Be bold, Sir Keir? No, please don’t

🥟 Photogenic food | 🥄 Useful gadgets | 👖 17th-century slang

In the headlines

Reaction to the first major election TV debate last night has been dominated by a dispute over Rishi Sunak’s repeated claim that Labour would increase household taxes by £2,000. Sunak said the figure – dismissed by Keir Starmer as “garbage” – came from an analysis by civil servants, a claim denied by the head of the Treasury before the debate in a letter to Labour. Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has lost its parliamentary majority for the first time in a decade. India’s shock general election result, which will force the prime minister to form a coalition, is Modi’s biggest political setback since he took office, says the FT. Two days of events are under way to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings. King Charles and Queen Camilla are with veterans for a ceremony in Portsmouth today, while Joe Biden is in France for an event tomorrow on Omaha Beach, one of the beaches where Allied troops landed on 6 June 1944.

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Leon Neal/Getty

Be bold, Sir Keir? No, please don’t

The pundits all urge Keir Starmer “to be bolder in his plans for Britain”, says Janan Ganesh in the FT. I agree. Labour should draw up “the loosest regulations on artificial intelligence in the G7” to attract investment. “It should make extra spending on public services conditional on serious reform of them.” It should question the point of a “binding” net zero law in a nation that contributes only 1% of global emissions. But of course, this isn’t the “boldness” most people have in mind. “Bold” is really just a journalistic euphemism for “left wing”. Demanding boldness is a way of saying “tax and spend more” without having to “defend that position square-on”.

And it’s a defence that’s “hard to mount”: Britain’s tax burden is at its highest level since the 1950s. There is no room “to borrow much more, tax much more or cut much more from the state”. Besides, “Starmer has got where he is by ignoring advice of unrelenting badness from the media class”. No canny leader of the opposition gives away too much of what they plan to do. Before becoming PM, Tony Blair “was accused of being foggy and evasive to the point of mendaciousness”. Leaders, including those as supposedly ideological as Margaret Thatcher, only discover what they believe when they respond to events in office. Starmer will be no different.


The overall winner of the 2024 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year awards is a snap of steaming dim sum dumplings in China’s Zhejiang province. Individual category winners include a geometric rhubarb tart; a crested dove perched on an old chestnut roaster; an Indian woman threshing rice grains; and a floating market of fruit sellers in Bangladesh. See the full results here.

Election watch

🗳️ 29 days to go…
An “apparently puzzling” feature of the election so far is that parties don’t seem to be attacking each other’s candidates, says James Ball in The New European. There’s a good reason: this Friday is the deadline for registering to stand. Parties won’t leak kompromat on rivals before then, as there’s still time to replace a prospective MP mired in scandal. Indeed, it’s wise to stay quiet about a “terrible” opposition candidate until they’re locked in. Come Friday, “the gloves are off”.

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The Guardian has collected from its readers a list of 26 “surprisingly useful gadgets you didn’t know you needed”. They include a hot hairbrush, the secret to “salon hair at home”; a potato ricer (“much better than a basic masher and it looks cool”); a melon baller, which can also be used for anything from removing the stringy flesh of squash to forming small meatballs; and a “supoon”, short for “stand up spoon”, a cooking utensil with a kink in the handle so that it “sits up” and doesn’t get the counter or table dirty. See the rest here.


Chip Somodevilla/Getty

“Leading from behind only works for shepherds”

In global affairs, Joe Biden is “reacting, not leading”, says Andreas Kluth in Bloomberg. Take Ukraine. Again and again, the Ukrainians ask for weapons – “missiles, battle tanks, fighter jets” – but Biden refuses, fearing that providing them would cross one of Vladimir Putin’s “red lines”. Other Western allies, like the Brits and even the French, forge ahead – and eventually “Biden also yields”. Kyiv is currently struggling against a new Russian onslaught, particularly on the city of Kharkiv. But the US president has been one of the last leaders, along with Germany’s Olaf Scholz, to give Ukraine permission to use his weapons to hit targets within Russian territory – and that permission comes with “enough fine print to drive Kyiv to distraction”.

A similar dynamic has developed with Israel in Gaza. Biden has stood by the Israelis as they “pounded the strip with American-made bombs and missiles”, killing Hamas fighters but also causing horrific levels of civilian death and suffering. After “massive pressure” – from the UN, college campuses and beyond – the president “stopped one single shipment of the most explosive kind of US bombs, while continuing with others”. It’s the kind of half-hearted move that pleases no one. To “keep the world from descending further into chaos”, not to mention win re-election, Biden needs to be at the front, or let someone else take his place. “Leading from behind only works for shepherds.”

🚀😴 Letting Ukraine use US weapons to strike inside Russia might slow down the Kremlin’s assault, say Samuel Charap and Jeremy Shapiro in The Washington Post, but it “will not be a game changer”. After all, similar strikes already take place on Russian supply lines in occupied eastern Ukraine, with no impact on the current state of “grinding, attritional war”. America’s approach is simply to respond to Russia’s tactics in a “tit-for-tat spiral”, rather than develop any broader strategy to end the conflict.

Gone viral

This video of a Republican congressman’s speech being upstaged by his son messing around behind his back has racked up more than 4.3 million views on X. John Rose was in the House of Representatives denouncing Donald Trump’s conviction when six-year-old Guy began making faces at the camera. Guy told The Washington Post he was goofing around because his dad’s speech was “so boring”. Watch the full video here.

Quirk of history

The first dictionary of English slang was published in 1699, says Mental Floss. Many of the entries were related to drinking, such as chirping-merry (feeling drunk and cheerful), swill-belly (a heavy drinker) and borachio (a drunkard). If you were in the mulligrubs you were pretending to be in a bad mood; for special occasions you might have put on your roast meat clothes, the 17th-century equivalent of “Sunday best”. Insults included arsworm (“a little diminutive fellow”) and telling someone they had a good voice to beg bacon (don’t give up the day job). Perhaps most memorable is “the best synonym for trousers you’ll hear all year”: farting crackers. Read the rest here.


Snapshot answer

It’s a pottery goat apparently made by a young King Charles, which sold for £8,500 at auction yesterday. The ceramic artwork was given to previous owner Raymond Patten as a gift in 1969 by his great aunt Nellie, says BBC News. She claimed she had got to know Charles when she worked as a cook at Cambridge University, where he studied history. Patten told auctioneer Charles Hanson he decided to sell the goat because of its “historical significance”, and hopes its next owner will appreciate its “relaxed vibrancy and charm”.


“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.”
Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

That’s it. You’re done.