News from a non political agenda



    Eurovision contestant

    The UK will host the Eurovision Song Contest next year after organisers decided it could not be held in winning country Ukraine due to the ongoing war.

    Oleh Psiuk, the lead singer of 2022 winners Kalush Orchestra, expressed his gratitude to the UK for holding the event “in support of our country”.

    The UK, which has hosted Eurovision eight times, was chosen after Sam Ryder came second in this year’s contest.

    Several UK cities have already expressed interest in hosting.

    The country which wins usually stages the following year’s competition. But show organisers the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) opened talks with the BBC last month after assessing the situation following Russia’s invasion.

    Psiuk said he was “very sad” that Ukraine could not host the contest but he hoped it would “celebrate our beautiful, unique culture”.

    “We, in turn, will make all efforts to help Ukraine win next year as well, so that Eurovision 2024 can take place in a peaceful country”, he added.

    Officials have called for the singing competition to reflect and celebrate Ukrainian culture.

    The UK has a number of cities with suitable arenas, accommodation and international transport links, with LondonSheffield and Manchester already confirming that they will put in an official bid.

    Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Brighton, Bristol, Belfast, Cardiff and Nottingham could also throw their hats into the ring.

    The EBU have said the host venue should accommodate about 10,000 spectators, be within easy reach of an international airport and have enough hotel accommodation for at least 2,000 delegates, journalists and spectators.

    Ukraine’s win was “deserved” and “encapsulated everything the song contest is about,” said Spaceman singer Ryder.

    “The main thing is that we throw an amazing event that celebrates Ukraine – and one thing’s for sure, we know how to throw a party here in the UK.”

    The Essex singer told BBC Newsbeat he hoped the host city would be one that has believed in and supported the song contest.

    The bidding process to decide which city will host will begin this week.

    The BBC and the EBU will consider all official approaches and will publish the longlist later this summer.

    Hosting Eurovision can be an expensive business. Azerbaijan reportedly spent £48 million on hosting the event in 2012.

    A BBC spokesperson said the singing competition is a “a co-production of the host broadcaster and participating members of the EBU”.”There are a number of funding options to be explored that will contribute towards delivering a fantastic event and great value for licence fee payers.”

    Tickets usually go on sale a few months before the contest, once the specific venue is chosen.

    The date for the contest’s Grand Final hasn’t been announced yet but it usually happens in May.

    Ukraine will automatically qualify for the Grand Final, as is usual for the winner, along with the so-called Big Five – which includes the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. They each go straight through to the final because of their financial contributions to the event.

    Ukraine’s public broadcaster UA: PBC will work with the BBC to develop Ukrainian elements of the show.

    Mykola Chernotytskyi, head of UA:PBC, said: “We are grateful to our BBC partners for showing solidarity with us.”

    Last month’s announcement of talks with the BBC was met with disappointment by Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko, who issued a statement “demanding to change the decision”.

    But on Monday, Chernotytskyi expressed gratitude to the BBC in a statement, saying: “I am confident that together we will be able to add Ukrainian spirit to this event.”

    The EBU acknowledged Ukraine’s initial disappointment, but said the decision was made for the “safety and security of everyone working and participating in the event”.


    Labour leader Kier Starmer

    Sir Keir Starmer has promised Labour would make delivering “strong, secure and fair” growth its main priority if it won power.

    In a speech, the Labour leader attacked the Tories for creating a “brittle” economy succeeding in “too few places”.

    He announced his party would set up a new advisory body to help boost long-term growth.

    It comes as Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss trade blows over the economy in the Conservative leadership race.

    In his speech in Liverpool, Sir Keir criticised the “Thatcherite cosplay” on display in the contest and accused the Conservatives of “clinging to the old ideas”.

    Both Tory leadership candidates have ruled out calling a snap election if they enter Downing Street. The next election has to take place by January 2025 at the latest.

    In his speech, Sir Keir said “growth, growth and growth” was required to generate revenue for public services and make workers feel “fairly rewarded”.

