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On Thursday, the day after the end of the conference season, YouGov hosted a focus group with seven Blue Wall voters from around the South East exclusively for Sky News.

Some natural Conservatives, some former Tony Blair supporters, all with one thing in common: each voted Tory in the 2019 general election. Now their votes are up for grabs.

Here’s what our floating voter focus group found:

None said they were certain to vote Tory at the next election

Of the seven strong group, all of whom voted for Boris Johnson, none were prepared to say they would definitely vote Tory next time. Just one participant of the focus group confirmed they were more likely than not to back Liz Truss’s party next time around – suggesting plenty of doubts are harboured by the rest.

Several in the group were not wildly enthusiastic about the alternative – a Labour government – but felt it was now the default for the country given a profound concern at the existing team in power.

Stephanie, a solicitor, declared: “Do I think she (Truss) can do it? No. I don’t think she has the skills, the experience or the team behind her, and they’re all fighting against themselves.”

The group didn’t appear to think a month ago they would dislike Liz Truss – with Phyllis, an admirer of Margaret Thatcher, saying she started out believing the new PM would be better than Boris Johnson. But the decisions Truss has made in her first four weeks in power have left a profound impact on these voters.

Voters worry the Truss plans are dangerous

The focus group demonstrated just how closely voters had been paying attention to the succession of announcements by the new government, and have taken fright at the change of direction by Truss.

“In order for her plans to take place, it requires an enormous amount of borrowing and that’s putting up interest rates,” said Jane, a hospital inspector. “So, we’re potentially bankrupting the country. What Liz Truss is proposing is very reckless. I don’t think this is the time we should be experimental.”

Phyllis, a cashier, said that Truss was “going in too hard” with her plans without being in touch. Others worried what it would mean in practice.

David, who is retired, said that “you can’t just say growth, growth, growth. What’s the plan behind that?” Only one member of the group, Patrick, was positive and suggested he admired her bravery.

Voters do not warm to Truss’s personality

Just one of the seven members of our focus group at the end of the session voted to say they trust Liz Truss. Even that one backer, Patrick, volunteered that he felt she had less energy, was more like a “schoolteacher” and the “delivery wasn’t there” but liked the core Conservative messages she espouses.

The group did not see her as a unifying figure. Paul, a former local government officer, said she was “very abrasive” in her conference speech. He highlighted her childhood going on CND marches, saying she’s “taking it out” now on the Greenpeace protesters who interrupted the speech.

Jane, a mother of twins, suggested her attack on the “anti-growth coalition” was actually divisive. “I find her a very uncomfortable (watch),” while Jasmine who worked in the financial services industry suggested Truss is at her most passionate when she is attacking others.

Kier Starmer Interview with Beth Rigby

These southern swing voters are edging cautiously towards Labour

Three of the seven said they were likely to vote Labour at the next election. Two further members of the group had not made up their mind. For a party which has in recent times struggled to get disaffected Tory voters to consider Labour, this is a good result.

Keir Starmer was described as the “lesser of two evils” by one member of the focus group, most of whom felt the Labour leader currently has the political edge.

David, who worked as an auditor, said that it is now “inevitable” there will be a Labour government – a sense of inevitability is often politically advantageous for a political party. There was not unalloyed enthusiasm, however.

Keir Starmer remains damaged by the Corbyn years and fears of a lurch to the left

These southern Blue Wall voters were still worried by what they saw as the stain of the Corbyn years. Jane said she voted for Boris Johnson in 2019 because of Jeremy Corbyn and antisemitism.

Patrick, who works in the rail industry, highlighted how many of the shadow cabinet served under Jeremy Corbyn.

David said that while Keir Starmer knows he needs to have centrist policies to be electable, “I’m very worried that because of the makeup of the Labour Parliamentary Party, he’ll be under huge pressure to move to the left in government”.

There were concerns for many in the group that a Labour government could mean more strikes: just one, Paul, who worked in local government, said that inflation could mean in some cases they were justified.

Many in Westminster may see Starmer as having cut ties with much of the Corbyn era – the public are not so clear about the difference.

Voters aren’t yet convinced Keir Starmer is strong enough

The Labour leader was seen as honest, decent and a good salesman by most members of the group. But there remains a lingering concern over whether he is tough enough to take on his party if they demand he lurch to the left in power.

Some in the group queried his lack of policy specifics. David said the party is “just very polarised: you’ve got the extreme left and then you’ve got the middle and then Keir Starmer who will say anything.”

Jane said that his difficulty “is a divided party and he struggles to convey his personal convictions.”

Stephanie also felt Starmer is more centrist than a leftwinger “but Labour is funded by the unions so he may have to support them”. Voters were “between a rock and a hard place,” she added.

Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson makes a speech outside 10 Downing Street, London, before leaving for Balmoral for an audience with Queen Elizabeth II to formally resign as Prime Minister. Picture date: Tuesday September 6, 2022.

