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US hospital infant deaths linked to bacteria formed in preparation of donor breast milk

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The preparation of donor breast milk has been linked to the deaths of three babies at a Pennsylvania hospital, officials said on Friday.

Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania, about 110km north of Harrisburg, discovered the infection in July.

The infection was caused by pseudomonas bacteria, which grow in water.

Three babies died and five others fell ill over a two-month span after the discovery, according to a hospital spokesman.

All of the infected babies were born prematurely.

Preparation error

“We have concluded that the exposure came from the process we were using to prepare donor breast milk,” said Edward Hartle, Geisinger executive vice president and chief medical officer.

Specifically, the exposure came from equipment used to measure breast milk, which “helps premature infants with their nutritional needs,” Hartle’s statement read.

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“Since September 30, we have changed this process, and have been using single-use equipment to measure and administer donor breast milk,” Hartle said.

“We have had no new cases of infants becoming ill from pseudomonas in the (neonatal intensive care unit) since making this change.”

No written policy

The Pennsylvania Department of Health visited Geisinger Medical Center on October 18 and cited the hospital for not having a written policy for cleaning the measurement equipment.

“We immediately corrected the citation and drafted a new policy,” Hartle said.

Hartle emphasized that donor breast milk is now safe.

“We are certain the milk itself was not the cause of the exposure,” he said.

Mothers are being warned to check shared breast milk before feeding their babies.

Mothers delivering premature babies will be sent to another hospital until normal operations can resume at Geisinger, the statement read.

“We would like to extend our sincere apologies to the families who have been affected by this incident,” Hartle’s statement read.

“We know that the public holds us to the highest standards, and we will continue to strive to live up to those expectations as we have throughout our history, constantly improving on what we do and how we do it.”

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Shamed Keith Vaz QUITS the Commons

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Labour’s Keith Vaz, who was facing suspension from the Commons for six months after he was found to have ‘expressed willingness’ to purchase cocaine for others, will not stand at the upcoming General Election, he has announced.

Mr Vaz was suspended from Parliament for six months on October 31 but because of the dissolution for the election he could have dodged his punishment if he was re-elected.

In response to Mr Vaz’s announcement, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn heaped praise on the disgraced politician, calling his work ‘exemplary.’

‘Keith Vaz was among the pioneering group of black and Asian Labour MPs elected in 1987. I was proud to support his selection and incredibly proud when he won, taking the seat from the Tories.’ Mr Corbyn said.

The Commons Standards Committee recommended Labour MP Keith Vaz should be suspended for six months after he breached the Commons code of conduct "by expressing willingness to purchase cocaine for another person"

The Commons Standards Committee recommended Labour MP Keith Vaz should be suspended for six months after he breached the Commons code of conduct "by expressing willingness to purchase cocaine for another person"

The Commons Standards Committee recommended Labour MP Keith Vaz should be suspended for six months after he breached the Commons code of conduct ‘by expressing willingness to purchase cocaine for another person’

Keith Vaz dances with a belly dancer at the Labour party 'Diversity' night in Brighton at the Labour Party Conference in 2015

Keith Vaz dances with a belly dancer at the Labour party 'Diversity' night in Brighton at the Labour Party Conference in 2015

Keith Vaz dances with a belly dancer at the Labour party ‘Diversity’ night in Brighton at the Labour Party Conference in 2015

‘Keith has made a substantial and significant contribution to public life, both as a constituency MP for the people of Leicester and for the Asian community across the country. He has helped to pave the way for more BAME people to become involved in politics.

‘His work in Parliament has been exemplary, as Britain’s first Asian origin Minister, Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, a campaigner on diabetes issues, and most recently trying to help the peace process in Yemen.

The shaming of Keith Vaz: What the damning report found about his night with rent boys 

Former Europe minister Keith Vaz, 62, committed a ‘very serious breach’ of code of conduct for MPs, said the House of Commons Standards Committee.

The Sunday Mirror reported in September 2016 that Vaz, posing as an industrial washing machine salesman called Jim, invited two male prostitutes into his flat to engage in paid-for sex and offered to pay for cocaine for another man to use.

Married with two children, Vaz, who was born in Aden to a family from Goa, has been the MP for the central England seat of Leicester East since 1987.

‘I found Mr Vaz’s account of the events that led to the media reports incredible,’ said Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards.

‘I found his reason for being unable to assist me fully with my inquiry implausible.’

The standards committee said his explanation that the men were there to discuss redecorating the London flat, and that he may have been given a ‘spiked drink’, was ‘not believable and, indeed, ludicrous’. 

The committee concluded: 

  • That Mr Vaz’s explanation of the incident on August 27 2016 is not believable; 
  • That on this occasion Mr Vaz expressed a willingness to procure a Class A drug, cocaine, for the use of another person; 
  • That on this occasion Mr Vaz engaged in paid-for sex. 

 

‘Our work to combat racism and bring our diverse communities together is far from over.’

The Commons last month approved the conclusions of the Standards Committee, which found there was ‘compelling evidence’ Mr Vaz had offered to buy the class A drug for male prostitutes. 

But the chair of the committee, Kate Green, warned that Mr Vaz could still avoid the sanction, as it will effectively be wiped out by the dissolution of Parliament for the election.

Although Labour backed the report in the chamber this afternoon, former minister Mr Vaz has yet to be stripped of the whip or deselected in his Leicester East constituency.  

The debate on the report saw a bitter row between Speaker John Bercow and Tory MP Andrew Bridgen, who initiated the complaint against Mr Vaz.

