News

New home secretary Sajid Javid’s Windrush vow

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionNew Home Secretary Sajid Javid: “We will do right by the Windrush generation.”

Sajid Javid is vowing to “do right” by the people affected by the Windrush scandal as he starts his new job as home secretary.

He has rejected the controversial “hostile environment” tag attached to the government’s immigration policy.

Theresa May will meet her ministers at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday for the first time since Amber Rudd quit.

Labour says the prime minister has “questions to answer” about her own time at the Home Office.

Facing questions by MPs, Mr Javid vowed to “do whatever it takes” to put right the problems faced by the Windrush generation which led to Ms Rudd’s departure.

As a second generation migrant, he said he was “angry” at the treatment of those caught up in the saga.

The difficulties faced by “longstanding pillars of the community” should never have happened, he said, adding: “I thought that it could be my mum, my brother, my uncle or even me.”

He told MPs: “I want to start by making a pledge, a pledge to those from the Windrush generation who have been in this country for decades and yet have struggled to navigate through the immigration system. This never should have been the case and I will do whatever it takes to put it right.”

And he said he would not be using the phrase “hostile environment” to describe immigration laws introduced by Mrs May when she was home secretary.

He told MPs: “I think the terminology is incorrect, I think it’s a phrase that is unhelpful and does not represent the values as a country.”


Will Javid stray from May?

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg

Image copyright Reuters

Politically neat, generally welcomed by colleagues – In the recent canon of Tory events the relatively smooth landing of this appointment is an achievement in itself.

But moving Sajid Javid in, after Amber Rudd took herself out, does not end the prime minister’s problems. She and Mr Javid need to move fast to cauterise the political wounds from Windrush.

He can, and did, make a more compelling and personal case in the House of Commons, showing what seems real anger about what has happened to those caught up in Windrush, and unafraid to use his own family story to display it too.

Colleagues have called him a “good operator”, and “compassionate and empathetic”. Many in Westminster are pointing to his own family history as the ultimate Tory dream – the boy whose dad arrived in Britain with £1 in his pocket, who through hard work ended up in the cabinet, with a portrait of Margaret Thatcher on his wall.

His appointment is also a landmark: he is the first politician from an ethnic minority to take on one of the great offices of state – the biggest jobs in cabinet.

But whatever the presentation and the political messaging, the realities of the Windrush fiasco affect real lives. It’s not going to be fixed with a new face or a more sympathetic soundbite.


The Windrush generation settled legally in post-war Britain and automatically won the right to remain in the UK. However the UK government did not keep a record of many of the migrants.

Some people who do not have the paperwork to prove they are in the UK legally have been detained. Others have lost their jobs and have been denied access to free medical care.

The row has prompted calls for the government to abandon its “hostile environment” policy on illegal immigration, which Ms Rudd and Mrs May continued to defend. Mr Javid told MPs he preferred the phrase “compliant environment”.

Labour MP Barry Gardiner said it would be a “mistake” if Mr Javid did not abandon the government’s targets on removing illegal immigrants.

Please upgrade your browser to view this content.


Windrush immigration row

And Labour MP and Windrush campaigner David Lammy, said promises made by the government should be urgently written into law. He criticised ministers for referring to illegal immigration in its response to the row.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate he said: “This not about illegal immigration. This is about British citizens, and frankly it is deeply offensive to conflate the Windrush generation with illegal immigrants to try and distract from the Windrush crisis.”

Read More...

News

Iran nuclear deal: UK backs deal despite US and Israel accusations

Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel Image copyright AFP
Image caption France, Britain and Germany have all said the deal should be kept

Britain has backed a “vitally important” nuclear deal with Iran, after Israel and the US accused the Iranians of pursuing atomic weapons.

Israel claimed it had evidence showing Iran covertly sought nuclear weapons – an accusation rejected by Iran.

The US said Israel’s claims are “consistent” with its own intelligence.

Six nations signed an accord in 2015 lifting sanctions on Iran in exchange for the Iranian’s abandoning a nuclear weapon programme.

Iran said it only sought nuclear energy, not weapons.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionTrump says Israel’s allegations prove ‘I’m right on Iran’

A British government spokesman said inspectors appointed as part of the accord are providing a “vitally important way of independently verifying that Iran is adhering to the deal”.

The spokesman added: “We have never been naive about Iran and its nuclear intentions.”

Britain, Germany and France all still support the accord, which was also signed by China and Russia.

On Monday Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed what he said were “secret nuclear files” proving Iran once covertly pursued nuclear weapons.

He said thousands of pages of material obtained by Israel showed Iran had deceived the world by denying it had ever sought nuclear weapons.

Iran responded that Israel’s revelations were a “childish” stunt to influence President Donald Trump’s decision on whether to remain in the nuclear deal, which he is due to make by 12 May.

