Tony Blair, the former prime minister, opposed a referendum on membership of the EU. In a speech at Sedgefield he said that, following the Scottish referendum, David Cameron, the Prime Minister, knew ‘the perilous fragility of public support for the sensible choice’. Opinion polls following a television debate by seven party leaders, which drew an audience of 7.7 million, were inconsistent. Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party, was held to have made a mark, while Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru, and Natalie Bennett polled at between 2 and 5 per cent. Nigel Farage, the leader of Ukip, was seen to sweat profusely. He had said that there were ‘7,000 diagnoses in this country every year for people who are HIV positive’ and that ‘60 per cent of them are not British nationals’, yet they could ‘get the retro-viral drugs that cost up to £25,000 per year’. Ms Bennett later floundered during an interview on Radio 4’s Today when asked about a planned manifesto pledge to give every person in Britain £72 a week.
Nicola Sturgeon denied she had said ‘she’d rather see David Cameron remain as PM (and didn’t see Ed Miliband as PM material)’. The claim came in a memo of a briefing by -Pierre-Alain-Coffinier, the French consul-general in Edinburgh, on a meeting between Ms Sturgeon and the French ambassador. Mr Miliband, the leader of the Labour party, said these were ‘damning revelations’; Mr Cameron said the remarks were ‘a widely held view’. The memorandum, from the British government’s Scotland Office, was published by the Daily Telegraph. Two men who spent £9 building a boat out of foam insulation and old bits of wood were rescued by a lifeboat 200 yards off the Essex coast.
In NHS hospitals in England, between January and March, 91.8 per cent of patients were seen within four hours, the worst performance since a target of 95 per cent was set at the end of 2004. The National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies looked forward to an outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant blood infection affecting 200,000 and killing 80,000. Information on all passengers leaving Britain even by train is to be collected for the Home Office. Royal Dutch Shell said it was to buy the BG oil and gas exploration company for £47 billion. Over Easter, burglars broke into safe deposit boxes in Hatton Garden, London, stealing perhaps £200 million of jewellery. A boxer-Staffordshire cross called Leo jumped up looking for biscuits and turned on a kitchen stove, setting fire to a house in Peckham.
Shia Houthi rebels fought for Aden while Saudi aircraft bombed their positions. The Islamic State in Syria and the Levant took control of the ruined streets of the Damascus suburb of Yarmouk, formerly home to 112,000 Palestinian refugees, where the 18,000 people remaining had been besieged by the Syrian government for two years. In Iraq, the bodies of 1,700 Shia soldiers were exhumed after the city of Tikrit was regained from the Islamic State, which was blamed for having massacred the soldiers in June 2014. Four al-Shabab Islamist gunmen killed 148 students at Garissa University in Kenya, many of them after they had been identified as Christians; the day-long attack took place while the authorities hesitated to intervene. Three days later Kenyan jets bombed al-Shabab camps in Somalia.
Greece, which was due to repay €448 million to the International Monetary Fund this week, said that Germany owed it €278.7 billion in reparations for its occupation during the second world war. Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister then flew to Moscow for talks. The Orel, a Russian nuclear submarine, caught fire in a naval shipyard at Severodvinsk on the White Sea. Poland is to build a string of 160ft observation towers along its 120-mile border with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. In Zhangzhou, south-eastern China, 800 firemen fought a huge blaze in a paraxylene plant. Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, said that China was building artificial land in the South China Sea by pumping sand on to live coral reefs and paving them over with concrete.
Argentina said it would prosecute oil companies operating near the Falkland Islands. FedEx, the American parcel delivery company, said it was buying TNT, its Dutch rival, for $4.8 billion. A Dutch court jailed Willy Selten for two-and-a-half years for selling 300 tons of horsemeat labelled as beef. Police in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh said they had killed at least 20 men suspected of smuggling red sandalwood. CSH