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Emma Thompson backs Just Stop Oil at London march as protesters boo ‘all politicians’ | Climate News

Dame Emma Thompson has backed Just Stop Oil, just days after the climate action group attacked Stonehenge with orange paint.

The actress led thousands of people on a Restore Nature Now march in London on Saturday, aimed at persuading politicians to put nature and climate first.

Asked if she supported Just Stop Oil, whose supporters have also targeted private jets, the Magna Carta and the Duke of Westminster’s wedding this year, she said: “I think I support anyone who fights this extraordinary battle.”

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Stonehenge sprayed orange by climate activists

Dame Emma added: “We cannot take any more oil out of the ground. I mean, there’s much argument about it. And I know there’s a lot of very complicated economic arguments about it.

“We have to leave all the resources in the ground, we cannot bring them out of the ground.”

Emma Thompson led the march in London on Saturday
Emma Thompson led the march in London on Saturday

More than 350 charities, businesses and direct action groups joined Dame Emma on the protest, along with renewable energy tycoon and Labour donor, Dale Vince, and naturalists Chris Packham and Steve Backshall.

Mr Packham said it was the first time organisations across the entire spectrum of campaigning and conservation have united, from the National Trust to Just Stop Oil.

Reflecting on the long campaign to achieve action on climate change, Dame Emma called it “extraordinary”, as “we have known about this for decades and government after government have completely ignored the advice”.

“All the scientists are saying we are in deep, deep trouble,” she added.

People during a Restore Nature Now rally at Parliament Square in central London. Picture date: Saturday June 22, 2024.
Protesters rallied at Parliament Square. Pic: PA

The UK, she said, is “one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world”.

She added: “But we are also one of the most rich, so this is not good for anybody.

“Anyone who has ever written about our country [has written] about the beauty of these islands and they are being despoiled, polluted and destroyed at an unprecedented rate.

“We have to take action now. There is not enough discussion about this. It has to come to the forefront of our politics at every level.”

The Red Rebel Brigade during a Restore Nature Now protest in central London. Picture date: Saturday June 22, 2024.
Environmental campaign troupe, The Red Rebel Brigade, at the protest. Pic: PA

A model of an insect during a Restore Nature Now rally at Parliament Square in central London. Picture date: Saturday June 22, 2024.
A model of an insect at the march. Pic: PA

Protesters marched from Hyde Park to Parliament Square, staying in a line, led by Dame Emma and Mr Packham who held a banner reading Restore Nature Now.

Other banners carried different messages, including There’s No Life Without Wildlife and There Isn’t A Reset Button.

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From earlier this month: Just Stop Oil disrupt duke’s wedding

Some of the crowd booed and gestured as they walked past Downing Street.

Gary Smith, a 64-year-old ex-veteran, said: “The booing was because they’re useless in acting against any policies to do with wildlife. It’s the booing of all politicians.”

While wildlife rescuer Sally Burns, 58, said: “The state of this country… it’s politicians that run it and look at the state of it, a mess in many many ways. It’s the people in power that have caused all this.”

PM backs JK Rowling as row over Scotland’s new hate crime laws escalates | UK News

Rishi Sunak has said people should not be criminalised “for stating simple facts on biology” as he backed author JK Rowling in her criticism of new Scottish hate crime laws.

The Harry Potter author, who has become a fierce critic of the Scottish government’s stance on transgender rights, dared police to arrest her as the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act came into effect yesterday.

The new measures aim to tackle the harm caused by hatred and prejudice, extending protections from abusive behaviour to people on grounds including age, disability, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.

Appearing to defend the author, Mr Sunak promised that his party will “always protect” free speech in a statement.

“People should not be criminalised for stating simple facts on biology,” he said.

“We believe in free speech in this country, and Conservatives will always protect it.”

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Humza Yousaf defends new hate crime laws

In a social media post criticising the new laws, Rowling insisted that the “legislation is wide open to abuse by activists who wish to silence those of us speaking out about the dangers of eliminating women’s and girls’ single-sex spaces”.

The 58-year-old argued: “It is impossible to accurately describe or tackle the reality of violence and sexual violence committed against women and girls, or address the current assault on women’s and girls’ rights, unless we are allowed to call a man a man.”

Reacting to comments made by Siobhan Brown MSP, a Holyrood minister who said people “could be investigated” for misgendering someone online, Rowling said: “I’m currently out of the country, but if what I’ve written here qualifies as an offence under the terms of the new act, I look forward to being arrested when I return to the birthplace of the Scottish Enlightenment.”