Mr Trump has asked the European signatories to the agreement to “fix the terrible flaws” with it or he will refuse to extend sanctions relief on Iran.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media caption“A great intelligence achievement”

In a statement, the White House said Israel’s information provided “new and compelling details” about Iran’s alleged efforts to develop “missile-deliverable nuclear weapons”.

The US statement said: “These facts are consistent with what the US has long known – Iran has a robust, clandestine nuclear weapons program that it has tried and failed to hide from the world and from its own people.”

According to Iranian state TV, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organisation, said he hoped Mr Trump “comes to his senses and stays in the deal”.

Read More...

News

Suppliers fear Sainsbury’s price squeeze after Asda deal

A Sainsbury's worker places products on a shelf Image copyright EPA
Image caption Sainsbury’s says its merger with Asda will give consumers better savings, but what about suppliers?

Companies that supply products to Sainsbury’s and Asda fear they could be negatively impacted when the two grocery chains merge.

Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe has pledged to cut prices on everyday products by around 10% after the deal.

But suppliers fear they will have to shoulder the cost of those savings.

“There will be plenty of losers from this,” said Austin Sugarman, boss of Fine Foods International, a supplier of instant coffee based in Bedfordshire.

“If suppliers are going to have to come up with the savings, then we’ll see consolidation in the supply base,” he told the BBC.

Image caption Austin Sugarman, head of Fine Foods International, believes many suppliers will lose out from the deal

“That means closing factories, that means losing people and it means effectively less choice for consumers.”

Mr Coupe said the combined group’s buying power would enable it to strike better deals with suppliers, and these savings would then be passed on to consumers.

But industry bodies fear this will make life very difficult for smaller suppliers, who are already having to adapt to higher costs from auto-enrolment pensions and the Living Wage, as well the weaker pound since the Brexit vote.

Suppliers under pressure

“We already operate in a very competitive retail environment,” said Gordon Polson, director of the Federation of Bakers. “We just don’t see possibly how our products could be reduced any further.”

Ian Cass, managing director of the Forum of Private Business agreed: “If suppliers are asked to reduce prices by 10% to stay on the Sainsbury’s-Asda supply chain, then some small companies could go out of business.”

Mr Cass was concerned that the combined company – which will be Britain’s biggest grocer – could seek to pressure suppliers into unfavourable terms by holding the threat of losing contracts over their heads.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Suppliers fear a 10% reduction in shop prices would harm their businesses

He cited Arcadia Group, which owns brands such as Topshop and Dorothy Perkins as an example. iIn January the firm imposed a 2% discount on all current and existing orders from suppliers due to poor Christmas sales.

On top of all these pressures, suppliers also have to contend with the fact that many retailers in the grocery industry make suppliers wait up to three months for payment.

“Surely there are other efficiencies you could make in partnership with suppliers, other than turning around and demanding a 10% discount,” Mr Cass said.

A better deal?

Sentinel Management Consultants acts as an advisor to suppliers on their negotiations with supermarkets.

It said that while some suppliers will undoubtedly be “quaking with fear” after the Sainsbury’s-Asda merger announcement, others will have more power to negotiate with the new firm than they realise.

“Suppliers need to get better at saying no,” said Sentinel boss David Sables.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption An expert says Sainsbury’s and Asda will be unable to convince major suppliers to offer more discounts

“Supermarkets don’t want to have complaints from shoppers because their favourite crisps, biscuits, coffee or soap powder have come off the shelves.”

Mr Sables said small businesses should make sure they understand their rights under the Groceries Supply Code of Practice, and also understand that supermarket chains tend to hold the threat of getting rid of suppliers as a bluff.

“There is a game being played about the demand for cheaper prices, and very often when suppliers have said no and they’re walking away, nine times out of 10 that’s the price they get the contract to supply at.”

A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman told the BBC that suppliers would benefit from the deal.

“At this stage, we are still in the early phases of our plans but we believe this is a great opportunity for suppliers as they will be able to make their supply chains more streamlined, to develop differentiated product ranges and to grow their businesses as we grow ours.

“We are also actively investing in small suppliers – we are recruiting a team which is dedicated to working with smaller and distinctive suppliers to help them bring new products to market and to handhold them through this process.”

Read More...

News

Will paying more for alcohol and sugary drinks make us healthier?

A man walks past a shop selling alcohol Image copyright Getty Images

A minimum price on alcohol is being introduced in Scotland, in a bid to cut problem drinking.

It follows the introduction of a UK-wide sugar tax, as part of measures to tackle obesity.

But does making unhealthy products more expensive persuade people to make “better” choices? And what are the trade-offs associated with doing so?