    Taking a swipe at the Tory leadership hopefuls, he said former chancellor Mr Sunak was “the architect of the cost-of-living crisis,” and Foreign Secretary Ms Truss was “the latest graduate from the school of magic money tree economics”.

    As part of his party’s economic strategy, he said Labour would not “announce a single penny of day-to-day spending without saying how we would pay for it,” and would “invest to meet the challenges of the future”.

    Sir Keir said his party would set up an Industrial Strategy Council to set out “strategic national priorities that go beyond the political cycle”.

    He added that the council’s role would be established in law, drawing on the expertise of business, science, and unions, providing advice to politicians and holding them to account.

    He also said it was possible to see economic growth while achieving the UK’s target to hit net-zero – where the amount of greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere would be balanced by the amount removed.

    “We will not be distracted by the siren calls – from the right or the left – that say economic growth and net-zero do not go together,” Sir Keir pledged.

    He promised he would “challenge my party’s instincts”, with a focus “as much about growth and productivity, as we have done in the past about redistribution and investment”.

    But Sir Keir has been challenged from the left of his party, with some calling on him to fight the next election on platform of renationalising public utilities.

    Writing in the Guardian, former shadow education secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said the renationalisation policies in the party’s 2019 manifesto were popular and it the party needs to stay “on the side of public opinion here”.

    Pressed on whether he would renationalise energy and water firms, Sir Keir said he would take a “pragmatic” not “ideological approach”.


    Reuters: Fire Service

    Western Europe faces more sweltering temperatures on Tuesday as a ferocious heatwave heads north.

    In France and the UK extreme heat warnings were issued while northern Spain recorded temperatures of 43C (109F) on Monday.

    Wildfires in France, Portugal, Spain and Greece have forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes.

    The UK is expected to see its hottest day ever and experts say parts of France face a “heat apocalypse”.

    Several parts of France saw their hottest-ever days with the western city of Nantes recording 42C, the national weather office said.

    Wildfires in recent days have forced more than 24,000 people to flee, with emergency shelters set up for evacuees.

    Gironde, a popular tourist region in the southwest, has been hit particularly badly, with firefighters battling to control blazes which have destroyed over 15,000 hectares (37,066 acres) of land since last Tuesday.

    “The idea that comes into my head is, it’s a monster,” Jean-Luc Gleyze, the president of the Gironde region said of the fires.

    “It’s a monster like an octopus, and it’s growing and growing and growing in the front, in the back, on both sides. Because of the temperature, because of the wind, because of the lack of water in the air… it’s a monster and it’s very difficult to fight against it.”

    The UK had one of its hottest days on record on Monday, with a high of 38.1C recorded in Suffolk, in eastern England. Forecasters say Tuesday could see a top of 40C, which would be the highest temperature ever recorded in the country.

    There were severe travel disruptions with trains cancelled and flights at London’s Luton Airport suspended when part of the runway buckled under the searing heat.

    On Monday, the Netherlands recorded its hottest day of the year so far. In the south-western town of Westdorpe, temperatures reached 33.6C.

    And it is expected to be hotter on Tuesday, with temperatures forecast to top 39C in southern and central regions of the Netherlands.

    Forecasters say the heatwave is heading north, with Belgium, Germany and Italy expected to see temperatures around 40C in the coming days.

    In Spain and Portugal, more than 1,000 deaths have been attributed to the heat in recent days.

    Temperatures in Portugal hit 47C on Thursday – a record for July. Most of the country has been placed under high fire danger by the national meteorological office IPMA.

    Local media reports that 300 people from the northern Murça municipality have been evacuated due to the fire danger – authorities are anxious to avoid a repeat of 2017, when 66 people were killed in wildfires.

    In Spain, at least twenty fires are burning out of control. A passenger filmed the moment the train he was travelling on came to a temporary halt – as fires raged on both sides of the carriage near the northern border with Portugal.

