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MI5 chief Ken McCallum warns of danger of foreign coronavirus-inspired attack on UK

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mi5 chief ken mccallum warns of danger of foreign coronavirus inspired attack on uk

Britain’s enemies could carry out a coronavirus-inspired bioterror attack, the new head of MI5 warned yesterday.

Ken McCallum said the UK’s adversaries will have taken note how the global pandemic has ‘turned the world upside down’ – and could try to make weapons from deadly viruses in future.

In his first speech since taking over as MI5’s director-general, he said Britain is facing a ‘nasty mix’ of threats which were becoming ‘more diverse and in some ways difficult to spot’, and that state-backed hostile activity was on the rise.

The spy chief said Russia is ‘providing bursts of bad weather’ but China is more fundamentally ‘changing the climate’ – and claimed MI5 would step up its response to the Communist state.

Britain's enemies could carry out a coronavirus-inspired bioterror attack, the new head of MI5 warned yesterday (stock picture)

Britain’s enemies could carry out a coronavirus-inspired bioterror attack, the new head of MI5 warned yesterday (stock picture)

Mr McCallum, 45, a Glaswegian who has spent 24 years at MI5, said the possibility of a bioterror attack had been a threat for a generation – but that the devastating effects of coronavirus could spark ideas in Britain’s enemies.

He said: ‘I wouldn’t want to be transmitting a message today this threat is now immediately upon us, neither would I want to be transmitting a message of complacency that that couldn’t happen.’ He said MI5 had carried out ‘anticipatory research’ and built defences against possible ‘terrorist interest in biological agents’ and other materials.

A security source added: ‘Terrorists would love to replicate the mayhem caused by Covid’, but said MI5 has no intelligence that other countries are developing bio-weapons at this time.

Mr McCallum’s comments came amid warnings about the security of labs that develop and research deadly pathogens.

Ken McCallum (pictured) said the UK's adversaries will have taken note how the global pandemic has 'turned the world upside down' ¿ and could try to make weapons from deadly viruses in future

Ken McCallum (pictured) said the UK’s adversaries will have taken note how the global pandemic has ‘turned the world upside down’ – and could try to make weapons from deadly viruses in future

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commander of the UK’s chemical and biological defence regiment, said containment laboratories handling deadly pathogens should be policed.

He added: ‘Deadly viruses could be stolen, or escape, from a research laboratory. The ability to manipulate viruses is becoming more available to despots and terrorists and people who want to create terror.’

In his speech outlining a range of threats facing Britain, Mr McCallum revealed how MI5 plans to step up its response to Chinese spying in Britain and told of the worrying rise in Right-wing terrorism – with eight plots thwarted by the spy agency since 2017.

He warned that more youngsters were being attracted to the cause. Mr McCallum, who became MI5 chief in April, said his spies had been helping to combat coronavirus by refocusing research on toxic chemicals to see how the virus could be dispersed in droplet form.

Mr McCallum, 45, a Glaswegian who has spent 24 years at MI5, said the possibility of a bioterror attack had been a threat for a generation ¿ but that the devastating effects of coronavirus could spark ideas in Britain's enemies (stock picture)

Mr McCallum, 45, a Glaswegian who has spent 24 years at MI5, said the possibility of a bioterror attack had been a threat for a generation – but that the devastating effects of coronavirus could spark ideas in Britain’s enemies (stock picture)

Medically-qualified MI5 officers also stepped away from their duties to support the NHS.

He added his staff were helping to ‘protect the integrity’ of the UK’s vaccine research, warning of Russian disinformation to try to undermine the credibility of Western jabs. The spy chief said MI5 is defending against threats to Britain’s economy, research and infrastructure.

Mr McCallum, who studied mathematics before joining MI5, did not go into detail about what the Security Service could do more of when it came to tackling the threat from China.

Prior to becoming the chief of the spy agency, he was in charge of all counter-terror investigations in the run-up to and during the 2012 London Olympics.

Extremists switch to new targets

By Defence and Security Editor for The Daily Mail 

Terrorists are hunting for fresh targets because there are fewer crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

New MI5 chief Ken McCallum warned that ‘online living’ had meant more opportunities for cyber hackers seeking to exploit the crisis.

