Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to hit campaign trail as UK election race begins

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to hit campaign trail as UK election race begins
If Labour win the election, it would end 14 years of Conservative government and Britain, once known for its political stability, will have had six prime ministers in eight years for the first time since the 1830s. (AFP)
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Updated 23 May 2024
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Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to hit campaign trail as UK election race begins

Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer to hit campaign trail as UK election race begins
  • Both party leaders are expected to hit the campaign trail, seeking to seize the early initiative by meeting voters

LONDON: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his Labour Party rival Keir Starmer will kick off their election campaigns in earnest on Thursday, a day after Sunak surprised the nation by calling a vote for July 4.
Sunak, whose Conservative Party trails Labour by around 20 percentage points in opinion polls, ended months of speculation centered on an election in October or November, and instead used a rain-soaked address to the electorate to kick off what is likely to be six weeks of frenetic campaigning.
Both party leaders are expected to hit the campaign trail, seeking to seize the early initiative by meeting voters and delivering the messages they hope will earn them enough seats in parliament to form a majority government on July 5.
At stake is control of the world’s sixth largest economy which has endured years of low growth and high inflation, is still battling to make a success of its 2016 decision to exit the European Union, and is slowly recovering from twin shocks of COVID-19 and an energy price spike caused by the war in Ukraine.
That backdrop makes the economy one of the most important electoral battlegrounds.
Sunak, 44, announced the election on the day inflation returned close to target, and his early message to voters has been that his plan for the economy is working, and only he can turn that stability into a recovery that benefits all.
“Who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future for you, your family and our country?” he told a rally late on Wednesday, casting Labour as a party without a plan.
“We’re working for a Britain where we have renewed confidence in ourselves and our communities. A country where hard work will be met with fair rewards and where the opportunities enjoyed by the previous generations will be there for future ones.”
Starmer, a 61-year-old former lawyer who has pulled Labour’s politics back to the center ground after a spell of electorally unsuccessful left-wing leadership, has pitched his party as one that will bring change for a disgruntled electorate.
“Labour will stop the chaos, turn the page and get Britain’s future back,” he said in an early campaign message to party members, describing the election as “the fight of our lives.”
“This is the moment we’ve been working toward. We must come together to beat the Tories and deliver a Labour government to change Britain for the better.”
If Labour win the election, it would end 14 years of Conservative government and Britain, once known for its political stability, will have had six prime ministers in eight years for the first time since the 1830s.
While the electioneering gets underway, activity in parliament is expected to pick up too as the government works out which of the pieces of legislation currently in process will be rushed through, and which will fall by the wayside.
Laws currently under discussion include Sunak’s plan to impose some of the world’s strictest anti-smoking rules by banning anyone aged 15 and under from ever buying cigarettes.


Hundreds in Paris protest ‘anti-Semitic’ gang rape

Hundreds in Paris protest ‘anti-Semitic’ gang rape
Updated 11 sec ago
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Hundreds in Paris protest ‘anti-Semitic’ gang rape

Hundreds in Paris protest ‘anti-Semitic’ gang rape
  • The rape was filmed by one boy and another threatened to kill the girl if she told authorities about her ordeal, police sources said

PARIS: Several hundred people protested against anti-Semitism and “rape culture” in Paris on Thursday after the gang rape of a 12-year-old Jewish girl at the weekend sparked nationwide outrage.
Various anti-racist, rights and feminist groups had called for the demonstration following Saturday’s gang rape.
Dominique Sopo, president of anti-racist group SOS Racisme, said it was “an anti-Semitic crime that chills our blood.”
Anne-Cecile Mailfert, the president of the Women’s Foundation, said the incident reflected a rise in anti-Semitism since the start of the Gaza war.
But it also highlighted “a rape culture to which young people are more likely to subscribe,” having been “bottle-fed pornography,” she added.
Ner Sfez, a 24-year-old Jewish woman, said she had come to protest a crime “at the intersection of sexism and anti-Semitism.”
Hundreds had already protested on Wednesday in Paris and Lyon in central-eastern France after the incident was reported in the news.
The Jewish girl told police three boys aged between 12 and 13 approached her in a park near her home in the northwestern Paris suburb of Courbevoie on Saturday evening, police sources said.
She was dragged into a shed where the suspects beat her and “forced” her to have sex “while uttering death threats and anti-Semitic remarks,” one police source told AFP.
The rape was filmed by one boy and another threatened to kill the girl if she told authorities about her ordeal, police sources said.
Two boys, both aged 13, were charged on Tuesday with gang rape, anti-Semitic insults and violence, and issuing death threats. They have been taken into custody.
A third boy, 12, was charged with anti-Semitic insults and violence and issuing death threats, but not with rape. He was allowed to return home.
France has the largest Jewish community of any country outside Israel and the United States.
At Thursday’s protest, Arie Alimi, a lawyer known for tackling police brutality and the vice president of the French Human Rights League, said anti-Semitism, racism and sexism were “everywhere.”
In the run-up to snap parliamentary polls on June 30 and July 7, he urged voters to prevent the far right from seizing power and “installing a racist, anti-Semitic and sexist policy.”
But he also said he was sad to hear “anti-Semitic remarks from a part of those who say they are on the left.”
President Emmanuel Macron called the parliamentary elections after the far right thrashed his centrist alliance in European polls.
His surprise move has seen part of the right ally itself with the far right and the left form a new alliance, with both sides accusing the other of being anti-Semitic.