    Heatwaves have become more frequent, more intense, and last longer because of human-induced climate change. The world has already warmed by about 1.1C since the industrial era began and temperatures will keep rising unless governments around the world make steep cuts to emissions.


    Getty Images

    Police officers were left outraged over the “unbelievable” scene, which comes just four days after two muzzled dogs in South West London were left in a hot car for over an hour.

    Police were forced to smash the window of a car with a dog trapped inside on what is forecast to be the hottest day of the year so far.

    Infuriated officers warned others not to take their dogs outside after rescuing the pet in 31.5C heat in north west London this morning.

    Barnet MPS tweeted: “Unbelievably, our officers have just had to smash the window of a vehicle to get a dog out at the RAF museum Hendon. 31.5 degrees! JUST DON’T TAKE DOGS OUT IN THIS HEAT.”

    The rescue comes just four days after police in the south west of the capital freed two muzzled dogs left in a hot car for over an hour with the window open by less than an inch.

    Kew Police wrote on social media: “Unbelievable end to the shift.

    “Leave your dogs in a hot car, less than an inch of gap, no water, muzzled, for over an hour and you better know we are going to be smashing that window.

    “Absolutely heartbreaking. Thankfully dogs now fine. Owner to be interviewed under caution.”

    Temperatures are set to soar into the high 30s in some areas today, while tomorrow is predicted to be even hotter, with the mercury possibly tipping 40C.

    That would be a new record for the UK, beating the 38.7C seen in Cambridge in 2019.

    The rise in temperatures has forced the UK Health Security Agency to issue a level 4 heat-health alert – described as an “emergency” – while the Met Office has issued the UK’s first red extreme heat warning for a large part of England until the end of Tuesday.

    Amid the potentially record-breaking temperatures, the RSPCA is warning pet owners not to leave their animals in cars, conservatories, outbuildings or caravans, even for a short while.

    If it is just 22C outside, temperatures can quickly rise to 47C in these environments.

    The RSPCA advises anyone who sees a dog in a hot car to firstly assess the animal’s condition, and to dial 999 immediately if it is showing any signs of heatstroke.

    The charity says: “If the dog’s condition is critical, and the police haven’t arrived yet, your instinct will be to break into the car to free them. But please be aware that this could be classed as criminal damage.

    “You may need to defend your actions in court, so please be sure you’re doing the right thing. Legally, you can commit damage if you believe the car owner would consent to it if they knew the dog was in danger.”


    UK weather map for next week

    A national emergency has been declared after a red extreme heat warning was issued for the first time, as temperatures could hit 40C (104F).

    The Met Office’s highest warning covers an area including London, Manchester and York on Monday and Tuesday.

    It means there is a risk to life and daily routines will need to change.

    Speed restrictions are likely on railway lines, some schools will close early and some hospital appointments will be cancelled.

    On the roads, gritters are planning to spread sand to reduce melting, and the RAC has warned more drivers will need help as cars overheat.

    Meanwhile in sport, five horse race meetings have been cancelled on Monday and Tuesday because of the forecast temperatures.

    On top of the Met Office warning, the UK Health Security Agency issued its highest level four heat alert to health and care bodies – warning illness and death could occur “among the fit and healthy”.

    It is the first time a red heat warning has been issued for parts of the UK, although the extreme heat warning system was only introduced in 2021.

    Downing Street said the alert was being treated as a national emergency, with officials meeting on Friday and over the weekend to discuss the response.

    The weather at the start of next week is forecast to be warm across the UK but temperatures will be more like 30C in Scotland and Northern Ireland, rather than the high 30s predicted in parts of England and Wales.

    The heatwave – originating in north Africa – is spreading across Europe.

    Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said it was “potentially a very serious situation”, with a 50% chance of temperatures reaching 40C – likely along the A1 corridor, running from London northwards towards Yorkshire and the North East.

    The highest recorded temperature in the UK was 38.7C in Cambridge in 2019 and BBC Weather presenter Matt Taylor said there is now a realistic possibility of hitting 40C in the UK.

