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Confused on how to vote at the general election? Here is where the main parties stand on key issues – including immigration, trans ideology, the NHS, tax and education

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Rishi Sunak has fired the starting gun on a six-week general election campaign following his shock announcement that he will send Brits to the polls on 4 July.

The Prime Minister used a rain-sodden speech in Downing Street to confirm he is gambling on an earlier-than-expected election.

Although the UK’s main parties are yet to unveil their manifestos ahead of polling day, they have been election planning for months and already outlined key policies.

Here’s where they stand on all the major issues likely to influence voters over the coming weeks…

The economy

Tories: Rishi Sunak has claimed his ‘clear plan’ is ‘working’ and is warning that a change in government could jeopardise Britain’s economic recovery. The PM was boosted by latest figures showing inflation has dropped back towards the Bank of England‘s 2 per cent target. He has twice cut National Insurance contributions for workers in the past year and has set out his aim to abolish the tax altogether.

Labour: Sir Keir Starmer is promising to ‘deliver economic stability’ as one of his six key pledges. Labour are vowing to abide by ‘tough spending rules’ to ‘grow our economy and keep taxes, inflation and mortgages as low as possible’ as they focus on a message of fiscal discipline to counter Tory attacks. They are also keen to remind voters of the economic turmoil that hit the country under ex-PM Liz Truss‘s brief premiership. Shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves saw the Tories steal two of her revenue-raising ideas – abolishing non-dom tax status and extending the windfall tax on oil and gas firms – at the Budget in March. She has said Labour will instead find the money to fund its spending plans from renewed efforts to crackdown on tax avoiders.

Lib Dems: Sir Ed Davey’s party is promising ‘fair and progressive taxation’ to sustain public services. They want a ‘proper, one-off windfall tax’ on oil and gas producers to help Brits with the cost of living. And they are also pledging to ‘reverse the Conservatives‘ tax cuts for big banks’, to abolish the separate Capital Gains tax-free allowance, and ‘tax income from wealth more similarly to income from work’.

Reform: Richard Tice’s party wants to lift the earnings level at which Britons start paying income tax from £12,750 a year to £20,000. And they want to lift the threshold for paying the 40p higher rate of tax from £50,000 to £70,000. Reform are also pledging to scrap VAT on energy bills, lower fuel duty, scrap environmental levies, slash Stamp Duty, abolish inheritance tax for all estates under £2m, and abolish the ‘tourist tax’.

Immigration

Tories: The PM has made the Rwanda deportation plan the key part of his efforts to tackle the small boats crisis in the Channel. He claims this will provide the deterrent effect needed to stop migrants making the perilous journey to Britain. But Mr Sunak has been forced to admit the first deportation flights to Rwanda will only take off after the general election. The PM has previously admitted the level of legal migration to Britain is ‘too high’ and has taken action to crackdown on visas for dependants of students and social care workers. He is also said to be considering curbs on graduate visas amid Tory concerns these are used as a ‘backdoor’ for migrants to remain in Britain.

Labour: Sir Keir has branded the Rwanda scheme a ‘gimmick’ and vowed to scrap it if he wins power. Labour is instead promising to establish a new ‘Border Security Command’ to work with Border Force, MI5 and the National Crime Agency on prosecuting people-smuggling gangs operating small boat routes. The party is also vowing to clear the asylum backlog by recruiting more staff to process claims and return people to safe countries.

Lib Dems: Sir Ed’s party wants to scrap the Tories’ Illegal Migration Act and provide safe and legal routes for asylum seekers to come to Britain. They argue this will help prevent Channel crossings. The Lib Dems also want to lift the ban on asylum seekers working in the UK if they have been waiting on a decision for more than three months, which will enable migrants to ‘support themselves, integrate in their communities and contribute through taxation’.

Reform: Mr Tice’s party wants to see ‘net zero’ immigration, which means the number of people legally allowed to live and work in the UK each yer equals the number emigrating, so the overall population remains approximately the same. They also claim Britain should be picking Channel migrants out of boats in order to return them to France.

NHS

Tories: Mr Sunak made cutting NHS waiting lists one of his five key pledges for his time as PM. But he has admitted he has so far failed to deliver this promise. The PM has blamed strike action by NHS staff for hindering efforts to reduce the backlog of treatments, which soared during the Covid pandemic. The Tories have stuck to their vow to build 40 new hospitals by 2030, which was promised before the 2019 general election. Mr Sunak is promising to reduce the burden on the NHS by delivering Britain’s first ‘smoke-free generation’ by banning children born on or after 1 January 2009 from ever legally being sold cigarettes in England.

Labour: Sir Keir is promising to cut NHS waiting times with 40,000 more evening and weekend appointments each week. Labour has outlined plans to pay doctors and nurses overtime to work during evenings and weekends. The party also wants to use ‘spare capacity’ of private healthcare to boost the post-Covid recovery of the NHS.

Lib Dems: Sir Ed’s party wants to give everyone the right to see their GP within seven days, or within 24 hours if they urgently need to. They are vowing to meet this promise by recruiting more GPs and free up more of their time.

Reform: Mr Tice’s party have outlined plans for a ‘national endeavour’ to get to zero NHS waiting lists in two years. They want to fund this effort – estimated to require an extra £17billion in NHS funding each year – by scrapping the UK’s drive for net zero emmissions, which the party has estimated will cost about £30billion a year.

Education

Tories: Mr Sunak wants Britain to change its ‘anti-maths mindset’ in order to boost economic growth. The PM has regularly outlined his ambition for every young person to study some form of maths up to the age of 18. Mr Sunak also wants to scrap A-levels and T-levels and replace them with a new ‘Advanced British Standard’. The international baccalaureate-style qualification would see pupils study at least five subjects.

Labour: Sir Keir wants to recruit 6,500 more teachers in key subjects, which will be paid for by ending tax breaks for private schools. Labour has claimed imposing VAT on private school fees will raise around £1.6 billion. This money  – along with cash saved from cracking down on tax avoiders – will also be spent on Labour’s plans for free school breakfast clubs and employing mental health support staff in every school.

Lib Dems: Sir Ed’s party is promising to increase school and college funding per pupil above the rate of inflation every year. They also want to extend free school meals to all primary school children, and all secondary school children whose families receive Universal Care. The Lib Dems have also outlined plans for new ‘Skills Wallets’ to give all adults £10,000 to spend on education and training throughout their lives.

Reform:  Mr Tice’s party is opposed to Labour’s plan to put VAT on schools fees and want 20 per cent tax relief on all independent education They argue that ‘if parents can afford to pay a bit more, we should incentivise them to choose independent schools’. Reform also want to scrap interest on student loans.

Labour want to recruit 6,500 more teachers in key subjects, which will be paid for by ending tax breaks for private schools

Labour want to recruit 6,500 more teachers in key subjects, which will be paid for by ending tax breaks for private schools

Security and defence

Tories: The PM recently pledged to boost defence spending to 2.5 per cent by 2030, which marked a return to a promise first made by Boris Johnson. Mr Sunak has also committed to at least £3billion in military support every year for Ukraine until 2030.

Labour: Sir Keir has failed to match the Government’s pledge on defence spending. His party has said it is ‘totally committed’ to reaching the 2.5 per cent goal but not yet set a date for that target to be met, only saying they will do so ‘as soon as resources allow that to happen’. But Labour have backed the Government’s commitment on military support for Ukraine.

Lib Dems: Sir Ed’s party is promising to work ‘more closely’ with NATO and EU nations in the ‘joint development of innovative defence technologies’. The Lib Dems have also said they will cancel ‘the Conservative Government’s cut to the Army’.

Reform: Mr Tice’s party is promising to increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP within three years, and then boost it to 3 per cent within six years.

The PM recently pledged to boost defence spending to 2.5 per cent by 2030, which marked a return to a promise first made by Boris Johnson

The PM recently pledged to boost defence spending to 2.5 per cent by 2030, which marked a return to a promise first made by Boris Johnson

Gender

Tories: The PM has hailed new draft guidance for schools, published by the Government last week, that states the ‘contested topic of gender identity’ should not be taugh at all. Mr Sunak has repeatedly tried to draw a dividing line with Labour on gender issues and accused Sir Keir of changing his position on ‘defining a woman’. The PM told last year’s Conservative Party conference: ‘W e shouldn’t get bullied into believing that people can be any sex they want to be. They can’t; a man is a man and a woman is a woman. That’s just common sense.’

Labour: It has recently emerged how Sir Keir’s party wants to ‘simplify’ the process for changing gender by making it ‘less medicalised’. Labour’s plans, which are expected to go to consultation if the party wins the election, could include allowing a single doctor or gender specialist to sign off on a decision over a gender recognition certificate. Sir Keir has previously faced intense pressure to clarify his personal views after saying in 2021 that it is ‘not right’ to say that only women have a cervix. Last year, the Labour leader stated that 99.9 per cent of women ‘of course haven’t got a penis’ – which suggested he believed one in 1,000 women have male genitalia. Sir Keir later admitted he had U-turned on his past support for self-identification for trans people following the SNP’s meltdown over new gender recognition laws in Scotland. 

Lib Dems: Sir Ed’s party is promising to ‘respect and defend the rights and identities of all LGBT+ people, including trans and non-binary people’.

Reform: Mr Tice’s party want to ban ‘transgender ideology’ in schools, with Reform stating ‘there are two sexes and two genders’.

One of Sir Keir's main missions if he becomes PM is to 'halve serious violence'. Labour is pledging to put 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs on the beat

One of Sir Keir’s main missions if he becomes PM is to ‘halve serious violence’. Labour is pledging to put 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs on the beat

Crime

Tories: Mr Sunak last month unveiled new action to crack down on retail crime, including tougher punishments for serial or abusive shoplifters. The PM also promised to make assaulting a retail worker a standalone criminal offence. But the Government has been dogged by the issue of overcrowding in prisons, with claims police have been told to take fewer suspects into custody. Ministers are prepering to expand plans to release some inmates from jail up to 70 days early to free up prison cells.

Labour: One of Sir Keir’s main missions if he becomes PM is to ‘halve serious violence’. Labour is pledging to put 13,000 more neighbourhood police and PCSOs on the beat. The party also wants to scrap a rule that stops shop thefts under £200 being investigated. They are promising to crack down on knife crime with new youth hubs, containing mental health staff, to ‘give teenagers the best start in life’.

Lib Dems: Sir Ed’s party wants to ‘break the cycle of reoffending’ by improving rehabilitiation in prisons and on release, as well as stregthening the supervision of offenders in the community. The Lib Dems also want the Home Secretary, Mayor of London and Metropolitan Police Commissioner to draw up an urgent plan to implement the recommendations of the Baroness Casey review into the standards of behaviour and internal culture of Scotland Yard.

Reform: Mr Tice’s party is promising 40,000 new frontline police officers within five years. They want ‘zero tolerance’ policing, including mandatory life imprisonment for drug dealing and drug trafficking. Reform also want to allow PCSOs to become police officers before the role is phased out.



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REVEALED: How many non-citizens are signed up to vote in Democrat-run Washington D.C. as Republicans begin ‘crackdown”

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House Republicans will vote on legislation to ban non-citizens from voting in the nation’s capital on Thursday after it was revealed that some 500 are on Washington, D.C.’s voter rolls. 

‘If this voting bill can’t pass, everybody watch very closely. It’s going to be proof positive, there are some Democrats who want illegal aliens deciding elections. It’s going to be clear, they don’t want Americans deciding American elections,’ Speaker Mike Johnson said in a news conference on Wednesday. 

The legislation is almost certain to die in the Senate

In a letter dated May 15 D.C. Board of Election Chair Gary Thompson revealed there are 489 non-citizen registered voters in the district. 

The D.C. City Council amended its code in 2023 to allow non-citizen voting. It went a step further than other jurisdictions by allowing not just non-citizens but those who are here illegally to participate in local elections. 

Non-citizens are banned from voting in federal elections under federal law. 

D.C. residents were already allowed to vote while they are incarcerated, along imprisoned felons of Maine and Vermont

House Republicans will vote on legislation to ban non-citizens from voting in the nation's capital on Thursday after it was revealed that some 500 are on Washington, D.C.'s voter rolls

House Republicans will vote on legislation to ban non-citizens from voting in the nation’s capital on Thursday after it was revealed that some 500 are on Washington, D.C.’s voter rolls

Republicans questioned how elections officials would be able to differentiate between non-citizen voters and others and make sure non-citizen voters only got a ballot for local elections.  

‘Our system will also easily generate a unique ballot for a non-citizen, excluding the presence of any federal contests. This is much like ensuring that a ballot for someone voting in the Republican primary does not include Democrat contests, and vice-versa,’ Thompson ensured. 

‘You know, why should somebody at the Russian embassy be able to vote in elections here in the United States of America? Yet that is what is allowed today,’ Majority Leader Steve Scalise said in a news conference on Wednesday. 

‘They shouldn’t be able, as a citizen of China, be able to vote in America’s elections, for goodness sake.’ 

Foreign nationals can only vote in local elections if they renounce their right to vote in their home country. 

Rep. Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D.C.’s non-voting delegate in Congress, slammed the bill ahead of the vote: ‘D.C. laws are matters for the duly elected D.C. Council and mayor, not unaccountable members of Congress who do not represent D.C. residents. The almost 700,000 D.C. residents are worthy and capable of governing their own local affairs.’ 

Republicans have in recent days given more vocal credence to the Great Replacement Theory – that Democrats embrace illegal immigrants to dilute the voting power of U.S. citizens and help them in the census. 

‘Democrats here in Washington wants illegal aliens in our country. Why? So they can become voters, and they can affect the outcome of the census and security to affect reapportionment of Congress,’ Johnson said in a news conference Wednesday. 

The bills comes as Republicans make a larger push for legislation to enforce restrictions on non-citizen voting at the federal level. 

Federal law prohibits requiring documentary proof of citizenship in elections. Arizona requires it for state elections. 

The SAVE Act, authored by Rep. Chip Roy and being pushed by Johnson and former President Donald Trump, aims to force election officials to verify citizenship in elections. It’s not yet clear when it will come up for a vote. 

Johnson, speaking alongside Trump world heavyweights Stephen Miller and Hogan Gidley and Roy last week, did not give a full accounting of how many non-citizens have voted in elections, but warned the number could be ‘dangerously high.’ 

‘We all know, intuitively, that a lot of illegals are voting in federal elections. But it’s not been something that is easily provable. We don’t have that number. This legislation will allow us to do exactly that.’  

