The Friday Speed Read
One of the (very few) problems with a four-day working week following a bank holiday is that it would take an event of literally world-shaking proportions to register even the faintest crackle of memory by the following Friday. In a normal week TFSR notebook’s Monday entry would be replete with news, opinion and the odd shoddy doodle of Donald Trump beneath the umbrella of a nuclear mushroom. Not this week. So, if you don’t mind, we’ll take Monday as read, howsoever you spent it, and crack straight on with Tuesday.
And what an angry Tuesday it was (although the week was to ratchet up several anger notches before it was done). There remained a lot of newspaper rumbling about the dinner TM the PM had shared in Downing Street the previous week with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Junker at which, so claimed a leak from Brussels, things were a little frosty. Missed headline opportunities included “Brussels Pouts”, and “Brussels Routs” (you’re welcome), with the Express opting for the more prosaic “May’s Outrage at EU’s dirty tricks”.
(The Sun was keeping its pun-powder dry. For the moment).
Wednesday turned out to be Diane Abbott Day; a new national holiday on which for years to come children will wake at the crack of dawn, saucer-eyed with excitement about a day of feasting, mangled statistics and pauses so long that even Harold Pinter would have thought them a little bit baggy. To be fair, few of us have been called upon to give a whole morning’s worth of media interviews, particularly about a new policy that seems holier than cliché’s Swiss cheese but even so, the Shadow Home Secretary’s performance during an interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC took some beating in terms excruciating listening. Over the course a few short minutes, Abbott suggested that Labour’s proposed 10,000 new policemen would cost £300,000. And then changed her mind and said that they would cost £80M. And then changed her mind again and said they would actually recruit a quarter of a million new police officers at a cost of £64.3M.
Somewhere in another galaxy the interview is ongoing, with both the number of police and their total cost changing every few seconds from now until eternity.
There can’t have been many days during her political career on which Dianne Abbott was grateful for an intervention from Theresa May but Wednesday 3rd of May 2017 must surely have been one of them. Following the formal dissolution of parliament, TM the PM returned from a cup of tea with the Queen, to embark on a verbal war with Brussels over the reports about the aforementioned frosty dinner party. TM stood at her lectern like a Home Counties Napoleon and accused unnamed malignant forces in the EU of meddling in the forthcoming general election. Cue a genuinely funny tweet from the Russian Embassy in London:
Praise God it's not Russia this time pic.twitter.com/irebYz8aKE
— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) May 4, 2017
If she was a poster girl for the right-wing press following the invocation of Article 50, then such bellicose rhetoric lifted the PM to near-mythical status following this strange and angry speech. It was as if a generation’s worth of anger at the nefarious, untrustworthy workings of Europe had been suddenly and ecstatically unleashed (we didn’t mean for that image to be as troubling as that – sorry). You don’t need to have read Thursday’s papers to know how large the photos were of TM’s face or the tone of the headlines that accompanied them, with the standout being some back-in-the-game two word punning mastery from The Sun:
Nuclear Junker (9/10 – superb work).
Elsewhere, a travelcard for London’s transport system was revealed as being the most expensive in the world; Cheryl from the telly and Liam from the charts have named their baby Bear, thus guaranteeing future panto roles; Le Pen and Macron tore French strips (nicely seasoned, excellent with red wine) off each other in a TV debate ahead of Sunday’s election; a man was rescued after spending 32 hours on a drifting surfboard on open seas and in Indonesia, reputedly the world’s oldest man died aged 146. He was born in 1871. Which is mind-blowing.
The week ended with the news that The Duke of Edinburgh has decided that when you’re 95 you don’t need to be travelling around the country unveiling stuff and shaking hands anymore and anyway, he’s a got a stack-load of stuff in his Netflix “My List” which isn’t going to watch itself.
All of Friday’s papers have bowed reverently and saluted Philip’s near-lifetime of service and “off the cuff” remarks (and it’s probably unfair to recall the worst of these at this moment). The Daily Mail offered its readers a “glorious” 12-page souvenir pull-out whether they wanted it or not. And let’s be honest, they probably did.
And talking of times changing and people moving on to different things, we’re going to break Rule Number 3 in the Weekly Column Style Guide (Rules 1 and 2 being “You don’t talk about your weekly column” which has always struck us as a bit counterproductive) which is “Don’t use your weekly column for personal greetings”.
But we’re mavericks here at TFSR and our friend James is leaving Speed today for pastures new (that’s right, he’s going into dairy farming) and he’ll be greatly missed. A finer, more reliable, thorough and talented colleague you’re unlikely to find. So, here’s his favourite song. Just because.
Until next week.