Half fall ill after surfing or swimming in British water

More than half the people who have gone wild swimming or tried water sports in British seas and rivers have fallen ill, a survey has found.

Ben Webster www.thetimes.co.uk 

The report commissioned by the charity Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) found that a fear of being exposed to contaminated water deterred 52 per cent of people from entering the water. Awareness of the threat has grown rapidly in the past year.

Of the 22 per cent that have tried wild swimming, surfing or other water sports, 55 per cent have fallen ill.

In the past two years, SAS has received more than 640 reports of illness, including ear and eye infections and diarrhoea, from people who have been in the sea or rivers.

The reports were submitted by the charity’s Safer Seas & Rivers Service, an app that delivers water quality alerts based on information from water companies about sewage discharges and Environment Agency forecasts of agricultural pollution.

Storm overflows operated by water companies resulted in 372,533 sewage spills last year in England and Wales, down from 403,171 in 2020. Water companies are allowed to release sewage in exceptional circumstances, such as after heavy rain, but last year 675 overflows spilt sewage 100 times or more.

More than half (55 per cent) of the 2,000 people surveyed said funding for improvements to sewage infrastructure to reduce pollution should come from water companies’ profits.

Susan Moate, 38, who swims in the River Ouse near her home in Lewes, East Sussex, said she became ill in 2020 with severe ear infections that her doctor attributed to swimming in the river.

“Since then I have avoided putting my head underwater when I swim, but I don’t want to give up altogether,” she said. “It’s such a shame so little is being done to combat sewage pollution.”

Matthew Harle, 29, an aeronautical engineer from Bristol, said he went surfing at Sandymouth Bay, Cornwall, in January and was violently sick that night. He believed the source of the infection was agricultural pollution.

The Environment Agency rates the bay as having “excellent” water quality. However, SAS said there was a loophole in the water regulations.

Hugo Tagholm, the chief executive of SAS, said: “The public are fearful about swimming due to the amount of raw sewage being discharged and believe the water industry must cut this crap.”


Tory imperial measures plan ‘utter nonsense’ and will add costs, says Asda chair

Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit plan to bring back imperial measurements is “complete and utter nonsense”, according to Asda chair Stuart Rose.

Adam Forrest www.independent.co.uk 

In a scathing attack, the Conservative peer said the push to boost the use of pounds, ounces and other outmoded weights and measures would only “add cost” and confusion to businesses.

“I’ve never heard such nonsense in my life,” Lord Rose told Times Radio on Thursday, branding it a “backwards” step aimed at pleasing nostalgic voters.

“I mean, we have got serious problems in the world and we’re now saying let’s go backwards. Does anybody in this country below the age of about 40 know how many ounces there are in a pound?” the Asda chief asked.

Lord Rose said the government was pushing ahead with the plan “just to actually please a small minority of people who hark for the past. It’s complete and utter nonsense and it will add cost to those people who have to put it into place.”

The former boss of Marks & Spencer added: “I am shocked. It’s one thing having a crown on your pint glass, which is a bit of fun and a bit of nostalgia. It’s quite another having a whole dual system of weights and measures.”

The government is set to consult industry on how to reintroduce imperial units in Britain after quitting the EU, with ministers expected to officially announce the move today to coincide with the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

The idea has already faced criticism from the Tory backbenches, with Rutland and Melton MP Alicia Kearns branding it “a nonsense”. Labour has accused Mr Johnson of trying to “weaponise nostalgia”.

Last week, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis claimed voters and businesses would be “pleased” that the government was set to open the door to greater use of imperial units.

But the British Retail Consortium (BRC), the umbrella body representing the big supermarkets, has warned that the move could be “distracting” and costly at a time when food chiefs were trying to tackle inflationary pressures during the cost of living crisis.

Ministers have argued that it would give the likes of greengrocers and pub landlords greater choice over running their businesses, as well as bringing “national culture” back into shops.

Mr Lewis said that, while the policy was “light-hearted”, there were many people who “want to go back” to using pounds and ounces, and measures such as yards and miles.

The EU weights and measures directive came into force in 2000, with traders legally required to use metric units for sale by weight or the measure of fresh produce.

It remains legal to price goods in pounds and ounces, but they have to be displayed alongside the price in grams and kilograms.

The consultation, which is being coordinated by the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), could change those stipulations, allowing traders to choose how they price fresh items.