Voters remain incandescent with Boris Johnson. There’s no hope of a comeback

Thatcher fan Stephanie said she was embarrassed and ashamed by the Conservative party.

David said that having voted Conservative, the more he saw of Boris Johnson the more he was impressed by his intellectual ability … but as time wore on “I just lost complete trust in him; he has no moral compass”.

There was still disgust at partygate, with Jane remaining incandescent at what happened in the Johnson era.

Voters want a general election more than another Tory leadership contest

Patrick, the most ardent Conservative supporter of the group, said that if the Conservatives do not rally round Liz Truss, “they’re committing political suicide”.

Jane, however, said that we were already past the point of no return: “I don’t think she’ll survive. I think she’ll gradually give up on things because she’ll watch her popularity ebb away, then she’ll not be able to manage her MPs and we will have a general election sooner rather than later.

Three of the group said that Tories should get rid of Liz Truss. Four of the seven wanted an early election.

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Core one nation Conservative values still looked popular

The danger for Labour and Starmer is that there is a lingering fear of the left, and a residual affection for core Tory values. Patrick said the Tories should go back to standing for law and order, high growth, low taxes, and supporting aspirations.

Self-styled centrist Jane said that as well as strong public services, she believed in a healthy economy to provide the tax revenues to support them.

Jasmine, who could now support Labour, said the “Tories have still got the interests of the country at heart in essence”.

The focus group participants are profoundly worried about the future

Every member of the group said they were “negative” about Britain’s future.

Stephanie said she had no faith in those in charge to solve the nation’s problems. Jane said she was feeling “quite highly anxious” for her children, adding that there was an “arrogant disconnect” between leaders and voters but what was different this time was the “borderline desperation” epitomised by the use of food banks.

Phyllis felt it was less bad in the 1980s than today because in the Thatcher era there was greater social mobility then.

David said that the difference between the 1970s and now is house prices. Jane concluded by saying she thought “we’re on the edge of some social unrest”, adding she “doesn’t want to see strikes and wants everyone to negotiate but some people are going to be so desperate.”

It is hard to remain in power if that sentiment is widely felt.

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Ireland, Norway and Spain recognise Palestine as independent state

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Ireland, Norway and Spain recognise Palestine as independent state

Ireland, Norway and Spain have officially recognised Palestine as a separate state, prompting Israel to recall its ambassadors from two of the European states.

Speaking on Wednesday, Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said: “Today Ireland, Norway and Spain are announcing that we recognise the state of Palestine, each of us will undertake whatever national steps are necessary to give effect to that decision.

“I am confident that further countries will join us in taking this important step in the coming weeks.”

What is the two-state solution?

The Irish government argues that recognition supports a two-state solution, which it said is essential for lasting peace in the region, which has been at the centre of Israel’s offensive against Hamas since October.

Mr Harris continued: “It is a statement of unequivocal support for a two-state solution, the only credible path to peace and security for Israel, for Palestine and for their peoples.”

The protests during the semi-finals. Pic: Reuters
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Norway and Spain said they will recognise the Palestine state from 28 May. File pic: Reuters

Shortly after Mr Harris’ statement in Dublin, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Norway’s foreign minister, Espen Barth Eide, said both countries will recognise a Palestine state from 28 May.

Mr Sanchez said it is clear is that “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does not have a project of peace for Palestine, even if the fight against the terrorist group Hamas is legitimate”.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store added: “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.

Taoiseach Simon Harris speaking to the media during a press conference outside the Government Buildings, Dublin, as the Republic of Ireland recognised the state of Palestine. Picture date: Wednesday May 22, 2024.
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Taoiseach Simon Harris said recognition of Palestine as a state is the only credible path to peace. Pic: PA

“The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel,” the Norwegian government leader said.

“Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state.”

‘Terrorism pays’

After the announcement, Israel’s foreign minister ordered Israel’s ambassadors from Ireland and Norway to immediately return to Israel.

IDF stills

Posting on X Israel Katz said: “Today’s decision sends a message to the Palestinians and the world: Terrorism pays.”

He said that the recognition could impede efforts to return Israel’s hostages being held in Gaza and makes a ceasefire less likely by “rewarding the jihadists of Hamas and Iran”.

Read more:
Israeli minister denies there is a famine in Gaza
Israeli officials shut down Associated Press broadcast

“Israel will not remain silent in the face of those undermining its sovereignty and endangering its security,” he added.

It comes as Israeli forces have led assaults on the northern and southern edges of Gaza and sharply restricted the flow of aid, raising the risk of famine in the enclave.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the recognition of a Palestinian state and called on other countries to follow.

In a statement carried by the official Wafa news agency, Mr Abbas said the decision will enshrine “the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination” and support efforts to bring about a two-state solution with Israel.