Mr Bridgen accused the Speaker of failing to take action against his ‘friend’ earlier.

But Mr Bercow, on his last day in the chair, raged that it was not his responsibility to intervene in standards issues. 

The House heard that Mr Vaz was not present as he had been admitted to hospital following the publication of the Commons Standards Committee report.

Opening the debate, Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘The select committee has specifically asked that the next Leader of the House, or me if I continue in office in the new Parliament, would bring the suspension forward as soon as the House reassembles so that it isn’t in effect only a two-day suspension – and that’s been specifically requested by the committee.’ 

The committee found Mr Vaz had committed a ‘very serious’ breach of the code of conduct for MPs during an encounter with two men at his London flat in August 2016 when he ‘expressed a willingness’ to purchase cocaine.

It said that he had caused ‘significant damage’ to the reputation and integrity of the Commons and by failing to co-operate fully with the Commons inquiry process, he had shown ‘disrespect for the House’s standards system’.

The committee said his claims including that he had met the men to discuss painting and decorating and that his drink may have been spiked were ‘not believable and, indeed, ludicrous’.

It also questioned Mr Vaz’s suggestion he could not remember what had happened because he had amnesia – as he did not mention this until four months into an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

The committee found that Mr Vaz had given a number of the inaccurate responses to the commissioner including claiming that he had been taken to hospital by ambulance in the days after he met the two men.

A statement published on Mr Vaz’s website insisted the events that took place at his flat in August 2016 ‘were purely personal and private, and occurred in circumstances where neither Mr Vaz’s public nor his Parliamentary role were engaged’.

It added: ‘Mr Vaz has never bought, possessed, dealt with or used illegal drugs. He has a cardiovascular condition which would mean that were he to consume any non-prescribed drugs he would in all likelihood die.’

Party animal: Keith Vaz pictured with a belly dancer at the 2009 Labour Conference

Party animal: Keith Vaz pictured with a belly dancer at the 2009 Labour Conference

Party animal: Keith Vaz pictured with a belly dancer at the 2009 Labour Conference

The statement continued: ‘Mr Vaz has cooperated at all stages of this process. At no stage during the inquiry has either Commissioner stated in writing or otherwise that Mr Vaz has been uncooperative.

‘Mr Vaz vigorously rejects the allegation that he has failed to cooperate with the inquiry: to the contrary he holds the standards system in the highest regard and with the highest respect.’ 

In an extraordinary clash in the chamber this afternoon, Mr Bridgen told Mr Bercow: ‘It’s clear to me and it will be clear to the public that to the fag end of your tenure in that chair you are defending the indefensible, and your very close relationship with (Mr Vaz) – the House can come to its own conclusions, the Standards Committee has come to its own conclusions, and Mr Speaker, the public will come to theirs.’

But Mr Bercow said he was sure the public would come to their own conclusions, adding: ‘He can try to smear me, he will get the square root of nowhere.’ 

He added: ‘I am friendly with a great many members having served in this place for 22 years, I do not get involved in matters appertaining to standards, there is a machinery for deliberation on those matters in the form of a parliamentary standards commissioner and a committee.’

‘They deal with those matters.’

The shaming of Keith Vaz: A sordid saga of sex and drugs – and a disgraceful bid to wriggle off the hook 

According to Keith Vaz, that night with the two rent boys was all a dreadful misunderstanding.

The young escorts he had invited to his flat with the words ‘We need to get this party started’ were, in fact, professional decorators.

They had kindly dropped round at 11.30pm on a Saturday evening ‘to discuss interior décor’ in his apartment and, because he was a busy MP, this was the only time he could meet them.

So begins the former chairman of the Commons’ home affairs select committee’s explanation for the sordid night three years ago when he paid two male prostitutes for sex and offered to buy cocaine for a third.

Yesterday, the married father-of-two’s explanation was branded ‘frankly ludicrous’ by the Commons’ standards committee.

In an excoriating 69-page report, they demolished the former Labour grandee’s lies, obfuscation and desperate attempts to escape censure.

And they revealed that, when Mr Vaz’s absurd claims about the decorators began to unravel, he resorted to pleading amnesia.

The committee said paid-for sex between consenting adults was not illegal, but Mr Vaz’s attempts to mislead the inquiry brought shame on him. 

The MP's wife of 26 years, Maria Fernandes, revealed in an interview with the Mail a week after the story broke how he had begged her for forgiveness. Mr Vaz and his wife Maria are pictured above in September 2016, a day after the revelations broke

The MP's wife of 26 years, Maria Fernandes, revealed in an interview with the Mail a week after the story broke how he had begged her for forgiveness. Mr Vaz and his wife Maria are pictured above in September 2016, a day after the revelations broke

The MP’s wife of 26 years, Maria Fernandes, revealed in an interview with the Mail a week after the story broke how he had begged her for forgiveness. Mr Vaz and his wife Maria are pictured above in September 2016, a day after the revelations broke

Call me Jim 

The inquiry by the standards commissioner concerned the evening of August 27, 2016, at a well-appointed £400,000 Edgware flat belonging to Mr Vaz, a 10-minute walk from his £2.2million marital home.

As the rent boys undressed, one of them asked his name and the MP for Leicester East replied ‘Jim’, telling his Eastern European guests he was a washing machine repair man. 

Alas, the ruse was pointless because they were fully aware of his true identity and one of them was secretly recording the proceedings on his phone for the Sunday Mirror newspaper.

Eight days later, it published its expose, including extracts of the home affairs chairman – whose committee was tasked with monitoring crime, immigration and drugs policy on behalf of the nation – discussing illegal drugs, unprotected sex and money. He resigned as chairman days later.

