British PM Johnson, Sunak Fined Over COVID-19 Lockdown Parties

In this file photo taken on February 07, 2022, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (R), wearing face coverings to mitigate the spread of Covid-19, react as they attend a visit of the Kent Oncology Centre at Maidstone Hospital, in Maidstone, as part of a tour in Kent.(Photo by Gareth Fuller / POOL / AFP)

 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered a “full apology” on Tuesday after being fined for breaching Covid-19 lockdown laws in the so-called “Partygate” scandal, but looked set to defy calls for his resignation.

Embattled finance minister Rishi Sunak and Johnson’s wife Carrie will also be fined, as the political storm following revelations of a swathe of lockdown-busting parties in and around Downing Street threatens to engulf Johnson once more.

“Let me say immediately that I’ve paid the fine and I once again offer a full apology,” Johnson said during televised remarks.

READ ALSO: Ukraine War Pushes World Food Prices To Record High

Johnson’s office said his fine was for attending a surprise birthday gathering in his honour on the afternoon of June 19, 2020 in the Cabinet Room at Number 10.

The prime minister said the event lasted around 10 minutes, and denied that he had lied about not knowingly breaking the law, saying: “In all frankness at that time, it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules.

“But of course the police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation,” he added.

The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Keir Starmer, swiftly called for the two most senior members of the government to resign.

“Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak have broken the law and repeatedly lied to the British public,” Starmer tweeted.

“They must both resign. The Conservatives are totally unfit to govern. Britain deserves better.”

However, Johnson said he now wanted “to get on and deliver the mandate that I have”, and early signs were that his MPs were currently sticking with him.

A ‘Government In Crisis’ 

Johnson was left fighting for his political survival earlier this year after several lawmakers from his ruling Conservative Party withdrew their support for his leadership over the affair.

An unknown number of Conservative MPs submitted letters calling for a no-confidence vote in Johnson’s leadership.

If the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee receives such letters from 54 of Johnson’s 360 MPs, it would spark a confidence vote.

The leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, called for parliament to be recalled from its Easter recess for a confidence vote.

“This is a government in crisis neglecting a country in crisis,” Davey tweeted.

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had eased the political pressure on Johnson, with MPs seemingly reluctant to trigger a leadership amid an international crisis.

Conservative MP Roger Gale, one of those earlier calling for Johnson’s head, said on Tuesday that now was not the time to “unseat” the prime minister, as this would bolster President Vladimir Putin.

“It’s serious of course,” Gale said.

“But… I am not prepared to give Vladimir Putin the comfort of thinking that we are about to unseat the prime minister of the United Kingdom and destabilise the coalition against Putin.

“So any reaction to this is going to have to wait until we have dealt with the main crisis which is Ukraine and the Donbas,” he said, referring to the eastern Ukrainian region where Moscow is now concentrating its assault.

 Johnson ‘Broke The Law’

London’s Metropolitan Police earlier announced they had issued more than 50 fines over the parties, without disclosing the number or identities of those being fined.

Bereaved families of victims of the Covid pandemic also called on Johnson to resign.

Lobby Akinnola, spokesman for Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, said Johnson and Sunak “broke the law” and “took us all for mugs.

“There is simply no way either the prime minister or chancellor can continue… Their dishonesty has caused untold hurt to the bereaved,” he said.

“They have lost all credibility with the wider public, which could cost lives if new variants mean restrictions are needed in the future.”

London police are still investigating claims that Johnson and government officials organised and attended at least a dozen boozy events in 2020 and 2021 that violated Britain’s then-strict virus curbs.

Johnson has already apologised for the parties, which included Christmas celebrations and a drink-fuelled gathering the evening before Prince Philip’s funeral.

The prime minister initially denied any rule-breaking events had occurred in the complex where he lives and works, and he consistently rejected any suggestion of personal wrongdoing.

But his opponents accused him of having misled parliament by insisting the Downing Street events were work-related and within the rules.

