The Telegraph 2024-07-09 14:32:46

Rowling attacks Starmer over new women’s minister

Sir Keir Starmer sparked a row on Monday by appointing a women’s minister who said that there are many definitions of a woman.

JK Rowling, Martina Navratilova and other feminist campaigners attacked the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint Anneliese Dodds as the women and equalities minister.

In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in 2022, Ms Dodds said there are “different definitions legally around what a woman actually is”. When asked again, she said: “I think it does depend what the context is.”

She has also pledged that Labour is “committed to modernising the Gender Recognition Act”, saying the current process was “intrusive, outdated and humiliating”.

It comes after months of criticism of Sir Keir’s stance on gender issues. He had previously said it was “wrong” for one of his MPs to say only a woman has a cervix, and last year said 99.9 per cent of women do not have a penis. He has since changed his stance and said biological men should not be allowed to use women’s lavatories.

After Ms Dodds’ appointment, Rowling described her previous comments as “nonsensical”. The Harry Potter author, who gave Labour £1 million in 2008, has accused it of having “abandoned” her and others campaigning for women’s rights.

Writing in the Times, she said she would struggle to vote for Sir Keir, saying she had a “poor opinion” of his character and accusing the party of a “dismissive and often offensive” approach to women’s concerns under his leadership.

Rowling has become known as a fierce advocate of the rights of biological women after criticising Scottish Government proposals to introduce self-identification for transgender people.

Ms Navratilova, the nine-times Wimbledon singles champion and another prominent gender-critical campaigner, responded to the announcement by tweeting: “Dodds is just awful…”

Susan Hall, the former Tory London mayoral candidate, said: “Women need someone to defend their spaces, not someone who cannot even properly define them.”

Sir Keir announced that Bridget Phillipson, the Education Secretary, would also have the title minister for women and equalities because the title legally has to be held by someone of secretary of state rank.

Ms Dodds will take the lead on equalities issues even though she is only a minister of state. She will attend Cabinet.

She had said in opposition that she was going to be the first Secretary of State for Women and Equalities. Instead, she will combine her equalities role with that of aid minister, in what will be seen as a significant downgrading of the position from pre-election promises.

Tess White, a Tory member of the Scottish Parliament, said: “In March 2022, on International Women’s Day, Anneliese Dodds could not define what a woman is while being interviewed on Woman’s Hour. Shockingly, she said ‘woman’ can mean ‘all kinds of things’. She is now Minister for Women and Equalities. That should alarm us all.”

Ms Phillipson has also been criticised for her approach to women’s issues after she refused eight times to say whether a biological male should be able to use a women’s lavatory during an interview with LBC radio in the run-up to the election.

Joan Smith, the journalist and author, tweeted: “Biological reality, and Labour MPs who recognise it, snubbed by Keir Starmer. Dodds and Phillipson now in position to carry out manifesto commitments opposed by thousands, if not millions, of women. I knew he couldn’t be trusted.”

A spokesman for the What Is A Woman campaign said: “The Government will be judged on its actions. The Prime Minister promised voters to protect singles-sex spaces for biological women and ban the teaching of gender ideology in schools. He and Dodds must now uphold that promise in law.”

Maya Forstater, the chief executive of Sex Matters, a women’s rights charity, said: “The prominence of sex-based rights during the election campaign showed that most people think genuinely single-sex spaces are essential, and that the Government should move swiftly to fix the legal muddle that means service providers are frightened to provide them.

“However Sir Keir decides to organise the women and equalities brief, we look forward to working with the incoming administration to ensure that the law works to guarantee women’s safety, dignity and privacy and to protect everyone’s human rights.”

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Blair predicts £50bn Labour tax raid

Sir Tony Blair has warned that Sir Keir Starmer will have to put up taxes by more than £50 billion unless he comes up with radical new ways to improve productivity.

The chief economist at the former prime minister’s institute forecast that taxes would have to go up by 1.9 percentage points of GDP by the end of the Parliament to stabilise debt.

Tax rises would also be needed to meet increasing health costs caused by an ageing society, to plug the decreasing tax take from oil and gas as part of the transition to net zero and to avoid austerity, a report from the Tony Blair Institute says.

It suggests Sir Tony does not believe Sir Keir’s growth agenda will be enough to meet the challenges of the future. In a speech at a conference in London on Tuesday, the former prime minister will call for greater use of artificial intelligence to boost growth.

