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The Friday Speed Read
Every week, The Friday Speed Read bakes an unleavened news flatbread in its oven of summary and then hands it out, still piping hot, for eager readers to tear, share and devour.
So, the sun continues to shine and Britain is shrivelled and yellowing; the football’s over and even the prospect of long school holidays, precious family time and yet more barbecues has done nothing to lift the feeling of unease that’s hung like a thundercloud over the papers and news channels this week. Maybe the end of the world is just around the next bend? Or maybe we just need a second coffee of the morning?
While France embarked on a nationwide party after winning the World Cup (“Deja Blue” – The Mirror); the Sun did its best to keep the spirit of Saint Harry alive for one day longer, a bit like those people who wake-up on the morning after a house party and, amongst the thick-heads and queasiness, ask who’d like another beer. “Landed of Hope and Glory” said its Monday front page next to a photo of the England football team disembarking from a plane. But most papers had moved on: “Sex-text Tory unfit to be an MP” (The Mirror); “Red Alert for our hottest-ever July” said the Star, talking of which, on Tuesday the Mail reported that a “Hosepipe ban hits millions”.
Alright then, we’ve got to somehow get our heads around the last few days in Trumpland and it’s not going to be easy. In a world in which hyperbole has been neutered by the sheer head-spinning insanity of the truth, it’s becoming ever-harder to find the words to adequately capture what’s been happening. Last Friday, Trump dismissed an interview that he himself had given to The Sun as “fake news”; flat-out lying that he hadn’t said the things that he had demonstrably said a few hours before. So, it’s perhaps is no surprise that after standing next to V-Putz after their Monday meeting in Europe’s party capital of Helsinki, and saying that “I don’t see any reason why it would have been Russia” who interfered with the 2016 presidential election (and thus in a sentence, contradicting the view of his own security services) he then rocked up back home and said that he’d actually meant the opposite: that the “would” should have been a “wouldn’t”.
No one believed him. No one. Not his enemies. Not his friends. No one on the internet. No one on Fox News. Even Janice Credulous, Emeritus Professor of the Unsuspecting at Gullible University stroked her chin and said “yeah, right” at Trump’s “clarification”. And, as ever with Trump, if it wasn’t so utterly terrifying then it would be hilarious. Would is wouldn’t. Up is down. War is Peace. Ignorance is strength.
All the papers piled in: “Trump backs Putin over FBI” (Telegraph); “Nothing short of treasonous” (The Guardian, quoting a former CIA director); “Putin’s Poodle” (The Mirror). It really couldn’t have been much worse. Or could. Or couldn’t . . . . .
As per the rules here in the New Normal, we are now required to segue from Trump to Brexit and yet another “trying” week for TM the PM. Highlights this week included a scraped victory on various attempted amendments to the Brexit bill; the Telegraph and Express getting all swoony and misty-eyed over Boris’s resignation speech in which he stated that TM’s Chequers plan was “miserable” and that “it’s not too late to save Brexit from this disaster”; and new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab being packed off to Brussels for his first meeting with EU negotiating team with a stack of the Chequers white papers, many of which had seemingly been translated by people with no proficiency in the target languages. In the Finnish and Estonian versions, for example, “Finland” and “Estonia” were spelled incorrectly. It really is hard to see why the EU has no confidence in our ability to do pretty much anything.
This week saw the latest release of UK crime figures and they made for cheering reading for fans of violence and cruelty. “Police have lost control, say the majority of Britons” reported the Mail on Monday, setting the tone for the week. “Dim Blue Line” berated the Sun on Tuesday, suggesting that police can’t be bothered to investigate minor crimes. The Express joined in the fuzz-bashing on Wednesday: “Criminal!” it shouted, saying that police refused to arrest a thief even though they had a clear picture of his face and then, on Friday, brandishing its hot-off-the-press copy of the crime statistics, the Express went big: “Lawless Britain”. An exaggeration yes, but the evidence is indeed grim: murders up by 12%; knife attacks up by 16%; robberies up by 30% . . . . and on and on and oh we’re depressed.
A quick burst of “other news this week” reveals that sharks (the dangerous ones) are amassing in our warming coastal waters and only the queues as passport control stand between the sharks and a full-scale invasion; archaeologists have discovered that humans have been baking bread for even longer than previously thought after flatbread crumbs from 14,000 years ago were found in Jordan (apparently these Jordanian Paul Hollywoods would have used the flatbreads to wrap roasted gazelle meat, all of which sounds genuinely delicious); and TM the PM is to embark on a UK tour to pep up her grassroots Tory fans; her set list will include all her big hits – The Pound of Silence; EU Make Me Feel (Mighty Cheesed Off); and Polling in the Deep.
Cliff Richard won his privacy case against the BBC, a decision that has significant implications for press freedom in the UK. The Sun greeted the news in the only way it knows how: “It’s not funny . .. we can’t talk anymore” and won points for effort if not for style.
Finally, today marks a cultural landmark of sorts with the release of the 100th edition of the Now That’s What I Call Music compilation. Long ago, back in the days of vinyl and sensible trade policies, the Now albums worked a little like a Spotify playlist at a time when Spotify was a treatment for acne. That it has survived into the digital age is a bit perplexing but, we think, worthy of a nod of respect. The first album was released in 1983 and provides some enticing options for this week’s playout video (who could forget “Tonight, I celebrate my love” by Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack?) but, objectively and scientifically, the best song is Side 2, Track 11.
Have a great weekend.