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Best in Show
Every week, The Friday Speed Read races around the bars and clubs of Newsville hawking small trinkets in exchange for the best stories from the past five days that it will sell in its pop-up store of comment and analysis near where people dump mattresses around the back of the station.
Hello and a very warm welcome to this week’s Friday Speed Read, brought to you in association with whoever is most likely to pay us the fattest product placement or sponsorship fee. We’re really not fussy who that might be: arms dealers; rainforest harvesters; single-use plastic manufacturers; big pharma; little pharma; Old MacDonald had a pharma; supporters of Manchester City; we’re open to cheques of all sizes as long as they are big. Not happy with this? Unsettled by the fact that your favourite (we ASSUME) weekly news ramble is willing to sell its soul for cold, hard, currency? Well, you need to wake up and tune your sets to RADIO REALITY (available via DAB, FM 106.6 and yoghurt pot and string) because once Brexit is “done”, we’ll be free to do multi-billion dollar trade deals with just whosoever we want, no matter the uncleanliness of their laundry or the number of skeletons jangling in their cupboard. Mmmm, we love the smell of unregulated, free-market economics in the morning . . .
But hush. We’re getting ahead of ourselves. Tomorrow is “Super Saturday” which for once doesn’t mean disappointing nil-nil draws between mid-tier Premiere League Clubs on subscription television but a special, rare as hen’s teeth sitting of the mother of all parliaments. (We’re going to quickly bury the memory of another “Super Saturday” during the 2012 Olympics in London on which Team GB won three gold medals because we’re not sure we have the constitution to withstand the seismic pang of melancholic nostalgia it invokes. If you’ve never read Carol Ann Duffy’s poem written after the London Olympics then you probably should: We speak Shakespeare here/a hundred-tongues, one voiced, the moon bronze, or silver, sun gold”. It’s reads like a hymn from a lost religion).
Anyway, why is Parliament sitting on a Saturday? Not just because the bars open early and they’ve got more than decent screens on which to watch the Rugby World Cup quarter finals but because Prime Minister Boris Johnson has returned from Brussels with a new (old) deal with which to leave the European Union.
You’ve read the news today, oh boy. One man is on every single front page and that one man has scruffy blond hair and an ill-fitting suit and, in these strange times, is our Prime Minister. If the Daily Telegraph could ignore the basic laws of logic (and physics) it would be down on bended knee and demanding his hand in marriage or, if it was turned down, would be setting itself on fire in an attempted mortification of its own flesh because it’s so damn unworthy. Sorry, that metaphor got a little out of hand; the point is that the right-wing press loves Boris Johnson more than it’s possible to express in the limited scope afforded us by the entire English language. And, you know what? He does seem to have pulled off a feat that many thought beyond him. We feel a little queasy writing this but maybe, just maybe, we’re going to have to commit a small paragraph giving some praise where it’s due.
The EU said that it wouldn’t reopen the Withdrawal Agreement. The EU said that the Irish backstop was non-negotiable. The EU said that Theresa May’s deal was the very best available (this may well still be true) and there wouldn’t be a different one. Johnson, whether it’s through statecraft or bluster, design or Cummings, has changed minds and succeeded in shifting (marginally) the EU’s position and for that we should at least nod our heads in acknowledgement. And then quickly move on.
Now of course, the Prime Minister has to get the deal through parliament and that’s by no means a certainty. The fun-loving party animals at the DUP have already said that they won’t vote for the deal and indeed are livid at what they see as Johnson’s betrayal of their cause. Remember when Theresa May said that no Prime Minster would countenance a customs border down the Irish Sea? Well, it turns out that the very next Prime Minister would not only countenance it but would go as far as making it a part of the Withdrawal Agreement. So the DUP are angry and will vote against the deal; The Lib Dems will vote against the deal; the SNP will vote against the deal; Labour, its position on Brexit still as clear as a puddle of muddy water beneath the posts on a muddy rugby field at night and viewed through scratched sunglasses, will vote against the deal so Johnson’s going to struggle to find the numbers. By most reckonings, he’s still shy of three or four votes but a lot could still change between whenever you’re reading this and the vote (unless you’re reading this after the vote in which case you can be smug and laugh coldly at just HOW WRONG we were). However, one thing’s for certain, there are dozens of MPs who voted against Theresa May’s deal three times who will tomorrow vote FOR Johnson’s version despite it being around 95% the same. And why? Maybe the sense that the country just needs to move on? Maybe the changes to the backstop etc are indeed the kind of concessions that were required for their support? Maybe it’s easier to support Johnson because he’s a man? Who knows? (although don’t rule out the last of that list).
And if Parliament rejects the deal? The Benn act requires Johnson to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline (one that will likely be granted despite Jean-Claude Junker’s comments to the contrary yesterday) and then the PM can fight the inevitable General Election claiming that Parliament is an enemy of the people. A message that will, in many quarters, go down a storm.
Either way, it’s been a good week for Boris Johnson.
Do you want some Friday headlines? Do you want some “other news this week”? Do you want a recipe for potato rostis that we tested in the Speed Read kitchen yesterday with some considerable success? How about all three? Quickly then:
Headlines: GET REAL. TAKE THE DEAL (The Sun). HE’S DONE HIS DUTY. NOW MPs MUST DO THEIRS (Mail). JUST DO IT (Express). WE WORSHIP BORIS AS OUR NEW GOD AND WE LOVE HIM MORE THAN YOU EVER COULD (Telegraph).
Other news: Trump writes a ridiculous letter to Erdogan; horrible racists ruin a football match in Bulgaria; XR protests are banned from the whole of the London area but many continue regardless; several nights of rioting take place in Barcelona after the jailing of Catalan separatists.
Recipe: Peel and grate four large potatoes; squeeze out the moisture via a tea towel; add 1 egg; 1 tsp flour; pinch baking powder; a few grates of cheddar; salt; pepper; a scatter of mixed herbs. Mix. Shape. Fry. Eat. Wine. Yum.
There aren’t many songs about deals that are any good. So here’s Foals, an office favourite, who have released a new album (or part 2 of their previous album) today and we like it. Click on the photo of a rosti below to play: