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Little Britain sketch ‘explicitly racist and outdated’, Ofcom research says | Ents & Arts News

A Little Britain sketch has been called “explicitly racist and outdated” by Ofcom audience research.

The sketch featured in the television show, which was written and performed by David Walliams and Matt Lucas and aired from 2003 until 2006.

It depicts Walliams using racist language to describe an Asian student.

As part of a study into audience expectations on potentially offensive content across linear TV and streaming services, television regulator Ofcom showed people a number of clips.

Participants said they viewed the Little Britain content as “explicitly racist and outdated, and felt that society had moved on”.

“A few participants said they found it funny but seemed embarrassed to say this and could recognise why it would be offensive,” the report said.

David Walliams (left) and Matt Lucas
David Walliams and Matt Lucas created and starred in Little Britain

Others were also surprised that the episode was still available to watch on BBC iPlayer, while some said video on demand platforms (VoD) were more appropriate for the content as they give viewers a choice about watching or not.

For some, the content was considered too problematic, even for VoD, the report said.

On iPlayer, the episode currently features a warning before a viewer clicks on the show, reading: “Contains adult humour. Contains discriminatory language.”

Viewers in the Ofcom study did not think the current rating was enough, suggesting that a warning about “the racist language and an explanation for why it was still accessible” was needed.

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The BBC defended its decision to show the sketch, saying it is “intended to expose and ridicule some of the outdated prejudices and racism that still exists in parts of British society, which is more apparent when viewing the sketches within the context of a full episode, and across the series as a whole”.

A spokesperson for the broadcaster said: “All jokes in our output are judged on context and intent.

“The programme is part of the BBC’s comedy archive, and information is provided for iPlayer viewers about the inclusion of discriminatory language.”

While some participants agreed the sketch was important as it reflects the beliefs of society at the time, others were concerned that it could normalise racist behaviours that could be repeated by young children.

“If I saw my daughter watching that and then mimicking it, I’d be horrified,” one respondent, a father from Scotland, said.

He added: “If kids are watching it, they need it to be explained that that’s not acceptable. It’s passed off as acceptable behaviour towards fellow human beings that come from a different part of the world.”

Other episodes of Little Britain have previously been removed from streaming services following criticism over the use of blackface.

Clips from Jimmy Carr’s stand-up special His Dark Material, which is available on Netflix, Channel 4 show The Handmaid’s Tale, Amazon Prime Video’s The Boys and Disney animation The Aristocats, which is on Disney+, were also shown to respondents during the Ofcom research.

Sadiq Khan accuses Suella Braverman of ‘posturing’ over Palestine protests | Politics News

Sadiq Khan has criticised Suella Braverman for describing pro-Palestinian protests as “hate marches”, saying her “posturing” could divide communities.

Speaking to Beth Rigby for Sky News’ Politics Hub programme, the Mayor of London said that “by and large”, demonstrations in the capital have seen people acting in a “peaceful, lawful and safe way”.

Instead, he urged the home secretary to listen to calls from the head of the Metropolitan Police Sir Mark Rowley for the government to “step in and provide clarity” over extremism legislation to tackle the “small minority [who] may have acted outside the law”.

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Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets over the past three weeks to show their support for Palestinians amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

While many of the protesters have been calling for an end to the airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, other more troubling incidents have surfaced, including protesters chanting “jihad” or using antisemitic tropes – with five people charged after the latest demonstration on Saturday.

The Met Police has faced criticism for not making more arrests, but the commissioner told Sky News there was a “gap” in the law when it comes to extremism, and there was “scope to be much sharper” in legislation to tackle it.

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‘UK could be sharper in how we deal with extremism’

Speaking after an emergency COBRA meeting chaired by Rishi Sunak on Monday, Ms Braverman gave her assessment of the protests so far, telling broadcasters: “To my mind there is only one way to describe those marches: they are hate marches.”

But Mr Khan disagreed with her language, telling Rigby that the home secretary “should be bringing people together… rather than seeking to divide people by posturing”.

He said: “A cornerstone of our democracy is the ability to protest, to lobby MP politicians, to email them, to go to their surgeries, to get involved in civic society.

“By and large, over the last three weeks, the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve been protesting have been doing it in a peaceful, lawful and safe way.

“I accept a small minority may have acted outside the law. That may be a grey area. And what the home secretary should be doing is listening to her commissioner, who has said quite clearly the government should be stepping in and providing clarity in relation to laws around extremism.”

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Thousands protest for ceasefire

The mayor spoke about the 2000s when tensions in the Middle East were heightened over the Iraq war.

He said one of the things the Labour government he was then in “encouraged, particularly Muslims to do in this country, was to get involved in mainstream politics… and what she’s doing, either intentionally or unintentionally, is driving citizens away from mainstream democracy, which is protest”.

