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24 March

In the headlines

Chancellor Rishi Sunak woke up to a “clean sweep of hostile front pages” over yesterday’s mini-Budget, says Politico, along with stinging criticism from Tory and Labour MPs. “Sunak’s sickener” does nothing to help soaring energy bills, nothing to support pensioners, and nothing much to soften petrol pain, says the Daily Mirror. “Thanks for nothing.” Living standards will fall further this year than they have since records began in 1956, says The Times. Some “welcome” measures include cutting fuel duty by 5p a litre and raising the threshold at which workers have to start paying national insurance – shielding seven in 10 earners from next month’s rate hike. But there is effectively no help for those on the lowest incomes. Russia has launched an “outrageous attempt” to host the Euro 2028 football tournament, says The Sun. With the only other contender a joint bid from the UK and Ireland, Mad Vlad is “Putin the boot in”.

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Mini Budget

The Tories are taking voters “for fools”

The Tories have just broken the first rule of politics, says Allister Heath in The Daily Telegraph: “don’t take your voters for fools”. The bald facts about their mini-Budget yesterday are dismal. Real household disposable income will fall by 2.2%, “the greatest drop in living standards” since records began in the 1950s. The overall tax burden will rise to its highest level (36.3% of GDP) since “Clement Attlee’s hard-left administration in the 1940s”. Yet the Tories insist that all is well. They’re saying that they are cutting taxes (they’re not) and that their main focus is addressing the cost-of-living crisis (it’s not). Who do they think they’re kidding?


Stop kidding yourself, Mr Biden

American diplomacy is “embarrassed about what it does best”, says Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times: “realpolitik”. Washington “cut moral corners” in the Cold War to fight communism, supporting monarchists in the Greek civil war, and autocrats in South Korea and Latin America. But like his predecessors, Joe Biden likes to pretend this isn’t the American way. He initially made a big deal of refusing to speak to the autocratic Saudi leader, Mohammed bin Salman – even while sending his country the Patriot antimissile system.

On the way back

Dodos may be on the verge of an unlikely comeback, says the New York Post. Biology boffins at the University of California have successfully sequenced the entire genome of the hapless fowl, the last of which died more than 300 years ago. That means it should be possible to “de-extinct” the dodo – just as other scientists are trying to do with the woolly mammoth.

Quirk of history

The word “OK” was originally an abbreviation for “oll korrect”, a deliberate misspelling of “all correct”. Back in the late 1830s, says History Today, young educated folk liked to “misspell words intentionally, then abbreviate them and use them as slang”. Popular abbreviations included “KY” for “know yuse” (to mean “no use”) and “OW” for “oll wright” (“all right”). OK entered the mainstream when it was printed in the Boston Morning Post as part of a joke – and it has been in use ever since.


What do Metallica, Dua Lipa and Goldman Sachs’s CEO David Solomon all have in common? They’re all playing at the Chicago music festival – Lollapalooza. Solomon has been DJing for a while, says Kevin Dugan in Intelligencer, “but I’m pretty sure this is the biggest stage he’s ever hit the decks on”. And he has rebranded for the occasion. The 60-year-old banker used to play under the stage name DJ D-Sol; now he’s just going by David Solomon.

Love etc

When Elizabeth Taylor left Richard Burton in 1973, he tried to win her back with letters, says Shaun Usher in the newsletter Letters of Note. “You’re off, by God!” wrote the actor. “I can barely believe it since I am so unaccustomed to anybody leaving me. But reflectively I wonder why nobody did so before.” He continued: “All I care about – honest to God – is that you are happy and I don’t much care who you’ll find happiness with. I mean as long as he’s a friendly bloke and treats you nice and kind. If he doesn’t I’ll come at him with a hammer and clinker.” Burton needn’t have worried. They were married again within 16 months of divorcing.

Staying young

David Hockney isn’t worried about healthy eating, says Waldemar Januszczak in Air Mail. When I recently had lunch with the 84-year-old artist we ate black pudding on beds of tarte tatin, followed by îles flottantes (poached meringues in a pool of sweet custard) for pudding. “I live on cream, butter, milk, everything,” Hockney told me, lighting the first of many Davidoff cigarettes. “I’ve hardly any cholesterol in me.”


It’s Julian Assange’s new wife, Stella Moris, and their two children. The couple married yesterday at HMP Belmarsh, where the 50-year-old WikiLeaks founder is fighting extradition to the US. They both wore outfits designed by Vivienne Westwood and a prison security guard took the pictures. Moris, 38, who met Assange while campaigning for his freedom, said the pair were “very excited, even though the circumstances are very restrictive”.


Quote 24.3.22

“Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”

Samuel Johnson