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21 February

In the headlines

“HRH to WFH,” says The Sun, after Buckingham Palace announced that the Queen has Covid but will continue with light duties while her symptoms remain mild. The news provides a “somewhat unfortunate backdrop” for Boris Johnson’s announcement that all remaining Covid restrictions in England will be scrapped, says Politico. Mandatory self-isolation will be axed as soon as Thursday, and free lateral flow tests for under-80s will end in the coming weeks. After 704 days, Australia has opened its borders to vaccinated travellers. Passengers arriving at Sydney Airport were greeted by a DJ playing classic Australian songs and given free jars of Vegemite. A Finnish cross-country skier at the Winter Olympics suffered a frozen penis. Remi Lindholm, 24, said the pain when he thawed out his appendage after the –17C race was “unbearable”.

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Culture wars

Woke warriors are today’s appeasers

When UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Europe’s cowardly response to Putin’s aggression gave off “a whiff of Munich”, he didn’t know how right he was, says Robert Tombs in The Sunday Telegraph. Wallace was, of course, referring to failed diplomatic efforts to stop Hitler invading Czechoslovakia before the Second World War. As is the case with Ukraine today, nobody wanted war over “a faraway country of which we know nothing”. But the similarities don’t end there. We often hear today that liberal democracy is in crisis. “So it was in the 1930s – but hugely worse.”

UK politics

Why dishy Rishi worries Labour

The American football guru Bill Belichick has always argued it’s a good plan to target the opposition’s best player. That’s why it makes sense that Labour is going after Rishi Sunak, says Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times. When the Chancellor put together the furlough scheme “with remarkable speed and decisiveness”, he had lefties like the trade union boss Frances O’Grady cooing that he was “smart” and “energetic”. Last month, a poll of crucial “red wall” voters found that Sunak was the only leading politician from any party with a positive approval rating, at plus 22%.

On the way up

Air fares, which look set to soar by 25% this summer because of the rising cost of jet fuel. Big airlines typically agree a fixed fee for fuel in advance to reduce their exposure to price volatility, aviation consultant Chris Smith tells The Mail on Sunday. But recent spikes have been so large and sustained that airlines have “little choice but to pass these costs on to passengers”.

Book it

David Hockney’s latest self-portrait will go on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge next month. The new exhibition will explore Hockney’s relationship with photography, a medium the 84-year-old has long considered inferior to painting. “Most people thought the photograph was the ultimate depiction of reality,” he tells The New Yorker. “I’m very certain it’s not.” Book tickets here.

Staying young

One of the covers for Vanity Fair’s annual Hollywood Issue features Nicole Kidman styled as a “sexy schoolgirl”, says Bonnie Stiernberg in InsideHook. It’s a “weird” look for a 54-year-old Oscar-winner, not helped by the fact that she has obviously been “heavily Photoshopped”. Vanity Fair’s editors clearly think “the only way for women of a certain age to be sexy is to appear as though they’re decades younger than they actually are”.


It’s part of an underground city beneath the streets of Tbilisi in Georgia. The complex of more than 400 caverns, connected by a web of tunnels, was built during the Soviet era as a retreat in case the Cold War turned hot. Photographer David Tabagari started exploring and documenting it last year, says My Modern Met. It’s believed the vast bunker network was built by Stalin’s feared secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria and used to house and transport prisoners who had been “disappeared” under his brutal reign.


When James Marriott noted in The Times that there hasn’t been a white British man under 40 on the Booker shortlist since 2011, it prompted an “inevitable social-media pile on”, says Private Eye. But “writers can’t be shortlisted for prizes if they’re not published in the first place”. Penguin’s high-end imprint Hamish Hamilton has not got a single literary novel by a white man scheduled for the first half of this year. Nor do Random House equivalents Chatto & Windus and Harvill Secker. HarperCollins’s 4th Estate does have one – a translation.


quoted 21.2.22

“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.”

Harry Truman