Our news portal is undergoing a new birth after many travails and we will soon appear in a new, aggressive and better Avatar. It is an ongoing process and the changes should be visible soon. We are shedding the atavisms of the past.
I am a veteran journalist with over 36-37 years of experience in the profession having joined the National Herald as a cub reporter in 1982 in New Delhi while I was awaiting my MA English Honours results! I moved on to THE HINDU and joined the newly-launched Delhi edition as a Staff Reporter. Soon, I was promoted as Senior Reporter and subsequently promoted as Special Correspondent and transferred to Chandigarh in 1993 as Special Correspondent. I have covered everything under the sun including Haryana politics! I left The Hindu in September 2012 and after a bitter experience with the Sunday Guardian and Aaj Samaj thanks to it’s then EditorM.J.Akbar and businessman-cum-politician Venod Sharma and his son Karthik Sharma, I launched this news portal in April-May 2013 and my weekly newspaper North India Kaleidoscope in 2014. The newspaper is currently suspended temporarily due to financial constraints.The Bhupinder Singh Hooda regime and its officers did not honour commitments made then.
It is sad indeed that the mandarins in the Punjab Public Relations Department have no value or regard for veteran journalists who may have been accredited with other state governments. I have mostly covered Haryana as an accredited journalist and later Union Territory of Chandigarh. In 2013-2014, the then officers of the Punjab Public Relations knew my credentials as a journalist and gave me accreditation as a veteran journalist on the basis of my experience of over 30 + years and I was never asked to submit any documents.
However, the Amarinder Singh regime canceled my accreditation this year as I could not submit documents regarding my “experience” and my “accreditation record” with Punjab. At the age of 60, it is not possible to submit my experience and other documents as I don’t know where they are. It has become an existential conundrum for me to prove my credentials. I pointed out to the Punjab Government that throughout from 1993 onwards I have remained accredited with the Haryana Government and it could seek the data from the DIPR, Haryana but there was no response. Thank you, Punjab Government.
The “attitude” of the State Governments towards veteran journalists I will take up some other time. According to an official, veteran journalists have no right to facilities such as railway concession for journalists.
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The Manohar Lal Khattar regime in Haryana released ads in 2017 and 2018. We are still awaiting payment for the five ads released in 2017-2018 despite numerous reminders. Inshallah. We are also waiting for the mandarins in the Haryana Public Relations Department to release ads on a regular and ongoing basis. Several representations were given to the DIPR, Haryana but there is no response. We shall be approaching the other State Governments and the private sector to give advertisements in 2019.Our plans to re-subscribe to the IANS services for latest news and events have been held up due to financial constraints.
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Zimbabwe’s founding leader, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, has died. The widespread reaction to his death has revealed starkly the divided legacy he leaves behind. From one viewpoint he is Zimbabwe’s founding father, the man who led his comrades through an armed struggle for the liberation of Zimbabwe’s black majority from Rhodesian white-minority rule. His achievements in those early, heady years of independence were exemplary, with emphasis on health, education and women’s empowerment, thus opening up possibilities to many Zimbabweans, particularly the rural poor, who were shut out from Rhodesia’s opportunities.
From another viewpoint, he is the hero who became a villain, his 37-year rule characterised by massive human rights abuses, from the Gukurahundi massacres and persecution of supporters of the rival Zapu party of Joshua Nkomo just after independence, to the persecution of perceived enemies, both in the opposition and within his own party, whom he considered threats to his power. Even the land reform programme, much admired across Africa for restoring land to its rightful owners, was implemented amid chaos and violence.
This reform was meant to empower Zimbabweans, but it also isolated the country and impoverished the very people it was meant to support: swift sanctions soon followed from the west that, together with Mugabe’s own inconsistent economic policies and widespread corruption in his government, plunged the economy into an almost permanent recession for nearly two decades.
Mugabe’s legacy will continue to be contested between those who revere him and those who revile him, but what matters most now is how Zimbabwe’s new president handles that legacy. As Emmerson Mnangagwa prepares to bury his predecessor, he must also bury those aspects of the Mugabe presidency that polarised Zimbabweans, and those policies and attitudes that pauperised this once prosperous nation.
Mnangagwa has promised that his governance will bring a “new dispensation”, and has marked his era as that of the Second Republic. But if he is to avoid the fate of France’s Second Republic, in which the first citizen soon became the third emperor, Mnangagwa must bury the imperial presidency along with Mugabe.
The Gukurahundi massacres remain a sore wound that cannot be ignored. To end the violence, in 1987 Nkomo chose unity and peace over justice and entered into a political alliance with Mugabe. This political fix may have satisfied the establishment, but the wounds of Gukurahundi and other rights violations still fester. In 2018, Mnangagwa appointed a peace and reconciliation commission that before then had existed only in law, but he needs to expedite its work and to guarantee that its recommendations, however far-reaching, will be respected and that it will be transparent and free of political influence.
Burying Mugabe’s legacy also requires Mnangagwa to implement his own election promises. Zimbabwe needs constitutional reforms to make sure that future election results are not contested. Among the most urgent matters are the repeal of the laws that restrict the right to political expression and the freedom of the press. As recently as last month, Mnangagwa stated that these reforms mattered because they were demanded by the constitution and not because they were an external demand linked to sanctions.
A key feature of Mugabe’s rule was the conflation of party with government, and with state. This has meant outrages such as the selective application of the law and the abuse of food aid meant for the poor. Zimbabwe needs to adopt the principle common in advanced democracies that a president governs for his people, not just for his party. In particular, Mnangagwa has promised “zero tolerance” of corruption – but as long as some of his closest allies and top civil servants are shielded from investigation and prosecution, he will be considered no different to Mugabe.
The language of hate was a hallmark of Mugabe’s regime, along with crude propaganda. Particularly when Zimbabweans are suffering, as they have been from austerity measures, the president needs to find words of empathy and inclusiveness.
The one area in which Mnangagwa has shown a marked departure from his predecessor (and in which I was recently an external consultant on investment law) policy and promotion, is in his outward-looking foreign policy. He has shown a willingness to open up Zimbabwe to all investors and to re-engage with even those nations with which Zimbabwe had disputes, both over land and over human rights. Yet without addressing corruption, human rights abuses – both past and continuing – and without engaging with compassion the millions of Zimbabweans who feel both disenfranchised and disenchanted, Mnangagwa will not succeed.
The president recently launched Vision 2030, an economic programme that aims to see Zimbabwe become an “upper-middle income economy” by 2030. Significantly, this programme will end after his own term in office, even if he runs again in 2023. If he is to succeed where Mugabe failed, Mnangagwa needs a vision that goes well beyond 2030.
The choice before him is clear: he can be Zimbabwe’s second Mugabe, with the same attitudes and policies, leading his country further down the path to isolation, internal division and economic misery. Or he can be the president who heals Zimbabwe, and puts it back on the path to prosperity and anchors it in real democracy, who guarantees the rights and freedoms of those who disagree with him, and who wins the grudging respect of even his bitterest opponents. As Mnangagwa buries Mugabe, he needs to look beyond the short-term temptations of power and instead focus on how history will remember him.
• Petina Gappah is an international lawyer and author
The daughter of one of Kashmir’s most prominent politicians has pleaded with the international community to act over an unprecedented clampdown on millions of people in the territory, warning that Kashmiris are being “caged like animals” and treated as “cannon fodder”.
Speaking to the Guardian while under house arrest, Iltija Mufti, the daughter of the former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, said as many as 25 armed security personnel had surrounded her house last week. All entrances to the house have been locked, she said, defying a communications ban by the Indian government.
Mufti said no legal basis had been provided for her detention but she had been told her previous comments to the media, criticising India’s actions in Kashmir, had angered officials. She said she had been denied a lawyer and prevented from seeing visitors.
Her mother was placed under house arrest hours before the Indian government made a dramatic announcement on 5 August that it would withdraw Kashmir’s special status. She is understood to have been taken to a makeshift jail. About 500 people have reportedly been detained, ostensibly to prevent unrest.
Mufti said she feared that speaking to the media might result in her being jailed, but she had chosen to call for action before a closed-door UN security council meeting on the matter, expected to be held on Friday.
“I’ve quite clearly been told: first of all we make sure you don’t get your voice out, and you’re not heard, and if you do, be ready to suffer the consequences,” said Mufti, who managed to speak to the Guardian from her home. “Those consequences will be that you will be detained indefinitely and that I won’t have the right or access to even a lawyer.
I feel really scared for my life. I don’t think I am safe any more because I don’t trust this government. The way they have gone after even elected representatives is quite frightening.”
Her mother had argued in favour of a shared future with India – a view many in Kashmir believe has now been completely discredited.
Delhi’s decision strips the disputed state of Kashmir and Jammu of any elements of autonomy, removing its constitution and flag, and scrapping laws that prevented outsiders from buying land. The state will also be split in two. Many Kashmiris believe the changes pose an existential threat, and the demography of the country’s only Muslim-majority state will be altered.
On Friday, the Jammu and Kashmir chief secretary, BVR Subrahmanyam, said “a few preventive detentions” of individuals had been made, “in accordance with the provisions of the law”.
He also said restrictions on landlines would be eased over the coming days. It is not clear when mobile phone services will be restored.
Millions of people across Kashmir have been under an unprecedented communications blackout since 5 August, with no internet, mobile or landline services, as part of measures described by a UN official as draconian.
There are fears for the most vulnerable residents in Kashmir. Mufti said people in the state were being treated as “cannon fodder”, did not have access to medical supplies and were probably running out of food.
“Let them go, let them free,” she said.
Kashmir is a volcano waiting to erupt, she said. “There’s palpable anger … the day this curfew is lifted I feel like all that anger is going to spill out on to the streets of Kashmir. And it’s not going to be good.
“People are so angry. They are fuming at the way they were stripped of their rights … and to add insult to injury you have tied them up like they are animals. But they are not animals; they are humans beings,” she said.
The communication blocks had debilitated an entire population, she added. “Not only have they massacred our state and cleaved it into two parts, they have also stripped us of our dignity.”
Subrahmanyam said that 12 of the 22 districts of the state were functioning normally with some limited night-time restrictions in five of these. However, communication blocks mean it is not possible to independently verify this.
He added that restrictions would be lifted in the next few days, with some schools opened after the weekend. Restrictions on movement would be removed on an area-by-area basis, he said.
On Thursday, Mufti wrote to India’s home minister, Amit Shah, asking under what legal grounds she had been detained. “Is it a crime to articulate the pain, torment and indignity we’ve been subjected to?” she wrote.
Outside her home, Mufti said, a military van waits at the front gate. “Every time that I step out into the garden for fresh air there is a man who intercepts them on a walkie talkie and lets them know that I’ve stepped out,” she said. Three to four female officers, who she believes are there to grab her if she attempts to run, were also present.
It is more than 11 days since her mother was arrested.
“I miss her terribly and there are times when I dream of her and imagine us in happier times.” India can no longer claim to be the world’s largest democracy, she said: “Not after what Kashmiris have had to endure in the past two weeks.”
Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar has hailed the gram panchayats for playing a vital role in social reforms and community building process.
Addressing the Sarpanches of gram panchayats who have achieved 6-Star and 5-Star ratings under the 7-Star Rainbow Scheme here on Saturday, Khattar said that efforts are on to ensure the development of villages at par with urban areas to enable Haryana to carve out its unique and distinct identity in the country and world.
Development and Panchayats Minister O.P Dhankar was also present on this occasion. He disclosed that 20-gram panchayats have achieved 6-star rating while 58 villages achieved a 5-star rating.
Principal Secretary, Development and Panchayats Sudhir Rajpal said that the 7-Star Rating scheme was launched last year and the scheme has started yielding results in a very short span of time. He said that the process of star rating is transparent and based on seven different yardsticks.
Former Conservative minister Sir Oliver Letwin, a key figure in parliament marshalling MPs against a no-deal, dealt Corbyn a blow on Saturday when he ruled out backing him to take over in Downing Street.
He joined fellow Tory Dominic Grieve, who has previously suggested he could vote against the government in a confidence vote, who said he would not go as far as facilitating a Corbyn government. “Jeremy Corbyn is unfortunately a deeply divisive figure and in trying to stop a no-deal Brexit it is not my purpose to help him into Downing Street,” he told the Guardian.
But Corbyn has insisted he should be installed as a caretaker prime minister, accusing the government of failing in its efforts. Speaking on a visit to Bolton on Saturday, he said: “What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don’t have a crash-out on the 31st [of October].
“This government clearly doesn’t want to do that. Boris Johnson just wants to take us into the arms of the Americans and Donald Trump on a sweetheart trade deal. We are not going to do that. We will do everything we can to stop a no-deal Brexit.
“I am the leader of the Labour party, Labour is the largest opposition party by far. That is the process that must be followed.”
It comes as the row between the Liberal Democrats and Labour deepened as the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, urged the Lib Dem leader, Jo Swinson, to seriously reconsider Corbyn’s offer to head a temporary government to stop a no-deal Brexit. The Lib Dem’s former leader Vince Cable demanded Corbyn name a unity figure whom he would back if his plan failed.
“The Liberal Democrats’ continued insistence that Corbyn could not lead this potential unity government is now the single biggest obstacle to stopping no deal,” he wrote in a letter seen by the Guardian.
Khan, who has previously been an outspoken critic of Corbyn, including on his Brexit policy, said a vote of no confidence and a temporary Labour administration to extend article 50 was the “only certain path” to stopping a no-deal Brexit.
