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13 December

In the headlines

Boris Johnson’s bid to supercharge the booster programme to a million jabs a day has already come a cropper: the NHS website crashed this morning as thousands tried to book their vaccinations. The UK has also recorded its first omicron death. The Downing Street party investigation will examine whether Boris Johnson personally broke the law by hosting a quiz night, says Oliver Wright in The Times. This “obsessing over tinsel” is getting absurd, says Freddy Gray in The Spectator. It only underlines what we already know – that this government is “shambolic” and unqualified. Vladimir Putin moonlighted as a taxi driver to make extra cash after the fall of the Soviet Union. “It’s unpleasant to talk about, to be honest,” he told a new documentary.

Comment of the day

The pandemic

China lab leak was no “conspiracy theory”

The possibility that Covid-19 was leaked from a Chinese lab was dismissed as a “deranged conspiracy theory” early in the pandemic, says Glenn Greenwald in his Substack newsletter. Anyone dissenting from the official narrative – that the virus arose naturally in a wet market in the city of Wuhan – was accused of spreading “disinformation” and banned from social media platforms such as Facebook. Debate about Covid’s origins was verboten: “It had all been settled by The Science.”

UK politics

Don’t replace Boris with another “empty vessel”

Boris Johnson has finally been “rumbled”, says Matthew Parris in The Times. The “dismal trickle of dirty little stories” from No 10 is awakening voters to what many in his party have long suspected: the man is a “cad”, a “moral toad” whose first instinct is to lie and whose second is to “tip somebody else into the slurry”. The question now is, who will replace him? I had assumed the next leadership contest – whenever Tory MPs grow the balls to oust their leader – would be between Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt.




Three camels paid a visit to Salisbury Cathedral last week to rehearse their roles in the Christmas Eve Nativity service. The domestic Bactrian camels, owned by Lady Chichester, will walk up the aisle dressed in elaborate fabrics. The rehearsal was needed to ensure they could fit through the doors.

Inside politics

When I talked to Boris Johnson earlier this year, we discussed what books he’d been reading, says Tom McTague in The Atlantic. As well as two James Shapiro books about Shakespeare – Johnson is writing a tome on the playwright – he told me he’d read F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night. He described it as being about a man who “had all the superficial charm but threw away his success”. Was he trying to tell me something?


John Lewis has stopped stocking a child’s party dress called Lollita – a name only one letter away from the title of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel about a middle-aged professor’s lust for, and abduction of, a 12-year-old girl. A now deleted online listing described the dress, aimed at children aged three to 11, as “perfect for twirling on the dance floor”.


There’s an app that tells you the perfect time to run to the loo when you’re in the cinema. RunPee updates its database for new releases each week and provides a synopsis of what you’ll miss during each “Peetime”.

Snapshot answer

It’s the Air4, a flying car built by design firm TheArsenale. Modelled on the 1961 Renault 4L, it’s made from carbon fibre and powered by four propellers, with a top speed of 55mph. The Air4 is set to hit showrooms in five years.

Love etc

Elon Musk’s pop-star ex-girlfriend, Grimes, has released her first single since the couple announced they were “semi-separating” this year. The space-themed break-up track, Player of Games, features lyrics such as: “Sail away to the cold expanse of space/Even love couldn’t keep you in your place.”


Quoted 13-12

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

Kurt Vonnegut