Non-citizens who vote in federal and state elections are already breaking the law and putting themselves at risk of jail or deportation. A small handful of municipalities in California, Maryland and Vermont allow illegal immigrants to vote in local elections

‘If a nefarious actor wants to intervene in our elections, all they have to do is check a box on a form and sign their name. That’s it. That’s all that’s required,’ Johnson said. 

Miller, the architect of Trump’s immigration policy, called the bill the ‘most important vote that most members of Congress take in their entire careers.’

‘If this bill does not become law then Joe Biden and Democrats will have engineered, one of the greatest interferences in any democratic nation in the history of the world.’

The bill would aim to close any loopholes that allow people to register to vote without proof of US citizenship or photo ID, require all 50 states to remove any unlawful immigrants from their voter rolls, add penalties of up to five years in prison for election officials who register non-citizens to vote and require proof of citizenship for those who vote overseas.

There’s little evidence that non-citizen voting is impacting election outcomes, and unlawful immigrants often steer clear of giving out personal information for fear or being caught by immigration authorities. 

It is possible to vote illegally as an undocumented immigrant, though.

Most voting ballots require some kind of proof of identity to register to vote, such as a driver’s license. Not all of those proofs of ID require citizenship – the bill would specifically require ID requirements like passports or birth certificates. 

A sampling from 2002 to 2022 of over 1 billion ballots found fewer than 100 cases of voter fraud. 



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Moment Post Office scandal victims groan as shamed Paula Vennells claims she ‘can’t remember’ if she took PR advice not to review a decade’s worth of wrongful convictions

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This is the moment Post Office scandal victims groan as Paula Vennells claims she ‘can’t remember’ if she took PR advice not to review a decade’s worth of wrongful convictions. 

The 65-year-old businesswoman drew audible gasps from the audience as she gave evidence at the Horizon IT Inquiry into why hundreds of branch managers were wrongly prosecuted amid claims they stole from the business.

More than 700 subpostmasters were prosecuted for theft by the Post Office and given criminal convictions between 1999 and 2015 as Fujitsu’s faulty IT system, known as Horizon, made it appear as though money was missing at their branches.

Ms Vennells, who was the chief executive from 2012 to 2019, told the inquiry she could not remember if she took advice from the Post Office’s PR supremo in 2013 that they should not review prosecutions from ‘five to 10 years’ ago. 

The inquiry chairman was forced to intervene as members of the gallery groaned at her response after being shown an email from ‘PR guy’ Mark Davies where he advised not to look at historical cases because it would end up ‘on the front page’. 

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells arrives to give her second day of evidence to the Post Office Horizon IT inquiry at Aldwych House, central London

The 65-year-old businesswoman arrives at Aldwych House, escorted by police officers, to give evidence for a second day at the Horizon IT scandal 

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells on her second day of giving evidence to the inquiry at Aldwych House, central London

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells on her second day of giving evidence to the inquiry at Aldwych House, central London

On the second day of Ms Vennells’ evidence, inquiry heard the Post Office’s PR supremo Mark Davies gave Ms Vennells ‘personal advice’ on the extent to which past Post Office convictions were reviewed, on the basis that media coverage of each decision might make it ‘front page news’.

Mr Davies said in 2013 that the Post Office should not review historical cases involving the Horizon IT system from ‘five to 10 years’ ago because it would be ‘on the front page’. 

Referring to an email from July 2013 from Mr Davies, counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC asked the former chief executive: ‘This says “you can’t do that, you’ll be on the front page”. 

‘That’s a grossly improper perspective isn’t it?’

Ms Vennells said: ‘Yes it is.’

Mr Beer continued: ‘Do you know why he cut everyone else out of the chain and replied directly to you?’

Ms Vennells said: ‘No, I don’t.’

Mr Vennells said she ‘would never have taken a decision based on the advice of one colleague’, despite the inquiry being shown evidence she would ‘take your (Davies’) steer’.

The inquiry was shown an email from Ms Vennells replying to Mr Davies’ advice to review a smaller number of cases. 

Ms Vennells wrote: ‘Mark, thanks for this and, I don’t think we are far apart – I didn’t say this approach would be our media statement but they would need to be aligned.

‘You are right to call this out. And it will take your steer. no issue.’ 

Mr Beer KC then asked: ‘You did take the advice of the PR guy, didn’t you?’

Ms Vennells began her answer by saying ‘I don’t remember’, before loud groans came from the public gallery.

After chairman Sir Wyn Williams intervened, Ms Vennells continued: ‘As I tried to say before, what we were working to at this stage was numbers of cases going through a scheme, and a scheme that was going to be opened up to anybody who wanted to come forward.

‘I understand how this reads, but I don’t recall making any conscious decision not to go back and put in place a review of all past criminal cases.’

Ms Vennells later revealed to the inquiry she remained in contact with Mr Davies even after she left the Post Office.

Counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC asked: ‘Did you exchange messages with him about media statements that you might make and the media lines that you might take in the announcement of this inquiry, for example?’

Ms Vennells replied: ‘I believe the inquiry has texts that show that.’

Mr Beer continued: ‘Even though you’d moved on, he was still advising you into 2020 as to the lines to take in your media statements?’

Ms Vennells said: ‘I had kept in touch with Mark Davies for reasons that were very personal to him and I think he offered that advice at the time.’

The inquiry was shown this email from Ms Vennells replying to Mr Davies' advice to review a smaller number of cases

The inquiry was shown this email from Ms Vennells replying to Mr Davies’ advice to review a smaller number of cases

PR guru Mark Davies is seen giving evidence to the inquiry at Aldwych House, central London, on May 14, 2024

PR guru Mark Davies is seen giving evidence to the inquiry at Aldwych House, central London, on May 14, 2024

Police escort Former CEO of the Post Office Paula Vennells as she arrives at the Post Office inquiry in London

Police escort Former CEO of the Post Office Paula Vennells as she arrives at the Post Office inquiry in London

Paula Vennells, former Chief Executive Officer of the Post Office, arrives at Aldwych House, where the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry is taking place on Thursday

Paula Vennells, former Chief Executive Officer of the Post Office, arrives at Aldwych House, where the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry is taking place on Thursday

Elsewhere, the inquiry heard Ms Vennells received a letter from the independent Criminal Cases Review Commission in summer 2013 asking for evidence about some of its previous convictions, following mounting coverage in the Press.

What Paula Vennells told the inquiry today

But the inquiry heard the Post Office failed to disclose concerns it had about the reliability of evidence of its expert witness, Horizon engineer Gareth Jenkins.

Ms Vennells denied Mr Beer’s suggestion the letter, while unusual, was ‘unwelcome’.

Mr Beer asked: ‘The right and honest thing to do would be to have let the CCRC know promptly over its concerns about the truthfulness and reliability of the evidence that Gareth Jenkins had given to court wouldn’t it?’

Ms Vennells replied: ‘It would, yes.’

Mr Beer replied: ‘But that didn’t happen for years, did it?’

Ms Vennells replied: ‘I understand that to be the case.’

Mr Beer added: ‘Is it every day of the week in the Post Office that it is told that the safety of its convictions may be called into question by unreliable evidence by an expert witness?’

Ms Vennells replied: ‘No. I now know much more than I did at the time.’

Ms Vennells said she ‘accepted the explanations’ she had been given that the bugs identified in the system in mid-2013 had been dealt with.

Mr Beer said: ‘You had been told repeatedly for six years since you joined the Post Office (in 2007) that there were no bugs in Horizon, that mantra is key to your witness statement. It was the consistent message to your business.

‘And then you are told: No they are just red herring bugs.’

Ms Vennells said: ‘I was told that where cases had gone to court, the court found in favour of Horizon. I knew there were always glitches and issues with the system, I knew that from having visited branches.’

Asked if it was ‘world-changing information’ that contradicted what she had previously been told about the integrity of Horizon, Ms Vennells replied: ‘This was important, but I was reassured at the same time that these bugs had been dealt with.’

Ms Vennells agreed with Mr Beer that she should have asked for a ‘watertight assurance’ from Fujitsu, the Japanese tech giant behind the software, that there were no further bugs.

It comes as earlier today, the inquiry was shown a note from Mr Bates, who spearheaded the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance (JFSA) campaign, in 2013. 

At the time forensic accountants Second Sight were drafted in to independently review cases involving the Horizon system in 2012.

In his email, Mr Bates said he was ‘surprised’ the pair had not met, ‘bearing in mind what has been discovered so far’ in the investigation.

He wrote: ‘I have little doubt it is now feasible to show that many of the prosecutions the Post Office has pressed home should never have taken place.’

Ms Vennells replied saying she was happy to meet, but added: ‘We are too early in the investigation to suggest that things have been discovered which call into question the integrity of the system or the validity of the prosecutions.’

And she reiterated to the inquiry into the scandal today her insistence that she had no reason to doubt Horizon’s integrity.

Ms Vennells told inquiry lawyer Jason Beer KC: ‘I was concerned to get the email from Alan. The point he was making about prosecutions was the point the JFSA made for a number of years – that wasn’t new news to me at this stage.’

Mr Beer asked her: ‘Is that how you would have thought of it, that this is just Mr Bates saying something that he’s always said?’

The former Post Office boss replied: ‘No, not at all.’

Mr Beer then said: ‘Had you been given any inkling that anything had emerged that might undermine the safety of convictions?’ 

Ms Vennells responded: ‘No.’

Alan Bates, former sub-postmaster and founder of the Justice for Subpostmasters Alliance

The Post Office has come under fire since the broadcast of ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which put the Horizon scandal under the spotlight

The Post Office has come under fire since the broadcast of ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office, which put the Horizon scandal under the spotlight

Some of the 39 convicted postmasters celebrate as their convictions are quashed in 2021

Some of the 39 convicted postmasters celebrate as their convictions are quashed in 2021

Ms Vennels was questioned on whether a deliberate choice was made to choose forensic accounting firm Second Sight over Deloitte to review independently the Horizon system because the former’s proposal was ‘much narrower in scope’ and ‘only looked at a sample of past cases’. 

Ms Vennells said in repsonse: ‘From a personal point of view, I would say that is absolutely not the case. I have no recollection of that at all.’ 

The inquiry heard the probe by Second Sight into the Horizon system in 2012 set out to probe a selection of past cases where subpostmasters were prosecuted despite insisting they did nothing wrong.

But Mr Beer said the review did not undertake what it had set out to.

He said: ‘If what is described here had in fact been undertaken, there is a possibility that the decade that followed until faults in Horizon and the miscarriages of justice may have been discovered earlier?

Ms Vennells replied: ‘I think that is a possibility.’

Asked if after reading a line in Second Sight’s interim report that there were ‘no systemic defects’ in the system, the Post Office ‘paraded that conclusion’, Ms Vennells said: ‘It did come to that conclusion in its interim report.

‘There is no way I would have wanted to persuade Second Sight on something they were not prepared to say and I don’t believe Second Sight would ever have agreed to that.

‘If they came to that conclusion in their interim report, that was their conclusion.’

Counsel to the inquiry Jason Beer KC then asked: ‘Isn’t that what the Post Office wanted to drive them to and isn’t this the evidence of such driving?’

Ms Vennells replied: ‘The Post Office certainly wanted the reassurance that the Horizon system could be relied upon – that has been the objective all the way through this.

‘At no stage did I get the sense that anybody in the Post Office was going to be able to influence Second Sight over what conclusions they came to.

‘I would be very surprised if that was the case here.’

The inquiry later heard Alwen Lyons, former company secretary, emailed Ms Vennells in June 2012 expressing former Post Office general counsel Susan Crichton’s concerns about including former subpostmistress Seema Misra’s case in an independent review into the Horizon IT system.

Ms Misra, who ran a Post Office in West Byfleet, Surrey, was jailed in 2010 after being accused of stealing £74,000. She was pregnant at the time. 

Ms Lyons wrote: ‘The issue that came to light with the list of MP cases was that they included the Mishra (Misra), you will remember the case and the publicity, she went to prison and had her baby whilst in there.

‘The husband got publicity through radio and press.

‘Susan’s anxiety, and she raised this at the meeting with Alice before you joined, was whether now contacting her to tell her we review the case would be a red rag to a bull.’

Asked if she shared Ms Crichton’s concerns that even contacting Ms Misra ‘would be a red rag to a bull’, Ms Vennells told the inquiry: ‘No.’

Paula Vennells is sworn in to the Horizon inquiry at Aldwych House on Wednesday

Paula Vennells is sworn in to the Horizon inquiry at Aldwych House on Wednesday 

Post Office boss Paula Vennells gestures as she gives evidence to the inquiry at Aldwych House, central London on Wednesday

Post Office boss Paula Vennells gestures as she gives evidence to the inquiry at Aldwych House, central London on Wednesday 

Yesterday Ms Vennells wept when questioned about subpostmasters being wrongly convicted, including Martin Griffiths who killed himself after he was accused of stealing money from the Post Office.

She became emotional again as she apologised for misleading MPs who were looking into constituents’ complaints about the faulty software.

What Paula Vennells told the inquiry on Wednesday

‘I am sorry’

‘I would just like to say, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this, how sorry I am for all that subpostmasters and their families and others have suffered as a result of all of the matters that the inquiry is looking into.’

‘Too trusting’

‘One of my reflections of all of this – I was too trusting. I did probe and I did ask questions and I’m disappointed where information wasn’t shared and it has been a very important time for me… to plug some of those gaps.’

‘Unacceptable’

‘It’s completely unacceptable that that (not knowing the extent of the Post Office’s criminal investigations) was the case and that people, including myself, didn’t know.

‘Status quo’

‘My only explanation for that is that it had been going on for so long, that it was an accepted reality, it was the status quo that I joined and accepted, I shouldn’t have done.’

‘Disappointed’

‘I have been disappointed, particularly more recently, listening to evidence of the inquiry where I think I remember people knew more than perhaps either they remembered at the time or I knew of at the time.’

‘No conspiracy’

‘I have no sense that there was any conspiracy at all. My deep sorrow in this is that I think that individuals, myself included, made mistakes, didn’t see things, didn’t hear things.’

‘Should have known’

‘I should have known and I should have asked more questions, and I and others who also did not know should have dug much more deeply into this.’

And she fought back tears when recalling reading ‘disturbing’ evidence of the impact of the scandal on Post Office workers.

The 65-year-old said her mistakes would ‘live with me for ever.’ 

