicked out of society”.

Offenders are seen as “monsters, completely different from all other men”, she says. And this means the “system goes on”, she argues, as “normal” men don’t realise that they, too, can be prone to violence – so they don’t interrogate themselves.

“I want him to be seen as a normal guy. That’s what normal guys do sometimes. They cross other people’s boundaries.”

She thinks that progressive movements often have problems calling out leaders, fearing any criticism delegitimises the entire cause. “You can’t be a leader and abuse the people who are active in your movement, because the movement will not survive.”

People should not be able to get away with sexual crimes, or any crimes just because they’re influential, she adds.

The BBC contacted Assange’s lawyers for comment on the claims repeated by Ardin in our interview with her, but they said he was “not in a position to respond”.

I ask what justice would have looked like for her at the end of this saga.

Ardin tells me she is only interested in getting to what she describes as the truth. She is less interested in punishment.

“Justice for me would have been to have transparency. I was not happy that he was locked up because he was [locked up] for the wrong reason.”

Ardin is a left-wing Christian who attaches great importance to reconciliation and transformation.

But for that to be possible, she says that perpetrators need to own up and genuinely commit to change.

After all this contemplation, I wonder what she would say to Assange, if face to face with him now.

Ardin tells me she would urge him to work on himself.

She would ask him to admit that he “did not have the right to do what he did to me, and he doesn’t have that right towards other women either”.

“He has to admit that for himself… He has to reflect on what he did.”

BBC Action Line

Are deep shifts in Muslim and Jewish voting here to stay?

By Aleem MaqboolReligion editor

However big the headline change in the vote between the past two elections, drill down into two demographic pockets of Britain and you find staggering shifts.

It all centres around the relationships between the Labour Party and not just Muslim voters, but Jewish voters too.

It leaves a party in government that has made progress in winning back trust among people from one faith group while suddenly finding itself with a lot of work to do to win back many members of the other.

The drop in the Labour vote share among British Muslims between 2019 and 2024 very obviously played out in several constituencies. This happened most dramatically in Leicester South, with a Muslim population close to 30%, where Shadow Paymaster General Jon Ashworth lost his seat to independent Shockat Adam.

In the seat of Dewsbury and Batley, in Birmingham Perry Barr and in Blackburn, there were wins for independents in what had been safe Labour seats with large numbers of Muslim voters.

In places like Bradford West and the seat of Bethnal Green and Stepney in east London, sitting Labour MPs clung on with startling reductions in their majorities.

Mish Rahman, from Walsall, is not just any Muslim voter. He currently sits on the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Labour Party, a body of fewer than 40 members.

He is furious with the party’s response to the killing of tens of thousands of people in Gaza and the humanitarian crisis there.

“In my community it has got to the point where I am now embarrassed about my affiliation with Labour,” he says.

“It was hard even to tell members of my own extended family to go and knock on doors to tell people to vote for a party that originally gave Israel carte blanche in its response to the horrific 7 October attacks,” says Mr Rahman.

He lays the blame for the decline in Muslim voting for Labour squarely at the door of the Labour leader.

Sir Keir Starmer was criticised by many in his party, including councillors, for an interview with LBC in October in which he suggested that Israel “had the right” to withhold power and water in Gaza. His spokesman subsequently suggested the Labour leader had only meant to say Israel had a general right to self-defence.

Then when Labour MPs were told by the party leadership in November to abstain from voting on an SNP-led motion calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, some Labour councillors resigned and, for many Muslims, trust in their Labour MP was lost.

Faith communities are far from homogenous, of course. There are myriad factors that govern how a person will cast their vote, but faith does throw up a unique set of considerations that plays out in broad voting patterns.

Muslims are estimated to form around 6.5% of the population of England and Wales, with around 2% in Scotland and 1% in Northern Ireland.

Well over 80% of Muslims are believed to have voted for Labour in 2019. Research just ahead of the 2024 election suggested that had dropped nationally by up to 20 percentage points, and in some constituencies the Muslim vote for Labour clearly fell further.

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The contrast with Jewish voting data could not be more stark. In 2019, the proportion of British Jews (about 0.5% of the population) who voted for a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn is thought to have collapsed to just single figures. Research suggests that figure could have climbed back to above 40%.

“What we have seen is a huge bounce-back for Labour among Jewish voters,” says Adam Langleben, who was until recently the national secretary of the Jewish Labour Movement.

Mr Langleben, a former Labour councillor and now director of Progressive Britain (formerly Progress), points to Labour wins in London in the Finchley and Golders Green seat and also Hendon as well as Bury South in Greater Manchester, all constituencies with large Jewish populations.

“Jewish voters returning to the party has undoubtedly delivered seats to the Labour Party,” says Mr Langleben.

“You don’t need a majority of Jewish voters to win in these constituencies, but you also can’t only have 7% of them voting for you and expect to win,” he says.

Mr Langleben had been a senior member of the Jewish Labour Movement but was one of many Jewish members of the party to give up their membership during the Corbyn era. When he left in 2019, he said it was on account of the party being “led by antisemites”, an accusation always strongly denied by those leading the party at the time.

“It was a situation that was all-consuming. I would be canvassing for the Labour Party in a Jewish area and had people in tears on the doorstep saying there was no way they could vote for Jeremy Corbyn, and I was trying to juggle this huge personal tension,” he says.

Mr Langleben puts Mr Corbyn’s problems down to both a lack of personal reflection about who he was associating with, and what he says was the party’s inability to deal with extreme elements in its base and tolerance of the use of antisemitic tropes.

“From day one, Keir Starmer pledged to work with the Jewish community to try to deal with the issues inside the Labour Party. For him, fixing what went wrong was a personal mission,” he says.

But given that Keir Starmer supported Jeremy Corbyn throughout his leadership, Jewish voters at hustings in synagogues and community centres around the country had been grilling Labour candidates as to why they should trust the current leader now.

“The Jewish vote is now split and that’s how it should be. The results show there wasn’t a dominant party of choice, and that’s healthy, and still represents a huge transformation for Labour,” says Mr Langleben.

So while mistrust clearly still remains, what is responsible for the transformation in the perception of the Labour Party among some British Jews?

The fact that the current leadership’s criticism of Israel’s response to the 7 October attacks has been more tempered than it may have been under the previous leadership may have contributed.

But long before that, Mr Langleben cites a change in the way complaints around “protected characteristics” like faith are dealt with by the party, but also refers to one thing that convinced him he was right to re-join the party.

“The fundamental moment was Jeremy Corbyn being suspended from the Labour Party and then subsequently having the whip removed, because it showed Keir Starmer’s determination and his willingness to take on parts of the party that previously he had not been willing to take on,” he says.

Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension is precisely identified by Mr Rahman too as the first major showdown between different wings of the party under Keir Starmer.

Except, as someone who had been inspired by Mr Corbyn from the days of Stop the War protests in the lead-up to the UK-backed invasion of Iraq in 2003, Mr Rahman was on the other side, saying that was the moment when the alarm bells started ringing for him that the party leaders were not safeguarding the values he believed in.

Mr Rahman does not see the party’s anti-Muslim slant as being limited to its response to events in Gaza. He does not question there have been serious cases of antisemitism but does not believe all accusations of racism are treated equally.

“There is a clear hierarchy of racism in the Labour Party. Some instances of racism, including Islamophobia, aren’t taken as seriously as they should,” he says.

Mr Rahman cites the case of Trevor Phillips, the former chair of the EHRC, who was suspended for alleged Islamophobia.

Mr Phillips had said British Muslims were “a nation within a nation” and previously that their opinion was “some distance away from the centre of gravity of everybody else’s”, though later he suggested this had not necessarily been meant as a criticism.

Mr Phillips was readmitted to the party in 2021 without it going to a panel inquiry.

Mr Rahman, like many other Muslims, also points to Keir Starmer’s own comments, like those made in a Sun livestream during the election campaign, when he talked of migrants being sent back to the countries they came from.

“At the moment, people coming from countries like Bangladesh are not being removed because they’re not being processed,” the Labour leader said.

“Can you imagine the Labour Party saying that about people of any other ethnicity? Saying they’re going to deport people to Israel or Ukraine or Hong Kong? It wouldn’t happen and neither should it,” says Mr Rahman.

Such is his disenchantment with Labour’s response that, coupled with wider concerns regarding the treatment of Muslims, he lays a serious charge against the party.

“I don’t doubt for a minute that Labour is currently institutionally Islamophobic,” says Mr Rahman.

Mr Rahman wants to use his voice to call out hypocrisy in the party while in government, in the hope that it will learn what he says is a lesson of this election – that no voter can be taken for granted.

Mr Rahman did give up his membership of the Labour Party once before, in protest at Tony Blair’s role in the Iraq War.

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He, and other Muslims, felt persuaded to come back to the party in 2014 when the then-leader Ed Miliband condemned the scale of an Israeli operation in Gaza and the hundreds of civilian deaths.

Once again, at the same moment, Mr Langleben was seeing things very differently on the doorsteps of Jewish voters.

Even though Mr Miliband was himself Jewish, it was a time when polls were showing a rapid decline in Jewish support for Labour, particularly when the party’s 2015 manifesto talked about a parliamentary vote to recognise a Palestinian state.

“There were sometimes quite horrible conversations with Jewish voters who really cared about the issue of Israel,” says Mr Langleben.

“People in 2015 were accusing the Labour Party of antisemitism, but I think it fundamentally misread what antisemitism is. Then, it was a primarily about a foreign policy issue, Israel. That changed by 2019 when conversations were around a particular strain of far-left anti-Jewish racism,” says Mr Langleben.

For some of those supportive of the Corbyn-era leadership, that sense that criticism of Israel was being conflated with antisemitism was also something they felt occurred while he was leader.

The Hamas attacks of the 7 October 2023 happened during the week of the Labour Party conference and Mr Langleben says it was strange to see normal political business go on while he and other Jewish delegates were going through a difficult and upsetting period.

Ultimately, Mr Langleben says he has been pleased with the way Keir Starmer has handled the crisis, seeing it as Labour realigning itself with UK and US government policy on Israel.

This is precisely why during this election campaign, Mr Rahman had the hardest conversations on the doorsteps of Muslim voters he had ever had, with anger and frustration boiling over about Israel’s actions in Gaza.

“If you look back at the history of the relationship between our communities and the Labour Party, it’s always been a one-sided affair of loyalty from our communities,” Mr Rahman says. The Labour Party’s roots in his own family go back to his grandfather, who was a factory worker in the 1950s and 60s. Mr Rahman talks of feeling “betrayed”.

Gaza of course is not just a Muslim issue, and not all Muslims ranked it is one of the key considerations on which they voted, but it had an impact.

Similarly, Israel policy is not necessarily a major consideration for all Jewish voters, and even for those for whom it is, there are those who are highly critical of the Israeli government and are at odds with the response of Labour under Starmer.

But while over the decades the Jewish vote has swung between the two main parties broadly in line with the general population, it would appear that if one puts to one side all of the rows over antisemitism, the party’s outlook on Israel does impact voting intention.

Separately, both Mish Rahman and Adam Langleben are very clear that their accusations of discrimination levelled at the party in different eras do not just relate to party policy on the Middle East.

Even if everyone can be satisfied that accusations of discrimination are dealt with equally, such are the modern tensions around Middle East policy that political parties may struggle to find a position that does not alienate some members of one of these faith communities.

Labour has achieved much in winning back the levels of Jewish voters it has, but it has also left huge swathes of loyal Muslim voters in Britain feeling politically adrift, and large swings in culture and policy over recent years leave many in each community needing convincing of the true nature of the party.

Scammed by the fake Chinese police

By Elaine Chong and Ed MainBBC Trending

Chinese people around the world are being targeted by an elaborate scam in which criminals pretend to be Chinese police. A British-Chinese woman has told the BBC that she handed over her life savings to con men who wore uniforms in video calls and gave her a virtual tour of what appeared to be a police station.

Helen Young still has nightmares about the fortnight that she was made to believe she was on China’s most wanted list.

Scammers posing as Chinese police manipulated the London-based accountant into believing she was under investigation for a massive fraud back in her homeland.

Helen was presented with a mountain of fabricated evidence which appeared to implicate her in a crime she knew nothing about.