    “That is exceptionally hot, the sort of temperatures that if you are on holiday you may be able to deal with but in day-to-day life it can have severe impacts on health,” he said.

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    Dr accused on trial

    England may be viewed as charming by some, however they can produce doctors with a jealousy just like any Hollywood drama.

    A doctor tried to kill a fellow plastic surgeon by stabbing him in his home after the victim stopped his bid to set the house on fire, a jury has heard.

    UK, Nottingham County Court heard Jonathan Peter Brooks hated Graeme Perks as he was a witness in disciplinary proceedings, which had begun three days before the stabbing.

    The court heard Mr Brooks broke in but abandoned the arson bid and stabbed Mr Perks, who was disturbed by a noise.

    Mr Brooks denies attempted murder.

    Jurors were told consultant surgeon Mr Brooks dressed himself in camouflage gear before cycling to Mr Perks’s home armed with a crowbar, cans of petrol, matches and a kitchen knife on 14 January 2021.

    Prosecutors allege the 58-year-old, who specialised in burns and plastics, hated Mr Perks and wanted him “out of the way” due to him being a witness in the disciplinary proceedings.

    Mr Brooks broke into the 66-year-old’s home in Halam, Nottinghamshire, through the conservatory, the court was told, before dousing the ground floor of the house in petrol.

    The court heard Mr Perks made his way downstairs after being disturbed by a noise, which then led Mr Brooks to abandon the arson attempt and stab him in the abdomen.

    In a police interview played to the court, Mr Perks said he felt a “blow” to his body, touched his abdomen where he felt “something poking out”, and realised he “must have been stabbed”.

    The court was told he was left with an incision, about 8cm, under his rib cage.

    Mr Perks’s wife Beverley and son Henry were in the property at the time, prosecutor Tracy Ayling QC said.

    “They raised the alarm and soon police and ambulance attended,” she said.

    The jury heard Mr Perks was taken to the Queen’s Medical Centre, in Nottingham.

    The father-of-four was transferred to critical care in a medically-induced coma, underwent three operations and lost six litres of blood before he was discharged from hospital on 15 February.

    Ms Ayling said: “Because of quick action and amazing surgical skill, Graeme Perks lives.

    “His surgeon’s opinion is that 95% of people suffering the injury inflicted on Mr Perks would have died.”

    Addressing the disciplinary proceedings against Mr Brooks, Ms Ayling said: “There is no question but that by 14 January, the defendant had had enough of those proceedings.

    “Just as clearly, the crown say, he decided that instead of following the law he was going to take the law into his own hands.

    “The prosecution does not have to prove a motive for any crime, let alone the crimes you will be considering. However, it is clear that the defendant hated Graeme Perks and you can conclude on the evidence that he wanted him out of the way.”

    The prosecutor said the evidence showed it was the defendant who broke into Mr Perks’s home and “therefore must have been the defendant that stabbed Graeme Perks”.

    She told the court Mr Brooks “does not dispute this”, although he has never formally admitted it.

    Ms Ayling added Mr Brooks was armed with a kitchen knife, two 10 litre jerry cans of fuel, which were “contained in supermarket bags for life which had been carefully prepared”, a lighter, matches and a crowbar.

    “He was, you can be sure, armed with the intention to kill,” she said.

    Mr Brooks, of Landseer Road, Southwell, denies attempted murder, three counts of arson with intent to endanger life, and possession of a knife in a public place.

    The trial continues.

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    Railway workers are preparing for multiple strikes over the summer as part of an ongoing dispute about pay and conditions.

    Thousands of workers walked out on three days in June, causing severe disruption to millions of passengers and further strikes will take place in July and August.

    Saturday 16 July:

    • Drivers at Hull Trains

    Saturday 23 July:

    • Drivers at Hull Trains
    • Drivers at Greater Anglia

    Wednesday 27 July:

    If the strike goes ahead, it will coincide with the Commonwealth Games, which are being held in Birmingham.

