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The Global Brief with Bianca Nobilo

Boris Johnson's Future; Northern Ireland Elections; UK's Support for Ukraine. Aired 5-5:30p ET

Aired May 06, 2022 - 17:00:00   ET



BIANCA NOBILO, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to THE GLOBAL BRIEF. I'm Bianca Nobilo, live from Downing Street.

The party is not over for Boris Johnson but the champagne has shopped flowing. The Conservative Party seeing massive losses across the country in

local elections, but it's not necessarily game over. Tonight will be looking at what this means for Mr. Johnson's future.

And we'll also unpack what could be a historic election in Northern Ireland, speaking to the leader of Sinn Fein.

And a look at the UK on the world stage, too. How far is Mr. Johnson willing to go to support Ukraine?

All of that coming up.

But first, the latest from the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian officials say 50 women and children, and elderly people, have safely been evacuated from the

as of staff of steel plant in Mariupol. This video comes from the Russian defense ministry which says that the rescue civilians were handed over to

the U.N., and Red Cross, for transportation.

But Ukraine's deputy prime minister says that Russia has made the evacuations harder by violating a cease-fire agreement. She says they'll

make another attempt on Saturday.

Ukrainian officials have said hundreds of civilians are trapped inside the plant, as fierce battles rage. The sprawling complex is Ukraine's last

holdout in Mariupol.

Russian forces are putting their mark on the city, restoring old soviet monuments, changing street signs from Ukrainian to Russian. Just ahead of

Russia's victory holiday on Monday.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces say that Russians are slowing their ground attacks along the eastern and southern frontlines, even as they continue to

target residential towns and villages with shelves. One survivor of an attack near Zaporizhzhia describes the absurdity of it.


VIKTOR GOLOVACHUK, OWNER OF DESTROYED HOUSE: There are no military sites here. What? Is my house a strategic target for my neighbors? What was there

to destroy here?


NOBILO: Please do stay up to date with the latest regarding Ukraine on, and we'll have plenty of on the ground reporting in the hours


But for now I want to turn to our special coverage of the UK elections. Here at Downing Street, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing the

loss of some key conservative council areas across the country as results from local elections continue to come in. The prime minister's reputation

is in the balance in the wake of the party-gate scandal and of cost of living crisis in the country.

It comes as the UK police is set to investigate a lockdown gathering attended by Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition leader party.

Starmer says he is confident no rules were broken.

Labor's most significant wins have come in London, flipping three major councils, one of which had been in conservative control since 1964. One

Tory official says the results are warning shot from conservative supporters.

Keir Starmer is hailing the results in the capital as a turning point, saying his party is back on track.


KEIR STARMER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: The trust that we're building, putting us on the road to Number 10, on the road to that general election.

That's changed this last two years, it's been really hard for us as a party, but we've done it, we've built those solid foundations.


NOBILO: Across the rest of the UK, conservatives have lost hundreds of seats to Labour and the Liberal Democrats, even in Tory heartlands.

In Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein is on track for a historic win. In Wales, the Conservatives have lost their only council control. And in Scotland,

they faced even more losses.

So what does this all mean for the prime minister?

One senior Conservative MP is calling for a confidence vote in Mr. Johnson saying the party is hemorrhaging support in parts of the country. But the

party chairman says that now is not the time to replace the prime minister.

Mr. Johnson says he has to keep delivering on his agenda.


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is been a tough night for the Conservatives in some parts of the country in other parts of the country in

other parts of the country, we're actually moving forward. And so, for midterm, it's quite interesting, that it's a mixed set of results.


NOBILO: Let's bring in Quentin Peel, a fellow at the think tank Chatham House.

Quentin, always good to speak to.

So, today was touted as a moment that would be very decisive for the prime minister as to whether or not he can continue, after all these scandals

that he's created and been beset by in the last months.


I'm sure the people you've spoken to have told you that those who've lost their seats in the Tory Party blame him pretty squarely. Saying they've had

to distance themselves from the prime minister in the campaign, and yet, despite all the losses, it doesn't feel like this is the moment to Boris

Johnson will be tumbled.

QUENTIN PEEL, ASSOCIATE FELLOW, CHATHAM HOUSE: I agree, I think it was a bad day for Boris Johnson, but perhaps not a disaster. He's lost the three

councils that he's lost in London. Remember that he was of course the mayor of London. They were the flagship councils of his party. So that's a real


On the other hand, Labour Party hasn't really made a big advance in the old Labour areas the Johnson won at the last general election. The votes up

about 3 percent, the Labour vote is up about 3 percent. But that's not enough to really put the fear of god into the Conservative party.

