Live Blog

May 22, 2015, 4:20pm

There were delays of up to 30 minutes to trains in and out of Kings Cross Station, after the station was re-opened after it was evacuated just as the evening rush hour began.

Earlier this afternoon, the London Fire Brigade said it was investigating reports of smoke coming from the building, but crews left shortly after their arrival.

However, National Rail said disruption to First Hull, Grand Central, Great Northern and Virgin East Coast trains were likely to continue until "at least" 5pm - just as the great Bank Holiday getaway began.

"There is no firm estimate of how long disruption will last," it added. 

Twitter users posted pictures of hundreds of passengers lingering outside the station.

The news came hours after hundreds of passengers were evacuated from Victoria Station this morning, thanks to another fire alert. 

May 22, 2015, 4:17pm
There was a bomb. There was an earthquake. And there was, very nearly, a nation-wide rail strike. 

Here's what got us talking this week. 

1. Panic stations over Prosecco eggs
We don't know which is worse. Well of course we do. Still a global egg shortage is pretty alarming. But cards on the table, it was the threat of no more cheap fizz that really got us in a tizz.  
2. Thomas Cook took a beating
The travel agent published strong results, but after its apparently callous handling of the deaths of two children killed by carbon monoxide in Corfu, no one was interested. First it emerged Thomas Cook had received 10-times the compensation that Bobby and Christi Shepherd's parents received; then it transpired the family was still waiting for an apology. They got that on Wednesday, a day after the company pledged to pay the compensation to children's charity Unicef. But it wasn't enough to stop Mumsnet pulling Thomas Cook adverts from its site and prompting others to call on the government to change the law.  
3. We learned where the best universities are
Want an MBA? The UK has three of the 10 best business universities in the world. How about degrees in economics, accounting or finance? The UK has four of the best. And what about law? Once again, British universities came out strong
4. The earth moved in Kent – but luckily not in Wembley.
A World War II bomb was safely removed from Wembley on Friday, allowing both Championship games and Britain's Got Talent to continue unaffected. The device received a heavy escort as it was taken out of London to be safely detonated.  Meanwhile residents of Kent were woken up early Friday morning by a 4.3 magnitude earthquake, which taught us a thing or two about earthquakes in the UK.
5. The Hatton Garden suspects were a lot older than we expected

Leisurely Reads

Now the dust is settling from the General Election we took a look back at one of the government's key pledges around housing and discovered some serious changes are going to have to take place if David Cameron et al have a hope of meeting their target.  
Could Mike Ashley sell Newcastle if they are relegated? It seems like it might just be wishful thinking on the fans' part. We spoke to a sports business professor about why it would be an unlikely move for the millionaire founder of Sports Direct
And with Eurovision fever brimming we wondered what would happen if winning the song contest conferred political power. Let's just say Great Britain's influence would be seriously on the wane...  

Chart of the Week

Perhaps unsurprising, given the week we have had, but our chart of the week sums up the frustration of commuters coming in and out of London. 


Great reads from elsewhere

Ever wondered what it would be like to be an Uber driver? In this article, for a Philadelphia paper, a journalist goes undercover to find out. It includes juicy tidbits from conversations, working conditions and a host of other interesting insights
The Economist had a great piece looking at the challenges facing India, claiming they are too much for the (hugely popular) one-man-band Narendra Modi.  
Lastly, this article explores how the power dynamic changes when one party is entirely dependent on another, and the rising phenomenon of “wife bonuses” for getting their children into good schools, or managing the home budget, while also remaining impossibly glamorous.  

The Last Word 

Raheem Sterling
May 22, 2015, 3:56pm

When a 20-year-old footballer publicly declares he wants to leave a club and his agent hurls insults at one of its legendary players, you can forgive fans for reacting emotionally.

Raheem Sterling's all-too-public wrangling over a new contract with Liverpool has turned ugly in recent days, with many fans calling on the club to come down hard on the want-away winger.