He said the Security Service had been ‘rapidly adapting’ how it works to keep the country safe during the outbreak where there have been ‘near-empty streets’.

In a virtual speech, he said: ‘The big shifts in everyone’s lives – reduced travel, more online, and the rest – mean shifts in how our adversaries are operating. Fewer crowds mean terrorists look at different targets –online living means more opportunities for cyber hackers, and so on.

‘Equally, 2020 has demanded shifts in how MI5 itself has to operate… common sense will tell you that covert surveillance is not straightforward on near-empty streets.’

He also told how the agency had started using artificial intelligence to wade through evidence and spot images of ‘guns and Islamic State flags’. Mr McCallum also told how Britain’s spies had been helping to tackle coronavirus in a number of ways.

He said: ‘We’ve sought where we can to help on Covid itself – advising on the safe construction of Nightingale hospitals, repurposing research originally done on toxic chemicals to help understand how Covid in droplets might disperse in certain environments [and] offering our skills in data analytics and modelling.’

He said much of the help simply involved allowing medically-qualified MI5 officers ‘to step away from their duties and directly support our NHS’.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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Coronavirus UK: Lung cancer referrals plunged by 75% during first lockdown

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coronavirus uk lung cancer referrals plunged by 75 during first lockdown

Lung cancer referrals plummeted by up to 75 per cent during the ‘catastrophic’ first lockdown, a report has revealed.

Experts said one in three people with lung cancer has died since the beginning of the pandemic amid waits for life-saving treatment.

They warned that some of the deaths may have been mislabelled as Covid-19 because a cough is a key symptom of both diseases.

The study also estimated that the delays to diagnosis, treatment and tests during lockdown could lead to 1,372 avoidable deaths in the next five years.

The report by the UK Lung Cancer Coalition warned that ‘the catastrophe that is the Covid-19 pandemic’ is likely to reverse improvements in survival rates made over the past 20 years.

Lung cancer is the UK’s most deadly cancer, killing 35,300 each year – more than breast and bowel cancer combined.

Experts said one in three people with lung cancer has died since the beginning of the pandemic amid waits for life-saving treatment (file photo)

Experts said one in three people with lung cancer has died since the beginning of the pandemic amid waits for life-saving treatment (file photo)

Referrals for the disease have been the hardest hit out of all cancers, partly because people with a cough have been told to stay at home.

Experts said this means those with lung cancer are not going to their GP and are therefore being diagnosed at a later stage, significantly damaging their survival chances. The report added: ‘GPs are likely to misdiagnose early lung cancer symptoms as Covid-19 because of the large number of Covid-19 cases.’

It said that in some areas referrals by GPs to lung cancer specialists fell by 75 per cent during the peak of the outbreak in spring. 

Professor Sir Mike Richards, former national cancer director, said: ‘There is a specific problem for lung cancer, which is the overlap of symptoms with Covid-19.

‘Some patients may develop cough symptoms and be told to stay at home until their symptoms get worse. This has resulted in an increase in late stage presentations.’

Professor David Baldwin, respiratory medicine consultant at the University of Nottingham, said: ‘At least a third of patients with lung cancer have already died since the beginning of the pandemic. Some deaths will not have been recognised as lung cancer and may have even been labelled as Covid-19.’ 

The report said that patients have faced potentially deadly delays for diagnosis and surgery since March.

Prompt referrals from a GP to hospital for a scan are crucial for lung cancer survival chances.

The study also estimated that the delays to diagnosis, treatment and tests during lockdown could lead to 1,372 avoidable deaths in the next five years (file photo)

The study also estimated that the delays to diagnosis, treatment and tests during lockdown could lead to 1,372 avoidable deaths in the next five years (file photo)

But many services were halted for three months or more during lockdown. Meanwhile thousands of cancer patients had chemotherapy or surgery postponed.

The report also found that more than half of lung cancer specialist nurses or their team members were redeployed or unable to work as a result of Covid-19.

It said: ‘Delays of only a few months can have significant implications for the chances of a patient to receive a potentially curative treatment.

