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What happened this week in the UK election campaign, from manifesto launches to robots and Haribos

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What happened this week in the UK election campaign, from manifesto launches to robots and Haribos
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What happened this week in the UK election campaign, from manifesto launches to robots and Haribos

2024-06-14 23:08 Last Updated At:23:11

LONDON (AP) — The U.K.'s general election campaign has now passed the halfway mark, and finally the main political parties have published their plans for government should they win on July 4.

Beyond the carefully choreographed set piece events, there's always a potential banana skin around the corner. Just ask Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who had to apologize — repeatedly — for leaving the 80th D-Day commemorations in northern France on June 6 before the main international event.

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Britain's Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaks to the media during a press conference in central London, Friday June 14, 2024, while on the General Election campaign trail. (James Manning/PA via AP)

LONDON (AP) — The U.K.'s general election campaign has now passed the halfway mark, and finally the main political parties have published their plans for government should they win on July 4.

Britain's Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaks to the media during a press conference in central London, Friday June 14, 2024, while on the General Election campaign trail. (James Manning/PA via AP)

Britain's Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaks to the media during a press conference in central London, Friday June 14, 2024, while on the General Election campaign trail. (James Manning/PA via AP)

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey, 3rd from left, during a visit to Thorpe Park in Chertsey, England, whilst on the General Election campaign trail, Monday June 10, 2024. (Lucy North/PA via AP)

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey, 3rd from left, during a visit to Thorpe Park in Chertsey, England, whilst on the General Election campaign trail, Monday June 10, 2024. (Lucy North/PA via AP)

Britain's Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey takes part in an assault course during a visit to Arena Pursuits in Wadhurst, Kent, England, Thursday, June 13, 2024, while on the general election campaign trail. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

Britain's Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey takes part in an assault course during a visit to Arena Pursuits in Wadhurst, Kent, England, Thursday, June 13, 2024, while on the general election campaign trail. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses the audience, during the Sky News election debate, in Grimsby, England, Wednesday June 12, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses the audience, during the Sky News election debate, in Grimsby, England, Wednesday June 12, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)

FILE -Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, left, talks to Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after watching a skydiving demo during the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations are turning their attention to migration on the second day of their summit Friday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

FILE -Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, left, talks to Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after watching a skydiving demo during the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations are turning their attention to migration on the second day of their summit Friday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

Britain's Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer talks to journalists on the Labour battle bus while on the General Election campaign trail, Thursday June 13, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

Britain's Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer talks to journalists on the Labour battle bus while on the General Election campaign trail, Thursday June 13, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives on board his election battle bus at a campaign event in Halesowen county of West Midlands, England, Thursday, June 13, 2024, after unveiling Labour's manifesto in Manchester for the forthcoming General Election on July 4. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives on board his election battle bus at a campaign event in Halesowen county of West Midlands, England, Thursday, June 13, 2024, after unveiling Labour's manifesto in Manchester for the forthcoming General Election on July 4. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

“Events dear boy, events,” Sunak's predecessor in the early 1960s, Harold Macmillan said when asked what the greatest challenge was for politicians.

With less than three weeks to go, all those contesting the election will have to be mindful of any unexpected “events” that can derail a campaign plan for days.

Here are some things we’ve learned in the past week:

Most of the major political parties published their manifestos before the election over the past week.

Few voters will ever read the documents, but the messaging from the two big parties is already clear.

Sunak's Conservatives are putting tax front-and-center of their election campaign, arguing that an incoming Labour government would cost households more than 2,000 pounds ($2,500).

Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, refutes that charge — in fact he's called it a lie — and says his government will restore stability after years of economic and political turmoil.

On questions of tax and spend, the verdict of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank is often sought. Its conclusion is that both main parties are joined in a "conspiracy of silence” over the difficulties they would face after the election given the parlous state of the public finances.

This particular war of words will no doubt continue right up to polling day. In the battle of the pictures, the two parties took a different approach in their manifestos.

While the Conservative Party's document had no picture of Sunak, Labour's manifesto featured Starmer on 33 occasions, including one with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the international D-Day event — yes, the one that Sunak left early.

U.K. election campaigns are gruelling for the leaders. Here, there and seemingly, everywhere. And all at once.

The two main contenders to be prime minister after the election faced off — indirectly — in their second campaign event on Wednesday in Grimsby, a fishing town in eastern England, which historically voted Labour until 2019, when the Conservatives, under the then leadership of Boris Johnson, won a big majority.

Quizzed individually by Sky News' political editor Beth Rigby, Sunak and Starmer then had to contend with the questions from an audience of straight-talking locals.

The two emerged unscathed, sort of.

