Prince William and Kate make red carpet debut with royal children

The Duke of Cambridge paid tribute to Dame Barbara Windsor during a trip with his family to watch a special pantomime put on to thank key workers for their efforts during the pandemic.

Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis watched a performance of Pantoland at the London Palladium with their parents in the royal box.

In a speech before the show, the duke called Dame Barbara “a legend”.

It was the Cambridges’ first red carpet engagement as a family of five.

Their visit followed the news that the actress, best known for her roles in EastEnders and the Carry On films, had died aged 83.

When the Cambridges first arrived at the Palladium, George, seven, Charlotte, five, and two-year-old Louis stopped briefly to watch actors dressed as elves entertaining the guests on the red carpet.

Before the show, Matt Ridsdale, executive director of National Lottery operator Camelot, which has supported the pantomime, introduced Prince William and quipped: “As this is panto, I’m very conscious of who’s behind me.”

The duke said: “Before I go on, I want to pause and pay tribute to a true national treasure, Dame Barbara Windsor, who so sadly passed away last night.

“She was a giant of the entertainment world, and of course a legend on pantomime stages across the country, including here at the London Palladium.

“And I know we’ll all miss her hugely.”

The duke said it was a “very special performance” because of the key workers in the audience.

“You include community workers, volunteers, teachers, NHS staff, representatives from the emergency services and military, researchers working on the vaccine, people helping the homeless, those manning vital call centres, and staff from a wide range of frontline charities – to name but a few,” he said.

“You have given your absolute all this year and made remarkable sacrifices.”

Earlier this week the duke and duchess travelled around Great Britain on the royal train to thank key workers for their efforts during the pandemic.

Tavistock puberty blocker study published after nine years

All but one child treated for gender dysphoria with puberty-blocking drugs at a leading NHS clinic also received cross-sex hormones, a study has shown.

The Tavistock and Portman Trust has argued the treatments are not linked.

The High Court ruled last week that under-16s are unlikely to be able to give informed consent to be treated with puberty-blocking drugs.

The trust said the study’s findings were not accepted by a peer-reviewed journal until the day of the judgement.

These findings are from a study run by the Tavistock’s Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) – England’s only NHS specialist gender clinic for children – and research partners at University College London Hospitals.

The study began in 2011 and enrolled 44 children aged between 12 and 15 over the following three years. At the time, only those aged 16 and over were eligible for puberty blockers in the UK.

When BBC Newsnight covered the study and its preliminary findings last year it highlighted how previous research suggested all young people who took blockers went on to take cross-sex hormones – the next stage towards transitioning to the opposite gender.

The Tavistock’s newly published findings appear to confirm this, with 43 out of 44 participants – or 98% – choosing to start treatment with cross-sex hormones.

Earlier this month, the High Court ruled that children under-16 were unlikely to be able to give informed consent to treatment with puberty blockers.

The relationship between blockers and subsequent treatment with cross-sex hormones was a core feature of the case.

Lawyers representing the claimants said there was “a very high likelihood” children who start taking hormone blockers will later begin taking cross-sex hormones, leading potentially to infertility and impaired sexual function.

The Tavistock argued puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones were entirely separate stages of treatment and one does not automatically lead to the other.

The judges rejected that argument, saying “in our view this does not reflect the reality”.

“The evidence shows that the vast majority of children who take [puberty blockers] move on to take cross-sex hormones,” and that these are part of “one clinical pathway”.

The study findings potentially lend further support to that assertion.

The Tavistock disputes this, saying that as those in this study had persistent and consistent gender dysphoria throughout their childhood, it is not surprising they would seek to continue treatment after 16.

It argues that the fact not all chose to do so shows this course of treatment is not an inevitability.

Furthermore, the data was requested by the High Court during the hearing, but the Tavistock did not provide it.

The data, the trust argued, would be published in a peer-reviewed journal, but comments were being reviewed by the study’s principal investigator, Prof Russell Viner – the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.

However, the Tavistock published the data the day after the High Court handed down its judgement, and not in a peer-reviewed journal.

The Tavistock told the BBC that the paper was not accepted for publication until the day of the judgement and it was put into preprint that day.

