The Friday Speed Read
For all its use as a funnel of trivia, gossip and stone-cold hate, Twitter still retains the capacity to unearth some nuggets of comedy gold. Witness this moment of 160 character-or-fewer off-the-cuffery from American actor Kumail Nanjiani:
This is the first time the French version of anything has had a happier ending.
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) May 7, 2017
And thus the week began with the very pleasing defeat of the Front National’s Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election, losing to political novice and youngest-ever Monsieur Le President, Emmanuel Macron. And yes, it wasn’t a victory to bring a nation out to into the squares and cafés in celebration, particularly given the record-breaking number of abstentions and spoiled ballots, but at least the so-called “rise of populism” characterised by the dark pantomime of 2016 seems to have abated, at least for the moment.
In a move that was the political equivalent of mooning (do young people know what this term means? Google it if you need to but it’s “NSFW” – is that how you say it?) the defeated FN, Macron shimmied onstage at his victory rally to the block-rockin’ beats of one of Beethoven’s biggest choons: Ode to Joy. Which COINCIDENTALLY is also the official anthem of the EU.
Sharing the Monday front pages with a waving Monsieur Macron, was a snogging Prince Harry who was pictured in full tonsil-tickling mode with his girlfriend Megan Markle on the sidelines of a polo match. Seasoned-royal watchers will know that snogging at a polo match has been used since the time of Henry II (reign: 1154 – 1189) to signal that the pox has subsided, marriage is forthcoming, the harvest will be bounteous and we’re off to have another crack at invading France.
Talking of medieval ailments, General Election fever continues to grip an excited nation like a more tabloid-friendly bubonic plague, and TM the PM took a break from her “strong and stable” incantation to appear on the green baize of The One Show sofas alongside her husband Philip. As hard-hitting interviews go, it was hardly Anthony Joshua-esque but we did learn the following:
1 – Brexit will not mean an end to our participation in the Eurovision Song Contest. Which is clearly a damn shame.
2 – There are “boys jobs and girls jobs”. Philip May puts out the bins and presumably after a hard day of Prime Ministering, TM hot-foots it home to put flowers around the house, look demure and bring Philip his pipe and slippers.
3 – Philip would be spending the night in the spare room after revealing that his wife has wanted to be PM for years. Just after she said that she hadn’t.
4 – Philip May likes ties and jackets.
5 – TM the PM likes shoes and once talked to someone in a lift about them.
And they were the highlights. Which says everything you need to know about the rest.
It had been over a week since Donald Trump had done something spontaneous and troubling, so it was high time he got back on that particular horse and my goodness, he did it in style. On Tuesday, DJT sacked FBI director James Comey in a move that was both shocking and had in no way anything WHATSOEVER to do with the ongoing investigation into the link between Russia and the Trump election campaign. Fans of irony (proper irony that is, not in the Alanis Morissette sense) had much to cheer as Trump attempted to justify the sacking on the basis of Comey’s handling of the Clinton email server debacle.
Hang on, we need a fresh paragraph to reflect on that. Let’s try again: the White House claimed that one of the significant contributing factors to the sacking was Comey’s intervention in the final stages of the election, an intervention that in all likelihood helped to get Trump elected.
But then, 24 hours later, Trump appeared on CNN and said that “this Russia thing” had indeed influenced the sacking after all and after a quick show of hands, the rest of the world agreed that there was a scarcely a person on the planet who was surprised. Apart perhaps from Sean Spicer.
Back in the UK, the final two days of the working week were to be dominated by Jeremy Corbyn, a phrase that even day earlier would have seemed as unlikely as “Do you know what, that Marine Le Pen may have lost the election but she’s definitely won my heart”, or “Don’t worry Phil, I’ll put the wheelie bin out tonight”. No one had expected it but Labour’s election car came careering around the corner, all bright colours, honking horn and bits falling off like a clown in the circus (or a late 90s Vauxhall Corsa) and suddenly everyone was talking about it.
In fact, there’s a case to made for a clown possessing more inherent poise than the Labour election effort and the leak of its of its manifesto followed by Socialism’s Len McCluskey slipping on the steps outside a meeting of Labour leadership and then Corbyn’s car running over the foot of a journalist, added up to a day that the right-wing press celebrated as one of total farce.
Papers printed front pages of mocked-up Soviet-style propaganda, with headlines screaming about a return to the 70s as news of Labour’s promises to renationalise the railways and the Royal Mail, scrap tuition fees, inject billions into the NHS and cap the pay of top companies began to dominate online and offline discussions.
Whether they can afford to pay for any of these proposals is anyone’s guess and even if they can, there’s going to be millions of voters for whom the whole thing stinks of 70s Labour with its three-day-weeks, rubbish in the streets and peeling flock wallpaper. But after TM the PM’s “strong and stable” carpet-bombing of last week, Labour’s shambolic end to the week may turn out to be their smartest move yet.
Things may just have got interesting.
And talking of the 70s, it wasn’t all bad. In fact some of it was very good indeed. Over to you Marvin.
Have a great weekend.