"Let him rot in the reserves" is a familiar refrain from slighted Reds who would prefer to shunt Sterling out of the spotlight rather than grant him his desired move away from Anfield.

But could Liverpool really get away with a strategy seemingly motivated more by vindictiveness than fiscal sense? And would Sterling be able to do anything about it if they did?

Read more: Raheem Sterling insists Liverpool contract row not about money as he vows to gun down transfer suitors Arsenal

Article 15 of Fifa's regulations on the status of transfers and players rules that an "established professional" who has appeared in fewer than 10 per cent of a club's official matches "may terminate his contract prematurely on the ground of sporting just cause".

So, being dumped in the reserves could potentially provide a way out for Sterling? 

"It's a very, very high-risk action to take", John Shea, a solicitor at Blake Morgan LLP specialising in litigation and sports law told City A.M. "There've been no successful cases of it and only a few cases where it's been used due to the very severe consequences of getting it wrong."

If a player was held in the reserves he would have to attempt to terminate his contract within 15 days of the season's end and make the club aware of his dissatisfaction - one thing Raheem Sterling would have little problem with based on recent evidence.

Furthermore, Fifa defines an "established professional" as aged 21 or over, a bracket Sterling only falls into halfway through next season. He would also face the prospect of having to pay Liverpool compensation if his contract was deemed to be wrongly terminated. And on top of all that, terminating his contract using article 15 could put off clubs from signing him in the future. 

Read more:  Liverpool's Raheem Sterling should apologise for laughing gas use says charity

Shea explains: "It might jeopardise his chances of another club wanting to sign him. If it's found that there's evidence they'd been inducing him to terminate his contract then that club could face sanctions as well such as a transfer ban or a severe fine."

Yet Shea argues that freezing out Sterling in the reserves would still be an unwise move from Liverpool, one carrying certain financial and legal risks:

In terms of Liverpool's position it would basically just be a principle that they'd taken. There's little point in paying his wages for two years and not making use of his services while also losing out on transfer fee in the process. It makes no sense whatsoever. If he won't sign that contract - which is what it's looking like - it's really a case of negotiating the best fee for a transfer they can.

You've got a player - you might as well play him rather than just pay him. There's that risk that he might be justified in terminating his contract in which you lose him for nothing. There's been cases in Switzerland regarding personality results for entertainment and sports stars whereby because they're treated as a special professional that needs a platform to showcase their skills and maintain their experience. There's elements of Swiss law that protects that and says you can't just pay a sportsmen or entertainer without giving them the ability to showcase their talent and maintain their experience because that's what the profession is based upon. That gets very complex regarding jurisdictions - sometimes Swiss law can be applicable in a footballing context.
So, while letting a player "rot in the reserves" may quell some sense of betrayal in reality it's a move lined with legal and financial pitfalls that neither party would look forward to crossing. 
Perhaps the best thing Liverpool could do is swallow their pride, take a fat wad of cash, and move on without Raheem.
May 22, 2015, 3:20pm

Germany's finance ministry has denied reports it was considering offering Greece its own parallel currency.

Earlier today Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was said to have raised the possibility of offering it a parallel currency during a recent meeting, according to a a report by Bloomberg.

This prompted speculation that Germany was preparing for the cash strapped country's exit from the euro area, a scenario which would have unknown consequences.

Economists have said hybrid situations such as a parallel currency could emerge if the debt talks deadlock, prompting Greece to default on its €320bn (£228bn) debt pile.

It comes as European Union leaders are discussing the Greek debt crisis at a meeting in Riga, Latvia today.

Greece has been locked in high stakes talks with its "troika" of creditors - the European Union, the European Central Bank and the IMF - over a list of economic reforms since February.

The parties must reach an agreement before Greece can unlock billions of euros of credit due under its €240bn bailout agreement, as it hasn't received any tranches of loans since last August.

