bitter divorce with the European Union.

Jonathan Powell, a former chief of staff to Tony Blair, the British prime minister at the time of the Good Friday Agreement, acknowledged that, “Biden could be important on the protocol.”

“Britain is rather friendless outside the E.U., so there is a limit to how far they can go against what the administration wants,” Mr. Powell added.

Until now, Mr. Johnson has taken a hard line in negotiations over the protocol. His senior aide, David Frost, says it is up to the European Union to propose remedies to the disruptions of the border checks. If it does not, Britain could abandon the protocol — a move the European Union says would breach the withdrawal agreement, though the bloc’s officials briefly threatened to scrap the protocol themselves in January.

the Democratic Unionists, a Northern Irish party that supported Brexit and has now fallen into disarray because of the fierce blowback from Mr. Johnson’s deal.

The party recently deposed its leader, Arlene Foster, and is squabbling over how to prepare for elections to the Northern Irish Assembly in May 2022. That has opened the door to something once thought inconceivable: that Sinn Fein could emerge as the largest party, with the right to appoint the first minister.

With Sinn Fein’s vestigial links to the paramilitary Irish Republican Army and bedrock commitment to Irish unification, an Assembly led by the party could prove far more destabilizing to Northern Ireland’s delicate power-sharing arrangements than the post-Brexit trading rules, which are difficult to explain, let alone use as a rallying cry.

But Sinn Fein’s leaders say that, with a growing Catholic population and the fallout from Brexit, momentum is on their side. The unionist parties supported Brexit, while they opposed it. They view the campaign against the protocol as a futile effort that only lays bare the costs of leaving the European Union.

“You have a very stark choice,” Michelle O’Neill, the party’s leader and the deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, said in an interview. “Do you want to be part of inward-looking Brexit Britain or outward-looking inclusive Ireland?”

Another question is how the authorities will deal with further unrest. In April, the police moved carefully against the rock-throwing crowds, treating them as a local disturbance rather than a national security threat. But if the violence escalates, that could change.

Monica McWilliams, an academic and former politician who was involved in the 1998 peace negotiations, said, “Loyalist threats, or violent actions, against a border down the Irish Sea may no longer be seen as a domestic problem.”

But the greater challenge, she said, is reassuring unionists and loyalists at a time when politics and demographics are moving so clearly against them. While there is little appetite in the Irish Republic for a near-term referendum on unification, Sinn Fein is within striking distance of being in power on both sides of the border — a development that would put unification squarely on the agenda.

In Sandy Row, the sense of a community in retreat was palpable.

Paul McCann, 46, a shopkeeper and lifelong resident, noted how real-estate developers were buying up blocks on the edge of the neighborhood to build hotels and upscale apartments. The city, he said, wants to demolish the Boyne Bridge — a predecessor of which William of Orange is said to have crossed on his way to that fateful battle with James II — to create a transportation hub.

“They’re trying to whitewash our history,” Mr. McCann said. “They’re making our loyalist communities smaller and smaller.”

For Gordon Johnston, a 28-year-old community organizer, it’s a matter of fairness: loyalists accepted the argument that reimposing a hard border between the north and south of Ireland could provoke violence. The same principle should apply to Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

“You can’t have it both ways,” he said. “You either have no borders or you have violence in the streets.”

Anna Joyce contributed reporting from Dublin.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

The Dominic Cummings Chronicles: The Can’t-Miss Sequel

LONDON — A year ago this week, a brusque, defiant figure in shirt sleeves appeared in the sun-dappled garden behind 10 Downing Street to give one of the most extraordinary news conferences in recent British political history.

On Wednesday, that same man — Dominic Cummings, then the most powerful adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson; now arguably his most dangerous enemy — will testify before two Parliamentary committees on Britain’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. It is being billed as a can’t-miss sequel in the Cummings Chronicles.

Mr. Cummings is expected to unload a trove of inside details about how Mr. Johnson bungled Britain’s initial response, necessitating what he claims were months of needless and ruinous lockdowns. His account, some of which he previewed in a dense, didactic Twitter thread over recent days, is likely to embarrass a leader who bounced back from that wobbly performance, largely on the strength of Britain’s swift rollout of vaccines.

