Speed 26 January 2018

In this age of ‘fake news’, state-sponsored cyber terrorism and the worrying trend of what back in the PTE (Pre-Trump Era) we called “opinions” now passing themselves off as the truth, we feel obliged to come completely clean and reveal that this week’s edition of your favourite overly-long roundup of the past five days on Planet News is being sewn together while sitting on a train. How this will affect the quality of the prose or the piquancy of the vaguely satirical observations will be revealed in due course but, for the moment, let me just say that I’m glad the train company in question has not wasted money on supplying comfortable seats.

(Well, that’s the satire question answered already).

The week began in a bit of a news fug; with a range of stories passing across the front pages but a lack of consensus over which were the most important. There was widespread tabloid coverage of the horrid murder (as if there is any other kind) of 8-year-old Mylee Billingham, allegedly by her father. The Times and The Telegraph, conversely, picked up on comments by the head of the army Sir Nick Carter who said that defence cuts were in danger of turning the UK armed forces into little more than a well-drilled boy (and girl) band whose only recourse when faced with a hypothetical Russian invasion would be a few leftover fireworks that someone found in a cupboard and a medley of the hits of NSYNC. A tactic which, to be fair, might actually be fairly effective.

A special early mention this week for The Daily Mail which, on Monday, kicked off a week’s serialisation of the late Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence”. For those without a memory of the early 90s on account of not being born, this was a massive hit of a book that told the true story of Englishman’s Mayle’s relocation to rural France; it’s stuffed to the covers with sunshine, wine and amusing French peasants who are just so French it is tres tres funny and worth writing down. The Daily Mail loved it, seemingly missing the irony that such a relocation may well be impossible once its beloved Brexit has been achieved.

Just when you thought pantomime season was over, then onto the political stage this week barrelled “UKIP!”; a rip-roaring, knockabout farce of a show with a cast of entirely non-memorable characters.  So just in case you had anything more important to do this week (like scrubbing the miscellaneous drawer in your kitchen with the world’s smallest toothbrush) the let’s bring you up to speed. Farage is gone. Henry Bolton is now leader of what remains of the party. Bolton left his wife and then got himself a pretty young girlfriend who has nice eyes but is a racist and who wrote some vile things on Twitter about Meghan Markle (and in these parts, if you have a pop at MM then we will fight you). Bolton then dumped his racist girlfriend but all the other UKIP people said that he should resign because choosing a racist for a girlfriend was a bad idea when you are leader of UKIP because it’s not a racist party even though lots of people say it is. Bolton said he wouldn’t resign. So this week all his leadership team resigned in protest but then Bolton again said he wouldn’t resign but this time he said it while standing outside a hotel just to show he meant it . . . . . . . . sorry; we’re abandoning this paragraph on account of life being far, far too short to care.

Thank goodness then for The Sun whose punning mojo is very much on heat at the moment. With what linguistic quip did it accompany its Wednesday front-page story about a lack of meat forcing Weatherspoon’s to ditch its “legendary” steak night? “APOCALYPSE COW”. Take a bow, The Sun. All other tabloid headline writers can just pack up their pencil cases and go home.

The single story that united the newspapers this week was the discovery by The Financial Times, in a rare and welcome piece of undercover sleuthing, that a charity dinner called “The President’s Club” consisted solely of rich, horny men getting drunk and groping scantily-dressed waitresses. The event’s been going on for years, seemingly with an impunity born out of its charitable purpose. But this is 2018 and, thank goodness, this sort of horror won’t wash. The event was quickly binned but not before the newspapers gave it a kicking: “Sleaze Ball” said erstwhile home of the Page 3 girl The Sun; “Sexists and the City” said the Metro and The Telegraph reported that TM the PM “rebuked her families minister” for attending the “debauched” event. A case of being very much in the wrong job in wrong place at the wrong time.

In Scary Science News, Scientists in China revealed this week that they’ve successful cloned two macaque monkeys. The two animals have identical DNA and are the first primates to have been successfully cloned, raising some somewhat terrifying questions about the possibility of doing the same with humans. The Mail’s front page on Thursday shuddered with dread but whatever your personal view about a future in which humanity may be able to make identical replicas of Noel Edmonds then spare a thought for these two poor Chinese monkeys who face a lifetime of testing in a laboratory, save for a six-month stint as joint leaders of UKIP.

The “In Other News” pile is quite a big one this week, so let’s have a quick rifle through it: The Express got excited about two medical advancements mid-week: one, a new cheap pill that can fight the pain of arthritis (excellent news) and the revelation that eating curry can beat dementia (even better news); it’s probably not safe to leave your house anymore given the “soaring” (why always this verb?) number of crimes as reported in the latest official figures; The DUP want a the government to build a bridge from Scotland to Northern Ireland (it won’t happen); Coronation Street is being “ruined” by hard-hitting storylines; Boris Johnson was metaphorically kneed in the groin by TM the PM for telling a newspaper that the NHS was underfunded and a laughing David “Chuckles” Davis appeared before the Parliament’s Brexit Committee and made a gag that Brexit was all pretty straightforward. Nobody laughed.

Meanwhile, at the World Economic Forum in Davos TM the PM was interviewed in front of a snowy mountainscape which made her look a lot like a character from Game of Thrones and then she sat down with her pal Donald Trump and said that, you know what, he really should come for a state visit to the UK after all. What could possibly go wrong?

Oh yes, and astronomers say that a couple of the planets orbiting the star Trappist-1 might well be habitable. And if things keep going the way we are, we may well need them.

Finally, in place of our usual “light-hearted” final story or musical tribute to the Fall-en (Mark E Smith who died this week may have been a little niche for most readers of TRSR) we’re going to embed a video of the speech ex-Labour MP Tessa Jowell made to the House of Lords yesterday. Jowell was diagnosed with brain cancer last year but her speech was not one of self-pity but selflessness, humility and a determination to improve the life of cancer sufferers. “I am not afraid” she concluded.

You may cry.

Have a great weekend. See you next week.