On the other hand, it's the individual MPs who are worried about their seats. If anything, it's not the Labour party success that worries them, if

the Liberal Democrats, the centrist party, who've done really, very well, particularly in the south of the country. In proportionate terms, they won

the most seats.

The Tories have lost more than 300. The liberals have won. They've done really very well. That puts the fear of god in members of the Conservative

Party who worry about their own seats.

NOBILO: And, Quentin, it was a mixed day for Labour, because as you mentioned, they've won many seats. It was a good day in London for them.

Then we have this news that the opposition leader Keir Starmer, is now being investigated for potentially reaching coronavirus rules.

Now, given that the attack lines led by Starmer that Boris Johnson broke his own COVID 19 rules, has been effective to resonate with the public. Do

you think this put Starmer in any real political danger?

PEEL: No, I don't think so. You know, I mean, this was not a huge offense as far as I can see. I think it quite genuinely was the end of a working


Whereas, what Boris Johnson is accused of, in his own office on Downing Street, is a whole series of social events that were in flagrant violation

of the rules of the COVID lockdown. And he went to parliament and denied that they happened.

So, I think it's a different scale of offense, and I suspect that it will all be dropped, as far as Keir Starmer is concerned.

NOBILO: Quentin Peel, thank you so much for joining us.

More now on Northern Ireland where Sinn Fein is on course to become the largest party for the first time ever. That would mean the office of the

foreign ministry would be held by Michelle O'Neill, a nationalist, for the firs time. Sinn Fein wants a united Ireland, and a victory could bring that

goal one step closer.

The leader of Sinn Fein, Mary Lou McDonald, joins me now live from Belfast. Thank you very much for joining the program, tonight.


NOBILO: Is it -- is it true to say, do you think, that in the last century, Irish unity has never been closer than it is right now?

MCDONALD: Well I think, certainly, just over a century since partition we are now witnessing huge seismic changes right across the island of Ireland,

in the south and in the north.

Today's election results is seismic as the largest party. We will in all likelihood emerge as the party with the most seats. We are on the cusp of,

as you have said, having for the very first time a National Republican first minister, and the significance of that is that the north, when our

island was partitioned, more than a century ago, it was designed to have a permit in-built unionist majority.

In other words, it was designed to keep nationalists and Republicans out. And yet, here we are today, in a truly historic moment, and a moment of

great hope, really, because with the election says is that there is no office beyond the reach of anybody. We are all equal, and people of all

political persuasions have an equal opportunity to fight elections, to win, and to occupy the highest office.

And the appetite, Bianna, for change right across Ireland is just immense. As you know, we have suffered partition and conflict, and war.


We've had very, very hard days. We still have a job, at work to do in building reconciliation, and advancing forward. But, my goodness, we've

come a long, long, way I'm filled with optimism and I'm filled with hope.

NOBILO: And, so you say, today is a moment of great hope for you. Is it your hope that within the next decade, you'll see a border pull?

MCDONALD: Yes, I believe within this decade will witness constitutional change on the island of Ireland, and it's my absolute determination that

that change will be entirely peaceful, entirely democratic and orderly.

So, we had been saying to the government in Dublin and indeed in London that the preparation for constitutional change in Ireland needs to begin,

now. Meaning there will be no price for anybody, irrespective of their political stripe, for burying their head in the sand. We need to be alive

to the fact that change is underway.

And we need to be cognizant of the immense, I mean immense, economic and social, and cultural, opportunities, that will be afforded to us, to the

island of Ireland, to us as an island nation, in the coming years. I really want us to grasp those opportunities. And for everyone to calls this island

home, to benefit from this change.

NOBILO: And Sinn Fein notably didn't emphasize unification in this election campaign, you focus more on bread and butter issues. Are you

concerned if you did have a border pull in the next couple of years, that would have a similar path to the Scottish referendum back in 2014, so it's

too soon to build the requisite popular support?

MCDONALD: Sinn Fein is a party that is explicitly, and constantly, a united Ireland party. There is no secret in that. That is our goal, that is

our ambition.

You're right. The election was at the cost of living crisis, about the huge challenges to our health services, in our case because of Tory austerity.

Of course, it was also about the appetite and they need to have functioning government, a functioning executive and partnership politics.