“Dominic Cummings has long been known as a man who brings a bazooka to a knife fight,” said Matthew Goodwin, a professor of politics at the University of Kent. “I suspect he shall not walk quietly into the night.”

firing him in November. Last month, the aide turned publicly on his ex-boss, accusing him of unethical behavior in the costly decoration of his flat in Downing Street and of trying to shut down a leak investigation because he feared it would antagonize his fiancée, Carrie Symonds.

With its promise of further juicy details about an alliance gone bad, the testimony is likely to be political theater of a rare vintage. British papers have speculated that Mr. Cummings will say Mr. Johnson missed numerous early coronavirus meetings because he was busy working on his long-delayed book about Shakespeare.

127,700 deaths, the highest toll in Europe.

“If mass testing had been developed properly earlier in year as cd/shd have been, wd probably have avoided lockdowns 2&3 while awaiting vaccine,” Mr. Cummings said in a Twitter post. In another, he wrote, “One of the most fundamental & unarguable lessons of Feb-March is that secrecy contributed greatly to the catastrophe.”

The problem with Mr. Cummings’s message is the messenger. His decision to flout the rules — most notoriously in going on a family outing to Castle Barnard that he claimed he undertook to test his eyesight — arguably did more to damage the government’s credibility than any single incident during the pandemic.

“He is a tainted source,” said Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary University in London. “But just because he has an ax to grind and a credibility problem, doesn’t mean he’s not telling the truth.”

For Mr. Johnson, the saving grace may be that Mr. Cummings is testifying at a time when Britain’s vaccination campaign has driven down cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Though there are concerns about flare-ups of a variant first seen in India, the government remains on track to reopen the English economy fully on June 21.

Nor is it clear how much lawmakers will press Mr. Cummings on Mr. Johnson’s personal peccadilloes. On Tuesday, there was a fresh reminder of his checkered history, with the release of a report by the Conservative Party that concluded Mr. Johnson’s disparaging references to Muslims during his days as a newspaper columnist had fostered the impression that the party is “insensitive to Muslim communities.”

For all the static around Mr. Johnson, however, his party just scored impressive victories in regional elections in England.

“Cummings would be able to do severe damage to a prime minister and a government that was in trouble and was unpopular,” Mr. Bale said. “But this government is not in trouble and the prime minister is very popular.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Eurovision, Celebrating the Sounds of a Postpandemic Continent

ROTTERDAM — The Italian band Maneskin celebrated its 2021 Eurovision win by the rock ’n’ roll playbook, with bare chests covered in tattoos, champagne spraying and the thuds of fireworks exploding.

The win was a close and deeply emotional one, with the band’s song, “Zitti e Buoni,” or “Shut Up and Be Quiet,” edging into first place in an exhilarating vote that was ultimately decided by the public. Maneskin barely beat France’s Barbara Pravi, and her chanson “Voilà.” After the victory, an Italian reporter was sobbing as tears streamed down his face.

Capturing what many felt, he said the victory was a fresh start for Italy. “It was a very difficult year for us,” the reporter, Simone Zani, said, talking about the devastating impact of the coronavirus. Explaining through his tears, he said, “We are from the north of Italy, from Bergamo,” an Italian city with record numbers of Covid-19 deaths. “To be No. 1 now, this is a new start for us, a new beginning.”

Eurovision, the largest music contest in the world, is a campy trifle to some, but it celebrates Europe’s cultural diversity and is a reflection of the times we live in. For many outside Europe, the attraction of Eurovision can be hard to comprehend. But a key reason the 200-million plus audience is watching is that there is no cultural mold for the event. Anything goes, and diversity is highly encouraged. The global entertainment business may be dominated by U.S. pop culture, but at Eurovision, 39 different countries can showcase their ideas of music and pop culture with no industry rules other than a three-minute song limit.

Jendrik playing a diamond studded ukulele while being accompanied by a dancing finger. Tix, the singer for Norway, has Tourette’s syndrome. He was dressed in a gigantic fur coat and wearing angel wings, while being chained to four horned demons. “Remember guys, you are not alone,” he said to everyone “suffering” in the world.

The three singers of Serbia’s entry, Hurricane, may have sported the big hair look of American groups of decades past, but despite seeming as if they had bought up most of the hair extensions on the continent, they sang their song, “Loco Loco,” in Serbian.

