Ray Wilkins: Ex-England captain in critical condition in London hospital

Ray Wilkins was capped 84 times by England

Former England and Chelsea midfielder Ray Wilkins is in a critical condition in a London hospital.

St George’s Hospital told BBC Sport that the 61-year-old is a patient and “his family have asked for privacy”.

His wife Jackie is quoted in the Daily Mirror as saying he had a cardiac arrest and the situation is “very bad”.

Wilkins, who also played for Manchester United, AC Milan, Rangers and QPR, has been working as a pundit for Sky Sports and Talksport.

Former Chelsea captain Frank Lampard wrote on Instagram: “All thoughts and strength with this man and his family tonight. An absolute gentleman.”

Lampard’s ex-Chelsea team-mate Didier Drogba posted: “Just found out about the news, be strong Ray Wilkins and family. We blue army are sending you our prayers on this religious day.”

Former England striker and Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker tweeted: “Thoughts are with Ray Wilkins and his family. Rooting for you, Butch.”

As a player, Wilkins won the FA Cup with Manchester United in 1983 and the Scottish league title with Rangers in 1989.

He made 84 appearances for England and captained his country 10 times.

Wilkins had spells as manager of QPR, Fulham and the Jordan national team.

He was also Chelsea assistant coach from 2008 until 2010, working alongside Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti.

Chelsea tweeted this message on Friday night
Wilkins played for QPR between 1989 and 1994, leaving for a short stint at Crystal Palace before returning at the end of 1994 as player-manager
Former Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack tweeted his support
Wilkins made 176 league appearances for Chelsea between 1973 and 1979
He was an England regular for a decade after making his debut in 1976
Wilkins was part of the coaching staff at Chelsea when they won the FA Cup in 2009



Malala returns to home town in Pakistan for first time since shooting

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Media captionMalala Yousafzai: “My focus is only working for the good”

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai has returned to her home town in Pakistan for the first time since she was shot there by Taliban militants, security officials say.

Ms Yousafzai, 20, was shot in the head by a gunman for campaigning for female education in 2012.

Her family’s home region of Swat was once a militant stronghold, and she was attacked on a school bus there at 15.

It had been unclear if she would visit the area because of security concerns.

On Thursday, it was announced that Ms Yousafzai had returned from the UK to Pakistan for the first time since she was attacked.

Ms Yousafzai delivered an emotional speech at the prime minister’s office in Islamabad:

“Always it has been my dream that I should go to Pakistan and there, in peace and without any fear, I can move on streets, I can meet people, I can talk to people.

“And I think that it’s my old home again… so it is actually happening, and I am grateful to all of you.”

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Roads were cordoned off as Malala Yousafzai arrived at her home town

A helicopter carrying Ms Yousafzai landed not far from her family home in Mingora on Saturday, amid a tight security operation.

Her trip to Pakistan is expected to last four days. Officials from her Malala Fund group are travelling with her, local media report.

Why was she attacked?

At the age of 11, Ms Yousafzai began writing an anonymous diary for BBC Urdu about her life under Taliban rule. A documentary film was made about her in 2009.

She soon became a vocal advocate of female education amid militant suppression in Pakistan, and was deliberately attacked on a school bus in October 2012 by Islamist militants. Malala’s story brought international attention.

The Pakistani Taliban said at the time that they had shot her because she was “pro-West” and “promoting Western culture in Pashtun areas”.

Image copyright University Hospitals Birmingham
Image caption After initial surgery in Pakistan for her injuries in 2012, she was transferred to the UK for her recovery

The teenager sustained life-threatening injuries in the attack, and had to have part of her skull removed to relieve swelling on her brain.

After receiving emergency treatment at a military hospital in Pakistan, she was transported to the UK for further treatment and to recover in Birmingham, where her family continue to live.

What has she done since?

Since her recovery, Ms Yousafzai has continued to speak up for children’s education and rights around the world.

She set up the Malala Fund with her father Ziauddin, with the goal of “working for a world where every girl can learn and lead without fear”.

In 2014 she became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She and Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi were jointly awarded it for their efforts for children’s rights.

She has continued campaigning while pursuing her studies, and is now reading Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University.



New Zealand v England: Stuart Broad takes 4-38 as hosts recover from poor start

Stuart Broad took 4-38, including the crucial wicket of Colin de Grandhomme late on after New Zealand fought back
Second Test, Christchurch (Hagley Oval), day two:
England 307: Bairstow 101, Wood 52, Southee 6-62, Boult 4-87
New Zealand 192-6: Watling 77 not out, De Grandhomme 72, Broad 4-38
New Zealand trail by 115 runs, with four wickets remaining

New Zealand recovered from a dreadful start to frustrate England before the tourists struck late on day two of the second Test in Christchurch.

Jonny Bairstow converted his overnight 97 not out into his fifth Test century before England were bowled out for 307.

James Anderson and Stuart Broad reduced the hosts to 36-5 in reply.

BJ Watling (77 not out) and Colin de Grandhomme (72) fought back in a superb stand of 142 before the impressive Broad returned to remove De Grandhomme.

Bad light stopped play with New Zealand, who lead the two-match series 1-0, closing on 192-6, trailing by 115 runs.

Day three will start at 23:30 BST on Saturday.

Hunting in pairs

Anderson and Broad became the first pair to open the bowling 150 times together in Tests, extending their own record – Pakistan greats Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis are next on 89.

England’s top two leading wicket-takers combined brilliantly to mark that shared milestone, bowling a fuller length and finding enough movement to rip through the New Zealand top order.

Broad bowled with particular menace, striking in his first over as Tom Latham fell for a three-ball duck, drawn into a loose drive and edging behind to Bairstow.