But, you know, we firmly believe that you can plan for and deliver for people in the here, and now, the immediate concerns, and needs. You can

also plan and talk about the future, as well. One doesn't take from the other. I manifested is very clear in saying, what we need at this juncture

is very inclusive, very thoughtful, very wide planning, for building a New Ireland, and were clear also that every section of our society, every

stakeholder, needs to have a place at that conversation, and needs to have their voice, their concerns, their ideas, their dreams and aspirations, to

have all of that hurt and heard clearly, and given the respect that ought to be accorded to it.

NOBILO: Do you think there's any validity to the point of view that Sinn Fein is actually one of the bigger challenges to Irish unity because of

figures like Gerry Adams and formally being associated as a political wing of the provisional IRA?

MCDONALD: No, I don't, and I think anyone with an understanding of modern Irish history, will understand the huge, huge journey that has been

traveled, not just by Sinn Fein, but by political -- by Irish politics over the last quarter of a century. The Good Friday agreement will be 25 years

old, next year. That historic moment where peace was brokered in what was considered to be, internationally, perhaps an intractable and a possible


But everybody including the leadership of Sinn Fein, at the time, demonstrated the progress that was possible. That agreement was possible,

the partnership is possible. That has just been a powerful, powerful momentum now in the Irish story.

And I think credit is due to everybody, the British government of the day, the Irish government of the day, critically and crucially the American

administration, and subsequent administrations, and the political parties in Ireland, including Sinn Fein and the leadership of Gerry Adams and

Martine McGuinness, for making that happen.

So the lesson for us now is that even in circumstances that are difficult and challenging, progress is always possible.


And, by the way, the Irish Unity Project does not belong to any one political party. It's not solely the preserve or concern of Sinn Fein.

Living a decent life, having fair opportunities, having good government is peoples entitlement in the hearing now and the buildup of dialogue around a

New Ireland and how we live and build a future together, it's everyone's business.

And as I said earlier, everybody has to have their place, and have their voice in that conversation.

NOBILO: Mary Lou McDonald, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

And you are watching THE GLOBAL BRIEF, live from Downing Street.

Boris Johnson describes dealing with Putin like dealing with a crocodile when it's got your leg in its jaws. After the break, we look at the UK's

diplomatic and military support for Ukraine.

And we'll take you to Donnie O'Sullivan's hometown in Ireland, where he introduce you to Ukrainian refugee children who are adjusting to a new life

at school.


NOBILO: You are watching Russia's then President-elect Vladimir Putin arriving on 10 Downing Street in April, 2000. At the time, British Prime

Minister Tony Blair drew criticism for engaging with the Russian president during a fierce campaign in Chechnya. Blair argued the West would only get

results by engaging in Russia, not isolating it, and also told a "Washington Post" reporter that Putin's vision for the future is one that

the UK would feel comparable with.

Twenty-two years later, and the Kremlin has dubbed the current British prime minister as the most active anti-Russian leader. Boris Johnson is one

of the most vocal supporters of Ukraine. There is a Ukrainian flag raised by me on Downing Street, upping the UK's military support this week,

Johnson declared in an address to the Ukraine parliament.


He's also visited President Zelenskyy in Kyiv last month, who on Thursday, he praised Johnson's leadership and courage against Russia.


VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): Ladies and gentlemen, friends, if everyone in the world, or at least the vast

majority, were steadfast and courageous leaders as Ukraine as Britain, I am sure that we would have already ended this war and restored peace

throughout our liberated territory for all our people.


NOBILO: To discuss the UK's military support and strategy in this war, I am joined by General Mike Jackson, who formerly served as the head of the

British Army.

Thank you for being with us this evening, sir.

Are you with me sir, can you hear me?

I think we may have lost the former General Jackson. We will come back then as soon as we get more for you.

But next, let's go to a place where UK is upping its support for Ukraine supporters. It is support for those that have fled the country that has

drawn criticism. UK home for Ukraine scheme allows members to host refugees. Critics say that the program is poorly designed and lacks


But in Ireland, the story is very different. The country has already welcomed 25,000 Ukrainians.

And Donnie O'Sullivan traveled to his hometown to see how kids there are adjusting to their new life.


DONNIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It may be thousands of miles away, but Cahersiveen, my hometown, is just one part of rural Ireland being

transformed by the war in Ukraine.

Hello, how are you?


O'SULLIVAN: How are you?

CHROININ: Flashbacks.

O'SULLIVAN: I was over in the boy school.

CHROININ: Six weeks ago, we were 103 peoples, seven teachers, and we arrive this St. Patrick's weekend to a 50 percent increase in our student

population. Today, six weeks later, we have enrollment of 155 pupils and ten teachers.

