Prince Philip: The Vanuatu tribes mourning the death of their god

As Britons mourn the death of Prince Philip, they are joined by a tribal community on a Pacific island half a world away.

For decades, two villages on the Vanuatuan island of Tanna have revered the Duke of Edinburgh as a god-like spiritual figure.

A formal period of mourning is now under way.

On Monday, scores of tribespeople gathered in a ceremony to remember Prince Philip.

“The connection between the people on the island of Tanna and the English people is very strong… We are sending condolence messages to the Royal Family and the people of England,” said tribal leader Chief Yapa, according to Reuters news agency.

For the next few weeks, villagers will periodically meet to conduct rites for the duke, who is seen as a “recycled descendant of a very powerful spirit or god that lives on one of their mountains”, says anthropologist Kirk Huffman who has studied the tribes since the 1970s.

They will likely conduct ritualistic dance, hold a procession, and display memorabilia of Prince Philip, while the men will drink kava, a ceremonial drink made from the roots of the kava plant.

This will culminate with a “significant gathering” as a final act of mourning. “There will be a great deal of wealth on display” which would mean yams and kava plants, says Vanuatu-based journalist Dan McGarry.

“And also pigs, because they are a primary source of protein. I would expect numerous pigs to be killed for the ceremonial event.”

Monday’s meeting saw a couple of hundred people gather under giant banyan trees, according to Mr McGarry who is on Tanna.

There were speeches remembering Prince Philip, but also discussion about a possible successor. At sunset the men drank kava.

The BBC understands that a private message to Queen Elizabeth has been given to journalists at the scene, who will convey it to British officials.

For half a century, the Prince Philip Movement thrived in the villages of Yakel and Yaohnanen – at its height, it had several thousand followers, though numbers are thought to have dwindled to a few hundred.

The villagers live in Tanna’s jungles and continue to practise their ancestral customs. Wearing traditional dress is still common, and while they maintain strong links with society, money and modern technology such as mobile phones are seldom used within their own community.

Though they live only several kilometres from the nearest airport, “they just made an active choice to disavow the modern world. It’s not a physical distance, it’s a metaphysical distance. They’re just 3,000 years away,” says Mr McGarry, who has frequently met the villagers.

The villagers’ centuries-old “kastom”, or culture and way of life, sees Tanna as the origin of the world and aims to promote peace – and this is where Prince Philip has played a central role.

Over time, the villagers have come to believe he is one of them – the fulfilment of a prophecy of a tribesman who has “left the island, in his original spiritual form, to find a powerful wife overseas”, says Mr Huffman.

“Ruling the UK with the help of the Queen, he was trying to bring peace and respect for tradition to England and other parts of the world. If he was successful, then he could return to Tanna – though one thing preventing him was, as they saw it, white people’s stupidity, jealousy, greed and perpetual fighting.”

With his “mission to literally plant the seed of Tanna kastom at the heart of the Commonwealth and empire”, the duke was thus seen as the living embodiment of their culture, says Mr McGarry.

“It’s a hero’s journey, a person who sets off on a quest and literally wins the princess and the kingdom.”

Nobody is sure exactly how or why the movement began, though there are various theories.

One idea, according to Mr Huffman, is that villagers may have seen his picture along with the Queen’s on the walls of British colonial outposts when Vanuatu was still known as New Hebrides, a colony administered jointly by Britain and France.

Another interpretation is that it emerged as a “reaction to colonial presence, a way of re-appropriating and taking back colonial power by associating themselves with someone who sits at the right hand of the ruler of the Commonwealth”, says Mr McGarry, pointing to the sometimes violent colonial history of Vanuatu.

But experts are certain that by the 1970s, the Prince Philip Movement already existed, cemented by the royal couple’s visit in 1974 to New Hebrides where the duke reportedly took part in kava-drinking rituals.

What did Prince Philip make of it all? Publicly, he appeared to accept their reverence, sending several letters and photographs of himself to the tribesmen, who in turn have plied him with traditional gifts over the years.

One of their first presents was a ceremonial club called a nal-nal, given at a 1978 meeting convened by villagers to ask for more information about Prince Philip, which Mr Huffman attended.

“So the British resident commissioner went down, made a presentation of photos of Prince Philip. Hundreds of these people were just waiting around, sitting or standing under the bushes. It was so quiet, we could hear a pin drop,” says Mr Huffman.

“One of the chiefs then gave a club to pass to Prince Philip, and wanted proof that he received it.”

It was sent all the way to the UK, where pictures of the duke holding the club were taken and sent back to the villagers. Those photos, among other memorabilia, are still treasured by the villagers to this day.

In 2007, several tribesmen met the duke in person. Flown to the UK for the Channel 4 reality television series Meet the Natives, five tribal leaders had an off-screen meeting with the duke at Windsor Castle where they presented gifts and asked when he would return to Tanna.

His reply, as reported by the tribesmen later, was cryptic – “when it turns warm, I will send a message” – but appeared to please them.

