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Rishi Sunak came out fighting and just about shaded first TV debate – but it probably won’t work in the election | Politics News

Behind in the polls, Rishi Sunak needed to come out fighting and take the gloves off in the first TV leaders’ debate.

And he did. He was aggressive, repeatedly challenging Sir Keir Starmer, particularly on tax, placing the Labour leader on the defensive.

Election latest: Voters think Rishi Sunak beat Keir Starmer in first TV debate, snap poll finds

The YouGov snap poll scored it at 51% for the prime minister and 49% for Sir Keir Starmer and that’s about right.

The prime minister probably just about shaded it. But Sir Keir needs to raise his game and match Mr Sunak’s fire with fire in the second debate later this month.

Mr Sunak stuck to a simple message on tax rises under Labour. Starmer repeatedly hammered Sunak on the Tories’ record over the past 14 years.

From the start, the prime minister went on the attack and rammed home his message accusing Labour of planning £2,000 tax rises.

He did it over and over again. Simple message: Labour will put up taxes, even for pensioners. It was crude, but effective.

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First leaders’ debate – what happened?

The debate was almost over by the time Sir Keir finally dismissed the tax claim as “garbage” and for much of the debate the Labour leader was forced to react defensively rather than go on the attack himself.

This was raw politics. Yet vegetarian Rishi Sunak was the leader who sounded as though he’d been devouring red meat before the contest. Gorilla biscuits, even.

The Labour leader, a former director of public prosecutions (and how he reminded us of that fact repeatedly), is more used to addressing judges or juries. But not so much a TV audience.

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YouGov poll suggests Sunak won first election debate

This was the bear pit of politics, far less suited to the Labour leader’s lawyerly approach than facing Sunak at Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.

Presenter Julie Etchingham was brilliant throughout, particularly when the two leaders were shouting over each other. When Sir Lindsay Hoyle tires of keeping order in the Commons she’d make an excellent Speaker!

The prime minister appeared to have learned from his debates with Liz Truss for the Tory leadership. Then he was the measured, responsible one while she made the wild claims.

But she won then, because the Tory audience didn’t care.

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Rishi Sunak during the ITV General Election debate at MediaCity in Salford.
Pic:ITV/PA
Image:
Pic: ITV/PA

This time it was Sunak throwing accusations around, not just on tax, but on terrorism and defence as well. “Insulting!” complained Sir Keir, but somewhat weakly and also too late.

At times in the first half of the one-hour debate, Sir Keir appeared slow and ponderous. He did better on the NHS than he did on tax, raising a laugh on NHS waiting lists by declaring: “You’re the guy who’s supposed to be good at maths.”

And Sir Keir did surprisingly well when he spelled out Labour’s controversial policy for VAT on private schools and then predictably did well on the plan to tax non-doms.

But he struggled again when the prime minister accused Labour of planning to tax state pensions.

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer during the ITV General Election debate at MediaCity in Salford.
Pic: ITV/PA
Image:
Pic: ITV/PA

Perhaps surprisingly, though, honours were even on immigration, with Sunak not getting applause for his stop the boats policy, although he then recovered by claiming: “You might not like it, but I’ve got a plan.”

He then put Sir Keir on the defensive again by challenging him: “What would you do with illegal immigrants who come to our country?”

They clashed again on defence and security, with the prime minister aggressive and on the attack again.

But even during that exchange the prime minister came back with his tax attack: “As clear as night follows day, he is going to put up your taxes.”

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Starmer won audience support for ridiculing the prime minister’s “teenage Dad’s Army”, but Mr Sunak concluded with the line: “In uncertain times we simply can’t afford an uncertain prime minister.”

That was the sort of argument Gordon Brown used against David Cameron in the general election campaign of 2010. That didn’t work for Mr Brown then.

And unless there’s an almighty turnaround in the opinion polls, despite all his aggression and coming out fighting with the glove off, it probably won’t work for Mr Sunak in 2024.

Princess of Wales ‘excited’ by Early Years report but not returning to work yet | UK News

The Princess of Wales is not returning to work yet, but remains fully updated on the Early Years work going on in her absence, it was revealed at the launch of a “landmark” new report.

Keen not to distract from the importance of the findings of the Early Years business taskforce, that was set up by the princess last year, a palace spokesperson confirmed that “it should not be seen or reported on as Her Royal Highness returning to work”.

