Resignations Threaten Johnson's Plans
Announcements from two senior ministers suggest Boris Johnson's first days as prime minister could prove rocky, should he top the Conservative leadership contest. With the results of the contest due to be revealed tomorrow, Johnson is widely expected to beat his rival, foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, to win the premiership. However, both chancellor Philip Hammond and justice minister David Gauke have announced plans to immediately step down, should Johnson become PM. Explaining his decision, Hammond said: "[Johnson's] conditions for serving in his government would include accepting a no-deal exit on 31st October, and that’s not something that I could ever sign up to.”
Other ministers opposed to a no-deal Brexit are also predicted to step down in the wake of Johnson's selection for prime minister, with the intention of fighting a no-deal departure from the backbenches. Johnson has vowed to take Britain out of the EU on the current deadline of 31st October, whether or not a deal has been agreed. The future Conservative leader also remains under threat as a result of the party's narrow working Commons majority, which currently stands at just three. With a byelection defeat expected for the Tories in Brecon and Radnorshire in early August, and the ongoing threat of potential defections to the Liberal Democrats, the party could risk losing its working majority by the time MPs return from their summer recess.
HAMMOND HITS BACK AT TANKER CRITICISM
Philip Hammond has hit back at the suggestion the British government took its "eye off the ball" after a UK-flagged oil tanker was seized by Iranian forces in the Gulf on Friday. It follows criticism from the former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith, who described the capture of the Stena Impero tanker as a "major failure" for which the government must answer for "very quickly indeed". The ship was seized by Iran's Revolutionary Guard in the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran has accused the tanker of "violating international maritime rules".
HMS Montrose, a nearby naval ship, was alerted to the seizure on Friday but was too far away to prevent it. Defence minister Tobias Ellwood insisted the government had not been negligent in protecting British ships but claimed the Royal Navy was not equipped to manage all of the UK's global interests. Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show yesterday, chancellor Philip Hammond said the UK was pursuing "every possible route" to resolve the situation. Crew on board the ship have allegedly been removed for questioning, with the Iranian foreign minister claiming only "prudence and foresight" can reduce tension between the UK and Iran.
Extinction Rebellion spokesperson Rupert Read speaks out about the police response to the campaign group’s planned October protests. The group has revealed plans for demonstrations in London on an even greater scale than its civil disobedience campaign held in April. The news prompted the Metropolitan police’s deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor to label April’s protests “wholly unacceptable” and warn: “We would not tolerate that level of disruption again.”
Responding, the climate campaign group said the matter was “no longer entirely in the police’s hands”, claiming: “If and when 10,000 people sit in a street and refuse to be moved, then what the police will ‘allow’ is neither here nor there.” While Extinction Rebellion’s protests have faced criticism for causing mass disruption in the capital, the group has insisted the disruption is “vanishingly-small” in comparison with the potential impact of the climate crisis.
In other news...
PROTESTERS MARCH IN HONG KONG
Police clashed with anti-government campaigners in Hong Kong yesterday as the city was gripped by its largest demonstration in recent weeks. Riot police attempted to disperse the crowds using tear gas and rubber bullets after they defied orders to halt the protest outside of the city's central business district. Organisers estimate 430,000 people attended the march. The demonstrations were sparked by proposed legislation which outlined the establishment of an extraditions system between Hong Kong and mainland China. Despite the government taking action to suspend the bill, the protests have developed into a wider pro-democracy movement. More than 40 people were also injured in mob violence while returning home from the protests yesterday, with some suggesting pro-government mobsters were behind the attacks.
FAR RIGHT ATTRACTS ‘BIGGEST NUMBERS SINCE 1930S’
A new report from the Commission for Countering Extremism has warned far-right protests are attracting a level of support not seen in the UK since the 1930s. The commission said tens of thousands of people had attended London demonstrations protesting the imprisonment of far-right activist Tommy Robinson and delays to Brexit. The report, authored by Dr Joe Mulhall of Hope Not Hate, writes: “When people feel that the system is broken, they look outside of it and step into a political arena where the far right is able to capitalise on these fears.” Dr Mulhall suggested politicians’ failures in managing Britain’s departure from the EU had prompted some people to look for alternatives, adding: “For some of them that is Tommy Robinson.”
MOON SITE CONSIDERED FOR HERITAGE STATUS
The head of the European Space Agency has called for the site of the moon landings to be granted special heritage status. Professor Jan Wörner said Tranquillity base, where the Apollo 11 astronauts first set foot on the moon, must be protected against potential damage caused by future space missions. The proposal is not straightforward, however. While countries on Earth nominate national heritage sites for approval by the United Nations (UN) cultural body Unesco, in space the UN’s outer space treaty warns the universe is “not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty”. Prof Wörner said he hopes humanity will see past the restrictions, arguing: “Just protect it and have everybody agree… A no-go zone of 50 metres around Tranquility base should do the job.”
DRINK-DRIVERS FACE CAR 'ALCOLOCKS'
New road safety plans outlined by the government have suggested convicted drink-drivers could have ‘alcolocks’ fitted to their cars. The locks would prevent vehicles from starting unless the driver has passed an in-vehicle alcohol breath test, a device already common in commercially operated vehicles in Europe. The proposal is currently the subject of a government-funded study investigating whether the locks could prevent reoffending among drink-drivers. It forms part of a package of new measures from the Department for Transport, designed to improve road safety. Other proposals include a ban on newly qualified drivers travelling at night or with young passengers and increased penalty points for those caught not wearing a seatbelt.
COUNCILS STRUGGLE TO FUND SPECIAL NEEDS PUPILS
County councils in England are struggling to cover the costs of special needs education in the face of rising demand. Research by the County Councils Network revealed 27 councils overspent by a total of £123m in 2018-19, with some local authorities facing a 90% increase in pupils requiring special support plans. Carl Les, Conservative leader of North Yorkshire county council, said the additional demand had seen some local councils divert funds from mainstream schooling and cut preventative services. He warned such actions would “only store up problems for the future”. MPs on the education select committee have called for funding worth £1.2bn in order to cover the deficit in provision for special needs education.
The proportion of Britons switching to plant-based milks. A new report from Mintel has found almost a quarter of people in the UK used plant milk in the three months to February, as a growing number of Brits embrace vegan and vegetarian diets. Sales of oat milk surged 70% last year, while coconut milk grew 16% and almond milk 10%. The move to plant milk is particularly prevalent among women and those under 25.