Of those who voted Conservative in 2017, 53 per cent intend to vote for the Brexit party in the EU elections on 23 May, according to a YouGov poll. Brandon Lewis, the Conservative party chairman, said: ‘As a government, our first priority is not to have to fight the EU elections,’ adding that there was still time to cancel them if parliament approved the Brexit withdrawal agreement reached by Theresa May, the Prime Minister. Labour’s National Executive Committee agreed party policy should be to hold a referendum (with a question yet to be decided) if it could not get changes to the government’s deal or precipitate a general election. The Conservatives said they always expected to do badly in this week’s local elections. Natural England, the conservation authority, suddenly revoked three general licences for controlling wild birds after a legal challenge by the campaigning group Wild Justice, co-founded by the BBC’s Chris Packham. Police reopened investigations into 450 patients who died after being given opiate drugs at Gosport War Memorial Hospital between 1989 and 2000.
Cabinet ministers were told to hand over their mobile phones as part of an inquiry by Sir Mark Sedwill into a leak from a meeting of the National Security Council that revealed opposition to the Prime Minister’s determination to consider a role for the Chinese company Huawei in the development of 5G communications. America would have to re-evaluate intelligence sharing with any country that took the ‘unacceptable risk’ of allowing Huawei any such role, according to Rob Strayer, of the US State Department. Police in England and Wales began to use forms giving consent for the investigation of the mobile phones of those complaining of some serious offences, including rape. Figures showed there were 732 murders or manslaughters in England and Wales last year, the most since the 765 in 2007.
Damian Green, in a report for the Centre for Policy Studies, proposed that social care should be like the state pension, with a flat-rate ‘universal care entitlement’ funded by taxes (with perhaps a 1 per cent addition to National Insurance for the over-50s), which patients could supplement from their own funds. Four Seasons Health Care, with 17,000 residents and patients, went into administration. Debenhams announced the 22 stores it is closing, which include those at Canterbury, Guildford and Southport. Sainsbury’s nudged back ahead of Asda as Britain’s second biggest grocery chain with 15.4 per cent of sales over 15.2 per cent; the merger of the two had been disallowed days earlier by the Competition and Markets Authority.
Sri Lanka made illegal the wearing of face-coverings, in response to the bombings on Easter Day now thought to have killed about 250. Mass was cancelled last Sunday as a precaution, but people gathered to pray outside St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, where 50 had died. The government said that three men cornered in a terror group safe house set off explosives which killed themselves, three women and six children; three other men were shot dead. Islamic State released a video of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who had not been seen in public since 2014. Iranian state television took off the air Be a Winner (which offers prizes of a billion rials, about £18,000) after a fatwah against such shows was imposed by Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem-Shirazi. The Indian army tweeted photographs of yeti footprints in the snow.
There was violence in Venezuela as the opposition leader Juan Guaidó tried to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro. Emperor Akihito of Japan, 85, abdicated in favour of his son Naruhito, 59. Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, travelled by armoured train to Vladivostok, where he had a meeting with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on Russky Island. Norwegian fishermen released a beluga whale from the harness it was wearing, which bore the words: ‘Equipment of St Petersburg.’
Germany’s two biggest banks, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank, dropped their plans to merge. Rod Rosenstein resigned as the US deputy attorney general; he had overseen the special counsel inquiry into Russian involvement in President Donald Trump’s campaign. President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines said he would go to war with Canada unless it took back 2,450 tons of plastic waste illegally shipped out in 2013 and 2014. French courts have imposed 447 fines for ‘outrages sexistes’ since a law was passed in August against the harassment of women. CSH