When the fake police then threatened her with extradition to a jail cell in China, Helen sent them her £29,000 life savings as “bail money”, in a desperate attempt to stay in Britain.

“I feel a bit stupid right now,” she says. “But there’s no chance I can know that’s not real. It’s so convincing”.

Helen’s story may sound extraordinary but there have been numerous similar cases in the Chinese diaspora.

China’s embassies around the world have issued public warnings about police impersonation scams, as has the FBI after a number of cases in the US. One elderly woman in Los Angeles reportedly handed over $3m, believing it would stop her extradition.

Typically these scams begin with the target receiving a relatively innocuous phone call. In Helen’s case it was somebody claiming to be a Chinese customs officer who told her they had stopped an illegal parcel sent in her name.

Helen hadn’t sent anything, and she was told she must file a police report if she believed someone had stolen her identity. Although she was sceptical, Helen didn’t hang up.

“Chinese people like myself because we were born and bred in China, we were taught obedience,” she says. “So when the party asked me to do something or my parents asked me it’s very rare that I will say no.”

Helen was transferred to a man who said he was a policeman in Shenzhen called “Officer Fang”. Helen asked for proof and he suggested they went on a video call. When they connected, Helen saw a uniformed man whose face matched the police ID he flashed.

Officer Fang then used his phone to give her a tour of what looked like a fully functioning police station with several uniformed officers and a desk with a large police logo.

“That moment all my suspicions are gone. So I say: ‘I’m sorry, I just have to be careful nowadays, there are a lot of criminals out there’,” Helen says.

While they were talking, Helen heard a message on the tannoy in the background, telling Officer Fang to take a call about her.

Officer Fang put her on hold and when he returned he was no longer interested in the illegal parcel. He said he had been informed that Helen was suspected of involvement in a large financial fraud.

“I said: ‘That’s nonsense’. He said: ‘Nobody says they’re guilty. So it’s the evidence that counts’.”

Helen was shown what looked like a bank statement for a vast amount of money in her name. Officer Fang told her that if she was innocent she must help them catch the real crooks. He made her sign a confidentiality agreement promising not to tell anyone about the investigation. Helen was warned that if she did, she would get an extra six months in prison

“He said: ‘If you tell anyone you have been interviewed by the Chinese police, your life will be in danger’.”

The scammers also made Helen download an app so they could listen in to what she was doing day and night.

Over the next few days, Helen tried to act normally at work. She spent her evenings working on a personal statement that she was ordered to write, detailing every aspect of her life.

Then Officer Fang called back with the news that several suspects were now in custody. He showed her written statements in which several people accused her.

Helen was sent a video which appeared to show a male prisoner confessing to police, and naming her as his boss in the fraud.

We have taken a closer look at the video, and because the suspect is wearing a large Covid mask, it’s impossible to tell if what you’re hearing matches his lip movements. It would be easy to add a fake soundtrack that mentions Helen’s name or another victim.

But for Helen – who had been convinced she was dealing with genuine police officers – the effect was devastating: “After I heard my name like that I was vomiting. It convinced me I was in deep, deep trouble.”

Helen believed Officer Fang when he then told her she would be extradited to China – even though she’s a British citizen.

“He told me: ‘So you got 24 hours, you pack your bags. The police are coming to take you to the airport’.”

Helen was told she could halt her extradition if she could raise bail. After sending over her bank statements for inspection, she was told to transfer £29,000.

“I felt terrible, because I promised my daughter to give her money for her first flat,” Helen says.

But a few days later the fake police were back. Helen was ordered to find another £250,000 or be extradited: “I was fighting for my life – if I go back to China, I may never come back.”

After Helen tried to borrow the money from a friend, he alerted her daughter. Helen broke down and revealed everything. But not before she had put her phone in a kitchen drawer and taken her daughter into a bedroom, and put a duvet over their heads so the scammers couldn’t listen in.

Her daughter listened patiently and explained it was a scam. Helen’s bank eventually refunded her money, but her ordeal could easily have had a bleaker ending: “For two weeks I hardly slept. How can you sleep when somebody is monitoring your phone?”

In her sleep-deprived state, she crashed her car twice. On the second occasion, she wrecked it entirely: “I didn’t kill anyone, but I could have. These types of criminal scam could kill people.”

Other victims of police impersonation scams have been pushed to even greater extremes.

In some extraordinary cases, some Chinese foreign students who can’t meet the financial demands of the fake police have been persuaded to fake their own kidnappings in order to seek a ransom from their families.

Detective Superintendent Joe Doueihi of New South Wales Police fronted a publicity campaign to warn about so-called virtual or cyber-kidnappings, after a series of cases in Australia.

“Victims are coerced into making their own video of them being in a vulnerable position, to appear as if they’ve been kidnapped – tied up with tomato sauce on their body to make it look like they’ve been bleeding, and calling for help from their loved ones,” he says.

The students are then ordered to isolate themselves while the scammers send these images to families back in China, with a ransom demand.

The scam victims may also find themselves being manipulated into helping to scam others.

“Scammers will trick a victim into believing that they are working for the Chinese government. They will send them documentation and swear them in as a Chinese police officer,” Det Supt Doueihi says.

He says the victim – who may have already handed over money to the criminals – is sent to monitor or intimidate other Chinese students in Australia.

Many of these frauds are thought by experts to be run by Chinese organised crime groups operating from compounds in countries like Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

Chinese state media has reported that tens of thousands of suspects have been returned to China over the last year.

Awareness of these types of scams is growing. We spoke to a student in Japan who realised he was being targeted by criminals, and recorded their conversation.

He asked not to be named, but shared the recording with the BBC. In it, the scammers tell him that if he revealed anything about the call to anyone, then he would be jeopardising the “investigation”. He refused to hand over any money and they stopped pursuing him.

He’s aware that he had a lucky escape: “I never thought it would happen to me. Just be really careful when you get a call from a number that you don’t recognise.”

For more on this story:

Watch BBC Trending: Scammed by the fake Chinese Police – now on YouTube

BBC World Service tells the story of scammers posing as Chinese police.

WTO chief warns against global trade breakdown

By Jonathan JosephsBusiness reporter, BBC News

Global trade “is not having the best of times at the moment”.

That is the admission of the director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. “We are seeing increasing protectionism, some undermining of the WTO rules, and some of this is leading to fragmentation,” she tells the BBC.

“Global trade is really part of the lifeblood for making countries resilient – and also for underpinning growth, so we are concerned about that.”

In recent weeks and months these fragmentations have come to the fore with the EU imposing provisional tariffs of up to 37.4% on imports of Chinese electric vehicles (EVs). It followed after the US in May introduced 100% tariffs on Chinese EVs.

Both Brussels and Washington accuse the Chinese government of unfairly subsidising its EV sector, allowing producers to export cars at unfairly low prices, and threatening jobs in the West.

President Biden has also increased import taxes on a range of other Chinese products that he said formed “the industries of the future”. These include EV batteries and the minerals they contain, the cells needed to make solar panels, and computer chips.

Meanwhile, the US has been pouring billions of dollars of government money into green technology, through its Inflation Reduction Act, which aims to reduce a reliance on Chinese imports.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis tells the BBC that Europe does not want to close the market for EVs. “We welcome imports, we welcome competition, but this competition must be fair,” he says.

Last year, the volume of global trade fell for just the third time in 30 years, according to the WTO. It says the 1.2% decline was linked to higher inflation and interest rates, and is forecasting a recovery this year.

However those factors have their roots in events that are continuing to fundamentally reshape the global economy, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) first deputy managing director Gita Gopinath explained in a recent speech.

“What we’ve seen in the last few years, I would say, especially when it comes to global trade relations, is nothing like we’ve seen since the end of the Cold War.”

“The last few years, you’ve had numerous shocks, including the pandemic. We had Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and following these events, increasingly, countries around the world are guided by economic security, and national security concerns, in determining who they trade with and who they invest in,” she said.

That’s affecting countries as far apart as Peru, Ghana and Vietnam as they increasingly find themselves having to choose between strengthening economic ties with the western powers, or a China-Russia axis.

“We’re also concerned about the emerging fragmentation that we see in the trade data,” says the WTO’s Dr Okonjo-Iweala. “We’re seeing that trade between like-minded blocks is growing faster than trade across such blocks.”

She warns that “it will be costly for the world” to continue down this path. WTO research has estimated that price at 5% of the global economy, whilst the IMF has suggested it could be nearer to 7% or $7.4tn (£5.8tn) of lost output in the long run.

The EU’s introduction of tariffs on Chinese-made EVs follows a surge in their exports to Europe over the last few years. Exports jumped from $1.6bn in value in 2020 to $11.5bn last year, according to one study, which said they now made up 37% of all EV imports into the EU.

BYD, Geely and SAIC are some of the Chinese EV makers said to have benefitted from billions of dollars worth of government help.

After many years of support Chinese EV companies no longer need that help, says Jens Eskelund, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China. “They are today simply very competitive on their own terms. I think the introduction of tariffs is a symptom that something is out of balance.”

When it comes to broader relationship, Mr Eskelund says it’s “mind boggling” that since 2017 the volume of goods that the EU has sold to China has fallen about a third, even though China’s economy has been growing steadily.

Citing Chinese restrictions around market access for overseas firms, and tough security regulations, he adds: “I think it’s fair to say that that Europe still remains a significantly more open market to Chinese companies, then the other way around. And that is obviously something that needs to change.”

The chamber’s recent survey showed that members have the lowest confidence on record for investing in China.

It comes as the EU is trying to lower its economic dependence on China. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last year described the need to “de-risk not de-couple” its relations with China.

Brussels’ concerns include Beijing using sensitive technology for military purposes, and its support for Russia as it continues its offensive in Ukraine.

Companies including Ikea, Nike and Apple are also trying to become less reliant on China.

Whilst the EU and China are set to hold talks about the potential EV tariffs, Chinese state media has reported that retaliatory measures are being considered on EU goods including pork, cognac and luxury cars.

However, there are other barriers for global trade to overcome, including in two of the most important arteries for moving goods around the world.

This year Panama Canal officials had to reduce the number of ships allowed to traverse the waterway. This is due to a lack of rainfall to fill the lake that feeds the canal.

Meanwhile, the Suez Canal is effectively cut off because of ongoing attacks on commercial ships by Houthi rebels in the Red Sea. Traffic through the canal is down 90%, according to logistics firm Kuehne+Nagel.

Rolf Habben Jansen, chief executive of the German shipping giant Hapag-Lloyd, says this disruption means that the rates his firm charges are up between 30% and 40%.

Whilst shipping costs are a small part of retail prices, Mr Habben Jansen says “these extra costs in the end get passed on” to consumers. That could end up pushing inflation up just as central banks are showing signs of getting it under control.

That would be “detrimental to consumers,” says the WTO’s Dr Okonjo-Iweala.

Despite all the tensions, she says trade has shown signs of resilience, and she adds that her organization can help countries solve their differences.

Meanwhile, Dr Okonjo-Iweala admits that some WTO rules will need to change to help meet the challenge of climate change. “I strongly believe that some of our [global trade] rules, we do need to look at them,” she says.

“When they were put in place, decades ago, we were not confronting the kind of climate change threats we confront today.”

Regarding the increased use of tariffs, she adds: “We hope we don’t have a repeat of what we saw in the 1930s. We had retaliatory tariffs, and it was downhill from there and everyone lost.

“So I do hope we will not enter into that kind of era again”.

More on global business

Western US bakes in heatwave

By Aleks PhillipsBBC News

A record-breaking heatwave that has already caused large wildfires in western US states is set to continue next week.

Around 130m people were under some form of heat warning or advisory on Saturday. Nearly 57m people remain under heat alerts, as at least one child has already died in heat-related circumstances in Arizona.

Meteorologists are warning that warm nights will lead to people suffering heat stress. Temperatures could reach 128F (53C) in Death Valley on Monday.

While it is hard to link individual heatwaves to climate change, scientists say they are becoming more common and intense because of it.

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.

PNG minister charged with assault in Australia

By Kathryn ArmstrongBBC News

Papua New Guinea’s influential Petroleum Minister Jimmy Maladina has been charged with assault following an alleged “domestic dispute” in Australia, according to court documents.

Police said a 31-year-old woman was allegedly attacked in Sydney by a 58-year-old man who was known to her on Saturday morning local time.

