Boris Johnson pays tribute to railway ticket office worker Belly Mujinga after ‘tragic’ death | London Evening Standard

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson has paid tribute to a railway ticket office worker who died with coronavirus after being spat at while on duty.

Belly Mujinga, 47, was on the station concourse in March when a member of the public claiming to have Covid-19 spat and coughed at her and a colleague, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said.

Within days of the assault, both women fell ill with the virus and Ms Mujinga, who has an 11-year-old daughter, died in hospital in Barnet 11 days after the attack on April 5.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, Mr Johnson described the death of Belly Mujinga as “tragic”.

He said: “The fact that she was abused for doing her job is utterly appalling.

“My thoughts, and I’m sure the thoughts of the whole House, are with her family.”

The Prime Minister described the death as ‘tragic’ (Sky News)

A police investigation is under way, launched more than a month after 47-year-old Ms Mujinga and a colleague were attacked by a man claiming to be infected with Covid-19 on the concourse at the London transport terminal on March 22.

Ms Mujinga, a mother to an 11-year-old daughter, was said to have told her bosses at Govia Thameslink Railway about the incident, but police were not called at the time. 

Speaking on Good Morning Britain today, Ms Mujinga’s cousin, Agnes Ntumbas said the mum-of-one was a “lovely woman, happy and caring”.

“It’s disgusting. How could a human being react in that way to another human? It’s insane – it’s not right,” said Ms Ntumba

Ms Mujinga moved to the UK in 2000 from The Democratic Republic of Congo (PA)

Piers Morgan condemned the attack saying: “I would say tragedy but it’s worse than that, this seems to be a murder. That’s murder to me.”

He added: “It’s one of the most sickening stories I can remember from this entire crisis.”

It has not been confirmed that the spitting incident is directly linked to Ms Mujinga contracting the virus.

However, TSSA has reported the incident to the Railways Inspectorate, the safety arm of the Office for Road and Rail (ORR), for investigation and is taking legal advice on the situation.

Belly Mujinga was a caring and lovely woman, says her cousin

As of Wednesday morning, a fundraising page set up for Ms Mujinga’s family has raised £11,075, surpassing its initial target of £1,000.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said around 50 transport workers have died during the crisis.

He told BBC Breakfast: “My heart goes out to Belly’s family. Nobody should be spat at. This is not a question of PPE, it’s just disgusting and I know that the British Transport Police are investigating.

“So very, very sad, her death and indeed the deaths of around 50 transport workers is something I take particularly seriously.”

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A BTP spokesman said: “British Transport Police have now launched an investigation into a report of two members of rail staff being spat at while working at London Victoria station on 22nd March.

“One of the victims, a 47-year-old woman, very sadly died in hospital on April 5th. Enquiries are ongoing, they added.

Anyone who has any information is asked to contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 quoting reference 359 of 11/05/20.

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UK’s coronavirus death toll rises by 684 to 3,605 in biggest jump yet – Mirror Online

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The UK’s coronavirus death toll has soared to 3,605 after 684 patients died in just 24 hours – the biggest single day increase yet.

The figure does not include people who have died at home. The previous total stood at 2,921 deaths.

The number of confirmed cases has increased to 38,168 after 4,450 more people tested positive.

Most of the deaths have been in England (3,244), followed by Scotland (172), Wales (141) and Northern Ireland (48).

Two NHS nurses, who were both mothers in their 30s with three young children, are among the latest patients to die after battling Covid-19 in hospital.

The grim news came as Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who is back at work after battling the virus, said the Government expects the virus to peak in Britain in the next few weeks and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is still infected with Covid-19 and isolating, urged people to stick with social distancing in a bid to flatten the curve.

Have you been affected by coronavirus? Email webnews@mirror.co.uk.

Aimee O'Rourke

The Department of Health said: “As of 9am on 3 April 2020, 173,784 people have been tested, of which 38,168 were confirmed positive.

“As of 5pm on 2 April 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 3,605 have died.”

Public Health England said 11,764 tests were carried out on Thursday in England, while testing capacity for inpatient care in the country currently stands at 12,799 tests per day.

Two NHS nurses were among the latest patients to die.

BBC Radio 4

Mum-of-three Areema Nasreen, 36, was in intensive care on a ventilator after testing positive for the virus.

She worked at Walsall Manor Hospital in the West Midlands.

In Kent, Aimee O’Rourke, 38, died at the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital in Margate, where she worked.

The mum-of-three was hailed as a “brave angel” as her family said in a tribute: “Aimee was a beautiful woman and a valued NHS nurse.”

Boris Johnson

More than 10,000 tests carried out

Friday’s figures from the Department of Health show that for the second day running more than 10,000 new people were tested in the UK for coronavirus.

A total of 10,590 new people were reported as being tested in the 24 hours to 9am April 3.

The equivalent figure for April 2 was 10,215.

The total number of people in the UK tested since the outbreak began is now 173,784.

This is the equivalent of around 261 people in every 100,000, or 0.3% of the population.

The number of coronavirus-related hospital deaths reported by the Department of Health stood at 3,605 as of 5pm April 2.