“Britain is facing an unenviable triple whammy of high taxes, heavy debt and poor outcomes,” he will say. “And worse is to come with the demographics of an ageing population against us, deep structural health problems and rising numbers of long-term sick.

“The simple and unavoidable truth is that, unless we improve growth and productivity and drive value and efficiency through our public spending, we’re going to become poorer. Much poorer.”

Sir Keir has appointed a number of key figures from Sir Tony’s time in office, such Douglas Alexander, who is now a business minister, and Jacqui Smith, the higher education minister.

The fiscal calculations are contained in a report titled The Economic Case for Reimagining the State by Tom Smith, the Tony Blair Institute’s director of economic policy. He said productivity improvements were vital because of the pressures of an ageing society and lower tax revenues from oil and gas.

“Many of these challenges are not unique to the UK but, without a change in approach, taxes will need to rise by 1.9 percentage points of GDP by the end of this Parliament, three percentage points cumulatively by the end of the next Parliament and 4.5 percentage points cumulatively by 2040,” he said.

Based on the Office for Budget Responsibility figures for 2024-25, the size of the economy is £2.8 trillion. A rise of 1.9 percentage points of GDP would be equivalent to around £53 billion.

Mr Smith said some of the productivity increases needed could be achieved by speeding up house-building, reforming infrastructure planning and improving relations with the European Union.

But he said this would not be enough to avoid large tax rises, saying AI must also be harnessed to drive growth. The report suggested using such technology to enable up to a million public sector workers to be cut – one in six of the workforce.

Sir Tony will say: “There is only one game-changer – harnessing effectively the 21st-century technological revolution. There is absolutely no doubt that this is an era of transformation. 

“Things which were impossible will become possible, advances that would have taken decades will happen in a few years or even months, the value we can add, the improvements in efficiency we can make, the radical benefits in outcomes we can secure, could be truly revolutionary.”

Mr Smith’s report found that more than 40 per cent of tasks performed by public sector workers could be partly automated by AI and robotics, saving a fifth of their time.

Once adjusted for unpaid overtime, a sixth of all work done by public sector workers such as civil servants, nurses and police officers would be freed up, creating a “dividend” that could be used to boost front-line numbers or reduce workers to cut debt.

The report said public sector workers’ productivity had been flat for more than 25 years but that the workforce had grown by 500,000 to six million over that time.

Another report by the Tony Blair Institute included modelling on the economic benefits of preventing ill-health, such as heart disease, cancer and musculoskeletal disorders. 

Around five per cent of people aged 50 to 64 will leave their job within any given year, but this jumps to 13 per cent among people with heart disease and 23 per cent of those who have had a stroke.

The analysis found that cutting rates of heart disease by a fifth, such as through the use of statins, would boost the economy by £2.2 billion within five years and mean 50,000 extra people were still in work.

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Parents dive on disabled children to save them from Russian hospital attack

When a missile hit Kyiv’s Ohmatdyt Children’s Hospital on Monday, Olena Magarevska threw herself over her son, Andriy, to protect him.

The boy, who is nine and disabled because of a neurological condition, was recovering from surgery on the fifth-floor intensive care unit when air raid sirens sounded just before 10am.

Hospital staff were unable to evacuate him to the shelter because of his medical needs, so he was moved to a dining area with sturdy walls for safety.

Then the Russian KH-101 hypersonic missile smashed through the roof of the building in a rare daytime attack that left one dead and 30 wounded, according to hospital staff.

“I heard a loud explosion and me and my husband both jumped to cover Andriy with our bodies. The windows were completely destroyed so then we covered him with pillows in case there was another attack or falling debris,” Mrs Magarevska told The Telegraph through tears.

“The lights also went out and it was so dark in the room. Andriy doesn’t like the dark, he’s scared of it, so I turned the torch on on my phone to try to calm him.”

Ohmatdyt is Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital, where more than 20,000 youngsters and teenagers are treated every year for a range of problems, from injury to genetic conditions and cancer.

Kyiv children’s hospital hit in daytime hypersonic strike

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The missile left a giant hole gouged out of the building in central Kyiv, with rescue workers scrambling to evacuate the most sick and infirm, passing bricks by hand to clear the way.

Children from the oncology ward, unable to evacuate to the shelter alongside most other patients, were forced to sit outside on pavement attached to IV drips.

Daytime missile strikes have become rare since the war began, and direct hits have largely been kept away from Kyiv in recent months.

Russia has targeted civilian infrastructure throughout the war and some observers pointed out the attack on the hospital had echoes of Vladimir Putin’s playbook in Syria.

