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Fat-cat vice chancellors are taking us for fools

💸 £16m poker game | 😴 Snoozy gardeners | 👯‍♀️ Louvre dance classes

In the headlines

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has applied for arrest warrants for Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among others. Karim Khan says there are “reasonable grounds” to believe war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed both in the October 7 attacks and in the Gaza war. The infected blood inquiry has concluded that patients were “knowingly exposed to unacceptable risks”, and accused doctors, the NHS and the government of trying to cover up the scandal. More than 30,000 people were infected with HIV and hepatitis C between 1970 and 1991 from being given contaminated blood products, resulting in around 3,000 deaths. Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi has died in a helicopter crash. The 63-year-old, who was widely seen as a frontrunner to succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed along with the country’s foreign minister when their aircraft came down in heavy fog in northern Iran yesterday afternoon.


Graduation day at Cambridge. Flickr/Sir Cam

Fat-cat vice chancellors are taking us for fools

If we discovered that some corporate fat cat had made their millions not only from company profits but also by “pilfering the earnings and savings of innocent members of the public”, says Nick Timothy in The Daily Telegraph, “we would be outraged”. Yet this is precisely what some of our biggest and richest companies and institutions are doing every day. Take universities, which reap huge rewards from selling degrees to foreign students. Many of these students don’t give a fig about education – they see a short master’s degree at a bad UK university as an easy migration route, because graduate visas allow them to stay and work in Britain for two years after they finish their studies.

For the most part, these are not the bright sparks boosting the economy by inventing new tech and starting profitable companies. A recent report found that 27% of graduate visa holders were not working at all, and 41% earned less than £15,000 a year. As Tory MP Neil O’Brien points out, “this is not graduate work” – working full time on the minimum wage gets you £24,000. Such people are unlikely to be “net fiscal contributors” over their lifetimes, so granting them “graduate visas” is simply a swizz that allows low-quality universities to pay lavish salaries to their vice chancellors, while handing the costs to the general public. The only other beneficiaries of this system are the gig economy firms like Uber and Deliveroo, whose business models depend on these dodgy arrangements. “We must not let them take us for fools any longer.”


To celebrate this summer’s Paris Olympics, says The New York Times, the Louvre is running early-morning dance and exercise classes among its most famous exhibits. The sessions’ activities are inspired by the rooms where they take place: there’s dancing in the ballroom, running races by the Great Sphynx and yoga in the airy courtyard.

On the money

George Cottrell, an “aristocratic banker” and former advisor to Nigel Farage, has apparently lost a staggering £16m in a single poker game, says The Mail on Sunday. The 30-year-old, known as “posh George”, was reportedly up against “Chinese billionaires, Hollywood celebrities and some of the world’s best high-roller poker stars” at a private game in Montenegro. Not that he let his bad luck get to him. “Despite George losing so much money,” says a well-placed source, “he appeared to be enjoying himself and didn’t step away from the table until 7am.”

Staying young

Top gardener Sarah Raven: probably sleeps like a baby. Instagram/@sarahravensgarden

Gardeners tend to sleep better than everyone else, says The Times. A team from Fudan University in Shanghai studied 62,000 Americans of all ages, and found that those with green fingers had a 42% lower chance of having multiple sleep complaints including “short sleep” and “daytime sleepiness”, compared to those who did no exercise. Those who did other types of exercise only saw a 33% lower chance.

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Shadow foreign secretary David Lammy in 2022. Hollie Adams/Getty

Labour’s foremost flip-flopper

Rishi Sunak claims, not entirely convincingly, that Labour cannot be trusted on defence and foreign policy, says Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times. The shadow defence secretary, John Healey, is “no one’s idea of a pinko pacifist”. But Sunak’s “charge of unreliability” might stick on shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, who has displayed “prodigious powers of reinvention” in recent years. In 2016, he made a passionate speech in parliament declaring that, “as a Christian”, he couldn’t vote for renewing Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent. By last year, he was more relaxed about the matter, announcing his “unshakeable” commitment to the UK’s nukes. In 2017, before Donald Trump’s mooted state visit to Britain, Lammy labelled the US president a “racist KKK and Nazi sympathiser”. But this month, Lammy has been in Washington schmoozing with Trump-affiliated Republicans in case they get back into the White House. He even said Trump had been “misunderstood” in Europe.

One think-tanker he palled around with in DC was Elbridge Colby, “Washington’s most consistent Republican critic of US involvement in the Ukraine war” – and then a week later, in Kyiv, Lammy assured President Zelensky’s team that Labour would be “unstintingly supportive” in the fight against Moscow. During the Brexit wars, Lammy compared hardline Tory Brexiteers to Nazis, but he hasn’t said a peep about one of those Tory Brexiteers, Natalie Elphicke, defecting to Labour. Perhaps he recognises in her “someone else who can swivel apparently steadfast political convictions through 180 degrees, without breaking sweat”. There’s just one problem with this type of politician: “no one really trusts them”.

Global update


Russia’s renewed assaults in Ukraine are being led by a strange new weapon, says the I newspaper: the “turtle tank”. These are regular tanks with layers of sheet metal fixed to them, sometimes “supplemented with further accessories such as screens, chains, different shapes of shell, and other pieces of military equipment”. They might look like something out of Mad Max, but they’re much more resistant to drones than regular tanks. “Everyone is laughing at their shed design,” says one Ukrainian military blogger, “but, in fact, they work.“


British taxpayers spent almost 800 years on hold to HMRC in the 2022-23 tax year, says The Daily Telegraph. A new report by the government’s spending watchdog found that Britons were left waiting on the taxman’s helpline for a total of seven million hours, more than double the 3.2 million – or 365 years – they spent on hold in 2019-20. People who did manage to get through to an adviser waited 23 minutes on average, while a third of calls weren’t answered at all.


Snapshot answer

It’s a set of 18th-century doodles, says The Guardian. The “astonishing” graffiti was discovered scratched into a wooden door found by chance at the top of a medieval turret in Kent. Historians say the etchings were chiselled in the 1790s by “bored English soldiers” stationed at Dover Castle, when Britain was at war with France in the wake of the French Revolution. The drawings include a detailed carving of a sailing ship, an elaborate stylised cross and nine separate scenes of figures being hanged – one of whom looks uncannily like Napoleon Bonaparte, complete with a bicorn hat.


“Governing the Italians is not difficult, it is pointless.”
Five-time Italian prime minister Giovanni Giolitti

That’s it. You’re done.