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At least five dead and more injured in Cumbria shootings

A body, believed to be that of taxi driver turned gunman Derrick Bird, has been found by police.

Four people have been confirmed as dead and up to seven more are thought to be injured after a lone gunman opened fire in Whitehaven, Cumbria earlier today.

Derrick Bird, a 52-year-old taxi driver who was known to local people as "Birdy", fired into a car at a taxi rank with a shotgun at 10.35am this morning. The area has since been cordoned off by police and a body covered with a sheet.

Shortly after, two more deaths were certified by local GPs in the nearby village of Seascale. Dr Barrie Walker, one of the doctors called to the scene, said that one of the victims was standing in the street, while the other was on a bike. A third was seriously injured. He said: "The person who is seriously injured was in his car, driving along. It looks as though he was shot through the window."

Bird subsequently abandoned his car and continued on foot. At around 2pm, a body was found in a wooded area in Boot, another village near Whitehaven. Police have not yet confirmed the identity of the body, but it is thought to be that of the gunman. Police have recovered a gun from the scene, which was found near the body.

It is thought that there were 11 shootings in all. Although unconfirmed, local news outlets are quoting sources who say that Bird's mother and brother numbered among those shot. Helen Carter, a reporter for the Guardian, who has just arrived in Whitehaven, is reporting that Bird's mother was terminally ill, although this is also as yet unconfirmed by police.

Sue Matthews, telephonist at A2B Taxis in Whitehaven, said: "It is like watching something from America. I know him through work, he was self-employed but it's a small place. I know he had one son, who was grown up, and he lived alone. He was a regular in town and would have a night out. I would say he was fairly popular."

Sellafield nuclear power plant closed its gates as a security precaution and afternoon shiftworkers were told to stay away. The plant has since been reopened.


Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

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Lord Geoffrey Howe dies, age 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.