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Campaigners gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh, to mark the introduction of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act. The act consolidates existing hate crime legislation and creates a new offence of stirring up hatred against protected characteristics. Picture date: Monday April 1, 2024.
Campaigners gather outside the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood. Pic: PA

It came as a group of protesters staged a demonstration outside Holyrood against the new laws.

One of the organisers, Stef Shaw, told Sky News there is “great cause for concern” over the new legislation.

Mr Shaw, also known as the Glasgow Cabbie, said he saw no positives to the act, saying it will only cause major problems.

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Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf has maintained that he is “very proud” of the new laws, saying they will help protect against a “rising tide” of hatred.

He insisted that he is “very confident in Police Scotland’s ability in order to implement this legislation in the way it should”.

Chief Constable Jo Farrell said recently that the new laws will be applied “in a measured way”, promising there will be “close scrutiny” of how the legislation is enforced and what reports are received.

Scottish Labour unanimously backs immediate ceasefire in Gaza | Politics News

Scottish Labour has unanimously backed an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, with MSPs calling for “unequivocal” support and putting pressure on the rest of the party.

All delegates backed Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar’s calls for an immediate end to the Israel-Hamas war at the party conference in Glasgow.

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He said on X that he was “proud” the party had passed the motion, and told delegates during his speech at the conference that “the fighting must stop now”.

The unopposed Labour motion calls for an end to rocket fire in to and out of Gaza, the unconditional release of hostages taken by Hamas, the restoration of essential supplies and a pathway to peace.

It also condemned Hamas’s attacks on Israel on 7 October and noted Israel’s right to protect its citizens, but said there was “no justification for the collective punishment of 2.2 million citizens in Gaza”.

The vote came as thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched through Glasgow to protest outside the conference.

Neil Bibby, the party’s constitution spokesman, said ahead of the vote: “It is simply heartbreaking that countless children in Gaza are currently dying, and there are heartbroken parents in Israel too.

“That is why we have a moral obligation to be unequivocal. There must be an end to the fighting now and a sustainable ceasefire. An end to the terror and end to the violence.”

Scottish Labour’s support for an immediate ceasefire puts the party at odds with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who has been calling for a “sustainable ceasefire”.

Party delegate Nairn McDonald told the conference that Sir Keir must stop “equivocating”, before adding: “We demand that Scottish Labour MPs vote for a ceasefire in the Commons when they are given the opportunity.”

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The SNP’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn also called for Scottish Labour’s two MPs to support their motion for a ceasefire in the House of Commons next week

“Questions must also be asked of Scotland’s two Labour MPs,” he said. “Will they follow their Scottish leader, or their leader in London? That decision will tell you exactly where Scottish Labour MPs’ loyalties truly lie.”

Pro-Palestine protestors gather outside the Scottish Labour conference. Pic: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Pro-Palestine protestors gathered outside the Scottish Labour conference. Pic: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

While Sir Keir also said that “the fighting must stop now” at the Munich Security Conference, his decision not to back a ceasefire in November sparked a rift in Labour.

Last November, 56 Labour MPs defied a three-line whip and voted for the SNP’s motion calling for a ceasefire. Ten shadow frontbenchers stood down over the row.

Mr Sarwar has however downplayed a rift between him and Sir Keir over calls for a ceasefire, telling BBC Radio Scotland: “I don’t think there’s as much distance in this as people now believe.

“Keir Starmer has said he wants the fighting to stop right now and for that to be a sustainable ceasefire. I think we ultimately have the same position.”

‘Regrettable choice of words’: EU backs down after calling Falklands by Argentine name – PM | Politics News

Rishi Sunak has criticised the EU for a “regrettable choice of words” after it appeared to endorse the Argentine name for the Falkland Islands.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said his view was it would have been “entirely unacceptable for the EU to question the Falkland Islanders’ right to decide their own future”.

A diplomatic row risked breaking out after the EU referred to the disputed territory as Islas Malvinas in a declaration that was agreed at a recent summit.

The declaration – agreed at the European Union and the Community of Latin American and the Caribbean states (Celac) earlier this week – read: “Regarding the question of sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas/Falkland Islands, the European Union took note of Celac’s historical position based on the importance of dialogue and respect for international law in the peaceful solution of disputes.”

Mr Sunak’s spokesman said the EU had now “clarified that their position on the Falklands has not changed”.

“To be clear, the Falkland Islands are British, that was the choice of the islanders themselves,” they said.