It took 19 days for this number to pass 300. It has taken further 11 days to pass 3,000.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK has taken two weeks to go from just under 4,000 (3,983 as of 9am March 20) to just under 40,000 (38,168 as of 9am April 3).

Commenting on the death of Ms Nasreen, Mr Hancock said: “I pay tribute to the NHS staff who’ve died serving the NHS, serving the nation.

“It shows the incredible bravery of every member of the NHS who goes into work knowing that these dangers are there.

“I think it is a testament to every doctor and nurse and paramedic and other health professional who is working in the NHS in these difficult times.

“And I think the whole nation is grateful.”

About 35,000 front-line NHS staff are not currently in work due to coronavirus, said Mr Hancock.

He said testing figures for health staff “should” rise to thousands a day in the next few weeks.

The Government has set a goal of testing 100,000 people a day across the whole of the UK by the end of April following widespread criticism of its testing strategy.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said the 5,000-plus NHS staff who had been tested had mainly been tested at new testing sites.

Health Secretary

A total of 172 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for coronavirus, up by 46 from 126 on Thursday.

3,001 people have now tested positive for the virus in Scotland, up from 2,602 the day before.

Officials said 176 people are in intensive care with coronavirus or coronavirus symptoms, and increase of 14 on Thursday.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned: “I want to be very clear that nothing I have seen gives me any basis whatsoever for predicting the virus will peak as early as a week’s time here in Scotland.”

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A total of 24 patients have died after testing positive for coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 141, health officials said.

Public Health Wales said 345 new cases had tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Wales to 2,466.

Dr Robin Howe, from Public Health Wales, said “345 new cases have tested positive for Covid-19 in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,466, although the true number of cases is likely to be higher”.

Dr Howe added: “Twenty-four further deaths have been reported to us of people who had tested positive for Covid-19, taking the number of deaths in Wales to 141.

Louisa Jordan

“We offer our condolences to families and friends affected, and we ask those reporting on the situation to respect patient confidentiality.”

The Welsh Government will introduce a law compelling all employers to make sure their workers keep two metres apart, Wales’ First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said the social distancing legislation, the first in the UK, would require bosses to “put the needs of their workforce first” when it comes into force on Monday or Tuesday of next week.

The number of people who have died in Northern Ireland after contracting coronavirus has risen by 12 to 48, health officials said.

Testing has resulted in 130 new positive cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the region to 904.

Manchester's Central Complex

In England, two siblings of Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, the 13-year-old London boy who died after testing positive for coronavirus, have also developed symptoms, according to a family friend who launched an online appeal.

The development means Ismail’s mother and six siblings are forced to self-isolate and cannot attend his funeral in Brixton on Friday, Mark Stephenson said.

Meanwhile, Prince Charles, who tested positive for coronavirus last month, officially opened the NHS Nightingale Hospital at the ExCeL centre in east London.

The Prince of Wales, 71, appeared via video-link from his Scottish home of Birkhall and spoke to those gathered at the entrance of the new temporary hospital.

He said: “It is without doubt a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work in every sense, from its speed of construction – in just nine days as we’ve heard – to its size and the skills of those who have created it.

Mark Stephenson

NHS Nightingale Hospital – the facts

The NHS Nightingale Hospital has been built in east London in the ExCel convention centre.

The facility will be used to treat Covid-19 patients transferred from intensive care units across London

Just one ward will need 200 members of staff

“An example, if ever one was needed, of how the impossible could be made possible and how we can achieve the unthinkable through human will and ingenuity.”

Charles added: “The creation of this hospital is above all the result of an extraordinary collaboration and partnership between NHS managers, the military and all those involved to create a centre on a scale that has never been seen before in the United Kingdom.

“To convert one of the largest national conference centres into a field hospital, starting with 500 beds with a potential of 4,000, is quite frankly incredible.”

The prince and Mr Hancock both recently ended self-isolation after contracting the virus and Charles commented on the fact they had recovered.

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He said: “Now I was one of the lucky ones to have Covid-19 relatively mildly and if I may say so I’m so glad to see the Secretary of State has also recovered, but for some it will be a much harder journey.”

Shortly after he spoke, Buckingham Palace confirmed the Queen has recorded a special broadcast on the coronavirus outbreak to be broadcast on Sunday night.

Previously, it was said that the 93-year-old monarch, who is isolating with Prince Philip, 98, at Windsor Castle, was preparing to make a televised address to calm the nation’s nerves, but was waiting for the “right moment” to address the country.

Mr Hancock, meanwhile, praised all those involved in the setting up of the hospital, adding the “extraordinary project”, the core of which was completed in just nine days, was a “testament to the work and the brilliance of the many people involved”.

Matt Hancock

Show your support for our NHS heroes

We are building a map of appreciation for the NHS heroes looking after us through the coronavirus crisis. Place your heart on our live updating map at www.thanksamillionnhs.co.uk.

Add your partial postcode (eg: CF5 1) to put a heart on the map and you can add a thank you message too.