Mr Maladina was granted conditional bail ahead of a court appearance on 11 July.

In a statement, he said he was “aware of the recent media reports” and was “cooperating with the authorities to address this matter”.

“I understand the gravity of this situation and the concerns it raises,” said Mr Maladina.

“As a public servant, I hold myself to high standards of conduct, both personally and professionally.

“I want to make it clear that violence in any form is unacceptable, and I am committed to handling this situation with integrity and transparency.”

Police said the woman who was allegedly attacked had suffered facial injuries.

Mr Maladina became Papua New Guinea’s petroleum minister earlier this year and is a key adviser to President James Marape.

He is heavily involved in the country’s lucrative project to commercialise its natural gas resources.

Israeli air strike on Gaza school kills at least 16

By Rushdi Aboualouf and Tom McArthurBBC News
Shock and horror at scene of Gaza blast

At least 16 people have been killed in an Israeli air strike on a UN-run school in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials have said. Dozens more have been injured.

The building was sheltering thousands of displaced people at Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

Israel said it had struck several Hamas “terrorists operating in structures located in the area of Al-Jaouni School”.

A local source said the target was a room allegedly used by Hamas police. A spokeswoman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (Unrwa) said the claims were “very, very serious” and should be investigated.

The attack comes as hopes rise that a deal between Israel and Hamas is on the horizon, following months of false starts.

Israel has announced it will send a team of negotiators next week to discuss a hostage release deal with Hamas.

It comes after a senior US administration official said Hamas had agreed to “pretty significant adjustments” to its position regarding a potential ceasefire.

A senior Hamas source told the Reuters news agency on Saturday that the group had agreed to begin talks on releasing Israeli hostages 16 days after the proposed first phase of an agreement aimed at ending the Gaza war.

Video from the scene of the Nuseirat school strike shows adults and children screaming in a smoke-filled street covered in dust and rubble, as they run to help the wounded.

Eyewitnesses told the BBC that the attack targeted the upper floors of the school, which is located near a busy market.

The BBC understands that up to 7,000 people were using the building as shelter.

One woman told the AFP news agency how some children were killed as they were reading the Koran when the building was hit.

“This is the fourth time they have targeted the school without warning,” she said.

Hamas said five local journalists were among those killed in Israeli attacks on Saturday. Members of their family were also reportedly targeted.

More than 100 journalists have lost their lives in Gaza since the 7 October attacks, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Hamas said the five latest fatalities brings the number to 158.

In a statement, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirmed it had hit the school buildings, saying it had taken “numerous steps” to “mitigate the risk of harming civilians, including the use of precise aerial surveillance and additional intelligence”.

Hamas militants were using the location as a “hideout” to carry out attacks against IDF troops, it said.

“Hamas continues to systematically violate international law by exploiting civilian structures and the civilian population as human shields for its terrorist attacks against the State of Israel,” it added.

Hamas called the attack a “massacre” on “defenceless displaced civilians”.

Many of the dead and wounded were women, children and the elderly, the group claimed via its English language Telegram channel.

Many schools and other UN facilities have been used as shelters by the 1.7 million people who have fled their homes during the war, which has lasted almost eight months.

“We don’t have all the information yet. Since the war began, we have had more than half of our facilities hit,” Juliette Touma, Unrwa’s communications director, told the BBC regarding the latest attack.

“Many of them were shelters, and as a result at least 500 people sheltering in those facilities have been killed. Many were women and children.”

She added it was not the first time Israel had made such claims, and that they should be investigated.

A previous attack in June on another packed UN-run school in Nuseirat killed at least 35 people.

Local journalists told the BBC at the time that a warplane fired two missiles at classrooms on the top floor of the school.

After that attack, Israel’s military said it had “conducted a precise strike on a Hamas compound” in the school and killed many of the 20 to 30 fighters it believed were inside.

The head of the Unrwa described the June incident as “horrific” and said the claim that armed groups might have been inside a shelter was “shocking” but could not be confirmed.

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

At least 38,098 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza as a result of Israel’s offensive, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

Israel has regularly accused Unrwa of supporting Hamas, which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the UK, US and other countries.

The organisation has rejected this.

In April, a UN investigation found Israel had failed to back up a claim that many of the agency’s staff belonged militant groups, but also said it could improve its neutrality, staff vetting and transparency.

John Cena announces retirement from wrestling

By André Rhoden-PaulBBC News

US actor and wrestler John Cena has announced he is retiring from competing in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) events.

Cena made the surprise announcement to fans during an appearance at the WWE Money in the Bank event in Canada.

The 47-year-old, who made his move into acting 18 years ago, said his final in-ring competition will be in 2025 as part of a farewell tour.

Cena is often regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time and achieved world champion status 16 times since joining WWE in 2001.

“Tonight I officially announce my retirement from the WWE,” he told fans in Toronto who reacted with surprise and later chanted “thank you Cena”.

“What an incredible gesture of kindness,” he replied.

Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “The Last Time is Now” and his trade mark “jorts” [denim shorts], he thanked WWE fans for “letting me play in the house that you built for so many years”.

In a press conference later, he said he intended to remain part of the WWE family in some capacity despite feeling “at my end” physically.

Cena made his acting debut in 2006 when he starred in The Marine, going on to land roles in a number of big budget films including The Suicide Squad, Fast & Furious 9 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The star has performed in WWE part-time since 2018 when his acting career took off.

He made headlines this year after appearing naked, save for a strategically placed envelope, during an Academy Awards skit.

The American is also the all-time most requested celebrity by kids with charity Make-A-Wish.

He holds a Guinness World Record for the number of wishes granted to Make-A-Wish children who have critical illnesses.

Cyclist fined for kissing wife during Tour de France

By Michael Sheils McNameeBBC News

French cyclist Julien Bernard has given a light-hearted apology after being fined for kissing his wife during a Tour de France time trial.

The Lidl-Trek rider was made to pay 200 Swiss francs ($223; £174) by the International Cycling Union (UCI) for stopping briefly during stage seven of the race.

The governing body said the fine was for “unseemly or inappropriate behaviour during the race and damage to the image of the sport”.

Writing on social media, Bernard apologised to the UCI for “having damaged the image of sport” but said he was willing to pay the fine “every day and relive this moment”.

Stage seven of the Tour de France is a short course of 23.3km (14.5 miles) and is one of two time trials in the race – where cyclists race against the clock for the best time.

The climb takes place in the famous wine region of Burgundy. According to Cycling News, Bernard was just 30 minutes from where he lives when he was met by his supporters.

As he reached the top of a climb, friends ran towards him holding signs and his wife stepped forward – at which point she gave him a quick kiss, holding their son who was dressed in a replica cycling kit.

A fine for the same amount and for breaking the same rule was given earlier in the race to Italian cyclist Davide Ballerini, after he stopped to watch Britain’s Mark Cavendish sprint to a record-breaking 35th Tour de France stage victory.

In a television interview following the stage, Bernard said the encounter with his loved ones had been a unique moment in his career and he had pushed hard earlier in the stage so he would have enough time to do so.

“It was really incredible. My wife has been organising this with some friends for a few weeks now and she did a really, really good job,” he said.

“On a time trial, you have time to enjoy yourself. It’s these moments that keep me going and cycling.”

What just happened in France’s shock election?

By Paul KirbyBBC News in Paris

Nobody expected this. High drama, for sure, but this was a shock.

When the graphics flashed up on all the big French channels, it was not the far right of Marine Le Pen and her young prime minister-in-waiting Jordan Bardella who were on course for victory.

It was the left who had clinched it, and Emmanuel Macron’s centrists had staged an unexpected comeback, pushing the far-right National Rally (RN) into third.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the veteran left-wing firebrand seen by his critics as an extremist, wasted no time in proclaiming victory.

“The president must call on the New Popular Front to govern,” he told supporters in Stalingrad square, insisting Mr Macron had to recognise that he and his coalition had lost.

His alliance, drawn up in a hurry for President Macron’s surprise election, includes his own radical France Unbowed, along with Greens, Socialists and Communists and even Trotskyists. But their victory is nowhere big enough to govern.

France is going to have a hung parliament. None of the three blocs can form an outright majority by themselves of 289 seats in the 577-seat parliament.

  • Live: France faces hung parliament deadlock after left alliance wins most seats

As soon as he had spoken, Mr Mélenchon went off to a much bigger square, Place de la République, to celebrate his success with a crowd of 8,000 people, according to police numbers.

For National Rally’s supporters the champagne was fast turning flat at their celebration-gone-wrong in the Bois de Vincennes forest to the south-east of Paris.

Only a week ago all the talk had been of a possible absolute majority, and Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella were still talking up their chances a couple of days before the vote.

Marine Le Pen put a brave face on it. “Two years ago we had just seven MPs. Tonight RN is the first party in France in terms of MP numbers.”

In the last parliament they had 88 MPs and now more than 140, so she was right. And no other party has more than 100 MPs, because the Macronists and the Popular Front are both coalitions.

Jordan Bardella complained that his party had been foiled by unnatural “alliances of dishonour”, forged by a “single party” made up of the Macron camp and the left. He wasn’t wrong about the unnatural alliance, but it is only a temporary one of convenience.

More than 200 candidates who saw themselves as part of a “republican front”, pulled out of the second round so that a better-placed rival could stop RN winning.

Not even Marine Le Pen’s younger sister, Marie-Caroline, was able to offer a glimmer of good news from her own election battle around Le Mans.

Her bid to get into parliament failed by just 225 votes, defeated by Mr Mélenchon’s candidate, Elise Leboucher, after the Macron candidate dropped out.

Turnout, at 66.63%, was the highest in a parliamentary second round since 1997. Even if RN’s vote held up, this time it was having to contend with non-RN votes often being used tactically to create a “barrage” or block against them.

All over France, RN was losing run-offs it needed to win.

Some of their candidates were less than appealing.

There was the woman who promised to stop making racist jokes if she was elected in Puy-de-Dôme; and then there was the ill-equipped young man in Haute-Savoie in the south-east who took part in a TV debate with his centrist rival and made barely any sense on anything.

They both lost, but they reflected RN’s big advance in rural areas.

RN scored 32% of the vote – 37% with their right-wing allies – and for more than 10 million voters a taboo has been broken.

In Meaux, east of Paris, RN won but not by much.

After casting her vote, Claudine said people she knew tended not to admit to voting RN, unless they were with close friends.

Before the projected result at 8pm, there was fevered speculation about whether President Macron would come out and speak. Word spread that he had gone into a meeting 90 minutes earlier.

Gabriel Attal, his beleaguered prime minister, eventually appeared to give the government’s response.

Four weeks ago, he had sat stony-faced and arms folded opposite the president as Mr Macron revealed his election plan.

Now he announced he would be handing his boss his resignation in the morning, but he would stay on as long as duty called.

Mr Attal is supposed to fly off on Tuesday evening to a Nato meeting in Washington. It’s hard to imagine him being replaced just yet.

France has entered a period of political instability with no obvious way out. There had been talk of unrest on the streets, but only a handful of incidents were reported in Paris and cities including Nantes and Lyon,

All eyes are now on the president, who will have to navigate a way out of this deadlock.

The new National Assembly is due to convene in 10 days’ time, but the Paris Olympics starts on 26 July and France could do with a period of calm.

Left-leaning newspaper Libération summed up the whole night with the headline .

“It’s crazy,” in colloquial French, but for them it’s also a relief that voters brought RN’s bid for power to a halt.

Boeing to plead guilty to criminal fraud charge

By Natalie ShermanBBC News, New York

Boeing has agreed to plead guilty to a criminal fraud conspiracy charge after the US found the company violated a deal meant to reform it after two fatal crashes by its 737 Max planes that killed 346 passengers and crew.

The Department of Justice (DoJ) said the plane-maker had also agreed to pay a criminal fine of $243.6m (£190m).

However, the families of the people who died on the flights five years ago have criticised it as a “sweetheart deal” that would allow Boeing to avoid full responsibility for the deaths.

The settlement must now be approved by a US judge.

By pleading guilty, Boeing will avoid the spectacle of a criminal trial – something that victims’ families have been pressing for.

The company has been in crisis over its safety record since two near-identical crashes involving 737 Max aircraft in 2018 and 2019. It led to the global grounding of the plane for more than a year.

