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Grant Shapps defends new role as defence sec – but admits he lacks knowledge about Army | Politics News

Grant Shapps has defended his appointment as defence secretary – saying the department “needs highly experienced cabinet ministers”.

There was a backlash after Rishi Sunak’s ally was moved into one of the top roles in government amid a war in Europe – despite having no military experience.

Critics claimed the prime minister had chosen appearance over substance.

Politics Hub: First PMQs since recess today

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Who is Grant Shapps?

But Mr Shapps, who has also run the energy, business and transport departments, brushed off criticism that he got his role “because it was a job for the boys” – even as he admitted he lacked knowledge about the Army.

Grilled on how many ranks there are in the Army, he told Sky News he did not know the answer “off the top of my head”.

But he insisted: “Look, what the Ministry of Defence needs is the highly experienced cabinet ministers who can run a complex infrastructure-orientated department.

“I’ve had a lot of experience of running very large budgets and complex departments.”

Mr Shapps added that “only two of the last 15 defence secretaries have had any military background themselves”.

He said: “It’s not usual in democracy where we actually pride ourselves on having civilians run all elements of government, including our military. What I do know is how to run the department.”

Ben Wallace, Mr Shapps’ predecessor and a former Army officer, had played a key role in galvanising international support to arm the Ukrainian military.

He resigned from cabinet last week with a warning that “over the next decade, the world will get more insecure and more unstable”.

In a parting shot to secure his department’s future, Mr Wallace also added: “I know you agree with me that we must not return to the days where defence was viewed as a discretionary spend by government and savings were achieved by hollowing out.”

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‘What do you know about defence Grant Shapps?’

Asked if he would be as vocal as Mr Wallace, Mr Shapps suggested he would lobby for higher defence spending but said he’ll “do it in my own way” – adding: “I’ve spoken before about my desire to see a higher defence budget, well before being in this role.”

He said defence spending is already on the rise, with the aim of it going up to 2.5%.

“I fully support that,” Mr Shapps said. “I think it’s very important that we are protected as a nation, but also that we’re doing our part around the world to help the world be better protected.”

King honours sailors who played role in late Queen’s funeral | UK News

The King has presented honours to Royal Navy sailors who played a symbolic role in his mother’s funeral procession, one of whom is heavily pregnant.

During an open-air ceremony at Windsor Castle, the monarch honoured about 150 sailors and officers who either took part in Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral last September or helped to plan it.

Medical assistant Paisley Chambers-Smith, who is seven months pregnant, was awarded an RVO (Royal Victorian Order) silver medal for pulling the gun carriage carrying the Queen’s coffin with almost 100 other sailors.

King Charles talks to relatives after presenting the Royal Victorian Order to members of the Royal Navy for their part in Queen Elizabeth II's funeral procession, on the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle. Picture date: Tuesday May 30, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story ROYAL Navy. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
King Charles III presents the Royal Victorian Order to members of the Royal Navy
King Charles talks to relatives after presenting the Royal Victorian Order to members of the Royal Navy for their part in Queen Elizabeth II's funeral procession, on the Quadrangle at Windsor Castle. Picture date: Tuesday May 30, 2023. PA Photo. See PA story ROYAL Navy. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

On a warm sunny day in Windsor she was wearing a blue summer dress because the Royal Navy does not have any ceremonial maternity wear.

The medic, who works alongside civilian staff at an NHS hospital when not on deployment, said after the ceremony: “It’s not something I imagined doing so soon in my career.

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The Queen’s funeral was watched by average of 26.2 million people in UK

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September 2022: Queen’s coffin piped to Abbey

“The training was so hard but worth it and on the day it was a massive honour to be there.”

The King weaved between those gathered in the castle’s quadrangle, while music was provided by the Royal Marines Band Service.

