Skip to main content
The Knowledge logo

17 December

In the headlines

“Boris Johnson, the party is over,” says North Shropshire’s new Lib Dem MP, Helen Morgan. She overturned a 22,949 Tory majority in yesterday’s by-election – all the more impressive given that it’s a seat with few remainers or graduates, says Stephen Bush in The New Statesman. It sets up a “terminal crisis” for Johnson if he asks his backbenchers to vote for further Covid restrictions. Omicron cases appear to have peaked in the South African province where the variant was discovered. Early indications from the Gauteng region are that the death toll will be lower than in previous waves, says The Times. North Korea has banned laughing for 11 days to commemorate the 10th anniversary of former leader Kim Jong-il’s death.  

Comment of the day

Southeast Asia

Beijing’s secret weapon? Trade deals 

China and America are taking very different approaches in the battle for influence in southeast Asia, says Kishore Mahbubani in Foreign Policy. Whereas the US is concentrating on military alliances such as the Aukus pact with Australia, China is “betting on using trade to win over its neighbours”. And its strategy is the right one. Sure, big security deals make for great headlines. But they’re far easier to make and break than trade pacts – Australia scrapped a submarine contract with France in favour of Aukus, while Donald Trump couldn’t break up the North American Free Trade Agreement during his four years in office. “Submarines are stealthy, but trade is stealthier.”

Culture wars

My showdown with the Durham students

My experience with the “Durham mob” has left me worried about the implacability of our students, says Rod Liddle in The Spectator. A small group walked out on my speech at Durham University last Friday evening “for the simple reason that I was giving it”. As I left the college, one shouted that my views on transgender issues were “disgusting”. Yet when I calmly and affably engaged with him on the issue, explaining our difference of opinion, he didn’t know what to say. He was so confused “to be debating, reasonably, with somebody who was the fount of all known evil” that he simply withdrew from the discussion.




The giant phantom jellyfish is rarely seen, but a remotely operated submarine captured footage of one more than 3,000ft beneath the surface of Monterey Bay, California, says Smithsonian Magazine. Its four ribbon-like arms can reach lengths of 33ft and its head can measure 3ft across. The creatures lurk as deep as 22,000ft in the ocean’s “midnight” zone and are thought to use their arms to entangle prey.

On the money

This time last year Meghan Markle and Prince Harry signed a reported £18m deal with Spotify. Since then they’ve released just one podcast that clocks in at 33 minutes long. Not bad, says the Daily Star – it works out at about £500,000 a minute. 


Scientists have discovered the first millipede that lives up to its name. The word millipede comes from the Latin for “thousand” and “foot”, but the most limbs ever found on one of the arthropods was a meagre 750 – until now. The new record-holder, discovered deep underground in Western Australia, has 1,306 legs and is 4in long.


“Earlier this year I had a change of circumstances and haven’t had the chance to be in touch with some of the people I enjoy spending time with,” writes Matt Hancock (yes, really) to The Spectator’s Mary Killen in her celebrity agony-aunt column. Should I send out Christmas cards? Killen replies: “It is best to send what has become known as a ‘round robin’… Your friends and colleagues must be extremely keen for a blow-by-blow account of your year containing as many details as possible.”


Quoted 17-12

“Without education, we are in a horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”

GK Chesterton


In the past six months, there has been just one week when Ed Sheeran, Elton John or Adele wasn’t No 1. Olivia Rodrigo held the top spot with Good 4 U at the start of July. That’s the same Olivia Rodrigo who was at No 1 for 13 weeks in the first half of the year. 

Snapshot answer

It’s “Nana Baubles”, a Swansea woman who has broken the world record for the largest display of the festive decorations. Sylvia Pope, 79, started hanging her 1,760-string collection in September to ensure the house would be ready for her grandchildren at Christmas.