Nikkie Tutorials. The crowd went wild every time she came onstage or even walked past the corridors.

Dadi Freyr, and other group members, watched from a hotel room as the results came in. Standing in for the missing performers were dolls wearing the band’s outfit, topped with iPads showing their faces. Despite the recorded performance, Iceland landed fourth place.

Duncan Laurence, who had won for the Netherlands in 2019, also contracted the virus and wasn’t able to perform during this year’s finals as is the tradition. The event was canceled in 2020.

Hossein Zenderoudi. Her song dusts off the French chanson, recalling singers like Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg.

Some had criticized her, calling her style of singing out of fashion, but Ms. Pravi strongly disagreed. “You don’t need to make concessions in music,” she said. “You can be absolutely yourself, doing the music you like, say the words you want and being the woman you want to be. And now I am here at Eurovision, the biggest contest in the world.”

Early Sunday morning Ms. Pravi was seen in the dimly lit press center speaking to French reporters who couldn’t believe that their country had come so close to victory, after having achieved almost no Eurovision honors since their victory in 1977.

James Newman, the United Kingdom’s entrant, was nowhere to be found. His song “Embers” had received zero points from both the national juries and the international audience. “It’s Brexit,” said Meg Perry-Duxbury, a Briton living in Rotterdam, sitting next to me in the arena. “Europe doesn’t want us to win.” She herself was supporting Cyprus (another song featuring devils) anyway, Ms. Perry-Duxbury said. “So whatever.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Nottingham’s Dilemma: Robin Hood or High Tech?

NOTTINGHAM, England — Hilary Silvester still recalls the moment she first saw the Broadmarsh Center, a bleak 1970s shopping mall that symbolized Nottingham’s modernization in a scorned architectural era but is now being consigned to history.

“To be honest, I started to cry,” said Ms. Silvester, executive chairwoman of the Nottingham Civic Society, describing how the center created a giant wall across the city, obliterating the familiar skyline behind. “I couldn’t see one building that I recognized.”

Main streets and malls across Europe are in retreat, with retail stores closing right and left, and when it is bulldozed completely, this aging, unloved edifice will become a symbol of that decline. While retailers were already fighting a losing battle against online competition, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the trend, scuppering any chance of replacing the Broadmarsh with another mall.

So in a preview, perhaps, of what many cities throughout the world may soon face, Nottingham is mulling what to do with this soon-to-be gaping hole at its core. And at the heart of that debate lies an intriguing question: Should the city of the future look more like the past?

hilltop castle, elegant Georgian streets and a hidden maze of around 500 sandstone caves, some dating to the Middle Ages.

Bath, look at York, you look at the visitor traffic they are getting,” said Ms. Blair-Manning, referring to English cities that have long been tourist magnets. She added that Mr. Rogan’s ideas “would make complete and utter sense if you were building something that actually was focused on heritage tourism.”

Others are not so sure. David Mellen, the leader of Nottingham City Council, favors a blend of living space and green areas, with cafes and some shops. The lease on the Broadmarsh was handed back to the council when plans for a new mall collapsed, but the site will still have to generate income.

Mr. Mellen favors drawing more tourists to the city’s unusual network of caves, which include Britain’s only medieval underground tannery and were often carved into the sandstone as cellars and used over the centuries for everything from store rooms and dwellings to factories and air raid shelters. But he isn’t convinced about readopting the old street pattern.

“Cobbles were there for a purpose at that particular time,” he said. “You can’t go back to the past unless you are in some kind of theme park, and we are not a theme park, we are a core city of the U.K.”

Greg Nugent, who leads an advisory committee on the redevelopment, likes the idea of creating a symbolic link to Sherwood Forest but is also cautious about readopting the old street plan.

“I like it but I’d want it to be based on more than ‘Let’s bring those streets back,’” he said. “I think there’s a bigger idea in there.”

With so much empty space concentrated in the center of Nottingham, he sees an unrivaled opportunity for the city to steal a march on rivals coping with the decline of central malls and main streets. One option might be to devote part of it to businesses working on the green technologies of the future, said Mr. Nugent, who was the director of the organizing committee of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“I think there is a beginning of a renaissance for Nottingham,” he said. “It’s a really interesting city, very creative — it has a bit of an attitude. It’s not London, it’s not Manchester, it’s got a certain bravery about it.”