They added: “You all know that early childhood is a huge priority for the princess and so she has been kept fully updated throughout the development of the taskforce’s work and she has seen the report.”

The report is an example of how the work of her Early Years Foundation has continued despite Kate undergoing preventative chemotherapy.

The princess, who “still needs space to recover”, is said to be “excited” by the findings, which claim the UK could reap £45.5bn in economic benefits if firms prioritise early childhood.

It recommends a range of interventions, from creating a culture inside and outside firms that prioritises childhood to supporting parents with greater resources and flexibility in the workplace.

Among the eight-member taskforce are the chief executives of Ikea, NatWest Group and Deloitte.

More on Princess Of Wales

Speaking about the report, described as “a major early years rallying call”, Emma Franklin, a director of consulting with Deloitte said: “We’ve established a figure of £45.5bn, which is just immense in terms of value added to the UK economy.

Emma Franklin, a director of consulting with Deloitte
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Emma Franklin, a director of consulting with Deloitte

“And that’s three simple things, which is productivity gains of enabling parents who want to work more hours to get back into the workforce and avoiding some of the recruitment retention costs for people who are leaving the workforce, but also in terms of developing some of those really core social and emotional skills in our under fives now that will stand them in such good stead as the future workforce for us in terms of the skills around empathy and resilience and problem-solving.

“I think it’s a really compelling case for change.”

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Sky News visited a baby bank in north London run by Little Village.

Last year they supported 8,500 children, 20% more than the year before, and increasingly working parents are coming in for help.

Thea Jaffe has three children, including eight-month-old Isaac who’ll need to go to nursery when she goes back to work later this year.

Mother of three, Thea Jaffe, is struggling to afford to raise her children
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Mother of three, Thea Jaffe, is struggling to afford to raise her children

She said: “My rent is £2,000 a month, nursery £3,000. That’s £5,000 right there. I thought I had a good job taking home £2,600 a month after taxes, but apparently it’s not good enough.

“Yeah, it’s really tough. I feel bad about it because I feel like times when I should be enjoying the time with my kids, learning more about who they are, what they care about, what makes them tick. But I’m just preoccupied with like, how are we going to, you know, how am I going to pay our bills?”

Little Village CEO Sophie Livingstone says companies need to step up, and she hopes the influence of the princess will help.

Little Village CEO Sophie Livingstone
Image:
Little Village CEO Sophie Livingstone

“I have no doubt that she will follow through and keep on it with businesses and keep holding their feet to the fire to make a tangible difference,” she said.

“This is just the beginning, in my view. What we need now is to see those commitments coming through, to see that action, because the time is now, the need has never been greater.

“So I’m really grateful to the princess for drawing attention to this. But it’s now time for business to follow through behind her.”

The report has been shared with No.10, the Department of Health and Department for Education, but those involved insist they will not be lobbying government for change, instead showing the societal impact that businesses can help drive.

EU proposing post-Brexit joint youth work and study scheme with UK | Politics News

Young people could be able to move more easily between the UK and Europe and stay longer to work, study and train under proposed plans by the European Union

Under the proposal, which has been put forward by the European Commission, new rules would be drawn up to allow for greater movement between the UK and EU countries for people aged between 18 and 30.

Formal negotiations have not yet begun, and a UK source told Sky News no formal proposal had been put forward by Brussels to begin negotiating on.

The proposal will be further discussed by the European Council, which represents all the nations, before negotiations start in earnest.

Politics latest: Police issues Mark Menzies update

The plans proposed by the EU would allow young people to stay in Europe for periods of four years, with the same rules extended to EU citizens coming to Britain.

It would also mean EU students paying the same fees as British ones. Since Brexit, UK universities have charged much higher fees to European students.

Announcing the move, the European Commission said it wanted to take an “innovative” approach to tackling the barriers experienced by young people looking to travel from the EU to the UK and vice versa for longer periods.

“The objective would be to facilitate youth exchanges, making it easier for young citizens to travel, work and live in the UK, with reciprocity for young UK nationals in a member state,” said the Commission, in a statement.

“The United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union has hit young people in the EU and UK who would like to study, work and live abroad particularly hard,” claimed Maros Sefcovic, the Commission’s vice-president who oversees relations with the UK.

“Our aim is to rebuild human bridges between young Europeans on both sides of the Channel.”

This scheme is separate to the 90-day visa-less travel that UK citizens can take advantage of on the continent.