Everybody will pay more

The price increases being introduced could lead to significant health improvements, but they will be felt by everybody, not only those with the unhealthiest lifestyles.

From 1 May, alcohol will not be allowed to be sold for less than 50p per unit in Scotland, which could see a four-pack of cider cost 10% more, while a pack of 20 cans could double in price. Wales is looking at similar measures.

The UK’s tax on sugary drinks means shoppers are being asked to pay 18p or 24p more a litre, depending on just how much has been added to their drinks. The measure was introduced on 6 April.

This is happening because alcohol and sugar are associated with problems that impose a substantial cost on society.

For example, problem-drinking can lead to anti-social behaviour, crime, pressure on A&Es and increased liver disease. Excessive sugar consumption is linked to rising obesity rates, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

But alcohol consumption is concentrated among a relatively small number of people: 5% of households buy more than 30% of all alcohol.

And the government is particularly concerned about obesity among children and young people: teenagers consume more than three times the recommended amount of free sugars – those which are not naturally present in food.

The government has to consider the trade-off between potentially large improvements to public health and making everybody pay more.

Will shoppers make healthier choices?

Price increases will be most effective if the people who consume too much sugar and alcohol significantly reduce their intake.

But people respond differently to higher prices, depending on how much they like the product. And, in the case of alcohol, addiction can also be a factor.

Research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies suggests that heavy drinkers respond less strongly to price increases.

For example, if the price of alcohol increases by 1%, the percentage fall in consumption among households which buy more than 40 units per adult each week is only half as large as among those which buy fewer than eight units.

What people choose to buy instead also matters.

In the case of sugary drinks, increasing the price of a bottle of cola might work if people choose water instead.

But only some drinks, and no foods are being taxed. So, if people choose to buy a milkshake, a chocolate bar, a cake, or ice cream instead of the cola, then the impact of the tax on sugar consumption will be reduced.

It can also be difficult to know how great the impact of a price rise has been, compared with other measures.

The proportion of adults smoking halved between 1974 and 2013 – at the same time as the real rate of excise duties on tobacco more than doubled.

But higher taxes are not the only thing that affected behaviour, as awareness about the dangers of smoking also increased significantly.

More stories like this:

What will shops and manufacturers do?

The food and drink industry will react to the taxes – but not necessarily in the intended way.

In the case of sugary drinks, manufacturers can choose to change prices by more or less than the tax, which will affect how much consumption falls.

They may also change their products – a move which could make the policy more effective.

There are examples of this happening – several soft drinks companies have already reduced the sugar content of their products to avoid the tax. The sugar content of Fanta has been reduced by 30%, for example.

If people are happy to buy the reduced sugar varieties, this could be a relatively effective way of reducing the nation’s sugar intake.

And new recipes can work – voluntary targets led to a 5% reduction in the salt content of groceries between 2005 and 2011.

Money from the sugar tax will go to the government, which could use some of the tax revenue it receives to improve public health, for example by increasing funding for school sports.

However, minimum pricing per unit of alcohol is likely to create windfall profits for the manufacturers and retailers.

If the alcohol industry uses the money to increase promotions, or advertising, this could undo some of the potential benefits of the policy.


The sugar tax and minimum pricing

  • The UK-wide sugar tax took effect on 6 April
  • 18p per litre if the drink has 5g of sugar or more per 100ml
  • 24p per litre if the drink has 8g of sugar or more per 100ml
  • A sugary drink is exempt if it contains at least 75% milk
  • The Scottish Alcohol Minimum Pricing Bill takes effect 1 May
  • Minimum pricing for alcohol to be fixed at 50p a unit in Scotland

Other ways of suggesting healthier choices

Introducing taxes is only one of many options available to the government.

A lot of attention has been paid to differences in the quality of diet between different people. But there are also big differences in the same person over time.

Research by the IFS suggests that the share of calories people get from healthy food increases sharply in January and falls by 15% by the end of the year. Similarly, searches for “diet” on Google spike at the start of the year.

This suggests that if the government could persuade people to behave as they do in January for the whole year, then there could be substantial improvements in nutrition.

And “nudge” policies that encourage people to make better decisions – such as not allowing sweets and chocolates to be sold next to tills – could be used more widely.

Such policies could be effective at reducing impulse buys that people later regret.

A related idea would be adding information about the dangers of excess sugar and alcohol to food labelling, just as health warnings are placed on cigarette packets.

No easy solution

The challenges posed by obesity, poor nutrition and alcohol consumption are substantial.

All the options involve trade-offs.

The government needs to balance the potential improvements to public health against the costs to consumers.

It is likely that a whole range of policies will be needed to tackle these major public health challenges.

Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet.


About this piece

This analysis piece was commissioned by the BBC from an expert working for an outside organisation.

