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2 February

In the headlines

The “true scale of pandemic waste” is now clear, says the Express, after an official report found that the government squandered almost £9bn on PPE. An estimated £673m went on unusable equipment, and £750m on items that weren’t used before their expiry dates. The largest write-off (£4.7bn) was for PPE that was bought for much more than it is now worth. Michael Gove has unveiled the government’s long-delayed Levelling Up White Paper. The strategy lays out 12 “missions” to save Britain’s “forgotten communities”, including improvements to education, broadband and transport. An almost year-long copyright row between Aldi and M&S over their similar-looking caterpillar cakes has been resolved. “War is finally over,” says the Star. “Peace in our teatime.”

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The doomsters got Brexit wrong

Plenty of people believed the “dystopian vision” conjured up by Remainers before the Brexit referendum, says Larry Elliott in The Guardian. The then chancellor, George Osborne, grimly warned of a “DIY recession”, 800,000 job losses, a weaker housing market and a stock market crash. It has now been two years since we left the EU – and “none of it has happened”. Unemployment is lower than it was in 2016 and house prices are higher. “Share prices have risen and until Covid arrived there was no recession.” The “gloomy predictions” continued long after the 2016 vote – that Nissan would quit the UK, that City jobs would be lost to the continent, that Brexit supply chain problems would “mean a turkey-less Christmas”. Again, none of it has come to pass. “The wait for economic meltdown goes on.”


Putin’s strongman fan club

Vladimir Putin has plenty of fans among the world’s strongman leaders, says Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times. Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has said that “Putin has made his country great again”. Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has described him as a “hero” and his favourite world leader. As Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader Mohammed bin Salman rose to power, advisors noted his “awestruck admiration” for Putin. In the West, Donald Trump’s approval of the Russian leader was “coy” – but less ambiguous was Matteo Salvini, leader of Italy’s hard-right League, who “posed for photos in Red Square wearing a Putin T-shirt”.

On the way back

Fyodor Dostoevsky, whose book sales are surging. Since 2016, sales of Crime and Punishment have risen by 450%, Notes from Underground by 400% and Demons by 350%. It’s no surprise, says the author’s biographer Kevin Birmingham in the Telegraph. The Russian novelist was a gloomy writer, and these are gloomy times. “Readers of Dostoevsky’s novels wouldn’t be surprised by global affairs of the last several years. These are all Dostoevskian.”

Gone viral

A pilot was forced to abort an attempt to land at Heathrow on Monday because of strong winds caused by Storm Corrie. The manoeuvre is known as a “touch and go” landing.


It’s Prince Philip, in a portrait by Ronnie Wood. The 74-year-old Rolling Stone finished the charcoal portrait before the Duke of Edinburgh died last April. Wood says Prince William has asked to see the work and wants to show it to the Queen.

Eating in

Ella Hawkins, 28, is an early modern English professor and biscuit artist who uses her academic life as inspiration for her baking. It takes the University of Birmingham lecturer two hours to decorate one biscuit with a paintbrush, says The Washington Post. Her designs have included William Morris prints, Jane Austen characters and medieval motifs.


Why is Britain doing more to oppose warmongering Russia than continental Europe? It could have something to do with how reliant the Europeans are on Russian gas, says The New Statesman. Five countries, including Slovakia and Moldova, import all their gas from Russia; Germany gets almost half (48.8%); and the EU as a whole 34.2%. For the UK, the figure is just 9.7%.

Inside politics

Researchers have claimed that divorce is easier on women that it is on men. “Really?” asks the Daily Mail’s Sarah Vine, who recently split from cabinet minister Michael Gove. “Or could it be that some fellows are just giant man-babies who can’t cope without a full-time, unpaid cook, cleaner, nanny, shrink and maid. I couldn’t possibly say, of course.”


quoted 2.2

“Be just before you are generous.”

James Joyce