According to the Commission, they do not foresee the scheme allowing UK citizens to travel around the Schengen area unimpeded, but rather the visa would only be valid for a single state.

It added: “It is not about conferring to young UK nationals the benefits of the fundamental freedom of movement enjoyed by EU citizens.”

However, visas would not be “purpose-bound” and would allow people to work, travel or study.

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UK Border control is seen in Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London June 4, 2014. REUTERS/Neil Hall
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The EU want to negotiate an agreement as a whole, rather than country by country. Pic: Reuters

Rather than just being a free exchange, the EU also says it wants people taking part in the scheme to be subject to checks with the bloc or the UK able to reject applications – for example if someone was thought to be a threat to public policy, security or health.

The UK government currently has a series of agreements with 13 individual countries – including New Zealand, South Korea, Andorra, Iceland and India, which provide a similar pathway to what the EU is proposing.

The government has said it is open to the idea of extending those agreements with European countries, but has shied away from doing a pan-EU deal and there will be those who fear that an agreement such as this would be the first step towards the UK being drawn into a “freedom of movement” deal.

The EU said it wants a group deal to “ensure that all member states are treated equally in respect of mobility of young people to the UK” – but the current government seems to prefer its current set of agreements.

The Commission has rejected these fears, with sources insisting there is no intention of either pulling the UK into such a deal, or even offering it.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “We have spoken about wanting to reduce legal migration and also about wanting to support UK talent and skills and that’s why we have a system in place whereby we have a number of agreements with individual EU member states where that works in our interests and we have that rather than a Commission-wide agreement.”

Labour denied it had plans for a youth mobility scheme.

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Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality, a trade body representing the hospitality sector in the UK, welcomed the move.

She said: “Such an agreement would be a huge success for hospitality and tourism and, practically, it would solve challenges for the live music and events sectors.”

Civil servants threaten to stop work over arms sales to Israel | Politics News

Civil servants overseeing arms exports to Israel have requested to “cease work immediately” over fears they could be complicit in war crimes in Gaza.

Officials in the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) have raised concerns with senior civil servants that they may be liable if it is deemed Israel has broken international law.

Politics Live: Ex-Foreign Office minister hits back after probe into Israel comments

In correspondence seen by Sky News, the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), which represents civil servants, has requested an urgent meeting with the department to discuss “the legal jeopardy faced by civil servants who are continuing to work on this policy”.

The letter, sent on Wednesday, said: “Given the implications for our members we believe there are ample grounds to immediately suspend all such work.

“We therefore request that you meet with us urgently to discuss this matter and cease work immediately.”

The correspondence shows the PCS has been asking the government for its legal advice on arming Israel since January, when a preliminary ruling from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found Israel’s acts in Gaza could amount to genocide.

A response to the union dated 13 March said “the question of criminal liability for civil servants is very unlikely to arise”.

However, the department said it can’t share the legal advice it is receiving as it is “confidential”.

Labour MP John McDonnell, a founding member of the PCS union group in parliament, said the government must “come clean”.

John McDonnell
Image:
Labour MP John McDonnell

He told Sky News: “These civil servants should not be put at risk. The Rome Statute covering war crimes is clear that following a superior’s instructions is not a defence when it comes to charges of war crimes. The government must come clean on the legal advice they have.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has come under growing pressure to suspend arms sales to Israel after three British aid workers were killed in an airstrike on Monday.

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Last night, a letter signed by more than 600 lawyers, including former Supreme Court justices, warned the UK is breaching international law by continuing to arm Israel.

The government does not directly supply Israel with weapons, but does grant export licences for British companies to sell arms to the country.

The US remains by far the largest supplier of weapons to Israel, with Foreign Office minister Andrew Mitchell recently telling MPs that UK exports accounted for just 0.02% of Israel’s military imports.

There has been pressure within the Conservative Party to end exports – with MPs Flick Drummond, David Jones and Paul Bristow urging the government to reconsider.

The Lib Dems, the SNP and dozens of Labour MPs also want arms sales to be suspended, although the Labour leadership’s position is the government should publish its legal advice and suspend arms sales if there is a risk weapons could be used in “a serious breach of international humanitarian law”.

A government spokesperson said: “We keep advice on Israel’s adherence to International Humanitarian Law under review and will act in accordance with that advice.

“All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Strategic Export Licensing Criteria.”