The surprise attack came as Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, met Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, to discuss a potential peace deal to end the war. Mr Orban has also visited Volodymyr Zelensky and Putin in recent days.

Joe Biden, the US president, said the strikes were “a horrific reminder of Russia’s brutality”.

“It is critical that the world continues to stand with Ukraine at this important moment and that we not ignore Russian aggression”, he said. 

Mr Biden said he would be meeting Mr Zelensky this week at the NATO summit to “make clear our support for Ukraine is unshakeable.”

“Together with our allies, we will be announcing new measures to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences to help protect their cities and civilians from Russian strikes,” he said. 

Andriy was left in his bed inside the smouldering hospital for five hours before he was evacuated safely out of the rubble to another Kyiv hospital. While he waited Mrs Magarevska and her husband, Igor Magarevskyi, tried to keep Andriy calm amid the broken glass and ceiling debris.

When Andriy was moved first to a stretcher in the lobby, Mrs Magarevskyi held and kissed his hand, stroking his head for comfort amid the chaos of the relief operation.

Volodymyr Zovnir, director general of the hospital, said that it had been a routine morning and that staff were gathered for a meeting when the air alarm sounded and they rushed out to move children to the shelters.

“We heard one explosion nearby and we moved to a safer area and then the second explosion hit us. I ran to the emergency department and asked the doctors to start helping the wounded immediately,” he said.

“Approximately 30 people were wounded and one died – she was taking children to the shelter at the time. Some of the wounded are doctors and nurses, many with shrapnel wounds.”

Mr Zovnir said that one doctor had been about to carry out heart surgery at the time of the attack, but both he and the eight-year-old patient had survived.

Volunteers quickly descended on to the scene, bringing medical supplies, water and food for the patients, medical staff and rescue workers. The hospital was plunged into darkness with even the generators damaged, and the corridors flooded because of burst pipes. The air was thick with smoke and rocket fuel.

The first children to be evacuated were those with the most urgent needs, those with cancer or who rely on breathing equipment. Some doctors were trapped and had to escape out of the window while four staff members were in the lift at the time of the attack and were briefly stuck.

With most of the windows broken, many of the hospital rooms had collapsed ceilings and wires dangling down. Some staff were planning to stay overnight to help the clean-up.

“If I could give my own life to save the children, I would,” Nina Fiterenko, a hospital cleaner, said. “The West has to give us more support, more air defences – don’t let any more children get hurt.”

As well as the hospital and its patients, much of the hospital’s equipment was badly damaged, meaning any restoration effort will be costly. The hospital is already searching for a new location to continue its work.

A baby was reportedly pulled out from under the rubble on Monday evening and taken to another hospital.

According to Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, two people were killed at the hospital, including a young doctor, and 16 people were injured, of which seven were children. Ukraine’s Ministry of Health announced that Germany is to take some of the children for treatment from Wednesday.

Seven districts in Kyiv were damaged in total, with 82 people injured and at least 22 killed, according to Kyiv’s military administration. Among the damaged areas were a former factory, residential buildings and another medical facility, where at least seven were killed. One metro station was also damaged.

“Russia cannot help but know where its missiles are flying, and must fully answer for all its crimes: against people, against children, against humanity in general,” Mr Zelensky said.

Tuesday has been declared as a day of mourning in the capital.

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Wimbledon blames rain for drop in spectators in first week

Wimbledon has suggested the weather rather than competition from other events or a lack of star players is to blame for a dip in attendances at this year’s tournament.

Fewer visitors were recorded on every day of the tournament’s opening week, except for Tuesday when Andy Murray, the two-time Wimbledon champion, was expected to play in the first round of the men’s singles.

Tournament records reveal 282,955 fans had passed through SW19, around 10,000 fewer than in 2023, a near 4 per cent drop.

Torrential downpours had certainly dampened enthusiasm from expectant visitors with nearly a month’s worth of rain (38.6 mm) falling in the space of a single week, according to Met Office data, recorded at nearby Kew Gardens.

Wimbledon defends its empty seats

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Friday alone saw half a month’s worth of rainfall (26.6mm) in a single day and the lowest attendance on Wimbledon’s fifth day (36,360) since 1998 – excluding the pandemic-restricted 2021 tournament.

As the second week of the tournament began Sally Bolton, head of the All England club, denied Wimbledon had lost its allure for fans following the absence of stars like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams.

She said: “This year the weather has been so variable and so bad at times that I think at the moment our assessment is it’s almost certainly the weather that’s impacting [attendance].