The published study showed that treatment with the blocker brought about no change in psychological function.

This differs from Dutch findings “which reported improved psychological function,” upon which many gender clinics have based their treatment.

Preliminary findings which showed that after a year on blockers, there was a significant increase in those answering the statement: “I deliberately try to hurt or kill myself”, were not replicated across the duration of the study.

The study had no control group – with children who did not take puberty blockers – to enable the researchers to compare results with.

So, it is hard to infer cause and effect or draw conclusions as to the potential harms or benefits of this treatment.

The study also measured the impact of puberty blocking drugs on children’s height and bone density.

The researchers found that suppressing puberty “reduced growth that was dependent on puberty hormones”.

Height growth continued, “but more slowly than for their peers”.

The Tavistock Trust said “the paper has now been accepted by a peer-reviewed journal and will be published soon”.

All new referrals for puberty blockers are currently paused because of the High Court’s ruling, and an NHS review into gender identity services for children and young people is currently under way.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can find support and advice via BBC Action Line.

You can watch Newsnight on BBC Two weekdays at 22:30 or on iPlayer, subscribe to the programme on YouTube and follow it on Twitter.

Derbyshire boy, 15, charged with terrorism offences

A 15-year-old boy has been charged with two terrorism offences.

The boy, from South Derbyshire, appeared via video-link at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

He is charged with dissemination of a terrorist publication and collecting information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

West Yorkshire Police said he had previously been arrested under the Terrorism Act in September.

The force said the teenager was arrested following an investigation by counter-terrorism police and Derbyshire Police.

He has been bailed to appear at the same court on 22 January.

A 16-year-old boy from south-east London was also arrested as part of the investigation.

He has been bailed pending further inquiries.

Mariah Careys All I Want For Christmas tops the UK charts after 26 years

Completing a journey 26 years in the making, Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You has reached number one in the UK singles chart.

Taken from Carey’s album 1994 Merry Christmas, the modern classic was originally held off the top spot by East 17’s Stay Another Day.

However, it finally climbed to the summit this week, after being streamed 10.8 million times.

“Happy Christmas UK! We finally made it!” said Carey on hearing the news.

“We are keeping the Christmas spirit alive together despite how dismal the year’s been.

“Love you always! ♥️ Joy to the world 🌎😇🎄!!!!”

“Truly one of the greatest songs never to be number one has finally reached the top spot,” said Radio 1’s Scott Mills, who revealed the countdown on Friday. “Hopefully it can hold on until Christmas Day!”

Carey knocked Ariana Grande’s Positions off the top of the charts, as Christmas songs continue their annual takeover of the top 40.

Festive songs account for 22 of the week’s biggest-selling records, with six in the top 10 – including Wham’s Last Christmas at number two, and The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale Of New York at four.

While most of the songs are Christmas classics, there are also entries for Jess Glynne’s cover of Donnie Hathaway’s This Christmas and Justin Bieber’s version of Brenda Lee’s of Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree.

Both are exclusive to Christmas playlists on Amazon’s music streaming service, highlighting the power of the company’s smart speakers to boost a song into the charts.

All I Want For Christmas Is You is the gift that keeps on giving.

First released in 1994, it’s an upbeat, catchy tribute to the Christmas hits of Motown and Phil Spector. A top three hit on both sides of the Atlantic, it quickly became a standard, with the New Yorker calling it “one of the few worthy modern additions to the holiday canon”.

Carey started writing the song while living in upstate New York in the summer of 1994, while playing the movie It’s A Wonderful Life for inspiration.

She quickly stumbled on a chord progression and melody, which she captured on a mini tape recorder and brought to her longtime collaborator Walter Afanasieff.

He originally worried it was too basic. But that’s exactly the quality that has made it such an enduring hit.

“The oversimplified melody made it easily palatable for the whole world to go, ‘Oh, I can’t get that out of my head!” he said in an interview with ASCAP.

In her recent memoir, Carey said the song’s opening chimes are meant to evoke the “little wooden toy pianos, like the one Schroeder had on Peanuts”.

“I actually did bang out most of the song on a cheap little Casio keyboard,” she added. “But it’s the feeling I wanted to capture. There’s a sweetness, a clarity and a purity to it.”