In 2021, prosecutors charged Boeing with one count of conspiracy to defraud regulators, alleging it had deceived the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about its MCAS flight control system, which was implicated in both crashes.

It agreed not to prosecute Boeing if the company paid a penalty and successfully completed a three-year period of increased monitoring and reporting.

But in January, shortly before that period was due to end, a door panel in a Boeing plane operated by Alaska Airlines blew out soon after take-off and forced the jet to land.

No-one was injured during the incident but it intensified scrutiny over how much progress Boeing had made on improving its safety and quality record.

In May, the DoJ said it had found Boeing had violated the terms of the agreement, opening up the possibility of prosecution.

Boeing’s decision to plead guilty is still a significant black mark for the firm because it means that the company – which is a prominent military contractor for the US government – now has a criminal record. It is also one of the world’s two biggest manufacturers of commercial jets.

It is not immediately clear how the criminal record will affect the firm’s contracting business. The government typically bars or suspends firms with records from participating in bids, but can grant waivers.

However, Paul Cassell, a lawyer representing some families of people killed on the 2018 and 2019 flights, said: “This sweetheart deal fails to recognise that because of Boeing’s conspiracy, 346 people died.

“Through crafty lawyering between Boeing and DoJ, the deadly consequences of Boeing’s crime are being hidden.”

He called on the judge assessing the deal to “reject this inappropriate plea and simply set the matter for a public trial, so that all the facts surrounding the case will be aired in a fair and open forum before a jury”.

In a letter to the government in June, Mr Cassell had urged the DoJ to fine Boeing more than $24bn.

Ed Pierson, executive director of Foundation for Aviation Safety and a former senior manager at Boeing, said the plea was “seriously disappointing” and “a terrible deal for justice”.

“Instead of holding individuals accountable, they’re just basically giving them another get out of jail free card,” he said.

A Boeing 737 Max plane operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air crashed in late October 2018 shortly after take-off, killing all 189 people on board. Just months later, an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed, killing all 157 passengers and crew.

In the 2021 deal, Boeing also agreed to pay $2.5bn to resolve the matter, including a $243m criminal penalty and $500m to a victims’ fund.

The deal outraged family members, who were not consulted on the terms and have called for the company to stand trial.

Senior staff at the DoJ recommended in favour of prosecution, CBS News, the BBC’s US news partner reported in late June.

At a hearing in June, Senator Richard Blumenthal said he believed there was “near overwhelming evidence” that prosecution should be pursued.

Lawyers for family members said the DoJ was worried it did not have a strong case against the firm.

Mark Forkner, a former Boeing technical pilot who was the only person to face criminal charges arising from the incident, was acquitted by a jury in 2022. His lawyers had argued he was being used as a scapegoat.

Mark Cohen, a professor emeritus at Vanderbilt University, who has studied corporate punishments, said prosecutors often prefer plea deals or deferred prosecution agreements, which allow them to avoid the risk of a trial and can give the government greater power over a company than a typical sentence.

“Because it’s easier to get than going to trial, it may ease the burden on the prosecutor but the prosecutor also may believe it’s a better sanction [because] they may be able to impose requirements that aren’t normally in sentencing guidelines,” he said.

He said there was little doubt that Boeing’s status as a key government contractor played a role in determining how to proceed.

“They’ve got to think about the collateral consequences,” he said. “You don’t take these kinds of cases lightly.”

The issues with MCAS were not Boeing’s first brush with the law.

It has also paid millions in penalties to the Federal Aviation Administration since 2015 to resolve a series of claims of improper manufacturing and other issues.

The company also continues to face investigations and lawsuits sparked by the incident on the January Alaska Airlines flight.

Hollywood icon Paramount agrees $28bn merger deal

By Peter HoskinsBusiness reporter

One of Hollywood’s oldest companies, Paramount Global, has agreed to merge with independent film studio Skydance Media.

Under the deal, Paramount’s non-executive chair Shari Redstone will sell her family’s controlling stake in the company in a complex transaction that will result in a new firm worth around $28bn (£21.9bn).

It marks the end of an era for the Redstone family, whose late patriarch, Sumner Redstone, transformed a chain of drive-in cinemas into a vast media empire.

As well as Paramount, the group includes the television networks CBS, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and MTV.

“Our hope is that the Skydance transaction will enable Paramount’s continued success in this rapidly changing environment,” Ms Redstone said in a statement.

According to the company its TV channels have a global reach of over 4.3 billion subscribers across more than 180 countries.

The merger would combine Paramount, home of classic films such as Chinatown and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, with its financial partner on several recent big releases, including Top Gun: Maverick and Star Trek Into Darkness.

Under the agreement, Skydance will invest around $8bn in Paramount, including paying $2.4bn for National Amusements, which controls the group.

National Amusements owns just 10% of Paramount Group’s shares but accounts for almost 80% of its voting rights.

Paramount said it expected to close the deal by the summer of next year.

Paramount Global traces its origins back more than a century to the founding of Paramount Pictures Corporation in 1914.

The studio has made many hit films, including the Godfather, Star Trek, and Mission: Impossible series.

But the entertainment giant has struggled over the past decade. Paramount Global’s shares have fallen by more than 75% in the last five years.

Skydance is owned by David Ellison, the son of Larry Ellison, who founded US technology giant Oracle.

The announcement came after eight months of negotiations that saw Redstone holding talks with a number of potential partners including Sony and private equity firm Apollo.

In April, Paramount’s chief executive Bob Bakish left the company after clashing with Ms Redstone over the planned Skydance deal.

The deal comes as the global entertainment industry is being transformed by the video-streaming revolution.

French people reject the far right – again

By Hugh SchofieldBBC News

The French have said it again: they do not want the far right in power.

They gave them a big win in the European elections; they gave them a big win in the first round of this parliamentary election.

But when it came to a vote that really counted, just as in the presidentials, they drew back from the brink.

This surprise upset which has reduced the National Rally (RN) to third place – with perhaps 150 seats compared with predictions a week ago of nearly 300 – is due entirely to voters turning out in large numbers to stop them.

Bardella: ‘Dishonourable alliance deprived’ France of RN victory

The RN will argue – with some justice – that this was only possible because the other parties came together to play the system.

They note that the disparate parties of the left all suddenly forgot their differences to form a new anti-RN coalition; and then that the Macronites and the left forgot their differences too.

They note that nothing unites these politicians (from Edouard Philippe on the centre right to Philippe Poutou of the Trotskyist left) except their opposition to the RN. And that this lack of agreement bodes ill for the future.

Nonetheless, the fact remains. Most people do not want the far right – either because they oppose its ideas, or because they fear the unrest that would inevitably attend its coming to power.

So if Jordan Bardella will not be the country’s next prime minister, who will be?

That is the great unknown. And contrary to convention following previous French parliamentary elections, it may be weeks before we have an answer.

Because something has happened these past tense weeks to change the very nature of the French political system.

  • Live: France faces hung parliament deadlock after left alliance wins most seats
Left alliance supporters burst into cheers in Paris’s Stalingrad Square

As Alain Duhamel — veteran of every election since Charles de Gaulle – put it: “Today there is no longer any dominant party. Since Macron came to power seven years ago, we have been in a period of deconstruction of our political forces.

“Perhaps now we are beginning a period of reconstruction.”

What he means is that there is now a multitude of political forces: three major blocs (left, far-right and centre); plus the centre-right. And within these there are competing tendencies and parties.

With no party able to call the shots in the Assembly, a long period of haggling is now inevitable aimed at forming a new coalition from the centre-right through to the left.

It is far from obvious how it will be formed – given the mutual loathing that the different potential components have expressed till now.

But we can bet that President Macron will now call for a period of apaisement – conciliation – after the tensions of the last weeks.

Conveniently this period will last through the Olympics and the summer holidays, allowing the French to recover their spirits.

French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal says he will hand in his resignation

In the meantime, he will designate somebody to lead the talks and reach out to the different parties. Will it be someone from the left? Will it be someone from the centre? Will it be a political outsider? We do not know.

What seems certain though is that France is about to enter a more parliamentary system.

Power will drain from President Macron, and towards whoever heads the new government.

Even if he manages to place a centrist in the prime ministership (far from easy, given the strength of the left) that person will exercise power in his or her own right, and on the basis of parliamentary support.

Macron – with no prospect of running again in 2027 – will be a diminished figure.

So has the president lost his bet? Is he regretting his haste in calling the elections? Is he ready to take a backward step?

We can be sure that is not the way Macron sees it. He will be saying that he called the vote because the situation was untenable; that he has clarified politics, offered the RN a fairer share of Assembly seats, given their widespread support; and that his gamble that the French would never put the far-right in power was correct.

And in the meantime, he has not exactly gone away. Macron’s power may be on the wane. But he is still there at the Elysée, consulting with his team, prodding politicians, still master of the political clock.

Democrats weigh risks and rewards of losing Biden

By Holly HonderichBBC News, Washington

President Joe Biden sought to revive his beleaguered re-election effort on Sunday, as members of his party debated the future of his candidacy.

The president’s halting debate performance last week raised serious questions about his physical and mental capacity to run. A prime time interview with ABC on Friday fuelled further speculation about his campaign’s future.

Amid the uncertainty, Mr Biden appeared at two campaign events in Pennsylvania, a key swing state, on Sunday.

But those efforts have not stopped the president’s fellow Democrats from weighing the risks and rewards of keeping Mr Biden, 81, at the top of the ticket. On Sunday afternoon, House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries convened a meeting with ranking Democratic lawmakers that reportedly included discussion of Mr Biden’s candidacy.

Four of those on the call said they thought Biden should drop out, according to CBS, the BBC’s US news partner. Sources said at least three others expressed concern about his chances in November.

A number of top Democratic figures also voiced their stances in televised interviews over the weekend, aiming to address the question: is it riskier to stick with Mr Biden or to leave him behind?

Some say the party could be headed to defeat against Donald Trump in November if Mr Biden stays on, but others say replacing him comes with many unknowns.

Some see potential in a fresh start

Amid the fallout of Mr Biden’s disastrous debate performance, asking the president to step aside could bring some immediate relief.

Some Democrats, including avowed supporters of the president, have said as much, suggesting that concerns about his age and mental acuity had grown difficult to overcome.

The debate “rightfully raised questions among the American people about whether the president has the vigour to defeat Donald Trump”, said California Representative Adam Schiff on Sunday.

Mr Schiff stopped short of saying Biden should drop out in his interview with NBC News – a position taken publicly by five House Democrats so far.

Instead, Mr Schiff urged him to seek advice from people with “distance and objectivity” and make a decision about whether he believes he is the best candidate to run.

“Given Joe Biden’s incredible record, given Donald Trump’s terrible record, he [Biden] should be mopping the floor with Donald Trump,” Mr Schiff said. “It should not be even close and there’s only one reason it is close, and that’s the president’s age.”

Mr Biden is 81, while Trump has just turned 78. The ages of both candidates have become an increasingly contentious point among voters.

On the left, polls suggest some voters are losing faith in Mr Biden. In a Wall Street Journal poll released on Friday, 86% of Democrats said they would support Mr Biden, down from 93% in February.

A different candidate may also offer a clean slate in other areas, too. Before this wave of Democratic panic, Mr Biden drew criticism from voters on several policy fronts, including his handling of the US economy and the migrant crisis at the country’s southern border.

Clip of Biden in an exclusive interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos

The president faced a threat of defection from progressive voters who oppose his response to Israel’s war in Gaza. Their resistance cost him more than 100,000 votes in Michigan – a crucial swing state – during its primary in February.

A Biden ticket “is going to drag everybody else down”, said former Ohio Representative Tim Ryan on Sunday in an interview with Fox News. “I think you’re going to see a significant amount of pressure whether it’s today or tomorrow, sometime this week, as members come back that this may be untenable for them.”

Others say the unknown is too big a risk

Any benefit to losing Mr Biden may be muted by the looming risks, according to some Democratic leaders.

If the president stood aside, most of what comes after remains unclear: who would replace Mr Biden, and how? And how would that candidate fare against Trump?

And in recent days, several Biden allies have stressed the pitfalls of charting a new course, arguing that Mr Biden has been a proven success.

“Biden is old,” said Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, 82, on CBS News on Sunday. “He is not as articulate as he once was. I wish he could jump up the steps on Air Force One. He can’t. What we have got to focus on is policy – whose policies have and will benefit the vast majority of the people in this country.”

