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The manifesto to save Britain’s rivers  

Welcome to Thursday’s Early Edition from i.

Fringed by the verdant draping branches of willows, ancient stone walls running along its side, the River Eea in Cumbria presents a charming vision. But the waters, once teeming with trout and salmon, have become a hive of something else. Local residents say they have experienced bad smells, chemicals and rubbish strewn along its banks for years. One woman told i: “I would go in a wetsuit but you couldn’t get the smell off, even after two showers.” Another said: “People say their dogs get ill and they won’t let them go in, I wouldn’t let children play in there.” Last month it was revealed that Cark-in-Cartmel pumping station in the village of Cark has been discharging sewage into the River Eea non-stop since 12 April. But it is just one of many waterways being destroyed by sewage and pollution. After a year-long campaign, i is calling for real change by asking politicians to sign up to a manifesto to help save them. We’ll take a look at what’s in it, after the headlines.

 Today’s news, and why it matters

Around one in six people who stop antidepressants will experience withdrawal symptoms as a direct result of the medicine, according to the largest study of its kind. An analysis found 15 per cent of patients will experience one or more discontinuation symptoms that are directly caused by stopping the drugs – lower than previous estimates – while around 2-3 per cent will suffer severe symptoms.

Rishi Sunak’s claim that taxes would go up by £2,000 under Labour bear “little connection to reality”, according to an expert being cited by the Tories in the party’s evidence. Nick Davies, programme director at the Institute for Government, told i that the interpretation of his work was “misleading” and “not independent or fair”.

Labour staffers were said to be “very unhappy” about how Sir Keir Starmer was prepared for Tuesday night’s election TV debate after he repeatedly failed to rebut disputed claims about the party’s tax plans. Some top advisers around Starmer were said by one source to be “persona non grata” after the tax row dominated the debate and subsequent day of campaigning, with a “very poor mood” among staff and senior figures “very unhappy”.

A woman has been charged with assault by beating and criminal damage after a milkshake was thrown at Reform UK leader Nigel Farage in Clacton-on-Sea. Mr Farage was doused with a drink – believed to be a banana milkshake – as he left the Moon and Starfish Wetherspoon pub on Tuesday.

‘There’s not many of us left’: D-Day veteran, 98, says he was just doing his job. Roy Harrison, 98, played a crucial role in the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944 to start the liberation of France and western Europe from Nazism, reports Aasma Day.

Researchers have made a “massive step forwards” with the discovery of a major cause of inflammatory bowel disease. The breakthrough study also found that existing drugs could be used to treat the condition, raising hopes for millions of people worldwide.


Three key questions on saving Britain’s rivers:

What is in the manifesto? i is urging every political party to sign up to a five-step plan in the run-up to the 2024 election. The first one is to make good on a target already set by the current Government, that 77 per cent of rivers will achieve good ecological status by 2027. i wants to see this put into practice, with a roadmap published by the next Government in its first six months on how it is going to achieve it, including funding for the regulator to enforce the law. Other pledges include a target on untreated sewage in high-priority sites, regulation reform, more clean bathing spots and help for farmers. Read the pledges in detail, here.  

How did the rivers end up like this? Reporter Lucie Heath has gone back to the very beginning to look at how the problems first unfolded. The revolutionary sewage system first built in the Victorian era may have been transformative, but it is also part of the current problem. As she explains: “This is because the Victorians built what is known as a ‘combined’ system. This means that the pipes that transport wastewater from our homes to sewage treatment works are also the pipes used to catch any rainwater that flows into drains from roofs and pavements.” Investment in infrastructure – or lack thereof – and privatisation, have exacerbated issues. One industry source told i the water industry and regulators took “their eye off the ball in terms of asset maintenance and investment” over the past 20 years, particularly as falling interest rates allowed them to achieve both low bills and paying shareholders – including through the creation of “fancy financial instruments’”. Read her full in-depth piece, including on what can be done, here.  

What happens now? As Oliver Duff explains here, 19 environmental groups have backed the launch of i’s rivers manifesto. We will report back to you on which political parties back the plan, which are reluctant, and why. But there are other ways to help to, including: Writing to your local MP candidates and/or local water company to ask them if they will support i’s five-point plan, sharing i‘s manifesto or getting involved with the groups supporting it. And if you have a story about your local river that you think should be featured in our campaign, contact [email protected] 

Around the world

Russia is rebuilding its armed forces at a rapid rate, despite catastrophic losses in Ukraine and could be in a position to threaten Nato states by 2026, according to Norway’s top defence official. The estimated window is shorter than previous assessments. Germany’s defence minister, Boris Pistorius, said in January that Russia could be ready to attack a Nato country in “five to eight years”.

Donald Trump is expected to have his gun licence revoked by the New York City Police department after he was found guilty of falsifying business records to conceal a hush-money payment, US media have reported. The former president’s licence had already been suspended upon his indictment in March 2023, an NYPD spokesperson told NBC.

Boeing’s Starliner has launched its much-delayed first crewed test flight, a milestone in the aerospace giant’s ambitions to step up its competition with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The CST-100 Starliner, with two Nasa astronauts on board, lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Wednesday.

Spain is to bring in parental controls on children’s smartphones in new legislation that aims to protect young people from the harmful effects of social media. Minors under 16 will not be able to access or register on social networks. Currently, they can register from age 14.

A Tiger shark has been observed regurgitating a whole echidna, leaving Australian scientists ‘stunned’. “My theory is the echidna was swimming from one island to another [via a narrow channel], probably looking for food or for mates, and just got unlucky and got snapped by a big tiger shark,” one said.

Watch out for…

 European Parliament elections, where there are fears of a far-right surge. Here’s how they could be devastating for EU unity. 

 Thoughts for the day

Nigel Farage’s long game to take over the Tories. He has a knack for sensing political opportunity, writes Lewis Goodall.

Turns out a doomscroll before bed is totally fine – take that health police. Muddling health and morality is something humanity has done for millennia, says Emily Watkins.

The dark side of marrying a rich man. Men aren’t walking ATMs, advises Zing Tsjeng.

It’s easy to see the millennial attraction of marrying rich (Photo: Getty Images/Image)

Culture Break

The 12 best films and TV series about D-Day. From The Longest Day to Storming Juno to Saving Private Ryan, here is what to watch to better understand what really happened on 6 June 1944.

Tom Sizemore and Tom Hanks in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ (Photo: SEAC)

 The Big Read

The ten tribes who will decide the election – and who the parties need to unite. BMG Research concludes the Tories have lost the coalition of voter groups behind their 2019 win – but warns Labour could face trouble keeping its own electorate together.

Rishi Sunak, left, and Keir Starmer fighting for votes during the first leaders’ televised debate on Tuesday (Photo: ITV/Getty Images)


Freddie Flintoff is England’s very secret weapon at this T20 World Cup. Cricket great is keeping a low profile but making a ‘fantastic’ impact on England’s players in the Caribbean, writes Chris Stocks.

Flintoff has been working as a consultant for England after his Top Gear crash (Photo: PA)

 Something to brighten your day

I stopped drinking water for 2 hours before bed – it transformed my sleep. Sophie Morris meets a cognitive health expert who says getting uninterrupted sleep every night is a powerful way to improve your memory.

Sophie Morris took an online health assessment (Photo: Getty Images)

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