Although she was unhappy at the time, dealing with the pressures of fame and a tempestuous relationship with her future husband Tommy Mottola, she wanted to “write a song that would me me happy and make me feel like a loved, carefree young girl at Christmas”.

“I wanted to sing it in a way that would capture joy for everyone and crystallise it forever,” she added. “Yes, I was going for vintage Christmas happiness.”

‘Finally able to enjoy it’

The song has since earned her more than $60m (£45m) in royalties; and has cumulatively spent 70 weeks in the UK’s top 100.

Last year, it topped the charts in America for the first time, making Carey the first artist to score a number one single in four different decades.

Speaking to the New York Times, however, the singer said she wasn’t competitive about such matters.

“I don’t need something else to validate the existence of this song,” she said.

“I used to pick it apart whenever I listened to it, but at this point, I feel like I’m finally able to enjoy it.”

Disney announces landmark African collaboration with Kugali

The pledge by Ugandan animator Hamid Ibrahim to the BBC that his team’s work is “going to kick Disney’s ass” certainly got the company’s attention.

Two years on and Disney – instead of battling Ibrahim and his colleagues – has announced a collaboration.

It is the first time that it will work with African storytellers to create an animated series set on the continent.

Iwájú will be a long-form series “steeped in science fiction” based in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria, Disney says.

Ibrahim, along with Nigerians Ziki Nelson and Tolu Olowofoyeku, created the company Kugali to tell “stories inspired by African culture using comic books, art and augmented reality”, according to their website.

“This show will combine Disney’s magic and animation expertise with Kugali’s fire and storytelling authenticity,” Nelson said.

They work in the Afrofuturism genre, referencing African history and tradition, which in part tries to address the absence of Africans within mainstream science fiction.

“The idea was that in science fiction there were hardly any black people – it was as though they were passing on the message that there are no black people in the future,” Nelson told the BBC in 2019.

Now, with the Disney collaboration, he says that “Iwájú [which means “the future” in the Yoruba language] represents a personal childhood dream of mine to tell my story and that of my people”.

Though at this stage the creators are not giving anything away about the plot, Disney says the series will explore “deep themes of class, innocence and challenging the status quo”.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ chief creative officer Jennifer Lee said it was the BBC’s short film about Kugali that caught her attention, entertainment website Deadline reports.

She said she was intrigued by Ibrahim’s “ass-kicking” comment.

“Here were three talented comic book artists. Their dream was to bring African stories created by African artist to the world, highlighting the diversity of cultures, histories and voices across the continent,” she is quoted as saying.

“Their talents as storytellers blew us away.”

Disney says that not only will this be the first time one of its projects will be set in an Africa “that is envisioned and told by filmmakers from the region”, but it is also the first collaboration with another creative company “to bring a project to fruition”.

Iwájú is due to be released on the Disney+ channel in 2022.

Dame Barbara Windsor: EastEnders Mitchell brothers actors pay tribute

Actors Ross Kemp and Steven McFadden, who played the sons of Dame Barbara Windsor’s EastEnders matriarch Peggy Mitchell, have paid tribute following the star’s death at the age of 83.

Kemp, who played Grant Mitchell in the BBC soap, said she was “the woman who always had time for everybody”.

McFadden, who played Phil, said: “I truly loved Barbara and, like everyone, I am going to miss her terribly.”

He added: “She was everything you would hope she would be, and more.”

Other former co-stars also fondly remembered the actress. Larry Lamb, who played Peggy’s controlling husband Archie, described her as “an extraordinary woman”.

“The word ‘star’ gets a little bit over-used, and if you’re going to be a star you’ve kind of got to learn out to be one,” Lamb told BBC Radio 5 Live.

She knew how to carry herself on set, he said. “You know what it means to be the top of the bill, to have the responsibility of carrying the show and and looking after everybody all around you, helping you to move it along and keep it up to scratch, and she had to do it.

“Everybody looked up to her – which physically wasn’t the easiest thing to do, she was so tiny!

“But she was an extraordinary woman and a great loss.”

