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11 July

In the headlines

Right-wing Tories are waging a “battle” to beat Rishi Sunak, says The Times, with “increasingly bitter” attacks on his planned tax hikes. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is the latest big name to join the leadership contest, which has so far been marked by claims about Sunak’s alleged secret alliance with Dominic Cummings and Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi’s shady past business dealings. Adding salt to meals can take years off your life, according to American scientists. A 500,000-person study found that always adding the seasoning to cooked food appears to reduce life expectancy by two years for men and 18 months for women. In a bid to eradicate the grey squirrel in the UK, the government has developed an oral contraceptive that renders the species infertile. Under the plan, the bothersome rodents will be lured into feeding boxes with pots of spiked hazelnut spread.

Global politics

Populism is here to stay

The defenestration of Boris Johnson was a “very British affair”, says Adrian Wooldridge in Bloomberg: drama at Prime Minister’s Questions; machinations within the 1922 Committee; scandal at a private members’ club. Yet “for all the local colour”, this was just a British variation on the global story of populism. We’ve seen it all elsewhere: a charismatic leader wins power promising to champion the little people. He breaks not just “sartorial and behavioural codes”, but constitutional norms. He frequently achieves what “convention-bound politicians deemed impossible” – but always, inevitably, “crashes and burns”. Johnson was relatively lightweight as populists go – his rule-breaking paled in comparison to that of, say, Donald Trump, Silvio Berlusconi and Bolivia’s Evo Morales. But populist he was.

UK politics

The charm and the danger of British humour

British democracy just “giggled its way into crisis”, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. Boris Johnson, a man who once agreed to assist the potential assault of a journalist, was able to “banter his way to the top” via newspapers and panel shows. Raising any ethical qualms about him got you labelled a prig. This “nihilistic unseriousness” – a way of dealing with post-imperial decline, according to Martin Amis – isn’t all bad. “No electorate with a sense of the absurd would obey a moustache-twirling goon in epaulettes.” But humour can lead to national ruin of a different kind. Britain’s “plausible future” may well be “Mediterranean per capita income with northern European weather”. Laughing cavaliers like Johnson and Nigel Farage, who “waved aside the economics of Brexit as a nerd’s concern”, are partly to blame.

Gone viral

After the newly appointed education minister Andrea Jenkyns tweeted an apology for sticking her middle finger up at crowds outside Downing Street, one punctilious English teacher took the time to exhaustively mark, correct and grade her statement. The result was a D- for Jenkyns. “Needs more care and attention. Focus, Andrea!” Read the full comments here.

On the money

A £16m cask of Scotch made by Ardbeg, a distillery in the Hebrides, has become the most expensive barrel of whisky ever sold. The luxurious liquor, snapped up by a female collector in Asia, fetched more than double what Ardbeg’s owner paid for the entire distillery and all its stock in 1997, says the FT. The 46-year-old cask contains 440 bottles’ worth for the buyer to knock back.


Next time you don a bikini, try popping the top on upside down, says The Guardian. Kardashians and Love Islanders alike are opting for “bottoms-up bikinis”, with searches for the topsy-turvy trend up 203% last month on the shopping app Lyst. Reversing your top gets you double the wear from existing garments, so it’s more cost-effective and eco-friendly than splurging on new styles. Plus, says Antigoni Buxton from this year’s Love Island, “it gives the opportunity to show a bit of cheeky underboob”.

Inside politics

Joe Biden made an unfortunate autocue gaffe last week, accidentally reading out the teleprompter instructions: “End of quote. Repeat the line.” Many have compared him to Ron Burgundy in the Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman, whose career implodes because he always reads out verbatim whatever is on the autocue. “Whoever controls the teleprompter is the real President!” tweeted Elon Musk.

Eating in

After being denied planning permission to open a 50-seat restaurant at his farm earlier this year, Jeremy Clarkson has found a “cunning little loophole” allowing him to turn a ramshackle barn into a rustic open-air bistro, says The Times. Diddly Squat Restaurant will exclusively serve beef from Clarkson’s farm herd: each cow will feed 1,000 diners, who will be dished up a random cut depending on what’s left. Loos are a tractor ride away, the majority of tables are outside and entirely subject to the elements, and a sign on the door warns guests: “Yes, we have no vegetarian food.” Reserve a table here.


It’s a “derecho”, a massive inland storm that swept across South Dakota last week. Meteorologists aren’t completely sure why the sky turned green, says USA Today, but it was likely the result of water particles interacting with the red light of a sunset.


Quoted 11.7.22

“The pain of parting is nothing to the joy of meeting again.”

Charles Dickens