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And unto us a 16-page souvenir pullout is born

Every week, The Friday Speed Read holds its finger in the air to judge the direction of the prevailing news winds and then scribbles down its report of the top stories in a spiral notebook for your reading pleasure. 

As cold grey rain strafes the window just to our left, it takes an imaginative leap of sizeable proportions to remember that only seven short days ago our nation was “bathing” in glorious sunshine with temperatures nudging the high 20s. Talking of bathing, it was at precisely 7.12pm last Friday that The Friday Speed Read drove past a confident young gentleman, himself in his high 20s, walking confidently through a bucolic North Somerset village wearing only a pair of swimming trunks and carrying a bag from Londis. The Cote D’Azur has nothing on us.

Anyway, now that summer is over for another year, we can get back to the more familiar routine of sleepless nights and long, soulless days worrying about the impending end to civilised society as a slowing economy, ecological ruin and international instability combine to nudge us ever-closer to the  . . . . HANG ON! KATE’S HAD ANOTHER BABY! EVERYTHING’S GOING TO BE OKAY!

Let’s be honest, the media’s coverage of the birth this week of the as yet-unnamed third child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (we’re hoping they call him Great Shelford. Or Stilton) is going to be a mere speck in the eye of the royal-wedding souvenir-supplement tsunami that’s heading our way in May; however, there was still a decent newspaper guard of honour to greet the new prince. So decent in fact that we’ve decided to resurrect our wildly popular (one person said it was “relatively amusing”) feature in which we rank the royal coverage by number of pages and (SPOLIER ALERT!) declare the Daily Mail the winner. So here goes.


with Bruno Brookes

7th placeThe Guardian – 1 desultory page of baby coverage and a rubbish photo

6th placeThe Times – 2 pages of baby coverage plus a better photo

5th placeThe Mirror – 4 pages of a baby coverage and, confusingly, a picture of Amber Rudd

4th placeThe Daily Express – 10 pages of baby coverage, headline of “Thrice the worry now” and a top-of-the-page weather forecast of “Fit for a prince”

3rd placeThe Sun – 12 pages of baby coverage, headline of “Cry for Mummy, England and St George” and an amusing warning not to be a “problem” third child like his Great Uncle Andrew

2nd placeThe Daily Telegraph – 5 pages of baby coverage, plus an 8-page souvenir supplement, alongside the headline “Welcome to the Family”

1st placeThe Daily Mail (of course) – 20 pages of baby coverage, plus a 16-page souvenir pull-out, making 36 PAGES OF BABY NEWS and a giant front-page close-up of the hours-old prince alongside the headline “His first royal wave”.

So well done to the Daily Mail for winning yet another top spot in the royal coverage countdown chart. I think we can all agree that their efforts were in equal measure entirely proportional and inspiring.

Something like normal service was resumed on Wednesday with the Sun bemoaning the removal of traditional clocks from exam halls because the UK’s youth can’t understand them (“Thick tock” – 7/10 – good); the Mail laying into the bank TSB because it’s new online platform and app were significantly less effective than an abacus in 2000BC Mesopotamia (“Totally Shambolic Bank”) while the Times reported that MPs were finally moving closer to agreeing a ban on cut-price junk food offers in an attempt to make the nation thinner.

The Friday Speed Read’s International Desk has had a busy week with France’s President Macron crossing the Atlantic for some high-level male bonding with Donald Trump. In some extraordinary scenes, dubbed by the French equivalent of The Speed Read (“Le résumé rapide de vendredi des journaux de la semaine”) as Le Bromance, Don and Manu frolicked, hugged, picked dead skin from each other and then fell out over Iran. Such larks! And then, this very morning, Kim Jung-Un became the first North Korean leader to set foot on South Korean territory as he met South Korean leader Moon Jae-in for, all-hyperbole aside, historic talks. In what can only be good news for fans of not ending all life as we know it in a nuclear apocalypse, the two leaders seemed to get on well and even (and this is true) did that thing you everyone does bestriding the meridian line Greenwich – “hey look at me! I am half in a brutal dictatorship, half in the country that brought us the Crabster CR200, the world’s largest underwater walking robot!”.

A few other stories hanging around street corners in Newsville this week included Amber Rudd denying that there had even been Home Office targets for the yearly number of deportations from the UK before the next day abolishing Home Office targets for the yearly number of deportations from the UK; Prince William falling asleep at a service in Westminster Abbey – see above (The Sun – “Willzzzzzzzzz” (2/10 – poor)); 40 massive companies announcing their intention to ban single-use plastics and what seems like the final developments in the profoundly sad story of Alfie Evans and the desperate efforts of his parents to do whatever they can to prolong his life. Without wanting to pick through the details, this sad episode has shown humanity at both its best and worst.

The tabloid week ended with widespread anger at the mooted sell-off of Wembley Stadium to an American billionaire: “Is nothing sacred?” screamed the Express, “A kick in the balls” said the Star, cleverly substituting the word ‘balls’ for a pair of football emoji and the Sun gave the world “They think it’s y’all over” which is not a bad effort for a Friday.

And finally, Donald Trump is coming to the UK on Friday 13th of July. According to the Mail, he may steer clear of London to “avoid left-wing rabble rousers” and meet both the TM the PM and HM the Q somewhere more discreet. Maybe Leigh Delamere Services on the M4 where there’s decent pasties and most of the toilets work.

To play us out, here’s the internet’s foremost purveyor of comedic lip syncing videos providing their own version of Mark Zuckerberg’s recent appearance at a congressional hearing. And it’s very much worth dedicating 5.47 minutes of your life to watching.

STOP PRESS – ROYAL BABY IS CALLED LOUIS ARTHUR CHARLES – but we can’t think of a gag to replace the rather weak one above about Cornish place names so let’s just pretend this news broke too late for this week’s Speed Read.

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