May 22, 2015, 2:56pm
The outbreak of bird flu in the US is leading to an unprecedented situation for companies reliant on eggs – they are starting to import eggs from Europe for the first time. 
Nearly a quarter of hens that lay eggs used by food manufacturers have either died or will be culled as a result of the latest wave of the disease in the Midwest – 39 million birds so far.  
Food-makers are unable to import them from countries closer to home because Canada has been importing from the US because of its own egg shortage prior to the outbreak of H5N1 in the Midwest.
Mexico, which has been suffering its own series of outbreaks, is banned from exporting eggs to the US. 
As a result, European agri-food giants are experiencing an increase in demand from US companies for the first time, Reuters reports. 
Avril, which owns France's largest egg brand, Matines, is planning to start shipping eggs over in June.
Vaccine producers such as GlaxoSmithKline, Merck & Co and Sanofi Pasteur, meanwhile, are having to increase security around their birds to ensure the hen flocks are not infected with the virus. 
Those who are sticking with domestic suppliers are being forced to stomach sharply higher prices. The wholesale price has more than doubled in a year. 
This is expected to be passed onto the consumers. Goldman Sachs analyst predict consumers will spend a further $7.5bn-$8bn (£4.8bn-£5.2bn) because of the egg shortage. 
No doubt there will be plenty of egg-spletives when shoppers get to the tills... 
May 22, 2015, 2:45pm

Talks in Riga over the UK's position in Europe were merely "scratching the surface", David Cameron said today, and refused to be drawn on the timing of an EU referendum. 

Read more: Spencer - EU referendum must not be rushed

"I will not give time lines and deadlines and a running commentary on the referendum plans," he told reporters during a press conference after talks with EU leaders. 

Business leaders have urged the government to avoid market uncertainty by doing the referendum as soon as possible. Last week Bank of England governor Mark Carney said a referendum should be held "as soon as necessary"

Today's talks were designed to focus on eastern European countries, but Cameron said the meeting, between the leaders of Europe's largest countries and their eastern counterparts, had provided an opportunity to gauge other leaders' views on the UK's relationship with the bloc.

"I'm not going to say I was met with a wall of love when I arrived," he said. But he added that his counterparts were "not happy with the status quo and neither am I".

But Cameron insisted he would push hard to renegotiate the UK's relationship with the EU. 

"I think our leaders can see that there has been an election and the EU should see that Britain has a mandate for changes." 

Wembley bomb
May 22, 2015, 1:44pm
Update: Police and army officers have removed the World War II bomb discovered in Wembley yesterday and are taking it to a location outside London, where it will be detonated. 
The Nazi bomb was given a police escort as it was taken out of the densely populated area in north London. 
The 50kg Sprengbombe-Cylindrisch German bomb was discovered on a building site on Empire Way yesterday. The area had been evacuated across several hundred metres, but businesses and residents were told they could start returning to their premises this afternoon. 
Among those premises evacuated was Fountain Studios, where ITV1's high-rating entertainment series Britain's Got Talent is filmed. 
Royal Engineers had built safety structures around the bomb to limit any potential explosion. 
An MoD spokeswoman told City A.M. the team had spent much of yesterday and this morning stabilising and defusing the device. It is now being taken to a safe location, where it will be detonated without risk to the public. 
This is the second time in two months the army has been called in to deal with an unexploded bomb from the Second World War. 
In March builders found a 1000lb device, which was eventually exploded at an army barracks. 
Block of 50s council flats
May 22, 2015, 1:11pm

We all know good things come in small packages, but this is ridiculous: a two-bedroom flat in South Kensington has become the first ex-local authority home in London to go on the market for more than £1m. Yep, for £1.15m, this 700 sq ft home can be yours.

The apartment is "exquisitely refurbished", estate agent Maskells said. The previous most expensive former local authority home went for a hair below £1m - £999,950. 

It may be in a fifties block, but the apartment's location is not to be sniffed at. Set on the third floor of a block above Stella McCartney's shop on the Fulham Road, it overlooks Pelham Crescent, where the average house price is £7.4m, according to Zoopla.

It's also been completely refurbished by high-end interiors firm Ivar, with "handmade" wooden floors and "bespoke features".