‘With studies showing a 16 per cent increase in mortality if the time from diagnosis to surgery is more than 40 days, a delay of three months or more can mean the progression from a potentially curative tumour towards one that is only suitable for palliative care.’

It added: ‘It is estimated that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic could lead to an additional 1,372 deaths due to lung cancer, reversing the progress achieved in lung cancer over recent years.’

The Department of Health urged people to come forward if they have lung cancer symptoms.

Found, key to spotting your risk of needing treatment for Covid-19

A simple clinical tool that accurately predicts a person’s risk of needing hospital care or dying from Covid-19 has been created by Oxford experts.

The ‘landmark’ mathematical model could help devise a targeted shielding programme.

It found the 5 per cent of the population most at risk account for three quarters of Covid deaths. This suggests that protecting them – by regularly testing people they meet regularly, for example – would slash the death rate while letting the rest of society return to normal.

The QCovid algorithm was developed using data from more than eight million patients at GP practices during the first wave, including age, ethnicity, obesity and existing illnesses.

Meanwhile, a study from the University of Edinburgh in the journal PLOS Medicine showed care home residents had a Covid risk 21 times higher than the general population. 

Men’s was 63 per cent higher and heart disease patients had twice the risk. 

It also challenged the idea that ‘all are at risk’ regardless of age, showing 84 per cent of severe or fatal cases in under-40s had been in hospital in the previous five years or given medication within 240 days.

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Met Police apologise to black mother after officers made ‘racist assumptions’ when she was attacked

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met police apologise to black mother after officers made racist assumptions when she was attacked

A black woman who was punched to the ground and stamped on by a gang of seven white men has claimed police made ‘racist assumptions’ about her and fellow victims – sparking a renewed investigation into the vile attack.

Niyad Farah, 38, who is of Somali heritage and was born in Wales but moved to London 13 years ago, was with two friends when the men launched their assault outside a 24-hour convenience store in north west London on December 22 last year.

The gang shouted racist abuse before physically attacking them, and the police categorised it as racially motivated grievous bodily harm with intent – just one down from murder. 

Ms Farah, who works for a charity that helps ex-prisoners, was kicked unconscious in the attack and taken to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, where she was treated for head injuries and extensive bruising. 

Niyad Farah, 38, who is of Somali heritage and was born in Wales but moved to London 13 years ago, was with two friends when a group of seven white men launched their racist assault outside a 24-hour convenience store in north west London on December 22 last year

Niyad Farah, 38, who is of Somali heritage and was born in Wales but moved to London 13 years ago, was with two friends when a group of seven white men launched their racist assault outside a 24-hour convenience store in north west London on December 22 last year

Ms Farah, who works for a charity that helps ex-prisoners, was kicked unconscious in the attack and taken to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, where she was treated for head injuries and extensive bruising (pictured)

Ms Farah, who works for a charity that helps ex-prisoners, was kicked unconscious in the attack and taken to St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, where she was treated for head injuries and extensive bruising (pictured)

Ms Farah, who works for a charity that helps ex-prisoners, was kicked unconscious in the attack and taken to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, where she was treated for head injuries and extensive bruising (pictured)

She claims that while she was being questioned in hospital, a constable asked her if she was ‘buying anything off’ her attackers and appeared to think this was a drugs deal gone wrong.

Ms Farah approached BBC Newsnight in January alleging the Met’s investigation had been seriously flawed and accused the police of making racist assumptions about her and her friends. 

The Metropolitan Police has now reopened the investigation and apologised to the victims, following a probe by the programme.

Ms Farah told Newsnight she was punched to the ground and dragged into a doorway next to the shop.

Ms Farah claims that while she was being questioned in hospital, a constable asked her if she was 'buying anything off' her attackers and appeared to think this was a drugs deal gone wrong

Ms Farah claims that while she was being questioned in hospital, a constable asked her if she was ‘buying anything off’ her attackers and appeared to think this was a drugs deal gone wrong

‘I was like being stamped on… I was just curled up on the floor,’ she recalled.

‘I was thinking, “My son’s not going to have a mum.” And… I’m going to be dead.’ 

