The Friday Speed Read
Another week, another need to break out the vocabulary of terrorism following the attack outside Finsbury Park mosque in the early hours of Monday morning. Once again, a vehicle was used as a weapon and this time driven into a crowd of Muslims leaving the mosque after prayers. One was killed and eleven injured but the driver of the van was saved from an understandably vicious retributive attack on the pavement by the intervention of Imam Mohammed Mahmoud who held back the crowd until police arrived.
Imam Mahmoud was rightly lauded for his actions in the press the next day. Literally, symbolically, the man is hero.
The coverage of the Grenfell Tower horror continued into its second week as photographs from inside some of the flats were published across the front pages. And what terrible photos they were. Looking at the blackened remains of washing machines, odd scraps of furniture and the occasional mundane fragment of a life being lived, it was impossible not to imagine what it must have been like to have been trapped inside.
Updated casualty figures were published bringing the total of presumed dead to 79, the highest death toll caused by fire in the UK since the Blitz. It’s also a figure that’s all too easy for us to visualise, making the whole thing so terribly tragic.
The fire was never far from the headlines throughout the week, not least when it was revealed that there may be dozens of towers in the UK that are clad in the same, seemingly flammable, material as that which had been recently added to Grenfell. There was some good news for residents as many were temporarily rehoused in the borough (cue comments from some delightful examples of humanity living nearby worrying about property values) and released from any utility bill debts. Some pop people released a charity single which isn’t awful and the Home Office arranged for the Syrian family of one of the victims to come to the UK for his funeral.
Elsewhere, the media began to revert to a more normal service after a terrible week. The Guardian reported that 10 Earth-like planets have been discovered in the constellation of Cygnus, a mere 380 (ish) light years away. One of the astronomers that has made the discovery was asked by John Humphrys on Radio 4 what the point was of spending time staring at stars that we’ll never have any chance of reaching. The astronomer’s answer was superb – to paraphrase: “Well there’s no point really. But it’s fun”. Good man.
The Mirror gloated at the continued stalling of the DUP in regards to entering a formal agreement to prop-up TM the PMs minority government: “Now even the crackpots won’t work with May” it guffawed. In contrast, The Express, took an opposite line and turned its optimism knob up to 11 by slapping a large message from TM on its front page: “I’ll make Britain strong again”. We’ll see.
The Queen delivered her Constitutionally obligatory speech to open the new session of Parliament; a speech shorn of any potentially controversial legislation, a world away from the saboteur-crushing decrees presumably imagined by TM and her now unemployed advisors back in April when she pressed the big blue General Election button. Here’s the full list of proposed legislation announced on Wednesday:
– Make a success of Brexit
– Um . . .
– We’ll tidy that drawer of random stuff in the kitchen. Almost certainly.
– (room for another policy here)
– Take the bins out (boys only).
– Ban those rectangular tin pencil cases that never shut properly. (Unless anyone doesn’t want us to in which case we won’t).
In other news, Prince Harry told America that nobody wants to be Queen. Or King. Boys at a school in Exeter protested at not being allowed to wear shorts by arriving for lessons in skirts; and my goodness wasn’t it hot? All the newspapers agreed that yes indeed, it was VERY HOT and responded to the HEAT by printing the obligatory suite of HOT photographs of good looking people skipping through fountains, delicately eating ice creams and wearing stupid hats at Royal Ascot. No one in these types of photos is ever red-faced, sweat-stained, sneezing with crazy hay fever and covered in heat rash. Because Britain IS NOT LIKE THIS.
Finally, three happenings that made this week just a little bit better:
Number One: The Queen opening parliament dressed as the EU flag.
Number Two: EU President Donald Tusk quoting John Lennon (“you may say I’m a dreamer . .” ) in response to a press conference question about Brexit.
Number Three: Huw Edwards sitting doing nothing for four minutes at the start of the Ten O Clock news, rendered silent by a “technical glitch”.
And that’s your lot. Aside from TM the PM being shut out of the meeting of EU leaders in Brussels like the scene at the end of the Godfather (she’s Kay; the EU is Michael Corleone, obvs) after her “fair and serious” offer over EU citizens’ rights in the UK post Brexit was met with a shrug of teenage proportions. But more of that next week.
Here’s that Huw Edwards scene in full. It’s actually quite beautiful. Maybe after these weeks of horror this was the news we all needed. See you next week.