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31 January

In the headlines

Sue Gray has handed the initial findings of her Partygate investigation to the Prime Minister, who will give a statement to parliament this afternoon. Though the report may contain “stinging criticisms” of Boris Johnson, Scotland Yard has vetoed any “juicy” details on the events it’s investigating, says Politico. Plans to make Covid jabs mandatory for NHS workers are set to be scrapped. There have been warnings of crippling staff shortages if the move goes ahead, with almost 80,000 workers likely to be forced out of their jobs. A man in Switzerland has paid £60 to formally change his gender so that he can receive his state pension a year earlier. The country’s retirement age is 64 for women but 65 for men.

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UK politics

Whitehall’s wasted billions

British workers are “shouldering the highest tax burden since the end of the Second World War”, says Camilla Tominey in The Daily Telegraph – and we’re about to be hit by a national insurance rise in April. Yet the money we hand over to the government is spent appallingly. There are 330 civil servants paid more than the prime minister’s £160,000 salary – Mark Thurston, chief executive of HS2, is on a whopping £620,000 a year. I’m sure this “fat-cat controller” is perfectly capable at his job, but if we can find someone to run the country for £160,000, then why not a railway line to Birmingham?

Carrie Johnson

The “unspoken reality” of Partygate

“The accepted narrative on Boris Johnson is that he is a liar,” says Camilla Long in The Sunday Times. He lies, we are told, “almost as easily as he breathes” – about Downing Street parties, about gold wallpaper, about airlifting Pen Farthing’s dogs out of Kabul. But perhaps the PM hasn’t been lying about any of it. Perhaps he is just “so disorganised and chaotic” that all sorts of things are happening in Downing Street without his knowledge – things he has no idea how to explain, let alone defend. After all, do you really think Johnson cares about wallpaper? Or loves animals so much that he personally intervened in the Farthing decision? Hardly.


“Get out of that office, kid, and write!” That’s what the writer Paul Gallico told Ian Fleming after reading an early draft of Casino Royale, says The Guardian. Fleming himself was less enthusiastic. After bashing out the novel in just eight weeks in 1952, he did nothing with it. “I was too ashamed,” he said later. “No publisher would want it and if they did I would not have the face to see it in print. Even under a pseudonym, someone would leak the ghastly fact that it was I who had written this adolescent tripe.”


The CEWE Photo Award, the world’s largest photography competition, has shared some of the best submissions to its animal category. They include a pink butterfly in India, a bulldog puppy, a baby orangutan with its mother, a polar bear in Canada and an octopus in Germany.


It’s nearly 20,000 coconuts filled with liquid cocaine. The stash, destined for Italy, was discovered by officials at a Colombian port. Each coconut had been drained of its natural water and pumped full of cocaine dissolved in alcohol. Cocaine is worth 40% more per kilo in Europe than it is in the US, making the continent an important destination for the Latin American drugs market.

Love etc

Beijing Olympics organisers have instructed athletes to keep “hugs, high-fives and handshakes” to a minimum to reduce the risk of Covid during the upcoming winter Games, says The Independent. Helpfully, they also say that “appropriate quantities” of free condoms will be made available to athletes.

On the money

American law firms in the City of London are locked in a salary war to win the best recruits, says The Times. Boston-based Goodwin Procter has set a new record, offering newly qualified lawyers a starting salary of £161,500, and awarding hard-working junior solicitors a week-long holiday paid for by the company. British lawyers are stingy by comparison – four of the five “Magic Circle” firms pay new recruits just £107,500. The fifth, Freshfields, pays less.


A local council in Cumbria is hiring a landlord to run the Ship Inn on Piel Island, which lies just off the Furness Peninsula. Thanks to a 200-year-old tradition, the landlord will be declared King or Queen of Piel and crowned on an oak throne. During the ceremony, the new monarch must vow to be a good smoker and a good drinker – after which a gallon of beer will be poured over their head. Apply for the job here.


Quoted 31.01

“Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone is writing a book.”