Crowd in Pakistan kills man accused of burning Qur’an: police

Security personnel stand guard in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. (AFP file photo)
Security personnel stand guard in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. (AFP file photo)
Updated 8 min 56 sec ago
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Crowd in Pakistan kills man accused of burning Qur’an: police

Security personnel stand guard in Peshawar on January 30, 2023. (AFP file photo)
  • Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in majority Muslim Pakistan, where even accusations without evidence can stir up anger among crowds and spark outbreaks of violence

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani man accused of desecrating the Qur'an was slain and burned Thursday by a crowd that removed him from a police station where he had been detained for his protection, authorities said.
“On the evening of the 20th, locals in the Madian area detained a man, alleging he had burned the Qur'an. The police intervened, rescued him, and took him to the local police station,” a police source in Swat told AFP, noting the man was not from the area.
But the crowd, urged on by local mosques, converged on the police station and pelted it with stones.
“To disperse the angry mob, police fired warning shots into the air, which further incited the crowd. The mob overpowered the police, dragged the man out, and beat him to death with sticks,” the source said.
Later, some people poured oil on his body and set it ablaze, the source added.
A local official confirmed the incident, saying: “After killing the man, the enraged protesters started stoning the police, forcing them to abandon the station.
The situation in the area remained tense, with protesters blocking the main road, according to the official.
Blasphemy is a highly sensitive subject in majority Muslim Pakistan, where even accusations without evidence can stir up anger among crowds and spark outbreaks of violence.
In late May, a Christian accused of burning pages of the Qur'an was also lynched by a mob in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab region, before succumbing to his injuries in early June, according to police.
Also in Punjab, in February 2023, a crowd beat to death a Muslim accused of having desecrated the holy book.
 

 


Campaigners urge UN rights chief to act on China Xinjiang abuse report

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021.
Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021.
Updated 34 min 45 sec ago
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Campaigners urge UN rights chief to act on China Xinjiang abuse report

Police officers patrol the square in front of Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, May 3, 2021.
  • The August 2022 report, produced under the leadership of the last commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, said the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may be an international crime

GENEVA: Campaign groups called on the United Nations human rights chief on Thursday to take more action over what they said were documented abuses against Uyghurs and other Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region.
The groups, including the World Uyghur Congress and Amnesty International said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk had not followed up on a 2022 report by his own predecessor that found China may have committed crimes against humanity.
China defended its record and dismissed the groups’ statement given at a meeting in the Geneva headquarters of the UN Human Rights Council.
Volker did not attend the meeting and his office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. After taking office in October 2022, the Austrian former lawyer said he stood by the report and wanted to engage China over the findings.
The August 2022 report, produced under the leadership of the last commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, said the extent of arbitrary and discriminatory detention of Uyghurs and other Muslims in Xinjiang may be an international crime.
China has repeatedly denied accusations of abuses in its northwest Xinjiang region.
Just before Turk took office, mostly non-Western members of the Rights Council voted down a motion brought by the US, Britain and other mostly Western powers to hold a debate about the report — a result that was seen as a diplomatic victory for Beijing.
“To date there has been no action, no meaningful action,” Zumretay Arkin, a spokesperson for the World Uyghur Congress, told Thursday’s meeting. “We are here to remind everyone ... that impunity cannot be the solution.”
The campaign groups, also including Human Rights Watch and the International Service for Human Rights, translated the 2022 report into five languages, published them and called for Turk to give an update on how his office and China had responded to the report’s recommendations.
China’s attache at its mission in Geneva, Zhu Kexing, told the session: “In order to discredit China and hinder China’s development, a small number of NGOs and Western countries do not hesitate to act as liars and rumor-makers to serve their anti-China separatist plots.”
Several countries including the United States and Australia also voiced concerns about the lack of follow-up on the 2022 report but stopped short of giving specific recommendations on how Turk’s office should react.

 


US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software

US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software
Updated 42 min 26 sec ago
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US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software

US bans Russia’s Kaspersky anti-virus software

WASHINGTON: The United States on Thursday banned Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky from providing its popular anti-virus products in the country, the US Commerce Department announced.
“Kaspersky will generally no longer be able to, among other activities, sell its software within the United States or provide updates to software already in use,” the Commerce Department said in a statement announcing the action, which it said is the first of its kind.
 

 


Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily

Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily
Updated 50 min 15 sec ago
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Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily

Russians report some outages on bank apps after cyberattack, says Kommersant daily

MOSCOW: Russians on Thursday reported some problems with processing payments at major banks after a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on Russian banks, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported.
At least one Russian bank was telling clients that it was having trouble sending messages containing codes to confirm payments, a Reuters reporter said.
The Kommersant newspaper said Russians had reported problems using the websites of major banks, as well as with the Telegram messaging app and with major mobile phone networks.
It cited Russia’s payments cards operator as saying that the disruption had been short-lived and that the fast payments system was now working as usual.
The IT army of Ukraine, a group of volunteers committed to disrupting Russian digital communications, later issued a statement saying it was responsible the Russian bank outages.