Luke Pollard: MPs Valentines tweet sparks homophobic abuse

An MP received “vile, homophobic, disgusting” abuse after tweeting a Valentine’s message to his boyfriend.

On Sunday, Luke Pollard posted a photograph of them together but was faced with some “pretty awful things” in response.

There were homophobic comments in the replies to his tweet, as well as references to the age gap between Mr Pollard and his boyfriend.

The Labour MP said it was a reminder the fight for equality “is not yet up”.

“Quite a lot of people will find any reason to have a go,” said Mr Pollard from his home in Plymouth.

“Sydney is a few years younger than me, and, because he’s from Chinese heritage, he looks a few years younger than that as well.

“We’ve got an amazing relationship. We’ve been together for many years – he really is my rock,” Mr Pollard added.

The MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said there was “no place” for the abuse he and his partner had received, adding that people should be “celebrating love regardless of what that couple looks like”.

“Regardless of sexuality, gender, age or background, it [Valentine’s Day] is a moment to celebrate that love that you have,” he said.

Adam Curtis: Critics praise new docu-series as dazzling but incoherent

A new BBC documentary series from Bafta-winning filmmaker Adam Curtis has been broadly welcomed by critics.

Several hailed the six-part series as “dazzling” and “terrifying”, but others said it was “incoherent” and left them confused.

Can’t Get You Out of My Head was released in full on iPlayer last week.

Curtis has described it as an “emotional history of the modern world”. It chronicles growing anxieties in the western world, China and Russia.

The film series centres around the tales of interconnected historical political activists, such as Michael X, Jiang Qing and Afeni Shakur.

As with his previous efforts, including 2016’s HyperNormalisation and Bitter Lake from the year before, it uses off-beat archive footage and music to help explain the roots of modern conspiracy theories, prescription drugs, and artificial intelligence.

“These strange days did not just happen,” notes journalist and filmmaker Curtis. “We – and those in power – created them together.”

The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan gave the series five stars, describing it as “dazzling” and “a triumph” – not only for Curtis, “but also for publicly funded broadcasting”.

“Whether you are convinced or not by the working hypothesis, Can’t Get You Out of My Head is a rush,” she wrote.

“It is vanishingly rare to be confronted by work so dense, so widely searching and ambitious in scope, so intelligent and respectful of the audience’s intelligence, too.

“It is rare, also, to watch a project over which one person has evidently been given complete creative freedom and control without any sense of self-indulgence creeping in.”

The i paper’s Sarah Carson also awarded top marks, declaring the collection to be both “a masterpiece” and “terrifying” at the same time.

“This sprawling eight-hour documentary explores in urgent, exciting, expansive detail the meaning of power in post-war civilisation,” she wrote.

“What makes it so effective – so comprehensible and informative rather than merely sensational – is how seamlessly pivotal periods of history, complex political ideologies, and popular culture are woven together.”

The Spectator’s James Walton praised the series, but also felt it was “incoherent”.

“Curtis has plenty of great, hidden stories to tell here,” he wrote. “Some of his connections are both intriguing and persuasive: for instance, that the ‘one world’ impulse behind Live Aid also led to the invasion of Iraq.”

But, he added: “[Curtis] ranges so widely that you might well struggle not just to follow the central argument, but to locate it.”

The Telegraph’s Ed Power dished out three stars, writing: “This may not have been his intention but Curtis has stitched together a wildly entertaining ghost train-ride of a documentary that is addictive even when it doesn’t make sense (which is often).”

But, he added: “For all the gorgeous rhetoric and the cracking pop music, the ultimate question is whether Can’t Get You Out Of My Head presents a rational argument about why things are as they are. This it never quite achieves. Instead, Curtis falls into the trap of merely railing against the boring old status quo.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne on Thursday, music-lover Curtis confirmed that his aim was to “try to explain why we have this rather strange uncertain time, where lots of people are uncertain, anxious and have no picture of the future”.

“One of the central things in it, I traced what happened to that dream of individualism – I think the thing that marks out our time is that what we feel as people, as individuals, is the most important thing,” said the 65-year-old, who was awarded Baftas for his earlier works; 1993’s Pandora’s Box, and later The Mayfair Set, and The Power of Nightmares.

“It’s what a lot of consumerism is organised around, it’s what all the focus groups in politics are organised around.”

He added: “What I wanted to answer is, why did we go from this idea of confident empowered individuals who would move through the world as autonomous confident creatures, to millions and millions of us being anxious and uncertain and I’m frightened of the future? At the same time, almost frozen without any idea of what an alternative future could be.

