Major Earthquake Hits Nepal

By Rowan Williams
  • – Nepal hit by magnitude 7.3 earthquake
  • – New cabinet due to meet for the first time
  • – China’s smartphone market slows


A magnitude 7.3 earthquake has struck Nepal, just two weeks after an earlier strong earthquake caused devastation in the country. Four people are known to have been killed by the earthquake so far, which was centred on the town of Namche Bazaar near Mount Everest. The earthquake is likely to be an aftershock from the earlier quake that struck Nepal on 25 April, which was measured to be 7.8 magnitude. Nepal is struggling in its humanitarian efforts in the wake of that quake, which caused the destruction of swathes of buildings in the country, including centuries-old temples. Smaller aftershocks have been common after the earlier quake. In the town of Chautara east of Kathmandu, bodies are reportedly being pulled from the rubble of buildings that have collapsed in today’s quake. The earthquake is understood to have been at a greater depth than the previous one to hit Nepal, being less destructive on the surface as a result.

The newly-appointed cabinet will meet for the first time today, with the Prime Minister to brief Ministers on his plans for ‘blue-collar Conservatism’. The Prime Minister will also use the meeting to set out the bills at the heart of the Queen’s speech, with policies including the lowering of the welfare cap to by £3,000 to £23,000 and doubling free childcare. The cabinet is the first all-Conservative cabinet since 1997, appointed after the Conservative party won a majority of seats in Thursday’s general election. Some observers have described the party’s ‘blue-collar’ pitch as an attempt to steal Labour’s image as the party of the workers while Labour remains in disarray after its election defeat. A Conservative source has also downplayed newspaper concerns for the future of the BBC, after the appointment of John Whittingdale to the post of Culture Secretary. Whittingdale is said to be a fierce critic of the organisation.

Smartphone shipments to China contracted for the first time in six years in the first quarter of 2015, market research has shown. Between the final quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015, shipments of smartphones fell by 8 percent to 98.8 million units, while figures were also down 4 percent on the same period a year previously. The fall in shipments has been attributed to a growing build-up in unsold stock. China has been the world’s biggest smartphone market since 2011, when it surpassed the US.  Flat growth is expected in the Chinese smartphone market this year.

The Papers

The Prime Minister’s appointment of the new Conservative cabinet, and its implications for the future, make the headlines in several papers today. The Times writes in its headline that the appointment of John Whittingdale as Culture Secretary is a “shot across the bows to the BBC”, with Whittingdale being a “fierce critic” of the media organisation. The Daily Telegraph reports the appointment as marking a “war on the BBC”. The future of the BBC licence fee has been left “in doubt” by Whittingdale’s appointment – Whittingdale is one of the “biggest critics” of the organisation, the paper reports. The Independent reports that the BBC is “on edge” after the news. Whittingdale’s appointment paves the way for a “radical shake-up” of the BBC, the paper writes. The paper also describes the Prime Minister’s cabinet as including “acolytes of George Osborne”, thereby “increasing the Chancellor’s grip on the government”. The Financial Times opts to lead with the appointment of “Thatcherite” Sajid Javid as Business Secretary. The Prime Minister is hoping to shift the Conservative Party “to the centre ground” by promoting ‘blue-collar Conservatism’, the paper reports. The appointment of Javid, the son of a bus driver, will appeal to aspiring working families, the paper writes. The Guardian leads with news that the government is on a “fast-track to EU referendum in 2016”. The Prime Minister has been “Emboldened” to plan on bringing the referendum forward by a year, thereby avoiding a clash with French and German elections in 2017.

British Media on China

On Sino-Russian relations: joint naval exercises between China and Russia in the Mediterranean Sea received coverage from the BBC. The BBC writes that although the exercises are small they are “a signal of growing defence ties and a demonstration that China’s maritime horizons are broadening”. In recent years, China’s fleet has been involved in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, as well as being required to evacuate its citizens from dangerous territories.

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