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18 March 2015updated 07 Jun 2021 2:14pm

Five things you need to know today: the UK-Iran clash and Labour’s war with the BBC

By New Statesman

The Gulf between us

Three Iranian boats attempted to impede a British oil tanker in the Gulf on Wednesday before being driven off by a Royal Navy ship. The British warship, HMS Montrose was “forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away,” a government statement released on Thursday morning said. A spokesman stated that Iran’s actions in the Strait of Hormuz – one of the world’s most vital shipping channels – were “contrary to international law”. Iran had been threatening to retaliate for the seizure of one of its oil tankers near Gibraltar last week, which Britain impeded owing evidence it was travelling to Syria in breach of EU sanctions. 

Labour of no love

The Labour Party has furiously denied allegations that senior aides interfered in anti-Semitism disciplinary procedures. In a BBC Panorama programme broadcast last night, eight whistleblowers, including four who broke non-disclosure agreements, said that they felt severely undermined by the party’s handling of cases. Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson said he was “shocked, chilled and appalled” by the allegations. But the party, which has formally complained to the BBC of misrepresentation, said that “disaffected former officials” with “personal and political axes to grind” had “always opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership [and] worked to actively undermine it”.

Between Darroch and a hard place

Boris Johnson has been accused by Conservative MPs of throwing Kim Darroch, the former British ambassador to the US, “under the bus” for political purposes. Johnson pointedly refused to defend Darroch over insults by Donald Trump, the moment some say that the diplomat concluded his position was untenable. Theresa May is reportedly considering appointing a new ambassador in her final week as prime minister in order to deny Johnson, who is expected to succeed her, the chance to impose a candidate of his choice. In the New Statesman, Stephen Bush writes that Darroch had no choice but to resign and that civil servants will increasingly feel unable to give candid advice for fear of becoming the story. 

US vs. France: a taxing issue

Donald Trump has ordered an investigation into French plans to tax large technology companies as American officials consider imposing retaliatory tariffs. “The United States is very concerned that the digital services tax … unfairly targets American companies,” the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer, said on Wednesday as heannounced a so-called Section 301 investigation. The tax, which is expected to be approved by the French parliament today, would impose a 3 per cent levy on revenue made inside France by firms such as Google and Facebook.

The other World Cup semi-final

England will face Australia this morning in the semi-final of the Cricket World Cup at Edgbaston. The hosts, who began the competition as favourites, lost to Australia in the group stage but recovered to defeat India and New Zealand. England last made a Cricket World Cup final in 1992 when Pakistan defeated them by 22 runs.

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