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Keir Starmer accuses ‘weak’ Rishi Sunak of harbouring ‘extremists’ in his party | Politics News

Sir Keir Starmer has accused the prime minister of harbouring extremists in his party after a senior Tory MP was suspended for “Islamophobic” comments.

The Labour leader said Rishi Sunak’s “weakness” allowed Lee Anderson “to act with impunity” and that he “needs to get a grip and take on the extremists in his party”.

Sir Keir said it was “right” that Mr Anderson lost the whip after what he called an “appalling racist and Islamophobic outburst”.

He added: “But what does it say about the prime minister’s judgement that he made Lee Anderson deputy chairman of his party?

“Whether it is Liz Truss staying silent on Tommy Robinson or Suella Braverman’s extreme rhetoric, Rishi Sunak’s weakness means Tory MPs can act with impunity.

“This isn’t just embarrassing for the Conservative party, it emboldens the worst forces in our politics.”

Prime Minister says Britain is 'not seeking a confrontation'

It came as Mr Sunak released his own statement, criticising those who have threatened and targeted MPs over the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and saying British democracy must not “fall into polarised camps who hate each other”.

Mr Sunak said: “The events of recent weeks are but the latest in an emerging pattern which should not be tolerated.

“Legitimate protests hijacked by extremists to promote and glorify terrorism, elected representatives verbally threatened and physically, violently targeted and antisemitic tropes beamed onto our own parliament building.”

Referring to when the Commons Speaker broke convention in a Gaza ceasefire debate this week out of fears’ for MPs’ safety, Mr Sunak said: “And in parliament this week a very dangerous signal was sent that this sort of intimidation works. It is toxic for our society and our politics and is an affront to the liberties and values we hold dear here in Britain.”

His statement made no mention of Mr Anderson or his comments.

What Rishi Sunak didn’t say is more notable than what he did

The prime minister’s comments were notable because of what he chose to omit.

On a day when the party was rocked by allegations of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hatred – a day when it had to suspend one of its own MPs because of these very issues – Rishi Sunak chose to make some comments.

Instead of condemning the remarks or distancing the party from them, the prime minister chose not to make any reference to them at all, rather, he chose to speak more explicitly about antisemitism.

The prime minister said: “The explosion in prejudice and antisemitism since the Hamas attacks on the 7 October are as unacceptable as they are un-British. Simply put antisemitism is racism.”

We know that hate crime towards both Muslim and Jewish communities has been rising since 7 October.

However, some may question why, after a day like this, Mr Sunak chose to omit explicit reference to Muslim communities.

These comments, and the tone of the remarks, do not challenge the prevailing view held in some quarters that the Conservative party doesn’t take Islamophobia seriously.

The prime minister avoids using the word at all when discussing anti-Muslim hatred.

Of course, the Labour party, which over the years has faced accusations of antisemitism, had no such problem calling it out.

Sir Keir Starmer said: “It’s right that Lee Anderson has lost the whip after his appalling racist and Islamophobic outburst against Sadiq Khan.”

He went on to question Mr Sunak’s judgement saying he needed to get a grip of “extremists” in his own party.

The incident does expose how difficult the prime minister is finding it to exert authority over his fracturing right-wing coalition and create some semblance of a unified identity for his party.

He knows that he needs to placate the right of his party, which sometimes means turning a blind eye to some of its more outspoken characters, like Suella Braverman and Liz Truss.

However, there’s a line and it’s becoming more and more difficult for Mr Sunak to tread.

With this statement the prime minister was, once again, speaking to this right-wing faction (on a day when they lost a key figure in Lee Anderson) instead of the communities that may have been affected by his remarks.

On Wednesday, Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said he selected multiple amendments to the motion to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza in a bid to ensure all options were on the table for MPs to vote on – as well as protecting MPs’ safety.

Mr Sunak’s party suspended Mr Anderson, the former Tory deputy chairman, hours before he released the statement.

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Khan: Anderson’s comments ‘Islamophobic and racist’

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Lee Anderson during the launch of the Popular Conservatism movement.
Pic: PA
Image:
Lee Anderson. Pic: PA

Mr Anderson claimed on GB News earlier this week – without evidence – that “Islamists” had “got control” of Mr Khan, leading to an outcry from both sides of the political divide.

The Ashfield MP said he accepts the Tory party had “no option” but to suspend him.

“However, I will continue to support the government’s efforts to call out extremism in all its forms – be that antisemitism or Islamophobia,” he said.