He then dismissed Ross Taylor for the 10th time in Tests, the Kiwi slashing at one that moved late to find Alastair Cook at first slip, before Broad produced a terrific inswinger to the left-handed Henry Nicholls, who departed lbw for a duck after England successfully reviewed.

At the other end, Anderson tormented Jeet Raval, regularly beating the bat before duly forcing the opener to nick off, with the hosts scraping through to 32-4 at lunch.

Anderson dismissed Kane Williamson for 22 shortly after the restart, the in-form captain chasing one down leg and getting a fine edge through to Bairstow.

England lost their way with a series of ineffective plans against Watling and De Grandhomme, but Broad wisely returned to pitching it up, getting the old ball to nip away and catch the outside edge of De Grandhomme’s bat as it zipped through to Bairstow.

It took Broad to 406 Test wickets, passing Curtly Ambrose into 14th in the all-time list, in a match that looks set to be defined by the supreme opening bowlers on each side.

Just as when the tourists were bowled out for 58 at Auckland, Tim Southee (6-62) and Trent Boult (4-87) ended with all 10 England wickets, ensuring they, Broad and Anderson have taken all 16 wickets to fall in the match so far.

Gritty batting, questionable tactics

Jonny Bairstow recorded his fifth Test century before falling for 101 early on day two

Bairstow reached his hundred in sensible singles but had to hit more expansively once Jack Leach was caught behind for 16 and holed out to fly slip for 101 as England added 17 runs to their overnight total.

De Grandhomme took the opposite approach, cracking a series of fluent pull shots for four to race to 31 off 33 balls before playing more patiently in bringing up his fifty off 75 balls.

Watling was troubled by the short ball early in his innings and took a vicious blow on the side of his helmet from a Mark Wood bouncer, but the New Zealand keeper showed admirable grit and an increasing ability to duck and weave away from danger to bring up his fifty off 125 balls.

The duo finished with a record sixth-wicket partnership for New Zealand against England, but they were aided by some questionable decisions by captain Joe Root.

“England’s tactics got De Grandhomme and Watling in – at one point, De Grandhomme had only been in for two minutes and we had four men out on the leg side,” said former England spinner Graeme Swann on Test Match Special.

England were perhaps too quick to depart from the full length that had put New Zealand into the mire as Wood sent down countless short balls from round the wicket – although Watling looked circumspect at first, too few bouncers were well-directed enough and De Grandhomme hit anything short with aplomb.

“We talked as a group about wanting to attack the knee roll and get the brand new ball a touch fuller because we know it flattens out. We exposed the conditions really nicely but we could have had a couple more,” said Broad.

“Joe’s keen for us, as a bowling unit, to push up on length a little bit. We do that really well in England. But we also used some different tactics.

“One of those was the short-pitched ball our batting unit have faced a lot of and we’ve maybe not done a huge amount. We used that really well. If you set the field well you can restrict the economy rate and create chances.”

The tourists’ attack looked more threatening when they returned to the fuller length later on, with Ben Stokes – bowling for the first time in Tests since September after a back injury restricted him to batting in Auckland – looking threatening when he pitched it up despite a limited run up.

On debut, slow left-arm spinner Leach showed he was adept at holding down an end and got several balls to bite past the outside edge but frequently had to bowl to an overly defensive field.

‘The best I’ve felt for a while’ – reaction

England bowler Stuart Broad, who took 4-38, on Test Match Special: “It’s the best I’ve felt for a while. I’ve been working really hard on my action. I think that really showed. I felt strong at the crease, I had good pace, my wrist was in a really good position and I got the ball moving.”

Former England spinner Graeme Swann on TMS: “I was pleased with the way Leach bowled, but disappointed with how little patience England had in the middle period. They were too quick to go to Plan B.

“It didn’t surprise me that Stokes caused problems when he came on – because he’s injured, he can’t just race in and bang it in. He just had to bowl the same lengths that Broad and Anderson did – Stuart was back to his best today.”

Former New Zealand captain Jeremy Coney on TMS: “You should be hitting middle and off every ball. A better way to go is to bowl straighter and have something like a 5-4 field.

“The short-pitched bowling is worth a crack for a couple of overs, but it’s been over-done today. New Zealand were the same – they went on it for too long.”



Met Police chief: Social media leads children to violence

Met Police chief Cressida Dick Image copyright PA
Image caption Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick said stop and search will likely increase

The UK’s top police officer has blamed social media for normalising violence and leading more children to commit stabbings and murders.

Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick told The Times social media sites “rev people up” and make street violence “more likely”.

Fatal stabbings in England and Wales are at their highest levels since 2011.

Ms Dick announced a new task force of about 100 officers to tackle violent crime in London.

Ms Dick says she believes social media “makes it harder for people to cool down”, adding: “I’m sure it does rev people up.”

“There’s definitely something about the impact of social media in terms of people being able to go from slightly angry with each other to ‘fight’ very quickly,” she said.

A trivial disagreement could escalate into violence “within minutes”, Ms Dick added, with disputes on sites such as YouTube identified by detectives as partly to blame.

Linking the “incredibly abusive” language online to street violence, she said: “I think it certainly makes it more likely, it makes it faster… it allows a conversation of a ‘show off’ sort that involves violence.”

Ms Dick also told the paper that gangs who post on social media or share videos provoking rivals can glamorise violence.

She said stop and search is “likely to go on going up”, adding: “We will be out on the streets more.”

Knife crime offences in England and Wales rose by 21% in the year ending September 2017, compared to the previous 12 months, figures show.

Police in London – which sees more knife crime than anywhere else in the UK – have launched 10 murder investigations since 17 March.

On Friday, a woman, 36, became the 10th victim after being stabbed to death in Haringey, north London.

In September last year, the MP for Croydon Central, Sarah Jones, said social media was “fuelling an escalation in the cycle of violence among young people”.