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who spent the weekend stumping for the president, said the same at a rally in Doylestown, Pennsylvania on Saturday.

“It’s the hypothetical that gets in the way of progress in terms of promoting this candidacy,” Mr Newsom said. “It’s exactly where the other party wants us to be, is having this internal fight, and I think it’s extraordinarily unhelpful.”

Mr Biden’s public supporters say replacing him may become a direct benefit to Trump’s Republicans, who can argue their opponents are engulfed in party chaos.

“We’ve got to stop talking about this,” Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan said on CNN on Sunday. “We’ve spent a whole week. Republicans are having a great time. I mean, we need to get back to talking about Donald Trump and his performance.”

A middle path in keeping Harris?

Earlier this week, former Ohio Representative Tim Ryan put forward a potential replacement: Mr Biden’s Vice-president Kamala Harris.

“I strongly believe that our best path forward is Kamala Harris,” he wrote in a op-ed for Newsweek. “Those who say that a Harris candidacy is a greater risk than the Joe Biden we saw the other night and will continue to see are not living in reality.”

Though she has demonstrated only loyal support to Mr Biden, the idea of Ms Harris, 59, stepping in for Mr Biden has gained traction in recent days.

In Adam Schiff’s Sunday morning interview, the congressman said Ms Harris could win against Trump “overwhelmingly”.

As vice-president, and a 2020 Democratic contender, supporters say she is already campaign-tested and familiar to the Democratic establishment and its fundraisers.

Ms Harris “knows the job”, said former Democratic National Committee chair Donna Brazile on ABC on Sunday. “To ask the delegates elected to the convention who are Biden-Harris supporters to bypass Kamala Harris… it would be political malpractice.”

But what makes her attractive to supporters could also be a catch: age isn’t voters’ only complaint against Biden and the administration’s baggage surrounding policy choices could extend to Ms Harris.

New foreign secretary wants to reset UK-EU ties

By Paul AdamsBBC News

David Lammy’s whirlwind first trip as foreign secretary, organised at very short notice, is not about instant results or even brave new horizons.

It is all about perception – the appearance of a new, vigorous administration, determined to hit the ground running, brimming with goodwill towards some of the UK’s most important partners.

After an evening spent with his German counterpart, Annalena Baerbock – the two found time to watch a few minutes of England’s European Championship quarter-final – Mr Lammy’s tour moved to the bucolic surroundings of the country estate of Poland’s Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorsky.

After a couple of hours of talks, it was back on the plane for a short flight north to one of Nato’s newest members, Sweden.

Why Germany, Poland and Sweden?

Partly because of Ukraine. Along with Britain, all three countries play important roles in sustaining Kyiv’s war effort. With the new Defence Secretary John Healey on the ground in Odesa, Prime Minister Sir Keir Starmer’s government is keen to stress that the UK’s commitment to Ukraine will remain rock solid.

Following a meeting with President Zelensky and his counterpart Defence Minister Rustem Umerov, Mr Healey said the UK would provide more artillery guns, a quarter-of-a-million ammunition rounds and nearly 100 precision Brimstone missiles.

“There may have been a change in government, but the UK is united for Ukraine,” he said, promising to “reinvigorate” support via increased military aid.

He also pledged to fast-track the reinforcements to ensure they arrive with the next 100 days.

“We want to double down on our commitment to Ukraine,” Mr Lammy said, as dragonflies swooped over a tranquil lake and a pair of majestic eagles circled overhead.

France, in the midst of its own election – one which seems destined to have far-reaching consequences – was not on the itinerary. Not this weekend.

No stop in Brussels, either. Sir Keir has said the UK will not return to the EU “in my lifetime”.

But Poland and Sweden are both key European partners and fellow Nato members – good places for the foreign secretary to start exploring the outlines of closer future relations.

“I want to reset both our bilateral relationship and our relationship with the European Union,” Mr Lammy said, adding a reference to Labour’s still rather nebulous pledge to strike a new EU-UK security pact.

Meanwhile, on a visit to Edinburgh on Sunday, the prime minister said work was already under way to improve the UK’s relationship with the EU.

He said his government “can get a much better deal than the botched deal that Boris Johnson saddled the UK with”.

Mr Lammy said that when European leaders gather at Blenheim Palace on 18 July for the next meeting of the European Political Community (established by Emmanuel Macron in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), “the new spirit of co-operation will be on show”.

Lammy’s concerns: Russia, China, Gaza

The trip comes just days before Sir Keir takes his own first steps on the international stage as prime minister, at the Nato summit in Washington DC.

These are tricky times to be shoring up relationships, with France taking a lurch to the right and the US possibly on the verge of returning the unpredictable Donald Trump to office.

Mr Lammy agreed this was a “tough geopolitical moment”, but said it was important not to confuse disagreements between mature democracies with the threats posed by authoritarian regimes.

“I am concerned when I see Iranian drones turning up in Ukraine,” he said.

“I am concerned when I see shells from North Korea being used here on European soil.

“And of course I’m concerned with the partnership that I see Russia brokering across those authoritarian states.”

Other issues hang heavy over the new foreign secretary’s first trip, in particular the war in Gaza.

In Germany on Saturday, Mr Lammy spoke to the need to strike a “more balanced approach to Israel-Gaza”.

It is not clear exactly what he meant, but with ceasefire talks apparently poised to resume, finding a way to end the Gaza war and revive the Arab-Israeli peace process seems destined to consume a large amount of diplomatic time in the coming months.

For his part, Mr Lammy’s famously anglophile host said the relatively new Polish government shared something in common with the incoming Starmer administration.

Both, Mr Sikorski said, were “the product of the public being tired with enthusiasts on the nationalist side of politics” – a remark which perhaps only partially reflected the true nature of last week’s general election.

Mr Sikorski said he looked forward to “a more pragmatic approach” from Britain to its relationship with Europe and said the two ministers had discussed “some creative ideas of how to further that”.

Mum who ended life of terminally ill son dies

By Charlotte AndrewsBBC News

A mother who admitted to giving her terminally ill child a fatally large dose of morphine to end his suffering in 1981, has died.

Antonya Cooper, 77, from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, died over the weekend, following a diagnosis of incurable breast, pancreatic and liver cancer, her family said in a statement.

She had recently made the admission about her seven-year-old son Hamish in an effort to change the law on assisted dying.

The action is illegal in England and police previously said they were investigating the case.

In a statement to the BBC, Mrs Cooper’s daughter, Tabitha, said: “She was peaceful, pain free, at home and surrounded by her loving family.

“It was exactly the way she wanted it. She lived life on her terms and she died on her terms.”

She also said that the family had been visited by officers from Thames Valley Police following the BBC News report last Wednesday about her brother’s death.

Hamish had stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive cancer that mostly affects children.

He had been in a lot of pain, Mrs Cooper told the BBC.

After 16 months of treatment, she said she had given him a large dose of morphine through his Hickman Catheter that “did quietly end his life”.

When asked if she understood she was potentially admitting to manslaughter or murder, she replied: “Yes.”

“If [the police] come 43 years after I have allowed Hamish to die peacefully, then I would have to face the consequences. But they would have to be quick, because I’m dying too,” she had said.

The BBC asked the 77-year-old if she believed her son knew she was intending to end his life.

She replied: “I feel very strongly that at the point of Hamish telling me he was in pain, and asking me if I could remove his pain, he knew, he knew somewhere what was going to happen.

“But I cannot obviously tell you why or how, but I was his mother, he loved his mother, and I totally loved him, and I was not going to let him suffer, and I feel he really knew where he was going.”

She continued: “It was the right thing to do. My son was facing the most horrendous suffering and intense pain, I was not going to allow him to go through that.”

She said his suffering and her own ill health had cemented her feelings on assisted deaths.

“We don’t do it [let them suffer] to our pets. Why should we do it to humans?” she said.

Campaigners for a so-called “right to die” have argued that people should be able to choose when and how to die in order to avoid suffering.

Critics have said changing the law would “place pressure on vulnerable people to end their lives” for fear of being a financial or emotional burden.

MPs recently discussed the issue at a parliamentary debate, at which the government said it was a matter of conscience for individual parliamentarians rather than one for government policy.

In 1982, after Hamish’s death, Mrs Cooper and her husband Alastair joined forces with another couple, Janet and Neville Oldridge.

The pair had also lost their five-year-old son Matthew to the same cancer.

Together, the couples formed The Neuroblastoma Society, which became Neuroblastoma UK in 2015, to raise awareness and money for research into the disease.

Mrs Cooper went on to author a book to help families and professionals working with ill children.

Titled This is Our Child: How Parents Experience the Medical World, the book includes the experiences of real-life parents and teenagers.

Assisted dying is the phrase used to describe a situation where someone who is terminally ill seeks medical help to obtain lethal drugs which they administer themselves. Assisted suicide, is helping another person end their life.

Both are illegal in the UK but recently, Scotland, Jersey and the Isle of Man all announced they are considering changing the law to let terminally ill people end their lives.

One hundred and ninety cases have been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service over a 15-year period. While most were not taken forward, there have been four successful prosecutions.

After Mrs Cooper spoke to the BBC last week, Thames Valley Police said in a statement it was “aware of reports relating to an apparent case of assisted dying of a seven-year-old boy in 1981”.

It added: “At this early stage, the force is making inquiries into these reports and is not in a position to comment further while these investigations continue.”

The force has been contacted for comment following her death.

See also

‘I had to downgrade my life’ – US workers in debt to buy groceries

By Natalie Sherman and Nathalie JimenezBBC News, New York

Stacey Ellis, a lifelong Democrat from Pennsylvania, should be the kind of voter that US President Joe Biden can count on.

But after four years of rising prices, her support has worn thin – and every time she shops at the supermarket, she is reminded how things have changed for the worse.

Ms Ellis works full-time as a nurse’s assistant and has a second part-time job.

But she needs to economise. She has switched stores, cut out brand-name items like Dove soap and Stroehmann bread, and all but said goodbye to her favourite Chick-fil-A sandwich.

Still, Ms Ellis has sometimes turned to risky payday loans (short-term borrowing with high interest rates) as she grapples with grocery prices that have surged 25% since Mr Biden entered office in January 2021.

“Prior to inflation,” she says, “I didn’t have any debt, I didn’t have any credit cards, never applied for like a payday loan or any of those things. But since inflation, I needed to do all those things….I’ve had to downgrade my life completely.”

The leap in grocery prices has outpaced the historic 20% rise in living costs that followed the pandemic, squeezing households around the country and fuelling widespread economic and political discontent.

“I’m a Democrat,” says Ms Ellis, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown. “I love voting for them. But Republicans are speaking volumes right now and Democrats are whispering.”

“I want somebody to help me, help the American people,” she adds. “Joe Biden, where are you?”

For the president, already contending with serious doubts about his age and fitness for another term, the cost-of-living issue presents a major challenge, threatening to dampen turnout among supporters in an election that could be decided, like the last two, by several tens of thousands of votes in a handful key states.

Across the country, Americans on average spent more than 11% of their incomes on food, including restaurant meals last year – a higher proportion than any time since 1991.

The jump in food prices has hit younger, lower-income and minority households – key parts of the coalition that helped Mr Biden win the White House in 2020 – especially hard.

But worries about the issue are widespread: a Pew survey earlier this year found that 94% of Americans were at least somewhat concerned about rising food and consumer goods prices.

That was nearly identical to two years earlier, even though the staggering jumps in food prices that hit the US and other countries after Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine have subsided.

Dylan Garcia, a 26-year-old security guard from Brooklyn, says he’s never struggled to buy groceries as much as he has now.

Instead of the fresh food and brand-name items he used to enjoy, he now stocks up on ramen noodles and frozen vegetables – and only eats twice a day because he can’t afford more.

At checkout, he routinely uses “buy now, pay later” schemes, which allow him to pay the bill in installments, but have led to mounting debt.

“I’m stuck in a loop,” he says. “It’s become an insecurity to pull up my phone at the register and have to use these programmes. When they see me, it’s embarrassing.”

Mr Garcia, who has long voted for Democrats, says his precarious financial situation has made him lose hope in politics and he does not plan to vote in November’s election.

“I don’t think the government has our best interest and I don’t think they care,” he says.

