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20 January

In the headlines

“In the name of God, grow up!” says the Mail, after yesterday’s effort by rebel Tory MPs to topple the Prime Minister appeared to crumble. With “Putin poised to start a war” and inflation soaring, this is no time for political infighting by a “handful of immature, political pipsqueaks”. It was the surprise defection of Tory MP Christian Wakeford to Labour that solidified support for the PM, says Politico, quoting a backbencher: “It’s one thing to demand Boris does a better job and another to be helping the opposition.” England’s Covid restrictions will be dropped next week, as the omicron wave seems to have passed its peak. That means no more mask mandates, vaccine passports or WFH. Hong Kongers trying to escape the increasingly isolated city are chartering private jets for their cats, dogs and rabbits, says the FT. With cargo restrictions on commercial jets, people are clubbing together to fly private at around £19,000 per pet.


UK politics

Why Downing Street broke the rules

One element of “Partygate” that keeps coming up is the sheer stupidity of it, says Sebastian Payne in the Financial Times. How, people wonder, could the “notionally bright folks” running the country have possibly thought that their “series of illicit jamborees” were in any way acceptable? Well, I have a theory: it was “lockdown detachment”. While the rest of us were stuck at home, office life in government “rolled on” as usual. This wasn’t because officials thought the rules didn’t apply to them – it was because the business of government simply couldn’t be conducted remotely, in many cases for security reasons. So in Downing Street and the Cabinet Office, “desks were occupied throughout the three lockdowns”. It was, at work at least, life as normal.


Banning Djokovic was pure paranoia

Kicking Novak Djokovic out to “keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe”, as Aussie PM Scott Morrison absurdly put it, was absolute “rot”, says Chris Kenny in The Australian. Djoko’s views on vaccines were well known long before his visa was granted. The emergency ministerial powers used to cancel it (and overrule the federal court’s decision to back his appeal and let him stay) are there for “genuine threats to the nation”. Deporting a bloke for his views on public health is an “outrageously undemocratic and illiberal action”. The fact that Djokovic is healthy, tested negative, and has some natural immunity from having had the virus just “compounds the inanity of what has transpired”.

Inside politics

“Be careful what you wish for,” the blog Guido Fawkes warns Tory MPs. “Turfing out a Prime Minister over twentysomethings in Downing Street guzzling cheese and wine is not really on a level with Suez” – and the frontrunners to succeed Boris don’t even want the job right now. Guido Fawkes has also dug up old WhatsApp messages from defecting Tory MP Christian Wakeford in which he refers to Labour as a “bunch of c**ts”, and says Starmer can’t be trusted with Brexit. Wakeford also co-sponsored a bill aimed at forcing MPs who change party affiliations to call by-elections when they do so. Oddly, he seems to have changed his mind.

On the money

Supermodel Heidi Klum’s legs were once insured for more than $2m. “One was actually more expensive than the other,” the 48-year-old former Victoria’s Secret Angel told The Ellen Show, “because when I was young, I fell into a glass and I have, like, a big scar.” Her left leg, which has the scar, was insured for $1m; the right for $1.2m.


A group of 1,000 fin whales has been spotted near the Antarctic Peninsula – one of the largest such sightings ever made. “Good news doesn’t get any more in-your-face than this,” says Philip Hoare in The Guardian. The giant mammals were driven to the brink of extinction by whalers in the 20th century, when two million were slaughtered in this very patch of ocean. After years spent hiding from hunters, they may be becoming less fearful – and finally returning to their old foraging grounds. “It’s like humans never happened.”

On the way out

Fun-filled marriages, at least in southern Russia, where officials have banned laughter at ceremonies in register offices, says The Moscow Times. Also now forbidden: eating, drinking spirits, smoking, and “moving pieces of furniture and floral arrangements”. The bride and groom have to get through their vows sharpish, too – proceedings can’t drag on for longer than 40 minutes.


A city in California is using green lasers to scare off an invasion of crows. Every evening, more than 1,000 of the birds descend on downtown Sunnyvale, feasting on scraps, pooing on pavements and dropping twigs on outdoor diners. For three weeks, town officials will spend an hour each night flashing lasers at them and blasting out the sound of crows in distress.


It’s the very basic interior of a 1936 commercial plane. Airline seats used to be made of wicker, to save on weight and to fit into long, narrow aircraft. Aluminium and foam were gradually introduced in the 1930s; the first fully reclinable seat was launched by British Airways for its First Class passengers in the 1990s.


quote 20.1

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

Dolly Parton