She added: “I think the real challenge for everyone is the variability of the weather.

“Even those who are just using weather apps can see that you are coming in, looking two days ahead and it looks like it’s getting better and then it changes.”

“None of us had seen how excited people would become about the likes of [Carlos] Alcaraz [the defending Wimbledon champion] and [Jannik] Sinner [the World number one] and others.

“There is genuine excitement about this new generation.”

However in a week featuring a general election and Euro 2024, Ms Bolton said it was becoming increasingly difficult to grab viewers attention.

She added: “I think the broader challenge for tennis and sport is that competition for people’s attention and time is just ever greater from a whole range of different things.”

Ms Bolton dismissed concerns that the semi-final clash between England and the Netherlands on Wednesday would affect Wimbledon attendance, commenting: “I am not concerned about a football impact.

“At this point, I am still concerned about it still raining”.

England’s Euro 2024 quarter-final victory against Switzerland on Saturday was watched on BBC One by a peak audience of 16.8 million people.

Challenging tournament

Asked if this was the most challenging tournament to schedule since her tenure began, in 2020, Ms Bolton replied: “Probably from a scheduling standpoint and just the unpredictability of the weather, it just means that when you are looking ahead to a day, you start with a plan in mind and the rain really is quite unpredictable.”

A total of 79 matches have been cancelled so far, many of them junior players owing to a combination of the weather and player injuries.

Ms Bolton said they were prepared to accept fluctuations in attendance because of tickets being held back for its famous queue.

She added: “The weather has been so terrible that perseverance in the queue has been even greater this year than it ordinarily is.

“We’re never about maximising our attendances, we’re all about protecting the queue and making sure that we have still got that accessibility, accepting that, as a result of that, [there is] some variability on the numbers that we will end up achieving.”

“Every year when we get back to the end of the championships we look back and try and analyse the data to understand what might drive that.”

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The weather for the tennis does not look likely to improve immediately, as yellow weather warnings for rain have been issued by the forecaster across parts of southern England and south Wales on Monday night and in northern Scotland on Tuesday night.

Andrea Bishop, of the Met Office, said: “It has been a damp start to Wimbledon, with more than double the rainfall we’d expect to see over the Greater London area in the first week.

“It is the influence of low pressure which has been bringing periods of rain, and this doesn’t look like it’s changing over the next couple of days.

“But, there is some good news for fans, as there is a signal towards drier conditions overall by the weekend.

“Although there should be some sunny spells, there will still be showers in places with temperatures generally below average for the time of year.”

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Suspected people smugglers to be hit with travel bans in King’s Speech

Suspected people smugglers will face travel bans under new counter terrorism-style laws to be set out in Sir Keir Starmer’s first King’s Speech next week.

The new legislation will give the police, Border Force and intelligence officers working under the new Border Security Command powers to treat people smugglers like terrorists.

The Border Security Bill, to be set out in the King’s Speech, will allow officers and investigators to use serious crime prevention orders against suspected people smugglers. They enable law enforcement to place tough conditions on travel in the UK or abroad as well as on their access to the internet and banking.

Any breach of the order carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in jail. They can be applied both before a suspected people smuggler is convicted or if they are found guilty.

They have previously been restricted to terrorists but will be extended to immigration crime in the legislation. Border Force officials will also get expanded powers under the 2000 Terrorism Act for enhanced stop and search powers for anyone suspected of being a people smuggler.

Police are required in traditional stop and searches to have “genuine and objectively reasonable suspicion” that they will find a banned weapon or item like drugs for use in a crime. The new powers will enable officers to carry out personal searches, examine and seize mobile phones and copy any data on the devices of any suspects at ports and border control.

Like terrorism police, officers could get warrants to search suspected people smugglers’ premises and seize items before an offence was committed and apply to courts for early access to financial information on suspects.

“By replicating this power for organised immigration crime, we can ensure that investigators can raid and seize relevant information and property from addresses linked to people smuggling before an offence has taken place,” said a policy document.

Hundreds of police officers will be deployed across Europe to stop people smugglers as part of the new UK Border Security Command.

On Sunday, Yvette Cooper, the Home Secretary, announced the first steps in setting up the command by kickstarting the search from Monday for a former police, military or intelligence chief to head it.

Neil Basu, a former head of UK counter-terrorism policing, is expected to apply for the job and is likely to be a frontrunner. Mr Basu was overlooked by the previous Government to head the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Metropolitan Police. Another contender could be former soldier David Neal, ex-chief inspector of borders and immigration.