The White House maintains Mr Biden has been engaged on issues of food affordability, fighting to increase food stamp benefits and other government aid, initiatives opposed by Republicans.

At last month’s presidential debate, the first question was on inflation, and Mr Biden sought to shift blame to big companies, accusing them of price gouging – a claim that is hotly disputed among economists.

But despite strong job creation and low unemployment, opinion polls show voters continue to trust Mr Biden’s opponent, former President Donald Trump, more on economic issues.

On the CNN debate stage, the Republican White House candidate blamed Mr Biden for stoking inflation, which the White House denies, and said: “It’s killing people. They can’t buy groceries anymore. They can’t.”

The Trump campaign in turn denies that policies he proposes – including a 10% tariff on all goods coming into the US – would worsen price rises, as many analysts predict.

“We believe that a second Trump term would have a negative impact on the US’s economic standing in the world, and a destabilizing effect on the US’s domestic economy,” wrote 16 Nobel prize-winning economists in an open letter last month.

Republicans have accused Mr Biden of trying to mislead the public about the extent of the inflation problem, noting that Mr Biden has claimed, incorrectly, that inflation was already at 9% when he entered office. It was 1.4%.

Katie Walsh, a makeup artist in Pennsylvania, voted for Trump in 2020 and says she plans to do so again, based on his economic record.

The 39-year-old says her family has struggled to keep up with inflation, especially since her business has slowed, as people squeezed by higher prices cut back.

“I know he’s a big fat mouth,” she says of Mr Trump. “But he at least knows how to run the economy.”

Analysts say it is clear that the economy is important to voters, but less clear it will prove decisive in the November election.

In 2022, when inflation was at its worst, Democrats did better than expected in mid-term elections, as concerns about abortion access drove supporters to the polls.

This time around, issues such as immigration and fitness for office are also top of many voters’ minds, while economic trends appear to be moving in the right direction.

Grocery prices were up just 1% over the past 12 months, well within historic norms; and the cost of a few items, including rice, fish, apples, potatoes, and milk, has even come down a bit.

As major chains such as Target, Amazon and Walmart announce price cuts in recent weeks, there are signs the situation could continue to improve.

Some analysts also expect wages, which have increased but trailed the leap in overall prices, to finally catch up this year, providing further relief.

“We’re on the right track,” says Sarah Foster, who follows the economy for Bankrate.com. “Wage growth has slowed, price growth has slowed but, you know, prices are slowing at a much faster rate than wages.”

Stephen Lemelin, a 49-year-old father of two from Michigan, another electoral battleground, says he was pleasantly surprised by lower prices on a recent supermarket trip.

Whatever his concerns about the economy, the military veteran says his support for Mr Biden, who got his vote in 2020, has never been in doubt, given that he sees Trump as a threat to democracy.

“Nobody likes high interest rates or high inflation but that’s not under presidential control,” he says. “If you know politics, there’s really only one choice.”

More on the election

France’s far right ‘sad and disappointed’ over election result

By Mark LowenBBC News

The champagne was on ice, the jazz was on low: the scene was set at the pavilion in Paris’s Bois de Vincennes forest where the National Rally (RN) was staging what it hoped would be its victory rally.

Hundreds of journalists had come from across the world, the sniffer dogs in place to protect a party that was, we all thought, at the gates of power; the first time the far right would enter government in France since World War Two.

But as time ticked towards the exit poll at 8pm, the mood began to turn. Party apparatchiks talked in hushed tones of indications they had fallen short. Nervous glances were exchanged, the glasses looked more half-empty than half-full.

And then the screens told the story: of the National Rally beaten into third place by the left and by President Macron’s centrists. There was stunned silence – and then a smattering of applause by party supporters to try to keep spirits up.

“We are sad, disappointed, struck down by this result,” said Rosa Gave, as she clutched a French flag.

“We are victims of a dishonest alliance led by Macron to block us from power.”

That “alliance” was more of a pact, struck in the last week by opponents of the National Rally – that in many of the three-way races where the RN was in the lead, the third candidate would withdraw, urging voters to rally behind the figure best-placed to stop the far-right. And it worked. It’s a common electoral tactic here – but has still drawn the ire of the RN.

As Jordan Bardella, the party’s 28-year-old president – and the man who had hoped to become France’s prime minister – arrived, there were cheers from the dwindling crowd inside.

“Depriving millions of French people of the possibility of seeing their ideas brought to power will never be a viable destiny for France”, he said.

He denounced President Emmanuel Macron for, in his words, pushing France towards instability – and into the arms of what he called the “extreme left”: a reference to France Unbowed, the party leading the victorious left-wing coalition.

And then came Marine Le Pen, the National Rally’s leader, whose dream of national power has once again been thwarted at the eleventh hour. She was thronged by journalists, as her supporters chanted “Marine, Présidente!” A couple of reporters were pushed over in the melee.

“The tide is rising – our victory has only been delayed,” she said, calling President Macron’s position “untenable”.

  • Live: France faces hung parliament deadlock after left alliance wins most seats

The president who came to power promising to revive the centre ground, to bridge right and left, has done anything but – pushing the French to the extremes. And while many in the National Rally will feel bitterly disappointed that their victory in the first round of this election did not lead them to power after the second, they will be cheering a significant increase in the number of their MPs since the last parliamentary election, confident that one day their time will come.

“France has chosen the coalition of the worst,” said Matteo Giammaresi, a National Rally supporter, holding his champagne glass on a rapidly emptying dancefloor.

“What we say now is giving France hope for the future.”

The party will now wait this government out, believing that division and disunity will play into Marine Le Pen’s hands. And then, at the 2027 presidential election, she would be able to say – this is what happens when we are blocked from power.

What government now emerges is still deeply unclear.

A hung parliament awaits – and potential paralysis. France has been plunged into the political unknown – just not in the way pollsters predicted.

How fetching water is holding back India’s women

By Anagha PathakBBC Marathi

Fetching drinking water is a gruelling daily routine for millions of women in India.

Even without enduring the scorching summer months or the freezing winters, they walk for miles every day, balancing plastic or earthen pots on their heads and carrying buckets in their hands to manage the household water stock.

“It’s a daily struggle. I get so tired that I collapse when I’m done,” says Sunita Bhurbade from Tringalwadi, a tribal village 180km (112 miles) from India’s financial hub, Mumbai.

Ms Bhurbade spends four-to-five hours every day travelling back and forth from her nearest reliable water source – a dry lake – to fill her pots. The water is dirty and she has to dig holes on the side for the water to filter through naturally and seep in.

“For four-to-five months every year, women have no option but to fetch water from long distances because nearby wells and water sources dry up,” she says. Ironically, her village receives one of the heaviest rainfalls in the region.

Because of this daily grind, she constantly complains of back and neck pain, fatigue and weakness.

The daily rigour also bars her and other women from her village from pursing a paid job.

“No-one will hire me even as a farm labourer because they won’t allow me to show up at work in the afternoon,” she says.

“If I go after water, I have to sacrifice my livelihood. If I try to earn a wage, my family stays thirsty.”

According to a 2023 report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef, 1.8 billion people worldwide collect drinking water from supplies located off premises, and in seven out of 10 households, women and girls are primarily responsible for water collection.

This is particularly true in India where, experts say, the need to secure drinking water is holding women back and hindering economic growth.

“First, women can’t take up paid work because they have to do all the household chores and secondly, even if they wish to find some work after doing their daily chores, there are not enough paid jobs for women in rural India,” says Prof Ashwini Deshpande, who heads the economics department in Delhi’s Ashoka University.

  • Water crisis shakes India’s Silicon Valley
  • Why millions in India are still without tap water

The value of women’s unpaid labour in Indian economy is huge. India’s largest commercial bank State Bank of India (SBI)’s Ecowrap report indicates that the total contribution of unpaid women’s work to the economy is around 22.7bn rupees ($276.8m; £216.7m), almost 7.5% of India’s total GDP.

The NGO International Development Organisation estimates that Indian women spend 150 million work days every year fetching water.

Experts say that if women can spend this time in paid activities, they can be financially independent and it can also boost the economy.

The Indian government says it is constantly working to improve water infrastructure countrywide. By January 2024, it said it had provided piped water to almost 74% of rural households.

For those who had to earlier fetch water from outside but are now getting piped water in their homes, the experience has been life-changing.

“I open the tap, water comes rushing… it’s like a dream. I had been fetching water since I was five,” says Mangal Khadke, who’s married and in her 30s and lives about 30km from Ms Bhurbade.

But there are still millions who lack access to tap water.

Around 700km away from Tringalwadi, in the Aaki village of central India’s Amaravati district, village head Indrayani Javarkar spends most of her day finding and collecting water.

“It’s so dry here in the summer that every day I wake up with one thought in my mind: where can I find water today?” she says.

Indrayani has two jobs: first, find and collect water for her family, and second, to organise water tankers for her village.

“Both the tasks are getting harder every day,” she says.

Ms Bhurbade says getting tap water for her is still a distant dream.

“[Women] start when they are children themselves. Someone hands them a small bucket and says, fetch what you can carry. And then, it’s a lifetime’s obligation – until she dies, she is fetching water,” she says.

Ms Bhurbade doesn’t remember a single year where she didn’t have to walk miles with a pot on her head.

We asked what she would do if she didn’t have to fetch water and had spare time.

She thinks hard and says she likes to sing. But her songs are also about water.

“Radu nako bala mi panyala jate,” she sings for us.

It means: “Don’t cry my child, I am going to fetch water.”

  • Published

Four teams are preparing for the semi-finals of Euro 2024, with Spain set to face France on Tuesday while England take on the Netherlands the following day.

Spain are seeking to win the tournament for the fourth time, having most recently triumphed in 2012.

France last won it 24 years ago while the Dutch triumphed in 1988 – and England are of course hoping to end their wait for a first European Championship.

So who is looking in the best shape for their semi-final, and who could win it all?

BBC Sport asked experts from each country for their views, and you can vote for who you think will lift the trophy at the end.

‘Spain have shown they have layers’

Spain displayed three different ways against Germany.

We played with wingers, then without wingers and no striker and then finally 4-2-4 in extra time, which means we have layers. The main thing is we adapted to anything Germany threw at us. Yes we could have lost, but we were never far away from winning it either.

While we were superior to the previous four opponents but we were not against Germany. However we did not give up and got the victory, so it was a different test, one of resilience, faith in the idea, collaboration and insistence, and we came out of it well.

It was also a very physical encounter; it was the most amount of fouls in a game in a European Championship since 2016, but we showed we are not now scared of that either.

We showed a conservative streak when, while ahead, Fullkrug appeared on the scene, balls were crossed into the box and we dropped too deep. We had a team designed to keep the score; perhaps we can learn from that because being too intimidated and hiding in your own box is not, for us, a guarantee of success

Against France we know we will have to take the initiative, like we had to do against Italy, Albania and Georgia. We will have to be careful against counter-attacks, in the same way as we did against all our opponents. We are good at stopping them though, having committed the biggest number of tactical faults.

I know for France to win they don’t have to play well, so it will important to be focused the whole game as they keep looking for a moment of brilliance from their front men. We will have to be careful against France’s pace, with the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe.

Perhaps we are not as efficient as we should be upfront, but because we press so often, and keep shooting and attacking and creating opportunities, eventually we tend to crack the nut and I feel that will happen against France again.

We have suspensions, and Pedri was injured in the last game, but there is not a huge difference between our best player and our ‘worst’. It is a team that behave at all times as that, as a collective, and with a great flexibility, reading well what happens on the pitch.

I think we will beat France and will meet England in the final.

WINNER: Spain

‘Despite modest performances England are contenders’

England must harness the resilience they have shown in the face of adversity and the individual brilliance from Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka that has put them in the semi-final into a more cohesive team performance to beat the Netherlands.

Gareth Southgate’s side have struggled in Euro 2024 against sides who have defended deep, so the more attacking approach of the Netherlands might just suit them and give England’s creative players more room for manoeuvre.

England will need to be at their best defensively because the Dutch pose a serious threat in attack, with Liverpool’s Cody Gakpo having a fine tournament and the unpredictable Memphis Depay always dangerous.

If England get it right they can trouble a Netherlands defence that has looked vulnerable under pressure, with the potential battle between the respective captains Harry Kane and Virgil van Dijk a key component.