In a report airing tonight (Wednesday 21 October), BBC Newsnight found that officers failed to recover CCTV, find witnesses, or even to take statements from the victims. 

The Met denies racist assumptions were made about the victims, but has apologised for failing the women and said its investigation is being reviewed ‘to ensure that we identify any organisational learning’. 

Newsnight asked a senior former police officer to review the case. Robert Quick has 32 years of experience investigating violent crime. 

Ms Farah approached BBC Newsnight in January alleging the Met's investigation had been seriously flawed and accused the police of making racist assumptions about her and her friends. Pictured after the attack

Ms Farah approached BBC Newsnight in January alleging the Met’s investigation had been seriously flawed and accused the police of making racist assumptions about her and her friends. Pictured after the attack

Police categorised the attack as racially motivated grievous bodily harm with intent – just one down from murder. Pictured: Ms Farah's head wound

Police categorised the attack as racially motivated grievous bodily harm with intent – just one down from murder. Pictured: Ms Farah’s head wound

He is former head of specialist operations at the Met, and before that was Chief Constable of Surrey Police.

Mr Quick told the programme that if the constable had asked whether the women were buying drugs from their attackers, ‘that does imply the officers at the scene were working on some sort of assumption that they either knew the perpetrators or were in some way engaging with them, maybe buying drugs or whatever’. 

‘If that’s true, then that’s inexcusable,’ he added. ‘The police absolutely have a duty to be objective and not to jump to conclusions.’

The women believe racist assumptions undermined the police investigation but the Met denies the claim.

In a statement, the Met said: ‘This line of questioning should not be considered as an officer making any assumptions or doubting the account given by a victim, and we refute any suggestion that this is what happened in this case. 

Ms Farah (pictured) and the other women believe racist assumptions undermined the police investigation but the Met denies the claim

Ms Farah (pictured) and the other women believe racist assumptions undermined the police investigation but the Met denies the claim

Ms Farah (pictured) and the other women believe racist assumptions undermined the police investigation but the Met denies the claim

‘Our officers always keep an open mind as to the circumstances of any attack and must build an understanding of the facts.

‘From a very early stage, this was treated as a serious racially aggravated assault committed by people unknown to the victims.’

Beyond this question, Newsnight’s investigation found that the police investigation was hampered by a series of serious, basic mistakes.

For nearly two weeks after the attack, no effort was made to recover CCTV, no witness statements were taken, even from the three women who had been attacked, and no effort was made to trace a dark-coloured van associated with the men.

By the time the police tried to recover CCTV from shops in Kilburn Lane in early January, footage had been recycled – overwritten by new material.

In a report airing tonight (Wednesday 21 October), BBC Newsnight found that officers failed to recover CCTV, find witnesses, or even to take statements from the victims. Pictured: Ms Farah now

In a report airing tonight (Wednesday 21 October), BBC Newsnight found that officers failed to recover CCTV, find witnesses, or even to take statements from the victims. Pictured: Ms Farah now

Ms Farah said she was angry that the Met failed to take a statement from her until February – two months after the attack. 

No statements from the other two women attacked – both witnesses – have ever been taken.

Mr Quick told Newsnight the Met’s response had been ‘woeful’, adding:  ‘This was an attack of extreme violence… and it was about compounded by racial motivation, the evidence of which is clear. It had the potential to really impact on community confidence.’

In response to Newsnight’s investigation, the Metropolitan Police has apologised to the women. A spokesperson said the incident ‘should have been escalated and prioritised at an earlier stage’.

The Met said: ‘There was a delay in the necessary follow-up enquiries being made just after the incident, and this hindered the subsequent investigation.

‘This shouldn’t have happened, and we are sorry for letting the victims in this case down. This was an appalling attack which should have been investigated with greater urgency.’

Watch the full story on BBC Newsnight, BBC Two at 10:45pm tonight, and after that on BBC iPlayer.

This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk

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BBC chairman claims over-50s think it is full of liberals while younger people believe the opposite

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bbc chairman claims over 50s think it is full of liberals while younger people believe the opposite

Over-50s think that the BBC is stuffed with Islington liberals while students believe it is part of the Right-wing establishment, the corporation’s chairman has admitted.