Though Prince Philip was known for his frankness and has been criticised in the past for being culturally insensitive, on Tanna “he is seen as very supportive and sensitive”, says Mr Huffman.

His connection with the tribes has continued through Prince Charles, who visited Vanuatu in 2018 and drank the same kava his father did decades ago. He also received a walking stick on behalf of the duke from a Yaohnanen tribesman.

The duke’s death has now inevitably opened up the tricky question of who will take his place in the tribes’ spiritual pantheon.

Discussions are already under way, and it may take some time before they decide on his successor.

But for observers familiar with Vanuatu, where tribal custom usually dictates that the title of chief is inherited by male descendants, the answer is obvious. “They might say, he has left it to Charles to continue his mission,” says Mr Huffman.

Even if Prince Charles becomes the latest incarnation of their deity, Prince Philip will not be forgotten any time soon. Mr Huffman says the movement are likely to keep its name, and one tribesman has told him they are even considering starting a political party.

But more importantly, “there has always been the idea that Prince Philip would return some day, either in person or in spiritual form”, says Mr Huffman, who adds that some may think his death will finally trigger this eventuality.

And so, while the Duke of Edinburgh lies in rest in Windsor Castle, there is the belief that his soul is making its final journey across the waves of the Pacific Ocean to its spiritual home, the island of Tanna – to reside with those who have loved and revered him from afar all these years.

Met PC jailed for breaking mans leg in clear case of racial profiling

A Met officer jailed for breaking the leg of a black father in front of his teenage sons did so in a “clear case of racial profiling”, a judge has said.

Carl Abrahams left a cemetery in east London with his children on 31 December 2018 after laying flowers.

On their walk home, he was targeted by PC Charlie Harrison.

Judge Gregory Perrins said he was in no doubt that “had Mr Abrahams and his sons been white”, Harrison would simply have driven by.

Harrison was jailed for two years and three months on Monday at Southwark Crown Court after being convicted of GBH.

The court heard shortly after lunchtime on New Year’s Eve, Harrison was driving an unmarked police car in Forest Gate as part of the Violent Crime Task Force.

He approached Mr Abrahams, who had taken his sons to the cemetery to visit their mother’s grave, and performed a “leg sweep” to knock him to the ground.

In his sentencing remarks, Judge Perrins said: “They had done absolutely nothing wrong, nor had they behaved in any way that could be deemed suspicious.

“They were simply a family returning from a cemetery where they had gone to visit the grave of their partner and mother.

“Having heard the evidence at trial, I strongly suspect that the reason that you stopped Mr Abrahams and his sons was because they were black.”

The judge continued: “During the course of the trial, your counsel unsuccessfully sought to put before the jury the contents of your daily briefing document which showed that you were looking for a variety of black men, each of whom were wanted for violent offences and knife crime.

“This was in my judgement a clear case of racial profiling.”

Mr Abrahams spent the evening in hospital and an X-ray revealed a fracture at the top of his shin bone.

His leg was placed in a cast and he had to walk with crutches for three months.

“He was unable to return to work and had to work from home,” the judge said.

“Mr Abrahams describes how he has given up football and running as a result of the injury to his knee.

“He also describes how even now, three years later, his sons are fearful of the police and believe that they remain at risk of being targeted because of the colour of their skin.”

Mr Abrahams complained to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) in January 2019 and it was decided that the Met should investigate.

Harrison was charged and suspended from duty in August of that year and will now face disciplinary proceedings.

Cdr Paul Betts said: “His actions were found to have fallen well below the standard we expect of our police officers, with a man left badly injured.

“This type of behaviour has no place in our police service and undermines the confidence of the communities we are here to protect.”

The Met said the judge’s comments had been “noted”.

“The complaint investigation also reviewed whether the officer’s actions were racially discriminatory and this will be considered as part of the discipline process that follows,” a spokesman added.

Prince Philip: A simple, family farewell

There is no need to stop the clocks, nor disconnect the phone. Noisy dogs need not be silenced with a juicy bone.

To suggest the nation is convulsed with grief – or should be – ill-serves the memory and legacy of a man who knew well his place in public life.

Prince Philip was not one given to public soul-searching. But when he did speak of his role in life he was very clear; it was to be at his wife’s side.

To support the Queen: never to overshadow her; never to undermine her; never to embarrass her.

That he chose to do so much more than that – the dizzying numbers of speeches and engagements, passions, patronages and interests, remembered in the outpouring of tributes that has followed his death – was testament to his desire to make a difference.

He could have led a very different life, one much less burdened by the ceremony and formality that he made clear, in as light-hearted a way as possible, that he had little time for.

“Get on with it” might have been his informal motto. Said at some volume.

But in life, there was a lot of waiting around – for formal welcomes, for ceremonies grand and bizarre and often overlong, for functions that meant so much to those hosting and attending but must have blurred into one after so many decades.

