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28 January

In the headlines

Scotland Yard has told Sue Gray not to publish key passages from her report into Downing Street parties in case they prejudice its criminal investigation. “Anything worth reading will now have to be held back,” a Whitehall source tells the Sun’s Harry Cole. The intervention will potentially give Boris Johnson more time to placate angry Tory rebels. There is growing speculation that the PM will delay the planned national insurance rise this April. This is one of the big dividing lines within the Conservative Party, says Fraser Nelson in the Telegraph: Chancellor Rishi Sunak and others want increases in NHS and social care spending to be funded by tax hikes, “rather than dumped on the next generation via national debt”. The much-loved British comedian Barry Cryer has died aged 86. One of his trademark one-liners: “Quick – the noise made by a dyslexic duck.”

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US politics

America is polarised in a way we’re not

For all the talk of political polarisation as a “global problem”, says Simon Kuper in the Financial Times, it is in fact uniquely American. Donald Trump’s poll ratings “barely budged” during his presidency, and supporters dismissed scandal after scandal as “fake news”. But when Boris Johnson turned out to have played “party host” over lockdown, his supporters fled and his ratings tanked. Today’s polarised US is more like Turkey or India than western Europe. Many Republicans, for example, believe “God supports their party” and fear their tribe is under “existential threat”. In a recent survey most of them agreed that the “American way of life” was so imperilled they may have to use force to save it. “They have enough firearms.”


Leave my beloved Essex alone

After years as the butt of the joke, my beloved home of Essex is having a serious rebrand, says Gaby Hinsliff in The Guardian. Forget the fake tan, reality TV shows and blindingly white teeth you associate with the county – Essex council is spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to reposition the area as some sort of “undiscovered oasis of culture”. Drab, touristy adverts will boast of scientists, landscapes by Constable, Michelin-starred chefs and Boudicca’s campaign of resistance against the Romans. This “forgotten Essex”, we’ll be told, is a place for oysters and wine (“as in rolling vineyards, not as in getting hammered on pink prosecco”).

On the money

Elon Musk has offered a 19-year-old who developed a Twitter bot that automatically tracks his private jet $5,000 to delete the account. “I don’t love the idea of being shot by a nutcase,” the Tesla founder explained in a direct message. Jack Sweeney told him to up the offer to $50,000. Musk said he’d think about it.

Gone viral

The latest craze on TikTok is videos of people peeling raw eggs. The trick is to remove the shell with tweezers or some other tiny tool, so the “globular” membrane underneath isn’t damaged, says CNET. Watching the process can be nerve-shredding – one slip and the membrane is broken. Watch @btypep’s full video, which has racked up more than 900,000 views, here.




It’s the crab-shaped flight path of a plane in California, as recorded on the live air traffic tracker FlightRadar24. Creating intricate flight paths has become the 21st-century version of “skywriting”, where pilots write messages in the sky using special smoke from their planes. “[We] like to challenge each other, to see what we can do,” local pilot Chris Gularte tells WUSA9. “The bar has been set now. The gauntlet’s been thrown down.”


The world’s top bartenders carry a special coin symbolising their “distinction in the field”, says the National Post. The coins, of which no more than 1,500 are in circulation worldwide, are awarded by the Italian spirit brand Fernet-Branca, whose intensely bitter liqueur is considered a symbol of good taste in any serious cocktail bar. Anywhere in the world, one coin-carrying bartender can ask another member of the “secret society” to produce their coin – if they don’t have it on them, they have to buy a round of drinks.


On the way out

Traditional British sayings, which most Brits don’t understand and rarely use, says the Evening Standard. A new survey found that nearly 70% of respondents aged 18 to 50 had never heard of or used the phrase “know your onions”. Other head-scratchers include “colder than a witch’s tit” (a mystery to 71% of respondents), “keen as mustard” (58%), “dog’s dinner” (55%), and “could not organise a piss up in a brewery” (54%).

Inside politics

Dismissing Keir Starmer as an uptight lawyer might not be the best tactic for the Tories, says The Guardian’s Jessica Elgot on Twitter. As one Conservative MP put it to me, “all our voters are lawyers or want their children to be lawyers”.


quoted 28.01

“A secret is something that is only repeated to one person at a time.”

Writer Robert McCrum