She called for ministers to crack down on online material promoting knife crime, naming YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram as problem sites.

Meanwhile, the government has launched a £1.35m series of adverts to run across social media in a bid to deter 10 to 21-year-olds from knife crime.

The adverts feature true stories of teenagers who have been stabbed.



The Papers: Russia-UK row and public sector pay gap

The i front page
Image caption The i splashes with the latest on the nerve agent attack on Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. It reports that Russia has asked to question Yulia, 33, after it was announced she is recovering well following the Salisbury poisoning. It comes after the Russian embassy tweeted: “We insist on the right to see her.”
The Daily Express front page
Image caption The main story in the Daily Express is also on relations between Russia and the West. The paper reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin has tested his new missile, which it says can carry 12 nuclear warheads up to 6,000 miles. The front features a large photo of the missile, which has been nicknamed Satan 2. The paper’s splash also features a story about Arnold Schwarzenegger undergoing heart surgery in Los Angeles.
Daily Star front page
Image caption Schwarzenegger makes the top story in Saturday’s Daily Star, as the Austrian-American film star recovers in hospital. The paper quotes fans of the actor and former California governor, saying: “He’ll be back!”
The Daily Mail front page
Image caption Meanwhile, the Daily Mail leads with a story reporting that the father-in-law of Pippa Middleton, David Matthews, has been charged with the rape of a minor in France. Mr Matthews, 74, is accused of two attacks on a teenage girl. He denies the charges. The claims come from French legal sources, the paper reports.
The Daily Mirror front page
Image caption The Daily Mirror reports former England footballer Ray Wilkins is seriously ill following a cardiac arrest. The 61-year-old is in an induced coma, the paper says.
The Times front page
Image caption The Times’ front page carries a story about how social media is “driving” children to commit violent crimes and murders. The report comes from an interview with the UK’s top police officer, Met Police commissioner Cressida Dick, who has warned that online message boards and video sites “rev people up” and trivial disputes are escalating at “unprecedented rates”. The eye-catching lead photograph on the front of the newspaper comes from a Good Friday procession in Guatemala.
The Daily Telegraph front page
Image caption Britain’s young people are also the subject of a story on the front of the Daily Telegraph – although for a completely separate story. In her first interview since her promotion, the Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey says teenagers should be urged to take up Saturday jobs to boost the number of “resilient home-grown workers” in the UK after Brexit. It comes after research suggested Britons were perceived to be less hard-working than European immigrants.
The Financial Times front page
Image caption FT Weekend leads with the latest on the £8bn takeover of GKN, one of Britain’s oldest engineering firms. The paper reports that the acquisition by Melrose Industries is facing scrutiny from Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. Also on the front is a report suggesting Facebook was informed that the app at the centre of the Cambridge Analytica scandal might sell on users’ data. The FT says it has seen the app’s updated terms and conditions which were sent to the social media firm. Facebook says its policies in 2014, when the data was collected, banned developers from selling, licensing or purchasing data.
The Guardian front page
Image caption Meanwhile, the Guardian carries a story about the gender pay gap within the public sector. The newspaper reports that nearly nine out of 10 public sector organisations pay men more than women. The deadline for public sector bodies to report their gender pay gaps passed at midnight on Saturday, while for other companies it is 4 April. The Guardian’s story is based on figures reported so far which show women in the public sector are paid on average 14% less than men.
The Sun front page
Image caption The Sun leads with the death of a British SAS soldier who was killed in Syria while fighting the Islamic State group. The newspaper reports it is the first British combat death “in the fight against the terror cult”.

Russia’s relationship with the West once again leads some – but not all – of Saturday’s front pages.

Instead The Times leads with its interview with the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, in which she makes a connection between social media and violent crimes committed by children. Ms Dick expresses concern about the “increasingly abusive” language used online and warns that the forum allows “a conversation of a ‘show-off’ sort that involves violence”. The mother of a stabbing victim agrees, telling the paper that young people are being “brainwashed”, “living their life, gaining their experiences and knowledge from a phone screen”.

The gender pay gap is the Guardian’s top story after the deadline passed for public sector bodies to report theirs on Friday night. According to the newspaper, nine out of 10 public sector organisations pay men higher salaries, with women receiving 14% less than men on average. It reports that female staff at one hospital trust in West Sussex were found to take home 59p for every £1 paid to male colleagues. In its coverage, the Financial Times says it is essential that companies are spurred on to make “genuine, long-term efforts to reduce disparities” and encourage a more equal sharing of family responsibilities – but stresses it is “unlikely without action from government”.

The Financial Times’ front page carries a story reporting the planned takeover of the engineering giant GKN could be challenged by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson. It reports that the deal is coming under renewed scrutiny from Mr Williamson, although it points out that “most analysts, as well as many in Whitehall, believe there are scant grounds for a national security referral”.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey told the Telegraph that teenagers should be encouraged to foster a good work ethic

The Daily Telegraph leads with comments from Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey who called for more teenagers to take on Saturday jobs to help build a “resilient workforce” after Brexit. She tells the paper that many young people lack the “soft skills” needed for the workplace such as good timekeeping and the ability to detach from their phones. In its editorial, the paper welcomes her idea but suggests “politicians must practise what they preach”, proposing that “perhaps MPs could refresh their own employability by taking up odd jobs too, such as a paper round?”

Meanwhile, the Daily Express splashes with a photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s newest missile, nicknamed Satan 2. The i newspaper carries the latest in the Skripal spy poisoning, reporting that Russia has demanded access to Sergei Skripal’s daughter, Yulia, after it was announced she is recovering well in hospital nearly one month on from the 4 March nerve agent attack.

