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6 December

In the headlines

The government’s stand-off with rail unions is threatening to “cancel Christmas altogether”, says Politico. RMT boss Mick Lynch has rejected Network Rail’s latest pay offer and announced additional strikes lasting from 6pm on Christmas Eve until 6am on 27 December. Housing Secretary Michael Gove has abandoned plans for compulsory home-building targets after a rebellion by backbench Tories. In what is being hailed as a victory for NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) campaigners, local councils will be allowed to build fewer properties if they can show that development would spoil an area’s character. Harry and Meghan have accused the Palace of playing a “dirty game” during their time in the royal family, in an incendiary new trailer for their Netflix documentary. The pair clearly want to “blow up the whole institution and everyone in it”, says Hilary Rose in The Times. The first three episodes are released on Thursday. “Take cover.”


Like it or not, we depend on immigration

It’s “hard to exaggerate the extent” of the government’s fixation on illegal boat crossings across the English Channel, says Matthew d’Ancona in Tortoise. The weekend newspapers reported that Rishi Sunak had “completely taken control” of the issue, sidelining Suella Braverman. The Home Secretary herself has tacitly endorsed a “hard-hitting” think tank report urging much tougher deterrence for asylum seekers. Underpinning all this heavy-handed rhetoric are fears the public won’t take kindly to annual net migration rising to a record 504,000. As one Downing Street source puts it: “That sort of figure goes down in Red Wall seats like a fart in a spacesuit.”


Why the West needs to woo India

As India begins its year-long presidency of the G20 this week, says Mathias Peet in Handelsblatt, PM Narendra Modi has the opportunity to present his country “as a better alternative to China”. The image that the two powerful nations are projecting “could hardly be more different”. While the Chinese government arrests opponents of Xi Jinping’s insane zero-Covid policy, India boasts a “lively democratic discourse”. Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi is currently on a five-month, 2,200-mile protest march across the country – an “unimaginable” act in Beijing. And while lockdowns continue to “strangle” China’s economy, disrupting vital Western supply chains, India offers an alternative base for international corporations like Apple to operate from. Its not-unrealistic aim is to establish itself as “the most important partner in Asia” for the EU and US.


Last night’s British Fashion Awards saw some fabulous frocks on display, says Vogue. Among the best dressed were actress Jodie Turner-Smith in a lime-green Gucci gown; Bridgerton star Simone Ashley, wearing a glittery, hooded dress by 16Arlington; actress Florence Pugh in a backless crimson number; and Russian model Irina Shayk, opting for a sequined H&M ensemble that can be rented for just £40.


“Instagram is over,” says Kate Lindsay in The Atlantic. Gen Zs are fed up with the company messing around with their homepage: to see a picture from a friend nowadays you have to scroll through endless brand-sponsored posts and “recommended Reels” from people you don’t follow. A measly 22% of US teens say it’s their favourite social media app, putting it way behind TikTok and Snapchat. And to think, adds Don Van Natta in The Sunday Long Read, Instagram is only 12 years old. “Middle age comes fast online.”

On the way back

Chardonnay is shaking off its 1990s reputation for naffness. Back then, a “gluggable” bottle that cost £5.99 from Oddbins was synonymous with Sex and the City, Bridget Jones and a “secret devotion to Take That”, says Kate Spicer in The Sunday Times. Now the grape has grown up: the lush, sophisticated chardonnay made by the Bread & Butter label has become a “top-five seller” at wine dealers Majestic. The era of restaurant diners asking for ABC – “anything but chardonnay” – is most definitely over.


There’s a good bit of gossip “doing the rounds in Doha”, says The Upshot. Apparently, the Qataris think there’s a “perfectly good explanation” for the embarrassing rows of vacant seats at World Cup games: their “hated neighbours” Bahrain bought up 300,000 or so tickets and then didn’t use them, just to make the stadiums look empty.

Gone viral

This video looking beneath the surface of a seemingly shallow glacial lake has racked up more than seven million views on Twitter. “When you’re up on a glacier,” warns one user, “walk very carefully.”


It’s a deep-sea batfish, which was recently discovered in the depths of the Indian Ocean, off Australia’s remote Cocos Islands. Researchers don’t yet know much about the species, except that it has a tiny “fishing lure” in a small hollow on its nose to attract prey.


quoted 6.12.22

“Puritanism: the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

HL Mencken