Speed 10 November 2017

In the pantheon of surprising revelations there’s surely not a space for the discovery that the world’s richest people find numerous ways and means to ensure that they become even richer. To some tastes it’s unsavoury; for others, it’s just savvy accounting but to absolutely nobody anywhere could it possibly come as a surprise.

The leak of the so-called “Paradise Papers” at the start of this week dished enough media fodder for two days’ worth of headlines (and five days later The Guardian is still going strong and seems intent on continuing; they’ve even got one of their design interns to knock up a special Paradise Papers logo – now that’s what I call commitment). But back on Monday the cover star was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (who had to share the limelight with ex-boyband dancing person Aston Merrigold – but more of that later) who, it was revealed, has some of her immense private wealth invested in offshore holdings in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda.

“Queen’s £10M tax haven scandal”, shouted the Daily Mirror as it pretended to be both angry and surprised. “Queen dragged into £10M offshore tax row” tutted The Daily Mail, convinced that this was a very minor storm in an embossed porcelain teacup. Few love the Queen with the fervour of the Daily Mail.

And of course, the Queen was only the headline act in this show of creative but definitively legal tax wizardry; the supporting cast was diverse and global: Lewis Hamilton, Bono, Kiera Knightly, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, Barclays, several colleges from both Oxford and Cambridge and, somewhat at odds with the rest of the list, various cast members from the BBC alleged comedy Mrs Brown’s Boys. The Sun: “Mrs Brown’s Ploys” (2/10 – barrel-scraping).

The other story to set the newspapers aflame at the start of the week was the death-blow dealt to the laws of natural justice by Aston Merrigold’s departure from the sequined parade that is Strictly Come Dancing. Aston and his partner Jeanette lost in the dance-off to a woman called Mollie (who celebrated her “survival” by appearing in the Sun in her pants later in the week) and her partner called AJ with whom she’s almost definitely “at it” according to everyone.

Anyway, that’s 82 words of my life that I’ll never get back so I’ll be brief: Aston was voted off even though he was really good; The Star blamed new head judge Shirley Something because she’s an expert (and we all know what we think of those) – “Strictly Shirley in fix crisis” it shouted; and Aston himself was magnanimous and gentlemanly throughout and absurdly suggested that even though he was sad it was, after all, just a television programme.

On the other side of the Atlantic and in a different galaxy in terms of seriousness, a man walked into a church in rural Texas and methodically shot 26 worshippers dead. President Trump expressed his usual 180 characters of sympathy for the victims but warned against anyone suggesting that a man killing innocent people with a gun has anything remotely to do with gun laws. This was “not a guns situation” he said in terrifying, irony-free seriousness.

Back in the ongoing soap opera that is British Politics Since The EU Referendum, TM the PM has had yet another trying week. Still reeling from Fallon’s brisk departure from ministerial office last week, TM’s chances of good night’s sleep were torpedoed by her International Development Secretary Priti Patel who, it was revealed, spent her summer holiday holding private, high level talks in that most chilled-out of political theatres, the Middle East. Oh and she didn’t tell anyone that she was having these talks because why should she? And if she wants to channel UK aid funds to help the Israeli army throw a few children’s parties (or something) then who on earth is going to stop her?

Well it turns out that everyone wanted to stop her (including her own Cabinet colleagues) and so on Wednesday Priti Patel was ordered to hot-tail it from Kenya to Downing Street where TM would be wielding the axe. Over 25,000 people used the internet to track flight KQ100 from Nairobi to London Heathrow and in a world of finite (and dwindling) reserves of fossil fuels, one has to wonder about the necessity of the BBC scrambling its news-copter to film the progress of Patel’s ministerial car as it headed down the M4 towards London (for what turned out to be a resignation rather than a sacking).

Unfortunately for Patel, her first name proved too tempting for the headline writers (of course it did) and so on Thursday the Mirror treated us with “It’s Priti shambolic”; the Star went for “Priti sad minister resigns” while the Times refused to take the pun bait with the more prosaic “Fears government will collapse as Patel quits”.

Other stories to percolate through the interest filter this week included the world’s first driverless bus crashing less than two hours into its first day on the job; more sordid revelations about Kevin Spacey and the announcement that his role in the new film by Ridley Scott is being cut out and re-shot with another actor; Doctors carrying out the world’s first complete skin transplant and widespread coverage of the suicide of Welsh cabinet minister Carl Sargeant days after his sacking over allegations of sexual misconduct.

Oh yes, it’s been proved that sheep can recognise the face of Fiona Bruce. Yes, that’s an actual fact that Science gave us this week. However, although Bruce-Sense is clearly a very useful life skill, it hasn’t stopped several sheep being eaten by an escaped lynx in north Wales, presumably because their guard was down while lounging on the sofa in front The Antiques Roadshow.

Finally, anyone who’s watched television in the past five days will know that Christmas is next week! Oh hang on, it’s still seven weeks away but please don’t let this dampen your enthusiasm. The big stores have commenced their yearly campaign of seduction via adverts stuffed with handheld camerawork, emotive narratives and previously upbeat pop songs slowed down and sung in a husky voice. Basically, it’s all John Lewis’ fault.

But then again, if you’re going to go all John Lewis then you may as well spend £7 million, book Michel Gondry to direct, get Guy Garvey from Elbow to sing one of your favourite moments from the gold-plated genius that is the medley on The Beatles’ Abbey Road album and then chuck in a cute monster that looks like it’s come from Where The Wild Things Are.


Until next time.