In his letter to Swinson, Khan said it was “crystal clear” that Boris Johnson’s intention was to pursue a no-deal Brexit and he was writing to Swinson “with a personal plea from one ardent remainer to another”.
“Constitutional experts are warning that there may be only one chance left to stop Boris Johnson delivering a no deal,” he wrote. “That involves defeating his government in a vote of no confidence as soon as parliament returns in September, and then forming a short-term government of national unity in order to get an extension of article 50 and trigger a general election.”
Khan said an alternative government forged in the 14 days after a no-confidence vote, before the triggering of an automatic general election, was the only guaranteed way to stop no-deal Brexit.
“There is no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is the only viable choice to lead a temporary government of national unity in order to stop no-deal,” he said. “There is simply no viable parliamentary majority or justification for any of the alternatives you have put forward … It is not too late to do the right thing in the national interest and change your position for these crucial talks.”
Swinson dismissed Corbyn’s offer on Wednesday but has since said she is open to discussions, while warning that Labour would be unable to get enough Conservative votes – or votes from former Labour MPs sitting as independents – to make the plan viable even with Lib Dem support.
Swinson had proposed Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman, the longest serving male and female MPs, as neutral figures who could lead a temporary government.
Clarke, who told the BBC on Friday that he had been on holiday and had not followed the news closely about a potential unity government, said he was nevertheless willing to be considered as a potential leader of a unity government.
“If it was the only way in which the plain majority in the House of Commons that is opposed to a no-deal exit could find a way forward … I wouldn’t object to it,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.
“But there’s an awful lot to be gone through before then and I haven’t been taking part in any talks with anybody for the last fortnight. I’ve been on the phone to one or two people in the last couple of days just to find out what the devil’s going on.”
Clarke claimed it was wrong “factually and constitutionally” for Corbyn to portray himself as the only viable figure to lead a unity government.
However, the father of the House of Commons offered another role for any unity government – a remit to negotiate a new Brexit deal – when others had suggested it should be restricted to negotiating an extension to article 50 and then calling either an election, which is Corbyn’s preference, or a referendum, which some MPs would prefer.
Clarke said he would lead a “single-issue, short-term government” with a policy to “sort out Brexit” – a far cry from the preferred Lib Dem route of a second referendum.
“I think it would seek an extension, actually put together a mandate for discussions that the majority of the House of Commons approved of, and a mandate that the Europeans would not resist – like staying in the customs union, staying in regulatory alignment, keeping our free flows of trade and investment, protecting our jobs and our key sectors of business and agriculture in this country,” he said.
“Then, once it had got that under way and set, it would call an election probably or resign and let’s see if parliament could form a party government of any kind that took it all forward and started resuming other politics.”
Conservative MPs came under heavy pressure on Friday to distance themselves from Corbyn’s proposal. The former justice secretary David Gauke tweeted: “If anyone thinks the answer is Jeremy Corbyn, I think they’re probably asking the wrong question.”
Other independent MPs also came out swinging against the Labour leader. Anna Soubry, the former Tory MP who now leads the Independent Group for Change, said her five MPs “will not support nor facilitate any government led by Jeremy Corbyn.
“He cannot command unity of support amongst his own MPs but now Jeremy Corbyn calls on the rest of us to back him as ‘unity’ prime minister,” she said. “And we won’t even get a people’s vote but instead a general election which as we know will solve nothing.”
Cable said Corbyn must now set out his plan B if he could not command a majority himself. “It would be up to the House of Commons to decide who a caretaker prime minister put in place to stop a no-deal Brexit would be,” he said.
“This is not about party leaders, but getting a group together to stop no deal. It is clear Jeremy Corbyn cannot command that majority in the house. I urge him to do the right thing and confirm that if he cannot, he will support someone who can.”
In cinemas, the summer of 2019 has already been a strange reprise of August 1969, thanks to Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood delighting crowds with a what-if vision of Tinseltown history. Amid the namedropping in the film, the lack of reference to Peter Fonda is telling. If the whole point of it is to present a Hollywood counterfactual, one where the hippies never took over the movie business, then Fonda – whose role in that true story was more pivotal than any other – is best written out altogether. It is, in fact, a tribute.
Stripped down to a simple list of credits, which film in what year, Fonda’s career tells the story of a supple, charismatic actor. But his influence went deeper and wider. He was the author of a mighty kink in the culture, that began that one summer 50 years ago with the release of Easy Rider – the biker tale that shook America and transformed Hollywood.
It is illuminating to put it side by side with Tarantino’s movie – a model village of meticulous nostalgia built by a man who was six years old at the time. Easy Rider was in every way the opposite – wilfully loaded with chaos and fuzz, the work of people who were very much there in the moment; a moving snapshot.
Fonda could have easily chosen to have been elsewhere. His childhood was streaked with tragedy and novelistic incident – the suicide of his mother, Frances Ford Seymour, when he was 10; the episode soon after when he accidentally shot himself in the stomach. Still, he had a golden future laid out for him, having been born into film business nobility, the son of a grand movie everyman in his father, Henry; his sister Jane a star, too, by the mid-60s. The kid of the family, leading man handsome, was surely next in line.
Instead, he sidestepped his fate. Long before the mainstream made it compulsory, Fonda grew his hair to lengths that appalled casting directors, experimented with acid, and dove headlong into a southern California where movies, rock music and street culture were woozily blurring. He was a face in the scene so central he shaped its legacy by accident. His retelling of the story of his childhood shooting to John Lennon at a 1965 party on Mulholland Drive ended up at the heart of the Beatles’ tripped-out masterpiece She Said, She Said. (“I know what it’s like to be dead.”)
He was there, too, at the Sunset Strip riots in 1966, which erupted in protest at police harassment of the shaggy teenagers flocking to LA. He was not only present, but arrested. Something was simmering in America, and Fonda was key to it, off camera and on. Marginalised by Hollywood, he starred instead in the films that first gave big-screen form to the hippie moment, The Wild Angels and The Trip.
All of which meant that when Easy Rider arrived in 1969, it was propelled by real experience. Fonda was the film’s producer – the budget topped up by his credit card – as well as its star. His long-limbed, blue-eyed Wyatt was the perfect foil to Dennis Hopper’s scratty freewheeler Billy. And his life was in the soul of the movie. The power of Easy Rider wasn’t that it was a story of outlaw potheads, starring off-the-shelf hairy male leads. By 1969, anyone could have made that. It was the sense of a movie being of a generation, made without executive permission, that electrified a Vietnam-sick audience. It spooked the studios so badly they set loose untold cocksure young directors – Scorsese and Coppola et al – in a desperate attempt to play catch-up.
Few careers cause even one earthquake – and yet the sense of everything after 1969 as a postscript would be unfair. In the wake of Easy Rider, Fonda directed a pair of films – The Hired Hand and Idaho Transfer – with a loping personality well worth rediscovering. As an actor, he earned an Oscar nomination for the bittersweet Ulee’s Gold (1997). More wonderful still was The Limey, a playful crime thriller directed by Steven Soderbergh exactly 30 years after Easy Rider. The 60s were all over the film: Terence Stamp, the face of swinging London, was cast as an ageing ex-con colliding in LA with wealthy record producer Terry Valentine. Fonda was Valentine, a relic from the counterculture who never grew up and had made all manner of compromises because of it. Soderbergh included a shot of a billboard where Valentine advertised American Express; the original ad had starred Fonda – a wry and fearless note of self-deprecation.
To change history is one thing – to be frank about what happens afterwards takes rare honesty. And yet Fonda never did much compromise. He was still often on the back of a bike until near the end of his life, and in our recent troubled years, could be found assailing Trump on social media, forever an elegant rebel, happy in the now.
The significance of Kashmir to India is difficult to exaggerate. The decision by Narendra Modi’s recently re-elected government to remove the disputed Himalayan region’s special status under the constitution is no legal technicality, but a statement of intent and ideology.
As the predominantly Hindu India’s only Muslim majority state, adherents of the country’s secular tradition of politics have long seen Kashmir’s continuing inclusion within the vast democracy as evidence that all faiths can thrive together. This contrasts India’s immense religious diversity with neighbouring Pakistan’s strong Muslim identity.
But for Hindu nationalists such as Modi and his Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), the privileges granted by article 370 of the constitution to Kashmir were concessions that a strong India united under their saffron banner no longer needed to make.
This has been no secret, but rather a longterm and explicit goal of the BJP. It was a campaign promise in recent elections, where Modi dealt the opposition Congress party, the historical standard bearers of the “secularist” vision of India, a further crushing defeat.
The provisions for Kashmir have their origin in the deal made when the former princedom opted to join India in the immediate aftermath of its independence from Britain in 1947.
Their sudden cancellation will have consequences that are difficult to predict. The issue of Kashmir is fiercely emotive in neighbouring Pakistan, which has fought three full-scale wars with India, two over the disputed province.
Pakistan has frequently sought to internationalise the dispute, angering India. Delhi regards events in the part of the region it administers as an internal matter and has reacted badly to statements by politicians ranging from Britain’s Robin Cook in 1997 to Donald Trump, who said last month during a meeting with the Pakistani prime minister, Imran Khan, that India wanted him to mediate between the two regional rivals.
We should brace for extensive protests. Though the degree of autonomy enjoyed in practice by Kashmir has been much reduced over decades by repeated state level interventions, it was nonetheless of huge symbolic importance to the local population.
Recognised democratic leaders in Kashmir have been deliberately sidelined – placed under house arrest in some cases. Communication restrictions, curfews and other measures are unlikely to prevent some demonstrators filling the resultant vacuum. Security forces will crack down hard – there will be casualties, funerals, more protests and a continuing bloody cycle.
Kashmir has suffered from extensive violence over decades. In the late 1980s, an insurgency led to a brutal conflict which devastated the region and cost tens of thousands of lives. It was fuelled by separatist ideologies, political discontent at a rigged election, harsh repressive measures and some support from Pakistan’s military intelligence services.
The fear now must be that this will change. One key factor is the youth of Kashmir’s population. There is now an entire generation that cannot personally recall the horrors of the conflict in the 1990s but has been raised with its legends.
The bitter memories of that period dissuaded their elders from violence, making recruitment harder for the various armed extremist factions operating in “the Valley”, as the heart of the region is known. This is no more the case, and many young people will think that their time has come. The consequences may be tragic for the region, and India too.
In the late 1990s the Welsh-Indian writer Tishani Doshi was on a postgraduate writing course at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. A literary scout came to visit and asked to meet her. “This was not long after The God of Small Things,” she recalls. “Everybody was looking for the next Arundhati Roy.” The scout was pretty direct. “He said: ‘You’re a poet. But you should be writing novels.’ I was actually quite offended. And dismayed that the publishing industry just wanted to re-order and replace. I had no plans then to write fiction. In fact, years later, when I wanted the larger canvas a novel can provide, I eventually did. But that instinctive loyalty to poetry never left me. I had discovered this thing and wanted to figure out how to do it. How to be a poet. I’m still attempting how to figure it out.”
Doshi’s loyalty was soon repaid. Her debut book, Countries of the Body, won the 2006 Forward prize for best first collection. Her first “proper” public poetry reading – as opposed to bookshop audiences swelled by “blood or friendship”, as she once put it – was at the Hay festival that year. She was on stage in front of 1,200 people, reading alongside Seamus Heaney and Margaret Atwood. “It was pretty stellar,” she laughs. “But that is the great thing about poetry. One minute you’re doing that and the next you’re reading to five people in a basement. And both events are always worthwhile.”
In the years since, Doshi has completed two more poetry collections, most recently the 2018 Ted Hughes prize-shortlisted Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods (Bloodaxe). Her third novel, Small Days and Nights (Bloomsbury), was published earlier this year. But while there have always been writers who produce both poetry and novels, what makes Doshi’s subsequent career unique is her additional deployment of another mode of creative expression: dance. She took up the discipline in her mid-20s, when most dancers are starting to think about retirement, and in the two decades since has explored a set of “overlapping concerns” through verse, prose and movement. Her first two poetry collections were dedicated to her Indian dance mentor, the influential choreographer and feminist thinker Chandralekha, who died in 2006.
“The idea of the body, usually the female body, has always been central to my work,” Doshi explains. “My precise preoccupations might change over time, but I’ve always been interested in how the body connects to the wider world, which is then linked to questions of belonging, and what is meant by concepts such as ‘home’ and ‘elsewhere’. In particular I have long been thinking about what it means to live as a woman in India. My most recent novel and poetry collection were written at the same time and share certain themes – although they are handled differently – in relation to women. Most obviously around safety and danger.”
The title poem of Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods conjures back to life Indian women who have been brutalised and murdered. Their ghosts, and their stories, refusing to be forgotten: “Girls are coming / out of the woods, clearing the ground / to scatter their stories. Even those girls / found naked in ditches and wells, / those forgotten in neglected attics, / and buried in riverbeds like sediments / from a different century”. After she completed the poem one of her friends, Monika Ghurde, was raped and murdered, the details then salaciously picked over in the media. Doshi dedicated the poem to her as another act of reclamation. She also asked the percussionist Luca Nardon to compose a score for the words to which she choreographed a dance. “It seemed to lend itself to using the body,” she says. “To begin I just stand there, my two feet spread apart. There is a rootedness to the earth as the women start to come up from the mud, from out of the forests in their states of mutilation. Poetry is so wonderfully elastic and open to collaboration. Here the physicality and the poem speak to each other to add another layer.”