Trigger Point – how true is it to real-life bomb disposal? Explosives experts have their say | Ents & Arts News

First it was bent coppers, now it’s explosives planted around London – Vicky McClure’s characters never have it easy.

The BAFTA-winning actress is currently on screen as Lana Washington in the second series of ITV drama Trigger Point, leading a team of bomb disposal experts – or “expos” – working for the Met Police.

Written by Daniel Brierley, it’s another series executive produced by Jed Mercurio, the man behind Line Of Duty. While it hasn’t quite reached the same fevered levels of fandom just yet, the first season was a ratings winner and a linear TV draw for viewers tuning in to see what – or who – will face an explosive end each Sunday night.

Warning – contains spoilers

Vicky McClure as Lana Washington and Mark Stanley as DCI Thom Youngblood. Pic: ITV
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Stay away from the lift shaft: McClure and co-star Mark Stanley as DCI Thom Youngblood. Pic: ITV

The penultimate episode airs this evening and the tension has ramped up; Lana has faced car park bombs, disused tube station bombs and laptop bombs – not to mention her detective ex being pushed down a lift shaft by a woman disguised as a firefighter checking the scene, right after their romance had been rekindled.

But how good is Trigger Point at getting the work of a real-life expo right?

Major Chris Hunter, who spent years in bomb disposal for the army and the Special Forces – and whose work inspired the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker – has written books including Extreme Risk and Eight Lives Down.

He now works for an NGO clearing explosives from conflict zones and has been watching Trigger Point in Iraq. While he wasn’t too impressed with the first series, he says things have vastly improved second time round.

“You can’t help sort of looking at the technical aspects of it and critiquing it,” he told Sky News. “And I think a lot of the aspects are really technically on the ball [in series two].”

‘Absence of the normal, presence of the abnormal’

Vicky McClure as Lana Washington in Trigger Point. Pic: ITV
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Experts agree the second series is more true to life than the first. Pic: ITV

There’s still “a little bit of running around, a little bit of shouting” in the show, he understates it, but appreciates you need this to make a drama. In reality, he says it’s not so chaotic.

“We don’t do that as bomb techs, we just don’t shout. We don’t run around. We don’t run towards a bomb, we don’t run away from a bomb. Everything is calculated. Everything. You’re constantly going through this threat assessment.

“When you turn up at a bomb scene, you’ve got to draw on your experience, you’ve got to draw on your intelligence, your intellect, your IQ. You’ve got to draw on your intuition as well, because you’ve never got 100% of the threat picture, if you like. So you have to make a plan based on what information you’ve got.

“It’s cold, it’s calculating, it’s thorough. And then you’ve got to walk up to that bomb – and I say walk, you don’t run up to a bomb, ever. You walk up to that bomb and as you’re walking up to it, you’re continually refining that threat assessment. You’re looking at the environment. You’re looking at the atmospherics. You’re taking in every single aspect of the information around you.

“You’re looking at absence of the normal, you’re looking at presence of the abnormal. And as you take each step towards that bomb, you’re constantly updating the threat picture. Is there something right, is there something wrong?”

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You have to think about intent, he adds, and what type of bomb you’re dealing with. “Is it time? Is it command? Is it victim-operated? And you constantly hear Vicky McClure’s character asking that question and that’s really good to see as well, they’ve absolutely got that right. And then finally when you get up to the bomb, that’s when you’ve built up most of your threat picture.”

In this series, drones have been used in an attack on Washington and her team.

“Drone warfare is very much at the forefront of what we do,” says Chris. “So I think that’s something they’ve got absolutely right, it’s definitely in every aspect of conflict. It’s something we’re seeing now, and it’s something we’re going to see 100% in the future. I think they’ve done a really good job at looking at the current technologies and how to turn those into IEDs and threats, and a good sort of analysis of future technologies as well. Things that are just around the corner.”

‘I can suspend my disbelief’

Vicky McClure as Lana Washington and Kerry Godliman as Sonya in Trigger Point. Pic: ITV
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Kerry Godliman stars alongside McClure as data analyst Sonya. Pic: ITV

Lucy Lewis, the army’s first female bomb disposal expert, says there are parts the show gets right and parts it gets wrong – but these things are often incorrect on purpose.

“In these kinds of shows you have to get some bits wrong so they can never be mistaken as a documentary,” she says. “When it’s a police [or military] uniform, you have to get something visually wrong so there’s no way snippets could be mistaken for the real thing.” For example, in the recent police procedural series Vigil, she points out, military badges read “British Air Force” and not “Royal Air Force”.