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Several column inches are devoted to the anti-Semitism row that continues to trouble Labour. Tony Blair addresses the issue in The Daily Telegraph in a joint article with the president of the European Jewish Congress, Moshe Kantor. They argue that “we can’t sit back and let extremism and intolerance become an accepted part of public discourse”. The Guardian columnist Marina Hyde, meanwhile, suggests Mr Blair and Mr Corbyn are “not so very different”, sharing an “unshakeable belief in one’s own moral purity”.

And the Daily Mirror reports that former England footballer Ray Wilkins is in an induced coma after suffering a cardiac arrest and a fall at home. His wife, Jackie, tells the paper he is critically ill.



Gaza-Israel border: UN seeks investigation over protest deaths

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Media captionClashes took place along Gaza’s border with Israel

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, has called for an independent investigation after Palestinian officials said 16 Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers on Friday.

Hundreds were also injured on the Gaza border, the Palestinian side said.

Friday was the single deadliest day in the Israel-Palestine conflict since the 2014 Gaza war.

The UN Security Council condemned the violence after an emergency session.

UN deputy political affairs chief Taye-Brook Zerihoun told the council the situation in Gaza “might deteriorate in the coming days” and called for civilians, particularly children, not to be targeted, Reuters news agency reports.

“Israel must uphold its responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law,” he said.

In a written statement before the meeting, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, blamed the bloodshed on Hamas – the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian territory.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the Israeli authorities bore “full responsibility” for Friday’s deaths.

Why was there tension at the border?

Thousands of Palestinians marched to the border at the start of a six-week protest, dubbed the Great March of Return.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption There were clashes near Ramallah

They were demanding that refugees be allowed to return to their homes in what is now Israel.

Palestinians have pitched five camps near the border for the protest, from Beit Hanoun in the north to Rafah near the Egyptian border.

Image caption Map showing the position of the five protest camps. Source: Haaretz

Israel’s military, which oversees a no-go zone along the Gaza border, doubled its troop presence for the protest.

The country’s foreign ministry called the gathering a “deliberate attempt to provoke a confrontation with Israel” and said that “responsibility for any clashes lies solely with Hamas and other participating Palestinian organisations”.

What do the two sides say happened on Friday?

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said there were about 17,000 Palestinians in five locations near the border fence. It said it had “enforced a closed military zone” in the area around Gaza.

Although most protesters stayed in the encampments, some groups of youths ignored organisers’ calls to stay away from the fence and headed closer to Israeli positions.

The IDF said troops were “firing towards the main instigators” to break up rioting, in which petrol bombs and stones were thrown at the fence.

A spokesman said all those who were killed had been trying to breach or damage the border fence, the Jerusalem Post reports.

The Palestinian side accused Israel of using disproportionate force. Tanks and snipers were deployed, and witnesses said a drone was used to drop tear gas in at least one location.

The UN envoy for Palestine Riyad Mansour told the council that more than 1,400 Palestinian civilians had been injured.



US may tie social media to visa applications

Two women are pictured silhouetted while using their mobile phones Image copyright Reuters
Image caption If approved, the US state department proposal could affect around 14.7 million people a year

The Trump administration has said it wants to start collecting the social media history of nearly everyone seeking a visa to enter the US.

The proposal, which comes from the state department, would require most visa applicants to give details of their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

They would have to disclose all social media identities used in the past five years.

About 14.7 million people a year would be affected by the proposals.

The information would be used to identify and vet those seeking both immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

Applicants would also be asked for five years of their telephone numbers, email addresses and travel history. They would be required to say if they had ever been deported from a country, or if any relatives had been involved in terrorist activity.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The proposals would place an additional burden on travellers whose countries do not have a visa exemption deal with the US

The proposal would not affect citizens from countries which the US grants visa-free travel status – among them the UK, Canada, France and Germany. However, citizens from non-exempt countries like India, China and Mexico could be embroiled if they visit the US for work or a holiday.

What’s the current stance on requesting social media?

Under rules brought in last May, officials were told to seek people’s social media handles only if they felt “that such information is required to confirm identity or conduct more rigorous national security vetting”, a state department official said at the time.

The tougher proposal comes after President Trump promised to implement “extreme vetting” for foreigners entering the US, which he said was to combat terrorism.

“Maintaining robust screening standards for visa applicants is a dynamic practice that must adapt to emerging threats,” the state department said in a statement, quoted by the New York Times.

“We already request limited contact information, travel history, family member information, and previous addresses from all visa applicants. Collecting this additional information from visa applicants will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity.”

Who decides if it happens?

The idea is subject to approval by the Office of Management and Budget.

The public will have two months to comment on the proposal before it makes a decision.

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How does this affect free speech?

Civil liberties groups have condemned the policy as an invasion of privacy that could damage free speech.

“People will now have to wonder if what they say online will be misconstrued or misunderstood by a government official,” said Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We’re also concerned about how the Trump administration defines the vague and over-broad term ‘terrorist activities’ because it is inherently political and can be used to discriminate against immigrants who have done nothing wrong,” she said.

The social media platforms covered in the proposal include US-based entities such as Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit and YouTube. However, the New York Times reports that overseas platforms such as China’s Sina Weibo and Russia’s VK social network would also be included.



Spy poisoning: Russia escalates spy row with new expulsions

A woman carries bags as she leaves the US Consulate General in St. Petersburg, Russia, 30 March 2018 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Russia is closing the US consulate in St Petersburg as part of its retaliatory measures

Russia has announced further measures against UK diplomats while at the same time declaring tit-for-tat expulsions of officials from 23 other countries.

It has told the British ambassador to cut staffing to the size of the Russian mission in the UK.

Moscow has rejected UK accusations that it is behind the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy and his daughter in the UK.

However, some 150 Russians have since been expelled by mainly Western countries.