AFP

Leader Of Tanzania’s Main Opposition Party Arrested

(FILES) In this file photograph taken on March 14, 2020, Tanzania’s Chadema Party chairman Freeman Mbowe (C) gestures as he arrives at the party’s headquarters after being released from Segerea Prison in Dar es Salaam. (Photo by Ericky BONIPHACE / AFP)

 

The leader of Tanzania’s main opposition party Chadema and other members were arrested early Wednesday ahead of a planned conference to demand constitutional reforms, the party said.

Freeman Mbowe and 10 Chadema members were rounded up in the dead of night in the northwestern port city of Mwanza, it said on Twitter.

“We condemn the repression of the rights of Tanzanians with the strongest force. These are signs that the dictatorship that existed during the rule of President John Magufuli continues,” the party charged.

“Freeman Mbowe was accosted by an army of police officers in his hotel when he arrived at 02:30 am and was arrested together with other leaders,” it said.

While the other Chadema members were taken to Mwanza police station, there was no information about Mbowe’s whereabouts.

“We want the police to come out and say where the chairman is and why he was arrested,” Chadema said.

– ‘Cannot continue with old order’ –

The arrests come four months after Tanzania’s first female President Samia Suluhu Hassan took office in March following the sudden death of her predecessor Magufuli.

There have been high hopes that Hassan would usher in a change from the autocratic rule of her predecessor, who was nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his uncompromising leadership style.

The arrests took place after Mbowe vowed to go ahead with a meeting on constitutional reforms despite Mwanza provincial authorities banning public gatherings to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We cannot continue with the old order,” Mbowe said in a video published on Twitter on Monday, dressed in a red shirt and beret.

“We have the right to meet but are arrested, beaten, accused and taken to court for two to three years and then freed.

“If they want to arrest all members of the Chadema party, let them first expand the jails because we are all ready to be arrested and will not request bail.”

In April, Hassan had reached out to the opposition and vowed to defend democracy and basic freedoms in the East African country, which had seen a slide into autocratic rule under her predecessor.

In November 2020, several top opposition leaders including Mbowe were briefly detained after calling for mass protests against what they charged was a rigged election that returned then president Magufuli to power for a second term.

The deeply Covid-sceptic Magufuli died in March of what the authorities said was a heart condition but his political opponents insisted he had coronavirus.

Tanzania was long seen as a haven of stability and democracy in an otherwise volatile neighbourhood, but alarm grew over Magufuli’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

AFP

Neymar Laughs Off Reports Of New Year’s Party For 500

Paris Saint-Germain's Brazilian forward Neymar looks on during the UEFA Champions League group H football match between Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Istanbul Basaksehir FK at the Parc des Princes stadium in Paris, on December 9, 2020. FRANCK FIFE / AFP
FRANCK FIFE / AFP

 

Neymar laughed off controversy Thursday over reports he was throwing a mega New Year’s party for 500 guests, posting a video online of preparations for what he called a “low-key dinner” with family and friends.

The superstar footballer has faced a flood of criticism in his native Brazil and beyond over reports that despite the coronavirus pandemic he was ringing in 2021 with a week-long bash for hundreds of people at his mansion outside Rio de Janeiro.

However, he took to Instagram several hours before midnight to show his New Year’s Eve plans, which he described as small-scale.

The 28-year-old Paris Saint-Germain striker posted a video of a dinner table that appeared to be for about 40 guests, decked out with white flowers and an empty chair between each place setting.

READ ALSO: Manchester United Eye Premier League Summit After Liverpool Stumble

“Marvelous decoration for this beautiful, low-key little dinner at home, with social distancing,” he said.

“And it’s not for 500 people, ok?” he added with a laugh.

“Social distancing. Everyone tested,” he wrote in a caption.

Earlier, he posted videos of himself and his nine-year-old son getting what he called his “50th test” for the new coronavirus.

Neymar, who hasn’t played since injuring his ankle against Lyon on December 13, had previously avoided commenting on reports about his supposed party in the seaside town of Mangaratiba.

