Speed 28 April 2017

Last week The Friday Speed Read took an Easter break, packed away its biros and sachets of fruit tea and headed off for a week of cheese-eating in post-Article 50 Europe. We crossed our fingers in the hope that Donald Trump wouldn’t bring about nuclear Armageddon in our absence and, feeling in need of a respite from frankly too much news of late, looked forward to needing only to make a choice between Comte and Tomme.

But then Theresa May happened.

The “snap” election seemed to catch everyone on the hop. With the UK emerging from a post-Easter chocolate fug, TM the PM announced that all her previous promises not to call an early General Election had been made while crossing her fingers behind her back so didn’t actually count. And therefore she was calling an early General Election. The reason? There were too many people in Westminster who disagreed with her and so they needed replacing; replacing with people who agreed with her.

The Tories cheered. Labour held its head in its hands and silently wept.

And the Daily Mail printed a front page filled with a close-up of dead-eyed TM the PM alongside a chilling headline: “Crush the Saboteurs”. But like it was a good thing.

The last person to use this phrase in public? Lenin.


The first week of the UK election campaign began with reaction to another election altogether. Realising that the French are likely to have a pretty large and comfortable seat around the Brexit negotiation table, the UK media have been keeping a close eye on the first round of the Presidential election. There was palpable relief amongst most that the National Front’s Marine Le Pen will be facing Emmanuel Macron in the second round and therefore has marginally less chance of winning than a certain Mr. Corbyn does here.

That didn’t stop the Daily Mail (again) claiming “A New French Revolution” and suggesting that, given Le Pen’s promise of an EU referendum the French will “now have a say on Frexit”. No one seems to have told the Mail that she (whisper it) didn’t win.

Several themes emerged in the papers on Tuesday that would run for the remainder of the week; one being opinion polls predicting something between a catastrophe and an annihilation of Labour on June 8th, the other being Kim Kardashian’s bottom, which gained three days of coverage in some titles.

Tuesday saw a battle of testosterone on the tabloid front pages but, surprisingly, actor and “Have a go hero” Tom Hardy who, The Sun reported, chased and duffed up a thief in Richmond was beaten by the Mirror’s story: “Husband beat up shark to save my life”. That’s right, nature’s streamlined seaborne killers would do well not to mess with Dean Gonsalves who, according to his understandably grateful wife, “beat up” the attacking Tiger Shark “and sent it on its way”.

Ivanka Trump went to a conference in Germany and was booed because she is Ivanka Trump and talking of a bad response, United Airlines’ year continues to nose-dive following the death of Simon, the world’s biggest rabbit on board one of their flights. The Sun: “Who bun it?” (1 out 10 – terrible).

And as if the middle-classes of this country hadn’t had enough horror to process this past twelve months, things got really, really bleak this week when M&S removed all traces of hummus from its immaculate shelves. (We know, we know. Be strong. We can get through this). Apparently, there’d been reports of rogue hummus “fizzing” on crudité platters across Surrey and, as some bright young thing at M&S pointed out, this is not normal hummus behaviour. Prosecco fizzes. Hummus . . . er . . . hums?

TM the PM faced JC (not that one – although she’d probably beat Him too right now such is her popularity) for a final time at PMQs and succeeded in using the phrase “strong and stable leadership” nine separate times during the feisty exchange. For the record, she used the word “strong” 31 times. You remember that bit in The Simpsons when Homer steps on a rake? And then steps on another rake. And so on. It starts off being really funny. Then it stops being funny. But then, and this is the genius, it starts being funny again. Well, this was TM the PM trying the same trick but to earn votes rather than laughs. And for all the world, it looks like it’s going to work like a dream.

Finally, just when you think you’re falling out of love with the UK, something happens to remind you that for all her faults, she remains in irreplaceably in your heart. The Telegraph this week reported criticism of Worcester Cathedral for its annual service of blessing for the local asparagus crop. Some grumps apparently have objected to the procession of these sweet green spears towards the altar, accompanied by a man dressed as St George and another dressed, with admirable attention to detail, as a spear of asparagus. They say it’s sacrilegious.

We say thank goodness for asparagus man.

To play us out, a song from a genius who died just over a year ago. It snowed in April this week and so what better excuse for some Prince?

Have a great, long (hooray!) weekend.