Russia initially hit back at the UK, but then announced 60 US expulsions. On Friday it called in a string of foreign ambassadors with news that their own countries’ measures were being matched.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed in Salisbury, England, on 4 March. Mr Skripal remains in a critical but stable condition. Yulia’s condition is said to be improving.

Image copyright EPA/ Yulia Skripal/Facebook
Image caption Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital since the attack

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday issued a warning over “a situation that is similar, to a large extent, to what we lived during the Cold War”.

In another development, Russia accused British customs officers of trying to search an Aeroflot airliner arriving from Moscow at London’s Heathrow airport without allowing the crew to be present.

Russia singles out UK again

By Paul Adams, BBC News, Moscow

British diplomats left Moscow a week ago, but ambassador Laurie Bristow was summoned back to the foreign ministry for additional punishment.

It’s not immediately obvious what it means in practice, but it’s clear that Russia sees Britain as the ringleader of an international conspiracy which resulted in the biggest mass expulsion of Russian diplomats in history.

Britain’s “provocative and unjustified actions”, the ministry said, had “inspired the unfounded expulsion of Russian diplomats”.

It’s a backhanded compliment to Prime Minister Theresa May, who has successfully corralled a wider international coalition than anyone would have thought possible a month ago.

Russia has railed against the British government over its efforts to internationalise what officials here call “the so-called Skripal affair”. The solidarity expressed by so many countries has been dismissed as a result of financial and political pressure, orchestrated in tandem with the US.

Which other countries are involved?

Twenty-nine countries have expelled 145 Russian officials in solidarity with the UK – and Nato has also ordered 10 Russians out of its mission in Belgium.

The US expelled the largest single number – 60 diplomats – and closed the Russian consulate general in Seattle.

Russia reciprocated on Thursday declaring 58 US diplomats in Moscow and two in the city of Yekaterinburg to be “personae non gratae”. It also announced the closure of the US consulate in St Petersburg.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia would respond “in kind”

The US said it had been expecting the move and warned it may take further action.

On Friday, ambassadors from Albania, Australia, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Ukraine were told to send home staff from their missions – corresponding to the same number of Russians their countries had expelled.

A statement by the Russian foreign ministry also said that Russia “reserves the right to take retaliatory measures” against Belgium, Hungary, Georgia and Montenegro – countries that had joined the co-ordinated action against Russia “at the last moment”.

What is Russia’s argument?

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has blamed “harsh pressure from the United States and Britain under the pretext of the so-called Skripal case”.

He reiterated Russian calls for consular access to Yulia Skripal – a Russian citizen.

Russia, he said, was also seeking a meeting with leaders of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to “establish the truth”.

On Friday, in addition to the new Western expulsions, UK Ambassador Laurie Bristow was handed a protest note that said Britain’s “provocative actions” had led to the decision by other governments to expel Russians.

It is not clear how many more British officials will have to leave. Before the expulsion of the 23 Russians, the UK’s Foreign Office listed 60 Russian officials working in the UK.

Another four are posted at the Russian consulate general in Edinburgh.

UK National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill has said expulsions by Western countries are aimed at rooting out covert Russian intelligence networks.

What happened on the plane?

The Russian news agency Interfax quoted an unnamed source as saying British “police” had boarded the jet once passengers had disembarked and had “demanded” the crew leave so that they could conduct a search.

The Russian embassy in London said later in a statement that British customs officers had boarded the plane and tried to search it “without the crew being present”.

“After an Embassy officer arrived at the airport long negotiations were conducted that allowed to ensure the right of the captain to be take part in the search,” it added.

Russia’s foreign ministry called it “the next provocation” following the fallout from the Skripal affair.

There was no immediate official British comment on the Russian accusations but London’s Metropolitan Police denied its officers had searched a plane arriving from Moscow.

The plane later left for Moscow, Interfax said.

What do we know about the nerve agent?

Britain says the chemical used in the attack was part of a group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union known as Novichok.

OPCW has sent a team to the UK to investigate samples of the agent Britain says was used.

The results are expected to take a minimum of two weeks, the government says.

Police say the Skripals first came into contact with the nerve agent at Mr Skripal’s home in Salisbury, with the highest concentration found on the front door.



Who spent what on Facebook during 2017 election campaign?

Image copyright AFP

Last week we learned more about the political adverts on Facebook pumped into people’s feeds ahead of last year’s general election.

Using the site is free but getting noticed can be expensive.

The Electoral Commission has published a detailed breakdown of party spending in the run up to 8 June.

The figures show the Conservatives spent far more than Labour on Facebook – but their posts reached fewer people.

How much cash?

The figures break down how parties spent almost £40m during last year’s general election campaign period:

  • Conservative and Unionist Party: £18,565,102
  • Labour Party: £11,003,980
  • Liberal Democrats: £6,788,316
  • Scottish National Party: £1,623,127
  • Best for Britain: £353,118
  • National Union of Teachers: £326,306
  • Green Party of England and Wales: £299,352
  • Women’s Equality Party: £285,662
  • UKIP: £273,104

Theresa May’s party paid Australian strategist Lynton Crosby’s firm, CTF Partners, £4m to run their campaign, as part of £5.3m spent overall by the party on “market research/canvassing”.

The Liberal Democrats spent £1.29m on market research/canvassing, while Labour spent just half that amount.

Spending on “unsolicited materials to electors” – things like leaflets – was more evenly split between the parties.

Lots of money went on various things classed as “advertising” – £5.3m overall spent by the Tories, £3.1m by Labour, £840,000 by the Liberal Democrats, £320,000 by the SNP, and amounts below £80,000 by the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and UKIP. Much of this went on things like billboards.

But an increasing amount is being paid to companies like Facebook and Google for online advertising, and to smaller companies which help parties target voters effectively online.