The Independent understands that there will not be a move away from metric units, but the consultation will look at where it makes sense to incorporate or switch to imperial measurements such as feet and yards, and pints and gallons.

A Tory minister struggled to convert imperial measurements during an interview on Sky News earlier this week, despite Downing Street claiming the system is “universally understood”.

Arts minister Stephen Parkinson gave incorrect answers when Kay Burley asked him to convert ounces and grams into pounds.

Tory candidate won’t say if she wants Neil Parish’s help

The Conservative candidate for this month’s Tiverton and Honiton by-election has refused to say whether she would like the support of disgraced former MP Neil Parish.

Joe Ives, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk (Extract)

In an interview last week Mr Parish, who resigned in April after he admitted to watching pornography in the House of Commons, said he would be “very happy” to campaign for the Conservative candidate Helen Hurford if she wanted his help.

But Ms Hurford won’t say whether she would like his support.

Mr Parish has said he is willing to take as visible a role in the campaign as Ms Hurford and the Conservative party wish.

Right now, that appears to be nothing.

Meet the Tiverton by-election voters ditching Tories over Boris Johnson’s ‘lies’

Voters on the streets of Honiton – part of the Tiverton and Honiton by-election – have told the Mirror how they are preparing to ditch the Tories.

The Tiverton and Honiton by-election is one of two crunch polls on June 23 that could decide Boris Johnson’s future – and if these voters are anything to go by, he should be very worried indeed.

Follow this link for details.

Update: Politico London Newsletter’s take on the Mirror interviews:

HONITON HORROR SHOW: The Mirror’s Ben Glaze has a strong piece from Honiton, the Lib Dem-facing by-election the Tories are staring down later this month. Glaze found that voters are deserting the Conservatives. Betting shop manager Julie Garland said: “I voted Tory before but I’m not voting Tory on June 23. I will read up on the others to see what they have got to offer.” And nursery assistant Naomi Bowman added: “Me and my mum have always voted Conservative but the way he has been lately we have changed our opinions — mainly because of the parties. And I was completely disgusted about Neil Parish watching pornography — it was outrageous. I think I will vote Lib Dem.”

Devon’s proclivity to vote for alternative candidates should favour Lib Dems

Will the Conservatives lose the Tiverton and Honiton by-election?

Who will win the Tiverton and Honiton by-election? The seat, in Devon, is held by the Conservatives and its towns have voted Tory in every general election since the 1880s. It is now, however, being talked up as a probable gain for the Liberal Democrats — evidence that against a backdrop of partygate revelations and the cost-of-living crisis, no seat is safe for the Conservatives. Whether or not those predictions will be proved correct on 23 June is yet to be seen, but let’s talk about likelihoods for a moment.

Ben Walker sotn.newstatesman.com 

North Shropshire — held by Owen Paterson, the former Tory cabinet minister, until he resigned after a lobbying scandal — went Lib Dem on a significant swing in December 2021. I didn’t predict that: the seat voted Leave, has above average levels of deprivation and didn’t have much in the shape of a Lib Dem presence before the by-election. The timing proved excellent for an insurgent campaign, however, especially as the contest came just as partygate was beginning to grab the headlines. It was, in a way, the perfect storm. It showed that the Lib Dems, once confined to graduate-heavy Remainia in 2019, could win in leafy, Leave-voting, semi-deprived constituencies perceived to be left behind by the incumbent Conservatives — seats a world away from, say, Richmond Park in west London. My analysis was blown to bits.

As I say, North Shropshire didn’t have much in the shape of a Lib Dem ground campaign before the by-election, and that makes me somewhat sceptical that the party will be able to hold it come the next general. But Tiverton and Honiton does. In fact, while North Shropshire has had few close-run races over the decades, Tiverton and Honiton has had plenty. In 2021 local elections nearly 80 per cent of the wards in North Shropshire voted Conservative. In Tiverton and Honiton, in 2019, more than half the seats up voted Liberal Democrat or independent.

A proclivity to vote for alternative candidates, be they local independents or opposition parties, appears more evident in Tiverton and Honiton than it does in North Shropshire. This should favour the Lib Dems in this by-election, doubly so given the national mood music is more intense and despairing of No 10’s present occupant than it was in December 2021.

Tiverton and Honiton’s voters have form for opting for alternatives, and may just be as willing to vote Lib Dem in a by-election as, say, Richmond Park or South Cambridgeshire. The trouble for the Tories at present is not confined to Blue Wall or Red Wall: it’s everywhere, wall or not.