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19 January

In the headlines

A “pork pie plot” is afoot in Westminster. Up to 20 Red Wall Tories – including the MP for Melton Mowbray, home of the pork pie – are planning to submit letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson. The “magic number” of 54 letters, which would trigger a confidence vote in the PM, could come as soon as today, says the Telegraph. Bury South MP Christian Wakeford has defected to Labour – the first Tory MP to do so for 15 years. Britain’s “cost of living crisis” has deepened, says the FT, with inflation hitting 5.4% in December, its highest rate in 30 years. Matt Hancock has been ticked off by the Serpentine Swimming Club after taking an icy – and topless – plunge in the Hyde Park lake without first becoming a member. Who does he think he is, said one member. Vladimir Putin?


UK politics

The PM who slept with his son’s wife

The Conservatives have gathered to discuss the Prime Minister’s future. Nobody doubts that he’s a character and a winner, but they worry there have been too many lies and scandals. It sounds like today, says Dominic Sandbrook in UnHerd, but actually this was 19 October 1922, when Tory MPs met at the Carlton Club to debate the future of their coalition with Liberal PM David Lloyd George. The parallels with Boris Johnson are almost too easy: a man with “wandering hands and slippery principles”; a proven election-winner “whose own friends couldn’t trust a word he said”. Had he been prime minister during Covid, Lloyd George wouldn’t just have invited you to a party – “he’d have sold you a peerage and made a move on your wife while you were still hanging up your coat”.


The extremists who’ve given up on America

“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uighurs,” crypto billionaire and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya said last week. “I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.” It’s a “chilling statement”, says Abigail Shrier in The Truth Fairy newsletter, casually thrown off “by one of America’s richest titans”. But it’s typical of a newly prominent voice in political discourse: “the American Cynic”. Last week a Republican congressman from Ohio likened vaccine passports to Nazi efforts to degrade Jews before murdering them. On Friday, a Democratic candidate for Florida governor compared the Republican incumbent to Hitler.


“Bono has still not found what he was looking for,” says The Times. The 61-year-old U2 frontman told the Awards Chatter podcast that he hates the band’s name, his own voice, and most of his own songs – and claimed that he only learnt how to sing “recently”. The one song he is able to enjoy is Miss Sarajevo, featuring Pavarotti, but “most of the other ones make me cringe”. “I’ve been in the car when one of our songs has come on the radio and I’ve been the colour of, as we say in Dublin, scarlet. I’m just so embarrassed.”

Tomorrow’s world

A flying car the size of a folded-up ping pong table and capable of speeds of up to 160mph has completed its first untethered flight. The ZERO aircraft, made by US company ZEVA, is entirely electric, meaning it produces no emissions. It’s “not for the faint-hearted”, says The Times. Once airborne, the ZERO turns on its side and flies horizontally, like a frisbee, with the sole passenger “in a prone position” facing the ground. The firm is planning to start taking $5,000 deposits in the spring, and the total price is expected to be $250,000.


It’s a “black diamond” thought to have formed when a meteorite or asteroid hit Earth 2.6 to 3.8 billion years ago. Sotheby’s is preparing to sell the 555.55-carat gem, called “The Enigma”, at auction in London next month. It’s expected to fetch £5m.


Eating in

A spike in the price of pork in Thailand has caused demand for crocodile meat to soar. Around 20,000 of the reptiles are now killed for their flesh in the country each month, a figure that has doubled in recent months, says Vice. Crocodile farmers say the meat is low in fat, high in protein and tastes like chicken – and, crucially, it’s now less than half the price of pork.


One of the UK’s biggest insurers has banned the words “energetic” and “enthusiastic” from job adverts to avoid putting off older applicants. Phoenix Group’s boss Andy Briggs – the government’s “business champion” for older workers – says “younger-age stereotypical words” could discourage sensitive over-50s from applying for a role.


The winners and runners-up of the 2021 Ocean Art Underwater Photo Contest have been announced. The subjects include a green sea turtle hatchling in Australia, a Caledonian carp in the South Pacific, a yellow pygmy goby guarding its eggs in the Philippines, and a group of pilot whales near Tenerife. See the full selection here.



quoted 19.01

“Trust is gained in teaspoons and lost in buckets.”

Old US military saying