Male violence is just one of the threats present in Small Days and Nights, in which three women, finding themselves living together in coastal rural India, also have to navigate economic and environmental hostilities. Doshi herself lives, with her husband the writer Carlo Pizzati, in an isolated house in a coastal Tamil Nadu village. The area has seen illegal land grabs and environmental destruction. “We’ve had a tsunami, cyclones, floods. There is erosion. It is a fragile place to live. Then there is your personal safety. I’m interested in what happens in the head about those fears, because even the imagined ones become very real.”
Doshi acknowledges that she occupies a privileged place in village life. “It’s the insider/outsider thing,” she observes. “For instance, I can go out alone at night, without my husband, in a way that is much more difficult for local women. But that doesn’t mean I am above it all or immune. The dangers don’t go away.”
Perhaps the most graphic illustration of Doshi’s “hybridity” as she calls it, is the name of her beachside house, Ar Lan y Môr, which is Welsh for “beside the sea” and the title of a Welsh folk song. “I have Wales and India, the city and the village, poet-novelist-dancer and so many more,” she laughs. “No wonder I am so interested in what ‘home’ means.”
She was born in Madras in 1975, the middle of three children, to a Gujarati father and a mother from a small village in north Wales. The touching tale of how they ended up together in India is told in Doshi’s Orange prize-longlisted 2010 debut novel The Pleasure Seekers. “I had read some of their letters and thought it was this amazing love story,” she explains. “But I also wanted to write a reverse immigration novel about a couple choosing to live in the apparently less prosperous country. I don’t think they had decided they were going to have the rest of their lives there, but they are still in Madras and have now been together for more than 50 years.” Doshi still prefers to use the old name for her home city. “I do sometimes use Chennai, but Madras was the place I was born in and now Chennai seems a different avatar of the city; more modern and technological. Madras is more romantic for me. Just one more example of hybridity, I suppose.”
She remembers lots of music in the house when she was growing up – “a bit behind the times: Abba, the Beatles, some jazz and blues”. She learned the piano and did some Indian dance, but sport was more important (“I was quite good at tennis and thought for a while I was going to be the next Gabriela Sabatini”), as was art and literature. In 1993 she won a scholarship to study economics in the US and while there “discovered contemporary American poetry”, citing poets such as Mark Doty and Mary Oliver. “That changed everything. I had found the thing that I loved and it felt like a duty to follow it through. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had become a banker or something, but then again I have travelled the world with poetry so you never know how things will turn out.”
Doshi drew on her hybrid heritage for her second novel, Fountainville, in which she infused a medieval Welsh folktale from The Mabinogion with contemporary concerns about healthcare and the surrogacy industry in India. She has also drawn on her own family history for Small Days and Nights, saying one of the sparks for the novel was reading about how in the 1960s Arthur Miller had institutionalised his son who had Down’s syndrome. Doshi’s younger brother, Ajay, was born with Down’s syndrome in 1977.
“What the Millers did wasn’t unusual and they probably thought they were doing the best for their child,” she says. “When Ajay was born, differently abled people were pretty much expected to be invisible. They were just kept away at home. It’s still often the case. But my parents didn’t do this and as a result we were always coming across this stare, a look of incomprehension from people. As a child it had a huge impact on me because you’re very protective. I still can’t understand why people are so threatened.” She says it was always a subject she wanted to write about and had done tangentially in a few poems. “But then I thought I would like to write about sisters and the emotions of having to care for someone in this specific landscape and that gave me the tension I needed around the story.”
The three women in Small Days and Nights living together in a house without men allowed Doshi to explore alternative infrastructures and support networks. While she is wary about generalising about Indian life – “it is too large and diverse” – she acknowledges for many women, particularly in cities, there are more freedoms. “So it’s a great moment in some ways with many role models of strong independent woman. But is it filtering down? It is still a very patriarchal society. There is a focus on the male child and a horrible sex ratio because of infanticide. Every time there is a violent incident people think that maybe it’s better we don’t allow our girls to go to work because it may not be safe. Maybe we don’t send our girls to school. There are steps forward and back. Today everyone is a feminist, but that used to mean demanding structural change. We need to think about that.”
As to the future, Doshi says she is in the early stages of planning another dance piece. “I briefly stopped performing two years ago after many years, but quickly realised I was not ready to give up on performance as part of my identity. I didn’t want to be just a writer”. She is also hoping to write a memoir about dance and her relationship with Chandralekha. “And always there is the poetry. Whenever I finish one thing I will have a poem on the go to return to. Since the beginning it has been at the heart of what I do. After all these years it is still my default.”
A suspected meteorite crashed into the middle of a rice field in eastern India, authorities say.
The object the size of a football landed with a thud in a paddy field in Madhubani district in Bihar state on Monday, startling farmers and sending up clouds of smoke.
Kapil Ashok, the magistrate for Madhubani, told the Times of India that labourers reported seeing “a fireball-like object coming down from the sky”. Residents of Mahadeva village later dug up the object from a 150cm-deep (5ft) deep hole.
The object was described as light brown in colour with some shine, and weighing about 15kg (33lb). It was reported to have strong magnetic properties.
Ashok told the Press Trust of India it looked like a rock “but its glitter is much more than that of an unpolished stone”.
The object will initially be kept at the Bihar Museum but will be transferred to the Shrikrishna science centre in the city of Patna where it will be studied by experts.
Meteors are particles of dust and rock that usually burn up as they pass through Earth’s atmosphere. Meteorites – meteors that survive the fall to earth – offer clues about the history of the solar system.
In 2016 authorities in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state said a meteorite killed a bus driver and injured three others. While Indian scientists backed the claim of the regional authorities, it was disputed by Nasa scientists.
In 2013 almost 1,100 people were injured after a meteorite flared in the skies above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. The meteor broke up before it hit the ground, but an airburst caused damage to buildings and hurled people across rooms.
Brussels has roundly rebuffed Boris Johnson after he laid down tough conditions for the new Brexit deal he hopes to strike over the summer.
Speaking to the House of Commons for the first time as prime minister on Thursday, Johnson reiterated his campaign pledge of ditching the Irish backstop and promised to ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit immediately.
“I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal,” he said. “I would much prefer it. I believe that it is possible even at this late stage, and I will work flat-out to make it happen.
“But certain things need to be clear: the withdrawal agreement negotiated by my predecessor has been three times rejected by this house; its terms are unacceptable to this parliament and to this country.”
In a phone call later in the day, the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, signalled the EU27’s determination to stick with the deal negotiated with Theresa May’s government – which includes the backstop.
“President Juncker listened to what Prime Minister Johnson had to say, reiterating the EU’s position that the withdrawal agreement is the best and only agreement possible – in line with the European council guidelines,” a commission spokesperson said.
Juncker told Johnson the EU was willing to “add language” to the political declaration – the non-binding document that covers the future relationship – but would only consider any other proposals “providing they are compatible with the withdrawal agreement”. The spokesperson added that the two men had swapped mobile numbers.
Earlier, Johnson outlined to a noisy Commons his vision of a post-Brexit UK in 2050 as “the greatest and most prosperous economy in Europe at the centre of a new network of trade deals”.
In a speech that was loudly cheered by many Conservative MPs, he said all members of his new cabinet were committed to leaving the EU on 31 October “whatever the circumstances – and to do otherwise would cause a catastrophic loss of confidence in our political system”.
He also said he would ramp up no-deal preparations, which his official spokesman later confirmed was likely to include additional spending, and a significant public information campaign. Michael Gove will coordinate no-deal planning across the government.
The Irish government expressed concern at Johnson’s approach to Brexit as tension began to mount over the increased risk of no deal. Michael Creed, Ireland’s agriculture minister, described the new government’s stance, and the composition of Johnson’s top team, as “alarming”.
“The makeup of this government seems to be a mirror image of [Johnson’s] own viewpoint substantially and obviously that would be of concern to us,” he told RTÉ radio.
“What the [Irish] government is concerned about now is the approach of new administration in the UK to the withdrawal agreement,” he said, adding: “Obviously what we are hearing from the [UK] government is quite alarming.”
In Brussels, meanwhile, Michel Barnier warned that such “combative” rhetoric was an attempt to crack the EU’s unity. In a note sent to diplomats, the bloc’s chief negotiator counselled the EU27 to stick to its principles in the face of the prime minister’s no-deal threats.
“PM Johnson has stated that if an agreement is to be reached it goes by way of eliminating the backstop. This is of course unacceptable and not within the mandate of the European council,” he warned.
In comments that signalled the growing belief in Brussels that the UK is heading towards a general election, Barnier wrote: “I note also the many strong reactions to the speech in the House of Commons. In this context we must follow carefully the further political and economic reactions and developments in the UK following this speech.
“In any case, what remains essential on our side is to remain calm, stick to our principles and guidelines and show solidarity and unity of the 27.”
Many MPs on both sides of the House of Commons believe Johnson’s bid to negotiate a new Brexit deal are merely the prelude to a general election, given the high bar he has set for success and the Tories’ slim majority.
Some of the election-ready pledges made in Johnson’s first 48 hours in Downing Street included upgrading 20 hospitals, fixing the broken social care system, cutting GP waiting times and rolling out full-fibre broadband across the country.
The presence of the Vote Leave campaign mastermind Dominic Cummings in No 10 has also fuelled speculation about an autumn poll.
Johnson will make a series of campaign-style visits in the coming days – including to Scotland, where the Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, has expressed some concerns about his approach.
Outlining his Brexit stance to MPs on Thursday, Johnson said he was ready to “negotiate in good faith” to find an alternative to the Irish backstop.
“I do not accept the argument that says that these issues can only be solved by all or part of the UK remaining in the customs union or in the single market,” he said. “The evidence is that other arrangements are perfectly possible, and are also perfectly compatible with the Belfast or Good Friday agreement, to which we are of course steadfastly committed.”
Challenged by Labour’s Hilary Benn about comments from the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar, ruling out a new withdrawal agreement, Johnson said the question was “redolent of the kind of defeatism and negativity that we’ve had over the last three years”.
“Why begin by assuming that our EU friends will not wish to compromise?” he asked.
Similarly, when another Labour backbencher, Yvette Cooper, asked Johnson about what practical solutions could be used for the Irish border in the absence of a trade deal or backstop, he replied that there were “abundant facilitations already available”.
SEA LIFE Blackpool has had to cool the sea water for the first time in 30 years
Aquarists at SEA LIFE Blackpool are having to run the water through a cooler because it’s too warm. The aquarium, which leads a ‘breed, rescue, protect’ campaign, supports rare and endangered creatures, such as sharks, stingrays, seahorses and turtles.
Matthew Titherington, general manager of SEA LIFE Blackpool, said: “We draw water for the displays directly from the Irish Sea, which is just across the Promenade. Sometimes we have to heat it slightly to get the right temperature, especially in winter.
“We’ve never before had to cool it. It’s really important that the water we draw is at exactly the right temperature when it enters the displays.”
Commuters have been warned to not travel as soaring temperatures cause disruption to some services.
The rising temperatures caused damage to overhead electric wires between London St Pancras and Luton, blocking all lines.
East Midlands Trains urged passengers to not travel and warned it had been unable to secure ticket acceptance via alternative routes. Thameslink said “you are strongly advised not to travel”, and said journey times will be extended by up to 90 minutes.
The blistering temperatures also damaged overhead electric wires between London Euston and Watford Junction, disrupting Virgin Trains services. A spokeswoman for the operator said: “Due to extensive disruption on the network today, any Virgin Trains customers who would prefer to postpone their travel can use their tickets on Virgin Trains services tomorrow.”
Nick King, network services director at Network Rail, said:
We have a number of heat-related incidents across the rail network this evening that are causing disruption to services.
We are sorry that some passengers are experiencing uncomfortable conditions and inconvenience.
Our teams are working flat out to fix the issues as quickly as possible and get people on the move.
We’re asking anyone travelling this evening to check with their train operators or visit the National Rail Enquiries website to see how their journey is affected.
Edinburgh is currently experiencing its warmest day on record, STV reports.
Temperatures have soared to 31.2C, surpassing the city’s previous record of 30C set in 1975.
In Cambridge, temperatures reached 38.1 °C. This is the second time temperatures reached over 100 Fahrenheit in the UK, according to the Met Office.
Animal welfare campaigners are calling for greyhound races to be cancelled as temperatures soar across the UK.
The League Against Cruel Sports warned the the greyhounds, who will be transported from their kennels and then raced at the tracks, are at risk of heatstroke.
Five of the six greyhound races due to take place on Thursday have been cancelled, but racing went ahead at Sunderland. Racing is expected to take place at Yarmouth, Hove, Newcastle and Monmore this evening.
Nick Weston, head of campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said:
“There have already been reports of dogs dying after just being walked in this heat, let alone racing. These races still going ahead despite the soaring temperatures is yet another clear example of how greyhound welfare is out far behind profit, and why this ‘sport’ needs to end in the UK.”
Good afternoon, I’m Aamna Mohdin taking over from Mattha Busby.
The Met Office have just confirmed that today is the second hottest day on record.
A temperature of 37.7C has been recorded at Kew Gardens, in London, and Writtle, Essex, surpassing the previous second highest record of 37.1C set on August 3 1990.
Grant Allen, a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Manchester, said that while no single weather event can ever be linked directly to climate change, a statistically-significant trend is climate change by definition:
This trend is very clearly what we are now seeing and scientific papers published yesterday which were widely reported in the media, confirm this. Climate change is no longer a future problem, it is here and it is accelerating. As climate change progresses, the frequency of previously extreme weather events will increase. There will be a new normal, which will challenge existing UK infrastructure and profoundly impact our ecosystem.