Only now has Mr Vaz’s ‘implausible’ version of events been made public, after the commissioner’s inquiry finished and her findings were endorsed by the Commons’ standards committee which published a report yesterday.

It tells how the MP insisted he and his wife had planned an ‘ambitious’ renovation at their house and needed to quickly refurbish the flat to serve as their temporary home.

Because of his crowded diary of engagements – which included a football match and a birthday party – he could not meet the ‘decorators’ until late in the evening on Saturday August 27.

On the Sunday Mirror’s tape, Mr Vaz can allegedly be heard calling one of the men ‘a naughty b****r’, and informing him: ‘I’m getting very horny.’ 

Yesterday the committee concluded: ‘The notion that the men were at Mr Vaz’s flat in connection with painting and decorating is incredible. The recording contains no evidence of any conversation about …decorating.’ 

Paid for sex 

Commissioner Kathryn Stone said: ‘Mr Vaz has told me he has never paid for sex. Sexual activity took place…I believe Mr Vaz paid for that activity.’

Mr Vaz and his visitors reminisced about other prostitutes including one who ‘forgot the condom’, with the MP recalling: ‘I had to f*** him without a condom.’

The report said: ‘No reasonable person who has listened to the audio recording could believe his claim that the purpose of the two men’s visit was to discuss interior decoration. Mr Vaz’s claims … are, frankly, ludicrous.’

Drugs

As the trio waited for a third rent boy – a Romanian – Mr Vaz offered to buy him cocaine, the report found. 

The MP – who in 2010 demanded action against the ‘dangerous’ cocaine trade – said he did not want any but would be willing to pay for the Romanian to have some, the tape revealed.

The report said: ‘The men can be heard discussing ‘poppers’, ‘weed’ and ‘coke’. Mr Vaz was the first to mention ‘coke’ that evening.’ 

In 2016, the Met examined the case but did not to take any action. Mr Vaz told the commissioner the recording could not be relied on and insisted he had never taken drugs.

Amnesia

Initially, Mr Vaz tried to dismiss the Sunday Mirror’s investigation as bearing ‘no relation to what actually occurred’. 

But when asked by the commissioner what had really occurred, he pleaded amnesia. He claimed his drink must have been spiked.

The inquiry said the one-hour-40-minute recording proved he had not been incapacitated, as he spoke freely to the prostitutes.

The report said: ‘He knew about their pet dog, the study plans of one of the men, their travels and their overdraft. These are not the details most people would know about their decorators.’

The commissioner found it ‘extremely puzzling’ that Mr Vaz did not wheel out his amnesia claims until later in the inquiry. 

She added that the fact Mr Vaz was calling himself a false name also undermined his claims. 

His wife 

The MP’s wife of 26 years, Maria Fernandes, revealed in an interview with the Mail a week after the story broke how he had begged her for forgiveness – contradicting Mr Vaz’s claims he had not spoken to her, said the standards commissioner, who added: ‘Mr Vaz’s wife said that she said she had had no inkling that her husband enjoyed sex with men. The article said Mr Vaz had told his wife ‘something was going to break [in a newspaper], that it was bad…While he did not go into detail, he did concede – to his wife’s incredulity – that his infidelity involved men’.’

His excuses

The report said Mr Vaz ‘has done himself no favours by his inability to provide a single, consistent, plausible account.’ 

It revealed the lengths he went to ‘throw dust in the eyes of the commissioner and the committee’, adding he ‘has done his best to complicate, obfuscate and confuse the inquiry’.

The MP claimed he was the victim of conmen and produced a ‘dossier’ of claims about the rent boys, including that one had a ‘conviction for littering from a vehicle’. This was rejected as irrelevant.

He claimed the Sunday Mirror’s tape was ‘doctored’ but an independent expert found it was not.

He complained he was the victim of ‘entrapment’. But the committee said the sting had not ‘fostered’ Mr Vaz’s misconduct, but rather had exposed it. 

The report said: ‘There is no evidence to suggest that Mr Vaz was being steered in directions he was unwilling to go.’ 

The committee said it was ‘difficult, to put it mildly’ to accept his excuses. It said the inquiry could have been finished long ago if he had told the truth.

  • Mr Vaz was cleared of failing to declare a conflict of interest when his committee produced reports on prostitution and drugs.

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Spain’s ruling Socialists are poised to win the country’s second general election of the year

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Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists were on course to win a repeat general election on Sunday but come up short of an absolute majority in parliament, as support for far-right party Vox surged, partial first results showed.

With around 60 per cent of the votes counted, the Socialists had won 124 of the 350 seats in parliament, or around 29 per cent of the vote, while Vox was third with 52 seats, more than double the number it had in the outgoing assembly.

It came after a survey by Spain’s public broadcaster released as the polls closed said the ruling Socialists were en route to win the country’s second election this year but will be even further from putting together a parliamentary majority.

The RTVE survey, which polled more than 13,000 voters between October 25 and Sunday’s ballot, signalled that Spain may run into another political stalemate. In April, the Socialists won 123 seats in the parliament’s lower house, 53 seats short of a majority.