In Trigger Point, as there are no distinguishing badges for the expos they often have their radios upside down, “which I find really annoying”, she says, “but it’s because there’s nothing else they can really ‘get wrong’, visually”.

Lucy has written a book about her work, titled Lighting The Fuse, and says there has been renewed interest since Trigger Point debuted six months later, such is the fascination with the show. She says she has watched it “between my fingers and shouted at the telly quite a lot” at some points.

“It must be the same for police watching police [portrayed in TV dramas], medics watching medics,” she says. “But I love watching Vicky McClure and I think Jed Mercurio is really good. I watch for quality of the drama rather than technical aspects. But this series is better than the first, and I can suspend my disbelief.”

In real life, bomb disposal work is “very boring, lots of hanging about”, she says. “There’s a small crack and a puff of smoke and nothing happens. They’ve made it very dramatic in Trigger Point – every explosion is always a fireball.”

‘It’s a problem that needs to be dealt with’

Vicky McClure as Lana Washington and Nabil Elhouahabi as Hass in Trigger Point. Pic: ITV
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McClure and co-star Nabil Elhouahabi, who plays Hass. Pic: ITV

But rather than being annoyed at the exaggerations, Lucy enjoys “the drama of it”. And to critics on social media who have questioned certain actions, such as Lana sometimes removing her helmet when searching for explosive devices, she says this does happen. “We do take our helmets off to look under cars,” she says. “And we do use fibreoptics to look inside things. They’ve also done the controlled explosions right, pretty much. But there’s a lot more snipping of the red wire than really goes on.”

Most people would say bomb disposal experts must need nerves of steel, but Lucy is having none of it. “Not at all – it’s a problem that needs to be dealt with. For me, the worst part was always the journey there, not knowing what I was going to find. As soon as you arrive there’s bits to check – where gas mains are, what’s in the buildings around you, why the bomb is where it is, is it next to something vulnerable and what are the consequences of that?”

As has been shown in Trigger Point, “very rarely is where the bomb is placed the actual target, that’s what it gets right… they’ll put in a small bomb that draws you in, but the main bomb is in location two. In Afghanistan, the idea was not to kill but to injure, to then target the Chinook coming in to get the injured.”

The show has faced questions from some viewers about potentially giving away too much about how to make and operate explosives, or work out ways to prevent expos from doing their job, but Chris says there is enough missing from the show to prevent too much information being given away.

“They’ve got the technical aspects correct enough for it to be absolutely authentic, but not quite enough for somebody to go in there and say, oh, I’m going to go make a bomb now. If you tried to use it as some sort of recipe book, then you would definitely be getting it slightly wrong.”

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And like Lucy, he plays down the bravery aspect, saying dealing with explosives comes after years of training and experience.

“As bomb techs, we know exactly what we’re doing. And I guess, more importantly, we know what we don’t know. Everything is calculated risk, it’s not foolhardy risk. So, I guess, yeah, a healthy amount of courage, but I wouldn’t say nerves of steel, no.”

As for Lana Washington – would he have her on his team?

“You know what? I think when she was in series one, probably not. I think she needed a bit more training. I think series two, yeah, she’s definitely very good.

“I’ve heard actually, through the grapevine – I don’t know if this is true, but apparently – I’ve heard that when [McClure] talks to the technical adviser, she’s actually read the script [at times] and said, ‘I’m not sure I’d do that, I’d probably want to do this’, because she’s learnt so much she’s actually started to think like an operator now. So, you know, kudos to her, and her technical adviser as well. Good effort.”

Pete Doherty: Libertines singer reveals he has Type 2 diabetes | Ents & Arts News

Pete Doherty has revealed he has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes as he battles with ongoing health issues.

The Libertines singer and guitarist, 44, has been open about his struggle with alcohol and drugs over the years.

In an interview with the Guardian’s Saturday magazine, Doherty said he gave up “the main poisons” and his health improved.

“Then you get told alcohol and cheese and sugar are just as bad and you were healthier when you were on heroin.”

He admitted he was “a bit of a glutton”, adding: “It’s not a joke. I’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

“And at the moment I’m lacking the discipline to tackle cholesterol.”

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Doherty also reflected on his relationship with his father, saying: “I love him so much and I feel that a big part of me changing the way I’m living my life, particularly since I got married and stopped taking heroin, is to be accepted by him.