Sadiq Khan says ULEZ 'landmark decision is good news for London'.

Mr Khan added: “We’ve seen an increase in Islamophobia and antisemitism. [Ms Braverman] should be bringing people together, explaining – look, you can have strong views, be pro-Palestinian, but you must not be antisemitic.

You can have strong views supporting the government of Israel, but you can also have sympathy and empathy for those in Gaza and want to bring people together. [She could] unite our society rather than seeking to divide people by posturing.”

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Pro-Palestinian protesters sit down at Waterloo station

Mr Khan said he was “speaking on a daily basis” with the Met and had received briefings from the commissioner over the recent protests.

“The police have got to police without fear or favour, whatever their views are… they’ve got to enforce the law,” he said.

“And if there’s confusion in the law, what the home secretary can be doing, which would be helpful, is provide clarity. Rather than doing that, she’s using [this] language.”

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But defending her cabinet colleague over her initial remarks, Environment Secretary Therese Coffey said Ms Braverman had “reflected the repulsion that many people heard when they heard these chants of basically demanding an end to Israel”

She did tell broadcasters, however, that she was “very conscious that’s a minority of people” on the marches.

Cost of living payment: Households to start receiving second grant ahead of winter | UK News

Low-income households are set to receive a second £300 cost of living payment from today.

The payment will be made to people who get certain benefits, including universal credit, and will be paid directly into their bank accounts.

More than 8 million households across the UK will receive the second cost of living support payment after the first in the spring.

It is due to arrive in bank acounts between 31 October and 19 November.

If you are eligible, the payment will be sent out automatically and the same way you receive your existing benefits – so you do not need to apply or do anything to receive it.

The payments are tax-free, do not contribute towards the benefit cap, and do not impact on existing benefits.

A further payment is due to be made next spring, bringing the total to £900.

As the payments were rolled out, Rishi Sunak said: “I know that winter can be a particularly challenging period for many families across the country.

“That’s why we have put in place a package of immediate support for vulnerable households over the coming months.”

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Sunak and Starmer clash over cost of living

Who is eligible?

Those who are entitled to receive the payment are those on:

• Universal credit
• Pension credit
• Income-based jobseeker’s allowance
• Income-related employment and support allowance
• Income support
• Working tax credit
• Child tax credit

Most people will be paid through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) but those eligible solely through tax credits will be paid by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) instead.

HMRC will publish specific details of when payments will be made to these people.

COVID-19 inquiry: Dominic Cummings set to give evidence amid Barnard Castle protest | Politics News

The number of people who died from COVID-19 in the UK has been projected onto the walls of Barnard Castle – the evening before Dominic Cummings was set to give evidence to the official inquiry into the virus and how the UK government handled it.

A message saying “231,332 COVID deaths – is that clear enough to read?” on the notorious fortification was organised by campaign group 38 Degrees and COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK.

Mr Cummings, who famously claimed he drove to the castle to test his eyesight while the UK was still under restrictions, is due before Baroness Hallett’s probe later.

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It is not certain when he will be called to give evidence, after Monday’s witnesses overran.

Martin Reynolds – now known as party Marty for his role in the partygate affair – spent hours going over how the government responded to the pandemic.

Questions are piling up for Boris Johnson and Rishi Suank – and it’s likely to get worse

He was a senior civil servant under Boris Johnson.

While the inquiry cross-examined him, messages came out which showed current Civil Service head Simon Case saying that Mr Johnson was unfit to lead due to his constant changing of direction.

Mr Case also claimed that government “isn’t actually that hard, but this guy is making it impossible“.

He is set to give evidence himself at some point, and is currently on medical leave from his role in Number 10.

Mr Reynolds – who invited Downing Street staff to a “bring your own booze” party – was supposed to only spend part of the Monday morning evidence session before the inquiry, but he ended up being required until after lunch.

As such, former Downing Street communications director Lee Cain was told he would not be heard from on Monday and instead will speak on Tuesday morning.

Dominic Cummings. Pic: AP
Dominic Cummings. Pic: AP

Mr Cummings is expected to appear on Tuesday afternoon.

Having worked for Mr Johnson in Downing Street during the pandemic, the preceding election and during the Brexit deadlock, Mr Cummings has since become one of the former prime minister’s harshest critics.

Messages released on Monday show him referring to Mr Johnson as a “trolley” because his tendency to constantly change direction.

Both Mr Cummings and Mr Cain had left Downing Street by the end of 2020, with Mr Cummings claiming that Mr Johnson’s wife had too much power.

Former chancellor George Osborne warned last week that “disgusting and misogynistic” messages from the pandemic were likely to come out this week.