Spain's socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the fourth general election in as many years after his party failed to get enough seats in parliament to gain a working majority

Spain's socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called the fourth general election in as many years after his party failed to get enough seats in parliament to gain a working majority

Santiago Abascal, leader of far-right Vox Party

Santiago Abascal, leader of far-right Vox Party

Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (left) called the fourth general election in as many years after his party failed to get enough seats in parliament to gain a working majority. He is up against Santiago Abascal, leader of far-right Vox Party 

A survey by Spain's public broadcaster released as the polls closed says the ruling Socialists are en route to win the country's second election this year but will be even further from putting together a parliamentary majority. Pictured: General Secretary of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias (centre) and spokeswoman of Unidas Podemos Irene Montero (left) arrives to electoral night in Madrid

A survey by Spain's public broadcaster released as the polls closed says the ruling Socialists are en route to win the country's second election this year but will be even further from putting together a parliamentary majority. Pictured: General Secretary of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias (centre) and spokeswoman of Unidas Podemos Irene Montero (left) arrives to electoral night in Madrid

A survey by Spain’s public broadcaster released as the polls closed says the ruling Socialists are en route to win the country’s second election this year but will be even further from putting together a parliamentary majority. Pictured: General Secretary of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias (centre) and spokeswoman of Unidas Podemos Irene Montero (left) arrives to electoral night in Madrid

The RTVE survey, which polled more than 13,000 voters between October 25 and Sunday's ballot, signalled that Spain may run into another political stalemate. In April, the Socialists won 123 seats in the parliament's lower house, 53 seats short of a majority. Pictured: Officials count ballots at a polling station in Ronda

The RTVE survey, which polled more than 13,000 voters between October 25 and Sunday's ballot, signalled that Spain may run into another political stalemate. In April, the Socialists won 123 seats in the parliament's lower house, 53 seats short of a majority. Pictured: Officials count ballots at a polling station in Ronda

The RTVE survey, which polled more than 13,000 voters between October 25 and Sunday’s ballot, signalled that Spain may run into another political stalemate. In April, the Socialists won 123 seats in the parliament’s lower house, 53 seats short of a majority. Pictured: Officials count ballots at a polling station in Ronda

Polls in the Canary Islands remain open for another hour. Local authorities of small town in northeastern Spain say that police have arrested a man who was carrying a pistol in a polling station in Sunday's national election. Pictured: The number two of ERC to the Parliament by Barcelona, Gabriel Rufian (first from left), and Pere Aragones

Polls in the Canary Islands remain open for another hour. Local authorities of small town in northeastern Spain say that police have arrested a man who was carrying a pistol in a polling station in Sunday's national election. Pictured: The number two of ERC to the Parliament by Barcelona, Gabriel Rufian (first from left), and Pere Aragones

Polls in the Canary Islands remain open for another hour. Local authorities of small town in northeastern Spain say that police have arrested a man who was carrying a pistol in a polling station in Sunday’s national election. Pictured: The number two of ERC to the Parliament by Barcelona, Gabriel Rufian (first from left), and Pere Aragones

Amposta Mayor Adam Tomas said the 70-year-old man was carrying the weapon in a bag and was arrested when he refused to show it police officers inside the polling station in the town in the region of Catalonia. Pictured: The head of the list of PSOE to the Parliament by Barcelona, Meritxell Batet voting

Amposta Mayor Adam Tomas said the 70-year-old man was carrying the weapon in a bag and was arrested when he refused to show it police officers inside the polling station in the town in the region of Catalonia. Pictured: The head of the list of PSOE to the Parliament by Barcelona, Meritxell Batet voting

Amposta Mayor Adam Tomas said the 70-year-old man was carrying the weapon in a bag and was arrested when he refused to show it police officers inside the polling station in the town in the region of Catalonia. Pictured: The head of the list of PSOE to the Parliament by Barcelona, Meritxell Batet voting

As of 6pm, 56.86 per cent of the country's 37 million eligible voters had cast their ballots, down from 60.74 per cent at the same time in the April 28 election

As of 6pm, 56.86 per cent of the country's 37 million eligible voters had cast their ballots, down from 60.74 per cent at the same time in the April 28 election

As of 6pm, 56.86 per cent of the country’s 37 million eligible voters had cast their ballots, down from 60.74 per cent at the same time in the April 28 election

Polls in the Canary Islands remain open for another hour.

Local authorities of small town in northeastern Spain say that police have arrested a man who was carrying a pistol in a polling station in Sunday’s national election.

Amposta Mayor Adam Tomas says that the 70-year-old man was carrying the weapon in a bag and was arrested when he refused to show it police officers inside the polling station in the town in the region of Catalonia.

It is illegal to carry weapons in a polling station in Spain.

Also, Spanish government official Isabel Goicoechea said that that two people died while trying to vote. Newspaper El Pais reported that one of them was an elderly woman who died after losing consciousness while on the way to vote, while an older man reportedly had a heart attack at a polling station in the northern Basque Country. 

Spain’s Interior Ministry says turnout for Sunday’s national election is 4 percentage points lower than the last ballot six months ago, when the Socialists won but fell short of a majority to form a new government.

As of 6pm, 56.86 per cent of the country’s 37 million eligible voters had cast their ballots, down from 60.74 per cent at the same time in the April 28 election.

The lower turnout had been expected, since recent polls suggested up to 35 per cent of voters could skip the country’s fourth ballot since 2015 because they felt jaded by the political stalemate.

Lower temperatures across Spain on Sunday and heavy rain in some northern provinces could have also contributed to people staying at home.

Analysts say lower turnout has traditionally hurt the country’s left-wing parties.

Dozens of people have cheered and shouted ‘President! President!’ as Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s far-right Vox party, voted in Madrid.

Vox won 24 seats in the 350-seat national parliament in the last election in April, making it the first time in decades that a far-right party held seats in the chamber. It is also expected to make strong gains in Sunday’s national vote.