Tracy-Ann Oberman joined the Albert Square cast in 2004, playing Chrissie Watts, the wife of “Dirty” Den. She told 5 Live Dame Barbara was “like showbusiness’s fairy godmother”.

“She was a wonderful, wonderful woman, because not only was she excellent at her work, she was also a really good human being,” she said.

Oberman recalled how welcoming the star had been when she first arrived into the “whirlwind” of the “fast-moving” show, despite Dame Barbara having been absent from EastEnders for a couple of years due to ill health.

“She got my number and she rang me up and she said, ‘Hello darling. This is Barbara here. I just want to let you know that I’ve been watching you on screen and you’re fantastic, and if there’s anything you need call me’,” Oberman said.

Fellow soap star Danny Dyer, who played Mick Carter, posted on Instagram that Dame Barbara was “the only one Dame in my eyes”.

“So grateful to have known ya. You was a beautiful rare one,” he wrote.

Adam Woodyatt, who plays Ian Beale, said it was “a privilege and honour” to work with Dame Barbara, having watched her in the Carry On films during his youth.

“I have so many happy memories and moments that I will always cherish, even when Peggy floored Ian with a punch,” he said.

Former EastEnder Shane Richie said he was “absolutely devastated” at the news because “Barbara was a friend as well as my TV boss in the Queen Vic”.

The actor, who played Alfie Moon and was recently in ITV’s I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, wrote on Instagram: “She will always be my Duchess.”

Letitia Dean, who plays Sharon Mitchell, said the actress “will be missed beyond measure”, adding: “They broke the mould when they made Dame Barbara Windsor. There will never be another like that incredible woman. Everyone who met her loved her.”

Elsewhere in the TV world, Phillip Schofield called the actress “gorgeous”, adding that she was “a real icon, showbiz lost a lot of sparkle today”.

Sheridan Smith called her “one of my idols”, having met her through David Walliams, who told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “I grew up watching Carry On films on television, for a lot of boys my age it was like a first crush because she was one of the first beautiful, funny dazzling women you ever saw.

“We became friends nearly 20 years ago – she was very kind to everybody… she would immediately make everyone feel at ease, immediately make everyone feel happy. Everyone who comes and talks to her she’s got time for, she was just absolutely golden to spend time with.

“I sat on the sofa blushing as red as a tomato as I had never seen anyone as beautiful, funny or adorable as Barbara Windsor and I still never have.”

Fellow Little Britain star Matt Lucas said “it’s not an overstatement to say I think the whole country is in mourning today” and praised Dame Barbara for working “tirelessly” for charity “even when her own health was failing her”.

Amanda Holden wrote on Instagram: “I was a big fan and was thrilled to meet Barbara on several occasions… she was an absolute joy.”

TV presenter Jonathan Ross tweeted: “Barbara Windsor in real life was everything you might have hoped for. So warm, so funny, so kind. Goodnight sweetheart x.”

Danniella Westbrook, who played Dame Barbara’s on-screen daughter Sam Mitchell in EastEnders, tweeted: “My heart is broken. Bar, you will always [be] in my heart forever.”

Patsy Palmer, who played Bianca Jackson, said on Instagram: “I’m sitting here thinking of the 100s of memories we shared.

“Too many to comprehend. We were like family for a long time, ups, downs, ins and outs but you will never meet a more professional actress than Babs.”

Lucy Benjamin, who played Lisa Fowler, added: “You were a true star in every sense”, while Tamzin Outhwaite, who played Mel Owen, described the actress as an icon and national treasure. “All I can hear is ‘ello darlin’,” she added in reference to Peggy Mitchell’s cockney catchphrase.

Nitin Ganatra, who played Masood Ahmed, said it had been “a privilege and honour to work with this remarkable, sparkling, funny, straight talking, generous woman… and what a giggle!! I will never forget the kindness she showed me”.

Craig Fairbrass, who left EastEnders in 2001 having played Dan Sullivan, tweeted that she was a “larger than life proper legend”, while Diane Parish, who played Denise Fox, said she would remember “her kindness, and of course laughter”.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden added his voice to the tributes, telling BBC Breakfast she was “the greatest landlady Albert Square ever saw”.