Sir David Clementi spoke about the age-related ‘bias’ accusations he claims are hampering the national broadcaster during an online event.

He said research revealed that about a quarter of the BBC audience thought it leant to the Left, while slightly less thought it leant to the Right.

‘But the interesting thing about it, is it is very age related,’ he said. ‘Once you get over 50 there are a significant number of people who are convinced that we all live in Islington… they’re convinced of it.

‘But if you speak to a younger generation they occasionally think we are part of the establishment and we lean to the Right.

Sir David Clementi, who is leaving his post as BBC Chairman in February, has said accusations of bias vary depending on the age of critics and claims they are hampering the corporation

Sir David Clementi, who is leaving his post as BBC Chairman in February, has said accusations of bias vary depending on the age of critics and claims they are hampering the corporation

‘When I was up in Salford earlier this year giving a speech… after the speech six or seven young students came up to me to berate me on the BBC’s performance in the December election, which they said had been so heavily biased towards the Conservatives they couldn’t believe it.’

He told the virtual event, held by campaign group the Voice of the Listener & Viewer: ‘There is a very big age-related issue around the matter of impartiality.

‘We take it seriously and getting letters from two people both arguing in different directions that we’ve failed doesn’t prove that we are right. But we work incredibly hard at it.’

Sir David, who is leaving his post in February, also admitted that the corporation ‘can do more’ to cover more upbeat news on its services, adding that there ‘never is a moment for a news bulletin of pure negativity’.

There have been claims that during the Covid-19 crisis it has not done enough to try to lift people’s spirits in its news coverage.

The BBC chairman warned that any moves to ‘diminish’ the broadcaster would be ‘an extraordinary act of self-harm’.

His comments come as the Government prepares to make major decisions about the BBC’s future including the next licence fee settlement and a decision on whether to decriminalise evasion of the licence fee.

Sir David said his successor as BBC chairman should be selected by an ‘open’ and ‘fair’ competition. He said it would be good if it was someone with a ‘genuine interest’ in content on radio and television.

Last month it was reported that Boris Johnson had offered the job to Charles Moore, ex-editor of The Daily Telegraph. Lord Moore has since ruled himself out.Among the names linked to it are former chancellor George Osborne, ex-culture secretary Baroness Morgan and former No 10 communications director Sir Robbie Gibb.

So when will the Beeb make a drama about a venal, lying LABOUR politician?

By Simon Walters for the Daily Mail

The following Tory politician may well sound familiar.

He is a shameless adulterer, has at least one illegitimate daughter, fell out with another, boasts he is a ‘character’, loves posing for ‘selfies’ with the public, says it is time to put Brexit ‘in the past’, and wants to depose a female Tory Prime Minister who despises him as much as he despises her.

There are no prizes for those who read the above and thought of Boris Johnson.

But every detail also applies to fictional Conservative politician Peter Laurence, played by Hugh Laurie in Roadkill, the BBC’s new blockbuster drama series.

Hugh Laurie stars as Peter Laurence, a Conservative politician who is also a shameless adulterer who boasts he is a 'character' in the new BBC drama Roadkill in what Simon Walters describes as a 'thinly disguised anti-Boris hatchet job' as he says the BBC is now left-leaning

Hugh Laurie stars as Peter Laurence, a Conservative politician who is also a shameless adulterer who boasts he is a ‘character’ in the new BBC drama Roadkill in what Simon Walters describes as a ‘thinly disguised anti-Boris hatchet job’ as he says the BBC is now left-leaning

Of course, it is possible that their extraordinary similarity is simply mere coincidence.

But given that the show’s author is veteran champagne socialist Sir David Hare and the film was broadcast by our left-leaning national broadcaster, I think not.

To give Sir David some credit, in a lame attempt to provide cover for his thinly disguised anti-Boris hatchet job, he has made Laurence more suburban than our Etonian leader.

He’s also relegated his show’s lead character to the rank of a Cabinet minister, not Prime Minister.

And for good measure, he’s even thrown in the characteristics of two other notorious Right-wingers hated by the Left.

Take the opening scene of the drama’s first episode, where Laurence emerges from court having lied his way out of a libel dispute with a Leftie journalist.