Starmer drew laughter after he was left briefly speechless when an audience member accused him of being a “political robot,” while Sunak revealed details of his “appalling” high-sugar diet on the campaign trail. “Enormous” amounts of the chocolate bar Twix and Haribo sweets, apparently.

Hopefully he packed some for the summit of the Group of Seven leaders in a luxury resort in Italy’s southern Puglia region, where he ended the week and where he no doubt got some respite from the intensity of the campaign.

There's one man in this election campaign that has made a mark in a very different way. That's Ed Davey, the leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, who have traditionally been the third party in U.K. politics. However, after joining in a coalition government with the Conservatives from 2010 and 2015, their fortunes sunk and the party fell back into fourth.

Davey is clearly targeting many constituencies the Conservatives hold in many parts of the country, such as the southwest of England and rural communities around London. He is hoping to get Labour votes in those seats to oust the Conservative candidate.

But because the two main parties have so much airtime on television, Davey has decided to take a different tack to make his political points.

Often in a wetsuit.

One day, he's falling into the water to highlight the “sewage scandal” that's afflicting Britain's rivers and coastline, the next he's scrambling around an assault course to promote the value of open spaces and exercise.

Oh, and after he launched the Liberal Democrats' manifesto on Monday, he went for a rollercoaster ride. Campaigning is like a rollercoaster, he said.

Whether his antics help his party's cause, only time will tell.

But he's certainly making a splash.

In three weeks time, the results will be in. The left-of-center Labour Party remains favorite to win the most seats in the 650-seat House of Commons. While major pollsters give varying figures, all show a double-digit Labour lead, with relatively little change since Sunak called the election on May 22.

“The current stable picture suits Labour just fine,” said Rob Ford, professor of political science at the University of Manchester. “But a stable campaign piles further pressure on Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives who are now staring down the barrel of a historic defeat.”

There are signs from some leading Conservative figures that they think that's the most likely outcome. Grant Shapps, the defense secretary, even warned against a Labour supermajority in Parliament.

As the week wore on, more and more Conservatives were becoming increasingly vocal in their opposition to Reform U.K, the successor to the Brexit Party and which is now fronted by Nigel Farage, one of the main protagonists in the country’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016. Farage is seeking to woo Conservative voters with his anti-immigration and low-tax rhetoric. Conservative candidates are pushing back and saying a vote for Reform will only bolster Labour.

Britain's Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaks to the media during a press conference in central London, Friday June 14, 2024, while on the General Election campaign trail. (James Manning/PA via AP)

Britain's Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaks to the media during a press conference in central London, Friday June 14, 2024, while on the General Election campaign trail. (James Manning/PA via AP)

Britain's Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaks to the media during a press conference in central London, Friday June 14, 2024, while on the General Election campaign trail. (James Manning/PA via AP)

Britain's Reform UK leader Nigel Farage speaks to the media during a press conference in central London, Friday June 14, 2024, while on the General Election campaign trail. (James Manning/PA via AP)

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey, 3rd from left, during a visit to Thorpe Park in Chertsey, England, whilst on the General Election campaign trail, Monday June 10, 2024. (Lucy North/PA via AP)

Liberal Democrats leader Sir Ed Davey, 3rd from left, during a visit to Thorpe Park in Chertsey, England, whilst on the General Election campaign trail, Monday June 10, 2024. (Lucy North/PA via AP)

Britain's Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey takes part in an assault course during a visit to Arena Pursuits in Wadhurst, Kent, England, Thursday, June 13, 2024, while on the general election campaign trail. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

Britain's Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey takes part in an assault course during a visit to Arena Pursuits in Wadhurst, Kent, England, Thursday, June 13, 2024, while on the general election campaign trail. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses the audience, during the Sky News election debate, in Grimsby, England, Wednesday June 12, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak addresses the audience, during the Sky News election debate, in Grimsby, England, Wednesday June 12, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/Pool Photo via AP)

FILE -Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, left, talks to Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after watching a skydiving demo during the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations are turning their attention to migration on the second day of their summit Friday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

FILE -Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, left, talks to Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after watching a skydiving demo during the G7 world leaders summit at Borgo Egnazia, Italy, Thursday, June 13, 2024. Leaders of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations are turning their attention to migration on the second day of their summit Friday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

Britain's Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer talks to journalists on the Labour battle bus while on the General Election campaign trail, Thursday June 13, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

Britain's Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer talks to journalists on the Labour battle bus while on the General Election campaign trail, Thursday June 13, 2024. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives on board his election battle bus at a campaign event in Halesowen county of West Midlands, England, Thursday, June 13, 2024, after unveiling Labour's manifesto in Manchester for the forthcoming General Election on July 4. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer arrives on board his election battle bus at a campaign event in Halesowen county of West Midlands, England, Thursday, June 13, 2024, after unveiling Labour's manifesto in Manchester for the forthcoming General Election on July 4. (Stefan Rousseau/PA via AP)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — This year, Ukraine’s largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Instead, beloved local artists graced the stage this past weekend at the Atlas Festival — the first since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022 — for a smaller but still ebullient crowd. The stage was erected in a shopping mall parking lot, the only option with a shelter large enough to contain the 25,000 people expected in the event of an air raid.