Kate Smith is a senior research economist at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which describes itself as an independent research institute which aims to inform public debate on economics.

More details about its work and its funding can be found here.


Charts produced by Daniel Dunford

Edited by Duncan Walker

Read More...

News

‘I learned my husband was dead on a police computer’

James and Samantha Dixon Image copyright Dixon family
Image caption Police officers James and Samantha Dixon met on the job

Heavily pregnant Samantha Dixon was scrolling through the messages on Thames Valley Police’s computer system when she read that her husband PC James “Dixie” Dixon had been killed on duty.

Even in her shock, it did not escape Mrs Dixon it was a cruel irony that she, as a police officer who supported countless families through bereavement, should herself be facing such a dreadful loss.

Her husband, who was something of a celebrity as one of the stars of the Sky One police reality TV show Road Wars, had been involved in a motorcycle crash.

The screen read PC James Dixon was “going to die or was dead”, says Mrs Dixon, who is known as PC Allen at work.

“I thought, ‘no, it won’t be him, he’s invincible’, because you always think that they are.”

Image copyright Samantha Dixon
Image caption Parker Cameron James Dixon, who was born four months after the collision, carries the initials PCJ Dixon in memory of his father

But indeed Dixie had not survived the crash in which an elderly woman, a passenger in the car involved in the collision, was also killed.

What happened sparked an “overwhelming” response – Prime Minister Theresa May even offered her condolences to the family in Parliament.

Mrs Dixon – known professionally as PC Samantha Allen – had previously been involved in roads policing and, at the time of her husband’s death, was working as a family liaison officer, helping others deal with losing loved ones.

“I went into work mode, thinking: ‘Right I have helped lots of people through this – what would I advise them? What would I do to help them now I need to help me?””

Image copyright Dixon family
Image caption Samantha Dixon still cannot quite believe her husband is dead

It took a close friend, a fellow family liaison officer, to tell her to “take your PC Allen head off and put your Mrs Dixon head on”.

After taking this advice, Mrs Dixon, from Thatcham in Berkshire, says the support from family, friends and people she didn’t even know “helped get me through”.

“There’s a lot of love out there and it sounds silly, but it carries you through it, because you think: ‘Right, if there’s that much love out there from people that don’t know us then I can do this. I can do this for them and I can do this for me and I can do this for Parker.’

“Rather than focus on everything I have lost, which is my world, I focus on Parker and everything I have got now because that way the positive emotions keep me going, whereas negative emotion would just eat you up.”

Of course that doesn’t mean that Dixie will ever be forgotten.

Image copyright Thames Valley Police
Image caption There was a big turnout for the police constable’s funeral in Pangbourne

The couple met on a first aid course about 10 years ago and “never really looked back”, getting married in February 2016.

Having the personality to be able to talk to anyone about anything made Dixie a natural when his policing team was tasked with working in front of the Road Wars cameras, she says.

Dixie and his work partner Yorkie forged a memorable partnership in the Sky 1 series and they remained close friends away from the job.

“I said when I married Dixie I also married Yorkie because he is a massive part of my life,” 35-year-old Mrs Dixon says.

“They were so natural in front of the camera and they were both good coppers.”

Image copyright Samantha Dixon
Image caption Dixie was “one of life’s legends”, according to his wife

She says that after Dixie’s death, on 5 December in Wargrave on the outskirts of Reading, she received many messages from fans of Road Wars.

“He used to talk about his Road Wars days as if they were nothing: ‘Oh I was just doing my job and there was a camera there’,” Mrs Dixon says.

“He would have been proud because some of the comments I read like: ‘I watched him on Road Wars and that’s why I became a police officer’ and ‘I watched him on Road Wars and he was such a great cop’.

“The fact he made such a difference and they didn’t actually really know him is quite humbling.”

On the day Dixie died, Yorkie had been riding alongside him, and Mrs Dixon says that it wasn’t until she was visited by him days after the crash that it “solidified” for her that Dixie was dead.

“Even actually now, to this day sometimes… I hope it’s not true,” she says.

“You do think: ‘Oh, I will wake up in a minute, this is a dream or he’s on holiday or he’s at work or whatever.'”

Image copyright Dixon family
Image caption Dixie had been excited about becoming a father

In a dreadful coincidence, Dixie died near the anniversary of the death of a close friend who had been killed on duty in the same circumstances five years before.

“You couldn’t write that two best friends would die doing exactly the same thing, in a five-year period, in almost exactly the same way,” Mrs Dixon says.

More than 500 police officers and mourners lined the streets of Pangbourne in Berkshire ahead of Dixie’s funeral in January.

“We were overwhelmed – even he would have been overwhelmed,” Mrs Dixon says, adding that her husband wouldn’t have believed the “love that was out there for him”.