In death it will be different. In death, he’ll do it his way.

No princes with heads bowed at the corners of his coffin. No public procession. No gun carriage.

Instead, in a hat-tip to his greatest service – his military service in wartime – his coffin will ride on the back of the workhorse that sprang from World War Two, a Land Rover, that he had redesigned.

Something tells you that he was pretty pleased with that redesign.

Going with him into St George’s Chapel, his naval cap and sword, and the glory of those who offer and sometimes give their lives for their country.

Missing will be the many representatives of ‘his’ charities, the ones he established or championed for so long and to such effect. Missing will be some sliver of the people who would like to thank him for his tireless and often unmentioned work.

Children and grandchildren, says the palace, that’s about it.

Missing also will be the kings and princes and grand dukes, politicians, pop stars and aristocrats that have in some variety turned royal events into a century-long media phenomenon.

This will be by recent royal standards a simple, family farewell. A time for his relatives to mourn and celebrate and remember.

And a simple service may well appeal. This is a funeral, not the end of a fairy tale. A no-nonsense moderniser, the Duke’s last service to the monarchy may be in the way he departs it.

Fishmongers Hall inquest: Woman begged terrorist not to stab her

A charity office manager has described being repeatedly stabbed during the terror attack at Fishmongers’ Hall.

Isobel Rowbotham told the inquest jury that she pleaded with convicted terrorist Usman Khan as he approached her on 29 November, 2019.

She had just seen Jack Merritt moments after he had been fatally wounded by Khan in the toilets.

“He was shouting that he’d been stabbed,” she told the inquest at London’s Guildhall.

“He was holding his stomach. Obviously he’d been injured. There was a lot of blood.”

Ms Rowbotham described Khan as moving towards her “quite fast” and “purposively”.

She said: “I was obviously saying ‘no Usman, please.’ It was quite obvious he wasn’t going to stop.”

Ms Rowbotham said she hunched down to try to protect herself but was stabbed multiple times.

“It felt more like punches, I guess,” she continued. “His final stabs were in my neck.

“It felt like he thought they were the final stabs, as if they were intended to finish me.”

The court heard she lay on the floor and “decided to play dead in case he came back again…I tried to slow down my breathing.”

Ms Rowbotham said she wanted to call the police on her mobile but “there was too much blood to press the screen.”

Saskia Jones, 23, and 25-year-old Mr Merritt both died after being stabbed by Khan at the prisoner rehabilitation conference being held in Fishmongers’ Hall.

The inquest also heard that Mr Merritt had rebooked a rail ticket for his killer after Khan’s train to London was cancelled.

Simon Larmour, a Learning Together research associate, said he received a panicked phone call from Khan on the day of the attack saying his train from Stafford had been cancelled.

The court previously heard that during the journey, Khan strapped a fake suicide bomb to his waist whilst in the train toilet.

Khan was met at Euston station by Mr Larmour and John Crilly – who would later help with attempts to subdue Khan on London Bridge.

“I saw Usman coming towards Issy (Isobel Rowbotham) and me with two knives,” Mr Lamour said.

“He was yelling but I didn’t really understand what he was saying.”

Mr Larmour said he leapt over the table and ran to the reception area where he gave first aid to Mr Merritt.

“I couldn’t see all the places he had been stabbed. I was stunned at that point. I tried to find the nearest material I could to put pressure on the wounds.

“He passed out quite quickly. He was moaning a little bit. His eyes were glazed over. He was pale.”

The inquest also heard from retired judge John Samuels, who saw Ms Jones lying at the foot of a staircase with a “chalk-white” face.

He was attending the conference, having previously run a training course for prisoner rehabilitation organisation Learning Together in 2018

He told the inquest how he was on the balcony of the building’s grand entrance hall as the attack unfolded.

”I heard shouts and screams coming from downstairs and I could not understand what was happening,” he said.

“The first sounds were male shouts, the shouts were angry and confused.”

Mr Samuels described how he then saw Ms Jones lying on the floor.

“I noted particularly her face was chalk-white, she appeared unconscious to me or perhaps even dead,” he said.

Mr Samuels then saw one of the organisers of the event, Dr Amy Ludlow, shouting ”police, ambulance, now” into her mobile phone.

Having been told to evacuate, Mr Samuels said he then heard an ”authoritative voice” outside saying that there was a bomb and he should find shelter.

Mr Samuels said he now assumed the voice had been that of a police officer.

The inquest is scheduled to last nine weeks and is expected to be followed by a separate jury inquest into the death of Khan.

Arlene Foster: DUP leader sues Christian Jessen for defamation

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster is suing TV presenter Dr Christian Jessen for defamation, saying he made an “attack” on her marriage.

On 23 December 2019, Dr Jessen tweeted an allegation that Mrs Foster had been having an extra-marital affair.

The post remained online until Dr Jessen deleted it on 7 January 2020.

On Wednesday Mrs Foster told the High Court in Belfast it had been a “very humiliating” time for her. Judgement has been reserved in the case.

