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Best in Show
Every week, The Friday Speed Read plucks the non-burned items from the news barbecue and serves them up with a potato salad of comment for your delectation and pleasure.
Be strong; we have some difficult news to impart. There’s a national bunting shortage. Yes, that’s right, a mere 24 hours before the greatest wedding between any two people ever and, according to the Telegraph, there’s nary a coloured cloth triangle to be found in the shops, not even for ready money. Shady bunting dealers (or “bunters”) are hanging around the nation’s street corners fleecing addicted Royalists to the tune of several hundred quid for small strings of that sub-standard plastic stuff that decorated jumble sale tables in the mid 80s; while quality worsted wool bunting has become the preserve of oligarchs and tech billionaires. It’s a bleak picture and we’re sorry to lay this on you.
Okay listen, the impending union between Prince Henry KCVO and Rachel Meghan Markle has largely been the only story in News Town this past week and here at the Friday Speed Read, we’re not going to duck our responsibilities to summarise the coverage in overly-complex sentences and vain attempts at humour. However, in order to retain some order we’re going to fence off a special Royal Wedding section at the foot of this week’ column where we can luxuriate all things Markle: M&S meal deals will be provided but sadly, there will be no bunting (see above).
The week began with the sad news of the death of Tessa Jowell; a figure respected across all political parties and widely credited for being instrumental in bringing the Olympic Games to London in 2012. Following her diagnosis with brain cancer, she spent the last year of her life campaigning for better funding for cancer research, culminating with a speech she made in the House of Lords last year that drew widespread acclaim. Tessa Jowell’s death was reported by all newspapers and Theresa May announced that the government will double its contribution to brain cancer research in tribute.
This was also the week that the United States opened its relocated embassy in Jerusalem, despite warnings from nearly everyone that it was a spectacularly bad idea. The opening was met with protests along the border between Gaza and Israel with Israeli security forces shooting dead 58 protestors and wounding over a thousand. “Bloodbath”, said the Mail; “Dozens Die” reported the Times and the Guardian deftly deployed the power of juxtaposition by placing an image of a smiling, pristine Ivanka Trump opening the embassy alongside one, taken 60 miles away from the first, of two blood-streaked Palestinians carrying a wounded / dead compatriot through the smoke and chaos.
It should also be noted that on the new sign attached to the front of the building the words “Embassy of the United States of America” are rendered in a smaller font size than the words “Donald J Trump”.
Back on home turf, the cabinet Brexit Wars continue, with TM the PM being stuck in the middle of two factions bashing the other over their heads with rival plans for how to pass a camel through an eye of a needle and avoiding a “hard border” in Ireland. Continuing to gnash his teeth from the sidlines is double-breasted suit enthusiast Jacob Rees-Mogg ready to unleash his Brexit hounds to sink their teeth into the PM should he judge that any deal with the EU over customs regulations is too sensible. By the end of the week, TM had arrived at a “third way” that would involve delaying having to find a solution to the problem by extending the already extended “transition” period post Brexit by enough time to ensure that she’ll safely be sipping Pina Coladas on a Caribbean beach, not caring one fig for anything Mogg-related.
A quick rattle of the “Other News This Week” maraca gives us the sound of the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England being widely pilloried for describing the UK economy as “menopausal”; the government winning plaudits from everyone aside from The Daily Star for reducing the maximum bet on Fixed Odds Betting Machines from £100 to £2; an idea to routinely arm Police in rural areas in case terrorists; TM the PMs cunning plan to stop losing votes in the House of Lords by appointing more Lords who agree with her; and Eng-er-land manager Gareth Southgate announcing the 23 footballing men who will play the traditional role this summer at the World Cup of buckling under the pressure of unrealistic expectations, losing to a team of plucky foreigners that they were expected to beat and returning home to widespread abuse from the tabloid press. We can’t wait!
So then, weddings. Or rather, THE wedding. The newspaper week has passed in a blur of coverage, gossip and, let’s be honest, considerable excitement. The one sub-plot that made nearly every front page was the “will he / won’t he” frenzy surrounding MM’s father Thomas and whether he will be at the wedding to walk his daughter down the aisle. Here’s a flavour of the headlines:
The Express on Tuesday: “Meghan’s Dad is not going to wedding”. The Express on Wednesday: “I do want to walk Megan down the aisle”.
Well it turns out that Mr Markle is not coming to the wedding after all due to his clearly fragile health. He also drew some criticism when it was revealed that he’d been a willing participant in the candid paparazzi shots of him preparing for the wedding that went global last week. Following some speculation about who might walk Meghan towards Harry in Thomas’ absence (Arsene Wenger? Harry Styles? Super Mario?) it was announced this morning that Prince Charles would be, literally, stepping in.
The Great Bunting Crisis aside, we hope that the wedding passes off without any last-minute changes of mind, punch-ups at the Reception or jokes from the Best Man that leave the room in a shocked silence such is their level of inappropriateness, you know, the usual wedding stuff. Meghan seems lovely and we hope she’s as prepared as she can be for the insane carnival of scrutiny that will define the rest of her life.
We of course don’t yet know what MM and Harry will choose for their first dance (you can get very good odds on U2’s “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”) but more according to the Evening Standard’s survey this week, the nation’s most popular post-nuptial track remains this old faithful:
See you next week.