But she insisted she did not think there had been any miscarriages of justice until long after she left the organisation in 2019 – having previously told MPs the Post Office had ‘never lost a case’.

Ms Vennells, who served as chief executive for seven years, came face-to-face with victims at the public inquiry in central London, and had to wipe away tears as she opened her evidence with a short apology.

Turning to address the more than 100 campaigners present, she said: ‘I would just like to say – and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this in person – how sorry I am for all that subpostmasters and their families and others who suffered as a result of all of the matters that the inquiry has been looking into for so long.

‘I followed and listened to all of the human impact statements and I was very affected by them. I am very, very sorry.’

In a 775-page statement to the inquiry, she said she wished to repeat her apologies to all those who ‘have suffered so much from this terrible miscarriage of justice’.

She added: ‘Their lives were torn apart by being wrongly accused and wrongly prosecuted as a result of the Horizon system. I am truly sorry and will so [sic] for the rest of my life.’

Ms Vennells had to return her CBE earlier this year after ITV’s acclaimed drama series Mr Bates Vs The Post Office brought the scandal – and her central role in it – to a new audience.

The ordained Anglican priest had refused to comment publicly since, but was taken to task by Jason Beer KC, lead lawyer to the inquiry, during her first of three full days in the witness box.

Ms Vennells wept as she apologised for telling the Commons business select committee in 2015 that the Post Office was successful in every court case against subpostmasters as it probed Horizon’s integrity.

Inquiry lawyer Mr Beer said: ‘Why were you telling parliamentarians every prosecution involving the Horizon system had been successful and had found in favour of the Post Office?’

Ms Vennells, becoming tearful and reaching for a tissue, said: ‘I fully accept now – excuse me…

‘The Post Office knew that (not every case was won). Personally, I didn’t know that and I’m incredibly sorry that that happened to those people, and to so many others.’

There were murmurs in the inquiry room as she broke down briefly.

The inquiry heard Ms Vennells had sought advice from senior colleagues ahead of her appearance before the MPs when she asked for assurances that the system could not be accessed remotely.

She was subsequently presented with briefing notes on how to respond to MPs, which stated she was to say there was no functionality to change transaction data.

But, if pushed on the issue, she could add that there in fact was, although ‘there are numerous test and checks including daily checks’.

She agreed with the inquiry chairman Sir Wyn Williams, who said the briefing note suggested Ms Vennells was being advised to ‘be very precise, very circumspect, and very guarded’ with her answers to MPs.

Ms Vennells also agreed with Mr Beer that it was a ‘serious issue’ for ‘folklore’ to develop within the Post Office, relating to incorrect claims about its 100 per cent success rate on prosecutions, that Horizon was faultless, and that remote access to the system was not possible – meaning errors were the result of the subpostmaster.

Mr Beer said: ‘Each of these things turn out to be false. How is it that on all of these critical issues, so many false statements were circulating within the Post Office?’

Ms Vennells said: ‘At the time they were not considered to be false statements. I didn’t believe any of those statements were folklore at all.’

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells is seen breaking down in tears as she gave evidence at the Horizon IT inquiry on Wednesday

Former Post Office boss Paula Vennells is seen breaking down in tears as she gave evidence at the Horizon IT inquiry on Wednesday

Paula Vennells, former CEO of the Post Office cries as she gives evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry on Wednesday

Paula Vennells, former CEO of the Post Office cries as she gives evidence at the Post Office Horizon IT Inquiry on Wednesday

Crucial to Ms Vennells’ evidence was the extent to which she knew about Horizon’s failings, and when.

She drew laughter from a handful of those watching when she insisted that she believed the reassurances given to her by colleagues.

‘One of my reflections of all of this – I was too trusting,’ she said. ‘I did probe and I did ask questions.’

She said she was ‘disappointed’ that some detail ‘wasn’t shared’ with her. But she denied there was a ‘conspiracy’ to keep information from her. Mr Beer asked: ‘Was there a conspiracy at the Post Office which lasted for nearly 12 years involving a wide range of people, differing over time, to deny you information and to deny you documents and to falsely give you reassurance.’

Ms Vennells smiled briefly as she replied: ‘No, I don’t believe that was the case.’

She added: ‘I have been disappointed – particularly more recently listening to evidence at the inquiry – where I think I have learnt that people know more than perhaps they remembered at the time or I knew of at the time.

‘My deep sorrow in this is I think individuals, myself included, maybe didn’t see things, didn’t hear things. Conspiracy feels too far-fetched.’ She pointed the finger at unnamed ‘colleagues’ who ‘did know more information than was shared’.

The probe later was shown a text message exchange between Vennells and Dame Moya Greene in January 2024, after the ITV drama Mr Bates Vs The Post Office aired.

Ms Vennells, the former Post Office chief executive, said Dame Moya was suggesting that there was a conspiracy within the Post Office.

Dame Moya messaged: ‘When it was clear the system was at fault, the PO should have raised a red flag, stopped all proceedings, given people back their money and then tried to compensate them for the ruin this caused in their lives.’

Ms Vennells replied: ‘Yes I agree. This has/is taking too long Moya. The toll on everyone affected is dreadful.’ 

Dame Moya said: ‘I don’t know what to say. I think you knew.’

Ms Vennells responded: ‘No Moya, that isn’t the case.’

Dame Moya said: ‘I want to believe you. I asked you twice. I suggested you get an independent review reporting to you. I was afraid you were being lied to. You said the system had already been reviews multiple times. How could you have not known?’

Ms Vennells replied: ‘Moya, the mechanism for getting to the bottom of this is the inquiry. I’ve made it my priority to support it fully.’

Dame Moya later said: ‘I am sorry.. I can’t now support you.’

‘I have supported you. All these years.. to my own detriment. I can’t support you now after what I have learned.’

Dame Moya said: ‘I want to believe you. I asked you twice. I suggested you get an independent review reporting to you. I was afraid you were being lied to.

On Wednesday Ms Vennells also said she had no idea when she joined the company in 2007 that the Post Office was investigating its own staff, taking them to court, and trying to recover money from them.

She said: ‘I didn’t understand that the Post Office was bringing its own criminal investigations.

‘Investigations can be taken at all sorts of different levels. I certainly didn’t read into this that the Post Office was conducting criminal investigations to the level that I later understood.’

She said she did not appreciate the situation fully until 2012, when she became chief executive.

Text exchange between former Post Office boss Paula Vennells and former Royal Mail boss Moya Greene

Text exchange between former Post Office boss Paula Vennells and former Royal Mail boss Moya Greene

As Vennells spoke, postmasters watching the inquiry livestream from Fenny Compton could be seen shaking their heads and laughing

As Vennells spoke, postmasters watching the inquiry livestream from Fenny Compton could be seen shaking their heads and laughing

Ms Vennells said: ‘I should have known and I should have asked more questions. I and others who also didn’t know should have dug much more deeply into this.

‘It was a serious mistake that I didn’t understand before 2012 the extent of what this meant.’

She said she thought Post Office workers were instead prosecuted by ‘external authorities’.

She said she and other colleagues ‘were surprised’ when they learned about the prosecutions by the organisation.

Sir Wyn said it was ‘extremely surprising’ that news ‘did not filter through’ to Ms Vennells about high-profile convictions.

Timeline of a travesty that’s still playing out 25 years on

  • 1999: The Horizon IT system from Fujitsu starts being rolled out to Post Office branches, replacing traditional paper-based accounting methods.
  • 2003: Sub-postmaster Alan Bates had his contract terminated by the Post Office after he refused to accept liability for £1,200 of losses in his branch in Llandudno, North Wales.
  • 2004: The branch in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, run by Lee Castleton, showed a shortfall of £23,000 over a 12-week period. Mr Castleton repeatedly asked the Post Office for help, but was sacked and sued for refusing to repay the cash. He was made bankrupt after a two-year legal battle, ordered to pay more than £300,000 for the company’s legal bill.
  • 2006: Jo Hamilton, sub-postmaster at South Warnborough, Hampshire, was sacked over financial discrepancies. She re-mortgaged her house twice to fill the shortfall and was charged with theft of £36,000. She later admitted a lesser charge of false accounting to avoid jail.
  • 2009: Computer Weekly magazine told the story of seven postmasters who had experienced unexplained losses. The Justice for Sub-postmasters Alliance (JFSA) was formed.
  • 2010: Mr Bates, from JFSA, writes to minister Sir Ed Davey about the flawed Horizon system and urges him to intervene. His warnings were dismissed.
  • 2012: With MPs raising concerns about convictions and the Horizon system, the Post Office launches an external review, with forensic accountants Second Sight appointed to investigate.
  • 2013: An interim report by Second Sight reveals serious concerns and defects in the IT system. The Daily Mail reveals dozens of postmasters may have been wrongly taken to court and jailed.
  • 2015: It is revealed the Post Office failed to properly investigate why money was missing and concluded computer failures may have been to blame. The Post Office finally stops prosecuting sub-postmasters but 700 end up being convicted.
  • 2017: A group legal action is launched against the Post Office by 555 sub-postmasters.
  • 2019: The High Court case ends in a £43million settlement but much of the cash was swallowed up in legal fees and victims received around £20,000 each. Post Office chief Paula Vennells awarded a CBE in New Year’s honours.
  • 2020: The Post Office agrees not to oppose 44 sub-postmasters’ appeals against conviction.
  • 2021: A public inquiry begins and is ongoing. The Court of Appeal quashes a further 39 convictions.
  • 2022: The Government announces a new compensation scheme.
  • 2023: Every postal worker wrongly convicted for Horizon offences will receive £600,000 compensation.
  • 2024: Mr Bates vs The Post Office first aired on ITV1 on New Year’s Day.

 



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How Rishi’s snap election gambit killed Nigel Farage’s MP ambitions: Brexit champion ‘was ready’ to run for Commons until PM’s shock July 4 announcement – but decided he could not win a seat in just six weeks

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Nigel Farage‘s ambitions of becoming an MP were wrecked by Rishi Sunak‘s bold snap election gambit, it was claimed today.

The PM received a massive boost this morning as the Brexit champion declared he will not be standing on July 4.

In a bombshell move, Mr Farage insisted he wants to focus on backing Donald Trump‘s campaign in the US. He said he wanted to ‘do my bit to help’ the party in the UK campaign but that it is not the right time ‘to go any further than that’.  

But sources told MailOnline that the timing of the election was the big factor in his decision, as he concluded six weeks was ‘not enough’ to put the work into a seat required to win.   

After the news, Richard Tice vowed to make the looming battle ‘the immigration election’ as he played down the impact.

Mr Tice told a press conference the party was standing in ‘630 seats across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales’. ‘We are going to win seats,’ he said.

He also ridiculed Mr Sunak for his rain-sodden election announcement yesterday, jibing that he had been ‘drowned out’ by ‘Remoaner in chief’ protester Steve Bray playing the 1997 New Labour anthem Things Can Only Get Better.  

The PM was in Derbyshire this morning after shocking the country – and his own MPs – by pulling the trigger on a July 4 contest

Rumours are swirling about a Nigel Farage comeback today as Reform prepares to launch its election push

Rumours are swirling about a Nigel Farage comeback today as Reform prepares to launch its election push

The Brexit champion insisted he wants to focus on backing Donald Trump 's campaign in the US, as he announced he will not be a candidate for the Commons

The Brexit champion insisted he wants to focus on backing Donald Trump ‘s campaign in the US, as he announced he will not be a candidate for the Commons

Keir Starmer was on the campaign trail in Gillingham with Angela Rayner this morning

Keir Starmer was on the campaign trail in Gillingham with Angela Rayner this morning

Official figures today showed immigration easing slightly after reaching a record high

Official figures today showed immigration easing slightly after reaching a record high

Even senior Reform insiders had admitted they had no idea whether he would turn up to a press conference scheduled this morning. 

In relatively downbeat interviews last night, the Brexit champion said the PM had chosen to go for political ‘suicide’ branding the Tories ‘Big State liberals’.

But he only said he would ‘think about’ his own plans overnight, suggesting Mr Sunak’s decision to go early had ‘quite a lot to do with me’ – so he did not have time to gain momentum in a campaign.

Ministers claim progress as figures show immigration finally easing to 685,000 – but record high from 2022 is revised UP 

Ministers claimed progress today after net immigration dropped by 10 per cent last year – although it was still 685,000.

The latest figures on the key election battleground suggested that net long-term inflows were slightly more than the population of Sheffield in 2023.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also revised up the previous year to 764,000 – increasing the already eye-watering record high.

The ONS said it was too early to tell if a downward trend had begun, but the number of people coming to the UK is slowing while emigration is rising.

Work was the biggest driver of migration in 2023, overtaking study, and there was a substantial increase in the number of people arriving from outside the EU on work-related visas, the figures suggest.

The measure – which is the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving the country – has been revised upwards by 19,000 for 2022 from an earlier estimate of 745,000 now that more complete data for the year is available.

Some 1.22million people are estimated to have arrived in the UK in 2023 (immigration), while 532,000 are likely to have left (emigration). This is compared with 1.26 million and 493,000 respectively in 2022.

The rise in the number of people emigrating from the UK long-term has been driven largely by increased emigration from non-EU nationals, particularly among those who initially arrived on a study visa, the ONS said.

The figures precede a raft of restrictions brought in by the Government since the start of 2024 amid pressure to cut the record number of people legally arriving in Britain.

The Home Office stressed the estimates ‘do not take into account the major package measures announced in December which have already started to have an effect’.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said: ‘The latest migration statistics show a 10 per cent fall in net migration last year, with visa applications down 25 per cent so far in 2024.

‘This shows the plan under Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives is working but there is more to do. That is why we must stick to the plan, not go back to square one.’

In a statement posted on X, Mr Farage said: ‘I have thought long and hard as to whether I should stand in the upcoming general election.

‘As honorary president of Reform UK, I am fully supportive of Richard Tice’s leadership and urge voters to put their trust in him and Lee Anderson.

‘I will do my bit to help in the campaign, but it is not the right time for me to go any further than that.

‘Important though the general election is, the contest in the United States of America on November 5 has huge global significance. A strong America as a close ally is vital for our peace and security. I intend to help with the grassroots campaign in the USA in any way that I can.

‘The choice between Labour and the Conservatives is uninspiring, and only Reform have the radical agenda that is needed to end decline in this country.’

Mr Farage, who is also a presenter on GB News, is cancelling his show on the channel to free up time for campaigning. 