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Singapore Airlines: Passengers describe chaos of fatal turbulence flight

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Singapore Airlines: Passengers describe chaos of fatal turbulence flight

A passenger travelling on a plane where a man died after the aircraft hit extreme turbulence has said she was “thrown to the roof and the floor”, while another said he “won’t be flying again for a while”.

A 73-year-old British man died from a suspected heart attack and dozens more were injured after “sudden extreme turbulence” on a London-Singapore flight.

Singapore Airlines flight SQ321 left Heathrow Airport on Monday night but was forced to make an emergency landing in at Bangkok, landing at 3.45pm local time.

Passengers have said seatbelts spared people from injury and passengers were “launched into the ceiling” of the jet.

Australian Teandra Tukhunen, who had her left arm in a sling in Bangkok’s Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital, said she was asleep and “was woken up because I was thrown to the roof and then to the floor”.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer REFILE – CORRECTING FLIGHT NUMBER FROM "SG321" TO "SQ321
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Pic: Reuters

Sandra, from Melbourne, said she 'was woken up because I was thrown to the roof and then to the floor'
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Sandra, from Melbourne, said she ‘was thrown to the roof and then to the floor’

Ms Tukhunen, 30, said when the seatbelt sign came on “pretty much immediately, straight after that I was flung to the roof, before I had time to put my seatbelt on unfortunately.

“It was just so quick, over in a couple of seconds and then you’re just shocked. Everyone’s pretty freaked out”.

Asked if it was scary, she shrugged: “Life happens. Things happen. The pilots saved our lives, that’s all that matters in the end.”

Passenger Josh said 'I don't think I'll be flying again for a while'
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Passenger Josh said ‘I don’t think I’ll be flying again for a while’

Passenger Joshua said “I don’t think I’ll be flying again for a while” after the incident which he called “quite scary”.

Lying on a trolley in the same hospital, he described hearing “one huge loud noise, things were coming through the ceiling, water everywhere, people crying… it wasn’t a fun end to the journey”.

He said he was in “a lot of pain” and felt a lot worse after the news of the passenger’s death had “sunk in”.

British passenger Andrew Davies said “anyone who had a seatbelt on isn’t injured”.

Mr Davies said the seatbelt sign came on, but crew members didn’t have time to take their seats.

“Every single cabin crew person I saw was injured in some way or another, maybe with a gash on their head. One had a bad back, and was in obvious pain,” he said.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand, May 21, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer REFILE – CORRECTING FLIGHT NUMBER FROM "SG321" TO "SQ321
Image:
Pic: Reuters

Passenger Dzafran Azmir described the chaos on board after the plane rose, then fell.

Mr Azmir said: “Suddenly the aircraft starts tilting up and there was shaking so I started bracing for what was happening, and very suddenly there was a very dramatic drop so everyone seated and not wearing a seatbelt was launched immediately into the ceiling.

“Some people hit their heads on the baggage cabins overhead and dented it, they hit the places where lights and masks are and broke straight through it.”

Kittipong Kittikachorn, head of Bangkok airport, described the disorder he found when he boarded the aircraft after the most critically injured passengers and crew had been evacuated.

Mr Kittikachorn said: “I saw things lying everywhere and many air crew injured.”

He said it’s believed the turbulence hit while people were having breakfast and that an “air pocket” was to blame.

Mr Kittikachorn said most of the passengers he had spoken to had been wearing their seatbelts.

A spokesperson for Samitivej Srinakarin Hospital said: “Seventy-one people needed treatment and six of them had critical injuries”.

Read more:
Images show damage in plane after one killed in turbulence
Is flight turbulence getting worse – and what types are there?

However, Singapore Airlines seemed to contradict those numbers and said only 30 people had been taken to hospital.

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Singapore Airlines said the pilot declared a medical emergency and landed in Bangkok after “sudden extreme turbulence over the Irrawaddy Basin at 37,000 feet about 10 hours after departure”.

In a statement, the UK Foreign Office said it was “in contact with the local authorities”.

Forty-seven Britons were among the 211 passengers and 18 crew onboard the plane, a Boeing 777-300ER.

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Singapore Airlines: Is flight turbulence getting worse – and what types are there?

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Singapore Airlines: Is flight turbulence getting worse - and what types are there?

Severe turbulence struck a Singapore Airlines flight from London Heathrow earlier today, with one man killed and many others “launched into the ceiling”.

Authorities believe a 73-year-old British man, who had a heart condition, likely died from cardiac arrest, with at least 30 others injured as a result of the turbulence.

Deaths from turbulence are extremely rare, and the US’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said 146 passengers and crew have been seriously injured by turbulence between 2009 and 2021.