Rio de Janeiro state prosecutors have opened an investigation into the reports.

They said Neymar denied on Thursday hosting any party in Mangaratiba, according to news site G1.

The footballer has reportedly traveled to Santa Catarina state in southern Brazil to ring in the New Year there.

His press office did not immediately respond to questions from AFP on his plans.

Brazil has the second-highest death toll in the pandemic, after the United States, with nearly 195,000 people killed by Covid-19.

Grenade Blast Kills Five At Sudan Wedding

 

A grenade detonated by a member of Sudan’s security forces at a wedding party in the capital Khartoum killed himself and four other people, police said late Monday.

It was not immediately clear whether the detonation in the impoverished east Khartoum district of Haj Youssef was accidental or deliberate.

The health ministry said 40 people attending the marriage were also injured.

The security situation in the capital remains fragile after last year’s uprising that led to the ouster of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April following months of protests against his rule.

AFP

Infantino Condemns ‘Idiots’ For Ruining Copa Libertadores Party

FIFA president Gianni Infantino/ AFP

 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino lamented that “idiots ruined the party” for everyone after the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final was moved to Madrid following fan violence.

The match between Buenos Aires arch-rivals Boca Juniors and River Plate was originally scheduled for November 24 at River’s Monumental stadium but was postponed after Boca players were injured when their team bus was attacked by home fans throwing projectiles.

“I was here last Saturday,” Infantino said at a  press conference at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires. “It was a sad moment for everyone. It is a football match. It is not a war, not even a battle.”

“We have to work to find out who are the people to blame. You have to identify them and get them out (of football),” said Infantino.

“I hope this does not happen any longer,” he said. “This story must mark the end of one chapter and the start of a new one.”

South American football’s governing body Conmebol on Thursday confirmed that the match would be played on December 9 at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

“All the leaders of G20 are interested in football and they see the potential of football,” Infantino said. “Football is the only truly global sport.”

Merkel’s Party Warns Competition ‘Impossible’ Against Facebook

FILE PHOTO German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a joint press conference with the Danish Prime Minister at the Chancellery in Berlin. MICHELE TANTUSSI / AFP

 

A leading politician from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative party warned Monday that Facebook’s dominance makes competition “impossible”, joining a broadside against the social network from Berlin.

“Facebook has reached a critical mass that makes competition impossible,” Christian Democratic Union (CDU) lawmaker and digital policy spokesman Thomas Jarzombek told Bild, the country’s biggest-selling newspaper.

The MP believes “people only use social networks if their friends are already members” — a tall order for any new competitor to the Silicon Valley giant with its more than two billion users worldwide, around 30 million of them in Germany.

Jarzombek argued that members of different social networks should be able to communicate with one another by sending messages, friend requests or photos and videos without signing up to every service — just like customers of different mobile operators can call, text or send data to one another.

Recent revelations about millions of Facebook users’ data being harvested by British political communications firm Cambridge Analytica have stoked Germans’ habitual distrust of social networks to fever pitch.

Justice and Consumer Protection Minister Katarina Barley earlier this month labelled the firm a “network of intransparency” where “ethical convictions have fallen victim to commercial interests”.

Germany’s competition watchdog said in March it was investigating Facebook for “abusive” collection and use of data from sources outside its network, pointing to information gathered via “like” buttons embedded on other publishers’ webpages.

The Federal Cartel Authority could order the California company to change its terms of service in Germany or ban it from certain activities, but would not inflict a fine.

A Berlin court ordered Facebook to change some of its privacy settings and terms of use, including a rule requiring people to use their real names.

Judges found it was not giving people enough choice about how their data is used.

And a new law that came into force on January 1 requires social media giants to remove hate speech and other illegal content within 24 hours, or risk fines of up to 50 million euros ($57 million).

AFP

PDP Remains The Only Relevant Party In Our Polity – Ologbondiyan

PDP’a National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan

About three years after being defeated by the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Party remains the only relevant party in Nigeria’s political sphere, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, has said.