Lee Anderson, the former Tory deputy chairman, is the only current Reform UK MP following his defection from the Conservatives. 

Mr Tice, a multimillionaire former Tory donor, said he was ‘delighted to have Nigel’s help during the election campaign’.

One close ally of Mr Farage told MailOnline: ‘Everything was on the table but 6 weeks is simply not enough time.’ 

Another long-term supporter said Mr Farage was just ‘very cross Rishi outplayed him’. 

At Reform’s election launch event, former MEP Ben Habib appeared to have a coded dig at Mr Farage’s decision not to stand.

Mr Habib, who is standing in Wellingborough, said: ‘For any political movement to succeed, it needs a leader who is prepared to absolutely stay the distance and make the fight.’

He said Mr Tice ‘has the moral courage not to vacate either when the going gets tough, or when it might suit him’.

Asked if he was referencing Mr Farage, Mr Habib said: ‘You interpret (my comment) as you see fit. In any walk of life, you have to stay the distance.’

Anxiety has been growing in Tory ranks about the prospect of Reform gifting Keir Starmer victory by tempting natural supporters away.

The party has been registering above 10 per cent in polls, potentially enough to doom significant number of Conservative MPs – although experts believe they will not be able to win any seats. 

Mr Tice is currently leader of Reform, but Mr Farage founded the party and has been mulling a comeback for months. 

The timing of the poll in the summer could mean he finds it easier to campaign, as it is before the US election where he will be stumping for Donald Trump.

But Mr Farage has also pointed out that it is incredibly difficult to get MPs elected under first past the post – having failed himself to win a seat many times. 

Speaking to GB News, where is a presenter, Mr Farage said: ‘I think the timing of this general election has quite a lot to do with me.

‘He (Mr Sunak) was scared. He’d heard rumours – true or not, he’d heard rumours – that I was going to go into the frontline political fray, and if he gave me a six-month run against the worst most insincere Conservative prime minister in history, against the most boring house party guest as leader of the Labour party … I think Reform was a very big factor in this decision.’

He added that Mr Sunak had ‘chosen suicide over obliteration’, and was likely to be left with 150-180 seats, compared to 50 if he waited another six months.

Mr Farage has previously stressed that he will not be joining the Tories, despite a ‘very sweet’ suggestion from Liz Truss that he would be welcome.

The campaign got off to a less than auspicious start last night as Mr Sunak announced the summer election in a dramatic – and soaking wet – Downing Street statement.

As his suit became drenched, and with protesters playing the New Labour anthem of ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ in the background, Mr Sunak pointed to inflation being ‘back to normal’ and insisted he was ‘stopping the boats’.   

Meanwhile, there was some other positive news for the premier with signs immigration is finally dipping. 

Official figures showed a 10 per cent drop in net long-term inflows last year – although the level was still an eye-watering 685,000, bigger than the population of Sheffield. The previous record for 2022 was also revised upwards to 764,000.

Ministers argue that reforms tightening rules on dependents and students have only just taken effect. 

The PM joked he is ‘drier’ than yesterday and had ‘brought an umbrella’ as he gave interviews from Derbyshire this morning after shocking the country – and his own MPs – by pulling the trigger on a July 4 contest.

He launched a highly personal attack on Keir Starmer, swiping that he had ‘no convictions’ and voters cannot trust him. 

However, he conceded that Rwanda flights will not now take off until after the election.

And the scale of the task facing the premier was underlined this morning with YouGov research showing Labour 25 points ahead – enough for a landslide bigger than that secured by Tony Blair in 1997. Polling guru Sir John Curtice said Mr Sunak’s decision to call a ballot meant he is ‘either very brave or extremely foolhardy’.

Mr Farage said last night he will 'think about' his plans, suggesting Mr Sunak had gone early to prevent Reform from getting ready for the contest

Mr Farage said last night he will ‘think about’ his plans, suggesting Mr Sunak had gone early to prevent Reform from getting ready for the contest

Party leader Richard Tice has called a press conference at 11am after Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun on a July 4 contest

Party leader Richard Tice has called a press conference at 11am after Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun on a July 4 contest

The campaign got off to a less than auspicious start last night as Mr Sunak announced the summer election in a dramatic - and soaking wet - Downing Street statement

The campaign got off to a less than auspicious start last night as Mr Sunak announced the summer election in a dramatic – and soaking wet – Downing Street statement

Party whips from the Conservatives and Labour are holding talks to work out what outstanding legislation can become law before prorogation – the end of the current parliamentary session – on Friday.

That includes the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which includes measures to establish a compensation scheme for victims of the infected blood scandal.



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The faces of TV’s election night: Broadcasters prepare to unveil July 4 presenting line ups with Laura Kuenssberg tipped to host on BBC, Tom Bradby anchoring on ITV and Kay Burley fronting coverage on Sky News

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General elections are the biggest nights in the TV news calendar, and with all eyes on July 4 the nation’s broadcasters are now preparing to unveil their presenting line ups. 

Channel 4 became the first major channel to confirm their choices last month before the poll had even been called – with Emily Maitlis announced as their main presenter.

Sky News has also been quick on the act, revealing today that Kay Burley will serve as their election night anchor. 

The BBC traditionally dominates election night coverage, but is yet to confirm its plans, while ITV are remaining similarly tight-tipped despite Tom Bradby being widely tipped for the top job.  

Below, MailOnline runs through everything we know so far –  

Huw Edwards was previously the face of the BBC’s election coverage, so his departure over a sex texts scandal opened up a major vacancy. 

Laura Kuenssberg has been widely tipped to replace him, with reports suggesting she could be joined by News at Ten host Clive Myrie, 59. 

Kuenssberg, 47, currently fronts her own Sunday morning interview programme, but was previously the BBC’s political editor – making her well suited to take up the role

Laura Kuenssberg has been widely tipped to replace Huw Edwards as the BBC's election night host

Laura Kuenssberg has been widely tipped to replace Huw Edwards as the BBC’s election night host  

Reports suggest she could be joined by News at Ten host Clive Myrie, 59

Reports suggest she could be joined by News at Ten host Clive Myrie, 59

Last year the broadcaster hit back at claims she has lost viewers for her Sunday morning politics show since taking over from Andrew Marr, saying her programme is ‘bucking the trend’ by seeing higher viewing figures.

The shadow of the Edwards scandal will hang over the BBC’s election coverage last year.  

The BBC veteran has been off air since last July after he was accused of paying a 17-year-old teenager £35,000 for sexual images over three years.

Edwards was allegedly warned by the BBC about his online conduct two years before the scandal broke, according to reports last month. 

The newsreader, 62, was spoken to about his behaviour on two separate occasions in 2021 and 2022, according to reports.

The first meeting came after a complaint from a woman, who was in her 40s at the time, in May 2021, it was alleged. She had requested that Edwards stop contacting her, which prompted bosses to speak to him ‘about his actions’.

However, they remained in contact, leading to a second complaint from the woman, in 2022, The Times said. A senior manager allegedly spoke to Edwards again, advising that ‘further concerns had been raised’ and any contact ‘should now cease’.

The shadow of the Huw Edwards scandal will hang over the BBC's election coverage last year

The shadow of the Huw Edwards scandal will hang over the BBC’s election coverage last year 

But the pair are said to have remained in touch via email.

The BBC said in response to the Edwards’ story last month: ‘When dealing with non-editorial complaints we have longstanding and robust processes in place. We will always seek to handle any such issues with care, fairness and sensitivity to everyone concerned.’

Asked about its election coverage today, a spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We will set out our plans in due course.’  

Channel 4: Emily Maitlis confirmed 

While many broadcasters are still finalising their schedules, Channel 4 has already confirmed Emily Maitlis as its choice for the general election. 

Maitlis, 53, will present the election special alongside Channel 4 News presenter and Strictly Come Dancing star Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

The former newsreader joins a eclectic line-up of presenters including BBC Sport presenter Clare Balding and political analyst Rory Stewart.

Maitlis revealed she was leaving the BBC in 2022 and now co-hosts The News Agents podcast alongside Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall. 

Emily Maitlis has already been confirmed as the face of Channel 4's general election coverage

Emily Maitlis has already been confirmed as the face of Channel 4’s general election coverage  

The former BBC presenter is best known for her 2019 interview with Prince Andrew about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein

The former BBC presenter is best known for her 2019 interview with Prince Andrew about his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein  

She was recently portrayed on screen in the Netflix movie Scoop, which details the events around her Newsnight interview with the Duke of York in which she grilled him about his relationship with paedophile financier Jeffrey Epstein.

‘I’m delighted to be bringing The News Agents to the heart of Channel 4 on this important night – and to work with such an incredible cast of people,’ Maitlis said. ‘I cannot wait.’

Throughout the night, Maitlis and Guru-Murthy will be joined by Stewart and Alastair Campbell, who will host a live version of their hit podcast The Rest is Politics as thee results come in.

The duo will also be joined by some familiar faces from the reality TV show Gogglebox.

Elsewhere, broadcaster Cathy Newman will present from the Labour and Conservative campaign headquarters while Balding will break down the data as it comes in.

Channel 4 News political editor Gary Gibbon will deliver analysis and a team of reporters will be at key counts across the country to capture the drama as the results are declared.

Channel 4's eclectic line-up for its general election coverage will feature (pictured left to right) Cathy Newman, Rory Stewart, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Emily Maitlis, Alastair Campbell and Clare Balding

Channel 4’s eclectic line-up for its general election coverage will feature (pictured left to right) Cathy Newman, Rory Stewart, Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Emily Maitlis, Alastair Campbell and Clare Balding

Guru-Murthy, 54, said: ‘I’m so looking forward to joining this brilliant line-up of people to capture an exciting and historic night.

‘We will have piercing analysis, sharp interviews and all those memorable moments as the results come in.

‘I think this is going to be one of those rare election nights we remember for decades so I hope viewers will enjoy spending it with us.’

Stewart, 51, said: ‘I’m really looking forward to bringing the podcast to life on TV with Alastair live on Channel 4.

‘Hopefully we can still disagree agreeably even in the heat of the electoral madness.’

Campbell, 66, added: ‘The success and continuing growth of The Rest Is Politics podcast has shown there is a huge appetite for serious sensible debate and on what promises to be one of the most important and exciting election nights in many a year I am delighted that Rory Stewart and I will be part of Channel 4’s coverage.’

Sky News: Kay Burley confirmed  

Sky today revealed its election coverage plans today – unveiling Kay Burley as its main presenter. 

The 63-year-old will anchor Election Night Live, the overnight results programme, from a 360-degree immersive studio normally used by Sky Sports shows like Monday Night Football.

Kay Burley will lead Sky News' coverage of election night

Kay Burley will lead Sky News’ coverage of election night 

Burley, who will be covering her 12th general election, will be joined by political editor Beth Rigby, Sir Trevor Phillips and data and economics editor Ed Conway.

Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, will join former Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Baroness Ruth Davidson, to provide guest analysis.

Professor Michael Thrasher will lead Sky News psephology team, as he has at every election since 1989.

ITV: Tom Bradby set to return 

Tom Bradby hosted ITV’s coverage of election night in 2019 and attracted 1.4million viewers – the second highest after the BBC. 

The host of ITV’s News at 10 was joined by political editor Robert Peston and national editor Allegra Stratton, while George Osborne and Ed Balls were in the studio to comment on proceedings – aided by Ruth Davidson and Alan Johnson.

ITV has not yet announced its coverage plans, but it seems likely Bradbury will make a reappearance. 

Bradby is an ITV veteran and previously served as the network’s royal correspondent. 

Famously, he is a firm friend of Prince Harry and was one of two journalists he selected to carry out a sit-down interview to promote his tell-all memoir, Spare.

Bradby was one of two journalists he selected to carry out a sit-down interview to promote his tell-all memoir, Spare

Bradby was one of two journalists he selected to carry out a sit-down interview to promote his tell-all memoir, Spare



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What do you think of Scott Foster after reading this?

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When he was a cocksure 25-year-old, on the fast track to officiating big-time college basketball, Scott Foster was summoned for a sit-down with his dad.

They met at a bar, and his father, Dickie, brought along a family friend with experience in high-level sports. They were concerned about Foster, who was mulling a daring career move. It was 1992, and he had been offered a job in the Continental Basketball Association, then a training ground for the NBA, making $95 a game. But to do so, he would have to forgo his schedule — and career path — of officiating Division I games, which at the time were paying him $250 a game. His dad and friend couldn’t see the logic of accepting less money, less exposure and less stability.

His dad’s word carried a lot of weight, not just with Foster, but all around Maryland’s Montgomery County. Dickie Foster was a decorated assistant fire chief, an accomplished softball player and the pulse of the frequent parties at the Foster house. As people splashed in their pool, and his dad grilled meats, Foster says he can remember being cornered by firefighters passionately telling him stories about his dad’s heroics, his dad’s leadership and how much his dad meant to them.

“The only job cooler than a firefighter in my neighborhood growing up was Major League Baseball player,” Foster said. “So he was a big deal.”

But on this day at the bar, as his dad addressed Foster’s new job offer, Dickie Foster used words like “pipe dream” and “one-in-a-million” and “few-and-far between.” Foster remembers his dad’s final words on the matter: “Not everyone can be Michael Jordan.”

“But …” Foster remembers telling his dad, “what if I am the Michael Jordan of officiating?”

Today, Foster insists he said that in jest. But it is significant to note that more than 30 years later, he remembered that scene, and that line, enough to retell it. And it’s significant to note that more than 30 years later, Foster has ascended to Jordanesque stature among NBA referees.

The NBA employs 74 officials, and none can boast a résumé more impressive than Foster’s: he is the active career leader in playoff games (252, through May 19), NBA Finals games (24) and consecutive years officiating in the finals (16 and counting). As this season’s playoffs head toward the conference finals, Foster remains at the forefront with the most playoff assignments.

Many fans, players and coaches, however, have a different assessment of his work.

One NBA head coach, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution in future games, said he considers Foster among the worst of NBA referees, citing his arrogance, his unwillingness to listen and his tendency to incite, rather than defuse, conflict.

Some players, most notably stars Chris Paul and James Harden, have publicly criticized Foster, calling him rude and arrogant while suggesting he holds grudges. Paul, who served as the players’ union president from 2013 to ’21, has gone as far to say, multiple times, that Foster makes his games “personal.”

And there is an undercurrent of mistrust because of Foster’s ties with Tim Donaghy, the former NBA referee who went to prison for his involvement in a betting scandal.