The lower turnout had been expected, since recent polls suggested up to 35 per cent of voters could skip the country's fourth ballot since 2015 because they felt jaded by the political stalemate. Pictured: Noelia Vera of Unidas Podemos on electoral night

The lower turnout had been expected, since recent polls suggested up to 35 per cent of voters could skip the country's fourth ballot since 2015 because they felt jaded by the political stalemate. Pictured: Noelia Vera of Unidas Podemos on electoral night

The lower turnout had been expected, since recent polls suggested up to 35 per cent of voters could skip the country’s fourth ballot since 2015 because they felt jaded by the political stalemate. Pictured: Noelia Vera of Unidas Podemos on electoral night

Lower temperatures across Spain on Sunday and heavy rain in some northern provinces could have also contributed to people staying at home. Pictured: Government Action secretary of Podemos, Pablo Echenique

Lower temperatures across Spain on Sunday and heavy rain in some northern provinces could have also contributed to people staying at home. Pictured: Government Action secretary of Podemos, Pablo Echenique

Lower temperatures across Spain on Sunday and heavy rain in some northern provinces could have also contributed to people staying at home. Pictured: Government Action secretary of Podemos, Pablo Echenique

Analysts say lower turnout has traditionally hurt the country's left-wing parties. Pictured: The head of the Vox delegation at the European Parliament, Jorge Buxade, is seen giving a press conference in Madrid

Analysts say lower turnout has traditionally hurt the country's left-wing parties. Pictured: The head of the Vox delegation at the European Parliament, Jorge Buxade, is seen giving a press conference in Madrid

Analysts say lower turnout has traditionally hurt the country’s left-wing parties. Pictured: The head of the Vox delegation at the European Parliament, Jorge Buxade, is seen giving a press conference during the in Madrid

Officials are pictured counting ballot papers at a polling station in Ronda after Spain held general elections on Sunday

Officials are pictured counting ballot papers at a polling station in Ronda after Spain held general elections on Sunday

Officials are pictured counting ballot papers at a polling station in Ronda after Spain held general elections on Sunday

Polls predict the party could jump from 5th place to become Spain’s third-ranking party, after the ruling Socialists and the centre-right Popular Party, the group from which Vox’s founders stem.

Surrounded by supporters, Abascal, 43, said he did not have many expectations Sunday but hoped ‘the election serves to reinforce Spanish unity.’

Vox favors a tough stance against secessionists in Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia.

Spain’s Interior Ministry says turnout for Sunday’s national election so far is 3.5 percentage points lower than the last ballot earlier this year.

The ministry said as of 2 pm, 37.9 per cent of eligible voters had cast their ballots, down from 41.5 per cent at the same time in the April 28 election.

Party leaders have urged voters to come out as polls suggest that up to 35 per cent of Spain’s 37-million strong electorate on Sunday could skip the country’s fourth ballot in as many years.

Incumbent Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist party won the most votes in the last election in April but was unable to get enough support to form a government. The party is tipped to win again, but without a majority. 

Spain’s main political party leaders are calling on all citizens to vote Sunday as fears rose of a low turnout.

Polls predict the party could jump from 5th place to become Spain's third-ranking party, after the ruling Socialists and the centre-right Popular Party, the group from which Vox's founders stem. Pictured: he secretary of the Organization Area of PSC, Salvador Illa Roca

Polls predict the party could jump from 5th place to become Spain's third-ranking party, after the ruling Socialists and the centre-right Popular Party, the group from which Vox's founders stem. Pictured: he secretary of the Organization Area of PSC, Salvador Illa Roca

Polls predict the party could jump from 5th place to become Spain’s third-ranking party, after the ruling Socialists and the centre-right Popular Party, the group from which Vox’s founders stem. Pictured: he secretary of the Organization Area of PSC, Salvador Illa Roca

Surrounded by supporters, Abascal, 43, said he did not have many expectations Sunday but hoped 'the election serves to reinforce Spanish unity.' Pictured: Votes being counted in Barcelona

Surrounded by supporters, Abascal, 43, said he did not have many expectations Sunday but hoped 'the election serves to reinforce Spanish unity.' Pictured: Votes being counted in Barcelona

Surrounded by supporters, Abascal, 43, said he did not have many expectations Sunday but hoped ‘the election serves to reinforce Spanish unity.’ Pictured: Votes being counted in Barcelona

‘Let nobody stay at home,’ said Albert Rivera, of the third-ranked centre-right Citizens party.

The call for voters to go to the polls was repeated by incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, conservative Popular Party leader Pablo Casado, and far-left United We Can party leader Pablo Iglesias.

Opinion polls suggest up to 35 percent of the 37-million strong electorate could stay away from the polling booths.

Officials said postal voting was down 27 per cent to just under 1million.

Spain’s United We Can party leader Pablo Iglesias says he will leave behind all reproaches and offer a helping hand to the incumbent ruling Socialist party to form a stable leftist government.

Failure to reach agreement between the Socialists and United We Can, Spain’s fourth largest party in parliament, following the last election in April was one of the main reasons for the calling of Sunday’s vote, the fourth in as many years.

‘We are going to offer a helping hand to the Socialist party. We think that combining the courage of United We Can and the experience of the Socialist party we can convert our country into a reference point for social policies,’ Iglesias said Sunday.

‘We are going to leave behind the reproaches,’ he added. 

Spain’s incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is one of the first party leaders to cast his vote as the country goes to the polls for the fourth time in as many years.

