Covid: More than 150 arrests at London anti-lockdown protest

More than 150 people have been arrested during anti-lockdown protests in London’s West End.

The group Save Our Rights UK said it held the protest, which started from Marble Arch on Saturday afternoon.

The Metropolitan Police said it had been a “challenging day” and officers were still urging people to go home.

It said it made arrests for a number of different offences, including breaching coronavirus restrictions, assaulting a police officer and illegal drugs.

Police officers were booed and met with chants of “shame on you” as protesters, many not wearing face masks, ignored requests to leave.

Earlier protesters, including some dressed as Christmas elves, brandished signs reading “All I want for Christmas is my freedom back”, “Ditch the face masks” and “Stop controlling us”.

They had earlier been warned by police that protests were not acceptable exemptions to the ban on gathering under current coronavirus regulations in England.

Groups of police officers were seen running towards protesters in Oxford Circus, Carnaby Street and Regent Street.

Traffic was temporarily blocked as officers tried to handcuff people on the ground in the middle of the road.

Civil rights groups Liberty and Big Brother Watch have argued that the right to safely protest should be explicitly outlined as an exemption in regulations covering England’s tiered restrictions, which are due to come into force next week.

The Met said coaches taking protesters into London had earlier been intercepted and those who did not turn back and go home were either arrested or given fines.

Ch Supt Stuart Bell, policing commander for the event, said: “This was a challenging day for Met, City of London and British Transport Police officers and I would like to thank them for the professionalism they have shown throughout the day.

“On Friday, we made it very clear how we would police this event, warning those looking to attend that they risked facing enforcement action if they attended a gathering in London.

“Today’s enforcement action is a direct result of those individuals deliberately breaking the law and at times, targeting our officers with aggression and causing disruption to the road network.”

Responding to the anti-lockdown protests, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We’ve seen our police officers yet again do incredible work to ensure that they help to stop the spread of this awful virus.

“The people that are protesting today have been protesting for many months, and we’ve seen this over successive weekends.”

She added: “We ask everybody to be conscientious – we all know the regulations and the guidance, we have brought these measures in to save lives and to prevent preventable deaths.”

It comes as a further 479 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported in the UK, bringing the total to 58,030. There were also a further 15,871 positive cases registered in the past 24 hours.

Lake District National Park suspends trail hunting amid investigation

The Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) has suspended all trail hunting on its land. 

The decision was in response to “recent allegations made to police” about an online hunting conference, it said.

The National Trust has also paused all trail hunting on its land.

The LDNPA said licences would remain suspended while “allegations are being examined by the police and Crown Prosecution Service to determine if any criminal offences have taken place”.

“This will include the suspension of the licence issued to the Blencathra Foxhounds,” it said.

“We will consider any action we need to take once the investigation is complete.”

Blencathra Foxhounds declined to comment.

Cumbria Police said it was aware of the investigation into a “webinar hosted by The Hunting Office, hunting’s governing body”.

The force said it could not comment further while allegations were being examined but said it was “fully committed to investigate and, where evidence exists, bring to justice any person who is found to be breaking the law”.

Trail hunting, where scents are laid for hounds to follow, is legal but chasing wild mammals with dogs was banned in 2004.

Covid protest: More than 150 arrests in London anti-lockdown protest

More than 150 people have been arrested during anti-lockdown protests in London’s West End.

The group Save Our Rights UK said it held the protest, which started from Marble Arch on Saturday afternoon.

The Metropolitan Police said it had been a “challenging day” and officers were still urging people to go home.

It said it made arrests for a number of different offences, including breaching coronavirus restrictions, assaulting a police officer and illegal drugs.

Police officers were booed and met with chants of “shame on you” as protesters, many not wearing face masks, ignored requests to leave.

Earlier protesters, including some dressed as Christmas elves, brandished signs reading “All I want for Christmas is my freedom back”, “Ditch the face masks” and “Stop controlling us”.

They had earlier been warned by police that protests were not acceptable exemptions to the ban on gathering under current coronavirus regulations in England.

Groups of police officers were seen running towards protesters in Oxford Circus, Carnaby Street and Regent Street.

Traffic was temporarily blocked as officers tried to handcuff people on the ground in the middle of the road.

