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Farage’s critics have only themselves to blame

🏔️ Mt EVE-rest | 🤦‍♀️ Early celebration | 🏭 Dirty Despacito

In the headlines

Emmanuel Macron has called a snap parliamentary election, after Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally won more than double the votes of his centrist alliance in the EU elections. It’s an “extraordinary gamble”, says the FT: Macron could be forced to appoint a PM from a different party, leaving him “with little power over domestic affairs with three years left as president”. Right-wing populists also made significant gains in Germany, Italy and Austria. Benny Gantz has resigned from Israel’s war cabinet. The centrist former defence minister accused Benjamin Netanyahu of blocking “crucial strategic decisions” for political reasons, and called for an early election. Tributes are being paid to Dr Michael Mosley, after his body was found yesterday on the Greek island of Symi. Mosley, who was 67, was described by fellow BBC presenter Chris van Tulleken as “one of the most important broadcasters of the last few decades”.


Net migration as a percentage of population since 1855. X/@EdConwaySky

Farage’s critics have only themselves to blame

For many in the political centre, says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times, there’s an easy way to explain the popularity of Nigel Farage: “bigotry, racism and gullibility on the fringes of polite society”. Alastair Campbell says the Reform leader is a “dangerous demagogue”; Tory peer Daniel Finkelstein says he promises only “chaos”. Permit me to offer a different interpretation of the man who has “exerted more influence on British politics than anyone else” over the past two decades. Farage draws his power not principally from racism, but from the lies of the very people who now castigate him about the issue he has made his own: immigration.

Set aside whether mass immigration is good or bad. If you go back through the main party manifestos during the period of Farage’s rise, you’ll find “lie after lie”. In 1997, Tony Blair promised “firm control… properly enforced”, then presided over an intake of 633,000 between 1998 and 2001. In 2005 he said “only skilled workers” would be allowed to remain; net migration subsequently reached over a quarter of a million. As for the Tories, they promised to cut net migration to the tens of thousands in their manifestos in 2010, 2015 and 2017. What happened? The figure rose to an average of 300,000 a year, with increases of around 700,000 in each of the past two years. Whatever you think of this inflow, there is no denying it has “altered the complexion of the UK” in ways that will echo “decades – perhaps centuries – into the future”. Farage is certainly a “dangerous figure”. But it was the advocates of the “liberal” consensus who created the conditions for populism. Future historians will regard them as “arsonists who took a match to the collective trust on which we all rely”.

🇺🇸🇨🇦🏒 It’s not just in the UK, says Andrew Sullivan in The Weekly Dish. In the US and Canada too, recent migration graphs “look like a hockey stick”, with massive spikes in the past three years despite repeated signals from voters that they want tighter immigration controls. If you want to understand why Biden is on track to lose to Trump, why the Tories are about to be “wiped out in a historic collapse” and why Justin Trudeau is at an all-time low of 28% in approval ratings, these graphs might help.


The finalists of this year’s Drone Photo Awards include pictures of more than a million flamingos on the shores of Lake Logipi in Kenya; streams of lava forming the outline of a dragon during a volcanic eruption in Iceland; sailors floating in the frozen Baltic sea; a unique geological formation of dune-like rocks in Utah; tens of thousands of people at the world’s largest bullring in Mexico City; and a tiger shark floating above a stranded sperm whale in Australia. See more here.

Election watch

🗳️ 24 days to go...
Keir Starmer may be on the verge of becoming prime minister, but is he Britain’s most powerful left-winger? Not according to The New Statesman. The magazine’s second annual “left power list” ranks the Labour leader at number two, behind his campaign chief Morgan McSweeney. “In the midst of a general election campaign,” reads McSweeney’s entry, “there is no individual in Labour whose opinion matters more.” So surely Starmer came first last year? Nope – it was shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves. Hang in there, Keir. There’s always 2025.


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A Spanish race walker narrowly lost out on a bronze medal at the European Athletics Championship in Rome after she celebrated too early, says Sky News. Laura García-Caro stuck her tongue out and punched the air when she thought she had secured third place in the 20km race walk on Friday, only to be overtaken by Ukrainian Lyudmila Olyanovska in the final two metres. 😬🥉 

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Sunak and his wife getting on famously with a D-Day veteran. Andrew Matthews/Getty

There’s nothing unpatriotic about Rishi

Rishi Sunak’s decision to leave last week’s D-Day commemorations early was clearly a “calamitous misjudgment”, says Dominic Lawson in the Daily Mail. But that doesn’t mean the prime minister is – as Nigel Farage puts it – “unpatriotic”. On the contrary. He is the first PM to have a veterans minister in the cabinet: the former army officer Johnny Mercer, who has hailed his boss’s “unflinching” commitment to former troops. At the D-Day events, one 100-year-old survivor praised Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty for spending so much time talking to veterans, saying they “seemed really genuine”. Farage’s attack line is evidently designed to appeal to the sort of conservative who sees Sunak as “not British”. And that’s “vile”.

I have a theory for why the PM didn’t stay on in Normandy. When I had breakfast with him during his time as chancellor, I asked whether he wanted the top job. His reply: “I like the fact that as chancellor I can work 16 to 18 hours a day on this job, fully focused. Whereas being PM involves a lot of ceremonial stuff.” We’ve seen this aversion to “ceremonial stuff” play out before: Sunak had to be press-ganged into attending the opening ceremony of COP27 in Egypt, and he has delegated much of the meeting and greeting of foreign leaders to his foreign secretary, David Cameron. The problem for Sunak is that “being the public face of the nation” is a crucial part of the job. It is not enough for a PM to be dedicated to the welfare of veterans – “he also has to get that message across”. That’s politics.

 👋😳 One reason Tory ministers were so furious about Sunak’s decision is that it makes it so much harder for them on the campaign trail, says Fraser Nelson in The Spectator. I know of at least one who is telling voters on doorsteps not to worry about the PM because he’ll “soon be gone” – but that they should still vote for the local Tory candidate to stem Keir Starmer’s majority. “I suspect one of them will soon be recorded by one of these doorbell videos making the point.”


Few people realise just how much energy the internet requires, says Mariana Mazzucato in The Guardian. In 2018, the five billion YouTube hits for the viral song Despacito by Luis Fonsi used the same amount of energy required to heat 40,000 US homes for an entire year.

Quirk of history

Sunset over Chomolungma. Didier Marti/Getty

We’re all saying Mount Everest wrong, says Mental Floss. The mammoth mountain is named after Welsh geographer George Everest, whose surname was pronounced “EVE-rest” – the emphasis on the first syllable, which rhymed with “leave”. Everest himself thought the peak should be known by its local name, “Chomolungma”, meaning “goddess mother of the world”.


Snapshot answer

It’s Fijian prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka, who won a bronze medal in the shot put at the Oceania Athletics Championships last week. The 75-year-old previously represented the country he now leads at the 1974 Commonwealth Games, competing in the decathlon, shot put, discus and hammer throw. He also played international rugby, and led two coups in 1987.


“I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells.”
Dr Seuss

That’s it. You’re done.