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2 December

In the headlines

Labour has secured a comfortable victory in the Chester by-election, in Rishi Sunak’s first electoral test as prime minister. Samantha Dixon tripled the party’s lead over the Tories, securing more than 61% of the vote. It’s a “declaration of war”, says the Daily Mail, after Harry and Meghan timed the release of a “bombshell” trailer for their new Netflix series to coincide with Kate and William’s long-planned trip to the US. It’s ironic, adds the Daily Star, that such a “publicity-shy couple” are sharing their “most intimate secrets with eight billion people”. Elton John’s final UK performance will be headlining Glastonbury next year. The 75-year-old Rocket Man singer, who has never previously appeared at Worthy Farm, says “there is no more fitting way to say goodbye to my British fans”.


Let’s hope China stays locked down

Xi Jinping’s decision to keep a third of the Chinese population under harsh lockdown has finally sparked a backlash, says Devi Sridhar in The Guardian. But “the world will suffer” if he changes tack now. Since 2019, China’s strategy has been “containment”: imposing frequent lockdowns, building isolation centres and meticulously contact tracing. These measures were “incredibly draconian”– but they worked. So when vaccines were approved and other countries moved towards a policy of living with the virus, Beijing saw no need to follow suit. There was a “false sense of security”: if Chinese people would never be exposed to Covid, “why get vaccinated at all”?


Sorry, but friends are overrated

Queen Camilla has appointed six close friends as “companions” to accompany her on royal duties, says Esther Walker in the I newspaper, presumably so she’s never left alone with “bad-breath weirdos” or accidentally leaves the loo with her skirt tucked in her tights. This week’s embarrassing headlines aside, I felt strangely sad when reading this: “Would I, in that position, be able to pick six people to fulfil this task?” Talking about friends “makes me prickly”, because, truthfully, I don’t have many. Hearing about other people’s jam-packed social lives can send me into a “downward spiral”. I don’t spend every weekend cavorting with pals, so “I feel like I have failed”.


The salt rim on cocktails has “gone off the rails”, says Punch. Once confined to the lip of the glass, these saline additions have suddenly started “oozing over the sides and sometimes the bottoms” of glasses. It might be eye-catching, but “how, exactly, is one supposed to drink something like this”? Do you run your fingers up the sides and then lick them? Ask for a spoon to scrape it off and stir it into your drink? Just imagine being on a date in a cosy cocktail bar and your potential love interest picks up their drink and “licks the entire side of the glass”.


This week isn’t the first time Lady Susan Hussey’s small talk hasn’t been up to scratch, says Patrick Kidd in The Times. In the early 1990s, Buckingham Palace was asked to host a last-minute reception for a US delegation. “Members of the royal household were scrambled to fill the room” and Lady Susan found herself chatting to a charming visitor. “What do you do for a living?” she asked. “I’m president of the United States of America,” said a slightly surprised George HW Bush.


To generate a bit of atmosphere at their national team’s World Cup games, Qatar flew in around 1,500 fake “ultras” – passionate, highly organised fans typically found in football-mad countries – from Lebanon and other neighbours. These faux supporters got an “extraordinary” deal, says The New York Times: free flights, accommodation, match tickets, food and a “small stipend”. They arrived in the Gulf state in mid-October to rehearse their choreographed actions, practise their newly written chants – and, of course, to “learn Qatar’s national anthem”.

Inside politics

When Richard Nixon set out to fire FBI Director J Edgar Hoover in 1971, he knew it’d be tricky, says The New Yorker. The two men were “longtime friends”, and Hoover – who had run the agency for almost half a century, building up enormous files of political dirt – was considered untouchable. So it proved. After their meeting at the White House, where they spoke for almost an hour, the only commitment made “was a concession from Nixon to increase the FBI’s personnel budget”.


Eating in

America’s King Arthur Baking Company has created a hotline which people can call up with their culinary emergencies and get advice from professional pâtissiers. Hapless bakers can ring +1 855 371-2253 or access the online chat service here.


It’s a rather gloomy graph created by Bloomberg, showing that the UK will be hit by strikes every day between now and Christmas. Each coloured block represents a different industry: buses (dark green); rail (red, blue and orange); Royal Mail (yellow); nurses (turquoise); teachers (light green); driving instructors (grey); and G4S cash deliveries (black). As one Twitter user says, it’s essentially a “strike advent calendar”.


quoted 2.12.22

“The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything.” 

American diplomat Edward John Phelps