If you’re an NHS worker, you’ll also find a handy list of all the places and brands currently offering you well-deserved discounts.

Share the page to encourage others to show their support!

He also praised the NHS and the way its staff are dealing with the virus crisis.

The Health Secretary said: “In these troubled times with this invisible killer stalking the whole world, the fact that in this country we have the NHS is even more valuable than before.”

Asked about the number of ventilators currently in use and how many are expected to arrive next week, Mr Hancock said: “We’ve obviously got a big programme to ramp up the number of ventilators and we now have more ventilators than we had before.

“And we’re going to need them for this hospital and I’m just going to go and have a look at that now.”

Pressed for exact numbers, Mr Hancock did not respond.

Northern Ireland

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier, Mr Hancock said it is unclear whether he is now immune to Covid-19.

He described having coronavirus as a “pretty unpleasant experience” with an “incredibly” sore throat and a feeling of “having glass in my throat”.

He said he has lost half a stone in weight.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in isolation in Downing Street after testing positive for the virus.

He was “feeling better” but still had a fever on Friday.

nurse and paramedic

In a video on social media, the Prime Minister urged the public to stick with social distancing and not be tempted to “hang out” in the warmer weather predicted for this weekend.

“In my own case, although I’m feeling better and I’ve done my seven days of isolation, alas I still have one of the symptoms, a minor symptom, I still still have a temperature,” he said.

“So, in accordance with government advice I must continue my self-isolation until that symptom itself goes.”

Mr Johnson said people must not be tempted to break social distancing rules as the weather warms up even if they were going “a bit stir crazy”

In England, more than 26.7 million units of personal protection equipment (PPE) were delivered to 281 NHS “trusts and providers” on Thursday, Downing Street confirmed.

Prime Minister

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “That included 7.8 million aprons, 1.7 million masks and 12.4 million gloves.”

It follows the new guidance issued by Public Health England about the level of protection health staff should wear depending on the patient situation.

There would be no new guidance published on the public wearing masks or face coverings when out of the house, said the spokesman.

The spokesman said “surveillance” of the population to determine the spread of coronavirus was ongoing, with 3,500 antibody tests carried out per week.

“This is a population surveillance programme which we have been carrying out since February,” said the spokesman.

“It is being done by Public Health England at their campus which is at Porton Down.

“We currently have capacity for 3,500 of these surveillance tests to be carried out this week which is enough for small-scale population sampling.”

Two newly-planned temporary hospital sites have been agreed at the University of the West of England and the Harrogate Convention Centre.

They will join other sites due to open at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre and Manchester’s Central Complex.

Construction of a temporary hospital called the NHS Louisa Jordan is underway in Glasgow.

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UK officially leaves EU after 47 years of European membership – World – TASS

LONDON, February 1. /TASS/. After 47 years of European membership, the United Kingdom officially withdrew from the European Union at 23:00 GMT (2:00 Moscow time on Saturday).

The withdrawal, known as Brexit, was initiated after Britons voted to quit the European Union during the 2016 referendum. The margin was 1.3 million votes (52% versus 48%).

Thousands of Brexit supporters celebrated the withdrawal by gathering in downtown London. Brexiteers have gathered in Parliament Square to celebrate the historic moment, chanting and waving flags. Governmental buildings were illuminated with national flag colors – blue, red and white.

An hour before this turning point in the UK’s political history, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, an ardent Brexit supporter, delivered his address to the nation.

Flag removed

Earlier in the day, the flag of the United Kingdom has been removed from the building of the EU Council. The video of the flag being removed was released via the Council’s official Twitter shortly before midnight.

“The UK flag is removed from the EU Council building in Brussels as the country leaves the EU at midnight,” the EU Council said in a Twitter post.

Premier’s speech

After quitting the European Union, the United Kingdom will finally “rediscover muscles that we have not used for decades,” UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address to the nation shortly before Brexit.

“For all its strengths and for all its admirable qualities, the EU has evolved over 50 years in a direction that no longer suits this country. And that is a judgment that you, the people, have now confirmed at the polls,” Johnson said.

“I believe that with every month that goes by we will grow in confidence not just at home but abroad,” he continued. “And in our diplomacy, in our fight against climate change, in our campaigns for human rights or female education or free trade we will rediscover muscles that we have not used for decades.”

According to the premier, in order to achieve those ambitious tasks, the country needs to overcome the differences, generated by the Brexit issue.

“Tonight we are leaving the European Union. For many people this is an astonishing moment of hope, a moment they thought would never come. And there are many of course who feel a sense of anxiety and loss. And then of course there is a third group – perhaps the biggest – who had started to worry that the whole political wrangle would never come to an end,” he said.

The premier went on to say that finding a common ground for all political and social groups was his cabinet’s task.

“I understand all those feelings, and our job as the government – my job – is to bring this country together now and take us forward,” he said. “And the most important thing to say tonight is that this is not an end but a beginning. This is the moment when the dawn breaks and the curtain goes up on a new act in our great national drama.”

Johnson expressed hope that constructive dialogue with the European Union would continue.