Windsor Castle
Music was provided by the Royal Marines Band Service
Royal Marines and members of the band line up during a ceremony to honour the Royal Navy personnel who took part in Queen Elizabeth II's funeral, in Windsor, Britain, May 30, 2023. REUTERS/Maja Smiejkowska/Pool
Gary Lineker row: The role of BBC director general has always been a tricky balancing act – and it’s not getting any easier | Politics News

Surviving scandal has always been a central challenge for BBC bosses.

Tim Davie, the director general at the heart of the Gary Lineker stand-off with the broadcaster, got his first taste of the top job at the corporation as acting director general after the resignation of George Entwistle over the Jimmy Savile row.

In 2004, Greg Dyke resigned from the same job following criticism of the BBC’s news reporting process in the Hutton Inquiry.

This latest crisis can be traced back to Mr Davie’s pledge to make strengthening impartiality one of his key missions.

Yet what was intended to be a project to protect the organisation’s reputation has ended up damaging it with accusations (vehemently denied) that he has given in to Tory pressure.

Gary Lineker arrives at King Power Stadium ahead of Leicester's Premier League match against Chelsea on Saturday
Gary Lineker watched his team Leicester instead of presenting Match of the Day on Saturday

The role of BBC director general has always been a tricky balancing act: leading an organisation which holds those in power to account while being dependent on the government to approve any settlement over its future funding. The corporation’s current royal charter expires in 2027.

This is not the first time Lineker’s political comments have made headlines and, as the former footballer is the face of the organisation’s sports coverage, that clearly concerns Mr Davie.

Commenting on government policy, and comparing the rhetoric around it to 1930s Germany seems to breach the BBC’s editorial guidelines. But as a freelance presenter not working in news, should these rules even apply to Gary Lineker?

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The BBC’s guidelines on impartiality explained – and do they apply to Gary Lineker?

The BBC’s guidelines say some non-journalists “have an additional responsibility to the BBC because of their profile” and should “avoid taking sides on party political issues or political controversies”.

Yet critics of the corporation argue the rules weren’t applied fairly when Alan Sugar, host of The Apprentice, made comments about Jeremy Corbyn online or political interviewer Andrew Neil tweeted about Brexit.

The Lineker row comes just weeks after the controversy surrounding BBC chairman and Tory donor Richard Sharp, who helped facilitate an £800,000 loan to Boris Johnson. Mr Sharp is currently subject to two investigations and former BBC chair Chris Patten is among those now calling for him to stand down.

Mr Davie has said “success for me is getting Gary back on air”. He will be acutely aware that the longer the stand-off lasts, the larger the damage to the reputation of the beleaguered BBC.

Gary Lineker says he doesn’t fear suspension from BBC role – and stands by his criticism of govt’s migrant policy | UK News

Match Of The Day presenter Gary Lineker has told reporters outside his London home that he stands by his criticism of the government’s asylum seeker policy and does not fear suspension by the BBC.

It follow a row over his adherence the BBC’s impartiality rules after the former England striker shared a Twitter video put out by the home secretary in which she unveiled government plans to stop migrant boats crossing the Channel.

“Good heavens, this is beyond awful,” he wrote.

Lineker, who has presented the BBC football programme since the late 1990s, wrote in another tweet: “There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries.

“This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman told ITV’s Good Morning Britain she was “very disappointed” by Lineker’s comments and branded them “irresponsible”.

Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said it is important for the BBC to maintain impartiality if it is to “retain the trust of the public who pay the licence fee”.

BBC chairman asks for review into any ‘conflict of interest’ over Boris Johnson loan role | Politics News

BBC chairman Richard Sharp has asked for a review into potential conflicts of interest over his role in helping Boris Johnson secure a loan.

Mr Sharp said he wanted to ensure “all the appropriate guidelines have been followed”.

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“We have many challenges at the BBC and I know that distractions such as this are not welcome,” he said in a statement read out on BBC News.

The Sunday Times reported Mr Sharp was involved in arranging a guarantor on a loan of up to £800,000 for Mr Johnson in late 2020, and that the then-prime minister went on to recommend him for the top job at the BBC.