Carefree youth danced, romanced and sang along, rubbing shoulders with hardened military commanders as famous singers who crooned lyrics imbued with national pride. Music was the main goal, but so was shattering the illusion that the capital is invulnerable to the bloody battles hundreds of miles away.

“Such kind of festivals can’t be separated from the life of the country. The country is at war. The core issues here should relate to the war,” said Vsevolod Kozhemyako, a businessman and one of the founders of the 13th “Khartia” Brigade, now a part of Ukraine’s National Guard and defending the frontline in Kharkiv.

“People who are still young and who don’t join (the fight) should understand that they cannot live in a bubble,” he said.

And yet, a bubble is precisely how it feels to be in Kyiv, as the war approaches its third year. While Ukrainian soldiers are killed and wounded every day along the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) frontline in the east, the capital is a contrast with its busy bars and clubs.

Every so often, Kyiv comes face to face with the war. Two weeks ago, a barrage of Russian missiles destroyed a children’s hospital and a private clinic, in one of the deadliest attacks since the full-scale invasion. Residents have grappled with power cuts caused by Moscow’s targeted destruction of Ukrainian energy generation at the height of a summer heat wave.

In every corner of the music festival, visitors were confronted with the inescapable reality that theirs is a country trapped in a bloody war of attrition. Festival organizers hoped to raise $2.2 million (2 million euros) to help soldiers purchase supplies for the front line.

In the mall’s basement parking lot, various military units, from Khartia to the 3rd Assault, offered interactive games to lure donations and possible recruits. A first-person shooter game offered visitors a chance to improve target practice by gunning down shadowy virtual infantrymen. In another corner, medics brandished severed plastic limbs and offered emergency medical training.

The festival concluded Sunday with a much-anticipated performance from Serhii Zhadan and his band Zhadan and Dogs. Zhadan, a celebrated artist dubbed the poet of the Donbas, recently joined Khartia.

“It’s just a small break, an opportunity to take a breath,” said Zhadan, minutes before he took to the stage for a roaring crowd. “The most important things, they are happening over there, at the frontline.”

On stage, Zhadan started with one of his most beloved songs “Malvi” or “Mallow.” The crowd sang along, word for word. “But what can you do with my hot blood,” they chanted. “Who will come at us.”

18-year old Viktoriia Khalis was excited to see his performance. She had been to the Atlas festival once before in 2021. The difference is stark, she said.

“The main thing that has changed, unfortunately, now the festival is connected with donations,” she said. But she also felt more connected to her homeland. “I feel this entire crowd is related to me. I feel unity.”

She was scared there would be another Russian air attack — a music festival with thousands of attendees would be a prime target — but said she couldn’t miss a chance to see her favorite artists.

For Nadiia Dorofeeva, one of Ukraine’s most famous singers, every concert feels different. “Before, when I entered a stage I was thinking only about if I looked good, sang well and if the people got what they came for. But now, I dream of having no air alarms, I am seeing how people cry at my concerts.”

One of Dorofeeva’s songs, “WhatsApp,” is about a girl waiting for her beloved to return from war. “She washed the phone with tears/Like rainy glass,” often moves listeners to tears.

Among the attendees was Lt. Gen. Serhii Naiev, an assistant deputy chief in Ukraine’s General Staff.

“There are well-known artists on stage, they are performing their concerts and there are a lot of Ukrainians around who are donating their money, much-needed money for the armed forces of Ukraine,” he said.

“We understand that our partners are supporting us, but we also understand that we could do a lot by ourselves, to be stronger,” he said.

Follow AP's coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

Serhii Zhadan, well-known Ukrainian writer and poet, leader of music band Zhadan and Dogs, performs at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

Serhii Zhadan, well-known Ukrainian writer and poet, leader of music band Zhadan and Dogs, performs at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People with painted faces go to the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People with painted faces go to the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People dance waiting for the start of the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People dance waiting for the start of the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

Serhii Zhadan, well-known Ukrainian writer and poet, leader of music band Zhadan and Dogs, performs at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

Serhii Zhadan, well-known Ukrainian writer and poet, leader of music band Zhadan and Dogs, performs at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

People enjoy a concert at the Atlas Festival in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 21, 2024. This year, Ukraine's largest music festival struck a different chord. Gone were the international headliners, the massive performance halls and the hundreds of thousands of visitors. (AP Photo/Anton Shtuka)

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