“We want this to be the beginning of a new era of friendly cooperation between the EU and an energetic Britain,” he said.

After January 31, the UK and the EU enter a transition period meant to maintain the existing state of affairs, particularly on trade and tariffs, while the two sides are negotiating a deal on future trading relations. The transition period is scheduled to end on December 31, 2020. London is also obliged to continue paying membership fees to the EU budget until the end of 2020.

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Against the Death Cult: We Must Not Let Ruthless Ideologues Destroy the Climate and Kill Us All

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Agriculture

The Niger delta is burning. The oil companies plumbing the river basin of its black gold have found an ingenious way of dealing with the natural gas they consider a waste by-product of the extraction process. Capturing the gas would be costly, inefficient – so instead, they flare it off. Across the delta, towers of flame burn day and night, some of them stretching ten storeys into the sky.

Gas flaring was officially banned in Nigeria in 1984 – but still, two million people live within four kilometres of a flare site, at risk of the cancers, neurological, reproductive and respiratory problems linked to the pollutants released into the air. The soil is hotter, and crop yields have dwindled; “You plant, and before you know it, everything is dead”. When the rains come, they are black. Oil spills spew from the pipelines of Shell and ENI, the biggest operators in the area. Shell has reported 17.5 million litres lost since 2011; Amnesty International say that’s likely a hefty underestimate. The spills have poisoned drinking water, and destroyed the livelihoods of the fishermen who once combed the delta. 

We are over the brink. People have already lost their lives to hurricanes and bush fires and flooding, to toxins and crop failures – all disasters rooted in fossil-fuel dependent extractive capitalism, bankrolled by a deregulated financial sector. People continue to lose their lives. Global temperatures soar, and a monstrous future slouches towards us from the ecocidal imaginations of the handful of humans directly invested in a doctrine of global annihilation. Now, the death drive built into the heart of our economy reveals itself in ever more undeniable terms; the skull is showing through the skin. 

Scientists at ExxonMobil confirmed the truth of climate change in the 1980s, at the very latest. Since then, Exxon and its fellow fossil fuel companies have spent decades sponsoring climate change denial and blocking efforts to legislate against apocalypse. Under their auspices, newspapers and broadcasters and politicians revelled in a vicious subterfuge disguised as pious gnosticism; asking how we can know for sure that climate change is caused by human activity. In recent years, this strategy has buckled under the weight of public outrage and scientific proof.

The science is clear: only an ambitious, rapid overhaul of the fundaments of our economy gives us hope of survival. And that hope is tantalisingly within our grasp. We have the technology, and we have the financial capacity; all that’s missing is the political will to give those solutions heft, muscle and cold hard cash.

Now, culprit companies are suddenly flouting their green credentials to shore up their position as custodians of the future. Shell Oil has made a big song and dance about its investments in green technology. Goldman Sachs has funded research into how to make cities “resilient to climate change”. These are little more than attempts to seduce and cajole worried publics and skittish investors. Still these companies hoard over-valued assets, continue ploughing resources into carbon-heavy industries, show no signs of leaving enough fossil fuels in the ground to avoid the breakdown of the climate, the potential collapse of civilisation and the extinction of life on earth. Negotiators were banned from mentioning climate change in recent UK-US trade talks. the UK government has subsidised the fossil fuel industry to the tune of 10bn in a decade, and its legislators continue to take its lobby money in return. They defend their right to starve out and flood and burn chunks of human existence – and make money doing it. 

We are being held hostage by a cabal of ruthless ideologues whose only loyalty is to a doctrine of global death. Their success thrives on silence, isolation, manipulation, denial. They are united in their opposition to reality, in their determination to hunt down or hound out real alternatives that threaten their mortal stranglehold on power. All other doctrines are heresy, and their preachers envoys of a sinister delusion. They are unique guardians of a dark and dazzling reality.

If this took place among a handful of hippies beckoning oblivion from the heat haze of a california desert we would call it is: a death cult. Instead, it is orchestrated from sumptuous glass towers, from the velvet inner chambers of parliament – so we call it business as usual. 

To these science-backed suggestions that economic alternatives are possible – even urgent, necessary, beautiful – they react with vitriol and incredulity. Saving the world may sound appealing, but it clashes intolerably with the cultish diktat: ‘There Is No Alternative”. Partisans of the Green New Deal like Alexandra Ocasio Cortez are dismissed at best as well-meaning dreamers or childish hysterics, and, at worst, nightmarish envoys of backdoor totalitarianism. Indeed, grassroots activists have been murdered for organising against big polluters. The political allegiances are clear: Defending life is foolish. Annihilation is inevitable. We have only to accept it graciously, to walk into its arms.

Rightwing politicians barter casually about the difference between a decarbonisation target of 2030, 2045, 2050, 2060 as a matter of messaging and electoral success. As though that difference were not cashed out in millions of deaths. Such differences slide off the sunny, addled mind of the cultist, for whom life and death are indistinguishable. 

