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20 December

In the headlines

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab told Radio 4’s Today that the government is reviewing Covid restrictions “hour by hour”. He refused to rule out a Christmas lockdown, saying: “We can’t make hard, fast guarantees.” Raab also defended the leaked picture of Boris Johnson and his staff enjoying wine and cheese in the Downing Street garden during the first lockdown in May 2020. He claimed they were post-work drinks and therefore within lockdown rules. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will oversee UK-EU relations after David Frost resigned as Brexit minister this weekend. Good news, says the Daily Express: “In Liz we Truss.” Parts of Britain could have their first white Christmas in a decade as a “snow bomb” makes its way to northern parts of the UK, says the Met Office. 

Comment of the day


Is this a Thatcher moment for Boris?

Covid almost killed Boris Johnson last year, says Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun. “Today it looks like polishing him off as PM.” When BoJo’s “hardman” Brexit negotiator, David Frost, resigned yesterday, he complained about the government’s “direction of travel”, citing the plan B “Christmas lockdown” among his reasons. It revives memories of Geoffrey Howe’s “devastating speech” after quitting the Margaret Thatcher government in 1990. “The Iron Lady was out on her ear within weeks.” A New Year “circuit-breaker” to save the “cash-guzzling NHS” risks triggering the leadership challenge Boris is desperate to avoid.




Norwegian daredevil Anders Rox has racked up tens of thousands of views on YouTube after leaping 100ft from a cliff face into an abandoned wave power station in Bergen. It’s what the Norwegians call “death diving” – an amateur sport in which participants belly-flop into the water from great heights. Rox has his motto written on his Instagram page: “Is it jumpable?”


The Scottish government has agreed to pardon thousands of witches who were burnt at the stake. From the 16th century to the 18th, 3,873 women were accused of witchcraft in Scotland, with 2,600 executed. “To put that into perspective, in Salem 300 people were accused and 19 people were executed,” says Claire Mitchell QC in The Sunday Times. “We absolutely excelled at finding women to burn in Scotland.”

Climate change

Eroding coastlines will lead to “zombie garbage” from old landfills spewing into our oceans, says Hakai magazine. Lead and asbestos are already falling out of dumps unearthed by tidal erosion in places such as Lyme Regis and Lingreville, France. England has roughly 1,200 historical landfills within the tidal flood zone. 


The Queen has had to change her family Christmas plans, but if her late husband had got his way, Christmas “would have been scrapped years ago”, says Patrick Kidd in The Times. Prince Philip was once asked on a visit if he was excited about the festive season. “You must be joking,” he replied. “It means trying to stop the grandchildren killing each other or busting up the furniture, and acting as marriage guidance counsellor to their parents.”


Quoted 20-12

“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”

Douglas Adams

Gone viral

BBC news presenter Ros Atkins is an unlikely social media star, says Rosamund Urwin in The Sunday Times. But in the past few years the 47-year-old has developed a huge online following – he’s even stopped in the street by fans of his fact-driven videos. His recent report on the Downing Street Christmas parties has been watched almost 6 million times on Twitter. Atkins’s formula is simple: “I thought, ‘If I were talking to people in the pub, how would I tell that story?’”

Snapshot answer

It’s Pigcasso, the world’s most successful animal artist. The talented porker was saved as a piglet from a South African slaughterhouse. Now the five-year-old, 1,500lb pig lives in an animal sanctuary and cranks out an average of 100 paintings a year. Her most recent artwork, Wild and Free, is an abstract acrylic painting on canvas – Pigcasso holds the brush in her mouth – that sold last week for a record-breaking £20,000.