“I think it’s too much for him to see past.”

Doherty welcomed a baby girl, named Billie-May Doherty, with his wife Katia de Vidas in May last year.

The couple, who are in the band the Puta Madres, with de Vidas on keyboard and Doherty as the frontman, married in 2021. Doherty also has a son and a daughter from previous relationships.

‘Muslims are fair game when it comes to racism’: Sadiq Khan slams PM for failing to condemn Lee Anderson comments | Politics News

Sadiq Khan has accused the prime minister of being “complicit” in racism for failing to condemn a senior Tory MP’s comments that “pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred”.

Mr Khan said remarks by Lee Anderson that “Islamists” had “got control” of him as London mayor were Islamophobic and sent the message that Muslims were “fair game” when it came to racism.

The comments by Conservative former deputy chairman have prompted criticism from Labour and some Tories, including former cabinet minister Sajid Javid who branded them “ridiculous”.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Lee Anderson, MP for Ashfield react during a visit to Woodland View Primary School in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, Britain January 4, 2024. Jacob King/Pool via REUTERS
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Lee Anderson pictured with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

But while cabinet minister Grant Shapps distanced himself from Mr Anderson’s claim he appeared to defend his right to “speak [his] mind”.

Speaking on GB News this week, Mr Anderson, MP for Ashfield, said: “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan and they’ve got control of London… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”

His remarks come amid heightened community tensions in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, concerns over the conduct of pro-Palestinian protests and fears of violence against MPs.

The London mayoral election is being held this May.

Mr Khan said: “These comments from a senior Conservative are Islamophobic, are anti-Muslim and are racist.”

Highlighting the spike in hate crimes, he said: “These comments pour fuel on the fire of anti-Muslim hatred.

“I am afraid the deafening silence form Rishi Sunak and from the cabinet is them condoning this racism.

“I am afraid it confirms to many people across the country that there’s a hierarchy when it comes to racism.”

He added: “I am unclear why Rishi Sunak, why members of his cabinet aren’t calling this out and aren’t condemning this.

“It’s like they are complicit in this sort of racism.

“The message it sends is Muslims are fair game when it comes to racism and anti-Muslim hatred.

“It’s not good enough in 2024 in the United Kingdom.”

Business minister Nus Ghani described her Tory colleague’s comments as “foolish and dangerous”.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the Wealden MP said: “I have spoken to Lee Anderson. I’ve called out Islamic extremism (& been attacked by hard left, far right & Islamists).

“I don’t for one moment believe that Sadiq Khan is controlled by Islamists. To say so, is both foolish and dangerous. Frankly this is all so tiring…”

Conservative former minister Sir Robert Buckland said: “Conservatives succeed by seeking to bring our country together, not by stoking division.”

Tory peer Gavin Barwell, who was Theresa May’s Number 10 chief of staff, said the remarks were a “despicable slur”.

The Labour Party has written to Mr Sunak calling for the whip to be removed from Mr Anderson, which would mean he would sit as an independent MP rather than a Conservative.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said Mr Anderson had engaged in “outright racism and Islamophobia”.

Sky News have approached Mr Anderson for comment.

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NHS strike action: Junior doctors in England begin five-day walkout threatening further patient disruption | UK News

Patients face further major disruption as junior doctors in England begin a five-day strike in their ongoing pay row with the government.

Tens of thousands of hospital appointments are set to be cancelled or postponed as a result of the latest walkout which began at 7am on Saturday and will stretch until 11.59pm on Wednesday.

It is the 10th stoppage by junior doctors since last March and follows the longest strike in NHS history in January, which lasted six full days.

“The government could have stopped these strikes by simply making a credible pay offer for junior doctors in England to begin reversing the pay cuts they have inflicted upon us for more than a decade,” Dr Robert Laurenson and Dr Vivek Trivedi, co-chairs of the BMA junior doctors committee, said.

“The same government could have even accepted our offer to delay this round of strike action to give more space for talks – all we asked for in return was a short extension of our mandate to strike.

“The fact that ministers have chosen strike action over what could have been the end of this year’s pay dispute is disappointing to say the least.”

The BMA also expects its strike mandate to be renewed raising the prospect of further industrial action.

What should I do if I’m ill during the strikes?

If your condition is not “serious or life-threatening”, the NHS is asking people to use pharmacists, GPs, or the NHS 111 service in the first instance.

