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18 November

In the headlines

“It’s a difficult set of front pages” for Jeremy Hunt, says Politico, with nearly every paper slating the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement. The Daily Mail accuses the Tories of trying to “soak the strivers” in “one of the most punishing Budgets in modern history”; the FT warns of “years of pain” ahead; Metro says “you’ve never had it so bad”. The Chancellor’s tax rises still won’t stave off the biggest drop in living standards ever recorded, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, with household incomes expected to decline by 7% over the next two years. The UK has already fallen into recession, with the economy set to shrink by 2% as people face soaring inflation and the highest tax burden since the Second World War. Neighbours is set to return to our screens, Amazon Prime has announced, just four months after 2.5 million Brits tuned in to what they feared was the soap’s final episode. Filming will begin in Australia next year.

Behind the headlines

Oh dear, we taxpayers are the “magic money tree”

Who’d have thought it, says Sarah Vine in the Daily Mail: “after years spent searching for the legendary magic money tree”, the Conservatives have finally found it. “And lo! It turns out to be the British taxpayer.” As the nation’s workers “wearily roll up their sleeves” to offer up “yet another vein for HMRC to bleed dry”, the public sector waits for its latest cash transfusion. As ever, it’s the “squeezed middle” who will be bearing the heaviest burden, which is no bad thing in itself – “many of us are willing to chip in more in times of need”. But the Tories are digging themselves into a “tax-and-spend hole” they show no sign of even wanting to get out of. What happened to their “bold, reforming agenda” of 2019, to growing the economy and rewarding an industrious workforce? If you want people to “bust a gut to get the economy going”, you have to give them something in return, not “claw back” any gains and chuck them into a giant public sector black hole. That’s what Labour are for. But these days, what’s the difference?


Chewing gum on China’s shoe? Not Australia

After “all the rants and insults, the political freeze and the trade bans”, Xi Jinping has “brought his intimidation campaign of Australia to a politely meek end”, says Peter Hartcher in The Sydney Morning Herald. On Tuesday, the Chinese leader met Australian PM Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of the G20 conference in Indonesia – and it couldn’t have gone better. Australia was once likened to “chewing gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe” by a Beijing propagandist, but this week Xi was enthusing warmly about how he’d visited every state in the country.

Gone viral

Every day, Irish artist Chris Judge shares on Instagram a photo of clouds that he has transformed into cheerful characters. His project, A Daily Cloud, began during the first lockdown in 2020 as a way to brighten people’s social media feeds at a dreary time, and he’s maintained his whimsical habit ever since. See the rest here.


Sam Bankman-Fried – founder of the now-bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange FTX, and subject of what Bloomberg called “one of history’s greatest-ever destructions of wealth” – has never been a big reader. “I’m very sceptical of books,” the 30-year-old told the venture capital firm Sequoia in September. “I don’t want to say no book is ever worth reading, but I actually do believe something pretty close to that… I think, if you wrote a book, you f***ed up, and it should have been a six-paragraph blog post.”


Months after filing a trademark application for “Queen of Christmas”, Mariah Carey has lost her case, says Olivia Truffaut-Wong in The Cut. The All I Want For Christmas Is You singer applied for the sole right to sell merch using the phrase, along with “QOC” and “Princess of Christmas”. But that angered rival holiday songstress Elizabeth Chan, who released an album of that name in 2021. “Christmas is for everyone,” Chan argued. “It’s meant to be shared.” The court clearly agreed, junking Mariah’s application “just in time for the holidays”.


With the pound way down against the dollar this year, rich Americans are taking advantage of the exchange rate by snapping up fancy property in London, says Bloomberg. Americans accounted for 14.5% of all high-end purchases by overseas buyers in the first half of this year, up from 6.2% in the second half of 2021. One posh estate agent, Savills Sloane Street, says its proportion of American buyers has increased from about 10% to a third.


Hanging out with a rock star after a gig has always been a dream of mine, says David Brooks in The Atlantic. So when one of Bono’s people asked if I wanted to join him at the hotel bar after a U2 concert a decade ago, I jumped at the chance. When I arrived, I found him sitting with an archbishop, some World Bank economists, and a West African government official. “We ended up talking about developing-world debt obligations until early in the morning.”


They belonged to the author and critic Joan Didion, and just sold for $27,000. The tortoiseshell sunnies, similar to those modelled by Didion in a 2015 Céline advert (below), were sold as part of a special auction of the late essayist’s belongings. Two empty notebooks she never got round to writing in went for $11,000 each, and a picture of her leaning against her Stingray Corvette fetched $26,000.


quoted 18.11.22

“The one thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one’s work seriously and one’s self seriously. The first is imperative and the second is disastrous.”

English ballerina Margot Fonteyn