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PM to lead Commons tributes to David Amess as family call for unity

Amess

PM to lead Commons tributes to David Amess as family call for unity

Boris Johnson will lead tributes to Sir David Amess in the House of Commons on Monday as debate rages about how drastically to step up security in the wake of the fatal attack on the Southend MP at his constituency surgery.

On Sunday night Amess’s family appealed for public unity, urging people to “set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all”. In a statement, his relatives said they were “absolutely broken” but had drawn strength from the tributes to him from across the political spectrum.

The attack sent shock waves through Westminster and reopened questions about MPs’ safety five years after the murder of Labour’s Jo Cox. The home secretary, Priti Patel, said on Sunday that she was considering offering MPs police protection at their surgeries, and the use of airport-style scanners was under consideration.

Asked how quickly such measures could be brought in, Patel told Sky News that all MPs were being contacted by their local police forces. “This isn’t a case of let’s wait for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks. These are immediate changes, and measures that are actively being put in place, and it starts with MPs.”

However, several MPs told the Guardian they had concerns that a police presence would deter constituents from attending surgeries or other public events. The former Brexit secretary David Davis said: “The people who come to your surgery are people who are at their wits’ end: they’ve been let down by their employer or their doctor or the NHS or the welfare system, and they’re often very fragile. They might well be put off by a big burly police officer on the door.”

The former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who represents Hackney North, said MPs might benefit from access to metal detectors or wands to check constituents, or plastic screens, but “if you put police officers outside our constituency advice surgeries it makes us look like agents of the state – and in Hackney that is not a good look.”

A senior backbench Conservative pointed out that resources would have to be directed at the MPs most under threat, but Amess would have been unlikely to have been identified as an obvious target.

Others said security measures put in place in the wake of Cox’s murder had only been partially implemented, in some cases because of a lack of police resources. Several told the Guardian they did not have the single point of contact at their local force that is meant to be at the heart of the system.

The shadow home secretary, Nick Thomas-Symonds, said: “It is right that we look at a range of options, to ensure we get the balance right between keeping MPs safe whilst doing their jobs, giving them confidence in the support available and to protect the unique nature of British democracy.”

A spokesperson for the parliamentary authorities, which oversee MPs’ security in cooperation with the police, said: “It is essential that we learn from this tragic event, identify any additional security requirements, and continue to encourage MPs to take up the existing measures available to them.”

A 25-year-old man, Ali Harbi Ali, a British national, was still being questioned at a London police station on Sunday in an investigation led by counter-terrorism officers from the Met. He was arrested on suspicion of murder on Friday after being detained by officers at the crime scene in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

Police can keep Ali in custody until Friday before deciding whether to charge him, under powers granted by terrorism legislation. The killing was assessed as being linked to an Islamist ideology because of developments in the investigation after the arrest, sources say.

A home in Kentish Town, north London, where Ali and his family are believed to have lived, was still being searched by police on Sunday. Two other addresses in the London area have been searched by counter-terrorism police.

The suspect was previously known to the Prevent scheme, the government programme to stop radicalisation, but his involvement was short, according to multiple sources. He did not appear on any current MI5 watchlist, sources added.

Ali’s father, Harbi Ali Kullane, is a former adviser to the prime minister of Somalia and now lives in the UK. He told reporters on Saturday he was feeling “very traumatised” by the violent incident.

Sources close to the investigation indicated on Sunday that Ali had booked an appointment to see Amess at his surgery on Friday. Details of the surgery had been advertised on social media and elsewhere in advance.

The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, has torn up the parliamentary timetable to allow MPs to spend much of Monday afternoon paying tribute to Amess, after a minute’s silence at 2.30pm. Johnson will lead a special debate in which MPs will be able to share their memories of the Essex MP, who was first elected in 1983.

Several including Hoyle have already made clear they believe the best tribute to him would be to carry out his long-held wish that Southend become a city, a hope that was echoed by Amess’s family in their statement on Sunday. “David was working hard for Southend to gain city status. In his memory, please show your support for this campaign,” they said.

As well as strengthening physical security around MPs, Patel suggested the government was looking at ways to ensure social media companies do their part in tackling what she called the “corrosive” state of online debate.

“We can’t just apply a binary approach, but there is something very, very corrosive,” she said. “We know that social media platforms advocate all sorts of things that are harmful to all aspects of society,” Patel said, adding that it was important to “really close that corrosive space where we see just dreadful behaviour.”

The government’s online safety bill is being scrutinised by MPs and there have been calls for it to be toughened up. Labour would like to see social media executives made personally responsible if their companies fail to uphold the codes of practice in the legislation.

Amess’s family paid tribute to his strength and courage in their statement. “He was a patriot and a man of peace. So we ask people to set aside their differences and show kindness and love to all. This is the only way forward. Set aside hatred and work towards togetherness. Whatever one’s race, religious or political beliefs, be tolerant and try to understand.”

