The Friday Speed Read
So then, the week just ending has been dominated by the clash of two giants of global politics engaged in toxic exchange of bellicose rhetoric on a subject that threatens the safety, security, even the very existence of civilisation as we know it. Yes that’s right (comic twist klaxon), TM the PM and Boris de Pfeffel Johnson have been at it hammer and tongs all week over the kind of Brexit that we we’re going to demand from the EU to give us even though they’re unlikely to give us anything.
The clichéd blue-touch paper on this political firework was lit by BJ last weekend with a long piece published in the Telegraph in which he set out his vision for Brexit, full of hope and glory and, in move of either brilliance or unfettered stupidity depending on your definitions of these terms, a resurrection of the largely debunked claim that leaving the EU would mean an extra £350m a week for the NHS. This claim royally irritated the UK Statistics Authority which said that Johnson was wilfully misusing official stats. BJ hit back by asking what on earth the UK Statistics Authority knows about statistics.
The catalyst for all this Boris-ing was the approach of TM the PM’s speech on Friday in that hotbed of renaissance shenanigans and miracles in marble: the ever-splendid city of Florence. The speech (which will be given post TFSR deadline, just in case you think our reporting of it is a little shoddy) apparently will tell the EU, according to the Telegraph at least, that it has a “duty” to agree a Brexit deal and, notably, for the first time, will posit the idea of a transition period post B-Day.
As ever, Twitter does it better in 160 characters than TFSR does in nearly a waffly 5721:
'British Prime Minister goes to Florence to talk mainly to British people to convince them it shouldn't be that easy to go to Florence.'
— Tiernan Douieb (@TiernanDouieb) September 22, 2017
The other speech of note this past week was of course the delicate, nuanced and grammatically adventurous address given by President Trump to the UN, full of wit, wonder and beauty and threats to “completely destroy” North Korea. Calling Kim Jung-un “Rocket Man”, the world’s most powerful man not so much kicked the hornet’s nest as repeatedly beat-it piñata-style as it hung from a tree made of sticks of nitro-glycerine. The response from North Korea’s leader was in part predictable but in terms of its language it broke new (old) ground and delighted etymologists by its double use of the word “dotard”, an insult not hurled from football terraces since the C14th – (“verily, thine referee is a dotard I pray you”).
Dotard (n): An old person, especially one who has become weak or senile.
He may have a trunk full of nuclear warheads that he’d be happy to fling towards millions of innocent people but the man must be an absolute demon at Scrabble.
In other news this week, Ryanair continued its mission to retain the prestigious Most Loathed Airline laurels by cancelling hundreds of flights after it messed up its pilots’ holiday rotas. Most newspapers lined up to give Michael O’Leary a kicking: “The shaming of Ryanair” said The Mirror while the Mail got its punning game back on track with “Flightmare” (8/10 – excellent).
The Sun reported on a woman who has given birth to a healthy baby at the age of 47 (the mother not the baby); Wayne Rooney’s two year driving ban made every paper; The Guardian dedicated two days of coverage to its investigation into the frightening level of household debt across the UK and TM and PM made many front pages for her threat to tech companies that she will drop a coffee over their keyboards unless they get quicker at removing terrorist materials and hate speech from their sites.
Talking of all things digital, a worrying report into levels of depression amongst teenage girls gained widespread coverage, with its finding that by the age of 14, 1 in 4 girls will have suffered some degree of mental problem. Suggested causes include exam stress and, more than any other factor, a life dominated and dictated by the ceaseless electronic noise storm from social media. Things don’t seem to get much better as they grow older either, with the Guardian reporting that Millennials spend 3 times more of their income on housing than their grandparents did.
It was also a bad week for Nigels. Not only has the name dropped out of favour completely with the new parents, not a single baby was saddled with the moniker in 2016, but uber-Nigel, Nigel Farage was widely ridiculed for having himself filmed as he strode up to the BBC headquarters in Regent Street to hand-deliver a letter to the Director General complaining about a Vox pop that referenced him in 2016. Of all the comments, the favourite of The Friday Speed Read was a two word pun on the title of a beloved children’s programme about a Postman – but this time, the second word began with a T and only rhymed with Pat.
Elsewhere, nature blew another destructive storm across the Caribbean and killed over 250 people in an earthquake in Mexico City. Both events were reported widely and with dignity by a media impressively on-point despite the recent run of natural disasters.
Finally, the Queen has an ipod. Obama gave it to her as a present and photo appearing in most papers on Friday show it docked and ready to bang out some top choons to her guests at Balmoral. Predictably, there was lots of speculation about her playlist. The Sun was in its element: “Purple Reign”; “Smells Like Queen Spirit” and, topically, “Rocket Ma’am”.
And that’s your lot for this week – unless TM the PM announces that the whole Brexit thing is off or that she’s preparing to offer Philip Hammond as a human sacrifice in return for better trade tariffs in her Florence speech, in which case we’ll report it here.
To finish. What else? Wave your warheads in time: