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7 February

In the headlines

A multibillion-pound plan to reduce NHS backlogs has been blocked by the Chancellor, amid rising tensions between the Treasury and No 10. A record six million people are currently on waiting lists for non-urgent operations in England. It’s surely no coincidence, says Politico, that Rishi Sunak is delaying such an important policy announcement at a time when Boris Johnson is “desperate for good news stories”. Tennis star Peng Shuai has announced her retirement and said her claim she was sexually assaulted by China’s former vice premier was a “huge misunderstanding”. Shuai, 36, made the announcement in a heavily stage-managed interview in which a Chinese Olympic Committee member acted as her translator. Neighbours is being axed by Channel 5, likely ending its 35-year run on UK television. At its peak, the Melbourne-based soap was regularly watched by 16 million Brits – roughly equivalent to Australia’s entire population at the time.

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Comment of the day


One day, we’ll all regret lockdown

“Hindsight bias”, as psychologists call it, is when we conveniently forget our incorrect opinions, says Daniel Hannan in The Sunday Telegraph. Some 66% of Brits backed the Iraq war when it began in 2003, but by 2015, only 37% remembered supporting the invasion. Something similar will happen with lockdowns. The evidence of their futility “keeps piling up”: a recent meta-study of 24 different surveys found that compulsory lockdowns reduced the Covid mortality rate by 0.2% – around 100 lives for the first wave in Britain. When you consider all the undetected tumours, the “taped-off playgrounds”, the loneliness and the bankruptcy, was it really worth it?

US society

The false narrative of the American Dream

On the face of it, I’m a living embodiment of the American Dream, says Tara Westover in The New York Times. Born to poor Mormon parents who kept me out of school, “I had never set foot in a classroom before my first semester of college”. I got up at 3.40am to work a cleaning job before classes started – sleeping in my clothes to save precious time – and did other jobs on the side. My main memory of that period is, quite simply, of being tired. Constantly tired. But I strived and strived, and after graduating I secured a scholarship to Cambridge. My memoir became a bestseller; people constantly tell me my story is an “inspiration”.

Quirk of history

Yesterday marked the 70th anniversary of the death of King George VI, who died in his sleep after a day’s shooting at Sandringham. “I hope you will arrange something like that for me,” Winston Churchill later told his doctor. “But don’t do it till I tell you.”


Staying at a hotel for the Beijing Olympics is like being inside a “dystopian” novel, says Reuters. To try to keep things Covid-free, hallways and lobbies are constantly sprayed with disinfectant by workers in PPE. At the bar, waiters wear hazmat suits and “blue plastic booties”, which make “soft swishing noises” as the staff shuffle between tables.


It’s 100,000 dead fish, dumped in the Atlantic by a Dutch super-trawler. The owners of the ship say it was an accident, but environmental activists say the catch was deliberately (and illegally) ditched as it wasn’t the right species. FV Margiris – the world’s second-largest shipping vessel, with a net almost 2,000ft long and a vast onboard fish-processing factory – is so destructive it is barred from Australian waters.

Tomorrow’s world

Michigan is building a one-mile stretch of road that can wirelessly charge electric vehicles while they’re driving on it, says CBS News. The tech, developed by the Israeli company ElectReon, works via a system of copper coils laid beneath the road, which transfer electricity wirelessly to cars and lorries via receivers strapped to their undercarriages. Similar pilot schemes are already up and running in Israel, Germany and Sweden.

On the money

The average house in Britain is currently earning more than the average youngster, says Sky News’s Ed Conway on Twitter. Over the past year, UK house prices have risen £24,500. The median salary for an 18 to 29-year-old is just £23,250.


One of London’s top law firms, Withers, has ditched the salutation “Dear Sir/Madam” in its correspondence, in a bid to move toward “gender-neutral language”. That’s forward thinking by the standards of the profession, says The Times: the “magic circle” firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer only stopped using “Dear Sir” – regardless of the recipient’s sex – five years ago.


Quoted 7.2

“It is a wonderful and necessary fact of political biology that we never know when our time is up. Long after it is obvious to everyone that we are goners, we continue to believe in our ‘duty’ to hang on, with cuticle-wrenching tenacity, to the perks and privileges of our posts.”

Boris Johnson, in 2006