A spokesperson for Mr Johnson called the report “rubbish” while both sides denied a conflict of interest.

In a letter to BBC staff, read out on the BBC News channel, Mr Sharp clarified some of the details surrounding the loan.

He confirmed he introduced multimillionaire Canadian businessman Sam Blyth to cabinet secretary Simon Case “as Sam wanted to support Boris Johnson”.

“I was not involved in making a loan, or arranging a guarantee, and I did not arrange any financing. What I did do was to seek an introduction of Sam Blythe to the relevant official in government,” he said.

“Sam Blyth, who I have known for more than forty years, lives in London and having become aware of the financial pressures on the then prime minister, and being a successful entrepreneur, he told me he wanted to explore whether he could assist.”

Mr Blyth is a distance cousin of Mr Johnson’s.

The statement was released moments after Mr Johnson said that Mr Sharp “knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances”.

Boris Johnson doorstep
Boris Johnson

Speaking to Sky News he said: “This is a load of complete nonsense – absolute nonsense.

“Let me just tell you, Richard Sharp is a great and wise man but he knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – I can tell you that for 100% ding dang sure.

“This is just another example of the BBC disappearing up its own fundament.”

The BBC reported that Mr Sharp “has agreed with the board’s senior independent director” that the nominations committee will look at his appointment when it next meets and, “in the interests of transparency, publish the conclusions”.

It comes after Labour called for an independent investigation into the process for appointing the chair of the BBC.

The party has also reported Mr Johnson to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, saying the former prime minister’s financial affairs are “dragging the Conservative Party deeper into yet another quagmire of sleaze”.

The Cabinet Office has insisted Mr Sharp was appointed “following a rigorous appointments process”.

This included assessment by a panel of experts and “additional pre-appointment scrutiny by a House of Commons Select Committee”, according to a statement released yesterday.

Keir Starmer’s chief of staff to leave role as Labour leader moves party to an ‘election footing’ | Politics News

Sir Keir Starmer has sacked his chief of staff as part of a major restructuring of the Labour leader’s office as he moves the party to an “election footing”.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the party said the Labour leader held a call with staff this morning alongside the general secretary and announced plans to capitalise on promising leads over the Conservatives in recent polls.

Sir Keir is said to have told party employees that “this is not time for complacency or caution” and that long-planned changes to structures must be brought forward in light of the Conservative Party’s “implosion”.

“The government’s collapse has given us a huge chance. The instability means they could fall at any time. Because of that we need to get on an election footing straight away,” staff are said to have been told by the Labour leader.

It is believed he urged the party to “seize the opportunity we have and show the British people we are the party that can lead our country forward”.

As part of the changes, Sam White, who was appointed as chief of staff last summer, will leave his position.

The new structure mean policy and communications will move into Party HQ, reporting to the general secretary, the statement added.

Labour’s general secretary David Evans made clear that no jobs are at risk as a result of the restructure.

Chris Kaba: Family of man shot dead by police in London call for murder investigation – and question role of race | UK News

The family of a man shot dead by police have called for a murder investigation into his killing – and have questioned whether his life would have been “cut short” if he were not black.

Chris Kaba, who was due to become a father within months, died after a chase involving armed officers that ended in Streatham Hill, south London, on Monday night.

His Audi was hemmed in by two police cars in a narrow residential street before one round was fired from a police weapon.

His family said on Wednesday they were “devastated” and needed “answers and accountability” over his death.

A statement released through the charity Inquest said Mr Kapa’s family “seek a homicide investigation into his death from the outset”.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) have been told of the demand of the family who “do not want any delay as has happened in other fatal shootings – otherwise we and the wider public can have no confidence that the police will be held to account”, the statement added.

The family said: “We also want the IOPC to tell us whether or not a weapon was found in any search of the vehicle that Chris was driving.

“We have not received this information even though the shooting happened almost two days ago.”

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Streatham shooting: ‘He was so loved’

Mr Kapa’s family have appealed for any witnesses to the pursuit or the shooting to come forward.