It will also see up to 1,000 extra officers recruited by the NCA, Border Force and MI5 specifically to target smuggling gangs. A “significant number” will be based across Europe working with Europol and European police forces.

The command is modelled on the National Counter Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) set up by the last Labour Government to overhaul and coordinate the approach to national security.

It will be funded by the money saved by scrapping Rishi Sunak’s Rwanda scheme, which is expected to generate some £75 million in the first year. Ms Cooper also announced on Monday that she had ordered an audit of the Rwanda scheme to establish how much it cost and the Government’s liabilities.

Britain can end the Rwanda scheme by terminating the agreement through a break clause that allowed both governments to leave it. Under the clause, the UK will not have to make any further payments from the date the break clause is activated.

The UK has already paid £270m, with the latest £50m instalment handed over in April this year. By ending the scheme, Britain will save two further £50m payments in 2025 and 2026.

The agreement stipulated that Britain would still be expected to pay for any migrants who had already been relocated. None have been deported so far although two failed asylum seekers have voluntarily gone to Rwanda under a separate agreement where they were offered a £3,000 incentive to go.

The agreement specifically rules out any refunds to Britain of any of the £270m paid or any additional money already advanced to Rwanda.

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Parents accused of stabbing 14-year-old daughter to death

A 14-year-old girl was stabbed to death at home after a confrontation with her parents, a court has heard.

Scarlett Vickers suffered a single stab wound to the chest in the incident at a semi-detached house in Darlington, County Durham on Friday evening.

Her parents Simon Vickers, 49, who works for the 3M manufacturing plant in Newton Aycliffe, and Sarah Hall, 44, who is unemployed, appeared in court on Monday morning charged with her murder.

Sarah Kemp, the prosecutor, told Newton Aycliffe magistrates’ court that the fatal stabbing had followed an incident at the family home.

Georgia Snowden, representing the victim’s mother, told the court her client disputed the facts of the prosecution case and was “absolutely distraught”.

Police and paramedics were called to Geneva Road, Darlington, just after 11pm but Scarlett was pronounced dead at the scene.

Both defendants were dressed in grey police-issue sweatshirts and trousers and Ms Hall shook throughout the five-minute hearing.

Ms Kemp told the court: “There was an incident at the home address in Darlington resulting in the fatal stabbing of Scarlett, the 14-year-old daughter of both defendants.

“She suffered a single knife wound to the chest resulting in her death. This is not a matter that can be dealt with here and I ask the case be sent to the crown court.”

Steven Hudd, the district judge, told Mr Vickers and Ms Hall: “The offence of murder is one which can only be heard at crown court. I am sending your case to Teesside Crown Court for a plea and case management hearing on Aug 5.”

He said if either defendant wished to make a bail application, there would be an opportunity to do so on Wednesday – but they were remanded in custody until then.

Det Supt Craig Rudd, the senior investigating officer, said: “This incident has resulted in the tragic death of a young girl, and our thoughts are with her family and friends.

“I would like to thank the local community for their patience and co-operation while investigative work is still being carried out at the scene, and to reassure residents that we believe this to be an isolated incident.”

Neighbours spoke of their “utter shock” following the death of the teenager.

Floral tributes were placed outside the house, some by teenage girls who were school friends of Scarlett’s.

One message read: “To Scarlett. Rest easy sweet girl, we all love and miss you. Sleep well from Demi and Lexi.”

‘Sad and shocking’

A neighbour said: “It’s hard to take in. Simon has a good job and his partner comes across as very pleasant as well, she would always smile and say hello.

“It’s hard to imagine what could have happened for things to go as wrong as this. The first anyone knew was when the police cars and ambulance arrived.”

Another neighbour said: “I spoke with Sarah earlier that day, we were talking about shopping. I used to see their daughter playing in the garden, they’ve always seemed like a pleasant family. It’s such a shock that a young girl’s life has been lost in that way.

“It’s incredibly sad and I think most of us who live nearby are struggling to get it out of our heads. It’s been an utter shock.”

In a tribute posted to its website, Haughton Academy in Darlington said Scarlett was a “lovely girl and important member” of the school community.

The statement continued: “She was always immaculately turned out, respectful and polite.

“A very friendly girl with a great sense of humour, she was popular with her friends and will be greatly missed by everyone at school.

“Staff and pupils at Haughton Academy and the Education Village Academy Trust are extremely saddened by the news and we would like to pass on our thoughts to everyone affected by this tragedy.”