Dr Michael Byrne, a lecturer at St Andrews, has been asked how significant is it if today becomes the hottest day on record in the UK.
Hugely significant, yet just the latest in a torrent of temperature records to be broken in the last month. Not only has 2019 brought the world it’s hottest ever June, but in recent days countries from Belgium to the Netherlands to Germany have broken their all-time heat records. It has never been hotter in northern Europe. Such extreme heat poses serious health risks this week as well as uncomfortable questions about how well the UK is preparing for increasingly frequent and severe heatwaves over coming decades.
On whether the weather has clearly been caused by man-made global warming?
It is impossible to say whether individual events – such as this week’s heatwave – are caused by man-made global warming. The kind of weather pattern delivering today’s hot air, a jetstream that is deflected unusually far north and drawing hot air from the south, is not itself caused by global warming. Indeed the famous 1976 heatwave was a result of similar meteorological conditions.
What is different now is that the global temperature is about 1 degree Celsius hotter than in 1976, meaning that when these unusual weather patterns occur, the heatwave is guaranteed to be more severe. Met Office scientists found that the 2018 summer heatwave – which delivered the UK’s joint-hottest summer on record – was 30 times more likely because of global warming. Although we cannot say for sure that global warming caused this week’s extreme temperatures, climate change is without doubt ‘loading the dice’ and making heatwaves much more likely and much more severe.
Police were called to an outdoor swimming pool in south London after a group reportedly tried to force their way to Brockwell Lido this afternoon.
The Metropolitan Police said:
Police were called to Brockwell Lido to reports of overcrowding. Officers attended. Security staff at the lido have closed the doors as a group of 500 people are trying to get in. The owners of the venue are advising people not to come as there is a three-hour waiting time.
Elsewhere in London, Parliament Hill Lido refused people further entry just before noon due to overcrowding. According to the Press Association, police were repeatedly forced to attend the pool after fights broke out in the queue, although there were no arrests or any reported injuries.
In the South West, Portishead Lido in Bristol also warned people of long queues. “Be prepared for a long wait, and there’s no shade,” staff posted on Twitter. “Bring water, snacks, folding chairs, sunscreen, a hat and some patience & humour.”
Lidos in Peterborough, London’s Tooting Bec and at Hemsley in York also had to turn away prospective swimmers after reaching capacity.
Germany sets all-time record temperature for second day running
The northwestern town of Lingen, Bonn, has experienced a high of 40.9 C, the German Weather Service has said.
“It’s changing every minute,” spokesman Andreas Friedrich said, adding that the new high, which followed the record 40.5 degrees measured in western Germany on Wednesday, would likely soon be exceeded.
Wednesday’s record was at 40.5 C in Geilenkirchen near the Belgian border, the German news agency DPA said.
The hot weather is causing further disruption for travellers in the UK, with Manchester Metrolink the latest operator to put in place temporary speed restrictions across its network as speed limits on most commuters lines were cut from 60mph to 30mph.
Speed restrictions have been in place in the south east since midday, and they will remain until 8pm, due to fears that tracks could buckle in the heat if trains travel too fast.
Extreme weather action teams have been “activated” to keep passengers safe and trains running, Network Rail said.
Dr John Easton, rail expert at the Institution of Engineering and Technology, said:
The main problem is that as the steel rails heat up, they expand like any other metal. The resulting extra rail length means that the track may begin to curve, a process known as ‘buckling’. With the track temperature rising to around 20 C higher than the air temperature in strong sunlight, expansion of the metal is to be expected.
In most of the network individual pieces of rail are welded together to form longer continuous sections; where this is the case the rails are stretched before welding to reduce the chance of buckling occurring as the track is heated, although the amount of tension is set based on the temperature ranges that we’d normally expect to see in the UK (up to about 30 C).
More tension could be put into the rails to allow for greater expansion at higher temperatures, however this could mean using slightly different steel grades which would probably cost more and it would almost certainly increase the risk of rail breaks – it’s all a bit of a balancing act.
Where temperatures become unusually high, the only solution is to slow the trains down to reduce the impact the tracks. Track temperature is monitored, and forecasting models are used to predict when (and if) the risk of high rail temperatures is significant enough for speed restrictions to be put in place.
In critical areas, such as the switch and crossings near stations, the insides of the rails are painted white to reflect the sun’s heat. This can reduce the track temperature by 5°C and reduces signalling failures which lead to significant disruption. This technique is also used In countries where high temperatures are more commonplace, such as Italy, where engineers often paint the inside faces of the rails white to reflect the sunlight and lower the risk of buckling.
Friends of the Earth has urged the new prime minister Boris Johnson to take action on the climate crisis.
As well as cutting emissions, the campaign group is calling for doubled tree cover in order to protect people from the impact of extreme weather and help absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
Urban green space in England has declined by 7% in recent years, according to FOE. It says that green spaces such as parks and woodland can reduce excessive heat and, in towns and cities, help regulate the ‘urban heat island’ effect.
Emi Murphy, trees campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:
Having more trees in our towns and cities will lower temperatures, provide shade and absorb carbon emissions to help avert climate breakdown in the first place. Trees have huge benefits for people and the planet but current government work on tree planting is depressingly negligible.
There’s a serious risk of the temperatures that we currently define as extreme becoming the new norm. This goes way beyond what you could call a nice summer’s day – if we see temperatures like this become a regular occurrence then more and more lives will be at risk.
It’s not just extreme heat that trees can help to defend us against, but also the heavy rainfall and floods that are a constant threat to many communities.
Police in Devon have issued a warning to the public not to leave pets inside cars, after officers rescued a dog who was locked inside a vehicle for more than three hours.
The RSPCA say on their website:
Many people still believe that it’s ok to leave a dog in a car on a warm day if the windows are left open or they’re parked in the shade, but the truth is, it’s still a very dangerous situation for the dog.
A car can become as hot as an oven very quickly, even when it doesn’t feel that warm. When it’s 22 degrees, in a car it can reach an unbearable 47 degrees within the hour.
In an emergency, we may not be able to attend quickly enough, and with no powers of entry, we’d need police assistance at such an incident. Don’t be afraid to dial 999, the police will inform us if animal welfare assistance is required.
Met Office says there is still a good chance UK temperature record will be broken
Currently, the highest temperatures across the country are 37.7 C at Kew Gardens, 37.6 C at Heathrow, and 37.1 C in Cambridge, with the mercury still rising.
Sarah Kent, a meteorologist at the Met Office, said:
We are still confident in the forecast we put out earlier today. There is a 60% chance of breaking the all-time UK record, which is 38.5 C at Faversham at the 10th August 2003, and we are still expecting temperatures to peak at around 39 degrees.
Its a fine balance, as temperatures have climbed, they are also starting to trigger showers, with cloud suppressing the rise of temperatures. Its going to be a close run thing, and we are going to have to keep an eye on all our recording stations.
The area most likely to see 39 C extends from London up towards south Lincolnshire, and through Cambridge.
Temperatures in the Netherlands reach record high of 39.4C
Reuters have the latest:
Temperatures in the Netherlands reached a record high of 39.4 degrees Celsius (102.9 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday, breaking the record set a day earlier, Dutch meteorology institute KNMI said.
The KNMI earlier announced a new record of 41.7 C, but moments later said the measurement was not credible.
Temperatures were still rising after the measurement of 39.4 degrees, KNMI said. Until Wednesday, when temperatures peaked at 39.3 degrees, the Dutch national heat record had stood at 38.6 degrees since the summer of 1944.
Hottest July temperature ever in the UK
The Met Office has confirmed that the 36.9C temperature recorded at Heathrow Airport earlier is the new record temperature for July.
Here’s the latest on the searing heat in Paris, from the Guardian’s Europe correspondent Jon Henley.
Belgium has also seen temperatures surpass 40 C, according to officials who say it is the first time such heat has been experienced since records began in 1833.
A temperature of 40.2 degrees was in Angleur, near Liege in the east of the country yesterday, the Belgian meteorological institute has confirmed.
It had said earlier that the 39.9 C recorded in Kleine Brogel was the new national record, and the institute said the new record could well be broken again on Thursday.
In the Netherlands, the national institute for public health and the environment has issued a “smog alarm” due to severe air pollution in parts of the country due to ozone in the air.
The warning applies for regions including the densely populated cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Air quality in some regions will be “extremely bad” because light winds mean that pollution is not being blown away and sunlight transforms it into ozone, the institute said.
Smog can cause irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and leave people coughing and short of breath, with the institute warning that children, the elderly, and those who already suffer from respiratory issues are particularly susceptible to harm, and should stay inside.
Elsewhere, in Austria, authorities have said a 2-year-old boy has died of dehydration after he climbed into an overheated parked car on Monday without his family noticing, and then fell asleep inside it before passing away in hospital on Wednesday.
Temperatures of almost 36C have been recorded in parts of England.
Here are some photos from throughout the country.
Plus, are seagulls in the UK getting more aggressive? Emine Saner reports.
Paris experiences all-time high temperature of almost 41C
The Associated Press have this report:
Paris has beaten its all-time heat record, hitting 40.6 C amid a heat wave breaking barriers across Europe. Authorities say the temperature is still rising.
The national weather service Meteo France announced that the new record was reached on Thursday afternoon, beating the previous record of 40.4 C in 1947.
It’s one of several records set in this week’s heat wave, the second wave baking the continent this summer. France saw its hottest-ever day on record last month, when a southern town reached 46C.
Some retailers have increased the price of fans and portable air conditioners by up to 40% within a month, according to a comparison website.
Vanessa Katsapa, country manager at PriceSpy UK, said:
Seasonal products do tend to fluctuate in price in line with demand, but it’s clear that retailers are cashing in as people struggle to stay cool With the price of fans and portable conditioners rising by up to 40% in the space of a month, a little research before purchasing could save shoppers from getting in a sweat.
Elsewhere, the recently departed prime minister Theresa May is watching the cricket at Lords, where England are trailing Ireland – who are playing their first ever test match.
You can follow the Guardian’s live coverage here:
Train passengers across the UK have been advised to avoid travelling if possible, with many services cancelled amid warnings that the rail system cannot cope with the searing heat, Rob Davies reports.
Such is the heat, travellers have been taking their shirts off on trains.
St John Ambulance service has offered advice to keep people safe in the sun, following the deaths of three people this week in the UK whose bodies were recovered from the water. Their volunteers will be out and about across the country, encouraging people to avoid dehydration and to take breaks from the sun where possible.
Dr Lynn Thomas, medical director at the emergency service, said:
Extreme heat can be very dangerous, particularly for the very young and old, and we would encourage everyone to check on their elderly relatives and neighbours and look after themselves this week by keeping out of the sun or covering up, wearing sunscreen and drinking plenty of water.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are two of the most serious problems that can develop when the mercury soars but by being prepared you can spot the early warning signs, such as headache and dizziness. Knowing what action to take, could mean you might be the difference between life and death in an emergency in your community.
The latest from across Europe.
Extinction Rebellion is protesting against celebrative and “irresponsible” media reporting of the heatwave, with a demonstration planned outside the Sun newspaper in London later today.
A spokesperson for the UK chapter of the environmental activists said:
Are you feeling hot under the collar about the way the mainstream press is covering the climate crisis? Is it getting on your tits?? It is time to bare all with Extinction Rebellion to show the media that we can’t bear more of this poor reporting. We want to see pictures that match how hot the climate is getting.
And if you are in London, do come along to The Sun HQ in London and tell them that we won’t stand for their cheek, by baring your own beautiful cheeks!
Caspar Hughes, of Extinction Rebellion’s ‘Media Tell the Truth’ group, said:
The media needs to become the public service it was during the onset of World War II. We have 11 years to stop our children from inheriting a hellish planet. Without the media telling the truth, throughout the press, we will fail that test.
A major water main has burst in Bristol, in the west of England, leaving thousands of people without water, the BBC reported.
Bristol Water has said hot temperatures making the ground shift and leading pipes to contract and expand may have caused the burst, which has affected homes in a number of parts of the city. Vulnerable people are having bottled water delivered to them, and water tankers are being sent to the area.
The company said on Twitter: “We’re still working on getting this repaired as soon as possible. Some customers in the area might be seeing some discoloured water – this is due to the works nearby so we are sorry if you’re being affected by this.”
The Trades Union Congress has urged bosses to allow flexible working and to keep workplaces cool so that staff can work more comfortably during hot weather.
Although the law states that staff should work in a reasonable temperature, there is no precise legislation for minimum or maximum working temperatures and the TUC is calling for the introduction of a new legal maximum indoor temperature.
This would be set at 30C, or 27C for those doing strenuous jobs, with employers obligated to put in place cooling measures when the workplace temperature hits 24C.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:
While many of us love to see the sun, it’s no fun working in a baking office or a stifling factory. Bosses should do all they can to keep the temperature down. The easiest way for staff to keep cool inside is being able to work in more casual clothing. While shorts and vest tops may not be appropriate for all, nobody should be made to suffer in the heat for the sake of keeping up appearances.
It’s in bosses’ interests to provide a cool and comfortable work environment. Workers who are unable to dress down in lighter clothing, or who work in offices without air-conditioning, fans or drinking water, are going to be tired, and lack inspiration and creativity.”
However, Kate Boguslawska, an employment solicitor at City law firm, Carter Lemon Camerons, has said such laws could be unworkable.