The gap between how Foster is viewed by some players and coaches, and how the league sees him, highlights an issue that has plagued the NBA for years and sharply escalated this season: the quality and consistency of the league’s officiating. The league this season levied $765,000 in fines to players and coaches for criticism and/or inappropriate conduct toward officials, up from the $385,000 fined last season. Postgame news conferences are often as notable for coaches’ denunciations of the referees as for commentary about the players.

Foster’s polarizing status derives from two of his definitive traits: His accuracy in calling a game and what is viewed as an unpleasant bedside manner. It has led to a complicated legacy, one that confuses and pains him.

“I would love it if I could be a cross between Joe Crawford, who was a strong referee, and Dick Bavetta, who was a beloved referee … but right now, that is not possible,” Foster said.


Scott Foster (right) celebrates with his mom, Pam, and dad, Dickie, after working a game as a rookie in December 1994. His dad is wearing the first referee jacket issued to Scott. (Courtesy of Scott Foster)

Tommy Foster estimates he was 14 when he and his friends happened upon his older brother, standing in front of a mirror. The neighborhood kids all looked up to Scott, who was four years older. Tommy calls his oldest brother his “protector” and the “leader of the family,” but on this day, the group of teenagers couldn’t believe their eyes.

There was Foster, in front of the mirror, practicing the nuances of his latest job: basketball referee. Every time he blew his whistle, he would practice a different signal. (Whistle) … raised hand for a foul … (whistle) … a rolling of the arms for travel … (whistle) … rigidly placing his hands on his hips for a blocking foul. Tommy and his friends were gobsmacked.

“We were like … ‘You’re a weirdo,’” Tommy said. “‘Get out of the mirror, psycho.’”

Foster was 18, and beginning to look at officiating as more than just a way to make spending money. He first put a whistle in his mouth when he was in high school. He coached both of his younger brothers, Tommy and David, and a requirement at the Montgomery Rec Center was for coaches to stay after their game and referee the next contest. He says he still remembers his first correct call in one of those youth games, a baseline drive that was disrupted by too much contact from the defender. The sequence of blowing the whistle, raising his fist and reporting the foul to the scorer’s table gave him a feeling of accomplishment.

“To do all that, it felt good,” Foster said. “So I said, ‘I want to do this all the time.’”

In retrospect, Tommy says it makes sense that his oldest brother went into officiating. Ever since they were kids, Scott was the one who upheld the sanctity of the Candlewood Park neighborhood games in Derwood, Md. Whether the kids were playing Wiffle ball, football or basketball, Tommy said Scott’s words held weight not only because he was the oldest, but also because he was the most honest.

“I was a cheating little s—,” Tommy said. “I just always wanted to win. And because I was the youngest, I was always on my brother’s team. So there would be times like, even though I knew I only got one foot in bounds on a catch (in football), I would argue that I got both feet in. And we would go on and on, until Scott would come in and be like, ‘We’re not cheating here. Your guys’ ball.’ His integrity … he always wanted to do the right thing.”

Foster’s dedication to officiating at such an early age was consistent with his work ethic growing up. At 16, he bought a red 1967 Ford pickup for $250. It had a rusted bed, three-on-the-tree transmission and a tailgate that only Foster knew how to close. The truck came in handy when he took to cutting neighbors’ lawns. Soon, he was canvasing more customers, and with the added income he bought a trailer and more mowers. Then he added biweekly trash disposal to his offerings. Foster’s Maintenance was born. At its height, Foster’s Maintenance had 25 residential customers, seven banks and a memorable reprimand from the Magruder High School office.

The school parking lot was once littered with garbage, courtesy of crows that had raided Foster’s pickup bed.

The crows ended his practice of waiting until after school to dump his customers’ trash, but it wasn’t until he was 18 that he passed the business down to his middle brother, David, who is three years younger.

“It was the day I reached into a trash can and came out with a hand soiled by a baby diaper,” Foster said. “Later in the day, I took a load to the dump and maggots got all over my legs. That was my official thought of, ‘I should go to college.’”

He went to the University of Maryland and attended basketball games at Cole Field House not so much to watch the players but rather the mannerisms and mechanics of legendary ACC referees Lenny Wirtz and John Moreau. He also went to catch glimpses of Paula, the cheerleader he would later marry. It was 1988, and as he worked high school games in Washington D.C., he dreamed of one day officiating one of college basketball’s most famed matchups: Duke versus North Carolina.

Little did Foster know, but once he decided to adopt a whistle as his trade, there would be worse days ahead than baby diapers and maggots, and bigger games on the horizon than Duke versus North Carolina.


In his perfect world, Foster imagines being anonymous. Nobody knows him, nobody has even heard of him. But he lost that privilege in 1996, his second NBA season.

While working his first nationally televised game, Foster ejected Lakers star Magic Johnson for bumping him, earning Johnson a three-game suspension and a $10,000 fine. Famed Lakers fan Jack Nicholson went onto the court and gave Foster the choke sign — two hands around the throat. Announcer Bob Costas analyzed the ejection at halftime.

“It was like Kennedy got assassinated again,” Foster said. “It was brutal. That was probably the first time people heard my name … but it’s not like I said ‘Thank god, that put me on the map.’ The last thing I wanted was to be the lead on SportsCenter and CNN news.”

It was a referee’s nightmare: he had become part of the story.

“You never want to be known,” Foster said. “Everybody thinks I love the spotlight, and says, ‘We didn’t come here to see you’ and I’m like, ‘I know. I get it. I don’t want you to come see me. I’m not worth seeing, to be honest with you.’”

Yet, Foster has had a difficult time avoiding attention. Since the Magic ejection, he has weathered a confrontation in an arena garage, an FBI investigation, two NBA investigations and a list of what detractors say are quick technical fouls, vindictive whistles and arrogant indifference — all delivered with a look as if he just encountered another soiled diaper.

The conflicts and confrontations have led to what Foster calls “the noise.” Criticism that he is arrogant. Complaints that he refuses to communicate with players and coaches. Insinuations that he cannot be trusted. And the insistence that he holds grudges.

He says he can handle “the noise,” in part because it’s part of the job and in part because he is held in the highest regard by his peers. His in-game grading has annually rated him at the top of the profession, according to Monty McCutchen, the head of NBA officials. Referee Tyler Ford, in his ninth NBA season, says Foster is the “elite of the elite.” And Ashley Moyer-Gleich, in her sixth season, said, “Scott isn’t one of the best. Scott is the best.”

Even the most decorated of the profession, including retired referee Danny Crawford, who officiated in 23 consecutive NBA Finals, say Foster is exceptional.

“Scott Foster is by far one of the top referees in the game, if not the top referee,” Crawford said. “As far as his personality and people not liking him? It’s because he takes no flack. If you come at him in an unsportsmanlike manner, you are going to pay for it.”

As much as Foster says he can handle the noise, it became apparent during an extended interview with The Athletic that Foster has been pierced by a trident of accusations. He calls them the “Three Things” and referenced the “Three Things” three times throughout his interview, which was monitored by a communications official for the NBA.

Foster’s “Three Things” are always in the same order:

1. The 134 phone calls Foster exchanged with referee Tim Donaghy during a seven-month span when Donaghy was betting on NBA games and providing inside information to bookies.

2. Friction with Paul, the All-Star guard, which has included veiled accusations by Paul that Foster made things personal in the wake of a postgame encounter in 2015 with Paul’s young son.

3. A collection of anonymous player polls, one by The Los Angeles Times in 2016 and one by The Athletic in 2023, in which players voted Foster the worst referee in the NBA. In a 2019 poll by The Athletic, players voted Foster the second-worst ref behind Tony Brothers.

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“People want to grasp onto the negative and use three things that discredit Scott Foster … so now, you can take those three things and basically say, ‘Look at all this proof!’” Foster said. “But anybody who studies and looks at the number of plays I call for this team, and that team, and how fair I am … and basically I think every coach in this league would agree that I have the courage to do what is unpopular, but what is hopefully right.”


Chris Paul and Scott Foster


In three of the past four seasons, Scott Foster has officiated only one of Chris Paul’s regular-season games. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

If Magic Johnson first put the spotlight on Scott Foster in 1996, Chris Paul has made sure Foster remains under scrutiny.

At least four times since 2018, Paul has publicly claimed that Foster is out to get him and the team for which he plays. Paul has voiced a wide-ranging list of complaints — from unprovoked technicals in 2019, to Foster allegedly making inappropriate comments before a 2020 playoff game, to pointing out in 2021 that he had lost 11 consecutive playoffs games in which Foster officiated (a streak that would reach 13 before it ended in 2023). Also, in November, Foster ejected Paul with consecutive technicals at Phoenix. After the game, Paul said Foster years ago was involved in an incident with his son, Chris Paul Jr.

“We had a situation some years ago, and it’s personal,” Paul said in November. “The league knows, everybody knows, and it’s been a meeting and all that. It’s a situation with my son.”

The tension stems from an incident on April 28, 2015. That night, Foster officiated Game 5 of the first-round playoff series between Paul’s Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs won 111-107. Although Paul was given a technical in the fourth quarter, it was issued by Josh Tiven, and the game didn’t feature any egregious advantage from a foul or free throw standpoint.

The Spurs were whistled for five more fouls than the Clippers, and the Clippers attempted five more free throws. Of the 59 fouls called in the game, Foster whistled 23, Tiven 21 and Bill Kennedy 15. Of Foster’s calls, 12 went against the Clippers, including two of Paul’s three personal fouls.

After the game, Don Vaden, then the NBA’s director of officials, loaded into an SUV with the officiating crew. Vaden said Paul saw them getting into the car, and as Foster started the vehicle to drive out of the arena, Paul positioned himself in the middle of the exit lane, blocking their departure. As he did this, Paul turned his back to the car while holding the hand of his 5-year-old son.

As Foster idled, unsure what to do, Vaden said he summoned a security guard to ask Paul to move. As the security guard was talking to Paul, Foster tapped his horn, and Paul acted surprised before moving to the side.

“I got home the next day and was told there were accusations made that I did something unprofessional,” Foster said. “The NBA did an investigation and found there was nothing found that needed to be discussed or anybody talked to. And that was the end of that.”

Did he ever say something to Paul’s son?

“Noooo,” Foster said.

Was there any interaction at all with the son?

“Nope.”

The incident remained sensitive enough that a meeting was set up the following season, in the spring at the Clippers’ practice facility. In attendance were Foster, Paul, Paul’s father, then-Clippers coach Doc Rivers and Bob Delaney, a former referee who had moved into NBA management overseeing officials. Delaney could not be reached by The Athletic.

Paul has three times referenced the meeting in interviews, and in April, when asked by The Athletic about specifics about the meeting, Paul declined to elaborate. He repeated that as an active player, he was unable to say anything about Foster, citing the fear of a fine or retaliation from Foster’s colleagues.

“I gotta wait … I can’t say nothing,” Paul said.

Foster acknowledged that he was present at the 2016 meeting and participated in the dialogue with Paul, Paul’s father and Rivers.

“I was told that meeting was private, and that it would stay private forever, and that’s what I’m sticking to,” Foster said. “The fact that people know about it is too bad. I think it was a good idea. There was probably a small honeymoon period or something like that, and I think it helped as far as trying something.”

Whatever happened in the meeting, it didn’t resolve the tension.

In the 2017 playoffs, as the buzzer sounded after Paul’s Clippers lost Game 5 to Utah, Paul faked throwing the ball at Foster, causing Foster to flinch with his hands and legs. Foster said he has no recollection of the incident.

One year later, Paul would join Houston, and his clashes with Foster would follow.

During a January 2018 game against Portland, Paul was whistled for a foul by Foster, then approached referee Courtney Kirkland, saying, “That’s Scott … that’s Scott …” Foster overheard the comment and gave him a technical foul.

“Scott Foster at his finest … just … never fails,” Paul told reporters while shaking his head. Later he added, “There’s history there. But that’s Scott, you know, he ‘The Man.’ That’s who they pay to see.”

The next season, Paul and Rockets teammate James Harden complained about Foster after a 111-106 loss at the Lakers, in which both fouled out. Of the six fouls administered to each player, Foster called two on Harden and two on Paul. Foster also gave Paul and Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni technical fouls with 33 seconds remaining.

“Scott Foster, man,” Harden said after the game. “I never talk about the officiating, but just rude and arrogant. I mean, you aren’t able to talk to him throughout the course of a game, and it’s like how do you build that relationship with officials?”

When asked if he thought Foster was making it personal, Harden was emphatic.

“Yeah, for sure,” he said. “For sure it’s personal. For sure. Like, I don’t think he should even be able to officiate our games anymore, honestly.”

Paul was more reserved but exasperated.

“Uh, I mean, I don’t know what else to do,” Paul told reporters. “Met with the league with him before and all this stuff … I don’t know what else to do.”

Foster insists the public criticism from Paul, Harden or any player does not affect the way he calls games. Throughout questions about Paul, Foster was reserved and composed, and his voice never changed in volume or octave.

“I was hoping all this would all go away that day, the day of the meeting,” Foster said.

In 2020, Paul alluded that Foster made an inappropriate comment to him before his Game 7 playoff game. ESPN reported that Paul said Foster made a point to tell him he refereed his last Game 7, a loss when Paul was with New Orleans in 2008.

Foster remembers the interaction differently.

“During that season I had, in my mind, found some common ground, and pretty good interaction between the two of us,” Foster said. “And in an attempt to further build a bridge and find common ground, I mentioned to Chris prior to the game that my first Game 7 I ever worked was that game (in 2008). The conversation seemed like a pleasant exchange among the two of us. I figured all Game 7s are something to remember and cherish, and I just shared that was the first I ever worked.”

What Foster says bothers him more than anything is the social-media narrative built by “the people with the stats” who have attempted to “build a case” that Foster is against Paul. Paul’s teams are 4-18 in playoff games refereed by Foster; 3-17 in games Paul played. Paul is 73-56 in playoff games not officiated by Foster.

“I went back and tried to figure out some of these games,” Foster said. “Like, one was a game in New Orleans, I think they were playing Denver, and they lose by like 50 (it was 121-63). Like, in what world can you put that on me?

“I mean, really? In what world can you put that on me?’


NBA referee Ashley Moyer-Gleich, pictured with Foster (left) and Curtis Blair, says: “Scott isn’t one of the best. Scott is the best.” (Gary Bassing / NBAE via Getty Images)

Player and/or team feuds with referees are part of NBA lore.

