The Telegraph 2024-07-08 16:12:42

LIVE Politics latest news: Treasury minister does not rule out resurrecting northern leg of HS2

A Treasury minister today failed to rule out resurrecting the HS2 railway line north of Birmingham. 

Darren Jones, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, was told during an interview on Sky News that Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, “wants HS2 reinstated”. 

Mr Jones replied: “I am sure Andy Burnham will have lots of things on his agenda. We will have to talk to Andy Burnham about that. I know that he was working with some other private investors and other mayors to put together proposals.” 

Asked if he was ruling it out, Mr Jones said: “We are going to collaborate with our mayors and devolved leaders, we are going to work with them on the local growth plans… we are not going to be able to do everything and there is going to be difficult trade-offs and we have inherited a very difficult fiscal situation, that is clear. 

“But we can do things to start with and then of course if there are medium and long term aspirations we will work with partners to deliver them.” 

Asked again if he was ruling it out, Mr Jones said: “We will have the conversation with the mayor and see what his proposals are.”  

Rishi Sunak scrapped the northern leg of HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester in October 2023.

Mr Burnham set out a plan in February this year which included alternative and cheaper options to the scrapped northern leg. One option was for a new, lower speed line roughly along the same route. 

You can follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section

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Rachel Reeves to bring back house-building targets

Rachel Reeves will reinstate compulsory house-building targets as part of an overhaul of Britain’s planning rules.

In her first major speech as Chancellor on Monday, she will confirm that Labour will overturn Michael Gove’s decision to water down planning targets.

The announcement will raise fears that Labour will push councils to build on green belt land to help it meet its promise of building 1.5 million new homes over the next five years.

Speaking to business leaders in the Treasury, Ms Reeves will promise moves to speed up the construction of key infrastructure, and to attract private investment.

She will argue that changing the planning system is the sort of tough decision required to “fix the foundations of Britain’s economy”.

“Last week, the British people voted for change,” she will say. “And over the past 72 hours, I have begun the work necessary to deliver on that mandate.

“Our manifesto was clear: sustained economic growth is the only route to improving the prosperity of our country and the living standards of working people.

“Where governments have been unwilling to take the difficult decisions to deliver growth – or have waited too long to act – I will deliver. It is now a national mission. There is no time to waste.

“I want to outline the first steps this new Government has taken to fix the foundations of our economy, so we can rebuild Britain and make every part of our country better off.”

The Conservatives went into the election in 2019 pledging to reach a target of 300,000 new homes a year, with mandatory building targets for all local authorities.

But in December last year, following a Tory backbench rebellion, the then-housing secretary Mr Gove watered down these mandatory local targets.

He rewrote the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF) to say the targets were only aspirational, and to give town halls a series of ways to curb house building if it would damage a local area.

Labour’s manifesto pledged to “immediately” rewrite the NPPF “to undo damaging Conservative changes, including restoring mandatory housing targets”.

It said that while local communities will continue to “shape house building in their area”, Labour would “not be afraid to make full use of intervention powers to build the houses we need”.

The manifesto also pledged to build on more green belt sites if necessary by taking a “more strategic approach to green belt land designation and release to build more homes in the right places”.

‘Legacy of chaos’

In her speech, Ms Reeves will claim that Conservative rule had hampered growth and had left us trailing other major economies.

“We face the legacy of 14 years of chaos and economic irresponsibility,” Ms Reeves will say. “New Treasury analysis I requested over the weekend exposed the opportunities lost from this failure.

“Had the UK economy grown at the average rate of OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] economies since 2010, it would have been over £140 billion larger.

She added: “This could have brought in an additional £58 billion in tax revenues last year alone to sustain our public services. It falls to this new Government to fix the foundations.”

Labour’s manifesto outlined a slew of reforms to speed up planning and boost house building.

It said the party would ensure councils have up-to-date local plans on where housing and industrial development was needed and would fund the employment of hundreds more planning officers.

It also said that while a Labour government would prioritise brownfield sites for the construction of new homes and industries, this will “not be enough to meet our housing need”.