While it is understandable that people might want to introduce upper limits to the temperatures employees can be required to work in, such rules seem unlikely to be workable in practice.
There are a wide range of workplaces where employees must continue working, such as hospitals, prisons and much of the infrastructure sector. There are also many workplaces where high temperatures are unavoidable, such as factories, foundries or commercial kitchens.
‘No doubt that climate change is playing a role’, say experts
A Met Office study showed last year’s summer heatwave was made around 30 times more likely than it would be under natural conditions, as a result of human activity driving global warming.
Prof Peter Stott, from the Met Office, said:
There’s no doubt that climate change is playing a role here because of the elevated temperatures and that’s related to the fact we’ve got this weather pattern being drawn up from North Africa.
Having this frequency of heatwaves across the hemisphere would have been extraordinarily unlikely without climate change, and it’s now being made a possibility, and it’s what we’re seeing.
He added that the existing record temperature for the UK, of 38.5C, set in August 2003 in Faversham, Kent, was set in recent times when the impact of climate change was already being felt.
Dr Friederike Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, said:
Changes in the intensity and likelihood of extreme weather is how climate change manifests. That doesn’t mean every extreme event is more intense because of it, but a lot are. For example, every heatwave occurring in Europe today is made more likely and more intense by human-induced climate change.
But extreme events occur locally, so many things play a role: location, season, intensity and duration. The influence of each of these factors depends strongly on the specific event. With our international initiative World Weather Attribution, we did in a rapid analysis of the heatwave that struck large parts of Europe during the last week of June 2019. We found that it was made at least five times more likely due to human induced climate change.
Here is the latest from across Europe, courtesy of the Associated Press.
Hot, hotter, hottest! Paris, London and points across Europe are bracing for record temperatures Thursday as the second heat wave this summer bakes the continent.
Climate scientists warn this could become the new normal in many parts of the world. But temperate Europe where air conditioning is rare isn’t equipped for the temperatures frying the region this week.
So tourists frolicked in fountains to seek relief and authorities and volunteers fanned out to help the elderly, sick and homeless hit hardest by the heat. Trains were canceled in Britain and France, and French authorities urged travellers to stay home.
One by one, heat records are being broken across Europe . On Thursday, the Paris area could be as hot as 42 C (108 F) as a result of hot, dry air coming from northern Africa that’s trapped between cold stormy systems.
London might see 39 C (102 F). And swaths of Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland could face temperatures exceeding 40 C (104 F).
And this is only the latest of several hot days: Belgium and Germany recorded their all-time high temperatures Wednesday.
Germany’s record of 40.5 degrees (104.9 F) is likely going to be very short-lived, however the German Weather Service is expecting even higher temperatures Thursday.
Across London and Paris, authorities and charity workers handed out water and sunscreen to homeless people and opened day centers for them to rest and shower.
“They are in the street all day, under the sun. No air conditioning, no way to protect oneself from the heat, so for some it’s really quite complicated,” said Ruggero Gatti, an IT worker joining other Red Cross volunteers handing out water bottles, soup and yogurt to the homeless in the Paris suburb of Boulogne.
France is particularly on alert after a 2003 heat wave killed nearly 15,000 people, especially the elderly. Since then the government has introduced a color-coded heat alert system to warn people when temperatures are expected to rise to dangerous levels in their area and trigger government assistance efforts.
The alert system went to its maximum level of red for the first time during last month’s heat wave , when France saw its highest-ever recorded temperature of 46 degrees. On Thursday, about one-fifth of French territory was under a red alert, stretching from the English Channel through the Paris region and down to Burgundy.
The national rail authority and Paris public transit system urged passengers to avoid travel Thursday. Messages to “Hydrate yourselves!” came from the radio, television and public message boards.
The heat wave is intense but expected to be short, with temperatures dropping Friday and Saturday.
As emissions continue to warm the planet, scientists say there will be more and hotter heat waves, like those increasingly hitting the U.S. though it’s too early to know whether this hot spell is linked to man-made climate change.
“There is likely the DNA of climate change in the record-breaking heat that Europe and other parts of the world are experiencing. And it is unfortunately going to continue to worsen,” said Marshall Shepherd, professor of meteorology at University of Georgia.
In some places in southern England, the temperature has already exceeded 30C, according to the Met Office.
Heathrow Airport has recorded a temperature of 31.6C (88.88F) and Kew Gardens, west London, has reached 31.7C (89.06F), as temperatures continue to climb with scattered thunderstorms are expected later.
England experiences ‘tropical night’ as nation braces for record-breaking heat
As the UK bakes under heat which threatens to reach unprecedented highs of 39C today, we will bring you updates through the day as this July heatwave grips Europe.
Across Britain today, there are severe warnings that the sweltering conditions could lead to thunderstorms. These could cause travel delays, flash flooding and power cuts. Yesterday, the bodies of three people were pulled from the water after they reportedly got into difficulty swimming – highlighting the dangers of cooling off in lakes and rivers.
Southern and eastern England are said to have a 70% chance of temperatures rising to 39C today, beating the UK’s July record of 36.7C and the all-time high of 38.5C, recorded in 2003.
Last night, parts of England experienced a “tropical night” as temperatures failed to fall below 20C, the Met Office has said. St James Park in central London had an overnight minimum of 20.7C, while Wattisham, in Suffolk saw a overnight minimum of 20.8C and Cromer, on the Norfolk coast, experienced a minimum of 20.9C.
Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said NHS staff were “struggling” as “few lessons had been learned” from last year’s heatwaves and few hospitals are prepared for the impact of intense heat.
Last year, hospitals hired in large fans and coolers for a week or so but have got nothing long-term in place – they are purely reactive not proactive.
Some better organisations bought in lots of bottled water and gave it to staff or brought round cooled drinks. To get drinks, staff would usually need to leave the ward to buy them.
There is often nothing or very little in place for staff to get fluids on wards on an ad-hoc basis and they are expected only to drink in breaks which isn’t right when temperature on wards are really high.
Patient areas don’t have coolers or ice machines due to infection concerns.
Here is the latest story, courtesy of the Press Association:
Please do send in your photos and stories throughout the day via Twitter.
I’ll leave you with our guide on how to keep cool. Enjoy the day, and stay safe.
Giles Watling, a Conservative, asks if Johnson can improve the rail service to places like Clacton, his constiuency.
Johnson says he wants to use infrastructure to level up the country.
Johnson repeats his point about how the SNP would have to campaign to hand back control of fishing to the EU after Brexit if it continued to campaign for EU membership. He says he expects the party to perform a U-turn on that at some point.
Johnson says all government departments should pay cleaners London living wage
Catherine West, the Labour MP, says Johnson believes in the London living wage. But many government departments do not pay it. Will Johnson commit to ensure that they do pay it.
Johnson says all government departments should pay their cleaners the London living wage.
Chris Leslie, the Independent Group for Change, asks if Johnson agrees with Priti Patel on the death penalty.
Johnson says he abhors the death penalty. But he says he does want to see serious offenders serve the sentences properly. He says Labour MPs should realise that this is what their constituents want.
Labour’s Anneliese Dodds asks why Johnson said so little about the climate emergency if he really cares about it.
Johnson says the Conservatives are the only party that believes private sector-driven new technology can provide a solution to the problem.
Labour’s Clive Efford says the leave campaign wanted to restore parliamentary sovereignty. So why has Johnson hired an adviser, Dominic Cummings, found in contempt of parliament.
Johnson ignores the question and says it is a disgrace Labour wants to reverse the referendum result.
Asked what changes he wants to the withdrawal agreement, Johnson says the first step should be to get rid of the backstop.
Alec Shelbrooke, a Conservative, asks if Johnson will back his plan to ban unpaid internships.
Johnson says Shelbrooke is “entirely right”. People should get jobs on merit.
Mark Menzies, a Conservative, asks if Johnson will commit to more spending on small transport projects.
Johnson jokes that he has lost count of how many road schemes he has committed to backing.
Labour’s Stephen Kinnock says the Tory manifesto said there would be a deal. So does Johnson accept he has no mandate for no deal.
Johnson says the party also said no deal would be better than a bad deal.
Labour’s Peter Kyle asks what legal changes Johnson wants to introduce to enhance workers’ rights that would not be allowed if the UK remained in the EU?
Johnson says that is for the Commons to decide.
Peter Bone, the Tory Brexiter, says for the first time in months he has slept soundly. Will Johnson ensure that continues?
Johnson says he is going to take the country out of the EU by 31 October.
Labour’s Chi Onwurah asks Johnson to give the three things he admires most about the north-east.
Johnson says the people of the north-east should answer that. It would be patronising for him to answer. But he does know that the north-east is the only region of the county that is a net exporter, he says.
Henry Smith, a Conservative, asks when MPs will know how many extra police officers each force area will get.
As soon as possible, Johnson says.
Labour’s Emma Lewell-Buck says it is important for the PM do be on top of the detail. So can he say now what is in paragraph 5(C) of Gatt article 24?
That is a reference to one of the questions Andrew Neil asked Johnson in his BBC interview recently.
Johnson declines to answer, but he says he plans to rely on paragraph 5(B).
Colin Clark, a Tory, asks Johnson if he will support the oil industry in Scotland.
Labour’s Chris Bryant asks Johnson to get rid of the five-week waiting time for payments under universal credit.
Johnson says people can get advances on their benefit payments. Labour wants to scrap universal credit, he says. He defends the system.
Labour’s Alison McGovern says we now have a Vote Leave government. Does Johnson stand by the promises he made to have no change at the Irish border, and no sudden changes in the economy?
Yes, says Johnson. He says he is opposed to border controls. And as for the economy, he implies that if there were a no-deal Brexit, it would be the fault of the EU.
Johnson refuses to say UK faces climate emergency
Ed Davey, the Lib Dem MP, asks if Johnson agrees the UK faces a climate emergency.
Johnson says the government is leading the world in setting a net zero emissions target for 2050. Carbon emissions have been cut dramatically, he says. When he was London mayor carbon emissions were cut by 14% by new technology. That is the policy he will adopt.
Johnson refuses to say the UK faces a climate emergency.
Labour’s Laura Smith asks if Johnson will apologise for what he said about how investigating historical child abuse was spaffing money against the wall.
Johnson says this country can be proud of its record on tackling child abuse.
Labour’s Angela Eagle says one of the principles of public life is honesty. Has Johnson always been honest in his political career?
Johnson says he has always delivered what he has promised. In fact, he has promised X and delivered X plus 20.
Meg Hillier, the Labour chair of the public accounts committee, says there is a difference between optimism and fantasy. If Johnson wants to convince people he is not a fantasist, he will need to explain how he will fund his spending plans.
Johnson says his spending plans are relatively modest. He says Labour has not committed to matching what he has promised.
Asked if he will guarantee workers’ rights after Brexit, Johnson says he hopes to enhance workers’ rights after Brexit.
Labour has listed 10 questions that it says Boris Johnson did not answer when he was responding to Jeremy Corbyn.
Caroline Lucas, the Green MP, asks if Johnson will honour his promise to lie in front of bulldozers to stop the Heathrow extension.
Johnson says he is watching the court cases taking place with lively interest.
Johnson refuses to commit to giving MPs vote on what happens next if he fails to get Brexit deal
Anna Soubry, the Independent Group for Change leader, asks Johnson to bring the matter back to the Commons if he fails to get a new Brexit deal.
Johnson says MPs have already voted for Brexit.
Johnson refuses to commit to giving MPs a vote on what happens next if he fails to negotiate a new Brexit deal.
Johnson suggests UK no longer feels bound by December 2017 joint report with EU on Brexit
Labour’s Pat McFadden asks if Johnson accepts the commitment on the backstop made in the joint agreement between the UK and the EU in the joint report of December 2017.
Johnson says that is the trap from which the UK is trying to escape.
Johnson suggests UK no longer feels bound by December 2017 joint report with EU on Brexit.
Julian Lewis, the Tory chair of the defence committee, asks Johnson if he agrees defence spending needs to go up.
Johnson says he has a strong desire to increase spending, particularly on ship building.
Labour’s Liz Kendall says, if optimism was all it took, today people would be wandering across the garden bridge (the Johnson project that failed) and taking off on holiday from the Boris island airport (another Johnson scheme that never got off the drawing board). He asks Johnson what he will do about social care.
Johnson says he wants a cross-party solution to this.
Sir Oliver Letwin, a Tory, says he does not agree with Johnson on Brexit, but he says he thinks there is a possible majority in the Commons for a deal.
Johnson welcomes what he says.
Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts asks what is Johnson’s priority: delivering Brexit, or maintaining the union? He will have to pick one, do or die, she says.
Johnson says the people of the UK voted to leave the EU, and the people of Wales voted emphatically to do so.
John Baron, a Tory Brexiter, congratulates Johnson on his “cracking” policies so far. He says it says a lot that the four great offices of state are held by the descendants of immigrants. He asks if Johnson will maintain a cancer treatment initiative.
Johnson says he will carry on with that scheme.
Labour’s Hilary Benn says Leo Varadkar, the Irish PM, said yesterday trying to negotiate a new deal by October was “not in the real world”. What will Johnson do if MPs vote against no deal?
Johnson says Benn’s question is redolent of the defeatism he deplores. Why does not Benn think the EU might think again? All parties know what will happen if they do not honour the referendum result.
UPDATE: Here are the quotes.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper asks if Johnson can say what the technology will be for alternatives to the backstop in Ireland. She asked the chancellor 17 times, but he could not say, she says.