Scottie Pippen insisted Hue Hollins was out to get him. Clyde Drexler and Jake O’Donnell were so frosty that O’Donnell once refused to shake hands. Tim Duncan accused Joey Crawford of challenging him to a fight. And Danny Crawford said, “Dallas used to hate my guts,” because the Mavericks once lost 16 of 17 playoff games he officiated (Dallas was 6-17 in playoffs officiated by Crawford).

“Every era has the referee who everybody hates,” said former NBA referee Bill Spooner, who retired in 2020 after 32 seasons. “But guess what? They are the ones working the big games. Earl Strom, Jake (O’Donnell), Joey Crawford … everybody hated those guys. Same with Scott. But if it’s a big game, and the league wants somebody to run the game, Scott is going to be on it. Because he is a damn good referee.”

The latest chapter between Foster and Paul — when Paul was ejected in a November game against the Phoenix Suns — is notable because it was the last time the NBA assigned Foster to a game involving Paul’s Warriors. Foster officiated 61 regular season games this season and called the games of all 30 teams, including some teams as many as seven times, and some teams as many as six times. Golden State is the only team Foster officiated once.

It is the third time in the past four seasons that Foster has officiated only one of Paul’s regular-season games. In the four seasons prior, Foster refereed Paul an average of four games per regular season, including six in 2017-18.

McCutchen, the league official who oversees referees, acknowledged the friction between Paul and Foster, but he said he would never intentionally keep a referee away from a team because of conflict.

“Anytime there is some high-level tension, we give it some breathing room,” McCutchen said. “We don’t have a set time on that. What I can tell you is I didn’t tell our scheduler, ‘Don’t give Scott Foster any more Golden State games.’ That I can tell you. If I didn’t trust to assign a referee to a team or a player, then we shouldn’t avoid assigning them to that team, we should fire that referee. Because if you can’t assign every referee with confidence because of an integrity question, then those referees should be fired.”

McCutchen said the 144-day gap of Foster last working a Golden State game is not unusual. He cited 34 instances this season of an official having 144 or more days between working a team. He also said of 16 crew chiefs, 10 this season either saw a team one or zero times. He said if the Warriors had made the playoffs, “Scott would have seen Golden State.”

Foster said he merely goes where he is told.

“Obviously, I noticed I didn’t go back (to a Warriors game),” Foster said. “But there’s been lots of years that I don’t go back to places. But I’m not naive enough to think that there wasn’t some motive, reason.”

The three former referees interviewed for this article, each no longer under the watchful eye of the league, note that the Paul-Foster feud has been narrated from one side. The NBA largely restricts officials from speaking to the media, so the only vantage of the conflict, they claim, has been through Paul’s lens.

Spooner, the retired ref with 32 years in the league, said he thinks Paul has been building a calculated campaign against Foster.

“I’m going to tell you, and I know you are recording me, but I get asked all the time: ‘Who are some of the tough guys, some of the bad guys?’ And when I tell them that Chris Paul, in my 32 years in the league, was one of the biggest a–holes I ever dealt with, they say, ‘Not Rasheed Wallace … or da-da-da?’ Nope. Nothing like (Paul),” Spooner said. “And they are like, ‘Oh, he seems like such a nice guy.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, he’s a great image cultivator.’”

Foster said he has tried to review how he comes across when he levies fouls and technicals. He said he has never been reprimanded by the NBA, but he and McCutchen noted the two have had discussions about his body language and how his demonstrative and authoritative ways are received by coaches and players.

“One of the things we teach around here is that calling a technical foul should be the same thing as calling a travel, or a forearm check. We have a standard,” McCutchen said. “If you are ever giving a technical foul with the idea that ‘nobody talks to me that way’ … this has nothing to do with you. The NBA has a standard of what is a good or not a good technical foul. It’s important we hold people to that standard … Scott has really grown to applying the standard now.”

While Foster has his detractors among NBA coaches and players, he also has the respect of others. Chauncey Billups has experienced Foster from two perspectives: as a Hall of Fame player during his 17-year career and as Portland’s head coach for the past three seasons.

“I think Scott is an excellent official,” Billups said. “He’s not going to put up with any s—. He’s an old-school guy in the way that I like officials, like Joey Crawford, Steve Javie … they are not going to take nothing, whether you are the best player or a player up from the G League. It’s the same respect given. So I’ve always respected that about him.”

Billups said he thinks what hurts Foster is his body language and his natural affectation. Billups said Foster often looks aggravated or in a bad mood, and noted he rarely, if ever, smiles. It took years for him to conclude that it’s just Foster’s natural look.

“If you don’t know him, it looks like there is a level of arrogance with him,” Billups said. “And I’m not going to tell you that I know him well, but I’ve been in enough games with him to know that’s not the case. It’s his look (he chuckles) … seriously, though. But if you don’t know, and you have social media out here, and you look at him, you can just run with that narrative that he is angry and arrogant. He’s not.”

Spooner said he and other referees teased Foster about his take-no-flack reputation. He remembers hearing Darell Garretson, the former head of referees, telling the troops that they need to be able to adopt a different personality when on the floor.

“Garretson would say, ‘You have to be willing to go from zero to a—hole in a heartbeat,’” Spooner said. “And I used to joke, ‘Well, you’ve got that part down, Scott.’”

Some unease about Foster goes beyond his temperament. One player who just completed his sixth NBA season, and who requested anonymity for fear of violating the league’s policy on criticizing officials, said Foster’s friendship with Donaghy, and the 134 phone calls exchanged between the two, is brought up among players. They wonder if Foster was involved in the betting scandal.

“There’s speculation about that,” the player said.

This season, that speculation was on display courtesy of Minnesota center Rudy Gobert. He was fined after a regular season game in March and again in the playoffs for making a gesture after being called for a foul: rubbing his forefingers to his thumb, insinuating that money is on the line. In both games, Foster was crew chief.

“I wouldn’t say it offends me, but it definitely affects me, where I go, ‘Wow, man. Like really?’” Foster said of Gobert’s gesture. “I mean, come on. That’s not what we are about. You’ve got to be kidding me you think that. I just think that has become a symbol of disrespect, or a way you disrespect an official.”

But there it is. For everyone to see. The No. 1 thing of the “Three Things.”

“I talk until I’m blue in the face, and either people are going to believe me, or they don’t,” Foster said.


The voice on the telephone is uneasy, and reluctant to talk. It is a voice from Scott Foster’s past, a voice with which Foster no longer communicates.

“Does he know that you were calling me?” Tim Donaghy asked. “How come the NBA is letting you do a story on him? They usually don’t allow that …”

Before Donaghy served a prison sentence for his role in a gambling scheme, he was friends with Foster. Close friends.

“We were like brothers,” Donaghy said.

In 2003, Donaghy named Foster the godfather of his daughter, Molly. Shortly after, Foster named Donaghy the godfather of his oldest son, Kyle.

Today, Donaghy said he has lost touch with his godson. And he has not spoken to Foster since 2007 when Donaghy knew he was about to be arrested and called Foster to tell him he couldn’t play in a golf tournament.

Donaghy had placed bets on NBA games, including ones in which he officiated, and had provided confidential information, such as player injuries and referee assignments, to bookies. Donaghy pleaded guilty to two felonies: conspiracy to commit wire fraud by denying his employer the intangible right to honest services and conspiracy to transmit wagering information.

Foster became publicly embroiled in the controversy in 2008 when it was reported that he and Donaghy exchanged 134 phone calls during the time Donaghy was working with his co-conspirators. Many of the calls lasted no longer than two minutes and were placed in the hours before or after games, and some of the calls were made shortly before or after Donaghy spoke to one of his co-conspirators.

In August 2007, the FBI contacted Foster and interviewed him over the phone.

“I remember having a conversation with one of the FBI agents, and they said they turned his life upside down,” Donaghy said of Foster. “And they actually felt bad for everything he went through, just because he was associated with me. It obviously didn’t look good, the phone calls didn’t look good, but I can just tell you Scott wasn’t involved in any way, shape or form. I don’t care what anybody says. I know the true story.”

While the FBI was investigating Foster, the NBA hired former federal prosecutor Lawrence Pedowitz and his law firm to conduct a review of the league’s officiating. The Pedowitz report was 133 pages, with seven devoted to Foster. Pedowitz noted that during the 14-month investigation, Foster provided phone records from December 2006 through June 2008.

In his report, Pedowitz said Foster and Donaghy exchanged 170 phone calls during the timeframe of Donaghy’s involvement with his co-conspirators. Pedowitz also reported he found that volume wasn’t unusual among NBA referees.

“That’s how we communicated in 2007,” Foster said. “Anytime somebody wants to discredit me, or question my integrity, they draw this conclusion from this 134-phone-call article… and it’s like, ‘That’s the proof!’ There is no proof. Because it didn’t happen. Today, when people hear anybody called someone 134 times, it’s like ‘Wow! That’s weird.’ Because it is weird. I didn’t have text messaging in 2007. I had a Motorola Razor, which if you wanted to text ‘Yes’ in a text message it was 23 keystrokes or something crazy like that.”

In conclusion, the Pedowitz report said Foster’s phone records “do not in our view raise concerns about his integrity.”

Donaghy was sentenced to 15 months in prison, but Foster said he feels like he is the one serving a prison sentence.

“I never, ever said I wasn’t friends with Tim Donaghy. I was,” Foster said. “But I want everyone to know I had no idea what was going on. (After Donaghy was arrested) it was the lowest morale of our staff, the lowest morale of my life. I lost a friend who I haven’t spoken to since then, not out of anything other than … that’s just how bad it was.”

Donaghy, who served 11 months, now resides in Florida, where he lives off the rent from 15 properties he bought in 2008 and 2009. He says he still watches the NBA, and he becomes sad when he sees Foster.

“One of my biggest regrets is that me and him were very, very close,” Donaghy said. “It’s upsetting to me knowing he is getting a lot of s— because of what our relationship was at the time. So, that’s tough … just tough when I think about that relationship. I wasn’t going to call you back, but I’m hoping at some point, when Scott steps away, we can talk. And I can apologize to him. You never know, maybe that friendship can be pieced back together. I’m not sure.”


Foster has officiated 24 NBA Finals games, more than any other active referee. (Jesse D. Garrabrant / NBAE via Getty Images)

As his flight was preparing to leave Boston on May 8, Foster bolted to the plane lavatory. He needed to cry.

By nature, Foster is not emotional, let alone a crier. The last time he was moved to tears was before the 2023-24 season when the NBA referees gathered at their annual referee preseason meeting at a Brooklyn hotel.

Both times, he cried for the same reason: his father.

At the referees meeting, Foster was on camera for a promotional video about NBA referees receiving their white jacket, a keepsake given to officials when they work the Finals. The jackets are the holy grail of officiating. Foster has 16 of them, and what brought him to tears was remembering the first one.

It used to be such a cherished memory, that summer day in 2008 when Foster returned from Game 5 of the Celtics-Lakers Finals and walked down to his father’s Ocean City, Md., beach house with the jacket. For Foster, that first jacket represented a triumph in perseverance, a recognition of excellence, and it came on the heels of the Donaghy investigation, when he was at his lowest. When he presented his father the jacket, he told him he couldn’t have done it without him. In the following years, Dickie Foster wore the white jacket almost every time he left the house.

That memory for Foster had become heavy. His father was battling dementia, and Foster knew his condition meant the two would never share a moment like that again. As the cameras were rolling, he started bawling.

Now, eight months later, he was in the plane bathroom, losing it again.

Around 3 a.m., in the hours after he officiated Boston’s victory over the Cavaliers in Game 1, Foster learned his father had died. Dickie Foster was 79.

He thought he was prepared for the moment. It had been years since his dad was the vibrant, exuberant, friend-to-all, the one with a constant smile and unmistakable belly laugh. He repeated to Foster in the last couple of years that he was sorry for becoming a burden. Foster assured him he wasn’t.

Later that morning, as he called his dad’s friends, they all had the same reaction: sorrow but relief. Then, as Foster sat on the plane and delivered the news to one of his dad’s former softball teammates — “the coolest guy in my dad’s group of buddies” — the teammate started crying uncontrollably. Foster had to beeline to the bathroom to hide his emotions.

Foster began to wonder if he would be able to compose himself for his assignment the next day — Dallas at Oklahoma City. In homage to his father, Foster said missing the game was never a thought or an option. His dad often boasted he never missed a day of work at the fire department.

“My dad would have been really upset with me if he knew I did that because of his passing,” Foster said.

As he stood for the national anthem before Game 2 in Oklahoma City, Foster went through his normal routine: saying a prayer for all his family and friends who have passed (his mother died in 2016). He said he was worried he would break down in front of a full arena.

But then he remembered something his father always preached. Years ago, his father became enthralled with “The Precious Present,” a short story by Spencer Johnson. The story illustrates the value of finding happiness and contentment by living in the moment. His father over the years distributed dozens of copies to friends and family, and hung a sign on his porch that read “Precious Present.”

Foster blocked it all out … the noise … the three things … his father’s passing. He focused on the present.

When the anthem finished, Foster was composed and in the moment. He was right where he envisioned that day with his dad at the bar, so many years ago. He was in the NBA, at a big game, with a whistle in his mouth. He was at the top of the game.

(Photo illustration: Dan Goldfarb / The Athletic; photo: Bart Young / NBAE via Getty Images)



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British woman, 57, with terminal breast cancer is euthanised ‘on a beach in the sunshine’ in New Zealand surrounded by loved ones days after urging UK to change its laws on assisted dying

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A British woman with terminal breast cancer has been euthanised ‘on a beach in the sunshine’ in New Zealand just days after urging the UK to change its laws on assisted dying, her friend has revealed.

Tracy Hickman, 57, who was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer in March 2019, had been fighting for euthanasia rights in the UK before passing away on Wednesday.

In a heartfelt tribute posted on Instagram, social media and Tracy’s podcasting pal star Dom Harvey shared a picture of the pair alongside a caption that read: ‘Tracy Hickman passed away peacefully today. 

‘She was on a beach in the sunshine, surrounded by her loved ones. It was exactly what she wanted.

‘It was an honour being able to share her story’.