    • Avanti West Coast
    • C2C
    • Chiltern Railways
    • Cross Country Trains
    • East Midlands Railway
    • Gatwick Express
    • Great Western Railway
    • Greater Anglia
    • LNER
    • Northern Trains
    • Southeastern
    • South Western Railway
    • Southern
    • Thameslink
    • West Midlands Trains

    Saturday 30 July:

    About 5,500 train drivers at eight rail companies will strike. This is also the first day of the English Football League season.

    • Arriva Rail London
    • Chiltern Railways
    • Great Western
    • LNER
    • Greater Anglia
    • Southeastern
    • Hull Trains
    • West Midlands Trains

    Thursday 18 and Saturday 20 August:

    RMT workers will go on strike.

    • Avanti West Coast
    • C2C
    • Chiltern Railways
    • Cross Country Trains
    • East Midlands Railway
    • Gatwick Express
    • Great Western Railway
    • Greater Anglia
    • LNER
    • Northern Trains
    • Southeastern
    • South Western Railway
    • Southern
    • Thameslink
    • West Midlands Trains

    RMT members include everyone from guards and signallers to catering staff and cleaners.

    Another union, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), has also voted in favour of strike action, but has yet to name dates for strikes.

    By law, unions must give 14 days’ notice of a strike taking place.

    In Scotland, Aslef has accepted a pay increase offered by ScotRail, following weeks of disruption caused by industrial action.

    When the RMT held strikes in June, it affected travel across England, Scotland and Wales because the industrial action involved Network Rail, which is responsible for maintaining the railway network throughout Britain. Only about 20% of trains ran during strike days.

    These strikes might end up hurting the unions cause as the public may start end up turning against the unions.

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    Ex health secretary Jeremy Hunt

    Ex-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has given his backing to former Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the race to be Conservative leader and prime minister.

    Mr Hunt was eliminated from the contest after failing to get enough votes, along with Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi.

    Speaking to the BBC, Mr Hunt said Mr Sunak was “one of the most decent people” he had met in British politics.

    Reflecting on his own defeat, Mr Hunt said: “Politics is about momentum, I’m afraid I didn’t have it this time.”

    In the last Conservative leadership election in 2019, Mr Hunt came second to Boris Johnson.

    In an interview with BBC political editor Chris Mason, the one-time leadership hopeful said it was a “privilege” to run to be prime minister but added: “You only get one chance to do that, my chance was really in 2019 – politics moves on.”

    He said the current race had produced an “excellent list of candidates” which proved that the Conservative Party was “modern and outward-looking”.

    “In a period when we need to rebuild trust with the electorate that shows we are in tune with modern Britain.”

    Asked why he was supporting Mr Sunak, he said he believed the former chancellor was someone of “formidable ability who has been thinking about the right thing to do for our economy, for families up and down the country, very hard over the last two years”.

    He also described Mr Sunak as “one of the most decent, straight people with the highest standard of integrity that I have ever met in British politics”.

    “That is why I would be proud to have him as my next prime minister.”

    Mr Sunak – whose resignation as chancellor last week helped trigger the downfall of Mr Johnson – won the first round of voting among Conservative MPs.

    However, he has faced criticism from some of his former cabinet colleagues including Jacob Rees Mogg who told Sky News Mr Sunak had been responsible for “endless tax rises… which I think have been economically damaging”.

    Mr Sunak got 88 votes in the first vote, while Trade minister Penny Mordaunt came second with 67 and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was third on 50.

    They will face further votes in the next few days along with the remaining candidates Kemi Badenoch, Tom Tugendhat and Suella Braverman.

    The final two will then go to a ballot of Conservative Party members, and a result is expected on 5 September.


    Ex UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak

    Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak has won the first round of voting by MPs to choose the next Conservative leader and prime minister.

    He got 88 votes, with Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt in second place on 67 and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss third on 50.

    Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and former health secretary Jeremy Hunt were eliminated from the race.