“You would never normally put the term ‘amazing’ in front of a funeral, but it really was,” she says.

Five months on from her husband’s death, Mrs Dixon’s thoughts have turned to how best to inform their son about the kind of man his father was.

“You almost had to meet him to truly know how great he was, which makes me feel sad for little Parker because I can tell him until the cows come home how amazing his dad was, but he really would have to meet him to truly believe it.

“But he’s got so many aunties and uncles who will tell him exactly how his dad was, so I don’t think he’ll miss out too much.”

Read More...

News

How your diet could influence the age of your menopause

Woman eating pasta Image copyright Getty Images

A diet high in carbs could bring on an earlier menopause, a study suggests.

Eating lots of pasta and rice was associated with reaching menopause one-and-a-half years earlier than the average age of women in the UK of 51.

However, the University of Leeds study of 914 UK women, also found that a diet rich in oily fish and peas and beans may delay natural menopause.

But experts say many other factors, including genes, influence timing of the menopause.

It’s not clear how big a contribution dietary choices might make and women should not worry about changing what they eat based on the findings, they add.

Food findings

The research was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health and the women were asked what their typical diet contained.

A diet high in legumes, which includes peas, beans, lentils and chickpeas, delayed menopause by one-and-a-half years, on average.

Eating lots of refined carbs, particularly rice and pasta, was linked to menopause coming earlier by one-and-a-half years.

Image copyright Getty Images

The researchers took into account other potentially influencing factors, such as a woman’s weight, reproductive history and use of HRT, but they weren’t able to consider genetic factors, which can influence age of menopause.

The study is observational and cannot prove any cause, but the researchers offer some possible explanations behind their findings.

For example, legumes contain antioxidants, which may preserve menstruation for longer.

Omega-3 fatty acids, which are in oily fish, also stimulate antioxidant capacity in the body.

Refined carbs boost the risk of insulin resistance, which can interfere with sex hormone activity and boost oestrogen levels. This might increase the number of menstrual cycles leading to the egg supply running out faster.

Health implications

Study co-author Janet Cade, professor of nutritional epidemiology, said the age at which menopause begins can have “serious health implications” for some women.

“A clear understanding of how diet affects the start of natural menopause will be very beneficial to those who may already be at risk or have a family history of certain complications related to menopause.”

Women who go through the menopause early are at increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease, while women who go through it late are at increased risk of breast, womb, and ovarian cancers.

Kathy Abernethy, menopause specialist nurse and chairwoman of the British Menopause Society, said: “This study doesn’t prove a link with the foods mentioned, but certainly contributes to the limited knowledge we currently have on why some women go through menopause earlier than others.”

Image copyright Getty Images

Prof Saffron Whitehead, emeritus professor of endocrinology at St George’s University of London and Society for Endocrinology member, said: “It is an interesting approach to investigate the timing of the menopause but I am not yet convinced that diet alone can account for the age of the onset of the menopause. There are too many other factors involved.”

Dr Channa Jayasena, clinical senior lecturer and consultant in reproductive endocrinology and andrology at Imperial College, points out “the body’s metabolism plays an important role regulating ovulation and having periods”.

“It is tempting to speculate that this provides a recipe for delaying menopause. Unfortunately, a big limitation of these observational studies, is their inability to prove that dietary behaviour actually causes early menopause. Until we have that type of proof, I see no reason for people to change their diet.”

Read More...

News

Chvrches: How singer Lauren Mayberry became ‘the punk rock Joan of Arc of pop’

Chvrches Image copyright Danny Clinch
Image caption Chvrches (L-R): Martin Doherty, Lauren Mayberry and Iain Cook

“Sometimes I look at my lyrics and I think, ‘Are you all right?'”

Lauren Mayberry is still taken aback by the emotions that poured from her pen as she wrote Chvrches’ third album, Love Is Dead.

As the title suggests, the record deals with a gut-punching heartbreak – but it gives equal consideration to the hate and divisiveness that have dominated politics since the band last released new material.

We’re looking for angels in the darkest of skies,” Mayberry sings anxiously on the pre-apocalyptic single Miracle. “Where does all the good go?

The singer’s “frustration and confusion” at the state of the world was only exacerbated by the band’s recent relocation to the US.

“It made us go in on ourselves even more, being in that somewhat hostile atmosphere,” says her bandmate Martin Doherty.

“I don’t know,” says Mayberry. “I think I’d feel pretty pessimistic if I was living in pre-Brexit Britain, too, to be honest.

“But it’s a typically Glaswegian thing to do, to feel the most misanthropic and macabre when you’re in the sunniest place on earth.”

The band’s decision to live in New York and record in LA surprised many fans because, ever since they emerged in as pop’s premier synth band in 2012, Chvrches have refused to play by the music industry rule-book.