Mrs Foster is a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly for Fermanagh and South Tyrone and the first minister of Northern Ireland.

Dr Jessen is best known for presenting Channel Four programme Embarrassing Bodies.

There was no representation on behalf of Dr Jessen in court on Wednesday and the court was told 13 separate approaches by letter and email to Dr Jessen had gone “unanswered”.

Giving evidence to the court, Mrs Foster said she had initially been made aware of the tweet by her director of communications, who handles her social media accounts.

The first minister described it as “an attack on me personally and my marriage, meant to destabilise me at a very critical time”.

At that time Mrs Foster was heavily involved in talks to restore power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

The court was told Dr Jessen’s tweet was published at about the same time that anonymous Twitter users were claiming that Mrs Foster had been having an affair with one of her security guards.

She said having to explain to her husband what had happened was “very upsetting”.

“It was very humiliating to see that the relationship that’s most important to me had been trashed if you like and put out there in the public domain in that fashion,” she told the court.

“One of the things that gives me stability is my home relationship – it was almost as if this cut to the very core of my life.”

The court heard Dr Jessen had more than 300,000 followers on Twitter in December 2019 and that the tweet had been retweeted more than 500 times.

Mrs Foster said “there wasn’t much sleep on the night of the 23rd” of December when the tweet was posted and that she had to have conversations with her children, husband and mother about what was happening.

She said her family had attended church together on Christmas Day and that she later found out that a journalist had contacted her church minister to ask how her family “had appeared” that day.

The court was also told Dr Jessen’s tweet had referred to Mrs Foster as “the sanctity of marriage preaching woman”, adding: “It always comes back to bite them on the arse in the end.”

It was in relation to the DUP’s opposition to same-sex marriage.

Asked if she believed in the sanctity of marriage, Mrs Foster said she did but rejected accusations that she was homophobic.

The judge said there was a “big difference between holding strong religious views on the sanctity of marriage and having an irrational hatred of homosexuals”, and said the DUP leader would have been aware of that.

Mrs Foster replied: “I do get distressed when people call me a homophobe because that’s something I am not.

“I have many friends who are homosexual, they know my views and in any event same-sex marriage is now the law in Northern Ireland and has to be upheld.

“I have never in my own utterances said anything in relation with people who are homosexual and that’s why I do get upset when people call me a homophobe.”

She told the court she did not know Dr Jessen and that even when he had removed the tweet there was “no acknowledgment of wrong-doing”.

Mrs Foster’s barrister David Ringland QC said a solicitor for the DUP leader had contacted Dr Jessen on Twitter instructing him to remove the post on 24 December but he had refused to do so.

Mr Ringland said the tweet was not removed until 7 January, when Dr Jessen responded to follow-up requests in a “pithy email”.

The court was told Dr Jessen had said he did not agree with the suggestion his claim gave rise to defamation and that he had removed it without admission of liability.

Mr Ringland said there was “no correction, retraction or apology” and that Dr Jessen had taken a “head-in-the-sand approach”.

The judge reserved judgement but said he would seek to deal with the case as a “matter of urgency”.

Timeline: How Northern Irelands violence unfolded

Northern Ireland has seen 12 days of sporadic violence, with crowds of predominantly young people rioting in towns and cities almost nightly since the end of March.

Armed with bricks, bars, fireworks and petrol bombs, people as young as 12 have attacked police in Londonderry, Belfast, Carrickfergus, Ballymena and Newtownabbey.

BBC News NI charts how the violence has unfolded.

A petrol bomb is thrown at a police vehicle while officers attempt to disperse a crowd of about 40 people in Londonderry.

A number of items, including wooden planks and iron bars, are seized at the gathering at the Tullymore Road area of the city.

No injuries are reported.

Petrol bombs are thrown at police in the Tullyally area of Derry.

A police vehicle is struck with a petrol bomb and has to be recovered from the scene.

Youths also reportedly throw masonry and start a small fire on the road during the disturbances.

For a third night, petrol bombs and masonry are thrown at police in the Tullyally area.

One officer is hit by thrown masonry but is able to carry on working.

Fifteen petrol bombs are seized during the disturbance.

A 17-year-old boy is arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour.

Petrol bombs are thrown at both police and fire crews during a fourth night of unrest in Derry.

A parked digger is set alight, along with wooden pallets in the Rossdowney Road area.


12 police officers are injured in further trouble.

Petrol bombs, fireworks and masonry are thrown with officers sustaining head, leg and foot wounds.

A care home in Nelson Drive also comes under attack, causing what police call “untold fear and distress” to residents.


As many as 100 people gather in Belfast’s Shaftesbury Square area for a loyalist protest.

A riot breaks out with petrol bombs, bricks and bottles thrown at police in Sandy Row.

Eight officers are injured and seven people arrested.


A small crowd of protestors gather at the Larne Road Link, which is closed by police along with the Crebilly Road.

