Why Labour’s £28bn promise had to go

🚗 Scrap your ex | 🥂 Spaggling | 🤤 Epicurean Elvis

In the headlines

In a bombshell report, US investigators have concluded that Joe Biden’s memory is too poor for him to stand trial over his mishandling of classified documents. Special Counsel Robert Hur said the 81-year-old had struggled in interviews to remember the year his son died or when his term as vice president ended, and that no jury would convict an “elderly man with a poor memory”. Biden angrily pushed back, insisting his memory is “fine”. Rishi Sunak has said Labour “don’t have a plan” for government, after Keir Starmer’s decision to slash the party’s green investment spending pledge from £28bn a year to £4.7bn. The Labour leader said he had to row back on the policy because of “very, very high” interest rates. Edward Enninful has celebrated his last issue as British Vogue editor with a cover featuring 40 fashion icons. The stars of the “legendary issue” include Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Dua Lipa and Oprah Winfrey. 


Starmer, with Reeves: “always a zeitgeist behind”. Christopher Furlong/Getty

Why Labour’s £28bn promise had to go

On Tuesday, Keir Starmer told Times Radio he was “unwavering” on Labour’s clean power mission, says John Rentoul in The Independent. “That’s where the £28bn comes in,” he intoned. “That’s a principle I believe in.” By Thursday, his line was: “What £28bn?” But while it looks abrupt, this has in fact been one of the “longest and most-signalled U-turns in British political history”. The problem with Labour’s promise to spend £28bn a year on renewable energy has been obvious since Jeremy Hunt rescued the public finances from the “wrecking ball” of Trussonomics. The Chancellor’s neatly laid-out plans for tax, spending and borrowing over the next five years left zero room for extra spending. Given shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves’s “iron-clad” promise to cut debt and not increase taxes, it was obvious: the £28bn had to go. Their mistake was not killing it sooner.

But it was always a ridiculous promise, says Fraser Nelson in The Daily Telegraph. America, whose green investment model, is able to borrow and spend on such a vast scale thanks to the “sheer power of the dollar”. As Liz Truss found out, when Britain tries it, “disaster follows”. So it’s embarrassing for a Labour Party trying to convince the country that it’s sensible with money to make such a financially illiterate mistake. And it shows how much of Labour’s plan for government has been “built on sand”. Their leader simply does “what looks to be popular”, and invariably has to abandon it when the mood changes. (Because, like all followers of fashion, “Starmer is always a zeitgeist behind”.) Still, if the polls are right, voters will “punish his lack of ideas with a landslide majority”. The next election may be “spectacular proof” of that old saying: “Oppositions do not win elections; governments lose them.”

Love etc

Companies looking to cash in on Valentine’s Day are turning their attention to those less lucky in love. A British car-scrapping firm is offering scorned lovers the chance to “scrap their ex” by painting their name on a condemned car before it’s smashed to smithereens. The Logan Hotel in Philadelphia will print your ex’s photo on a punchbag; the Virgin Hotel in Manhattan has installed a pop-up “heartbreak bar”, complete with a paper shredder for “mementos from former flames”. And at San Antonio Zoo in Texas, those bearing a particular grudge can name a cockroach ($10) or a rat ($25) after their ex, and watch it being fed to a bigger animal.


In 2015, the US government sent a series of fake passengers into airports to test whether post-9/11 security procedures were effective, says Brian Klaas on Substack. These so-called “Red Teams” tried to smuggle in fake explosives and weapons. “The results weren’t comforting.” In 67 of the 70 attempts, airport security staff failed to spot the counterfeit contraband – a “95% failure rate”. In one test, an undercover agent was stopped after the scanner went off, but the staff who patted him down failed to find the fake bomb taped to his back.


Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and if you’ve got someone in mind that you’d love to spoil silly on the 14th – even if it’s yourself… – Naked Wines has you covered. With £75 off your first case, you can pick the perfect match for your plans, all from the world’s best winemakers: a lush white for a candlelit dinner, a rich red to polish off with a box of chocolates, a fabulous fizz to make the evening go off with a bang. To show your sweetheart – and your wine rack – some Naked Wines love, click here.


Finalists in The Human Element photography contest, which showcases the best portraits from around the world, include shots of a trainee matador in Spain surrounded by his grandfather’s art; a group eating at a bright red table in floodwaters in Bangladesh; a duo in princess-style dresses outside a Los Angeles museum; and a woman seeking solace from drug cartel violence in her pastel-coloured bedroom in Mexico. See more here.


A circus worth airing?

Putin’s “twisted” grasp of history

Tucker Carlson’s interview with Vladimir Putin was in some respects “as cringeworthy as many feared it would be”, says Marc Champion in Bloomberg. The former Fox News host “lobbed” up questions about the Ukraine war, then failed to challenge any of the Russian president’s “half-truths and outright falsehoods”. Not once did he ask about the massacres carried out in Bucha, or the Ukrainians kidnapped in occupied territories. It was a “gift” for Putin: “a safe platform from which to gaslight Americans into believing that they bear responsibility for his brutal invasion”.

But Carlson also “did a real public service” by exposing the obsessions that drove Putin to war. Asked why he invaded, the Russian leader gave a “rambling” half-hour lecture on Russia-Ukraine history, “starting from 862AD”. Yes, Nato’s expansion played a part in his decision. But the main driver was his “apparently sincere belief that he’s retaking lands that rightfully belong to Russia”. And this belief is based on a very “twisted” grasp of history. Putin claimed, for example, that Poland was collaborating with Hitler when he invaded Warsaw in 1939. There was no mention of the fact that the Soviet Union actually signed a pact with the German leader to partition Poland that same year. Of course, Putin’s bonkers history lessons are nothing new – in 2021, he wrote a 5,000-word essay on Ukraine’s “supposedly artificial construction”, and ordered his officers to read it. But if Carlson’s interview gives viewers a sense of the Russian leader’s “unhinged nature”, then “the circus will have been worth airing”.

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Food and drink

Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown in Cocktail (1988)

With cocktail culture “saturating” the US, says Punch, bar lingo is undergoing a “glittering renaissance”. Newly fashionable names for drinks include a “Sprotini” (shorthand for an Espresso Martini), a “Club Sandwich” (the combination of a beer and a shot), and a “Snaquiri” (a free drink given to friends of bartenders). Bar staff might talk of a “Blip” (a shot taken with punters), “Garbage” (the leftover fruit and herbs at the bottom of a glass), or “Spaggling” (adding sparkling wine to an otherwise-finished cocktail).

Quirk of history

When Elvis Presley died in 1977, he weighed 25 stone (159 kilograms), says Far Out Magazine. He routinely ate breakfast in the late afternoon, reportedly going through a pound of bacon at a time. “He drank so much Pepsi it was delivered to Graceland in a distribution lorry.” And it was said he caused a “Tennessee-wide egg shortage” after taking a shine to Spanish omelettes.



It’s an ancient scroll that was “burned to a crisp” when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, says The Guardian, but which has now been “virtually unwrapped” and read by AI boffins. The charred papyrus scroll – one of more than 1,000 discovered in the 18th century in an excavated villa – would have “crumbled to pieces” if unravelled by hand. As part of a contest with $1m in prize money, three computer scientists extracted more than 2,000 Greek characters from high-resolution scans of the scroll. The text, it turns out, is a piece of Epicurean philosophy about pleasure, with references to music and food, “capers in particular”.


“Things aren’t important. People are.”
Terry Pratchett

That’s it. You’re done