NHS bosses have repeatedly stressed that you should still call 999 in life-threatening situations.

Non-striking medical staff will continue to provide urgent, emergency, and maternity care to people who need it, with those “with the most pressing health needs” prioritised.

People who attend A&E with less urgent needs “may experience longer waiting times than normal”.

Planned appointments and surgeries may have been cancelled, but if you have not been contacted about a rearrangement you should attend as normal, the NHS says.

Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said: “I want to see doctors treating patients, not standing on picket lines.

“In negotiations with the BMA junior doctors committee, we made it clear we were prepared to go further than the pay increase of up to 10.3% that they have already received. They refused to put our offer to their members.

“More than 1.3 million appointments and operations have already been cancelled or rescheduled since industrial action began – five days of further action will compound this.

“The NHS has robust contingency plans in place, and it is vital that people continue to come forward for treatment. But no one should underestimate the impact these strikes have on our NHS.

“So again, I urge the BMA junior doctors committee to call off their strikes and show they are prepared to be reasonable, so that we can come back to the negotiating table to find a fair way forward.”

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Junior doctors have received a pay rise averaging nearly 9% this financial year.

The BMA has been seeking a 35% “pay restoration” as its starting position, but has said it is willing to negotiate.

Junior doctors make up around half of all doctors in the NHS and have anywhere up to eight years’ experience working as a hospital doctor, depending on their specialty, or up to three years in general practice.

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Wes Streeting, Labour’s shadow health secretary, described the latest round of strikes as having “a devastating impact on patients” but said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was refusing to negotiate.

NHS national medical director Professor Sir Stephen Powis said it is “extremely concerning” that strike action and disruption “are becoming a new normal”.

“For the equivalent of more than one in every 10 days last year, the NHS has had to effectively stop carrying out most routine appointments to prioritise emergency care,” he added.

Deputy chief executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery said: “We can’t go on like this. Wave after wave of strikes saps the morale of staff and impacts patients.

“Trust leaders want to get on with the job of giving patients first-class care instead of having to spend too much time and energy planning for and coping with weeks of disruptive strikes.”

Second World War bomb that forced thousands to evacuate in Plymouth detonated at sea | UK News

An unexploded bomb from the Second World War which forced thousands to evacuate their homes in Plymouth has been detonated at sea.

Around 30 of the Armed Forces’ most experienced bomb disposal experts led the “highly complex disposal operation” on Friday after the 500kg bomb was discovered on Tuesday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

Police had been called to a property in St Michael Avenue in the Keyham area of Plymouth after the device was unearthed by a man digging out foundations for an extension to his property.

A 300-metre cordon was then put in place around the site, affecting 1,219 properties and an estimated 3,250 people – making it one of the largest evacuation operations since the end of the Second World War.

Read all of our coverage on the Second World War bomb here

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WW2 bomb found in Plymouth

The device was detonated just before 10pm, the MoD said.

The explosive was discovered in a back garden on, which prompted “one of the largest UK peacetime evacuation operations” according to the MoD.

On Friday, a military convoy towed the unexploded bomb from the home where it was found and through the densely populated residential area to Torpoint Ferry slipway, where it was later detonated.

More than 100 personnel from the British Army and Royal Navy were involved in the operation along with Plymouth City Council officials, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, and Devon and Cornwall Police.

Lt Colonel Rob Swan, who was at the scene, explained before the detonation that the bomb would be taken to a depth of at least 14 metres before a diver would place a donor charge on the bomb to ignite the explosive.

The bomb was discovered in a garden in Keyham, Plymouth by a man digging out foundations for an extension.
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The bomb was discovered in a garden in Keyham

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Defence Secretary Grant Shapps praised the “bravery and fortitude” of personnel involved in the “highly complex operation” and the “patience and cooperation” of members of the public.

He said: “I would like to express my thanks to all our personnel involved in this highly complex operation, who worked both night and day this week to keep the public safe and minimise the risk of damage, as well as the public for their patience and cooperation.

“The success of this operation is testament to the level of skill and expertise across our Armed Forces, as well as the bravery and fortitude of our personnel when faced with high-risk situations and working under extreme pressure.”

Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans said: “I think it is fair to say that the last few days will go down in history for Plymouth.”

Wiley stripped of MBE after antisemitic social media posts | Ents & Arts News

The rapper Wiley has been stripped of his MBE after he made antisemitic posts on social media.