Andy McDonald: Senior Labour MP suspended over ‘deeply offensive’ comments at pro-Palestine rally | Politics News

A senior Labour MP has been suspended from the parliamentary party following “‘deeply offensive” comments he made at a pro-Palestine rally over the weekend.

Andy McDonald held various shadow ministerial roles under Jeremy Corbyn, and served under Sir Keir Starmer’s leadership before resigning from the front bench in 2021 over a disagreement in policy with the leadership.

Over the weekend, he attended a pro-Palestine rally, in which he said: “We won’t rest until we have justice. Until all people, Israelis and Palestinians, between the river and the sea, can live in peaceful liberty.”

He went on to shout “free Palestine”.

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Downing Street said it was “not acceptable” for people to chant “from the river to the sea” – a phrase referring to the land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea – as it is “deeply offensive” to many.

While Mr McDonald did not immediately face consequences for his words, he was later suspended on Monday evening.

Sir Keir and his party have been far from united on their response to the conflict in the Middle East, with the leader calling for “humanitarian pauses” but not a ceasefire, while other Labour MPs – including shadow ministers – have called for a stop to the fighting.

A Labour spokesperson said: “The comments made by Andy McDonald at the weekend were deeply offensive, particularly at a time of rising antisemitism which has left Jewish people fearful for their safety.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald
Andy McDonald has lost the Labour whip

“The chief whip has suspended the Labour whip from Andy McDonald, pending an investigation.”

The chant “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” has been heard during recent demonstrations.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has previously said the slogan is antisemitic, adding that she thinks it is “widely understood” to call for the destruction of Israel.

Pro-Palestine campaigners contest this definition.

Mr McDonald’s suspension came shortly after Tory MP Paul Bristow was sacked from his government job for calling for a permanent ceasefire – as the government policy is the same “humanitarian pauses” as Sir Keir is advocating.

John McDonnell, who served in Mr Corbyn’s shadow cabinet with Mr McDonald, said the suspension “isn’t just unjust it is absolute nonsense”.

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He claimed that Mr McDonald “turned a slogan some are concerned about into a peace plan”.

Kate Dove, the co-chair of the left-wing campaign group Momentum, claimed the suspension as “appalling and opportunistic”.

Safestyle: Around 680 workers made redundant after window and door seller falls into administration | Business News

Around 680 staff have been made redundant at window and door seller Safestyle.

The business had gone into administration and the GMB union had expected up to 600 job losses.

But on Monday, administrators Interpath Advisory were appointed and said the number was around 680 workers.

Staff were unexpectedly texted to “down tools” on Friday evening at the Bradford, Yorkshire headquartered company.

Before the weekend, on Friday, the Safestyle board filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators and said the company could not continue trading as a going concern.

Trading in company shares on Friday morning was temporarily suspended, “pending clarification of the company’s financial position”, a regulatory notice said.

Additional funds had been sought but on Thursday the company said it did not expect to be in receipt of capital or new financing.

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HSBC frets on UK outlook but banks 240% rise in profits | Business News

Europe’s biggest bank has credited rising interest rates for a 240% lift to its latest quarterly profits but expressed worries about the UK’s economic outlook.

HSBC, which is London based and listed but largely Asia-focused, said that pre-tax profits for its July to September third quarter came in at $7.7bn (£6.4bn).

Higher interest rates, on the back of central bank hikes to tackle stubborn inflation, boosted the bank’s profitability and helped it fund a fresh $3bn share buyback.

HSBC also revealed a third interim dividend payout this year of 10 cents per share, bringing the total to 30 cents per share in the year to date.

But a 0.5% share price gain when the London market opened was tempered by several factors.

Analysts suggested there was a reaction to the profit number missing expectations.

It was partly explained by a rise in costs for new technology but also a $500m impairment charge relating to the bank’s exposure to China’s troubled commercial real estate sector.

It was announced on Monday that the chief problem, China Evergrande, is facing a winding-up petition in a Hong Kong court in December over its debt mountain of more than $300bn.

A view of the logo of the Evergrande Group at Evergrande Center in Shanghai, China Wednesday, Jul. 21, 2021.
Evergrande, like many big state real estate entities in China, are facing significant pressure over their debt piles

Another worry for HSBC investors is a decline in the bank’s net interest margin – a key measure of lending profitability.

That fell by two basis points compared to the previous quarter to 1.70%, reflecting an increase in customers migrating their deposits to term products, particularly in Asia, HSBC explained.

“We continue to monitor risks related to our exposures in mainland China’s commercial real estate sector closely, and there remains a degree of uncertainty in the forward economic outlook, particularly in the UK,” the company said.

Its latest results were published just days before the Bank of England is due to reveal its latest interest rate decision.

Financial markets widely expect no change from the 5.25% figure that policymakers stuck with at their last meeting back in September.