Of the £40m, parties spent around £3m directly on Facebook – and it wasn’t evenly distributed. The Conservatives spent twice as much as all the other parties combined on Facebook.

Back in 2015 the Conservatives secured an unexpected victory after spending £1.2m on the social media site, about ten times more than Labour. Although it’s hard to prove a direct link, clever use of Facebook advertising in marginal seats was one of the things credited with helping David Cameron’s surprise win.

This time the Tories spent even more, but the party ended up going backwards, losing their majority in parliament.

Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party got far more views and shares online despite spending barely a quarter of the amount the Tories did. Labour only spent a little more than the Liberal Democrats who made far less of an impact online. So how did this happen?

Image copyright FACEBOOK/LIBDEMS
Image caption The Liberal Democrats reached far fewer people than Labour on Facebook despite spending almost as much money

During the campaign BBC Trending ran a project called Filter Bubbles of Britain which tried to shed light on social media campaigning.

The project analysed parties’ use of Facebook tools to target people with precise, localised messages based on their age, location and political affiliation. This is known as “microtargeting”.

“It’s a pattern we noticed in this election that wasn’t really there, or we didn’t really notice, in previous ones,” says Mike Wendling, who headed the project.

Wendling’s team spotted one clear trend in particular: the Conservatives paying for numerous adverts attacking Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn or his close allies, particularly John McDonnell and Diane Abbott.

The most viewed video made by a political party during the campaign was a Conservative video attacking Mr Corbyn for being weak on defence. It was viewed more than 8m times.

Image caption A Conservative advert accusing Jeremy Corbyn of being weak on defence

The most watched video posted by the official Labour page – giving 10 reasons to vote for the party, a couple of days before the 8 June vote – got half as many views.

Image copyright FACEBOOK/LABOUR
Image caption An election video posted by the Labour Party

Overall though, Labour’s page posted far more videos, and they got far more views overall than videos posted by the Conservatives or other parties. Labour videos were often reposted multiple times, a tactic the Conservatives barely used.

Mark Wallace, editor of the website Conservative Home, has published a lengthy, critical account of how the operation which succeeded in 2015 failed to do so two years later.

“Lots of the data gathered for the 2015 election had been allowed to go stale, and the machine was caught off-guard,” he told the BBC. “They had been letting people go in late 2016 on the assumption that the next election was still four years away.”

Away from the parties’ official pages, analysis by Buzzfeed News found that pro-Labour, anti-Tory news stories were far more widely shared online than articles supporting Theresa May’s party.

While much of the mainstream print press was critical of Labour and its leader, several left-wing websites like Evolve Politics and The Canary were pushing the opposite view online.

Issues like fox hunting and the ivory ban did particularly well on social media, and were particularly likely to paint the Conservatives in an unfavourable light.

Since the election Environment Secretary Michael Gove has unveiled a raft of policies aimed at protecting animals,.

  • Ivory, the election and social media

Disproportionate enthusiasm

Posting on Facebook is free of course, as is watching and sharing videos. Money just helps push videos in front of more people – but isn’t always necessary for posts to do well.

Both parties paid for Facebook advertising, but Labour posts were far more shared widely by supporters and activists, a very effective form of free publicity. The Conservatives did not benefit from this “organic reach” in the same way.

Image copyright Joey D’Urso
Image caption Much of the Conservatives’ messaging focused on the two leaders, arguing May would be better at negotiating Brexit

“Organic reach is the number of people who see a message without anybody paying for it,” says Mike Wendling. “It’s distinct from paid reach, which as the name implies is paid for.”

There was “a disproportionate level of enthusiasm for Labour messages”, says Wendling. “It’s clear from the figures that organic reach was a crucial factor in mitigating the Conservative Party’s large advantage in paid reach.”

As well as posts from the official Labour page and Corbyn’s personal one, the party benefited from lots of other content that pushed the party’s message on social media but wasn’t funded or directed by the party.

One example is the video “no one spits bars like Jeremy Corbzy”, uploaded by JOE Media, an online digital publisher. It shows Corbyn’s face superimposed onto that of rapper Stormzy, appearing to rap a list of policies.

Image copyright FACEBOOK/WWW.JOE.CO.UK
Image caption A video of Jeremy Corbyn appearing to rap a list of policies got almost 9m views

Although it seems a trivial example, the video clearly distils many of Labour’s key policies into a 38 second long video, and was aimed a young audience unlikely to watch a conventional political broadcast.

It has been viewed almost 9m times – more than any video posted by a major party during the campaign – and didn’t cost Labour a penny to make or distribute.

If it had been aired by a broadcaster rules would likely have required it to be part of a balanced range of views. That is not the case online.

This video was also aimed at a group which is hard to reach through conventional political messaging. Young voters have been said to have played a significant role in last year’s surprising result, although some recent research suggests reports of a surge in youth turnout may have been overstated.

There are many more examples like this. “Inside the Conservative campaign, they concede that they did not see this red tide coming,” says Mark Wallace. “However, some of those involved did start to notice it as the campaign went on, and began to worry about whether it was having an impact.”

  • The myth of the 2017 ‘youthquake’ election

Dark ads

Advertisers have always targeted things at particular groups – just flick through a magazine aimed at older women and one aimed at younger men to see the difference in ads – but the internet allows for more precision.

Everyone sees different Facebook adverts depending on their friends, location and demographic details like age and gender, as well as the things they ‘like’. This makes it hard to track exactly what adverts people are seeing.

The organisation Who Targets Me tried to track political advertising during the campaign by crowdsourcing material from more than 10,000 users across the country.

“We had just launched our project when the general election was announced,” said Maeve McClenaghan of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which helped analyse the data during the campaign.

“We were well aware that everyone was talking about how this was going to be the ‘dark ads’ election.”