Tracy Hickman, 57, died by euthanasia on Wednesday on a beach in Bew Zealand, her pal Dom Harvey and husband Paul confirmed on Instagram

Tracy Hickman, 57, died by euthanasia on Wednesday on a beach in Bew Zealand, her pal Dom Harvey and husband Paul confirmed on Instagram

The British-New Zealand national had suffered with terminal breast cancer since 2019 and urged the UK to change its laws on assisted dying

The British-New Zealand national had suffered with terminal breast cancer since 2019 and urged the UK to change its laws on assisted dying

Tracy, pictured with husband Paul, said seriously ill people like her in Britain should be given choices about how their life should end

Tracy, pictured with husband Paul, said seriously ill people like her in Britain should be given choices about how their life should end

Among the hundreds of supportive and emotional comments under the post was one written by Tracy’s partner Paul.

‘Thanks for your handling of this story,’ he wrote. 

‘It has been sensitive, and the family really appreciated how you brought it to people’s attention in a way that allowed her to raise the awareness she wanted without sensationalising it nor seeking attention.

‘Thank you so much for turning the simple legacy she sought for her young great nieces and others into something really special.’

Tracy was euthanised in New Zealand – where it has been legalised since 2019, just days after sharing a defiant message on social media where she claimed she was ‘at peace’ with her decision to end her life on her own terms.

Last week, the British-New Zealand national told her fans in a brave statement: ‘The closer it  gets, the more peaceful I feel.

‘But I’m so sorry for causing distress to my family and friends, although they understand. 

‘The alternative is to live for another couple of months or so but have an uncertain and painful death.’ 

Tracy often spoke out on laws around assisted dying in the UK, and used her online platform to fight for others in her position to be able to decide when the right time is for them to pass away.

‘Look at what New Zealand has done, and do it even better,’ she said of her message to UK politicians, speaking to The Guardian.

Social media personality and podcast Dom Harvey posted a photo of a sunset on his Instagram alongside a message from Tracy's sister thanking him for a podcast he did on Tracy's life

Social media personality and podcast Dom Harvey posted a photo of a sunset on his Instagram alongside a message from Tracy’s sister thanking him for a podcast he did on Tracy’s life

‘There is a lot of focus on the right to life, but people should have the right to a peaceful, gentle death.’

In New Zealand, laws brought in under the End of Life Choice Act in 2019 enable competent adults to choose an assisted death – under the strict conditions that they have a terminal illness, are aged 18 or over, and have six months to live.

Linda Clarke – Tracy’s sister who lives in the UK – echoed her call’s to the UK government

‘If Tracy was still in the UK, I’d have to watch her go through a horrific death,’ she told the British newspaper.

Tracy was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2019 after a routine mammogram, despite being fit, a vegetarian, and non-drinker.

The diagnosis was followed by surgery and chemotherapy. She said she suffered side-effects, such as hearing loss and ‘chemo brain’, but the cancer receded.

This allowed her to return to work and run marathons.

However, by February 2023, the cancer returned and spread, while further treatments led to more side effects, including serious pain.

Tracy told the newspaper that at this stage, she was not eligible for an assisted death as doctors believed she had more than six months to live.

She said she even considered suicide by refusing to eat or drink.

Her prognosis changed in March this year when doctors discovered dozens of tumours in her brain and advised she probably only had three months to live.

This, she said, was a ‘huge shock’ and has led to her taking morphine.

Following her diagnosis, Tracy applied for an assisted death through New Zealand’s simple process that includes an assessment from two doctors.

A medical team administered her drugs while she relaxed on a beach, until she lost consciousness within a few minutes while listening to the waves surrounded by family.

Euthanasia, or medically assisted death, is currently illegal in both the UK and the wider British Isles, and currently any medic or person who performs euthanasia can face prosecution for manslaughter or murder.

Even helping a terminally ill person take their own life, called assisted suicide, is an offence in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

While no specific law on assisted suicide exists in Scotland, helping someone end their own life could lead to a prosecution for culpable homicide in circumstances where a court determines a person’s death was not entirely voluntary.



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Deep Space Nine’s Haneek Required Some Complicated Hair And Makeup

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The Skrreean makeup was designed by longtime “Star Trek” makeup artist Michael Westmore. Deborah May recalls having to report to the makeup department many hours before filming, and that Westmore and his team had to glue a thin film on her face peppered with particularly gritty sand. One could “pick” the sand chunks out, if one were so reckless, giving viewers the impression that the Skrreeans were constantly shedding. She also knew that the elaborate hair (seen in the photos above) required three separate wig pieces. It also wasn’t easy to remove. May said: 

“The look of the hair and skin was most interestingly achieved. If memory serves, I was in makeup for over two hours every morning. Three wigs and layers of latex and gravel and cardboard, I think, created that shedding quality. Removing it was no easy or short process. One had to stand in the shower for at least 15 minutes until a ‘bubble’ of water formed under the makeup. Then, it was slowly peeled away from forehead to neck. Not fun for those subject to feeling claustrophobia.”

Even more so than on its predecessor “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine” required massively elaborate makeup on the daily. Series regulars Quark (Armin Shimerman) and Odo (René Auberjonois) had full-face masks, and the bulk of the supporting cast was made up of Ferengi, Cardassians, Klingons, Founders, Jem-Hadar, or other protrusion-heavy aliens. Westmore outdid himself on a weekly basis. 

Deborah May returned to “Star Trek” in a “Voyager” episode called “Favorite Son” (March 19, 1997) wherein she played a Taresian named Lyris who tries to convince the human Ensign Kim (Garrett Wang) that he is actually a Taresian. 

“Trek” has always been very good to its supporting players. Well, makeup notwithstanding.



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No rain on his parade: Rishi Sunak lays down the gauntlet by challenging Labour’s Keir Starmer to SIX TV debates – as PM laughs off sodden general election launch by posing with a brolley

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Rishi Sunak today laid down the gauntlet to Sir Keir Starmer by challenging the Labour leader to six TV debates during the general election campaign.

The Prime Minister has let it be known he is willing to face-off against Sir Keir every week during the six-week battle ahead of polling day on 4 July.

The challenge to the Labour leader was issued as both main party leaders engaged in a blitz of campaign events on the first full day since the election date was confirmed.

Mr Sunak visited Derbyshire this morning where he posed with an umbrella following his rain-sodden address in Downing Street yesterday afternoon.

As he shocked Westminster by announcing he was sending the country to the polls much earlier than most expected, the PM became visibly drenched by the grim London weather as he spoke outside No10.

Today, alongside a picture of himself being handed an umbrella by Erewash MP Maggie Throup, Mr Sunak posted on social media: ‘Better late than never.’

Rishi Sunak visited Derbyshire this morning where he was posed with an umbrella following his rain-sodden address in Downing Street yesterday afternoon

Rishi Sunak visited Derbyshire this morning where he was posed with an umbrella following his rain-sodden address in Downing Street yesterday afternoon

Alongside a picture of himself being handed an umbrella by Erewash MP Maggie Throup, Mr Sunak posted on social media: 'Better late than never'

Alongside a picture of himself being handed an umbrella by Erewash MP Maggie Throup, Mr Sunak posted on social media: ‘Better late than never’

If Mr Sunak and Sir Keir were to engage in six TV debates during the election campaign, that would be more than any PM has agreed to since TV debates were first introduced before the 2010 general election.

A source close to Mr Sunak told The Telegraph: ‘Rishi Sunak is up for debating Keir Starmer as many times as he likes.

‘And if Starmer doesn’t want to do it, what is he hiding? If he has all these great plans, why doesn’t he come out and say what he wants to do?’

Asked how many debates Mr Sunak would be willing to have with Sir Keir, the source added: ‘We will do as many as we can get. We will do one every week if he wants.’

The Labour leader has previously dismissed claims he would ‘duck’ TV debates as his party enjoys a massive poll lead over the Tories.

He said in January: ‘Look, I’ve been saying ‘bring it on’ for a very, very long time. I’m happy to debate any time.’

After answering questions from workers at William West Distribution in Ilkeston, Debyshire, Mr Sunak is making a campaign stop in South Wales before heading up to Scotland later today.

The PM received a huge boost on the first day of election campaigning as Nigel Farage dramatically killed off hopes of a political comeback.

The Brexit champion insisted he wants to focus on backing Donald Trump’s campaign in the US, as he announced he will not be a parliamentary candidate for Reform UK.

The bombshell will be a massive relief for Mr Sunak, after months of uncertainty about Mr Farage’s intentions.

Meanwhile, there was some other positive news for the PM with signs immigration is finally dipping.

Official figures showed a 10 per cent drop in net long-term inflows last year – although the level was still an eye-watering 685,000, bigger than the population of Sheffield.

The previous record for 2022 was also revised upwards to 764,000.

Ministers argue that reforms tightening rules on dependents and students have only just taken effect.

After answering questions from workers at William West Distribution in Ilkeston, Debyshire, Mr Sunak is making a campaign stop in South Wales before heading up to Scotland later today

After answering questions from workers at William West Distribution in Ilkeston, Debyshire, Mr Sunak is making a campaign stop in South Wales before heading up to Scotland later today 

The PM received a huge boost on the first day of election campaigning as Nigel Farage dramatically killed off hopes of a political comeback

The PM received a huge boost on the first day of election campaigning as Nigel Farage dramatically killed off hopes of a political comeback 

Mr Farage insisted he wants to focus on backing Donald Trump's campaign in the US, as he announced he will not be a parliamentary candidate for Reform UK

Mr Farage insisted he wants to focus on backing Donald Trump’s campaign in the US, as he announced he will not be a parliamentary candidate for Reform UK

Sir Keir was on the campaign trail in Gillingham with Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner this morning

Sir Keir was on the campaign trail in Gillingham with Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner this morning

Official figures today showed immigration easing slightly after reaching a record high

Official figures today showed immigration easing slightly after reaching a record high

The PM joked he is ‘drier’ than yesterday and had ‘brought an umbrella’ as he gave interviews from Derbyshire this morning after shocking the country – and his own MPs – by pulling the trigger on a July 4 contest.

He launched a highly personal attack on Keir Starmer, swiping that he had ‘no convictions’ and voters cannot trust him.

However, he conceded that Rwanda flights will not now take off until after the election.

And the scale of the task facing the premier was underlined this morning with YouGov research showing Labour 25 points ahead – enough for a landslide bigger than that secured by Tony Blair in 1997.

Polling guru Sir John Curtice said Mr Sunak’s decision to call a ballot meant he is ‘either very brave or extremely foolhardy’.

Even senior Reform insiders had admitted they had no idea whether he would turn up to a press conference scheduled this morning. 

In interviews last night, the Brexit champion said the PM had chosen to go for political ‘suicide’ branding the Tories ‘Big State liberals’.

But he only said he would ‘think about’ his own plans overnight, suggesting Mr Sunak’s decision to go early had ‘quite a lot to do with me’ – so he did not have time to gain momentum in a campaign.

Ministers claim progress as figures show immigration finally easing to 685,000 – but record high from 2022 is revised UP 

Ministers claimed progress today after net immigration dropped by 10 per cent last year – although it was still 685,000.

The latest figures on the key election battleground suggested that net long-term inflows were slightly more than the population of Sheffield in 2023.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also revised up the previous year to 764,000 – increasing the already eye-watering record high.

The ONS said it was too early to tell if a downward trend had begun, but the number of people coming to the UK is slowing while emigration is rising.

Work was the biggest driver of migration in 2023, overtaking study, and there was a substantial increase in the number of people arriving from outside the EU on work-related visas, the figures suggest.

The measure – which is the difference between the number of people arriving and leaving the country – has been revised upwards by 19,000 for 2022 from an earlier estimate of 745,000 now that more complete data for the year is available.

Some 1.22million people are estimated to have arrived in the UK in 2023 (immigration), while 532,000 are likely to have left (emigration). This is compared with 1.26 million and 493,000 respectively in 2022.

The rise in the number of people emigrating from the UK long-term has been driven largely by increased emigration from non-EU nationals, particularly among those who initially arrived on a study visa, the ONS said.

The figures precede a raft of restrictions brought in by the Government since the start of 2024 amid pressure to cut the record number of people legally arriving in Britain.

The Home Office stressed the estimates ‘do not take into account the major package measures announced in December which have already started to have an effect’.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said: ‘The latest migration statistics show a 10 per cent fall in net migration last year, with visa applications down 25 per cent so far in 2024.

‘This shows the plan under Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives is working but there is more to do. That is why we must stick to the plan, not go back to square one.’

In a statement posted on X, Mr Farage said: ‘I have thought long and hard as to whether I should stand in the upcoming general election.

‘As honorary president of Reform UK, I am fully supportive of Richard Tice’s leadership and urge voters to put their trust in him and Lee Anderson.

‘I will do my bit to help in the campaign, but it is not the right time for me to go any further than that.

‘Important though the general election is, the contest in the United States of America on November 5 has huge global significance. A strong America as a close ally is vital for our peace and security. I intend to help with the grassroots campaign in the USA in any way that I can.

‘The choice between Labour and the Conservatives is uninspiring, and only Reform have the radical agenda that is needed to end decline in this country.’

Anxiety has been growing in Tory ranks about the prospect of Reform gifting Keir Starmer victory by tempting natural supporters away.

The party has been registering above 10 per cent in polls, potentially enough to doom significant number of Conservative MPs – although experts believe they will not be able to win any seats. 

Richard Tice is currently leader of Reform, but Mr Farage founded the party and has been mulling a comeback for months. 

The timing of the poll in the summer means he might find it easier to campaign, as it is before the US election where he will be stumping for Donald Trump.

But Mr Farage has also pointed out that it is incredibly difficult to get MPs elected under first past the post – having failed himself to win a seat many times. 

Speaking to GB News, where is a presenter, Mr Farage said: ‘I think the timing of this general election has quite a lot to do with me.

‘He (Mr Sunak) was scared. He’d heard rumours – true or not, he’d heard rumours – that I was going to go into the frontline political fray, and if he gave me a six-month run against the worst most insincere Conservative prime minister in history, against the most boring house party guest as leader of the Labour party … I think Reform was a very big factor in this decision.’

He added that Mr Sunak had ‘chosen suicide over obliteration’, and was likely to be left with 150-180 seats, compared to 50 if he waited another six months.

Mr Farage has previously stressed that he will not be joining the Tories, despite a ‘very sweet’ suggestion from Liz Truss that he would be welcome.

The campaign got off to a less than auspicious start last night as Mr Sunak announced the summer election in a dramatic – and soaking wet – Downing Street statement.

As his suit became drenched, and with protesters playing the New Labour anthem of ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ in the background, Mr Sunak pointed to inflation being ‘back to normal’ and insisted he was ‘stopping the boats’. 