Often referred to as the ‘Godfather of Grime’, he received the honour for services to music in 2018.

But in 2020 he was banned from X, Facebook and Instagram after a series of posts in which he described Jewish people as “cowards and snakes” and also compared them to the Ku Klux Klan.

Wiley
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Wiley with his MBE in 2018. Pic: PA

Wiley, whose real name is Richard Cowie, told Sky News at the time that he was sorry “for generalising” but refused to distance himself from most of the comments.

An official notice in the London Gazette has now confirmed his MBE will be “cancelled and annulled” for “bringing the honours system into disrepute”.

His honour was one of three withdrawn, with ex-Post Office boss Paula Vennells also stripped of her CBE.

The Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), which petitioned for the Wiley move, commended the forfeiture committee for “using its powers to make clear that anti-Jewish racists cannot be role models in our society”.

“Antisemites like Wiley must understand that we will work tirelessly to hold them to account,” it said.

“For four years, we have worked to ensure that Wiley faces ruinous consequences for his unhinged antisemitic tirade, for which he has shown no remorse. Today’s decision is a vindication of that effort.”

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Wiley, 45, was one of the pioneers of the grime scene and has had six top 10 tracks in the UK, including Wearing My Rolex and Heatwave.

In September 2021, he was charged with assault and burglary over an alleged break-in.

He was wanted by police the following year after he failed to show up for a court date related to the case.

In June 2023, he entered guilty pleas at London’s Snaresbrook Crown Court for an assault on an emergency worker and for criminal damage to property valued under £5,000, said the Crown Prosecution Service.

He was given a one-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months for each offence and was also ordered to pay the assault victim £470 in compensation, the CPS added.

Christian B: Madeleine McCann suspect beat rape victim and attacked woman while wearing ski mask, court hears | World News

The prime suspect in the disappearance of Madeleine McCann raped a woman while wearing a ski mask and beat another rape victim with a whip, a court has heard.

Christian B – whose surname cannot be published due to the country’s privacy laws – faces three counts of rape and two of sexual abuse at his trial in the northern city of Braunschweig.

The 47-year-old German is alleged to have committed the offences in Portugal between 2000 and 2017. The allegations do not relate to the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in 2007.

Madeleine McCann. Pic: Handout/ PA
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The British youngster went missing in 2007. Pic: Handout/ PA

He is accused of raping and beating a 70 to 80-year-old woman, after entering her bedroom wearing a ski mask. He also allegedly held a cushion over the woman’s face before leaving.

Under another charge, it’s said Christian B allegedly woke up a 20-year-old from Ireland as she slept, before raping her at her flat in Portugal in June 2004. In the same alleged attack, he is accused of gagging the woman and beating her.

Other charges facing Christian B include:

  • Beating and sexually assaulting a girl aged at least 14 sometime between December 2000 and April 2006 at his house in Praia da Luz, Portugal
  • Exposing himself to a 10-year-old German girl at a beach in Salema in the district of Faro in Portugal on 7 April 2007
  • Exposing himself to an 11-year-old Portuguese girl at a playground in Bartolomeu de Messines in Portugal on 11 June 2017

During the hearing, Christian B’s lawyer said the defendant “is using his right to remain silent”.

His defence lawyer said he expects his client to be acquitted, dismissing the evidence as “abysmal”.

There are no formal pleas in the German legal system, and defendants are not obliged to respond to the charges.

Christian B is currently serving a seven-year prison sentence for the 2005 rape of a 72-year-old in Praia da Luz, the same town where Madeleine disappeared.

He has not been charged in the McCann case and denies involvement, but has been under investigation for the last few years.

Madeleine was three when she went missing on holiday in Portugal in May 2007.

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16 February: Christian B arrives in court

In May last year, German and Portuguese police searched a nearby reservoir that Christian B used to call his “paradise”.

His trial opened a week ago but was swiftly adjourned on its first day after Mr Fulscher filed a challenge against a lay judge on the panel hearing the case, who was alleged once to have spread a call to kill former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro on social media.

Prosecutors supported the challenge.

The woman has been removed from the case and now faces an investigation herself on suspicion of making a public call to commit crimes.

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Friedrich Fuelscher expects his client to be acquitted. Pic: Reuters
Image:
Friedrich Fulscher expects his client to be acquitted. Pic: Reuters

The trial is expected to last four months.

