A roundup of this week’s news from the local to the global
Out with the old, in with the new
On Tuesday it was announced that Boris Johnson had won the Conservative leadership contest and had therefore become Britain’s new Prime Minister, fulfilling a lifelong ambition. Winning 66% of the vote, the result was conclusive but not at all surprising given he was the favourite from the outset. However, the voters were the 160,000 members of the Conservative party, not the British electorate leading to some to question just how democratic the selection process is. The counter argument, however, is that the British system elects a party and not a person, therefore it doesn’t really make a difference who is in charge. In reality however, we know that the leader dictates the direction, and that perceived lack of a mandate was one of the reasons Theresa May decided to call an election, to her detriment, in 2017.
Mr Johnson’s cabinet opted to be seen to be decisive in an attempt to dispel concerns that he is a ditherer, bringing about the biggest cabinet reshuffle in modern politics with seventeen of Theresa May’s cabinet ousted, mostly as they did not wish to sign up to Mr Johnson’s plan to leave on the 31st October “do-or-die”. In the process though, he has created one of the most diverse cabinets we’ve seen. Sajid Javid moves to Chancellor, Dominic Raab and Priti Patel move to the Foreign and Home offices respectively.
The response from Europe was muted, with many leaders not going far further than the standard, polite congratulations. Some though were slightly more prickly with Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president-elect, noting the challenges ahead and Guy Verhofstadt calling him “irresponsible”. Worldwide, President Trump talked of how great Mr Johnson was and how he was looking forward to working with “Britain Trump”. His daughter, Ivanka, congratulated Mr Johnson on becoming the next Prime Minister of the “United Kingston” leading BBC journalist Rory Cellan-Jones to reflect on the excellent news that Surbiton, New Malden and Ham would be subsumed into Greater Kingston. The president reported later in the week that, he was working on a “very substantial trade deal with UK”. Although, since there were no further details, we’ll have to wait and see just how substantial the talks are, let alone the possibility of a final deal.
Hot, Hot, Hot
The UK this week basked in the sunshine as the mercury got to 38.1C in Cambridge, giving us not only the hottest day of the year, but also the second hottest on record. While the weather may have been glorious, it didn’t come without its issues. Travellers experienced long delays with Network Rail imposing speed restrictions on the railway for fear of buckling under the heat. Meanwhile on the London Underground, temperatures got to nearly 37C, more than legal guidelines for transporting livestock. As the heatwave has ended with a bang this week, with thunderstorms across Europe, air passengers were delayed leading to many to lament the lack of communication from their airlines.
The coming week, you may be pleased to know, is not currently predicted to top out at 25C on Monday, however the rest of the week could be afflicted by rain and the occasional thunderstorm.
- In one of her final acts as PM, Theresa May announced that public sector workers were in line for an above inflation pay rise. The armed forces will see a 2.9% rise, teachers are in line for a 2.75% increase, some medical staff could see a 2.5% rise while senior civil servants might see 2%. This will undoubtedly be welcomed by many but, as the TES points out, since this will come from existing budgets, organisations will have to fund it themselves. In the case of schools, they say this could lead to heads making redundancies in order to pass on the rise.
- More than £3.5mn of EU funding is at risk of having to be handed back because it hasn’t been spent. The money, which was given to the UK government to alleviate child poverty, has not been spent due to what the government described as “barriers”. The House of Lords wrote to the Home Office saying how it was “extraordinary” that the money had not been used and that government had not found an alternative use for the funding since its original plan (school breakfast clubs in deprived areas) was apparently not eligible.
- Carl Beech, the man who lied about murder and child sexual abuse which led to an investigation at the cost of £2m, has been jailed for 12 accounts of perverting the course of justice, one account of fraud, and child sexual offences. He made accusation against senior politicians, army chiefs, and other senior figures of sexual abuse and claimed to have witnessed the murder of boys through the 70s and 80s. Once the investigation was closed, the focus turned on Beech, eventually revealing that he was a paedophile. Those accused by Beech, and the families of those who have died while under investigation, have said they are the victims of a “totally unjustified witch-hunt”.
South Korea alleged this week that Russia had violated its airspace during a military exercise with China, and that as a result it had had to fire warning shots at a Russian aircraft. As is so often the case in these sorts of incidents, the exact ins and outs are disputed. South Korea said that Russian and Chinese planes had intruded into its self-declared air defence zone, were it requests planes notify of their entry. However, when a Russian spy plane twice encroached on its airspace, the resulting in the scrambling of ROKAF jets, and the firing of warning shots. Russia denied both the incursion and that shots were fired. Whatever the true events were, this coincided with the visit of John Bolton, US National Security Advisor, to Seoul in an attempt to calm relations between the South and Japan. The close call in the air will only emphasise the fragility of the region and the need for allies to not fall out.
