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Angry public 'milkshaking' of politicians sets tone for unveiling of May's last-chance Brexit bill

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: British public has taken to pelting politicians with milkshakes to show their displeasure; Canada's approach to couples when housing patients in care facilities would be unheard of in places like Sweden.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

British Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, centre, after he was hit with a milkshake during a campaign walkabout in Newcastle, England, on Monday. (Tom Wilkinson/PA via AP)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.

TODAY:

  • The U.K. prime minister unveiled several new tweaks to a bill that has already been rejected on three occasions, saying it is the "last chance" for MPs to uphold the results of the 2015 Brexit referendum.
  • Canada's approach to couples when it comes to housing patients in care facilities would be unheard of in places like Sweden.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

The sticky road to Brexit

Theresa May is making yet another attempt to push her unpopular Brexit deal through parliament.

In a speech in London this morning, the U.K. prime minister unveiled several new tweaks to a bill that has already been rejected on three occasions, saying it is the "last chance" for MPs to uphold the results of the 2015 referendum and leave the European Union.

The reworked legislation, which will be put to a vote in early June, offers enticements for rebellious Conservatives. It promises a legal obligation for the government to find an alternative to the contentious Irish border backstop that has been negotiated with Brussels by December 2020, and a free vote on the future of the U.K.'s customs union with Europe.

It also contains blandishments for the opposition, including strengthened legal protections for workers' rights and the environment in a post-E.U. Britain, and the promise of a parliamentary vote on a second Brexit referendum, but only if MPs first agree to May's divorce deal.

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May grimaces during her speech on Brexit in London on Tuesday. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Reuters)

The early consensus seems to be that May is setting herself up to be a four-time loser, with hardline Euro-skeptic members of her own party and pro-Europe Labour MPs already panning the changes.

But at the very least, it guarantees more months of arguing and uncertainty.  

Meanwhile, the British public has found a new way to express displeasure with certain politicians — by pelting them with milkshakes.

Nigel Farage, the former UKIP leader who now heads his own Brexit Party, became the latest victim, after being drenched with a banana and salted caramel frappé while campaigning for the upcoming European elections in Newcastle yesterday.

Security staff holds a man back after Farage was hit with a milkshake at a Brexit Party campaign event in Newcastle on Monday. (Scott Heppell/Reuters)

It all started earlier this month as a seemingly spontaneous protest against Tommy Robinson, the founder of the far-right English Defence League, who was doused with a strawberry milkshake in Bury. Then a day later, he was splattered again while campaigning for a European parliament seat in Warrington, in Northwest England.

This past week, Carl Benjamin, another far-right activist who is standing as a UKIP candidate in the European elections, was hit by flying milkshakes on four different occasions.

And suddenly, "milkshaking" became a verb, and police in Scotland were ordering a McDonald's outlet in Edinburgh not to sell them while Farage was holding a nearby rally.  

(Rival chain Burger King was accused of "inciting violence" for a cheeky tweet pointing out that its Scottish outlets were still selling the icy beverage.)

Of course, people throwing foodstuffs at political figures isn't new.

Some date the practice back to 63 A.D. when Vespasian, the Roman governor of Tunisia and Libya, was pelted with turnips by unhappy citizens.

Angry Greeks were so fond of throwing yogurt at their politicians in the 1950s that the government passed a draconian law to stop the practice, although the financial crisis and austerity measures have driven a resurgence of flinging in recent years.

Pieing as a form of protest was popularized by the Yippies in the early 1970s, then made a global comeback in the early 2000s. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and Prime Minister Jean Chrétien were among the notables who received face-fulls of whipped cream while out pressing the flesh.

Eggs remain a popular and messy way to express political displeasure.

In March, a 17-year-old Australian boy cracked an egg over the head of a controversial senator who blamed the New Zealand mosque attacks on Muslim immigration, and got a punch in the face in return.

The "Egg Boy," Will Connolly, became an internet celebrity, while the lawmaker, Fraser Anning, lost his seat in this past weekend's elections.

In this image made from video, a teenager breaks an egg on the head of Senator Fraser Anning at a press conference on March 16 in Melbourne. Following the mass shootings in New Zealand, Anning came under sharp criticism over tweets including one that said, 'Does anyone still dispute the link between Muslim immigration and violence?' (Associated Press)

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was also the victim of an attempted egging on the campaign trail — video shows it skidding off his bald pate — although he fared much better at the ballot box, and appears to have clinched an unexpected majority victory.

The 32-year-old man who spent £5.50 to make Nigel Farage a sticky mess has been charged with assault.

Police intervention may not be enough to halt the milkshaking trend.

However, a hard Brexit might offer a reprieve for dairy-shy politicians.  