Ologbondiyan said this on Thursday when he appeared as a guest on Channels Television’s Politics Today.

“PDP remains the only relevant party in our polity today,” he said while refuting claims that the party feared a possible coalition ahead of the 2019 general elections.

This comes two days after former President Olusegun Obasanjo advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek a second term in office.

In a scathing statement, Obasanjo told the President not to toy with the patience of Nigerians and urged him to in a dignified way dismount from the horse (seat of power).

But the PDP’s spokesman is of the view that his party cannot be compared with the APC.

According to him, his party has requisite experience of almost two decades that could be put to bear in revive Africa’s most populous nations of the numerous woes bedeviling the country.

In view of this, he appealed to Nigerians to give them a second chance as the party had learned from its past mistakes, which led to its defeat in 2015.

He added, “Having learned from its mistakes, it is offering itself to Nigerians and it has assured Nigerians that it would present to them credible candidates that understand Nigeria from which Nigerians can elect to govern them between 2019 to 2023.”

While supporting the former leader that Buhari should join the league of former Nigerian leaders, the party strongly kicked against the idea of forming a coalition of some other parties.

“It would be absolutely misplaced to draw a conclusion that we should begin to create a new party today. Is that going to help our polity? It is not going to strengthen our democracy and that is the position of the Peoples Democratic Party,” he said.

APC Has Not Been Able To Develop Into A Party – Abati

Reuben Abati

A former Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Reuben Abati, has described the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as a party that has not been able to develop into a party.

He stated this while appearing on Channels Television’s Politics Today.

Abati, who is also a former Chairman of the Editorial Board of Guardian Newspapers blamed the APC for failing to keep to its electoral promises to Nigeria before assuming power.

“It is unfortunate the APC has not been able to graduate, to develop into a party per se. It is still a party of disparate interest, conflict,” he said.

“It is a party that continues to implode within a lot of intrigues, with a lot of suspicion. What you are likely to have in 2018 is the possibility of the APC, many of those intrigues that have been managed carefully coming to the fore.

“On the other hand, you could also have the APC coming together as a stronger party in an attempt to hold onto power. But all of those dynamics, of course, the question to ask is how does it serve the interest of Nigeria?” he asked.

The former Guardian boss also explained that for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to wrestle power from the ruling APC in 2019, it must first address the ‘internal contradictions’ within the party.

He added, “With the many challenges that the PDP administration has had, the PDP looks like it stands a good chance in 2019. But it may be sabotaged by its own internal contradictions and I had called for an attempt o address those internal contradictions frontally.”

Zimbabwe’s Ex-Army Chief Named Ruling Party VP – Official

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Photo: Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP

Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Saturday named the former army chief who led a coup that ended Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule, as one of his two deputies in the ruling party, the presidency said.

Presidential press secretary George Charamba said in a statement, retired general Constantino Chiwenga and long-serving state security minister Kembo Mohadi were appointed as Mnangagwa’s deputies in the ZANU-PF party “with immediate effect.”

AFP

New Leader For Macron’s Party As Honeymoon Fades

EU Door Stays Open To UK Until Brexit Concluded - Macron
Credit: politico.eu.com

Emmanuel Macron’s party named a new leader Saturday as the French president faces the first rebellious grumblings in the 19-month-old movement that swept him to power.

Christophe Castaner, a smooth-talking, ultra-loyal government spokesman, takes the helm of Republic on the Move (LREM) six months after Macron won the presidency in a sensational upset for French politics.

Macron’s handpicked favourite, Castaner is a former Socialist MP who joined the 39-year-old’s centrist, pro-European campaign early in his run for presidency.

“It’s not a dream, it’s not an ambition, it’s a chance, an honour, it’s a duty,” Castaner said, as he promised not to be “the leader of the movement”, but an “organiser, a facilitator”.

Castaner, 51, was elected unopposed via a show of hands at LREM’s party congress in the eastern city of Lyon, to the irritation of some grassroots members of what Macron called a “citizens’ movement”.

