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27 September

In the headlines

Soldiers could be scrambled to drive petrol tankers under emergency plans being drawn up by Downing Street today, as motorists continue panic-buying. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insists there is “no shortage of fuel”, but the Petrol Retailers Association says up to 90% of the country’s pumps have run dry. Two potential rivals for Keir Starmer’s shaky leadership are drawing attention at the Labour conference in Brighton: Angela Rayner and Andy Burnham. Rayner made headlines on Sunday by refusing to apologise for calling Boris Johnson “scum”. “She is an imbecile and until she realises that, the party will never be credible,” one Labour MP tells The Times. Burnham, meanwhile, joked about his “King of the North” nickname: “I’ve not quite gathered the troops at the M6 Knutsford services, but the day may come if they don’t sort out this levelling-up thing.”

Comment of the day




Medical journal The Lancet described women as “bodies with vaginas” on the cover of its latest edition. No, says Judith Woods in The Sunday Telegraph, “I’m not making this up”. Apparently “women” is such a distasteful word that one of Britain’s oldest scientific publications won’t use it. I wonder what will have to change next, now “women” is off-limits. Song titles will be tricky. We’ll have to settle for Bob Marley’s No Person, No Cry and Whitney Houston’s I’m Every Person. “My own favourite, because I am a person, has to be Aretha Franklin’s You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Person with a Vagina.” 

Inside politics

In Bob Woodward’s book Peril, American general Mark Milley details the lengths to which he went in preventing Donald Trump from starting a rash war. Such scheming is troubling, says Gerard Baker in The Times, and his discussing it with a journalist is “a shocking breach of confidentiality”. A senior commander urging others to ignore the commander-in-chief, as Milley did, “nudges American government closer to banana republic territory. What if Milley or some successor decides that Biden is too cognitively impaired to give orders and that it’s the military’s job to work around or defy him?”


Pop stars and fashionistas are “dressing like cult leaders”, says Laura Neilson in Air Mail. Nicole Kidman, above right, has led the trend, playing a “witchy wellness guru” in the TV series Nine Perfect Strangers. Lorde, centre, has gone “woo-woo” in the music videos for her latest album, Solar Power. It seems everyone’s wearing minimalist kaftans and Birkenstocks. Max Mara’s recent resort collection featured “silky and ethereal ankle-grazing cream-coloured kaftans”, while an “army of barefoot models”, above left, wore faded-pastel sheaths on the runway for Rodarte’s spring 2022 collection. 


Quoted 27-09

“A groaning tumbril of dead metaphors trundling along a slow road to nowhere.”

The Spectator on Keir Starmer’s essay for the Fabian Society 

Snapshot answer

It’s a painting by Hunter Biden. The 51-year-old son of the US President has undergone a career change since his father won the 2020 election. Next month 15 of his hallucinogenic artworks on the theme of “universal truth” will be up for sale at the Georges Bergès gallery in New York. Each is expected to rake in between £55,000 and £370,000. Because of ethics concerns surrounding access to the White House, the identities of the buyers will remain unknown – even to the artist. It’s a recipe for dodgy dealing and dodgier buyers, says Wessie du Toit in UnHerd. “Investing in artworks is now one of the easiest ways to exchange ill-gotten cash for respectable assets.”