Dark ads are tailored messages which can only be seen by a targeted audience. Whereas ‘microtargeting’ can simply refer to a public post being pushed prominently to a specific audience, “dark ads” will not be seen by anyone not targeted by it, making them very hard to track. They’re perfectly legal.

In London the Conservatives were targeting voters with ads accusing Jeremy Corbyn of supporting a “garden tax” which would hit expensive homes in the capital the hardest.

Different messages were used in other parts of the country. In Derby, home to a Rolls Royce plant which works with nuclear material, voters saw adverts accusing Mr Corbyn of risking jobs in the nuclear industry.

Image caption An example of a hyper-targeted Conservative advert seen in Derby North. Labour won the seat

Closely targeted adverts are often negative according to Sam Jeffers of Who Targets Me. “If a party knows it can put their ads in front of people who will respond to them, but keep them away from people who won’t, that’s a great temptation.”

Facebook says it is making advertising more transparent. In October the company announced new tools that will allow users to see all the ads a page is running, including “dark ads”.

The tools are being tested in Canada with the intention of being ready for the US midterm elections this November. Facebook says it will provide details about election adverts including how much was spent promoting them, how many Facebook users they have reached, and the demographics of those people.

Facebook also says political advertisers will have to verify their identity under the new rules. Before and after the 2016 US election, Facebook said, about 80,000 posts were uploaded by Russia-based operatives.

  • How Russian bots appear in your timeline

In the UK last year, although much of the media attention during the campaign focused on Tory “dark ads”, Labour used the same tactics according to an analysis by Buzzfeed News.

Buzzfeed cited a Labour source as saying that potential voters who raised concerns about the NHS on the doorstep would then have that information fed into voter databases, and the voter would then receive targeted Facebook posts.

Image copyright FACEBOOK/LABOUR
Image caption Labour targeted voters who expressed concern about the NHS with relevant videos and posts

Psychological profiling?

Compared with broadcast media, online political messaging is far less regulated. Broadcasters are under strict political balance rules. The same model does not apply online.

Sam Jeffers of Who Targets Me thinks the rules should be tightened up: “There is very little visibility of the data being used to target people.”

At the moment tech giant Facebook and data analytics firm Cambridge Analytica are at the centre of a dispute over the harvesting and use of personal data, and whether it was used to influence the outcome of the US 2016 presidential election or the UK Brexit referendum. Both sides deny any wrongdoing.

  • Cambridge Analytica: The story so far

There is no suggestion Cambridge Analytica had any involvement in the 2017 general election.

“[Parties] seemed to be targeting people based on location, age and quite broad ‘likes’, rather than the Cambridge Analytica stuff where the suggestion is they can do very heightened psychological profiling,” the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s Maeve McClenaghan told the BBC.

Not just Facebook

Money paid directly to Facebook does not give the full picture – parties also paid consultancies and agencies to help better target voters via social media and email as well as traditional methods like door-knocking and sending leaflets.

Cash was also paid to other tech companies including around £1m to Google. The Conservatives spent about £500,000 with the company, Labour about £210,000, and the Liberal Democrats around £170,000.

A lot of this went on adverts on YouTube, which is owned by Google. All the main parties were running adverts on the video sharing site during the campaign. However Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats pulled their material after an investigation by the Times revealed adverts were being promoted next to videos of Islamic extremists.

Not very much was spent on Twitter advertising – just £56,500 by all parties combined.

One of the more unusual pieces of electoral expenditure shows up in the Electoral Commission database as two separate payments from Labour to ‘Snap Group Limited’ in the final week of the campaign, totalling around £64,000.

This money went on a Jeremy Corbyn Snapchat filter and other adverts on the picture-sharing app which is popular with teenagers.

A spokeswoman for the Labour leader told the BBC the Corbyn filter was viewed 9m times according to data provided to the party by Snapchat.

Image caption Labour used Snapchat as a campaigning tool during the election campaign

The Corbyn filter was UK-wide but conventional adverts – videos that pop up between your friend’s posts – were geographically targeted, the spokeswoman said. “The adverts were in places that made sense, like universities.”

The Conservatives filed an expense for £17,800 to Snap Group Limited a month after the election, but the party’s activity on the app does not seem to have had nearly as much reach as Labour’s.

Other groups

Aside from the parties, other groups played a big role too – such as Momentum, a pro-Jeremy Corbyn grassroots group which has shifted the centre of gravity within the Labour Party from centrist MPs to left-wing activists.

The group racked up huge numbers of views on Facebook during the campaign with eye-catching adverts such as one called “Tory Britain 2030” painting a gloomy picture of a country struggling after successive Conservative election wins. It was viewed 7 million times in one week.

Image caption Videos posted by Momentum, a pro-Jeremy Corbyn grassroots group, during the election campaign

Although Momentum videos were viewed millions of times on Facebook, the group declared less than £4,000 in payments to the company and less than £40,000 overall. Momentum is currently being investigated by the Electoral Commission over allegations it broke finance rules. The group says it is cooperating with the investigation which it says refers to “administrative errors that can be easily rectified”.

Last week’s Electoral Commission figures list the seven political parties which spent more than £250,000 in the year before election day (on everything, not just online advertising).

It also gave details about two other groups. Best for Britain is a pro-EU campaign group which spent £350,000 supporting candidates opposed to a “hard Brexit”. Like the big parties, Best for Britain used different adverts for different audiences according to Maeve McClenaghan of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

An advert featuring the photograph of a middle-aged woman appeared in the Facebook feed of a 46 year-old in Tynemouth in the North East, while one featuring a young woman was seen by a 24-year-old woman in Wimbledon, South-West London.

Image caption The Best for Britain campaign used different adverts for different demographics

The other organisation to make the list was the National Union of Teachers (NUT). It spent £326,306 in the year up to the 8 June 2017 poll, more than UKIP and the Greens.