Such a scene could be taken straight from the real-life scandal of ex-Tory Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken, jailed in 1999 for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

And secondly, in place of Johnson’s plummy vowels, Laurence speaks with the spivvy blokeishness of Nigel Farage.

After watching just one episode, it’s eminently clear that Roadkill is in the mould of the greatest modern political TV drama of all, House of Cards, first broadcast in Britain in 1990.

Like Roadkill, it was based on actual events: The fictional villain in House of Cards, Tory chief whip Francis Urquhart, played by Ian Richardson, will stop at nothing to succeed Margaret Thatcher as Prime Minister, including murder.

Episode 2 of Roadkill, starring Hugh Laurie (pictured) is available to stream on BBC iplayer

Episode 2 of Roadkill, starring Hugh Laurie (pictured) is available to stream on BBC iplayer

However, unlike Laurence, for all his evil Urquhart – famous for his sinister ‘You might think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment’ catchphrase – was not based on any particular contemporary politician. In fact, the same goes for many of the small screen’s most illustrious political dramas.

In America’s much-lauded The West Wing, for example, even though the President is a Democrat, viewers aren’t repeatedly hit over the head with a political sledgehammer Hare-style.

Instead, they are allowed to draw their own conclusions about him and his policies. Yet in Roadkill, it is spelled out loud and clear almost from the first frame that Johnson – sorry, Laurence – is an evil Conservative.

To remove any doubt that it is set in the here and now, Laurence says – during the kind of radio phone-in that Johnson revelled in as London mayor – ‘You have to forget about Brexit, it’s in the past now.’

It could have been taken straight out of Downing Street’s handbook for ministers: ‘Stop promising to “get Brexit done” – it’s been done already.’

And of course, no Hare drama about the Tories would be complete without a gratuitous dig at Thatcher, whom he once accused of ‘barbarism’.

Sure enough, Roadkill’s imperious Prime Minister Dawn Ellison, played by Helen McCrory, wears Aquascutum powder blue suits, and is introduced scoffing with contempt at rich Tory donors after they cough up £200,000 for the Conservative coffers at a No 10 drinks reception.

Predictably, the identity politics of today’s Left also make an appearance.

How else are we to explain the fact that more or less every white male character is portrayed as bad, while almost every ethnic minority one – from Laurence’s black barrister to his imprisoned illegitimate mixed-race daughter – are supposedly good?

Suffice to say that the plot of Roadkill is as unsubtle as the title: We are expected to believe that wily Laurence would agree to go to a female prison to suddenly meet someone claiming to be his illegitimate daughter; meanwhile the alcoholic Irish journalist on his case is determined to prove Laurence is involved in an Anglo-US plot to sell off – yes, you’ve guessed it – the NHS.

Shortly afterwards, when Laurence is told of a riot at the prison, he mutters he hopes there have been ‘deaths’, presumably his daughter among them. Could it be any more obvious that this Tory is supposed to be a baddie?

Helen McCrory, pictured, is at her best playing PM Dawn Ellison in her Aquascutum powder blue suits, and is introduced scoffing with contempt at rich Tory donors after they cough up £200,000 for the Conservative coffers at a No 10 drinks reception in the BBC's Roadkill

Helen McCrory, pictured, is at her best playing PM Dawn Ellison in her Aquascutum powder blue suits, and is introduced scoffing with contempt at rich Tory donors after they cough up £200,000 for the Conservative coffers at a No 10 drinks reception in the BBC’s Roadkill

Judging from episode one – I have not seen the rest – I wouldn’t be surprised if Laurence is caught out in another business conspiracy, this time involving the jail where his illegitimate daughter is imprisoned.

Or perhaps Laurence’s sordid ‘Jack the Lad’ days in Notting Hill a few decades ago will be used to drag in the Windrush immigration scandal. I wouldn’t bet against it.

No doubt every type of anti-Boris and anti-Conservative trope will be trotted out by Hare before the four-part series reaches a predictably anti-Tory climax.

As the Tory MP Andrew Bridgen put it, ‘If they did the same for a Left-wing character it would probably be classed as a hate crime.’

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