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Best in Show
Every week, The Friday Speed Read leads the audience in a call-and-response sing-a-long of the week’s biggest news stories which is then recorded and released in a series of singles that are sure to trouble the Top 40.
They say the best comedy is the comedy of observation. (Who “they” are exactly needn’t bother us for the moment given that this is simply an attempt to skittle into the week’s unhelpfully diverse slate of news stories, so if you can just go with this we’d appreciate it.) When Peter Kay riffs about his Mum’s “plastic bag full of other plastic bags”, or when Michael McIntyre spins an anecdote about hotel toiletries, we all laugh and nod and laugh again because we’ve all been there, because our Mums also have a bag of bags hanging in the cupboard under the stairs, because we’ve all stayed in hotels.
So, in the same spirit, you know those moments you stand in the street straining your eyes in one direction in order to spot a bus / dog / pub / exotic seabird / lover only for the thing you’re looking for to appear behind you and tap you on the shoulder? You’ve all been there. Haven’t you? HAVEN’T YOU? (just say yes). Well, then it’s this experience that PERFECTLY captures the past week: we were all looking one way, only for the big story to leap out of an alleyway and surprise us.
(And by “perfectly” we of course mean ‘in 200 words of your life that you won’t get back’).
In the wake of a mass-protest calling for a “people’s vote” on any Brexit deal in London last weekend (the number on the march varied from 700,000 to 90,000 depending on which paper you read), this was billed as the week in which TM the PM would be finally toppled by a growing cabal of the most rabid and tumescent of pop-eyed Tory Brexiteers. A meeting was scheduled, TM was to appear before them. They’d force a leadership challenge if she didn’t back down on her “Chequers” plan for compromise with the EU; the stage was set: “Back down on Brexit, or face revolt” (The Times); “Brexit rebels plot” (The Telegraph) and, in an odd but prescient front page, the Sun’s Photoshop department fused TM’s face to the body of a peak-Rat-Pack-Era Frank Sinatra alongside the headline “May Way”.
But then nothing happened. Or rather something did happen but it wasn’t what we expected. TM the PM suggested that the post-Brexit deal was “95 percent settled” (to which some wags pointed out, incorrectly as it happens, that the Titanic made it 95 percent of the way to New York) and that the proposed transition period was likely to be extended even further than originally thought. In other words, the kind of rhetoric that you’d think would have had Jacob Rees-Mogg and friends drowning in the froth of their own apoplexy (apologies for the imagery) but was actually greeted by nothing more than some mild grumbling. TM met with her backbench MPs who banged their desks in a traditional (and cloyingly public school) show of support and thus the PM survived the week. A week that began with an anonymous Tory MP saying that the PM should “bring her own noose” to meeting, ends with the PM presumably cracking open a bottle of the good stuff, putting Abba on the Sonos and necking a few glasses while Phil puts the bins out.
Anyway, while this all-too-real comedy of errors was playing in the main auditorium, the week’s bigger story was creeping along the corridor near the toilets without anyone noticing (see opening paragraph).
This of course was the Daily Telegraph’s story long before it was anyone else’s and in world where the art of decent journalism is under regular attack (we’re looking at you Mr Trump) it’s reassuring that the week’s biggest headlines were begotten by an old-school piece of investigative journalism. The Telegraph’s gave the majority of its still very large front page to the story: “The British #MeToo Scandal that cannot be named”, following it on Thursday with an interview with one the businessman’s accusers, “He loved that I was scared”. All the while the paper was blocked by a court injunction secured by some very expensive lawyers from revealing who the story was about. Speculation grew: Branson? Aaron Banks? Seann Walsh?
Well it turns out it wasn’t any of these. Invoking parliamentary privilege, a right dating from 1689 giving members of parliament the freedom to say what they want during parliamentary proceedings without the risk of being sued, Labour peer Peter Hain named billionaire, pension-fund-raiding Sir Philip Green as the man accused in the Telegraph’s original story. Now, The Friday Speed Read legal team requires us to state that Mr Green has categorically denied all these allegations and remains innocent until proven otherwise. Not that Friday’s front pages seem too bothered with this legal caveat:
“Named and shamed” (The Mail, The Express); “The fall and fall of Sir Philip Green” (The Mirror); “Philip Green named (The Telegraph) and The Sun, featuring of Green with a grinning Harvey Weinstein: “#MeTwo”.
Let’s hasten to the “other news this week” paragraph: The Guardian has spent the week fighting a very necessary fight against the scourge of terrible landlords; the Mail reported a surge in high street take-aways as the nation’s waistline continues to expand; bombs were sent to high-profile supporters of Donald Trump including Obama, Hillary Clinton and Robert De Niro (Trump blamed the media because of he did); hospital superbug cases are on the rise again; the police can’t cope with “soaring” crime levels and Meghan Markle wore a red dress with the SHOP LABEL STILL ATTACHED. Not that she bought it from a shop.
Talking of shops, there was much giggling about a CCTV image of man stealing beer from a Blackpool shop (it was a restaurant actually but there wasn’t a handy segue into this) who looked very like David Schwimmer who as you know played Ross in Friends in the 90s. “I’ll beer there for you” snorted The Star. Schwimmer himself protested his innocence and then ‘hilariously’ recreated the CCTV image using himself instead of the Blackpool Beer Felon. We know, layer upon layer right? All of which suggests that Schwimmer has a decent sense of humour and also that he has FAR TOO MUCH TIME ON HIS HANDS and NEEDS TO GET A HOBBY.
Talking of time (nice), the clocks go back on Saturday night. They might not change ever again according to The Guardian this morning for reasons even the Guardian had lost faith in by the end of the article. Enjoy your extra hour.
Finally, after much delay the biopic of Freddie Mercury was released this week to less-than-glowing reviews, so let’s not spend waste time with some quasi-Freddie, let’s remember the real one in all his considerable glory. He here is with 72,000 people in the palm of his hand during Queen’s performance at live Aid in 1985.