Civil rights groups Liberty and Big Brother Watch have argued that the right to safely protest should be explicitly outlined as an exemption in regulations covering England’s tiered restrictions, which are due to come into force next week.

The Met said coaches taking protesters into London had earlier been intercepted and those who did not turn back and go home were either arrested or given fines.

Ch Supt Stuart Bell, policing commander for the event, said: “This was a challenging day for Met, City of London and British Transport Police officers and I would like to thank them for the professionalism they have shown throughout the day.

“On Friday, we made it very clear how we would police this event, warning those looking to attend that they risked facing enforcement action if they attended a gathering in London.

“Today’s enforcement action is a direct result of those individuals deliberately breaking the law and at times, targeting our officers with aggression and causing disruption to the road network.”

Responding to the anti-lockdown protests, Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “We’ve seen our police officers yet again do incredible work to ensure that they help to stop the spread of this awful virus.

“The people that are protesting today have been protesting for many months, and we’ve seen this over successive weekends.”

She added: “We ask everybody to be conscientious – we all know the regulations and the guidance, we have brought these measures in to save lives and to prevent preventable deaths.”

New apple variety discovered by runner

A new variety of apple has been discovered by a nature lover while he was out running.

Archie Thomas, from the Nadder Valley in Wiltshire, came across across a windfall apple on a wooded trackway near his home earlier this month.

Experts have confirmed the “highly unusual” fruit, which “tastes quite good”, is a new variety, which Mr Thomas hopes to propagate and name.

“It is unlike any apple I’d seen before,” he said.

Mr Thomas, who works for wild plant and fungi conservation charity Plantlife, said the fruit came from a lone old apple tree in a hedgerow.

“While I am certainly no fruit expert, it immediately struck me as highly unusual, unlike any apple I’d seen before,” he said.

“Excited by the pale and mottled oddity, I set about trying to get it identified with a view to perhaps one day being able to name it.

“That was the dream, but I did half suspect it would turn out to be something much less exciting than it is.”

Mr Thomas sent examples to the Royal Horticultural Society’s fruit identification service at RHS Wisley.

The RHS’s Jim Arbury said the fruit was not a planted cultivar, but a new variety which Mr Thomas could propagate and name.

“It is a very interesting apple. It is clearly not a planted tree, but a seedling that could be a cross between a cultivated apple and a wild Malus sylvestris, a European crab apple,” Mr Arbury said.

“It tastes quite good. It’s a cooking apple or dual purpose – you can eat it.”

Mr Arbury said the tree from which the apples came could be more than 100 years old and was not the result of a dropped modern supermarket apple.

Apple trees grown from seed are all different, so cultivated varieties, or cultivars, are propagated by taking cuttings from existing trees and grafting them on to rootstock to ensure the new tree and its apples are the same.

Channel crossings: More officers to patrol French beaches

The number of officers patrolling French beaches will double from next week to help stop migrants crossing the Channel, the UK’s home secretary has announced.

It is part of further measures Priti Patel agreed in a meeting with her French counterpart on Saturday.

Officers will be aided by “enhanced” surveillance, such as drones and radar, to find smugglers and migrants.

Thousands of migrants have reached the UK in small boats this year.

The Home Office said 59 people on four boats crossed the Channel on Friday.

Ms Patel said that due to increased French patrols and intelligence sharing “we are already seeing fewer migrants leaving French beaches”.

“The action we have agreed jointly today goes further, doubling the number of police officers on the ground in France, increasing surveillance and introducing new cutting edge technology, representing a further step forward in our shared mission to make Channel crossings completely unviable,” she said.

In announcing the French patrols, the Home Office did not say how many more officers would be deployed.

Ms Patel also said there would be “a new asylum system” that is “firm and fair” and promised there would be new legislation for that next year.

But Saturday’s announcement was criticised by Bella Sankey, director of humanitarian charity Detention Action.

“It is an extraordinary mark of failure that the home secretary is announcing with such fanfare that she is rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic,” she said.

“No amount of massaging the numbers masks her refusal to take the sensible step of creating a safe and legal route to the UK from northern France, thereby preventing crossings and child deaths.