A chosen few will be spared; the golden ones who walk in the light. As the asset-stripping and plundering continues apace, so the market for luxury disaster insurance packages has grown, with companies offering high-tech flood defences, private firefighters, private security to guard against mobs of looters. Theirs is a gilded world where disaster can never truly happen to them – because it never truly has. That no insurance policy in the world will provide them with breathable air or sustainable agriculture is a matter for the others, the ghosts, the un-living, those whose existence never really registered. Us.   

Broadcasters tried to haul Boris Johnson before the court of the living on Thursday night for the climate change debate, to account for Conservative policy proposals which present a 50% risk of tipping the world into irreversible, runaway climate breakdown, to account for his fossil fuel backers. He responded by threatening them with censure and legal action. Cult leaders can tolerate no scrutiny of their fragile world picture, no challenge to their power. 

We can break the stranglehold, and commit the death cultists to the bleak annals of history where they belong. It is time to choose only those who have chosen life.   

Eleanor Penny is a writer and a regular contributor to Novara Media. 

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John Humphrys to host his final Today programme

Image caption John Humphrys in the Today programme studio

Broadcaster John Humphrys is to present his final edition of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday.

The presenter’s departure will bring to a close his 32 years on the flagship show, during which time he built a reputation as a tenacious interrogator of politicians.

His last show will feature interviews with former prime ministers David Cameron and Tony Blair.

There will also be tributes from presenters past and present.

“Losing John in the mornings is a bit like Big Ben being silenced,” said Today editor Sarah Sands.

“I will miss his restlessness, his capacity for delight, his profound curiosity and his humanity.”

Humphrys has interviewed every prime minister on the programme from Margaret Thatcher to Theresa May, but has not grilled Boris Johnson since he came to power.

Sands joked that Mr Cameron, who is likely to be grilled about his decision to call the 2016 Brexit referendum, said he was coming on Thursday’s programme “to make sure he got the old bugger out of the building”.

“He doesn’t let go,” Sands said of Humphrys on Radio 4’s The Media Show. “He’s a terrier, so I think you should expect something exciting.”

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Media captionHumphrys announced his departure earlier this year

Yet Humphrys does more than just give politicians a tough time, she added. “John is rather caricatured in that way,” she said. “He’s capable of that style of interviewing [but] he’s supple as well.”

Mr Blair will take part in a discussion about political interviewing.

Today will continue with four main presenters – Justin Webb, Mishal Husain, Martha Kearney and Nick Robinson – and will not directly replace Humphrys.

The 76-year-old will continue to present Mastermind on BBC Two.

Before joining Today in 1987, Humphrys worked as a BBC foreign correspondent in both the US and Africa, as a diplomatic correspondent and as a presenter of the Nine O’Clock News.

On the daily Radio 4 morning news programme, he became known for pinning down political leaders and public figures. On occasion, his interviewing style incurred the ire of both politicians and listeners.

Image caption Humphrys will stay behind the Mastermind host’s desk

When he announced his departure in February, Humphrys said: “I love doing the programme. I have always enjoyed it. That’s the problem. I should have gone years ago. Obviously I should have gone years ago.”

He is Today’s longest-serving presenter and has been one of the corporation’s highest earners.

His salary in 2016-17 was between £600,000-649,999, but he took a pay cut and went down to £290,000-£294,999 in 2018-19.

In a tribute in the Radio Times, Justin Webb said: “There are plenty who don’t like him, who think he’s gone on too long, who want him ‘pensioned off’ or ‘put out of his misery’ or whatever the phrase is they use to suggest that being a man in his 70s on air is somehow an affront.

“Most of these folks would see themselves as impeccable anti-sexists and anti-racists, but ageism is alive and well and apparently deeply acceptable in the anti-John movement.”

Image caption Humphrys after interviewing Tony Blair in 2005

Webb also told the magazine: “John doesn’t give a stuff what you think of him. He is bemused when Jon Snow of Channel 4 News talks of his followers online. Why would John want followers?

“John wants enemies, or at least for respect, when it is paid, to be paid only grudgingly.”

Speaking on Desert Island Discs in 2008, Humphrys said he did not think most politicians deliberately told lies on the programme.

But he said: “I do start with the assumption that they are there for their benefit, rather than necessarily for the benefit of the audience. And it’s my job often to try to get them to be a bit more candid than perhaps they intended to be.”

Image caption Humphrys with co-host Sue MacGregor in the Today production office in 1993