The NUT campaigned heavily on the issue of school funding – and education rose in prominence during the campaign according to Ipsos Mori, a polling firm.

Most of the money spent by the NUT went to printing firms – presumably for leaflets, flyers and other old-school methods of political communication.

But about a third went to an agency called Small Axe Communications, which built an interactive map showing people “the scale of school cuts in their constituency and where Parliamentary candidates stood on the issue.”

The company claims to have “reached 3,180,321 people across the country through targeted Facebook ads in target constituencies”.

Image copyright
Image caption School funding increased in prominence as an issue during the campagin

An NUT explainer video titled “The Truth About School Cuts” was viewed 4.8m times on Facebook. It used images of Theresa May and was critical of Conservative policies on education – so presumably benefited opposition parties, especially Labour.

Both the NUT and Best for Britain are under investigation by the watchdog for allegedly submitting an incomplete spending return, while Best for Britain is also facing questions for allegedly not returning a £25,000 donation from an “impermissible” donor within the 30 days required by electoral law.

“Best for Britain’s audited spending return was filed on time, together with supporting documentation and the requisite auditors report,” a spokesman said. “We are dealing with the questions raised with us by the Electoral Commission, some of which have already been answered, and will offer whatever further assistance they may require.”

What about next time?

If these examples seem a bit imbalanced, it’s because the digital election campaign last year was imbalanced. Official Labour content tended to do better than Conservative content, with organic shares and outside groups overcoming the difference in cash spent on Facebook advertising.

However just because Labour seemed to benefit last time, that won’t necessarily always be the case, says Mike Wendling.

The Conservatives used Facebook very effectively in 2015, and examples from abroad show it is not always left-wing parties which benefit from digital campaigning.

“The same pattern could be seen in the US 2016 Presidential election, where memes and posts in pro-Trump groups were widely shared among really enthusiastic people,” says Wendling.

  • US Election 2016: Trump’s ‘hidden’ Facebook army

The next general election – whether it is in May 2022 as currently planned, or earlier – will be fought on very different turf. The social media landscape has changed dramatically even since last June, so who knows how it’ll look in four years’ time.

Maeve McClenaghan says the 2017 general election campaign was very unusual because of the way it started – Theresa May announced it on April 18 with absolutely no warning.

“The snap election took everyone by surprise, including the Tories’ social media team,” she told the BBC. “It may be that next time we have an election, things are more sophisticated.”

Conservative Home’s Mark Wallace agrees: “Last year’s pretty dire experience has delivered a wake-up call to the Conservative Party that is very hard for anyone to deny.”



Australia ball-tampering: David Warner ‘resigned’ to not playing for country again

Tearful Warner: I may never play for Australia again

Batsman David Warner says he is “resigned to the fact” he may never play for Australia again after his part in the ball-tampering scandal.

Warner and Steve Smith were given year-long bans by Cricket Australia after the incident against South Africa.

The 31-year-old apologised on Saturday, saying he took “full responsibility for my part in what happened”.

He added: “I have only ever wanted to bring glory to my country through playing cricket.”

Smith and Cameron Bancroft, who received a nine-month ban for his role in the plan to tamper with the ball by using sandpaper during the third Test, had earlier apologised for their part in what happened.

Reading from a statement, an emotional Warner told a news conference: “To all Australians, cricket fans or not, I apologise for my actions and I am sorry for the impact those actions have had on our country’s reputation.

“It is heartbreaking to know I will not be taking the field with team-mates I love and respect and that I have let down.

“It is something I will regret for as long as I live.”

What did Warner say?

Addressing the media for the first time since the incident, Warner said that:

  • He had a “tiny ray of hope” he might play for Australia again, but he was “resigned to the fact that may never happen”
  • He “fully supported” Cricket Australia’s review into team culture
  • He would “seek out advice and expertise to help me make serious changes”
  • He was responsible for “my actions and the consequences it brings”

He did not directly answer questions about whether any other members of the Australian team had been involved in the plan to tamper with the ball, instead restating that he was there to take responsibility for his own actions in Cape Town.

Warner later posted on social media that he would do his best “in time” to answer questions people may have.

“There is a formal CA process to follow and I am taking advice to make sure I properly comply with that,” Warner tweeted.

“I should have mentioned that in my press conference, I’m sorry for not making it clearer.”

Describing the Australian team as his “family”, Warner said he would miss being on the field with them for the next 12 months.

Prior to the ball-tampering saga, Warner was fined by the International Cricket Council after an altercation with South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock.

Warner later said that “vile and disgusting” remarks made by De Kock against Warner’s wife, Candice, had prompted the incident.

Speaking in Sydney, Warner said the wellbeing of his wife and their two daughters was “foremost in my mind”.

“We let our country down, we made a bad decision. I really regret what happened on that day three,” Warner added.

“We know what the consequences are when you make horrible decisions like this.”

How did the ban happen?

From ball-tampering to bans and tears: how Australia’s week evolved

CA’s investigation found that vice-captain Warner had instructed fellow opener Bancroft to carry out the plan to scratch the ball with sandpaper, and had demonstrated to him how to do it.

The duo, along with captain Smith, were subsequently banned from all international and Australian domestic cricket – while Smith and Warner will not play in the forthcoming Indian Premier League season, and resigned as captains of their IPL franchises.

Warner will not be considered for any Australian team leadership positions in the future, while Smith and Bancroft have been suspended from captaincy for at least the next two years.

Smith denied his side had tampered with the ball before, following suggestions that similar tactics were employed in the recent Ashes series against England.

CA found that coach Darren Lehmann did not know about the plan, but he will step down after the fourth Test against South Africa, which began on Friday.