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4 November

In the headlines

Britain faces its “longest ever recession”, says the I newspaper, with the Bank of England predicting the economy will shrink by 3% over the next two years. The £50bn black hole in public finances means infrastructure plans including the Sizewell C nuclear plant and Northern Powerhouse Rail face being scaled back or scrapped. Households with smart meters will be offered discounts on their electricity bills if they cut peak-time use. Customers who sign up to the National Grid scheme and slash consumption between 4pm and 7pm – the hours when demand is highest, and blackouts this winter are most likely – can save up to £100. “HMS Wag”, the £1bn luxury cruise liner housing the England football team’s partners during the World Cup, has set sail for Qatar, says The Sun. The “floating palace” (below) boasts 14 ocean-view whirlpools, more than 30 bars and cafes, and an 11-deck-high helter-skelter dubbed The Venom Drop.


If only we could “dissolve the people and elect another”

I’ve raged against all our recent prime ministers, says Matthew Parris in The Spectator. I called Theresa May the “death star of British politics”, Boris Johnson a “moral toad”, and Liz Truss a “planet-sized mass of over-confidence and ambition teetering on a pinhead of a political brain”. Soon we’ll all turn on Rishi Sunak, too. But while anyone could compile a long list of “stupid little blunders”, it’s hard to think of a single “big thing” any of them did that made the country worse. The problem is that they’ve all been saddled with the impossible task of making Brexit work, which is the fault “not of our politicians, but of the British people.”


What a load of old Hogwarts

Here we go again, says Libby Purves in The Times. That “thespian dementor” Daniel Radcliffe, “plucked from nowhere” to star in Harry Potter as a child, says the woman who wrote it is a baddie. With her “mild and anxious” views on women’s privacy and safety, JK Rowling is, he says, “hurting” countless troubled young fans, and he wants them to know “not everybody in the franchise” is so keen to “invalidate their identities”. What a “load of old Hogwarts”. Yes, fame is a “brain-fuddling drug”, but it’s “astonishingly nasty” of Radcliffe and his young co-stars to join the batty chorus accusing Rowling of “transphobia”.

Staying young

Have you ever wondered why the names of so many wellness brands feature a double O, asks Dirt newsletter. There’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop; Poosh, founded by Kourtney Kardashian; the weight loss app Noom; Woo for sexual wellness; and Moon Juice, selling everything “to help you find your calm”. Well, psychologists say it’s because “we associate the double O with distance” – in studies, participants envisioned “Floon Street” as further away than “Fleen Street” – so names featuring the phonetic “oo” embody “distant” ideals for consumers to strive towards. And when you make the double O sound, your lips form a perfect pout: “it feels good and it looks good”.

Nice work if you can get it

Once he has finished his “long-overdue” biography of William Shakespeare, Boris Johnson is planning to follow it up with a book about a writer he finds even more interesting, says Mandrake in The New European: himself. One insider says the former PM “sees it as his way of launching a comeback”, referring to it as his “interim” autobiography. We could, however, be in for quite a wait: Johnson signed his £500,000 Shakespeare book deal way back in 2015, and it still isn’t published.


Chinese internet users have some cunning tricks to escape the attention of their government’s hyperactive censors, says Rest of World. One phrase that recently did the rounds on social media – “wake up, sleeping people of the Netherlands” – was a sly protest against frozen bank deposits in the province of Henan. The word “Henan” was automatically blocked; “Helan”, meaning the Netherlands, was not. When #MeToo took off in 2018, Chinese web users got around a ban on the phrase by using the characters for rice (米, pronounced “mí”) and bunny (兔, pronounced “tù”) – and then replacing those characters with emojis. So #MeToo became #🍚🐰.

Tomorrow’s world

The future of aviation is “weird-looking, fuel-efficient planes”, says The Wall Street Journal. The need to meet new environmental standards and airline economics is “forcing plane makers back to the drawing board”. A few recent blue-sky designs include a plane that combines cabin and wings in one piece, one with long, spindly wings that reduce drag, and one with rear-facing propellers located at the back of the fuselage. Their names sound as futuristic as their designs: “transonic truss-braced wings, blended-wing bodies and double bubbles”.

Inside politics

“A spectre is haunting Austria,” says Oliver Moody in The Times: “the spectre of free beer.” The Beer Party is a satirical political movement founded by doctor and punk rock singer Dominik Wlazny in 2015, promising “municipal lager fountains” and unlimited beer for all. But when Wlazny ran for the presidency last month, on a more sober policy platform including social care reform and media literacy classes in schools, he came third, with 8.3% of the vote. On current levels of support, the Beer Party could be a kingmaker in the 2024 parliamentary elections.


It’s Listenbourg, a fictional EU country invented to poke fun at geographically challenged Americans. “I’m sure Americans don’t even know the name of this country,” wrote one Twitter user on Sunday, posting a photoshopped map with an extra land mass attached to the Iberian Peninsula. The joke soon spread: the internet created a history, national anthem, flag and royal family for the imaginary state; Canal+, the French TV channel, even announced an upcoming Listenbourg Formula 1 Grand Prix.


Quoted 4.11.22

“A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman’s birthday but never remembers her age.”

Robert Frost