Speed 24 November 2017

Well I don’t know about you but The Friday Speed Read didn’t get much sleep last night such was its childlike, sauced-eyed excitement as it counted down the final few hours to the dawn of Black Friday. I know, it’s finally here! Can you believe it? It’s such a wonderful time of the year. There’s nothing like wrestling a cheap television from the arms of a fellow shopper in a car park or bagging a 25% discount code for your favourite supplier of underpants to make your soul glow with love for your fellow human.

(Next year we’re going to establish ‘Roger Black Friday’ during which everyone runs 1500 metres dressed up as the Olympic middle-distance athlete from the mid-90s or, better still, ‘Halfdan the Black Friday’ in which everyone is compelled by law to disguise themselves as the ninth-century king of Vestfold and father of Harald I of Norway and then flog each other American-style fridges at 45% off. It’s going to be great).

This year Black Friday has coincided rather appropriately with the second of 2017’s Budgets. (Ah Mr Chancellor, with your two statements of intended government taxation and spending you’re really spoiling us). Whether you think the usual sound and fury of budget day is one of those pleasingly quaint British traditions to rank alongside ordered queueing and fighting in European capitals after football matches, or just regard it as yet another example of the political classes being laughably out of touch with anything resembling the real world, this week you couldn’t escape Chuckles Hammond and his battered red case.

Earlier in the week, we published an astute and handy summary of key budget announcements but for our purposes here at TFSR Big Phil’s speech started with a few gags that did little to deflect the gloom of dire figures for both growth and productivity in the UK. If the world economy was a beehive (just go with this for the moment) then the UK bees would already have been murdered by their more efficient bee-brethren for not pulling their weight in pollen collection and honey manufacture. (Who said economic theory was tricky?).  However, there was good news for first time buyer bees as PH abolished stamp duty on all new hives costing less than £300,000.

(Note from editor: Not sure this bee thing stretches as far you think it does).

Budget reaction amongst Thursday’s newspapers was as predictable as a bee’s danced report of pollen location (Another note from the editor: seriously, drop the bee thing now). The Sun combined economics with a timely cricket reference to give us “House-zat!” (3/10, poor); The Mirror barked “Thanks for nothing”; The Guardian sighed that “Hammond struggles to lift the gloom” and The Express (of course) celebrated “£3bn to speed up EU exit” and then quickly added a caveat to stop readers reaching for the flaming pitchforks: “But don’t panic, it’s not more cash for Brussels”. Phew.

The Daily Mail greeted the Budget with Kipling-esque munificence by graciously rescinding its nickname for The Chancellor: “Eeyore no more!” it smiled, arms open like Jesus in Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Amongst its many pages of analysis, the Mail printed a case study of a young couple delighted at the saving they’ll make buying their first house together now that stamp duty has been abolished for first time buyers. Their names? Sophie Diaz and Heinrich Schroder. Yep, we’re totally confused too.

Away from the chamber pot of UK politics, Zimbabwe celebrated the resignation of Robert Mugabe, following his 37 rule over the country. A week after the military had put him under house arrest and despite making a rambling speech at the weekend saying that he wouldn’t resign Mugabe became an ex-president on Tuesday afternoon. People came onto the streets; there was dancing, singing and joy unbounded at the demise of such an unpleasant man. “Hip, Hip, Harare” punned the front page of The Metro (making a rare appearance in TFSR). However, Mugabe successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa doesn’t exactly fill the heart with hope for a better future having served for years as Mugabe’s right-hand man and presiding over the country’s deeply unpleasant secret police service. Put it this way, you wouldn’t employ a man nicknamed “The Crocodile” to babysit the children while you pop out for a midweek curry. The same applies to running a country.

We start the now traditional “round-up of other news” paragraph with the revelation by science people that drinking three cups of coffee a day makes you live forever (which means a new Indiana Jones film will have to be shot: Indiana Jones and the Early Morning Stumble into Costa); actually it’s not quite that good news but apparently such a coffee intake reduces the chance of premature death and heart failure. Elsewhere, Paul Hollywood has split with his wife (“Great British Break Up” – various, including The Sun’s front page); Angela Merkel has split with her potential coalition partners and is likely to face a rerun of the recent election; and Eurotunnel, the owner and operator of the big concrete tube that connects us to the EU is rebranding itself as the “very Anglo-Saxon” Getlink.

Very Anglo-Saxon and ENTIRELY AWFUL. You remember when The Post Office briefly became “Consignia” (which sounded like a brand of contraceptives)? Well this is worse.

“I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here” is on the telly again and has provided rich pickings for many of the papers this week. First, someone from the internet was thrown off the show for being a racist and then Boxing Man Amir Khan’s fear of snakes was revealed to be NOT AT ALL TRUE because here’s a picture of Amir Khan holding a snake in the past somewhere and he’s clearly loving it. That’s right, HE’S A SNAKE HATE FAKE (a missed headline opportunity).

Finally, and not in the usual vein of paragraphs that begin with “finally”, the Cabinet’s support of TM the PM’s plan to raise the amount of cash the UK will give to the EU as part of the so-called divorce settlement may mean that the recent impasse in the Brexit talks will be broken. And in doing so, this might have the potential to be one of the biggest stories not just of the week but of the year.

Oh yes, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are DEFINITELY going to get engaged because she’s brought her dogs over to the UK. “Has Harry pupped the question?” asks the Sun’s front page today.


And here’s Amy Winehouse because, of course, she was incredible and because we’re inaugurating Back to Black Friday. Happy weekend everyone.