The forecasts are largely based on the fact that inflationary pressures have continued to ease while the economy continues to flatline.

Wales follows Scotland and England to ban single-use plastics | UK News

Single-use plastics have been banned in Wales from today.

Plastic plates, cutlery and drink stirrers which can only be used once will be included as part of the ban.

The Welsh government says the move would further “embed [its] response to the climate and nature emergency in everything [it does]”.

Other items covered by the ban include cups and takeaway food containers made of expanded or foamed extruded polystyrene, single-use plastic balloon sticks and cotton bud stems.

Single-use plastic drinking straws have also been banned, with exemptions in place for those who need them to drink safely and independently.

The government in Cardiff added this would be the first step as it looks to completely phase out single-use plastic items.

That next phase will see a ban on single-use plastic carrier bags and polystyrene lids for cups and food containers.

Government ministers say that ban will come into force before the end of the current Senedd term in 2026.

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Scotland was the first UK nation to introduce a similar ban on single-use plastics in June last year.

England followed suit on 1 October, with the UK government’s environment secretary saying it would “protect the environment for future generations”.

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Plaid Cymru’s climate change spokesperson Delyth Jewell has welcomed the ban but says more needs to be done.

“We need to go even further and faster to rid ourselves of the plastic plague that pollutes our countryside, our seas and beaches,” she said.

The Welsh government is currently consulting on banning wet wipes containing plastic.

Climate change minister Julie James said if people reused, recycled and repaired more, it would “help create a greener future for generations to come”.

Five people charged after pro-Palestinian protests in London | UK News

Five people have been charged, the Metropolitan Police said, following pro-Palestinian protests in London.

The force arrested a total of nine people – two on suspicion of assaulting police officers and seven for alleged public order offences – as tens of thousands took to the streets of the capital on Saturday to stand against Israel’s bombing of Gaza, along with counter-demonstrations.

Two other women were held on suspicion of inciting racial hatred on Sunday morning following an incident in Trafalgar Square.

The Met have faced criticism of their policing of the march, where more than 1,000 police officers were on duty.

The five people charged are:

• Kadirul Islam, 33, of no fixed address, has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence after allegedly shouting racist abuse.

• Emma Turvey, 51, from Grays, Essex has been charged with a public order offence after a can of beer was allegedly thrown at a protestor in Whitehall.

• Atif Sharif, 41, of Walthamstow, east London, has been charged with causing actual bodily harm after an officer was allegedly assaulted and suffered a head injury.

• Laura Davis, 22, of Barnet, north London, has been charged with a racially aggravated public order offence relating to an incident near Piccadilly Circus where an allegedly racist and threatening placard was displayed.

• A 16-year-old boy, who cannot be identified because of his age, has been charged with a public order offence after verbal abuse was allegedly directed at officers escorting protesters.

Pair arrested after woman and her dogs seriously injured in suspected XL bully attack | UK News

Two people have been arrested after a woman was seriously injured in a suspected XL bully attack.

Officers were called to an address in North Tyneside at about 11pm on Saturday to reports of a woman and her two dogs inured.

The 29-year-old was taken to hospital where she remains with serious injuries to her leg and arms, Northumbria Police said.

Her two injured dogs were also taken to a vet for treatment, the force added.

A 22-year-old woman and a 31-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of being in charge of a dangerously out of control dog and remain in custody.

Two dogs, believed to be XL bullies, and three others, have been seized as a precaution.

Detective Inspector Corrin Lowery said: “I understand this incident will have caused some concern, but I would like to reassure residents and the wider community there is no risk at the time.

“A full investigation has been launched so we can establish a full, clear picture of events, and officers will remain the area today speaking to residents and carrying out further enquiries. I would encourage anyone who is concerned or worried to make themselves known.

“The victim remains in hospital with serious injuries, and I wish her and her two dogs, a full recovery.

“The investigation is at an early stage but we do believe all those involved are known to each other. Two people remain in custody and a total of five dogs have been seized while we continue with our enquiries.

Read more: Why adding XL bullies to the Dangerous Dogs Act may not work

“We would ask that anyone who hasn’t spoken to us yet, but has information, gets in touch.”

The XL bully breed, which has been developed from the American pit bull terrier, is not officially categorised in the UK.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed to ban them, but dog experts argue the move is problematic.

Campaigners say that after several bite incidents, including a fatal one that killed a 52-year-old man in Staffordshire in September, any attempts to ban them could also outlaw other similar breeds.

A police officer was left with “serious bite injuries” after a suspected XL bully attack in Ibstock, near Coalville, Leicestershire Police said on Saturday.

Police shot dead an XL bully in the grounds of a Norfolk primary school earlier this month after it attacked a woman in her 60s.

And in September an 11-year-old girl was left with serious injuries as a result of a similar attack.