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Monday briefing: Conservatives routed in EU elections


Top story: Lib Dems finish second to Brexit party

Good morning – Warren Murray here on the morning after the vote that wasn’t supposed to happen.

The Brexit party and Liberal Democrats have trounced the Conservatives and Labour at the European elections, which we are continuing to cover live this morning. The Lib Dems have undergone a spectacular revival of their fortunes, soaking up pro-remain voters to overtake the Tories in Theresa May’s Maidenhead seat, and placing first in Jeremy Corbyn’s north London base of Islington.

Overnight, Nigel Farage’s Brexit party won 28 seats, with the Lib Dems in second on 15 seats. Labour held 10, having lost seven; the Green party held seven, a gain of four; and the Tories were languishing in fifth place with just three seats. The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, said Labour must now radically readdress its Brexit policy and campaign for a second referendum. The party was wiped off the EU map in Scotland. Jeremy Corbyn promised Labour would “reflect on these results on both sides of the Brexit divide”.

On the continent, the 40-year grip of the two main centrist political groups looked broken as voters turned out in record numbers to bolster radical alternatives. There was not the expected Eurosceptic surge but populists were on track to take more seats than ever before. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally narrowly beat Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche in France. The Greens jumped from 52 MEPs in 2014 to around 70, almost doubling their result in Germany from the previous election to leapfrog the Social Democratic party (SPD) into second place with 22%, exit polls suggested.

Here are the full EU election results across the UK. The anti-Islam candidate Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) won only 2.2% of the vote and snuck out of the election count in central Manchester barely an hour after he arrived, claiming he had lost because of a social media ban orchestrated by “the establishment”.

Hard-Brexit hopefuls warned – Frontrunners to replace Theresa May are being warned that Tory MPs are prepared to trigger a general election if the next PM backs a no-deal Brexit. Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab have suggested they would be prepared to crash Britain out of the EU, while Michael Gove and others have signalled they would seek a deal while keeping a hard Brexit on the table. Gove has described himself as having the “eye for detail” and “conviction” to become prime minister and take Britain out of the EU.

Pensioners at work – Nearly half a million people are still working at age 70 or over. It translates to one in 12 people aged in their 70s, whereas 10 years ago it was one in 22. “Many are actively looking to top up their pension savings while they still can but there is also a growing understanding of the many health and social benefits that come with working into retirement,” said Stuart Lewis, who finds work and volunteering opportunities for over-50s. But Catherine Seymour, head of policy at Independent Age, said it coincided with nearly two million people living in “pensioner poverty”. “Many people who are now working in their late sixties and seventies are doing so out of necessity to pay the rent, heat their homes and afford their weekly shop,” she said. Stephen Clarke from the Resolution Foundation said people should be allowed to draw on their pension pots while continuing to work.

Antibiotic alarm – Rivers of the world from the Thames to the Tigris are awash with dangerously high levels of antibiotics, potentially fuelling the immunity of deadly bacteria to the lifesaving drugs. The Thames, generally regarded as one of Europe’s cleanest rivers, and some of its tributaries are contaminated by a mixture of five antibiotics, the largest global study on the subject has found. The researchers say even low concentrations of antibiotics in the environment can drive the evolution of resistance and increase the likelihood of resistant genes being transferred to bacteria that affect humans.

Sunshine in a bottle? – No peer-reviewed journal to cite here, but a top UK genetic scientist has declared that people in Britain should be taking vitamin D supplements in lieu of getting enough sun. “Today, because I knew the sun wasn’t going to shine, I took an extra one,” said Professor Steve Jones from University College London. Speaking at the Hay festival, he said diseases like rickets were making a comeback, partly because “children today spend an hour a day less outside than they did 10 years ago. That’s the smartphone and the tablet situation.” Jones said the benefits of sunshine and vitamin D were felt across health areas from obesity and mood to blood pressure, kidney function and lower risk of multiple sclerosis. “[Vitamin D] is really, really important stuff. The evidence that the shortage of sunlight has drastic effects on health is overwhelming.”