Mr Farage said last night he will 'think about' his plans, suggesting Mr Sunak had gone early to prevent Reform from getting ready for the contest

Mr Farage said last night he will ‘think about’ his plans, suggesting Mr Sunak had gone early to prevent Reform from getting ready for the contest

Party leader Richard Tice has called a press conference at 11am after Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun on a July 4 contest

Party leader Richard Tice has called a press conference at 11am after Rishi Sunak fired the starting gun on a July 4 contest

‘The question now is how and who do you trust to turn that foundation into a secure future… now is the moment for Britain to decide its future,’ he said.

Even his own Cabinet was kept in the dark until the last minute, with Mr Cleverly telling ITV’s Peston ‘we don’t get particular advance notice’ and it was largely a matter for Mr Sunak and his inner circle.

The news caused disquiet among Tory MPs fearful of losing their jobs, and those who have already said they will not stand and are having to say goodbye to Parliament sooner than expected.

Despite speculation at Westminster about a Tory rebel effort to oust Mr Sunak and call off the election, one prominent critic of the Prime Minister said it was ‘too late’ to get rid of him.

Dame Andrea Jenkyns, who has called for Mr Sunak to go, said she understood ‘other letters have been going in’ to 1922 Committee chairman Sir Graham Brady but ‘colleagues, it’s too late, I told you six months ago we should have done this’.

Just two more days of Commons business have been scheduled, during which important legislation will have to be rushed through.

Mr Sunak launched a highly personal attack on Keir Starmer, swiping that he had 'no convictions' and voters cannot trust him

Mr Sunak launched a highly personal attack on Keir Starmer, swiping that he had ‘no convictions’ and voters cannot trust him

The campaign got off to a less than auspicious start last night as Mr Sunak announced the summer election in a dramatic - and soaking wet - Downing Street statement

The campaign got off to a less than auspicious start last night as Mr Sunak announced the summer election in a dramatic – and soaking wet – Downing Street statement

Party whips from the Conservatives and Labour are holding talks to work out what outstanding legislation can become law before prorogation – the end of the current parliamentary session – on Friday.

That includes the Victims and Prisoners Bill, which includes measures to establish a compensation scheme for victims of the infected blood scandal.

Sir Keir responded with his own statement last night saying he welcomed ‘a moment the country needs and has been waiting’.

‘A chance to change for the better your future, your community, your country,’ he said.

‘It will feel like a long campaign, I am sure of that, but no matter what else is said and done, that opportunity for change is what this election is about.’

Preparations are being made for a Conservative rally at the Excel centre later tonight with campaigning due to kick into overdrive.  

But before today the election had widely been expected in the Autumn, and the bombshell is threatening to set the Tory tinderbox ablaze, with MPs telling MailOnline that Mr Sunak has a ‘death wish’. They warned that the Parliamentary party will go ‘nuts’ at the prospect of charging towards a disastrous defeat.



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‘We will shoot you all!’ Shocking moment terrified Israeli women – covered in blood after being tied up and beaten by Hamas terrorists during October 7 attack – are told they will be murdered

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This is the shocking moment Israeli women covered in blood after being beaten up by Hamas militants during the October 7 massacre are told they will be murdered.

In harrowing footage, five injured teenage girls can be seen pressed up against a wall as the terrorists yell insults and make veiled threats to rape them.

The distraught parents of  Liri Albag, 19, Naama Levy, 19, Daniela Gilboa, 20, Agam Berger, 19 and Karina Ariev, 19,  made the agonising decision to release the footage as their daughters – the five youngest women held in Gaza – still remain hostages more than seven months later.

The heartbreaking clip shows a terrorist pointing at teenager Karina, still in her Snoopy pyjamas after she was dragged from her bed during the initial Hamas storming.

At another point, the terrorist calls the terrified group of girls Sabaya – an ancient Islamic term used to describe female slaves.

After the disturbing remark, he adds chillingly in Arabic: ‘You are so beautiful.’

The parents of Liri Albag 19, Naama Levy 19, Daniela Gilboa 20, Agam Berger 19 and Karina Ariev 19, have taken the agonising decision to release the footage (pictured) as their daughters still remain hostages over seven months later. One of the Hamas terrorists seen holding them captive in the video (pictured) is heard telling the women 'You are so beautiful'

The parents of Liri Albag 19, Naama Levy 19, Daniela Gilboa 20, Agam Berger 19 and Karina Ariev 19, have taken the agonising decision to release the footage (pictured) as their daughters still remain hostages over seven months later. One of the Hamas terrorists seen holding them captive in the video (pictured) is heard telling the women ‘You are so beautiful’

These are the horrifying first moments in captivity for the five youngest women held in Gaza by sick Hamas fanatics since October 7

These are the horrifying first moments in captivity for the five youngest women held in Gaza by sick Hamas fanatics since October 7

Another shouts: ‘You dogs, we will step on you,’ as Naama is seen bleeding severely, her face pushed against the wall.

‘I have friends in Palestine,’ says the teenager who volunteered for Palestinian charities and dreams of becoming a diplomat.

Liri can then be heard trying to tell them she can speak English, with terrorists screaming at them to be quiet and sit down.

‘Our brothers died because of you, we will shoot you all,’ they tell the girls.

Agam, whose mouth is covered in blood, is asked where she is from. ‘Israel, Tel Aviv,’ the terrified girl responds.

Just hours earlier they had been taken from the Nahal Oz base on the Gaza border doing mandatory national service as observation lookouts.

Agonisingly, it was Naama’s first day on base when she was taken.

The Mail first highlighted the girls’ plight in January in a powerful article that was shown to the UN and The Hague.

But now the families have released the most harrowing images of their daughters yet as they plead with mediators to restart talks and get their children home.

The 3 min 10 seconds video has been edited by the IDF to preserve the identities of the murdered – meaning it does not show some of the worst violence. 

It starts at 9am on October 7 a few hours after the Hamas slaughter of 1,200 innocents began across southern Israel.

The terrified teenagers – their hands tied behind their backs, still dressed in their pyjamas – try to speak to the heavily armed terrorists who are telling each other: ‘Take pictures of them.’

In one scene some of the fanatics appear to be praying on the floor next to the captives.

Liri Albag, 19 (centre), is heard in the video trying to tell the Hamas gunmen she can speak English, with the terrorists screaming at them to be quiet and sit down

Liri Albag, 19 (centre), is heard in the video trying to tell the Hamas gunmen she can speak English, with the terrorists screaming at them to be quiet and sit down

19-year-old Agam Berger (right) is seen, her face covered in blood. In the video she is asked where she is from. 'Israel, Tel Aviv,' the terrified girl responds

19-year-old Agam Berger (right) is seen, her face covered in blood. In the video she is asked where she is from. ‘Israel, Tel Aviv,’ the terrified girl responds

A group of Hamas terrorists are seen gathered in the footage, with the terrified young women sat with their back against a wall

A group of Hamas terrorists are seen gathered in the footage, with the terrified young women sat with their back against a wall

Early in the video, the young women are seen pinned against the wall with their hands tied

Early in the video, the young women are seen pinned against the wall with their hands tied

Karina, still in her Snoopy pyjamas, is seen being bundled into the back of a truck by the Hamas gunmen in the video that was released today

Karina, still in her Snoopy pyjamas, is seen being bundled into the back of a truck by the Hamas gunmen in the video that was released today

Karina, still in her Snoopy pyjamas, is seen being bundled into the back of a truck by the Hamas gunmen in the video that was released today

Naama Levy’s oldest brother Amit Levy, 21, who now advocates for the hostages, told MailOnline that the video made him feel sick.

‘It’s unbelievable that human beings are capable of treating other human beings this way,’ he said. ‘And what we should remember is that human beings from the same terror organisation are the ones holding them now for 230 days.’

The video ends with the girls being loaded, visibly injured, in pain and limping, into a jeep where they are taken into Gaza.

Part of the same series of footage was from the infamous scene where Naama’s tracksuit bottoms were bloodied, triggering fears of abuse.

Testimonies of sexual abuse, rape and torture have emerged since hostages were released as part of a temporary ceasefire deal which fell through when Hamas refused to return some of the female hostages.

Back in November, released hostages said they saw the girls inside captivity.

However, the last time Daniela and Karina were seen was on January 26 when Hamas released a proof of life psychological video that also featured 30-year-old Doron Steinbrecher which was made under duress.

‘It’s very hard to watch and it shows just a glimpse of the horrors that my sister has been going through. But it also gave me some strength because I really think that Naama and the other girls in the video handle this horrific situation well.’ 

Amit, who is currently in London meeting with politicians to highlight the hostages’ plight, said: ‘I see her like a superhero and that does give me and my family strength. She is an athlete and it gives me strength to know how mentally strong she is.

Naama Levy, pictured in this poster distributed by the campaign calling of the Israeli government and Hamas to bring the terror group's hostages home, was one of the five young Israeli women who were seen in the video

Naama Levy, pictured in this poster distributed by the campaign calling of the Israeli government and Hamas to bring the terror group’s hostages home, was one of the five young Israeli women who were seen in the video 

Agam Berger

Liri Albag

Agam Berger (left) and Liri Albag (right), pictured in ‘Bring Them Home’ posters, were also seen in the footage released by the five young women’s families today

Karina Ariev

Daniela Gilboa

Karina Ariev (left) and Daniela Gilboa (right) are also seen in the chilling video. Just hours before the clip was recorded, the group of five young women had been taken from the Nahal Oz base on the Gaza border doing mandatory national service as observation lookouts

‘She’s amazing. In the video you can hear her say she has friends in Palestine. She really believes in building bridges and peace. That’s Naama.

‘She is a kind soul that volunteered a lot for kids in poverty,’ he added.

‘It’s not too late, we can save them, we just need a deal to bring them home.’ 

In a statement released along with the video, The Hostages Families Forum said the clip was a ‘damning testament to the nation’s failure to bring home the hostages’ and demanded that the Israeli government negotiate for the hostages’ released.

‘The disturbing video has been the reality of Agam, Daniela, Liri, Naama, Karina, and 123 other hostages for 229 days,’ the group said. 

‘The video is a damning testament to the nation’s failure to bring home the hostages, who have been forsaken for 229 days. There is no greater mission, no more significant achievement, and no chance to restore hope to Israel without the return of all – the living for rehabilitation and the murdered for burial.

The Israeli government must not waste even one more moment – it must return to the negotiating table today!’ it added.

On Monday, Amit was joined by Ilay David, 27, whose brother Evyatar David, 23, was kidnapped and Gal Gilboa Dalal, 29, whose brother Guy Gilboa Dalal, 23, was also taken by Hamas when he was at Nova music festival with his brother.

The families, speaking from the Israel embassy in central London, urged the world not to forget about their siblings’ plight. 

Pressed on whether they blame the Israeli government for not doing enough to secure their loved ones’ release, Mr David said: ‘I don’t blame anyone. I focus on who can help us right now.  

‘I’m focusing my energy on the things that can make my brother return home.’

This family handout photo shows 19-year-old Naama Levy, one of the five young hostages seen in the video that has been released by their families

This family handout photo shows 19-year-old Naama Levy, one of the five young hostages seen in the video that has been released by their families

Naama Levy (second right) and her siblings are pictured on holiday together in Italy two years ago. Left to right: Michal, 16, Omri, 12, Naama, 19 and Amit, 21

Naama Levy (second right) and her siblings are pictured on holiday together in Italy two years ago. Left to right: Michal, 16, Omri, 12, Naama, 19 and Amit, 21

Naama Levy's oldest brother Amit Levy (pictured right), 21, who now advocates for the hostages tells the Mailonline that the video made him feel stronger emotions than feeling sick

Naama Levy’s oldest brother Amit Levy (pictured right), 21, who now advocates for the hostages tells the Mailonline that the video made him feel stronger emotions than feeling sick

Mr Dalal added: ‘There is only so much they can do. I have to trust in my army and in my government because if I can’t trust them, then who can I trust? 

‘I don’t have any other option. I just want to see my brother back. I have to believe he (Netanyahu) can do what he can.’

Mr Levy said: ‘We trust them (the IDF) because we don’t have another choice. I believe they’re doing whatever they can in very tough circumstances. The relatives of the hostages said Hamas bore responsibility for those remaining in captivity.

Mr Dalal said: ‘The ball is in Hamas’ hands. They’re using our loved ones as prisoners.

‘Until now we did not receive any sign that they’re treating our people fairly. We don’t know their condition. It makes us think like the world is asking us to fight a knife with hugs and kisses – and you can’t.’

Asked how he manages to get on with his life with his sister in captivity, Mr Levy said: ‘I don’t think I really have a choice. All our family members are suffering. 

‘We can’t let ourselves give up on them. If they wake up every morning, we should wake up every morning and fight for them. Naama (my sister) is the strongest person I know. I’m telling myself stories about how she’s surviving this.’

Mr Dalal recalled how his brother was taken hostage while he was still on the run from Hamas gunmen.

The tech support worker said: ‘I was rescued at 2pm. I was running and hiding for nine hours. When I got out, they told me that my brother was kidnapped and the video (of him in Gaza) was published at 11am.

‘My family did not tell me so I could focus on saving my life.’

Asked about how they cope with the failure of recent ceasefire negotiations, Mr David said: ‘It was hard to hear that maybe there’s something on the table and it was not accepted, but we cannot know for sure.

‘It’s like we are looking at a chess game and we can only shout. We cannot understand what’s going on in their heads.’

(L-R) Ilay David, brother of hostage Evyatar David, Gal Gilboa Dalal, Nova survivor and brother of Guy Gilboa Dalal, and Amit Levy, brother of Naama Levy, speaking at the Embassy of Israel in London with young family members of hostages currently being held in Gaza, May 20

(L-R) Ilay David, brother of hostage Evyatar David, Gal Gilboa Dalal, Nova survivor and brother of Guy Gilboa Dalal, and Amit Levy, brother of Naama Levy, speaking at the Embassy of Israel in London with young family members of hostages currently being held in Gaza, May 20

Mr David also said that the war has brought the hostages’ families closer.

He said: ‘We became like a big family, that’s the only thing we have.

‘It breaks my heart every time to see hostages alive coming back (when Evyatar is not among them), but it’s the only thing that really gives me hope.

Mr Dalal added: ‘I want to see (my brother) soon. The most awful thing I can think about is that he’ll return home in a coffin. We hope that the world is with us.’



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