Johnson says abundant options are available, including trusted trader schemes.
Owen Paterson, the Brexiter former environment secretary, asks for an assurance that the UK will take back “total sovereignty” over fishing after Brexit.
Johnson says that is exactly what he will do.
Here is the Press Association’s first take on Boris Johnson’s statement.
Boris Johnson has urged Brussels to rethink its opposition to negotiating a new agreement on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
In his first statement to MPs as prime minister, Johnson reaffirmed his determination to deliver Brexit by the October 31 deadline, warning of a “catastrophic” loss of confidence in the UK’s democracy if they failed.
Johnson, who entered the Commons chamber to cheers from Tory MPs, insisted that he wanted to take Britain out of the EU with a deal.
But he said Theresa May’s deal had been rejected three times by the House and could not be brought back again.
“I would prefer us to leave the EU with a deal – I would much prefer it,” he said.
“I believe that it is possible even at this late stage and I will work flat out to make it happen.
“But certain things need to be clear. The withdrawal agreement negotiated by my predecessor has been three times rejected by this House.
“Its terms are unacceptable to this parliament and this country,” he said.
He said that his new government was ready to negotiate with Brussels in good faith.
“We will throw ourselves into these negotiations with the greatest energy and determination and in a spirit of friendship,” he said.
But at the same time he promise to “turbocharge” preparations for a no-deal Brexit in the event that they were unable to come to an agreement with the EU.
Nigel Dodds, the DUP leader at Westminster, welcomes Johnson’s positivity and optimism. He says the UK must be prepared for no deal if necessary.
Johnson thanks Dodds for his support, and for what he has done to protect the people of the UK from the “depredations of the party opposite”.
Jo Swinson, the Lib Dem leader, says the 3 million EU nationals here are our family, our friends, our carers. But they have been kept in uncertainty. So will Johnson back the bill from the Lib Dem peer Lord Oates backing their rights.
Johnson says he can guarantee their rights. He says 1 million people have already signed up to the settlement scheme.
Blackford says SNP government considering bringing forward plans for second independence referendum
Ian Blackford, the SNP leader at Westminster, welcomes Johnson as the last PM of the United Kingdom.
It is sometimes said Johnson lives in a parallel universe. Today he appears to have gone to outer space, Blackford says.
A no-deal Brexit would cost Scotland 100,000 jobs, he says. He says Johnson has admitted he has done no analysis of the outcome of his plan. He says Johnson is deluded. If Johnson tries to take the UK out of the EU without a deal, Scotland will stop him and this parliament “will stop this madness in its tracks”.
He says Johnson does not have a mandate to be PM.
He asks Johnson to rule out changing the Barnett formula.
He says Sturgeon is now reviewing the timetable for a second independence referendum.
Blackford says SNP government considering bringing forward its plans for a second independence referendum.
In response, Johnson says Nicola Sturgeon replaced Alex Salmond without a vote.
He asks if the SNP would really campaign to rejoin the EU, and to hand back control of fisheries to the EU, after Brexit.
He says he will govern for the whole of the UK.
Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, says the EU will have listened to what Johnson had to say. He asks the government to say every week what has been done to prepare for no deal, so that the EU knows when the UK is ready.
Johnson welcomes that idea. He says there will be a very active campaign to get the public ready.
Johnson is replying to Corbyn.
He says he struggles to identify a question in that.
But under no circumstances will he make the NHS part of any US trade deal.
It is the Conservatives that have allowed the NHS to flourish, through a strong economy.
He says he struggles to identify the country Corbyn describes.
He says wages are outperforming inflation. And the living wage, a Conservative policy he championed in London, has expanded the incomes of those who have received it, he says.
He says Corbyn asked about Iran. But he has been paid by Iranian TV. He repeatedly sides with the mullahs of Iran, Johnson claims.
He says John McDonnell was sacked by Ken Livingstone for faking a budget.
(You would have thought Johnson would not want to accuse people of getting sacked for making things up.)
Johnson says Labour would put up taxes on gardens.
He says a terrible metamorphosis happened today. Corbyn has been captured, and “turned into a remainer”. Of all the flip-flops Corbyn has performed in his tergiversating career, this is probably the most serious, he says.
He says the reality is that the Conservatives are the party of the people. The Tories are the party of the many, Labour of the few. The Tories will take the country forward, while Labour will take it backwards.
Johnson ends, with Tory MPs chanting “more”.
Corbyn says the challenge to end inequality, tackle Brexit and end austerity will define the new government.
The country does not need “arm-waving bluster”, but competence.
Instead of focusing on the few, the new PM should address the needs of the many.
Corbyn says the office of PM requires integrity and honesty.
So will Johnson correct his claim that the rules on kipper packaging are not from the EU?
And will Johnson admit that the £39bn he talks of is actually £33bn, paid over 30 years? And will he accept that the previous government said this had to be paid. So the threat to withhold it from the EU is a phoney threat.
Corbyn says President Trump has labelled Johnson Britain’s Trump. Will Britain’s Trump rule out the NHS being part of any trade deal with the US?
He says Johnson would make the UK a vassal state of America.
Corbyn says the wealthy elite will not lose out from a no-deal Brexit.
If Johnson has confidence in his plan, he should take it back to the people, Corbyn says.
He says Labour would campaign to remain in any referendum on a Johnson Brexit deal.
Jeremy Corbyn is responding now.
He welcomes Boris Johnson to his job.
But he says he is worried that Johnson overestimates himself.
He says the government opted for austerity as a political choice.
He says Johnson is promising tax breaks to business – his own party’s funders.
When will the government set out its spending plans for departments?
Will Johnson match Labour’s plan for a £500bn investment fund?
Corbyn says Johnson has “thrown together a hard-right cabinet”.
Given Priti Patel, the home secretary, supports the death penalty, can Johnson assure MPs he has no plans to bring back capital punishment?
Was Johnson given sight of the Huawei leak inquiry before he made Gavin Williamson education secretary?
Corbyn says Johnson voted for the backstop less than four months ago. Can he explain his flip-flopping, and why he now thinks this is unacceptable.
Johnson proposes Australian-style points-based system for immigration
Johnson says he wants to continue to attract the brightest talents to the UK.
No one believes more than him in the benefits of immigration, he says.
He says for years the public have wanted an Australian-style points system for immigration. Today he will ask the migration advisory committee to review this as an option.
Johnson says he will commission report on moving to an Australian-style points-based system for immigration. (This policy always polls well with voters, most of whom are not aware that the UK already operates something similar.)
He says all his life he has been told that Britain has to be a mediocre country. He does not accept this.
Johnson says he is absolutely committed to delivering Brexit.
There are many officials in the EU that would be better placed working on trade deals in the UK.
He says the UK will not nominate a new European commissioner for after October.
He says he will not wait until 31 October before rebuilding Britain. He will start on this straight away.
He says NHS money will go to the frontline as soon as possible.
He has asked officials to work on plans to reduce waiting times and to speed up GP appointments.
He says the government will start hiring 20,000 more police officers as a priority.
He says he wants to ensure serious offenders serve their sentences in full.
The minimum level of per pupil funding in schools will increase, he says.
And he will level up every area in the country.
Johnson says the government is preparing tax cuts to stimulate innovation.
It will intensify work on getting new trade deals.
It will prepare an economic stimulus.
And he says he can give EU nationals an assurance they will have an absolute right to remain after Brexit. (See 10.52am.)
Johnson says there is too much negativity around.
We must take immediate steps, he says.
First, we must restore trust in democracy by taking the UK out of the EU by 31 October. He says to fail to do this would cause a “catastrophic loss of confidence” in our political system.
He says he would prefer to leave with a deal.
But the withdrawal agreement has been rejected by MPs three times. He says the backstop is unacceptable because it undermines Britain’s democracy. It must go, he says. A time limit would not be enough.
He says the Irish border issue should be settled in the negotiations on the future relationship, which is where this issue should always have been decided.
He says he does not accept that the backstop is needed. Other, alternative arrangements are perfectly possible.
He says his team is ready to talk to the EU whenever and wherever they want to do so.
He says he hopes the EU will also be ready to meet, and to rethink their current positions.
He says the UK is more ready for a no-deal Brexit than many people believe. But in the days left before 31 October, the government will step up its preparations.
He says, if the UK does leave without a deal, the UK will have the £39bn available. (This is contested. See 11.31am.)
He says the Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has been put in charge of no-deal planning. And the new chancellor, Sajid Javid, has said any money necessary will be available.
Boris Johnson says he wants to make UK greatest country on Earth in first statement to MP
Boris Johnson is delivering his first statement to MPs.
He starts with a tribute to Theresa May.
Then he says his mission is to deliver Brexit and make the UK the greatest country on Earth.
He says that might sound like hyperbole. But he claims it is realistic.
Treasury minister claims UK could keep £39bn in event of no deal – despite attorney general saying otherwise
Rishi Sunak, the new chief secretary to the Treasury, was on the Today programme this morning, and he claimed that if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, the government would save up to £39bn, because it would not be paying the “divorce bill” set out in the withdrawal agreement. He said this because Boris Johnson made the same claim in his speech outside No 10 yesterday. Sunak said:
The prime minister also said yesterday that the £39bn bill that’s attached to the withdrawal agreement – in the event of no deal, that’s £39bn that is also potentially available.
The view of the government, and my view, is that we would have obligations to pay a certain amount of money were we to leave the European Union without a deal. The House of Lords European Union committee concluded that there would be no obligation under EU law. That is a stronger argument – not necessarily an incontestable one – as to our obligations under EU law, but the committee also concluded that we might have obligations under public international law, and with that I agree. There is an argument that we would not have an obligation under public international law, but it is an argument unlikely to be accepted by any international tribunal.
My view is therefore that we would owe a presently unquantifiable sum were we to leave the European Union without a deal. It is impossible at this stage to say how much. It is true that the European Union is not a member state and is not a state, and therefore it is unable to take the case to the international court of justice. It might therefore be difficult to enforce the public international law obligation that existed. However, I ask the house to reflect on the fact that if this country, acknowledging that such obligations probably exist or do exist, did not pay them, it would be likely to cause the deepest resentment, just as it would to any of us who were unpaid a debt. If we leave a club, we pay the bar bill. If we do not pay the bill, we are not likely to get a lot of consideration from the other side.
Cox is still attorney general. It would be interesting to know if he sticks by what he said at the end of last year.
Boris Johnson is about to give his Commons statement. Hopefully he will get asked about this.
I myself have had several emotional dalliances with our hero, including a lachrymose lunch (his tears not mine) with Boris bewailing that the Mail was destroying his marriage, while confiding that, anyway, monogamy is just a bourgeois convention. In fact the Mail, a family newspaper, never broke stories about his extracurricular activities, but I plead guilty to laying waste forests to intellectualise their psycho/socio-implications. The problem for us Brexiteers is there is another side to the man, with whom I have also enjoyed enthrallingly intimate dinners when he spoke with extraordinary passion, lucidity and optimism about Britain’s future outside the EU. For months now, my advice to his phalanx of minders has been to padlock his zipper and to keep her [Johnson’s partner, Carrie Symonds] in the background. Not that he’ll take a blind bit of notice. Like many journalists, he is an outsider who doesn’t give a damn what people think.
Johnson’s cabinet has twice as many privately educated ministers as May’s, says Sutton Trust
Boris Johnson’s cabinet is more than twice as privileged as the one Theresa May appointed in 2016, judging by how many of its members were privately educated, according to the Sutton Trust, the social mobility charity. It says 64% of Johnson’s cabinet was privately educated, 27% went to a comprehensive, while 9% attended a grammar school.
Here is an extract from the Sutton Trust’s news release.
This proportion of alumni of independent schools is more than twice that of Theresa May’s 2016 cabinet (30%), slightly more than Cameron’s 2015 cabinet (50%) and similar to the 2010 coalition cabinet (62%).
This means that cabinet ministers are nine times more likely to have gone to a fee-paying school for all or part of their secondary education than the general population, of which 7% went to private schools. However, the chancellor, foreign secretary, home secretary – and importantly the new education secretary – were among those educated at state schools.
The proportion of independently educated ministers attending cabinet is less than earlier cabinets under Conservative Prime Ministers, John Major (71% in 1992) and Margaret Thatcher (91% in 1979). Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both had 32% of those attending cabinet privately educated, while 25% of Clement Attlee’s first cabinet had been privately educated.
Of the 33 ministers attending Boris Johnson’s new cabinet, 45% went to Oxford or Cambridge universities. This compares with 31% of all Conservative MPs, 20% of Labour MPs and 24% of all MPs. A further 24% of Johnson’s cabinet were educated at other Russell Group universities (excluding Oxbridge).
Boris Johnson continues the academic dynasty at Number 10 that stretches back to before the start of World War 2: except for Gordon Brown, every prime minister since 1937 who attended university was educated at one institution – Oxford.
He says Labour can consult Erskine May online for free. Even he could do that, he says. He says Labour is meant to be modern. But Labour could buy a paper copy, he says. It would be a good investment.
On the possibility of parliament being prorogued for Brexit, Rees-Mogg says Boris Johnson has said that he views this as an arcane mechanism, and that he does not want to use arcane mechanisms. Rees-Mogg says that, as he is now bound by cabinet collective responsibility, that is his view too.
On Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Rees-Mogg says he will take this issue up, and will do so every week. He says the first duty of the government is to look after its citizens. The way she has been treated is shameful, he says.