The party promised to build on more green-belt land, especially lower-quality “grey belt”: which is land technically in the green belt but is not of a particularly high landscape value.

However, the manifesto said the party would “prioritise the development of previously used land wherever possible, and fast-track approval of urban brownfield sites”.

Labour also promised a new generation of new towns, inspired by those planned by the post-war Attlee government such as Stevenage, in Herts, and reforms to speed up the construction of new infrastructure, such as road and rail links.

Elected mayors will be given greater powers to plan housing in their areas, and compulsory purchase rules will be changed to speed up building.

The aim is to deliver the biggest increase of social and affordable housing in a generation. Developers will be told to provide a greater proportion of affordable homes.

Sir Keir Starmer will meet England’s mayors on Tuesday. The Prime Minister said on Sunday that he would work “alongside them, sharing the ambition”.

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LIVE France election live: Macron ‘calling for prudence’ after election defeat

Emmanuel Macron is calling for “prudence” after his party came second to the hard-left in France’s snap election. 

Mr Macron, who has not spoken or appeared publicly since the result, faces the prospect of becoming a lame duck president presiding over a hung parliament. 

He is privately calling for “prudence and analysis of the results”, according to an aide who spoke on Monday morning. 

Mr Macron managed to bat away hard-right leader Marine le Pen, but failed to generate a decisive victory. 

The left won 182 seats, Mr Macron’s centrist alliance 168 and Ms Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) and allies 143, interior ministry data cited by Le Monde newspaper showed.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal is due to submit his resignation to Mr Macron on Monday. The left has yet to agree on who it will put forward as its prime ministerial candidate. 

The unprecedented situation is taking shape just as Mr Macron is due to be out of the country for most of the week, taking part in the Nato summit in Washington.

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Suella Braverman’s Tory leadership campaign dealt blow as key ally abandons her

Suella Braverman’s prospective Conservative leadership campaign has been dealt a blow after a key ally abandoned her. 

The former home secretary has seen the campaign organiser from her Autumn 2022 leadership bid switch allegiance to Robert Jenrick, the former immigration minister, who is also widely expected to throw his hat into the ring to replace Rishi Sunak.

Danny Kruger, co-chair of the New Conservatives, a right-wing grouping of MPs, is understood to be now backing Mr Jenrick, who quit his Cabinet post over the refusal by Rishi Sunak to take a tougher approach to immigration.

Both Mrs Braverman and Mr Jenrick pushed Mr Sunak to block any appeals against Rwanda deportation on human rights grounds, have called for the UK to quit the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and proposed a cap on net migration, which was finally accepted for the Tories’ election manifesto.

However, Mrs Braverman has faced criticism from some MPs for her attacks on the campaign’s blunders before the polls closed and is the only prospective candidate to have suggested an accommodation with Reform UK leader Nigel Farage.

“These interventions have made her so unpopular that it’s not going to work. There’s a lot of affection for Suella but some of the things she has done showed a lack of judgement. It’s a pity,” said a senior Tory.

“Private polling is clear. It basically says that party members want the policies of Nigel Farage and the presentation of [Lord] David Cameron.”

Mrs Braverman and Mr Jenrick as well as former health secretary Victoria Atkins all took to the airwaves on Sunday to present their assessment of the Tory defeat – although all refused to say whether they would be standing.

Kemi Badenoch, the former business and trade secretary, is seen as a frontrunner with Priti Patel, another former home secretary, and Tom Tugendhat, the former security minister, also said to be considering pitching for the leadership.

On Sunday, speaking to GB News’s Camilla Tominey, Mrs Braverman said that parts of the Tory party still wanted “more of the same”, but she warned: “We’ve all got to be searingly honest, it’s going to be uncomfortable for some people, or we don’t have any hope of fixing it.”

She said she was having “lots of conversations with colleagues” surrounding a potential leadership bid. “I’m very flattered and very encouraged by what people are saying to me. But this is a really difficult time for our party, there are lots of things to think about,” she added. “We need to agree on the diagnosis of the problem before we reach a resolution on the prescription.”

Mr Jenrick said that migration was “at the heart” of the loss of trust in the Conservatives, citing the number of votes the party had lost to Reform UK.

