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Best in Show
The Friday Speed Read
It’s starting to look a lot like the summer. A proper summer that is; one with sunshine, national bonhomie and a sense of shared purpose as we hold hands with our neighbours and, little act by little act, do our best to make this raggedy world a better place. And of course, a glorious new age requires a brave and rousing new leader; one who combines vision with mercy, charm with steely-eyed efficiency and so it came to pass that such a leader rose in the first minute of injury time against Tunisia to bathe our wounds and give us hope.
Saint Harry of Kane is among us. And everything’s going to be alright. (At least until Sunday).
The more observant of readers will have noticed that some men are playing football matches in the east at the moment; some of these men are English and, even though everyone promised that we’d not let ourselves be fooled again, the newspapers have spent the week slowly losing their minds in wide-eyed excitement. The Sun set the national tone on Monday, ahead of England’s opening game against Tunisia, by dedicating its front page to a single image of Saint Harry’s foot and inviting readers to “Kiss Harry’s boot for luck to get win”. (To be fair, the strategy worked).
Following England’s victory, the papers on Tuesday were awash with Kane puns (“Keep calm and Harry on”; “We Kane do it”; “Harry Houdini”) and on Wednesday the Daily Mail printed a list of reasons why Saint Harry is “finally an England captain we can get behind”; number one on the list was the fact that he doesn’t have tattoos (just like Jesus).
England are of course now absolutely nailed-on certainties to win the World Cup. Which will be nice.
Away from kicking balls into nets, the world this week has been rather less sun-kissed. Donald “yes he’s still President” Trump has had another incident-packed few days. Not content with having the largest military on Earth, on Monday Trump ordered the Pentagon to create a sixth branch of the armed forces: the “Space Force”, the end-point presumably being the building of a Death Star in the shape of his own face. Back on earth, the president’s “zero tolerance” of illegal immigrants from Mexico has led to nearly 2,000 children being separated from their parents (they are too young to go to prison) and kept in cages in detention camps.
Unsurprisingly, the outrage at this “policy” was sustained and near-universal with even many of Trump’s most rabid of supporters suggesting that forcibly separating families is a bit much, even if you are trying your best to Make America Great Again. Trump himself, when confronted by recordings of children crying for their parents, first blamed Congress (for his own policy); then blamed Hillary Clinton (“lock her up!) and then, finally, signed, an executive order ending the separations. He then dispatched Melania to visit the immigration camps and she was pictured boarding the plane that would take her to the border wearing a coat emblazoned with the phrase “I don’t really care, do you?” . . . .
Can we please take a moment to remind readers that all of the above has actually happened? This is not the early episodes of some Netflix series weighed down by some clumsy, over-egged pieces of satire and clunky symbolism: this is where we are now. This is our world.
Back in the UK, TM the PM has had another busy week battling rebels in her own party who were determined that parliament should have a say on what the hell should happen if the, ever-more likely, “No deal” Brexit should occur; she also announced a £20bn NHS funding bonanza and then, just as everyone was high-fiving each other in celebration, mumbled to herself that taxes would need to be raised in order to pay for it. “Taxes will rise to pay for NHS boost” said the Express on Wednesday, proving that it had been listening after all.
Of all the most obvious advocates for marijuana (Bob Marley, Snoop Dogg, your mate Deezer from school who, last you heard, was president of a country that you’re fairly sure is fictional), then ex-Tory leader William Hague would be very, very low on the list. But sure enough, Hague (or “Two Tokes” to his friends) stepped up this week and called for the legalisation of cannabis, much to annoyance of both TM the PM and the Daily Mail, neither of whom wanted to inhale the substance of his, well-argued, point.
On Thursday, the newspaper front pages (apart from The Star, naturally) were united in their reporting of the government’s apology following the death of several hundred patients in the 1990s at a hospital in Gosport. These elderly patients had been prescribed overly-strong opioids by a single doctor in doses that, it has now been admitted, were fatal. “Why has this woman not faced justice?” asked the Telegraph (along with several others) referring to the doctor in question.
A quick sweep of the “other news this week” chimney unblocks the tabloid revelations that Ant not Dec is now in a relationship with his estranged wife’s friend (“Ant’s wife ‘betrayed’”- various); elsewhere, Thomas, father of Meghan, Markle, gave an interview in which he revealed that he warned Prince Harry, reasonably enough, not to hit his daughter; the Culture Secretary wants a ban on all mobile phones in schools; plane-maker Airbus is threatening to pull-out of the UK, thus putting hundreds of jobs at risk, because it’s fairly sure Brexit is going to end happily, and UK jobseekers are being told that “picking fruit is more fun than you think” as fields of summer produce remain unpicked because of, you know, Brexit and that.
A very quick mention for Wednesday’s Guardian which marked World Refugee Day by printing a supplement containing the names of everyone who has died trying to reach Europe since 1993. The list had 34,361 entries.
Finally, in one of those health stories that you choose to believe because it justifies your life choices, drinking alcohol is now officially good for you! Yes! Take that Millennials! Under the headline, “Non-drinkers die earlier” the Times reported on a recent study by (drunk) scientists from The University of Jack Daniels, that’s revealed “light drinking cuts the risk of dying prematurely”.
And with that green light, we can stick our cars into gear and motor towards another sunny, woozy weekend.
In the name of Saint Harry, his unblemished skin and sacred foot. Amen.