James Cleverly says ‘only thing MPs should fear is ballot box’ as he warns against Commons rule changes over ‘intimidation’ | Politics News

The home secretary has warned the Speaker against changing Commons conventions due to intimidation from outside parliament, telling Sky News: “The only thing MPs should fear is the ballot box.”

James Cleverly offered his support to Sir Lindsay Hoyle to stay in post – despite 68 MPs having now signed a no-confidence petition against him after Wednesday’s chaotic scenes in the Commons – calling him “a breath of fresh air”.

But he added: “We should not be changing our procedures in response to threats or intimidation. That would indicate that the threats and the intimidation is working – that is the opposite of the message that we want to send.

“If people think that they can target members of parliament, they are wrong. The full force of the law will be brought down.”

Politics live: Speaker comes out fighting

A huge row erupted on Wednesday as parliament held an opposition day debate over the Israel-Hamas conflict, with the SNP calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Pressure had been mounting on the Labour Party to move away from the government’s position of calling for a pause in fighting to echo the SNP’s stance – and they announced they would put forward their own amendment, calling for a ceasefire, albeit with a number of caveats.

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Commons conventions say that opposition motions cannot be amended by opposition parties, but Sir Lindsay took the decision to let Labour’s position be debated and voted on, claiming it gave MPs the widest range of positions to discuss and back, and citing the safety of members who were facing threats and intimidation unless they supported calls for a ceasefire.

But his decision was met with rage from the Conservatives, who pulled their own amendment and “played no further part” in the proceedings, and ended with the SNP not even getting to vote on their own motion.

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‘I have a duty of care to protect’

Despite the Speaker making two apologies in the Commons on both Wednesday and Thursday for how his decision had played out, calls for him to resign grew – led by the leader of the SNP, Stephen Flynn, who said his position was now “intolerable”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also criticised Sir Lindsay’s actions, calling them “very concerning”, while former home secretary Suella Braverman wrote an angry piece in the Daily Telegraph, saying it had “undermined the integrity of Parliament” and that “the Islamists, the extremists and the antisemites are in charge now”.

Asked about his position on the Sir Lindsay as the row entered its third day, Mr Cleverly said: “I think the Speaker’s done a fantastic job. I think he’s been a breath of fresh air compared with his predecessor.

“He made a mistake. He apologised for the mistake. My view is that I’m supportive of him.”

But the current home secretary said it would be down to MPs to decide his fate, adding: “The selection of the speaker is House business and for the House of Parliament rather than for government.

“And I know that sounds like we’re dancing on the head of a pin, but in our constitution it’s a very important division. So this is House business for members of parliament, rather than for the government.”

There is no formal way for the Speaker to be removed, but he could choose to resign if calls for him to go continue to grow – as one of his predecessors, Michael Martin, did in 2009.

However, with support from the Labour benches and senior Conservatives, Sir Lindsay could instead decide to fight on to stay on post.

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SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has told Sir Lindsay Hoyle he no longer believes he can continue in his role as Speaker of the House.

The Tories have sought to blame Labour for the shambolic scenes in parliament this week, amplifying reports that party leader Sir Keir Starmer threatened to withdraw support from the Speaker if he did not select their ceasefire amendment.

A Conservative source told Sky News on Friday: “Starmer’s undermined parliament, bullied the speaker into doing something he admitted was “wrong”, and it sadly won’t be long before more antisemitic views emerge from Labour.”

And Energy Secretary Claire Coutinho told reporters: “I think the speaker is a decent man. He’s a really well respected parliamentarian. I didn’t agree with the ruling that he made, but I think the real culprit here is Keir Starmer.

“I think he’s put the speaker in an intolerable position by saying that we should bow to intimidation and external influences. No intimidation should change the way that we vote in parliament or what we vote on.”

But Sir Keir “categorically” denied making any such threat, telling reporters that when he met Sir Lindsay, he “simply urged” him to have “the broadest possible debate” by putting a number of options in front of MPs.

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Sir Keir Starmer has

The Labour leader added: “The tragedy is the SNP walked off the pitch because they wanted to divide the Labour Party and they couldn’t, and the government walked off the pitch because it thought it was going to lose a vote.”

Speaking to Sky News on Friday morning, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper insisted Sir Lindsay was “right” to select Labour’s amendment to the ceasefire vote – which ended up passing – “making sure the widest possible range of views can be debated, sit on and can be voted on, that is something that is good for democracy”.

But she agreed decisions on parliamentary procedure should not be made because of intimidation from outside.

