Speed 03 November 2017

And so we’re back; following a seven day break in far-flung Northern France that contained equal amounts of cheese, bread and questions from the locals about why the UK voted for Brexit, The Friday Speed Read returns to its desk to summarise the stories that have floated to the top of the news pond this week.

Before we get on to the genuinely important stuff, let’s kick things off with a look at a story that rose on Tuesday quicker than a well-kneaded loaf in a proving drawer: we are of course talking about Prue Leith’s spectacular fall from post-Berry grace by tweeting the name of this year’s winner of the Great British Bake Off on the morning before the programme went to air. “Well done Sophie” tweeted Prue. “PRUE YOU’VE RUINED ALL THAT’S HOLY IN THIS WORLD” screamed most of the population of this sceptred isle in response.

The Sun was so miffed by Prue’s reveal that it retweeted her mistake to its 1.34 million Twitter followers so they too could be angry, disappointed and indignant. Which was clearly the only sensible and public-spirited response it could make.

Naturally, Wednesday’s headline writers leapt on the opportunity for punnery: “Leaky Bun Time” (The Sun); “Bake Off Prue out on her soggy bottom” (The Star – although Channel 4 immediately denied that Prue would be losing her job) and “EU Costing us £267M a week” (Daily Express – whatever else you think of it, the Express surely gets points for its unswerving dedication to its favourite story).

Prue’s excuse that “I was in Bhutan” must surely rank as one of the more creative in recent times and how Sir Michael Fallon must have wished his troubles could be so easily explained away following his resignation as Defence Secretary late on Wednesday evening. The whole week had been dominated by a post-Weinstein trawl though the mud of sexual impropriety at the Palace of Westminster. The inferences and innuendos were not confined to a single party and as the week gathered pace, it was obvious that this particularly toxic cloud was not going to pass over quickly.

Fallon’s admission that his behaviour in the past may not have been of a sufficiently high standard didn’t prevent the press coming to a singular conclusion: Fallon had been pushed.  The former Defence Secretary appeared on nearly every front page on Thursday (“Fallon on his sword” – The Sun) and then again on Friday with the news that one of his accusers had been Cabinet colleague Andrea Leadsom.

TM the PM did her best to clean up the mess but promptly got herself into more hot bother with her promotion of Chief Whip Gavin Williamson as Fallon’s replacement. Williamson is young, loyal (up to a point) and displays a talent for clunking symbolism with his decision to keep a tarantula in his office. His appointment was greeted with dismay by many Tory backbenchers, one of whom (anonymously) described it as one of the worst decisions in the history of humanity (to paraphrase). Many papers were quick to point out that as Chief Whip, Williamson would have been influential in the decision-making process, leading several voices to suggest that he’d nominated himself for the job.

Meanwhile, back in the world of entertainment, allegations emerged about the conduct of, among others, Kevin Spacey. Witnesses to Spacey’s inappropriate behaviour began to come forward and Spacey himself made a huge number of people very angry with a statement that seemed to conflate sexual advances towards a teenage boy with being gay. “How dare you!”, said Owen Jones in the Guardian, saying that the actor was guilty of perpetuating the very worst of homophobic stereotypes. Sue Perkins made the same point via Twitter.

In New York, a man called Harry Kassen hired a van and drove it at speed into a crowd of cyclists and pedestrians, killing eight and maiming many others. Unusually, the attacker survived the police’s armed response and was taken to hospital where he declared that he was happy with what he’d done. President Trump used Twitter (of course) to call for the death penalty, an intervention that, ironically, could mean that Kassen’s trial is prejudiced.

It’s almost as if the most powerful man using Twitter to freely bang out hot-blooded goblets of thought into the world whenever they occur to him is a bad idea.

Other stories that got tangled in the news net this week included a widely-expected rise in the Bank of England interest rate; the arrest of some of the leaders of the Catalan government whom Spain holds responsible for the recent bid for independence; the discovery of a hitherto unknown passage within the Great Pyramid in Giza; and Sainsbury’s decision to start its own record label with the music to be sold exclusively on vinyl within its stores.

Possible song titles include “Little Red Courgette”, “Korma Chameleon”, “This Charming Flan” and “There is a (fridge) light that never goes out” (other non-Smiths puns also available for the under 40s).

Finally, following another week of unpleasantness, then thank the blessed stars for Sir David Attenborough and Blue Planet II. This masterpiece of television premiered on Sunday evening and was greeted in the Monday press with universal acclaim. And rightly so. The clam-cracking fish, gender-shifting wrasse and the dolphins and False Killer Whales greeting each other like old friends were a welcome reminder of both the wonder of nature and the human ability to capture it on screen (and sadly, to destroy it). Yes it may be all a bit too anthropomorphised at times and there are moments when the music is a little too epic but these are trifles. It’s wonderful. And the world is better for its existence.

Here’s the trailer, with music by Hans Zimmer and Radiohead – a band that ascended still further in TFSR’s estimation this week after its music was described by Fox News as “elaborate moaning and whining over ringtone sound”. Yep. What’s your point?

Have a great weekend.