Spain's Interior Ministry says turnout for Sunday's national election so far is 3.5 percentage points lower than the last ballot earlier this year. Pictured: Spanish conservative People's Party (PP) general secretary Teodoro Garcia Egea

Spain's Interior Ministry says turnout for Sunday's national election so far is 3.5 percentage points lower than the last ballot earlier this year. Pictured: Spanish conservative People's Party (PP) general secretary Teodoro Garcia Egea

Spain’s Interior Ministry says turnout for Sunday’s national election so far is 3.5 percentage points lower than the last ballot earlier this year. Pictured: Spanish conservative People’s Party (PP) general secretary Teodoro Garcia Egea

Spain's socialist Prime Minister's conservative rival Pablo Casado, of the People's Party, casts his vote in the capital. Polls suggest his party may gain several additional seats

Spain's socialist Prime Minister's conservative rival Pablo Casado, of the People's Party, casts his vote in the capital. Polls suggest his party may gain several additional seats

Spain’s socialist Prime Minister’s conservative rival Pablo Casado, of the People’s Party, casts his vote in the capital. Polls suggest his party may gain several additional seats

And far-right leader of Vox Santiago Abascal pictured casting his vote in the country's capital. The party, which favours 'drastic solutions' to the Catalonian independence question has seen a surge in the polls

And far-right leader of Vox Santiago Abascal pictured casting his vote in the country's capital. The party, which favours 'drastic solutions' to the Catalonian independence question has seen a surge in the polls

And far-right leader of Vox Santiago Abascal pictured casting his vote in the country’s capital. The party, which favours ‘drastic solutions’ to the Catalonian independence question has seen a surge in the polls

In Barcelona, Spain's Catalan leader Quim Torra casts his vote as daughter Helena Torra, wearing yellow, works at the polling station. This election has been marred by heightened tensions over Catalonian independence and a surge in support for Vox

In Barcelona, Spain's Catalan leader Quim Torra casts his vote as daughter Helena Torra, wearing yellow, works at the polling station. This election has been marred by heightened tensions over Catalonian independence and a surge in support for Vox

In Barcelona, Spain’s Catalan leader Quim Torra casts his vote as daughter Helena Torra, wearing yellow, works at the polling station. This election has been marred by heightened tensions over Catalonian independence and a surge in support for Vox

Temperatures have also run high on the election day. A Ciudadanos observer and a pro-independence JxCat party observer argue after a Ciudadanos spokesman Ines Arrimadas cast her vote at a polling station in Barcelona

Temperatures have also run high on the election day. A Ciudadanos observer and a pro-independence JxCat party observer argue after a Ciudadanos spokesman Ines Arrimadas cast her vote at a polling station in Barcelona

Temperatures have also run high on the election day. A Ciudadanos observer and a pro-independence JxCat party observer argue after a Ciudadanos spokesman Ines Arrimadas cast her vote at a polling station in Barcelona

A woman casts her vote in Madrid, Spain, today. The polls close at 8pm tonight, 9pm GMT, with results expected to be announced within the next few hours afterwards

A woman casts her vote in Madrid, Spain, today. The polls close at 8pm tonight, 9pm GMT, with results expected to be announced within the next few hours afterwards

A woman casts her vote in Madrid, Spain, today. The polls close at 8pm tonight, 9pm GMT, with results expected to be announced within the next few hours afterwards

The election was called by Sanchez who won the most votes in the last ballot in April but failed to whip up enough parliamentary support to form a government.

Sanchez voted shortly after 9.30am (0830 GMT) in Pozuelo de Alarcon, close to Madrid.

‘I think it’s very important that we strengthen the democracy with our vote, encourage all citizens to vote and as of tomorrow we may have the stability to form a government and get Spain moving,’ Sanchez said.

Sanchez is tipped to win again but Spain may face another stalemate situation.

Spaniards were voting Sunday in the country’s fourth election in as many years with Catalonia’s secession drive and the predicted rise of a far-right party dominating the campaign.

The election was called by incumbent Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who won the most votes in the last ballot in April but failed to whip up enough parliamentary support to form a government.

Sanchez is tipped to win again but Spain may face another stalemate situation and months more without a stable government.

The four main parties contending centered their campaigns chiefly on ways to deal with Catalonia’s independence push and the feared surge of the far-right party Vox (Voice).

Abstentions loom, with polls suggesting up to 35 per cent of the electorate could stay away from the polling booths, up from 28 percent in April.

Voting stations opened at 9am (0800 GMT) and are set to close at 8 pm (1900 GMT), with results expected within hours.

Spanish citizens cast their votes in Madrid, Spain, today. The last election had a record turnout of 76 per cent, but the turnout for this election is expected to be lower as voters suffer from fatigue

Spanish citizens cast their votes in Madrid, Spain, today. The last election had a record turnout of 76 per cent, but the turnout for this election is expected to be lower as voters suffer from fatigue

Spanish citizens cast their votes in Madrid, Spain, today. The last election had a record turnout of 76 per cent, but the turnout for this election is expected to be lower as voters suffer from fatigue

Voters in Barcelona, Catalonia, arrive to cast their votes in Spain's general election. One is holding a dog

Voters in Barcelona, Catalonia, arrive to cast their votes in Spain's general election. One is holding a dog

Voters in Barcelona, Catalonia, arrive to cast their votes in Spain’s general election. One is holding a dog 

Spaniards arrive to cast their votes in the general election - it is expected to return another hung parliament for the country

Spaniards arrive to cast their votes in the general election - it is expected to return another hung parliament for the country

Spaniards arrive to cast their votes in the general election – it is expected to return another hung parliament for the country

Spanish voters queue outside a polling station in Barcelona before casting their votes. No party is expected to win the crucial 176 seats required to gain a working majority in the parliament

Spanish voters queue outside a polling station in Barcelona before casting their votes. No party is expected to win the crucial 176 seats required to gain a working majority in the parliament

Spanish voters queue outside a polling station in Barcelona before casting their votes. No party is expected to win the crucial 176 seats required to gain a working majority in the parliament

Spain, a country which returned to democracy after a near four-decade right wing dictatorship under late Gen. Francisco Franco, used to take pride in claiming no far-right group had seats in the national parliament, unlike the rest of Europe.