Perhaps that was not best reflected in the Broadmarsh, which — never mind the architecture — always had to play second fiddle to the Victoria Center, a more upmarket competitor nearby.

Inside the demolition zone, the Broadmarsh feels like a time capsule. Movie posters still hang on the wall of one empty store that sold videos, music and books. “Open for shoppin’” reads the mural not far from a disconnected A.T.M. surrounded by building debris.

Beneath this area builders have discovered one ancient burial site, and Georgian and Victorian brickwork can be seen in an area close to some of the city’s caves.

Mr. Nugent’s committee should have completed its work by the summer, and at least everyone agrees what should not replace the Broadmarsh. “In our consultation with the public we have had over 3,000 individual responses and there’s nobody who’s come and said, ‘We’d like another shopping center please,’” Mr. Mellen said.

Finding an alternative that will satisfy a sometimes rebellious city like Nottingham might prove harder, however. Mr. Nugent muses that in the 1970s, at a time when going shopping became a sort of British religion, the Broadmarsh was a sort of cathedral.

“What we all need to do now is work out what we will worship next, into this new decade and century,” he said. “That is the code that we have to crack, and it’s exciting that Nottingham gets to start this.”

View Source

Former U.K. Prime Minister Faces Parliament in Lobbying Scandal

LONDON — Not many former British prime ministers adapt easily to life after 10 Downing Street or gain the respect afforded to some ex-leaders around the world.

But few have fallen as far and as fast as David Cameron, who on Thursday made his first public appearance since a lobbying scandal cast a harsh light on his character and judgment, as well as the shifting morals of British public life.

Mr. Cameron’s embarrassment is particularly surprising because more than a decade ago and before becoming prime minister, he himself had warned that a crisis over lobbying was the “next big scandal waiting to happen” following an outcry over lawmakers’ expenses.

“We all know how it works,” Mr. Cameron said in a speech in 2010. “The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way.”

as did Greensill Capital, whose financial difficulties endangered thousands of jobs, prompting a series of inquiries.

During Thursday’s hearing, Mr. Cameron kept his cool and rejected as “absurd” reports that he stood to make tens of millions of dollars from options on Greensill shares. Refusing to give details, he nonetheless conceded that he had a “serious economic interest” in its success, was paid “generously” and earned more than his previous salary as prime minister. Nor did he deny using the company’s private jet to fly to his vacation home in Cornwall.

The release of messages earlier this week revealed the extent to which the ex-prime minister, who resigned in 2016, was willing to ingratiate himself with former staff and colleagues — including one with whom he had fallen out spectacularly a few years earlier.

“I know you are manically busy — and doing a great job,” wrote Mr. Cameron to Michael Gove, a senior cabinet minister, in one text stressing that he was “on this number and v free.”

and wrote: “As for Michael, one quality shone through: disloyalty.”

In the messages sent last year, Mr. Cameron also told the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, he was “doing a great job” — and made sure that senior officials knew about his contacts with Mr. Sunak.

“See you with Rishi’s for an elbow bump or foot tap. Love Dc,” Mr. Cameron signed off one message to Tom Scholar, the most senior civil servant at the Treasury.

in the right-leaning Daily Telegraph. She seemed to be referring to allegations Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke electoral rules in the underhanded way he was said to have financed a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.

Mr. Cameron resigned after taking the fatal gamble that he could persuade Britons to vote against Brexit in the 2016 referendum, leaving himself unexpectedly out of a job.

American intelligence agencies say ordered the killing. In a statement made in April, Mr. Cameron insisted that he took the opportunity to raise human rights issues.

On Thursday, Mr. Cameron explained his barrage of texts as a consequence of the urgency of the situation but conceded that, with hindsight, he should have made his approaches by formal letters or emails. He believed Greensill was offering good ideas to the government, Mr. Cameron said, denying that his lobbying was motivated by his financial interest.

Greensill pitched itself as an intermediary between the government and payees, offering to accelerate payments to businesses and individuals. In the case of individuals, Mr. Cameron defended the practice as a sort of populist alternative for some people to usurious payday-lending schemes. But the bulk of the lending was aimed at companies doing business with the government, and critics always questioned the wisdom of using an outside finance firm rather than simply speeding up government payments.

