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5 January

In the headlines

Prince Harry has claimed Prince William physically attacked him in 2019, says The Guardian. A leaked copy of Harry’s forthcoming memoir Spare alleges that his brother “grabbed me by the collar” and “knocked me to the floor” during a confrontation in which William described Meghan Markle as “rude” and “abrasive”. Keir Starmer has promised “a decade of national renewal” if Labour wins power, but warned voters his party won’t be able to “spend our way out” of the Tories’ “mess”. It comes after Rishi Sunak yesterday revealed his five-point plan to fix Britain, which included promises to halve inflation, slash hospital waiting lists and stop small boats crossing the Channel. Heavy metal rockers Iron Maiden are getting their own Royal Mail stamps, says The Sun, with 12 designs featuring the group’s members and their zombie-like mascot Eddie. “It’s Iron Mailden!”

British politics

Starmer is more radical than you think

For the first two years of his leadership, Keir Starmer seemed “policy-phobic”, says Michael Jacobs in The Guardian. Labour’s strategy was “almost entirely” centred on presenting him as “neither Boris Johnson nor Jeremy Corbyn”, with little insight into his own plans. But in recent months, Starmer has adopted a slate of policies “considerably more radical” than many imagined. Just look at his economic stance. For all his talk of “fiscal discipline”, he has pledged to spend £28bn a year on climate action this decade – more than Corbyn promised – and to establish a huge state-owned energy company to drive a decade-long, £60bn efficiency programme to fix Britain’s leaky homes.


Why Ukraine is such a valuable prize

That war broke out last year in Ukraine, of all places, isn’t surprising, says Hal Brands in Bloomberg: the country has been central to “every great global clash of the modern era”. Both resources and geography make it a valuable “strategic prize”. Within its borders is some of the richest agricultural land in the world, which accounts “for 6% of all calories traded on international food markets”. It is also the “hinge” connecting what the great geopolitical thinker Halford Mackinder called the “Eurasian Heartland” with the economically advanced countries of Europe. Any European or Eurasian power looking to expand into the other sphere must pass through Ukraine.


This video shows a mature rain tree in Singapore being carefully lifted out of the ground and replanted a few metres away. The fiddly transplant process, which is used when trees are in the way of development projects, involves digging a trench around the root ball, using special pipes to create a kind of raft, then hoisting it all into place with a crane. See how it works here.

Inside politics

Rishi Sunak’s announcement that he wants school pupils to study maths until they’re 18 will bring back classroom nightmares for many, says the Evening Standard – not least in Westminster. When 101 MPs were asked a simple GCSE maths question last year – “if you toss a coin twice, what is the probability of getting two heads?” – only about half gave the correct answer of 25%.

Gone viral

A thread compiling a list of predictions made in 1923 about what 2023 would be like has racked up 10 million views on Twitter. Some are spookily accurate: the population of the US will reach “probably 300 million”; people will communicate via “watch-size radio telephones”. Others remain a way off: cancer will be “eradicated”; life expectancy will be 300 years; and “all people will be beautiful”. See the full list here.

Quirk of history

Twelfth Night, the last of the 12 days of Christmas, falls on 5 January, says The Oldie, and is “almost forgotten” in modern Britain. But it used to be “the climax of the festive season”: Shakespeare named one of his comedies after it, while Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol mentions the “Twelfth Night Cake”, a rich fruit pudding. Today, the pre-Christmas period is office party season, but for our ancestors it was a solemn time – they saved their revelry for later.


It’s the “mutalk”: a hi-tech mouth covering that “quiets your speaking voice” in the real world, while acting as a microphone for conversations in virtual reality. The device, developed by Japanese firm Shiftall, is “one of the more bizarre inventions” on show at the CES tech conference in Las Vegas, says Wired. See more wacky new gadgets here.


quoted 5.1.23

“We all know what to do, but we don’t know how to get re-elected once we have done it.”

Former EU leader Jean-Claude Juncker