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Macron rejects his prime minister’s resignation

Emmanuel Macron asked his prime minister not to step down as he pleaded for calm after chaotic parliamentary election results left the country facing a hung parliament.

Gabriel Attal offered his resignation on Sunday night after parliamentary election results pushed Mr Macron’s party into second place, triggering frantic talks to form a new government.

Mr Macron on Monday said he had turned down the resignation, and asked Mr Attal, 35, to remain in post for now to “ensure the stability of the country” just two weeks ahead of the Paris Olympics.

The New Popular Front, or NFP, which comprises Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s hard-Left France Unbowed (LFI), Communists, Greens and Socialists, came first in Sunday’s snap legislative election, taking 193 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly.

Mr Macron’s centrist Together group came second on 165 seats and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (RN) and its allies came third on 143 seats, in a stunning setback for the hard-Right party that polls had predicted to come out in front.

The snap election was called in the wake of the Macron camp’s humiliating defeat to RN in last month’s European parliamentary elections.

Mr Macron insisted it would bring “clarity” over the French electorate’s wishes.

However, it has ended in confusion as the three main blocs fell far short of the 289 seats required for an outright majority, raising the prospect of deadlock until a workable majority can be cobbled together, which could take weeks.

With no single group approaching an absolutely majority, the options include the NFP seeking to form a minority government and support on a bill-by-bill basis (as Mr Macron’s minority government has over the past two years), a broad coalition for the centre-Left and centre-Right, or a government of technocrats.

Flush with its unexpected pole position, the Left-Green alliance announced that it would come up with its own candidate for the next head of government “within the week” to replace Mr Attal.

Mr Mélenchon, whose LFI won the most seats in the alliance (74), on Sunday evening unilaterally called on Mr Macron to “leave or appoint a prime minister” from the NFP, which he implied should come from his party.

He insisted the NFP should then be allowed to instantly start rolling out its soak-the-rich programme that that would boost the minimum wage by14 per cent, cut the retirement age from 64 to 60 and freeze on energy prices and essential goods – if necessary by decree.

His lieutenant Manuel Bompard confirmed the party stance on Monday, saying: “The president must appoint as prime minister someone from the NFP, to implement the NFP’s programme, its whole programme and nothing but its programme.”

But Socialists and Greens are keen to put other names forward for prime minister, pointing out that together they form a larger group than Mr Mélenchon’s.

Socialist Olivier Faure, for his part, hoped that the NFP would be “in a position to present a prime ministerial candidate within the week”. Both he and Marine Tondelier, the Green Party leader, said that the figure should be someone “consensual”, which appeared to rule out the divisive Mr Mélenchon. However, one of his loyalists, Mathilde Manot, said the Leftist firebrand was “absolutely not disqualified” for the post.

Many commentators said it was totally unrealistic for the NFP to think it could impose its radical programme without support from a wider coalition.

“The truth is that the Left cannot hope to govern without compromising, in one way or another, with more centrist forces,” wrote Left-leaning editorialist Laurent Joffrin. “French voters did not give it a mandate to implement its programme, but to prevent the RN from taking power. Let’s not forget that the lion’s share of NFP MPs in the new assembly were elected by voters from another party.”

With Mr Macron due to fly out on Wednesday to a Nato summit in Washington, his camp argued that it was up to the president to appoint the new prime minister from the largest group in parliament that can form a workable majority.

“It is important not for the president, but for the country, to have a majority that can govern and take decisions, that can pass a budget and that can implement public policy,” said an Elysée source.

“Today, no one coming out of the election is able to claim that….The president must find a personality who is capable of emerging from this.”

The Macron camp is seeking a coalition with what it calls a “Republican arc” of centre-ground MPs, excluding LFI and RN.

If negotiations fail, Mr Macron could appoint a non-partisan expert government to manage day-to-day affairs, subject to parliamentary approval

Gérard Larcher, the president of the French senate, said on Monday that Mr Macron “has plunged us into political instability”.

“An electoral cartel of the hard-Right and Left, with no future due to fundamental disagreements, comes in first but cannot claim to govern France with a project that would lead to economic and social disaster,” he warned.

On Monday night, Mr Mélenchon refused to rule himself out as the next French prime minister, despite reservations from his own camp saying: “I’m part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

He insisted that according to French political tradition, it was up to his LFI party to decide.

“Since the country has known situations of cohabitation, the party with the majority chooses a prime minister. I think it’s a wise rule.”

He said a name would be put forward “this week”.

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