“And if you’re going to do that, you’ve got to tell a history of what went on in inside people’s heads, as much as what went on outside. And what’s the relationship between the two: what happens when all sorts of ideas, from power and politics, get into our heads in an age driven by feelings.”

Writing in The Times, Hugo Rifkind opined that while the series was informative, he was left a tad bewildered by it all.

“Curtis is trying to explain why we all feel so trapped and helpless in the modern world and why our political leaders seem to feel that way too,” wrote Rifkind.

“In totality his answer seems to be, ‘because of everything’, which I feel personally is rather too big an answer to be all that useful. Still, at least he’s crammed it all in. I feel I learnt a lot. I’m just not sure what it was.”

However, The Independent’s Ed Cumming awarded the series five stars, writing: “His case studies are extraordinarily varied and would all make fascinating films in their own right.

“You emerge from Can’t Get You Out of My Head not with the clean satisfaction of rational combat, but the sense of having been carpet bombed out of your old worldview.”

Mohamud Mohammed Hassan: Police misconduct notice served

A misconduct notice has been served on a South Wales Police officer following the death of a man hours after his release from custody.

It is part of a probe into police contact with 24-year-old Mohamud Mohammed Hassan from Cardiff.

Mr Hassan was arrested at his home on suspicion of breach of the peace but was released without charge the next day, 9 January, and died that night.

His family said he claimed he was assaulted in custody.

Investigators from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) served a misconduct notice on a South Wales Police officer on Monday.

Hundreds of people joined a protest march through Cardiff after Mr Hassan’s death.

The officer attended the Newport Road, Cardiff, address on 8 January and accompanied Mr Hassan to Cardiff Bay custody unit in the rear of a police van, the IOPC said.

During this time period, Mr Hassan was heard on body worn camera complaining of having a fit, suffering a migraine, and he displayed signs of experiencing pain.

The misconduct notice relates to this information potentially not being passed to custody staff in charge of Mr Hassan’s welfare.

According to the IOPC, the serving of a misconduct notice does not necessarily mean an officer has committed any wrongdoing. It is to notify an officer that their conduct is being investigated.

IOPC director for Wales, Catrin Evans, said: “We are continuing to analyse the footage and piece together other evidence, and we are looking at all the interaction police had with Mr Hassan over the weekend of his death.

“In the course of an investigation, where an indication arises that an officer may have breached professional standards that may warrant a disciplinary sanction, we serve a disciplinary notice to advise them they are subject to investigation.

“We have advised Mr Hassan’s family and South Wales Police that we have done so for one officer over possibly not passing information about Mr Hassan’s welfare to the custody sergeant on duty.

“We keep misconduct notices under review during the course of an investigation. At the conclusion of an investigation the IOPC decides whether any officer under notice has a disciplinary case to answer.”

The investigation is continuing and South Wales Police said it was fully cooperating.

“We acknowledge the impact Mr Hassan’s death has had on his family, friends and the wider community,” a spokesman for the force said.

“Our thoughts and condolences continue to be with them.”

Adam Curtis: Critics praise new docuseries as dazzling, but incoherent

A new BBC documentary series from Bafta-winning filmmaker Adam Curtis has been broadly welcomed by critics.

Several hailed the six-part series as “dazzling” and “terrifying”, but others said it was “incoherent” and left them confused.

Can’t Get You Out of My Head was released in full on iPlayer last week.

Curtis has described it as an “emotional history of the modern world”. It chronicles growing anxieties in the western world, China and Russia.

The film series centres around the tales of interconnected historical political activists, such as Michael X, Jiang Qing and Afeni Shakur.

As with his previous efforts, including 2016’s HyperNormalisation and Bitter Lake from the year before, it uses off-beat archive footage and music to help explain the roots of modern conspiracy theories, prescription drugs, and artificial intelligence.

“These strange days did not just happen,” notes journalist and filmmaker Curtis. “We – and those in power – created them together.”

The Guardian’s Lucy Mangan gave the series five stars, describing it as “dazzling” and “a triumph” – not only for Curtis, “but also for publicly funded broadcasting”.

“Whether you are convinced or not by the working hypothesis, Can’t Get You Out of My Head is a rush,” she wrote.

“It is vanishingly rare to be confronted by work so dense, so widely searching and ambitious in scope, so intelligent and respectful of the audience’s intelligence, too.

