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Like him or not, this is Nigel Farage’s election

🦖 Dinosaur wine | ⚽️ Starmer’s freebies | 🍻 Boozy Ben

In the headlines

Boris Johnson joined the election campaign last night in an eleventh-hour attempt to win back disaffected Tory voters. In a surprise speech in London, the former prime minister warned that a Labour landslide victory is “pregnant with horrors” and derided Nigel Farage as a “Kremlin crawler”. A Texas congressman has become the first sitting Democrat to publicly call on Joe Biden to step down as the party’s nominee for president. Lloyd Doggett cited Biden’s failure to “effectively defend his many accomplishments” in his stumbling debate performance against Donald Trump last week, which the president has blamed on jet lag. A stolen Titian which was found in a plastic bag at a London bus stop has sold for £17.5m at auction. The sale of Rest On The Flight Into Egypt, painted around 1510 and stolen from Longleat in 1995, has set a new auction record for the Venetian artist.

Rest On The Flight Into Egypt


Christopher Furlong/Getty

Like him or not, this is Nigel Farage’s election

It is not necessarily a mark of approval to point out that, whether he wins in Clacton tomorrow or not, Nigel Farage must be regarded as the “most consequential political figure” in Britain this century, says Trevor Phillips in The Times. He not only bamboozled the country into a referendum on Europe, but he also won the vote. His influence brought down two Tory leaders (we’re about to find out if he can “bag a hat-trick”). And he personally delivered Boris Johnson’s stonking 2019 majority by withdrawing his candidates in Tory seats. “No wonder Farage was the breeziest Sunday-morning interviewee I’ve faced in this campaign.”

One reason the Reform leader keeps winning is the consistency with which he is underestimated by his opponents, for whom he is a “baffling contradiction”. Posh Conservatives deride him as a “pub bore” and are nonplussed when “more drinkers want to buy him a round than his Tory rival”. Earnest lefties denounce him as racist, “only to discover that his largest donor is a person of colour”. Yes, his party’s policy proposals for this election are so wafer-thin “you wouldn’t want to blow your nose on them”. But that hasn’t stopped him successfully splitting the Tory party in two. No matter that with a net approval rating of minus 19 Keir Starmer will be the most unpopular opposition leader ever elected, the result of Farage’s influence will be a Labour majority for as long as there is no unified opposition. Whoever replaces Rishi Sunak may think they have a choice – whether to merge with Reform or fight against it. But they don’t. “The union will take place sooner or later.”

🍈🤳 Farage was “born to be a TikTok star”, says Sophia Smith-Galer in The Guardian. A six-second clip of the Reform leader admiring some melons has been viewed more than 2.6m times. He posts several clips a day, “flooding the algorithm with short, characterful videos” that resonate powerfully with his supporters. And the secret of his success is clear: he’s opinionated, comical and – “most compellingly in British politics” – just being himself. In an election where Sunak and Starmer are regularly criticised for having “the emotional spectrums of kitchen cabinets”, Farage’s TikToks – particularly his funny ones – are “racking up the views”.


The winners of this year’s Environmental Photography Awards include a pair of emperor penguins shielding their chick from a blizzard; a brown paper nautilus octopus hitching a ride on a jellyfish near the Philippines; monarch butterflies drinking water from a stream in Mexico; a yellow planthopper sitting on a spore in Goa, India; a rare Sumatran serow walking through the jungle at night; and a polar bear making its way across thin sea ice in Svalbard, Norway. See more here.

Election watch

🗳️ 1 day to go…
Keir Starmer has accepted £76,000 worth of freebies since the last general election, says the FT, more than almost any other MP. The Labour leader received more than 20 tickets to watch Arsenal games, two seats at Taylor Swift’s Wembley show last week, £16,200 worth of “work clothing” and, somewhat bizarrely, “multiple pairs of glasses” worth £2,485.