Close to Harrods and the King's road, the the local area is a "highly sought-after location which hosts an array of local amenities", said Maskells. Well, then. It's a bargain...

beach beers
May 22, 2015, 1:08pm
Holidays are a time for rest, relaxation and improving well-being, and at the end of it we expect to return feeling revived and ready to take on the world.
There's one problem, though – while we might be away from the pressures of work and daily life, we can often become a lot less healthy when we are having a good time. 
Here are five ways to try and keep bad habits at bay, and come back looking and feeling like a radiant beam of good health.

Watch the booze

Let's face it – alcohol consumption tends to rise on holiday. Whether it's moderate but continual drinking or big nights out, it's bound to be more than when we are at home.
In fact, a new report published this morning showing how the amount of wine consumed by British people each year is 12m bottles more than was previously thought, and that this is largely down to extra units drunk on holiday. 
To keep your intake down, avoid drinking more than three alcoholic drinks a night, or only drink on two out of three days. 

Protect your skin

Tanning isn't worth it. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 42 per cent of us get sun burnt every year, yet getting burnt just five times in your lifetime doubles your risk of developing a melanoma, the most serious kind of skin cancer. 
By all means sunbathe, but make sure you're wearing high factor sun cream and that you take regular breaks in the shade. You should also avoid the sun when it's at it's peak around lunchtime. 

Ease yourself into the new time zone

Dealing with drastic changes in sleep pattern can be bad for your body, and when you come back again you'll go through exactly the same thing again.
You can lessen the pain by easing yourself into it for a couple of nights before flying out and coming back – try going to bed an hour or two earlier or later, depending on where you're going, and you'll notice how much easier it is. 

Cut back on fatty foods the week before

Gelato, pizza, tapas, you name it: holidays are a time for indulging.
But the salads should come before the holiday, not on it – it would be a shame to deprive yourself of the things you enjoy during your time off. 
And don't forget the holiday food poisoning we're all likely to fall victim to every now and again. This can be avoided by choosing restaurants with a critical eye, not eating street food and only drinking bottled water. 

Calm down

OK, you've managed to get away from an endless stream of work emails and demands, but with holidays come a whole new kind of stress – losing passports, catching planes and trains, not being swindled out of lots of money etc.
Just remember that at the end of the day, whatever it is that's causing you a problem now won;t be by the time you're home and back into the routine of things. It's a holiday and is there to be enjoyed, so give yourself a little leeway, and don't be too hard on yourself.
May 22, 2015, 12:56pm

Beleaguered spread-betting firm Plus500 today suspended trading in its shares on London's junior market, following a sell-off sparked by a hedge fund's blog post which said it was shorting the company's stock.

US hedge fund Cable Car said it was shorting the trading platform with a price target of 76 pence per share. This sent the Israeli-based tech firm's share down as much as 39 per cent to 230p per share earlier today.

The company's chief executive Gal Haber released a statement saying that the situation was "regrettable" while customers and shareholders could expect to be updated with progress in the coming days and weeks.

Plus500 customers can rest assured that we are doing everything in ‎our power to resolve the current issues.

Customer balances are protected in segregated accounts with major international banks and we are mobilising significant resource to complete the verification project.

Shareholders can also rest assured that we are doing everything ‎in our power to protect our UK market position and we are in close dialogue with the FCA.

The current situation is regrettable, and we apologise to customers whose accounts are frozen; we intend to resolve these issues within as short a time as possible.

We will update customers and shareholders with the progress being made over the coming days and weeks

Shares in the company, which lets investors bet on asset price movements, already plummeted earlier this week after it froze thousands of trading accounts held by UK investors.

“We have no alternative but to place a restriction on your trading account until such time as we have been able to undertake a complete review of the documentation and information we hold currently on you,” it said.

On Wednesday a spokesman for Plus500 told City A.M. that the company was hoping to unlock the accounts of “core customers” who trade regularly within the next day or two.

“Those customers are the ones who can be readily identified as wanting to continue to trade,” he said.

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