Valerie Vaz is still responding to Jacob Rees-Mogg.
She says that Rees-Mogg has staff, so he will not need to bring his nanny.
She asks if Labour can get a complimentary copy of Erskine May. It is available online, but she says it would be useful to have a hard copy. (Buying one costs £300.)
She asks Rees-Mogg to confirm that Dominic Cummings, who has just been hired as a policy adviser by Boris Johnson, will not be given a Commons pass because he was found in contempt of parliament.
She asks about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, saying she has promised to raise it every week until Nazanin is free. Will Boris Johnson agree to meet her husband?
Jacob Rees-Mogg takes business questions
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new leader of the Commons, is taking business questions now.
He reads out the Commons business for the week starting Tuesday 3 September, when the recess ends. It’s all routine stuff.
Valerie Vaz, the shadow leader of the Commons, is now responding. She says it is not a very “energised” list. (See 10.03am.)
Penny Mordaunt, who was sacked as defence secretary by Boris Johnson yesterday, was doorstepped by Sky News this morning. She said the cabinet had her full support. But she refused to answer when asked what Johnson said to her yesterday.
Here is a Guardian panel with views on the new cabinet, with contributions from Aditya Chakrabortty, Sonia Sodha, Katy Balls, Paul Mason and Martha Gill.
During the Tory leadership campaign, Boris Johnson made repeated play of the claim that his team as London mayor was “basically a feminocracy”, saying he would promote women to top jobs.
And while the proportion of women in the four great jobs of state is still the same as at the end of Theresa May’s time in No 10 – 25%, with May as PM replaced by Priti Patel as home secretary – the proportion of women attending cabinet has actually fallen.
May had 29 people in her final cabinet meetings, eight of whom were women, or 27.6%. Under the official list of Johnson’s team sent round by No 10 earlier today (see 9.30am), he also has eight women, but among an expanded group of 33, so 24.2%.
Defenders of Johnson might point out that he has two more full cabinet members than May – seven out of 23 against her final tally of five from 23.
Either way it is, as best, no real progression.
Grant Shapps, the new transport secretary, was on message as he left cabinet. Asked how it went, and what the mood was like, he replied: “Very good, energised.” Energise is, of course, the word Boris Johnson used himself in his victory speech on Tuesday to describe his mission.
Boris Johnson says government is committed to leaving EU by 31 October ‘no ifs, no buts’.
According to the Press Association, Boris Johnson told his new cabinet it was “wonderful to see this new team assembled here” which respects the “depth and breadth of talent in our extraordinary party”. He went on:
As you all know we have a momentous task ahead of us, at a pivotal moment in our country’s history.
We are now committed, all of us, to leaving the European Union on October 31 or indeed earlier – no ifs, no buts.
But we are not going to wait until October 31 to get on with a fantastic new agenda for our country, and that means delivering the priorities of the people.
This is from James Cleverly, the new Conservative party chairman.
There are four BME ministers in the full cabinet (out of 23), and another two in the “attending cabinet” category (out of 10).
From the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg
From Sky’s Sam Coates
Sky News has just broadcast some footage from the opening of the cabinet meeting. Boris Johnson could be heard saying “no ifs, but we’re going to ….” The rest was inaudible, but the cabinet seemed to like it, because we then saw them banging the table enthusiastically.
Here is another picture of the new cabinet.
Full list of cabinet
Downing Street has just sent out the full cabinet list. For the record, here it is.
The order in which ministers appear is important, because there is a hierarchy in cabinet and ministers are listed in order of seniority.
It is a good cabinet for Old Etonians. Including those allowed to attend, there are are four of them on the list: Boris Johnson, his brother Jo, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Kwasi Kwarteng.
The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Prime Minister
The Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer
The Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and First Secretary of State
The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Robert Buckland, QC MP, Lord Chancellor, Secretary of State for Justice
The Rt Hon Stephen Barclay MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, Secretary of State for Defence
The Rt Hon Matthew Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care
The Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
The Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade
The Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, and Minister for Women and Equalities
The Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE MP, Secretary of State for Education
The Rt Hon Theresa Villiers MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government
The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport
The Rt Hon Julian Smith MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
The Rt Hon Alister Jack MP, Secretary of State for Scotland
The Rt Hon Alun Cairns MP, Secretary of State for Wales
The Rt Hon Baroness Evans of Bowes Park, Leader of the House of Lords, Lord Privy Seal
The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for International Development
James Cleverly MP, Minister without Portfolio and Party Chair
Rishi Sunak MP, Chief Secretary to the Treasury
The Hon Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council
Mark Spencer MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury and Chief Whip
The Rt Hon Geoffrey Cox QC MP, Attorney General
Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Minister of State (for Energy), Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy
Oliver Dowden CBE MP, Paymaster General and Minister for the Cabinet Office
Jake Berry MP, Minister of State, Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
The Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, Minister of State (Housing), Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State (Universities), Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Education
The Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, Minister of State (for Security), Home Office
Boris Johnson is chairing his first cabinet as I write. And later he will address the Commons for the first time as prime minister, in a statement that may reveal more about how he intends to deliver Brexit and how he would like to govern Britain.
But we learnt a huge amount about that yesterday, from the most wide-ranging cabinet reshuffle in modern times. On the plus side, as the former Downing Street adviser from the New Labour era, Theo Bertram, argues on Twitter this morning, you could describe it as remarkably successful.
But it’s a reshuffle that does not just involve a wholesale change in personnel; it is one that will fundamentally alter the way people perceive the Conservative party. At one stage during the referendum 2016 campaign, to the surprise of some observers, Vote Leave started acting like a shadow government, making “manifesto” pledges like this one on cutting VAT on fuel. Now that strategy looks more understandable, because the Vote Leave campaign has effectively become the government.
On the Today programme this morning Nick Boles, the former Conservative minister who now sits as an independent, said the reshuffle showed the hard right had taken over his old party. He explained:
It is very clarifying because what it establishes beyond all doubt is that the Conservative party has now been fully taken over, top to bottom, by the hard right, that they’re basically turning themselves into the Brexit party in order to hold off Nigel Farage.
And those few elements remaining of the one-nation, liberal conservative, Cameron-style Conservatives – they are neutered captives in this cabinet. They’ve had to sign up to the pledge to leave [the EU] at the end of October.
There are other assessments, of course. We will be covering them throughout the course of the day.
Here is our overnight lead on the reshuffle.
Here is our guide to who is in the new cabinet.
And here is our guide to the ministers who were sacked, or who chose to leave.
Here is the agenda for the day.
8.30am: Boris Johnson chairs his first cabinet.
After 10.30am: Jacob Rees-Mogg, the new leader of the Commons, takes business questions in the Commons.
After 11.30am: Johnson makes a statement to MPs.
As usual, I will be covering breaking political news as it happens, as well as bringing you the best reaction, comment and analysis from the web. I plan to publish a summary when I wrap up.
If you want to follow me or contact me on Twitter, I’m on @AndrewSparrow.
I try to monitor the comments below the line (BTL) but it is impossible to read them all. If you have a direct question, do include “Andrew” in it somewhere and I’m more likely to find it. I do try to answer questions, and if they are of general interest, I will post the question and reply above the line (ATL), although I can’t promise to do this for everyone.
If you want to attract my attention quickly, it is probably better to use Twitter.
I am a 34-year-old virgin. This wouldn’t be such a big issue were it not for the inevitability of heartbreak. Every now and then, I fall in love with someone – often at work – and I become infatuated before I know them properly. There is always a big conversation in which I admit to my feelings and she says she doesn’t feel that way at all. Then I’m heartbroken for about four months. These feelings are purely romantic and I never fantasise about having sex with any of the women. I think I might be asexual but I can’t be sure, given that I’ve never had a relationship.
I know I’m not normal in how I approach romance, but I don’t know exactly what is wrong with me. I can’t get help. When I’ve tried, I have been taken through the checklist: I am in stable employment, can do everyday tasks and don’t have thoughts of suicide, so I don’t stand a chance of moving up the long [NHS] waiting lists for counselling. But if I don’t find a way out of this cycle, it is only a matter of time before I fall in love again, get rejected and spend another six months listening to sad songs about unrequited love.
You could be asexual – one of the characteristics is not feeling any sexual attraction to another person. You might want to look at asexuality.org which is largely a forum for other “aces” to talk, but has lots of useful, thought-provoking information on the subject. But, as you point out, without having had any sort of relationship, it’s hard to say. You are certainly not alone in not having sexual fantasies, nor is being a virgin in your 30s so unusual any more. (I wonder if you saw the Guardian’s recent articles on this on 18 and 24 June.)
I don’t think you’re “not normal”, but your approach to love – whether asexual or not – isn’t rooted in reality. Your life is all about fantasy, which is fun for a bit but no substitute for real-life love, which is what you seem to want. There appear to be three points in your falling-in-love scenario: your initial attraction, the fantasy you build of that person, and then disclosure.
The first and third are rooted in reality – the person exists when you first see them, and when you tell them. But the second part of the sequence is not based in reality. It is a fantasy centred around the person you imagine you are in love with, and it grows to epic proportions. The other person isn’t at all engaged in this process – she has no idea how you feel. When you eventually tell her, of course, it’s shocking and overwhelming for her. In different circumstances, she might have been more receptive to a relationship. If you could narrow the gaps between these three points – more reality, less fantasy – it might help you to understand who you are and what it is you really want.
Psychotherapist Martin Weaver (UK Council for Psychotherapy, psychotherapy.org.uk) wondered what you were like as a boy – did you do a lot of reading/watching films? If so, you might need to look at whether it was for entertainment or as a retreat from life because reality was, in some way, too painful. And has this led you, in the absence of real-life experience, to romanticise relationships?
“Why do you wait,” Weaver asked, “to have the big conversation [with women] instead of lots of smaller ones?”
I thought this was a really important question: what stops you getting to know these women before you tell them how you feel?
Weaver also wondered what your job was, and whether it “isolated or disconnected you [from real life]”. Do you have everyday interaction with women? “Your world is very internal and, because of this, you are not learning how to create a relationship that is engaging and empathic, nor are you learning that you can influence what happens.” Heartbreak need not be inevitable.
You are right that therapy, other than cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), isn’t always easy to get on the NHS, but I wonder if you would consider spending some money on it? If so, you can find therapists via the UKCP website. I think having somewhere private where you could talk freely and get another perspective would benefit you enormously.
One final point I want you to ponder: Weaver felt the way you describe these situations sounded as if you felt you had “no control, no agency over what happens” – where did you learn that?
US consumers don’t appear to share Donald Trump’s concerns about interest rates.
The University of Michigan’s monthly survey of consumer sentiment has shown a small increase, to 98.4 from 98.2 last month. That’s close to a 10-year high.
Americans reported that they were more optimistic about their financial prospects — perhaps thanks to recent stock market gains, and hopes of a US-China trade war deal.
What does Donald Trump mean when he says he preferred New York Fed President John Williams’ “first statement much better than his second”?
Well, Williams caused excitement yesterday when he outlined the virtue of pro-active, early, interest rate cuts – rather than waiting for problems to develop.
By comparing a rate cut to a vaccination jab sparked excitement among investors, and speculation that he could be backing a large cut to borrowing costs.
But this prompted the New York Fed to issue a clarification to its leaders’ speech, insisting that he wasn’t trying to guide the market (to Trump’s obvious disappointment).
“This was an academic speech on 20 years of research. It was not about potential policy actions at the upcoming FOMC meeting.”
Trump attacks Federal Reserve (again)
Another day, another attack on the US central bank from the White House.
Central bank independence looks ancient history, as president Trump argues that US interest rates should be a LOT lower.
Retail news: a private equity firm has bought a controlling stake in department store Liberty London, in a deal valuing the landmark at £300m.
We mentioned this morning that gold has hit a six-year high, but it’s actually an EIGHT year high once you priced it in sterling rather than dollars.
That’s because of the pound’s recent weakness following the EU referendum.
Adrian Ash, director of research at online and mobile-app trading platform BullionVault, explains:
“Rising debt and falling interest rates are conspiring with the UK’s Brexit mess to push down Sterling as gold sets multi-year highs.
“The last and only other time gold traded this high for UK savers was summer 2011, when the global financial crisis peaked with the near-collapse of the Euro and the worst rioting across England in modern times.”
Shares in Microsoft have hit a record high, after it reported strong revenue growth from cloud computing services and its Surface laptop business.
Over in New York, stocks are rising at the start of trading as investors anticipate US interest rate cuts soon.
The Dow Jones industrial average has gained 110 points, or 0.4%, to 27,333, while the S&P 500 has gained 0.35% to 3,005 — close to this week’s record highs.
St. Louis Federal Reserve president James Bullard has boosted stocks, by saying that a 0.25% cut in US interest rates this month would be appropriate.
UK petrol prices hit five-year summer high
As if the weak pound was enough trouble, families are also facing higher petrol costs .
The AA reports that fuel prices hit 128.72p a litre in July, while diesel cost 131.61p on average. That’s the highest for any July in five years.
That will drive up the cost of a UK staycation, if people face a long drive to and from their summer getaway.
Infuriatingly for drivers, wholesale energy costs have actually fallen over the last few months. Brent crude was $75/barrel in April, but just $63/barrel this week.
However, import costs have risen, due to the pound hitting a 27-month low against the US dollar.
The AA’s Luke Bosdet says:
“The tragedy with soaring summer pump prices is not only hard-earned holidaymakers’ money disappearing at the pump but the loss of income for the tourism industry.