“It is rare, also, to watch a project over which one person has evidently been given complete creative freedom and control without any sense of self-indulgence creeping in.”

The i paper’s Sarah Carson also awarded top marks, declaring the collection to be both “a masterpiece” and “terrifying” at the same time.

“This sprawling eight-hour documentary explores in urgent, exciting, expansive detail the meaning of power in post-war civilisation,” she wrote.

“What makes it so effective – so comprehensible and informative rather than merely sensational – is how seamlessly pivotal periods of history, complex political ideologies, and popular culture are woven together.”

The Spectator’s James Walton praised the series, but also felt it was “incoherent”.

“Curtis has plenty of great, hidden stories to tell here,” wrote Walton, who viewed the first four episodes. “Some of his connections are both intriguing and persuasive: for instance, that the ‘one world’ impulse behind Live Aid also led to the invasion of Iraq.”

But, he added: “In interviews, [Curits] has welcomed the move to iPlayer on the true-auteur grounds that there’s less editorial interference. Unfortunately, Can’t Get You Out of My Head prompts the heretical thought that some people in suits asking, ‘But what are you trying to say here?’ might be exactly what Curtis now needs.”

The Telegraph’s Ed Power dished out three stars, writing: “This may not have been his intention but Curtis has stitched together a wildly entertaining ghost train-ride of a documentary that is addictive even when it doesn’t make sense (which is often).”

But, he added: “For all the gorgeous rhetoric and the cracking pop music, the ultimate question is whether Can’t Get You Out Of My Head presents a rational argument about why things are as they are. This it never quite achieves. Instead, Curtis falls into the trap of merely railing against the boring old status quo.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne on Thursday, music-lover Curtis confirmed that his aim was to “try to explain why we have this rather strange uncertain time, where lots of people are uncertain, anxious and have no picture of the future”.

“One of the central things in it, I traced what happened to that dream of individualism – I think the thing that marks out our time is that what we feel as people, as individuals, is the most important thing,” said the 65-year-old, who was awarded Baftas for his earlier works; 1993’s Pandora’s Box, and later The Mayfair Set, and The Power of Nightmares.

“It’s what a lot of consumerism is organised around, it’s what all the focus groups in politics are organised around.”

He added: “What I wanted to answer is, why did we go from this idea of confident empowered individuals who would move through the world as autonomous confident creatures, to millions and millions of us being anxious and uncertain and I’m frightened of the future? At the same time, almost frozen without any idea of what an alternative future could be.

“And if you’re going to do that, you’ve got to tell a history of what went on in inside people’s heads, as much as what went on outside. And what’s the relationship between the two: what happens when all sorts of ideas, from power and politics, get into our heads in an age driven by feelings.”

Writing in The Times, Hugo Rifkind opined that while the series was informative, he was left a tad bewildered by it all.

“Curtis is trying to explain why we all feel so trapped and helpless in the modern world and why our political leaders seem to feel that way too,” wrote Rifkind.

“In totality his answer seems to be, ‘because of everything’, which I feel personally is rather too big an answer to be all that useful. Still, at least he’s crammed it all in. I feel I learnt a lot. I’m just not sure what it was.”

But The Independent’s Ed Cumming awarded the series five stars, writing: “His case studies are extraordinarily varied and would all make fascinating films in their own right.

“You emerge from Can’t Get You Out of My Head not with the clean satisfaction of rational combat, but the sense of having been carpet bombed out of your old worldview.”

Exmouth bird tweet prompts rule-break fines for twitchers

Bird spotters who breached lockdown restrictions to catch a glimpse of a rare bird have been handed fines.

The Northern mockingbird, not often seen in the UK, was first spotted by Chris Biddle in his garden in Exmouth, Devon, on 6 February.

He tweeted about the sighting, prompting excitement among twitchers.

Five were fined for travelling to the town to photograph the bird after Devon and Cornwall Police were contacted on Saturday over the lockdown breaches.

In a statement, the force said: “It was reported that a number of individuals, suspected to have travelled from outside the area, were trying to photograph a rare bird which had been seen in a garden.”

The grey, long-tailed Northern mockingbird is known for its mimicking ability, and is found in southern Canada, across the US, Mexico and the Northern Caribbean.

It is not thought to have been seen in the UK since the 1980s.

Baby born safely in Grimsby hotel car park

A baby born in a hotel car park after his parents were sent home from hospital has been nicknamed “Car Park Charlie”.