Marcus Hutchins spared Jail in USA
The man responsible for stopping the WannaCry ransomware attack, which impacted a number of high-profile organisations including the NHS and the Renault Formula 1 team, by discovering its ‘kill switch’ was spared jail this week and given one year of supervised release instead. Marcus Hutchins, 25, entered into a plea-deal with prosecutors, whereby he admitted wrongdoing to two charges, and had the other eight dropped. Mr Hutchins was arrested in 2017, three months after stopping the WannaCry attack, while he waited for his plane at Las Vegas airport after attending the DefCon cyber-security conference. Hutchins admitted creating Kronos and UPAS Kit, which prosecutors alleged meant cyber-criminals could steal bank details. In a statement in April Hutchins spoke of how he intended to now devote his time to “keeping people safe from malware attacks”.
- Police have clashed this weekend with protesters in Hong Kong on the eight-consecutive weekend of anti-government and pro-democracy protests. Rubber bullets and tear gas have been used against protesters who, on top of their other reasons for protesting this weekend, are also angry at police brutality. Although there is a ban on protests, it appears to have had little effect leading to questions about what exactly will bring all of this to an end.
- 1,050 people (including nine pregnant women) were rescued from a train in India this week after it became trapped by floods in Mumbai. The IANS news agency reported that passengers were onboard without food or water for 15 hours. The floods are the result of monsoons currently sweeping large parts of South Asia, currently the death toll is over 600.
- The US supreme court has approved the $2.5bn worth of funding for Trumps border wall, overturning a decision by a judge in California who said Congress had not authorised the funds to be used for a wall. Mr Trump described the ruling as a “big victory” while US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described the decision as “deeply flawed”.
This morning, an industrial unit in Staines caught fire. Crews from Egham and Sunbury were first to respond before being joined by crews from across Surrey, and some from London and Berkshire. Smoke was reported at around 12:30am, and crews were on the scene until 9:00. The cause of the fire, believed to be at the site of a printing works, is under investigation.
Concerningly, the fire occurred on an evening when the fire station at Staines was closed due to staff shortages, a problem that appears to be plaguing Surrey Fire and Rescue Service. You can read more about the fire and the shortages of staff here.
Tour de France
The Tour de France has its first Columbian victor after Egan Bernal, who is also the youngest rider to win for 110 years. A Frenchman, Julian Alaphillippe, led the tour for fourteen days raising hopes of a French victory which would have been the first since 1985. It was not to be, as on Friday he cracked in the Alps and France’s other hope, Thibaut Pinot, tore a thigh muscle. All the time Bernal pulled ahead, and the stage was shortened thanks to storms. After neither managed to pull back time to Bernal on Saturday, the Columbian was sure of victory on Sunday’s largely ceremonial stage. Bernal’s teammate, Briton, and last year’s winner, Geraint Thomas would finish second.
German Grand Prix
Max Verstappen was victorious in the German GP as he put in a near flawless performance while other big names faltered or indeed crashed out. Bottas, Le Clerc, Hulkenberg and Perez all ended up in the wall, and technical issues caused the retirement of two other drivers. Lewis Hamilton had a race to forget, after starting on pole he led before he slid off the track and hit the same wall that did for Le Clerc and Hulkenberg but unlike the aforementioned was able to limp to the pits… to the surprise of the Mercedes pit crew, who lost valuable time trying to get the right tyres and a new wing in place. From there it would go from bad to worse for Hamilton with a time penalty for an infringement, and then spinning and only narrowly avoiding the wall. He would come home in 11th, but move up to ninth after both Sauber’s were penalised after the race.
Such drama though opened up the podium positions, and indeed all higher positions in the field. After failing to set a time in qualifying, the performance of the day surely has to go to Sebastien Vettel, coming home in second having started last. Third went to Daniil Kvyat, the Russians second podium of his career. Canadian Lance Stroll took fourth, only just losing out on a podium with an excellent result for Racing Point, who twelve months ago were facing collapse as Force India. McLaren finished strongly with Sainz in fifth (Norris had a technical problem in the race) and Alexander Albon had a career best of sixth.
In a sport that has taken a lot of flack for being “boring” in the recent past, this race was anything but.