Kane struggled desperately in England’s quarter-final against Switzerland, looking physically short and off the pace, but you would still not bet against him taking the big chance if one comes along.

England are now, despite indifferent performances so far, in a position where they are serious contenders to win Euro 2024. They have reached the semi-finals almost in spite of themselves, but confidence must surely be growing and teams often get a sense of destiny being with them at this stage of major competitions – think Greece in 2004 and Portugal in 2016.

If England were to win their first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup, this would not surprise me – but while a sixth sense says England, the head says Spain.

Spain have looked the best team in what has been a mixed Euro 2024 although they could still come unstuck against a hugely talented but regimented France under Didier Deschamps.

None of France’s players have scored a goal from open play while Spain have been fluent with Lamine Yamal, who is not 17 until the day before the final, a revelation in a side that also boasts world-class talent in the shape of figures such as Manchester City’s Rodri.

Spain have a potent mix of youth and experience, are growing into the competition and have looked the most impressive team from the start – but I believe they will have to get past England to win Euro 2024.

WINNERS: Spain.

‘Mbappe will become Mbappe again’

We have seen the best of France defensively, certainly. This is what they do, it is their style and it is their DNA. It is also how you win tournaments, being solid defensively.

Where they have perhaps not been at their best is with the ball. They do not play sexy football, it is not what they are about – but they have been lacking in terms of creating chances. They are usually more effective in the opposition’s box.

Along with Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe has possibly been the biggest disappointment at this tournament.

There are a few explanations, the first being the mask he has had to wear after breaking his nose against Austria. In that game he had looked quite sharp. He also had a few fitness issues before the Euros, so I do not think he is fully fit – but the mask is also really bothering him.

If there is one team that can frustrate Spain more than any other here, it is France.

For me, with Spain’s problems in midfield as a result of Pedri’s injury it will be a case of who wins the battle in the middle. The physical impact the France midfield has is incredible and that is where the game will be won.

This will be a big game for Antoine Griezmann considering he has spent more of his career in Spain than in France, so we need him and Mbappe to raise their games.

I want a France-England final and I think France, of the four semi-finalists, have the ruthlessness and the experience of this level. I also think at some point Kylian will become Kylian again and will be unbeatable.

WINNERS: France

‘Time running out for England & Netherlands’

The Turkey game I think showed the Netherlands have a good Plan B – using Wout Weghorst as a striker with Memphis Depay just behind.

England played with five defenders against Switzerland, so it made it very compact in that area. I think this is the way we need to play if we are going to do it.

The thing I have noticed with this team is they need a wake-up call to get going. They had that against Austria and then against Romania they were good. Then they had another wake-up call when Turkey took the lead in the quarter-final.

There is more in both these teams but they are not coming out yet – and that is a similarity between the sides.

I think the winner will come from the other side of the draw. England and the Netherlands have not yet been tested really; they have faced some good teams but not played the big countries as they are on the other side of the draw.

I think Spain will win because they are playing good football as a collective. England, France and the Netherlands are still waiting to get everything together, but time is running out.

WINNERS: Spain

What information do we collect from this quiz?

  • Published

Novak Djokovic says he expects “fireworks on court” when he takes on Holger Rune for a place in the Wimbledon quarter-finals on Monday.

The 24-time Grand Slam champion is 16 years Rune’s senior but doesn’t underestimate the challenge the Dane will pose when they close proceedings on Centre Court.

“Rune’s a spectacular player, no doubt. He loves the big stage, loves playing on grass. I think he’s a very, very tricky opponent,” said second seed Djokovic.

The 37-year-old is going for an eighth Wimbledon title and record 25th Grand Slam overall.

“It’s going to take my best tennis to win,” he added.

“I actually get along very well with [Rune]. He’s a very nice guy, always has been to me and to my team, and vice versa.”

The pair have met five times previously, with Serb Djokovic winning on three occasions, including the two most recent, on hard courts in 2023.

“I always try to be available to him for any practice or advice or guidance or anything like that,” said Djokovic.

“I think we have quite similar styles of tennis. But when it comes to playing on the court and competing, obviously we both have that fire. I’m sure that on Monday, we’ll see a lot of fireworks on the court.”

Following knee surgery just weeks before arriving at SW19, Djokovic is yet to win a match in straight sets at the All England Club but Rune said he still expects a “tough battle”.

“I’m expecting nothing but a great level from him. I know he did his surgery, but honestly I practised with him in the first week, and I saw him playing a little bit,” said the 15th seed.

“He seems like he’s playing very well, feeling confident.”

Elsewhere on day eight of the Championships, American 13th seed Taylor Fritz will take on German fifth seed Alexander Zverev on Centre Court while Australian ninth seed Alex de Minaur opens play on Court One against France’s Arthur Fils.

Women’s singles draw wide open after shock exits

Kazakh fourth seed Elena Rybakina will open play on Centre Court against 17th seed Anna Kalinskaya with her sights fixed on the quarter-finals after a string of shock exits in the women’s draw.

After second seed Coco Gauff’s straight-set defeat by fellow American Emma Navarro on Sunday, 2022 Wimbledon champion Rybakina is the last of the top five seeds still in the competition.

Only two of the top 10 remain, with Italian seventh seed Jasmine Paolini through to the last eight.

Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva sent number one seed Iga Swiatek out on Saturday and her reward is an outing on Court One against Latvian 13th seed Jelena Ostapenko in round four.

American 11th seed Danielle Collins takes on Czech 31st seed Barbora Krejcikova in the final match scheduled for Court One.

On court two, Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, seeded 21st, will look to avoid slipping up against China’s Wang Xinyu.

  • Published

The England team which have reached the Euro 2024 semi-finals have a strong English Football League background.

Of the 26-man squad Gareth Southgate selected to go to Germany, 19 have played in the EFL, ranging from Ivan Toney’s 273 games to Anthony Gordon’s 11.

Some 25 current EFL clubs are represented in the squad.

BBC Sport looks at the Football League stories of the England players most likely to start Wednesday’s last-four tie with the Netherlands.

England players’ EFL appearances

League games only (including play-offs)

Transfermarkt

Jordan Pickford

EFL clubs: Burton, Carlisle, Bradford, Preston (all loan)

Everton goalkeeper Pickford had four loan spells with EFL clubs while awaiting his breakthrough at Sunderland.

Before that he had spells in non-league with Darlington and Alfreton.

“For me, it was the best thing I could ever do, going out on loan at a young age and develop,” he told the EFL, external in 2022.

“You learn about yourself so much as a person and you’ve got to get stuck in early doors as a player.

“To go and play for Sunderland, Everton and England is my dream come true. It’s an amazing feeling, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I hadn’t gone to the EFL on loan to these clubs.”

Kyle Walker

EFL clubs: Sheff Utd (permanent), Northampton, Sheff Utd, QPR (all loan)

Manchester City right-back Walker played his first nine senior games for League One Northampton in 2008-09 during a short-term loan from hometown club Sheffield United, who were in the Championship.

“It was a reality check for me but a very good one,” Walker told the Standard, external in 2012.

“There were players there whose mortgages were on the line and winning football matches made it easier for them to look after their families.

“If you’re lucky enough to get into a Premier League or Championship team straight away, well done to you, but I feel really grateful for the experience that I had at the lower end.”

After breaking into the United team he moved to Tottenham, but returned to the Blades on loan and also spent time on loan at QPR.

Kieran Trippier

EFL clubs: Barnsley (loan), Burnley (permanent)

Newcastle United full-back Trippier never broke into the Manchester City team but had two loan spells from City with Barnsley, before moving to Burnley in an initial loan move which became permanent.

He spent three seasons in the Championship with the Clarets and one season in the Premier League before moving to Tottenham.

“When he first came to Burnley, we had to fish him out of Tiger Tiger in Manchester every Tuesday night,” former Burnley youth boss Michael Duff told the Yorkshire Post, external in 2022.

“His diet was not very good and he just got by on ability.

“Sean Dyche got hold of him and gave him an understanding of what a professional footballer looks like, as if it’s not just turning up on a Saturday and playing.

“He’s a manager’s dream as he lives his life right and you never see him in trouble outside of football.”

John Stones

EFL club: Barnsley (permanent)

Manchester City centre-back Stones joined Barnsley’s academy at the age of seven and stayed at the club for 12 years.

He made his debut at the age of 17 and made 24 league appearances before moving to Everton in January 2013 for about £3m.

“There were tough times,” he told the England website, external in 2022.

“I remember when I was 14 or 15, I was dropped down an age group for a year or two, which was a blow at the time, but I just wasn’t physically ready for it.

“I even thought I was going to get released at one stage, as I was really small as a kid. All of a sudden, I came back after one summer like I’d slept in a growth bag.”

Marc Guehi

EFL club: Swansea (loan)

Centre-back Guehi’s first taste of league football came during two spells with Swansea on loan from Chelsea in 2020 and 2021.

He helped them to the Championship play-off final, losing to Brentford, before joining Crystal Palace on a permanent basis.

In 2023 Guehi told PA Sport: “Everyone thinks it was plain sailing. I played the first four games and then I didn’t play up until after lockdown. Being away from home, in Swansea, different country, on your own, there’s going to be challenges.

“Those moments were difficult. You learn from them, try to move on and put them right.

“I came from Chelsea with a lot of confidence, and my confidence almost gets knocked.

“For me, it was probably the best moment. I could get away from football, be with my family, and just focus on myself. If we do get back to playing, how can I get back in this team?”

Ezri Konsa

EFL Club: Charlton

The Aston Villa centre-back impressed as a replacement for the suspended Marc Guehi in Saturday’s quarter-final win over Switzerland and will be hoping to keep his place against the Netherlands.

It all started from humble beginnings Konsa, who joined Charlton at the age of 11.

He made 71 appearances from 2016-18, between the Championship and League One, before moving on to then Championship club Brentford and newly promoted Aston Villa.

He said: “At Charlton I developed a lot. I had a lot of coaches who wanted to take me to the next level.

“I was at Brentford with Dean Smith, then he took me to Villa and I haven’t looked back.”

Jude Bellingham

EFL club: Birmingham

Real Madrid midfielder Bellingham’s spell at Birmingham City has been well documented.

He spent a decade at St Andrew’s between the ages of seven and 17, spending one season in the first team before moving to Borussia Dortmund for £25m.

Bellingham became the youngest senior Birmingham player at the age of 16 years and 38 days – he made 41 appearances in the Championship and scored four goals.

“I can’t thank Birmingham City enough for what they have done for me, not just this past year but since the age of seven,” he said when leaving.

Such was his impact that they retired his number 22 shirt.

Pep Clotet, his manager at Birmingham, said in a Coaches Voice article:, external “It was seen as crazy at the time, but it was incredible vision by the people at the club to say that Jude is Birmingham. There will be no-one like him there.

“One of my last moments with him at Birmingham was a dinner at his home with the family.

“The whole dinner, we talked about Birmingham: about how much the club meant to him; about the problems the team had at the time, which were mainly financial; about the city and the fans.”

Harry Kane

EFL clubs: Leyton Orient, Millwall, Leicester (all loan)

Bayern Munich striker Kane was a bit of a late bloomer – with unspectacular loans at Leyton Orient in League One and Millwall and Leicester in the Championship – plus one at Norwich in the Premier League – before his proper Tottenham breakthrough.

There was little indication then that he would end up becoming England and Tottenham’s all-time leading goalscorer.

He did net five goals in nine league starts at Orient, though.

“Harry was not like other Premier League players, where you feel they’re going to come in ‘Billy Big Time’,” said former Orient team-mate Scott McGleish.

“He wanted the experience of learning men’s football.

“In training, he was willing to learn from everybody and, even more importantly, willing to just knuckle down and work hard.”

In recent years Kane has sponsored Orient and donated the front-of-shirt space to good causes.

“I was born only a couple of miles from Orient’s stadium and am really happy to give back to the club that gave me my first professional start,” he said.

What about the rest of the squad?

We have focused on England’s likely starting XI, but plenty of the substitutes have EFL grounding too.

Aaron Ramsdale featured in all three divisions and was relegated from League Two during his first spell with Chesterfield.

Ivan Toney has by far the most EFL experience, having played for Northampton, Barnsley, Shrewsbury, Scunthorpe, Wigan and Peterborough and current club Brentford.