“We are devastated; we need answers and we need accountability,” they said.

“We are worried that if Chris had not been black, he would have been arrested on Monday evening and not had his life cut short.”

The Metropolitan Police earlier expressed its condolences to Mr Kaba’s loved ones, saying the force understood that “the family and community want answers”.

Commander Alexis Boon said the incident was “extremely concerning” and vowed the force would co-operate with the police watchdog in its aftermath.

The scene in Kirkstall Gardens, Streatham Hill, south London, where a man was shot by armed officers from the Metropolitan Police following a pursuit on Monday evening. The man, believed to be in his 20s, has died in hospital. Picture date: Tuesday September 6, 2022.
The scene in Streatham Hill, south London, where Mr Kaba was shot dead

The officer said: “I would like to express my sincere condolences to the family and friends of the man who died and I recognise the devastating and lasting impact this tragic incident will have on them.

“I understand that this incident is extremely concerning and I would like to reassure the community that the Met is co-operating fully with the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) as they carry out a thorough and independent investigation.”

The shooting is being investigated by the IOPC, as is standard in deaths following police contact.

Speaking at the scene on Tuesday, Kim Alleyne, whose daughter Karimah Waite was engaged to Mr Kaba, said of him: “He was so loved. He was so funny. He was super kind. Crazy. He was always happy. He’d do anything for you.

Kimberly Alleyne who said she is the mother-in-law to be of the deceased, speaks to the media at the scene in Kirkstall Gardens, Streatham Hill, south London. A man was shot by armed officers from the Metropolitan Police following a pursuit on Monday evening. The man, believed to be in his 20s, has died in hospital. Picture date: Tuesday September 6, 2022.
Kimberly Alleyne spoke to reporters

“He was a fiance, he was due to get married in five months’ time. He’s got a baby on the way that he’s never going to see.

“It’s horrible and so shocking and so sad.”

Some paying tribute at the scene said Mr Kaba was a rapper known as Madix or Mad Itch 67.

Jefferson Bosela, who was Mr Kaba’s cousin, said: “He was a good person, a good, happy guy. He didn’t deserve that. No-one deserves that.

“Nobody deserves to be shot by the police, whether they are a good person or a bad person.”

Jade Goody’s son Bobby Brazier ‘really excited’ to land role in EastEnders | Ents & Arts News

Bobby Brazier – the son of late Big Brother star Jade Goody – is set to make his acting debut in EastEnders.

The 19-year-old will take on the role of Freddie Slater, 18, the son of Maureen “Little Mo” Slater, and is currently filming scenes scheduled to air this summer.

Freddie was last seen in Walford in 2006 when he and his mother left to start a new life.

He is now returning to Albert Square and although he has “a heart of gold” he can’t help getting himself into “mischief”, show bosses say.

Goody, who died in 2009 aged 27 after being diagnosed with cervical cancer, had Bobby and his brother Freddy, now 17, with fellow reality TV star Jeff Brazier.

She was an EastEnders fan and in 2006 reportedly petitioned two of its stars to talk to their bosses about getting her a part in the soap during a chance meeting at V Festival.

Brazier said: “I’m really excited to be joining the cast of EastEnders – so far it’s been perfect. Everybody has been so beautiful to me and made settling in easier than I could’ve hoped.

“Stepping into the acting world has always been a vision of mine and doing that with EastEnders as a Slater is a blessing, I’m very grateful.

“Loving every minute of Freddie so far and can’t wait to see what’s in store for him in Walford.”

EastEnders’ executive producer Chris Clenshaw said: “Freddie Slater is a chaotic 18-year-old with a sensitive soul.

“A modern-day lad who’s in touch with his spiritual side. He’s philosophical, accepting, but full of mischief and makes mistakes.

“Bobby is an amazing young addition to the EastEnders cast who brings heart and humility to the role of Freddie Slater and I can’t wait for audiences to get to know him.”