Some 30 petrol bombs are thrown at police and three vehicles are hijacked and set alight during rioting in Newtownabbey, on the outskirts of Belfast.

A crowd of up to 30 people block the roundabout with two burning cars.

The crowd consists of young people and older men, some of whom are wearing masks.


Bricks and bottles are thrown at police and a bin set alight in another night of violence at the Cloughfern roundabout.

Some 20 to 30 people in masks set bins on fire and, when officers move in to the area, four petrol bombs are thrown at them.

One officer sustains a leg injury.

A 47-year-old man is charged with riot and throwing a petrol bomb following trouble in the area on Saturday night.


Petrol bombs and masonry are thrown at police in the loyalist Waterside in Derry.

About 40 youths are involved in the incident and the Dungiven Road is temporarily closed after pallets are set alight.

No officers are injured, but a senior officer says children as young as 12 were involved in the disorder.


Petrol bombs are thrown at police on the North Road in Carrickfergus, County Antrim.

A crowd of up to 50 people gather and 20 petrol bombs are thrown.

Four officers are injured after being struck by masonry, sustaining leg, foot and neck injuries.

An 18-year-old man is later arrested for alleged involvement in the violence.


Petrol bombs are thrown at police and vehicles set alight during further disorder in the Waterside in Derry.

Some 40 to 50 people with petrol bombs are involved.

Petrol bombs are also thrown at police during a security alert in the Templemore area of the city.

Two vehicles are set alight by youths in the Nelson Drive area, which escalates to bins being set on fire on the Limavady Road and a digger also being set alight.

There are reports of a brick being thrown at a taxi, which is carrying a passenger, on the same road at about 23:30.


Nine police officers are injured after trying to engage with people attending an “unnotified procession” in the Crebilly Road area.

A stretch of the M2 motorway is closed to allow debris, including a wheelie bin, to be cleared from the road following the disorder.

Meanwhile, about 300 people march through the Ballykeel estate in a reported “show of support for loyalist culture”.

Police officers are at the scene but no unrest or arrests are reported.


There is also an un-notified loyalist parade in the Jervis Street area of Portadown.

No reports of serious disorder but police maintain a presence in many areas.

Police officers are attacked, petrol bombs thrown and a bus hijacked and burned in Belfast.

The rioting is “on a scale not seen in Northern Ireland for years”, say police.

Eight officers are injured at an interface between loyalist and nationalist areas in west Belfast.

Several hundred people gather on each side of the peace wall separating the loyalist Shankill Road and the nationalist Springfield Road in west Belfast.

Petrol bombs are thrown in both directions and police officers say they fired six baton rounds to quell the disturbances after facing a “potential imminent loss of life”.

Rioting breaks out on both sides of a west Belfast interface for the second night in a row.

For the first time in six years, the Police Service of Northern Ireland deploy water cannon in a bid to disperse rioters.

Officers come under attack from both loyalists and nationalists near gates which separate the mainly loyalist Lanark Way (off the Shankill Road) from the mainly nationalist Springfield Road.

Dozens of youths, watched by hundreds of onlookers, throw petrol bombs, bricks and fireworks towards the peace line, but when police move between the rioters, they become the focus of attack.

BBC reporters on the ground say community workers tried to dissuade youths from violence.

The disorder continues for about four hours and while police face sustained attacks, the rioting does not reach the same level as the night before.


Following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, loyalist groups call for protests to be halted as a mark of respect.

However, there is rioting in north Belfast’s neighbouring loyalist Tiger’s Bay and nationalist New Lodge areas.

In Tiger’s Bay, police are attacked over several hours with petrol bombs, stones and other missiles.

A burning car is rammed against a police Land Rover and bins are set alight.

Officers are also attacked in the New Lodge. There is a lull, but attacks on police lines intensify shortly before midnight.

In all, police say 14 more officers are injured in the city. No-one is seriously hurt but one officer is knocked unconscious and is treated in hospital.


About 40 people, many of them masked teenagers, build a road block and set it on fire.

Petrol bombs are thrown at police and some of their vehicles are damaged. No officers are hurt.

It is the first night without major incident since Tuesday 6 April.

Welsh election: Independent Wales would borrow to furlough, Adam Price says

An independent Wales would have run its own furlough scheme for the pandemic, Plaid Cymru’s leader has told the BBC.

Asked if the job retention scheme was an example of the UK’s strength, Adam Price said an independent Wales would have funded an equivalent by borrowing.

He also claimed it would have “money to spare” by not buying nuclear weapons.

Tory MP Andrea Leadsom said he should consider the “cost of borrowing of an independent Wales, versus the cost of borrowing for the United Kingdom”.

Plaid Cymru has promised to hold an independence referendum in Wales within five years if it takes power in May’s Senedd election.

Speaking on the BBC’s Politics Live programme, Mr Price said the pandemic suggested a “very different story” on the strength of the UK union and claimed “support for independence has surged”.