Charlie Smith was born in an ambulance outside the Premier Inn, Grimsby, after his parents checked-in rather than risk driving home through heavy snow.

Harriet Hanson and Adam Smith had been facing a 45-minute drive to Skegness but chose to stay near to the hospital.

They said they believe the decision was “critical” to Charlie’s safe arrival.

Ms Hanson, 25, had gone to hospital in Grimsby on the night of 7 February after she began experiencing contractions, but was told to go home and return when she was in established labour.

However, rather than travel in the freezing conditions, they chose to book a nearby hotel room.

Later that night Ms Hanson’s waters broke and hotel staff helped the couple by calling 999.

When paramedics arrived she was taken to a waiting ambulance, where baby Charlie was delivered at 00:29 GMT the next day, weighing 8lb 3.5oz (3.7kg).

Ms Hanson and Mr Smith, 28, said: “We are so grateful for the care and kindness shown by the team at Premier Inn during our time of need.

“To say you were born in the car park of a hotel is certainly a story you will never forget – we have even affectionately nicknamed him Car Park Charlie.”

Jaguar cars to be all-electric by 2025

Jaguar Land Rover’s Jaguar brand will be all-electric by 2025, the carmaker has said.

The company will launch electric models of its entire Jaguar and Land Rover line-up by 2030, it added.

The firm said it would keep all three of its three British plants open as part of its new strategy.

However, it has dropped plans to build an electric version of its XJ luxury saloon model, which was to have been built at its Castle Bromwich plant.

Chief executive Thierry Bollor√© said the Castle Bromwich plant would focus instead on “non-production” activities in the long term, without giving details.

Shares in JLR’s India-based owner, Tata Motors, rose as much as 3%.

The company plans to spend about £2.5bn a year on new technology for its cars.

It will also invest in hydrogen fuel technology. Despite operating through combustion, hydrogen burns to produce only water as a by-product.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the announcement was “a huge step for British car manufacturing”.

Carmakers are under pressure to meet stringent carbon emission demands in Europe and China, as well as customer demand for high-performance electric cars with a luxury or performance feel.

The UK plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.

Mercedes emergency call bug: Carmaker recalls vehicles

Mercedes-Benz is recalling more than one million cars over a safety defect with the cars’ emergency call system.

The problem is with the cars’ eCall feature, which alerts emergency services of an accident and relays a vehicle’s location to them.

But a fault means it is possible that the wrong location could be sent.

The problem affects 1,292,258 cars in the United States, and the company says it is preparing a fix for customers in other countries too.

The safety recall information form the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that Mercedes “determined that a safety risk cannot be ruled out”.

Because the problem is software-related, the fix can usually be done “over the air” – via a wireless download using the car’s existing mobile data connection.

But if it cannot, due to a bad connection or other problems, owners will be able to bring their cars into an authorised dealer to have the update applied.

The eCall system is mandatory in the EU for all cars sold since 2018 – and the US documents reveal that the reason for the investigation was a known case of the wrong location being sent “in the European market” in October 2019.

Mercedes-Benz in the UK told the BBC: “This software update will also be implemented in other countries and we are in close contact with the local authorities.”

But it said it was not providing any further details until an official announcement of the fix.

In the US, all 1,292,258 affected vehicles will have to receive a software update to fix the problem.

That includes more than 200 different models and variants made between 2016 and 2021, including:

The fault, Mercedes said, was in the software connected to the communications module used by the emergency call system.

“In rare cases, this could mean that in the event of an accident-related temporary drop in a vehicle’s voltage, the communication module might not communicate the correct current position when an emergency call is made/triggered,” a spokeswoman for the car-maker said.

“All other functions of the automatic and manual emergency call function remain fully operational,” she added.

Mercedes also said that it had discovered the fault itself due to its safety monitoring programme, which it said was a “top priority” for the company.

Fallen fund manager Woodfords return is a kick in the guts

Fallen fund manager Neil Woodford’s return is “a kick in the guts”, according to one private investor.

“It’s rubbing salt on the wounds of the thousands of investors who lost their money by investing in his ill-fated funds,” Vishal Agarwal told the BBC.

Mr Woodford has said he will set up a new investment firm which will only raise money from professionals.

He told the Sunday Telegraph he was “sorry” for what he did wrong after investors suffered big losses.

But not everyone is convinced by the former star manager’s apology.