“Instead she throws taxpayers’ money away on more of the same measures that stand no chance of having a significant impact on this dangerous state of affairs.”

According to figures collated by the BBC about 8,000 migrants in small boats have been taken into the care of Border Force officials, having reached UK shores or been intercepted in the Channel.

That is despite Ms Patel’s vow in 2019 to make such journeys an “infrequent phenomenon”.

In October a Kurdish-Iranian family of five died attempting to cross the Channel. The small boat they were heading to the UK in capsized in rough conditions just a few kilometres into its journey.

There have been nearly 300 border-related deaths in and around the Channel since 1999, according to a recent report by Mael Galisson, from Gisti, a legal service for asylum seekers in France.

At Saturday’s meeting, Ms Patel and French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin also agreed on steps to better support migrants arriving in France to find appropriate accommodation “in order to take them out of the hands of criminal gangs”.

They agreed on measures to increase border security at ports in northern and western France to target smugglers and avoid migrant crossings threatening freight traffic.

Co-operation between French and UK law enforcement had already stopped about 1,100 migrants from making the dangerous crossing and led to 140 arrests since July, the Home Office said.

Zappos ex-boss and Las Vegas entrepreneur Tony Hsieh, 46, dies after house fire

Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos.com, has died after a house fire in the US state of Connecticut.

Mr Hsieh, 46, who had been on a family visit at the time, only recently retired after 20 years leading Zappos, acquired by Amazon for more than $1bn.

He also played a key part in the restoration of central Las Vegas.

Tributes poured in on social media. Zappos said that the world had “lost a tremendous visionary”.

Tony Hsieh also wrote the book Delivering Happiness, which set out his philosophy of focusing on both customer and employee care.

A statement from, DTP Companies, the company Mr Hsieh invested in to transform downtown Las Vegas, said he was with his family when he died on Friday. Details of his injuries and the cause of death have not been released.

“Tony’s kindness and generosity touched the lives of everyone around him, and forever brightened the world,” the statement said.

Zappos.com paid tribute on its Twitter feed:

Amazon acquired Zappos in 2009 but Tony Hsieh stayed on as boss, saying: “We think of Amazon as a giant consulting company that we can hire if we want.”

Current Zappos chief executive officer, Kedar Deshpande, said Tony Hsieh’s “spirit will forever be a part of Zappos”.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal said Mr Hsieh had pumped a fortune into the once-neglected central Las Vegas and became the face of its revitalisation.

His “Downtown Project” helped fund start-ups, restaurants and other ventures.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman told the Review-Journal Mr Hsieh’s death was “a tragic loss”.

Ivanka Trump also tweeted about the loss of a “dear friend”.

Covid protest: Sixty arrests in London anti-lockdown protest

More than 60 people have been arrested during anti-lockdown protests in London’s West End.

Grassroots group Save Our Rights UK said it held a protest from Marble Arch on Saturday.

The Metropolitan Police said it expected the number of arrests to rise throughout Saturday and urged people to go home.

It said it made arrests for a number of different offences, including breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Police officers were booed and met with chants of “shame on you” as protesters, many not wearing face masks, ignored requests to leave.

They had been warned by police that protests were not acceptable exemptions to the ban on gathering under current coronavirus regulations in England.

Groups of helmeted police were seen running to respond to protesters in Oxford Circus, Carnaby Street and Regent Street.

Traffic was temporarily blocked as police tried to handcuff people on the ground in the middle of the road.

Nude postcards found at Temple Newsam House hidden in desk

A collection of classical nude postcards was discovered hidden in an antique desk at a stately home.

The “cheeky” French postcards from the early 20th century were found during “routine upkeep” at Temple Newsam House near Leeds.

Curator Maya Harrison said it was “definitely one of the more unusual finds” at the 500-year-old mansion and “certainly made staff laugh”.

The postcards were hidden inside a secret compartment disguised as a book.

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Temple Newsam House is a Tudor-Jacobean mansion near Leeds and the birthplace of Lord Darnley, husband of the notorious Mary Queen of Scots.

Ms Harrison said it was a family home for much of its history and is now home to important collections of fine and decorative arts.

“[The nude postcards] are not something we’d normally expect to discover but it certainly did give us all a laugh,” she said.

“The desk has been at the house for a very long time and we’d never realised that the books were actually secret compartments before.

“It was really exciting to think what might be inside but we’d never have guessed in a million years what they actually contained.”

Ms Harrison added: “We can only speculate who might have hidden the postcards and why, but it does go to show that most objects in a museum have a story to tell and that history is full of surprises.”

Temple Newsam House is currently closed to visitors due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Nottingham East Labour CLP chair suspended after Corbyn motion row

The chair of a Labour group has been suspended after a motion at an online meeting described as “clearly out of order” by the area’s MP was passed.

The Nottingham East CLP broke party rules with a motion calling for the restoration of the whip to Jeremy Corbyn, the BBC understands.

MP Nadia Whittome said she objected and the “atmosphere and tone” led to a Jewish member leaving Friday’s meeting.

The Labour Party said it took “all complaints seriously”.

The BBC has contacted Louise Regan, the suspended chair, for comment.

The party is also believed to be looking into an allegation a man who took part in the meeting had verbally abused a Jewish party member.

Former Labour leader Mr Corbyn was readmitted as a party member last week, after a short suspension for his reaction to a report into anti-Semitism in Labour.

But his successor Sir Keir Starmer has refused to let him sit as a Labour MP.

He said his predecessor’s remarks had “undermined trust” in the party within the Jewish community.

In a statement posted after the Friday evening meeting Ms Whittome said: “I am disappointed that a motion that was clearly out of order made its way on to the agenda.

“I take the EHRC report into Labour anti-Semitism very seriously, as should all our members, given the pain caused to Jewish communities and that the report found the Labour Party to have broken the law.”

She added she objected to the motion, but was overruled by the chair.

She also said the “atmosphere and tone”, which led to a Jewish party member feeling “they had no choice but to leave”, was “wholly unacceptable”.

The motion, seen by the BBC, called for, among other things, the “immediate restoration of the whip to Jeremy Corbyn” and said rules banning debate of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report were “out of order”.

Mr Corbyn was briefly suspended after the EHRC report, which found Labour responsible for “unlawful” harassment and discrimination during his leadership.

He has still not had the whip restored to him, leading to divisions within the party.

Labour rules say CLPs are not “competent” to discuss ongoing individual disciplinary matters.

A spokesperson confirmed Ms Regan had been suspended.

They added: “The Labour Party takes all complaints seriously and they are fully investigated in line with our rules and procedures and any appropriate action is taken.”

Ms Regan has not yet responded to a request from the BBC for comment.

Conwy council leader criticises hospitality sector rules

The leader of a council with the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales has criticised national rules imposed on the local hospitality trade.

Sam Rowlands from Conwy Council said he was disappointed the first minister had adopted a national approach rather consider regional differences in cases.

A new tier system is being brought in to manage the virus in England.

On Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said a single set of rules made it easier for people to follow.

Conwy county has seen under 20 cases per 100,000 people in the past seven days, compared with an all Wales average of 189.8 cases per 100,000 people.

In an open letter to the first minister, Mr Rowlands highlighted his “disappointment at the announcement of an all Wales set of further restrictions to the hospitality sector” which employs 10,000 people across the county.

“There is not any significant concern with this sector as any spread of the virus we are currently seeing is through household transmission,” wrote the Conservative councillor.

“I’m very disappointed to hear today that you’re not looking to take into account any regional variance of the risk of the virus with restrictions you are considering in the lead up to Christmas.”

Pubs, bars and restaurants had only reopened on 9 November after the Wales-wide 17-day lockdown, and currently close at 22:00 GMT.

New restrictions, which have not yet been finalised, will come into force from 4 December.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Coronavirus does not respect borders, whether they are in Wales or further afield.

“We need to use the coming weeks to reduce the spread of the virus and create more headroom for the Christmas period, for the whole of Wales.

“We are very aware that the hospitality sector has worked hard to put in place measures to protect the public and we know this will be a worrying time for all working in the industry.

“However, new restrictions will need to focus on the places where we meet and where coronavirus thrives, drawing on the recent evidence from the UK Sage group of experts about what interventions have the biggest impact on the virus.”