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6 July

In the headlines

“Can even Boris the Greased Piglet wriggle out of this?” asks the Daily Mail, following last night’s shock resignations of Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Health Secretary Sajid Javid. Both said they no longer had confidence in Johnson after repeated lies about his hiring of alleged sex pest Chris Pincher. Another 15 Tory MPs on the government payroll have since resigned. “Whether he survives for hours, days or months,” says Robert Shrimsley in the FT, “this finally feels like the end of the show.” British Airways has cancelled a further 1,500 flights because of staff shortages, says the BBC. The airline had already axed 10% of scheduled departures between April and October. Tennis fans appear to have been bonking in a special “quiet space” at Wimbledon, says The Guardian. “Sheepish-looking couples” have been seen emerging from the new room, next to Court 12, which is meant for “private meditation, prayer or reflection”.

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UK politics

If only Boris had been more like Reagan

The resignation of the Chancellor and Health Secretary is a “sensational and surely fatal humiliation” for Boris Johnson, says Dominic Sandbrook in UnHerd. What went wrong? The PM has “formidable, if ephemeral” strengths as a communicator. And there are many recent examples of “political showmen who ran competent, efficient administrations, largely by standing back and letting the professionals deal with the nuts and bolts”. Ronald Reagan, for instance, was often “the least bright and least well-informed person in the room” during his presidency. But that left him free to play “the jolly, sunny, patriotic father of the nation”.


Spare me these vapid thank yous

“The humble book dedication can be a thing of beauty,” says John Self in The Critic. My favourites “hint at a story potentially more intriguing” than the novel itself: Paul Christopher’s The Templar Cross is dedicated to “John Christopherson, the best family lawyer in Skagit County, Washington”; Jan Morris’s Oxford Book of Oxford to “the Warden and Fellows of St. Antony’s College, Oxford – except one”. They can also be unintentionally revealing. Jack Kerouac presumably thought he was being terribly clever dedicating Visions of Cody to “America, wherever that is”. Really, he was just exposing his “Banksy-like level of political insight”.


Britain is full of old trees, says Ben Macintyre in The Times – more than 80% of all the oldest trees in Europe, in fact. “Richmond Park is said to contain more 500-year-old trees than France and Germany combined.” King John is thought to have put his seal to Magna Carta beneath the 2,500-year-old Ankerwycke Yew in Berkshire in 1215; the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest (pictured) was alive at the time of Robin Hood. And “probably the oldest living thing in Britain” is the Fortingall Yew, in Scotland, which some think has been around for as long as nine millennia.

Inside politics

As resignation letters flooded into Downing Street last night, says Politico, former PM Theresa May was at the Royal Opera House. She was watching Pagliacci, a story that ends in destruction and misery, and concludes with the line “la commedia è finita” – “the comedy is finished”.


Hollywood stars are getting older, says The Ringer – and it’s not just a fifty-something Tom Cruise going topless in Top Gun: Maverick. A few decades ago, the leads in most films and TV series were typically in their late 30s. But “today’s average actor age has reached the mid-40s and is steadily climbing toward 50”. And established talents are retiring later: Liam Neeson (pictured) has pumped out 24 action movies since starring in 2008’s Taken when he was 55 .


Fireworks are a big deal in Japan. And the Katakai-Matsuri Festival, which takes place in Niigata Prefecture every September, boasts the biggest rocket of the lot: Yonshakudama, a 420kg behemoth with a so-called “bloom diameter” of more than 2,400ft. As one Twitter user says, “The dogs must love that thing.”

Quirk of history

The very first bikini was unveiled by French designer Louis Réard in 1946, says The History Channel. The risqué two-piece was modelled by Micheline Bernardini, a Parisian showgirl who is still alive today, aged 94. It was named after the Bikini Atoll coral reef in the Pacific Ocean, where the US had just tested an atomic bomb.


On Monday, two anti-oil protesters at the National Gallery covered Constable’s The Hay Wain with an apocalyptic reimagining of it – before gluing themselves to the frame. It’s the latest in a spate of similar protests by the Just Stop Oil group: in recent weeks its glue-wielding activists have also targeted a Van Gogh at the Courtauld Gallery in London and a Turner at the Manchester Art Gallery. Here’s hoping they used an “organic, plant-based glue”, says one Twitter user.


quote 6.7.22

“Once a ruler becomes unpopular, everything he does – whether good or bad – tells against him.”