‘Nice work if you can get it’: Scottish water regulator spent public money on gift cards, travel and course in US | UK News

A public body that spent more than £77,000 to send a senior executive to take a course at Harvard University in the US has defended the decision, by telling MSPs it invests in its staff to stop them from being “poached”.

The Water Industry Commission for Scotland (WICS) – which regulates Scottish Water – was accused of “poor governance” with public funds in a report by the Auditor General last year, and today faced scrutiny at Holyrood.

Its representatives insisted the culture had changed at the regulator, as they struggled to justify questionable spending highlighted in last year’s audit – including £2,600 to provide every staff member with a £100 gift card for Christmas and £402 on a dinner for two.

The report by the Auditor General found that the “financial management and governance issues found at the commission fall far short of what is expected of a public body”.

After the report, WICS chief executive Alan Sutherland quit with immediate effect in December and was awarded six months’ pay in lieu of his contractual notice period. While an exact figure for this was not provided, in 2021 the commission said the chief executive officer’s annual salary was more than £165,000.

A total of £77,350 was claimed for the Harvard Business School course attended by chief operating officer Michelle Ashford, which included business class flights to Boston.

Approval was only sought afterwards for the expenses, despite Scottish government approval being required in advance for any service above £20,000.

‘We find it difficult to compete with private sector’

Holyrood’s public audit committee criticised the money spent on the Harvard course during its meeting on Thursday.

MSP Jamie Greene questioned whether the organisation had been “running like a private sector business instead of a public sector body”.

Professor Donald MacRae, chair of the board at WICS, said the board should have been asked for approval first and accepted that the value for money for the Harvard course was “not fully demonstrated and the business case was inadequate”.

However, he explained: “WICS is a small public body operating in a very complex and specialised area, and we do find it difficult to compete on salaries with the private sector and actually to retain staff.

“And our staff are frequently subject to approaches to being poached, actually.

“Now, we recognise that our staff are our most important asset, and we take the view that we have to invest in them. And we have to invest in them by offering advanced management training.”

Pic: Scottish Parliament TV
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Professor Donald MacRae, chair of the board at WICS. Pic: Scottish Parliament TV

Despite Professor MacRae’s argument about retaining staff, the committee also heard no conditions were put in place ito ensure Ms Ashford stayed with WICS for a certain period of time after attending the course in the US.

Going forward, Professor MacRae said WICS will “still adhere to the policy of investing” in its staff.

But he added the organisation will look for alternative training “within Scotland or the UK at much lower cost” in the future, to deliver “better value for money”.

Richard Leonard MSP, committee convener, accused Jon Rathjen, deputy director for water policy at the Scottish government, of being “complicit” in the failures at WICS, in that he did not challenge the spending on the Harvard course.

Pic: Scottish Parliament TV
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Richard Leonard MSP. Pic: Scottish Parliament TV

Mr Rathjen accepted he “made an error of judgement” in relying on an assurance from the WICS chief executive.

He said WICS had approached the Scottish government to approve the spending retrospectively and refusing it would not have achieved anything.

Pic: Scottish Parliament TV
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Jon Rathjen, deputy director for water policy at the Scottish government. Pic: Scottish Parliament TV

‘Nice work if you can get it’

With regards to other spending at WICS, MSP Graham Simpson raised a £402.41 meal at the Champany Inn in Linlithgow, West Lothian, where then chief executive Mr Sutherland was dining with an official from the New Zealand government in October 2022.

David Satti, who has recently become the interim accountable officer at WICS, said no itemised receipt had been provided and the expense had been covered on an office credit card, adding: “We have no way of knowing the exact items that were purchased.”

Pic: Scottish Parliament TV
Image:
David Satti, interim accountable officer at WICS. Pic: Scottish Parliament TV

Professor MacRae said the meal had been wrongly coded as “subsistence” but nevertheless had been “instrumental” in securing income of £1.2m from New Zealand.

Mr Simpson was also told that WICS workers sent to New Zealand were allowed to book business class as the flight is over six hours.

The MSP sarcastically responded: “Nice work if you can get it.”

Colin Beattie MSP questioned whether it was “unusual” for a public body to give staff members Christmas vouchers.

Pic: Scottish Parliament TV
Image:
Colin Beattie MSP. Pic: Scottish Parliament TV

In regards to the £100 gift cards, which exceeded the £75 limit for gifts, Professor MacRae said: “You must remember the situation we were in, a situation where we were all operating remotely and still in the process of recovering from COVID.

