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25 October

In the headlines

Rishi Sunak has been appointed Prime Minister by the King and will begin assembling his Cabinet this afternoon. Speaking in Downing Street, he pledged to restore “integrity, professionalism and accountability” to government, and warned of “difficult decisions to come”. The 42-year-old is the youngest PM for more than 200 years, and the first British Asian in the job. He is also the first Wykehamist – an alumnus of the elite public school Winchester College – in No 10 since Henry Addington in 1804. It’s “a marker of how radically Britain has changed”, says historian Tom Holland on Twitter, “and of how it stays ever the same”. Sunak has been congratulated by world leaders including Indian PM Narendra Modi, who referenced the “living bridge” of British Indians, and Joe Biden, who appeared to call him “Rashee Sanook” (listen here).

European politics

Let’s hear it for dull politicians

Political pundits today “bemoan the absence of courageous leaders”, says Vernon Bogdanor in Engelsberg Ideas. But in truth, “democracies do not need strong leaders at all times”. Charismatic heroes are only preferable in times of acute crisis, like war. If not for the desperate circumstances of 1940, Churchill would never have become PM: two years prior, he himself believed “my opportunity has passed”. Oddly enough, it was Stalin who predicted the “old warhorse” would be summoned back – but only “when Britain was once again in trouble”. And great men like Churchill and Charles de Gaulle were cast off immediately once the war was over. “Unhappy is the land that breeds no hero,” argues a character in Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo. “No,” Galileo rebuts, “unhappy is the land that needs a hero.”


Did Xi just purge his predecessor?

China’s 20th Communist Party Congress last week concluded with a “rare and shocking” spectacle, says James Palmer in Foreign Policy. Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping’s predecessor as party chief and Chinese leader, was escorted from the public meeting hall just before the final votes. He looked “confused and upset”, and it’s unclear what his “unannounced and clumsy removal” was about. One theory, backed up by Chinese state media, is that the “visibly frail” 79-year-old had a health crisis – though it’s hard to see what kind, given his clear reluctance to leave the room. Another is that Xi suddenly became afraid Hu would abstain or vote against him.


With cooler temperatures approaching, a “big, fluffy hat” is set to be this winter’s “most daring accessory”, says Refinery29. The furry headwear is already a favourite of Rihanna’s, with the likes of Bella Hadid, Dua Lipa and Miley Cyrus following in her “fuzzy topper footsteps”. If you fancy trying out the style but want to avoid “feeling like a Cossack”, start with a subtler, faux-fur piece in a neutral colour, dressed down with an all-black, casual outfit.


Rishi Sunak, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelensky are all about 5ft 7in. As one Twitter user observes, this means “an unprecedented consolidation of European power in the hands of short kings”.


PlayPhrase is a website where you can type in a word or phrase and see where it has featured in a film or TV show. For example, “That’s it. You’re done” has been in Little Fockers (2010), The 5th Wave (2016), and Drew Michael (2018). Try it here.

Inside politics

“Donald Trump could ultimately be done in by his Diet Coke habit,” says Intelligencer. On his Oval Office desk, the president famously had a red button (pictured) that would summon a staffer bearing a glass of the fizzy drink on a silver platter. The aide tasked with this important job later joined Trump’s team at his Mar-a-Lago estate – and is reportedly one of the key witnesses in the FBI’s investigation into the alleged removal of classified documents from the White House.


Between 1838 and 1844, Charles Dickens spent the modern equivalent of £15,000 a year on wine, says The Times – more than on books, toys, music, domestic staff and income tax combined. This prodigious consumption doesn’t appear to have curtailed the author’s output, however. Over that period he churned out bestsellers including Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and A Christmas Carol.


It’s an extremely rare nickel – five cents in America – which has sold for $4.2m at auction. The costly coin was one of only five minted in 1913 to feature the Liberty Head; that year, they were all supposed to have an updated design depicting a buffalo. It’s thought the surreptitiously struck pieces were stamped by an employee at the US Mint in Philadelphia, who hoped to profit by selling them off as collector’s items.


quoted 25.10.22

“A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become known, then wears dark glasses to avoid being recognised.”

American comedian Fred Allen