“The EU has rightly now clarified that their position on the Falklands has not changed after their regrettable choice of words.

“And just as a reminder, in the 2013 referendum, 99.8% of islanders voted to be part of the UK family. It’s a position supported by international law and the UN Charter which is binding on all UN members.

“And we will continue to defend the Falklands’ right to self-determination in all international forums and have called on the EU to respect the democratic rights of the Falkland Islands.”

He added: “The concern is any suggestion that EU states would recognise Argentina’s claims on the Falklands, which they have now clarified is incorrect.”

Both the UK and Argentina lay claim to the Falkland Islands, fighting a war in 1982 that culminated in the deaths of 255 British service personnel and 649 Argentines .

The 40th anniversary of the war was marked last March.

The Falkland Islands is officially classified as a British Overseas Territory, a position the EU reaffirmed in the 2009 Lisbon Treaty.

Michael Gove backs Ofsted inspections in face of criticism after death of Ruth Perry | Politics News

Levelling up secretary Michael Gove has said Ofsted plays a “vital role” in assessing school performance.

Mr Gove, a former education secretary, gave his backing to the schools inspector despite there being renewed calls for it to be reformed, and even abolished following the death of a headteacher.

Ruth Perry, who ran Caversham Primary School in Reading, took her own life while waiting for a critical Ofsted report that downgraded her school from outstanding to inadequate due to “safeguarding” issues.

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Inspectors gave the school the lowest possible rating despite the fact it was judged as “good” in every category bar leadership and management, where it was rated “inadequate”.

Ms Perry’s family have said her death was the direct result of the pressure put on her by the “deeply harmful” inspection.

Asked by Sophy Ridge whether Ofsted inspections were placing too much stress on teachers, Mr Gove said: “Well, the first thing is obviously when you’re talking about circumstances where a clearly public-spirited, talented, passionately committed person has taken their life, you have to have respect for her example and her family.

“So it’s important not to be too political when we’re reflecting on her passing.

“I do think, however, that Ofsted plays an vital role in providing information about how schools are performing well, which we can learn from, and which schools are not performing well, and therefore need help and intervention.”

Pressed on whether the four grades used by Ofsted (outstanding, good, requires improvement and inadequate) were a “blunt instrument”, the Cabinet minister said he thought they were “important”.

However, he said “we do need to reflect and look at” so-called “limiting judgements”, whereby a school can be found to be inadequate overall because it is rated as such in the safeguarding category.

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Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department that inspects schools and other education services.

Following the death of Ms Perry, Ofsted has faced calls to halt inspections.

A petition calling for an inquiry into the inspection of Caversham Primary School has gathered more than 110,000 signatures.

Ofsted’s chief inspector Amanda Spielman said Ms Perry’s death “was met with great sadness at Ofsted” but declined to halt inspections, saying they played an “important part” in maintaining standards in education.

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Schools have also been removing logos and references to Ofsted ratings from their websites in solidarity with Ms Perry and headteachers have said they planned to stage peaceful protests – including wearing black clothing and armbands and displaying photographs of Ms Perry around buildings – when Ofsted inspections take place.

The National Education Union has also called for Ofsted to be replaced with a new agency.

Mr Gove said he believed Ofsted did a “great job” and that Ms Spielman was “committed to supporting teachers to do better”.

“One of my worries is that some of the people who are attacking Ofsted object to transparency, are anti-high standards, and what we need to do to is recognise that education has improved in the last 13 years and the role of Ofsted under successive chief inspectors has been absolutely central to that,” he said.

Mr Blobby costume buyer ‘backs out of £62,000 bid’ | Ents & Arts News

The buyer of an original Mr Blobby costume – who was set to pay £62,000 for the item – has reportedly backed out of the sale.

An eBay auction for the piece of TV memorabilia, which is more than 25 years old, attracted huge interest last week.

The costume sold for £62,101 but it has now emerged the buyer pulled out of the sale within an hour of placing the large bid.

The anonymous seller told the BBC: “I thought it would get to a level of £100 perhaps – and so I was shocked really that it reached the level it did.

“I think it was one of those things that was driven by social media.

“Ironically, it was being sold not to make money but to make space.”

The Mr Blobby suit was made by the BBC’s costume supplier and was due to be used for Noel’s House Party but the TV show was cancelled before it could be delivered.

Running from 1991 to 1999, Noel’s House Party was a BAFTA-winning light entertainment show.