Post Office would stand by prosecution of more than 350 sub-postmasters, boss told minister in letter | UK News

The boss of the Post Office wrote a letter to ministers saying he would stand by the prosecution of more than 350 of the sub-postmasters convicted in the Horizon scandal.

Chief executive Nick Read sent the letter to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk last month, informing him that the Post Office would be “bound to oppose” appeals against at least 369 prosecutions.

The document was dated 9 January – the day before the government announced plans for a new law to exonerate and compensate sub-postmasters who had been wrongly convicted in the Horizon scandal.

Mr Read’s letter was published by the Post Office on Thursday, as the government confirmed it was pressing ahead with the legislation to automatically quash convictions by July.

In response, the government said it would introduce “safeguards” to avoid “anyone who was rightly convicted” attempting to “take advantage” of the compensation scheme.

“Innocent post-masters have suffered an intolerable and unprecedented miscarriage of justice at the hands of the Post Office, which is why we are introducing legislation to swiftly exonerate all those convicted as a result of the Horizon scandal,” a government spokesperson said.

In the letter, Mr Read wrote that the Post Office had conducted an external legal review into prosecutions linked to the Horizon IT system between 1999 and 2015.

Nick Read, the Post Office chief
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Nick Read, chief executive of the Post Office. Pic: PA

The period saw hundreds of sub-postmasters prosecuted because of discrepancies in the IT system, in what has been called the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history.

Mr Read wrote that the review found that the Post Office was “bound” to oppose appeals against 369 of the roughly 700 prosecutions made in the period of the Horizon scandal because the evidence relied on in these cases was unrelated to the faulty system.

He wrote that a further 11 cases were under review, while there was insufficient evidence to take a decision either way in 132 cases.

“This clearly raises acute political, judicial, and communications challenges against the very significant public and parliamentary pressure for some form of acceleration or by-passing of the normal appeals process,” he wrote.

Attached to Mr Read’s letter was a note by Nick Vamos, the head of business crime at Peters & Peters, the solicitors for the Post Office.

In the note, Mr Vamos wrote that it was “highly likely that the vast majority of people who have not yet appealed were, in fact, guilty as charged and were safely convicted”.

The publication of the letters comes after allegations from the former chairman of the Post Office, Henry Staunton, who claimed there was “no real movement” on payouts to sub-postmasters until after the airing of ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office earlier this year.

British Justice Secretary Alex Chalk leaves Number 10 Downing Street after a Cabinet meeting in London, Britain, December 5, 2023. REUTERS/Hollie Adams
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Justice Secretary Alex Chalk. Pic: Reuters

Read more from Sky News:
Post Office Horizon scandal: The unanswered questions about legislation
Who is former Post Office chairman, Henry Staunton?

The claim was denied by the government and sparked a high-profile row between Mr Staunton and Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch.

While making the allegations, Mr Staunton revealed the existence of Mr Read’s letter.

The Post Office published the letter and the note on Thursday with a comment which said they were sent to “explain the work that the Post Office had requested its legal counsel, Peters & Peters, undertake to proactively identify, on the papers available, any convictions that could be unsafe”.

“This was primarily to offer the government any support that might assist them as they consider relevant issues in advance of passing legislation, without any value judgement on what the correct course of action might be,” it said in a statement, alongside publishing the letters.

The Post Office also said the note provided by Peters & Peters was “not solicited” by them and was sent to “express the personal views of its author”.

“(The) Post Office was in no way seeking to persuade the government against mass exoneration,” it said.

“We are fully supportive of any steps taken by government to speed up the exoneration of those with wrongful convictions and to provide redress to victims, with the information having been provided to inform that consideration.”

Henry Staunton
Image:
Henry Staunton

On Thursday, the government announced it aimed to get the exonerations done “as soon as possible before the summer recess” on 23 July.

Writing to the House of Commons, Post Office minister Kevin Hollinrake said: “As noted in my statement on 10 January, the legislation is likely to exonerate a number of people who were, in fact, guilty of a crime.

“The government accepts that this is a price worth paying in order to ensure that many innocent people are exonerated.”

In an attempt to ensure people are truthful in signing up for compensation linked to convictions being overturned, they will have to sign a disclaimer confirming their innocence.

“Any person found to have signed such a statement falsely in order to gain compensation may be guilty of fraud,” Mr Hollinrake added.

An independent public statutory inquiry is ongoing to establish a clear account of the implementation and failings of the Horizon IT system at the Post Office over its lifetime.