They added: “As a family, we are trying to understand why this awful thing has occurred. Nobody should die in that way. Nobody Please let some good come from this tragedy. We are absolutely broken, but we will survive and carry on for the sake of a wonderful and inspiring man.”

On Sunday, the state of Qatar issued a statement condemning the attack on Amess, who was chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary British-Qatar Group, calling his stabbing “a horrific crime and a clear violation of human rights”. Amess had visited the nation last week.

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Supreme Court Dismisses Suit Challenging Adeleke’s Candidacy

The Supreme Court has affirmed Ademola Adeleke as the authentic candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP in the just concluded Osun State Governorship Election.

This has laid to rest the suit filed by Dotun Babayemi, a governorship aspirant of the party who sought the invalidation of Adeleke’s victory.

In a judgement delivered by Justice Amina Augie, the five-member panel held that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the suit after counsel for the appellant, Adebayo Adelodun, withdrew the earlier notice of appeal that was filed within time.

At the resumed hearing, Adelodun, who represented the appellant and Babayemi informed the court that he sought to withdraw the earlier notice of appeal to replace it with the fresh application he filed.

But the panel held that Section 285(11) of the constitution stipulated that an appeal on a pre-election matter must be filed within 14 days from the day of the decision, and that having filed the second appeal out of time, the apex court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

Justice Augie, therefore, dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Babayemi had asked the court to invalidate the primary election that produced the governor-elect, citing non-compliance with a court order.

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400 Staff To Lose Jobs As BBC Goes Digital

The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC world service has on Thursday disclosed that about 400 of its staff will lose their jobs as part of a cost-cutting programme and move to digital platforms,

The BBC said its international services needed to make savings of £28.5 million ($31 million) as part of wider reductions of £500 million.

In July it detailed plans to merge BBC World News television and its domestic UK equivalent into a single channel to launch in April next year.

BBC World Service currently operates in 40 languages around the world with a weekly audience of some 364 million people.

But the corporation said audience habits were changing and more people were accessing news online, which along with a freeze on BBC funding and increased operating costs meant a move to “digital-first” made financial sense.

BBC World Service director Liliane Landor said there was a “compelling case” for expanding digital services, as audiences had more than doubled since 2018.

“The way audiences are accessing news and content is changing and the challenge of reaching and engaging people around the world with quality, trusted journalism is growing,” she added.

 

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Environment

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian: Cities flooded and power cut as storm crosses Florida

Hurricane Ian made landfall at around 15:10 local time (19:10 GMT) on Wednesday, smashing into the coast with wind speeds of up to 241km/h (150mph).

Dramatic scenes saw a hospital roof blown off, cars submerged and trees ripped out of the ground.

The category four hurricane was later downgraded to a tropical storm.

However, Floridians were warned that the most dangerous 24 hours lay ahead and the mayor of Tampa urged people to shelter in place through the night into Thursday morning.

“We are going to get the majority of the rain and the higher winds starting about 20:00, and they are going to last throughout the night,” Jane Castor said during a Wednesday evening briefing.

In a message posted on Facebook, the Weather Prediction Center told residents in the Central Florida Peninsula to expect “widespread life-threatening, catastrophic flash and urban flooding” continuing into Friday morning, with potentially up to 76cm (30ins) of rain falling locally.

Residents were ordered to leave their homes, but many have decided to remain and seek shelter indoors.

Mark Pritchett, who lives in the city of Venice, some 95km (60 miles) south of Tampa, described the “terrifying” moment he stepped outside his home as the hurricane made its way across the Gulf of Mexico.

“Rain shooting like needles. My street is a river,” he said in a text message to the Associated Press news agency.

In Lee County – the south-west region where Ian made landfall – police were prevented from responding to reports of looting at a petrol station because of the storm damage.

As a result, a curfew has been declared “until further notice”.

Lee County Manager Roger Desjarlais said that the Fort Myers community had “been – to some extent – decimated”. According to news agency AFP, some neighbourhoods in the city of 80,000 had been left resembling lakes.

State Governor Ron DeSantis described Ian as the “biggest flood event” south-west Florida had ever seen, and announced that 7,000 National Guard troops are ready to lead rescue operations in flood zones.

President Joe Biden will receive a briefing on Thursday from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Ian is now continuing to move north through Florida. Jacksonville International Airport, based in north-east Florida, cancelled all flights scheduled for Thursday.

The storm is forecast to emerge into the Atlantic by Thursday morning.

It is expected to reach Georgia and South Carolina on Friday. Virginia has also joined Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida by declaring a state of emergency.

Cuba’s western coast was hit by Hurricane Ian on Tuesday. Power has now been restored in some areas after the island was plunged into a total blackout. Two people are understood to have been killed in Cuba and more than 20 Cuban migrants are believed to be missing at sea.

Predicted path of Hurricane Ian. Updated 27 September

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