Mayberry challenged misogyny and abusive trolls long before the #MeToo movement caught fire, while the trio insisted on making their first two albums in the basement of synth player Iain Cook’s house in Glasgow.

“We were incredibly against any idea of outside collaboration whilst we were forming our identity,” says Doherty.

But with the band established in the charts and on festival line-ups, Cook felt they’d done enough to build “a protective armour around that core”.

The time had come to see what other writers and producers could bring to the band. But it did not go well.

“We did one session where we were bouncing ideas around,” recalls Mayberry. “A couple of well-known producers came in and kind of sprinkled a chorus on, and then they just left.

“I thought they’d just gone round the corner to get a bacon butty, but no, they’d gone. Like. ‘Boof! There’s your chorus. Goodbye’. That song did not make it any further.”

Other collaborators tried to steer the band away from their indie instincts.

“They were like, ‘Well, it’s top 40 time, isn’t it? Let’s go!’ But that was never us, really,” Doherty says.

Image caption Lauren Mayberry: “I don’t feel like a hugely angry, sad person, but I do think I soak in things more.”

More productive were sessions with Eurythmics star Dave Stewart.

“Talk about going to the source,” marvels Doherty. “I don’t want to say we’ve ripped him off, but I’m extremely influenced by him.”

Although the songs Stewart produced didn’t make the album, his unconventional techniques had a profound impact.

“Every evening he does Martini hour,” says Mayberry. “And one night, out of nowhere, he just turned around and said, ‘You know, I think that you want to be this punk rock Joan of Arc of pop music – so why don’t you just stop complaining and do it already?’

“I was shocked and mildly offended at first. But I kept thinking about it in the taxi on the way home.

“I thought, ‘I don’t know if I feel like that, but if he can see it in me, I should probably think about it.’

“That definitely unlocked something in her lyrically,” observes Doherty. “He ignited a fire and helped us find a type of creative ambition that was maybe missing in the past.”

Image copyright Dave Stewart / Facebook
Image caption The band were pictured in the studio with Dave Stewart in February 2017

With the band on a creative roll, they hooked up with Greg Kurstin – the producer behind Sia’s Chandelier and co-writer of Adele’s Hello.

They instantly felt a connection, not least because his studio was a dingy basement of “wall-to-wall keyboards” and a constant “buzz and hum of electronics”.

Mayberry says: “The special thing about Greg is he’s still a musician himself. He always wants to play and experiment. He doesn’t come in thinking, ‘I’m this guy who made this record and I have this many Grammys.'” [Five, to be exact].

Within a week, the band had recorded four songs. Impressed, they cancelled their other plans and decided to work solely with Kurstin, who captured Mayberry’s soaring soprano on the same microphone he’d recently used for Adele, Dave Grohl and Paul McCartney.

Vulnerable

“Everybody’s like, ‘Oh, it must be very intimidating to work with Greg on vocals,'” says the singer. “But he’s not thinking about technical ability, he’s looking for personality.

“Adele’s an insanely amazing singer – but it’s those rasps and cracks that give her songs such character. And ultimately, music’s all about communication, isn’t it?

“If you take all the character out of it, and you take all of the humanity out of it, it’s much harder to get emotion across.”

Love Is Dead is littered with emotions – loss, pain, confusion, anger and hope.

On Graves, Mayberry references Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose tiny body was found on a Turkish tourist beach after his family’s attempt to reach Europe by sea went tragically wrong.

They’re leaving bodies in stairwells and washing up on the shores,” she sings, before resolving: “You can look away while they’re dancing on our graves/But I will stop at nothing.”

Some of the album’s more personal songs (notably the stark, grief-stricken Really Gone) made Mayberry nervous about revealing herself in public.

“A small part of you is like, ‘Do I really want to do that in front of people? Maybe I should score it all out and write something that’s a little bit more vague,”‘ she says.

“But as a writer, if you’re not actually exploring things and being honest, then what are you doing?

“I think, sometimes, being vulnerable is harder than coming out swinging.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionChvrches perform Get Out on Sounds Like Friday Night

Still, the singer’s not afraid to come out swinging when it matters. Reflecting on the #MeToo movement, she’s sceptical that much has changed.

“It’s great that people are waking up and having that conversation, but it has to be more than a symbolic gesture,” she says.

“Yes, it’s great that you kicked Harvey Weinstein out of the Academy but Roman Polanski’s still in there, Woody Allen’s still in there, Bill Cosby’s still in there.

“People wear white roses at the Grammy Awards to show they stand with these things – but then you look at the show, and you look at the content of it, and you look at the people in the room, and you’re like, ‘Oh, nothing has changed.'”

Image copyright Danny Clinch
Image caption “I don’t know any women who were surprised by Me Too,” says Mayberry, “but a lot of men were because they didn’t realise the extent of it.”