O'SULLIVAN: But a population of only 5 million people, Ireland has taken in more than 25,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war. Hundreds Cahersiveen and

everyone is involved in making them feel welcome.

HUGH HORGAN, SCHOOL JANITOR: I come in here mostly when the classes are finished, there is a beautiful young girl here. She is a classical

pianists. She comes in and plays the piano. She serenade me for maybe an hour or two in the evening, it is fantastic.

O'SULLIVAN: Hello, Mr. O'Sullivan, how are you?

Where is everyone here from? Where are you from?


O'SULLIVAN: You are from Kyiv?


O'SULLIVAN: How long have you've been in Cahersiveen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two months, maybe.

O'SULLIVAN: Two months?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is an exceptionally talented plan player.

O'SULLIVAN: Are you the piano player? Is that you?


O'SULLIVAN: Do you play in here --



O'SULLIVAN: As well as using translation apps, the teachers helped the new students learn English.

CORMAC O'SULLIVAN, TEACHER: Other general knowledge is really good, but it is just that they're English is that a low level. They are like sponges,

they learned very quickly. They are lovely children.

O'SULLIVAN: As for the Irish students --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it is a nice experience to have Ukrainian people in our class, that they can learn from us and we can learn from


O'SULLIVAN: You are happy to have so many new people in the school?

ALEX NASAR, STUDENT: Yes, it is different. It is a lot busier. People have new friends now. It is very nice, I like it.

CHROININ: It is just so lovely, despite the language barrier, to see people engaging, learning, happy and laughing, and adjusting. It is a huge

success, and just totally because of the whole community.

O'SULLIVAN: Across Ireland, Ukrainian refugees have been placed in hotels and emergency condemnation. They've been granted the right to work. Despite

stretched resources, many local communities are happy to have them.

COLMAN QUIRKE, LOCAL NEWSAGENT: A lovely thing happened in the shop. About four or five days ago, a Ukrainian family was buying stuff in the shop.

They were just about the pay the bill, when it guy stepped in and said, no, he handed his card. They were in tears.

O'SULLIVAN: Lilia came here with her two children and has been overwhelmed by the Irish welcome, but, of course, still yearns for home.

LILIA OREVCHUK, FLED FROM UKRAINE: Every Irish people ask if we are happy? We are trying to be happy because we have everything we need now here we

don't let the happiest life. It is difficult, a little.


O'SULLIVAN: Back at the school in Cahersiveen --

You come here, who is this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my daughter, Margarita.

O'SULLIVAN: Margarita's mom came by to watch her daughter perform for some of her new Irish and Ukrainian friends.


O'SULLIVAN: Donie O'Sullivan, CNN, Cahersiveen, Ireland.


NOBILO: Donie O'Sullivan there for us.

Now let's get to some international headlines for you.

Cuba's presidential offices that at least nine people have been killed after a massive explosion at the hotel in downtown Havana. It also says

that preliminary investigation suggests that the explosion was caused by a guest leak. It happened at Hotels Saratoga just hours ago. Witnesses tell

us that the blast was so powerful that buses and cars outside the hotel were damaged.

More business closures and mass testing in Beijing as COVID cases there rise. Beijing's largest district has expanded an earlier ban on commercial

activities to include all nonessential services. Millions of residents will face more than three rounds of mass testing starting on Saturday.

The U.S. State Department says that North Korea may be preparing to resume underground nuclear testing later this month. This would be North Korea's

seventh test and first and nearly five years.

A Belarusian court has sentenced Russian citizens to pay six years in prison for inciting social hatreds. She was arrested in Belarus one year

ago, alongside her boyfriend, a Belarusian dissident journalist who campaigned against authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko. Belarus

paused their flight from Greece to Lithuania to land in Minsk, claiming that there have been a bomb threat.

As the UK gives up to celebrate the Queen's platinum jubilee next month, there are a few notable changes the celebrations. Prince Harry and Meghan

will not join the royals on the famous Buckingham Palace balcony, nor will Prince Andrew, that's because tradition dictates that only working

royalties will make that appearance.

But the chief conductor of Sussex confirmed that they will attend festivities. It is unclear if the Queen herself will be there, after

several appearances were canceled due to her health and mobility. Royal sources told CNN that it will be decided near time.

Well, thank you for joining us this evening, live from Downing Street for the special edition of THE GLOBAL BRIEF.

As always, you can find me on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. Have a great weekend. I will see you on Monday.