Asked about the hundreds of thousands of Welsh jobs supported by the UK government furlough scheme, the Plaid Cymru leader said: “They funded it by borrowing.

“An independent Wales would have done the same,” he added.

Mr Price also said that an independent Wales would have had “money to spare because we wouldn’t waste £200bn on a trident nuclear missile system”.

In response, former Conservative cabinet minister Ms Leadsom said she thought the “majority of people in Wales” continue to believe “we are very much different groups of people who are much stronger as a United Kingdom”.

“He needs to look at the cost of borrowing of an independent Wales versus the cost of borrowing for the United Kingdom,” she added.

Responding for the Liberal Democrats, Cadan ap Tomos accused Mr Price of “clearly struggling with his sums”.

“One moment he says Wales needs to borrow to fund certain projects, yet a moment later he says we’d would have money to spare,” he said.

“While Plaid fixate on independence, Welsh Lib Dems want to put our recovery first. We’re confident that the public agree with us on what the priority should be for the next five years.”


What elections are happening? On 6 May, people across Wales will vote to elect 60 Members of the Senedd (MSs). The party or parties that can command the support of a majority of members will form the Welsh government. Find out more here.

What powers does the Welsh Parliament have? MSs pass laws on many aspects of day-to-day life in Wales, such as health, education and transport. They also have control over some taxes. Defence, foreign policy and immigration are decided by the UK Parliament.

How do I vote? Anyone who lives in Wales and is registered to vote is eligible, so long as they are aged 16 or over on the day of the election. You can register to vote online.

Mr Price did not say whether or not he believed Wales had benefited from the UK government’s vaccine procurement but said the success of it in Wales was due to “the Welsh NHS, local authorities working together”.

“We’ve actually dealt with the pandemic in a far more effective way, for example in the track and trace system, because we didn’t privatise it,” he said.

“An independent Wales would have done a better job. Look at the legacy we had going into the pandemic. It was the UK government who was responsible for the PPE stockpile – they didn’t put the right items into the stockpile.

“Health and care workers not just in Wales but throughout the UK were put in harm’s way because of the failures of the UK government.”

Mr Price did not offer his view was on whether or not the Queen should still be head of state if Wales was independent.

He said it would be a “matter for the people of Wales”.

Duke of Edinburghs Award: Students share sense of achievement

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award leaves a “massive legacy” following the death of Prince Philip. From charity work to camping and rural treks, what does the scheme mean to those taking part? The BBC went to Hobart High School, in Loddon, Norfolk to find out.

Aimed specifically at 14 to 24-year-olds, the award scheme was one of the biggest projects Prince Philip started during his life and can trace its roots to 1956.

It involves a set of challenges for young people to complete, to help their community and environment, become fitter, develop new skills and complete an independent outdoor expedition.

There are three levels of award: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Those who achieve the highest gold award are invited to attend a special ceremony and many of them met the prince.

Teacher Rosie Vickers says the scheme can be a “life-changing experience” and a chance for students to “get into the local community to make a difference to people”.

She adds the “sense of achievement” felt when they finish gives them the “resilience to go ahead to do all sorts of things” after leaving school.

“I’ve had students come to me and say “I can’t do it, I can’t camp, I can’t spend a night out camping in the cold” and actually they do do it,” she says.

“And when they do finish, you see that sense of achievement that they gain when they cross the finish line at the end of the expedition.

“I believe it’s an important award scheme, and I think the Duke of Edinburgh has a massive legacy. Those memories you make on the award are really, really important to young people.”

Evie, 15, says she started to do the award because she “used to be quite shy” and she thought it would give her a sense of achievement.

“It’s brilliant, I think it gives young people such a good experience,” she says.

“And [it gives them the chance to do] something that they probably wouldn’t do normally, like having the time to go camping or to work on a new skill. It gives you something to work towards.

“Ms Vickers encouraged us to step out of our comfort zone and try something new.”

During lockdown, Evie built up a strong link with a local care home by recording herself singing for them over Zoom.

“I thought that as they couldn’t have entertainment in, it would give them something to look forward to,” she says.

Henry, 16, says completing his bronze award helped him get through the past year.

“I made great friendships which really supported me throughout the pandemic,” he says. “They helped me get through and now I’m starting to meet up with them again it’s really good.

“I thought it was brilliant – it really helps with life skills. For my skill, I did cooking so, going into university, it’s a vital life skill which I’ll take with me.”

His volunteering assignment working with beginner swimmers also increased his confidence.

“Just being able to communicate with them and help them improve has really helped,” he says.

Currently doing her silver and gold awards, sixth-former Liv, 16, ran a sports club with a friend every week at their local primary school in Loddon for her bronze award.

Last year, she did the scheme’s ambassador course, which allows participants to promote and mentor other people doing the awards at their centre.

“I’ve definitely seen changes in myself,” she says. “It’s made me understand the award better and how it could inspire people.