Ollie Watkins is not far behind on games, having started off at Exeter before spending several seasons in the Championship with Brentford.

Jarrod Bowen began in non-league with Hereford before a few years in the Championship with Hull.

Crystal Palace signed Adam Wharton and Eberechi Eze from second-tier Blackburn and QPR respectively.

Lewis Dunk’s long career with Brighton started in League One, while Charlton brought through Joe Gomez, now of Liverpool.

Anthony Gordon, Conor Gallagher and Dean Henderson had loan spells in the EFL early in their careers.

Phil Foden, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Luke Shaw have never played in the EFL, while Declan Rice, Kobbie Mainoo, Bukayo Saka and Cole Palmer have not played for a lower-league team but featured in the EFL Trophy for Premier League Under-21 sides.

  • Published

Lewis Hamilton has had to wait for it, but he finally had his moment of redemption at the British Grand Prix and returned to the top step of a Formula 1 podium – two years, seven months and two days since he last stood there.

In doing so, he broke the record for wins at a single track, and did it in front of his home crowd and his family.

“I can’t stop crying,” he said straight after climbing out of his car. Later, he said: “That might be the most emotional ending to a race I think I have probably ever had.”

To understand those tears, you have to consider what Hamilton has been through in that period.

His last victory was at the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, as his fierce title fight with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen came to a dramatic climax.

A week later, in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton lost the chance to win a record eighth championship after the then race director, Michael Masi, made up the rules as he went along in a late safety-car period.

Over the winter that followed, Hamilton thought about walking away from the sport. Instead, he came back determined to right what he perceived as a wrong, a title that he felt was robbed from him. Only to find that his Mercedes team – after eight consecutive world constructors’ titles – had lost their way following the introduction of new rules.

In the 945 days between his last win and this one, Hamilton said on Sunday, he had doubted himself; doubted, too, whether another victory would ever come.

“The adversity we have gone through as a team and I have personally experienced,” he said, “the constant challenge, like we all have, to get out of bed every day and give it your best shot.

“So many times when you feel like your best shot is not good enough, and the disappointment sometimes you can feel.

“We live in a time when mental health is such a serious issue and I am not going to lie (and deny) that I have experienced that.

“There have definitely been moments between 2021 and here when I didn’t feel like I was good enough, or I thought it was never going to happen again. I have never cried coming from a win. It just came out of me. It is a really great feeling and I am really grateful for it.”

Over the past two years, with a few exceptions, he has generally avoided talking about Abu Dhabi and its impact on him. But this time he let it out.

“Honestly, when I came back in 2022, I thought that I was over it,” Hamilton said. “And I know I wasn’t, and it’s taken a long time to heal that kind of feeling. That’s only natural for anyone that has that experience. I’ve just been continuing to try and work on myself and find that inner peace day by day.”

The emotions at Silverstone were so intense because so many aspects of his life journey had come together at once. Not just the end of a long, long win drought. But his home grand prix, in front of a crowd that adores him and cheered his every move, even when he was fighting with another Briton, Lando Norris. On a track that he said he considered the “best in the world”.

On top of that, he is in his last season with Mercedes, who have backed him since he was 13, before he moves to Ferrari next season; his desire to end his career with them on a high.

And an appreciation of time passing, and of valuable personal moments spent with the people he loves most in the world – his father, mother, brother, sister and her children were all at Silverstone with him.

“Your parents are getting older, you know. We’re travelling so much,” Hamilton said. “Time with family is a constant challenge. My niece and nephew are growing up and growing out of their cuteness. But I’ve had them here this weekend.

“We all try to be there for each other, even at a distance. I know I’ve always had their support, but to be able to see them there and share this experience, they wanted to be at my last race, the last British Grand Prix with this team that have been so incredible to us.

“Mercedes obviously supported me since I was 13. So it’s definitely meant the most today to have them there and to be able to share it with them.”

‘And then it clicked’ – how Mercedes have bounced back

Hamilton triumphed in a race that ebbed and flowed, from a dry start, through two periods of wet weather into a dry finish, and in which the winner was in doubt until the very end.

Hamilton had qualified second to team-mate George Russell and they ran that way through the early laps.

The McLarens of Norris and Oscar Piastri came to the fore in the wet middle period, only to fumble their pit strategy, and hand the win to Hamilton at the final pit stops, when Verstappen also came back into the frame after an unusually uncompetitive race for him was turned by Red Bull’s final tyre choice.

Verstappen charged by Norris to take second, and then chased down Hamilton, who held on to win by just over a second.

In the dry early phase, the Mercedes were clearly the fastest cars on track, and Hamilton managed his soft tyres in the closing laps expertly, while Norris’ fell off badly.

It was confirmation that Mercedes really are finally back in the battle at the front after a long, trying period.

It has happened so quickly. As Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff put it: “Five races ago, we weren’t contenders for the podium and it looked like we were in the third year of non-performance, and then it clicked.”

The “click” moment, Wolff said, was largely down to the input of James Allison, who was reinstalled as Mercedes technical director in the spring of last year when Mercedes realised they had messed up their car for the second year in succession.

“There was a moment where, led by James, suddenly the data made sense,” Wolff said. “The way we made it, the way we balanced the car. And how we could bring it in a better sweet spot. That was the main thing. It wasn’t a miracle front wing, it was more the balance we achieved.”

For his part, Allison explains the transition as one of culture inside the team.

He says it took Mercedes too long to realise that the rules introduced in 2022 “require a different set of skills and a different way of interacting with each other”.

The various departments that define the design and performance of the car, Allison says, need to work much more closely together than under the previous set of rules, under which Mercedes were so successful.

“The car,” he says, “is just the outcome of the institutional approach to designing a car. Everything about being competitive is about valuing the right things, putting resource onto the right things and then pursuing those right things with vigour. The car just pops out at the end as a consequence of that.”

Having realised what was important in making the car fast, and made the appropriate organisational changes, Mercedes have made remarkable progress.

“Suddenly,” Wolff said, “everything that didn’t make sense, made sense and the results of the development direction is back in the old days.”

They have been on pole at two of the last four races. Russell, who retired at Silverstone with a water leak, won in Austria a week ago, inheriting the lead when Verstappen and Norris collided and damaged their cars.

At Silverstone, the Mercedes qualified one-two and were the fastest cars in the race, except when the track was wet, and even then the swing in performance was down to McLaren running more downforce.

Hamilton said: “There’s still a long, long way to go, but we are super close, and I think hopefully with the next upgrade perhaps, we will be in an even stronger position to really, really be fighting for the front row more consistently.”

The next upgrade will come at the next race in Hungary, another of Hamilton’s favourite tracks, with another to follow in Belgium a week later.

“We are finding performance and we are putting it on the car,” Wolff said. “And it translates into lap time and that wasn’t the case for the last two years.

“There is more to come in terms of performance. We are bringing updates to Budapest and Spa but on the other side we mustn’t get carried away. We had a win last week benefiting from (Verstappen and Norris) tangling but today we have an honest win.

“We had the real pace. You could see George and Lewis in the lead and almost under all conditions we were there.”

Norris down on himself

Hamilton, Norris and the other leading drivers at Silverstone put on arguably the best race so far of a year that has completely shifted from the Red Bull domination of the first five races. In the end, Verstappen split Hamilton and Norris, but it could easily have been a British one-two, and either way around.

Norris was leading going into the final pit stops, but the decision to stop for the final time a lap later than Hamilton and Verstappen, in addition to a delay caused by having to hold the car for the passing Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, put Hamilton in front. When the McLaren chewed through its soft tyres faster than the Mercedes, Verstappen was able to close in and take second.

For McLaren and Norris, it was another “missed opportunity”, as team principal Andrea Stella put it, to add to others in Canada, Spain and Austria.

Norris was very down on himself afterwards.

“We threw it away at the final stop,” Norris said. “Even if we had boxed on the perfect lap, the decision to go on the softs was the wrong one. Lewis would still have won, so two calls from our side cost us.

Stella said the team took responsibility for the pit calls. But Norris, at least after the race, was looking at himself.

“I didn’t do a good enough job today with the calls,” he said, “So many things are good and in place, just not executing things the way I want and need to.

“When you throw away a win, it is pretty disappointing. I am just not to the level I need to be at, not to the level of the others at the minute. It is something I need to work on.”

  • Published

Britain’s Emma Raducanu says an encouraging Wimbledon run has “fuelled the fire” to continue her upward trajectory over the rest of the season.

Raducanu, 21, was beaten 6-2 5-7 6-2 by New Zealand qualifier Lulu Sun in the fourth round on Sunday.

It was a disappointing exit after a series of dominant performances had heightened excitement at the All England Club.

But, having reached the fourth round of a major for the first time since winning the 2021 US Open, Raducanu reflected positively on the past week.

“I feel good about things going forwards. I feel optimistic,” said Raducanu, who is set to move back inside the world’s top 100 next week.

“As bitter as it is to take, I think [this defeat] happened for a reason.

“You don’t want things to happen too easily and too quickly. I had that before. I don’t necessarily want just a massive spike.”

Raducanu, who was given a wildcard for the All England Club, was outplayed for much of a fascinating contest.

Having won six matches in a row on the SW19 grass, Sun oozed confidence and hit a flurry of winners.

Raducanu wrestled back momentum by winning the second set but lost serve early in the decider shortly after needing treatment following a fall.

The opening game of the third set was stopped and she received treatment – on her leg and back – while laid out on the court.

Having missed last year’s Wimbledon after having operations on both wrists and her ankle, she added: “Six months ago when I was starting out after surgery, I would have signed for the fourth round at Wimbledon.

“Of course I’m disappointed. Of course I want more.

“It fuels the fire and makes me more hungry.”

‘Tough’ Murray decision was ‘right call’

Raducanu’s defeat came a day after she pulled out of a planned mixed doubles appearance alongside fellow Briton Andy Murray, citing “stiffness” in her right wrist.

Even though it was a sensible precaution – she had needed surgery on the same wrist last year – the move led to some criticism, given it denied Murray the chance to play again in his Wimbledon farewell.

Raducanu said it was a “tough” decision, adding she still stood by “making the right call”.

“With every decision, people are entitled to their opinions. Of course, there was a bit of a cloud around the decision,” she said.

“I don’t think I would have done it any other way.

“I think in this sport, especially as an individual, you have to make your own calls and prioritise yourself.

“Especially with my history, I just had to put myself first.”

‘A beautiful foundation for Raducanu to build’

I think this is a beautiful foundation for Emma to build from.

Her career has been back to front in a way. She flipped the script and went right to the top, won a Grand Slam.

This is her chance to use her experience but it’s also a restart.

You have to be accountable for your own actions and understand there are consequences and she’s comfortable with that.

I think she has a better life balance now and she’s enjoying her tennis.

She’s fit and healthy and building some continuity.

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Bayern Munich have signed winger Michael Olise from Crystal Palace for about 60m euros (£50m).

The 22-year-old English-born France Under-21 forward made 90 appearances in all competitions over three seasons with Palace.

Olise, who joined the Eagles from Reading for £8m in July 2021, has signed a five-year deal.

Chelsea and Newcastle United registered their interest in Olise earlier this summer but the winger has chosen to move to Germany, where he will work under Bayern’s new manager Vincent Kompany.

“I’m very happy to now be playing for such a big club – it’s a great challenge and that’s exactly what I was looking for,” said Olise.

“I want to prove myself at this level and play my part in ensuring we win as many titles as possible in the coming years.”

Olise scored 10 goals in 19 Premier League appearances as Palace finished 10th in the table last season.

He has been selected in the France squad for the Olympics that start in Paris later this month.

“We are hugely proud of what Michael has achieved at Crystal Palace, a club where he has developed greatly as a player,” said Eagles chairman Steve Parish.

“We respect his desire to further test himself at the highest level of world football.”

Bayern are also set to complete the signing of Fulham’s Joao Palhinha in a deal worth £42m plus £4m in add-ons.

The 28-year-old Portugal midfielder was close to joining Bayern last summer but a deal collapsed on deadline day.

England defender Eric Dier has also joined the Bundesliga club permanently after playing for them on loan from Tottenham Hotspur since January.

Bayern’s 11-year hold on the German title was ended by Bayer Leverkusen last season.

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