Millions of drivers who took out a motor finance deal to purchase a vehicle could be eligible for financial compensation. After a recent investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority, it has emerged that financial lenders including Black Horse, Barclays Partner Finance, Santander, MotoNovo, Close Brothers and many others could be ordered to pay substantial amounts of compensation back to their motor finance customers. Anyone who bought a vehicle with a finance agreement between January 2014 and January 2021 can do a free check to find out if they can make a claim. To see if you’re eligible, click here.

Inside politics

Dr Jill Biden. Anna Moneymaker/Getty

After Joe Biden’s dismal debate performance, top Democrats are telling anyone who’ll listen that first lady Jill Biden will be the one to decide whether he steps aside, says Alexander Sammon in Slate. “The only person who has ultimate influence with him is the first lady,” an unnamed party source told NBC news. “If she decides there should be a change of course, there will be a change of course,” another told The New York Times. Donors are reported to be trying figure out who to call to reach “Lady McBiden”, so she can tell the president to step down. But, isn’t this the whole job of a political party? Of course Biden’s going to consult his wife, but it’s starting to look like the Democratic machine is scrambling for a scapegoat.

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Just having a think. Fine Art Photographic Library/Corbis/Getty

The lost art of procrastinating

Procrastination, “or the art of doing the wrong things at one specifically wrong time”, is anathema in our productivity-obsessed era, says Hillary Kelly in The Atlantic. Schemes to keep ourselves in efficiency mode – “the rebranding of rest into self-care, and of hobbies into side hustles” – have made fannying around something people are desperate to avoid. But as the columnist Oliver Burkeman once put it, “today’s cacophony of anti-procrastination advice seems rather sinister: a subtle way of inducing conformity, to get you to do what you ‘should’ be doing”. The procrastinator, by this measure, is “doing something revolutionary”, and quite right too. “Take to the barricades, soldiers, and when you get there, do absolutely nothing!”

Recent literature is flush with novels skewering the over-efficient life. Helen Phillip’s The Beautiful Bureaucrat, Halle Butler’s The New Me and Hilary Leichter’s Temporary all follow unhappy characters lost in busywork and labyrinthine offices. What’s missing for each of them “is the space for rumination”; the necessary lapses our brains need to live creatively. “Procrastination is intrinsic to the imaginative process”. The best ideas are created in the collisions between the thinking and wandering mind, so “the latter has to have space to happen.” That’s what the gurus of today’s grind culture don’t get: the endless pursuit of productivity will never beat “sitting in the stew” and acting on what comes up.


Not putting up with any nonsense: Mike and Zara Tindall. Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

Former defence secretary Ben Wallace had “quite the adventure” at the Cheltenham Festival, says Popbitch. After enjoying “about as much refreshment as his system could handle and more”, he turned up at the house of Mike and Zara Tindall. He apparently took quite a shine to Zara and was lavishing her with attention. “So much so that a very unimpressed Mike Tindall carried him out to one of their horse boxes, bundled him in and told him to sleep it off.”

Quirk of history

The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago didn’t just create the conditions that allowed our ancient mammalian ancestors to thrive, says Popular Science. It also gave us wine. According to paleobotany boffins, fossilised grape seeds found in the Americas seem to show that vines bloomed worldwide in the millennia after the dinosaurs died out. Their theory is that without the giant reptiles bashing their way through forests, trees could grow closer together, making life much simpler for climbing plants like grapevines.


Snapshot answer

It’s the Fiat Topolino Spiaggina – the perfect summer runaround, says Wallpaper* magazine. The design is based on The Jolly, an original Fiat 500 which was transformed into an ultra-light beach car at the behest of Fiat’s CEO Gianni Agnelli in the 1950s. The new model also takes inspiration from another Mediterranean pleasure craft, the Riva speedboat, and features teak and chrome detailing, a retractable striped canvas roof and seat inserts that mimic the boats’ wicker feel. Prices start at £21,000.


“The accursed power which stands on Privilege
(And goes with Women, and Champagne and Bridge)
Broke – and Democracy resumed her reign:
(Which goes with Bridge, and Women and Champagne).”
Hilaire Belloc’s poem On a general election

That’s it. You’re done.