The U.K. doesn't produce enough milk to meet the country's consumer demands, and there are predictions of looming ice cream shortages should the country leave the E.U.


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Separation anxiety

Canada's approach to couples when it comes to housing patients in care facilities would be unheard of in places like Sweden, reporter David Common writes.

To some, it's inhumane. In most of Canada, it's routine practice.

Martha Farnell has just been separated from her husband after 66 years together. Willard has dementia and, after a recent fall, can no longer live at home in Calgary. So he has been moved into a long-term care facility.

Martha worries it is the beginning of his end.

"He is just going to deteriorate so fast without me," she told us tearfully. "I do everything for him."

Martha is happy for the help, but she is facing a dilemma many older Canadians will eventually confront. To get the help, they have to live apart.

She's asked for a room for two, but they are rare — and Martha is healthy. "They say there is nothing wrong with me."

In other countries — like Sweden — that thinking is incomprehensible. It's also against the rules. If couples want to stay together, the system requires it.

We visited a home in the town of Örebro to meet one such couple, Torsten and Nancy Stavdal, who share a small apartment in a long-term care home.

Nancy Stavdal's husband Torsten needs special care. They share a small apartment in a long-term care home in Örebro, Sweden, that is designed to accommodate couples. (Dave MacIntosh/CBC)

"I would not feel calm if I was at home and Torsten was here," Nancy told us.

He had a stroke, which left him unable to speak and impaired his mobility. Nancy is still his primary caregiver, but with help available from the facility's staff at all hours when she wants it.

She can still cook, or they can go together to the in-house restaurant. If she goes out, care staff will watch over her husband.

"I think it means even more for him that we can be together."

Companionship can do more than reduce loneliness. And other couples in the same facility say there is no question they should be able to stay together — especially in life's final chapter.

This long-term care home in the town of Örebro, Sweden, has apartments that can accommodate couples, so that someone who has significant health care needs does not have to be separated from a healthy spouse or partner. (Melissa Mancini/CBC)

Sweden's approach to accommodating dementia patients doesn't stop at double-occupancy care facilities. Just outside Stockholm, a new initiative launched by the country's Queen in partnership with Ikea and Skanska, an engineering giant, is building SilviaBo (Silvia is the much-revered Queen, who has dedicated her recent life to work around people with dementia). Together, they have built the first batch of dementia-friendly couples housing.

The floors can detect falls. Mirrors are covered up, so as not to alarm someone with dementia who would be surprised at their own aged face. Water faucets have timed shut-offs. Knobs and appliances have an old-style look, to help transport residents to a time they'd be more likely to remember.

In short, it's designed to keep dementia sufferers calm, and to allow some degree of independence to last longer.

Back in Calgary, Martha Farnell is still trying to find a home where she and Willard can be together. If they were in Sweden, it's likely they already would be.

- David Common

  • WATCH: The story about couples dealing with long-term care, coming soon on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

A few words on ... 

Why pictures are no longer worth 1,000 words.


Quote of the moment

"This committee will hear Mr. McGahn's testimony, even if we have to go to court to secure it."

- U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler raises the stakes in his battle with Donald Trump, after former White House counsel Donald McGahn defied a subpoena to testify before the House Judiciary Committee this morning.

Left: U.S. President Donald Trump. Centre: former White House counsel Don McGahn. Right: House judiciary committee chairman Jerry Nadler. (Photo by Alex Wong, Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

What The National is reading

  • Evacuation ordered for High Level, Alta., as wildfire approaches (CBC)
  • #MeToo's legal forces take on McDonald's (NYTimes)
  • UN chief threatens to suspend aid in Yemen over rebel theft of donor food (CNN)
  • Russian documents reveal desire to sow racial discord — and violence — in U.S. (NBC)
  • Tajikistan prison riot kills prominent opposition members (Al Jazeera)
  • Unknown attackers throw red paint at Greece's parliament (Reuters)
  • Alabama public television bans Arthur gay wedding episode (BBC)
  • Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver's U.K. restaurant chain collapses into insolvency (CBC)

Today in history

May 21, 1986: CEO polluter faces jail time

It was a Canadian first. After 69 convictions for dumping industrial waste into Toronto's sewer system, an Ontario Supreme Court judged tired of Jetco Manufacturing Ltd.'s actions, imposing a $200,000 fine and sentencing its CEO, Keith Alexander, to a year in jail for contempt. Environmentalists rejoiced, but the punishment didn't stick. Six months later, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned both the fine and the jail term, ruling that the lower court hearing had been "procedurally unfair."

A millionaire CEO in Toronto is sentenced to one year in prison for polluting city sewers. 2:20

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.