Professor Bale said that it was hard to think of any similarly overt lobbying of ministers from a former prime minister, not even Tony Blair, who was much criticized for his consultancy work.

“It is illustrative of a decline in standards because it used to be the case that this kind of thing ‘wasn’t done’ — and now it is,” Professor Bale said. The silver lining, he added, was that “the embarrassment caused to David Cameron might put some of his successors off.”

View Source

Showing Little Contrition, David Cameron Faces U.K. Parliament in Lobbying Scandal

LONDON — Not many former British prime ministers adapt easily to life after 10 Downing Street or gain the respect afforded to some ex-leaders around the world.

But few have fallen as far and as fast as David Cameron, who on Thursday made his first public appearance since a lobbying scandal cast a harsh light on his character and judgment, as well as the shifting morals of British public life.

Mr. Cameron’s embarrassment is particularly surprising because more than a decade ago and before becoming prime minister, he himself had warned that a crisis over lobbying was the “next big scandal waiting to happen” following an outcry over lawmakers’ expenses.

“We all know how it works,” Mr. Cameron said in a speech in 2010. “The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way.”

as did Greensill Capital, whose financial difficulties endangered thousands of jobs, prompting a series of inquiries.

During Thursday’s hearing, Mr. Cameron kept his cool and rejected as “absurd” reports that he stood to make tens of millions of dollars from options on Greensill shares. Refusing to give details he nonetheless conceded that he had a “serious economic interest” in its success, was paid “generously” and earned more than his previous salary as prime minister. Nor did he deny using the company’s private jet to fly to his vacation home in Cornwall.

The release of messages earlier this week revealed the extent to which the ex-prime minister, who resigned in 2016, was willing to ingratiate himself with former staff and colleagues — including one with whom he had fallen out spectacularly a few years earlier.

“I know you are manically busy — and doing a great job,” wrote Mr. Cameron to Michael Gove, a senior cabinet minister in one text stressing that he was “on this number and v free.”

and wrote: “As for Michael, one quality shone through: disloyalty.”

In the messages sent last year, Mr. Cameron also told the chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, he was “doing a great job” — and made sure that senior officials knew about his contacts with Mr. Sunak.

“See you with Rishi’s for an elbow bump or foot tap. Love Dc,” Mr. Cameron signed off one message to Tom Scholar, the most senior civil servant at the Treasury.

in the right-leaning Daily Telegraph. She seemed to be referring to allegations Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke electoral rules in the underhanded way he was said to have financed a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.

Mr. Cameron resigned after taking the fatal gamble that he could persuade Britons to vote against Brexit in the 2016 referendum, leaving himself unexpectedly out of a job.

American intelligence agencies say ordered the killing. In a statement made in April Mr. Cameron insisted that he took the opportunity to raise human rights issues.

On Thursday, Mr. Cameron explained his barrage of texts as a consequence of the urgency of the situation but conceded that, with hindsight, he should have made his approaches by formal letters or emails. He believed Greensill was offering good ideas to the government, Mr. Cameron said, denying that his lobbying was motivated his by financial interest.

Greensill pitched itself as an intermediary between the government and payees, offering to accelerate payments to businesses and individuals. In the case of individuals, Mr. Cameron defended the practice as a sort of populist alternative for some people to usurious payday-lending schemes. But the bulk of the lending was aimed at companies doing business with the government, and critics always questioned the wisdom of using an outside finance firm rather than simply speeding up government payments.

Professor Bale said that it was hard to think of any similarly overt lobbying of ministers from a former prime minister, not even Tony Blair, who was much criticized for his consultancy work.

“It is illustrative of a decline in standards because it used to be the case that this kind of thing ‘wasn’t done’ — and now it is,” Professor Bale said. The silver lining, he added, was that “the embarrassment caused to David Cameron might put some of his successors off.”

View Source

Queen’s Speech: Johnson Presses Advantage in U.K. Government Program

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson hoped to use the opening of Britain’s Parliament on Tuesday to galvanize his government’s agenda after striking victories in regional elections in England last week. But the spotlight, at least initially, fell on Queen Elizabeth II, who appeared in public for the first time since burying her husband, Prince Philip, last month to handle the age-old pageantry.