“If every car that heads to the South West, Wales, the Lake District, Scotland or other UK holiday destinations pays an extra £7 a tank for fuel compared to two years ago, that is many millions of pounds not being spent in places where a good tourist season is make or break for those communities.”
In what analysts called a “reality check” for the two Conservative prime ministerial contenders, the Office for National Statistics said the government needed to borrow £7.2bn last month – more than double the £3.3bn in the same month a year ago.
Higher spending and lower tax receipts were responsible for the highest June deficit – the gap between government income and spending – in four years, amid signs that the economic slowdown is starting to feed through into the public finances.
Hunt and Johnson have promised big cuts in corporate and personal taxes while campaigning to succeed Theresa May, prompting a warning from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility on Thursday that there was no fiscal “free lunch”. The OBR warned that the contenders’ proposals were uncosted and would be likely to raise government borrowing by tens of billions of pounds.
2019 has been a strong year for stock markets so far, with Wall Street up 20%, Britain’s FTSE 100 gaining 11% and China’s CSI 300 rallying by 17%.
But we’re now entering the summer lull, and analysts are wondering if a correction is close.
Mike Wilson, chief investment officer of Morgan Stanley, believes stocks could soon shed 10% of their value in the next few months, telling Marketwatch:
“We’re not looking for the bottom to fallout like last year, but I do expect a 10% correction in the next three months,”
He argues that earnings estimates are too frothy, and may come down over the summer – very plausible, if the world economy loses momentum.
It also appears that a US interest rate cut is rather ‘priced in’ to valuations, so traders could take profits when it actually happens.
“We think there’s still some unfinished business and it’s not going to be scary, but it will be a better opportunity to buy stocks over the next three to six months, and maybe 18 months. We tell people don’t chase break outs when everyone is getting excited.”
Over in Milan, stocks are sliding as investor worry that Italy’s coalition government could collapse.
Tensions have been growing for weeks between the right-wing League party, and the anti-establishment Movement Five Star. Now, League leader Matteo Salvini (Italy’s deputy PM) has criticised his coalition partners, revealing he will meet M5S’s Luigi Di Maio soon.
Salvini is unhappy that M5S are blocking certain government policies, saying:
“We will certainly meet … the problem is not Di Maio, but opposition coming from many 5-Star politicians.
“There is an obvious and total block on proposals, initiatives, projects and infrastructure by some 5-Star ministers that hurts Italy.
Howard Archer of the EY Item Club says the swelling deficit is “hardly the best backdrop” to the race to Downing Street.
Both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt have made expensive pledges in their battle for votes (which chancellor Philip Hammond say are impossible under a no-deal Brexit….)
Disappointing news on the public finances to greet the new Prime Minister and Chancellor when they shortly take office with the June shortfall on the budget deficit more than doubling year-on-year.
Furthermore June meant that the public finances have seen year-on-year deterioration through the first three months of fiscal year 2019/20.
Archer adds that it’s too early to say definitively whether the UK will hit, or miss, it’s budget target this year.
Much will depend on whether the economy can shrug off its current weakness as well as on Brexit developments. It will also be influenced by any changes to fiscal policy by the new Prime Minister and Chancellor.
Spending including capital investment rose 7.2%, boosted by debt interest costs — higher RPI pushed up payments on inflation-linked bonds — and government outlays on goods and services.
Receipts rose 1.5%, with dividends and national-insurance contributions driving the increase. Excluding these categories, tax income was virtually unchanged.
A no-deal Brexit crisis would make the UK public finances look even worse, points out Mike Jakeman, senior economist at PwC:
There remains an unusual amount of uncertainty around the short-term future of the public finances at present. A no-deal Brexit would hit both government revenue (through lower tax receipts) and expenditure (through the need for fiscal stimulus package). The government would be likely to have to reconsider its medium-term targets for the deficit and debt.
But even if a no-deal Brexit is avoided, a new chancellor is likely to bring new priorities and, with a spending review on the horizon, could sanction a period of looser fiscal policy.”
Capital Economics: UK public finances are deteriorating
Britain’s public finances appear to be ‘heading off track’, warns Ruth Gregory of Capital Economics.
That will leave Boris Johnson or Jeremy Hunt with less wriggle-room to fund some of their campaign promises, such as tax cuts or public sector pay increases — unless they rip up the government’s borrowing targets.
June’s public finance figures continued the underlying deterioration in the fiscal position evident since the beginning of the financial year, providing a timely reminder that the new PM won’t get a free “fiscal lunch”….
There will be further bad news for the new PM in September as a change in the accounting treatment of student loans in September will raise the deficit by more than £10bn a year.
However, this might not stop the new PM from loosening fiscal policy, she adds.
Economist Rupert Seggins shows how government spending has outpaced the tax take this financial year:
John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, is concerned that Britain’s deficit is going up….
“With the Conservatives obsessed with No Deal Brexit and a race to the bottom on taxes, the outlook for our public services after years of austerity is grim.
“Instead of investing to grow they have passed on the deficit to hospitals and local councils, overseeing stagnating wages and productivity.
“Only a Labour Government will deliver the radical transformation that is desperately needed to boost living standards and eliminate in-work poverty.”
The UK was expected to borrow £29.3bn in the 2019-20 financial year, up from £23.5bn in the 12 months to March.
Just three months into the financial year, and Britain has already borrowed £17.9bn, compared with £13.5bn at this stage a year ago.
UK budget deficit swells as spending outpaces income
Newsflash: Britain’s budget deficit is rising faster than planned, after the government was forced to borrow more than seven billion pounds last month to balance the books.
That’s the largest deficit for a June in four years, and suggests that the UK’s fiscal position may be weakening ahead of the Brexit vote.
The increase in borrowing was driven by a large jump in public spending.
Total central government expenditure rose by £4.3bn compared with a year ago, while government income (ie from tax receipts) only rose by £800m.
That lifted the deficit by £3.8bn, from £3.2bn in 2018 to £7.2bn in June 2019.
The Office for National Statistics reports:
Borrowing (public sector net borrowing excluding public sector banks) in June 2019 was £7.2 billion, £3.8 billion more than in June 2018; the highest June borrowing since 2015.
Borrowing in the current financial year-to-date (April 2019 to June 2019) was £17.9 billion, £4.5 billion more than in the same period last year; the financial year-to-date April 2018 to June 2018 remains the lowest borrowing for that period since 2007.
More to follow….
Iran insists that America has not shot down one of its drones… and is now suggesting that US forces could have downed one of their own!
The deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, tweeted that he was “worried” that the USS Boxer had accidentally hit one of its own side’s unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
This has taken some of the heat out of the gold price, which has dipped back to $1,440 per ounce.
The oil price has jumped 1% today, after America claimed to have shot down an Iranian drone.
Brent crude has risen to $62.645 per barrel, reversing several day of losses, as investors brace for more skirmishes in the Gulf region.
“Reports that the US brought down an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz will escalate tensions even further. Iranian officials have thus far taken care not to react to the incident in a way that provoke further conflict; officials’ immediate response was to deny that any Iranian aircraft had been lost. Nonetheless, Iran has made it clear in recent weeks that it rejects any Western presence in the Strait of Hormuz–officials warned the UK to withdraw its ships from the region earlier this month, saying that it could ensure regional security alone. The latest skirmish with the US is likely to put Iran even more on guard.
We still do not expect either party to willingly enter into open conflict; Iran is ill equipped to wage an expensive conflict, and doing so would probably alienate its remaining allies in Europe. The US government will not want to start a deeply unpopular foreign conflict just as the campaign season ramps up for 2020. However, the risk of a policy miscalculation remains high in this heated environment, meaning that more skirmishes are likely in the coming weeks.”
Billionaire investor Ray Dalio has fuelled the gold boom this week, arguing that investors should pile into the precious metal.
In a blogpost, Dalio argued that gold was a sensible asset to invest in, as geopolitical tensions are rising and central bankers are likely to ease monetary policy to ward off a slowdown.
“Those [investments] that will most likely do best will be those that do well when the value of money is being depreciated and domestic and international conflicts are significant, such as gold.
Dalio also pointed to the slump in government bond yields, as investors have piled into safe-haven assets such as German debt:
I believe that it would be both risk-reducing and return-enhancing to consider adding gold to one’s portfolio.”
Gold struck its all-time high back in 2011, after the financial crisis, when it peaked over $1,900.
We’re nowhere near those levels yet, but Fawad Razaqzada, market analyst at Forex.com, suspects bullion will keep rising through 2019.
He cites the weakening US dollar (which pushes up commodity prices) and the fact that bonds provide so little income at present.
The underlying trend is bullish for gold and silver, due to the falling government bond yields and the recent struggles for the dollar and stocks. So, as things stand, these are good times for buck-denominated and noninterest-bearing precious metals.
Stock markets are taking a cue from gold this morning, with gains across the globe.
Japan’s Nikkei has jumped 2%, and China’s CSI 300 index gained 1%, on hope of a US interest rate cut soon.
In London, the FTSE 100 has jumped by 48 points, or 0.6%, to 7,543.
Introduction: Gold is booming
Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
Gold, that perennial barometer of investor nervousness, has hit a six-year high today.
Bullion jumped through $1,450 per ounce for the first time since May 2013, extending its recent gains.
This means gold has now surged by 25% since last August, a sparkling run that outpaces most other assets.
The rally is being driven by several factors. One is that America’s central bank seems certain to cut interest rates later this month. That would be inflationary — and gold is seen as a store of value in such times.
There’s even chatter that the Federal Reserve could slash borrowing costs by half a percentage point, rather than the typical quarter-point cut.
John Williams, the vice chairman of the Fed’s policy-setting board, raised these rate cut hopes on Thursday when he said policymakers need to be pro-active, rather than waiting for a disaster to unfold.
Comparing monetary policy to vaccination, Williams said:
It’s better to deal with the short-term pain of a shot than to take the risk that they’ll contract a disease later on.”
Gold’s popularity also comes as government bond prices surge to record highs. Many are now trading with negative yields, meaning investors are guaranteed to lose money if they hold the debt until it matures. Gold doesn’t pay a dividend or a coupon, but can still deliver a profit if prices keep rising.
Gold is also popular when geopolitical tensions escalate. The news that America says it has shot down an Iranian drone over the Strait of Hormuz yesterday (which Tehran denies) has worried investors, given recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf region.
Nicholas Frappell, global general manager at ABC Bullion, says gold was further lifted by Iran announcing the capture of a foreign oil-smuggling tanker in the Gulf:
“The extra push for gold prices came from comments by NY Fed President John Williams which implied quite aggressive rate-cutting, plus the Iranian drone news and the seizure of a tanker by the Iranians in the Straits of Hormuz.”
More to follow…
Also coming up today
We learn how much Britain borrowed to balance the books last month, plus get a new gauge on American consumer confidence.
9.30am BST: UK public finances for June (£3.9bn deficit expected)
3pm BST: University of Michigan’s survey of US consumer confidence
A man has been convicted in relation to the death of 15-year-old Scarlett Keeling, more than 10 years after she was found dead on a beach in Goa.
Fiona MacKeown, Scarlett’s mother, who described the past 11 years as an absolute nightmare, said she was shocked but delighted.
“It’s still a bit hard to take it in, that this might actually be the end of it all for us,” she said. “It has been traumatic for the children every time I’ve had to go to Goa, and for me, it’s put me into huge debt. It’s been an absolute nightmare for 11 years.”
At a hearing on Wednesday, the high court in Goa reversed an earlier acquittal to convict of Samson d’Souza of culpable homicide, criminal assault and outraging a woman’s modesty, providing narcotics to a person with knowledge that it could cause serious harm or death, and destruction of evidence. He was also convicted under the Goa children’s code for not providing a safe environment for a child.
It is expected D’Souza will be sentenced on Friday or Saturday, when he could face decades in prison. A second man, Placido Carvalho, accused of abetting a crime, had his acquittal upheld.
Scarlett’s bruised and half-naked body was found on the popular Anjuna beach in the north of Goa after a Valentine’s Day beach party.
Police initially said her death was an accidental drowning, but MacKeown insisted on a second autopsy. A postmortem examination showed there was ecstasy, cocaine and LSD in the teenager’s body. It also showed 50 cuts and bruises and evidence of sexual assault.
It was alleged that D’Souza plied her with drugs, raped her and left her unconscious face down on the beach.
The CBI also said the judge had wrongly concluded that there was a delay in recording witness statements.
The investigation into Scarlett’s murder was fraught with setbacks including years of delays in India’s sluggish justice system, a change of prosecutor and the failure of a key British witness to testify. MacKeown also accused the police of corruption.
Michael Mannion, a British witness, told police he had last seen the schoolgirl hours before, lying in the car park of nearby Lui’s Bar, with local bartender D’Souza lying on top of her. Mannion did not testify during the trial in 2016.
Scarlett’s murder attracted global media attention. MacKeown has faced intense scrutiny, including questions over her decision to allow her daughter to travel alone to Anjuna while the family toured further along the coast.
She has had to endure coverage of her daughter’s drug use and sex life, and close scrutiny of her own lifestyle. Scarlett’s death also became the subject of a Bollywood film, which was made without her mother’s consultation
Vikram Varma, MacKeown’s advocate, welcomed Wednesday’s verdict. “The children’s court acquitted him on all accounts, so here the high court has reversed the entire judgement of the child court in relation to D’Souza,” he said.
“It was a really tough case from day one … The most important thing is to get justice for this girl,” said Varma.