Read more:
Images show damage in plane after one killed in turbulence

But what could have caused the incident, what types of turbulence exist, and are the events getting worse? Here’s what experts have said so far:

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Pic: Reuters
Image:
Pic: Reuters

What does the flight data show?

Flight data shows a spike in altitude of around 275ft (84m) at 2.49pm local time. Shortly after, the plane returned to a cruising altitude of around 37,000ft (11,277m).

According to Flightradar24, “the flight encountered a rapid change in vertical rate, consistent with a sudden turbulence event”.

At 3.03pm local time, the flight changed course and began its diversion to Bangkok.

Around 20 minutes later, at about 3.25pm, the flight declared an emergency – a Squawk 7700 – before landing in Bangkok at 3.45pm.

Source: Flightradar24. All times are local
Image:
Source: Flightradar24. All times are local

What could have caused the turbulence?

Tim Atkinson, an aviation consultant and pilot, told the Sky News Daily podcast he believes “it’s fairly clear” the Singapore Airlines flight “encountered atmospheric turbulence”.

He noted that the area – called the Intertropical Convergence Zone – where the Boeing 777 plunged 6,000 feet is “renowned among pilots, and I dare say passengers, for turbulence”.

“Despite abundant caution occasionally, there’s turbulence ahead which can’t be identified, and the unfortunate result of an encounter is injury and, very rarely, fatality,” he said.

Mr Atkinson also noted that the larger the aircraft, “the worse the atmospheric perturbation, the disruption in the smoothness of the atmosphere, needs to be to cause major problems”.

He then said the 777 is “one of the largest and, I daresay, most solid airframes widely flying around the world”.

The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport.
Pic: Reuters
Image:
Pic: Reuters

What types of turbulence are there?

Sky News’ weather producer Jo Robinson notes there are a few forms of turbulence – where there’s a sudden change in airflow and wind speed.

Turbulence can often be associated with storm clouds, which are usually well forecast and monitored, allowing planes to fly around them.

Clear-air turbulence (CAT) is much more dangerous as there are no visual signs, such as clouds.

This invisible vertical air movement usually occurs at and above 15,000ft and is mostly linked to the jet stream.

There are clues on where CAT may occur, but generally it can’t be detected ahead of time, which means flight crews can be caught unaware with no time to warn passengers and put seat belt signs on.

It is unclear what type of turbulence the Singapore Airlines flight went through.

How common is an incident like this?

Chris McGee, a commercial pilot for more than 20 years, said in her experience the plane did encounter CAT which is “almost impossible to predict” and comes “out of the blue”.

Ms McGee said turbulence is not in fact that rare, but to experience it to this degree is “phenomenally rare”.

“In my career I’ve experienced one incident of severe turbulence,” she said, adding that she has heard of maybe “two, possibly three incidents of something that extreme” from fellow pilots.

The reported 6,000-ft drop in under five minutes is quite normal in a controlled descent instigated by the pilot, she said.

However, what they experienced was not a nice smooth, controlled descent, but an “absolute maelstrom of the aeroplane flinging itself around all over the sky”.

“It’s awful what happened to those on board, one death is tragic, other people were injured, but something like that is incredibly rare,” she said.

“We do train in the simulator every six months at least where we practicse things we can’t practise in the real aeroplane. Things like emergency procedures, abnormalities and unusual weather conditions like this, for example.

“We are taught how to fly the aeroplane through these extreme events and how to recover them should the plane depart from its normal flight mode.”

Her best advice for any passengers concerned about their safety on the flight is to follow what the cabin crew “strongly suggest and keep their seatbelts loosely tied at all times. On the flight deck that’s what we do. It will protect you”.

Pic: Reuters
The interior of Singapore Airline flight SQ321 is pictured after an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport, in Bangkok, Thailand May 21, 2024. Obtained by Reuters/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES
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Pic: Reuters

Is turbulence getting worse?

It’s been understood for some time that climate change is increasing turbulence during flights, and the trend is set to worsen according to reports.

In June last year, a study from Reading University found that in a typical spot in the North Atlantic – one of the world’s busiest routes – the total annual duration of severe turbulence increased by 55% from 17.7 hours in 1979 to 27.4 hours in 2020.

Moderate turbulence was also found to have increased by 37% from 70.0 to 96.1 hours, and light turbulence increased by 17% from 466.5 to 546.8 hours.

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Professor Paul Williams, an atmospheric scientist who co-authored the study, said at the time: “My message from this is we need to do something otherwise flights will become more turbulent in future [as global heating increases further].”

Professor Paul Roundy, from the University of Albany, said on X on Tuesday that the 55% increase in “a very infrequent signal gives a real, but small, change in absolute risk”.

He noted that “it’s not something a randomly selected passenger should worry about,” before adding: “Airline travel of the future won’t be fraught with wings ripped off planes, or have thousands of dead or injured passengers.

“It will mostly look like it does today.”

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