Squired by her son and heir, Prince Charles, the queen, 95, presided over a ceremony stripped down by coronavirus restrictions. But her voice was firm and steady as she read the Queen’s Speech, in which Mr. Johnson’s government laid out an ambitious agenda to “level up” the economically depressed north of England with the more prosperous south.

It was the queen’s 67th opening of Parliament, and a reassuring sign of continuity for Britain’s constitutional monarchy. For Mr. Johnson, it was a chance to bring a semblance of normalcy back to politics, after the turmoil of Brexit and a pandemic that paralyzed the country, leaving more than 125,000 people dead.

Mr. Johnson signaled that he intended to keep playing a dominant role in the political arena, proposing to scrap a law that restricts his ability to call general elections. With the government reaping credit for Britain’s swift rollout of vaccines and the prospect of a post-lockdown economic boom, analysts said Mr. Johnson might decide to call an election a year early, in 2023, to take better advantage of the good news.

The government also proposed that voters be required to show identification at polling places, which some opposition parties criticized as a cynical effort to suppress turnout. It was one of a host of measures that included increased funding for the National Health Service, after a year of unrelenting pressure; tighter laws on crime; changes in planning regulations to encourage more house construction; and an overhaul of the asylum system.

The government, the speech said, would “deliver a national recovery from the pandemic that makes the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous than before.” Reading a text prepared by Downing Street, the queen spoke fluently of Mr. Johnson’s plans to roll out “5G mobile coverage and gigabit-capable broadband” throughout the country.

For decades, Prince Philip accompanied his wife to the opening of Parliament, though in recent years Charles had taken his place. Philip’s recent death lent the proceedings a more wistful, austere atmosphere than usual.

The queen shunned the 18-foot velvet cape and imperial crown that she once wore at state openings in favor of a more sensible lilac coat and hat. Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, watched from the sidelines as Elizabeth delivered what amounted to an abbreviated State of the Union address.

Though missing hundreds of lawmakers and V.I.P. guests because of Covid restrictions, the state opening still featured plenty of pomp. The crown, which normally resides in the Tower of London, was paraded through the echoing hallways of the Palace of Westminster on a red velvet pillow, even if it did not sit on the queen’s head.

Mr. Johnson was summoned from the House of Commons by the Lady Usher of the Black Rod, who first had the door slammed in her face as a sign of its members’ independence. Mr. Johnson and the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, took their places before the queen, who sat on a carved wooden throne.

The two leaders said nothing to each other as they walked, in single file and wearing face masks, to the House of Lords. Last week’s elections left the Labour Party in disarray, as Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party made further inroads into Labour’s stronghold in working-class districts in the Midlands and the north of England.

View Source

UK’s Labour Party Reels After Panicked Response to Election Loss

LONDON — Sober, cerebral and with the poise of the top-shelf lawyer he once was, Keir Starmer promised competence rather than charisma when he became leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party last year, following its crushing general election defeat in 2019.

But his panicky response to last week’s poor local election results and a clumsy reshuffle of his top team have left his party in turmoil, diminishing his authority and raising doubts about whether Labour has a credible path back to power.

Mr. Starmer found himself embroiled in fierce recriminations over local election results that, with smoother communication, could have been explained away as disappointing, but instead pointed to a deeper crisis.

“The one thing Keir Starmer was supposed to be was competent,” said Steven Fielding, professor of political history at the University of Nottingham. “The election results were not good but they weren’t as bad as some people liked to present them. He completely messed up his reaction, and that highlights concerns about his ability to communicate.”

under its last leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said on Twitter.

claims Mr. Johnson broke electoral rules over the financing of a pricey refurbishment of his apartment.

But Britons apparently ignored those goings on in Westminster, and with the country now emerging from Covid-19 restrictions seemed to reward politicians who controlled health policies. The ruling Scottish National Party in Scotland performed strongly, as did the governing Labour Party in Wales.

In England, Mr. Johnson was forgiven for his chaotic early handling of the pandemic and rewarded for the country’s highly successful vaccination roll out.