Six of Humphrys’ most memorable (and controversial) interviews

  • He said his first interview with a prime minister – with Margaret Thatcher in 1987 – was “a truly scary prospect”. But he showed his knack for getting insights into politicians’ characters when he asked about the link between her Christian faith and her politics. “How can you express unselfish love if you have no choice?” she said. “The fundamental choice is the right to choose between good and evil.”
  • Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken accused Humphrys of “poisoning the well of democratic debate” in 1995 after saying he had interrupted Chancellor Kenneth Clarke 32 times. But Humphrys got support from other ministers and the Daily Mail, which called him “one of the most brilliant journalists in the country”. The next time Clarke appeared on Today, Humphrys gave him a calculator to count how many times he was interrupted.
  • Labour director of communications Dave Hill spoke publicly of “the John Humphrys problem” after the presenter’s robust confrontation with social security secretary Harriet Harman about plans to reduce payments to single mothers in 1997.
  • An early-morning three-minute interview with correspondent Andrew Gilligan in 2003 led to a confrontation between the BBC and the government. Gilligan said he had been told by a reliable source that a government dossier about the threat from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction had been deliberately “sexed up”. This ultimately led to the suicide of the source, Dr David Kelly, and the resignations of Gilligan, the BBC director general and the BBC chairman.
  • Humphrys hastened the downfall of another director general, George Entwistle, in 2012 with a interview about how Newsnight wrongly implicated a former Conservative deputy chairman in a child abuse scandal. Entwistle, who struggled badly and appeared out of his depth, resigned soon afterwards.
  • Humphrys got into hot water for a leaked off-air exchange about the BBC’s gender pay gap with North America editor Jon Sopel in 2018. It followed the resignation of Carrie Gracie as BBC China editor over pay inequality. In what Humphrys described as a “jokey” exchange, he asked Sopel about “how much of your salary you are prepared to hand over to Carrie Gracie to keep her”.

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Boris Johnson will have us laughing all the way to the food bank | Will Self

The relationship between politics and comedy is deeply unfunny

Beppe Grillo

Hello, Ill be standing in for David Mitchell this week, and Stewart Lee next. Id like to apologise for this in advance: regular readers of this column have become used to scintillating satire from these two, delivered via crisp, witty prose. What do I have to offer in return? Nothing but grim jeremiads about the dreadful state were in and pretentious, jargon-laden analyses about how we got here. True, I too was once a well-known light entertainer on national television, but in recent years Ive fallen victim to the worst character trait of the ageing farceur: a desire to be taken seriously an inclination that has, quite rightly, coincided with my gently smelly slide down into Stygian obscurity.

Bobbing about down here, Ive begun to suspect that my status in our septic, MRSA-ridden isle exists in an inverse correlation to that of Her Highnesss current first minister. Its a truth universally acknowledged that, in search of his destiny as world king, Boris Johnson turned to television to build his base, and in particular to the satirical news show Have I Got News for You. Throughout a number of barnstorming appearances, Johnson cemented his reputation as a charming and self-deprecating Old Etonian, whose tousled blond mop nonetheless surmounted a mind like a steel trap. Even at the time, commentators remarked on how bizarre it was that serving politicians were prepared to go on the show and risk being eviscerated by their fellow panellists however, by perfecting his routine (in Marxist terms, his praxis), Johnson enacted the dialectical relation between politics and comedy that has since typified our era.

Yes, think of Johnson not as man but a sort of personified synthesis: one between the high-minded politics of old and the cachinnating prejudices of the new bigots. And, of course, hes not alone in this true, comedy was only a sideline for Johnson, but for Italys Beppe Grillo, and now Ukraines Volodymyr Zelenskiy, one-liners have become party ones. Then theres Marjan arec, in Slovenia, and Jimmy Morales, in Guatemala, both former comedians who abandoned their shtick in favour of the slapstick of governance. Just how good any of these characters were as comics is debatable I suppose you had to be there and then, rather than here and now, since none of them has been doing terribly well at the notoriously unfunny business of making life-and-death decisions concerning your fellow human beings.

In the long dark night of my soul, when Ive failed to surf that wave of illegal melatonin into even the lightest of slumbers, disturbing visions throng my mind: I imagine a summit convened by that prime-time joker-in-chief Donald the Donald Trump. Around the polished oval stage in the Oval Office, sit Messrs Johnson, Zelenskiy et al, all rocking and rolling with laughter as they carve the worlds audience up between them. But if superannuated comedians are our new rulers, perhaps weve only ourselves to blame? Did we not laugh too readily at their feeble quips, thereby propelling them into office? At this years Edinburgh fringe, the funniest joke award went to this one, by the hilariously named comedian Olaf Falafel: I keep randomly shouting out broccoli and cauliflower I think I may have florets.

Frankly, if Id been on hand to heckle when Falafel threw up this little ball of wit, Id have shouted Fuck you, you fucking shitting wanking fuck, youre about as funny as fucking fuck-all what makes people with Tourettes ripe for your alleged humour? Are there other disabled folk youd like to have a go at while youre up there? Thereby exhibiting the rank hypocrisy of those of us who arent so much woke as utterly insomniac. But even setting the prejudice to one side, Falafels joke is a pretty tired bit of punning. Nietzsche quipped that Wit is the epitaph of an emotion but, even as epitaphs go, puns are a grave old business.

I do hope Messrs Mitchell and Lee will be using their downtime to re-up on their material so you can look forward to plenty of hearty chuckles in the autumn, when broccoli and cauliflower become too expensive even for Observer readers. But my suspicion is that they may, in fact, be moonlighting as premiers themselves, while you have to put up with my second-division repartee.