And Mayberry knows the perils of confronting the darker side of the internet. In 2013, she published a searing column for the Guardian about the abuse that female musicians face on the internet – and received even more vitriol as a result.

When she subsequently appeared in a video wearing a dress, the singer was branded a “hypocrite”, a “slut” and a “bitch”.

“Looking back on it now, a lot of it was frustrating and it made me really angry and made me feel really lonely,” she says.

“And there were definitely points where… Not where I didn’t want to do this any more, but I was like, ‘If this is what it’s going to be like all the time, I don’t really know if I want to be that guy forever.'”

Thankfully, Mayberry is made of stern stuff. She’s not about to let trolls define her any more than the existential crisis that prompted Chvrches’ new album.

In fact, what’s really occupying her mind right now is the celebratory curry she’ll be sharing with her bandmates tonight, as a reward for finishing a tough week of promo. That prompts her to consider the really important questions.

“We always get a wee shared black dhal and I’ll probably stick to a prawn dish,” she says.

“And sometimes I will hover over a potato and then I’ll think, ‘Do I really want tatties in my curry?’

“I don’t know! Maybe I do!”

Chvrches’ new album, Love Is Dead, will be released on 25 May. They play Radio 1’s Biggest Weekend in Swansea the following day.

Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email [email protected].

Read More...

News

The Scottish island that buried America’s dead

Digging The Graves At Otranto Cemetery, Islay, Scotland Image copyright US NAtional Archives
Image caption Islanders digging the graves at the Otranto Cemetery

It is the whisky-making Scottish island, world famous for its peaty single malts and warm hospitality.

But the isle of Islay, in the Inner Hebrides, is now being recognised for an almost forgotten example of huge courage and humanity.

A hundred years ago, Islay was on the frontline in the battle at sea during World War One.

The island coped with mass casualties from two major troopship disasters just eight months apart.

Image caption The story featured on the front page of the American newspapers

Between them, the sinkings of the SS Tuscania in February and HMS Otranto in October, claimed the lives of about 700 men in the last year of the war.

Both will be officially commemorated on Islay this week.

A century ago, the island was enduring considerable pain. It had already lost about 150 sons on the Western front, from a population of just 6,000.

Image caption The American monument on Islay’s bleak Mull of Oa

Every household grieved for someone killed in a far away field. And then the carnage of war came to them.

The Tuscania had almost completed its transatlantic voyage, carrying US troops, among a convoy of ships.

As it turned into the north channel between Scotland and Ireland on 5 February 1918, danger lurked beneath the waves.

Image caption The SS Tuscania was carrying more than 2,000 US troops when it was torpedoed off Islay

A German U-boat stalked the convoy, got the Tuscania in its sights and fired two torpedoes – one of which ripped a huge gash in its side.

It was a fatal blow. The former luxury liner, converted for the war effort, would soon be on the seabed.

The Tuscania was carrying almost 2,500 US soldiers and British crew.

Incredibly, most were rescued by the Royal Navy. But some of those who made it into lifeboats were not so lucky.

They were swept towards the cliffs and rocks of Islay’s Oa peninsula and shipwrecked for a second time.

Image caption The troops were shipwrecked off the island’s Oa peninsula

Private Arthur Siplon was thrown into the sea when his lifeboat capsized.

“He thought he was going to die,” his youngest son Bob told me.

“But at last he grabbed hold of a rock and when the sea receded he managed to hang on and climbed to the shore.”

Image caption Arthur Siplon was rescued from the sea by two Islay farmers

Private Siplon was rescued by one of two Islay farmers who risked their own lives pulling men to safety.

Robert Morrison and Duncan Campbell gave food and shelter to dozens of survivors and were later awarded the OBE.

I have reason to feel particularly proud of Duncan Campbell because, while researching this story, I discovered that he was my great, great uncle.

Image caption Duncan Campbell was Glenn’s great, great uncle

Bob Siplon knows that he and his family would not exist if his father had not found help on Islay.

“It’s like the actions of those people 100 years ago ripples through time to affect me 100 years later.

“It tells me that what we do makes a difference” he said.

This was a massive disaster for a small island to manage. In 1918, Islay had no electricity, no air service and few motor vehicles.

Image copyright US National Archives
Image caption The funeral on Islay of 199 American soldiers who were victims of the Otranto disaster

The civil authority on this almost crime-free island was a police sergeant on a bicycle, called Malcolm MacNeill.

Sgt MacNeill and his three constables had to recover, identify and bury the remains of almost 200.

Image caption Sergeant Malcolm MacNeill was the police sergeant on the almost crime-free island

His grandson – former Nato secretary general, Lord Robertson – considers their task on a scale comparable with recent terrorist attacks.