Mr Blobby in 1993
Mr Blobby at the height of his fame in 1993

Earlier, the seller said the costume was in need of a new home after they claimed that neither the broadcaster nor the BBC’s production team wanted it.

The costume needed some attention due to its age, with one of the plastic eyes cracked.

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While eBay’s terms and conditions rule that winning an auction means the user has committed to buy the item, it cannot enforce this by law.

According to the BBC, the seller has decided to keep hold of the Mr Blobby costume for now.

Government backs making public sexual harassment a criminal offence | Politics News

Calls to make public sexual harassment a criminal offence have been backed by the government.

Priti Patel launched a targeted consultation in July when she was home secretary to see if women’s charities, the legal sector and the police thought the move was necessary.

And after five months, the Home Office has concluded it should be introduced after “the significant majority” of respondents were in favour.

A number of charities have campaigned for street harassment to be outlawed, with Plan International saying 75% of girls, some as young have 12, have experienced some form of public sexual harassment in their lifetime.

‘Strong support’

The Home Office announced its decision on the government website, saying the option it supported would see higher sentencing for behaviour that falls within section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 – namely when a person uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour – when done because of the victim’s sex.

The statement said: “We note the significant majority of respondents in favour of an offence, and the strong support given to some of the possible reasons in favour of one, such as the deterrent effect of a new law and its ability to raise awareness, and its ability to provide clarity to the law and encourage reporting.

“We also note the other arguments put forward, such as its ability to help drive cultural change.”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said “any action to tackle the epidemic of violence against women and girls is welcome”, but she urged the government to “go further and faster”.

She added: “Labour has a plan to put rape and domestic abuse specialists in every police force in the country, introduce fast-track rape courts and a domestic abuse register, and overhaul police training so that every victim gets the best possible support.”

Sky News has contacted the Home Office to find out the next steps.

Government backs Sizewell C after reports nuclear power plant could be scrapped | Politics News

The government says it still supports the Sizewell C nuclear power plant and is hoping to get a deal over the line to fully fund the project as soon as possible.

Funding towards the Suffolk plant totalling £700m was signed off by Boris Johnson at the start of September in one of his last acts as prime minister.

But the site’s future was cast into doubt overnight after reports claimed it was being reviewed ahead of the chancellor’s autumn statement in just under two weeks – with Treasury sources telling Sky News “all options are on the table” to fill the fiscal black hole in government finances.

Now, Rishi Sunak’s official spokesperson says the reports are “not accurate” and “our position remains the same”, adding negotiations are “ongoing and constructive”.

The £20bn Sizewell C project aims to generate enough low-carbon electricity to supply six million homes and help protect the UK from energy market volatility.

The plant is a joint endeavour with French energy giant EDF and is expected to take a decade to build.

While it has the backing of the Labour Party and unions, critics say the plans are too expensive and the new power source will take too long to come online.

JK Rowling calls Nicola Sturgeon ‘destroyer of women’s rights’ – as author backs protests over Scotland’s new trans law | UK News

JK Rowling has tweeted a picture of herself in a T-shirt that calls Scotland’s first minister a “destroyer of women’s rights”.

The author also gave her support to people protesting over a new gender recognition law in the country.

She posted: “I stand in solidarity with @ForWomenScot and all women protesting and speaking outside the Scottish Parliament. #NoToSelfID.”

The legislation aims to amend a previous law to make it easier for transgender people to be legally recognised as their chosen gender and get a new birth certificate.

They will no longer need to provide medical reports or evidence, and the minimum age of applicants for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) will be cut from 18 to 16.

A majority of MSPs on a parliamentary committee have recommended that the general principles of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill should be approved.

Scotland’s social justice secretary has said it won’t give trans people new rights but is about “simplifying and improving the process for a trans person to gain legal recognition”.

In a statement, Shona Robison said: “Our support for trans rights does not conflict with our continued strong commitment to uphold the rights and protections that women and girls currently have under the 2010 Equality Act. This bill makes no changes to that act.”

People protested against the planned law outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Thursday.

Some carried signs reading “no one was born in the wrong body”, “humans can’t change sex” and “keep prisons single sex”.

Former Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said the committee “should listen, they should challenge, they should argue, they should probe”.

She added: “They should not dismiss, because in that world of dismissal, you shoot the messenger. You ignore the message, you make bad law and other people live with the consequences.”

Rowling has been criticised by some over her views on women’s rights and trans people but strongly denies being transphobic.

In January, police said they wouldn’t charge trans activists who tweeted photos showing her address – so-called “doxing”.