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Speed Read: poking at eels in a bucket of stale beer

Every week, The Friday Speed read straps on its pads and goes out to opening the batting for a News This Week XI, knocking stories for four, six, and a couple of cheeky singles before getting out with a poor shot to silly mid-on.

Okay, we know that this is the last thing you want to have to deal with on a Friday afternoon, but we’re going to have to expend some of this week’s word limit talking about the “race” to replace Theresa May in the dream job that is leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party. And Prime Minister. We do realise that you’d rather be thinking about something else, anything else; maybe the outfit you’re planning to slide into later tonight as you prepare to dazzle the floor of a provincial nightclub with your expert shakings to the skittish beats of Body Funk by Purple Disco Machine? (thanks Amy for the reference) Or maybe how you’re going to celebrate the return of something vaguely like summer weather by attempting to scrape the black carbonised matter from the barbecue griddle before concluding that it “will probably be okay” and will “likely improve the taste” and so giving up and having a cider?

But the thing is, we take this weekly ragbag of long sentences and news-chat very seriously (we will only sit down to write the column once we’ve dressed in white tie and tails) and as such we’d be letting both ourselves and you down if we didn’t dedicate a few paragraphs to what at least one observer this week (me) described as “like watching freshly-caught eels writhing in a rusty bucket of stale beer placed on the concrete floor of a nuclear test facility”.

The papers have had a hard time writing about anything else. At the start of the week, the talk was still of Boris (Johnson)’s policy of saying nothing about policy (or anything else) with the Mirror attempting a pun “Chicken Boris” – at least we assume it was a pun but five days  later  and we still can’t work out what it was punning on – Chicken forest? Chicken morris? Chicken doris? None of those are things are they? So, if anyone can work it can you please email:

Anyway, as Wednesday night’s televised debate drew nearer, excitement in the streets and pubs up and down the UK was reaching World-Cup semi-final-levels of fever. Boris Johnson’s Blue and Blue Army (i.e. The Telegraph) was getting a little nervous about the outlier of competition Rory Stewart whose campaign was gathering momentum via an outlandish tactic of talking some degree of sense. The Telegraph’s spoiler tactic: call Rory Stewart a spy. This led to a rather wonderful interview with Rory “008” Stewart on the Today Programme:

R4:         Did you work for MI6?

008:       No.

R4:         But if you did, would you be able to tell me that you did?

008:       No. If I had worked for MI6, the law would prevent me telling anyone that I had worked for MI6.

R4:         Did you work for MI6?

008:       No.

On Wednesday night, the candidates appeared on BBC1, sat on bar stools like the world’s worst boy band performing an ill-advised-but-we-need-the-money-to-pay-for-three-divorces comeback gig (joke ©everybody in the media and on twitter) and then proceeded to talk at the same time while ignoring Emily Maitlis who looked as though she’d rather be on a different temporal plane than sharing the stage with Take Shat / Worst Life / Old Skids on the Hop / Blue (that last one pleasingly works on several levels).

The reviews the next morning were one-star at best – “excruciating television”; “clueless Tory contenders”. But at least The Express was happy – “It’s Brexit or catastrophe”, it shouted from its front page, quoting its new BFF Boris (Johnson), happy to see the world in binary terms because life is like that isn’t it?

By Thursday, the boy band had ruptured once more and only three candidates were left perched on their stools: Johnson. Gove. Hunt. These three were about to ditch the career in music and play their role in the worst-type of Netflix drama, one of those dreadful ones that are commissioned in haste and then quickly buried in the depths of its labyrinthine menu system.  Did Johnson’s “crack” team really rig the final vote, strong-arming a number of Johnsonistas to vote for Hunt to ensure that Gove didn’t make it to the final two?

If you believe Friday’s papers then a) they definitely did and b) this is the most exciting thing to have (maybe) happened since The Bodyguard. “Revenge is sweet for Boris” (Express); “Boris gets his revenge” (Mail); “Boris extracts his revenge” (Telegraph); “Was the result fixed?” (Guardian)  .  . . . okay, we’ve run out of enthusiasm for this now. Let’s just cut to the end. Here’s some stats about the 160,000 Tory Party members who will decide our next PM:

71% male
86% ABC1
97% white
57 – average age

Jeremy Hunt will not be our next Prime Minister.

Dogs are great, aren’t they? You like dogs. We like dogs. The Queen likes dogs. That girl (don’t ask us which) on Love Island likes dogs? Well, it turns out we’ve all fallen under the spell of an evolutionary slight-of-paws by our canine friends as revealed this week by some clever types at The University of Portsmouth. As reported by everyone, dogs have been playing the long-game in their bid for our devotions and have developed muscles around their eyes for the sole purpose of making humans emit noises like “awwwwwww” and “ahhhhhhh” and “would you like a biscuit?”. Make no mistake, dogs have played a blinder here.

Other story sausages on the news barbecue this week, included escalating tensions between the US and Iran which should worry us all profoundly; President Trump launching his bid for re-election in 2020 with a new slogan “Keep America Great” (see what he’s done there?); Sainsbury’s opening a meat-free butchers shop; news that the UK will be generating more power from renewable sources than fossil fuels by the end of the year; a group of angry religious types in America have petitioning Netflix to axe the “blasphemous” drama Good Omens with the only problem being that it’s an Amazon show; England continuing to win in the Women’s world cup and today being the longest day of the year – it’s all downhill from here.

Finally, we love news. We love cheese. So, news stories about cheese are like our (insert thing you REALLY like here). On Monday, the Star’s front-page featured Wallace and Grommit alongside a story about how the discarded whey from the manufacture of Wensleydale cheese is being turned into gas for heating. Headline?

Grate Britain.

Not bad given everything.

To play us out, a “new” song by Freddie Mercury. Discovered in cupboard somewhere, this version of the song “Time waits for no one” hasn’t been heard before and is lovely.

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