Echoing the words of Ms Braverman, he said: “I’ve been a member of this party since 1997 when I was 16 years of age. I’ve been with it through thick and thin. I want to ensure that it has the right diagnosis of what’s gone wrong, and that diagnosis is not about personalities. It’s about principles and ideas.”

One Tory said one of the two should stand aside as it would be a mistake for both to challenge for the leadership. “Robert has appeal to the right because of his stance on migration but has an urbanity that also appeals to the centre of the party,” they said.

Ms Atkins, who is from the One Nation centre-left grouping in the party, appeared to pitch herself as a unity candidate. She said that the Tories must talk as a “unified party” and insisted that the public was still “instinctively Conservative”, wanting lower taxes and to “thrive in their personal lives and their livelihoods”.

Supporters of Ms Patel also portrayed her as a unity candidate, in being from the Right of the party but having drawn support from those from the centre and left in the form David Gauke and George Osborne.

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Major General charged with sexual assault

A special operations general has become the most senior officer in centuries to be charged with sexual assault.

Maj Gen James Roddis, who recently left the British Army, is due to attend Bulford Military Court Centre late this month to enter a plea.

Maj Gen Roddis, who was one of the pallbearers who helped carry Prince Philip’s coffin in 2021, has received a number of accolades over his military career.

They include a Distinguished Service Order which is given for highly successful command and leadership during active operations.

He was made an MBE and also earned two Queen’s Commendations for Valuable Service in 2008 and 2017.  

Until recently Maj Gen Roddis, who has been charged under Section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003, was the director of strategy for Strategic Command – an organisation comprised of special forces and intelligence units with a focus on the cyber and electromagnetic domains.

In 2014, Maj Gen Roddis was the commanding officer of The Highlanders, which consisted of troops from the 4th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland, who were then the last Scottish battalion to serve in a combat role in Afghanistan.

The last time a Major General faced court-martial was in 2021 when Maj Gen Nick Welch was convicted of fraud regarding school fees.

Welch, who left the military in 2018, was convicted of a single fraud charge in March 2021 and was jailed for 21 months for falsely claiming more than £48,000 in allowances to pay for his children’s boarding school fees.

It is unusual for an officer of Roddis’ rank to face court martial.

In 1815 Sir John Murray, a Lieutenant General, was convicted of abandoning his siege guns without due cause in the Napoleonic wars. He was cautioned and denied permission to become a member of the Order of the Bath.

Roddis’ case is expected to go to trial later this year before a jury of military officers, according to the Mail on Sunday. 

The 52-year-old married father of three was charged after the Service Prosecuting Authority, the military equivalent of the Crown Prosecution Service, reviewed his case.

The Telegraph contacted Maj Gen Roddis for comment.

An army spokesman said: “We expect very high standards of behaviour from all our personnel and take any allegations of misconduct extremely seriously.

“Ex-Major General James Roddis will appear at Bulford Military Court Centre on 17th July 2024 charged with Sexual Assault contrary to Section 3 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. We will not offer further comment while legal proceedings are ongoing.”

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Bergerac will return to screens with a new face as the troubled detective

Bergerac will return to TV screens with a new face in the leading role.

The original crime drama aired on the BBC from 1981 to 1991, and followed Jim Bergerac, a detective on the Channel Island of Jersey.

Bergerac will now be played by Damien Molony, who was Hal Yorke in BBC Three’s Being Human, in a reimagining of the original material which is being produced by UKTV.

Producers have promised a modern twist on the much-loved crime classic, which originally starred John Nettles in the role of the troubled titular detective.

The new series will feature My Family actress Zoë Wanamaker and Life on Mars star Philip Glenister and will differ from the original in format, following one case over six episodes, rather than having a crime in each instalment.

Stars including Happy Valley’s James Norton and Poldark’s Aidan Turner had been linked to the role before it was secured by Mr Molony, who said: “I’m incredibly excited to be stepping into the role of Jim Bergerac.

“John Nettles has left an incredible legacy with big shoes to fill, and I hope I can bring a fresh new take on this iconic character. I can’t wait for audiences to join me on this journey.”