The
The comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, right, who was elected president of Ukraine in May. Photograph: Evgeniy Maloletka/AP

This rather raises the question: what might life be like in a country helmed by a genuinely funny comedian, rather than a farceur who dreams of being taken seriously? In Leedonia, I imagine our Fhrer arriving in his trademark circus car, accompanied by a posse of heavily armed clowns. Speeches would take the form of tightly scripted hour-long rants fusing the surreal, the paranoid and the scatological with such elan (and dog-whistle virtue-signalling) that the poor citizenry would be left undone, having been chafed unmercifully by the rubbing of their urine-soaked clothing against their heaving bellies. What matter that they be empty of food, if theyre filled with guffaws?

As for David Mitchell, with his bearded and bookish mien, its not hard to picture him as some sort of nerd-in-chief, earnestly urging his encyclopaedic knowledge on his people. Perhaps, like the one-time dictator of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, Mitchell will write an interminably long book aimed at the spiritual guidance of the people. Theres a huge mechanical statue of the Ruhnama as its called in Ashgabat, the capital, and, at 8pm every day, this opens mechanically and a passage is read through loudspeakers. But whereas Niyazov mixed together the Quran, Sufi poetry and his own wild cosmic speculations, Mitchells tome will consist of page after page of unbelievable truths, and the mechanical voice reading them out will be nasal and laconic.

I do hope something like this is actually going on right now and that, in a fortnights time, revitalised, Mitchells and Lees satiric armies will invade Britain and put paid to its new farceur-among-equals with volleys of perfectly aimed pasquinades. Because, lets face it, the alternative isnt funny at all.

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RAF and a damaged dam

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionAn RAF Chinook is dropping 400 tonnes of aggregate to shore up the dam and divert water

Emergency crews are racing to save a damaged reservoir, as “terrified” residents fear their Derbyshire town could be flooded.

Police say the wall holding back the 300-million-gallon Toddbrook Reservoir could still fail despite about 24 hours of efforts to shore it up.

Part of the dam wall collapsed on Thursday afternoon.

The 1,500 people evacuated from Whaley Bridge amid “mortal danger” warnings will not be allowed home tonight.

But the water level has dropped by half a meter thanks to ten fire service pumps moving 4.2 million litres of water every hour – with more pumps on the way.

An RAF helicopter is also halfway through dropping 400 tonnes of aggregate on the collapsed section.

How dangerous is it?

BBC Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The clay under the slipway has been undermined

Police, the Environment Agency, and the Canal and River Trust have all said there is a “real risk” the dam could collapse.

Julie Sharman, from the Canal and Rivers Trust, said it was “a critical situation” but added the weather had improved and the water levels had reduced by 20cm.

“We aren’t putting a figure on any risk of collapse but everything that can be done is being done,” she said.

Engineers are attempting to get the reservoir’s water level down, to reduce pressure on the wall and allow repairs to begin.

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Image caption The dam holds back 1.3 million tonnes of water

What does it mean for residents?

About 1,500 people left their homes after police told them to pack up their medication and pets and gather at an evacuation point.

Some stayed with relatives while others bedded down in pubs and hotels, with lots of businesses offering free rooms.

Police said residents would not be allowed back on Friday so would spend a second night away from their homes.

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Image caption Bev Goodwin has put up friends and family after they left Whaley Bridge

Bev Goodwin lives in Chapel-en-le-Frith and put up her mum and dad, Joy and Steve and two friends – Susie and Angela.

Joy said: “We have nothing. No clothes, no toothbrush, nothing.

“We have been thinking about what’s in our house that we would miss – all our kids’ pictures and of our grandchildren – it’s upsetting.”

Susie said: “It’s just surreal that it’s happening in our town, it’s just bizarre.”

Mike Breslin described it as a “crazy situation”.

“They should never have built a school and a social club at the bottom of a dam. It’s madness,” he said.

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Image caption Resident Mike Breslin said it was ‘madness’ to build a school at the base of the dam

Eric Baker, who has lived in the town for 30 years said: “It’s shocking really, it’s like living next to a ticking bomb. If that goes the devastation will be unimaginable.

“We saw the water coming over at a tremendous rate on Wednesday and the park was flooded but it wasn’t until Thursday the people who look after it started to look worried.

“Then it started to collapse on Thursday and it made a tremendous noise as the concrete slabs began to collapse.

“The disruption is huge, the small shops and businesses are really being hit and of course we don’t know when it will be over.”

BBC Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Public agencies and the army have been praised for their efforts

Another resident, who did not want to be named, said: “We just fled. I managed to take my nightdress and we’ve got the tortoise in the washing up bowl in the car.

“It’s quite terrifying. If the dam goes, it will take out the whole town.”

When will it be fixed?

news Image copyright LincsFireOfficer
Image caption Teams have worked through the night

Nigel Carson, who lives near the dam, said he had been told it would take two or three days to reduce the reservoir to a safe level if it does not rain.

There are no weather warnings in place for Friday, and the Met Office has said it expects much drier conditions.

BBC reporter Richard Stead described the operation to fix the dam as “a two-pronged attack”.