Not all is lost for Mr. Starmer, particularly when the entirety of last week’s results are taken into account. According to a BBC analysis projecting the local voting into a national vote share, Labour was seven points behind the Conservatives, hardly a good result but progress on the 12-point deficit recorded in the 2019 general election.

With no credible challenger waiting in the wings, Mr. Starmer is unlikely to face any immediate threat to his leadership. Nonetheless, the speed with which critics attacked his reshuffle raises pressure on Mr. Starmer to at least identify a message that can appeal to two very different groups of Britons — the old working class stalwarts and the more youthful, liberal and better educated city dwellers.

“Under Starmer it has been two steps forward and one step back,” said Mr. Fielding, “and he hasn’t addressed the problem of how you win back the red wall without losing metropolitan liberal voters.”

View Source

Of Brexit and Boris: What’s Driving the Call for Scottish Independence

The millions of votes counted across Scotland on Saturday could be among the most consequential in recent times, and not because of their impact on things like health, education and fisheries. The greatest issue facing the country, and the one that was really at stake, was nowhere to be found on the ballot, and that is the future of its 314-year-old union with England.

While the last votes were still being counted on Saturday in the parliamentary elections, it appeared virtually certain that the pro-independence Scottish National Party would fall short of the majority it had hoped would create an irresistible momentum for a new referendum on breaking away from the United Kingdom. But it will retain power in Edinburgh, probably with the support of the Scottish Greens, guaranteeing that the issue will continue to dominate Scottish politics, as it has in recent years.

A lot. A second independence plebiscite, following one in 2014, could lead to the fracturing of the United Kingdom. Were Scotland to become independent, Britain would lose eight percent of its population, a third of its landmass and significant amounts of international prestige.

Some say the loss of Scotland would be the biggest blow to a British prime minister since Lord North lost the colonies in America in the 18th century. Understandably, the current prime minister, Boris Johnson, is no fan of the idea.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister. Her party has led the Scottish government for 14 years and she has earned praise for her steady handling of the coronavirus pandemic, particularly compared with the early performance of Mr. Johnson.

There are smaller parties that want another vote, too, like the Greens, who are close to the S.N.P. Another pro-independence party, Alba, is led by Alex Salmond, who is not an ally of Ms. Sturgeon — at least not any more. A former first minister himself, Mr. Salmond was once Ms. Sturgeon’s mentor, but the two have recently been embroiled in a bitter feud, and his election campaign fell flat.

Re-established in 1999, Scotland’s Parliament was designed to quiet calls for Scottish independence, but it hasn’t worked out like that. The pro-independence S.N.P. has become the dominant force and, in 2011, won a rare overall majority in a Parliament where the voting system is designed to avoid any one party’s domination. After that result, the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron reluctantly agreed to the 2014 independence referendum.

Ms. Sturgeon had been hoping that a thumping victory for the pro-independence parties in these elections would give her the moral authority to demand another plebiscite. They fell short, but Ms. Sturgeon will keep up pressure for a referendum claiming that, combined with the vote for the Greens, she has a mandate.

They show a divided Scotland, split down the middle over independence. That is in line with the findings of opinion polls that last year showed a majority favoring independence only to fall back slightly in recent months. The Scottish Conservatives, the opposition Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats all oppose independence.

So dominant is the issue that some anti-independence voters seem to have switched allegiance from their normal parties to support the one most likely to defeat the S.N.P. in their area. Ms. Sturgeon is on course to remain first minister, which is an impressive achievement, but with her path to an overall majority likely cut off, her moral case for a second referendum has been weakened.

For a second independence referendum to be legal it would almost certainly need the agreement of London, and Mr. Johnson has repeatedly said no. That’s a big problem for Ms. Sturgeon, because she wants the result of any second referendum to be accepted internationally and for Scotland to be allowed to return to the European Union.

Far from it. Even if she has to rely on the Greens, Ms. Sturgeon is likely to have enough votes to push legislation for “indyref2” through the Scottish Parliament and then challenge Mr. Johnson or his allies to stop it in court.

That could cause a constitutional crisis. After all, Scotland’s union with England in 1707 was voluntary, making it hard for London to say no forever to another referendum. And Ms. Sturgeon may calculate that support for independence will only grow if Scots see the popular will being blocked by a government in England.

View Source