Bergerac will begin as a man grappling with grief and alcoholism following his wife’s recent death, and struggling to care for his daughter.  Like the original series, the action will take place in Jersey.

Tricia Warwick, chief executive of Visit Jersey, said: “For many, the words ‘Jersey’ and ‘Bergerac’ are synonymous, and we are delighted for the iconic TV series to return to our island’s beautiful shores for filming this summer.

“The modern re-imagining of Bergerac presents an opportunity to celebrate the show’s legacy in Jersey, whilst reaching a new generation of fans who will be eager to ‘jet set’ to the featured locations.”

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Racially diverse cast to play Anglo-Saxons in BBC drama

Anglo-Saxons will be played by a diverse cast in a new BBC historical drama about the Battle of Hastings.

The eight-part series King and Conqueror will tell the story of Harold and William’s epoch-defining struggle for the throne of England in 1066.

Some Anglo-Saxon characters, including a real 11th-century leader, will be played by a diverse set of actors.

Jason Forbes and Elander Moore have joined the cast of the drama which boasts James Norton and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in starring roles.

Adding diversity to a high medieval period setting follows the BBC’s “colour-blind” casting of non-white stars as Tudor courtiers in another upcoming historical drama, Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light.

King and Conqueror is a CBS Studios co-production series acquired by the BBC.

When announced in 2023, CBS Studios executive Lindsey Martin said the scripts would offer “a bold and fresh take on a story that has endured for nearly 1,000 years”.

The BBC said at the time that the series would bring “Harold and William to life” with details of their personal lives, adding: “In the UK we learn about William the Conqueror, the Battle of Hastings and King Harold’s gruesome death in our school history lessons – but those headlines are all most of us can remember.”

The cast includes Norton as Harold Godwinson and Game of Thrones star Coster-Waldau as William, Duke of Normandy, alongside co-stars Juliet Stevenson and Clemence Poesy.

Without any official announcement, further details have emerged of greater diversity in the cast, with up-and-coming talents Forbes and Moore chosen for the roles of Anglo-Saxons.

Forbes will play the fictional character Thane Thomas, with the “thanes” being a layer of nobility in the ethnically homogeneous society of Anglo-Saxon England.

Moore, of Trinidadian descent, will play the real historical figure of Morcar, an Earl of Northumbria who fought against Viking and Norman invaders, before being subdued by William after the battle of Hastings.

Morcar, whose parents were Anglo-Saxon nobles, later rebelled against William’s rule. The colour-blind approach has drawn criticism, with historian and sometime BBC collaborator Dr Zareer Masani saying: “Some of us, including people of colour, grew up thinking actors ought to look like characters they played.”

He warned that going against this approach could be “hugely confusing and downright misleading” adding that it was “absolutely crazy that they’ve applied this colour-blindness to a period when Britain was at its least multicultural, before even the Norman Conquest”.

Cambridge historian Prof David Abulafia, referencing the recent decision of the Anglo-Saxon England journal to scrap its name, said: “ Since the whole series will undoubtedly bear little relation to historical fact, I think we shall have to put up with the bizarre notion that there were black earls in Anglo-Saxon England.

“All the more so, since we are no longer supposed to talk about ‘Anglo-Saxons’. If they didn’t exist, we can do what we like.”

Several period series have chosen to disregard realistic depictions of historical demographics to facilitate a diverse cast.

Bridgerton, based on a series of romantic novels, has cast non-white stars for the roles of multiple Regency-era nobles, and Queen Charlotte.

It emerged in April 2024 that the follow-up series to the acclaimed Wolf Hall would employ a diverse cast to portray courtiers in 16th-century England, including the portrayal of white historical figures.

Lady Margery Seymour, the mother of Jane Seymour, would be played by Sarah Priddy, a British actress of Bahamian descent. Seymour’s sister-in-law Anne would be played by Cecilia Appiah, a British mixed-race actress, and Thomas Wyatt, the Tudor courtier and poet who introduced the sonnet to England, by Amir El-Masry, an Egyptian-British actor.

The BBC and CBS Studios have been contacted for comment.

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