He said: “The Chinook is bringing aggregate on the one hand to shore up the dam, but also to divert water further up the valley away from the reservoir.

“There are also 16 high-volume pumps being used to relieve the pressure on the dam.

“Only when that is done can work start on permanent repairs and finding out what went wrong.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked the Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers to chair an emergency meeting.

BBC

Ms Villiers said she was receiving regular updates on the situation and the government’s COBR committee would make sure everything possible was being done to help.

People have shared their admiration for the emergency services on social media, with Twitter user @nmstoker naming the chinook pilots #DamUnbusters.

BBC

Analysis

By David Shukman, BBC science editor

This isn’t the first time communities have faced the nightmare of a dam that could collapse.

Back in 2007 a dam near Rotherham was the cause of a major alert, and the scenario is very similar to now. Torrential rain had filled the Ulley reservoir to overflowing.

Cracks appeared in the dam itself. People downstream were told to leave. The M1 motorway was in the path of a potential burst so part of it was closed.

As with the dam at Whaley Bridge, the one at Ulley was built in the 19th Century with the same combination of clay and mud.

In the end, pumps relieved the pressure and nearly 3000 tonnes of rock strengthened the structure so the emergency passed.

But over the following three years a huge repair operation costing £3.8m was needed. And a major review of the 2007 floods was highly critical of the way many of Britain’s dams are monitored.

Whatever happens at Whaley Bridge, questions will be asked about safety and whether ageing infrastructure can cope with the heavier downpours predicted as the climate warms.

BBC

What happened?

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Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionToddbrook Reservoir: Footage shows fast-flowing water before collapse

Part of the reservoir’s spillway broke away on Thursday.

It was damaged after large swathes of the country were battered by heavy rain and floods earlier in the week.

Police told residents in Whaley Bridge to gather at Chapel High School in neighbouring Chapel-en-le-Frith.

They were told to take pets and medication with them as it was unclear how long it would take to repair the damaged wall.

BBC
BBC

Pumps from fire services across the country have been pumping out 7,000 litres of water a minute.

Army engineers are clearing trees and bushes to get “five or six” more water pumps in on south side of reservoir.

Derbyshire Fire & Rescue Service said more than 150 firefighters from across the UK have been supporting the work at the dam and in the town.

A severe flood warning, which means a threat to life, has been issued for the River Goyt below the reservoir.

BBC Image copyright LincsFireOfficer
Image caption Sandbags are shoring up the structure

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Boris Johnson

africa

Lagos, Nigeria (CNN)Boris Johnson has emerged as the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after a leadership contest and could prove to be as divisive a figure in Britain as President Trump is in the United States.

Around the world, Johnson, Britain’s gaffe-prone former foreign secretary,has in the past caused raised eyebrows and outrage with his outspoken comments.
But it is in Africa, in particular, that he has shocked many with language considered to be racist and offensive.
Johnson, who was a member of the British Parliament at the time he made some of these comments in 2002, apologized while on the campaign trail for the London mayoral elections in 2008.
Johnson said at the time that he “loathed and despised,” racism as he stood for elections in one of the most multicultural cities in the world.
“I do feel very sad that people have been so offended by these words and I’m sorry that I’ve caused this offence,” he was quoted as saying in a local media report at the time.
Below are some of Johnson’s comments about Africa.

‘The big white chief’

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Johnson made the remarks in an outlandish 2002 Daily Telegraph article, where few people were spared.

‘Not in charge anymore’

What Boris Johnson has to say about Africa - CNN
In a Spectator 2002 column titled, ‘Africa is a mess, but we can’t blame colonialism,’ he wrote: “It is just not convincing, 40 years on, to blame Africa’s problems on the ‘lines on the map’, the arbitrary boundary-making of the men in sola topis.”

‘Aids-ridden choristers’

africa
Writing in the same 2002 Spectator article, he also described meeting some young children with AIDS who performed a welcome song for Johnson and his group. He has come under fire for his insensitive description of the children.

‘Flag waving piccaninnies’

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Writing in his column in the Daily Telegraph on former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s visits around the world, he used the term “piccaninnies,” which is a racist term used to describe black children.

‘Ancestral dislike’

What Boris Johnson has to say about Africa - CNN
Johnson wrote a column in the British Sun newspaper in 2016 questioning why former President Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office and attributed it to his “ancestral dislike.” The Obama administration was forced to write a blog post to address several rumors circulating about the bust’s removal.

‘The bicycle guy’

With his unruly mop of white-blond hair and bumbling personality, Boris Johnson is not exactly a forgettable figure.
But Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta struggled to recall his name during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May in Nairobi last year.
His mind went blank as he struggled to recall the former UK foreign secretary’s name. He then referred to Johnson as “the bicycle guy.”
Because of their combative history, May could be forgiven for indulging in a moment of schadenfreude: Johnson had been one of her fiercest political rivals and he resigned from her Cabinet over disagreements over her Brexit strategy.
As he embarks on a post-Brexit world where shoring up trade interests with Commonwealth countries will be paramount, Britain’s next Prime Minister appears to have his work cut out for him in impressing African leaders.

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