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11 January

In the headlines

“Downing It Street,” says the front page of Metro, following revelations that Boris Johnson’s chief aide invited more than 100 staff to a “bring your own booze” gathering in the No 10 garden during lockdown in May 2020. The PM and his wife were allegedly among the 40 attendees, says Politico. The news “dashes any hopes” No 10 had of moving on from “Partygate” in 2022. An American man has become the first person to receive a heart transplant from a genetically modified pig. Surgeon Bartley Griffith, from the University of Maryland, says the operation brings the world “one step closer to solving the organ shortage crisis”. Ovo Energy, Britain’s third largest energy company, has apologised for telling customers they can cut heating bills and stay warm by doing star jumps, cuddling their pets and eating porridge.


UK politics

Only Brexit can stop Britain breaking apart

I’m starting to worry about the future of the United Kingdom, says Dominic Sandbrook in the Daily Mail. We are one of Europe’s “last surviving multi-national states” – the likes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Soviet Union are long gone. And support for a break-up is growing. In Northern Ireland, a majority want a referendum on Irish unification in the next decade; 55% of Scots say they would now vote to secede; even in “hitherto quiescent Wales”, support for independence is growing. In Scotland, the only real signs of the British state are the Post Office, the pound and the monarchy. Is that enough?


To go green, we need more coal

“The great paradox of addressing climate change,” says Sky News’s Ed Conway in a Twitter thread, is that in the process of going green we will have to burn more fossil fuels and dig more stuff out of the ground. Yet politicians and environmentalists are of one voice: “there’s no place for new fossil fuel projects” on our shores. Witness the uproar over plans to open Britain’s first new coal mine in decades, in Cumbria. People are up in arms because they rightly don’t want coal burnt for energy. But this mine is for the so-called “coking” coal used to produce steel and other metals – if we don’t produce it here, we’ll just be importing it from elsewhere.

Inside politics

Asked what came to mind when she thought about Germany, Angela Merkel famously replied: “I think of well-sealed windows.” She’s right, says The Economist’s Tom Nuttall on Twitter. A 2020 survey of 11 western European countries found that after chilly Norway, German homes were the second best-insulated, only cooling by 1C when central heating was turned off for five hours. Britain performed worst, with a drop of 3C.


The Turkish Steps, a white limestone cliff in Sicily, has been defaced with red iron oxide powder. It’s one of Italy’s most visited tourist attractions, and authorities are furious: “It constitutes an outrage not only to an asset of rare beauty, but also to the image of our island,” says Sicily’s president Nello Musumeci. Volunteers are cleaning the cliff and police have launched an investigation to find the culprits.

Gone viral

Wordle has become the “internet’s latest obsession”, says CNN. The aim is to identify a five-letter word in as few guesses as possible. Each time you enter a word, incorrect letters turn grey, correct letters turn yellow and correct letters in the right position go green. You get six tries, and there is only one clue a day. It was created during lockdown by Josh Wardle, a British software engineer, for his puzzle-loving girlfriend. Have a go here.

Love etc

The Bishop of Worcester, Dr John Inge, has racked up thousands of likes on Twitter for a photograph of a letter he received, simply addressed: “The Lord Bishop and his sexy wife, Worcester”. Amazingly, Royal Mail managed to deliver it. “When I married my wife people said I was punching above my weight,” Inge, 66, tells The Daily Telegraph. “And I have to agree.”


China’s navy is growing by the equivalent of the entire French fleet every four years.


The TV historian Dan Jones says an intruder has been bypassing the high-tech security system in his Tesla to spend the night watching Netflix on the in-car entertainment system. Jones, who lives in Staines-upon-Thames in Surrey, says his suspicions were aroused when he kept finding the car drained of battery – and confirmed when he discovered an England rugby beanie (he’s a staunch Wales fan). If I had that level of technical expertise, Jones tells The Sunday Times, I wouldn’t be using it to sleep in other people’s cars. “I would be committing crypto-fraud.”


quoted 11.1

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

T.S. Eliot