“That was the background to the decision.”

It was heard that WICS has no intention to give out gift cards to staff members at Christmas in the future.

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At the start of the meeting, Professor MacRae said there had been a “change of culture and focus on value for money” since the Audit Scotland report.

But MSP Willie Coffey delivered a damning verdict on the spending at WICS, saying: “I’ve been a member of the parliament, in the audit committee on and off for 17 years, and I have to say to you colleagues that this is one of the worst sessions I’ve ever participated in.”

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WICS has a statutory duty to promote the interests of Scottish Water’s customers. It is funded via a levy on Scottish Water.

The organisation has 26 staff and had an income of about £5.3m last year.

Edinburgh care worker receives warning for going to work twice under the influence of alcohol | UK News

A care worker has been reprimanded for drinking alcohol hidden in a water bottle while on duty and later falling asleep on shift.

Sinead Collins has received a two-year warning on her registration for turning up to a residential care home twice under the influence of alcohol.

The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) said her bad behaviour occurred in June 2020 and December 2022 while working in Edinburgh as a deputy service manager at Share Scotland.

The SSSC found Collins’ fitness to practise impaired.

In a written ruling, the SSSC said: “During the first occasion, you proceeded to drink alcohol disguised in a water bottle while in your place of work.

“You also fell asleep while on shift and neglected your duties to the residents within the service.

“You put residents at risk of unnecessary harm, and it was only due to the actions of your colleagues that meant you were not allowed to work alone with residents and were in fact sent home.

“Acting in such a way falls below the standard that is expected of social service workers.”

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The SSSC said Collins had a good employment history but had not shown any insight or regret and had failed to apologise for her behaviour.

The care watchdog stated Collins had shown “poor judgment”, adding: “You abused the trust placed in you by your employer and the residents by attempting to work while you were under the influence of alcohol.”

The 24-month warning came into effect on Thursday.

Queen says King is ‘fine’ and ‘looking forward to getting back to work’ ahead of prostate treatment | UK News

Queen Camilla has said the King is “fine” and is “looking forward to getting back to work” as he awaits treatment for an enlarged prostate.

Buckingham Palace announced yesterday the King is set to attend hospital for the treatment next week.

The palace has postponed his engagements in the meantime.

It is not known exactly what procedure the King, who is 75, requires, but the palace said he will need “a short period of recuperation”.

He is at his private home Birkhall in Aberdeenshire, where he is preparing for the procedure.

The Queen has been visiting the Aberdeen Art Gallery, and was asked about the King by the Lord Provost.

She replied: “He’s fine, thank you very much. Looking forward to getting back to work.”

It comes as the Prince of Wales visited his wife Kate in hospital while she recovers from abdominal surgery.

William was seen leaving the private London Clinic at around 12.35pm on Thursday.

The Prince of Wales (left) drives away from the London Clinic, in central London, where the Princess of Wales is recovering after undergoing successful abdominal surgery. She was admitted to The London Clinic on Tuesday for the planned procedure. Picture date: Thursday January 18, 2024.
Image:
The Prince of Wales leaving the London Clinic

The princess was admitted on Tuesday for the successful, planned procedure but is expected to stay in hospital for 10 to 14 days before returning to her Adelaide Cottage home in Windsor.

Sky News understands the planned surgery was routine.

Kensington Palace refused to confirm what Kate was being treated for but said the condition was non-cancerous.

This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.

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Cabinet secretary Simon Case back at work after missing COVID inquiry, reshuffle and Rwanda row | Politics News

Simon Case, the head of the civil service, has returned to work after more than two months on sick leave.

The cabinet secretary, who has not publicly disclosed his illness, has been attending meetings in the last few days, the Politics At Jack And Sam’s Podcast revealed today.

Mr Case was originally due to be off for four weeks from 23 October but this period was extended through the rest of the autumn.

Listen to the podcast below for more on Simon Case and a look ahead at the week’s political news.

He was unable to attend as a witness before the COVID inquiry, although Heather Hallett, the COVID inquiry chair, said he will still be asked to give evidence to the inquiry at a later date.

She allowed him to skip his scheduled questioning after reviewing his medical records.

Mr Case was also absent during a reshuffle and the constitutional and political turmoil of the Rwanda Bill, while the civil service received criticism for factually inaccurate social media posts over the legal immigration change.

More on Politics At Jack And Sam’s Podcast

Some senior figures in government had been unsure whether he would ever return to the critical role.