“This is like Lockerbie (air disaster) or 7/7 or even 9/11 occurring in a small community.

“A huge event taking place with deaths, bodies, survivors – the calamity that was involved”.

Image copyright US National Archives
Image caption The funeral of the American soldier victims of the Otranto disaster was attended by all the locals

Despite their trauma, the islanders worked tirelessly to bury the dead with dignity.

They did not have an American flag for the funerals, so a small group of locals hand-stitched one from the materials they had – working late into the night.

That flag has been preserved by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, which is sending it home on loan to Islay for the centenary.

Image caption The US flag made by Islay locals is in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC

The Smithsonian’s Jennifer Jones is impressed by the care the islanders showed for the American soldiers washed up on their shores.

“It was very heartfelt, that people went out of their way to respect those who had recently lost their lives” she said.

Islanders pulled together to respond to the Tuscania sinking.

What they could not know is that this was only a preparation for a much bigger disaster to come.

Like the Tuscania, HMS Otranto was carrying US troops across the Atlantic in a convoy when disaster struck.

But it wasn’t an act of war that sank the Otranto on 6 October 1918, within weeks of the armistice. It was a navigational error in a storm.

Image caption The HMS Otranto was carrying US troops across the Atlantic when disaster struck

As the convoy approached the west coast of Scotland in near hurricane conditions, there was confusion over their exact position.

The Otranto was rammed by another ship in the convoy – HMS Kashmir – which ripped its steel hull wide open.

The Kashmir and the rest of the convoy sailed on, under orders not to give assistance for fear of U-boat attack.

Image caption HMS Kashmir rammed into the Otranto and ripped its hull wide open

Despite the ferocious weather, the Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Mounsey came to the rescue under the command of Lieutenant Francis Craven.

“In my viewpoint, Captain Craven was a real hero. Perhaps the real hero of the event” said Chuck Freedman, whose grandfather, Sam Levy, was on the Otranto.

Lieutenant Levy was among almost 600 soldiers who successfully jumped for their lives on to the deck of the Mounsey.

Image copyright US National Archives
Image caption Funeral of the victims of the Otranto at Kilchoman on Islay

Many others tried and failed and were crushed to death between the two ships.

By the time the Mounsey left the scene there were still hundreds of men aboard the sinking Otranto.

Their best hope was to be swept towards one of the beaches on Islay’s Atlantic coast. But that wasn’t to be.

Image copyright US National Archives
Image caption Searching in the wreckage for bodies of victims of the US troopship Otranto

The Otranto was lifted by a huge wave and dumped down onto a reef that broke its back and tore the ship to pieces.

Only 21 men made it ashore alive.

Some were pulled from the sea by members of Donald-James McPhee’s family.

They were shepherds and used their crooks to reach survivors – the length of their staffs, the distance between life and death.

But this was largely a recovery operation with bodies piling up along the coast.

Image copyright US National Archives
Image caption American soldiers laid out for burial in the churchyard at Kilchoman

“It must have been so sad for them to see that” said Mr McPhee.

“Waking up in the morning to a normal day’s work and hundreds of dead bodies by the evening. It must have been horrendous.”

Sergeant MacNeill painstakingly recorded the details of every body washed ashore, in a notebook which now has pride of place in the Museum of Islay life.

Many of the victims were from the US state of Georgia, which is planning its own commemorations later this year.

Image caption Sergeant MacNeill painstakingly recorded the details of every body washed ashore

Some of the 700 victims of the Otranto and Tuscania disasters were never found.

The majority were buried on Islay.

After the war, the remains of the American soldiers were exhumed and returned home.

Image caption Only one US serviceman is buried on Islay
Image caption A monument was erected the year after the disaster

Only one American – private Roy Muncaster – is still on the island. At the request of his family, he was left to rest where the people of Islay buried him.

In 1918, the Tuscania disaster represented the biggest single loss of US military lives since the American civil war.

Image caption Islay’s rugged coastline was a difficult place to be shipwrecked

The sinking of the Otranto accounted for some of America’s heaviest losses at sea during the 1914-18 war.

Yet the stories of these ships are not well known – lost perhaps in a century of Islay mist.

There is a large lighthouse-shaped memorial on Islay’s bleak Mull of Oa.

But when I was growing up on the island, the troopships were rarely talked about.

That’s changing. Today, every child at my old school – Bowmore primary – is learning about them.

On Friday 4 May, Princess Anne will lead commemorations on Islay to mark the centenary of these twin tragedies.

These events will honour those who lost their lives and honour what the people of Islay did for those in peril on their shores a hundred years ago.

Islay: For Those In Peril is on BBC1 Scotland at 19:00 on Tuesday 1 May, with further screenings on the BBC News Channel on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 May.

Read More...