“My experience is very positive: you learn loads and loads of stuff and it helps you understand who you’re with and how to work together as a team.”

Dan Browning, head of Wymondham College, says former participants had been talking on social media about the duke’s visit in 1990 and the impact both of the scheme, and of meeting Prince Philip.

“They are talking about how interested he was in them and what they’d done, what they’d learnt and how they’ve developed,” he says.

He says some children, especially those who had completed all three levels, found the scheme “life-changing and … life-affirming” in helping them choose their future paths.

Joanna Hogarth, from Norfolk Expeditions, helps to run the expeditions in the county and says the programme makes “a huge difference, particularly for those young people who wouldn’t otherwise have those opportunities”.

She says among the “really precious” lessons of the expedition element was that it was “OK to make mistakes and you have the power to sort it out”.

“It has a profound impact on many people, whether it’s making new friends, learning new skills, or finding new patience and tolerance for things that you thought you couldn’t do before,” she says.

“But particularly [in the expeditions] learning to work as a team and coming to joint decisions and agreeing about what they’re going to do next – that’s a really powerful tool to take into the rest of their life.”

It was an “unimaginable legacy”, she adds.

Life of Shirley Williams, groundbreaking female politician

Shirley Williams, who has died aged 90, was one of the best-known politicians of her generation.

Her political journey took place in an era in which she was often the only woman on the platform.

As Education Secretary in the Labour cabinet of the late 1970s, she oversaw a profound and controversial programme of change.

Dismayed at her party’s leftward drift under Michael Foot, she dramatically helped form a breakaway centrist party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) – and later became leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords.

Shirley Vivian Teresa Brittain Catlin was born on 27 July 1930, into a well-off middle-class family with radical political views.

Her mother, Vera Brittain, was a noted pacifist, feminist and writer, whose book, Testament of Youth, published in 1933, was a graphic description of the effects of the slaughter of the First World War on a generation of women.

In her autobiography, Williams described her mother as a “conscientious but rather remote parent”.

Her father, the political philosopher Sir George Catlin, became a leading figure in the Fabian Society and twice stood for parliament as a Labour candidate.

In June 1940, with the threat of a German invasion, Williams, together with her older brother Edward, was sent to the United States, where she stayed with family friends in St Paul, Minnesota.

While living in the US, she took part in a screen test to play Velvet Brown in the 1944 film National Velvet. In the event the role went to Elizabeth Taylor.

Three years later, she returned home – braving a perilous war-time sea voyage during which, according to her autobiography, she narrowly avoided being gang-raped by a group of sailors.

She became active in Labour politics, embracing the reforming zeal of Attlee’s post-war government and making public speeches while still in her teens.

“I became madly keen on Labour while I was still at school,” she later told the New Statesman.

“I got wrapped up in it all and imagined it would be the dream of my life to become an MP.” She made no secret of her ambition to become Britain’s first female prime minister.

She achieved a place at Somerville College, Oxford, where she read Politics, Philosophy and Economics, and became the first woman to chair the university’s Labour Club.

While there, she combined her academic studies with a passion for political debates, and a frantic social life.

A keen member of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, she once played Cordelia opposite the future British Rail chairman, Peter Parker, with whom she had a brief relationship.

The Archers actor, Norman Painting, also appeared in the performance. He later remembered that the young Shirley played her part with the same “uncompromising firmness” she showed as a politician.

From Oxford she went on to study at Columbia University in New York as a Fulbright scholar, where she met her future husband, the philosopher Bernard Williams.

The couple returned to England in 1951, and Williams began a career as a journalist. They married four years later.

She began working for the Daily Mirror before moving to the Financial Times. She was barred from writing editorials on economic policy because – at the time – the FT believed this should be an exclusively male preserve.

After unsuccessfully contesting a by-election in Harwich in 1954, she fought the seat again in the General Election of 1955. Again, she failed to win it.

For three years, she lived in Africa with her husband, teaching at the University of Ghana in Accra, returning to England to fight Southampton Test in the 1959 General Election. Once again, she was unsuccessful.

In 1960, she became General Secretary of the Fabian Society, the intellectual socialist movement, a post she held until her eventual election as MP for Hitchin in 1964.

She held a series of minor ministerial posts in the first Wilson government, ending up, in 1969, at the Home Office, where she worked on Northern Ireland issues and helped pass legislation to outlaw capital punishment.

Northern Ireland was a difficult brief for Williams who, as a Catholic, was not trusted by Protestant politicians.

When Labour lost power in 1970, the party began an internal feud between right and left, which was to dominate it for the next 20 years.

The first battleground was over membership of the Common Market, the forerunner of the European Union. Williams was one of a group of more than 100 Labour MPs who signed a declaration calling for Britain to become part of the European Community.

The move was opposed by the left of the party, and by Harold Wilson himself – and Williams threatened to resign from her shadow post in Home Affairs.

Her situation was resolved when the Conservative Prime Minister, Edward Heath, signed up to the Common Market in 1972.