    Those still in the contest face another round of voting on Thursday.

    The field is expected to be narrowed to two by the end of next week, and then around 160,000 Tory members decide which candidate they want to become the next party leader and prime minister.

    The result will be announced on 5 September.

    The remaining six hopefuls are now scrambling for support from the MPs who backed Mr Hunt and Mr Zahawi.

    Mr Sunak, who quit as chancellor last week in protest at Boris Johnson’s running of the government, told the BBC he felt “great” about the result.

    Leaving the Commons room where the vote was announced, Ms Mordaunt said she was “very honoured” by her showing.

    A spokeswoman for Ms Truss said: “Now is the time for colleagues to unite behind the candidate who will cut taxes, deliver the real economic change we need from day one and ensure Putin loses in Ukraine.

    “Liz has the experience to deliver the benefits of Brexit from day one, grow our economy and support working families.”

    Mr Tugendhat, a senior backbench MP, tweeted: “This is a fantastic result. I’m delighted to be going through to the next round with the momentum we need to change this country for the better. Our country needs a clean start.”

    Meanwhile, Mr Hunt, who came second in the last Tory leadership contest, in 2019, said he had already had his “big shot” at getting the top job, adding that the Conservative Party had an “exciting future”.

    But, amid accusations that the contest is becoming more bad-tempered and underhand, he added: “A gentle word of advice to the remaining candidates: smears and attacks may bring short-term tactical gain but always backfire long-term.”

    Mr Zahawi, who took over as chancellor after Mr Sunak quit, said that role was now his “priority”, adding: “I don’t plan any further intervention, but I wish all the candidates in the leadership contest the very best of luck.”

    The contest follows Mr Johnson announcing his resignation last week, after months of criticism over lockdown parties in Downing Street and other issues.


    Prince Charles and Dutchess Camilla

    Prince Charles took a suitcase containing a million euros from the former Qatari Prime Minister, British newspaper the Sunday Times has reported.

    The paper claims this was one of three cash donations from Qatari former Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim totalling three million euros in cash.

    Clarence House, Prince Charles official residence, said donations from the sheikh were passed immediately to one of the prince’s charities and all the correct processes were followed and that there is no suggestion the payments were to do with any illegal activities.

    According to the Sunday Times newspaper, Prince Charles received all three cash donations in person from the former prime minister between 2011 and 2015.

    On one occasion the money was handed over in a holdall at a meeting at Clarence House and on another, the paper reported the cash was contained in carrier bags from the London based department store Fortnum and Mason.

    In a statement, Clarence House said: “Charitable donations received from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim were passed immediately to one of the prince’s charities, who carried out the appropriate governance and have assured us that all the correct processes were followed.”

    The money was received by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, whose stated aim is to “transform lives and build sustainable communities”, by awarding grants to good causes in fields such as conservation, education, health and social inclusion.

    The charity said to the Sunday Times that its trustees had concluded the donor was legitimate and that its auditors had signed off on the donation in accordance with all processess demanded by law and the charities commission rules.

    Donations to Prince Charles’s charities have come under scrutiny in recent months following allegations that one of the charities ex official offered a Saudi donor help to secure a UK honour and citizenship which the police are investigating.

    The Metropolitan Police said earlier this year that it is investigating the claims about the Prince’s Foundation under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925.

    Prince Charles and his charities are understood to be offering their full co-operation with Clarence House stating that Prince Charles had no knowledge of the alleged offer of honours or citizenship on the basis of the Saudi nationals donation to his charities.

    As a result, Michael Fawcett, the prince’s former valet and chief executive of the foundation, resigned in November as the charity investigated the claims.

    The investigation found that he co-ordinated with “fixers” over an honorary CBE for billionaire businessman Mahfouz Marei Mubarak bin Mahfouz, who denies any wrongdoing but it concluded that there was no evidence that trustees were aware of the co-ordination.

    The police will make the report available when they complete their investigations and decide if any charges are to be brought.