The new party chief — who admitted he had not been “dreaming” of the unpaid job — struck a humble tone as he accepted a three-year term, telling party members: “Your vote gives me no rights, only responsibilities.”

After widespread grumbling in private, a small group of 100 followers went public this week with an open resignation letter that claimed the party had no internal democracy and was consumed by political scheming.

– ‘Contempt and arrogance’ –
The anonymous rebels said in the letter that LREM was guilty of “contempt and arrogance”.

The complaints are one of a number of challenges faced by Macron, who needs a support base as he battles opponents including trade unionists opposed to his labour reforms and leftists who accuse him of favouring the rich with his tax policies.

Even senior figures admit that, since tasting glory over the summer with a membership that swelled to more than 350,000, the party has stagnated.

Some party activists criticised the decision to use a show of hands to elect Castaner, arguing it would pressure voters into toeing the line.

LREM will be vital for Macron at the local and regional level in France, where future elections for mayors and councils offer him the chance to push his pro-business agenda to “transform” France.

– ‘Movement not completely matured’ –
Launched simply as En Marche (On the Move) in April 2016, it was a hugely effective electoral force with its thousands of volunteers who knocked on doors, flocked to rallies and distributed leaflets.

Many were drawn to Macron’s promise to do politics differently, with local committees invited to brainstorm and contribute to the party’s manifesto.

Macron’s rise to the presidency — and subsequent parliamentary elections in June in which En Marche won a hefty majority — marked a break in decades dominated by the traditional left and right.

Both the mainstream Socialists and rightwing Republicans are currently leaderless.

Speaking anonymously, one government minister said Castaner was what LREM needed to get through its growing pains, as someone who is both close to Macron and on good terms with ordinary party faithful.

“The movement has not completely matured,” the minister said.

“We need to let the leaders emerge — those who are already in the government and parliament — and the best person to get them to emerge is Castaner.”

Castaner’s appointment will prompt a mini re-shuffle early next week as he will have to step down as government spokesman.

PDP Moves To Reconcile Aggrieved Members

Ekiti Election: Olusola Urges Aspirants To Support PDP

As part of its efforts to remain in power after the 2019 General Elections, the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in Delta State is on the move to reconcile with aggrieved members of the party.

Preaching the gospel of unity in the political party at an event in Obiaruku in Ukwani Local Government Area of the state, the party leadership made promises, giving the people a sense of belonging.

About a week earlier, over 14,000 supporters of the former National Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party, Ali Modu Sheriff decamped to the state opposition party the All Progressives Congress (APC).

READ ALSO: Sherriff Supporters In Delta State Defect From PDP To APC

At the reconciliation meeting, thousands of supporters from the Sherrif faction of the party in the state led by Mr Fred Okologbo showed solidarity to the PDP.

Ken Okologbo, who is also the leader of this group is optimistic that the decision to remain in the party will further foster peace and unity among party members

“Before now, a lot of us have been marginalized and that was why some of them opted to leave the party. Ukwani is a very important local government for the party and we are ready to give our party the support we need to win our elections,” he said.

The State party chairman, Mr Kingsley Esiso reiterates the party’s commitment to accommodate women in the forthcoming local government elections.

“I have directed that for the purpose of the forthcoming local government elections, women must be given three slots of the position for councilors for every local government”

The move by the PDP in the state towards reconciling aggrieved members is a clear indication that the party is ready to accommodate everyone for the purpose to win all elections come 2019.

Fire Kills At Least 13 In France Birthday Party

Fire-Kills-13-In-France-Birthday-PartyAt least 13 persons have died in a fire incident that occurred during a party in Northern France.

Reports say the fire started from the candles on a birthday cake at the early hours of Saturday and left six others injured with one critically wounded.

French authorities say dozens of firefighters were called to the fire which occurred at the Cuba Libre bar in Rouen.

Investigation into the matter has begun while the incident has been dissociated from terrorism.