British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivers a speech calling for a general election, outside Number 10 Downing Street, in London, Britain, May 22, 2024. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 May 2024
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British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak sets July 4 election date to determine who governs the UK
  • “Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” Sunak said
  • The center-left Labour Party is strongly favored to defeat Sunak’s party

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday set July 4 as the date for a national election that will determine who governs the UK, choosing a day of good economic news to urge voters to give his governing Conservatives another chance.
“Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future,” Sunak said.
Sunak’s center-right party has seen its support dwindle steadily after 14 years in power. It has struggled to overcome a series of crises including an economic slump, ethics scandals and a revolving door of leaders in the past two years.
The center-left Labour Party is strongly favored to defeat Sunak’s party.
Speculation about an imminent election mounted after Sunak called a Cabinet meeting for Wednesday afternoon – rather than the usual Tuesday – and Foreign Secretary David Cameron flew back early from a trip to Albania to attend.
The election will be held against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis and deep divisions over how to deal with migrants and asylum seekers making risky English Channel crossings from Europe.
The announcement came the same day official figures showed inflation in the UK had fallen sharply to 2.3 percent, its lowest level in nearly three years on the back of big declines in domestic bills.
The drop in April marks the greatest progress to date on five pledges Sunak made in January 2023, including halving inflation, which had climbed to above 11 percent at the end of 2022. Sunak hailed the new figure as a sign his plan was working.
“Today marks a major moment for the economy, with inflation back to normal,” Sunak said Wednesday. “Brighter days are ahead, but only if we stick to the plan to improve economic security and opportunity for everyone.”
Voters across the United Kingdom will choose all 650 members of the House of Commons for a term of up to five years. The party that commands a majority in the Commons, either alone or in coalition, will form the next government and its leader will be prime minister.
Labour leader Keir Starmer, a former chief prosecutor for England and Wales, is the current favorite. The party’s momentum has built since it dealt the Conservatives heavy losses in local elections earlier this month.
The Conservatives have also lost a series of special elections for seats in Parliament this year, and two of its lawmakers recently defected to Labour.
Following on his party’s successes in the local elections, Starmer, 61, last week announced a platform focused on economic stability after years of soaring inflation as he tries to win over disillusioned voters.
He also pledged to improve border security, recruit more teachers and police and reduce lengthy waiting lists at hospitals and doctors′ clinics across the country.
Elections in the UK have to be held no more than five years apart, but the prime minister can choose the timing within that period. Sunak, 44, had until December to call an election. The last one was in December 2019.
Many political analysts had anticipated that a fall election would give Conservatives a better chance of maintaining power. That’s because economic conditions may improve further, voters could feel the effect of recent tax cuts, interest rates may come down and a controversial plan to deport some asylum-seekers to Rwanda — a key policy for Sunak — could take flight.
Sunak had been noncommittal about the election date, repeatedly saying — as late as lunchtime on Wednesday — that he expected it would be in the second half of the year.
Although inflation has fallen, Sunak’s other promises — to grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists to see a doctor at the state-run National Health Service and stop the influx of migrants crossing the English Channel — have seen less success.
He has struggled after entering office following the disastrous tenure of Liz Truss, who lasted only 49 days after her economic policies rocked financial markets. Truss had been chosen by party members after Boris Johnson was ousted over a series of ethics scandals.


Gunmen fire on targets in Russia’s North Caucasus region, two police killed, interior ministry says

Gunmen fire on targets in Russia’s North Caucasus region, two police killed, interior ministry says
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Gunmen fire on targets in Russia’s North Caucasus region, two police killed, interior ministry says

Gunmen fire on targets in Russia’s North Caucasus region, two police killed, interior ministry says
DAGESTAN: Gunmen opened fire at a synagogue, an Orthodox church and a police post in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan, and two police officers were killed, news agencies quoted the Russian Interior Ministry as saying.
Six people were wounded in the attacks.
The reports said one officer was killed when shots were fired at a synagogue in Derbent, home to an ancient Jewish community in the North Caucasus. An exchange of fire also took place in an Orthodox Church in the town, a UNESCO heritage site.
Another exchange of shots took place at a police post in Makhachkala, about 125 kilometers (75 miles) to the north along the Caspian Sea coast and the main city in Dagestan, a mainly Muslim region in southern Russia.

UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated

UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated
Updated 23 June 2024
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UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated

UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated
  • The Times alleged that dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds

LONDON: The chief data officer of Britain’s Conservative Party has taken a leave of absence, British media reported Sunday, following growing allegations that the governing party’s members used inside information to bet on the date of Britain’s July 4 national election before it was announced.
The Sunday Times and others reported that Nick Mason is the fourth Conservative official to be investigated by the UK’s Gambling Commission for allegedly betting on the timing of the election.
The Times alleged that dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds.
The reports came after revelations in recent days that two Conservative election candidates, Laura Saunders and Craig Williams, are under investigation by the gambling watchdog. Saunders’ husband Tony Lee, the Conservative director of campaigning, has also taken a leave of absence following allegations he was also investigated over alleged betting.
Police said one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ‘s police bodyguards was arrested Monday on suspicion of misconduct in public office. The arrest came after the gambling regulator confirmed it was investigating “the possibility of offenses concerning the date of the election.”
The growing scandal, just two weeks ahead of the national election, has dealt a fresh blow to Sunak’s Conservative Party, which is widely expected to lose to the opposition Labour Party after 14 years in power.
Sunak said this week that he was “incredibly angry” to learn of the allegations and said that anyone found to have broken the law should be expelled from his party.
Sunak announced on May 22 that parliamentary elections would be held on July 4. The date had been a closely guarded secret and many were taken by surprise because a vote had been expected in the fall.
Saunders, a candidate standing in Bristol, southwest England, has said she will cooperate fully with the investigation.
Williams was Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary as well as a member of Parliament running for reelection on July 4. He has acknowledged that he was being investigated by the Gambling Commission for placing a 100-pound ($128) bet on a July election before the date had been announced.
Senior Conservative minister Michael Gove condemned the alleged betting and likened it to ” Partygate,” the ethics scandal that contributed to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ouster in 2022.
That controversy saw public trust in the Conservatives plummet after revelations that politicians and officials held lockdown-flouting parties and gatherings in government buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us,” Gove told the Sunday Times. “That’s the most potentially damaging thing.”
Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said “people are sick and tired of this sleaze” and that Sunak must intervene and order an official inquiry.
The Conservative Party said it cannot comment because investigations are ongoing.


Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement

Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement
Updated 23 June 2024
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Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement

Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement
  • Chetan Singh Solanki wants to inspire energy independence across the world
  • He takes inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement

NEW DELHI: Four years ago, at the height of his restlessness over the growing threat of climate change on the planet, Chetan Singh Solanki decided to embark on a journey to spark a change for the environment.

Solanki launched the energy swaraj journey in 2020 to inspire energy independence across the world, campaigning with the motto “Energy by Locals for Locals.”

He told Arab News: “I want to restore the environmental balance that we are already losing, and I want to do it at a global level because it is not a problem of one state or one country — it is a problem of the entire world.”

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay’s department of energy science and engineering, Solanki takes inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement who used nonviolent resistance as a tool for mass action.

Solanki believes in replicating a similar strategy to boost energy literacy among the people and inspire them to use cleaner energy as an alternative power source.

“It is the wrong energy that has created the problem (and) it is the right energy that will solve the problem. Clean energy and solar energy and to bring everybody on board is why I started this journey,” Solanki said. “My vision is aligned with Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of gram swaraj (village self-rule). I emphasize responsible energy consumption and localized production.”

The campaign was designed to be impactful and adopted by the masses.

“This is designed to trigger the mind that we all can be part of the climate solution. It is not rocket science — rich and poor, young and old, everybody can be part of it,” he added.

Chetan Singh Solanki talks to students as part of his nationwide journey to spur climate movement in this photo shared on June 8, 2024. (Energy Swaraj)

Through his journey, Solanki has earned the nickname “Solar Gandhi,” having covered 56,000 km on his solar-powered bus, which is equipped with essential amenities including an air-conditioned bedroom, office space, refrigerator and a working kitchen.

The vehicle is an “innovative mobile abode” that symbolizes his aspiration “for a forthcoming world driven by sustainable energy sources,” he said, adding that he plans to continue the nationwide journey until December 2030.

