The Friday Speed Read
After the week she’s had, TM the PM would be forgiven for jumping in a cab to Heathrow, scanning the departure boards for somewhere cheap and hot and then boarding a plane for a weekend of beach-based cocktails and flaming Sambucas in some sweat-pit of a nightclub with a playlist dominated by Dr Alban’s 1992 dance classic “It’s my Life”. (Fun fact: Dr Alban is in fact a qualified dentist).
Anything. Anything just to forget.
TM’s speech at the Conservative Party conference was billed as the moment at which the near-catastrophe of the snap General Election would be banished to history, the Cabinet schisms over what flavour Brexit to pursue would be healed and, as a leader reborn, TM would command the stage like Britannia in heels, ready to the lead the UK into its golden future.
What actually happened, as everyone knows, was further from a triumph than even a lacklustre England home game against stoic East European opposition. And what made the speech even more excruciating to watch was the fact that very little of the slow-motion horror film that unfolded was in any way the fault of TM. A sore throat; some poor gags; a fake P45 handed to her by a serially unfunny “prankster” and some magnetic letters succumbing to Newton’s law of universal gravitation, none of these blows were within the PM’s control but all conspired to make the speech one of the most memorable party conference orations of all time.
Just for all the wrong reasons.
The reaction in the press on Thursday morning would have made for painful reading for TM the PM, if she’d read them (which surely, she didn’t). When the Times and the Telegraph call a Conservative Prime Minister’s speech a “shambles” and a “farce” respectively then you can be certain that there’s a problem. The Sun described the speech as a “nightmare”; the FT opted for “ordeal” and The Guardian punched the air and shouted “Yes!” with such glee that it woke up a man napping in Norway. Only the Express (“Trust Theresa’s fighting spirit”) and the Mail (“wretched, freakish luck but the old girl made it to the end”) offered any solace, no matter how patronising, to the PM as she faced the remainder of the working week with Backbench Tory vultures circling above in search of a meal.
Pre-speechgate, the week began with widespread coverage of the unofficial referendum in Catalonia and the violent intervention of the Spanish state at many polling stations across the region. Front pages featured disturbing images of police hitting their fellow-citizens with batons in scenes that seemed entirely alien in a modern, European state. Not that every newspaper lead with this story: the Daily Star, as ever admirably ploughing its own very particular furrow, decided that this was the moment to return the phrase “Strictly Sex Curse” to the national lexicon. And gosh, weren’t we grateful.
The biggest story of the week, however, was of course the horrendous murder of 58 people and wounding of hundreds more at a music concert in Las Vegas. 64-year-old retired accountant Stephen Paddock holed up in a hotel room overlooking the concert with an arsenal of modified, semi-automatic weaponry and proceeded to blindly spray the crowd below with gunfire for ten minutes.
No one knows why.
Photos, videos and testimony quickly filled the news channels and, the next day, the front and multiple inside pages of every newspaper. The word “massacre” was, understandably, pinned to the story and, once again, the world looked towards America in sympathy after another mass shooting. President Trump called the gunman a “very very sick individual” and a “demented man with a lot of problems” as well as promising that “we’ll be talking about gun control as time goes by.”
The share price of gun manufacturers rose the day after the shooting and sales of weapons are expected to increase significantly in the coming weeks.
In other news, British airline Monarch went bust, stranding thousands of holidaymakers and prompting the “biggest ever peacetime repatriation” by the Civil Aviation Authority; Scotland banned fracking; shop-bought pesto was revealed to be slowly poisoning us with its blood-pressure-spiking amounts of salt; postal workers announced they would be staging a two-day strike and the Nobel Institute handed out its yearly prizes for sciences, literature and peace.
Following the long tradition of nuanced and sensitive British diplomacy aboard, Boris Johnson continued his exalted occupation of the office of Foreign Secretary with a quip about clearing away the dead bodies in Libya and the Prince of Wales claimed the murderous reign of Somali pirates off the western coast of Africa has been ‘fantastic’ for fish stocks.
The Daily Express ended the week with the most British headline of the year so far: “Drink tea to lose weight”. Yep, it’s that simple. Just make sure you have a cuppa alongside your Friday night kebab frenzy and you too will be on the front page of a tabloid newspaper wearing nothing but your pants (Daisy Lowe, all papers, seemingly every day) in no time.
Finally, American singer-songwriter Tom Petty sadly died this week. His work was all a bit shiny and American for our tastes at TFSR – or so we thought. Listening back to some of songs this week, it’s clear that the man was a genius.
Perhaps therefore we should ended with his song I Won’t Back Down” as a special request for the Prime Minister; but in fact Free Fallin’ is even better. Any contemporary relevance is entirely coincidental.
Have a great weekend. See you next week.