Doctor Who star John Barrowman, who was interviewed by Dame Barbara on BBC Radio 2 in 2011, said in a Twitter video that the star would be “sorely missed”.

“She was a small woman but feisty, and she had the biggest, biggest heart in the business,” he said. “And she was a genuine, lovely, warm, caring person and she will be sorely missed by the film, television, radio and theatre worlds.”

Veteran broadcaster Tony Blackburn added that she was a “lovely lady who was always such fun”.

Mitcham couple jailed over baby daughters shaking death

A woman and her partner have been jailed over the death of their newborn who died after being repeatedly shaken.

Clare Sanders and Tomas Vaitkevicius of Mitcham, were convicted of causing or allowing the 2017 death of four-week-old Eva.

Eva suffered 27 rib factures and injuries to her head and spine from separate assaults,

City worker Sanders, 44, was jailed for eight years, while handyman Vaitkevicius, 45, was given nine years.

Both denied causing Eva’s injuries or noticing signs of mistreatment.

Tom Little QC, prosecuting, told jurors during the trial at the Old Bailey that Eva was “violently shaken” at least three times.

He said: “This was, we say, a brutal series of assaults. A defenceless baby was not able to talk, not able to say what happened, not able to defend herself.”

The court heard the couple’s neighbour raised the alarm in the early hours of 1 September 2017 when she woke up to Sanders screaming and ringing the doorbell.

Eva was taken to St George’s Hospital in Tooting, where she died the next day.

Det Insp Will White said: “Medical evidence in the case was emphatic in determining that the injuries sustained were deliberate.

“No explanation was offered by either of the defendants for Eva’s injuries, and although nothing can bring her back, her parents will now face the consequences of their horrific actions.

“This was a heartbreaking loss of an innocent life at the hands of the two people who were meant to love, care for and protect her.”

Offensive Empire honours titles must go, says Labours Kate Green

Honours titles associated with the British Empire are “offensive and divisive” and should be rebranded, a senior Labour MP has told the BBC.

Kate Green, who got an OBE in 2015, told the Political Thinking podcast it gave people “huge pleasure” to have their achievements recognised.

But the shadow education secretary said honours were hierarchical and the link to Empire was “hurtful to people”.

“You can’t justify that branding,” she told host Nick Robinson.

Orders of the British Empire – the CBE, OBE and MBE – were first awarded during World War One to recognise the contribution of civilians to the war effort and the actions of service personnel in support positions.

They are now awarded for outstanding achievements in different fields at either a national or local level.

The British Empire Medal, awarded for significant community service, was revived in 2012, having been scrapped in 1993.

Some Labour MPs have previous called for the word “empire” to be replaced by “excellence” in honours awarded by the Queen.

Ms Green told the BBC’s Nick Robinson she had thought hard before accepting a OBE for her work in helping children as director of the Child Poverty Action Group before she entered Parliament.

She said she decided to take the honour because it “thrilled” her father.

While honours were a valuable way of celebrating people’s contributions to their community or country, she added, their association with the economic and racial injustices of the British Empire was not defensible.

“It’s really the wrong language. It’s divisive, it’s offensive and hurtful to people.

“One of the things I’ve been looking at a lot in recent weeks is the black curriculum campaign and decolonising our history and the whole curriculum. You can’t excuse or justify that branding.”

She said issues with the way in which honours were handed out ran “deeper” than just the titles and a “lot more reform was needed” of the secretive system.

Members of the public can nominate people for honours, but critics say the committees that make the final decisions are not representative of society as a whole and awards for political service make a mockery of the system.

Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron and Tony Blair have all been criticised for using the honours system to reward political allies and people who have give money to their parties.

“I know many efforts have been made to democratise and open up that honours system but it’s still pretty hierarchical of who gets what,” she said.

In her interview, Ms Green, a founder member of the Labour Against Private Schools campaign, said she was in favour of abolishing fee-paying schools but recognised it would not be a “top priority” for a future Labour government.

“I’m far more interested in the 93% of kids who are not in the private school system than the 7% who are.

“How can it be that today that we find our country run by a group of people disproportionately who have had an educational and life experience so unlike the majority of people in this country.”

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