“Should Woodford be allowed to open a new fund to professional investors? Particularly as they might not know what risks they are taking on? I think not,” Paul Resnik, chief ethics officer of the Suitable Advice Institute in Melbourne, told the BBC.

“We need to see the result of the Financial Conduct Authority’s analysis and the outcomes of impending court cases and class actions first.

“The coroner hasn’t worked out who’s responsible for the dead bodies yet.”

Mr Woodford built a reputation as a star stock picker over 26 years at the City firm Invesco.

But after he set up his own business – Woodford Investment Management – several investments turned sour, causing his funds to plummet in value and to be suspended by its administrator.

The events leading up to the funds’ collapse in October 2019 are still being investigated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Some 16 months on, he has returned with the launch of a new investment firm, Woodford Capital Management Partners, which will be based in Buckinghamshire and Jersey, serving institutional and high-net-worth investors.

It will work alongside US investment company Acacia Research to “advise” on an illiquid and unlisted portfolio of life sciences companies once owned by the Woodford Equity Income fund.

“Neil Woodford has financed an extraordinary number of British life sciences companies over the last 20 years,” said Acacia boss Clifford Press.

“When I met Neil, I knew I was standing the in the presence of a truly exceptional investment manager.”

“I’m surprised at Woodford’s return,” Ben Yearsley, director at Shore Financial Planning, told the BBC.

“After the drubbing he has taken, it would have been easy to slip into the background. I assume he already has some professional investors lined up and they are happy with any negative publicity that ensues for backing him.”

Mr Yearsley said he would not be investing any client money in the fund, “as we don’t have any professional clients”.

“It looks as if Woodford is looking for vindication that his original investment strategy was correct all along,” said Ryan Hughes, head of active portfolios at AJ Bell.

“He clearly hopes that much of the emotion and fury that he has faced over the past two years will disappear.”

But that hope is likely to be in vain, said Mr Hughes. “It looks unlikely that investors of any kind will find it so easy to forget.”

For Mr Agarwal, the events left an even deeper scar and now he feels distrustful of the investment world.

“The Neil Woodford saga has raised quite a few questions regarding the dark side of the fund management industry,” he said.

“Investors have been taken for a ride for too long by unscrupulous managers while fund houses seem to be busy milking gullible investors by charging exorbitant fees.”

Terror suspect who sparked manhunt pleads guilty

A terror suspect who cut off an electronic monitoring tag and fled his home has pleaded guilty to breaching counter terror rules.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is a senior member of the banned terrorist group al-Muhajiroun.

He caused a security alert and triggered a manhunt when he absconded in September.

His actions resulted in increased checks at UK ports, causing delays for travellers.

Appearing at the Old Bailey by video link from prison, he admitted six breaches of his Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (TPIM).

TPIM notices allow the authorities to monitor and control people considered to be terrorists – but who are not facing criminal charges.

Subjects face measures such as wearing an electronic tag, curfews, relocation, bans on internet use, and limits on who they can meet and where they can go.

A TPIM can currently be imposed on a person for a maximum of two years.

Ministers are seeking to lower the standard of proof needed to impose a TPIM.

The latest official figures showed three people were the subjects of TPIMs.

Read more: The powers being used to disrupt a terror group

On 15 September last year, the man – known as LF – cut off his tag, obtained an unauthorised mobile phone, ordered a taxi to London, and left his home in the middle of the night.

He was arrested within 24 hours.

Prosecutor Kate Wilkinson said it is “not safe to assume he was not motivated by terrorist related activity”.

Judge Anthony Leonard QC said it was a “serious matter” and that he would pass sentence on 22 February.

Last week LF was one of two men who lost an appeal against the measures placed on them.

The pair were the first people to be made the subject of a TPIM for the second time.

LF is a leading radicaliser in al-Muhajiroun (ALM), an outlawed organisation that has been linked to multiple attacks and plots, including at Fishmongers’ Hall in 2019, Westminster Bridge in 2017, and the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby in 2013.

He was an associate of Khuram Butt, the ringleader of the London Bridge attackers who murdered eight people in June 2017.

In 2019 LF was convicted of breaching his first TPIM, but was handed a suspended sentence by a judge at Kingston Crown Court.

Following this, he continued to engage with other ALM members and was subsequently placed under the new measures in November that year after he was found to be involved in fresh “terrorist related activity”.

In the years after TPIMs were first introduced in 2011, two subjects absconded and fled abroad.

One hid beneath a burka and fled a mosque. Another, like LF, absconded by ordering a taxi.