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4 January

In the headlines

All schoolchildren should have to study some form of maths until they’re 18, Rishi Sunak will announce this afternoon. The address will set out his “big picture vision for Britain”, says The Daily Telegraph, beyond simply “fire-fighting crises”. The Elgin Marbles may soon be returned to Greece. British Museum chairman George Osborne is negotiating a deal in which the contested antiquities are loaned as part of a “cultural exchange”, to get around a UK law which prevents museums giving away their artefacts. For the first time ever, all 10 of the UK’s most popular songs last year featured British artists. Number one was As It Was by Harry Styles; Kate Bush’s 1985 hit Running Up That Hill, revived after featuring on Stranger Things, came sixth.

British politics

NHS managers are gaslighting the public

The NHS is mired in a “historic” crisis, says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Over Christmas, one patient in Swindon waited 99 hours for a hospital bed. In Wales, a 93-year-old woman with a broken hip lay “screaming” for 25 hours before an ambulance finally arrived. Whitehall targets for ward spaces and GP appointments have the “ghostly uncertainty of Chinese pandemic statistics”. And all solutions tried so far have “failed to deliver”. Tony Blair oversaw one of the largest increases in NHS spending since the Second World War – only for Britain to fall behind Germany, France and even America in the availability of proper medical care. Whatever Labour politicians pretend, the broken system cannot be fixed simply by throwing more money at it. Health Secretary Steve Barclay even reportedly admitted he “wouldn’t know what to do with more cash if he got it”.


We’re on the cusp of an energy revolution

“Enough with the doom and gloom!” says Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. Human beings have a natural bias towards bad news, which has kept us “alert and alive” for millennia, but the “constant gush” of grim headlines has become ridiculous. Especially when the truth is that “this may still be the best time ever to be alive”. Global child mortality, for example, continues to fall. A child today is half as likely to die as in 2000, and a quarter as likely as in 1970. The numbers of people living in extreme poverty or suffering from famine are falling, too.


In his series Good Movies as Old Books, the American graphic designer Matt Stevens reimagines classic films, from The Karate Kid to Pulp Fiction, as dog-eared paperbacks. For more, check out his Instagram here.


Europe is experiencing “unseasonably mild weather”, says Javier Blas in Bloomberg: 13C in London, 15C in Berlin, 18C in Paris and Zurich. We’d usually treat this as a grim portent of global warming, but right now it’s “good news”. Toastier temperatures mean less demand for energy, and therefore less leverage for Vladimir Putin, who’s been withholding natural gas from the West to try and undermine support for Ukraine. Gas storage levels across the EU are at 83%, a whopping 30 percentage points higher than a year ago, and prices are lower than they were before the invasion.


Uggs are back in fashion, says Slate. The once-mocked Australian boots – specifically the impractical “Ultra Mini Platforms” – are the “latest flavour of the ugly shoe trend”, after the Birkenstock clog and the resurgence of Crocs. Popular among celebs including Kylie Jenner and the Hadid sisters, Uggs have been selling out everywhere. Their seemingly unlikely comeback highlights an eternal rule: “Today’s sartorial punchline will be tomorrow’s major trend.”

From the archives

Every New Year’s Eve, says The New European, millions of Germans sit down to watch Dinner for One, an 11-minute British slapstick sketch that’s all but forgotten over here. In 1962, two German TV employees visiting Blackpool saw Freddie Frinton and May Warden performing the then-classic act, in which a butler serves a dinner party for a mad old woman, acting (and drinking) in place of her imaginary guests. Frinton and Warden were invited to Hamburg to film the skit; it was played sporadically for the next decade, before being picked up by a major channel for New Year’s Eve 1972. “Something stirred in the German psyche”, and it’s been shown every year since. Watch the full sketch here.


American pro golfer Scott Stallings was “checking the mailbox five times a day” for his invitation to play at this year’s US Masters Tournament, he writes on Twitter, when he received a “random” message on Instagram. “My name is Scott Stallings as well,” it read, “and I received a FedEx today” with an invite to the competition. “I’m really not kidding, I promise,” added the sender, before forwarding the package on to its intended recipient. The confusion arose not only because the two men share a name – they also live in neighbouring states and are both married to women named Jennifer.



It’s a piece of Banksy graffiti in Ukraine that a gang of thieves tried to pilfer. The spray-painted mural appeared on the wall of a bombed-out building in the city of Hostomel in November. The following month, eight people were arrested for removing the artwork, since valued at £200,000, and trying to spirit it away on wooden boards. The alleged mastermind faces 12 years in prison if convicted.



quoted 4.1.23

“Anybody who goes to see a psychiatrist ought to have his head examined.”

Samuel Goldwyn