“I am not as much a passionate European, as I am a passionate internationalist, with a deep sense of the special and unique nature of Britain,” she later said in an interview with the Guardian. “I see staying in Europe as being part of the price of living with reality.”

By this time her marriage to Bernard Williams was collapsing, both under the strain of her political commitments and – it was said – his inability, as an atheist, to come to terms with her strongly-held religious beliefs.

Labour was back in power following the 1974 General Election and Williams, now representing the re-drawn seat of Hertford and Stevenage, was in the cabinet as Minister for Prices and Consumer Protection.

It was a desperate time for the economy. Despite introducing voluntary curbs on price rises, Williams’ term in office saw inflation increasing at more than 10% per annum, triggering industrial unrest as unions fought to keep wage rises at the same level.

By now, she was being spoken of by the press as a possible future prime minister but, as she candidly admitted herself, she lacked many of the qualities needed to achieve her childhood ambition.

Some of her departmental colleagues complained about a lack of organisational skills, her inability to turn up to meetings on time and her indecision over important issues.

When Wilson resigned as Labour leader in 1976 his successor, Jim Callaghan, made Williams Secretary of State for Education and Science.

She was convinced that comprehensive education should play a major part in creating a more inclusive society, and set about the task of abolishing grammar schools with a single-minded enthusiasm.

There was fierce opposition to the plans and critics were quick to point out that Williams had sent her own daughter to the grant-aided Chalfont and Latimer School, which later opted out of the state system rather than abolish selection.

She lost her seat in the 1979 general election when Margaret Thatcher came to power following the so-called Winter of Discontent.

Defeat only served to widen the chasm between left and right in the Labour Party, and Williams found herself increasingly out of step with her party on issues such as Europe and defence.

In 1981, with the Labour left in the ascendancy, Williams quit the party. Together with Bill Rodgers, Roy Jenkins and David Owen, Williams formed the “Gang of Four” which founded the Social Democratic Party.

She soon became an SDP Member of Parliament when she won a by-election at Crosby – a seat that had been in the hands of the Conservatives for more than 30 years.

But the success of the party was short-lived. Only six SDP MPs remained after the 1983 general election, and Williams failed to hold Crosby following adverse boundary changes.

She stood, unsuccessfully, for Cambridge in 1987 and – after successfully campaigning for the merger of the SDP and the Liberals to produce the Liberal Democrats – moved to take a teaching post at Harvard.

There she helped draft the constitutions of Russia, Ukraine and South Africa – as well as meeting, and subsequently marrying, the historian Richard Neustadt. The marriage lasted until his death in 2003.

Williams was created a life peer in 1993, and served as Liberal Democrat Leader in the House of Lords between 2001 and 2004.

Her energy was undiminished by her advancing years. She continued to attend sittings of the House of Lords, making regular contributions to debates.

Her strong Catholic faith led her to oppose gay marriage. In a Lords debate, she said that “equality is not the same as sameness” and that marriage between people of the same sex should not be called marriage, but should have “different nomenclature”.

She was much in demand as a political pundit – notably the BBC’s Question Time, on which she appeared 58 times. She also wrote a regular column for The Guardian.

She officially retired from active politics in 2016, with a valedictory address to the House of Lords. A year later, she was created a Companion of Honour.

Shirley Williams was sometimes criticised for having failed to climb the greasy pole of Westminster politics as high as she might. Her youthful aspiration to become prime minister was never fulfilled.

Although she was often caricatured as a “bleeding heart liberal”, one striking political feature was her ability to see both sides of an argument. Another was the lack of the necessary ego, ambition and ruthlessness to rise ever further.

And both characteristics made her an enduringly popular figure on the centre-left of British politics.

First baby sloth in a decade born at Bristol Zoo

A baby sloth has been born at Bristol Zoo Gardens, the first in nearly a decade.

The tiny Linne’s two-toed sloth “came into the world upside down” just over two weeks ago on 29 March.

Mother, eight-year-old Trixie, gave birth to the infant in an enclosure she shares with father, 19-year-old Rio.

Al Toyne, mammals team leader, said: “It’s almost 10 years since a sloth has been born at Bristol Zoo. It’s doing really well and we are all delighted.”

The zoo said the tiny baby came into the world “like all sloths – upside down just as it will eat and sleep”.

Weighing 340g (12 oz) and measuring about 28 cm (11 in) long, it is not known yet what its gender is.

Mr Toyne said it was “an important birth” because it helps to maintain the sloth population and to “ensure its future”.

The zoo said it was unclear how many two-toed sloths there were in the world but numbers are declining, mainly due to loss of their rainforest habitat.

A spokesman said: “Because they move so slowly they are often unable to escape if an area of forest is felled for agriculture or timber.

“They are also hunted in Brazil for their meat.”

The zoo is now home to three sloths, Rio, Trixie and their infant, and is part of a breeding programme for Linne’s two-toed sloths.