Today in Focus podcast: The US crusade against abortion

Alabama is one of 15 US states that have passed an abortion ban. Although none of the bans have come into effect, the aim is to place pressure on Roe v Wade, the court decision that enshrined a woman’s legal right to an abortion. The Guardian’s US health reporter, Jessica Glenza, discusses her meeting with Janet Porter, the religious extremist who inspired the anti-abortion laws. And: Serena Daniari on trans women finding their voices.

Lunchtime read: Let’s kill Bin Laden!

Sitting in a glass case is an ice axe with a rust mark from a bloodied fingerprint. “I hear it always. I hear the scream,” said Ramón Mercader on his deathbed – he had buried the axe in Leon Trostky’s head in 1940. “I know he’s waiting for me on the other side.” This extraordinary remnant of Stalin’s murderous rule eventually found its way into the International Spy Museum, which has just opened in Washington DC, with 10,000 artefacts going on display.

Collector H Keith Melton with the ice axe used to kill the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky
Collector H Keith Melton with the ice axe used to kill the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. Photograph: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Also among them, poison-tipped umbrellas, a shoe with a bug in the heel, and exhibits on some of the great spies of history like Mata Hari and Sidney Reilly (supposedly the real James Bond). More unsettlingly, the boarding pass of a 9/11 attacker is displayed, and there’s a Guantánamo-style waterboarding kit. The deadly raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistan hideout is the subject of an interactive exhibit. Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election also gets a mention: “Details of Russian attacks continue to emerge,” the museum observes, adding ominously, “The story is still unfolding.”


Lewis Hamilton believed he felt Niki Lauda was with him as he drove to a hard-fought victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, during which Sergio Pérez said he came close to running over a marshal when accelerating out of the pits during the race – “What was wrong with those marshals?” he said over the radio. “I nearly killed him.” Roger Federer saw off Lorenzo Sonego in his first appearance at the French Open since losing at the quarter-final stage in 2015 while, in the women’s draw, Venus Williams and the three-times major champion Angelique Kerber exited in the first round.

The England fast bowler Mark Wood is confident he will be fit to take part in the Cricket World Cup after he pulled up sore after one ball of his fourth overduring the warm-up match against Australia. Katarina Johnson-Thompson destroyed her personal best and beat a world-class field in Austria by 337 points at the world’s most prestigious heptathlon event. And Khaldoon Mubarak has responded angrily to Javier Tebas, accusing the La Liga president of “hypocrisy”, with the Manchester City chairman also claiming jealousy among rivals is driving them to try to smear the club.


Shares have been mixed in Asia in the absence of fresh news on the tariffs standoff between the US and China. US markets will be closed for the Memorial Day holiday. The Nikkei advanced after visiting president Donald Trump said he expects a deal with Tokyo on trade after a Japanese election in July. There have been falls on the Hang Seng, Kospi in South Korea, in Singapore and on the S&P ASX 200. The Shanghai Composite and Taiwan were higher. The dollar is sitting at $1.273 and €1.135 while the FTSE is tracking for a higher open.

The papers

The “emphatic victory” of Nigel Farage’s Brexit party and humiliation of the Tories and Labour have been splashed all over Monday’s front pages. The Times leads with “Farage surge sends main parties into meltdown” with a photograph of the beaming party leader front and centre. The Mail splashes has a picture of Boris Johnson and Farage nose to nose and the headline: “Farage plunges dagger; knives out for Boris” as it warns Johnson’s “no-deal stance” could lead to government collapse.t we voted for”, while the Guardian’s focus is on the rise of smaller parties: “Tories and Labour savaged as voters take revenge over Brexit”. The Telegraph leads on the disgraced Conservative party, with the headline: “Farage humiliates Tories in EU poll”.

The i splashes with “Voters turn against Tories and Labour”. The FT has: “Hammond warns Eurosceptics vying to lead the UK on perils of a no-deal Brexit”. The Sun splashes on “the world’s ex-fattest man” but notes in passing “Farage Euro poll triumph”. The European editions can be found here.


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