But that changed in the last election when Vox erupted onto the political scene by winning 24 seats on promises of taking a hard line on Catalonia and immigration.

The Socialists’ April victory was nonetheless seen by many as something of a respite for Europe where right-wing parties had gained much ground in countries such as France, Hungary, Italy and Poland.

But many polls predict Vox, headed by Santiago Abascal, may do even better this time and capitalize on the pro-Spain nationalist sentiment stirred by the Catalan conflict and in response to the caretaker Socialist government’s exhumation of Franco’s remains last month from his gargantuan mausoleum so that he could no longer be exalted by supporters in a public place.

Vox has already joined forces with the other two right-of-center parties to take over many city and regional governments and no one doubts the three would readily band together to oust Sanchez. 

A woman casts her vote in Madrid, Spain, during the country's general election. In a move that could garner further support the PSOE government has exhumed the body of the country's former dictator Francisco Franco

A woman casts her vote in Madrid, Spain, during the country's general election. In a move that could garner further support the PSOE government has exhumed the body of the country's former dictator Francisco Franco

A woman casts her vote in Madrid, Spain, during the country’s general election. In a move that could garner further support the PSOE government has exhumed the body of the country’s former dictator Francisco Franco

A woman in a wheelchair casts her vote in Barcelona, Spain. Tensions have been heightened due to calls for Catalan independence and protests in the streets leading up to the election

A woman in a wheelchair casts her vote in Barcelona, Spain. Tensions have been heightened due to calls for Catalan independence and protests in the streets leading up to the election

A woman in a wheelchair casts her vote in Barcelona, Spain. Tensions have been heightened due to calls for Catalan independence and protests in the streets leading up to the election

Two election workers watch as votes are cast in the country's capital Madrid. Polls close at 8pm, or 9pm tonight, with results expected a few hours after they close

Two election workers watch as votes are cast in the country's capital Madrid. Polls close at 8pm, or 9pm tonight, with results expected a few hours after they close

Two election workers watch as votes are cast in the country’s capital Madrid. Polls close at 8pm, or 9pm tonight, with results expected a few hours after they close

Citizens arrive early in the morning to cast their vote in Madrid, Spain. PSOE is not expected to secure enough seats to form a majority in parliament

Citizens arrive early in the morning to cast their vote in Madrid, Spain. PSOE is not expected to secure enough seats to form a majority in parliament

Citizens arrive early in the morning to cast their vote in Madrid, Spain. PSOE is not expected to secure enough seats to form a majority in parliament

Barcelona's mayoress Ada Colau shakes hands with election workers as she arrives to cast her vote in Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona's mayoress Ada Colau shakes hands with election workers as she arrives to cast her vote in Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona’s mayoress Ada Colau shakes hands with election workers as she arrives to cast her vote in Barcelona, Spain

The key leaders in the fourth Spanish general election in as many years

PEDRO SANCHEZ’S SOCIALIST WORKERS’ PARTY (PSOE)

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez with wife Maria Begona Gomez Fernandes goes to vote in Madrid, Spain

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez with wife Maria Begona Gomez Fernandes goes to vote in Madrid, Spain

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez with wife Maria Begona Gomez Fernandes goes to vote in Madrid, Spain

Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez, 47, a trained economist, called the snap election after failing to secure support from other parties after winning the most votes, but no working majority, in an election in April.

Most opinion polls point to the PSOE re-emerging as the largest party but again landing far short of a majority, and probably with fewer seats than in the previous ballot, requiring the support of other parties to form a government.

Recent events, particularly tensions over separatism in Catalonia, have boosted right-wing parties and could reshape the distribution of seats.

On Oct. 24, Sanchez’s caretaker government removed the remains of late dictator General Francisco Franco from a state mausoleum in a historic, symbolically powerful step that could help him mobilize left-wing voters.

PSOE is Spain’s oldest active party and one of two that have dominated the political landscape since Franco’s rule ended with his death in 1975. It has been in government longest since then.

PABLO CASADO’S PEOPLE’S PARTY (PP)

Pablo Casado makes a statement before casting his vote in Spain's general election today

Pablo Casado makes a statement before casting his vote in Spain's general election today

Pablo Casado makes a statement before casting his vote in Spain’s general election today

A conservative, Christian democratic party, and the Socialists’ main rival for decades.

Pablo Casado, a 38-year-old lawyer and economist, became party leader a month after the government of Sanchez’s predecessor Mariano Rajoy was ousted by Sanchez last year.

He obtained PP’s worst ever election result in April with just 66 seats in the 350-seat house, but polls see PP faring much better next week, possibly putting Casado in the position of kingmaker.

Casado has promised to cut taxes and has called for Catalonia to be ‘reconquered’ following the northeastern region’s failed independence bid in 2017.

A critic of Sanchez’s handling of the Catalan issue, Casado is known as a defender of family values, the monarchy and the Catholic Church, and an opponent of abortion and euthanasia.

