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19-20 March

Behind the headlines

Labour’s woman problem

Last week Keir Starmer used a visit to the biggest army base in Estonia, “literally on the doorstep of Russia”, to opine on the most important issue of the day, says Joan Smith in UnHerd. When a journalist asked him to define a woman, Starmer declared: “A woman is a female adult, and in addition to that trans women are women, and that is not just my view – that is actually the law.” Actually, it isn’t. This is “the law as he would like it to be, rather than as it actually is”, as the barrister Naomi Cunningham, an expert in UK gender law, has pointed out. Asked whether the law says that trans women are women, her “admirably concise” answer was: “No.” Starmer has confused a “polite fiction” with reality.


quoted 20.3.22

“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”

Walter Bagehot

Great escape

Putin’s favourite beach resort

Plenty of oligarchs have summer homes and superyachts on France’s Mediterranean coast, says John Lewis-Stempel in UnHerd. But Vladimir Putin’s “real intimates head to Biarritz for their holidays”. The 25,000-person seaside town near Bordeaux is a favourite of the president’s. He was on holiday there in 1999 when he received a call from Boris Yeltsin asking him to become prime minister. After he accepted the role, the Kremlin appointed an honorary vice consul in the French coastal resort. And the Putin family haven’t stopped buying property there since. In 2012, his daughter bought a home in the town from the oil tycoon (and Putin ally) Gennady Timchenko. And in 2013, his ex-wife picked up a £5m pad overlooking the Biarritz coastline.


Bailey’s royal touch

At 84, David Bailey is “as outrageous and indiscreet as ever”, says Lucy Davies in The Daily Telegraph. Princess Diana? “Terrible hair,” says the photographer. “You know, from the hairspray – solid as a plastic dummy.” Still, those rock-hard locks may have saved Diana from injury. During a shoot in the 1980s one of Bailey’s assistants dropped a light on her head. Thankfully, the princess was very understanding – she made a point of reassuring the girl afterwards that she was fine.

Heroes and villains

Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin’s lookalikes | Covid | Evergreen

Professional lookalikes of Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin, who helped a Volodymyr Zelensky lookalike escape from Ukraine. The three doppelgängers knew each other from work, the Kim Jong-un impersonator tells the Daily Star, so when war broke out, his first thought was for the fake Zelensky. “I got in touch with him and told him ‘you need to get out of here’ because who knows what will happen if Russia gets hold of a Zelensky double.”

Gone viral

A heartfelt video address by Arnold Schwarzenegger to the Russian people has racked up tens of millions of views on Twitter, Instagram and Telegram. Describing himself as a “longtime friend” of the country, the 74-year-old actor says Russians are being lied to by their government about the war in Ukraine. He lists several of these lies – such as that the invasion is to “denazify” the country – and details atrocities that have been carried out by Russian forces. Addressing Vladimir Putin directly, he says: “You started this war. You are leading this war. You can stop this war.” Watch the full nine-minute video here.


quote 19.3.22

“The internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand.”

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt


THE HIDEAWAY Get away from it all in this four-bedroom home on Scotland’s Kintyre peninsula. High Pluck has glorious views across rolling countryside, Saddell Bay and the Ayrshire Coast. The stylish open plan kitchen has a large electric Aga and patio doors to take in the views. Outside there are mature gardens and a detached home office. The beach is a short walk away. £495,000.

Quirk of history

When he became US president in 1945, Harry S Truman was “nobody’s idea of a great man of history”, says Dominic Sandbrook in UnHerd. The farmer’s son from Missouri wore thick spectacles, had a flat Midwestern twang, and everyone knew the S in his name “literally stood for nothing”. He had only become vice president because Franklin Roosevelt had run out of options. Then, less than three months later, Roosevelt died of a stroke. On learning the news, Truman asked Roosevelt’s widow, Eleanor, what he could do to help. Her response was telling. “Is there anything we can do for you?” she asked. “For you are the one in trouble now.”


THE PIED-A-TERRE Hotham Hall has had all sorts of visitors, says Fine and Country. Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden made speeches there, and the Rolling Stones and The Who used to use its space for gigs. Now, the former church hall has been turned into luxury flats. This one is set on two floors, has 3,000 sq ft of living space, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a garden and a gym. It’s a short walk from Putney High Street. £3.25m.