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3 February

In the headlines

Average household energy bills are set to soar to nearly £2,000 a year in April, after the regulator Ofgem raised the price cap by £693. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is planning a package of loans and council tax cuts to soften “the bombardment on people’s wallets”, says the Mail. The remains of a woolly mammoth have been found in a cave in Devon, along with those of a woolly rhinoceros, wolf, hyena and reindeer. The discovery dates to the last ice age and could be up to 60,000 years old. Royal Mail postmen were left “high as kites” after scoffing an unclaimed box of hash brownies before their morning rounds in south London, says the Sun. Call them “postmen pot”.

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UK politics

The week the Tories lost their soul

This is the week the government “finally lost its soul”, says Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph. Michael Gove’s levelling up blueprint is a “grotesque disappointment”, filled with targets, subsidies and bureaucracies, which merely recycles the failed ideas of New Labour. A proper conservative approach would seek to improve schools, create dozens of pro-business areas “with almost no taxes”, and “liberate” an extra 1% of Britain’s landmass for house building. Energy policy is another case study in “extreme failure”: a sensible administration would accelerate its nuclear plans by creating a powerful agency modelled on the vaccine taskforce. Instead, a government “that no longer believes in markets” will simply pretend that prices are lower than they are, by lending billions to energy companies to allow them to moderate price rises.


Putin woos the Germans

Vladimir Putin’s main goal isn’t war with Ukraine, says Pierre Lellouche in Marianne. It’s an entire “reconfiguration of the European order”, with an alliance between Germany and Russia at its heart. Germany has always been an “essential pivot” in European security, and during the Cold War, the Soviet Union tried (unsuccessfully) to prise West Germany out of Nato by deploying medium-range missiles in Europe. Today, Putin has managed to sow deep division in German politics about how to tackle Russia – Germany’s naval chief had to resign recently after saying that his country owed “respect” to Putin. Practically the only military support Berlin has offered Ukraine is 5,000 helmets for soldiers.

Quirk of history

Salvador Dalí was a canny businessman – to avoid paying for meals he would simply doodle on the back of his cheques, knowing full well that restaurant owners would then never cash them. Michael Jackson had the same idea, says Popbitch. When the singer cancelled a concert in New York, he refunded ticket holders with hand-signed cheques. Fans were so excited to have their own pieces of Jackson memorabilia that fewer than one in 10 cashed them.


A graphic artist known as the “Chinese Banksy” has unveiled a series of posters satirising Beijing’s efforts to gloss over human rights abuses at the Winter Olympics. The works by Badiucao, 35, a dissident based in Australia who works under a pseudonym, will go on display in several Czech cities this week.


More than 10,000 pieces of royal memorabilia for the Queen’s forthcoming platinum jubilee have been produced with a glaring spelling mistake. Made in China, the plates, mugs and tea sets feature the inscription: “To Commemorate The Platinum Jubbly of Queen Elizabeth II”. The products have been snapped up by Wholesale Clearance UK, which is selling the whole lot here for £32,400.


It’s the longest single lightning bolt ever recorded. The “megaflash”, as it’s called, struck in 2020, but was only confirmed as the world record holder this week. The bolt travelled across Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, spanning a total of 477 miles. That’s around the same distance between London and Hamburg.

Love etc

A new dating app, Thursday, is taking a back-to-basics approach, says the New York Times – it prioritises actual dating. The app can be accessed only on Thursdays. Users can swipe left or right and message each other, just like on other dating apps. But at the end of the day, all the matches are wiped and the app locks. So “there’s no time to waste with chitchat; making a date is now or never”.

On the money

An eel smuggler has been given a record €7.2m fine by a Spanish court, as well as a 15-month prison sentence. Eels can’t be farmed in the same way as other fish, and the species is endangered, so smuggling is big business: up to 350 million live eels are smuggled every year from Europe to Asia, where they’re fattened and turned into sushi. A kilo of juvenile eels ready for smuggling can sell for about £7,000.


Quoted 3.2

“When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this – you haven’t.”

Thomas Edison