SANTIAGO ABASCAL’S VOX

Vox party leader Santiago Abascal pictured casting his vote in Madrid, Spain

Vox party leader Santiago Abascal pictured casting his vote in Madrid, Spain

Vox party leader Santiago Abascal pictured casting his vote in Madrid, Spain

An anti-immigration, nationalist party founded in 2013 by former PP members.

In April, Vox became the first far-right party to enter Spain’s parliament since the 1980s, with 24 seats, and polls show it could now become the third-biggest force there, with possibly as many as 44 seats.

Vox opposes gender equality laws and is strongly against autonomy for Spain’s regions.

Its leader Santiago Abascal, 43, is a tough-talking career politician from the Basque country, who harshly criticised the exhumation of Franco and who wants Catalan separatism quashed.

Echoing U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric, he has called for a secure wall to be built around the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla and for neighbouring Morocco to pay for it.

‘I am a supporter of discrimination,’ he told 7TV Andalucia in 2017.

ALBERT RIVERA’S CIUDADANOS (CITIZENS)

Pro-European Ciudadanos party leader Albert Rivera delivers a speech in July. He has also cast his vote today

Pro-European Ciudadanos party leader Albert Rivera delivers a speech in July. He has also cast his vote today

Pro-European Ciudadanos party leader Albert Rivera delivers a speech in July. He has also cast his vote today

A centre-right, pro-European party originally from Catalonia and part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe that first won Spanish parliament seats in 2015.

Its leader, Albert Rivera, 39, worked in a bank before founding Ciudadanos in 2006.

Rivera, who backed Sanchez in his failed 2016 bid for premiership, refused him support after April election, leaving him no option but to seek support from left-wing Unidas Podemos.

Polls show Ciudadanos would lose seats after several senior figures quit over regional deals it has struck with the far-right. Ciudadanos is a stalwart defender of Spain’s unity and strongly opposes any concessions to separatists.

PABLO IGLESIAS’ UNIDAS PODEMOS (TOGETHER WE CAN)

Unidas Podemos general secretary Pablo Iglesias heads to cast his vote in La Navata, Spain, today

Unidas Podemos general secretary Pablo Iglesias heads to cast his vote in La Navata, Spain, today

Unidas Podemos general secretary Pablo Iglesias heads to cast his vote in La Navata, Spain, today

An alliance of left-wing Podemos, United Left, and other parties, created in the run-up to the 2016 election and rooted in the anti-austerity protest movement. The name was tweaked in 2019 to make it female to reflect its pro-feminism stance.

Its leader, political scientist and lecturer Pablo Iglesias, 41, founded Podemos in 2014.

Podemos had tried in vain to negotiate a governing coalition deal with PSOE up to the very last minute in September, but Sanchez ultimately refused to give them cabinet posts, saying that Iglesias’ excessive demands had torpedoed such a solution.

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Robert Peston’s girlfriend reveals he slept with his 30-something driving instructor when he was 18 

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The girlfriend of Robert Peston has revealed that he slept with his 30-something driving instructor as an 18-year-old. 

Writing in her Sunday Times column, Charlotte Edwardes wrote that the encounter was the ‘naughtiest thing’ her boyfriend, who is ITV’s Political Editor, had ever done.

She also joked that it makes ‘complete sense’ to her because of her partner’s driving ability. 

In her column on dinner party games, Ms Edwardes wrote: ‘My boyfriend’s naughtiest thing is that he slept with his driving instructor — a woman in her late thirties — when he was 18. 

Charlotte Edwardes (left) revealed how her boyfriend Robert Peston (right) slept with his 30-something driving instructor when he was just 18

Charlotte Edwardes (left) revealed how her boyfriend Robert Peston (right) slept with his 30-something driving instructor when he was just 18

Charlotte Edwardes (left) revealed how her boyfriend Robert Peston (right) slept with his 30-something driving instructor when he was just 18

‘This has always made complete sense to me, because if you’ve ever had the misfortune to get into a car with my boyfriend, you’ll know there is literally no other explanation for him passing his test.’

Mr Peston has yet to comment on his partner’s claims, though he did retweet her piece to his followers.

The couple went public with their relationship in 2017. 

They hit the headlines in September when Ms Edwardes claimed that Boris Johnson groped her thigh under a table at a private lunch in 1999, when he was editor of the Spectator magazine. 

She also joked that it makes 'complete sense' to her because of her partner's driving ability

She also joked that it makes 'complete sense' to her because of her partner's driving ability

She also joked that it makes ‘complete sense’ to her because of her partner’s driving ability

ITV Political Editor Mr Peston has yet to comment on his partner's claims, though he did retweet her piece to his followers

ITV Political Editor Mr Peston has yet to comment on his partner's claims, though he did retweet her piece to his followers

ITV Political Editor Mr Peston has yet to comment on his partner’s claims, though he did retweet her piece to his followers

In her first column for the Sunday Times’ Style magazine, Ms Edwardes said that after the lunch had taken place she had confided in the young woman who was sitting on the other side of Mr Johnson, who told her: ‘Oh God, he did exactly the same to me.’ 

Edwardes also wrote that she was taken aback after the now Premier referred to then partner Marina Wheeler as his ‘current wife’. 

Her allegations caused a storm around the prime minister, with Mr Peston believed to have withdrawn from an interview with Mr Johnson in the aftermath.

Boris Johnson later said historic claims about his personal life were being dredged up to ‘frustrate Brexit’ and dismissed the allegations as ‘very sad’ and ‘not true’.

He added that he did not want to ‘minimise the importance of such allegations if they were true’ but insisted they were not.

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