However, he attended a gathering of permanent secretaries at an away day before Christmas and has been seen in meetings in the last few days.

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At this point, he indicated that while still recovering, he expected to return at some point.

Civil servants have not been informed more widely that Mr Case is back at work, however, and there is some anger about being kept in the dark.

The job had been split between four different permanent secretaries in his absence.

Boris Johnson: We have a sense of how the Comeback Kid plans to approach the COVID inquiry – but will it work? | Politics News

You can’t write him off.

Boris Johnson has found his way back into the public’s good books before and if his hopes of a political comeback are still alive, the coming week could be a decisive moment.

The preparations are under way. The former prime minister has spent many hours with barristers, studying 6,000 pages of material to put together a testimony that reflects favourably on his leadership during the pandemic.

The early drafts have been briefed to The Times. These do not provide a full account of what Mr Johnson is preparing to say but do offer a glimpse into his redemption strategy.

That strategy is two-pronged. On the one hand, he will wholeheartedly apologise for his mistakes – perhaps realising that some of his former colleagues have come off badly after failing to show contrition.

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Cummings says PM was known as a ‘trolley’

However, the mea culpa will only go so far. Like others who have gone before him, Mr Johnson wants the history books to remember him favourably.

His argument will be that his government got the big calls right: increasing hospital capacity at speed, procuring ventilators and, of course, the vaccine rollout.

He will also carefully position himself in the division that is forming between the scientific and medical advisors and his former cabinet colleagues.

Like Matt Hancock, Mr Johnson will avoid criticism of Rishi Sunak and his controversial Eat Out to Help Out Scheme. He will claim that Sir Patrick Vallance and Sir Chris Whitty were consulted before it was launched. That is something they both reject.

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Hancock defends COVID strategy

Mr Johnson has the advantage of going after many of his former colleagues. It means he has time to prepare his response to the unflattering depictions that have been made by former colleagues.

Dominic Cummings, his former advisor, described him as a “trolley”, constantly veering from side to side and incapable of taking decisive action. As apologetic as he is feeling, Mr Johnson is unlikely to accept that characterisation.

He will undoubtedly have opinions of his own about Mr Cummings but he may deem it unwise to engage in personal attacks. It is not something that is playing well with the public.

Mr Johnson’s team deny this leaked draft has come from his camp but he may well have wanted to get his narrative out before it is painstakingly unpicked by lawyers.

We have a sense now of his version of events, but will it bear scrutiny?

Sycamore Gap: People urged to stay away as work starts on removal of historic tree | UK News

Work has started as part of a “complex and difficult” operation to remove the Sycamore Gap tree from Hadrian’s Wall after it was felled in an act of vandalism.

The National Trust said workers were using chainsaws to remove branches ahead of the removal of the historic attraction, which is expected to take place on Thursday.

A crane will be used to lift the 50ft tree off the delicate Roman wall, before it is taken away from the area and put into safe storage at a trust site.

People are being urged to stay away from the area while the operation is taking place.

Andrew Poad, the site’s general manager for the National Trust, said it needed to be moved now to make the site safe for visitors and to preserve Hadrian’s Wall. Historic England previously said it had sustained damage when the tree fell on it.

“We’ve explored every option for moving the tree and while it isn’t possible to lift it in one go, as the tree is multi-stemmed with a large crown, we have aimed to keep the trunk in as large sections as possible, to give us flexibility on what the tree becomes in future,” he said.

“We’re encouraging people to stay away from the site while these complex and difficult operations take place.”

The stump, which could generate new shoots, will be kept in place and is currently behind a protective barrier.

Seeds have been collected – which the National Trust said could be used to grow new saplings.

Work begins in the removal of the felled Sycamore Gap tree, on Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland. Picture date: Wednesday October 11, 2023.
Work begins in the removal of the felled Sycamore Gap tree, on Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland. Picture date: Wednesday October 11, 2023.

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The much-photographed and painted lone sycamore, one of the most famous trees in the world and an emblem for the North East of England, was based in a dip in the Northumberland landscape.

There will be public consultation about what happens next at the site, which has UNESCO designation and is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Work begins in the removal of the felled Sycamore Gap tree, on Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland. Picture date: Wednesday October 11, 2023.

Northumbria Police arrested a boy aged 16 and a man in his 60s after the tree was felled a fortnight ago. They have been released on bail pending further inquiries.