To him, it was clear that world governments “have not done enough,” despite annual climate conferences that are purported to address critical environmental issues.

“The business-as-usual approaches are not working nationally and internationally, and therefore the solution lies in becoming sensitive to planet Earth and its capacity to generate or regenerate,” he said.

Since his journey started in late 2020, Solanki said the campaign has been well received.

“I think there are good things happening and response has been good,” he said. “Energy literacy is the first step towards climate correction.”


Aide to UK minister calls Rwanda migrant plan ‘crap’ in leaked audio

Aide to UK minister calls Rwanda migrant plan ‘crap’ in leaked audio
Updated 23 June 2024
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Aide to UK minister calls Rwanda migrant plan ‘crap’ in leaked audio

Aide to UK minister calls Rwanda migrant plan ‘crap’ in leaked audio

LONDON: The UK interior minister has defended a parliamentary aide who called the government plan to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda “crap,” in a leaked audio revealed by the BBC Sunday.
A controversial law by the Conservative government allowing irregular migrants arriving in the UK to be deported to Rwanda was finally passed in April, after months of parliamentary wrangling.
But in the recording James Sunderland, a parliamentary aide and Conservative party candidate, was heard saying: “the policy is crap, ok? It’s crap.”
“But it’s not about the policy. It’s about the effect of the policy,” he went on to say, speaking at a Youth Conservatives conference in April.
“There is no doubt at all that when those first flights take off it will send such a shockwave across the Channel,” Sunderland clarified.
Home Secretary James Cleverly said he was “surprised,” when asked about the audio, before saying Sunderland was making a “counterintuitive statement to grab the attention.”
Cleverly told Sky News on Sunday that his aide Sunderland “is completely supportive of the deterrent effect.”
Sunderland told the BBC he was “disappointed” to have been recorded at a private event, and said although the policy is “not the be all and end all,” it is “part of a wider response.”
No flights deporting asylum seekers have actually taken off yet for the African country, due to lengthy legal challenges and with parliament dissolved ahead of a looming general election on July 4.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the policy would only come into effect after the election, if he was re-elected.
The opposition Labour party — which looks poised to replace the Conservatives — has promised to scrap the Rwanda plan.
The government cleared a law allowing some asylum seekers to be deported in April, circumventing a Supreme Court ruling that said sending migrants to Rwanda in this way would be illegal because it “would expose them to a real risk of ill-treatment.”
Supporters of the Rwanda policy say it will deter tens of thousands of annual cross-Channel arrivals by small boats, and insist the policy is already having an impact.
More than 12,000 irregular migrants have crossed the Channel to Britain on small boats this year, according to government data.


Ukraine missile attack on Crimea kills 2, wounds 22: Moscow-appointed governor

Ukraine missile attack on Crimea kills 2, wounds 22: Moscow-appointed governor
Updated 23 June 2024
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Ukraine missile attack on Crimea kills 2, wounds 22: Moscow-appointed governor

Ukraine missile attack on Crimea kills 2, wounds 22: Moscow-appointed governor
  • Sevastopol regularly comes under fire from Ukraine but the toll from Sunday’s attack was unusually high

MOSCOW: A Ukrainian missile attack Sunday on Sevastopol on the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula killed two people including a two-year-old child and wounded 22, the city’s Moscow-appointed governor said.
Sevastopol, a Black Sea port city and naval base on the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, regularly comes under fire from Ukraine but the toll from Sunday’s attack was unusually high.
“According to provisional information, today’s attack by Ukraine’s armed forces on Sevastopol killed 2 peaceful residents, one of them a 2-year-old child,” Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhayev wrote on Telegram.
The governor said Ukraine had launched five missiles which Russian air defenses intercepted over the sea but fragments fell onto the shore area and pieces of shrapnel wounded people.
Razvozhayev said the missile fragments hit shore areas in the north of the city and set fire to a house and woodland.
Earlier Sunday, a drone launched by Ukraine on Russia’s southern Belgorod region killed a man, the governor said.
Three Ukrainian attack drones struck the town of Graivoron a few kilometers from the border with Ukraine, said Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, with one hitting a car park near a multi-story block of flats.
“A peaceful civilian was killed. The man died from his wounds at the spot,” Gladkov wrote on Telegram, while three were wounded.